November 30, 2004

Rank Imperialism!

Apparently someone named James Cadle has created a "flag of Earth" for whatever reason. Nice design, actually, but there is one problem (besides the obvious one of there being no organizational entity represented by the flag): it represents the Sun, Earth and Moon. When someone decides to set up a country on the Moon, I think they'd likely object to that.

Posted by Jeff at 07:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Tantamount to Journalism

Scott Ott of Scrappleface is one of the best satirists on the planet. In addition to his earlier success in coining the phrase "Axis of Weasels" to describe France and Germany, Ott has now come up with this bit:

[T]his story has the added credibility of coming from anonymous sources leaking selected excerpts of confidential documents to the The New York Times. And that's tantamount to journalism.

"Tantamount to journalism" - I'm going to have to rename my "Here is the 'News'" category.

Posted by Jeff at 06:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 27, 2004

No More HTML in Comments

I've turned off HTML in the comments. It stinks, because it means that people can't leave real links, but I'm really tired of the comment spam, and since the goal of comment spam, I'm taking that away from them. The last time I did this, it worked really well, but annoyed people. Sorry, but it's my blog, and I'd rather not be annoyed myself, so off goes the HTML.

Posted by Jeff at 09:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

November 26, 2004

And How do you Teach American History, Then?

Apparently, a teacher in California has been banned by his principal from presenting any material in class that mentions God or Christianity. (hat tip: Wizbang) Including the Declaration of Independence and the writings of many of the Founders (and presumably including the Constitution, since it mentions God in the preamble). I don't know the circumstances under which this all happened, but it would make teaching American History a little difficult.

Posted by Jeff at 01:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 25, 2004

No One Seems to Understand Security

In this case, the security lapse is good for us, since it was on our enemy's part. Winds of Change points to a slideshow on some of the things we found in Falluja during and after the recent battle there.

This slide in particular interested me. In one of the IED factories, we found a GPS unit that had clearly been used to guide enemy fighters from Western Syria (a whole other topic in and of itself!) through Iraq to Falluja. The GPS had not had its waypoints cleared (which is how we know where they went). How much do you want to bet that those waypoints are mostly safe houses?

Well, they're burned now, and that route is under surveillance. Best part is, since there are likely multiple routes, and the enemy doesn't know which route we've burned, they'll likely keep using them. If not, they have to get a whole new set of safe houses - not trivial in the first place, and particularly not now, with the Iraqi and US troops on the offensive throughout the Sunni Triangle. So we can surveil this route (and others we've uncovered) and begin to take apart the networks using it in ways that don't give away what routes we might have discovered.

This makes me very, very happy.

Posted by Jeff at 11:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

Fun with PostgreSQL

During the Summer, when we were in Chicago, my server's hard drive died (quite literally the day we left to return to Chicago after two weeks at home). I run it out of my house, and there was no competent tech support with a key to the house. I ended up flying back down for a day to get the server going again, but in the process messed up a few things, including the ability to automatically download security patches.

This morning, I decided to fix that by upgrading the server's OS, then running the update service on the new OS. One small problem: turns out that using RPMs to install PostgreSQL (the database I use for, among other things, this blog) is a bad idea: the upgrade process requires you to dump the database under the old version, potentially hand edit the dump file without any instructions on how to do so (!!!), install the new version, then reimport your data. The RPM package does not dump the data before deinstalling the old version (!!!).

Fortunately, there are backups and other aids to fixing the resulting mess, but that's why comments were down all day. They're working now.

Posted by Jeff at 11:21 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

Pro-War Entertainment

Jim Miller posts about Frank Capra's Why We Fight, a series of excellent WWII propaganda films, which also turn out to have been good historical records. Miller also notes a potential movie plot that Hollywood could use, which would both support the war effort and make a bundle of money for the studio that produced it. I have some other suggestions.

How about a TV series following a National Guard platoon over the course of a year's deployment in Iraq? Showcasing what's actually happening in Iraq could be the background, but the entertainment possibilities are endless. In addition to numerous action scenes in combat, there would be lots of humorous moments available as well. In a way, M*A*S*H - though anti-war in general - was very pro-soldier and actually managed to show a lot of the aspects of the Korean war in a fairly honest light; there is room for such a series today, with a different focus. Even a transport unit would have a lot of potential.

How about a movie of the battle of Falluja, or the hunt for Saddam, or even the (so-far unsuccessful) hunt for Osama? How about a movie about the Thunder Run and the battles of Objectives Moe, Larry and Curly? How about a series following an SOF unit through the invasion of Iraq or inside an unnamed Muslim country harboring terrorists? There's even an opportunity for a massive renewal of the James Bond franchise, with terrorist bad guys instead of Communist bad guys. Could the producers of, say, Lost be induced to make a show following a small group of people under extreme duress? What about a movie about a journalist's struggle between his country and what he's always been told is a duty to be utterly objective?

I think that Hollywood may have moved so far to the Left as to be unable to root for America in wartime. If that's the case, will there be a supplement, to make the shows that red-state America wants to see? Will we simply cede our cultural products to those most intent in our culture's destruction or degeneration, or do we have the ability to find within ourselves patriotism without blind nationalism, and to express the best of ourselves - along with the worst - in film?

Posted by Jeff at 01:29 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

November 21, 2004

Stories of Heroism You Should Know

The battle for Falluja has been one of the most impressive victories ever won by a joint force. It has also been one of the most bloodless (for the victors) urban fights in modern history. You won't hear the stories of our soldiers' and Marines' heroism much on the news, because frankly the mainstream media have their own agenda, and many of today's journalists do not consider themselves to be American journalists, but journalists who happen to be in America. In any case, you should read some of the first-hand accounts. Our troops are doing an amazing job in incredibly difficult circumstances, and deserve all possible appreciation and gratitude.

Posted by Jeff at 09:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Need a New Slogan?

It occurs to me that maybe I should change the slogan on the blog. "A Strange Loop" is great, in that it not only does homage to Douglas Hofstadter's concept of strange loops - a series of one-way transforms that, over time, reproduce the original work - but also makes a great pun on the caerdroia that is the symbol and namesake of this blog. But I was thinking, maybe, it's time to change the slogan to something like "more accurate than NBC". "Fake but accurate", of course, has already been more appropriately applied to NBC itself.

Posted by Jeff at 09:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004

Bad Idea!

I am begging Disney to not make Toy Story 3 without Pixar! (hat tip: Peeve Farm) Disney's recent outings have been terrible, and I fear that the bad taste that would likely come from this would take some of the shine off of the first two wonderful movies.

The problem with most movie companies is that they don't understand why a good movie is a hit. Jaws was not a hit because it had sharks, but because of its archetypal man-vs-nature struggle in which two unlikely heros get caught up in a fight almost beyond their ability to survive, which is why the sequels were so bad: they were about man-eating sharks. Similarly, Rocky was not about boxing, but about a man overcoming self-doubt and skepticism to rise beyond his expectations; the sequels were about boxing, and were terrible. And Toy Story is not a story about talking toys with emotions. The first movie was about identity and meeting others' needs and what makes life worth living, while the second was about friendship and self-sacrifice and the price of immortality.

I fear that the third movie, if Disney should be rash enough to make it with their recent track record, would be about talking toys.

Posted by Jeff at 04:17 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Akron Beacon Journal Reporters Drink the Kool-Aid

Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard of the Akron Beacon Journal (annoying registration, use BugMeNot) have not just drunk the NEA's kool-aid; they've nearly drowned themselves in it. Oplinger and Willard came to my attention when Steph started talking about a series of articles they are doing on homeschooling, among other things either saying outright or merely insinuating that homeschooling leads to:

(government schools, of course, detect all such cases almost immediately)
And that's just their
current series of four articles (so far). It gets worse, though, when you google the authors. They have asserted in the past that:

There's a lot more; I'm just tired of reading this stuff. I was going to fisk their articles, but the reality is that it's just not worth my time. What has basically happened here is that two reporters have a very particular view point, and a platform for expressing it in print. Fine, fine. Just don't expect me to agree.

Government schooling has given every child in the US the opportunity to be educated at least to the degree of basic literacy and numeracy. For a while, government schools were able to provide an excellent education, but between education fads and dumbing down the material repeatedly, a cycle of degeneration has set in, and American government schools are now by and large slipping into a mold of barely educating most of their students. Government schooling does provide a needed service. It should not be taken beyond that point, though, into giving government oversight rights on all children "in the public interest", or allowing government bureaucrats to decide what is best for all children. There is a name for this: tyranny.

I reject both the poor education and the tyranny for my children: I want my children to have excellent educations and thus be able to achieve anything they set their mind to. I want them to be free, and to be good citizens (by and large, government schools teach children to be good subjects). I don't want them to be limited by lack of understanding. Government schools, in my opinion, would limit their understanding and poison them against self-education. For that, among many other reasons, we homeschool our children.

To lump us in with white supremacists, child kidnappers, child abusers and the like says way more about the reporters than it does about us.

Posted by Jeff at 12:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

November 17, 2004

New Education Secretary Nominated

President Bush has nominated Margaret Spellings, an education advisor for George Bush both as President and when he was Governor, for Education Secretary. Curious about her views on homeschooling, an issue that deeply effects us, I went googling, and found this:

Mrs. Wright, from Oklahoma writes:
Yes, Homeschooling is becoming more widespread and I would like to know how the President feels about Homeschooling? Is he in favor of testing all children public school educated and homeschooled according to a state mandated set of guidelines? Does he feel that the government schools and/or private organized schools can provide the best education for all children or that parents should have the right to educate their children themselves?

Margaret Spellings
President Bush absolutely believes that parents should aboslutely have the right to educate their children themselves. Whether or not home school students are tested is a state issue. As Governor of Texas, President Bush did not support testing for home schooled students and Texas was considered to be one of the most home school friendly states. President Bush believes that good education can be found in public schools, private schools and home schools.


Works for me; I'm happy to be left alone.

Posted by Jeff at 11:44 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 16, 2004

A Pretty Good System

The older I get, and the more political situations I see in the US and abroad, the more impressed I am by Madison's brainchild. The system of governance put forth in the US Constitution is simply stunningly well-conceived to its purpose. This post is about current events, but since the US government-school education system does such a poor job of teaching the basics of our civic society, I need to lay some groundwork first. Please bear with me.

The purpose of our Constitution is not, in fact, to promote fairness, provide a system that guarantees a certain standard of living to everyone, or ensure that pretty much everyone in the society has a vote on who runs the government. These are frequently thought to be the reasons for the Constitution; in fact they are side-effects of its governmental design.

The Founders, at the Constitutional Convention, sought to provide a much better and more stable system of government than existed under the Articles of Confederation, America's first constitutional system. In fact, they sought "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". Their goal was to create a stable governing system based on providing the minimum necessary powers to government and the maximum Liberty to individuals.

There were some key compromises embedded in the Constitution, including both its most brilliant features (federalism, division of powers, limitations on the power of government, the systems for choosing government officers) and its most terrible flaws (acceptance of slavery). These compromises struck a balance that, with few exceptions, has in fact provided the most stable system of governance on the planet, along with maximizing the amount of Liberty enjoyed by Americans. Let's explore a few of these, and then we'll explore how they are important today.

The idea of Federalism was particularly powerful. By putting the powers of government as close as possible to the people, the ability for one group to gain large amounts of power over another - in other words the possibility of a tyrannical government arising - was minimized. Let's say that a particular State decides that only certain people can get married, and that the State will enforce all kinds of rules to decide that only the "right people" get married. Fine, but all that someone has to do to avoid that and marry whom they would is to move to another State. Or let's say that a particular State decides to extend massive governmental aid to the least-wealthy of its citizens, and to impose huge taxes to do so. Again, all one has to do to avoid this is to move to another State. Federalism allows a very diverse population to all get the legal and political environment they want, as long as what they want is not to control the behaviors of others. Moreover, it's one thing to be one of 10 people at a town council meeting, and another to be one of 100 in a State representative's office, and still another again to be one of millions petitioning Congress. Federalism makes it possible for citizens to maximize their influence over politicians.

A part of this same protection is to severely limit the powers of government, with the powers becoming ever more limited the further they get from the ability of the people to influence them. This not only limits the damage of a bad law, it also prevents the worst laws from being enacted. The Constitution limits the powers of the Federal government to those directly specified in the text, or immediately necessary to carrying out the powers specified in the text. (For example, the Congress can authorize the expenditure of money to create a building in which people can carry out their functions under the Constitution. Theoretically, the Congress could not authorize money to build a building for private use. I say "theoretically" because the interpretation of the Constitution most used since the 1930s is that there are effectively no limits to government power, except to some extent those embedded in the Bill of Rights. More on this anon.)

To make it even more difficult for the Federal government to tyrannize the people, the government's powers were brilliantly divided among two legislative bodies, the House and Senate, an executive and the judiciary. The legislative bodies would have to agree on the need for and form of a law before it could be passed; the executive would have to concur (or be overridden) for the law to pass, and would have to enforce the law for it to have effect; the courts would interpret the law, and would have to agree on the justice of its enforcement in any particular case. Overall, actions could not be taken by the government without enabling legislation, and the associated funding, nor without the affirmative action of the executive, nor without the concurrence of the judiciary as to the legality and rightness of the action.

In addition to the division of powers, each of these offices was chosen in a different manner. Representatives were directly chosen by small numbers of people, and served for a limited time; they were structured to protect the individual rights of the people. Senators were chosen by the States, and served a longer term; they were structured to preserve the sovereignty of the States, and thus the rights of the people to govern themselves. The President was to be chosen by a group of electors, who were to nominate the people they felt would make the best President (and one of whom at least must not be from their own State, to prevent large States from controlling the process). The electors themselves were to be chosen by the people, but were not to be bound to vote for any given person in advance. In other words, the President was to be chosen not by the citizenry at large, but by electors trusted by the people to choose wisely from among the available potential Presidents. I believe that it was the Founders' intention that there would not be campaigns for President at all, but that the electors would seek out, determine the eligibility of, interview and choose the best-qualified candidate. Again the intent was to tamp down party politics (what the Founders termed factionalism) and prevent particular States from accumulating too much sway over the others.

There were two deep flaws embedded in the Constitution (and one flaw created by its absence, which turns out not to have mattered in the long run). One embedded flaw was the acceptance of slavery. Until the 13th Amendment, in 1865, Article I, Section 2 implicitly embedded slavery into our governing fabric. The conflict between allowing slavery and demanding Liberty eventually led the country to split into two powerful and uncompromising camps, and was a major cause of the Civil War, which in the end led to the abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude. Our failure to fully embrace this change led to discrimination, the Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement and our problems with racial politics, which thankfully seem to be abating over time. (Perhaps my children will be adults in a country which does not play racial games (on both sides) for political gain - I certainly hope so.)

The second embedded flaw was the electoral system, which in the original almost guaranteed that the President and Vice President would be at cross purposes. This was rectified with the 12th Amendment. But the 12th Amendment itself was flawed: having removed the ability for a partisan coup to change the governing party, it did not consequently make it easier to impeach the President. This effectively shifted power dramatically to the President. In the end, that may not turn out to be an altogether bad thing, but it certainly goes against the original design.

More importantly, though, the effect of the 12th Amendment was to bring about the two-party system. Because the elections are winner-take-all, and there's no way to specify an order of preference, the importance of factions was diminished by forcing the factions to share the responsibility for governance. Once there was no shared responsibility, it was a matter of time until a robust two-party system developed. This, too, might have been bearable, had it not been for the 17th Amendment.

The 17th Amendment, by removing the ability of the States to select Senators (instead making Senators elected by the people of each State), removed the political check on the ability of the Federal government to act. Effectively, the Senate became a longer-serving House. The very brake on popular passions that the Senate was created to provide was effectively eliminated. In combination with the two-party system, this effectively guaranteed that the political system would devolve into an us-against-them partisanship, driving down participation by the non-partisans, locking out any other parties from competing on a level legal field, and increasing the stakes of winning rather dramatically.

Taken together, the Constitution did an amazing job of creating a stable governing structure and preserving the maximum of individual Liberty compatible with long-term civil governance. In particular, what our system as originally constituted provides is protection of minorities (whether permanent or transient) from the power of the government as wielded by the majority. A few large States cannot control the electoral college (which is one reason why eliminating it would be a bad idea); a few powerful individuals cannot ensure passage of a particular law to benefit them; a populous region cannot automatically compel the behavior of people outside of that region and so on.

And here is where we come to current events. The Democrats and Republicans are switching places. For the foreseeable future, the Republicans will be the political majority party and the Democrats will be the political minority party. To a large degree, this comes about because of a perfectly natural behavior: self-segregation. From working in the San Francisco Bay Area for a short time, I can assert that I would not be terribly comfortable living there. Not only is the legal environment unwelcoming on issues important to my family and myself (taxation, homeschooling, midwifery), but everywhere I went out just before the election, I heard people talking about my views and the people who hold them in the most scathing terms. Who wants that? I doubt someone from the upper West side of New York City would be terribly comfortable in Keller, TX, for the same reasons.

So the movement of people to be around those who believe similarly tends to produce regionalism where none would otherwise exist. Hence we get the red state/blue state phenomenon, with few "swing states" in the middle. This happens on more issues than just political viewpoints, involving race, religion, ethnicity, cultural feel and economics, among others. The result is that the Democrats have been concentrated more and more heavily into fewer and fewer States, and even into fewer counties within those States. This is a similar phenomenon to how the Republicans were concentrated between the 1930s and the 1970s, and the results are similar: even though the White House may go back and forth, control of the Congress is pretty well assured to the Republicans for a long time to come.

Now, with this switch, the Democrats are suddenly feeling what it's like to be in the long-term minority. You don't get to set the agenda or control the debate. You don't get to direct spending and legislation the way you want it to go, and you don't get to decide who the regulators are. You don't get to appoint the judges to ensure that your laws are interpreted "correctly". Instead of making policies and forcing others to live with them, you are being forced to live with policies made by others. Some Democrats are reacting rationally, and some less so.

But the Republicans have also switched positions. Instead of being for the "Gingrich revolution" of stopping unfunded mandates, turning power over to the States, controlling the spending and thus the power of the Federal government, some Republicans are savoring the chance to change the legal and political environment back to the way they prefer it to be. No Child Left Behind and the proposal of a Constitutional amendment to keep courts from adjudicating on marriage prerequisites are but a foretaste of what we will see over the next couple of decades, barring too-early overreaching on the part of the Republicans' fringe. (If the ultra-Right gets control of the agenda, the shift will quickly reverse itself, perhaps in less than a decade.)

We are at a balancing point, just barely tipped over into the Republicans' advantage. There are still a lot of Republicans who remember being in the minority, and appreciate Federalism and judicial restraint therefore. There are beginning to be some Democrats who appreciate these characteristics, too. It's just possible that right now, in the very near term, we can come together to strip away some of the fiscal and regulatory power of the Federal government, to return power to the States and the people, and to re-impose Constitutional limits on the Federal government's powers. But the window of opportunity is short.

What can we do? There are six key steps:

  1. Repeal the 17th Amendment, returning power to the States to obstruct the action of the Federal government when such action is detrimental to the rights and powers of the States.
  2. Rework Social Security and Medicare to be State-funded and return those taxes to the States, mandating continuance for a limited time (say, 20 years), after which such programs would be voluntary on the part of the States. This would allow us to repeal the 16th Amendment, thus controlling the fiscal power of the Federal government. (There would be sufficient income from allowed sources to fund the rest of the Federal government, so far as I can tell, without the income tax.) There would then not be any need to forbid transfer payments, because there simply wouldn't be money to make them with.
  3. Pass a Constitutional amendment forbidding States from compelling the votes of electors, and for good measure choose the Electors in years different from the Presidential elections, to minimize the chances of electors being chosen to vote for a specific candidate known in advance of their vote. For that matter, I'd be happy to see the power of nominating justices of the Supreme Court and lesser Federal courts given to the Electoral College. Strengthening the Electoral College, and removing immediate partisanship from the choice, would weaken the power of the political parties long-term, making more choices available to the people as a whole.
  4. Pass laws limiting the power of Federal court decisions. In general, the idea would be to prevent a court decision from having automatic effect on anyone but the plaintiff and defendant in a particular case. While this would lead to quite a bit of re-litigation of contentious cases, it would also prevent an unelected oligarchy from determining the law quite apart from what the Congress passes as laws.
  5. Transfer the regulatory functions of government from the executive to the Congress. If the Congress needs to maintain issues-based staffs to provide Congressmen with the highly-technical information need to, say, regulate hazardous wastes, that's fine. The Congress would still have to pass their recommendations into law. The current system gives far too much power to unelected bureaucrats.
  6. Reform the process of setting House district boundaries, to prevent gerrymandering. This would ensure that people have real choices for their representatives, rather than faux choices where the election is actually decided in the primary.

While these changes might shock some people, in fact they by and large just return the US to a Constitutional system that is more like the original. In the process, the red state/blue state acrimony, and the problem of overly-freighted Federal elections causing bitter divides, would go away. Then, perhaps, we could dump the mindless partisanship and get back to working on what's best for the country as a whole.

A man can dream.

UPDATE (11/19): Francis Porretto makes a similar point, more eloquently.

The flaw that was created by its exclusion from the Constitution, by the way, was a process for bringing in new territories and States, and ensuring their reasonable governance. We were lucky here: when the prospect came up, it was under Thomas Jefferson, and the power of precedent has ensured that a reasonable system was created. It didn't have to be: we could have easily ended up with a system that would have led to colonialism in the US, and we are fortunate, given the history of other colonial powers, that our brief flirtation with colonialism during and after the Spanish-American War was so limited in time and scope.

Posted by Jeff at 04:33 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 14, 2004

Getting There Slowly

It takes years to build Western-style military and police forces. The critical link that is missing in much of the rest of the world is senior NCOs in the military and senior detectives in the police. These take years to properly train and season these critical assets - you simply cannot shortcut experience. This is why the Iraqi military and police have been so ineffective in the last 18 months: most of Iraq's senior NCOs and senior detectives were utterly unsuitable for work in a democracy, or were disloyal to the new government, or both. (West Germany had a similar, but smaller, problem when it integrated the East German military and police after the Berlin Wall came down.)

It's good to see that Iraq is now screening military and police applicants on its own, and firing the disloyal and incompetent. Over time, this will allow Iraq to build up a professional military and police force, while also decreasing enemy effectiveness by shutting down weapons supply channels and eliminating informers. It will probably be 2-3 more years before Iraq's military and police are effective, and another 5-10 after that before they can stand on their own, but there are encouraging signs already.

Posted by Jeff at 09:38 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

Thanks

As of today, Memorial Day 2004, 1249 American soldiers, sailors and airmen; 141 coalition soldiers, sailors and airmen; and an unknown number of our Iraqi and Afghan allies (certainly numbering in the hundreds, and perhaps in the thousands) have been killed fighting in the anti-terror campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The names of our dead, and for many their pictures and their stories, can be found here. I thank them and their families, and I offer their memories the promise that I will never forget their service and their sacrifice on behalf of myself, my family and our country.

UPDATE (11/12): You make one tiny mistake... Yes, I know it's Veterans' Day, I'm just (apparently) a moron.

Posted by Jeff at 03:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Comparisons

Wizbang does a service by comparing the behavior of our enemies behavior to the worst behavior by our troops. Like Paul, I am stunned at the lack of condemnation of our enemies for the most horrible and inhuman acts, while any imperfection on our part - even something so obtuse as not preventing civilians from being killed by the enemy when the civilians got caught in the middle of a firefight - is grounds for the harshest condemnation of America, even from some of our "friends". Well, at least I can take comfort that international opinion of the US won't stop us from doing what's right for the next four years.

Posted by Jeff at 03:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

I Blame Ashcroft

So, it appears that Mars is experiencing global warming, too. Hmmm...clearly, not signing Kyoto is to blame. No, I'd better blame Ashcroft: he already gets the blame for every lame law the Congress passes that he, you know, enforces; plus now that he's leaving, last one out the door takes the blame.

Posted by Jeff at 01:02 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 09, 2004

Who Would Have Guessed

Sore and discredited losersFar-Leftist Democrats embrace Federalism and low taxes.

I think they did this through the simple expedient of not considering the consequences of their actions whilst spouting, which tendency is frequently apparent in their governance as well, when others are so foolish as to give them the chance.

Posted by Jeff at 11:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Warriors Blog the War

Beautiful Atrocities lists some of the military bloggers covering the war from Iraq.

Posted by Jeff at 12:12 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 06, 2004

Bilge

If a word is to have meaning as anything other than a synonym, it must indicate something different from other words. Derrida may have convinced a lot of people, but words still have meanings. To misuse a word to the point that the misuse becomes the meaning is to rob people of the ability to say a particular thought, and potentially of the ability to even have the thought. Today's word to protect is "mandate".

In the political - and specifically Presidential - sense, a mandate is not just an electoral victory. (Bill Clinton claiming a mandate with 43% of the vote, for example, assumes that victory is the same as "mandate". In fact, I seem to recall James Carville saying something to the effect of "One extra vote is a mandate". Rather, a mandate is an electoral victory so convincingly large that Congressmen feel the need to support the victor's policies or face electoral defeat themselves. Given that the Congress is, in fact, in Republican hands, there's not a mandate for President Bush: the Republicans would already have supported his policies; they are not compelled to do so by the magnitude of his victory.

President Bush, thankfully, refers to the political capital he has accumulated by winning convincingly, rather than calling his victory a mandate. If only Vice-President Cheney - and the media - were as careful with language.

And one other thing while we're at it, just to clear up a point of logic. The purpose of elections is not to hand power to one Party or another, but to pick those who will govern the country. The job of those picked is most emphatically not to set the stage for gaining more power in the next election, but to govern wisely and well.

When there is disunity in the country, and people seem pretty far apart (with the exception of the fringes, most Americans on both the Left and the Right and all the spectrum between tend to be pretty close in values and goals, if not in preferred methods), and there's been an election, it's the loser's job after the election to reach out and reconcile. If this is made the winner's responsibility, then the loser can make it impossible for the winner to succeed, just by not cooperating no matter what the winner does.

For example, President Bush in 2001 kept on Norm Mineta and George Tenet - both Democrats - in high-level positions, and sought other high-level Democrats for cabinet-level jobs; gave Ted Kennedy everything he wanted on education reform and Tom Daschle everything he wanted on prescription drug coverage by Medicare; renominated a bunch of Clinton's judicial nominees who hadn't yet been through the Senate; and backed off on some of his more controversial priorities (like Social Security reform). Not enough: the Democrats simply attacked him harder, sensing that President Bush was weak and would give them more.

This may feel good in the short term, and might have some chance of improving the loser's electoral odds next election, but it's not a recipe for cooperation, and certainly not for good governance. Since the winner cannot bow to the loser, except on minor points, without disregarding the wishes of most of the people who voted, it has to be the loser who moves the most. And the loser really has no reason to be surprised when the winner, thus rebuffed, changes from cooperation to simply trying to force his way on every issue.

Or, you can just bitch and whine. Your call, I guess.

Posted by Jeff at 03:12 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 05, 2004

Good Find

Mark has made a good find. The Backseat Philosopher is so new it's only got one post. And that post is good. It is a rational look at why some Democrats are having problems even talking to Republicans. Mark has a good excerpt, but you should just read it all.

Posted by Jeff at 12:22 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 04, 2004

Couldn't Happen to a Worthier "Person"

Wizbang and others are reporting that Yasser Arafat has died, or more likely, is at this point "mostly dead", with no brain activity and kept "alive" with machines. My guess is, he will remain "alive" until the Palestinians figure out what to do in his absence. Given how Arafat was as likely to kill overly-ambitious confederates as little children and athletes, it may take some time for them to figure this out.

The only shame about Arafat's death was that it was not at the hands of his victims - either the Israeli or the Palestinian ones.

UPDATE (11/10): Arafat is finally really most sincerely dead.

Posted by Jeff at 02:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 03, 2004

The Most Painful Moment of Campaign 2008

That wasn't a typo. The most painful moment of the 2008 campaign for President will be watching a bunch of Democrat candidates trying to find "moral values" - and yes, I'm sure they'll say it with audible quotes.

Posted by Jeff at 09:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Exeunt Democrats, Weeping, Stage Left

Both Fox and NBC have now called the election for President Bush, and by a good enough margin to likely withstand the lawyers. It's pretty clear that the election will go to Bush unless there is some very weird collection of circumstances.

To determine why the Democrats lost, start with this post I made in July, 2003. The Democrats weren't beaten like rented mules, but they were assuredly beaten. My fear is that the margin won't have been large enough to engender soul-searching on foreign policy by the Democrats.

The Democrats failed to come up with a serious policy on the war, and no other issue was more pressing to the electorate than the war. (The economy was close in importance, because relentlessly negative media coverage made the economy look much worse than it actually is.) That fundamental unseriousness in a serious time is why a miniscule ad buy from SwiftBoat Veterans for Truth knocked the Kerry campaign for a loop. The only reason that Kerry was even close is because near the end of the campaign he began to actually sound hawkish (though not convincingly to me, or, apparently, to the nation at large.)

And my predictions? I was expecting Bush to take 369EV, based on a formulaic approach. The debates didn't go the way that I expected, which flipped a lot of races I had as narrowly for Bush, to narrowly for Kerry. I called the winner, but gave him too much margin. I predicted President Bush at 52-58% of the popular vote, and he took what currently looks to be about 51%. Oh, well; this is hardly my day job.

On the House and Senate, I predicted the Republicans would gain 5-10 and 2 respectively. This compares respectively to +5 to +9 in the House and +2 to +4 in the Senate currently. I'm content with this prediction; not bad for an amateur. I'll look again in the morning and see how things look, but I think I'll end up pretty close on the Congress.

There will be plenty of analysis all around, so I'll avoid that (other than the above) and instead focus on what I won't be missing now that this is over.

  • "Selected, not elected", "illegitimate" and the other meaningless slogans the Democrats used to keep from admitting that they flat-out lost in 2000
  • divisive "two Americas" rhetoric
  • arguments over Viet Nam
  • President Bush's National Guard service records
  • any celebrities who actually manage to leave the country this time (they keep promising)
  • Iran's nuclear program, which I trust President Bush to deal with forthwith
  • Falluja - ditto
  • arguments about deliberate disenfranchisement of blacks in Florida
  • John Edwards' smile, the one that makes you think he's about to go for your throat
  • Dan Rather's smug assurance - crap, that'll be back next week
  • election lawyers, I hope

But I voted for Kerry, before I voted against him.

Actually, no I didn't.

Posted by Jeff at 01:21 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 02, 2004

What I'm Watching - Good Election Resources

Of course, I'm a political junkie, so I'm watching multiple sites. Here they are:

CNN's Election Summary - In one page, graphical and text indicators of who has won which states, what electoral vote count and popular vote count and percentage; plus Senate, House and gubernatorial changes.

Election Projection's results page - Great place to track results against poll expectations.

MegaPundit's summary - A tabular representation of percentage votes by state, with percentage of precincts reporting in. (This is useful for knowing how certain the results are for a given state. Even if it's called, it should be remembered that rural and urban areas vote differently, and urban votes come in first, so close states can swing even after they are called.)

InstaPundit and VodkaPundit for commentary.

The Command Post for multi-source news extracts.

US Election Atlas for turnout figures.

I'm also listening to Fox News on the TV.

Posted by Jeff at 07:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 01, 2004

Acceptance

Bob Hayes at Let's Try Freedom has a simple pledge, that as far as I am concerned all Americans should take:

[T]he winner of the 2004 election is my President, and whether I like him or not, whether I agree with him or not, I'm not going to be a Michael Moore-style flaming gasbag asshat about it.

I was going to write something similar, but instead I'll just agree with Bob. I think that it is critical that we not repeat the mistakes of the past four years, by which I mainly mean that the party out of power has succumbed to Jane's Law and gone insane.

It is important, if we value Constitutional order - the rule of law rather than of men - in this nation, that we all accept the outcome of the election, work to ensure its reasonableness, and not attempt to destroy the opposition either during the election certification process or during the resulting term of office. There's a term for countries who don't value their Constitutional order more than their particular favorite parties/leaders, and who have elections: banana republic. Let's not become one.

UPDATE: And I deeply hope Paul is wrong.

Posted by Jeff at 03:56 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)