Friday, December 29, 2006

What's Wrong with iTunes?
Apparently, over the holiday, the iTunes music store received so much traffic from people with new iPods and iTunes gift cards, that it maxed out it's bandwidth and choked, "prompting error messages and slowdowns of 20 minutes or more for downloads of a single song."

I'm sure that people will have two reactions. They'll either point to this glitch as the price for extreme popularity, or they'll criticize Apple for not being able to anticipate the rush, even though they likely had a good idea of what iPod and gift card sales were shaping up to be.

But this is just a blip on the radar screen for iTunes. It has a much more dangerous challenge coming: it's own DRM.

iTunes files are "protected" (restricted) in several ways that will begin to annoy more and more users, and leave Apple open to growing competive threats:

1) iTunes encrypted AAC files can not be played on devices not approved by Apple. This means anything other than the iPod and a few models of cell phone.

2) Purchased songs can only be played on 5 computers that are registered with iTunes. While this isn't a problem for most people now, as the digital living room continues to develop, the number of "computer-like" devices in the home is sure to grow.

3) Protected AAC files can not be burnt onto MP3 CDs. I often take road trips that are several hours long, and would like to be able to burn one CD that will last my whole drive. My car can handle MP3 CDs, but I can't make one if any of the songs I want to put on it were purchased from iTunes.

Of course, for tech saavy users there are ways around all of these issues. However, they're far more cumbersome than the most ubiquitous alternative... piracy.

One of the more visionary entertainment executives on this subject today is Disney's Anne Sweeney. Ms. Sweeney has explained that at Disney "we understand piracy now as a business model," that needs to fought with better digital business models, not just by walling it off with DRM.

In several interviews, Ms. Sweeney has told this story:

The morning after the (Season 1) finale of "Desperate Housewives" had aired (in May 2005). I had my cable executive team meeting, and I walked into the meeting thrilled. The ratings had come in, and they were spectacular. This was a hit show. Vince Roberts, our worldwide head of technology and operations, said, "Congratulations! We're all thrilled for you and ABC. This is a tremendous moment. Can I show you something?" He got up and popped a DVD into the player in our conference room, and the finale of "Desperate Housewives" came up. And he said, "Fifteen minutes after the show ended last night, I downloaded this from BitTorrent.com." The quality was very good. The commercials had been stripped out. Talk about having a pause in the conversation. We started talking about piracy in a new way, which was piracy as a true competitor for our viewers.
Now, it is possible that Apple understands that the digital world is heading in a DRM free direction. It would shock me if Bill Gates understands it, and Steve Jobs doesn't. In fact, the DRM is a bit hypocritical since without college students' vast collections of illegal MP3s, no one would have ever bought an iPod. In all likelihood, the content owners (ie the RIAA) are demanding iTunes walled garden approach, and Apple is just biding its time.

Long term, Apple's current DRM environment is unsustainable and iTunes will continue to grow only if it reduces the DRM footprint on it's products.

The record companies and Apple will need to realize that iTunes success so far is not because of some magical technology that eliminated music piracy (gnutella, limewire, bear share, and other illegal download systems still exist). Instead, it's because Apple made it easy and fast to find, download, and play the music people want. So far, as Ms. Sweeney suggests, Apple has fought piracy most effectively by providing a better business model whether they realize it or not. Let's hope they compete even more vigourously in the future.

FuF Hiatus Continues
I'm back from vacation, but did not have the time needed to assemble F'ed Up Fridays for today. I promise we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programing next week.

Until then, I'll try to get up a post sometime today or tomorrow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


President Ford
I'm a little behind the news cycle on this one, but didn't want Ford's passing to pass unmentioned.

I met Gerald Ford in 2001, at a resort north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. My father had an annual conference to which spouses are invited, and my mom and I flew out to meet him. As it turned out, the resort was brand new and they were the first conference group to use the facilities. Simultaneously, former President Ford was at the hotel as part of the grand opening festivities.

We were told (I think by someone on the staff) that he was eating in the restaurant and, not wanting to miss an opportunity to catch a glimpse of an ex-president, we camped outside the restaurant for a while.

When there was no sign of Ford, we gave up and walked back into the lobby.

We were, as it turned out, followed very shortly by a few Secret Service agents, and then Ford himself appeared. He and his entourage walked up a set of stairs to a balcony overlooking the desert and stopped there. Here's where it got interesting.

My mom said "I dare you to go talk to him."

I said "Okay," and was off. Being young makes you fearless, I guess, since I walked up to the nearest Secret Service agent, pointed at Ford, and said "Can I talk to him for a minute?"

It was immediately apparent that the Secret Service is unaccustomed to answering that particular question. While the agent looked at me, quite puzzled, for a moment, I heard a young lady (in her 20s, I believe) say "Grandad, Grandad, this young man wants to talk to you," saw her grab him by the elbow and pull him over to me.

Here I am, a young-looking senior in high school, standing face to face with an ex-POTUS. Since I wasn't really expecting my query of the Secret Service to result in anything, I was a bit taken aback. But I recovered quickly.

I shook his hand (he had a standard, firm politician's handshake) and introduced myself. I knew that he had just received the Profiles In Courage award for pardoning Nixon, so congratulated him on that, and said something cheesy along the lines of how inspirational it is that he sacrificed his political career to do what was best for the nation.

He thanked me, and explained that he is always happy to meet intelligent young people with an eye for politics. A total politician's response, of course, but still a nice thing to say.

And, he did take a few moments out of his day to speak with me. He did not rush away (in fact, I said I had to get going before he did). He followed his granddaughter's lead and talked with me until I excused myself. He was kind and patient, and struck me as a very nice man. Maybe he was just a born politician, and the whole thing was an act—but I will always remember Gerald Ford that way, as the type of man who could quite easily ignore the "little people," but chooses to be selfless instead.

My prayers are with his family following this tough loss. He lived a long and full life, of which they should be proud, but it is never easy to lose a loved one.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A first
It seems that I experienced my first earthquake yesterday, as I was sitting down to dinner with my family (including Tanstaafl):

The magnitude-4.1 temblor struck at 7:43 p.m. and was centered 8 miles east of Coachella, which is about 20 miles east of Palm Springs, according to a preliminary report for the U.S. Geological Survey.
We were in Palm Springs.

I have to say, it's little wonder that political thinking in this state is so messed up—considering the ground's movement to be a normal event has got to screw with your mind.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

F'ed Up Fridays - On Vacation
No FuF this week as I'm on vacation. We should return to normal next week.

I'm confused...
So, an "umbrella group" for Iraqi insurgents (I have a feeling that the media is lending them more credit with that description than they deserve) has offered the U.S. a truce.

Setting aside where I stand (you can probably guess) on how to respond to this proposal, I have a question.

Why can't we identify these guys and take them out? Or propose a summit to discuss terms—and take them out?

I just don't get that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Does this spell doom for Netflix?:

You get a free rental on the spot, and Blockbuster still sends out the next movie in your queue. And yesterday they announced that the monthly coupon for a free rental can be used for movies OR video games.

Like the author, I've been using Netflix ever since college. In college I was turning a few movies a week. I would generally get something a couple of years old that I hadn't seen, and I'd put it on while I worked on econ problem sets.

When I entered the working world, that model didn't really fit anymore. Very rarely did I find I'd want to watch a movie after work, and I'd discover that by time the weekend rolled around, I often wasn't in the mood for it anymore. A couple of times I returned movies months later without having watched them.

Then I discovered TV shows on DVD. I watched several seasons of The Sopranos, the entire series of Homicide: Life on the Streets (highly recommended: watch the entire 1st season before making a judgement, it gets better after a few episodes), the first 4 seasons of The Shield, and the 1st 2 seasons of Lost by renting them on Netflix. I find that after work I still have the attention span for 45 minute episodes even though I don't want to watch a feature length film.

But, I think I'm dangerously close to being one of the high-velocity customers that the algorithm punishes, and so I may have to jump to this system. I was certainly pleased about this deal.

Now if only they could hire more knowledgeable sales clerks... but that's a different rant for a different day.

Bear with us...
My apologies that RFTR was down yesterday—despite Blogger's claim that the upgrade to "The New Blogger" would take only a minute or two, it took pretty much the whole day. We're good to go now, though.

Also, both Tanstaafl and I are on vacation for the next few days, with somewhat limited access to the internet. I have a post I've been working on that I hope to post over the holiday weekend, but may not appear until early next week.

We'll do our best, but please bear with us.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Iraq: Constructive Chaos
I was out of the loop for most of the weekend due to Christmas shopping and several hours of hanging new artwork in my apartment.

When I did pull my head up for some air (and some news) I discovered that the current talk in foreign policy circles is for a plan to send another 30,000 troops to Iraq to turn the tide. That seems to be overly optimistic and somewhat irrational thinking to me.

If we are going to persist in trying to stabilize the country, then we either need to triple the number of troops (impossible with only American forces) or at the very least, change the rules of engagement as Mr. Hanson suggests.

I do not however, think either option will work. I continue to believe that the only achievable option in America's national security interests is to get regional powers such as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia engaged in Iraq.

However, unlike John Kerry, by getting them engaged, I do not mean that we should show up in Tehran on our knees and promise to ease sanctions and rhetoric if they help stabilize the country. Instead, I would allow those nations to engage each other as Iraq becomes the central battlefield in a region-wide conflict to establish a new Caliphate.

Some have argued (including myself) that Iran and Syria know that a chaotic Iraq is not in their long-term interests. Mr. Hanson disagrees:

Iran's own military commanders praise the present violence there for tying down American forces, and presumably giving them a pass to continue their bomb-making, whether nuclear or IEDs.
While this makes sense, the conclusion that I would draw, is that Iran will find the chaos in Iraq troublesome if it is no longer "tying down American forces."

At this point, a civil war in the country seems nearly inevitable, and we can not allow our troops to get caught in the middle. Therefore, we should:

1) Withdraw troops from Iraqi cities.
2) Station them at fewer but highly defensible bases in the desert.
3) Protect oil infrastructure against terrorist attacks.
4) Strengthen our quick reaction force capabilities and use them to hunt Al Qaeda and foreign terrorists.

These suggestions are not new, in fact they echo policy options in Rumsfeld's now famous memo.

The main objection to a policy of this nature is that without US forces securing the cities, Shiite death squads will eradicate any Sunnis in their paths.

I am less and less concerned that this will be a problem. Based on recent reports, I believe that the Saudi's will make good on their threat/promise and begin arming and funding the Sunnis in Iraq:
One hopes [President Bush] won't make the same mistake again by ignoring the counsel of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who said in a speech last month that "since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited." If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.
Mr. Obaid is trying to make this sound ominous, but I view it as promising.

Saudi Arabia knows that a nuclear-armed Iran with hegemeny over the Middle East will be very dangerous for them. They will fight tooth and nail to make sure that does not happen.

This war will draw in many of the surrounding counties. Jihadists will flood into the conflict to fight for the honor and glory of their tribes. They will forget, at least temporarily, their hatred for West and focus on annihilating other Arabs.

We can capitalize on their distraction as long as we A) make sure our troops have been withdrawn from the middle of the conflict and B) ensure that all sides know that anyone who uses the chaos as an opportunity to attack Israel will have a difficult time pumping their oil through the glass.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I hope he gets a pre-nup
Otherwise, she might get half of Riding Sun.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Permission to Come Aboard
Thanks for the welcome post. I can't make any promises as to how often I'll post since I generally have to find time around a busy work schedule and home life. But, I look forward to reading and responding to the comments from RFTR's regular readers and hope that I can help contribute to a lively debate.

RFTR: Now with more bloggers!
I'm pleased to announce that RFTR has become a group blog. My brother has recently gotten back into the game with a vengeance and has been posting where I first began, on our old group blog, Diet Coke For Breakfast. Since I've migrated over here, and that blog's founder has moved on to bigger and better things, he's feeling lonely over there fighting under a banner that isn't his own.

So, he has decided to adopt a new handle, Tanstaafl, and join me at RFTR.

F'ed Up Fridays - V
If you're wondering how they get these pictures, the old joke is that they use Japanese tourists.

This is trouble. It could rapidly expand to consume what little free time I have.

If I slow down, do I get to take one home? [WARNING: Not work safe.]

I'm glad to know that the guy discussed in this article is picky; he shouldn't be allowed to reproduce.

All I can tell you is that I've seen the trouble my roommate has launching a 20-foot version, particularly after it crashes into the water. So, I'm not sure how they think this will work. Still, I'm curious to see them try.

You'd think a guy with his experience could figure out how to drive a golf cart straight.

Um, you threatened to sue if you didn't get your way. Seems pretty grinchy to me.

I scored a 93; can you "beat" me?

This is why you shouldn't teach your children anything. Keep 'em down, that's what I always say!

Cool, with the added bonus of sticking it to the French.

See, that's the difference between Bernardo Lebron and me—I'm not surprised in the least.

There's a difference between civil disobedience and outright disregard for the law. Do you think her "absolute moral authority" gets her off the hook?

It's a good thing that our government fixed its problems communicating with itself after 9/11.

It's tough to be driven to a place that you're already at, asshole. (At RFTR, we do not end sentences in prepositions. Unless we're feeling lazy.)

I, for one, was actually pleased to see less of a dependence on these in the recent film. That being said, with the exception of the stupid jetpack in Thunderball, they are pretty cool.

That didn't take long.

It looks like Wii have another problem. Of course, it's nothing like what Microsoft can do when they put their minds to it.

See? By eating beef, I am doing my part for the environment. "Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!"

So, when the internet wakes up, they can poison us more easily.

And track us.

You'd think people nerdy enough to create this might possibly also watch Stargate.

Oh, and Microsoft has gotten in on the game, too. What do you want to bet there's a line in the code that will allow for Microsoft to seize control of any robots using the software in an emergency? And don't you think Microsoft will be the second thing (after Google) that the internet takes control of when it wakes up?

(The last several blurbs in this edition of F'ed Up Fridays show that is a bit of a running theme here at RFTR, and a major pet peeve of mine. Creating artificial life, building robots that can think, or designing robot-building robots are all bad ideas that, for some reason, scientists feel the need to pursue. As Battlestar Galactica shows us, so is creating mass coordination of computerized systems designed to take humanity out of the equation.

If people like this asshat have their way, we're all going to be subjected to some frightening developments when someone finds a way to control these devices. The guy is wiring up his brain to control robots remotely. What happens when the internet wakes up and decides "hey, if he can control us, then we can control him"? Idiot. He needs to read up on SkyNet a little.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Trans-F You
Professor Reynolds cites Ann Althouse's theory about why New York banned Trans-Fats. She says:

I simply do not believe that the so-called health side is really composed of people who are solicitous about everyone else's health. I can't prove it, but my intuition is that all the strength on the "health" side of this war comes not from people who really care whether other people are healthy, but from people who don't like having to see fat people. They are concerned about their own aesthetic pleasures, and they think fat is ugly.
I don't know about all of that, but I can tell you at least one of the motivations for the ban, based on a conversation I had with my co-worker.

She was thrilled, she said, because her mother died of a heart condition, so she's particularly susceptible to heart problems in the future. Avoiding trans-fats is a good way to increase the likelihood that she'll avoid issues.

So I asked her why she doesn't just avoid them. And here's where the truth came out:
"Well, I do. But sometimes I forget, and this will make it a whole lot easier."
So, I can't enjoy tasty food every now and then strictly because she and people like her are too lazy to look after themselves all the time.

So, it's not just that they think they know what's best for the rest of us—they also don't care about our liberties as long as taking them away makes their lives a little bit easier.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Here's a question
Why is the United States Senate Sergeant at Arms searching blogs for the terms rockefeller, exxonmobil, and "wall street journal"?

Don't believe me?

Click on the picture at the left for a closer view.

UPDATE [12/12/2006 - 0:45]: Two days later, and he's still at it. Only now, he's led to this post first.

UPDATE [12/13/2006 - 8:26] So now he's searching for the terms "rockefeller" and "sergeant at arms." Do you think he knows that I'm watching him, or is there some connection between Rockefeller, the WSJ and the Sergeant at Arms for the U.S. Senate?

This really is weird.

F'ed Up Fridays - IV
As you know, I was traveling the first two days of this week, so this is a short edition. Still, I'll try to make it a good one... enjoy!

Best. Idea. Ever.

Best. Newspaper cover. Ever.

He went to my high school, he's the Dean of the Law School at my alma mater, he's held high-level executive branch positions, and now he's the... Best. Bobblehead. Ever.

The press supports the troops, they just cover the truth of the war, right? Well, the troops, who know the truth of the war, don't seem so keen on supporting the press.

She apologizes for this, but not that whole K-Fed thing?

Tim Klotz is the smartest man alive. Well, second smartest. The smartest is the CNN writer who felt the need to include his quote in this article.

Short answer? No. Long answer? No freaking chance.

I should have noted this in edition III, but Riding Sun wasn't the only place I won last week.

I know I've already endorsed Rummy-Bauer '08, but this is not the worst idea in the world.

A while back, I posted about why video games are good for people. Well, now there's another reason: those of us who grew up using them have more resilient thumbs.

Talk about silly behavior.

I guess my decision not to get a Christmas tree this year is paying off in odd ways.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Run, Rummy, Run
Today, Pearl Harbor Day, I endorse Donald Rumsfeld for President of the United States. I sincerely hope that he will run in '08. And yes, I know that my last endorsement, Jack Bauer for Senate fell pretty much flat. But like John Kerry and George Allen, Jack Bauer is not deterred by the temporary setbacks of his dual defeats in the NY and CT Senate races—which is why he's already agreed to serve as Rummy's running mate.

You already know that I'm a fan of Rummy's, and was sorry to see him go.

Then, over the weekend, we found out about a memo he wrote two days before he was fired. Once again, we had evidence of why it was wrong to fire him, as the memo was brilliant.

But this is just the icing on the cake. It seems that before the invasion, Rummy was the only one with the good sense to propose a plan to get in and get out. No, he wasn't whining that this would be another Vietnam—he was proposing a plan to leave a provisional government in the wake of a blitzkrieg destruction of Saddam and his government and a quick withdrawal.

But instead, W picked the State Department plan. Remember this as you hear increased calls for diplomatic solutions to, well, just about anything. Yes, sometimes diplomacy can be effective—but often it just represents the views of people who aren't willing to do what's necessary. Yeah, it would have looked pretty bad to bring down Saddam and then leave, but it would have been effective.

It seems more and more that Rumsfeld was the only one thinking in this administration, and certainly the only one who could see clearly what would be necessary. And now they've unloaded him.

So, it's time to get Rummy a new job, and I think POTUS would be a great fit.

Unfortunately, a relative of mine likes to point out that there are many people smart enough to make fantastic presidents; they're also smart enough not to run.

Jed Babbin has more on Rumsfeld's successes. Honestly, in this age of global conflict, is there a better resume around?

And TCS Daily provides more insight into the fear and loathing of the real Donald.

Rumsfeld-Bauer 2008 Campaign Slogans:
Obama Who?
Our Enemies Don't Stand a Chance
A Chicken in Every Pot, and a Bullet in Every Terrorist
The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance... and a Hacksaw
Don't be a Dummy, Vote for Rummy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

When will they grow up?
Congratulations to Mary Cheney and her partner, Heather Poe. A child is a blessing in any committed relationship.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way:

Conservative leaders voiced dismay Wednesday at news that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Dick Cheney, is pregnant, while a gay-rights group said the vice president faces "a lifetime of sleepless nights" for serving in an administration that has opposed recognition of same-sex couples.
I'm frankly not surprised by the conservative ass-hats who don't think a loving couple can raise a child—particularly when you consider how many kids are growing up in this country with one or no parents.

But really, do gay rights advocates really need to take this time to attack the woman's politics? Frankly, I don't think this should be in the news, but if it is going to be then can't we just be happy for these people?

Idiots.

UPDATE [12/8/2006 - 12:23]: I think that this is spot on.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another loss
Bolton will step aside. The CNN article characterizes opposition to his position as ambassador to the UN, saying "Critics have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether he could be an effective public servant who could help bring reform to the U.N."

So, basically we're firing a guy who we wanted to bring reform to the UN because he's not enough like the rest of the people currently at the UN?

I know it mattered for control of the Senate, but can I just say how glad I am that Lincoln Chafee is gone?

Senatorial Strong Arming
Somebody put a collar on Rockefeller and Snowe.

They've apparently decided (like the rest of the world, it sometimes seems) that debate over Global Warming is closed. In a letter addressed to Rex Tillerson, the Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, they effectively tell him as much, and tell him that it is his company's responsibility to correct the problem.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board does a far better job responding than I have time to do, so read the letter and then read their response.

Minimum Wage Update
Note: I will be traveling today and tomorrow with limited internet access, so any posts that go up over the next 36 hours or so will likely be posted without links, and will likely be brief. In addition, posting will almost certainly be sparse. I know I promised I'd be back full time after the LSATs, but bear with me and I promise I'll be back in full swing no later than Wednesday. My apologies.

Also, please note that today's posts will be timestamped according to when I wrote them, not necessarily according to the time they were posted, in EST even though I'm in the midwest.


A while back, I posted about the folly of raising the minimum wage. While driving to the airport this morning, I heard an interesting piece that's related to this issue. It seems that someone did a poll of (I think it was 200) American economists, with an effort to make sure the sample was a fair representation of the political spectrum found among the larger group. The main point was that while there are a few particularly divisive issues, by in large a mainstream American economist believes in fair trade, low taxes and low subsidies with very little political philosophical variation.

The exception cited by NPR's Morning Edition correspondent? The minimum wage. It seems that 38% of the sample wants to raise the minimum wage, while 47% wants it eliminated altogether.

This tells me two things. For one, I'm encouraged to know that such a large portion of economists see things this way. It also highlights how economically uneducated the political chattering classes are.

Second, while they didn't address the remaining 19%, I would bet that at least 4% of those expressed an opinion against raising the minimum wage, even though they are not looking for its outright elimination.

Why does that matter? It says that (assuming the sample is statistically significant, and actually representative of economists—two assumptions that I cannot investigate without reading the poll itself) a majority of economists do not believe that raising the minimum wage is a good idea.

So the next time you read a news article that says "While most economists agree that raising the minimum wage will result in job losses at the bottom end of the market, many believe that a modest hike from its current rate will not have a significant effect on unemployment rates," keep in mind that "many" most likely stands for "a small group, representing less than a plurality, holding a viewpoint that serves this author's basic assumptions about this issue."

Friday, December 01, 2006

F'ed Up Fridays - III
So, we've finally got a name for this feature. I took last week off for the holiday, and this week I've been using my spare time to rest up for the LSAT this Saturday, but after that I'll be back for the long haul.

In the meantime, enjoy this edition of F'ed Up Friday. Special thanks to Jenn for coming up with the best suggestion for this feature.

Does it still count as a crime to impersonate an officer if you're in a foreign country?

Condoms save lives. But who knew it was by carrying up to a gallon of water?

If he runs with Hillary Rodham Clinton, won't they have to use his middle name for parallelism?

"He admitted he'd been smoking crack cocaine. But still, it's a human life." Sure. But one who probably should have been allowed to experience the wonders of natural selection. Plus, notice the guy's last name—amazing that he passed the test.

I won again.

Americans: stupidly think they're going to live to 120 years old.

He's ronery, and now he's likely to be bored. But are we stopping him from getting the Wii? Maybe if we get him really bored and then ship one, we can get him to bring down his own government?

The common name of the animal didn't clue people in to this possibility?

I'd rather they spent our tax dollars to make sure the airlines gave us edible meals.

And finally, let's all give this guy a hand.

That's it for this week's F'ed Up Friday. See you after the LSAT!

Monday, November 20, 2006

CNN is officially a bad high school paper
In what could actually be an interesting article, CNN looks at the selective service department of the Pentagon, to see if they would be ready to institute a draft should it be called for. Interesting question, which they answer rather quickly (it's a yes). But here's the part that grabbed me, inserted in the middle of the article:

Chris Baker, 20, of Decatur, Georgia, said he wouldn't support a draft under any circumstances.

"I don't believe it's right to send people who don't really want to go fight for the country," Baker said. "I probably wouldn't go, but I know that'd I have to go to jail for that. That's probably what I would do -- sit in jail."

But 25-year-old Donnie Deerman of West Blocton, Alabama, said he would feel obligated to participate in a military draft.

"I'd have to do it. My dad did two tours of duty for Vietnam and for this country," Deerman said. "I wouldn't want to leave my kids behind, but I wouldn't argue about it."
This is the kind of thing that a kid writing for a high school paper does to fill column space—interview random people (usually the author's friends, in the high school case) to see what they think about it.

Ridiculous.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Quick Hits - II
This is volume two of my newest feature—for which I'm still seeking a better name. I considered "Flash Friday," but am concerned about the possible lawsuit for trademark infringement. My brother suggested "F'em Friday," but I don't think that flows as well as the actual swear would—and while I've never censored my vulgarity on this blog, that doesn't mean I need to proclaim it in a headline. So I have no really good ideas yet... so submit some of your own!

And now we're off to the races:

"I just want to extract the bullets and live my life." Don't we all...

Maybe she had bibles in her skull?

I'm not sure I understand what "It works because it is dangerous" means, but it's an interesting idea.

A storm 5,000 miles across? Think we can convince some environmentalists to say that The Day After Tomorrow has come true?

How does a flight attendant confuse the two?

This is aching for a fisking, but I won't waste my time. That being said, it sounds like he's been called a lot of names. Let's add idiot to the list.

Should we really have expected anything different?

I thought the whole point of "road rage" is that it is uncontrollable rage that is instantaneous and has horrific consequences. So how is this concept even possible, unless the guys were sitting in an internet cafe next to each other?

Only in Connecticut.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


A great light has gone out
I'm sad to say that Milton Friedman, a transformative economist and proponent of freedom, died today, at age 94.

Though he lived a long and successful life, the world is poorer without him.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and partner, Rose Friedman.

UPDATE [11/16/2006 - 15:35]: The Wall Street Journal is offering two audio files of conversations with Milton Friedman, explaining some of his economic theories. I highly recommend taking a listen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Raise the minimum wage? Only if you have minimum intelligence.
TNNBG had a simple, straightforward post yesterday about the minimum wage. I didn't think much of it at the time. I'm against raising the minimum wage. I'm against a minimum wage of any kind, in fact. I know (on a basic level) the arguments against it, so I didn't click through to the Wall Street Journal article TNNBG linked to until I got curious today.

Read it. Especially read it if you support a higher minimum wage.

In particular (for those of you too lazy to click through), there is a fantastic illustration of how a minimum wage hurts the very people it is intended to help:

Classical economics teaches that for a given job, there is a market-clearing price--the price at which both someone is willing to do it and someone else is willing to pay them to do it. If you raise the legal minimum above that price, you may get more people willing to perform the job, but you'll probably also get less people (employers) willing to pay the new, higher price to get the job done.

To picture how this works, think about the grocery bagger in the supermarket, a classic low-wage service job. Supermarkets hire grocery baggers for the minimum wage, or close to it, because it's a perk that makes their customers' experience a bit nicer and helps move the lines along, possibly requiring fewer cashiers, who cost more to hire than grocery baggers.

Now, if you pass a law saying everyone, including grocery baggers, has to be paid $10 an hour, what happens? The supermarket probably hires fewer baggers, or has them work fewer hours. Perhaps they decide they only need baggers between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you put the minimum wage up to $20 an hour, shoppers bag their own groceries. This is so clear that it's taken some time for the defenders of an ever-rising minimum wage to come up with an adequate theory to obscure it.
Take it a step further, now. Technological advances have created in recent years a new ability in stores of all kinds: self-checkout. These machines have cropped up everywhere of late. They began with credit card scanners being turned around on the customer, so that cashiers never handle the plastic. Now, more and more commonly, entire check-out aisles operate without a single cashier or bagger. Stores have implemented these systems sparingly thus far, and I can guess a few of the reasons.

First, they probably suffer a slight increase in theft, as it is easier to sneak products out without the watchful eyes of a cashier (or at least it seems easier, and therefore the dishonest are less likely to be deterred). This will likely never be fully overcome, as dishonest people will always try to take advantage of the system—though technology has also lent some advances in theft prevention as well.

Second, some people lack the technological sophistication to use the scanners, or disdain doing it themselves for one reason or another. This barrier is decreasing every day, as people become more and more technologically capable all the time.

Finally, there is a cost to replace functioning registers. I imagine, as well, that the self-checkout scanners are more expensive than the traditional models. The grocery store I frequent recently underwent a complete renovation, replacing all of the registers, and even with that, only about a quarter of them were converted into self-checkout aisles (probably for a combination of this last reason as well as the first two).

As I've said, reason one will always exist and reason two is taking care of itself—so only reason three remains as a true impediment to the new technology. With a raise in the minimum wage, however, the cost-benefit analysis involved changes significantly. As cashiers become more expensive, the benefits of having shoppers take care of that job themselves increase greatly over time. Now, instead of the cutback in cashier jobs that would stem naturally from the added expense for each, we're looking at the possibility of even more significant cuts because added savings can be realized. Where are unskilled workers and teenagers to find those low-wage jobs that are an underpinning of our economy?

Setting aside the grocery store analogy for a moment, let's consider the yard care market. Currently, nationwide (if anyone has a statistic handy, I'd love to cite it here), a significant portion of contracted yard work is handled by recent—and often illegal—immigrants. Some surely do better than minimum wage. A lot are definitely paid at that rate. Without a doubt, many make far less. So what will a minimum wage increase do to this market?

If it is enforced effectively (and what are the chances of that?), anyone making below the current minimum wage will be fired. Some portion of those at the current rate and below the new rate will be fired to cover the expense of raising wages for some of the others in this range. And those making above the new rate shouldn't expect raised wages any time soon.

Don't believe me? I pulled this off of Wikipedia:
For example, during the apartheid era in South Africa, white trade unions lobbied for the introduction of minimum wage laws so as to exclude black workers from the labor market. By preventing black workers from selling their labor for less than white workers, the black workers were prevented from competing for jobs held by whites.
So much for the altruism of paying a higher wage.

If it is not effectively enforced (the most likely scenario), then more workers will be hired under the table. Employers will be given a huge incentive to circumvent the wage laws by paying cheap labor off the books, as is already rampant in this industry nationwide. Those with scruples will be driven out of business, unable to compete with those who cheat the system, their jobs as well as those of their employees will effectively be lost to firms willing to break the law. Income taxes will certainly not be assessed on those paid under the table. Everybody loses.

Finally, this entire premise violates American ideals. At the debate between William Kristol and Katrina vanden Heuvel that I mentioned recently, the latter spoke in support of a higher minimum wage, and used a phrase that stuck with me. She said that "workers should be paid what they deserve."

Unfortunately, she contradicted herself. As described in the WSJ piece above, the market-clearing price is, by definition, what labor is worth—and therefore what workers deserve. By inflating wages above this number, we are violating the very principle she espouses. We are no longer paying workers what they deserve, but instead what some group of people (Congress) arbitrarily decides that they deserve.

The high school drop-out, too lazy to even get his GED, needs only to put in enough effort to find a dead-end job, and suddenly he deserves a minimum wage? While a hard-working individual from a poor background that precludes his attending college will have a significantly harder time finding that same dead-end job. If he does, his chances of advancing and getting periodic raises will have all but evaporated because, if he complains, his employer has that first guy to fall back on at the same rate.

Does that seem fair? Does that seem like the American system? I think not.

For one last point on this line of thinking, I turn again to the WSJ piece:
If you are a young black male, you are slightly more likely than the general population to be paid minimum wage, but you are almost 10 times more likely not to have a job at all. And if you're unemployed, raising the minimum wage not only doesn't help you find a job, it probably hurts.
In short, minimum wages restrict the ability for the lower classes to earn their way up the ladder and create for themselves and their children a better future.

Shame on Congress for even considering it. And shame on them for preparing to rubber stamp such a damaging idea.

For a lot more advanced economics on this than I can explain, click here.

And, by the way, the chart at the top of this post is a fairly simple illustration of the problem with a minimum wage. The center of the "X" is where supply and demand in the labor market meet at a natural equilibrium, on a graph of wage as a function of the number of workers. This is where we find the market-clearing price if the market is left alone. As you increase the wage, however, the demand for workers goes down, and excess supply (known as unemployment) is created.

It's very simple, really.

It's cold out here
But we'd better start getting used to the wilderness, because it looks like we're going to be there for a while.

Why? Because the Republicans are still being led by idiots.

The Dems are doing exactly what I suggested the Republicans do in their lame duck session (via InstaPundit):

Democrats aim to open the next Congress in January with a new rule that identifies lawmakers who use legislative "earmarks" to help special interests — a change Republicans promised but didn't implement.
And two years from now, when Republicans are trying to return to their roots by running for transparent, limited government, the Dems will stand there and say "but you had your chance and didn't learn your lesson—we did."

Whereas if Republicans had taken the opportunity presented by the lame duck session to pass this kind of legislation, they would have totally out-flanked that claim by the Dems.

A great move—that will never happen
Inspired by this post, I have just sent the following letter to Congressman Chris Shays, my Representative:

Congressman Shays,

You may remember that we spoke for a few minutes on the train platform and then the train on Wednesday morning of last week. I am a Republican RTM Representative from Fairfield.

I have just come across a very interesting idea that I think you, as a moderate member of our Party, have a good chance of making happen. I first saw the idea, proposed by a man named Rich Galen, here: http://instapundit.com/archives2/2006/11/post_337.php

I think it is disgraceful the way Representative Pelosi is running rough-shod over her Party and circumventing Representative Hoyer's seniority in favor of a radically liberal Democratic leadership in the form of John Murtha.

So why not call a Republican caucus and convince the GOP members to support Representative Hoyer for the Speaker's chair? Assuming when all of the votes are counted, the GOP holds 203 seats in the House (which sounds about right) you would then only need to convince 15 moderate Democrats who don't support a partisan turn in Congress led by Ms. Pelosi to go along with your idea. That would hit the magic number of 218 and win the Speaker's chair for Representative Hoyer--a good man with a long history of serving his country.

As an added bonus, Republicans can then look the American people in the eye and say, quite honestly "we got the message on Election Day, and are open to a new level of bipartisanship. The Democrats have control of Congress, and we fully intend to work with them to reach reasoned, bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems." What better way to show that than by crossing the aisle to vote for a Democrat as Speaker of the House?

I look forward to your thoughts on this issue. This is the time for moderate, compassionate individuals like yourself to stand up and lead this country into a strong future. I think this would make a fantastic first step.

All the best,
[RFTR]
I invite you to send something similar to any Republicans that may represent you in Congress. They'll never do it, but they should.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How does this work, exactly?
The Professor quotes Andrew Olmsted, who comments:

I see that the Democrats are now ready to start pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq. While I suppose this is no surprise, I'm disappointed to see it. The Democrats have rightly pointed out that Republicans acted without gathering all appropriate data, leading to problems like Iraq. Yet now they're poised to do precisely the same thing.
My question is: how can they do that? My understanding is that the Constitution gives the right to conduct war to the President, and the right to declare war to the Congress. Presidents circumvented this (think Vietnam and Korea) by declaring "police actions" and the like, until the 1973 War Powers Resolution (commonly known as the War Powers Act, although an act requires a presidential signature, which the resolution lacks), which declares that a president can commit military forces for no more than 60 days (90 days following a request to Congress and military necessity) without a congressional declaration.

So here's the problem: Congress approved the action in Iraq. How can they withdraw troops short of cutting funding for the war?

To be clear: I do not intend this as a criticism of the Dems—you've had plenty of that from me. I just don't understand how Congress has the authority to determine conduct of the war except by cutting off the funding (which is politically not viable, as it would be too easy to spin as a lack of support for the troops).

Can anyone clear that up for me?

Also, I want to be clear on another point: I am not opposed to a staged withdrawl of American troops. I haven't decided in favor of it yet, but I'm also not strictly against it. I think that I could probably get behind a proposal like the one found on dcfb here and here.

A cut-and-run without the appropriate precautions and continued engagement of the enemy will not be met with support from this blog.

Shut up and sing
Elton John has announced that he would "ban religion completely." He explains in an interview that he believes organized religion fuels anti-gay discrimination and other forms of bias. I'm so glad we have Elton's rational, level-headed (see picture at right) logic to guide us.

Oh come off it. If that's what he really believes, then he's just as biased and discriminating as the people at which he's pointing the finger.

The solution to moronic, blind anti-gay discrimination is not to silence its proponents, but to show them why they are wrong. Being an intolerant boob accomplishes nothing. (Wearing a big, gawdy symbol of the very people you disdain, however, accomplishes a lot—you know, like inspiring the people who think you're insulting their religious icons to dislike you for doing so to make a fashion statement).

I am so sick of people who want to react to something they don't like by banning it. That's a nice policy to have when you're in control of the government, but someday somebody you don't like will seize the reins of power. And then you're screwed.

Instead of banning something, encourage its opposition. Defeat it through reason and intelligence, not openly hostile force. Remember the old Martin Neimoller poem?

First they came for the Communists,
  and I didn't speak up,
    because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
  and I didn't speak up,
    because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
  and I didn't speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
  and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.
Well, this is no different. It's all well and good to go after those religious nuts, but what happens when they come after the singers? Hell, they're already after homosexuals—you'd think Elton might know better.

But he's too busy hating to see the ridiculousness of his statement.

And before you accuse me of being just another member of the Christian Right who hates gays and defends religion at all costs, I leave you with this quote from the recent episode of American Dad called "Lincoln Lover," which I find hilariously accurate:
The Log Cabin delegates didn't choose to be gay, but they did choose to be Republicans. Even though as Republicans we used bashing them as the backbone of our last presidential election, they're still sticking with us. By God, these people love America as much as they love brunch! You know what else is a choice? Being a Democrat. Democrats weren't born Democrats, they chose to be Democrats. I'm not telling you to stop hating, I just want you to hate where hate deserves. Hating gays is hate we could be using on the Democrats! We shouldn't discriminate against gays, we should get more of them to be Republicans. They're supporting the economy by buying high-end appliances and tea-cup poodles. Do you want manufacturers of super-tight t-shirts to go out of business?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Quick Hits
I'm inaugurating a new segment on RFTR today. For now, I'm calling it Friday Quick Hits, because that's what came to mind first. If you have any suggestions for a better name, please leave it in the comments below.

Basically, I'm going to collect news and opinion pieces over the course of the week that aren't long enough for a full blog entry, and put them all into one post on Fridays with brief comments. (Since I only decided to do this today, please forgive the brevity. In future weeks, I'll store stuff up all week, and they should be longer.)

Please, let me know what you think, and PLEASE help me come up with a better name for this. Enjoy!

New rule: the punishment should mimic the crime.

I thought the same thing.

A former British official proves that, in addition to corruption, government officials have cornered the market on stupidity.

I voted on one of these just this week. I was also part of a recount that involved them—and walked away perfectly satisfied by their accuracy.

I have a friend who recently said that a sensible immigration policy is one that, among other things "doesn't waste money on a nonsensical fence that won't stop anyone from crossing." I've decided he's right. And I have an alternative proposal.

I like to make note of the fact that I have never had anything against Presbyterians, and now even less.

Rummy is Relieved
I know I'm a little behind the news cycle on this one, but I didn't want to let the departure of SecDef Rumsfeld to pass without some comments.

I'm sorry to see him go.

I realize that such a statement is anathema to many, but I'm not afraid to admit it. It's become fashionable of late to fault Rummy with what's become of Iraq and for failing to see a way out. Well, he's certainly not the only one who should have been expected to prevent those problems, and solve them if he fell short of that goal.

I do believe that the buck stops at the top. While I admit that a SecDef could easily prevent the President's goals from succeeding, I don't think that Rummy did.

Why not? Because I've read Rumsfeld's Rules. I recommend you do the same, but I'll provide some of the highlights in this post.

On the first page, Rumsfeld says, consecutively,

Don't begin to think you're the President. You're not. The Constitution provides for only one.
and
In the execution of Presidential decisions work to be true to his views, in fact and tone.
Sure, it's possible that Rummy doesn't live according to his own beliefs—but I think it's unlikely that he'd blatantly disregard two that he thought not only important enough to codify, but important enough to do so on the first page.

I genuinely believe that he would not have wanted to prosecute the Iraq war if he could have avoided it, but when ordered to do so he did to the best of his ability.
Amidst all the clutter, beyond all the obstacles, aside from all the static, are the goals set. Put your head down, do the best job possible, let the flak pass, and work towards those goals.
I think that's the kind of guy he is.

But this is not to say that Rummy just goes along to get along. I have little doubt that he spoke his mind to the President, and volunteered when he thought the man in the Oval Office was wrong—but that he did so privately. Another pair of rules support this idea:
Don't accept the post or stay unless you have an understanding with the President that you're free to tell him what you think "with the bark off" and you have the courage to do it.

Don't automatically obey Presidential directives if you disagree or if you suspect he hasn't considered key aspects of the issue.
What makes me believe that he didn't want to go to war? Again, another rule from the first page:
It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.
And if that's true, why doesn't he say it? Why is he allowing himself to be thrown under the presidential bus?

Because he's working towards two goals important to him. First:
When asked for your views, by the press or others, remember that what they really want to
know is the President's views.
And second:
Preserve the President's options. He may need them.
He has admitted before that his resignation has been tendered repeatedly, and refused by the President. He knew he was causing problems for Bush, and he was at all times prepared to step aside. After all, that's another quality he deems important:
Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the President and do wonders for your
performance.
His willingness to resign, however, was never accepted. This lends the double-meaning in the title of his post. "Resignation" does not accurately define what happened; he was relieved of duty. And, I imagine, he's feeling more than a little relief at the moment. I think he's trying to give his boss a way out. And I think he doesn't resent being the scapegoat (though I'm sure he didn't enjoy it) because he knows that such criticism comes with celebrity:
Know that the amount of criticism you receive may correlate somewhat to the amount of
publicity you receive.
And it comes with trying to make important changes:
If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.


Will he come clean in a few years and point the finger at W? I highly doubt it:
Don't blame the boss. He has enough problems.
There's a lot more worth reading in the full rules. I think you'll enjoy them, and they're brief—so read the whole thing.

I think Rummy did a lot of good because he is an honorable man. He gets a lot of criticism, because he put himself in the line of fire to do the right thing. So I'll end this post with a few of his favorite thoughts on life that I think illustrate why he is the man he is:
"Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out." (James B. Conant)

"Most people spend their time on the 'urgent' rather than on the 'important.'" (Robert Hutchins)

"Victory is never final. Defeat is never fatal. It is courage that counts." (Winston Churchill)
Let's hope that Bob Gates proves to be at least half the man that Donald Rumsfeld has shown himself to be, again and again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Into the Wilderness
Connecticut Republicans got housed last night (no pun intended), perhaps even more solidly than federal Republicans. Jodi Rell, the incumbent Republican Governor won with 63% of the vote. The good news pretty much ends there. While they already had a veto-proof majority in the Senate, Democrats needed only a handful of seats in the House to earn a bicameral veto-proof majority. Though the final results are not yet out, it looks like they did it. So, the Republican Governor, overwhelmingly supported by the people of her state, is now nothing but a figurehead.

She literally cannot control anything that goes on in Hartford. Any veto she casts (and I expect there will be a lot) will be immediately overturned by the legislature.

It's not going to be a pretty two years. I think this is a disaster for the state of Connecticut. I hope the Democrats will govern maturely, but I'm not optimistic. I pray that they prove me wrong.

If they don't, I intend to spend the next two years of my life pointing out why they need to lose their supermajority. I don't know that I will argue for a Republican majority (they have to earn that, too), but at the very least I know that I cannot abide the elimination of the executive branch of Connecticut government. This state could change a lot in the next two years.

But that's nothing compared to what we saw nationally last night.
_________

On the federal level, as everybody knows, the outcome was nearly as bad for Republicans. My prediction of 14 and 2 was obviously way off.

What remains unclear, however, is the result for the country.

I think that the truth is mixed, as there are two issues at play. The first is the behavior of the Democrats now that they've reestablished some level of power. Will we see the results of "the Plan" that we've heard so much about (but never seen)? Or will we see something else? Will Nancy Pelosi's words prove to be prophetic as she hands over the Speaker's gavel to a bunch of petulant children? Can we expect impeachment hearings? Will we hear complaints that they can't be expected to do anything with only one house of Congress?

Or will they surprise us? I certainly hope they do on some level. Many of the freshmen are more conservative than the current leadership of the Democratic Party, and it's very possible that we'll see a revolt towards moderation from within their ranks. Again, I'm not terribly optimistic.

So, the question then, is what will federal Republicans do to redeem themselves over the next two years?
_________

I think it has to start next week.

Republicans over the next two years are going to have show themselves to be statesmen. They need to turn to the American people and say "we hear you, and we've learned our lesson." What is that lesson? No, it's not Iraq. Iraq is a part of it, but not the whole thing.

It's spending. It's government growth. It's corruption. It's immigration. It's an utter failure to communicate with the public. It's defecits. And yes, it's mismanagement of the war. Overall, it is a violation of the principles that brought the Republicans to power in 1994. It's a violation of Goldwater and Reagan conservatism.

Congressman Mike Pence said it incredibly well (via InstaPundit):

Some will argue that we lost our majority because of scandals at home and challenges abroad. I say, we did not just lose our majority, we lost our way.

While the scandals of the 109th Congress harmed our cause, the greatest scandal in Washington, D.C. is runaway federal spending.

After 1994, we were a majority committed to balanced federal budgets, entitlement reform and advancing the principles of limited government. In recent years, our majority voted to expand the federal government's role in education, entitlements and pursued spending policies that created record deficits and national debt.

This was not in the Contract with America and Republican voters said, 'enough is enough.

Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people didn't quit on the Contract with America, we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters.

As the 110th Congress convenes next year, Republicans must cordially accept defeat and dedicate ourselves to advancing our cause as the loyal opposition knowing that the only way to retake our natural, governing majority, is to renew our commitment to limited government, national defense, traditional values and reform.
So, as I said, this trend needs to be reversed. And it cannot be accomplished by raging at the Democrats, or holding press conferences about how we need a new direction, or there are two Americas, or that the House leadership is incompetent, or cracking jokes about the intelligence of Speaker Pelosi. If they do any of this, I will rail against them. If they filibuster, I will rail against them. If they start moaning and whining about being out of power, I will rail against them. I tell you this now as a promise—I will not condone Republicans who partake of any of the behaviors that made the Democrats so frustrating over the past six years. You can hold me to it—but you won't need to.

So how can the Republican Party reverse their fortunes in two years? Primarily, they need to be gracious losers. They need to be prepared for the Democrats to act like sore winners, and they need to allow the Democrats to make asses of themselves—not look for opportunities to do it for them. They need to be statesmen before they are politicians. They need to craft clear alternatives to anything the Democrats propose, and release it directly to the public. Bush needs to sharpen his veto quill, and clearly explain why he rejects each and every bill that he does.

They need to hone their skills so that two years from now they can clearly say "we've learned our lesson, we've shown you how we would have run things differently, and we've behaved with the class necessary to prove it."
_________

So how can they get started on this next week, as I suggested?

It's easy and tempting to wait until January, when Congress changes hands. But why wait? Republicans haven't been misbehaving as the minority, they have been misbehaving as the majority. So why not demonstrate that they have learned their lesson while they are still in the majority?

Call a lame duck session.

Now, lame duck Congresses typically try to ram through some key piece of their legislative agenda that they didn't have the balls to try while their elections were on the line. Once they're freed up by the end of election season (and even more so if they are about to lose power), they will act more brazenly.

So why not try something new?

Call Congress back to debate one measure. I do not know what that measure is, but make it something big, and make it something simple. Make it something to clean Congress up, to restrict their spending, their corruption, their abuses of power, whatever. Make it clear that this is not an attempt to pull a fast one before they lose control, but rather an attempt to rise above partisanship. Do not strike out at the Dems and say "hah, we'll show you!" Turn instead to the American people and say "We're sorry. Let us do what we can to account for our sinful ways while we still have the ability."

In short, do the right thing.

And it will help them in the long run! Imagine if they have just such a shining example of leadership, of restraint, of maturity to point to in two years. Particularly imagine if the Dems run wild for any part of those two years. Republican candidates will be able to hold their heads high and say:
You repudiated our behavior, and we heard you. We immediately changed our ways and showed you what we want to do, how we want to improve this country. We have maintained those principles for two years. We have not raced to the bottom as the Democrats did while they were out of power—and as both parties did while they were in power. We are the party of reason, the party of rational restraint, the party of liberty. We are not the party we were two years ago, nor do we ever intend to return to those days. We are working for your benefit, and we hope that you will give us your trust once again. We hope we've shown you how great this nation can be, how high a level of discourse we can maintain. Now let us set the standard as a majority. We will not let you down.
There's no way they could lose after two years like that. Even if the Democrats adapt to raise the level of debate and the Republicans fail to retake the House, we will be better off as a nation. How can you go wrong?

This kind of behavior would make me proud to be a Republican again.
_________

Do I think this will happen? Of course not.

What's the first move of the Bush White House? A wave of the white flag through Rumsfeld. Their communication? That the election was about the war in Iraq. And only the war in Iraq.

As an aside: I think Iraq had a significant bearing on this election—but it's not nearly that simple, and getting rid of Rummy isn't even going to fix that single facet of the Republicans' problems. But either W, or his people seem to think that it will.

This is just one more in a long line of signs that the intellectual capacity of the White House is severely lacking. Rove may be a brilliant grand strategerer (sic), but either he isn't paying attention to or has no understanding of day-to-day tactics. The volume of serious errors coming out of this White House is unbelievable. They may not boil as high as John Kerry's "the troops are dumb" slip and the follow-on raging press release/press conference responses—but they far out-number them. Rumsfeld is one example. Bush's confession that he "thought we were going to do fine yesterday." is another. That's just one day!

They aren't communicating, and they don't show any signs that they understand their failure to communicate.

So no, I don't think Bush has anyone around him right now who will see the opportunities presented by such a simple act. And if someone does proclaim the virtues of a lame duck Congress, it will be for partisan motivations.

I likewise lack faith that Bush will have the guts—or the smarts—to start using his veto power. I doubt that Republicans will be able to moderate their tone for two years. I think they will snipe and be petulant.

I think we're in for a rough two years that could be so easily avoided. God help us.

At the very least, maybe putting the Republicans outside for a little while will do them some good. Maybe they will understand that libertarian-minded (i.e. socially liberal, fiscally conservative) Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jodi Rell win, while Republicans of all other stripes lose.

As Mark Tapscott sums it up with total brevity: "When Republicans worry more about staying in government than about limiting government, they get thrown out of government."

I'll have more thoughts on this election in the days and weeks to come, I'm sure. In particular, I have a lot more to say about the Connecticut races and those in my home town. Keep checking back for more, of course.

UPDATE [11/8/2006 - 22:09]: If I'd had internet access while I wrote this post, I most likely would have read Dean Barnett's thoughts before writing my own. What he says is similar, and probably more coherent. Read the whole thing, as they say.

UPDATE [11/9/2006 - 13:57] George Will offers another road back from this wilderness, pointing out that the political market has acted like any free market, forcing the Democrats to accept some policies in order to retake power, and repudiating Republicans for refusing to supply what was in demand.

And Dick Armey provides his take on how we got to where we are, and how Republicans can get back to representing their core constituency:
Eventually, the policy innovators and the 'Spirit of '94' were largely replaced by political bureaucrats driven by a narrow vision. Their question became: How do we hold onto political power? The aberrant behavior and scandals that ended up defining the Republican majority in 2006 were a direct consequence of this shift in choice criteria from policy to political power. [...]

Moving forward, my advice to Republicans is simple: Don't go back and check on a dead skunk. The question Republicans now need to answer is: How do we once again convince the public that we are in fact the party many Democrats successfully pretended to be in this election? To do so, Republicans will need to shed their dominant insecurities that the public just won't understand a positive, national vision that is defined by economic opportunity, limited government and individual responsibility.
Read both.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Prediction
Polls have been closed in CT for half an hour. I've been at a conference all day and completely disconnected from the world.

So I have no idea what exit polls or anything of the sort look like as of now.

So I'm going to put up my prediction:
14 House seats to the Dems.
2 Senate seats to the Dems.
Republicans hold both houses.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Speaker Pelosi?
I don't think so, and haven't.

I'll admit that I haven't been particularly active this campaign season. A big part of that is because I don't feel the pessimism the way a lot of Republicans do right now.

And I haven't yet this year. Why?

Well, Dean Barnett does a pretty good job of explaining my position: I just don't trust the polls.

My reasoning? Basically, I think that the pollsters are hearing a a lot of frustration with Congress, and interpreting that as an anti-incumbent pattern. They're then reinterpreting that as an anti-incumbent party (i.e. anti-Republican) trend.

I think this makes too many leaps of logic.

I also look at the people around me: the Republicans I know are pissed at the Republican Party, but have no intention of voting for Democrats, or of staying home. The Democrats I know (which is most of the people I know) are even more pissed at the Republican Party. But the Dems split, and they split about evenly—some are pissed and supporting the Democrat candidates full-throat, some are pissed and fed up with the whole system.

So, I think Barnett's right, though for slightly different reasons. I think the Republicans will turn out stronger than they're currently getting credit for, but because of different voter emotional responses more than because of voter turnout efforts. I also think that the polls are off, but not because they underrepresent Republicans—more because they think too highly of themselves.

I guess we'll see on Tuesday...

UPDATE [11/5/2006 - 22:21]: Mickey Kaus has evidence that the polls are starting to move in the direction I expected. Dems, get ready for a disappointing day...

Simply Fantastic
I picked this up from Ann Althouse, via InstaPundit.

My headline says it all. Watch both pieces, and you'll be amazed at the high-minded and hilarious conversation that results from Woody Allen chatting with Billy Graham.
Part 1:

And Part 2:

26 Years Ago Today
Ronald Reagan was elected to the office of President of the United States of America.

In lesser news, my sister-in-law was born. Happy birthday, Gina!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Prepare yourself for some rambling
As the title suggests, you'll need to bear with me for this one. I've got some things I need to say, and I'm not sure that my thoughts will be all that coherent. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. If you don't want to know what I'm thinking, then stop reading here. If you do, then I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you'll comment when I'm done. Anyway, here goes...

I'm just back from an event at Fairfield University—a discussion between Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor and publisher of The Nation) and William Kristol (editor of The Weekly Standard). This was part of a series of lectures called the Open Visions Forum, and in particular was their "Election Day Special" in this lecture series. Mr. Kristol opened with 15 minutes, followed by Ms. vanden Heuvel for 15 minutes. Next were a few (far too) long-winded questions from the moderator (Dr. Philip Eliasoph, a Professor in FU's Department of Visual and Performing Arts) for the speakers, a few questions from two student panelists, a few more from the moderator, and then a handful from the audience. As with most debates, I was frustrated by the format, but interested in what the speakers had to say.

I won't touch on the substantive things that were said tonight, but I am hoping to initiate a sort of "lecture series" of my own on this blog over the next few weeks and months. I know I've said it before, but I'm really feeling a need to get back into this blogging thing in a way I haven't over the past year. I simply do not have the bandwidth (or ability without losing my job) to post multiple times a day like I did back in college; that does not mean I cannot post a few times a week with more substantive thoughts.

So where is this coming from?

It started with an ongoing conversation that my brother initiated with me last week. It actually began with our father, and led to him drafting this post over at dcfb. As he says:

a big reason I haven't posted for so long is frustration. Frustration with the lack of progress in Iraq, frustration with the Bush Administration, frustration with Congress, and most of all frustration with feeling like there is nothing I can do about it. Well I'm tired of being frustrated; it just takes too much energy. So, I'm going to try to vent that frustration here.
One of the things we discussed was his frustration, and the fact that he felt a need to stop letting it get the better of him, and to try and do something about the roots of that frustration.

Well, I've been feeling similar sentiments myself.

Now, I openly admit that I am a partisan. I think the Republicans are completely off-base. Yes, you read that right. I said Republicans on purpose.

Unfortunately, the Democrats are far worse on just about every issue that frustrates me with Republicans. At the very least, they don't offer any alternatives worth discussing.

You can scroll down and see my evisceration of Kerry's playing politics while accusing others of playing politics for an illustration of this. Nobody is saying anything worthwhile because they're all too busy accusing each other of failing to say anything worthwhile or of saying the wrong things.

And the result, is someone like John Kerry making a joke about the intelligence of the administration and utterly failing to take up any of the very serious issues that he could consider at the present time.

So, to bring it back to my focus: I've been frustrated. I feel like there's no one out there who's even coming close to expressing what I believe. Sure, I think Chris Shays is a decent guy, and I know he's closer to what I believe than Diane Farrell. But do I really want to support him? I mean, Phil Maymin is far closer to what I believe. There's no way in hell, for example, Maymin would have supported BCRA (McCain-Feingold in the Senate, Shays-Meehan in the House), whereas Shays was a sponsor of it!

But Maymin is never going to win, and Shays, if I don't vote for him, could very well lose. Strategic thinking says, vote for Shays. And I probably will.

So, let's move on to the CT Senate election. Schlesinger is a joke who will never win. Lamont disagrees with just about everything I believe in. And Lieberman disagrees with me on just about everything but school vouchers and foreign policy, and even on that last one he's a much bigger cheerleader of the Bush Administration than I am these days. So who the hell do I vote for there?

Again, frustrated.

I supported the war in Iraq, and still think it was the right thing to do. I now think it was entirely botched not only in the prosecution, but also in the goals at the outset. I think that my brother's take is pretty much spot-on.

Yet again, frustrated. You get the point, I won't bore you with more examples.

So, my conversation with my brother has begun moving me to the point where I feel a need to stop being frustrated and start doing something about it, as he is doing. I helped him edit his Iraq post some (you can thank me for the sub-heads and most of the links—i.e. you can thank me for making it readable instead of one huge block of text). I felt a need to rip into Kerry—and if you made it to the end, you saw that it wasn't a partisan complaint, but one about politics in general.

And I feel the need to keep it up.

So, as I said, hopefully I'm going to find the time to provide you with more of my thoughts on every day events. I'll pick one or two issues per week on which to pontificate, and present you with the results.

Consider this morning's post the first in the series, serving as a general rant against the political noise machine of current politics. Consider tonight's post the second in the series.

And I hope to offer you more soon.

As I've said, this is my little effort to be heard, and to feel like I'm doing at least something. I can't change the system with my vote, so I'm going to lend more of my voice.

And please, please lend me yours in response. If you agree, if you disagree, stand up and be heard. (Unless you're John Kerry—he should still sit down and shut up.)