Thursday, December 30, 2004

Al Yanukovych

If we aren't careful we might end up feeling like soul mates with the Ukrainians, when one of them feels that when the election doesn't go his way that a nice lawsuit is a morally OK option.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Iraqi Blogger

Totten is asking us to link to this new Iraqi Blogger. So I will. His name is Ali, he lives in Bagdad, and he desperately wants the freedoms he is enjoying now to remain long term.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

SE Asia coastline change

At the Tsunami News and Help website I noticed a reference to an article telling about how satellite photos are showing massive coastline damage and change due to the tsunami. I wish I could find some of those pics, but the article only mentions them.

Update: Totten noted in the LA Times that the earthquake moved the entire island of Sumatra about 100 feet to the southwest.
Mike said: Whoa!
I say: Yikes!
Bart says: Eye Carumba!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Local voices on Earthquake

Via Instapundit, visit these sites to get information on what's happening from people who are there.

Malaysian blogger Rajan Rishyakaran is posting numerous updates, with links to bloggers from around the region. And here's more from Indian blogger Nitin Pai.

UPDATE: Historical perspective, from Amit Varma, who remembers the Maharashtra quake of 1993. And Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi has more, and a huge roundup of links to other bloggers in the region. Fellow Malaysian blogger Peter Tan is posting regularly, too, with reports from the affected areas.

World events

Many of you are following the Ukrainian elections, and it seems that, unlike the past couple of U.S. elections, Victor Yushchenko has overwhelmingly won the election. Like the past couple of U.S. elections, the spectre of lawsuits looms over Yushchenko's victory.
The Russian reaction is mixed. Here are the Russians:
One communist newspaper, Pravda, says the result means "the complete loss of our gas and oil export routes to the USA or the European Union". It also voices the fear that Mr Yushchenko's election means "Russia no longer exists as a world-class power". Pravda blames Washington for this.
However, other Russian Centrists ponder the effects of this election on Russia itself.
A writer for business publication Kommersant claims the outcome of Ukraine's political crisis means "the Orange Revolution virus will now spread to Russia".
He writes: "It will not take long to dismantle the new Russian totalitarianism".
Hat tip to Instapundit on the quotes, which are from the BBC.

A giant 9.0 earthquake hit the southeast asian countries this weekend, sending 33 foot tidal waves into many surrounding countries. If any of you don't know what 33 foot tidal waves can do just look at some of the pictures. Tidal waves are not just like bigger versions of the waves you see surfers cruising over. They are longer and the wave might be 33 feet high (think three story building) but also can be thousands of feed wide, so that they just keep coming after the initial hit. I'll try and find some good maps of the devistated area.
Update: Glenn Reynolds has some perspective on Catastrophes, including possible asteroids colliding with the earth. He also has this link-fest for more on the Tsunami and it's after affects. He includes links to agencies that are accepting donations.

Israel released 159 Palestinian Prisoners in an effort of good faith toward the elections that the Palestinians are about to have. Sharon is putting his eggs on an Abbas presidency and possible future peace in that region. They also released some Egyptians in an agreement designed to ease tension with Egypt as well.
This could all fall down like a house of cards if we get into another round of Terrorist bombings and Israel return strikes, so lets hope it doesn't happen and the Abbas can truly lead his people in the creation of a true Palestinian nation. With borders.
There has been some critisizm that the prisoners who have been released are only short timers and would have been released within a year or two anyway as their sentences finished out. That leaves all the long term prisoners, whom Israel fears may be a threat to them, still in prison indefinitely. I am skeptical that Israel needs to release any of these prisoners in order to commute good faith. Those guys ARE a threat to cause violence and derail the whole process. If Abbas is elected and the Palestinians form something of a stable government, then there will be room to talk about releasing other prisoners.

Pakistan and India are moving as slowly as ever on talks about the region of Kashmir. It seems that, although Pakistan has made a lot of talk about compromise, that India is steadfast in it's insistance that it controls the whole of Kashmir and will not change it's mind. I would welcome some perspective that would indicate that India is not the obstinate brat in the room this time.

And, hey, it's just over a month until Iraqi elections. Put your seatbelts on. Trays in locked and upright position. Seatbacks up. Here we go.

Out for Christmas

Sorry about the lack of posting to this blog. I have been reading blogs and the news, but haven't had the time to create anything. Christmas is always a busy time, and this year was no exception. In fact it was one of the busier runs up to Christmas I can remember. It was the actual week before the big day that we finally started to calm down.
Anyway, there is too much in the news for me not to link some and make some comments. Peace be with you all.

Friday, December 17, 2004

In California

Once again the bloggin has been light. I am on business in Fort Bragg, California. If you have never been to this part of the coast I recommend it. The shoreline is rocky and the water breaks hard against the shoreline. This is a part of the coast where the Great Redwoods grow. If you want to see giant redwoods, you need to be a little further north. Fort Bragg is timber country. Georgia Pacific and Menocino Redwood Co have operated here for years, and Fort Bragg was the home to a large GP saw mill for decades. The saw mill is now closed and the land is owned by the Hawthorne Timber co, but the timber culture remains. It is mixed together with a young environmentalist (almost hippy, but that's just because there are still some comunes in the hills) culture that moved up from San Francisco in the 60s. The bars are tucked up next to the health food stores. It's interesting.
But the coast line is some of the most beautiful I know.

In Defense of the Blog

I have a friend who I have been back and forth on recently about politics and Iraq. He is fairly liberal and very Democrat. I am generally conservative, with some liberal leanings, but not very Republican. In one of his letters he lambasted me for using a link to a blog, as if I was linking to the National Enquirer or something. Many articles and posts have defended the blog over time. I even had one with a link to a great article in Foreign Policy online.
Here is his diatribe:
OK. . . I'm sending you a longer response before the weekend is out. . . but I would like to propose a really important GROUND RULE in all future conversations:
NO F***ING BLOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Blogs are not reliable sources of information. I don't consider them evidence of anything other than somebody having access to the internet. I want sources with some credentials and a way of verifying what they say. Admittedly, major journalistic outlets fall down on this front sometimes, but at least they try.
Here is my answer to him. Although I now think that it is sooo incomplete.
1. I do read the news, mostly Google, but often Yahoo, Oregonian, Wall Street Journal, but reading the news will only get you part of the way to understanding. For one thing articles are generally written these days to give you a snapshot into what's going on, not the broader context. Also, a lot of the time the articles leave out very important information, be it on purpose or not. I don't think that this is a particularly new development, but rather has been more transparent, partially due to all the independent journalists and writers of the blog world.
I find that blogs, when used properly (and discerningly) are pretty much like reading any columnist in the op-ed. They are not there necessarily to find all the fact and present them, as journalists are supposed to do, but they are there to collect them all and provide context and perspective. I don't find big media columnists any more reasonable or accurate in giving perspective to the situation than most of the bloggers that I read.
2. I don't just listen to any hack (please excuse the Vodkapundit reference, it was an interesting perspective, but I don't read him regularly). Most of the guys I listen to are either journalists (like James Taranto of WSJ, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus at Slate, Michael Totten writes for Tech Cen station, and sometimes Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly just for Dem perspective), law professors (Glenn Reynolds is a law prof at U of Tenn. Eugene Volokh is a constitutional prof at UCLA), or political gurus and economists (Dan Drezner is prof of political science at U of Chicago). Please don't think that I'm listening to jethro in his Wi-Fi enabled outhouse.
Again, there's so much more to be said about that, and I'm sure I will. In the mean time, if you didn't read the Foreign Policy essay, take the time.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jihad against Poppies

Afghan President Karzai declares war on drugs.
"Opium cultivation, heroin production is more dangerous than the invasion and the attack of the Soviets on our country, it is more dangerous than the factional fighting in Afghanistan, it is more dangerous than terrorism," Karzai said. "Just as our people fought a holy war against the Soviets, so we will wage jihad against poppies."

Friday, December 03, 2004

Democrat's Next Move

I have been avoiding this issue, mostly because I'm getting bored with it. But this article is getting a lot of attention and so I read it.
It is so worthwhile. It is more of an essay really, by Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic. He spends lots of time comparing the liberal response to 9/11 to the liberal response to communism in the 1940s and 1950s. What he found is that liberals 50 years ago confronted the issues and redefined what they were about. They didn't give up their ideals, but they recognized that the Soviets and worldwide expansion of dictatorial communism was something they needed to fight. (And no.. values was not the defining issue that won the election for Bush)
There are so many good quotes from the article, I can't possibly take the space to put them all here. I'll just leave you with the summary paragraph and let you know that if you are interrested in what the Democrats need to do to find themselves again this article is a MUST READ.
Of all the things contemporary liberals can learn from their forbearers half a century ago, perhaps the most important is that national security can be a calling. If the struggles for gay marriage and universal health care lay rightful claim to liberal idealism, so does the struggle to protect the United States by spreading freedom in the Muslim world. It, too, can provide the moral purpose for which a new generation of liberals yearn.
Oh, yeah, and there are two pages, so when you get to the bottom of this one find the "2" link for the second page.

Armed Liberal points out this part of the article:
Like the softs of the early cold war, MoveOn sees threats to liberalism only on the right. And thus, it makes common cause with the most deeply illiberal elements on the international left. In its campaign against the Iraq war, MoveOn urged its supporters to participate in protests co-sponsored by International answer, a front for the World Workers Party, which has defended Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic, and Kim Jong Il. When George Packer, in The New York Times Magazine, asked Pariser about sharing the stage with apologists for dictators, he replied, "I'm personally against defending Slobodan Milosevic and calling North Korea a socialist heaven, but it's just not relevant right now."
And then points out that the democratic party is "They are also mobilizing a base of activists and functionaries - really the bones of the party - who are consciously taking the party to a place where it will be unable to speak intelligently about defense for a generation." And he quotes some comments from liberal blogger's websites to prove it, by noting that some of the readers of those sites claim that there is no war on terrorism at all.
The Dems are going to have to solve this in the next 4 years or the result might be the same.

Open letter to UNSC

This is amazing.
Also from Iraq the Model comes this reference to an open letter from liberal Arabs and Muslims to the UN Security Council recommending that a tribunal be established to try terrorists. Particularly Islamic religious leaders that declare fatwas encouraging terrorist and murderous acts.
This has been impossible because it's just not going to happen that a Muslim country will prosecute a religious leader or Imam or something like that. The international community walks on glass on this issue too. I'd be shocked to see the UN actually create a tribunal like this.

Iraq the Model

I have recently been spending more time reading this Iraqi blogger to get a feel for what's going on and see if my impressions of what news is coming back are close to the truth or not. They may not represent all of Iraqis, but they are native and a better guide than probably our own troops or any imbedded journalist.
I found this quote by one of them very telling as to how ordinary Iraqis may feel about American troops in their country.
We all turned to see what he was pointing to, and we regained some of our confidence as we saw a convoy of several Hummer vehicles patrolling the area.
"They're not as cautious and afraid as we thought they would be. Here are they moving confidently" the driver said. "I don't think they'll stay here after sunset. The terrorists will take over the area at night" another passenger added.
I smiled and thought "we fear our countrymen while we feel safe when the foreigners are moving around! Who's the occupier? Who are the bad guys here?"
My emphasis.
We were also surprised to see that they took positions over the roofs of the near by buildings which made me say "they don't seem to be leaving after sunset, these are fixed stations". It was relieving also to see all the death slogans of the terrorists have been erased and replaced with the slogans of the real heroes, I saw slogans like:
"The terrorists destroyed the bridge and we have rebuilt it""
"Death to terrorism…long live the peace"
"Long live the heroes of the ING, the loyal sons of Iraq"
His emphasis.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Environmentalist Two-step

My political and social philosophy is what is commonly known these days as conservative. It goes without saying (or it should) that this is not absolute and I never agree fully with all conservatives, but agree with most things they espouse.
However there was a time when my views were far more liberal and I was much more likely to vote for a Democrat than a Republican, when I was a member of one or more green-type clubs and organizations. I was even a member of the Young Democrats when I was in college.
A number of things have influenced my opinion over the years. Mostly I would say I just grew up, but getting married, having kids and accepting Christ as my lord and savior had much to do with it.
Working for a timber management company certainly has enabled me to view the other side of things as well.

Now, I have not renounced all of my environmentalist ways. I don't think that I'm anywhere near alone among conservatives when I say that I do care about the environment, recycle regularly (in fact I get pretty uptight when I can't find an appropriate recepticle for cans or paper around) and try not to be wasteful. I enjoy the federal forest and park lands and am glad that there are places where I can walk for 10 hours and not see a single other person.

Which is why many serious environmentalists truly drop the ball and set the whole movement backwards when they use junk science to promote some pet peeve they have. If you think belief in Jesus Christ as God is a stretch, you need to understand that some of the things in the environmentalists' dogma is based on pure faith in the unknown, because the science is just not there.
This happens even on issues that are legitimate, but are handled by the environ community so badly that many people have a hard time accepting anything they say.

It's even harder to move the beaurocracy when real science is involved because the faithful are blind to reason. For example, we have terrible trouble with the State of Washington DNR on the issue of Spotted owls. It is incredibly hard to de-list an owl location on your industrial forest land, even if the owl has not been anywhere near there in years. The Spotted owl in on the decline in Washington, but not because of people. The Barred Owl is moving into Washington from Canada and driving the Spotted owls out, but the DNR refuses to recognize this and instead is pushing for tougher regulations. This is a natural extinction folks.

Anyway, all this came up in my head because of an post that RoguePundit wrote after reading an issue of National Wildlife magazine recently. He is upset by the overtly political nature and bad scientific support of the material these days, as opposed to its roots of, as he puts it, "oustanding efforts that allow one to revel in the beauty and intricacy of nature." The Rogue Pundit critisizes 5 articles in one issue.
This is consistent with material I see from the Audobon society and other big environmental organizations. I once poked through a book published by the Audobon showing large pictures of the ravages of clearcutting in California. I happened to be sitting next to a forester who had worked in California and recognized some of the pictured areas. Many of the cleared areas being used as examples in the book were actually fire ravaged or happened to be natural clearings in the forest. It occurs to me that urban environmentalists probably don't have very good aerial photo skills regarding terreign they don't spend that much time in.

I honestly worry about the state of the environment all the time. But I can't trust those who pop themselves out of a truffula tree and call themselves Lorax until their use of science to back up their positions comes back into the realm of responsability.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Africa updates

Say what you will about my roundups, like the one below. Winds of Change, with their army of contributers, does far more in depth roundups from a wider variety of sources. Check out this weeks Africa Briefing.
And while you are there, check out their East Asia briefing and Dan Darling's series on the Elephant in the Room, talking about Iran's role in Iraq.

UN Scandal and Kofi Annan roundup.

(Update below)
Other bloggers have been following the Ukrainian issue in great detail, or at least constantly linking to people who are, so I don’t feel the need to spend lots of time on that.

Daniel Drezner has some great posts here and here and here and here.

Instapundit has regular updates with links to European and Ukrainian bloggers. I find the whole thing very fascinating and important on a global scale.

However I have wanted to follow the UN scandals with more aplomb. So here you go.

<>Via Instapundit, here’s a link to tomorrow’s WSJ article by Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn) who heads the senate committee investigating the UN Oil for Food program. And also a link to an Asia Times article discussing the politics of Annan, including a mention that he wooed the Kerry team pre-election in the hopes that if Kerry won, he could run for a third term as Sec. General.

Alan Dowd of American Enterprise Online has an article analyzing Annan’s response to all of this turmoil. Kofi appointed a special panel to propose reforms in the UN. Dowd describes it as “Given the UN’s systemic problems, the reform plan is akin to shuffling the chairs on the deck of the Titanic—or perhaps better said, adding chairs to the deck.”

I’ve seen other articles on this panel and their recommendations. The titles of the articles and the content, i.e. what they picked out of the 101 recommendations t talk about, tells a lot about where they are coming from.

There’s the Washington Times, a relatively conservative paper, fronting it as: “UN Panel backs pre-emptive force.” The Voice of America calls it a “Sweeping Reform Proposal.” Some articles note that the panel was hard on America due to the Iraq invasion.

Despite all of this, most of what Alan Dowd referred to covers most of it. The panel couldn’t decide on a change in the membership of the Security Council, which probably means that the divided UN SC and the full membership probably won’t agree on a change there either.

The changes proposed in both recommendations were to add members to the Security Council. Is that really wise? The council has enough trouble deciding things as it is, adding more voters will only complicate that. The real debate should have been who do we add AND who do we remove from permanent positions on the council. The permanent seats on the council are basically the major allies from WW2: US, Britain, France, Russia and China. Of those I can think of one who is not a democracy (China), one who does not exist as the same entity it was during the 1940s and is currently drifting toward autocracy (Russia), one who is economically, militarily, and governmentally (and morally) challenged and is now accused of taking bribes from Saddam under the Oil for Food scandal (France). Shouldn’t these players get re-evaluated as permanent members of the SC?

On military intervention, the panel was obtuse and vague at best. At one point the report says that there are times when force is justified “preventively and before a latent threat becomes imminent.” What the hell does that mean. That sounds like exactly what the USA did almost two years ago. Really the UN and the EU gets on America’s case for invading without a UN mandate, but the only countries that were blocking that invasion were France and Russia. Two countries that had much to lose from us opening that can of worms.

Which brings us to the point that much of what the panel’s report suggests is only slight changes, if not totally cosmetic, to what the UN’s original charter said that it was supposed to do.

In a related article, Japan is not cool with the proposals in the report, all of which state that there will be no countries added to the group that has veto power on the security council. Which means that if Japan gets a permanent seat on the council, which they deserve, they will not have equal voting rights to, say, France.

Legal Affairs online has an interesting debate by Frederick Rawski and Ruth Wedgewood looking at the successes and failures of the UN, and the challenges to reform that exist within. Frankly I think they are both being a little too easy on the UN. Many of the successes they talk about have other problems after the cameras turn off. Reports are coming in like wildfire in places where the blue helmeted troops of the UN run prostitution rings, abuse citizens and don’t really get countries to that nice point where they can run themselves without some fascist taking over and starting this all up again. Let’s just say their nation-building skills have yet to produce much success.

Anyone who thinks that the UN has the moral high ground, or isn’t a weenie when it comes to aggressive nations should read this.

Glenn Reynolds in the WSJ on replacing Kofi with Vaclav Havel.

William Safire is very hard on Kofi, and says that his resignation will only be the end of the beginning of the scandal.

And lastly, here is a post from Winds of Change called, “If you see blue helmets, RUN!

Update: Story at ABC news' website implicates former Clinton pardonee Marc Rich as accepting millions from Saddam in suspect oil deals, and might have bribed Iraqi officials in order to get future oil contracts. Not one of Clinton's greater moments in office.

Monday, November 29, 2004

School Choice by Tax Credit

Arizona's "Tuition Tax Credit" program is showing promise. It allows dollar for dollar tax deductions for those who contribute to scholarship programs. It's turning out that it might actually save Arizona money in the long run.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ukranian Election Map

Here's a nice election map for the disputed election going on in the Ukraine. The election has been declared a fraud by everyone, but both sides have come to an arangement, probably a run off election. Thanks to the Polish.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Totten in Tunisia

Michael Totten has a great tale of his visit to Tunisia. He describes what Tunis is like and takes the reader into the desert interior, which is like night and day from the coast. I could do one of my "country of the weeks" on the country, but you wouldn't get the real feel of it. With Totten you get the feel of it. It's a must read.

Attack on Fallujah

Terrorists are attacking with wild abandon and firing missiles into the Green zone in Bagdad. This just shows that they are frustrated by what the US is doing in Fallujah. This article I'm linking to started out talking about how the US is raiding high profile mosques looking for assailants.
This is an interesting turn, that while this article (AP) is kind of down on this whole raiding mosques thing, the feeling among some Iraqis is positive.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dictator or Democracy?

Saw this on Oxblog. Apparently some professors at Dartmouth have proposed that the "Quagmire" that is Iraq can only be solved by installing a friendly dictator, or a "secular strongman" as they put it. Their premise is that wars against counterinsurgency in the 20th century were all failures (except for the British victory in Malaya).
There's a problem with that, as David Adesnik reveals. He notes that the professors are omitting one war where there was a clear US victory: the Filipino insurgency of the 1950s. He notes:<>

"But the much more interesting thing to note is how the United States and its Filipino allies won. They did it by promoting democracy. In the late 1940s, the extreme corruption of the elected Filipino President, Elpidio Quirino, antagonized rural peasants while undermining the armed forces' ability to perform in battle.

Rather than accepting Quirino as the only alternative to Communism, the United States demanded that Quirino appoint Ramon Magsaysay, a popular reformist, as Minister of Defense. Magsaysay immediately begun to purge the corrupt Filipino officer corps, restrict the use of violence against peasants and implement reforms to increase the government's popularity in the countryside. In addition, Magsaysay prevented Quirino from rigging the 1951 elections for the Filipino House and Senate.

By 1953, the Communists were on their last legs. In order to cement his victory, Magsaysay stepped down as Minister of Defense and ran against Quirino for President. He won by a landslide. Determined to ensure a victory by Magsaysay, the CIA provided extensive financial support to local election monitors in order to prevent fraud. The United States knew that its candidate was the people's candidate.

In the same year that Magsaysay became President, the CIA overthrew a democratic government in Iran. The next year, it overthrow a democratic (but pro-Communist) government in Guatemala. Compare the history of the Philippines, Iran and Guatemala since 1954, and it's not hard to see which strategy served America best.

So, you might say, what good is this one example when our friends from Dartmouth have seven historical examples to support their side of the debate? Well, ask yourselves this: In how many of those seven cases did the great powers involved seek to promote democracy as a means of defeating the insurgents. Answer: zero."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Kissinger complicity

I'll be looking out for this one in the coming months. Since classified documents from the 70s have recently been released, there have been some developments and revelations that make Kissinger appear to have not only allowed that certain dictators in latin America were committing human rights crimes, but he was actually encouraging it.
So claims Christopher Hitchens, writing for Vanity Fair (hat tip: Michael Totten). I am curious if there is much of a defense for Kissinger here, and I've come to trust Hitchens for being an intellectually honest writer, especially for his treatment of Michael Moore and the election.
In South America today, the hidden resting-places of los desaparecidos are being found all the time. New and democratic governments, assisted by principled lawyers and judges and forensic investigators, are disinterring and identifying the maimed and twisted corpses of men and women, and of boys and girls, who were lost to their friends and families about a quarter of a century ago. (The critical resource for this and the rest of the story of Argentina is Martin Edwin Andersen's 1993 book, Dossier Secreto.) At the same time, in Washington, D.C., the declassification process for government documents is entering the disclosure phase. And, in a horrible way that is not being faced, the two excavations have begun to converge. From the standpoint of their victims, the death squads of Argentina and Chile were going about their busy work with the approval-no, the encouragement-of the secretary of state of the United States of America.
What follows is a long look, from the perspective of Hitchens, who covered and interviewed some of these dictators back then, at the United States' policy toward those dictators in the name of curbing communism in those parts of the world.
Kissinger had explicitly told Guzzetti not that he should slow down the rate of kidnappings and murders and disappearances but that he should speed it up. Hill's memo to Kissinger is perfectly plain. Guzzetti was told in June 1976 that "if the terrorist problem was over by December or January ... serious problems could be avoided in the U.S." Get on with it, in other words. The number of desaparecidos in Argentina at that stage has been calculated at 1,022. In October, at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Kissinger told Guzzetti, "the quicker you succeed the better."
Brrrr. That's chilling. Is this truth?
The whole truth?
I certainly can see this in the context of the cold war. The US was deeply concerned about communism spreading in our neck of the woods, and in the decade before Reagan no one thought the war would end anytime soon. This just puts a slimy blood soaked cap on the historical US policy of "He may be a facist dictator, but he's OUR facist dictator." Which I never was quite comfortable with.
I certainly hope there is nothing like this going on in our current administration's worldwide efforts to curb terrorism.

More Electoral maps

Found these on Tech Central Station, with a little help from Instapundit. Patrick Cox is trying here to make an association between population denisty and how people voted in the election. I would say that it's already a given that larger urban areas voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in both 2000 and this year. I'm not sure population denisity is the key here, though. Or, rather, if it is, it's definitely not alone in determining the results.
For instance Dallas and Houston, two of the largest metropolitan areas in the country went strongly for Bush. Home state might have had something to do with that.
Another issue Cox brings up is the relationship between federal spending by state and how states went in the electoral process. I don't buy this one.
Thirty of the U.S. states reap more in federal spending than their citizens contribute to the federal government in taxes. The other 20 states provide more in taxes than they receive in spending. In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, George W. Bush won most of the states that are net beneficiaries of federal spending programs, while Al Gore won most of the states that are net contributors to federal spending.
Now, federal spending is usually tied to how much each state contributes to things the federal government needs. It also has a lot to do with what Senators and Reps you have in Washington and how much senority they have. For instance, Oregon's contingent to DC is 2 Repulicans and 5 Democrats. Since the Dems are out of power, and have been the Minority since the 90s, that might be part of why Oregon pays out more money than it gets from the Feds. Our one Republican Senator is a relative greeny, he is just in his second term, and he plays the bi-partisan roll a lot, to the detrement of any possible pork projects he could be bringing here. And yes, Oregon went solid Kerry this election. But I think the bredth of voters here cause both results, not that the results of one (lack of Fed dollars) causes the other (win for Gore and Kerry).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I haven't written about this lately, but with the election cycle, there hasn't been much attention to it. Glenn Reynolds has been keeping up with it though. He links to this William Safire piece about the UN obstructing justice in the investigation. Which is no surprise.
Also he finds this Reuters article correcting the amount that Sadaam profited during the 90s. The article asks: "How could the world be so blind..." to which Glenn answers: "I think the answer is that they were not so much blind as in on the cut."
Rice replaces Powell
Is anyone here besides me amazed at the speed at which Bush is replacing cabinet members? I don't think any of the resignations in the last couple of weeks have been a surprise to the Bush administration. These all seem like they were expected, and Bush had his replacement choices ready to go.
I like that Rice is staying with the Bush administration, taking over as Sec of State. There were rumors over the last year that she wanted to go back to academic life. My only reservation about her appointment comes from a mildly racist thought: how affective will Rice be with nations where patriarchy runs strong. I.E. in nations where women are not taken seriously, will they take her seriously?
On the flip side, having a black woman - a perfectly capable one - in such a visible spot in the world will hopefully have a very positive effect on women all over the world (especially in those patriarchal countries).

Update: This from a reader at Instapundit...

The media is overlooking something. Not only is Rice the first female black Secretary of State, she's the first black person to replace another black cabinet official of any gender.
And do I need to mention this is the first administration to have two black Secretaries of State?<>
Thank God for the GOP's affirmative action stance. Namely, "may the best person win."

Great to see that this form of protest is still alive and well, even here in the United States. Apparently some disgruntled Yemeni terror informant set himself on fire in front of the White House. He is in critical condition now. (ed-They rescued him?)
In interviews with the Washington Post prior to the incident, Alanssi said he was angry about not being able to visit his family in Yemen. He said his wife is seriously ill with stomach cancer, and he cannot travel there because he has no money and because the FBI, which is expecting him to testify at a terrorism trial in New York, was keeping his Yemeni passport.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Hart Mountain
This national wildlife refuge, primarily designed for Pronghorns, is located in eastern Oregon, closer to the border with Nevada. Here's a map.
RoguePundit has a look into the politics of this area, as the refuge has a 15 year ban on livestock grazing which ends in 5 years. The reason for the ban was to try and improve the pronghorn and grouse populations in the refuge. This has happened, but as Roguepundit explains, the science of why that has happened may get lost in the debate.
See while cattle might be bad for the area, and harm pronghorn numbers, cattle grazing isn't the only thing that has changed since the ban took effect. Number one: the drought that long affected the area ended that year, and the last 10 years have seen some pretty good rainfall overall. Number two: when the refuge ban went into affect, most of the cattle related fences were taken down. Fences are a major barrier to pronghorn, as they are fast but not good jumpers. Number three: Prescribed burning has been practiced there recently, in an effort to bring the vegitation back to a more natural state. Number four: Coyotes have remained moderately few even with the increased number of pray in the refuge, helping the increase of other animals.
Really, which one of these issues is the real reason that wildlife is doing so well. The question needs to be, what effect will bringing back cattle have in the face of all these other changes?

Iraq The Model, One Year Old!
Each of them has a special message today about Blogging in post-invasion Iraq. Congratulations boys.
Iraq the Model was mentioned in that article I posted about Saturday. They spend considerable time talking about blogs in countries like Iraq, Iran and China. If you haven't read it, do so.
7000 miles an hour
Scanning Yahoo this morning I noticed this article. NASA has already tested a plane travelling at 5000 miles an hour, but now want to test the X-43A "Scramjet" that is estimated to travel at 7000 miles an hour, about 10 times the speed of sound.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I haven't been blogging as long, or as prolifically as some. My writing and logic may not compete with the experts in the fields. But this is still an exciting thing to do. I find that it allows me to keep track of certain facts that I find in the blogosphere and to make comments and solidify my thinking on certain things.
It also gives me the opportunity to research and learn about things myself, like my past posts on countries of the world, and of the Oregon state measures during this last election.
If you have wondered about the history of blogs and how much of the world they penetrate, then I recommend reading this article by Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell for Foreign Policy online called "Web of Influence". Foreign Policy doesn't publish small articles. They publish essays. So pull up a cozy cushon and adjust the fire tonight. Pour yourself a glass of wine and dig in. It is an interesting look at the blogosphere, even for a seasoned blogger.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Battle of Fallujah
Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change has some in depth analysis and status report on the battle. He has some links to great maps of the action too. Here's one:

Regional roundups
Winds of Change has been blogging up a storm lately, and since I have been out of town I have been trying to catch up. There's always lots going on in the world. Take a few minutes and get caught up yourself.
Here is their Latin America briefing. Nate's Central Asia Summary. A Russia briefing, and the weekly Winds of War, detailing what's going on in the war on terror.
Heck, just go to Winds of Change and keep scrolling. It's all good this week.
Also, here is a Asia roundup of blogs and news from the far east from SimonWorld.
Regional roundups
Winds of Change has been blogging up a storm lately, and since I have been out of town I have been trying to catch up. There's always lots going on in the world. Take a few minutes and get caught up yourself.
Here is their Latin America briefing. Nate's Central Asia Summary. A Russia briefing, and the weekly Winds of War, detailing what's going on in the war on terror.
Heck, just go to Winds of Change and keep scrolling. It's all good this week.
Also, here is a Asia roundup of blogs and news from the far east from SimonWorld.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Progress in Darfur
Via Instapundit, this is great news. Read the Christian Science Monitor report.
Into this fray comes the 322nd Air Expeditionary Group of the US Air Force, based in Ramstein, Germany. They set up camp at Rwanda's main airport, surrounded by rolling hills and turquoise mountain lakes. From there they've ferried troops, supplies, and equipment - including armored personnel carriers - 1,000 miles north into Darfur. Besides planes, the US has pledged $300 million to the Darfur effort. The European Union has also pledged $125 million. The money and airplanes are crucial because African countries notoriously have little of either. But they do have troops - something America has been reluctant to put in Africa since 18 US rangers were killed in Somalia in 1993.
And also read this analysis by Intel Dump.
I'm heartened that the U.S. has decided to commit what it can to the Sudan operation — even if it's not enough in my opinion. Moreover, this model demonstrates that you don't always have to go in heavy to make a difference.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Election Post Mortem

RoguePundit is a blog I enjoy reading. I don't always agree with him, but most of his posts are neutral, and he is a thinker in the blog realm. A thinker is someone who spends lots of words on one subject, as opposed to a linker, who spends all their time making short comments on stuff they link to. Instapundit is a linker. Roguepundit is a thinker.
He makes this comment that I really liked, but has much more in this post. Read the whole thing.

The Democrats still haven't learned how to be an effective minority party, in part because they've never accepted the fact that a number of their beliefs are not mainstream. The denial about that is profound, especially in places like Oregon. Enough lashing out...time for some soul searching. If you don't want to change, then learn to convince your opponents, not demean them...that takes time and effort. Enough of the petulant statements like "If Bush wins, I'll go to New Zealand." Democracy means accepting winning as well as losing, all the while working to improve the nation.

Election County Map
Sorry I've been out of town. And for the whole election - shame on me.
Well, here is a nice election map by county from I tell you, as I look at this, that the divide between rural America and Urban America looks more and more defined. Bush won such a larger mass of the American landscape this time it kind of looks like a mandate from the map.

Update: ESRI has a great 3D election map by county. They also have their own regular county map, but more filled in than the USA Today map.
CBS also should have a lot of ESRI generated demographic maps related to the election, like where the candidates spent their money. The ESRI site has a flash presentation of the maps, but it flashes too quickly to see any of them in great detail. I can't find these maps on the CBS site.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Multnomah County Measure 26-71
For many of you in this county of Oregon, there is a measure out there sponsored by the East Multnomah Water and Soil Conservation District that we have to vote on. The Ballot measure reads thus:
Shall the District be authorized to have a permanent rate limit of $0.10 per
$1,000 assessed value beginning FY 2005-2006?

Now it says "rate limit" but the district is not allowed to impose taxes directly on land owners in the county at the moment. They get all their funding from the county. This measure would allow them to tax us separate from the county. I think the way this measure is written is very misleading. I wish I had caught this sooner so I could have warned more people, but with vote by mail in Oregon, most people I know have already voted.

Here's an interesting article in the Oregonian about 26-71. The thing I noticed was that the county is a little miffed that the District went straight to the voters and didn't consult the county at all.
The Green Party and the Johnson Creek Water Conservation folks are for it. Big shock.
Oregon Watchdog is against it. Again: shocked.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Where's the Vote?
Where's my vote? Well I'll tell you. I was going to be more private about it, but most pundits on-line are giving in and telling who they are voting for.

President: Bush(R) I haven't been obvious about that, have I?
Senator: King(R) the unknown Republican. The Lib doesn't have a chance
Representative, Dist 3: Tami Mars(R) there is no libertarian running
Sec of State: Betsy Close(R) If only because of what Bradbury did to Nader
Tresurer: Shultz(L) Shouldn't a libertarian be the fiscal tzar of the state? Yes
Attny Gen: Myers(D) I have no beef with the job Myers has done

Measure 31: Yes
Measure 32: Yes
Measure 33: Yes?
Measure 34: No
Measure 35: Yes
Measure 36: Yes
Measure 37: No
Measure 38: No

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Taiwan policy?
Did Colin Powell really say this?
There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy. And it is a policy that has allowed Taiwan to develop a very vibrant democratic system, a market economic system and provided great benefits to the people of Taiwan.
And if he really said that, does the 2nd part of this sentence really jive with the first part? Later on in the interview he says that the US will protect Tiawan from China if China gets aggressive. If we think that Tiawan is really part of China, then why are we protecting it?
I don't understand this position. At all.
Here's the transcript of the interview.
AP strikes again
OK, this article by Jennifer Loven of the AP has a really slanted title. If you only read the title and first few paragraphs you would get the impression that the president has shirked his duties, and isn't he a naughty boy for doing so. Here's the title:
Bush Cuts President Duties for Campaign
I mean the president of the united states for goodness sakes. He has a responsability to keep working at all times and not distract himself with this piddily little election business.
Oh, yeah, then you read a bit further, 5th paragraph:
Moreover, Democratic challenger John Kerry (news - web sites) isn't exactly winning a best-senator award as he tries to unseat Bush. The Massachusetts senator has participated in just 17 of 211 votes since January.
But, but, but... Bush is bad for doing it. Waaahhhh! Yes, the next paragraph has a "But with fall typically a busy time at the White House, Bush has set aside many of at least the public functions of his job." And you never hear about Kerry again.
The article then proceeds to tell you all the things that Bush is actually doing related to his job, and they sound pretty extensive to me. Getting security updates every day. Meeting with advisors, since pretty much the entire oval office staff and advisors can accompany him on Air Force One. He meets with legislators in their home states, instead of in the White House. And this is just since August, where the article admits that he was doing his job regularly up until that point.
If you read the whole article you get a better picture of what Bush is doing, but if you are like most people and read the title only, or the first couple of paragraphs it reads like a slant piece.

Geography Bee
Here are some questions from the National Geography Bee. See how many you can get. The site doesn't have the answers, so I don't know how you are going to check yourself, but it's fun to see how much you know. The first few are easy, but they get harder. I can't answer the last one.

Actually, here is the official Geography Bee site. It has a daily quiz. Try it out.
North Korea Human Rights Act passed
And signed by the president on the 18th. It has been watered down from it's original form by various committees in contress, but at least it's something. I note that the general media has ignored this so far.
I wish that we had the resources to address this situation effectively, but since Iraq is happening, we don't. I'm not down on what we are doing in Iraq, and the war on terror is important, but this situation needs to be dealt with, and the UN is pretty much just sitting with it's hands under it's ass on this one.
Really, when most of the countries in the UN signed the resolution that things like what happened in Germany would never happen again, were they just talking out of their butts in order to look cooperative and just? I don't know why I have any faith in the UN at all these days.
If there is any argument as to why we need to rescue the people of North Korea from the likes of Kim Jong Il, and you have a strong stomach, read this letter from a child who was interned at one of the prison camps there. Like the guys at Winds of Change said, simply horrifying.
The case for Turkey in the EU
Michael Totten has a great article weighing the merits of including Turkey in the EU.
Environmentalism, California Style
Roguepundit has an article about a law, which is actually a voluntary program, in California, encouraging forest land owners to not cut trees. Based on the Climate Action Registry, it monitors carbon dioxide storage levels in forests. There is no real incentive for landowners to do this, except that they might be ahead of the game if and when Cali makes the program manditory.
The problem with this, like so many other environmental regulations in California, is that it's not really based on great science.
This concept is the same one that was brought up in the Kyoto agreement during the 90s. Companies and nations get points for the amount of trees they have (simplified version). But it doesn't really work that way, as Roguepundit points out also, as younger trees absorb more carbon dioxide than older trees, and in developed countries like ours, most of the wood goes into manufacturing, which releases less CO2, than in developing countries where the wood is burned for fuel, which releases most of the CO2.
California already has the toughest environmental regulations in the world regarding timber harvesting. Most of it is tedious, and much of it is not based on hard science. Urban enviros continually push this nonsense on the rural land owners. Their faith in the "science" behind this is almost religious.
Sorry, off my soap box now.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Nuclear waste storage map
Roguepundit has a great post today on Initiative 297 in Washington, trying to stop the used nuclear waste from coming into Washington, to Hanford specifically, by turning Hanford into a national park.
It's basically a NIMBY response to storing waste. My interest in this is that RogueP links to an online map of nuclear reactors and storage facilities in the US. Get yourself educated as to where all these sites are currently.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bad FOR and AGAINST entries
I had to speak about this. My wife was looking through the voter's guide yesterday and noticed, where I didn't, that the first three or so FOR statements for measure 36, the "one man one woman" measure, are pretty rediculous.
As a Christian I know where I stand on what God says is right, but I still fight intellectually about whether or where in government I should be pushing to reflect God's wisdom on this issue.
The author of these statements, however, seems to have no issue with that.

In the Holy Bible, Saint Paul says that Christians should remain single and abstain from sex. The New Testament says that people should get married only if they are too weak-willed to abstain from sex:

"It is well for a man not to touch a woman…. It is well … to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." (I Corinthians 7:1, 8-9)

Marriage is not sacred. Marriage is for wimps and sissies!

It gets worse.

The sissy institution of marriage must not be perverted by sinners who are capable of abstaining! The sacred union of church and state must prohibit the immoral union of men and women capable of the discipline of sexual abstinence. We are not saved by either faith or good works. We are saved by religious-right legislation!

Freedom of religion and equal treatment under law is simply the special right to sin, because our tradition is the one and only truth! And our tradition (that is, our personal moral opinions) should become law.


There are two other statements in favor of the amendment with the same tone. They are all by the same person, M. Dennis Moore, who represents some apparently made up PAC type entities. Notably, "Traditional Prejudices Coalition" and "The Beaver State Defense of Beaver Coalition."
Totally tasteless.

Once again, this brings up what I was saying about the comments for Measure 37, where there are a couple of FOR statements by some guy who is advertising buying lots of land and get rich when measure 37 passes.

Is the Sec of State trying not to discriminate who gets arguments published? These arguments seem to me to be either some real nutcase or someone on the opposition side trying to make the FOR side look bigoted and religeously extreme. There's no other explanation.
Measure 38
The last and final measure. Measure 38 has been involved with some controversy, namely some shady dealings involving former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

Reading the text of this bill, it seems to do two things. One is to gradually, over a two year period, phase out the State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF), which insures small businesses in the state. SAIF competes with private insurers covering workman's compensation, which is a business requirement, but for some businesses that have more risk that may not get picked up by private insurers, SAIF is often the only, or less expensive option.

Here are the official sites:
Oregonians for Accountability
Committee for SAIF Keeping

Big yuck-yuck on that second site there. Nice pun.
Anyway, the FOR statements in the voter's pamphlet are mostly from individuals or PACs. I didn't see lots of official organizations in there. The one that stood out was from Liberty Insurance, which to me sounded like a conflict of interest. In fact Liberty is the main backer of the measure.

However the AGAINST crowd had a wealth of diversity, from legislators and the governor, to long lists of businesses that grouped together, and unions.

There are a lot of reasons, personally, why a measure like this would be attractive to me. One is that I don't like the government administration of things the private sector should be doing. The problem with that is that the state requires this type of insurance to be held by businesses, and given the current climate economically we want to encourage small business the most, and SAIF saves small businesses the headache of high cost liability insurance (or no insurance at all, as some private insurers balk at insuring sometimes when the risk is too high). But that leads me to other thoughts that I can't back up right now, such as I wonder what the difference between what SAIF offers and all other private insurers is.
One reason that private insurance for workman's comp costs more is that private insurers are generally for profit, unlike SAIF, which is non-profit. Therefore SAIF can afford lower premiums.
Another reason to like this measure would be accountability. I know opponents say that if you get rid of SAIF you wouldn't have accountability in the system, or that SAIF is accountable, but recent scandals have put a kink in that argument. It's true that SAIF has had ethical investigations and other troubles, but that is not an indictment on whether or not it works and is overall a good or bad thing for the state. It's also true that there are some dissatisfied customers out there, but this is not a monopoly, and the competitive insurance market indicates that there are alternatives.

But there are lots of reasons to like SAIF. Opponents of the measure claim that SAIF is self-sustaining, which is true. Getting rid of it will actually cost the government more money than keeping it. I refer you to the Ballot title of the measure, where the statement of financial impact to the state has this costing the state about 100 million dollars a year. Get that? SAIF is actually in the black by $100 Million. This would make it more self-sustaining than the US Postal Service, which, although theoretically self-sustaining, frequently needs a little help from tax dollars.

The Salem Statesman has a roundup of articles related to SAIF and Measure 38.
Here are two sides of the issue, one for and one against, from the Portland Tribune.
And still another one from the Trib.

The Democratic Party of Oregon opposes it. (In fact they oppose most of the measure this time around and have no position on the others, which has got to be a first.)
The Republican Party of Oregon's site didn't have it readily available what their positions are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Measure 37
Another measure that is generating controversy is yet another measure that land owners to force government to compensate them for imposing regulations that cause land values to drop.
Secretary of State site

Here's the for and against folks:
Oregonians in Action
Take a Closer Look Committee

Now as the law stands, if the government condemns a property, reducing it's value to virtually nothing, or taking it for government use. Passing this would force the government to pay the landowners for a reduction on property value for any regulation that reduced the value. The government would have the option of just not enforcing the rule on certain landowners.

This is one of the few measures this year that will have a significant financial impact on the state. 44 million dollars is nothing to sneeze at. The question I think should be here, is 44 million potential dollars spent by the government worth adding the regulations needed? That's a big number to you and me, but it's not a huge number in a state budget (ed-huge enough you might say. Close to 1% of the budget is nothing to sneeze at, but what we are talking about is having the state take a second thought every time they impose some regulation. This stuff doesn't just protect the environment or whatever, it affects people).
I actually misspoke there. The state is only one player in this. I'm not sure if that 44 million is spread over the various state and municipal agencies or not. I would presume that when the city of Portland makes a new regulatory call that the hit is on their budget, not the state's.

Reading the voter's pamphlet, I see that most of the entries FOR the measure come from Farmer's organizations and private citizens. The array of citizens tell some pretty horrifying stories of government regulations costing them (and the government when they sue) lots of money. There are also a few entries from the authors of the measure addressing opponents concerns. They seem to do a good job of that, it's not aggressive or mean spirited at all.
Except: There is a really tasteless entry in the FOR category. I don't know why the Sec of State let this one through. It is really and advertisement for getting rich quick by buying land, stating that this measure will eliminate all zoning and environ mental protections across the state. This was obviously put there by an opponent of the bill. Shame on Peter Bray and Bill Bradbury.

-As far as the opposition goes. Here are some of the concerns about the bill that they bring up:
-The measure is retroactive for all current landowners. It is not just future regulation that is covered but past regulation that affected the land that owners currently have.
-It's complex and will increase paperwork and taxes and that will hurt landowners more.
-The cost to ALL governments, state and local, is more like 344 million dollars (this is a per year estimate, but that doesn't say if that's just for the first two years when the opportunity to apply for past takings occurs or not).
-It's poorly written and vague (you mean like every measure that's every been put before the public?).
-Something about notice to citizens will not longer be required when development is taking place near them.
-It will cause uneven application of new regulations, resulting in lawsuits (well, it seems to me the only options the government has is to pay out or not apply the regulation. How is this uneven?).
-It will create unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.
-Measure doesn’t say where the money to pay for this would come from.

The players on the NO side are more varied. You have lots of government administrators, including the governor. There are various unions. You've got environmental organizations like the Audubon, and various business and local organizations. Interestingly enough there are also lots of Farming organizations on the NO side too.

After reading the bill, I find many of the arguments of the opposition to be without merit. My own understanding of the process of government may be limited here, but I don't see it. That the results of government zoning and regulations dramatically affect people’s lives is truth.
The only one of the opposition's arguments that gives me pause is that the bill is retroactive. That's the one part I don't like, because that will cost the government more money than it can pay, by far. I generally don't like retroactive effects of bills and measures. You knew the rules when you bought the property before. You may not like them, but that's how the rulebook played. I think the bill should be changed.
But this is just a bill, not an amendment. It's not unheard of that the legislature changes parts of measures that were passed in order to make them work after the fact.

After looking around a bit, the same arguments that are in the pamphlet are being made at most of the sites I visited.
Certainly there is concern about how the government treats landowners. You may not think that this measure is the way to answer that, but RoguePundit answers:
Since our legislature won't come up a reasonable means to compensate landowners for state and local land-use restrictions that cause financial harm, voters are again trying to take things into their own hands, this time with Measure 37. If the folks in Salem would govern more effectively, we wouldn't be approving so many initiatives.
Nuff said.

Central Asia
Winds of Change has its Central Asia roundup, including reports on the Afghan elections. Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan are trying to improve relations via military cooperation with NATO countries. Some Oregon State Univ scientists traveled to Uzbekistan to help with the bad cattle problems they are having, and some Uzbekis traveled to central Washington to learn how we farm here. And much much more from a region most of us don't think about often enough.
Conan the Governor is making some interesting noises on how he wants to reform the redistricting of California to solve the problem of gerrymandering. Let the people decide, not the legislators. I like it. Hat tip to the Armed Liberal.
Tora Bora
Senator Kerry has made some outlandish statements regarding our attempts to get Bin Laden in Afghanistan when we invaded and afterwards. It's always nice to get the perspective of someone who not only was there, but was the commander of the forces in the Middle East during that time.
Tommy Franks was that guy.
According to Mr. Kerry, we "outsourced" the job to Afghan warlords. As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality.
Read the whole thing.

Stupid Question
When Bob Schieffer at the third Presidential debate asked the question, "Suddenly we find ourselves with a severe shortage of flu vaccine. How did that happen?"
That was a serious question? How much does the president really have to do with the supply of flu vaccine?
The president started strong on this question, but headed in the wrong direction. Medical lawsuits are a problem, but that has little effect on vaccine distribution. The real problem is that the government protections against price-gouging. Sure, you want to protect the citizens from evil greedy pharmacutical companies, but that causes some other less desireable effects, namely the companies producing the vaccine can't afford to prepare extra in case there is a problem. Since price fixing was put in place, no American company wants to make the vaccine, so we have to go to England and Canada and have the vaccine imported, which presents other risks.
Really this has little to do with the current President, as the price gouging has been in place for a while.
Kerry, by the way just blabbered off into a discussion about how health care in general has deteriorated under Bush and how his plan will bla bla bla... Completely ingnored the question.

Here's a site with some links to comentaries on the vaccine issue. There is also a good commentary from Medipundit comparing Kerry's health care plan to the currently operating one in Tennessee. That's not a compliment, by the way.
Kevin Drum has a good post on this too, although he wraps up the anti-gouging issue in a "regulations" point he makes.
Indian Demon
After one of the largest manhunts in history, the man known as the "Demon" of India was killed in a made for Hollywood shootout. This guy was wanted by the police and military for almost 40 years. Killed police, elephants, suspected informants, kidnapped people. He was killed south of Madras in the state of Tamil Nadu (Madras is in the northern corner by the ocean).

Monday, October 18, 2004

Measure 36

This is probably the most controversial measure on the docket this year. At least emotionally. I wonder if the polls would indicate that it really was a close issue. In a sea of Kerry/Edwards signs here in Portland, I do see an awful lot of Yes on 36 signs. People are not afraid to show their sleeves on this one, unlike the Bush supporters. We've seen, after the media made us think that national opinion was basically pro-gay on this issue, that many states are now, by popular votes, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. With the exception of Massachusetts, the nation is fairly still against gay marriage.


You can go to the Sec of State site and read the text and explanatory statement, but they are pretty brief. Here's the text right here:
It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.
That's it.

Here are the official for and against sites:
Defense of Marriage Coalition
No on Constitutional Amendment 36

Now you will see, especially on those two websites above, that there are lots of emotional arguments to both sides of this debate. Let me first do you the respect of telling you where I come from on this issue. I am a 35 year old GIS professional with a wife and two kids. I live in the Portland city limits, but it's really more like mid-county Multnomah. I am an Evangelical Christian. That should do it right there.
But it really doesn't. In the core of my beliefs I hold that God set things up, and he commanded that marriage is between a man and a woman. The question for me is not, it is OK, but what should the government's role be. I do think that any church that professes to be Christian and still maintains that it can marry homosexuals and elevate them to the positions of authority in the church should pick up their bible and study it a bit more. The whole thing.
But this is really a forum on what the Government's role is. I would like to go through some of the arguments on both sides.

  • "Because Oregon laws deserve open debate." Well, this is a reaction of what the Multnomah county commission did earlier this year. It was pretty slimy on their part, and it did contradict current Oregon state law. But I'm not sure open debate is what we are getting right now. If they have a point here it is that at least it's a public vote. But public majorities are not always right. And if this passes in November, the debate ends.
  • "Because children do best with a mom and dad." This is not debatable with me. This is actually a good reason to define it on a state and federal level. I understand that some gay people have kids through other marriages and they stay with the gay parent. They probably should stay with a parent if the alternative is worse, or someone who is not their parent. But I believe this statement, because of my faith most of all, but also there has been considerable research that documents the stability of a traditional family unit.
  • "Because Oregon law already defines it that way." This is true, but if that is the case why do we need an amendment?
  • "Because 40 states already have defense of marriage acts." And that makes it OK? Again the majority thing.
  • "Because this is our last chance to save marriage." I don't really buy this all together. As a Christian I am sickened by how unseriously even people of faith take marriage. Most churches turn the other way when divorce happens. The divorce rate among Christians is pretty bad, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Society is too soft on marriage as well, but we're doing a pretty good job of sullying up marriage on our own. That said, allowing the traditional definition of marriage to linger from man/woman invites a stretching of the definition even further. Where does it end? Will polytheism be next? Where are their rights? I'll get to that in a moment.
The argument for why this needs to be a constitutional amendment from the conservative side is both ridiculous, and frighteningly serious at the same time. The conservatives know that there is already a law that defines this. It stands up to the current constitution, which doesn't really address it by itself, but conservatives fear something. Judges. It would be one thing if the state congress changed the definition, or the public by measure, but having Judges do it is something I definitely don't agree with.
See, the constitution doesn't address it specifically and there is a current law defining it. For a judge to say that the current law is not constitutional is stretching the bounds of what judicial power should be. The law as it stands passes the objectivity test. ANY man can marry ANY woman, regardless of race, creed, color, etc. I see what their argument is on this level. This is disturbing because I see judges doing this more and more. I desire to see more deconstructionism in the court, but what I see is courts deciding what THEY think the constitution and law is, not how it was intended.

  • "The constitution should not be used to settle partisan or ideological debates." Well, ordinarily I would agree with this statement. And in this case I am reluctant to do so, but I fall into the category I just mentioned (about courts and activism) and don't think that just having the law is enough. I would be against this measure if I though it was. I read someone's opinion that the government should get out of the marriage thing altogether. That would be great, but as long as married people are defined and treated differently in taxes, adoption and other areas, the government needs to define what marriage is. Oregon already has this, but current events caused conservatives to react, and this is how they have.
  • "...And it should not be changed in a way that hurts people." Really this change would not do anything but maintain the status quo. This is a flimsy argument.
  • "It would deny thousands of gay couples and their families access to health care." Actually this is not a government issue, but an insurance issue. Some insurance companies and businesses already offer this benefit.
  • "It would deny survivor rights, inheritance and the ability to make serious medical decisions to gay partners." This is also not true. Really the measure will change nothing. Any two people can make a short trip to their friendly neighborhood lawyer and get a will and power of attorney written up to solve all these problems.
The no on 36 site has "100 ways this amendment hurts families" (read "Families" as gay couples, possibly with children). Some of these are covered in what I said above. Some of them are petty, like "no right to donate partner's body or organs after death." But some are serious, and may not even be solved with power of attorney. So there is room for debate on what gay couples need in this society. But marriage isn't necessarily it.

Le Grand debates the issues:
This guy, proclaiming to be a Christian differs from my view, but he has a better argument than most.
Indeed, the law has long recognized marriages that certain churches do not. I routinely perform weddings for couples who cannot or will not marry in churches - including previously divorced people, those of different faiths and those of no faith at all. The law has never required churches to recognize such unions.
Yes, but it's still called marriage, and they have the right to adopt and raise children. The article does not talk about the ramifications of opening the door to other civil arrangements, like polygamy, which is a natural progression from this point of view.
However, I submit that a constitution is a document setting out the fundamental organization of government and the principles under which it operates. It also declares the rights of its citizens in relation to the government. It is hardly the place to establish for all time what marriage should be, especially when that serves to deny to some citizens rights enjoyed by others.
Not that the Oregon constitution has way too much junk not involved with the general principles and organization of the government already. Not that I don't agree with him, but that's not going to sway anyone.
The ACLU is, of course, against it.

As is the libertarian party. Looking at the voter's pamphlet, other than those two organizations I see a lot of individuals, interest group organizations created for just this election measure and anecdotes on the NO side. On the YES side I don't see much more, but there are lots of legislators and lawyers there, where most of the people on the NO side are unidentified.
I think the real question here is should this be an Amendment. As long as people go into this thinking about that, perhaps we can escape all the emotional crap.

Darfur update.
Lord Alton, upon returning from Sudan, reports to Tony Blair what's going on in the Darfur region.
"On my two-day visit, I found that nothing much has changed. The government of Sudan has reneged on its promise to disarm the Janjaweed. Their campaign has the sole objective of eradicating the black tribes and installing the Arabs in their place. If this isn't genocide, then it's difficult to imagine what on earth is."
So things aren't improving. The UN actions are not doing anything. Is anyone surprised? Will somebody do something now?
Democracy in Afghanistan
Elections went off well. The turnout was giant, and the violence was non-existent. Interim President Hamid Karzai is the clear runaway winner, but the real winners are the people of Afghanistan. Dispite the lack of security due to there not being enough US troops there, the elections went off almost without a hitch, and the government is doing a good job keeping the warlords from getting uptite and causing trouble.
Winds of Change's Arthur Chrenkoff has a long post (and boy is it long) with lots of links and thoughts on what's going on. Some good and bad, but mostly positive.
Crushing of Dissent!
It's happened. My wife and I decided, for the first time ever, to put a political sign in our front yard. I happen to favor Bush this year, so we got a small Bush/Cheney 2004 sign and put it in our yard, inside the fence.
I woke up Saturday morning to find my sign gone. Stolen! Not just stolen, but we found the sign later down the street. It had been mangled and the wire frame bent up like a pretzel.
We indeed have some anger management issues.

In an effort to be fair and ballanced, I saw this writeup (hat tip to RoguePundit) outlining the fight against measure 36 (one man-one woman) in the more rural parts of Oregon. Seems people in Klamath Falls are afraid to express dissent for that measure, and stolen signs have been reported.
I do hope that this is just a fringe problem, like a Democrat friend of mine stated lately, but there have been way too many reports this year of things like this and worse.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Measure 35
Oh this is one of the big ones. Measures 33 and 34 have their hot moments, but 35 and 36 are generating real furnace heat.

The text of the bill seems fairly straightforward. It limits lawsuits of patients for non-economic damages. That is pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional suffering, interference with stuff other than job related. Stuff like that. It still allows unlimited recoverable reward for medical costs, past and future, and income lost from inability to perform while under medical care.
One paragraph says that the limit is $500k, but later there is a section that determines the annual increase of this limit using some sort of equation that most normal humans don't understand.
The text defines economic and non-economic damages in sections 6 and 7.

Now I like the motive behind this bill. I don't like how lawsuit happy this country has become, and the damage done to our legal system by people who want to sue for every scratch they get is pretty abysmal. The rational they get for trying to pry millions from insurance companies are pretty lame as well.
However, I also believe that if a healthcare provider is truly negligent you want to hit them so that they are forced to change what they are doing, make it economically preventative for them to continue doing something that, while efficient, is detrimental to patients (because of course, MORAL pressure to change is worthless effort, right?). The standard way to do that is to let courts impose huge awards to the plaintiffs for reasons of "mental anguish" and the like.
Really, this measure is not the answer, but I don't know what is. Ironically, I heard some fresh stuff (fresh to me, anyway) from John Edwards in the vice-presidential debate last week regarding lawsuit reform. It involved making the lawyers more responsible for the outcomes of the cases. I'm not sure if that's the answer either, as lawyers may be more skittish about providing services if they get seriously penalized for losing, but at least its another idea.

Bill Kettler of the Jackson County Mail Tribune has an article that lays out both sides of the argument well, including the players and some state by state comparisons:
Proponents of the measure — a coalition that includes physicians, hospitals and insurance companies — say it should pass to ensure that Oregon has enough doctors to deliver babies and treat patients with life-threatening injuries. Opponents — a group that includes trial lawyers, senior and consumer advocates and many labor groups — say it should fail in order to preserve citizens’ rights to trial by jury.
Caps on jury awards are nothing new. Oregon had a cap from 1987 until 1999, when the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. About 20 other states have caps, including California, Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Texas. Many of those states’ caps are under Oregon’s proposed $500,000 limit, which would be adjustable to account for inflation.
He points out what happened to insurance costs of doctors after the previous cap was removed in 1999.
One of the points in there, as well as this advertisement is that controling the size of lawsuits will help east the rising insurance costs in the medical profession. Premiums have skyrocketed in the years since the cap was removed. That may be partially true. The Oregonian (see the add link) points out that caps on damage awards do not directly affect insurance premiums, and the link is uncertain.

Insurance is a game of guessing and statistics. One thing is certain and that the health care industry is under pressure from high insurance costs. There may be plenty of doctors in Oregon, but the costs of insurance premiums are generally passed on to the consumer, and seeing your doctor costs much more that it needs to. The argument for having caps in place is that, as witnessed by the caps that used to be in place, insurance companies don't need to overcompensate when they know the boundaries of how much each claim is going to be. It's not a direct coorelation, but would it make it better?
I'm not sure about all the coorelations. As I said above I'm not sure this is the best way to change the system and reform things. I might just vote against it because I had changing the constitution, when a law might do just as well.

Here's another FOR editorial from the Oregonian

Former Governor Kitzhaber, a former Doctor, and current Governor Kulongoski, a former trial lawyer, are on opposite sides of this debate. Guess which is for and which is against.

The Portland Alliance has a lengthy document against the changes.

Here's the Yes on 35 website.
Here's the official no on 35 website.