Saturday, October 31, 2009

The DEA and elderly patients in nursing homes: Government living down to my expectations

You know the Drug Enforcement Administration has for years interfered in the ability of patients in chronic pain to access medical marijuan, but did you know that our Drug Gestapo also interferes in the delivery of prescription pain medication to your elderly relatives in nursing homes?


Heightened efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on narcotics abuse are producing a troubling side effect by denying some hospice and elderly patients needed pain medication, according to two Senate Democrats and a coalition of pharmacists and geriatric experts....

The DEA has sought to prevent drug theft and abuse by staff members in nursing homes, requiring signatures from doctors and an extra layer of approvals when certain pain drugs are ordered for sick patients.

The law, however, "fails to recognize how prescribing practitioners and the nurses who work for long-term care facilities and hospice programs actually order prescription medications," Kohl and Whitehouse write. They conclude that delays can lead to "adverse health outcomes and unnecessary rehospitalizations, not to mention needless suffering."

Most nursing homes do not have pharmacies or doctors on site, adding to delays for patients who fall ill late at night or in transition from a hospital.

Yeah, I'm glad we spend bazillions of dollars on a Federal agency to prevent the victimless crime of providing Percosett to senior citizens in completely controlled residential medical environments.

The idea that an occasional nurse might steal a bottle of pain meds is obviously far more important than relieving the pain of tens of thousands of old people.

Military SF author David Drake on Afghanistan (sort of)

If you don't know who David Drake is, you don't read science fiction. He is a Vietnam vet (with the Blackhorse) whose experiences there caused him literally to recreate military science fiction based on his experiences there. He is the creator of Hammer's Slammers, which is [if its not an oxymoron] some of the most realistic combat writing about wars that never happened that you will ever find.

Recently I have been reading a Baen books reprint of some of Mark Geston's classic SF that has an introduction written a few years back by David Drake. Drake is making the point the he first encountered Geston's work on returning from Vietnam, which causes him to take a four paragraph detour into Vietnam as an American experience.

What strikes me about this piece is what would happen if you changed the names.

Vietnam = Afghanistan
Eisenhower = Bush
Lebanon = Iraq
JFK/LBJ = Obama
McNamara = Gates
Westmoreland = McChrystal

Here's the original; you make the changes yourself:

When I entered college in 1963, the Vietnam War was a squabble in a distant place. There'd been similar squabbles in my memory--rather a bad one in Lebanon, for example--but that had been with Eisenhower as President. Now our president was Kennedy and shortly Johnson; and perhaps more important their Secretary of Defense was Robert S. McNamara, a technocrat and a monster.

By the time I got my undergraduate degree in 1967, Vietnam was a storm that had broken over America and the world, shredding society and bodies. Tens of thousands of Americans had died, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.

That war was building without plan or purpose. Each previous failure was used as the reason for a further, greater effort; which would fail in turn, as by then everybody knew it would fail.

General Westmoreland announced light at the end of the tunnel, shortly before the tunnel collapsed on him in the form of the Tet Offensive. Politicians lied--to themselves, first, I believe, but to everyone else as well. And the war went on and would go on, and on. There was no end, and no hope.

What struck me most about this segment was

1) We have not yet withstood the Taliban's version of the Tet Offensive, which was ultimately North Vietnam's greatest military defeat and greatest political victory. We may not see one in that form because the Taliban insurgency is a somewhat different kind of opponent than North Vietnam. But I think it would be foolish to assume that if President Obama decides on a massive escalation of the Afghan War that we will not see some military response designed to kick in before the reinforcements arrive. It may actually have already started, but our media is far worse at war reporting today than it was in 1968. Strange, huh?

2) I think that the defense/industrial establishment learned more lessons from Vietnam than the anti-war movement did. What we see in Afghanistan, and how it is packaged for us in the corporate media is a result of those lessons learned, and intentionally keeps slaughter in that part of the world from becoming as visceral a part of the American consciousness as did Vietnam unwinding on the evening news in 1967-72. When people question why there is no strong anti-war movement today, I think the simple answer is that a strong anti-war movement depends on at least the silent support of a significant portion of our citizenry, which is achieved by constant access to the major media outlets. The new anti-war movement by and large doesn't understand that it was castrated before it began, and seems not to realize that media coverage of demonstrations is more important than the demonstrations themselves [a lesson, ironically, that Tea Partiers understand quite well. How times change.].

Friday, October 30, 2009

Afghanistan: the link between rumor and reality

Maybe, just maybe, it's because the Obama administration has recently floated the idea of paying off Taliban followers to stop fighiting, that more and more people find plausible the idea that NATO is using its own headquarters to move the insurgents areoundt the country.

Clueless Liberal Assclown of the Week : William Greider

The Nation's William Greider pens perhaps one of the more idiotic screed's coming from the fiscally-reckless left, at least this week.

Greider not only advocates MORE MORE MORE spending from the porcine Democrat gluttons running the national government, flying headlong into the historic face of failure after dismal failure of Keynesian voodoo, but he also demands wilful ignorance of the fact that incomprehensible mountains of this disgusting national spending orgy are all BORROWED BORROWED BORROWED.

October 28, 2009

The deficit hawks are flapping their wings and making a
terrible squawk about the government's gusher of red ink. Good grief, a federal deficit of $1.4 trillion! What will become of us?

The gloom chorus includes GOP heavies and right-wing frothers, the editors of the Washington Post and other pinch-penny establishment journals, Blue Dog Democrats and even some of Barack Obama's own advisers.

[Keep going, Billy boy. It's the whoooole world that's all wrong....not you. Also, how convenient he only mentions just this year's federal budget deficit, as if this mind-boggling number exists as the only symptom of criminally-stratosopheric levels of national debt.]

Never mind the bloody mess we're in, they insist. People should hunker down and accept their pain. Suffering is good for the soul.

[A flip straw man statement, exposing typical 1960's-type self-serving, self-indulgent piggery, i.e. ME. NOW. NO LIMITS. NO END. ALL GAIN. NO PAIN.]

This nonsense, grounded in ignorance and discredited nineteenth-century bromides, is a recipe for continuing the economy's downward spiral and could prove poisonous for the country.

[Oh how very clever! Those who choose not to ignore the fiscal insanity Greider advocates are the ignorant ones, uttering "discredited...bromides", of course none as true and noble as the absurd leftist bromides with which Greider's article is utterly suffused.]

The hawks claim self-righteous rectitude in their warnings, but their real intent is to stymie the very spending programs that can deliver economic recovery and relief to battered citizens.

[Goddamn right on the former intent to stymie this lunacy. Full of shit as to the latter proclamation about "spending programs". That's exactly and only what they are : programs to SPEND SPEND SPEND, with almost no coherent objective other than to flood borrowed money into the economy. We should all just conveniently disregard the inherent contradiction and ostensible failure of "stimulus", whereby new employment would supposedly come from taxing existing employment now ... and well into the far far far distance future (if the likes of Greider cling to even just the pretense that their deficits will, or should ever, be repaid).

In an October 21 editorial arguing against just such additional spending, the Post warned citizens to disregard progressive commentators (like myself) who offer the example of World War II, when the government ran deficits many times larger than the current one. "In the deficit debates to come," the Post insisted, "Mr. Obama should heed the hawks."

Wrong. The mobilization for World War II produced one of the most remarkable success stories in US economic history. War production not only overcame lingering weaknesses from the Great Depression but transformed the economic system into the modern powerhouse that became the platform for our long-running postwar prosperity. All this was achieved by the government, largely with borrowed money. By war's end Washington had piled up federal debt totaling around 120 percent of annual GDP (nearly double today's debt level).

During the wartime emergency the government took charge of the economy and rapidly shifted the industrial system to armaments while suppressing domestic consumption. Deficit spending force-fed the rapid development of new technologies and new basic industries. In a few short years, economic output expanded by about 75 percent. Despite rationing and wage and price controls, Americans at large were replenished: per capita income rose by almost 70 percent (with industrial jobs opened to women and blacks), and since people could not consume much, the savings rate reached extraordinary levels--23 percent of incomes. The government borrowed these savings and spent them in the national interest. The store of personal savings fueled the pent-up consumer demand driving postwar prosperity.

[Jesus, what a bunch of cobbled together revisionist nonsense, comparing apples to bowling balls. Like all good progressive statists, Greider sees achieving the totality of government control over all aspects of human life and activity as a "war", morally and practically analagous to the 20th century's epic worldwide struggle against the very people who are Greider's ideological predecessors (albeit with genocidal proclivities). It's as though he's saying "But on the flip side of the millions of deaths and mass destruction, the massive government spending it necessitated was just ducky, and we should learn from its benefits."]

The United States needs something similar today--a jump-shift in economic strategy that redirects private capital and incomes into public investment for industrial renewal and for greater social protections, while households are allowed to dig out of their debts and restore personal savings.

In economic terms, the nation is much weaker today than it was in the 1940s--indebted and dependent on foreign creditors. We will not in any case return to the "happy days" prosperity that followed World War II. But the nation needs another dramatic jolt--a strategy that addresses the depth of our predicament and gets serious about the solutions.

[50+ years of welfare statism and national corporatism, now on steroids with the corporate leftists running the show in DC, and Greider wants to answer their imploding failure with an escalation of the same corrosive, destructive policies that led us into this disease of accelerating stagnation inherent when the parasite becomes more robust and voracious than the host on which it feeds.]

To ensure recovery, the Obama administration may need to launch public employment programs--directly creating jobs when the private economy can't seem to. It can beef up environmental construction and jobs like weatherizing buildings for greater energy efficiency. It can pour bigger bucks into building high-speed rail systems. It can finance smaller firms that are innovating with green technologies and create market demand by purchasing their products.

[Totally speculative nonsense. Greider's half-assed wish list for his own utopian ga-ga world, in which economic realities must give way to lefty fantasies, paid for by coercing more and more resources from those of us who must operate in the real world.]

Far from proposing deep restructuring, Obama and his lieutenants are instead predicting prosperity right around the corner. They are going to be disappointed. As the severity of our condition becomes clearer to people, events may drag the president toward considering more drastic actions. Certainly, public support will build for more fundamental solutions. The usual influential voices will insist there's nothing Americans can do but accept our fate. People and politicians must have the nerve to ignore them.

Let's hope President Obama and the political community brush aside the deficit hysteria and do what they need to do to restore the economy: that is, spend more money--a lot more money--and run up even larger deficits for some years to come. The time to pay down the deficit will come only after the economy recovers. If politicians surrender to the budget scolds, the nation will be stuck in this ditch for a long, long time.

Ah yes, Greider. To hell with accountability, responsibility, or even sanity...let's keep digging harder...we'll get out of this ditch your ilk put us in.

I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode when Homer runs for garbage commissioner on the slogan "Let someone else do it!!".

The ignorant, reckless left never ever bothers to answer for their pillaging on the backs of generations to come, and they never will. There is no defense. Just their disgusting, self-righteous will to power and quasi-religious authoritarian hubris.

At least Greider is honest about his and the American left's disregard for anything beyond the short-term satiety of their utopian pipe dreams and bloated special interest constituencies.

These people are utterly nauseating beyond belief.

Why it sometimes all seems to perplexing, as explained by one of our leading philosophers

I spend a lot of time reading Waldo and have developed such a vicarious appreciation of South Carolina politics that I am currently trying to figure out how to detour around the Palmetto State on my next trip from Delaware to Disney.

What Waldo teaches me (when whatever I am drinking is not spurting out of my nose) is that huge numbers of Americans who are otherwise apparently competent to dress themselves and drive to work every day are not really functioning at an intellectual level necessary to deal with the moral dilemma and cultural nuances of modern life.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett comes closer to explaining this phenomenon in brief academic terms than anyone else I have ever read [once you add one tiny fact to his explanation]:

There's a mismatch between the modern versus ancestral world. Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors, not for cities and nation states of thousands or millions of anonymous people. Certain laws and institutions satisfy the moral intuitions these programs generate. But because these programs are now operating outside the envelope of environments for which they were designed, laws that satisfy the moral intuitions they generate may regularly fail to produce the outcomes we desire and anticipate that have the consequences we wish. ...

Here's the missing fact that associates with this phrase--Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors:

That small world is essentially a tribal world, and recent anthropological studies have shown that, on a percentage basis, warfare in neolithic tribal societies was actually generated far more casualties than modern warfare.

Shorter Dennett: we still have not moved beyond the compelling urge to deal with people with different views by hitting them over the head with large sticks.

Sex after a masectomy: incredibly important reading

I realize that millions of people will see this on AOL Health, so that my recommendation will be statistically meaningless.

But I think Tracey Carpenter's piece is so important--for men and women both--that if even one or two people read it and profit from it via this link then it will have been worth it.

In the piece you will not only meet Tracey, a 26-year-old breast cancer/masectomy survivor, but also her boyfriend Adam who appears as one of the more remarkable human beings about whom I have ever read:

The months after my diagnosis were a painful blur. My boyfriend, Adam, doggedly called me beautiful and made sure that I was able to believe it. He was so caring and supportive when my oncologist said I would likely not have children because of the chemo. Instead of complaining or bolting for the door when my doctor said no sex because of the infection risk, Adam said, "I will wait for years. I don't care about sex; I just want you." I know that if our roles were reversed I would have done the same thing for him, but sometimes it's still surprising to know that a person can love enough to put up with everything that you have to go through. I know he puts on a brave face for me every day -- and I have seen him break down when he didn't know I was looking. My bald head is covered in kisses, pats, rubs and fuzzy hats whenever he comes home or if I look sad or feel ugly. That is commitment. I wish everyone had a relationship like ours. ...

After the surgery I had a village of visitors: Co-workers and family, and Adam was there day and night. He slept in the same hospital bed as me, crammed up against the bars of my bed and my morphine drip. He teased me that if I got lost in the desert I would walk around in clockwise circles because I was lopsided (morphine makes everything funny). When I was home, he emptied the tubes that drained fluid from my body and dressed my wounds. The first time he saw my chest he cried a little. I cried a lot. He kissed my incision and said he "was a butt guy anyway."

Nothing else I will say this month is as important as this column.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I make the papers...

... in my alter-ego secret identity as DSU faculty union chair, commenting on the loooooonnnnnggggg wait between the on-campus interviews for new Presidential candidates and action by the Board of Trustees.

Thanks, Rachel.

Cash for Clunkers Coda

What a shock : analysts at report the cost to taxpayers of this fraud of a waste of borrowed federal dollars...

The Cash for Clunkers program gave car buyers rebates of up to $4,500 if they traded in less fuel-efficient vehicles for new vehicles that met certain fuel economy requirements. A total of $3 billion was allotted for those rebates.

The average rebate was $4,000. But the overwhelming majority of sales would have taken place anyway at some time in the last half of 2009, according to That means the government ended up spending about $24,000 each for those 125,000 additional vehicle sales.


I guess that is on par with the truth about the colossally wasteful spending orgy...err, "stimulus"...when it comes to the taxpayer cost for jobs "created or saved". In a recap of analysis by :

Assuming the number of created or saved jobs reported by each contract recipient was accurate—which, as we’ve reported before, is still an open question—that breaks down to $533,000 for each job. That’s more than five times the projection of the president’s own Council of Economic Advisers , which estimated in May that every $92,136 in government spending would create one job for one year.

As I heard this morning on the radio, pointing out the dangerous farce that is the ongoing fiscally-reckless leftist chicanery of our ruling DC masters : "Just a spoon full of socialism will make capitalism get better."

I would ask "will they never learn?", but hard statist ideology is not in the business of dealing with reality, it is all about endlessly trying to manipulate it...while charging their gluttonous tab to the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Instant Justice Can Really Sting

This was sent to me. Probably quite a bit embellished, but hilarious nonetheless...


To the Guy Who Tried to Mug Me in Downtown Savannah night before last.
Date: 2009-05-27, 1:43 a.m. E.S.T.

I was the guy wearing the black Burberry jacket that you demanded that I hand over, shortly after you pulled the knife on me and my girlfriend, threatening our lives.

You also asked for my girlfriend's purse and earrings. I can only hope that you somehow come across this rather important message.

First, I'd like to apologize for your embarrassment; I didn't expect you to actually crap in your pants when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket.

The evening was not that cold, and I was wearing the jacket for a reason. My girlfriend had just bought me that Kimber Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol for my birthday, and we had picked up a shoulder holster for it that very evening. Obviously you agree that it is a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head ...isn't it?!

I know it probably wasn't fun walking back to wherever you'd come from with that brown sludge in your pants. I'm sure it was even worse walking bare-footed since I made you leave your shoes, cell phone, and wallet with me. [That prevented you from calling or running to your buddies to come help mug us again].

After I called your mother, or "Momma" as you had her listed in your cell, I explained the entire episode of what you'd done. Then I went and filled up my gas tank as well as those of four other people in the gas station -- on your credit card. The guy with the big motor home took 150 gallons and was extremely grateful!

I gave your shoes to a homeless guy outside Vinnie Van Go Go's, along with all the cash in your wallet. [That made his day!]

I then threw your wallet into the big pink "pimp mobile" that was parked at the curb ...after I broke the windshield and side window and keyed the entire driver's side of the car.

Later, I called a bunch of phone sex numbers from your cell phone. Ma Bell just now shut down the line, although I only used the phone for a little over a day now, so what's going on with that?

Earlier, I managed to get in two threatening phone calls to the DA's office and one to the FBI, while mentioning President Obama as my possible target.

The FBI guy seemed really intense and we had a nice long chat (I guess while he traced your number etc.).

In a way, perhaps I should apologize for not killing you ...but I feel this type of retribution is a far more appropriate punishment for your threatened crime.

I wish you well as you try to sort through some of these rather immediate pressing issues, and can only hope that you have the opportunity to reflect upon, and perhaps reconsider, the career path you've chosen to pursue in life. Remember, next time you might not be so lucky.

Have a good day!

Thoughtfully yours,

P.S. Remember this motto ...An armed society makes for a more civil society!

Matthew Hoh tells you everything you need to know about why we should not be in Afghanistan

Here's the money sentence of his resignation letter, but if there is any justice this entire letter will become an American state paper:

I fail to see the value or the worth in continued US casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war.

You owe it to Americans risking their lives to read and heed the words of this Marine veteran.

Even if you disagree with his conclusion, you should have the intellectual honesty to rebut his arguments before you dismiss them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

South Carolina Civil Rights Commission Advisor advocates Shar'ia Law for America?

Or at least this appears to be the logical conclusion to draw from this recent post by Daniel Cassidy:

In light of the tragic passage of hate crimes legislation to include those engaging in sinful behavior as a special and protected class of victims, the following is particularly meaningful.

Big Hat Tip to Abbey-Roads and to the author, Father Dwight Longenecker

The Slippery Slope
Here is how Satan spreads his lies:

1. Natural Law is ignored, undermined or made to look stupid by particular instances where it seems not apply.

2. Subsequently religious and civil authorities have their laws questioned because they are 'too strict' too 'black and white', 'unworkable' or 'lacking in compassion'.

3. Relativism is therefore introduced. An understanding gradually grows that 'there are no objective rule' that apply to all people at all times.

4. Individualism is the next step. 'I guess I have to decide what is right for me in my situation.'

5. Sentimentalism: People who live in a sinful situation demand that they not be judged. They deserve compassion and understanding. They are nice people really...but they have a problem. They're sick. They're wounded. Who are you to judge?

6. Dialogue is demanded. "You need to listen to us and to our stories. Then you will understand we are just like you."

7. Once sympathy is won, the goalposts are moved. Now they are not 'sick' or 'wounded' they're just 'different'. They expect to be accepted despite their 'differences'.

8. Equal rights are expected by those who are acting against God's law. "We are not asking you to approve us. We are simply asking you to tolerate a difference of opinion. Simply allow us to be who we are!"

9. Equal rights are demanded. Legislation and lobbying and protests are now in order. The pressure group for sin starts to get aggressive. They do so out of 'hurt' and 'woundedness.' Once they get their 'rights' (they claim) they will be happy and won't be so aggressive.

10. Tolerance being won, they will not stop. They now demand not only that you tolerate, but that you approve. They've moved from being 'sick' or 'wounded' or 'disabled' by their condition to tolerance, and now they proclaim their condition to be 'good'. As Thomas More was not allowed to remain silent on the King's 'great matter' but had to approve, so the presssure group insists on approval.

11. What was once tolerated now becomes mandatory. Society must integrate the new morality into every level--right down to schools and churches and scout groups. Everyone must adopt the new morality or suffer.

12. Persecution of those who resist.

13. Devil's real happy.

This process happens on an individual level, a family level, a community level and a societal level. The bigger the level the longer it takes, and for it to take effect at the societal, community and family level it must first work on the individual level.

This means you and I must watch for the signs in our own moral life and be alert. Any of us can go down this path, and any of us may be victims of those who are already well down the path of evil and darkness.

I stop in at Mr. Cassidy's website every so often when I feel the need to taste some bile at the back of my throat.

At first I actually thought this was satire...

... and that Waldo had unearthed somebody who got taken in by a fake advertisement.

Then, as I read it and explored the website, I realized ... oh shit it is real.

From Christian News Wire:

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid 'Burn in Hell' Video/Protest Competition Opens -- Prizes to be Awarded

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 /Christian Newswire/ --See video of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid "Burn in Hell" for putting child-killing in health care, instruction video on how to burn Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid "in hell," and rules for entering video competition of Pelosi and Reid "burning in hell."

I'm all for the separation of Church and State.

This seems to be the separation of Church and Sanity.

Quote of the Day

Via Alphecca:

Some people are like slinkies…They don’t really have a purpose, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In which once again I make myself popular, this time in my own Diocese

The current status and legal position of the Diocese of Wilmington, at least in my mind, is ... conflicted.

For those reading outside Delaware, the Diocese sought Chapter 11 protection this week from the 142 child molestation victims in 131 lawsuits, who stand to be conceivably awarded up to $500 million in total damages from a Diocese that has assets of only about $50-100 million.

Of course, the laity might be forgiven (so to speak) for failing to understand that Diocese is a distinct corporate entity from all of its parishes and schools, none of which are parties to these suits. Yet in the strange world of interlocking relationships, the churches and the Diocese split collections, the Diocese provides additional funding to the schools, and--naturally--the Diocese approves and moves around all the priests and other religious folk assigned to each of these completely financially independent organizations.

It's kind of like the case where your doctor also maintains a lab in his building; you usually don't realize that the moment you step across the threshold to meet the smiling woman with the needle that you have stepped into a completely different business, and will receive a completely separate bill.

So I guess it was my naive temperment that did not realize that when Bishop Francis (or, before him, Bishop Saltarelli) visited Resurrection Parish, that we were not only greeting a spiritual leader, but hosting the CEO of another arm of our loosely relation industry sector [the religion industry].

There is something vaguely--no, wait, make that obscenely--wrong about religious entities standing by the Separation of Church and State when it is convenient, but then using every business law they can get their hands on to avoid taxation and individual liability for negligent or criminal acts.

So how am I conflicted?

Resurrection is one of the smaller parishes in the Diocese [we may be the smallest; I have never checked], and yet we provide holiday meals and presents for dozens of families; we run a food bank that doesn't turn anybody away hungry; we sent relief supplies to the Gulf Coast after Katrina; we partner with independent coffee growers in Ecuador or somewhere. At Resurrection it has not been the nuances of Christian theology that my children have learned over the years, but the necessity of giving from their substance to the community; the responsibility of becoming servants as well as entrepreneurs.

There are poor children who would have gone to very good Catholic schools on scholarship that--in another year or so--will not find that money available. There are projects that Catholic Charities will not be able to complete. There are things that will not get done that had been planned to make some folks' lives not just better, but survivable.

And yet...

The evidence suggests that senior officials in the Diocese of Wilmington knew what was going on to defenseless children all those years ago and did worse than nothing. They covered it up. Bishop Saltarelli, whom I have admired on this blog more than once, does not always appear to have operated in the open spirit I would have thought the situation demanded. [Although it is important not to take the accusations of the plaintiffs' counsel as, uh, gospel, because they are being potentially well-paid not for objective statements but to paint their opponents in as poor a light as possible.]

So on the one hand we have the everyday and sometimes astounding good that the assembled entities that think of themselves as part of the Diocese of Wilmington [despite how the auditors draw the lines] have done and need to continue to do....

On the other we have the everyday and far too astounding evil that the entrusted--ordained!--leadership of that Diocese allowed to happen and then failed to deal with as they should have....

On the one hand long-suffering victims of childhood abuse who can never be made whole....

On the other the children, the poor, and the elderly who desperately need that helping hand....

Where do I come down on this?

Here: the balance of God between the Old and New Testaments is often philosophically and/or theologically presented as the balance between Justice and Mercy.

Justice demands that these victim's voices be heard, that their violators [along with their enablers] be called out into the light of day, and that if it takes every last penny belonging to the Diocese of Wilmington they must receive the only redress our courts can give them.

Even if the Diocese had unlimited financial resources, it would not be enough.

The rest of us must avoid the temptation to see these victims as our competitors for the Diocesan resources we would like to use for our children, for the poor. We have to accept that we--in a corporate sense--suffered the leaders who made these poor decisions to remain in positions of power for years. We have to accept that the redemption of our Faith, our Church, and even our Diocese requires us to worry more that those abused children will have their day to face their abusers, than about the financial hardships our churches will face.

We have to admit that what is causing the financial crisis is not anything those children did, but what our leaders did, and that we all share a responsibility to help make those children as whole again as possible.

Then we have to pick up the tools that are left to us, redouble our efforts not to let the good works--at least the most absolutely necessary--go undone. We're going to have to make some hard choices about what would be nice to do and good to do, as opposed to what we need to do. We're going to have to open our hearts and our wallets quite a bit deeper in a tough time to become the Church and the Christians we aspire to be.

We're going to have to be humble and pentitent when people refer to the Church as the Pedophile Protection Society, and recognize that we share in some measure of the human weaknesses that led us to this pass.

But we absolutely have to remember that our first obligation is to those 141 children who were harmed in our Diocese.

If a cathedral has to be sold to pay off that debt ... so be it. There were house-churches in early Christianity, and there can be again.

It is not a lovely position I hold; it is certainly [if the snatches of conversation I heard on Sunday are any indication] not going to be a popular one.

But it is--at least today--the only one that I find consistent with the teachings of the Gospels: we must attend to those who have been hurt before we can go back to attending those who need to be helped.

Sunday: Exhaustion set in....

... and in an extremely rare case I didn't post or even keep up with comments.

My younger daughter is recovering from pneumonia; I'm recovering from extended travel.

Ideas did not come. Motivation was absent.

I spent most of the evening playing Galactic Civilizations on a different laptop.

I'd endorse the game, but I don't know if they ever paid me anything; don't want to piss off the FTC.

Now it's Monday and we'll see what energy I can muster....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hell freezes over and we dance on the ice: I agree with jason330

Jason says in a thread about whether Beau Biden will challenge Mike Castle:

For all the bluster by the tea party freaks on the right and the beard pulling concern about health care reform by liberals – most people simply don't care about politics. The average person knows more about Marvel comics characters and their powers than they know members of congress.

That’s why the NJ and WDEL radio covers all politics as a long celebrity/personality story. There is no discussion of a Mike Castle’s conservative voting record (for example) because the market for that type of story does not exist.

Important thing for all bloggers to remember: it is pretty well demonstrated that less than 2% of the electorate actually gives a shit about anything we say.

And of that 2%, 98% are already strongly committed to one ideology or another and just want to scrap; they're not actually there to think about ever changing their minds.

Which is what sometimes amuses me when people [including me] get all hot and bothered about our little flame wars and online controversies.

We really are the nit on the back of the flea standing on the zit on the butt of the elephant or the donkey.

Comment rescue: Your children really belong to the government

From Anonone:

I do believe that the government should regulate what parents can allow their children to do and not do, like children should not drive cars or fly airplanes. If you take your child rock climbing and she is injured because she was too young, than there should be a penalty for that. Parents shouldn't risk their kid's life for cheap thrills when the kid may not have the maturity or judgement to know better.

The inherent premise here is that, due to the fact that a small percentage of parents across the nation will be stupid or even criminally negligent in raising their children, it is the legitimate role of government to protect all children not from abuse but from what some bureaucrat considers a sub-optimal parenting decision.

Ironically, these are pretty much the same bureaucrats who fail so miserably at actually preventing child neglect, sexual abuse, or physical abuse.

But I have to praise Anonone for the intellectual honesty necessary to say out loud what lots of people secretly believe: there is no aspect of your life that government should not regulate.

The runner-up award goes to those of you who believe (and you know who you are) that the government should mandate that you can only be naked in your own home if the shades are down and the curtains are closed.


Yep, once their server stops being attacked, the United States of Earth's new online game 2011: Obama's Coup Fails will be going gangbusters among players like DarthMal, FirstInfantryUnit, and EnemyWithin, all of whom quite evidently have too much time on their hands.

[DarthMal has, at last check, assembled a Patriot Army of over 7,000,000 loyal supporters.]

The game is really a quite capitalist enterprise aimed at bilking survival fantasy and gaming addicts out of their money ala World of Warcraft. You can play for free, but you cannot really get ahead until you start spending money.

[David Corn, writing for Mother Jones, notes that despite the Obama coup and Glenn Beck's death of an aspirin overdose in a FEMA relocation camp, the notion that [Ron] Paul can become president may be the most far-fetched fantasy of their entire enterprise.]

And, I'd argue, the money that these guys are spending on the game won't be going to GOPAC or to stockpile ammunition.

So far the reaction to this all is mild: HuffPo is bemused rather than outraged, and--ironically--Alex Jones of Prison Planet is outraged that the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin [whom he sees as government shills] are being portrayed as Patriots.

Just goes to show, I guess, that even the rightwing fringe has a righterwing fringe, which has a lunaticrighterwing fringe.

Unsurprisingly, there are those who don't get the joke. At Pam's House Blend they are already invoking David Niewert's much-overblown eliminationism meme to link it to the militia movement, and are drawing comments like this:

Don't be surprised when some of these badly named 'patriots' who are all actually the most loathsome of traitors to the Constitution decide to use this for a roadmap for violence in 10 or 11.

I am sure that it is only a matter of time before more of the blogosphere gets up in arms [oops, was that a military metaphor?] about Obama 2011, and starts demanding that everyone denounce it.

Which will in turn drive more and more folks to check it out and inevitably send more and more dollars into the coffers of the United States of Earth.

If you play this game, be advised, there are a lot better, more interesting games out there.

If you denounce this game, be advised that you lack any real sense of perspective.

Think of it this way: Saturday Night Live once pointed out that the US military was probably not that interested in recruiting young men who spent their time as boys playing with GI Joe dolls instead of going out there and kicking the shit out of other kids on the playground.

The same is undoubtedly true about the risk factors associated with potential militia recruits playing an online game.

Washington State Libertarians show principle on same-sex marriage; right-wing (faux) Libertarian Republicans whine about the gay "agenda"

The press release:

The Libertarian Party of Washington has endorsed the “Approve” Referendum 71 position.

Libertarians believe that people should be treated equally, that we all possess the right to equal protection of the law, as afforded by the 14th Amendment.

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” - 14th Amendment

Since the government gives benefits to heterosexual couples, it is imperative that we also extend these benefits to our gay and lesbian citizens as well.

“The children of gay and lesbian couples are entitled to equal protection, as well. Discrimination against the gay and lesbian community is also discrimination against their children.” Rachel Hawkridge, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Washington says “It’s horrible that people discriminate against loving, adult couples, but to discriminate against their innocent children is deplorable. It’s inhumane .”

Washington Libertarians urge all voters to “Approve” Referendum 71.

It’s the right thing to do.

Note the conditional sentence:

[condition]: Since the government gives benefits to heterosexual couples...

[requirement based on 14th Amendment]: it is imperative that we also extend these benefits to our gay and lesbian citizens as well.

I would have preferred the sentence to have been written to turn on discrimination not benefits, and most Libertarians would prefer that the government got the hell out of the marriage business completely. But until that happens, the State needs to be forced to play by the rules it created.

Unfortunately, our rightwing element of (faux) Libertarian Republicans does not agree. Note especially that agenda reference at the end of the first comment.

Straw men and the Constitution: in which Hube and Dana make the same mistake

With reference to the Obama administration's continuing war against Fox News, specifically referring to the recent attempt to impose the exclusion of Fox from the White House press pool for an interview opportunity, I said,

The State having the power to restrict the free--even partisan press--is a greater danger to the American republic than anything that press might ever say.

To which Dana Garrett responded,

And if the Nazi press wanted to be part of the press pool and attend White House News briefings, then as far as your concerned the White House is OBLIGATED to oblige them?

You are the one who claims to be the constitutionalist. Please point out in the constitution where the President is obligated to recognize just any "news organization" as responsible purveyors of free speech.

And, amazingly, Hube fell for this line:

As often as I disagree with Dana, I must say he's on the money with the above.

Did anybody notice Dana palm that card?

Neither my statement nor anything in my post asserted that the Obama administration's attempt to exclude Fox News was unconstitutional.

Unwise. Yes. Dangerous. Check. Unconstitutional? Unfortunately, not.

Freedom the press, as asserted in the First Amendment, amounts to freedom from prior restraint, and the inability of Congress (or, later, thanks to the Supreme Court) or any State legislature to make laws that allow the government to view and censor in advance what a press outlet will publish. The only exceptions that the Courts have ever sustained have to do with national security.

But not every threat to the freedom of the republic is directly covered under the US Constitution, nor is every tradition or mechanism that has developed in the past 220 years explicitly addressed. The US Constitution does not address, for example, who is allowed to vote, only [and this in the amendments] who may not be restricted from voting for certain reasons. The US Constitution does not address the role of political parties in the government, because national political parties did not exist when it was written.

I made a statement of political philosophy: that the direct attempt to undermine a major news network by the President (regardless of that network's shortcomings) is dangerous. Dana, in an attempt to defend the indefensible (note that none of the other news networks went along with this either, and their coverage of this imbroglio is increasingly hostile to the President), tries his two favorite tactics: (a) reductio ad absurdam [would you protect Nazis?] and (b) making up a charge I did not make and attributing it to me.

By the way: what about the Nazis? Well, let's see. The White House press pool for interviews is an agreement between the press corps and the administration that all of them who belong to the pool will get to use common equipment for interviews and such [i.e., CBS takes its turn to bring the equipment and everybody else gets to use its microphones]. Belonging to the pool requires a network to (a) have all the requisite equipment and (b) to have White House press accreditation. Fox meets both criteria. If there were a Nazi News Network with millions of viewers and White House press accreditation, then damn right I would support their access.

But this is again being disingenious on Dana's part. Let's do it by analogy. Lots of people in American don't like the coverage done by Al Jazeera, but the outfit is a world-recognized major cable and satellite news network that the US government (under GW Bush no less!) recognized and accredited to have embedded reporters with the US Marines in the attack on Iraq in 2003. During that operation, Al Jazeera filed multiple accounts (some of which were challenged by our State Department as being extremely biased and factually in error), but the US government did not seek to yank AJ's pool access based on this.


Because Al Jazeera is not Al Manar, just like Fox News is not Dana's mythical Nazi News Network.

Here's a link to a brilliant documentary on Al Manar [the film is about halfway down the page], just in case you don't understand the distinction.

As for Hube: don't take Dana's bait next time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Whether I like it or not, the government is getting into the risk reduction business big time

From Alphecca:

After scores of deaths, the U.S. government government is taking a closer look at off-road recreational vehicles, known as ROVs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted Wednesday to write mandatory rules to regulate the four-wheel vehicles, after more than 100 deaths since 2003. Riders have suffered dozens of injuries, too — some leading to amputations.

The actual stats are:

Since 2003, CPSC says 116 people have died, including young children, and more than 150 have been injured. Injuries have involved crushing fractures to legs, feet and arms and some riders have lost limbs.

The CPSC says it cannot wait on voluntary standards and market forces:

"This is an instance where the industry has not been responding quickly and effectively enough to the well-documented hazards caused by these products," said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for the Consumer Federation of America.

Ms. Weintraub, however, is--wait for it, technical term--full of shit. Forty percent of all those deaths can be linked to a single manufacturer, who has already recalled the vehicles:

In March, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA recalled more than 100,000 of its Rhino off-highway recreational vehicles for repairs after two models were linked to 46 deaths in the past six years. In many cases, riders were not wearing seat belts, the commission said. And in a number of incidents, rollovers happened on level ground at relatively slow speeds, the agency said.

Note that the CPSC admits that in many cases the deaths and injuries occurred because the operators were not wearing their seat belts. This is known to the sane as operator error and not manufacturer's defect.

But let's be rigorous here and look at other potential safety hazards the CPSC might soon want to become involved in:

During the last six years 237 skiiers and snowboarders have died on America's slopes and 261 have suffered serious injuries.

In the same period an estimated 28,200 Americans have died in swimming incidents.

Also, 43,100 Americans have died in car crashes (not counting 5,900 pedestrians struck and killed).

Over 9,000 people died in falls from public buildings, 5,500 kicked the bucket from accidental poisoning, and just over 1,000 people assumed room temperature from bicycle accidents.

In fact, the number of people who have died in ROV accidents is substantially smaller than the combined total of Americans who have died in a tornado (81) or from being struck by lightning (45).

Skiing and snowboarding is an apropos example here of why the CPSC is more likely than not to produce a new level of bureaucracy and more expensive vehicles without materially helping the people that they intend to save.

Since around 2003 the ski industry has been pushing hard to have the young, the elderly, and the inexperienced wear helmets on the slopes, as well as encouraging the regulars to do so. There have been dramatic gains in helmet use (among enthusiasts age 18-24 such usage is up 78% in the past five years), but--curiously enough--no clear improvement in mortality stats:

There has been no significant reduction in fatalities over the past nine seasons even as the use of helmets overall has increased to more than 33 percent, and to as much as 40 percent within the population at greatest risk—experienced young adult male skiers and snowboarders. The pattern of death seems to be affected by the use of a helmet. Most fatalities are due to multiple causes or injuries. Approximately two-thirds of those who die who do not use a helmet have as the first cause of death some injury to the head. For those who die while wearing a helmet, only about one-third have a head injury as the first cause of death. It seems that while the use of a helmet may shift the distribution of the first cause of death, it is not sufficient to reduce the overall rate of death. In incidents leading to death, it appears that the severity of the incident simply overwhelms the ability of the helmet to prevent death.

If you have been on America's ski/snowboard slopes recently, you will understand why this is.

Look, humans are hard-wired to be risk-takers, and if the state goes to excessive lengths to mandate recreational risk reduction they will only find other, even stupider risks to take. It's sort of why the war on drugs has been working so smashingly well.

If you want to hold accountable the parents of minors who die while improperly operating ROVs or while not using the safety equipment, go for it.

If you want to hold accountable manufacturers who do not correct--either through production changes or recall--demonstrated safety defects, go for it.

But if this is--as a lot of libertarians, and skiiers, and snowboarders, and skateboarders, and rock climbers, and soccer players, and so on will suspect--just the opening salvo in the latest round of the State deciding how much risk is acceptable for me, and for my children with a form of regulation that is the equivalent of using prior restraint to police inappropriate speech, then....

Why not safe a lot of money and stimulate jobs by mandating bubble-wrap utility wear for all of us?


walks off muttering

Will "More like this, please" be the response to attempted exclusion of Fox News from White House press pool?

Given these, I have to wonder whether our local bloggers are also applauding the White House attempt to impose its own restrictions on the press pool for network news:

Thursday, CNN, NBC/MSNBC, ABC and CBS all refused to go along with an attempt to toss Fox from a media pool that was supposed to conduct interviews with White House pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, who was unveiling restrictions on pay for executives of companies that accepted bailout money from the government.

Under an arrangement designed to save the networks money, a crew from one network shoots some White House events for all five outlets. The pool camera was supposed to shoot each network’s separate interview with Feinberg, but the networks were notified that Fox, which has been part of the pool arrangement since 1997, would not be allowed to question him.

The Obama administration relented after the other networks, in a gesture of solidarity, said they would take a pass on interviewing Feinberg if Fox was kept out of the mix. (Ironically, the effort to block Fox from covering what was arguably Thursday’s biggest news event came just a day after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said decisions on who would be included in pools would be left to the media organizations, not his office.)

Unequivocal statement of principle (yes, Dana, it probably is a liberty fetish): The State having the power to restrict the free--even partisan press--is a greater danger to the American republic than anything that press might ever say.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's good to be Government Sachs, isn't it?

While everybody is quivering in righteous populist anger over the impending restrictions on corporate pay and bonuses for the most bailed-out corporations, Goldman Sachs is salting away a bonus pool of, well:

As Wall Street firms typically do, Goldman set almost half that sum aside to compensate its workers. Through the first nine months of 2009, the firm socked away $16.7 billion, enough to pay the average Goldmanite $526,814.

The bonus pool is on pace to hit $21 billion for 2009, which would match the record bonus payout of 2007.

Goldman said it won't decide the size of the bonus pool till year-end. In any case, the payments will be substantial -- and will come just one year after huge sums of taxpayer dollars were funneled to financial institutions.

Of course, GS leadership (at least that much of as has not been recruited to run the Fed and the Treasury Departmet) asserts that it should be exempt from government regulation because it has paid back all $10 billion in government bail-out money.

That, of course, begs a few important questions.

Like how much other Federal money has GS benefited from?

It was one of the nine big banks that received loans from Treasury last fall. It received $13 billion in the costly, widely questioned September 2008 rescue of insurer AIG (AIG, Fortune 500). It has sold $22 billion in federally guaranteed debt under a plan the feds started to restore capital markets activity. And it has been a major beneficiary of the low interest rates the government has adopted in hopes of restarting the economy.

So the reality is that GS has received $45 billion (at least) in State assistance, and has only paid back $10 billion.

As a corporate welfare case, Goldman Sachs gives the lie to the idea that we have anything like a free market in the United States.

And they've done quite well:

While Goldman churned out $3 billion in profits in the third quarter, the economy shed 768,000 jobs, and home foreclosures set a new record.

More than a million Americans have filed for bankruptcy this year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. A September survey of state finances by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank found that state governments faced a collective $168 billion budget shortfall for fiscal 2010.

Goldman, by contrast, is sitting on $167 billion in cash, in the name of making sure it can withstand another market meltdown if that day comes.

Let's play that back again--$167 billion in cash reserves and has not been required to cover the other $35 billion in Federal bail-out money?

For clarity: I have no problem with huge profits in a free market, but when one corporation has (a) an incestuous relationship between its leadership and the economic directorates of the Federal government; (b) the luxury of not returning $35 billion in Federal assistance even though sitting on massive cash reserves; and (c) benefited from bold speculation with cheap, newly printed dollars and Federal support, this is NOT my definition of a free market.

One definition of class...

Manny Ramirez after last night's loss to the Phillies:

"They were better than us," Ramirez said. "You saw what they were capable of doing."

No equivocation. No excuses.

I bet most bloggers can actually identify with this....

From Mark Trodden of the University of Pennsylvania on recently taking his US citizenship test:

While the interview is relatively straightforward for someone like me (English speaking, with a long and continuous employment record, and married to a US citizen for well over a decade), one does have to go through the civics exam, in which one is asked ten questions chosen randomly from a list of one hundred, which one can study in advance from a booklet. The questions are not particularly difficult, and one only needs to get six correct to pass. However, being a good nerd, I studied dutifully, and made sure I could answer all one hundred correctly if necessary....

The ... problem for the geek taking the citizenship test is that if you get six correct before the examiner reaches ten questions, he just stops asking, and tells you you’ve passed. One must then avoid the temptation to say “No, come on, ask me the rest! I know the answers, honestly, just try me!” Pathetic, I know.

... because most of us are blogging primarily because we think we're smart enough to believe that the rest of the world is entitled to our opinion ...

Yeah, we obviously need more police for this...

Because we desperately need to be protected from naked people drinking coffee in their own homes:

(Oct. 21) A Virginia man was busted for indecent exposure after he was caught in the buff. In his own home. Alone.
Eric Williamson, 29, got up at 5:30 a.m. Monday and went to the kitchen to make some coffee. He was naked, but he was alone in the Springfield house, so he didn't think it mattered.


A woman and a 7-year-old boy were cutting through Williamson's front yard from a nearby path, according to WTTG-TV, Channel 5 in Washington. Through his front window, they saw Williamson having coffee in his birthday suit.

Fairfax County police showed up and arrested him. Williamson said he had no idea anyone could see him, but police said they believed he wanted to be seen by the public, said WTTG, a Fox station.

If convicted, Williamson could face one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. He plans to fight the charge.

"If I stood and seemed comfortable in my kitchen, it's natural. It's my kitchen," he told the station.

Police are now soliciting other people to come forward to say this dangerous man has been naked in his own home:

On Wednesday, investigators told FOX 5 they have reason to believe there may have been another incident in which someone saw Williamson naked in front of his window. They're asking anyone who may have seen Williamson in the nude through his windows to come forward, even if it was at a different time.

Police are especially concerned because the house is located across the street from a bus stop for school children. So on Wednesday, officers canvassed the neighborhood with fliers, asking anyone who may have been subject to an exposure to come forward.

This is my favorite line in the story from WTTG-TV:

Police wouldn't release the incident report or the name of the mother who filed the complaint. FOX 5 has learned she is a respected member of the community, and just happens to be the wife of a Fairfax County Police officer.

I know: soon somebody will comment, "What, you don't think it is appropriate for a police officer's wife to report a crime?"

To which I answer, "What's interesting here is that the Fairfax Police are now going all out to prove her allegations":

"Because this was being spun into a national story, and the idea you can't be naked in your own house-- we wanted to come forward and say in this case our officers believed there was probable cause the law had been violated," said Jennings.

Really? And that probable cause consists of....

"We've heard there may have been other people who had a similar incident," said Mary Ann Jennings, a Fairfax County Police spokesperson.

On the other hand, the guys with whom he shared the house suspect that Mr. Williamson may now be facing both jail time and a sex offender registry because ... he was either drunk or hungover from a drinking bout the night before.

Here's my question for the police sending out handbills about Mr. Williamson throughout the community: If they don't turn up anything, and you end up either not prosecuting him or losing the case, then how do you plan to apologize and give him his good name back?

Presumption of innocence my naked (oops) ass.

What is it about North Carolina Libertarians? Matt Drew makes it into Durham City Council run-off election

Regular readers will have long ago been introduced to ground-breaking Tarheel State Libertarians like Michael Munger and Chris Cole.

Now [h/t Libertarian Republican] you can add Matt Drew, the Libertarian candidate for Durham City Council, whose finish in the ward primary now entitles him to take on Democratic incumbent Howard Clement.

A visit to Drew's website discovers a candidate who is both thoughtful, civil, and willing to challenge perceived wisdom.

With respect to the idea that he cannot win the council seat in an overwhelmingly African-American population:

If you are a voter, go look in the mirror and honestly appraise yourself and your reasons for voting. If any of the reasons you voted for me include the fact that I’m white, I have a message for you:

Please stay home in November. I don’t want your vote.

If you find yourself in this position, I strongly urge you both to re-examine yourself and your motivations for voting. You also need to re-examine what Libertarians are about, because you clearly don’t understand anything about the person you are voting for. If you vote for me based on race, you do so with the understanding that I fundamentally disagree with you and will not represent your interests on City Council.

If one of the reasons you voted for Mr. Clement is because he’s black, I want you to do something for me. I want you to approach a man who has honorably served on the City Council for 26 years, a man who fought against open racism in the great Civil Rights battles fifty years ago, a man who has certainly seen and suffered more racial ugliness in his life than I can ever know, and I want you to tell him to his face that you voted for him because of the color of his skin. I hope that if you did that, he’d politely tell you where to shove it. And he’d be right, because you are insulting many of the ideals he and many others have paid a huge price to attain.

So how do you expect to win an election if this is how you characterize your opponent: a man who has honorably served on the City Council for 26 years, a man who fought against open racism in the great Civil Rights battles fifty years ago, a man who has certainly seen and suffered more racial ugliness in his life than I can ever know.

You do it by taking on his record:

My opponent, Howard Clement, has a simple theme for his campaign: Experience Matters. He’s right, of course. Experience does matter. Of course, this begs a larger question:

Experience doing what?...

What experience does my opponent have? He’s experienced in continual and rapid growth of government and taxes. He’s experienced in borrowing tens of millions of dollars (and paying millions more in interest) to build iconic edifices that continue to drain money from the city budget. He’s experienced in raising fees: a city fee increase went into effect a couple of weeks ago on the consent agenda, and wasn’t even discussed or debated. He’s experienced in deciding who gets corporate welfare support, the vast majority of which goes to large developers and large companies with little debate. He’s experienced in building skate parks in a year when critical programs are suffering budget cuts. He’s experienced with delaying what should be straightforward city decisions week after week … after week. He’s experienced in setting up programs like the Durham Youth Council that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish a goal that was already achievable.

What he doesn’t have experience with is reducing the footprint of government. He doesn’t have experience with ending programs, terminating city participation in failed projects like Rolling Hills, and cutting frivolous projects. As we move into what will likely be a decade of high unemployment, falling property taxes, falling sales tax revenues, and general belt-tightening, his response is to raise sales taxes to increase funding for yet another failed city program, our transit system. He continues to refuse to take the lead on the issues facing our water supply, as the process slowly grinds along with low priority and no sense of urgency.

Possibly this is too cerebral an approach to modern politics. Many local commenters on both edges of the ideological spectrum have argued (or have supported by their actions) the thesis that politics is not about rational discourse on public policy, but it's simply about winning.

They'd never consider acknowledging or complimenting their opponent's long record of service and historica role in the civil rights movement.

Matt Drew may not win, but he represents the sort of solid, substantive, civil candidate that any party should be proud to claim.

George Wahlen, Linda Brown, and Murray Gell-Mann are still alive

Here's what George Wahlen did:

One of the greatest of these living recipients [of the Congressional Medal of Honor] is George Wahlen of Ogden, Utah. Wahlen was a medical corpsman during the battle of Iwo Jima. Wahlen risked his life repeatedly by crawling out into the line of fire to administer life-saving medical aid. On two occasions he was hit by shrapnel and painfully injured, yet he refused to leave the battlefield. During twelve days of battle he is credited for saving a countless number of Marines. After World War II, Wahlen served active duty during both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He is also the only recipient to have served during war-time for the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force.

I shouldn't have to tell you what Linda Brown did. But I'll give you a hint if you need it: she was a third grader in Topeka KS when the NAACP filed Brown v. Board of Education.

On the other hand, you may not have heard of Murray Gell-Mann, one of the most important American theoretical physicists since we claimed Albert Einstein as our own:

1929–, American theoretical physicist, b. New York City, grad. Yale 1948, Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1951. In 1953, he and the Japanese team of T. Nakano and Kazuhiko Nishijima independently proposed the concept of “strangeness” to account for certain particle-decay patterns; strangeness became the foundation for later symmetry studies. In 1961, Gell-Mann and Israeli physicist Yuval Ne'eman independently introduced the “eightfold way,” or SU(3) symmetry, a tablelike ordering of all subatomic particles analogous to the ordering of the elements in the periodic table. The 1964 discovery of the omega-minus particle, which filled a gap in this ordering, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's being awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize for Physics. In 1963, Gell-Mann and American physicist George Zweig independently postulated the existence of the quark, an even more fundamental elementary particle with a fractional electric charge; quarks are confined in protons, neutrons, and other particles by forces associated with the exchange of gluons. Gell-Mann and others later constructed the quantum field theory of quarks and gluons called quantum chromodynamics (QCD). Gell-Mann's interests have extended to the study of complexity, and he is the director of physics at the Santa Fe Institute, which he helped found in 1984.

I mention this because kavips seems to have an extremely odd idea of who the greatest living (or at least most beloved) American hero is.

Politics eats everything eventually, doesn't it?

As usual, Coyote is both succinct and on point

From Coyote blog:

Cameron Scott meant this sentence as a withering critique of everything that is wrong with the government, from his point of view:

Transit riders shouldered four times the share of the MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority] 2008 budget disaster [than] drivers did, but officials promised to seek more revenue from parking.

Holy cr*p! You mean that transit users shouldered four times more of the transit budget than transit non-users? Gasp!

The Bay Area where he lives is experiencing light rail disease. This is the phenomenon where middle class voters along heavy white collar commuting routes push for horrendously expensive light rail lines. The capital costs of these systems drain transit budgets into the distant future, forcing service cuts, particularly in bus systems that serve the poor. The result is that the city ends up with bigger transit bills, but less actual transit, and progressives like Scott scratch their head and try to figure out what went wrong. It must be because non-users of Transit aren’t paying enough!

There are legitimate and principled discussions to be held on the role of government in transferring wealth for defense, or health care, or environmental protection, but what underlies a lot of these discussions is that far too often too many people take what they want and convert it into what society needs.

In other words, they elevate personal, class, or political preference into a matter of social and/or economic justice.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The problem with the new math in today's political discourse

My friends at Delawareliberal went all out describing Americans who did not believe that President Barack Obama did not deserve the Nobel Peace prize as wingnuts with no fewer than nine major posts.

The general theme was possibly best expressed by Delawaredem, who opined that when you have President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, you have the recipe for Peak Wingnut.

The only problem, CNN now reports, is that a majority of Americans (which would require a lot of Democrats to make up that majority, one presumes) don't think President Obama deserved the Nobel Peace prize:

About a third believe the president deserved the prize, according to this week's CNN/Opinion Research poll. Fifty-six percent say they disapprove of the Nobel Prize Committee's decision to honor him, the survey found.

This would appear to mean one of three things:

1) Americans in general reality test much better than our local liberal/progressive bloggers, and realize that the primary reason President Obama won the Nobel is because he is not George W. Bush.

2) GOP rhetoric is a lot more effective than they thought in influencing public opinion.

3) Polling only means something when it concludes what you wanted to believe in the first place.

Come to think of it: maybe it means all three things at the same time.

And maybe, just maybe, we will start to see some of President Obama's supporters begin to pay more careful attention to his increasingly ineffective while increasingly interventionist foreign policy.

Nah. Probably not going to happen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The continuing militarization of American foreign policy in places most of us never think about....

... like the Darfur region of Sudan.

It is important to read this entire NYT article on the impact of Major-General Scott Gration on the Obama administration's policy towards the genocidal government in Khartoum. You need to read it for yourself, because it is carefully balanced and subject to distortion if I pick out too many quotes about Gration himself.

But it is disturbing on multiple levels:

1) The continuing and apparently expanding use of US military personnel in diplomatic roles. To a greater extent than most previous administrations, President Obama appears to be relying upon military rather than diplomatic personnel to make critical assessments and carry out foreign policy.

2) The lack of transparency in our new foreign policy:

On Monday, the administration unveiled a new policy in Sudan, outlining an effort that officials said was aimed at ending the mass human suffering there, promoting a definitive peace and preventing Sudan from serving as a haven for terrorists.

Though the details of the policy remained classified....

3) The continuing emergence of foreign-policy-via-prolonged internal infighting:

The administration’s new policy signaled the end of one vigorous — some said heated — debate and the likely beginning of another. The administration deliberated for months in meetings led by officials steeped in Sudan’s bloody history.

People close to the talks said views fell generally into two main camps: one advocating a tougher line against Sudan led by the United Nations ambassador, Susan E. Rice, and the other calling for a more conciliatory approach, led by General Gration.

None of these are problems unique to the Obama administration, but combined with the painfully slow internal deliberations on Afghanistan strategy, what appears to be emerging is the image of a President who prefers to preside over internal debates rather than provide a specific, visualized structure of foreign policy. Some would argue that President Obama's willingness to listen to divergent viewpoints is a strength that was sorely lacking in the Bush White House, and there is some truth to that notion.

But it also bespeaks an administration that chews over virtually every foreign policy decision so many times that the original situation may have already changed by the time it makes a decision.

Election games continue in Afghanistan, and American strategy continues to vacillate

Hard as it may be to recall now, when the Afghan presidential election originally came off, the US State Department praised it as well-run and closely scrutinized, even as President Karzai's political supporters organized 800 completely fictitious polling places to garner phoney votes.

Now, thanks primarily to public pressure brought to bear by Peter Galbraith (resulting in UN election observer Kal Eide finally admitting that Karzai's election was fraudulent), the US has reluctantly joined those agreeing that a run-off will be necessary after first suggesting that we would not allow one.

In fact, this has no opened up something of a breach between the Obama administration and Senator John Kerry (who was, if you recall, one of the other finalists to become Secretary of State, and who might well be Hillary Clinton's replacement if she decides to quit and run for Governor of New York). Kerry says no decision about US troop levels should be made until there is a legitimately elected government in place:

"I don't see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government's going to be," Kerry told John Dickerson, host of's "Washington Unplugged," during the senator's visit to Afghanistan's capital.

[Senator Kerry actually went into considerably more detail than this quote indicates.]

This caused Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to fire back, as Reuters reports:

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - The United States cannot wait for problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government to be resolved before making a decision on troops, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said.

Gates, speaking to reporters on board a plane traveling to Tokyo, described the situation in Afghanistan as an evolutionary process that would not improve dramatically overnight, regardless of what course is taken following the country's flawed August election.

"I see this as a process, not something that's going to happen all of the sudden," Gates said.

"I believe that the president will have to make his decisions in the context of that evolutionary process."

The Obama administration has tried to look for a way out of this dilemma by portraying discussions about a strategy shift in Afghanistan from defeating the Taliban to defeating Al Qaeda, as reported by the LATimes:

Reporting from Washington - President Obama and his top advisors are moving toward a strategy on Afghanistan that defines Al Qaeda as a greater threat to U.S. security than the Taliban, a view that could help them avoid the major troop increase sought by military commanders.

The evolving strategy represents a subtle shift for the administration, which has considered Osama bin Laden's network its top enemy while viewing the Taliban as a close ally of Al Qaeda that supports its ambitions. White House officials now are taking pains to make distinctions between the two groups, branding Al Qaeda a global terrorist group and the Taliban a local movement.

Such a strategy could let U.S.-led forces concentrate on their successful strategy of using unmanned aircraft and missile strikes against Al Qaeda operatives and outposts in the remote region along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Senator Kerry is not without his own answer for this, as he indicated in a CBS interview:

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: That’s correct. I– I– I do not believe that a counterterrorism strategy all by itself without a sufficient level of counterinsurgency will work because if you don’t have a presence on the ground that’s effective, it– it’s almost impossible to collect the kind of intelligence that you need to be equally effective in your counterterrorism.

[Kerry is not without problems in this area, however, as it seems from a 2004 interview that he was, ah, for the counter-terrorism strategy before he was against it. That claim, however, has to be taken with several grains of salt, as Kerry's 2004 comments were based on an Afghan situation that was considerably different from the one we face today.]

That all, of course, leaves Vice President Joe Biden's Pakistan-focused strategy out of the mix.

Thomas Barnett has a brilliant, edgy analysis of what this all means at Esquire, not just in Afghanistan but in terms of President Barack Obama's foreign policy leadership. I don't agree with everything Barnett says, but he makes a key point about a very bright but very young president, surrounded by older advisors still refighting their own previous wars, and that same President has far more preparation to handle domestic politics than foreign policy.

The potential result?

Underneath all this week's he-said/she-said over the war's future lies a self-inflicted wound: Our young president has lost sight of what matters in the military conflict that will define him, and lost sight of it to another Boomer-era vice president's guilty conscience.

That another vice president's guity conscience reference is a direct comparison of the roles of Dick Cheney in the Bush White House to that of Joe Biden in the Obama Administration [complete with a near rhetorical jab at Colin Powell]:

What's so intriguing and tragic about Obama's indecisiveness here is that it's been triggered by yet another vice-presidential, Boomer-era "wise man" determined to right the wrongs of the Vietnam era. With George W. Bush, it was Jerry Ford's chief of staff Dick Cheney who was determined to restore the power of the imperial presidency, and with Barry, it's Joe Biden (his '72 Senate upset win in Delaware was fueled by his fierce opposition to the war), who, along with 'Nam vets John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, counsels our JFK-ish president to get out of this quagmire now — while he still can. Despite all of Obama's campaign rhetoric about bringing a post-Boomer perspective to the White House, on this crucial call he appears as captive to that mindset as his two predecessors were.

And yes, the perverse influence that links them all is Obama's kitchen-cabinet adviser Colin Powell (aka Two-Face), who never met a war he didn't want to decisively win but likewise never met a post-war situation he didn't want to assiduously avoid. If you want a poster-child for how Vietnam still screws up presidencies, then General Powell's your man. Just understand that, later on, he'll deny everything to Bob Woodward.

Make no mistake about it: in a political sense, Barack Obama made two gigantic wagers in his presidency: health care reform and Afghanistan. I ultimately think he will bring out something close enough to health care reform to satisfy (if grudgingly) his base, and because it won't kick in until 2013 he will be running on that success.

But Afghanistan is a much trickier problem, and has far fewer roads that end in declaring victory.

It is an important thing to remember: the Great Society did not save LBJ from Vietnam.

How the blogosphere works (or doesn't)...

So two weeks ago Tyler Nixon announced here that Mike Castle was running for Congress and that he supports him.

No surprise there.

Then Delawaredem references that post in Around the Horn a couple days ago and throws off the comment that he'd like to know what I think.

I answered and explained why I'm not supporting Castle (or Biden).

Then Eric Dondero of Libertarian Republican drops by, sees my answer to DD's post, goes back to find Tyler's original post, and suddenly we have

Delaware's Top Libertarian Endorses Republican Mike Castle of US Senate

Political Stunner!!!!

And in the process, Delawareliberal even gets a mention in passing at Libertarian Republican. I know they will be so proud.

Several observations are important in this:

1) Despite Eric's connections to Delaware he somehow misses the fact that Tyler was a fusion Republican/Libertarian candidate in 2008, and that Tyler--while possessed of strong libertarian credentials--has been a registered Republican throughout his political career.

2) Tyler has never claimed the title of Delaware's Top Libertarian, although his combined vote total in last year's election between Republicans and Libertarians has arguably made him the most successfuly candidate associated with the Libertarian Party of Delaware.

3) It would only be a political stunner--as everyone in Delaware already knows--if Tyler Nixon did not support Mike Castle, since Tyler has worked to elect or re-elect Castle as Governor and Congressman in virtually every race in recent memory.

And, oh yes,

4) Contrary to Eric's reporting, I doubt Delawaredem would claim to be the publisher of Delawareliberal, per se.

All of which goes to show you that while almost everything Eric wrote in the post was factually correct, the combined assemblage of the story presents an erroneous image of a segment of Delaware politics.

I don't think that was anything peculiar to Eric's reporting: he did fairly reasonable due diligence and got all his quotes and links correct.

But it does raise the point that when you read local coverage of politics anywhere being interpreted by people who aren't actually on the scene and personally knowledgeable about the players, you should be carefully skeptical.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CNN: Majority of Americans think Afghanistan = Vietnam; time to get out

Maybe folks are starting to understand:

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A slight majority of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan is turning into another Vietnam, according to a new national poll which also indicates that nearly six in 10 oppose sending more U.S. troops to the conflict.

Fifty-two percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say the eight year long conflict has turned into a situation like the U.S. faced in the Vietnam War, with 46 percent disagreeing.

According to the poll, 59 percent of people questioned opposed sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan with 39 percent in favor. Of the 59 percent opposed, 28 percent want Washington to withdraw all U.S troops, 21 percent are calling for a partial American pullout, and 8 percent say the number of troops should remain the same.

"Has Afghanistan turned into Barack Obama's Vietnam? Most Americans think so, and that may be one reason why they oppose sending more U.S. troops to that country," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Older Americans are most likely to see parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam - possibly because they remember the Vietnam War, rather than reading about it in textbooks."

Anti-same-sex-marriage attorney admits in court he doesn't know how gay marriage is harmful

This would be funny if it weren't really happening.

From Classically Liberal:

The conflict over Proposition 8, the anti-marriage equality proposal in California continues in federal court. A legal battle is brewing over the discriminatory nature of Prop 8. The proponents of Prop 8 have their lawyer in court defending the measure.

That lawyer, Charles Cooper, claimed that marriage equality would harm children. This is the sort of claim that the anti-equality advocates have been pushing all along. But a court room is not the place for meaningless, political sound bites. And the judge in this case, Vaughn Walker, wasn't falling for a sound bite.

Because Cooper had claimed that marriage laws further procreation, and allowing gays to marry would somehow harm procreation, Walker asked: "What is the harm to the procreation purpose you outlined of allowing same-sex couples to get married?" That's a fairly, straight forward question and one that Cooper clearly should have anticipated since he claims are central to his argument.

But Cooper seemed shocked by the question. He stumbled for words saying: "My answer is, I don't know. I don't know." Well, if the lawyer defending Prop 8 doesn't know how gay marriage harms the "procreative" purpose of marriage, who does?

There you have it, folks: Same-sex marriage is bad, but we don't know exactly why, and we couldn't prove it if we did.