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Friday, July 30, 2004

(Nothing like) Reality TV (Or "Syrupy Waffles bad for America's health")

I didn't watch the DNC convention this year. Did you? Did anybody except for the journalists and pundits who are contractually obligated to pay attention to this sort of crap watch it?
I guess not.

I think that "Reality TV" has been slumping in the ratings lately (but I'm not going to bother looking up a link to prove it...). Perhaps one of the most over-done genre of "Reality TV" is the
outrageous and unbelievable make-over type of show. I don't know why the donks thought that they could produce one and expect to get any real ratings when the professionals at this sort of thing have to struggle to get and keep their audience, and the professionals make shows that are, arguably entertaining (to some).

Anyway, Senator and now Presidential Nominee for the DUMB-o-cRAT party John "Waffles" Kerry rambled on and on last night. I don't have the time to go through Waffles drivel line-by-line and shred him, and besides, where's the sport? The old truism is that: "A moving target is hard to hit." Maybe that's what Kerry thinks he is, but people get tired and don't trust leaders who change their mind constantly and without a principled reason. Kerry's tactic has, I think, been to avoid changing his mind by being steadfastly on all sides of each issue. That way, he can say he didn't change his mind, and he can also argue that, whatever you want, he agrees with you. It more than boggles the mind to contemplate that Waffles is attempting to be the candidate of the hate-America-anti-war-neo-communists AND the pro-strong-defense-and-aggressive-protection-of-America "moderates."

However, I do have a few thoughts about the manure he was spreading (and yes, his does stink).
I will immediately reform the intelligence system - so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics.
Immediately, eh? I suppose it's the norm for major bureaucracies to change over night... or not. While we're on this, what (as Slick Willy might say) does he mean by "facts." Does he mean "evidence?" Perhaps, "conclusions that can be drawn with absolute certainty based on evidence?" How can we possibly know, for sure, that our conclusions are correct before some tragedy? I do, however, agree that politics should not factor into national defense decisions. It's a good thing that politics hasn't distorted President Bush's intelligence, and it's a crying shame that Slick Willy didn't have the strength of moral character to avoid political considerations (But the report says the affair, coupled with other issues, likely affected later discussions about using force against the terrorist.) I'm surprised that Waffles would attack the last DUMB-o-cRAT president like that...

And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.
When, exactly, do we have to go to war? Did we have to overthrow Afghanistan for American security? I think so, but not because they were about to overthrow us. I guess we went there because we wanted to enhance the security of American citizens, but not necessarily because America faced an imminent threat to it's continued existence. Iraq? Doesn't the same logic apply? Sure Iraq didn't attack us on 9-11, but do we have to let them attack us before we do anything? How about going to war when our best intelligence tells us that the danger that enemy represents is growing and is not likely to be abated through diplomatic means? I guess the president and Congress decides when we "have to" go to war, and they did this time. Hmmm... If we should only go to war when we need to, what does that say about Bosnia? We were never threatened, but it was deemed the right thing to do to help the endangered civilians. Did we need to do that? Was that wrong?

And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.
So... Think with me... America is attacked on our own soil by a non-national loose affiliation of militants. They aren't in one spot, and we know we will never be able to get them all, but as long as they live, they will continue to attempt to attack us. We can't possibly have a plan to win the peace, only to fight those who would attempt to kill us. should we not fight since we don't know how to do everything from the outset? I guess Kerry would let al-Qaeda have a free pass since nobody has a real plan to, ultimately, win the peace against them.

I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.
He knows what we have to do in Iraq, eh? I don't believe him. If he knows what to do why doesn't he tell somebody? I mean, really, if he knows what would save our troops from dying, then shouldn't he tell somebody? Is his entire plan to beg the French to come to our rescue in Iraq? Are they likely to come? We know how brave the French are, but even so, I fear that if they are attacked like Spain was, they would fold even faster. How, exactly, would that make our troops safer? The cheese eating surrender monkeys won't come to our rescue, and we shouldn't pretend like we need them to. You know what, I don't want a President who can beg and capitulate to virtually irrelevant countries like France to do things that we deem in our national interest. That sort of "credibility" is something we could do without. I would rather have a president who is credible to our enemies. Libya believed President Bush when he said that we were going to go after every supporter of terrorism, and they gave-up their nuclear aspirations.

I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.

Pardon, do you mean that force is only required AFTER we're attacked? Is Waffles saying that our enemies will always get a free-shot? That's what it sounds like to me. He should have ended the second sentence with "if we survive, or aren't scared into submission like Spain."

I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.
Oh... my bad, I thought Waffles said that we were going to get our "allies" to help us. What happens if they don't help us? Will we still act? If so, does that prove that Waffles doesn't have credibility.
And I will build a stronger American military.

Prove it. Waffles consistently votes against military systems, I guess, by "stronger" he means that he expects each soldier to fight with their hands, and for that, they will need to be very strong...

We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives - and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

Not in Iraq, eh? Are we just going to abandon the troops there, or do we already have enough troops in the field? Excuse me if I don't believe Waffles' claims that he will provide the newest weapons and technology. Perhaps he means that he will eliminate all weapons that are not "newest" and therefore make sure that no more than a few soldiers have any weapons at all. Perhaps he means that he will not purchase any new weapons? That's an easy solution and entirely consistent with his legislative stance. That way, the old technology we've already got will be the newest technology! Brilliant!

We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation - to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world.
Sure, Waffles. Why, exactly, did you have "Peanuts" and "Slick Willy" speak at your convention. Aren't they responsible for the latest bit of nuclear proliferation in the world? Jimmy Carter guaranteed that North Korea got Nuclear weapons, and India and Pakistan got nuclear weapons during Clinton's tenure. I don't remember you being hopping-mad at Slick Willy about how he was selling missile guidance technology to China and letting every third-world country that could rub a few dollars together to get nuclear weapons on his watch. The only President in recent memory who has done a good job at making sure that dangerous crazes don't get nuclear weapons is President Bush. Saddam won't ever get nuclear weapons, and Libya has recently seen the light. Without a plan to continue and step-up President Bush's foreign policy trends, the way to lead this global effort is to endorse President Bush rather than to offer our enemies a free-shot!

America's domestic (economic) problems as seen by Kerry --
  1. job sent overseas --> Simple economic theory says that businesses won't make significant changes unless it will increase revenues & profits. Therefore the only way to prevent jobs from going overseas is to erect a legal barrier which will put American businesses at an economic disadvantage, and result in fewer jobs in America, or by lowering the costs associated with keeping jobs here.
  2. health insurance --> Well, selecting an ambulance chasing med-mal plaintiff's lawyer as his running mate has done loads to increase his credibility on the idea of making health insurance affordable. Despite health-care being important, it's NOT a right. You don't have a right to force a medical professional to render his services at whatever price you feel like paying. Health insurance is, often a perk. It's something that many businesses provide to their employees as part of their compensation package. Now, if every American is supposed to have health insurance, that simply raises the cost to employers of having employees. If American employees are increasingly expensive to employ, then employers won't employ people in America... See #1, supra. The other big side of the equation is to lower the cost of health-care which would make health insurance less expensive to provide. Primarily, to do that, you have to reduce the risk to physicians of loosing everything they have in a law suit. How likely, do you suppose, an administration that includes one of the nation's most successful ambulance-chasing plaintiff's attorneys is likely to be to increase the hurdles to suing doctors? Or, I suppose, you could simply tell doctors that they are not allowed to charge as much as they do for their services. That will encourage fewer and fewer people to enter the medical profession, and simply make health care theoretically afforable, but realistically impossible to find. So... Waffles, what's your plan to actually help this situation? We're still waiting.
  3. pension has disappeared into thin air - and the executive who looted it --> Yeah... it's a sad story. Was there a crime committed? If so, prosecute. If not, how do you incintivize executives into NOT looting companies? And, what to do about all those poor folks who have lost their pensions? My only speculation is that Waffles expects to support them directly from the public treasury. Who's going to pay for it?
  4. air pollution --> We all like clean air. OK. How does Waffles expect to make air cleaner. I suspect the solution will involve some level of increased controls on businesses. Those controls always involve some level of cost. Note, these costs only apply to businesses in America. By increasing the cost of maintaining businesses in America, Waffles would make businesses in America less profitable relative to foreign competitors. Therefore, we're back to the problem discussed in #1, supra.
  5. families living in poverty --> I thought the Great Society and all the various forms of welfare would have fixed that by now. Hmmm... Does history provide a hint? Perhaps the government can, at best, only encourage the conditions in which wealth can be generated by a greater portion of society, rather than actually eliminate poverty. Besides, how does Waffles expect to pay for all of this?
His plan --
  1. We value jobs that pay you more not less than you earned before.
    incentives to revitalize manufacturing.
    --> That's nice. How, do you suppose, Waffles will accomplish this? What Waffles is talking about is a competitive condition in which the average worker can expect to be in such demand that there is a constant bidding-war over his (or her) services. Those conditions reflect an economic imbalance. The only way to economically justify the increased earnings is to increase the value the employee represents to the employer. OR... Rampant inflation would cause that. Of course, with high inflation, the dollars go up, but the wealth goes down... Kerry MIGHT be able to accomplish that. That's a way to make America poorer and destroy the value of what savings we have while making our wallets fatter. Brilliant! That's a DUMB-o-cRAT solution if ever I heard one!
  2. We value an America that exports products, not jobs --> OK. I guess that means Kerry believes in making America a competitive place to employ people and run a business... We know that's not true. To export products, our products have to represent a relatively higher value per unit cost than our competitors' products. That means our products need to be better and or cheaper. If the product is established technology, then making it cheaper means cutting costs of production. How does he plan to encourage that from the White House? Cutting corporate taxes increases profit margins and allows businesses to lower prices, but I don't think that's Waffles's plans... I suspect Waffles doesn't have a clue.
  3. we will trade and compete in the world (a fair playing field) --> A novel idea! How, exactly, will Waffles accomplish the goal of forcing foreign nations to not erect trade barriers to American industries? Surely, he wouldn't think of intimidating poor little countries to capitulate to America's economic might, right? That would... That would just be mean, right? Either we exert overt (often diplomatic) pressure by trying to force other countries to change their laws or we passively try to make them change by erecting reciprocal or punitive trade barriers of our own. The second, more gentlemanly, method creates a hidden tax on the American consumers. Is charging us more for what we are buying what he has in mind? Free trade is a realizable goal, eventually, but "fair trade" is a pipe-dream and a dangerous prospect since "fairness" is subjective to whomever thinks he or she should have more.
  4. cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare --> Waffles, you arrogant, sniveling, gigolo, slut. What-the-hell are you talking about when you say, "tax giveaways?" If you mean "tax-cuts" then you're saying that every dollar belongs to the government and every dollar Big Brother doesn't confiscate is a gift to the person or people who did the work to earn it. The only chance Waffles has at reducing the deficit is that Bush's economic policies will continue to grow the economy even faster than Waffles will be able to pass spending through an opposition congress. If, instead, Waffles, is speaking about direct wealth re-distribution, then he needs to be consistent and end it across the board. If it's morally repugnant to give a company that employs people and creates products and services for the market, then it's surely more morally repugnant to give money to poor people who don't work and who don't provide products or services to anybody. All government-coerced wealth re-distribution is equally morally repugnant. A better argument can be made for the "corporate welfare" than for traditional poverty-subsidizing welfare, but they're both wrong. The only way to really cut the deficit is to cut spending (That doesn't seem to be part of the Waffles plan) or to increase tax revenues, and we know that raising taxes reduces tax revenues.
  5. we won't raise taxes on the middle class... I will cut middle class taxes. --> Sounds great. I don't believe you, Waffles, but, OK. What, exactly does that mean? Does that mean that the government will take a smaller bite out of each paycut? Does it mean that the government will do less to limit each person's chances at accumulating increasing wealth? All of this is at-odds with the other goals of his platform. If you require each employer to provide health insurance, you have increased the cost of employment. Raises will be smaller. The raise that you don't get because of increased costs is a hidden tax, but it's wealth the government has kept you from having. If the government erects barriers to businesses seeking the most profitable modes of doing business, the reduced jobs will be a hidden tax, and the reduced profits will leave less money for the businesses to pay wages. These hidden taxes will land almost squarely on the middle-class. The upper-class has the ability to move wealth around, to a large extent. Because it is the upper-class that does the heavy-lifting in the major capital shifts in the economy, any attack on them will necessarily result in a huge hit to the middle-class.
  6. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. --> What about successful small businesses in which the proprietor has become wealthy? Do you suppose that small businesses are more or less likely to be slapped with burdens like mandatory health-care and mandatory vacation and family leave under Waffle's plan? Maybe those aren't called "tax burdens" but they are governmentally imposed burdens and they will significantly affect the small business's ability to increase payroll ranks... That's right, ALL of Waffle's plans will reduce the ability of businesses, especially small businesses to be successful and employ people.
  7. roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education. --> Great idea! These are the people who run businesses and invest. Those are exactly the people we want to punish! Oh... Hold on here... If the government is taking money away from the people who invest, who's going to invest in "job creation, health care and education?" I think that Waffles has confused some words. Darn... This is yet another example of why we need to make English our official language. I think Waffles meant to say "SPEND TAX DOLLARS" on blah-blah-blah. Investing is, well, a little different than spending. I guess that's a nuance that the French-smelling candidate didn't notice. The problem is, once again, the good that Waffles wants to accomplish is at odds with what he intends to do. If the government is going to spend the money, since he intends to soak the rich, who normally do invest, on jobs, health care, and education, then isn't that expenditure which is normally left to the market a form of corporate welfare? Isn't forced health-care coverage a cost that would tend to make our employees less competitive in an international labor market?
I'm sure glad that Waffles has provided a plan. Or, maybe not. He hasn't provided a plan to help America. He's provided a couple of ideas about initiatives he wants to put forward. His ideas would all injure America's economy.

Then again, perhaps America will be safer... If we could hide behind the ridges in the waffle, maybe the terrorists won't see us.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I suppose that might be part of the problem

The MSN Health page has this article: Many Teens Want to Have Babies

I'm just spit-ballin' here, but I think that the phenomonon of either wanting to have children or not wanting to bother avoiding having children by teenagers might have something to do with the fact that, well, a lot of teenagers are having children.

The point of the article was, basically, that the teenage pregnancy problem in lower-income inner-city communities is substantially a result of a desire on the part of the teenage girls to become mothers. Here's the first snippet I want to point out to you, my fair readers:

As part of a larger study, Davies and colleagues questioned 455 low-income, black girls aged 14 to 18....

Nearly a quarter expressed a desire to become pregnant. These girls were 3.5 times more likely than those who did not desire pregnancy to have a boyfriend or partner at least five years older than they were. They were also more than twice as likely to have had a casual sexual partner in the recent past and to report inconsistent condom use.

Hmmm... At least one option should be to consider enforcing the statutory rape laws... That won't totally fix the problem, but if a 14 to 16 year old girl is pregnant, chances are she's having sex. In most states, at those ages consent on the part of the girl is irrelevant. Lock-up the pappa. If you put that kind of price on the activity, you will, at the very least, encourage more wide-spread condom use.

Here's another bit of the article:
Davies says it is pretty clear that the phenomenon is limited to lower-income adolescents who are more likely to perceive their future as bleak and motherhood as romantic.
Public health researcher Lorraine Klerman, PhD, who has studied teen pregnancy throughout her career, says the best hope of keeping young girls from viewing early motherhood as a desirable goal is to improve their educational opportunities.

The educational opportunities already exist. They exist for anybody who wants to take them and do the work those opportunities entail. Here's the point, education is not something that you can "give" to someone else. A teacher may give his or her effort, but the student has to choose to learn, and accept the education. The presence of the teacher is secondary, at best, to a student who has decided to learn.

The poor state of education in the inner city is a symptom, and not the disease. People who are willing to take responsibility for their own future are the ones, generally, who get the education that is a pre-requisite for many of the (legal) jobs that lead out of poverty. That unwillingness to take responsibility for ones own actions and future goes hand-in-hand with the failure to recognize the inherent value of ones own life.

If you don't value your own life, why would you put yourself through the pain and frustration of learning?

Also, what's romantic about having a baby? Before I attempt to answer that, I want to point out this sentence:
Davies says the findings indicate that girls who desire pregnancy behave in ways that will help them meet their goal, and that their perception of the role of the male partner in parenthood may be minimal.

Here's my stab an an answer to my own question. Married couples romanticize having kids too, but it's different. Marrie couples, often, romanticize being able to love and nurture a child, and that the work of raising the child is worth it because it demonstrates the profoudness of the parents' love.

For a teenaged girl who wants to have a baby and doesn't value the father's participation in the raising the child, I think the situation is exactly reversed. The girl doesn't love or respect herself. She thinks that if she has a baby, that baby will provide her with the love and respect she won't get from herself or demand of her boyfriend(s). The trouble of raising the child, to her, is the cost of getting the unconditional love of the child. The child's needs and future are of no (or at best, minimal) importance to that mother, and that's why she isn't concerned about making sure that she has a good father for the baby who will help raise and model what a responsible man is supposed to be as the child grows up.

The problem isn't societal, though it's wide-spread. It's intensely personal to a huge portion of the inner-city population. The solution must be personal, too. It needs to start in families. Each mother out there needs to value her child(ren) enough to treat herself with respect. She needs to instill in her child(ren) that they are intrinsically valuable and important. Not the self-importance of a spoiled-brat, but the actual value of a child who understands the he or she is accountable because he or she is loved and what he or she does is important enough to care about. The child(ren) needs to understand that he or she has enough value that the future should never be written off.

When a parent does that, the child is far more likely to plan for future success, and that means delaying child-rearing and obtaining education. When enough parents do that then the inner-cities will become concentrated centers of hope and potential. What are the chances of this happening? (I won't hold my breath.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Why English needs to be made our official language.

Federal District Judge Tom S. Lee, of the Southern District of Mississippi, decided last week thatMississippi's new late-term abortion law is probably unconstitutional. (Here's another story about it.)

For clarity sake, the current status is that Judge Lee has extended the preliminary injunction that enjoins the State of Mississippi from enforcing it's new Abortion law, he has not, exactly, declared the law unconstitutional at this point.

The Problem is this: Abortion is considered one of the "penumbra" of rights that are nowhere to be found in the Constitution, but nevertheless are, somehow, to be found in it. I shoudn't be too rough on the Court because the Constitution is, really, just a skeleton. It defines the fundamental structure of the government, but it doesn't fill much in, and so, the court has, reasonably, found that there are some rights that are retained by the individuals which are protected by implication in the Constitution, though not explicitly. Among those are rights that almost everybody agrees are valid, such as the right to vote, and the right to move freely from state to state. (Mr. Quick, if you read this, I discussed this right at some length on your site here.)

So... How the Constitution can protect the practice of systematically murdering helpless children is still beyond me, but I understand how and why it exists in the law. Basically, the Supreme Court avoided actually deciding the central issues that would be dispositive of whether an unborn child should be protected by law in it's original abortion case, Roe v. Wade. By expressly not deciding whether an unborn child was alive, the Court stayed only in the realm of whether the government could inject itself into a private medical decision of a patient regarding reproductive issues. The court had already said that a state could not tell a married couple whether or not they could use birth control because that was too invasive into individual rights. (Griswold v. Connecticut)

After Roe v. Wade, when abortion was now protected, but not totally (because the Supreme Court basically said that states could regulate it after "viability," or the point at which there really wasn't meaningful debate against the conclusion that the child is alive) the question became one of how much the states could legislate/regulate abortion in the area that the Supreme Court left open.

The question got answered, but in so doing, Justice O'Connor made sure that the state of the law was even less clear after the answer than it was before, as per her Modus Operandi. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case in which a Nebraska partial-birth abortion prohibtion law was overturned, the Justice O'Connor, writing for the court, said that states could not implement an "undue burden" on the "right" to have an abortion.

If you're asking, "What constitutes an undue burden?" you're not alone. The other Justices on the Supreme Court don't know either. (No cite for that because it came from an in-person discussion with a current Justice.)

The reason I titled this post "Why English needs to be made our official language." is that if it were an official language, we might be able to expect that the judges could discern the meaning of some of the words in the language.

Judge Lee hasn't been able to discern a reasonable meaning for "undue burden." It appears that an "undue burden" under his definition, is one that might actually prevent some abortions. However, by qualifying the burden that states may not impose as "undue," the Supreme Court implicitly endorsed that some burdens may be imposed. What burdens? Well, those haven't been defined, but if they aren't capable of having some impact then they aren't any sort of burden at all.

The Mississippi Law that Judge Lee is currently enjoining re-classifies pregnancies after 13 weeks (instead of the former 16 week point) as sufficiently late term that abortion clinics could not perform them. The law did not prohibit them, but it did require that any abortions after the 13 week point be performed at a regularly regulated medical facility, such as hospitals or outpatient surgical facilities.

According to the Picayune Item story, Judge Lee said that the law did nothing new to protect patient health.


The problem is that States have the ability to regulate what other types of surgeries are allowed to be performed where and by whom. Judge Lee appears to be setting himself up above the Mississippi Legislature in determining what laws are necessary to fulfill the State's purpose. I don't think that there's any disagreement that the State wants to reduce the numbers of abortions, especially late-term abortions. However Mississippi has scrupulously avoided prohibiting the procedure. As a matter of fact, one of the primary reasons that the Supreme Court gave for overturning Nebraska's law in Planned Parenthood v. Casey was that it made no exception for the health of the mother. If that's the main problem in an otright prohibition, then there should be no problem that the state has said that late-term abortions are permissible, but must be performed in a regular medical facility which is better able to handle life-of-the-mother emergencies.

Judge Lee, has apparently misunderstood the language in the phrase "undue burden" and thinks it means "any burden whatsoever." To protect against an infringement according to his definition, he is invading an area expressly left to State and making legislative value judgments, as if this were still a common law problem even after the state legislature has spoken within a reasonable understanding of the Constitutional framework as pronounced by the Supreme Court. This looks like a lack of deference for the sovereignty of the State more than a lack of respect for legislatures to me. If the Judge were acting reasonably within his proper function, he would defer to the state when it is acting inside of the constitutional boundaries enunciated by the Supreme Court, or at least within a not-unreasonable understanding of those boundaries.

As over-reaching as Judge Lee's current ruling is, it's not all his fault. Justice O'Connor's willingness to treat Constitutional Law like any other form of Common Law that can be molded as the Justices see fit to meet society has created a disrespect for the authority and sovereignty of the states and the other branches. When the Courts can say, not only, what the law IS, but also what it should be, they have elevated themselves beyond the reach of any authority, and not even their defining document, the Constitution, is strong enough to restrain them.

To my thinking, Justice O'Connor is the most dangerous justice on the bench. Her judicial philosophy elevates judicial whim to Constitutional gravity, and creates uncertainty in the law. We know less after she writes an opinion than before. That's not a coincidence. In a philosophy that treaurers the judiciary's role of finding the "just" result in each case before it, boundaries established by legislatures and the Constitution are obsticles. She's more dangerous than even the liberal judges because she plays in the middle ground and there is little telling of what will persuade her. Moreover, a judicial philosophy that focuses on only the "just result" in the present case is short-sighted by design. Maybe that's a good temperment for a trial judge, but it is repugnant to the purpose of the Supreme Court for that philosophy to hold sway as the final arbiter of Constitutional Law.

If English were to be made the official language of the U.S.A., then perhaps Justice O'Connor could be impeached for judicial fraud by using the language in Court Opinions in a way to decrease understanding of the law while pretending to explain what the law is. I know, I know, I'm dreaming again.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Survey: 80% of German Women prefer to be single

Here's the story.

I'm sure I saw an unrelated survey, somewhere, that said 95% of men prefer not to be involved with women who don't shave their armpits.

I guess everybody's happy in Germany!

If you're not sitting down, please do so before you read this post

You were warned... I refuse to be held liable for any injuries you sustain if you read this post while standing up and fall over from shock.

"Johnny Ramone was a fiercely Republican-voting, NRA-supporting musician…"

And don't overlook this:
For his news now, he hits the Drudge Report and Newsmax.com, Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes," and "The O'Reilly Factor." He listens daily to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved. In L.A., people spend a lot of time in their cars, and he uses that time to educate himself, he says.

His list of favorite Republicans should humble the Republican National Committee, or at least get him invited to a GOP fund-raiser: Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Charlton Heston, [actor and close friend] Vincent Gallo, Ted Nugent, Messrs. Limbaugh and Hannity, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Wayne and Tom DeLay.

He relishes agitating his left-wing peers — and has since the band started in 1974.

This story was from back on March 11 of this year... How did I overlook it?

Hat tip to the Conservative Contrarian.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The FATSO retort

Cathy Seipp, a guest blogger over at the Volokh Conspiracy posits that Medicare's declaring of obesity to be a disease for which they will apparently provide funding for treatment isn't such a bad thing.

I don't remember that being exactly the story, but it's a little beside the point. The main thrust of what has taken place so far is that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has decided that obesity is no longer NOT an illness.

Secretary Thompson of HHS said, "Obesity is a critical public health problem in our country."

Does that raise any eyebrows for you?

David Boaz had this rather cogent discussion of obesity in terms of "public health."

The point, as I see it is this: Under what theory does the Federal Government believe that it has the authority to take any action with regards to obesity?

"Promoting the general welfare?" - Not really. Obesity is the result of individual actions. Promoting general welfare, then would end at studying the problem so that people would have reasonably accurate data upon which they could make their choices.

The "Commerce Clause?" - This is where Cathy rationalizes a justification. It's still incorrect. MY (or YOUR, or "THAT TUBBO-OVER-THERE'S") being overweight is so local in nature as to be too local for states or municipal governments to regulate. Would you like a vice-squad busting through the door at McDonalds to force you to "Put that fry back down on your plate and step away from the table!" because they had determined you had consumed enough calories.

It's not a public health issue. It's a VERY common private health issue, but the frequency of the problem does NOT make it public, and thereby convey constitutionality on federal actions affecting it. Period. A public health issue would be security and purity of air and water... common resources that are available for everyone (i.e. "public" in nature).

Cathy, if Professor Volokh thinks enough of you to let you blog on his site, I'll presume you're, generally, an intelligent and thoughtful individual, however, in this matter, you're wrong. Don't, however, take this as a defense of obesity. I'm not a fan of being fat, but I am a fan of the Government being constrained by the Constitution, but hey... that's not a terribly popular idea lately, so I guess we can expect "Fat Taxes" in our near future to pay for the battle against this new public health concern.

Then again... Maybe obesity is a disease... If it is, then I think wives are the biggest population of highly infectious people around. Just watch a guy go from trim to oppulent within 2 or 3 years of marriage. The infection rate is outrageous!

Assume, Argumendo*...

I don't know how much more I'll blog on Berger's slow-burn in the reluctant media, but I wanted to add this one more thought...

The "story" as it is being reported in most major news outlets is "When did the White House know about the Berger investigation?!"  As a companion to that theme, the subtitle to the democrat-media plan is "Which evil Republican leaked information about the investigation (and how much money is evil-Halliburton making from it)?!"

Assume, aargumendo, that the White House was made aware early-on about the investigation... SO WHAT?!

Let's go further:  Let's assume, argumendo, that the leak was made by Dick Cheney his-evil-self immediately after stepping off of the Halliburton evil-corporate jet upon which he had been handed millions of evil-dollars of kickbacks based on a per-American soldier killed in Iraq compensation plan...  SO WHAT?!
Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch has this take on the shamelessness of the New York Times in how it is reporting Berger's sizzle.  (Here's a link to the NYT story.)  He takes great, and well deserved umbrage a the overwhelmingly partisan nature of the NYT story, but the point is still:  SO F***ING WHAT?!?!?**

The point that is relevant to the LAW in determining if a crime has occurred is NOT, "Who leaked?"  (Has anybody checked Senator "Depends" Leahy?) or "Why was the leak NOW?" or
"Who in the White House knew what?"

All of those questions that the Democrats and their assistants in the major media outlets are screaming about have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Berger committed a crime, and if so, if anybody else was involved in that crime.

I don't care if the Democrats produce pictorial evidence of Dick Cheney writing out an annonymous tip-off about the story to FoxNEWS using a complimentary solid-gold official Halliburton "Evil-Pen" which writes in ink made out of the blood of slain American soldiers.  That has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether a crime was committed by Sandy Berger in removing controlled classified documents from their secure location without authorization through gross-negligence, recklessness, or by willful intent.  The Democrats' complaints have NOTHING to do with whether Bill (the former and impeached president) Clinton, since he had designated Mr. Berger, as the representative of his administration to review those documents, was aware but did not report Mr. Berger's (alleged) theft of documents (a crime in and of itself) or if, perhaps he had been more intimately involved (a.k.a. a "conspiracy") in the theft of the documents since taking those documents probably served to protect Clinton.

Assume anything you want about HOW and WHY the story has come to prominence.  The REAL point is that Sandy Berger has admitted taking documents.  All that's left now is to determine if a crime has been committed, and if so, who all may have committed the crime.  In spite of the desperate attempts of the NYT and all the other agencies of the Democratic Party to make you think otherwise, the story is profound, and wholly centered on what Sandy Berger did, and for whom did he do it.

* For the uninitiated, and public-school (un)educated among my readership, "argumendo" is a term often used in legal settings that, basically, means "for the sake of the argument.  It DOES NOT concede the point.  It's a useful logical tool in argumentation to demonstrate the weakness of your opponent's attack.
**  In honor of my evil-hero, Vice President Cheney, doing his impersonation of Senator Waffles.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

18 U.S.C. 793(f) - Flame for the Berger

The Puppy Blender has this posting from yesterday (7/20/2004) about the apparently relevant statute, 18 U.S.C. 793(f) for Mr. Berger's activity.

Here's the section of the statute:
Sec. 793. - Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information
(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,

(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or

(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer -

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

A sharp lawyer/reader responded with an analysis of the law, and it's application. Glenn included that response as an update.
As noted, the culpable mental state for a 793(f)(1) violation is "gross negligence". I'm not sure of the Federal standard, but as a general rule, gross negligence is more reckless than ordinary negligence, and in the case of property usually means failing to exercise the care one would with one's own property...
(emphasis added)

With due respect and the acknowledgment that I am but a grasshopper in the legal community, I believe that the definition provided above is applicable to normal negligence. Generally negligence is failing to meet the appropriate standard of care. That standard varies with a number of factors. When one is a professional, the normal standard of care when acting within the realm of the profession is what any other similar professional could reasonably be expected to do.

To be sure, a security professional, which is what Mr. Berger was, is held to a high standard with regards to classified data. The procedures set up around classified material are intended to make it nearly impossible to compromise classified data with anything less than gross negligence. The higher the classification, the more substantial the procedural safeguards. Ordinary Negligence with very highly classified materials might be putting the material into the wrong classified folder, but not ever removing it from a highly fortified secure location.

Nevertheless, "Gross Negligence" is much more substantial than ordinary negligence. Where ordinary negligence is not taking the normal precautions that one would normally take with their own property, or in this case, not carefully complying with each and every security regulation, gross negligence is the "failure to use even the slightest amount of care in a way that shows recklessness or willful disregard for" the implemented security procedures. (The 'Lectric Law Library has this general definition for "Gross Negligence").

The Puppy Blender's reader speculated that the pronouncements in the media, under his interpretation of the relevant statute(s) are part of a carefully crafted strategy to prepare the public to not hold Mr. Berger (or anybody else) criminally responsible for the (alleged) theft of the classified documents. I don't think it should work (it might, though), legally, but it could very well serve two more purposes:
1. To lessen Mr. Berger's culpability in the mind of prospective juries.
2. To keep this infraction in the realm of (gross) negligence or recklessness rather than letting a jury determine it to be intentional.

The reason all of the Democrats are and should be scared about a finding that this was intentional, is that, if intentional, it would lead the jury to ask "What was the intent?" The answer to THAT question would implicate Bill (the former and impeached president) Clinton.

18 U.S.C. 793(g) becomes very relevant if a jury believe Mr. recklessness actions were intentional.
(g) If two or more persons conspire to violate any of the foregoing provisions of this section, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be subject to the punishment provided for the offense which is the object of such conspiracy.

Since we know that Bill Clinton designated Mr. Berger as the representative to review documents in preparation for testimony before the 9-11 Commission, it would become VERY difficult for Mr. Clinton to distance himself from the idea that this was a conspiracy. He's slick, but this will call for more lubricant than he's ever needed before.

I don't know about you, but this is looking more and more interesting with each passing hour...

Is "Bubba's Berger" really dirty or just Sandy?

I know, I know... Lots of people are making confused noise about the Berger story, but it's just too much.

For a number of reasons I won't make any comment whatsoever about the supposed documents Mr. Berger apparently took.  I know nothing about them or any security classification they may or may not have had.

Nevertheless, as a general statement, simply taking classified documents home, with nothing more, does not make you a spy.  Taking classified material without authorization is, however, a crime.  I suppose it would be possible to innocently and accidentally mix a classified document with unclassified and uncontrolled documents in your possession, if you were exceptionally sloppy, and thereby result in your taking one or two relatively small pieces of classified material outside of a secure area.

That scenario which could result removing classified documents by innocent mistake do not jive with the reported actions by Mr. Berger.  You don't accidentally shove ANY documents classified or not, in your pants and socks.  Also, for someone, a lawyer, who had risen to the level of prominence to become a top adviser to a president, the kind of sloppiness that would need to exist to result in any inadvertent removal of classified material would have to amount to criminal negligence.

Also, just speaking in generalities, the line that Mr. Berger's attorney is spouting about the legality of keeping handwritten notes take from classified documents being uncertain is patently false.  If a spy breaks in to steal important top-secret information to aid a hostile foreign power, we would not fail to prosecute him if it is discovered that he simply jotted down the information rather than having taken the actual documents.  The general rule is that when you make notes from classified information, those notes have at least the same level of classification as the information from which it was gleaned.  That's not a nuanced legal point, it's the rule, and a former National Security Advisor would not have been ambiguous on that point at all.

So...  Having dealt with the preliminaries, the story just smells fishy.  Today, Drudge is has a prominent link to this story which includes former and impeached President Clinton admitting to "laughing about" the Berger situation.  Clinton said that Sandy Berger typically kept a messy desk.  That's nice, but it's still not an explanation for the actions that have been reported.  Also, there are reports that Sandy Berger was reviewing the classified documents at the request of former and impeached President Clinton in preparation for his testimony about the Clinton Administration's efforts to combat terrorism.

Sandy Berger had become a Kerry advisor, and was, if he really was working to get Waffles elected, hoping to get a high position in the Waffles administration.  Therefore, getting thrown in jail would be somewhat incongruous with that goal.  Sandy Berger knows he wouldn't be the fall-guy if the Clinton Administration was shown to be negligent in their efforts against terrorism; Clinton would get it.

The following is something of a conspiracy theory, but the innocent explanations are exhausted.  A Clinton former National Security Advisor takes a position with THE democratic candidate's campaign, and knows that he has information about what the Clinton administration did and did not do to prevent terrorism.  He also knows he will be called to testify about the Clinton Administration's actions before the 9-11 Commission.  He, apparently, takes classified documents from the National Archive, which he knows is controlled and all the documents are tracked, and, apparently, takes those documents in a way that cannot be seen as anything but a willful attempt to unlawfully conceal and remove them from their location.

Does anybody think he really thought he would actually get away with the plan unscathed?

What could he have been thinking?  Here are a couple or theories:
  1. If he were a mole by Clinton sent in to cripple Kerry's campaign so that the field would be clear for Hillary in 2008 when she would not be facing an incumbent Republican, he may have done his job.  (It's too early to tell.)
  2. If he were attempting to prevent certain information from being discovered by the commission that shows that he and former and impeached President Clinton did not handle the threat of terrorism appropriately, he may have done that job, too. 

The first thought might just have some legs.  Kerry's biggest political disadvantage is his record of being the most liberal Senator in office, and that he has a record of not being all that supportive of America's national security.  Kerry's soft response to what Mr. Berger is accused to have done might just wound his chances in all of the states that were red (or just borderline blue) in the 2000 election. (See this article.)  Senator Snobby-Gigolo-Traitor Dwarf said:

"Sandy Berger is my friend, and he has tirelessly served this nation with honor and distinction. I respect his decision to step aside as an adviser to this campaign until this matter is resolved objectively and fairly." (emphasis added)

Yup...  It sure does look like Waffles is concerned first and foremost with national security!

The second thought has the additional advantage that it makes any attack on the him and or Clinton based on his actions inherently be based on the lack of information.  We don't, and may never, know what information was taken, and apparently destroyed.  I have seen no indication that there is any belief that Mr. Berger allowed uncleared personnel access to the classified information.  Therefore, Mr. Berger won't face espionage charges, only, relatively minor, charges of mis-handling classified information.

Republicans will have serious difficulty making long-term hay out of this because, eventually, the Democrats, and their friends in the major media, will point out that the accusers have no proof that the missing documents were damning of the Clinton Administration, and then follow that with the allegation that this entire fuss is totally partisan.  (It's already starting.)

It's a gutsy move.  Unfortunately, it might just work.  Republicans aren't allowed to capitalize on lack of evidence as an indication of wrongdoing, like the Democrats.  If we can't find copies of the information that Mr. Berger apparently took, chances are the Democrat big-wigs will be able to ride-out this scandal, and then play the part of the victim.

NOTE:  The pun in the title of this post was intended but I, in no way, intended any insult to the makers of Bubba Burgers who, unlike a certain past (impeached) president,  are (I'm sure) fine upstanding individuals who actually produce something of value to Americans.

Too good to be true?


Drudge has links to this UPI story:Nuclear arms reportedly found in Iraq

On the one hand, it really wouldn't surprise me if there really are nuclear arms eventually found in Iraq. All indication are that Saddam wanted to build them and had attempted to do so at various points throughout the last couple of decades, but I don't know that anyone thinks he actually HAD the weapons.

The story hasn't been corroborated and according to this story, Iraq's Interior Ministry has already dismissed the reports as "Stupid."

I suspect the origin of this story is someone attempting to dupe those who support President Bush to take some of the heat off of the Sandy Berger story. Or it could, less nefariously, be that somebody in Iraq is attempting to gain notoriety by crying "Wolf!" In any event, this news of an outright-slam-dunk vindication of President Bush's case for invading Iraq, even more than the multitude of hints of banned weapons and programs is too good to be true, and I smell a trap.

I hope I'm wrong about it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Pinkos, your legal theories hold no water. Now, move on.

It appears that the Commie-pinko-bedwetting-liberal faction (a.k.a. MoveOn.org with their friends at Common Cause) filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission yesterday (7/19/2004). Here's an article about the complaint which alleges that FoxNew's "Fair and Balanced" slogan.

On a good day in a totalitarian regime, that legal theory would be a stretch. Generally, FoxNews attempts to balance its editorial content numerically so that in an opinion show, such as Hannity & Colmes, you have one conservative (Hannity) and one liberal (Colmes) and the ideas are (usually) rationally debated. One of the things that ticks-off the liberals the most is that the news reporters are not rooting for the enemies of America. This, I suppose, is the basis for the claim that they aren't fair.

Too bad. You don't have to spend every spare moment of air-time highlighting the shortcomings of the nation whose liberties allow you to complain about it incessantly to call yourself Fair.

Even in a world where each complaint gets an actual review on it's alleged merits, FoxNews would prevail. Not only that, FoxNews could easily point to the implicit advertisements of trustworthiness of all the other networks as a reason to make the other networks give disclaimers of their biases. (Have you ever heard a sales pitch like, "More Americans trust..."?)

However, in America, there's a margin of play in complaints about what people say. A government agency needs to be careful when it comes in to regulate what is communicated because we still have (remnants of) the 1st Amendment! (See here and here for why I say "remnants.") The FTC has already slapped-down MoveOn's childish attempt to make FoxNews shut-up, and as succinct as it is, it's pretty conclusive. To save you the effort of clicking on the link, here's what FTC's Chairman, Mr. Timothy J. Muris, had to say:
I am not aware of any instance in which the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the slogan of a news organization. There is no way to evaluate this petition without evaluating the content of the news at issue. That is a task the First Amendment leaves to the American people, not a government agency.

Boom, baby! Game over.

A real Oracle of the near-term future?

I think I've found one.
Of course, not in any highly specific way, but a general market predictor for the next one to five quarters.


Seriously, Scott Adams gets his material from workers all over the country. It's very nearly real-time feedback about the state of the economy. During the bubble of the mid-late 90s, the Dilbert cartoons were about how the engineers, specifically, and employees, generally, could take advantage of their bosses and companies. Workers were in such short supply that bosses were afraid to fire marginally bad employees for fear of not being able to replace them.

During the downturn, the comics never turned absolutely desperate, but they did seem to show an "Empire Strikes Back" flavor, in which the bosses could reassert their dominance.

Currently, it seems like there's something of an equipoise, with perhaps a bit of a tilt in favor of the employer. I think that displays an underlying nervousness on all parts. The bosses are afraid that the expansion might be too much for the current workforce, so hiring is on, but finding qualified employees is very difficult. The employees seem to be afraid to assert themselves, because they aren't sure about their future.

I think that this is a gauge of the current state of the psychology of the business-place. It's a recipe for growth. Not outrageous growth, but solid advancement, nonetheless. The employees are scared enough to be productive, while not demanding too great a portion of the slowly expanding profits. The employers recognize that they can't depend on their current status-quo to meet the expanding market, and so they will, carefully for now, add employees.

By my interpretation, Dilbert brings us good news, but with a strong hint of uncertainty. I think the economic growth will continue, and probably for some time, because we're too afraid to goof-off and blow the recovery at this point. When the market psychology becomes too elated, that's going to be the beginning of the end... Let me clarify, I think that will indicate that the second derivative has changed, and the growth will continue for some time, but will slow, bit by bit, until it starts to reverse.

I don't know how this will impact the upcoming election. President Bush will be on solid ground to point-out to the nation that the growth we're experiencing is solid and impressive, but Waffles will have an easy time playing to the still-present fears. I'm going to be optimistic and predict that the growth will be sufficient to aid President Bush and he'll be re-elected, but Senator Waffles will be effective in stoking the embers of fear, and that will encourage Americans to keep our collective noses to the grindstone and keep growing America without taking a break to pat ourselves on the back.

Of course, I could be wrong... Predictions are tough, you know, especially the ones about the future!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Schwarzenegger was kind enough to provide a case study for me

As I said in the post immediately below, the Democrats are a party of splinter organizations. In California, the Democrats have been especially effective at ensuring that the members of the groups feel a greater loyalty to their groups than to the rest of the state.

Governor Schwarzenegger was able to take advantage of that characteristic recently. The Marin Independent Journal had this story about the Governator's comments where he called the opposition (Democrats) a bunch of "girlie-men" for not being able to stand up and vote on principle and needing to go back to their splinter groups to pander for support.

That pandering is the simple fact of their existence. California is big enough, however, that Governor Schwarzenegger can take advantage of that splintering to point out that the loyalty of the democrats is not to the majority of Californians as a whole, but rather to pockets of specific people.

Anybody who has any memory of the 80's Saturday Night Live "Hans and Franz" skits (which were, pretty much, a parody of Governor Schwarzenegger) will remember that the phrase "girlie men" was not an attack against women or gays, but rather an insult to any men who were not as strong as the "muscular" Hans and Franz. I suppose, if pointing out the simple fact that women, on average, are significantly weaker than men, then I suppose it's misogynistic, but it's not.

The beautiful thing that really illustrates my thesis is that the democratic response has not been to act on principle, but to try to fan the passions of other special-interest sub-groups... feminists and gays (who have short memories). I can't think of any event in recent memory that more clearly points out that the Republicans can fight from principles and the Democrats have to pander to splinter groups to find political power.

The joys of our political Duopoly

For some time, I've heard various people who are generally discontented with the political landscape complain of the lack of choices in our political system.  These discontented individuals often, in a ploy to sound intelligent, pull out big (or obscure) words, such as "duopoly" in their rants against reality.
Ron Smith, who has an afternoon radio program in Ball'mer (on 1090AM WBAL) is one of the biggest complainers about our duopoly.  He fancies himself a conservative-ish libertarian cynic.  He opposes the war in Iraq and entertains various conspiracy theories periodically.  To be sure, he does fairly good political analysis for Maryland state politics, but gets farther and farther from most conservatives the larger the scale of politics which he discusses.
Anyway, the basic argument goes something like this:
In our two-party country, the Republicans and Democrats work together to keep alternative voices from being heard and, in the grand scheme of things, they aren't all that different, so we don't ever really have a choice.

This quasi-conspiracy theory sounds plausible, I suppose, but it just didn't smell right to me.  So, the questions that arise are these:
  1. Why do we have only two dominant political parties? and
  2. Would three or more political parties of approximately equal strength actually promote greater political choice?
To answer the first, I need to examine the second.  As to whether the existence of three or more approximately equal major political parties would encourage greater political choice, I think the answer has to be a resounding "NO."
In any representative elective system (in the vernacular, a "democracy") an election results in A SINGLE winner for each position.  Some nations require an actual majority, but others only require a "largest share" of the electorate.  In any event, if no major party can be totally certain about its ability to win outright, it will attempt to seek alliances with various other political organizations that will guarantee it sufficient votes to defeat all others.
These alliances or "coalitions" are formed by compromise.
If "Rubbin' is racin'" then "Compromise is politics."
However, WHAT a group is willing to compromise on is the measure of its core values.  When political organizations, which tend to take-on a life of their own, and will tend to take actions necessary to guarantee their own survival, are incentivized to compromise, and in such a way that more compromise means more victory, then politics becomes all about posturing to create a veneer for the public and a total lack of substance beneath.
So...  When you've got several political parties that can make a legitimate play for office, you create a system in which the least powerful group(s) will be able to auction it's share of the electorate to the highest bidder.  The top parties will seek the votes of the lesser party (parties) by promising whatever they want.  The inevitable result is always that the society rushes into one flavor of socialism or another.   Why Socialism?  The promise of political office is the power to use the power of the government at the discretion of the leader.   What is promised, therefore, is the use of governmental power in specific ways.  What is asked for is, almost without exception, some favorable treatment of the electorate from which votes are sought.  Very quickly the government becomes the "nanny state" and then, before long, "Big Brother."  That's socialism.
The political choice may appear to increase with multiple (3 of more) major parties, and, in rhetoric, it will.  However, the result will be far less actual distinction.  All parties will play to each other's issues.  Compromise will reign supreme and "principle" will be a fantasy and a joke among the powerful.  Each person attempting to win election to office will promise grand visions that sound like principle, but then do the same dirty-work to satisfy the same special interest groups that any other politician would do.
In America, we do, basically, have a duopoly.  It's not though.  We have one party of actual dominance, and we have another party that might have greater raw numbers but exists as a coalition of splinter groups whose primary similarity is their opposition to the dominant party.
The Republican Party is the dominant party in America.  I say that because, in America, to win elective office (for almost all races) you only need a "largest share."  The Republican Party has a remarkably monolithic philosophy, or set of core values.  These core values are the core values of practicing Christians, though not explicitly religious.  Creativity, self-reliance, and personal value are chief among them, and from them flow the policies which have been popular and successful.  To Republicans, the one who works has, by far, the greatest claim to the wealth that work creates, and the government, only has a (legitimate) claim to a small portion of that wealth to support the fundamental structure that facilitates individual effort and creates a safe and orderly society in which individuals can prosper from their efforts.
Democrats, (or perhaps a better name for them would be "Anti-Republicans") basically are drawn together in opposition to the core values of the Republican party more than anything else.  The Democratic party consists of many splinter organizations which do not have many policy issues in common and are often directly at-odds with each other.  The result is that national Democrat leaders have to continually pander to special interest groups.
The Republican Party's dominance, or philosophical homogeneity creates a rather uniform-looking body of adherents.  The Republican Party philosophy really is a "Big Tent" because anybody who wants to play by the rules that will benefit the nation as a whole is fully welcome, but not everybody is instilled with those values, and those who are are generally from one cultural background.
A stable duopoly, I think, represents a situation where there is actual choice.  It's a choice between a solid philosophy held by a substantial proportion of the population and the opposition to it.  In this system, standing on principle is really possible.  Just look at President Reagan or President George W. Bush.  With a sufficiently large body of people who believe in one philosophy, the leader can stand up against, at least in some ways, the pull to move to socialism.
I can hear some of you now complaining about President Bush's (and Reagan's) spending.  To be sure, spending comes from the legislature, but we all know that presidents drive initiatives that require funding, and can approve spending or not, so, the presidents really do get to take a significant proportion of the blame (or credit) for governmental spending.
I think that these, in many ways demonstrate that even when you stand on principle, you have to play the game of compromise that is "politics."  In the compromise, however you see where the values of the president are.  Both President Bush and President Reagan compromised on spending to get a stronger national defense and lower individual tax burdens in return.  If spending control were the core value of either president, it would have been easy to not cut taxes and cut defense spending instead.  Fortunately, however, Presidents Reagan and Bush both had a vision for a strong nation in which individuals were free to benefit from their own efforts.
In spite of what the Democrats say about President Reagan, those who play the game of politics know that Reagans policies were so successful that they cannot, really, be denied.  When the economic engine is not starved for cash (which is like air to an internal-combustion engine) the creativity and effort of the people (like the gasoline) is able to move mountains and create wealth.  The undeniability of "Reaganomics" had some interesting side-effects.  Namely, it has watered-down the Republican party with people who recognize the value and effectiveness of the Reaganomic policies but who do not share the core principles from which they sprung.
I suppose I'll write more about that phenomenon later.  The take-away point of all of this is that the existence of a stable duopoly demonstrates that there is a real choice, and not just a choice of campaign rhetoric.  Without the Republican Party, the Democratic party would not really exist anymore.  It would have long-sense splintered into rival factions of special interest groups.  The reality of the consistent core values of the Republican Party has forced the Democrats into one organization in spite of their natural inclination to selfishly seek their own interests at the expense of the other sub-groups.
In the end, I think this explains why the Democrats are so successful at local levels.  In localities, one or two closely related special interest groups which are part of the larger Democratic party can rise in power to the point that they actually have a majority, locally.  Nationally, these small organizations have a very difficult time settling on a single person who sufficiently satisfies the special interests.  The Republicans have the opposite problem.
In the end, if you don't like a duopoly, you're free to go somewhere that has a multitude of political parties.  Enjoy France, I'll stick with America, where I have a choice.
NOTE:  Wikipedia has this discussion of the Two-Party System of government.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Dishonest Criticism from the Breck Girl

It seems that the the Breck Girl is now complaining that President Bush should take responsibility for intelligence failures.

At first glance that might seem like a reasonable complaint and well within the realm of honest political discourse. At first glance...

However, it's dishonest in a very important way. The comparison, of course, that Senator Metrosexual Dwarf is making is between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

I have no problem, and I think it's appropriate for a leader to take responsibility for actions taken under him. That means taking the blame when things go wrong, generally. I, personally think that Prime Minister Blair went too far, however, because he took responsibility for reasonable mistakes of fact in interpreting the best information that was available. If the mistake was reasonable, then an apology for anything other than unfortunate results is unnecessary.

However, apologizing for a mistake is one thing, but taking responsibility for the result is another, and a more complete way to address the issue. President Bush has, in acknowledging the weaknesses in the intelligence gathering apparatus of our government, stood by his decisions and actions that he took. When you stand up for the actions you stand up for everything that led to those actions.

Leadership is more than taking responsibility for the mistakes of those beneath you. It's about making decisions and acting and being willing to face the repercussions for those decisions and actions. It says a lot more, I think that both President Bush AND Prime Minister Blair have continued to stand by their decisions and are convinced that, not only should we continue to do the job that we started, but that the decision was absolutely right according to what they knew then and what is known now.

The Breck Girl had the gall to say:
The truth is this: What we need in the White House is somebody who has the strength, courage and leadership to take responsibility and be accountable not only for what's good, but for what's bad. That's what (Sen.) John Kerry will be.

Excuse the heck outta me here, folks, but has Senator Waffles ever really taken responsibility for anything? Sure, he admitted to being a war criminal, but he knew he didn't really face any negative repercussions, so all he risked was becoming more popular among the anti-war crowd that has become his political base. How about his votes since he's been in office? He votes both sides of important issues and apparently bends to political winds rather than standing up for his principles. Heck, how responsible can we think that a President Waffles might be if he can't be bothered to take the intelligence briefings offered to him or to read the intelligence reports given to him.

Granted Senator Waffles IS the most liberal senator currently in office, so maybe it's unfair to say that he doesn't stick up for his principles. Nevertheless, he doesn't show up to vote most of the time. He's only authored a couple of bills in all of his years in the Senate, and he brags about being "nuanced." Just so that you know, "nuance" is the fancy French word that liberals use for the tactic whereby a politician claims to stand for one thing but makes excuses for acting in a manner inconsistent with that claim. (For example, Waffles supports the troops and voted for funding them before he voted against it... but he had a reason or something.)

Whole lotta responsibility on the "D" ticket, eh.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Intelligence Failures

Is it just me?

Does it seem to anybody else that most (or all) of those who are complaining most vigorously about the various intelligence failures in the War on Terror and the lead-up to the Iraq War themselves, not only are suffering an intelligence failure of their own but also are completely devoid of common sense?

BTW, sorry for my absence. I have been and still am pretty busy, but mostly I didn't feel all that inspired to write for the last few days.

Here's an AP story about the just-released "Butler Report". Here's one about the 9-11 Commission report that is set to be released shortly.

The people who are trumpeting the intelligence failures miss the BIG point. They're Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking and they are taking the failure of our efforts to find large stockpiles of WMDs as proof-positive that no WMDs ever (since the early 90s) existed in Iraq.

Aside from the amazing logical problems with that tactic, it's disingenuous.

(NOTE: Rhetorical question coming.)

Why aren't the headlines touting the fact that our leaders acted responsibly with the intelligence that they had available to them? All of the reports say that. Lord Butler, at a press conference at the time of the release of his report, said:
The clearest evidence that the British government hadn't got an intention to mislead is that it would have been a very foolish thing to do to say that these weapons were there, when as a result of the war the fact that whether they were or not was going to be established so soon.

And the report said, "We should record in particular that we have found no evidence of deliberate distortion or of culpable negligence."

So... What's the problem?

Quite simply, those opposed to the free nations taking action to protect themselves, will accept nothing less than perfection. Reasonable mistake (and the evidence of actual mistake is still based primarily on the lack of overwhelming proof of accuracy) is, apparently a concept that escapes the pro-Ba'athists in the major media (and Democrats, generally).

We don't expect perfection of Police. We desire it, of course, but we don't demand it. Really, if a police officer sees what he, or any other reasonable officer under those exact conditions reasonably believes is a fire-arm aimed at him by a suspect at close-range, should the officer be sent to jail for shooting the suspect after making that mistake? (Lets assume the officer is lawfully pursuing the suspect at the time, ok?) No! You review the circumstances to determine if any other reasonable officer in similar circumstances AT THAT MOMENT would be likely to come to the same conclusion and take similar action. If that analysis comes back in the affirmative, then the police officer who mistakenly shot the suspect is in the clear. Any further investigation should be limited to refining training or procedures to, if possible increase the accuracy, but there is no prosecution by hindsight.

The profound lack of common sense, in my humble opinion, is in setting the standard at perfection. Remember, perfect is the enemy of good. Demanding perfection paralyses people. Have you ever watched a kid's little-league game where all the children are new to the game? Sure, they might know the techniques of how to hit, catch, and throw a ball, but they haven't figured out the tactics of the game. My oldest daughter was on a little-league team this year and about half of the girls had never played softball before (including my kid). They did well and came in second in the league, but with very few exceptions, the kids simply couldn't figure out where to throw the ball. Every game there was at least one time when a kid, usually the short-stop, catcher or outfielder, would get the ball and not know who to throw it to. In her indecision, she would hold on to the ball and the play would continue. The reason the kid wouldn't just throw it to somebody was that she desperately didn't want to be wrong about her choice. The fear of being wrong, of being imperfect, paralyzed her and, where any throw would likely help, in some way, the failure to throw hurt her team.

The analogy is that, in important matters, like national defense, error can be catastrophic. If you act and are wrong, you're responsible for deaths, often many of them, but if you fail to act out of FEAR of being wrong, you may allow (or cause) just as many deaths. The GOAL of the 9-11 Commission was supposed to determine if we had actionable intelligence that we COULD have acted upon to prevent the terrorist attacks. The fact is that, even if we had compiled all of the clues that we did have, we still didn't have enough intelligence to act. The second goal of the 9-11 Commission is supposed to be to determine if there is ANY improvement that could fix the intelligence gathering process and machinery to improve the accuracy and likelihood that we could, in future similar circumstances, HAVE actionable intelligence.

Pre-September-11, the world, especially America, didn't really comprehend the risk inherent in a hijacking. Now, not only do we recognize that each and every airplane is a potential cruise missile, but we also recognize that there is almost no limit to the type of attack that those who are working to cause our destruction actively (read Islamic terrorists) will utilize. With that profound understanding, the calculus of deciding to use military force has changed dramatically. If we fail to act when we have a good reason to believe action is required, the potential result is thousands of civilian casualties. If we do act, we spend billions of dollars, risk the lives of those who have volunteered to serve in the military and may endanger the lives of people who are too close to those who have given us a reason to believe they are attempting to attack us.

Demanding that intelligence be perfect BEFORE acting does not reduce the risk to our civilian populations at all. In fact, it increases the risk substantially. Those who want to attack us just need to continue to use enough subterfuge to leave some doubt about what and when they plan to attack, and little will be done to prevent their attacks.

Perhaps, since the results of establishing a standard of perfection is so glaringly obvious, perhaps it's not an intelligence failure or lack of common sense. The better explanation would have to be some significant amount of malice. Some amount of belief that America deserves death and destruction, or at least does not deserve to be safe.

Thanks but no thanks. We can't afford to treat this as a matter of criminal justice, because police have no duty too act to prevent crime unless it's happening right in front of them. They, primarily spend their time trying to catch the bad-guys AFTER the crime has been committed. Are you willing to be the next victim so that a President Waffles would have a reason to finally act in America's interest? As for me, I prefer the guy who is willing to act on available intelligence when it indicates a probable serious risk BEFORE American civilians die.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Moore shocked, some little people doubt his claim to deity

The Puppy Blender has this post with a link to this NY Daily News article: Lloyd Grove's Lowdown: With Spidey, less is Moore. (Also, this strangely accurate prediction of this turn of events about which NY Daily News has written from Scrappleface)

As could have been predicted by anyone, Spiderman 2 beat the ever-lovin' stuffin' outta Moore's Propaganda 9/11.

Apparently Moore hadn't gotten the memo that his 15 Minutes expired a while back and so, while congratulating himself on his own celebrity, a Spidey viewer who was leaving the showing he had just attended had to inform Mr. Moore thusly:
"Not everyone thinks you're God, Moore!"

That tidbit was followed by a testimonial of Kid Rock, apparently not being an entertainment-crowd leming. Apparently Kid Rock refused to watch 9/11 saying "I don't want to see that, it's all propaganda."

When his friends chose to see it anyway, Kid Rock bid them farewell. Purportedly, Kid Rock left a note on his friend's car that read:
Vote Bush. Bush Rocks

This election is going to be a tight one, no doubt, but I think that the internet is going to have an interesting effect. For years, communication has been up to a few organizations. If the news media wanted to portray America as anti-war they would only show pictures of the hand-full of people protesting the war. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, that I can't imagine was accidental. As the few who controlled the media reported that left was normal, the enetertainment crowd which exists to please the masses moved leftward to catch-up with where they thought the nation was, so that they would not be left behind by the gravy-train. After the entertainment elite had moved left, then they were influential spokespersons for advancing the left's causes. In doing that, they actually did start to move larger numbers of people to the left.

Now in the age of the internet, real feedback is possible. As the entertainment elite become aware of the Blogsphere, they are becoming exposed to the fact that America is not monolitically left of center, politically. Reading what real people are thinking and what we care about cannot help but inform the entertainment elite of why, mysteriously, people like President Bush get elected, and why the Democrats are having such a hard time raising money from grass-roots organizations.

Perhaps, this realization that is slowly permiating the nation, including Hollywood, that the nation is not all that liberal won't reform many or any in the entertainment elite, but it might allow those among them who havent' fully bought-in to the liberal line that they don't have to to be popular.

In the Blogsphere, the marketplace of ideas has become a jungle where only the strong can thrive, but that's OK. The savage wonderland of ideas is not without it's predators... The future of the Blogsphere may not be certain but I imagine that eventually we'll assimilate or consume all those who would try to destroy us.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Senator Waffles: Beguiled by the Breck-Girl, already!

Senator Waffles picked the Breck-Girl as his running-mate this morning. That wasn't a surprise. When I read WHY the Snobby-Gigolo-Traitor Dwarf picked the Metrosexual Dwarf, I was surprised.
"I have chosen a man who understands and defends the values of America...

Boy, will Waffles be red-faced when the Breck-Girl whispers the correction to him. I'm sure what confused Senator Waffles was that the Breck-Girl HAD said that he knows the value of many successful Americans, since he had uncovered their financial records in discovery while suing them, and defending against summary judgment motions that they filed.

Oh well... It's not as if this is the first time the facts have been at odds with stuff that Waffles has flip-flopped about.

Senator Waffles picks the Breck-Girl

The Nation yawns with baited breath.

News is breaking this morning that Senator Waffles, the presumptuous, er, presumptive DUMB-o-cRAT nominee, has picked the Senator John "The Breck-Girl" Edwards as his running mate.

Beautiful. The MOST liberal senator picks one of the other most liberal senators to be his running mate. Both senators, both liberal.

It seems kinda funny to me that Senator Waffles picked Metrosexual Dwarf as his running mate since the Breck-Girl spent so much time railing against the REALLY rich people in America during his attempted run for the nomination. Never mind the fact that the Breck-Girl is worth Several tens of millions of dollars, and that's even more than a good half of the readers of this blog can probably claim. It's odd since Senator Kerry is the richest Senator in office. Let me clarify, Senator Waffles is rich, not because he's produced anything or sold a service that's valuable to society... no he marries rich women. His current wife, from whom he gets almost all of his wealth got her money from her late first husband, who was a REPUBLICAN senator. He's certainly a role model for America.

I can see the future Waffles/Breck-Girl campaign... It'll focus on making America productive. That's what the Dems are big on, right? And Kerry and Edwards know a lot about doing their jobs concientiously, or not?

Friday, July 02, 2004

Democrats... Dirty Tricks... No! You don't say?!

The AP has this story: Nader Accuses Democrats of 'Dirty Tricks'

I saw this statement by Ralph Nader, and I had to laugh:
"'We have to get a clarification if [the democrats are] going to engage in dirty tricks"

They're Democrats! Of course, they're going to engage in dirty tricks. If you don't have a moral foundation, then the only thing that's improper is getting caught.

If you think that the Democrats have a moral foundation, you've got a lot of 'splainin' to do... Bill Clinton, Michael Moore, Johnny Chung (Clinton illegal fundraiser), Mr. Al "No controlling legal authority" Gore, etc.

Explain also: Why it is that the primary inclination of the Democrats , at every juncture within the last 60 years or so where National Security was at issue, was to avoid doing anything that our enemies would dislike?

Don't get me wrong, I know that there are a lot of registered Democrats who love the country, and just happen to think that the policies espoused by the Democratic Party sound good. Most of those voters never bother to analyze the issue any more deeply than how the policy makes them feel, and I don't think those people have a serious moral deficiency. They've got issues in that they won't think issues through, but that's not, exactly a problem of morality. It's the Democratic leadership who knowingly devise policies that work against the best interest of the citizens of the nation, and pander to base instincts who are totally culpable.

Dirty Tricks? - To them no trick that helps them win is dirty. Ralph, prepare for the wrath of the Government-Is-God Hords. They will not abide your petulant insistence on exercising your rights when you might come between them and what they lust after.

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