|Distributed Governance (9 November 2004)|
I'm becoming a strong supporter of states' rights. More to the point, I'm becoming a strong supporter of distributed government, & I am growing weary of hearing calls for federalizing more & more things.
There are good arguments to be made for national unity on just about every topic you can imagine. Yes, uniformity has its advantages. Chiefly, simplicity.
In many cases, though, the simplicity of uniformity may be illusory. e.g. If a single kind of voting machine was used throughout the US, it wouldn't really simplify elections. The elections would still be managed & executed on the local level.
In a representative democracy, however, the larger the "district", the less power each vote represents. When an issue becomes federalized, it dilutes each citizen's say in regards to that issue.
Governmental decisions should therefore move no higher up the governmental hierarchy than necessary. With equal arguments for federalizing something versus leaving it up to the individual states, it is better to err on the side of the states. Likewise between states & the myriad local authorities.
This way, citizens tend to have a larger influence on a larger number of issues. Furthermore, by doing things differently in different parts of the nation, we can better understand the advantages & disadvantages of different approaches. Besides, a single approach to an issue may not be appropriate such diverse locales as Alaska & Florida.
There is no doubt that the federal government serves useful purposes & that, in a federal system, there are things that should be federalized. We should always be wary, however, of moving to the federal level that which can be handled by the states, or moving to the state level that which can be handled by localities.
|Liberal, moderate, or conservative? (8 November 2004)|
I've noticed recently that...
- In religious contexts, I have been called liberal.
- In political contexts, I have been called moderate.
- In gaming contexts, I have been called conservative.
Which is interesting, because I don't think I really approach these topics in very different ways.
Some might say that this shows that labels are worthless. I would disagree. Labels have limitations, but they can be quite useful. One little word can give you some general idea about my views in a particular context. Sure, it doesn't tell you everything, & it's far from perfect, but it isn't entirely inaccurate. It communicates an awful lot for one word.
|Was it all about gay marriage? (7 November 2004)|
Is it possible that the real issue that motivated the majority of the
electorate in the US presidential election was gay marriage? The exit polls
did say that "morale values" was the most important issue. Gay marriage has
been the highest profile issue of that type of late.
This is nigh unfathomable to me, because gay marriage is a complete
non-issue. Both sides are blowing this non-issue completely out of proportion
& seem to be misguided by nomenclature.
It's like prayer in school. Go ahead & pray in school. Nobody can stop
you. Nobody can read your mind, so nobody can even know you're doing it.
There no issue to discuss.
(If you're a Christian, please note that Christ instructed you to not call
the attention of others to your prayers. Matthew 6:5 & 6.)
An analysis of mine of the gay marriage non-issue is in this blog's
archives. (Someday I'll get around to implementing a permalink scheme so I
could like directly to specific entries...)
I will say that I don't agree with some public officials breaking rules or
laws in issuing licenses as a suppossed form of "activism". If you think the
rules or laws should be changed, work through the process to get them
changed. Don't just ignore them. That has nothing, however, to do
with who should be POTUS.
That's what really boggles me. Even if gay marriage was a issue, it
wouldn't be an issue to pick a president over. Here are the primary classes
of issues a president should be choosen on:
- Foreign policy
- Federal law enforcement
- Federal prosecution
- Federal administration
- Management of the national economy (although presidents are given way
too much credit & blame for the state of the economy)
- Federal budget
In other words, executive powers. You know, the powers held by
the executive branch.
|It's electoral college discussion time again! (6 November 2004)|
It's time again to muse about that old topic: the electoral college (EC)
v. direct popular vote (PV).
The main argument I hear in favor of the EC over PV is that it prevents
candidates from concentrating all their efforts on the population centers.
Firstly, in this election, Kerry took the population centers, yet Bush won
the PV. Secondly, in this election, the candidates concentrated all their
efforts on a few battleground states anyway. How is focusing on Ohio better
than focusing on California? (If they're going to focus on one place, I think
I'd rather them focus on a place with more people.)
A good argument against EC is that, under it, not all votes are equal. The
votes of people in lower population states count more under the EC sytem than
the votes of those in higher population states. Note, however, that states
have no constitutional obligation to choose their electors based on polling
their population. The EC is not direct election. So measuring it by the same
yardstick as we would direct election isn't really fair.
Arguably a good improvement to the EC would be to eliminate the "winner
take all" system. If 40% of a state voted for the Democrat & 60% voted
for the Republican, should not the Republican only get 60% of the state's
electors instead of 100%? No state is obligated, however, to use the "winner
take all" system. Indeed, Maine uses a congressional district method
It seems to me that direct PV election could be an unwieldy thing. It
would turn basically the whole nation into one, very large district. It would
increase the demand for more unity in the election process. (Which I believe
is both unneeded & not entirely practical.) It could exacerbate dealing
with irregularities. So, perhaps indirect election of the president, whether
through the EC or other means, may indeed be preferrable to direct
The most important point for me, however, is that the EC does not need to
be eliminated. Even if you don't think it's perfect, you have to admit that
it works. There's little chance that whatever you replace it with would be
perfect &, indeed, a good chance that anything new might end up being
less perfect. No need to fix what isn't broken.
The thing that is broken is our plurality elections that
artificially reinforce the positions of the two major parties. Every year,
third parties languish because precious few wish to risk "wasting" their
vote. Over the years, whenever a third party has managed to build significant
support, it simply & ironically has become a "spoiler" that ends up
handing a victory to the major party most unlike the third party.
That is the most badly broken party of our elections. It needs to be
fixed, & the fix is known: Instant runoff voting.
|John Kerry (5 November 2004)|
During the primary season, I was wont to lament how none of the Democratic presidential candidates were "serious candidates". I certainly preferred any of them to Bush. (& I would have preferred any of them to Bush four years ago. Indeed, I preferred very nearly any of the other presidential candidates in the Republican primary four years ago to Bush.) Still, I felt certain that within the Democratic party there were stronger presidential candidates who had choosen not to run.
I have to say that, during the campaign, as I learned more & more about John Kerry; I came to have a lot of respect for him. Still, I feel certain that within the Democratic party there are stronger presidential candidates who choose not to run.
(Although, I'm not going to claim to know who they all are.)
Unfortunately, I can't really blame any Democrat for not running this year. Running against an incumbent is always a risky proposition. Losing this year, even making a good showing, would likely mean also losing the primary in 2008. (Which is a bit odd to me, but there it is.) Plus, not only will you not have to run against an incumbent in 2008, the Republicans have no heir apparant, making 2008 even more attractive than 2004. Not only will the Republican candidate have to also struggle through a primary, it may prove to be a contentious one.
Of course, if a Democrat had won this year, it could end up putting the presidential aspirations of all other Democrats off for another eight years, but that would still be preferable to risk ending those aspirations against an incumbent.
|post mortem pars secundum (4 November 2004)|
Well, I suppose I should feel better about this election. A couple of the candidates I voted for won, which I don't think has happened in a while. Of course, they just happen to be Republican judges whose Democratic or Libertarian opponents didn't impress me.
In my county, 48% voted straight ticket. That's just sad. If you can't be bothered to consider each race, or to even go through & mark about a dozen votes separately, you shouldn't vote.
Badnarik got fewer votes than Nader. He's calling it a victory that he got more votes than all the other third party candidates. It is really very sad that we may never get instant runoff voting. How many of those who voted for the Republican or Democratic candidate would have rather voted Libertarian if they could've done so without feeling like they were throwing away their vote? Even if Badnarik wouldn't win with IRV, it would at least give us an answer to that question, which could help elevate issues the Republicans & Democrats manage to ignore.
Indeed, I found the Libertarian party even more attractive this year than in the past. Their positions seemed ever so slightly more moderate.
I was very glad to see that, despite the fun the Republicans had mangling his district, Lloyd Doggett won. When he was my representative, he was probably the best one I've ever had. Not that I always agreed with him, but he was accessible & always interested in knowing his constituents' positions & concerns. His opponent's strategy of hiding that she was a Republican & calling Doggett a "bad Democrat" was pretty pathetic.
The Republican gerrymandering disgusts me. This is not the way to convince me that you're a party that wants to win in the "arena of ideas".
|post mortem (3 November 2004)|
I'm sick of news people asking pundits what Kerry did wrong in order to
lose the election. You see, Mr. Newscaster & Mr. Pundit, there are we
citizens out here & we have something called a "vote". Who wins the
election isn't determined by what the candidates do during the campaign, but
how we use our vote.
Kerry lost because not enough people voted for him, not because he did
anything wrong in campaigning.
They say the most important issue to voters in the exit polls was "morale
So, they voted for a man who started an illegal war. They voted for a man
who wasn't honest about his reasons for going to war until his stated reasons
were discredited. They voted for a man who claimed he would be a uniter
instead of a divider, but who has been just the opposite. They voted for a
man who opposed the 9/11 commission (before he supported it).
They voted for a man who has scared people by exaggerating the threat from
international terrorism, but who opposed the creation of the homeland
security department and who has left our ports woefully vulnerable.
Republicans voted for a man who has never seen a federal spending bill he
A majority of the electorate, it seems, is motivated by emotion instead of
|Metagaming (21 September 2004)|
Above all a player must think. The game is designed to challenge the
minds and imaginations of the players. Those who tackle problems and use
their abilities, wits, and new ideas will succeed more often than fail. The
challenge of thinking is a great deal of the fun of the game.
Gygax, Gary. B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. p.
A charge often leveled amongst players of roleplaying games is that of
metagaming. Briefly, this is when a character's actions are based on
player knowledge rather than character knowledge. The
general assumption is that this is always wrong.
But the roleplaying game was developed primarily as a game. The
player is not meant to be a thespian. The player is meant to be a gamer. The
character is not primarily a simulation. The character is primarily a game
token. Metagaming is neither automatically wrong or automatically right.
Rather it is a important part of the game that, like so many other parts of
the game, must be used in moderation.
The player is expected to think creatively. The player is expected to
learn from his mistakes. The player is expected to apply those lessons in
future sessions. The player is not expected to forget or ignore the lessons
learned because a character died or retired.
Although I certainly don't begrudge people having fun with roleplaying
games in the way that's fun for them. I merely observe that this seems to be
the original intention & that I find it more fun myself.
|Flip Flop part 2: Kettle, this the pot calling... (19 September 2004)|
It occurred to me that a certain politician, who frequently accuses an
opponent of flip-flopping, originally opposed the creation of a cabinet level
office of homeland security. Then, he supported it.
I then recalled him opposing an independent commission to investigate the
September 11th terrorist attacks. Then, he supported it.
Then I recalled his two different positions on the McCain-Feingold
Then I recalled his waffling opinion on the US's ability to win the war on
Then I did a Google search...
I have said that I want leaders who are smart enough and humble enough to
admit they were wrong & change their position. I've also pointed out
that, when looked at in simplistic terms, there can often be the appearance
of a change of stance on a complex issue where there really wasn't one.
But people who live in glass houses...
|Surrender (13 September 2004)|
Today, Oswald Chambers tells me: "Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done. [...] That battle never needs to be re-fought." (My Utmost For His Highest, September 13th)
My own experience is that that battle must be refought daily. Hourly. Minute-by-minute. How I wish it were so easy! That I could make that surrender once & it would last a lifetime. Instead, I keep taking my will back with predictable results.
Or perhaps I've not yet experienced true surrender. I don't know that I can. I don't know that I want to. Do I really want it to be that easy? It is a frightening thing to consider.