Sunday, July 31, 2005

MT GOP and out of staters

Matt at Left in the West, points out that the Montana GOP is attacking him and David Sirota for being non natives who are trying to run the state. I am disappointed in these kinds of attacks because they seem to be less interested in discussing ideas, than ad hominem attacks. I've always said, that if you can't attack the idea, attack the messenger.
I suppose that they are basing their attacks on the feelings of many so called "Native Montanans." In a way, I can sympathize with them, that before we became the playground of the rich and famous and poor and crazy, we used to provide good jobs in the natural resources extractive industries. In fact, in the 1950s, we were number five in the national rankings of states for personal earnings.
Go tell a man that the job that he had been doing for years and was providing him a good income for his family was environmentally unacceptable. Then when he finds out that he was lied to, when the jobs that were supposed to replace his earned a mere pittance from what he had been earining, and you get a certain amount of resentment of those who changed the rules of the game based on their experiences from whence they came.
This is not to defend the extractive industries, because they were unsustainable at any level for any length of time. However, it still doesn't necessarily ease the transition for the former well paid worker.
As a disclaimer, I must note, that I was born in Virginia to second generation Montanans while my father was serving in the Army, (a very traditional Montanan activity) and that all of my siblings were born in Havre.
I suppose that the real point of this posting, is that the best definition of a true Montanan, is that when you are driving into the state, and see the sign that says "Welcome to Montana" you feel at home within less than a tenth of a mile, even though you have to drive 450 miles to get to your door.
Let's welcome all Montanans to the discussion, and quit trying to exclude some whose opinions we disagree with, even if we can't deal with their argument.

Roberts and Roe

I am fascinated that the nomination of Judge Roberts for the vacancy on the US Supreme Court seems to hinge on the issue of abortion. Why on earth does this really take such a preeminent role in the decisions of the courts?
To me, abortion is the classic moral dilemma, where good people can come down on both sides. Personaly, I do believe that a fetus is a seperate and distinct person, having its own unique DNA, and is not just a part of a woman's body. Sure, she should have the ability to choose, but in 98% of all abortions, she did have the choice before she became pregnant.
Conversely, I do not think that the government has any business telling her what to do about her pregnancy, or for that matter, much of anything else. Nothing makes a man more pro-choice, than when his girlfriend of the moment lets him know that she is "late."
Roe v. Wade is settled law, albeit, settled in the worst way. The history of the decision, as written by Woodward, illustrates Blackmun's unethical individual research, flawed logic, and incoherent reasoning. Even so, suppose that the Supreme Court decided tomorrow, that abortions no longer are cosntitutionally protected. Would that mean that abortions would end? Maybe in Alabama, but not necessarily in the Northeastern US, or even here in Montana.
I think that one of the reasons why abortion takes up so much time in these nomination hearings, is the awareness by the proponents of Roe in the weakness of their case. Suppose for a minute that some judge says that the 14th Amendmnet does not apply to women. A legally plausible theory, that is politically impossible. No one would seriously say that women should have their franchise stripped from them. Yet, if someone questions overturning Roe, there is a hue and cry throughout the land.
Why not select judges who say that the law is the law, even if I don't agree with it. If you did, you would never have overturned Dredd Scott, or Plessy v. Ferguson, but there is still the rememdy of legislative action if the decision was morally wrong.
In the current state of the law, every question becomes a candidate for the Supreme Court because they are so inconsistent in applying pronciples to issues. A great example are the two cases that came out of Michigan, where affirmative action selection is wrong at the undergrad level but fine for the law school. Well, what about a business program, can they discriminate at the MBA level, but not at the undergrad level? And what really havppens when after 25 years pass?
Give me a justice who follows the law and I will be happy, because the majority can force the cowardly legislaoures to do the right thing.
Now all we need to do is to elect courageous members of the legislature.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


This is a long article, but it proves again the thesis that no prophet is honored in his own land. Daniel Patrick Moynian will always be my hero, because he was intellectually honest. Unfortunately, he was punished for that. If only we had dropped our blinders and actually understood what he was saying, the world might be a different place.

Great Link

Follow the link to a great telling of what is going on in Iraq. If you are pro-war, it will give you pause. If you are anti-war it will give you pause. Ain't the truth confusing?

On Student Loans

Interesting assessment of the current financial aid situation. I used student loans for my undergrad back in the 70's, and avoided them for my Masters and law degree mostly because I hated dealing with the beauracracy.
One of the problems that I see with the cost of a college education is that there are no pressures to constrain costs. But suppose that Pell Grants and student loans would be denied to any school that raises tuition at more than twice the rate of inflation. That would certainly put a damper on the perpetual spiral of increasing tuition, which is really denying middle class kids an opportunity to study.
Of course, higher education is a unique situation, where Presidents are selected because of their educational accomplishments more than their managerial abilities.
More proof of the differing types of intelligence in life.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bad and Good News from Iraq

Read the link to Strategypage, but in short, there will be more violence as the former regime elements are froze out of what they consider to be their rightful place. (Overlords of the less human Shia). However, the Iraqi army is becoming more competent, which is more of an accomplishment than most people realize.
Many civilians seems to think that training a soldier only involves how to wear a uniform, march, salute, and shoot. The reality of modern warfare involves teaching them to think. A rigid heirarchy is prone to breaking, but a flexible, thinking organization is resilient and more effective. The interesting thing about the article, is that the Iraqi junior officers are so willing to learn how the Americans do things. If we can train them in only tactics and techniques, we will only be half way home. The trick will be to train them in values. i.e. Loyalty to the civilian leadership, integrity and self discipline.
One of the greatest threats to the Iraqi success will be the elimination of the ususal suspects in failures of the Middle East - theft, corruption, nepotism, etc. By making the Iraqi Army into a meritcracy, they will provide the model for the civilian government to follow. After all, can there be anything more disheartening to a fledgling democracy, than the belief that you can never get what you want from your government because you lack the right connections, or that your baksheesh is insufficient.
Well, here is to hope. May they succeed beyond my wildest dreams.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More Bush Lied

I know that because this came from the Washington Times, that it is deemed less than credible. However, nothing that I have found seems to contradict it. The whole Plame kerfluffle seems to be an inside the Beltway distraction, especially when there are so many more pleasant things to be doing during these beautiful summer days.
I sometimes wish that a Democrat had been elected instead of Bush, and he had done the exact same things. I think that the Left in this country would be solidly behind a Gore or a Kerry, if they were doing the same thing, and I believe that the Right would recognize the threat to our country by terrorism, and support the President in those endeavors.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What's the Matter with . . .

This article does a pretty good analysis of the change in economic growth between the Red and Blue states. He mentions the book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" in showing that in America, more people want to be rich, even though they are not, than want to hate the rich.
One thing about the Kansas book though, why hasn't anyone wrote a book about "What's the matter with Washington D.C., New York, Massachussettes," etc?
Washington D.C. typically votes among the highest for Democrats. Yet their schools are failing even though the per capita education spending is the top or near the top of all of the states. They have the tightest gun control legislation, yet used to rate the highest in per capita murder statistics. The District has one of the highest per capita tax rates of the country, yet is populated with the largest percentage of poor people, (mostly based on white flight to VA and MD).
If repeating the same acts and expecting different results, (adherance to the Democratic Party) is the definition of insanity, maybe that is the best explanation for wy the District will never be a state.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Evolution and Religion

The Catholic Church now says that it accepts evolution but with the caveat that it cannot ignore that there was a guiding hand. I find the whole argument amusing on both sides.
First, the fundamentalists who believe every word of the Bible is true, except for the first miracle at Canaa, where Jesus didn't turn water into wine, but rather grape juice. To them, the world was created in six days. Now imagine, God is telling Moses how the universe was started. "Okay, about 15 billion years ago, it all started with this big bang, from which all matter originated and . . . " Moses, who possessed at best Bronze age technology, asks, "Wait a minute, what's a billion?"
You see the problem here. Is it any less miraculous to take 15 billion years, versus six days? I am amazed that anyone would want to limit God and his capabilities by saying that it was only six days.
But to examine evolution, 15 billion years is really too short for just random chance isn't it? I mean, the first stars had to form, fuse hydrogen into helium, and a few heavier elements, then go supernova, and repeat the process several times to create the mix of elements that presently exist. How long is the shortest life of a star?
On our particular level, I have to wonder about the evolutionary value of appreciation for beauty.
Drive the Going to the Sun road at sunrise, and you will have the equivalent of a religous experience. Why do we appreciate that? The fact that appreciation of beauty is so widespread appears to discount the randomness of a genetic mutation that would appreciate it.
But hey, I am just a dumb lawyer, driving down the highway of life with the top down and the tunes loud, having a great time.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Finally, a start

At last, someone from the Islamic community is taking a stand. 'Bout damned time.

Understanding Islamo-facism

Good article that explains why fanatics who behead innocent people are not our fault, but are evil in their own right.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bush Lied!???

Another of a series of letters to the editor at the Missoulian, lead off with the screed that Bush lied about WMDs. Is it just me, or does this make no sense. Seems to me, that a lie is to knowingly make a false statement. How is it that Bush lied, if the Democratic leadership, including Senator Kerry, also said that there were WMDs in Iraq. Further, didn't Saddam do everything to perpetuate the idea that he had WMDs (getting large shipments of atropine, handing out chemical warfare suits, etc.).
Are these letters legitimate expressions of policy, or the cynical manipulation of facts in order to further a political agenda? Going further, could someone explain to me, how, if your enemy has the same objective as you do, (withdrawl of American troops) you are not in support of the people who are killing our soldiers? This is not to question anyone's patriotism, but I would appreciate an answer that makes sense as to why anyone would be in agreement with mass murderers and terrorists.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Michelson-Morley Awards

I posted my silly physics question Physics questions and recieved two excellent answers that didn't answer the question at all. David, had a wonderful answer that didn't even come close, and Rocky, managed to turn the answer into a totally different question involving pyrotechnics and collision effects.
This got me to thinking, what if there was a contest to answer (or not answer) actual questions. Creativity would be rewarded, and snarky answers encouraged.
So, I came up with the first Michelson-Morley awards. In case you don't know who they are, these two gentlemen set out to prove that there was an ether in space which would transmit light. They set out to test their theory, and failed miserably. It wasn't too long after that when Einstein came up with his theory of Relativity, which destroyed the concept of ether forever as a medium for the transmission of light.
The rules are simple:
1. Incorrect answers only. If you have the right answer and post it, you will be disqualified.
2. Creativity is a must. We always try to use creativity to solve problems, now use it to make a bigger mess of a problem.
3. Not answering the question is also acceptable.

Without further ado, here is this weeks question:
A bumblebee is aerodynamically incapable of flight. If you examine the mass of the insect, wing size, wing speed, it just cannot be done. So, how does it fly?

Answers will be collected until the 11th, and evaluated by our esteemed panel of judges, (me). Be the first on your block to get the magic Michelson-Morley award, amaze your friends, brag at a bar, and have fun!
I will also be accepting proposed future questions at my e-mail:

Founding Fathers

As a child growing up, my education about the American Revolution consisted mostly of the myths of idolatry about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and others. My children, on the other hand, were raised on the failings of these great men: How they were slave owners while they sought freedom, lawyers who would deny the rights they sought to those who did not own property or possess the proper Y chromosone.
Looking back with time, which gives you a perspective on human charachter, I am even more amazed at what those fine gentlement managed to accomplish, warts and all. If you think about it, these men were the elites of the colonies. They were risking their all for the chance to give more to others. If you were to predict future behavior based on rational self interest, none of these men would have been listed as the fathers of an ideal that would revolutionalize government.
When the Constitution was signed, someone said that they pledged their "lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" in support of something that had never before been done in their time: Raising the individual as a sovereign, instead of some inherited right to dominate others. As radical a concept as there ever was. In fact, they had more than enough opportunities to turn away from the ideal, and to go with what must have been their own base interests. George Washington, at the time of victory at Yorktown, was invited by some young colonels to assume a military dictatorship of the new country. Luckily, he rebuked them for even bringing it up, and therefore managed to avoid strangling the birth of a new country.
Americans are a strange lot, and you notice this more if you spend any time abroad. We are eternally optimistic, and at the same time, extremely self critical. We take it for granted that there will always be those who will complain about our country. In other cultures, this would be considered as treason, even if it is correct. So, when we complain about ourselves, in their minds, we must be even worse because they would never do the same thing.
In America, our strengths are our weaknesses, and our weaknesses are our strengths. We allow free speech, even if it is used against us. We have a military that is second to none, but unable to effectively and decisively cope with terrorists, like a secret police state would.
We are populated by the descendents of malcontents who were unwilling to stay for whatever reason and dared to go where no sane person would go to. (This includes the indigenous populations. Can you imagine 15,000 years ago, sitting around the campfire in Western Siberia, watching a group of crazy people heading over a land bridge to God only knows where and to what?) Those of us who live in the West, are the descendants of the craziest of the crazies. Yet, our mania is fueled by hope. Hope for a better future, for ourselves and our children. For a chance to be the real "Masters of our domain." The belief in America is the belief in hope. We owe it all to those magnificent and flawed human beings who placed an ideal above self interest, so that we may continue the experiment in Democracy that we know as the United States of America. May God continue to bless and keep her.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform Consistency

Apparently, Rep. Meehan, a Democrat who was half of the Shays Meehan Campaing Finance reform legislation is trying to reign in 527 spending, much to the consternation of his fellow Democrats.
While I believe that restricting contributions is a violation of free speech, I do have to hand it to the Representative that he has been consistant. I admire that and wish that more of our elected representatives at all levels were to act on principles instead of political expediency.
Okay, Sarpy, I know that you are going to post the lyrics from Man of La Mancha again about Dreaming Impossible Dreams, but still I quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far!