Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pastor from England at Church Tonight

I was hoping he would bust out with the following in his thick as fog on the moors British accent: "Disease and deprivation stalk our land like two giant stalking things."

But alas, he did not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

European Defense Forces as a Challenger to NATO?

Leaders of the United States and Europe are challenged by changes in fundamental security interests. The first challenge to Transatlantic Dialogue is the perception that European leaders are not serious about security. Posen asserts that “the EU is balancing US power.” (Posen, 151) Posen argues that the Europe’s creation of EU Security and Defense Policies (ESDP) is the structural realistic approach to countering US global hegemony. However, Posen’s support for this assertion highlights the lack of seriousness with which Europe is pursuing this “balance.” In real terms, the ESDP is a force of 60,000 or so European troops from various countries. To put those numbers into perspective, these 60, 000 troops are meant to balance the 1.44 million personnel that the United States has under arms. (DOD) This calls to mind the time France advised Stalin to be more accommodating to Catholics so his standing with the Pope would improve. Stalin asked dismissively: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” (Churchill, 121) President Bush could well ask a similar question of the ESDP.

Another challenge is the erosion in the common background of Europe and the US. Since the settlement of North America, the leadership class had descended from traditional European ethnic groups so there existed, in general terms, a shared point of view. However, demographic trends have pulled Europe and the US toward different policy concerns. Europe’s native ethnic groups no longer reproduce at replacement rates. (Steyn, 10) However, European social programs require immigrants to supply the tax payments to support those programs. These new immigrants are Muslims who are less supportive of aggressive anti-terrorist foreign policies they see as both driven by the US and as anti-Muslim. The US population is becoming increasingly Latino, whose security interests are more related to violent drug gangs threatening their families in the US and in their native countries. These growing populations have little interest in threats to European security, which represents yet another vector pulling US and Europe security apart.

Sources cited:

Churchill, Winston (1986) The second world war: the gathering storm. London: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Department of Defense. (2008) “DOD personnel and military casualty statistics” (October 31) accessed 18 December 2008.

Hason, Stephanie (2008) Mexico's spreading drug violence.
Council on Foreign Relations Daily Analysis (November 21) accessed 18 December 2008.

Posen, Barry R. (2006) European Union security and defense policy: Response to unipolarity. Security Studies, 15, no. 2 (April-May) pg 149.

Steyn, Mark. (2006) America alone: The end of the world as we know it. Washington: Regnery Publishing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Bing and Frank sing a song written by Mel Torme. God really is Good.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Greatest Ponzi Schemes in History!

Check it out. Including the most brazen and nefarious one at #9

Monday, December 22, 2008

Unsolicited Political Advice

Blagojevich should appoint Patrick Fitzgerald to the Senate, it is his only hope. Blag could say something like, "I have decided to live up to the promises I made the US Attorney, and so I will appoint him to serve out President Elect Obama's term in the Senate."

Blag impugns the prosecutor just by making such a crazy offer and on the off chance Fitz accepts, Blag gets some breathing room while the replacement US Attorney gets up to speed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alliances support security

Transformation, per Donald Rumsfeld, involves “new combinations of concepts, capabilities, people and organizations that exploit our nation’s advantages and protect our asymmetric vulnerabilities to sustain our strategic position….” (Lamb, 1) While including new alliances in the list may seem to be stretching the concept of “transformation,” upon consideration, carefully chosen and monitored new alliances with democratic governments would do much to improve US defense.

Some of the most damaging foreign policy mistakes have resulted from problems with imprudently selected allies, like the Shah’s Iran. The United States foolishly backed the Shah and became overly identified with him, even as his policies continued to alienate the people and set the conditions for a radical revolution. In another situation, the US allowed itself to become the de facto ally of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, which in retrospect looks like an overreaction to the Soviet presence there. Unfortunately, the combination of American arms and geopolitical neglect allowed for the rise of the Taliban. In Sherwood-Randall’s romantic description of allies, Iran was like a “long marriage,” while the Mujahedeen were like the “summer romance.” (Sherwood-Randall, 3-4) In both cases, the break up resembled the ending of the movie “Fatal Attraction.”

On the other hand, well chosen and well monitored allies provide two potential advantages. Alliances with strategically positioned countries can send a signal to potential rivals that the US is willing to defend its foreign interests. The strategic location of the Ukraine, a nascent democracy on the Black Sea, situated between Poland and Russia would prove to be useful to the US. The Ukraine would allow the US to open yet another site of influence on the Russian border, and offers a potentially new location for missile defense sites. Alliances with democratic governments of countries that formerly provided shelter to terrorists would safeguard the US by squeezing terrorists into more inhospitable locations. Afghanistan and Iraq as allies would provide that service, as would Somalia, were it to develop into some kind of democracy.

Sources cited:

Lamb, Christopher J. et. al. (2005) Transforming defense. Washington: National Defense University Press.

Sherwood-Randall, Elizabeth (2006) Alliances and American national security. Strategic Studies Institute (October).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Ok, So there I was, watching Rachel Ray make a shepherd's pie while I was waiting to see the doc at the GI clinic. The recipe actually sounded really good, (minus the mushrooms, which I, under no circumstances will cook with or eat). So I am sitting there, contentedly watching when suddenly RR says, "now I will spread the mashed potatoes on top of the pie in the skillet." The audience breaks into wild applause while she is pouring mashed potatoes over the pie. She gets more applause when she announced she was spreading some cheese on top. The audience could not have been more delighted if RR had announced that she was going to make it rain by throwing a bag of $50s in the air over everyone watching in studio. Strange.

I like shepherd's pie as much as the next bloke, but I have a hard time believing I would applaud like I was watching Harry Reid doing the Blagovich perp walk out of the Capital Building even if some hottie was pouring mashed potatoes over meat pie.

A Coup in 2012?

If there were a coup, it would not be lead by the Generals. They are of the same class as the politicians and indistiguishable from them. Look for some fire-breating Lieutenant Colonel who has had it with the corruption in Washington. Hypothetically, I could see it playing out this way: Seize XM radio there in Washington, run all of congress, the Supreme Court and the staffers into RFK, and call for national elections, pronto. Some might say: "THAT is change we can believe in."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Believe or not?

My question for Patterico is why do you have a problem with the exclusiveness of Christians? If Christians believe they have the way to Life, and you don’t believe it, so what? How does their faith effect you at all?

Sure, some Christians are stupidly smug that they are going to Heaven and you are not. Their attitude is incredibly off-putting and counter-productive to growing the Kingdom of Heaven. However, the majority of Christians would be happy to have you accompany us home; all you have to do is believe. If you don’t want to believe, that is fine. All we would ask is to be left in peace, and we will leave you in peace.

For my non-believing friends (and for my parents) I take solace in the words of Christ from the Apocalypse of Peter. The book is not canonical, I know, but if you read it, I am sure you would understand why the Church would not want it in the Bible. In that book, Christ reveals Hell to Peter but assures him that for even the souls in there, because of the prayers of the faithful, there is hope: ‘My Father will give unto them all the life, the glory, and the kingdom that passeth not away,’ . . . ‘It is because of them that have believed in me that I am come. It is also because of them that have believed in me, that, at their word, I shall have pity on men.’

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Link Between Freedom and Prosperity

In general terms it would appear that countries with a high gross domestic product (GDP) are considered “Free” on the Freedom House assessment of “Freedom in the World” while those countries with the lowest GDP are considered “Not free.” Personal freedom depends on governments that respect individual rights and a judiciary that upholds those rights by respecting the rule of law without arbitrary rulings. For capitalism to thrive and produce high GDP requires the same things as personal freedom. The ruling institutions must respect the rights of property and the courts must impartially enforce contractual obligations. Trends in freedom and prosperity go in tandem since they rely on fair, well functioning governmental institutions.

The outliers to these trends are China and Russia. Both China and Russia have high GDPs but do not protect the civil liberties or political freedom of their people. Russia’s economy has benefitted from worldwide increase in demand for raw materials that are produced there even as the government has attempted to roll back political reforms started after the fall of the Berlin Wall. According to the CIA World Factbook entry on Russia, “in tandem with its prudent management of Russia's windfall energy wealth, which has helped the country rebound from the economic collapse of the 1990s, the Kremlin in recent years has overseen a recentralization of power that has undermined democratic institutions.” China economy has also benefitted from an increase in worldwide demand for products by producing those products. This increase in industrial production has increased the country’s GDP. China has nonetheless held onto it traditional authoritarian political structure that has been handed down for thousands of years. As noted in the CIA World Factbook entry for China, “DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. for much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight.” This assessment generally comports with the Freedom House rating.

The countries at the bottom of the GDP table either do not have raw materials worth exploiting or are ruled by dictators who do not respect the rights of individuals or both. Zimbabwe’s despotic ruler, of late, has not respected individual rights nor have the courts been willing to respect property deeds. As a consequence, the country is “Not Free” and the GDP is the lowest in the world. In the words of the CIA Factbook: “Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign, which began in 2000, caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities.” Niger, the most free of the bottom of GDP table has had a working democracy on and off since 1991, but basically has an economy based on subsistence agriculture. Malawi, one of ”the world's most densely populated and least developed countries” has a economy based on subsistence agriculture” according the CIA World Factbook entry. While Malawi recently held elections, irredentist factions continue to vie to overturn the government, resulting in crackdowns that lower the Freedom House assessment.

Where TO Evaluates Data From the Last Two Presidential Elections

According to the data, it would appear that the typical Republican voter is from the western or southern states with median household incomes below those of states that vote heavily Democratic. The typical Republican voter appears to vote in rough proportion to the “white only” percentage of the state. The typical Republican voter appears to come from states with lower educational achievement than the voters from states that vote heavily Democratic. Since the table uses educational achievement as a proxy for white color employment, it would also appear the Republican voters come from states with less white collar employments and proportionately fewer residents in urban environments. To sum up, according to the data, it appears that the typical Republican voter is relatively rural, less educated, more likely to be white, with a lower median income than the typical Democrat voter.

It would appear that the typical Democratic voter is from the northeastern states with relatively high household incomes. The typical Democratic voter appears to vote in higher percentages for the Democrat the higher the percentage of all residents who live in urban settings. More research is needed to determine why heavily Democratic Vermont is such an outlier in the percentage of urban dwellers. Democrats in states with strong ties to the Democrat candidate tend to vote in high percentages for the Democrat. States with very high percentages of minorities appear to vote in large numbers for the Democrat, but the inverse does not appear to be true, as low minority population in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont nonetheless vote heavily Democratic. The typical Democrat tends to come from states with high levels of educational achievement. Since the table uses educational achievement as a proxy for white collar employment, it would appear from the data that Democratic voters come from states with more white-collar employment. To sum up, according to the data the typical Democratic voter is relatively urban, from the Northeast or from States where minorities represent the majority of the population. Further, the typical Democratic voter is more educated and with higher levels of income than the typical Republican voter.

There were two different criticisms of my analysis of the Presidential election. One criticism is that I did not address whether the electorate has become more liberal. Since that question was not asked in the packet or in the assignment, I did not think to attempt to glean an answer from the data sets. Had I been challenged to do so, I would not have been able to determine if the population of the US had become more liberal. None of the data sets that we were required to evaluate serve as a valid proxy for political attitudes. If having the political attitude of being “liberal” is equated with voting for the Democratic candidate, then the word “liberal” loses all meaning. A case study would be West Virginia voters who elect Democratic senators, to include a former Klu Klux Klansman, but nonetheless voted for the Republican candidate. Another case study would be Maine, a state the reliably votes for the Democratic presidential candidate but has two Republican senators. California voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic presidential candidate, but passed a constitutional restriction on same-sex marriage, something that would be unthinkable in a truly liberal electorate. The data appears to show that voting patterns are a poor proxy for determining whether a population has a “liberal” attitude. Since Census data is comprised of objectively quantifiable attributes, until someone can make the case that there is an objective measure that correlates directly to a subjective attitude, then any assessment from this data about whether the electorate has become more “liberal” would be pure speculation.

The second criticism was regarding the technical observation that the District of Columbia is not a state and should not be included in the data collection exercise. I actually debated whether to include DC in the assessment for exactly that reason, that DC is technically not a state. Eventually, I decided to include DC since it has 1) the exact same weight in the Presidential election as seven actual states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) two of which are the home states of individuals on the tickets for the major parties. 2) The population of DC is actually larger than Wyoming, a state that appeared in the exercise. 3) For the purposes of the Electoral College, DC is a state so it was valid to include its characteristics in an assessment of voting patterns.
This criticism: “With DC, there is a minority population factor that can affect the ‘outcome’ of your assessment” was particularly puzzling. The data appears to show that people from areas with high numbers of urban residents vote for the Democratic candidate. The data appears to show that States and Districts with electoral votes where minorities are in the majority in the population, such as in Hawaii and DC, vote for the Democratic candidate. That is an interesting trend and a valid outcome for the analysis. I remain unclear regarding the “factor” about DC’s minority population would otherwise affect the outcome of the analysis. DC is virtually a control subject for both these population characteristics in the data collection exercise.

TO's Opinion of Obama

Someone asked me what my opinion of Obama. I am paraphasing myself so quote me or the paraphrase, but I said something like this: "He is just another corrupt scumbag mobbed up Chicago criminal politician." How right I am.