21 October 2005

Catalyst on ID theory

Catalyst did a reasonable job on Intelligent Design last night. I say reasonable because they got caught up in the antiphonal debate theory where you doing good journalism if you let both sides have a say, even if one side is actually badly wrong.

There's a poll crying out for you to go and vote. Brendan Nelson's support for the teaching of ID theory in science classes raises a lot of questions. Why do Australian conservatives pick up the latest silliness from the US right as if it were (ahem) Gospel truth? How does a medical practitioner reconcile his knowledge of life science with endorsing ID theory as scientific? And was the world really designed by an intelligent Flying Spaghetti Monster?

20 October 2005

game, set, match

Bush whacked Rove on CIA leak
An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

'He made his displeasure known to Karl,' a presidential counselor told The News. 'He made his life miserable about this.'

Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President's rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world. As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald nears a decision, perhaps as early as today, on whether to issue indictments in his two-year probe, Bush has already circled the wagons around Rove, whose departure would be a grievous blow to an already shell-shocked White House staff and a President in deep political trouble.

Asked if he believed indictments were forthcoming, a key Bush official said he did not know, then added: 'I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly.'

George W. Bush 30 September 2003
QUESTION: Yesterday we were told that Karl Rove had no role in it. . .


QUESTION: Have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action.

It's an extremely good thing that Bush did not have oral sex with Rove at the same time, because of course lying about sex with an aide is an impeachable offence. Fortunately, it appears that Bush only lied about knowing Rove had disclosed the identity of a CIA WMD specialist.

I think updating blog items is evil, but on the other hand, via Steve Gilliard...

Patrick Fitzgerald Bio
Fitzgerald is certainly an interesting investigator for this case. A little background:
The full damage caused by the leak isn't yet knowable (at least without the clearance). But Valerie Wilson's CIA front, Brewster-Jennings, was reportedly tasked with tracking the smuggling of explosive materials in the Middle East, so that crap like the 1993 WTC attack, the embassy bombings in Africa, and 9-11 wouldn't be even worse next time. (That's the operation apparently shit-canned by this White House for their own political gain. So you can see why the CIA lifers pushed the case for criminal investigation, and why people are throwing the word 'treason' around so much.) The 1993 WTC attack was prosecuted by... Patrick Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was then assigned to prosecute, yes, the Al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. Fitzgerald was building a case against Osama Bin Laden five years before 9-11.

This job, one concludes, involved a certain appreciation for intelligence people studying the illicit movement of explosives by terrorists.

If there's a single prosecutor in America who fully understands what the Plame case is about -- a reckless compromise of national security for political interest -- it's this guy. If there's a prosecutor in this country who groks the background and context of the specific operations destroyed by this crime, it's this guy. And if there's a single prosecutor capable of pursuing a conspiracy case no matter where it reaches, it sure seems like it's this guy.

Given a choice between being chased by Patrick Fitzgerald and a pack of hungry zombies... I'm guessing the zombies would look pretty good right about now.

Then read The Blog | James Moore: The Most Important Criminal Case in American History
Patrick Fitzgerald has before him the most important criminal case in American history. Watergate, by comparison, was a random burglary in an age of innocence. The investigator's prosecutorial authority in this present case is not constrained by any regulation. If he finds a thread connecting the leak to something greater, Fitzgerald has the legal power to follow it to the web in search of the spider. It seems unlikely, then, that he would simply go after the leakers and the people who sought to cover up the leak when it was merely a secondary consequence of the much greater crime of forging evidence to foment war. Fitzgerald did not earn his reputation as an Irish alligator by going after the little guy. Presumably, he is trying to find evidence that Karl Rove launched a covert operation to create the forged documents and then conspired to out Valerie Plame when he learned the fraud was being uncovered by Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. As much as this sounds like the plot of a John le Carre novel, it also comports with the profile of the Karl Rove I have known, watched, traveled with and written about for the past 25 years.

The ball's in play. I doubt this one is going back over the net.

19 October 2005

rigging the vote I

Georgia's Voter Identification Law Barred
A federal judge Tuesday blocked Georgia from enforcing a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

In issuing the preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said the law amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax because the state is not doing enough to make ID cards available to those who cannot afford them.

The requirement "is most likely to prevent Georgia's elderly, poor and African-American voters from voting," Murphy wrote. "For those citizens, the character and magnitude of their injury - the loss of their right to vote - is undeniably demoralizing and extreme."

So far, the law has been used only for local elections. The injunction could prevent its use during municipal elections Nov. 8.

Voter and civil rights groups sued over the new law, which eliminates the use of other forms of voter identification, such as Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills. Supporters, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, argued that the measure would help prevent fraud.

Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2004 Federal Election and Matters Related Thereto
Recommendation 25
The Committee recommends that, at the next Federal Election, those wishing to cast a provisional vote should produce photographic identification.

Voters unable to do so at the polling booth on election day would be permitted to vote, but their ballots would not be included in the count unless they provide the necessary documentation to the DRO by close of business on the Friday following election day. Where it was impracticable for an elector to attend a DRO’s office, a photocopy of the identification, either faxed or mailed to the DRO, would be acceptable. Those who do not possess photographic identification should present one of the other forms of identification acceptable to the AEC for enrolment.

Recommendation 29
The Committee does not support the introduction of proof of identity requirements for general voters on polling day at the next election.

Instead, the Committee recommends that the AEC report to the JSCEM on the operation of proof of identity arrangements internationally, and on how such systems might operate on polling day in Australia.

Recommendation 30
The Committee recommends that, at the next Federal Election, the AEC encourage voters to voluntarily present photographic identification in the form of a driver’s licence to assist in marking off the electoral roll.

This is just an extra obstacle that will fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, and the marginalised - people unlikely to vote for the Coalition. The committee produces no evidence to show that fraud has effected voting.

The sad truth is that the JSCEM report is really not much more than a Coalition attempt to introduce US Republican party techniques for suppressing the vote. Australia has the fairest enrolment and voting system in the world. It follows, as simple logic, that the Coalition now wants to import the worst features of the US electoral system, features that, without exception, favour the Coalition.

The report contains a number of other recommendations that attack the right to vote. I'll deal with them over the next few days.

Australia is the only remaining democracy without a bill of rights. The right to vote is entirely in the gift of the federal parliament. There is no way for an Australian court to protect the people in the way the US court has done.

17 October 2005

depressive economics

Future failings
This finding was recently replicated, in some respects, suggesting there is something to it. However, there remains a major reason for scepticism. If genes are so important when combined with adverse environments, why are there huge fluctuations in the prevalence of most emotional problems, like depression and violence? Since it takes millennia for genetic change to occur in a population, genes could not be the cause of these variations. In Britain, violence against the person has increased 45-fold since 1950. Equally, there can be dramatic drops in the amount of violence that can have nothing to do with genes: rates of homicide in America have almost halved since 1993.

'Bit of both', nature-nurture exponents would argue that it just goes to show that dodgy genes only get expressed if environments activate them. But that could not explain such huge changes. Far more probable is that genetic vulnerability explains none of a 45-fold change in such a short period - that an awful lot of people with no genetic susceptibility are made, rather than born, violent or non-violent, depending on their society.

Even if it emerges that genes are always involved to some degree, one of the most striking implications of such studies is that emotionally benign environments are crucial: if you want the minimum of depression or violence, they make an overwhelming case for having a minimum of poor people and abusive parents, rather than societies making tiny minorities super-rich.

One wonders how socially benign Australia is these days between the mountain of personal debt and the impending industrial law changes. One also wonders how the Bush administration train wreck is going to rebound on the Man of Steel's drive to make us all feel relaxed and comfortable.

tear gassing Rove

Protest at Rove Prison ends with tear gas Somehow I misread this as a story about US politics...