THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 418 June 12 - 18, 2006
Highlights this week:
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June 12, 2006
More fallout from the Jefferson Affair.
Congress are obviously too stupid to explain this properly; I doubt most of them even understand the real issue, themselves:
- Roland Dobbins
Indeed. The issue is NOT Mr. Jefferson's guilt or innocence, or whether he is black or plaid or purple; the issue is one of the relationship of the Congress and the Executive. It were far, far better for Mr. Jefferson to get off Scot free -- those with a sense of history may remember some of the outrages involving Adam Clayton Powell -- than for the Executive to acquire the means to intimidate the Legislature; and believe me, that is what is at stake.
When a Senator moved to provide a uniform bonus for the Army, Tiberius charged him with maiastas. "What have you to do with the Army? Why are you concerned with such matters?"
Mr. Jefferson will not get off Scot free; but it is for the House to deal with him. Race relations in this nation being what they are, this is a matter of high politics as well as a matter of constitutional precedent. Calls for a quick settlement stem from an understandable impatience, but are misguided.
The mail today is interesting, with an important report on the schools by an articulate student, and some advice by an attorney on how to deal with government investigations.
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Subject: "Buy Serenity on June 23!"
Or, unrelated to the DVD effort, attend one of the many fan-organized
big-screen charity showings of Serenity taking place in June.
- b!X, Webmaster for Can't Stop The Serenity
Marines came under fire from houses containing civilians and hostiles. They followed standard procedure for clearing the area. This is very hard on civilians. It was hard on German civilians in Europe in World War II. It was hard on Korean civilians in Korea in 1950.
This is what happens when you send in armies. Armies break things and kill people. That is what they are trained to do, and that is what they do. And those who live in war zones will pay a terrible price.
But it is not massacre. It is the inevitable consequence of war. It has happened many times before, and will happen many times again.
|This week:||Tuesday, June
The President visits the troops, and is happy to be with them. Hail to the Chief. Not that I begrudge the soldiers these signs of national favor. I remember when Harry Truman came to our unit. There were a lot of us, but there was the President, and we all felt part of the nation.
I am trying to work up something coherent about the Guantanamo situation. No one is happy. The combat troops stationed there are not happy about the situation. There are clearly people there who shouldn't be. There are also clearly people there whom we can never release. Sorting them out is impossible. They don't trust the legal officers assigned to defend them -- why should they? -- and the defense officers can't do their jobs properly. The Military Tribunals are a crude triage device, better than nothing, but they have to operate on the "detain unless there's a clear reason not to" principle. That means that if there is no evidence whatever, they have to determine the credibility of people who don't speak English, and who, the more innocent they are, the more unhappy and upset they are. I do not envy them their task.
But Guantanamo goes with Haditha: an inevitable consequence of imperial war. I would rather this were confined to offshore facilities like Guantanamo than that we corrupt our domestic legal system. Just as I would prefer that we recruit a Foreign Legion to act as constabulary and occupation forces, leaving the Real Legions to their primary job: the best military force the world has ever seen, able to break things and kill people wherever they are and whomever they may be. Constabulary duty leads to Habitha situations: no matter the Rules of Engagement, events like that are inevitable tragedies. I would spare the Regular Legions such duties as patrolling occupied territory.
It's integrated with Google Earth, which is interesting:
Versions of both for Mac and Windows; Google Earth is also now available for Linux.
----- Roland Dobbins
FROM another conference:
I had a nice reply from John Derbyshire regarding my comments on his National Review piece. I also posted that in another conference, and received this reply:
Which is an astute comment. Democracy in the Middle East is, I would think, the last thing we want over there.
Also from another conference:
And finally, also from another conference:
Well, I tried: I had Office 2007 running under Vista and tried to write the column with that combination. I have given up, and Norton is busily converting Sativa (her name under Vista) to Satine (her name under XP). It will take a while, but it's worth it.
Of course both Vista and Office 12 are beta 2, and it shows. Now I'll try Office 2007 in Satine and see how that goes.
Regarding Vitamin D:
Subject: Re VITAMIN D -- Wonder pill. Really.
CAUTION. Vitamin D is lipid soluble, not water soluble like some other vitamins ('C', for instance). The practical upshot of that is--when you ingest a surplus--it is not quickly excreted, but rather accumulates in your tissues. It can reach toxic levels if you over-do supplements. It is definitely NOT a case of, 'If a little is good, a lot is better'.
"Vitamin D Toxicity ... The first symptoms are anorexia, nausea, and vomiting, followed by polyuria, polydipsia, weakness, nervousness, and pruritus. Renal function is impaired, as evidenced by low sp gr urine, proteinuria, casts, and azotemia. Metastatic calcifications may occur, particularly in the kidneys ..." -- from the Merick Manual; http://www.merck.com/mrkshared/mmanual/section1/chapter3/3e.jsp
June 14, 2006
Happy Birthday Roberta
For those who wonder what the end of illegal immigration might be, notice the ejido activity in South Los Angeles yesterday. Years ago property was taken by eminent domain to be used as an incinerator. The district is run down commercial and it seemed a good place to build an energy generating waste disposal plant.
Local NIMBY activity stopped that. Perhaps wisely, perhaps not; I don't know enough to have an opinion. The land sat idly until the early 90's riots, when it was made available for small farm plots. Time passed. The neighborhood changed from black to Hispanic. The original farmers pretty well left; segregation gets pretty extreme when a neighborhood changes. The original owner sued the city to get his property back, and eventually Mr. Horowitz was permitted to buy it back, paying a bit more than he had been paid for it. He then tried to reclaim his property.
The squatters wouldn't leave. You may imagine the rhetoric. Food is being grown here. Etc. Much of the rhetoric sounded much like that in Mexico during any of the various revolutions which resulted in the ejido property which was passed out to communes. There was considerable sentiment for simply taking the land without any compensation, not the price paid, nor the annual taxes that have been paid since its "return". Part of the rhetoric referred to the owner, Mr. Horowitz, as "Jerusalem Mafia" and similar charges. The Mayor of LA got involved. In theory money was raised to buy the land, but in fact no actual offer of purchase was made and no money paid into escrow.
Mr. Horowitz, having been made aware of the anti-Jewish rhetoric, now says he won't sell at all.
The agitation for giving the land to the people continues. It isn't likely to get too far this time, but it is a picture of the future. Make no mistake. This is a picture of the future. The communist movement is not dead.
Support for this ejido was given by many Hollywood people, including Ed Begly, Jr,, who is a neighbor and friend. I have joked that perhaps I should go plant some crops in his yard, or perhaps tap into the electricity he generates with his roof-top solar cells (including one 2 square meter two axis active tracking array which I envy). Of course I wouldn't do that, and let me emphasize that I have heard nothing about Ed's activities in this matter that is detrimental to him.
But the rhetoric escalates, the Mayor of Los Angeles was on the side of the ejido movement, and this is very much a picture of our future. When you are invaded by ten million people, there are consequences. Europe has found this out. We are learning.
June 15, 2006
Why hasn't Congressman William Jefferson (D. Louisiana) been indicted? They clearly have the evidence? But until he has been indicted, he is as much entitled to a "presumption of innocence" as anyone else. If they have the evidence, and from the news accounts and leaks the Department of Justice certainly has that evidence, then why hasn't he been charged? Is this more political games?
I am not entirely certain that political corruption in Congress is a Federal matter for the Executive to begin with. Each House has more than enough power to investigate and expel Members, and my proclivity is to leave the matter to them. Crimes committed in the District of Columbia involving Congress are perhaps another matter -- except that the Constitution gives the High, Middle, and Low Justice within the District directly to the Congress. Congress has, in a fit of absence of mind, delegated this power, which it never should have done; but it's still not precisely a Federal matter. Crimes committed in the State of Louisiana are matters for the state; and yes, that means that in corrupt states, corrupt politicians can get away with it.
But I remind you that Daniel Webster had a large political slush fund provided by interest in New Hampshire. He didn't consider his salary as a Senator large enough and threatened to retire to private practice if he wasn't compensated. He was so compensated, and it wasn't a secret. The legislature of Massachusetts continued to send him to Washington, to the benefit of both Massachusetts and the United States of America. Presumably Webster was guilty of a number of acts which today would be Federal crimes. Note that Webster was a Federalist turned Whig and was in opposition to Jackson; and that Jackson, and Van Buren, were hardly above using Federal power to suppress opposition. Fortunately they did not have the FBI and investigations into "corruption" at their disposal.
The remedy to Representative William Jefferson lies with the House and with the voters of Louisiana, and that principle is more important than that he be held to account for his crimes. Two people have already pleaded guilty to bribing him; surely enough for the House to act on its own? And certainly enough for the Department of Justice to have charged and indicted him, and for that matter, for the government of the District of Columbia to have done so. That they have not seem odd; and I suspect politics. I suspect that the Executive is very glad to have Representative William Jefferson Democrat of Louisiana, in the House and on a major committee. It makes it much harder for Pelosi to continue her campaign against a "culture of corruption". Were I Carl Rove I would do what I could to keep Jefferson unindicted while everyone knows that the cold cash was found in his freezer.
But that, too, is significant. They hold Jefferson's career in their hands. Is this a good power for the Executive to have?
Separation of Powers will always produce results you will not like. Abolishing that principle will lead to far worse. Few would vote to abolish the principle; but many support its effective abolition through erosion. I am no fan of zero tolerance as a policy for sending people to jail; but I am very much in favor of zero tolerance of Executive control of the Congress.
The Zarqawi raid continues to bear fruit. The latest comes as no surprise: a connection between Sunni/Baathist insurgency and Zarqawi.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government discusses amnesty. We all know that amnesty in Iraq will be a condition of ending the civil war there. Whether it is wise to say that openly is not so clear.
Mail including a paper from Russell Seitz when I get back from taking Sable for her grooming.
Back. Lots of mail, most of it very good.
Russell Seitz on explosives and nitrites, in Reports.
Subject: Jim Baen in Hospital
In case you didn't hear about this, from Steven Barnes's blog:
Thursday, June 15, 2006 Bad News- Supereditor Jim Baen in hospital
I just heard that Jim Baen, one of the most influential editors in the science fiction field, had a stroke, and has been in a coma for the last twelve hours. No more information at this time, but those of us who consider ourselves friends, or have admired the vast contribution he has made to the field, well...if you believe in prayer, this would be a good time.
I didn't think it was my place to announce this. I've telephoned some of Jim's friends, and I am in contact with Toni and Jessie. I'll let you all know when I have something significant to report. Jim was Editor when I was Science Editor at Galaxy and we have been close friends ever since.
And it would be a good time for prayers. Believing isn't required.
June 16, 2006
Russell Seitz on explosives and nitrites, in Reports.
The Democratic Caucus of the House has voted to remove Mr. Jefferson from his major Committee (Ways and Means); this over the opposition of the Black Caucus (which consists of Democrats only, having declined to admit Black Republicans) which voted to leave Mr. Jefferson on his committees at least until he is indicted.
The Republicans have a Rule that no Member may have a leadership assignment if indicted. The Democrats have no such Rule, but leave these matters to the discretion of the Caucus. I agree entirely with the Democrats on this. The Republicans have in essence delivered the control of their leadership to not only Federal prosecutors and the Executive in general, but to every District Attorney back home in the Congressional District. It is a legal maxim that a good DA can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich.
The Democrats have acted properly in this matter. The Leadership isn't restrained by "judicial notice" rules, or bans on hearsay evidence. Why should they be? Mr. Jefferson has brought infamy on the House of Representatives. He is entitled to defend himself before his peers -- the other Members -- but he has offered no defense. One supposes he could argue that he was framed, guilty of Sitting in Congress while Black, but he doesn't seem to have done so, and his defense doesn't seem to have taken hold. But the discretion to remove him from Committee assignments, and to expel him from office, rests with his peers -- the other Members -- and with no one else. The Democrats are correct here: these are not matters to be turned over to the Executive. Indictment is not automatic grounds for removing a Member from Committees, nor is the lack of indictment grounds for inaction by the Members. Legislative autonomy and independence means just that.
On this score I have received this mail from a subscriber in replay to yesterday's notes:
The remedy to Representative William Jefferson lies with the House and with the voters of Louisiana, and that principle is more important than that he be held to account for his crimes.
But is it, really? These days when an "earmark" can send billions of dollars into the hands of whomever, do we dare treat corruption in any way lightly?
Further I've seen no evidence yet that the Executive - as in the President or other high ELECTED officials - have any personal interest in this case. That it is in any way an attempt to "get" the Congressman for political, rather than criminal reasons, or influence the Congress in any way whatever (except as possibly a wake-up call to the similarly crooked). The Judiciary, as I have read, WAS involved, and approved.
It seems to me the lack of separation of powers in this case is purely theoretical (yes the FBI reports to the AG who reports to the President, but seems to have initiated the action completely independently) whereas the corruption, if proven, was very very real, and in its own way extremely corrosive to our democracy.
All the best--
To which I can only answer, legislative independence and immunities ought to be independent of such analysis. They are absolute or they are nothing: the Republicans have found that out to their sorrow in the DeLay case, which allowed an ardently partisan local DA to remove the House leader. At least that was a matter within DeLay's District, but the principle ought to be that the House and the House alone should make these decisions; they should not be automatic.
And make no mistake: it is unimportant that in this case there was no effort to "get" Mr. Jefferson; the important matter is that it should be impossible for the executive to "get" a Member of Congress.
Corruption of the appropriation process is another matter. The remedy for this lies in the Separation of Powers, and the Executive should veto all those fat pork barrel bills with their earmarks. Newt Gingrich shut down the government on the wrong grounds, and ever since the Republicans have been terrified of such confrontations; but Bush should have vetoed every one of those omnibus bills loaded with earmarks, even if they were vital to running the government. The public is smart enough to see the point of that. Of course Bush would not do that: the Republicans have been on a spending spree that makes Democrats look like principled fiscal conservatives. Their spending antics give drunken sailors a bad name. The Republicans have proven themselves more fond of pork than ever were the Democrats, and the Executive is on their side in this. In any event reform of the pork barrel earmarks process is a matter for another essay.
Legislative independence is an important matter. Separation of powers, checks and balances, are the differences between a democracy -- "There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide" -- and a republic. I would far rather have Mr. Jefferson and corruption left to his District -- again recall Adam Clayton Powell -- than compromise one of the very foundations of a constitutional republic.
Note: I know the breaking news is more about the debates of the War, but I consider the principle of legislative independence far more important than any current issue.
June 17, 2006
I have taken the day off.
June 18, 2006
The key to power in space:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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