Right Question

Asking the right question is usually more productive than trying to prove the right answer.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Best Comment on the Miers Nomination

A.J. Strata of the Strata-Sphere in a comment at Decision '08 had this comment:
[George Will] knows nothing so he projects his worst fears on her. All the pundits are doing that.
All the rest of the commentary is but nervous fidgeting, for now.

Schwarzenegger's Lasting Legacy?

This new poll (hat tip: Power Line) on Governor Schwarzenegger's latest round of ballot propositions this fall, looks very promising.

Proposition 77 would take legislative districting out of the hands of the legislature (leading to the obvious and inevitable positive feedback loop called "Gerrymandering" -- named for the notorious Elbridge Gerry and a roughly salamander shaped legislative district in 1812 Massachusetts) and into the hands of a non-partisan commission of retired judges. Although this is only likely to buy voters one or two generations before the commission is routinely packed with partisan hacks, and becomes an even harder problem to eradicate, this is still an enormous step forward. Hopefully, the example of California will shame other states into enacting such policies over the next couple of decades.

Governor Schwarzenegger is again showing us that he well understands California's nearly unique system of ballot Propositions which allows an energetic governor to make an end run around the legislature and get his initiatives passed directly by the voters. Using this to clean up the redistricting process is an unsexy, technical-detail sort of reform that will have a profound impact on decades of California legislatures (and U.S. Congressional representation as well). We will probably never really know what legislative measures it will forestall, and what measures it will have made possible, but this is probably the Gubernator's single most important initiative, and the one that could never have come from a mainstream candidate of either party. It's exactly the sort of initiative he was elected to champion.

Bravo, Governor Schwarzenneger.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

How is a Democrat like a Red Sox fan?

In the wake of the Yankees stunning Division-title victory yesterday at Fenway Park, it occurred to me, that the recent difference between Democrats and Republicans bears a striking resemblance to the long-time difference between Red Sox fans and Yankees fans.

I could give a long list of similarities, such as the most superficial: Yankees players have long been required to show up clean-shaven with short hair. Perhaps in reaction to this, star Red Sock Johnny Damon sports shoulder-length hair and a scruffy beard.

But the most telling facet of the analogy is this: for one side, it's personal. Yankees fans love the Yankees, and don't particularly like the Red Sox; Red Sox fans both love and hate the Red Sox, but really, really hate the Yankees. Witness one of the more popular Red Sox tee-shirts: I support two teams... Boston and whoever beats New York. Similarly, it's hard to imagine any Democratic voter waxing rhapsodic over John Kerry, but ask him about George W. Bush and watch the emotions explode. Howard Dean who hates Republicans and everything they stand for is the proper spokesman for this party, which hates Republican officials far more than it loves Democratic ones.

In contrast, I can well recall, growing up in a staunch Yankees household, rooting for the Red Sox when they played teams from the south or midwest -- loyalty was by geographic proximity, not passionate personal hatred. This seems much more like most Republican loyalties -- which depend on "proximity" to one's own policy preferences, not party identification.

Much of this could just be human nature in response to a series of electoral defeats. The recent rise of the Red Sox hasn't yet banished the ghosts of generations of heartbreaking losses and trans-generational legends of the "Curse of the Bambino." For comparison, most Democrats can still recall the end of the multi-generational domination of our national legislature, and combined with two heartbreakingly-close Presidential elections... could we be witnessing the start of the trans-generational legend of the Curse of the Lewinsky?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What Does It Say When Lynndie England Out-Classes a Washington Post Op-Ed Columnist?

I don't believe it can possibly indicate that Lynndie England, yes that Lynndie England, has class.

Still, Richard Cohen, today, is upset that while she apologized for her own crimes, and the disgrace she brought to her country, she didn't take the moment to demand apologies from her leaders. "Apologies for what?" you might reasonably ask. And Cohen has a list:
  1. "George W. Bush: How dare you send me into war for reasons that seem downright specious?"
  2. Donald Rumsfeld: "an apology for a military plan that no one, with the possible exception of Mrs. Rumsfeld, thinks called for enough troops and which, anyway, was implemented before all of the troops were on the ground"
  3. the Army: "for sending her over to work in a bad and chaotic place without proper training"
  4. of no one in particular: for not telling her she shouldn't do what she did.
Before a contradictory "But...", Cohen answers the last for himself: "It's impossible not to be revolted by what England did and to insist that no American should need special training in the humane treatment of fellow human beings." Lynndie England, finally, has accepted responsibility for what she did. A Washington Post columnist is disgusted that she showed even this much class, rather than trying to deflect blame onto some of his own hobgoblins.

In the end, his complaints say more about his own narrow views of the world. Our Army is poorly trained? Fighting this war at all was a mistake? No one believes we used enough troops? Make no mistake, these are fringe viewpoints, magnified to sound like a consensus in the echo chamber Mr. Cohen lives in. And to have demanded apologies on these bases, during her allocution -- her one public admission of guilt -- for her own crimes, would have demonstrated a breathtaking lack of perspective and, yes, class, that would, apparently qualify her as a spokeswoman for the modern left.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Poland Sees the Right

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

—Winston Churchill

Our staunch European ally Poland now seems poised to rediscover the blessings of liberty for herself. The ruling ex-communist groups have been voted out and replaced with two center-right parties one dedicated to tax-cuts and creating a welfare state (that that's center-right in Poland tells you much about the political spectrum there) and the other a pro-business free-market party.

Of course, as the BBC reports, every time they've gone to the polls, the Poles have tossed out whoever was in power -- so we'll have to see whether this newly forming coalition government can finally satisfy the Polish people. With unemployment pushing 18% in the wake of (ex-)communist economic theory, they seem likely to have a good shot at this. So raise a glass and join me in wishing our Polish friends well -- Na zdrowie!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Conservative Approach to Poverty

For as long as I can remember, the Democratic Party has claimed that Republicans don't care about the poor. For as long as I can remember, the Democratic Party has offered no new ideas to help the poor. For as long as I can remember, the Democratic Party has gone to the mattresses to stall, stop or sabotage any new conservative idea to help the poor.

In the wake of his recent address on rebuilding New Orleans and the rest of the recently storm-ravaged region, the President has received a great deal of criticism for his proposals of huge new spending programs. Others have noted that his proposals uniformly represent conservative free-market approaches to rebuilding and helping people -- not the "do-nothing' proposals of the Democratic Party's strawman of conservatism, but real conservative solutions that really work. Want to increase employment -- let the market, not bureaucrats, dictate wages; want to stimulate business in a depressed region -- provide tax incentives to all businesses in the region, not grants to businesses which grease the right palms; want to improve education for our children -- set standards, provide financial rewards for exceeding them, and let private industry do what it does best.

Pundits and opinion bloggers from the left seem to have caught on. Today's Washington Post editorializes: "there is also talk -- still vague -- of spending $7,500 per displaced student, regardless of whether they choose public or private education. ... Any "emergency" bill that has the potential to turn into a long-term federal subsidy for private schools must be quashed." And blogger Josh Marshall's lastest crusade is against what he calls the President's "Wage Cut" proposal -- his insistence that the construction companies restoring the region's devastated infrastructure pay wages the market will bear, rather than the inflated wages demanded by unions.

At some level, these arguments sound right. We certainly shouldn't be using a national tragedy to gain traction for partisan political programs. However, this argument (or insinuation, perhaps, since it's not explicitly stated) gets it completely wrong.

Conservatives have known for some time that there were better ways to help people than the often very poorly-thought-out programs of the ironically named "Great Society". And we should not now, when people require our help, consider it a virtue to give them the foolish and counterproductive "help" which the government has given them time and time again in the past. It is morally incumbent upon us to help those who need our help in the best way that we know how. That the Washington Post can both acknowledge that vouchers may indeed be the best way to help Katrina victims with their educational needs and at the same time demand that we not do it, because of the risk that this superior program might also be provided to other Americans in need, should be seen as a strong hint that it's not the Republicans proposing this that are allowing partisanship to taint their response to the hurricane.

FDR and LBJ each instituted enormous changes in the way our government interacts with those who need help. Some of those programs were successes and others were failures. It's time for GWB to add his name to that list -- and demonstrate conclusively how the free market can strengthen any government program: partial privatization of Social Security, tax cuts to spur local entrepreneurship, relaxing some of the more harmful employment requirements to spur employment, giving support money directly to individuals in the form of "vouchers" for job training and medical costs and education, empowering individuals as consumers with a choice rather than as passive "beneficiaries" of large, ineffective government bureaucracies. As some, or perhaps all, of these proposals prove themselves with the recovering victims of Katrina, perhaps we will see more people in need reacting like these (hat tip: Michelle Malkin) and demanding similar effective programs for themselves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Possibly the Best Take Yet on the Roberts Hearings


More: Here.
and: Here.

No Wonder Hanoi Jane Loved This Guy...

Hugh Hewitt at Radio Blogger is covering Ted Turner's interview (by Wolf Blitzer) about his latest visit to North Korea: here.

Some highlights:
  • "I am absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are absolutely sincere. There's really no reason for them to cheat or do anything to violate this very forward agreement."
  • WB: But this is one of the most despotic regimes, and Kim Jung Il is one of the worst men on Earth... TT: ...he didn't look too much different than most of the other people I've met.
  • WB: But look at the way he's treating his own people. TT: Well, hey. Listen, I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin, and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars.

There were other revelatory remarks, like when Wolf Blitzer mentioned the million North Korean soldiers on the DMZ, Ted Turner corrected him that there were only half a million troops -- ours. And he blamed us for keeping them there in an unproductive job when they could be doing things like building hospitals. Wolf Blitzer asked about Kim's missiles. Ted Turner responded that they couldn't hit the U.S. and dismissed as unimportant their ability to attack our allies in Japan and South Korea. And he concluded by insisting that any "facts" Blitzer thought he knew were irrelevant because he'd never personally been permitted to enter North Korea. And his "then go there on vacation" response to Blitzer's claim that NoKo had always refused his requests to visit has to rank up there with "let them eat cake" in the not-getting-the-problem category. But by far the most insane line was this:

Praising a genocidal dictator for the fact that his people (who are being systematically starved to death) are so thin, unlike our own car-and-obesity epidemic. I haven't the words.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Washington Post Favors of Voter Fraud.

Is there another explanation for today's editorial?

A bipartisan commission finally has its recommendations for reducing voter fraud -- mostly by rationalizing voter lists at the state level and requiring photo ID at the polls, while making photo IDs available at taxpayer expense for those without a drivers license.

The requirement that voters present identification is opposed by the post because, in their own words: "For those who don't already have identification, the hurdle of assembling the necessary documentation and obtaining the cards could prove a deterrent to voting."

That's it. That's the entire argument. Seriously.

There are some other bits about "we should do this too..." and "here are some things we agreed with..." along with a some "we don't think that kind of voter fraud is so bad..." but otherwise, that one sentence is the whole actual argument for what would be bad about asking the people who show up at the polls and cast votes to present an ID.

Some people might not be willing to bother to vote.

How confident are we that a citizen who can't be bothered to pick up a free ID card will actually know the names of any of the candidates running for office?

Perhaps next week the Post will point out that we could encourage fuller participation if we didn't bother to ask voters their names when they arrive at the polls -- after all, more people might vote if they didn't have to bother registering.

Fun with Grammar...

A recent convoluted discussion reminded me of an odd line of thought from my college linguistic days.

In English, you can append an unlimited number of clauses to a sentence, resulting in the silly, but perfectly well formed, children's tale that started with "This is Jack." and added a clause on each subsequent page, ending with something like:
This is the dog that chased the cat that killed the mouse that ate the cheese that was dropped by the girl who lived in the house that Jack built.
Of course, there are several different ways to insert clauses, and some of them don't work quite as well as this. For example:
  1. This is Jack.
  2. This is the Jack-built house.
  3. This is the Jack-built-house-living girl.
and so on. But that's awkward even from the start. A more interesting version begins sounding reasonable, and but grows more and more difficult to parse with length:
  1. The man is named Jack.
  2. The man, by whom the dog was scolded, is named Jack.
  3. The man, by whom the dog, by whom the cat was chased, was scolded, is named Jack.
  4. The man, by whom the dog, by whom the cat, by whom the mouse was killed, was chased, was scolded, is named Jack.
  5. The man, by whom the dog, by whom the cat, by whom the mouse, by which the cheese was eaten, was killed, was chased, was scolded, is named Jack.
  6. The man, by whom the dog, by whom the cat, by whom the mouse, by which the cheese, which the girl dropped, was eaten, was killed, was chased, was scolded, is named Jack.
  7. The man, by whom the dog, by whom the cat, by whom the mouse, by which the cheese, which was the girl who lived in the house that Jack built dropped, was eaten, was killed, was chased, was scolded, is also named Jack.
What's interesting is that, spoken with the right intonation, the third sentence (with Jack, the dog and the cat) is perfectly straightforward, but the fourth sentence (with the addition of the mouse) is not.

Anyway, nothing to do with politics, just my random thought of the day.

All the Hypocrisies Fit to Print

A few days ago, the NYT published this editorial (one of the last to be freely available on their web site) calling on Senators to vote against Judge Roberts for Chief Justice. The piece was an amazing bit of sophistry, describing Judge Roberts in glowing terms: "Few lawyers in America can compete with Mr. Roberts in professional accomplishments."; "Mr. Roberts could be a superb chief justice." and "If the test were legal skill alone, Mr. Roberts would certainly pass."

My first response to this last line was to think that someone ought to look at what they had to say when Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- a great legal mind on the far other side of the ideological spectrum. Fortunately, it didn't take long for Matt Barr at New World Man to point out that that's exactly the standard the NYT considered relevant in 1993.

No wonder they are planning to hide their editorials behind a pay-per-view firewall.

UPDATE: James Taranto is, of course, all over this.