If you want to find out where you can recycle rechargeable batteries from cell phones and other devices, check out www.call2recycle.org. A much better alternative than tossing them in the local landfill.



Why are officials in the U.S. Government so afraid of being responsible? Via 1115.org:

Jordan suffers a brutal terrorist attack and what happens?

Eleven top Jordanian officials, including the kingdom’s national security adviser, resigned Tuesday in the wake of last week’s triple hotel bombings, state-run TV announced.

The United States suffers a brutal terrorist attack and intelligence failures on a massive scale and what happens?

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom to former CIA Director George Tenet
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom to former CPA head Paul Bremer
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom to former CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks
  • Promotion to Secretary of State for former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
  • Promotion to National Security Advisor for former deputy National Security AdvisorStephen Hadley
  • 11.14.2005

    School Levy

    Feel free to ignore this post unless you live in the North Kitsap School District. An election is being held on February 7th to renew the School Support levy. The key term here is "renew"; it is not a new tax. This levy is responsible for 19% of the district's annual revenue. It is used to support teacher/staff salaries, instructional support programs, student transportation, maintenance, and clubs/activities. I cannot begin to tell you what a blow it will be to the district if this does not pass. On a personal level, my wife's meager salary will drop several thousand dollars. I'm post updates over the next couple of months. If you know people who live in the area, point this out to them. You can get more info at http://www.nksd.wednet.edu.


    Astronomy Picture of the Day has a wonderful panoramic shot of Mars from the rover Spirit. Click here to check it out.

    I also picked up a book called Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet by Steve Squyres. He is the principal scientific investigator from the mission. Dr. Squyres is the perfect example of a passionate scientist. He practically exudes excitement about the study of Mars. I'm hoping to get to listen to him personally in February when he gives a presentation at the University of Washington. Anyway, check both out; they're excellent.


    How the Senate Voted

    A couple of votes last week by the Senate irked me. Both were amendments to S 1042, a military spending bill. The first concerned the Armed Forces Network, the radio station heard by troops worldwide. The amendment would have required the network to provide balanced political coverage. Currently, all troops hear are Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson. They should also get a chance to hear from the other side, from people like Al Franken (who's also a hell of lot funnier than the other two). The vote was 44-54.

    The second amendment of S 1042 would have transferred 50 million from National Missile Defense to the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which secures loose nuclear weapons and material. This one I can't fathom(actually I can; economic interests won out). What are the greater odds: terrorists get their hands on an intercontinental ballistic missile or weapons grade material that they can create a small bomb with? This vote lost 37-60.

    I can at least say that my two Senators from Washington voted appropriately (from my position) on both ammendments. The Republicans (and certain Democrats) are increasingly making me ill.

    Stephen Hawking

    If you live in the Seattle area, Stephen Hawking is giving a presentation called New Perspectives on the Origin of the Universe. Starts at 8 pm at the Paramount Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at TicketMaster.

    Dr. Stephen W. Hawking


    Gravitational Tractor

    Imagine, if you will, a fairly large asteroid (>200 m) on a collision course with Earth. What do we do? Scientists could try to land a space tug on the surface and push the asteroid out if its devastating trajectory (assuming we have enough forewarning). We could launch an armada of nuclear warheads and hope that they are enough to break the asteroid into many small pieces, to burn up in re-entry. We could pull an Armageddon and land some crazy astronaut on the surface to drill and drop in a nuke to split the asteroid from the inside. Or, we could just curl up in a ball and weep. Edward Lu and Stanley Love have another idea: the gravitational tractor.

    The idea is to have a space vehicle that hovers over the asteroid and uses gravity as a tow line to drag the asteroid to a safer orbit. No nukes, just a nuclear-electric propulsion system. The drawback? You need enough advance warning to launch and place the tractor in position. Still, a very cool idea and likely to see some advancement in the near future. I can even imagine using them to pull asteroids into a safe orbit to mine for various metals. If I get some time, I'll post about the Space Elevator or Australia's Solar Tower.

    Obama Taking the Lead

    Via Daily Kos:

    Sen. Barack Obama introduced a bill on Election Day which all here should take notice of and applaud.

    Here's part of his remarks introducing the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005:

    It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.

    Think about the story of the 2004 presidential election when voters in Milwaukee received fliers from the non- existent ``Milwaukee Black Voters League,'' warning that voters risk imprisonment for voting if they were ever found guilty of any offense--even a traffic violation. In that same election, in a county in Ohio, some voters received mailings misinforming voters that anyone registered to vote by the Kerry Campaign or the NAACP would be barred from voting. Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only to keep Americans away from the polls.

    I hope voters who go to the polls today are not victims of such malicious campaigns, but I know hoping is not enough. That is why I am introducing the Deceptive Election Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005 to provide voters with real protection from deceptive practices that aim to keep them away from the polls on Election Day.

    The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. And the bill seeks to address the real harm of these crimes --voters who are discouraged from voting by misinformation -- by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed and intimidated voters with accurate and full information so they can cast their votes in time. Perhaps just as important, this bill creates strong penalties for deceptive election acts, so people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the hand.

    Email or call you Senators and ask them about their support for this bill.



    President today reaffirmed that the U.S. doesn't do torture. On the other hand, Cheney has been lobbying to give the CIA a torture exemption. How does Scott McClennan handle questions about this? In typical fashion: he doesn't.

    Q I'd like you to clear up, once and for all, the ambiguity about torture. Can we get a straight answer? The President says we don't do torture, but Cheney --

    MR. McCLELLAN: That's about as straight as it can be.

    Q Yes, but Cheney has gone to the Senate and asked for an exemption on --

    MR. McCLELLAN: No, he has not. Are you claiming he's asked for an exemption on torture? No, that's --

    Q He did not ask for that?

    MR. McCLELLAN: -- that is inaccurate.

    Q Are you denying everything that came from the Hill, in terms of torture?

    MR. McCLELLAN: No, you're mischaracterizing things. And I'm not going to get into discussions we have --

    Q Can you give me a straight answer for once?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture and he would never --

    Q I'm asking about exemptions.

    MR. McCLELLAN: Let me respond. And he would never authorize the use of torture. We have an obligation to do all that we can to protect the American people. We are engaged --

    Q That's not the answer I'm asking for --

    MR. McCLELLAN: It is an answer -- because the American people want to know that we are doing all within our power to prevent terrorist attacks from happening. There are people in this world who want to spread a hateful ideology that is based on killing innocent men, women and children. We saw what they can do on September 11th --

    Q He didn't ask for an exemption --

    MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are going to --

    Q -- answer that one question. I'm asking, is the administration asking for an exemption?

    MR. McCLELLAN: I am answering your question. The President has made it very clear that we are going to do --

    Q You're not answering -- yes or no?

    MR. McCLELLAN: No, you don't want the American people to hear what the facts are, Helen, and I'm going to tell them the facts.

    Q -- the American people every day. I'm asking you, yes or no, did we ask for an exemption?

    MR. McCLELLAN: And let me respond. You've had your opportunity to ask the question. Now I'm going to respond to it.

    Q If you could answer in a straight way.

    MR. McCLELLAN: And I'm going to answer it, just like the President -- I just did, and the President has answered it numerous times.

    Q -- yes or no --

    MR. McCLELLAN: Our most important responsibility is to protect the American people. We are engaged in a global war against Islamic radicals who are intent on spreading a hateful ideology, and intent on killing innocent men, women and children.

    Q Did we ask for an exemption?

    MR. McCLELLAN: We are going to do what is necessary to protect the American people.

    Q Is that the answer?

    MR. McCLELLAN: We are also going to do so in a way that adheres to our laws and to our values. We have made that very clear. The President directed everybody within this government that we do not engage in torture. We will not torture. He made that very clear.

    Q Are you denying we asked for an exemption?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, we will continue to work with the Congress on the issue that you brought up. The way you characterize it, that we're asking for exemption from torture, is just flat-out false, because there are laws that are on the books that prohibit the use of torture. And we adhere to those laws.

    Q We did ask for an exemption; is that right? I mean, be simple -- this is a very simple question.

    MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered your question. The President answered it last week.

    Q What are we asking for?

    Q Would you characterize what we're asking for?

    MR. McCLELLAN: We're asking to do what is necessary to protect the American people in a way that is consistent with our laws and our treaty obligations. And that's what we --

    Q Why does the CIA need an exemption from the military?

    MR. McCLELLAN: David, let's talk about people that you're talking about who have been brought to justice and captured. You're talking about people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad; people like Abu Zubaydah.

    Q I'm asking you --

    MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is facts about what you're talking about.

    Q Why does the CIA need an exemption from rules that would govern the conduct of our military in interrogation practices?

    MR. McCLELLAN: There are already laws and rules that are on the books, and we follow those laws and rules. What we need to make sure is that we are able to carry out the war on terrorism as effectively as possible, not only --

    Q What does that mean --

    MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm telling you right now -- not only to protect Americans from an attack, but to prevent an attack from happening in the first place. And, you bet, when we capture terrorist leaders, we are going to seek to find out information that will protect -- that prevent attacks from happening in the first place. But we have an obligation to do so. Our military knows this; all people within the United States government know this. We have an obligation to do so in a way that is consistent with our laws and values.

    Now, the people that you are bringing up -- you're talking about in the context, and I think it's important for the American people to know, are people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh -- these are -- these are dangerous killers.

    Q So they're all killers --

    Q Did you ask for an exemption on torture? That's a simple question, yes or no.

    MR. McCLELLAN: No. And we have not. That's what I told you at the beginning.

    Q You want to reserve the ability to use tougher tactics with those individuals who you mentioned.

    MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, you have a different view from the American people. I think the American people understand the importance of doing everything within our power and within our laws to protect the American people.

    Q Scott, are you saying that Cheney did not ask --

    Q What is it that you want the -- what is it that you want the CIA to be able to do that the U.S. Armed Forces are not allowed to do?

    MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into talking about national security matters, Bill. I don't do that, because this involves --

    Q This would be the exemption, in other words.

    MR. McCLELLAN: This involves information that relates to doing all we can to protect the American people. And if you have a different view -- obviously, some of you on this room -- in this room have a different view, some of you on the front row have a different view.

    Q We simply are asking a question.

    Q What is the Vice President -- what is the Vice President asking for?

    MR. McCLELLAN: It's spelled out in our statement of administration policy in terms of what our views are. That's very public information. In terms of our discussions with members of Congress --

    Q -- no, it's not --

    MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of our members -- like I said, there are already laws on the books that we have to adhere to and abide by, and we do. And we believe that those laws and those obligations address these issues.

    Q So then why is the Vice President continuing to lobby on this issue? If you're very happy with the laws on the books, what needs change?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you asked me -- you want to ask questions of the Vice President's office, feel free to do that. We've made our position very clear, and it's spelled out on our website for everybody to see.

    Q We don't need a website, we need you from the podium.

    MR. McCLELLAN: And what I just told you is what our view is.

    Q But Scott, do you see the contradiction --

    Yup, he's a straight shooter.


    Is Pat Robertson Completely Senile?

    The scary thing is, people listen to this guy.

    Via Washington Post:

    Pat Robertson on Sunday said that the tornado in Indiana and Kentucky was God’s way of expressing His anger at the actor Warren Beatty and his wife, Annette Bening for trying to disrupt yesterday’s speech by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a campaign rally in San Diego. “By choosing to disrupt this national event, these Hollywood elites have clearly invited God’s wrath,” Robertson said on ‘The 700 Club’ on Sunday. “Is it any surprise that the Almighty chose to strike at a town on the opposite side of the country?”

    And you wonder why Democrats and moderate Republicans don't want ideologues part of the governmental process.


    Winter Wardrobe

    I need to add this shirt to my collection:

    Where's the Financial Responsibility?

    Republicans have been patting themselves on the back for a measure that cuts spending by 35-50 billion over the next 5 years. That sounds like a lot of money until you consider that Bush's tax cuts result in the loss of 70 billion in revenue through 2010 and that the government spends 2.5 trillion a year. It's not all Bush's fault; the House and Senate have avoided dealing with these issues directly themselves (with exceptions).

    Let's look at some facts. Unfunded liabilities (e.g. Social Security, Medicare) totaled 20.4 trillion in 2000. In 2004 they reached 43.3 trillion, largely due to tax cuts and Congress's increased spending (the number of pork projects in spending bills is up by the thousands under Bush. If I remember correctly, the Transportation Bill recently passed by Republicans had 13,000+ pork projects, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska). Spending has increased twice as much under Bush than it did under Clinton. Even if you remove defense and homeland security spending, it is still up 22%.

    Our gross national debt is over 8 trillion. Who holds that debt? A considerable portion comes from Japan and China. I don't know about you, but that makes me uncomfortable.

    We need some serious restrictions on spending in Congress. Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is trying to reinstall Pay-Go (started under the first Bush), a program that caps discretionary spending and requires new spending to be offset with cuts elsewhere. We also need fiscally responsible policy/spending, like Jay Inslee's, D-WA, New Apollo Energy Bill.

    This is not to say that a lot of pork and spending isn't done by Democrats. And not all Republicans are spending maniacs. But I do see many more Democrats trying to find solutions to these problems. Or, at the very least Republicans need to start standing up to the Administration and their irresponsible policies (which is starting to happen more frequently).

    People need to start making noise about these issues before our country finds itself in a very difficult financial position.


    U.S. and Torture

    Via 1155.org:

    "Fact: at least 4 prisoners have been killed (tortured to death?) by the CIA and/or its subcontractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Fact: the Justice Department has declared its intention of bringing no charges against any CIA employee for said deaths.

    Fact: no one seemed to particularly care when this was announced. There was no outcry either in the blogosphere or in the traditional media.

    Fact stranger than fiction: Now everyone is outraged and agitated because it seems that the U.S. has:

    “been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement” , and because this “secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe”.

    Will someone other than Scott McClellan please explain to me why this is more outrageous than prisoners being killed by interrogators practicing interrogation techniques that are in gross violation of the Geneva convention? And the U.S. government deciding that there was no harm no foul. That no one even needs to get their knuckles rapped. Since when does torture trump murder on the moral outrage scale?

    Question: Would anyone care to speculate on the correct answer to this one? If x is the number of prisoners who were tortured to death in non-secret detention facilities where the deaths would come to light and inquiries would have to be held, and y is the number of prisoners tortured to death in secret detention facilities where such deaths will never come to light, which is likely to be greater, x or y?

    Fiction: The Bush administration will, in stark contrast to every previous action with respect to prisoner detention and interrogation, acknowledge what they did, and admit it was wrong, and apologize for bringing shame and dishonor to the American people. Everyone involved, including Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, will resign. One of these three will be unable to live with the guilt, and will commit suicide.

    Fact: The foreign governments that are alleged to be the host countries for these secret detention facilities have vociferously denied their existence.

    Fact or fiction: everyone concerned, except for Dana Priest of the Washington Post, is telling the truth."

    How can the US claim any type of moral superiority in the world when we act no better than the worst 3rd world dictator?


    Alito and Abortion

    Seems like all I have time for these days is to link to interesting or informative articles. A lot of talk is flying around Alito and whether or not he would overturn Roe v. Wade. Paul Kemp (a lawyer and author) read the particular case in question (Casey v. Planned Parenthood) and offers his legal perspective.

    "Abortion is a hot-button issue for many folks. So when the President nominated Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Conner on the Supreme Court, his written opinions relating to abortion naturally came under scrutiny. Since then, most of the left-leaning blogs/commentators I've heard/read, have prophesied in dire tones about how Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade (for those of you not in the U.S. -- Roe is the seminal case in abortion rights law) and thereby allow states to outlaw abortions altogether. To support this claim, they point to Alito's written dissent in Casey v. Planned Parenthood. I've read Alito's opinion in Casey and it doesn't support that claim. In fact, I find Alito's dissent persuasive, moreso than the majority opinion. I'll explain why.

    At issue in Casey was a Pennsylvania statute that regulated access to abortion. The statute required that, before undergoing the procedure, a woman receive certain information relating to the procedure and its effects, that she not receive the abortion until 24 hours after receiving that information, that minors obtain parental consent before undergoing the procedure (with provision for a judicial bypass), and that a married woman sign a statement that she has informed her husband of her intent to proceed with the abortion (or meeet one of the statutory exemptions from this requirement, such as, a reasonable fear of physical abuse, husband is not the father, etc.).

    In analyzing this issue, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals applied the standard applicable to abortion regulations as set down by the Supreme Court (Justice O'Conner, in fact)-- namely, whether the regulation at issue imposes an "undue burden" on a woman's freedom to decide whether to receive an abortion. The Third Circuit majority applied the undue burden test to each of the regulations set forth above and found that all of them were constitutional (i.e., they did NOT impose an undue burden) except the spousal notification requirement. Why? The majority reasoned that some subset of women who would otherwise obtain an abortion would not do so out of fear of various forms of retaliation (financial, physical, psychological, etc.) by their husbands if they, in fact, were forced to inform their husbands. Thus, the regulation imposed an undue burden on that subset of women. This focus on a subset of women was intentional by the court (in fact it was necessary if they were to reach their conclusion). In the majority's view, "where it is clear that a governmental regulation will restrict the ability of some women to choose an abortion, we believe that the issue of whether there is an undue burden turns on the degree of restriction that the affected women will experience."

    Alito filed a dissent in the case. He agreed with the majority's holding on the rest of the regulations (namely, that each was constitutional) but disagreed with the majority's holding that the spousal notification requirement was unconstitutional. Why? His opinion gets at the problem with the undue burden test as applied by the majority -- namely, the unit of analysis. Alito pointed to evidence introduced at trial that tended to show that of all abortions performed, married women account for only about thirty-percent. And that of that thirty percent, about ninety-five percent do, in fact, inform their husbands. And that of the five percent remaining, some percentage would qualify for one of the statutory exemptions to the spousal notice provision. That means that of all married women who want abortions, some percentage less than five percent will be deterred from getting an abortion they otherwise would get but for the spousal notification requirement.

    You see the unit of analysis problem here? The majority is applying the undue burden test not to all the women regulated by the statute (i.e., married women) but to a subset of those women, namely, those whose circumstances would make them want to avoid notifying their husbands. Alito, on the other hand, is analyzing the issue by looking at the universe of women regulated by the statute. In this case, I find Alito's reasoning much more persuasive. Why? Because if the analysis of undue burden focuses not on ALL those regulated by the statute (as Alito did in his opinion) but instead on a subset of those regulated by the statute (as the majority did), the outcome of the test is determined by the definition of the subset. Essentially, any judge that wanted a regulation to fail the undue burden test could say this: "Let's find a subset of the regulated persons for whom the regulation creates an undue burden, and then ask if the regulation creates an undue burden."

    The problem with that kind of analysis is obvious: the logic has no limit. It will always be true that some subset of regulated persons is unduly burdened by a given regulation. In fact, that kind of analysis leaves LOTS of room for judges to predetermine results by carefully selecting the subset the judge will use as his or her unit of analysis. Alito's analysis has the virtue of taking that choice out of the judges' hands -- ALL of those regulated by the statute are to be the unit of analysis.

    Anyway, this is not and is not meant to be an endorsement of Alito. I don't yet know enough about him. Nor is it an argument that Pennsylvania's law was good public policy. I merely wanted to vent a bit about the partisan misrepresentation that goes on all too frequently. I also wanted to point out that there was nothing in Alito's dissent in Casey that suggested to me an intent to overturn Roe or that otherwise indicated a judge run amok. Finally, I also wanted all of us to think about the appropriate role for a federal judge in a democracy.

    A postscript: I've seen similar misrepresentations on Alito's views of the Family Leave Act. Democratic partisans shout that Alito is "against the FMLA." But I believe Alito's opinion on FMLA was limited to the question of whether or not the federal government, through Congress, could impose the requirements of FMLA on state employees (i.e., those workers who are direct employees of a state). If true, this does not show hostility to FMLA. It simply suggests a great deference for state's rights and federalism(whether rightly or wrongly). Even in Alito's world, the FMLA would continue to apply to all private employers."