Nov 292007

I wish I could watch this on RTR Planeta. But it doesn’t sound like something Putin would like. Excerpt from the article about it:

That leaves Belinsky and Herzen with plenty to do. They have arrived on Russia’s shores just as the history of Russian thought is up for grabs, when a fight is raging for the country’s identity and for its past. Everything Herzen detested is being resurrected: censorship, the autocracy of the Russian state, a macabre union of Orthodoxy, nationalism and authoritarianism. After almost 15 years of a democratic experiment following the collapse of Communism, Russia’s middle class is voluntarily surrendering personal liberties for a notional stability just as the French did in 1848. As one of the audience declared, “I feel that this production is so up to date that it could be shut down.”

It’s from

I’ve been wondering why the country that produced the likes of Dostoevsky could also produce such shallow understandings of the cause of great events like that seen in Utomlyonnye solntsem. Maybe there are some clues to possible alternate outcomes here.

Nov 282007

The Kalamazoo Gazette thinks it’s just fine for the county to hire a lobbyist to get money out of the feds. No, really. It editorialized in favor of it in Tuesday’s paper. You can read the full thing here.

In a perfect world, lobbying would not be necessary. After all, we have two U.S. senators and several U.S. representatives who are elected to represent the interests of our state and region.

Commissioner David Maturen cast the lone dissenting vote. “I think we already have a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.,” Maturen said. “It’s called our congressman.”

In the ideal world, the congressman would go to jail if he tried lobbying administrative agencies on behalf of constituents. Such lobbying is not how things get done on the basis of merit. It’s how they get done on the basis of influence peddling.

But is it any better to have a paid lobbyist do it? Perhaps. But it’s still institutionalized corruption.

That’s true. But U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a St. Joseph Republican whose district includes Kalamazoo County, can do only so much with a limited staff. Government, especially at the federal level, has become enormously complex.

Yes, the federal government has become enormously complex because it has its fingers in things that are not its proper business. If it didn’t have its greedy claws on all of those things, it could leave them to state and local entities, and we wouldn’t need these corrupt lobbyists to try to get things on our behalf.

And while lobbyists are perceived by many citizens as representing special-interest groups, many of these people have expertise that allows them to perform useful services. They assist and inform lawmakers by calling attention to the needs of communities large and small. They also serve as a pipeline for communicating local needs to the maze of federal government departments and bureaus.

That’s a damning indictment of the involvement of the feds in local issues. Of course they don’t know about local needs. That’s why the federal government should deal with national issues, not local ones.

Another advantage of a joint effort to obtain a regional lobbyist is the furthering of intergovernmental cooperation, which has been improving but still has a long way to go.

No doubt. So instead of the various governmental agencies being jealous of each others’ prerogatives, as they should be, we’re going to have institutionalized collusion. No wonder some people think it’s government vs the people.

We agree with Collard’s succinct remark regarding support for a lobbyist. “All too often,” he pointed out, “(federal) dollars are left on the table in Washington, and we certainly want our fair share.”

Federal dollars are being left on the table? I doubt it. I thought the government was running deficits. If money is being left on the table, why not use it to pay down the debt? But I don’t think that’s the case. I suspect that the Gazette didn’t do any fact-checking on this one.

And as county board member John Taylor pointed out, “…this is a great bang for our buck. You can’t get a lobbyist for $15,000.”

With many parties kicking in, the total investment in a lobbyist is not a major expense, especially considering that the effort could return millions of federal dollars here. We believe it’s worth a try.

If it’s a matter of getting our fair share of federal dollars, the way to do that is have the dollars stay in the states and communities in the first place. If, on the other hand, we’re trying to redress some imbalances, then it’s to be expected that some localities are not going to get “their fair share.”  And it isn’t honest for the counties that can afford it to use their influence to beat out those who can’t afford lobbyists.

Nov 262007

Putin didn’t do too badly for himself by having Gary Kasparov locked up for 5 days. It’s a way of flaunting his aggression, and also of getting people used to just sitting back and taking whatever it is he’s going to do next. So next time, when he does something even worse to Kasparov, people inside Russia and without won’t manage to make much fuss about it, because he already got them used to this much.

I predict that here in the United States the left/media/Democrats aren’t going to make much of a fuss, because they are busy trying to quell dissent, too, via the Fairness Doctrine, McCain-Feingold, hate crime laws, and campus speech codes. So Putin is doing their work, too, by getting people used to the arguments that political dissidents are a threat that must be brought under control.

It’s interesting, though, that even though Putin is wildly popular, at least in Moscow, he finds it necessary to put down all opposition. Is it because he realizes that the prosperity that makes him popular now is not going to last?

Nov 252007

Here’s how it works. When the news media report on something that’s blindingly obvious, they say things like, “Opponents claim that night is darker than day.” Here’s an example from the Daily Telegraph, in an article about the Russian Nashi (sort of like a cross between the Hitler Sturmabteilung and the Hitler-Jugend, except their shirts are red rather than brown).

Less enamoured of the status­ quo are Russia’s opposition politicians, who claim that a series of Putin-imposed curbs have reduced the elections to a Soviet-era sham.

But when they want to beat the drums for their favorite bandwagon, they don’t use such a perjorative word as “claim.” Here are examples from that puff piece that the Boston Globe put out for Hillary Clinton, “Blue collar women see hope in Clinton.”

Even many working-class women who have spent their lives in traditional roles at home and work have been animated by Clinton’s effort to shatter what she has called “the highest, hardest glass ceiling.”

Not “they claim they have been animated.” Just a baldly stated, “have been animated.” Here’s another:

Analysts say she connects with working-class women emotionally by presenting an image as a fighter who has overcome obstacles in her life, and appeals to them politically by offering proposals that would help their pocketbooks.

Here they hide behind what some anonymous “analysts” say. These analysts may or may not exist, and if they do, we can assume there are a lot of other newsworthy words in addition to “analyst” to describe them.

Nov 242007

It’s presented as a news story at the Boston Globe:  “Blue collar women see hope in Clinton.”   If you don’t believe me, look at the URL.

These are the same news people who are given special privileges in McCain-Feingold to keep campaigning after others are required to shut up.

One pro-speech-restriction blogger wrote thusly a few years ago:

The new line-drawing has a danger: it might encourage more corporations and unions to put on sham news programs or broadcast advertisements supporting or opposing a candidates for public office under the guise of sham advertising for a book or movie. For this reason, FEC regulations are only a temporary solution.

But what about when the major news media themselves put out sham news programs?

Nov 222007

Slate has an article by William Saletan on the topic of racial differences in intelligence — the same topic that cost James Watson his job.  He argues that liberals are to this topic as Christians are (or were) to evolution.    That section is titled “Liberal Creationism.”

The comment section has some fascinating debate which demonstrates that Saletan has a point.    It was interesting how some debaters criticized Saletan saying there is no such thing as race, it’s all a social construct of some sort.  Someone on the other side responded that the same people who deny there is such a thing as race when this topic comes up will be the same ones to argue that one race is discriminated against in employment.

Nov 212007

The headline on The Seattle Times article is:

Kerry accepts “swift boat” challenge

The punctuation is wrong. It should be:

Kerry “accepts” swift boat challenge

If Kerry had really accepted it, he would have provided evidence that the Swift Boaters lied. But he has not done that; therefore, that term should have been put in quotes.

And it’s cute the way that James Rainey, the writer of that article, is hedging. It suggests that Kerry is an embarrassment to the media/Democrats and they know it, but still they have to stand up for their guy. He writes:

Since the 2004 campaign, Kerry and other Democrats have come to label what they believe are unwarranted political attacks as “swift boating.”

You gotta love that term, “unwarranted.” That’s a loophole big enough to drive a slow boat through. According to dictionaries, the term can mean “incapable of being justified or explained.” Of course, if Kerry would release his military records, the attacks could either be explained or justified better. Or they could be refuted, and Pickens would have to cough up his million dollars.

The term can also mean “lacking justification or authorization.” I suspect (through process of elimination) that the latter is what Rainey means. The Swift Boaters weren’t authorized by the Democrat/Media/Celebrity machine to say nasty things about him; therefore, they should not have said those things.

Nov 202007

One of my hobby-horse reforms of the legislative process is to bring sunshine onto a practice that The Main Adversary describes in an entry titled, “Three weeks and a cloud of taxes.” He writes:

For the second weekend in a row the House of Delegates held key votes in the dark of night after most of the press had left and most us had gone to bed. Delegates were voting on versions of bills handed to them minutes before the vote, with no idea of what they were voting on.

I say it ought to be that any legislation that isn’t published in public view before a vote is held is null and void. In fact, not only should there be sufficient time for the public to view legislation before the public legislature votes on it, but any legislators ought to be required to stand up and read the entire text of a bill aloud before being allowed to vote in favor. Doing it via a youtube video would be fine.

Now you might say this is impractical, that in a complex society like ours we need complex legislation. But I say that one reason our society is more complex than it needs to be is because of legislation that makes it complex — for example, legislation that nobody reads before voting on it.

You might object, saying that simple, easy-to-read legislation would mean more power would be given to administrative bureaucrats to flesh it out. I say, yes, that is a danger, but I also have a reform in mind to deal with that one: Any member of a legislature who lobbies an administrative agency other than in a public hearing should go straight to jail. If a legislator stands up and brags that he is somehow responsible for an administrative agency spending money on one of his constituents’ favored programs, that should be sufficient evidence to convict.

Once you close off the avenues of legislators violating the separations of powers by meddling in administrative matters, then legislators will be jealously careful of the powers they grant to administrative bureaucracies.

There, that’s not just one, but two of my hobby-horse reforms.

Nov 202007

Yikes!  Well, I wasn’t planning to vote for any Republican candidate for president this year, anyway, but Jonah Goldberg is right.   Mike Huckabee is one scary guy.   (Jonah Goldberg in the LA Times:  Ron Paul isn’t that scary:  It’s that over-do-gooder Mike Huckabee who should be making conservatives nervous.)

In this respect, Huckabee’s philosophy is conventionally liberal, or progressive. What he wants to do with government certainly differs in important respects from what Hillary Clinton would do, but the limits he would place on governmental do-goodery are primarily tactical or practical, not philosophical or constitutional.

I’ll probably vote for Ron Paul, but would I do so if he had a chance of winning?  I’m not sure.

(Thank you to Joshua Claybourn’s post at In the Agora for referring me to this article. )

Nov 202007

What if freedom and prosperity don’t go together? Here is a paragraph from The China Mode, by Rowan Callick, at The American

In the May/June edition of the american, Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, explained that evidence is emerging that developing “countries that are economically and politically free are underperforming the countries that are economically but not politically free.” China, of course, is in the lead of the economically free but politically unfree nations. Hassett wrote, “The unfree governments now understand that they have to provide a good economy to keep citizens happy, and they understand that free-market economies work best…. Being unfree may be an economic advantage. Dictatorships are not hamstrung by the preference of voters for, say, a pervasive welfare state. So the future may look something like the 20th century in reverse. The unfree nations will grow so quickly that they will overwhelm free nations with their economic might.”

But maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising. European-Americans conquered the Native peoples in North America, not because they had greater freedom than the Native peoples, but because they were more willing to submit to authority, to discipline themselves to keep their noses to the grindstone, and to march lock-step into near-certain death in time of war. It was greater organization and lesser individualism, not greater freedom, that enabled that conquest of North America. Yes, it’s true that among the nations of wannabe conquerers, the ones that prevailed were the ones that had greater economic and political freedom. But it wasn’t greater freedom than that of the people they conquered.