Sunday, October 31, 2004

Social Security Is Unconstitutional

I'm breaking away from election-related posting to touch briefly on a subject close to my heart: the unconstitutionality of Social Security. The Social Security Administration tells us this:
Three Social Security cases made their way to the Supreme Court during its October 1936 term. One challenged the old-age insurance program (Helvering vs. Davis) and two challenged the unemployment compensation program of the Social Security Act. The Court would issue rulings on all three on the same day.

Helvering vs. Davis:

George P. Davis was a minor stockholder in the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. Edison, like every industrial employer in the nation, was readying itself to start paying the employers' share of the payroll tax in January 1937. Mr. Davis objected to this arguing that by making this expenditure Edison was robbing him of part of his equity, so he sued Edison to prevent their compliance with the Social Security Act. The government intervened on Edison's behalf and the Commissioner of the IRS (Mr. Helvering) took on the lawsuit.

The attorneys for Davis argued that the payroll tax was a new type of tax not listed in the Constitution's tally of taxes, and so it was unconstitutional. At one point they even introduced into their argument the definitions of "taxes" from dictionaries in 1788 (the year before the Constitution was ratified) to prove how earnest they were in the belief that powers not explicitly granted in 1789 could not be created in 1935. Davis was also of the view that providing for the general welfare of the aged was a power reserved to the states. The government argued that this was too inflexible an interpretation of the powers granted to Congress, and (loosely) that if the country could not expand the interpretation of the Constitution as it stood in 1789 progress would be impossible and it would still be 1789.

Steward Machine Company:

In the Steward Machine Company case the unemployment compensation provisions of the Act were disputed. The Company dutifully paid its first unemployment tax installment ($46.14) and then sued the government to recover the payment, claiming the Social Security Act was unconstitutional. Steward made the same as points as Davis about the meaning of the word "tax," and argued in addition that the unemployment compensation program could not qualify as "providing for the general welfare."

Carmichael vs. Southern Coal & Coke Co. and Gulf States Paper:

This was also a case disputing the validity of the unemployment compensation program. In this variation the companies were challenging the state portion of the federal/state arrangement. Unwilling to pay their share of state unemployment compensation taxes the two companies sued the state of Alabama declaring that it was the Social Security Act, which they deemed unconstitutional, that gave Alabama its authority to tax them in this way and since they believed the Act to be invalid, they did not have to pay the tax. Alabama differed. It was again the same issues as in the two prior cases.

Mr. Justice Cardozo for the Court-

On May 24, 1937 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the three cases. Justice Cardozo wrote the majority opinion in the first two cases....

Mirroring the situation in Congress when the legislation was considered, the old-age insurance program met relatively little disagreement. The Court ruled 7 to 2 in support of the old-age insurance program. And even though two Justices disagreed with the decision, no separate dissents were authored. The unemployment compensation provisions, by contrast, were hotly disputed within the Court, just as they had been the focus of most of the debate in Congress. The Court ruled 5 to 4 in support of the unemployment compensation provisions, and three of the Justices felt compelled to author separate dissents in the Steward Machine case and one Justice did so in the Southern Coal & Coke case.

Justice Cardozo wrote the opinions in Helvering vs. Davis and Steward Machine. After giving the 1788 dictionary the consideration he thought it deserved, he made clear the Court's view on the scope of the government's spending authority: "There have been statesman in our history who have stood for other views. . .We will not resurrect the contest. It is now settled by decision. The conception of the spending power advocated by Hamilton . . .has prevailed over that of Madison. . ." Arguing that the unemployment compensation program provided for the general welfare, Cardozo observed: ". . .there is need to remind ourselves of facts as to the problem of unemployment that are now matters of common knowledge. . .the roll of the unemployed, itself formidable enough, was only a partial roll of the destitute or needy. The fact developed quickly that the states were unable to give the requisite relief. The problem had become national in area and dimensions. There was need of help from the nation if the people were not to starve. It is too late today for the argument to be heard with tolerance that in a crisis so extreme the use of the moneys of the nation to relieve the unemployed and their dependents is a use for any purpose [other] than the promotion of the general welfare."

And finally, he extended the reasoning to the old-age insurance program: "The purge of nation-wide calamity that began in 1929 has taught us many lessons. . . Spreading from state to state, unemployment is an ill not particular but general, which may be checked, if Congress so determines, by the resources of the nation. . . But the ill is all one or at least not greatly different whether men are thrown out of work because there is no longer work to do or because the disabilities of age make them incapable of doing it. Rescue becomes necessary irrespective of the cause. The hope behind this statute is to save men and women from the rigors of the poor house as well as from the haunting fear that such a lot awaits them when journey's end is near."

With these cases decided, Justice Stone could then dispose of the third case in short order. "Together the two statutes now before us embody a cooperative legislative effort by state and national governments, for carrying out a public purpose common to both, which neither could fully achieve without the cooperation of the other. The Constitution does not prohibit such cooperation."....
It is no coincidence that the Supreme Court reversed its record of opposition to the New Deal when faced with the certainty that Congress would approve Roosevelt's court-packing plan and dilute the authority of the sitting justices. As SSA tells it:
Despite the intense controversy the court-packing plan provoked, and the divided loyalties it produced even among the President's supporters, the legislation appeared headed for passage, when the Court itself made a sudden shift that took the wind out of the President's sails. In March 1937, in a pivotal case, Justice Roberts unexpectedly changed his allegiance from the conservatives to the liberals, shifting the balance on the Court from 5-4 against to 5-4 in favor of most New Deal legislation. In the March case Justice Roberts voted to uphold a minimum wage law in Washington state just like the one he had earlier found to be unconstitutional in New York state. Two weeks later he voted to uphold the National Labor Relations Act, and in May he voted to uphold the Social Security Act. This sudden change in the Court's center of gravity meant that the pressure on the New Deal's supporters lessened and they felt free to oppose the President's plan. This sudden switch by Justice Roberts was forever after referred to as "the switch in time that saved nine."
In the end, the Court decided wrongly to legalize Social Security by invoking Hamilton's supposedly looser view of the powers vested in Congress, and by improperly interpreting the "general welfare" clause.

Madison -- the "Father of the Constitution" -- had this to say about the general welfare in Federalist No. 41:
Some who have denied the necessity of the power of taxation [to the Federal government] have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language on which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed that the power to "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States" amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction....

For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural or more common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify by an enumeration of the particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity ... what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching themselves to these general expressions and disregarding the specifications which limit their import, they had exercised an unlimited power of providing for the general welfare?...[quoted in testimony before Congress]
Was Hamilton of a different mind? Apparently not:
The Federalist Papers are one of our soundest guides to what the Constitution actually means. And in No. 84, Alexander Hamilton indirectly confirmed Madison’s point.
Hamilton argued that a bill of rights, which many were clamoring for, would be not only “unnecessary,” but “dangerous.” Since the federal government was given only a few specific powers, there was no need to add prohibitions: it was implicitly prohibited by the listed powers. If a proposed law — a relief act, for instance — wasn’t covered by any of these powers, it was ipso facto unconstitutional.

Adding a bill of rights, said Hamilton, would only confuse matters. It would imply, in many people’s minds, that the federal government was entitled to do anything it wasn’t positively forbidden to do, whereas the principle of the Constitution was that the federal government is forbidden to do anything it isn’t positively authorized to do.

Hamilton too posed some rhetorical questions: “For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?” Such a provision “would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretence for claiming that power” — that is, a power to regulate the press, short of actually shutting it down.

We now suffer from the sort of confusion Hamilton foresaw. But what interests me about his argument, for today’s purpose, is that he implicitly agreed with Madison about the narrow meaning of “general welfare.”

After all, if the phrase covered every power the federal government might choose to claim under it, the “general welfare” might be invoked to justify government control of the press for the sake of national security in time of war. For that matter, press control might be justified under “common defense.” Come to think of it, the broad reading of “general welfare” would logically include “common defense,” and to speak of “the common defense and general welfare of the United States” would be superfluous, since defense is presumably essential to the general welfare.

So Madison, Hamilton, and — more important — the people they were trying to persuade agreed: the Constitution conferred only a few specific powers on the federal government, all others being denied to it (as the Tenth Amendment would make plain).
Now we are embarked on a great mission to undo what Congress did so wrongly almost 70 years ago. The first step is to privatize Social Security. The next step is to abolish it. The ultimate step is to abolish Medicare and Medicaid. But one step at a my father always said.

Setting the Record Straight

The Last Amazon corrects Osama bin Laden Moore's rewriting of history, with a vengeance. Here's where she starts:
In Osama bin Laden’s latest video release he said something that piqued my interest. He stated that is was the behaviour of the American 6th Fleet in Lebanon in 1982 that inspired him to attack Americans. I could have sworn that originally Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda declared war against America because American infidel soldiers were being based in Saudi Arabia and polluting the sacred soil, but hey, never let it be said that I cannot go with the flow.
She then rips into bin Laden Moore's fabrication, at length, leaving his story in tatters. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Speaking of the EU Constitution... I was in this post, there's still a chance that all of Europe won't be herded down the socialist path by France and Germany. According to an AP story, "All it takes is one rejection to sink the constitution."

I sometimes wish that our Constitution could have been derailed by only one State's failure to ratify it. The Antifederalists were mostly right about the consequences of the Constitution. As "An Old Whig" put it in Antifederalist No. 46:

Where then is the restraint? How are Congress bound down to the powers expressly given? What is reserved, or can be reserved? Yet even this is not all. As if it were determined that no doubt should remain, by the sixth article of the Constitution it is declared that "this Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shalt be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitutions or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." The Congress are therefore vested with the supreme legislative power, without control. In giving such immense, such unlimited powers, was there no necessity of a Bill of Rights, to secure to the people their liberties?

Is it not evident that we are left wholly dependent on the wisdom and virtue of the men who shall from time to time be the members of Congress? And who shall be able to say seven years hence, the members of Congress will be wise and good men, or of the contrary character?
Despite the subsequent adoption of the Bill of Rights -- and despite occasional resistance from the Supreme Court (in the midst of much acquiescence) -- Congress (often in league with the Executive) has for most of its 215 years been engaged in an unconstitutional power grab. Campaign-finance "reform" is merely a recent and notably egregious bit of evidence that the Antifederalists were right.

Cronkite's "Conspiracy Theory"

Drudge reports this:
...Somewhat smiling, Cronkite said he is "inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing."...
Think of all the lefties out there who will use the quotation without noting that Cronkite was "somewhat smiling" when he said it.

P.S. I've noticed that the righties are getting all exercised about Cronkite's crack. Loosen up, fellas -- election's only two days away. No serious person is going to pay attention to Uncle Walter's mutterings. Hell, most of CBS News's remaining fans (all three of them) think he was mummified and glued to the anchor chair. (Oops, that's Dan Rather, isn't it?)

Debating the Debates

Ed Driscoll points to a piece by Fred Barnes about the debates:

...The traits we look for in a president are wisdom, steadfastness, foresight, integrity, inner strength, emotional intelligence, and the willingness to do what's unpopular but right. If there's been a presidential debate that gave us a glimpse of these in a candidate, I missed that one. Instead, I've watched debate after debate that provided only the shallowest of impressions about a candidate....

Now think about a few presidents who served before the advent of televised debates--George Washington, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, William McKinley, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower. I doubt if any of them would have fared well in a debate. Washington was too aloof, Madison too short. Jackson had a hair-trigger temper. Grant was a great writer but not as good a talker. Up against William Jennings Bryan, McKinley would have been overpowered. Johnson talked too slowly and Ike had trouble putting together a sentence with a subject and verb in the right place. All of them would have lost debates and maybe the presidency. Yet most were presidents of great merit.

Another worthwhile test of the value of debates is to consider the 1964, 1968, and 1972 presidential campaigns, the ones with no debates. Were the issues clearly drawn in those campaigns? Yes. Were the differences between the candidates clear? For sure. Did we manage to get insights into the character of the candidates? I think so....

Driscoll adds this:
Given President Bush's unspoken war against the leftwing legacy media (and vice-versa), I'm kind of surprised he didn't choose to use this campaign to say "no mas" to the debates.
My own take:
If Bush loses, it will because he debated Kerry, period. I know that it's unseemly for a sitting president to refuse to participate in the quadrennial test of cramming and makeup. But the debates do nothing but show how well a candidate can perform in the artificial setting of live TV. The debates have nothing to do with governance and everything to do with performance (in the showbiz sense).

Bush should have refused to participate in the debates, on the ground that he has more pressing things to do, such as prosecute a war. His refusal might have cost him a few points in the polls, but that's nothing compared with the damage he has suffered by giving Kerry an opportunity to feign gravitas.

Someone Who Understands

Unlike a hermetically sealed "strategic planner" who can bring a perfect world into being by imagining it, Mike Rappaport of The Right Coast actually understands the world:
Many people...have argued that Bush has been running the Wars on Terror and in Iraq incompetently and support Kerry on that basis. But what about the War in Afghanistan? The Bush Administration has been tremendously successful there, defeating the Taliban, forcing Pakistan to become an ally, and instituting the beginnings of democracy. See here.

If Bush is so incompetent, how has he been able to pull off these feats? Of course, it is sometimes said that Afghanistan was easy, but that is not how it was initially perceived. After all, war in Afghanistan had defeated the Soviets.

The Bush critics are selective in their focus. Here is my explanation for the success in Afghanistan and the relative difficulty in Iraq....Terrorists from other countries have chosen to focus on Iraq, so the job [t]here is much harder. Moreover, the difficulty in fighting such terrorists cannot solely or easily be attributed to the incompetence of the Bush Administration. The Israelis, who are experienced at this and are hardly incompetent, also have a difficult time fighting terrorists (in their own country). If the Israelis have a hard time and cannot easily stop terror, the critics of the Bush Administration expect too much.

It is not that the Bush Administration has not made mistakes. Of course it has. But it is important to recognize that this is a new type of war for the US and mistakes were inevitable. It is unrealistic to expect an Administration to display the competence of Kerry's (or Andrew Sullivan's) hindsight.

Can He Be Serious?

Thomas P.M. Barnett -- self-styled strategic planner -- has reacted to the latest bin Laden tape by posting this:
Not so much a warning as yet another offer of civilizational apartheid. Last spring Osama told Europeans they had 90 days to leave the Middle East or he promised to have all of them still there killed--one by one. This time he sounds a far softer note, in effect telling Americans it doesn't matter who wins the election, there will be no peace until America "respects" the security of Muslim states in the region: "Any state that does not mess with our security, has naturally guaranteed its own security."...

Take Osama's offer, America. In your heart, you know he's right . . . about us. We're a selfish, greedy country, full of guns and self-hating polemicists. We're not built for this long-haul conflict. We just got lucky on the Cold War because it was led by the Greatest Generation. We don't have that leadership now because we don't want that leadership now. Bush is the most polarizing president in anyone's memory, beginning to eclipse Nixon with this campaign. Neither he nor Kerry could ever hope to rule over anything but a severely divided and self-doubting nation after this election.

Take Osama's offer, America. Let the self-healing truly begin.
Is he serious? Perhaps. There's this:

If Kerry wins, it'll be put up or shut up on Iraq, and most European experts expect a booming silence from the Old Continent come 3 November if winner Kerry starts speed-dialing his chums across the pond.

I think the last prognosis is a bit gloomy, reelecting the European tendency to want to weasel out of any difficult job as quickly as possible (but understanding their reticence on this one because it's completely our doing). I don't think Europe stonewalls Kerry because it really would create a backlash--hence the depressive fear of a Kerry win (Mon Dieu! Now we must actually help the Americans!).

Plus, I don't think the price tag the Europeans assume will be so hard for us to meet will actually be that hard to meet. Here's the list from the editor of Die Zeit, the hugely influential German paper:

(1) After Abu Ghraib, we have to promise to the world that we'll be more careful in following the Geneva Conventions [Hell, I'll throw in an apology if they'd like]

(2) That we work to dramatically reduce our own nuclear stockpile at home and not just tell others to stay away from WMD [Wow, that one would be really hard, wouldn't it?]

(3) That we enter into serious discussions on how to fix Kyoto [Easy, get India and China into the treaty]

(4) "a return to a less arrogant tone of conversation" [Again, not exactly stressing]

That's it! That's the entire list to get Europe to come to the aid of the US in Iraq!

Tell me any of those is hard for Kerry, then tell me Bush is capable of making any of them happen.

And this:

...My point is this: the strategic despair is on our side (our troops decry: "My God, there's too many of them to kill, we'll never get the job done!"), when it should be on our opponents' side ("My Allah, there's too many of them to kill, we'll never get the job done!"). So guess who's talking about pullout and who's talking about jacking up the effort?

The only way we effectively jack up the effort is to internationalize the military occupation force dramatically, plussing up our total numbers hugely. That's how we'll create strategic despair on their side: filling our ranks with New Core troops who have a long and bloody history of killing Muslims. We can generate that strategic despair in the minds of the terrorists fielding a team of almost exclusively European-descent countries. We need to change the occidental skin tone of this force and fast. Otherwise the terrorists think all they need do is wait out the Americans just like they waited out the Sovs in Afghanistan.

Any other talk of getting more aggressive in Iraq is complete bullshit. Ask any knowledgeable military officer who's been there: there is no military solution to this situation—only a political one.

The question of this election is—therefore—who will get you that solution fastest and at the lowest cost? A nuanced and deal-cutting Kerry or the steadfast and full-of-certitude Bush?

That may well be the choice between winning and losing in Iraq.
And this:

...Here's the interesting conclusion on foreign policy from these two*: they see the neocons as being a spent force, so the real question for Bush II is who rules the roost: the social conservatives or the anti-gov types?

My point is this: either way it goes, this administration will be sorely restricted in its ability to continue this global war on terrorism. That's why I know Kerry will do better: not just the change in his tone, but the leeway offered within his party.
There's a brilliant, all-knowing "strategic" planner for you. The world and its workings can be explained in glib, assured -- if defeatist -- tones. Barnett must be hoping for a slot in a Kerry administration,** so that he can wave his magic wand and transform the world into a place where Americans are beloved by Euro-snobs and Islamofascists. It's all so easy to do -- just surrender.
* "'Bushism': This president has remade the politics of the right," op-ed by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, Wall Street Journal, 27 October 2004, p. A16.

** Or as a script writer for "The West Wing" -- where every problem, no matter how complex or irrelvant to the legitimate functions of government, can be solved in an hour (including commercials) by wise, all-knowing, all-seeing President Bartlett and his merry band of genii.

Left-Wing Logic at Work

Lambert at corrente opines:
If OBL says 9/11 and Iraq have nothing to do with each other, and Kerry says 9/11 and Iraq have nothing to do with each other... That makes OBL and Kerry moral equivalents, right?
No, it simply shows that Lambert is stupid if not duplicitous. Osama admitted responsibility for 9/11 (no news there), but he didn't say that it happened without help from others.

Nor does the case for regime change in Iraq hinge on Iraq's degree of involvement in 9/11. The invasion of Iraq was -- and is -- a means of removing an avowed enemy of the U.S. and gaining a base in the Middle East. If Bush wins re-election, watch the dominos fall in Syria and Iran -- both of which are assuredly sponsors of terrorism.

It's obvious that Osama favors a Kerry victory. Why else would he go to such lengths to try to discredit Bush and remind American voters that the "choice" is ours?

Does that equate Osama and the American left? It would by the left's vilely strident, anti-war, anti-Bush rhetoric. But I won't stoop to the left's level of illogic. I'll say only that some on the left sympathize with Osama's ends and means because they're essentially acting out a form of adolescent rebellion.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Restore Free Speech

The L.A. Times reports:
Stung by a radio campaign to oust veteran Rep. David Dreier, the National Republican Congressional Committee has filed a federal elections complaint. It contends that an ongoing campaign by a pair of radio talk-show hosts represents an illegal contribution to Dreier’s opponent.
That's the Incumbent Protection Act -- also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) -- in action.

Osama Parrots Michael Moore

In the newly released videotape bin Laden also says (via Drudge):
[W]e never thought that the high commander of the US armies would leave 50 thousand of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting was more important than paying attention to airplanes butting the towers which gave us three times the time to execute the operation thank god.
What was Bush supposed to do, don his Superman outfit, fly instantly to Metropolis, and perch all 50,000 (?) citizens on his shoulders? Or was he supposed to start barking orders left and right, without detailed knowledge of events on the ground and in the air? By the time he had learned all there was to know, it would have been too late to start giving orders.

In this country, we don't wait for Allah or Premier Stalin to tell us what to do. We rely on free individuals and institutions to do the best they can do with the resources at their disposal.* That concept seems to be beyond the ken of religious and irreligious fanatics like bin Laden and Moore.
* If the FAA and armed forces of the United States were less prepared for 9/11 than they might have been, the blame rests with Clinton as much as anyone. What was he doing on the morning of 9/11, and with whom was he doing it?

Bin Laden Threatens SUV Owners

That's one of the implications of the newly released videotape made by bin Laden (or an actor), somewhere, sometime since the Dems nominated Kerry. Via Drudge, bin Laden says:
Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. Each state that doesn't mess with our security has automatically secured their security.
In other words, America should get out of the oil-pumping lands of the Middle East and al Qaida will leave America alone.

I'm sure there are many left-leaners and pseudo-pacifists out there who 1) are ready to believe bin Laden and 2) ready to do the deal. Before they consider it seriously, however, they ought to think of what would happen to the price of oil and the state of the U.S. economy if we were simply to abandon the Middle East to bin Laden and his thugs.

Hundred of billions for defense, not one cent for tribute.

Who's Got the Brains?

An article at Wired News asks "Dems, GOP: Who's Got the Brains?" The gist of the article, if you read it closely, is that Dems tend to be more emotional than Republicans. As for who's smarter, I answered that question when I wrote "The Right Is Smarter Than the Left."

The Devil You Don't Want to Know

TradeSports has opened contracts on identity of the 2008 Republican nominee. As of now, contracts are available for Tenn. Sen. Bill Frist, Ariz. Sen. John McCain, ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, Homeland Security Sec'y. Tom Ridge, Nat'l Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, N.Y. Gov. George Pataki, Colo. Gov. Bill Owens, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, Va. Sen. George Allen, Neb. Sen. Chuck Hagel, and HHS Sec'y. Tommy Thompson.

Mostly big-government Republicans and RINOs, with the exception of Allen, who's probably unelectable because of his "hard" image.

Libertarian Republicans need to get serious and coalesce around an attractive, small-government, pro-defense candidate. Are there any out there?

The Devil She Knows

Megan McArdle (aka Jane Galt of Asymmetrical Information) has decided how she's going to vote:
Kerry's record for the first fifteen years in the senate, before he knew what he needed to say in order to get elected, is not the record of anyone I want within spitting distance of the White House war room. Combine that with his deficits on domestic policy -- Kerry's health care plan would, in my opinon, kill far more people, and cost more, than the Iraq war ever will -- and it's finally clear. For all the administration's screw -ups -- and there have been many -- I'm sticking with the devil I know. George Bush in 2004.
And that's only the conclusion of her long, perceptive explanation. Read the whole thing here.

Paul Johnson on Election 2004

Paul Johnson, a British historian perhaps best-known for Modern Times, assesses the stakes in the election of 2004:
The great issue in the 2004 election — it seems to me as an Englishman — is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization....

...September 11...gave [George W. Bush's] presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission....[H]e has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary. Equally, he has placed these considerations right at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.

There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to “try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory....[S]omething persuades me that Bush — with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue — is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative....[T]here are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted. First, and perhaps most important, he seems to have no strong convictions about what he would do if given office and power. The content and emphasis of his campaign on terrorism, Iraq, and related issues have varied from week to week. But they seem always to be determined by what his advisers, analyzing the polls and other evidence, recommend, rather than by his own judgment and convictions....

...Second, Kerry’s personal character has, so far, appeared in a bad light. He has always presented himself, for the purpose of Massachusetts vote-getting, as a Boston Catholic of presumably Irish origins. This side of Kerry is fundamentally dishonest. He does not follow Catholic teachings...[and] since the campaign began it has emerged that Kerry’s origins are not in the Boston-Irish community but in Germanic Judaism. Kerry knew this all along, and deliberately concealed it for political purposes. If a man will mislead about such matters, he will mislead about anything.

There is, thirdly, Kerry’s long record of contradictions and uncertainties as a senator and his apparent inability to pursue a consistent policy on major issues.

Fourth is his posturing over his military record, highlighted by his embarrassing pseudo-military salute when accepting the nomination. Fifth is his disturbing lifestyle, combining liberal — even radical — politics with being the husband, in succession, of two heiresses, one worth $300 million and the other $1 billion....Sixth and last is the Kerry team: who seem to combine considerable skills in electioneering with a variety of opinions on all key issues. Indeed, it is when one looks at Kerry’s closest associates that one’s doubts about his suitability become certainties....[T]he man Kerry would have as his vice president is an ambulancechasing lawyer of precisely the kind the American system has spawned in recent decades, to its great loss and peril....

Of Kerry’s backers, maybe the most prominent is George Soros, a man who made his billions through the kind of unscrupulous manipulations that (in Marxist folklore) characterize “finance capitalism.” This is the man who did everything in his power to wreck the currency of Britain....He has also used his immense resources to interfere in the domestic affairs of half a dozen other countries, some of them small enough for serious meddling to be hard to resist. One has to ask: Why is a man like Soros so eager to see Kerry in the White House? The question is especially pertinent since he is not alone among the superrich wishing to see Bush beaten. There are several other huge fortunes backing Kerry....

I don’t recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals — many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes....

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides...there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels....Anti-Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America — precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory....[Bush's] defeat on November 2 [would] be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.
(From Paul Johnson's "High Stakes," National Review, October 25, 2004. Thanks to The American Thinker for the tip, and to the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research for the complete text.)

Ray Fair's Prediction

Yale econometrician Ray Fair, whose model of presidential election outcomes I have discussed here, has issued his final prediction for the 2004 election. He believes that Bush will get 57.70 percent of the two-party popular vote. If that were to happen, Bush would walk off with 461 to 518 electoral votes (explanation here, see method 3).

I see a much closer election, with Bush getting about 51 percent of the two-party popular vote and somewhat more than 300 electoral votes. I'll issue a final prediction on election eve.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Al Qaeda's Candidate...

...isn't Bush:
No, my fellow countrymen you are guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. You are as guilty as Bush and Cheney. You're as guilty as Rumsfeld and Ashcroft and Powell. After decades of American tyranny and oppression, now it's your turn to die. Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood matching drop for drop the blood of America's victims. [al Qaeda operative "Azzam the American", via ABC News]
So it must be Kerry.

The Illogic of Helmet Laws

Liberals love laws that require bicyclists and motorcyclists to wear safety helmets. The usual reasons:

1. Taxpayers defray the cost of emergency services that go to the scene of accidents.

2. The failure to use helmets results in higher health-care costs and, thus, higher health-insurance premiums.

Proposition number 1 isn't universally true. But even if it were, so what? Accidents aren't caused by the use or non-use of helmets. Almost any accident involving a bicyclist or motorcyclist will require emergency services, whether or not the rider incurs a head injury.

Proposition number 2 overlooks the fact that non-helmeted riders are less likely to require prolonged, expensive care -- because they're likely to die more quickly than helmeted riders.

That brings us to the real proposition -- number 3: Bicyclists and motorcyclists should wear helmets for their own good. The insistence on helmet laws is simply another liberal pretext for telling others how to lead their lives.

Here's a deal for helmet-loving liberals. If you're a bicyclist (likely) or motorcyclist (unlikely), you can wear a helmet if you want to. In return, non-liberal bicyclists and motorcyclists will agree that you don't have to sport an American flag on your helmet.

Peace in Our Time?

The European Union -- an idea whose time has come and gone -- is about to become as permanent as a modern marriage, with the signing of the EU constitution. Here's the story from BBC News:
Heads of state from across the EU will be in Rome for the ceremony, to be held in the same room where Treaty of Rome was signed to establish the EU in 1957.

The ceremony will be held amid a row about the views of prospective Italian EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione.

Incoming President Jose Manuel Barroso has withdrawn his entire proposed team and has hinted he may make changes....

A squadron of F-16 fighters is expected to enforce a no-fly zone over the city centre for the duration of the ceremony....

On Thursday Mr Barroso said he is considering making a number of changes to the commission, despite controversy focussing on Mr Buttiglione.

The Italian, a devout Catholic, has been widely scorned by MEPs unhappy at his views on a range of issues, including homosexuality and the role of women in society....

Although the constitution will be signed in Rome on Friday, member nations still have to ratify the document individually before it comes into effect.

Some clauses within the constitution have caused divisions in EU states, notably plans for an EU president and a change in voting systems.

Member states can choose to hold a referendum in order to ratify the treaty or to put the issue to a parliamentary vote.

A number of countries have chosen to hold a public vote, with the first scheduled for Spain in February 2005.
The memory of World War II -- the impetus for the EU -- was vivid at the EU's inception in 1957. But thanks to Europe's American-engineered peace and prosperity, a European war has become as likely as an outbreak of laissez-faire capitalism in France. The merger of European countries is no longer necessary to the future peace and prosperity of Europe, but the formalization of the EU will proceed because of pressure from the bureaucrats and politicians who stand to benefit from it.

I predict that the EU will dissolve -- in fact if not in law -- within 20 years. Moreover, I won't be surprised if the union is dissolved by intra-EU disputes that lead to a European "civil war". That would be the ultimate, tragic irony of Europe's misguided attempt to secure a lasting internecine peace through an arranged marriage of incompatible partners.

Ballots for the Intelligent

Regarding the purportedly confusing Ohio absentee ballots, Eugene Volokh says:
...I think well-designed ballots should be understandable even by people of below average intelligence -- there are quite a few voters like that, and one doesn't want them to be confused, either. More to the point, ballots should be understandable by people who are intelligent but who are distracted, or who don't invest much time in following directions closely....
Why should we tailor ballots to fit the needs of those who are stupid or distracted? If you're too dumb or distracted to understand a ballot, you shouldn't be voting. The loss of liberty can be traced to too much democracy (see here and here). Complex ballots might be an antidote for excessive democracy.

The Ketchup Lady's Twisted Logic

THK sez:
The perpetration of certain myths that diplomacy and alliances are a sign of weakness is Neanderthal. I never heard of teaching a child to make enemies so they can get along in the playground.
And I never heard of teaching a child to believe that someone who lies to him or betrays his trust is an ally. But I didn't have the advantage of Ms. H-K's "liberal" education.

Remembering Paul Nitze

Paul Nitze died on October 19 at the age of 97. Most readers are probably stumped by the name. Here's a bit of his bio, from Wikipedia:
Paul Henry Nitze (January 16, 1907 - October 19, 2004) was a high-ranking United States government official who helped shape Cold War defense policy over the course of numerous presidential administrations.

Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Nitze attended the Hotchkiss School graduated from Harvard University in 1928. After working in investment banking, he enter government service during World War II. In 1942, he was chief of the Metals and Minerals Branch of the Board of Economic Warfare, until named director, Foreign Procurement and Development Branch of the Foreign Economic Administration in 1943. During the period 1944-1946, Nitze served as director and then as vice chairman of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey....

In the early post-war era, he served in the Truman Administration as head of policy planning for the State Dept (1950-1953). He was also principal author in 1950 of a highly influential secret National Security Council document (NSC-68), which provided the strategic outline for increased U.S. expenditures to counter the perceived threat of Soviet armament.

...In 1961 President Kennedy appointed Nitze assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and in 1963 he became the Secretary of the Navy, serving until 1967.

Following his term as secretary of the Navy, he served as deputy secretary of Defense (1967-1969), as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) (1969-1973), and assistant secretary of Defense for International Affairs (1973-1976). Later, fearing Soviet rearmament, he opposed the ratification of SALT II (1979). He was President Ronald Reagan's chief negotiator of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (1981-1984). In 1984, Nitze was named special advisor to the president and secretary of State on Arms Control. For more than forty years, Nitze was one of the chief architects of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. President Reagan awarded Nitze the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 for his contributions to the freedom and security of the United States....
I met Nitze in 1966 when, in his tenure as Secretary of the Navy, he was gracious to a young analyst (me) whom the Commandant of the Marine Corps had called upon to make a dubious case for sending more Marines to Vietnam.

Nitze later served as a trustee of the defense think-tank where I was chief financial and administrative officer. He spoke seldom, but when he did he cut to the heart of the matter.

Nitze was a rare "public servant" who truly served his country. He was hard-nosed, non-partisan, and brilliant.

Nailing a Neo-Marxist

I read an online excerpt of Cornel West's Democracy Matters several weeks ago, but I decided not to blog about it because I didn't know where to begin. It is simply one of the worst pseudo-intellectual excretions I've ever stumbled into. Luckily, Will Wilksinson was willing to hold his nose long enough to deal with West's waste, in an essay at Tech Central Station). Here's a sample of Wilkinson's take:
...A fellow professor once quipped: "Cornel's work tends to be 1,000 miles wide and about two inches deep." In a new book, Democracy Matters,...West promises to examine a triple threat to democracy: "free-market fundamentalism," "aggressive militarism," and "escalating authoritarianism." Despite the occasional insight and illuminating connection, mostly we observe Professor West in his thousand-mile pool, out of his depth, gurgling in dropped names like a baby face-down in a puddle....

...Despite West's intellectual posturing, Democracy Matters is a prime example of the quasi-intellectualism of the far left, a triumph of moralizing, name-dropping rhetoric over argument. West's wide-ranging erudition is impressive, but nowhere provides a curious but skeptical reader with a reason to believe that the market does in fact have this kind of distorting effect on our minds, or a corrosive effect on democracy as it is less tendentiously understood. West engages no advocates of the free market, nor does he even deign to knock down straw men. Overestimating the world-making powers of language, West simply slaps negative labels on his opponents and declares victory. The choir is no doubt delighted.
That's more than enough of Cornel West.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Meaning of the Election

Virginia Postrel has it exactly right:
[A] Bush victory will be interpreted as public approval (a majority's, at least) of his executive style and personality, of the war in Iraq, and of his economic policies, particularly the tax cuts. A Kerry victory will be interpreted as public rejection of Bush's temperament, of the war in Iraq, and of his tax cuts and of his pro-business (and in some cases pro-market) policies.
I wish I'd said it.

Killing Two Birds...

...with one story, from The Washington Times:
Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation, The Washington Times has learned....
So much for Russia. So much for Kerry and the Democrat defeat-mongers.


Cutting Krugman Down to Size

Donald Luskin (The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid) really, really, really, dislikes Paul Krugman. Luskin responds to a reader who takes him to task for making an issue of Krugman's shortcoming in the vertical dimension:
...Reader Vivek Rao asks, " I'm on your side -- the side of free enterprise -- and try to help in the fight against Krugmanism. But I think that mocking his height is overly personal and detracts from your site. We dislike him because he's a nasty, dishonest, socialist -- not because he's short. Right?" Fair question, and the answer is "yes." I don't dislike Krugman because he is short. But I do dislike him for more reasons than just that he is a nasty, dishonest, socialist (though I admit he is certainly all those things). Another reason I dislike him is his haughty, arrogant pose of infallibility -- the snotty, condescending, know-it-all tone he assumes when he writes from the august pages of America's newspaper of record. I do not intend to ever grant him the authoritativeness he pretends to have, or accord him any respect at all based on his pedigree or position. One way I can puncture his pedigree and position is to constantly show that this man is not the titan he pretends to be. As anyone knows who has seen him on television or in person, he is a short, pudgy, whiny, stuttering, shifty-eyed, ill-groomed, gray little homunculus. Keep that in mind when you read his New York Times columns -- it puts everything in perspective. Am I stooping to name-calling? If I am, too bad. The emperor has no clothes, and I intend to keep calling him naked.
Saying that Luskin really, really, really dislikes Krugman is an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that Luskin loathes Krugman -- and I empathize with Luskin. Krugman is a lying rabble-rouser of the first order. His presence on the op-ed pages of the Times speaks volumes about the prevailing mentality and standards of that once-great newspaper.

Curses on the Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of Bill Buckner by beating the New York Yankees to advance to the World Series. Now, the Red Sox have broken the Curse of the Bambino by beating the St. Louis Cardinals to win the Series.

How long before the Sox win another Series? As a Yankees fan, I curse the Sox to another 86-year wait.

Get 'em next year, Yanks.

Dancing around Racial Differences

Climatology isn't the only politically correct science. Nicholas Wade of The New York Times reports about race and genetics in "Articles Highlight Different Views on Genetic Basis of Race":
...In articles in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics, scientists at Howard, a center of African-American scholarship, generally favor the view that there is no biological or genetic basis for race. "Observed patterns of geographical differences in genetic information do not correspond to our notion of social identities, including 'race' and 'ethnicity,' '' writes Dr. Charles N. Rotimi, acting director of the university's genome center.

But several other geneticists writing in the same issue of the journal say the human family tree is divided into branches that correspond to the ancestral populations of each major continent, and that these branches coincide with the popular notion of race. "The emerging picture is that populations do, generally, cluster by broad geographic regions that correspond with common racial classification (Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Americas)," say Dr. Sarah A. Tishkoff of the University of Maryland and Dr. Kenneth K. Kidd of Yale....
Here we have so-called scientists at Howard University trying to deny the obvious and their "peers" at other universities merely confirming it. You'd think scientists would want to do something worthwhile with their time.

Wade continues:
Two years ago Dr. Risch, a population geneticist, plunged into the long-taboo subject of race and said that these geographic patterns correlated with the popular conception of continental-based races - principally Africans, East Asians, American Indians and Caucasians (a group that includes Europeans, Middle Easterners, and people of the Indian subcontinent).

These categories were useful in understanding the genetic roots of disease, many of which follow the same geographic pattern, Dr. Risch said. His article was provoked by editorials in medical journals suggesting there was no biological basis for race.

The articles in today's issue of Nature Genetics represent a second round of the debate. The Howard scientists agree that there is a geographic pattern in human genetic variation but favor the approach of going directly to the underlying genetic causes of disease without taking into account any possible correlation with race....
Why is race off limits as a scientific topic? What are the "scientists" at Howard afraid of learning about their race? Where's the shame in truth?

I will say once again that I fully understand Bush's refusal to kow-tow to scientists (see here and here). Most Americans, unfortunately, have subscribed to a false view of science as coldly precise and unerringly accurate in its power to prescribe "wise" policies. I don't subscribe to that view, as you'll find by reading this and following the links.

Another Blow to Chicken-Little Science

I wrote recently about a report by Richard Muller that took a chunk out of the hockey-stick theory of global warming:
This [hockey-stick] plot purports to show that we are now experiencing the warmest climate in a millennium, and that the earth, after remaining cool for centuries during the medieval era, suddenly began to heat up about 100 years ago -- just at the time that the burning of coal and oil led to an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide....

Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick....

This improper normalization procedure [used in the computer program] tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not....
Muller was, in the end, rather restrained in his criticism of the authors of the hockey-stick theory, namely, University of Massachusetts geoscientist Michael Mann and colleagues. Not so restrained is a research paper published recently in the journal Science by Professor Hans von Storch and colleagues at the Institute of Coastal Research at Geesthacht, Germany. Scientists Willie Soon and David R. Legates, writing at Tech Central Station, report:
In short, the new paper...confirms what several other climate researchers have long stipulated. The hockey stick curve -- which is a mathematical construct, as opposed to actual temperature information recorded at individual locations -- is problematic because it yields air temperature changes on timescales of a few decades to a century that are simply too muted to fit the phenomena of the Medieval Warm Period (ca. 800-1300) and Little Ice Age (ca. 1300-1900), which are well recorded in historical documents and recognized in indirect climate data from growths of tree-rings and corals or isotopic content in ice cores and stalagmites collected around the world.

This is traditional science, with results from one group tested by others. What makes this case important, though, was explained by Von Storch in Der Spiegel:
"The Mann graph [i.e., the hockey stick of IPCC TAR] indicates that it was never warmer during the last ten thousand years than it is today. ... In recent years it [the hockey stick] has been elevated to the status of truth by the UN appointed science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This handicapped all that research which strives to make a realistic distinction between human influences and climate and natural variability."
According to Soon and Legates, Von Storch calls the hockey stick "junk" or "rubbish."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

My Advice to the LP

Max Borders, writing at Jujitsu Generis, says:
A viable Libertarian Party is going to have to change its ways: 1) its platform, i.e. to moderate its views; 2) it’s [sic] image, i.e. of geeks and pot-smokers; and 3) maybe even its name and brand, i.e. a name and brand sullied by 1 and 2.
Here's a better plan. Don't run LP candidates for office -- especially not for the presidency. Throw the LP's support to candidates who -- on balance -- come closest to espousing libertarian positions. Third parties -- no matter how they're packaged -- just don't have staying power, given the American electoral system. The LP's only hope of making progress toward libertarian ideals is to "sell" its influence to the highest bidder.

Buckley Cuts Through the Cant

In an op-ed at Yahoo! News, William F. Buckley Jr. says:

Thu Oct 14,12:05 AM ET

By William F. Buckley Jr.

Teresa Heinz Kerry's reference to "greed for oil" can be passed over, and is being passed over, as routine political hyperbole. But maybe the time has come to examine the words and their meaning. This is so because "oil" is widely used as the great engine of human avarice. In years -- and centuries -- gone by, the devil word was "gold." It was gold that brought out the reserves of evil in men. It ranked with and even exceeded love and sex. Oil could not, of course, go through hobgoblinization until its uses were discovered. But now it is used as the commonplace agent of evil.

What needs to be said about oil is that it IS worth fighting for. We would all agree that air and water are necessities. Without them life instantly ends. Without oil, life does not end, but life radically changes....
Only the super-rich can afford to be haughtily condescending about things like oil (evil incarnate) and the environment (to be protected regardless of the cost in jobs and GDP).

Mike Brock takes out similarly minded lefties who begrudge any signs of happiness among Teresa's "common people":
[T]his morning, I had a discussion with somebody at a local coffee shop....

“Do you know what really bothers me?” he says, “all of these middle-class people making $40,000 a year, living out in the suburbs thinking their lives are so great. They actually think because they have a house and two cars in the driveway, that they are living on the up and up”.

“Are you aware that you are evil?” I asked him. He responded only with a blank stare.

“You resent that people have found relative happiness in their lives. You would seek to convince them that they should be depressed,” I said to him straightly.

He then announced his theory that the only reason they were happy, is because the bourgeois and corporations had brainwashed them into thinking that they were happy, when they really are not.

I’ve only recently started to pay attention to this mindset among left-wingers, but now that I’m really looking at it, I realize just how evil and shallow some people are. How can you resent somebody for finding happiness on a modest income? What the hell is wrong with these people?...

These people will only accept the happiness of others if it’s happiness in the context of what they deem to be an appropriate way of living. The fact that Joe Anybody doesn’t complain about working 8-hour days, 5-days a week, and enjoys his weekend doing home improvements and going out to dinner with his family, bothers these people deeply. They don’t want these people to be happy. They want to remind them that they live a meager lifestyle, and they are slaves to capitalism, and that they should be resentful of our society....

These only to lower the spirits [of] and bring grief [to] the average person, in order to satisfy their own personal insecurities.
Yep. Insecurity (emotional if not financial) breeds an unfounded sense of superiority.

(Thanks to Megan McArdle for the tip about Buckley's piece, and to The Monger for the tip about Mike Brock's post.)

Taking Andrew Sullivan Too Seriously

Megan McArdle, guest-blogging for Instapundit, devotes a lot of bytes to Andrew Sullivan's endorsement of Kerry. McArdle skewers Sullivan's clumsy theory that Kerry would have to hang tough on national security:
The idea that we should trust Kerry, even if we think his previous foriegn policy instincts have all been bad, because he has nothing to gain from failing to pursue Al Qaeda, makes little sense. Surely George Bush had nothing to gain from failing to suppress the insurgency in Iraq, and yet his administration still hasn't done so. This argument seems to fall into the partisan assumption that if Kerry fails it will be out of malice. But most people who think that Kerry isn't the right man for the job think he will fail not because he wants to, but because he's fundamentally wrong in some way in his national security strategy.

Similarly, it doesn't strike me as very logical to imply that Democrats have abandoned national security issues, and then suggest electing them anyway as a way to force them to "take responsibility" for national security, any more than I would employ a drug addict in a pharmacy on the theory that this would force him to "take responsibility" for enforcing our nation's drug laws.
But Sullivan shouldn't be taken that seriously. He's merely grasping at excuses for his anti-Bush stance, which is predicated on Bush's opposition to gay marriage.

P.S. Mike Rappaport of The Right Coast seems to agree with my diagnosis of Sullivan's real issue with Bush.

On the Other Hand

Regarding the ambush that killed about 50 Iraqi soldiers heading home after graduation from a U.S.-run training course, the AP headline blares "Allawi Blames Ambush on 'Great Negligence'." Whose great negligence?
...Allawi told the Iraqi National Council...that coalition forces' negligent handling of security was responsible for Saturday's deadly ambush along a remote highway near the Iranian border.

"It was a heinous crime where a group of National Guardsmen were targeted," Allawi said. "There was great negligence on the part of some coalition forces."
But there's more to the story:
...However, in an interview with Al-Arabiya television, Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan blamed the recruits, who in their eagerness to get home decided to leave immediately after their graduation and take an unauthorized route.

"They are to blame. They graduated at 12 p.m. and could have delayed their trip," he said. Shaalan added that neither the Defense Ministry, the Kirkush commanders nor the U.S.-run forces were to blame.

"They are the ones who chose this road that led them to this ugly result," he said of the victims. "There might have been some people who gave information about them to hostile sides."...
Aha! Personal responsibility evaded. Treachery abetted. Life in the Middle East.

Quantum Baseball

If you think that you can jinx your favorite team by watching its games on TV, Dennis Overbye agrees with you, in "This Season, Heisenberg Wears a Red Sox Rally Cap."

Monday, October 25, 2004

Liberal Condescension

In lieu of "About Us" (with links to biographical sketches of the bloggers), the sidebar at has this: "Who We Be". Is it okay for the liberal, white bloggers at to mock ghetto English? A libertarian or conservative blog would be considered racist for a similar lapse of taste.

Like Bill Clinton, the "boyz" at (and they are boys) can get away with it because "their hearts are in the right place." Ha!

If Only Bush Weren't Bush...

...he'd win in a landslide. That's what Jeff Jarvis seems to be saying. Yes, and if pigs had wings...

Twisted Spinster nails Jarvis:
I once remarked that reading Jeff Jarvis’s blog is like staring at a train wreck full of naked old people: appalling, but you just keep peeking between your fingers. Well. That latest post is a particularly pathetic example of the premature senility affecting the “political consciousness” of a certain age group.
Yes, reading Jarvis is like reading a high-school civics text circa 1955. Jarvis's blog is a variation on this theme: Government holds the solution to all our problems. Our duty as citizens is to educate ourselves on the issues so that we can elect the "right" bunch of commissars to tell us how to run our lives.

I had just today removed Jarvis's blog from my roll. I feel vindicated in doing so by Twisted Spinster's take on Jarvis.

(Thanks to Random Jottings for the tip.)

The Liberal Mindset

The liberal mindset can be summed up as "no trust, no respect, no responsibility":
  • My motives are pure, yours are selfish.
  • My judgments are superior; therefore, I'm entitled to tell you what's best for you.
  • Failure isn't a personal fault, it's upbringing or chemistry.
It's a blend of superiority and condescension that seeks to suppress individuality and self-reliance in the name of "rationality" and "compassion".

Right, but Wrong

Kerry says, "The ethical test of a good society is how it treats its most vulnerable members." True. But Kerry -- as a typical liberal -- equates "society" with "government". He sees government as a parent-surrogate, upon which we depend for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and psychological satisfaction. He has no conception of government as a "night watchman" -- a neutral protector who defends us from predators so that we may advance beyond dependency and fulfill our potential.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Dumb Techies

According to an article at Wired, the Computing Technology Industry Association earlier this month asked Bush and Kerry to answer these 12 questions:
* What government training, education and certification policies can help make American technology workers more competitive in the global economy?
* What is the appropriate role of the federal and state governments regarding Internet telephony and other similar Internet applications?
* What should the federal government do to address the issue of cyber security?
* What is the appropriate role for the federal government in addressing concerns about content over the Internet?
* What should federal policy be toward protecting intellectual property on the Internet -recognizing the harmless role played by mere conduits - and facilitating the free flow of ideas based on those creations?
* What should the federal government do to encourage widespread broadband deployment to businesses and homes?
* What should the federal government's role be in regard to protecting personal privacy on the Internet?
* What should the federal government's role be in regard to SPAM?
* What should the federal government do to encourage innovation and the broader use of wireless services that rely on unlicensed spectrum?
* How can the federal government help small businesses better compete in the global, Internet-based economy?
* How can the federal government better encourage investment in both basic and applied research and development?
* How important is the IT industry to the growth and development of this nation?
To ask such questions suggests that the federal government should interfere in the development and use of information technology. That's the last thing the federal government should do. If the tech industry is left to its own devices, intense competition will lead us to better, cheaper, and more secure IT. If the government gets involved, everything will be worse -- with censorhip thrown in.

Wishful and Slippery Thinking at The New Republic

Ryan Lizza writes this:
It looks like the race is down to ten swing states: Florida (27 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (21 votes), Ohio (20), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (7), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), West Virginia, and New Hampshire (4). Assuming the other 40 states are out of play, Kerry has 217 electoral votes wrapped up, and Bush has 208.
Ha, ha! Reputable polls, such as Rasmussen's, have it the other way around (Bush 220, Kerry 190).

Lizza goes on to envision a tie in the Electoral College, which would throw the election into the House of Representatives. His take:
Almost half the country still thinks Bush's presidency is illegitimate. There probably isn't a way for a second Bush term to seem more illegitimate in the eyes of Democrats than his first term than for this election to be decided by the House, a far more partisan and less respected institution than the Supreme Court. But it could happen.
Where did he get that bit about almost half the country thinking Bush's presidency is illegitimate? Source, please.

And so what if the House is partisan? It's supposed to be partisan; it's an elective body. Why would it be illegitimate for the House to decide the election in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution? I can see the headlines in the liberal press: Bush Re-elected by House, Madison's Scheme to Blame!

UPDATED - 10/28/04, 12:48 PM (CT):
I wasn't the only blogger to note Lizza's slippery (sloppy?) thinking about the election going to the House. As Lizza admits today:
LEGITIMATE POINT: Mickey Kaus is taking me to task for writing that an electoral college tie decided in Bush's favor by the House of Representatives would be seen as more illegitimate to Democrats than Bush's first term. Just to make it clear, I don't think it would be illegitimate--just as I don't think Bush's first term was--but I was saying that Democrats would see it that way.

But Mickey is right. It's silly to argue that the result of a process carefully spelled out in the Constitution could be construed as illegitimate. And, thinking it over, I imagine most Democrats would accept such a result--as long as Bush also wins the popular vote. What I should have said is that if the race ends in an electoral college tie and a popular vote victory for Kerry, then a House-decided win for Bush would be seen as illegitimate by many Democrats, who would argue that the House thwarted the will of the majority. But I admit that what I wrote, which was unfortunately quoted in The Washington Post, was sort of dopey....
I heartily agree with Lizza that what he wrote was dopey. He's right, however, that Dems would see a Bush victory in the House as illegitimate -- which says a lot about the Dems and their willingness to subvert the Constitution when they don't get what they want.

Fear Strikes Austin's Lefty Blogger

Holden at First Draft writes:
An anonymous commenter tipped me to a rumor that my hometown paper, the Austin American-Statesman, is planning to endorse Bush this weekend.

Frankly, I'm shocked. The Statesman's editorial page has been quite critical of Bush lately, and they've been endorsing several democrats in local races such as Mark Strama and Kelly White for state representatives over DeLay-whores Jack Stick and Todd Baxter. But this is no time to take anything for granted.

Make your views known. Anon suggests contacting publisher Mike Laosa: or calling the paper at (512) 445-3500.

You might also try editorial page editor Arnold Garcia (512)445-3667 or sending an e-mail to

Act now, espicially those of you in the Austin area.
Gee whiz! Can lefties be so deluded as to think that a newspaper's endorsement makes a dime's worth of difference to voters? Bush will take the electoral votes of Texas regardless of anything the Statesman or any other Texas newspaper has to say about the election.

My advice to First Draft fans: Don't waste your time by calling or writing the Statesman. In fact, don't waste your time by going to the polls on Nov. 2.

In the "So What?" Department


Eschaton is atwitter (scandalized? horrified?) at the possibility that the NRA is funding Stolen Honor, the anti-Kerry film about to be aired by Sinclair Broadcasting. I guess that makes Stolen Honor especially unworthy of consideration. Anything associated with the NRA must, by definition, be EVIL!!!

To top it off, Sinclair Broadcasting is exercising its First Amendment right in airing Stolen Honor, and the chairman of the FCC has said that the FCC won't intervene to stifle Sinclair.

Frustrating days for the left.

Sinclair has backed down, in the face of legal and political pressure. Another example of legislation by litigation. It stinks.

But remember this, lefties, what goes around comes around.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Getting It All Wrong about the Risk of Terrorism


Gene Healy points approvingly to an article in Cato's Regulation magazine about the risks of terrorism. According to Healy, the author of the article (one John Mueller)
collects the known knowns and the known unknowns about how much sleep we ought to be losing about dying in a terrorist attack. Mueller's answer: not much. And we ought to spend more time worrying about the risks of overreaction.
Healy then quotes Mueller:
Until 2001, far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping of years by all forms of international terrorism than were killed by lightning, and almost none of those terrorist deaths occurred within the United States itself. Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts....
Although there have been many deadly terrorist incidents in the world since 2001, all (thus far, at least) have relied on conventional methods and have not remotely challenged September 11 quantitatively. If, as some purported experts repeatedly claim, chemical and biological attacks are so easy and attractive to terrorists, it is impressive that none have so far been used in Israel (where four times as many people die from automobile accidents as from terrorism)....

Accordingly, it would seem to be reasonable for those in charge of our safety to inform the public about how many airliners would have to crash before flying becomes as dangerous as driving the same distance in an automobile. It turns out that someone has made that calculation: University of Michigan transportation researchers Michael Sivak and Michael Flannagan, in an article last year in American Scientist, wrote that they determined there would have to be one set of September 11 crashes a month for the risks to balance out. More generally, they calculate that an American's chance of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in 13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on America's safest roads--rural interstate highways--one would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles....
Why do we "seem" to be relatively safe from terrorism? Might it have something to do with diligent counter-terrorist activities since 9/11 -- both here and abroad -- such as rounding up a lot of illegal aliens and holding them indefinitely?

Does the record of domestic safety from terrorism since 9/11 mean that we're out of the woods? By no means. Eight years elapsed between the first and second attacks on the World Trade Center. We made the mistake of letting down our guard after the first attack, which is why the second attack was successful -- and catastrophic. Who knows what will happen next? Recent history proves that it's idiotic to say that something is unlikely to happen because it hasn't happened yet -- which is precisely what Mueller is trying to say.

It's similarly idiotic to compare the risk of terrorism to such activities as driving a car or flying on a schedule airlines. Terrorism isn't a substitute for those activities -- it's an independent, unrelated act. Terrorism isn't an accident with a fairly predictable probability of occurring. It's a deliberate act committed by implacable enemies, against whom we must be on guard at all times. Being on guard isn't hysteria -- as Mueller would have it -- it's prudence.

If I were still the managing editor of Regulation, I would have resigned rather than abet the publication of Mueller's fatuous analysis.

Tom W. Bell at Agoraphilia has more to say; for example:
...Suppose that because devastating tornados strike your hometown only rarely, your $500,000 house faces a 1/5,000,000 chance of destruction by high winds each year. Although you could prevent that threat by extraordinary measures, such as building a concrete box around your house, you rationally calculate that you should spend no more than a dime a year on tornado protection ($500,000/5,000,000). Suppose further that your hometown faces a 1/5,000,000 chance each year of being devastated by a nomadic warrior tribe. Unlike tornados, however, nomads respond to incentives. Following one such raid, you might happily pay more than a dime towards your town's Marauding Hoard Smackdown fund. You calculate that the temporary expense of chasing down and punishing the nomads will teach them a hard lesson, convincing them to take your town off their "to sack" list. The risk of further such attacks will thereafter drop, repaying your defense investment with future security....
I'm truly surprised that Peter VanDoren, the editor of Regulation, let Mueller's shoddy analysis slip into the pages of his journal.

Save the Environment... killing some trees? That might be the implication of this post by FuturePundit:
A number of factors have combined to increase volatile organic compounds (VOCs) air pollution from trees faster than VOC pollution from humans has declined....

The three major contributing factors are the natural reversion of abandoned farm land to forested land, the invasion of sweetgum trees, and the growth of large forests of pine trees for lumber....

What to do? Technology can provide the answer: plants used for biomass and trees grown for lumber need to be genetically reengineered to be less polluting. If better engineering designs can make cars less polluting then why can't better engineering clean up trees and other natural polluters as well?...
There's lots more, with links to the scientific sources.

The End of a Curse

The Red Sox have done something no other baseball team has ever done. By beating the Yankees last night, the Red Sox erased a 3-0 deficit to win a post-season series. More importantly for the Sox, by advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1986 they have broken the Curse of Bill Buckner.

Now, can the Sox win the Series and break the Curse of the Bambino? Stay tuned to your TV -- but do it with the sound muted. The annoying Tim McCarver and the inane Al Leiter make for unbearable listening.

P.S. I'm a Yankees fan, but that comes second to being a baseball fan. I rejoice in the Red Sox' display of skill and tenacity. Their unprecedented rally to win the American League Championship Series of 2004 ranks among the few greatest baseball "miracles" of all time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Spinning at The Volokh Conspiracy?

Stuart Benjamin, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, endorses Kerry: "The bottom line, in my view, is that people who believe in the old Republican credo of limited government had better vote for John Kerry." The problem is that he cites Doug Bandow, whose "conservative" credentials I've discussed here and here, and some Cato Institute papers about spending patterns under various administrations, which I've debunked here and here. The bottom line: Benjamin's argument rests on weak foundations.

Maimon Schwarzschild at The Right Coast sees through Benjamin:
...Stuart Benjamin, over at the Volokh conspiracy, posts that he is "disenchanted" by the Bush administration, and urges believers in "limited government" to vote for Kerry. Stuart's post implies throughout that he is a small-government conservative disappointed, no, shocked at Bush profligacy.

As someone who knows and loves Stuart -- he is one of those people that, if you know him, you are fond of him -- I never, ever, for a moment doubted that he would support the Democratic nominee. Stuart is well within the academic political orthodoxy when the chips are anywhere near down. He would no more endorse Bush than most of his academic colleagues would. Stuart is very smart and a very good writer, and very good company too, and he was no doubt recruited to the Volokh Conspiracy in large part for those reasons, but he also provides leftish balance at an otherwise mostly rightward-leaning blog. The idea that Stuart is a typical Republican who, after sleepless nights and agonising reappraisal, has decided that supporting Kerry is the conservative thing do -- and, therefore, that patriotic and reflective conservatives should join him and do likewise: well, how shall I put this? there is a spin element here....

Monday, October 18, 2004

Something Controversial

Just a bit of bomb-throwing for a quiet evening:

1. When it comes to intelligence, people aren't created equal.

2. People of lower intelligence tend to pursue instant gratification in favor of long-term rewards.

3. Therefore, democracy undermines liberty because:

a. Those who seek instant gratification have inordinate influence over the outcome of elections.

b. Those who seek political power can gain it by appealing to those who seek instant gratification.

c. This confluence of interests eats away the constraints on government that are the bulwark of liberty.

Bad News for Politically Correct Science


Richard Muller, writes at MIT's Technology Review about developments in the pseudo-science of climatology:
Global Warming Bombshell
A prime piece of evidence linking human activity to climate change turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics.

...In the scientific and political debate over global warming, the latest wrong piece may be the “hockey stick,” the famous plot (shown below), published by University of Massachusetts geoscientist Michael Mann and colleagues. This plot purports to show that we are now experiencing the warmest climate in a millennium, and that the earth, after remaining cool for centuries during the medieval era, suddenly began to heat up about 100 years ago--just at the time that the burning of coal and oil led to an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide....

Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick....

This improper normalization procedure [used in the computer program] tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not....

Some people may complain that McIntyre and McKitrick did not publish their results in a refereed journal. That is true--but not for lack of trying. Moreover, the paper was refereed--and even better, the referee reports are there for us to read. McIntyre and McKitrick’s only failure was in not convincing Nature that the paper was important enough to publish....
Then there's the down-to-earth threat posed by "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS). Mick Hume at London's Times Online has this:
You've got to stub out that irritating fact

...Yes, of course it is true that smoking tobacco can cause cancer and terrible illnesses. But the scientific case against passive smoking is far cloudier. Just about the only thing we know for certain is that inhaling other people’s second-hand smoke can cause some irritation and the odd argument.

If you are wondering why the well-founded doubts about passive smoking are rarely aired, look at the extraordinary episode reported in The Times this week. The Royal Institution in London, a famous centre for scientific research and debate, has hired out its rooms to the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, for a one-day event entitled “The Science of Environmental Tobacco Smoke”. As a result, the Royal Institution finds itself under heavy fire from anti-smoking crusaders and senior medics for whom any debate about the effects of passive smoking must be stubbed out before it starts....

Not content with demanding a ban on smoking in public, it seems that the anti-ETS lobby wants a ban on talking about smoking in public too. Stub that fact out and extinguish that opinion immediately, my lad! This affair is a symptom of the spreading epidemic of tobacco intolerance — not a medical condition, but a new moral orthodoxy. It may soon be easier to smoke a joint than a cigarette on the street....

Worst of all, I cannot stand the way that passive smoking has been turned into a metaphor for that mantra of modern miserabilism: “Other people are ruining my life!” This was the spirit of morbid self-pity that Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, tried to tap into, arguing that restrictions on public smoking would ensure that “nobody will be bullied into a lifestyle they do not wish to join.”...

The unhealthy assumption behind all this is that smokers are helpless addicts in need of drugs and psychotherapy to save them from themselves, while the rest of us are hapless victims in need of state protection from other people’s putrid lifestyles. Never mind about passive smoking, how about launching a war against the cancer of passive living?
The more I learn about the misuses of science by those with a leftish political agenda, the more admiration I have for Bush's refusal to be cowed by those who claim that he's anti-scientific. I think he's got a good B.S. detector, and he's not afraid to use it.

Then there's this, from William Kininmonth at Tech Central Station:
The Chimera of Carbon Dioxide Increase

It never fails to amaze how the media gullibly makes every piece of greenhouse gas trivia into a feeding frenzy about global warming. A claim currently making the international media rounds is that for the past two years carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been increasing at an annual rate greater than two parts per million (ppm). This is to be compared with previous rates of about 1.5 ppm, and described as a cause of concern....

The sad fact of the matter is that...[s]ome relevant numbers have been collated and interpreted for the media as something alarming. The truth is much more prosaic....

[T]here are six well-distributed sites extending from the Arctic to the Antarctic with long and nearly complete records of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.....

[T]he increase in concentration from 2001 to 2002 exceeded 2.0 ppm at only two of the six stations. The average of all stations exceeded 2.0 ppm but only because of an unexplained large increase at the South Pole site, far from centres of industrialisation.

It is widely acknowledged, and borne out by data, that the year-to-year increase in concentration is greater during El Niño events, when tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are unusually warm. This factor explains the larger than normal increase from 2002 to 2003. However, it should also be recognised that the annual increase to 2003 was significantly less than during the major El Niño event of 1997-98, a point lost in the media hype....
For more about pseudo-science and the misuses of science, read this and follow the links.