Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Global Test Returns

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin cautions against a timetable for withdrawing coalition troops from Iraq. According to the CNN International transcript of the interview, he said:

Amanpour: Do you believe the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops?
De Villepin: I believe that anything should be done coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation. I think that the timetable should be a global timetable. The real timetable is the Iraqi situation. We should avoid at all cost the chaos in Iraq which of course would be disastrous for the whole region.

I'm not sure what a "global timetable" is. Could it be something like the "global test" of which John Kerry once spoke?

At any rate, it seems the French Prime Minister isn't in favor of picking a date on the calendar and announcing it as the time for withdrawal come what may.

It's a strange world sometimes.

(Hat tip: The American Thinker)

Sun Spots: No NASCAR track talk in 2003?

There's a puzzling statement in today's edition of The Sun. An article by Travis Baker states, among other things:

Race Track 'Correction' Repealed, 2-1
 Earlier vote had the appearance of clearing the way for a track.
By Travis Baker, tbaker@kitsapsun.comNovember 29, 2005

"The timing couldn't have been worse," said Republican Commissioner Jan Angel, who voted against repealing the "correction." There had been no talk of a NASCAR track here in 2003, but by last April prospects for such a track were a hot rumor.

It appeared that the commissioners were greasing the skids for such a track.

Since the nondisclosure agreements signed by Kitsap County commissioners and employees were dated in September through November 2003, and the decision to allow racetracks in the South Kitsap Industrial Area was purportedly made on November 17, 2003 according to the KCRP complaint in Pierce County Superior Court (link to pdf file), how could it be true that "there had been no talk of a NASCAR track here in 2003"?

What could our leaders and "servants" be promising not to disclose about their dealings with the NASCAR folks in the autumn of 2003, if not the possible location of a racetrack?

P.S. -- 3:55 P.M., Nov. 29 -- According to The Sun, Commissioner Jan Angel took a trip to Kansas City in October 2003 to view the NASCAR track recently built there:

NASCAR Timeline
June 23, 2005

International Speedway Corp., a racetrack-building company controlled largely by NASCAR, begins looking for possible Washington sites.

October 2003: Kitsap Economic Development Executive Director David Porter, Port of Bremerton Commissioner Cheryl Kincer and County Commissioner Jan Angel take a trip with Snohomish County officials to Kansas City, Kan., to view the ISC-owned Kansas Speedway.
It seems that either Jan Angel or Travis Baker has misstated the facts about the talk of locating a track in Kitsap County back in the autumn of 2003.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wal-Mart: Jekyll and Hyde?

Is the world's biggest retail business suffering from some sort of Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, or does it just depend on one's point of view?

Here is an article from The Seattle Times that is generally critical and here is one from the Washington Post that is generally laudatory.

The facts don't seem so different, but the opinions formed based on those facts could hardly be more different.

One's prejudices really do matter sometimes. Take this part from the critical article for example:

Indeed, a Business Week analysis shows Costco's average hourly wage is $15.97, far above the Wal-Mart (Sam's Club) $11.52 figure (even excluding the 25 percent of Wal-Mart workers who are low-paid part-timers). The yearly employer contributions to health care — Costco, $5,735; Wal-Mart, $3,500. Of Costco employees, 82 percent are covered by the health plan; Wal-Mart, 47 percent. Employee turnover at Wal-Mart is three times higher than Costco's.

And then comes the clincher, suggesting the low-road approach may not be so clever after all: Costco's profit per employee is $13,647; Wal-Mart's, $11,039.

Now, if one retail business promised low prices all the time, might its profit per employee be lower because of those low prices?

And, as pointed out by the laudatory article, the people who shop at Costco are not the same as those who shop at Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Wal-Mart provides jobs on the lower rungs and greater purchasing power to those on the lower rungs. Can that be bad?

Perhaps, if you were a business owner who enjoyed a greater profit from sales to the customers who went to that new Wal-Mart to enjoy those lower prices. Or, if you are someone who doesn't want to see it happen to you, as your erstwhile customers go where their earnings buy the most.

(Hat tip: RealClearPolitics)

Stonewall Logan

In the dust and smoke of battle, there stood Dean Logan, like a stone wall:

State law correctly puts the burden on the challenger to prove a voter's registration is not valid. Given the seriousness of the issue, the threshold for denying a citizen the right to vote must be high. Therefore, it is incumbent on the challenger to meet all the requirements of the law, including the requirement that he or she provide the actual address at which the challenger believes the voter resides. That requirement is important because of the real risk of casting suspicion on a voter because he shares an address with private mail box or commercial storage facility.

In the majority of challenges, the evidence provided to the Canvassing Board did not establish a residential address other than what was provided by the voter, nor did they present clear and convincing evidence that the voter does not reside at the address listed on their registration.

As Logan now construes the law, a person whose voter registration states an impossibility is nevertheless presumed to be a real person who has the right to vote. People who stated under oath that their actual places of residence were rented mailboxes (too small for a gerbil to call "home") must still be allowed to cast ballots until someone can track them down and figure out where they really live (assuming they aren't simply voting more than once using false identities and addresses).

Note that the statute authorizes a challenge based on the fact "that [the] voter no longer maintains a legal voting residence at the address shown on his or her registration record."

The GOP was challenging people who never did maintain a residence at the address shown on their registration records.

Trying to achieve honest elections is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall, when people like Logan are in charge of the process.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Torture is permissible

If there's a flaw in the logic of Charles Krauthammer's Weekly Standard article, I don't see it.

Torture is permissible in two situations, and may even be obligatory.

(Hat tip: RealClearPolitics.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Dicks Slips Farther Down The Slope

Given a chance by The Sun to elaborate on his comments, Dicks slipped farther down the slippery slope toward moonbat conspiracy theories:

None of the administration's dire warnings about WMD's proved valid, "and the intelligence was slanted," Dicks believes.
"There's no doubt in my mind it was slanted," he told the Kitsap Sun.

Both "doctored" and "slanted" are terms implying deceit.

Dicks was on the House Intelligence Committee for 8 years, including the time leading up to the invasion of Iraq, so he should have little trouble in offering evidence to support his claims.

But, he offers none -- because there is none.

Friday, November 25, 2005



Democrat Norm Dicks spouts off about Iraq:

But Dicks says the intelligence was "doctored."

Development of the pre-war "intelligence" on Iraq has been examined carefully. There is no evidence that anyone "doctored" the assessments:

Contrary to what some defenders of the Intelligence Community have since asserted, these errors were not the result of a few harried months in 2002. Most of the fundamental errors were made and communicated to policymakers well before the now-infamous NIE of October 2002, and were not corrected in the months between the NIE and the start of the war.
+ + +
Finally, we closely examined the possibility that intelligence analysts were pressured by policymakers to change their judgments about Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments.

Where's your evidence that it was "doctored," Norm?

Put up or shut up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Slant on Capital Punishment

What comes over reporters who slant the information in their articles? Do they even realize it when they do it?

Here's an article that caught my attention because of the slanted summary on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's web page. (The summary stated that the Supreme Court "approved capital punishment in 1976," but of course the court was merely deciding whether a law enacted by a legislature was constitutional -- which isn't quite the same as approving capital punishment. Whoever wrote that summary seems not to recognize the distinction between the legislative and judicial powers.)

Way down near the end of what is an otherwise pretty good article is this paragraph:

Since 1973, 122 prisoners have been freed from death row. The vast majority of those cases came during the last 15 years, since the use of DNA evidence became widespread. While there is no official proof an innocent person has been executed, opponents of the death penalty say the number of prisoners whose convictions have been reversed should fuel skepticism.

The implication in its second sentence is that DNA evidence had proven the innocence of a large number of people on death row during the last 15 years, but there aren't any numbers given other than the total freed since 1973 -- which would include those freed for reasons other than the merits of their cases. (Also curious is the choice of 1973 as the starting point, since the article had already noted that 1976 was the year in which the Supreme Court found a state's capital punishment law to be constitutional.)

So, I looked elsewhere to see what is claimed as the total. In an article published April 8, 2005, this statement of the total was made:

The Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports that 13 other death-row inmates have also been exonerated with the help of DNA evidence.

That would indicate a total of 14 convictions which are known to have been set aside because of DNA analysis. (The article was prompted by one case, thus the reference to "13 other" cases.)

Out of 122 cases, 14 people were freed from death row because of DNA testing -- not quite what was implied in the paragraph quoted above.

It's aggravating to see such things in the news media, especially when the topic is as serious as capital punishment. The article had already done a good job of describing the problem involved in ending a person's life without being absolutely certain the criminal conviction was correctly determined. Why mess it up with a misleading paragraph that indicated a truly large number of cases had been set aside because DNA had proven the person's innocence?

Isn't 14 a big enough number to hammer the point home?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What statutory change would enable Dean Logan to understand his duties?

The King County voter registration and elections processes apparently won’t work correctly without a change in the statutes.

The needed change is unusual. The statutes must not only spell out in excruciating detail the duties of county auditors and of King County’s ersatz auditor, the Director of Records and Elections. They must also contain the name of Dean Logan, so he cannot misunderstand or deny that they apply to him.

According to the article, the Snohomish County auditor, Bob Terwilliger, may also need to see his name in the statute before realizing it refers to him. He reportedly believes that he shouldn't do anything to weed out invalid addresses since there is no method that would catch them all. Imagine that: We cannot catch them all, so we shouldn't try to catch any.

Are there any more? Perhaps the legislature must subpoena each county’s auditor for testimony to determine how many more lack the cognitive ability to grasp the nature of their duties.

Today’s article reports that Logan stopped the effort by King County’s elections office to identify invalid addresses on voter registration applications based on an amazingly flawed rationale:

Logan has said it would be arbitrary to question voters about their addresses in more detail to determine if they are residences.

How could it be arbitrary to inquire further of the applicant when the “residence address” stated on the application is one that appears to be the address of a business concern rather than a residence? The facts would justify the inquiry, so it wouldn’t be “arbitrary” in any sense of that word.

RCW 29A.08.110 requires Logan to determine whether a voter registration applicant has put a “complete valid residence address” on the application.

(1) On receipt of an application for voter registration under this chapter, the county auditor shall review the application to determine whether the information supplied is complete. An application that contains the applicant's name, complete valid residence address, date of birth, and signature attesting to the truth of the information provided on the application is complete. If it is not complete, the auditor shall promptly mail a verification notice of the deficiency to the applicant. This verification notice shall require the applicant to provide the missing information. If the verification notice is not returned by the applicant or is returned as undeliverable the auditor shall not place the name of the applicant on the county voter list. If the applicant provides the required information, the applicant shall be registered to vote as of the date of mailing of the original voter registration application.

RCW 29A.08.830, which authorizes citizens to challenge the registration of others, assumes that the original registration contained the other person’s residence address and allows a challenge when the person “no longer” lives at that address:

(1) Any registered voter may request that the registration of another voter be canceled if he or she believes that the voter does not meet the requirements of Article VI, section 1 of the state Constitution or that voter no longer maintains a legal voting residence at the address shown on his or her registration record. The challenger shall file with the county auditor a signed affidavit subject to the penalties of perjury, to the effect that to his or her personal knowledge and belief another registered voter does not actually reside at the address as given on his or her registration record or is otherwise not a qualified voter and that the voter in question is not protected by the provisions of Article VI, section 4, of the Constitution of the state of Washington. The person filing the challenge must furnish the address at which the challenged voter actually resides.

Note that Article VI, section 1 of the state constitution doesn’t say anything about voter registration:

SECTION 1 QUALIFICATIONS OF ELECTORS. All persons of the age of eighteen years or over who are citizens of the United States and who have lived in the state, county, and precinct thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote, except those disqualified by Article VI, section 3 of this Constitution, shall be entitled to vote at all elections.

So, the part of RCW 29A.08.830 which refers to a challenge based on failure to meet the requirements of Article VI, section 1 doesn’t appear to apply.

Perhaps one could stretch the statute’s wording to include challenges of improper registrations by arguing that the challenged person never did meet the requirement that he be a resident of the “state, county and precinct” for at least 30 days immediately preceding the election, but that would be not only a stretch – it would be an almost impossible burden of proof to meet. One would need to go back to the time of the registration and find out where the challenged voter was actually living at that time. Instead of using the registration laws to require the registration applicant to identify his residence, the law would be turned upside down to require the challenger to provide what the applicant had been allowed to omit from the registration application, i.e., the applicant's actual residence address at the time he registered to vote.

Article VI, section 7 of the state constitution does require voter registration as a condition of eligibility to vote:

SECTION 7 REGISTRATION. The legislature shall enact a registration law, and shall require a compliance with such law before any elector shall be allowed to vote; Provided, that this provision is not compulsory upon the legislature except as to cities and towns having a population of over five hundred inhabitants. In all other cases the legislature may or may not require registration as a pre-requisite to the right to vote, and the same system of registration need not be adopted for both classes.

Assuming the legislature was attempting to fulfill its constitutional obligation to enact a voter registration law and require compliance as a condition of eligibility to vote, the current laws place the duty of enforcement on Logan and the other county auditors. They are the people charged with the responsibility to ensure that compliance with the voter registration laws is a condition of voting.

But, Logan and others claim not to be able to discern their legal duties, so the law must be changed to make it clear to even the dullest among them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stop the Presses?

Could this be a major reason for the decline in newspaper circulation? The comment was made about the San Francisco Chronicle, but could be true of many other newspapers.

"But to my mind, the biggest reason why ever-fewer people are reading the Chron is that it really isn't a newspaper anymore. Predictable political views suffuse every section of the paper, right down to the food and wine pages. With the exception of the wire service stories (which have their own problems), every news story is a feature story or op-ed piece in disguise. Ironically, the last bastion of a balanced viewpoint in the entire paper is the editorial page. Everything else is pumped through the same filter." -- Michael S. Malone, ABC News commentary

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

King County Voter Registration Irregularities

Today's Seattle Times notes that their reporters have checked some of the places where voters in King County claimed to live, and found that most of those places weren't residences.

Of course, there are apparently innocent reasons for many of the bogus residence addresses. People living on boats at marinas listed their rented mailboxes as their residences, for example.

In the absence of any effort at all by Logan's gang to screen out addresses which cannot possibly be valid residence addresses, it isn't surprising that many people wouldn't think twice about putting down their mailing addresses rather than the address of the marina.

Worthy of note is this bit at the end of the article:

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jean Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said in a statement Monday that she will propose legislation prohibiting challenges of voters' registrations so close to an election.

No one other than polling place inspectors and judges can challenge voters at the polls on election day, and no one knows who is on the list of registered voters until the rolls are closed 30 days before the election--and the county publishes the list.

So, just how long before election day would Senator Kohl-Welles prefer to allow challenges to be made against people who aren't lawfully registered to vote?

Shall we give people one day after the voter rolls are published by the county in which to examine those rolls and submit challenges? Two days?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Washington Post Agrees with "W" on Climate Change Policy

In an editorial opinion published in today's Washington Post, the writer encouraged President Bush to treat the statements of Prince Charles and Prime Minister Blair as an opportunity:

What is clear is that Mr. Blair's initiative offers an excellent opening for Mr. Bush. The president, who has benefited from Mr. Blair's support, should say he supports the prime minister's initiative, wants to leave the Kyoto dispute behind and is ready to address climate change issues, actively and enthusiastically, in an international forum once again.

It seems the White House is way ahead of them. A "fact sheet" was released by the White House on July 8, 2005, stating, inter alia:

Today, President Bush and the G-8 Leaders agreed on a far-reaching Plan of Action to speed the development and deployment of clean energy technologies to achieve the combined goals of addressing climate change, reducing harmful air pollution and improving energy security in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sun Spots: Innumeracy at The Sun

Today's editorial in The Sun would be amusing if not for the possibility that the writer was merely parroting the statements of Kitsap County Health District officials. Such stupidity in a local newspaper editor can be funny, but one would hope for greater cognitive ability in a health district leader.

Note this curious use of arithmetic:

The state-required communicable disease program, a projected $633,624 budget item, will cost the district $318,024 in local funds — but it isn't one of Kitsap County's most critical health needs.

Far more serious are the county's efforts to prevent death by injury or suicide. In recent years, unintended injury and suicide often have been the leading causes of death for residents ages 15 through 34. Despite those imposing statistics, preventing death by those causes isn't a state-mandated priority, and the county's program is funded 54 percent with local money.

The amount spent on injury and suicide prevention isn't stated, but the percentage of local funding for the two programs is roughly the same -- 50.2 percent for the communicable disease program and 54 percent for injury and suicide prevention (assuming The Sun did the latter computation correctly).

Beyond their innumeracy, The Sun also displays a lack of understanding of the essential function of a public health agency. Preventing accidental injuries and suicide isn't one of those essential functions--not even in the Kitsap County Health District's own description of its purposes:

The work of public health can be summarized in three categories:

Essential programs for improving health: Programs such as immunizations, communicable disease prevention, and chronic disease and injury prevention help individuals and communities stay healthy.

Information that works: Educational and training programs on everything from infant mortality to healthy aging, information on community health trends, and statewide health and safety information provide individuals and communities with information they can use to make good decisions.

Protecting you and your family every day: Services such as drinking water and recreational water quality monitoring, septic system inspections, restaurant inspections, hazardous waste control, disease prevention and planned community crisis response ensure individual and community health and safety.

Suicide and injury prevention happens to be one of the "priorities" identified for 2004, i.e., areas to be given special attention in an effort to improve overall conditions in our community.

A skeptic (OK, this writer) would wonder if the selection of suicide and injury prevention was the result of the typical bureaucratic urge to expand the bureaucracy beyond essential functions. But, whatever the motivation, it is hardly true that preventing the spread of communicable disease is less important.

For The Sun, a task chosen by the health district once essential functions were adequately covered became "one of Kitsap County's most critical health needs."

Such illogical thinking would be frightening, if it came from the leaders of the health district. We depend on the performance of essential functions, and those are the truly "critical" needs that must be met by the health district. Other things like suicide prevention programs can be done as time and resources allow, but health threats to the community as a whole cannot be given lesser priority relative to them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Freedom of speech and press vs. Congress

If this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is correct, the so-called campaign finance reform of 2002 may be extended to the Web.

WASHINGTON -- Online political expression should not be exempt from campaign finance law, the House decided Wednesday as lawmakers warned that the Internet has opened up a new loophole for uncontrolled spending on elections.

The House voted 225-182 for a bill that would have excluded blogs, e-mails and other Internet communications from regulation by the Federal Election Commission. That was 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed under a procedure that limited debate time and allowed no amendments.

The vote in effect clears the way for the FEC to move ahead with court-mandated rule-making to govern political speech and campaign spending on the Internet.

Supposedly, blogs could be included within the Byzantine rules governing speech about political campaigns.

Without his legislation, Hensarling said, "I fear that bloggers one day could be fined for improperly linking to a campaign Web site, or merely forwarding a candidate's press release to an e-mail list."

Let's see -- what does it cost to make available to the public an entry or a comment on this worthy blog? And, who would report the "expenditure" if the total spent meets the threshold for mandatory reporting of campaign expenditures --

Kidding aside, what is so hard to understand about the meaning of the words "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."?

If freedom of speech and freedom of the press don't include political arguments and information made available to the public on the Web, what do those rights include?

While it may make sense to many people to require disclosure of the sources of funds used to purchase advertising space to disseminate political campaign information, it seems that we have gone pretty far away from "no law" already.

Must we go farther?

If a political statement were to include obviously pornographic content, would the First Amendment then require Congress to back off? (Nah -- no redeeming social value.)