Category Archives: Politics

What Will Happen Next?

I’ve been kind of out of the loop with what’s been happening in the political world. I haven’t listened to any of Obama’s speeches, and I plan on reading the inaugural address rather than hearing it. (This is to escape the emotions of the moment, which will cloud my thoughts.) Thus, I will not embarrass myself by making predictions. That does not stop me from making wild speculations.

One obvious historical parallel is FDR. Obama has called this the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. FDR struck quickly, and his first hundred days in office are a good model. Moreover, Obama’s popularity is sky-high right now, and one would want to take advantage of that. It seems the most prudent strategy would be to move quickly and to move boldly. Stake a position to the “far” left. Let the Republicans whine. They lost the election, and this will only make them look petty in the public’s eyes. The bigger Obama paints the crisis, the worse the Republicans will look for holding things up.

At this point, the Republicans will have, from what I can see, five different choices. One: Full surrender to Obama. Two: Stake the far-right position and call Obama a socialist. Basic fear-mongering. Three: Attack Obama for not being centrist enough. Ask where the old Obama went who wasn’t into partisan politics. Four: Simply be obstructionist while schizophrenically attacking Obama as unpatriotic, socialist, not centrist, a big spender, etc. Five: Present their own plan for getting out of this mess.

Option three is the best for Obama. Give the Republicans a couple meaningless concessions. This will not only placate their egos but also enhance Obama’s bipartisan, conciliatory image. I see option four as the most likely. However, you can easily morph option four into option three, simply by repeating, “My opponents say this…” while not mentioning any of their other attacks. Their lack of a coherent message could allow Obama to define the battleground. Option one is also the same as option three, except without the bitter battle. You still give them meaningless concessions to look gracious, bipartisan, and presidential. Option two probably allows Obama to splinter the Republicans into a moderate wing and a radical wing. Proceed from there, isolating the radical wing.

Option five is the most dangerous to the Democrats, but also the most unlikely. Still, even with a reasonable plan, it is probably very easy to goad the Republican attack machine into action, which will make them look unreasonable and unstable.

If Obama is bold and puts the Republicans on their heels, I suspect he will be rather successful in ramming things through. I also expect symbolic concessions in the form of cutting certain things from the budget. If Obama proceeds slowly, well then, I don’t know what will happen.

This is just wild speculation, but I really expect the same dynamic as the race to hold up. Republicans hyperventilate and win the occasional news-cycle, while Obama wins the larger war.

Senior Bureaucrats

Note to future self:

This is why, when people ask me, “Have you gotten to [some political appointee]?” I tell them that the real goal is to network with the career bureaucrats just below and around that appointee. That’s why I love briefing SESers (senior executive service) and top-line general service players in government conferences. Give me a room of 500 of these players, and you’ve got a serious quorum of influencers.

Link: Thomas Barnett, Wrote it many times, now confirmed by research.

Blank

I keep telling myself I need to write something here in this weblog, and everytime I pull up the weblog I draw a blank. So I’m just going to write various things that come to mind. This coming week should be hellish. I basically have two big essays due next Monday. Blah, blah, who cares?

I’m really sick of my writing now, in terms of sentence structure. I need to do some exercises where I vary my sentence structure.

I’m working on changing some things about myself, and I also think I need to re-brand my online identity. I want to get a new name for this weblog. I wouldn’t delete this. In fact, I’d probably try to migrate all the old entries over to the new site. Okay, so maybe I would eventually let this domain expire, but I’d keep all the old entries. I did let psycho-ward.org expire. By the way, most of the stuff is up at psychoward.agnoiology.com.

Yeah, change certain things about myself is very vague. I guess I want to be purposely vague because I’m not sure how I want to change, or if any of these experiments will work out. I do want to work on the various skills that would make me a successful politician. If you know any politicians, you should tell me. I want to ask them: “What is the most important skill to have in order to become a successful politician? Where and how can I get this skill?”

I recently read a book called Talent is Overrated. Interestly, my friend thought I was reading Gladwell’s new book Outliers. I’m not the biggest fan of Gladwell. He’s a fantastic writer, and I really admire the way he puts together anecdotes. However, I felt like Blink was mostly fluff. When it comes to non-fiction, I tend to like stuff that’s practical and can improve my everyday life. (My definition of practical probably is still more abstract than many people.) Hence why I picked up Talent is Overrated instead of Outliers when I was stuck in Chicago waiting for my delayed connecting flight. It devotes a lot to describing the process of deliberate practice. I should enumerate these but I’m rather tired so perhaps I’ll stop writing now. Or not.

I’m over 50 books on the year now. So I’ll have read more than 1 book a week by the end of the year. That’s not bad. That includes school books, but that’s so totally not cheating. I read way more during the summer than during the school year. Plus, I don’t think you can not count stuff like Crime and Punishment.

I need to become more versed in policy. I need to become an expert in some type of field. I realized that I’m pretty damn ignorant about a lot of things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least I can recognize when I’m just spouting off, unlike the talking heads on cable news. I’m thinking energy policy is something good to look into. I recently read a book by a husband and wife team that seemed like a good primer on the issues. I don’t think it had enough math or science. I can understand that you’d want to make it accessible, and I think that was my original intention when I picked it up — that is, to find something easy to read for someone who doesn’t know much. Well, now I’m primed, and now I need to learn more. Plus, it was really big on biofuels (not corn).

What will be the biggest issues over the next 10 years? The next 50 years?

Okay, that’s enough unedited rambling. That should help me get back into the swing of things. Of course, weblogging is kind of about being unedited. Still, I need to be a good writer in general, not just a blogger. (No offense to blogging, but I need to augment my writing skills beyond blogging.)

No wait, one last comment. I can be pretty vicious when I criticize people’s arguments or writing. If I can apply this same standard to myself, then I’ll be a damn good writer.

Open Letter: Initial Thoughts on the FairTax

Hi Ryan,

Here are my initial thoughts on the FairTax: The FairTax isn’t a good idea. First, it’s deceptive about the cost to America, and second, it would create a brand new bureaucracy without any pragmatic benefit.

The first point you can do the research to find out. According to FactCheck.org, the FairTax proposes a 23% sales tax, but this wouldn’t be enough to replace all the revenue it’s supposed to replace. Instead, it would have to be around a 34% tax. FactCheck.org is non-partisan and usually reliable; I trust them. You can look into more hard data, but I will defer to their judgment for now.

In my opinion, the proponents of the FairTax are basically lying to the American people about what it would cost. Either you build massive deficits or you cut tons of programs. Undoubtedly, a libertarian would love the latter. However, it remains politically impossible to both implement the FairTax and cut tons of programs.

The second point is that the FairTax is an unnecessary boondoggle. I still adhere to some conservative principles, and this seems to be where they come in handy. FairTax proponents, like Huckabee, will say that they want to abolish the IRS. In truth, the FairTax still requires some type of bureaucracy to handle all it does. What are you going to do? Replace the IRS and institute a new organization? Why would we replace one form of taxation with another if we will still have a bureaucratic mess? Because it’ll make some people feel philosophically more at peace? That’s not a sufficient reason to institute such a radical change. Conservatives rightly resist such change for change’s sake.

If you disagree about the bureaucracy it would create, keep in mind that a sales tax is highly regressive. The FairTax proposes various measures to help out the poor. Someone needs to keep track of who gets what. You’ll find no one promoting a “fair tax” who does not also promote some ways of ameliorating its regressive nature.

In addition, a big sales tax will open up massive smuggling “business opportunities” with our neighboring countries. Either we let all that go, or we crack down on it. If we decide to do any enforcement, guess what? More government.

The FairTax provides no benefit other than some philosophical good feelings, but to implement it would require heavy costs — more than I’ve enumerated here, even. You can’t contemplate the FairTax in abstract; you have to look at what it would cost to actually put it in place. Radical changes require enormous benefits, and that just doesn’t happen with the FairTax. The trade-off isn’t worth it.

As always,
Shawn

Social Conservative, Fiscal Liberal

So I was watching 30 Rock today on the internets, and it was the Subway Hero episode. When asked about his political views, he replies “social conservative, fiscal liberal.” I crack up because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe themselves that way. I’ve heard it the other way around — fiscal conservative, social liberal.

But then I thought about it for a second. Isn’t that what Bush and the Republican Party stand for these days? Social conservatism and fiscal liberalism. Just look at their atrocious spending record.

I am a junkie

How can you tell if you’re a political junkie? If you’re not completely tired of this election, and in fact, you’re really excited about the next primary, then you might be addicted to politics. As I am.

By the way, I predict a split. Obama takes North Carolina; Clinton takes Indiana. Barely. Advantage: Obama, in delegates.

The Corrupt Arbiters

In your perfect system, who will be the arbiters? Who will decide how we ought live? Who are these hyper-rational beings who will decide things based only upon logic?

Do realize that this is the road to tyranny.

We are as sure of the corrupting influence of power as we are of the pull of gravity. If indeed your arbiters are human beings, then they will be corrupted.

What human being can resist the temptation of power? What human can resist the lie for his own gain? He who sets the rules will set up rules for his own gain. He will fool the people.

If we set up multiple arbiters, we are still dealing with human beings. They will collude in order to devour the masses, or devour each other. Most likely, both will occur. When they see that much power up for grabs, they will scheme.

No human beings are exactly alike. They will have different forces of will. Factions will arise. Just as surely as galaxies gathered from the gravitational pull of mere differences in density, even if the differences are slight, factions will arise. We have different temperaments. We will like some people more than others. Any council is doomed to disagreement. And any council of arbiters with unlimited power will either explode into war or collapse into one demonic being.

The rational are easy to fool. They fail to notice the devious motivations of others because deviousness is so contrary to their own natures. The sharks easily feed on these guppies. The devious tyrant will overtake any council of rational arbiters.

Or the messianic will captivate the masses. How will you control him except by violence?

People will laugh at your rational arbiters. Any child knows that “because it’s for your own good” is not a very compelling argument. How will you control them except by violence?

The more violent you are, the more you’ll attract the wrong type of people. The more you open yourself up to a War Leader who has actually earned the respect of the masses, more so than your arbiters in their Ivory Tower.

Any system which values the abstract over the contingencies of history and the fickle nature of human beings will end up as either a tyranny or an anarchy. Any absolute system will necessarily use violence to compel the people to do its biddings. Any absolute arbiters will have people who chafe under their rule. These absolute arbiters will inevitably become corrupt.

Human experience has shown that the only way to avoid the problem of corruption is to separate and balance power, like our co-equal branches of government. You must also limit the time people can hold power. It is messy. But I much rather prefer this to rivers of rational bloodshed.

Free Trade as Litmus Test

I’m really excited about this post. What follows is a guest post from my friend at Johns Hopkins, Nick Chidiac. Nick always impresses me with the breadth and depth of his political knowledge; I value his opinions on political issues. He’s writing about free trade, which is an issue I do not know much about, and criticizing Obama, which is something I haven’t done much of lately.

This originally started out as a “note” on facebook, but I asked Nick if I could re-post it on my blog and he agreed, bolstering it with additional facts for its republishing.

I hope to make this type of guest post from politically-informed friends of mine a more regular feature.

Enjoy…

Free Trade as Litmus Test
by Nick Chidiac

You’ve probably heard me mention free trade a disproportionate number of times. Free Trade is something I loved about William Jefferson Clinton, and hate about the current Democratic candidates. I’ll get to why it is so important in a minute, but I’ll start with a brief summary of why it signals a good presidential candidate.

Free Trade is something that is clearly, and unambiguously good. It is fought by large special interests, and its benefits are spread to the common man, who at times doesn’t even realize his benefits. It is politically unpopular, and takes a leader with vision to support it. Free Trade is a great example of what is right, vs. what is popular. A politician will not ordinarily reap political benefits from supporting it, and instead pays a hefty toll of political capital. This is an important trait that separates a statesman from a political hack.

As for free trade itself, I’ll first begin with the economic benefits to America. Free Trade creates high paying US jobs, reduces prices for goods, furthers innovation, and brings capital into the United States. According to the OECD in 2004, the United State’s reemployment rate is double that of the next best country’s. That is no accident, the openness and dynamism of our economy causes that. The US unemployment rate over the last 15 years is far lower than it has ever been in US history for an extended period of time. The damage of protectionism can quickly be measured by the absurd costs borne by society when free trade is restricted. The Textile Quota system was designed to protect US textile jobs. These jobs, which paid less than $40,000 per year, cost US civil society over $220,000 per job. A McKinsey report a few years ago, did a study and found that for every dollar spent overseas on outsourcing, at least $1.12-$1.14 in value is created in the United States. Let me repeat that, every time we send a dollar overseas, we get more than $1.12, its free money (to a point, but locally it goes on for a long time). In 2002, Bush passed a massive tariff on steel; this ‘saved’ approximately 4000 jobs. It also destroyed an excess of 400,000 jobs in steel using industries (Detroit, have any comments?). To put these numbers in perspective, the same 2004 McKinsey report said that 2 million out of the 150 million jobs in America are created and destroyed every month.

Free trade moves bad jobs away from America, and replaces them with good jobs. “Hell with the Lid Off”, is now a paradise that hosted the 2005 bassmaster championship, and has growing industries in biotechnology, healthcare, robots, and finance. Don’t forget the cheap prices due to free trade, which help regular families take care of their needs and they have more choices when they go to the store.

The jobs losses that free trade is blamed with are almost entirely due to technological advancement yet oddly, you don’t hear technology criticized. It’s an easy fix for those that do. With NAFTA, a law was passed that anyone who loses their job due to the new trade would get compensation and job training. Less than 5000 felt the need to apply, and all of them were taken care of.

Beyond the massive economic benefits for the United States, which also go to any country that trades with us, Free Trade also brings geopolitical benefits that are seldom tallied. Free Trade helps regular people build up economic power, separating it from the state, and weakening the relative position of tyrannical regimes. This is also a benefit for democratic, capitalistic countries, which get their economic situations bolstered, making them more resistant to extremism and violence. The Senate is currently endangering Colombia and helping Hugo Chavez by not passing a free trade deal with the country that has been proposed several times. This is short sighted, and stupid.

I’m keeping this short, provide any example or argument that you think works against free trade, and I’ll walk you through it step by step. I also promise this, if Obama doesn’t smarten up, I will vote against him in the general election. I know he will eventually become president, the way I know Sidney Crosby will win a Stanley Cup, but to me, Obama isn’t ready until he has the temerity to stand up for himself on this issue.

Topic Stubs

These are notes of issues I would like to blog about:

-Negative Obama memes – Two claims are popping up. 1) Obama’s following is cult-like. 2) Obama is all rhetoric and no specifics.

-McCain’s capitulation on torture

-The futility of the surge

-Telecom spying amnesty

-Commercials

Revisiting the Realignment

I’m once more pondering the prospect of a Realignment. For a long time now, I’ve felt that a shakeup is coming in terms of the way the parties are composed. Still, I could not figure out how the pieces would realign. With Obama appearing on the national scene, I’m now wondering if a generational battle may be brewing.

My generation is being saddled with debt. As the Boomers retire and eat up more medical costs, we’ll be the ones who’ll have to pay. There’s also an environmental debt. The atmosphere has been used as a dumping ground and it seems as if we are starting to pay for it. And then there’s the debt that Bush and Congress have been building. At times, I feel resentment.

While we’re several years into the 21st century, it doesn’t feel like it yet. Politics are the same. I’m not about transcending politics as usual, though. I’m about moving into the 21st century and having new debates. I don’t want to face the challenges of the 21st century while blinded by the mindset and preconceptions of the 20th century. A Clinton presidency threatens to drag us back to the 1990s. An Obama presidency appears to be more forward-looking. There’s a divide among young voters. They disproportionately prefer certain candidates, like Obama. Additionally, voter turnout is increaing among the youth which may suggest that something is changing.

Yet is this a valid data point? Have young people preferred certain candidates in the past where there was no “realignment”? I dunno. I haven’t done the research. Right now, I’m really in brainstorm mode.

The Boomers are aging, though, and it’s only going to become more noticeable. Then, there’s a fundamental cultural divide: Some of us grew up with the internet, and some of us didn’t. A case may made that our values are different and our ways of viewing the world are different.

Is this enough to say that a generational conflict is brewing? I truly don’t know. I put it out there for you to ponder and tell me if I’m way off base or if I’m actually onto something.

Link-Dump

This may be a way in which I might want to break my rule of updating once a day. There are all these magnificent links out there which I still want people to see.

  • Sullivan links to Obama on the Daily Show. Not only does this show off the skills of Obama in appearing above the fray, but it also demonstrates John Stewart’s interviewing skills.
  • Matt Yglesias asks John Edwards and Barack Obama, just what the heck are “vital interests”? This reminds me of the “Meaningless Words” section in George Orwell’s classic essay, Politics and the English Language.
  • Bruce Schneier is his usual astute self, when talking about how spending money on interoperable communication systems for emergency response helped save lives in Minnesota: “Too much of the money spent on terrorism defense has been overly specific: effective only if the terrorists attack a particular target or use a particular tactic. Money spent on emergency response is different: It’s effective regardless of what the terrorists plan, and it’s also effective in the wake of natural or infrastructure disasters.”
  • Lloyd meditates on what weblogging is: weblogging as life (yes, itself). Very… sweeping. And when I think of philosophy, I think this is it. Trying to make sense of the world.

War on Aging Infrastructure

So when’s the War on Aging Infrastructure coming? A bridge collapses in Minnesota and oh… how about those levees in New Orleans? Isn’t it time for people to demand action?

Naw, I guess aging infrastructure isn’t as scary as drugs or brown people.

EDIT: On a more serious note, money and good intentions aren’t enough. Instead of demanding “action,” maybe it’s time people demanded “results.”

A Package of Amendments

I can think of one Founding Father, in particular, who would be appalled at the state of politics today — that would be Thomas Jefferson. If I were to say that it was just because of Bush, this would be another boring rant. No, the problem goes much deeper. Thomas Jefferson, like Thomas Paine, believed that each generation should be able to tailor government for its own needs. Jefferson would be appalled at how there has been no innovation in the way we govern.

When I purely considered myself a conservative, I thought Thomas Paine was nuts. Each generation should not be so casual in tinkering with government, I thought, because government was built slowly and over many years and should only be changed with the utmost caution. But now, I would not err so much on the side of caution. When we see egregious abuses of power, we should not restrict ourselves to condemning the perpetrators. We should always be on guard against the lesser passions of human nature. These urges will always be there, and it is our responsibility to create a government which guards against them; we cannot assume that our leaders will always be virtuous people.

I do not have the solutions yet, but I urge you to think about them. One possibility is accountability laws. These laws would disqualify a person from office if they did something. I don’t know how they’d work, but it’s something to think about.

As the nation, we cannot rely on one virtuous individual to save us from the excesses of the Bush administration, nor can we assume that this individual would prevent abuses in the future. What this nation needs now is a package of amendments, which will prevent certain tragedies from happening again. We need ways to prevent the President from abusing the military, and we need to do something about signing statements.

[Sorry if the writing is a little stilted. I've been trying out the voice software again.]

Specter, defender of habeas corpus?

Lloyd quotes Specter on the Senate floor, from Those Confusing Habeas Corpus Bill Numbers – And The Important Text:

“I don’t think that there’s a more important issue to come before this body,” said Specter on the Senate floor.”

“What happens in Iraq obviously is of enormous importance, but if we lose the basic fundamental rights to require evidence before somebody is held in detention, if we lose the right of habeas corpus, it is a very sad day in America.”

I gots somethings else to quote. First, from the same article:

From the Military Commissions Act, here’s subsection (e):

“No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.”

That’s the downright un-American nonsense the Specter-Leahy bill will get rid of.

And here’s something else, from the Senate roll call of the votes on that downright un-American Military Commissions Act:

Specter (R-PA), Yea

Specter’s like OJ: Still looking for the killer.

Communism and neoconservatism

Conservatives like to trot out the example of the USSR when they say that communism doesn’t work. They laugh at the whiners who say that it was the execution, not the idea, that failed.

Strangely enough, the simple example of Iraq doesn’t similarly discredit neoconservatism. They blame the execution of the war, even though it was flawed from the beginning.

Neoconservatives would use a hammer to conduct surgery and when the patient dies, they’d complain that the doctor didn’t hit hard enough.

Who’s the radical?

I was skimming through SCOTUSblog and I saw something shocking in this entry, Government calls Al-Marri ruling a threat to security:

The Justice Department, denouncing as “radical” a Fourth Circuit Court ruling rejecting presidential authority to seize and detain a civilian captured inside the U.S., asked the Circuit Court on Wednesday to rehear the case en banc, and to overturn it swiftly.

Yes, how dare the courts have the audacity to deny the president kingly powers. Any citizen should be detained by the president, if he suspects they are a terrorist. Habeas corpus, schmabeas corpus. We’re in a fucking war on terror! 9/11 changed everything.

The terrorists could be anywhere! They made the whole world a battlefield, and thus, we must take the battle to them, wherever they may be. I bet the liberal-commie-traitors would love for terrorists to be able to hide on our own soil. I bet they’d love for terrorists to hide behind our ancient liberties and constitutional safeguards. I can’t decide whether I hate them more, or the terrorists.

The Hacks Attack the Demagogues

Trent Lott today: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”

AHAHAHA! Man, these people are totally clueless. The Republican Party is ripping itself apart. It’s going to be great to see these poison-spewers unleash their poison words upon each other.

EDIT: Geeze, I know, I sound like a liberal, but I’m sick of Rove-style politics, and I’ll be glad to see certain elements of the party attack each other.

Bizarre Krauthammer

Krauthammer on the office of the presidency:

Why do we inflict such cruel and unusual punishment? Because our winner is not just chief magistrate but king. True, the kingship is temporary, but its glories and perks are beyond compare — the pomp and pampering of a head of state, married to the real political power of controlling the most important state on the planet.

The bargain we offer the candidate is this: We will make you Lord, circling celestially above us on Air Force One, but because we are flinty Jeffersonian yeomen, we insist that you flatter us first with a very extended show of camaraderie and commonality with the Iowa farmer, the New Hampshire alderman and the South Carolina good ol’ boy. Aboriginal tribes have slightly different rituals for those who pretend to kingship, but the idea is the same: ordeal before dominion.

What the heck is this guy smoking?

My Opinion of Ron Paul

I watched parts of the last 30 minutes of the Republican debate. I have no interest in watching the rest of the lies.

Here’s a clip with Ron Paul speaking about preemption. I find it utterly bizarre that Republican candidates for president would even consider preemptively launching nuclear weapons at Iran.

Ron Paul should be a fringe candidate. But it shows how far the Republican Party has fallen when he’s the only one who makes any sense.

Huge Difference

I can’t figure out what this is: Stay-the-Course Plus. I’d call it sophistry or lies, but it’s too unclever and serious. The thesis: Obama and Romney have foreign policy agendas which are strikingly similar not only to each other, but to Bush.

I mean, does this even deserve a response? Mr. Double-Guantanamo vs. Mr. Obama have the same approach?

One respects the rule of law and the other doesn’t. Mr. Hiatt, that’s a huge difference. One supports an unnecessary war and the other doesn’t. That’s a huge difference.

But if someone were to not appreciate the rule of law, I suppose I could see how you would get the two confused.

Maybe we made a difference

Enough Americans registered their distaste of the corrupt Republican Party in 2006 that the Republicans lost their majority in both the House and the Senate.

One immediate consequence was the sacking of Donald Rumsfeld, which came 6 years too late. I rejoiced then. In his place, we have the sane Robert Gates. It’s sad that sanity is now something we have to celebrate, rather than take for granted, in a Secretary of Defense, but I’ll take what I can get.

The other consequence is this. Even the devout have lost their faith because of the issue of immigration. Last year, when Congress first tried to pass an immigration bill, it died only because the House Republicans stood their ground. The Senate and Bush all wanted amnesty. Without the House Republicans, no one stands in the way of immigration reform.

Noonan blames Bush, but the power-worship would’ve continued unabated if not for the Republican loss in 2006. Now they may open their eyes and look at the damage that has been wrought.

The party, hopefully, is now torn asunder.

Shakes. The ground is now beginning to shift while for years all we felt were rumbles. The best, the worst, is still yet to come. The shakes will become full-blown earthquakes. The ground will crack; the tectonic plates will shift; and things will never be the same.

The Case For Lazy Fred

America needs a lazy president. No, I’m not being sarcastic; listen for a bit. The dictatorial creep is due to the office of the presidency being way too strong. I partly blame the direct election of senators, which cut state governments off from the national government, neutering the state governments in the federal realm. But that’s a discussion for a different day. I believe that America needs a weak president, to allow the state governments and Congress to regain their backbones.

Immediately, people will bring up George Bush Jr. He was constantly on vacation, isn’t that a sign of laziness? No, the Decider isn’t lazy in action, just in intellection. Look no further than No Child Left Behind. Bush is full of bad ideas, which are suger-coated with good intention. Intellectually incurious, yes? Lazy? He managed to get us into Iraq, didn’t he?

Now, Mr. Thompson has one great advantage over Mr. Bush: His ardent belief in federalism. He truly believes that the federal government should not interfere on some issues; he would leave many decisions to state governments. Unlike most politicians, there is actually evidence that Mr. Thompson is doing more than paying lip service. He was at the short end of a few 99-1 votes in the Senate, on grounds of federalism. Now that’s conviction. Under Fred Thompson, we’ll never get anything like No Child Left Behind — a blatant recantation of conservatism.

The guard against the corruption of power is Fred’s laziness. He won’t have the ambition to betray his principles. He won’t have the fire to fight those battles. With the veto pen in Fred’s hand, power will devolve to the states.

Considering the amazing leadership we’ve seen from states on such issues of health care and climate disruption, this would be a victory for anyone who cares about these issues. I’m particular proud of the leadership my governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger, has shown on encouraging new energy. Of course, the liberals will object that we need national leadership to get anywhere. I strongly disagree. I believe we will get better results by creating a battleground of ideas, where states can experiment, rather than imposition from above. The issues of the 21st century are sufficiently complicated that this experimentation is actually necessary to find solutions.

So, a Thompson presidency will empower the states, but what about Congress? If Mr. Thompson truly is as lazy as legend, then Congress might actually win a battle against the president. That will surely embolden this embattled institution, if nothing else will. They may finally get a backbone and pushback against recent excesses of the office of the presidency. Moreover, judging from Thompson’s respect for federalism, I think he also has a better respect for the constitution. He may step aside himself, and allow Congress to strip the presidency of powers it shouldn’t have in the first place. Congress’s ambition will counteract a lack of ambition.

What about world affairs? Surely, a weak presidency will weaken America’s role in world affairs. First off, this is not necessarily so, if Congress steps up. Secondly, is there anyone, besides the most deluded neocon-man, that what the world needs is more American intervention? Perhaps the world needs the hyperpower to step back for 4 years. America’s contribution to the threat of various Islamic radicalisms has been primarily military. It has also primarily backfired. Maybe we can listen a bit more to Europe — after all, they were right about Iraq. We need new international laws to deal with terrorists, and I don’t see that coming from America, but maybe it can come from Europe.

After the blunders of Bush and the tragedy of 9/11, I can sense that many Americans desire a strong president. Why else would Rudy be so popular? Yet maybe we should consider an anti-demagogue: the lazy candidate. Maybe we should be looking for a weak president, not a strong president. Remember, because of our separated government, a weak president does not mean a weak America. It means a strong Congress and strong states. I just might vote for Fred Thompson for this reason.

Addendum: But can Fred Thompson win? Yes. He said he’s going to run an unorthodox campaign, which means a lazy campaign, essentially. Here’s a lesson from history: William Bryan, one of the most talented orators in American history, ran around America delivering his cross of gold speech, electrifying audiences. Mark Hanna, campaign manager for William McKinley (and idol of Karl Rove), ran a front porch campaign, raising vast amounts of money from businessmen. McKinley won. If Fred Thompson gets the right people to work for him, perhaps he can pull off the internet equivalent of a successful front porch campaign.

Speculation: Gingrich, the Anti-War Candidate

I want to preface this entry by admitting that I’m engaging in pure speculation here, and everything I will say is probably wrong, but it’s fun to think about.

I find it curious that Newt Gingrich is waiting all the way until September to possibly make an announcement about running for president. He has his reasons, but they don’t seem to be good reasons considering the handicap that he’ll have. I’m leaning towards thinking that he won’t run, especially considering his high unfavorables.

However, there is one scenario in which waiting until September will help Newt. In September, we finally may run out of “Friedman units,” so to speak. That is, elements of the GOP may finally revolt and not give another 3-6 months. (I know that Andrew Sullivan, one of my favorite bloggers, has been obsessive about giving the surge a chance until September.) If Newt waits until September, the rest of the GOP candidates will have painted themselves into a corner. The war will be so unpopular that none of them will be able to win a general election, especially Mr. Last Man In Iraq, John McCain. (Of course, some may argue that this is the case now, but in September, it will become obvious to some of the angry 28%ers who were already betrayed on immigration.) This is all assuming that Hagel does not jump into the race.

I know, it’s really weird to think that Newt Gingrich would run as an anti-war candidate. I mean, he was on Fox News saying that we were already in the beginning of World War 4. That’s why this is pure speculation. Yet it’s not entirely inconceivable. He’s already done an about-face on climate disruption, when he came to debate John Kerry and then surprised everyone by admitting that climate disruption was real. He certainly has his flaws, but the one thing that I like about Newt Gingrich is that he’s willing to think big about the future. So, while I think this is extremely unlikely, I certainly think it’s within the realm of possibility.

*snicker*

Memorial Day

Perhaps we should do more than remember heroism on this day, Memorial Day. We should remember barbarism and brutality. Because that’s what war entails, does it not? War is people killing other people. To call our dead soldiers “fallen” is to gloss over the brutality inherent to war. To be killed by an IED may mean one’s insides were ripped apart by a bomb’s shrapnel. Remembering our dead this way is not pleasant. I’d rather not try to conjure up this type of imagery. Most people definitely won’t. But I think we should.

We must remember the brutality, lest we become too casual towards war. Haha, wait, what am I saying? No, we already have become too casual towards war, otherwise we wouldn’t have so eagerly invaded Iraq. War should always be a last resort, especially in this modern age. Humans have been far too creative in inventing ways to kill each other for war to be declared this easily.

Part of the problem is that the burden isn’t really the nation’s burden. We have an all-volunteer army instead of a true citizens army. Most people just aren’t connected to the war. This is especially true for most of the politicians.

We definitely made a mistake in switching over to the all-volunteer army. It has disconnected us from the reality of war. The mistake that was the invasion of Iraq is, in part, a problem with the system. To prevent another Iraq, we must fix the system.

[I apologize for how poorly written this is. I'm still trying to get back into weblogging.]

Not as worrisome as you think

This is pretty interesting: Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush’s Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush. Apparently, Cheney really really wants war with Iran, but other people in the Bush Administration want to pursue a more diplomatic path.

At first, I thought this sounded worrisome, but then I realized: Hey, Dick Cheney is Vice President. VP is pretty much the most useless position you can have, and is the best place to put someone to make sure that person can’t make trouble. Cheney’s big influence in the earlier years are really an anomaly when you look at American history.

Hopefully Cheney becomes what other VPs have been: irrelevant.