Wade's World

Just leave it where Jesus flang it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Aid -- Clearinghouse of Links

On the extremely rare chance that you have come to this site before, or instead of, going to ... well, anywhere else, please follow the links below in order to contribute to the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina:

Wizbang: Paul has actually been holed up inside the Superdome to ride out Katrina and he has a list of useful efforts for bloggers to engage in, such as --

We don't know how FEMA works. Somebody read the news reports on what FEMA is doing and what it is not... Somebody read their site and distill it for those of us who don't have time for red tape.

Flood insurance? I know the feds handle it. Who do I need to talk to? What do they pay?

Every natural disaster I send the Red Cross my standard $100 donation. I have no idea how to get money from them. It is a grant or a loan?

If I don't actually cancel my phones and my bill is auto-debit do they still bill me?

If I shut off my phone will I lose my number?

Heck- Somebody make an "Evacuee survival guide" with laser precision information on how to get help without clicking 50 links or waiting on hold 2 hours. If you can save 25,000 people 5 hours of looking up the same information, think of the power in that!

Be sure to check out the trackbacks to that post for useful information, and also see Kevin Aylward's post, Hurricaid for making a direct donation to Paul.

Instapundit: Continuously updated post with links to various relief efforst and charity organizations, among other links.

Michelle Malkin: Myriad posts (just keep scrolling) about and links to charities, relief funds.

The Truth Laid Bear: Blog for Relief Day, Thursday September 1 -- round up of links to blogs focused on raising awareness of and finding funds for relief efforts to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

**UPDATE**
QandO: Links to some more charities, specifically some that will benefit soldiers with loved ones in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Vaclav Havel Speech

President Havel is well worth listening to:

Fifteen years after the collapse of communism. I am afraid more than at the beginning of its softer (or weaker) version, of social-democratism, which has become – under different names, e.g. the welfare state or the soziale Marktwirtschaft – the dominant model of the economic and social system of current Western civilization. It is based on big and patronizing government, on extensive regulating of human behavior, and on large-scale income redistribution.
The ever-shifting monikers for what is essentially collectivism (as opposed to individulism expressed through a rule of law that protects individual property rights) have taken on dizzying speed with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Alas, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Monday, August 29, 2005

File Under "Who?"

How much moral authority does September 11th survivor Earl Johnson have?

Apparently not much. (Compare "Cindy Sheehan + Crawford").

via Lights, Camera, Protest!

Grudge Match

Well this surely looks to be exciting (as reported by Stefan Beck of The New Criterion):

Don't miss the fight of the century. In just about two weeks, Gorgeous George Galloway and The Magnificent Hitch will square off, right here in NYC. We'll be there.

(Link in original). Of course, the moderator will be Amy Goodman of the reliably-socialist radio program Democracy Now! on Pacifica Radio (which can also be seen on Free Speech TV), so the reported outcome of the contest is already known. Nonetheless, Hitchens is particularly well-suited to tackle "Gorgeous George", I think, because while Galloway is certainly combative, sometimes quite eloquently so, he tends to employ personal attacks and ipse dixit logic when he argues. Hitchens is apparently impervious to ad hominem, presumably from years spent fighting in the Trotskyite trenches, but more importantly he can command facts with devestating precision when he so chooses, and his rhetorical flourishes are positively poisonous. I expect that Hitch will be fully armed with several quivers full of pointed Galloway-isms with which to neatly split each of his opponent's arrows that manage to find a mark. And you can be sure that Gorgeous will put on quite a bomb-throwing, straw-man eviscerating show when he's not accusing Hitch of being a drunkard. The issues concerning the War in Iraq, the War on Terror, or any other war for that matter, won't be solved on this night, nor is likely that any spectators will be converted. But you can count on the flames from this battle being magnificent to behold.

Friday, August 26, 2005

WTF?: A Continuing Saga

I just wanna order the goddamned kitchen cabinets!

My wife and I recently bought a new house as is our duty pursuant to the Northern Virginia Housing Bubble Act (2004). It's a great house. Really! But there were a few things that we wanted to change, such as painting, getting rid of the new white carpet covering just about everything, and updating some of the fixtures, etc. Basically the normal stuff that every homeowner does to make the new domicile "Home."

When we first started our little homemaking projects we were warned, as I guess everyone is, that one thing would lead to another, and indeed it has. While the house itself has more than enough space for the three (soon to be four) of us -- over 3,000 sf -- the kitchen is terribly cramped and hasn't been renovated since the house was built in 1973. We pondered the idea of (i) expansion, but deemed it too expensive, and of (ii) entirely renovating the kitchen, but that seemed too disruptive as well as an unnecessary expense if we planned on expanding the kitchen at any time in the near future. Instead, we decided to update the appliances and make due with the space for as long as possible. Like, say, until we move again in ten or twenty years. Confident and resolute in our plan, we endured the unnecessarily complicated ordeal of choosing, ordering, having delivered and installing a brand new duel-fuel range and a new dishwasher.

Other than having to install these items myself, this was the easy part.

In order to install the dishwasher, it was necessary to remove a portion of the countertop. Yes. You read that correctly. I took a power saw to the countertop and lopped off that portion covering the dishwasher, just so I could remove and install the new one. You see, the kitchen floor is actually about three-quarters of an inch higher than the floor under the bottom of the appliance, so there is not enough room between the kitchen floor and the countertop to fit an item such as a standard-sized dishwasher. Luckily, the counterop is made of wood composite and laminate covering so cutting it off was easy. But ... you know where I'm going with this don't you? ... now we need a new countertop. And since we need a new countertop, then we might as well get a new sink. And getting new countertop and sink just doesn't make sense with old cabinets, sooooo.................

As I mentioned above, an entire renovation was not what we had planned on, but now there was no turning back. Accordingly, having done most of the preliminary research already, we went to our friendly local Big Box Store (which shall remain nameless) and made an appointment to pick out cabinets, etc. Now some of you may not know this, but you can't just take some measurements and pick out the cabinets you want. Instead, you have to go through a slow, deliberate (deliberately slow?) process whereby you have your "choices" systematically rejected and your patience worn down to the thickness of one-ply, toilet tissue.

Unfortunately we also made the mistake of seeking a fast turn-around time on getting this project started. In order to do this you have to talk to the "Expediter Lady" (that's what our Initial Appointment Guy called her). This is a woman who is kept well away from all the customers in a closet with a rusty steel door marked "Mops." She calmly listens to you explain that you and your wife are having a baby in two months, and therefore the 8 to 12 week schedule isn't really working for you, so could she, maybe, hurry it up a little, before she dashes all your hopes and dreams in a conversation that goes roughly as follows:

ME: "We were sent to you by the Initial Appointment Guy to see about getting our cabinets ordered and installed on an expedited basis."

EL: "That project will take about 8 to 12 weeks."

ME: "Yeah, we know. That's what the Initial Appointment Guy said. We really need it done faster than that, so what do we need to do to expedite the process?"

EL: "There's nothing you can do, that project will take 8 to 12 weeks."

ME: [Blink. Blink.]

EL: Staring back at me. Expeditiously.

ME: "But your the Expediter Lady, aren't you?"

EL: "Yes."

ME: "So don't you, y'know, like, 'expedite' this whole process? Isn't that what you do? Isn't that your whole raison d'etre?"

EL: "Yes, but ..." she pauses and cocks her head to the side a little, giving me a puzzled look because she thinks maybe she's been insulted. "Ordering and installing kitchen cabinets takes 8 to 12 weeks."

ME: Now wondering just what it is she "expedites" since it sure as hell ain't kitchen remodeling projects. "Well what if we do the installation ourselves? Then how long will it take to get the cabinets in."

EL: "Ordering the cabinets takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks."

ME: "You mean the cabinets will be at our house in 6 to 8 weeks?"

EL: "Oh, wait! You wanted to know when they would get there?"

ME: Turning a lovely shade of crimson and wondering which will hurt less, punching the cinde-block wall, or the circa-1952, grey metal desk. "YES!! YES!! What good do the cabinets do me anywhere else!!!"

EL: "Ohhhh!, That will take about ... mmm, 8 to 12 weeks."

I'm not really sure what happened at this point other than the fact that, without a doubt, my blood pressure dropped once I left that room. Anyway, The end result of this initial appointment is that you fork over $60 so that a nameless person can call you at some unspecified time in the future in order to make another appointment whereby the "Measuring Guy" comes to your house. I should mention here that, before you can even get an appointment in the first place, you have to take careful measurements of your kitchen, including detailed drawings of the layout, etc., which you are to bring to aforesaid appointment.

What you're wondering now is exactly the same thing that occured to us: "Why didn't the Measurement Guy come before we had the initial appointment?" Well that would, y'know, be all efficient and stuff. We can't have that!

Another thing of which we were unaware is that there is only one phone at Big Box Store, and somebody who is NOT the Measuring Guy is always on it. Either that or speaking with the Expediter Lady automatically moves you into the "Never Call" category. Whatever the reason, we did not hear from a soul at Big Box Store until two weeks later when Initial Appointment Guy called wondering why we hadn't arranged our second appointment with him yet. At this point it dawned on us that sending customers to the Expediter Lady was how Big Box Store deals with the potential trouble makers -- i.e. those who ask questions and stuff. As such was our fate, it took yet another few days before we actually had the Measurement Guy come to the house and confirm that, yes indeed, we really can use a ruler, and the cabinets we had picked out fit.

The penultimate step of actually paying for the cabinets was now within reach. All we had to do now was to arrange our second appointment with the Initial Appointment Guy, pick out the various custom features and hand over a fat check. Because my father-in-law and I have been doing all of the installation, we've saved a significant amount on what's been done so far. Installing kitchen cabinets is something he's done hundreds of times, so we plan on doing this job ourselves, for yet another cost savings. All that we really need to do then is to hand over the money. That's all we need to do ...

Ring. Ring.

BBS: "Big Box Store! Kitchen Remodeling Department! How can I help you!"

ME: "Hi. My wife and I are ready to order our kitchen cabinets now. Measurement Guy was just here, and he officially agrees that the cabinets will fit. Can I make an appointment to come by and place the order and give you my check?"

BBS: "Did Measurement Guy explain the installation costs to you?"

ME: "Yeah, but we're going to install the cabinets ourselves. All we really need is for you all to place the order."

BBS: Pause as the lady on the other end of the phone calls up our information. "I'm sorry, but Initial Appointment Guy is on vacation and won't be back until after next week. You'll need to call back and make an appointment with him then."

ME: "Well does it really matter who places the order for us, I mean, can't we just meet someone else and hand you our check?"

BBS: "Initial Appointment Guy has all your information and will need to be the one who sets up the installation for you."

ME: Jaw muscles starting to clench. "But we don't NEED any installation service. I just told you we're going to install the cabinets ourselves. We really want to get this done as quickly as possible since we're having another child in October, so can't we just place the order for the cabinets, give you our money and get the ball rolling. In fact, can't you just do it?"

BBS: tap.tap.tap.tap.tap...

ME: Furiously rubbing temples and hoping against hope that I've finally made my point clear.

HD: Sir, have you spoken with Expediter Lady?
You probably already figured out that, as of today, we STILL have not been able to order our cabinets. We were granted the, apparently, unusual favor of an appointment with someone other than Initial Appointment Guy ... four days later. I tried to circumvent the whole process by going directly through the manufacturer, but they only sell their wares through my friendly local Big Box Store. As it stands now, it looks like we'll be able to finally place our order and get the cabinets delivered.

In about 8 to 12 weeks.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Federalist No. 37 And The Iraqi Constitution

I arrived at the subject of this post by accident, although the general parallel had occurred to me several times over the post month -- i.e. how the deliberations involved in drafting the Iraqi Constitution are similar to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.

In the course of reading Kevin Drum's terse opinion on Originalism I was directed to this post by Mitchell Freedman which contends that, among other things:
The point of [James] Madison in [Federalist No. 37 ] ... is that the use of broad terms in the Constitution recognized differences among the founders and that only experience will provide a sense of meaning to the broad terms.
Freedman further contends that Federalist No. 37 "posit[s]
a strong federal presence in the area of economic regulation passed by legislatures--as opposed to courts...." In short, Freedman holds up Fed No. 37 as evidence of the Framers' intention that the Constitution be viewed as a "living document." Curious about this interpretation of Madison, I took Freedman's suggestion and reviewed Fed No. 37. While Freedman's interpretation is more than a little strained in my opinion, as I found little to suggest that Madison considered the Constitution to be a "living document" (although, to be fair, Freedman also held up as evidence, and recommended a reading of, M'Culloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 and Gibbons v. Ogden, which do discuss Constitutional interpretation even if neither case renders the document as elastic as Freedman suggests), what I did find was a wonderfully appropos admonishment to those expecting perfection from the constitutional drafting process.

Which leads me to the actual subject of this post -- the parallels betwen the drafting of the Iraqi and U.S. Constitutions. In Fed. No. 37, Madison defines his audience, and that of the Federalist Papers in general, as:
... those only, who add to a sincere zeal for the happiness of their country, a temper favorable to a just estimate of the means of promoting it.

Persons of this character will proceed to an examination of the plan submitted by the convention, not only without a disposition to find or to magnify faults; but will see the propriety of reflecting, that a faultless plan was not to be expected. Nor will they barely make allowances for the errors which may be chargeable on the fallibility to which the convention, as a body of men, were liable; but will keep in mind, that they themselves also are but men, and ought not to assume an infallibility in rejudging the fallible opinions of others.
Leaving aside Madison's use of rhetorically preparing the reader to agree with him ("I'm only writing to reasonable people, who are the only people who see the wisdom of my words. Surely you, Dear Reader, are a reasonable person, aren't you?"), he is asking us to contemplate the minor miracle that a Constitution was drafted in the first place ("many allowances ought to be made for the difficulties inherent in the very nature of the undertaking referred to the convention"). After all, the Framers were basically wandering in the wilderness when it came to deciding what the structure of the country would look like:
The most that the convention could do in such a situation, was to avoid the errors suggested by the past experience of other countries, as well as of our own; and to provide a convenient mode of rectifying their own errors, as future experiences may unfold them.
A direct comparison can be drawn to the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution. Certainly there is no other model from which to draw in the Middle East, with exception of Aghanistan. Nor is there any Islamic country, again with sole exception of Afghanistan, that can provide guidance other than, as Madison put it, to "furnish no other light than that of beacons, which give warning of the course to be shunned, without pointing out that which ought to be pursued." To be sure, the Iraqis have the benefit of numerous "beacons" left by constitutional democracies; many times more than what was available to the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. But the novelty of a Constitution being debated and drafted in a region that has henceforth known little more than dictatorship and colonialism should not be lost on us. No matter what the Iraqis come up with, it will be but another step into the wilderness where they will leave their own beacon for (hopefully) future Middle East democracies.

Fashioning a Constitution is also beset by the difficulties inherent in all complex systems and in the language used to define them, such that the same words can mean entirely different things to different people:
Experience has instructed us that no skill in the science of government has yet been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its three great provinces the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches. Questions daily occur in the course of practice, which prove the obscurity which reins in these subjects, and which puzzle the greatest adepts in political science. The experience of ages, with the continued and combined labors of the most enlightened legislatures and jurists, has been equally unsuccessful in delineating the several objects and limits of different codes of laws and different tribunals of justice ... Besides the obscurity arising from the complexity of objects, and the imperfection of the human faculties, the medium through which the conceptions of men are conveyed to each other adds a fresh embarrassment. The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity, therefore, requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and exclusively appropriate to them. But no language is so copious as to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas.
Madison concludes that the Constitutional Convention was surely inhibited by the rancor involved with applying definitions and delineations to the "boundary between the federal and State jurisdictions." In order to induce the States to relinquish certain powers, and to vest them in the federal government, the Framers had to agree on the defininitions that limited those federal powers, despite "three sources of vague and incorrect definitions: indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of conception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas." Arriving at any sort of agreement as to those terms was a monumental task, according to Madison, indicating the enormity, and the unlikely outcome, of the undertaking.

Incidently, this passage from Fed No. 37, is the source of Freedman's contention that Madison envisioned the Constitution as a "living document." I don't think Madison suggests any such thing, but Freedman's point is well-taken that the Constitution was always meant to be interpretted, and that the imprecision of language almost certainly precludes the most rigid of interpretations as those attributed to "Originalists." However, if one contemplates that Madison was describing the Constitutional Convention as the time and place where those imprecisions and vagaries of language were hammered out to a commonly acceptable form, I believe this passage in fact undermines Freedman's interpretation. But I digress ...

Looking to the Iraqi convention, they have surely been hampered (or "embarrassed" as Madison would say) by the difficulties in arriving at precise language. This must be especially true where the differing factions do not even speak the same language in some cases, much less the same dialect. Agreeing on terms that are precise enough to hold the same meaning for all the drafters, but still broad enough to allow for application to both current and future situations, is hard enough where the drafters share a common language, as Madison highlighted. Doing so amongst the various populations that currently occupy Iraq must be even more difficult by an order of magnitude.

Madison goes on to describe the tensions between the various States and other factions that contributed to the document's substance:
As every State may be divided into different districts, and its citizens into different classes, which give birth to contending interests and local jealousies, so the different parts of the United States are distinguished from each other by a variety of circumstances, which produce a like effect on a larger scale.
With so many competing interests involved, each of which had to be catered to on some level, the drafting of the Constitution was subject to great strain from the contrary impulses, so much so that Madison marvels:
The real wonder is that so many difficulties should have been surmounted, and surmounted with a unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking of the astonishment. It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.
Certainly the same adulation can be extended to the Iraqis, who have been subject to no lesser strains than those faced by the Framers. At least the Framers were able to draft away without the constant threat of violence that pervades the Iraqi deliberations, and without such a jaundiced global eye critiquing ever aspect and outcome of the process as that faced by the current drafters.

My (undoubtedly unoriginal) point is merely that the expectations being placed on the Iraqis by some is not warranted when one considers the great difficulty faced in forming our own Constitution, as ably illuminated by James Madison. While the end result may not, for some, adequately resemble the U.S. Constitution, it will be an important milestone nonetheless. The Iraqis are owed at least a modicum of respect for their effort, and measurably more so for the finished product.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

RE-RETURN

I've decided that it's time for a third go 'round at this "blogging" thing. It seems that I've become a serial-commenter on other blogs, and in particular at QandO. Getting my own place (again) is probably warranted at this point. No promises, however, as my interest in posting varies quite a bit. Add to that the fact that my wife is expecting our second child in October, and it's easy to see this latest foray as falling flat on its face just like the others.

"What others?" you're now asking yourself. Don't worry about it. They are as unimportant as this blog shall soon be so let's just move along shall we?

To that end, I guess that I should describe what this blog will actually be about. Not much, really. The title says it all. There will be a great deal of political musings, because that's what interests me. And you can expect to find a rant or two about the various things that piss me off. But there will also be posts concerning music, books, sports, cars, women, child-rearing, and various other topics that I find interesting at that particular moment. There will be no ryhme and not much more than a smattering of reason.

And so, to quote the final line from one of my favorite plays, Hois Clos, "Well, well, let's get on with it ..."