Political Quiz

Took the Politopia Quiz:

You would feel most at home in the Northwest region. You advocate a large degree of economic and personal freedom. Your neighbors include folks like Ayn Rand, Jesse Ventura, Milton Friedman, and Drew Carey, and may refer to themselves as “classical liberals,” “libertarians,” “market liberals,” “old whigs,” “objectivists,” “propertarians,” “agorists,” or “anarcho-capitalist.”

(via the Burnt Orange Report)

Lemme Get This Right

John Poindexter suggests some Orwellian Behemoth named Total Information Awareness, a plan that was clearly going to do for Civil Liberites what Manson did for tattoos, and all that happens is that there is a dull murmur throughout D.C. and the plan is changed (we think) and the name is changed.

Poindexter then suggests an innovative idea for a terror futures market, something that while sounding macrabe and unpleasant, could have some definite intelligence gathering utility, and a bunch of ill-informed neanderthals (Senators to you an me) manage to not only kill the idea but create enough of a stir so the man steps down?

I think I am living in Bizarro World. In the immortal words of convicted Democrat Jim Traficant, ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’

*** Update ***

Apparently, anyone an write op-eds about things they know nothing about:

Of course, no one expected DARPA’s John M. Poindexter notorious for his eventually overturned conviction for lying to Congress about Irangate to approach the problem from the perspective of economic theory. But what was he thinking? Did he believe there is widespread information about terrorist activity not currently being either captured or appropriately analyzed by the “experts” in the FBI and the CIA? Did he believe that the 1,000 people “selected” for the new futures program would have this information? If so, shouldn’t these people be investigated rather than rewarded?

Why then, if it was not going to be approached from the perspective of economic theory, was this the brainchild of ROBIN HANSEN, assistant professor of ECONOMICS at George Mason University, in conjunction with NET EXCHANGE (note to LA Times- Net Exchange is a CALIFORNIA firm).

*** Update #2 ****

Via A Fearful Symmetry, this William Gibson quote:

The last time DARPA got too imaginative, we wound up with the Internet.


You Know Who You Are

Ricky J. West has an excellent post/rant up about the lunatic fringe that the left embraces- in fact, seems to be trumpeting in order to return to the halycon days of Democrat dominance on the national level. The left is very fond of tarring the right with their extremists- on some days, that seems to be the entire point of Dave Neiwert’s Orcinus (or, as I am fond of calling his site- “Republicans are Secretly Fascists and Most People Are Too Stupid To Recognize It”). If you think I am exxagerating about Neiwert, btw, check out the very first posting on his page- it is always the same- some variation of this meme:

I hate to keep sounding like a broken record, but the fascist motifs trickling their way into mainstream Republican politics (which is the focus of the “Rush” essay, of course) are starting to come fast and furious — at a much faster rate, I’m afraid, than I think most of us anticipated.

Tighten the tinfoil hat, Davey boy. If we really were fascists, we would have come for you long ago.

At any rate, in a nice how do you do, Ricky points out who the real meme spreaders are in the Democrat party:

Each and every link from this post was taken from moveon.org.

Yes, folks, the ‘darling’ of the left side of the blogosphere is the genesis of this entry (mostly pertaining to the WOT). The same moveon.org (in the form of peace.moveon.org) that used as one of its arguments against a war in Iraq that Hussein would use his WMDs against our soldiers (no note that he didn’t have them….back then). Or, if we acted, that Hussein would unleash his arsenal on Israel, who would (of course) use chemical or nuclear weapons. Which would then cause Pakistan to launch nukes against India (I kid you not). Or, if Israel didn’t do that, they might attack Iran. Or it could launch nukes against Jordan.

No, the examples given here are not ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ thought, IMO. They are reactionary at best and arguments put forth by folks who could be considered rather loony at worst. So, if you’re one of the people who signed up to vote in the ‘online’ primary or if you think moveon is such a great and forward-thinking entity, try to remember that most reactionaries consider themselves to be rather mainstream, as well.

And the best part is, Ricky has links to all of the nonsense. Go read it and enjoy, and then watch the memes trickle down from the lunatics like Chomsky, MoveOn.Org, Common Dreams, to the politicians and the respectable ‘moderate’ bloggers.

This is not to say the right does not have our share of headcases- the difference is we distance ourselves from ours- we don’t embrace them and say we need to get back to our ‘roots.’

Gay Marriage Debate

The Catholic church has come out with another strong condemnation of gay marriage, and once again, I am confused as to what the debate is really about. It is clear what the Vatican does not approve of (buggery of small children- we’ll get back to you on that one- consensual sex between consenting adults- jeebus, are you out of your mind?):

The Vatican today condemned gay marriages as “deviant” in a document that instructs clergy and Catholic politicians on how to stop the legislative momentum in favor of gay marriages in North America and Europe.

In a 12-page set of guidelines, issued with the approval of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith urged Catholic lawmakers to lobby and vote against bills that would recognize gay marriage, saying they have a “moral duty” to do so.

The congregation, which was formed in the sixteenth century to defend the church against heresy, defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and said that “homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.”

So, the Vatican is against ANY recognition of marriage, same-sex unions, whatever you may call it. MY own personal stance is that I am in favor of extending the legal benefits of marriage to homosexual couples, I would just prefer that they use a name other than ‘marriage.’ I think many people would have no problem with a legal contract known as same-sex unions, but what seems inflammatory and troublesome is calling it marriage. Is this a middle ground that many others share?, or am I the only one who is nuts on this? My approach seems to be rather simple (I am opening myself up for accusations of simple-mindedness, I know), but it seems to me what upsets most people is the use of the term marriage, not the legal benefits or recognition of homosexual unions.

Am I way off base here?

It’s the Economy, Stupid

The Times has two encouraging stories for Bush, one of which is good news for all of us:

The U.S. economy, lifted by consumer and business spending, broke out of the doldrums and grew at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2003, the strongest showing in nearly a year.

The improvement in the gross domestic product in the April to June quarter, reported by the Commerce Department Thursday, came after two straight quarters of lousy economic growth. GDP increased at just a 1.4 percent pace in both the final quarter of 2002 and the first three months of this year.

Light at the end of the tunnel? For Bush, it seems that the tax cuts are coming when they are really needed:

The refund checks have started arriving, and for many residents here, the $400-a-child tax credit, part of President Bush’s latest effort to stimulate the economy, could not come at a better time.

Matt Ross, a father of two, said he intended to pay a few bills and, with school starting in a few weeks, buy new clothes for his children. Robert and Sharee McCutcheon, who also have two children, said their money would go for school supplies and Christmas presents. Roger Kintz, father of two girls, including an aspiring Olympic gymnast who is competing this week in Detroit, said his money would help pay for the trip.

Bridgett Bedwell, the mother of two boys, was thinking about her family dentist. “I’m fixing to have braces for my kids’ teeth,” she said. “That check really helps me out, especially when the braces are costing me $4,000.”

Spend. Spend. Spend. This is precisely what President Bush and Republican lawmakers were hoping for in enacting tax cuts that included an increase to $1,000 from $600 in the tax credit for children. Against concerns about the rising federal deficit (now projected at a record $455 billion) or the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq (almost $1 billion a week), supporters of the tax cuts, which passed the House largely on a party-line vote, argued that a sluggish economy was best improved by Americans’ keeping more of their money so they could spend it. On Friday, the Treasury Department began mailing out the first of more than 25 million checks, $400 for each child who was 16 or younger in 2002.

This graf really gives you some insight into how some Democrats think:

Others, less taken by Mr. Bush’s job performance, questioned the timing of the tax cut, suggesting either that the money could have been used for other things like “road improvements or construction projects,” Ms. Rinehart said or that the cut was a political tactic intended to gain support for the president’s re-election.

“In a way, $400 is not an extraordinary amount of money,” said Sara Rittenhouse, a nurse, who sat with her husband, Kevin, a firefighter, watching their 10-year-old son at a football practice. “But it seems to me it’s the kind of money that makes a difference to the people who don’t pay attention to the big political picture. I’m sure there are a lot better ways to spend the money. To me, it’s like a bribe.”

Bribed with your own money. Snicker.

Amusing Logic

Sometimes really smart people say stupid things. Last night, the NY Times had an article about the NYC school system that was a rather scathing indictment of some of the school policies:

Growing numbers of students most of them struggling academically are being pushed out of New York City’s school system and classified under bureaucratic categories that hide their failure to graduate.

Officially the city’s dropout rate hovers around 20 percent. But critics say that if the students who are pushed out were included, that number could be 25 to 30 percent.

The city data make it impossible to determine just how many students are being pushed out, where they are going and what becomes of them. But experts who have examined the statistics and administrators of high school equivalency programs say that the number of “pushouts” seems to be growing, with students shunted out at ever-younger ages.

Those students represent the unintended consequence of the effort to hold schools accountable for raising standards: As students are being spurred to new levels of academic achievement and required to pass stringent Regents exams to get their high school diplomas, many schools are trying to get rid of those who may tarnish the schools’ statistics by failing to graduate on time. Even though state law gives students the right to stay in high school until they are 21, many students are being counseled, or even forced, to leave long before then.

A couple of things- First, I almost fell out of my chair when I read that the dropout rate was 20%. To me, that reads as “20% of the population of school aged kids are going to be living off your tax dollar for the next 60 years.” You simply can not support yourself without a college education- you can, but it is very difficult. Trying to get by without a HS diploma seems absurd.

Second- Forcing people out of school is not an unintended consequence of enforcing standards. It is dereliction of duty by those entrusted to educate our youth.

Third- Not only is this a dereliction of duty, but, as the article CLEARLY STATES, it is AGAINST THE LAW.

So, back to the smart people who sometimes say dumb things. Check out Matt Yglesias’s take on the issue:

This underscores the broader problem with the recent conservative fetishization of “standards” and “accountability” as the solution to the nation’s education problems. People are, in general, quite good at meeting the standards you set out for them, provided that you provide them with adequate incentives to do so. The difficulty is that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and schools can devise all sorts of ways to meet standards that don’t involve or are antithetical to achieve the goals for which the standards are supposed to serve as proxies. This is not to say, of course, that one shouldn’t have any standards at all, but merely to point out that setting the standards and watching more and more schools meet the targets isn’t going to bring about any actual pedagogical improvements unless schools are also provided with the resources necessary to educate their students better.

Conservative fetishization. Resources. I guess demanding that children be able to read, write, perform basic math skills, and have a little knowledge of history is simply some conservative fetish. Apart from this being an absolutely absurd statement, Matt attempts to buiuld the argument that the reason this is happening is because of a lack of resources. Let me point out that last night, I read the article in its entirety. I did that again this morning. Nowhere in the article does it make the case that the reason for this is because of a ‘lack of resources.’ Indeed, the most cogent explanation offered in the article is the following:

Mr. Klein said he was not aware that the discharge issue had been brought to the department’s notice in prior years.

But two years ago, just before he left his post as chief of assessment and accountability, Robert Tobias recommended an audit after noticing a “heavy use of the discharge codes” under which students are no longer accounted for in a school’s graduation rate.

The discharge codes can be misused, he said, by classifying students who drop out of the system as having left the city. “It would be possible to inflate graduation rates and reduce your dropout rate,” said Mr. Tobias, who is now an education professor at New York University.

While the Department of Education classifies each student who leaves school under one of dozens of codes, it does not release or apparently even compile information on how many students leave under which circumstances and what becomes of them. Furthermore, students leaving in similar circumstances may be classified differently.

The accuracy of accounting for children who leave the system and the murkiness of the discharge codes, Mr. Tobias said, “really need some attention if you are going to tighten up on graduating and dropout rates.”

In other words, BUREAUCRATIC MALFEASANCE is the reason behind the discharges, and not a lack of resources. Matt is right, people are good at meeting standards when given an incentive. Here, the incentive was to not be labeled a failing school, and rather than re-work the curriculum, adopt new pedagogical strategies, etc., in order to meet those standards, they chose to play a numbers game.

The problem is, they can get away with it, because they can always count on people like Matt to run cover for them. You see- the real problem is a lack of resources and conservative fetishes. Not corrupt administrators, uncaring bureaucrats, and lazy teachers. We’ll give Matt a partial break, though- he did post that at 1 am, so he may have been drunk.

Support Our Troops

I saw this in the local newspaper last night (it is weird being at the parent’s house- at home I have no newspaper delivered because broadband lets me get to all the newspapers I want), and it just infuriated me:

Bellaire officials can legally eliminate the position of village street commissioner even though the employee is a U.S. soldier presently serving in the war with Iraq.

Bellaire Village Council is reviewing a plan containing ideas to reduce costs in the village, and one of those ideas is the elimination of the street commissioner’s position. The job is currently held by Vince DiFabrizio, who presently is serving with the 463rd Engineers Detachment 2 in the Persian Gulf.

Bellaire faces a projected general fund deficit of more than $100,000 this year, and this figure could be greater in 2004, Village Clerk Thomas Sable has informed council members. The salary for DiFabrizio, as street commissioner, is paid from street department funds and not from Bellaire’s general fund.

Belmont County Director of Veterans Affairs Cindy Maupin said terminating the position is legal, and DiFabrizio isn’t protected because he holds an appointed position.

“They can’t take away his job, but they can eliminate his appointed position,” she said. “If he were a union member, or if the position were a permanent job, the employer would be required to give him another position when he returns.

“He is not protected from having his position taken away because it is not considered a permanent job. As the mayor changes, the mayor can bring in his own person.”

Maupin, a former mayor’s secretary in Bellaire, is familiar with the employees there.

“I think it’s pretty bad that they’re talking about doing this, and (DiFabrizio) is not here to defend himself,” she added. “They’re doing this while he is gone.

“It’s not very nice, but there’s nothing that can really be done about it. If his were a permanent position, he would stand a chance in requesting another position within the city.”

Staff members in the office of U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, checked into the matter and discovered the same information. While federal law does protect the jobs of those called up for duty, employers may eliminate positions if it is deemed necessary for the “normal course of business.”

Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.

The Disconnect

Kevin Drum links to a Tacitus posting that portrays a more optimistic scenario in Iraq (Drum’s post is here, the Tacitus post is here), and then states the following:

Generally speaking, I think hawks are off base when they complain that the media present an overly bleak picture of how things are going in Iraq. Overall, things really have been pretty bleak and confused for the past few months, and reporters are just passing along what they see. The hawks may not like this, but they shouldn’t kid themselves that things are really hunky dory and it’s only media bias that prevents us from seeing how great things are.

Therein lies the problem. I am as hawkish as anyone (but I don’t presume to speak for all hawks), and what struck me was the major disconnect between my view of Iraq and what Kevin perceives my view of Iraq is (or other hawks, for that matter).

For the record, I think Iraq is a pretty bleak place right now. It is certainly not in my top ten places to raise children or vacation, and it certainly is not my idea of Nirvana. Having said that, I would take Iraq today over Iraq six months ago- and that is the point. Liberals and members of the anti-war crowd seem to have this impression that hawks (and here I am talking for all hawks- if I misrepresent you, my apologies) perceive all is well in Iraq. That is hardly the case- there are serious problems on the ground, and we have a long term committment that is going to cost a lot in terms of blood, sweat, tears, and money. What I do think, and what I think many others think, is that Iraq is a helluva lot better off than it was just a few months ago, and what really irritates us is that the only news seems to be the reports hat focus on the bleak, the dismal, and the troublesome.

No one said this is easy- we can get into a pissing contest over whether or not the administration prepared us for the long haul (I knew it was not going to be easy and an in and out affair, and for the life of me I do not understand where others got the impression this was goingto be easy), but there have been a number of successes in Iraq. They just seem to get overshadowed by the negative events in the press. That is what irritates us. I find it tiresome and foolish to enter into the partisan debates claiming ‘there was no plan’ and that ‘Iraq is the new Viet Nam.’ It simply was not the case, and it simply is not the case. When Kevin and others claim that hawks are painting an overly rosy picture in Iraq, he is missing the point. What we are saying is that it isn’t as bad as the media would let you think it is- and I think that is a statement most reasonable people would agree with at this point.

At any rate, even if it were as bad as the press and the left would like us to think, the solution is not to cut and run. Not only are the critiques and the assessment of the situation off base to many of the ‘hawks,’ but the only solution that can be inferred from the rhetoric on the left is not very appealing.

And don’t go flaming Kevin- I am just responding to this post of his, not the overall tone of his Iraq coverage.

Momma, Don’t Let your Babies Grow Up To Be Lefties

You can file this one under “Cry Me A River:”

An Evergreen State College student was injured slightly Monday while demonstrating with Palestinians in the West Bank, according to news reports and his mother. Sam Tsohonis, 26, is two weeks into a two-month stay as an activist, hoping to work with Palestinian artists to create a “peace mural.” He and four Palestinian protesters were injured while demonstrating against Israel’s construction of a security fence in the West Bank.

President Bush has encouraged the Israelis to remove the fence; thus far Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused.

Tsohonis and the demonstrators were specifically protesting the destruction of Palestinian olive groves near Anin that were torn down to make way for the fence, he said in an e-mail to his mother.

Earlier this year, 23-year-old Evergreen State College student Rachel Corrie was killed as she stood before an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in the Gaza Strip.

My question- won’t this new concrete fence give him plenty of room to make a gigantic peace mural? Who says the Israelis don’t care…

(via Dailypundit)

This Is Infuriating

Sometimes I read the newspaper and I wonder if someone in the Bush administration is a Terry McAulife plant doing the Democrat’s bidding:

When 21 freed American P.O.W.’s returned home from the Persian Gulf war in March 1991, Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, welcomed them at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

“Every man and woman who cares for freedom,” Mr. Cheney said, “owes you a very special measure of gratitude.”

Of those 21 former prisoners of war, 17, who had been tortured by their Iraqi captors, would like something more tangible. This month they won a court award of almost $1 billion against Iraq, and a federal law says they may be paid from frozen Iraqi funds.

The Bush administration has expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs over what they endured but is fighting them about the money, saying it is urgently needed to rebuild Iraq.

But Richard W. Roberts, a federal district judge in Washington, has ordered the government to keep enough Iraqi money in the United States to satisfy $653 million of the award, the amount of the compensatory but not the punitive damages he ordered paid to the former prisoners.


A Good Move

This is an executive order I can support wholeheartedly:

President Bush signed an executive order Tuesday that bans the import of rough diamonds used to finance civil wars in Africa.

The order, which goes into effect Wednesday, brings the United States — the world’s largest diamond importer — into compliance with an international agreement prohibiting trade in “conflict” or “blood” diamonds.

The agreement, approved by the United Nations, creates a paper trail so that rough stones can be traced to a legitimate mine.

Diamond production has financed deadly conflicts in countries including Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo and Liberia. Human rights groups say rebels use forced labor to mine diamonds, then use the proceeds to buy weapons and finance military activity.

A threefer- stop putting money into the hands of terrorists, help to cu down on human rights abuses, and help those nations who engage in legitimate diamond trade. I can handle that- not to mention it is UN approved!

Futures Markets

If you have clicked all the links I have provided and still don’t understand why a futures market would have been a good thing, look at the Dean phenomenon. For months now, people in the blogosphere have been talking about Dean- we pay attention to politics, we read more than your average bear, and we certainly bounce our ideas off more people than your average person. Thus, it is NO SURPRISE to anyone in the political circles of the blogosphere that Dean is doing well.

Meanwhile, in the traditional press, nary a day goes by without a story discussing the shocking revelation that Dean has a chance to win. From the Times today:
Howard Dean has burst from obscurity in a crowded field of Democrats to rank among the top contenders for the party’s presidential nomination.

No kidding. We were telling you this months ago. And if you don’t think that sort of predictive capacity would have been useful in the war on terror, you are just foolish beyond words.

Oh No- Not a Memo!

I wonder if the DC politicians are going to have another collective aneurysm when they find out that a memo has been released predicting future terrorist activities:

Terrorists operating in teams of five may be plotting suicide missions to hijack commercial airliners on the East Coast, Europe or Australia this summer, possibly using “common items carried by travelers, such as cameras, modified as weapons,” according to an urgent memo sent last weekend to all U.S. airlines and airport security managers.

The “information circular” issued July 26 was drawn from recent intelligence reports that detail the most specific terrorist plots involving passenger aircraft in the United States since four hijacked jetliners were used in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania.

“The plan may involve the use of five-man teams, each of which would attempt to seize control of a commercial aircraft either shortly after takeoff or shortly before landing at a chosen airport,” the Transportation Security Administration memo said. “This type of operation would preclude the need for flight-trained hijackers.”

How dare the Transportation Safety Administration release this information- they might scare someone. This is terrifying- and a public that can not handle a futures market for predictive efforts certainly is incapable of dealing with blunt information like this. I mean, after all, the government is supposed to make it a safe place for all of us to grow old and enjoy our grandchildren- they are not supposed to scare us or anything mean like that.

Surprising Springer

Here is the line of the day about Jerry Springer, who is thinking about running for the Ohio Senate seat:

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., worked on Springer’s 1977 campaign for Cincinnati mayor and his 1982 race for Ohio governor. She told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this month that people would be surprised by Springer’s intellect. “There’s much more to him than his TV show,” she said. “He’s a policy wonk.”

Jerry Springer, policy wonk.

Terrorism Futures

Colby Cosh (via Instapundit), describing the reaction of certain Senators and newspaper writers when faced with the (gasp!) horride and gruesome idea of DARPA’s futures market:

Here’s Florida Today checking in from the Space Coast: “The Pentagon’s plan to open a Web site for people to bet on terrorist assassinations and other geopolitical disasters was tasteless, ludicrous and embarrassing to the United States.” If someone wants to blow up the Vehicle Assembly Building, it appears Florida Today would rather not know! Talk about a commitment to good taste.

Newsday’s Ellis Henican writes “This was an idea so patently gruesome and spectacularly stupid, when I first heard it I thought it had to be a hoax.” I felt the same way when I heard there were newspaper columnists who heard new ideas and were incapable of forming any impression of them beyond their instinctual reaction. Hey, if I want to see a dumb animal recoil from a stimulus, I won’t buy a newspaper–I’ll throw firecrackers at my cat!

Exactly. Instapundit has a bunch of great links on the issue, and Yglesias joins me in flinging feces at the posturing Senators who killed this before they had any idea what it was.

The most annoying thing for me is not the way the Democrats behaved- and here are two more over the top reactions:

Criticism mounted yesterday. On the Senate floor, Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle of South Dakota denounced the program as “an incentive actually to commit acts of terrorism. This is just wrong.”

At an Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton called it “a futures market in death.”

What pisses me off is how the Republicans caved on this. That is just unacceptable. I expect the Democrats to be against EVERYTHING this administration does- that is all they have done for three years. I don’t expect the sort of weak in the knee response to innovation that I got from the elephants yesterday. That was disgusting.