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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Nebraska Democratic Party Blog

Sometimes we bloggers may feel that no one is paying any attention to what we say. Other times we may wish that were the case. Barry Rubin, the excectutive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, stirred up quite a kerfuffle with a post on the Nebraska Democratic Party Blog. In the post Rubin referred to Douglas County Election Commissioner Carlos Castillo as a "Tio Tomas" (i.e. a Spanish rendition of "Uncle Tom"), cleverly mixing black racism and Hispanic racism in one, concise epithet.

At least one reader didn't find that amusing or appropriate, and before you could say MSM, it was all over the news. Kyle at New Nebraska Network has a rundown on who said what. Kyle believes the "outrage" expressed by Nebraska Republicans is overblown:
"All in all, referring to anyone as an Uncle Tom, as a traitor to his or her people - be it in Spanish, English, French or Farsi - is a highly offensive accusation that should not be tossed around lightly. But, it's more than a stretch to claim this as a racial slur. Simply making reference to a person's ethnicity, even in an attempt at being clever, can not and should not be considered offensive in and of itself."
In a way Kyle is right. Considering the venom that regularly spews from the maws of national Democratic Party "leaders" such as Howard Dean, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Harry Ried, Robert Byrd, Al Gore, and Charles Rangel, Rubin's remark seems almost quaintly charming. It is most noteworthy for displaying that peculiar, unspoken idea of Democrats that the votes of blacks and Hispanics automatically belong to the Democratic Party.

Yesterday, Rubin bowed to the inevitable and appologized to Castillo, by proxy since Castillo would not take his call:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "The executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party apologized Friday to Douglas County Election Commissioner Carlos Castillo for a Web site posting that Castillo labeled 'a racial slur.'

Barry Rubin said he phoned Castillo to 'offer my apology for offending him.'The posting on a Democratic blog on the party's Web site referred to Castillo as 'Tio Tomas,' or Uncle Tom, for allegedly making it difficult for the predominantly African-American minority population in north Omaha to cast votes in the 2004 presidential election.

'I want to extend my apology to each and every person who was offended by my comments,' Rubin said in a news release."
In the aftermath of this affair the entire Nebraska Democratic Party Blog now consists of a single post by Rubin, dated June 9. Evidently, there was a decision to wipe the record clean, and one can't help but wonder why.

It would be a shame if this signals the end of the blog. Kyle's analysis is good:
"Achelpohl had something of a point about this being posted on a blog and not in a general press release. They are different creatures as the internet demands more openness and less holding-back if people are going to give a damn. Rubin was right to be passionate in this format but will need to be more careful with his words in the future.

Honestly, though, the biggest disappointment from the whole incident is actually the NDP's removal of Rubin's post from the blog archives. It reeks of having something to hide and covering their tracks rather than properly acknowledging and apologizing for any over-statement as an addendum to the original post, allowing people to vent and see for themselves what this mess was all about. Such action would have been more in keeping with the idealist spirit of the blog, as well as the committment to a new, more open and honest relationship with the people of Nebraska that it represents."
We agree.

UPDATE 6/13: Heath at the NDP points out in a comment that the blog has moved from Blogger to a new site here. That url is provided in Rubin's post on the Blogger site, and the new site does apparently have many of the older posts on it. This site also has a note of appology from Rubin. As far as I can tell, it does not have the original post that caused the furor.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Michael Yon: Journalist Blogger in Iraq

Michael Yon is a freelance writer, currently in Iraq. We found his blog through MuD&PHuD. This is the kind of writing we should be getting from the MSM, instead of up-to-the-minute body counts.

Here's a story of an ethnic/religious minority in Iraq that may be the world's oldest religion.

Here's an insightful analysis of why we get the kind of war reporting we get.

This is a moving story of a little girl in Mosul, deliberately murdered by terrorists.

Lots more great stuff.

Blaine: Howard Dean

Blaine, a friend, is filling in Ryne's blog for a few days. Here he describes Howard Dean's diatribes as "verbal flatulence," and expands on the metaphor.

Senator Nelson and Alberto Gonzales

We got a letter from Senator Ben Nelson this week, thanking us for writing to him about the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as US Attorney General. The letter explains that after careful consideration of the nomination, including extensive one-on-one discussion with Mr. Gonzales, Senator Nelson voted for the confirmation.

The humorous part of the letter is that it acknowledged our opposition to Mr. Gonzales' confirmation, while we actually supported the nomination. We're not quite certain that we actually expressed our opinion on the matter to Senator Nelson, but if so, it would definitely have been pro-confirmation.

So, thank you, Sen. Nelson, for your vote to confirm. You might want to have someone check out the filing system in the office, though.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More Storm Pictures

The photographer who took two of those three great storm pictures, Jorn Olsen, has a web site with many more fabulous photos of that storm plus great sunsets and other nature scenes from Nebraska. Check them out.

The Mean Party

Peggy Noonan hits another one out of the park.
OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: "So in some key ways in Washington, the most politically engaged individuals in both parties do not understand each other. This expresses itself in certain assumptions. Democrats think Republicans are mean. Republicans know Democrats are the mean party.

Knowing that, let's do a thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine this. President Bush is introduced at a great gathering in Topeka, Kan. It is the evening of June 9, 2005. Ruffles and flourishes, 'Hail to the Chief,' hearty applause from a packed ballroom. Mr. Bush walks to the podium and delivers the following address.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I want to speak this evening about how I see the political landscape. Let me jump right in. The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil--and we're the good. I hate Democrats. Let's face it, they have never made an honest living in their lives. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on abusing power, destroying the United States Senate and undermining our Constitution? They have no shame.

But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a Democratic fundraiser? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme they think they have a direct line to heaven. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? We cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!'
Imagine Mr. Bush saying those things, and the crowd roaring with lusty delight. Imagine John McCain saying them for that matter, or any other likely Republican candidate for president, or Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee.

Can you imagine them talking this way? Me neither. Because they wouldn't.
Messrs. Bush, McCain, et al., would find talk like that to be extreme, damaging, desperate. They would understand it would tend to add a new level of hysteria to political discourse, and that's not good for the country. I think they would know such talk is unworthy in a leader, or potential leader, of a great democracy. I think they would understand that talk like that is destructive to the ties that bind--and to the speaker's political prospects."
There's not much to add beyond an admonition to read the rest.

Medicinal Marijuana and the US Supreme Court

The Constitution established specific powers for the federal government. The remaining powers were reserved to the states and the people. Since then the federal state has gradually, steadily usurped more and more of the powers of states and citizens. Sometimes the expansion of federal power is promoted by liberals, sometimes by conservatives.

The latest vehicle for increasing the power of the federal megastate is one beloved by liberals and conservatives alike. The "Drug War" is so important that if sick people were able to grow and use marijuana to alleviate their suffering, the very fabric of society would be ripped beyond repair. To prevent this calamity the Bush Justice Department has battled to overturn the will of a majority of Californians (and eight other states) on this issue.

By 6-3 the US Supreme Court has now ruled that the feds can overrule state laws on medicinal marijuana, based on its power to regulate "interstate commerce." But if "interstate commerce" includes private parties growing and using medicinal marijuana in their own homes, what is not covered?

The ruling is available here (pdf format). The majority opinion, written by Stevens, also includes Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Stevens. Scalia wrote a separate, concurring opinion. O'Connor wrote the dissent with Rehnquist and Thomas. Thomas filed a separate dissent for one part.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote on today's editorial page:
OpinionJournal: "We've never supported drug legalization, even in its 'medical marijuana' drag. Still, we can't help but feel uneasy about the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision Monday in Gonzales v. Raich, which held that the federal government can trump state laws permitting the possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis for purely personal use. As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent: 'If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything, and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.' By 'enumerated powers,' Justice Thomas means the idea that the federal government can undertake only such activities as the Constitution explicitly permits. Hence the 10th Amendment, which reserves those powers not listed--such as criminal law enforcement--to the states.

[...] If, as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority concurrence, non-economic activities can be regulated so long as they are part of a 'comprehensive scheme of regulation,' there would appear to be no federal power the Commerce Clause couldn't theoretically justify. [...] Who knows what further intrusions into the rights of local polities the Raich decision may one day be used to justify?

Such stakes explain why many conservative legal scholars such as former Reagan Assistant Attorney General Douglas Kmiec and former Bush Solicitor General Charles Fried urged the court to recognize that federal powers shouldn't extend this far. But Justices Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, who voted to limit federal powers in Lopez and Morrison, appear to have retreated from putting any restraint on Commerce Clause-based regulation. This was not a good decision for anyone who believes there are Constitutional limits on the federal leviathan."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

How Big Is Scrooge McDuck's Moneybin?

Never one to shy away from tackling the tough issues, James Taranto of Best of the Web Today has stirred up a bit of a kerfuffle on this question:
"Big Money Reader Chris Link found himself flummoxed by reader John Steele Gordon's reference yesterday to Scrooge McDuck's 'three-cubic-acre money bin':
An acre is a measure of area (i.e. two dimensions). If you have a 'cubic acre,' you would have a four-dimensional space--a three-dimensional space existing in a specific time frame. Hell, add another dimension and you get a late-'60s soul/R&B singing group.
We asked Gordon for an explanation, and here it is:
A cubic acre, of course, is Carl Barks's wonderfully meaningless measurement of Scrooge's infinite wealth. Lewis Carroll would have loved it. But as a child (Scrooge was my favorite comic book character--no wonder I ended up an economic historian) I calculated that a cubic acre would have a side 208.7 feet long (square root of 43,560) and thus a volume of 9,090,972 cubic feet. So Scrooge's money bin would have been 27,272,916 cubic feet in size, an adequate piggy bank by any measure.
By our calculations, though, a cubic acre would actually be a six-dimensional space. An acre is 43,560 square feet, so three cubic acres would be 247,961,850,048 feet to the sixth power. That's inflation for you."
Link is right to be confused by the concept of a "cubic-acre" for exactly the reason he states. As Taranto notes, that implies a six-dimensional object. Such an object would have a "volume" (in 6-space) of 3 * (43,560 sq ft)³ = 247,961,850,048,000 "ft to the sixth power."

This is exactly 1000 times higher than Taranto's number, or 10³, indicating he dropped the zero in 43,560 sq ft.

Of course, Gordon is referring to a cube with faces of one acre. His approach to calculating the volume of such a cube is correct, but by rounding his square root to 4 digits his final answer is only correct to 4 digits. (Novice scientists: take note of the importance of using the correct number of significant figures!) Rounding to the nearest square foot at the end, we get: 9,091,422 (instead of 9,090,972). So McDuck actually has even more space to cavort within.

It's not quite clear how the "three" comes into play in the alleged "three-cubic-acre" moneybin. Apparently the three did not originate with Gordon, however. This excellent McDuck tale by Garry Reed also reports "three cubic acres" as the size of the moneybin, as well as giving a nice lesson in capitalism.

Here in the Great American Desert farmers measure water needs for their crops in terms of "acre feet" of rain/irrigation. If McDuck's moneybin is as described by Steele, that would be 208.7 acre feet, which is a lot of pennies from heaven.

Update 6/9: Taranto has corrected his number in the original article, so we now match.

What Was Kerry Hiding?

Big John
He's finally released "all" of his military records, although apparently there's not much that's really new, at least so far. So why the resistance throughout the campaign to a release of all his records?

Well, there's the picture at the right. That's certainly not the kind of thing you want to reveal, if you can avoid it.

Perhaps it's just the fact that his grades at Yale were actually not quite as good as those of young George W. Bush. Every Republican president in memory has been portrayed by the MSM as dumb, and GWB is no exception. Richard M. Nixon is the lone exception in my memory, stretching back to Ike.
Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- During last year's presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences.

But newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D's in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years."
The story of Kerry the Deep, Intellectual vs. Bush, the Amiable Dunce, would have been a hard sell with side-by-side, equivalent transcripts from the same school in the same time period. "Damn the Swiftvet torpedos! Full speed astern."

Can Germany Escape the Trap of Socialism

For years now successive German governments on the Left and the Right have pursued disasterous economic policies, digging their economy into a deep hole. After decades of essentially no growth and continuous double digit unemployment, there is new hope. Angela Merkel, a Christian Democratic Party leader, who grew up under Communism in East Germany is poised to lead the country out of the wilderness.

This article from Tuesday's Wall Street Journal on Ms. Merkel is, unfortunately, a subscription only link at present. Perhaps it will move to the free site this weekend, but in the meantime here's a sample: - National Welfarism: "If Angela Merkel succeeds in winning office at the September elections and, against great resistance in her own party, in remaining true to herself, the Federal Republic should see changes more radical than any since 1949. As a physicist, she knows that the relationship between cause and effect cannot be simply wished away. Her most formative experiences came during communist East Germany's collapse. She has seen what happens when a country uses up its material basis, when it sinks into social and national stagnation while a regime of lies plays on, like the band on the Titanic. Most influential German politicians spent their youth, student years and early careers in the fat boom years of the old republic on the Rhine. Ms. Merkel likes to tell them, even those in her own party, 'You have no idea how socialist you are.'

In the words of German constitutional court judge Udo Steiner, Germans have an 'equality sickness' that makes them dependent on the welfare state. This describes our society's worst burden, cultivated in the 20th century under various forms of government. Germans were never able to complete a bourgeois revolution. Their democratic institutions emerged from the chaos of defeat after two world wars -- in which they had been insulted, frightened, humiliated and, after 1945, burdened with guilt, and were forced to seek a new beginning. Both times, the German democrats, who had always existed, took up the ideas of the American declaration of independence and the French revolution, but gave them a peculiar cast. The eternally conflicting principles of freedom and equality were reinterpreted and ranked in a specific, German way. Civil equality before the law became social equality, and freedom was, in case of doubt, always sacrificed to the idea of social equality.

The collectivist 'public good,' so defined, always ranked higher in the public mind than the protection of basic civil rights and universal human rights. To this day, Germans speak of a 'Father State' that will always put things right. They see it as an insurance policy against absolutely everything. The vast majority believes, to this day, that the concepts of state and society are interchangeable -- that they are synonymous."
If she succeeds in leading Germany back to economic dynamism it can only benefit the whole world. Perhaps even American's Democrats would shake off their own "equality sickness" and learn some sensible economic policies from a real "European Model."

China orders all blogs to register

China orders all blogs to register -
"The Associated PressUpdated: 7:18 p.m. ET June 7, 2005
SHANGHAI, China - Authorities have ordered all China-based Web sites and blogs to register or be closed down, in the latest effort by the communist government to police the world of cyberspace. [...]

'The Internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people's spirits,' the MII Web site said in explaining the rules, which were quietly introduced in March."
... and in the USA, the Federal Election Commision looks on in envy.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Great American Desert Storm

Here are some amazing pictures of clouds from a storm last month here in Nebraska, near Hastings. (HT to Nick) This one shows some "rotation," which is definitely not what you want in a storm cloud.

Hastings Storm

We saw some like these next ones, but not so dramatic, here in Lincoln on Saturday night.
stadium clouds

looming presence

UPDATE 6/9/05: Apparently at least the second and third of these spectacular storm pictures come from Jorn Olson, who has a copyright notice on them at that site. His site with more great pictures is here. I am requesting permission to keep them here, too.

UPDATE2 6/9/05: Mr. Olsen has graciously allowed us to display these two pictures and provided improved versions (now in place).

ScrappleFace: Gitmo Study Sparks Arab Probe of Bible Abuse

With a HT to SeaWitch here's a great one from ScrappleFace:
Gitmo Study Sparks Arab Probe of Bible Abuse:
"Gitmo Study Sparks Arab Probe of Bible Abuse
by Scott Ott
(2005-06-04) -- Friday's release of a Pentagon study on mishandling of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay detention center has sparked Saudi Arabia's leader to call for similar probes of Bible handling in detention facilities throughout the Muslim world.


'I feel confident that this probe will reveal no cases of Muslim or Arab guards abusing Bibles issued by Muslim governments,' said the King. 'But in the spirit of respect for religious freedom and pluralism, we will examine our own policies and procedures and make a full, public report within 30 days.'"