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October 30, 2004

Jane Galt endorses Bush

Megan McArdle (a.k.a. Jane Galt) has endorsed Bush for President. She was much more torn over the decision than I was. Her post contrasts the candidates on many different issues and is a very worthwhile read.

October 29, 2004

Local Voting

Here's the final installment of my voting thoughts, covering county and city issues. Previous posts covered state ballot measures and federal and state candidates.

Candidates:

Washington County Sheriff
Rob Gordon is running unopposed. Normally I don't cast a vote in unopposed races, but I like this guy.
Washington County PUD Directors
I'm voting against the PUD. But just in case, with six candidates for five positions, I'm taking the opportunity to vote for all but the one I dislike most. Only three submitted statements, but I can already spot the worst. Steve Geiger's statement reads like a socialist. He's the one I'm voting against.
City of Hillsboro Mayor
I don't care. The current mayor is proud of slowing Hillsboro's growth, but the challenger doesn't give me any reason at all to vote for him. News about the candidates doesn't help me decide, either. I'm voting for challenger Imbrie because he sounds slightly less anti-growth than incumbent Hughes.
City of Hillsboro Council (1B)
Andrews. She sounds pro-business and fiscally tight. (Did anyone else think the photograph of her opponent, Ahrendt, was unreasonably good? She's gorgeous! But that's not enough to get my vote.)
City of Hillsboro Council (3B)
O'Donnell. Only because her challenger Cummings used the phrase "promoting jobs that pay a living wage," which is an anticapitalist tell. Amusingly, he didn't proofread his statement: his educational background section says he has a "BS or BA in (whatever)" [sic]!

Measures:

34-83 (Washington County) RENEW OF LOCAL OPTION LEVY FOR WASHINGTON COUNTY COMMUNITY SAFETY
This one tugs at me. Almost everything financed by this levy goes toward services I consider legitimate functions of government. However, I worry that the fungibility of budgets are such that passing this levy would only leave that much more money available to spend on things I consider illegitimate functions of government. It's difficult to bring myself to vote in favor, because that would in principle be an advocacy of theft, which I abhor. I want government financing to be voluntary, and I would gladly chip in my approximately $75 dollars annually. But I don't want to force my neighbors to pay — I don't have that authority, ethically. I wish this could be financed in a manner similar to how private lighthouses were. I decided not to cast a vote for or against this measure. I won't complain, whichever way it turns out.
34-101 (Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District) PERMANENT RATE LIMIT TO RESTORE AND IMPROVE NATURAL RESOURCES COUNTYWIDE
As environmentalism goes, this is pretty far toward the benign end. They try to use incentives instead of regulations. The tax they're asking for is cheap but permanent. I'm voting against this because I don't consider conservation a legitimate function of government. I wonder if the activities of the District could be carried out privately, instead of through a government body?
34-95 (Washington County People's Utility District) AUTHORIZES THE FORMATION OF THE WASHINGTON COUNTY PEOPLE'S UTLITY DISTRICT
Socialism. Eminent domain. Ick. No.
34-96 (Washington County People's Utility District) AUTHORIZES PROPERTY TAX LEVY, IF WASHINGTON COUNTY PUD IS FORMED
See above, ick, no.
34-81 (Hillsboro School District 1J) LOCAL OPTION TAX TO RESTORE SOME STAFF AND DISTRICT PROGRAMS
No. Education should not be financed by theft. Education should be privatized. It works in India today, it worked here before the public school movement, and it would work here again.
34-90 (City of Hillsboro) CITY OF HILLSBORO NEW MAIN PUBLIC LIBRARY
No. Libraries should not be financed by theft.

October 28, 2004

Cap'n's Voting, part two...

I vote. I don't buy the arguments that it merely sanctions a corrupt system. The United States is still relatively free. Plus, I get a psychological thrill at the opportunity to lay the smackdown on people trying to coerce me.

Oregon uses vote-by-mail, so I get to fill out my ballot at my leisure and mail it in. Thus, I'm spreading out my voting thoughts over several posts. In my first installment I examined the Oregon statewide ballot measures. In this post I'll discuss the state and federal candidates. In the last post I'll discuss county and city candidates and ballot measures.

I'm currently registered as a Libertarian but I'm planning to change my registration to an independent. When the LP is wrong, they're really wrong, and I can't stand it. I don't want to be affiliated with them anymore.

Federal:

President
(R) Bush/Cheney. Bush is the only candidate who scopes the War on Terror almost as broadly as I do. I don't trust the others to pursue it properly. On my Presidential vote, I am a single-issue voter. (Bush's record is otherwise very mixed. I like the tax cuts and HSAs, but hate the subsidies and tariffs and Medicare expansion.) Badnarik (L) wasn't even tempting; I knew I wouldn't vote for him as soon as I learned even a little bit about him.
Senator
(R) King. I couldn't vote for Fitzgerald (L) because he opposes the action in Iraq. Wyden (D) panders to anti-oil-company conspiracy theories and opposes Social Security privatization. I'm not voting for King, who doesn't offer much to like, I'm voting against everybody else.
Representative
(R) Ameri. This isn't an endorsement, it's a vote against Wu (D), who extended unemployment benefits, wanted to increase the minimum wage, and opposes Social Security privatization.

State:

Secretary of State
(L) Morley. This is actually a vote in favor; his qualifications are impeccable. I don't understand his dislike for vote-by-mail, but he's not proposing to get rid of it, so I'm not too bothered by it.
State Treasurer
(L) Shults. It was a tough decision between him and Caton (R). I don't place a lot of value on Caton's experience as a money manager, so ultimately went with Shults on the hope that his party affiliation is a rough proxy for having a vaguely similar ideology to my own. This is the vote I'm least sure about.
Attorney General
(L) Smith. This is also a true vote in favor. Connolly (R) believes in the enormously wasteful war on drugs. Myers (D) panders to anticapitalism, and as a procapitalist extremist I'm very sensitive to that. ;)
State Representative (30th District)
(R) Kitts. I almost voted for Semrau (C) until he exposed himself as a protectionist. I love globalization, so I excluded Semrau. I also couldn't vote for Sander (D) because he thinks it's his job to create jobs and to manage health insurance costs. I think the market can and would do that just fine all by itself if government would get out of the way.

October 26, 2004

Fishing for Compliments

Megan McArdle is fishing for compliments during her guest-blogging at Instapundit:

I'm a libertarian who hasn't yet decided who to vote for, and for the past week or so, I've been offering the commenters on my blog the chance to persuade me. Now that Daniel Drezner has gone Kerry, there aren't many of us undecided libertarians left. The responses have ranged from thoughtful critiques of both candidates' foreign and domestic policies, to one commenter who implied, at great length, that if I voted for Kerry I would never, ever get laid again.

This does give pause. …

And so even if it means a lifetime of celibacy, I'll try to take the high road, and vote my conscience, rather than my … er … well, you know what I mean. Unfortunately, that just makes the decision all the harder.

Sorry, babe — and if you've seen one of her television appearances, you know she is a babe — I'm not biting. But if you're ever in Oregon, I could supply it on demand. Measuring our cross-elasticity is something I would do with interest. Carefully exploring your supply curves would reduce our asymmetric information.

I could go on, but it gets much worse. No one wants to read that.

A Few Quick Notes

I wish I had time to blog each of these properly, but I don't. I'd rather link to them briefly than leave them totally unmentioned.

George Reisman posted a new and excellent article, Reducing Poverty by Reducing Government. He argues very forcefully (and of course I would say persuasively) against the minimum wage and also prounion and licensing legislation. The article also covers many other minor points. There's a whole bunch of commentary on it also, of widely mixed value. Originally I had wanted to fisk some of it, but I don't have time.

Kofi Annan thinks it's "inconceivable" that oil-for-food corruption lead to bribery in the Security Council. He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

I'm shocked, shocked to learn that the oil-for-food investigation is continuing to meet resistance. It's not like there was widespread corruption or anything, right? Surely nothing that would implicate the head of the program, or Kofi Annan's son, or France or Russia or China?

In better news, via the WoC Iraq Report I learned that Iraq will phase out its subsidies. That's an amazing and wonderful accomplishment. Wish we could do it in the United States, too…

Your Cap'n made an appearance in this week's Carnival of the Capitalists. A stock trader enjoyed my article about the productivity of stock trading. Makes sense!

Unhappily, my e-mail isn't working well at the moment. It appears to be some kind of problem on the server. I haven't been receiving e-mail most of the day. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

Finally, a Health Savings Account!

The New York Times reports Health Savings Accounts are slow to gain acceptance:

People around the nation are now taking part in the annual enrollment season for health care plans, but only a tiny fraction of employers are offering the new plans. The plans let workers create tax-free savings accounts to use for medical costs, combined with lower-cost, high-deductible insurance to cover major medical care. Most employees who already have health benefits said in an insurance industry survey that they would be reluctant to switch even if they were offered one of the new plans.

For 2005, Intel will be offering a plan with an HSA, and I can't wait to sign up. Last year I dreaded the enrollment season and out of apathy didn't change anything. This year the choice is obvious. Why?

Health insurance with broad coverage and a low or no deductible isn't really "insurance" — it's actually third-party prepayment for medical services. There's no mystery why health care costs are rising so quickly. Within such a system, there is no incentive for the individual to pay attention to cost. They're spending someone else's money, so why should they care? As a member of the demographic group least likely to need medical care (a single young healthy male), I've been subsidizing everyone else.

No more! Intel is offering the Lumenos HSA plan (calling it the Lumenos High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)) and allowing me to escape this theft, with a glad tip of the hat to George W. Bush. This plan lets me contribute pretax dollars into an account that I own — and unlike the older Lumenos HRA plan (Intel calls it the Lumenos Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP)), there is no balance limit.

One of the comparison tools available to help people compare their health insurance options included figures for how much the various plans cost my employer in addition to how much it cost me. The HDHP is far and away the cheapest option for Intel. (I'm not going to post the numbers, just in case that would get me in trouble.) It's going to be cheapest for me, too, given how much health care I use.

This is a win-win. I get real insurance — that is, catastrophic coverage — and my HSA gets the tax break that the employer would normally get for the insurance costs. Oh, and I won't need no stinkin' referral to see a specialist. Preventative care measures are automatically covered by the plan and won't cost anything from my HSA. (This is actually a minor disappointment from my desire for pure catastrophic coverage.)

HSAs are good. I like ownership. I like being able to invest my HSA funds to accumulate enough money to pay for anti-aging therapies, and if that doesn't work out, for the — no, my — money to be inheritable.

October 25, 2004

Design Guessing Contest

The decision to develop and release the 3GHz Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor (happy, Legal?) in 2003 was (in)famously made via some scribbles on a napkin.

In that fine tradition — and at peril of developing pointy hair — I present the following challenge.

During my recent "vacation" to help my sister move, these complete blueprints for a construction project were developed. What was built?

Click the image for a much larger view. (Incidentally, doesn't the widespread use of the phrase "click to enlarge" disturb anyone but me? Ya'll know that originated on porn sites, and the obvious double meaning, right?)

Write me if you'd like to take a guess about the blueprints. The winner gets… nothing. No, wait, fame — you get fame, because I have literally bazillions of readers. And they think you're sexy. Really. Would I lie?


UPDATE 2004-10-28 05:01:51 UTC: Sarah T. is the winner! She guessed it's a screen porch, which is as close as anyone was going to come. It's actually an aviary. My sister has a lot of birds, and the climate in Arizona is agreeable for them to spend most days outdoors. The aviary is essentially a wall (half solid, half screen) wrapped around the backyard porch. It has two layers of screen to keep her birds safe from wild birds. (There's apparently a problem with hawks in the area.)

There you go, Sarah — fame! Though I guess you were already famous, because as one of my co-workers you've already had your picture posted on this site.

Don't click on that link, don't look at that picture! No, no don't do it, it's too sexy!

October 22, 2004

The Productivity of Stock Trading

Last week I was chatting with a co-worker about economics, and specifically about how the indirect nature of many economic processes makes them difficult to understand. This leaves laypeople vulnerable to simple but thoroughly wrong anticapitalist arguments.

One such area is the stock market. Its economic value is vastly underappreciated and popularly reviled. It is common to resent people who profit from stock trades because they didn't have to perform "real work" for it. Passive income from investments is also widely disliked, at least by people who don't have any.

What does the stock market have to do with economic progress? How does stock trading contribute to growth? Can it be rescued from the attacks of of the anticapitalists?

When I approach something like this I usually start by going to George Reisman's book Capitalism. Beginning on page 464 is an explanation that covers the following benefits of financial markets and institutions in general:

  • They enable non-businessmen to earn a rate of return on their savings. This is a large population because most people do better as wage earners than businessmen, and includes people who are simply unable to run a business (the proverbial widows and orphans.)
  • They encourage the investment of savings, promoting demand for capital goods and labor, as against stockpiling consumer goods or cash.
  • They create concentrations of capital that make very large projects feasible.
  • They promote capital accumulation when investment funds are channeled into productive rather than consumptive expenditures.
  • They increase the savings rate by making it possible to consume without decumulating savings. (Not necessarily by increasing the incentive to save.)

On the stock market in particular, Reisman notes:

  • People would be less likely to purchase newly-issued shares if it were subsequently difficult to trade them. Trading in already-issued shares makes it possible to quickly liquidate all or part of one's investment.
  • Sale of already-issued shares may themselves finance spending on capital goods and labor, as when sold by a business owner to finance the purchase of a machine.
  • Stock prices aid the decision of how a company should raise additional capital, and make it possible for successful companies to obtain capital more rapidly, increasing their competitiveness.
  • The stock market protects stockholders from poor management through the threat of takeover.

To this, I would add a defense of the individuals involved in the capital markets. They do not deserve to be reviled as people who just trade but don't produce anything. Stock trading is productive work as much as is a manufacturing job. Indeed, the fact that traders tend to have a higher income than manufacturers suggests that their work is more economically valuable than the manufacturers. What is the nature of the productive work of stock trading?

Successful investment over the long run is the result of having a more correct prediction of future economic conditions than other market participants; that is, the ability to forsee the direction of (some part of) the economy.

The essence of this task is to allocate investments among the various possibilities — an enormous and difficult job. Which companies in which industries will be most successful? How does their current valuation compare to my own estimate of their worth? Should I trade in their stocks or bonds, or both, and how much?

The most successful investors also see when investment opportunities in the capital markets are not very appealing compared to investment in new businesses. A new business is a risky venture but may have an expected return greater than the opportunities in the capital markets. To say that "the whole market is overvalued" is to say that the most profitable investment opportunities lay outside the current market.

The successful investor need not be skilled in evaluating the potential of new business ventures himself; he may invest his money with a venture capital group which specializes in this activity. It is the investor's recognition that new businesses will yield better than existing ones that is important here, not the specific details of what new businesses would be created.

An issuance of new stock clearly raises capital for a business. Counterintuitively, so does trading in already-issued shares! This results from the fact that trading activity will tend to concentrate assets in the hands of the most skilled investors, who will be in a better position than the lay investor to know when new businesses should be created.

The overall economic effect of trading in the capital markets is to concentrate assets in the hands of those most capable of directing them toward the most profitable ventures, resulting in greater economic growth.

The bottom line is that stock trading is a wealth-creating activity. The mechanism of this creation is extremely indirect and not at all obvious — the trader does not create anything "with his own hands" — but his direction of capital does increase the rate of economic growth, and is praiseworthy.

UPDATE 2004-10-25 14:17:07 UTC: For those interested in a broader examination of this subject, Jeffrey T. recommends Fritz Machlup's The Stock Market, Credit and Capital Formation. The link is a free .pdf of the entire book, courtesy of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. I'll be reading it… shouldn't you? :)

October 17, 2004

"Vacation" in Arizona

I'm in Arizona this week helping my sister move. Blogging is likely to be heavier than normal because I'm not working and therefore will have some spare time. :)

I have a number of things to write about that have been accumulating for a while. I hope to get through them this week.

But let's start with travel news. On the flight down, I was reading the airline's magazine and saw an advertisement for an in-flight entertainment system you could rent. (Not available on my flight, of course.) It could show movies, along with some other things. The selection of movies was pretty disappointing. How disappointing? In the "Classics" category they listed three movies — one of which was Dude, Where's my Car?

October 12, 2004

Oregon Ballot Measures

Does anybody care what everybody's favorite inland pirate thinks of this year's Oregon ballot measures?

No? Too bad.


Measure 31:

AMENDS CONSTITUTION: AUTHORIZES LAW PERMITTING POSTPONEMENT OF ELECTION FOR PARTICULAR PUBLIC OFFICE WHEN NOMINEE FOR OFFICE DIES

This sounds fine. I doubt it will precipitate assassinations by those eager to game the political system.

Measure 32:

AMENDS CONSTITUTION: DELETES REFERENCE TO MOBILE HOMES FROM PROVISION DEALING WITH TAXES AND FEES ON MOTOR VEHICLES.

This also sounds fine. I was surprised to learn that taxes and fees on mobile homes could only be used for roads. I don't see a lot of mobile homes on the road these days.

How did Oregon's constitution become such a mess? I don't see why stuff like this should be a constitutional issue. Yes, it's a great way to tie the legislature's hands, but maybe we've gone a bit overboard? Could we add a tier between the constitution and regular legislation, or something?

Measure 33:

AMENDS MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT: REQUIRES MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES FOR SUPPLYING PATIENTS/ CAREGIVERS; RAISES PATIENTS' POSSESSION LIMIT

Marijuana should be legal. It's less dangerous than alcohol. In Oregon it has been legal to use marijuana for medical purposes, but not to purchase it. This would set up highly regulated dispensaries where it could be purchased.

I don't think there should be any restrictions at all on the production, use, or trade of marijuana. But I'm in the minority, as usual. Despite my discomfort with highly regulated businesses, the text of this measure earns bonus points for invoking the 9th and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. It also mentions the "wholly intrastate" nature of Oregon's program, neatly avoiding all Federal drug laws because they, like most encroachments of Federal power, rest on the Commerce Clause.

It doesn't go far enough, and it's not entirely in the right direction, but on balance it's good and I'm voting for it.

Interestingly, the Libertarian Party of Oregon filed an argument in opposition of this measure, on registration/privacy grounds. I think this argument is weak; as long as marijuana is primarily illegal a registration and monitoring system is going to be part of a medical exception. (It's reasonable within the existing system, just like the Medicare prescription drug benefit.) We'll just add this to the ever-growing list of things I disagree with the LP about. (Sigh, even the fringe party doesn't represent me…)

Measure 34:

REQUIRES BALANCING TIMBER PRODUCTION, RESOURCE CONSERVATION/PRESERVATION IN MANAGING STATE FORESTS; SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSES TWO FORESTS

No! More environmentalist nonsense. I reject all forms of intrinsic value, including the alleged intrinsic value of forests. The great value of forests to man is derived from harvesting their wood to build things — and that's exactly what we should do. I wouldn't be much bothered if environmentalists would purchase the land themselves and refuse to log it, but they get on my nerves when they want to control everyone else's land. (And yes, the state and federal governments don't have any business owning forests; they should sell them off.)

Measure 35:

AMENDS CONSTITUTION: LIMITS NONECONOMIC DAMAGES (DEFINED) RECOVERABLE FOR PATIENT INJURIES CAUSED BY HEALTHCARE PROVIDER'S NEGLIGENCE OR RECKLESSNESS

I oppose this measure. There's a lot wrong with it.

I'm skeptical it would achieve its stated goal of lowering insurance costs. I'm unconvinced that the current insurance costs are "too high" (whatever that means!) in the first place. I think it's dangerous to presume the $500,000 limit is correct. I'm skeptical that fixed limits are appropriate at all.

Let's grant the assumptions, arguendo, that insurance costs are too high and that this is due to large jury awards. It doesn't follow that jury awards should be capped. Maybe doctors are screwing up very badly. Maybe the juries are too sympathetic. Shouldn't we be exploring doctor education or limits on bleeding-heart jurors as alternatives? The arguments published in favor of this measure don't give me any reason to prefer it over the two alternatives I just listed.

I don't claim to know The Solution to "high" insurance costs. But I do claim that this measure stinks of quick-fix hackery and is very poorly argued. That's enough reason to vote against it.

Measure 36:

AMENDS CONSTITUTION: ONLY MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS VALID OR LEGALLY RECOGNIZED AS MARRIAGE

I oppose this measure.

Measure 37:

GOVERNMENTS MUST PAY OWNERS, OR FORGO ENFORCEMENT, WHEN CERTAIN LAND USE RESTRICTIONS REDUCE PROPERTY VALUE

Hell yes. Wow, this is a great measure. It combats theft by zoning and environmentalist nonsense at the same time! Most of the opposition complains about the cost — which to me, is simply another argument in favor. If the state had to pay for taking all the property it takes, maybe it wouldn't take so much!

One phrase in the opposition arguments kept being repeated — that the "government can decide one thing for your neighbor's property and something entirely different for yours." So what? It may sound scary, but it was never explained, and I for one don't understand what business the government has in deciding what happens on either your or your neighbor's property in the first place.

Measure 38:

ABOLISHES SAIF; STATE MUST REINSURE, SATISFY SAIF'S OBLIGATIONS; DEDICATES PROCEEDS, POTENTIAL SURPLUS TO PUBLIC PURPOSES

This one's easy. Government should not be in the insurance business. Voting in favor.

October 07, 2004

Evil Teasing

I am evil. I am also patient. And patient evil is the best kind.

My team at work is one of several across different organizations that have approximately the same charter, working on different projects. One of these sister teams was only recently formed, and my team did the training, so we've maintained very strong ties.

That team has an intern. Her name is Kim. They tease her a lot. It's all in good fun — she's tremendously talented and I've heard, and have, nothing but praise for her. We tease lovingly. And this time it was my turn.

And I'm evil, remember? I don't do anything halfway.

One of the things she gets a lot of teasing over is how many "dates" she has. Going to movies or lunches or gatherings of any sort. They're not "real" dates but that doesn't matter for teasing purposes.

I took her to see Something's Afoot at a community theatre in September. A few days later, I discovered lipstick in my car. This was a bit of a shock to me — as a single man I don't find feminine articles lying about very often — but after a little thought I knew it must have been hers.

"Wow," I thought, "that's a lot of rope. I can do almost anything with this." Of course I'm also honest to a fault, so I felt responsible to return it to her. But there's nothing wrong with being evil in the performance of a good deed. This was a teasing opportunity I could not pass up.

There are two other things you need to know. Kim used to play piano, and briefly thought about taking up practicing again (which I mentioned very obliquely a while ago.) She also just purchased a new laptop computer. The relevance of these things will become clear. I love ambiguous statements with multiple interpretations, so I couldn't resist weaving all this together.

I resolved to return Kim's lipstick to its rightful owner. And what better way to do it than to interrupt her team meeting and lay on the dating innuendo as thickly as I am able?

I started by giving her a greeting card encouraging her not to give up on the piano idea, because that was going to be one of my themes and I needed to keep it fresh in her mind. I planned to interrupt her team meeting the very next day. Unfortunately, I learned that some of her teammates — who would particularly enjoy the public teasing — were not going to be present that day. It was a difficult decision to postpone, because it meant waiting several weeks until I knew all the right people would be present at the same time.

Today I finally implemented my plan. I knocked on the door during their team meeting, went in, and said:

Hi everyone, I hope this isn't a bad time, this'll just take a minute. Kim, I finally found your lipstick, and thought you'd like to have it back. <set it on the table by her>

Silence. Nobody knows what to make of this.

I had a really, really good time.

Sudden laughter. Kim is much more embarrassed than I expected, and turns away.

We should get together again soon to make some more beautiful music together. I'd also like to play with your lap top sometime, okay? <wink>

And then I leave. Kim is too embarrassed to say anything. The tools half of the room is still laughing, the debug half of the room doesn't know what just happened. (Kim is in tools — everyone in tools gets the joke, but the others don't know this fine tradition.)

A job well done. I walk away with a huge evil smirk on my face. It was worth the extra weeks of waiting.

I want to shout out a big "thank you" to everyone who helped me do this; you know who you are. But what would really be praiseworthy is if you somehow keep Kim from retaliating. (That's reverse psychology for "bring it on.")


Lest you think I'm mean, you should know I sent an e-mail apology in advance, though late enough that I knew she wouldn't read it until afterward. It just said that I was sorry and evil, with no details.

October 04, 2004

Foreign Policy Debate

UPDATE 2004-10-06 01:28:06 UTC: Important updates inline.

I know what you're thinking. "If the good Cap'n was at the foreign policy debate, how would he have answered the questions?" What, you weren't thinking that? Well, I bet you are, now — so this is your lucky day!

All my quotes come from this debate transcript.


(to Kerry) Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?

No. I scope this war very broadly and believe the path to victory is to pursue a Reformation in the middle east. A strain of intolerant Islamic fundamentalism has metastasized and is not willing to coexist with any different philosophy. It is bred by religious fanaticism, political repression, and cultural failure.

Reformation will take decades, and the liberalization of many nations is necessary. Afghanistan was the right place to start because it attacked us. Iraq was the right place to go next for a host of practical reasons, including its relative secularity, modernity, geography, military weakness, and lack of allies. Iran has been on the verge of democratic revolution for years but its nuclear ambitions make direct action there extremely delicate. As Iraq changes and becomes prosperous it will be a catalyst within the region for others to change as well, and the foundations of that success (liberty, capitalism, accountability, etc.) will spread and cause Islamic fundamentalism to lose its appeal.

Kerry views 9/11 as an isolated incident, or at best connected to only a few other attacks, and limits his response to al-Qaeda. Bush takes a broader view but his public statements have not gone as far as I would like. He wants to destroy terrorists and promote liberty abroad, which is great, but I do not believe he views the war quite as broadly as I do.

(to Bush) Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?

The wording of the question is unfortunate. I do not believe the U.S. is susceptible to another 9/11-type attack for the simple reason that citizens will prevent it, as they did on Flight 93. I do believe that attacks will be attempted in the future no matter who the President is, but that they will be smaller in scale because al-Qaeda's organizational capability has been severely hurt due to the fighting in Afghanistan.

I believe the election of Senator Kerry would result in more attacks over the long term, because he would not pursue change in the mideast that would lead to permanent victory. Kerry wants to block, Bush wants to punch.

(to Kerry) Colossal misjudgments. What colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?

I am sympathetic to the argument that disbanding the Iraqi military and police was a mistake, because it made it more difficult to reconstitute those bodies today. But I am no expert on such matters.

I do not find fault with Bush's decision to go through the United Nations during the build-up. Britain's help was politically impossible without having gone to the U.N., and the time spent waiting for them to act did not ultimately delay the war. The critical path was our own logistics.

It was unfortunate that Bush relied almost exclusively on the threat of WMDs in trying to convince the U.N. to act. He believed it was true (and therefore was wrong, but not a liar) and if it were true it would have been sufficient cause for the war on its own. But in my understanding of this war WMDs were not a necessary cause for action. In the 9/11 attack itself, it must be remembered, no WMDs were used.

(to Bush) What about Senator Kerry's point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?

As Bush said, "we've got the capability of doing both." We properly went after OBL first, but the Afghanistan effort did not require our entire military force. Tanks, for instance, were not useful in Afghanistan but were very useful in Iraq. As Bush stated, the Taliban is out of power and three-quarters of the known al-Qaeda leadership has been captured or killed, so the organization has been crippled and what remains is essentially mopping up.

I have to step out of my role for a second here and mention a bizarre statement from Kerry: "And we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day, and they're blowing people up." Huh? What's he talking about?

(to Kerry) As president, what would you do, specifically, in addition to or differently to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?

I have no comment about the question or either candidate's response.

(to Bush) What criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq?

What Bush said. When the Iraqis are capable of tending to their own security, we can bring troops home. Loved his paragraph about "a free Iraq" (see the transcript.)

(to Kerry) Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

I have no comment about the question or either candidate's response.

(to Bush) You have said there was a, quote, "miscalculation," of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?

I have no comment other than to say that Bush's response was very weak.

(to Kerry) You just — you've repeatedly accused President Bush — not here tonight, but elsewhere before — of not telling the truth about Iraq, essentially of lying to the American people about Iraq. Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not telling the truth.

I don't believe Bush has been dishonest about his foreign policy. He has been diplomatic, not making some arguments that wouldn't be received well by other countries, but genuinely believed the WMD threat.

UPDATE 2004-10-06 01:28:06 UTC: Changed the corruption link and added the quote below.

Kerry mentioned the State of the Union speech, which was a definite mistake because it was Joe Wilson who lied and British intelligence has steadfastly backed their uranium claim. I do not comprehend Kerry's argument that we didn't "exhaust the remedies of the United Nations". What would "exhaustion" be — another decade of Hussein brazenly flaunting Security Council resolutions? The U.N. made it clear that they were not going to act, and in the aftermath of the war it has become obvious why — oil-for-food corruption:

The governments of Russia, France and China also blocked U.S. efforts within the United Nations to stop abuse of the program, which was designed to get food and medicine to Iraqis through limited sales of oil.

"As the program developed, it became increasingly apparent the French, Russians, and Chinese had much to gain from maintaining the status quo," a staff subcommittee memorandum states.

The United Nations is a corrupt, racist, toothless, ineffective, debating society of terror coddlers. It has negative credibility. I would join the "get the U.S. out of the U.N., and the U.N. out of the U.S.!" club except that without our veto, it would quickly act to destroy the state of Israel.

(to Bush) Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives, 1,052 as of today?

Yes.

(to Kerry) Can you give us specifics, in terms of a scenario, time lines, et cetera, for ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?

Kerry said, "I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United States doesn't have long-term designs on it. As I understand it, we're building some 14 military bases there now, and some people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them."

Oh, but we do! The United States is still involved in a military occupation of Western Europe, sixty years later. Plus consider Japan and South Korea. Iraq will (should) be like that. The U.S. is a benign occupier, and we need permanent bases in the region to carry out the remainder of the war.

(to Bush) Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?

Less likely, and Bush gave Libya as an excellent example.

(to Kerry) What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?

The use of force is justified only in self-defense, and in some circumstances that includes preemptive action.

Kerry's "global test" remark is horrible. I can only interpret it to mean getting the support of the United Nations. This was impossible with Iraq because veto powers were being bribed through the oil-for-food scam. It's also horrible because consistent application would mean government by consensus — the United States' consistent use of its veto power to protect Israel does not pass the "global test".

I do not understand Kerry's respect for the United Nations. It isn't the fuzzy, friendly, well-meaning organization its charter intended. It's a cesspool of depravity, the clearest case against world government that could ever be made.

Bush brought up the International Criminal Court, but his reasons for not joining it are pathetic. The real reason not to join it is because we can't — the U.S. government doesn't have the authority to join it; it's unconstitutional.

(to Bush) Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran? Take them in any order you would like.

Bush said yes, and I believe that's the right strategy for now.

Kerry screwed this one up, saying "I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes." Provide the nuclear fuel!?!? I know what he meant to say — by giving them the fuel we'd have pretext for monitoring how it's used in detail — but Kerry sounded very bad.

Kerry's bigger mistake was saying, "for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea." Bush had already argued that the 6-party talks were better than bilateral negotiations. The reason we didn't talk to North Korea for two years was in order to convince China to come to the table. China wanted us to take care of the North Korean problem for them, and it took two years for them to realize that we were serious about expecting their help.

UPDATE 2004-10-06 01:28:06 UTC: China has powerful leverage because it controls an oil pipeline into North Korea and has cut off supplies in the past to apply pressure. Also, it's possible North Korea was even more reluctant than China to participate in multiway talks. The point is, we got them, they're valuable, and Kerry would throw them away. This is a clear error in his foreign policy and is the straw that broke this camel's back — I will not vote for Kerry.

Bush's best moment of the night was when he said "the minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind. That's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants."

(to Kerry) … the Darfur region of Sudan. Fifty thousand people have already died in that area. More than a million are homeless. And it's been labeled an act of ongoing genocide. Yet neither one of you or anyone else connected with your campaigns or your administration that I can find has discussed the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?

Both candidates expressed their desire to work with the African Union and not intervene directly. Neither mentioned the predictable failure of the United Nations to do anything (as distinct from talking about it and wagging their fingers menacingly).

I believe that state military force should only be used abroad when it serves national security interests. What is the national security interest in Darfur? Darfur is absolutely a humanitarian catastrophe, but we're not responsible for it, and we're not morally obligated to clean it up (contra Kerry's statement). This is a good opportunity for a humanitarian mercenary army funded by private donations.

Kerry's remark likening stop-loss programs to a "backdoor draft" is shameful. Read the comments on this article.

(to Bush) Are there also underlying character issues that you believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United States?

Kerry lied to Congress about his Vietnam service.

(to Kerry) If you are elected president, what will you take to that office thinking is the single most serious threat to the national security to the United States?

Kerry's response was excellent until he started talking about "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons. The battle against nuclear proliferation is abroad, not at home. The United States can and should have lots of nuclear options.

Bush's response included a mention of busting the A.Q. Khan network, which is the most important antiproliferation victory I am aware of.

(to Bush) Did you misjudge [Putin] or are you — do you feel that what he is doing in the name of antiterrorism by changing some democratic processes is OK?

Yes he did. Putin is much worse than he first appeared to be.


That's all, folks. If you'd like to comment on this, don't hesitate to contact me.

October 03, 2004

Tom Cox and the New Budget Coalition

(This is a letter to the editor, submitted to the Hillsboro Argus.)


Are you tired of politicians trying to scare voters into approving tax increases? They tried it with Measure 30, warning of severe cuts to education if it didn't pass. Voters rejected the measure in February, triggering a 5% budget cut.

Education is only 60% of the budget. Bigger cuts in other areas would have allowed smaller cuts in education. If education is so important to so many politicians, why didn't they move to protect it and acknowledge that cuts could have been smaller? Because they wanted the tax increase, and the alternative of "your money or your children's education" is the most powerful way to get it.

The New Budget Coalition's first agenda item is to set priorities, funding education and public safety first, so they will no longer be used as political cudgels. The NBC has many other great ideas, too, and has gained bipartisan support from some incumbents as well as over twenty candidates. One of the NBC's founders, Tom Cox, is running for State Representative of District 29 (Hillsboro, Cornelius, and Forest Grove).

I urge you to support the candidates that support the New Budget Coalition. Together we can make the legislature stop playing politics and start paying attention to priorities.

October 01, 2004

A New Hobby

My excuse for not blogging much lately is that I've been spending a lot more time on music. I finally purchased a USB-MIDI interface and downloaded some music software so I could connect my PC to my digital piano.

This leaves little time for blogging. Which is a shame, because I've read a lot of interesting stuff this week that ordinarily I'd link to and comment on. Oh well.

However, this weekend I'm planning to write my own answers to the questions asked of the candidates in the first Presidential debate. I've only watched a few minutes of the debate (I'll watch the rest this weekend) but I already noticed a few things I wanted to comment on.

Competing for my time will be my desire to try a bit of musical composition based on a melody I heard with some co-workers a long time ago. It became something of an inside joke, and it's my job to carry jokes too far.

Tonight I found a bunch of Metallica MIDIs, so I'll have to split my practice time between Rachmaninoff and Metallica.

Sunday night I'm going to the symphony. They'll be performing Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto.

Tiny Island