Posts tagged ‘Captains Quarters’

Poverty Ain't What it Used to Be

The Heritage Foundation has an interesting study out on the population that lives below the poverty line.  While we typically get lots of headlines like "A million more people in poverty,"  the real headline should be "Poverty ain't what it used to be."  Create a mental image for yourself about poverty then read the first part of the article.

I won't repeat the studies points -- you can read them at the link or you have probably seen the study already linked around the blogosphere (e.g. Captains Quarters, Cato-at-Liberty, Reason, Maggie's Farm).  Reading the descriptions, its clear that most of our visual images and assumptions about US "poverty" don't line up well with this list.   This is by design.  Progressives who want more transfer payments and more government interventionism work hard to create a stark mental image of poverty through anecdotes, and then try to apply that mental image to a much larger population based on a very different definition of poverty than in this mental image. 

However, this approach may be set to backfire.  By defining poverty broadly to try to pump up the numbers, they are at risk of people losing sympathy for the poor.  I can see the progressive reaction now -- they are going to say (correctly) that buried in these numbers are a hard core of people who are really destitute.  And they are correct.  But they only have themselves to blame for burying these folks in a larger group whose lives don't match our mental picture of poverty.  And the poverty numbers aren't the only place where this approach is taken. 

I am sure you have heard the commercials that say something like one in six kids in America are hungry.  It's a crock.  There are at most perhaps 2-3 million people in this country who are really destitute.  The Census department found that only 6% of the people below the poverty line, about 2 million people, reported they sometimes did not have enough food to eat.  Sure, that sucks.  Which is why I volunteer with my kids at the local food bank.  But it's way, way short of the numbers activists try to use to justify huge new government programs and transfers.

Other thoughts

One issue not discussed, but covered in other studies, is the transience of people in the bottom quintile of income.  Most of us imagine the same people in poverty survey after survey, and again that is probably true for the hard core of 2-3 million.  But many of the rest move out of poverty over time.  In particular, we have had a huge influx of immigrants (legal and illegal) over the last several decades.  These folks are all counted in the poverty numbers.  Many immigrants arrive below the poverty line, and then work their way out of it. 

In a related post, Brad DeLong looks at what life was like even for the well off in 1900, and one can easily come to the conclusion that being poor today might be better than well off in 1900.  I made a similar point in this post, when I compared the life of the very rich in 1850 to the middle class today.  All of this is empirical proof that wealth is not zero-sum, as assumed by progressives, but is created and expends.  My post of the zero-sum wealth fallacy is here.

I've made the point for a long time that our poor are better off than the middle class in most countries of the world.  This living space comparison is an example - our poor typically have more living space in their homes than the middle class in Europe, or the well-to-do in many other countries.  But there is always that issue of income inequality that is raised, to which I typically answer "so what?"  If the poor are better off in the US, does it matter if the rich are really, really better off?  Note sometime the language that is always used in income inequality discussions.  You will hear folks talking about the "share of total income" as if income is a spring bubbling up in the desert, spewing a fixed amount of wealth, and the rich are the piggy folks up front getting more than their fair share of this limited resource. 

Leftish studies love to show how the US economic model is so much more heartless than those wonderful Europeans.   Below is a typical chart they use, and it will bring us full circle to our original point about measuring poverty.

Study1

Wow, those heartless damn Americans!  Letting those children suffer.  But wait, we talked earlier about definitions of poverty - how do they define poverty here?  It turns out that poverty is defined as income 50% or less of the median income in that country.  Yes, you heard that right -- the standard for poverty changes country to country.  So the US has the worst results here because in large part, since it has the highest median income of any country in this survey, it has been given the highest poverty line.  Of COURSE we will have higher poverty numbers if you give us a higher poverty bar.  The honest way to do this study would be to set an absolute poverty line and apply it to each country on a purchasing power parity basis.  But of course, the progressives would not like the results of such an honest study.

BUT, someone in this study made a mistake -- they should lose their socialist decoder card for this.  Because in a fit of honesty, they actually restated one of their charts on a relatively fair basis.  Here is the original income equality chart:
Study3

You get the point, the US sucks as always -- our poor are the poorest.  But are they?  Again, the standard in each line is the median income of that country, so it is a changing standard in each case.  But what if we restated it all to a common dollar amount.  This is where the progressives fell into a fit of honesty.  They restated this chart so that every bar is a percentage of the US median income.

Study2

Now we see the real story - except for Norway and Switzerland, our poorest folks are about on par with those in other western countries, and this is WITHOUT the crushing burden of welfare state regulation and taxation.  Further, the poor in the US are much more mobile than those in other country -- the ranks of our poor will have turned over much more than any of these other countries in 10 years.  Finally, my bet is that if you did this chart without recent immigrants, the US poor would best most every country in Europe in terms of income -- US has a lot of immigration and it is disproportionately poor vs. immigration into other European countries (note that most poverty numbers include illegal immigrants, but most official immigration numbers do not include illegal immigrants).

So, if our poor are doing just as well, then I leave it as an exercise to give any rational reason why the fact that our rich are doing much better matters one damn bit.

It's Our Economy, Not Yours, Stupid

Like many libertarians, I lose interest quickly in politics, watching partisans of the Coke party argue why they are so much different than the Pepsi party.  You don't have to watch the whole farce for very long as a neutral observer before you see the same people taking the opposite tack on an issue than they did a few years earlier, only because their guy is in office, so now its more OK than when the other party's guy was doing it.

But I do read a few political blogs from both sides, just to keep abreast of what is going on.  This weekend, both sides managed to irritate me over the same issue.  First, Kevin Drum, from the left, railed on what he called "the GOP economy," complaining that the economy has grown without increasing median wages (note he carefully avoids "total compensation," which has gone up.)  Then Captains Quarters wrote from the right that "The economy continues its growth under the stewardship of the Bush administration."

George Bush does not run the economy.  George Bush does not even make day-to-day decisions that affect the economy.  He has made a few major moves that have economic consequences, with the positive effects of tax cuts probably mostly offset by unrestrained deficit spending, random protectionist acts and new bloated government services.  Bill Clinton, while we have to credit him for NAFTA (see below), was not responsible for the incredible economic expansion of the 90's.  In fact, neither Bill Clinton nor his wife have ever held a job where they produced anything. 

All of which is fine - I am not accusing president's of somehow falling down on the job.  I am merely stating what I thought was obvious.  Wealth is created by the actions and the minds of hundreds of millions of people, to whom the occupant of the White House is largely irrelevant except insofar as the President  substantially increases or reduces the artificial burden of efficiency-sucking government mandates, reporting, and taxes.

I will go into more depth on this in my annual tax day post, but I am increasingly confident of my theory of wealth creation.  Wealth is increased as two things happen:

  • More individuals are more free to (and more likely to) question established beliefs, either scientific (e.g. the earth-centric universe), social (e.g. racial prejudice) or business (e.g. primacy of mainframe computing).
  • More Individuals are more free to act in their own self-interest to pursue the results of their insights and to keep for themselves the proceeds of their efforts.

Since the 1970's, we have seen an explosion in the global economy, which has greatly increased the number of people working on any given economic problem.  For example, instead of just people in Detroit and Germany thinking about how to design and produce cars, we have folks in Japan and South Korea and even China and Brazil questioning the established wisdom from Detroit.  This has resulted not just in better, more affordable cars, but in production and supply chain management techniques that have made nearly every industry you can name more productive. 

Whenever such a change occurs, there are conservative (lower-c) forces that try to halt them.  The Church used its power for a time to resist the heliocentric view of the solar system.  Southern states used Jim Crow laws to resist post Civil War racial and social reforms.  And any number of groups wanted (and still want) to slam the door on the global economy.  Many countries in Europe went down this path.  What has saved the US from the same low-growth fate they have in Europe (and Japan) is that the government, and Bill Clinton in particular, at a critical time resisted the technocratic urge to have the government "do something" about the economic changes flowing from globalization.  Some wanted protectionism, while some wanted a more active hand by the government in "choosing winners" in the economy, like it was perceived that Japan had.  Bill Clinton resisted resisted these voices, most of whom were powerful in his own party, and in fact doubled down on globalization by pushing NAFTA.  For this act of vision, Clinton should be credited, but I still wouldn't call it "his" economy. 

Good News

Via Captains Quarters:

The fundamental attack on free speech that McCain-Feingold foisted upon America has finally received recognition
from the federal judiciary. Portions of the BCRA got struck down today
in a lawsuit filed by a right-to-life group, as a judge ruled that the
campaign-finance restrictions violated the First Amendment...

It's not for nothing that many have termed the BCRA the Incumbent
Protection Act. The restriction on political speech that keeps groups
from buying advertising that names politicians violates the fundamental
reason for the First Amendment -- to allow Americans to criticize their
elected officials. While the court did not recognize the entire
egregiousness of this BCRA provision, it did recognize that the idea of
never being able to name elected officials in advertising within 60
days of an election regardless of the nature of the reference is a
ludicrous standard.

Longing for Concentration Camps

Of the more partisan blogs I read, I have always enjoyed Captains Quarters for being thoughtful and well-written.  Ed Morrissy is clearly as skeptical about open immigration as I am supportive of it, which  I am generally willing to put into the "intelligent people will disagree" category, until I found this bit a little frightening (emphasis added):

As I have written repeatedly over the past two years, we simply cannot
throw out 12 million people overnight, so some sort of guest-worker
program is inevitable, if for no other reason than to get an accurate
accounting of the aliens in our nation. Either that, or we will have to
herd people into concentration camps, a solution that will never pass
political muster even if were remotely possible logistically
. That
program could form a basis of a comprehensive immigration "reform", if
properly written.

Is the implication that his only real problems with American concentration camps for people born in Mexico are logistical?  When one typically says that an idea can't pass political muster, they generally are referring (with a wistful sigh) to what they consider a good idea that for whatever reason could not survive the legislative process.  Let's be clear: herding people into concentration camps based arbitrarily on their birth location is abhorrent, not logistically difficult. 

I haven't called myself conservative for over 20 years, but I thought that most good conservatives would agree with the following statement:

"Our fundamental rights, from speech to association to property, are not granted to us by any government, but belong to us as a fact of our human existence."

Do conservatives still believe this?  I know liberals gave up on it a while back - that is why I pay a transaction "privilege" tax in Arizona, which presumes that the ability to conduct commerce is a privilege that is granted by the government.  But I thought conservatives stood by this statement.  But if they still do, then on what basis can they argue that people not born within the US border somehow have lesser (or no) right to conduct commerce in this country, to buy and live in a home in this country, to sell their labor in this country, etc.?   The only rights or activities or privileges a country should be able to deny non-citizens are those rights and privileges that flow from the government and not from our basic humanity.  Which are.... none (update: OK, maybe one: Voting, since this is inherently tied up with government.  I have written before about why I think voting is one of our less important rights).

I understand there are good and valid concerns about government handouts and taxpayer-paid services flowing to recent immigrants, but to solve this narrow concern, "reform" discussion should be about setting minimum qualification standards for such services or handouts, and not about putting Mexicans in concentration camps.

Update:  A number of readers have scolded me for overreacting to the Morrissey quote, arguing that the quote is just dry understatement rather than any revelation of sinister plans.  Fine.  I have friends who are both legal and illegal immigrants her in Phoenix, as well as several who are in-between (i.e. are constantly battling to hang on to their visa status by their fingernails) so I have personal emotions in the game here that may make me overly sensitive.

I will admit to a huge blind spot:  I just cannot comprehend why Americans, none of whose families are native to this land, get so upset about high levels of immigration, beyond the public services issue.  And the more I think about this latter, the more I am convinced making everyone legal combined with some eligibility waiting periods (for voting, welfare, etc) would generate more tax revenue than it would consume.  In fact, high levels of immigration may be the only viable solution to the demographic bomb we have with social security and medicare.  (By the way, the public services issue is one reason the Democrats have, if possible, an even less viable position than Republicans.  Our Democratic governor has publicly supported continuing free government services to illegal immigrants but opposed allowing them to work.  This makes sense, how?)

I do understand there is "law and order" argument that goes "well, those folks are breaking the law, and we have got to have respect for the law."  Here's a proposal.  Everyone who has never knowingly violated the speed limit, never done a rolling stop at a stop sign, and never tried illegal narcotics in college are all welcome to make the argument to me about the need to strictly enforce every law on the books.  This same logic is used to send refugees escaping Cuba back to Cuba, and it sucks. 

JRB For the Supreme Court

Captains Quarters suggested that Bush nominate Janice Rogers Brown for the Supreme Court.  Though it will never happen, I am 100% behind this idea.  I never even heard of her until I started reading statements attributed to her by her opponents that were supposed to convince me of her unfitness for the bench.  And you know what, the more I read, the more I liked her.  Also here.

Response to the FEC

The Online Coalition, put together to fight FEC restrictions to free speech rights as they apply to bloggers, has posted their official response to the FEC.  (hat tip:  Captains Quarters)

This is one of those efforts that leave me torn.  In effect, the rulemaking process is considering whether the media exemption in campaing finance laws should be extended to bloggers.  My point of view is that the media exemption should be extended to everyone.  That, 1) limits to money spent are the equivalent to limits on speech and 2) it is particularly insidious to create multiple classes of citizen, where one class of citizen (exempt media) have more political speech rights than others.

So, while I agree with their comments on blogging narrowly, I disagree when they make broader statements, like this one:

Finally, your rules should be informed by the regulatory purpose of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Your rule should address corruption, the appearance of corruption, the involvement of foreign nationals, or the use of the corporate or labor forms of organization and their "aggregations of wealth" in ways that drown out the views of others.

What does that last part I bolded mean?  Why is the Republican Party or one of George Soros's organizations proper aggregations of wealth for the political process but corporations and labor unions improper?

Anyway, campaign finance reform is one big hypocritical unconstitutional mess.  Let anyone give whatever they want to whomever with the only proviso of full disclosure over the Internet of all sources of funds.

Coyote's Law and WMD

Coyote's Law states:

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people    -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity, confusion and/or incompetence

Assume stupidity and incompetence

Conspiracy theories have swarmed around the Internet on how the administration may have systematically lied about WMD to create the outcome (invasion) that it wanted in Iraq.  Today, however, the bipartisan presidential commission set to look into these issues unanimously confirms Coyote's Law - it was incompetence!

In a scathing report, a presidential commission said Thursday that
America's spy agencies were "dead wrong" in most of their judgments
about Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction before the war and that the United States
knows "disturbingly little" about nuclear threats posed by many of its
most dangerous adversaries...

The report implicitly absolves the
administration of manipulating the intelligence used to launch the 2003
Iraq war, putting the blame for bad intelligence directly on the
intelligence community.

"The daily intelligence briefings given
to you before the Iraq war were flawed," it said. "Through
attention-grabbing headlines and repetition of questionable data, these
briefings overstated the case that Iraq was rebuilding its WMD
programs."

Hat tip to Captains Quarters for the link.  By the way, this may take Bush off the hook to some extent for past failures, but the responsibility for reform sits squarely in his lap, and so far we have seen little progress in cleaning up the mess.

Notice to Britain

To avoid any potential confusion, here is a notice to Britain and my British readers (all 10 or so of them):  I do not consider myself, my statements, or this blog to be subject to British law, and in particular your libel law.  Now, since I am an American citizen living and publishing in Arizona, you may be confused why this clarification is necessary.  If so, note this article, via Captains Quarters.

The decision today, by Mr Justice Eady, has cleared the way for a libel trial in London sometime this year [against Arnold Schwarzenegger]

Miss Richardson alleges she was libelled by Schwarzenegger and two
campaign workers in an October 2003 article in The Los Angeles Times,
which also appeared on the internet.

The trial is going forward in London later this year.

Let me say that there are many, many things wrong with the tort system in the US, but one of the things we have done right is consistently protected free speech rights (at least until McCain-Feingold), and part of this protection has been resistance to onerous European, and particularly British, libel laws.

The obvious result, if this type of suit becomes successful and pesky, is of course for media to start blocking Internet traffic from British URLs.  Maybe this is a secret plan to have just this happen, so the Beeb can get their monopoly back.

UPDATE:  (via Overlawyered.com)  It appears that US litigator Samuel Hirsch is making his own interpretation of US libel law by suing Morgan Spurlock, the maker of the film "supersize me".  Though one could argue that the film ostensibly was on Mr. Hirsch's side (Mr. Hirsch makes a living in part by suing McDonalds for his clients who lack the ability to control their eating habits), it caught Mr. Hirsch on film making some comments he would rather not have been made public:

Ostensibly, this would make
Mr. Hirsch a prime ally in Mr. Spurlock's quest to edify the nation as
to the adverse affects of eating junk food. The film, however, was not
flattering to Mr. Hirsch in his brief cameo. In his only appearance on
camera, Mr. Spurlock asks Mr. Hirsch about his motivation for being
involved in the McDonald's litigation. Mr. Hirsch's reply? "You mean,
motive besides monetary compensation?" He then added, "You want to hear
a noble cause?"

Mr. Hirsch is suing for

Negligence, Unauthorized Use
of Likeness, Disparagement to Reputation, and Defamation of Character,
Fraudulent Inducement, False Misrepresentation, Damage to Business
Reputation.

Mr. Hirsch must know that he stands little chance of winning in US court, particularly since the film used his own words against him.  So this is intimidation, pure and simple.

It is interesting to note that McDonalds, the main target of the film, has not been dumb enough to sue Spurlock, no matter what they thought of the film.  And imagine if George Bush had tried to sue Michael Moore for the same stuff.  Suits like this are intimidation to shut down criticism, and it is good and right that they cannot win in the US.

 

Do US Soldiers Need Better Weapons Training?

Italian communist Giuliana Sgrena claimed to have been specifically targeted by US troops, and had hundreds, perhaps thousands of rounds shot at her oncoming vehicle from a US checkpoint.  She even claims to have been shot at by a tank.  We mourn the loss of and the needless death of her translator, but must observe that, based on her story, US soldiers don't seem to be able to hit the broadside of a barn.  Courtesy of LGF, here's her car:

Sgrenacarap1lgclick to enlarge image

Note that the front end, which should have taken the brunt, looks almost pristine.  One hit in the windshield, one in the left-front tire, and one or more in the drivers side window.  More pictures here.  More too at Captains Quarters.

Further, Ms Sgrena

said her car was hit by 300 to 400 bullets from an armored vehicle. She said she
was picking up handfuls of spent rounds from the seats.

OK, maybe I was wrong.  If hundreds of rounds went into the car, they must have all gone through that same single hole on the windshield.  That's GREAT shooting.  So I guess what is really needed is better weapons penetration.  Its a pretty pathetic bullet from an armored vehicle that would enter a car and have so little energy left that it would just land on the seats in piles.

Look, here is some advice.  Take it from the CBS memo forgers.  If you are going to make something up, know your subject.  If you are going to forge a memo from a typewriter, make sure you know how typewriters worked.  And if you are going to exaggerate a story about military weapons, make sure you understand weapons.  Rounds entering the car would not build up in a pile on the seat so that she could scoop them up - they would have embedded in things.  And, if enough rounds were fired that they started building up on the seats, then no one would be alive to scoop them up. 

I have no doubt that this was a harrowing experience for all concerned, especially in the midst of their exhilaration at being released.  It was a tragedy that neither the drivers nor the Italian government knew enough about the rules of engagement on that road to recognize that speeding toward a checkpoint might be dangerous.  But it is also clear that Ms. Sgrena is exploiting the death of her comrade for personal and political gain, just as the Italian government is exploiting the incident to take attention away from the fact that they basically just established a bounty for kidnapping westerners.

 

I Would Be Thrilled to Admit I'm Wrong

From David Ignatius in the Washington Post (via Captains Quarters):

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus....

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

I opposed the war in Iraq not because I thought there was any ethical problem in throwing out Saddam, but because it seemed to require an awful lot of time and energy and lives to overhaul one country.  I support a strong US role in the promotion of democracy, but given the long list of totalitarian states in the world, the approach in Iraq seemed inefficient.

However, my argument loses power if our efforts in Iraq start to cause spontaneous changes in other countries in the region.  To be fair, many made this very argument for the war, but I have been skeptical.  I would love to be proved wrong.

Defending Your Enemy When They Are Right

There is a tendency in politics, once you have an enemy, to attack that enemy no matter what position they take.  Conservatives of late have (rightly) attacked Liberals for being un-supportive of Iraqi democracy, just so they can embarrass their arch-enemy GW Bush.  However, conservatives can be guilty of the same thing. 

Ed Morrissey of Captains Quarters has been on Governor (of Wisconsin) Jim Doyle's case for historically opposing and promising to continue to oppose reforms in election controls, despite very suspicious voting numbers in Milwaukee.  In this case, Captain Ed has done a great job bringing focus to election fraud and "over-vote" issues in Milwaukee, E. St. Louis, and Washington State, especially since the MSM has preferred to focus on potential "under-vote" issues in Ohio and Florida.

However, in piling on Mr. Doyle, I fear that Morrissey has put aside his political and/or philosophical beliefs in favor of giving his enemy another good bludgeon.  His post points out that:

executives involved in a controversial health-care merger gave Doyle over $28,000 in donations shortly after he allowed the merger to go through. Critics at the time wondered why Doyle didn't ask for common-sense economic concessions

OK, lets take this in two parts.  First, lets look at Doyle's decision on the merger.  The article says that Doyle is being criticized basically for NOT holding two companies for ransom.  Often anti-trust law is used as "merger tax" to extract some sort of pay-off from the parties, in the form of reduced prices or a spun-off properties or whatever.  However, no matter what you call it, this is a bribe the government is demanding to let individuals carry forward with a private business transaction.  Usually this bribe is waved around by some politician in order to score some populist political points toward their next reelection (the Europeans and Elliot Spitzer are both good at this).

Is this really what Morrissey thinks Doyle should have done?  As a libertarian, I find that conservatives' support for truly free market capitalism sometimes runs hot and cold, but I would generally expect a conservative to oppose this kind of extortion and interference with the free market.  So does Morrissey really think Doyle did the wrong thing?

The second part of the story, of course, are the campaign contributions.  First, I would argue that if Doyle's merger decision was not wrong, then donations based on this decision are not wrong either.  Many, many companies out there donate to politicians who promise to keep the government off their back.  I certainly do - does that make my contributions graft?  Finally, Morrissey admits that

These donations do not appear to have broken any laws, although the timing strongly suggests some sort of payoff

Look at it the other way around:  If Doyle HAD extracted concessions to approve the merger, it would not have strongly suggested a soft of payoff, it would have been a definite payoff.

Captain Ed- I enjoy your site immensely, even when I disagree with it.  It is OK for you to say that Doyle made the right decision on the merger without backing off of him over the election issue -- just as it is OK for those of us who had concerns about the war in Iraq to gleefully support that country's return to democracy.

Is CBS For Executive Accountability or Against It?

Its amazing to me that Andrew Heyward still has his job at CBS.  Many others are asking the same question, including Ernest Miller, Rathergate & Captains Quarters.  The overriding question is this one:

The report clearly shows that the head of the embattled news organization did not perform as one would expect the head of a news organization to perform. Though Heyward clearly realized that there were problems with the reporting on the segment and issued a directive to clear up the matter, he does not appear to have provided sufficient overview or leadership to ensure that his directive was followed promptly and systematically. Instead of focusing on good reporting, as the head of a news organization should, he seems to have been primarily interested in damage control and not following up on his own directive.

Here is CBS's opinion of Heyward's performance in this matter, from Les Moonves:

But Heyward is an executive of integrity and talent, and the right person to be leading CBS NEWS during this challenging time

OK, so their position now is that the subordinates are at fault, and that the leader is not responsible for their actions or for the climate and controls in the organization that allowed the problems to occur.

This is really, really different than CBS's editorial position on OTHER organizations and leaders.  Check out the CBS editorial here on Enron.  Should Ken Lay be held accountable or was he an innocent dupe?  Hah, the editorial jumps right past this question, moving up a notch and asking why the board of directors weren't being held accountable. 

Ken Lay argues that he was duped and didn't know what was going on.  Note that this is his criminal defense - which may or may not work - but it certainly would not have worked to keep his job, even if Enron were alive today.  In Heyward's case, he admits he knew what was going on, but didn't get things fixed.  Heyward had his chance in the first 24 hours to save the credibility of CBS News and he blew it.

Government Paying Journalists for Coverage

This is a real low both for journalistic and governmental integrity (via Captains Quarters):

The blogosphere buzzed yesterday with the revelation that pundit Armstrong Williams received $241,000 from the Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act and push other commentators to do the same. Williams did not disclose the payment while pushing NCLB in several columns and on his television appearances; instead, he represented his opinions as his own independent views.

This is simultaneously wrong and stupid.

Yet Another Reason Why I Am Frustrated By the Libertarian Party

After years of enduring a procession of moonbats and losers running under the Libertarian Party banner, I am frustrated that the party can't produce a credible libertarian candidate I feel good about voting for.  I wrote more on this here just before the election.

Now I see that the Libertarian Party is asking for a second recount in Ohio, after the first one changed the vote tally all of 300 or so votes out of a 100,000+ margin.  The Party's candidate admits that the recount won't change the result:

They have said they don't expect to change the election results, but want to make sure that every vote is properly counted.

Then why the hell do it?!?  And why the hell should we use government money to do it.  And why why why the hell is the Libertarian Party, the party of not just small but minimal government, doing asking for this??

Thanks to Captains Quarters for the link.  This "count every vote" thing confuses me.  A scientist would laugh at you at the concept of error-less measurement. Every measurement and count has error - you just try to make the count or measurement error substantially smaller than the differential in votes.    In the Washington governors race or in the Florida 2000 Presidential race, the differential was/is probably within the error bar.  But certainly not in Ohio.

Europe and Free Speech

Europe has never had the strong tradition of or protection of free speech and press that we enjoy in the US.  For years, I have criticized the use of libel laws in Europe to stifle speech -- similar things are attempted in the US, but seldom get very far in the courts.

Now comes this proposal (courtesy of Captains Quarters):

The Council of Europe has called on its 46 member-states to introduce legislation on the right of reply to correct false information on online media.

It said the Committee of (Foreign) Ministers, executive of the European human rights watchdog body, had adopted a recommendation on the right to reply for online Internet media.

This recommended that members consider introducing legislation on the "right of reply or any other equivalent remedy, which allows a rapid correction of incorrect information in online or off-line media......"

Fortunately, our government does not have any legal or constitutional right of reply in any media, though the implications for the Internet are interesting since about 20% of my readers are in Europe, if you can trust my referral logs.  So lets give it a test:  the EU is a bureaucratic, statist nightmare.  There, lets see if that gets a response.

Sarin Gas in Fallujah?

See Updates Below -- Update #1: Sarin test kits, most probably. Update #2: MSM still waddling along, left in the dust by blogs

This is not a huge surprise, but it is still bad news.  Sarin find announced a few days ago confirmed in pictures, and it sure looks legit.  Memo to Republicans:  This is bad news.  Do not make the same mistake as Democrats in deciding what is good and bad news based on how it vindicates or hurts Bush.

Sarin

Larger version is picture #2 in USA Today Slideshow

Story courtesy of Powerline and Captains Quarters

Update #1

More information in the link above at Captains Quarters.  The betting line now is that these are Sarin test kits, rather than Sarin, which makes more sense anyway given how they were found.

It is amazing to me that USAToday and others could have this story now for days, and make less progress on what is really in this picture than amateur blog readers can in a couple hours in a comment thread.  Interesting.

UPDATE #2 (1AM EST Thursday): 

It has been well over 8 32 hours since readers at a number of sites, including Powerline and LGF, deconstructed this photo and concluded that these were Sarin test kits.  USAToday has still not changed their story or their caption.