< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://davejustus.com/" >

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bennett under fire for remarks on blacks, crime


Bennett, who held prominent posts in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: 'If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. 'That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down,' he said.
Statistically, he is probably correct. I say we go a step further though. Lets abort every baby, that would really reduce crime. And if we wanted to get rid of crime altogether we could kill off all of humanity. It is undeniable that that would work. Bennett was obviously making an equally absurdist claim. The question that remains is why choose blacks? Yes, statistically they have the highest crime rate, but probably equally valid is he specifically choose shocking terminology to underscore how silly this idea was, and what he was really arguing against is the notion, promoted by some pro-abortionists that abortion is partially responsible for the reduction in the crime rate we have seen over recent decades. Is this tactic allowable? I would think so. It seems to be of the same nature as Swift's 'A modest propossal.' If it is wrong to suggest that aborting all the black babies would reduce crime, based on statistics then why is it not wrong to suggest that past abortions have reduced crime? That was his point, and it is a pretty good one I think. Abortion may or may not be justified. There are various ways of looking at the issue that lead to different moral results. I don't think it can be justified in any way as a means to reduce crime though.

Lego Self Portrait

Here is my best effort at a Lego version of myself.
Make your own (via Dean's World)

Progress marches on!

Two German students have created a device that will stop beer lovers having to get out of their seats for a refill. The 'smart' beer mat, created by Matthias Hahnen and Robert Doerr from Saarland University in Saarbruecken, southwest Germany, can sense when a glass is nearly empty, sending an alert to a central computer behind the bar so waiters know there are thirsty customers. The students' supervising professor, Andreas Butz, told CNN the plastic beer mat had sensor chips, which measured the weight of the glass, embedded inside. When the weight of the glass drops to a certain level, the sensor chips detect that it is close to empty and alerts the bartender via a radio signal. "You could have hundreds of beer glasses in the bar and the beer mat would, for example, tell the bartender, 'table 14 needs a refill,' " Butz told CNN.
I love science!

Bad Google?

This article really pisses off my libertarian viewpoints, and no, it isn't Google that I am pissed at. The basic controversy, is that Google made a deal with the NASA Ames Research Center and local officials are finding every reason they can think of to be pissy about it.

Greg Perry, a member of the Mountain View City Council, echoed that sentiment. "If public land is being used for private purposes, the tenants should be paying local property taxes," he said. "We have $30 million in unfunded retirement liabilities. We need the money." NASA Ames is a self-contained federal entity, however, and not subject to local jurisdiction, including property taxes. When asked how he would compel Google to pay more to the county, Stone replied: "I don't have a clue yet. But I will."
Of course later we find that,
The company will also have to build infrastructure such as sewers and roads, and pay for improvements to existing utilities, Marlaire said.
They have to do that because, they are not building on county land. Of course there are other reasons to complain. There will be gridlock on the highways, rents will go up! Dogs and Cats living together! Mass Hysteria! Of course the Google headquarters will bring all sorts of money into the community, and likely other businesses as well, but this is convieniently ignored by those people who, upon seeing someone else's pie feel cheated if they don't get a slice.

$100 laptop for kids

St. Petersburg Times:

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology want to get a computer into the hands of every child in the world, even if there's nowhere to plug it in. The design has to be durable, self-reliant and, above all, cheap. About $100. The machines' AC adapter would double as a carrying strap, and a hand crank would power them when there's no electricity. They would be foldable into more positions than traditional notebook PCs, and carried like slim lunch boxes. For outdoor reading, their display would be able to shift from full color to glare-resistant black and white. And surrounding it all, the laptops would have a rubber casing that closes tightly, because 'they have to be absolutely indestructible,' said Nicholas Negroponte, the MIT Media Lab leader who offered an update on the project Wednesday. Negroponte hatched the $100 laptop idea after seeing children in a Cambodian village benefit from having notebook computers at school that they could also tote home to use on their own.
Screw the poor kids, I want one! In all seriousness this is a really cool project. I expect Bill Gates isn't thrilled by it though.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Oil not from the Dinosaurs after all?


Dr. Gold strongly believes that oil is a 'renewable, primordial soup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attached by bacteria, making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the dinosaurs.'"=
Interesting, read the whole article. I certainly have no expertise in evaluating these claims, although assuming the facts are as represented something is going on here. (via Vodkapundit)

Roberts confirmed as chief justice

CNN.com :

Judge John Roberts was easily confirmed Thursday to be the 17th chief justice of the United States, winning Senate approval with a solid majority. He is expected to be sworn in to the post later in the day during a ceremony at the White House. He will be sworn in by the senior associate justice, John Paul Stevens. The 78-22 vote ended a nearly three-month roller coaster ride for the 50-year-old federal appeals judge.
Hardly surprising. NARAL et al will be disappointed that they only got 22 Democrats to oppose this nomination. I expect though that those Democrats that voted for Roberts will have a lot more moral authority to ensure a relatively moderate judge next then those that voted against him. It will be interesting to watch the Roberts court. I expect the biggest change we will see is decisions that are much more clear in establishing precedent. I think Roberts will try to avoid decisions like the seperation of church and state cases last spring that pretty much said you can display the 10 commandments unless you can, with no real rhyme or reason for when it is appropriate or not.

Melting of sea ice speeds up in Arctic?

New Scientist:

Sea ice in the Arctic reached a record low this summer, accelerating a melting trend evident for a quarter-century, US government scientists have reported. The extent of Arctic sea ice typically reaches a minimum in September each year. And between 16 and 21 September this year, there were just 5.3 million square kilometres, 20% less than the average since 1978.
Hmmm, sound pretty bad.
The figure is probably the lowest for at least a century, says Julienne Stroeve of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) of the University of Colorado at Boulder, which collated satellite data supplied by NASA since 1978.
Ok, now I'm a bit confused. What happened a century ago that caused this? Or, if we don't know what it was a century ago but expect this much variation then why is this a problem? Of course the article doesn't say and blithely proceeds with:
The data reveal that the rate of disappearance of ice has now risen to an average of 8% per decade. The figures reinforce previous forecasts that the Arctic is likely to be free of ice during most summers by about 2080.
So we apparently have some degree of natural variation in the past, but are predicting a straight line in the future. Ok...
The researchers say that, after four years of record low sea ice, the trend can no longer be dismissed as a result of short-term variability. 'The one common thread is that Arctic temperatures have increased in recent decades,'” said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado. So far this year, the Arctic has been 2 to 3°C warmer than the 50-year average. And spring melting this year began 17 days earlier than usual.
How much variation is there against that average? Guess that's a secret that we don't need to know about. Of course their couldn't be any other explanations out there though.
There remains a question mark over whether the warming is tied to some natural long-term cycle, such as the Arctic Oscillation, which brings warmer air across much of the Arctic. But while the oscillation is currently in a warm phase, this has not increased during the past four years and the suspicion is growing that climate change caused by human activities is to blame.
Ok, because the oscillation has stayed in a warm phase for the past four years we can safely discount it as being the cause of this? Huh? I would think that four years of being in the warmer oscillation phase would lead to increasingly warm temperatures, but perhaps that is just my foolishness. This is exactly the sort of thing that frustrates me about global warming and the reporting about it. Almost every article I read assumes that I am an idiot. I will freely admit that I'd don't understand global climate. I will agree that their could be reasons that the things that are reported that don't seem to make any sense are in fact accurate. Could any of these reports at least try to explain it however? My basic beliefs on global warming remain unchanged. The scientific evidence that I have seen seems to pretty clearly indicate that the global climate is changing and the we are in a warming trend. How warm it will get and what the effects of that warming will be seem to me to be entirely unknown. The hypothesis that this is human caused, while not non-sensical, seems to be much weaker to me. Lastly, even if those who claim it is human caused, and that the effects will be dire indeed, are correct we don't know enough to begin to address how to combat this. Kyoto wouldn't do anything at all, (except hurt us economically) even if it was politically feasible. That doesn't mean research is a bad idea though. I think human control over global climate would be a great thing, something we should strive toward whether global warming is a problem or not.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tom DeLay

I have no real love for Tom "No Fat in the Federal Budget" DeLay. It would probably make for a Republican Party that I have more in common with if he is eventually convicted. However, I think that unlikely to happen. My gut feeling, from reading and listening to various aspects of the case is that the indictment is pretty weak and it is unlikely that DeLay violated the letter of the law. Now, he probably did violate the spirit of the law, with the caveat that a part of this law's spirit seems to be legal ways to get around the professed spirit. My bet is, that the outcome will be Tom DeLay being accuitted and regaining his old power and more, with the added sheen of martyr status. It will also result in a little less respect for law, a little less faith in the system, and a little more belief, on both sides, that the other party is 'evil.' That is a bad outcome as far as I am concerned.

Cantwell says she will oppose Roberts

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Tuesday she will oppose Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts, saying she is concerned that Roberts did not make clear his views on an individual's right to privacy. Cantwell, who met with Roberts on Monday night at her Senate office, said in a speech on the Senate floor that Roberts failed to address her concerns about privacy - and abortion rights - despite repeated questions. ... Cantwell called Roberts' answers inadequate, and cited polls showing a majority of Americans wanted Roberts to answer questions about past Supreme Court cases.
I tend to use the opinions of my Senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray as a guideline of whether I am right about something or not. If I ever find myself in agreement with either of them, I have to wonder if I have made a mistake somewhere. I love Cantwell citing polls that Americans want Roberts to answer questions without even feeling the need to support that argument on the merits. I am sure she would tell you that if the majority of Americans wanted abortion to be restricted, that wouldn't matter because the underlying principle of privacy rights trumps opinion polls, or even votes. Yet somehow the issue of whether or not a judge should comment on cases that may well come before him, or whether cases should be prejudged based upon issues, rather than the facts, seems to be something that can safely be decided by an opinion poll.

Number of millionaires hits record


There are 700,000 more millionaire households this year than in 2004, according to a survey released Wednesday. Households with a net worth of at least $1 million excluding primary residences rose 8 percent to a record high 8.9 million, according to an annual report by TNS Financial Services, a market research and polling firm. This is the third consecutive annual increase, although this year's growth rate is far more modest than the 33 percent increase seen in 2004.
I am sure my liberal friends will tell me why this is a bad thing. It seems like very good news to me though.

Guardian Unlimited | Science | First shot of deep sea giant

A photograph released by Dr Tsunemi Kubodera of Tokyo's National Science Museum of an 8m (26ft) long giant squid taken as it attacked bait on a longline at 900m depth off Japan's Bonin islands. They have been trying to photograph this beast for a while now. Very cool that they have succeeded.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Louisiana's Looters

Washington Post:

The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.
I am of the opinion, unlike some, that we should rebuild New Orleans and that Federal money is an appropriate componant of this rebuilding. I also don't think we can effectively 'move' New Orleans to a safer place. New Orleans is of vital importance as a port, and in that capacity it effect a good portion of the nation. It seems unlikely to me that a port at the mouth of the Mississippi will be safe from flood or hurricane, that is going to be part of the cost. I do think we might want to abandon a few neighborhoods and relocate them to higher ground however. Even with these fairly sympathetic feelings on the plight of New Orleans, or perhaps because of them, this latest move by the LA representives really pisses me off. It is patently obvious that graft and corruption are endemic in LA. That has been clearly shown already. I would have hoped though that with so much actual suffering, and with the nation focused on them, the elected representives of LA could, for once, actually try to do their jobs and help the people. Instead they serve up this bloated request that includes "$25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Schoolteachers shot dead in Iraq


Armed men have killed five Shia primary school teachers and a driver in a school in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad, a spokesman for Babel police says. 'These men were terrorists in police uniform,' the spokesman told reporters on Monday. He said the attackers arrived at the school in two civilian cars, led the teachers and the school driver to a part of the school where no children were present, and shot them.
It would be interesting to know what 'crime' these thugs considered the teachers to have committed. Is it that by being government employees they are 'collaboriting with the imperialist zionist occupiers,' or was it simply that they were handy Shiites?

Thoughts on Iraq

This Instapundit Post with links to Strategy Page and The Belmont Club posts makes an interesting point, Brad Bettin emailed Glenn this:

SP says disbanding the Sunni-dominated Iraqi army resulted in the new army being heavily Kurdish & Shia ... making it less likely to support a Sunni effort to regain control of Iraq. Perhaps disbanding the army - widely criticized as a mistake by anti-Bush forces - wasn't such a bad idea after all.
One thing about war that I think we often forget is that the enemy is called the enemy for a reason. They are trying to disrupt our plans. This means that whatever course we take, the enemy will try to exploit any weakness in that course and make it work, as best they can, to their advantage. We of course are doing the same thing, and hopefully even more effective. What we sometimes forget, when looking at decisions we have made with hindsight, is that the enemy doesn't exploit the weaknesses of the plans we didn't follow. Disbanding the Iraqi army fits into this. It is pretty obvious that disbanding the Iraqi Army almost certainly increased Sunni dissatisfaction and created more chaos in Iraq. It is also, likely that it has had many positive effects as well, and it is virtually certain that their would have been negative effects (and probably positive ones too) if we had not disbanded the army. We will never know what weaknesses in the 'not disbanding the army plan' the enemy would have exploited and magnified. The military aphorism, no plan survives contact with the enemy, remains as accurate today as ever. What we often forget though, when looking through hindsight is that we are comparing a plan that has contacted the enemy with one that has not. Another area that has been the subject of much debate, from before the war started clear to today, is whether Iraq should be split into separate countries, a northern Kurdistan, a Shiite nation, and a Sunni nation. In the comments to this post, which was pretty much just a link to President Talabani's reason's America should stay in Iraq, Ghost Dansing, apparently a new commenter (which I always appreciate), started with a litany of the reasons why Iraq was a mistake to begin with and doomed to failure. For the most part, these were reason's I had seen multiple times in greater detail, and which I either disagree with or weigh differently than he obviously does, and I have my own reasons, which long time readers are pretty well aware of, and anyone who has followed the debate at all could probably recite as well as I could. I declined to go into a long debate in the comments of that post, mostly because I doubted it would change any minds and I have basically said all of that before. Ghost Dansing then went on to write a pretty good history of modern Iraq, arguing that Iraq was an unstable coalition of Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis and only a strongman could hold it together. It was an fairly strong case for either living with a strongman (and if you are going to have a strongman, perhaps Saddam is acceptable) or splitting up Iraq. I don't wish to engage the debate on 'living with a strongman' right now, it has probably some merit in some time and in some places (Pakistan?) but it is, at best, a lesser of evils approach. And those lesser evils can be pretty great. Splitting up Iraq is a much more interesting question however. I certainly have no argument with Ghost Dansing’s point that Iraq was an artificial construct imposed by the British and that the tribal hatreds in the region run long and deep. Ghost Dansing perhaps oversimplifies things somewhat, in that even below the level of Sunni, Shiite and Kurd are tribal alignments and fractures that might result in the necessity of a dozen, rather than three countries in the region, but it is perfectly plausible that three countries in Iraq would be relatively stable. There is certainly precedent for that approach. It is what was done in Yugoslavia after all, and other than the odd genocide or two that has worked out pretty well. There are well known practical problems with the approach as well though, a Kurdistan could provoke problems in Turkey, Syria and Iran (although that may well be a feature, not a bug) and the Sunni nation would likely be a pretty poor and destitute place, without much oil revenue and even more filled with anger at America. The Shiite nation would quite possibly be even more inclined to become Islamist, and being smaller and hence weaker more susceptible to falling under Iran's sphere of influence. It is certainly likely though that constitutional problems would be easier to work out, and short term success. We would likely be able to withdraw our troops from the region on a faster timetable and be able to call it a 'win.' Most of the negatives would manifest long term, if they did so. I certainly cannot say with certainly that that plan would be worse than our hopes of a democratic unified Iraq. I think though, that it would be a horrible mistake. From a larger viewpoint, and perhaps one that is forgotten, there is a very important reason why Iraq is the perfect choice for an attempt (and I still believe it will succeed) at establishing a multi-ethnic liberal democracy in the Middle East. A big component of our enemy's logistics, both in the war in Iraq and the broader 'War on Terror' is based upon tribalism. Bin Laden appeals heavily on that impulse in his recruiting campaigns, as do the Palestinian terrorists in their conflict with Israel. Tribalism seems to me to be much more at the root of our problems in the Middle East than Islam is. Defeating Tribalism would then seem to be a priority, and the only way I can conceive of doing that is creating government structures in the region that protect individual rights, even (perhaps especially) of minority groups. The only form of government that seems to have any long term success at this, is a liberal democracy based upon rule of law. This solution is not, of course, a perfect silver bullet. The United States has certainly had it's problems with tribalism in the past, and still does to an unfortunate degree, seen most clearly in our political debates surrounding African Americans. However, a clear view of history will show a remarkable degree of diminishment of tribalism in America, and most other stable democracies as well. Further, it can easily be discerned that where the problems are most severe, it is because of a failure to follow the most central premises of this form of government, most particularly equality before the law and abiding by the rule of law, regardless of one's tribe. So a liberal democracy as a tool to combat tribalism isn't a perfect tool, but it is the best tool we have. In Iraq, the prospects of this are probably especially favorable, despite the long-standing disputes between the major tribes. Because Iraq has three main tribal groups, it is less likely to result in any one of these groups being able to achieve absolute majoritarian dominance. This means that everyone has a stake in equality before the law and it is much more likely to succeed there than in other places. The fact that Iraq has been historically more equal in it's treatment of women than other middle eastern nations will add another point of balance. This isn't to say it will be easy. Tribalism doesn't go down quietly or quickly and prejudice will remain a major problem. Certainly the very need to ensure the balance of different interests, none of whom can ignore the others will make for a long and tense negotiating process, and certainly the appeal of violence to get one's way, as the Sunni insurgents are using, will remain until that is proved futile. The potential benefits are enormous however. Full participation in civil life for all Iraqis is almost certain to yield economic performance in excess of those nations that keep substantial portions of their populace in second class status (over half when one included women in many cases.) This effect has probably been more instrumental than any other in promoting the spread of liberal democracies throughout the world, and there is every reason to believe that once the myth that Arabs cannot be democratic has been destroyed the trend will manifest in the middle east as well, indeed we are already seeing small but encouraging trends in that direction, even without a stable Iraq. Historically western nations have made huge mistakes in the Middle East. In a short sighted attempt to promote stability we have encouraged, rather than discouraged tribalist impulses even as we were struggling to abandon those impulses in our own cultures. Splitting up Iraq would seem to me to be another mistake of exactly that type.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Category 5 General

The Washington Post has a great article on Gen. Honore. This was from before the 'stuck on stupid' comment, but reading it tells a lot about where that comment came from. (via Dean's World)

The Politics Test

You are a

Social Liberal
(80% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(68% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
(via Bostonian Exile)


Hurricane evacuees killed in highway bus fire. 23/09/2005. ABC News Online:

It is reported that 20 elderly people have died in a bus fire outside Dallas, Texas, on a key evacuation route for Houston residents escaping Hurricane Rita. Some reports put the death toll at 15, but local television WFAA reports 20 were killed. 'It burst into flames with black smoke coming from the bus, and then we saw the fire,' witness Ashley Donald told Houston television station KTRK.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday, which gives all of my readers a wonderful chance to link to me and say nice things about me! You all are so lucky to have this opportunity! In keeping with my reverse aging methodology, today I am 25. Yesterday was Gib's birthday, so you probably should say nice things about him to. Less nice than about me of course.

EU backs down on Iran


The EU has been forced to back away from its tough stance on Iran after it failed to get Russia's support for reporting Iran's nuclear ambitions to the UN Security Council. After a series of negotiations at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, the EU, represented by France, Germany and the UK, decided to withdraw a draft resolution that called for Iran to be reported to the security council for breaching the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). According to the Guardian, the resolution said there was an 'international absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes'. While the EU's position, strongly backed by the US, had reportedly gathered just enough support to pushed through the governing council of the IAEA, it was feared that Russia and China would then block the initiative in the Security Council. Pushing for the Security Council route without consensus in the IAEA would also have sent a damaging message about international views towards nuclear proliferation.
Would this 'damagin message' happen to be the truth that most of the international community doesn't care very much about nuclear proliferation? It is becoming increasingly obvious that either we accept a nuclear powered Iran, or we use military force to prevent that. Those are the choices. The rest is just window dressing.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Almost enough to make me a Democrat

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why we must stay in Iraq

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani:

There is no more important international issue today than the need to defeat the curse of terrorism. And as the first democratically elected president of Iraq, I have a responsibility to ensure that the world's youngest democracy survives the inherently difficult transition from totalitarianism to pluralism. A transformation of the Iraqi state and Iraqi society is impossible without a sustained commitment of soldiers from the United States and other democracies. To understand why, let us recall how we reached this juncture in history. How is it that Iraq today has a democratically elected head of state, government and Parliament? How it is that members of the most repressed ethnic groups now hold the highest offices of state? All these welcome developments are a result of the courage and vision of President Bush and his allies, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, leaders whose commitment of troops to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions liberated Iraq. Without foreign intervention, the transition in Iraq would have been from Saddam's bloodstained hands to his psychopathic offspring. Instead, thanks to American leadership, Iraqis have been given an opportunity of peaceful, participatory politics. Contrary to the new conventional wisdom, Iraq and the history of 20th-century Europe demonstrate that force of arms can implant democracy in the most arid soil.
Read the whole thing.

Oil Shale

Instapundit points us at this The Rocky Mountain News article:

But with crude oil above $66 a barrel at the close of trading Tuesday, oil shale is a promising alternative to crude. The Green River shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are estimated to contain 1.5 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil, and while not all of it can be recovered, half that amount is nearly triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.
There are a lot of fossil fuel energy reserves out there. Oil shale is just one, and the difference between these other reserves and more traditional oil fields is simply the cost of recovery. This is bad news for the alternative energy crowd, as even the more expensive oil shale (and others) is still much cheaper than solar or wind power. It is very good news for the economy and civilization in general however. Update: Welcome visitor's from the Anchoress! You might also be interested in this post of mine: Does God Protect the Righteous

Stuck on Stupid

Is there any chance Gen. Honore will run for President in 2008? Without even knowing his politics, he has my vote! Click on to Instapundit.com for a link to the transcript and video if you havn't seen it yet.


LA Daily News:

Conservative House Republicans plan to recommend today more than $500 billion in savings over 10 years to compensate for the costs of Hurricane Katrina as lawmakers continue to struggle to develop a consensus on the fiscal approach to the disaster. At the top of a partial list of the potential cuts being circulated Tuesday were previously suggested ideas like delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in home-state projects from the newly enacted transportation measure. The list also proposed eliminating the moon-Mars initiative that NASA announced Monday, for $44 billion in savings; ending support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $4 billion; cutting taxpayer payments for the national political conventions and the presidential election campaign fund, $600 million; and charging federal employees for parking, $1.54 billion. 'What House conservatives will demonstrate through Operation Offset is that there is more than enough room in the federal budget to provide for the needs of the families affected by Katrina without raising taxes,' said a House Republican aide who is working with lawmakers on the proposals and who insisted on anonymity because the package would not be made public until today.
I applaud the idea. I have some questions about the specifics though. First off, the Medicare prescription drug coverage. Either the program is worthy or it is not. If it is a proper use of public monies and addresses a real need, then it should not be delayed a year. If it is not, then it should be cancelled altogether. I have my doubts that is is worthy, although I supported it in general because it seemed clear to me that prescription drug coverage was coming, and this was a better deal than many we could get. I suppose from that perspective, a year delay is a good thing, but I think it is bad politics to put it on this list. Next is the Moon-Mars initiative. I do think that a really good case can be made for space exploration to be private, rather than publically funded. However, current laws and treaties limit commercial uses of space. The moon and Mars cannot be privately developed. Since Governments have a monopoly on this development, and since I hold it to be extremely important that we expand into space, Government has to fulfil this need. Offer Mars up for private ownership to the first person to successfully stay there for a year, and I'll be happy to cut NASA entirely out of the budget. I can't agree with charging Federal Employees for parking either. That is pretty much the same as simply reducing their salary. While you could probably make an arguement that this should be done, it wouldn't be politically feasible. Further, I am pretty sure that if you start charging them for parking, they will see a counter-balancing increase in their paychecks pretty quickly. It seems to me to be window dressing, not actual cost cutting. (via Of the Mind)

US Authors' Guild sues Google

PC Pro:

The US Authors' Guild suing Google over copyright infringement. In a class action with the biographer of Abraham Lincoln biographer, a children's book author, and a former Poet Laureate of the United States, the guild alleges that the search engine is 'massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers'. Google Print is a service whereby searchers can find information about a book, read extracts and buy it. Full text of a work is limited to those that are out of copyright. ... 'This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law,' said the Authors Guild president Nick Taylor. 'It's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied.' Google, for its part points out that any copyright holder can elect to have their works withheld from the programme. It also says that Google does not show a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program unless the copyright holder has given permission to show more. In a blog entry Susan Wojcicki, Google's Vice President of Product Management said, ' We regret that this group chose to sue us over a program that will make millions of books more discoverable to the world'.
This will be a very interesting issue for the courts to look at. 'Fair Use' is a very muddled concept, and there is no clear guidlines for what is, and is not fair use. The fact that this is a commercial enterprise, and Google will get revenue from it, will weigh heavily against Google. From an economic standpoint though, I am pretty sure that any Author would do better with their works in Google's search than they would without it. I think it is also pretty clear that humanity as a whole will benefit from such a product. Our success as a species is closely linked to our ability to transfer knowledge from one person to another. Anything that adds to that ability is a huge benefit, and Google Print seems to be such a tool. The underlying issue, the real source of the problem is the length of copyright in the United States. It is pretty generally assumed now that any work that is currently copyrighted will be copyrighted for all time, as congress will extend copywright length in response to corporate pressure. Looking forward, we can pretty much assume that under current law, searchable text online will be limited to a decreasing fraction of human knowledge unless Google prevails in the concept of fair use. If copyright was a more realistic time, something akin to our patent law, we could probably simply have older works searchable and online and live with our online resources being out of date. The plaintifs claim that Google should first get permission from the copyright holders before scanning and putting a work online. On it's face this sounds reasonable. However, the simple fact is that it is not a feasible option. Even if all of the authors were ammenable to the idea and wanted their works online for free, determining the legal copyright owners of the works and contacting them would cost exponentially more than the rest of the project combined. If that is going to be the rule, the project will never happen. It is likely to me that, although I consider it to be an unjustice and a detriment to society, the copyright holders in this case do in fact have the law on their side. Congress does have broad powers to control copyright, and while they may have done a poor job with their powers, the courts cannot remedy the situation. Sometimes the courts can (and should) protect our rights and promote the common good. In this case though, Congress has the duty to act.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reid announces he is a dope

As I explained in this post: Roberts, the ultimate rope-a-dope?, opposition to someone as highly qualified as Roberts is a foolish political strategy. FOXNews:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that he intends to oppose confirmation of John Roberts (search) as chief justice of the Supreme Court. 'I intend to cast my vote against the nomination when the Senate meets here next week,' Reid said on the Senate floor. 'For me, Mr. President, this is a very close question. But I must resolve my doubts in favor of the American people, whose rights would be in jeopardy if John Roberts turns out to be the wrong person for this job,' he said.
Democrats can go on all day about how they are voting 'no' because they are 'unsure'. Politically, they cannot prevent this nomination so all they have is the court of public opinion to rely on. People won't remember the reason you gave, they will simply remember whether you voted 'no' or voted 'yes'. So if we get Janice Roberts Brown nominated next, and the Democrats vote against her as well (which I could certainly understand, even if I disagree) then the perception in the American mind will be not that Brown was bad, but that she was pretty much like Roberts. The perception will also be that the Democrats were simply obstructionist. The only thing that could be better, if Bush really does want to appoint a very conservative person to the bench, is if the Democrats filibustered Roberts. It doesn't look like they will be that dopey however.

Does God Protect the Righteous?

Dean Esmay has a interesting post up, pointing out why he doesn't like the type of thinking displayed in this LaShawn Barber post. Read both so you will understand the basics of what I am talking about here. While the notion that God protects a righteous people is frequent throughout the Bible, it is a dangerous thing to focus on too much. First off, the Bible claims a special covenant with the Children of Israel. There is no indication that I no of that any other nation can perform it's half of the terms and get the benefits. That would be similar to me noting J.K. Rowling’s contract with Scholastic and sending Scholastic a book and expecting the same pay off. I don't believe that such a covenant is reflected at all in the New Testament. Indeed Christ seemed to disavow any connection with Government and was for all nations and peoples, not just a select group. That is a fundamental difference in the underlying themes between the Old and the New Testaments. Beyond that, we can easily see dangers that happen when a nation decides that they are a covenant people. While this has been a theme of America (and used to promote all manner of nastiness) it's most prevalent modern manifestation was probably the Boers and the apartheid government of South Africa. This should be a caution to any who think that they must be a special people. Another danger of this path is the inclination to judge an individual or nations righteousness based up exterior events. People that get cancer, for example, do not get cancer as punishment from God for wickedness. Even if God were to punish someone in that manner on occasion, I think only the most loony would conclude that everyone who gets cancer is the recipient of a 'curse' from God for wickedness. The book of Job in the Bible provides a pretty thorough refutation of this notion. God works in mysterious ways. Let's pretend for a moment though that God had indeed promised to protect and guide America as long as we were righteous. Let us further take the assumption that God primarily measured righteousness, as LaShawn seems to, by focusing on what goes on in our bedrooms. What does that tell us about how we form public policy? I would submit that even with those assumptions it tells us very little. Does God count someone righteous because they don't sin because it is against the law? I would think not. A Righteous person would not sin no matter what the law said, and a person who only refrains from sinning because it is illegal, respects man more than God, which is probably a deeper and more important sin than any sexual misconduct. I would find in hard, based upon Christian tradition, to classify a people that refrained from sin because of threat of legal penalties rather than love of (or fear of) God as a Righteous People. If I ascribed to the belief that Righteousness would guarantee protection for my nation, and therefore I wanted my neighbors to be Righteous, I would prefer a legal environment where sin (those that did not cause harm to another, things like murder form an entirely different nexus where a society that permits it might well be sinful) was entirely legal. At least then I would be more able to identify who was, and was not, Righteous and try to convince those that fell short to change their ways. Of course from a different perspective, it is easy to see in general that a virtuous people will tend to prosper more than non-virtuous people. Many of our virtues, whether you consider them to be handed down from God or built up over time as a response to societal need, are indeed beneficial. A nation of hard working, honest, giving, and faithful people will doubtless have greater success than a nation of lazy, lying, selfish, and philandering people. Even here though, it seems that attempts to compel this behavior by the power of the state (the Soviet Union for example) are less than successful. Certainly both communist philosophy and Judeo-Christian theology hold those virtues in common. America basically adopted the idea that people should be urged but not compelled toward these virtues and each man was free. The Soviet Union took a very different approach. I think everyone will agree that America had far greater success at instilling them than the Soviet Union did. Partially that success was a result of the fact that even without needing to invoke intervention by God, and individual will have greater success if they display those virtues than an individual who does not in a free society. Communism removed that natural feedback loop and attempts to instill it's own incentives via the power of the state. I think that the parallels with sexual virtues are obvious. I certainly don't claim to be a Christian Theologian (I don't claim either actually) but I have always found theology a fascinating study. It has long been apparent to me that non-believers tend to sell Christian Theology short. It is equally apparent that many believers do as well, focusing on a narrow sin without any understanding of the structure of the whole.

Simon Wiesenthal dead


Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down numerous Nazi war criminals following World War II then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.
A great man. He will be missed.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Back to the Moon

NASA unveiled plans on Monday to return humans to the moon by 2018 at a cost of $104 billion. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin showcased a mission to the moon in an Apollo-style capsule sitting atop rockets fashioned from shuttle components. 'The space program is a long-term investment in our future,' Griffin said. The new lunar program would begin in 2018 by landing four astronauts on the moon for a seven-day stay. The last lunar landing was Apollo 17 in 1972. The centerpiece of NASA's moonshot is the new spaceship known as the crew exploration vehicle, or CEV. It will be 'designed to carry four astronauts to and from the moon, support up to six crew members on future missions to Mars, and deliver crew and supplies to the international space station,' according to NASA's Web site.
Going back to the Moon, and then Mars is, I believe extremely important. Frankly, I would like to see this a happen a lot faster. The first time we did in within a decade, 2018 seems pretty far away to me. I believe that we will be able to partially terraform Mars, which will give humanity a second basket in which to keep our eggs.

Hurricane Katrina Polls

Instapundit points us to this polls:

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of black voters support the federal reconstruction spending while just 17% are opposed. Among white voters, 49% favor the spending and 29% are opposed. This is the first Bush Administration proposal hat has attracted more support from black Americans than from white Americans.
I believe that Hurricane Kattrina may well end up being a huge benefit to the Republican party. Voters in New Orleans seem to be blaming Nagin, Blanco and Bush pretty much in that order for the failures and difficulties in handling the disaster. Bush though will get all of the credit for the reconstruction, and since he seems perfectly willing to throw a lot of money at the problem we can expect the even inefficient results will be spectacular. There has of course been some tension between Black voters, particularly religious ones, and the Democratic Party. For various reasons this has not yet resulted in any major deffection from the party, although Republican efforts have been gaining ground slowly. The Rebuilding of New Orleans has the potential to change this. If enough Black voters in New Orleans, say perhaps 25%, decide to vote Republican that would pretty much end any hopes of Democrats winning Louisianna. Add in the potential for such a view to give legitimacy to a revolt against the Democratic Party in other states, and this could spell the end of Democratic Presidential hopes for a long time. While this is of course good for the Republican Party (if they can pull it off) it is not very good for those of us who a skeptical of the Religious Right and long for a return to small government Republicans. Compassionate Conservatism is Rove's strategy to take his half of the electorate from the middle, leaving the libertarian right and the far left pretty much totally out of the political equation for the time being. Moving to the left too quickly of course would fragment his base before he gained credibility from the center left. Katrina is a perfect change to gain that credibility and may signal the political realignment that Rove has been trying to mastermind. Those of us of a less socially conservative viewpoint, and who long for a bit more libertarian freedom will be in a quandry in such an environment. Unless the Democratic Party totally disintegrates, there simply isn't room in the system for a successful third party challenge. As the Democratic party looses the center, it's own internal politics will force it further to the left (a trend we are already seeing even before this) and make it even less palatable to a libertarianish Republican. Further, although we will probably not be able to count on small government, the Republicans will probably, even as the move further away from us, throw us the occassional bone which will make it difficult to judge electorally if the bargain is worth it or not. Unfortunately, we probably can't hope that rebuilding of New Orleans fails either. Beyond the human suffering which such a failure would mean, New Orleans is economically very signifigant for our nation. It is our most important port and a good portion of the country depends on it. From this perspective, rebuilding New Orleans is probably a very appropriate federal manner, and part of rebuilding the port is making sure all the infrastructe, physical and human, is there to support it. Beyond that, failure at rebuilding New Orleans, and the economic damage that would result, could very well inspire a powerful populist movement (John Edwards is brushing up his old speeches as I type this) that would be far worse than the Compassionate Conservative movement.

Psychoanalyzing Bill

The Anchoress has an interesting post up where she examines what she thinks are the reason's for Clinton's diatribe against Bush that has the media and the blogosphere all in a tizzy. I am skeptical of long distance diagnosis like this, but it is fun to think about sometimes. Frankly though, I am surprised that Clinton held off seriously attacking Bush as long as he did. For whatever reason, he has always loved the spotlight, and going quietly into retirement never seemed likely to me.


Michael C of Of the Mind got to drive a race car. Click on through for his impressions and some pics of the fun.

Abortion and Science

Wendy Mcelroy has written an interesting column on how science may affect the abortion debate:

New reproductive technologies may also redefine the politics surrounding reproduction, including the issue of abortion. I welcome the prospect. It is difficult to believe that science could do a worse job with the issue than courts and fanatic rhetoric. At the very least, science may offer new methods of ending a pregnancy without destroying an embryo or fetus.
Interesting stuff. I am probably a moderate on the abortion issue. In general though, once a think a fetus is viable, able to survive without the woman being required to sustain it, killing it for convenience is absolutely immoral. That is a big reason why I am against partial birth abortion. Viability (or at least a liklihood of being viable) seems to me to be a much more objective way of determining personhood (that the fetus has it's own inherent life) than location (in or not in a woman's body.) Advances such as Mcelroy is talking about will obviously move that line. It will be hard though for people who are pro-choice to remain pro-abortion in that scenario though, when the choices presented are continueing the pregnancy, killing the fetus, or moving the fetus to an artificial womb. At that point, abortion will probably be seen as pure sadism, for any fetus that is able to be transferred. I understand, and agree with, the concept that a woman has a sovereign right over her body. She might morally be required to do something (if for example, abortion is a sin) but that doesn't mean she should be coerced by government into doing that thing. However, it is also obvious to me, that at some point, and that point is probably well before 9 months, a fetus becomes biologically a person. I think any of us who have contact with a pre-mature baby are uncomfortable with the though that but for location that person could be legally killed. I hope that this technology does mature, and that the conflict between a woman and a fetus's rights can be solved in such a manner. Of course there are those on both sides of the debate who will not welcome such a development. On the extreme pro-abortion side are those who seem more motivated by a hatred of humanity than by any freedom for the women involved. Even more prevalent, are those on the pro-life side who want pregnancy to be a punishment for behavior they do not approve of. However, since I have no fondness for either of these groups, I will greatly enjoy their wailing as the public embraces an alternative that they both hate.

Shiver me timbers

Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19 A hearty thanks to Riding Sun for the reminder

North Korea agree to give up nuclear weapons


North Korea promised on Monday to give up its nuclear weapons and programmes in a landmark agreement aimed at defusing a high-stakes crisis which sceptics said was long on words and short of action. In exchange, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China -- the other players in the six-party talks in Beijing -- expressed willingness to provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees. Washington and Tokyo agreed to normalise ties with the impoverished and diplomatically isolated North, which pledged to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 'The joint statement is the most important achievement in the two years since the start of six-party talks,' Chinese chief negotiator Wu Dawei said. The seven-day session ended with a standing ovation by all delegates. South Korea's unification minister, Chung Dong-young, went further, saying the agreement would serve as a first step towards dismantling the Cold War confrontation between the two Koreas. But Lee Dong-bok, Seoul-based senior associate of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the joint statement had failed to bring about any real progress. 'It contains no more than agreements on some principles that help prevent the talks from collapsing and take them to the next round,' he said.
Time will of course tell is this is a real agreement or not. Nonetheless, I think everyone is pleased at any signs of progress. The North Korean regime is certainly among the worst on the planet, and Kim Jung Il is absolutely crazy, so I don't think we can rest easy. A lot of things still need to be worked out, and even if they are it will require constant vigilance to ensure that North Korea doesn't cheat on the deal again.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Poverty and Diversity

Hurricane Katrina has helped us all to take another look at poverty in America, I think. While certainly many are merely using this catastrophe as an event to promote their already established views (either for or against welfare for example) hopefully at least some of us are honestly trying to look at things in new ways. One point that was made, amoung other places, is in this Newsweek article which I have seen in several places is that segregation, largely voluntary, is increasing in America. While there are few legal obstacles to integration, many whites, and many blacks seem to prefer to 'keep to their own kind.' One of the downsides of the quest for equal opportunity inherent in this though is that very often, it is as more who you know than what you know as a measure of success. Since whites have a larger proportion of the wealth in this nation than blacks do, naturally contacts among white people are more economically valuable, in aggregate, than contacts among black people. It is probably much more likely that a poor white person will have wealthy, or at least middle class friends than a poor black person will. It also seems that this trend is increasing, or at best remaining stable. The panacea for combating racism, diversity training, although widely employed doesn't seem very good at combating this factor at all. This leads me to wonder if the very concept of diversity training is flawed. While I certainly agree that is it good to learn about and respect other cultures and lifestyles, diversity training by it's nature seems focused on two things, the differences between groups, and how to avoid offending members of those groups. If we are trained in how different another group is, and how we need to be careful to avoid giving offense to that group, it seems to me likely that when we want to relax, to not worry excessively about protocol and to let it hang out while doing the things our group enjoys, then it seems natural to choose to spend one's social time with one's own group. Perhaps a better concept to focus on is Similarity Training. What if we taught, as an effort to combat racism, all the ways that Blacks and Whites are similar? By any objective measure the similaritites far outweigh any differences. We all laugh and cry. We all love. In general, most of us want to make the world a better place and few of us, of any race or gender, are out to belittle or offend someone else. Martin Luther King famously said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." I have to wonder whether diversity training, obviously well intentioned, helps or hinders that grand goal.

Judges for life

One of the oft noted factors about Judge Roberts is his youth. He will likely be on the court for a long time. Perhaps a whole lot longer than we currently imagine. As Instapundit has talked about for a long time, there is some pretty interesting research going on on 'curing' aging. While the obstacles remain daunting, many scientists seem to think that we have a pretty good handle on the theory, the only difficulties that remains are more engineering. It is not inconcievable that Judge Roberts will live to see aging cured. Most likely of course this will be an incrimental process, lifespan is extended for 10 years, and then within those 10 years we get another 8 and within those 8 we get another 6. Even if the gains we see from each increase are lessened, if the pace of technological innovation is greater than the loss in increase, we can obtain escape velocity to immortality. Imagine that a 70 year old Roberts is likely to live another 20 years. Then a 80 year old Roberts is likely to live another 15 years. At each of these steps, it would probably be very difficult to change the rules away from lifetime appointments, even though we are well aware that lifespan is increasing. It might be a long time before we recognize that a 200 year old Roberts is unlikely to ever die. Of course by this time, all the 'current' members of the Supreme court are likely to live forever as well, and have been on the court for decades themselves. The individuals have become the institution. Society as a whole would be dealing with this issue as well, and a substantial and ever increasing portion of it would become more jealous of defending against 'ageism' and the notion that people should 'step aside' to let other, perhaps younger, people have a shot at top positions. The battle between the young, trying to find equality against the expirience of the old, uncoupled from the infirmities of age could likely shake society to it's core. Someday the nature of the Supreme Court could be at the center of a massive debate. I hope I live to see it.

Roberts, the ultimate rope-a-dope?

I happen to believe that Bush is pretty happy with Roberts, and that Roberts is exactly the kind of judge that Bush wants. Many, on both sides, think that Bush's next pick will be more conservative though. If this is true, then the Roberts hearings seem to me to have done as much as possible ensure that Bush could, if he wished, put in a very conservative judge. Watching the hearings last night with Equal Rights advocates, Women's advocates and others, they made it clear that they considered Roberts absolutely unacceptable. Apparently, if Roberts is confirmed within a week slavery will be reinstituted and all women will be demanded by law to be barefoot and pregnant. I exagerate a bit here, but not a whole lot. Roberts is obviously not a good enough judge for these groups. By and large, their reasoning for this is not from the fact that he is oppossed to their causes, but that their exists reason to doubt that he is committed to their cause as they would like. Now doesn't oppose him because he is anti-abortion, they oppose him because he has not been proven himself to be pro-abortion. A similar dynamic appears with the Equal Rights advocates. They have made it perfectly clear that the only judge they will support is an ideologue who agrees with them. A non-ideological and unbiased judge is just as bad, or apparently just as bad, in the eyes of these groups as someone who is an ideologue for the other side. So Roberts, who I think most Americans will be pretty impressed with, and find to be an unbiased and fair judge, is absolutely horrible. The fact that the next judge Bush nominates will also be 'absolutely horrible' in the eyes of these groups seems obvious as well. The practicle result of this, is that even if the next nominee is far worse than Roberts, these groups will have a hard time claiming that the next nominee is worse than Roberts. To the extent the public disagrees with their evaluation of Roberts, and I think it fair to say that a broad swath of the country will, they will tend to discount future negative evaluation of Judges by these groups. These groups are, in my opinion, debasing their moral currancy, which is the only power they have to affect public policy.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New Site for Random Gemini

Random Gemini has moved to a new WordPress site. Looks great. I have taken this opportunity to trim my links a bit, and also moved Tsykoduk to the personal friends category since we have begun hanging out in person on a regular basis.

Gateway Pundit: Courageous Iraqis Stand Up to Terrorists

Gateway Pundit posts this bit of great news:

The following is my translation of a headline and article in the September 15 edition of the Iraqi Arab newspaper “Nahrain” 'Loyal Iraqi civilians arrest Terrorist in Al-Kademiah.' 'A number of Iraqi loyal civilians arrested 4 terrorists who were trying to launch rockets to kill innocent people in the Al-Kademiah in the early afternoon (of wed Sept. 14). After Al-Kademiah residents saw the terrorists preparing the rockets to be fired randomly at civilians they, over powered them, arrested them and confined them to a local house. The civilian’s then called the Iraqi security forces who now have them in custody for questioning. This brave and heroic stance of the citizens of Al-Kademiah and their resolve to cooperate with Iraqi security forces in defeating terror and building a free, democratic Iraq free of criminals who want nothing but to kill Iraqis and return them to the dark days which buried the glow of freedom and democracy. Join us to defeat terror by contacting one of these hot lines: Baghdad 813-2426, 813-2429, or 07901737723, 07901737724, 07901737725, 07901737726,
There is more good news in his post as well. It amazes me people can not just doubt, but be absolutely sure that we cannot win the war in Iraq. My analysis is that we have made steady progress since the beginning. That doesn't imply that their have been no mistakes or problems, but while it may often be two steps forward and one step back, the total progress in the effort has been very signifigant. While success is not guaranteed, it continues to seem likely, barring premature disengagement. Of course we have had much less success in the propaganda battle here in America. Despite the real, measurable progress in Iraq support for the war is continuingto fade. Since success in war most often goes to whoever refuses to give up the longest, this is troubling. One gamble that those of us who were pro-war made, and I think were fully aware we were making, was on the staying power of the American people. It is obvious that if we didn't have the will to see the job through we shouldn't have started it. So to support the war, we had to make a bet that the American people would see it through. One big test of this gamble was the 2004 Presidential Election, and it showed that our bets on this matter might well pay off. Public opinion in recent polls is less encouraging, but not disasterous yet. Sadly, a good portion of the discontent about the war is based upon the conclusion that it is not a winnable war. The Bush administration seems to be pretty negligent in successfully promoting the successes in the war, and how we can, and hopefully will achieve victory. Of course their has been some pretty signifigant opposition to promoting this viewpoint. (via The Anchoress)

On Not Answering Questions

Yesterday during the hearings Senator Schumer launched what I thought was a pretty effective attack on why Roberts, who was fully free to express opinions in cases either in favor or dissent as a Judge, and fully capable of expressing opinions on cases as a private citizen could not, during the Senate Committee hearings express opinions on cases. This of contained the movie reference segment that has become somewhat well known, but I thought that the general line of attack was well thought out and made a pretty strong case. Roberts, who unlike Shumer had not had a chance to reherse for this particular exchange, utterly demolished this line of reasoning. Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The only point I would like to make, because you raised the question how is this different than justices who dissent and criticize, and how is this different than professors -- and I think there are significant differences. The justice who files a dissent is issuing an opinion based upon his participation in the judicial process. He confronted the case with an open mind. He heard the arguments. He fully and fairly considered the briefs. He consulted with his colleagues, went through the process of issuing an opinion. And in my experience, every one of those stages can cause you to change your view. The view you ask then of me, Well, what do you think, is it correct or not? or How would you come out? That's not a result of that process. And that's why I shouldn't respond to those types of questions. Now, the professor, how is that different? That professor is not sitting here as a nominee before the court. And the great danger, of course, that I believe every one of the justices has been vigilant to safeguard against is turning this into a bargaining process. It is not a process under which senators get to say, I want you to rule this way, this way and this way. And if you tell me you'll rule this way, this way and this way, I'll vote for you. That's not a bargaining process. Judges are not politicians. They cannot promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.
I suppose that Roberts has of course had time to think on why he shouldn't answer questions in general. Shumer though obviously prepared this particular line of attack on this concept in advance, and was able to refine it to be as strong as possible. Roberts was able, apparently on the fly to convincingly argue against an attack which I thought was a pretty good one. Not only was he able to be humorous immediately before with the movies, he was able to articulate extremely clearly and logically a principle that I think is tremendously important. It would be nice to be able to say that Roberts thinks about legal issues exactly the way I want him to. Failing that, it would be nice to know where he departs from my thoughts. That is something I would like to have. I thought that Glenn Reynolds 5 questions in the New York Times were good questions, and I would love to hear the answer to them. However, nice as this would be, I have a greater interest in 1) a Supreme Court that will hear a case with an open mind and 2) making sure that Supreme Court nominees do not in fact bargain for confirmation votes. Roberts has convinced me on this issue, and left me a very favorable impression of him.

To war: Lance Cpl. Stephen Sensing

Donald Sensing's son has been deployed to Iraq as a Marine. This bit at the end of his post echoes in many ways my own feelings:

I told him what I had told my son the night before, that I was deeply envious of my son and his fellow Marines. Some people reach the end of their lives still wondering whether they ever made a positive difference in their country or the world. Marines don’t have that problem, and neither, of course, do soldiers, sailors, airmen or Coast Guardsmen. My son and his fellows are producers of freedom, not mere consumers of it. And those who only consumed freedom will one night lie in their beds and think themselves accursed that they didn’t serve with them.
I am an English Major (working in computers of course) and a lover of Shakespeare. This sort of sentiment always reminds me of this line from Henry V.
And gentlemen in England now abed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhood's cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
I want to express my admiration and appreciation for Stephen Sensing, and all the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.

Massachusetts lawmakers defeat bid to halt gay marriages

San Francisco Chronicle:

Amid a pep-rally atmosphere, Massachusetts legislators overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to halt same-sex marriages Wednesday -- showing how quickly gay nuptials have moved from being a court-ordered imposition to a powerful political cause. By a vote of 157-39, lawmakers voted down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have eliminated the same-sex marriages legalized two years ago and replaced them with 'civil unions' for gay couples. Instead, the vote leaves same-sex marriage as the status quo in Massachusetts, and it now seems likely to remain so until at least 2008.
While I think it a bad legal argument that equal treatment requires acceptance of homosexual marriage, I continue to believe that it is good policy. Massachusetts is certainly useful in demonstrating that gay marriage won't end all life on earth. The strength of this vote does a lot to show that even if the Massachusetts supreme court got the legal argument wrong, they may well have done a good thing anyway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Roberts Hearings

I watched a good portion of yesterday's hearings on C-Span last night. I have to say Roberts very much impressed me. He not only seemed to have the demeanor that I look for in a good judge (modesty about his own policy preferences) but a very strong understanding of the law, precedent and how to correctly judge matters. He explained in very clear terms how one crafts a judgement and the difficulties of balancing differing claims of rights and of applying correct precedent. Basically it was a great way to learn more about Constitutional law. The explanations he gave of why he wouldn't answer certain questions 'the Ginsburg Rule' as it is called, also made pretty good sense to me. The performance of the Senators was considerably less enjoyable. First off, it was patently obvious that they all, Republican and Democrat alike, love to hear themselves speak. Many seemed to regret that they had to give some of their time to Roberts to respond at all (Biden even accussed Roberts of filibustering ironically enough.) Between their bloviating lectures on the law, that in my mind were often very poorly constructed, and the need to preen their pet causes for the most part they simply wasted our time. A few asked good questions, but even the best took their sweet time getting to them. I won't even get into the fact that they felt a need to ask questions that Roberts had already fully answered. I think that the forum is fundamentally flawed. Senators on the panel are asked to be the judges and the prosecutors (or the defense) simultaneously. This makes for a pretty inefficient, and less illuminating, process than is needed. It occurred to me that a better mechanism for this might be something similar to the impeachment process, where the House gathers and presents the evidence from their parties perspectives. That said, I don't think that the process if fatally flawed and in desperate need of change, merely that it is mostly stupid. I think we did gain a pretty clear insite into Judge Roberts judicial views. I don't think he is a 'conservative' judge or a 'liberal' judge. I think he is a 'lawyers' judge. It seemed pretty clear to me that precident, rule of law, and intent were all far more important to him than any ideology. This probably means that, at least in the immediate future, he will be pretty predictable and unlikely to craft judgements that or outside of established norms. This means no overturning of Roe v. Wade or Raich or Kelso, which conservatives will hate. It also means he is unlikely to support radical reinterpretation as well though (I strongly doubt he would find a 'right to marry' in the Constitution for example.) Over time, especially as Chief Justice, their is some danger that the moderate and modest approach will errode, and he will come to enjoy the power of crafting precident himself. I would be surprised if that were to occur in this case though. Roberts seems to regard the rule of law as a desirable end in and of itself and not just a means to an end. There were a few times when he spoke of the law, and his passion for it when this was extremely clear. That isn't a bad attitude for a judge to have.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


CNN Money:

Coffee prices are set to surge to their highest levels in years as traders and roasters wake up to the full extent of hurricane damage to stocks held in New Orleans, industry sources said. Prices for arabica coffee, currently around $1 a pound, could surge above $1.45 a pound in the coming months with a long-predicted shortfall in beans made worse by the huge losses predicted in New Orleans warehouses and roasting plants, analyst Judy Ganes said Tuesday.
I thought Hurricane Katrina was horrible before, but now we see that the devastation in New Orleans was only the least of our worries. My God, how will we in the Pacific Northwest survive this nightmare! Damn Karl Rove and his evil weather machines! Damn him! (via Faynights)

The battle of Tal Afar

This New York Post cvolumn about the battle for Tal Afar is well worth reading. It gives some specifics on the battle, and how it was a great success (of course no victory is so great that some won't percieve it as a defeat.) Read the whole thing. The conclusion is worth remembering, although I have stated much the same thing many times before:

We must stop being impatient with the Iraqis and insisting that their every effort is doomed. Despite great difficulties, the Iraqis continue to move their country forward. Not one of the 'expert' claims that Iraq would fail has yet come true. So what's happening in Iraq while recovery efforts from Katrina also defy the doomsayers? A combined U.S.-Iraqi force cleaned out the terrorist base at Tal Afar with remarkably low losses. Sunni-Arab 'rejectionists' are preparing to join other Iraqis at the polls. International terrorists have become hated in Iraq. The number of tip-offs we receive has soared. And the country just plain refuses to fall apart.
(via Vodkapundit)

The Man-Made Disaster?

Tsykoduk has an interesting post up that makes the claim that the tradgedy in New Orleans was a man-made disaster caused by the welfare state and the residendents of New Orleans itself more than it was a natural disaster. I am not entirely convinced in totality, but certainly their are aspects of the situation that are probably worth looking at through that prism. You should probably click through and read his post, and perhaps the linked article before reading the rest of this. FEMA probably didn't have plans, or the responsibility, for distributing aid in the face of what amounted to an insurgency. They proved unable to deal with that eventuality. Whether they should be expected to or not is an interesting question worth thinking about. I think that the looting and lawlessness in New Orleans was profoundly disturbing to many of us. It showed how thin the veneer of civilization was in one of our major cities. The poor of New Orleans, mostly black, obviously didn't respond to the crisis as we would expect. Actually, it was just a minority of the poor, but their actions we disruptive enough to effect the entire relief effort and caused needless additional suffering. We need to ask ourselves how, and why these people were so unconnected to society that without restraining force civil behavior immediately collapsed. The Welfare State, which I have no love for, may be part of this answer, but I certainly don't think it is all of it. The fact that police officers joined in on the looting as well provides another clue, in my opinion. If the police are that quick to abandon lawful behavior, it speaks of a corruption in the system that existed well before the waters began to rise. How much respect can we expect ordinary citizens to have for lawful behavior when those charged with enforcing the law have no regard for it. I expect that even in ordinary times, the officers that engaged in the looting behaved in only a marginally lawful manner. They were likely the enemies, rather than the protectors of the people. As I mentioned, most of the poor in New Orleans were black. It does behove us in light of that to ask what effect race, and racism, may have played in this tragedy. I highly doubt that blacks are inherently more lawless than anyone else. It does appear that poor urban black culture doesn't have a very strong grip on civilization. Is that because they live off of handouts, as Tsykoduk's post claims, of is it because society has condemned them to a second teir status (racism) as they have responded by not connecting to society? In the 2000 vice-presidential debates, Dick Cheney when asked something along the lines of how he would respond to a certain situation if he were a black man, answered that he could not answer that question. He admitted, and rightly, that he didn't know what it was like to be black in America because he was not black. I agree with that statement. I don't know how tough it is in America for blacks to connect with the rest of society. Other ethnic groups seem to, by and large, connect with main stream America with greater success than blacks. I don't know how to explain that. While I am sure racism occurs, I honestly don't see it often at all. Some claim that the unique situation of American blacks, and the legacy of slavery make it far more difficult for blacks than others. Others say that the cult of victimhood extolled by many black leaders is responsible for the high proportion of black poverty. I find it very difficult to judge which view is more correct, and yet it is something we all must come to decisions on, as we are ultimately responsible for shaping our public policies. New Orleans has clearly shown one thing, what we are doing currently is not working, and we need to find a solution.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Brown 'resigns'


Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, under fire and recalled to Washington in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, resigned on Monday, senior administration officials said on Monday. Under fire for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, Brown was pulled out of Gulf Coast operations on Friday and recalled to Washington. President George W. Bush has been under pressure from Democrats to fire him. Accusations also arose last week that Brown had exaggerated his background in disaster relief in his official biography and resume. The officials would not give any details except to confirm that Brown, who has been FEMA's director since 2003, had resigned. The resignation came three days after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff removed Brown from federal relief efforts in the Gulf Coast and sent him back to Washington.
Although the meme is incredibly popular on all sides of the blogosphere, I am still unsure if FEMA performed poorly in the catastrophe. I don't know what benchmarks to use to judge it, how much and how fast should be mobilized against a disaster of what magnitude? Obviously, it would be wonderful if Brown could have waved a magic wand and sealed up the levees, repaired all damage from the hurricane, and made sure everyone had a wonderful time the moment after the hurricane had passed. Equally obviously, such an expectation is not relevant. Where the expectation should be, and how far from that FEMA actually achieved is much less clear. Much had been made about Brown being a crony appointment and unsuited to the task to begin with. Perhaps that is true. However we had a pretty severe hurricane season last yeah, although obviously no where near as devastating as Katrina, and I didn't hear any complaints about FEMA. I don't have any particular affection for Brown, and I don't really care if he is head of FEMA or not. With this sort of thing though I worry that the actual problems are not being resolved, merely the leader is being scapegoated to bussiness can procede as usual. This whole episode with FEMA (and the lackluster response from the city and the state as well) raises interesting questions that I think should be looked at, which probably will not be. What do we expect from FEMA (besides the obvious but impossible fix everything instantly.) How different our the expectations we have for FEMA differ from what it is actually able to deliver and how do we bridge that cap. Is the cost of our expectations to much to be reasonably born, and should the be revised? I have no indication that Brown would be able to help us as a society answer those questions. I am afraind though that due to Brown's resignation, those questions won't even be asked.

Careful what you wish for...

IOL: As Israel withdraws, Gaza burns:

Thousands of jubilant Palestinians poured in to abandoned Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip on Monday, setting fire to empty synagogues and shooting into the air. The chaos came as the last Israeli soldier left, completing Israel's exit from the territory after 38 years of occupation. Palestinian police in the settlements stood by helplessly as gunmen raised the flags of militant groups and crowds smashed what was left in the ruins or walked off with doors, window frames, toilets and scrap metal. Initial plans by police to bar crowds for the first few hours quickly disintegrated, illustrating the weakness of Palestinian security forces and fuelling concerns about chaos after Israel's exit.
My first thought on reading this was Faramir's quote of the Two Towers movie: "A chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to show his quality!" The withdrawal from Gaza has been a chance for the Palestinian people to show their 'quality.' And they have. I believe firmly that this is a culteral, not a racial quality. If history teaches us anything, it should show us that all peoples are capable to stunning barbarism. The people in Gaza, now responsible for themselves, are probably in for a very tough time. They will have choices on the path they can take, and I believe that eventually they will come to deserve the responsiblilty that they have been given. Until that time though, they will suffer needlessly from being consumed by hatred.

Koizumi Wins Japan Elections by Landslide

Washington Post:

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's triumph in parliamentary polls handed the leader a new mandate Monday to harness his revitalized ruling party and turn promises into action for a range of sweeping economic reforms. His landslide victory Sunday boosted his Liberal Democratic Party's standing in the lawmaking lower house by nearly 20 percent and gave ruling lawmakers a two-thirds majority _ along with a coalition partner _ to override votes in a still-hostile upper house. The LDP's final tally stood at 296 seats in the lower house, public broadcaster NHK reported, well above the 241 seats needed for a majority and the 249 seats it held when Koizumi dissolved the chamber last month. Optimism about the results sent Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei stock index surging 1.8 percent in early trading.
Should be interesting to watch the reforms in Japan and see their effect. I expect they will be very positive.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four Years

It has been four years since the terrorists attack destroyed the World Trade center, attacked damaged the Pentagon and left almost 3000 people dead. While in many ways, too many perhaps, things have gotten back to normal and we go on with our daily life, that day changed the course if history. Today I urge everyone to remember what happened, and contemplate what it means, where we are now, and how we should move forward. We should never forget the events of that day, both the terrible actions of those who wish us harm, and even more the heroism and courage that arose to confront that evil. The brave police and firemen and the heroic passengers of flight 93 transformed Sept. 11 from being merely a day of tradgedy to being a day of triumph as well. Here is what I posted a year ago as well.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Zombies and Democrats

heh (via Emily)

Voting for a new Japan | Economist.com


IT IS an election without precedent in many ways, so the outcome on Sunday September 11th could yet defy the pollsters. But only days before the voting, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) held such a commanding lead in opinion surveys that it was widely expected to retain its grip on power, as it has done for all but ten months of the past half century. If you were to conclude from this, however, that the election has lost its suspense, you would be wrong. For Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi (pictured), is taking on two very different opponents in the election that he decided to call a month ago, after his plan to privatise Japan's postal-savings bank failed to clear parliament. One opponent is the group of LDP rebels who voted against the privatisation plan in the lower house, and who therefore represent one of the most ferociously anti-reformist wings of the party. Mr Koizumi's other opponent is the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has improved the country's democracy greatly over the past few years by giving the LDP some competition. Ideally, Mr Koizumi would destroy the rebels on Sunday without doing too much damage to the DPJ. Neither outcome is assured. It is clear, though, that many of Japan's voters are energised, and mostly for reform. Mr Koizumi's attack on the rebels has clearly inspired much of the country. He has sharply boosted his standing in the polls, and many young and urban voters who have shunned the ruling party in recent years now say that they support the prime minister and his purged LDP. Opinion surveys suggest that the Japanese are keener to vote this time than they have been in many years.
Japan badly needs some reform. While it's manufactoring efficiency is to be envied, it's protectionist policies and domestic over regulation have stymied it's economic growth for over a decade now. Internal markets are more important than external ones for economic strength and Japan, for all it's vaunted glory of the past has never been strong internally. Here's hoping that Koizumi's reforms are successful.

Its all Bush's Fault!

Washington Post:

Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had already launched a $748 million construction project at that very location. But the project had nothing to do with flood control. The Corps was building a huge new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic. Except that barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing. In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large. ... But overall, the Bush administration's funding requests for the key New Orleans flood-control projects for the past five years were slightly higher than the Clinton administration's for its past five years. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief of the Corps, has said that in any event, more money would not have prevented the drowning of the city, since its levees were designed to protect against a Category 3 storm, and the levees that failed were already completed projects. Strock has also said that the marsh-restoration project would not have done much to diminish Katrina's storm surge, which passed east of the coastal wetlands.
When the left side of the blogosphere began alleging that the levees failed because Bush didn't fund them, I originally had some questions, but no facts so I didn't post anything on the subject. I wondered how much corruption in New Orleans, a city known for that problem, played into all of this, how much funding had been allocated to the city during the Clinton administration, and if, the levees that broke were in fact on the list of ones that needed to be fixed. This article seems to answer all of those questions, and assuming it is accurate is a strong argument that no matter how much money the Federal Government had sent to New Orleans in the past 5 years the outcome would have been exactly the same. I am still trying to get a handle on what went wrong in the aftermath of the hurricane. Basically I am sure that a lot went wrong, but to expect that a response to a disaster of this magnitude would go perfectly, no matter who was in the Whitehouse, is not living in the 'reality based community.' There may have been specific cases when someone was directly culpable and simply did the wrong thing. Looking into those possibilities is beneficial and we should do it. There will be many more cases where disorganization was simply a result of the magnitude of the task, and the inevitable breakdown of modern infrastructure that allows better cordination in less disastrous circumstances. People at all levels had to act with incomplete information, and act quickly and as such mistakes will be made. The aphorism in war is that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I am sure a similar statement can be made about disaster plans surviving contact with disasters. This doesn't mean we can't do better, and that we shouldn't look for ways to reduce the chaos in the future, taking lessons from where the Katrina response went wrong and where it went right. Indulging in partisan blame games tends to hurt, not help this process however, and that applies to the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana as much as it does to President Bush. There will be plenty of time, after the facts are known and can be more clearly analyzed to determine exactly what went wrong and why. In those cases when someone clearly failed to meet their responsibilities condemnation should occur. Mostly though, I am sure we will find that most of the mistakes were probably inevitble, and our views of them as 'mistakes' is a result of unreasonable expectations. The response to Hurricane Katrina has been unprecidented in its scale. By any account the various authorities involved have mobilized more resources and saved more people quicker than at any other time in history. Unfortunately, the destruction and suffering left by Katrina is also unprecidented in this country.