Saturday, September 12, 2009
Keeping us safe
As of today, President Obama has kept us safe from terrorism longer than President Bush did.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Best line of the speech
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
No on California Proposition 8
Proposition 8 amends the California Constitution to discriminate against a specified class of citizens. It's a very simple change; it adds Section 7.5 to Article I of the California Constitution to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.You've probably heard most or all of the arguments by now. Proponents absurdly claim that it has something to do with freedom speech or freedom of religion, and that recognizing somebody else's marriage somehow threatens their own. (Apparently "freedom" to some people means the freedom to impose your own views on others, while accusing them of imposing their views on you.)
Same-sex marriage threatens no one. Thousands of same-sex couples are already legally married in California, and the sky has not fallen. But if Proposition 8 passes, a chunk of the sky will fall for them; they will, in effect, be forcibly divorced against their will. Imagine the State stepping in and telling you that you're no longer married. Why would anyone want to do that to someone else?
Take a look at the wedding pictures of some of the same-sex couples who were finally able to marry after decades of being told they couldn't, because they were less worthy than the rest of us. Look at the sheer joy on their faces, and tell me you want to take that away.
And while you're at it, take a look at a couple of blog posts from my friend Craig:
Finally, a personal note. We had a No on 8 sign and an Obama/Biden sign on our front yard. Friday night or Saturday morning, somebody trespassed on our property, stole both signs, and put up a Yes on 8 sign. We were able to replace both signs the same day, and my wife made a special "Thou shalt not steal!" sign to go with them.
The latest polling indicates that Proposition 8 is slightly behind, but it's still too close. Don't be complacent. Get out there and vote, whether you're in California or not. And if you are in California, please vote no on 8.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Another thought for the day
Thought for the day
Saturday, September 20, 2008
McCain writes Obama's next commercial for him
Here's a fascinating quote from John McCain, writing in the September/October 2008 issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries.
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
UPDATE: Sure enough McCain wrote Obama's next commercial for him. *chuckle*
Friday, September 12, 2008
According to the Austin American-Statesman, 1000 prisoners in the Galveston County Jail, along with their jailers, are not being evacuated. Here's the article.
And here's a quote from the warning issued yesterday by the National Weather Service:
ALL NEIGHBORHOODS... AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES... WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.According to Google Earth and Google Maps, the Galveston County Jail, at 5700 Avenue H, Galveston, TX, is about 3 feet above sea level; the building appears to be two or maybe three storeys high.
(Note that jails, as opposed to prisons, are typically used to hold people awaiting trial; many the inmates, one must assume, haven't even been convicted of anything. Not that this makes the slightest bit of difference.)
Just to make sure the story doesn't vanish, here's the full article, copy-and-pasted from the web site:
UPDATE: According to another article in the Galveston County Daily News, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office claims that "The inmates are safe, sound, and the jail is high and dry". The same article says the jail holds 1300 prisoners. The same spokesman says the jail is primarily on one level.
An estimated 1,000 prisoners remained locked in the Galveston County Jail this afternoon, as the Hurricane Ike began battering the island city with flooding.
County officials earlier had ordered a mandatory evacuation for all residents. Sheriff’s officials insisted the prisoners and jailers were safe and sound, in a 2-year-old building designed to withstand hurricanes.
A sheriff’s office spokesman said the plan was for the prisoners and jailers to weather the storm in place — unless an evacuation took place later today. Sheriff’s office spokesman Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo told the Houston Chronicle that the reason for not evacuating the prisoners is a security issue and cannot be discussed,
Even so, he said, “the prisoners and their safety and well-being are paramount and it will be handled.”
In Austin, several legislative offices early this afternoon lodged angry complaints with Galveston County and state officials that the jail had not been evacuated — and perhaps would not be.
Forecasters earlier warned that Ike’s storm surge of as much as 20 feet is possible — a level that would put water 3 feet over the top of Galveston’s seawall.
Galveston and state emergency management officials early this afternoon said they were checking on the situation at the jail.
I really hope that this isn't as bad as it sounds, and that I end up looking like a panicking fool in a day or two.
UPDATE 2: It's possible that the Sheriff's Office has plans to evacuate the jail, or perhaps has already done so, but they're just keeping the plans secret for security reasons. As an article in the Houston Chronicle hints:
Any decision to move the prisoners would be kept secret for security reasons, as happened before Hurricane Rita in 2005, he said.We'll see.
"We did this during Rita and no one knew until it was absolutely done," Tuttoilmondo said.
Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough said search and rescue efforts would be fully under way today as more help streamed into the county.The sheriff's office didn't evacuate county prisoners, and Yarbrough said they were unharmed as Saturda'.s storm surge failed to reach the county jail or Justice Center on 57th Street."The good Lord took care of those 1,050 inmates," Yarbrough said. "There was no rising water, but some wind-driven rain did make it into the law building."
Thursday, October 25, 2007
There's no place like 127.0.0.1
When we got back last night, my access to the InterTubes was down (but phone and TV, which come in on the same Tubes, were ok). I called Time Warner Cable and got a recording saying that their support personnel had been evacuated, calls were being diverted elsewhere, and please consider delaying any non-emergency support calls. This morning, everything is back up.
The Spousal Unit is on serious antibiotics for the cat bite, but she's doing ok.
Meanwhile, GWB is in town.
<SARCASM>That should help</SARCASM>.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
San Diego firestorm
We left home about 7pm Monday. We checked our voice mail today; the mandatory evacuation notice for our area came in about 9pm via reverse 911. We're pretty sure the house is ok; we haven't heard of any serious problems in our neighborhood.
This seems to be even worse than the fires of October 2003. (Those fires got to within a few miles of us, but we didn't have to evacuate.) I thought this kind of thing was supposed to happen once every 30 years or so, but it looks like it's been rescheduled.
Many thanks to our friend KB for helping us to gather the cats and what little stuff we could fit in around them. (Yes, we managed to get all the cats into cages and carriers and into 2 cars.) Some stuff that can stand being submerged is sitting in the swimming pool, where it should survive even if the house doesn't.
My access to the InterTubes will be sporadic until we get home, which I'm guessing will be in a day or two. I won't try to post up-to-date news here; there are much better sources.
So far this has been a major annoyance, but just an annoyance. A lot of people are a lot worse off than we are. If you're in an affected area of San Diego (or elsewhere in Southern California), pack up anything you can't replace and be prepared to bug out. The reverse 911 system (automated phone calls sent out by the police department) seems to be working well, but don't depend on it; watch the news. The advice I've heard is, if you see flames, get out -- which is not to imply that you're safe if you don't see flames.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Happy Blogiversarrrrry to me!
Nearly as Earth-shatteringly important, tomorrow, September 19th, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, ye scurvy dogs!
A few cool sites for your enjoyment:
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Earth Science Picture of the Day
XKCD, a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language
Monday, August 13, 2007
Cheney gets it right.
I think this video will make a very good commercial for the 2008 Presidential election.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Failing to hold them responsible for their actions sets a dangerous precedent. It tells future presidents that obeying the law and upholding their oaths to the Constitution are optional, that obedience to the law is merely a political question, not a question of duty.
(If the folks in Congress wants to work their way up to this, they can always start by impeaching Alberto Gonzales.)
A lot of folks on the left have argued against impeachment, because there's so little time left before the end of the Bush administration, or because we can't possibly get the required 67 votes
in the Senate for a conviction (though for some reason neither argument stopped the Republicans from impeaching Bill Clinton). Ok, maybe there's some validity to that.
But if we refrain from impeaching Bush and Cheney, we must make it clear that political considerations are the only reason for doing so.
Monday, July 02, 2007
He'll always be inmate number 28301-016 to me
Is Mr. Bush going to introduce a bill reducing the sentences for these crimes? After all, if 30 months is too harsh for Scooter Libby, surely it's too harsh for anyone else who lies to investigators, commits perjury, and obstructs justice. Right?
Or perhaps prison is only for people the President doesn't know personally.
The real message here is that Scooter Libby was just doing his job, and that job was to obstruct justice.
UPDATE: Much has been made of the fact that the President has absolute authority to grant reprieves and pardons. But consider this. Under the First Amendment, all of us have absolute freedom of speech -- but there are any number of crimes in which the criminal action can consist entirely of speech. Perjury is one example that springs to mind.
Now that Libby's sentence has been commuted, he has much less incentive to alleviate the effects of his crime by coming forward and telling the truth. By commuting Libby's sentence, has Bush now obstructed justice? If Bush's action were, hypothetically, part of a conspiracy, could he hide behind the fact that he was using a power granted by Article II of the Constitution?
Just a thought.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The Vice President's Role
Have you ever watched the Senate during a very close vote? If so, you may have seen the vice president sitting or standing at the presiding officer's desk on the Senate Floor. Other than to succeed to the presidency upon the death or resignation of a president, a vice president's only constitutional duty is to preside over the Senate. Vice presidents cannot vote in the Senate, except to break a tie, nor may they formally address the Senate, except with the senators' permission. Initially vice presidents appointed senators to standing committees, regulated access to the galleries and supervised the keeping of the Senate Journal, but these duties were later removed.(The actual article at senate.gov has a bunch of links, not reproduced here.) The second paragraph is particularly to the point.
During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the vice president's role has evolved into more of an executive branch position, and is usually seen as an integral part of a president's administration. He presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions or when a tie-breaking vote may be needed.
When the vice president is absent, the president pro tempore presides over the Senate. Junior senators fill in as presiding officer when neither the vice president nor president pro tempore is on the Senate Floor.
To learn more about the vice president, president pro tempore, and other Senate leaders and officers visit the Virtual Reference Desk.
The point, in case you missed it, is that
Ahem, Article II, anybody?
In response, Democrats in the House of Representatives are taking him at his word, and moving to cut funding for his office.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Not surprisingly, Keith Olbermann has said it better than I could have.
Congress, end this war. It's why we elected you.
The Capitulation Bill passed, and is on its way to Bush's desk. The vote to give Bush a blank check was 280-142 in the House, and an amazing 80-14 in the Senate.
Of my own representatives, Brian Bilbray (R, CA-50) voted yes, but that's hardly surprising, since he's a conservative Republican. Senator Barbara Boxer was one of the proud few who voted no (I've already thanked her by e-mail), but Dianne Feinstein voted yes.
Only 10 Democrats in the Senate voted against this bill; the other 4 votes were 3 Republicans (Burr of NC, Coburn of OK, and Enzi of WY) and one Independent (Sanders of VT, who usually votes with the Democrats). Notably, Clinton and Obama both voted no.
My sincere thanks to the 142 Representatives and 14 Senators who voted against this travesty. As for the rest of you, I would appreciate an explanation. If you oppose the Iraq War (as the majority of your constituents do), stop voting to fund it. If you're afraid of being criticized by a president with a 30% (or so) approval rating and no remaining credibility (before today), then get over it.
UPDATE: Why didn't Senator Schumer (D-NY) vote?
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Pet peeve: gasoline prices
Gasoline prices are never whole numbers of cents per gallon. There's always an extra .9 cent tacked on. For example, the last time I bought gasoline, I paid $3.419 per gallon. Why not charge $3.41 or $3.42?
There's a long tradition of prices ending in 9, or 99, or $0.95, or whatever. It makes some sense from the seller's point of view; a price of, say, $9.95, if you're not paying attention, can seem like it's significantly less than $10.00. And back when gasoline was around $0.30 per gallon, a price of $0.299 did make some minimal sense. But when it's over $3 per gallon and fluctuating daily, knocking a tenth of a cent off the price doesn't fool anybody.
Any gas station that starts quoting prices in whole numbers of cents per gallon will get my business -- if it's not too expensive, and if it's not too far out of my way.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Word of the Day
UPDATE (Tue 2007-05-15): It looks like Bush has somehow found someone willing to take this job. The confirmation hearings should be interesting.
(The word "czar" is derived from the name "Caesar"; so is "kaiser".)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
More bad news from Baghdad
And now the horribly bad news. As mentioned by Josh Marshall on TPM, the Times of London reports that:
The latest massacre of Iraqi children came as 21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.(The massacre involved 14 Iraqi children and adults being killed by a suicide bomber in Kirkuk.)
Now here's what concerns me, apart from the usual mind-numbingly horrid background of violence in Iraq. McCain's party interacted with vendors in that market, which means those vendors also interacted with US soldiers. In Iraq today, dealing with US soldiers can be enough to get someone marked as a collaborator. In some cases, the US military has even conducted phony raids against friendly Iraqis, just to keep them from being killed as collaborators.
The Times article doesn't say whether the vendors who were killed were the same ones who had dealt with McCain's party. I sincerely hope they weren't. I hope that this was just another random act of violence, and not a retaliation triggered by McCain's visit. But it's just possible that McCain indirectly got these people killed, not of course out of malice, but out of a bumbling and wildly optimistic failure to understand the situtation.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
"Taxation Without Representation"
The nearly 600,000 citizens of Washington, D.C. have no representation in Congress, either in the House or in the Senate. Until 1961, they weren't even able to vote for President; in that year, the 23rd Amendment was ratified, giving the district three electoral votes.
In my opinion, it's past time to correct this injustice and give the citizens of Washington, D.C. the same representation in Congress guaranteed to citizens of the 50 states.
The House of Representatives today has been debating a bill that would make D.C.'s current non-voting House delegate a full voting Representative. I support the general idea, but I'm afraid this bill is the wrong way to go about it.
Much of the debate centers around whether the proposed bill is constitutional. Supporters point to a number of Supreme Court decisions that treat D.C. as a state for certain purposes. For example, the Constitution gives the federal courts jurisdiction over lawsuits between citizens of different states; the Supreme Court has ruled that this applies to lawsuits involving citizens of the District. For that purpose, and for some other purposes, the District is treated as a state.
But the current bill, in my opinion, is the wrong way to go about this. (I find myself agreeing with the Republicans and disagreeing with the Democrats on this point. Oh, well.)
In addition to adding a Representative for D.C., this bill adds an at-large Representative for Utah, which already has three Representatives (it narrowly missed gaining a fourth in the 2000 census). Presumably this was a compromise intended to avoid affecting the political balance of the House of Representatives; D.C. is heavily Democratic, and Utah is heavily Republican. It's reminiscent of the Maine Missouri Compromise of 1820, except that that compromise was implemented by the well established mechanism of admitting new states. If this bill is implemented, Utah voters will vote for two Representatives, the one representing their district and the added at-large Representative. This is unprecedented and troubling. (I'm not sure what happens after the 2010 census and reapportionment.)
The argument in favor of the bill is that there is ample precedent for treating D.C. as a state. There's some validity to that, but then how do you justify giving D.C. representation in the House of Representatives but not in the Senate? Citizens of the District would still have no say in the ratification of treaties or in the approval of judges, ambassadors, and other appointed officials. Congress would still have direct authority over the District's local affairs. Citizens of the 50 states would still be "more equal" than citizens of the District.
When the founders set aside a district to be the seat of the federal government, they didn't anticipate that it would grow into a city with hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens who don't work for the federal government, and who don't have roots in one of the states. The lack of representation for the District is a fundamental problem. It needs a fundamental solution, not a partial solution that will discourage future attempts to solve the whole problem.
So, does this require a Constitutional amendment? Congress wasn't able to grant the District its Presidential vote by legislation; it was done by amending the Constitution. But there are several possibilities.
One is to pass a Constitutional amendment (it would be the 28th) granting representation to citizens of the District. But should they just have a Representative, or should they have two Senators as well? It would be unfair not to grant them representation in the Senate -- but adding two new Senators, who would inevitably be Democrats because of the demographics of the region, would affect the balance of power in the Senate, and might make it impossible to get the required 38 states to ratify such an amendment. And D.C. still wouldn't be a state; it would have no Governor and no state legislature, and again, Congress would still have direct authority over its local affairs (unless the amendment said otherwise).
Or the bulk of the District could be ceded back to Maryland, shrinking the District's boundaries to include just federal buildings (the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court building, probably most of the monuments). Figuring out exactly where to draw the new boundaries is left as an exercise; the goal is for all the residential areas to be given back to Maryland. There is precedent for this; the portion of the District south of the Potomac was "retroceded" to Virginia in 1847.
Or Congress could choose to admit D.C. (or part of it) as a new state. This would automatically give it all the rights of any other state, and no constitutional amendment would be required.
I favor either of the last two solutions: either cede the bulk of D.C. back to Maryland, or admit it as a new state. Which one? I don't know; ask the citizens of the District, in a formal but non-binding vote, which one they prefer. I don't believe either solution raises any serious Constitutional questions, unlike the current bill, and neither would require a Constitutional Amendment, just the exercise of powers that Congress clearly has under the Constitution.
But there's still a major loose end: the 23rd Amendment. Here it is:
1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.If the District shrinks to just a few buildings, it clearly shouldn't have three electoral votes -- but the Constitution clearly says that it does.
2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
So here's my proposal.
1. Shrink the District of Columbia to just the core Federal buildings, excluding all residential areas of the city of Washington. Either cede those areas back to Maryland, or admit them as a new state, depending on the wishes of the citizens of Washington (and probably also on what is politically feasible).
2. The 23rd Amendment would no longer be necessary or relevant. Repeal it. Introduce an Amendment to repeal the 23rd immediately after step 1 has been completed.
3. Repealing the 23rd could take some time, and it's not impossible that there will be a Presidential election in the meantime. The 23rd Amendment says that D.C.'s electors are appointed "in such manner as the Congress may direct". Let Congress directly appoint three electors who commit to vote with the majority of the electors from the other states, or perhaps even to abstain. This is purely a temporary situation; we don't want to tempt Congress by giving it three electors to control. (I'd like to reform or abolish the Electoral College, but that's a separate issue, and it should be handled separately.)
I yield back the remainder of my time. (Sorry, I've been watching a lot of CSPAN lately.)
UPDATE: I've posted some more thoughts in comments (Wed 2007-05-09).
Monday, March 12, 2007
The recent Watergategate scandal, involving our own "Duke" Cunningham, hookers, and the Watergate Hotel, should have been the final nail in this cliché's coffin.
It's time to retire the "-gate" suffix. I propose that, from now on, every major US political scandal should be given a nickname ending with the suffix "-Army-Medical-Center".
Friday, February 23, 2007
Friday Carrot Blogging
This is a carrot (or carrots?) we bought recently at Henry's.
(No, that green stuff isn't carrot greens; my Spousal Unit insisted that the photo needed some greenery and added a couple of sprigs of Italian parsley.)
Click the image to see the full-sized version.
UPDATE: Unlike Friday Viking Blogging, it looks like somebody else beat me to the concept of Friday Carrot Blogging. Next time I'll have to work harder to be stunningly original.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
UPDATE: Well, that worked well.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Bush and Cheney may now resign.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
I am Time's Person of the Year!
Time Magazine has selected me -- yes, me -- as its Person of the Year!
It was an honor just to be nominated. I'd like to extend my sympathies to all the other worthy nominees who weren't selected.
(Um, wait a minute. What do you mean, there weren't any? What do you mean, they picked everybody?? Well that's pretty lame, isn't it?)
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I'd like to thank all the little people who made this possible. You like me! You really like me! Where's Halle Berry?
Friday, December 08, 2006
I don't have anything definite to say about this, but I've been wondering whether there's any significance to it, and if so, what the explanation might be. Have there actually been more very close elections lately that should be expected, or have we just noticed them more? If this is statistically significant, what's the explanation? Is somebody cheating just barely enough to win? Or is somebody trying to do so and falling a little short? Or is it a result of gerrymandering, with artificial 50/50 districts being created so that other "safe" districts can have a clear majority? (The latter doesn't apply to Senate or presidential races.) Or are the parties becoming better at calculating just how much money they have to spend on campaigns? After all, if it's going to cost $1 million to win by 50.5%, and $2 million to win by 60%, then that second million is wasted money. Meanwhile, the other side is doing the same thing, which brings game theory into it.
But first, we need to know whether there's anything significant going on in the first place.
Is there a statistician with too much time on his/her hands among my Vast Army of Loyal Readers?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
CA-50: Votes not yet counted: Update
The number of uncounted votes county-wide is down to 60,000, and Bilbray now leads Busby by 20,913 votes. It ain't over until the votes are actually counted (or at least until the margin exceeds the number of uncounted votes in the district), but it's not looking good.
By the way, back when all ballots were on paper, it didn't take this long to count the votes. Have they forgotten how to count votes? Accuracy is much more important than speed, but what's taking them so long?
UPDATE: According to the official site, the number of uncounted votes county-wide is down to 18,000, and Bilbray's lead over Busby is 20,792. If those figures are correct, and the votes counted so far have been counted correctly, then that's it.
Busby's web page still says:
As I promised my supporters, I will respect every voter’s right to have their vote counted before making any final statements about the election.but it hasn't been updated in a while; don't know whether she's made any official statement.
Still Francine Busby deserves congratulations for getting as much as 43.54% of the vote in such a heavily Republican district, and for being part of the battle that's finally ending one-party government. If nothing else, the Republicans had to spend money in this race that they would have liked to be able to spend elsewhere. See you in two years (if not sooner).
Sunday, November 12, 2006
CA-50: Votes not yet counted
At the moment, the results page says:
There are approximately 110000 Absentee / Provisional ballots still to be countedIt's been nearly a week since the election, and there are still 110,000 votes not counted. It looks like 657,000 votes have been counted so far (judging by the total votes for Governor and Senator), so about 14% of the votes haven't been counted yet.
Now let's look at the 50th Congressional District, which is entirely within San Diego County. The total vote count for the district is 29% of the total for the county (ignoring the possibility of undervotes, i.e., voters who voted for Governor or Senator but didn't bother to vote for a Representative). So assuming the uncounted votes are evenly distributed, there should be about 32,000 votes that haven't yet been counted in the CA-50 race. (Probably including mine and my wife's, by the way; grrrr.)
The posted results are:
- Bilbray (R) 101967, 53.52%
- Busby (D) 82175, 43.13%
- King (Lib) 3529, 1.85%
- Clark (P/F) 2858, 1.50%
- Bilbray (R) 101967, 45.8%
- Busby (D) 82175, 36.9%
- NOT YET COUNTED 32000, 14.4%
- King (Lib) 3529, 1.59%
- Clark (P/F) 2858, 1.28%
Busby is still nearly 20,000 votes behind Bilbray. How likely is it that she can catch up when the remaining 110,000 votes are finally counted? Probably not very; the 50th is a heavily Republican district. But then again, a lot of the absentee and provisional ballots are bound to be from voters who don't trust the new Diebold touchscreen voting machines, and I'll bet they lean more Democratic than the district as a whole.
UPDATE: Francine Busby has not conceded: