28 January 2008

reactions to bush farewell address

"he is the president so why is he asking us to fix things! Thats his job."

I rest my case. I have no words to explain the discrepancy between reality and this dream land that a young woman from facebook inhabits. I would name her, but to be fair, this is probably the attitude of a great many people who could never be bothered to actually read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Federalist Papers. I'm more and more convinced we need some manner of common sense check in order to allow people to vote in this country.. because the government does not exist (or cannot exist for long) to provide for the people in their needs and wants.

SotU live blog

In the spirit of a favored sports writer, I figured I'd go blow by blow here. I already have some good idea what is about to said anyway. I'm sure if anyone follows this, they know I'm not going to be happy with the 'education' portions. I'm going with C-SPAN to get minimal interference via commentary. Plus in the unlikely event someone decides to try to decapitate our government tonight, I'll make sure to note it.

9:05pm I'm always confused as to why so many handshakes have to be made when it's pretty obvious these people can't work together to resolve problems other than spending our money rapidly. It is funny to watch a collection of stiffs trying to make small talk and after a few moments simply standing awkwardly around and adjusting suits.

9:07p, Bush announced, but it seems to take a few minutes to walk the political gauntlet. Why these people cheer... oh wait, right, it's the last one of these ghastly things done by Bushv2. I suppose we can hope someone who can make a speech will be on next year, but that's small consolation to the likely political bent.

9:11 Vigorous debate? I haven't seen much of debating. There's a juxtaposition for calling on cooperation and debate on the same sentence that makes my head spin.

9:13.. I don't recall the Constitution empowering 'ordinary citizens'. Economy did have to be first on the topic. Really the only thing the government does, including this goofy stimulus idea, is to inspire confidence. I like the shot of Rangel sitting passively for the tax relief plan since he's undoubtedly wanting to shoot some pork into the bill.

9:15 IRS takes checks and money orders. I suppose we could go to a send whatever you want method. There's a thought.

9:20 That whole cooperation thing went away as soon as we could say 'raise taxes' and 'veto'. American families don't balance their budgets. There's a reason these DC morons spend money like water. Why haven't they put something in there already for HSAs and private insurance already.. that's been mentioned for oh.. 4 years in a row.
Bush needs to a) stop twitching. and b) stop using the word empower for Americans. Americans are already empowered. The government is the portion getting empowered.

9:25p NCLB sucks. No amount of rhetoric which says it is working is not going to declare it a success. It reminds me of the Trump element for Iraq, bring everyone home and just say we won. This federal education stuff is silly. Bring it forward as a tax credit on the federal or state level and leave it alone. Tax credits can be spent individually or used to fund college funds/scholarships. Grants and vouchers, not so much because they get tied to religious education.

9:30p.. Columbia fighting drug traffickers and terrorists. Poorly. Very poorly. And all because we haven't figured out that the drug war needs to be fought on a demand level, not a supply side. Again with the 'empowering Americans'.

9:32p.. Nu-cle-ar. heh. Never could get that one could you Mr President? No cheering for clean air in India and China.. but plenty for the 'greenhouse gases'.. weird.

9:35p I'm sure those stem cell embryos aren't human life.. .yet, but as far as I've seen it isn't yet very promising research anyway. So what's the point. They don't have regs on the cloning of human beings.. do we need them?

9:37p.. What the hell is Pelosi reading? Boy she faded into the backdrop of history fast once she got her position. For all the worrying over her newfound authority, she hasn't managed to do much with it. Social Security.. I like it being listed as 'entitlement' program. There's a derogatory statement for it. It is funny how Bush put forward a plan and all that happened is people complained about it rather than a) trying to understand it before denigrating it and b) offering a counter-proposal that actually does something to attack the problem, hopefully better.

9:40.. What are these highest ideals and how do they conflict with immigration? Illegal immigrants, I guess.. nope don't conflict with highest ideals. Simple solution, penalize the bosses. Arizona already made the blueprint and illegals are fleeing in droves.

9:42p.. "Advance of freedom".. "justice to our enemies".. whatever this means, it doesn't seem reasonably consistent with what we've been doing. America is the 'world's policeman', thus a force of order and security, not freedom. Freedom unfortunately doesn't work like Johnny Appleseed. It actually seems to need some semblance of stability through an advanced economy and semi-educated population in order to work. There have been exceptions.

9:45. "If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to." It would have been nice if they'd figured that out several years ago. Like before the invasion. It seems to me that Wolfwitz and Rumsfeld need to be brought up and shot or detained in military prisons for being complete dumbasses and not listening to the generals on how to run a war (I'm not worried that they went to war without my tacit approval, but they didn't seem all that interested in doing it properly or rather they seemed to assume that their enemies would cooperate in their defeat). I would say Bushv2, but we already knew he was an idiot. Why people were in a hurry to go to war with this man at the helm..

9:50p. It is strange that a SotU for the USA has about 20 minutes devoted to the state of Iraq. Safer America doesn't just mean physical security. I wish people would understand that safety is a general illusion brought on by a general agreement to be civilized. Once that's set aside, boom. Security also entails general positive futures because security is also the basic expectation that life will go on (and eventually maybe even get better). ... Iran.. .perhaps we should try another coup d'eat. That's only slightly illegal though.

9:55p Is this thing over yet? Basically he's prattling on about things that do not in any way improve our ability to make war on terrorists. Would we be in greater danger simply because the terrorists would be able to use global communications more freely? What basis do we have that a) they need to coordinate and b) they can't use more primitive and patient methods to do so? Human intelligence, fine. Reliance on communications intercepts from Americans.. sounds a bit like a mission creep to me.

10:00p. What part of funding democracy in foreign nations, when it is convenient to us, is necessary. Trade will usually suffice to create stablity. It doesn't always work (Germany top trade partner prior to WW1 and 2: France). The fact that we have a huge military should take care of most countries though. In any case, our top allies in this 'global war on terror' have been places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which are hardly democracies. Burma or Cuba, not very important globally.. they'd better be democratic. Pakistan.. hmm.. nuclear and long-time ally.. they'd better be stable. Sounds to me like stability is more important than democracy to the general order.

10:02. Finally. I'm glad not much was really said on education aside from the bald-faced self-congratulatory lies that the federal programs are working.

Some of the commentary after on other channels: Ideological check list that is mandatory for a 'republican president'.. isn't it necessary for either party?
It is an interesting point that these Presidents keep trying to set up a Mid East peace accord in the final years of their terms, when they no longer have any real political weight. Maybe someone should start on that in their first year. Just a thought.

18 January 2008

they are still changing


Specifically here, I'm confused about the 'blasting' over a Reagan reference in the Democratic primaries. Several amusing points developed.

1) Reagan being an agent of change but 'being openly intolerant of unions' is somehow not being an agent of change. Unions used to be an agent of change. I'm not sure what they are anymore, but the fact that he was 'openly intolerant' doesn't mean much by itself.
2) Tax structure that 'favors the rich'. Last time I checked the rich pay more in taxes than the middle class. Incredibly more. In any case, the 'struggling' middle class has since the 1980s become considerably richer. American standards of living are ridiculously high in comparison to other countries. Complaining about this is pretty silly.

And then the original quotation that somehow brought on these spurious remarks "I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not," Obama said. "He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing." --- Which is basically an analysis of history. When it is considered that Vladimir Putin was Time's man of the year this year and Josef Stalin was 3 times, it's not necessary for a historian to agree with the types of change that occur, merely to understand the agents who help bring them about, or who capitalize on the need and timing for it. Bill Clinton pretty obviously did not do much. Those years spent searching for a 'legacy' were of no use to causing real and effective changes in the country and it's dynamics. Reagan, for better and worse, did.

16 January 2008

inflation, yes have some


(I'm not sure what ap on bi go ec fi means)

Story points out that food and energy prices rose a lot, making the inflation rate what it was. But neglected in the coverage is the steady rise of higher education costs and medical care. They do mention medical care, but it's buried in the back end of the story. It beat out food cost rises.

Food, based on the general waistline of Americans, probably should be rising in cost. This however assumes that it is largely the foods that Americans are consuming in copious amounts and not some things that might be overall healthy in their effect. I did notice bananas went up 2 cents a pound. And milk seems to be on sale less often. That's about it.

In any case the idea that inflation is a constant for all people is something that Americans like to believe, but seem to be ignorant about. It's rather silly to index consumer prices for anything because those prices rise more sharply for some people over others. Parents with college age children or the elderly, people with high levels of travel in their work, etc. For most people, while the energy spike was troubling and worth complaining about, very few Americans did anything about it. Fewer SUVs or trucks were sold I suppose. Whoopie.

update to real id


There's actually several different updates to the recently enacted REAL Id law. Several key points
1) The law was tacked onto a defense spending bill and was not in open forum debate or even in committee debates in Congress.
2) No federal funding is provided for the increase in bureaucracy and lost productivity, meaning most states will refuse to follow it for lack of funding (border states may be a notable exception).
3) It doesn't accomplish anything other than to conjure up images of black and white news reels of Soviet Russia or Eastern Bloc countries and the people there who need government papers to do anything at all.

There's some supposition that it might cut down on identity theft. But as I've come to understand the principle reason that that's such a common crime now is because so many people we conduct business or regular affairs with are unknown and anonymous to us. We live in such a mobile society as well that it is even easier for someone to move into a new community with assumed identities and few if any questions will be raised. At its face, it would do well for places that issue identification of any sort do some measure of verification or checking. Credit issuing agencies or the DMV barely do this, thus the reason it is so easy to commit identity theft. To say nothing of the reasons it is so easy to get away with. And in any case, most ID theft cases have little to do with one's state issued identity cards. It's usually disgruntled employees, co-workers, or family members who get hold of some discarded form or application. So the amount of discouragement it would actually provide is pitifully small.

But the supposed reasons for the actual passage of the law, the basis of it and the regulations being handled by the Dept of Homeland Security (another government excess in and of itself) were to combat terrorism. Now I will grant that someone can say just about anything is an initiative to combat terrorism and it will pass because no sensible politician wants to be described as 'supporting terrorists'. Even voting against those most unreasonable things that offer little to no effective advantages in security and counter-terrorist capability is later construed as a weak record, hence the Patriot Act and FISA courts. But issuing a federal identification paper does not restrict the ability of terrorists to commit atrocities. (This is the same circular reasoning that says that gun control will reduce crime, by definition it increases it because people who acquire illegal guns have broken the law and people who want to commit crimes anyway have another one to add to the list).

I'm really quite despondent at the level we've sunk to. The idea that government is doing 'nothing' when we as Americans have a ridiculously high standard of living and (most of us) have a clean and safe environment in which to conduct our affairs because that government is doing 'nothing'. Instead, the government is given license to expand its power in the issue of safety because people believe the government is responsible for that safety. It isn't. It is responsible for creating conditions that feel safe (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness line). Its appointed agents have duties to help us if they see immediate need and to constrain problems that it cannot always control (like say hurricane refugees). But its agents and agencies are not ubiquitous. We have the ultimate responsibilities. Maybe that is a scary thought for most, but I for one certainly wouldn't want to live in a society where I am given no powers whatsoever. Ideas like this ID card are a slippery slope toward that country.

free speech


This is really the biggest and easiest knock on McCain. It's not the "amnesty" bill or his trademark arrogant 'straight talk'. It's the idea that somehow politics is and has to be 'clean'. It never has been. There's no reason for it to be. What politics does is allow societies to allocate resources on a social level. But people are selected to allocate them, and people can be twisted, contorted, or out right liars. Sometimes this is a good thing, even fulfilling the 'greater good' as McCain sees it, sometimes not.

I agree there are needs to reform the finance arrangements for elections, and that mudslinging or negative campaign ads are generally a waste of time. But that doesn't mean that a candidate cannot run them or that a we should create restrictions and regulations on who and when they can be run. The concept of 'equal time' is pretty ridiculous too. Nobody ever said the election had to be 'fair'. Candidates can and have done just about anything to beg, borrow, or steal elections in America (except kill people, dead people can vote, but murdering them is not so wise). That isn't changing because the government says it should. Otherwise the government wouldn't be staying in charge very long.

There's good reason that I'd prefer a system like a European parliamentary system where coalitions are needed to get anything accomplished at all because it makes it a 'clean government'. It is easier for people to find different points of view in politics somewhere rather than pooling their hopes on one of two choices and assuming that a shared point of view on one particular issue is not accompanied by a radically different view on some other related issue. Ideologically, America really has more view points than is typical because of the diverse cultures from which it has historical roots in and the massive economic and educational differences. We just don't see it because for some reason the public has bullshitted itself into believing that the two parties are radically different. Some of the candidates are, but the parties aren't that different.

What McCain is doing through McCain-Feingold is make it harder to achieve this 'clean' government because it restricts the ability of people to whine and complain (sometimes accurately) about the candidates that are elected. Not to mention putting a ridiculous strain on the ability to police the various resources and outlets available for individuals to voice their concerns (or just to plain old mudsling). Mudslinging is unpleasant, wasteful and distracts the intellectual voter with unimportant information on which to base their decisions. But other than that, it's hardly so much of the unclean function of politics that we must remove it to have a cleaner election. If, as he claims, his motivation is that it fosters distrust of government, I say this is a healthy thing. America was born out of suspicion of government.

Strangely, it's really the one point that the Democrats probably would not be able to hard press him on because they have voiced considerable restraints over conservative talk radio hosts or other major media outlets who cause dismay to their causes (swift boats was apparently the impetus for the law in the first place). Most reasonable people might find it easier to simply create a public resource that demonstrates where or from whom money is coming to a candidate. In the absence of legitimate and meaningful political parties, this is probably the only way to have a 'clean government' because informed people (those that make up the swing votes in close elections) will be able to make informed choices. Considering the random rags that pass for journalism in the supermarkets, it seems to me that the average person is going to be assaulted with a series of worthless and bizarre pieces of information on these candidates anyway. It is the informed consumer of politics to which a candidate must take aim with some information to sway one way or the other. That takes more work than sound bytes and tabloid leaks on their opponents. But it is work that cannot be done with such restrictions on free speech as McCain-Feingold makes. The idea that a government that does not respect the rights of its public as listed in its own Constitution can be a 'clean government' is manifestly ridiculous.

In other news, Moody is considering lowering the US A+++ bond rating (insurance companies are usually satisfied with A+, or A++). We might want to explain to DC that Social Security is a donation to the elderly for people my age. None of that money is coming back unless something is done now to fix it, reform it or otherwise make amends. At the very least, I should be able to write it off as a deduction for charitable contributions.

14 January 2008

monty the categorical imperative


Anybody needing a refresher course in philosophy should start here.

11 January 2008

paperz please


I'm really tired of this idea that we need to be 'secure'. There are any number things that are related to this 'REAL ID' that made sense. Verifying SS numbers for example, taking pictures of con artists or illegals. But did these things require an overhaul of how driver's licenses were distributed and issued? Not really. Mostly they required less bureaucratic laziness. This idea perpetuates the laziness and replaces it with something potentially easier to commit fraud with (because of the laziness that allowed to begin with).

why don't you just ask for a gagillion dollars


I'm rather annoyed at lawsuits anymore. I think we should seriously consider a loser pays system. 3 quadrillion dollars for 'pain, suffering, and damages'? You, whoever you are, are an idiot. I'm personally disappointed that the storm did not add wrongful death to the claims listing there; Darwin clearly needs help. Are there legitimate problems and claims for Katrina due to negligence, absolutely. Does that mean that any one person's claim should dwarf the entire national economy, no. I haven't yet been impressed by the quality of the New Orleans residents in their handling of this matter (including re-electing Nagin). And this sort of thing makes it clear that these are people bound and determined to believe that the government exists to take care of them. Perhaps not living in a city that partially rests below sea level next time?

Or perhaps demanding that the city leaders pressure for necessary civil improvements? I heard few such complaints from the public masses prior to the disaster of Katrina. It was mostly a few meteorologists or oceanographic researchers who said Narleans was in trouble. So perhaps these morons should shut up and quit pretending they are owed something so outrageous. Some amount will be attributed, but it won't be ridiculous. To my mind anything exceeding the total claims of the city of New Orleans (77B) is going to be ridiculous.

doesn't look spacious to me


And on the flip side, 'environmentalists' are pissed about a car that gets 50mpg and is so small it probably produces little to no pollution? What the hell is wrong with these people?
It doesn't look nearly spacious to me, but then I don't fit too well into most smaller cars. I suspect that the average Indian citizen has a much easier time of it.

myspace isn't useless


See, myspace isn't totally useless after all. It can get those common folk so worked up that they demand resignations from their public officials. I'm waiting for it to cause defenestrations, but I guess this is a start. On the other hand.. demanding that they resign because of some 'racy' pictures? There are plenty of famous people who have fake pictures online somewhere, undoubtedly in considerably less attire and probably with considerably less appeal.

10 January 2008

divorce game


Ah ha! That's funny. Not sure which of them should be more pissed off.

09 January 2008

the story continues


It's odd what comes out about things that the media drops. Looks to me like there's a reason these things drop out of the news. Sounds or smells like whatever the media wanted to sell as the story doesn't hold water, which means they need to change the tune.

The case, if we remember, dominated the news with it's associated marches and protests. But the reality looks like it was a lot of huff and puff trying to clear a fatally flawed youth with the sense of entitlement so common to those our society is quick to admire (athletes are among these). There's a good deal of racism that does need to be engaged and dealt with, if possible, but it would be best if we could not load a case with it's fire and brimstone pulpit speeches when it's not worth the effort. Race baiting isn't going to solve anything either.

08 January 2008

violence in media


Damn NY Times links are long to type out.

Anyway, it's rather funny to see a major news outlet reporting that violence in media actually reduces real life violence. Twice in the last couple of weeks has NY Times run stories running against the grain. Weird. They fire an editor that I didn't hear about? I don't quite think it's necessarily the violent gory movies that are toning down the violent offenders. I recall seeing that during baseball's heyday, a city with a winning team in it could expect a big drop off in crime while the team was playing in town. I think it's more that people have something to do instead of go commit an assault or attempt theft or other mayhem.

Best two lines: "compared to what?" and "It's not as if these people watching violent movies would otherwise be home reading a book". It would seem to me that there is and has been a significant portion of the population that either through general lack of self-control, or lack of said control brought on through imbibing alcohol or other drugs is inherently prone to violent activity. Compared to this, sitting in a movie theatre munching on popcorn while a young woman is mutilated on screen is probably a considerable improvement.

Another point: Critics already arguing that this type of study argues that letting kids watch violent movies is fine, (least bad?). I'm fairly certain this is not what the study says. I think what it says is that a population of people already prone to violent activities is less violent when they're taken to see a violent movie. It doesn't at all suggest that we should let violent media babysit children. In other words, pass the quiet creepy guy a book, but give the prankish jock a copy of Doom so he doesn't do anymore damage with his weekends. Playing Doom drunk isn't going to harm anything real. Vandalizing neighborhoods will.

07 January 2008


One of the fringe benefits of facebook appears to be it has a somewhat more politically active group than the teenyboppers so prevalent here. In any case, one of the more recent debates had attached to it a series of poll type questions. By this I mean poll questions with either limited utility or no scientific usefulness. But in either case these had a few interesting twists once one looked at the poll breakdowns by things like political views and so forth.

First off, the overwhelming majority of respondents to these polls were people of the ages 18-24. This is historically a dubious place to conduct polling data because it tends to be less politically motivated, as a whole, and often possesses a strange mixture of high education and misinformation. This was evident in the polling data, but it does suggest what a candidate could do to motivate this select group to action or at least voting.
I'll give this one a try. "Based on the Republican debate, should the federal government or the states be primarily responsible for making sure Americans have health insurance". The possible responses are Federal, state, not sure, and neither. (obviously if one has been following my commentary with any regularity, neither is the only real choice I can make.) I'll begin my commentary immediately. First, the question asks a foolish introduction. I'm fairly certain most Americans believe they already know the answer to this question, so most of them aren't going to change their minds suddenly because of a persuasive argument by a politician. This much was obvious looking the number of undecided (usually a fairly large percentage, but here less than 3%). It would take more than one such debate and quite possibly a good deal of education in either the fields of economics, public policy studies, or health care for someone to change their views. Looking at the responses based on "political views", it was clear that most people ignored this little lead-in to the question and voted the way they already leaned. Almost no 'liberal' said anything other than 'the federal government'. Only 5% said neither and only 8% said the states. I can't say that someone watching with a truly objective stance would have come away saying that 87% of the GOP candidates were arguing that the federal government should mandate health care or otherwise provide it. Further looking at the question, the question itself does not present 'neither' as a legitimate argument, even though 'neither' is precisely the view that most of the GOP candidates take on this issue. Some of them propose plans to help make it affordable, but do not 'make sure' Americans have health insurance. There was in the actual debate little to no discussion over whether the states have any interest or need to similarly 'make sure' of this, nor would we expect there to be in a Presidential campaign, despite the Massachusetts (Romney) plan that did and the explicit suggestion that such a plan engenders that response with legitimacy (instead of tyranny, inconvenience, and bureaucracy). The choice explicitly suggested by the question should have been whether Americans themselves have such a responsibility or their government, on any level whatsoever. Nevertheless, 'conservatives' and the category labeled as 'other', to which I'm undoubtedly piled into, raked in a considerable landslide for 'neither' as their reply. Moderates, as one would reasonably expect, were fairly split with a leaning toward the 'federal government'. In other words, the more popular choice among young people is to say that things should be resolved by 'the federal government'. This might help explain the boost someone like Obama has had among such people.

Next one "What do you think is the single most important issue in this election?", with the possible replies: other, health care, education, economy, national security, Iraq. I'm not sure how most of those can be considered as 'single issues'. Education irrecoverably impacts things like 'economy', and vice versa. Economy in fact impacts or is impacted by virtually all of those possible responses, including whatever 'other' means. For whatever reason, the data here was perhaps even more confusing. For example, teenagers, a group who have often low wage paying jobs with low job security and no voting rights to speak of, complained that the 'economy' was a big issue. I suppose this is not surprising, but one wonders what they mean by 'economy'.

In fact, one who has studied economics wonders what anyone else means by 'economy', because there seem to be few if any reasonable indications that 'economy' is a serious matter worthy of concern without discourse into things like corporate taxation or international trade/foreign relations, which are not exactly economic matters that the common voter concerns themselves with. There is of course the housing market bubble burst, with its resulting billions of dollars "lost". But in point of fact the only people who were truly harmed by this were speculative buyers and people with poor credit who were put into speculative loans. The average homeowner may simply put off selling their home, or alternatively, will understand that they may be able in a short time to find a new home at a discount from previous prices and will accept a small loss or decreased profit on their present home to exchange to a better value with more personal convenience. Other economic indications are similar once one studies them at all economically. The danger of recession is always there in a country with poor national spending controls and international debts (and hence higher inflationary periods on international goods), but this is again something that a common voter is likely to have studied or understand. I would speculate that the 'economy' they are referring to is most similar to a question like 'how do you feel about your financial state', a question which many people are uncertain of but often have generally positive responses to. The vast majority of an individual person's economic troubles are in fact, little different from those of the federal government (high spending, little to no savings, high debt ratios, inflation), but would not be understood because so much media attention is focused on three indicators: unemployment, illegal immigrant labor/outsourcing, and the stock market. It is true that jobs go overseas. There are reasons that jobs migrate elsewhere. And most of them have to do with either 1) organized labor and general expense of benefits and higher wages demanded by workers in this country or 2) corporate tax rates or regulations being more favorable in other countries. It is conceivable that some levels of productivity improve, but not likely. It is fair to demand decent wages for the work being done, but it is perhaps fair to also point out that the work being done in some fields has in recent years not competed in international markets exceptionally well. And in any case, if a company can get the same levels of work done as it needs done to satisfy its consumers, perhaps sacrificing efficiency, but generating more profit without restrictions of taxation or regulation, I expect it to generate more profit.

As far as illegal immigration, somehow that was a subject that was not listed, even though it is undoubtedly far higher than 'education' on a national level of interest. I expect that few people would understand it as a purely 'economy' issue, though there is that view that labor is a fungible manner of expressing human capital. I'm fairly sure however that based on this country's history with immigration that much of the fervor is based on some levels of xenophobia and the suspicion of strange people from a strange land, particularly those who are "taking American's jobs". Such claims have been leveled at Japanese and Chinese immigrants in the later part of the 19th century, Irish or German immigrants in the late 18th and middle 19th, Eastern Europeans in the early 20th, and so on. Most of these immigrant groups, as with Mexicans and other Latin Americans, possessed some national pride and heritage, but also a profound hope in this new land. Perhaps a vigorous and boisterous minority were rabble that we found credit to our distasteful fears, just like now. The principle gap with this historical analogy has been that immigration was not usually subjected to legal controls as it is now (save Japanese/Chinese restrictions on the West Coast and local businesses refusing to hire each group in their turn). So while there is considerable vim and vigor over this subject, it is hard to see how a good deal of common American people in support of the matter are seriously concerned over 'rule of law'. Immigrants in fact are themselves more apt to be complaining over the matter of 'rule of law' than any man on the street, coming as they often do from a country which had poorer standards in this arena. Common Americans are either worried about their new neighbours or that those neighbours will take away someone's job. When the reality is that public policy should be set to make it difficult to employ illegal laborers and the 'problem' will fix itself. (If someone is an entrepreneur and employs legal immigrants but is himself, illegal, I don't see the problem).

As another curious distinction in this particular poll, 'national security' was considered the top issue for 'conservatives' (excepting of course the nebulous universal topic of 'economy'). I'm not entirely sure what this means either. An issue such as immigration reform could and has been construed politically as related to 'national security', pulling out visions of national ID cards (summoning German accent, paperz please). It could mean terrorism, even though 'terrorism' is itself a nebulous subject which encompasses the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, the general state of affairs in the Middle East, national intelligence gathering abilities, and so on. None of these are things which directly impact most Americans at home in a way which mitigates their personal security or our national security, in this nation itself (in fact it mostly mitigates finances). So really, I'm not quite sure what 'national security' means either, and neither should anyone else answering this poll. For a media that was quick to make Iraq the defining issue of the 06 election cycle (which I wrote at the time was a silly notion), it seems fairly clear that Iraq is not any longer a defining issue, taken by itself. And that leaves health care, which is certainly disconcerting for young people, but they're most likely actively choosing to risk going without coverage anyway, being as it is not often a bare necessity for younger people. And education, a consideration which has barely been tapped as a national issue despite the declining status of our schools and the manner of our educational system and its unions. So whatever 'other' means, I'll go with that. I assume it implies things like energy policy, bear controls, and robots.

Whatever 'economy' means, I'm guessing nobody is really sure. But talking about sure seems important to young people. So whoever talks about the economy in vague and both suspicious and hopeful terms, but also talks about the government health care programs, and believes drug companies (or other corporations) are 'bad guys' is likely to win the younger voters and drive them to the polls.

change, I haven't got any

I actually got a peek at some of Obama's policy ideas, deciding that it might be a good idea now that there's a reasonable possibility of his electibility nationally. I was not impressed on two fronts.

One, as I had previously guessed from his status as a Democrat, I did not agree fundamentally with his basic foundation, and thus found his ideas fundamentally flawed. In other words, Democrats in general tend to operate on the assumption that government is good and often offers the best solutions to problems. I do not. I'm not even convinced of the assumption that government is well-intentioned and thus good, to say nothing of its ability to offer solutions and to execute them effectively. But, let us leave that aside because it's essential that a Democratic nominee should have such a view as it is after all a principle point on their party ideology.

Primarily what I found lacking was a good deal of executed detail. It's unrealistic to expect a candidate to unleash anything more than a broad sweeping, undetailed proposal at this point in the campaigns. But there are some requirements that even these broad sweeping campaign promises have some executional measures built into it. Obama's hint at the need for such things, but have no real teeth to them. I'm not sure if this means his ideas are bad, phony, or merely incomplete. Given his overall rhetoric, it's possible, though unlikely, that they would be flexible ideas, open to change and debate as they approach a stage of legislation. But I very much doubt that they would in fact be open to radical debate and change from opposing views, as they are drawn from a fundamental view that only government 'can save America'. It's very difficult for me to find substantive proof for this conditional statement, as it likely is for many others, some of whom are in Congress. So it's still difficult to see several realities emerging from this. 1) That his candidacy is a way to 'unite the country'. 2) That his candidacy would have any impact on Washington politics and the manner of their conduct, namely that spurious interests would not dominate and determine the issues instead of reasoned debates on the floor of the House or Senate. 3) That he would be capable of working constructively and cooperatively with members of an opposing party and often diametrically opposed views. Despite his outward calm rational mien, even this last point seems unlikely.

None of this of course matters because it would appear the job description of "President, U.S." reads something like this in the media: Able to execute sharp turn of phrase to create buzz in media over some topic (media types love to sell simple watered down stories), presents views similar to those of news media editors, good public speaker, but perhaps not at real debate where one cannot appeal to a simple sound byte and incomplete or incorrect factual data - something Romney et al do frequently, has public support of prominent celebrities who will sway the dumb masses, appears independent and open-minded in rhetoric (maverick is the common term). At the moment there is really only Obama fulfilling this description, though it would seem the N.Y. media bias is rather annoyed that the fly-over public hasn't swallowed Mrs. Clinton's ability to market herself in a similar light, or rather inability. I find it mildly amusing that some of the same complaints leveled against her first surfaced in Al Gore's campaign in 2000. Robotic and un-emotional, even boring? I suppose that's because I've usually found Al to be rather boring with the same general tendency to over-state his claims. But I digress. It's difficult to know what will happen in the months ahead, but of one thing I'm convinced. Change may be a mantra this month, but it's not going to be a reality in our future.

04 January 2008

paul does fair

Based on the returns I saw, Paul placed 5th in the Iowa caucuses. Ahead of the events of September 11th. I can expect no higher finishes. But I read a story here which makes one wonder:
He probably could do worse than to align himself with a compromise for his plan to reduce the size and scope of government by starting with one of the principal ways government has grown: The means by which it gathers it's funding. It's also a nice free organized group that was able to mobilize early support for the little known Huckabee, prior to his 'social conservative' message that woke up the religious right. I'd prefer to separate his spending from the fair tax, because it's pretty clear from the current 'social conservative' we have in office that spending is not part of the 'conservative' element.

Some good news for the younger voters: Clinton finishes third and seems disheveled in her campaign right now. With Edwards being a proven idiot, that means Obama just needs to not be a total moron. He doesn't really have many good or great ideas. But the guy knows how to make a speech and get people to do things, or at least believe people can, which really seems like the job description anymore (frame ideas so other people carry them out). I really don't want to go into November with a chance of Hillary being elected. I can live with Obama being elected, but I won't like it. I won't like the idea of Huckabee being elected, but considering his competition, Paul's probably the only one I'd be happy with (McCain v2000, yes, v2008, no).

What I'm seeing in the political spin of all this that sounds good to me thus far is that there appears to be a separation between the political parties and their traditional power bases. The religious people are still firmly GOP, but I can't expect ultra-religious conservatives to change their minds fast. But the labor unions don't sound like such a big deal for the Democrats anymore. Hopefully that means that eventually we'll start seeing some more significant parties. Because it does seem that while religion determines some votes, it's not going to resonate everywhere as much as smaller government does. Paul will probably get a similar level of support just about everywhere for this reason, where as Huckabee will see some wide swings and is still not seeing the funding that Paul is hauling in (despite the unlikely nature of his nomination too). We're not as a country ready to revert back to ideas from our past that actually showed promise and worked. But I'm not ready to say we should adopt ideas that have shown themselves not to work anywhere either simply because someone can make a speech either.

03 January 2008

gladwell's back


I guess he had another book to do. But in new developments, the discourse level of the blogosphere has renewed somewhat to reasonable.

This one wasn't the most rabid in it's debate of his more recent fare (that would be the race and IQ debate spurred by the scientist formerly known as Watson). But in some ways it was more vivid on a political level. The nature of governmental thinking seems to be that if something has a dangerous, hazardous, or otherwise harmful use, then all it's other potential benefits or otherwise harmless uses are negated. Thus the legal backlash against medical marijuana (or just personal use of marijuana in general). HGH is not strictly speaking a 'performance enhancing' substance, but is still listed as a banned substance by MLB among other athletic institutions. I am not certain as to why this would be. It sounds to me like it's primary medicinal use for athletes is to try to recover from injuries faster. There seems to be no performance enhancing qualities according to studies and the anecdotes of players who have used it.
Yet, much as with pot by the government, baseball has quested to have HGH purged from it's players. There is legitimate complaint that the players are acquiring HGH illegally without a prescription. But to what end?
As a followup, there's another blog entry which posits a number of questions as to the ability of the testing agencies to much of anything other than track illegal non-prescriptive uses or excessive "performance enhancing" usage, done without any masking agents and without some form of medical supervision.

Moving along, Kenyan marathon runners entry was also a nice twist. A million kids running 10-12 miles per diem! We'd have to look far and wide to find that many kids running that a week in this country. I manage to run that in a week if the weather cooperates (winter not so much), but wow. No wonder they dominate long distance running. There doesn't have to be any genetic advantages at all for athletic ability when there's a pool of runners that large.

For the race and IQ debate, go: http://people.virginia.edu/~ent3c/papers2/Articles%20for%20Online%20CV/(38)%20Turkheimer%20et%20al%20(2003).pdf

I like the source data, but if you're unwilling to page through it.
The basics are that socioeconomic factors have much larger importance at the margin, and that heredity has greater importance in the middle ground, or as one rises in social status.

I'm liking the fact that he has a large base of commentary, because there's yet another entry on FBI serial killer profiling, which I haven't finished yet.



The amazing thing is that this was in the Times.