Kilroy Was Here
December 31, 2003
Free Speech
Tim Bueler starts a Conservative Club, and is "hounded for his views."

How does this hounding take place? Is he prevented from telling others about his viewpoints? Have school officials tried to keep the club from forming? Let's take a look at the tape:

Watenpaugh said the district fully supports students' right to form a group like the Conservative Club as long as it follows guidelines set forth by the student body. He said the club meets those guidelines by meeting during times when classes aren't being held and having a faculty adviser.

English teacher Bernadette Tucker, club adviser, said she became involved because she believes students should exercise their First Amendment rights.

``Just because something is not popular it doesn't mean you can't say it,'' Tucker said.

However, the Times makes it sound as if the school is unsupportive of the Conservative Club.

In a telephone interview, Tim said he's been threatened at least three times by Hispanic students who call him "white boy" and "racist." One boy said he was going to "find someone" to beat up Tim.

In two of those instances, Tim said two faculty members stood by and did nothing to help him. Most recently, Tim said, he was confronted by a dozen Hispanic boys, who blocked him from walking down the hallway.

"They said, 'You're a racist,' and I said, 'Are you guys going to let me through?' " Tim said. "So I ducked into a classroom and told the teacher what was happening, and said, 'Can you help me?' And she said, 'No. Get out of here.' "

Earlier, he said he was eating lunch in a classroom when about seven Hispanic students surrounded him. Worried for Tim's safety, his father, Dennis Bueler, said he asked for help from a teacher who was also in the room.

"The teacher told him, 'When you say things like that, you've got to expect that things like this are going to happen. Why don't you go out the back door?' " Mr. Bueler said in recounting the incident.

This hounding takes the form mostly of verbal taunts, and the blunt threats common to high schools. The thing that is interesting to me is how victimized Tim feels. Obviously, his rights are being violated. How? By other people exercising there rights.

We do not prevent people from exercising their free speech rights by calling them rude when they say something we find offensive, or by criticising the policies we don't agree with. In fact, that's the nature of free speech.

Tim, you're not being oppressed. When you say things like, ``We obviously believe the liberals are trying to destroy everything in America that our forefathers fought and died for," you're just being rude.
The President's Latest
In the 2000 campaign, I sent a contribution to John McCain. (Even then, I didn't care for GWB.) As a result, I'm now on the Republican fund raising mailing list. I thought it would be interesting to post these letters, and maybe make a few comments. Here's the latest that I received on 12/31.

The pace of the Presidential campaign is picking up and we will soon know who the Democrat nominee will be. Whoever wins the nomination will have done so by energizing their party's left wing with angry attacks.

It looks like that the GWB campaign has already identified Howard Dean as the Democratic nominee.

A strong foundation has been laid for victory in 2004, but I need your help to win what could be a close election.

Would you send my campaign a special contribution of $100 or $50 today at And will you help identify and get out the vote? As we saw so clearly in 2000, every vote matters. The strength of our grassroots team -- friends like you who make the phone calls, mail the brochures, put up signs, and knock on doors -- will make the winning difference.

Elections involve much more than ads and rallies. To win, we need people talking with their relatives and friends at work, at the coffee shop or over the back yard fence about the tremendous issues at stake. That's why I need your help.

I have set big goals for our country. My Administration is making America safer, more prosperous, and better. We are meeting the challenges of our time.

This is an interesting use of the comparative. Notice that it's not, "My Administration is making America safe and prosperous." The question about comparatives is what are we comparing it to. Safer than America in 1863? More properous than American in 1931?

Our armed forces, joined by our allies, are on the offensive against terrorist enemies around the world. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power and we are hunting down al Qaeda leaders and al Qaeda terrorist cells and bringing them to justice. Fifty million people in Afghanistan and Iraq have been liberated from tyranny and our homeland has been made more secure.

So people could find work, I proposed an economic stimulus package. Our tax cuts returned money to the people who earned it. They have put it to work in our economy, which is growing again and beginning to generate new jobs, but we won't rest until everybody who wants to work can find a stable, productive job.

If you can't find a job, it must be because you don't want to work. And we all know how hard Paris Hilton worked to "earn" that money. I mean, have you seen The Simple Life? That's just plain hell!

The country is better off because we passed historic education reforms that will provide all our children a quality education, beginning with teaching every child to read. We took on a tough issue and fulfilled a promise to seniors by providing prescription drug coverage and more choices in a stronger Medicare system.

Notice that the program is the result. If someone points out in 3-5 years that children are getting the same or worse education, GWB can say, "But we put in the program." My guess is he'll throw in the tax language above. "Anyone who wants an education or prescription drugs can get one."

I have worked to remove obstacles to the full involvement of faith-based groups in confronting suffering in our communities and pressed for important new reforms in welfare.

Ah, the subtle use of codewords. All you Christians out there! The Democrats want to keep you from helping the poor! They keep putting these obstacles (like that silly separation of church and state) in the way.

Oh , and what reforms in welfare? Seriously, what's he talking about here?

The Democrats running for President have opposed many of these policies. That's their right in a free country like ours. And in this campaign, we will pit our optimistic, compassionate conservative philosophy which is making a positive difference in so many lives against their anger and attacks.

Anger watch again.

During the course of the campaign, I will lay out a positive and hopeful agenda to make our country stronger, safer, more prosperous and better for every single person fortunate enough to call themselves an American.

Or fortunate enough for me and my Republican thugs to call an American. You listenin', Soros!

I've got an important job to do that limits my time on the campaign trail. I take seriously my responsibilities as your President. I'm focused on the people's business, and there's a lot to do. The political season will come in its own time.

In other words, no debates for Bush.

And when it does, I will need your help. The other side says it will raise $500 million or more. To help overcome their intense opposition, will you send your contribution for either of the amounts I mentioned earlier or more if you can? Federal law limits donations to $2,000 a person or $4,000 a couple.

What other side?

You can call my campaign at 1-800-531-6789 or go to and make your gift using the campaign's secure Internet server. Whatever method you choose, please let me hear from you today. It would mean a lot to me to know I had your active support.

I am honored to serve as your President in these challenging times. The world has seen our country's resolve and courage. And I've been privileged to see the compassion and character of the American people.

All the tests of the last three years have come to the right nation. We're a strong country, and we use that strength to defend the peace and protect the weak. We're an optimistic country, confident in ourselves and in ideals bigger than ourselves.

Ah, now the optimisim/pessimism meme we've been hearing so much about.

Abroad, we seek to lift whole nations by spreading freedom. At home, we seek to lift up lives by spreading opportunity to every corner of America. This is the work history has set before us and we welcome it. And we know for our country, the best days lie ahead.

God, I hope the best days lie ahead. I'd hate to think it could get much worse.

Thank you for your friendship and may God continue to bless America.

December 30, 2003
A Little Tolerance Goes A Long Way
In Reason, Cathy Young preaches moderation in the enforcement of separation of church and state.

In a society where the overwhelming majority of people follow one religion (albeit with many different denominations), there will, inevitably, be tensions between protecting the rights of the minority and respecting the rights of the majority. It is almost certainly concern for minority rights, not any animus toward Christianity per se, that accounts for the fact that in many instances, Christmas decorations are treated as suspect while Hanukkah or Kwanzaa ones are not. Yet to deny religious expression to the majority is not only unfair but counterproductive: Instead of promoting greater respect for religious minorities, such measures may generate a backlash.

I find this backlash evident in my own family. One vacation home, I was surprised to find out my father, who majored in zoology for a time, denied the validity of evolution. Incredulously, I asked my father and his new wife why. In the discussion, the backlash reared it's head. "Why do those evolutionists keep trying to prove that God doesn't exist?" my stepmother asked.

I was a little baffled at this. I don't think biologists have a stake on the whole existence of God game. Why would a 50 year old Indiana housewife feel that evolutionists were attacking Christianity.

Then it came to me. The Darwin fish. You've seen it. It's a satire of the Christian fish symbol with little legs and the word Darwin in it. When I first saw it, I thought it was clever and cute. A little harmless fun at the creationists expense.

But I think this little icon has done more to hurt the cause of teaching evolution than any other act. This icon sets up the false dichotomy: evolution vs. Christianity. We're right. You're wrong.

Perhaps a little more tolerance. A little thicker skin is called for. I'm all for separation of church and state. The state should not endorse any particular religion. But, speaking as an atheist, I'm beginning to wonder if all this thin skin at (let's face it) the practice of the majority of this country is doing us more harm than good. After all, tolerance is a two way street. If we atheists (and Jews and Muslims and Wiccans and other-non Christians) allow the majority of people to practice their religion in what are ultimately harmless ways (such as nativity scenes in public parks, Jesus fish, 'under God' in the pledge of allegience), maybe they'll be much less animosity when we need our own space to practice our own belief (or lack thereof).

Maybe we can have a President who doesn't have to talk about Jesus as his personal savior in order to be seen fit to lead this country.
14% Patriots
William Jennings Bryan once said, "Of all the mean men I have ever known, I have never known one so mean that I would be willing to say of him that his patriotism was less than 2% deep."

Well, maybe 2 percent, but as the LA Times reports, for some, patriotism may top out at 14%.

The two areas of special interest are perks such as private planes, housing and deferred compensation plans, and stock option arrangements that may allow for the underpayment of taxes on the gains.

The biggest ticket item is likely to be stock options that were put into trusts and family limited partnerships, allowing executives to transfer the tax liability on the gains to children and organizations that would be in a significantly lower tax bracket than the executive. The IRS has labeled these deals as "listed transactions," which puts companies on notice that tax officials believe the deals to be so abusive that they must be immediately reported to authorities.

Hundreds of such arrangements are believed to have been entered into over the last three years, involving hundreds of millions of dollars in stock gains.

"The amounts are astronomical," said one compensation expert who asked not to be named. "The stock deals were heavily marketed to people with huge stock gains. If you figure that just 10% of the Fortune 500 got into them, you'd be talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in tax."

Why do the people who have benefited the most from our traditions and free institutions are so contemptuous of those same traditions and institutions that they'll do anything to avoid contributing to them.
Helping the Least of Us Benefits All of Us
Calpundit suggests that we peg them minimum wage to Congressional salaries.

But I'll renew an even better idea I proposed a year ago: index it to congressional salaries. Assuming a normal 2000-hour work year, congressmen make about $75/hour right now. How about simply making the minimum wage equal to 10% of that? Congress can then increase their own salaries anytime they want, but only if they're willing to help out the working poor at the same time. Seems fair to me.

Which reminds me of a pet idea I had. When I was going to run my own salary, I always imagined pegging the the total compensation of the highest paid person to no more than 10 times the lowest paid person.

Too bad we'll never see that through.
December 29, 2003
Investing Point to Remember
From Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor:

The True Investor

The true investor scarecely ever is forced to sell his shares, and at all other times he is free to disregard the current price quotation. He need pay attention to it and act upon it only to the extent that it suits his book, and no more. Thus the investor who permits himself to be stampeded or unduly worried by unjustified market declines in his holdings is perversely transforming his basic advantage into a basic disadvantage. That man would be better off if his stocks had no market quotation at all, for he would then be spared the mental anguish caused him by other persons' mistakes of judgement. (Graham, p 203)

Florida Story

I once interviewed a group of retirees in Boca Raton, one of Florida's wealthiest retirement communities. I asked these people - mostly in their seventies - if they had beaten the market over their investing lifetimes. Some said yes, some said no; most weren't sure. Then one man said, "Who cares? All I know is, my investments earned enough for me to end up in Boca." (Graham, p220)

A Two Part Appraisal Process

We suggest that analysts work out first what we call the "past-peformance value," which is based solely on hte past record. This would indicate what the stock would be worth-absolutely, or as a percentage of the DJIA or of the S&P composite - if it is assumed that its relative past performance will continue to be unchanged in the future.... The second part of the analysis should consider to what extent the value based solely on past performance should be modified because of new conditions expected in the future. (Graham, p300)

Meme of Mass Destruction
In today's Guardian, Karen Armstrong urges practicioners of religion to root out the violence inherit in their religion.

We can be certain of one thing in 2004. Unless there is some unimaginable breakthrough, we will see more religiously inspired terrorism. It often seems that we might be better off without religion. A cursory consideration of the crusades and persecutions of Christian history shows that religious violence is not confined to the Islamic world. If the different faiths really are committed to peace and goodwill, why do they inspire such hatred, and why are their scriptures so aggressive?

...The scriptures all bear scars of their violent begetting, so it is easy for extremists to find texts that seem to give a seal of divine approval to hatred.

...n a similar way, the Christian right today has absorbed the endemic violence in American society: they oppose reform of the gun laws, for example, and support the death penalty. They never quote the Sermon on the Mount but base their xenophobic and aggressive theology on Revelation. Osama bin Laden is as just as selective in his use of scripture. Most of the Muslim extremism that troubles us today is the product of societies that have suffered prolonged, hopeless conflict: the Middle East, Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir.

Religion, like any human activity, can be abused. You can have bad religion, as you can have bad cooking, bad art and bad sex.

But unlike art, sex, or cooking, you rarely have genocide or jihad in the name of Thai cuisine, cubism, or the Venus Butterfly. Religion, and in particular, religion's demand for blind faith and it's proof by appeals to an unverifiable authority, exacerbate our evolutionary drive for conflict with other groups.

While Armstrong pleas for reform from within religion, I think that history is against her on this one.
Don't They Have Wireless Access in Airports?
CNN reports that the FBI urges police to watch for people carrying almanacs.

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

...t urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

I find this interesting, but wouldn't it make more sense to give your terrorists a laptop with a cell modem or something? I mean the web is the ultimate almanac.
Where's that Election Abstract
The Decembrist laments about the subjective criticism of the Dean campaign.

The other fascinating quote is from a political strategist I've worked with, both in the Senate and on the Bradley campaign, and respect a great deal, Anita Dunn:

"Dean faces one significant challenge, to go to the next level of his candidacy," said Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist who was a senior adviser in Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential campaign. "He has not yet achieved the level of admission to what I call that small circle of people in the United States that voters perceive as qualified to be president. That is an enormous hurdle. . . . He has, at every stage of his campaign, when he has faced a hurdle, found a way to move to that next level, but they get steeper."

That makes sense to me, but it's probably infuriating to the Dean camp. First, because the person making the statement is not easily dismissed as a hostile member of the Clinton establishment. But second, who decides when or how you've been admitted to that circle? Just out of curiosity, who right now might be said to be in that circle of people voters perceive as qualified to be president?

...Just like "electablity," I think this is a purely subjective judgment, one that may seem obvious after the fact, but is hard to prove right now. But subjective judgments are sometimes all we've got.

Is subjective judgements all we've got? I don't think so.

My favorite analogy in all of this is predicting winners in sporting events. While there is certainly some subjective judgements that must be made, the overwhelmingly more important elements that are used in predicting a winner are hard statistics.

My OBP, Total Bases Per Bat, and HR of the political struggle are number of donaters, endorsements, and volunteer hours. Dean's clearly doing a better job in all three areas than any of his competitors. Wouldn't this be a better indicator of 'electability' than these subjective measures?

Where's the Bill James of Elections when you need him?

Unamerican Historians
Michael Knox Beran claims that we are undergoing a cultural crisis because historians are now focusing on the slavery side of our Founding Fathers. Here's a representative excerpt:
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Each new book on the founding of our republic might as well contain the scholarly equivalent of the surgeon general’s warning affixed to our beer bottles. "Warning: Studying the Men Who Founded the United States May Be Dangerous to Your Moral Health."

Nothing short of the most drastic measures could put a stop to what (in the view of some of our media and scholarly big shots) is a highly unfortunate development. What has so exasperated the intellectual classes? This — the fact that during the last decade or so the Founding Fathers have begun to be treated by a number of historians in an uncharacteristic way: with respect. Even veneration, of the kind traditionally accorded to lawgivers who found great cities or republics.

For a certain kind of academic historian or debunking journalist nothing could be more insupportable than this notion of the Great Man, the Heroic Founder. What, the outraged professor or muckraking editorial writer wonders, has gone wrong? How, in so up-to-date an age as our own, could some very dead white males manage to be so...popular?

...Do not misunderstand me. The question of slavery in the early republic should be studied. But make no mistake about the motives of those who are instituting the new gag-rule designed to marginalize books that deal with other aspects of the foundation of the republic. These self-appointed censors are less interested in encouraging the pursuit of historical truth than they are in finding new ways to undermine the moral legitimacy of a country many of whose qualities they abhor.

American Historians hate the qualities of America? All this de-humanization of historians is very troubling.

I mean, isn't the following an interesting question? Why did men who founded what we think as one of the great ethical countries in all history hold slaves? How did the reconcile this behavior with their purported love of liberty that was espoused in the Declaration of Independence?

These types of interesting questions tend to go in waves through academic communities, and there examination is not necessarily motivated by some political agenda. It could just be motivated by interest.

But to play the Amazing Kreskin and delve deep into the minds of these historians to only find freedom-hating communists demonizes these men and women and borders on the paranoid.
Books to Read in 2004 - Philosophy
Here's some books I'd like to read (re-read) in Philosophy in 2004. Goal is 5.

Books to Read in 2004 - History
Here's a quick list of books to read in the History section. Goal is 10 books.

Books to Read in 2004 - Financial and Economic
Here's a quick list of books to read in the Financial and Economic section. Goal is 10 books.

UPDATE: A few more to read.

The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus
The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus. Funny, but tragic.

December 28, 2003
Moral negligence
The Cardinal Collective posts about a Muslim football league that had teams named 'Mujaheedan', 'Infitada', and 'Soldiers of Allah'. In defending this practice, CC states:
When judging someone's actions, what's important is the intent, and I think (except for one team) there was no wrong intent.

While intent certainly is important in the moral judgement of actions, it is not the only criteria for judgement. For example, our legal system embodies the idea that there are some actions that are 'morally wrong' but do not have the requisite level of intent. This is the legal concept of 'negligence'.

Negligence uses the 'reasonable person'. If a 'reasonable person' in the same situation would have behaved differently (or more prudently), then the person who commits the act has behaved criminally. For example, the act of killing a person is deemed a crime (though a lesser crime) if it's done negligently, but without the intent of harm.

I think this same idea has great merit in morality as well. In this case, I believe a reasonable person would have realized that giving football teams names that could easily be tied to Mideast terrorism would have caused this level of outrage among some members of the community.

So, while I don't think that the coach's of these teams were severely immoral, in the sense that they knew they'd cause offense but did not care, I would think they were morally negligent . As a result, I think a 'should' argument would apply.
Telemarketing: Why not?
Matt Yglesias has a post up asking us not to torment the telemarketers.

So, now that telemarketing is limited, how will companies reach out to people to try and get them to try their product? I predict that we are going to see a blast from the past rise up in our neighborhoods. Good bye telephone ringing during dinner. Hello doorbell ringing during dinner.

I predict a rise in door-to-door solicitation. The days of the door-to-door salesman are going to return.

More importantly, what's so bad about telemarketing, really? Why do people get SO angry about it?

Civil War, What Is It Good For?
Matt Yglesias has an article up wondering if the late battles of WWII were actually effective. There's some interesting comments that say otherwise.

While I don't have much to say about WWII, it does remind me of my early post that the Civil War was a bad thing.
December 23, 2003
More thoughts on the Estate Tax
Let's assume that we both agree on the level that government should be funded. I know this is probably not the case, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that we both believe that the government should provide the a set of services S and that it should cost $X trillion dollars. (Any difference in this assumption comes down to a scope of government or spending issue and is separate from a taxation issue.)

Given this assumption, the question is which dollars should we use to fund it. Our first approach might be to look to fund this $X trillion dollars with dollars that will limit the impact on the little guy.

It seems obvious to me that the negative impact on the little guy by taking away food-rent-shelter dollars to fund this $X trillion dollars is greater than the negative impact the little guy might feel if we take away luxury-dollars to fund the government even if those luxury dollars, through the magic of the capitalist market, may provide some positive benefit to the little guy.

Second, investment does provide needed infrastructure to our society. Those that invest in building that infrastructure are already rewarded (many times, very richly) by getting a return on their investment without having to spend any time or energy to earn that dollar. This is a good thing. However, much infrastructure is not created by private investment but through government action. And the development of that infrastructure must be funded.

I think that returns on investment should be used to fund more of our government than salary from labor for three reasons:

  1. Our country has a moral belief that providing benefit to our society through work is central to a citizen's life.
  2. A greater percentage of salaries is used for food-shelter-clothing dollars than for luxury dollars.
  3. Salary dollars bear a closer relationship to the element of time than dollars earned through investment. Since time is so precious to each citizen, we should hold the money exchanged for time and labor to be more precious than money earned through investment.

Currently, our tax code punishes labor and rewards leisure.

The money earned by investment is taxed a much lower rate and has more opportunities to avoid taxes. The money earned through labor though is very difficult to shelter from taxes and is taxed at a higher rate. I find this antithetical to our country's moral values. Also, I find this has the practical effect of widening the gap between rich and poor which is damaging to a democracy. If the current trend continues, history shows it cannot end well for us.
The Bush Tax and the Dean Tax Plan
The Dean tax plan is not necessarily a political loser. While pocketbook issues can influence elections, modern elections have often been influenced by personality.

By Dean saying that we all must sacrifice in repealing the Bush tax cut, he's promoting the notion that he's more interested in the "right" thing than in pandering to a particular interest or demographic.

In primary debates or in the general election, Dean can point to himself as the grown up. "Look," he can say, "I proposed this tax repeal not to win votes. If I wanted to win votes, I'd just repeal the tax cuts for the rich. This repeal is what is right for America. I'll do the right thing even if it's not popular."

Proof? Take a look at how Dean positions his signing of the Civil Union bill in Vermont.

If he's able to spin his tax plan this way, he may have a way of differentiating himself from Bush on a "I'll tell you the truth, not what you want to hear" axis.

By throwing in the "Bush Tax" angle he can also backdoor himself into the pocketbook side of things.

Like all politicians, he's trying to have his cake and eat it to. Fortunately, in this case, it just might work.
The Civil War was Bad
To be contrarian, I'll argue that the Civil War was bad.

1) It is likely that taking a longer term, less aggressive stance toward slavery would have eventually stamped it out (see Canadian independence, British slavery, etc.).

2) The cost in men and material of the Civil War were the most horrific of any of our wars.

3) The Civil War solidified in the minds of many Southerners the righteousness of their unethical ideas. Which led to the Jim Crow south of 1880s through 1960s. Proof? See the current number of statues and memorials of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis in the South compared to the number of statues and memorials to Abraham Lincoln.

A more long term, less aggressive approach towards slavery might have made the South more amenable towards Civil Rights and Federal rule.

4) Many that fought on the side of the North in the Civil War came to disbelieve in the absoluteness of the abolitionist cause. (Much as we might come to regret our own absolutist stance on Iraq and the Middle East.) See "The Metaphysical Club" esp. the chapters on Oliver Wendell Holmes.

5) If we just had allowed the South to go and become their own country, the US might have been better off. Currently, our most benighted areas (in terms of infant mortality, illiteracy, poverty, etc.) tend towards the South. Furthermore, the extremism of our own federal government (in the sense that they are unwilling to compromise) tends to originate with our Southern politicians.

In other words, we should have let the Confederacy go.
A good quote
John Rawls, discussing, especially, the responsiblity of Japanese and German civilians and soldiers for the conduct of their governments:

In the conduct of war, well-ordered peoples must carefully distinguish three groups: the outlaw state’s leaders and officials, its soldiers, and its civilian population. The reason why a well-ordered people must distinguish between an outlaw state’s leaders and its civilan population is as follows: since the outlaw state is not well-ordered, the civilian members of the society cannot be those who organized and brought on the war. This was done by the leaders and officials, assisted by other elites who control and staff the state apparatus. They are responsible; they willed the war; and, for doing that, they are criminals. But the civilian population, often kept in ignorance and swayed by state propaganda, is not responsible. This is so even if some civilians knew better yet were enthusiastic for the war…..As for soldiers of the outlaw state, leaving aside the upper ranks of the officer class, they, like civilians, are not responsible for their state’s war. For soldiers are often conscripted and in other ways forced into war; they are coercively indoctrinated in martial virtues; and their patriotism is often cruelly exploited. ( The Law of Peoples , pp. 94—5)

December 22, 2003
The Death of Horatio Alger
A sad liink here from Paul Krugman.
The Party of Locke and Mill
One of the axes that the liberal-conservative debate pivot on is the old empiricism-rationalism divide.

Though, of course, I have no statistical evidence, I have the impression that conservatives tend to argue more from 'common sense' and the 'examination of rules'.

Liberals, I believe, tend to argue more from 'results', 'statistics', and 'experiments'.

Case in point, California's failed Proposition 54, which would have prohibited the collection of racial data by government agencies.

Conservatives argued that we didn't need to collect racial data; the rules were already race neutral. Thus, collecting the data was counter-productive and uncomfortable.

Liberals argued that we didn't know if our 'race neutral' rules would have the benefit we desired if we didn't measure its effects. Ergo, we need to collect the data to make sure.

If this is the case that Republicans are the party of Descartes and Liebniz while Democrats are the party of Locke and Mill, then we can see why there are difficulties in resolving the two viewpoints.
December 13, 2003
There's a record for a reason
As a football fan who participates in a no-line office pool for years now, I've come to the following rule which I use to help me pick the team.

The rule, "They have a record for a reason."

Often there are folks who still pick the Bengals over the Chiefs or the Lions over the Rams. "Look at how they match up!" they say. "The Bengals running back will overpower the Chiefs small defensive line."

At this point, I always say to myself, the Bengals are 2-12 for a reason. The Chiefs are 12-2 for a reason. Pick the Chiefs.

Similarly for Presidential candidates. Many folks say that Kerry or Clark would have a better chance, as if the match up of biography or policy is all that matters. But it's not.

Biography is just a small tool in putting together a winning campaign. Policies are more about government than politics. Politics are about putting together strong campaigns to win elections.

If Kerry and Clark were such master politicians, why are they floundering so far? If Dean so 'unelectable', why is Dean so successful?

Dean has the best chance to beat Bush because Dean has the best 'political' record in the primary. He's built the best campaign. He's made the fewest missteps. He's worked the hardest. He has the most volunteers. He's raised the most money. Furthermore, his policy positions are pragmatic and appealing to a wide base of voters.

Why do people still think the 2-12 Kerry would be better for Bush when Kerry wasn't able to use his huge advantage to crush a little known, insurgent candidate? Why do they think Clark will do a better job when Clark hasn't yet put together a strong track record?

Can't you believe your eyes? There's a record for a reason!
December 12, 2003
A Candidate for the Daily Howler
Bill Saletan is mad at Al Gore. Really, really mad. So mad, that his emotions overtook him, and, in Tuesday's article, Saletan misattributes Al Gore's comments about the vote counting process in Florida to try and make Gore sound like a hypocrite when he endorsed Dean. An apples and oranges comparison that's not worthy of good journalism.

Today, Saletan has had some time to settle down. "It's not Gore's endorsement is wrong per se," Saletan says, "It's Gore's presumption that the election is over before the first vote is cast."

But the fact that Gore is endorsing Dean, and campaigning for him, shows just the opposite. Gore doesn't believe that the election is over; he believes it's just beginning. "Democracy is a team sport," Gore began when he endorsed Dean. "And I want to do everything I can to convince the -- anybody that is interested in my judgment about who, among these candidates has the best chance to win and the best chance to lead our country in the right direction."

Does Gore claim that he's rendered his judgment so everyone can call off the Iowa and New Hampshire elections? Of course not. In fact, Gore traveled with Dean most of the day, giving stump speeches to voters. Is this a man who believes that his endorsement 'ended an election before it began'? Of course not. These are the actions of man who embraces the democratic process and wants to participate in it.

Saletan is still very very mad though. As the previous candidate for president, Gore has a sacred duty to 'uphold tradition,' and not endorse someone. But at what cost should this tradition be upheld? If Gore thought this was a normal election year, he probably would uphold that tradition Saletan finds so sacred. But Gore does not think is a normal election year.

In speech after speech, Gore has consistently stated that this administration's actions are not only bad policy, but also undermining the very values of our Republic, threatening our democracy. As such, Gore thinks that it's time to abandon such niceties as tradition.

"[T]o the extent that we can recognize the stakes in America today," Gore stated, "I would urge all of the other candidates and campaigns to keep their eyes on the prize.... This nation cannot afford to have four more years of a Bush-Cheney administration. We can't afford to be divided among ourselves to the point that we lose sight of how important it is for America. What is going on in this Bush White House today is bad for our country. And it's slowly beginning to sink into more and more people out there."

So what would Saletan have Gore do? Should Gore 'uphold tradition' and stay silent on his beliefs, or should Gore uphold what he believes is his duty to his party and his country and do what he can to help defeat this administration?

What Gore does is something politically courageous. He leads. He knows that a field of nine candidates can waste it's time, energy, and treasure tearing each other apart while Bush and Rove grin in the White House In any other election, this might be bad for the party. But in this election, Gore has made it amply clear that he believes it will be bad for the country.

So Gore opens up himself to these shallow attacks by so-called pundits to try and convince others to elect who he thinks has the best chance against Bush. Why? Because Gore is 'keeping his eyes on the prize'. According to what Gore has said, this country is in danger from the very people who are running it. Democrats need to join together to do whatever they can to defeat that administration.

As leader of the party, there is no one more qualified to remind his fellow Democrats of that. If Gore truly believes that these are extraordinary times, as leader of the party, Gore *should* remind his fellow Democrats of that.

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