“Everything a Voter Needs to Know”

By Anthony | August 23rd, 2008 | 10:04 pm

From a reader at Talking Points Memo:

But here’s what’s really interesting. Obama’s proposals would raise his own taxes by hundreds of thousands of dollars, in order to cut the taxes of people who are less fortunate than he is. McCain would cut his own taxes even further than they’ve already been reduced. And that’s everything a voter needs to know about these two men.

The Point of “Commander-In-Chief”

By Anthony | July 25th, 2008 | 7:06 am

Josh Marshall makes a great point about our elevation of the “Commander-in-Chief” role of the President:

We need to re-familiarize ourselves with the fact that the point of the constitution’s explicitly giving the president the title of commander-in-chief was not to make him into a quasi-military figure. It was precisely the opposite — to create no doubt that the armed forces answered not to a chief of staff or senior general or even a Secretary of Defense (originally, Secretaries of War and Navy) but to a civilian elected officeholder who operates with the constrained and limited power of that world rather than the unbound authority of military command.

Habeas Clueless

By Anthony | June 16th, 2008 | 8:26 pm

John McCain recently weighed in on the Supreme Court Gitmo decision regarding Habeas Corpus saying:

We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material. And we are going to be bollixed up in a way that is terribly unfortunate, because we need to go ahead and adjudicate these cases.

Unfortunately for McCain, Habeas Corpus has nothing to do with “diet” or “reading material”. The purpose of a Habeas Corpus suit is to determine if a prisoner is being rightfully detained. As Ed Brayton points out, there are really only two choices here: Either McCain knows what Habeas Corpus is and he’s lying about it, or he has no clue what purpose is served by the constitutional protection of Habeas Corpus. Neither of those options is very encouraging.

Presenting DomainBrain 1.0

By Anthony | May 1st, 2008 | 10:48 pm

DomainBrainWriting an application for the Mac has been a longtime goal of mine. I’m happy to say that I can finally check that goal off of my list: Presenting DomainBrain 1.0.

DomainBrain is a handy tool for Mac OS X that helps webmasters and web designers keep track of server and login information for websites they maintain. I work on quite a few websites for myself and others, and keeping track of URLs, usernames and passwords, and database configuration info for those sites has always been a bit of a pain. DomainBrain is designed to keep all that info in one place with a simple, straightforward interface.

DomainBrain is free for use with four domains or fewer. To keep track of info for more than four domains, you can purchase a license for $14. Visit the DomainBrain homepage to get more info and to download and try DomainBrain. Take it for a spin and let me know what you think.

(Crossposted at One-Button Mouse)

MySQL Slow Queries

By Anthony | March 8th, 2008 | 9:19 pm

My webhost tells me that my blog has been causing some bogginess with my database as a result of some slow queries. I think the queries are ones dealing with comment spam, so I’ve closed the comments on a bunch of older posts to try to alleviate the problem a bit.

Next, I need to figure out how to rewrite a couple of WordPress database queries. Unfortunately, I’m a SQL noob, so if anyone knows anything about rewriting queries, leave a comment or drop me a line.

The Global Poverty Act and Our U.N. Overlords

By Anthony | March 6th, 2008 | 2:32 am

An article by Cliff Kincaid on the Global Poverty Act has been getting mentioned quite a bit lately. The bill was passed in the House and is currently sponsored in the Senate by Barack Obama. According to Kincaid, this legislation would plunge the U.S. into an era of unprecedented economic despair and destruction at the hands of our United Nations overlords.

However, his article seems to be a bit misleading. According to Kincaid, passage of the bill would commit us to providing 0.7 percent of our GNP towards eradicating global poverty, netting out to around $845 billion over 13 years:

The legislation itself requires the President “to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.”

The bill defines the term “Millennium Development Goals” as the goals set out in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, General Assembly Resolution 55/2 (2000).

The U.N. says that “The commitment to provide 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) as official development assistance was first made 35 years ago in a General Assembly resolution, but it has been reaffirmed repeatedly over the years, including at the 2002 global Financing for Development conference in Monterrey, Mexico. However, in 2004, total aid from the industrialized countries totaled just $78.6 billion-or about 0.25% of their collective GNP.”

Did you catch that? If you actually look at the links Kincaid provides, you’ll notice he engages in some slight-of-hand there. He accurately sums up the bill in question in those first two paragraphs and then smoothly segues into the bit about the 0.7 percent GNP. The problem is, the agreement to commit 0.7 percent GNP towards fighting poverty comes from a U.N. General Assembly Resolution from 1970not from the Millennium Declaration or from the Global Poverty Act.

In fact, the United Nations Millennium Declaration makes no mention of any percentage or dollar amount that is to be committed towards anything. The Global Poverty Act likewise makes no mention of a dollar amount or percentage, and does not reference the 1970s resolution where the 0.7 percent figure originated.

Furthermore, if you look at the discussion in the House that preceded the passing of the bill there, an amendment was added making it clear that the bill does not necessarily require foreign aid to work towards the goals – other methods such as promoting trade and investment may be used:

The bill, in the amended text before us today, Mr. Speaker, will allow the greater flexibility in deciding what might work best at a given time, in the particular circumstances, rather than insisting that he devise a strategy that assumes that more foreign aid and debt relief are always required.

For yet another indication that Kincaid may be misleading us about the bill, notice that he states that:

In addition to seeking to eradicate poverty, that declaration commits nations to banning “small arms and light weapons”

Again, if you read the text of the declaration, you’ll find that his statement is a little less than accurate. The declaration actually says (emphasis added):

To take concerted action to end illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons

Interesting that Kincaid would quote the words “small arms and light weapons” and leave out the “illicit traffic” part.

Finally, I’ll note that the bill simply requires the President to lay out a plan to meet goals that his administration already agreed to. It’s interesting that there was no outcry when we reaffirmed our commitment to the Millennium Declaration in 2005, but now that Obama actually wants the president to come up with some benchmarks for a goal he already agreed to, suddenly the U.N. supposedly has a choke collar on us.

The only thing the Global Poverty Act does is to require the President to come up with a plan and benchmarks to work towards meeting the agreed-upon goals of the Millennium Declaration, and to report to Congress on his plan and progress. Will it cost us some extra money? It may. But no set amount of money is required by the bill, or by the Millennium Declaration. The details are up to us and our President – not jackbooted, black-helicopter-flying U.N. despots.

So with that out of the way, maybe the folks who are up in arms about an alleged $845 billion expenditure can muster up some proportional outrage over the $3 trillion we’ll be spending in Iraq. Anyone?

The Pulpit Forum and Church and State

By Anthony | February 26th, 2008 | 8:42 am

The Pulpit Forum, a group of local, predominantly black ministers, is having a press conference today. Joe Guarino is attepting to paint it as a violation of the separation of Church and State, despite the fact that there has been no religious content to anything they’ve presented yet.

The gist of Joe’s argument (but be sure to read his post and the comments) seems to be that since religious right groups get criticized for trying to entangle church and state, the Pulpit Forum should be criticized here in this case. In the comments, Joel Gillespie reiterates one of Joe’s claims, that liberal religious groups are not held to the same standard as conservative groups with regard to the separation of church and state.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is true, and that “religious left” groups don’t get as much scrutiny on church/state issues as religious right groups. That still doesn’t make this an issue where there *should be* scrutiny on church/state grounds.

At this point, all we know is that the group is presenting a claim about how certain records were destroyed. As of right now, this has nothing to do with a religious viewpoint at all.

Compare this to some of the things the religious right has done – rallies calling for mandating prayer in schools, the teaching of creationism, and openly talking about putting God in our government. In what way does that compare to presenting a claim about the destruction of evidence in an investigation? The first group of items is entirely based on religious doctrine. The second has no relation to any religious doctrine.

If the Pulpit Forum petitioned the government to put a traffic light up at a dangerous intersection, would that be asking for a violation of church and state? Certainly not (though Joe might try to convince us that it was), but this issue has far more in common with that situation than with some of the actions of the religious right.

Guarino’s argument essentially is that if any religious group has ever received criticism on a church/state issue, then no religious group should escape criticism in that area, regardless of the nature of their actions. My point is that it’s ridiculous to not look at the actual actions involved. Taking his stance to an extreme, but logical conclusion, we should be criticizing liberal pastors for voting in elections because some religious right pastors have received criticism for calling for gays, adulterers and blasphemers to be executed. Not all actions are equivalent, as much as he seems to want to lump them together.

Joe keeps insisting that the situations are similar and has claimed that this is a “major breach”. The problem for his argument is that he hasn’t shown any similarities or demonstrated that it’s a major breach, let alone any breach at all.

Wiretapdancing

By Anthony | February 17th, 2008 | 9:55 pm

Republican lawmakers are having fits over the terrorist surveillance bill that the Democratic-led House allowed to expire. Will the evildoers run amok now, thanks to the bill’s expiration? Not exactly. Ed Brayton sums it up nicely:

[T]he law now reverts to the old FISA statute and the Patriot Act amendments to that statute. … It means that the government, if it wants to listen in on a phone call between two people overseas, say two “evildoers” talking in Afghanistan, they can do so all they want with no legal restrictions on them whatsoever; that is the way it has always been and it still is. And if they want to listen in on a phone call or intercept an email between someone in another country and an American citizen, they can still go ahead and do it and they have three days to ask the secret FISA court for a retroactive warrant.

That’s right, they can still do it without a warrant and they can just go back and ask for one after the intercept has already taken place. And when they ask for one, they don’t have to show probable cause as the 4th amendment requires, they only have to show that the request is part of an ongoing national security investigation and, under the Patriot Act, the judge has to grant it.

Cartoon: Keep Searching

By Anthony | February 17th, 2008 | 12:15 am

Cartoon: Keep Searching

It’s a classic tale of longing, rejection, and fulfillment. You know: Reporter requests document. City denies the existence of the document. Local blogger posts the document. City suddenly finds the document.

This cartoon didn’t end up running in the paper this week. Unfortunately, the timing was off – the whole incident happened over a Wednesday and a Thursday. Since I turn in my final cartoon by Thursday mornings, I wasn’t able to submit the cartoon until this past week. Allen Johnson, the Opinion page editor at the News and Record, liked the cartoon but felt that the story would be a little stale by this point.

I can understand that – since my cartoons would only run on Sundays, there were quite a few times when there was a bit of a lag between my cartoon and the event I was addressing. This one happened to be on the far outer edge of that lag. I still think the underlying issue – the competence and credibility (or lack thereof) of city leadership – is very much in play, so I’m posting the cartoon here anyway.

On another note: When I spoke with Allen at the end of last week, he let me know that due to budget considerations at the paper, they’ll no longer be running my cartoons. When I saw this post at David Hoggard’s blog, I figured this would be coming. It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed working with Allen and seeing my cartoons in the paper. I’ll still be posting them here from time to time though. Allen did give me the option to run one final cartoon; I haven’t decided if I’ll take advantage of that or not. If something jumps out at me over the next day or two, I may, otherwise probably not.

detail Finally, there’s a cameo appearance in this week’s cartoon. One of the folks in there trying to help the city search for some shred of credibility is a local Greensboro blogger who’s been a bit more sympathetic to city leaders over the past week and a half than most. Meaningless bonus points to the first person who can correctly identify him (and points off for my characituring skills if no one gets this).

“Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia!”

By Anthony | February 12th, 2008 | 8:28 pm

Rush Limbaugh dazzles us with his fifth level thinking:

“If I really wanted to torpedo McCain, I would endorse him,” Limbaugh said on his radio show. “Because that would send the independents and liberals who are going to vote for him running away faster than anything.”

“What people don’t realize is that I am doing McCain the biggest favor that can be done for him by staying out of this,” he continued. “If I endorsed him thoroughly and with passion, that would end the independents and moderates, because they so despise me and they so hate me.”

But now we know that he likes McCain! But wait – he knows that we think we know that he likes McCain! Truly, Limbaugh has a dizzying intellect…