Karl Gallagher's Political Journal|
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|Friday, June 24th, 2016|
|For Those New Here
A brief index to my major posts:War
I'm an advocate of taking the offensive in the Global War On Terror, the official name for our war against the Islamofascists. I've done a Venn Diagram showing how different current conflicts relate to the war as a whole
, and a state diagram showing the different strategies available to us and their possible outcomes
. I think there's a limited amount of time to win before a catastrophe is inevitable
Other war posts: Abu Ghraib
, putting the Army on a war footing
, mistakes made in Iraq
, Wars of Choice
, Law, Interrogation, and Torture
, Reforming the Defense Acquisition System
I've looked at better ways to categorize views than the "left-right" axis
, why our political system forces everyone into two parties
, and how we could modify the system to better express everyone's views
. I also discuss how our political divide comes from different visions of how families should be organized
and why the "War on Drugs" is the real threat to our freedoms
Other politics posts: Gay Marriage/Polygamy
, Global Warming
and who to believe about it
, War on Drugs
), Trinity River Vision
, civil war
, political quizzes
, Iron Man vs. ITAR
, Health Care Deformed
and a follow-up
, the Tree Ring Circus
, The Bill of Federalism
, Gaiacrats versus Theocrats
, and How I pick presidential candidates
.My BeliefsThings I believe in
, and the books which most influenced me.
I want to lay out the assumptions behind my beliefs clearly. If one of those principles is disproved I'll have to rethink my stands.
Sometimes I'll toss out a wild idea to provoke debate: Anglosphere Civilization (and merging states)
, and An Exercise in Alternate History Current Mood: calm
|Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013|
|Friday, January 25th, 2013|
|Looking for the Median Texan Voter
I just saw an interesting article on a Democratic Party plan to make Texas a swing state
. I'm all for having competitive elections here. Right now my only chance to have a significant impact is by voting in the Republican primary for both state and local elections. There are "blue" areas in Texas, but Tarrant county is not one of them.
The plan the Dems are raising money for doesn't thrill me. Apparently they've written off everyone in Texas who currently votes Republican and want to change the electorate by bringing new voters to the polls. It's not a terrible idea in practical terms, blacks and Hispanics have low turnout (even aside from citizenship issues) and there's a lot of people newly arrived from more liberal states. So they might be able to shift the balance with new voters. Overcoming a 13% deficit is a tough hurdle though.
I want Texas to have competitive elections. One-party states become corrupt. California is well on the way to a economic collapse because the lack of constraint on their dominant party has led to excessive spending on favored constituencies and driving out the productive businesses with taxes and regulations. Texas is in good shape economically for now. So far our troubles tend to be abuse of law enforcement authority and bureaucrats not performing their jobs. The less the politicians fear losing their power the more they'll abuse it.In theory our two-party system should have each one pulling in close to 50% of the vote
. Each party would be chasing the "median Texan voter" by staking out a set of policy positions that appeal to the voters in the center who can tip the balance. Instead the Texas Democrats have aligned themselves with the national median voter by sticking with the policy positions of the national party. So in the 2010 governor's race the Dem got about the same percentage of the vote as Obama did in Texas in 2012.
To be truly competitive the Texas Democrats should appeal to voters on Texan issues. The Texas Youth Commission scandal
should've been an election issue. Eminent domain, forced annexation (cities forcing rural areas to pay taxes to them), prosecutorial abuse, drug war false arrests--there isn't a shortage of things to talk about. The hard part would be abandoning issues that the national party is wedded to so they can appeal to Texans. Not nominating a gubernatorial candidate who joined a gun control group would be a start.
It'd be easier if the national government didn't control so much of our lives. The more power the federal government takes on the more voters will focus on that when casting their ballots. So Californians automatically vote Democratic even as the state goes deeper into debt and Texans vote Republican regardless of how many screw-ups there are. If we reduced the power Washington DC holds voters could relax and focus more on concerns closer to them.
|Saturday, December 29th, 2012|
|The Righteous Mind
For those who don't read my other journal, I posted a review of The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt analyzes morality as breaking down into several factors and shows that liberals and conservatives differ in their moral codes. So there are political implications to this bit of science.(I strongly recommend the book to everyone)
|Monday, November 19th, 2012|
|Hope on Copyright
The House Republicans released a fascinating paper on possible copyright reforms
and then panicked and yanked it. It's still good to see someone raising the subject. I wrote my Congresswoman to ask her to take a closer look at it:
Dear Ms. Granger, Current Mood: hopeful
The Republican Study Committee has produced a draft report "Three Myths of Copyright Law." I think the proposals in this report are very valuable and should be a central part of the Republican platform.
Excessive restrictions on copyright and patent law are damaging attempts to start new creative enterprises while providing unearned income to the inheritors of artists. Penalizing the future to reward the past reduces the growth of our economy and culture. As a part-time professional writer I've often found myself limited by old copyrights more than I've benefited from the protections on my own works.
Taking the lead on this issue would bring many influential people in the Republican fold. I urge you to study the copyright report.
|Wednesday, October 31st, 2012|
|On Not Trying to Change Minds
I haven't posted much on this election, largely because I've given up trying to persuade other people to change their political stands. As the old saying goes, "Don't try to argue someone out of a position he wasn't argued into." Most people cast their vote according to their sense of group identity (call it "team" or "tribe" depending on which psychological theories you prefer)*. So facts, character, records, issues, policies, plans . . . all irrelevant. Voters go with what their friends and neighbors decide. So most of the groups in the population have been sorted into the red or blue categories.
Which, for a hunter-gather, is a sensible way to do things. The people in your "monkeysphere" are the ones you depend on to survive. So do things their way, stick with them, and chant the chants they're chanting.
It doesn't seem like a sensible way to run an industrialized nation-state . . . but we're healthier, longer-living, and having more surviving offspring than our ancestors so we must be doing something right.
There are, of course, undecided voters. They're people whose identity isn't connected to one of the political factions and haven't been drawn into the debate. So they're going to go with whichever candidate manages to get to their group first. Then you have the "preference cascade" as a few members of the group take a stand and the rest align with them. Sometimes a loosely-committed group will have a few influential members decide to switch to the other side and trigger a cascade to take the whole group with them. Hence the frantic efforts by the presidential campaigns to identify key ("swing") demographics and carpet-bomb their members with propaganda.
But that's a small fraction of the population. So why are Facebook and other social media (such as the Livejournal of 2004) wallpapered with political memery? Well, that's not trying to persuade anyone on the other side, or even the uncommitteds. That's internal propaganda. People trying to convince their own tribe "I'm a good member" or "I should be one of the elders of the tribe" or "Trust me to fight against that evil other tribe!" I suspect some of the most frantic efforts come from people worried about being expelled from their chosen group for some heresy or just so low-status they'll do anything to cement their group membership.
I'm cranky (and autistic) enough to not be a true member of any tribe but I still feel the reflexes. I picked my presidential vote and am emotionally part of that "team", enough to be annoyed by attacks on Romney & Ryan. So I'm avoiding Joss Whedon's anti-Romney video until the election's well past. Then, like decade-old Doonesbury cartoons, I can enjoy it just for the humor without needing to care about any impact it has. But since I'm not trying to impress any fellow tribe-members I'm not posting any elaborate rationales for why my guy's so good you must vote for him or that the other one is so evil you can't possibly vote for him and remain my friend.
I suspect the vitriol of the arguments is worsened by the mechanics of our system. When only two parties have a chance at winning
nasty behavior driving someone out of the opposition party is a net gain. If we had a system that allowed more than one party to hold real power
the activists would be forced to play nice(r) or see a third party benefit at the expense of themselves and their targets.
*For anyone interested in the actual science behind this I strongly recommend Haidt's The Righteous Mind
. It's a fascinating book. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Thursday, October 25th, 2012|
Just took advantage of Texas' early voting window. My votes:
Pres/VP/US Senator: Republican
Uncontested races: Skip. Those dozens of judges can get 100% wins w/o me clicking on them.
Most contested races: Libertarian. Many of those only offered a choice between the Rep and Lib. Guess the Dems are just sticking to their strongholds (other than a few sacrificial lambs for high-level races).
Sheriff: Rep incumbent. No Lib candidate (understandable, really) and the Dems tend to push more power for the unions (such as exempting police from normal disciplinary measures
City Council: Saginaw has non-partisan elections (saving us from being run by friends of the Tarrant County Republican chairman). Three candidates were running. Gary Barber wants to build a bunch of projects. Jackie Nethery was immune to my Google-fu. Chris Barngrover promptly answered my questions on his priorities and background.
So Barngrover got my vote. Current Mood: calm
|Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012|
|The Value of a Vote
Reason Mag posted an essay
arguing that a vote isn't worth anything at all, buttressed by an economic calculation putting the "expected economic value" of a vote far below the utility of sleeping in for an hour. The assumption this was based on was that the only vote that matters is the one that takes the winner to the 50%+1 theshold so the chance of your vote mattering is the probability that it happens to be that one magic vote. But this assumption assumes that there's zero value to votes over the threshold. Reality is different.
Let's take a Congressional election for an open seat as our example. No third party candidates are contesting it so only the Yellow and Purple party candidates are dividing the vote. Let's look at how the rest of Congress will look at the winning candidate based on his/her vote percentage:
50%+1 to 50%+500: Ignore. There'll be a long, nasty recount and by the time the new Congressman is seated the committee assignments will have been handed out. And the recount has a good chance of seating the other guy instead.
50.4% to 51%: Support/oppose re-election. Clearly this winner is vulnerable, so he'll be focused on trying to keep his seat. All votes will be aimed at his district's attitudes. Not available for making deals.
52% to 55%: Work with. This is a solid incumbent who can participate in deal-making as an equal.
55% plus: Respect. This Congressman could be re-elected forever. Don't piss him off, he'll have plenty of chances for payback. He'll have superior leverage in deals.
(75% or more usually means there wasn't a real opponent)
Given those levels an additional vote always has value until the election becomes a total blow-out. If your candidate is leading, vote to elevate him to the next level of clout in Congress. If not, vote to keep the opponent from becoming stronger.
The same logic works for state and local legislatures. Executives also benefit from larger victory margins. A mayor with 58% of the vote can cow the city council into going his way lest he ask his supporters to turn against them.
So vote. Totals matter. Current Mood: calm
|Tuesday, September 11th, 2012|
What I have to say about 9/11 I've already said. My journal homepage has links to all that. Sarah Hoyt has some good comments on the day
And as an author to an Author I have to admire the plotting touch, where the three burly and brave guys who spearheaded the fight back in flight 93 were a born again man, a Jewish man, and a gay man. Can you imagine any group designed to give more heart burn to the enemies that brought down the towers and who tried to use flight 93 as a weapon? Current Mood: melancholy
I can’t either. But, more importantly, I can’t imagine any other culture, any other country, any other place where those three would have banded together, immediately – instinctively – putting aside any perceived differences, thinking only of trying to save the defenseless, laying down their lives for others.
Their lives were forfeit, but they died free men. They died heroes. More importantly, they died Americans.
Surely a nation that produces such men will not perish from this Earth.
We will not go quietly into that good night.
We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave. And we will stand.
|Sunday, August 5th, 2012|
|Another Science Fiction Prediction
I attended the local SF club's movie marathon yesterday. One of the shows was Real Genius
, which I remember very fondly from when I attended something similar to "Pacific Tech."
The big plot driver was a Pentagon plan to create an EVIL weapon that could be used to assassinate individuals. How evil? Well, one Pentagon guy opposes it and another orders him murdered. To rub it in the planned test of the weapon is on a copy of JFK's Dallas motorcade.
Of course, if you replace the laser invented by our unwitting heroes with a Hellfire missile, and the B-1 platform with a Predator drone, you have the main instrument of our current defense policy. Yet no one's trying to fill the White House with popcorn. Current Mood: contemplative
|Wednesday, August 1st, 2012|
Something totally unexpected happened in the presidential race: Romney actually gave me a reason to vote for him.
Up to now I'd been expecting to vote for him by process of elimination. Actually taking a stand for the importance of a culture of freedom is something that earns my vote.
In other news, Texas just finished its protracted primaries. I actually voted for some winners this time, most notably Cruz. Which is a shock considering the 0% I racked up two years ago.* The establishment politicians have to be pretty shocked. I suspect they'll react by pulling a Senator Hatch and tacking sharply to the Tea Party side of the issues. Thus keeping the opportunity to stick their hands in the till. We'll see how it works for them.
* I have a guilty feeling that I may have some blame for Victor Carrillo's unexpected loss, though others have blamed it on him being too ill to campaign. Current Mood: surprised
|Thursday, May 24th, 2012|
|Texas Primary Election
It's voting time here in Texas. I just cast an early vote for the primary. The Republican primary, as there's not much point in choosing among competing Democrats hoping to be the sacrificial lamb in a state-wide race. Or local race. I'd have to move to another city if I wanted to see a Dem with a chance of winning. On to the choices:
President: Newt Gingrich. A prize for a lunar base is exactly the space program I'd like to see. It's the first time I've ever been pandered to and I want to reward that behavior. Fortunately I don't need to factor the actual possibility of Newt being president into this decision.
Senator: Cruz. Dewhurst wimped out rather than confront the TSA, blowing the best chance for real push-back on an out of control federal agency. Leppert has no history to convince me he means what he's saying now. Cruz looks like the best shot at getting a senator who'll try to get the Federal government under some sort of control.
Representative: Granger. I'd love to have a candidate less free-spending than Granger. Lawrence says the right words about that--but he's also calling Granger "pro-abortion" which convinces me that he's lost touch with reality. So a vote for the incumbent this time.
Railroad Commissioner 1: Becky Berger. Adding a scientist to the panel could be a good thing.
Railroad Commissioner 2: Greg Parker. I haven't read his book but if he's written one he's thought more about the issues than the others.
Supreme Court Judges: Don Willett and David Medina. Voting for the incumbents because the challengers aren't impressing me. The lack of information on judicial races always frustrates me.
District Judge 153: Susan McCoy. As above.
County Chair: Jennifer Hall. Internal Republican party politics don't interest me much but I'll vote for the outsider.
We also had a general election for Saginaw. The mayor was uncontested . . . and in fairness things are in good shape here so there's not much demand for a replacement. The challenger for city council had a nice resume but was going on about the changes he wanted to make. I voted for the incumbent because he had the shorter to-do list.
Saginaw also had a couple of referendums on changing the city alcohol laws. I voted yes to loosen up the restrictions on restaurants. This is most notable for the postcard mailed out ahead of the election by the sponsor of the referendums. This is the first time I've ever been asked for my vote in a municipal race. Current Mood: calm
|Tuesday, February 28th, 2012|
Not being happy with either party I'm proud to use this shiny image I found floating about the 'net.
|Thursday, February 23rd, 2012|
|Tuesday, January 17th, 2012|
|Keep Up the Fire
I wrote my Congresswoman, Kay Granger, expressing my very clear opposition to SOPA. She replied:
Thank you for contacting me about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I appreciate hearing your concerns about this issue.
On October 26, 2011, Representative Lamar Smith introduced SOPA, H.R. 3261, in the House of Representatives. This bill aims to provide additional tools to take action against foreign websites that provide access to counterfeit goods.
I understand your concerns with this legislation and the potential negative impact it could have on the future of the internet. I believe that we must strike the right balance between ensuring that the internet remains an open, vibrant marketplace and protecting intellectual property rights. You will be glad to know that H.R. 3261 is not final. This legislation is still being considered by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee has been considering various amendments and making changes to the bill, and plans to continue hearings on H.R. 3261 this year.
You can be sure that I will continue to closely monitor this bill as it is amended and changed, and I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind if this bill comes to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please continue to keep me informed on the issues that are important to you. For more information on my work in Congress, or to sign up to receive my e-newsletter, please feel free to visit the 12th District's website at http://kaygranger.house.gov.
Member of Congress
I read that as someone uncertain about the issue and very willing to ditch her colleague's bill if there's too much pressure. So everyone else please contact your representatives, they're ready to give in if we keep it up. Current Mood: hopeful
|Monday, September 12th, 2011|
|Reflecting on Reflections
I commemorated 9/11 in person this year, not on the net. My battalion was invited to hear our sergeant major give a speech at a ceremony in Weatherford. He praised the young troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a new "Greatest Generation." My favorite part was a reenactor performing Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech. Specifically the line "The gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace."
The commentary I've read on 9/11 this weekend split into two categories. One viewed the terror attacks as a one-off event, never to be seen again, and unrelated to the other wars being fought by the USA (other than being used as a pretext). The healthier versions of this focused on "getting on with our lives" rather than obsessing over a disaster. A reasonable approach to a random disaster, I'll grant.
I'm with the people who see 9/11 as one part of a war, a big war. We want to keep our own way of life. That's an offense to the Islamofascists who think that everyone should live by sharia law and under a muslim dictator ("caliph"). As long as there's an "Islam will dominate the world"
crowd and thousands of people chanting "Death to America" we're going to stay at war. Because they're going to keep trying, and as incompetent as most Islamfascists are, sometimes they will get lucky. So we have to keep the pressure on and keep them fighting as far away from our homes as we can. If we can enable some Arab democracies that could start the culture changing into one that can coexist with us.
Alternatively we could take the Ghengis Khan approach to the war
and keep slaughtering until there's no one left with the nerve to suggest attacking us. I don't want that many deaths on my conscience unless every other approach has failed. Unfortunately if we pull back and let the enemy regroup and try a new attack on their own schedule we may find ourselves reduced to that approach. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Thursday, July 28th, 2011|
|The Chair Moves a Temporary Suspension of Godwin's Law For a Very Deserving Terrorist
Some people are evil enough that I'm tempted to invoke Herodotus's punishment "I know his name, but I will not record it." Alas, Breivik's terrorist acts have already recorded his name too thoroughly to be erased. Bombing. Mass shooting. Plagiarizing from the Unabomber
The distinction between terrorism and crime is that terrorists seek a political end. Breivik wants to establish a new political regime and his atrocity is furthering that goal. I suspect he's modeling his plan on the Beer Hall Putsch
. Hitler's coup failed with deaths on both sides but he gained a powerful platform for his propaganda from it. For high treason and 22 deaths he was sentenced to five years in a comfortable prison and only served eight months of that. The newspapers printed his speeches during the trial. He wrote his manifesto in prison. He kept leadership of his movement by mail. Once he was released he re-entered politics with an even more powerful base.
Breivik's already written his manifesto. He's laid out a structure for his hoped-for political organization. He only faces a maximum of 21 years
in a comfy prison
for his acts. Even if he doesn't get a pardon he'll emerge at 53 years old ready to continue his struggle. I saw a photo of him in the police car. That was the smug expression of a man whose plan is going just as he wants it to. He may have the more modest goal of just trying to get people to read the manifesto. In that case he's succeeded completely. The professional photos (for which he'd prepared with tanning and manicures) indicate he was preparing for world-wide publicity to descend on him.
I'm assuming he's more interested in seizing domestic power than waging the war he talks about by his choice of targets. There's plenty of Muslims in Norway to provide targets for a massacre. Attacking the Labour Party was an attempt to weaken the current political establishment.
Then again, he may have just been looking for the softest target. Liberal political activists are the least likely group to effectively resist an attack. A Muslim group would likely have started shooting back. Even a soccer camp might have taken him down with a mass tackle while reloading. I'd like to think some of the teens on Utoya had the courage to rush him--but with no experience in physical teamwork they would have died alone along with any witnesses to their heroism.
Massacring Muslims would also have inspired a Muslim inmate to shank him in prison. Picking victims without an ethic of revenge lets him wait safely to re-emerge.
Writing the manifesto in English indicates he may intend his new movement to be pan-European rather than just Norwegian. The meeting founding his "organization" was with citizens of other countries.
I expect he's hoping for some of the people downloading his document to start founding their own chapters. Hence the need to award himself rank and decorations in advance.
As an aside--fundamentalist Christians, and other devout but less dogmatic Christians, punctuate their writings with Bible verses and regularly connect their assertions to biblical authority, preferably direct quotes from Jesus Christ. The manifesto is notably lacking in that. If Breivik is a Christian he's likely just a squirrel.
I suspect he just likes the Templars and Crusaders because they fought Muslims, not because they had any connection to Jesus.Breivik's ideology clearly wants to establish an all-controlling state
. His main objection to Islam seems to be that it may get there first. His focus is on defeating "traitors" so he can establish his state and wage war against Muslims.
Now that's Breivik's in his nice safe jail cell what's his next step? I think he's counting on his manifesto and courtroom speeches to create a fascist equivalent of Sudden Jihad Syndrome
. Individuals would pick up his cause and either launch terrorist attacks or start organizing cells of his "Templars." If someone strong personal charisma joins the cause it could start growing at a dangerous rate (as Godwin's is still suspended I'll point out that Hitler's personal magnetism was a powerful element in the Nazi rise to power). Fortunately Breivik is utterly lacking in that as proven by his inability to recruit even one trustworthy accomplice.
Stopping Sudden Fascist Syndrome attacks will be extremely difficult. Like Breivik, someone exercising perfect operational security is hard to detect. This has to be fought at the memetic level, declaring members of "Knights Templar PCCTS" out of the bounds of civilized discourse. This has to be done on the "anti-jihad" side of the debate since the left side is already trying to proclaim all their ideas out of bounds anyway. People with credibility in arguing for the defense of Western culture will have to confront PCCTSers. Stopping Muslim efforts to carve out Sharia enclaves in European cities will also be needed. If the real governments can't win that fight the losers will look for another route--and Breivik will be there waiting for them. The more marginalized the ideology is the less likely someone seeking a cause will adopt it. Stopping groups from organizing will also reduce the number of individuals launching solo attacks.
If we can step on his memes hard enough Breivik will emerge from prison in 2033 or so as alone as when he started his attack. Current Mood: angry
|Monday, July 18th, 2011|
|A Ray of Hope
Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:
Passengers, not screening personnel, stopped the shoe bomber and that guy who lit his underwear on fire. But air travelers are never explicitly told to fight if necessary. Nor are volunteers trained to function as something between a neighborhood watch program and a mile high national guard. We rely on surprisingly costly air marshals when with a little effort, a percentage of the traveling public might be persuaded to undergo training. Certainly they would've done so if asked by the president shortly after the September 11 attacks.
A liberal columnist in a liberal magazine denouncing the TSA (not shocking) and advocating a decentralized alternative giving power to individuals (wow). I've always favored the militia as the best defense against terrorists, in airplanes and elsewhere. Seeing the idea pop up elsewhere gives me hope we may actually manage to get the TSA back under control.
Meanwhile, my kids return from their summer visit to New York this week . . . by train. Current Mood: hopeful
|Monday, July 11th, 2011|
|Saturday, May 14th, 2011|
|Victory Through The Eyes of the NYT
Our goal for the new Iraqi government was to give the people freedom--not that a Jeffersonian utopia was achievable, but giving more than than they'd had, enough that they'd have better things to do with their lives than strap on suicide belts. Well, they've got more freedom. Freedom to make their own choices. And one of the things people do with freedom is make choices other people don't like. Such as painting their buildings funny colors.
Yes, that's what the article is about. The reporter has lots of quotes from former Baath party clients lamenting the bad fashion sense of the newly elected officials.
Pardon me while I cackle with glee.
Iraq's not at the end of the journey yet. But they've gotten to where corruption is a much bigger problem than terrorism. The example they're setting of voting for their leaders is a good example for the other countries launching Arab Spring rebellions. That's how a culture changes.
Oh, meanwhile bin Laden got killed, and good riddance. Probably the toughest call Obama had to make in his presidency so far. I figure at some point he asked "What's the worst case scenario?" and a CIA analyst replied "It could be disinformation from a pro-AQ faction of the ISI. They'd want to ambush an American attack to spark an Islamist uprising against the current government. So we'd have several dozen dead SEALs and a civil war raging in Pakistan, possibly with nuclear weapons on both sides. But we evaluate that as less than a 15% probability." That'll give a man a tight belly until the helicopters are back at base. Current Mood: pleased