November 05, 2005

1, 2, 3, it’s ABC, not WMD

Starting with Kevin Drum at Political Animal, I’m trying to get progressive bloggers and other influence peddlers to stop using the BushCo “weapons of mass destruction,” and go back to the older, more psychologically neutral, “atomic, biological and chemical weapons.”

In adddition to the propaganda value BushCo has infused into its phrase, it's somewhat inaccurate, because not all ABC weapons are equally destructive.

So, let's stop lumping all ABC weapons together under the BushCo rubric of WMDs.

Chemical weapons are much less dangerous, relatively, than AB weapons. And, other than sterilizing land or crops, they don't have the long-term effects that AB weapons do. And they certainly don't have the "multiplier effect" that B weapons do as part of the biological long-term effect. The flip side is that they are the easiest and cheapest to produce.

Biological weapons can be much more dangerous than chemical ones. Or they cannot. Remember the anthrax panic? What, half a dozen people died? That many people die in DC every weekend in car accidents.

Serious biological weapons, like smallpox, take serious bucks and technology to produce. They take more serious bucks and technology to store in a manner that both keeps the home populace thoroughly safe and preserves their potency.

Iraq, after the Gulf War, didn't have the reliable electric power to drive the technology for this in a major way. The money that Saddam was diverting from oil-for-food had four much higher priorities, anyway:
1. Line Hussein family pockets;
2. Bribe or assist UN or other international officials as needed;
3. Spend on conventional weapons;
4. Spend on any chemical weapons.

And then, it takes more money yet, and technology, to seriously weaponize many biological agents. It should be noted that the Soviet Union was apparently the only country to create a smallpox-carrying MIRV, for example.

Atomic weapons are the biggie; psychological terror of a "dirty" conventional bomb aside on one hand, and the skullduggery of Pakistan's A.Q. Khan on the other, this still is work that requires major financial and technological water-carrying. Again, something that Hussein didn't have the bucks or the focus to do.

And, many clear-thinking, analytical, skeptical progressives knew that by or before the summer of 2002, even if we didn't have access to intelligence data.

November 04, 2005

DeLay gets Democratic judge

Maybe this will finally shut Dick and Tom up.

Tom DeLay will have a Democratic judge, Senior Judge Pat Priest of San Antonio, preside over his trial. And he has no room for complaining. The appointment was made by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, a Republican endorsed and aided by DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC.

Some people just don’t know how to put the shovel down and slowly walk away.

November 03, 2005

Take that, Tom DeLay

Just days after Tom DeLay managed to get the original judge in his money-laundering case removed from hearing it, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle retureturned the favor.
Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub recused himself after District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed a motion asking for his removal from the case….

State district Judge Bob Perkins, a Democrat, was removed from DeLayls case Tuesday after DeLay’s legal team cast doubt on Perkins' ability to judge the case fairly because of more than $5,000 in contributions he's made to Democrats.

Earle said in his motion filed Thursday that Schraub has made more than $5,000 in contributions to Republican candidates, including to Gov. Rick Perry, a DeLay ally, which calls into question Schraub's impartiality in the case. …

“Governor Perry was a major figure in the redistricting effort that the (DeLay) successfully argued,” Earle said in his motion. “Because Judge Schraub has donated to Governor Perry, he has disclosed through this free speech that he agrees in principle with Perry's agenda regarding Tom DeLay’s redistricting map.”

Prosecutors also suggest an appearance of Schraub’s political indebtedness to Perry, who appointed him as administrative judge and has authority to reappoint him again in January.

Earle then pinned the tail back on the donkey jackass to whom it belongs.
Still, Earle wrote that prosecutors believe Schraub to be “completely fair and impartial, with a sterling reputation of honesty and integrity.

“However, as the recusal of Judge Perkins reflected, such is unfortunately no longer the standard in our state for the judiciary,” he said.

As I rhetorically asked in my last post on this subject, when are DeLay and mouthpiece Dick DeGuerin going to smarten up?

What could happen is that a long-retired judge will be called up from the bench and will be cranky at having to try this case. If that anger gets pointed at DeLay and DeGuerin (hey, aren’t those both French-sounding names?), watch out.

Wal-Mart DOES squeeze customers and DOES boost crime

Over at Political Animal, kneejerk, and nutbar, conservative poster Tbrosz was defending the business (and other) morals of Wal-Mart.

Part of this was his claim that Wally-World’s 3.5 percent profit margin (in a down year for Big Blue) was in line with American averages.

Wrong, Mr. T. Let’s take a look at what is actually true.

First, on the grocery side, I found:

“The average profit margin for a grocery store chain is about 2 percent.”

Oops, I may have estimated too high ...

Another site says average grocery profit margin is just 1.6 percent.

Now, let’s look at the retail side of Wally-World.

“The average profilt margin for retailers is about 1.5-2.5 percent depending on market segment. Wal-Mart manages 4.6 percent margins.”

And, does the opening of a new Wal-Mart store increase crime?

Here's a 505-hit Google search for >>Police “Wal-Mart” “new store” “increase in crime”.

And here’s a quote from one of the links:

Despite the advantages of claiming a large discount retailer, the Clayton Police Department is bracing for an increase in crime and traffic violations in the coming months.

Lt. Wayne Bridges said, “Obviously, we’re glad to see Wal-Mart coming here because it’s good for the town and its citizens.

“But we’re under no illusion that things will remain the same for us.”

The department expects to see a marked increase in shoplifting calls and traffic-related incidents at the new shopping center, Bridges said, and has responded by dividing its coverage area into “police beats” in an effort to deter incidents.

“The town has given us some additional resources, and we’ll use them in a different way,” Bridges said. “We’re as prepared as we can be.”

So, Tbrosz, and all you others, remember that you’re contributing to the decay of Main Street and Main Street conservative, wholesome, white picket fence values when you shop Wally-World.

November 01, 2005

Blair backpedals on global warming

After his Nov. 1 comments, one would think Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair was the lapdog not only of U.S. President Bush but also Australian Prime Minister John Howard, the two biggest opponents of the Kyoto Treaty and similar efforts to control global warming.
Tony Blair appeared last night to undermine more than 15 years of climate change negotiations when he signalled a shift away from a target-based approach to cutting greenhouse emissions. Speaking at the end of the first day of a summit in London of environment and energy ministers, the prime minister said that legally binding targets to reduce pollution made people “very nervous and very worried.”

He said when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012, the world would need a more sensitive framework for tackling global warming. “People fear some external force is going to impose some internal target on you ... to restrict your economic growth,” he said. “I think in the world after 2012 we need to find a better, more sensitive set of mechanisms to deal with this problem.” His words come in the build-up to UN talks in Montreal this month on how to combat global warming after Kyoto. “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge,” he said.

Ahh, Tony.

First, the even blunter truth is that Kyoto may just be enough to moderate the rate of increase of global warming, and not stop anything for years to come.

Second, without targets, you have nothing but a feel-good statement.

Third, the idea of Kyoto is similar to that of insurance: shared risk.

Roe: Medically anachronistic

In the post immediately below, you can read my analysis of how Griswold was, in my opinion, good decision, bad adjudication, and what I think would have been better adjudication.

Here, I’m offering my thoughts on Roe vs. Wade itself.

I’m not talking about the legal angle; that should obviously follow from my Griswold post.

Instead, I’m looking at the medical side, how the trimester framework is medically outdated, and part of what, ironically, continues to have any reasonable degree of abortion rights continue to face the chopping block.

First, we need a bimester-based rather than a trimester-based framework. Viability probability is high enough at 20 weeks or so for compelling interest arguments, etc., to come to the fore. At the same time, short of some “Brave New World” artificial womb, viability is not likely to get moved further back for decades. So a bimester system gives us breathing room.

Now, how would I like to see the details of a bimester-based system play out, if I were indeed a philosopher-king, or at least a president with an angle on a test case to try to run this through?

In the first bimester:
1. Abortion rights get more federalized in general than they are now;

2. No two-doctor visits on separate days or other burdens;

3. Medicaid funding for the poor gets restored;

4. Parental notification for minors is allowable on a state-by-state basis to the same degree similar medical procedures in that state require parental notification or consent.

5. Minors under the statuatory age for sexual legality, or for marriage, whichever is lower, would have to have parental consent, except in the standard exceptions of maternal life, health, mental health, rape or incest.

In the second bimester:
1. States in general get broad controls.

2. Medicaid funding allowable on a state-by-state basis but not federally guaranteed.

3. Multiple doctor’s visits can be required, but not with a waiting period between.

4. Parental notification or consent requirements are the same as above.

5. Under No.1, in this section, that includes allowing states to go as far as criminalizing second-bimester abortions, with the exceptions of maternal life, health, mental health or incest.

Note that rape is not on this list. While that trauma alone would be difficult, it is true that rape produces relatively view pregnancies, and also, it is reasonable to expect a woman who does become pregnant under such circumstances to make an abortion decision within 18 weeks.

Incest, though, I allow to remain. The psychological, sociological and other dynamics are tougher than with rape.

In the case of mental health, I would require a concurrence by multiple doctors.

How likely is this in the real world? Not very. Few activists on either side of Roe would accept cutting the Gordian knot like this.

A better argument than “penumbras and emanations”

With Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, bloggers are tackling Roe vs. Wade, and the precedent-setting Griswold vs. Connecticut. Most bloggers on both sides of the isle wrestle with Justice Douglas’ “penumbras and emanations,” which I, as a skeptical progressive, find to be bad law.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a reasonably intelligent and highly analytical philosopher-type. Here’s my counterfactual-world alternative to have argued to Griswold’s proper conclusion.

Instead, IMO, Douglas should have tried to craft a decision around the Ninth Amendment combined with common law, plus the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment and possibly the Fifth Amendment. and previous Supreme Court rulings.

Warrants for first sub-conclusion/major premise:
1. Note that the Fourth Amendment's provisions about being "secure in their persons"; note that this is a privacy right issue, and not "just" a protection against government coercion.

2. The Fifth Amendment might be used to argue that protections against self-incrimination are likewise a privacy right, not "just" a protection against government coercion.

3. Note that the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment is also, in part, a privacy right, because churches are voluntary and private organizations.

4. Beyond that, get to the question of a broader right to privacy as an established tenet of common law, citing appropriate state and federal court rulings on privacy rights issues in general. Cite from as broad a range of issues being litigated or tried as possible, to show the breadth of a "general right to privacy."

Sub-conclusion/major premise: An explicit right to privacy is general, fundamental, pervasive and broad.

Minor premise: This right, though not enumerated, being fundamental, is covered by the Ninth Amendment.

Conclusion: Therefore, an explicit right to privacy, including matters of sexual contraception, is a constitutionally protected right.

Bonus 1: This gets, short of a constitutional amendment, a privacy right securely anchored in constitutional law.

Bonus 2: It's relatively a short step from here to overturning sodomy laws, whether oriented against homosexuals only, or universal.

A draw on Roe: I don't think it would be any easier to argue to Roe from here, but I don't think it would be any harder.

An e-mail from Kevin Drum made me realize I had not explained carefully enough how I different from Douglas, and the import of that.

Douglas got to his conclusion in a more wandering way than I think my proposed argumentation would. And he used those nutty words.

I’m not a lawyer, of course, but I think he could have built a broader case in case law and common law and not used the language he did.

By building a broader foundation, he could then have made a more unqualified declaration that said, simply: “A explicit right to privacy, broad-ranging in nature, is one of the fundamental unenumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment.” Period.

In other words, “penumbras” and “emanations” are fudge and hedge words. I think Douglas himself may have been looking down the road past Griswold and afraid to step much farther.

It’s kind of like, in classical music, Richard Strauss looking across the divide into the 20th century, seeing Stravinsky, etc. on the road ahead, and pulling up short.

DeLay wins a skirmish

Dick DeGuerin earned Tom DeLay’s hard-laundered won money by getting State District Judge Bob Perkins removed from trying DeLay’s money-laundering case.
In Texas, judges must run for office in partisan elections and are free to donate to political candidates and causes. Perkins is a Democrat, as are all but one of the district judges in Travis County, where Austin is located.

DeGuerin also has asked for a change of venue to move the case to another county, but that has not been ruled on. …

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who has led the investigation against DeLay, argued that Perkins should be allowed to stay on the case and disagreed that the case is political.

"This is not a political case. This is a criminal case in which Mr DeLay stands charged with a felony," he said.

"There is no basis, no precedent for recusal based on a judge's political contributions," said Earle, who is a Democrat. …

Earle said the several thousand dollars Perkins had given Democrats over the years was "paltry" in comparison to how much money DeLay has raised and in some cases, used in "intimidating judges with whom he disagreed."

To my mind, the only good thing to see in this is that the change of venue request was not discussed. Since the great majority of Texas judges are Republicans, and many of those active ones, the idea that a regional administrator, whomever this is — somebody from the Court of Criminal Appeals? —is likely to have at least some degree of GOP leanings.

Besides, it could set bad precedent in this case. That will only come true, though, if the change of venue is also granted.