Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rudy the Terrible

This is the best article I have seen on why Rudy should not be president. It is a very specific set of criticisms of his use of power as Mayor. As such, it barely lays a glove on him in my opinion. "Hired yes men," instead of people that publicly disagreed with him? "Too confrontational with the legislature," as if someone trying to execute a 180 degree policy change would be able to operate by consensus. "Only goes along with requests for information when forced to by the court." We admire people using all the legal means available to get the job done when we agree with what they are trying to get done. What is impressive is that even in this plainly anti-Rudy piece the author has to acknowledge his success in pulling the city back from the brink and can't find anything that suggests him bending fules to line his own pockets.

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Judges in Space

URL: Is FISA worth preserving?

This article gets at the fundemental problem with using courts in the
war on terror. We don't want to monitor people we suspect are
terrorists but find the people that we don't yet suspect are

The current use of FISA courts takes judges into a new function, of
judging actions taken by the government that are not related to a
particular adversarial proceeding. They are just making general policy

This is, of course, a function of the fact that these wire tapping and
information monitoring procedures are searches unrelated to any
particular charge--that is what intellegence opertations are. That is
what makes them different from criminal investigations. They aren't
directed at tieing a particular person to a crime that has already
occured, they are about detecting people that haven't done anything yet
to make sure it stays that way.

Putting judges into the loop is besides the point. One can agree or
disagree with the policy, but the mechanism for regulating policy is
the legislature and executive: elected officials making prudential
judgements about the future. A court might reasonably step in at the
constitutional level and over-rule the whole policy, but having courts
regulate policy from day to day, unrelated to any individual case, is
simply making courts into policy makers. In this case, about the least
well qualified policy makers imaginable.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Kaus puts his law school training to work

Here is a really nice point by Mickey Kaus. These little pop-up ads for a book about Bill's indiscretions that pop up on Google whenever you search on Hilary are in effect campaign advertisements that are not covered by campaign finance laws. Technically, they are advertising a book, it just happens that a fair description of the contents of the book are about the same thing you might want to put in an attack ad. Do we mutilate the constitution even more in our quixotic quest for "pure" and "untainted" speech, or do we give free speech a chance? My guess is no. After all, what is the harm. It gives each side an irresistible incentive to skirt the "spirit" of campaign finance laws and a perfectly legitimate accusation to make against their opponents. Then we give ourselves another opportunity to reduce politics to a sterile and irrelevant judicial debate and avoid making any real decisions for another election cycle.

I predict one more thing. The Republicans that do this will get in a lot more trouble with the press than democrats who do or benefit from the same thing. There is no one out there that will say, "Hey, you are ignoring our problem," as they would if the press tried to ignore some actual harm done to someone's interests--say if they tried to look at chemical dumping or lax enforcement or unemployment on one sides watch or territory and not the other. The thing about real problems is that they have real victims that tend to make noise when you ignore them.

With this pseudo problem the only victims are rival groups of politicians. It does not take much imagination to guess which side the press will give the microphone to.

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General Writing

Sometimes an image can bring a number to life.

"The fact is that, in essence, fewer soldiers than it would take to fill
up Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium have been asked to secure and patrol
a nation the size of California..."

It puts into perspective what we are trying to do and how we are trying to go about doing it. Supplying government to a society that has never known anything between blood relative local leaders and blood thirsty marauders is a labor intensive enterprise. Doing it requires not just, as big army leaders remind us, boots on the ground but that they be on the ground outside the nice safe air-conditioned base.

The title of the General's piece implies that Americans need to understand that the situation is 'fragile and complex' and, therefore, will require more time. The problem is that Americans do understand it is fragile and complex and that is why they don't want to give it more time.

At bottom Americans think the world is simple, at least if you are on the right side. If you are on the right side you get flowers and kisses from pretty girls and go home. That is how it worked (or seems to have worked from this many years forward) in the WWII with Germany and Japan. If it is not working out that way then, if "it" is insisting on being fragile and complex, then it is a sign that we are on the wrong side or, at best that there is no right side to be on.

This is a dangerous error. The great danger to us is not posed by our peers, by functioning societies, but by backward societies. In the world of WWII backward societies posed no threat other than temptation to great power rivalry. Today, with out new found respect for self-determination, societies that cannot even feed themselves are called nation states with all the rights and privliges thereof. The petty thugs that climb to the top of these medieval political cultures have the resources and technology at their disposal to maintain power indefinitely and threaten us with middle-age fanaticism and nuclear age arms.

The reason these societies are fragile and complex is that they are not really societies. They are hostages to our fantasy of third world "authenticism," the idea that whatever thug comes to power in a third-world country, no matter how unrepresentative or hated he is, is somehow more legitimate than an outside power. These societies are the victims of the premature ending of imperialism. Backward societies thrust into the clutches of dictators legitimized by our own guilt.

Bringing these people into the 21st century--the good parts of the 21st century, not the nightmare part of the 20th that we have consigned them to--is a complex and fragile task. That it is difficult makes it no less necessary.

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There seems to be no cultural penalty for unfounded accusations against our government. No matter how false or wild such charges turn out to be it is all for the greater good, since if the government/Bush administration turns out not to be guilty as charged it is only because the courageous consciousness raising brought about by wild charges prevented them.

Here a former Clinton administration official takes apart the charges made (and assumptions held by most everyone engaging in public debate) in the film rendition.

Steyn and Opposition Research

Here is another fine piece of writing by Steyn. What really sets him apart from other opinion writers is not so much his humor, though it is on a higher level than other writers, but his knowledge of the opposition's case. What makes his writing so powerful here is the detail with which he attacks the other side's contentions. Moreover, the final sentence delivers on the promise made in the first paragraph: he shows us that the entitlement state with unpayable future obligations is the real attack on our children's well being.


Nothing better represents the fatuousness of the judicial approach to politics than this business about apologizing for things that happened almost outside of living memory. The government of Turkey that committed the massacres is gone and virtually all the people that were killed would be dead now anyway. Will someone feel better with an official apology for something that happened 90 years ago? If this is the worst problem someone has, that they haven't had a note of condolence from Enver Pasha's successors, then they really don't have problems.

If you are upset about the Armenian genocide the time to do something about it was in 1917, not 2007. This helps no one but our enemies and hurts no one but us.

But that is the epitome of the judicialization of International Politics. Doing nothing out of respect for sovereignty when it might actually do some good and insisting doing something when there is absolutely nothing to be gained.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Madrassas and reciprocity

Something really has to be done about these Madrassas that the Saudis are spreading. There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. If anyone tried to finance a religious school in Saudi Arabia that was not of the approved brand of Islam, let alone not Islamic, they wouldn't have it for a moment. Why are they given privileges they do not extend to others? Locke's principle of reciprocity would be well employed here.

The Associated Press: Afghan Suicide Bomber Kills Own Family
Afghan Suicide Bomber Kills Own Family

By AMIR SHAH – 5 days ago

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A mother who tried to stop her son from carrying out a suicide bomb attack triggered an explosion in the family's home in southern Afghanistan that killed the would-be bomber, his mother and three siblings, police said Monday.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

In the who knew department

It turns out the entire US establishment knew about Sputnik and wanted the Russians to get there first (or at least didn't want our own Redstone rockets to be first). An early case of strategic restraint that is entirely misinterpreted by the public and yet has serendipitous effects. One of the great "policy shocks" turns out not to have been at all. After Rachel Carson what is left? Look out Ralph, these things come in threes.

Turns out there is not always room for jello

School in Illinois attempts to ban jello from sensitivity, offends sensitivities of actual voters. Have Muslims made any such accommodations? I am sure they have, just asking.


I am listening to a DVD with excerpts from Churchill's speeches. I am struck by his open appeals to the principle of reciprocity. After the Battle of Britain in which London lost some 50,000 people. He tells Parliament that the people of Britain if offered a treaty from Germany now prohibiting bombing of cities they would now refuse it, saying that they would now prefer to pay Germany back in its own coin before considering such an offer. Parliament cheers. In another speech he says that though we will never descend to their level that if they want to play rough we can play rough too. These were serious people.