Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami disaster

Geez, 100,000 and climbing, and many areas haven't even been heard from yet. Here's a good place to donate.

What especially worries me is Somalia and Burma. I don't see any way that aid is going to be able to reach those places. We'll probably never know how many died in those countries.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Did the voters make the right choices?

My last post created a bit of controversy over my assertion that voters have always generally chosen the right man for the Presidency. I admit that this is a very subjective judgement and it's impossible for me to really prove it, as we can never know how someone who wasn't elected would have performed. So let me attempt to clarify.

I think that American voters, while ignorant about policy details, do understand the big picture. In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George Bush and Ross Perot because the top concern among Americans at the time was the economy. They also were disgusted with politics as usual and wanted change. Clinton was a different kind of Democrat. Perot at first dominated the change vote, but then got way too flaky and dropped out. Then he got back in. Voters picked up on that and recognized that Perot was probably not stable enough for the job. That's something you could figure out without knowing where Perot stood on one issue. Clinton turned out to be a very successful President. He fell short on his goal of real change, but at the very least good times returned and the voters broke the Democrats' monopoly on Congressional power. And I think in both cases that was the right move. Clinton was the right man for the Presidency, and it was time for the Republicans to start reversing the excesses of Democratic tax and spend policies, with the help of a New Democrat.

In 1988, it was Bush vs. Dukakis. I don't know about you, but I'm glad Michael Dukakis wasn't President when Saddam invaded Kuwait. I'm glad that Dukakis wasn't President at a time when crime rates peaked in America. We needed firm toughness and we got it. Bush also put his extensive foreign policy experience to good use while the Communist bloc crumbled.

In 1984, Reagan vs. Mondale. Please. No contest. Mondale was an Old Democrat trying to bring back policies that were long past their shelf life. Reagan was as right for the 80s as Clinton was for the 90s. He had vision when America needed vision. He had optimism when America was downcast.

1980: Carter vs. Reagan. Do I even need to comment here? Carter was incompetent. He was done. He was tired. I don't even know why he was running.

1976: Carter vs. Ford. We needed Carter to restore trust. The American people needed to feel right about their government again. Although Carter failed in many ways, he was always viewed as honest and is still beloved as a person if not a President.

1972: McGovern vs. Nixon. Nixon may have been a bastard, and the people sensed he was a bastard, but McGovern was so weak he was unacceptable.

I was born in 1974, so I won't try to go back much further. Just suffice to say that from 1945 to 1968, the choices were mostly clear and Americans have few regrets about men like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Truman. LBJ was weak, but Goldwater was too extreme for the times.

Now of course there can be a lot of argument with this post, and I'd like to see and participate in discussion about it. But keep in mind it's only an opinion and I'm not going to defend it to death like I would say, the 1st amendment.

I have faith in democracy and faith in the American voter especially. I've never felt let down after an election.

The 2% solution-part one

This is a multi-part series on one of the most outstanding new wonkish books in recent memory, at least in my opinion, Matt Miller's Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems in Ways Both Liberals and Conservatives Can Love. The book is pretty much what it describes. A way to fix America's biggest domestic problems. It doesn't address America's current big problem, war and terrorism. But that's not really Miller's specialty from reading his columns. He's a domestic policy wonk, first and foremost, and a darn good one. He worked on the Clinton administration's first economic plan in 1993 and is currently a fellow in the centrist think tank Center for American Progress.

The first three chapters of Miller's book deals with the fundamental unseriousness of American politics. He blames in part the media, for being stenographic in the way it covers political news. The media bends over backwards to avoid the appearance of bias, so has mostly limited itself to just copying down whatever the politicians say. I don't know if this is as true as he thinks it is. Blogs have been exposing media bias in both directions for awhile. But I do think it's evident that on policy matters, the media really doesn't contribute anything. I'm not so sure it's even supposed to, and later in the book Miller interviews the main editor of the Washington Post and he makes precisely that case. Since I'm reluctant to blame the media, let's concentrate on politicians.

Few politicians are willng to take chances on really big ideas. On one hand, it's not their fault. Voters tend to punish the really ambitious ideas, such as Social Security privatization, universal college education, universal health care, etc. Sometimes with good reason, sometimes not. Obviously, Dennis Kucinich's or Pat Buchanan's type of "big ideas" are nutty in the extreme to all but a small minority of voters. Non-profit health care? Limit non-white immigration? Ugh. On the other hand, politicians have not been bold enough to attempt to educate the voters. Now I don't mean voters are dumb. Far from it. I have an intrinsic faith in the American voter. I realize that Americans tend to be ignorant of policy matters and foreign affairs, but somehow they always seem to understand the big picture and make the right choices. Perhaps I'm being hopelessly naive, but I challenge anyone to name one Presidential election in recent memory where voters made the wrong choice. Besides the most recent President of course, because it's too soon to assess his record. However, on specific policy matters, Americans can often be demagogued. Instead of educating the public about the pros and cons of a proposed policy, both sides make outrageous claims that can fit into 30-second talking points. The media dutifully copies the talking points verbatim and does little helpful to expound upon the themes. So politicians tend to work at the margins of problems.

The Democratic Presidential candidates presented a health care program that would cover fewer Americans than one that George Bush senior proposed during his Presidency. George W. Bush proposes a private accounts plan for Social Security that would allow Americans to divert a measly 2 percentage points of their FICA tax. Matt Miller endeavors to discuss America's problems and find real solutions. And for the most part, I think he does. We'll detail his solutions in the following parts of this essay.

A victory for democracy!

Yuschenko wins.

Good for the people of Ukraine. Democracy continues it's advance around the world. Let's cross our fingers for Iraq and Palestine.

So, think the Iraqi elections aren't important?

Then why do the jihadis seem so desperate to stop them?

If they'd succeeded in assassinating Hakim, this may well have been the spark that set off civil war. They want to stop this election from happening really, really bad.

So many parties, you need a program

Thankfully, Zeyad at Healing Iraq has the complete, or as complete as possible, rundown for us on who is who.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Iraqi government shows some spine

Iraq's interim government has rejected a greater role for Sunnis in the elected government to be chosen by Iraqis on Jan. 30. This strikes me as common sense. Why should the Shiites and Kurds, oppressed by the Sunni minority for centuries, give into a violent minority? Especially when it's not really even clear how much of the violence is about that.

How much of the insurgency is due to our occupation of Iraq? How much is foreign jihadis simply on a killing spree, knocking off any infidels or Shiites or Kurds they can find?

My educated guess is that the only Sunnis who are fighting for some kind of Sunni Power movement are mainly ex-Ba'athists. And from reports I've read, despite Allawi's and Bush's statements, ex-Saddam supporters and Ba'athists in general don't really seem to make up a very large portion of the insurgents. Therefore, granting Sunnis power they won't have earned through the electoral process would be useless anyway.

Besides, it's not as if the Sunnis are going to get shafted here. The Shiites and Kurds seem to be making far more effort than the Sunnis ever did for them as far as involving them in the governing process. There are lots of Sunnis on the Shiite electoral lists. Also, the Sunnis dominate the military, the civil service, and the professions. They are the wealthiest and best educated group in Iraq. Even if they don't win much in the way of elected power, they will still wield substantial power and influence in other ways.

First post

Okay, so here it is. The first blog post. Basically, I intend this blog to serve two purposes:

1) To solicit discussion on issues which I don't fully understand, and which I don't feel are covered enough on other blogs or in the mainstream media. That could be a challenge at first, since this blog will have like, no readers, but hey, at first I'll just learn by talking to myself.
2) To persuade, on issues which I do fully understand(or at least think I do until someone shows me otherwise). I'm afraid I'm not nearly as good a writer or as persuasive as some of the great bloggers like Steven Den Beste or Andrew Sullivan or Matthew Yglesias, but I'll give it a shot because I love challenges.

I imagine someone might peek over from Ebay's Town Square, so welcome! I'll appreciate your feedback the same way I do on Town Square. And don't think for a minute that I will neglect my duties over there just cuz I have a blog now.:)

Mainly, I'll be linking to news stories, like most political bloggers do, or other blogs that I've been reading avidly for the last couple of years.

As for my political affiliation, I think I'll leave that to the judgement of the reader, since whenever I've attempted classified myself in the past, I've been accused of mislabeling myself for having views which are unorthodox. So I'll let you label me, or just call me names if you want. I can take it.:)