Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Goodbye New York

I'm in my last few days as a New Yorker before I move off to a different state, so blogging might be especially light from here on out.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Socialism day on the op-ed page, part 2

Another recurring idea for liberals and the New York Times op-ed page is that the War on Terror, or war in general, means that American society needs a more communitarian military ethos. With respect to the universal military draft, I commented before that this attitude is largely self-serving for liberals, since their intention is that this communitarianism be extended to the private economy in general. The op-ed piece "The Best Army We Can Buy" is a perfect example:
The life of a robust democratic society should be strenuous; it should make demands on its citizens when they are asked to engage with issues of life and death. The "revolution in military affairs" has made obsolete the kind of huge army that fought World War II, but a universal duty to service - perhaps in the form of a lottery, or of compulsory national service with military duty as one option among several - would at least ensure that the civilian and military sectors do not become dangerously separate spheres. War is too important to be left either to the generals or the politicians. It must be the people's business.
In this case, the excuse is that the tradition of the citizen-soldier has decayed, as evidenced by the hiring of mercenaries by the United States military, this producing a military that is dangerously out of touch with civilian sentiment and vice versa.

Obviously a government's employment of mercenaries should raise concerns about the civilian control of the military forces it employs. But doesn't it seem strange that institution of compulsory national service should be the solution? The institution of a new draft would seem to have the potential to create a far greater social divide than supplementing citizen-soliders with mercenary troops. If you think that letting the rich escape military service under the all-volunteer military is socially divisive, why would you think that letting the rich political class force everyone into compulsory service would be any less divisive?

An appeal is also made to Western Civilization and its idea of the citizen-solider:
From Aristotle's Athens to Machiavelli's Florence to Thomas Jefferson's Virginia and Robert Gould Shaw's Boston and beyond, the tradition of the citizen-soldier has served the indispensable purposes of sustaining civic engagement, protecting individual liberty - and guaranteeing political accountability.
Somehow the ideas that letting the government requisition your labor for the "national service" during peacetime is contradictory with "protecting individual liberty", or that sustaining civic engagement is itself a form of "national service" for the priviate citizen, or that removing the requirement that government bid for labor by offering competitative wages can only undermine political accountability are ignored.

Socialism day on the op-ed page, part 1

Readers who follow Paul Krugman's op-ed column in the New York Times might notice that there is a certain socialist cast to his thinking that sometimes appears. It might have something to do with a reflexive anti-Bush state of mind: if Bush is for more private control over a sector of the economy then the anti-Bushies mush be against more private control. Or maybe Krugman really believes in socialism to some extent and is therefore oblivious to the fact that some of his proposals in his column are ridiculous.

Today's column is, basically, the Krugman case for socialism. He starts by introducing the fact that Toyota has decided to build its new auto plant in Ontario instead of the United States, blames the Right for dumbing down the workforce, and then gets to the real point of his column:
But education is only one reason Toyota chose Ontario. Canada's other big selling point is its national health insurance system, which saves auto manufacturers large sums in benefit payments compared with their costs in the United States.
And there's even better news for Canada:
So what's the impact on taxpayers? In Canada, there's no impact at all: since all Canadians get government-provided health insurance in any case, the additional auto jobs won't increase government spending.
But if government-run health care is such a job-magnet since it saves potential empoyers billions in health care costs, then why stop at government-run health care? Why not have the government pay all wages as well? Just think of all the money that could be saved if corporations world-wide gave up dollar-a-day sweatshop labor for no-cost, skilled workers already cashing their government-provided paychecks. And it wouldn't cost businesses any extra money to hire new workers since everyone is getting paid already! Or why not just have the government give workers everything they need already? Once the average worker receives according to his needs he could just happily work according to his abilities with no worries whatsoever.

We all know that that last idea will, ultimately, leave Canada in the same type of stagnation that afflicted the Soviet Union. So it should be obvious now that, whatever fringe benefits for employment are being generated by the Canadian health care system, there must also be some major structral problems with the Canadian economy. Krugman himself alludes to this point:
I'm sure that some readers will respond to everything I've just said by asking why, if the Canadians are so smart, they aren't richer. But I'll have to leave the issue of America's comparative economic performance for another day.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Krugman on China's revaluation of the Yuan

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman starts the ball rolling on China's revaluation of the Yuan. Since I'm more of a history buff than an economist, this paragraph caught my attention:
And what about the strategic effects? Right now America is a superpower living on credit - something I don't think has happened since Philip II ruled Spain. What will happen to our stature if and when China takes away our credit card?
There are few misrepresentations here, although they might be inadvertent.

The first is the suggestion that the United States is financing wars in a similar way to the Hapsburg Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. In absolute terms, the United States spends more on warfare than the Hapsburg Empire did: inflation tends to produce that kind of effect over time. But in relative terms such as debt to government revenues, if I remember correctly, the Hapsburg Empire was fininacing war on a vastly greater relative scale the United States has ever contemplated. The United States has spent a few hundred billion out of yearly government revenues of a few trillion dollars to depose Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The Hapsburg Empire was blowing their entire American treasure fleet each year on new loans to finance their decades-long attempt to try and take over world.

The second misrepresentation is that credit is somehow a poor way to finance warfare. In reality, loans and deficit spending have been pretty common tools of military strategy, at least for the European powers, for centuries. The United Kingdom's victory over Napolean's France was achieved, in part, by their more mature banking system as well as their financial subsidies to other European powers to help keep armies in the field. And wasn't the American Lend-Lease program one of the ways we helped to keep the United Kingdom in the war against the Nazis?

Howard Dean, liability for Democrats

A few more major mistakes by Howard Dean this week again show why he was the big mistake in being made DNC chair. The first is the latest news about his ideas for pro-life Democrats:
"We do have to have a big tent. I do think we need to welcome pro-life Democrats into this party," said Dean.

Still, he added, "I think that we must be absolutely firm in being the party of individual freedom and personal freedom, which means that in the end the government doesn't get to decide, we do."
As politically astute as this position is (Senator Clinton pioneered the approach, if you recall), the timing to announce it is awful. Remember, the big talking point for the Democrats right now is that President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court John G. Roberts, Jr. is a threat to Roe v. Wade. Suggesting that being pro-life is okay for a Democrat might give political cover to moderate Senate Democrats who are thinking about voting to confirm Roberts. At the very least, suggesting that someone who is pro-life is a human being instead of the evil spawn of Satan will undercut the propaganda efforts of groups like NARAL and MoveOn.Org. Why isn't Howard Dean paying someone to tell him these things?

Then there are Dean's statements about the Roberts nomination being a distraction for Plamegate:
"Faced with a growing scandal surrounding the involvement of Deputy White House chief of Staff Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby in leaking the identity of a covert CIA operative, President Bush announced his nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court late this evening," Dean's statement began.
As Republicans everywhere know from their experiences during the Clinton years, nothing conveys the impression of "loser" quite as well as begging the media to please, please turn back the clock to that exciting scandal in the previous news cycle. It is therefore completely obvious that this is another politically boneheaded move for Dean. The Roberts nomination should be his top priority right-now. The Plamegate story is still under investigation, will still pop up in the news again once new details are released, and will almost certainly give Democrats another shot at getting Rove out of the White House at some later date. Plamegate is not going away so why should Democrats be whining about some wacko Bush news-management conspiracy?

Friday, July 15, 2005

How the mighty have fallen.

Remember Jacques Chirac, the mighty president of France who was threatening to use anti-Americanism to weld the European Union into a titan that would be an equal or superior in power relative to the United States? He doesn't seem so mighty lately now that his rhetoric has shifted from "We are the leader of the great counterweight to the United States" to "We are still in much better shape the the United Kingdom".

The real question now is how low will Jacques Chirac ultimately be forced to go in order to find a competitor that makes France look good by comparison. Will he be admitting that "France still outperfoms the Netherlands in serveral respects" in six months? Will France decline in a year's time to the point where "France is still one of the more prosperous large Third-World nations"?

More evidence of President Chirac's decline comes from the recent G-8 conference which has turned out to be a major victory for President Bush. One of the stated goals of the conference's host, the United Kingdom, was to win over President Bush for support of the Kyoto Treaty. Wise observers should have warned Prime Minister Tony Blair in advance that getting President Bush to commit to wholehearted support of Kyoto would be about as easy as beating the Kobayashi Maru scenario. And predictably enough, President Bush not only refused to endorse Kyoto but won the G-8's approval of a statement on climate change that meets his requirements.

The three sins of evolutionism

A brief article entitled "Darwin and Design: The Evolution of a Flawed Debate" posted at Tech Central Station surveys the field of battle of the evolutionists and creationists and mentions some of the sins of each side. I won't mention the sins of the polemical creationists since I just blogged on a similar topic last week with my post "Jesus Christ, string theorist". But the three sins of the evolutionists make an interesting set of points for discussion.

The first sin on the list is complacency:

The first is a profound failure of the imagination, which comes from a certain laziness and complacency. Somehow people, who should, because of their studies in biology, have been brought to a state of profound wonder and awe at the astonishing beauty and intricacy and generosity of nature, can think of nothing better to say than to gloomily pronounce it all meaningless and valueless. Even if one is an atheist, nature surely has a meaning, that is, an abstract and volitional and mental implication: the human world and its ideas and arts and loves, including our appreciation for the beauty of nature itself.
It's hard to see what's so sinful about this. Without delving too deeply into the nuances of meaning, I would agree that everyone, including atheists, could admit to subjectively ascribing a meaning to nature. That doesn't strike me as a particularly controversial stand. On the other hand, it's precisely the crux of the argument whether one can demonstrate an objective meaning to nature. As I mentioned in last week's post, explaining away the appearance of design appears to be a fundamental goal of science in general, not just of evolutionary biology in particular. Whether the author would agree that "design" is equivalent to "meaning" in his article is an open question, but for me, asking evolutionists to spend more time discussing the meaning of nature thus seems less like an appeal for evolutionists to acknowledge an intellectual failing and more like a veiled attempt at "begging the question" at the heart of the debate.

The next sin on the list is ingratitude:

The second sin is a profound moral failure -- the failure of gratitude. If one found out that one had a billion dollars free and clear in one's bank account, whose source was unknown, one should want to find out who put it there, or if the donor were not a person but a thing or a system, what it was that has so benefited us. And one would want to thank whoever or whatever put it in our account. Our lives and experiences are surely worth more than a billion dollars to us, and yet we did not earn them and we owe it to someone or something to give thanks. And to despise and ridicule those who rightly or wrongly do want to give thanks and identify their benefactor as "God" is to compound the sin.
I think it's incorrect to say that evolutionists are not grateful for the gifts of living (by the way, thanks Mom and Dad). On the other hand, asking the atheist evolutionists to acknowledge the existence of a single benevelent entity who is the provider of the gift of existence is again a veiled attempt at begging the question at the heart of the debate.

The final evolutionist sin on the list is the same dishonesty indulged in by the creationists:

The third sin is again dishonesty. In many cases it is clear that the beautiful and hard-won theory of evolution, now proved beyond reasonable doubt, is being cynically used by some -- who do not much care about it as such -- to support an ulterior purpose: a program of atheist indoctrination, and an assault on the moral and spiritual goals of religion. A truth used for unworthy purposes is quite as bad as a lie used for ends believed to be worthy. If religion can be undermined in the hearts and minds of the people, then the only authority left will be the state, and, not coincidentally, the state's well-paid academic, legal, therapeutic and caring professions. If creationists cannot be trusted to give a fair hearing to evidence and logic because of their prior commitment to religious doctrine, some evolutionary partisans cannot be trusted because they would use a general social acceptance of the truth of evolution as a way to set in place a system of helpless moral license in the population and an intellectual elite to take care of them.
There's no doubt that the abuse of science to support ulterior purposes is one of the sins of our times; just ask Alan Sokal what he thinks about the journal "Lingua Franca" to get an idea of the extent of scientific abuse. But the abuse of, well, practically anything in the service of some greater political goal is a failure of humankind in general. Even Aristotle concluded that politics was the master art in the Nicomachean Ethics. One of the advantages of science as a professional discipline is exactly that advantage that the author would claim as an advantage for organized religion: an institutional framework (or at least an institutional ideal) that is independent of the government.

Unfortunately, the author also indulges in what appears to be a wild proliferation of charges. It's not clear, for example, why the legal, therapeutic and caring professions would have any professional stance on evolution beyond the general convictions of their members as to its truth or falsity. And don't these professions have as much interest in maintaining their independence from the state as any others? Even laywers might greatly prefer being private laywers rather than government ones.

Another charge in the excerpt is an apparent reference to the recent Kansas School Board hearings on the teaching of evolution and a boycott organized by the scientific community. Whether the boycott tactic was wise or not is debatable, but surely the scientific community can and must be able to assert the legitimacy of science against those who are attempting to undermine it. Taking a stand on scientific truth must be right, even if the "evolutionary partisans" are the indirect beneficiaries, provided that even the evolutionary partisans have their statements exposed to criticism and verification as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good stuff.

The lounge act/waltz rendition of the theme music from Super Mario Brothers (hat tip: Shaved Ape Chronicles).

Also, the original version of "Istanbul (not Constantinople)" by "The Four Lads" (hat tip: John Derbyshire from National Review Online).

And then, there is the theme music to the most amazing animated series to ever make the jump from France to the United States: Ulysses 31 (web site in French).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

We're better off without Saddam in power.

Bob Herbert's latest New York Times column "It Just Gets Worse" is, in a sense, a restatement of the Kerry campaign's standard critique of the war with Iraq. You know the storyline already: a cynically manipulative yet absurdly short-sighted President Bush deliberately bamboozled the country into supporting a ridiculously ill-advised war that was both a cover story for and an essential consequence of the ideological pretensions of his neoconservative puppetmasters. Thus, if only the Democrats had been in charge, they would have demonstrated how they could have conducted the war in both exactly the same way and entirely differently to produce an amazing victory with no negative consequences.

The article begins by evoking President Bush's stupidity:
Back in March 2004 President Bush had a great time displaying what he felt was a hilarious set of photos showing him searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction that hadn't been found in Iraq. It was a spoof he performed at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association.
What you aren't told here is that an attempt at self-deprecating humor is the tradition at this event. But the stupidity charge aimed at President Bush has always consisted of cheap shots. Moving on, the cynical manipulation comes next:
If there's something funny about Mr. Bush's misbegotten war, I've yet to see it. The president deliberately led Americans traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, into the false belief that there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that a pre-emptive invasion would make the United States less vulnerable to terrorism.
Conservatives have been going nuts for years trying to get liberals to acknowledge the mountains of evidence that the Bush Administration was debunking links between Iraq and Al Qaeda immediately after 9/11. The existing links between Saddam Hussein and terror were also not anything more substantial than those of many other Middle-Eastern dictators. The real danger, as I also mention below, is that Saddam Hussein would launch his own terror war on America once the 9/11 terrorist proved that terror attacks can produce mass murder on a hitherto unimagined scale. Thankfully, the article at least skips the tired old canard about the Bush administration's claims about the "immanent threat" of Iraq.

The next point in the standard media narrative is the negative consequences of the war. The ritual invocation of the exact current death toll in Iraq is, of course, a media obsession and must be repeated. Then the column states that:

The C.I.A. warned the administration in a classified report in May that Iraq - since the American invasion in 2003 - had become a training ground in which novice terrorists were schooled in assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other terror techniques. The report said Iraq could prove to be more effective than Afghanistan in the early days of Al Qaeda as a place to train terrorists who could then disperse to other parts of the world, including the United States.
Now just imagine the situation of Saddam Hussein was in power: Iraq would be just as bad of a training ground in which novice terrorists were schooled in assassinations, etc. and the authorities would be protecting them and helping them instead of trying to kill them. Or, to put it another way, while the 9/11 plotters had to hijack planes to commit their terror attacks, Saddam Hussein owned an entire air force of planes. Worried about increased recruitment of terrorists after the Iraq war? Just imagine how many terrorists Saddam Hussein could have recruited while he still had the entire GDP of Iraq to spend. It just boggles the mind that people can seriously believe we'd be better off with this killer dictator in power.

And, finally, we come to the article's mention of the neoconservatives (aka "true believers"):
Has the president given any thought to leveling with the American people about how bad the situation has become? And is he even considering what for him would be the radical notion of soliciting the counsel of wise men and women who might give him a different perspective on war and terror than the Kool-Aid-drinking true believers who have brought us to this dreadful state of affairs? The true believers continue to argue that the proper strategy is to stay the current catastrophic course.
You see, if only the president would just replace all those neoconservatives with wise men and women with a different perspective (aka "liberal Democrats"), we'd be on the way to recovery. Yeah, right. But even this point gets radically contradicted at the end of the article:
The immediate challenge to President Bush is to dispense with the destructive fantasies of the true believers in his administration and to begin to see America's current predicament clearly. New voices with new approaches and new ideas need to be heard. The hole we're in is deep enough. We need to stop digging.
How is President Bush supposed to level with the American people when even he can't see the situation clearly?

What I'd really like to know after going through this article is how many of those "new voices with new approaches" are going to be believers of the Daschle/Clinton standard of miltary operations (i.e. if only one life is lost then the effort is a failure)? Does anyone still seriously believe that the Iraqi insurgency can be defeated by cruise missile attacks on empty warehouses launched from hundreds of miles away? Or that the Iraqi insurgents will just drop the arms and surrender once we pull out our troops and replace them with unmanned aerial drones? Or that jihadists and terrorists around the world won't be dancing in streets if we "bug out" from Iraq?

Oh no! Anything but that!

The worst nightmare at Vacuum Energy headquarters has come true: Tropical Storm Emily is gaining strength and coming closer.

At least I'm already blogging from a secure, undisclosed location: there are a thousand grad student cubbyholes at Syracuse University and Joe is in one of them. But which one?!?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Jesus Christ, string theorist

My thesis advisor once told me that, given the success that the creationists were experiencing in their fight against mainstream biology, it was only a matter of time before they started attacking mainstream physics as well. Today's New York Times op-ed "Finding Design in Nature", among other things, is a reminder that the seeds of creationist conflict with modern physics have already been planted. For instance:
But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.
This statement of a clearly discernable "purpose and design in the natural world" would seem to be a clear statement that creationism is an oppositional principle to all physical sciences, although the author may have intended the "natural world" to refer only to planet Earth, thus declaring his antagonism merely to sciences such as geology or meteorology. Unfortunately, another statement clarifies that this position does indeed attack physical science in general:
In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, "It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity."
There you go: everything you know about the cosmos is wrong unless you're basing it on the "truth of faith about creation". Finally, the article ends with a rather cartoonish public service announcement that philosophical morphine is bad for you:
Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.
Well, at least give the author credit for having the discernment and restraint merely to condemn Neo-Darwinists and multiverse cosmologists instead of issuing a blanket condemnation of all heretics, witches, and the Devil. Although it's a little puzzling why someone who condemns all material science as being radically opposed to the "truth of faith about creation" wants to single out multiverse cosmology as particularly bad. The statement at the end about explaining away the appearance of design being anti-scientific and an abdication of human intelligence is especially ridiculous; wasn't explaining away the appearance of design the reason why science was invented in the first place?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Maybe Senator Clinton is already president?

She is certainly acting like it. As is reporting about Senator Clinton's remarks about North Korea:
Hillary suggested that her husband's approach had been much more successful, noting that "North Korea has apparently used the past five years to become a nuclear weapons state" and now has "many times the number of nuclear weapons it did before the Bush administration took office."

Mrs. Clinton recommended that President Bush follow the example set by his predecessor, and pledge to give North Korea a massive aid package.

"Seriousness is demonstrated by spelling out a package to the North Koreans that addresses their fundamental need for economic assistance," she insisted. "There is a precedent for this," Hillary said, claiming President Clinton's aid giveaway under the so-called Agreed Framework "froze the North Korean plutonium-based nuclear program for nine years."
So, in other words, now that North Korea has utterly improverished itself with its crash program to build multiple nuclear weapons, we should give them the massive financial aid they need to recover. And, for some reason, I don't think that a policy of "You do the bomb research and we feed your people for free" is going to do much to deter nuclear proliferation.

But there's more. In a high-profile bid for a spectacular achievement to boost her landslide victory in 2006, Senator Clinton lobbied the International Olympic Committee to select New York for the 2012 Olympics:
"We have lived the Olympics, now I'd like for us to have a chance to host the Olympics," she said.

In arguments before the committee, the former first lady even invoked the specter of the 9/11 attacks:

"We're standing here a little less than four years from the time when we were attacked and we're telling you that New York City is the place to bring the 2012 Olympics because people of New York are resilient," she insisted. "They're extraordinary in their capacity to pull together and plan for the future."
No surprise that New York lost out to London for 2012: choosing Senator Clinton, of all people, as one's representative to an organization that is trying to repair its reputation after a bribery scandal was a real bone-headed move by Mayor Bloomberg.

But there's more. Here's the Clintons tricking the Reverend Billy Graham into the most infamous parting words since Abe Rosenthal's "He kept the paper straight.":
The Rev. Billy Graham said Friday that he didn't intend to endorse Hillary Clinton for president when he told her husband at a massive New York City revival meeting last weekend that she should "run the country."

His son Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, tells the Charlotte Observer: "For a long time, my father has refrained from endorsing political candidates and he certainly did not intend for his comments to be an endorsement for Senator Hillary Clinton."
What better way is there to mark the triumphant "final crusade" of one's evangelical career than by stumbling into a sordid political controversy?

Another danger of the draft

There is another reason why the Left wants to reinstate the draft that I didn't mention in my previous post. A hint at it popped up in today's New York Times in an op-ed entitled The Quiet Man:
President Bush’s second inaugural address, with its vision of America’s mission to spread freedom, offers a good platform for a recruiting pitch. And he could broaden his message beyond just military service by calling for young Americans to serve in all areas where their country needs them, from front lines of homeland security to those of inner-city education.
The subtle point being made here is that various non-military problems should be addressed by the President using the same call-to-arms language typically reserved for a military conflict. Similarly, if the military draft is reinstated, there will be a similar temptation for the Left to argue that the draft should be extended to non-military national service as well.

This debate about reinstating the draft is really just another instance of a recurring theme: that the best way to wage the War on Terror and to protect the United States from another terror attack is to first give up on capitalism in favor of a highly regimented, or even socialist, war economy. It's a theme that's emerged in celebrity-authored books, the New York Times Editorial page (any industry that isn't heavily regulated is invariably "highly vulernable", and thus needs more government regulations), and the not uncommon liberal disdain for "fighting terror by going shopping". In reality, a country's ability to wage war depends not just upon the military forces it can field but upon its economic strength as well. The best way for a country to maintain its economic strength is through the normal system of private enterprise. Thus, the ordinary citizen who leads a normal life of self-improvement, productive private enterprise, and prudent planning for the future is already engaged in a form of national service.

The Chickenhawk Theme

Blackfive explains conservative indignation at the "chickenhawk" label being thrown about by anti-war liberals (hat tip: Instapundit). Generally speaking, the term chickenhawk is referring to anyone who supports the government's use of military force without having personally served in the military in any respect.

Obviously the charge is ridiculous given that civilian control over the military and over the policy-making process should be a core liberal value. The orgiastic fervor with which the accusation is usually voiced also indicates that this attack is a propaganda slogan instead of a rational argument.

Notice that the chickenhawk theme dovetails precisely with Bob Herbert's position that the all-volunteer military is a tool of class-warfare because it allows the rich to avoid military service while the poor are presumably forced into the military out of economic necessity. In his simultaneously held but somewhat contradictory view, the cowardly rich have duped the gullible poor into filling the military ranks with the lie that active duty is a risk-free way of earning piles of money. A draft, in his view, would make military service more popular with the masses by getting more rich people injured, disabled and killed.

The military would probably be glad to have a larger crop of rich, and therefore well-educated, voluntary recruits. But I doubt that giving the rich elites who control the government the power to force unwilling draftees into the military by threatening huge fines and prison time is more fair than the current system of using verbal persuasion, good pay, and educational opportunities to attract recruits. I also doubt that the a return to the system that gave us the draft disturbances of the 60's and 70's is more conducive to class harmony than the system we have now.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Consensus Conservatives

Conservatives knew that one inevitable consquence of the centrist deal brokered by Senator McCain and his six Republican and seven Democratic colleagues would be that the Democrats would attempt to release their Senators from the deal while attempting to keep the Republican Senators bound by it. As this article from about recent statements by Senator Biden suggests, the Democrats may have already succeeded:
Asked whether that would break the Senate's much heralded compromise last month not to filibuster judicial appointments except under "extraordinary circumstances," Biden explained:

"[The Supreme Court] is a totally different ball game . . . A circuit court judge is bound by stare decisis. They don't get to make new law. They have to abide by [legal precedent]."
Apparently the Democratic Party includes a Supreme Court opening in its definition of an extraordinary circumstance. Note to Senator McCain and the Republican dealmakers: that uncomfortable wet, sticky sensation that you are now experiencing over most of your faces is called "egg".

The real question now is whether or not the Republican Senate moderates will abandon the deal even when the Democrats launch a filibuster against President Bush's eventual Supreme Court nomination. Unfortunately, just the fact that the question has to be posed indicates that it is entirely possible that the Republican moderates will make their stand with a deal that has become binding only on themselves.