Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ashdown: Right Medium-Wrong Message

Needed Reform

Consider how earmark reform could be expedited by the use of collaborative software (like Wikipedia) in crafting legislation. Congressional staffers would make changes to legislation in a medium that would be transparent to the public. Pete Ashdown is using Wiki software in formulating talking points for his campaign. The examples below(pdf) illustrate how transparency is needed to reform the Legislative branch. On this point Ashdown is spot-on.

"...In 1997, Jason Alderman, a staffer for the late Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), had an altercation
with a policeman after being stopped for walking his dog without a leash in Meridian Hill
Park in Washington, D.C. Alderman later got language added to a House appropriations bill
ordering the National Park Service to build a dog run at the park “as expeditiously as
possible.” Rep. Yates was unaware of the earmark until it appeared in a column by the late
journalist (and CAGW co-founder) Jack Anderson."

"More recently, a staffer held up passage of the fiscal 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Act after
he added an obscure line to the 3,000-page bill that would give the chairmen of the
Appropriations Committees and their staff assistants the authority to access the income tax
returns of any American. The language was discovered only hours before the original vote
was scheduled and Republican leaders had to convene a special session to remove the

A chink in Ashdown's armor

Ashdown's strength is is his familiarity with technology-despite what he says about himself, "...I don't view my expertise on tech as the big motivator for swing voters in Utah. I think the fact that I'm a native Utahn who has run a business for over a decade here is." (Pete Ashdown Chat - July 15th, 2005.) A candidates business success is not a big differentiator in Utah politics anymore since Governor Huntsman has taken to the stage. In fact we have many business men and women involved heavily in Utah politics. However, Ashdown's technical prowess is unsurpassed. Where Ashdown begins to fail is in choosing to be a Democrat.

Take, for example, Ashdown's stand on a couple of issues.

"The death penalty is not a deterrent for violent crime. It has also been used in cases where innocence was proven later. We can let someone out of prison, but we can never give them back life. If it is not a deterrent and there is potential for a grave nonretractable mistake, then I see no reason to continue its use in America.

It should also be noted that in spite of the extended use of the death penalty in the United States, our country does not have lower criminality rates than other countries where it is not in use. According to a study conducted by the Taiwan government, the United States annually witnesses as many as 6.32 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas countries such as Spain (1.08) or Japan (0.58), which do not use the death penalty, have dramatically fewer murders. (Japan does have a death penalty, but it is systematically commuted to a life sentence.) In fact, only the Russian Federation (18.07) has higher murder rates. This tends to prove that death penalty does not dissuade people from commiting crimes. Other approaches should be considered to solve our criminality issues.

The financial cost of executing a prisoner in the United States has been shown repeatedly to be far higher than life imprisonment. All issues of deterrence and morality aside, the financial cost is not worth it."

Yesterday, we saw sentence passed on Zacarias Moussaoui-Life without parole. We must, at a nexus such as this, consider the message that is being broadcast by this act. Not on an individual basis, but to groups such as Al Qaeda. Is it this? In Moussaoui's words, "America, you lost. I won." The death penalty would have sent an unwavering message to those who attempt to destroy human life. Financial costs aside, it is innocent human life that Ashdown should want to protect.

Ashdown would also like to see America's military presence in Iraq go to a vote of Iraqis. "The answer to Iraq is simple: let the Iraqis vote on how long they want the US to stay, then do what they say." Perhaps the Iraqis should also vote on whether they want the insurgency to stay in Iraq? Ashdown also proposes that we might move into Kuwait if the Iraqis ask us to leave. Before doing so we, certainly, should put that to Kuwait for a vote too!

Anyone else would be better?

I feel as much as anyone that there ought to be a better person for Senator than Hatch. But, Urqhart isn't running anymore. I don't believe that a candidate should gain my vote because I don't like the other guy. I'm still looking for my candidate.