March 21, 2010

Infrastructure blogging

Over time I've started to get more and more interested in infrastructure issues. Ideologically charged issues seem to have reached a logjam and powerful forces are combining to keep major issues in stasis. Infrastructure, by contrast is an area which is complex and there's much interesting work to be done in making clear the issues.

The whole area is rife with MEGO (my eyes glaze over) problems which discourages amateur attempts. The problem just seems to be too big to get a handle on. And without proper data sets and decision support tools it *is* too big. That's a huge shame because in this big topic is a 'rubber meets the road' fact of life, infrastructure is where the left's magic happens. Infrastructure is where Peter is most often robbed to pay for Paul's vote buying big government program.

I think that the best approach is going small to large and pulling help along the way. I just hope that I can figure out a way to finance it.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:09 PM

October 02, 2008

The Citizenship Channel

After reading this report of an actual Obama channel I got to thinking of using this sort of thing for a good purpose. Producing how tos of citizenship and patriotism and starting off with youtube, once enough programming gets produced, you'd have the content for a citizenship channel.

Hmmm... now where's that video camera?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:32 PM

July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July

To all Americans and those who hold a soft spot for us, I wish you a happy 4th of July and a hope that we honor the sacrifices that made today possible. It's 229 years since the declaration of independence was unanimously signed in Congress by the 13 united states of America. May the USA have many more happy birthdays to come and may they all come finding her a free, democratic republic.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:59 AM

May 20, 2005

Fixing the Vagabond

Evan Kirchhoff gets scammed and strikes back by blogging it. No doubt the negative publicity has already exceeded the $55 a night that Vagabond Inn is getting by running this scam. But mere publicity is not enough. The Better Business Bureau should be contacted, the local municipality as well as state consumer protection bureaus should also get in on the action.

The point of all this action is both to grind down whatever tool it was that decided to knock out a bunch of low price reservations (defrauding those customers) and reselling the rooms at a higher price but also to help create a general atmosphere that this sort of corporate fraud just does not pay.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:32 PM

May 05, 2005

Cultural Superiority

There's an interesting Foreign Policy article on arab immigrant success challenging cultural notions about the backwardness of arabs. It's interesting, if incomplete. What's unexamined is that part of arab culture is the culture of creating and supporting a political class to rule their own societies. That part of arab culture is indisputably backwards and in desperate need of reform.

Comparing US arab immigrants to EU arab immigrants points out another ruling class culture issue. Both EU and US elite cultures create advantages for arabs over their home states, thus both have rising arab populations. The differences are striking when you compare these immigrant populations to each other. The US arab immigrants actually are slightly better off than the general US level across several key statistics of income and education while the EU populations do significantly worse than average for their own population.

This EU inability to foster conditions for thriving minorities would not matter much if native population fertility would be sufficient to maintain numbers or grow. Sub-replacement level fertility means that immigrants have to be welcomed and integrated. Here, the US has it all over our european friends and the arab statistics tell the tale.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:12 PM

January 25, 2005

US Citizenship

Here's something to think about. Why does US citizenship require a US presence? In a globalized, high connectivity world, why can't you devise a test that would permit somebody to get the passport without having to get here first?

Certainly acquiring US citizenship abroad would be and should be harder than doing it here because there's a lot of general knowledge that you get by simply being here and dealing with the system on a daily basis, knowledge that an "outside" applicant would have to actually be tested for. Just going through the exercise of what you would like to be on such a test is a useful primer in the obligations of citizenship.

The interesting bits for me would be in how such a nonterritorial grant of citizenship affects everything else. Instead of visiting the US to give birth to "anchor babies" will S. Korea give rise to a large population of dual citizens? Will dissidents wield dual nationality like a shield to make themselves less prone to be tortured? Would dual nationality itself come under pressure with countries insisting that grant of US citizenship means rejection of birth citizenship?

It's an interesting puzzle to play with.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:10 AM

January 16, 2005

Call For Views I

Here's a note I penned to Victor David Hanson:

In your recent article on triangulating war, you state "[a]fter all, there is no government handbook entitled, 'Operation 1A: How to remove a Middle East fascist regime in three weeks, reconstruct the countryside, and hold the first elections in the nation's history all within two years.'" Put more generically, there is no process to handle politically bankrupt (often called failed) states. Historically, what has kept us from writing such a thing have been the Westphalian rules of sovereignty established in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.

Since we've pretty much chucked westphalianism out the window as part of the Bush doctrine and Prime Minister Blair explicitly called for its replacement in his own nation's foreign policy at a speech in Sedgefield, isn't it time such a manual was written and a new foreign policy consensus was forged? Westphalianism will either die a tragic death as we slide back into our pre-westphalian sins (see: Thirty Years War et al) or we will forge some sort of post-westphalian improvement, perhaps on the split Dr. Thomas Barnett has suggested that westphalian limits are prudent and remain functional for the Kantian and well ordered Functioning Core states but the disconnected Non-Integrating Gap requires a different, more hobbesian regime of international relations. What is your view?

I hope that something interesting might come of it and will continue to write such notes to interesting thinkers to see what happens. If I am lucky and good at writing, I expect a 1% positive response rate to this sort of call to civic participation.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:52 AM

December 01, 2004

Upping the Stakes in Ashcroft v Raich

Glenn Reynolds just upped the stakes on Ashcroft v Raich:

ASHCROFT V. RAICH isn't a case about marijuana, really. As Jonathan Adler explains, it's really a test of whether the Supreme Court takes the constitution seriously.

When you ask a question like this, you really ought to ask yourself what you're going to do about it if the answer is no. If the US Supreme Court exposes itself as not taking "the constitution seriously", what is your obligation as a citizen? You can't unelect them. You certainly can't count on the seriously broken political appointment process to replace them with better justices. So what do you do, just give up constsitutional republicanism? Should you start talking about Jefferson's right of rebellion?

Where, exactly, do you go when the USSC is no longer serious about properly interpreting the US Constitution?

Posted by TMLutas at 04:48 PM

November 09, 2004

Sen. Kerry Can't Shut Up

One of the quaint little traditions we've had in the US has been that losing presidential candidates take a time out and sit down, letting the winner have his term without getting his elbow jogged by the losing candidate. Al Gore, Bob Dole, George HW Bush, Mike Dukakis, Fritz Mondale, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, even Ronald Reagan spent the next few years staying out of the limelight after their losing runs for the presidency. That's not going to happen this time around and, with all the triumphalism and circular firing squads running around nobody seems to have even noticed.

Come January, Sen. Kerry remains in the Senate, and his job description is to make speeches on the issues of the day and cast definitive yes or no votes on legislation. Even if he wanted to, he can't avoid violating this tradition of sit down and shut up at this point. So how will or should Republicans react? How should Democrats react as well?

Will Kerry become the leader of his party from the Senate? Who has more legitimacy, Pelosi (House Minority Leader), Reid (likely Senate Minority Leader) or Kerry (who is in the Senate and captured more votes than any Democrat candidate has in the history of the Republic)? Normally, the Senate Minority leadership would win out, it did for Daschle, but Pelosi's got more seniority in her house's top spot and could plausibly make a claim. The turd in the Democrat leadership punchbowl has got to be Kerry. He's got more legitimacy because he got more votes but he's not a leader and traditionally, you don't make your losing presidential candidate your party leader. Just ask Mike Dukakis about that.

On the Republican side, the traditionalists will eventually wake up and be offended. How offended should they be? We're in new ground here. It would be nice if the wise men of the political class would get off their butts and talk about this stuff. Maybe they have, so stick any links in comments (just hit the permalink) and eventually I'll update the article.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:19 AM

November 07, 2004

Exit Polling 2008

This article on exit polling got me thinking. If "boots on the ground" was a problem, how many boots on the ground would have been sufficient to fix the exit polling problem and are there enough civic minded people out there willing to create a smart mob on election day to supply those boots on the ground?

Furthermore, the question of whether moral values was an imprecise question leading to a lot of bad post-election interpretation really should have gotten a summer airing in the blogosphere. We might not have come to a better conclusion but the chances would have been higher that we would have demanded better questions.

The hard work of exit polling probably wouldn't work without paid professionals but volunteer supplements could have improved the entire process. We should work on that.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:34 AM

November 04, 2004


Many, many things are economic in nature or related to economics. Vote buying is not one of them. The fundamental reason why it's a tremendously bad idea is simply because vote buying, in any reasonable scheme that would actually result in sales, is cheaper than war or other coercive government takeover schemes like coups. Opening up vote buying means that you've created a market for coercive powers to take away your freedom. Once you've swallowed the tragic falsehood that only commercial interests would be interested in buying your vote, it's off to the races.

Not everything is about economics, not remotely.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:19 AM

November 03, 2004

For Readers in Less Than Free Lands

One thing should be understood by those observing the US elections from less than free nations. The result in an american presidential election is like the title of a slim book. The down-ballot elections for governor, legislative races, and constitutional questions provide section and chapter titles. Exit polling done as voters leave the polls provides the great meat of the volume. All in all, it is a remarkably detailed instruction booklet for how to run the US government from its masters, the people, to its servants, the governing class of representatives. We write a new instruction book for them every year.

If all you take from the event is a headline of presidential election results, you know as much about the events as if you just read "Koran", "The Bible", or "War and Peace" on the spine of a book and did not even open it to skim the contents. You know next to nothing.

The US system has the highest proportion of elected offices in the world. We elect a great many people to do a great many jobs, even down to the clerks who record property deeds and issue marriage licenses in our counties. So look at the referendums, the down ballot legislative races, read more than just the title of our book if you care to truly understand the US.

We hope and pray that soon enough, you will become electoral writers as we are, writing instructions to your own servants, the governing class of your own free nations. Like any sort of writing, it is an acquired skill, one you get better at with practice.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:42 AM

November 02, 2004

Just Voted

If you haven't voted yet today, go vote. Any infinitesimal chance for me voting for a Democrat in the appreciable future was wiped away when I saw a guy electioneering at the entrance to the polling place. I looked at his literature which were little cards saying "Lawson 37", went inside and looked at the sample ballot. Sure enough, there was a Lawson on line 37 running as a Democrat for the state assembly. Congratulations jughead, I'll think of you and ding your party for years now.

I voted straight ticket Republican, no on judge retentions, and split my referendums as small government/anti-tax as possible.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:06 AM

October 11, 2004

The Core's Brezhnev Doctrine

In one of the stories linking to my recent interview with PNM author Dr. Barnett, one commentator opined:

I think Mr. Barnett's ideas are fascinating but, as the discussion of Russia implies, I suspect we'll have at least as many problems keeping countries in the Core as we will moving countries from Core to Gap. There's no guarantee that once a country is in the Core it will stay there. There's no "Brezhnev doctrine". And remember how that turned out anyway.

I immediately reacted negatively to the idea but it took me a bit to figure out why. The reality is that people enjoy the rule of law, enjoy having fewer restrictions on travel, broader possibilities, increased economic well being, and greater political power at home. Past a certain point, the average person in the general public gets enough resources that they can individually and in groups act effectively to extend and deepen their country's relationship to the rulesets of the Core. The reality is that people do this and do it all the time all over the world.

While it is possible for connectivity to progressively be frayed and for a Core member to fall back into the Gap (we were all Gap states once), the more connectivity you have, the greater the likelihood that internally generated forces that demand greater integration will take over for any effort we might have supplied at the beginning to move a country from Gap to Core.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:38 AM

September 28, 2004

I Was Disenfranchised

I had some business at my county seat and, on the way out, noticed that the board of elections was in the same building, right on the way to the exit. I vaguely remembered that I was supposed to send in some sort of verification card that I still resided at my registered address but couldn't remember if it was sent in. So I went down a side hall and went in. In a minute, it was confirmed, I'd been scrubbed from the list. It took another 3 minutes to get me back on.

With all the worries that people have about being disenfranchised, all the accusations and the scare campaigns, there's not much actual activity that I've seen by groups to make sure that their people aren't being disenfranchised. There's a lot of huffing and puffing but no actual work being done. As I found out, fixing a voter roll error is dead simple. You get a form, you sign and date it swearing that yes, you still live there, and you're done, problem solved. So if there really is a campaign to disenfranchise Democrat dominated groups like blacks in Florida, why aren't community leaders fixing the problem?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:49 PM

September 16, 2004

Handle With Care: Ann Coulter

This is why Ann Coulter isn't going to get her NR job back anytime soon:

Curiously, all this comes at the precise moment that speculation is at a fever pitch about whether Kitty Kelley is in the advanced stages of syphilis. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Approximately 3 percent to 7 percent of persons with untreated syphilis develop neurosyphilis, a sometimes serious disorder of the nervous system."

Dr. Jonathan Zenilman, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, has found there is an "inter-relationship" between STDs and truck routes in Baltimore. I'm not at liberty to reveal the names of my sources, but there are three or four highly placed individuals in the publishing industry who say Miss Kelley or someone who closely resembles her is a habitue of truck routes in Baltimore.

No, Kitty Kelley is not a brain damaged syphilitic. The above paragraphs are a below the belt shot demonstrating how easy undocumented cheap shots are and how they can come from any ideological quarter.

Can we all turn back before our entire society goes off the rhetorical cliff? Left, right, whatever ideology you have, this over the top stuff has got to go and the only ones with a prayer to clean out the stables are the in-house members of each faction.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:10 PM

August 12, 2004

Missing the Point

Benazir Bhutto's recent commentary on Pakistan's plight puts the stress on poverty. The problem isn't poverty, but disconnection and poverty is a consequence of that disconnect from the economic core of our globalizing world.

The difference between the rich and poor in dollar terms is the biggest in the US. We have the world's wealthiest man, after all, in our country. But while some may envy Bill Gates' billions, he does not have to fear violence at the same level as many wealthy elites do in the 3rd world, even though those elites have a mere fraction of the wealth that Gates and other 1st world wealthy have accumulated. The difference between the 3rd world wealthy and the 1st world wealthy is twofold.

First, and most important, the 1st world wealthy tend to have many fewer exceptions made for them in the rule of law than 3rd world wealthy. They may be able to buy their way out of a some personal legal difficulty but they are much less likely to draw a significant portion of their fortune from government granted monopolies and concessions. They are much more likely to have gotten to the top by playing the game everybody else could have played if they were just as good at it as the 1st world wealthy are.

The second difference is in the mobility of wealth. People win and lose fortunes in the 1st world at a pretty astonishing rate. Some people have made the round trip from poor to rich and back again several times. It is the very permanence of the elites in the 3rd world that makes for frustration, the rigging of the rules that not only allows people to make their fortunes, but keep them in the face of incompetence, waste, and laziness that can drive men so mad as to countenance violence.

An honest system, or at least a more honest one, would level the playing field. The rich would have to safeguard their fortunes with care because foolishness will be punished by the market. The poor will start to see their own indigenous Horatio Algers and the idea that applying themselves can lead to great success will steal away recruits from the extremists of all stripes.

Benazir Bhutto, unfortunately, wants to only treat the fever (poverty) without addressing the underlying infection. Her family has risen to prominence in the current system and it would take a truly great, visionary statesman to advocate overthrowing the system that brought them to prominence. Maybe, one day, she'll grow into that but that day is not today.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:02 PM

August 08, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXVII

The Annenberg Center's site writes about the Swift Boat Veteran's for Truth ad and, unhappily, seems several days behind the facts:

Doesn't it embarrass you folks that George Elliot has been saying for days that the Boston Globe article you cite misquotes him and he stands by his Swift Boat Veterans for Truth affidavit while you make no mention of that fact? I don't expect you to run lockstep in spin or interpretation but I would expect an organization entitled Fact Check to keep up with the facts.

Be fair and cite the August 6 Houston Chronicle article claiming his "retraction" hit the Boston Globe as a result of reportorial error. You can find the Houston Chronicle article on the web here:

The press release denying the Boston Globe report went out the same day as the story (August 4). As of my writing, that's 4 days ago.

I wonder when they'll fix the article with the new facts as they evolve? This is a gut check time for Annenberg.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:38 AM

July 29, 2004

Return of the General Warrant

One of the original grievances that the american colonies had against George III's government was its penchant for issuing general search warrants (called Writs of Assistance). A judge would issue a warrant for a general area and crown officers could search any place in that area looking for illegalities without any prior cause or suspicion. An awful lot of innocent people were inconvenienced, their possessions disturbed, broken, or turned up missing after such searches.

The general warrant seemed to be making a small comeback in Oshkosh, WI (no permalink) for a time. According to this story people were rousted from their homes without suspicion and their residences searched, with guns being taken under suspicious circumstances.

Fortunately, the Oshkosh police seem to have had a chat with a competent lawyer and apologies are being tendered for undocumented and illegitimate seizure of guns and there the matter is likely to rest.

HT: Clayton Cramer

Posted by TMLutas at 12:16 PM

July 24, 2004

Where do Federal District Courts Get Their Power?

Josh Chafetz asserts that H.R. 3313 IS NOT CONSTITUTIONAL (his capitalization). His reasoning is all well and good but it does seem to omit any sort of explanation of how US federal courts that are not the Supreme Court get any judicial power whatsoever. If a court is created by statute, the Congress is the body granting jurisdiction, no? And Whatsoever Congress grants, Congress can take away. A court created by Congress, could even be closed up and done away with entirely so what makes this lesser reduction of authority somehow illegitimate?

You could have some sort of argument about the (male) ambassador of the UK getting married to another man and applying for some sort of spousal benefit in Virginia and suing for original jurisdiction remedy in the USSC but that's not what people are worried about here.

The reality is that the judicial power of a subsidiary court to take up a question is either based in the Congressional authorizing statute which lays out their jurisdiction (and thus amendable by act of Congress, like HR 3313) or it flows from the Supreme Court itself, which can only grant to its subordinate bodies what powers it already has. If it can't do something, what Constitutional power does a lesser court have that is denied to the highest judicial body in the US?

If you were to take this argument seriously, what stops the 9th Circuit from hearing appeals outside its territory? The only thing that stops it is the Congressional authorizing statute that says you don't have jurisdiction. But if Congress' assertions of limits on jurisdiction are not legitimate in the case of gay marriage cases, why are they legitimate in the case of territory or other subject matter, like special courts for terrorism, maritime law, etc?

The idea that Congress cannot amend jurisdiction is both ahistorical and simply unworkable. Amendments of jurisdiction according to territory are no different than amendments of jurisdiction according to subject matter and both have been done in the past without major controversy. The major difference is that this measure strips jurisdiction without providing another federal body to take it up. It thus remains in the hands of the states, something that the anti-federalists who demanded the 9th and 10th amendments would no doubt find very satisfying.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:26 PM

July 23, 2004

Article 3 Section 2 Comes Alive

Via Outside the Beltway comes notice that the US Congress has been reduced to the use of blunt force instruments to restrain the judiciary. Clause 2 of Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution reads as follows:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

In short, the Congress has always had the power but has never had the courage to limit the judiciary. The judiciary has usually had the good sense to reign in their wilder impulses before Congress gets around to passing an Article 3 limitation law. It looks like the gay marriage issue is going to cross the line.

In a way it's pretty sad. the Exceptions and Regulations clause was always viewed as an "in case of emergency, break glass" type of Congressional power. I'd have hoped never to have to see the day it was used. If it passes, look for more and more political factions to try to replicate it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 PM

July 22, 2004

Calm the Westerners: A Middle Easterner's Primer

Now that it looks like the Syrian Terror Band mystery is revealed as a false alarm, it might be a useful educational effort to think about what the Syrians could have done to calm their fellow civilian travelers. Really, was there anything that could have headed off the herd panic instinct that has spread around the country? What was it and how can we ensure that such measures aren't usable by actual terrorists. There will be a next time, and one of these times it's going to get very ugly with innocents getting caught in a bad situation.

So hit the permalink and comment fellows, consider this an open thread.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:49 AM

July 07, 2004

Michael Moore's Patriotic Challenge

I just came across a Michael Moore piece about patriotism in the LA Times. In it, he takes an important step in the rehabilitation of so much of the Left. He talks about how he stopped flying the flag, how he stopped singing the national anthem due to Vietnam. Moore says he was wrong to do those things, wrong to cede the field of battle for the heart and soul of patriotic America and though I despise Moore's positions and the horrible place that he would lead this country to, he's making an important statement.

The problem is that Moore is way out in the fever swamps of the Left who literally hate America. He's raised the flag of patriotism out there and the more who answer that call, the better but it isn't enough. He wants us to ask questions in regard to this war. That's fine as far as it goes but what good do questions do us if they are as dishonest as Fahrenheit 911? If you shape a scurrilous accusation in the form of a question, you haven't accomplished much. Asking the political equivalent of "when did you stop beating your wife?" doesn't help the troops any more than parading a sign accusing the administration of the political equivalent of wife beating.

Questions, if they are to serve this country and the people who defend us all, have to not only be pointed, they have to permit answers that will change and improve administration policy. Moore, with his fanciful accusations of pipelines that don't materialize and conspiracy theories that simply don't stand up to examination, fails in the difficult challenge of being part of the loyal opposition. He's done a good first step in healing the unpatriotic Left of its delusions but if he stops here, he's done little of practical import.

The Bush administration is not perfect. It needs vigorous challenge to improve its performance. But the challenge has to come from a recognition that there is genuine patriotism on the Right as well as the Left. Through that shared bond of patriotism criticism may be safely transmitted and accepted. Moore is not ready to accept that yet.

I hope he grows up enough to figure that out, and soon.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:35 AM