Peace through victory - the American way.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Health Regulation And The Market For Food.

A California agricultural group is calling for compulsory health standards in the wake of the recent food scares linked to contaminated produce from California farms.
"Western Growers President Thomas Nassif said calling for compulsory adherence to safety standards, which have been voluntary, and inviting the government's oversight showed how seriously the industry took the outbreak – one of nine linked to California vegetables in the past decade.

'It is not normal for a business to say, "Please regulate us and enforce it if we don't do the right things,"' Nassif said. 'But that, we believe, is essential to restore public confidence.'" (Here.)

Actually that is how regulation works. Large companies welcome regulation because they find it easier to comply and it clears the competition of smaller companies. For example, New York City is banning transfats from food sold in restaurants. KFC and other major fast-food chains are phasing out transfats. (Here.) They acknowledge some difficulty with the phaseout but they are proceeding. Why? Because they can. On the other hand, the greatest opposition to the ban comes from the city's restaurant association which represents lots of small businesses. For them, compliance will be extremely difficult.

Which is not to say regulation is inherently bad. It just doesn't come without cost.


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Memo To Padres Managerial Prospects

For job security listen to upper management:"[Kevin] Towers said he last spoke to [catcher Mike] Piazza in early October. 'Mike was open-minded about still feeling he had the ability to catch 100 games,' Towers said. 'We still plan on having some dialogue about bringing him back there. [Josh] Bard did a great job. He certainly didn't get the opportunity that Mike did.'" (Here.)

Got that? Play Josh Bard.


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Conservative Myopia

All or nothing Conservatives this election are turning on the one American party that welcomes their input and sometimes implements their policies. And why? Let's see what purist conservative pundit Bruce Bartlett has to say about his decision to vote for Democrats:
"In short, when I vote Democratic next week for the first time in my life, what I am really voting for is gridlock. I am not voting for the Democratic Party's policies, most of which I still oppose. Rather, I am voting for change, congressional oversight and White House accountability. I am voting against Republican corruption and out-of-control spending. If that takes putting Democrats in charge of Congress, then so be it." (Here.)
Five years after 9/11 with America fighting a world wide ideological war against Islamist Jihad, conservatives are putting domestic politics first, violating their own principles, and voting for a party opposed to everything they believe in. Which begs the question: Are conservatives adults?


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Monday, October 30, 2006

Guns And Money

If this study (here) is to believed, 40 million American hunters and recreational gun users will spend $4 trillion over their lifetimes on firearms, ammunition, supplies, and activities related to their guns. That is a whole lot of money flowing into the American economy and perhaps an effective way to preserve the Second Amendment.


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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lou Dobbs Congress Redux

Last week we argued that Democrats should thank Lou Dobbs for his hard work preparing the way for them to take over the Congress. (Here.) Apparently, Peter Beinart says that Democrats are moving closer to Lou Dobbs's simple-minded positions on illegal immigration. (Here, via John Derbyshire on NRO's Corner.) It's understandable really. Five years after 9/11 Democrats still don't know who America's enemy is. Lou Dobbs provides an answer. The enemy is Mexico and all those oh so scary Mexicans who come to the United States to work.

This is another issue that George Bush has got right and his base has got wrong. He proposes some additional border security and legalization for illegal aliens. Dobbs brands this amnesty because it forgives people who broke the law. For Dobbs and his supporters it's all so simple. Illegal aliens broke the law so anything less than deportation is amnesty. But many illegal aliens actually add value to this country. Many have put down roots here and this country is now their home. Legalization would benefit them and us.

In the criminal law context, defendants who break the law but who can be reformed, or who pose no threat to society, or who have something to offer don't necessarily get sent to prison. They get probation. We should offer the same option to illegal aliens in this country.

Probation for illegal aliens not amnesty.


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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bye Bye Bochy.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a very useful article today on the reasons for Bruce Bochy's departure from the San Diego Padres. (Here.) It's all about Bochy's favoring veterans over younger players.

Bochy's preference for veterans has been obvious for years. But what surely must have puzzled the front office this years was how Bochy used Todd Walker in the last part of the season. Walker was brought over to the Padres to play third base. When that experiment looked bad, Russell Branyan was brought in. Rather than going to the bench, Walker got lots of playing time as a platoon player at second base with Josh Barfield. Barfield, who was a star on this team during the season ended up sitting a lot near the end of the season.

It's doubtful that the Padres traded Mark Loretta last year to make room for Todd Walker to play second base. Loretta was dealt so that Barfield could play.

Bochy did play another rookie at a key position this year: Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Gonzalez even slumped a bit during the year and Bochy essentially stuck with him. But there was nobody on the team good enough to play first base regularly so Gonzalez's position as a starter was safe and ended up one of San Diego's most potent bats. Lucky for him Ryan Klesko was not available until the very end of the season.

This fan is not sad to see Bochy go. He's often touted as San Diego's winningest manager because he has more wins as a Padres manager than any other. But he's also the losingest manager because he has more losses than anyone else. More importantly, he's got a losing record as a manager.

In sports, winning is everything. The St. Louis Cardinals are the only real winner in Major League Baseball this year because they won the World Series. The Detroit Tigers are first among the losers for having lost the World Series. Everybody else is just a loser.


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Monday, October 23, 2006

NASA Dominates At X-Prize Cup 2006

Las Cruces, New Mexico, hosted a rocket show promoting private development of space last weekend. There is a budding market for private space ventures. Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites has partnered with Virgin Galactic to build a fleet of spaceships to fly private tourists into space in the near future. Las Vegas-based hotel billionaire Robert Bigelow's company, Bigelow Aerospace, has an inflatable prototype space station in orbit right now. Bigelow plans to launch a full-size space station for human habitation by 2010.

A host of companies attended the X-Prize Cup and showcased their plans for private human space travel. Yet NASA was a dominant force at the event. One private space company and teams of college and high-school students competed to win NASA prize money. A private market for space is developing but government is still the biggest player. (More here.)



The Lou Dobbs Congress

The pundits overwhelmingly are predicting Democratic gains, if not takeovers, in the House of Representatives and the Senate. There's a lot of bad news in the world and it is rebounding back on the Bush Administration's political party. Even the good news of the economy does not appear to be making a difference for Republicans in the minds of the voters. Anyone who watchs Lou Dobbs Tonight knows why. Dobbs has been hawking gloom and doom on CNN for a long time now. To Dobbs, there is a "War on the Middle Class" and ordinary Americans are being squeezed by corporate fat cats, uncaring government officials, and an invasion of illegal aliens from Mexico.

In 1994 when the Republicans took the Congress, the incoming freshman class of GOP Congressmembers made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their class. If the Democrats sweep into power this election, they probably would not want to make Dobbs an honorary member of their class. His harsh position on illegal immigration is antithetical to most Democratic politicians. But they should send him a great big thank-you card. They wouldn't have been able to do it without him.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Neocons In Space?

The Bush Administration has published a new space policy for the United States that emphasizes America's national interest. Naturally, some are worried about the Administration's new policy."The updated policy rejects the development of arms control agreements that could restrict or limit U.S. access to or use of space. It also calls for the development of space capabilities that support U.S. defense and intelligence initiatives. ... Critics of the Bush administration tell the Washington Post newspaper that they believe the policy could lead the U.S. to develop, test and even deploy space weapons." (Here.) We can only hope. More here.



Gingrich Plans Comeback?

It's hard to figure exactly what this is supposed to mean.
"GOP sources said Mr. Gingrich does not plan to run for president, but intends to be available as the savior of conservatives dismayed by candidates who seek to move the party to the left in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s presidency." (Here.)
Republicans were seriously hurt when Speaker Gingrich had to resign. Newt is one of the smartest and most creative politicians of the Republican Party.

Contrary to the common perception of him as angry and reactionary, he is very much a forward-looking and visionary public figure. Talk to anybody who has taken the time to think about America's space program, for instance, and Newt Gingrich's name is bound to come up. Newt has long been an advocate of government prizes as a way of jumpstarting the space program and commercialization of space.

The GOP could use his leadership these days and conservatives could use his wisdom. As it stands now the party and the conservative movement have swung way too far over in Pat Buchanan's direction. But how Newt could become the savior of conservatives in 2008 without running for president is a bit of a mystery.

Since we're indulging in speculation, perhaps Newt could get back his old job as Speaker of the House. The Constitution doesn't explicitly require the Speaker to be a Congressmember. Article I, Section 2 states "The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states ..." A subsequent paragraph in the same section states "The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers ..." (Here.) It may be implied that the speaker must be a duly elected member of the House but the text does not explicitly require the speaker to be a member. Newt might not even have to run for office. Wouldn't that be interesting?


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We Are The Battlefield

Daniel Pipes has an insightful column today about war in the modern world. (Here.) His basic point is that wars today are not won or lost on the battlefield but are won or lost in the area of public opinion.
"First, battling all-out for victory against conventional enemy forces has nearly disappeared, replaced by the more indirect challenge of guerrilla operations, insurgencies, intifadas, and terrorism. This new pattern applied to the French in Algeria, Americans in Vietnam, and Soviets in Afghanistan. It currently holds for Israelis versus Palestinians, coalition forces in Iraq, and in the war on terror. ...

"Second, the solidarity and consensus of old have unraveled. This process has been underway for just over a century now (starting with the British side of the Boer War in 1899-1902). As I wrote in 2005: 'The notion of loyalty has fundamentally changed. Traditionally, a person was assumed faithful to his natal community. A Spaniard or Swede was loyal to his monarch, a Frenchman to his republic, an American to his constitution. That assumption is now obsolete, replaced by a loyalty to one's political community – socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or Islamism, to name some options. Geographical and social ties matter much less than of old.'

"With loyalties now in play, wars are decided more on the Op Ed pages and less on the battlefield. Good arguments, eloquent rhetoric, subtle spin-doctoring, and strong poll numbers count more than taking a hill or crossing a river. Solidarity, morale, loyalty, and understanding are the new steel, rubber, oil, and ammunition. Opinion leaders are the new flag and general officers. Therefore, as I wrote in August, Western governments 'need to see public relations as part of their strategy.'"
Democracies are at a disadvantage in this kind of war. Democratic governments must respond to the popular will. The longer a war continues without resolution the more likely it is that opposition to the war will increase. This leaves a democratic government that hopes to win a modern war with limited options.

The first option is to fight an all out and brutal war to destroy the enemy in the shortest time possible and then get out. In the early stage of a war popular support tends to be at its highest. In addition, when a war is in its "major combat" phase the military is given greater leeway to kill the enemy and destroy its infrastructure.

If a short war is not possible, a democratic government fighting a long war absolutely must reach out to its political opponents and get a consensus on the goals and strategies in the war. Consensus across political lines first helps to insulate the war's goals and strategies from political attack. Consensus also helps to ensure that the prosecution of the war will not change much when voters decide to change governments.

The Bush Administration understands that the war we fight against Islamist terrorism is a long war that will require a generation to win. Judged by its action, what the Administration does not seem to understand is that winning the war requires reaching out to political opponents and forging a consensus. In the Administration's defense, its political opponents have never been in much of a mood for achieving consensus with this President. This country deserves better on both sides of the aisle.



Monday, October 16, 2006

The More The Merrier

October 2006 is the month in which the population of the United States is expected to pass 300 million. (Here.) That's a lot of people and some find the population increase to be very scary. Georgie Anne Geyer indulges in a little bit of scaremongering and argues that the United States is heading towards overpopulation.
"...if immigration is not controlled, it's not far to the 1 billion mark and all that means, in terms of more cities such as Los Angeles, where people can already barely move, severe shortages of water (not only in the Southwest), deadly competition for water and land between farmers and cities, and the domination of the country by the cynical philosophical view that sees man merely as an economic creature." (Here.)
Geyer gives over the bulk of her column to the Earth Policy Institute's Lester Brown, to make an argument in favor of so-called sustainable growth and against population growth as sapping the human spirit.

This is so much hogwash. Every human being who is born isn't just another mouth to feed. Every human being is born with a brain for solving problems and adding creativity to human culture, as well as two arms and two legs for working and creating wealth for themselves and others. People aren't necessarily a problem. People are also an asset. Sustainable growth advocates such as Brown claim to value human beings but their true view of humans is that people are nothing but a threat to the environment.

Population growth does not threaten the United States. On the contrary, population growth benefits the United States. The United States is the only developed country among the countries with the highest population growths. Most developed countries are either barely producing enough people to replace their current populations or they are actually declining in population. The other countries with high population growths tend to be undeveloped nations. Let Europe die a slow death of depopulation if it wants to. America's population growth adds vitality to our nation, both through immigration and reproduction, and helps our country remain number one.



Marriage And Family Households Hype.

This story (here) from the French news service AFP was one of the most viewed stories on Yahoo for several days starting this weekend. The story argues that family demography shows that marriage is on the decline in the United States and is rivaled by unmarried couples, both straight and gay.

Certainly family demographics are changing but the AFP story seems to have seriously overstated the change by misreading the data. The AFP story says,
"The findings, which were released in August but largely escaped public attention until now because of the large volume of data, indicated that marriage did not figure in nearly 55.8 million American family households, or 50.2 percent.

More than 14 million of them were headed by single women, another five million by single men, while 36.7 million belonged to a category described as "nonfamily households," a term that experts said referred primarily to gay or heterosexual couples cohabiting out of formal wedlock.

In addition, there were more than 30 million unmarried men and women living alone, who are not categorized as families, the Census Bureau reported.

By comparison, the number of traditional households with married couples at their core stood at slightly more than 55.2 million, or 49.8 percent of the total."
The great thing about the internet is that facts like this can be checked by going to the source document. (Here.) The source document in this case shows that the AFP story seriously overstated the case for the decline of married households and rise of unmarried couples living together, whether straight or gay.

The Census Bureau's document reveals there are only about 6 million unmarried couples living together in the United States not 36 million. Compared to these 6 million unmarried couple households, there are 30 million households with one person living alone and 55 million married couple households. There are an additional 19 million households headed by a single parent.

The AFP story uses the study to make an argument that the Bush Administration's domestic policy promoting traditional family values and marriage is failing. It's not clear how 55 million married households compared to 6 million unmarried couple households supports that contention. This is especially true when one looks at this page (here) of the Census Bureau's study which shows that out of 227 million adults over 15 years of age, 121 million are married now, and of the rest only 63 million have never been married. For a less tendentious news report on the Census Bureau's findings go here. The AFP story proves once again that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.



Monday, October 09, 2006

Padres Season Goes To Waste

Nothing in baseball matters but winning. The team that loses the World Series is just the top loser. Winning the Western Division is cold comfort for this Padres fan when the season is followed by the team's embarrassing performance in the playoffs.

Despite Sunday's loss the pitching staff did not lose the series. The series was lost by the hitters. The worst thing about the team's offensive performance in the playoffs is that it was typical of what fans had to watch all year. The players on the Padres have got to be some of the worst situational hitters in major league baseball. And has the team ever heard of a hit and run? The strange thing is there was a time when manager Bruce Bochy would do the hit and run and other offensive plays to get the defense moving and open up holes. Now he seems to sit back and wait for one of his players to deliver the big hit. All of us have been waiting pretty much all year for that.

O well, there's always next year. But if the same players and management all come back fans will have to suffer through the same offensive malaise. Some kind of reconstruction is in order. Here are some suggestions.

FIND SOME RIGHT HANDED POWER. Enough with the lefthanded bats. Petco's left field is not that deep and homeruns can fly out of the park in that direction. Get some players that can take advantage of that.

Keep Roberts.
Exercise the option on Cameron.
Trade Giles for a true number 2 hitter.
Put Gonzalez in the third slot.
Play Barfield every day.
If Walker stays make him a bench player not a platoon player with Barfield.
Keep Greene.
Keep Blum for when Greene injures his hand for the third year in a row.
Get A-Rod and put him at third.
Keep Piazza and Bard but even out their playing time.

Let Bochy go.


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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Padres Win One And Give The Ball To Woody.

The Padres came back from the brink yesterday and beat the Cardinals to remain in the playoffs. (So, what's new for Padres fans? This team does nothing the easy way.) Woody Williams will start today. Some have questioned that move and suggested that Jake Peavy should start. I'll go on the record today, 5 hours before the game, in support of manager Bruce Bochy's decision. Williams is the unsung hero of the Padres pitching staff. He's been successful this year, he pitches like a pro, and he can be counted on to keep it together under pressure. If anybody can get the Padres back to San Diego for a fifth game on Monday, Williams can.


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Battlestar Galactica Finds Earth.

Battlestar Galactica's two hour episode last night struck very close to home. After a year of occupation by their Cylon overlords the human insurgency is now resorting to suicide bombers, blowing up police graduation ceremonies, and targeting civilians. The Cylons are rounding up suspected insurgents, transporting the "detainees" in shackles and canvas hoods, and torturing them in prison while the human puppet president denies it happens.

Hmmmm. Does any of that sound familiar?

BSG, or the best show on TV, as we fans refer to it, has flirted with contemporary wartime events over the past two seasons. This was successful in the past because the writing hinted at current events more than paralelling them. With this new season it looks like the writers may have decided to tell stories "ripped from today's headlines" as those awful unoriginal shows on broadcast television do.

It's too soon to tell from one episode whether the show will turn preachy and convey an overt message about the war. To date the show has avoided that temptation and that's one reason it is so good. Good fiction doesn't preach. Good fiction tells stories that let the viewers or readers come to their own moral conclusions. Time will tell if the writers remain committed to producing good fiction or if they have decided to produce sermons.


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Note: This post is duplicated on Tales of the Heliosphere, my blog on science fiction and present space policy.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Padres Game 1 Fiasco

When I wrote last week that the Padres look like a team of destiny, today's game is not what I had in mind. The game was a typical Padres loss. No clutch hitting.

It didn't help matters that Mark Bellhorn was sent up to pinch hit with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 7th inning. Fine, the pitcher was leftie Tyler Johnson and Bruch Bochy clearly was going with the lefty-righty matchup. But here's a question. What is Bellhorn doing on the post-season roster? Whose decision was that? He's batting under .200 and has struggled miserably for the last month of the season. Here's another question. Why not break convention and send up a lefty against the lefty? Especially when the lefty available to pinch hit was Ryan Klesko. Klesko has been pinch hitting since he came off the DL and he has looked great. He's also a proven hitter who can drive the ball and he doesn't strike out as much as Bellhorn does. Klesko batting would have increased the odds for a productive out.

The Bellhorn at bat was the crucial at bat of the game and deserved a proven hitter who is on his game, not somebody who has struggled for more than a month now. Instead, Bochy sends up Bellhorn and saves Klesko for the 9th with nobody on when the game was all but over. The fact is, Tony LaRussa outmanaged Bochy.

Here's another fact. Chris Carpenter outpitched Jake Peavy. Padres fans like to believe that Jake is our team's superstar pitcher. Today should cast a lot of doubt on that belief. Peavy may not be a number 1 starter and he probably shouldn't be the go-to guy for pressure games in post-season.

Next game will have David Wells starting. He's another guy who doesn't deserve to be on the post-season roster for any game in which he has to bat or run the bases. He'll probably pitch well enough but his fielding, hitting, or baserunning will hurt the team at least once on Thursday. There's a real possibility the Padres will head to St. Louis two games down and only then will the team's most reliable pitchers, Woody Williams and Chris Young, take the mound.


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