D.C. voting rights

January 3rd, 2007

It sounds as though some in Congress are again going to attempt to give residents of the District of Columbia Congressional voting rights. This is just so wrong. The Constitution explicitly grants the power to vote for members of the House and Senate to states. Explicitly. It took the 23rd amendment to permit D.C. residents to vote for the President. Why does Congress believe that it can do this without another amendment? If Congress passes such a bill, it will be yet more evidence of its disdain for our constitutional legal system. The federal government is a creation of the states — all elected federal officials are elected through states (excepting said aberration of the 23rd amendment), all amendments are ratified by states, not by citizens at large. D.C. is not a state. The only legal “solutions” to this “problem” are to either amend the Constitution, make D.C. a state or make D.C. residents citizens of a state.

Democrats win! Democrats win!

November 13th, 2006

The Democrats won the election. They have a close, but still sizable majority in the House. They have a bare majority in the Senate that will permit them to organize, but that will not permit them to pass any but the most moderate of legislation. Expect much sound and fury from the House, but little of that will make it to the President’s desk.

However, the Democrats should realize, and many in the leadership have, that they did not really win. The Republicans lost. The people did not become card-carrying leftists. This election was no mandate for the true blue liberals to run amok. The election represented backlash against the war and the status quo in Congress. Smart Democrats know that if they are to hold onto this majority, they must hew very carefully to a centrist platform.

They were criticized for having no overall grand platform during the election cycle. Whether that was deliberate or not, I do not know. However, I believe that it was a great strength. Democrats let their base get all riled up, with visions of another New Deal, impeachment, troops streaming out of Iraq in January, and so forth. On the ground, however, the campaigns ran against Bush and the Republicans, and for some vague platitudes. If the Democrats ran with an official platform that appealed to the leftist base, they surely would have lost many of the moderate votes they achieved. If they ran with a moderate platform and disavowed leftist pipe dreams, they would have sparked interneccine war.

Now, however, they must govern. They must bring legislation to the floor, hold hearings, and leave two years of a record before the next election. Their actions must not turn away their newfound, if temporary, allies in the ranks of the independent, moderate American electorate. But will their actions appease the leftist base? Or will there be war inside that party?

The Republicans held onto their majority for years by having a big tent. As Reagan said, “A person that votes with me 80% of the time is a trusted friend and ally, not a 20% traitor.” The Republicans lived by that motto, until they thought they were secure and the play-to-the-base strategy took over, trying to pay some dividends to the loyal base that had patiently waited. And they lost. If the Democrats live by the wisdom of Reagan (what a horrid thought to many of them!), they too can maintain a majority. But I don’t see the netroots going along with that.

Aljazeera.Net – Watching American TV in Beirut

July 20th, 2006

Aljazeera.Net – Watching American TV in Beirut

The author writes “There is no indication of which side is doing the lion’s share of the killing, perpetuating a false sense of balance on the battlefield. “

Once again, they treat this conflict like a game. Balance. We kill one of yours, you can kill one of ours. It is not a game. Israel is fighting a limited war, with the goal of either winning, or degrading their opponent significantly. In a war, you don’t play tit for tat. You destroy your opponent’s ability and/or will to fight. Hezbollah and their supporters want to play the role of suffering innocents, their roads bombed, their airports destroyed, their houses flattened, their women and children dead. Well, if Hezbollah and their supporters don’t want their roads and airports bombed, they shouldn’t use them to transport weapons or combatants. If they want their houses, they shouldn’t hide missles in them. And if they want their women and children, they shouldn’t hide beneath their skirts and behind their toys.

As for claims that Israel is intentionally targeting civilians, were that true, there would be thousands and thousands dead, not hundreds. Unlike Hezbollah’s “Hail Mary” missles, Israel would be quite effective at killing innocent women and children if those were their actual targets.

Proportionate response

July 14th, 2006

There are those decrying the current Israeli response to the Hamas and Hizbollah as being ‘disproportionate.’ Idiots. This is not a game. Israel’s goal is not tit-for-tat — its goal is to make life miserable enough for the other side that they will bend to the will of Israel — meaning return the soldiers, and cease hostilities. If Hamas and Hizbollah do not bend, then I pray that Israel continue to add heat to the kettle. The miserable status quo of unending forays and raids and rocket fire and shelling and bombing and hostage taking and suicide bombings and such will end not by carefully measured proportionate responses. It will end when one side destroys the will, and/or means, of the other to fight. Go Israel! Turn the clock back.

Hamas in power

February 19th, 2006

So, the Palestinian parliament has convened, with Hamas in control. At dailykos.com, there are those who see this as a failure of the Bush policy to foster democracy in the Middle East. Those people are so shortsighted in their hatred of Bush and the Republicans. My response to one of their blinded-by-hate drones’ spiel:

Just because we want to foster democracy around the world does not mean that we must treat the democratic choices of the people equally. If the people of the Palestinian territories want to elect Hamas, we should definitely respect that choice as legitimate if it is indeed legitimate. But that does not mean that the United States is obligated to treat that government as an equal peer, nor that we must extend the same aid, support and policies as that applied to prior governments, nor that we even must extend diplomatic recognition to it. Endorsing the means of choosing a government in no way binds us in whether we choose to accept that government as one with which we will deal.

So, the people of Palestine are absolutely entitled to elect whomever they like. That is a fundamental human right. I’m quite happy to have seen a peaceful election with wide participation. Bravo. But their choices may come with consequences, and they need to weigh those consequences when they make their choices. If they don’t like the consequences of this choice, then they should take that into account at the next election. That’s democracy.

Bush and foreign originated/terminated surveilance: illegal?

February 13th, 2006

There are those, largely on the left but not entirely, who argue, quite strongly, that the Bush administration “broke the law” in regards to its warrantless surveilance program.

I have a few thoughts.

First, the President of the United States is not a Prime Minister in a parliamentary system. The office of President, and a number of his powers, exist entirely independently of the Congress. His office is a co-equal branch.

The idea that the President acted illegally because Congress passed a statute that proscribes particular actions, and the President acted contrary to those proscriptions, is simplistic. Congress doesn’t decide what the powers of the President are. Congress passes laws that he is charged with executing (though whether he MUST execute those laws has always been questionable). His powers, beyond those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, come into being as needed to execute those laws.

The President claims that he has an inherent power, derived from the Constitution’s Article II, Section 2 designation of the President as the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” to prosecute this current “war” as he deems appropriate.

The President is the Commander in Chief: he has the supreme power to direct the United States military. The Congress, as provided in Article I, Section 8, has the power “to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” The constitutional question here is whether Congress has the power to regulate the actions of the military and executive in the prosecution of its military actions. Many, including I, would argue that it does not have the power to direct or regulate the tactical or strategic actions of the military. Those are not a part of “Government and Regulation.” Congress has been granted no power to determine where a President may bomb, who the generals may attack, when and where. Neither has Congress been granted a power to determine how a President may spy on the enemies of the nation.

The question ultimately revolves around whether the President’s program constitutes a “reasonable” search, per the 4th Amendment. And that is a question for the Judiciary. I believe that the Supreme Court, should it be called upon to decide this case, will strongly support the President.

Verizon represents idiots

February 8th, 2006

In the Washington Post article Verizon Executive Calls for End to Google’s ‘Free Lunch’, Verizon’s John Thorne states “The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers. It is enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers.”

Idiot. Either he doesn’t understand the architecture and the billing arrangements of the network we call the Internet, or, more likely, he is trying to influence those in position of power who do not understand it.

The network operators are in the business of building infrastructure and selling access to it. Much as a tollway provides access. A tollway does not care what is in your vehicle. It charges the same toll to every car. It charges the same toll to every truck of the same configuration.

Google purchases network connectivity from multiple network access providers. Those access providers in turn have agreements with other networks, such as Verizon, to exchange data with them. Now Verizon wants to charge Google and company, in addition to the fees Google pays to its network access providers, for the right to provide services to Verizon’s customers. Note: Verizon’s customers. Verizon’s customers pay Verizon for access to their network, and reasonably expect to be able access all other sites and services on the public, interconnected Internet.

Verizon is a special entity. Verizon, via its corporate ancestors, was provided with a unique opportunity, supported by government power, to possess a monopoly on communications services. It now wants to take the competitive advantage of being provided with a monopoly, call the network “its” network, and use it as a huge competitive advantage and market inhibiter. Verizon wants to convince people that it is only “fair” that its competitors build their own network, and not use Verizon’s. Verizon of course doesn’t want to mention that “its” network is the largess of government, not a competitive business environment.

If Verizon wants to compete with Google, then do so. Start up a corporation, and compete with Google on the same basis. Purchase network connectivity at market rates, and provide compelling services to customers. Go for it.

Alito hearings to focus on presidential power — Newsday.com

January 6th, 2006

Alito hearings to focus on presidential power — Newsday.com

From where do executive powers come? The US Constitution vests those powers in the President. It does not vest a power in Congress to define or limit the powers of the President, except in specific, enumerated instances. In our legal system, since Marbury, we have vested the power to review and limit exercises of power by the executive and legislative branches in the hands of the judiciary. Congress does not, and should not, have the power to define or limit the executive powers. That is the role of the judiciary in applying the US Constitution.

In the above linked article, I find very humorous the quote:

As an issue for Democrats’ questions, presidential power will join abortion, voting rights under the one-man one-vote principle, congressional authority to pass laws under the Commerce Clause, and racial and gender discrimination, Schumer and Kennedy said.

So, in essence, the Democrats want to know whether they, in Congress, can limit the powers of the President as they see fit, and they also want to know whether they, in Congress, have essentially unlimited and unreviewable power to pass laws using the blank check of the “Commerce Clause” as interpreted since the ’37 revolution. What hubris. Whatever Alito answers in the hearings, I pray his answers in action on the Court will be ‘no.’

Obama?

November 7th, 2004

The BBC news web site had an article about the “winners and losers” of the 2004 US election and Bush’s victory. One alleged winner is Barack Obama, described thusly:

The son of a white woman from Kansas and a former goat herd from Kenya, he wowed Democrats when he addressed the party’s convention in Boston in July with a passionate speech. He is talked of as future presidential material.

I would have expected better from the BBC! Barack, the son of a goat herd?

Bush

October 30th, 2004

I once learned that there was a story told to Roman children. A foreign king was threatening Rome’s ally, Egypt. Egypt appealed to Rome for aid. Rome sent an emissary and his lictors to meet the king. The Roman told the king that he must turn around and not attack Egypt. The king asked “Where is your army? How will you stop me?” The Roman drew a line in the sand, and said that if you cross that line, you will be an enemy of the People of Rome. The king, knowing what that meant, turned his army around and left.

That was Roman power. Rome didn’t need to send an army. The world knew what it meant to defy Rome, and didn’t want to experience that. Some tried over the years, to be sure. There are those today who say that America is like Rome, like a warning, and that even Rome fell. Indeed, Rome fell. After over one thousand years.

Bush has many failings. But he understands the maxim above. Bush didn’t hesitate to show our enemies, and potential enemies, that we will use our power without reservation. He showed them that when we draw a line in the sand, we mean it. He showed them that serious consequences follow attacks on us and our interests.

A great many despise Bush for the war in Iraq. Many follow the Kerry line that Bush somehow did not lead us into a legitimate war because several of our traditional, post WWII allies did not support us. There are those who outright lie and state that Bush did not seek their support. He did. And he failed. The important, general question leading from this experience is whether the failure to obtain the support of particular allies means that we should not act in a way which we feel protects our interests. Bush said no, and took action.

That is the kind of President I want. I want a President who lays out our case with our allies. Bush did that. Bush and his administration worked for quite a while, attempting to convince. And our allies, due to their own particular interests, declined to support us. Does that lack of support somehow invalidate our perceived need to take action? Yes, now, after having unfettered access to Iraq, to comb through the nation, we found that the intelligence produced by ourselves and numerous allies was wrong. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But that does not invalidate the decisions made at the time. Far better to be wrong and have acted to discover that, than to have been right and done nothing.

Bush gets my vote.

Neville Chamberlain — uh — John Kerry

October 14th, 2004

Watching a Frontline show on PBS tonight about the backgrounds of Kerry and Bush, they showed more than one Kerry speech regarding conflict. Prior to the first Gulf War during the administration of the first President Bush, he spoke of letting Iraq continue to occupy Kuwait, raping and pillaging, killing and destroying, in the hope that sanctions would eventually work. Listening to that man, I could so easily imagine him in the Congress in 1941, advocating that we not rush to war, that we let sanctions and diplomacy run their full, complete, lengthy course, prior to any armed attempt to deal with Hitler and the Nazi occupation of much of Europe.

Parenting

October 5th, 2004

We’ll come back to this someday. I am of course under the delusion that our soon-to-arrive son will not affect my activities too much, mainly sailing/racing and involvement with the fleet and yacht club. My wife has convinced herself that she can raise our son with minimal impact on our home, no damaged furniture, walls, so on. We will have a well-behaved child. Time will tell…

Blogging tools

October 3rd, 2004

I recently installed WordPress and migrated my content to it. I had been using MovableType, and played with Blosxom some as a MovableType replacement. Blosxom is a cool, minimal, Perl based implementation of a blog engine. It is very Unix-minded, in that you simply edit text files to publish on the web. I like being able to use vi. However, WordPress is pretty cool too. It has a very nice web interface for management and publishing, and uses MySQL for all data storage. I’ll probably stick with this. Hopefully I’ll use the blog more.

The inspection…

September 21st, 2004

With the aid of Jim, Crystal, and my wife, we hauled Wild Irish today. The boat has begun taking water in again, presumably around the keel bolts. I imagine that the trauma of Sunday loosened the bolt holes a bit. We’ll see if they re-swell and cease leaking before taking the boat out in mid-October.

Closer inspection showed that the hull damage was truly minimal. Just a few patches to do, and of course re-building the stern. The damage there was a slice completely through the stern, taking out my brand-new boat lettering back there.

The keel, as I suspected, lost some lead. We used hammers to fix some of the mushrooming, and smoothed out the damage where the lead got chewed away. The boat appears to be sound enough for the last race of the season on the 25th.

An incident…

September 19th, 2004

So, September 19th was an interesting day on Lake Michigan. We were taking Wild Irish out for the second day of the 2004 Hobleman Regatta. It was blowing perhaps 15 knots steadily out of the southeast. There were reasonably sized waves in the mouth of Belmont Harbor, and those damn barges in the north basin, leaving precious little space to navigate. We left the can on a close reach under just the main, and built up momentum to leave the harbor mouth. Done it many times before. Today, though, there was an additional wrinkle: one of the rental boats with the Target sail, named Jaywalk. As we passed the south breakwater wall in the harbor mouth, Jaywalk was moving north along the western side of the wall, under main and motor. We headed out, getting the boat ready to race. Then I heard something behind me, and saw Jaywalk bearing down on our stern. The bow of that boat was within mere inches of crashing down on our stern, and not appearing to turn. I instinctively headed up, toward the wind.

We avoided the collision. However, the cost was that we wound up in irons: facing into the wind, stuck until we managed to fall off to port or starboard. Before I was able to regain steerage, we had been blown north toward the rocks in the harbor mouth. We lost all speed and momentum, and I was unable to make forward motion enough to leave the harbor mouth or to tack.

We wound up on the rocks.

Not a pleasant situation. The hull of Wild Irish began to take a beating. I released the main sail and dropped it into the cockpit, as it was aiding our being blown north, on the rocks and nearer to the barges. We had the jib out and could possibly use that to reach away if we were able to push off and turn the boat. Of course, the fear there would be putting the stern on the rocks, and losing the rudder.

Thankfully, John from the yacht club saw what happened, and raced over to rescue us in a mark setting boat. He placed himself downwind of us, between the looming barges and our boat. With a line to our stern, he pulled us off. Unfortunately, the process of getting hooked up took a little chunk out of the stern, a small price to pay.

Away from the rocks, we took a line to the bow, and were towed back to our can. We didn’t see any damage inside the boat. I took a dive, and thankfully discovered that the hull damage was limited to scrapes in the topsides paint, a little chip in the bow at the tip, and some minor wood abrasion below the waterline. The lead ballast keel, though, took some damage. I presume that happened when we were pulled off stern first and the keel impacted on the rocks. The bottom had some mushrooming at the edges, and the leading edge had also mushroomed in places. Worse, at least one section was “chewed” and missing some lead. However, the rudder was completely undamaged.

Once we were assured that the boat was sound, we went ashore and thanked John. Then we trudged around the harbor to the sailing club/rental office. We discussed what happened with the owner on the phone, and with staff at the dock. When Jaywalk returned, they hadn’t a clue what had happened. Nor did they understand the rules of the right of way, that a boat under power must permit a boat under sail to sail unmolested. The rental company accepted responsibility. We’ll see how this plays out.

Imposing Democracy?

November 8th, 2003

This was written in response to a BBC News talk back item.

There are those who state that “we” should not “impose” democracy on others, and that they must be free to “choose” their own societal structures and governments. “We” ask, how do they do that if not through democratic exercises? How does a “society” choose to form itself? And, does the *current* generation have any say over that form, “imposed” by a former generation? Again, how do they express that, if not through democratic structures? I have a very, very difficult time understanding those who state that we should not “impose” democracy on others, and let them choose their own form of government. Yet if they are not democratic and cannot vote, they cannot choose. Hence, a paradox. Are we then accepting that other human beings, born just like us, can legimately be denied the right to choose who governs them, and how it is done? If we do not “impose” democracy on them, then are we acknowledging that their “right” to “choose” their form of government must be expressed not through voting but through periodic revolution, bloodshed and suffering? Through mobs wielding machetes, intent on “choosing” their own form of government? If the Iranian youth, denied the right to vote and control their leaders, decide to exercise their “right” to “choose” their form of government by seizing power and have a Roman-style beheading party to purge their former rulers, shall we celebrate that they “chose” their government without our having “imposed” democracy? Or will the ICC be busily in-session?

The BBC’s dialogue is in the context of President Bush’s speech to the National Endowment for Democracy on November 6, 2003. It is so frustrating to see people respond to a call for democratic reforms in despotic states with criticism that we should not be meddling and imposing democracy on others. It is difficult for me as an American, but I suppose that there are people out there who truly believe that their fellow human beings deserve no right to choose who controls them. For that is what democracy means to me: the ability for an individual to have a substantative voice in deciding who controls their government and its influence on their live. The concept that a particular social structure or tradition should trump the individual right to control his/her own life and destiny is so alien as to be disgusting. Yet there are so many out there who see no wrong in that.

Political Confusion

September 17th, 2003

Today I received a letter from Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. She sent me a membership card, and asked me to pledge money to oppose the “extreme right-wing agenda” of the Republicans. I find this amusing. I get the same type of letters from the Republicans, asking me to pay $2500.00 for a seat at a presidential fund-raising dinner.

It seems that being a Libertarian is quite confusing to the other political parties. They cannot conceive of you not being one of them.

Something similar: I joined the ACLU. I largely support what they do, except their virtual disavowals of the 2nd and 10th amendments to our federal constitution. So, after I join, I am immediately buried in letters from liberal (as mis-appropriated) organizations. It seems that the ACLU feels that to favor individual liberty is a left-wing virtue.

The polarization of our political system is not just amusing, it is sad.

Source of our liberty?

July 4th, 2003

It is Independence Day, 2003. As I listen to NPR, I hear a program discussing our liberties, a good topic for this time of year. They talk of the Bill of Rights, which is the “source of our most fundamental liberties.” Not a verbatim quote, but close enough. And a total crock. It is so sad to hear NPR spout that lie. Though not surprising.

Our nation was founded on a very basic premise. That being that governments exist with the consent of the governed, and only exercise those powers specifically assigned to the government via a constitution. More basic than that is the concept that we, the people, are the supreme sovereigns. Not the government. We hold all rights and all powers, by default. We don’t need a “Bill of Rights” to assign our rights to us, nor do we need a Supreme Court to devine which rights are socially acceptable for us to exercise today.

It seems to me that American “liberals” like the idea of a text which enumerates specific rights that we are allowed to have. Why? Because the alternative is anathema to their overall objective. These so-called liberals do not want a government of specific, limited powers. They are very attached to the notion of an all-powerful government, which by the very nature of being all-powerful, can trample our rights. To counter that, they want to enshrine particular rights, the “right” rights, in documents. Because to say that we hold all rights by default, and then to enumerate specifically when and whether the government may act to abridge those rights by granting only specific, limited powers to the government, would be to hobble the government in implementing programs and policies to “correctly” structure our societies.

Thus calling American liberals “liberals.” Were they true liberals, truly interested in the liberty of the people, they would not espouse such rubbish as finding the “right to privacy” in the shadows of other rights. They would embrace the Ninth and particularily the Tenth amendments to our constitution. But that would be inconvenient.

The 2003 Chicago NOOD Regatta

June 16th, 2003

On Friday 6/13 and Sunday 6/15, I crewed on a fellow skipper’s new boat, the T-10 Rover. The boat has come a long way since they bought it last year, very nice. The NOOD regatta was quite large, and there were 49 T-10s on the starting line. Friday was not a worthwhile day: dense fog, horrible visibility. After managing to find the fleet and the committee boat, we then cruised around for several hours before the race committee told us to pack it in. Sunday, however, was a perfect sailing day. Our first race went well, mid-pack. The second race though was mistake compounded on mistake: wrapped lines on the winch, hourglassed spinnaker, pole topping lift seized in the mast, an emergency tack or two, and we were in the rear of the pack. Beautiful day nonetheless. Hopefully the weather will remain so for racing on my boat this weekend.