Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

US Reaction to Tsunami

Hi Everyone,

Well, as the death toll spirals upward, it is perhaps a bit early to talk seriously about the political reaction to this global disaster. After an initial pledge of 15 million was regarded with disgust, the Bush administration upped the pledge to 35 million and announced a plan to form a long term alliance or "coalition" to respond to the disaster. This "coalition" (catchy name TBA) includes the United States, Japan, India and Australia. OK, so aside from the P.R. aspects of this move, what is its political impact?

I think that this is an concerted effort by the Bush administration to undermine the U.N.'s role in humanitarian relief. Just as Iraq under cut the U.N.'s role as a collective security organization, this is an effort to make the U.N. irrelevant in humanitarian relief as well. I believe this is seen by the neo-cons as an opportunity to further their "Realist" agenda (see the first posting I put up on this blog). They have a strong ideological commitment to the dominance of nation states in general (as opposed to international organizations) and the United States in particular.

I saw an interview with Bob Barr on CNN where he argued that the U.N. was too corrupt to be trusted with American humanitarian relief contributions and that the United States should (and would) focus more on "bi-lateral" government to government aid transfers.

I'm interested in what the other Citizens and our visitors think not only about the US reaction but about political implications of this disaster both with regards to the US and "the West" and in the countries actually hit by the tsunami.


Monday, December 27, 2004


Hi Everyone,

Our intent in setting up this blog was to focus mainly on political issues. However, there are natural disasters that are so enormous in their devastating effect that they are impossible to ignore.

The day after Christmas one of the largest earthquakes the planet has ever experienced (the 4th largest since we started measuring and recording them) hit the sea floor west of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The quake spawned a series of tsunami that traveled at hundreds of miles per hour across the Indian ocean devastating the cost lines of countries from Indonesia and Thailand to India and Sri Lanka to Somalia and Kenya! Sri Lanka appears to be the worst hit. The current death count is over 21 thousand but many of the worst hit areas still are out of contact with the outside world. Also, the waves roll in, destroy everything and then suck it all out to sea so many victims will never be recovered. In countries without good census data, the true death toll may never be known. Over a million people are known to be homeless so far. There are entire islands in the Maldives that have been completely out of communication since the tsunami struck.

Destruction on this scale MUST have a political effect in the countries involved. These are some of the poorest parts of some very poor countries. Regional economies have literally been swept away. Some of the worst hit areas of Sri Lanka are not under government control but are under the control of the infamous Tamil Tiger terrorist group. This will likely disrupt efforts to determine the extent of the damage and deliver aid.

The truly sad part is that Americans will likely never hear of this event again after a few days. Consider the American reaction to 9/11 in which 3,000 people died. That relatively minor event sparked years of paranoia, political debate, nationalism, war and a surge in religious fundamentalism.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Bush, Democracy and Democratization

Hi Everyone,

Bush is very fond of saying that elections in Iraq are an important milestone because "free people never choose tyranny." Well, as a political scientist my first reaction to this statement is always, "WHA!?" I found a neat little website that gives some entertaining factoids about democracy.

Among other things it gives a little list of democratic regimes that have been replaced by dictators. Note especially the following:

Spain 1923 and 1936: a democratic government was overthrown first by a coup d'etat and then, after a brief democratic restoration, by Franco who had widespread support in many regions of Spain.
Italy 1926: Mussolini was elected
Poland 1926: Polish general and dictator, Pilsudski was elected before taking dictatorial power.
Germany 1933: Adolf Hitler was elected
Argentina 1843, 1966: Like many Latin American countries Argentina has had the pattern of election-coup-election-coup.
Chile 1973: Pinochet installed with US support.
India 1975: elected PM, Indira Ghandi declares martial law and rules by decree for two years

The list is longer but I think this points to the idiocy of Bush's statement about democracy and tyranny. Many democracies have slipped back into dictatorships, especially if they have not been democracies for very long. The website has a GREAT page here that gives a little map showing the transitions from democracy to dictatorship in Europe during the interwar period. Note: these transitions DO NOT INCLUDE INVASIONS BY GERMANY OR ITALY!

What does all this show? It shows how the Bush/Neo-con view of democracy and democratization is superficial and largely incorrect.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Economist Says LTG Wrong About Putin

Hi Everyone,

Since we all seem more interested in arguing about stuff over which we have little control instead of commenting on massively important tax code changes, I'll pick another fight.

This week's Economist has a series of articles about Russia's President/Dictator-to-be, Vladimir Putin. You can link to their opinion piece here. There are links to the other Economist articles on Putin buried within the opinion piece. Here is an interesting extended quotation from The Economist.

"That Mr Putin is more of an autocrat than a democrat has been clear ever since he became Russia's president in 2000. Yet after the chaos of the Yeltsin years, many hoped that he would at least bring order, a respect for property rights and the rule of law—and that, in time, these might permit the institutions of a liberal democracy to take root. Such hopes led many European leaders to reach out to Mr Putin, and refrain from criticism over matters as the war in Chechnya, human rights or press freedom....In truth, hopes that political pluralism might emerge in Russia were dashed even before Mr Putin's party swept to a two-thirds majority in Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, last December, and before Mr Putin himself was overwhelmingly re-elected in March. His snuffing out of all independent television and most independent newspapers, his hounding of wealthy businessmen (the “oligarchs”) who crossed him, and his rigging of elections all testified to the controlling instincts that one might expect in a former KGB officer. His connivance in the attempt to steal Ukraine's presidential election, his interference in Abkhazia, a Russian-sponsored part of Georgia, and in Moldova, and his support for the dictatorship in Belarus show that he applies these instincts not just in Russia but across the former Soviet Union, the break-up of which he has publicly regretted. Worse, his instinctive response to criticisms of Russian policy in its near-abroad has been to relapse into general hostility to the West. The West, in turn, has become frostier."

I think this pretty well sums up LTG's position on Putin. In earlier postings he defended Putin more or less exactly the way the Economist describes. At the same time, those of us who were critical of Putin were critical because of the military adventurism and oppression of political opposition and press freedoms that The Economist references.

Comments? Discussion?


Monday, December 06, 2004

Red State Blue State Your State Screwed State

Hi Everyone,

If you guys thought that the Republicans were ONLY about God, Gays and Guns, here is some evidence that they may be just as much about robbing from highly educated, thriving economies in largely Democratic and swing states to subsidize public subsidies and services in their under educated, uncompetitive agricultural economies.

Now, it is well known (or should be) that the states that depend most on Federal handouts tend to be in the Deep South (plus Alaska) and tend to vote for Republicans. States like California generate far more revenue for the Federal government in the form of taxes than it receives back in Federal money. So what we have is a situation where Democrats are subsidizing Republicans' life styles while those same Republicans publicly espouse an ideology of self-reliance and small government.

One of the features of our tax code that takes some of the bite out of that is the fact that we can deduct some of our state income taxes from our federal income tax bill. However, the Bush administration is currently looking at ending that deduction in an effort to raise revenue without appearing to raise taxes.

This move would mostly hit people in Democratic leaning states and swing states. Many of the solidly Republican states have very low or non-existent state income taxes (why would you need a state income tax when you get such a disproportionate share of the Federal money!?). So this move would have the effect of increasing the tax burden on voters in Democratic and swing states without first looking at reducing things like agricultural subsidies (which are at record breaking highs now) or raising the overall federal income tax rate.

This is nothing short of a naked and cynical attempt to pick the pockets of political opponents to finance pork barrel projects for your political supporters. Its nothing new in politics and I'm far from shocked. But as a resident in a Democratic state - who will almost certainly never live in a state with no or low state income tax because they have crappy public universities (Texas being the lone star exception to this because of the oil probably) - I'm outraged.

Keep in mind that if you voted for Bush but live in a state where most of your neighbors did not, you are also going to get screwed by this move! In that case, it serves you right!

I encourage you all to write your congressional reps and Senators. If this gets blocked it will be by the House - where the population advantages of the so called "Blue States" are most important. The Senate favors agricultural interests which would benefit from this.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I have gone on record in this blog saying that I didn't want to see the Constitution amended for anything but ditching the Electoral College. But I have changed my mind. There's another idea floating around right now that I'm starting to like -- amending to allow foreign-born naturalized citizens to become President.

Now I know what you're thinking -- this is the Arnold amendment, right? After all, the most popular website promoting this idea is (The site is also billing it as an amendment for Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, but I think this is just to pretend to be bipartisan). Well, maybe in the short run, this is the Arnold amendment. But that's why we have to do it now.


Think about it. In the short run, passage of this amendment might lead to Arnold Schwarzenegger being elected President. However, that is far from a certainty (especially given the recent evangelical tilt of the Republican party) and it is good for America in the long run. Moreover, this may be the only chance we ever have of getting conservatives on board for this amendment.

So what do we think? Is the possible short-term pain worth the long-term gain?