November 30, 2003
Bush Lied and Other Thoughts

Jadegold & I were discussing some items at John Cole's site and I decided it made more sense to move the conversation here.

I was stating why Independents such as myself see no realistic alternative to Bush in 2004. My main three political issues are protecting the unborn, fiscal responsibility, and national security.

On protecting the unborn, Bush wins hands down over all the Democratic contenders (and this is too bad, you would think at least 1 pro-life Dem would run for president). On fiscal responsibility, a lot depends upon which Democrat wins the primary. Assuming Dean, I would say he was more fiscally responsible based upon his reputation as Governor than President Bush has been in his first term in office. If Dean wins the primary, I'll research specifics on his fiscal policies. For this discussion let us assume Dean would be more fiscally responsible than Bush.

So this leaves national security as a tie-breaker if I weighted all three things equally. Jadegold asked me:

Can you articulate what the Bush plan for Iraq is? Please be specific; I'm not looking for a 'free and democratic Iraq which joins the community of nations as a freedom-loving partner'-schtick.

Also, does it not concern you that you were lied to as to the reasons why an invasion and occupation of Iraq was necessary?

It sounds like you have already made up your mind on this issue, but I will share my perspective. I think Bush’s long-term goal for Iraq is indeed partly the 'free and democratic Iraq which joins the community of nations as a freedom-loving partner'-schtick you want to avoid. I believe this is part of a larger strategic plan to deliberately destabilize the Middle East since the status quo is repugnant to President Bush. I also do not think President Bush lied on this issue. I followed the news very closely on this ever since 9/11 and remember all the reasons Bush gave and I agree with most of them. Those in the media who claimed Bush lied on this issue either have not looked up his speeches or are deliberately spreading a lie.

Having said that, I may surprise you again by saying I fear President Bush did lie about his post-liberation plans. Not for Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is of little strategic importance. If we spent $100 billion dollars creating a modern democracy out of Afghanistan, I doubt it would start a chain reaction. And $100 billion may not be enough in Afghanistan since they do not have an easy way (such as oil) to start bringing in their own revenue. So I fear President Bush will not follow through on his promises to help make Afghanistan a better place in the long-term since he will not want to spend the cash. We kicked out a bunch of thugs who harbored terrorists, but I fear we will leave in a few years and a new bunch of thugs will take power. Incidentally, this is yet another reason why the US needs to be in sound fiscal shape. If we had no debt, we could easily afford to rebuild a nation every year.

Getting back to Iraq, I have two more points. One concerns President Bush. While our the liberation of Iraq was exceptionally well planned by our military, the follow-up has been problematic. While things are much better than the media presents, there are some real significant problems and the Bush administration has missed some major opportunities (such as turning the Iraqi army - sans Baath party members - into a police force responsible for their own defense). I certainly agree the current administration of Iraq could be vastly improved. President Bush has the determination to continue in Iraq, but I believe another administration could do a better job.

This leads to my last point. While many people could arguably do a better job managing Iraq than the current leadership, only one person will be Democratic nominee for President in 2004. Whether or not one agrees with our liberation of Iraq, or our reasons for doing so, the fact remains we are there. So voters who care about national security will want to know what our next leader will do if elected. Sticking with the assumption that Howard Dean will be the Democratic contender, the Democrats will lose on this issue. I will go out on a limb and assume you lean toward the left side of the spectrum. Therefore, I will quote two left-leaning sources on this subject. William Saletan, Slate’s chief political correspondent, stated that Every time Dean talks about foreign affairs, he gives off a whiff of hostility or indifference to American military power. Even more to the point, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, stated:

Believe me, being a liberal on every issue other than this war, I have great sympathy for where the left is coming from... It would be a lot easier for the left to engage in a little postwar reconsideration if it saw even an ounce of reflection, contrition or self-criticism coming from the conservatives, like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, who drove this war, yet so bungled its aftermath and so misjudged the complexity of post-war Iraq...

But here’s why the left needs to get beyond its opposition to the war and start pitching in with its own ideas and moral support to try to make lemons into lemonade in Baghdad:

First, even though the Bush team came to this theme late in the day, this war is the most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan. The primary focus of US forces in Iraq today is erecting a decent, legitimate, pluralistic representative government from ground up. I don’t know if we can pull this off. We got off to an unnecessarily bad start. But it is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad, and it is a moral and strategic imperative that we give it our best shot...

For my money, the right liberal approach to Iraq is to say: We can do it better. Which is why the sign I most hungered to see in London was, ‘‘Thanks, Mr Bush. We’ll take it from here.’’

This is the message that Democrats need to deliver to have a chance in 2004. Gephardt might be able to deliver this message in a credible manner. Howard Dean cannot.

Thus, assuming Howard Dean is the Democratic nominee, I will be voting for George Bush in 2004 despite his many problems.

November 29, 2003
Thankgiving Politics

Sometimes it is difficult to separate political theater from a sincere desire to do the right thing. Critics of both President Bush and Senator Clinton automatically suspect the worst of these politicians who spent Thanksgiving with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I am sure the political implications were not lost on either of them, this should not distract from the positive symbolism of their actions. Does anyone truly doubt that the surprise visit of the Commander In Chief to Iraq put a thrill in the hearts of our soldiers? Admittedly, some may question if our soldiers were as thrilled about seeing Senator Clinton, but at least she was reaching out to them. I wish all of our national politicians would spend time with our troops.

Remember when reporters were embedded with our troops during the initial liberation of Iraq? It helped change the perspective of some in the media when they had the chance to actually interact with some of America’s finest people. Therefore, I propose embedding all politicians with the troops at regular intervals.

In other news, a holiday Toast-A-Meter is out – I especially love the reference to John Kerry: Burnt French Toast. Dean’s World has a transcript of President Bush’s speech. John Cole aptly sums up the view of many independents.

The behavior of the left tonight in reaction to this visit may have settled any question about my vote in 2004. I was toying with voting for the libertarian candidate, as I am livid about this administration's fiscal irresponsibility, but I am not going to do anything that might put someone in office that these wingnuts want. I don't want anyone who represents their thinking anywhere near public office. Period.

That is actually fairly close to how I feel too. I despise many of President Bush’s fiscal policies (his foolishness on the steel tariff, his support for yet another entitlement, etc.), yet he is virtually assured of my vote in 2004. I simply don’t trust the Democrats on national security.

November 26, 2003
Macs and "Fundies"

This week’s Carnival of the Vanities is up. As always, it is an interesting mixture of blogs. However, I was especially struck by one of the posts. Last week, Bryan of Argues with Signs posted a rant condemning a Christian business, LifeWay Downloads, for not immediately supporting the Macintosh with their internet music business. I saw Bryan’s article last week and almost commented then, but decided not to make the time. I dismissed the irrational attack on LifeWay as simply the outrage of a Mac user that his beloved computer platform was being slighted.

However, today I was surprised by those who seem to enjoy slamming Christians just for the sake of doing so. I still presume Bryan was ranting strictly because of the perceived Macintosh slight, but comments by others strike me as anti-Christian bigotry. The COV hosts finishes their reference to Bryan’s rant by asking The question is: why would we want to [download Christian music]. I doubt they would have made the same comment if Bryan’s rant was about Black folk music. Then I looked at the comments on Bryan’s site and was surprised to see blogger Andrew Ian Dodge state:

A lot of fundies don't like Apple. For various reasons, all of them conpletely gaga.

Again, I doubt this comment would have been made if the music had not been Christian music (imagine if Andrew has stated that a lot of women don’t like Apple for no logical reason). I asked Andrew if he had any basis for his statement and he kindly replied promptly:

I was mostly being sarcastic, but I have seen at least one rant that claims that Apple promotes evolution and satanism. (The latter being rubbish since Apple got miffed with Anton Levay's lot displaying Apple logos on their site.)

So there are two issues here – Bryan’s original rant accusing LifeWay Downloads of unethical marketing and the presumed anti-Christian bias of several posters. I will address both issues.

First, LifeWay Downloads behaved in a proper and ethical manner. They are entering a risky, low margin business. As such, they may or may not make a profit. If you were entering such a business, would you initially support a platform that only had about 3% of the personal computer market? Of course not. If you manage to make a profit selling to the mass PC market, then you should consider incurring the additional costs of supporting Mac users. But it would be foolish to invest this money before the business model has proven successful with the much larger PC market. As I stated before, I chalk this up to Bryan’s love for the Mac – it must be hard to see your favorite platform have such a tiny share of the market. All in all, I enjoy Bryan’s site and may add it to my links the next time I change them.

The anti-Christian bias is more troublesome. I doubt the offenders in this case thought much about their comments. I certainly do not accuse Andrew nor the hosts of this week's COV of conscious bigotry, but I hope they refrain from these type of comments in the future. I am sure there are some odd folks who think Macs are anti-Christian, but there are also odd folks who think Bill Gates is the Anti-Christ. I hardly think pointing to a few oddities justifies bigotry. Andrew was kidding, but I decided to test his theory. If there was a significant number of Christian Mac users, I should be able to find Christian software for the Mac. I did. I would also point out there is a significant difference between Andrew's initial comment "a lot of fundies" and his explanation that he has seen "at least one rant."

Right now, I do not think the problem is very large, but it is growing. This is the time to ensure anti-Christian bigotry does not become a large problem. The best cure for this anti-Christian bias is simply to publicly draw attention to it when it occurs and hope the attention cures the problem.

Watcher of Weasels Has Moved

This group blog has a new internet home. If you are not familiar with them, they review many blogs each week and vote on which ones they like best. Think of it as a miniature Carnival of the Vanities with standards.

Scamming the Scammers

I found the site 419 Eater via Samizdata. 4-1-9 is the reference number in the Nigerian penal code for Advance Fee Fraud. Given the number of Nigerians who are using the internet for their scams, even the US Secret Service has started warning people about "4-1-9 Schemes".

Mike, also known as Shiver Metimbers, has been keeping the scammers busy. He responds to these crooks and pretends to have a lot of money for them. His real intent is to waste as much of their time as possible. Click here for a sample of his correspondence with a scammer. He even gets the scammer, a "Reverend Oduobi Tokunbo" to send him a picture.

I love it.

November 25, 2003
The Problem of Compulsory Unionism

Thanks to Drew (California) for the heads up on this news report. After years of blatantly violating tax laws, the NEA (National Educational Association) is finally being audited by the IRS. Reg Weaver, the union president, is trying to spin this as a free speech issue.

The NEA will not be silenced… We have a right to be involved in politics.

This is a red herring. This is a free country and people can say what they want. However, this is also a country of laws. Tax-exempt organizations are required to document any and all expenditures on political activities and pay taxes on these activities. Under Weaver’s active leadership, the NEA has been defrauding the government for years. The Associated Press reviewed the NEA’s filings from years 1993 through 1999, reporting in a series of stories that the NEA has said on its tax returns that no union dues were spent on politics...

So if the NEA has spent any money on political activities, they have been deliberately lying to the government and defrauding the government of taxes. According to the IRS, a political activity is any activity intended to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment of anyone to a federal, state, or local public office. Is there any evidence that the NEA has been engaging in political activity?

The AP stated that the IRS audit was due to a complaint by the Landmark Legal Foundation. I found the foundation’s web-site and looked at some of their evidence and complaints. I was especially struck by this finding:

The NEA spent $76,400,000 To fund the UniServ program in 1999-2000 NEA Budget. A nationwide network of more than 1,800 NEA-funded affiliate employees who, according to one account, act as the largest army of paid political organizers and lobbyists in the U.S., dwarfing the forces of the Republican and Democratic national committees combined.

$76 million dollars! And this was just one incident out of many. The NEA has 2.7 million members, including many captive members from states that require people to pay union dues even the teacher does not want to join the union. Who knows how much of the taxpayer funded teachers’s salaries are being used to fund NEA political activities?

I am thrilled to see the IRS investigating the NEA. I hope the criminal leaders of the NEA go to jail. I also hope that the publicity generated by this will inspire more states to protect their citizens by passing right-to-work laws. It is an outrage that people can be forced to pay union dues against their will in a supposedly free country.

My regular readers know that I am a political independent. I don’t have much respect for either party. The compulsory union situation is yet another reason why I scorn Republicans. If the Republican Party actually thought for a change, they would have passed a national right-to-work law as soon as they had a majority in the Senate. Let me give you a visual image of the impact of compulsory union membership.

Is it a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of the free states voted for Bush while the majority of the compulsory union states voted for Gore? I think not. If the Republican parties ever had the balls and brains to pass a national right-to-work law, they would deprive their opponents of millions of dollars in illegal funds. They would also reap the gratitude from millions of workers who are currently forced to pay dues against their will. But I would be surprised if the Republicans had the courage and foresight to free these Americans. And they will continue to earn my scorn.

November 20, 2003
A Mental Challenge

Paul C. (Florida) sent me this link. I had fun figuring out how it worked. I won't spoil it here, but if anyone wants an explanation, let me know and I'll put it in the comments.

Hazardous Onions from Mexico

I like onions which may be why this story caught my eye.

At home, don't eat green onions without thoroughly cooking them. In restaurants, ask if salads, salsas or other menu items contain raw or lightly cooked green onions. If they do, order something else.

That's the advice of federal health authorities in light of three deaths and more than 500 cases of hepatitis A, the largest outbreak in U.S. history, centered on a Chi-Chi's chain Mexican restaurant in Pennsylvania in October and November...

...the National Restaurant Association advised its 60,000 members and the 300,000 restaurants they operate to stop using Mexican green onions, or to cook them thoroughly, or to find alternative sources.

As the article points out, hepatitis A is far less deadly than hepatitis B or C. It's fatal in only 0.4 percent of cases, mostly among the elderly. Even so, I think I will avoid Mexican onions for a while. I wonder what other produce from Mexico might be contaminated? After all, those who work in the fields harvesting onions may also harvest other crops.

The Power of Incumbency

Along with President Bush, candidates Dean and Kerry have announced they will not use public money (nor be bound by the restrictions that go along with campaigning at taxpayer expense) for the rest of the 2004 presidential campaign. Like former President Clinton, President Bush continues to break fundraising records for an incumbent president. While some find this surprising, it is to be expected. Given inflation, it would take a weak president to raise less money than his predecessor.

The real story is that the Democrats are actually raising more money than the Republicans. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, the Democratic presidential candidates have raised over $98 million vs. just under $85 million for President Bush. (These numbers were accurate according to the numbers reported to the government on October 15; obviously the number has increased by now). The number for the Democrats is actually understated – Bob Graham’s numbers are not shown since he has quit the race.

As my graph shows, even though the Democrats are raising more cash than the Republicans, their money will not be nearly as effective. Their house is currently divided, so even Howard Dean has well under 1/3rd of the money at the disposal of George Bush. And since Bush is unopposed for the Republican primary, he can save most of his money for the actual election, while the Democrats consume much of their current warchests battling amongst themselves.

As I editorialized a few weeks ago, the advantages of incumbency are almost insurmountable by a challenger unless the incumbent is unpopular within his own party and faces an independent challenger who can siphon off some of the incumbent’s traditional supporters. This is not the case with President George W. Bush. The longer the Democrats fight amongst themselves, and continue to divide up the Democratic funds, the tougher their challenge to overcome a popular incumbent.

November 19, 2003
Thoughts on the Death Penalty

Several bloggers have been mulling over their feelings about the death penalty given recent events. Specifically, some of those who oppose the death penalty are fighting their natural inclination to hope that sniper Lee Malvo gets the death penalty. As a qualified supporter of the death penalty, I found this fascinating.

Since Zombyboy was open enough to express his thoughts on this issue, I’ll look at his reasoning. According to his comments, he opposes the death penalty because of two reasons.

most of the reasons I'm opposed to the death penalty are pragmatic in nature--I don't think that a perfect system can ever be put in place that would ensure that no innocent person was ever executed, for example.

But I do believe that society and individuals have no business killing when another, equally effective method of solving the problem can be attained. Sticking a person in a high security jail with no chance for parole serves that purpose in my book...

In other words, Zombyboy has two main objections. Objection 1: Innocent people may be put to death. Objection 2: There are equally effective methods currently available. Let’s look at these in turn.

Objection 1 is a solid objection. Historically, there have been quite a number of cases where innocent people have been convicted. As a percentage, these numbers are probably quite small, but even one is too many.

For my part, I support the death penalty if there is almost zero doubt about the murderer’s guilt. I did not say beyond a reasonable doubt, I would need a higher level of confidence to support the death penalty. This means that the murderer had to be caught on video, confesses, or was seen committing the crime by multiple witnesses.

Objection 2 is a strawman objection that clouds the real problem. Who could argue with an “equally effective method of solving the problem”? Not I. However, such a solution does not exist.

Convicted murderers often receive less than a life sentence and then may be released early for “good behavior.” Those who receive a life sentence may be paroled. And those receiving a life sentence without parole may escape. The probability of this occurring are indeed slim, but may be on par with the odds of an innocent man being wrongfully executed by the state. Reasonable people could disagree on this last statement, but my argument does not hinge upon it. My main point is that many convicted murderers are released upon society and some of these people murder again. Even one such murder is too many.

There is also a libertarian argument against objection 2. Assuming society had the willpower and ability to lock away convicted killers for life with zero possibility of escape – clearly an impossible situation, but let’s use it for the sake of argument – is society better off spending its resources this way vs. simply executing murderers and freeing up resources that could be better used for other purposes (such as funding a cure for cancer)? I know some anti-death penalty folks are already preparing the statistics that show that it costs more to execute a murderer than it does to imprison him for life – I’ll save you the time. 1) To the extent that this is true, it is because of the high legal cost of overcoming every obstacle placed in the way of implementing the death penalty. If society wanted to enforce the death penalty on all murderers who were definitely guilty, it could do so in a cost effective way. 2) The statistics that show it is cheaper to imprison someone never, ever, include the cost to society for those murderers who someday murder again. 3) If I were in charge, I would insist that all murderers that were physically healthy be executed in a way that allowed their organs to be donated to society. Not only is this poetic justice, it also would allow many law-abiding people to become productive (or more productive) again.

I’ll close at this point and give Zombyboy (and others) time to think about my post and respond if he (or anyone else) so desires.

November 18, 2003
Updated Links

As I have been working on the house, I have been bookmarking interesting blogs as I came across them. Today I updated the links at my site. I eliminated some that I didn’t frequent too often and I added some that looked interesting. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Governor Schwarzenegger was sworn into office yesterday. He wasted no time in issuing his first executive order. As he had promised, Schwarzenegger issued an executive order repealing the $4 billion increase in car taxes approved by former Governor Davis. While this action was given cheers by most constituents, it left some politicians in shock.

According to today’s Californian, Salinas City Manager Mora had planned to ask the City Council at today's meeting to oppose just such an action from the new governor but will instead have to deal with the ramifications of the decision.

Heh. You have to admire someone who hits the ground running and leaves his opposition in the dust.

November 15, 2003
Louisiana Update – Where to Find the Results

I have been following Louisiana’s gubernatorial race and have been pulling for pro-life Bobby Jindal. Today, election day, I haven’t heard anything new, but I just discovered the site for the official results. If it works as promised, you can click on it and see actual results as each of the 4,143 precincts officially reports.

I love the internet! No need to wait for “old media” to make announcements when they feel like it. Instead, we can know the actual results as soon as they do.

Update: Literally within seconds of my creating this post, the precincts started to report.

Update: With 3,991 precincts reporting (96.3%), Jindal is losing 48% to 52%. Unless absentee ballots are not counted in this, it looks like Louisianans have elected their first female governor. Democrats around the nation will breathe a sigh of relief that the Republicans did not sweep all four of the 2003 gubernatorial elections.

Final Update: Jindal did indeed lose to his conservative democratic opponent 48% to 52%. At least Governor Elect Kathleen Blanco seems both competent and pro-life. Hopefully she will do well for Louisiana.

November 14, 2003
Nucleus Update

You may have noticed a "powered by Nucleus" at the bottom left of my site. I have been using this blogging software since Kevin Whited convinced me to give it a try.

Today I upgraded to version 2.5 of Nucleus. This should not impact you, but if you notice anything odd, please let me know.

Sportsmanship Lives

Imagine you are a successful high school quarterback. It is the last game of your high school career. The other team is obviously going to win, but you still have a chance to set the conference record for the most career yards of any quarterback. But the other team has the ball and time is running out with only 22 seconds remaining. Fans are starting to leave.

Suddenly you see your coach talking with the opponent’s head coach and then with your defense. Next play, your friends on defense all stick their hands in their jerseys while the opponents easily score. While you try to figure out what is going on, the other team kicks off and your team now has the ball.

As you rush onto the field, you hear both coaches yelling “This one is for you!” What do they mean? Then you notice it. The opposition is lined up more than 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage. The ball is hiked, you throw a five-yard pass to one of your most reliable receivers, who runs down the field and out-of-bounds to where your coach is standing. A 37-yard gain! The game ends and you now have the all-time conference quarterback record for career yards.

You can’t believe both coaches made an agreement to let you break the record. You appreciate their consideration, but that night you start thinking about how the previous record holder must feel. After all, he and his team earned every single yard of his record. What do you do?

If you are Nate Haasis, a seventeen-year-old senior at Southeast High in Springfield, Illinois, you write your conference and ask that those 37 yards be removed from your record. After consideration, the conference did so, and the previous record remains unbroken.

In this day when so many in sports epitomize selfishness, it is wonderful to see a young leader who truly understands the most important thing is how you play the game.

This post was created with information from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Sports Illustrated (subscription may be required).

November 08, 2003
Eclipse Tonight

There is a lunar eclipse tonight. An overview is available at Fox News. If you want details, visit NASA.

My kids have recently become fascinated by magic tricks. They are young enough that my very basic sleight-of-hand seems miraculous. Wait until I make the moon disappear at 8:06 PM EST...

November 05, 2003
A Referendum on Who?

For months, the “mainstream” media and the Democrats have been stating that the 2003 gubernatorial elections would be a referendum on President Bush. I wonder if they will be saying that after last night. In a span of weeks, the Democrats have lost three governships the year before a presidential election. First Californians recalled their Democratic governor and over 60% of the voters supported a Republican candidate. Last night, Republicans were elected governors in Kentucky and Mississippi.

The Miami Herald stated that the Democratic candidate, Attorney General Ben Chandler tried to blame Fletcher, as a congressman, for the weak national economy, frequently talking about 67,000 Kentucky jobs lost to "Fletcher-Bush" economic policies. However, last week brought reports of economic growth, noted EKU's Gershtenson. "The good news came at just the wrong time for Chandler," Gershtenson said. "He spends all this time tying Fletcher to the economy, and suddenly the economy starts to improve." Yet another reason the Democratic strategy of depending upon bad news is a bad idea (providing Scott Ott with easy targets is still another reason). Of course, the Democratic party is currently infamous in Kentucky for corruption and this bad reputation hurt Chandler.

However, the Mississippi election was another story. It was expected to be a very tight race between former Republican National Committee Chair Barbour and Democratic incumbent Governor Musgrove. Musgrove is a conservative Democrat (along the lines of Sam Nunn and Zell Miller). He had the advantage of incumbency in a state that has only elected one Republican governor since Reconstruction. How could he lose?

One factor in Barbour’s victory was money, the Republicans made a real effort to win Mississippi and invested some of their national warchest in Barbour’s campaign. However, I believe a very large factor was Mississippian outrage at the Democratic party. Among the many judicial nominees that the Democrats are filibustering in the US Senate is Mississippian Judge Charles W. Pickering Senior. Pickering, who currently serves in the U.S. District Court, has been nominated for to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. In an obviously choreographed move, Senate Republicans tried to bring Pickering’s nomination to a vote last week, but the Senate Democrats filibustered once again. Big mistake. When President Bush went to Mississippi to campaign for Barbour, he made Pickering a key issue.

I want to thank Senator Cochran and Senator Lott and, of course, Haley, for standing strong with a nominee I named from Mississippi, Charles Pickering. I stand strong with Judge Pickering, and it's time for some members of the United States Senate to stop playing politics with American justice.

It looks like President Bush has finally decided to start fighting the Democrats about their filibustering. He might as well stated:

OK, Dems, keep filibustering my very qualified candidates. It just cost you one of your popular moderate politicians, making your party both less powerful and more tilted to the Left. I’m going to win Florida in 2004 because of what you did to Michael Estrada, and now that Crazy Bob is retiring, I’ll probably gain my party his seat in 2004 as well. Now are you going to vote on my candidates, or do I need to personally campaign for all the open Senate seats next year and see if I can get us a 60 seat majority?

Given human nature, I doubt the Democrats will allow most of Bush’s candidates to come to a vote, but they are paying a high price for it and will pay an even higher price in 2004.

And there is one more governor’s race coming up this year. The Louisiana race between Democrat Kathleen Blanco and Republican Bobby Jindal should be determined on November 15. Since the Republicans already hold the state governorship (Governor Foster is finishing up his second term and cannot run again), a Republican victory here will not hurt as much as their losses in California, Kentucky, and Mississippi. However, it will put a very diverse face on the GOP. If he wins, Jindal will be the youngest governor ever to hold office in Louisiana and the first Indian-American governor for any US State. His story is remarkable and I would not be surprised to see him run for President at some point in his career. If he wins, I predict he will be a keynote speaker at the Republican convention next year.

I would also say the Democrats and the media were correct. The elections were partly a referendum on President Bush and the people have spoken. I wonder if the pundits will now say President Bush has a mandate and that the Democratic obstructionists in the Senate should allow Bush’s nominees to voted upon in accordance with the Constitution. Somehow I doubt it. But I fully expect the People of the United States will continue to make the Democrats pay for their folly.

Anticlimactic Matrix (no spoilers here)

All work and no play brings out the curmudgeon in yours truly. Between working at my new job and fixing up the money pit we live in, I have not gone to a movie since the second Matrix flick. So I took a few hours for myself and caught the matinee showing of the Matrix conclusion.

I was quite disappointed in the film. I am sharing this, without revealing any plot points, to help increase the enjoyment of anyone who sees it. Marketers define satisfaction as exceeding expectations. Some famous people are well aware of this. Lou Holtz (college football coach) always builds up the other team before playing them, so fans are excited if his team can even make it a close game. President Bush lowered expectations about his debate capabilities so that even an average performance would seem like a victory.

What does all of this have to do with Matrix? My expectations for the movie were high, so I was quite dissatisfied when my expectations were not met. If I can lower your expectations enough, perhaps the movie will actually exceed your expectations and you will be satisfied.

I did not find the third Matrix to be a bad movie, just an average flick. It lacked the novelty of the first movie and the excitement of the second movie. It does answer most of the questions raised in the second movie, but some of the plot points make the humans look like morons. There is one point in particular that bothered me, but I won’t bring it up now. Maybe I’ll post about it in a few weeks once people have had a chance to see the movie.

So if you want to catch an average flick, you might enjoy it. If you were looking forward to a great end to an interesting trilogy, wait for the conclusion to the Lord of the Rings.

Carnival of the Vanities #59

Kevin did a great job presenting the carnival in an appropriate way.

November 04, 2003
The Importance of Honesty

Volkswagen released their first SUV to much fanfare. They wanted to show that their SUV was a strong, tough vehicle. Their ads were very focused, showing how it could tow a massive Airstream trailer with ease. And the ads were initially very successful, as customers bought the Touareg SUV for this purpose. Unfortunately, the ads lied. The SUV does not have the power to tow large trailers – the ads were faked.

Volkswagen has yanked the fraudulent ads and is starting the process of compensating those who bought the SUV under incorrect expectations. I feel for the project team who spent a lot of time and effort working on the vehicle only to have their advertising agency give Volkswagen a black eye with their lies. I would never buy the first iteration of a new vehicle anyway since it takes a few years for the engineers to discover all the new problems and fix them. However, I certainly would not buy a product when its marketers falsely attribute capabilities that it lacks. How can you trust any of their claims?

Another Reason I am an Independent

Yesterday I got sucked into a conversation at Dean’s World. If you aren’t familiar with his site, he has been posting for quite a while and has a host of regular commenters. Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the original post. I thought I would repost one of my comments here since I give one of the reasons why I am an independent.

The Republicans and Democrats swap positions all the time. Sometimes they legitimately change their minds. More often, IMO, they simply want to oppose the other side in the hopes of scoring political points and do not even consider principles. Many of JFK’s beliefs are now espoused by the Republicans and anathema to the Democrats. More recently, many of those supporting the liberation of Iraq opposed stopping the slaughter in Kosovo. Likewise, those who supported Clinton’s decision to intervene in Europe over the objections of the UN criticize Bush for removing Saddam over the objections of the UN. There are names for folks who put their party over principle. Hypocrites. For my part, I think Clinton and Bush both did the right thing in these cases and made the world a better place with their respective military interventions.

November 02, 2003
Why Bush Will Win in 2004

Many political junkies are following the democratic primaries with much interest. I have watched a few of the debates, but I don’t think they matter. First of all, I think Howard Dean will win the Democratic primary by a large margin. I expect Dean will move to the center after winning the primary. I do not underestimate him, I believe Dean is as canny a politician as Bill Clinton. While he lacks Clinton’s charisma, he also appears to have more self-control. So he is probably the best chance the Democrats have in 2004.

Despite my respect for Dean’s abilities, I also don’t think it matters who the Democrats put up against Bush. I have a theory that any presidential candidate with a job approval rating above 47% in the third year of his first term will win reelection barring vary abnormal circumstances. I have drawn my hypothetical line of reelection in this chart.

Since 1963 (the earliest data that I reviewed), six presidents have had job approval ratings above 47% in the third year of their first term. Our current president is one of these, so there are five historical examples from which to learn. Three of them (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) were easily reelected by very large margins. JFK would probably have been reelected as well, but he was assassinated before he could be reelected. George H.W. Bush was the only president with a high job approval rating to lose reelection. Why?

The common wisdom (and Bill Clinton) says “It was the economy, stupid.” Thus, if the economy is poor in 2004, Howard Dean should win. Otherwise, President W. Bush will be reelected. The common wisdom is wrong. While the economy was a factor in the defeat of Bush, Sr., it was not the only factor. In my opinion, the most important factor in the Bush/Clinton election was Ross Perot. Studies have shown that Perot voters disproportionately drew from Republican voters and the split gave Clinton the victory. To a lesser extent, Ralph Nader repeated this circumstance and probably cost Gore the election in 2000.

Unless the Republican vote is somehow split in 2004, I expect George W. Bush to easily win reelection even if the economy goes into another recession. The economy is important, but its importance in national elections is overstated.

Status Update

I want to thank all of you who have written and asked how I am doing and/or sent me suggestions for posts. Ever since my home disaster, my spare time has been virtually nonexistent, but I do miss blogging. I’ve actually had a lot to say recently and it has been frustrating not having to the time to share. I’ve also missed receiving comments on my thoughts.

Since posting about my home disaster, we’ve discovered that the house has many other problems our home inspector missed. For example, the floors of both bathrooms need to be replaced (our home inspector missed the fact that both toilets have leaked for years and the bathroom floors were rotting). I could go on, but I would rather not dwell on the problems. I’m trying to get these problems fixed as quickly as I can. I have completely gutted my basement to concrete, including ripping out the interior walls and removing the original furnace. If you ever need some weightlifting practice, I recommend carrying a 300 gallon cast iron fuel drum out of a basement. It took three of us and I felt it for days afterwards...

This is my fourth home purchase and one horrible experience out of four is not too bad. But next time I buy a house, I’m not going to hire a “home inspector.” Instead, I’ll hire a plumber and a general contractor.

I will probably be pressed for time for months to come, but I will make more of an effort to find time to blog (starting with tonight). Thanks again for your emails.