Politics: July 2007 Archives

Hm. I just noticed, from the YouTube "debate", Dennis Kucinich saying:

... if our Constitution really means what it says, that all are created equal, if it really means what it says, that there should be equality of opportunity before the law, then our brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender should have the same rights accorded to them as anyone else, and that includes the ability to have a civil marriage ceremony.
But our Constitution does not say either one of those things. Therfore, according to Dennis Kucinich, our gay "brothers and sisters" should not have the ability to be married.

I never knew he was so ... conservative! slashdot.org
I am apparently one of the very few people who agrees with the PBS Ombudsman that Bill Moyers recent broadcast about impeachment was not properly informative by virtue of leaving out many arguments against impeachment.

My first letter is printed there. I followed this up with another letter, included below. Getler responded, "Thanks, again, for another useful observation."

Bill Moyers is right that a substantial part of the country has indicated they would like to see impeachment of one or both elected executives. This is why it even more important to give them the arguments against impeachment, so they can know the drawbacks. If they continue to support impeachment, that's fine, as I am not interested in convincing anyone, but informing them: an opinion unchallenged isn't worth anything. As Proverbs says, "The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him."

I am not asking for "balance." What I want is for the audience to be truly well-informed. If there were no reasonable arguments against impeachment, or if all the arguments on that side were well-known, I wouldn't say to put opposition up merely for the sake of having "both sides." But, of course, that isn't the case here. Even if the opposition response in this case were just an opportunity to come on after the fact and rebut some of the claims, rather than having equal time, that would have been useful and served the purpose of informing the public.

Moyers is basically contradicting himself. Implicit in his mission is that he wants to inform the public, which assumes they do not know all the arguments for impeachment (else why bother?). It also assumes they do not know all the arguments *against* impeachment. And he obviously doesn't care if they ever find out what those arguments are -- at least, not until impeachment becomes more of a "story" -- which means he really isn't interested in informing his audience, but is attempting to push his preferred course of action: impeachment.

He speaks of not being an "echo" of other broadcasting, but an alternative. He also says that merely half of Americans want Cheney or Bush impeached, yet the response to his broadcast was positive by a ratio of 20:1. This seems to suggest that, indeed, he is indeed being an echo. He should strive for more than that.

Mr. Getler, thank you for holding his feet to the fire, even if he comes away essentially unsinged.

Note also that the CPB is required by federal law to fund programs that provide balanced coverage ("strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature,"), and despite protestations to the contrary, Moyers often is not balanced (that he attacked the CPB chairman for attempting to do his federally mandated job is odd).

However, his current show apparently is not funded by the CPB, so there's no conflict there. But I do find it interesting that Moyers used to complain that he was balanced, when the CPB was criticizing him; but now that he is not required to be balanced, he is arguing that balance is a myth. slashdot.org

Michael Vick to Play Again?

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Mitch Albom said this morning that Vick will play again unless he is in jail for the rest of his potential career. He may have a point: the NBA wouldn't even let the Warriors fire Latrell Sprewell for choking his coach. Mike Tyson fought again after biting Evander Holyfield's ear off.

I dunno though. Killing dogs is not as serious as rape or murder of people, of course, but people don't forget it, and he is going to be plagued by this forever, and any team that has him will have a PR nightmare on their hands for just as long. slashdot.org


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I just saw this story. The two funniest parts are the beginning and end:

Executive Order 13422, going into effect today ... gives political appointees final say regarding science-based federal agency regulations.

Which is, of course, how it should be in a representative democracy. It is entirely unreasonable for any regulation of the American people to move forward without either our elected representatives, or appointees of such, approving it. It does not matter what that regulation is. That is the nature of representative democracy.

The "Union of Concerned Scientists" says, "We have a corps of highly trained scientists in federal agencies. Why would we want to undermine their expertise and authority?" That's the wrong question. The proper question would be: "We have officers put in place by the American people to make decisions on their behalf. Why would we want to undermine their collective will?"

The final sentence of the story reads, Democrats called the order a "power grab." Wow that makes no sense at all. Note that the federal agencies in question are executive agencies. So the Executive is grabbing power from ... the Executive. Let us read, together, the first sentence of Article II of the Constitution: The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

I don't always agree with Bush on Constitutional matters, of course. I disagreed with him on that warrantless wiretapping deal (which he later dropped), and I disagreed with him on the citizen-enemy combatant deal (which was struck down by the Supreme Court), and I disagree with him on Miers refusing to be subject to a subpoena (which is still pending). But when Democrats say Bush ignores the Constitution, and then say that Bush doesn't, or shouldn't, have the authority the Constitution explicitly grants him ... it makes them look like fools, hypocrites, or worse. And it makes me ignore them. slashdot.org

Spouses Can't Be Employees

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I have no idea what problem this is meant to solve, and it strikes me as unconstitutionally discriminatory, to boot. slashdot.org

Hillary v. Obama, Round One

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Hillary is exactly right when she says she would not commit to meeting with Kim Jong Il and any other enemy dictator. Obama is exactly wrong when he says he would.

That doesn't mean, as his spokesmen incorrectly claim, that you don't engage. But you don't have President-to-Dictator, one-on-one, meetings. Nothing good can come of it. Obama's people say Clinton's view is the same policy Bush has engaged in; true enough, but it was also the policy of Clinton, Bush, Reagan, and so on. Maybe not Carter. :-)

But even Nixon and Reagan, who did meet with the top honchos who were our "enemies," did so only after years of political posturing and negotiation. You have to set the stage for that kind of thing. Nixon met Mao in the fourth year of his presidency; Reagan met Gorbachev in the fifth year of his.

Hillary didn't say she wouldn't meet with Kim Jong Il ever. She said she wouldn't do it in the first year, and she said it because she understands history and political complexity. And either Obama does not understand those things, or he is pretending he doesn't because he knows many of his potential supporters don't, either. slashdot.org

Fundamentalism and Evolution

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I am told fundamentalists disbelieve in evolution. While many do, I've never seen a definitive study on it, and it is not a part of The Fundamentals to disbelieve in evolution.

Indeed: The Fundamentals, the essays that started the fundamentalist movement, contained some ardently anti-evolution essays, but also contained essentially pro-evolutionist essays, or perhaps more accurately, papers that are explicitly accepting that evolution may be true, and that this does not in any way harm Christianity, and that there's nothing anti-Christian about evolution. For example, George Frederick Wright in The Fundamentals almost 100 years ago:

Modern evolutionary speculations have not made much real progress over those of the ancients. As already remarked, they are, in their bolder forms atheistic; while in their milder forms they are "deistic" -- admitting, indeed, the agency of God at the beginning, but nowhere else. The attempt, however, to give the doctrine standing through Darwin's theory of the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection has not been successful; for at best, that theory can enlarge but little our comprehension of the adequacy of resident forces to produce and conserve variations of species, and cannot in the least degree banish the idea of design from the process.

It is, therefore, impossible to get any such proof of evolution as shall seriously modify our conception of Christianity. The mechanism of the universe is so complicated that no man can say that it is closed to Divine interference.

That is a fundamentalist, in The Fundamentals, almost 100 years ago, saying there is nothing especially wrong with evolution (though he did not explicitly subscribe to it; he was, essentially, an Old Earth Creationist, which is not very similar to what we think of as Creationism, but is more similar to today's Intelligent Design, in that both accept that evolution may be true, but that God intervened to cause [at least some of] those evolutionary steps, which is, given the nature of God, not all that different from the Catholic church's view of Divine Domino Player who does not intervene, but sets up all the blocks and then starts the chain reaction).

And Wright even bashes Richard Dawkins well before Dawkins was born, for good measure:

Furthermore, a great mistake is made when the dicta of specialists in scientific investigation are accepted in religious matters as of any particular value. Indeed, the concentration of specialists on narrow lines of investigation really unfits them for duly weighing religious evidence.

Granted, some groups of "fundamentalists" are predominantly anti-evolution; maybe most fundamentalists are (though I suspect the strongest reason people believe that is because the loudest fundamentalists are anti-evolution). But being anti-evolution is not a necessary or fundamental feature of fundamentalism. The fundamental features of fundamentalism are noted in The Fundamentals, some of which explicitly tell us that evolution isn't evil. slashdot.org


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Some idiot from Huffington Post* was on CNN's Reliable Sources today attacking the NYT for "breaking the embargo" on the Harry Potter book, running a review two days before they were supposed to.

For those who don't know the PR business, an embargo is a scheduled time a PR firm will give to the news media, before which the information in question should not be published. Often, the media will agree to it, in order to get access to information, and they can have the story all ready to go when the news "breaks." I've done it on various occasions, usually in regards to a scheduled product announcement: I interview the people involved, maybe try out the software, and write the story in advance.

And in such cases, I usually will agree to the embargo, and breaking it will mean breaking my word, so I don't do break the embargo.

In this case, the publisher of the book did set an embargo, but it was not a precondition for the NYT to get access to any information. The NYT got the book independently. So there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why the NYT should not publish their review any time they wish to. Period. An embargo not agreed to is no embargo at all. There's no reason in law, ethics, morality, or logic why they shouldn't publish their review "early."

There's only ONE reason to not publish early: relationships. The publisher might get angry at you and not give you information in the future. But what does the NYT care about that? Every publisher lives to get their books on the NYT bestseller list, so the NYT is far more powerful than any book publisher. And besides, again, the NYT did not violate their word, so any anger expressed by the publisher is nonsensical on its face. "New York Times: how dare you do your job to inform your readers as you see fit instead of allowing us to dictate it to you?"

The other dude on Reliable Sources actually called the NYT's actions grossly "unethical." He writes some column about ethics. And he doesn't know what ethics are, apparently, because this was not in the least bit unethical. He went off about "think of the children" because someone might find out too much about the book from an early review; well, they don't have to actually read the review. If I cared one whit about Harry Potter, I would simply avoid reviews about it. As long as they don't print any spoilers, or warn readers early in the review before getting to any spoilers later, there's no issue. slashdot.org


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Wow, Fred Kaplan sure knows how to twist facts into lies.

In effect, Edelman was telling her three things. First, you're practically a traitor for even asking these questions.

Lie. He said nor implied any such thing. He said that information could be used to harm us, which is not even remotely similar to calling her a traitor.

Second, maybe we do have contingency plans for withdrawal, but we're not going to tell you about them.

Yes, he said that.

Third, run along now, little lady, I've got work to do.

Nope. He never said or implied any such thing.

She asked only whether the military now has a blueprint for when the time to leave comes.

Total lie. She asked WHAT that blueprint is. If all she wanted to know was "whether" there was one, then what's the problem? He essentially answered that question, if you read between the lines. "I assure you, however, that as with other plans, we are always evaluating and planning for possible contingencies," he said. If this is a possible contingency, then they are planning for it, according to Edelman. She didn't want to know that, she wanted to know the details, and he said no, and told her why he was saying no.

There's nothing heretical or traitorous about this line of inquiry, either.

Nice straw man: no one ever said otherwise, of course.

Even President Bush acknowledges that U.S. troops will leave Iraq at some point.

Exactly, which undermines Kaplan's own argument that Clinton just wanted to know if there WAS a plan.

Senators put up with a lot of evasion and deceit from the executive branch, but one thing they will not tolerate is being explicitly left out of the loop.

Damned Constitution!!!!

... he all but accused of her treason for asking to be let in.

Of course, in fact, no, he did not.

Eric Edelman wasn't yelling at Clinton, but he was patronizing her ("I appreciate your interest in our mission in Iraq. ..."), shooing her away from serious men's business ...

Utter nonsense. Does anyone honestly think the response to a male Senator would have been different?

I don't think I've ever had any respect for Fred Kaplan, but if I did, I no longer do. The guy takes a perfectly innocuous letter explaining clear and standard policy, and it's taken as an insult? Is this how thin-skinned people have become, that facts are insults? (Don't answer that ... the answer is too depressing.)

Even worse, of course, is that opinions -- mere chracterizations that clearly do not actually represent what was said -- are facts, just because they reinforce what people already believe. It doesn't matter what I say about Kaplan's dishonesty: people agree with him just because he is pro-Democrat, anti-war, and anti-Bush administration. That is all that matters. Screw the truth. Forget the facts. Just emote enough, and in the right direction, and you're golden. slashdot.org

Gun Torture Porn

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pudge posted a photo:

Gun Torture Porn

You've heard of "gun porn" and "torture porn." This is "gun torture porn." In the wake of Katrina the New Orleans PD illegally confiscated many firearms, and left them to rust and worse.

Gun Torture Porn

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pudge posted a photo:

Gun Torture Porn

You've heard of "gun porn" and "torture porn." This is "gun torture porn." In the wake of Katrina the New Orleans PD illegally confiscated many firearms, and left them to rust and worse.

Gun Torture Porn

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pudge posted a photo:

Gun Torture Porn

You've heard of "gun porn" and "torture porn." This is "gun torture porn." In the wake of Katrina the New Orleans PD illegally confiscated many firearms, and left them to rust and worse.

Gun Torture Porn

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pudge posted a photo:

Gun Torture Porn

You've heard of "gun porn" and "torture porn." This is "gun torture porn." In the wake of Katrina the New Orleans PD illegally confiscated many firearms, and left them to rust and worse.

Gun Torture Porn

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You've heard of "gun porn" and "torture porn." This is "gun torture porn." In the wake of Katrina the New Orleans PD illegally confiscated many firearms, and left them to rust and worse.

Photos from the NRA's "America's First Freedom" magazine. slashdot.org

Daily Dose of Perspctive

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A jury convicted Baker Middle School principal Harold Wright, Junior of third degree rape for an incident back in 2004.  The jury also found co-defendant Richy Carter guilty of third degree rape.

Prosecutors said Carter was one of the men who held down the 19-year-old woman and took turns violating her.  After that, prosecutors say Wright then came in and fondled the woman.

Wright, 36, faces six to 12 months in jail when he is sentenced August 31. He has been on leave from Baker Middle School since earlier this year when he was charged.

Carter, 33, has a previous felony conviction and faces up to 14 months in jail.


[Michael Vick] has been accused of crimes that offend me greatly, and if he's found guilty, I hope he spends so much time in jail that he dies there. Dog fighting? Dog killing? Only the scum of the earth partake in such an atrocity.

While I do not question Gregg Doyel's prescription for Vick's punishment, I wonder why there's not more outrage at Wright's and Carter's. Maybe we've just become used to people in authority raping our children and then walking the streets less than one school year after conviction. slashdot.org

Nazi Cars

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Some crazy guy sent me a note on YouTube about how the U.S. is like Nazi Germany.

He cited that Bush's grandfather helped the Nazis or whatever. Yes, that proves our government is as bad as the Nazis! Absolutely!

My next thought was, "so did Henry Ford, so I guess I can't drive a Ford." And then I thought, for that matter, all Japanese cars are tainted by being allied with the Nazis. And of course, so are all German cars, because, well, they practically WERE Nazis.

That leaves GMC and Chevrolet, Kia, British cars ... what else can we drive? slashdot.org
The left was whining about the fact that they "can't" get anything done in the Senate. Then they decided to blame the Republicans for asserting their rights as a minority coalition in the Senate. Now they are crying that the facts are being misrepresented.

You see, the GOP is effectively filibustering the Democrats on an amendment to defense authorization bill. Note that they are not "in fact" filibustering, because "filibuster" is not a legal term. It's more a threat than anything else, at this point. But that threat is certainly there, and the GOP Senators have said they are prepared to do what it takes to prevent the bill from passage, including preventing a vote.

So the Democrats, in a perfectly reasonable move -- though IMO useless -- says, fine, you want to filibuster? Let's actually filibuster. Let's have an all-night session. It is precisely what the GOP did in November 2003 when the Democrats were effectively filibustering the GOP's judicial nominees.

So the left is crying that some people are saying the Democrats are "filibustering" when it is the Republicans who are filibustering and the Democrats are just making it into a real filibuster. But note in that CNN story, Rick Santorum -- a member of the majority -- called the GOP move a "reverse filibuster," meaning it was "filibustering" the filibuster. So when the language was used to describe what the Republicans did in 2003, it was fine. No one cared. But when that same language is used to describe the Democrats doing the same thing ... OMG they are lying!!!!

Chuck Schumer said something instructive here, that still applies today, more or less: "All of this probably matters to 500 people: 100 senators, their staffers, and the 50 reporters who cover us, and no one else."

There's nothing new under the sun, Senator.

Granted, this is about the war, and so it matters more than four judicial nominees. But it does not matter to anyone who isn't already paying attention and hasn't already formed opinions. The only thing this might change is that it may improve the approval rating for the Democrats who are being hounded by the antiwar left for "not doing anything." But when, in the end, nothing gets done, their approval rating will slide back. The antiwar left already knows the GOP is obstructing legislation to bring the troops home: they don't care that the Dems cannot do it because they don't have enough votes, because they already know that. They want results, not excuses, and this dog-and-pony show will provide none of the former and more of the latter. slashdot.org

I Am Old

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I am watching KCTS Connects, a local PBS show, because they are interviewing Jim Lehrer and his wife.

And I didn't merely happen upon it: I recorded it on the TiVo in advance.

I am old. slashdot.org

Woman Who Registered Her Dog

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The EFF interviewed the woman who registered her dog. She's done a good thing by bringing this serious security hole to the forefront.

Note that the immigrant who apparently kidnapped and murdered Zina Linnik this month, who was illegally registered to vote, served only 60 days in jail for raping a minor relative, which he pleaded down to incest. But the woman who falsely registered her dog to vote is looking at possibly 90 days for her crime, making a false statement to a public official. Let's see: false statement to the government, or rape of a child ... which is worse? slashdot.org

Nader: An Unreasonable Man

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I watched the Ralph Nader documentary "An Unreasonable Man" tonight.

It was quite good. Biased in favor of Nader, but that's to be expected. And I don't mind: I like Ralph Nader. I disagree with him on a bunch of issues, but I respect him a great deal. He's perhaps the most honest person I've ever seen, and certainly the most honest person I know of who has run for an elected office.

I loved the part where he went to the Congressional Black Caucus and didn't kiss their rings. Basically, they told him not to run, and he said they were treating him like the white man used to treat blacks in the South, and he spoke truth to power, and they didn't like it.

Part of the movie reminded me of the recent Dylan documentary, "No Direction Home." There, you had people like Joan Baez criticizing Bob for betraying what he suppoedly stood for, for destroying his legacy ... the problem is, they didn't really know Bob Dylan, and made him out to be something he wasn't.

Same thing with Ralph. One of his former colleagues understood this when she became a government official and he called for her resignation because she didn't do what he thought she should. She was angry, and thought he went too far, but ... she understood, That's Ralph. He is no respector of persons: he is not going to look up to you or down to you because of who you are, but will put the issues first.

But Eric Alterman makes himself out to be a total moron by saying Nader should have come on TV right before the 2000 election and said "I've made my point, now everyone vote for Gore," and that if he really stood for all the values he says he's stood for all those years, that's what he would have done. But Nader would never have said that. That is not, in fact, who Nader is. Nader believes in standing up for certain issues and that if the candidates won't go along with those issues, they will not get his support, tacit or otherwise. If he is going to call for the resignation of a friend he knows will mostly do a good job, why would he endorse someone whom he thinks won't do a good job?

Alterman also said Nader focused on spoiling the race by going primarily to swing states, even though an analysis of his travel, appearances, and campaign ads shows this isn't true. Typical Alterman, but I digress.

Another Dylan moment: a campaign rally in 2000 where Eddie Vedder sings "The Times They Are A-Changing." I wonder what Dylan thought of that, if anything. Yeah, because 2000 is so much like 1964.

As many people reading this space may recall, I supported Nader's attempts to be in the debates in 2000, 100 percent, and obviously not because I thought it would help Bush or hurt Kerry: I supported Perot's inclusion in 1996, and I donated money to a group working to reform the Commission on Presidential Debates. I believe, very strongly, that people should vote the way they want to vote, and should have the information available to do so.

A Republican friend of mine expressed that she may not vote GOP in 2008 if the candidate is not conservative enough; while she took a lot of heat from other Republicans, and while I would vote for any of the GOP candidates myself, I defended her, because people must vote the way they think is best, whatever it is. She thinks that while it will be short-term moderate gains to vote for a "liberal" Republican, it will be in the long-term better for the Republican Party to not do so. And who is to say she's wrong? I can disagree with her, but I can't prove she's wrong.

So I agreed with Michael Moore's comments at the same 2000 rally when he said people should vote their conscience, and if that leads them to vote for Nader, then they should vote for Nader.

The funny part was when Moore said in a 2004 apperance that you shouldn't vote for Nader even if your conscience tells you that you should, because it's the wrong thing to do. slashdot.org

"Who's Now"

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ESPN is doing this "Who's Now" feature on SportsCenter which is some viewer voting thing where they pick the athlete who is the best both on and off the field of play.

They have four brackets and put different sports stars head-to-head. The brackets are named after four athletes who were "Now" in their own era: Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, and ... Billie Jean King.


I follow some tennis. Not a huge fan, but I watch some of the majors and so on, and I know most of the big stars from over the years. I know about Billie Jean King and her accomplishments. But even though I probably know a little bit more about her than most sports fans, the first thing I think about when I think of her is that she played against Bobby Riggs in '73.

So why is she one of the four top "Now" athletes of all time? I can think of dozens more deserving off the top of my head. If we don't want duplicate sports, Wayne Gretzky is an obvious choice from the hockey world. Tell me Billie Jean King is more deserving than he is. Or Dan Marino. Or Walter Payton.

Obviously, they chose her because she's a woman. Pathetically sad.

The only good thing is that I don't care about this stupid feature; I have been fast-forwarding through it. I only stopped to watch it tonight because they were pitting David Ortiz against Tom Brady. slashdot.org

The representatives of the people, in a popular assembly, seem sometimes to fancy that they are the people themselves, and betray strong symptoms of impatience and disgust at the least sign of opposition from any other quarter; as if the exercise of its rights, by either the executive or judiciary, were a breach of their privilege and an outrage to their dignity. They often appear disposed to exert an imperious control over the other departments; and as they commonly have the people on their side, they always act with such momentum as to make it very difficult for the other members of the government to maintain the balance of the Constitution.

From Federalist 71. slashdot.org

Separated at Birth

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I want to do a spoof "separated at birth" web site where you put up pictures of actors playing different roles. Like, separated at birth: MacGuyver, and Colonel O'Neill from Stargate SG-1.

It's my idea! slashdot.org
Zina Linnik was found dead after going missing on July 4th.

The syspect is an immigrant. I don't know how he entered the country -- legally or illegally -- but as he was arrested Monday on an unrelated immigration matter, it appears he is not a citizen, and that he should have been deported after his 1990 conviction stemming from a violent rape of a 16-year-old relative.

Not only should he not have been in this country, he also should not have been allowed to register to vote in Pierce County. Oh, and he was supposed to have been registered as a sex offender so his neighbors would know he was a potential threat. (But that's OK: some corrections officers in Pierce County are actually advising sex offenders on how to break the law in not registering their home address!)

I am not trying to say "ha ha, see how bad immigrants are!" I am just saying, we've always known our immigration system sucks, and that so does our voter registration system, AND our system for dealing with sex offenders, and here's a prime example to prove the points to nonbelievers. slashdot.org

Libby & Pleading the Fifth

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I keep hearing people saying, and apparently believing, that Libby's sentence was commuted so he still retains his Fifth Amendment rights, whereas he wouldn't with a pardon.

Except, well, no.

If Libby's conviction were overturned via pardon, nothing would change at all in regard to his Fifth Amendment rights: it's the exact same whether he goes to prison, has his sentence commuted, or is pardoned. In every case, he could still be convicted for any role in the "leak" (if any evidence came to light it was criminal), and he could also be re-prosecuted for new incidents of obstructing justice or committing perjury, so he still has full Fifth Amendment rights.

Sure, Bush could pardon Libby for "the leak." But as there's never been any indication Libby would be charged for "the leak," why would he be pardoned for that? Bush could also pardon Libby for Libby's role in JFK's assassination! There's never been any indication that such a pardon for a crime that's never been charged, and almost surely never will be, was even under consideration.

Once again, you can't believe what the left is telling you. slashdot.org

*Executive* Privilege

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So I've written a couple of times recently about how the Congress has no say about Executive Orders and so on because these are orders given by the President to people who are exercising his authority. The Congress has no say whatsoever (apart from expressing a mere opinion, as any citizen can do) about whether Cheney follows an Executive Order, if Bush says what Cheney did was A-OK, because Bush is The Decider.

However, it is important to note that this applies only because an Executive Order is to the people in the Executive Branch who are exercising the Executive's authority. The Executive's authority in such matters does not extend outside the Executive Branch.

So it is baffling to me that the President is claiming he has executive authority over a former executive employee (as Harriet Miers' lawyer says). Unless the information she has is itself classified, she has no obligation to follow an order to not testify (and even then, she'd still have to testify, but she could refuse to answer certain questions).

As I think I mentioned before (though perhaps not in this space?), an Executive Order is like any other Presidential order, which is also like the prohibition here to Miers: it's just a boss telling his subordinate what they have to do, or not do. You can't go to jail for violating an order from your boss, or the President (for the most part: military excepted); you can only be fired. But she doesn't work there anymore.

I've defended many times what I think is the legitimate Constitutional authority of the President, even if I have disagreed with how it's been used. I still think Bush was wrong to allow Rice to testify under oath in the 9/11 Commission hearings. And while I don't think Bush has the Constitutional authority to do warrantless wiretaps in contravention of federal law, I recognize there's enough history that even if Constitutionally wrong, he may have had legal justification through precedent to do it (kinda like the unconstitutional program we call Social Security).

But here, I see no justification at all, if indeed he has attempted to order ex-employees to not testify. (I say "if" because I've only seen characterizations of the "orders," not the actual orders.) And what's more, Bush has refused to explain his reasoning; and -- again -- while I do defend Bush sometimes when he refuses to explain, I see no reason to do so here. If the Constitution grants him an authority, I don't see that he has an obligation to explain it, but I can find no reading of the Constitution that gives him the authority apparently being exercised here.

He needs to drop this executive claim, or explain it (and then, probably, drop it).

Some have said the Congress should drag these women in by force, using their authority to enforce subpoenas. They have that right, but I think it's the wrong move. They should attempt to go directly to the Supreme Court to have this resolved as quickly as possible. I think the Court would take the case, and I think the Congress would win. slashdot.org
Former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona is complaining that "science" was being stifled by politics. But he couldn't give an example of it. This was perhaps his most "damning" claim:

Again, the administration had already made a decision that abstinence was the way they wanted to go. And that really -- that policy flew in the face of prudent science, public health science, which said that we need a more comprehensive program in relation to sexual education and not just abstinence alone.

Except, of course, "science" said no such thing. That cannot possibly be a scientific claim. A scientific claim could be that "a more comprehensive program in relation to sexual education" could reduce the incidences of unwanted teen pregnancy and disease. That's fine. But that does not mean that we therefore need such a program. That is a policy decision based on more than just the science, and science cannot tell us what policy we "need."

I am not saying I agree with abstinence-only sex ed. I am against any sex ed in public schools, at least any school my kids go to, unless it's opt-in (not opt-out, or mandatory). Why on earth would anyone want virtual strangers who are agents of the government introducing their children to sex? It boggles the mind. "Keep the government out of my bedroom, but feel free to let them into my kid's bedroom down the hall."

Anyway, I digress. Sort of. The point above is relevant: I am not for abstinence-only sex ed, but there's no logical reason you can say that science is opposed to it unless you also believe that all that matters is the physical. The science has not studied significantly the mental health effects of "comprehensive" sex education; it only says that it is better for unwanted pregnancies and diseases. So by saying science says we "need" this you are saying that we "need" to care more about the physical than the mental, the emotional, the psychological ... and that's not science. That's philosophy. That's, dare I say, politics.

And even if there was significant data on the mental effects, who is to say how to interpret that? You may call an analysis of it "science" but that does not mean it's true. For example, an analysis may find the effects are not statistically significant, but tell that to the kids who are adversely affected. You're making an unscientific judgment that any risks are worth the reward. That is a political question, not science.

Science in government is merely a tool to inform public policy. It does not and cannot say what we "need" to do. I am ashamed that this man was our Surgeon General for four years or so, because I want someone as Surgeon General who knows what science actually is. slashdot.org
Led by Dick Durbin, the Senate Democrats want to cut funding to the VP's office until Cheney complies with an executive order that, by definition, cannot possibly apply to Cheney.

Executive orders are not Constitutional documents or laws, they are just one of many ways the President can express his orders to the people who operate under his sole authority. The President has all executive authority, according to the Constitution, which necessarily includes all authority to make and interpret -- and even ignore -- any executive orders.

So if Bush says this executive order does not apply to Cheney, it therefore does not. That's the law. That's the Constitution. And there's no two ways about it. There's no "yeah but." It's simply that.

So when Durbin says, "Neither Mr. Cheney or his staff is above the law or the Constitution," he is either stupid and doesn't understand that what Cheney is doing (or not doing) does not in any way violate any law or the Constitution, or he does understand that simple and incontrovertible fact and just doesn't care, because he believes that you won't understand it.

Durbin continued: "For the vice president to believe that he has no responsibility to meet this requirement of the law is a dereliction of duty." Except, it is not the law, it is merely an order from the President, and because the President said Cheney didn't have to follow that order, he therefore has no responsibility to do so.

So, which is it? Is Durbin stupid, or a liar? slashdot.org

Not The Onion

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Quoth CNN:

Former President Bill Clinton blasted his successor's decision to spare former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby from prison. ...

"You've got to understand, this is consistent with their philosophy ... [they] believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle."

In other news, Jesse Jackson was overheard attacking other people for playing the race card. slashdot.org


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We had two near mishaps tonight with the fireworks.

First one wasn't our fault. We got a product like this one that shoots flaming balls into the air ... supposedly. The first shot went DOWN instead of up, blowing out the bottom of the unit and tipping it on its side, where it proceeded to shoot flaming balls at homes, cars, and people. We got it upright before it hurt anyone or anything.

The other mishap was user error. Dude got some huge mortars and put the first one in the tube upside down. We all looked up, and saw nothing, then BOOM. It blew the fiberglass tube to hell, and luckily no one was closer to it than about 20 feet, but even 30 feet away you could feel the shockwave. Again, no damage to property or persons. slashdot.org

Francis Marion Monument

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In my last post I noted some nice things about Francis Marion. I just noticed that there's a bill to build a national monument to Marion in Washington, DC (as with most of these, all funding will be private). It passed the House unanimously, and was recommended unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The astute of you may remark, hey pudge, you're against national monuments for people other than George Washington and Jesus! Well, that was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but still: yes, it means I think a monument to Marion is imprudent. Better a monument than a holiday, but better would be a Revolutionary War Memorial that has major sections devoted to certain key figures, including Marion. If they build it I'll certainly go see it someday and enjoy it and honor the man, but I'd rather do that without a national monument in his name, even though I greatly admire him, as my grandparents did when they gave my father the middle name of Francis.

It would've been pretty ironic if I were in the House and, of all people, had been the lone vote against it. Since I don't live in South Carolina, I could've politically survived such a vote. :-)

I have no problem with naming places after him, though. slashdot.org

The Patriot

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It's not a perfect movie and has many historical innacuracies, but The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson, is a fine film and I enjoy watching it at this time every year, for many reasons, not the least of which is that my father's middle name, Francis, was given him in honor of Francis Marion, the real-life hero that Gibson's character, Benjamin Martin, is primarily based on.

Marion is considered one of the fathers of modern guerilla warfare. He is heavily criticized by some for having slaves and apparently having sex with some of them (which makes him no different from Thomas Jefferson) and for "slaughtering Indians for fun," when documentary evidence showed he was indeed quite unhappy at being ordered to persecute those "poor creatures."

The Patriot is a stunningly beautiful movie with great music, and as long as you basically know the historical inaccuracies -- and most of them are revealed by the filmmakers themselves in the director's commentary, so it's not like they didn't know what they were doing -- it's a great way to live some of the history of the time. I prefer historical dramas that are more, rather than less, historically accurate, but I won't disregard it just because of inaccuracies.

Sure, I'll roll my eyes when Martin shoots his flintlock pistol at about 20 yards while running laterally, or when Tavington shoots a fleeing rider off his horse with a similar pistol at 50 yards. And I know there's no evidence that the British committed many of the atrocities the movie claims, though they certainly did many similar things.

But on the other hand, this movie does the best job I've ever seen of showing what the colonists -- especially in the South -- thought, felt, reacted, and were motivated by: the conflicted loyalties, the philosophical and practical opposition to war, the relative prices of liberty versus death ... it's a tad bit melodramatic, but overall, good stuff.

Next up, a slightly more historically accurate movie, by the same director and producer: Independence Day! A very different kind of movie, and certainly not as interesting or educational or relevant, but a lot of fun. And where The Patriot makes you patriotically angry and ready to go out and fight/die for liberty, Independence Day makes you patriotically warm and fuzzy: go computer geek go, save the world!

I am not sure what's more odd, that the two movies I watch at this time of year are both very different but from the same two people, or that the movie they worked on in between those two -- Godzilla -- was such complete crap. slashdot.org
The most-requested song so far was, of course, "Free Bird," by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I took a slightly different approach to this one: I played five different guitar parts, all live: bass, clean electric, acoustic, slide, and solo.

It may not be the best one-man live version of Free Bird, but it may well be the most ... comprehensive.

To get different parts playing at the same time I used a BOSS RC-2 LoopStation pedal, and to play different guitars (bass [which is a Firebird detuned an octave], acoustic, various electrics) I use the Line 6 Variax modeling guitar, and to switch between the guitars and amp/fx I used the Line 6 PODxt Live. Oh, and that nifty slide I am using, that you can flip around to play chords, is the Axys slide by Shubb.

"Free Bird" was requested by Oliver Patrick Threshie, and neeracher. So BLAME THEM.

I also added a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Happy Independence Day! slashdot.org

Libby Pardon

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I do not at this time support a pardon for Libby. I am not convinced that Libby committed any crime, and I think that it is quite likely that he was convicted not for perjury, but "the leak," given the nonsensical claims made by the jury foreman, who said jurors were wondering why Rove was not charged.

But if in fact he was properly convicted of perjury based on the actual evidence of perjury -- I certainly wasn't remotely convinced, and I don't see how anyone can think there was no reasonable doubt he wasn't merely mistaken, but I wasn't there -- then he should not be pardoned, nor should his sentence have been commuted.

But the President and his people did follow the case closely, and if they did this because they think the conviction was a sham that didn't prove perjury or obstruction at all, but instead was because of the leak itself, then it's justified. I won't say I agree with it, because I didn't follow it closely enough to come to a conclusion, and unless I can do that, I have to fall down on the side of law and order, which means his conviction and sentence should be upheld.

But that doesn't mean I think Bush is wrong to commute or pardon him. It just means I would only support such actions based on a judgment I don't know enough to make. slashdot.org

Quoth Josh Marshall

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There aren't many subjects on which I claim expertise. But this is one of them. I think I know the details of this one -- both the underlying story of the forgeries and their provenance and the epi-story of Wilson and Plame -- as well as any journalist who's written about the story. ....

And with that knowledge, I have to say that the claim that Wilson's charges have been discredited, disproved or even meaningfully challenged are simply false. What he said on day one is all true. It's really as simple as that.

Hm. We know that all of the evidence we have on the subject points to Bush basing those "16 words" on intel completely separate from the intel Wilson knew about: that is, the 16 words themselves (which linked the intel to Britain), the explanations of all who were aware of the intel, and the Butler Report.

We do not know what that intel is. We only know what everyone who knows about that intel has said it is distinct from the intel Wilson knew about. They could all be lying, of course.

And we know that Wilson claimed that, because of his experience in Iraq, he believed those 16 words "twisted" the intelligence. That was his main claim, that everyone was transfixed on. Except -- even as he admitted in that op-ed -- he didn't actually have any knowledge to back that claim of "twisting" up, since he did not know what intelligence Bush's "16 words" was based on.

So I wonder to Josh Marshall, was Wilson's claim that the 16 words were "twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," as you said, "true"? And if so, what evidence do you have to back that up?

Oh, I know, he's tried to show the Butler Report backs up Wilson, but that's a clear fraud: he claimed "that most of the British judgment about 'uranium from Africa' was based on the phony documents the Butler Report claims had nothing to do with their judgment." Except the word "most of" is not backed up by the Butler report, or anything else, but a completely unsubstantiated assertion that "the more important" intel Britain had was a written summary of the forged documents.

Now, we don't know for sure it is a summary of those documents, but it seems plausible. Fine. But on what basis is that "more important" or the basis of "most of the British judgment"? There's no clues in the Butler Report, and Marshall doesn't attempt to explain. He just asserts it.

Now, again, we do not know what this separate intel is. We only know Britain asserts it exists, and that it is distinct from the forged documents. We also know that Bush, in the 16 words themselves, specifically distanced the claim from the forged documents claim, by referring to the British.

And we also know no evidence exists that implies that the this intel does not exist or has been undermined.

So I ask again, to Josh Marshall: how can you claim Wilson's claim that the 16 words were "twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat" was "true," when there's no evidence that points to it being true? slashdot.org
I've talked to a lot of Republicans who have been energized by their victory in blocking the immigration reform bill. A former independent angry at both parties, Jim Gilchrist (founder of the Minuteman Project) said on Saturday that he became a Republican late last year, shortly before the 2006 elections.

I see this as helping the Republican party. Sure, some mdoerates aren't pleased about it, but few if any of them will leave the party over this one issue. It was the right wing that was in danger of being alienated from the party over this, and it seems to have had the opposite effect. If the bill had passed, then that might have hurt the party, but ... it seems to me that it's helped.

Damn You, Karl Rove! slashdot.org

Romney and His Dog

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Just had a thought: there's no evidence Mitt's dog was ever in any danger. So now people are saying the dog was "scared." Maybe so, but ... more scared than being in a jet plane baggage compartment, which happens every day? Could be, but that would depend on the dog. slashdot.org
It's true, Cheney never said it, and neither did his office.

Here's the depressing story (depressing because this urban legend has spread so quickly): what happened is that Cheney was not, in the view of the National Archives, complying with an executive order. Cheney said he didn't have to. This was interpreted by the National Archives dude as Cheney saying he is not within the executive branch, since the EO says it applies to all agencies of the executive branch, and such agencies are defined as "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information."

Cheney didn't say it, the National Archives interpreted it that way: they said if it doesn't apply to you, you must be saying you are not within the executive branch, since if you were within the executive branch, it would apply to you.

That was a poor interpretation, of course. The problem is that the National Archives dude was following the letter of the EO, but Bush had said that the EO did not apply to Cheney, so therefore it didn't, as we should all know by now.

Later on, Cheney's spokesman said "This has been thoroughly reviewed and it's been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to [the office of the vice president], which has both legislative and executive functions." That doesn't mean he is not within the executive branch (indeed, it implies the opposite, if anything, that he is within both the executive and legislative branches, though I don't think even that much is implied).

There are several possible interpretations here, but the most obvious one -- given the actual text of the EO, which explicitly separates the President and VP from "agencies" -- is that she was saying the reason why the VP is exempted is because he has other functions, not that because he has other functions he is therefore exempted.

Regardless of what the spokesman actually meant, these facts are clear: the Vice President and his office never claimed the Vice President is not in the executive branch; it is quite clear the Vice President believes he is a part of the executive branch; and it is absolutely true that this EO's reporting requirement does not apply to the Vice President. slashdot.org

Oh Donna!

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With apologies to Ritchie Valens.

Donna Brazille was on This Week today, and George Stephanpolous asked her what she thought about Justice Roberts saying "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

She said this obviously true statement was "Orwellian." No, Orwellian would be saying the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to discriminate on the basis of race. She has it precisely backward.

And so it should come as no surprise that the next words out of her mouth were that Roberts, in his confirmation hearings, "promised" he would not overturn precedents, and that he "must have had his fingers crossed behind his back." Leaving aside the discussion of whether Roberts did overturn any precdent here, he in fact promised no such thing. He promised to give precedent its due respect, and gave examples of when precedent should be overturned. Where is the justice or observer who thinks precedent should never be overturned? Find me one single person out there, if you can. None exist, and Roberts made no such "promise." slashdot.org
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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