Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Curmudgeon's Guide to the Cali Primary

OK, it's time for me to tell y'all how to vote, although in all honesty, my heart is less in it this time. I am too late for those who have voted absentee anyway. I begin to doubt if it matters much anymore. Last time around in 2006, when I said that if Tom McClintock didn't win, we could stick a fork in California and turn it over, I meant it. And what was worse, Ah-nold stabbed Tom in the back, along with the rest of the California Republican Party.

Frankly, it was a mistake to do the recall of 2003. The real problem with California wasn't Gray Davis. It was, and still is, a cabal of wretched State Senate and Assemblycritters, gerrymandered to stay in power no matter what, also protected by incumbency and by bogus "Campaign finance reform" laws that make it difficult for challengers. The mostly moderate Gray Davis actually used to restrain these radicals with vetoes, before his political instincts deserted him and he decided to sign off on drivers licenses for illegal aliens, which was what set the recall drive in motion.

Samples of these wretched radicals are Don Perata in Oakland, Fabian Nunez (and the rest of the "Reconquista" politicians) in LA, Marco Firebaugh in Fresno, and Sheila Kuehl in San Diego. I could include Mark Leno in San Francisco, but his district isn't gerrymandered; the problem there is San Francisco, plain and simple.

To fight all of this, too many California Republicans, myself included, thought that we could short-circuit the process of fighting district by district and initiative by initiative. All we needed, so we thought, was a charismatic Governor to face the State Senate Soviets and Assembly Apparatchiks down, and so we got one--one who has led us right over a cliff. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it....

Governor Ah-nold has championed an orgy of bond spending that probably cannot be paid for. The long-expected budget crisis has formed up in detail over the last few months. Gov. Ah-nold Schwarzenegger has tap-danced his way to the end of the fantasy budget road. He managed to sidestep a lot of potholes, but his luck ran out: the subprime mortgage meltdown punctured the housing bubble and revealed the disastrous extent of California's shaky finances and a history of irresponsible choices.

Meanwhile, here on the Left Coast, we have seen the Mexifornia future and it doesn't work. An economy built on the "cheap" labor of millions of illegal aliens, which isn't cheap once we factor in the billions of tax dollars in welfare and other public service costs, is not a viable system.

California's deepening budget hole from berserk spending, no thanks to the Governator, simply cannot be papered over any longer. The massive costs of supporting a massive unskilled and often illegal foreign population now threaten basic services.

But oh well, let's get on with the initiatives.

California Initiatives:

Proposition 91: Transportation Funds - Oh Hell YES

This measure flatly prohibits Sacramento from raiding the special revenue fund, of gasoline taxes specifically meant for road repairs and other transportation, in order to paper over their budget deficits. When a watered-down version of Prop. 91 was adopted by the legislature, its sponsors dropped this measure, even after it qualified. Now they are telling us to vote NO. But vote YES anyway. If you want to genuinely protect our transportation taxes from being raided, Prop 91 is the Real McCoy.

Proposition 92: Community Colleges. Funding. Governance. Fees - NO, although backers DO have a point.

This can best be described as the extension of the Prop. 98 (back in 1988) Guaranteed Funding Law to community colleges. Proposition 98 of 1988 mandated a certain level of spending for K-12, for California's State Universities, and for the University of California system. It also mandated some spending for Junior Colleges. However, this spending was based upon K-12 enrollment, not upon community college enrollment. Proposition 92 replaces this single spending requirement with two spending requirements: one for K-12 education and one for community colleges. It also gives community colleges a larger share of the Proposition 98 "pie" so to speak.

Now part of me really hates this and that is why I had to vote NO. This proposed law mandates more spending, guaranteeing the Junior Colleges a growing level of funding from the state's tax revenues regardless of their performance or the state's fiscal condition and priorities. If you like fiscal straight-jackets, you'll love Prop. 92. Mandated spending levels from the General Fund are a bad idea.

NOTE: Spending mandates are different from Special Revenue Funds, which in my view are quite good. If they want to tax our gasoline more specifically for the roads and transit, or if they want to have a lottery to benefit the schools, then dagnabbit, the proceeds from such taxes should be spent only on that purpose. But mandating a certain level of spending from the General Fund no matter what is a dangerous fiscal straight-jacket to put on the body politic of California.

Interestingly, the opponents of Proposition 92 are not just the usual anti-tax organizations like Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Organization, but also K-12 teachers unions, K-12 school administrators, and the bureaucrats of the California State University and University of California systems. Why? Because the Junior Colleges are demanding their share of the education pie and are tired of being treated like the Cinderella stepchildren.

And that's the part of me that makes me want to vote YES. Community colleges have a point--even if mandates are a bad idea, why shouldn't they take advantage of the Proposition 98 mandates too?

Dan Walters, one of the few good writers left at the Sacramento Bee (Ess), has a great article on the subject.

So I am torn. Funding mandates are a bad idea, but if they are to exist, why not account for the community colleges as well.

The community colleges are clearly being shafted, and I totally sympathize. In fact, if I could do it all over again, I would have gone to a community college for my lower division undergrad, and then transferred to Big Name University, saving myself and my folks a pile of money, worries about crime, political crap, and general trouble. I would have received a lot more personal attention as well. At Cal, professors were more often than not busy with grad students and undergrads were just nuisances they put up with.

Proposition 93: Changing the Term Limit rules on Legislators - Oh Hell NO

Tom McClintock says: "Current term limits are a maximum of 14 years in the legislature: six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate - which is why you see so much office-hopping. Prop. 93 reduces the maximum to 12 years in the legislature, but allows them to be served in the same house. Since I've only served eight years in the Senate, Prop. 93 would give me one final term; if it fails I must retire this year. Because I have a conflict of interest, I'm staying out if it." You have to admire that honesty.

What is so awful about this initiative is that it takes away incentive for legislators in the Assembly to behave themselves so they can then go on to the Senate when their Assembly term ends. If you are term limited to 12 years in either House, then why *not* stick your hand in the till and go hog wild?

The Ethically Challenged Twins, Fabian Nunez and Don Perata, thought they would have a free ride to extend their reign in the Capitol. The effort by the ethically challenged to be allowed to stay in office 4 to 6 more years has stalled and now fortunately looks like a loser. Nunez and Perata promised the people of California and the Governor they would have an honest redistricting measure on the same ballot. They don't, they lied--again. These are the same folks who promised the budget they passed in late August was balanced--that wasn't true either. How many times will Nunez and Perata lie to us? As long as we allow them to stay in office. Vote NO on 93 and tell the Ethically Challenged Twins we won't go for it anymore.

Remember that the First Law of Ecology is "everything is connected to everything else." That especially applies to election laws as well as the environment. Term limits came into being because of voters' frustration with gerrymandered districts. Unfortunately, some misguided people championed "Campaign finance reform" laws that only entrenched the incumbents further, because most of the time a challenger has to spend more than an incumbent. We cannot examine any election law or term limit or campaign spending law alone in isolation, we must look at it in the context of all other existing laws.

Proposition 94-97: Gaming Compacts - YES to all

The compacts will bring in large revenue to the state. If you are morally opposed to gambling, realize that a NO vote will not stop gambling and will probably produce worse compacts in the future that are not as favorable. Meanwhile, California needs the revenue--badly.

Frankly, I am not happy with the propaganda pushed back and forth on this issue. On the Pro side, there is the old fallacy that "The Big Nevada Casinos" are opposing this. In reality, the Big Nevada Casinos have done and continue to do well by Indian Gaming, because the Indians hire them to manage the Indian Gaming. The Big Nevada Casinos are the only ones who have the administrative skills, equipment, infrastructure and know-how that make the Indian casinos work. So who is really opposing these ballot initiatives? The Big Nevada Casino UNIONS, because Indian casinos are non-union. But I guess the backers think it's easier to demonize casinos rather than their unions.

Meanwhile, these unions make the absurd claim that "there is no guarantee that the revenues raised will go to education". Well, DUH, because Indian Gaming Revenues go to the *General Fund*. (NOTE: The California Lottery, on the other hand, is a Special Revenue Fund, where proceeds are spent on education only). The fact is that the more revenues go into the General Fund, the easier it will be for ALL programs, educational or not.

President: Mitt Romney.

Why Mitt? A good editorial in the Sacramento Union outlines reasons.

But moreover, I add reasons of my own:

1. He is a former or current Governor. Senators and other legislators just don't make the Presidency, at least not directly. (Yes, being NYC mayor could count as being = governor of a small state, but Rudy has dropped out now).

2. He is someone from the Northeast or West Coast. Just as the Demunists are weak in the South (and it's no accident that ALL Demunist Presidents in recent history have come from the South), we need someone who doesn't write off the Northeast or the Left Coast.

3. He is someone with an impeccable scandal free clean cut personal background. Rudy was out of the running from the get-go here....

4. Because I don't like anti-Mormon prejudice.

I have heard some "I could never vote for a Mormon" remarks--coming from CATHOLICS. It wasn't that long ago that people doubted we could have a Catholic President. In fact, there are still one or two fundamentalist Protestant backwaters in the USA where Catholics are denounced as "spiritual vampires and cannibals". (The whole "body of Christ / blood of Christ" consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation thing, remember?).

Aren't we BEYOND this? Unless someone's private spiritual beliefs affect his public policies, they should not be held against him or her. Which is why Muslims are so taboo---it's NOT because they make pilgrimages to Mecca or don't eat pork or drink booze; it's because they want to *kill* the rest of us. Mormons who believe in baptisms for dead ancestors and other relatives? We can live with that. Mitt for Prez.

5. I have misgivings about John McCain, the likely primary winner if Mitt doesn't pull it out on this upcoming Super Tuesday. John McCain really reminds me of "The Manchurian Candidate".

Is that unfair? Perhaps. But some of his policy positions make me wonder if the communists did a "number ten" on him in the Hanoi Hilton.

The three most egregious ones:

A. McCain's support of the bogus "comprehensive immigration reform", amnesty scam: "OK, I'll build their damn border fence if they want it so bad..." Sadly, too many Republicans DO NOT GET IT when it comes to this issue.

--Partly it is cheap labor greedheadedness among some Republicans, who are out of touch about the law enforcement and societal costs and other externalities, which they do not pay for (or if they do, very very indirectly).

--Partly it is because some Republicans foolishly believe in the Karl Rovian delusion / myth of "Hispandering" to victory. Of course we should support that "talented third" of Latinos just like we support that "talented tenth" of African Americans. But too many Republicans actually sadly think they can win a welfare pandering contest.

--Partly it is immigration romanticism among some Republicans.

B. McCain's support of bogus "Campaign finance reform". Not only has this entrenched incumbents, this has also obscured campaign financing. And it really stopped big spenders, didn't it? Somewhere, George Soros, a modern-day Ernst Stavro Blofeld if there ever was one, laughs his head off.

C. McCain's support of the bogus "Global warming" hoax.

A funny song parody, sung by a McCain impersonator to the tune of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side", sums up the problems many of us have with John McCain.

As does this cartoon (see attached at bottom):

So they say that Romney has flip-flopped? Which is another way of saying that conservatives can bully Romney into being conservative but can't bully McCain. Advantage: Romney.
"Now say "border wall",' Romney. Say it. Nope, louder. I said, LOUDER. Good. Now tell me again that you're opposed to global warming regulations. Good, but this time without whimpering. Heh. You can go make me a sandwich now."
Nevertheless, in spite of any GOP infighting, I am remarkably chipper about the GOP candidate's prospects for November. Why? Because in spite of all infighting, there is a remarkable amount of pragmatism.

Two examples: Televangelist Pat Robertson and "Minuteman" immigration controller Jim Gilchrist.

Jim Gilchrist endorsed Mike Huckabee for the same reasons that Pat Robertson endorsed Giuliani. Gilchrist wants a real border solution, but he thinks (realizes?) he has to get the Jesuslanders who have Christian guilt ("oh, we are so rich and the Mexicans are so poor, boo hoo hoo") on board if he wants a real border solution. Likewise, Pat Robertson thinks (realizes?) he has to get the somewhat sinful businesspeople (some of whom may have had abortions or their children did, and many of whom have had messy divorces) on board if he wants to get any social conservatism at all.

Which is funny, given that both Robertson and Gilchrist have been demonized by the liberal media as "extremists". But that's the liberal media for you.

In reality, there is much more pragmatism in the GOP than we realize, thank goodness.

The only exception to this seems to be the Wall Street Journal greedheads, who insist on border chaos no matter what, cheap gardeners and maids being paramount to them, screw the middle class.

And despite all my misgivings about John "The Manchurian Candidate" McCain, I will still prefer him by far over either Hillary "Nurse Ratchet / Mommie Dearest" Clinton or Barack Obama!

Their campaign platforms are friggin identical: socialism, sodomy, and surrender,the only differentiation between the 2 assclowns is color, gender, and choice of hair care products.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Al-Qaeda in Iraq: New York Times STILL can't admit it

Once again, the New York Times tries to avoid acknowledging that al Qaeda in Iraq is connected with al Qaeda everywhere else. Here's a particularly inviting example, from yesterday's paper:

Some critics contend that estimates of insurgents who actually belong to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which American officials say is overwhelmingly Iraqi but has foreign leadership, tend to be overstated. Many insurgents who are lumped into the group, they say, are Sunnis who simply need money or who are angered by the sectarian bias of Iraqi security forces, but who have no wider allegiance to al Qaeda.
If "many" insurgents who are Iraqi are wrongly "lumped into this group," isn't the obvious conclusion that al Qaeda in Meso-whatever is underwhelmingly Iraqi?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Interrogation: Why a Democrat Congress is dangerous

In the primaries, this has come out:

It's been eclipsed in the news for just a moment by all the hubbub over the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire presidential primary, but earlier you may have noticed the latest suggestion in Congress and Medialand over how to conduct the war on terror: Go after the good guys.

Honest. Not the enemy. But the CIA. Not its chief but the lower-downs. Maybe even the grunts. The foot soldiers who do the real work, take the real risks, and who get their hands and maybe even their consciences dirty. Because they've got a real war for fight, not another Power Point presentation to prepare or computer projection to analyze.
These agents are the latest targets of the second-guessers in Congress, in the media, and in general. All of these worthies sound shocked — shocked! — at what Americans on the front lines in this war on terror may have done for no better reason than to protect the rest of us.

It turns out that our people may actually have poured water down some innocent terrorist's nose in an attempt to make the subject think he's about to drown unless he tells them what they want to know. Like the plans for the next 9-11.

They may even have mistreated some real innocents, for identities do have a way of getting confused in wartime — just ask anybody who's ever been subjected to "friendly" fire. This is the nature of the world in which we live. Let's not pretend that the choices to be made in fighting this war or any other are simple.

What a difference a few years can make. In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, leading figures in Congress who were briefed on the CIA's anti-terrorist tactics were demanding more action against those who had attacked this country, not less.

The leaders of the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress — the so-called Gang of Four — were thoroughly briefed on the tactics being used back then, including waterboarding. Their response? To quote the testimony of Porter Goss, who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee before he was director of the CIA, "the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

When this bipartisan set of congressional leaders — which included Nancy Pelosi, now speaker of the House — got an hour-long virtual tour of the CIA's overseas prisons, and the harsh tactics used there, including waterboarding, no objections were raised.

Indeed, according to officials present, at least two of the lawmakers asked the CIA to push harder for information. The official conducting the briefing "was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," to quote one of the participants in a meeting held in September of 2002.

But that was then. The events of September 11, 2001, were still fresh in the nation's memory. But there hasn't been another successful terrorist attack since, at least not in this country. And as the danger seems to diminish, we grow more sensitive to the civil liberties of those who would destroy our own — or rather just destroy us, period.
The tapes of those interrogations, including waterboarding, now have been destroyed, for they would have made a great anti-American propaganda weapon once they were leaked, as surely they would have been one day. And the tapes might also have revealed the identities of those American agents.

So now, years later, some congressmen are in the usual medium-to-high dudgeon over the tapes' destruction. And a formal criminal investigation is under way lest any signal service to the nation's security go unpunished. In short, the country's anti-anti-terrorists are in a snit.

In a curious way, all this criticism is a tribute to the current administration. How's that? Well, imagine that there had been another successful terrorist attack on these shores that claimed still more thousands of lives, even tens of thousands if the more grandiose ambitions of al-Qaida were fulfilled. Would anybody now be outraged at the possibility that our intelligence agencies might not be fighting the terrorists by Marquess of Queensberry rules?

Unlikely. On the contrary, CIA officials would doubtless be called on the carpet, and accused of not doing nearly enough to squeeze information out of the terrorists who had fallen into our hands.

But no major terrorist attack having occurred in this country since September 11, 2001, we're all supposed to be terribly upset that those plotting to kill as many Americans as possible might have been denied all the rights, privileges and protections ordinarily accorded fully accredited, properly uniformed, legitimate prisoners of war.

We have become so used to blurring the distinction between legal and illegal combatants, between prisoners taken in conventional battle and cutthroats out to murder innocent civilians of all ages, that it's almost assumed now that terrorists are entitled to be treated according to the Geneva Convention — even though it spells out certain requirements for claiming the rights of a prisoner of war, like being responsible to a sovereign government and fighting in uniform.

This debate over waterboarding is largely abstract now, since the CIA abandoned the practice a few years ago. Once it became public knowledge that waterboarding really isn't designed to be fatal, but rather to convince the prisoner that it is, and that he's about to be drowned unless he tells all, the tactic largely lost its usefulness. But before it did, the technique is said to have played a crucial role in extracting vital information from top al-Qaida operatives like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is now in custody at Guantanamo, thank goodness.
Though he refused to cooperate with American intelligence for months after his capture, it's said that it took only a minute or so under water for KSM, as he's known in the official records, to start talking. The intelligence he provided was instrumental in the capture and/or conviction of at least six major terrorist suspects and the prevention of major attacks on civilian targets in this country and abroad, including a scheme to send the Brooklyn Bridge crashing into the East River.

Knowing what we now know, would we really risk the lives of thousands of innocents rather than permit American operatives to use their most effective technique against a mass killer like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who once bragged about directing the September 11th attacks? (And claimed to have personally beheaded Daniel Pearl, too.)
As for any politician who takes the high ethical ground, at least in his own opinion, and speaks glibly of going after those American agents who have used harsh tactics against terrorists, he should be asked: How many innocent lives would you be willing to risk in order to spare a Khalid Sheik Mohammed a minute of stark fear?

That's an ethical question, too. For we are all responsible not only for what we do but for what we fail to do, and that includes failing to protect the innocent or our own intelligence agents.

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Fairness", Monkeys, and Liberals

Lori Borgman reports on a revealing study:

Capuchin monkeys have been playing a "no-fair" game at Emory University.

Researchers trained the monkeys to take a small rock and hand it to a human in exchange for a reward. If all the monkeys received the same reward, a slice of cucumber, everything was cool. If some received cucumbers and some received grapes, the monkeys screamed, "No-fair!" (although it sounded a lot more like "Eeeee-eeeee! Eeee!") and bedlam broke loose.

You have to wonder if the researchers got the idea for this study from their own kids.
My personal experience has been that the "no-fair" game is not something to cultivate, but something to eradicate.
In fairness (pardon the pun), I don't think it *can ever* be eradicated, but it can be explained. Sometimes the price of grapes rises and so you can only afford cucumbers. Sometimes the demand for your product or service just isn't there like it once was. Sometimes good luck and bad luck happen.

I think Lori Bergman understands this, because she goes on to give rational explanations for "inequality" to her little monkeys:

"No, your sister is not the favorite because she gets to sit in the front seat and you have to sit in the back seat with a cooler, an emergency car kit and Grandma on your lap. Your sister is just faster, that's all."

"No, I don't think the lady gave you a smaller ice cream cone because she doesn't like boys. I think she saw you smash your face and hands and tongue against the window and make a hideous face before we came in the store."

"No, it's not fair that there aren't as many baby pictures of you in the photo album because you were the last one born and Dad and I ran out of energy. Get the camera and I can take some now. You're 22? When did that happen?"
But the leftists of academia will have none of that:
Researchers, who frequently swing from a different tree, see whining and complaining over "no-fair" as a mark of advanced development.

Frankly, I find it impressive that researchers can study such ugly behavior and make it all sound so sophisticated. So progressive. So insightful.

"Jones, look at that. No. 3 is furious over getting a cucumber instead of a grape. He is leaping over to No. 5, baring his teeth, and sinking them into No. 5's flesh. Fascinating! What remarkable thought processes! "

Let similar behavior take place in a grocery store and a parent's thought is never, "What remarkable thought processes!" but rather, "How can I stop these chimps from killing one another without creating a scene and being followed by store security?"
Let similar behavior take place in society, and the Left will rationalize the criminals behaving like savages and let them off. That isn't very fair to the victim, now is it? But hey, like Reginald Denny, he's an unimportant working class white male, so the liberals don't care. You would think they would at least patronize him and give him a welfare check too.

Or like the hardscrabble Korean entrepreneurs of Los Angeles, they are "exploiters", say the leftists, who charge higher prices to the local African American denizens at their convenience stores and thus deserve to have them burned down. Oh, but that's what a "convenience store" is now, isn't it? There's also a premium for opening a store in a high crime area.
What I'm waiting for is the day when monkeys do research on humans. "Look at that, Cheeta, they're fighting over some piece of paper called a paycheck. Dude 2 says Dude 3 got a bigger one. Wow! Dude 2 is turning red and his eyes are bulging! Look at Dude 3 scream. What apes!"

And then the researcher monkeys laugh their little heads off, throw cucumber slices at the humans and eat more grapes.

Perhaps it is useful to know that bickering over who got the bigger and better may actually be a sign of advanced intellect.

Now, when you pass out birthday cake and one slice is slightly larger than the rest and a kid protests, you can simply comment on how brilliant the child is and then tell said child to cut out the monkey business and eat the cake.

I always considered hissy fits over "no-fair" something that fell into the category of unattractive behavior. I am stunned to learn that researchers believe such shenanigans are a sign of evolutionary progress.
But of course they do. Leftist communists have taken over academia.