Date ►►► November 30, 2010
Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part I - a Reader Shibboleth
Let us suppose that, during the "lame donkey" session of Congress (before the newly elected 112th Congress takes power), some combination of Congress, the federal judiciary, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and President Barack H. Obama manages to overturn the infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy requiring gays in the military to hide their sexual preference.
Suppose further that after an initial flurry of angst and hairpulling, within six months or so, the troops settle into the "new normal" that gays can serve openly. Whatever roiling occurred dies down, and things drift back into the usual SNAFU of the American armed forces.
Suppose even further that we're not obliterated by some enemy during that half year due to a gay soldier doing... I don't know, something that only gay soldiers might do that costs us the war. Offhand I can't think of anything, but whatever it is, it doesn't happen. We muddle along as usual until the next elections.
Then suppose (this one isn't much of a reach) a Republican president is elected in 2012 and the GOP captures the Senate to go along with the House; now they control all the elected levers of power and can by and large do what they please. I know, it's a lot of s'pposin'; but now we come to the speculation:
In 2013, would you favor or oppose the incoming president and 113th Congress repassing DADT, requiring now openly serving gays to clam up and future gay recruits to hide their sexual preference again?
If so, why? If not, why not?
Inquiring minds -- at least one inquiring mind! -- want to know...
Stuxnet Speculations and Wild Guesses
I have no access to any information beyond unclassified media reports about the Stuxnet supervirus/superworm that has infected and largely frozen Iran's nuclear-enrichment program; but that won't stop me from making intelligent (?), semi-informed speculations and wild leaps of faith, in service to the science-fiction spirit embodied in this attack upon our greatest enemy by the world's first fully weaponized malware.
First of all, I am completely convinced (by discussions mostly here) that the malware was systematically developed by a black-ops skunk works that is part of some government... not by a lone-wolf genius, not by hackers, and not by a multinational corporation (unless it was working for some intelligence agency).
That reduces the source down to the usual targets. Iran claims it was attacked by Israel and the United States, and I think they're absolutely right. The other countries that might, might have the know-how to pull it off -- Russia, China -- have no plausible motive for doing so; while those countries that would be overjoyed to see such computational destruction of Iranian nuclear plans (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Eurostates, maybe India) really don't have the ability to weaponize malware to this extent. At least that's my opinion, take it for what it's worth.
Looking at the timeline, I see that the code was first discovered in Iran's enrichment hardware in June 2010. It must have been kicking around in less secure systems for many months before that, propagating and "adapt[ing] like the Borg," as commenter TimesDisliker in that Patterico comment thread put it; Symantec checked their archives and found a sample of Stuxnet going back a full year to June 2009. Symantec estimated that the actual development of the code would have taken about six months (early January, 2009); but they added the following disclaimer that pushes it back even further:
We estimate the core team was five to ten people and they developed Stuxnet over six months. The development was in all likelihood highly organized and thus this estimate doesn’t include the quality assurance and management resources needed to organize the development as well as a probable host of other resources required, such as people to setup test systems to mirror the target environment and maintain the command and control server.
Considering the blazing speed that characterizes military, bureaucratic, and administrative planning sessions and operational set-up, it's hard to imagine the total development process, from "Gee, wouldn't it be great if..." to a Stuxnet supervirus ready to be unleashed upon a hapless Ahmadinejad, taking less than a year's time -- at least back to June 2008, assuming that 2009 sample from Symantec wasn't already months old before they stumbled across it, and assuming the development didn't take longer than a year (including "bureaucratic standard time"). Therefore, the project must have started in the waning months of the George W. Bush administration, if not even earlier in Bush's second term.
Minor sub-thought: I was just on the phone with a friend, maintaining that, while Bush may or may not have known about it, I believe President Barack H. Obama was completely ignorant of Stuxnet; I think he was kept totally out of the loop for reasons that seem obvious to me: No one would trust the Obamacle or his minions with such intel because it would have been sent straight to Eric Lichtblau at the New York Times (or to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks), denounced as yet another Bush-era "crime against humanity;" or at least the Stuxnet developers would worry that it might. (Can we say Barack Manning? If you don't get that snark, look up "Bradley Manning" on Wikipedia.)
My phone conversationalist argued that Obama would have to have known, since he would have to have approved the project, would have been briefed on it by his subordinates and reports, and would have to be kept inside the loop. But the fact that the project likely started during the Bush administration removes those objections: Obama didn't need to approve it because it was already approved and funded by George W. Bush. Obama wouldn't have been briefed, because the outgoing administration probably never told the leftist, ideological, Iran kow-towning political appointees of the incoming about the ultra, code-word classified virus for fear it would be "Lichtblaued" the next week.
Barack Obama not only could have been kept out of the operational or even reporting loop, he should have been kept out. His national-security appointments alone reveal his unseriousness and fecklessness on the subject of the War Against Radical Islamism:
- Consider Janet Napolitano as our joke Secretary of Homeland Security;
- Leon Panetta as our hapless Director of the Central Intelligence Agency;
- Hillary Clinton as our ersatz Secretary of State;
- Bob Gates, who has become the "Les Aspin" of the twenty-first century, loving the military but afraid to play with it lest it get broken;
- Gen. James Jones, outgoing National Security Advisor, who spent his tenure alternating between being ignored by the president and crushing on Hillary;
- Counselor Thomas E. Donilon, incoming National Security Advisor, whose major qualification for the post appears to be that he served as lawyer lobbyist for Fannie Mae;
- And Attorney General Eric Holder, who has his own, personal defintion of "black ops."
Nobody on that list could ever have pulled the trigger; thus nobody in his right senses would hand over the keys to the Stuxnet program to the gang who couldn't shoot, straight or otherwise. Hence I seriously doubt that the Obamacle knew thing-one about this mission.
If we did collaborate with Israel on this project, which makes sense, I have an inkling of how that partnership shook out: I'll bet we supplied the ultimate software -- we're the chaps with the technological sophistication -- while the Israelis supplied the real-time infiltration and implantation of the supervirus.
We know to a near certainty that Mossad agents and local Iranians ideologically turned or bribed by Israel have penetrated the Uranium-enrichment program and other elements of Iran's nuclearization; where else would Israel have gotten all the targeting information for Iranian nuclear reactors and development sites, from Osirak in 1981 to Natanz and other sites today? Israel has a much more urgent motivation and better personnel to infiltrate Iran... native-born Iranian Jews working undercover in Tehran, for example.
In my fevered brain, I envison one Mossad agent, working with the CIA, discovers the Stuxnet malware he has been awaiting in that Belarusian company computer, having finally slithered its way into Iran, modifying and improving its code as it crawled. The agent arranges to be called in to eliminate the infestation. He cleanses every trace of it from the firmware -- but not before downloading the evolved version of Stuxnet into a thumbdrive.
He passes it through a series of cutouts to another Mossad agent, this one working at one of the major nuclear facilities -- perhaps in the same capacity as the evildoer Bradley Manning (I won't dignify him with his former, and obviously disregarded rank in the United States Army... and if you followed instructions above, you know by now who Bradley Manning is!) But instead of downloading classified documents to hurt his own country, this Mossad hero uploads the Stuxnet malware to Iran's nuclear computers to protect his real country, Israel, from nuclear annihilation.
(Note that even the anti-Bush CIA would probably love the Stuxnet project. Their vigorous and subversive objection to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq stem from the CIA's parent entity, the State Department: Like State, CIA has a penchant for diplomacy and spycraft, not belligerency and warcraft. But this sort of thing is right up their traditional alley... more akin to the sneaky and precious moral ambiguity of John Le Carre than the straightforward fighting of David Petraeus.)
Finally, Iran would love to retaliate against us in the same way we attacked them (as I believe we did, and thank heavens!) -- with a rewritten version of Stuxnet that will attack our computers at the Air Force Global Strike Command or somesuch. But I don't think they have anywhere near the technological capability even to understand the fractal complexity and Borg-like adaptability of Stuxnet, let alone monkey with it to produce a counter worm. They're not very good at high tech; they even have to buy their missile technology from North Korea, roundabout from China.
But they're absolute wizards at creating jihadist cells, sneaking bombs into Western countries (including the United States), and inducing radical Islamists in Hamas or Hezbollah to blow themselves up in "martyrdom operations"... and that is how I believe they will strike back at us for this cyberattack, not with bytes but with bombs. Moreover, if I were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I would plan an attack not in New York or Los Angeles, nor Chicago nor Washington, D.C., but rather in America's heartland, the Midwest. In particular, I'm very nervous about an attempt to bomb, shoot up, or otherwise attack the largest shopping mall in the United States, in Bloomington, Minnesota: the temptingly named "Mall of America."
Great Caesar's ghost, but I hope local and federal lawn-forcement officials tremendously beef up security there, as well as other malls, sports stadiums, concert arenas, amusement parks, and tourist sites. If Iran flies into a rage and decides to kill Americans in as great a number as possible, I strongly suspect they will strike at the everyday lives of American civilians next time, not the well-guarded military and government elites, and not at Wall Street financiers.
Date ►►► November 27, 2010
Drudge Not, Lest Ye Be Drudged
Submitted for your approval, six sequential headlines from the Drudge Report:
- Crazed shoppers stampede at TARGET...
- Marine stabbed at BEST BUY...
- Shopper arrested after packing gun in belt; knives, 'pepper grenade'...
- Mall food court placed on lockdown after fight, reports of gunshots...
- Shopper arrested after cutting in line, raging...
- Online sales jump 16%.
Couldn't see that one coming!
Date ►►► November 25, 2010
Merry Gotdankbar to All, and to All a Gut Gotdankbar!
Eat, eat, you're skin and bones!
Date ►►► November 24, 2010
Come Mr. Taliban, Tally Me Bananas
Or should that be, "tell me I'm bananas?"
So Monday -- the 292nd anniversary of the death of Blackbeard the pirate, but does anybody care? -- the New York Times reported a curious controversy that surely is the most emblematic embarassment of the administration of Barack H. "Lucky Lefty" Obama:
For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.
But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.
Cue "Three Stooges" music: "Oh, a wiseguy, eh?"
I was not particularly startled by the fact that the Obamacle's negotiators cannot tell a Taliban from a tally-ho; with this duffer, who drills the ball into a knothole and calls it a hole in one, I expect nothing better.
But what really numbfounds me is the next line in the Times story:
"It’s not him," said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. "And we gave him a lot of money."
That is, evidently, we were under the mistaken impression that we were paying the Taliban to negotiate with us. One can only conclude that our progressive president is so desperate to show some progress (on anything!) that he's even willing to bribe our enemies to sit down and pretend to talk to us.
So upon consideration, I really can't feel all that upset about what happened over the past three months (red-faced and humiliated, sure, but not upset). When all is said, I'm actually rather grateful that all that money we've been forking over only went to a con man.
In fact, considering the alternative, I'd say we got a bargain.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► November 21, 2010
Rahma Lama Gang Bang
Heh, looks like Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to the Obamacle, won't have as smooth a cruise to the mayorality of Chicago as he expected, once his boss had leaned on Jesse Jackson, jr., to get out of Rahm's way. (The signature campaign strategy of Barack H. Obama: force all the "pretenders" from the ballot, run unopposed, then claim a mandate due to the landslide victory over the Invisible Man.)
All for nought, as yesterday, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun confirmed that she definitely is running against him:
After filing signature petitions last week to run for mayor, Braun's announcement was certainly no surprise. She had several local elected leaders supporter her at her rally, including U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who led the crowd in a "Yes Carol Can!" chant, borrowing from the "Yes We Can" mantra used by President Barack Obama....
Almost at the beginning of her 24-minute speech, Braun took a shot at one of her mayoral opponents, Rahm Emanuel, for speeches and commercials he's aired stating the election to replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley means Chicagoans need to decide if they will pick a leader who will help Chicago "continue to be a great city or become a second tier city."
"Mr. Emanuel, your commercials pose a completely false choice," she said. "You may not understand it, but the challenge we face is not whether Chicago will be a second tier city, but whether our city will be great for all its citizens."
The election will be held on February 22nd, with a runoff (if no candidate gets a majority of the vote) on April 5th. The orgy of opponents multiplies like bacteria:
Others who have said they are running for mayor include former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and state Sen. James T. Meeks.
The only poll I've seen of the race that included Moseley Braun has Emanuel up by 36% to 14% (for Danny Davis), with 13% for Moseley Braun. But this poll was taken before she had formally joined the race; I expect her stock to rise, now that she's made the announcement. But even with these numbers, it looks like Rahm Emanuel is headed towards a runoff, not a Blitzkrieg. (The poll was administered by the Chicago Teamsters Joint Council 25 -- take it for what it's worth!)
I know Emanuel is no leftist-progressive ideologue, like so many of Barack H. Obama's other appointees. But he's a soulless, calculating, unprincipled politico who sees truths and lies simply as arrows in his quiver -- and a seeming Zionist who eagerly served Barack Obama, the most anti-Israel, anti-Zionist president since Franklin Roosevelt. (In fact, Obama appears, from his associates, actually to be antisemitic as well as anti-Israel, which probably was not true of FDR.)
I'm quite happy to see Rahm Emanuel given grief and exasperation in his quest to follow in the footloops of Richard Daley, jr. It couldn't happen to a dicier fellow.
Date ►►► November 19, 2010
In Praise of (Some) Federal Employees
A few days ago, Aaron Worthing, guest blogger at Patterico's Pontifications, published a column advocating we reduce government spending (hence the deficit) by drastically cutting both the workforce and the salaries of "civilian federal workers," otherwise unspecified:
I bet if we really, really tried, we could cut our federal workforce by 25% at least. In fact, if we really wanted to radically reduce the federal government, 50% is a very doable goal. I mean not all by itself, but in conjunction with radical reductions in the amount of work and regulation going on, it could be done. And I bet their pay could stand to be cut a tad more than just 5%. Likewise it assumes that we can only cut aid to states by 5%. I refuse to be so pessimistic.
Well believe it or not, I'm here to stick up for some civilian federal workers. Well, most civilian federal workers; heck, I'll even say the huge majority of civilian federal workers. But let me start by talking about one civilian federal worker, the one I know best: My wife, Sachi.
Sachi is a civilian engineer employed by the Department of Defense, specifically the United States Navy. She tests certain systems, analyzes test results conducted by others, and trains ship's crew to carry out system tests themselves. The systems tested are vital not just to the mission but to the very survival of the crew; it's not an unimportant task or one that could be safely abandoned or significantly cut.
When Sachi is in the office, she works in a cube, or in the computer room, or in a conference room for one of too many team meetings. She is on several teams and is expected to keep up with and contribute to all of them, which requires more hours than are available in a day, even assuming she never had to eat, sleep, or go home.
Because of government cutbacks over the last several years, there is no longer free coffee available to employees... no sodas, no soda crackers, no doughnuts; in fact, they don't even supply free water. There are no Styrofoam cups, no plastic knives, forks, spoons, or even sporks. Anything the employees need, they must purchase themselves.
Work for the Navy and see the world
The Navy frequently sends Sachi on "TDYs," that is, business trips. (She says TDY stands for "temporary duty," but I think it really stands for "tedious.") On these TDYs, she gets to travel to exciting, exotic resorts -- Naval Base San Diego, California, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, or Wallop's Island, Virginia. Sometimes she gets to travel abroad, for example to US Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, on the Greek island of Crete; or the Japanese naval base in Sasebo.
Recently, she has only had to travel three or four months out of the year; but when she was more junior, she traveled six months, seven months, and in one year (we called it "the year of Hell"), she was away from home on TDYs about eight and a half months. She does get to keep her own frequent-flier miles, for the time being; but we rarely get a chance to use any, since we often don't know when she'll be able to take vacation time... a TDY can arise suddenly, scant days during which she must schedule her entire trip herself, making all air, hotel, and rent-a-car reservations -- while being restricted to only booking with companies that will accept the government per-diem rate (which many will not, because it's a lot cheaper than what they can get through ordinary bookings).
Romantic tropical cruises
Often the TDY includes several weeks under way; during those stretches, she is generally incommunicado: Yes, the cruisers and destroyers have internet connection; but the crew gets first priority on that, and Sachi is generally too busy to use it anyway. I get an occasional two- or three- line e-mail letting me know she's all right and alerting me to schedule changes that may require us to shift some planned event of our own (tickets to the local playhouse, some family obligation, a trip we had intended to make but now cannot).
Typically, during the under-way portion of a TDY, Sachi must work 18-hour days; but government regulations only allow her to claim four hours of overtime per day. That means that for a third of her work day, six hours, she is literally working for free.
Rolling in dough like Scrooge McDuck
For all this, she is paid about the same as an engineer with comparable experience at a private-sector employer like Raytheon or Northrop Grumman -- five figures, not six, and not even really close to six.
When she can claim overtime, she doesn't get double time or even time and a half; she is paid at exactly the same rate she makes during the normal workday. On TDY, she gets per diem; the government pays directly for her air travel, hotel, rental car, parking fees, taxi or airport shuttle, and pays a fixed-rate daily allowance for everything else, including food and incidental expenses she incurs over the weeks or months she's staying somewhere other than home. If she's frugal about what and how much she eats, she can come out a little bit ahead of the per diem. (Most of her co-workers "eat their per diem," literally.)
Credit where it's due
But hey, how about those "taxpayer funded" government credit cards? Sachi has a government card, but it doesn't work how most people seem to think.
I have listened both to Dennis Prager and Michael Medved attacking government credit cards, noting that thousands of civilian federal employees carry them. Both talk-show hosts told horror stories of employees putting bar bills, theater tickets, even visits to houses of easy virtue on their cards, thus (claimed the hosts) forcing taxpayers to pay for such utterly non-work-related products and activities. The scandal, the corruption!
There are a few people, just a handful, who have use of "official procurement credit cards," where the responsibility for paying them falls directly on the government agency that authorized them. Procurement officers use these government-owned cards, as the name implies, for procurement purchases; and what they are allowed to purchase on those cards is strictly limited. It's true that some people abuse their privileges, and this is a serious criminal problem; but that's a tiny fraction of those who have such cards.
And more to the point, procurement credit cards are only a small fraction of government sponsored credit cards, like Sachi's. In her case, as with those "thousands" of people, there are two important points most commentators, including Prager and Medved, misunderstand:
- Government credit cards can only be used during an authorized TDY.
- And the final responsibility for paying those cards falls on the employee himself, not on the government or taxpayers.
The feds are supposed to pay the specifically authorized charges (airplane tickets, hotel, etc) directly to the credit card account. But if they delay payment (or fail to pay at all), then the hapless employee must pay instead, else his own personal credit rating will take a hit, and he can be sued by the bank that issues the credit card. Despite the fact that the employee would never have incurred those charges were it not for being sent off on TDY somewhere, if the feds dawdle and dilly-dally on their payments, the worker can be socked with literally thousands of dollars in unpaid travel bills.
And don't think it never happens; many times, we have had to "spot" the Navy a few hundred or even a thousand dollars because of some idiocy about the expense report. Once, for example, they approved a particular hotel because it was within the government price limit; but before Sachi returned, the Navy reduced its limit, to less than the already-approved hotel charged... and then the Navy rejected the hotel expense because it was no longer within the limit! They refused, for a time, to pay the bill, which Sachi (relying on the earlier approval) had already charged to her government credit card.
Eventually the Navy relented and paid, but it took weeks and a special waiver from Sachi's boss; in the meantime, we had to pay the credit-card bill ourselves, borrowing the money from our personal savings account.
It's also nearly impossible to get those government credit cards actually to send a refund when one is due: They'll only send it if there is an actual surplus on the account.
Say you've paid $300 in advance when the Navy was laggardly; the Navy finally ponies up as well, which means the bank that issued the credit card owes you a $300 refund. You send in the paperwork... and the bank sits on it for four weeks.
But just before they cut you a $300 check, you go on another TDY. A TDY means airplane tickets and a hotel charge, which adds up to $1,500, let us say. But wait -- now the bank can't send your refund because (you knew this was coming) the account now shows $1,200 balance due ($1,500 charged minus the $300 surplus)... and they won't send a refund so long as there's a balance due.
Eventually the government pays the $1,500, which restores the $300 surplus; but the old paperwork for a refund has expired, and you have to send in the same forms again. And once again, before the bank gets around to cutting a $300 check, you're off on yet another TDY; and round and round the credit carousel goes.
I am Spartacus!
Why all this yammering about Sachi? Because I want to indelibly stamp a human face onto those anonymous "civilian federal workers," the ones about whose middle-income salary Aaron Worthing is so cavalier. And it's not just those employed by the DoD; tens of thousands of engineers and accounts, scientists and secretaries, personnel bureaucrats and middle managers work for the federal government yet don't receive those $300,000 salaries, those out-of-control pensions, or any of those infuriating perks.
Most federal employees are not even union members: According to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, only 28% of federal workers were members of a union. By contrast, 43% of local government employees were union members -- think public school teachers, police, and firefighters. (Among private-sector workers, 7.2% were union members.)
Most government employees get up, go to work, do their jobs, get paid a normal and not excessive salary, and wend their way home each night. But there certainly are some federal workers who lead privileged lives with lavish salaries and massive pensions, few responsibilities, and all sorts of special perquisites. They are what the Soviets used to call the nomenklatura, the privileged class of patronage appointees -- literally, the "list of names."
When ordinary employees of private companies see the lifestyles of the privileged and pampered, their blood justly boils over; but so too does the blood of the vast majority of the 3.5 million federal employees, the ones who don't live like Medicis in Renaissance Florence.
For some reason, when it comes to the federal government, conservatives who ordinarily try to see people as a collection of individuals instead see those dastardly civilian federal workers as a vast sea of undifferentiated and culpable leeches, a wild topiary that must be ruthlessly clipped and pruned into a more palatable shape.
Worthing (look back at the beginning of this post if you've forgotten who he is) suggests we could "cut our federal workforce by 25%" (875,000 people suddenly out of work), though "50% is a very doable goal" (1,750,000 hitting the bricks). Over the short period of time generally proposed for such pruning, there is no possible way for private employers to pick up all that abrupt slack. Hundreds of thousands would be out of work for months and would not find a job paying even decent wages for years. (It would also likely devastate the private-sector engineering workforce as supply suddenly skyrockets at the same time that demand drops.)
But it's not just the number of newly unemployed people; in many areas of the federal government, especially in the military, civilian employees are already understaffed and stretching their resources. Where Sachi works, they are woefully underfunded and understaffed; were the Navy to cut even 25% of jobs, vital areas of training and maintenance would be completely shut down, because there simply wouldn't be enough trained engineers to handle the demand. I'm sure the same can be said for NASA, for military hospitals, for the FBI, or even (I'm holding my nose and typing one-handed) for the IRS.
The federal government has grown like metastacized cancer -- but grown for many decades; and it will take many more decades to shrink it again. You can't just slash jobs, slash salaries, and expect critical tasks now performed by the feds to be picked up overnight by the private-sector workforce.
This is why I am a libertarian, but more specificaly, a gradualist libertarian: I want to see the federal bureaucracy shrunk to about a quarter of where it now stands -- but over a long period of time (say 25-35 years), and with a corresponding reduction in federal responsibilities, spending, and taxes. Gradually, no abrupt and radical surgery, giving our economy time to adjust... and unleashing businesses, small and large, from crushing taxation and draconian regulation, so that it's able to take over functions the private sector hasn't performed (or done only as a government contractor) for many years.
And that is why I'm damned tired of conservatives talking about axing federal (nameless, faceless, inhuman) employees and slashing their salaries with the same ignorant callousness liberals use when talking about "balancing the budget" via staggering tax increases -- that always manage to exempt the nomenklatura who propose the tax hike in the first place. It's not only unbecoming and offensive, it's adolescent thinking (teen logic)... and it gets in the way of finding a realistic and workable way to reduce federal intrusion into our lives.
Please, people; the next time you hear someone say "let's just throw 25% of the federal workforce into the private sector and let them fend for themselves," think of real human beings, like Sachi, who work just as hard as you, who perform very important tasks that no single private company could undertake at this point in time, and for which they are paid no more than you. A few really are cartoon villains like Snidely Whiplash, but the bulk are just working stiffs.
Date ►►► November 18, 2010
Although there is no hard evidence as yet, it's becoming increasingly plausible that Janet Napolitano, Capa di Tutti Capi of the Department of Homeland Security, has been giving -- or at least considering giving -- special exemptions from the highly invasive airport porno-scan and the even more highly invasive "custody search" of all passengers; these possible exemptions would only be extended to (drum roll) Moslem women in full burkas... and perhaps inadvertently to Moslem men in full burkas.
Or perhaps even women (or men who can "pass") just wearing the head covering, the hijab, plus the veil. Anything, that is, that so completely obscures the head, face, and/or body that identification is impossible; those passengers will (perhaps!) receive a "get out of humiliation free" card, a fact which Napolitano cannot seem to deny:
When asked today if she will insist that Muslim women wearing hijabs must go through full body pat downs before boarding planes, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did not say yes or no, but told CNSNews.com there will be “adjustments” and “more to come” on the issue.
“On the pat downs, CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] has recommended that Muslim women wearing hijabs refuse to go through the full body pat downs before boarding planes,” CNSNews.com asked Napolitano at a Monday press conference. “Will you insist that they do go through full body pat downs before boarding planes?”
(CAIR also helpfully suggested that Moslem women could "pat down [their] own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officers perform a chemical swipe of [their] hands.”)
Napolitano "responded" to Cybercast News Service's question thus:
“Look, we have, like I said before, we are doing what we need to do to protect the traveling public and adjustments will be made where they need to be made,” Napolitano responded. “With respect to that particular issue, I think there will be more to come. But, again, the goal here, you know, we’re not doing this just to do it. We’re doing it because we need to keep powders and gels and liquids off of planes that are unauthorized just as we need to keep metals off of planes.
Unless those powders, gels, and liquids are carried by Moslem women. Or Moslem girly-men.
Dear Secretary Napolitano;
How about instead trying to keep terrorists off of planes?
This freakish policy must be the synthesis of (1) confusing the actor with the inanimate object he uses in the action, colliding with (2) the overriding imperative to play the dhimmi to every nutty fatwa issued by CAIR, the Muslim American Society, Iran, Hamas, or any other radical Islamist group that practices either full-blown jihad or at least dawa, the use of preaching, threats, extortion, "lawfare," protests, organized whining and complaining, or any other means (short of actual slaughter) to push for world Islamic domination.
Rational people already know what to do: The most effective and least invasive security protocol would be to a system of behavioral profiling, accompanied by facial and body recognition of suspected terrorists by electronic scaning and by human "spotters" who roam the airport concourse, men and women exceptionally good at recognizing people from a photograph.
But liberals like Napolitano (and her own boss, Barack H. Obama) utterly refuse to consider these methods, probably because they treat passengers as individuals responsible for their own behavior, rather than representatives of groups with varying degrees of aggrievedness... and also because it smells a bit too much like Israel, which the Obama administration considers a pariah state, and every Israeli policy thus tainted and unusable.
At the very least, to speed up the process and minimize the angst, we should implement an "opt-in" system, where frequent fliers can submit to a fairly deep background check, pay a modest fee, and be issued a picture I.D. with biometric information on it, such as a thumbprint. At the airport, they would show their cards, submit to a quick facial-recognition scan and electronic thumbprint, and bypass the security line altogether. But that, of course, is pure elitism; and the top-level Obamunists cannot tolerate any such elite group... except for themselves, of course; you'll never catch Janet Napolitano having to go through the porno-scanner! (Except perhaps as a one-time publicity stunt, though so far, she has refused even that.)
With the obvious security measures swiftly and soundly rejected, Secretary Napolitano instead concocts an astonishing invasion of privacy for all airline travelers, without regard to their likelihood of posing a threat -- and then considers exempting the very people most likely to pose just such a threat: Moslems, whether male or female, who are so intensely religious (or so intensely comitted to jihad) that they must conceal their features and form from all security officers and scanners.
We apply the most intrusive, offensive, humiliating, and degrading imaginable security scrutiny to those least likely to commit terrorism, and then apply virtually no scrutiny at all to those most likely to want to blow up an airliner or fly it into a building. What could possibly go wrong?
Dennis Prager is fond of saying that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives think liberals are wrong and need to be convinced, but liberals think conservatives are either evil or insane (or both) and need to be put away. But as we are subjected more and more to liberal-progressives in full cry, and we see the natural end-result of the cult of liberalism (see When Prophecy Fails), it becomes impossible not to see the death-spiral of sanity inherent in leftism. When an ideology starts from a fundamental disconnect from reality, it eventually must either collapse upon itself -- or else deny and reject that reality in increasingly strident and ultimately hysterical pronunciamentos and surreal policies.
At that point, conservatives and other anti-liberals face their own dilemma: How do we inform the electorate of the sheer madness into which the Left has fallen without sounding delusional ourselves?
Of course, maybe that's the progressive plan of Barack Obama. If this month's elections are any guide, it ain't working.
Date ►►► November 14, 2010
Profiles in Servility
I am a frequent traveler. I fly a lot. I fly at least once a month, sometimes eighteen, twenty times a year; so aviation security is a great concern for me. I endure lengthy security line; I wear slip-off shoes, no belt, jewelry, or God forbid, an underwire bra. I am careful and efficient opening up my bags. In short, I am the Asian businessman (businesswoman) you really, really want to be behind in the TSA line.
However, the stupid, new security measures implemented by the Transportation Security Agency simply go too far: The full body scanning and the enhanced pat down -- actually a "custody search," according to one cop on an interview show -- are not only intrusive, they are inefficient and ineffective. I'm thinking of joining the grass-roots protest by refusing to fly to the East Coast and scheduling a teleconference instead.
Already, many pilots and flight attendants are considering boycotts. Many passengers are considering alternatives to flying, rather than going through such terrible experiences. If enough people opt out of flying this holiday season, it could spell disaster for the airline industry.
The TSA would probably justify their security fondling by bringing up Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. Abdul Metal-Knob, a.k.a. the Undiebomber of last Christmas. True, his bomb was not detected by the normal metal detector; but had the Department of Homeland Security (TSA's parent) done its job properly, Metal-Knob couldn't have come near the airport in the first place.
Metal-Knob was a known terrorist, considered so dangerous that his name was already on DHS's no-fly list. He was not supposed to fly at all! But there he was, aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. Why? Because somebody in charge of the DHS failed to do her job; that is, somebody who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are Janet Napolitano, hand-picked by Barack H. Obama to be Secretary of Homeland Security.
Janet Napolitano was once governor of Arizona ("I can see Mexico from my house!"); after Metal-Knob's bomb failed to explode and kill everyone aboard, Napolitano declared "the system worked!"; and she raised a boatload of money for Obama's presidential campaign. The One We Just Shellacked concluded that these three accomplishments (especially the last) easily qualified her to become the point-woman for defending the American homeland.
In addition to allowing Metal-Knob onto Northwest Airlines, DHS and TSA have also done a great job keeping the total number of illegal aliens enrolled in American flight schools down to just a few thousand:
Outside Boston, one shady flight school provided single-engine pilot lessons to at least 33 illegal immigrants from Brazil. But clear counter-terror rules ban illegal aliens from enrolling in U.S. flight schools. Clear counter-terror regulations require TSA to run foreign flight students’ names against a plethora of terrorism, criminal and immigration databases. Head-scratching airport security officials were at a loss last week to explain how dozens of these illegal alien students eluded their radar screen when the agency “performs a thorough background check on each applicant at the time of application” and checks “for available disqualifying immigration information,” the Boston Globe reported....
Whistleblowers have warned for years about the gaping holes in both the TSA’s and the Federal Aviation Administration’s foreign pilot screening systems. In 2005, aviation safety inspector Edward H. Blount of the Alabama Flight Standards District Office sent a letter to the TSA warning of federal policies that were “fostering illegal flight training by foreign individuals” in the U.S. on improper visas. Blount reported that he and another investigator were told by a TSA official that the agency was “not going to look at the visa status” of pilot applicants....
In 2008, ABC News discovered that thousands of foreign nationals were able to enroll in flight schools despite the strict flight security rules. “Some of the very same conditions that allowed the 9-11 tragedy to happen in the first place are still very much in existence today,” one regional TSA officer warned. “TSA’s enforcement is basically nonexistent,” former FAA inspector Bill McNease told the network. The matter was kicked upstairs to DHS higher-ups in Washington. And there it gathered dust.
While TSA agents are busily groping innocent men, women, and children, real terrorists are slipping through the our non-existent security screening, even earning pilots licenses in the United States. I'm sure it's all George W. Bush's fault.
So if you're not keen to have some overweight, sweaty, 22 year old grab your groin -- or worse, give an amateur breast exam to your sixteen year old daughter -- then what is the alternative? Fortunately, others have already paved the way to far more effective and less intrusive security measure.
Unfortunately, the way was paved by the Israelis... so there's about a zero percent chance the Obamunists will ever give it a try. I'm talking about good, old behavioral profiling. David Nodell writes:
The most effective check, as many analysts have commented, remains the human one, Israeli-style, designed to detect bombers rather than bombs. The system works: Every passenger in the queue for the check-in at Ben-Gurion airport, or for any El Al flight elsewhere, is questioned, if only for a few seconds, by a trained ‘selector,’ who can basically conclude within a few seconds from someone’s reactions -- body language and facial expressions more than verbal responses -- to questions such as ‘Where did you come from just now?’ and ‘Did you pack your bags yourself and did anyone give you anything to take to someone else at your destination?’ who might be a potential threat from who is just the average tourist. This leaves time to ask people who might be a threat more searching questions before even considering whether to search them and their bags or not. As Daniel Pipes reminds us in an article almost 21 years ago, this is what saved an El Al flight from London in April 1986 from being blown up by the completely unwitting Ann-Marie Murphy, in whose luggage her Arab boyfriend had hidden a bomb.
Behavioral profiling cannot be mistaken or confused with racial profiling. Racial profiling is not only offensive to certain group of people, it simply doesn't work: Terrorists quickly realize you're only searching Arabs, for example, so they recruit another blond-haired, blue-eyed Johnny Taliban to carry the plastique. You just can't go by race, sex, or country of origin; you must hunt for people who behave suspiciously, then implement a thorough search.
Whatever name, religion, skin colour or clothes you bear passing through airports and their security checks, your behavior is the most telling. If you are planning to blow yourself up together with two or three hundred other people, you are anxious that you are going to succeed without first getting caught, and concerned that Allah’s heaven will match the glowing descriptions on which you have been fed by your instructor or imam: the stress does show -- which is why there is a good chance that you will get caught.
This, of course, cannot be done by an untrained TSA circus-seal just been hired off the street last week. The selectors must be highly trained professionals with real-world experience in behavioral profiling; so what better material to recruit than current or former police officers? Police profile people's behaviors all day, every day, as anyone knows who has watched even a couple episodes of COPS.
You're pulled over by a highway patrol officer. "Good evening sir; do you know why I stopped you?" (First test -- guilty conscience?) "Where are you going, sir? Where are you coming from? (Second -- the route should match the location of the stop.) "Have you had anything to drink tonight, sir?" (Third -- Does the driver start to get nervous? Can he not remember exactly how many drinks? Does the cop smell alcohol on the driver's breath?) And so on; the patrolman's exact sequence of questions depends on the circumstances, what more serious offenders he's already on the lookout for, and of course on any evasive, non-responsive, or just plain goofy answers he receives.
And the same basic technique works for jihadi bombers too, as the Israelis demonstrate with their almost perfect record of keeping their airliners safe.
Obviously, ordinary beat cops don't pat down or interrogate everyone they see; they have neither the time nor the need. Instead, they are very highly trained over many months in the Academy, augmented by years on the job, to spot suspicious activities and notice people who are simply wrong. They pull such people over and start asking questions that anybody with nothing to feel guilty about should easily be able to answer.
Most of us are innocent; all we want to do is get from one place to another with no delay. Conducting custody searches and taking pornographic pictures of everyday grandfathers, grandsons, and businesswomen wastes time and causes unnecessary anguish.
It also gives TSA and DHS -- and the American public -- a dangerously false feeling of security; we think we're safe, when in fact terrorists can use fairly simple tricks to "defeat" the security protocols (administered by bureaucratic nitwits): Terrorists can always find some weapon nobody thought to scan for. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, nobody imagined nineteen men could bring down the two tallest buildings in America with a handful of retractable utility knives, a.k.a. "box cutters."
So, why not implement the more effective, tested, and proven technique of behavioral profiling? I think there are three main reasons the current administration shies away:
- First, it's just too hard for a three-weeks wonder to do.
In the short training period, TSA can teach him to conduct an invasive custody search, fondling passengers for fun and wages, and to push a button and look at a video screen. Whether he can spot something suspicious in the image is another question; but I doubt the TSA workers are as much concerned with protecting passengers -- the inspectors aren't flying! -- as they are with getting a cushy job that requires no heavy lifting, putting in their eight hours, and going home.
But he certainly cannot be trained in a week, a month, or even six months to spot a wannabe terrorist walking through the airport concourse.
- Second, profiling of any kind smacks too much of "discrimination."
The "progressive" nomenklatura who clutter up the TSA and the rest of DHS, along with the CIA, Justice Department, State, the Department of Agriculture, and all other branches of the administration (even when we have a Republican president) have an ideological fetish that prevents them from "discriminating" in any way between people... including discriminating between the innocent and the deadly. They simply do not believe in evil people... just evil inanimate tools, like guns, bombs, and Bibles.
The permanent bureaucracy is horrified by the very idea of holding individuals responsible for their own actions; it flies in the face of leftist orthodoxy, which sees people only as representatives of special interests. If a member of a minority group (and who isn't?) commits a crime or even acts suspiciously, he cannot be held responsible unless you hold every other member of that group equally responsible. When a highly visible group (race, sex, age) is considered "oppressed," then every member of that group has what Ann Coulter calls "absolute moral authority" and cannot be held to account for anything.
To a liberal, behavioral profiling doesn't really exist; it's mentally impossible due to stereotypes and hidden prejudices; to the Left, "profiling" always and everywhere just code for racism, sexism, homophobia, or Islamophobia.
- And third, there's that pesky Israeli "taint."
You just can't get away from it. If the
Jews Israelis pioneered the technique, then it must be a crime against humanity!
The fact that the progressive-bureaucratic ideology fits so neatly with the laziness of most TSA hirees is sheer coincidence. (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.)
But when the TSA and DHS refuse to do their jobs, we shouldn't allow them to play "CYA" by forcing us to endure yet another level of intrusive inspection, one that goes beyond even that reserved for criminal suspects. What's next, full body-cavity searches? Lengthy background checks? Forcing all air passengers to fly stark naked?
Ordinary Americans will not stand for being treated like potential killers; we'll either file lawsuits or simply refuse to fly.
Meanwhile, if you are planning on flying this holiday season, expect to see a long line at the security check. Especially be prepared to hear children screaming, men yelling, women crying, and passengers being dragged off to detention for "dissing" their TSA protectors. Nice way to start the Christmas holiday, don’t you think?
Dafydd adds: Could these "custody searches" and full-body naked scans be a back door to full-blown affirmative action in TSA hiring? If they're really going to do this, they'll need a massive hiring spree; but since at least a third of air passengers are female, and since females make up a much smaller percent of the TSA, and since most women would absolutely refuse to be fondled or seen in the nude by a male TSA agent... then logically, nearly all the new hires would have to be women, just to bring females up to parity with males.
I can just see the Triumvirate of Harpies -- Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton, and Carol Browner -- marching arm in arm into the Oval Office chanting "We shall overcome!" The president would be charmed, I'm sure.
Date ►►► November 13, 2010
A Modest Proposal for Minnesota...
I understand that the gubernatorial election in Minnesota between Republican State Rep. Tom Emmer and Democrat lunatic Mark Dayton is too close to call, and that an automatic hand-recount will ensue, followed by a nearly automatic election contest in the courts.
Current Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's term is scheduled to expire on January 3rd; but it appears the Minnesota constitution may cause that to be extended, if the election contest still is not settled by then:
A lawsuit could delay seating of a new governor. A candidate or any registered voter has seven days after a recount to file an election contest, and a trial wouldn't commence for 20 days after that. The schedule for resolving a challenge could push the race far into January, with fresh GOP majorities set to take over the Legislature.
Under the Minnesota Constitution, the term of a governor runs "four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified." Many, including Pawlenty, read the clause to mean Pawlenty would stay on longer.
I have a suggestion for the Gopher State: When the new Republican legislature is seated, but before the election contest is decided, Minnesota could well have a Republican legislature and a Republican governor. That period would be a dandy time to enact a fair and equitable redistricting bill, which is the most important long-term, structural legislation for 2011, in my modest opinion.
The deadline for redistricting is sometime in September, I believe; but I don't see anything in the rules that prevents the legislature from getting an early start; early January sounds nicely proactive to me. (Perhaps some Minnesota-based lawyers with an interest in politics and an extremely popular blog can check it out and see if it's legally allowed; I name no names, hint, hint.)
According to this seemingly official Minnesota website, it appears that the Minnesota legislature draws the congressional and legislative districts, which must then be approved by the governor; Minnesota does not use a redistricting commission, so far as I can tell from 1,500 miles away.
After the contest is settled, if Tom Emmer ends up governor, all will be well; it won't matter if the redistricting was done early, because Emmer would have signed off on the same plan that Pawlenty will already have accepted. But if Mark Dayton (who currently leads in the initial count by 8,755 votes) prevails, then he will almost certainly veto any redistricting bill that doesn't create a huge, built-in advantage for Democratic candidates. Therefore, the "butter zone" is that narrow window between the seating of the new legislature and the final decision on the new governor.
Time to get on the hump, Minnesotans -- tick tock, tick tock! As a great sage once said, never let a crisis go to waste.
Date ►►► November 12, 2010
That Pesky New Jersey Sharia Case
In our previous post, They Call the Win Sharia, we included a quotation from a source that referred to a case in New Jersey in which sharia law may have crept into a legal decision. A woman sought a permanent restraining order against her (current or ex-, it's not clear) husband on grounds of abuse; in particular, she alleged -- and the judge agreed -- that the husband had forced unwanted sex upon his wife on at least two occasions.
Here is what our quoted source wrote:
An equally troubling, but domestic, case of Sharia law superseding a domestic civil law, is the case of a New Jersey Muslim woman filing for a restraining order from her abusive husband. The judge denied the restraining order on the grounds that her husband “was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”
Plainly put, the judge ruled that the woman could be raped and tortured because the rapist was her husband and his religious beliefs give him the right to rape and abuse. Sadly, this woman had to live in this torment for more than one year before the case was overturned.
The only quibble I can find with the billyatwell.org conclusion is that the judge actually ruled that the husband's belief that sharia law authorized him to rape and abuse his wife meant he had no criminal intent, no "mens rea," when he raped and abused his wife. But that is a difference that makes no difference; the judge still held that the defendant's religion excused him from the laws against rape and assault that apply to everybody else.
However, some doubt has been raised about the accuracy of this New Jersey example, both by lefties hoping to overturn the wildly popular Oklahoma constitutional amendment, just passed, that seeks to prevent international law and sharia law from becoming authoritative in Oklahoma jurisprudence -- and also by conservatives who simply want to make sure that all of our examples and arguments are indeed accurate and factually correct, so that they don't blow up in our faces.
The point is well taken; I hunted around a bit to find out more about this case, and I stumbled into this piece from Eugene Volokh's the Volokh Conspiracy, which I consider to be one of the most authoritative legal blogs in the blogosphere. Volokh led me to the actual appellate-court decision, S.D. v. M.J.R. (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div.).
First the facts, as the appellate court recounts them [emphasis added]:
While recognizing that defendant had engaged in sexual relations with plaintiff against her expressed wishes in November 2008 and on the night of January 15 to 16, 2009, the judge did not find sexual assault or criminal sexual conduct to have been proven. He stated:This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.
After acknowledging that this was a case in which religious custom clashed with the law, and that under the law, plaintiff had a right to refuse defendant’s advances, the judge found that defendant did not act with a criminal intent when he repeatedly insisted upon intercourse, despite plaintiff’s contrary wishes.
The judge rejected the permanent restraining order and dismissed all of the temporary restraining orders. Some time later, the appellate court finally ruled on the appeal, overturning the judge's decision [emphasis added]:
Defendant’s conduct in engaging in nonconsensual sexual intercourse was unquestionably knowing, regardless of his view that his religion permitted him to act as he did.
As the judge recognized, the case thus presents a conflict between the criminal law and religious precepts. In resolving this conflict, the judge determined to except defendant from the operation of the State’s statutes as the result of his religious beliefs. In doing so, the judge was mistaken....
We are also concerned that the judge's view of the facts of the matter may have been colored by his perception that, although defendant's sexual acts violated applicable criminal statutes, they were culturally acceptable and thus not actionable -- a view that we have soundly rejected.
That is quite accurately described as allowing sharia law to intrude upon an American legal case -- not simply to be raised, but actually to have determined the outcome of the trial. Simply put, the trial judge held that the husband's belief that his religion gave him the right to repeatedly rape his wife trumped his wife's right not to be raped. That is sharia law and could have issued from any sharia court in the world. But it issued from an ordinary family-law court in the United States of America.
I consider the appellate court's take to be dispositive, as far as my own understanding of the initial judicial horror and subsequent appellate slapdown are concerned. I find the example to be quite appropriate, accurate -- and appalling.
They Call the Win Sharia
On November 2nd, voters in Oklahoma overwhelming approved State Question 755, an amendment to the Oklahoma constitution that proponents (and voters!) hope will restrict the state courts to deciding cases based upon the traditional authorities, constitutions and legislation, and not mucking about with "international law" (whatever that means) and sharia law (we all know what that means!)
Here is the operative part of the rewrite that the amendment evidently requires, once it's finally upheld by the courts:
C. The Courts provided for in subsection A of this section, when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, established common law, the Oklahoma Statutes and rules promulgated pursuant thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international or Sharia Law. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.
Sounds pretty straightforward and obvious, right? But it appears it is not; judges in Europe and at least one judge in New Jersey have already denied women their inalienable rights to equal protection under the law if those women happen to be Moslem. Moslem women -- but not Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist men and women -- have been shunted into the bowels of the perverted, vile, anti-American, anti-Western sharia system of (in)justice:
Sharia law is a legal code drawn from dictates and rules laid out in the Koran. In fact, Britain has 85 Sharia courts. Some are reporting that Muslim women who are being abused or raped by their husbands are turned away from British civil courts and are being directed to Sharia courts, which are often run by a local mosque and supervised by an Imam.
An equally troubling, but domestic, case of Sharia law superseding a domestic civil law, is the case of a New Jersey Muslim woman filing for a restraining order from her abusive husband. The judge denied the restraining order on the grounds that her husband “was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”
Plainly put, the judge ruled that the woman could be raped and tortured because the rapist was her husband and his religious beliefs give him the right to rape and abuse. Sadly, this woman had to live in this torment for more than one year before the case was overturned.
But yesterday, the director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muneer Awad, filed suit in federal court to declare State Question 755 unconstitutional. Let me briefly address the claim and why it's ludicrous. Bear in mind that I am not a lawyer... I just play one in cheap rip-off video games. I can only speak from the common, lay understanding of rights and liberties that emerges from living in a free society all my life.
According to the Wall Street Journal, this is the cause of action Awad claims in his lawsuit:
The suit, filed by Muneer Awad, director of the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, asks the federal district court to block officials from certifying the referendum. Mr. Awad says the measure violates the First Amendment, which protects "free exercise" of religion and prohibits official "establishment of religion." A hearing was set for Monday.
The complaint alleges Oklahoma has singled out Islam for "profound stigma," consigning Muslims such as Mr. Awad "to an ineffectual position within the political community...."
University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai said that earlier this year, the state legislature commissioned "a monument to the laws of another religion"--the Ten Commandments--for the state Capitol.
"Oklahoma's apparent approval of the legal traditions of a majority religion and attempt to suppress the legal traditions of a minority religion" may conflict with the Constitution's requirement that government treat all religions equally, Mr. Thai said.
He said the new state law may forbid Oklahoma judges from citing the Ten Commandments, because they are "international in origin."
These arguments are lame, to say the least.
First, the Oklahoma ballot measure did not come as a bolt from the blue, singling out Islamic (sharia) law just to offend Moslems. As it happens, sharia and the entire regime of putative "international law" are the only two widespread, competing judicial systems that meet the following conditions:
- Each constitutes the primary judicial system in many different countries and cultures.
- Each has very broad support from legal intellectuals and judges worldwide.
- Each alternative legal system proselytizes Western and American legal systems and attempts to colonize them.
- Each is part of a conspiratorial effort to supplant and replace our own judicial system.
- And each is utterly antithetical to Western and American legal traditions, constitutions, and legislation, offering none of the protections and recognizing none of the rights inherent in our own domestic legal system.
Given all that, it's perfectly reasonable to single out international and sharia law; it's not a sign of anti-Islamic bigotry, it's the recognition that those two movements directly threaten the American way of life and judicial system.
Second, the international-law amendment clearly doesn't violate the First-Amendment guarantee that Congress (and state legislatures) "shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]." How could it, when it neither prescribes nor proscribes any religious activity other than imposing Islamic law, willy-nilly, upon a population that has loudly and emphatically objected to it?
The measure doesn't tell Moslems how to exercise their religion; it only prevents them from foisting those religious precepts upon those of us who do not want to live under sharia.
And it clearly does not violate the First-Amendment guarantee that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion;" again, the measure does not set up any religion as the "First Church of America," or even the "Fundamental Church of Oklahoma."
Third, by contrast, forcing some plaintiffs and defendants into an alien and inferior (according to American standards of justice) legal system based entirely upon the professed religion of the judicial victim would patently violate the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee that, "No State shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
I believe these are all powerful arguments; and no opponent of State Question 755 that I've read has essayed to respond to them... other than to wave the magic "Islamophobia" card, as if it trumps all others in the deck.
The very fact that CAIR is suing to overturn the new law belies CAIR's claims that (a) no American Moslem wants to impose sharia in the United States, and (b) radical Islamism is a phony threat. If they had no desire to impose shaira -- why get so het up about a law preventing the imposition of sharia?
This lawsuit is another glaring example of Dawa, or "soft jihad," which only differs from its full-blown cousin by the fact that they avoid actually killing (for now) lawmakers or unfriendly judges:
Do we not finally comprehend, at some point in this crisis, that Moslem "outrage" is a calculated political tactic deliberately ginned up by Moslem leaders to pressure the West to make concession after concession? It is a form of Dawa, "soft jihad," playing upon our liberal guilt and conservative principles to gain for radical Islamism much of what they demand, without the radicals having to confront real armies that can actually obliterate them. When that revelation finally sinks in throughout the American people and their counterparts in the rest of the West, we shall abruptly find the bottom of our "sensitivity" to Moslems' perpeturally wounded feelings.
This lawsuit makes an excellent shibboleth, distinguishing between radical Islamists and their useful idiots on the one hand and real Americans on the other.
Date ►►► November 9, 2010
What Overprice Christie?
The title of course riffs off of the series of posts about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie titled "What Price Christie?," published by Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker on Power Line from May through August this year.
Last Thursday, Republican darling Christie was as adamant as can be that he will not run for president in 2012:
“I've said I don't want to. I'm not going to. There is zero chance I will. I don't feel like I'm ready to be president. I don't want to run for president. I don't have the fire in the belly to run for president. But, yet, everyone seems to think that I've left the door open a little bit,” he said Thursday in exasperation.
I took Christie at his word, as did many others, that he believed he simply wasn't yet qualified to be president, having served as governor for only a single year (three years by the 2012 election).
But perhaps there is a more disturbing reason. Yesterday, Department of Justice investigators outed Christie as the U.S. Attorney who most abused his travel allowance:
Investigators focused on the cases of five U.S. attorneys -- also not identified by name but similarly assigned letters -- who "exhibited a noteworthy pattern of exceeding the government rate without appropriate justification."
The IG's report says "U.S. Attorney C" [Christie] booked a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington at a cost of $475 per night -- more than double the government rate of $233 per night for the District. He told investigators he chose the room because the hotel was the site of an early-morning speech he was scheduled to deliver -- a justification the inspector general rejected as inadequate.
The report said U.S. Attorney C also booked a room at Nine Zero Hotel in Boston at a cost of $449 per night -- again double the government rate in Boston of $220 per night. Investigators noted that during the Boston trip, he also spent $236 for a car service to chauffeur him the four miles to and from the airport....
The records show that he billed taxpayers more than $400 a night for stays in luxury hotels and exceeded the government's hotel allowance on 14 of 16 business trips he took in 2008.
The travel corruption did become a campaign issue when Christie ran for governor in November 2009, and he just sloughed it off as nothing. Despite the furor, he narrowly beat incumbent Jon Corzine by 3.6%, with 5.8% going to Independent candidate Chris Daggett (who appears, from his Wikipedia entry, to have been a liberal Republican à la John Anderson before turning Independent). But then, Corzine was hardly in a position to point a finger at the corrupt mote in Christie's eye, given the steel I-beam of corruption in his own.
However, I think it possible that Christie has concluded that such low-level, "Sgt. Bilko"-style bilking of taxpayers might fly in New Jersey, but it wouldn't be acceptable in other parts of the country. (And certainly not from a Republican!) In fact, it stinks of the House check-kiting scandal of 1992 and could become the central issue of a presidential campaign against Barack H. Obama, overshadowing Christie's very real achievements as governor.
Will Christie ever run? I think the cheating is minor enough that it won't hold him back forever. If Obama is defeated in 2012, Christie could run in 2020; he will still only be 58, a prime age for a presidential run. And if, heaven forbid, the Obamacle is reelected, then Christie could run four years earlier, when he will be 54.
But either way, he will have to come up with a more contrite answer to the question: Why, as U.S. Attorney, did Christie defraud taxpayers to finance luxurious travel accomodations? In particular, Christie is going to have to swallow hard and admit he did wrong; voters outside the state will never accept the explanation, "Badda bing, badda boom, it's Jersey!"
Especially now, with the rise of Tea Parties around the country, voters -- no matter how much they like Christie's principles and positions and his willingness to fight for them -- are not in a mood to coddle politicians who think they're exempt from the rules that apply to everybody else.
Date ►►► November 6, 2010
Sound and Fury, Signifying... Something
Since I'm speaking about national issues, as opposed to Californian, I'm going to be the glass-half-full guy today.
I'm somewhat optimistic (just a bit) that maybe Barack H. Obama will be able to change course, at least a little, so that we don't have complete civil war for the next two years -- which might well turn off the electorate that just elected the GOP.
In the wake of the midterm elections, the president -- after hilariously proclaiming that the Democrats only lost because the TOTUS* didn't do a good enough job explaining to voters how Obama plans to radicalize America -- has actually offered two very substantial concessions to traditional American values:
Mr. Obama this week already has moved, at least slightly, on two major issues.
He said he no longer believes he can pass a broad energy bill that would impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and instead called for all sides to work on renewable and clean energy sources, such as nuclear power.
The White House also signaled movement on tax cuts -- the issue that deeply divided Congress just before it left town in September, and that will await lawmakers when they return this month.
Mr. Obama earlier said the Bush tax cuts that went to wealthier Americans must be allowed to lapse. But asked about a temporary extension, Mr. Gibbs said Thursday that Mr. Obama would "be open to having that discussion and open to listening to what the debate is on both sides of that."
One possibility I've seen floated would be to extend the Bush tax cuts until -- drum roll -- early 2013. The point is clear: If Obama loses reelection in 2012, then the next Republican president can try to make the tax-cuts permanent, if he can overcome the Democrats in the Senate.
But if B.O. is reelected, he will have a substantial argument that the American people don't want them to become permanent, else they would have elected the Republican -- who will, naturally, run on a platform that includes permanizing the tax cuts.
And of course Republicans on Capitol Hill would be overjoyed to work with the president and many Democrats in expanding our nuclear reactor force to take the place of as many coal- and oil-powered electricity plants as possible.
All it really would take would be to dramatically streamline the approval process and grant partial legal immunity to nuclear projects, to protect them from baseless lawsuits by environmentalists, which could stymie construction forever. As it happens, a number of environmentalists have already rationally concluded that nuclear power is less damaging to the environment than burning oil and coal; so the opposition is already divided.
I see these as much more significant than does the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan. By throwing both Cap and Tax and the Hands-Free Tax Increase under the bus, I think the Obamacle augurs that the era of big transformation has ended -- for a time, at least. It's hard to imagine him permanently giving up his ultimate goal of remaking America as a Eurosocialist welfare state; but Obama is obviously gobsmacked at the moment, unable to conjure a scheme to pull it off.
I still don't see him as a Clintonian triangulator; but perhaps he is so unused to defeat that, for a while at least, he will be too stunned to resist the pressure to make concessions. Another way of looking at it: Maybe for a few months -- before he shakes himself, like a cartoon victim of an explosion, and returns to his natural self -- the One will find himself bowing at the waist and kow-towing to his personal, American "enemies," the way he's already used to doing to America's foreign enemies.
Quick, let's take advantage while it lasts! When Obama comes back to his old, arrogant, messianic self, then Republicans can return to fighting him, hammer and tooth. But perhaps by then we'll have some substantive and substantial accomplishes under our belts... all the better to head into the 2012 showdown.
* TOTUS: Teleprompter of the United States
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► November 5, 2010
Change Up - My All-Time Favorite Skating Video
Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning really know how to break the ice at parties...
(Probably from one of Hamilton's Stars on Ice shows, but I don't recall which one!)
Date ►►► November 4, 2010
They Left Their Heads in San Francisco...
Here is a disturbing point about the California elections that nobody has yet mentioned. California has ten high-ranking elected officials, counting the current Squeaker of the House, soon-to-be Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives (though she may retire from Congress rather than accept the demotion and the possible loss even of the Minority Leadership).
When those elected on Tuesday take office, seven of those ten will hail from the San Francisco Bay Area:
- Senior Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- Born, raised, and served in San Francisco.
- Junior Sen. Barbara Boxer -- Served for forty years in Marin County, North San Francisco Bay Area.
- Minority-Leader Elect Nancy Pelosi -- Represents San Francisco.
- Gov. Jerry Brown -- Born in San Francisco, currently Mayor of Oakland.
- Lt.Gov. Gavin Newsom -- Born in and currently Mayor of San Francisco.
- Secretary of State Debra Bowen -- Los Angeles.
- (Likely) Attorney General Kamala Harris -- Born in Oakland, serves as D.A. in San Francisco.
- Treasurer Bill Lockyer -- Born in Oakland, served in Alameda County, East San Francisco Bay Area.
- Controller John Chiang -- Los Angeles.
- Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones -- Sacramento.
The total population of the Bay Area is about 5.5 million (I don't count San Jose as Bay Area; it's in the Santa Clara Valley, a.k.a. "Silicon Valley," not SF). That's just about 15% of the total population of California (about 37 million)... but its representatives control 70% of the top constitutional offices (federal and state) in the state.
In fact, exactly half of them are based in the City of San Francisco itself, which has a population of 815,000 -- a scant 2.2% of the state's population, but fully 50% of the top officers of the state are San Francisco based.
As I'm sure everyone here knows, the S.F. Bay Area is also the most radical, leftist, progressive, liberal-fascist segment of California.
For those of us who are not from San Francisco and have never subscribed to the San Franciscan ethos, creed, and way of thinking, this stanglehold by a tiny faction over America's largest state is both inexplicable and nerve-wracking. My only explanation is that the most radical politicians have the most insatiable hunger for power; so they climb the ladder hardest and fastest, even if they must climb over the dead bodies of their predecessors to do it. (A very apt analogy in Feinstein's case; she was elected Mayor of San Francisco by heavily exploiting the assassination of the previous mayor, George Moscone.)
Date ►►► November 3, 2010
Califorlornia, the Bluest State
At the moment, with nearly all precincts counted in California, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) is ahead of challenger Carly Fiorina by a solid 9%, and Jerry Brown leads Meg Whitman by a whopping 13%.
In other words, those polls that presupposed a turnout model that perfectly mirrored the 2008 elections -- were absolutely right.
In even more sweeping words, while the rest of the country veered sharply to the right, California lurched as far left as it did in Barack H. Obama's election, two years ago. Maybe further. Further left than the rest of the country broke right.
In response to pending fiscal doom of the $1.85 trillion California economy, all voters can feel is a frenzy to double down and triple down on the same anti-economic Democratic officials, who have ruled us ruthlessly, utterly, and despotically since All In the Family premiered.
My home state, where I've lived all but two years of my life, is now officially the most liberal-fascist/progressive/socialist state in the United States, bar none... more than Massachusetts, more than Hawaii, as much as the District of Columbia itself.
Oddly, it's not that Californios support progressive policies; the ballot initiatives demonstrate that the electorate is not enamored of socialist schemes. But for some reason, Californios have been so brainwashed by the Left that they can no longer even contemplate electing anybody but a Democrat to any top position in the state.
It makes no difference how badly the Democrat has thwarted the will of those same voters: Two years ago, a clear majority voted for Proposition 8, defining marriage as being between one man and one woman -- as it always had been before the California Supreme Court decided it knew better.
Then-Attorney General Jerry Brown first tried to sabotage the proposition; he changed the title from "Limits on Marriage" -- to "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry, " a tendentious, argumentative statement of liberal opinion.
The law passed anyway by a vote of the people; but when disgruntled liberals sued to overturn it, Brown not only conspired with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to refuse to defend the law in court (hoping it would then be struck down for lack of a defender), he argued that nobody else in the state had standing to defend the law. In other words, voters did not even deserve representation in court when our law was challenged.
Yesterday, voters responded to being spat upon by electing that same man Governor.
It makes no difference how many laws a Democrat has actually broken: Before the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22 -- the predecessor to Prop 8 -- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a heterosexual gay activist, illegally ordered the city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in complete defiance of what was then the law of the state. He made a Delphic pronouncement, declaring that he obeyed only the higher laws of his own warped conscience. He continued until the courts finally reined him in.
Yesterday, voters responded to lawlessness by electing that same man Lieutenant Governor.
Likewise, Californios elected a Democratic Secretary of State, Treasurer, Controller, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, and of course U.S. Senator. In the last election, voters at least elected a Republican governor and Republican insurance commissioner; but this year, every single constitutional office went to a Democrat -- each by 10 to 20 points, except for the razor-close Attorney General race. (All constitutional offices except for the traditional two of four members of the State Board of Equalization, that is; they collect the taxes and fees for the state.)
The numbers for the state Senate and Assembly are not in yet, but I'm sure the Democrats not only held their own but picked up Republican seats. Except for one brief interregnum (1995-1996), the Assembly and Senate have been controlled by Democrats for forty years. Before this election, the Senate was 35% GOP and 60% Democrats; and the Assembly was 34% GOP and 64% Democrats (including one Independent who caucuses with the Dems). I'm guessing it's now somewhat more Democratic.
California is now officially the bluest of blue states. Our motto is changed from "Eureka!" to "Four legs good, two legs bad!"
Oh yes, I almost forgot: Democrats will completely control the 2011 redistricting -- so it can only get worse. (I'm assuming the Democrats will find some way to weasel around the 14-person redistricting commission.)
For California voters, it's still 2008; Obama is still revered as a godling, and all the progressive "solutions" of the past two years have succeeded splendidly:
- That pesky $25 billion deficit? Never heard of it!
- 12.5% unemployment rate? Great, more slack time!
- The catastrophic anti-business climate? Greedy capitalists had it coming!
- The collapsing water services, energy grid, and road and highway system? Who needs 'em anyway!
It's a bizarre and even frightening phenomenon: Democrats in California have mesmerized the voters, preventing them even from considering electing a real Republican. We used to be able at least to elect the odd RINO like Arnold; but I doubt we're even capable of doing that any longer.
California has become France, where a decision to raise the retirement age by two years, to stave off looming fiscal disaster, is met with massive general strikes, arson, looting, and terrorist attacks. But while France is desperately trying to rediscover Capitalism, California won't even admit that Capitalism exists, let alone has any connection whatsoever to the state economy or even state tax revenues. (California liberals believe that if you double the tax rate, you will double tax receipts -- and if you triple the rate, you'll triple the receipts!)
They're so used to the phony-baloney accounting gimmicks of Silicon-Valley startups and Silicone-pumping Hollywood studios, they've cast off the quaint notion that financial reports are actually supposed to mean something. And they've forgotten that you cannot borrow your way out of debt, if they ever knew it or believed it in the first place.
What a tragic ending to the tragic kingdom in which I was born, the state of Walt Disney, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, and even Richard Nixon, the state that gave us the movie industry, the computer revolution, and biotechnology.
Now doing business as America's home for the loony Left. To be Californio today is just so degrading.
Memo to the Republican Establishment
Memo to the Republican Establishment: You didn't win this election. The Democrats lost it.
If, as you have in the past, you govern like corrupt plutocrats who view the government as the means to increase your own power and funnel taxpayer money to your friends and campaign contributors, then you'll be the losers who everybody hates the next time around.
You were elected to shrink the size and scope of government, bring back fiscal responsibility, and return the country to rule of law under the Constitution. If you abandon these principles, the Tea Partiers will abandon you and form their own party.
And given the relative popularity of the Tea Party and the Republican Establishment, the Tea Party won't be the third party -- you will.
For your sake as well as the country’s, please govern wisely.
All right, so California was a one-state Democratic tidal wave. Never have so few done so much to hose so many -- including themselves.
But we did do pretty well on the initiatives; only one or two bad results: Proposition 23, which would have suspended the goofy and self-immolating California globaloney regulations until our sky-high unemployment rate drops, went down to defeat. And Proposition 25, removing the 2/3rds vote requirement to pass the budget in the state legislature -- thus allowing the Democrat spending orgy to surge to Caligulan classes of depraved debauchery -- is currently winning; but that race hasn't yet been called.
The other seven initiatives went the way I voted.
But with the California legislature (so gerrymandered, it's not mathematically possible for the Dems to lose the majority -- ever!) and Governor-Redux Jerry "Tax-ic Waste" Brown, plus Prop 25 (so what few Republicans remain in the lege have no power anyway)... I wonder whether we'll still be living here this time next year, or if we'll have been taxed out of hearth and home by the runaway "progressive" state government.
I guess I will get that chance to spend time in the Third World, after all; and I don't even need to travel... just stay home and watch the country's most populous and bankrupt state collapse upon my head.
Date ►►► November 1, 2010
Mrmee mrmee mrmee
I was all set to vote Yes on California Proposition 19, legalizing marijuana; I even posted about it here, writing:
Blah blah yak blah
So of course, I am voting yes on Prop 19; as limited and flawed as it is, it's a step rightwards.
Yatta blech blahdy blah
Well it would have been a step rightways, except the authors snuck in a dirty bit of business that only a lawyer would be able to decode. Thank goodness I have a lawyer friend... and here he is:
Under this law, courts may well rule that can employer has no right to take action to prevent marijuana consumption -- even on the job -- unless it “actually impairs” performance. This is a provision that goes beyond simply allowing people to smoke pot. It actually creates a new protected class (marijuana smokers) who may be entitled to sue if they are disciplined or fired for smoking marijuana... as long as the employer cannot prove that the smoking “actually impairs” job performance.
This is the actual text to which Patterico refers:
No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301. Provided, however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected. -- Voter Information Guide, p. 94, section 11304 (c).
The kicker, of course, is in that phrase, "actually impairs job performance;" that would be the subject of endless litigation.
And why shouldn't an employer be allowed to prohibit dope-smoking on or off the job, on pain of the employee being discharged, even if the employee is not impaired at all?
- What about liability?
- Second-hand dope high?
- What about the fear that a stoned employee might make some horrible mistake that cannot be corrected by firing him after the fact, but could be prevented by firing him before the fact?
- What if the employer has a purely irrational but religious objection to the use of psychadelic substances? What if he's a Scientologist?
Since I believe employers ought to be able to hire, fire, promote, or demote even on the basis of race, sex, sexual preference, religion, creed, primary language, looks, or the color of one's hat, certainly the same license should hold for hiring or firing on the basis of drug use!
Simply put, the calculus has completely changed. Before, I had to choose only between an individual liberty (to ingest substances for pleasure, medication, or research) and the seemingly prejudiced attitudes of law-enforcement officials, who only want people to get high on the same drug they themselves use: ethyl alcohol.
But now I must choose between two competing individual liberties: the right of an individual to ingest, and the right of an employer to control use of his property (that is, his business).
I find myself in the predicament of Sen. Barry Goldwater, forced by principled consistency to vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- which he had supported all along, until it was amended at the last minute to prohibit purely private prejudice, not merely state-sponsored prejudice, as in its original form. Goldwater simply could not throw overboard the First Amendment right of peaceable assembly, not even for the laudable goal of diminishing racism.
Similarly in this case, I must come down on the side of the employer; it is the more important, more universal right of property. Therefore, I must change my vote. Fortunately, I decided not to vote early but to wait until tomorrow and vote at a polling place. I have remarked that ballot question to No, and that is how I plan to vote on Proposition 19.
(The above refers to the authors of this citizens' initiative, who were either incompetent or mendacious in crafting that particular clause of the initiative, making it an inadvertent or intentional "poison pill.")
2010 Mid-Term Elections - post-WWII Historical Benchmarks
To better help readers put tomorrow's election into context, here are four historical benchmarks to compare, once we get the full magnitude of the current Republican victory.
Since the House of Representatives has 435 seats (and has since 1913), compared to the Senate's 100 (post-1959) or 96 (pre-1959), one Senate seat "equals" 4.35 House seats (post-1959) or 4.53125 (pre-1959), in a numerical sense. Therefore, I have combine the pickups in the two chambers of Congress by that formula: The total number of House seats won, plus 4.35 (or 4.53125) X the number of Senate seats won, equals the "win-factor" of that election. Since that gives us a single number measuring the sweep of an electoral victory, we can use it to rank them.
Here are the top five post-War historical benchmarks in countdown order, based on win-factor:
- 1974 mid-terms: Democrats gain 49 House seats and 3 Senate seats; win-factor = 62.1
- 1994 mid-terms: Republicans gain 54 House seats and 8 Senate seats; win-factor = 88.8
- 1946 mid-terms: Republicans gain 55 House seats and 12 Senate seats; win-factor = 109.4
- 1948 presidential: Democrats gain 75 House seats and 9 Senate seats; win-factor = 115.8
- 1958 mid-terms: Democrats gain 49 House seats and 16 Senate seats; win-factor = 121.5
(1958 was kind of an oddball election; it's only number one because of the enormous pickup in the Senate.)
So what would it take for this election to grab the top spot, the biggest pickup of the entire post-War era? Here are a few examples; for each number of Senate pickups, I list the minimum number of House seats to break the 1958 record:
- 8 Senate seats and 87 House seats (win-factor = 121.8)
- 9 Senate seats and 83 House seats (win-factor = 122.2)
- 10 Senate seats and 79 House seats (win-factor = 122.5) -- 78 House seats would exactly equal the 1958 record
- 11 Senate seats and 74 House seats (win-factor = 121.9)
- 12 Senate seats and 70 House seats (win-factor = 122.2)
Submitted for your viewing pleasure. Wagering is encouraged. And remember: If you must drink, drive responsibly.
Pop that corn, kick back, and enjoy those returns!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
A Truly Bizarre Tale of Two Models
A Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling, has abruptly shifted its turnout model in their poll (taken largely over the week-end, which typically favors Democrats); what's a bit surprising is the direction and magnitude PPP has shifted in a single week.
In PPP's earlier poll of 10/21 - 10/23, their sample of "likely voters" included 34% Republicans and 47% Democrats, giving Democrats a whopping 13-point advantage; that is, if you'll recall our earlier post -- in which columnist Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics educated us about turnout in the 2006 and 2008 elections and polling turnout models for this year's contest -- PPP's turnout model last week contemplated a Democratic advantage over Republicans even larger than the 12 points they enjoyed in the 2008 presidential election... a Democratic tidal wave!
Consequently, they confidently announced that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) was leading Republican challenger and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina by a strong 9 points; while retread gubernatorial candidate Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" Brown was crushing Republican challenger and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman by a resounding 11 points.
But a whole week has passed; that's a lifetime! (Well, to a mayfly.) In today's release, conducted 10/29 - 10/31, the roster of "likely voters" includes 37% Republicans and 44% Democrats, or a 7-point Democratic advantage; in Trende-speak, that's a turnout model for the current poll just slightly higher than the Democratic advantage in the 2006 (not 2008!) election. From a 13-point advantage down to a 7-pointer in just one week.
Not surprisingly, the leads dropped as well: Today, PPP has Boxer over Fiorina by 4 points; not 9, and Brown leads Whitman by 5 points, not 11. Now that's momentum! (And remember, PPP is an openly Democratic polling company which prefers to poll on week-ends.)
Recall also that all signs indicate Republican enthusiasm is much, much higher than it was in 2006, or even 2004 (when Democrats in California also enjoyed a 6-point turnout advantage over Republicans). In fact, it appears even higher than in 1994; which means, in my moderately informed opinion, that we're very likely to see a much lower Democratic advantage in California even than the 6% of 2004 and 2006 -- as low as 2 or 3 points, or maybe even no advantage at all.
If turnout in this state is at that level, then instead of a Democratic lead of 4% for Boxer and 5% for Brown, this very poll recalculated to those numbers would show both Democrat leads in the 1% to 2% range -- noise, in other words.
And now, the rest of the story.
Another poll was released today, this one from SurveyUSA. It was taken roughly over the same period of time and was also an update, one week later, of a previous SurveyUSA poll. This makes for a perfect trend-comparison with the Democratic PPP poll.
SurveyUSA has also changed its turnout model -- but in the opposite direction, now predicting a greater Democratic advantage than last week:
- In last week's SurveyUSA poll (10/21 - 10/25), they used the turnout model of an 8-point Democratic advantage over the GOP; this is more than the 2006 election, but still much closer to that than to the 2008 election.
- But today's release, taken from 10/26 - 10/31, contemplates a Democratic advantage over Republicans of 10 points; this is, of course, significantly closer to the 2008 election turnout than the 2006.
If we believe this poll is honest, we must conclude that everything the SurveyUSA pollsters have seen, coupled with their years of experience, tells them that over the past week, Democratic enthusiasm and eagerness to show up and vote has surged forward! In the last week, they've become almost giddy in anticipation of a monumental, historic victory over the GOP.
Contrariwise, Republicans are increasingly disspirited, apathetic, and beaten down. ("Pay no attention to those so-called Democratic pollsters at PPP; they're all a bunch of crypto-fascist Republican stooges. Progressives rule!")
This is astonishing, so astonishing that we have, I believe, but two possibilities:
- Either the SurveyUSA pollsters are all dolts, because Democrats have certainly not become more confident and enthusiastic over the last week;
- Or else this last SurveyUSA poll before the election is simply dishonest.
I cannot believe the statisticians who work at SurveyUSA are that incompetent; draw your own conclusion.
The astonishing part is not that Democrats would be jubilant and triumphant heading into tomorrow's election. Everyone knows they're precisely the opposite and getting gloomier by the hour, and what is obviously false therefore cannot astonish.
But I certainly do find it astonishing that a respected pollster would be so willing to traduce its own reputation and (formerly) good name, to hurl itself under the bus and make itself a laughingstock, all in service to the "great cause": desperately trying to stave off the utter defeat of its allies in the Democratic Party.
It's a sad day. There was a time, in the not too distant past, when polls actually meant something.
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