Delta Foxtrot
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
 
Moving sale -- Everything Must Go!
Well, I finally put my mind to it and created my own website, complete with blog. I'd been meaning to do it for some time; I've never been totally satisfied with this weblog, and I wanted my own domain name (it's now www.deltafoxtrot.net). So my website is Delta Foxtrot and my weblog is Delta FoxBlog. Catchy, huh?

Oh, when I say I haven't been happy here, it's not that this isn't a great deal, or that it hasn't done pretty much what I wanted. It just doesn't give me the control that I get with my own website. Now I can make the FoxBlog do pretty much whatever I want. Full-size pictures inline? Matching style on the blog and the website? Multi-page posts? No problem.

Still, I'd like to thank the Blog*spt for providing this site. It helped me get back into writing, and for that I'll be eternally grateful.

Anyway. I've transferred everything from here to there, and added some new stuff to it. The website itself isn't much yet; it's basically a way for me to keep resumes online so I can demonstrate my html/css skills and just send links when I apply for jobs (did I mention that I'm still looking for work?). I'll be adding more there as time goes on, of course. I'm working on some PHP/MySQL stuff that should be fun to use when I get it done. Stay tuned!

Please join me there for more hard-hitting waffling and trenchant tomfoolery. I'll try to keep it lively, and I'll also try not to catch the attention of the FBI or Homeland Security. And I'll never, ever advocate that the people of the United States rise up en masse and take back their country from the statist, socialist, mistaken altruist Lockean Straussian Trotskyite morons that keep driving it into the ground. At least not violently.

I hope you'll come over and harrass me (figuratively speaking) soon. Thanks for reading, and have a great nanocentury.

Respectfully,
Delta Foxtrot

ps: I'll be leaving this site up for a while -- although I'm not sure why; I think I've gotten one comment on the entire site in the several months it's been available. But all new posts will be done on Delta Foxblog.

Saturday, July 17, 2004
 
MORE STUPID FOREIGN POLICY
Now this could be really bad.  I'm so upset about this I can't really write about it at the moment; I'll be revisiting it in the future, however.
 
Sailing Toward a Storm in China
[requires Times registration -- I think NY Times reg works]

 
RESPONSE TO NYTIMES EDITORIAL ON 1994 “ASSAULT WEAPONS” BAN
[I sent this to Daniel Okrent, Public Editor of the NYTimes, but of course it will never be printed there. It's too long for the public editorial forum, too, so I'll just print it here and if anyone ever wanders by maybe they'll read it. Oh, you might also want to check out Howard Nemerov's excellent rebuttal to Diane Feinstein's dumb knee-jerk anti-rights stance (she being one of the sponsors of the so-called Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994) - Delta]

I am sorry to see that so august a publication as the New York Times has not bothered to check its facts in regard to the supposed “proven public safety” enhancement of the 1994 law, set to sunset in September, that bans law-abiding citizens their second amendment constitutional right to own the firearm of their choice.  In fact, that editorial relies on several pieces of “evidence” that under scrutiny fail to pass the smell test.

It is all too fashionable, in some parallel-universe, end-justifying-means way, to selectively seize on the components of the Bill of Rights one disfavors and argue for their continued and increased abuse. 

Be that as it may, there's another, excellent reason, why the so-called “assault weapons” ban should be allowed to go the way of other bad ideas like prohibition and the federal marriage amendment: it doesn't address a real problem, and it just plain doesn't work.  There is massive evidence that this ill-conceived and poorly-constructed piece of legislation is not even effective at what it seeks to do, no matter what your view of the second amendment.

Before I critique the ban, though, I'd like to point out two huge inaccuracies -- often propagated by those who fear taking responsibility for their own non-victimization -- and a third, smaller one that serves to illustrate the illogic and inconsistency of this legislation.

First, you claim wrongly that few Americans favor sunsetting the ban.  In actuality I would say that most Americans, whether red or blue, favor allowing law-abiding citizens to choose their own personal protection (at least in the arena of firearms -- Mr. Bush and his base seem to want to limit protection options in the area of sex, but that's a subject for another editorial).

Second, you imply that gang members and narcotrafficantes do not now have access to whatever they wish in the way of firepower.  Of course, they are the only ones, other than law enforcement officers, who do have access.  They just smuggle them in along with the drugs.
 
To put that another way: right now there are approximately 22,000 laws in the federal, state, and local codes that legislate the way people can own and use firearms.  If you could legislate firearms crime out of existence we would already have done it.

Third, you imply that the specific weapons you mention (AK-47, Uzi, and Tec-9) are banned by the 1994 law.  In fact, they are not.  Two of the three, however, are banned by a much more understandable law, in effect since 1934, that drastically restricts access to automatic weapons -- the type used by all militaries, and the true “bullet-hoses,” as anti-rights activists call anything they wish to demonize.  In addition, a 1986 law prohibits building or importing weapons that can be easily converted from single fire to automatic, and outlaws owning automatic weapons made recently, so even that is not a point of contention for the 1994 law.

Now, as to setting the record straight:  so-called “assault weapons” are used in a tiny proportion of crime, well-documented -- and it's an old saw, but true, that banning firearms means that only criminals will have them; just look at the skyrocketing violent crime statistics in England, Canada, and Australia.  Even so, criminals tend to use common sidearms by a wide majority, and shotguns next.  Rifles of any kind are a miniscule factor in crime, since they are much harder to conceal.  And federal statistics show that criminals, by and large, use weapons that are either stolen or bought/borrowed from friends and relatives.  How does a ban on some assault-style weapons do anything in any of these situations?

Besides, even if rifles were a danger to the general public, the ban doesn't prohibit all semi-automatic weapons -- just some of the ones that “look like” their military counterparts.  It is still perfectly legal to buy “hunting-style” semi-automatics just as deadly as anything dressed up in camo plastic with bayonet mounts (when was the last time you reported a news story in which a criminal menaced others with a bayonet on a rifle?).  Any number of .308 Winchester semi-automatics are available, and that caliber is much more deadly than the typical military-style rifles and carbines.  Even the venerable .30-06 has much more stopping power than the typical assault-style calibers (.243, 9mm, etc.).  In other words, the ban was hastily cobbled together as a political sop, not a carefully-crafted piece of legislation that would have any real effect even if the basic premise was reasonable.

And it is not reasonable.  Even more to the point, to my mind, are recent studies using massive data sets of crime and firearm statistics from across the nation -- the first of their magnitude, and the first to actually test for the real points of contention in regard to firearm use in the US.  They demonstrate incontrovertibly that in those states where firearms are more easily accessible to law-abiding citizens, violent crime decreases and citizens are empowered to prevent more crime.  And no, there are not more firearm deaths or injuries due to citizens prevention of their own victimization.  It is only in those locations that firearms are seriously restricted that criminals operate with impunity (and yes, I know that New York City goes against those statistics, but that is an aberration.  Although it may have to do with the fact that you have so many more police officers on duty, per capita).

And another thing, if we're in such danger from terrorists, why exactly are our rights to protect ourselves so easily explained away?  I'd say the terrorist threat is a great example of why we need to provide law-abiding citizens with true assault weapons -- not limiting their access to only terrorists and law enforcement.

Let me point out that a weapon is only an “assault weapon” if it is used in an assault.  I can't believe you'd ever call a hammer, even one used in a crime, an “assault hammer,” much less call it that because it was painted military green. To so label normal-capacity semi-automatic rifles is to propagate the illogical concept that a firearm is in some mystical manner not just another tool, neither good nor bad.  Just like a hammer.

Finally, I'd like to point out that, while the rifle used by the Maryland snipers was a semi-automatic, it was used as a single-shot -- to devastating effect.  They might just as well have been using any old single-shot or bolt-action “plinking” rifle.  And the 1994 law did nothing to prevent such weapons.  The rifle in question was either stolen or provided by a criminal dealer, and those things are the problems you should be advocating legislation to prevent.

Lest you think I'm some “gun nut” with an axe to grind: I am 55 years old with a clean record; I'm a fiscal and social libertarian.  I own one gun, a sidearm; I am well-trained in its use and have a concealed weapon permit.  I believe that the ownership of a firearm of any type requires more extensive training than is now mandated, as I also believe that the level of mandated training in the use of motor vehicles and power boats is too low.  I have never had to use a firearm in any interaction with another human, and I doubt that I ever will, but that doesn't mean that I don't carry it at all times.

The so-called “assault weapons” ban is confusing, stupid, and an infringement of constitutionally-protected liberties.  It should be allowed to sink back into the legislative slime from which it was created.

 
Martha Stewart
I'm always amazed when I see the avidity of Martha Stewart's supporters.  To me there are few things as unimportant as a centerpiece; most of my meals are eaten in front of the computer.  Then again,  I have no dining table and, since I'm basically rather slobbish and disorganized, all the flat surfaces in my house that could be used as tables tend to be covered in a thick layer of books, papers, CDs, and the other detritus of the “tech lifestyle.”

Other people, though -- the more normal ones, I guess -- seem to love her and cherish the little embellishments she brings to their lives.  My mother is a big fan, and clucks disapprovingly when Martha is brought up in conversation.  When I lived in Fort Lauderdale I had a gay friend who, as he said, “channeled Martha”;  I'm sure he is devastated by the recent downturn in her high-style affairs.

I've said since the day she was arrested that she'll never serve a day of jail time.  Yesterday when I heard that she'd been sentenced to five months I was rather shocked, but then again she was not led away immediately to begin serving her time, so I still could be right about that.

I've never followed the details of her case like I would, say, the details of the election process.  Neither, though, have I followed the cases of the Enron thieves or the WorldComm baddies (or is that QualComm? I can never keep them straight).  Financial and corporate crime just don't hold much interest for me.  Lock 'em up and throw away the key, I say.  Talk about the opposite of victimless crime, that's it.

Anyway, I believe Martha should get a walk on this, even though as I say I don't really know the details of the case.  There, how's that for taking a principled and well-thought-out stand? 

How can I say that without knowing the details?  First, Martha was originally accused of insider trading, but she was never even tried for that.  How fair is that?  If they can't prove that she acted on insider information, how in the heck can they prove that she lied about her inside trading?

Second, the government has run a completely shoddy case.  Their main witness is a charged with perjury; if he's eventually convicted then all the evidence should be considered tainted, and Stewart's conviction overturned.  I'm not concerned about the juror who lied about his prior record; he's just a stupid jerk and has no weight in my feelings on the subject.

Mainly, though, I just believe that this is another victimless crime that doesn't deserve a sentence.  Who did she hurt (provably)? 

Judge Cedarbaum: make her stay in her house for a while, if you really think she deserves some sort of censure, but don't give the press and all her detractors the satisfaction of seeing her in prison coveralls.  That's much too cruel and unusual, for someone as stylish as Martha.  And it gives all the paparazzi way too much delight, for all the wrong reasons.  And it rewards a prosecution that obviously cares more about headlines than making a solid case.

I would say to make her stay out of the running of her companies, but that only hurts her investors, and that's even worse than the orange jumpsuits.  Maybe.

(Maybe I should pitch a show... how about, “TechStyle”?  I could make table decorations of programming manuals and spare printers; tablecloths of greenbar computer printout; window treatments utilizing power strips and fabric from old cubicles, hung with those little tacks with colored plastic heads; and outdoor fountains of discarded computer cases and computer liquid-cooling pumps.)

 
IT'S THE EQUALITY, STUPID
Republicans are doing their damnedest to make the so-called “Family Marriage  Amendment,” and any other legislature they may (surely) trot out in the wake of the amendment's abject and utter failure, solely about protection of a traditional institution.  As George W. Bush stated from the bully pulpit in his weekly radio stump speech, Republicans simply want to “protect the most  fundamental institution of  civilization, and to prevent it from  being fundamentally redefined.”

Four million or so Americans buy that argument unthinkingly.  Lots of others are willing to turn a blind eye to the corruption of our Constitution because they want to believe, in their hearts, that George and Company really are standing up against a horde of faceless, nameless, wild-eyed freaks who really want to change everything about marriage, and the handful of “activist judges” who are giving them the means to do it.  Most Americans, though, see through this discriminatory and bigoted attempt to further stratify society here in the land of the free.

First: Does marriage need protection?  If so, it needs protection from heterosexuals, not homosexuals.  Marriage is not the institution that my parents knew, and I'm sure their marriage is not the institution my great-great-great-grandfather knew.  Actually he would have been Chickasaw indian, so I guess he doesn't count.  With one in two marriages ending in divorce, where is the amendment that censures and limits the rights of divorced men and women?  Hmmm... I wonder what the divorce statistics are for the religious hardliners in Congress? 

Second: What is the most fundamental institution of our civilization, and what would fundamentally redefine it?  The Constitution and its amendments are the most fundamental institution of our civilization.  If you choose to believe that power of our nation flows from a god, that's your business, but whatever the source of the power (I say it is the people, as did the founding fathers), it flows out of the Constitution and amendments.  The amendments, with a couple of glaring exceptions -- and they are either repealed (prohibition), work against the spirit of the amendments (income tax), or were tweaks to the functioning of government that proved an abject failure (senator elections as opposed to state legislature appointment) -- expand the realm of individual rights.  The only one that materially limited citizens' rights was prohibition, and we all know how well that turned out. 

Please stop trying to muck up the Constitution even more than it already has been.  Historically your chances of getting it right are slim to none.  In this case I'd wager none would be about right.

Third: Notice, if you will, that in the wake of their crash-and-burn attempt to federalize the rights grab, the radical Republicans are now approaching the other house of congress and working the states' rights angle.  Religious hardliners will applaud the effort to take the fight against the godless homosexuals wherever it might be won.  Normal, caring, spiritual individuals -- that is, most of us -- will condemn this divisive election-year ploy for what it is.

Arranged marriages and multiple wives were common in biblical times; Mary and Joseph had an arranged marriage, according to the Bible.  Numerous upstanding men of God had many wives, including Gideon, King David, King Solomon (700 wives I believe?), and even the father of all Israel, Abraham. Why isn't the Republican rift machine pushing for arranged marriages and polygamy?  Wouldn't that be a truly traditional view of marriage?

The bible says that a woman should subjugate herself to her husband.  Why aren't the divisive Republicans pushing for an amendment that would outlaw women in the workforce, or take away a woman's right to vote?  After all,  negating  her husband's vote is definitely not subjugation!  Wouldn't this be a more traditional view of marriage?
 
The bible claims that adulterers should be stoned.  Well, that would make a glorious notch in “Sanctum” Santorum's chastity belt.  Why aren't he, Hastert, DeLay, et al  pushing for stoning?  Oh yeah, that's right, this is the Federal Congress we're talking about.  If stoning for adultery caught on,  members of congress would be dropping like flies in a DDT factory.

The truth is, we are a secular society.  We created a Constitution that, as Thomas Jefferson termed it, places a “wall of separation between church and state.”  No matter how many times the radical right claims that  the framers of the Constitution only meant to prevent a national church, they can't explain away the intent of Jefferson and Madison, the “Father of the Declaration of Independence” and the “Father of the Constitution” respectively.  Oh, yes, Jefferson also wrote a little thing called the “Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom,” an explanation of the separation he and the others envisioned.  Madison was a staunch ally in the movement to get it passed.  You'll have to read the preamble for yourself -- it's one of the best explanations why separation of church and government are best for both -- but the actual law came down to this:
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall  be compelled  to frequent or support any religious worship, place,  or ministry whatsoever, nor  shall be enforced, restrained, molested,  or burdened in his body or goods, nor  shall otherwise suffer on  account of his religious opinions or belief; but that  all men  shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions  in  matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish,  enlarge, or  affect their civil capacities. [Highlight by me]

Notice that this enactment is broken into two parts, just like the establishment clause in our Bill of Rights.  This, as Jefferson so aptly explained in letters and writing over the years, was truly the encapsulation of the sentiment of religious freedom.  And that highlighted quote is the crux of the equality of religious freedom that all citizens of the US should enjoy.  No matter what a citizen believes, it should in no way affect their civil capacities.

In South Dakota, where Republican  senatorial  candidate John Thune is running against Democrat Tom Daschle, Thune has been running radio ads on this theme.  “This constitutional amendment won't take away anyone's rights.... Not a single  one."

One could have said the same thing about a “Federal Slavery Amendment,” before the 13th amendment was added.  I'd bet someone back then tried to gin up support for an amendment to keep slavery legal.  That, too, would have been dead wrong.  Just because a group has always been “less equal” doesn't mean that keeping them disabused of their rights is the right, or Christian, or godly, thing to do.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the equality.  You're NOT stupid.  Don't do the stupid thing. 
Let me put it in a more personal light: Chip away at equality, and I guarantee your equality will someday get chipped away as well.  You don't have to believe in same-sex marriage, you only have to believe in constitutional rights.

Let Congress, and President Bush, know that you will not countenance or allow the subjugation of any citizen's rights.  Liberty and freedom are about equality.  Tyranny is about suppression.

Thursday, July 15, 2004
 
Red v. Blue Fun!
Go take the Slate's Red or Blue -- Which are You? quiz.  It's entertaining and educational.  (Thanks to AndrewSullivan.com)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
 
Meet a Really Scary Intellectual
Meet Niall Ferguson, celebrated intellectual Scottish historian, promoter of US world emperialism, and the perfect example of a really smart guy so wrongheaded that he gets a lot of people killed needlessly.

Washington Monthly's Benjamin Wallace-Wells admirably deconstructs this -- I'm having a real difficulty choosing marginally neutral words here -- scholar and his ideas of global US paternalistic emperialism.

Wallace-Wells points out that "Perhaps more than anyone else, Ferguson was responsible for inserting the notion of a formal American empire into the public debate. Professors of imperial history around America started turning to his texts. Washington hawks from Richard Perle to Dinesh D'Souza to Bill Kristol drew on Ferguson's ideas and arguments to help make the case not only for the war in Iraq but also for a revolutionary, if vaguely articulated, new role for America in the world."

Now he's about to take up a position at Harvard, as a professor of history. If there's a thought more unnerving than his notion of imperialism, it's got to be one of all those Harvard students succumbing to his brilliant stupidity. But maybe I'm being needlessly pessimistic; maybe the students are better than that. Damn, I hope so.

Hmmm... I wonder who the intellectual in Hitler's vanguard was.... I'll have to do some research there.

More on Ferguson.
 

Another portrait of me by Daniel's ex-wife, Pat. (Used by permission)
©2004, Pat F.
 

My son Junior practicing his acting. He's pretty much given up on a career in Hollywood, though; now he's studying astrophysics.
©2004, Delta Foxtrot
 
Good Worker STILL Needs Job!
Just so you don't miss my appeal for honest work...
 

Here I am again... I know you love looking at me!
©2004, Delta Foxtrot
 
Legislators: Doing Diddly
The most interesting and informative awards on the net are now out: Mother Jones magazine's Diddly Awards (as in, "Boy, that US congress, they don't do Diddly!").

Why are they so great? Here's the first paragraph of the article:

With billions in Iraq construction contracts pending last year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) borrowed World War II-era language for an amendment that would criminalize war profiteering. But the Republican leadership not only removed it; they also raised the limit on no-bid contracts from $7.5 million to $200 million, inaugurating a new era of raiding the U.S. Treasury, all of it legal.

And from there it only gets weirder and worse. Well, maybe not worse, it's hard to top that one.

Don't miss, though, the "Sometimes-A-Cigar-Is-Just-A-Cigar" award (the award is a cigar, of course), which shows just how far those smuthounds in congress will go to prevent anyone but themselves from discussing matters sexual in nature.

Now, you'd think that those wild-eyed liberal comsymps at Mother Jones might tend to focus their sights on Republicans, but even Senator Hillary gets an award. Although by far, the Republicans do garner more than their share of the glory. But really, that's only fair: they ask for it by claiming to be the moral arbiters of our society. Moral orbiters may be closer to the truth, however.
Monday, July 12, 2004
 
A Couple of Rants re: "Conservatives"
Just when did the incorporation of religious activism into political action become somehow “conservative”? I thought that the dilution of the rights of individuals was supposed to be some liberal mainstay, designed to lead all us dupes and ”useful idiots” down the road to communism (whether big-C or small-c), socialism, or at the very least the joint celebration of HonakKwanzaMas.

As a Jeffersonian libertarian I respect and honor the vast service and (often) civilizing influence that religious groups and religion in general have provided in the history of the United States. The obviousness of the need for an end to slavery was made explicit in large part, I believe, by the religious establishment. Furthermore, before the explosion of federal taxation/spending on welfare and social programs -- which has only proved the relative inefficiency of government bureaucracy in the charity business while making outcasts and pariahs of the very people it was “designed” to serve -- religion was a mainstay of help for the poor and misfortunate. Only they did it sans government handout, with the willing assistance of businesses and individuals. Wait, make that businesses and individuals who were not taxed and regulated to the point of insolvency.

On the other hand, I find it incomprehensible and particularly reprehensible that so-called conservatives are now doing their damnedest to entangle religion, religious beliefs, and government. I really don't care how many angels the supremes can adjudicate to dance on the head of a pin. It is just plain wrong for religion and government to intermarry, and if the Republican libservatives want to prevent some type of marriage, that is the one they ought to be aiming at, not one that further degrades the rights of individuals. If any given religious group wants to argue within itself as to the validity of gay marriage, or man-beast marriage, or polygamy, I say go for it; that is certainly within the province of religion. I guess. On the other hand, why is the government even in the marriage business? Show me in the Constitution where it says the government has the right to bless a union of marriage.

What, exactly, is unclear about the phrase, “Congress shall make NO LAW”? And don't tell me that our forefathers only meant to keep government from founding a state church; that old saw is demonstrably false. And furthermore, don't tell me that they meant to exempt the president from this by not specifically prohibiting “executive orders.” I have no doubt that Tom, Jim, George, Ben, et al, would be ready to re-fight the American revolution if they saw the prostitution of the church for government, and vice versa, that goes on today. In fact, the gradual diminution of the "wall of separation" of church and state over the last two centuries only points up why that wall is absolutely necessary.

I applaud those truely conservative congregations (although they tend to call themselves progressive -- well, in my book true conservatives are progressive) that realize the importance of distancing themselves from the taint of government, like the members of the Texas Freedom Network (”over 7500 religious and community leaders” right here in George W's home state), the American Jewish Committee, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Catholics for a Free Choice, Equal Partners in Faith, the Interfaith Alliance, Protestants for the Common Good, Mainstream Baptists, etc. For Pete's sake, this turkey even makes bedfellows of such opposing and disparate religious groups and leaders as Jesse Jackson, Jerry Falwell, Louis Farrakhan, Joseph Lieberman, Pat Robertson, and Wiccans! Now, I wouldn't consider a lot of these conservatives, but at least they have the sense to be against this particular perversion of the Bill of Rights.

And while I'm on the subject of false conservatives, let me state that the current administration's increase in size of the federal government is an abomination to true conservatives. And the government office of faith-based initiatives, or whatever it's called, is just the tip of the iceberg. Thomas Jefferson was aghast at the thought of a government that would have the audacity to pinch its citizens for a paltry ten percent of their profits; can you imagine the apoplexy that would set in if he saw our current level of government taxation and spending, not to mention national debt?

Jeez. Talk about give true conservatives a bad name...



While I'm on a conservative rant, here's another issue dear to a true conservative's heart: what's up with the Republican (but not republican) administration's perpetuation of the ridiculous notion of trade embargoes? Hasn't history shown again and again that preventing free trade with less-free societies only reinforces their isolation? Think about the Orwellian irony of the idea that free trade is the ideal, yet restricting trade is the way to bring it about. That only tends to perpetuate the authoritarian or totalitarian regime in charge. Gives them even more reason to crush rebellion in their subjects in whatever form it takes.

Take Cuba, for example. For 40 years now we've been enforcing trade embargoes with Cuba. They simply haven't worked. Now the administration has added new, even more Draconian measures that limit travel by Cuban exiles to every three years, and a limit of $50 per day on what they can spend while there, instead of the previously-mandated $167 a day.

As Carl Hiaasen points out in an excellent column in the Miami Herald entitled This is how you bring down Fidel Castro?, “The immediate effect of the travel crackdown is to provide Fidel with one more hardship he can blame on the United States, and you can hear him booming all the way from Havana. In Miami, you can hear weeping.”

Hiaasen points out that Castro “is on the verge of outlasting the 10th U.S. president to have predicted his demise.” Yeah, that policy has really worked well.

Meanwhile, around the world, relatively free trade has proved again and again to be the best antidote to the woes of authoritarianism. Where we allow some semblance of free market interaction -- China, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa, Russia, the former Soviet Union states -- walls have toppled like... well, like the domino theory. All may not be free in the best sense of the word, but the yearning of people the world over for more and better products of the trade economy demonstrates again and again the “trickle-up” effect that happens when barriers to market inclusion are allowed to wither and die. I can't remember who said it, and I'm feeling too lazy to look it up, but I believe there's a lot of truth to it: Borders get used for trade, or they get used for war. Seldom both, and seldom neither.

Do you get the impression that the point of this pointless exercise in anti-capitalism might just be to "punish" our old buddy Castro? Well, it's not working. What would be a better punishment to the bearded one than to force him to watch as his precious revolutionary communist slum is gradually coopted and eventually obliterated by... Levis, and Coca-Cola, and Barnes & Noble, and Southwest Airlines, and stupid Hollywood teen movies, and gay adventure tours ferried across from Key West? Heck, that's a scary thought even for me!

We should offer the current Cuban trade embargo the only reasonable conservative/libertarian choice: do you want a blindfold? How about a last cigarette? On second thought, make that a Cuban cigar!

 
Webloggers Hit Paydirt?
The Chicago Trib's Maureen Ryan on the boom in paid advertising for webloggers. Gee, I guess I'm too "long-winded and loquacious" to expect much. Oh, wait, she was talking about the ad landing pages -- maybe there's still hope (but I'm not holding my breath, never mind the length of my wind).
 
Want to Know Who Will Win the Election?
Here's your chance to be among the first to know... at least if recent statistics are any assurance. Do you think that the candidates' campaigns will take advantage of this analysis?
 
A (Heavy) Hand for the Candidates
Here's a hilarious Flash® animation. In the greatest tradition of American political humor, it skewers both candidates equally -- don't expect anything "on issues." It's PG at worst, but watch the sound at work. At least, the first time. If this doesn't have the whole office dancing around your desk in glee, I don't know humor when I see it. (My other favorite on the JibJab site is the rapping founding fathers).
Sunday, July 11, 2004
 

A painting of me and my son, Junior Foxtrot -- I call this picture "pug sandwich" -- by Austin artist and my slave Daniel's ex-wife, Pat F. You can see her pictures of me and my friends at Taurus Kennels in Austin. (used by permission)
©2004, Pat F.
 
Correction
[probably the first of many - Delta]

In a previous post, called "Quotes," I wrongly called James Madison the second president of the US. He was, of course, the fourth, and his term of service in that capacity was 1809-1817. I also failed to add a link to the full text of his "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments." Those errors have been corrected.

For those of you not in the thick of the religion-and-government debate -- which after 228 years is, ridiculously and (I believe) to our eventual historical discredit still in contention -- the Memorial and Remonstrance was in answer to a proposed law by then-Virginia governor Patrick Henry to fund "Teachers of the Christian Religion" in Virginia through a general tax. It's a wonderful peephole into the views of Madison, in the same way that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom of 1786 illuminates the thinking of Thomas Jefferson on the subject. My reading of both indicate to me that religion in government in any way was anathema; indeed, the reasoning was that it would be a sin against the creator (whoever you deem that concept to be) even as much as an affront to the civil and "natural" rights of man.

You'd think I'd get Madison's information correct -- after all, along with Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and Eldridge Gerry he's right up there at the top of my pantheon of founding fathers who, more than almost any others, "got it right." They are certainly at the core of my basically libertarian beliefs. Without the foresight of these gentlemen we might not have been guaranteed (and I use that word with a certain sense of irony) the so-important rights of our Bill of Rights. Of course, Madison was the primary author of our Constitution, it's "Father" as he is known, and on that ground alone I should have at least have gotten his information correct.

[There, my friends, is what I consider to be a reasonable correction: On the front page, MORE in-depth than the original faux pas, and providing further exegesis of the original context. Would that my counterparts in the "professional media" could be convinced to do as much. - Delta]

8:30 PM - Belatedly, I'm adding some other corrections. I mislabeled one quote as being by John Adams, second president of the US. It is now correctly attributed to John QUINCY Adams, sixth president and son of the John Adams, second president. Further, wherever possible, I've added links to either the full text from which the quote is excerpted or links to historical context -- just so you don't think I'm using out-of-context quotes to support whatever it is I'm supporting.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
 
Black Box Voting Reveals Fraud Suit Against Diebold Election Systems
Pursuant to the last post:

Bev Harris and Jim March of Black Box Voting have filed a “Qui Tam,” or whistleblower, suit against Diebold Election Systems. Diebold is (apparently) the second-largest electronic voting machine manufacturer in the US; according to the Black Box press release, the lawsuit “seeks to recover funds for the state of California... As part of the Qui Tam action, a bounty for the whistleblowers is paid, and Diebold will be asked to pay this to Harris and March as part of additional damages, which in turn will help fund Black Box Voting.”

The case was originally filed in November of 2003, but was held under seal by the court while it was determined whether various government attorneys would join the case or not. An injunction of eVoting machines in the California primaries failed, but the stronger “financial fraud-based” elements of the case are now public, as of 9 July. All California counties have the choice of joining; as an example of the kind of damages that could be collected, Alameda County alone might be the recipient (if the lawsuit is successful, of course) of up to $42 million. It's unclear to me from reading the press release if that is the actual amount the county would actually get or if it would be split with Harris and March.

Read the entire story -- from the point of view of the plaintiffs, of course. This is an interesting development; if anything will cause the eVoting machine companies to clean up their acts, it will be losses of huge gobs of stockholders' money.

By the way, if you haven't read Bev Harris' book on the subject of electronic voting machine voter fraud, do yourself a favor. I don't care where your views fall on any election, I promise you that you are going to be shocked by what you read in that book. Make a donation to Black Box Voting and you get a copy of the book. If you're unable or unwilling to make a donation, download the first few chapters from the main page of the website; read at least the first two chapters. If you're not disgusted beyond belief by the corporate crap coming from the voting machine makers, and their criminal downplay of the problems they've been having for over twenty years, then you're just not paying attention. I promise. Read it.

 
Gonna be in Austin Tuesday?
[I received the following press release in email today (while I was out hauling trash to the curb for big trash day -- which I finished, thanks for caring). For those of you as concerned about the potential problems with electronic, so-called "black box," voting machines as I am, this might be of interest, especially if you'll be in Austin this Tuesday.

By the way, I've been looking for information on this press conference, or the other 17 around the nation, on the web and can't turn up any information -- not even at black box voting . org or true majority . org; make of that what you will. I would have loved to be able to tell you where you might be able to support this effort in your state (especially Florida, my old home), but sadly, that is not to be. Additionally, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or legitimacy of this press conference, for the same reason. - Delta]


Subject: [liberty-list] Tuesdday -PRESS CONFERENCE - OPPOSITION TO PAPERLESS ELECTRONIC VOTING:

PRESS CONFERENCE TO EXPRESS OPPOSITION TO PAPERLESS ELECTRONIC VOTING:

WHEN:
Next Tuesday, July 13th, at 11am

WHAT:
Press conference co-sponsored by True Majority, MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Common Cause, VerifiedVoting.org, and supported by groups such as Public Citizen, Campaigns For People, ACLU, Blackboxvoting.org, VotersUnite, The Coalition for Visible Ballots, Campaigns for People, and Texas Safe Voting.

This will be part of a coordinated Day of Action taking place that day in 18 states across the country originating with True Majority’s "The Computer Ate My Vote" campaign to voice opposition to paperless electronic voting, and to demand a voter-verified paper ballot/trail.

BACKGROUND:There are four major companies that manufacture voting machines used in this country. The largest is ES&S (Electronic Systems and Software) with ownership ties to Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said to be second choice after Cheney as Bush’s vice presidential candidate. Hagel won two upset victories for his senate seat in Nebraska with 80% of the votes counted by his own company’s (paperless) electronic voting machines.

The Diebold company has a large number two share of e-voting sales across the country. Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell is a George W. Bush "pioneer" - someone who has committed to raising $100,000 for the President’s re-election campaign. In a fundraising letter last year, O’Dell promised to "deliver the electoral votes of Ohio (his state, and Diebold’s headquarters) to the President next year."Sequoia holds third place in national sales. Though no obvious ownership conflicts, they produced a Spanish ballot for use in California which would register a vote for the opposite candidate than whoever the vote was cast for.

Hart InterCivic is in number four position. We use Hart’s E-Slate system in Travis County. While not as much of a security risk as the other three (all of which have modems!), the Hart system is still not secure from possible inside hacking, and like the other three machines, has no paper ballot/trail whatsoever THAT CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE VOTER AT THE POLLS. This means NO MEANINGFUL RECOUNT CAN BE DONE. Hart’s ownership can be traced back to Tom Hix of Clear Channel, who is an old friend and business associate of George Bush.

About 30% of all voters are expected to vote on electronic machines in November.

Our press conference is asking the Secretary of State and legislature to provide a voter-verified paper ballot/paper trail on electronic voting machines by adding printers, OR to go back to ballot systems used in 2000 (paper ballots such as the ones used for absentee voting); hand count if necessary. With the printers, the voter on an electronic system could verify the accuracy of their vote, put it in a ballot box, and it could be used for a meaningful re-count and random checking of the computers. Many States across the country are doing this by 11/04. California is. Details for 7/13 are pasted in below. There are hundreds of documented cases of this. The Secretary of State of California has launched a criminal investigation against Diebold systems. This is a serious problem.
We have three confirmed speakers at this event to date:Dr. Dan Wallach - Asst. professor of Rice University, and a Computer Security Engineer who is a national leader in this issue. He co- authored a Johns Hopkins study citing the dangers and flaws of Diebold voting systems. Bev Harris - The author of Blackbox Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, and investigative reporter who has uncovered the explosive evidence of fraud involving the major e-voting machine vendors. She is the Woodward and Bernstein/Erin Brockavitch of this movement and plantiff in two lawsuits challenging electronic voting. She is one of THE foremost experts on the subject and has uncovered documentation showing hundreds of cases of fraud, probable vote rigging, computer glitches and a myriad of problems with electronic voting machines.

State Representative Eddie Rodriguez, District 51 - will voice his position in opposition to paperless electronic voting.

WHERE:State Capitol Building, Austin, Texas
Speaker’s Committee Room, 2nd floor, Room 2W.6

Texas to Host 1 of 18 Rallies by National Coalition Representing 3 Million Americans
TrueMajority's Aaron Toso, backed by the "Vote Eating Computer," at a rally for voter-verified paper ballot legislation at the U.S. Capitol on June 22nd. Join in the rally planned for your state next week!

Come Out

 

Delta's slave, Daniel, with kayak in Micco, Florida
©2004, Delta Foxtrot
 

Fort Lauderdale street scene
©2004, Delta Foxtrot
 
All the Muse, Only Some News - Saturday, June 10
Some great editorial and commentary pieces out there in the press this Saturday.

I heartily suggest reading, for instance, NYTimes Review of Books editor Alan Wolfe's “The New Pamphleteers,” which compares the current crop of polemic disguised as political analysis, in form and spirit if not in style and content, with the Revolutionary-period pamphleteers -- whose names we all know but I'll wager few have read to any extent. Wolfe, interestingly, finds all the take-no-prisoners invective a sign of a deepening democracy freed from the constraints of a now-defunct “establishment” that constrained our rights (presumably the right to call your political opposite a traitor, libelist, and/or tyrant). I find myself agreeing; nonetheless, most of this genre of writing is, as Wolfe himself points out, compositionally dreary and poorly researched -- or worse, purposefully disengenuous. On the theory, I guess, that we Americans are mouth-breathing ninnies and drooling dolts who will believe anything if it is shouted at us often enough (One of the basic tenets, if I recall correctly, of Joseph Goebbels -- or, as I've seen him described, Hitler's “Karl Rove”). None of which in any way negates my views as stated previously.

Doesn't this media outpouring of invective feel more and more like a gauntlet, walking through life being slapped continuously from the right and the left? It's certainly not conducive to quiet reflection -- but, then, that may just be the point of the whole exercise.

---

There's a lot of Republican noise about John Edwards' lack of foreign policy and national security experience (though that line of attack almost surely will blowback, at least in some ways, given their current president); nonetheless, Washington Post staffers Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler have put together a convincing argument that John Edwards has been focused on foreign affairs throughout his Senatorial stint and presidential stumping. Indeed, they go so far as to make the argument that Edwards “has emerged as a politician willing to push beyond conventional foreign policy ideas and introduce imaginative proposals,” (although they do make the point that his proposals “often do not meet with swift approval” -- which is not necessarily a negative, mind you). A couple more quotes:
In the summer of 2001, when much of the Republican and Democratic policy community was obsessed with missile defense, Edwards urged more attention to terrorism. The North Carolina senator had such limited luck pitching an OpEd article on terrorism to major newspapers that the piece, warning of poor cooperation among federal and local law enforcement, ended up in the weekly Littleton Observer, circulation 2,230 -- four weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks.

"He was hungry for some foreign policy exposure and experience," Drozdiak said. "I was fairly skeptical. I expected a lightweight, but I came away with a favorable impression. He asked a lot of smart questions and actually listened, which is not a noteworthy quality of the Bush people."

That last bit was William Drozdiak, executive director of the Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund, one of the organizers of the referenced 2002 meetings between Edwards and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and European foreign policy experts

Anyway, read the article, there's much more to it and it's the first I've seen to point out the national security and foreign policy components of Edwards' education as a Senator, presidential-, and vice-presidential contender. Sounds like he's a quick study with an agile and ranging mind. Two qualities I would count as in short supply in the present administration on almost every front, and maybe especially in the top positions.

---

Also from the Washington Post, an interesting “on the ground” piece about the unrest in Sadr City, Baghdad (from Friday, I notice now). Scott Wilson points out that it may be either a mark of progress or a measure of how bad things have become that the US patrols are engaging in rock fights with residents; the fact that “candy, once gleefully accepted [by the kids] in this part of Baghdad, is now thrown back at the soldiers dispensing it” is perhaps more troublesome to me. Obviously they are influenced by their parents and relatives, something that does not bode well for the future. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's the end of the world as we know it, just that it's troubling.

---

Another book review, this time an interesting exploration of what may be the first new “ism” in a while: rankism -- “an abuse of the weak by the strong” characterized by “instance[s] of bullying, of pulling rank.” By the way, I'm quoting from the website of Robert Fuller, the author of the reviewed Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuses of Rank. My political correctness tends to run in a rather Jeffersonian/Madisonian strain, yet I like the premise, and I further like the title of the NYTimes book review, “Tilting at Windbags: A Crusade Against Rank.”

The review is interesting reading, as is the obvious intelligence and odd story of the man behind it: son of a co-inventor of the solar cell; “math and science whiz kid” who attended Oberlin at 15, Princeton grad school at 18, and became president of Oberlin at 33. Read the review, check out the website, and stay tuned. I'm going to get and review the book here shortly. As the current nobody-of-record I feel it's my duty. And, after all, that may just be a large part of the reason most of us unknowns create our own weblogs.

--

There are dueling opinions in the case of Marlon Brando's wealth or lack of same. Check out "'Penniless' Brando left millions" in BBC Online, and "Brando Dough a No-Go" in the New York Post. Who do you trust?

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From the Los Angeles Times, some timely news stories: Once again, no links between Qaeda and Saddam; revisionism in CIA documents; lost computer disks at Los Alamos termed “very serious”; and the chemical in smoke that makes seeds sprout has been isolated, with possible potential in agronomy. An editorial concerning people who lavish money on sick or infirm pets and ignore human suffering. And the possible banning of possession of Silly String on public property in LA -- including streets and parks. Are we now to have a war on Silly String?

I'm wondering what the world's webloggers will think of this commentary in the LA Times.

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Wow, I haven't even gotten to most of the right-leaning publications I typically check out; please don't ascribe that to prejudice against those journals -- it's just that I've taken the articles I've felt to be most interesting to me, and now I actually have to go do some chores. Monday is the first big-trash pickup I've had since I've been here in Austin, and there was a huge pile of junk and old lumber that I dutifully bagged and set in a storage room in wait for that day; now I've got to load it all in my truck and carry it up to the street. That's going to take most of the afternoon, I'm sure.

Must be great to be paid for doing all this writing. Maybe I'll find out someday (but somehow I doubt it -- nascent nobody that I am).


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