Wade's World

Just leave it where Jesus flang it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

"Congress shall make no law ..."

It's a simple phrase. Why can't it be heeded? It seems to be terribly misunderstood quite often and outright ignored at other times:

Amid the explosion of political activity on the Internet, a federal court has instructed the six-member Federal Election Commission to draw up regulations that would extend the nation's campaign finance and spending limits to the Web.

The FEC, in its initial rules, had exempted the Internet.

Now some of you will immediately alight upon the notion that the FEC is in fact not Congress, but instead an independent regulatory agency. Fair enough, except that it was created by Congress and any enforcement or rule-making powers it has must come from Congress. For all intents and purposes of the U.S. Constitution, the FEC is Congress.

Some of you will then move on to a discussion of libel and slander laws and how we can't run around will-nilly shouting "Fire!" in crowded movie theaters. That would be a great point except for the fact that not a single one those libel, slander or defamation laws is FEDERAL. You see, Congress can make (and has made) laws concerning conduct on federal property, such that certain speech may be prohibited as to time and place. What Congress cannot do, nor has it ever had the power to do, is make any law controlling the content of one's speech because such a law regulates or inhibits free speech. "But the States can do it then!" I hear you lament? That's not only a dubious suggestion, it is also irrelevant to this particular discussion. Simply put, there is no technical parsing or legal wrangling which can defensibly argue that "Congress shall make no law ..." means something other than what it says.

Accordingly, I find the McCain-Feingold legislation patently un-Constitutional and any attempt to extend it's unlawful prohibitions to the blogosphere should be met not only with loud contempt but also with resilient defiance. On this point, I think Bruce McQuain gets it exactly right:

Now there are two schools of thought here. One that takes up Toner's theme that blogging should be exempt and that Congress should legislate that exemption under the auspicies of free speech rights.

There are others who say that the argument gives credence to the right of the government to regulate bloggers that they really don't have under the First Amendment and that we should instead be telling them to butt out (under the provisions of the First Amendment) and essentially ignore anything they come up with. Or said another way, continue with business as usual, and if they pass a law restricting or regulating blogging, ignore it by engaging in massive civil disobedience.

I'm inclined toward the latter response for a number of reasons. First, I completely agree that it is a free speech issue and it is McCain-Finegold which is the problem here, not political blogging. The entire point of the free speech portion of the First Amendment was to protect political speech. Now we see an attempt to regulate it. I see that M-F as an illegitimate law which infringes on the basic right of a blogger to espouse freely his or her political opinion as guaranteed by the Constitution.

All that to say, I plan on ignoring any FEC regulations as they regard blogging.

Now, Bruce's defiance is much more meaningful in the grand scheme of things, given that QandO generates far more hits than most sites, and infinitely more than this one. Nonetheless I too will actively resist and defy complying with any regulation coming from McCain-Feingold. And by "actively" I mean that I plan to flout the law as openly as possible, making my intentions well known that I consider this particular piece of naked power grabbing to be a flagrant violation of every American's Constitutional rights. I encourage others to do the same.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bush to World: "End Subsidies and Tariffs"

I love the message, but I'm skeptical of the actual delivery:

Saying poverty breeds terrorism and despair, President Bush challenged world leaders on Wednesday to abolish all trade tariffs and subsidies _ worth hundreds of billions of dollars _ to promote prosperity and opportunity in struggling nations.

"Either hope will spread, or violence will spread, and we must take the side of hope," Bush told more than 160 presidents, prime ministers and kings gathered for three days of U.N. General Assembly meetings aimed at combating poverty and reforming the world body.

<>
First of all, I'm deeply doubtful that Pres. Bush actual blamed poverty for terrorism and despair. That would, of course, be the left's row to hoe, and a complete departure from the "they hate us for our freedom" mantra on the right. Secondly, unless concrete plans are put forward to actually eliminate trade barriers, as opposed to softening or regulating them as with the Doha rounds or CAFTA, then the barriers are pretty much here to stay. That being said, Bush did make the following bold claim:

"Today I broaden the challenge by making this pledge: The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same. This is key to overcoming poverty in the world's poorest nations. It's essential we promote prosperity and opportunity for all nations."

Really? Because that would just peachy as far as I'm concerned. In fact, why should we wait for other countries? Instead, let's just eliminate farm subsidies and trade tariffs altogether. Even if other countries don't follow suit (and it's virtually certain that there are many who won't), the U.S. will still be better off. Sure, farmers like ADM, Scotty Pippen and Ted Turner will take a short term hit (the destructive side of Schumpeter's "creative destruction"), but I think we can bear that burden. As poor farmers in Africa, South America and Asia pick up the slack they will grow wealthier. As they grow wealthier their demand for goods produced elsewhere, say here in the United States, will grow as well. Historically, such growth in poorer countries (sometimes referred to as "creating new markets") leads to even greater growth elsewhere.

Quite simply, inhabitants of third world countries have few opportunities to create wealth, either for themselves (directly) or others (incidently). In wealthy countries like the U.S., wealth opportunities abound. When someone in the U.S. quits farming in order to pursue other, more wealth-producing opportunities, someone in a a country where farming is his best opportunity is able to maximize his wealth production. The end result is greater wealth production all around, both directly (former farmer and new farmer both earning more income) and incidentally (former farmer adding more of higher-valued product to market; new farmer adding food to market at lower cost to consumers). This is illustrative, of course, of the creative side of "creative destruction."

Sadly, I'm afraid that none of if will come to pass. A careful gander at the the President's pledge reveals that it is nothing more than typical diploma-speak: we are "ready" to eliminate the tariffs and subsidies "as other nations do the same." In other words, "we'll put our gun down when you put your gun down, but you put yours down first."

Al Qaeda or Civil War

Unfortunately, Iraqis suffered another bloody day in Baghdad, where more than 150 people were killed. From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber lured a crowd of Shi'ite Muslim day laborers to his minivan and blew it up in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 114 people in the bloodiest of a wave of attacks which killed more than 150 across the capital.

The bomber drew the men to his vehicle with promises of work before detonating the bomb, which contained up to 500 pounds (220 kg) of explosives, an Interior Ministry source said.

It was the second deadliest single attack since the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003.


National Public Radio's take, by Anne Garrels, was strikingly similar to Reuters. The Associated Press reports it this way:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- More than a dozen explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital in rapid succession Wednesday, killing at least 152 people and wounding 542 in a series of attacks that began with a suicide car bombing that targeted laborers assembled to find work for the day. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility.

Reuters also noted the Al Qaeda claim of responsibility, six paragraphs after the lede, but then immediately stumbles into the popular leftist spectre of civil war:

A police official said the attacks appeared coordinated. Iraq's al Qaeda claimed it was waging a nationwide suicide bombing campaign to avenge a military offensive on a rebel town.

A statement on an Islamist Web site often used by the Sunni Muslim militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not mention a specific attack, but said the campaign was in reprisal for a U.S.-Iraqi offensive in the northern town of Tal Afar.

"We would like to congratulate the Muslim nation and inform it the battle to avenge the Sunnis of Tal Afar has begun," it said.

Fears of civil war have grown ahead of an October 15 referendum on a new constitution for Iraq.


The AP also raises the civil war meme, albeit more subtley:

The blasts coincided with Iraqi lawmakers announcing the country's draft constitution was in its final form and would be sent to the United Nations for printing and distribution ahead of an Oct. 15 national referendum. Sunni Muslims, who form up the core of the insurgency, have vowed to defeat the basic law.

[snip]

With the constitution finally going to the printers for distribution ahead of the Oct. 15 referendum, Hussein Al-Shahristani, a leading Shiite lawmaker, said the latest changes included an apparent bow to demands from the Arab League that the country be described as a founding member of the 22-member pan-Arab body and that it was "committed to its charter."

But that amended clause falls short of demands by Sunnis, who wanted the country's Arab identity clearly spelled and mentions of federalism be struck from the document. They argue such language could ultimately lead to the disintegration of the multiethnic nation.

Still, the changes were significant after weeks of discussions on the draft. They included clarifying that water resource management was the federal government's responsibility and that the prime minister would have two deputies in the Cabinet.


Of course, there's nothing insidious about mentioning the ongoing Constitutional process in Iraq in a story about suicide bombing there. But the the clear implication of both stories is that the suicide bombings are in some manner precursors to the impending civil war between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, and that the Constitutional process is a catalyst for that war. However, if Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks, and in fact explicitly stated that they are in retaliation for "the recent killing of about 200 militants from the city of Tal Afar by U.S. and Iraqi forces," in what way does the Consitutional debate amongst Iraqis figure into the bombings?

In other words, either the bombings were in retaliation for the Tal Afar offensive as claimed by Al Quaeda, or they were sparked by the contentious debate over the contents of the proposed Constitution. The Reuters story mentions that Sunnis make up the core of the insurgency, but does that mean they are necessarily allied with Al Aqaeda? So much so that they bombed a crowd of Iraqis to further the goal of repelling U.S. "invaders"? The left has long claimed that Al Qaeda was seeking to foment civil war with its attacks, and that is likely true on some level. But if that was the purpose of these particular attacks, then why claim a different reason, namely the assault on Tal Afar?

The truth is that civil war is not as inevitable as some would have you believe. I don't mean to suggest that it's impossible or that it would comes as a great shock if the situation in Iraq were to devolve into a civil war. But the window of where that was a great likelihood has passed with the elections in January and the subsequent campaign of inclusion seeking to draw as many Sunnis into the nation-building process as possible. Judging by the numbers of Sunnis who registerd to vote on the draft Constitution ("Iraq's Sunnis Register to Vote in Droves"), that campaign has been largely successful, and there doesn't seem to be as great a potential for civil war as there once may have been. To be sure, there are still Sunnis who will fight the U.S. and whatever Iraqi government that eventually results. But it will take more than some holdouts to launch a full-blown civil war.

Moreover, the question still remains unanswered as to what the connection is between Al Qaeda, who took responsibility for the recent blasts, and the beginning of a civil war based upon Sunni dissatisfaction with the Constitution. Neither the AP nor Reuters has answered that question, even as they implicitly raised it, nor are they likely to. Instead, they will continue to conflate the two (Al Qaeda and Sunnis; War on Terror and Iraqi Civil War) in an effort to channel the blame for every horrible thing in Iraq directly to the feet of the United States and it's "illegal" war. Nevermind the fact that prior to the Iraq War we were constantly reminded of how Bin Laden and Al Qaeda hated Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party because of their secularism, and of how there was never any connection between the two. That the insurgent Sunnis and Al Qaeda appear on the same side of the ledger now is irrelevant and needless of explanation so long as it is clear to all that U.S. presence in Iraq and the Iraqi Constitution (a direct result of U.S. presence) are the source of all Iraqi ills. So needless of explanation is the apparent comraderie between insurgent Sunnis and Al Qaeda in fact, that both the AP and Reuters consider it appropriate to include the complaints of one group in a story about the other's retaliatory strikes.

One can only wonder what the spin will be once a Constitution is finally put into place and a permanent government elected.

Friday, September 09, 2005

"More than a referendum, but less than an election."

Overshadowed by Hurricane Katrina and its political aftermath, the first contested presidential elections were held in Egypt and Hosni Mubarak was swept into victory with better than 88% of the vote. While an impressive number to be sure, only about 23% of the electorate actually voted, and charges of myriad electoral violations marred the victory:

Widespread violations were reported by voters, opposition groups and independent monitors during the balloting _ particularly strong pressure from officials and other on voters to back Mubarak. But the election saw none of the violence or overt vote rigging that has plagued past parliamentary elections.

Marie, the top judge on Egypt's highest court, said the vote was clean and allegations of violations stemmed from "over-enthusiasm in a nascent experiment that will be the cornerstone in the construction of democracy."

On Thursday, Nour demanded the election be repeated because of the allegations, but the commission _ which reform-minded judges have accused of being dominated by the government _ rejected the request.

Third-place finisher Gomaa said Friday his party would put together a list of the election violations it witnessed and present them to the commission. But, speaking to Al-Jazeera television, he acknowledged that the violations were not enough to affect Mubarak's victory.

Even so, as some (and one in particular) like to say, "democracy is a process, not an event." Judging by Western standards, the Egyptian election does not look like much. But when considered in context -- i.e., a country that has known only autocratic rule for the last 50 years -- this event is inspiring. When viewed in connection with the (i) Iraq elections and subsequent Constitutional process, (ii) the Palestinian elections, (iii) the Lebanon elections, (iv) the Saudi elections, (v) the Afghanistan elections, and (iv) the Pakistani elections, none of which have gove perfectly (albeit some better than others) the "process" of democracy begins to appear.

There's no question that Mubarak's re-election is not much more than a baby step in that process, but it's diminutive stature in the great annals of democracy should not dimish its importance. A two-inch putt counts as much as a 350 yard drive. The very fact that the autocratic grip on what has hitherto sufficed as an "electoral process" has been ever so slightly loosened should be recognized as a an awakening of hope for the Egyptian people, and for the populous of the Arab world in general. Taken as a sign that democracy is beginning to emerge in a land that has never truly known governance by the governed, it starts a fire in the bellies of Arabs elsewhere to see such reforms, however slight, in their own countries. It will take time, but the cries of "kifaya" will grow louder and louder until the autocrats and dictators have no choice but to change.

What results will most certainly have little resemblence to American, Canadian, European or even (hopefully) South American democracy. That's actually not very important. What matters most is that the political structure reflects, as accurately as possible, the will of the governed, as the those who are currently governed see fit to express it. If that means some countries are theocracy well, that probably does not bode well for us. However, an energetic democacy, viz one that continually regenerates through frequent elections, would not be as foreboding since the governing body would constantly be held to account in meeting the desires of the electorate. The fact that this nascent process is beginning with elections, therefore, is encouraging in my mind.

Levee Break, Part II

Donald Trump (love him or hate him) puts his finger directly on the problem:

What I really look to, you know, when they look at blame, whether you blame presidents or senators or mayors or whoever, I blame the people that were looking after the so-called dam or the levee (search), because, I mean, for a wall to break, for a concrete wall to break, where a city is dependent on that concrete wall holding back essentially the ocean, somebody is to blame.

Now, it was built 100 years ago, but you would certainly think that this was examined once a year, like you do with airplanes and everything else. So, here is a city dependent on this concrete structure that should be strong enough to hold any kind of hurricane and any amount of water. It's all it is, is engineering.

And for a wall to break — you know, when the hurricane passed, Neil, the people were in good shape. They were rejoicing in the streets. They said, we made it. We made it. It hasn't been that bad.

And then, all of a sudden, the wall broke, and a tremendous, you know, millions and millions of gallons just poured in. And the water is what caused all of the death and all of the destruction. So, whoever was responsible for the maintenance of that wall should really pay a very, very heavy price.

When "The Donald " makes more sense with his only statement (AFAIK) on the subject than the entire Democratic Party and the MSM have made with nearly two weeks of finger-pointing, you know somebody has an agenda.

When Were The Levees Breached?

Irish Eagle finds evidence in plain view that the levees were known to be breached on Monday morning, the same morning Katrina hit New Orleans:

I know I'm not the only one who is under the impression that the levees broke well after the storm had passed. It seems that this may not actually be true. If you read this web diary of the storm from the New Orleans Times-Picayune it seems pretty clear that the levees had failed before 9am on the Monday, that is just as the eye was passing New Orleans.

[snip]

It may be because the city authorities initially thought the levees had been "topped" and not breached. Although, they had confirmed a breach by 2pm on the day of the storm.
The significance of course, is that the whole "New Orleans Dodges a Bullet" meme began circulating within hours of the storm's passing, including two press releases from U.S. Senators:

The Times-Picayune reported that the two US Senators for Louisiana had issued press releases by 3pm, both of which give the impression that nothing all that serious has happened.
The next day the Washington Post was reporting the story as a "near miss" as well:

NEW ORLEANS -- Announcing itself with shrieking, 145-mph winds, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday, submerging entire neighborhoods up to their roofs, swamping Mississippi's beachfront casinos and blowing out windows in hospitals and high-rises. At least 55 people were killed, authorities said.

For New Orleans _ a dangerously vulnerable city because it sits mostly below sea level in a bowl-shaped depression _ it was not the apocalyptic storm forecasters had feared.

[snip]

Katrina had menaced the Gulf Coast over the weekend as a 175-mph, Category 5 monster, the most powerful ranking on the scale. But it weakened to a Category 4 and made a slight right-hand turn just become it came ashore around daybreak near the Louisiana bayou town of Buras, passing just east of New Orleans on a path that spared the Big Easy _ and its fabled French Quarter _ from its full fury.

[snip]

Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime storm, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had issued a mandatory evacuation order as Katrina drew near. But the doomsday vision of hurricane waters spilling over levees and swamping the city in a toxic soup of refinery chemicals, sewage and human bodies never materialized.

Forecasters said New Orleans _ which has not been hit directly by a major storm since Category 3 Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965 _ got lucky again.

"The real important issue here is that when it got to the metropolitan area, it was weaker," said National Hurricane Center deputy director Ed Rappaport, who estimated the highest winds in New Orleans were 100 mph.

What difference would it have made in the relief efforts? I'm not entirely sure, although it may have created a greater sense of urgency among the remaining denizens (and possibly Mayor Nagin and Gov. Blanco) to get out of the city. Certainly the die-hards who still occupy parts of New Orleans would have stayed behind, but there may have been more emphasis placed on getting everyone out, including those at the Superdome and the Convention Center instead using those two venues as the place to deposit storm survivors who were scattered about town.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Damn Fine Point

Margaret Griffis has an interesting take, and one that's hard to argue with, on the disaster that is New Orleans:

Make no mistake. When New Orleans appeared out from under Katrina, it was mostly cosmetic damage. Lines down, roof shingles scattered and the normal aftermath of a good sized hurricane. It was annoying but it wasn't a disaster. What happened in the hours AFTER Katrina was a completely man-made catastrophe. It started years ago when people gladly accepted that the government can protect them.

[snip]

The government isn't a thin tissue preventing chaos, it only exaggerates it. In Mississippi where the borders aren't shut down, private citizens have already arrived with ice, water and food. Elsewhere, private citizens have offered their homes and transportation all around the country. It's only by mutual consent that the whole country hasn't erupted into a battlezone in the wake of this national disaster. The government's magical pixie dust works only as long as you believe it does, then you realize it has always been up to you.
I'm not sure that I ascribe to everything that Magaret is pushing, but she makes a damn good argument that government was the source of the problem and not much help (and probably a hinderance) in the solution. When you consider the fact that Katrina itself didn't exact anywhere near as much damage as the breech of the levee ("How has the [federal] government taken care of them besides selling them a weak levee?"), and that the poor (read "complete lack of") execution by the local and state authorities as first responders led directly to a great many of the deaths, Margaret's point makes a great deal of sense.

[h/t Kn@ppster]

** UPDATE **

Jon Henke visited the same issue, albeit from a different angle, with some analysis of what private markets could offer as an alternative to failed levees and evacuation plans. Including a menagerie of linked posts, Jon offers the following:

Via Billy Beck, I find Walter Block writing a good defense of the alternative: Markets
First of all, the levees that were breached by the hurricane were built, owned and operated by government. Specifically, by the Army Corps of Engineers. The levees could have been erected to a greater height. They could have been stronger than they were. The drainage system could have operated more effectively. Here, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board was at fault. ... Had they been, a lot of the inconvenience, fright, and even loss of life undergone in this city could have been avoided.

Then, too, these facilities may have fooled many people into thinking they were safer than they actually were. I know this applies to me. Thus, people were in effect subsidized, and encouraged to settle in the Big Easy.
This is precisely the effect I addressed in the post on Flood Budgeting. The New York Times—and Congress—weaved back and forth on how much money should be spent on flood control projects...based mostly on issues entirely unconnected to the actual value of the money spent and projects undertaken. Neither the NYTimes nor Congress had more than a whimsical investment in New Orleans. They gambled...and lost nothing.
As they say, read the whole thing, including the comments.

Kudos For ABC News

The Captain throws some roses at the feet of ABC News for finally asking the right questions and doing some of that research stuff:

At least one major media outlet has finally noticed that New Orleans had an emergency response plan for hurricances and evacuations that somehow never got implemented. ABC News yesterday asked why Mayor Ray Nagin not only did not follow the plan, but actively sent non-evacuees to a site that had no preparations to handle them ....
While that is interesting and commendable, I think the more interesting tidbit was this little bit of elicited information:

ABC also asked Governor Kathleen Blanco's office about their response to the evacuation. They responded that they never asked for evacuation assistance from the federal government as part of their interaction with FEMA, only for assistance with shelter and provisions. They assumed that the city of New Orleans had followed its own evacuation plan.
(my emphasis added; CQ's emphasis deleted). As I pointed out here, Gov. Blanco made a specific request under the Stafford Act (as she was supposed to do) for relief supplies and support to the tune of $9,000,000 but never sought federal troops to help with the evacuation or dissemination of supplies within the city. Of course, before Katrina actually hit this was probably a reasonable request, but afterwards, why no call for FEMA help in the city?

** UPDATE **

From the comments, Porkopolis is putting together a sort of deductive timeline of events indicating what the local authorities, state authorities and FEMA did and did not do. He's looking for people to poke holes in his theory that the feds saved New Orleans' bacon ... as it were. I'm not so sure that FEMA isn't without fault here, after all it is a bloated government bureacracy headed by a political appointee who doesn't seem to have any of the seemingly-required experience for his position. But Porkopolis does string together a fair indication of how things were supposed to work if everything had gone according to plan, and it doesn't exactly paint a flattering picture of Nagin or Blanco (think Grant Wood meets Edvard Munch).

On Left-Libertarianism

Libertarians who attempt to align themselves along the traditional left-right political axis often find themselves out of sorts. There are no defining elements of either side that clearly align with the principles of freedom that typically inform libertarian views. However, the small-government philosophy of modern conservatism (at least as it is professed if not practiced) tends to draw many libertarians kicking and screaming to the Republican side of the fence. Others cite the emphasis on "personal freedoms" they find the left side of the spectrum to hold dear as the underpinning of "left libertarianism." Thomas Knapp offers some analysis on what being a "left libertarian" means in his view.

The right values stasis. The left does not—it values change, or to put a prettier face on it, "progress." Libertarians value liberty. To the extent that libertarians categorize themselves in terms of left and right, we can only align ourselves with the right when the status quo is liberty. Otherwise, we are naturally part of the left, doing our damnedest to steer its adaptive, "progressive" impulse in the direction of freedom.
I finally chose to accept the "left libertarian" label only recently, based primarily on my perception that the status quo created by the left over the last 70 years and now defended with vigor by the right is at the point of crumbling. The left has handed that status quo to the right and is gallivanting off in search of new directions in which to lead society. I believe that libertarians are more fit, both by principle and inclination, to participate in the quest for a new liberty on the left than in the defense of an old creeping tyranny on the right.
I don't think I buy this at all. At least not in this day and age. It may have been true to an extent when Hayek wrote "Why I am Not A Conservative", and certainly before the New Deal era, but I don't think it's an apt description today.

How often do we hear the lament from the left that righties are seeking to undo the New Deal and Great Society policies of yesteryear? The howling emanating from the left about the sacred intergenerational bond between the old and the young represented by Social Security whenever much needed reforms are proposed is deafening and shrill. These are not the reactions of people seeking a "new liberty" but instead striving to preserve the status quo.

In fact, the status quo is nothing more than the semi-socialist "the state is your friend" policies that were put in place over the last 100 years, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt (who defined himself as a Progressive) and ending with Lyndon B. Johnson (the Great Society) [UPDATED: and, of course, Nixon who ushered in the EPA and price controls]. Carter, Clinton and Bush II have all added to that creaking system in one way or another (although Carter did begin the deregulation process carried forward by Reagan). But it is the left that continually defines "progress" as policies that necessarily require government intervention and guidance. When they are not clamoring for leaving the welfare state untouched, the pushing for yet more government spending on programs they deem just.

As Jon Henke puts it:

For my own part, I tend to align with the Right, simply because I don't believe that the "new liberty" sought by the Progressives will resemble the "old liberty". Moreover, I don't find the required constant revolution in search of new "progress" very appealing.

The "Right" still defends—or, at least, sympathizes with—Enlightenment-era notions of liberty. I sympathize with Republicans because I believe they can be salvaged; I do not believe the Progressives will ever stop looking for new notions of "rights" long enough to reflect upon what was right about the old notion. If they did, they'd have to stop calling themselves progressives.
I must admit that I grow less hopeful that Republicans can be "salvaged" with each new Congress and Presidential budget. But the constant push towards greater government intervention and control over citizens' lives that comes from the left at least forces the right to counter with proposals that are, sometimes, more supportive of freedom than less. Moreover, it seems that the "personal freedoms" held so dear by the left are nothing more than special interest protections that have little to do with individuals and everything to do with voting blocs. Whether or not there can be such a thing as "left libertarianism" I don't know. But at this point, color me unconvinced.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hockey News: Scott Stevens Retires

And 1 Million Flyers fans collectively heave a great sigh as they wish him a fond farewell! Seriously, Scott Stevens is one of the best defensemen to ever play the game, and any forward who had the audacity to skate through open ice with his head down could expect a hearty "Howdy Do!" from Mr. Stevens. Just ask Eric Lindros.

Lindros' head rocked like you would imagine a person's head in a car accident being rocked. His face went blank, body limp, but still held upright by the terrific force of the collision as if by an invisible rope, then dropping like one of those skyscrapers that are dynamited from the inside.

Lindros looked oblivious, defenceless, out on his feet as he feel earthward, his head then snapping off the ice.

His helmet settled over his eyes as Lindros lay on his side his lips drawn into a tight line, arms in front of him as though handcuffed.

[snip]

"Our jaws dropped like everybody else's in the building," said Devils forward Bobby Holik. "He's done that to other guys, but this was the biggest, strongest guy in the league. I was in awe.

"I still can't believe it. That's what legends are made of, a play that will never be forgotten."
I, for one, will never forget it. It hurt just watching it, and not that good kind of hurt like when you compulsively rub that bruise behind you knuckle. You know the one. No, it felt more like the whoosh of a freight train that rolls past you at full speed while you're standing quayside and conjures up those stories of people getting surreptitiously sucked under the steely wheels. That adrenal pang in your stomach that says "hey, that was close, now back away."

Nor will I ever forget how that single play competely changed the momentum of that series. The Flyers went on to lose that seventh game in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, after being up three games to one with home-ice advantage. That 2000 Flyers team was something special too, in that they played well beyond themselves and found ways to win that couldn't be added up on roster sheets or tallied in scoring stats. They believed in themselves and their ailing coach. They had no fear, and even lesser talent, with their superstar center Eric Lindros riding the bench for the playoffs, up until that fateful game.

When Lindros intercepted a Scott Niedermayer pass at center ice and started to skate into the offensive zone, the crowd rose to its feet in eager anticipation. Already electrified by Lauren Hart's rendition of "God Bless America" (a Philadelphia Flyer tradition started with Kate Smith), Flyers fans sucked in their collective breaths as Lindros glided to the blue line, wondering, hoping, that the hated Devils would finally be cast off, and that the promise of another Stanley Cup (represented in the mostrous deal to acquire Lindros) was about to take that magical step across the threshold into the ante-chamber of championships, when

WHAM!

Scott Stevens ended it all. The air rushed out of the building, heads fell, and we all knew ... it was over. Not only was that it for the game, for the playoffs, for the Stanley Cup dreams, and most likely (or so we thought) for Lindros' career, that was the end of the magic that was the 2000 Flyers playoff team. With that crushingly clean blow, Scott Stevens shattered whatever mystical bond enabled a rookie goaltender (Brian Boucher) to go toe-to-toe with Martin Brodeur; that buoyed rookie defenseman Andy Delmore as he scored a hat trick (5 goals in the series) to pull ahead in the Pittsburgh series; and that propelled the entire roster through an amazing five overtime periods, the third longest game in NHL history, to tie the Pittsburgh series on the road. The Flyers feasted on the sweet ambrosia of Morpheus. Stevens brought them crashing to earth faster then you could say "Icarus."

Where the Flyers found sustenance in forgeting who they were and concentrating on the heights they sought to attain, Stevens found his fortitude in the very ground where he left his opponents a wriggling mess. He was a man of ice, cold and hard: under his feet, coursing through his veins, bursting from his eyes, and steeling his resolve. Stevens never pretended to be something other than what he was -- a hitting machine. If you came into his territory without the courtesy of brief survey, a quick look-around, well, you'd been warned. For that he reason he was feared by all the rest of the NHL, and fiercely loved at home in Joisey.

I think I can safely speak for Flyers fans everywhere when I say, "good luck with your retirement Mr. Stevens. May it be long and uneventful, yet full of enough interesting things to keep you off the ice permanently, unless ... did'ya ever consider wearing the orange and black?"

** UPDATE **

Keith Primeau gives life to my commentary above:

Doing his best to be diplomatic given the presence of Stevens' teammate Martin Brodeur on a league-organized conference call to help promote the start of training camp next week, Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau explained that the Devils were simply a different team to play against when Stevens was out of the lineup.

"There was just a different feel without Scotty there," said Primeau, whose Flyers cruised past the Devils in five games during a first-round matchup in the spring of 2004.

"He'll be sorely missed on their behalf, not necessarily so much on our part," he said.

It's hard to imagine higher praise.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina Timeline

This timeline, put together by Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House, of the events preceding, coinciding with, and subsequent to Katrina making landfall just east of New Orleans, will prove to be useful in the near future I expect.

Renquist, C.J. -- R.I.P.

Such an event is huge is the most normal of circumstances. I can't even begin to imagine the enormity of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court passing away in the midst of (1) the most contentious presidential administration since Nixon, (2) the aftermath of the worst natural disaster to occur in United States history, (3) one nominee patiently awaiting a hearing, and (4) salivating attack dogs already desperate to find some sort of purchase with the squeaky clean nominee. Historically speaking, this will be a summer to remember.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

U.S. Navy To The Rescue

While the charges of ineptitude and the finger-pointing continues apace, there seems to be a significant misunderstanding as to what role the military has played thusfar in the Katrina relief effort. One prime example is found in the U.S.S. Bataan (LHD5), which has been parked off the coast of Louisiana since Tuesday:
The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) began service Tuesday night and continued on Wednesday as the Maritime Disaster Service Coordinator for the U.S. Navy's role in the Hurricane Katrina search and rescue efforts in the immediate New Orleans area. Embarked helicopter squadrons have moved over 200 stranded personnel in two days of flying.

Crewmembers from Helicopter Sea Control Squadron 28 based out of Naval Station Norfolk and Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 based out of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi launched three MH-53 Sea Dragons and two MH-60 Knight Hawks Tuesday night and again at daylight Wednesday to help out where they are needed.

The crews flew off Tuesday night towards New Orleans and were tasked by the on-scene rescue coordinators. “Our first mission was to provide food and water and to take some people to a safer haven and to help with the levee by providing sandbags,” said AS2(AW/NAC) Johnny Ramirez, MH-53 Aircrewman for HM-15. “We weren't able to complete our assigned mission Tuesday night because it got too dark and it was too risky to land anywhere with all of the water and power lines. Instead, we just flew Tuesday night to survey the area.”

On Wednesday, a crew from HM-15 assisted with lifting numerous stranded citizens in a very short period of time. “My crew and I airlifted nearly 100 people from the roof of a building and onto a field where ambulances and busses were waiting for them,” said LCDR David Hopper, detachment Officer in Charge of HM-15. “Ten of those who we rescued couldn't even walk; my crewmen had to carry them.”

I have not heard or read anything about these (successful) relief efforts. You can find out more about the ongoing missions be conducted at NAVY.mil.

**UPDATE** Welcome Protein Wisdom readers! Please have a look around, but, y'know ... don't touch anything.

Seriously. Leave that alone.

C'mon, man! I just got that ... fucking peasants!

Kanye West - A Public Disgrace

This sort of nonsense is not only ill-timed and unhelpful, it just doesn't find any basis in reality:

Appearing two-thirds through the [Concert for Hurricane Relief] program [aired on NBC], [Kanye West] claimed "George Bush doesn't care about black people" and said America is set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible."
First of all, what possessed Mr. West to think that such comments would be helpful during a telethon to raise money for a natural disaster? While I understand that it's quite popular to bash Pres. Bush and the Right over this horrible event, how does that help to raise money for the victims? Moreover, how do square Mr. West's rambling commentary with the fact that:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.
There certainly may yet be some real blame to lay at the President's feet over this tragedy, but blanket statements that he doesn't care about black people, as well as the rest of race-baiting nonsense being bandied about, are down right irresponsible.

**UPDATE**
Mr. West displays his formidable mental acuity here (he was, after all, recently dubbed "the smartest man in pop music" by Time Magazine). (h/t to Michelle Malkin)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Gov. Janus

As you may or may not know, the California Senate voted to allow gay marriage:

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- The California Senate approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriages, a vote that makes the chamber the first legislative body in the country to approve a gay marriage bill.

The 21-15 vote sets the stage for a showdown in the state Assembly, which narrowly rejected a gay marriage bill in June.

However, Gov. Schwarzenegger is apparently getting his veto pen ready:
Signaling a likely veto if it does pass, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman said he preferred to let judges sort out the legality of gay marriage; such a case is moving toward the state Supreme Court.

[snip]

Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, Margita Thompson, said that although the governor supports domestic partnerships, he does not agree with legislatively allowing gay marriages.
For once I agree completely with Kevin Drum:
That's something you don't hear every day: the legislature should avoid legislating and instead let the judiciary legislate for them. Politics doesn't get much more gutless than that.
I don't agree with gay marriage either, but if my duly-elected legislature votes to grant such a privilege, oh well, too bad for me. I can either live with it, move, or get active on the political issue. Calling for a veto is absurd and clearly a pander to, frankly, voters like myself. While I don't live in California, if I did this sort of veto-wielding does not garner my vote and in fact repulses me. As Kevin said, it is simply "gutless."

The Blame Vane

In the aftermath of Katrina, as was probably expected by many, finger-pointing continues unabated and seemingly without much hinderance from reality. For example, while it may have been prudent for President Bush to have returned to Washington much earlier, not to mention symbolically powerful, the logistics of the relief effort are no better coordinated from D.C. than they are from Crawford, TX or San Diego, CA. In the same vein, even though Gov. Blanco inspires something significantly less than confidence based upon her efforts thusfar, and despite Mayor Nagin's "Kate Hale Moment", how much preparation could there possibly have been for a once in several lifetimes event?

My own view is that (a) at least some of the more nefarious element has hampered what ever preparations and plans were in place to the point that mass evacuation became impossible, and (b) the Mayor and, more importantly, the Governor were terribly slow to put any sort of plan in place. The federal response thusfar appears to be lightning quick when compared to previous natural disasters, according to this commentor at Donald Sensing's site:

Disclosure: I’m a volunteer coordinator for MEMA (The Missouri Emergency Management Agency), I’ve been through three major floods and a few big storms that generated enough tornado damage to get the affected counties disaster relief – believe me when I tell you what we are seeing from FEMA now is lightyears ahead of what I’ve seen from them in the past. Typically it took two to three days just to get the disaster declaration, then another two to three to get FEMA deployed – of course by then the local guys had been on the ground working around the clock for five or six days and we were more than happy to dump everything in FEMA’s lap. That’s the way the system is designed. Bush saw that and tried to skip a few steps to speed things up, he pre-declared the areas disaster areas.
Moreover, the feds simply don't have the power to just start sending troops into a disaster area. The State has to request such help first. Gov. Blanco made the requisite request for Pres. Bush to declare a state of emergency for Louisiana on Saturday, August 27, 2005, but no military or federal law enforcement supports were requested:
ENCLOSURE A TO EMERGENCY REQUEST


Estimated requirements for other Federal agency programs:
• Department of Social Services (DSS): Opening (3) Special Need Shelters (SNS) and establishing (3) on Standby. Costs estimated at $500,000 per week for each in operation.
• Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH): Opening (3) Shelters and establishing (3) on Standby. Costs estimated at $500,000 per week for each in operation.
• Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP): Providing generators and support staff for SNS and Public Shelters. Costs estimated to range from $250,000-$500,000 to support (6) Shelter generator operations.
• Louisiana State Police (LSP): Costs to support evacuations - $300,000 for a non-direct landfall.
• Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (WLF): Costs to support evacuations - $200,000 for a non-direct landfall.
• Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD): Costs to support evacuations - $2,000,000 for a non-direct landfall.


Totals: $ 9,000,000

Estimated Requirements for assistance under the Stafford Act:

Coordination: $0
Technical and advisory assistance: $0
Debris removal: $0
Emergency protective measures: $ 9,000,000
Individuals and Households Program (IHP): $0
Distribution of emergency supplies: $0
Other (specify): $0

Totals: $ 9,000,000
Grand Total: $ 9,000,000

So, while it is tempting to blame the deepest, most visible pockets here, I'm not so sure that's very accurate.

**UPDATE**
Further to what I've written above, Bruce McQuain provides an excellent roundup of the various places where blame my properly lie.