Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hit by a Ford

One of the top stories tonight was that President Ford disagreed with the war in Iraq and disapproved in general about the Republicans' move to the right. What should we make of this? Should this be a call for Republicans to move to the center?


Ford was the Accidental President. He never won a national race and he even had trouble securing the nomination as a sitting president. His time spent minority leader was under the two most liberal presidents since FDR.

Ford was not a part of the Republican mainstream since the early 1970s. This was shown most dramatically during the 1976 Republican convention. When Reagan was introduced his supporters shit down the convention for 20+ minutes with cheering. Conservative Reagan excited the delegates. Moderate Ford did not.

So why is an interview from 2004 news? Because the MSM share Ford's dislike for the Right and want to use the Ford interview as a club to beat the Republicans with.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Scrooge the Progressive

I watched the George C. Scott Christmas Carol on Christmas. Afterward I got to thinking about whose politics the unreformed Scrooge most closely matches and I came up with the Greens/Progressives.

Now I don't mean to suggest that Scrooge would think of himself as being part of either of these groups. He was what he was because he was a miser and his labor policies are diametrically opposed to the Greens and Progressives. However, Scrooge typifies many of the attitudes that these groups espouse. In fact, if they got their way, we would all be living like Scrooge.

To start with, there is Scrooge's way of life. He uses very little fuel for heat or light. In fact, he gets by on the bare minimum. I doubt that his lifetime generation of CO2 would match what Al Gore spends making a single PowerPoint presentation.

In addition to this, Scrooge probably eats local foods. There is a movement among the Greens to only live on food produced within 50 miles of where you live. While this was much easier in the 19th century, Scrooge had enough money that he could have consumed exotic spices and foreign fruits. These were available in Victoria's England if you had the money.

Scrooge's reluctance to spend money in general is echoed in the modern rejection of commercialism and consumerism.

Then there is Scrooge's reaction when asked to contribute to a (faith-based?) private charity. He thought that the poor are the government's charge, not his. Granted the workhouses and prisons of the day were far worse than modern welfare.

Scrooge's rejection of Christmas as a "humbug" fits right in with today's attack on religion by militant atheists.

Then there is is comment about reducing the surplus population. The Greens have been saying for decades that there are too many humans and wishing that something would thin the species, possibly even wiping us out. The modern Greens are often much more heartless and cold about mass human death than Scrooge ever was.

Gerald Ford

Every obituary I read for the late President Ford says that he lost re-election because he pardoned Nixon. They are wrong.

The accepted narrative is that Ford entered office with high (70%) approval rating but after he pardoned Nixon, the country never forgave him. Certainly the pardon did anger liberals who wanted nothing more from life than to see Nixon convicted. The frenzy a year ago over speculation that key Bush figures would be arrested and "frogmarched" over the Plame leak is nothing compared to Nixon hatred. The left never forgave Ford for depriving them of their moment and this shows in the obituaries.

But Ford was right. It would have been destructive to continue Watergate for months or years longer while a trial dragged on. Most of the country forgave Ford for the pardon and would have elected him had things worked out differently.

By "things" I mean the economy. The US economy in the 1970s was terrible. Nixon tried wage/price controls and tax rebates but it didn't work.

Ford came to office with stagnant economy and high inflation which was shortened to "stagflation". His main way of fighting it was to veto bills he deemed inflationary. He vetoed more bills than any other president, ever. He also came up with a program known as WIN for Whip Inflation Now. Thousands of WIN buttons were stamped but no one wore them. No one believed in WIN and it faded away without a trace.

Economic problems affected New York City and Cleveland, both of which flirted with bankruptcy. This drove home how bad the economy was.

It is a general rule of thumb that incumbents running during a bad economy lose. I have yet to see this mentioned but he was running on a platform of letting things alone and Carter promised economic changes. Had the economy been in good shape, Ford would likely have won.

Ford had other problems. I mentioned the number of bills he vetoed. This was symptomatic of his relationship with Congress. Despite decades in the House, Ford could not get along with Congress. He vetoed their legislation, they ignored his.

One of the things that Congress did during this period was cut off aid to South Viet Nam. Not long after we cut them off the North launched a renewed offensive and overran the south. This tainted the Ford presidency.

Ford also eased relations with the USSR. While Nixon could be forgiven for going to China, the right did not forgive Ford for giving up on the Cold War. The loss of Viet Nam emphasized this.

Ford also appointed John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. Stevens was to become one of the court's most liberal members.

On top of all of these problems, Ford had to cope with SNL. After two failed assassination attempts, a fall down a staircase, and some golf games where his club went flying into the crowd he became a favorite target for SNL's first season. Many episodes started with Chevy Chase doing a bit as Ford.

I saw an early, live version of SNL under the name of the National Lampoon Comedy Tour. The opening bit was Chase walking haltingly across the stage. Someone said "Let me take you gum, Mr. President." After that he could walk normally. The bit was a reference to LBJ's statement that Ford couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. The audience got the joke.

So Ford was running with a bad economy, a record of poor leadership, and he was a joke on SNL. No one can win against all of this. Against this, the pardon is nothing.

So Jimmy Carter, a one-term governor from a small state became president. Carter had no better idea how to cure the economy than Ford did. Carter also cozied up even closer to the USSR. He talked the Shaw of Iran into leaving office then talked the democratically elected interim government into allowing Ayatollah Khomeini into the country. We are still trying to deal with the fallout of those decisions.

In all, Ford served as a place-holder between the mixed accomplishments of the Nixon administration and the total disaster of the Carter administration. He was likable but undistinguished.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Few Final Thoughts on Christmas

Merry Christmas (a bit late).

Or should I say "Happy Holidays"? I hear a lot of that these days. People are afraid of saying The "Christmas". The multi-culturist have convinced the country that it is offensive to wish a Merry Christmas to a non-Christian.

So, how does the non-Christian world regard Christmas? I have it on good authority that it is big and growing in China. It is big enough that the Japanese version of Iron Chef featured several Christmas battles. During the lead-in to these they asked the judges what they would be doing for Christmas. None of them said, "I don't celebrate it."

In India which has a very small Christian population, Christmas is very big - literally. An artist did a huge beach sculpture of Santa.

Bottom line - there are millions of non-Christians world-wide who happily celebrate Christmas without feeling threatened by Christianity. So why do people feel threatened in the US?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Big Brother Is Looking Out For You

Ronald Reagan is often quoted as saying that the scariest words in the English Language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

This is being applied against the perceived obesity crisis. I say "perceived" because the real health threats come, not from weight, but from inactivity. As this article shows, someone who leads an active lifestyle with regular exercise are healthier than those with a more sedentary lifestyles. You don't have to lose weight for health gains.

That's too complicated for most people to understand, even people who should know better. It all comes down to weight and public officials are ready to follow the example of tobacco in trying to change public behavior.

First there is the New York City ban of trans-fats. Other cities and even the entire state of Massachusetts are considering a similar ban. This will nor change much. Trans-fats are too small a portion of the average diet. All this will accomplish is to make food taste worse.

The British want to go several steps beyond this. An article in the British Medical Journal suggests a number of measures starting with putting warnings and an obesity hotline on mens pants with a waist of more than 40 inches.

Somehow I doubt that putting a label on people's clothing saying "You are fat. Loose weight." is the ultimate solution.

The problem is that politicians are using the tobacco model on obesity. Tobacco is not as harmful as most non-smokers think. Most smokers are not harmed y their habit but enough are to make it worthwhile to try to reduce the number of smokers. There are few health benefits to smoking (ironically the main benefit is weight loss).

Food, on the other hand, cannot be avoided. Trying to separate good and bad food is meaningless. Despite titles such as "heart attack on a plate", no single serving of anything is going to clog your arteries, etc. Such foods can even be eaten regularly in small portions.

More important, just looking at someone's diet or weight is not enough. Without evaluating total lifestyle you simply do not have enough information.

Unfortunately, politicians seldom evaluate risk. They see perceived problems and they do something that will be seen as a fix. It doesn't matter in the slightest if the fix is effective.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fear From the Huffies

I get the Huffington Post Daily Brief. This was today's featured entry - someone who is "terrified" because it is warm in December. It's 60 degrees out - is this a sign of Global Warming?

No for several reasons. One is that earlier this month we had unusually low temperatures. Unless that was a sign of global cooling then a warm spell is not a sign of global warming.

Robert Heinlein once wrote that climate is what we expect, weather is what we get. In December, in these latitudes, it is generally cold in December and snow is possible but not common. I checked AccuWeather for today's date. The record high is 63 degrees, set in 1963. The record low is -7 set in 1989.
The averages are 40 and 25. This tells us that a 60 degree high is meaningless. It is within natural variability.

Like a fortune teller or a horoscope, people who believe in global warming remember the hot days and forget the cool ones. In this way they convince themselves that they are seeing global warming. Also, there was a cool period in the 1960s and 1970s. People who grew up then tend to think of this period as "normal" and the warmer period afterwards as unusual. On the other hand, my parents grew up during the warm period which caused the Dust Bowl (most of the records for things like number of days over 100 degrees, number of days in a row over 100, etc. were set then). Accordingly, the older generation thought of the 1960s and 1970s as being colder than normal. That's when talk of a coming ice age was at its height.

Bottom line, enjoy warm Winter days but don't panic over them.

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Rob McKay: Its Beginning To Look A Lot (More) Like Global Warming...



From Rob McKay's Blog:

It is 60 degrees on December 18th in New York City. I'm hardly relieved I didn't have to bundle up my daughter and trudge with her through ice and now to go see "The Nutcracker" today. The temperature is terrifying. I want to crack some sense into the nuts who tell us there's nothing to worry about....

..Bush won't even use the term "global warming." He occasionally makes reference to the world's "climate change." Conservative politicians and pundits chalk up global warming to the next liberal bully pulpit, a rehash of "political correctness" or outcries from the "feminazis"...

...There's nothing ideological about global warming and the necessity of a policy agenda to protect the planet. We shouldn't need another call for bipartisanship to unite behind aggressive environmental protection policies that are so glaringly necessary...

Click here to read more.

The News From Iraq

Last week, Laura Bush argued with NBC News anchor, Brian Williams about how the major media has shaped public perception on Iraq. My own observation is that the major news outlets allow one story on Iraq per day. Which story is released is based on these priorities:

  1. Americans killed in Iraq
  2. Iraqis killed in Iraq
  3. Iraqis injured or kidnapped.
In addition, local news coverage carries stories about soldiers being deployed to Iraq, soldiers returning and the hardship that their absence caused their families, and the plight of young children whose parents are in Iraq.

No other stories are carried. There in never any mention of American offensives or insurgents killed. This gives the impression of Americans acting as sitting ducks while Iraq crumbles.

The MSM does allow one story about god news from Iraq per year. Here is this year's story. Don't blink or you will miss it.
Civil war or not, Iraq has an economy, and—mother of all surprises—it's doing remarkably well. Real estate is booming. Construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are healthy, too, according to a report by Global Insight in London. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports 34,000 registered companies in Iraq, up from 8,000 three years ago. Sales of secondhand cars, televisions and mobile phones have all risen sharply. Estimates vary, but one from Global Insight puts GDP growth at 17 percent last year and projects 13 percent for 2006. The World Bank has it lower: at 4 percent this year. But, given all the attention paid to deteriorating security, the startling fact is that Iraq is growing at all.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Democrats Get Lucky (sort of)

There is real question about Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) recovering from brain surgery enough to return to the Senate. If he is incapacitated then a Republican governor will name a successor - most likely a Republican. That would put the Senate at a 50-50 tie with the Vice-President casting the tie-breaking vote. In other words, the Republicans would be in charge of the Senate.

This is great news for the Democrats. That means that the House can pass any number of symbolic bills, safe in the knowledge that it will never pass the Senate. They will have enough power to make a show but not enough to actually accomplish anything.

And they can blame it all on the Republicans.

On the other hand, the pressure will be off of the Republicans to clean up their act and get back to their roots, so it is bad for them.

The real winner will be the country for the next two years. With a split House/Senate, the Democrats will be prevented from doing much harm. Also, government spending night go down as the houses fail to agree on new spending measures. That is one of the reasons that Clinton had a surplus - the split between Congress and the White House.

So, as mean as it sounds, send Senator Johnson a get-worse card. Then send a card to the Republicans reminding them that they didn't earn the Senate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Scrooge and Economics 101

An economist writing in Slate prefers the unreformed Scrooge. His reasoning is that, by consuming as little as possible, Scrooge left more for everyone else.
Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?

Oh, it might be slightly more complicated than that. Maybe when Scrooge demands less coal for his fire, less coal ends up being mined. But that's fine, too. Instead of digging coal for Scrooge, some would-be miner is now free to perform some other service for himself or someone else.
A few years ago the BBC and PBS did a reality show called 1900 House. A 21st century family was to live as people did 100 years earlier. They also employed a maid but ended up firing her because the mother in the family couldn't bear to have domestic help. She justified it as "setting her free to do something else." The woman who was employed as the maid was livid. No one asked her if she wanted to be freed. In Victorian England, a significant portion of the population did domestic work. Had everyone followed Scrooge's example, there would have been wide-spread starvation as the market for domestic labor suddenly collapsed. You would think that an economist would understand this.

While Dickens did not understand modern economic theory, he seems to have a better grasp of some aspects than Slate's expert.

Scrooge was a miser. Presumably he simply horded his money. Economically, that is the worst thing that he could do with it. Money that is horded is wasted. It is not helping anyone. It would be different had Scrooge done something with the money. If he had invested it, it would be helping both him and the people he invested in. If he simply spent it, it would have gone for goods and services that people needed to sell for their livelihoods. By just sitting, it did none of these things.

What if everyone followed Scrooge's example now? It's not very hard to find out. Just compare the economy in December and January. In December, people are buying things that they do not need and spending money that they don't have to. In January they cut back, both because the holidays are over and because they are still paying the bills.

So which month do you think keeps the economy going - December or January? Unless you are selling fitness equipment, January represents the worst month of the year. If all months were like January the country would be in serious economic trouble.

So why doesn't an economist understand this?

Christmas in Seattle

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport took down its Christmas Trees after a Rabbi threatened to sue to have an eight-foot menorah included in the decorations. The airport decided that once they included one religious symbol they could be forced to include anything that was important to the residents.

Patricia Davis, president of the Seattle Port Commission, said:
"We tried to come to some accommodation or some resolution and could not," she said. "They issued us several ultimatums and finally said they would sue is in federal court. … The time deadline was 10 a.m. Friday. … We were faced with the choice of spending unknown amounts of the public's money on litigation, or, in the next few days, trying to figure out how to accommodate all the cultures in our society."
Ironically the rabbi who caused this mess is upset with the way it turned out.

The man behind their disappearance, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, told a Seattle newspaper he's "appalled" that the airport officials removed the trees. His goal was not to clear out Christmas, but rather to add a celebration of Hanukah. He asked the port of Seattle, which runs the airport, to build an eight-foot menorah and hold a lighting ceremony.

"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday," he told the Seattle Times. "For many people, the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season."

[...] Bogomilsky's attorney, Harvey Grad, told the paper, "They've darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up. There is a concern here that the Jewish community will be portrayed as the Grinch."
The concern is well-placed. Despite the name, a Christmas Tree is not a religious symbol. While it represents the secular, gift-giving part of the holiday, it has no relation to Christ or Christianity in general. It is not used in any Christian rite. While most churches put up a tree, it is not always in the sanctuary and when it is, it is off to the side so that it does not obstruct the altar.

In contrast, a Menorah is directly related to a (minor) Jewish holiday. Its use is religious. Trying to force a religious symbol into a secular display causes exactly the sort of conflict that the airport is afraid of.

Once one group has sued to be included, other inevitably will follow. By insisting that the secular aspects of Christmas cannot be celebrated without including the Jews, he ruined it for everyone.

Of course the liberal line is that people who enjoy Christmas shouldn't expect it to be acknowledged on public land, anyway. The party line is that Christians have gotten a free ride through public endorsement of Christianity for too long and that all further references to Christmas should be limited to homes and churches. For examples, see here, here and here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Great Turn-Off

A group of concerned Australians will try to do their part this weekend by turning off their power. They have all seen Gore's Inconvenient Truth and want to do an experiment on what life would be like in an envisioned green paradise. For the weekend, they will cut power to their homes, unplug their phones, and refuse to even enter a powered building. To make life livable, they are allowed to burn beeswax or soy candles, to preserve their food with ice, and to take public transportation.

All of this is totally meaningless.

First, they conveniently chose the Australian Summer to do this. If they lived in Ohio where the current temperature is 25 degrees they might have some second thoughts. Just ask the 52,000 people whose power has been out for the last week. This is no happy lark in the winter. It can be a matter of life and death.

Of course, there is nothing to stop anyone from turning off lights or air conditioning. I used to know someone who didn't have a bedroom light because there was a streetlight near his window. It should be noted that candles are expensive, a fire hazard, and produce their own CO2.

Most of the rest of their ideas are wishful thinking. The ice that they use to cool their food and the food itself were produced with the very power that they shut off. Using power on Friday so that you can save it on Saturday is nothing but a shell game.

Yes, a century ago ice was harvested naturally from frozen lakes and shipped around the world. The population was a lot smaller back then and disease was common so no one worried about contaminated ice.

All of this is play-acting. Living a "carbon free lifestyle" for one weekend in the Summer is not a sustainable lifestyle and it probably does not represent a lifestyle that they would want to live on a permanent basis.

For a harsher view of the Great Turn-Off, see here.

What the ISG Report Really Means

There are two big ideas in the Iraq Study Group's report. The first is that a "cut and run" strategy would be a very bad thing to the region. This is unappetizing to the anti-war left.

The other idea should be just as unappetizing to the right. This is the suggestion that the US start open negotiations with Iran and Syria. This is a return to the realpolitiks that caused the US to support Saddam against Iran in the 1980s.

First a bit of background. As much as I hate to say it, Iraq is looking more like Viet Nam. Viet Nam was a proxy war between the US and the USSR. Our "peace agreement" in 1973 called for the USSR to slow down support for North Viet Nam. This allowed us to leave behind a stable South Viet Nam (until a couple of years later when we cut off support and the USSR ramped up their support).

Iraq has become a proxy war with Iran and, to some extent, Syria. US troops have recently found insurgents armed with weapons recently manufactured in Iran. Both Iran and Syria are hoping that they can induce enough suffering to get the US to leave and to break up Iraq into chunks that they can swallow.

The ISG report is essentially suggesting the same exit strategy that we used in Viet Nam. We talk Iran and Syria into slowing support for the insurgents long enough for us to stabilize the country and get out. What happens after that is no longer our concern.

That is bad enough in itself but there is the question of what we will have to give up in order to get these concessions. The most likely concessions are the Iran will continue its nuclear program and Syria will retake Lebanon (assuming that Hezbollah hasn't taken over Lebanon before we can start negotiating).

The long term consequences of this strategy are enormous. An expanded, nuclear Iran is a danger to the world in general and the US and Israel in particular. The loss of Lebanon will likely draw us into future conflicts involving Israel, alienating us further from the world's Muslim population.

The worst result is that this will cement the world's perception that the US has no stomach for a protracted war. Everyone involved remembers Viet Nam and our bug-outs in Lebanon and Somalia. For decades to come, any force we fight will know that all they have to do is keep fighting long enough and we will leave.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Flying while Threatening

You must have heard all about the Muslim holy men (imams) who were taken off of an airplane. The original reports indicated that they had done nothing wrong. According to their statements they had discretely performed normal prayers before boarding. Some of them had requested seat belt extensions because of their weight. In order to keep from scaring people by sitting together they moved to other seats. They were even talking about how harmful Islamic violence is. Regardless, a passenger became alarmed and passed a note to the flight attendant who passed it to the pilot who, in turn, had them removed for the crime of flying while Muslim.

There is a lot more to it.

The spokesman is about 100 pounds lighter than he claimed and did not need, or even use, the seatbelt extension. They prayed both before and after boarding the plane which is not standard practice. They did not ask before moving to other seats. A passenger who speaks Arabic heard them saying things in favor of Saddam and against Bush.

And they were not the only Muslims on the plane.

It was announced today that three different probes dismissed their claims of discrimination. These men were acting in a suspicious manner which is grounds for removal from a plane.

The silliest part of this was when a CAIR (Council on American/Islamic Relations) suggested that these men should have been above suspicion because they were acting suspicious. According to this logic, real bombers would never call attention to themselves therefor the only people the authorities should ever be suspicious of are the ones who are not suspicious.

Somehow this seems like the beginning of a Monty Python sketch, or possibly Abbott and Costello.

There has been a lot of speculation that this was actually a protest. If so, it is on par with telling the fight attendant that you are carrying a bomb then complaining about discrimination against comedians.

It is also possible that it is part of a campaign to make it easier to get terrorists on planes by making the flight crews think twice about suspicions.

On the morning of September 11, the ticket clerk who sold Mohamed Atta his ticket thought to himself that this was a man who looked like a terrorist. He then kicked himself for racism and sold him a ticket.

Sometimes suspicious people do mean you harm.

Boston Illegal

I regularly watch the show Boston Legal. I enjoy the quirky characters and the intellectual moral questions. At the same time, I am often really annoyed at the way that they slip in liberal messages. Often they frame questions in such a way that the audiance will not realize the broader implications. Other times they will drag in politics for no other reason than to deliver a message.

A few examples:

In the most recent episode a woman was suing for custody of her twin nieces. The girls were happy and healthy but they were being raised as racists. This should have been straightforward. The implications of removing a child from her parents over political beliefs are enormous and this would never be a question in real life.

Along the way the writers had the twins disapprove of Mexicans coming to America illegally and refusing to assimilate. Since this was presented as part of the girls' twisted attitudes the implication that anyone who agrees with this part is a racist, possibly a skin-head.

There was also a national security angle. This never fit very well but it gave James Spader's character a chance to tell us how bad the Patriot Act is, even though it had nothing to do with the case as presented and the national security angle was very weak.

A few weeks ago a recurring character was being sued after he fired someone for his religion. To get audience sympathy, the person fired was a Scientologist.  Now, if they had presented the victim as an Evangelical Christian, the case would have been exactly the same but the audience sympathy would have shifted. It's all in how you frame the question.

After that, the same character was being tried for perjury. In capitol cases, potential jurors are asked to swear that they believe in the death penalty and will apply it when called for. The reason for this should be obvious. If members of the jury do not believe in the death penalty then it is automatically off the table, no matter how vile the crime. Similarly, I would expect that someone who is in favor of drug legalization to be bared from a jury in a drug case.

Not in Boston Legal. In their strange universe, the reason for getting people who believe in the death penalty is to get a jury pre-disposed to convict.

What is more scary in they show is how the lawyers often get around the law. In one case, Spader's character hired someone to break into someone's home and tie him up. Spader then entered and promised that this would happen again and again unless the man dropped his case. While this was done in a good cause, it could as easily be used anywhere.

More often they use the same idea but hide it better. An anorexic girl agreed to go into rehab after it turned out that she had a web site with questionable advice. This was not the clincher. The girl's lawyer was not moved until it was pointed out that the girl had left herself open to multiple lawsuits. Rather than continue to defend the girl pro bono, the lawyer quit.

I know that the country's legal system is often unjust but I shudder at the thought that the sort of tricks this law firm plays are used in real life.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Offended in Chicago

A Chicago Christmas festival dropped one of its sponsors out of fear that it's product would be offensive to many people. The company in question? New Line Cinema. They wanted to run a loop of an ad for a new movie - The Nativity Story. It seems that anything that reminds people that a Christmas festival is associated with Christmas is now considered offensive.

At first glance this just seems like one more attempt to suppress all public references to Christmas but think about what is going on here. This is not a church or religious group. It is a movie studio. The reason for the suppression is that the movie has a religious content. Allowing the ad to run at the festival does not imply government sponsorship of religion. This is just another example of government selling out. If the movie had been "Deck the Halls" it would almost certainly have been allowed.

The reason given is interesting - seeing an ad for a movie about the birth of Christ might offend some non-Christians. Who? And why would such a thin-skinned person go to a Christmas festival? After all, some vendors sell (gasp) nativity scenes.

This goes a bit beyond the normal suppression of Christianity. It is suppressing a secular company for having a product that would have been permissible if it had a secular content. Now it is not only government sponsorship of religion that is unacceptable, corporations are now covered, also.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fighting for Our Culture

It's that time of year when it seems like every American holiday is under attack. Halloween continues to be regarded at a satanic holiday by some although this has diminished in recent years as the holiday has gained popularity.

You would think that Veteran's Day would be sacrosanct during a shooting war but the day after Veteran's Day the Simpsons ran an episode depicting army recruiters as preying on grade school kids, showing that regardless of aptitude everyone is assigned to the front lines, showing the army deciding to kill sub-standard recruits, and ending with the message that an occupying force can never win.

Then are the constant apologies that Americans are expected to make on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.

While no one objects to New Year's Day, our calendar was quietly changed from using "AD" and "BC" for the years to "CE" and "BCE" where references to Christ were changed to "Common Era".

But of course, the big one continues to be Christmas. Last year it was noticed that most chains no longer use the word "Christmas" even when selling Christmas merchandise. Wal-Mart backed away from this policy and now encourages employees to use the word. Other stores such as Best Buy and Lowes continue to use the generic "Holiday". Best Buy's policy is

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about including Christmas in our marketing efforts. We recognize that several holidays are celebrated during the months of November and December. Many people exchange gifts in celebration of one or more of these holidays.

In order to be respectful of all our customers (and employees) who celebrate different holidays throughout the season, we are choosing to use "Happy Holidays" as the primary greeting in our holiday campaign.

This is being disingenuous. First, if holidays during November are a problem then they could simply stop pushing the season. During the Great Depression Thanksgiving was considered the limit on Christmas and the date was changed slightly (from the last Thursday in November to the 4th Thursday) to increase the Christmas season. If retailers respected that limit then there would be conflict with November holidays.

As for December, there are three gift-giving holidays - Christmas, Chanukah's,  and Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a secular holiday which can be celebrated by Christians so there is not conflict there. Many Jews are disturbed that people are suppressing Christmas on their behalf. With Jews only making up 1% of the population (around 3 million in a country of 300 million) it seems silly to suppress the name of majority's holiday in order to be more inclusive.

Besides, who do these guys think they are fooling? When a city puts up a "holiday tree", which holiday do they mean? Is any other holiday commemorated with a lighted pine tree?

In the movie The Santa Claus III, Jack Frost is trying to take over as the symbol of Christmas. Presumably it would eventually be re-named the Winter Holiday. I sometimes feel like this plot is being acted out for real.

Holidays are
 an imprtant part of the general culture that hold countries together. Be attacking aspects of nearly every holiday, the powers that be are attacking American society at large. Europe has gone down this road ahead of us and the results are not pretty.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why the Republicans Lost

It's been over a seek since the election results came in. Most postmortems have pointed to the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq and the lobbying scandals as the cause of voter dissatisfaction. Both of these are valid but I think that there is a more fundamental issue - the lack of any notable achievements in the last two years.

To examine events more closely, first there has been a move by the Republicans. It hasn't been to the left, it's been more "down". Rove and company decided that Libertarian principles were not going to win a permanent Republican majority. It was easier to buy the electorate with pork barrel spending. That's where the lobbyists come in. It's also why government has been growing at a rate that dwarfs the Clinton years.

At the same time, the party has been playing to issues voters. These are the socially conservatives who don't mind big government as long at it holds their ideals. These people will vote based on a single issue, often abortion or gay rights or guns. There are people who vote the other way, of course, but they are outnumbered and most would never vote for a Republican, anyway.

The Libertarians grumbled but the Democrats are their natural enemies so they didn't have any other place to go.

All of this left an important but small number of swing voters. These are mainly moderates and they the ones who vote according to the "direction the country is headed in".

The best way to court swing voters is with a record of accomplishment. Not everyone likes the No Child Left Behind Act or the Medicare Drug Plan but they were significant achievements. They were also accomplished years ago.

When Bush was reelected in 2004 he promised to use his mandate to reform Social Security. In reality, his proposals were only moderate reforms and were very similar to ones that had been suggested previously by both parties. Regardless of this, the democrats jumped all over his plan, insisting that he was going to ruin Social Security. Instead of fighting back, Bush caved. This probably cost him Congress.

There were a few chances to salvage things. After Katrina demolished the Gulf Coast, Bush and Congress could have made a big deal of cutting pork to help Katrina victims. This would have made the entire country feel like they were helping. Instead, the Congressman from Alaska threatened to resign if they canceled his "bridge to nowhere" and Congress let him off the hook.

Fiscal conservatives started a "Porkbusters" project. Republicans' natural allies were working against them.

The failure to accomplish a major goal is why Clinton lost Congress in 1994. Universal health care was going to be his legacy issue. He even put his wife in charge of the project. It dies before it was submitted to Congress. Even while controlling the White House and Congress, they could not get started on health care. No wonder the electorate turned its back on Clinton a bit over a year later.

This works as a general explanation for why Presidents normally lose seats in congress in their 6th year. By that time they either have passed their agenda or had it fail. Either way, Presidents seldom have significant accomplishments after their reelection. The swing voters see this as a failing administration and vote for the other side.

The democrats now have a short two years to rack up some accomplishments of their own or the voters will swing the other way.

At the same time, Republicans will need to build a new coalition that is exciting enough to attract voters. The pork barrel strategy that they have been using for the last several years will not work when the other party controls spending.

UPDATE: Jack Murtha, Pelosi's candidate for Majority Leader, lost big. Pelosi lost bigger, showing that she does not have much control over the House Democrats. This is probably good news for the Republicans.

Nancy Scores a Two-Fer

According to polls taken during and since the election, the overwhelming majority of Americans want to see corruption cleaned up in government and want a new direction in Iraq. This new direction should lead to eventual victory, not defeat.

By supporting Jack Murtha for House Majority Leader, Speaker-to-be Pilosi put herself on the wrong side of both issues. Murtha is well known for supporting an immediate "redeployment" elsewhere, possibly as far as Taiwan. It is also coming out that he is ethically challenged. Even if we forgive the Abscam investigation of 1980, he is known as the congressman who can deliver the most government contracts for his home district. He is also known for obstructing the ethics committee.

At this rate, the Democrats will have blown any chances of holding Congress by the time the actually take office.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Good News for Republicans

When I went to bed election night the Republicans still controlled the Senate and Price had beaten Kilroy for a House seat. The next day two close races were called for the Democrats giving them the Senate. In the meantime, the Price/Kilroy race is the tightest in the country and will not be official until the recount. In fact it is so tight that I heard a radio ad asking provisional voters to be sure that their votes were counted.

So, the Democrats will control Congress. The question is how long? Possibly not very long at all.

A recent poll was released with headlines saying "bad news for Bush". Typically, the important part is buried at the bottom.
While a bare majority of 51 percent called the Democrats' victory "a good thing," even more said they were concerned about some of the actions a Democratic Congress might take, including 78 percent who were somewhat or very concerned that it would seek too hasty a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.
According to exit polls, the country did not make a giant step to the left last Tuesday. Instead the voters signaled that they were tired of corruption in government and lack of progress in Iraq. If the Democrats pursue a moderate course with a few populist centerpieces such as raising the minimum wage then they stand a good chance of holding onto Congress and taking the White House. As this poll shows, if the voters are not interested in punishing Republicans nor do they want a quick surrender in Iraq.

So what is on the Democrat's schedule? First, Henry Waxman is promising to probe the Bush administration. In fact, he is promising lots of probes.

“I’m going to have an interesting time because the Government Reform Committee has jurisdiction over everything,” Waxman said Friday, three days after his party’s capture of Congress put him in line to chair the panel. “The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose.”
This sounds like just the sort of thing that Pilosi was supposed to be preventing. This may be an impossible task. Liberals such as Frank Dwyer at Huffington will never go along with limited probes. He wants probes into everything
Wolfowitz and Perle, Tenet and Bremer, Chertoff and Brown, Colin and Condi (what did they do? what did they know?), big oil execs, big pharmaceutical execs, Haliburton execs
The object of all of this is to force Cheney to resign before moving onto impeaching President Bush. Just what 2/3s of the electorate is afraid will happen.

What of Iraq? With Murtha being endorsed as majority leader and several high-ranking Democrats calling for a quick "redeployment", any chance of achieving a stable Iraq is probably a lost cause. No mater what you call it, pulling the troops out in the next few months unilaterally is a retreat. Most Americans will recognize this and remember who lost Viet Nam.

The Democrats seem to be living down to the electorate's worst expectations. All of this should be coming to a boil just in time for the next election.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Interesting how the Left can say with a straight face that Saddam did not have a nuclear program and say that Bush gave away secrets from this non-existent program.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Huffington Post <>
Date: Nov 3, 2006 2:46 AM
Subject: Friday's Daily Brief

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Bush Admin Posted Nuclear Bomb Building Guide On The Internet...

A website set up by the Bush administration last year published documents that effectively constituted a guide to building an atomic bomb. The website, an archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war, was shut down last night after weapons experts and International Atomic Energy Agency officials expressed concern.

The documents contain charts, diagrams, and equations from Iraqi atomic research that experts say go beyond the knowledge commonly available on the Internet. "For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible," said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the Department of Energy. The website was created and the documents published under intense pressure from the Republican Congress.

Click here to read more.

Click here to discuss it on HuffPost.

On AOL News: Wildfire Suspect Charged With Arson, Murder


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Channel Goofus and Gallant

Rebecca Abrahams: The Two Faces of Diebold

Mike Stark: What You Don't Know

Melinda Henneberger: John Kerry and The Sixth Sense

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Loses and Wins

As of this writing, Democrats won the House but not the Senate. They picked up around 30 seats but failed to overturn Deborah Pryce. Pryce, the fourth-highest Republican, was targeted for attacks by starting in early Summer. A moderate with a clean voting record, the worst thing that the Democrats cae up with for months was that she voted to give herself cost of living raises.

This race was particularly galling to me since I live in Pryce's district. Pryce is a true moderate, one I often have wished that I could exchange for a real conservative. Her opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, has never been impressive, even when she headed the local school board. Had Kilroy taken Pryce's seat it would have had more to do with the amount of money brought into the election than anything else.

Mike DeWine, another moderate, didn't do as well. Between campaign mistakes and a general disgust with Republicans by Ohio voters, DeWine lost hit seat. DeWine may take the seat back in six years. He lost his first Senate run before winning a seat. He may stage a comeback.

In the meantime, what can we make of the Democrat's win? Not a whole lot. They won because they were not Republicans. They did not push a coherent plan for the country. With only a slim majority they will not be up to major legislation. They will probably try to pass some symbolic laws that will never make it through the Senate. They have no position on Iraq and there is very little that they can do to try to force policy.

This will never satisfy the hard-core left. These are the ones who voted for Nader because Clinton was too conservative. Many of them expect action. They want national health care, surrender in Iraq, and Bush's head on a platter.

What will happen two years from now when they don't perceive that any of their goals have been accomplished? Will they try further purges like the one with Leiberman? Will they replace Pilosi with Murtha?

This equation will change a bit if the Democrats take the Senate after all. The left will want even more but they will still be unable to deliver.

This may drive the Democrats to nominate an unelectable candidate - someone acceptable to the far left but too liberal for the general electorate.

One thing that the election does not signal is a general swing to the left by the entire country. Exit polls show that voters were rejecting Republican corruption, not their policies. This is not the lesson that the Democrats will hear. They tried to frame this as yet another vote on Bush. That isn't what the exit polls say and the 30 seats that they picked up were pretty anemic against a president in his 6th year.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Deserving to lose

Things look bad for the Ohio Republicans right now but they brought this down on themselves. No one action has contributed to the approaching downfall. Instead this is a culmination of several long-term trends.

Much of the blame can be laid on the RINOs. For some time Ohio has been in the grip of RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). While congratulating themselves on being moderates, they stand for very little. There is no platform, or even a single issue which can be identified with the RINOs. They have run past campaigns on a no-new-taxes platform but they hate to cut taxes and Governor Taft has raised taxes in several ways during his term.

Over the last several years Ohio has seen its industrial base decline. The RINOs response to this was to raise taxes. The result is that Ohio is near the top of the list of states when ranked by tax burden. at the same time, it is near the bottom of states that are friendly to business (mainly because of the tax burden).

All of this has led to an Ohio economy that is stagnant with little chance of short-term improvement.

While it is possible to blame Governor Taft for his lack of leadership, the problems go deeper than that. Taft is governor because the Republican party decided that he should be rather than Blackwell. Their reasoning was that 1) it was Taft's "turn", 2) they owed the Taft family, 3) the Taft name was golden in Ohio and 4) Taft was part of the statehouse Republican crowd and Blackwell was an outsider. They ignored the fact that Taft was a poor Secretary of State. Regardless of this, they viewed Taft as the safe candidate who would continue Voinovich's uninspired example.

All of this has backfired. Voinovich left some major problems behind including school funding and declining revenues. Taft was not up to the challenge. Also, as part of the Republican insiders, he allowed lobbyist Noe to use state funds as his personal bank account. The scandal resulting from this is dragging down Republicans in other states as well as Ohio.

The previous governor, Voinovich, wasn't much better. He acted more like the nanny-in-chief than governor, using the state's power to protect its citizens and make sure that their money was spent properly. When the state accumulated a surplus he refused to take this as a sign that taxes were too high, instead suggesting that spending wasn't high enough.

The problem is that Ohio's republicans might be RINOs but there is little hope that our Democrats are DINOs (Democrats In Name Only). Northern Ohio has always been home to highly progressive Democrats. These people are playing to their base of union workers. Their economic model is stuck in the 1930s and they are likely to bring back the Great Depression in Ohio.

My wife and I have discussed where we should live when we retire. Should we stay in Ohio or move elsewhere? Previously we have considered moving closer to some of our interests. Last night, for the first time, my wife wondered about the economic future of living in Ohio. This election is not going to make her feel any better about it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shooting Himself in the Foot

John Kerry's gaff should have come and gone in the news before anyone noticed it. In stead it keeps growing.

For those who missed it, Kerry was addressing the Pasadena City College. After making a couple of Bush jokes, he said:
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
The White House and Rush Limbaugh said that Kerry should apologize for implying that the troops in Iraq are people who did not make an effort to be smart. Kerry fired back that it was a botched joke and that he was obviously referring to President Bush and that he was not going to be forced into an apology by "right-wing nut jobs" and a "doughy Rush Limbaugh".

Kerry's counter-attack made him one of yesterday's top stories. It also forced his to cancel most of his campaign stops and might have forced him out of the 2008 presidential race (not that he actually had a chance).

Kerry's supporters including MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olberman insist that it is obvious that he was talking about Bush. Anyone who says otherwise is just part of the Republican policy of "smear and fear" to quote Kerry.

So, which is it - a botch Bush joke or an insight into Kerry's opinion of the military? It is true that he told some anti-Bush jokes before making this one. A really generous person would assume that he meant to say:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If, like our President, you don't, you get the country stuck in Iraq."
That sort of works if you remember the official line that Bush did poorly in college. It doesn't work anywhere near as well if you remember that Bush, Kerry, and Al Gore all got a few "D"s and graduated with "C" averages.

It also fails when you remember that the left has been characterizing the military as victims - poor and minorities who have no where else to go. Michael Moore spent a segment of Fahrenheit 911 saying that military recruiters only went after the poor and minorities. Kerry himself has said many worse things about the military. Just last year he insisted that our troops were terrorizing Iraqi families with midnight raids on the innocent.

And of course, Kerry could have stopped the whole thing by apologizing for what he actually said.

Kerry's response is probably caused by his interpretation of the 2004 presidential race. As he sees it, he lost because he was not quick enough and forceful enough in attacking the Swiftboat Vets. The new Kerry counter-attacks swiftly and forcefully but not accurately.

In the engagement where Kerry won his first Purple Heart there is some disagreement about what happened. He says that they were fired on. Others who were there at the time say that there was no return fire. Kerry panicked, started shooting, and the others in the group followed suit. The sliver that stuck in his thumb came from a grenade that he launched.

It appears that once again, Kerry launched an attack and wounded himself. I wonder if he will claim a Purple Heart for it?

Michael J. Fox UPDATE:
In campaign ads, Michael J. Fox is swaying around. It has been suggested that he skipped his medication in order to have the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease. It now appears that the behavior was caused by his medication. Someone who has been taking the medications for a long time will over-compensate when the medication first takes effect. This fades in 20-30 minutes and they appear normal. When filming, Fox times his medications so that this effect will have worn off before filming starts. In this case he made sure to be filmed while still showing the side-effects.

Which brings us back to the original question - is it ok for an actor to alter his appearance from his norm when filming a political ad? From the rush to condemn Rush, it must not be. None of the attacks against Limbaugh seem to say that it is ok. They just condemn Limbaugh for attacking a sick man.

BTW, Fox's appearance on Boston Legal will no longer be an issue. His character was killed and the body sold on the illegal body parts market.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Celebrities often support causes. They do this in three ways. The classic way is for a celebrity to become interested in a disease and to raise money for it. Jerry Lewis is an example of this, raising millions each year to help research MS. Others are victims of a disease and offer themselves as examples of why you should be generous or change your behavior. Before he died Yul Brynner did a public service spot saying warning that smoking killed him so you should stop while you can.

Then there are celebrities who have medical problems and want Democrats elected so that the government will find a cure for the disease that is killing or crippling them. Chris Reeve was an example of this. He made it very clear that he wanted a cure for himself. Never mind that most people with comparable spinal injuries would not be able to walk again, even if their spines were cured. Reeve could afford the physical therapy needed to keep his body from atrophying.

This leads to a recent dust-up between Michael J. Fox and Rush Limbaugh. Fox has been appearing in ads in favor of Democrats because they will support embryonic stem cell research. In the ads, Fox shows all the symptoms of Parkinson's disease which he has been fighting for years. Limbaugh made the news after suggesting that Fox may have been exaggerating his disease. From the reaction, Rush would have been better drowning puppies on live TV.

The issue is nowhere near as cut-and-dried as it is made out to be. For one thing, Rush may have been right. In his autobiography, Fox says that he was not taking his medication when he testified before Congress so that his Parkinson's would be more obvious. If he did it once he might do it again. Fox appeared on Boston Legal this season without any tremors.

But that is really beside the point. There are bigger issues. The first is that, unlike Jerry Lewis, Fox is not willing to ask for your money. He wants the government to take it in the form of taxpayer-funded grants. This goes beyond the normal appeal of "If you feel sorry for me then give generously," and raises it to "If you feel sorry for me them make everyone give generously."

Second, he is not lobbying Congress, he is trying to change the controlling party. Stem Cell research may be an over-riding issue for Fox but for most voters it comes after the economy, Iraq, terrorism, immigration, health care, the deficit, and a host of other issues.

Then there is the fact that embryonic stem cell research is not only legal, but government-funded already. Researchers want more funding and more lines of cells which is different from the message that Fox is giving. For that matter, not all of the candidates he has supported have voted in favor of stem cell research. There is the blanket assumption that Democrats are for it and Republicans are against it.

I will not even go into the moral issues of embryonic stem cell research. I am against it for other reasons.

The thing is that embryonic stem cells will not live up to their promises. They can't. They have been brought out as a literal magic bullet that will cure nearly everything. Someone told Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox that stem cells will cure them. They believed the promises because they are too close to the problem and are willing to grasp at straws.

There are three major obstacles for the stem cell researchers to overcome. The first is getting the cells to grow differentiated cells. If you want to fix someone's spine, you have to grow nerve tissue, not just stem cells. The second is getting the cells to grow in the right place. The final problem is getting them to stop growing. This is the big one. Right now all indications are that use of stem cells will result in uncontrolled cancerous growths.

No one is positive that these obstacles can be overcome. Many researchers are downright pessimistic. Even the most optimistic ones doubt that Parkinson's can be cured through stem cells. Chris Reeve's spinal injury was simple compared to the wide-spread damage brought on by Parkinson's. The same is true for Alzheimer's. Other therapies have a lot more promise and don't involve changing the government.

This brings me to the biggest problem with celebrity causes. Being an actor does not make you an expert but it lets you imitate one. Even having a disease does not give you the knowledge that your doctor has.

It is too bad about Michael J. Fox and I wish that he did not have Parkinson's but I will not let sympathy for an actor change my vote.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heated Lawsuits

Katrina was a disaster so someone must be responsible, right? Most of the blame has been going to President Bush but he doesn't have deep pockets so lawyers have moved on to different targets. Who has enough money to attract Katrina-inspired lawsuits? "Dozens of oil companies, utilities, and coal producers, from Chevron and Exxon Mobil to American Electric Power and Xcel Energy."

This will be very tricky to prove. First, the lawyers will have to prove that the world has warmed and that humans are responsible. That alone is tough. There is general agreement that the world has warmed over the last century and a half but many, including the National Council of Scientists, think that there was a period of world-wide cooling prior to that. At least some of the warming can be attributed to the world coming out of a cold phase. How much was natural and how much was human-induced? Both sides can trot out expert witnesses as long as the courts will let them without reaching a consensus.

Assuming that human-induced warming can be proven to the satisfaction of the court, the next question is how much did it influence Katrina? The answer seemed much clearer last year when we had a record number of storms. With only three hurricanes and none causing significant damage, 2005 looks more like a fluke than a trend.

More important, the people who predict hurricanes at NOAA think that Katrina and the increased storm levels of 2005 were part of a natural trend.

So we have three big questions to answer right off the bat - is the world warming, is it human-induced, and did warming cause bigger storms? That still leaves the biggest question - are oil and gas companies responsible for carbon-dioxide output? Yes, if you use their product as intended, it will produce carbon dioxide but the alternative is to put a sudden, complete stop on civilization (and breathing which also produces carbon-dioxide).

Will any court in the land rule that the fuel that runs civilization is a menace and producing it punishable? Well... maybe but I doubt that it can stand on appeal.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Democrat Congress

The Democrats are already popping champagne corks on their impending sweep of both houses of Congress. Their celebration might be a bit premature. It is true that polls show that the approval rating for Republicans is terrible (in the 30%s) but the ratings for Democrats isn't much better (40%s). Further, people have been giving their own congressman a much higher ranking (60%s) than his party, whichever party he belongs to. Throw in voters' tendency to be closet Republicans, and this election may be a fizzle instead of a sweep.

But, assume that it is a sweep of both houses - what will that do to the Democrats? Personally, I think that it will destroy them. Here's my reasoning:

First, it has become a truism among Democrats that the republicans have moved so far to the right that former moderates are now considered progressive. They've been saying this for years but it isn't so. The movement has been on their part. This is especially true of the "Netroots" movement lead by MoveOn, DailyKOS, Huffington Post, and the Democratic Underground.

Democrats hate to admit it but the reason that Bush won the 2000 election was that the more progressive wing of the party was tired of Clinton and moderation. They wanted a progressive platform and Gore, even with a bit of class-warfare, just didn't do it for them. A lot of them stayed home or voted for Nader in protest. Micheal Moore even campaigned for Nader on the idea that there wasn't enough difference between Bush and Gore to matter.

Even assuming that most of Nader's Florida vote came from people who would have stayed home, it is likely that he drained enough voters from Gore to give Bush the election. Most Democrats thought so in 2004 and snubbed him in a mild purge.

In 2003, Howard Dean quickly amassed a huge war chest based on Internet donations. His appeal was that he was from the "liberal wing" of the Democratic party. Again, the eventual candidate was seen by the Netroots as being too moderate although they swallowed their distaste and supported Kerry anyway.

In 2006, the party conducted what is sure to be the first of many purges. The 2000 VP candidate, Joe Lieberman, was judged a traitor to the cause and forced off the ballot. Listening to the Netroots cheer about a "historic election" and "the people taking power back", you would have thought that this had been the first open election in decades.

Along the way, Democratic leaders such as Minority Leader Nancy Pilosi and Sen. Hillary Clinton angered the Netroots with their refusal to push for an immediate troop pull-out in Iraq. There was also widespread discontent that the Democratic leadership didn't fight tooth and nail to block Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

The Netroots movement has been gaining power within the Democratic Party. In 2004, their spending about equaled Kerry's. They expect a return on this investment. If Democrats take Congress, the Netroots will have a list of demands. most of these will be counter-productive. These include:

The impeachment and eventual arrest of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and a long list of others. This has been a major goal of the Democrats since the day after the 2004 election. John Conyers already warmed up by holding his own unofficial hearings into impeachment. The image of Rove being arrested and "frogmarched" is a recurring one in the Netroot messages boards. The problem for the Democrats is that their grounds for impeachment ("Bush lied") is unlikely to succeed and, as the Clinton impeachment showed, this will play badly with the voters.

An immediate pull-out from Iraq. This is a surrender and the American people will see it as such. If they don't then al Qaida will be sure to send messages telling us so. If Iraq is a recruiting tool now, imagine it after the terrorists say that they defeated the US. We will lose international credibility for decades to come.

A near-doubling of the minimum wage. Progressives want the minimum wage raised to $10/hour and refuse to admit that there could be economic consequences.

A roll-back of all Bush tax cuts. Voters are going to love seeing their taxes go up.

A repeal of NAFTA and a new round of trade barriers, many based on ecological concerns or foreign labor laws . Voters are going to love seeing the price of everything go up.

An implementation of Kyoto treaty and new taxes on gasoline or a general carbon tax. Voters love seeing gas and heat prices rise.

None of these will help the Democrats with the general public. Most will hurt them. This puts the Democratic leadership in a trap. If they act on much of the Netroots' agenda they will hurt the party. This will anger the Netroots who will conduct more purges. They are already considering replacing Pelosi with John Murtha and have put Hillary on notice.

This is where the Democrats will have real trouble. They do not have a shared agenda beyond gaining power and the progressives feel that they have been out of power too long (since around 1968). They want their chance. At the same time, their world view hasn't changed much from FDR's failed economic policies. Iraq by itself is enough to tear the Democrats apart.

Given all of this, the Democrats will be in terrible shape by 2008.

In the meantime, a couple of years out of power in Congress will force the Republicans to reevaluate their own policies. Their policies for the last six years have revolved around forming a permanent Republican majority. They did this by ejecting the fiscal conservative and libertarian principals of the party, figuring that they didn't bring in votes. This has alienated many of the Republican faithful who think that a few years out of power would be good for the party.

It could work. Impeachment proceedings on Bush could cause the party to circle the wagons. With Bush unable to run again and Cheney unlikely to get the nomination, a new face could reinvigorate the conservative cause. The FDR coalition of Unions, blacks, and Jews is long gone but the Reagan coalition of Libertarians and religious conservatives is still viable. This could launch the Republicans back into power for another decade or more.

A lot more if there is another terrorist attack after the Democrats take Congress.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Columbus Day

Happy Columbus Day.

Of course, the calendar shows Columbus Day as having been last Monday (one of the mobile Monday holidays) but today is the date on Columbus's log when he found land.

If you want to really quibble, the Julian calendar had built up an error of ten days by 1492 and Columbus Day should be October 22.

None of this matters. I am here, writing this because Columbus started a chain of events that led to the modern world. In all of history, not many people have done that. During the last thousand years it is difficult to think of any single event that affected so many people. The invention of the printing press is the only contender that I can think of.

I celebrated the legal holiday by helping to re-christen the Columbus Santa Maria. It was a wonderful day for it - sunny, a bit hot. Not a protester in sight.

I understand that the protests are scheduled for today. The last I saw, there were snow flurries in the air.

I don't have any patience for the protesters. They lie a lot. They blame an explorer who died nearly five hundred years ago for the policies of the US government in the late 1800s. They magnify the modern world's faults and totally ignore the horrors of 1492 (human sacrifice, torture of strangers, cannibalism). They are also unwilling to admit that, like me, they only exist because of Columbus's voyage.

But, most of the protests have died down since 1992. The people most likely to protest Columbus are so consumed with hatred for President Bush that they no longer care about events 514 years ago.

So we are left with a holiday that is mainly celebrated by government workers with little thought about why we celebrate.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What it REALLY Means to be a Liberal

Geoffry Stone has a column in the Chicago Tribune on What It Means to be a Liberal. This is a combination of wishful thinking and nostalgia. Here's my take on what liberals actually believe.

1. Liberals believe that they have a monopoly on the truth. Conservatives are exhorted to listen to them but they refuse to allow conservatives to speak. John Stossel, for example, has trouble getting his book reviewed even though he is an anchor of a major new show and his books are best-sellers. Universities have protests over conservative speakers and, when they are invited, try to shout them down. Al Gore refers to critics as "digital brownshirts" (Nazis) and has called for the suppression of further debate on Global Warming.

2. Liberals celebrate the fringe over the norm. If you are a minority or ethnic in some exotic way then you are superior to middle-class America. This often leads to protected classes and attempts to legislate "hate speech" come close to thought police. A member of a minority group who does not subscribe to the approved (liberal) norm is derided as a turncoat.

3. Liberals also believe in activists. If you make a noise about an acceptable cause then action must be taken. Relationships to reality often take a back seat over the need to do something.

4. The right to abortion is absolute. Any woman who considers having an abortion or who is college age and might go to college must have an abortion. Any group that a pregnant woman contacts for advice must council her to have an abortion. This is often obscured with code words about reproductive freedom and privacy.

5. It's not enough to make reasonable, good-faith efforts to respect rights. Look at the flap last year over Justice Alito. A "questionable
 ruling allowed that a police officer who had asked for a warrant covering all occupants of a building was justified in searching all occupants, even though the description on the warrant was abbreviated for lack of space. Liberals believe that any articulate minority member in jail must have been framed and should be freed.

6.The poor are good and the rich are bad. It is the government's job to flatten society by penalizing the rich and supporting the poor. It does not matter if programs to help the poor are too expensive, if they cause long-term social problems, or if they have failed in other countries. They are sacrosanct and will never be reevaluated. Liberals believe in the rights of the group over individual rights.

7. Liberals reject any notion of morality as sectarian faith. Christianity is evil and should be suppressed. Liberals are against any public acknowledgement of Christianity including the very word Christmas. Even having a cross where it can be viewed from a public waterway is considered too much. Liberals are willing to allow Christians to practice their faith in private although they don't like having Christians gathered in large numbers. Look at the reaction to the mega-churches. Liberals encourage other faiths. Moslem's are allowed to broadcast prayers over loud speakers but Christians are not.

8. Liberals believe in invented rights. The Right to Privacy is not in the constitution. Ohio's courts interpreted the state constitution to read that the state's main duty is to run the schools and all other functions are secondary. Last year the liberal wing of the Supreme Court ruled that property could be seized and given to developers in order to increase tax revenue.

9. Liberals oppose any actions taken by conservatives to secure the country from external threat. They deliberately misrepresent actions and intention. They are sure that the enemy at home is worse than the enemy abroad.

10. Liberals assume that anyone held by the government must be innocent and demand American trials for prisoners who are not citizens and have never been on American soil. Even the military tribunals called for by the Geneva Convention are insufficient.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Free Speech in a World with Fanatics

Last week a Mozart opera was cancelled. The reason given was fear that it would offend Muslim extremists. Many people, both conservative and liberal are upset by this action. I count this as a win for free speech. Here's why.

First, the opera as staged ends with a denunciation of religion. The heads of various religious figures including Mohamed are displayed. The opera company felt that this was likely to offend Muslim sensibilities. They checked with the German government which could not guarantee their safety so they cancelled the opera.

There are several ways that this could have played out. The possibly offending scene in not in the opera so opera company could have removed it or kept it in but removed references to Mohamed or they could have kept it in and hoping that no one noticed and reacted if someone did complain.

The first option is exactly what the various world-wide protests are about. They are staged in order to make the secular west grant special treatment to Islam. Choices like this are probably made weekly, maybe even daily. No one wants to be the next person to offend Muslims world-wide.

If the opera company had left the scene alone and someone had complained then they would be in the same position as the newspapers that ran the Mohamed cartoons. Critics across the world would be condemning them for not being sensitive to Muslims.

The strange thing is that the same critics took the opera company's side against possible Muslim sensitivity in this case. Without world-wide riots, people realized that this is a very basic free-speech issue.

So, by seeming to acquiesce to Muslim demands but by doing it pro-actively and publicly, they changed the argument. South park did the same thing by running a caption saying that they were not allowed to show Mohamed.

Others need to follow suit. We need to raise a little righteous indignation of our own.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Are We Less Safe Because of Iraq?

That was the story over the weekend but it wasn't exactly true.

Parts of a security assessment prepared six months ago was leaked to the press but only the most damaging parts were leaked. If you look at the entire report you see how slanted the excerpts were edited. For example here is how MSNBC repeated one paragraph:

The war in Iraq has become a "cause célèbre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better

The paragraph actually says:
The war in Iraq has become a "cause célèbre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
Seems a bit different in tone doesn't it? I don't think that I am imagining things if I see this as making the case for "staying the course".

The President makes his case here. He has a lot of good points including pointing out that the report was released in March based on the situation in February. It is so old that it makes repeated references to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi who was killed June, 7.

So why was it leaked in late September? For political gain, of course.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Election 2006

Polls show that the public disapproves with the way that Republicans are running things. Common wisdom says that Democrats will make gains in the upcoming election and may take one or both houses of Congress. Of course, common wisdom also said that the 2004 election was Kerry's to lose. It is possible that common wisdom is actually wishful thinking.

The 2006 campaign has started in earnest and I'm lucky enough (?) to be in two contested districts. Both my representative, Deborah Pryce and my senator, Mike DeWine, have been targeted by out-of-state Democrats and liberals. This gives me a chance to observe the Democrats' strategy close-up.

Understand that the attacks on Pryce and DeWine are opportunistic, not ideological. Both are moderates, Both have been described as RINOs (Republican In Name Only) because of their past records.  The only reason that they have been targeted is because they are seen as vulnerable.

The attacks on Pryce began well before the traditional campaign season. MoveOn ran anti-Pryce ads off and on all Summer. These were very general. Instead of focusing on anything that Pryce did, they focused on things she did not do. These were on the line of, "The world is ending and Deborah Pryce didn't take the lead to stop it from happening."

More recently, Pryce's opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, has begun airing ads contrasting the budget deficit under President Bush and Pryce with the balanced county budget under Kilroy (Kilroy is a county commissioner). This left her open for a counter-attack pointing out that county sales tax doubled under Kilroy.

DeWine is running against Sherrod Brown. Brown has yet to make an appearance in the campaign (at least I haven't seen him) but an anti-DeWine ad is running. It pictures him with President Bush and complains about the deficit.

That seems to be the strategy so far. The Democrat's only issue is the deficit and links between the Republican and President Bush. the Democrat's strategy is based on several factors. Not all of these are likely to pan out for them.

As I mentioned above, polls show that most people distrust Republicans to run the country. The problem for the Democrats is that nearly as many people distrust them. This could translate into an anti-incumbent election. This gets tricky to predict. Many people distrust the party but trust their local candidate which is why incumbents get re-elected so often.

Democrats are banking heavily on Bush's negative poll numbers. They hope that linking a candidate with Bush will drag the candidate down. Basically they are trying to recreate the strategy that Lamont used on Leiberman. The tricky part here is that Lamont was running in a primary. Associating a Republican with the President in a general election is not the same as tying a Democrat to Bush in a primary. Worse for the Democrats, Bush's approval ratings have gone up.

An additional problem that the Democrats have - the war. Brown and Kilroy are avoiding all mention of it. Voters will eventually want to know what their position is. This is a no-win situation for Democrats. The majority of Americans view an unconditional pull-out as a surrender and this will hurt any candidate who suggests it. On the other hand, the hard-core of Democrats will accept nothing less and may stay at home if their candidate proposes conditions.

So, can Democrats win on little but general voter dissatisfaction and the deficit? Right now the poll say that they can but voter dissatisfaction has a way of evaporating as the election grows close.

On the other hand, neither Pryce nor DeWine has done anything to motivate their Republicans roots. I would have gladly dumped both in 1993 after they crossed the isle to pass Clinton's gun control legislation.