January 29, 2006

Chocolate City Checkin

Greetings from New Orleans! Yup, still here. I've been deployed with FEMA for four months now and recently re-upped for another six months. Sunny and the kids moved out here last Monday. For now we're holed up in a Homewood Suites, but we move into a 2BR corporate apartment in the Warehouse District on Wednesday. I'm so happy to have them out here and I'm so proud of my wife for taking this huge step with me.

We found a "normal church" this morning. I'd been to four or five different churches since I arrived and came to the conclusion that southern churches were too weird for me. This morning's service at Calvary Baptist Church in Algiers was refreshing. It seemed natural to give it a shot since Collin will be starting school there on Wednesday. (Oh - side story... Collin took his entrance exam. The test was 35 pages long and was supposed to take 2.5 hours. He finished in 1.5 hours and the proctor told Sunny not to buy the uniforms until the test was graded as if she thought he couldn't sit still long enough to take the full test. He did extremely well and of course we got a call from the principal very excited to have him enroll.)

Calvary Baptist hosts the Red Cross and prepares most of the meals delivered to victims and relief workers still hard at work in east New Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines. It's hard to tell what the rest of the world thinks about the Gulf Coast recovery efforts, but I suspect many think things have pretty much returned to normal. Far from it. In fact, I drive through the devastated areas and progress is noted by the opening of a single gas station or small restaurant. I heard on the radio the other day that less than 25% of all City of New Orleans restaurants have been certified by the health department to reopen. It's been five full months since the storm!

I'm currently the deputy director of infrastructure recovery for St. Bernard Parish. St. Bernard was destroyed by stormsurge. Every single building flooded, leaving 70,000 homeless. I manage a staff of ~40 working on 500 projects worth nearly $750mil. It's been challenging, but also a phenomenal opportunity. I'm working 70-80 hrs/wk and frankly haven't had the urge to blog. I rarely read blogs anymore either. I have many pictures and videos of St. Bernard, Plaquemines and the 9th ward, but haven't found the time to post. I'll try my best to get something up. I'm sure the passion for blogging will return, but probably not until my work here is done.

I haven't been a complete lump on a log though. I managed to co-author two pieces on exit polling since September: one for the American Statistical Association Joint Statistical Meeting proceedings and the other for Public Opinion Pros.

Take care everyone.

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November 23, 2005

Catch and Release Program to End...But Why Did it Ever Begin?

Just when I thought the government couldn’t be any dumber… (HT: Drudge)

Under long-standing procedure along the U.S. border with Mexico, illegal crossers of nationalities other than Mexican -- dubbed OTMs by the Border Patrol -- have been entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge before they could be deported.

Because of a severe shortage of space to hold them until the hearing, they were released after being fingerprinted and given a "notice to appear," a document stating they had agreed to show up at court at a certain date.

The notice serves as a travel document allowing its holder past Border Patrol checkpoints on the roads leading from the border to the interior. Most OTMs do not show up for their hearing and meld into the population.

So let me get this straight. The immigrants come here illegally, get caught, then are released and asked to turn themselves in at a later date? Makes perfect sense...Geez.

Posted by Rick at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 31, 2005

Alito, Bird Flu, and Katrina Recovery

A few quick hits this morning...

Word came moments ago: Judge Samuel Alito will be President Bush's nominee to replace Justice O'Connor.

I know little about Judge Alito, but the way the Democrat talking heads and CNN reporters are treating the nominee, I think I'll like him. He apparently bears the nickname "Scalito" - Little Scalia - and a CNN reporter characterized him as "emminently qualified." Hugh Hewitt linked to a quick guide of Alito's most important decisions.

All the Republican Senators who offered tepid or no support for Miers had better be ready for this coming fight - already characterized by some as a blood bath. Thankfully the Democrats allowed Chief Justice Roberts to light the path to SCOTUS confirmation. Republicans should demand that Judge Alito be given the exact same treatment.

Last night, the History channel aired a special on the bird flu - The Next Plague. Without Christ, I would be absolutely terrified. The History Channel needs to air this special many times in the near future.

Finally I turn to the Katrina recovery. Just because Katrina is out of the headlines, doesn't mean the recovery is on autopilot and Americans, especially American Christians, should not forsake the thousands of people here desperate for assistance.

I attended a small church in the area this weekend. Too many brothers and sisters remain homeless or in shelters. Too many brothers and sisters pleading with their pastor for help with shelter, clothing, house gutting, and roof repair. Donations are only trickling in and don't come close to meeting the need. Made me wonder how many Christians blew their money on selfish pleasures this weekend while fellow saints suffer. Disgraceful actually... Remember - it's not your money. God gives and takes away and He's entrusted us to be stewards over his resources. Right now the body should be expending their energy ministering to the lost - the guttermost to the uttermost. But how can they fulfill their Mission if the body can't even take care of their own? Find a church in need - there are many - and free up resources in your posession for God's work.

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October 11, 2005

Why Strain to Defend a B+?

Hugh Hewitt said so himself: Harriet Miers is a B+. Bush supporters have the right to expect an A+ nomination and take the fight to the obstructionist Dems in the Senate. Hugh is dedicating and amazing amount of energy to defend a B+.

Posted by Rick at 07:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Greetings from Louisiana!

I've been assigned to Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes. Located immediately south and southeast of New Orleans, these two Parishes are said to be the hardest hit in Louisiana. After a few days on the ground, I can report that the damage here is greater than anything I imagined.

Every home and structure in St. Bernard Parish was flooded and many were completely destroyed. There are said to be about 25,000 homes in this Parish and I can't imagine any of them being habitable for a long time to come. Access to the Parish is still restricted to essential personnel. In the several miles of rubble I traveled today, I didn't see anyone who looked like a resident.

The first couple pictures are from my first day in New Orleans. I’m staying a block from the Convention Center and the first four pictures are from within a block or two of my hotel. The other pictures were taken today in St. Bernard Parish.

We're working 12+ hour days and I'm pretty spent at close of business each day, but my wife is sending our laptop so I might be able to squeeze out a post or two in the evenings.







Posted by Rick at 07:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

The Market: Why Worship It?

(Jim, this isn't directed at you - just a related rant.)

There are so many non-"Oh my! Gas is $4/gallon!" reasons to demand alternative energy sources.

If we know that our petroleum consumption is not sustainable, causes environmental damage, and supports terrorist nations, then our government should take steps to push the market to supply alternatives.

"Market" theory, when dealing with anything other than rivalrous/excludable goods, often fails, or only works itself out in the "long run." Well, in the long run: a) we're all dead; or b) irreversible long-term damage is done before the market kicks in.

Like lemmings, we design our regions so that the car is for most people the only feasible mode of travel. We fill tank after tank of petrol but know that we contribute marginally to the cumulative problem, so the free rider effect wins and we keep sucking the petrol.

Poisonous air, polluted runoff, acid rain, terrorist attacks - all products of our reliance on oil - are examples of externalities not adequately considered by our idol, the market.

My idea of a good Republican is one who understands economics well enough to know that markets are rarely perfect, and the only time they work well is when dealing with a certain type of good (pure private goods). A good Republican realizes that government can prime markets or push them to move in certain directions through taxation, regulation, and prohibition. A good Republican believes that government can be a good compliment to the market, not an enemy. A good Republican would have supported higher gas taxes to fund R&D of alternative fuels a long time ago. If this Republican isn't considered a "conservative" for her worldview, so be it.

Unfortunately, most Republicans I know continue to worship their idol, the market, ignorant of its theoretical and practical limitations. Markets aren't perfect. The government isn't perfect. Why worship either?

The river of truth flows through the valley of two extremes. Market economics is not the answer. Socialism is not the answer. But moderate government intervention of markets can be a very good thing.

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September 23, 2005

Game Theory

Game theory meant something else when I was an undergrad.

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September 22, 2005

DC Bound

Sunday I fly to DC for 9 days of FEMA training. Following training, I will be deployed immediately to the field for at least 3 months - location to be determined. It looks like I will be supporting FEMA with damage assessment, debris removal, site preparation, site planning, and reconstruction. That covers just about everything, so it doesn't tell me much. Whatever. I just want to serve.

Pray for my wife and kids that they will be strong while I'm gone.

Posted by Rick at 03:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Smart Growth: Let the Market Decide

I just finished reading a 2001 interview of New Urbanist Andres Duany for my urban design class.

Q: Where do you think the Bush administration will go with smart growth?

A: Smart growth, thanks to Al Gore's backing, has been positioned as a movement of he left, and so the right is reflexively attacking it. But smart growth could be repositioned: It shouldn't be imposed, but is should be legal everywhere.

Right now, when you want to build a compact, diverse, walkable, and transit-friendly community, it's illegal. You need variance after variance after variance. Let's suggest instead that every single jurisdiction should have a smart growth code so that the market can decide - because right now the market has only sprawl as a choice. This idea can be presented to the Republicans as choice.

He's so right...

Take a moment to view Peter Calthorpe's photo simulations and project portfolio. Like Duany's, Calthorpe's master planning and urban design business is booming as developers realize that there is a great deal of profit to be made from transforming extremely dull, inefficient, and often decaying suburban nowhereplaces into vibrant, walkable, and mixed-use communities.

Unfortunately, like a square peg in a round hole, most of their projects are forced to comply with sprawl perpetuating development standards. The product is too often a Disneyland version of the original vision.

The market wants to supply new urbanist communities - government regulation is holding the market back. And new urbanism is paradoxically championed by the left and frustrated by the right. Odd, don't you think?

Posted by Rick at 10:04 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Bravo Michelle!

Michelle Malkin exposes another Bush crony appointee. Conservatives shouldn't be afraid to confront the President when he deserves it. Bravo Michelle!

Posted by Rick at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Revelation Upon Us?

Tens of thousands dead from an earthquake in Iran. Tens of thousands more dead from a heat wave in Europe. Hundreds of thousands dead from a tsunami in Asia. 90,000 square miles ravaged by a hurricane. What do they have in common? All very recent natural disasters of "Biblical proportion."

Now come doomsday predictions from the World Health Organization of a potential plague or pestilence of Biblical proportion - the Avian Bird Flu (ABF).

Keep your eye on FluWiki for details on National ABF Awareness Week sometime in October.

A non-Christian dentist friend of mine told me not to worry about global pandemics. With a heavy dose of snark, he exhorted me to "Trust in the Lord." Well, duh... But just as I trust in the Lord for the safety of my family, I still lock the door.

I have to wonder...Is Revelation upon us?

Posted by Rick at 12:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gays in the Military

Ed Brayton of ITA links to a piece in Positive Liberty highlighting the contradiction in the military's policy on gay service.

On the one hand, they adamantly claim that allowing gays to serve in the military undermines morale and unit cohesion (the same exact arguments they made 60 years ago against allowing blacks to serve in "white" units, incidentally), but on the other hand when wartime comes around they suddenly stop discharging those who admit to being gay.
I'm sure that the military's policy, if accurately described here, is an attempt to limit use of the "gay card" to avoid deployment in a war zone, but that makes me wonder why the military would want to deploy cowards in the first place. That point aside, the contradiction is glaring given that the miliary's rationale for their policy is that allowing gays to serve openly would harm morale and unit cohesion in battle.

Ed ended his post by taking a stand against discrimination: "Gay soldiers can serve their country just as bravely as straight ones."

Josh Clayborn questioned Ed and others who agree with him in comments: "Should women also be permitted to serve in all capacities of the military?"

Ed responded: "If an individual is qualified to perform a given duty, I do not think that traits unrelated to the performance of that duty should prevent them from being allowed to do so. That would include their skin color, gender, sexual orientation and perhaps other factors; I would also include the potential reaction of other soldiers to those unrelated traits as an unrelated trait in and of itself."

My two cents: In high school, I studied the case of a woman who served in Panama as an MP during the invasion in 1989. While on patrol, her unit came under fire. Although she had the same training as the men in her unit, the men instinctively surrounded her and would not let her engage the enemy. Due to "traits unrelated to her performance" she became a liability on that mission, although on paper she was supposed to be an asset. Her story provoked a very heated discussion for an 11th grade history class, but the I have always remembered the exercise.

Sure the MP case at was 16 years ago, but I think the point has some contemporary relevance.

The question about gays in the military is not one of the capability of the gay man or woman. It is about the tolerance of the men and women with whom they would serve. The military should not be a social experiment, although I agree that is the same terrible argument used against integration with blacks decades ago.

The issue is tough to approach from a policy standpoint and perhaps best resolved through incrementalism. President Clinton's "Dont' Ask, Don' Tell" policy was a good incremental step. The current policy limiting discharging of gays during war time is another incremental step. The more exposure the brass and grunts get to the gays within their ranks, the more tolerant they will become and the lower the threat they will pose to morale and unit cohesion.

Posted by Rick at 01:42 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Trailer Park King

In comments, Fran (bless her heart) wrote that I should give thought and prayer to entering the political arena. Ha! If only I could speak!

Radioblogger dubbed me "King of the Trailer Park" following a call into the Hugh Hewitt show about the fed plans to construct mini-trailer park cities to house evacuees until their communities are rebuilt (See transcript). I can't bring myself to link to the soundbite because it's as unnerving as nails on a chalk board. I'm a bumbling idiot. Sure I was trying to navigate an interstate interchange during the call, but c'mon!

I'll leave politics to the former car salesmen like Tom Campbell. Bumbling idiots don't sell many good cars and a good politician has to sell many lemons.

A note of clarification: The plans I wrote for FEMA involved the construction of 50,000 mobile home units for approximately 150,000 evacuees. In the interview I said, erroneously, that the plans involved 150,000 mobile home units. But, the beauty of the plans (IMHO) is that they are scalable. If the mission is 300,000 units, then all you have to do is replicate my plans 6 times. Also, FEMA told us not to consider the cost because our plans were a first cut at solving the problem. Cost would certainly factor into deciding between alternatives. But FEMA needed alternatives to consider and giving them one was my assignment. Hugh is against the plans and has a few good ideas. Perhaps if I find time I can point out where Hugh is blowing it and where he has it right.

Posted by Rick at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2005


porkbusterssm.jpgWe've discussed the government's funding of Katrina and DeLay's ludicrous comments at lenght at SCO (see posts and comments here, here, and here). But we're not alone. The topic has been broached many times across the blogosphere this week.

Instapundit and NZ Bear have kicked off a Porkbusters project.

Glenn writes:

Identify some wasteful spending in your state or (even better) Congressional District. Put up a blog post on it. Go to N.Z. Bear's new PorkBusters page and list the pork, and add a link to your post.

Then call your Senators and Representative and ask them if they're willing to support having that program cut or -- failing that -- what else they're willing to cut in order to fund Katrina relief. (Be polite, identify yourself as a local blogger and let them know you're going to post the response on your blog). Post the results. Then go back to NZ Bear's page and post a link to your followup blog post.

Sounds like a good idea.


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Sunset from Space


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September 17, 2005


Check out Danny Carlton’s post “Stupid people wearing stupid shirts
Carlton opines:

I'm sorry, while I'm the first to argue that cries of racism are tossed out way, way too quickly in this country—how in the heck is that not racist?!? And furthermore, do we really need morons like this in the Marines?!? I always thought the Marines had higher standards that that.
Hear! Hear!

Posted by Rick at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some People Just Need to Chill Out

A couple of months ago, World Vision circulated a notice to its child sponsors that due to rising costs, the monthly contribution would be increased by $4. The notices explained that the increase was not compulsory and sponsors could opt out by returning a self addressed stamped envelope for their convenience. I didn't think anything of it, as it was only the second time in nearly seven years that they were requesting a modest increase.

Today I got a letter from President Richard Sterns apologizing almost to the point of embarassment for their insensitivity and that they should have asked sponsors rather than requesting objecting sponsors to opt out of the increase. From the letter, it is clear that a fair number of people registered strong dissatisfaction with World Vision.

What a waste of a good organization's time and resources. If you don't want to pay an extra $4 per month to help support your child, then all you had to do was fill out the card and opt out. Some people just need to chill out and not be so darn selfish.

Posted by Rick at 01:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2005

Feds Plan Temporary Cities for Evacuees

That's the headline of this AP story posted at Drudge. The AP's article begins with this mental exercise:

Imagine building a city from scratch. Now, imagine doing it in just a few months - dozens of times over.
The solution is mind-boggling in its scope and complexity: Build dozens of temporary cities of up to 25,000 homes from the ground up. The ambitious resettlement plan is unprecedented in U.S. history, experts say, and raises huge logistical questions that, in most cases, have yet to be answered - or even anticipated.
The settlements would range from 2,000 to 25,000 units - mostly prefabricated houses and mobile homes - arranged in loose street grids. They will ideally be placed within a short drive of pre- existing shopping centers, grocery stores and gas stations to make life easier for evacuees.
Last fall, I developed group site housing plans for FEMA which basically amounted to the construction of temporary cities with the full range of services for up to 150,000 people.

In one of my first blog posts over a year ago, I discussed my work as Hurricane Ivan approached the Gulf Coast. I wrote:

Ivan the Terrible is heading somewhere; where exactly, only God knows. Pray it doesn't hit New Orleans.
The initial plan was to construct the homes in 30-45 days of a catastrophic event, but we quickly realized this schedule was not realistic. The plans were revised to allow 60-90 days for construction. The plans were put to the test by FEMA with Hurricane Pam - a simulated Cat V hurricane directly hitting New Orleans.

FEMA called earlier this week. They requested my cell phone number and told me I'm on standby - ready to deploy with 48 hours notice for a minimum 3 month assingment. They asked for my resume so they would know how to best place me. I'm a little nervous. I didn't imagine last summer when writing the plans that a year later I might have a hand in implementing them.

Posted by Rick at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Hugh Hewitt is talking bird flu and presidential accountability.

The buck will again stop on the president's desk, though, and he knows it. I hope he has communicated to all involved that he wants a plan on his desk on the hour by hour response once (Avian Bird Flu) reaches the US.
Agreed. FluWiki is an interesting experiment in on-line collaboration to prepare for ABF. However, private sector for-profit and collaborative responses to ABF amount to nothing politically. When it strikes and if we aren't prepared, the President will be blamed. If you think the Katrina blame game was bad, just wait...

UPDATE: This ABC News article makes discussion of the political implications of a bird flu pandemic look awefully petty (HT: Drudge).

It could kill a billion people worldwide, make ghost towns out of parts of major cities, and there is not enough medicine to fight it.
"Right now in human beings, it kills 55 percent of the people it infects," says Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow on global health policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. "That makes it the most lethal flu we know of that has ever been on planet Earth affecting human beings."
"The lack of advanced planning up until the moment in the United States, in the sense of not having a huge stockpile I think your citizens deserve, has surprised me and has dismayed me," [professor John Oxford of the Royal London Hospital] admits.
Politics aside - the President must make this the nation's top priority. When the ABF mutates to allow human-to-human transmission, it will bring a ~50% mortality rate. The potential threat to this country is far far greater than any act of terrorism I can imagine.

Posted by Rick at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 15, 2005

Humility: An Essential Leadership Quality

Matt wrote recently:

The buck stops with [the President], but if there's no apology from the city leadership in NOLA (which has been corrupt for generations), none from the state leadership in LA (which has likewise been corrupt), none from the congressional delegation, and if said apology would be further damage to his administration and his party, then W should under no circumstances take responsibility.
I took issue with Matt's position and wrote in comments:
If I waited for my wife to apologize every time something broke down in our relationship, we wouldn't have much of a relationship. Humility is a great thing in a leader. Not to mention a Christian.
To my great pleasure, President Bush took full responsibility for the failures of the federal government on Tuesday. The President’s act of humility was followed by a statement from Governor Blanco. (HT: Josh Britton)
“We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local. At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility,” Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature.
I know that politics is too often more about perception than reality and that the President’s words have been twisted in headlines to suggest that he took full responsibility for everything that went wrong, but that shouldn’t stop people, especially Christians, from doing the right thing.

I'm proud of you Mr. President.

Posted by Rick at 10:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

Time to Raise Taxes!

In response to comments that the government should cut spending to pay for Huricane Katrina relief, Tom DeLay declared that the feds were running at maximum efficiency.

My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet...after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good.
How about starting with the "6,371 pet projects" in the Transportation Bill, Congressman?

How long will conservatives tolerate deficits, especially when their leader in the House says there isn't anything left to cut? Looks like it is time to start raising taxes.

Posted by Rick at 07:34 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005


Not really... FEMA Chief Brown resigns "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president..."

Posted by Rick at 03:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005


The New York Times isn't exactly known for its objective reporting, but this piece is truly shameful (HT: Drudge). The article begins:

The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.

Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out.

Well gee. You mean these buses Governor?

That's just one quibble with the first few sentences in this shameful article.

Posted by Rick at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stafford Act: Presidential Has Unilateral Power to "Take Charge"?

As a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), I have access to the AAPORnet list serv that includes members of all the major polling organizations. My argument to the polling community was that interpretation of the recent polls showing 60-70% of Americans unhappy with the President's handling of Katrina may be aided if future polls also probed the public's understanding of the President's power (Constitutional or other) to "take charge" of domestic relief/recovery efforts.

One member directed me to this Department of Homeland Security National Response Plan dated December 2004. On page 7, the Plan lays out the authority of the President as granted by the Stafford Act and "applicable regulations":

If the President determines that an emergency exists where the primary responsibility for response rests with the Government of the United States, or because the emergency involves an area or facility for which the Federal Government exercises exclusive or preeminent primary responsibility and authority, the President may unilaterally direct the provision of assistance under the act and will, if practicable, consult with the Governor of the State.
Many will argue that response to Katrina was not a "primary responsibility" of the federal government, but that is a different argument than the one I am exploring here. I am trying to understand if the President had the *power* to intervene more forcefully than he did, and if so, what power did he have that he chose not to exercise. Now is not the time for the President to answer these questions, but when the time does come, I will be interested to hear his response.

Am I missing something?

Posted by Rick at 01:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 09, 2005

Conservatives out of Touch with Middle America?

The New York Times has a fascinating piece this morning highlighting federalism's role in the sluggish response to Katrina. At one point the Bush administration considered seizing control of the relief effort via the “Insurrection Act.”

Best quote of the article:

Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?
Wouldn't that have been most ironic? Democrats arguing against federal intervention?I’m with Mickey Kaus on this one.
Why should there be any doubt that the President can take command of a relief effort within our own country?

When things screw up, these days, we hold the president and the federal government responsible. It follows that the president and the federal government should have the power to stop things from screwing up.
Sort of what I was getting at with this post. I believe that Mickey's point of view is shared by a vast majority of Americans. No doubt many conservatives, ensconced in their nuanced ideological positions, will dismiss my comments in defense of federalism. But I urge them to consider Mickey's very simple question, "Why should there be any doubt...?"

A slew of recent polling shows that a majority of Americans think the President has done a poor job in responding to Katrina. When many respected polling firms report similar numbers on highly similar questions, you can bet that they reflect the "true" opinion of the population. Visit Mystery Pollster and keep scrolling. It's all there.

On many issues - partial birth abortion, gay marriage, the role of church and state, etc - Democrats are clearly out of touch with middle America. The worst part is that they seem blind to their disconnect. I fear that on the very important question of federalism and emergency response, Conservatives are equally out of touch and equally blind.

Posted by Rick at 10:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

The Giving Culture

Jim's earlier post and Josh Britton’s yesterday, among many others, touch on the recent meme that racism is at the heart of the government's failure to adequately respond to Katrina. Unfortunately, I have little doubt that the number of master’s theses and PhD dissertations analyzing this pre-conceived notion will far outweigh those that analyze the generous nature of Americans and its corporations.

But there is hope!

Driving with my mother in-law and the kids to enjoy a dip in the pool on Monday, I came across friends from church who were assisting their children's effort to sell snow cones for Katrina victims. Kids aged 4 to 10 manned street the street corners armed with hand-painted signs and a healthy amount of energy.

These kids clearly weren’t alone. Doug highlighted youth efforts in Houston and the San Diego Union Tribune reported of other youngsters raising funds in another part of my home town. I’m sure there are many more untold stories of youth philanthropy.

These gestures mark our nation's giving culture.

Kids don’t conjure up the idea to raise money to help others own their own; instead, these ideas spawn from an upbringing that values service and self-sacrifice - values taught and exemplified by parents, friends, and neighbors.

These values, instilled in most of us from youth, are also responsible for the 587 million dollars donated thus far on behalf of Katrina victims, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Academics, politicians, and activists will use Katrina to decry perceived or real social injustices. I pray only that they also take the time emphasize to their kids the importance of giving to others. Investing in our giving culture will reap more societal rewards than any thesis, dissertation, speech or protest rally.

NZ Bear has a list of charities and their web-sites. Please continue to give and expand the influence of American’s giving culture.

Posted by Rick at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005

Gay Marriage Bill Passes in CA

In 2000, 61 percent of California voters pass Proposition 22, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. Yesterday, California Democrats overturned Proposition 22, narrowly approving AB 849.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union Tribune articles. If you are a CA resident register your voice with the Governor Schwarzeneger and let him know where you stand.

Posted by Rick at 08:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

School Starts in One Year

I’m not a ConLaw expert, but I hope that someone who is will consider the following hypothetical and answer some questions.

Hypothetical: The President has specific and credible information 72 hours in advance that there a terrorist attack will occur in a major port city. All indications are that the attack will destroy the city and its fallout will affect communities in three states. When confronted with the prospect of catastrophe, the governors and local officials in the affected area do not take the threat as seriously as the President thinks that they should and these local officials fail to protect their constituents.

What does the President have the power to do?

We are a nation of inter-dependent regions. Regions, not cities or states, are the economic muscle of our economy. This event devastated an entire region, which cross-cuts three states and has clear national - even global implications.

If the Constitution does not vest the Executive with the power to overrule decisions of governors or local officials when a major population center and economic hub in our country faces immediate threat, then the Constitution is antiquated.

If you read me regularly, you'll know that I’m not a traditional “state’s rights-limited government” conservative. In fact, I’m fairly “liberal” on many issues, but choose the Republican Party because it most closely aligns with me on issues of life, family, and national security. But the Republican Party must get this one right if it is to keep many well intentioned Christians (not necessarily “Christian Conservatives”) in the Party. I’m willing to bet that the majority of Americans do not care much about the answer to the questions: “What is police power?” and “Where does it reside?”

If there isn’t a federal police power to handle situations of national significance when the local officials are incompetent and perhaps even criminally negligent, then I’m willing to bet that most Americans believe there ought to be.

Republicans will learn this lesson - one way or another. School starts in about a year.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Micro-Relief: The San Diego Church's Effort

Pastors from my home church Horizon Christian Fellowship will be greeting 170+ evacuees at Lindbergh Field San Diego this afternoon. The Red Cross has requested the use of our buses to transport them to shelters and we have been asked to organize a children's ministry. Other San Diego churches such as The Rock, Maranatha Chapel, North Coast Calvary Chapel, and I'm sure many others by now have been assigned other responsibilities.

My pastors Mike Macintosh and Mickey Stonier are trained and certified in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and certified teachers for Critical Incident Law Enforcement Enhancement. They are attached to the American Red Cross Spiritual Care Aviation Incident Response and have served in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center.

As chaplains for the San Diego Police Department (Mike) and Fire Department (Mickey), our congregation actively supports chaplaincy ministries and will continue to do so in response to Katrina. Horizon will be sending teams to the disaster area to minister to the first responders as adjunct chaplains. Although trained professionals, first responders aren't super human, but people under a tremendous amount of stress and need to be served. Horizon's teams will attend primarily to the spiritual and other needs of the brave members of local police and fire departments who have been working grueling hours and are experiencing great suffering since last weekend.

To support this micro-relief effort please contact Horizon Christian Fellowship and donate to the Chaplain's Fund.

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September 03, 2005

Chief Justice Rhenquist Has Died

A great American servant has passed. Article here.

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Long-Term Housing

The MSNBC article is up. The question posed to me was regarding long-term housing for 500,000. Looking at the numbers this morning, I'm not sure that it will reach that level, but 150,000 as mentioned in my earlier post seems appropriate.

The feds retained the services of Carnival Cruise Lines to provide three ships for temporary housing. Sounds like a good plan, but how long can these ships be tied up? I doubt for six months or longer. Again, if you have a hotel room, sit tight...

Update: Some are buying homes elsewhere, an early indication that many will relocate permanently.

A week ago there were between 3,400 and 3,700 homes listed for sale in the area, he said. By the end of next week, he figures, there will be around only 500 still available -- ones that are either "extremely overpriced or uninhabitable.
Ortego's office is getting 200 calls an hour for people looking for rental property.
"As of yesterday, everything has been rented out," she said. "Now people are turning to buying because there is nothing left to rent."
At the end of the day, I still predict there will some thousands, perhaps up to 150,000, will need alternative interim housing (up to 3 years). The market will go a long way to meeting the need, but I remain skeptical that it can meet all the housing needs of displaced persons.

Posted by Rick at 11:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 02, 2005

Maps of the Declared Disaster Areas




Also, this FEMA statement estimates that there are only 91,000 Hurricane victims requiring shelter. If 91,000 is an accurate figure (the only sourced estimate I’ve seen so far), I suspect that many who evacuated prior to Katrina are holed up with family, friends, and in hotels all over the south waiting to hear about the status of their property.

I just received an e-mail from a team my company sent to help with relief/reconstruction efforts. The e-mail said:

Lodging is a huge issue. To say that rooms are in short supply is the understatement of the century. The construction of a MASH-style temporary accommodations is underway and the reality is that some of our folks will likely wind up having to stay there for some period of time.
We're expecting to send 300 or so engineers and planners (mostly engineers) in the next few weeks.

My advice to those who have hotel/motel rooms. Don’t give up your room until you know about the condition of your home or have made other arrangements!

Posted by Rick at 06:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Housing Needs of Katrina Victims

Earlier this morning, MSNBC Washington DC Bureau Chief Brock Meeks interviewed me regarding temporary and interim housing planning in response to catastrophic events. After the interview, I read Hugh Hewitt’s post, “What is to be done?

Hugh offers several great ideas, including the following observation and suggestion (forgive the choppiness of the quote, but I think it conveys his idea well):

We don't neeed American refugee camps…the president…needs to send a few dozen of its best colonels (with) authority to determine…level of need…decide a plan for them…then assign a trooper to carry it out...
While I’m not sure that the military is the best choice for determining the need level of evacuees and I doubt that completely avoiding “refugee camps” is possible, Hugh is on the right track.

(Full Disclosure: I’ve provided group site planning consulting services to FEMA in the past. What is written in this post should not be construed as the opinion of FEMA or my employer. These are my thoughts and opinions as a professional city planner with experience in catastrophic housing planning).

Draining New Orleans could take a month. Removing the mud and debris could take another couple of weeks, during which time inspection and “red tagging” of buildings for demolition could begin. As such, officials may not have a solid estimate of the scope of work required to rebuild devastated areas for six to eight weeks.

Each evacuee should be assigned a FEMA case manager. Evacuees and those residing in shelters should be interviewed within a week to determine their individual immediate and near-term needs. The following information should be collected:

• Full medical history and needs
• Number of people in family/group and a list of loved ones still unaccounted for
• Home address and status of property/possessions (if known)
• Place of employment
• Relatives or friends in unaffected parts of the country that might be able to house them for a time

The data gathered by these case managers should be loaded into a Geographic Information System (GIS) relational database that will facilitate determination needs by evacuee household or group. Information on evacuees could be joined with other data on damaged areas and complemented with data collected by field inspectors as it comes in. Satellite imagery should provide a “first cut” at identifying people who are likely to require “temporary” accommodations versus those who will need “interim” housing. By “temporary” I mean accommodations for folks who may be able to move back into their homes within 60-90 days. “Interim” housing refers to accommodations for up to 3 years.

Within a day of the interview, a report could be generated for each case, perhaps with images of the evacuee’s property and surrounding area, that will help case managers and evacuees decide how best to meet the immediate housing needs.

FEMA should already have people surveying rental housing markets in surrounding unaffected areas and placing deposits vacant apartment and home units. As units are held for victims, these data should be loaded into the GIS and an inventory compiled. The database should also include information on citizens who have expressed a willingness to share their home for some period.

Part of the housing determination should be based on a survey of evacuee skills. The ideal situation would be to involve evacuees, most of whom are likely unemployed (due to events), in the reconstruction efforts. That would require placing these people nearby affected communities, ideally their own. Again, a task easily handled with the GIS.

As noted by Hugh, we don’t need "refugee camps," although I’m not sure it is possible to rule out temporary encampments for some of the displaced evacuees. Based on the initial interviews and evaluation by FEMA case managers, victims can be placed in one of the following categories.

No Temporary or Interim Housing Need: Suitable long-term housing can be found within a couple of weeks

• Those whose homes sustained minimal damage and can return
• Those with the means and willingness to relocate out of the region permanently

Temporary Housing Need: Cannot move back into homes or onto lots for 60-90 days

• Those who can stay with relatives or friends
• Those who can relocate to a mobile home on their existing property while their homes are rebuilt
• For all others – assignment to a FEMA temporary encampment.

Interim Housing Need: Communities cannot be rebuilt within 90 days

• Those who can stay with relatives or friends
• Those who can be assigned vacant rental apartments or homes within the vicinity of the devastated areas.
• For all others – assignment to a FEMA temporary encampment until group sites can be constructed for interim accommodations.

Hugh’s suggestion may work well for evacuees who fall into most of the above categories. For “all others,” FEMA will likely develop temporary and interim group sites, which no doubt will be labeled by the media “refugee camps.” Temporary housing encampments are FEMA’s bread and butter. I’m sure that there are many very experienced people at FEMA who are likely gearing up to meet this need as we speak. Remember, these will be temporary and the accommodations will be tolerable as they will be air conditioned, offer a semblance of privacy, and evacuees will have access to clean water, food, and showers. Think about the temporary facilities constructed in Iraq for our soldiers and you get the picture. Do our soldiers live in "refugee camps"?

The interim group site planning will be the real challenge.

Let’s assume that we have upwards of 1,000,000 people who have been evacuated or are homeless. Now assume that 15% are not able to relocate permanently, live with relatives or friends, or find housing in the existing vacant housing stock. We’re talking about constructing interim housing for approximately 150,000 very quickly.

To accomplish a disaster housing mission for 150,000 people, sites must be identified, acquired, cleared, graded, and developed as soon as feasible. That means that land will likely be condemned, an action that may require special legislation from Congress (any comment from eminent domain and NEPA experts?).

Manufactured structures will be required. Lots of them. Assume an average household size of roughly 2.8 (should be refined for regional considerations) and the mission would require over 50,000 mobile homes!

In addition to mobile homes, these mini-communities will require services and facilities. How much land would this require? Based on some research that I did last summer, I calculated that a neighborhood of over 2,200 units, complete with an elementary school (average is one elementary school per 7,000 people) and modest commercial and office/administrative space, would require approximately 400 acres of land. A community of roughly 50,000 people, which could be comprised of 8 neighborhoods (about the size required to support a new high school), would require over 3,500 acres. A single settlement for 150,000 people would require more than 11,000 acres.

But why would we create a single mini-city to meet the need for 150,000 evacuees? In my opinion, that isn’t a viable or even the best option. What would 150,000 people do in a temporary mini-city developed on 11,000 acres of raw land in some rural area? Think of the social implications and morale of people living in such a community. It just doesn’t seem to make sense in this instance.

Instead of creating a single group site, FEMA surveyors should consider appending smaller group sites to existing communities nearby the devastated areas. These smaller, but more numerous group sites could feasibly tie into existing utility backbone systems and residents (no longer evacuees) could gradually become part of social fabric of their host communities. To house roughly 150,000 people, FEMA planners would only need to locate approximately 20-40 group sites for 2,000-8,000 people each to disperse the local impacts as well as disperse a potential labor pool for local reconstruction efforts throughout the gulf coast. Also, 20-40 group sites are very manageable from an organizational and construction stand point.

The Biggest Challenge

How many mobile homes and structures are currently available? How much treated lumber will be required? Aggregate for concrete? Glass for windows? Roofing materials? How much labor will be required to rebuild the devastated areas? How many engineers and inspectors will be required to review and approve all the redevelopment applications? The government cannot simply allow a “free for all” by developers. Projects must be reviewed. The reconstruction must be regulated to ensure the health, safety and welfare of future occupants. Review time will be a function of available human capital with particular expertise (engineers and planning technicians in particular). I suspect that solving these logistical and human capital problems will be the biggest challenge to reconstruction efforts.

Update: See my latest post for additional thoughts on housing Katrina evacuees, which includes a link to the MSNBC article mentioned above.

Posted by Rick at 03:12 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

Waters Continue to Rise in New Orleans

The waters are rising in New Orleans and the Mayor estimates that 80% of the city is under water.

Continued flooding of New Orleans is FEMA's worse-case scenario natural disaster scenario. The waters will not recede, as many news stations keep saying. The water levels may reach equilibrium, but there is literally no place for the water to go. It must be pumped out, an effort that will take weeks, if not months. Mobile AL and other cities along the gulf coast are also devastated. How many hundreds of thousands will be homeless? For how long?

Keep praying for the affected communities, emergency response personnel, and the long-term reconstruction efforts. Hugh Hewitt is looking for someone to organize a coordinated blogothon for relief efforts.

Josh Britton has all the relevant links.

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August 29, 2005

Katrina - God's Judgment?

The folks at Boar's Head Tavern are having that very discussion.

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August 28, 2005

Katrina II

Hugh Hewitt questioned early media reports about the potential loss of life associated with Katrina. I agree with Josh Britton, 10,000 deaths is not out of the question if the storm surges clear the levies in New Orleans and sink much of the city. 10,000 deaths from a natural disaster in the United States is beyond the imagination for me, but God willing, residents heeded early calls to evacuate. Almost equally unimaginable is the report that as much as 1,000,000 people could be left homeless.

As mentioned in this post, I helped draft plans for "temporary" housing for up to 150,000 displaced persons following a catastrophic event. The plan didn't call for a refugee camp, but instead for housing, schools, shopping, employment, etc. constructed from modular units to be airlifted, trucked, shipped, and trained in from arround the world. The land would be identified (no easy task), cleared, graded, and the community constructed within 60-90 days. Residents would occupy the temporary community for six months to two years depending on the degree of flooding at ground zero. Many on our team questioned whether accomplishing a 60-90 day mission is possible. I can't begin to convey to all of you the logistical complexity of pulling off such an operation.

That's for 150,000 displaced persons and the AP's talking about potentially 1,000,000 people.

The story may be hype. It may be realistic. But, the bottom line is that constructing temporary housing for 150,000 people while New Orleans rebuilds would be a massive undertaking.
While I expect the people of Louisiana will have access to whatever federal resources necessary, I predict that Americans will once again rise to the challenge before us and demonstrate the resilience and compassion that made us a great nation.

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Last year, FEMA contracted with ~7 planning and engineering teams to develop contingency plans for a catastrophic event anywhere in the United States. With the plans partially developed, they "war gamed" a Cat V hurricane direct hit on New Orleans - FEMA's "worst-case scenario." They picked New Orleans because much of the City is well below sea-level and large enough storm surges could sink the town, making much of it inhabitable for long enough that long-term disaster housing would be required. In support of the project, I prepared development standards and site plan schematics for temporary housing and related facilities and services for up to 150,000 displaced persons that could be constructed and occupied within 60-90 days. It looks like FEMA's worst-case scenario may be realized with Katrina. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the plans are ready for "off the shelf" implementation.

Josh Britton attends LSU and is a native of Louisiana. Josh writes:

I’m considering riding out the storm with my parents in Denham Springs in northern Livingston Parish (the southern half of which is under a mandatory evacuation). I’m trying to find out if help is needed at any of the shelters in Baton Rouge. I know, for example, that my church has been opened to about 400 college students from New Orleans, and that there is a special needs shelter open at LSU.
I thank God for Josh's servant heart during these trying times. I urge you brothers and sisters to pray without ceasing and when the call for help comes, put feet to your faith and serve.

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August 25, 2005

Kelo’s Consequences

A co-worker e-mailed to say that my State Senator, Christine Kehoe (I campaigned for her opponent in November’s election, btw), amended SB 1026 today, making it an “urgency measure.”

SB 1026, written in reaction to the Kelo v. City of New London SCOTUS decision, includes a two year moratorium on the use of eminent domain to take an owner-occupied home for private uses. The urgency amendment will require 2/3 support of the legislature, which means that Kehoe appears to have solidified bipartisan support of the bill and intends to move it quickly out of the Assembly, Senate, and to the Governor’s desk.

Kelo was a terrible decision. However, it did little to change things in my state. Redevelopment agencies had been condemning private residential and commercial land for private gain for a long time in California. It’s interesting to see how the outrage at Kelo has prompted a very liberal State Senator from my home district to give homeowners more protection under CA law than had been previously afforded.

This article provides a good overview of SB 1026.

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Blogospheric Triumphs

I lack the words to describe Michael Yon’s latest dispatch from Mosul, Iraq. Pray for these boys and girls and honor them. Keep civilian reporters away from the guns as well (even the good one’s like Michael Yon).

Roger Piekle Sr., the climatologist who recently resigned from the CCSP Committee, charges that the New York Times blatantly misrepresented his views on climate change and reasons for resigning. He posts an Open Comment to Andy Revkin on his blog, Climate Science. Piekle, commented:

“I was very disappointed that the New York Times so badly mischaracterized my perspective, but fortunately we now have blogs so that errors can be corrected, and I've posted my response there..."

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August 24, 2005

San Diego's "Parallel Election"

Diebold’s machines scanned and tallied every ballot cast in my home town of San Diego in a recent election to replace resigned Mayor Dick Murphy. Controversy surrounding electronic vote tabulation machines, Diebold’s machines in particular, prompted the group Citizens Audit Parallel Election to hold a “parallel election” in an attempt to verify the official vote count.

The Citizens Audit Parallel Election found a 4 percent “red shift” from the official vote count, away from progressive candidate Donna Frye. Carl Luna, a professor of Political Science at San Diego Mesa College and lecturer at the University of San Diego, wrote a remarkable editorial on the findings last week. Luna wrote:

Math is non-partisan

A team of statisticians from California State University- Northridge - have analyzed the data from CAPE, concluding that the probability of luck or chance as the cause of the observed four percent deviation is less than one in 1,300 - or .000678.

Unless you’ve had your head under a rock since November, you’ve heard similar probability based proclamations, as if sampling error is the only source of survey error.

The Citizens Audit Parallel Election paid for a hand count in full view of its representatives of a select number of precincts. That recount of the hand marked ballots matched the Diebold count, almost exactly.

A partial recount yesterday to test the accuracy of scanners that read ballots and tallied votes in the San Diego mayor's race July 26 revealed results that were nearly identical to those of the machines.

For example, a discrepancy of perhaps one vote occurred in a few precincts.

I agree with Jerry Ewig of Democracy for America.

The recount "does not prove the system is accurate and correct," said Ewig, who lives in Temecula. "We're still in need of a system that is verifiable and transparent to the people." (emphasis added)

But what about that parallel election (aka EXIT POLL) that called into question the election result? I am reminded Plissner and Mitofsky’s 1982 Public Opinion aritcle, “Voting Twice on Election Day”. Coming only two years after the first network projection based on exit poll results, the authors acknowledged potential problems with their “parallel elections.”

Voter polls and the more traditional sources of election predictions (precinct sampling) are subject to a mathematically definable sampling error. On top of that, voter polling presents a number of additional challenges. Things can – and have, at least in our experience – gone wrong. For example, there is no guarantee that voters who respond to the poll are like those who refuse to answer (pg. 15).
Something clearly went wrong with San Diego’s “parallel election.” In line with every presidential election exit poll since 1988, the poll was clearly biased toward the Democratic candidate. But why? That’s a question the polling industry should make every effort to answer, and rectify.

Free, fair, and falsifiable elections should be goal of every American, regardless of partisanship. But we know that we are a long way from this goal if we have to rely on exit polls as a verification tool.

If you are interested in election reform issues, the Election Audit Institute is a fine new venue for discussion.

Posted by Rick at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

Statistical Significance v. Validity

Hugh Hewitt mentioned “statistically significant” twice in as many posts about Patrick Ruffini’s August Straw poll.

The words of Inigo Montoya immediately came to mind: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”

I know Patrick Ruffini knows a thing or two about stats, so I had to check it out. Sure enough, there it was…er…was it? Here’s the line: “If this poll is as big as the last one (@13,000 responses), we'll have a statistically valid sample of online activists not just nationally, but in most of the fifty states.”

Notice that Patrick used the word “valid” and not “significant.” Is there a difference between statistically significant and statistically valid? Well, yes. There is a big difference.

Statistical significance is a function of sample size and degree of confidence. 13,000 responses to a simple random sample of population over 100,000 would yield a margin of error of either 0.8% or 1.1% depending on whether one wants to be 95% or 99% confident in the significance of the results. (Click here for a neat sample size/confidence interval calculator.)

Determining the validity of a survey is another thing. Statistical validity can be defined as “the degree to which an observed result, such as a difference between 2 measurements, can be relied upon and not attributed to random error in sampling and measurement.”

Robert Groves’ Total Survey Error framework describes four components to survey error: 1) sampling; 2) nonresponse; 3) coverage; and 4) measurement. Statistical significance addresses only sampling error. Statistical validity incorporates all four of Groves’ TSE components.

First off, Patrick’s survey is not a random sample of likely voters in the 2008 primary and therefore thinking in terms of statistical “significance” is misleading; however, the potential coverage error presents the greatest threat to the poll’s “validity.”

Coverage error is the error introduced to a survey when a segment of the population that the survey intends to represent is not included in the sampling frame. That is, what portion of Republican primary voters are not internet users, or more specifically, readers of the various internet sites that might advertise Ruffini’s straw poll? It doesn’t matter how large the sample size is if the population being sampled isn’t representative of the population the survey is intended to represent. The results may be interesting, but claiming statistical validity is not possible based on sample size alone.

For the record, I participated in the straw poll and selected Mass. Governor Mitt Romney, who isn't doing particularly well at the moment. Don't let my post stop you from playing along. As I said, the results, although perhaps not statistically significant or valid, are interesting; especially if you contend that internet consumers of conservative political news set the agenda for non-internet savvy conservatives.


Groves, R. M. 1989. “Survey errors and survey costs.” New York: John Wiley.

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Iraq's Sunnis Aim to Defeat Constitution in Vote

A very encouraging headline from Reuters. It’s not American democracy, but the political process is certainly familiar and appears to be gaining legitimacy.

Posted by Rick at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Casey Sheehan

No matter what you think about his mom, you need to read about Casey Sheehan, a true hero. Blackfive has the post. Hugh Hewitt comments: "When you are tempted to blast his mom, remind yourself of this man's sacrifice and heroism and assume as I do that he loved his mom deeply and would defend her like the fine son he must have been even if he disagreed with her politics." Agreed.

Posted by Rick at 08:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Kelo Chutzpah

The story behind USAToday's hardly noticed editorial last Tuesday is simply shocking.

The city of New London, Conn., deserves a chutzpah award. In 2000, it condemned 15 homes so a developer could build offices, a hotel and convention center. Susette Kelo and her neighbors spent years in a legal battle that culminated in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against them.

That was painful enough. But while the homeowners were battling in court, New London was calculating how much "rent" they owe for living in the houses they were fighting to save. (The city's development corporation gained title to the homes when it condemned them, though the owners refused to sell and haven't collected a cent.)

The homeowners could soon be served with eviction notices, which is justified by the court ruling. But the rent is something else. For some, it comes to hundreds of thousands of dollars. [...] In a letter to the homeowners' lawyer a year ago, the development corporation justified its behavior by saying, "We know that your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free."

Kelo is one of the most widely criticized rulings in recent history. You would think that the New London Community Development Commission's latest chutzpah would have been worth more attention than a buried editorial. This news doesn't need much comment, it needs circulation.

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August 19, 2005

A Cool $10K on Global Warming

This story reinforces my belief that although the earth is certainly warming, the cause of the warming is not certain, nor is the conclusion that some global pact can stop it. I find it interesting that a leading global climate change expert would not give a skeptic 50:1 odds that the earth would cool. If he is so certain about global warming, why not? At least there is now real money on the line between scientists with competing theories.

Posted by Rick at 07:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Christian View of the City

Noting that I am both a Christian and a City Planner, professor Philip Bess of the Notre Dame School of Architecture pointed me to an article he wrote a couple years ago for the Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty entitled, "Civic Art and the City of God: Traditional Urban Design and Christian Evangelism." His thesis?

...good cities are an essential component of the good life for human beings and that urbanism is therefore not surprisingly a privileged symbol of the historic Christian imagination. Post-World War II suburban sprawl is the antithesis of good urbanism; and, to the extent that Christian churches simply accept the premises of suburban culture, we compromise both the substance and the effectiveness of our evangelical efforts. Christian churches can better contribute both to the good of the City of Man and our witness to the City of God by more conscientiously seeking within our means to promote the physical forms of good traditional urbanism.
No one should ever underestimate the power of active, disciplined love, which is (of course) of God. We make all of our cities to achieve the good life, but our greatest cities are products of love: artifacts made in imitation not only of nature (as Aristotle would have it) but even more fundamentally in imitation of the divine. In that imitative process we create a shared world, a common world that is—quite precisely—lovely; and this should be a common vocation of all of us who call ourselves Christians.
I haven't yet formed a complete opinion on the article, other than it is definitely worth a read as it's not a typical Christian pespective. I hope to develop that thought a bit more some time. Check out the Congress for the New Urbanism for more on the concept and if you are really interested in my thoughts on the subject, check out Calthorpe and Fulton's "The Regional City: Planning for the End of Sprawl."

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August 16, 2005

Coming Pandemic

The avian flu is spreading. Hugh Hewitt offers an extensive and sobering review of the problem this morning.

A doctor friend of mine recently turned me on to Flu Wikie, a website that seeks to “help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic.”

Flu Wikie is an interesting experiment in on-line collaboration; the first of which that I am aware that attempts to address a potential public health crisis in advance. If and when the avian flu hits with the force expected, I anticipate this site will receive much attention.

It is our unfortunate nature to avoid confronting a problem until it festers and demands attention. The looming avian flu pandemic appears to be in line with this precedent. The President is reading about influenza this summer, but I hope that his book choice has more to do with studying than recreation.

Posted by Rick at 03:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 11, 2005

Micro-Climate Change

Drudge’s big headline this morning reads: EU CITIES BAKING IN 'CLIMATE CHANGE'. I buy that…but let’s see what the article says.

Essentially, the article is a press release for WWF International.

European Union to set tougher targets for emissions of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide.

...13 of the 16 cities surveyed were at least one degree Celsius higher than during the first five years of the 1970s, the environmental organisation said.

There is a trend of increasing summer temperatures and that is due to global warming.
This group has it completely backwards. Certainly urban areas are experiencing climate change. But it’s a micro-climate change due to a well documented phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect.

Air in urban areas is often 6-8 degrees hotter than in surrounding rural areas. The abundance of dark surfaces in urban areas absorb heat and the minimal vegetation limits the shade required to mitigate such effects. The urban heat island effect is blamed for increased energy use, and therefore, increased emissions.

The answer is not to tighten emissions standards and control “global warming,” but to apply common sense urban design. Urban development should utilize to the greatest extent feasible heat reflective materials on surfaces and roofs. The EPA recommends use of building materials that turn traditional heat absorbing surfaces “cool” or “green.” Not only would urban areas be cooler, but they would be improved aesthetically.

It's time we get this type of micro-climate change under control. But, the WWF International need not be involved.

Posted by Rick at 01:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

Bloody Shame


This political cartoon from the San Diego Union Tribune gave me a good chuckle this morning. Democratic partisans are trying very hard to dig up dirt on President Bush’s SCOTUS nominee, but haven’t come up with anything. When Drudge revealed that the NYT was looking into adoption records of Roberts’ children, my eyes became cross, but I didn’t expect anything else from the liberal rag. By the way, PowerPundit has a great roundup of commentary on that scandal.

My eyes became more than cross at Drudge’s latest newsflash: CNN Agrees to Air Bloody Abortion Ad on Judge Roberts.

I heard about it from Captain Ed on the Hugh Hewitt show yesterday and couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure if CNN has decided to back down yet, but the ad itself is pretty repulsive, not to mention blatantly false. Miguel Miranda takes NARAL to task in an Opinion Journal piece this morning.

Here’s the ad:

Announcer: Seven years ago, a bomb destroyed a woman's health clinic in Birmingham, Ala.

Emily Lyons: When a bomb ripped through my clinic, I almost lost my life. I will never be the same.

Announcer: Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.

Lyons: I'm determined to stop this violence, so I'm speaking out.

Announcer: Call your senators. Tell them to oppose John Roberts. America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.

Factcheck.org is all over this ad, writing “in words and images, the ad conveys the idea that Roberts took a legal position excusing bombing of abortion clinics, which is false.”

Fact Check links to an image of a letter penned by Roberts which states clearly that those responsible for abortion clinic bombings “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law” and added, “No matter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence to achieve it are criminals.”

This is clearly a breach of decency from a radical fringe group on the left. CNN’s commitment to mislead America with this ad is reprehensible, but the silence from Democratic leaders is truly despicable.

Posted by Rick at 04:30 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

Steve Vincent

I heard about the murder of American journalist Steve Vincent in Iraq last week, but it didn’t connect that he was the same Vincent who blogged at In The Red Zone.

KLO pays tribute to this committed reporter and blogger who apparently died for telling the truth.

Posted by Rick at 11:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NCAA goes PC

Josh Britton has the story and adds:

I won’t waste much more time on this tempest-in-a-teapot, except to point out the clash of two “ideals” of higher education orthodoxy: the need to force a form of “diversity” on everyone, and the requirement that no one, anywhere, ever be offended by anything - unless it involves sacreligious art or referring to 9/11 victims as “little Eichmanns.”

Posted by Rick at 10:34 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 06, 2005

Great Economic News

The Daily Missive runs down the great economic news of this week. President Bush credits the tax cuts, as he should, but let's not forget the credit due to the hard working American people.

Posted by Rick at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2005

Rev. Fred Phelps on the March

Anyone know about so-called Rev. Fred Phelps’ and his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas? The group picketed the Holy Cross Catholic Church in the military community of Dover with the message: Military deaths in Iraq are God’s vengeance for tolerance of gays in the United States.

Now it appears they have taken to the private funerals of military personnel killed in action. Phelps’ group stood across the street from Grace Evangelical Church shouting and waving signs during the funeral of 21-year-old Army Spc. Edward Myers.

"The first sin was being a part of this military. If this young man had a clue and any fear of God, he would have run, and not walked, from this military," said protester Shirley Phelps-Roper. "Who would serve a nation that is godless and has flipped off, defiantly defied, defiantly flipped off, the Lord their God?"

One protester had an American flag tied to his belt that draped to the ground. He was holding a sign that read, "Thank God For IEDs," which are explosive devices used by insurgents to blow up military convoys.

Satan is a clever little devil isn’t he? All he has to do is put on the cloth, attach a title, and proclaim perversion of God’s word and many will point to him as a follower of Christ. If we as Christians are doing our job, that is modeling Christ in our daily lives, the differences between Phelps’s followers and Spirit filled believers would be the difference between night and day.

Posted by Rick at 11:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 04, 2005


The Washington Post does America a great service by allowing us to get to know 8 of the Marines who died earlier this week and their families. I encourage you to read every name, every story, and pray for these grieving families. My heart weighs heavy for these families and their sacrifice.

Posted by Rick at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2005

France Shakes Hands with Common Sense

Has anyone else noticed the spate of recent stories suggesting a French government trend toward common sense?

First we learn that France expelled a Muslim preacher of hate to combat terrorism and plans to expel more, including French citizens. Earlier this week, France urged the UN to intervene with Iran for its decision to resume nuclear activities. Now comes word that the government, plagued by >10% unemployment, eased up labor laws making it easier for smaller firms to hire and terminate employees.

Posted by Rick at 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2005


I first heard of nanotechnology as a freshman at UCSD in 1994. I was assured that a revolution was underway. Now comes word of a possible victory in the fight against cancer that could be won with without traditional medicine.

Researcher Dr Hongjie Dai said: "One of the longstanding problems in medicine is how to cure cancer without harming normal body tissue.

"Standard chemotherapy destroys cancer cells and normal cells alike.

"That's why patients often lose their hair and suffer numerous other side effects.

"For us, the Holy Grail would be finding a way to selectively kill cancer cells and not damage healthy ones."

They may have found this holy grail of cancer research in nanotechnology.

Posted by Rick at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2005

Great Sunday Evening Read

Bush Bashing Fizzles by Michael Barone (HT: Drudge)

Posted by Rick at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

New American Warriors

New Americans: At War in Mosul (HT: Instapundit)
[Photo credit: Deuce Four; after ceremony in Baghdad]

Deuce Four's newest Americans:

Front row Left to Right
SPC Saroth Muth (Cambodia)
SPC David Floutier (England)
SPC Hugo Juarez (Mexico)
SPC Evans Martin (Antigua)
SPC Octavio Rodriguez (Mexico)

Back row Left to Right
SGT Ringsey Khin (Cambodia)
SPC Abdel Phipps (Jamaica)
SGT Collin Campbell (Trinidad)
SPC Bosco Jerez (Nicaragua)
SPC Jose Alvarado (Honduras)
SPC Moises Medina (Mexico)

These guys were dodging and taking bullets for you and me before they were citizens. May God bless them and keep them safe.

If you aren’t reading Michael Yon regularly, you are missing out.

Posted by Rick at 03:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

Fascist French!

I expect to see that headline blairing from the diaries and posts at DailyKOS once word of this story gets 'round. (HT: Drudge)

Imams and their followers who fuel anti-western feeling among impressionable young French Muslims will be rounded up and returned to their countries of origin, most commonly in France's case to its former north African colonies.

Mr Sarkozy also revealed that as many as 12 French mosques associated with provocative anti-western preaching were under surveillance. Imams indulging in inflammatory rhetoric will be expelled even if their religious status is recognised by mainstream Muslim bodies.

Those who have assumed French citizenship will not be protected from deportation. Mr Sarkozy said he will reactivate measures, "already available in our penal code but simply not used", to strip undesirables of their adopted nationality. "We have to act against radical preachers capable of influencing the youngest and most weak-minded," Mr Sarkozy told the French daily Le Parisien.

You they would be screaming if this happened in the US. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Bravo France!

Posted by Rick at 10:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Fatwa Demonstrates World is at War with Fascists, Not Muslims"

So writes Mark Daniels. I think he's right. It took a while, but this is welcome news. Wonder if the Tancredo disciples think this fatwa was issued in response to their threats on Mecca...

Posted by Rick at 10:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

Coughenour Controversy

Thanks Josh for this thorough summary of the controversy surrounding U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour’s asinine sentencing of Ahmed Ressam (aka Millenium Bomber).

Posted by Rick at 01:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Absitence Only Programs Ill-Conceived

Catallarchy tackles the subject of teen sex. (HT: Instapundit). I expect to be hung for saying this here, but I think abstinence-only education is an ill-conceived approach to a very basic and age-old problem - temptation.

God created us to be sexual beings and to enjoy sex within the parameters of marriage. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, this I know, but what power do I have to resist the lust of the flesh without Christ? Yet, abstinence-only program advocates tend to assume that non-Christians are equipped to combat the wiles of the devil and they simply are not.

I hope never to teach my children abstinence only. Surely I will teach my children God’s plan for marriage and sex. I will teach them that the only way to realize God’s plan for them is to submit their hearts Christ and conform their will to His. If I’ve done my job as a father, the word “abstinence” need not enter into the equation. They will understand that God’s plan is the ONLY plan that guarantees safety. If I’ve failed as a father, I pray God extend to them mercy and that they would exercise prudence and protect themselves the best *they* can.

Posted by Rick at 07:14 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Dean on Kelo

Howard Dean can't be this dumb (HT: Ballon Juice via Hugh Hewitt).

He also said the president was partly responsible for a recent Supreme Court decision involving eminent domain.

"The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is 'okay' to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is," Dean said, not mentioning that until he nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court this week, Bush had not appointed anyone to the high court.

Dean's reference to the "right-wing" court was also erroneous. The four justices who dissented in the Kelo vs. New London case included the three most conservative members of the court - Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the fourth dissenter.

The court's liberal coalition of Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer combined with Justice Anthony Kennedy to form the majority opinion, allowing the city of New London, Conn., to use eminent domain to seize private properties for commercial development.

"We think that eminent domain does not belong in the private sector. It is for public use only," Dean said.

Someone please get a hold of Dr. Dean and let him know that the most conservative judges on the Court were in the minority on Kelo. Perhaps then he will join Leahy in offering his wholehearted support for Judge Roberts.

Dean may not be lying outright, but this quote does suggest that Dean has a penchant for making things up as he goes. He's doing a great job filling Mcauliffe's shoes!

Posted by Rick at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Roberts Notes

Judicial restraint is by definition the opposite of judicial activism and I therefore await Patrick Leahy's wholehearted support for Bush's nominee.

Posted by Rick at 01:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Donna Frye - Out of Touch with San Diegans

Early returns in San Diego show liberal Democrat Donna Frye winning 42 percent of ballots cast today in a special election to replace resigned mayor Dick Murphy. Two Republican candidates split the remaining vote, with Frye likely to face former Police Chief Jerry Sanders in a runoff November. This we expected.

Not expected was the apparent overwhelming victory for Proposition A, which if the lead holds, will keep the Mt. Soledad cross as it is, where it is. As of the last newscast before bed, Prop A had 77 percent, which crushes the recently imposed 2/3 threshold.

Donna Frye has consistently voted and spoken out against the Mt. Soledad Cross. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, “Among major candidates, only Councilwoman Donna Frye opposes the measure. Citing concerns over legal costs, Frye twice voted against the transfer at City Council meetings, and she voted against putting it on the ballot.”

If Sanders is smart, he will use Frye's steadfast opposition to the Mt. Soledad Cross to demonstrate just how out of touch she is with San Diegans.

Posted by Rick at 01:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Should Happen to Syria?

Fox News reports that Iraq exported billions of dollars of oil in exchange for arms and cash, in violation of UN sanctions. The illegal transactions began in 2000 and continued to March of 2003. In January of 2002, Syria won a 2-year seat on the UN Security Council.

Syria's ambassador to Washington pledged yesterday that his country would try to work with the United States during its two-year term on the Security Council.

"Syria will cooperate with all the members of the Security Council to achieve the noble goals and objectives of the U.N. and preserve international peace and security," said Rostom Al-Zoubi.

The Assad regime has made the United Nation in general and the Security Council specifically a mockery. What should now happen to Syria? What will happen to Syria?

What a useless institution...

Posted by Rick at 12:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

Keep on Shouting!

I missed it, but yesterday was Shouting into the Wind's one-year blogiversary. I met Shawna about the same time I met Mark Sides, Josh Britton, and a number of others blogging the runup to election 2004. After a year of shouting in every direction, Shawna's blog now has clear direction. Congrats Shawna!

Posted by Rick at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

Proud to be a Neocon

The term “neocon” is in vouge with liberal rhetoricians and polemics, but what does it mean? I’ve yet to be slapped with the ad hominem label, but Charles Krauthammer’s comments on neoconservatism make me long for the day that I am. Josh Britton has a few thoughts on Krauthammer’s worthy article. (Britton also takes on Mathew Yglesias’ challenge of the Ginsburg Precedent.)

Posted by Rick at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

LA Times Absurdity

Wife of Nominee Holds Strong Antiabortion Views - LA Times

A spouse's views normally are not considered relevant in weighing someone's job suitability. But abortion is likely to figure prominently in the Senate debate over John Roberts' nomination. And with his position on the issue unclear, abortion rights supporters expressed concern Wednesday that his wife's views might suggest he also embraced efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
As left-wing a rag as it is, I couldn't believe it when I saw this story on the front page of the LA Times. DailyKOS mainpage material for sure, but LA Times? Absurd.

Posted by Rick at 10:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

Ecto Posting Tool

Posting in MovableType isn't as easy as I thought it would be - especially on a Mac, which for some reason cannot read the formatting buttons that come with MT. My father-in-law, who hosts Stones Cry Out on his Mac OSX server, found an article on blogging in the latest MacAddict and suggested I read it. I found an article titled, "Update from Your Desktop" which featured ecto and marsedit software to complement MT's publishing capabilities.

I chose ecto, went to their website, downloaded their program (which can also be downloaded in Windows format), and within a few minutes crafted this post. There are built in links to iPhoto, iTunes, and the program even gives you a running word count. Not to mention many formatting tools and custom HTML tags. The price is nice too - $17.95.

If you've been frustrated with posting within MT, I suggest you give etco a shot.

Posted by Rick at 11:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Leahy Logic

Run that by me again Senator?

Leahy, interviewed on CNN after meeting with Roberts, said, "We have right now the most activist Supreme Court I've seen in my lifetime. ... So I'm going to ask him are you going to be part of that same activist coalition, overturning settled law, rewriting the law yourself? And, among those, of course, is going to be Roe v. Wade," the 1973 ruling that established a woman's right to an abortion.
Prior to Roe v. Wade, there was no established “right” to abortion. With that single ruling by life-tenured, unelected judges, settled law was overturned. That Court in effect rewrote the law themselves. His own logic would compel him to conclude that the Roe Court was activist.

Posted by Rick at 07:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

O'Connor: Roberts is "First Rate"

Not sure if this is good or bad. Just kidding. He should be installed by mid-September. Thanks Justice O'Connor!

Posted by Rick at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ginsburg Precedent

Hugh Hewitt posts the relevant quotes from Justice Ginsburg, which set the “Ginsburg Precedent.” I heard Brit Hume discuss this last night following Chuck Schumer’s press conference and wanted to learn more. Hugh Hewitt provides an invaluable service.

"I prefer not to answer questions like that; again, to talk in grand terms about principles that have to be applied in concrete cases. I like to reason from the specific case," was the response of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Patrick Leahy's 1993 question to then nominee Judge Ginsburg on which of the two religion clauses of the First Amendment was subordinate to the other.
BTW: Josh Britton has a series of SCOTUS posts and dissects Fred Barnes' puzzling comments on Roberts.

Posted by Rick at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

50 Years Old!!!

50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!! 50 Years Old!!!

Posted by Rick at 09:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Britton Weighs In

Josh Britton answered my call with his maiden post at JoshBritton.com, offering thoughts on the SCOTUS buzz surrounding the two Ediths (Judge Edith Clement and Judge Edith Jones).

The Louisiana native and LSU student majoring in political communication has been a friend of the SCO almost since its inception. My wife and I had lunch with him earlier this year, before he headed to DC to serve as an intern to Louisiana Senator David Vitter. God certainly has His hand upon this young man and I look forward to the day when I can tell my friends, “I knew him when…”

Posted by Rick at 05:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Opponents to Kelo Come "Out of the Woodwork"

Who didn’t foresee this reaction to Kelo?

Alarmed by the prospect of local governments seizing homes and turning the property over to developers, lawmakers in at least half the states are rushing to blunt last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanding the power of eminent domain.

"People I've never heard from before came out of the woodwork and were just so agitated," said Illinois state Sen. Susan Garrett, a Democrat. "People feel that it's a threat to their personal property, and that has hit a chord."
Out of the woodwork? Nice. How many Democrats are this out of touch?

Posted by Rick at 04:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Eric Rudolph: Christian Terrorist?

Eric Rudolph is certainly a terrorist. But did he inflict terror in the name of Jesus? Quoting from letters to his mother, this CNN story suggests that it is more likely that he is an atheist:

In another he refers to people who send him money and books.

"Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul. I suppose the assumption is made that because I'm in here I must be a 'sinner' in need of salvation, and they would be glad to sell me a ticket to heaven, hawking this salvation like peanuts at a ballgame," he wrote.

"I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible."

Doesn't the media-pushed conventional wisdom of Eric Rudolph suggest that he is a "Christian" and that his "faith" inspired his heinous acts?

Why am I not surprised that this aspect of the Rudolph story hasn't been covered by the "objective" MSM?

Posted by Rick at 04:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

SCOTUS Nominee TBA Tonight

Having consulted Senate Democrats, President Bush is prepared to announce his nominee tonight at 9pm EST.

The buzz is that it will be Edith B. Clement. Who? No clue. Maybe Josh Britton can clue us in.

The Note reports that she is the only prospective nominee to have been privately interviewed by the President. Check ConfirmThem for some background on Clement. Hugh Hewitt will certainly register comments later today and in the weeks ahead.

Posted by Rick at 01:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republican Idiot Club

The Republican Idiot Club has yet another member.

Apparently following Tancredo’s lead, New Jersey Republican Congressman Frank LoBiondo decided to open his mouth and expose himself as an idiot (HT: Captain’s Quarters via Instapundit):

Congressman Frank LoBiondo apologized for suggesting that Guantanamo Bay detainees were worse than Adolf Hitler because the Nazi dictator "sort of had a political rationale about what he was doing."

The New Jersey Republican made the remark on a radio talk show this past week, describing his recent visit to the Naval Base in Cuba. Muslim terrorists, he said, were more evil than Hitler.

"Hitler, in his philosophy, was, you know, he hated Jews, he was murdering Jews, and there were some people he liked. But he never went to the level that these people are going to," LoBiondo said.

Although LoBiondo retracted his comment and apologized, which is more than Tancredo has done to date, his words call into question his judgment and understanding of history.

The islamofascist agenda is supported by a political rationale and in fact one that makes more sense to a lot of Muslims every time someone like Tancredo opens his mouth. And, what did he mean when he said that Hitler “never went to the level that these people are going to”? Who elects these people? Must be these folks. I cringe knowing that they share my party affiliation.

Posted by Rick at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hug a Church Sound Engineer

If you are or have been your church’s sound engineer, you will sympathize with this post. My favorite of the list:

• 7 - the thickness (in inches) my skin must become in order to enjoy running sound
The churchgoer often has no clue what engineers go through. I often fielded competing complaints from parishioners. One pastor would say, “I can’t hear the piano.” I’d smile and turn a knob as a token gesture. Moments later, another pastor would approach me and tell me that he thought the piano was too loud.

Our services are held in a gymnasium and one particular pastor (no longer at our church) insisted upon using a completely unpredictable and rather cheap wireless headset mic. He refused to arrive early enough to sound check his mic to boot!

One service seared into my memory, he stood at the podium in front of 3,000 people and yelled across the gym, “I’m not saying another word until this feedback problem is fixed!” “Well, numbskull”, I felt like responding, “I can’t dial in the mic unless you speak and if you would have come for a sound check, you wouldn’t be in this mess!” Of course, I said nothing of the sort and instead pretended to turn dials until he gave me another signal to process and after a few awkward moments, I had him notched.

The sound booth is an often thankless ministry. You know you have succeeded when no one notices that you are behind the board. And when you fail? Well, everyone knows because you see it in their face as they turn around and give you that look. But it’s usually not one or two looks – it can be dozens or hundreds.

When I got in the record business, my head wasn’t quite on straight. Yet, God in His goodness and mercy used that time to teach me the art that quickly became my passion and outlet for worship through service following my submission to Christ. If you can take the heat dispensed by the church at its ministers of sound, I suppose you can take all types of heat thrown at you by the world.

Time has not been my friend lately, with family, work and school taking priority, but I hope to be back in that sound booth again some day.

Posted by Rick at 08:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

If Desperate, Bomb Mecca!

Congressman Tom Tancredo, idiot extreme and not only for his xenophobic immigration positions, thinks bombing Mecca in retaliation for a WMD strike on the US is an “option.”

The congressman later said he was “just throwing out some ideas” and that an “ultimate threat” might have to be met with an “ultimate response.”
Ultimate response? What, nuclear? Nuclear weapons, with a few tactical exceptions, are meant to serve as deterrents. The threat of mutually assured destruction kept the bombs from falling for almost 50 years during the Cold War. To whom was Tancredo’s threat directed? What deterring effect could the threat of nuking (or even bombing) Mecca in response to a terrorist attack on our soil provide? It might make a certain Congressman and his redneck followers feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but that’s about it.

Read Hugh Hewitt’s swift slam then head over to Donald Sensing. I agree with the pastor. Not only is the idea stupid politically, it’s immoral.

Posted by Rick at 07:03 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

America’s Finest City

Finest city indeed! Well, except for its politicians.

A federal jury on Monday convicted San Diego's new acting mayor and a city councilman of taking payoffs from a strip club owner to help repeal the "no-touching" ordinance at nude clubs, the latest blow to a city already awash in scandal.

Michael Zucchet, who became interim mayor over the weekend, was found guilty of conspiracy, extortion and fraud on his first business day in office. He was immediately suspended from office, his attorney said.

Councilman Ralph Inzunza, who was convicted of the same charges, also was suspended.

Mayor Dick Murphy resigned Friday and San Diego County Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham announced he will not seek reelection amidst an investigation into a fishy real estate transaction. Oh, and the San Diego Democratic Party has adopted a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (HT: Smash).

Honey, are you sure you don't want to move? There must be something in the water here.

Posted by Rick at 04:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ebonics Back in Public Discourse

Sadly, this isn’t a joke.

"Ebonics is a different language, it's not slang as many believe," Texeira said. "For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language."
Problem: Kids aren’t doing well in school.
Fact 1: Kids aren’t proficient in English.
Fact 2: Kids prefer their street slang homegrown “language.”
Analysis: It is difficult for children to learn when they don't read or write English if lessons are prepared and conveyed in English. Teaching these children proper English from Kindergarten through High School is too difficult.
Solution: Let’s “supplement” their learning environment with ebonics curriculum.
Conclusion: We all feel better about ourselves (temporarily). Hooray!!!

This is a moral outrage. Where are the civil rights leaders?

I asked once, and I’ll ask again. When these kids graduate and find that they cannot read or write English after 12+ years of formal public education and they discover that their job opportunities are severely limited because of the false sense of accomplishment afforded them by a diploma that they likely cannot read - WHO DO THEY SUE?

Posted by Rick at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Did the Brits’ Involvement in Iraq Make them a Target?

You better believe it! It comes with the territory. When you are a leader in this world, aiming to stamp out a hideous ideology of hate that is essentially fascist in root, you better expect that you will be a target. You might as well put a big fat bulls eye on your back. The Aussie’s were hit with Bali, but stood firm. The Spaniards on the other hand were hit in Madrid and ran like cowards. The Brits, God we pray, will do no similar disservice to the world.

In the run-up to the presidential election last fall, the question was often asked: Are we safer having invaded Iraq? The answer is that it depends on your perspective.

When President Bush laid out a response to 911, he made it clear that the war would be fought with many methods, on many lands, over a long period of time, and that we would almost certainly be struck again. The savagery of the attacks against civilians in London and nearly every day in Iraq, remind us that we are combating an evil empowered by Satan himself. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.” The United States Government and its allies bears God’s sword against the evildoers who act in the name of their god. They do wrong and rightly should be afraid. God is not with them.

The coward shuts his window and locks his door when a neighbor screams. The heroine runs to that neighbor’s aid, even if it exposes her to harm. The Brits, under the leadership of Tony Blair, are heroes. Because of her actions, she has been harmed. God bless the UK, God bless Tony Blair, and may God strengthen us as we strive against this, the greatest evil of our generation.

Posted by Rick at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush: Crime Won't Pay

Bush’s position is my position. “If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.” Since my first post on this subject, I am inclined to believe that no crime has been committed by anyone, and the “leak” (i.e., what was said to Cooper) wasn’t really a leak after all. But, that’s not for me to decide now is it? Although the hysteria from the left has died down a bit, this isn’t over. Let’s see what the investigation turns up.

BTW - Did anyone catch The Anchoress' CNN debut? It's Plame related.

Posted by Rick at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

The Blur Contiues

Last week, I mentioned the Blogometer, a site spun from the web of National Journal's, The Hotline. Today I learn of another National Journal affiliated blog, Beltway Blogroll. Danny Glover provides links to policy- and politics-oriented blogs, primarily from inside the Beltway. He also has a dedicated blogroll for legislators. The roll is short for now, but it will certainly grow.

I've noticed a spate of attempts to further blur the line between the blog and traditional media. I'm not complaining. These folks are real pros. Great stuff!

Posted by Rick at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2005

Nipped in the Bud

The 9/11 Commission Report provided solid evidence of a budding relationship between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. No, the relationship was not yet in full bloom pre-March 2003, but a relationship it was. The war nipped that lethal relationship in the bud. The Weekly Standard provides additional evidence suggesting the relationship was tighter than we thought.

Posted by Rick at 09:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

McCain - "Up or Down!"

Drudge posted a quote this morning attributed to Senator John McCain on SCOTUS nominees:

'During the campaign, President Bush said he will appoint judges who will strictly interpret the constitution... thinking anything else is either amnesia or ignorance... elections have consequences... whomever he nominates deserves an up or down vote and no filibuster... and an up or down vote is what we will have'...
Brilliant political move...that is...if this quote is legit and McCain doesn't waffle.

Posted by Rick at 01:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2005


Reader Christi Gifford alerted us to a new blog portal and resource for homeschoolers brought to you by The Old Schoolhouse. Homeschoolers can start a free blog via this service.

Speaking of home schoolers, check out Hannah Rosin's New Yorker article on Patrick Henry College, a school that, according to the by-line, "trains young Christians to be politicians."

Great article. Apparently, most PHC students were homeschooled. Here's a sample:

At Patrick Henry, debate plays roughly the role that football does at Notre Dame...There’s no training like arguing against the best minds, and then beating them.” Referring to du Mée, he said, “Maybe one day he’ll be the one standing before the Supreme Court, arguing to overturn Roe v. Wade.”...The fact that he was homeschooled and keeps a running conversation with Jesus in his head does not seem to him a barrier. “It’s pretty normal,” he said.”
Bravo, PHC, although, there's nothing wrong with a little college football!

Posted by Rick at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


What a pleasant surprise! Mystery Pollster points his readers to The Hotline's Blogometer - a blog providing narrative summarizing political talk around the 'sphere. Give it a scroll!

Posted by Rick at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hate Crime Victim?

We parked the car at the trolley station Saturday. My son's hands clutched the trolley ticket and I could tell he was excited. We were headed downtown to explore the aircraft carrier Midway. Three hours didn't really give the ship justice, but we had a grand time.

A bit exhausted, we piled into my 1991 Honda CRX and started to drive. The car pulled hard to the left. Flat tire.

The tire store set out to the repare the tire, but couldn't find a leak. In fact, the tire was in great shape. He told me that someone must have let the air out of the tire. Odd. At least they didn't slash it.

Well, not really odd. I have a "W04" sticker on my car.

I don't know if the sticker motivated someone to let the air out of my tire, but I have noticed a rise in verbal attacks and gestures. Sunny was recently verbally assaulted in a grocery store parking lot for her "W" sticker.

We've noticed an increase in these types of encounters, so I can't help but wonder if my tire incident was related to the sticker. Was I the victim of a hate crime from the intolerant left?

Posted by Rick at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2005

Congrats Rhett!

Wedding Bells for the College Director of The Quest at Bel Air Presbyterian, Rhett Smith. Rhett married a Clifton, who are long-time friends of my in-laws. Actually, I heard about Rhett's blog about the same time that Hugh Hewitt started linking to it. Small world. Congrats Rhett and take that year off!

Posted by Rick at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brilliant, Just Brilliant

We'll wait and see how it plays out, but this WaPo article is encouraging.

"Based on what we've done in the past with Brown, Pryor and Owen," Graham said, "ideological attacks are not an 'extraordinary circumstance.' To me, it would have to be a character problem, an ethics problem, some allegation about the qualifications of the person, not an ideological bent."

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), a leader of the seven Democratic signers, largely concurred. Nelson "would agree that ideology is not an 'extraordinary circumstance' unless you get to the extreme of either side," his spokesman, David DiMartino, said in an interview.

Not to boast, but those words sound strikingly like something that I wrote a while back when I called the Gang of 14 deal a brilliant political move.
The Democrats, on the other hand, spent the last few years and a tremendous amount of political capital branding fine conservative jurists Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William H. Pryor Jr. as right-wing extremists. Borrowing from the language of the deal, they are by the Democrats’ own definition, the most “extraordinary” of Bush’s nominees...The bar has been set and it has been set very high. Any future Bush nominee, whether Circuit or Supreme, will have to be clearly more “extreme” than Owen, Brown, and Pryor.

I argued then, and continue to argue that we will never know whether Frist actually had the votes to go Constitutional on the obstructionist Dems. I raised this point on the air with Hugh Hewitt and he pretty much blew me off. The next day, Erwin Chemerinsky raised the exact same point and Hugh didn't challenge him on it.

At the very least, Frist was not certain that he had the votes. The deal allowed confirmation of the three most "radical", "extreme", and "right-wing" nominees.

The non-signing Democrats didn't attempt to filibuster Owen, Pryor, and Brown. If these Democrats believed these jurists were not fit for the bench, they should have bucked the agreement signed by their partisan colleagues and filibustered the nominees as representatives of their respective states and constituents. But, alas, they did not - indicating that these judges were not extreme enough in their mind for them to break with their party and take a stand on principle. To filibuster a SCOTUS nominee on ideological grounds will leave them exposed.

McCain may try to play the middle, but in doing so he will have to stand against Graham and the Republican base. Graham has issued a cue. Frist and other Senate Republicans need to run with it IMMEDIATELY.

Posted by Rick at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2005

2nd Missing SEAL Reportedly Found

Yesterday, a wounded member of the missing four-man SEAL recon team was rescued. This morning, an Afghan provincial governor claims that a second wounded SEAL has been located and is taking refuge in a home. Afghan forces are reportedly trying to reach the SEAL. The US Military declined to comment.

I hope the governor's information is accurate. If the SEALs are alive, they are probably cold, hungry, scared to death and would covet your prayers. But they are trained professionals. I can't imagine what the family members of the missing are going through. God be with them.

Happy 4th everyone. Pray for our service men and women. Thank a vet. Do something as a civilian to support our warriors and their families.

Posted by Rick at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2005


If it was Rove and he perjured himself before the grand jury, I hope he has a good lawyer. Regardless, if he is the source of the leak, he should hang... The political harm caused to Bush and the Republican party could be tremendous. Besides that point, the idea that he would purposefully leak the classified name of a CIA operative for some political gain is disgusting.

Posted by Rick at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pi in the Sky

The wonders of the human brain:

A Japanese mental health counsellor has broken the world record for reciting pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, from memory.

Akira Haraguchi, 59, managed to recite the number's first 83,431 decimal places, almost doubling the previous record held by another Japanese.

What comes after 3.14?

Posted by Rick at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

California Legislation

A few weeks back, I manned a booth at Spirit West Coast for the California Family Council. The experience was great. CFC is affiliated with Focus on the Family and seeks to educate Californian Christians about what is going on in their legislature. Similar organizations are up and running in many other states and I believe that the goal is to cover all 50.

I recieve weekly updates from CFC and plan on posting them for all SCO readers. If you do not live in California, please understand that as California leads, the nation often follows. California's issues are America's issues.

Pending Legislation this week include gay marriage and universal health care bills. A bill authorizing drivers licenses for unauthorized immigrants was passed last week and the CA Supreme Court upheld a domestic partnership law. A parental notification initiative will also be on the ballot this November. Keep reading for more details.

Homosexual-marriage bill back

When Assemblyman Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) homosexual-marriage bill failed earlier this month, he promised he would introduce it in the Senate. True to his word, Leno mimicked the actions employed by the authors of the physician-assisted suicide bill; he took a bill that had already passed the Assembly (AB 849), gutted it (removed the language), and substituted the language from his failed effort (AB 19). Normally, rules of the Legislature require that “gut-and-amend” bills must be similar in nature to the bill that is being “gutted”; in this case, the former AB 849 was a bill dealing with fish and game.

With AB 849 currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, CFC encourages you to contact your own state senator today.

Universal health care

SB 840 (Kuehl, D-Los Angeles) recently passed the Senate on a partisan vote (25-15). Democrats voted for it and Republicans voted against it. If it becomes law, SB 840 will totally restructure the entire health-care system in California by creating a single-payer system. Senator Kuehl says the bill will reduce total health-care spending in California, thus saving money for the state. However, the legislative bill analysis states that the Senate Appropriations staff actually indicated: “In order to finance the new system, the state would redirect funds from existing health programs and, in addition, the state would need an additional amount, perhaps in the range of $100 billion." Perhaps? In the range of $100 billion? It is obvious that the proposed new health-care system will not save taxpayers money.

More troubling than the cost is: 1) concern over the quality of care if the proposed system is implemented, and 2) the lack of choice for Californians. In fact, the latest amendment (June 28) actually prohibits the sale of any health-care insurance “except for the California State Insurance System plan.”

SB 840 will be voted on by the Assembly Health Committee on July 5. E-mail committee members by clicking on their names; however, phone calls and/or faxes are more effective than e-mails.

Drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants bill passes

Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) has tried for seven years to pass a bill giving illegal aliens drivers’ licenses. He claims this will make the highways safer. This year’s bill, SB 60, has passed the Senate and passed its first Assembly committee hearing by a vote of 7-5 yesterday. Democrats voted yes, Republicans voted no.

The bill was opposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Highway Patrol and even the state’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS). The deputy director of California’s OHS cautioned members of the Assembly Transportation Committee that passing SB 60 could hamper efforts by the federal government to intercept terrorists trying to enter the United States.

SB 60 now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee before going to the full Assembly for a vote. Now is the time to begin contacting your own Assembly member about this bill. (See contact information above.)

Domestic partnership law upheld

SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, the California Supreme Court allowed California’s domestic-partnership benefit law to stand. The law had been challenged by pro-family groups who claim AB 205 violates the scope and intent of Proposition 22, the 2000 initiative that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. For more on this issue, see CFC’s press release in response to this judicial action.

On the ballot

SACRAMENTO – Under current California law, a young girl, fearful that she is pregnant, may leave campus during school hours to have an abortion – and her parents may never know. The first measure to qualify for what has become the November special-election ballot, Parents' Right to Know, would change that scenario. If this initiative proposal passes in November, abortionists would be required to notify parents before performing an abortion on a minor.

Although parental consent would not be required, parental notification could open the door to discussions between parent and child on an important issue that merits parental involvement. A 2002 Field Poll found 62 percent of California registered voters supported parental consent for abortion. A more recent national poll found 78 percent of those polled supported parental notification laws.

In 1987 the California Legislature passed legislation requiring parental consent before a young girl had an abortion. After a lengthy court battle, the measure was found to be unconstitutional in 1997 – only after a change in the court’s composition changed the decision after reconsideration of the issue.

The analysis of this proposal by the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst, estimates – based on results in other states with parental notification laws – California could experience a one-quarter reduction in abortions to minors. The same report notes that the state currently pays $2.3 for Medi-Cal abortions for minors.

For more information on this proposal, see Parent’s Right to Know.

Posted by Rick at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

Tragic Loss in Afghanistan

I found this gripping account of the events leading up to and following the tragic helicopter crash in Afghanistan earlier this week. It has much more detail compared to other accounts, so I'm not sure about its accuracy. Keep that in mind while reading.

Check Froggy Ruminations for more. Hugh Hewitt has suggestions for how civilians can help. Hug your kids and pray with them this weekend as you waive the flag.

Posted by Rick at 08:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2005

Your Ring Looks Good on My Finger!

1120063839.jpgTalk about a cultural misstep (if that’s what it was). Vladimir Putin apparently pocketed New England Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft’s 2005 Super Bowl ring after he allowed the Russian president to try it on. I spent a month in Russia when it was still the Soviet Union as a student ambassador. Customs are different for sure, but I’m not sure I buy the “misunderstanding” story. This action seems fitting with Putin’s character. He’s a bit out of touch and a rather confused individual.

UPDATE: Kraft now says that he intended the ring as a gift.

Posted by Rick at 04:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

FEC Crackdown

A couple of lefty bloggers head to Washington and get some press...and I'm rooting for them!

Posted by Rick at 10:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 23, 2005

Kelo v. City of New London

As a land use and environmental planner by trade, I have developed what many have called “socialist” positions on land use and zoning-related issues. For example, I have the audacity to believe that citizens should not be able to use local government as a tool to artificially constrain residential development in an attempt to limit housing opportunities for people of all incomes or pad their own wallets (i.e., boost property values). If I own a tract of land and want to put low-income apartments on it, I should be able to do so with MY LAND. For reasons beyond me, this position draws ire from my conservative friends.

Also drawing ire from conservatives (including friends), is today’s Kelo v. City of New London SCOTUS decision.

Local governments now have the power to condemn private land for private economic development projects. A local jurisdiction’s power of eminent domain to acquire land for public uses, such as schools, roads, fire stations, libraries, etc., while often abused, has gained rather wide public acceptance. However, this expansion of power will allow cities to, as the article puts it, “bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.”

Don’t get me wrong, local redevelopment agencies have done this for a while now. In the 2003 report, Public Power, Private Gain, the Institute for Justice documented more than 10,000 cases where condemnation was used for private gain. It’s just that Kelo sanctions Constitutional a practice that many cities in the past have pursued with relative caution. The floodgates are now open.

Allow me to summarize the petition, majority opinion of the Court, O’Connor’s dissent, and present my thoughts on the decision and its effect in California.

In 1998, Pfizer expressed interest in building a research facility near the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London Connecticut. With an unemployment rate twice as high as the County’s and this part of the city experiencing an greater degree of decay than other parts of the city, New London’s City Council gave the go ahead to the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) to prepare a development plan for 90-acres of the Fort Trumbull area. The plan was essentially built around the Pfizer concept plan for a research facility and strived to “create jobs, increase tax and other revenues, encourage public access to and use of the city’s waterfront, and eventually build momentum for the revitalization of the rest of the city” (App. to Pet. for Cert. 5). The Kelo petitioners own property in two of the seven parcels of the NLDC development plan. One of the parcels was designated for “research and office space” while the other was designated, rather vaguely, for “park support” (possibly parking).

Understand that the NLDC is not a public entity. It is a non-profit entity effectively created by the city to assist the City Council with redevelopment and economic development planning. It is not therefore directly accountable to the public, although the City Council, which has the power to condemn the land, is.

The Court ruled that New London’s condemnation of Kelo et al’s property for economic development qualifies as a public use and is therefore not an unconstitutional take. Rejected was the claim that the condemnation was an abuse of public power for private gain. The City had established a thorough development plan that the Court did not find to be adopted for the purpose of benefiting “a particular class of identifiable individuals” (Midkiff, 467 U. S., at 245). The Court argued that “public use” has been defined broadly with deference given to local jurisdictions in defining what justifies use of eminent domain (Berman, 348 U. S. 26; Midkiff, 467 U. S. 229; Ruckelshaus v.Monsanto Co., 467 U. S. 986. Pp. 6.13).

The City’s development plan for the area, which included Kelo’s property, included a variety of proposed land uses, including commercial, residential, and recreational uses, together would provide a number of public benefits, including, but not limited to new jobs and increased tax revenue. Therefore, the petition was considered in context of the whole benefit to be provided by implementation of the City’s development plan. The Court felt that the City’s redevelopment plan for the entire area “unquestionably” provided for a public use and therefore taking of Kelo et al’s property met the public use standard.

In her dissent, Justice O’Connor wrote:

To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings for public use is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property and thereby effectively to delete the words for public use from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.
O’Connor argues that the majority’s references to Berman and Midkiff are inappropriate. In both those cases, the land condemned “inflicted harm on society.” That is, the land had a direct impact on the public good and the Court’s decided in both cases that removing the direct harm caused a direct public benefit. In Kelo, the land in question caused no immediate societal harm, only that the economic and aesthetic environment had a chance of improving if the land was condemned.

This is a subtle, but wholly consequential shift from the Court.

In moving away from our decisions sanctioning the condemnation of harmful property use, the Court today significantly expands the meaning of public use. It holds that the sovereign may take private property currently put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary private use, so long as the new use is predicted to generate some secondary benefit for the public, such as increased tax revenue, more jobs, maybe even aesthetic pleasure… It was possible after Berman and Midkiff to imagine unconstitutional transfers from A to B. Those decisions endorsed government intervention when private property use had veered to such an extreme that the public was suffering as a consequence. Today nearly all real property is susceptible to condemnation on the Court’s theory.
I’m not too familiar with state-local fiscal regimes of other states, but I have an idea how this will play out in California.

Proposition 13 capped property taxes in the 1970s and other initiatives in the state require supermajorities to raise taxes, forcing local jurisdictions to rely on other revenue sources to balance municipal budgets. Since land use powers are a last vestige of local autonomy in California, and a jurisdiction can increase local revenue by increasing the amount of sales-tax generating uses within its borders, a phenomenon referred to as the “fiscalization of land use” ensued. (See this publication for a good overview of CA issues and Fulton’s The Reluctant Metropolis offers a fascinating case study of fights (even lawsuits) between neighboring Ventura County jurisdictions over sales-tax revenue generating uses.)

In my article, A Marriage of Convenience: Fiscal Incentives and Residential Development Patterns, I define fiscalization of land use as a “phenomenon whereby local land use decisions are mostly influenced by fiscal concerns, contrary to the expressed desires of the affected community.” In light of today’s decision, this definition falls a bit short as it is limited to land use and zoning powers, not powers of eminent domain. Nevertheless, the concept is the same. In California, where the State has a penchant for raiding local revenues to balance its budget, the incentive to bulldoze otherwise viable neighborhoods to capture sales tax revenue is even greater. Local governments now are freer to condemn land to pad local coffers and where jurisdictions have limited revenue alternatives, land use fiscalization can be expected to increase.

As detailed in Fulton’s book linked above and elsewhere in the literature, neighboring jurisdictions often offer a variety of concessions to developers of retail uses to “win” the new big-box use. Under this arrangement, non-constituent private corporations, become a client of the jurisdiction. Set aside for the moment the moral problem with condemning private land to make a buck, stuck between a rock and a hard place, the suburbs, dependent on sales tax revenue, may discount the expressed opinions of their current constituents when considering requests from powerful corporations.

Fiscalization of land use is one likely unintended consequence of the decision. Justice O’Connor’s nailed another with this statement:

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.
With Kelo, incentives are structured to encourage local governments to discount the opinions of existing, perhaps less mobilized or influential, constituents in pursuit of balancing local budgets. But objecting to the Kelo decision on these grounds is a bit wonkish.

Kelo blurs further the line between public and private land. While I agree that in the specific Kelo case, the overall development plan would provide for a public benefit, since the petitioners’ property was causing no immediate harm to the public, the government’s role is to establish the plan, and the market’s job to implement it. If Pfizer could not purchase the land required to build their factory, then they have to take their project elsewhere; they have no inherent right to the property. Taking it in this instance is not only unconstitutional (despite what five justices say), it is immoral.

QUESTION: Does anyone know what impact, if any, this decision may have on protections afforded under the Religious and Institutionalized Persons Land Use Protection Act? Can a City now condemn a church to make way for a WalMart?

Posted by Rick at 04:12 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

June 21, 2005

Durbin Apology - Only the Beginning

Number two ranking Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin apologized for his utter ignorance of history, insult to those who suffered at the hands of Pol Pot, Nazi's, and the Soviet's, and smear of the U.S. military.

While those harmed by his outrageous comments may accept his apology, as Trent Lott learned, an apology does not absolve one from responsibility. Let's see if the Democrats pressure Durbin to forfeit his leadership positions, like Republicans pressured Lott, for his reprehensible comments. I'm not holding my breath.

Bravo to Democratic Mayor of Chicago, Daley, whose son serves in the ARMY, for standing up to his Senator. Hiss to John McCain for suggesting the apology should end this issue. An apology is only the beginning of an appropriate response.

Posted by Rick at 06:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Schiavo Tombstone

Terri’s “husband” refused to tell her parents when and where her ashes were to be buried and had the audacity to inscribe “I kept my promise” on her tombstone (HT: Drudge). This man is an adulterer. If he had kept his promise to Terri, he wouldn’t have had children with another woman while still married. His abuse of her and her family is disgraceful and this final thumb in the eye makes me sick.


Posted by Rick at 01:56 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

June 18, 2005

I'm It!

I got tagged by Lowell Brown of Hedgehog Blog who was tagged by John Schroeder of Blogotional who was tagged by Catez who was tagged by...you get the picture.

Lest I become cursed with bad blogarma, I decided to jump in.

Total number of books owned, ever: Things are a bit hazy pre-salvation, but I collected a about a dozen or so books prior to 1999, mostly from my first attempt at college (1994-1997). Now I count around 150. Haven’t read them all though.

Last book I bought: Nothing Like it in the World, Steven Ambrose.

Last book I read: Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment, edited by Hugo Adam Bedau and Paul G. Cassell. The death penalty and immigration are topics that I’ve wanted to explore at SCO, but lack the time to do them justice with blog posts. Maybe some day…

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Power Broker, by Robert Caro. I read this 1,200 page biography of Robert Moses in about 10 days. I haven’t read anything like it since.

Master of the Senate, by Robert Caro. After reading the Power Broker, I figured that anything written by Robert Caro would be thoroughly researched and wonderfully written. I was not let down. There is a chapter in that book describing the lynching of Emmett Till that should be required reading for all American high schoolers. Powerful stuff. I never knew LBJ was such an aardvark. This book sparked a passion of sorts for the institution of the US Senate.

Truman, by David McCullough. It was a kick to read the first few pages about my relatives (Truman’s great grandfather, Jacob Young, is my great, great, great, great grandfather). Besides that, I found Truman to be a very honorable man.

Band of Brothers, by Steven Ambrose. I loved the HBO series, so I had to read the book. I can’t say one or the other was better, but I’ll definitely read the book AND watch the series again.

To America: Personal Reflections of An Historian, by Steven Ambrose. I loved this short little book from a truly great historian. Can’t quite put my finger on it…

You're It!
• Josh Britton formerly of The Daily Anvil (c’mon Josh, jump back in there for one more post!)
• Shawna Benson of Shouting into the Wind
• Mark Sides of Stones Cry Out
• Doug of Bogus Gold
Hugh Hewitt.

Posted by Rick at 09:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 17, 2005

Amnesty from Durbin Please

Hat Tip to my co-worker Nick, resident Kerry voting-Democrat supporting “Independent”, for alerting me to this Christopher Hitchens piece from Monday. Be sure to read it all, but here’s a choice excerpt:

I think it is fairly safe to say that not one detainee in Guantanamo is there because of an expression of opinion. (And those whose "opinion" is that all infidels must die are not exactly prisoners of conscience.) Morally neutral on this point, apparently, Amnesty (International) nonetheless finds its voice by describing the prison itself as "the gulag of our times." No need to waste words here: Not everyone in the gulag was a "prisoner of conscience," either. But if an organization that ostensibly protects the rights of prisoners is unaware of the nature of a colossal system of forced labor and arbitrary detention—replete with physical torture, starvation, and brutal execution—then the moral compass has become disordered beyond repair. This is not even neutrality between the fireman and the fire. It surely expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States. If only this were the only symptom of that tendency.
Dick Durbin and Amnesty International: Representing the moral compass of the left that has become disordered beyond repair. God help us.

Posted by Rick at 08:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schiavo Autopsy Aftermath

Many on the left have concluded that Terri’s autopsy vindicates their position. As a doctor, Senator Frist is even taking some heat from cackling lefties.

The argument for me was never about whether Terri’s condition could improve. I was and remain most incensed that a man who violated his vows of marriage by living and having children with another woman could be allowed to decide the fate of a woman contrary to the wishes of her immediate family. Doug of Bogus Gold has a fine post reflecting on other issues not decided by the autopsy.

But this story doesn’t make much sense to me. Why is Governor Bush requesting an investigation into the circumstances around Terri’s fall and how long it took her husband to call 911?

Michael Schiavo apparently testified in 1992 that he found his wife at 5am. In a 2003 interview, he said he found her at 4:30am. His 911 call came through at 5:40am.

“Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."
Occam’s Razor tells me that the simplest answer is probably the right one. I’m guessing that Michael Schiavo’s recollection of time that morning is not exactly clear. Has anyone asked him how long it took for him to call 911? I’m guessing he would say it was almost immediately.

Posted by Rick at 03:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Durbin and Gitmo

I heard of Senator Durbin's remarks on Gitmo yesterday morning via Laura Ingram's radio program. On the floor of the US Senate, the #2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin compared the military's treatment of terrorist thugs at Gitmo to the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot. I searched for a story on-line, but no luck. Finally, the Washington Times filed a story and Drudge linked to it. The blogosphere pounced.

The White House, along with Senate Republicans, roundly denounce his remarks, but Durbin stands firm.

Where is the MSM? I found this small story buried on page 11 in the Washington Post this morning and a peep from the NY Times, but silence from the LA Times. In fact, the LA Times seems to think that a story claiming that Senator Frist is "plagued" by his comments on Terri Schiavo since they were contradicted by her autopsy is more newsworthy than Durbin's comments.

For the most thorough roundup of commentary and analysis of Durbin's outrageous comments, visit Michelle Malkin. Hugh Hewitt, as usual, is another great place to shop for information that you won't get from the MSM. Hugh's posted a couple e-mails from readers/listeners that are spot on.

Once again, the Democrats demonstrate why I am not a Democrat.

Posted by Rick at 09:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 16, 2005

Philippians Overview

I'm giving an overview of the book of Philippians tonight. My outline is below the fold. Any Bible scholars (or not) care to comment, please feel free. It's only my second study, so go easy ;-).


Paul the apostle.


A letter to the church in Philippi.


Imprisoned. Most agree it was in Rome.


Around 59-61 AD.


How did the church start?

During Paul’s “second missionary journey” (49 AD), Paul with Luke, Timothy, and Silas sailed for Europe in response to a vision (Acts 16: 5-12). Note that Paul did not choose Philippi. They tried to preach in Phrygia and the region of Galatia, but the Spirit prevented them. Same thing in Bithynia, Mysia.

While in Philippi, Paul met Lydia “a seller of Purple” (Acts 16:14-15) and cast out a demon in a slave girl (Acts 16: 18). The demon brought her masters profit and seeing the profit potential lost, the masters dragged Paul and Silas to authorities in the marketplace (Acts 16:19). Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison (Acts 16:23-24), where they prayed and sang hymns at midnight (Acts 16:25).

God sent an earthquake and the jailer got baptized (Acts 16:30-34). Word came that Paul and Silas were to be freed, but Paul did not want to be released secretly, for they were Romans who were beaten in public (Acts 16:37). The magistrates were afraid and went to Paul and Silas in person, begging them to leave (16: 38-39). They went back to Lydia’s house before departing Philippi (16:40).

According to Daniel Wallace, New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Paul may have left Luke in charge of the work in Philippi because the “we” changes to “they” in the original language once Paul heads to Thessalonica (17:1). Timothy may have also been left briefly with Luke before heading to Thessalonica (from a reconstruction of 1,2 Thess.).
While in Thessalonica, the Philippians sent Paul funds (Phi: 4-15-16). Paul eventually ended up in Corinth, and the Philippians sent him aid (2 Cor. 11:7-9).

By the time of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey, he had stirred the pot a bit and began to draw detractors, the Judaizers. Galatians Ch 2 is a good example.

Paul spent three years in Ephesus (52-55 AD or so) and began raising funds for his trip to Jerusalem. 2 Cor 8:1-4 discusses the liberal giving of the churches in Macedonia – almost certainly inclusive of the church at Philippi – despite their deep poverty.

Paul made it to Jerusalem (Acts 21: 17-19), but was arrested and sent to jail in Caesarea. The Philippians didn’t seem to know what became of him, but there are indications that they wanted to help out (Phil. 4:10). The churches may have learned of Paul’s fate when he appealed to Caesar and sailed to Rome for trial (Acts 25: 10-12; 27:1), because the Philippians sent Epaphroditus to Rome with gifts (Phil. 4:18).

It is thought that Epaphroditus brought more than gifts. He may have brought word of the condition of the church and questions about how best to handle various situations. They also may have asked for Timothy by name (Phil. 2:19) and Paul may have sensed that they would be disappointed with his decision to return Epaphroditus (Pg. 418 of the Message).

It is with this context that Paul drafts his letter to Philippians.


Why did Paul write the letter?

Paul's letter to the Philippians is an outburst of love bundled with words of comfort, joy, rebuke, encouragement, exhortation – and a bit of doctrine thrown in for kicks.


Although the letter reads like a “thank you” letter, it is much more. We discussed five major themes of the text: Self Sacrifice, Humility, Unity, Christian Living, and Joy. Everyone feel free to interrupt when you encounter something in the text that relates to these themes.

The letter begins with Paul’s customary greetings (Phil. 1:1-2), but note that the church seems to be well established by this time as he mentions bishops and elders. Paul quickly moves to thanking the church (Phil. 1:3-8). Paul also prays that their love will be full with discernment. “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”(Phil. 1:9-10). So we get a glimpse of Paul’s exhortation to persevere and embrace a discerning love.

Beginning in Phil. 1:12, Paul turns his focus to his circumstances. The Philippians, may have inquired through Epaphroditus as to Paul’s condition. Paul takes the opportunity to share how Christ has used his chains for the furtherance of the gospel (Phil. 1:12-14). He even mentions that some have been emboldened to preach Christ, but with the wrong motives (Phil. 4:15). Regardless, Paul rejoices that the gospel is preached irrespective of motive (Phil. 4:18) and he intends to plug along because he knows the outcome. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 4:21). He struggles with the desire to be with Christ and remaining to continue his ministry to the body (Phil. 4:22-24).

Paul expresses confidence though that God wills that he remain for a while longer and that he will eventually return to the Philippians (Phil. 1:25-26). However, he doesn’t know for sure and he exhorts the church to unity and sanctification through suffering.

(READ Phil. 1:27-2:30)

Okay, what did we see there? Exhortations to live boldly, humbly, and obediently.

Paul encourages the Philippians to live boldly and in unity, expecting suffering for Christ (Phil. 1:27-30). Second, Paul exhorts the church to live humbly as servants (Phil. 2:1-11. Phil. 2:5-11 is often referred to as the Carmen Christi, or the Kenosis passage. (READ again). The mind that is supposed to indwell the Christians in Philippi is a mind of humility and obedience and self-denial. The Kenosis is the emptying of self. If Christ could do it, what right do we have to refuse? Through this emptying, God exalted Christ. Paul seems to be implying that God will exalt believers exalt Him (not in the same way of course).

This principle of self-emptying then becomes the backdrop of the rest of Chapter 2. In Phil. 2:12-18 Paul exhorts the believers at Philippi to live obediently and to serve with joy.

Then comes the “shocker.” Some commentators believe that the Philippians sent Epaphroditus and requested that Paul return Timothy. But Paul informs the Philippians that Timothy will not be coming just yet, but in the meantime, Epaphroditus will return (2:19-30). That makes the section on obedience a bit more interesting, and especially the part on grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14). Paul seems to have discerned that the church would be disappointed to see Epaphroditus and not Timothy. One commentator wrote: “Thus Paul concludes the section on sanctification with the offer of Epaphroditus even though they had hoped for Timothy, hoping that his audience will not be selfish, nor grumble, but will instead exalt and honor Epaphroditus.”

Having lavished them with thanks and encouraged them toward santification, Paul turns to a bit of doctrine. He starts Chapter 3 by lashing out against the Judaizers. Maybe Epaphroditus brought word that the Judaizers were making headway into the church, or maybe Paul, having encountered them or heard of them in other churches wrote this section of the letter as a warning. He began by calling the Judaizers names. (Phil. 3:2 - “dogs” and “evil doers”)

The Judaizers emphasized the works of the flesh and Paul sets the record straight. Phil. 3:3 says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

He presents himself as an example “circumsized on the 8th day” “tribe of Benjamin” “Hebrew of Hebrews” “Pharisee” “blameless in the law” etc (Phil. 3:4-6). Why does Paul not boast in these works of the flesh?

(READ: Phil. 3:7-11.)

Instead of boasting, Paul turns his focus on the prize. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). He reminds them of them of their heavenly citizenship and to look forward to the coming transformation of our earthly bodies to heavenly bodies (Phil. 3:20-21).

I read in places that the Philippians were leaning towards a hybrid between the teachings of Paul and the Judaizers. That, they could be saved by faith, but sanctified by works. Paul is credited to have, with Phil. 3:1-16, effectively condemned both the Judaizers’ view of salvation and their doctrine of sanctification. Not clear on all of this. Don, care to comment?

It seems that Paul tries to end the letter on a few occasions, but gets side tracked. He calls out a feud between Euodia and Syntuche to encourage the body to suffer each other, get along, and be gentle (Phil. 4:2-3).

(READ Phil. 4-9)

With those words, Paul exhorts them to rejoice and be gentle (Phil. 4:4-5), not be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7), and to think and act purely (Phil. 4:8-9). Then he spends 11 verses closing the way he began; with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:10-20). He expresses joy in his contentment with God’s provision (4:10-13). The clue to his contentment and joy during such trying times? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Paul then acknowledges gratefully the role their church played in this provision (4:14-18), and prays for them that God would in turn supply their needs (4:19-20).

The book ends with final greetings and a benediction (4:21-23).

Concluding SUMMARY quoted from GotQuestions.org

This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves – the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us…Paul doesn't tell us that we can be happy, or how to be happy. He simply and unmistakably is happy. None of his circumstances contribute to his joy: He wrote from a jail cell, his work was under attack by competitors, and after twenty years or so of hard traveling in the service of Jesus, he was tired and would have welcomed some relief. But circumstances are incidental compared to the life of Jesus, the Messiah, that Paul experiences from the inside. For it is a life that not only happened at a certain point in history, but continues to happen, spilling out into the lives of those who receive Him, and then continues to spill out all over the place. Christ is, among much else, the revelation that God cannot be contained or hoarded. It is this “spilling out” quality of Christ’s life (the Kenosis) that accounts for the happiness of Christians, for joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person.

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June 15, 2005

Objective Reporting of the Kansas ID v. Evolution Debate

Let’s play a little game, shall we?

Identify the bias introduced by the “objective” AP reporter in this story: “But one of the three board members, Connie Morris, lectured the board's four moderates for not attending the public hearings in May…Conservatives have a 6-4 majority...”

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That Poll is Biased!

Have you ever read a MSM poll and concluded: “That poll is biased! They sampled too many Democrats/Republicans!”? If you have, the first two installments of “Ideology as a Diagnostic” by Mystery Pollster are must reads (Part IPart II).

After careful consideration of these issues over the past few months, I can now declare my allegiance to the “Ideology as an Attitude” camp. Where do I get my official membership card?

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Iran's Nukes

UN: Iran 'misled UN on nuclear work'

I'm shocked.

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No Exit

Salon's Farhad Manjoo writes a very lucid summary of the exit poll debate to date.

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June 14, 2005

Lunacy Explained

Morgan Reynolds, former Bush “team member” (what does that mean?) thinks a "controlled demolition” brought down the WTC towers. (HT: Drudge)

Reynolds, currently a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, said: "If demolition destroyed three steel skyscrapers at the World Trade Center on 9/11, then the case for an 'inside job' and a government attack on America would be compelling."

I thought the fraudster professors were the most credentialed conspiracy theorists pedaling anti-Bush tripe.

Wait! All of this academia lunacy can be explained rather simply. George Soros and MoveOn are putting lead in the water at major universities! Makes perfect sense!

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Yeah Mammon!

Pursuit of the Almighty Dollar leads Microsoft to suppress freedom in China. Oh. Yeah. It was strictly a business decision. I get it. That makes everything all right. I'm betting the American consumer factored little into their business decision since the economy virtually revolves around Microsoft products. Victory for capitalism and tyranny. Loss for principle and freedom. Yeah mammon!

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Plug-In Help?

Comment spam is still destroying us. Does anyone have experience with MT Plug-Ins and have a spare moment to help us out? We're thinking of Blacklist and SCode, but we're open to suggestions! The spam is very discouraging. I've spent nearly all my "free" time (aka "blog" time) working on this problem lately and I haven't made much progress.

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June 09, 2005

Polling and Conservative Hysteria

Maybe you read it at Ankle Biting Pundits. Perhaps you picked it up at Instapundit. If you missed those posts, surely you caught the commentary from John Podhoretz and Robert Moran via K.J. Lopez at National Review Online. Not a reader of those blogs? Well, if you listen to the Tony Snow radio program, you might have heard about it there. What am I talking about? Critical analysis of the latest ABC/Washington Post poll of course.

Really. I'm noticing a trend of hysteria from conservatives against polls that don't go their way. As usual, read Mystery Pollster for an insightful point-by-point analysis of the Bulldogpundit "takedown." This is embarrassing folks. I'll be the first to admit that question wording and/or the ordering of questions can nudge people into respones, potentially biasing a poll. But, these charges are mostly unfounded.

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June 07, 2005

Dumb and Dumber for President 2004

I couldn't help but laugh when I read this article from the Boston Globe (HT: Drudge). Apparently, John Kerry, like George Bush, was a C student at Yale, only Kerry had 4 Ds his freshman year while Bush had only 1 D.

The transcript shows that Kerry's freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class.
Kerry earned his second best grade in French? Classic!

Another insight into the character of John Kerry. He let the press and Bush-haters mock the President's grades knowing full well that his grades weren't any better.

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June 06, 2005

ICC to Investigate Sudan War Crimes

I'm no fan of the International Criminal Court, but admit a feeling of relief that someone is paying attention to Darfur. I'm worried though that a criminal investigation will become a charade. How long will the investigation take? How many more Sudanese will be slaughtered in the meantime? What is "Plan B" when the Sudanse government doesn't hand over the indicted?

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June 03, 2005

Titles of Honor

Headline: North Korea Praises Bush for Use of 'Mr.'(HT: Drudge)

North Korea gave rare praise to President Bush on Friday, welcoming his use of the honorific "Mr." when referring to leader Kim Jong Il and saying the softened tone could lead to its return to nuclear arms talks.
Is the North Korean response a cultural nuance, or is the communist regime desperate for a reason to reengage the US?

I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the press refer to President Bush as "Mr. Bush" I cringe. I think "President" is more of an honorific than "Mr." and in that vein, referring to Kim Jong Il as a "Mr." is sort of an insult.

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June 02, 2005

Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth

Mark Tapscott reviews Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity."

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Mission to India

My old roommate and friend Shamus is wrapping up his mission to India. He writes that the Horizon School of Evangelism team recently arrived and have hit the streets with the gospel. Shamus is an evalgelists evangelist. He has a gift for boldly sharing the word as God leads. Pictures of his trip are posted here, and if anyone feels led to support his ministry (although he's not asking for funds, I know things are tight), please visit Send Ministries and click on "support."

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June 01, 2005

Evangelical Underground

Pastor Eric of Evangelical Underground has transformed his blog into a discussion forum for Christians. The site looks clean and registration was a snap. It is an interesting experiment and I hope the Lord will grow it into a valuable resource. Check it out!

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NCPP Recognizes Contributions of Blogger

The National Council on Public Polls recognized Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal for "his achievements in using his website as a forum for discussion of many complex poll-related issues during and after the presidential campaign.  Blumenthal dealt with these poll concerns in a thorough and thoughtful manner that provided much needed illumination in a highly-charged election environment." (see press release here). Bravo NCPP, bravo!

Check out MP for the best roundup of polling data related to the Constituional Option.

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May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

I encourage you to meditate on the goodness of God despite the tragedy of war and intercede for the thousands of families grieving as most Americans play this holiday. If you have children, remember also to explain to them why they have an extra day off school. Pray with them for those who bear the scars of war and the families of those who have perished so that we can be free. If you are a veteran or currently serving, from my family to yours, thank you!

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May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Sunday

Charlie Hall provided worship this morning as he and his band are in town for Spirit West Coast this weekend. We were blessed this morning to have an Air Force Captain, Navy SEAL Chief, Navy Captain, and Marine Corps Master Seargent share with us from the word and offer a prayer for our church and nation. The sermon was, appropriately, Memorial Day focused.

In closing our pastor alerted our church to something disturbing. Our church has occupied an old middle school leased by the local public schoold district. The 20 year lease is about up and the district wants to use the property for a charter school. We built a state of the art gymnasium and upgraded the facilities extensively, so it's no wonder they want it back.

We bought a property in a light industrial/business park area of the City. The zoning conditionally permits churches, so we applied for a conditional use permit. The City has granted a 5-year *UNRENEWABLE* conditional use permit. I'm sure there is more to it than that, but our pastor is gearing our church (the largest in San Diego) up for a fight with the City that has a record of decisions unfriendly to religion (Boy Scouts and Mt. Soledad Cross). With San Diego's massive fiscal problems, the last thing the City should be looking for is a prolonged legal fight. I'm certain that we will mount a massive challenge based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. All we want to do is worship free on land we purchased, free of government intrusion.

We're in prayer, but I have to tell you that the attitude among congregants seems to be - Bring It On!

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May 28, 2005


Just found a great SoCal blog: HolyCoast.com

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Our Advertisers

I'd like to use this space to draw attention to our advertisers. Lynne Gale of Art Interests Great and Small has been a faithful supporter of SCO since the beginning. Other advertisers come and go, but we always appreciate their support and hope that our readers visit their sites and check out their products.

If you notice, we have a new adverstisement slot on our left column. This slot is for package deals established by Henry Copeland of Blogads. SCO has been added to the Blogads "Evangelical Alliance" and is frequently included in proposals for other clients seeking to market their products to a particular niche. Thanks Henry for the support!

SCO doesn't get rich from blogads, but it does help us pay our debts. We still owe Ray a bit for the site design and we will pay him before any of us recoup our other start-up costs. If you are a regular SCO reader, please visit our advertisers' webpages and learn more about the services or products they offer.

From SCO to our advertisers, thank you!

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Major League Baseball has caught the blog fever. They have a site, MLBlogs.com, where fans can sign up and start a blog. Tommy Lasorda has a blog. So does Brooks Robinson. Interesting experiment.

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May 27, 2005

Friday Night Movies

Mark gives a thumbs up to Mulan II. I haven't seen it, so I'll take his word for it. Like Mark though, I watched a movie with my kids tonight: Miracle of the White Stallions starring Robert Taylor, Lilli Palmer, Curt Jurgens, Eddie Albert, James Franciscus. No clue what year its from, but it's old enough that I didn't recognize a single actor. It kept my attention for a couple hours. I wish I could say the same for the wife and kids...

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Just thought you all should know...

...Rangers are in first place! It's shaping up to be a great summer and I hope it will be a very exciting fall.

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May 26, 2005

Al-Zarqawi Rumors

I’ve heard rumors for a while now that Al-Zarqawi was wounded during Operation Matador. Officials in the Iraqi government (as well as some American officials) now think there is some truth to rumors.

On a related note, Doug Payton of Considerettes caught an interesting point from Christopher Hitchens who comments on a recent New York Times article that can't figure out why the Iraqi "insurgency" keeps getting worse and worse. Yeah, I know Doug...Your post is a week old, but I'm a bit slow.

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May 24, 2005

Brilliant Political Move

I heard the news hours ago, read a few posts, contemplated, went to Home Depot and got some sand paper, then read some more. My initial assessment: The Memorandum of Understanding is a brilliant political move for the Republican Party.

I submit my opinion to SCO readers as a principled supporter of the Constitutional Option. Politics is rarely the friend of principle and tonight’s compromise is no exception to this maxim. I must view the compromise through the lense of pragmatism and what I see looks good for my party.

We may never know whether Frist had the votes; in fact, I think this compromise suggests that no one truly knew how the votes would fall. If Frist called for the vote and the rule change failed, he would look terribly weak and the party would face bitter division. If the rule was changed, Reid and the Democrats would look like helpless whiners and be forced to engage in petty procedural tactics to stall and obstruct further.

With this deal the Republicans are forced to concede a principled position – that all nominees sent to the floor should receive an up or down vote – but this is not a position overwhelmingly supported by Republicans as suggested by internal Republican Party polling in late April.

The Democrats, on the other hand, spent the last few years and a tremendous amount of political capital branding fine conservative jurists Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William H. Pryor Jr. as right-wing extremists. Borrowing from the language of the deal, they are by the Democrats’ own definition, the most “extraordinary” of Bush’s nominees.

Two judges will be sacrificed, William G. Myers III of Idaho and Henry Saad of Michigan, but I’m not clear if they are subject to the “extraordinary circumstances” rule. It would seem that they are not, but the rule would be applied to future nominees.

But who are these judges?

I have to admit, I have no clue. I’m willing to bet that most Americans have no clue either. Thanks to the Democrats, many Americans know Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William H. Pryor Jr. The very nominees that the obstructionists have worked so hard to convince America were scum of the earth will now get a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

The bar has been set and it has been set very high. Any future Bush nominee, whether Circuit or Supreme, will have to be clearly more “extreme” than Owen, Brown, and Pryor. Senator Mike DeWine sent a signal that I hope will be echoed by other Senate Republicans that abuse of the “extraordinary circumstances” rules will not be tolerated. The Dems won’t have several years to frame a future Bush nominee, say a nominee to the Supreme Court, in this light.

Josh Micah Marshal is asking the right question: “Can this agreement really withstand the appointment of another hard right nominee?” I think not, especially when it will be virtually impossible to be more “hard right” than the nominees the Democrats just allowed to go to the floor for a vote.

Unless there is a hidden agreement to vote no on Owen, Brown, or Pryor, I’m inclined to think that tonight’s Memorandum of Understanding is a brilliant political move for the Republican Party.

UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin and Fraters Libertas readers! I'd like to note that Jim Jewell and Mark Daniels agree with my assessment, but Mark Sides and Matt Stokes dissent.

Be sure to read Mark's two posts on the subject here and here.

UPDATE II: Jim finds wisdom in compromise as does Professor Bainbridge. (HT: Dilley Blog)

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May 23, 2005

Hot Rod

MLB.com has a nice article about my cousin.

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Senate Sleepover

Bill Frist could invoke the Constitutional Option as early as tomorrow morning and cots for Senators are being set up in the Capitol for Republican senators who are planning a long night. Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democrat Ken “Up or Down…NOT!” Salazar are grim on the prospects of a last minute compromise.

Reid threatened to block the bipartisan asbestos bill making its way through the Senate. According to the MSNBC reporter:

The legislation, being championed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and the senior Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. is a priority for people with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, as well as for the insurance industry and corporations with big asbestos liabilities.
This has to be great news for Republicans. There is a reason why Tom Daschle was sent packing. There’s a reason why Republican Senatorial candidates got more votes in November than Democratic Senatorial candidates and picked up four seats. Elections have consequences. If the Democratic response to the Constitutional Option is more obstruction, I say why wait until morning!

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Newsweek in the Toilet

The Newsweek story is a bit old by now, but I don't think we've written about it here at SCO yet, so why not jump in with a few thoughts. First, I can't say that I'm surprised. I've blogged about visceral bias in the MSM before and will continue to blog about it until I find some time to sit down and formulate a more coherent theory supported by analysis of a dataset for a manuscript.

And second, the US Government shouldn't directly censure/censor Newsweek, although I think the DOJ should do whatever it can to help the government of Pakistan and/or the families of those killed in the riots incited by the Newsweek story file suit in US Court against the publication. Okay, I admit that I have no idea whether what I suggest here is possible or even prudent. But, it's my gut reaction after catching up on the story that I had to ignore this week due to finals.

Newsweek did America great harm. For that, they should pay. I suppose Americans should cancel their subscriptions as well, but that should go without saying.

As you may have noticed, I didn't touch on the facts of the story. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please visit just about any of the major bloggers, but I found Daddypundit's couple posts informative to start.

UPDATE: It looks like I’m not the only one who thinks that Newsweek is at risk of legal action.

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May 22, 2005

Supermajority Required to Reject Presidential Nominees?

I haven’t had time to check this out, but Instapundit seems to have endorsed this find by Anne Althouse that Madison actually proposed and the founders discussed requiring a supermajority vote of the Senate to deny a Presidential appointment. Betsy Newmark has more.

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Mt Soledad Cross and War Memorial

Another City of San Diego church-state issue made news this week. The spineless City Council will put a referendum to save the Soledad Mountain cross to a citywide vote. The Council could have simply approved the land transfer from City to federal land, but instead passed the buck. (HT: Michelle Malkin).

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Assault on the Boy Scouts

In January 2004, the City of San Diego caved to the ACLU and agreed to pay them $950,000 and terminate their lease with the Boy Scouts. The ACLU claimed that the City's $1/year lease of a part of Balboa Park was unconstitutional because the Scouts are a religious organization. The Boy Scouts carried the lease for nearly 50 years and maintained the property for the City. A U.S. District Judge agreed with the ACLU ruling that there was "overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence" that the Boy Scouts are a "religious organization."

On Wednesday, a panel of scholars and lawyers debated the Constitutionality of leasing public land to the Boy Scouts. Lowell Brown of The Hedgehog Blog alerted his readers to the event's webcast. Lowell's post drew a lengthy comment from Eric Isaacson of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, one of the panelists. Lowell elevated Mr. Isaacson's comments to a post and provided a few responses that are worth checking out.

I'm solidly behind the Scouts in this matter and my City Council makes me sick. Earlier today, my son's Little League team took the field. Just before the opening pitch, the boys and girls took to the baselines, removed their caps, turned their attention the American flag, and said the Little League pledge, which begins: I TRUST IN GOD. They did this on public parkland provided to Little League by the City at a great price in exchange for maintenance. Is Little League the next great institution of this great land to be targeted by the ACLU and our liberal courts?

Next week the Senate may go Constitutional on the obstructionist Democrats. I only hope that Senate Republicans have more spine than my City Council. Hugh Hewitt, ConfirmThem, and Hedgehog Blog will keep you informed.

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May 20, 2005

Getting Old

Earlier this month, my wife plucked two gray hairs from my head. At least I still have a few hairs to pluck! Although graying hair and male pattern baldness aren't typical of a man in his late twenties, these aren't the signs that I'm getting old. My wife just called with my son to sing happy birthday. She forgot all about my birthday this morning as we spent about 20 minutes together before I dashed off to work. Now I know that I'm getting old!

I received the best birthday present on Wednesday - more time. With finals complete, I am looking forward to summer and can again turn my attention to current events. So, what's going on in the world? A blogger shouldn't have to ask that question (sigh).

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May 15, 2005

AAPOR Reflections

I have a plane to catch in a few hours (literally), so I can't reflect much. Not that all of you are dying to know what happened at the conference, but hey, some might find this post interesting.

About aapor in general. I had a great time, met lots of new and remarkably intelligent people, and collected more papers and e-mails for additional papers than I could possibly read before next year's conference.

The leading pollsters take their job VERY seriously. There seemed to be a trend this year in studies and talks regarding non-response bias (the idea that the people not responding to the polls are not the same as the people responding to the polls, leaving a result that is not reflective of the true public opinion). If his absence at the conferencfe and the number of snarky comments/jokes made about John Zogby are any indication, he's the black sheep of the industry. Warren Mitofsky is well known for his "charm."

Perhaps the most important thing I discovered at the conference is that everyone who is anyone in the polling profession read Mystery Pollster. Reporters from NY Times, AP, and USA Today (among others), read his blog frequently as well. Mark Blumenthal's (Mystery Pollster) session on blogging and polling in the 2004 election was well attended. The panel included Chris Bowers of MyDD (via taped video), Joel Bloom of the University of Oregon who is studying blogs, and John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics. It wasn't just the number of people in the room, but who was in the room. The chair of the talk was the current AAPOR President and the new President elect was in the audience. So were influential pollsters from all the major polling firms.

From what I gather, the polling world wants to understand the blogosphere and they are trying to understand it through reasearch. This is good news for the blogosphere because they seem to recognize that bloggers are here to stay and that bloggers help shape the public opinion that they are trying to capture with their polls.

Related to the exit polls...

Check out this story from AP writer Will Lester. He's staying in my hotel and I just caught him about an hour ago. Nice guy. Really doesn't care much about the stats going on behind the story, which is why his article is so bland. However, there was a bit of controversy stirred up by Dr. Ron Baiman of University of Illinois at Chicago, not captured well by the piece. Exit pollster Warren Mitokfsy presented in a plenary before the entire AAPOR membership (basically the most influential public opinion people from academia, politics, and media in America were in attendance). I wish I could tell the whole story, but perhaps I'm not the best one to do it and this is probably not the best forum for that story. Hmm... Probably more on that coming soon...

As Mark Blumenthal explained to me early yesterday after I arrived in Miami, I jumped into a conversation that has been taking place between survey researchers for over 50 years. There's a lot of catching up to do - I'm hooked. See you next year AAPOR.

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May 11, 2005

Operation Matador

Hugh Hewitt is all over the story.

File this under "pending verification": AL-ZARQAWI SERIOUSLY INJURED, SAYS IRAQI OFFICIAL.

Hugh is right. The WaPo story is gripping and tells a story of an encounter with insurgents in a home that left two Marines dead and others wounded.

My good friend's brother Diego is a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) driver for a Marine infantry platoon and is stationed in Anbar province, near the Syrian Border where Operation Matador is taking place. I posted a prayer for him and his family this weekend, perhaps as Operation Matador was beginning. I know not why the Spirit urged me to pray at that moment, but I ask that you join me in prayer for our fighting men and women in general, but Diego and his family in particular. They've already lost one son in Iraq.

Posted by Rick at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AAPOR 2005

Tomorrow I leave for Miami Beach to attend this year's American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) conference. Warren Mitofsky hosts a plenary on the 2004 Presidential election exit polls. Another interesting session: "Blogs and Bloggers 2004: Extending the Reach, Influence, Understanding and Misperceptions of Pre-Election and Exit Polls." Mystery Pollster is seeking correspondents and plans to update his readers on occassion during the conference.

I have my last final of the semester next week and I hope to contribute to SCO more regularly soon thereafter.

Posted by Rick at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gambling, Exit Polls, and Election Irregularities

My colleague Drew announced the arrival of Arianna Huffington's group blog yesterday. On her website's mainpage, Arianna writes:

Day Three -- and our bloggers are beginning to mix it up. Visit The Blog, where Jim Lampley, Byron York, John Conyers and Robert George go toe-to-toe-to-toe-to-toe.
What are they "mixing it up" about? Gambling, exit polls, and election irregularities that lead some to conclude that Bush stole the 2004 election. Mystery Pollster offers a few intersting observations of the "smack down."

Perhaps most ironic is that the mainstage event was held the same day that the AP reported on real evidence of fraud in the 2004 election.

Milwaukee recorded 277,565 votes, but investigators could find only 272,956 people who registered to vote. Investigators said they do not yet know why there were so many extra votes.
That's right. Evidence of fraud in a Kerry stronghold of the battelground state Wisconsin, where Bush lost by roughly 11,000 votes. (More from the local reporter who broke the story here).

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy, but this is evidence of a broken electoral system in need of reform. The Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by James Baker and Jimmy Carter, should look into this and other election irregularities in 2004.

Posted by Rick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

Gender Gap

The City of Riverside General Plan includes the following policy:

Encourage ongoing analysis to demonstrate the direct correlation between the arts and improved test scores, attendance, and behavior in K-12 education.
With this policy, the City announces interest in supporting studies that agree with the Council's preconception that the arts are associated with better educational development of children. Science isn't supposed to work like that.

I smell a similar trick with this Washington Post article.

President Bush closed the gender gap in American presidential politics with his vicotory last November. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the gender gap:

A Democratic polling memo released yesterday found that women, who voted for President Bush last year in large numbers, have begun migrating back to their traditional home in the Democratic Party...[the poll] found women picked unnamed Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a 13-point margin...Some pollsters questioned the survey's methodology, objecting to its comparison between actual candidates' performances at the polls and the theoretical takes of unnamed candidates. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who issued the memo, defended the methodology, saying, "There's not really anything else we have."
I imagine that the DNC tasked the Democratic pollster to provide evidence that the gender gap is alive and well. The Democratic pollster whips together a generic poll of unnammed candidates that comports with their agenda and sends the Washington Post a press release. The Post falls for the bait and runs with the story. Bias dressed up in science and journalism. Nice.

Posted by Rick at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Idle Hands

So the saying goes...

When I was 16, I was rarely bored. That's because I was very involved in aquatics and I had to study hard for my grades. I kept busy, so I couldn't get in too much trouble.

This article makes me wonder why kids are allowed to spend so much time on their computers (HT: Drudge). I knew a hacker in college who was busted by the FBI back in 1994, when hacking was pretty new. He said he did it because there was nothing better to do and it presented a challenge. Actually, he confessed that it was a majurity thing. Toilet papering for nerds. Maybe super-duper smart kids just aren't mature enough to play with computers.

Posted by Rick at 03:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

City Comforts

I finally got around to writing a section on placemaking for one of my final projects when I stumbled across my first City Planning blog: City Comforts.

Blogger and author David Sucher says that City Comforts is about:

Cities, architecture, the 'new urbanism,' real estate, historic preservation, urban design, land use law, landscape, transport etc etc from a mildly libertarian stance. Our response to problems of human settlement is not "better planning" and a bigger budget for local government. But alas, conservative and libertarian (not the same, to be sure) response to shaping our cities is too often barren and in denial. Our goal is to take part in fostering a new perspective. But not too earnestly.
I'm looking forward to having a spare moment to peruse his site and I'm curious to find out more about his approach to planning.

Posted by Rick at 12:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2005


Michael Yon has a fine blog. If you love our men and women in uniform and want a bit of insight into their trials and triumphs in Iraq, visit Michael's blog. It will make you smile and cry. (HT: Michelle Malkin)

Last night I met up with a couple of old friends. It was the 9th anniversary of our friend Gary Tillman's death. Gary played bass for the band I played in in college. He died in a tragic skateboarding accident at UCSD at 20 years of age. Pat, who was there last night, was with Gary when he fell.

Joe was there last night as well. His cousin, Marine Cpl. Erik H. Silva was killed in Iraq, April 3, 2003. Joe's younger brother, Diego, is now in Iraq with the Marines. Diego signed up after Erik's death. War is so terrible. Why You would allow Erik to fall, is beyond me and I can't imagine that You would allow the Hernandez/Silva family to lose another son. I ask Lord that you protect that young man. Not that he's any more special than all the rest, but because his family has suffered enough. Have mercy, please.

Posted by Rick at 04:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005

Febble's Fancy Function or the Liddle Model that Could

Last week, Terry Neal of WashingtonPost.com drew attention to a study of the 2004 exit poll data posted on the web on March 31 by the organization US Count Votes. The USCV study authors, highly credentialed professors from distinguished universities, declare that the explanation put forth by the exit pollsters, Edison-Mitofsky, is not supported by the data. They suggest instead that the data are more consistent with a "fraud in Bush strongholds" hypothesis.

Yesterday, Mystery Pollster and DailyKOS carried summaries of a working paper critical of the USCV study prepared by Elizabeth Liddle, a former USCV contributor. Elizabeth draws the following conclusion from her analysis:

...the conclusion drawn in the USCV report, that the pattern observed requires “implausible” patterns of non-response and thus leaves the “Bush strongholds have more vote-count corruption” hypothesis as “more consistent with the data”, would seem to be unjustified. The pattern instead is consistent with the E-M hypothesis of “reluctant Bush responders”, provided we postulate a large degree of variance in the degree and direction of bias across precinct types.
As Mark said, the story is a bit "complex and geeky," but worth hearing. I won't get into all the details in this post because I think you should read Elizabeth's paper first and then Mark Blumenthal's excellent summary, followed by DemFromCT's post at DailyKOS, which will fill you in. The DailyKOS post has over 300 comments and it appears to be very well received.

Big hat tip to SCO reader LotharBot who generated the random data lists I requested within a few hours of putting out the call. Your contribution helped solve a piece of this puzzle. Thanks again!

Aw heck... Since everyone else is doing it, why not:
[Full disclosure and adapted from the Mystery Pollster and DailyKOS, who have similar disclaimers: For the last two weeks, I have had the unique opportunity to watch the development of Elizabeth Liddle's work through a running email conversation between herself, Mark Blumenthal from Mystery Pollster and DemFromCT from DailyKOS. This post benefits greatly from their input, although as always, the views expressed here are my own. It was one heck of a ride! ~Rick Brady].

P.S.: Buy Elizabeth's Children's Book, Pip and the Edge of Heaven and share it with your kids.

Here's a review:

This book is the journey of a child's thoughts and discovery of love and connection, heaven and G-d. My kids are 8 and 9 (boy and girl) and they still both sit so quietly for it. They smile at the sweetness of the thoughts that Pip shares with his mother. They like the way the mother talks with Pip. It sets a nice tone for us for going to bed. I love this little book. It may make it to the books I save to read to grandkids someday.

Posted by Rick at 02:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Los Angeles, Mexico

I concur with our friend Lowell Brown of the Hedgehog Blog. The issue:

The advertisement is for a local Spanish-language TV news program. "Noticias 62" means simply "News 62," and "Tu Ciudad. Tu Equipo" means "Your city. Your Team." As you can see, in the middle of the Los Angeles skyline, the billboard's creators have dropped in the famous Angel of Independence monument from Mexico City, and of course they have crossed out "CA" and replaced it with "Mexico."
I'm tempted to lift much more of Lowell's post, but I think it's important that our readers pay a vist and read it in context over there.

Although Lowell and I disagree on terminology (he prefers "illegal," I prefer "unauthorized"), his assessment of what he calls the nativist and immigrationist factions in this debate, and the dilemma these factions present to the GOP is fair and commendable.

I've had to postpone my series on immigration policy as I got side tracked by an exit poll story that is about to break, but once I get through finals (3 weeks left!) I'll get back in the saddle here at SCO.

Posted by Rick at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

New Media Peer Review

Terry Neal, political director and columnist for WashingtonPost.com took up a story in his talking points column yesterday that I have been working on extensively since March 31. Neal writes:

“…there's lots of chatter in the blogosphere, but little coverage in the mainstream media, of a study that suggests the early exit polls that showed Kerry beating Bush may have been accurate after all. The study, conducted on behalf of U.S. Count Votes, a non-partisan but left-leaning non-profit organization.
He’s referring to a study that I mentioned here, signed by a group of mostly math and statistics PhDs from distinguished universities, which suggests the exit poll data is more consistent with a fraud hypothesis than with the official explanation that Bush supporters were more reluctant to participate in the polls than Kerry supporters.

Terry Neal quotes Warren Mitofsky, the exit pollster for the 2004 exit polls, who speaks on the record for the first time regarding the US Count Votes study, as well as Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal, who has posted on the subject here and here.

I will have a bit more to say about this story soon. Read up because behind this story is a much more interesting story of on-line collaboration that brings new meaning to “peer review.”

Posted by Rick at 09:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

No Excuse

If there is even 10% truth to this NY Times story, these families, no, all Americans, should be outraged (HT: Drudge). Our Marines and soldiers deserve much, much better than this. I'd call my Democratic Senators and Representative, but I know they already agree with me on this. To not have armored humvees at this stage in the war is inexcusable.

Posted by Rick at 10:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Constitutional Option

Reader John Ballard of the blog Hootsbuddy's Place writes in support of the filibuster at his blog and in comments to Matt's post on the subject earlier today.

John makes some very interesting points, but I'm afraid that none of those points matter if the filibuster of presidential appointments is a violation of the Constitution.

The Senate has a Constitutional obligation to advise and consent. The filibuster of judicial nominees disenfranchises a majority of United States Senators from fulfilling their constitutional obligation to advise and consent.

The Senate was specifically designed to protect the views of the minority and that protection is made explicit in the Constitution. The most obvious protection of minority rights is evident by the "first among equals" institutional and voting framework where each state, regardless of population or size, has two votes. Also, where a supermajority among Senatiors is required, it is explicit in the constitution.

The Federalist was written to explain and promote a Constitution which, in its original version, contained super-majority requirements in seven places: Article I requires votes of two-thirds to convict on impeachment (3, cl. 6), to expel a Senator or Representative (5, cl. 2), and to override a presidential veto (7, cls. 2 & 3). Article II requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to consent to treaties (2, cl. 2) and called for special majorities if the election of the President should be referred to the House of Representatives (1, cl. 3). Article V requires two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the States to amend the Constitution. Article VII required ratifications from 9 of the original 13 States before the Constitution could go into effect.
Nowhere in the writings of our founders (that I have found) did they suggest that a supermajority is required to confirm an appointment to the judicial bench as nominated in accordance with the US Constitution by a President.

Since the filibuster of presidential nominees is unconstitutional, then it should be done away with. Until someone convinces me that the filibuster of Bush's nominees is constitutional, I won't have much tolerance for arguments in favor of retaining it. No Senate rule should be above the US Constitution.

For more on the fight to restore the Constitution, read Hugh Hewitt and Confirm Them, daily.

Posted by Rick at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Outrageous! ID's Required to Vote!?!?!?

Congressman John Conyers maintains a blog and is also known to post a diary from time to time over at Daily KOS (see this one on his objections to the Baker-Carter election commission).

In his latest post, he's all hot about a state bill that will require state approved photo ID's in order to vote in Georgia. Some patriot over at Democratic Underground has a nice picture comparing Republicans to the Nazi SS demanding papers.

I always thought IDs were required to vote and was surprised in November to find that poll workers in the three precincts I poll watched didn't ask anyone for their ID. In fact, they didn't even require a registration booklet. All someone had to do was point at a name on the roster and say that was them. I asked two of the poll workers why they allowed this, and they replied that that demanding proof of registration or residency is a form of voter intimidation.

Without requiring IDs to match registrations, how could we stop ~100,000 crazy Rove worshippers from infiltrating the polls in key states and throwing an election? I suppose that we could always whip out the purple dye. Nah, I like unstained fingers. I'll settle for the photo ID. Way to go Georgia!

Posted by Rick at 06:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Comment and Trackback Spam

This topic needs it's own category, as it seems the majority of my posts the last couple weeks have been on comment and trackback spam.

SCO readers, we're getting pummeled. Thanks to Jack Lewis, I see that we're not alone.

I just spent an hour deleting over 120 comments (still haven't got to the trackback) that are either gambling or porn related. When I got done, I found another dozen comments had come in while I was deleting. Unbelievable. It makes me want to bring back the iron maiden and rack.

I noticed that Wizbang has a few suggestions, but frankly, it sounds like greek to me and I don't have the time. If anyone has the time and knows how we can stop this, please get in touch. The alternative is to shut down these features completely and we don't want to do that.

Posted by Rick at 12:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2005

The Unalienable Right

A while back I wrote about the American Federalist Journal:

...the American Federalist Journal is a resource worth checking out. The site provides a peak at the lead paragraph of columns written from a fine group of conservative thinkers.
Now comes word that the editors have a new blog, The Unalienable Right, with recent posts on Bainbridge on the judiciary, Maxine Waters on immigration, John Kerry on Star Wars Episode III, and lots of other great stuff. Check it out!

Posted by Rick at 07:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

Grand Slam

My cousin Rod hit his first major league grand slam last night to help the Rangers defeat the Devil Rays, 12-10. Go Rod!

Posted by Rick at 08:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Comments and Trackbacks

I noticed Mark's post on comments and trackbacks. I don't think the multiple comments and trackbacks have anything to do with our comment/tb spam problem, although I'm not certain.

Here's my theory: For some (as of yet undiagnosed) reason, processing of a comment takes a while and if you get impatient while it is processing and hit the post a comment button more than once, eventually, more than one comment will emerge. As for trackbacks, I think we are sent a trackback everytime someone updates a post that links to our blog.

If any of our readers would like to comment, please do so, because I am not an IT person by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by Rick at 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

Does America's Finest City have America's Worst Mayor?

Time Magazine tells me that America’s Finest City has one of the worst mayors in the country. Great. I supported the guy for reelection in November. And Mayor Murphy’s comment?

"People should be proud of what we have accomplished in this city," he said. "Tell Time magazine that they just don't understand what's going on."
I must admit that I haven’t really followed the many City of San Diego scandals of late, although I know enough to conclude that our City Attorney is a nut, but what kind of statement is that? And, why would the Mayor consent to a press conference in the driveway at his home? Somebody get this guy a better group of advisors with some PR intuition. Geez…

Posted by Rick at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

Random Request

Do any of our very smart readers know of the best way to generate 100 "lists" of random arrangements of binary data? Each list would need 450 "0"s and 50 "1"s. When I get these lists, I will select every 10th record to sample 50 records of each list and plot the distribution.

Yes, I know I need to get a life.

UPDATE: Friend of SCO, Lotharbot, answered my call and whipped out the data with shocking speed. Thanks, Lotharbot. Yet another reason why I love blogging :-)

Posted by Rick at 08:03 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 05, 2005

Minuteman Project Update

If you’ve read my previous posts on immigration (here, here, here, and here), you can probably guess what I think about the “Minuteman Project.” To be honest, when I first heard of the project, I envisioned a bunch of mullet sportin' rednecks, riding around in pick-ups with a full gun rack, two cans of Blue Ribbon in hand, strands of chew spanning the gaps between their teeth, and "red neck woman" blasting from the AM radio - achin' to spot some "spics."

I’m relieved that there haven’t been reports of abuse or vigilante violence; in fact, some reports I’ve read have made the volunteers look very professional, and even, Christian (see this for example). That said, I still think the project is ill-conceived. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the whole concept just doesn’t sit right with me. I guess I can't get the redneck/mullet/pickup/gunrack/blue ribbon image out of my head. And, with volunteers continuing to disrupt the Border Patrol’s work by tripping sensors, I can’t help but wonder if the net impact of their efforts is more, not less, illegal border crossings.

I haven’t forgotten about my immigration series as I'm still collecting data and thinking through the issues. I must say though that writing on this topic is really stretching me and definitely requires research. Opinions are nice, but often fueled by emotion. I’d prefer to tone it down a bit and look at our immigration “problem” a little more calmly and factually.

HUD Consolidated Plan public review deadlines are this week, I’m gearing up for finals, and I’ve been defending/discussing my exit poll paper over at Mystery Pollster and DailyKOS (~350 comments - read them all for a real culture shock). The exit poll discussion has been an interesting experiment in on-line peer review and I'm having quite a bit of fun with it. For the most part, the Kossacks haven't assailed my faith or politics, but have stuck to the merits/demerits of the stastitics and logic. I can't say the same for the folks at Democratic Underground.

I figure the immigration topic isn’t going anywhere. I’ll get to it. In the meantime, any of the other SCO writers care to share their thoughts on the subject?

Posted by Rick at 02:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Headed toward Civil War?

The Washington Times brings word that the more moderate Democrats (what is left of them) have challenged their liberal counterparts for the party to take a tougher stance on the war on terrorism.

In an attack on the party's dominant left wing, anti-war base, and a warning for new Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean "to do no harm," the centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council said it is "a delusion to think that if we just turned out our voters, we could win national elections."
The liberal response?
I can't tell the difference between the positions the DLC puts forward and Republican policy," said Jack Blum, counsel for the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.
I suspect that the DLC fired a flare, rather than a warning shot; a cue to the party that "someone" will be emerge soon in the race for 2008.

Hillary is perhaps the one candidate who could run to the center-right on some issues (immigration and GWOT in particular) without offending the base badly enough to cause a lasting revolt. "The sooner these fights take place, the better," the DLC said. If it's Hillary, the fights will only be for show. Hillary is at heart, one of them - no matter what mask she wears for the next two years.

Posted by Rick at 01:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2005

Meet Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith

The first Medal of Honor in the War on Terrorism will be awarded posthumously to Sgt. First Class, Paul R. Smith, 33 - husband and father. MSNBC carries his story, and the ARMY account can be found here. Sgt. Smith is one of many heroes in this war; may God bless his family.

Posted by Rick at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2005

Barajas Impressive in Pre-Season

Rangers kick off the season against the Angels on Tuesday. Cousin Rod put up some impressive numbers in pre-season play and the rest of the team seems to be playing well together. Rod ended up hitting .389, with a .778 slugging percentage, 3 HR, and 5 doubles in 14 games and 36 at bats. Wowzers! Here's a nice screenshot of Rod (middle) with future hall of famers Michael Young (SS) and Hank Blalock (3B).


Posted by Rick at 01:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 31, 2005

The Docs WERE in his Socks!

Okay, maybe not in his socks, but Sandy Berger will plead guilty to swiping classified documents from the National Archives.

Posted by Rick at 08:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

"No Hard Evidence That The Memo Is Fake"

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post establishes a new standard for determining "news" in the old media: If a memo comes into your hands that is embarassing to the Republican Party and you have "very reliable, multiple sources who indicated the memo was distributed to Republicans on the floor of the Senate," but have no idea who produced, or even circulated the memo, then the story is worthy of national headlines.

Also, see Joshua Claybourn's Mea Culpa (HT: La Shawn Barber's Corner).

Posted by Rick at 09:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

Unsearchable God

Interesting insight from a weed picker:

The lenten [liturgy] last night included words from Isaiah 40
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
It struck me at the time that an unsearchable God has new meaning in the age of Google.
Venture on over to Agricolae and read the rest of the post...

Posted by Rick at 08:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Statement from Governor Owens

Sean Duffy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications to Colorado Governor Bill Owen passes along the following statement from the Governor:


Owens: Ruling "demeaning, subjective"

(DENVER) - Gov. Bill Owens today issued the following statement on the Colorado Supreme Court's decision to not impose the death penalty on convicted killer Robert Harlan:

"Today's decision is demeaning to people of faith and prevents justice from being served. The death penalty in a heinous crime has been overturned by a highly subjective ruling that truly splits hairs. Even the justices who voted to overturn the penalty agreed that moral values and religious beliefs are important and can be part of the debate among jurors.

"For example, a juror could recite biblical passages from memory. But because of a subjective interpretation that reading the same passage is somehow prejudicial, a convicted killer has avoided the appropriate sentence. I'm disappointed to see that the Court would supersede the will of the jury and the people of Colorado regarding the death penalty on such a technicality."

I believe that a majority of us at SCO are against the death penalty, or at least lean that way, but the issue here is not about the death penalty, but the rationale of the courts in reaching this decision. I recommend Jim's post on this subject below.

Posted by Rick at 03:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

LA Times Hit Piece: DeLay in the Crosshairs

After reading and posting on what I thought was a decent and fair article from the LA Times on Jim Wallis, my jaw about dropped when I read this article from the paper that asserts hypocrisy on the part of Tom DeLay regarding both his leadership in federalizing the Terri Schiavo case and his push for tort reform.

The article starts:

CANYON LAKE, Texas — A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.
DeLay’s father was in a terrible accident that left him severely brain damaged and on full life support, but DeLay consented when his family decided it was time to pull the plug.

The article continues with this jab:

And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.
In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus
to let his father die. (emphasis added)
The article’s authors include a token quote from a spokesman for DeLay who tried to said that the situations were not comparable, but the LA Times reporters inserted quickly pointed out the broad similarities in the cases. Further on in the article, the Times is sure to note that the DeLay family filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tram equipment that killed DeLay’s father, but that the Representative “since has taken a leading role promoting tort reform, wants to rein in trial lawyers to protect American businesses from what he calls ‘frivolous, parasitic lawsuits’ that raise insurance premiums and ‘kill jobs.’” The family settled for what is said to be $250,000 and DeLay is said to have given his portion to his mother. The
The article ended with a nice interview with DeLay’s mother:
Like her son, she believed there might be hope for Terri Schiavo's recovery. That's what made her family's experience different, she said. Charles had no hope.” "There was no chance he was ever coming back," she said. (emphasis added)
Is it not important to the LA Times that DeLay’s father’s organs were failing and was on full life support as opposed to needing only a feeding tube? Mr. DeLay was dying – Terri is not. Is it not relevant that Mr. Schiavo has abandoned his wife and is engaged to another woman with whom he has lived for years and has two children? And perhaps the most basic and pertinent distinction missed in this LA Times hit piece on DeLay: There is no among Terri's family about her wishes, chance for recovery, or what should be done with her; but with DeLay, there was not a single dissenting family member.


Posted by Rick at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Progress Report: No Child Left Behind

Surprise! Accountability seems to be working:

Seven in 10 schools in districts represented by the council have improved math scores since 2002, when testing under the act began, according to the group's study, "Beating the Odds." Four in 10 have improved reading scores.
The report isn't all rosy though, as nearly half the 7.3 million students tested from urban areas were still less than proficient for their grade level. In addition, high schoolers still aren't doing so hot.
"Results show clearly impressive gains at the elementary level," Casserly said. "However, high school levels remain fragile and uncertain."

I suspect that there is not a whole lot one can do for high schoolers that have been allowed to skate through school for more than 8 years. Sure, you could throw a ton of money at the problem, but I suspect that the problem has more to do with a teenage "culture" that has been cultivated by the education system than with a lack educational programs or low teacher-student ratios. If you have been promoted from grade-to-grade since kindergarten without basic proficiency at each level, study habits (or lack thereof) and attitudes are likely codified by high school. I hope I'm not being too pessimistic about our nation's high schoolers, but I really fear that they have been failed by our education system that has lost sight of its basic purpose. I'm happy to hear that there have been impressive gains at the elementary level - I hold out hope for the education of our future high schoolers.

Posted by Rick at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LA Times Profile: Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis received a lot of ink from the LA Times with this article today. Having not yet read his book, God's Politics, I really can't comment on his ideas, but I do know that other SCO contributors are not impressed. However, when Wallis gets criticized by the UCC Rev. Barry Lynn, I can't imagine the guy is all that bad. :-)

Posted by Rick at 10:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Fake but Accurate": Take II?

John Hinderaker provides a very useful summary of the controversy surrounding the alleged GOP talking points memo on Schiavo (HT: Instapundit). Read the whole article, but here's 5 points to keep in your back pocket for now:

To sum up, then: (1) The memo itself conveys no information about its source. (2) It is very poorly done, containing a number of typographical errors, failing to get the number of the Senate bill correct, and using points cribbed word-for-word from an advocacy group's website. (3) The politically controversial statements are out of place in a talking points memo, and seem, on the contrary, ideally framed to create talking points for the Democrats. (4) Somewhat bizarrely, after the contents of the memo had been reported, someone corrected those typographical errors--but only those errors that had been pointed out by ABC. (5) No one has reported seeing any Republican distributing the suspect memo; the only people confirmed to have passed out the memo were Democratic staffers.
Will the MSM do their job and get to the bottom of this story?

Posted by Rick at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

How to Remodel a 20sf Bathroom in 6-Months

Jokingly, I suggested to the other SCO guys that I should write a series on how to remodel an 820sf bathroom in six months (thanks for the catch Newton). Then I spent over an hour stripping 6 inches of moldy and cracked caulking from the shower and I realized that the project, which started back in January, may really take 6 months! As with many projects, I underestimated the level of effort involved.

Anyways, this is the kind of thing that I would normally post at www.rickbrady.net, but I can't seem to locate my web-designer... Oh! There's another project that I've undersestimated and is on the "to do" list :-).

Here's a couple of pictures of the project (yes, we've done a lot of work since these photos and they are in reverse chronological order) and since I'm using this space for personal stuff, check out some family and related photos at BradyPics.


If I don't get around to posting, Happy Easter everyone! His resurrection brings hope to the world. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 (also Hosea 13:14)

Posted by Rick at 08:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Iraq's Insurgents ‘Seek Exit Strategy'

Great headline and encouraging article from the Financial Times of London today (HT: Drudge).

Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba'ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election.
Sharif wants to make sure that we all know that the insurgents he’s talking about are the good ones:
Unlike Mr Zarqawi's followers, who are thought to be responsible for the big suicide bomb attacks on Iraqi civilian targets, the other Sunni insurgents are more likely to plant bombs and carry out ambushes against security forces and US troops active near their homes.
Genuine minutemen aren’t they? To the encouraging part of the article:
Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralising blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process.
Hence this report from Reuters that the rate of American troop deaths have fallen 50 percent from pre-election levels.

Whether Iraqi government decides that it wants to include these thugs in the political process now is up to them. I would love to see the Iraqi’s vow to hunt down and prosecute every insurgent terrorist in Iraq; however, this concession that democracy has prompted a move to lay down arms and embrace the political process should be viewed as a positive development in the global war on terrorism. It’s one more example of the power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has an idea:

Fact is, turning in Zarqawi would be the Baghdad equivalent of Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for the lower-level holdouts who engineer it.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has an idea:

Fact is, turning in Zarqawi would be the Baghdad equivalent of Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for the lower-level holdouts who engineer it.

Posted by Rick at 08:28 PM | Comments (2)

A Marriage of Convenience? Fiscal Incentives and Residential Development Patterns in California

The editors at the Planning Forum finally got around to publishing their 10th Volume electronically. The latest volume includes an article that I wrote last year, which challenges the perception that land use fiscalization is a leading cause of housing affordability problems in California. If that sort of stuff interests you, check it out here. The formatting looks a bit strange when compared to the print version of the journal, but oh well.

The Planning Forum is a journal of Community and Regional Planning, published by the School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin.

Posted by Rick at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

Would You Want to Live Like That?

Doug of Bogus Gold asks that question and makes some interesting observations.

If Terri was a walking, talking person as fully functional as she used to be, we would not be having this debate. No court would sanction, and the public would not allow, her husband to have her starved to death - even if she explicitly asked him for such a thing. Yet it has become clear that because she now lives in a state a vast majority of people have determined they themselves would not want to live in, the value proposition of her life has changed in the eyes of the public. Not in the eyes of every single person, but certainly in the eyes of enough to allow it to happen.
I was tempted to quote more of Doug's post, but realized that there is so much worth quoting that there would be little left for you all to read when you visit his site. (In other words, head over there and read a very thought provoking post.)

Posted by Rick at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More Schiavo Polling

Okay, I'm a data dweeb, I know...

CBS has a new poll out this evening on Terri Schiavo and related issues (HT: Mystery Pollster). Put simply, the poll roughly mirrors the ABC news poll that was widely denounced as a Push Poll. The ABC News poll was not a Push Poll and I don't think the CBS one was either. However, as I wrote in comments on MPs blog, I noticed something curious about a sequence of questions in the CBS poll.

First, you have to read the actual questions asked by CBS as these are not listed in their entirety in the news account (MP has the link to the PDF). Note the progression of questions 8, 9, 10, and 13. Questions 8-10 do not mention Terri, but Question 13 does. Questions 8 and 9 mention "feeding tube" and avoid use of the term "life support," but notice these phrases: Q8: "doctors say brain activity has stopped" and Q9: "in a coma with no brain activity."

Questions 8 and 9 clearly do not describe Terri's condition as she is NOT brain dead. She is severely brain damaged and large portions of her brain have atrophied, but the phrases "brain activity has stopped" and "no brain activity" are not accurate in Terri's case. I suggest that this is important because of the survey's question progression.

Nowhere in the survey is it explained that "persistent vegetative state" does not mean that "brain activity has stopped" or that the patient has "no brain activity." In other words, the questions leading up to the questions specifically about Terri's case seem to be hinting that Terri is brain dead when she clearly is not.

I still don't think these nuances would change public opinion drastically, but it sure seems odd to me that the survey would be written this way. Also, when the results of Q8 and Q9 were reported in the CBS news story, they referred to "coma" and "vegetative state" but made no mention of the reference to the fact that their questions included the qualifier of "no brain activity."

In my comment on his blog, I asked Mark Blumenthal to comment about the sequence of questions in the survey. Maybe there is a simple explanation here. I am a bit tired as the flu went through every member of my family this week. I haven't had much sleep. Maybe I'm reading into this too much.

Posted by Rick at 02:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

Mystery Pollster on Schiavo "Push Poll" Charge

The 10-2 Circuit Court ruling against Terri Schiavo's parents is a strong indication of things to come from the Supreme Court. I am deeply saddened by the news and the events of recent days. This news comes as I was about to post on the recent public polling related to Terri's fight. Fearing that some may charge me with being crass, I thought about witholding my post. However, I believe my heart is okay on this matter, so here it is...


I know that many of our readers feel passionately about the Schiavo case and would agree with those on our side of this issue that the latest polling of the case are clear examples of "Push Polls." However, as I wrote in this previous post, I do not believe these polls are Push Polls as many allege. Yet, I didn't say it nearly as well as Mystery Pollster did today:

Can we please stop using the term "push poll" to describe every survey we consider objectionable?
A push poll is not a poll at all but rather a form of fraud - an effort to spread an untrue or salacious rumor under the guise of legitimate research. "Push pollsters" are not pollsters at all. They do not care about collecting data or measuring opinions (even in a "bogus" way). They only care about calling as many people as possible to spread a false or malicious rumor without revealing their true intent. Whatever complaint one might have about the wording or reporting of the ABC poll, it was certainly not a "push poll."
MP even took me to task for a statement in my post, to which I responded in comments on his blog (and reproduced below the fold).

I believe that a poll can "push" respondents into answers, but that does not make the poll a Push Poll. Nuance? Certainly. But an important one as charges of Push Polling makes those on our side of issues sound really ignorant. Whether the public has been properly informed to answer the questions posed by the polling organizations accurately, is another matter.


Good post Mark. As I made clear in my post, I didn't think the ABC poll was a Push Poll. You're the one with the experience designing survey instruments and I should have qualified my comments on what polling orgs are or are not "supposed" to do. :-)

Sentences of my post following your quote read: "I'm sure there are those who viewed the questions asked by ABC News as pushing respondents into pro-Schiavo and pro-Congress answers. That's what makes the design of survey instruments so difficult."

I only meant to suggest that polling organizations have a tough time providing enough accurate and unbiased information about complex or controversial issues in a few sentences to elicit reliable responses (there's that whole reliability testing issue one of your readers educated me on a while back).

Regarding the accuracy of terms like "persistent vegetative state (PVS)" and "life support" in describing Terri's state, I think that is open to debate, and hence the unwarranted charges of "Push Poll" from the right.

By telling poll respondents that Terri is PVS, I feel that ABC and Gallup violated a principle of good survey design that my professor calls "level of wording." PVS is a technical medical term and using PVS in question presumes that people understand that term.

My hypothesis is that when people hear "persistant vegetative state" they think "brain dead vegetable." Terri is by no means brain dead and I would argue that she is not a "vegetable" either. Brain dead vegetables on life support have no chance of recovery.

I've heard and read much testimony supporting both sides of this argument - including from people who have been declared PVS by doctors, but fully recovered and are now on the talk shows telling their story (not to imply that recovery from PVS is common, or that Terri can recover [I simply don't know]). PVS does not mean brain dead vegetable with no chance of recovery. But my bet is that is what the public thinks of when they hear the term "persistent vegetative state."

Perhaps the polls should have said that Terri was "severely brain damaged" and that her "court appointed doctors" do not believe that she can improve (both accurate and fair statements at an appropriate level of wording).

As I said in my post about the "life support" versus "feeding tube" terms, use of these terms (PVS and feeding tube) may have "pushed" SOME respondents into answers, but I can't imagine that it would realign public opinion.

These are very interesting questions, and I must say that I am firmly in your camp. The ABC News poll was NOT a Push
Poll as that term should be reserved for acts of deviousness. But, I do think that a poll can "push" respondents into answers, and not be a Push Poll. That is why we can debate whether a poll question is biased without calling it a Push Poll.

Unfortunately though this is a nuance that most pundits do not appreciate. You provide the blogosphere (and media) a valuable service with this education.

Posted by Rick at 04:13 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

ABC News Poll - Terri Schiavo and Federal Intervention

Many have heard by now of the latest ABC News Poll that shows public support for removing the tube at 63% to 28% and apposes federal intervention 60% to 25%.

DemFromCT and I had a friendly wager of sort on this poll. DemFromCT brought to my attention the week-old polling on the Schiavo case that showed similar results, which I claimed was not representative of current public opinion. My hypothesis was that once the American people learned the facts of the Schiavo case and saw the pleas and cries of Terri's parents and brother, the polling would shift. The current poll suggests I was wrong; but, then again, public opinion polls are never that easy now are they?

Actually they are. I don't believe this is a push poll. In my estimation, the questions were fairer and presented more accurate information regarding the case in the preamble than the previous poll released 3/13. More on that later.

But, I will add something here that is purely anecdotal. Today I was sitting in my office prepping final drafts of documents for clients (HUD Consolidated Plan deadlines are looming) and I heard a conversation between three of my co-workers whose cubicles are situated just outside my office. Two things struck me: 1) How adamantly opposed they were to the actions taken by Congress; and 2) How little they knew about the facts of the case or even what Congress decided.

My co-workers are convinced that Terri is a "vegetable" who has been on "life support" for years against her wishes. They also think that Congress voted to reinsert the tube, again, against her wishes.

The conversation was both interesting and sad at the same time. My co-workers are educated (each has at least a Bachelor's, but one has a Master's degree) and since they talk current events regularly, in my estimation they are fairly informed compared to the average American (not to condescend).

So what does this say for the poll? Well, since it's anecdotal, absolutely nothing solid. But I think it may suggest a few things about the findings: 1) The public may not really understand the issues; and 2) the poll's use of the word "life support" may be pushing some respondents into supporting the removal of Terri's feeding tube.

Look, the margins here are huge and cross-cut party, age, and religious belief characteristics folks. Although some think use of "life support" in the poll question is solid evidence of a push poll, I don't buy it. If the question (see here) were revised as follows, "Schaivo suffered brain damage and has been on life support fed through a feeding tube for 15 years" I don't think it would have made much difference at all. But that's just my opinion.

May I suggest though that there may be a problem with the level of knowledge of the case among respondents, despite the news coverage and the survey preamble? Although "just under 6 in 10 Americans are closely following the Schiavo case, including 16 percent who've been following it very closely," I have to wonder what "following the story "closely" means. I'd be curious to read the data crosstabs by level of attention paid to the story. Is there a significant difference in opinion amongst those paying "very close" attention compared to those paying "somewhat close" attention? We don't know. The data is not presented by that metric. I raise this question because in light of my experience with my co-workers today.

Perhaps I should poll my co-workers in the morning with the same question used in the ABC poll. I suspect that they would respond that in the "somewhat closely" group given their lack of understanding of the facts, but also given the length of their discussion and the passion with which they expressed their opinions.

At any rate, here's another anecdote for you to consider. I heard Congressman David Drier on Hugh Hewitt today talking about the case. He said that as of last week he was against federal intervention on federalism grounds. But then he started learning the facts of the case and became involved and supportive of legislation for federal judicial review. Congressman Drier described how he had run into numerous constituents who questioned federal involvement and that he realized they really didn't understand the facts of the case or why the Congress was acting in a hugely bi-partisanship fashion (Unanimous voice vote on the Senate for example). He said that once he had a chance to explain to his constituents how he came to his decision, they were persuaded.

Why would a Congressman risk so much political capital on this issue if even a majority of conservatives (says the poll) are opposed to federal intervention? Why would Democratic members of Congress do so? There has to be internal polling on this subject on both sides of the aisle.

The ABC News poll tells us clearly that the public is heavily against removing her feeding tube and heavily against federal intervention. We do not know how much of those currently opposed are like my co-workers or like Congressman Drier's constituents and are ignorant of the facts of Terri's situation. Moreover, we don't know whether education on the subject would change responses any, but we could have a better idea if we knew the responses to the poll by level of attention paid to the story.

Polling organizations like ABC News are not supposed to educate people regarding the issues they are polling. If a large portion of the public is not well informed on a subject matter related to an area in which they already have solidly formed opinions (I wouldn't want to be on "life support" or a "vegetable," therefore I think Terri's tube should be removed and Congress should stay out of it), in most cases, three sentences of preamble will not be sufficient to illicit a respondents true opinion. I'm sure there are those who viewed the questions asked by ABC News as pushing respondents into pro-Schiavo and pro-Congress answers. That's what makes the design of survey instruments so difficult.

Posted by Rick at 01:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wow Mark, I'm Blushing

Thanks for the glowing review!

For regular SCO readers who are not familiar with Mystery Pollster, it is a must-read blog for anyone interested in public opinion-related matters. Mark is currently taking a poll of his readers asking whether he should continue focusing on the exit poll controversy. Before running on over there and voting, please be sure to read each of his posts on the exit polls, which span five months. Oh! Read his other informative posts as well! I guarantee you that you'll be smarter from having done so.

Posted by Rick at 01:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Kyrgyzstan Revolt Underway

Breaking news...

Thousands of protesters, some armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, seized control of key government buildings and the airport in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Monday, prompting security officers and local officials to flee and loosening the government's grip over a swath of this former Soviet republic.
Instapundit has been blogging about this potential for quite a while.

Posted by Rick at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Terri Schiavo Audio?

Don't quite know what to make of this yet, but Matt Drudge claims to have audio of Terri Schiavo responding to her father after the feeding tube was removed on Friday. The link to the audio is overwhelmed with traffic right now...

Here's an accessible link to the audio. If this is legit, it sure goes against the claim that she's in PVS.

Posted by Rick at 12:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Critique of Simon/Baiman Exit Poll Paper

I'm reviving two posts from the old SCO related to my work on exit polls. I wrote this post in response to a paper by Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D., with the title, "The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data." Apparently in response to my post, the authors revised their paper and therefore this post was my response to their revisions. The full text of my posts are included below the fold.

POST I: Simon and Baiman on Exit Polls

Freepress.org recently published a paper by Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D., with the title, "The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data."

Mr. Simon is with Verified Vote 2004 (couldn't find the organization on the web) and Dr. Baiman is affiliated with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs University of Illinois at Chicago, although the paper includes a disclaimer that the views expressed therein are not necessarily the views of their respective institutions.

The paper concluded with the following statement:

In light of the history of exit polling and the particular care that was taken to achieve an unprecedented degree of accuracy in the exit polls for Election 2004, there is little to suggest significant flaws in the design or administration of the official exit polls. Until supportive evidence can be presented for any hypothesis to the contrary, it must be concluded that the exit polls, including the national mega-sample within its +/-1.1% margin of error, present us with an accurate measure of the intent of the voters in the presidnetial election of 2004.

According to this measure, an honest and fair voting process would have been more likely than not -at least 95% likely, in fact- to have determined John Kerry to be the national popular vote winner of Election 2004. Should ongoing or new investigations continue to produce evidence that, to an extent determinative of the electoral college outcome, votes have not been counted acurately and honestly or discriminatory cote suppression has occurred, the re-examined popular vote outcome may well be deemed relevant to the question of what remedies are warranted (Simon and Baimon, 2004, p12).

My critique of the Simon/Baiman paper focuses on the narrow questions of methodology and statistical analysis. The author's claims and hypotheses, which are based on the statistical analysis are not evaluated.

The Introduction

The authors acknowledge that the popular vote isn't important in deciding an election, yet posit that the "apparent" 3.3 million vote Bush popular victory makes it very hard for Kerry to challenge the results in an individual state where the electoral count could be affected.

Yet to overturn the Ohio result, giving Kerry an electoral college victory..., would likely be regarded as unjust and insupportable by a populace convinced that Bush was, by some 3.3 million votes, the people's choice (Simon and Baimon, 2004, p3).
Therefore, if Simon and Baiman can demonstrate that "an honest and fair voting process" would have determined "John Kerry to be the national popular vote winner of Election 2004" then their findings are important for the future of America.

Review of Exit Polls and Vote Counts

The opening paragraph of Simon and Baiman's review of the exit polls and vote counts constructs a three-legged strawman. The first leg is fabricated from the following statement,

Exit polling, since its invention several decades ago, has performed reliably in the projection of thousands of races, both here at home and, more recently, abroad (Simon and Baimon, 2004, p4).
This statement includes a footnote directing readers to a chapter written by Warren Mitofsky in the book "Polling and Presidential Election Coverage " in 1991. Usually, if a statement in a paper, article, or book is followed by a footnote directing readers to a source, that source supports the statement. However, the Mitofsky chapter nearly the opposite of what is suggested by the authors.

Exit polls were “invented” in 1964 by a woman named Ruth Clark when polling the presidential primary (Mitofsky, 1991, p88). Mitofsky describes in his chapter how exit polls were used extensively from 1970 to 1980 by CBS for background, but not for projections at all until 1982.

It was not until 1982 that CBS News used exit polls for projections (Ibid)
Also, NBC didn't conduct exit polls until 1980 and even then didn’t use them for projections until 1982 (Ibid). Finally, the chapter makes no mention of foreign exit polls that I can find. If Simon or Baiman would have read their citation, they would not have made that statement; unless they were, of course, building a strawman.

The second leg of the strawman is built with the two sentences that followed the sentence forming the first leg:

The record of exit polling from the 1970s through the 1990s was essentially free of controversy, except for the complaint that publication of exit poll results prior to poll closings dampened voter turnout by discouraging late-in-day voters from bothering to vote, the race having already been “called.” Voters could be so influenced because they had come, indeed, to regard exit poll projections as all but infallible.”
While it is true that the controversy surrounding the exit polls, beginning in 1980, was largely about whether or not use of these polls by the media to project winners before polls closed had the effect of discouraging late-in-day voters, they fail to consider that the before poll closing exit polls had a record of being terribly wrong (1984, 1988, and 1992 elections).

Warren Mitofsky and Murray Edelman analyzed the 1992 presidential election exit polls and wrote the following:

As the evening went on, the national exit poll gradually was completed. The results shown in Table 6.3 for midnight were the only results that included the completed exit polls. All estimates at earlier times were incomplete…The difference between that final margin and the VRS estimates was 1.6 percentage points. VRS consistently overstated Clinton’s lead all evening…Overstating the Democratic candidate was a problem that existed in the last two presidential elections (Mitofsky and Edelman, 1995, pp91-92).
The Table 6.3 referenced above is summarized below as Exhibit 1. From this table, you can see that as of the 8:10pm round of exit poll data, the poll data included Clinton bias by 4.4%. This bias narrowed as the evening progressed, with the last round of data circulated just after midnight on election eve showing Clinton bias of 1.6%.

Exhibit 1

Based on a review of the literature for exit polls conducted through 1992, exit polls were first used to project elections in 1982 and the exit polling results were skewed toward the Democratic candidate for the 1984, 1988, and 1992 elections. (Mystery Pollster recently posted on the accuracy (i.e., relative inaccuracy) of post-1990 exit polls.) Therefore, while it may be true, as suggested by Simon and Baiman that "Voters could be so influenced because they had come, indeed, to regard exit poll projections as all but infallible," it cannot be concluded that the exit polls were indeed infallible.

The final leg of the Simon/Baiman strawman is constructed with the following unsourced statement:

Significant exit polling problems began to appear along with the development and spread of computerized vote counting equipment, since which time exit polls have had a notably poorer track record in spite of improvements in polling methodology.
Again, this statement is unsourced and the authors do not define what "problems" they are referring to. Clearly, Mitofsky and Edelman, believed there were problems with the exit polls in 1984, 1988, and 1992 (Mitofsky and Edelman, 1995, pp91-92). And, exit polls weren't used for projections until 1982, so I'm not sure where the authors find support for their statement.

The remaining paragraphs of the section of the Simon/Baiman paper that review exit polls and vote counts offer an overview of Warren Mitofsky's experience and credentials and deals at length with the various methods of tallying votes on election day. I didn't bother to trace the sources and claims about the tallies and methods. As explained later in this post, the statistical analysis employed by Simon and Baiman assumes an accurate vote tally.

The Data

Simon saved screenshots of the CNN web-site in the early morning hours of November 3rd, 2004. The national exit poll data that serves as the basis of the Simon/Baiman paper was pulled at 12:23 am. The CNN web-site reported the proportion of the vote by candidate by gender. The authors somehow divined overall proportions significant to a 10th from an extrapolation of whole numbers. Nevertheless, the Simon/Baiman paper determines that the final "uncalibrated" exit poll (not weighted to the election result), showed Bush with 48.2% and Kerry with 50.8%.

Recently, I stumbled across this site, which appears to have the PDFs for some of the regional and national exit poll releases. On election day, data was circulated in rounds throughout the day. The data linked to above appears to only include the 3:59pm and 7:33pm rounds. A sample of the PDF for the 7:33pm release of the national exit poll is presented in Exhibit 2.

Exhibit 2
7:33pm Release - National Exit Poll
Exhibit 2

As shown in the exhibit, the 7:33pm release showed Kerry up nationally 51% to 48%. Incidentally, this appears to be unchanged from the 3:59pm release, which was based on fewer interviews than the 7:33pm release.

The Simon/Baiman data included a sample size of 13,047 (by gender), whereas the 7:33pm data is based on a sample size of 10,978 (by gender), therefore we can assume the data posted on the CNN web-site at 12:23am was derived from a later release from the NEP than that shown in Exhibit 1. However, Richard Morin of the Washington Post confirmed that the final release of the national exit poll data reported Kerry with 51% and Bush with 48% of the popular vote. Of these final data, Richard Morin wrote:

The 51-48 K were reported as whole numbers, the marginal estimates atop a set of static tables that broke down the results by various demographic and political groups (Morin, 2004).
The data circulated on election eve were reported as whole proportions. The Simon/Baiman paper is based on analysis of data extrapolated to a 10th and is therefore not technically "accurate." Although the authors' use of 48.2% (Bush) and 50.8% (Kerry) understates the significance of the observed discrepancy with the election tally, as explained later in this post, the lack of a significant digit associated with the exit poll data has implications for the conclusions reached in their paper.

The Anaysis

Simon and Baiman determine that the margin of error associated with the national exit poll data based on a sample size of 13,047 is +/- 1.1% (Simon and Baiman, 2004, p9). To get this figure, they take the standard error of a simple random sample and multiply by a factor of 1.3 to account for clustering (exit polls are necessarily cluster samples, not simple random samples).

The 1.3 factor was applied because this was determined by Merkle and Edelman (2002) to be the difference between the standard error of the 1996 presidential election exit polls and the standard error of a poll based on a simple random sample of the same size. This factor is also known as the design effect square root.

Warren Mitofsky has indicated that the factor calculated for the 2004 exit polls ranged from 1.5 to 1.8 depending on the average number of samples per precinct(Mitofsky, 2004):

The Merkle/Edelman paper is not what we computed this year...both Merkle and Edelman participated in this latest calculation (Ibid).
Dan Merkle of ABC News wrote the following regarding the use of this factor for analysis of the 2004 Presidential Election exit polls:
What was in the Merkle and Edelman chapter is only a general estimate based on work at VNS in the early 1990s. The design effect will vary state by state based on the number of interviews per precinct and how clustered the variable is. More work was done on this in 2004 by Edison/Mitofsky. Edelman and I did participate in this. I would suggest using the design effects calculated by Edison/Mitofsky for their 2004 polls (Merkle, 2004).
Complicating the computation of the design effect square root is that there are likely two different factors used for the intercept interviews and the telephone interviews:
[Mitofsky's design effect square roots] only appl[y] to the intercept interviews. [T]here may be a separate (smaller) design effect for the telephone survey component (Merkle, 2004a).
I checked with Jennifer Agiesta of Edison Media Research whether there was a smaller design effect associated with the telephone survey component than reported by Mitofsky. Ms. Agiesta replied:
According to Warren, we did a new study since the one that Dan Merkle and Murray Edelman did some years ago and the design effects Warren reported to you were the latest ones computed. The whole advisory council, including Dan Merkle and Murray Edelman, participated in it and agreed that the information on design effects that Warren sent you is correct (Agiesta 2004).
Although I'm not certain that Ms. Agiesta understood my question and I have a follow-up question pending with her, it should be clear that use of the 1.3 factor is "technically" not appropriate.

The CNN web-site reported a sample size of 13,047. The NEP national exit poll methods statementidicates that 250 precincts were sampled. This would yield anywhere from 50 to 52 interviews per precinct, which according to Mitofsky, translates into a design effect square root of 1.8, not 1.3. The added standard error only increases the approximate confidence interval a fraction of a percent (0.4%). However, the margin of error table circulated with the NEP data on election day for the national exit poll indicated that a sample size of 13,047 would have a +/-1% margin of error (Exhibit 3). Therefore, there is obviously a "range" of confidence intervals that could be associated with the data.

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3

Using their caluclated +/-1.1% margin of error and Kerry's predicted 50.8% of the national vote, Simon and Baiman determine that if the poll were conducted 100 times, 95 of these 100 polls would show Kerry's proportion between 49.7% and 51.9%. Kerry's national vote tally indicated that Kerry received only 48.1% of the national vote and therefore the authors conclude that:

...assuming proper poll methodology, no discriminatory voter supression, and an accurate and honest popular vote count...the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is one in 959,000 - a virtual statistical impossibility (Simon and Baiman, 2004, p10).
Using what I think I've demonstrated to be better data (e.g., +/- 1% with 51% for Kerry's predicted proportion) but the same methods, 95 out of 100 times, the exit poll would show Kerry's proportion between 50% and 52%. Again assuming an accurate vote count and no non-sampling survey error, and using the Simon/Baimon methods with these better data, the odds that Kerry would receive 48.1% of the popular vote is a whopping 151,606,801:1, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors.(1)

Consider, now, that the NEP exit poll data were rounded to a whole proportion.Kerry’s proportion was predicted to be 51%. However, Simon and Baiman compared this percent to an election result significant to a 10th. Therefore, when the 10th is considered, the true exit poll proportion could have been anywhere from 50.5% to 51.4%. We do not know where in this range the true 10th falls. Given this range of possible true exit poll proportions, the odds that Kerry would get 48.1% of the popular vote would range from 82,138:1 to 307,416,049:1 depending on the 10th associated with the exit poll data; again, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors.

Now let’s consider that the margin of error also has an error bound. According to Exhibit 3 above, the margin of error associated with an exit poll with 13,047 interviews is +/-1.0%. But Mitofsky said the more precise margin of error can be determined by calculating the average number of interviews per precinct and using the associated design effect square root.

Given that the average number of interviews per precinct was 50 to 52 (depending on whether you count the telephone interviews), the confidence interval for the national exit poll of 13,047 interviews was closer to +/-1.5%. With the range of possible confidence intervals associated with the data, compounded by the range associated with rounding of the exit poll data, the odds that Kerry's election result would equal 48.1% would be from 1,168:1 to 20,049,235,521:1 depending on rounding procedure and the precise design effect square root; again, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors.

But we’re not done.

The Simon/Baiman calculation assumes what is called a one-tail test. That means they are asking the following question: What are the odds that the election result would be 2.7% less than what the exit poll predicted for Kerry assuming a fair vote count and no non-sampling error? There are two serious problems with this question. First, the exit poll is subject to sampling error and we are assuming that the election tally is accurate and can therefore be considered an established standard. That means that if you took the exit poll 100 times, the average of the 100 exit polls (mean of samples), again assuming no bias of any sort, would equal the election result. These are the assumptions used by the authors.(2)

Simon and Baiman have it backwards as exhibited by their graphic labeled Figure 1 on page 13 of their paper. They apply the confidence interval to the exit poll, with the election result being the deviant. However, we know the "mean of samples," which in this case is the election result (again, as assumed by the authors, there is no bias/fraud in the election tally).

In circumstances where the mean of samples is known, statisticians apply the statistical test Z=(p-P)/s.e. to determine the magnitude (Z-score) and p-value of any discrepancy (where p=exit poll proportion; P=election result; and s.e.=standard error of the exit poll). The established standard becomes the mean of samples and the confidence interval is applied to the established standard. The poll result is then compared to the standard (Rea and Parker, 1997).

Second, the question should be a two-tailed question. Margin of error is by definition two-tailed (hence the +/-). In a situation where we know the mean of samples (the election result), the margin of error is applied to this mean. With a margin of error of +/-1.1%, assuming no bias in the survey, 95 of 100 exit polls would return a result ranging from 47.0% to 49.2% for the predicted Kerry proportion.

As we know the exit poll overstated Kerry’s proportion by 2.7%, but the odds are exactly the same that the same exit poll could have understated Kerry’s proportion by 2.7%. Therefore, the appropriate question is: What are the odds that the exit poll result would be +/-2.7%? To only look at the probability that the error could occur in one direction is violating the assumption that there is no bias in the exit poll or the election tally.

Considering the two-tailed question, the range associated with the exit poll proportion and the confidence interval, the odds that the exit poll result would be +/-2.7% would range from 584:1 to 10,024,617,760:1; again, not 959,000:1 as calculated by the authors. Exhibit 4 presents the p-values and probability calculations per the various methodologies and data assumptions described above.

Exhibit 4

Because the data in the public realm are fuzzy, the data have an error-bound. Given this error bound, the odds that Kerry's exit poll result would be +/-2.7% deviant from the election result would range from 584:1 to 10,024,617,760:1.

Conclusion Based on Analysis of the Exit Poll Data

Given their statistical analysis of the exit poll data, Simon and Baiman concluded that:

The clear implication of our analysis is that neither random chance nor random error is responsible for the significant incongruence of exit poll and tabulated vote results, and that we must look either to significant failings in the exit poll design and/or administration or to equally significant failings in the accuracy and/or fairness of the voting process itself to explain the results (Simon and Baiman, 2004, p10).
Although the implication is not “clear” from their analysis, I generally agree with the Simon and Baiman statement. They could also add that a combination of sampling error, non-sampling error, and vote fraud could account for the discrepancy. The point is that given the fuzziness of the data in the public realm, we simply cannot know for sure.

Clearly the national exit polls which predicted nearly the mirror of the election result were significantly variant from the election result. I don’t think anyone argues with this point; not even Warren Mitofsky or Joe Lenksi, the exit poll designers (see this Myster Pollster post with statements attributed to Mitofsky and Lenski).

If I’ve demonstrated anything with this post, it is that rigorous statistical analysis without consideration of the error bounds associated with the data and justification of the statistical methods employed, is highly dubious. Dr. Freeman of UPenn recently revised his paper with the title, “The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy.” Dr. Freeman uses the same data source and essentially the same methodology as Simon and Baiman to analyze the discrepancy in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. He determines that the discrepancy in each state is statistically significan and reaches the following precise conclusion about this discrepancy:

Assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, the odds against any two of these statistical anomalies occurring together are more than 5,000:1…The odds against all three occurring together are 662,000-to-one. As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance random error.
Statistically, the conclusion isn’t supportable. Given the fuzziness of the data being analyzed, I think it’s safe to say Freeman’s odds, like Simon and Baiman’s odds, have a large error bound. Again, I don't think anyone believes that the discrepancies can be explained by "chance random error."

So what is all this hub-bub about? Why write these papers using marginal statistical analysis and dubious logic “proving” there is a problem with the exit polls (or with the election result) when no one really disputes this fact? I suspect they went through this effort in an attempt to lend credibility to their analysis of "what went wrong." That is, they felt they had to come off as statisticians before they could speculate credibly as to what happened.

Everyone has a theory of what went wrong. Mitofsky and Lenski think the most likely culprit is a combination of sampling and non-sampling error (differential non-response). Freeman and Simon/Baiman think that Kerry really won the election. Dick Morris suspects that foul play on the part of the NEP. Everyone has a theory. Which is correct? I don't know. My point is that the data in the public realm are too fuzzy to determine statistically what went wrong with the exit polls.

Analysis of the Freeman paper forthcoming…


Agiesta, Jennifer. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 23.

Merkle, Dan. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 15.

Merkle, Dan. 2004a. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 17.

Mitofsky, Warren J. 1991. "A Short History of Exit Polls." Polling and Presidential Election Coverage. Eds. P. J. Lavrakas and J. K. Holley. Pp. 83–99. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Mitofksy, Warren J. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 7.

Mitofsky, Warren J. and Murray Edelman. 1995. "A Review of the 1992 VRS Exit Polls." Presidential Polls and the News Media. Eds. P. J. Lavrakas, M.W. Traugott, and P.V. Miller. Pp. 81-100. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Morin, Richard. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 30.

Rea, Louis M. and Richard A. Parker. 1997. Designing and Conducting Survey Research: A Comprehensive Guide.2nd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Simon, Jonathan D. and Ron P. Baimon. 2004. "The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data." Published by Freepress.org.


POST II: Simon and Baiman continued...

There's a nice write-up on the exit polls in Salon, which includes an interview of Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal. Watch the ad and you can read the article for free. It's not perfectly accurate, but worth the read.

Speaking of not perfectly accurate, Simon and Baiman revised their paper, apparently in response to my criticism of their original paper. In a version updated on January 2, 2005, the authors maintain the three-legged strawman that is their literature review, and continue to violate their underlying assumptions by insisting on a single-tail test and setting the population mean to the exit poll result. However, they do attempt to deal with my challenges related to rounding and the confidence interval range.

Regarding the updates, the authors write:

Editor’s Note: The Dec. 28 document has been edited very slightly for greater clarity and accuracy without any substantive changes to its content.
Right... we'll see.

Footnote #17 of their paper includes one of these revisions:

The totals for the full sample are computed by combining the candidate preferences of male and female respondents: Bush = [(males)46% x 52%] + [(females)54% x 45%] = 48.2%; Kerry = [(males)46% x 47%] + [(females)54% x 54%] = 50.8%. Alternatively, if Kerry's exit poll share is minimized by assuming minimal female and male shares and minimal Kerry vote shares out to four decimal places (as low as it can get subject to the indivisibility of whole voters), his absolute minimal vote share would be: 0.5345x0.5345+0.4545x0.4645 = 49.68%. In this case the reported actual Kerry vote of 48.1% is still far outside of the 95% confidence interval of + 1.1% and has just a one in 364 chance of occurrence (see analogous calculations for a Kerry exit poll result of 50.8% in text).
As stated in this footnote, the exit poll data analyzed by Simon/Baiman were extrapolated from the gender splits reported by CNN.

I pointed out in my earlier post that, due to rounding, the true exit poll proportion for Kerry was anywhere from 50.5% to 51.4% and that it was impossible for them to derive a significant value of 50.8%. In the update, Simon/Baiman amazingly acknowledge the rounding issue affects the analysis by taking the decimal out to four places for each of the pointing out that the lower bound of Kerry's true exit poll data (non-extrapolated), when considering the lower bound partials of the male and female votes, the actual lower-bound of the Kerry proportion is 49.68%.

They are more precise in their rounding of the base gender proportions, but I only used 50.5% and 51.4% because I needed to compare it to data rounded to their 50.8%. Why didn't they take the partials out another decimal for the 50.8% in the first place?

Nevertheless, the exit poll data circulated to subscribing members on election day included data rounded to the whole point. Rounding of 49.75% cannot get you to 50.8% no matter how hard you try (therefore their "absolute minimal" values are lower than possible given the extrapolation to a whole which presumably yields 51%). Still, though, they manage to report that the odds due to their calculation of Kerry's "absolute minimal" exit poll share would be reduced from a whopping 959,000:1 to 364:1. If they would have used my methods, it would have been reduced from 959,000:1 to 82,138:1, but hey - I'll take their 364:1 - it will make my upcoming point clearer.

Skip now to the following statement from page 10 of their paper:

To carry our analysis further, we can employ a normal distribution curve (see Figure 1) to determine—again assuming proper poll methodology, no discriminatory voter suppression, and an accurate and honest popular vote count—that the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is one in 959,000—a virtual statistical impossibility.
A couple of problems, here.

The graphic they refer to sets the exit poll as the true population proportion for Kerry, and the election result as the deviant value. This clearly violates their assumption that there was an accurate and honest popular vote count (voter suppression is irrelevant to this analysis because exit polls only poll those who voted). When you have an accurate vote count, you know the population parameter. The confidence interval of a poll is associated with the mean of samples, which means that if you take the same poll 100 times and then take the average of those 100 polls, you will get a mean. This mean has the confidence interval, not a single poll from the 100. The only time you apply the confidence interval to a single poll is when the true mean is not known. Assuming no bias or fraud, the true mean is statistically the same thing as the mean of samples. Therefore it is absolutely inappropriate to distort the facts and apply the confidence interval to the exit poll data given their assumptions.

But that is just me telling them that they are flagrantly biased and illogical in their presentation. The following criticism proves that they are downright misleading and perhaps dishonest in their presentation as well.

The thesis of their article is that "the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is one in 959,000—a virtual statistical impossibility."

Is there a footnote to this statement? Yes, but why did they not include what they revealed in Footnote #17? As the authors demonstrated, the probability value has an error bound. Because we cannot wave a wand and determine the value of Kerry's exit poll result to a digit significant to the 10th (or 100th in their revised footnote), every 10th within the range of possible 10ths has an equal probability of being the true exit poll proportion for Kerry. That means any probability within the calculated range has an equal chance of being the true probability of that the exit poll could be so deviant from the election result due to sampling error alone.

Okay, not done here. Another thing they seem to mess up in the same footnote:

Finally, if we change our cluster sampling adjustment to its maximal possible value of 1.8 (as reportedly stated by Mitofsky in a personal communication (see: http://stones-cry-out.blogspot.com/2005/01/simon-and-baimon-on-exit-polls.html) the Kerry actual reported vote of 48.1% still has only a one in 45 chance of occurring, i.e. well less than a 1% chance (0.0027 probability).
Unfortunately the link to my post is not accurate, but that is my fault; I misspelled Dr. Baiman's last name in my original post and when I changed it, the URL changed. But let's consider the "non-substantive" changes here.

I have no idea how they get that the odds no change from 959,000:1 to 45:1? I didn't do this precise calculation, but when I considered even the lower-bound associated with the rounding of the data to a 10th and the 1.8 design effect square root, I didn't get anywhere near as low as 45:1. So again, they hurt their case, and even more so by failing to report this possibility in a revision of the paper or in a footnote to their thesis statement.

Does anyone think that the following statement would hold?

To carry our analysis further, we can employ a normal distribution curve to determine—again assuming proper poll methodology, no discriminatory voter suppression, and an accurate and honest popular vote count—that the probability that Kerry would have received his reported popular vote total of 48.1%, or less is 1 in 45 —a virtual statistical impossibility.
Not in a heartbeat and they have to know it. If they would have stuck with my calculations, they could have footnoted their thesis statement as follows:
The calculated odds of 957,000:1 are based on an exit poll proportion for Kerry equal to 50.8%. However, because more precise data are not available for analysis, these calculated odds include an error bound, which ranges from 82,138:1 to 307,416,049:1.
Now that is still pretty darn impossible if you ask me!

Why is this a problem? Because they are considered authorities by many and their pseudo-science can be convincing for the ignorant. Jonathan Simon has a J.D. and Ron Baiman has a Ph.D. and is affiliated with Institute of Government and Public Affairs University of Illinois at Chicago.

We all know the exit polls are significantly discrepant. What we do not know is exactly what happened. I've stated before, and I'll state it again: Given the data currently in the public domain, we do not know if the exit poll discrepancy can be explained by: 1) sampling error; 2) non-sampling error; 3) inaccurate vote count; or 4) any combination of 1-3.

To me their analysis tells me two things: 1) they do not understand some fundamentals of statistics; and 2) they realize that their analysis is weak (or bogus), but without it, they think that no one would buy the final three bullets of their paper, which are unsupportable by a fair analysis of the available data and literature.

The Simon/Baiman executive summary states:

  • Evidence does not support hypotheses that the discrepancy was produced by problems with the exit poll.

  • Widespread breakdown in the fairness of the voting process and accuracy of the vote count are the most likely explanations for the discrepancy.

  • In an accurate count of a free and fair election, the strong likelihood is that Kerry would have been the winner of the popular vote.

If you believe the new media has any influence, then you have to conclude by a google of Jonathan Simon and Ron Baiman that these credentialed "analysts" are influencing people. REMEMBER - the left has a "tail" as well and they are using it.

Posted by Rick at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Immigration Debate Continues

Although my schedule has prevented me from making much progress on my immigration series, my primer last week asking whether there were certain instances where emigrating to this country illegally was not sinful generated many great comments that will be useful for my series on the subject.

Friend of this blog, LotharBot, wrote a great post related to my primer and the comments raised by readers. Read it here: Absolute Morality, and the Law as Teacher.

Since the first primer was so successful in generating thoughts, how about another one: What do you think would happen if we were able to locate and deport all the estimated 10 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States?

Posted by Rick at 05:17 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Why I'm not a Democrat

Congressional Democrats gave me more justification for my choice of party affiliation today. Democrats blocked a voice vote on the bi-partisan Schiavo legislation, a tactic that will only delay the President's signing of the bill. Once the Republicans get a quorum, which may occur as early as 8 hours from now, the bill will be passed overwhelmingly by the House. The Dems know that the legislation will pass, but instead take this opportunity to placate their base and demonstrate to America that they are the party of obstructionism and not on the side of life. Despite my socio-economic liberal leanings, this is a clear example of why I am not a Democrat.

Posted by Rick at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry to Sign Form 180?

Mickey Kaus reports that the Philly Inquirer suggests Kerry will sign the Form 180 soon. I'm not holding my breath. Mickey provides some "pre-emptive spin":

Kerry's military records, when fully opened, better show something at least mildly embarrassing! If they're completely innocuous, why couldn't Kerry have signed Form 180 a year ago and cleared up many of the rumors that helped sink his candidacy (and his party)? ... Kerry's belated action could raise as many questions as it answers!

Posted by Rick at 04:59 PM | Comments (2)

Critical Review of The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy

Finally finished my "Critical Review of The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy. Thanks to everyone who reviewed earlier drafts of this paper and provided comments. The PDF of the paper is available here, but please do not hot-link or re-host on another server. If you want to refer readers to the paper, please send them to this post. Thanks.

ABSTRACT: Dr. Steven F. Freeman, visiting University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) professor is not an “expert” on exit polls or the 2004 Presidential exit poll discrepancies as suggested by this UPenn press release. In fact, his paper, The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy, is highly flawed. His argument that “in general, exit poll data are sound” fails having suppressed evidence and the conclusion that “it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in” Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania was not substantiated statistically. Nevertheless, Dr. Freeman is right in concluding that explanations of the discrepancy to date are inadequate and Edison/Mitofsky should address the concerns of US Count Votes in subsequent analysis of their data.

Dr. Freeman wrote a book based on his research that is due out in a couple of months and has a couple of working papers in progress. If The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy is any indicator of the quality of research included in these forthcoming works, I suggest that his publishers take a closer look at the manuscripts.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

Congress to Intervene

In a previous post, I asked whether the Congress could remove the Schiavo case from the jurisdiction of the judicial branch and decide the matter with law. That was before I realized that the "Circuit Court" Judge Greer was not a federal judge. Then I heard Congressman David Drier this morning on Fox saying that the Congress was working on a bill that would extend jurisdiction of the federal courts to the Schiavo case. (story here) Interesting. I had that totally backwards. Nonetheless, Congress sets the jurisdiction of the judicial branch.

KLO has comments from Tom Delay announcing that a bill will be passed by the House and Senate by tomorrow. See, also, Mark Levin's post on the subpoena issue and Sue Bob's commentary on Levin's post.

Posted by Rick at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schiavo Polling Data

Thanks DemFromCT for sending along these WashingtonPost/ABC News and FoxNews/Opinion Dynamic polling data on the Schiavo case, which indicate that public opinion is solidly behind Michael Schiavo. The data are a bit dated, so I wonder if, given all the media attention to the case, public opinion has shifted in the past week?

Posted by Rick at 03:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Groningen Protocol Revisted

Hugh Hewitt posts on a NY Times article Groningen Protocol propaganda piece published by the NY Times.

It had previously been asserted that the Protocol would empower doctors to end the life of terminally ill children, in some cases without parental consent. In the NYT interview, however, the author of the Protocol seems to indicate that parental consent is required.

Hugh is right about the NYT in this case; the parental consent clause mentioned in the story is news and should have been pursued by the writer of the story. But, we can we expect that type of reporting from a NYT journalist?

I hope that this story triggers some investigation by life-bloggers. Does the Groningen Protocol permit anyone other than the parents to end the life of a terminally ill child? Even if it does not, should this matter?

Heaven forbid one of my children were in so much pain that my wife and I could bear it no longer; but, I can imagine circumstances where my love for my child would push me to request that doctors end his/her misery. Is that right? I'll have to pray on that. It seems obvious though that parental consent is the sine qua non for execution of the Groningen Protocol.

Posted by Rick at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Something Good from Florida

My mom forwarded me these pics from a friend of hers in Florida. Neat-o! Thanks mom!

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Posted by Rick at 02:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Congressional Republican Leadership Fights On

The House Committee that issued the subpoenas earlier today filed a motion with the Supreme Court to intervene and reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. If the Court issues the order, it would allow the lower courts time to hear the legality of the Congressional subpoenas or Judge Greer's decision to ignore the United States Congress.

Question for the Constitutional lawyers or experts on Presidential and Congressional powers: 1) Can President Bush issue an executive order to force reinsertion of the feeding tube? 2) If the Supreme Court refuses to intervene, can Congress remove the Schiavo case from the court's jurisdiction and decide the matter on a vote of the House?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The unnamed Republican in the article linked above got it right - we are witnessing barbarism.

UPDATE: Thanks to Joe Carter's fantastic post today, I realize that Judge Greer is not a federal Circuit Court judge, but a judge of the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida. The articles I've read recently only said "Circuit Court" and I thought, Circuit Court of Appeals. Whoops!

I think that means that Congress cannot remove the case from the Court's jurisdiction, because the decision isn't being made there in the first place. What about an Executive Order though? Or a law passed by Congress and signed by the President?

Also, The Anchoress has many posts on the Schiavo story today. In one post, she asks: Can Hillary find "common ground" on behalf of Terri? You know, it would be a brilliant political move. Do you think she's read Noonan lately? I wouldn't be surprised if Clinton steps in to help save Terri Schiavo. Hey, if it works, fine by me.

Posted by Rick at 10:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Congress Subpoenas Terri Schiavo

This breaking from Drudge....

**Exclusive Fri Mar 18 2005 00:50:07 ET** The Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has requested Terri Schiavo to testify before his congressional committee, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. In so doing it triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual.

Members of Congress went to the U.S. Attorney in DC to ask for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a judge, which protects Terri Schiavo from having her life support, including her feeding and hydration tubes, removed... Developing...

Here's the story.

Hugh Hewitt has taken up Terri's Fight these past couple of days on his radio program and his blog. He asks a good question: If the courts are going to sentence Terri to death, why not give her death by some other means than starvation/dehydration?

Why hasn't the court ordered her dispatch by more immediate means? Because that is somehow more intrusive, and makes the judge and court system too complicit? This is an awful thing to think on, but starving Terri Schiavo when her parents wish to feed her is in reality about as brutal a spectacle as that which went on in Iran yesterday. Only done quietly, beyong the sight of a crowd.
Why not give her a lethal injection? If this is truly a "right to die" case, why not go Kevorkian/Eastwood on her?

Posted by Rick at 10:06 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

Immigration Policy Debate Primer

Please take part in my research for the Immigration Series, that I hope I am able to finish in a "reasonable" amount of time. This subject isn't as straightforward as many may think and I'd like to give it some thought.

QUESTIONS: If a Mexican man enters the United States illegally for the purpose of securing employment to feed and clothe his family, has he sinned against God? If yes, why? If no, why not? What support for your position do you find in Scripture?

I don't know the answer here folks. I have some ideas, but they certainly haven't yet been bathed in prayer. I do think this is a fundamental question though because if we can agree to an answer, we may be closer to consensus on solutions.

If you post on the subject, be sure to send a trackback ping or e-mail so I can read up.

Posted by Rick at 03:42 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

At Least They Stood on Principle

Senate Democrats failed to remove a provision for drilling in ANWR from next year’s budget, making it increasingly likely that President Bush will win (another) major political victory. As the provision was included in the budget, it is not subject to filibuster.

I have been a qualified supporter of drilling in ANWR and have to say “tisk tisk” to the Democratic Party for failing to see the writing on the wall here and refusing to compromise. My criticism is especially directed to the junior Senator from Massachusetts:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., argued that more oil would be saved if Congress enacted an energy policy focusing on conservation, more efficient cars and trucks and increased reliance on renewable fuels and expanded oil development in the deep-water Gulf where there are significant reserves.
If the Dems were smart, and John Kerry were a defter politician and leader, there could have been a negotiated agreement on increasing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles in exchange for drilling in ANWR. I would have been happier with the deal had drilling been tied to higher fuel efficiency standards. Now they are left with nothing and I'm not as happy as I could be. {critical sarcasm}At least they stood on principle {/critical sarcasm}.

Posted by Rick at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dave Ramsey on Bankruptcy Legislation

A few days ago, I e-mailed Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) in response to his observation that Dave Ramsey had been silent on the bankruptcy legislation passed Friday by the US Senate. I've never earned a link from Glenn, and my e-mail wasn't associated with a post, so I didn't think anything of it. To my surprise, he e-mailed back. Moreover, he revised his post to include my e-mail.

I sent the e-mail to let Glenn know that I heard Dave rail against the bankruptcy legislation as bought by predatory lenders and he accused the Republican Party of having their votes bought. Isn’t it odd that a champion of personal responsibility and capitalism would be against a bankruptcy bill that would make it harder for people to shirk their legal responsibility to their debtors?

Tonight Ramsey spoke passionately on the subject. You could hear the indignation in his voice as he denounced the Republican Party as having sold out to "evil corporations" and he called the legislation "a piece of crap!"

Dave is spot-on with his criticism of the Republican Party here as he understands the line that Christians should draw between personal responsibility and evil predatory corporate influence disguised as honest business. In the couple years that I’ve listened to him, I’ve rarely heard him call someone or an institution “evil” and I’ve never heard him say “evil corporations,” but I'm glad he did in this instance. Too often political economic ideology obfuscates spiritual discernment. I’m not excusing irresponsible use of credit, but predatory lenders are also culpable here. If the credit card companies want fewer bankruptcy’s, perhaps they shouldn’t extend credit to every Tom, Dick, and Barbara (and their dogs).

Jim, if it’s not too late, Dave Ramsey would make a fine interview for your forthcoming Christianity Today article.

Posted by Rick at 03:33 AM | Comments (6)

Odd/Funny Referral Submissions

Submissions to date include:

-Adam Heine of Itsara: is coy pond or koi pond correct?
-Aaron of Two or Three: turkish cattle prod master slave
-Abigail Brayden: calvin coolidge's birth certificates
-Jeff Smith of Proverbs Daily: effects of vinegar on teeth
-My original: ii need current email contact crazy christians 2005

Fun stuff. Who knows how these search engine algorithms really work?

Posted by Rick at 03:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

New Exit Poll Paper

The National Research Commission on Elections and Voting recently released a working paper entitled, “A Review of Recent Controversies Concerning the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Polls.”

The paper is largely a compilation of known information procured from a variety of internet resources, evinced by the 50 URLs included in the footnotes to the 18-page report. Several blogs were cited in the report, but not as frequently and with as much authority as Mystery Pollster. Overall, I found the paper to be an interesting and informative read.

The biggest flaw of the paper, though, is that the authors give the January 19, 2005 NEP Report prepared by Edison Media/Mitofsky International too much credit. The authors note that the NEP Report provides an “unprecedented amount of information…much more than has ever been released before” (p. 9) but concede that one of the problems with the post-survey evaluations is that “some information is essentially unknowable” (p. 8). While these statements are true, the NEP Report could have taken some of the analysis a step further.

Perhaps the most prominent critical response to the NEP Report is a paper written by a group of highly credentialed academics writing for US Count Votes. Although the US Count Votes paper attacked the NEP Report on a variety of fronts, the most serious charge in the paper was regarding the NEP Report’s handling of WPE by voting method. The NEP Report stated,

WPE in precincts with any type of automated voting system is higher than the average error in paper ballot precincts. These errors are not necessarily a function of the voting equipment. They appear to be a function of the equipment’s location and the voters’ responses to the exit poll at precincts that used this equipment (p. 40).
The authors of the US Count Votes paper zero in on that first statement and reproduce a table showing that the median WPE for precincts with paper ballots was -0.9, but anywhere from -5.5 to -10.3 for all other voting methods, including optical scan, punch cards, touch screen, and mechanical voting. The implication being that automated voting technology could have been tampered with, accounting for the substantially different WPE when compared to WPE in precincts with paper ballots.

However, if you look at the mean and median WPE by urban vs. rural, the differences appear to vanish. The NEP Report explains,

The low value of the WPE in paper ballot precincts may be due to the location of those precincts in rural areas, which had a lower WPE than other places (p. 40).
This apparent case of Simpson’s Paradox seems ripe for more rigorous statistical analysis and unlike the Commission paper, the US Count Votes paper makes the call:
The Edison/Mitofsky Report does not report having done an ANOVA (analysis of variance) of voting machine type that might confirm their claim that there is no difference between precincts using different types of voting machines (p 4-5).
ANOVA would seem to be a no-brainer here and why the NEP Report does not include the results of this test is baffling. If a significant difference by voting method is found in the aggregate, the data can be re-aggregated by rural v. urban and retested. If these differences are not significant, then report this fact and explain what it is about the data that could cause the discrepant significance findings. If the discrepancies are significant, then some other explanation of the discrepancy should be pursued.

This leads me back to my claim that the Commission paper is too soft on the NEP Report. First, the NEP Report should have included results of an ANOVA test of WPE by vote method. If not, they should make the data available so it can be independently tested. The concluding paragraph of the Commission paper reads as follows:

The information on the exit poll methodology is still being consumed by independent analysts, and there are now calls for the release of raw and supplementary data from sample precincts. This would include contextual data about the vote history in those areas as well as information about the interviewers. This is unlikely to happen, and for justifiable reasons. Such information would be too politically sensitive in that disclosure of the sample sites could subject the exit poll interviewing to manipulation by political organizations and interest groups on Election Day if the same sites are always chosen (p. 13).
While I can sympathize with these concerns, an ANOVA of the WPE by voting machine would not require this type of data. To run the ANOVA, all that is needed is a spreadsheet with four columns: 1) dummy precinct ID (doesn’t have to be real); 2) WPE for the precinct; 3) type of voting method used in the precinct; and 4) precinct population. SPSS can calculate the rest.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Terms of the Debate

Question: Do we label someone who drives without a license an "illegal driver?" Do we call someone who has a forged, or borrowed license, an "illegal driver"? Or do we label them as “unlicensed drivers”? I suggest that most refer to these criminals, who show no regard for our rule of law, as unlicensed drivers. After all, driving, like citizenship or a green card for the foreign born, is a privilege, not a right.

The term “illegal alien” is an oft-used semantic tool and effective fomenting agent in the illegal immigration policy debate, but it is really argumentum ad hominem. I hope to avoid coloring the substantive issues with this type of invective and name calling in my series. (Read this article for more on the semantics debate.)

Like the unlicensed driver, an immigrant who has entered this country without the proper documents is an undocumented immigrant. But as pointed out to me by Dr. Wayne Cornelius, Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), "undocumented" is a misnomer. He wrote in an e-mail, "A large majority of "undocumented" migrants actually carry some type of ID document that is either purchased (falsified doc) or borrowed from friends or relatives (valid doc)." Dr. Cornelius prefers "unauthorized."

Because "unauthorized" covers both the undocumented immigrants and those immigrants with falsified documents, I will adopt Dr. Cornelius's nomenclature for this series. With the terms of the debate established, I hope we can engage in a thought provoking and soul searching discussion of this important issue.

Posted by Rick at 05:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Judge Overturns CA Ban on Gay Marriage

A San Francisco Superior Court Judge ruled moments ago that the State of California cannot limit marriage to a man and a woman. "It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners," said the judge's opinion.

It's only a Superior Court judge, but aren't these judges supposed to be the most conservative with their rulings? That is, aren't they supposed to default to case law even if they disagree with it? I thought the Supreme Court of California was the appropriate place to review the constitutionality of historical interpretation of case law or legislation passed by the legislature or initiative. Watch this case closely America; it will be very interesting to see how far the "robed ones" are allowed to take this.

Posted by Rick at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Taking Nominations

If you blog, especially if you operate a lower-traffic site, you probably pay close attention to your referral traffic. I do. The new SCO gets a lot more referral traffic from search engines than the old SCO it's been amusing to see exactly which keywords landed surfers here. Today we had a visitor who keyed "ii need current email contact crazy christians 2005" into the MSN Search.

Those off-the-wall keywords gave me an idea - let's have some fun and hold a context for the most amusing (but clean) search keywords discovered through Site Meters. Please follow my example in the link above where I provide both the keyword text and the link to the search engine page that the visitor used to get to the blog.

Posted by Rick at 02:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Study demonstrates MSM anti-Bush/pro-Kerry bias in 2004 election coverage. What right-wing organization funded this study and what exactly did they find?

The annual report by a press watchdog that is affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that 36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.

Only 20 percent were positive toward Bush compared to 30 percent of stories about Kerry that were positive, according to the report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.


Posted by Rick at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Freedom on the March in Lebanon

Pictures and stories are starting to flow in from today's massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Lebanon.


According to the AP,
Monday's protest easily topped a pro-government rally of hundreds of thousands of people last week by the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.
The pro-democracy demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Suppose in the coming weeks Hezbollah, backed by the Syrian or Iranian government, attacked the pro-democracy demonstrators. What should America's reponse be given President Bush's promise to stand with those in the Middle East who take a stand for freedom?

If we are to maintain credibillity in the Middle East, and keep the democratic snowball rolling, we would provide whatever support the independent Lebanese ask of us.

Posted by Rick at 11:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Series on Immigration Policy

If you've followed my posting from the beginning at the old SCO, then you know that I haven't posted on the topic of immigration. That's about to change.

Hugh Hewitt directs us to this article from Glenn Reynolds, as well as Whizbang, Polipundit, Hedgehog (See here, here, here, here and here), and Michelle Malkin for "informed views on the tough issues" and makes the following observation:

There's a small, hard-core nativist, anti-even-legal-immigrant group that seeks to hijack every conversation and comment thread about border security, and you can usually identify its members pretty quickly. But the venom among this small, off-putting group should not disguise the fact there is widespread, across-the-political-spectrum worry that there isn't enough effort being put into border security. And that concern could become Hillary's path to the right in 2008, though it is hard to see how, if the issue is border security, the answer could ever be a Democrat in the White House.
I share many of Hugh's concerns and think it's time that I speak out on this important issue.

As a full-time husband, dad, and grad student, this series may take a while, but it's important that we have this debate. My first post of the series will appear tomorrow and I've established the following general guide for future posts:

1. Terms of the Debate
2. Drivers of Unauthorized Immigration: Immigrant’s Perspective
3. Drivers of Unauthorized Immigration: Employer's Perspective
4. Failed US Border Policy: an Historical Overview
5. National Security and Border Policy
6. What Should Be the Christian Approach to Immigration Policy?
7. Moving towards a Rational and Humane Immigration Policy

Posted by Rick at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scandal Brewing?

Carol Platt Liebau contends that "[t]here is an ugly scandal brewing in Washington -- and with it, there are those who are salivating with excitement at the prospect of using it as a way to tarnish the Religious Right." It involves Ralph Reed and Dr. James Dobson. Read Liebau's post and stay ahead of the curve on this story in case it turns out to be the scandal that Liebau thinks it could become.

Posted by Rick at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Leno's Jackson Jokes

I didn't see Leno the other night, but blogger Bernard Higgins of A Certain Slant of Light raises some good points about the host's monologue. Here's a sampling, but read the whole essay yourself:

There was a perverseness to Leno's concatenation of jokes that went far beyond defaming a pop music icon on trial for purportedly molesting a young boy at his Neverland Ranch. The jokes were not just mean-spirited. They suggested that pedophilia is just a funny fetish, rather than the sick, horrific crime it is, a crime perpetrated on innocent, unwary children...What Leno did last night was a form of abuse. It abused the rule of law; it abused the notion of fair play; it coarsened America.
It's easy to poke fun at Michael Jackson for his eccentricity, but we should extend grace and love to the man. If he is guilty of molestation, then he should be punished. If he is not guilty of the things he's accused of, then all those, including Leno, who ascribed guilt to Jackson prior to his conviction, should be ashamed. That aside - as Bernard has written so well - child abuse is never funny and Leno appears to have crossed the line.

Posted by Rick at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

FEC Crackdown on Poli-Blogging?

Unlike most of the high traffic bloggers, Hugh Hewitt, hasn't spent much time blogging about recent statements by FEC Commisioner Bradley Smith that suggested the FEC may regulate political blogging. According to Hewitt, a Con Law Professor, "it would be patently and obviously unconstitutional to classify the content of a political blog --which is essentially a cyber-newspaper-- as within the purview of the FEC."

I thought for sure that McCain-Feingold would be found to be unconstitutional, but it was not. Mark Tapscott thought so as well and penned this FoxNews article written shortly after the ruling in December 2003.

I searched Hugh's archives, although not exhaustively, and found few comments regarding the McCain-Feingold. I wonder if he thought that legislation was blatantly unconstitutional?

I signed this petition, which was also signed by the likes of Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Captain Ed (Captain's Quarters), Michelle Malkin, and Mike Krempasky (Red State), Mark Tapscott (Tapscott's Copy Desk), Arthur Baker (Okie on the Lam - Thanks for the tip!), and 2,200+ others to date. Oh, BTW - those links provide commentary on the petition and the potential FEC crackdown. Read them all, but here's a highlight from the Instapundit:

Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, spoke before me. He opened with some rather uncharitable remarks regarding fellow commissioner Brad Smith's comments on FEC regulation of blogs, but followed up with a discussion of FEC intent that, although it was supposed to be reassuring, actually left me thinking that the FEC was thinking more seriously about regulating blogs than I had previously believed. I wasn't reassured at all, and the complexity of the reasoning he outlined just illustrated how much discretion -- and how little real guidance -- the FEC has on these kinds of questions.
Sure, it SHOULD be blatantly and obviously unconstitutional to classify poli-blogs any differently than conventional newspapers, but better safe than sorry - right?

Posted by Rick at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

Condi for Pres?

Condi's refusal to rule out a run for President in 2008 generated aabout as much buzz as her position on abortion. (check Technorati for some links)

I'm not exactly sure why so many Christians get wound up about Condi's "mildly pro-choice" stance on abortion. If you look at her words carefully, her position sure seems to be a lot like that of President George and Laura Bush. However, the point should be moot - this morning Rice flat out rejected a run for president.

First, what Condi said:

We should not have the federal government in a position where it is forcing its views on one side or the other. So, for instance, I've tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund it.

I am a strong proponent of parental notification. I am a strong proponent of a ban on late-term abortion. These are all things that I think unite people and I think that that's where we should be. We ought to have a culture that says, "Who wants to have an abortion? Who wants to see a daughter or a friend or a sibling go through something like that?"

What Laura Bush has said:
No, I don't think [Roe v. Wade] should be overturned...[Instead we should do] what we can to limit the number of abortions, to try to reduce the number of abortions in a lot of ways, and that is, by talking about responsibility with girls and boys, by teaching abstinence, having abstinence classes everywhere in schools and in churches and in Sunday school.

What President Bush has said:
I think a noble goal for this country that any child, born or unborn, need to be protected by law and welcomed to life. I know we need to change a lot of minds before we get there in America. We can find common ground on issues of parental consent or notification. I know we need to ban partial birth abortions.
I'm of the opinion that we should not, by judicial fiat, make abortion illegal in America. We should do what we can to whittle away at Roe v. Wade, first and foremost by confirming judges that will uphold a ban on partial birth abortion and support parental notification. In the mean time, we must pray and persuade; pray for God to change the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans who do not agree with us (see these polling data - in most poss, less than 25% of Americans think abortion should be illegal), and peruade them towards our position on abortion - that it is murder and not a choice.

But this issue as it relates to Condi should be moot. This morning on Meet the Press, she told Tim Russert, "I won’t run." Now, if she continues to say that she won't run for President, and then flips come 2007, I'd be more disappointed in her than I was after hearing of her "mildly pro-choice" stance on abortion.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Gallup Poll on Blogging

Mystery Pollster comments on a recent Gallup poll that found only 12% of Americans read political blogs at least a few times per month.

Here's a taste of MP's astute analysis (go read the rest):

No, the collective reach of blogs is nowhere near that of television or print media, but focusing on the relatively small percentages misses the rapidly growing influence of the blog readership in absolute terms. The 12% that say they read political blogs at least a few times a month amount to roughly 26 million Americans. That may not make blogs a "dominant" news source, but one American in ten ads up to a lot of influence.

Posted by Rick at 08:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Obscene Wealth

Drudge has a list of the Forbes 20 richest individuals. The usual suspects made the list (Gates, Buffet, et al), but what struck me was the combined net worth of the Walton family (Wal-Mart). S. Robson, Jim, John, Alice, and Helen are each reportedly worth $18.0 billion to $18.3 billion. Combined, their net worth is $90.7 billion, or nearly twice that of Bill Gates ($46.5 billion).

I don’t suffer rich person envy, but there comes a point when hoarding wealth is obscene and these folks have reached that threshold for me. (Yes I know these figures do not represent liquid assets, but still…)

My uncle is an executive for a regional supermarket in the San Joaquin Valley (Save Mart). Save Mart has been serving local customers and providing solid paying jobs to the communities for years. We spoke recently of the impact of the Super Wal-Mart invasion on the neighborhood supermarkets. Without divulging trade secrets, I can tell you that the impact is astounding. All grocer chains will be closing stores and letting long-time employees go. When you compare the pay of the jobs lost to the pay of a Wal-Mart employee… Well, stop right there. It’s not at all comparable.

I’m for free market competition, but Wal-Mart does not compete with local supermarkets, they annihilate them. So you save a few bucks buying cheap Chinese goods, the Walton family runs off with the cash, and hard working breadwinners are sent packing. Hey, if you can honestly rejoice in that as a victory for capitalism, go for it - but I can't.

Posted by Rick at 07:33 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

When is Enough, Enough?

I supported Bush’s proposal to cut taxes during the 2000 election campaign when we had projected surpluses out the wazoo. After all, the government overcharged its citizens for the services it was providing and President Bush was simply proposing to give us back our change at the register.

I continued to support Bush’s tax cuts when the "warning light flashed on the dashboard of our economy” in 2001 as the Clinton bubble turned into the Clinton recession.

When Congress voted to extend Bush’s tax cuts in September 2004, the fourth time in four years, I understood that move was largely political with the election around the corner, but didn’t think it prudent to extend the tax cuts beyond 2010.

I cannot however support Bush’s current tax cut proposal, nor can I support the counter-proposal of a handful of GOP Senators to scale it back a bit.

The economy is on the right track. We should rejoice in steady stable growth. Why continue to cut taxes? Why not be patient and give the existing tax cuts time to work? Maybe I’m just an Eisenhower Republican when it comes to tax policy. I don’t see anything wrong with that, because there comes a time when we have to ask: When is enough, enough?

Posted by Rick at 03:03 PM | Comments (4)

March 09, 2005

The Byrd Option

Clever title for this Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. (HT: twoorthree) If everyone referred to the proposed Senate rule change as the "Byrd Option" rather than the "Nuclear Option," it would conjure up recollections of Senator Byrd's trigger happy past.

Posted by Rick at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amputees Back to Combat

Broken Masterpieces calls out seven amputees that are trying to get back into combat:

Army S/Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf
Army Pfc. George Perez
S/Sgt. David Chatham
Army Capt. David Rozelle
Senior Airman Anthony Pizzifred
Special Forces Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey
Army S/Sgt. Josh Olson

Their inspiring stories are told in the latest issue of Newsweek and MSNBC carries the article. Go read Tim’s exhortation to us for them. Then act.

Posted by Rick at 06:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Numa Numa by Gary Brolsma

Watch this video for a good laugh. daddyddc of Plethora Blog suggests that you watch the eyebrow.

Posted by Rick at 09:31 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Can you Live Blog a Screenplay Writing?

If you can't, Shawna of Shouting into the Wind is coming about as close to it as possible. Here's the latest:

So, I'm on page 58. Things are breezing along, which is really rare for me. I hit a scene I was loving to death, so much so it went on a page to long and I had to immediately go cut it back. But then I discovered, to my horror, that one of my secondary characters is trying to TAKE OVER MY STORY!! I don't know how that happened but that little s.o.b. Manny is trying to steal Dennis's story right out from underneath him. I'm not sure how to beat him back and bring Dennis to more prominance. This always happen to me. I get a kick out of one of my secondary characters and before you know it, that person is far more interesting than the main character.
Visit her site, scroll to the bottom, then read the posts chronologically. Fun stuff :-)

Posted by Rick at 02:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fishbowl View of Chinese Political Economy

The Washington Post has a great little article about the closure of Silk Alley in Beijing, a place where a form of street-vendor capitalism has flourished for decades under the envious eye of China's Communist Party. The local Party officials have learned to wed their power with capitalism.

"It's quite typical," said Jiang Zezhong, an economist at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. "The government has the power and investors have the money. They join up and together extract all the benefits."

And, Drudge links to a UK Telegraph article on worry amongst State Communist Party elite about China's bloated bureaucracy and its 46 million government employees. Aside from the corruption, the civil servants are "expensive, requiring official cars, holidays masquerading as training sessions and receptions."

The State government had an apparent motive for publishing their data as it pointed largely to the excess and corruption of the local Party officials:

Yesterday's disclosures were not the great step forward in parliamentary accountability they might appear. They fit squarely with a drive by the new party leadership to assert greater control over local government, where most of the bloated ranks of officials are to be found.
Maybe the local officials should just give the State Party elite shares in their shady public/private ventures and everyone will be happy, right?

Posted by Rick at 01:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Millard Fuller Firing

In light of Jim's earlier post on the firing of Habitat for Humanity's founder and president, Millard Fuller, it's often hard to tell fact from fiction. Nonetheless, this Washington Post article doesn't bode well for the philanthropist. How does one man rack up so many apparently corroborated claims of sexual harassment?

Jim, you mentioned a possible future Christianity Today article on the subject. What's the scoop?

Posted by Rick at 12:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

Jim Jewell: SCO White House Correspondent

I nominate Jim to represent SCO and join the White House Press Corps. If 23 year old blogger Garret Graff can earn a pass, public relations veteran Jim should should be able to obtain credentials.

New York Times story on Graff here. According to NYU journalism professor, Jay Rosen,

Mr. Graff was expanding the definition of what constitutes the press, just as radio and television once pushed those boundaries.
I'll say.

Posted by Rick at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Decline of Atheism/Rise of Pantheism

In response to Jim's post earlier this morning, The Decline of Atheism, reader John of Locusts and Honey comments on the increase in pantheists that "reach the relativistic conclusion that everything is true and therefore nothing is true."

Assuming there truly is a decline in atheism as indicated by the UPI/Washington Times article, I think John identifies the most significant underlying point: former or would-be atheists are not rushing in droves to the feet of Christ.

Aaron of Two or Three posts on the subject and also notes the rise of pantheism (or paganism):

Christians need to be prepared for the type of discussion and debates that this type of belief system will provoke. I am afraid like in virtually every other previous debate, Christians will be out in the culture decrying the evils of atheism when there are only a handful of them left and we will be ill-prepared for the new culture.
Good points John and Aaron.

Posted by Rick at 03:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Bravo President Clinton

I never thought I'd say that, but he deserves it. According to this report (HT: Drudge), Bill slept on the floor so the senior Bush could sleep on the bed during their Tsunami tour.

"We could have switched places, each getting half a night on the bed, but he deferred to me. That was a very courteous thing, very thoughtful, and that meant a great deal to me," Bush said.

Posted by Rick at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Judge Refuses Yale Law Grad Clerks

Federal Judge William M. Acker (Alabama) informed Yale Law School that their graduates need not apply for a clerkship in his office as a result of the school's decision to curb military recruitment efforts at the Ivy League law school. The story is over a week old now, but I still haven't formed a solid opinion about it, so I thought I'd throw it out there.

The article cites Eugene Volokh and the Volokh Conspiracy.

"Collective punishment can sometimes be an effective method of sending a message to an institution, but it's not quite fair to penalize the student for the law school he went to," Volokh said. "Judges ought to try to be extra fair to everyone."
Would it have been fairer to students if the Judge announced that he would not accept students entering Fall '05 or later? I doubt this would change any minds about attending Yale, but at least dilligent students would learn that choosing Yale would mean one less clerkship opportunity.

Posted by Rick at 10:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Angers, France

My jaw dropped when I read the first paragraph to this story from Angers, France; but as I read, I became deeply sadened.

...parents allegedly raped, abused and pimped children and even babies....Investigators say 45 children — aged from 6 months to 14 years — were abused by their parents or people close to them from 1999 to 2002, in some cases in exchange for small amounts of money, food, cigarettes or alcohol.
Over 60 people from this small town in western France have been charged. Why?
Alcoholism, poverty and, defense lawyers claim, a failure of social workers to spot signs of abuse may have played a role. More than half of the accused, aged 27 to 73, were unemployed, living off benefits in state-supported housing.
Uh, Wrong. It's called moral and spiritual depravity.

If this happened in Old Testament times, I figure God would have smote the entire village.

Posted by Rick at 07:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

More Outrage

This time from Hugh Hewitt at the LA Times for this article. The following sums up Hugh's complaint: "70 years ago American journalism did not cooperate with evil. It reported on it."

I agree. The article is outrageous and the LA Times should be held to account. Hugh has many suggestions for action.

Outrage can be expressed in many ways - some sinful, others righteous. Perhaps indignation is a better word to describe the type of response I was looking for in response to Dean and Byrd's recent comments, although WordNet by Princeton University uses the terms interchangeably. (See 3rd entry for outrage and 3rd entry for indignant)

Hugh urges an indignant response to an outrageous publication of a news organization with power and influence both here and abroad. If the publication was of little significance or influence, we wouldn't even know about it - as things should be.

Our 1st Amendment guarantees a free press, but does not guarantee that press an audience and certainly does not insulate that press from public criticism. In fact, I believe that responding indignantly (and proportionally no doubt) to any outrageous abuse of the 1st Amendment is both our reasonable and responsible service as Americans.

Posted by Rick at 02:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reaction to Byrd's Hitler Comments


Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Byrd's remarks showed "a profound lack of understanding as to who Hitler was" and that the senator should apologize to the American people.

"It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party's tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party," Foxman said.

(HT: Drudge).

More from the Washington Post and New York Times. But nothing on Dean's slander of pastors?

Posted by Rick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

SCOTUS: New Arbiters of National and International Consensus?

I am not particularly fond of the death penalty (I've had a very loose draft of a post on the subject sitting idle for too long now), but the philosophical basis for yesterday's Supreme Court ruling overturning various State laws allowing the execution of minors is troubling. The Court cites a "national consensus" against the death penalty for minors and, via references to foreign decisions and law, suggests their decision conformed also to a global consensus.

Let's look at a timeline:
1989 Stanford v. Kentucky: Court upheld State laws allowing death penalty for minors.
1997 State v. Simmons: Missouri Court ruled that Simmons' death sentence was constitutional. A 2001 appeal was denied (Simmons v. Bowersox, 235 F. 3d 1124, 1127 (CA8), cert. denied, 534 U. S. 924 [2001].).
2002 Atkins v. Virginia: Justice Stevens' opinion cited a "national consensus has developed" against the death penalty for mentally retarded.
2002: Simmons files a new petition on the basis of Atkins v. Virginia. The petition argues that the conditions of his 1997 Missouri Supreme Court and 2001 appeal have changed.
2003 State ex. rel. Simmons v. Roper: Missouri Supreme Court overturns their earlier ruling, saying that, whereas in Atkins v. Virginia, a national consensus had developed against the death penalty for the retarded, a national consensus had also developed against the death penalty for minors.
2004 Simmons v. Roper: The Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Stevens Kennedy, author of the Atkins decision, cites the "national consensus" as a valid reason for striking down the death penalty for minors.

With this ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has assumed the role of arbiter of national consensus. Simmons v. Roper also facilitates arbitration of international consensus by the Court.

I link to an article on the subject from the Economist, a highly respected British periodical, because it exemplifies well my objection to the Simmons v. Roper decision.

The article outlines three trends that may signal an end to the death penalty in America: 1) public opinion; 2) judicial and executive activism; and 3) appeals to foreign opinion and law (I admit is not easily distinguishable from point #2.)

On point #3:

A third trend against the death penalty in America is the increasing attention paid to moral views elsewhere. In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court acknowledged “the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty”. While the court explicitly said that foreign opinions, legal or moral, are not binding in American law, they were nonetheless “respected and significant confirmation” for Tuesday’s ruling.
As demonstrated by the "national consensus" timeline, in this instance there is merit to the tired slippery slope argument. One day the Court references a foreign judicial opinion or law as ancilliary support for an opinion. The next day, the Court relies on this previous opinion and its references to foreign law in the supporting rationale for an otherwise tenuous opinion. Opinions build upon opinions and the line between American case law and foreign case law becomes blurred.

The Economist ended their article with the following quote, which touches on the problem with Stevens' national consensus proclamation:

America may be happy to differ sharply from the world’s other democracies on some moral and ethical issues, and this often irritates its closest friends. But this week’s death-penalty ruling seems to show that even a superpower can sometimes be swayed, even if just a bit.
Has America been swayed? Or have 5 of 9 life tenured unelected Robed Ones been swayed?

NROs Jonathon Adler echoes my concerns:

I have substantial qualms about the death penalty, but I cannot see how today's decision is "good" in any sense of the word. As a legal opinion, it's outrageous. It replaces representative government and the rule of law with the moral sense of five folks in robes.
I realize that the consensus of a polity can be stifled in our most directly representative institutions, but the SCOTUS is hardly the appropriate body for determining national consensus. Worse for democracy, though, would be a SCOTUS that forces Americans to submit to international consensus.

Posted by Rick at 09:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Govenator and 'Roids

Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger has no regrets about his use of steroids as a body builder. Earlier this week, the headlines declared just that: Schwarzenegger: No Regrets About Steroids.

Did he not know that his admission and not the context of his admission would be the message heard by most; especially, our nation's youth? Apparently the 'roids were legal at the time and he took them as prescribed by a doctor, but until I actually read the article, all I heard were the headlines. Schwarzenegger told Stephanopoulos

"We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing. So you can't roll the clock back and say, 'Now I would change my mind on this,'" he said...
Why not? I'm a bit perplexed by the Governator on this one.

Posted by Rick at 09:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Sound Booth

Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost links to a blog dedicated to Church sound.

As a former sound dweeb for my church and tour engineer for a local Christian act, How's Kelly, and house engineer for a parachurch ministry, I am happy to learn of this blog.

Speaking of music and sound - now that I have access to a server, I should post links to some of the music I've produced over the years. Maybe someone would be interested... Maybe not...

Posted by Rick at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nuclear Option - California Style!

The Govenator took a step closer today to following through with his threat to bypass the Sacramento Legislature and take some of his reform initiatives to the people. Is a Governor's threatened use of the Initiative to bypass obstructionist Democrats in Sacramento equivalent to the Senate's threatened use of the nuclear option to bypass Democrat obstructionists in the Senate?

I wonder how many California Democrats are studying the Byrd speech? After all, Arnold's father was a member of the Nazi party!

Posted by Rick at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tipping Point?

Senator Byrd provides us with another excuse to go nuclear - oh, and to be outraged! (HT: Hugh Hewitt)

[Adoloph Hitler] recognized the enormous, psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made his illegality legal. And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do.
Is it time to break out the Holocaust photos and videos? When the loony left (think Moore and the folks at DU) says things like this, I shrug it off. But this vitriol is brought to you from the leader of the Democratic Party and the senior Democrat in the United States Senate.

RNC Chairman Ken Melham says Byrd's remarks are "reprehensible and beyond the pale." Take the cue activists and speak up! This must not be tolerated.

Another thing that must not be tolerated is the unconstitutional denial of each and every Senator's right to offer advice and consent. Existing rules disenfranchise a majority of US Senators!

Be sure to read Radioblogger's comprehensive rebuttal to Byrd's tripe, especially as they pertain to his arguments for the filibuster. Wasn't Byrd the one who weakened the filibuster, not once, but four times? (This, according to Senator Arlen Specter)

Aside from the hypocrisy involved - I expect that from politicians on both sides of the isle - Radioblogger points out the intent of the Senate's Constitutional role to offer advice and consent. Most compellingly, he quotes Federalist #66 by Hamilton as cited in Mark Levin's, "Men in Black."

It will be the Office of the President to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint. There will, of course, be no exertion of choice on the part of the Senate. They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves choose - they can only ratify or reject the choice he may have made. -- Alexander Hamilton
I love that term - "ratify or reject." The filibuster may have many good and Constitutional uses; but Senate Rule 22 currently allows a minority of Senators to prevent duly elected Senators from exercising their Constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on Presidential appointments.

Get your heads out of the clouds and mobilize to action! Don't be so "spiritually" minded that you are of no earthly good. Speak in defense of our Constitution and Senators' rights to advice and consent. Buttress good with action and deny attempts to obfuscate good and evil. Stand up and be counted. Stand up!

Posted by Rick at 09:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Where is the Outrage?

Having spent the past hour searching the blogosphere for posts related to Howard Dean's "good versus evil" comment, I have to ask: Where is the outrage?

Perhaps it's understandable as I was not quite outraged following my first post on the subject. While a tad cross-eyed over Dean's characterization of pro-life pastors, I wasn't outraged. Affirmed in my political party afilliation, yes. But not outraged.

Upon filing my post, I thought for a while about Dean's allusion to Bush's use of "good and evil" in the war on terrorism (GWOT) and how mixed up he must be to compare domestic policy to the war on terrorism. I also thought more about his comments on abortion. Did this guy really think that a pastor who holds life in high regard is somehow part of an evil domestic agenda rhetorically equivalent to the GWOT?

With a few clicks of a mouse, I found myself on Michael Savage's website. I'm no Savage fan, but I noticed a collection of links to videos of hostage beheadings at the hands of islamofascists. While I had seen still photos of the beheadings thanks to Drudge, I had not seen a video, so, in aftermath of Dean's comments on good and evil, I watched the videos. Each one of them - and in horror.

What I saw almost made me vomit; in fact, it left me with a sick feeling all day that lasts this hour. I will likely never forget what I saw - nor should I!

I became full of what I hope was a righteous rage over Dean's remarks following the viewing. My thoughts then turned to images I had seen months ago of aborted babies and drafted a post expressing my contempt for Dean's remarks, which included links to the disturbing photos and videos.

Although I left a warning, a commenter objected, writing:

In the above post you link to some of the most disturbing images ever made available for public viewing, with nothing more than a parenthetical warning about disturbing graphic images...
Until now I had only seen two videos of decapitation (now three). That was all I needed. More, actually, because these images have a more corrosive impact on visual memory than pornography. In fact, I imagine that such images are pornographic for some segment of the population.
I am sensitive to the commenters' objections, but, I have to disagree here. The reason I do not link to pornography is because I fear it would stumble not only myself, but others, who may struggle with lust. Perhaps I am presuming too much about our readers, but I did not consider that the pictures and videos would lead others to sin. I hoped it would drive them to their knees and scream out to God on behalf of man and for intervention.

Following the links to the photos and watching the videos do scar the visual memory - to that I bear witness - but for those who are not outraged by Dean's choice of words in his political rhetoric, I recommend the videos to scar them out of their sin of complacency.

I started this post with a mention of my hour-long search for posts on the subject. Hindrocket's post was typical of most as it highlighted the clear hypocricy in Dean's tolerant intolerance, but I did not find a single post expressing outrage with Dean. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Many pundits thanked the Democrats for giving the Republicans a gift like Dean. Others opined that Dean was merely rallying the base that largely agrees with him, which has the added affect of making more mainstream Democrats look more electable.

All of these posts miss the mark. I feel that through this experience, God has removed scales of complacency from my eyes and I saw a glimpse of Satan himself in Dean's remarks. I'm not a "demon under every rock" kind of Christian; but, this awakening put the fear of God in me, so to speak.

Howard Dean suggested a type of equivalency between domestic and foreign struggles of good and evil. He claimed to be on the side of good in the domestic struggle - the side against, among others, pastors who support life. If there is any equivalency here, it is between what is happening to millions of American babies and what happened to those poor hostages at the hands of man. View the pictures, watch the videos, read Dean's comments, then tell me you aren't outraged!

Posted by Rick at 01:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

God Blog Con I

God Blog Con I will be held on the Biola Campus in La Mirada, CA. Dates are October 13th (Thursday) through the 15th (Saturday). Mark your calendars and start calling churches in the area for a spot on their multi-purpose room floor :-). I got dibs on Hugh's couch.

Posted by Rick at 01:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2005

Behind the Information Curve

Drudge links to a Time Magazine story that is revealing of how much the world has to learn of democracy, freedom of speech, and, just how far behind the curve we are regarding global information dissemination.

Vladmir Putin of Russia truly thinks that the US Government was responsible for the firings at CBS over Rathergate.

According to an MSNBC report of the episode:

It's not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush's National Guard service. Yet it's all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media—just like his own. Bush's aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin's inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists.
Last week was not the first time Bush had to answer a question out of left-field from the Russian President. Once, while at Crawford TX, Putin reportedly asked Bush if the US had two different chicken plants; one superior for Americans and another inferior for Russian consumers. The Rathergate question "reinforced the Administration's view that Putin's impressions of America are often based on urban myths fed to him by ill-informed aides."

I don't think that Putin is a fever swamp moonbat like Democrat Congressman Maurice Hinchey; he's just grossly misinformed - and that is OUR fault.

U.S. aides say that to help fight against this kind of misinformation, they are struggling to build relationships that go beyond Putin. "We need to go deeper into the well into other levels of government," explains an aide.
That would be a start; but, I sure hope our government is exploring ways in which the blogosphere can be used to influence public opinion and convey information globally. Russia is only one front of the information war. Iran is another. Europe and China are others that are ripe for information priming.

Posted by Rick at 09:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Public High Schools Obsolete?

Bill Gates has declared US High Schools obsolete.

[Gates] called for a get-tough approach toward schools that fail.

"When the students don't learn, the school must change," Gates said. "Every state needs a strong intervention strategy to improve struggling schools."

"This needs to include special teams of experts who are given the power and resources to turn things around," he said.

It seems to me that the education of our children is impeded by failed institutions.

First, the family institution has failed. Parents have abdicated the responisibility of being the primary educators of their children. Second, the public education system has been hijacked by teachers unions.

I am told that in the "good old days," parents would have the presence of mind to register complaints with a local principal about an underperforming teacher and that principal was empowered by the School Board to take the necessary corrective action. Now, it seems that fewer parents are involved enough to complain, but when they do, underperforming teachers are protected by unions and given a pass.

One of my first blog posts was on this subject. In that post, I referenced an article that reported that 53 percent of workers ages 16 and older are functionally illiterate, and asked: Who Do They Sue? Students, who can't read, are passed through the school system and graduated, only to realize that they don't have the basic skills to thrive. My solutions?

Teaching needs to become a profession, not an occupation. Teachers should be required to earn an equivalent of a master's degree to before they lead a class. They should also spend two or perhaps three years completing a residency (low-pay).

As a reward for their hard work, teachers should also be paid VERY well. I'm talking $75K (California dollars) to start, with $100K+ after a five years. This should be a priority in State funding and should be implemented without the crying to the feds.

For this to work, teachers must be accountable to local school boards, which should be empowered to fire or discipline non-performing teachers. What we have now is a charade. The teacher's unions are so powerful they easily stock local boards with "puppets" through grassroots campaign support.

Part of accountability is testing. I can hear it now (especially from my sister who is finishing up her undergrad work at University of Washington and is passionate about education issues), standardized tests don't measure intelligence and can be inherently biased.

While I agree with these criticisms, standardized testing at the high school level can be an effective measure of competence. We're not talking complex alegbra or writing composition here. The study referenced above is measuring basic reading ability.

Any system that allows social promotion or does not hold students back who can't pass a VERY simple test, is a failed system that needs systemic change. Transforming teaching into a profession is one way to effect this change.

Unfortunately, this solution would only impact one institution. It would sure be nice if families met the teachers half way and cared more for their kids' education.

Posted by Rick at 09:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

Shamus to India

A buddy of mine, Shamus, took off for India the other day. Shamus is my age and we're about the same age in the Lord (~6 years). We met at a College Bible study at Horizon Christian Fellowship almost 5 years ago and both went through Horizon's School of Evangelism (different classes).

We were also roommates while Sunny and I dated. He would set his alarm for 5:00am and hit snooze until 6:00am and I felt like throwing a shoe at him it made me so mad! Another fond memory of Shamus; he gave me reason to kiss for the first time my future wife. Being the romantic and all, I grabbed Sunny close and said, "Quick! Kiss me! Shamus is coming!" Sunny gets a kick out of this story and God willing it will make us smile for another 50+ years.

With the heart and gifts of an evangelist, Shamus continued in the School of Evangelism as a student and leader. Shamus will spend six months preaching in the streets and serving the people of India.. I think I've convinced him to start a blog while he is gone, but am not sure. Please pray for my friend Shamus, that God would work mightily through him.


Posted by Rick at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Come Again Howard Dean?

The more I think about Howard Dean's statements, the more outraged I become. Dean and his brand of pro-choice Democrats think they are agents for good in a battle against evil. Really?

Evil can have a clear face. (WARNING: Links are graphic and highly disturbing).

Evil looks like this and this. Evil also looks like this, this, this, this, this, and this.

Some of those linked images and video depict the heads of decapitated babies, while others show the heads of decapitated hostages. Both were done by the hands of man.

When Dr. Dean spoke of a war between good and evil, he was clearly alluding to Bush's rhetoric in describing the global war on terrorism (GWOT). What is more evil Dr. Dean? Pastors who preach life? Or Islamofascist terrorists?

I am so angry and disgusted, I want to puke.

Posted by Rick at 09:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dean and the Domestic Axis of Evil

Howard Dean recently characterized the Democrats' domestic political agenda as a battle between "good and evil." (HT: Hugh via Polipundit and Kathryn Jean Lopez). Oh. In case there was any doubt where Dean was going with this, he added that the Democrats are the "good."

On abortion, Dean said:

"The issue is not abortion," Dean told the closed-door fund-raiser. "The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do."
"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."
Okay all you "right wing" pastors who encourage your flocks to stand for life - the Democrats have you in their cross-hairs. You are now a member of their domestic Axis of Evil.

As many of my readers know, I am not the archetype conservative. I'm fairly "liberal" when it comes to many Democratic bread and butter socio-economic policy issues. But in the case of pastors who support life, the leader of the Democratic Party has called evil what is obviously good. Thanks Howard Dean and the Democrats who elected him for making my political party preference clear.

Posted by Rick at 08:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

All but Won?

This article by Jack Kelly all but made my morning (HT: Hugh Hewitt).

It will be some months before the news media recognize it, and a few months more before they acknowledge it, but the war in Iraq is all but won.
Great, quick read and I hope to read more accounts like this in the months to come.

Posted by Rick at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005


Has it been five months already? Martha is scheduled to be freed from prison next weekend.

Martha Stewart will also be wearing the must-have accessory for the convicted felon on the go: an electronic anklet that will allow authorities to monitor her movements.

After five months in prison in West Virginia, Stewart will be released next weekend to her 153-acre estate in the rolling horse country 40 miles north of midtown Manhattan. There, for another five months, she will serve the home detention portion of her sentence for a stock scandal.
Yikes! That's roughin' it!

My wife is a huge Martha fan; she's also a WalMart fan. I'm neither a Martha fan, nor a frequenter of WalMart - but I am forced to consume products of both vendors (choke choke hack hack). WalMartha gives me the heeber jeebers. They prey on the weak in the name of capitalism; and do it with a smile and feel good slogans. No, Martha. In reference to WalMart - it's NOT a good thing.

Posted by Rick at 09:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Vigilantes Dealing Justice?

Knight Ridder news service reports that revenge killings of members of Saddam's former regime are on the rise.

Although pretty grotesque, this latest story of revenge against Saddam enablers is pretty tame considering what I expected. I figured that the Bathist loyalists would fight American, Shiite, and Kurds with everything they had because they had nothing to lose. With Saddam dethroned and humiliated, I envisioned streets running with blood from impaled and hanged corpses of Bathist henchmen as millions of Iraqis rose up against their former oppressors.

Former regime enablers at the higher levels of government should be rounded up and tried - Nuremberg style; not hunted, intimidated, and executed - SS style.

"They can do whatever they like now. Let's hope God grants us all restraint," said former Baathist, Abu Muqdad.


Posted by Rick at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Grace Church Blog

Another Pastor who gets it: Tim Theule of Grace Church in San Luis Obispo. He started blogging after reading Hugh Hewitt's book, Blog.

Although he's just started, check out how he is using his blog to communicate to his flock.

DISCLOSURE: I grew up in nearby Santa Maria and my parents live in San Luis Obispo. It's good to read of a God Blog from SLO.

Posted by Rick at 08:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

GodBlogCon 2005

Keep the SmartChristian Blog URL on speed refresh as an announcement regarding the location of GodBlogCon 2005 is imminent. The convention will be in California, so I'll do my best to represent SCO. Anyone else planning a trip?

Oh - and Smart Christian and Blog is a good resource as well.

Posted by Rick at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005


Korn's guitarist quit the band due to moral objections to their music (HT: What Attitude Problem?).

Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, a founding member of Korn, has left the band and has rededicated his life to Christianity, according to the group's management.
In 2000, Korn toured Europe with Christian band, Payable on Death (P.O.D.). Former P.O.D. guitarist, Marcos, used to attend my church (as did other members of the band on occassion) and I recall him saying shortly after the tour with Korn that, while they never really connected with any of the band members, a couple of Korn's crew gave their lives to Christ while on the road through their ministry.

Some plant, some water, some reap, but all do God's work. You may not see immediate fruit from your ministry, but that doesn't mean your work for Him is in vain.

SIDE NOTE: In 1995, before I was saved, I attended a concert headlined by a band called Sublime, with No Doubt. This was before either band had made MTV, although Date Rape (Sublime Song) made it to KROQ. The opening act was P.O.D. When I got to the show, buses were all over the parking lot with chruch names. I was so confused.

P.O.D. was loud and very annoying, but there were about 500 "kids" moshing and crowd surfing and stuff with all these youth pastor types hanging out around the crowd (and a few mixed in with the fun). I was standing in the back next to Gwen Stefani of No Doubt who had the same expression on her face as I did: What is this?

When P.O.D. finished their set, the place cleared out, leaving only a couple hundred for the "headliners." That was my first encounter with P.O.D. Class guys who love the Lord.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I was snowboarding in Aspen Colorado in 1994 and No Doubt and Submile were playing at a club. I wasn't 21, so I couldn't get in, but I stumbled across Bradley having a Rum and Coke at one of the open bars on the slopes. I stopped, he got me a drink, and we chatted for quite a while. He was pretty drunk. I noticed him playing with his hand. I asked him what he was doing and he looked up with a fiendish kind of smile and said, "A new vein!" I knew then that he was going to die. Two years later, Bradley Knowell died of a heroin overdose. My uncle died of a heroin OD only a few years before.

Brian Welch of Korn is making a good decision leaving Korn. The industry is near impossible to navigate as a Christian without being surrounded by others for accountability.

Posted by Rick at 10:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 23, 2005

Two or Three

Two or Three is a new collaborative blog written by the authors of three individual blogs:

Tom of Daddypundit is a friend of this blog and I'm excited to hear of the other contributors. Be sure to bookmark their new blog and visit often.

How did Two or Three form?

Aaron from The Wardrobe Door was overworked from trying to be a one man posting machine, and asked about co-blogging. So seeker from When You Return and Tom from DaddyPundit responded, and here we are.
Hey, sounds a lot like the way SCO got together!

Read this for more information how they formed, their mission, and statement of faith.

Posted by Rick at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

He Gives and Takes Away - Blessed be His Name

Abigail Brayden manages to praise God even as she grieves with a family close to her who recently lost their 3 month old baby boy.

Abigail's attitude toward the terrible loss reminded of the Matt Redman chorus:

He gives and takes away,
He gives and takes away,
My heart will surely say
Blessed be His name.

Please visit Abigail and remember this family in your prayers.

Posted by Rick at 09:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

Terry Shiavo Update

Terry Shiavo's feeding tube was supposed to be removed today against the wishes of her family. Minutes ago, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer judge issued a one-day stay.

Posted by Rick at 03:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

More Visceral MSM Bias Exposed

Bill Keller, New York Times executive editor reportedly had a few words about bloggers and the new media (HT: Drudge):

[Keller] noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public’s trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

“At the moment,” he said, “the major press is under attack from ideologues on the right and left.”

Keller revealed the hopelessness of his position with the following words as characterized by the Columbia Spectator reporter:
Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man [censored].”
Rather than point the finger at biased bloggers for masquerading as journalists, perhaps the MSM elite should remove their veils from behind which they pedal their bias that masquerades as objectivity.

Keller's remarks remind of a line from the CBS report explaining what went wrong with Rathergate:

The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles. (emphasis added)
The fact that the CBS report could not determine political motivation for airing the segment, is proof enough to me of the extent to which the MSM is viscerally biased.

My previous post on visceral bias and the MSM can be read here.

Posted by Rick at 08:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 20, 2005

Time for an Intervention?

Okay... Hugh's an addict. First, read this. Then read this and this. And the "long weekend" is only a little more than halfway through! Maybe he's beginning to buy his own meme, "you have to post or you're toast" (scroll down).

Is it time for an intervention? :-)

Posted by Rick at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"R" Rated Movies on Decline?

According to this article, the number of "R" rated movies produced by Hollywood are declining - and the writer attributes the decline to the "political climate." (HT: Drudge)

Despite moral watchdogs lamenting Hollywood's vile tendencies, the studios have actually been cleaning up their act. R-rated films, once the studios' mainstay, are on the decline, both in numbers and in lure. In the last five years, R-rated pics have dwindled from 212 in 1999 to just 147 last year.
Does anyone buy this? The "studies have actually been cleaning up their act?" It seems to me that what used to be an "R" rated movie in 1999, is now a "PG-13."

UPDATE: I didn't catch this on the first read through, but half way down the article there was the following parenthetical note:

(At the same time, there is evidence that today's PG-13 is more like yesterday's R. Last summer, a Harvard study found that current films with PG-13 ratings and below had more violence, sex and profanity than films of the same ratings 10 years prior.)

Posted by Rick at 07:09 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A Change of Heart?

It's hard to tell from here what is going on in behind the scenes as the power brokers wheel and deal for positions of influence and authority in the new government. But every so often, I catch a glimpse of hope from an MSM report out of Baghdad. This AP story contained the following lead and quote:

As the Shiite majority prepared to take control of the country's first freely elected government, tribal chiefs representing Sunni Arabs in six provinces issued a list of demands — including participation in the government and drafting a new constitution — after previously refusing to acknowledge the vote's legitimacy.

"We made a big mistake when we didn't vote," said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. "Our votes were very important." (emphasis added)

I won't presume to tell the newly elected Iraqi government how to draft their constitution, but perhaps they could leverage this opportunity and get these Sunni clerics to start preaching for democracy, in support of the new Iraqi government, and against the insurgency.

Someone get this man a microphone and podium.

Posted by Rick at 06:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2005

Tony Snow

I'm bedridden with a terrible cold that my wife and mother are convinced is the flu. I don't know, but I feel like I got hit by a truck. Serves me right though; I've been firing on all cylinders for a couple weeks now trying to make deadlines at work and school.

In a state somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness, with Fox News on in the background, I heard Jim Angle say a few minutes ago that Tony Snow has colon cancer. This may not be news to anyone else (I don't know how long this has been public), but it got my attention and sent me to my knees. Please join me in praying for Tony and his family.

Posted by Rick at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

Confirm Them

I have disagree with Jim, my much wiser (and elder - heh) colleague, regarding use of the nuclear option. Jim wrote,

We should be careful seeking rule changes that serve immediate political goals but may be dangerous for long term protection of the power of the political minority. I’m not ready to assume that the current domination by the Republican Party will last.
If the Dems were in our position right now, they would not hesitate to go nuclear. The Dems have already done it - four times in the 1970s and 1980s.

From one article on the subject:

As Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) said at the time: "We cannot allow a minority" of the senators "to grab the Senate by the throat and hold it there." Senators Leahy, Kennedy, Byrd, and Biden, all agreed. Nearly a decade ago, Lloyd Cutler, the former White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton, concluded that the Senate Rule requiring a super-majority vote to change the rule is "plainly unconstitutional."
Had the Dems had fewer votes, they would have changed the cloture threshold from 67 to whatever number they so desired; but they only needed to lower the threshold from 67 to 60 and so they did. They have established the precedent and the philosophy for breaking the filibuster rule.

Republicans have never filibustered nominees to the circuit court of appeals. The Dems filibuster of Bush's circuit court nominees was unconventional and unprecedented. The right response to an unconventional attack is nuclear.

Confirm Them is the best resource for information and commentary on the Senate confirmation debate. Bookmark the site and refer to it often.

Posted by Rick at 09:40 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

Shelter Poverty

According to this AP story, a recent study by an organization known as the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness found "a 28 percent rise last year in emergency food assistance requests, and a 27 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter."

I suspect that most conservatives are willing to dismiss a report's findings simply because the name of the organization certainly indicates that it has an agenda - but that would be a terrible mistake.

As a planning consultant, clients often have me analyze and assess the gap between homeless needs and shelters/services to meet identified needs. The gap is getting larger and the alarming part is that more an more people, especially families with children, are either seeking food and other services, or are forced onto the streets for the first time in their lives.

Homeless advocates blame the Bush budget:

Kathleen Barr, the report's author, said the Bush administration's 2006 budget proposal hurts many programs aimed at low-income Americans and could set back emergency assistance providers further.

"It's hurting their ability to help folks," said Barr, who added that private donations of time and money weren't enough to keep pace.
Unemployment and wages too low to afford enough food are among the main reasons that people seek help from shelters and soup kitchens, Barr said.
Others point to the increasing gap between housing costs and incomes:
Unemployment and wages too low to afford enough food are among the main reasons that people seek help from shelters and soup kitchens, Barr said.

Many people are also hampered by high housing costs that force them to spend more than 30 percent of their income on the rent or mortgage payment, said Susan Ban, executive director for ShelterCare, a Eugene, Ore., organization that provides emergency shelter for families with children who are homeless.

The Bush Administration blames local and state regulatory barriers:
Among the concerns listed by HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson were slow permitting procedures and complex environmental regulations that can significantly increase the length and cost of home building review and approval processes.
They all identify parts of the problems, but none identify a real solution.

I realize that many of the homeless are bums, hobos, and tramps and I've met many homeless who make a decent living (relatively) shaking down folks with a guilty conscience or who do not know better when they see them with their signs on the street corner. But, these represent less than the majority of our nation's homeless. According to this 2002 US Conference of Mayors study of 25 cities,

  • 41 percent of the homeless population are families with children

  • Requests for shelter by homeless families alone increased by 20 percent since last year, with 88 percent of the cities reporting an increase.

  • 48 percent of the people requesting emergency food assistance were members of families -- children and their parents.

  • 38 percent of the adults requesting food assistance were employed.
  • While I'm sure it is easy to nit-pick these statistics (I'm aware of the Heritage Foundation criticisms), the trends are alarming. The homeless and hungry are increasingly families and not tramps.

    There is an immediate need and a long-term need. The immediate need is seen every day at the emergency shelters that are operating on inadequate staff and budgets. I have interviewed homeless service providers who are, for the first time in years, turning people away because for food and shelter because they cannot meet the need. The best they can do is give them clothes and wish them luck (people love to give away their rags to homeless shelters - it must make them feel good to know that they've done their part).

    While true that Bush's budget proposes a $200 million increase in immediate shelter assistance (Emergency Shelter Grants), the same Budget slashes about $2 billion from other community development (CDBG) and housing (HOME) programs that provide more mid-level fix, while doing nothing about what I see as the greatest source of the problem: inadequate supply of housing in proximity to jobs, services, and amenities.

    Michael Stone, Professor at UMass Boston, wrote a fabulous book in 1993 with the title Shelter Poverty. In the book, Dr. Stone outlined a very elegant case for defining who and who cannot "afford" housing. The Shelter Poverty scale is worthy of an entire post, but it basically takes household income by household size and matches that to subsistence budgets (poverty level for food, clothing, medicine, transportation, etc.). If housing costs plus the poverty level household budget exceed income, then that household suffers shelter poverty.

    Dr. Stone found that while the overall number of shelter poor was no different than the number of those who paid over 30% of their income on housing (the conventional HUD measure), the demographic distribution was much different. Some people can afford to spend 80% of their income on housing, while other households can't afford to spend anything on housing without comprising their ability to subsist.

    The shelter poor are the at-risk homeless population. Either they spend more money on housing costs and less on food and clothing and other items, or the spend money on subsistence items and lose their housing. Tough choices for too many Americans.

    Most of the book was wonderful, but I had to throw it across the room and scream when I read Dr. Stone's "solution" to the problem of Shelter Poverty in America: Public Housing. Stone believes that the best solution to our housing problems is to covert the majority of America's housing stock to public housing. Unfortunately, his elegant definition of the problem is marred by his thoughtless attempt at a solution.

    I've argued (see comments here and here), and I will continue to argue, that government is forcing market failure in the provision of housing at the local levels. This market failure is highly complex, but in my experience on the west coast, this market failure is lead predominantly by NIMBY's who use local development controls to restrict the supply of both market rate and affordable housing (including emergency shelters and transitional housing). I'm not talking public housing here folks. I'm talking non-profit, in many cases, Christian charities who are trying to build affordable housing and provide shelter services to homeless and needy populations, but meet exceedingly tough opposition in the town halls. This is Madisonian tyranny by local parochial factions. It is real. It must be stopped.

    Some people, including Christians, say "tough luck" and are content that they tithe to their local church and the church offers its facilities once every few months for a rotating ecumenical shelter. Others realize that this simply won't do. I believe that "we" (as individuals and society) should meet the immediate need first and develop and implement a long-term strategy that creates the institutional and social reform necessary to reduce the problem.

    Posted by Rick at 03:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Tuvaluans Plea for Help!

    Islands in the South Pacific are being inundated by tidal waves, but not from tsunamis like the one that devastated islands to the west. Whereas the tsunami that ravaged the region was a single massive blow, it appears from this article, that islands like Tuvalua in the South Pacific are suffering death from a 1,000 mini-tidal waves.

    "I for one do not want my island wiped out from the face of the earth, and I call for help, from those in power who can do something to change our island's situation," she said.

    "Your help and consideration will be treasured by every Tuvaluan around the globe." In an address to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2004, the Tuvalu government pleaded with the world to save the island nation from climate change...

    Global warming from greenhouse gas pollution is regarded as the main reason for higher sea levels...

    While what is happening to Tuvalu is unfortunate, am I wrong to be doubt whether humans are causing it? Am I wrong to be skeptical of the idea that an international protocol could stop it?

    Certainly the globe is warming, but how is it that scientists have made a causal relationship between greenhouse gas pollution and temperature increases? What is the probability of a Type I error here?

    Part of my job requires that I analyze outputs of traffic, air quality, and noise models. These simple models operate with a finite set of assumptions. Tweak the assumptions slightly and the outputs can vary tremendously. Every once in a while, I'll spot something that doesn't look right and ask the technician to rerun the model with a slightly different assumption. Voila! I get the output that I think looks "more like it."

    I have to wonder how much of this type of monkey business goes on with global warming modeling. I read Michael Chricton's Cal-Tech Lecture series a while back and it touched on this same point. Very good read.

    I ask again, am I wrong to be skeptical that Americans are either to blame for the sinking of Tuvalu? Am I wrong to be skeptical that Kyoto will stop Tuvalu from sinking?

    Posted by Rick at 01:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    February 14, 2005

    Prayer Request

    My grandmother writes asking for prayer for their good friends Dick and Ruth. Ruth has Alzeimhers and was just recently confined to a care center. Almost a year ago their son Greg and his wife Shan Marie had a baby girl who was born with lots of problems. This is their only child and Greg is a couple of years older than my Uncle Craig (early 40s). The baby has had an up and down year with more downs it seems than ups. She is now in the hospital on life support with some very difficult decisions to be made in the next few days. The mother has asked for specific prayer for strengthing Baby Sophia's heart since that is the primary problem at the moment. Sophia will be a year old on Thursday. According to my grandma, this is a child that was so wanted and so looked forward to and she has been such a little fighter that we can hardly bear to think of losing her. Thank you!

    Posted by Rick at 10:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    February 13, 2005

    Shocker! US Spying On An Enemy!

    U.S. Uses Drones to Probe Iran For Arms Surveillance Flights Are Sent From Iraq

    Is this morning's Washington Post headline supposed to be a shocker?

    The Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defenses, according to three U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of the secret effort.
    If you recall, the Bush administration was roundly chastised for not having adequate intelligence on Iraq's WMD programs. How many mainstream Democrats are biting their nails right now wondering how Howard Dean will react to this latest news? Will he have the gall to criticize the President for provoking Iran with these "incursions"? What will be the Democratic Party line on this story? It should be interesting.

    We are fighting simultaneous cold wars in Iran and North Korea in support of the GWOT. I suspect we are doing more right now than sending in drones.

    Oh! Be sure to catch Natan Sharansky, author of "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror" on Meet the Press tomorrow morning. If you want to understand Bush's foreign policy - Sharansky's book is an excellent primer.

    Posted by Rick at 03:49 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    February 11, 2005

    Eason Jordan Quits

    Breaking news (well for me anyway - it broke a couple of hours ago): Eason Jordan resigned his position at CNN today.

    On Hardball this past weekend, Hugh told Chris Mathews something that he didn't know: the Eason Jordan story would be huge news this week. I doubt even Hugh could have guessed that Jordan would have resigned by week's end.

    Another chapter for the 2nd Edition of Blog. Hugh, future editions of your book will practically write themselves. What a great gig you have! :-)

    MEMO TO BLOGOSPHERE: The victory lap needs to be short and sweet. Time to move on (Confirmation hearings, North Korea, Iran, Social Security, etc)

    Posted by Rick at 08:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Ward Churchill

    Just about everything you wanted to know about Ward Churchill is being compiled at a single website: Pirate Ballerina. The database they have collected so far is quite impressive. (Thanks to a commenter on my old blog for pointing drawing my attention to the site).

    Churchill is the University of Colorado Professor who called those who died in the WTC on 9/11,

    "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate Europe's Jews. Churchill also spoke of the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that struck America.
    I'm not one of those folks that think the ivory tower should be immune from accountability to the public. There is a difference between having a right to free speech and having a right to be free from the consequences of that speech.

    Prosecution for his remarks is of course out of the question. But if the good people of Colorado decide that enough is enough, they should be able to fire him. Churchill would still have every right to assemble freely with his group of America haters and speak to any audience that is willing to listen.

    If someone has the right to speak freely, shouldn't others have the right not listen? Perhaps a suitable compromise would be to ensure that Churchill never teaches a class that is required for graduation.

    Maybe I haven't thought this through well enough, but this is how I feel. Please feel free to set me straight.

    Posted by Rick at 02:28 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    February 10, 2005

    North Korean Nukes

    Blog.jpgThe logic is impeccable: We need our nukes because the US is increasingly hostile.

    Scary part is - there are probably millions of Americans that are nodding their head in agreement right now. Five years ago, Albright was trying to arrange a meeting between President Clinton and Kim Jong to solidify Bill's legacy as the President who reached an agreement with the dictator on nukes. Thanks, but no thanks Bill. It's your "agreement" that got us into this mess.

    Posted by Rick at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 09, 2005

    Examining the "Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy"

    A day after Edison/Mitofsky released their much anticipated report on the 2004 Presidential Election exit polls, the University of Pennsylvania issued a press release announcing that an "expert" on the presidential election exit poll errors has access to a satellite link and is available for interviews.

    UPenn is the home of the Annenberg Center, a widely respected Public Policy institution that regularly conducts public opinion surveys. Given that Dr. Freeman is a non-tenured visiting professor to UPenn and not affiliated with the Annenberg Center, I wonder if Dr. Jamieson, Director of the Center knew that she had an expert on exit polls on campus?

    Please forgive my snarky question (one that is definitely rhetorical), but rather than prove his expertise on exit polls, Dr. Freeman exposes himself as a dilettante with his latest version of his Research Report, The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy.

    Freeman's analysis hinges on the "Critical Battleground States" of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. He analyzes the discrepancy between data obtained from saved screenshots of the CNN exit poll web-site taken shortly after midnight on election eve and reported election tallies. Dr. Freeman's paper concluded:

    In this report, I have: (1) documented that, in general, exit poll data are sound, (2) demonstrated that it is exceedingly unlikely that the deviations between the exit poll predictions and vote tallies in the three critical states could have occurred strictly by chance or random error, and (3) explained why explanations for the discrepancy thus far provided are inadequate.
    With this paper, I will demonstrate that Freeman did not accomplish points (1) and (2). With the release of the Edison/Mitofsky report, point (3) is moot.

    Did Dr. Freeman Demonstrate That, “In General, Exit Poll Data Are Sound”?

    Either Dr. Freeman is a poor researcher, which I do not believe for a moment given his credentials, or his argument is weakened having suppressed evidence. Freeman's argument that exit polls are generally sound rested largely on statistics from German, BYU, Mexico, and Ex-Soviet Block exit polls.

    German Exits

    Dr. Freeman selects and analyzes data from several national German exit polls that show that the estimates were highly representative of the election tally. His data were compiled by several individuals, but his analysis does not appear to be based on any published research on German exit polls and fails to include information on the methods used in the cited polls.

    First, a note European exit polls in general. Mystery Pollster (MP) Mark Blumenthal uncovered this opinion prepared by the ACE project, which is funded by the UN and the US Agency for International Development. As excerpted by MP, the opinion states,

    [Exit poll] reliability can be questionable. One might think that there is no reason why voters in stable democracies should conceal or lie about how they have voted, especially because nobody is under any obligation to answer in an exit poll. But in practice they often do. The majority of exit polls carried out in European countries over the past years have been failures (Emphasis added).
    In his post, MP indicates that he warned Dr. Freeman during a telephone conversation to check the methodology used in the German exit polls before comparing them to the NEP exit polls. MP contacted Dr. Dieter Roth of FG Wahlen, the organization that generated the data used by Freeman in his analysis. Dr. Roth provided some information about methods, which from a review of MP's postmade it easier to understand why the errors would be smaller in Germany's exit polls. Dr. Roth made the following statement to MP:
    I know that Warren Mitofsky's job is much harder than ours, because of the electoral system and the more complicated structure in the states.
    Dr. Freeman's paper failed to include basic information regarding methodology, which is crucial when comparing different polls, either demonstrates a desire to suppress evidence or an ignorance of survey research methods.

    BYU Exits

    Dr. Freeman wants everyone to know that the BYU poll came within .03% of predicting the Bush percentage and 0.1% of the Kerry percentage. To him, this is one more piece of evidence that exit polls are "generally" accurate. But once again, Freeman doesn’t compare methodologies.

    MP also dealt with the BYU exit poll methodology in his post directed at Dr. Freeman. When compared to the NEP methods, the BYU methods are far superior - hence one reason the BYU exits would be more accurate than the NEP exits. Is it not curious though why Freeman would choose the BYU exit poll of Utah as evidence of exit poll accuracy, but not look at the NEP exit poll of Utah? The NEP exit poll of Utah showed 3% Kerry bias.

    Memo to Dr. Freeman: It's not the best idea to use an exit poll (BYU) that nailed the election result in Utah this year as evidence of the accuracy of exit polls in general, when the NEP exit poll that you are trying to prove as being accurate in OH, PA, and FL showed large (3%) Democratic bias in the same state and in the same year.

    Mexico, and Former Soviet Block Exits

    Dr. Freeman does not present data regarding the accuracy of any Mexico or Former Soviet Block exit poll; however, he mentions that they were used and that they added legitimacy to the process.1

    How about an Apples to Apples Comparison?

    Why did Freeman not include the literature on US Presidential Exit Polls? Dr. Freeman's Bibliography hit all the major exit poll literature sans one chapter by Warren Mitofsky and Murray Edelman written in 1995. In that chapter on the 1992 VRS exit polls, the authors wrote,

    The difference between the final margin and the VRS estimate was 1.6 percentage points. VRS consistently overstated Clinton’s lead all evening...Overstating the Democratic candidate was a problem that existed in the last two presidential elections.2
    Certainly this year's US Presidential exit polls showed greater bias than other years, but that is not the case that Dr. Freeman built. He chose to highlight data from exit polls that employed methods that are highly disparate from the methods typically used for media-funded US Presidential Exit Polls. He did this also while ignoring literature on the media-funded US Presidential Exit Polls that demonstrated chronic Democratic bias.

    Did Dr. Freeman Demonstrate Statistically Significant Discrepancies in OH, PA, and FL?

    To conclude the section of his paper entitled, "Statistical Analysis of the Three Critical Battleground States: Ruling out Chance or Random Error," Freeman wrote:

    Assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, the odds against any two of these statistical anomalies occurring together are more than 5,000:1...The odds against all three occurring together are 662,000-to-one. As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.
    Let me make myself clear: The following analysis is NOT to be construed as an attempt to prove that chance alone can explain the exit poll discrepancy in OH, PA, and FL. I intend only to demonstrate that Dr. Freeman knows little about statistics, let alone exit polls.

    Freeman's Data and Methods

    Dr. Freeman's null hypothesis states that, assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, Kerry's predicted proportion should not significantly exceed his tallied proportion.

    To test his null, Dr. Freeman compared data extrapolated from data posted on CNN's web-site shortly after midnight on election eve to election tally data.3 The CNN data were presented in tabular format and reported the predicted proportions for Bush, Kerry, and Other candidates by gender. From the Male/Female split, which was reported as a whole number, Freeman extrapolated to achieve a value significant to a 10th digit. Although Freeman reported both Bush's and Kerry's "predicted" (exit poll) proportion of the vote, his statistical analysis is solely based on the Kerry's proportion; therefore, I have only reproduced these data for Kerry’s proportion in Exhibit 1.


    Freeman correctly recognizes that exit polls are not simple random samples, but cluster samples, and therefore have higher standard errors than typical phone surveys of similar sample size.4 The difference between these standard errors is referred to as the design effect.

    Dr. Freeman chose to apply a 30% adjustment to each state to account for this design effect and relied on a single citation for the adjustment. Merkle and Edelman (2000) calculated a 1.7 design effect for the 1996 Presidential Elections, the square root of which is 1.3, leading the authors to state that the 1996 exit polls showed "a 30% increase in the sampling error computed under the assumption of simple random sampling."5

    Freeman then performed a single-tailed test for comparing the results derived from a single sample to a mean of samples (or established standard) and determined that Kerry's proportion significantly exceeded the election result in all three battleground states at the 95% Confidence Level. In the statistics world, if a finding is "significant" (p-value <.05), then one can reject the null hypothesis. If the result is "not significant" (>.05), then statisticians do not reject the null hypothesis; in fact a non-significant finding is just that - non significant. Freeman rejected the null hypothesis by stating that the observed discrepancies are "impossible" to have been due to chance or random error (i.e., the discrepancies in each state were significant).

    Dr. Freeman's "statistical" analysis fails on three main points: it 1) violates the "rule of significant digits"; 2) improperly calculates the design effect; and 3) employs a single-tail test when the assumptions require a two-tail test.6 When considered, these issues dramatically affect Freeman's analysis and conclusions.

    Rule of Significant Digits

    Freeman determined that the exit poll predicted Kerry would win 49.7% of the vote in FL, 52.1% in OH, and 54.1% in PA. He "divined" these data by building partials from an extrapolation of the CNN data by gender. The CNN data were presented in whole proportions. The rule of significant digits states,

    In a calculation involving multiplication, division, trigonometric functions, etc., the number of significant digits in an answer should equal the least number of significant digits in any one of the numbers being multiplied, divided etc.
    That means that since the CNN data only reported a whole number, Dr. Freeman cannot justify his predicted Kerry proportion without considering the error bounds with the data (i.e., the data that he used are "fuzzy"). Given the data available to Dr. Freeman, it was impossible to know, for example, whether Kerry's predicted proportion in FL was 49.5% or 50.4%. Exhibit 2 shows the range of possible values for Kerry's predicted proportion given the error bounds of the data when a significant digit is considered (10th).7

    What Design Effect? Why?

    For Ohio, Dr. Freeman calculated the standard error of a poll with sample size 1,963 and multiplied that value by 1.3 to obtain a standard error.

    Why 1.3 again?

    As mentioned earlier in this post, the 1.3 factor was applied because this was determined by Merkle and Edelman (2000)8 to be the difference between the standard error of the 1996 presidential election exit polls and the standard error of a poll based on a simple random sample of the same size. This factor is also known as the design effect square root (DESR).

    Warren Mitofsky explained to me in an e-mail that the factor calculated for the 2004 exit polls ranged from 1.5 to 1.8 depending on the average number of samples per precinct.

    The Merkle/Edelman paper is not what we computed this year...both Merkle and Edelman participated in this latest calculation.9
    Dan Merkle of ABC News wrote the following regarding the use of this factor for analysis of the 2004 Presidential Election exit polls,
    What was in the Merkle and Edelman chapter is only a general estimate based on work at VNS in the early 1990s.

    The design effect will vary state by state based on the number of interviews per precinct and how clustered the variable is. More work was done on this in 2004 by Edison/Mitofsky. Edelman and I did participate in this. I would suggest using the design effects calculated by Edison/Mitofsky for their 2004 polls.10

    Complicating the computation of the DESR is that the fact that there are likely two different factors used for the intercept interviews and the telephone interviews. Dan Merkle wrote,
    [Mitofsky's DESR's] only applies [sic] to the intercept interviews. [T]here may be a separate (smaller) design effect for the telephone survey component.11
    I checked with Jennifer Agiesta of Edison Media Research whether there was a smaller DESR associated with the telephone survey component than that which was conveyed by Mitofsky. Ms. Agiesta replied,
    According to Warren, we did a new study since the one that Dan Merkle and Murray Edelman did some years ago and the design effects Warren reported to you were the latest ones computed. The whole advisory council, including Dan Merkle and Murray Edelman, participated in it and agreed that the information on design effects that Warren sent you is correct.12
    Although I'm not certain that Ms. Agiesta understood my question and I have a follow-up question pending with her, it should be clear that use of the 1.3 factor is not appropriate; the confidence interval varies by state (by ratio of interviews per precinct) and is at least 1.5, but could be as high as 1.8 in FL.

    I shared all of this information with Dr. Freeman before he published the latest version of this paper, so the omission/errors are not due to ignorance.

    How Many Tails?

    Dr. Freeman's null-hypothesis stated that, assuming independent state polls with no systematic bias, Kerry's predicted proportion should not significantly exceed his tallied proportion. Exhibit 3 is a reproduction of Dr. Freeman's Figure 1.2, which depicts a normal distribution for OH given his calculated standard deviation for all three states.13

    Exhibit 3
    Normal Distribution of Kerry’s Tallied Distribution
    with Kerry’s Predicted Proportion


    The normal distribution depicts the range of possible proportions that could occur if the exit poll were conducted 100 times. Kerry's "tallied percentage of the vote" is the established standard, or, in this case, the mean of samples. The 95% Confidence Interval shows the range of proportions that would result for 95 of 100 exit polls and is commonly referred to as the "margin of error." With this figure, Freeman is attempting to show that the OH exit poll is outside the margin of error and therefore the discrepancy is "significant" at the 95% Confidence Level.

    Notice though that there are two "tails" outside the 95% Confidence Interval: left and right. The right tail consists of the 2.5 exit poll samples of 100 that could be expected to significantly exceed the tallied percentage, whereas the left tail represents the 2.5 exit poll samples of 100 that could be expected to be significantly lower than the tallied percentage.

    Unless Freeman sets aside his assumption of no bias, he must include the probability of a significant finding at BOTH ends of the normal distribution. By insisting on a single-tail test, he is hinting that either the exit poll is biased or the tally is wrong. This insinuation is inappropriate prior to, or in the process of, testing a null hypothesis that assumes no bias. Dr. Freeman's failure to properly apply a two-tail test means that his p-values are 1/2 what they should be.

    Implications for Dr. Freeman's Analysis and Conclusions

    Using Freeman's Data, I calculated Z-scores and p-values under three scenarios, each of which considered the lower and upper bounds of the data when using a significant digit (10th). The first scenario assumed Freeman's use of the 1.3 DESR and a single-test is appropriate. The second scenario considered a 1.3 DESR, but a two-tail test is applied. The final scenario considered a conservative estimate of the DESR as supplied by Mitofsky (1.5 for OH and PA, but 1.6 for FL, which could easily be 1.8). The results of these tests are presented in Exhibit 4.


    If you recall, a p-value of <0.05 represents a significant finding. If the p-value is >0.5 then statistically, nothing can be said about the discrepancy - it is not significant. As shown in the table, when the lower-bound of the data is considered using Freeman's assumptions for the DESR and a single-tail test, the discrepancy is significant under all scenarios. However, if the more appropriate two-tail test is applied and a 1.3 DESR is assumed, the lower bound for each state is no longer significant. The same results occur when the more appropriate two-tail test and the conservative estimate of the design effect as conveyed by Warren Mitofsky are considered. If you notice though, all three proportions remain significant at the upper bound under these last scenarios as well.

    What does this mean?

    Given the data analyzed by Dr. Freeman, it is impossible to determine whether the discrepancies in OH, FL, and PA were significant.

    In Conclusion

    Almost every point presented in this post was made available to Dr. Freeman weeks before he published his final paper. In fact, I went over some of the points with him via telephone. Other analyses of the data were sent to him via e-mail.

    Had Dr. Freeman considered the error bounds associated with his data and applied an appropriate statistical test, he would have realized that statistically, his point was weak; the data are too fuzzy for rigorous statistical analysis. Rhetorically however, he had a solid point: The exit polls were off and off more so than they ever have been in the history of US Presidential exit polling. We don’t need a PhD to tell us that. At the time Dr. Freeman published his paper, even Mitofsky had acknowledged that something went wrong with the exit polls and that chance error could not account for 100 percent of the discrepancy.

    Dr. Freeman, recently ordained by UPenn as an "expert" on the US Presidential exit polls, believes that Bush stole the election and his analysis of the exit poll data is supposed to be highly suggestive of foul play sans any reasonable and falsifiable explanation from Edison/Mitofsky. In this press release, Dr. Freeman declared,

    "Although the authors of the report state that, 'the differences between the exit poll estimates and the actual vote [are] most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters,' they provide little data or theory to support this thesis," said Freeman.
    After carefully reviewing the Edison/Mitofsky report, I must admit that there are some claims that need further empirical substantiation.14 However, Dr. Freeman didn't simply make his point about the shortcomings of the Edison/Mitofsky report; instead he went on to say that the report bolstered his research:
    "Rather, the report only confirms the exit poll official count discrepancy that I documented in my Nov. 12 paper, corroborates the data I collected, and rules out most types of polling error."
    That statement of Dr. Freeman’s provoked me to write this post earlier than I had planned: While the Edison/Mitofsky report certainly ruled out most types of polling error, it did not confirm or corroborate anything presented in his paper.

    One final thing: Freeman wrote a book based on his research that is due out in a couple of months. (What’s the universal symbol for a simultaneous sigh and rolling of the eyes?)


    1My review of the literature on exit polls turned up one review of the 1998 Ukranian Parliament exit polls (see Kucheriv, Ilko, Elehie Skoczylas, and Steven Wagner. 2000. Ukraine: 1998: Parliamentary Election Exit Poll Kennan Institute Occasional Paper #275. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars). This review did not present the poll’s confidence interval or a quantitative comparison of the poll and the election result, but did note that the exit poll “accurately predicted the vote” (pp. 3). See the following for a comparative analysis of the recent Ukranian exit polls and the NEP 2004 exit polls that found that the US Presidential Exit Polls were designed better than the 2004 Ukrainian exit polls.
    2Mitofsky, Warren J. and Murray Edelman. 1995. “A Review of the 1992 VRS Exit Polls.” In Presidential Polls and the News Media. Eds. Lavrakas/Traugott/Miller. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. (pp. 81-100)
    3I could not locate the source of Freeman's election tally data.
    4For a more thorough discussion of standard errors associated with cluster samples, refer to: 1) Frankel, Martin. 1983. Sampling Theory. Handbook of Survey Research. Eds. P. Rossi, J. Wright., and A. Anderson. Orlando, FL: Academic Press. (pp. 47-62); 2) Kalton, Graham. 1983. Introduction to Survey Sampling. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. (pp. 28-47); 3) Kish, L. 1965. Survey Sampling. New York: Wiley; 4) Mendenhall, William, Lymann Ott, and Richard Scheaffer. 1971. Elementary Survey Sampling. Belmont, CA: Duxbury Press. (pp. 121-141, 171-183); 5) Sudman, Seymour. 1976. Applied Sampling. New York: Academic Press. (pp. 69-84, 131-170); and 6) Williams, Bill. A Sampler on Sampling. New York: Wiley. (pp. 144-161, 239-241).
    5See page 72 of Merkle, Daniel M. and Murray Edelman (2000). "A Review of the 1996 Voter New Service Exit Polls from a Total Survey Error Perspective." In Election Polls, the News Media and Democracy, ed. P.J. Lavrakas, M.W. Traugott, pp. 68-92. New York: Chatam House.
    6Freeman omitted data from other states, which indicate that the magnitude of the discrepancy in Democratic stronghold states like NY, VT, and RI was substantially larger than that observed in FL, OH, and PA. I consider this omission to be another example of supressed evidence, but did not address this omission further because it is not necessary to demonstrate my point.
    7It would be preferable to include at least two more significant digits for more precise analysis, but to remain consistent with Freeman’s extrapolations, I stick here with the 10th.
    8See note 4 above for citation.
    9Mitofksy, Warren J. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 7.
    10Merkle, Dan. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 15.
    11Merkle, Dan. 2004a. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 17.
    12Agiesta, Jennifer. 2004. Electronic communication to Rick Brady, December 23.
    13This normal distribution for OH is constructed with the incorrect 1.3 desr.
    14The primary issue with the Edison/Mitofsky report is their analysis of Within Precinct Error (WPE) by voting method. As noted in the comments to this Mystery Pollster post, I conveyed my concerns to Edison/Mitofsky. My next post on exit polls will be an overview of the Edison/Mitofsky report.

    Posted by Rick at 03:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Give Us Clean Hands

    We bow our hearts, we bend our knees;
    Oh Spirit come make us humble.
    We turn our eyes, from evil things;
    Oh Lord we cast down our idols.

    Give us clean hands, give us pure hearts,
    Let us not lift our souls to another.

    Oh God let us be, a generation that seeks
    That seeks Your face Oh God of Jacob.
    --Charlie Hall

    This song was on my heart tonight and I got the opportunity to share it with my two young children while my wife was away at a women's study. I hope your evening was as blessed as mine.

    Posted by Rick at 12:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 08, 2005

    Easongate Debuts in the MSM: But What's Missing?

    Two MSM stories this morning on Easongate, neither of which include Jordan's actual statements, but instead what others have attributed to him (here and here - HT: Hugh Hewitt and Daily Thoughts via Easongate).

    Why do both accounts fail to mention that: 1) there is a tape; 2) it's being witheld; and 3) the tape could clear up a lot of the he said/she said that is currently making the rounds in the blogosphere?

    The headline of the Howard Kurtz piece in the Washington Post this morning reads, "Eason Jordan, Quote, Unquote CNN News Chief Clarifies His Comments on Iraq." Kurtz opens with,

    What CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan said, or didn't say, in Davos, Switzerland, last month has become a burgeoning controversy among bloggers and media critics.

    To "clarify" his, as of yet unheard and unread comments at Davos, Jordan said to Kurtz,
    I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn't as clear as I should have been on that panel.

    This of course is in direct contradiction to many accounts of the talk, including Barney Frank's, which was provided in the WaPo story.

    Kurtz closes with a quote from David Gergen,

    Gergen said Jordan had just returned from Baghdad and was still "deeply distraught" over the journalists who have died in Iraq. "This was a guy caught up in the tension of the moment," Gergen said. "He deserves the benefit of the doubt."

    The MSM is giving Jordan the benefit of the doubt. Gergen provides a big picture context of Jordan's comments, but we still do not have the entire context.

    Now comes word that the Davos people will not release the tape (HT: Hugh). Blogger Sisyphus has been in contact with a Davos organizer and thought he was going to receive a tape, but now they say that some of the sessions are off the record:

    We would of course revisit the topic if all participants agreed for it to be released - but even then we would have to consider carefully since the rules are set for all the 'off the record' sessions - we would have to change the policy for the whole meeting - which would have much wider implications.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    The MSM doesn't represent America. Give America the immediate context (i.e., the tape) and let her decide whether Eason Jordan deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    Posted by Rick at 09:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 06, 2005

    FDR and the Future of Social Security

    Joshua Clayborn draws attention to a message given to Congress by FDR in 1935. Betsy's Page found a reference to the same speech in a Fox story (HT: Power Pundit). In the message, FDR seemingly endorses an idea similar to that which is proposed by President Bush.

    I wonder what an investigation of the full body of FDR's comments on Social Security made during his tenure would reveal? Anyone live near the FDR Presidential Library?

    Posted by Rick at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    The blog swarm gets more lethal as Easongate takes point. (HT: Powerline via Michelle Malkin)

    UPDATE: For some reason, the Google bots chose this post to be the number one page for the keyword "Easongate." Sorry to disappoint. I have written a bit more thoughtfully on Easongate here and here.

    But... You are really wanting something more, so please visit Hugh Hewitt, Bogus Gold, and Power Pundit first, but La Shawn Barber's Corner, Captain's Quarters, and Michelle Malkin are pulling a lot of weight on this story. Enjoy!

    Posted by Rick at 02:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Sudan Watch

    The Sudan Watch is a great resource for those following the ethnic cleansing genocide in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan.

    Posted by Rick at 02:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 05, 2005

    Jordan v. Mattis

    Hugh Hewitt is a master of his craft and proves it with his description of the MSM's disparate treatment of Jordan and Mattis.

    It took only 48 hours for four major newspapers to run stories on comments made by Lt. Gen. Mattis this past Tuesday (here, here, here, and here [HT: Hugh]). The General provided the MSM with a meaty sound bite, "It's fun to shoot some people" and they went with it.

    But why the blackout of the apparently equally meaty soundbites provided by CNN Chief Eason Jordan? According to one blogger who was present during Jordan's remarks,

    Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

    We know that there is video of the event, and we know that the MSM is "investigating," but why, after more than a week since Jordan's statements, has there not been a single MSM story on the subject?

    CNN asserted that bloggers have taken Eason's statements out of context. This is laughable coming on the heels of the Mattis story where almost every MSM sound bite of Mattis that I saw left out key context. The point is that Jordan's comments may be taken out of context or misrepresented by numerous witnesses, but this possibility makes it is more imperative, not less, for the MSM to cover the story and to set the bloggers straight. Judging from this account, and Jordan's history of similar statements, the full context is likely to be more condemning of Jordan.

    At first I was willing to cut the MSM some slack on this one. But they have now run out of rope.

    Posted by Rick at 07:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    General Mattis

    USMC Lt. Gen. James Mattis stepped into a bit of controversy Tuesday when he told a group in San Diego, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ..It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

    While these words were widely quoted on the local news here, the full context didn’t make the soundbite:

    You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.

    The General has been “counseled” and apparently wishes he chose his words more wisely.

    When I first heard the story, I queried my father in law, USMC Lt. Col. (ret) for a comment on Mattis’ remarks. He replied:


    Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner about Gen Mattis' comments. It took awhile for me to stop laughing. I guess the audience didn't see the humor here. The General is just telling it the way it is. Maybe he should substitute some word like "rewarding" instead of "fun" or a "hoot" when describing the act of eliminating some of the worst humans off our planet. Unfortunately, he is not the first high ranking person to get into trouble over a few no so politically correct words. I'll bet if Al Grey were still the Commandant of the Marine Corps you would not have heard a word in the news about the Gen Mattis being reprimanded. In short, politicians ask the warriors to fight their battles when it's clear that fancy words are no longer the solution. The General is a Warrior, not a politician (thank God).

    Semper FI, Lee

    The Marines are trained killers. Pure and simple. They aren’t trained to be peace keepers. They aren’t trained to be humanitarian aid workers. They are killers and the best killers on earth. That realization is a bit unnerving to me, but it’s the truth.

    Although I can’t imagine that shooting another human could ever be “fun” or a “hoot,” I also can’t imagine being a Marine in the heat of battle, so I’m in no position to criticize. From what little I know of the USMC, I bet Mattis’ remarks put a spring in the step of many young privates and corporals in Iraq and Afghanistan – as strange and sick as that may seem. But why is it that I’d have it no other way?

    Posted by Rick at 11:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    February 04, 2005

    Am I a Progressive Christian?

    Readers of my old blog know that I'm not entirely "conservative." I count myself as moderate (and even left) on taxes, housing, regionalism, immigration, race relations, environment, and the death penalty. But does that make me a "progressive" Christian?

    Ray of Sacking Rome has a nice thread going about what he describes as Jim Wallis' (Editor of Sojourners) New Vision for Progressive Christians.

    Ray provides a quick summary of a recent Wallis article:

    [Jim] talks about the 3 traditional options we’ve had in American politics. The first is a strictly conservative, "America as Empire" option. That’s what the Republicans think they have a “mandate” for today. The second is a strictly liberal, “America as Teddy Bear” option. That was so 90’s. The third option is the Libertarian option, the “America as a Fine Place to Live as Long as it Leaves Me the Hell Alone” option.

    I think Ray slightly mischaracterizes Wallis' first and second options, but his representation of the third option seems fair.

    Of the first option, Wallis wrote:

    The first political option in America today is conservative on everything - from cultural, moral, and family concerns to economic, environmental, and foreign policy issues. Differences emerge between aggressive nationalists and cautious isolationists, between corporate apologists and principled fiscal conservatives, but this is the political option clearly on the ascendancy in America, with most of the dominant ideas in the public square coming from the political Right.

    Wallis wrote of the second option:

    The second political option in contemporary America is liberal on everything - both family/sexual/cultural questions and economic, environmental, and foreign policy matters. There are certainly differences among the liberals (from pragmatic centrists to green leftists), but the intellectual and ideological roots come from the Left side of the cultural and political spectrum - and today most from the liberal/left find themselves on the defensive.

    Wallis believes that the Republican's mandate is very tenuous and introduces a 4th option that, if adopted by candidates opposing establishment Republicans, could build a lasting and powerful political coalition.
    I believe there is a "fourth option" for American politics, which follows from the prophetic religious tradition we have described. It is "traditional" or "conservative" on issues of family values, sexual integrity and personal responsibility, while being very "progressive," "populist," or even "radical" on issues like poverty and racial justice. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist - looking first to peacemaking and conflict resolution when it come to foreign policy questions.

    Jim has more thoughts about this 4th option, but what I've quoted gives you the gyst of what he is saying.

    So, would I vote for a "4th Option" candidate?

    In the same article, Wallis wrote:

    (4th Option Candidates) would not be mean-spirited and, for example, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, nor would they criminalize the choices of desperate women backed into difficult and dangerous corners.

    If Wallis is saying (and I'm not clear that he is) that Abortion should be legal in all cases, or that marriage should be legal between gay men and women, I am clearly not a "4th Option" voter. Mark Sides encouraged us to not wait for Roe to be overturned and to work to reduce abortions. If Wallis' position is anything other than Mark's, I don't know how it is Biblically supportable.

    Another characteristic of the ideal 4th Option candidate is that she would be "committed to a foreign policy that emphasized international law and multilateral cooperation over pre-emptive and unilateral war." Not to disparage, but this position is simply stupid. Although the left would love to keep using the terms, our war in Iraq was not entirely pre-emptive and by no means unilateral. We were at war with Iraq since the early 1990s and acted with a coalition of the willing that consisted of 30+ nations.

    I must ask then: Is there a 5th Option for Christians like me? Unfortunately, at this point, the answer is no.

    The United States electoral system is First-Past-The-Post. In FPP systems, there will only be two dominant parties. Voting for a member of a fringe party, in all but very rare instances, is completely useless. Parties are coalitions and therefore a single party or candidate may never mirror my values or beliefs, but on issues that matter most to me and my family, there is but one party. I will fervently support the Republican party (for now), but will continue to work to convince members of my party that moderate (dare I say, liberal) socio-economic and environmental policies are more Christian than the policies advocated by the "oppressors."

    As Jim Jewell pointed out in his fine post Virtues that Transcend Political Ideology, we can never legislate moralism and values constitute more than political positions on abortion and gay marriage. Not that we should abandon voting as a means of reforming society and its institutions, but that personal obedience to Christ is to be our highest calling; by yielding to Him, our lives will bear virtuous fruit.

    Our activism has order. First in line is my relationship with Christ. Then I look to my family and my church and ask, are these "institutions" honoring God with their decisions? If not, I advocate for change, which is not always successful. Outside the family and church are other institutions of which I am involved. I'm thinking here mostly of the institutions of government. As I work within my family and my church to make them more Christ-like (understanding their weaknesses as being comprised of and lead by flawed people), I also work within the polity that gives power to the government so that it can better emulate Christ. I have no illusions here. Man's institutions, although constituted by God, will never perfectly conform - but that's no excuse for ambivalence.

    Call me a Christian progressive who wants our governmental institutions reformed to glorify Christ. For now, I think the Republican party is the best vehicle for this type of progressive activism.

    (Drew has a related post on Wallis and reaction from secular liberals.)

    Posted by Rick at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)

    February 03, 2005

    Eason Jordan Update

    If you're following the Eason Jordan mess, Powerpundit offers a nice roundup. Excellent for folks like me who have been out of the loop the past couple of days.

    I'm appalled by Jordan's statement, deeply troubled to learn that he has made similar statements in the past, and highly unconvinced by his recent "clarification."

    Although Hugh didn't find anything on the story in the Washington Post or the New York Times this morning, his e-mail from blogger Rony Abovitz is encouraging. I think we can expect a major print story soon; hopefully, we'll have several. Sure, some will try and sweep it under the rug, but I hold out hope that other members of the MSM take their job seriously and will provide a fair and well-researched account of the events.

    I'm taking Geraghty's side on this one...for now.

    UPDATE: Doug of Bogus Gold comments that Captain's Quarters has done some fine research on Easom Jordan. The "context" in which Jordan spoke at Davos should include these previous statements that CQ has uncovered. (Doug has several posts on the subject.)

    UPDATE II: La Shawn Barber provides an extensive round up of developments in the story here and here.

    Posted by Rick at 09:50 AM | Comments (2)

    February 02, 2005

    Hugh on Dennis Miller Last Night

    Blog.jpgDriving home yesterday I caught the last few minutes of Hugh Hewitt's radio broadcast. He encouraged his listeners to watch him flog Blog on Dennis Miller's show that evening, so I clicked on the tube when I got home to check it out. Miller's intro was very shaky and a bit R-rated, but Hugh did a fine job with his segment.

    If you haven't purchased your copy of Blog, please do. The book will help you understand better what this project is all about. (Disclosure: Hugh flogs the old SCO a couple of times, but that's not why I'm encouraging you to buy his book. Buy and read the book because it's good and will teach you a few things about the new media!)

    Posted by Rick at 10:35 AM | Comments (5)

    February 01, 2005

    Clinton(s) 2008

    There should be no doubt that Hillary is running for higher office. Hillary Rodham's recent statements aimed to paint her as a centrist by seeking common ground on abortion make it clear that she is gunning for the presidency in 2008.

    But is Bill also running for higher office? I've wondered before, but Kofi Annan's announcement today makes me think that something is up.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan has selected former President Clinton to be the U.N. point man for tsunami reconstruction and ensure that the world doesn't forget the needs of those devastated by the Dec. 26 disaster, a U.N. diplomat said Tuesday.

    President Clinton is an excellent candidate for this job. The relief effort will be well managed under his leadership. But forgive me for being a bit cynical when it comes to the Clintons: Could this be just the opportunity for Bill to launch his campaign for UN Secretary General? I'll bet the thought has at least crossed his mind.

    Dick Morris once wrote that "Bill and Hillary Clinton have one central idea in their uncluttered, ambitious minds: Hillary in 2008."

    Dick's analysis here may not be is correct; after all, Morris thought the SBV Ads would "backfire"). But what if he is correct and Bill is obsessed with the idea of Hillary as President?

    As UN Secretary General, Bill Clinton could use the bully pulpit to confront President Bush on global policy like no other person could. And, let's face it folks, he is much better on that bully pulpit than our dear W. He could hammer conservative politics and, with the MSM having heart palpitations over his return to the spotlight, his message would be carried into every American home, every day.

    But, what if Bill's candidacy for UN Secretary General is some type of move to preempt Hillary's candidacy? Can anyone imagine having one Clinton run the United States, while the other Clinton ran the world (so to speak)? And, if Clinton were to wear the 5-star Blue Helmet, do you think he would give up the power that comes with that helmet so that Hillary could run for President?

    I have no idea. But, I think it's safe to say that the Clintons are up to something.

    UPDATE: Former Senator Jessie Helms weighs in:

    "I'm sure you might agree that putting a left-wing, undisciplined and ethically challenged former President of the United States into a position of such power would be a tragic mistake," wrote the 83-year-old Republican, who left office in 2003 after five terms.

    The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday. It contains a petition asking President Bush to "rebuke all efforts by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and every other liberal in Congress to push for Bill Clinton to become Secretary-General of the United Nations."

    Is the first shot in a long drawn out war? Or is Senator Helms just ranting?

    There was another line in the Helms article that caught my attention:
    "Clinton has said nothing publicly about wanting to lead the U.N" (emphasis added). Hmmmm...

    Posted by Rick at 03:07 PM | Comments (9)

    Is the "Governator" No Longer Invincible?

    The headline of this AP story screams: "Once-Invincible 'Governator' Dips in Polls."

    A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that while 60 percent of the state's residents still approve of the job he is doing, he has lost considerable ground among Democrats and Independents, who together form the vast majority of the state's voters.
    Well...not exactly.

    The PPIC poll compared the Governor's January 2005 job approval rating to his January 2004 approval rating. Exhibit 1 compares the data for both years by party and for all Californians.

    PPIC Surveys.jpg

    The single-tail p-values for the change in the proportion of those who “Approve” from 2004 to 2005 were as follows: Dem (.10), Rep (.28), Ind (.30), Californians (.26). Statistically, the Governor's "Approval" rating did not change from 2004 to 2005, even amongst the surveyed Democrats. Although, the survey indicates that Californians shifted from not knowing if they approved or disapproved of the Governor's performance in 2004 to expressing firm disapproval of his job performance in 2005. As noted in the PPIC report, this shift was largest amongst Democrats and Independents.

    What do you think could account for this marked shift in opinion of the Governor amongst Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans?

    I suggest that much of the shift can be attributed to the PPIC survey design and administration.

    In this year's survey, the job approval question was #22. I suggest that questions #19 or #21, which preceded the approval rating question, provided information that may have "pushed" Californians (Dem. and Ind. in particular) from "Do Not Know" in 2004 to "Disapprove" in 2005.

    These questions informed the survey respondents that the Governor's budget includes "withholding money from K to 12 public education," "reducing certain health and human services and general government spending," and asked "how concerned" Californians were about the effects of the Governor's proposed "spending reductions."

    In 2004, surveyed voters were asked to make value judgments based on their prior knowledge of the issues. The survey questionnaire did not provide the type of preamble, like it did most prominently in questions #19 and #21 of the 2005 survey.

    If the article suggests that in 2004 Arnold was "Invincible," this survey does not indicate an Achilles Heal for the Governator. Given the preamble of questions #19 and #21 in the survey, why did the Governor's "Approval" rating remain unchanged across party lines? Now there's the story!

    Posted by Rick at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)