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Friday, August 29, 2003

Legal Wrangling 

In today's Houston Chronicle, there is more news on the Texas Redistricting Saga:
Democrats' hopes of winning court relief in their congressional redistricting battle dimmed further Thursday after a judicial panel of two Republicans and a Democrat was named to hear their voting rights lawsuit. U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King named fellow appellate Judge Patrick Higginbotham and U.S. District Judges George P. Kazen and Lee Rosenthal to the panel to hear the Democrats' case.
It is interesting that this article immediately assumes that the judges will vote along partisan lines and that the panel is stacked against the Democrats. It does neglect to mention that the judge who appointed the three to the panel is a 'Democratic' judge, appointed by Carter in 1979. The role of this panel is to judge if this lawsuit has merit. They will do this by comparing the claims of the suit against what the law actually says. This subtle advertisment of the party affiliation of the justices is designed to explain away a negative ruling as a partisan act rather than simple jurisprudence.
The senators left Texas after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst decided to change a key Senate procedure for the special session.

The procedure had allowed minority legislators to block passage of a Republican redistricting plan in the first special session.

In their lawsuit, the Democratic senators argue that the change of procedure is a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act because it could dilute the influence of minority voters.

Kazen told Democratic lawyers that he believes the Voting Rights Act would apply to any plan passed by the Legislature but not to the process of passing the plan.

The article neglects to identify which of the panelists are of which political party. Judge Patrick Higginbotham was nominated by Ford and then to the Fifth Circuit by Reagan. Judge Lee Rosenthal was nominated by George W. Bush. Kazen, who is quoted above, was nominated by Jimmy Carter. Notice that it is the Democratic judge who has doubts about the lawsuit because he does not see the Voting Rights Act applying to Senate procedures. Where is his sense of partisanship?
Renea Hicks, a lawyer for the 11 Democrats, on Thursday asked Kazen for a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from arresting the senators if they return to Texas. Hicks also asked that Kazen order Gov. Rick Perry to give the runaway senators 72 hours' notice before convening another special session.

"The Legislature is not in session now, and it makes perfect sense to allow our senators to return home to their families and their jobs pending the outcome of a hearing before the three-judge panel," Hicks said.

Then comes the pity plea. Notice the stragetic use of the words 'allow', 'families' and 'jobs'. No one is preventing these elected officials from coming home. They made the decision to leave and are staying away on their own accord. It is very unfortunate that they are separated from their families and are unable to perform their jobs. Most Texans (62% in the most recent poll) would prefer them to come home, stay home, and do their jobs. Especially the one they were elected to do.

Watcher's Council 

The Watcher's Council has met and has voted on the posts of the week:

   Winning Council Entry:
   Endgame / Reality Check by Exultate Justi

   Winning Non-Council Entry:
   The Long Road Home by L.T. Smash

The entries were fantastic this week and deciding which post to vote for was very difficult. (Although I did vote for both winners so I must have good taste!) If you find any posts you think should be considered, please let myself or another council member know.

Rough Day 

Rough is a bit mild in describing the past day which the earth’s rotation has mercifully ended. An hour into my workday, I wiped out a portion of a new client’s data. I was cleaning up some issues and found a configuration problem in the test dataset. I deftly resolved that problem and realized that it may have corrupted a few files in the live dataset. This was not a problem; the live dataset is not being used yet as the client is not “live”. I jumped over to the live directory and blew away the offending data. The document tracking file also had content, but a few keystrokes later that was also no longer an issue.

I glanced at one other related file and saw entries there too…and then the light went on as the acid valve in my stomach opened. A quick call to the project manager (onsite) to ask the question, “They aren’t posting data into the live system yet, are they?” Her affirmative response confirmed my fears but it could have been much worse. She said she would take care of the problem.

A few hours later, I was informed that a key functionality was not functional. The issue was a core function which was configured to happen automatically but did not happen at all when using my custom module. Although I had never seen this particular function before, it needed to be operational for a demo within three hours. It was not relevant that there was no documentation, design specs or even file layouts to assist me.

I knew that I would ultimately have to create these records myself, so my first goal was to create a sample record which I could dissect. After mucking around in programs I had never used before, I managed to create a “Clinical Task” and started looking in the raw data to resolve the following mildly important information: What file are these “Clinical Tasks” records stored in, and what data elements does each record contain. This approach to my problem is called Reverse Engineering. I studied engineering in college, and I am of the opinion that a course dedicated to this approach to problem solving should be part of every undergraduate program. After three hours of frantic analysis, coding and testing, the manually automated creation of “Clinical Tasks” was both functional and installed.

I ended the day performing a demo for the client of all the latest features (bug fixes) and the portions of the module which they had not yet seen. They received it fairly well, although the demo/meeting went very long. Ending the call at 7:00pm, I rushed to the kitchen to find my family finishing up their dinner. Mine was cool but very palatable. The topic of discussion was the package which had arrived today. My parents had sent birthday gifts. The Queen’s (may she live forever) special day was last Monday and Number Two Son is turning 10 on Saturday.

My son, being finished with his dinner, opened the package and found several presents inside. My mom has a habit of sending a minor gift for each child whose birthday it is not, which is a great idea and well received by my kids. There were serious presents for the birthdays as well as small gifts for the remaining two kids. No, there was not anything for me - save an empty box, now filled with tears. (It’s ok Mom – you can make it up on my next birthday!)

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Eco Madness 

Eco-terrorists damaged 4 Los Angeles hummer dealerships last week, burning one of them down. Early this morning, bombs went off at a biopharmaceutical research firm, doing minor damage. Here is a summary from this Kansas City Star article:
Two small explosions shattered windows on the campus of biopharmaceutical research firm Chiron Corp. early Thursday, officials said.

No injuries were reported in the blasts, which hit around 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. outside two separate buildings, Chiron spokesman John Gallagher said.

The employment of terrorism to achieve a goal is wrong, regardless of what that goal may be. Al Qaeda was wrong. Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to be wrong. ELF (who claimed responsibility for the H2 vandalism) and the culprit for this crime are wrong. Those who would kill or maim abortion practitioners are wrong. The cause or motive does not justify the action when the action is morally and legally wrong.

ELF needs the Al Qaeda treatment. Their assets need to be frozen and their members need to be questioned. Organizations that provide their funding need to be checked out as well. Groups like PETA and ELF are free to hold any ideology they desire. They are free to assemble and lobby for legislation that favors their views. However, they are not free to infringe on the property rights of others. The War on Terror applies to these organizations too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Legitimizing Terrorism 

Alan Dershowitz is brilliant in this must read article from today's L.A. Times (registration is required):
For more than a quarter of a century, the U.N. has actively encouraged terrorism by rewarding its primary practitioners, legitimating it as a tactic, condemning its victims when they try to defend themselves and describing the murderers of innocent children as 'freedom fighters.' No organization in the world today has accorded so much legitimacy to terrorism as has the U.N.
He then details exactly how the U.N. has legitmized terrorism. (Hat-tip to Broken Masterpieces)
We are still waiting for Allah's official response to this article.

The Good Book Says... 

This is a list that shouldn't be missed: 22 things about the Bible that drives the left crazy. A few choice examples:
  1. Of course Cain killed Abel. He was obviously suffering either from bipolar disorder, low blood sugar, emotional abuse as a child, or societal neglect.

  2. "The Last Supper" didn't offer an option for people on gluten-free diets, and the fat content on the food was not labeled.

  3. God should have spent the seventh day not resting, but rather going around putting warning stickers on all potentially dangerous, really pointy things.
(Hat-tip to Right We Are)

Canadian Passports 

New passport photo regulations from the people to the north per this Yahoo News article. (Hat-tip to Four Right Wing Wackos)
MONTREAL (AFP) - Canada has banned the public from smiling or frowning for passport photos, the foreign ministry announced.

Canadians must send a photo with 'a neutral expression -- that means no laughing, smiles, frowning,' said ministry spokeswoman Suzanne Meunier.

'The mouth must be closed,' she added. "

The purpose of using "Swiss smiles", is because the International Civil Aviation Organization thinks this makes it easier to recognize passport holders. This is probably true. With all the obstacles which must be hurdled (high ticket and gas prices, heightened security, delays, etc.), today's travelers are leaving their smiles at home.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Tuesday Review 

Here are a few interesting posts on a variety of subjects from a variety of places:
   California schools to curtail homework from Four Right Wing Wackos
   Amnesty by Another Name from Junkyard Blog
   NHS 'should offer free IVF' from Samizdata.net
   Quotes, context, and spin from The Volokh Conspiracy
   Open Range - a review from One Hand Clapping
   Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools from The Smallest Minority

Saddam's Gold - Update 

This King of Fools entry on August 9th referred to a captured oil truck in Iraq. This tanker was unique in that it was filled with gold, but not of the black variety.

If you want to see pictures of the gold, Strategy Page has posted them here. (Hat-tip to VodkaPundit)

Open Internet Access 

Wired News reports on a new Internet cafe in Tikrit, Iraq. They have had internet before but at that time, any political or opposition site was blocked. This connection is unfiltered, and how are they using it?
TIKRIT, Iraq -- The first words Ahmed Abdullah typed in the Google search engine were 'George Bush.'

The 19-year-old wanted to access the president's website, something he couldn't do under restricted and tightly controlled Internet service during Saddam Hussein's rule.

The cafe charges $1 per hour and has seen up to 30 visitors a day in its first five days. Similar projects are planned for three other cities. The Iraqi people getting a larger glimpse of the world beyond their borders will only help change the tone and aid in reconstruction. (Hat-tip to Alpha Patriot)

UPDATE: Power Line has a picture of the cafe here. 

Monday, August 25, 2003

Three Reactions 

Three deadly bombings in three countries within seven days: Jerusalem, Baghdad and now Bombay. Each one carried out by Islamic terrorists with the intention of destroying peace.

Israel responded with force, killing principals in the offending organization. The U.N. responded by blaming the United States. Now the Indians have responded with caution per this FT.com article:

Large-scale terrorist attacks in India - such as Monday's two car bomb blasts in Bombay, which claimed at least 45 lives - are usually followed by a momentous political response. But the reaction even of L.K. Advani, India's hawkish deputy prime minister, was relatively subdued, and few sought to point fingers.

Mr Advani said earlier bomb attacks in Bombay had been carried out by the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, in conjunction with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group.

But this time he appeared to caution against the apportioning of instant blame. "We must await the findings of a full police investigation," he said.

His relatively muted reaction contrasts with the immediate response to earlier incidents.

In December 2001, a suicide attack on India's parliament that claimed 12 lives was immediately blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba. The attack was followed by a tense nine-month stand-off with Pakistan that twice almost led to war.

Similarly, an arson attack last year on a train, which killed 58 Hindu passengers, was blamed on a suspected Islamist group. The incident was followed by some of the worst communal strife in India's recent history.

The latest attack comes in the midst of what Atal Behari Vajpayee, India's prime minister, has called his "third and final" attempt at peace with neighbouring Pakistan. Although the four-month-old initiative has been slow to produce results, Mr Vajpayee is believed to be strongly committed to its continuation.

With the intention of destroying the peace, these terrorists don’t care what response they get. If their enemy responds with force, then the peace has been broken. If the attacked government refuses to respond, then its people live without peace, wondering when the next attack will come. And the next attack will come; this response is seen as an invitation for further attacks.

Diplomacy will never be successful with those who choose not to abide by the rules. They respect neither the rules of civilized warfare, nor the rules of negotiated peace. To these people, cease-fire is literally translated as “reload your weapon”.

Everyone has seen the western or the action thriller where the villain is on the ropes and the hero shows mercy. Instead of getting what he deserves, this scoundrel is granted another opportunity to reform. Yet the only opportunity that is taken is one last attempt to kill the hero once his back is turned. Reform never was an option.

So it is in this situation. Reform does not seem to be an option. The hearts of those who have been surrounded by this culture of death and raised for the purpose of hate and destruction are as black as coal and as hardened as diamonds.

What is the appropriate response? It has to be fierce unrelenting pursuit against those who would perpetuate evil, coupled with an equally fierce support for those who would opt to exit the cycle of ruin. Provide no hope for those who would choose evil, and unlimited hope for those who would not. This is the U.S. goal in Iraq. Take out the bad guys with deadly force while rebuilding the schools and infrastructure so those who choose to trade their weapons for a plow can improve their situation.

The Volokh Conspiracy 

David Bernstein (The Volokh Conspiracy) is in Israel this week and gives some first hand observations in this post:
The main reminder of the 'situation' are the security guards posted at the entrance to restaurants, shopping malls, university entrances, and the like. Women show the contents of their handbags, while men, especially heavier men whose girth might turn out to be a bomb belt, get checked for explosives with an electronic device. My impression is that on a day to day basis the average Tel Avivian is more concerned about the awful economic situation (unemployment over 10%, and lots of recent cuts in government programs) than about negotiations with the Palestinians, for which very little hope is held out.
The most striking statement here is that the profiling of persons of larger girth seems so ordinary. Yet why would it not be that way? It is in the best interest of all the people, including larger people, to locate all persons carrying an explosive vest.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Weapon of Choice 

It seems the abundant weapons U.S. troops keep finding in Iraq are not going completely to waste. This AP article (per the Raleigh News-Observer) shows that many of our troops prefer the plentiful AK-47 to their issued M-4 assault rifles:
The AK is favored by many of the world's fighters, from child soldiers in Africa to rebel movements around the world, because it is light, durable and known to jam less frequently.

Now U.S. troops who have picked up AKs on raids or confiscated them at checkpoints are putting the rifles to use - and they like what they see.

Some complain that standard U.S. military M16 and M4 rifles jam too easily in Iraq's dusty environment. Many say the AK has better 'knockdown' power and can kill with fewer shots.

Some soldiers think the weapon is easier to maintain, and they also like the psychological bonus of firing on the enemy with their own weapons. Ammunition is also not a problem - they just pick it up on any raid or from any confiscated weapon.

Eroding Credibility 

Voters Don't Want Bush Re-Elected - Poll is an interesting headline for this Voice of America article. The first paragraph is even more interesting:
The majority of American voters would not like to see President Bush re-elected to another term according to a poll by Newsweek magazine.

The survey released Saturday showed that 49 percent of registered voters would not back the president for a second term if the vote were held now. Forty-four percent would support Mr. Bush's re-election.

The headline is misleading enough, but the "majority" statement leaves only two possible conclusions: either they do not know the meaning of majority; or they believe their readership doesn't.