30 March 2009

as usual, not a new idea


Naturally, the opposition to this view was based on Palin being McCain's running mate (since this was pre-election). My opinion is that it should have been Biden being Obama's that caused more of a stir toward this idea. Or Cheney being Bush's. Or Gore being Clinton's. Etc. Mediocre political figures with an occasionally distinct ideological bent should not be that close to the Presidency. And naturally the article wasn't very thorough at explaining why this might be a good idea other than "Palin's crazy!, we could be screwed!". I can't expect much from a journalist or op-ed piece these days.

For example, saying France or Mexico doesn't have a Vice Presidency doesn't quite explain their political systems. There are LOTS of federalist political systems around the world that don't have a "Vice President". One reason is usually that they use some sort of Parliamentary politics instead of our electoral, winner take all, system. There's no need for a VP simply because the lines of succession are setup differently in a parliamentary system.

They did at least give the same basic solution as me (because that's a pretty old and frequently recycled solution). But without examining it in any detail, it's easy for people to overlook the solution and focus on why someone brings up the problem in the first place. In that case, it was an ideological reason. Which is useful to note, but not very useful as far as creating a reform in the underlying system. I'm not that worried about an ideological shift in the country occurring as a result of an unfortunate, unforeseen change of President. I'm more worried about mediocre people serving, people who would not nearly be the democratic choice of the people and hence have no business serving in such a high position of public service, and then I worry about ideological shifts later.

28 March 2009

compendium of events

I beat all four maps for Left 4 Dead on expert (after my initial complaints over its purpose, it has become roughly manageable). I also discovered a subculture of people who enjoy joining these cooperative games in the midst of their completion in order to run around and shoot their teammates and frustrate them into quitting. This is a subculture of people who should be shot in real life.

I came up with several political notions. But unfortunately, I have suffered greatly at converting any ideas into a work that other people might enjoy reading (you know, like for money).

One essential point I was adamant about this week was the abolition of the Vice Presidency. I think it's been rendered irrelevant. I grew tired of railing against our silly drug policies (and our silly educational system), particularly when the President regards the vast numbers of people who voted for several legalization questions on his website as dismissible and irrational. I did notice that the British are pushing something like my idea on the removed distinctions between public and private schools (much like the rest of Europe on this point). For some reason, the only people who sort of push this idea in America are tied up with religion and still want a measure of local controls (which functionally don't exist if the schools are turned over to a more market-based control funded by extensive and direct public subsidy). So it's fun to listen to British conservative and liberals talk about both the importance of school reforms and the effective changes that they'd bring about, and yet understand that here in America we're nowhere near affecting these types of changes. I consider the merit-pay based part a progress. It sounds like the pupil premium notion is also up for grabs over there, and of course, is fully ignored here by our "school choice" advocates. Oh well.

This was a fun study on history instead of frustration. Someone may freely slap me back into reality after all the reading I've been doing and the coexistence of my own ideas without much supervision.

"Do you think it is reasonable that a President is able to pick his successor if he dies?"

No. I don't actually. If we look historically at the people who've been VP, they're usually not cut from "Presidential" material. They're usually just there for political reasons, to soak up some important swing voters in a key state. There's only two sitting VPs who won the presidential election since the 12th amendment altered the manner the VP was selected (while both of the first two were the next President). Both basically rode the coat tails of Presidents who were popular enough to win a third term had they ran (Jackson and Reagan).

Nixon eventually won..but upon reflection that seems like an accident of timing than his own Presidential standing (Bobby was killed and threw an entire party into disarray). A couple of VP's who assumed the Presidency were later re-elected (TR, Coolidge, Truman, LBJ), and this has turned out surprisingly well. But LBJ was the only one of them picked by the President themselves as a running mate but rather out of the old party politics (the smoke filled room deal) systems. And in TR's case, it was basically intended to get rid of him that even got the nomination as VP. Which seems pretty counter-intuitive.

"Why do we have a Vice President?"

It was originally conceived as a Presidential measuring stone, with the second place fellow getting the office, and while not having much to do, it at least conferred a level of prestige. The existence of the party system (and the fear that Aaron Burr could have gotten the Presidency) basically destroyed the utility of the position when they put up the 12th amendment.

Under the old party political system, the running mate was usually a member of a defeated faction within the party itself. Which, while not quite as at odds as two opposing parties, isn't exactly bringing any good times to the table either.

In my opinion, what appears to be have been the intention of the Constitutional framework was to use the VP as a place-filler. The logic at the time was that they had already been voted FOR President and came in second in a previous election. They haven't now, therefore, once they changed the system of selecting Vice Presidents, they should have re-enumerated the process of selecting the President should the President be killed or die in office (and obviously the possibility of some infirmity that prevents the discharge of the office is important to consider as well). The contention made then appears to have been that there should be a special election held to elect a new President in the event of the sudden death of a President, the logic being that people do not and did not vote for the Vice President as a President, at least not under the new rules established by the 12th (the lone historical exception possibly being Truman in '44, but that's sort of morbid).

This happens all the time for Congressional seats and, in some states, Senate seats. We don't merely appoint the Congress member's senior and trusted aide into the seat. I can acknowledge that because of the party system and stratification it has taken on, that keeping the party alignment in place may make sense. But given the supposed utility of a party gridlock between the two branches of government, the public might be cognizant of this feature already when casting their ballot.

"What's wrong with what we have now?"

There's a couple other wrinkles. Sitting Vice Presidents have died in office, or resigned, just as often as sitting Presidents (9 times). On one occasion, when Ford succeeded Nixon, this resulted in a President that nobody voted for in either executive office (even in the meager capacities of VP). He was appointed as VP, confirmed by Congress, and ended up President. While I think Ford could well have been a better President, even in his limited time there, than Nixon, this sort of line of succession isn't a good idea to leave out there. And the other problem of course is that the Vice President is generally selected now to "balance the ticket" or some such. They are not regarded as Presidential material. Consider the Obama administration. Where was Biden in the Democratic primaries relative to Obama? Consider that only 2 sitting Vice Presidents won an election (one could make a case for a third..but this is not worth getting into), and that both more or less won because of the man they followed and not because of their own qualifications (and both were mediocre one term Presidents).

"What do we do about it?"

I'd rather they do something like this under the current system. Have the Sec State fill a sort of President pro tempore position so the office continues to be discharged until a special election can be held. Generally a President selects a prominent but politically aligned person for this position, basically out of necessity. A look over the history of people holding that position reveals 7 who eventually became President, roughly the same number as Vice Presidents who were elected as President (9 total who won an actual election as President and didn't just assume the post), and many other prominent historical names who either have run for President, some who nearly won, or who held other significant government posts, such as House Speaker for example. The list is clearly much more impressive a "stock of Presidential material" overall than the list of Vice Presidents (Quayle, Cheney, Biden, Barkley, Marshall, Garner?) We'd more or less be confirming publicly that the Sec State was an okay person to hold the full privileges of the office anyway, but at least the public would get a direct say in the matter (since the Sec State is only confirmed by the Senate).

And then just get rid of the VP entirely. If one looks at the history of Vice President anyway, there are three successive and nearly complete administrations during the 1800s that did not even bother to replace either a dead VP or themselves upon succession to the Presidency, and another three shortly after that (I'm sure nobody cares who Millard Fillmore is as President, but it might be interesting to note he appointed no one to be his Vice President for example). While I'm sure there are more things to be done now than in the 19th century, I'm not sure that we couldn't do them without some extraneous person wandering around at public expense, basically waiting for the top person to die and having no other useful official function that couldn't be done by someone else. (Surely we could come up with someone to break Senate ties and give politically tough/risky speeches).

09 March 2009

language of fools

Cyrillic type wasn't at the printers?

I had heard about this, but when I saw the button on Daily Show...I had to wonder. So the first place that turns up when I look it up demonstrates the same outrage that it wasn't printed in Cyrillic. Do we have no intelligent people in government?

So it should have said something like: перезагрузка.

06 March 2009

Good joke

"Heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says "But, doctor...I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains."

I always liked that one. There isn't a need to laugh uproariously. But an invisible smirk suffices.

I was reminded twice today I was still human. Once when someone asked me if I had to work this weekend. To which I replied, no, I don't have to work. Even though I do have work that can be done. I'm not sure she understood my reply. But then I have a funny way of noticing the little twists that people put into their words that they never imagined were there.

Secondly I was asked why I looked so mad. "I have no other visage to present". And besides, I already used up my grin quota for the week on Rorschach's joke and my little play with words earlier. It occurred to me, since I was getting food at the time, that I was busily contemplating the path of civilization back from the cultivation of corn and wheat to where it now presented our society with a need for people of impossibly sunny dispositions to work in jobs providing food to others while they cultivate that skill for some later achievement. But I didn't feel like spoiling her mood either by explaining the path on which these things work. I settled for "Smiling isn't good for you". I'm not sure this one gets through to people either. It seems to me that having my smile coaxed out isn't something that dredges up a good persona on which they'd relate to anyway. It's not that her smiling is bad, but that me smiling at other people is. But then, that's much too long a conversation to have with some one who is just supposed to give me my change and demand I have a good day.

And it doesn't translate anyway.

03 March 2009


I haven't been writing much on here of late. I haven't been suddenly inundated with activity, but I've been trying to focus on actually writing something. Something else that is. Cursed motivational factors get in the way of my time wasting activities.