Politics: September 2009 Archives

Northwest Terror

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Well, granted, I am not shaking in my Keen sandals over this, but it seems the elves over at the ELF have been stepping things up. First there was the KRKO radio tower, resulting in millions of dollars of damage. Senator Val Stevens warned this could lead to escalation, and a new threat purporting to be from the ELF says likewise.

Like many extremists, the ELF hates the rule of law, and wants to push their views on everyone else regardless of how many votes are against them, or whose rights they violate. Their press release from the KRKO crime included this insanity: "When all legal channels of opposition have been exhausted, concerned citizens have to take action into their own hands to protect life and the planet."

Their childishly spraypainted message on buildings in Maltby last week read: "If you continue to risk killing children, mother earth and her creations, all your holdings are targets. Rise up earth children, ever, ever, ever, ever so carefully."

Then it went from merely idiotic, to a little creepy: "Authentic ELF? Ask ATF/FBI about restricted water mains. Little water, better burn." It seems to me they are claiming that they encourage out-of-control fires.

It's a generally good rule of thumb that if someone values trees or fish more than human life and livlihood, they aren't playing with a full deck.

Sure, we can make fun of their low intelligence, including the fact that their own press release on their own web site points to the wrong web site (using .com instead of .org). But they cost us all millions of dollars in intentional damage, they lack any serious sense of morality, and sooner or later someone is going to get seriously hurt. We can only hope they hurt themselves, rather than an innocent person.

Stevens said, "They don't care about what harm they do. We need a state law that recognizes these people for the monsters they are." She pushed for tougher sentences -- right now many of these crimes are punishable by only a year in jail -- and a state registry for convicted terrorists.

I don't know what the law should be, or whether it should be changed, but I do know these people should be found and locked up for a very long time. Such sociopaths, when they've proven to be a danger to society, should not be allowed in society, obviously; this includes those providing aid to the terrorists, such as Jason Crawford and Tomas Peterson, with their work for the ELF Press Office. And every nation should be willing to prosecute or extradict them, just as most would with other terrorists. slashdot.org

FactCheck.org Is Useless

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When FactCheck.org came out a few years ago, I liked most of what they did. But in the last year, I simply don't even care what they say anymore, because so much of it so poorly done.

Take this recent example. The question is: "Did Obama change his back-to-school speech in response to pressure from conservatives?" The answer they give is: "One exercise in the accompanying lesson plan was reworded."

That's the wrong answer. The correct answer is, at the very least, "the White House claims the text was not substantively altered in response to any pressure." The lesson plan information is a footnote; it is not the answer to the question. FactCheck's Jess Henig gives nearly 500 words of response in the full answer, but almost half of those were about the lesson plan, which isn't the point. And four-fifths of what's left is explaining that "well, this happened under other Presidents too."

The only part of the response actually addressing the question is these 43 words, less than a tenth of the entire answer: White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told us that the speech itself had not been substantively changed: "The President's speech was always going to be about talking with students about the importance of working hard, staying in school and taking responsibility for their education."

Which, of course, implies that maybe it was changed, at least a little bit, in response to criticism. And yet Henig doesn't put that in the answer.

You can find examples like this almost every day. FactCheck just cannot be trusted as long as it puts out such careless junk. slashdot.org

How Do I Violate Thee?

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Federal government mandates for health insurance violate the Constitution in several ways.

The most obvious is the Tenth Amendment: Congress has no authority, implied or expressed, to force everyone to get health insurance. Therefore it cannot do it. And no, please don't say "general welfare," as this was never intended to be a grant of power, but a description of the powers to follow in Article I, Section 8. And no, please don't say "regulating interstate commerce," because regulating commerce is not similar to forcing everyone to engage in a particular commercial act.

There's also the Fourth Amendment. I have the right to be secure in my papers: the government has no right to know if I even have health insurance.

Then there's the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments: I cannot have my liberty taken away from without due process. This is admittedly the shakiest of my claims for historical reasons, due to the unfortunate slippery slope of history, but it seems to me that I should have to be proven to have done something wrong in order to have my liberty taken from me.

Perhaps the strongest claim, however, is that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of association. The Supreme Court has held that this necessarily also implies the freedom to not associate. If I dislike all insurance companies and choose to not associate with them, that is my constitutional right. Similarly, I may decide that having insurance (entirely, or when I have more important uses for the money, such as donating it to an anti-sex slavery charity) is against my religious beliefs. slashdot.org

Mandate On All Americans

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Has there ever, in our history, been a mandate on all Americans?

"If you are an American/live in this country, you must do this."

I am against all mandates on people. It's one thing to say, "if you want to drive, you must have auto insurance." It's completely another to say, "if you are alive, you must have health insurance." The comparison is fundamentally dishonest. The government, quite literally, has no right to force people into a particular action simply because they exist.

That goes for the military draft, especially. But it only applied to healthy males of a certain age. Obama and the Democrats are, for the first time, attempting to put such a mandate on all Americans.

It obviously should be ruled unconstitutional, since the federal government has no right to do this. But even apart from the constitutional questions, why aren't we having a debate about whether or not we want to have a country that forces all people to do something, just because those people are alive?

More practically (though not more important), I am especially angered by the fact that the reason why the mandate exists in Obama's plan is not what he says. He says it is so that if something happens to you, then you won't leech of society for your problems. Then why not allow means testing or other opt-out options?

Every expert, for many years, who has pushed individual mandates for health insurance has said the same thing: individual mandates exist because the people who don't have health insurance (who can afford it) overwhelmingly make a personal economic decision that it is better for themselves to not pay for health insurance: they save money doing it. Their money spent on insurance is not used for themselves, it's used for other people. This makes the pool of money smaller, and the percent per capita going to care larger.

So, therefore, the experts say, the mandate, by forcing the people who do not need insurance to pay into insurance, increases the pool of money without significantly increasing the amount of money being paid out.

It is a tax, for the explicit purpose of wealth redistribution: to take money from you, and give it to someone else who needs health care.

Obviously, Obama is lying when he says this is not a tax, and that it does not violate his campaign promise to not increase taxes on people who make less than $250K. But I care less about that than the fact that he is lying about the reason for this tax: he says it is about paying for me if I get sick, but it's really about Obama hoping that I won't get sick, so my money will be paying for other people.

Individual health insurance mandates are about wealth redistribution, pure and simple. It is a literally unprecedented act against American liberty, with the sole goal of forcing people to pay into a system they won't use, so they can pay for other people who do use it. slashdot.org

"ACORN Who?"

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I have to wonder if someone is being honest when they say that they aren't paying attention to a major scandal centered around an organization they worked for, and with, their entire career -- especially when Congress is cutting off all funds for that organization. So it is with President Obama and ACORN when he said yesterday, "You know, it's -- frankly, it's not really something I've followed closely. I didn't even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money."

If ACORN had not canceled its "Prosperity Forum" in Everett last week, I wonder how many of the Democrats scheduled to show up would've been there. Maybe none; maybe that is why it was canceled. We don't know.

But we do know that they are closely tied to ACORN.

I am not saying they knew about or condoned any of these terrible things ACORN has done. I am not playing guilt by association. Rather, I am condemning the attempt of many Democrats, especially President Obama, to pretend they aren't associated: to distance themselves in order to avoid questions of potential guilt.

Just look at the Everett ACORN office itself for plenty of examples. It's a place called the Labor Temple, at 2812 Lombard Avenue. What else is there? Well, for starters, a bunch of unions. And the Snohomish County Democrats.

Democratic state legislators from the 38th District (Mike Sells and John McCoy) and the 44th District (Hans Dunshee) call 2812 Lombard in Everett their home. Their offices are on the same floor as ACORN. Funny how they couldn't make it to a meeting down the hall from their offices, right after the scandal broke.

Governor Gregoire went there while campaigning.

Even President Obama's campaign office was there.

Look, if ACORN or its employees do some terrible things -- like, for example, attempt to aid and abet child sex slavery, or commit nationwide acts of voter registration fraud -- condemn them. Vote to defund them or investigate them as necessary. We won't hold it against you for knowing them. But don't pretend you don't know them.


Speaking of voting to defund ACORN, I want to know what Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-2) thinks is important. He said that voting to defund ACORN is not a good use of Congress' time. "We have issues facing this country about job creation, about protecting jobs like those at ALCOA, like increasing access to health care, increasing access to higher education, that frankly deserve more attention from a member of Congress," Larsen said. "Somebody has to stand up and make a statement about what are the important issues facing this country."

All of those are important. I agree. But I submit that a few minutes of your time to cut off a visibly corrupt organization like ACORN -- especially since the debate was over and you were simply voting at that point -- is worthwhile. We're not talking about meaningless resolutions here, like H.Res. 484: Expressing support for designation of June 10th as "National Pipeline Safety Day" and H.Res. 652: Recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Pig War crisis, both of which were sponsored by Larsen this year.

Seriously, I want to know which is more important for our Congress to address, Congressman: recognizing a bloodless "war" 150 years ago and expressing support for the designation of "National Pipeline Safety Day" -- which does not actually designate such a day, but merely expresses support for its designation -- or cutting off from taxpayer dollars an organization that systemically, nationally, committed voter registration fraud and attempted to aid and abet prostitution and child sex slavery?

Or did you already give us your answer?

[N.B. Apparently John Fund this morning also had an article called Acorn Who?, in the Wall Street Journal. I make no apologies for not changing my title when I saw his. Besides, mine has the proper capitalization. But his article is definitely worth reading.] slashdot.org

On September 17, at 7 p.m., at the Everett Labor Temple at 2810 Lombard in Everett, ACORN is holding a "Prosperity Forum." Scheduled to speak are state legislators John McCoy, Mary Helen Roberts, and Mike Sells; Snohomoish County PUD Commissioner David Aldrich; and Snohomish County Councilman Mike Cooper. ACORN says on their flier that they will be helping people with food, baby supplies, health care, child care, energy bills, taxes, credit, and, of course mortgage help.

All you pimps and prostitutes, come on down tomorrow night! slashdot.org

Bill Delahunt Sticks His Foot In It

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This is just funny. Last week Congressman Bill Delahunt -- whose 10th Congressional District in Massachusetts now covers where I grew up -- was on NewsHour talking about Honduras with his colleague, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

He described Honduras as a "banana republic" (which is a stupid claim, but not the funny part) and she took offense, as one would. She says, "I think that's an insult to the people of Honduras." And he replies, "Then I dare say that you don't -- you're not that familiar with Latin America."

Bill, Ros-Lehtinen was born in Cuba, and her whole life has been active in Cuban political issues. Saying she is not that familiar with Latin America is like saying you're not that familiar with pasty white Irish Catholics. slashdot.org

Happy Labor Day

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I plowed through a bunch of bugs for Mac-Carbon today. And I found an unfixed endian bug in Mac::Glue.

And I did it without the help of a union!

I hope to get this work done before September 9th, after which my time will belong to The Beatles Rock Band for awhile. I might not release by then, but the bulk of the work should be there.

Thanks to everyone who filed reports, and their subsequent patience. I've gone through the process many open source developers before me have ... as we get older and have more obligations, some of our public release work slows down. A lot. Thankfully most of the bugs are pretty superficial; unfortunately, being related to tests, they will prevented some people from getting the code installed.

I've promised myself I won't waste my time feeling guilty about it, but I apologize for the inconvenience.

(And no, Mac-Carbon won't work on 64-bit perl, but I will document the reasons why, and various workarounds.) slashdot.orguse.perl.org

Obama Is Gonna Brainwash Your Kids!

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I don't know what President Obama is going to say to schoolkids this week. I do know, however, that when a parent or politician expresses concerns that Obama might try to indoctrinate them with socialist propaganda, there's good reasons for it. Start with the fact that Obama's own web site last year said that he would require middle and high school students to do public service (which is a violation of the constitutional prohibition on slavery), and then onto the fact that Obama's teaching materials for this week's speech ask students to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president [sic]" and so on; but I don't want to help the President, and don't want to encourage anyone else to do so, either, unless you happen to work for him, or you share his agenda and want to see it accomplished.

Obviously, our children should not be considered Obama's employees, or tools to further his agenda.

Maybe Obama will just innocuously say (wasting taxpayer dollars to do it) that kids should study hard, stay in school, and help their communities and families. But don't attack people for thinking there may be a more sinister agenda. slashdot.org

Jacob Hacker Lies to NewsHour

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Jacob Hacker, perhaps best known as the man behind the "public option," and a longtime proponent of single-payer care (who famously said that the public option would lead to single payer), was on NewsHour this week.

Hacker said that there's "three B's" of the public option: a "backup" for people who don't have secure coverage, a "benchmark" for private insurance plans, and a "backstop" for cost controls.

Unfortunately for Hacker, he needed to lie about the latter two, at least.

He says it is a "benchmark" because it will provide competition. He said he thinks that the public option should not get any subsidies so it will compete "on a complete level playing field." But that's not remotely possible. The public option will require massive taxpayer funds to get off the ground. And even apart from that, the people who run the public option will also be controlling the playing field, and will force the private insurers to play the game on their terms. It won't be -- can't be -- level, unless you have different people writing the rules than playing the game, and unless you somehow get private funds to bootstrap the public option.

And there's no evidence it will control costs, either. Hacker's only evidence for this is that the "per capita" cost of health care has been held down, due to Medicare. But Medicare has not led to a decrease in cost in care for people outside of Medicare. And inside of Medicare costs have been kept down by underfunding the care, so much so that many doctors have stopped accepting, and sometimes even dropped, Medicare patients. And on top of it all, Medicare is going bankrupt, which is going to require decreased services or increased taxes (or both).

This is not, in any sensible examination, an actual decrease in the cost of care. It's a combination of reducing care, and artficially reducing costs through price controls.

As to Hacker's "backup," it will only be such if it does the same as Medicare: artificially controls market prices or uses increased tax revenues to enable them to cover everyone who needs it.

Hacker also lied by omission when asked about supporting single payer. He responded, "Well, all I can say is that I think that, for most people who work for larger employers, the private health insurance system works pretty well. ..." Yes, it does, but the fact is, he is a strong supporter of gradually moving this entire country to a single-payer system, and away from that private health insurance system that works pretty well. And as shown in the verumserum link above, he believes that the public option is part of the process for getting us there (he even thinks it's obvious that it is so -- and I agree with him on that).

The real goal of Hacker is to get everyone covered through -- eventually -- complete government control of the health care system. As Hacker himself has said, the "eventually" part is explicitly designed to get people to go along with small apparently innocuous changes over time, so they won't be scared by Hacker's desired result.

Read or listen to the whole interview (and the versumserum link above). It's very instructive, seeing the lengths the far left will go not only to deceive people into jumping on board their plan, but also to hide their true motives. [UPDATE: the next night, NewsHour interviewed an opponent of the public option, who made many of these same points, and some other excellent ones.] slashdot.org

TMBG Pushes Atheist Propaganda

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I am a big fan of They Might Be Giants, and have been since the early 90s. They are excellent songwriters and performers. And I also really dig their kids albums, Here Come The ABCs and Here Come The 123s. I recommend them to many parents.

Unfortunately, I have some reservations about their new album, Here Comes Science. The first track is called "Science Is Real," and they express the notion that science is real, while "angels" are not. Now, it may be that they mean "real" as in "provable through the scientific method," but this is an album for kids, and kids hear "real" and think "not fake," and vice versa. It's a pretty clear message kids will receive: the Big Bang and evolution are true, and angels don't exist.

The chorus goes, "I like those stories about angels, unicorns, and elves / Now, I like those stories as much as anyone else / But when I'm seeking knowledge, either simple or abstract / The facts are with science, the facts are with science." Later, they add, "a scientific theory isn't just a hunch or guess / it's more like a question that's been put through a lot of tests / and when a theory emerges consistent with the facts / the proof is with science, the truth is with science."

It's simply false to say that any "proof" or "truth" is with science. We all know this; even John and John of TMBG know this themselves: later in the album they contradict their song (a remake of an older work) "Why Does The Sun Shine?" In the original, "the sun is a mass of incandescent gas." In the very next song, "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?," they quip, "the sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma, the sun's not simply made out of gas ... forget that song, they got it wrong, that thesis has been rendered invalid." Very clever, but it clearly demonstrates that simply having a good and useful theory that matches the facts doesn't give us proof or truth.

The reason for this is that science is necessarily incomplete. If science could be complete, we wouldn't need it: science is a way to investigate things in the physical world, that aren't self-evident, that cannot be discovered through reason alone. The only way science could be complete is if we had all knowledge, so we could account for all possibilities, and in such a case, we would have no need for investigation. And in that case we'd have no need for science in the first place.

I ordinarily wouldn't quibble too much on this whole point except that they exclude angels as science, and therefore, as truth: it's not "real" because it's not science. It is utterly irrational and unscientific to say that because angels are apparently outside of science, they therefore do not exist. You may believe that -- and that's fine -- but you can't use science to get you to that belief.

I do believe angels exist. And there's simply no science, or even a broadly accepted philosophy of science, that says they don't.

The sad thing is that I like the song otherwise. It's a catchy tune. But I wouldn't allow TMBG to use it to push their atheist propaganda on my kids.

As to the rest of the album, there's a few other tracks I have problems with. Above, I mentioned the Big Bang and evolution. I did not intend to imply that I don't generally believe in either theory. I do. However, my belief in both are very scientific: that is, they are filled with doubt. We have lots of holes in both theories, and while they are extremely useful and explain a lot of what happened and may be mostly right, there's also gaps in our knowledge. I don't consider these to be truth, I consider them to be useful and probably correct.

So I also can't recommend the song "My Brother the Ape." Lest you think I am being a fundamentalist stickinthemud, I also recently panned a Focus on the Family audio program for kids, about evolution: I understood it to be saying that man did not evolve from a common ancestor as the ape. Both views -- asserting we did, and we did not -- are unsustainable based on our current level of knowledge.

There's also a song on the album called "Electric Car." "Electric car, on roads so dark, to change the end, rewrite the start ... How can you deny an electric car? Won't you take a ride with me? Not diesel, steam, or gasoline! ... Happiness resides in an electric car. ..." They push the whole we-need-to-be-green-to-save-the-planet nonsense that -- frankly -- is about as scientific as angels are. And the song's actually pretty creepy.

Finally, they have a song called "How Many Planets?," which falsely pushes the idea that an arbitrary group of scientists have the authority to define the word "planet" for everyone else, by excluding Pluto.* This song I can recommend to kids, as it's a great way to teach them to question not only authority, but the validity of claims of authority themselves. (Although the song is a bit weak regardless of its message.)

I like the rest of the album (in addition to "Why Does the Sun Shine?," they include the previously released remake by the same composers, "What is a Shooting Star?," and the classic "The Bloodmobile;" and I really like "I Am a Paleontologist" and "Meet the Elements"). The good thing is that these days, you can always uncheck a song and it won't show up on your iPods.

* As a side note, I've met a lot of homeschoolers and evangelicals who question the exclusion of Pluto. This has nothing to do with any theology implications, so why the apparent high degree of questioning in this particular group? Some people might think the connection is because such people are generally conservative and dislike change, or embrace tradition. That's part of it, but I think it's deeper, strengthened by a deep-seated, centuries-long tendency toward independence and questioning authority. Whether it was rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church in the Reformation, or of the Anglican Church leading to colonizing the New World, or of the British Crown's right to arbitrarily tax, or of the U.S. government's right to control our lives in myriad ways ... many of us in this tradition tend to reject authority -- why do you think there's so many different Protestant denominations? -- and the ones who question authority the most are often the ones most likely to engage in homeschooling.

Not that all such people are Protestants; the tradition runs strong through much of the culture of the United States today. I've known various agnostic homeschoolers who have the same outlook. We see this pattern over, and over, in this country. Protestants and their philosophical and cultural cousins don't tend to go along to get along. They would rather be left alone to get along. slashdot.org

In Washington State it is the paramount duty of the state to provide education to its children. To not do so violates the right of the children. For that reason and others, it is illegal for public school teachers to strike. That doesn't stop the teachers union from doing it, though, and as a result, violating the right of the children to get that education.

The teachers in Kent are currently violating the rights of their district's children. slashdot.org

Feinstein Thinks We're All Stupid

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Senator Dianne Feinstein was asked on Face the Nation this week about Senator Ted Kennedy's legacy in regards to his assault on Judge Bork's nomination in the 80s, and how things have changed in the nomination process as a result. She replied -- I kid you not -- "I do think it's become much more partisan; and there are many of us on that committee that are trying very hard to end that kind of partisanship. I was very surprised, for example, when Justice Sotomayor was not confirmed by more Republicans on the committee than--than voted for her."

This coming from a woman who voted against both Justices Roberts and Alito, both in committee and in the full Senate.

Sotomayor's low numbers (68-31) relative to her Democratic predecessors (Ginsburg 97-3, Breyer 87-9) are the direct result of the Republicans deciding to play the game the way the Democrats had been playing it since Bork (Thomas 52-48, Alito 58-42, Roberts 78-22).

Compare how the Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee treated Sotomayor, versus how the Democrats treated Alito. Honestly, does Feinstein actually believe the nonsense she's peddling? 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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