Posted by Brad @ 6:25 pm on February 28th 2007

Ron Paul Watch….

On Lou Dobbs’ program Monday (with an added benefit: no Lou Dobbs):

It’s time to start ponying up, if you ask me. The second he announces officially, I’m in for as much as I can squeeze out (not much). I’ve already signed up as a volunteer/supporter. You should too.

Posted by Adam @ 10:36 am on February 28th 2007

National Purpose

I find the idea of ‘National Purpose’ to be disturbing, unless it’s cast as ‘freedom to choose’. Chris Dillow, lefty econonerd, has a good piece on the nonsense of Gordon Brown, presumptive British Prime Minister, calling for ‘national purpose’ as a handy catch-all solution for societal problems.

While I’m at it and on a tangent, I also don’t like daily indoctrination, for kids, into the benefits of belonging to a nation, nor direction as to which countries, or for that matter systems or religions, are bad. Those are decisions that people can make later in life. We do, in any case, seem predisposed to love our countries, even in the absence of indoctrination; furthermore, if you need indoctrination (which I don’t think is the case for the UK or the US) to convince people of the value of something, it’s probably not that valuable. This should be particularly evident to Christians (plus many other religious types) and democracy-loving Westerners, given that for both the primacy of free will is ideologically well-established.

Posted by Brad @ 10:31 pm on February 27th 2007

Daddy, What’s a Neocon?

(warning: long)

So, I was paging through a New Yorker the other week (syncophantic lickspittle that I am), and in it came across a quote that nearly perfectly sums up the two competing Republican foreign policy worldviews. I often get pressed on that, in my criticism of the neocons, and in my vehement assertion that neoconservatism, of the Bush variety, is a lot of things, but conservative is not one of them. It’s an incredibly important question for Republicans…which is why I found it ironic that the quote I came across was between two Democrats–Chris Dodd, talking about Joe Lieberman:

“I think there was this assumption that democracy was just waiting to blossom,” Dodd said of Iraq. “Let’s assume the President believed this, that it wouldn’t take much to produce a democratic society in Iraq. I’m not opposed to that, and I think that may happen, but the idea that you could go from where they were was a leap of faith, and many took that leap. Joe took that leap. He thought this was one way to bring stability to the region.”

Dodd went on, “I’m in the Brent Scowcroft school, the world as it is.” Once, this would have been a surprising statement, particularly to Brent Scowcroft, who might be called a Republican fatalist. But Dodd said that the last four years had been “sobering” for him. “I’d love to see a democratic Middle East,” he said. “But you’ve got to be a coherent society before you can be a democracy.”

It’s rare that you see a political dialectic so perfectly summed up.

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Posted by Rojas @ 9:30 pm on February 27th 2007

Whippersnappers III: The Whippersnappening

The famous powerpoint by Dr. Scott McLeod of the University of Minnesota. He’s one of the leading specialists in educational developmental theory, but we won’t hold that against him.
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Posted by Adam @ 5:29 pm on February 27th 2007

Flake. Cuba. Sanity

Via RCP, an article by Pierre Atlas. Conservative GOP representative Jeff Flake has co-sponsored a bill with New York City blowhard Democrat representative Charlie Rangel that would effectively end the embargo on Americans travelling to Cuba. The reason that this can happen now, Atlas claims, is that the Democrats control congress and can put Bush in the position of having to decide whether to veto the bill. Now, where I am not certain is whether vetoing it is a popular thing for Bush to do; Atlas claims that two thirds of Americans favour re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba and takes this to imply that the travel ban should go as a result. That might be a stretch, it seems to me.

I personally do favour the end of the travel ban. I think that it’s pretty clear that the general trade, travel and diplomatic embargo just hasn’t worked in bringing down the regime there. Castro looks set to die, finally, of natural causes, with the regime he created fully intact. Doubtless Jesse Helms would plan, were he able, to declare victory when Castro finally pops his clogs, but the fact is that it’s been a failing strategy insofar as bringing down the Castro regime has been concerned. Time to reconsider.

Flake makes three points with which I agree. Firstly, he points out that it is a freedom issue; why should Americans be forbidden to travel to Cuba in the first place? Why restrict the freedoms of Americans over an issue that isn’t a matter of American national security? In addition to that, I have heard it suggested (but cannot testify that it’s true) that if the Cuban emigre community hadn’t ended up in the biggest swing state, this would have been abandoned long ago; why should a minority of one state direct foreign policy for the nation? In particular, why should their interests be able to restrict the travel of all Americans?

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Posted by Rojas @ 10:56 am on February 27th 2007

More on the young whippersnappers

A continuation of the discussion from earlier, wherein we learn that young people suck and the blanket encouragement of “self esteem” isn’t helping. Of course, in this case, the category of “young people” in question is broad enough to encompass all three of the writers at this site.

Which makes sense, really. What is a blog, after all, except an expression of the belief that we are entitled to be heard? An expression of the sentiment that our opinions are equally worthy of attention as those of professional experts? A demand for attention?

Also, I want a pony.

Posted by Adam @ 9:05 am on February 27th 2007

California redistricting shenanigans

The LA Times has an article that described a Democrat backshuffle on redistricting reform in California (I ask again, will the GOP ever stop wailing about media bias? The answer, of course, is no).

I am against elected representatives getting together and redistricting based on political interpretation of census and voting data. I don’t have any problem with redistricting taking place as and when required by census data (to make sure that each person’s vote counts roughly equally, you need to have roughly equal numbers of people in each district), but if doing it is a political decision, that is what we might call ‘highly sub-optimal’; it means that a majority in the legislature can be increased simply by redistricting, which in itself means that being in the majority is enough to be in a larger majority next time around, all other things being equal. You can redistrict so that even falling into minority in popular vote in the future still wouldn’t even threaten that majority.

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Posted by Brad @ 10:06 pm on February 26th 2007

Catty Libertarians

I didn’t put Ron Paul in the headline this time!

Via Homeland Stupidity, a good writeup of some blowback Badnarik got for his support of Ron Paul this weekend.

Both Rojas and I have at various times been diehard partyline Libertarians (or close enough), but both of us have become pretty disillusioned with the internal feeding frenzy of the hardcore party purists, who tend to get their way more often than not, and who explicitly thrill in throwing off chances of reaching a wider audience for the sake of some kind of ideological eugenics program, wherein they parse down the party to maybe a dozen people, but goddamn will those 12 people be them some fuckin’ Libertarians. Harry Browne’s body wasn’t even cold before they began trying to exorcise his spirit from the party.

Now, I wasn’t a big Badnarik fan in 2004, and thought him part of the problem. But, he’s certainly grown on me in, say, the last week. Money quote from that article:

On Friday night, Badnarik endorsed Republican Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) for President in 2008, which excited most people in attendance, but solidly annoyed a vocal few, such as George Phillies, who is vying for the 2008 LP nomination.

Phillies, who was in the audience Sunday morning, was visibly upset and asked why Badnarik would cross party lines. “Ron Paul is a Republican,” he said.

“I don’t care if Ron Paul is a Martian,” Badnarik responded. “He is the one person in Washington who understands the Constitution, the one person I trust implicitly.”

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Posted by Rojas @ 7:15 pm on February 26th 2007

In defense of “fearmongering”

The Democrats (and their syncophantic lickspittles, like Brad and Adam–see posts below) have been having a lot of success with the “Republican fearmongers” meme lately. It is a politically useful label, because fear feels bad, and it is the sentiment of the American public that anything anyone in government does that makes them feel bad is cause for removal from office. (more…)

Posted by Adam @ 4:36 pm on February 26th 2007

Hiring and Firing Teachers

There’s a very interesting post at Chad Orzel’s blog on the subject of firing incompetent teachers or, more precisely, commenting on the difficulties in so doing, and why in Chad’s opinion it’s not something to be greatly worried about. I made a long comment and a short comment there, nearly all of which I’ll reproduce here (because, godamnit, I wrote it, I should put it on my own blog). Education being my main hobbyhorse, I was not very brief. Rojas will doubtless have opinions on my opinions as well as on the general issue.

My first point should be a disclaimer; I have not taught highschool in the US. I have taught highschool in the UK. Unless the US has a significantly higher standard of teachers than does the UK (of which I have seen no particular evidence) then I would say that incompetent teachers are a problem here, contra Chad’s assertion. Even if they weren’t, of course, there would be nothing lost by it being possible to fire them, but I am inclined to think that they are, although admittedly only one problem amongst relatively many. Perhaps the biggest problem of all relates to useless parents and is largely outside of government control (and let’s hope that the government continues to accept that).

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Posted by Rojas @ 3:30 pm on February 26th 2007

Hillary’s old stompin’ grounds

I spent the weekend at Hillary Clinton’s old high school in suburban Chicago. As an adolescent, the current frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination was, famously, the scion of a hyperconservative family, and was herself a Goldwater supporter. In those days, or so I’m told, Illinois was very much a swing state, and well-off Chicago ‘burbs like Park Ridge helped to electorally offset Mayor Daley’s machinations in the rest of the city. (more…)

Posted by Adam @ 2:27 pm on February 26th 2007

Blair defends the Iraq mission

Via Andrew Sullivan, a radio interview (apologies, realmedia) with Blair over Iraq, from Radio 4’s always interesting Today Program.

Sully picks out the relative toughness of interviewing of politicians in the UK, which is far comment, I think. Also worth pointing out that senior British politicians will put themselves through this in an attempt to make their point, even, on occasion, the PM. It’s a pretty healthy way to conduct political discourse, I think (but then, I grew up with that tradition, so I would).

The interview is from last week (so, not breaking news); I used to listen to Today over the web every morning, but have become somewhat lax. I should get back into that, I think (I am reading UK political blogs like Dizzy Thinks and Iain Dale, both right-of-centre). You can get access to the whole recorded show by clicking through from their homepage. The show runs from 6am to 9am GMT, so recorded is the only way that I’m going to get it (my dedication to being current doesn’t stretch to getting up at 1am EST to listen to it).

Posted by Brad @ 1:43 am on February 26th 2007

In Case You Missed It….

We were a pick of the day on Friday at www.18doughtystreet.com

And people always told Adam he’d never amount to anything.

(p.s. i have no idea what 18 Doughty Street is)

Posted by Brad @ 1:25 am on February 26th 2007

Oscar Gore

“My fellow Americans, people all over the world — we need to solve the climate crisis. It’s not a political issue. It’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”

Posted by Brad @ 8:23 pm on February 25th 2007

The Libertarian Vote in 2006 and Beyond

So it turns out that this guy turned the Senate blue:

It usually takes a few months after an election before the hacks get bored of trying to read their agendas into electoral results, and the academics and historians start in. It feels like much of this discussion has already been passed by, but I want to return to it, in part, because our blog is new, and as I said early when we started, going into 2008 I want to lay down some precepts and operating assumptions, and some bases for my own perspective on what the Republicans are not doing, and what the Democrats should be.

Specifically, I would argue that libertarianism, all along its spectrum, remains an enormously powerful potential electoral draw, depending on how it is played. Both parties can credibly stake some claims to it. And both parties have reason, if not always ability, to do just that. That’s something that I intend to keep a careful eye on in the coming months.

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Posted by Brad @ 2:34 pm on February 25th 2007

The Performance of Nancy Pelosi

There have been some few problems with Nancy Pelosi’s early tenure as Speaker (incredibly stupid, gobsmackingly dishonest smears like the plane story), to some genuine concerns about her tactics in pushing through some of her First 100 Hours policies.

But, on the whole, ideas that she would be some kind of crazy liberal gorgon, or that she’d be a hopelessly flailing in-over-her-head liberal-puppet Hastert-In-A-Skirt, seem to be unfounded. By and large the consensus has formed, even among her enemies, that she’s actually….well, pretty damn competent at her new job. Good at it, even.

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Posted by Adam @ 10:40 am on February 25th 2007

Frank Luntz’s solutions for the GOP

Frank Luntz has a recipe for GOP success. It turns out that they should be running for governmental office based on a commitment to be conservative and good at governing. Fancy that. In particular, key recommendations include:

  • No earmark pork
  • Support running a balanced budget
  • Stop the grabbing of Social Security surpluses to make the balance books look healthier than they are
  • Make tax increases hard

Might just be too obvious for the GOP, who know that what conservative and centrist voters really want is for their future to be mortgaged so that lobbyists can direct legislative priorities to benefit their clients.

Posted by Adam @ 7:43 am on February 25th 2007

Hillary’s Clinton problem

Hopefully, I am the lucky 10 000th blogger to use that post title. The rest of the post will be, I fear, no less obvious.

Following the Geffen-Clinton-Obama spat, it appears that Team Hillary has decided that there mustn’t be any mention of the bad stuff from Bill’s era. Presumably, she wishes just to be suffused with a happy glow, that my fellow limeys might remember from the Ready Brek ads, as she talks warmly of the Clinton years.

This, I probably don’t have to mention, is a crock. She needs a strategy to deal with this because even if she were able to mute her Democrat rivals (she won’t be able to) and win the nomination, she’s still going to hear a lot of it in the presidential election campaign. Clearly, she wants the warmth from the parts of the Clinton years in the Whitehouse that many people remember fondly, but man, she needs to find a way to deal with the fact that everyone knows that he was a womanising, pardoning, Lincoln-bedroom-renting wide boy.

This isn’t a swift boat issue where a perceived campaign strength is combated with dubious, but politically powerful, claims; this is something that took place recently and was examined thoroughly by a prosecutor with subpoena power. There are plenty of accepted facts and so long as no one starts on the they killed Vince Foster sort of lunacy, she has to suck it up. This all assumes, of course, that more information about the Clinton Whitehouse isn’t about to leak once the race hots up anyhow; there must be former Bill Clinton staffers, other than Dick Morris (I had to link that site, which is run by Dick Morris, because it mesmerises me, like a car crash), who aren’t onboard the Good Ship Clinton this time around. Those people may have some interesting stuff to say.

Posted by Brad @ 3:02 am on February 25th 2007

The Future Governor of Alabama?

Reminds me an awful lot of Jimmy Kimmel doing Karl Malone.

Posted by Brad @ 2:23 pm on February 24th 2007

Michael Badnarik Endorses Ron Paul

Really fantastic news. Those that don’t follow the LP will probably be nonplussed, but this is about as big a telegraph that the LP might officially get behind Paul as you can get.

“My short term goal for the next two years is to make sure that Ron Paul is elected president in 2008,” Badnarik said Friday night at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, a pro-liberty conference hosted by the Free State Project.

….

In his Friday night keynote address, Badnarik […] urged over 200 attendees to support Ron Paul for president by making campaign contributions and activating grassroots support. “You cannot do it yourself,” he said. “You have to have wide, wide grassroots support.”

Badnarik also urged the Libertarian Party to nominate Ron Paul as well. “I hope the Libertarian Party is smart enough to say, ‘Oh ho, somebody we can trust!’ and nominate Ron Paul as our nominee,” he said. “We should set the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian labels aside, and vote for Ron Paul the person.”

Ron Paul is expected to officially announce at the Liberty Forum in Concord, N.H. this weekend.

Posted by Adam @ 1:42 pm on February 24th 2007

Execute them and throw away the key

I am against the Death Penalty. I am unconvinced that it’s morally defensible and, furthermore, I am just not convinced that it works in any case. Gregory Kane, however, makes a good and interesting argument based around the continuing criminal activities of prisoners, not just in Maryland, which is the focus of his article, but across the country.

Kane’s argument is basically that criminals in prison continue their criminal activities; they are involved in gang wars inside prison which spill out onto the streets outside the prison, they order criminal activities outside the prison and they pose a serious physical risk to their guards. Regarding that last, Kane makes the point that a guy serving life with no possibility of parole stands to lose little from murdering a prison guard (or, presumably, a fellow prisoner). Thus, the argument against the death penalty, to which I myself subscribe, that they’re locked away forever and so the safety of the public is already assured without an execution, fails because the public aren’t, in fact, safe from these people.

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Posted by Adam @ 9:49 am on February 24th 2007

Please accept my resignation

Perhaps Groucho Marx’s most famous quotation is the following: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”.

When I was younger, I played roleplaying games; Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest, Middle-Earth Roleplaying, Rolemaster, Shadowrun, plus a bunch of others. And by ‘when I was younger’, I mean that I last played a couple of weeks ago. Now, I am no longer concerned about cool; that ship has long sailed. However, there was a time when I was more interested in cool and with good reason. There were women to impress. It would never do, when I was sitting with some women – a situation that I might ingraciously, were I a rapper, describe as “Chillin’ with ma bitches” – assiduously building my image as a tortured soul with a poet’s heart hidden beneath that hard exterior so that they were the only ones able to see that chink of inner humanity, should a greasy-haired nerd wearing a Metallica teeshirt appear and attempt to engage me in a conversation about his intention to dual-class his 6th Level Fighter, Thangorodrad the Terrible (as an aside, in 1st edition AD&D I would advise waiting until at least 9th level is achieved before dual-classing your fighter, preferably to magic-user).

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Posted by Brad @ 4:56 pm on February 23rd 2007

CrossedPond CattleCall — Republicans

Same deal, different field.

Remember, explain why you think the stupid things you think.

Posted by Brad @ 4:52 pm on February 23rd 2007

CrossedPond CattleCall — Democrats

Inspired by the dailykos cattlecalls, though certainly Adam, Rojas, and I—no stranger to electoral parlor games—have done them before.

Might as well start early, given that the election has.

It also annoys me when electoral bloggers never put their necks on the line, even though it’s clear from their commentary that they have definite opinions and predictions about how things will go; they’re just not willing to say them (because you will, often, be wrong). But, that’s the fun of it. To make fun of the people that are very wrong, I mean.

The rules: Rank the candidates based on how well you think they will do, not how well you would like them to do. This is just prognosticating, not soapboxing.

We’ll do this once a month maybe. And, of course, everybody join in–I’m just as interested to see what our commentators think as what Adam and Rojas do.

Here is the field. Include as many or as few as you like.

Posted by Brad @ 4:28 pm on February 23rd 2007

Hugh Hewitt and General Odom

I have to admit that Hugh Hewitt is one of my least favorite people and, to my mind, pretty emblematic of nearly every single bad thing about the current Republican party that I would care to name (“but tell us how you really feel…”). But his show has gotten significantly better lately, and whatever else might be said of him (and there is much), he’s had the balls to bring on his program very smart proponents of the positions he disagrees with, and meet them in a more or less open field of battle. Say that for Hugh Hewitt.

So, this interview with General William Odom was a welcome read. General Odom wrote a very good editorial last week called “Victory is not an Option”. He favors more or less immediate withdraw from Iraq.

Hewitt certainly does not treat him fairly, but it’s his show, why should he? What is instructive though is to listen to one of the most emblematic voices of the pro-war right arguing against a very well-versed and intelligent member of the anti-war pro-withdraw military. It is not the shellacking that Andrew Sullivan paints it out to be–both get in their licks–but it is instructive into the almost anti-intellectualistic voice of the pro-war side by now, and the calm, reasoned, almost anti-hysteric voice of the anti-surge, pro-withdraw side. How utterly unlike the representation that many media umpires give to that debate sometimes, but read it for yourself.

Posted by Adam @ 2:23 pm on February 23rd 2007

Brief round-up.

It’s a slow news day today. Here are some of the stories so far:

Vilsack’s out, claiming campaign fund poverty. Tom, we hardly knew you.

Fresh from the great success in Iraq, 1000 additional British troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, where there have been claims of troop shortages for some time. Perhaps they will bring the sweet smell of success with them.

Tougher sanctions against Iran are proposed. Given the enormous difficulty of doing anything brutally military against Iran, although this Kossite isn’t convinced that it’s not going to happen anyhow, it seems to me that failing to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons may be the real price of failure in Iraq, whilst also imposing its own timetable for the stabilisation of Iraq. If Iraq’s a tinderbox and an attack is launched on Iran, what will happen then?

Dick Cheney, for whom a World Tour of countries whose governments support US foreign policy wouldn’t earn him as many airmiles as he might once have hoped, is in Australia pushing the ‘They want the Caliphate back’ line for Why They Must Be Stopped. Domination of the Galaxy will surely follow.

Meanwhile, from Dizzy, we have this link to squirrel fishing. I hate squirrels. Socially acceptable rats is all they are.

Posted by Brad @ 11:58 pm on February 22nd 2007

Obama, 2002

One month after the Iraq War resolution vote, 11/25/2002.

Posted by Adam @ 10:39 pm on February 22nd 2007

The US for limeys, Part 2: the DMV

Hot on the heels of Part 1, here is Part 2 of our hard-hitting limey’s guide to the most tedious aspects of life and how they are differently dull in America.

So, there you are, outside the DMV. It’s Columbus Day. State employees don’t work Columbus Day*.

So, there you are, outside the DMV, the day after Columbus Day. Hardened by previous encounters with the bureacracy, you will have brought a sheaf of documents pertaining to visa, employment, your UK driving license, birth certificate, wedding certificate, degree certificate, social security card, two or three utility bills, dog license, any deals you may have signed with the Devil and anything else that occurred to you once you had reached the end of your road.

As with supermarkets, you will not be allowed to carry a gun into the DMV, for reasons that will become obvious.

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Posted by Adam @ 8:04 pm on February 22nd 2007

Overexaggeration Status: Severe

Not satisfied with overstating the terrorism threat, it appears that the extent of Iran’s documented nefarious involvement in Iraq has also been overstated. Are the American voters going to become irritated with this, or do they prefer an overstated case? Alternatively, is it that the only way to get significant attention is to overstate the case, much as environmentalists, immigration restrictionists, etc, do?

Anyhow, from the article:

But the U.S. officials acknowledge that what the briefer said in Baghdad is only a deduction—in other words a guess, perhaps even an educated guess.

Posted by Adam @ 2:27 pm on February 22nd 2007

And then the Fab Four were two.

I did hear reports on the Philip Morris tobbaco case decided 5-4 two days ago by the Supreme Court but didn’t pay any attention to the break down of the majority. In particular, I assumed that Scalia and Thomas had voted with the new boys, Alito and Roberts. Which was a mistake on my part, because the majority was in fact comprised of Breyer, Kennedy, Alito, Roberts and Souter, with, in the losing corner, Ginsberg, Thomas, Stevens and Scalia. This is interesting, at least to me as a non-expert observer, because it’s an issue in which, as Kmiec writes in Slate, there is a pretty obvious originalist position. Furthermore, the actual ruling appears not to be of great use to lower courts in deciding what is, and isn’t, constitutional under the Due Process clause with respect to the consideration of strangers to the litigation in awarding punitive damages. According to Kmiec, it’s the sort of muddled judgement, directed by sentiment, that the President and many others have claimed to oppose.

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