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Alana is Eight

Alana Poulson, 3/31/2005

Alana, Ryan and Kimmy, 3/31/2005

Alana turned eight today. She seems pretty happy about it.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Thursday, Mar 31 2005 04:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

Terri Schiavo

This morning everyone is reporting that Terri Schiavo has died.

The political mess has only just begun.

I recall seeing web pages about Terri Schiavo many months ago and only recently has it become something that entered the national consciousness (if not the national conscience).

How many others are suffering similar plights?

Will this lead to changes in procedural law about findings of fact? Will it lead to improved definitions for various medical conditions? Will it lead to an understanding of the legal definition of abuse?

Maybe, but in my experience the national memory for such things is very very short.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 31 2005 08:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  5 comments  |  No trackbacks

Ambassador Powell, Pakistan and Matchbooks

A followup to “US Ambassador Impedes Bin Laden Manhunt.”

Richard Miniter's story, “How a Lone Diplomat Compromised the Hunt for Bin Laden,” got a reaction out of the State Department. Miniter covers the response in his blog:

So the State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli decided to fire back at me for my article on the front-page of the New York Sun on Monday. What is interesting is that baseless charges (“untrue and unfair”!) are thrown around so freely. I wonder if he actually read the entire article. Mr. Deputy Spokesman raises a number of objections, as you can see below. All of the points he makes are mentioned in the original story. His complaint amounts to arguing that the State Dept. view is buried too far into the story. I guess he wants to play editor…

A day later, Miniter gets a reassertion from Representative Kirk:

The lawmaker at the center of The New York Sun's exclusive yesterday stands by his account. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican of Illinois, who sits on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department, faulted Ambassador Nancy Powell's decision to impound wanted posters, matchbooks, and other items translated into local languages.
Asked for comment yesterday, Mr. Kirk declined to elaborate further, adding that the hunt for Mr. bin Laden has been invigorated by the replacement of Ms. Powell by veteran diplomat Ryan Crocker.

I suspect this spat will continue. If the program had been discontinued by State before Ms. Powell arrived, well and good, but it was started up again after Crocker was appointed. If Powell didn't kill it, why did Crocker bring it back?

It seems to be the belief of some that it doesn't work.

Maybe rewards don't work against current terrorists, but do they deter others from becoming terrorists? Or does it make them bolder, like the Wild West movies where outlaws try for higher rewards?

I think the rewards involved here are big enough to change someone's life if they bring forward real information.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Terrorism” Wednesday, Mar 30 2005 10:33 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Referrer Spam

Ann Althouse decries referrer spam.

And you check the "Referrals" page, and you see the name of a blog you don't know, so you click on it. But it's one of those automatically updated, machine-made bogus blogs that advertise some damned thing.

There are tools to filter out referrer spam in logs, although I don't use any. I can usually tell when something is bogus and they just want clicks. Partly it's what pages they hit. Partly it's because I saw them earlier when I added them to MT-Blacklist.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Wednesday, Mar 30 2005 07:29 PM  |  Permalink  |  4 comments  |  No trackbacks

Open Source Is Not Communism

Dana Blankenhorn at ZDNet.com highlights Kenneth Brown's latest screed asserting such wild assertions as

…open source is the product of disgruntled employees, leftists, and those who hate the idea of private property.

Mr. Blankenhorn asks,

So I want to aim this question squarely at political conservatives. Does this idea resonate with you? Is there something unsavory about open source, with Linux, and with the public domain, something politically incorrect?

To me, the biggest difference between open source and communism is that open source is given, Communism is imposed. I don't know if I count as a conservative, however, but I am a free market capitalist. I'm not a disgruntled employee (IBM pays me to work on open source), I'm not a leftist, and I certainly believe in private property.

Microsoft fears open source because it is a disruptive innovation targeted squarely at Microsoft's platform monopoly. The idea is that a “gorilla” such as Microsoft can be deposed by loosening their death-grip on the specification of the platform enabling general-purpose computing. Microsoft's core competency since the 80's has been to own platforms. After all, they got their shot at the IBM PC because they made BASIC for everything, and IBM felt it needed BASIC for its Personal Computer. DOS was an afterthought. Imagine what the world would be like if CPM-86 won instead.

The fact that alternatives exist and enjoy broad support from a ton of different vendors makes it harder for Microsoft to dominate the market for general purpose personal computing platforms. Open source is also deposing a lot of other platform players from their niches in the process. Like any disruptive innovation you can either harness it or try to deflect it. Microsoft wants to deflect anyone away from a platform specification it cannot control. The same thing happened with Java not that many years ago, you'll recall.

Microsoft's latest reaction to Firefox with vaporware pronouncements about Internet Explorer 7 illustrates this effect. Microsoft would have done nothing if had not been for Firefox. Monopolies are never forced to act unless someone can scramble over the barriers to entry in a market. Rumors abounded that Microsoft was going to stop updating IE for old platforms in hopes of leveraging its web browsing platform power into moving people off of old unprofitable personal computing platforms onto its modern “lock-in” strategy.

I know people that still run Windows 98. I, myself, run Windows 2000 Professional when I need to run Windows. I don't need to be locked-in to a successive upgrade cash stream to make Bill Gates richer. I need to get my work done. Microsoft no longer addresses my pains as a customer.

When I do have pain, though, open source is alluring. I can often download something close. I can either modify it myself if I'm feeling skilled or hire someone else to modify it. Then, under the rules, I release my changes to the outside world to use if they want. My pain is sated and my cost is sating the same pain for everyone else. I don't have to do it if I don't want, and if someone else does it before I do, I benefit. The fact that I don't have to do it separates it from Communism.

You see, Communism is all about the state owning the means of production and (supposedly) providing for the needs of everyone. That's not compelling to me. I still profit directly from my work, after all, and that makes me work as hard as necessary to beat my competitors. Microsoft, if they want my money, will need to work harder too. If they feel they can compete with open source, let them. They have the resources to do almost anything, after all.

Instead they spend their money in shabby whining and name-calling.

Update: I'm adding this one to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Linux” Tuesday, Mar 29 2005 09:42 AM  |  Permalink  |  7 comments  |  No trackbacks

Mark Hurd To Head HP

It appears that HP moved quickly and selected NCR CEO Mark Hurd to be it's new leader. I was on the engineers that fought “fight” Mr. Hurd when he headed up the Teradata division of NCR and I worked on Informix Extended Parallel Server. While Informix was absorbed by IBM, I relished outperforming Teradata and touting our more open solutions at every turn.

According to The Wall Street Journal Mr. Hurd is an expert in execution, something HP needs right now:

H-P directors chose Mr. Hurd because he is a strong executive able to improve operations quickly and execute strategy, one person close to the situation said. Also, “he's very, very driven” and “has run a mini H-P,” this person said. BusinessWeek floated Mr. Hurd's name as a possible CEO candidate earlier this week.

Good luck, Mr. Hurd. Cutting costs (only a small piece of “execution”) is not the only challenge at HP right now.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Tuesday, Mar 29 2005 09:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Castle Anthrax

Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press reports in The Washington Times that Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha dumped deactivated anthrax near oneo f Saddam's palaces in 1991. The information was buried in the Iraq Survey Group report, “a 350,000-word document issued Oct. 6.”

An Iraqi scientist has told U.S. interrogators that her team destroyed Iraq's stock of anthrax in 1991 by dumping it practically at the gates of one of Saddam's main palaces, but never told U.N. inspectors for fear of angering the dictator.

That's not the only major revelation in the report either. Saddam did seem to be making more anthrax at one point. Gasp!

The anthrax mystery had bedeviled U.N. inspectors since the 1990s, when Iraqis said that they had made 2,191 gallons of the bacterial substance before the 1991 Gulf War.
The U.N. specialists, who scoured Iraq for banned arms from 1991 to 1998 and again in 2002 and 2003, confirmed anthrax had been dumped at Hakam. But they also found indications that Iraq had produced an additional, undeclared 1,800 gallons of anthrax.

So, did Saddam's culture of fear ultimately lead to the second war in Iraq?

Australian microbiologist Rod Barton, who took part in Iraq Survey Group interrogations, said in a recent Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview that the disposal was carried out in July 1991, when Iraqi orders were issued to destroy all bioweapons agents immediately.
Then, through the years, Mrs. Taha and other Iraqi officials denied the “missing” anthrax ever existed.
“The members of the program were too fearful to tell the regime that they had dumped deactivated anthrax within sight of one of the principal presidential palaces,” the Iraq Survey Group says.

So, if “hubris” is overweaning pride, what is it called when overweaning tyranny leads to your downfall? I call it “justice.”

Update: I'm adding this post to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 29 2005 09:15 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The New Libertarian, Volume 1, Issue 1

The folks over at QandO and The Neolibertarian Network have published the first issue of The New Libertarian here. The printable version is quite nice looking and I'm giving the articles a glance right now. It has 16 pages of contributions from Dale Franks, Bruce McQuain, Matt Barr, Max Borders and Jon Henke. If I have time later I'll comment directly on the articles.

I suppose I should take a little time to write an essay for it myself, but I'm finishing one class and starting two new ones. That's pretty hefty when you include my 10-hour-a-day daytime job.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 29 2005 08:43 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

US Ambassador Impedes Bin Laden Manhunt

Richard Miniter reports in the New York SunHow a Lone Diplomat Compromised the Hunt for Bin Laden:”

Ambassador Nancy Powell, America's representative in Pakistan, refused to allow the distribution in Pakistan of wanted posters, matchbooks, and other items advertising America's $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Mr. bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.
Instead, thousands of matchbooks, posters, and other material—printed at taxpayer expense and translated into Urdu, Pashto, and other local languages—remained “impounded” on American Embassy grounds from 2002 to 2004, according to Rep. Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois.

Wow. I can't understand why a US Ambassador would intervene in a open effort to capture Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda terrorists.

Mr. Kirk discovered Ms. Powell's unusual order in January 2004 and, over the past year, launched a series of behind-the-scenes moves that culminated in a blunt conversation with President Bush aboard Air Force One, the removal of the ambassador, and congressional approval for reinvigorating the hunt for Mr. bin Laden.

Looks like she got fired (actually she ended up being recalled to Foggy Bottom). But why did it happen?

Mr. Kirk accidentally learned of Ms. Powell's impoundment policy as part of an official congressional delegation visiting Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, in January 2004.

Ouch. In addition to “why did it happen?” I'd like to know why to took so long to notice?

Mr. Kirk said that he raised the issue directly with the ambassador. According to the congressman, she replied that she had “six top priorities” and finding Mr. bin Laden was only one of them. She listed other priorities: securing supply lines for American and allied forces in Afghanistan, shutting down the network of nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan, preventing a nuclear war between Pakistan and India, and forestalling a radical Islamic takeover of the government of Pakistan, a key American ally.

Those are good objectives, but it's really hard for anyone (or any organization) to focus on six priorities. However, it seems (to me) like the distribution of materials promoting a reward for turning in Al Qaeda members could be easily delegated. Dealing with the leads from the program would certainly be extra work, but surely it would be considered valuable enough to ask for more people to do it.

High-level managers that claim to have too many priorities bother me. They should delegate better and spend their time securing resources necessary for those to whom they delegate as well as establishing broad policy for their organizations.

A senior State Department official confirmed that the meeting between Mr. Kirk and Ms. Powell did occur and that the ambassador did review the embassy's top six priorities, but the official said that “counterterrorism was the no. 1 priority.”

There's a clear expectation there. If it wasn't clear enough, the President was saying the same thing. I can't imagine Colin Powell softening that message either.

This same official apparently engaged in damage control, given the opportunity:

The senior State Department official denied that Ms. Powell had restricted the distribution of materials touting the reward for Mr. bin Laden and other “high value targets.” That program—known as Rewards for Justice—was discontinued in Pakistan prior to Ms. Powell's 2002 arrival because it was “ineffective,” the senior official said. At the time, the Rewards for Justice program was widely used by other American embassies farther from the center of America's operations to kill or capture key Al Qaeda leaders.

“Ineffective” compared to some other program, perhaps, but more effective than no program at all. If there was a resource issue, Ms. Powell should have indicated that. Perhaps that's where she was going with her “six top priorities” but that was definitely the wrong thing to say.

Meanwhile, our intrepid congressman went on the warpath and gained an audience.

When Mr. Bush asked the congressman to join him aboard Air Force One for a campaign stop in Mr. Kirk's suburban Chicago district in July 2004, the lawmaker saw his chance. He told the president about his ambassador impounding materials that could lead to the capture of Mr. bin Laden. “Bush was very cautious,” Mr. Kirk recalled. The president did not betray an immediate response. “When one of his people is concerned, he likes to take his time and investigate.”

Results? Ms. Powell returns to Foggy Bottom in November of 2004 and is replaced by Ryan Crocker. Crocker's changes were significant:

The American Embassy in Islamabad now boasts a 24-hour call center to receive tips. The center is manned by two locals, both of whom speak the three major languages of Pakistan, and supervised by a Diplomatic Security officer. Embassy staff recently launched a 12-week radio and television campaign alerting residents that, in the words of one 30-second Urdu-language radio spot, they “may be eligible for a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to the arrest of known international terrorists.” About 25 calls were received in February 2005, the center's first full month of operation.

So perhaps Rewards for Justice was ineffective, but a similar program seems to be in operation now. Congressman Kirk spearheaded legislation to increase the reward to $50 million, as well.

Richard Miniter has written extensively on counterterrorism in the Clinton and Bush administrations in his books Losing Bin Laden and Shadow War. I haven't read them, but I did hear an interview with him on the Victoria Taft show here in Portland. He seemed to know what he was talking about.

(Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.)

Update: Richard Miniter has relaunched his blog Miniter's Notebook.

Update2: I'm adding this to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

3/29/2005 Update: Tigerhawk, to his own surprise, defends the State Department in his analysis of this article.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Terrorism” Monday, Mar 28 2005 11:53 AM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  1 trackback

Carnival of the Cats #53

The 53rd Carnival of the Cats is up.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Monday, Mar 28 2005 08:03 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Books for School, Spring 2005

I forgot to mention what books I was reading for this term.

For MST 520 “Becoming an Effective Manager” I am reading Reframing Organizations by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal and Leading Quietly by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. So far Bolman & Deal haven't been too squishy, although some of the articles we've needed to read have been.

For MST 523 “New Product Development” I am reading Developing Products in Half the Time by Preston G. Smith and Donald G. Reinertsen (I'm already buying the premise that there is a cost for delaying the release of a product to meet a customer need), The Basics of FMEA by Robin E. McDermott, Raymond J. Mikulak and Michael R. Beauregard (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis) and, optionally, Product Strategy for High Technology Companies by Michael E. McGrath. I think my background with Winning at New Products by Robert G. Cooper helps with this class already, as material I've read tonight meshes neatly with the previous text. In fact, Smith & Reinertsen reference Cooper.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “School” Saturday, Mar 26 2005 09:55 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Neolibertarian Blog Roll

I fooled around a little with blogrolling.com and threw together a Neolibertarian Network roll that you'll see in the sidebar. I'll try to keep it up to date. I had to wonder whether it should point to the feeds on neolibertarian.net or at the blogs themselves. If decided that if people want to read the feeds, they can click the logo, otherwise they can click the links.

When I get the energy I need to do another one for the McCain Feingold Insurrection.

In other news, I dumped my link to blogspotting. It's clearly been dead for a while now.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Saturday, Mar 26 2005 09:00 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Carnival of Cordite #6

Carnival of Cordite #6 is up, and they featured my post on the DEA reaction to videos of the agent that shot himself getting on the Internet.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Saturday, Mar 26 2005 07:19 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

13 Things That Don't Make Sense

NewScientist brings us “13 things that do not make sense:”

  1. The placebo effect
  2. The horizon problem
  3. Ultra-energetic cosmic rays
  4. Belfast homeopathy results
  5. Dark matter
  6. Viking's methane
  7. Tetraneutrons
  8. The Pioneer anomaly
  9. Dark energy
  10. The Kuiper cliff
  11. The Wow signal
  12. Not-so-constant constants
  13. Cold fusion

Read them all. There are still frontiers in science.

(Hat tip to Wizbang.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Friday, Mar 25 2005 03:11 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

School Update, Spring Quarter 2005

So, a new quarter is about to start at the OGI School of Science & Engineering where I am working towards my degree in Management in Science & Technology. I just finished Finance, and I have some remaining items to do for Marketing. In fact, once those items are done I'll have reached the halfway mark in my studies.

I'm starting two new classes on the 28th: MST 520 “Becoming an Effective Manager” and MST 523 “New Product Development.”

MST 520 will be the first core management class I've taken at OGI, one of the key goals of the program for me. The reading so far has been considerably more “touchy-feely” than my other courses. I'll be taking this course online.

MST 523 will be my first at the Wilsonville “campus.” I wasn't able to get this one online, but I'll survive, I think. It does mean leaving work early to get down there and deal with it. Then there's the 40 mile drive home. Such is life, I heard that the professor was really good and I shouldn't miss it. He also teaches the Strategy class, MST 530, which is the last required core course before the final Capstone project.

In many ways I feel like I'm starting the home stretch. While this is another quarter with 8 credits (and a gargantuan bill to go with it), from here on out it gets better. 7 credits next quarter with Strategy and Quality, 5 the next with “Going to Market” and the start of Capstone (which many recommend taking together as you can make Capstone your group project), and 3 next Winter to finish off Capstone. That 3 is disingenuous, of course. Capstone is a lot of work.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “School” Friday, Mar 25 2005 08:50 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Why We Blog

Most people do not accumulate a body of experience. Most people go through life undergoing a series of happenings, which pass through their systems undigested. Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns, and synthesized.

(Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Wednesday, Mar 23 2005 10:58 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

Managers vs Employees; Citizens vs Representatives

I got this information from an IBM information page, but I summarized it myself.

The Labor Relations Institute of New York has done repeated studies on what employees want and what managers think employees want. The results are typically different:

What managers think employees want:
  1. Good wages
  2. Job Security
  3. Promotion and growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty to workers
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation for work done
  9. Sympathetic understanding of personal problems
  10. Feeling “in” on things
What employees say they want:
  1. Full appreciation for work done
  2. Feeling “in” on things
  3. Sympathetic understanding of personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion and growth opportunities
  8. Personal loyalty to workers
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline

What would really be interesting to see is a study that compared what employees say they want and what they actually respond to. Well, actually, there's been a lot of studies about that. Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and managers should endeavor to make sure employees understand, influence and are a part of the “big picture.”

Is that really so hard?

I think that understanding should be applied to citizens, too. Citizens want to understand, influence and be a part of the big picture for their town, county, state and country too. They want their voice to be heard. But I wonder. Do they really make good decisions?

I'll leave that question open.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business” Wednesday, Mar 23 2005 09:44 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

DEA Agent Redux

The DEA Agent who shot himself in a gun safety class has made it into Urban Legends powerhouse snopes.com.

Claim: Video captures a DEA agent who accidentally shot himself while conducting a presentation on gun safety.
Status: True.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Wednesday, Mar 23 2005 07:05 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Conservatives, Judges and Schiavo

From the New York Times:

Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials.

It's not the court's job to interpret the will of the people. It's the court's job to interpret the law. They did not talk to conservatives in this article, they talked to authoritarians with a conservative bent.

Law Professor Ann Althouse responds:

What Judge Whittemore did is very dramatic proof of the judiciary's deep commitment to the rule of law and its firm resistance to political pressure and emotional entreaties.
And what do “conservatives” really think of judges? Do they want them—as the third paragraph in that block quote says—not “to ignore the will of the public and elected officials?” I thought good conservatives wanted judges to set aside political preferences and faithfully follow the dictates of the law. The criticism of “activist” judges is that they abuse the law by making it into what they prefer politically, but the solution isn't that they should do more of what other people prefer politically. It's that they ought to do what the law requires.

Some have said that the Republicans will lose if Schiavo dies. I think they have already lost by stumbling around and destroying their coalition with strict constructionists. “Right to life” could have been approached much more cleanly than this law.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 23 2005 06:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

“The Era of Big Government Is Over”

Grand Old Pragmatists, Cox & Forkum, 3/22/2005

(Cox & Forkum's “Grand Old Pragmatists”)

Lately I've been troubled. It all reminds me of a Bill Clinton quote (originally from his 1995 State of the Union Address, but expanded later) from 1996:

We will meet these challenges, not through big government. The era of big government is over, but we can't go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves.

That was hardly true then, and hardly Bill Clinton's intention. What's going on now? The Grand Old Party is in (nominal) charge of two branches of government and often claims to be the party of smaller more accountable government. But these last few weeks we have seen some intrusiveness that can hardly be overlooked.

Ryan Sager noticed too:

In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life—none too trivial and none too intimate—that the federal government should not permeate with its power.

I've resisted commenting on steroids and Schiavo, myself. They are really none of my business.

Frankly I think there should be two sports communities: one where everyone is natural and tested to an outrageous extent, and another where people can do whatever they want. Let the market decide what it wants. There might be enough interest in both. There may only be enough interest for one.

As for Schiavo, I think it's a mess I know little about. What I feel is that if there is someone competent willing to take care of her then Michael Schiavo should be able to completely sever himself from her (marriage, inheritance, lawsuit awards, whatever) and go on with his life as if they had never been together. The law made them together and it can make them apart. Unlike the abortion debate, there's no biological connection clouding the issue.

But in both of these cases the GOP has clouded the issue. In the Schiavo issue, instead of making a law protecting rights, they performed some sort of machination that allowed a Federal judge to review a State case. If there's anything broken about the legal aspects of this it's that there has been no way to produce any additional or reviewed findings of fact. Only one court had that power. If courts can review and re-review findings of law, should there not also be a way to re-review findings of fact? I'm no lawyer, but that part mystifies me.

It also mystifies me that it's legal to starve this woman to death but not a dog in the state of Florida.

In the steroid issue they held a hearing where they threatened to regulate an industry. I'm all for hearings. Congress should have the power to inform the public about a matter of national interest. Baseball players are public figures and are heroes to some youth, they should promote activities in the best interests of those youth. I'm not about to force them to do it, though. However, it didn't stop there. It seemed to me like there really was interest in regulating as an undercurrent in the affair. Ryan Sager points out one:

Still, such concerns didn't deter supposed small-government conservative Sen. John McCain from suggesting that “we ought to seriously consider… a law that says all professional sports have a minimum level of performance-enhancing drug testing.”

I've never liked Senator McCain since he came to Oregon to promote regulating gun shows, but don't let my bias throw you.

Oh well, I've never really liked sports and I stopped watching long ago. I hope I don't have to give up watching politics because they ticked me off too… Clinton's quote still resonates in my ears all these years later: “…we can't go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves.” What we are left on our own to deal with dwindles every year, and it's not just because of middle-left Democrats like Clinton and middle-right Republicans like McCain, it's because of authoritarians who obscure the difference between the two parties with their lust for forcing everyone to their righteous path.

Update: I'm adding this to the “Beltway Traffic Jam.”

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 22 2005 11:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Washington State Senate Repeals I-601 Taxpayer Protection

Don Benton sent the following alert.

The headline in the Seattle P-I tells the story: “Senate passes amendment to I-601, making it easier to raise taxes.”

On Tuesday, in a late night session, Senate Democrats pushed aside the last obstacle blocking a massive tax increase this year. They passed Senate Bill 6078 without a vote to spare: 25 to 21.

Senate Floor Leader Tracey Eide and Ways and Means Chair Margarita Prentice led the tax increase effort.

For twelve years, Initiative 601 has protected Washington taxpayers by requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes. The new law allows a simple majority to raise taxes. It contains an emergency clause so it will take effect immediately and it cannot be subjected to a voter referendum.

The “emergency” will allow Gov. Gregoire and the Democrats to raise taxes without consulting with Republicans. They hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

“This is the final nail in the coffin of Initiative 601,” Republican Senator Joe Zarelli said. “It gets rid of, forever, the requirement that to raise taxes we actually need to talk to each other."

For 12 years the Legislature had some restraint on raising taxes but now the party's over. Or for the Democrats, the party's just begun.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Mar 21 2005 09:25 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

Gun Bills in Washington State, Most Bills Still Dead

Urged by a reminder email from a reader today—and from the 3/18 GOAL alert—we have a list of dead anti-gun bills here in the State of Washington, except for three remaining ones on which we are neutral but watching. Dead bills numbers are struck through.

Senate bills
SSB 5041Sentencing rangeMcCaslin (R-4)H. Jud.Neutral
SB 5131Insanity finding/firearmsCarrell (R-28)S. RulesDied
SB 5167Firearm suppressorsHargrove (D-24)S. Jud.Died
SB 5342Safe storage of firearmsKohl-Welles (D-36)S. Jud.Died
SB 5343Gun show loopholeKohl-Welles (D-36)S. Jud.Died
SB 5344Capitol campus gun banFairley (D-32)S. Jud.Died
SB 5383Juvenile hunting licensesOke (R-26)S. NatRes.Died
SB 5475Assault weapon banKline (D-37)S. Jud.Died
SB 5545Deployed military CPL renewalRoach (R-31)S. Jud.Died
SB 5593.50 BMG rifle banKline (D-37)S. Jud.Died
SB 5635Restoration of rightsSchoesler (R-9)S. RulesDied
SJM 8005Manufacturer protectionBenton (R-17)S. Jud.Died
House bills
SHB 1133Public disclosure lawNixon (R-45)S. GovOps.Neutral
SHB 1213Juvenile hunting licensesClements (R-14)H. RulesDied
HB 1473Safe storage of firearmsMoeller (D-49)H. Jud.Died
HB 1489Capitol campus gun banWilliams (D-22)H. Jud.Died
HB 1490Park/rec area gun banDarneille (D-27)H. Jud.Died
HB 1627Assault weapon banKagi (D-32)H. Jud.Died
HB 1687Insanity finding/firearmsMoeller (D-49)S. Jud.Neutral
HB 1804CPL renewal notificationEricksen (R-442)H. Jud.Died
HB 1822Lead shot hunting banKagi (D-32)H. NatRes.Died
HB 2211Lead shot excise taxKagi (D-32)H. Fin.Died
HJM 4002Manufacturer protectionCurtis (R-18)H. Jud.Died

There is a hearing schedule on HB 1687 scheduled at 10am March 24th at the Senate Judiciary Committee, in Senate Hearing Room “1” (in the John Cherberg Building).

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Monday, Mar 21 2005 09:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Other Reason We Invented The Web, Part Three

Atticus in the Bag, 9/2/2002

Not quite out of the bag, yet.

I used to leave paper bags around the apartment which Atticus liked to climb into, but he was skittish, so a shot like this is rare. He had an incident with a paper bag that was inside a plastic bag. He got spooked and the handles of the plastic bag got caught on his foot. He ran around in circles panicked by the noisy bag chasing him down. I had to catch him and extricate from the situation, but I think it was pretty traumatic for him. He was afraid of plastic bags ever since.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Monday, Mar 21 2005 08:49 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Printer Friendly

I surf the web a lot looking at news, web pages for work, web pages for school. Am I the only one that, when I find something I want to read, clicks the “printer-friendly” link, if there is one, so I read the article without the distractions of flash graphics and interspersed advertisements?

I pay for a few news sites, like the Wall Street Journal, MIT Technology Review and The Economist. I don't like the fact that I'm still hit with a lot of ads despite the fact that I'm sending money to the operators of those sites. In comparison, Harvard Management Update has no ads at all. At least both of them support the “printer-friendly” option so I can read articles in peace.

I'm feeling guilty, here, because I've made no attempt to make my articles here “printer-friendly” by providing an appropriate style sheet. However, my ads are always at the bottom of all of the content and I try to keep the sidebar mellow.

Perhaps there's some way to get the online guys to listen without hurting their ad revenue…

Update: I forgot one more reason I click on the “printer-friendly” option: when online sources break up articles into multiple pages, the printer-friendly version is just one page.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Monday, Mar 21 2005 08:28 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

DEA Annoyed By Internet Exposure of Agent That Shot Himself

The DEA agent that I referred to in “The Three Rules of Safe Firearms Handling” was an undercover agent, and the DEA is annoyed because his face has been shown to everyone on the Internet. No mention is made of his behavior in front of a class of Orlando Fourth Graders that endangered their lives.

An investigation has been launched to determine who leaked the home video of the undercover DEA agent shooting himself at an event sponsored by the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association.
“It puts a lot of undercover agents in jeopardy if their faces are videotaped,” the masked agent told Local 6 News. “His identity is burned. His identity is known as a police officer and its a potential personal safety hazard to himself as well as his family members.”

Speaking of potential safety hazards, how about his actions in front of this class?

“This is a Glock 40,” the agent said on the tape. “Fifty Cent, Too Short, all of them talk about a Glock 40, OK?,” he said. “I'm the only one in this room professional enough that I know of to carry this Glock 40.”
Seconds later, the agent shot himself in the foot.

I'm surprised the Federal Government allows this person to continue to carry a gun in public, personally.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Saturday, Mar 19 2005 06:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  2 trackbacks

Felten's Law

Edward Felton of Freedom to Tinker points out that when it comes to the copyright and pornography debates the positions of the debaters switch changing from subject to subject.

The law:

As a copyright policy discussion grows longer, the probability of pornography being invoked approaches one.

And a corollary:

When the topic of a copyright policy discussion switches to pornography, each side suddenly adopts the other side's arguments.

And an example:

For example, Hollywood argues that filesharing will lead to a shortage of movies, because nobody will make movies they can't sell. But when the topic switches to pornographic movies, suddenly they start arguing that filesharing increases the creation and availability of content.
Similarly, some P2P vendors who say they can't possibly filter or block copyrighted content, suddenly decide, when the topic switches to porn, that they can provide effective blocking.

This is a great insight, and makes it clear to me that there are fundamental biases driving the debate as opposed to a search for solutions. When it comes to life online, people like content to be free for everyone else to see and they also look for ways to avoid content they don't want to see. From there we get search engines and ad blockers.

Perhaps this is not such a great shift when pornography is invoked, because the desired effect has shifted as well.

So, let me make my observations.

  1. People who produce content are performing work
  2. If they provide you that work it's either because they wanted you to see it or you may have paid to see it
  3. If you send it to someone else, it's because you want them to see it, or they want to see it.
  4. If they want to see it without paying and get it from you without compensation to the originator, that's wrong
  5. If someone sends you something you didn't want to see, but they wanted you to see it, that's spam

So, the reason for the switch in the pornography debate is that pornography is most often sent as spam (no one admits to looking for pornography), in hopes of getting people to buy the full content. P2P vendors want acceptance of their products and a customer requirement is the protection of children from pornography. We all know how well spam is filtered, so this seems like a vacuous claim on the part of P2P vendors.

There are tons of people (after all, someone is paying for all this stuff) that will want pornography available via P2P and they will most likely be copyright violators.

The copyright debate is all about making sure originators or distributors are paid for their content that people are getting to see without paying. P2P vendors derive a lot of use from people sharing copyrighted content that have purchased that they want to provide to their friends. They also want to look at their friends' copyrighted content. The tragic excess from P2P comes from the extension of the concept of “friends” to, essentially, the entire planet.

Solutions elude us, as a society, at the moment. It's far too easy to spam and to copy material so these activities are rampant. There is no strong cultural bias against these activities either. Strong penalties applied to people that perform these activities seem excessive to most in our society (a lawsuit and a $2,500 damage award against a 14-year-old girl in Montana, for example).

The only way out of this is to change the model. Let's hear your solutions.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Mar 19 2005 09:11 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

A Pledge

I've said it other ways before, but I'll also take Patterico's challenge.

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

I'll go one further. If any government institution makes rules or threats that limit my right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

Of course, I've followed campaign finance rules as closely as I knew them (far more of an issue when I ran for office than now) but when it comes to limiting what I say I have to draw the line.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 18 2005 05:56 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

5th Carnival of Cordite

The 5th Carnival of Cordite is up at Technogypsy.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Friday, Mar 18 2005 05:43 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

“Sue Everyone” v “Volunteer”

Philip K. Howard, chairman of Common Good, an organization dedicated to legal reform, has an editorial “Charity Case” in today's Wall Street Journal decrying a local Wisconsin case that may have a chilling effect on volunteerism.

Like a lake receding from its shores, the area of our freedom continues to diminish with each new theory of liability. The latest casualty is volunteerism. Last month, a jury in Milwaukee found the Catholic Archdiocese liable because a volunteer for a Catholic lay organization, driving her own car, ran a red light and caused an accident while delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to an invalid. Although the church does not direct the activities of this group, called the Legion of Mary, its meetings are held on church property. The jury decided the Archdiocese should pay $17 million to the paralyzed victim, an 82-year-old semi-retired barber.

There's plenty of volunteer activities involving larger organizations I see around here. Beside my own efforts with NWSAFE and “Camp White Feather” for the Boy and Girl Scouts, there's Habitat for Humanity, SOLV, Junior Achievement, National Engineers Month and many other volunteer activities popular with folks in my workplace. We all drive and IBM supports our time and efforts applied to these activities.

None of us will want to incur liability for our employer or for these fine organizations (although I keep my NWSAFE activities completely independent of my workplace activities).

Should charities be accountable for the driving of their volunteers? Charities, unlike business, don't typically hire and fire their volunteers. Charities aren't organized to maximize profits—they're trying to help society. Charities open their arms—come in and help make life better for our community. How many charities carry $17 million of insurance? And will $17 million be enough for the next accident?

At least with NWSAFE and White Feather our instructors have their own insurance of some form, although never to the tune of millions of dollars. That's hardly the case for the other volunteer organizations I mentioned.

Mr. Howard's argument rings true, however. Juries have no standards to apply in these cases and as a result look solely at the merits and not the intentions of the parties involved. There needs to be policy set to handle this (hardly unique) circumstance. Why is the liability so easily transferred to the volunteer organization that hardly governs the activities of the individual? The individual is not an agent of the volunteer organization, for example. There are very clear obligations in such a case.

Restoring trust in society requires a shift in the goals of justice, which is supposed to provide the foundation of freedom, not just a mechanism to resolve disputes. A system that tolerates wildly disparate results from one jury to the next promotes fear, not freedom. For Americans to feel free in daily choices, judges and legislatures must reclaim the responsibility to set the boundaries who can sue for what. That's what it means to live under the rule of law.

Consistency is a virtue, especially when it comes to law.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 17 2005 08:24 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Reasons to Go Cruising Again, Number Eleven

John McEnroe, Labadee, Haiti, 11/3/2002

(Photo by Josh Poulson)

John McEnroe searches for another photo opportunity in Labadee, Haiti.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising, Pictures” Tuesday, Mar 15 2005 01:57 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Widener University Offers Scholarships to Iraq Orphans

According to DefenseLink, my alma mater Widener University is offering four scholarships to the children of soliders killed in Iraq:

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Widener University President James T. Harris said during a telephone interview with the American Forces Press Service.
The genesis of the idea came when faculty and students at the four-year undergraduate school began being called up and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. “I was speaking with a fellow faculty member,” Harris said, “and we wondered if there was something we could do.”
Harris said he went back to his office and began “crunching numbers.” He found enough money in the scholarship budget to offer four full scholarships to the university. The offer equals $100,000 for one student for a four-year degree.

As an alumnus I definitely applaud this use of the endowment to support our troops overseas.

It’s called Widener CARES—for Children of Active and Reserves Educational Scholarships. The program is open to the sons and daughters of servicemembers killed in action in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. It is a national program.

I'm tempted to send Widener some more money because of this, but I'm not quite up to naming a computer classroom in Kirkbride Hall.

(Hat tip to Outside the Beltway.)

3/17/05 Update: Michelle Malkin has found out about this story and finds that only Oklahoma is offering anything close to this same offer for our troops.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Mar 14 2005 09:32 AM  |  Permalink  |  5 comments  |  No trackbacks

The Other Reason We Invented the Web, Part Two

Atticus on a Bookshelf, 8/18/2002

Atticus used to love high places where he could observe and/or attack people sitting in chairs below.

Update 3/20/2005: This posting has been featured in the Carnival of the Cats 52—First Anniversary Edition!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Sunday, Mar 13 2005 10:15 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

Carnival of the Cats

My Atticus picture has been featured in the Carnival of the Cats.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Sunday, Mar 13 2005 09:40 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi Selects Soft Targets

Via Little Green Footballs we learn of a magazine article detailing al-Zarqawi's plans to terrorize Americans:

In their March 14 issue, TIME Magazine reports new details of Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi’s plans to attack the United States, discovered through interrogations of a top aide to al-Zarqawi. According to TIME, a restricted bulletin circulated among U.S. security agencies last week in which the aide said al-Zarqawi has talked about hitting “soft targets” in the US, including “movie theaters, restaurants and schools.”

Presumably “red state” movie theaters, restaurants and schools, at that.

I've been concerned about the impact of attacking soft targets in the US, but somewhat comforted by the fact that liberalized concealed carry prevents the typical “shoot 'em up” from being more widespread. What really concerns me is bombings. People here are not tremendously concerned about unattended bags, IEDs and car bombs.

It does not go unnoticed by me that workplace shootings happen more frequently in the bluer states where repressive laws prevent widespread CCW. CCW doesn't prevent the other kinds of problems, however. Have cautious people already gotten out of the habit of avoiding large gatherings? Would an attack on such a gathering have a large effect on the US economy?

The more you can do from home, the better. There's not much value in blowing up the single-family home in the boonies, although home invasions are on the rise as well.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Terrorism” Sunday, Mar 13 2005 03:19 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Reasons to Go Cruising Again, Number Ten With a Splash

Belly Flop Contest, Voyager of the Seas

(Photo by John McEnroe)

Belly flop contest on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising, Pictures” Saturday, Mar 12 2005 09:12 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Carnival of Cordite

One of my articles on the FN 5.7 has been quoted in Week 4 of the Carnival of Cordite. Give all of the articles a read!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Friday, Mar 11 2005 07:51 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Reasons to Go Cruising Again, Entry Nine for Jamaica

Dunns River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica Clarence, Katherine, Josh and Misty

(Not sure who took this picture on an underwater film camera…)

Somewhere on Dunns River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica. In this photo are Clarence, Katherine, Josh and Misty.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising, Pictures” Friday, Mar 11 2005 11:49 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Black Helicopters and Pajamahadeen

The FEC debacle was covered again by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal Political Diary today. One quote that caught my eye:

Ellen Weintraub, one of the Democratic commissioners singled out by Mr. Smith for needling, has responded with her own bid to promote the FEC's newfound celebrity status in Internet postings. “People have images in their minds that the FEC has black helicopters ready to sweep down on people sitting in their pajamas at their computers. I assure you, we have no intention” of engaging in such activity, she told Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

Well, duh. We all know that the FEC uses green helicopters.

All joking aside, the American people and especially the blogosphere has learned that no proposed government crackdown is ludicrous. Having run for office myself, I remember all the reporting requirements and laws about “undue influence.” Mrs. Weintraub's pooh-poohing of valid concerns has a note of elitism in it. It's as if she knows that Republicans are winning because of the excessive unregulated political contributions of the pajamahadeen.

If they want to regulate speech on the Internet let them solve the identity theft, wire fraud and spamming problems first before they turn to the one type of speech expected to be protected by the Constitution: political speech. I've said it before, the First Amendment wasn't written to protect pleasant conversation.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 11 2005 10:20 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

A Sure Sign of Spring

Our new baby chicks

Peep peep peep!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Thursday, Mar 10 2005 11:31 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  1 trackback

The Three Rules of Safe Firearms Handling

Many of us have heard of the DEA Agent who was teaching a firearms safety class and shot himself in the leg. It turns out that there is a video of the event.

The three rules of safe gun handling:

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

This man violated all three rules and had the audacity to introduce the unplanned event with this:

I'm the only one in this room professional enough, that I know of, to carry this Glock .40. I'm the only…bang!

I'm horrified that a room of kids think that this was the action of a trained firearms instructor.

The first rule of firearms classroom instruction: No live ammunition in the classroom!

(Hat to to Wizbang for this article pointing to this article that had a link to the video.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Thursday, Mar 10 2005 04:27 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  1 trackback

Resources for Battered Women

My page of Portland-area firearms training resources has been added to this page listing resources for Battered Women.

I'm glad.

A couple years ago (Mother's Day, May 11th, 2002), when I was affiliated with the Portland Firearms Training Team (PFTT), we put on an event called Women Empowered for Defense with a little grant money from the NRA. We taught them firearm safety, the basics on how to shoot a pistol, a little about the judicious use of lethal force (that's the part I taught), the Refuse to Be a Victim program, and more personal advice from abuse survivors. We did this for free and it was a great success.

While most of that team left PFTT to form Northwest Safety and Firearms Education (NWSAFE), the model in that first event has been replicated several times in the Pacific Northwest. I'm glad to see my page is considered a resource by an organization called the International Peace Resource Center.

In my experience with the ladies I have met over the years who have managed to escape abusive relationships a court order is not a very good form of self-defense. If one's life in in danger, one should recognize the best tools to use to stay alive.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Thursday, Mar 10 2005 04:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

New Bridges, New Taxes

Washington State Senator Dan Swecker has proposed raising the Washington Gas Tax by a penny per gallon per year for the next five years, and continuing for a total of twenty years, in order to pay for some new highway projects in Washington. The bill is SB 6083. Doesn't seem like much at first, but it adds up:

His proposal would generate $12 billion over the next two decades, with $4.6 billion earmarked for local projects and $7.4 billion available for state and regional highway projects.

At the end of the run the gas tax would have been increased five cents a gallon after a five cent per gallon increase just two years ago.

I drove across the Columbia River from Washington in Oregon when I commute to work, so I am definitely sensitive to the need to improve that particular commute. There are some road problems in Oregon that routinely back up into Washington. I have to leave home around 5:30am in order to make my 38 mile commute in 45 minutes. If I leave later the time increase. When I head home it can take over an hour, two at the worst.

Many other improvements are covered by the bill. What's not clear to me is whether this bill would also fund fixing the serious problems on the Oregon side of the bridge. I'm especially sensitive to that since I pay Oregon a 9% income tax even though I live in Washington. No unilateral solution on either side of the river will fix this commute problem. I work from home when I can, but as a manager I should really show my face at the office from time to time.

A gas consumption tax seems an awful lot like a use fee—which I prefer to general taxes—but the raising of the tax by a penny per year is akin to stories of “boiling the frog.”—if you throw a frog in boiling water they'll jump right out again, but if you put a frog in warm water and heat it slowly you can boil the frog without him escaping.

Washington's gas tax is already 28 cents a gallon. At the end of this bill it will be 33 cents a gallon. That's a pretty severe increase. At least it's not described in terms of a percentage of the total, which would greatly increase the tax as the price of oil fluctuates.

“We need a long-term and stable funding plan that allows us to address our transportation needs without being a financial burden on drivers,” he said. “This plan qualifies on both counts.”

Five cents a gallon doesn't seem like much to most people, but I'm pretty sure most people don't know how much gas they use each year or have a budget that describes how much they spend on it.

Swecker's plan also adopts a pay-as-you-go approach, using cash for projects rather than selling bonds.

This, however, I like. Paying for projects with current money instead of future money at least better ensures that they will get done.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 10 2005 08:28 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Removed Nofollow, Added MT-Moderate

The Nofollow Plugin for Movable Type was a cute idea while it lasted. However, it didn't seem to cut down on the attempted spam on my blog. I think I would reenable it if I was planning to shut down my blog or leave it unattended for a long period of time, thus inviting spammers. In the meantime, it has messed with the parsing of HTML, messed with the display of trackback pings, and other mayhem. If it was bug free I would have tolerated it more.

Just added to the blog, however, is the MT-Moderate Plugin. This allows me to moderate trackbacks, which is something that was sorely needed in the weeks since my blog was noticed by the spammers. It also automatically moderates comments made to postings more than seven days old. While I do get valid comments on my old postings, it's rare.

My other moderation policies are still in effect. For the most part the only way to post without getting automatically moderated is to have a Typekey identity, and if you leave something icky on my blog with Typekey, then I have a means of getting back to you. My family reads this blog.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Wednesday, Mar 9 2005 12:22 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Mount St. Helens Burps 36,000 Foot Plume

3/8/2005 Plume from Mt. St. Helens, Matt Logan, 3/8/2005

Plume from Mount St. Helens, as seen from the Cascade Volcano Observatory Office roof, taken approximately at 5:30 PM, PST. Plume is drifting east-northeast after reaching approximately 36,000 feet above sea level.
USGS Photograph taken at approximately 5:30 PM PST on March 8, 2005, by Matt Logan.

Photos from Mt. St. Helens appear here.

I live a little over forty miles from Mt. St. Helens but I did not witness this event because I was at baseball practice with Ryan and Alana.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 07:36 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity

Gun Owners of America has sent notice that Rep. John Hostettler will be introducing a bill for national concealed carry reciprocity:

Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) will soon be reintroducing his national reciprocity bill that protects the right of citizens to carry their firearms into other states.
Hostettler's language has a huge advantage over other reciprocity-type bills in that it does not punish states for being too pro-gun. His bill would not penalize citizens from states like Alaska and Vermont, because his proposal doesn't require a citizen to first get a permit to enjoy reciprocity in another state.

I call upon all those folks that helped push the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 reciprocate by supporting this bill. We got nationwide concealed carry for law enforcement, now let's see nationwide concealed carry for citizens who qualify for concealed carry in their home state.

If you need to know more about the patchwork of concealed carry laws, there is no better source than packing.org

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 03:50 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Terror Watch Lists and Gun Purchases

The New York Times is scooping Lautenberg's newest anti-gun initiatives, this time to encourage keeping lists of gun buyers:

Dozens of terror suspects on federal watch lists were allowed to buy firearms legally in the United States last year, according to a Congressional investigation that points up major vulnerabilities in federal gun laws.

Well, forty-seven purchases out of fifty-eight attempts over nine months. How many other legal purchases of firearms were made in that same period? And who has characterized this as “major vulnerabilities” other than a reporter with an agenda, perhaps one Senator who a history of anti-gun bills, and a anti-gun lobbying organization? What is the percieved value of combatting these perceived vulnerabilities versus the privacy rights of millions of people? In 2003 126,000 purchases were denied out of 7,831,000 applications, so “millions” is the right word to use, here.

People suspected of being members of a terrorist group are not automatically barred from legally buying a gun, and the investigation, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, indicated that people with clear links to terrorist groups had regularly taken advantage of this gap.

Last I checked, if there was a clear link, we charged them with a crime under the PATRIOT Act. If the link is unclear, however, then there's not enough evidence to charge them with a crime. Is that enough evidence to infringe upon their rights?

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials and gun control groups have voiced increasing concern about the prospect of a terrorist walking into a gun shop, legally buying an assault rifle or other type of weapon and using it in an attack.

Buying an assault rifle, under the National Firearms Act of 1934, is not as trivial as buying a regular firearm. This is the standard conflation of “assault weapon” and “assault rifle” regularly practiced by anti-gun pundits. Since the press is regularly corrected on this issue, misuse of this terminology must be deliberate. Buying an assault rifle (made before 1986, that is, those made after that are just plain unobtainable by legal means) requires BATFE sign off, as well as the sign off of your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (usually your sheriff), paying the $200 tax, undergoing inspection, and a long list of annoyances that Lautenberg would like applied to regular firearms purchases.

One would like to talk to these unattributed law enforcement officials, too.

F.B.I. officials maintain that they are hamstrung by laws and policies restricting the use of gun-buying records because of concerns over the privacy rights of gun owners.

What? More unattributed officials? I'm sorry, but I can't take them seriously unless they are identified. So far all I really see here is the bias of Eric Lichtblau.

The legal debate over how gun records are used became particularly contentious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, when it was disclosed that the Justice Department and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, had blocked the F.B.I. from using the gun-buying records to match against some 1,200 suspects who were detained as part of the Sept. 11 investigation. Mr. Ashcroft maintained that using the records in a criminal investigation would violate the federal law that created the system for instant background gun checks, but Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the issue said they saw no such prohibition.

An easy spot-check of liberal bias is the deliberate call-out of John Ashcroft. More unattributed lawyers in the Department of Justice. Of course, the reasons for lack of attribution (hidden in the details on the second page) is because the report has not yet been released.

Ultimately Lautenberg's bill is really all about mandating long-term record-keeping of those who might buy guns. It's all about back door registration of gun owners. So, even though the system might have allowed those on watch lists buy guns, Lautenberg really only seems to care about getting guns out of everyone's hands, little by little.

(Hat tip to Just One Minute.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 02:51 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


Neolibertarian Network logo

Dale Franks has revisited “neolibertarianism” in light of the debate over whether the Libertarian Party harms the libertarian movement. He and John Henke have started the Neolibertarian Network:

First, we are kicking off the Neolibertarian Network (NN). This will be an aggregation of blogs that fall within the Neolibertarian ideological framework. To this end, we now are using the new URL “neolibertarian.net.” Here's how it will work. If you have a neolibertarian blog, contact one of us for inclusion in the Neolibertarian network…

Back in December, and again in February, John Henke examined the definition of “neolibertarianism:”

The libertarian ideal of a truly limited government is an utopian dream. In the real world, where powerful interests—individual and collective—compete for the reigns of power, there will be violations of the ideals libertarians hold. After all—as a result of their disavowal of power—libertarians are uniquely unqualified to defend their ideals against political opposition.

I almost disagree. Libertarian gathers are known for factional disputes and power brokering just like any other political gathering. The difference between what I see the “true” libertarians doing and what the LINOs do is the difference between gathering consensus and manufacturing consent.

So, doctrinaire Libertarians are fighting an uphill battle against human nature. And they do so, precisely because they refuse to accept human nature as a part of their political calculation. Economics is the study of how humans allocate scarce resources. Politics is merely a social corollary to economics—the study of the allocation of values.

Now that is certainly true. Libertarians love “enlightened self-interest” but decry the fact that a lot of humans don't look deeply enough at what may be in their self-interest.

There's far more libertarian representation on the Internet—and in the blogosphere—than in any other forum for political activity. Local activism is important, but Neolibertarians need presence. Neolibertarians, if we expect to retain some semblance of influence within the Party system, need numbers and we need organization.

To sum it all up, Dale Franks puts it this way:

Let me chime in with my two cents here, too. It seems to me that the Neolibertarian ideal is characterized by a few simple, general propositions:
When given a set of policy choices,
  • The choice that maximizes personal liberty is the best choice.
  • The policy choice that offers the least amount of necessary government intervention or regulation is the best choice.
  • The policy choice that provides rational, market-based incentives is the best choice.
In foreign policy, neolibertarianism would be characterized by,
  • A policy of diplomacy that promotes consensual government and human rights and opposes dictatorship.
  • A policy of using US military force solely at the discretion of the US, but only in circumstances where American interests are directly affected.
Obviously, there's a lot of wiggle room for personal variations in that simple set of propositions, and it leaves plenty of room for debate. But it seems to me that this is as good a start as any in defining the outlines of Neolibertarian policy.

This is definitely aimed at a more practical level than the Covenant of Unanimous Consent, of which I am a signatory. I certainly believe that my writings here, and my support of the War on Terror, put me into the neolibertarian camp. It has certainly led to my estrangement from many of my local libertarian friends, who were solidly against the war.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 10:39 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

Little Leaguer, With Rooster


(Photo by Misty Poulson)

Ryan started peewee league this year. Still a little unclear on how to catch a baseball, but throwing has improved. The rooster is a little protective of his brood when Ryan is nearby.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Monday, Mar 7 2005 01:26 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Other Reason We Invented the Web

Atticus in the Stereo, 9/2/2002

The primary reason we invented the World Wide Web was to share information. The second reason was to post pictures of our cats.

Atticus is currently over a year MIA out here in Coyote Country. I miss him.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Monday, Mar 7 2005 12:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  1 trackback

Reasons To Go Cruising Again, Entry Eight

Voyager of the Seas at Labadee, Haiti

(Photo by Dan Sweet)

Another shot of the Voyager of the Seas, anchored at Labadee, Haiti.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising, Pictures” Monday, Mar 7 2005 09:51 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Reasons To Go Cruising Again, Entry Number Seven

Adult Swim Area on Voyager of the Seas, by John McEnroe

(Photo by John McEnroe)

This is the swimming area reserved to adults on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. We sat in the hot tubs in the shade (they would be off the left side of this photo) at least once.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising, Pictures” Sunday, Mar 6 2005 02:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Geeks With Guns

The Internet already has Geeks With Guns and even a Geek With a .45. I do qualify, however:

Josh Poulson's .45

(That's my Wilson Combat Protector.)

Maybe I should try to be The Geek with a .357:

Josh Poulson's .357

(The modern equivalent of this Taurus is the Model 627 Tracker.)

Sure, the pictures are old and grainy, but I think they make the point.

If that fails to establish my bona fides I'll have to go for “Geek With a .223…”

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns, Pictures” Sunday, Mar 6 2005 08:28 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

Most Washington Gun Bills Die In Committee

From the latest Washington GOAL Post:

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday (2 March), bills that had not passed out of their original policy committee were and are considered dead for the session. Remember, these cut-off dates are internal control measures, and may be waived by a simple majority vote.
Almost all of the gun-related bills, good and bad, died this week.

What's left? HB 2211, intended to greatly increase the tax on lead shot. At twenty-four cents an ounce, this would pretty much make it very expensive to shoot skeet…

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Saturday, Mar 5 2005 11:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

McCain-Feingold Insurrection


Based on our latest FEC noise I have joined the McCain-Feingold Insurrection.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Mar 5 2005 10:40 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Freedom of the Seas Deck Plans

Destination Oceans has a lot more information on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas:

  1. Introducing Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas
  2. Freedom of the Seas Staterooms and Cabins
  3. Freedom of the Seas Deck Plans

The introduction page has much of the same data we've seen everywhere else, although they should update the maiden voyage date. The first cruise with passengers is June 4th, 2006. That cruise is already sold out.

The cabin pictures and descriptions do look new (you can see the flat panel TV), although the virtual tour wasn't working when I tried it this morning. Of course, no cabins have been made yet so the pictures have to be a mock-up. The data on the other cabins appears to be pre-release quality as well, since the Royal Family Suite should certainly sleep more than 2–4.

The Deck Plans look like Voyager of the Seas. I'm not sure what to think of them.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising” Saturday, Mar 5 2005 08:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

March, 2005 Economic News Looks Good

Yesterday all the focus was on the Italian journalist who was wounded (and her protection agent was killed) when the engine block was shot out of their car. However, some good news has come down the pike.

The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew by 262,000 last month after a downwardly revised 132,000-job increase in January. But December's payroll reading was marked up to an increase of 155,000 jobs from the earlier 133,000 jobs, leaving a net gain of 8,000 jobs for the December-January period.

Also, more people started looking for jobs:

The unemployment rate rose to 5.4% in February, up from January's 5.2%. The unemployment rate is calculated using a separate statistical survey from the payroll figures. The household survey from which the jobless rate is drawn showed a 97,000-job drop in employment at the same time that the civilian labor force grew by roughly 153,000.

The market had a great day yesterday with the Dow Jones index rising almost a full percent, and NASDAQ coming up six tenths of a percent. I would like to think it was responding to good news about employment (and the relative stability of inflation) rather than celebrating the return of Martha Stewart.

So what bad news balances this out? Gas prices are definitely on the rise. Oil has made it to $52 a barrel now, and could run up as high as $60 in a repeat of last year's spike. This one hits close to home for me, since I have a 38 mile commute. (It takes a long commute to get fifteen acres to yourself without having to amass a fortune first.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business” Saturday, Mar 5 2005 07:47 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

More FN57 Scare Tactics and a Useful Handgun Ban

FN 5.7 Pistol

Despite BATFE reassurances (which I documented), the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has pressed their attack on the FN 5.7 pistol.

“We are very grateful to Senators Lautenberg, Corzine and Schumer and Congressman Eliot Engel for introducing legislation in the Senate and the House of Representatives to outlaw this weapon,” said Michael Barnes, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March. “This weapon is a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Ah, the usual suspects for pro-hoplophobic legislation arrived for roll call. It's good to see that they can be counted on to trot out the latest talking points of the gun control lobby. So much for Democrats trying to distance themselves from gun control.

The bill is S. 527 (The Protect Law Enforcement Armor (PLEA) Act), but it is not yet available on the record at the Library of Congress. Lautenberg cites Hillary Clinton as a co-sponsor even if the Brady Campaign does not.

Lautenberg claims the gun was designed to penetrate vests worn by police. That's an overstatement. The gun, and the companion submachine gun, were designed for use by SWAT teams for going up against criminals wearing vests. They focused on capacity and penetration capability. It is primarily marketed to police. The website cited as bragging about the firearm's potential is intended for police.

The bill has some interesting “findings:”

Sec 2.(a)(3) The Five-seveN Pistol and 5.7 x 28mm SS192 cartridges are capable of penetrating level IIA armor. The manufacturer advertises that ammunition fired from the Five-seveN will perforate 48 layers of Kevlar up to 200 meters and that the ammunition travels at 2100 feet per second.

True enough, but you shouldn't be able to get SS192 ammunition in the United States.

Sec 2.(a)(4) The Five-seveN Pistol, and similar handguns designed to use ammunition capable of penetrating body armor, pose a devastating threat to law enforcement.

Here it comes. Any handgun capable of defeating IIA armor is now under attack… Now, what do we know also penetrates IIA? 9mm FMJ at speeds greater than 1100fps, .357 Magnum at speeds greater than 1250fps, .44 Magnum, .50AE, .500 S&W Magnum, etc. etc.

IIA is the minimum recommended level of body armor if you are going to bother wearing it. It'll stop 00 buckshot, and a lot of other little things, but not 9mm Silvertips, for example. It is definitely not what you wear if you're facing rifle or submachine gun rounds. SS192 is a submachine gun round.

Okay, what's the purpose of S. 527?

Sec 2.(b) Purpose.—The purpose of this Act is to protect the Nation's law enforcement officers by— (1) testing handguns and ammunition for capability to penetrate body armor; and (2) prohibiting the manufacture, importation, sale, or purchase by civilians of the Five-seveN Pistol, ammunition for such pistol, or any other handgun that uses ammunition found to be capable of penetrating body armor.

Welcome to the Lautenberg ban on most guns acceptable for concealed carry. The rest of the bill modifies the pre-existing definition of armor piercing ammunition definition and bans any pistol that can fire ammunition determined to be armor piercing under this new definition.

Nice try.

Let's go back to the Brady Campaign press release:

“Instead of focusing on the threat to law enforcement caused by public sales of this cop killer gun, many in Congress are instead trying to pass legislation that would immunize the gun's manufacturer from lawsuits,” Barnes said. “That's insane.”

Unlike law enforcement deaths as a result of this pistol, the attempts of hoplophobes to sue legitimate gun manufacturers out of business are persistent, despite the high frequency of such lawsuits getting thrown out of the courts. Even if the manufacturers win the suits, they are out a lot of money.

So, the response to this should be “Pot. Kettle. Black.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an alert to all its law enforcement personnel in November, warning that the SS192 ammunition designed for the gun penetrated body armor. “Sales of this weapon in the U.S. have increased tremendously according to the manufacturer,” the alert stated.

SS192 ammunition is not available for sale in the United States. Only SS196 is available. Sales of the FN Five-SeveN pistol to private citizens may have increased tremendously (from zero sales before the gun was available to distributors), but sales to criminals are still illegal.

Finally, we have this gem:

The National Rifle Association has defended the weapon and questioned the Brady Campaign's testing. In response to their comments, Barnes today suggested that the NRA's President, Wayne LaPierre, “put on a bullet proof vest, and we'll fire the weapon at him, and see what happens. He should put his body where his mouth is.”

I wonder who would beg the most for that video? Not only is the vest not specified, neither is the ammunition or how they might fire it. Knowing what we do about the firearms knowledge of this group, they'd likely shoot for the head and claim the pistol defeated the vest.

The NRA responded:

It is pathetic to see the gun control lobby make hysterical statements to resurrect their failed political agenda. According to the BATFE, this armor-piercing ammunition is only available to the military and police. The Brady Campaign continues to deceive the American people in their effort to ban firearm ownership by all law-abiding Americans.

I'm sure I'll get another drive-by “redneck” comment for this post, but they are sure fun to write.

Update: Alphecca has gathered some quotes on this gun ban, but didn't notice that Lautenberg is trying to ban every handgun that can penetrate a IIA vest.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Friday, Mar 4 2005 04:31 PM  |  Permalink  |  15 comments  |  2 trackbacks

Followup on the FEC

Don Singleton came by and commented on my posting criticizing the potential FEC regulation of political blog content. Over on his site he indicates Trevor Potter doesn't agree with Bradley Smith's warning that bloggers could be next and that—similar to my musings about my NRA Press credentials—a Texas radio station has offered to fabricate press credentials for all the bloggers that need them.

In the meantime, Professor Stephen Bainbridge points out that Bradley Smith is a good guy:

BTW, please don't blame Brad Smith. Polipundit called Smith a “powerful, unelected government official” and, at least by implication, suggests Smith is a party to “this crushing of free speech and the destruction of American liberty.”
In fact, Brad Smith is a First Amendment hero. As a law professor before he joined the FEC, Smith wrote many law review articles condemning campaign finance regulation. As a result, when Smith was nominated to the FEC, McCain and Feingold orchestrated a massive smear campaign against him. Since then, even while faithfully enforcing the statutes his Commission oversees, Smith has consistently been on the side of free speech.

So, was this a deliberate attempt to rile up the free speech advocates? If so, it has the potential of starting a groundswell of right and left political bloggers who want the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 amended.

Even so, I like the idea of a starting a “Become a 527” service…

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 4 2005 10:29 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

1,135 Felons and 45 Corpses

Today the GOP released the names of 1,135 felons and 45 corpses that voted in the 2004 election for governor of Washington State.

“It's one more significant piece of evidence that this past election was not only deeply flawed but that we don't know who won,” said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Republican opponent Dino Rossi, who is challenging the results in court. “Christine Gregoire is not the legitimately elected governor.”

That would be the case if Gregoire's 129 vote margin depended on these ineligible voters. Past history has shown that felons are more likely to vote for Democrats by a significant margin, however. Dead people tend to vote for Democrats in Chicago, but I'm not sure about Washington.

(Hat tip to Jayson at Polipundit.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 4 2005 06:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

What Part of “Shall Make No Law” Don't You Understand?

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Why should I remind you of these hallowed words? Well, batten down the hatches, bloggers, the Federal Government is coming to save us from ourselves! It turns out that the unregulated nature of uncensored discourse is exposing the world to excessive political speech. If we were to quote a portion of a political press release (and I've done so on this blog, for example) we're making a political donation, which can be regulated under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (brought to us by senators John McCain and Russ Feingold).

A national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) may not solicit, receive, or direct to another person a contribution, donation, or transfer of funds or any other thing of value, or spend any funds, that are not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act.

Bradley Smith, of the Federal Election Commission, was recently interviewed by Declan McCullagh of CNET News. What he said may have a chilling effect on political blogging.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4–2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. “The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines” the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Republicans tried to overturn this provision, but were stymied by the Democrats. I suspect if blogging went the other way the GOP would want McCain-Feingold to apply to the Internet and the Democrats would fight it. Either way, maybe I can make a fortune creating 527s for bloggers.

[Smith:] The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads. She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services.
[Smith:] They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today.

Bloggers don't qualify as Press. I wonder if my NRA Press credentials would earn me a free pass.

[Smith:]I'd like someone to say that unpaid activity over the Internet is not an expenditure or contribution, or at least activity done by regular Internet journals, to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon. Otherwise, it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated, and the FEC and Congress will be inundated with e-mails saying, “How dare you do this!”

Captain Ed, trusty soul that he is, has risen to this call. My favorite paragraph of his open letter:

We may debate about the effect of unregulated cash on our electoral system, but if this new FEC effort comes to pass, the only people debating will be the corporate-owned media and the politicians. The rest of us will have been effectively bound and gagged, unable to contribute in any way thanks to the efforts of those who fear their own constituents. You can be assured that none of us in the blogosphere will fail to recognize those who do not act to defend our rights to free and unfettered political speech, and regardless of political party, none of us will rest until those voices of repression are stripped of office by the voters they hold in such low regard.

Grassroots movements have removed politicians before, and the blogosphere is about as grass roots as you can get. We'll see what happens next and the gloves will come off.

3/5/2005 Update: I posted a comment to join the (threatened) insurrection of Geek with a .45.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 3 2005 09:44 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  2 trackbacks

More Want Syria Out of Lebanon

Via Captain's Quarters this morning we find that Russia and members of the Arab League have joined the calls for Syria to leave Lebanon. Russia's removal of support is significant. I believe that it has realized that it has been on the losing side of history in several middle eastern conflicts.

Putin may have feared diplomatic isolation on this point, as France has partnered with the US for the first time in ages on a point of international politics, and Germany's Gerhardt Schroeder has also publicly demanded a Syrian withdrawal. With Europe and the US tightly united on Syria, Putin may have decided that backing Assad has become a losing bet.

Russia is seeking a new balance between the status quo and the US call for complete withdrawal:

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said: “Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, but we all have to make sure that this withdrawal does not violate the very fragile balance which we still have in Lebanon, which is a very difficult country ethnically.”

With this much international support, Syrian military dominance of Lebanon may have become a thing of the past. The question now revolves around what happens to the spies, terrorist camps and training facilities that managed to operate there.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 3 2005 07:34 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Economic Report of the President—2005

Following on the heels of my criticism of the President's budget for basic research on February 18th, 2005 we come across more ripe material in the Economic Report of the President for 2005. Chapter 6 discusses “Innovation and the Information Economy.” It has a nice introductory explanation:

The innovative process involves the invention, commercialization, and diffusion of new ideas. At each of these stages, people are spurred to action by the prospect of reaping rewards from their investment. In a free market, innovators vie to lower the cost of goods and services, to improve their quality and usefulness, and—most importantly—to develop new goods and services that promise benefits to customers. An innovation will succeed if it passes the market test by profitably delivering greater value to customers. Successful innovations blossom, attracting capital and diffusing rapidly through the market, while unsuccessful innovations can wither just as quickly. In this way, markets allow capital to flow to its highest-valued uses.

My argument in my previous discussion of research funding pointed out that basic research has a hard time attracting capital. The above quote points out that successful innovations (usually products built upon a foundation of basic research) attract capital. Therefore we are pumping public capital into Defense and Homeland Security products because we don't have time to wait for commercialization of those products.

The report heads off on a cautionary note:

This engine of growth can falter, however, if government policies distort the market signals that guide innovative activity. Well-meaning policies to promote the diffusion of a service or foster entry into new markets can have unintended consequences. A policy to subsidize an existing service so that more people will consume it can deter development of innovative new services that people might otherwise prefer. In addition, pioneering investors forced to share the fruits of their investment with new entrants would find it less profitable to invest in the first place, and a new market may never be developed. When government regulation, instead of a competitive process, “picks the winners,” people tend to lose.

So I guess it's okay to pick the winners for defense and homeland security. Perhaps this is why the defense department, and NASA, have thousand dollar hammers?

This chapter of the report has four main points, which I'll quote and cover one at a time.

Information technology is a key contributor to economic growth and productivity, and its importance to the economy is growing.

Well, I'm not going to disagree that managing and communicating information is the key driver of the information age. We are living that age.

Competition drives the broad diffusion of innovative low-cost, high quality information services. This has held true in markets for mobile wireless telephones, satellite television, and dial-up and broadband Internet services.

One only has to look at the growth of the industries listed to see their importance. however, satellite is faltering and broadband is limited to high-density areas. Why do I say this? I have to use satellite broadband because I live in the boonies. It's hardly perfect.

As circumstances change and industries evolve, existing government regulations may need rethinking. In particular, economic regulations aimed at correcting an absence of competition may lose their rationale when competition from new technologies emerges.

The report goes on to indicate that cable television and phone lines are natural monopolies. This is a shock to me! They would not be monopolies at all if it wasn't for government regulation. Why do we have government monopolies on cable television and phone lines anymore? There are efficiencies to be gained by allowing competition here. They use the concept of high barriers to entry as a way to define natural monopolies. However, the key barrier to entry in this space is regulation. They argue that the massive investment in copper that was needed before is fading and therefore these industries may not be natural monopolies for much longer.

I think this is a subtle argument for deregulation.

People are motivated to invest by the prospect of earning returns on their investment. Government thus has an important role to play in defining and protecting property rights in intellectual and physical capital so that entrepreneurs will be spurred to innovate.

This one is troubling. I believe that funding basic research is a government function (and that research should be royalty-free). I also believe that people should be able to profit from their hard work and good ideas. However, I am troubled by the magnitude of abuse of patents (and software patents in particular).

The only major IP discussion is about copyright infringement. This is missing much of the boat when it comes to the issues in this area.

I haven't read the whole report, and I doubt I'll have time, but my friends in high-tech industries should at least skim through Chapter 6 to get a feel for the landscape of high-tech in the national economy.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 2 2005 10:47 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Syria out of Lebanon Now!

The fallout from the assassination of Rafiq Hariri continues.

The US government has followed up on its temporary recall of its ambassador “for consultations” with a strong statement (from a Fox News article):

“The free world is in agreement that Damascus' authority over the political affairs of its neighbor must end,” Bush said. “The world is speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the greater Middle East. And when democracies take hold, the world becomes more peaceful.”

The United States will brook no further interference:

“We've seen words. What we want to see is action that moves in that direction. Syria needs to quit interfering in Lebanon. The Lebanese people are standing up, in the streets of Lebanon and saying we want to reclaim our sovereignty and independence, free from outside interference.” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. He added that not only must troops withdraw, the secret police must go as well and the nation must be permitted to run its own political affairs.

The is strong support from middle eastern countries as well as a dusty UN resolution calling for Syria to leave Lebanon. Even so, Syria has stated its own concerns:

Syria's ambassador warned that a quick withdrawal of his country's soldiers, could leave a power vacuum and rekindle the sectarian violence the Syrians suppressed.

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters puts it rather well:

Assad knows that Syria is through in Lebanon. He may drag it out to June or July, but he's finished there, and he knows it. The Lebanese may not allow them to wait to the end of March to get out, “technical” issues or not. Those demonstrators won't stop until Syria leaves, and Assad knows the US won't let up either.

I believe that the discussion of a “power vacuum” is apt. Syria is looking for a way to maintain control. It may not be through an insurgency like what is being attempted in Iraq, and it may not be a “scorched earth” policy either, but they will look for some way to retain control of the buffer state between them an Israel.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 2 2005 04:42 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

SF-180 Clock

From Blogs for Bush we get the SF-180 Clock (requires Javascript):

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 1 2005 09:57 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

Fighting Walmarts in Cedar Mills, Beaverton

Walmart wants to come into Beaverton, Oregon in a little community called Cedar Mills. It's near a high-rent district called Forest Heights, but it's also near a major interchange (US 26) and is in the middle of suburban Portland. On the radio this morning I heard a comment that “no one that lives here would shop there.”

That's a goofy argument against a store from a company that leverages its size to bludgeon suppliers and offer the lowest average prices possible. One has already learned that becoming a millionaire (a common fable in Forest Heights) requires saving money rather than spending it. Walmart is a good way to do that. Don't those rich people in Forest Heights want to keep their money?

Even if no one in Forest Heights shopped at Walmart, all the folks in the valley might be interested. After all, this is suburbia down here where the oxygen isn't so thin.

I've never really understood all the fights against Walmart. Sure, it competes handily against little mom and pop stores, but stores that sell commodities are well aware of the damage of price wars. They should focus on what value they can add to demand those higher prices rather than relying on legal and community pressure to keep out the large chain stores.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business” Tuesday, Mar 1 2005 09:21 AM  |  Permalink  |  6 comments  |  No trackbacks


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