Monday, October 30, 2006

Can't say what you feel: Become a Democrat!

Much of what is wrong with how Democrats approach the world is exemplified in Matthew Yglesias' post:
It would be useful, for the purposes of electoral politics, for liberals in the media to avoid expressing the view that the belief -- adhered to by millions of Americans -- that failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is daft. On the other hand, the evangelical view of this matter is, in fact, completely absurd. And not just absurd in a virgin birth, water-into-wine, I-believe-an-angel-watches-over-me kind of way. On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we're supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up.

But I shouldn't say so!
Note the recommendation that liberals should not say what they really think. Whatever the topic, be it health care, Iraq, or religion, Democrats often think that they should try hard to avoid saying what they really believe. This is corrosive on two levels. For one, it prevents a serious honest debate in this country when one side feels that it has to dodge and weave in order to defend positions that it doesn't honestly believe in. For another, not admitting out loud what they believe seems to prevent them from ever developing a coherent thought on national policy. That seems true here where Mr. Yglesias seems to be so busy reviling Christians that he doesn't seem to realize that his position (that, if there is a God who admits people to a heaven, then that God will admit all virtuous people regardless of which sect they happened to adhere to) is a mainstream Protestant Christian belief. That is not a belief that Democrats would need to hide.

Furthermore, note that Democrats seem unable to politely say they disagree over an issue: they feel compelled to declare the opposing view to be "daft" or "absurd." Such declarations may be fine for political commentators. But it is not useful for politicians who need to build coalitions. Further, since deciding who gets into heaven is not on anyone's list of pressing national issues, there is no harm in being polite.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Political Ignorance

As reported by the Australian, Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tn, currently running in a close race for the Senate in Tennessee, spoke on the nuclear issue:
"Here we are in a world today where more countries have access to nuclear weapons than ever before," Mr Ford said, adding that when he left college in 1992 he thought the nuclear age had come to an end "and America would find ways to eliminate the number of chances that a rogue group or a rogue nation would get their hands on nuclear material".

"Today nine countries have it - more than ever before - and 40 are seeking it, including Argentina, Australia and South Africa," he said.
Now, anybody can misspeak, especially while on an exhausting campaign. But what makes this gaffe remarkable is that Rep. Ford's campaign refused to correct it when pressed on the issue by an Australian reporter. He continued in this confused fashion:
On North Korea, he claimed Pyongyang had conducted two nuclear tests, the first of which he said occurred on July 4. This confuses the ballistic tests Pyongyang carried out on that date with the single nuclear test earlier this month.
It is too bad that the skills that make a good politician don't include knowledge of the issues.

It is also curious no Tennessee, or even American, reporter saw fit to report on this: we learn about this from an Australian paper.

UPDATE: Power Line has more on this here.

While we are on the topic of political ignorance, ABC interviews Michael J. Fox who admits he doesn't know what is in that controversial Michigan Initiative. On the positive side, he comes across as respectful of those who disagree with him, something that so many of our national politicians are incapable of.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lasers, popular myths, and Reuters

Reuters reports on progress on the US Air Force's airborne laser and includes the following bit of popular disinformation:
Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester under former President Bill Clinton and now at the private Center for Defense Information, said in an e-mail reply to Reuters that its real effectiveness appeared doubtful.

"If a laser can be developed with enough power to penetrate the atmosphere and still be lethal once it reaches a target, an enemy would only need to put a reflective coating on the outside of its missiles to bounce off the laser beam, making it harmless," he said.
Now, remember that we are talking about a laser power enough to burn through a rocket's casing. A mirror exposed to that would not be a mirror for very long. Even the best mirrors under laboratory conditions are not 100% reflective. Further reflective coatings are, by their nature, fragile. Consequently, damage thresholds for laser mirrors even in a laboratory are much lower than damage thresholds for just the rocket. Worse, a mirror on the outside of a missile travelling through the atmosphere at high speed would soon look more like the chrome on an old car than like a mirror. In other words, any laser powerful enough to destroy a missile will easily destroy any reflective coating.

If Reuters had wanted to write an honest and accurate story, they could have found all this out by asking an informed person at the Pentagon to comment on Mr. Coyle's claim. They didn't.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why didn't they do this sooner?

Opening a new front in the war on terror, the DoD is now highlighting perceived errors in MSM reporting on an open web site. They take on, for example, a Newsweek article:
INCORRECT NEWSWEEK CLAIM: “In the countryside over the past year Taliban guerrillas have filled a power vacuum that had been created by the relatively light NATO and U.S. military footprint of some 40,000 soldiers, and by the weakness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration.”


* Qari Mohammed Yousaf Ahmadi, generally viewed as the Taliban’s current chief spokesman, stated publicly on Sept. 15, “The Taliban forces have conducted a tactical retreat.” It is difficult to fill a power vacuum if your forces are retreating. ....
It seems unlikely that this, or any effort, would cause the MSM improve its accuracy. But it is, at least, helpful for the public to have access to more information.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Affirmative racism

A retired high school english teacher, Edmund Janko, writes in today's Wall Street Journal about double-standards in discipline. After a federal agency notified the high school that that is discipline was not racially balanced, they applied a racial double-standard to achieve balance:
What this meant in practice was an unarticulated modification of our disciplinary standards. For example, obscenities directed at a teacher would mean, in cases involving minority students, a rebuke from the dean and a notation on the record or a letter home rather than a suspension. For cases in which white students had committed infractions, it meant zero tolerance. Unofficially, we began to enforce dual systems of justice. Inevitably, where the numbers ruled, some kids would wind up punished more severely than others for the same offense.
One suspects that this benefited the white students two ways: (1) they were forced to learn to behave better, and (2) they learned at an early age that life is unfair. One wonders, though, if this isn't creating some new racism in the school's graduates.

Tolerating free speech, IV

Rush Limbaugh claims that Michael J. Fox got several of the facts wrong in his campaign commercials, such as the substance of Missouri Amendment 2 and which candidate is the one supporting stem cell research. On ABC's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer ignores all that and asks instead:
"If you have Parkinson’s disease, and you believe embryonic stem cell research is the, is the answer, a possible answer, a possible cure, don't you have a right to speak up?”
The question is highly dishonest because no one questioned Mr. Fox's right to speak. The implicit premise is that Mr. Fox has a right to speak without being criticized: In Ms. Sawyer's world, free speech is only for her side.

Summary of election issues

If you like politics quickly summarized and put to music, have a look at this:

Hat tip: Redstate.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Absentee ballot and dishonest elections

States like California have been promoting the use of absentee ballots and this only makes vote fraud easier. Ballots sent by mail can be intercepted in either direction, discarded, or filler out by cheats. In today's Wall Street Journal, John Fund reviews some example of fraud:
The growth of absentee ballots has been explosive in recent years, exceeding 30% of all ballots cast in 2004 in such states as California, Washington and Iowa..... They clearly increase the potential for fraud "The lack of at-the-polls accountability and protection from intimidation makes absentee ballots the tool of choice for those who commit fraud," the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded in 1998 after a mayoral election in Miami was thrown out when it was learned "vote brokers" had submitted hundreds of phony absentee ballots. More recently, in Wise County, Va., three elected officials were charged this past March with 900 counts of ballot fraud. They had filled out absentee ballot applications for others, intercepted the ballots in the mail, and then filled them out themselves. Last year a Connecticut state representative admitted, according to the Hartford Courant, that he "illegally induced elderly residents of the Betty Knox housing in Hartford to cast absentee ballots for him." He got off with a $10,000 fine and community service.
In the six years since the 2000 vote controversy, the US has made little progress toward honest elections.

UPDATE: More on the ACORN/Democratic voter registration fraud scandal here.

RELATED: Federal district judge Tom Lee found racially motivated voter discrimination in Noxubee County, Mississippi, by party boss Ike Brown, a twice-convicted felon.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Action vs. Analysis

Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump have written a book on how to get rich. While both are very successful at making money, the Wall Street Journal was not impressed with the book:

The book, however, doesn't suggest conventional solutions. According to the introduction, saving money is "obsolete and bad financial advice" and "the 401(k) savings plan will not be adequate for approximately 80 percent of all workers." ....

Mr. Kiyosaki stresses that mutual funds are risky, while building your own business can be a predictable path to prosperity. Yet he also notes that 90% of start-up businesses fail within the first five years.

When I ask Mr. Kiyosaki about this apparent contradiction, he responds that starting a business isn't risky if you know what you're doing. "Most small-business owners have no financial education when they started," he says. "They weren't trained to be entrepreneurs."

Halfway through the book, all this talk about entrepreneurship gets particularly puzzling. Mr. Kiyosaki says that, in 1996, he started an oil company, a gold-mining company and a silver-mining company. The oil company failed, which would seem to be a sign of risk.

In the next paragraph, however, he writes that, "While there was some risk [in launching these companies], to me it was very little. I could mitigate the risk simply because I know we all use -- consume -- oil and gas."
It is likely that good instincts make a good businessman and Mr. Kiyosaki and Mr. Trump undoubtedly have these. The ability to organize thoughts into a coherent philosophy is separate skill, one that is apparently not their strong point.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Art or hate crime: you decide

Which of the following are art and which are hate crimes:
  • Cow dung splattered on an image of the Virgin Mary
  • A statue of Jesus on the cross immersed in urine
  • A Koran placed in a urinal
Liberal opinion is that the first is art worthy of display at the government subsidized Brooklyn Museum. The second, Andre Serrano's Piss Christ, is also art worthy of an NEA grant. The last, however, was found at Pace University in NY and is being investigated as a hate crime with the police looking to make an arrest.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ozone hole ignores treaty

Following the 1987 Montreal protocol, ozone-depleting chemicals have been banned. This exceptional example of international cooperation led Kofi Annan reportedly to claim it is "Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date...". The ozone hole, however, seems to have been ignoring the treaty:
This year's ozone hole over Antarctica is bigger and deeper than any other on record, U.S. scientists reported on Thursday. .... Concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals in the lower atmosphere have been declining since 1995,
It is undisputed that the banned chemicals deplete ozone. What was never settled, and is still debated in science journals, is whether their effect was significant or insignificant. It was found that the chemical effects were insignificant based on usual gas phase reaction chemistry. It was then proposed that maybe there were catalysts which greatly magnified what would have been an otherwise small effect. This question may not be settled for decades.

Global warming is similar. CO2 is indisputedly a global warming gas but, by itself, it is quite minor. It only becomes important if there is a feedback mechanism whereby changes in CO2 cause changes in atmospheric H2O which magnify the effect. The scientific uncertainty in this feedback mechanism is a key reason why even global warming advocates cannot settle on a number for how much warming will happen.

Unfortunately, uncertainty is unacceptable to political activists who always must claim to have absolute answers and have no qualms about using their received wisdom to rearrange the lives of the rest of us.

UPDATE: NASA attributes part of ozone hole increase to "colder than average temperatures."

Supreme court rebuked by congress

John Yoo, professor of law at UC Berkeley, writes on the "military commission law," which was Congress' response to the Hamdan decision, explaining that it is much more than just that:
[Congress and the president] told the courts, in effect, to get out of the war on terror, stripped them of habeas jurisdiction over alien enemy combatants, and said there was nothing wrong with the military commissions. It is the first time since the New Deal that Congress had so completely divested the courts of power over a category of cases. It is also the first time since the Civil War that Congress saw fit to narrow the court's habeas powers in wartime because it disagreed with its decisions.

The law goes farther. It restores to the president command over the management of the war on terror. It directly reverses Hamdan by making clear that the courts cannot take up the Geneva Conventions. Except for some clearly defined war crimes, whose prosecution would also be up to executive discretion, it leaves interpretation and enforcement of the treaties up to the president. It even forbids courts from relying on foreign or international legal decisions in any decisions involving military commissions.
Traditionally, treaties have been considered politics not law and consequently the Supreme Court should have no business interpreting them. During Pres. Washington's administration, for example, France went to war with England and tried to force the US to obey our mutual defense treaty and go to war on France's side. No politician on the US side agreed. If the Supreme Court had claimed jurisdiction then and forced a war, the American experiment might have come to a quick and painful end.

Professor Yoo's interpretation of how the press missed the meaning of this law is also interesting:

All this went overlooked during the fight over the bill by the media, which focused on Sens. McCain, Graham and Warner's opposition to the administration's proposals for the use of classified evidence at terrorist trials and permissible interrogation methods. In its eagerness to magnify an intra-GOP squabble, the media mostly ignored the substance of the bill, which gave current and future administrations, whether Democrat or Republican, the powers needed to win this war.
In other words, the press was so busy trying to make Republicans look bad that they missed the big picture.

Liberal gay bashing

Three weeks before the election, Dailykos and Mike Rogers are "outing" a supposedly gay Republican senator. As I have noted before, the usual conservative reaction is mind-your-own-business. (The exceptions to this rule, rape, sexual harassament, and pederasty, don't seem to apply here.) The liberals doing the "outing" likely don't understand the conservative reaction. In fact, many expect a backlash against Democrats over gratuitous "outing." The liberal defense seems> to be to claim "hypocrisy." Apparently, the argument is that any gay Republican who disagress with the liberal gay agenda is a hypocrite. The possibility of a mere difference of opinion is unthinkable to them.

The liberal reaction to Black Republicans seem similar. Not understanding the concept of differing opinions, they regard Black Republicans as "inauthentic" or worse.

UPDATE: More on the hate motivation here and here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Medical care and governmental control

The CDC made quick work tracking down the cause of 21 deaths in Panama, according to an AP report:
U.S. health officials this week cracked the case of what caused the mysterious deaths of 21 people in Panama since midsummer _ an industrial chemical in red cough syrup....

Some of the people who grew ill had been taking a sugarless cough medicine that was made in a pharmaceutical factory operated by Caja de Seguro Social, a government hospital system. That led investigators to test the medicine.

So the deadly medicine was manufactured by the government.

Problems with medical care are often greeted with calls for more government control. This Panama example illustrates that more government control is not always the answer.

UPDATE: China has several thousand coal mines that Chinese regulators say should be shut down for safety and environmental reasons but the mines are controlled by local governments (or local government officials) that won't obey the regulators. In this case also, more government involvement is not answer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tolerating free speech, III

From the Omaha World Herald:
Two African American teachers have filed a racial complaint against Lakeside School, claiming that the elite private institution created a hostile work environment and discriminated against them.

Among the plaintiffs' complaints was Lakeside's invitation to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza to speak as part of a distinguished lecture series.

After [some] faculty members and parents complained, the school in January rescinded the invitation to D'Souza, who has argued that the underachievement of African Americans has more to do with cultural attitudes and behaviors than with white racism.
In other words, Mr. D'Souza's opinions are somewhat similar to Bill Cosby's. By suing the school over his invitation to speak, these two teachers are claiming the right to limit views expressed at the school to those that they agree with. As James Taranto writes:
In the plaintiffs' view, equality requires that dissenters from the racial orthodoxy be treated as nonpersons. This attitude is totalitarian in its essence.

The publics right to know vs. journalism

When it is convenient for them, the press touts the public's right to know, a principle which has been enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act. The BBC, however, doesn't think that the public's right to know applies to them. They are currently fighting an expensive court battle to keep secret a 2004 report by a senior editorial adviser, Malcolm Balen, that is rumored to be critical of the BBC's anti-Israel bias. The BBC's secrecy is understandable if you remember that the release of the Hutton report, on bias in Iraq coverage, led to the resignation of the BBC's two top officials: Greg Dyke, editor-in-chief, and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC's board of governors.

More on tolerating free speech

Patterico writes about a L.A. Times columnist, Meghan Daum, who praises the violence of the leftists at Columbia University. Ms. Daum writes of the incident:
The speaker, Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project, a citizen's border patrol group, had been invited to campus by the Columbia University College Republicans. Reports in the New York Times said students holding banners reading "No One Is Illegal" jumped on the stage and were soon joined by dozens more protesters as well as supporters of Gilchrist. Protesters later said Gilchrist was knocked backward and his glasses were broken. The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, reported that "one student was kicked in the head and bleeding." [Emphasis added]
What does Ms. Daum think of these violent efforts to shut down what was supposed to be a civilized discussion of the issues? She writes:
But considering that most young people are considered to be politically apathetic, you have to credit the Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization for trying. .... I'll give them an A (OK, maybe a B+) for trying.
So her concern is with "political apathy." But, the College Republicans didn't show apathy: they organized an event and brought in a speaker. Ms. Daum doesn't find that praise-worthy. She gives high marks instead to those who would shut down the debate.

In a related post, Brian at IowaVoice also writes more generally on the gap between the ideals that liberal profess and their actual policies.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Those who cannot tolerate free speech

Peggy Noonan outlines four recent instances of liberals not tolerating dissenting opinions. One instance was out Columbia University where protestors silenced a Republican-sponsored speaker. It was explained that silencing one's opponent is part of "free speech":
"We were aware that there was going to be a sign and we were going to occupy the stage," said a protestor who was on stage and asked to remain anonymous. "I don't feel like we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. ... The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration."
The psychology of this rage can understood by looking at a much smaller example, also from Ms. Noonan:
On "The View" a few days earlier it was Rosie O'Donnell. She was banging away on gun control. Guns are bad and should be banned. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who plays the role of the young, attractive mom, tentatively responded. "I want to be fair," she said. Obviously there should be "restrictions," but women have a right to defend themselves, and there's "the right to bear arms" in the Constitution. Rosie accused Elizabeth of yelling. The panel, surprised, agreed that Elizabeth was not yelling.
To Rosie, even polite dissent sounds, in her mind, like "yelling." Something similar might have happened in Bill Clinton's mind when he was questioned by mild-mannered Chris Wallace and responded: "So you did Fox's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me."

This leads to a related issue: paranoia. Notice that, after being asked a substantive question, Mr. Clinton jumps to a conclusion about Mr. Wallace doing "Fox's bidding" on a "conservative hit job." This is reminiscent of Mrs. Clinton's theories about the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Jonah Goldberg reviews examples of this in his essay "The magnifying trick of liberal paranoia."

Alexander Hamilton had similar paranoid delusions about the evil things Thomas Jefferson would do if Jefferson was elected president. He thought Jefferson would ally with France and start a war with England. He didn't, even after two terms in office. History showed that Hamilton's concerns were merely based on delusions.

It is impressive that democracy continues to work even when so many of its participants appear insane.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Soft racism of low expectations"

While a person must present photo ID to board an airplane, drive a car, or cash a check, Democrats have been arguing that it is too much of a burden to ask a voter to do the same when voting. Here is House minority leader Pelosi on this subject:
Though the right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, the bill we debate today would in effect disenfranchise millions of American voters: the elderly, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, people with disabilities; and the list goes on.
OK, I understand that the elderly and disabled might have a hard time because one can only obtain a picture ID by walking 5 miles through the snow uphill. Also, historically, southern Democrats had taken extraordinary measures to prevent Blacks from voting. (However, that was 40+ years ago and hasn't recurred.) But, why does her list include "Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans"? Are these groups supposed to less able to get IDs than other types of hypenated and non-hyphenated Americans? Is this just racism ("low expectations) on the part of Ms. Pelosi?

More on Rep. Pelosi and vote fraud here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Liberal fears

Have you ever felt that powerful evil forces are out to get you? That seems to be how a columnist, Chris Reardon, at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst newspaper feels:
Students are among the many victims of an American economy, an entity that pays little attention to individual citizens and benefits a tiny upper-class. Every time tuition is increased, or a new edition of a textbook is published, capitalism is at work taking advantage of every available dollar on the market.
A problem with this critique of capitalism is that Mr. Reardon is a student at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a state school. Consequently, the university and its policies on tuition and choice of textbooks are not a part of the evil capitalist system.

Weather is complicated than first thought III: mass extinctions

A research paper in Today's issue of Nature (Editor's summary is here. Full text requires subscription) claims that Mother Nature systematically and repeatedly causes mass extinctions ("species turnover"). They studied the past 22 million years and found that cyclical changes in the Earth's orbit cause climate change and extinctions:
Because obliquity nodes and eccentricity minima are associated with ice sheet expansion and cooling and affect regional precipitation, we infer that long-period astronomical climate forcing is a major determinant of species turnover in small mammals and probably other groups as well.
The subset of environmentalists who believe that Mother Nature is perfect now have to consider climate change and mass extinctions as part of that perfection.

More on this here and here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jimmy Carter on Korea

In the New York Times today, Jimmy Carter presents his version of events leading the North Korean nuclear test. If he had any doubts about the wisdom of giving money and nuclear reactors to cash-strapped loony regime bent on developing nuclear weapons, he doesn't mention them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Democrats' enemies list

This video on the Democratic approach to foreign policy is funny but the GOP has been deemed it too over-the-top to use:

The video shows Sec. Madeleine Albright attempting to befriend terrorists by singing kum-ba-yah with them. While, as far as we know, this scene is fictional, appeasement does seem to be the Democrats preferred approach to foreign policy, a few stray cruise missiles to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Democrats approach to domestic enemies is strikingly different. Domestically, Democrats have a long enemies list: tobacco companies, Wal Mart, and Republicans, to name a few. However, they never seem tempted to approach any of them with offers of compromise and appeasement.

Russia opposes action on N. Korea nukes

MOSCOW, October 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that diplomacy should be the only way for the international community to dissuade North Korea from further nuclear tests.
Separately, Russia's defense minister dismisses the US pentagon news leaks about the test having failed:
He said Russian experts have no doubt that the explosion was a nuclear one, but refused to give details.

"We have our secret methods, but I will not discuss them," he said

Humor requires insight

Pres. Bush Sr. is a fan of Dana Carvey's Saturday Night Live impersonations of him ("Wouldn't be prudent..."). Carvey is funny enough here that even his target appreciates it because Carvey had some insight into G. H. W. Bush's personality (type ISTJ). Contrast this with Barbara Streisand:
There was Streisand, enduring a smattering of very loud jeers as she and "George Bush" _ a celebrity impersonator _ muddled through a skit that portrayed the president as a bumbling idiot.
This presentation of Pres. G. W. Bush simply lacks insight into his characters and his flaws.

Monday, October 09, 2006

S. Korea makes a discovery

Curiously, South Korea hadn't seriously considered the implications of its funding of North Korea's government while that government was pursuing nuclear weapons. South Korea has provided over $2 billion(US) in financial aid to the financially-strapped North as part of the South's "sunshine policy." The Korea Herald wants the policy changed:
Over nearly a decade of implementing an engagement policy toward the North, Seoul has been the biggest donor. Once the recipient shook the peninsula with a nuclear blast and broke a military equilibrium in the region, there is no sense of continuing humanitarian and economic aid to it. ....

An estimated 2 trillion won (about $2 billion) worth of aid has been delivered to the North under the engagement policy which had two major justifications - to prevent a new war on the peninsula and prevent the collapse of the North, an event that would cause an unbearable economic and social impact on the South. A nuclear-armed North Korea dismisses these reasons. It says it needs nuclear arms for self-defense, but their concept of self-defense is nothing less than holding Seoul hostage in the event of an external invasion.
The Joon Gang Daily recommends similar measures and reviews the self-deception of the Korean government:
President Roh Moo-hyun and his men in charge of diplomacy and national security have made unbelievable remarks. President Roh has said, "North Korea's nuclear development is reasonable, looking at it as a means of self-defense." When North Korea test-fired its missiles, he said they were not aimed at South Korea.
It will interesting to see if Seoul can summon the strength to cut the aid to the North now that the North can make credible nuclear threats. It is not easy being the hostage.

Foley, house staff, and the problem of the House

John Fund finds that the house failed to stop Rep. Foley's flirtations early because the issue was handled by staff rather than the elected representatives themselved. The 435 members of the House depend on 17,000 staffers who tell them, as per Fund's article, what's important or how to vote.

This illustrates what might very possibly have been a mistake in how congress was organized. After the US constitution was enacted, there were only 30,000 constituents per house member (see Article I, Section 2, Clause 3) and no staff. If you have lived in a town of 30,000 or 40,000, you know that it is relatively easy to know your town mayor reasonably well. If you had a strong opinion on a local issue, you would expect to be able to bend his ear, one on one. As the US grew, however, it was decided not to increase the number of representatives. There are now 680,000 constituents for each representative. That is the size of a large city. Most people now know their representatives only from their TV ads.

If we had kept a ratio of 1 representative per 40,000 constituents, there would now be enough representatives to divide the work so that their need for staff, like in the original congress, would be minimal. The problems with the staff functioning as a shadow unelected government would be disappear. Because TV ads become superfluous when you can meet a candidate personally, the costs of running an election campaign would largely disappear, similar a small-town mayor's reelection budget, while representatives would have to represent their constituents more accurately. On the down side, though, the capitol building would need to be enlarged to hold the 7,400 representatives.

North Korea and dealing with stress

The North Korean test this weekend is cause for concern. So far, two strategies for dealing with stress have emerged: (1) minimizing (denying) the threat and (2) placing blame on someone else.

Using the first approach is the NY Times which minimizes the threat. They write:
If the test occurred as the North claimed, it is unclear whether it was an actual bomb or a more primitive device. Some experts cautioned that it could try to fake an explosion, setting off conventional explosives; .... Even then, it is not clear that the North could fabricate that bomb into a weapon that could fit atop its missiles....
They also write that "A one-kiloton blast would be extremely small for a nuclear weapon." Actually, The North Korean blast, variously estimated at 0.5 to 15 kiloton, is not "extremely small." It is the normal size for fission bomb. (The larger bombs are fusion (H) bombs.) Claiming that such a bomb is "extremely small" is, as the survivors in Japan would likely testify, an act of denial.

The other approach is to admit that it is a problem but to blame is all on Pres. Bush, as Sen. Reid and Sen. Clinton did today. This strategy can work because both senators can be confident that no one in the MSM will ask them any difficult questions about the Carter-Clinton-Albright policy of giving N. Korea money and nuclear technology in exchange for empty promises.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What to do about the civil war

"We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested.... We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."
So it is in Paris, at least according to Michel Thoomis, secretary general of the Action Police trade union, where over 2,500 officers have been injured this year.

What would the Democrats recommend? "Immediate withdrawal," or "a timetable for redeployment" out of Paris?

Freedom of speech, liberally defined

Yesterday, Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, was scheduled to speak at Columbia University when protesters stormed the stage. See the video here. The left interprets "freedom of speech" to mean freedom to prevent your opponents from speaking.

One of the protesters' slogans was "no one is ever illegal." Superficially, this is a nice warm emotional statement. When you think about applying it fully as a governmental policy, it appears ugly. One would have hoped that Columbia students would have been able to demonstrate more sophisticated thinking.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Caring for the children, Democrat-style

The difference between the two parties is made clear by the Foley and Studd's scandals. Not only has Rep. Foley resigned, but conservatives, like the editors at the Washington Times, are calling on the House Speaker to resign for failing to be sufficiently vigilant in protecting the pages.

Contrast that with the Democrats. In 1983, Rep. Gerry Studds was caught with a 17-year-old page (the same age as Rep. Foley's). The Democrats did not force him to resign. They did not call for Speaker O'Neill's resignation. Not only did Studds stay in office but the Democrats in his district re-elected him five more times until his retirement in 1997. Democrats always talk about caring for the children. Their re-election of Rep. Studds tells you how they think children should be cared for.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

BDS in California

California, like most states, has many important political issues such as education, environment, budget deficits and spending priorities. To support their candidate for governor, Democrats have been ignoring all these state issues and instead running campaign ads linking incumbent Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with Pres. Geo. Bush as if hatred of Mr. Bush was going to be an important and unifying issue that would drive Democrats to victory in a state election. So far, this stategy is not working.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Al Qaeda vs. Iraq

While Michael Moore may regard al Qaeda as heroic muslim minutemen, the Iraqis are tired of getting killed (from the Boston Herald):
Also in the news last week, poll results from a University of Maryland public policy institute found that 94 percent of Iraqis hate al-Qaeda.
Having arabs see terror for what it really is is a major accomplishment of the war on terror. Further, the Iraqis remain reasonably in favor of a united democratic Iraq:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his tough-on-militias unity government, which Americans fought and died to establish, has the approval of six in 10 Iraqis. Two-thirds of Iraqis believe Iraq will still be one country in five years.

Felon Rights

Today's Wall Street Journal explains why Congress will continue to allow felons to work at US ports. First:
The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the ports of New York and New Jersey and found that of 9,000 truckers checked, nearly half had criminal records. They included murderers, drug dealers, arsonists and members of the deadly MS-13 gang. [emphasis added]
Consequently, unions, fearful that too many of the members would lose jobs, lobbied hard to prevent background checks for dock workers. This problem is also in state laws. Consider South Carolina:
"There is a gaping hole in port security," Byron Miller of the Charleston, S.C., port, the nation's sixth largest, told me. "Right now, by law we cannot do background checks on 8,000 people who work at this port." He noted that a state bill to provide for background checks was killed last year after unions applied a full-court press against it. [emphasis added]

Washington Post goes to war

For three weeks in a row, the Washington Post Sunday front-page has featured a one-sided attack on the Bush Administration. The pre-election timing of these and other MSM articles is obvious: The NIE report dates back to April but the first selective leak occurred just weeks before the midterm elections. Likewise, the Rep. Foley IM transcripts are old but only being publicized now.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Are they Nazis?

It is common in the less civilized portions of the internet to refer to Republicans as fascists or Nazis ("Bushitler"). This has gone mainstream with ex-VP Al Gore referring to Republicans as brownshirts. Sen. Byrd claimed that proposed changes in the filibuster rules would make Senate Republicans equivalent to Nazis. This makes it interesting to look back in history at the relationship between Democrats and fascists:
The Nazi press enthusiastically hailed the early New Deal measures: America, like the Reich, had decisively broken with the "uninhibited frenzy of market speculation." The Nazi Party newspaper, the V├Âlkischer Beobachter, "stressed 'Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies,' praising the president's style of leadership as being compatible with Hitler's own dictatorial F├╝hrerprinzip" (p. 190).

Nor was Hitler himself lacking in praise for his American counterpart. He "told American ambassador William Dodd that he was 'in accord with the President in the view that the virtue of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline should dominate the entire people. These moral demands which the President places before every individual citizen of the United States are also the quintessence of the German state philosophy, which finds its expression in the slogan "The Public Weal Transcends the Interest of the Individual"'" (pp. 19-20). A New Order in both countries had replaced an antiquated emphasis on rights.

Mussolini, who did not allow his work as dictator to interrupt his prolific journalism, wrote a glowing review of Roosevelt's Looking Forward. He found "reminiscent of fascism … the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices"; and, in another review, this time of Henry Wallace's New Frontiers, Il Duce found the Secretary of Agriculture's program similar to his own corporativism (pp. 23-24).

Roosevelt never had much use for Hitler, but Mussolini was another matter. "'I don't mind telling you in confidence,' FDR remarked to a White House correspondent, 'that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman'" (p. 31). Rexford Tugwell, a leading adviser to the president, had difficulty containing his enthusiasm for Mussolini's program to modernize Italy: "It's the cleanest … most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious" (p. 32, quoting Tugwell).
(Hat tip to Brussels Journal.)

Even if FDR and the fascists shared some economic ideas, principally a disdain for the free market and an admiration for strong central government, that does not make FDR a Nazi. Even if FDR put Japanese in concentration camps during WWII, that still does not make him a Nazi. (Lack of gas chambers is an obvious key difference.) Of course, Geo. Bush isn't a Nazi either.
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