Sunday Thoughts

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George Will, Trent Lott, and others have been slamming "big-government conservatism." Despite some sneering about "modifying today's 'conservatism' with 'big-government' is redundant" (you know who you are), the fact is that conservatism has had small government as a cornerstone for decades. He who governs least, governs best.

OK, maybe it was more often in words than in deeds. Reagan was a proponent of small government, and increased social spending drastically. Government didn't shrink a whole lot under Gingrich's Congress, though the budget was balanced and the rate of growth was slowed a bit. But under Bush's government, disrectionary spending has tripled and spending per household is at the highest rate since 1944, when America was fighting a two-front world war.

And now there's a Medicare bill that -- even disregarding the complaints about government handouts to corporations, for the moment -- threatens to far exceed the cost of the war in Iraq, which supposedly was breaking the backs of the American public.

Now, as Will pointed out on This Week, Americans are largely in favor of "big government," so the Republicans must be in favor of it, too. Americans like Social Security and Medicare, which account for more than a third of all government spending. But that doesn't mean it needs to turn into a bidding war for the support of the AARP. Remember, when you accuse the government of selling votes to special interests, it is not just commercial entities.

I know that it somehow seems less dirty to buy votes from the AARP and NAACP than from the MPAA and NRA, but it is still harmful, and now that the Republicans are in the bidding too, the price for the citizenry is only going to go up.

Iraq Visit

Some people have actually been criticizing reporters for not reporting that Bush as going to be in Iraq last week. That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read. It's slavish devotion to supposed principles of journalism that have never been accepted by a significant percentage of journalists. Don't make me quote Sports Night to make my point!

Really, there is no journalistic principle that says you should report something just because you can. If it doesn't hurt anything to hold off, and there is a real benefit to holding off -- like helping to create a wonderful surprise for our troops in the field -- then there is no principle sacrificed. It's fine. Breathe a little.


On Face the Nation this week, author Garry Wills said the President lost the popular vote. I wish people would stop saying this. It is entirely false. 1. There is no such thing as a popular vote for President. 2. There is only one vote for President, the electoral college. 3. The President won the electoral college vote.

When people say the President lost the popular vote, they are either ignorant, or intending to impugn as illegitimate what is legitimate (i.e., they are attempting to be deceptive). Otherwise, there would be no point to saying it in the first place.

It is clear that the actual result of the so-called "popular vote" is meaningless, since you can't use what people are voting for (electors) and make it into something else (President). For example, in MA, many people don't vote in Presidential elections, because they know the Democrat candidate's electors will be selected.

Many people realize they are not voting in a nationwide Presidential election, but instead are voting in a statewide electoral election, and they vote differently because of it. I voted for Harry Browne in 1996, but if it had been a nationwide election for President, I would have voted for Dole.

If you are scratching your head and wondering if what I am saying makes sense, it does. Keep thinking on it until you get it. :)

So, we know the fact that more votes were cast for Gore's electors than for Bush's isn't meaningful in determining popular support. So why bring it up? What else could be the point, except ignorance (thinking it means something it does not, cannot, mean) or deception (trying to convince others of it)?

I bring this up every so often, because many people don't get it. I've heard many people -- including politicians -- say the President is illegitimate because he had fewer "popular votes." It's a lie. It's deception. It's nonsense. Using the so-called "popular vote" to say Bush is illegitimate, or that Gore was more popular, is simply incorrect, and saying it makes you look ignorant or deceptive.

I tend to think many people -- not the politicians, but most others -- who say Gore had more popular support, or that Bush is illegitimate, based on the "popular vote," are just ignorant. Most people I talk to about such issues don't understand social science methodology, don't understand polling, don't understand statistical analysis.

[Note that I am only talking about the vote. If you want to complain about the electoral college itself, or the judicial process that was used, fine, but I am not talking about that.]


On This Week, George Stephanopolous interviewed Democratic Presidential candidates Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton, essentially asking them why they think they have a chance to win. On the one hand, I wish they would be asked that more often, because it is tiring to hear interviewers over and again treating them like they have a chance. And on the other hand, it would get tiring to hear them asking them why they think they have a chance over and again, too. Also, it seems there's not much point in assuming they don't have a chance: let the people decide in the primaries.

So, like many other people, I am conflicted. I guess I am glad we have a little bit of what George is doing, but that they don't dwell on it much.

Tony Snow

I hate Fox News. I find it to be exceptionally sensationalistic, with low journalistic standards. That doesn't mean I dislike all the people on Fox News, and it also doesn't apply to one of my favorite news programs: Fox News Sunday.

I admit, it is tilted to the right: the host and "co-host," Tony Snow and Brit Hume, are on the right. Usually, there are three panelists in addition: on the right, left, and in the middle. These are usually Bill Kristol, Mara Liasson, and Juan Williams. This week Brit was replaced by conservative Charles Krauthammer, and Mara (who seems to be dead-center moderate) was replaced by Ceci Connolly (who leans a bit left).

Anyway, despite its slight imbalance in personnel (even without the host, it has two conservatives, compared with one moderate and one liberal), Snow has been largely very fair and balanced throughout his tenure there. It's the reason why you keep seeing many Democrats appear on the show, week after week, because Snow has been an exceptionally good host: one that leans unmistakably to one side of the political spectrum, but asks the tough questions to all guests, and gives all guests the opportunity to state their case.

Ideally, you don't know the political leanings of a host of a program like this (I cannot figure out Tim Russert's political leanings). But even if you do, they shouldn't matter, if the host is doing his job. And that's Tony Snow.

Now, Snow is leaving Fox News Sunday for a radio program. I wish him the best, and hope that the new host of FNS, Chris Wallace, can continue the show in like fashion. I don't know, or care, if he is on the left or on the right (I actually kinda hope he is on the left, just to bring more preceived balance), as long as he conducts the interviews and panel discussions in a similar fashion.

Who knows? Maybe Wallace will do for FNS what Jon Stewart did for TDS. Maybe a year from now we'll forget the name of that guy who used to host before Wallace did.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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