Tuesday, November 23, 2004

We are not alone!

It is with great joy that I found out about the Truman National Security Project.

This is exactly the sort of thing I've been going on about! Exactly the sort of thinking that needs to gain more and more currency within the Democratic Party! For far too long we've conceded the entirety of the national security issue to the Republicans. For far too long Democrats have run like scalded dogs from anything in uniform.

Well, no more.

Sign up for their newsletter today! I already have.


Yes, he is most certainly un-PC. The rankest, most scurrilous sort of Dead White Male imaginable.

And for all that, he was a keen observer of the events and issues of his day.

Rudyard Kipling, in my opinion, deserves more respect than he gets these days. Much of what he wrote about is still relevant today. Take society's treatment of soldiers, for example. While we do treat our soldiers better than the Brits of his day treated poor old Tommy Atkins, it is still very fashionable for the intelligentia to sneer at soldiers and soldierly virtues. Some things have changed little since his day. You see very few educated rich mens' sons in the Poor Bloody Infantry.

From time to time, I'll share some of my favorites. This is one of his best-known, and shares its title with a famous bit of music by The Who:

"Tommy", by Rudyard Kipling

I WENT into a public 'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, " We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, go away " ;
But it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, wait outside ";
But it's " Special train for Atkins " when the trooper's on the tide
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's " Special train for Atkins " when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap.
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, 'ow's yer soul? "
But it's " Thin red line of 'eroes " when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's " Thin red line of 'eroes, " when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's " Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's " Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! "
But it's " Saviour of 'is country " when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An 'Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

Giving Thanks

It's two days early, but I'll be away on Thanksgiving, so here we are anyway ...

Even with all that's up in the world, I have a great deal to be thankful for.

I am thankful to be an American. Yes, the election didn't go our way. But it's not THE election, or the LAST election, there'll be another around presently. In two years, we elect the entire House of Representatives again, and two years after that, the President, and quite a bit can happen in those four years. And none of us are going to be put in prison for having supported the wrong candidate. We are still free to voice our opinions, and to work for change where we see the need for it. We are free to live and work more or less where we please. And even though some of us are not as free as we'd like to be, we are collectively more free than any other people on Earth. Our freedoms are the envy of the world, whether they want to admit it or not. And I am very, very thankful to have been born an American.

I am thankful for my family. I have a wonderful wife, and a sweetheart of a step-daughter. They've been there for me in some very tough times lately, but we've hung together, and our love has brought us through. I honestly do not know where I would be today without their love and care. My life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

I am thankful for my work. I have a challenging job that calls out my best efforts, one that builds on everything I've learned up to this point, and goes farther still. I have stimulating colleagues, and worthwhile tasks to fill every working day.

I am thankful for my church. They, also, have given my family a great deal of support during trying times. They stood there at my side when my mother sickened, and then passed away. Truly, they showed me the love of Christ in their actions. They are wonderful people, and I am glad to call them my brothers and sisters.

There's so much more, so many blessings, that I have neither the time nor space to list them all here. All of you who read this can probably say the same. We are greatly blessed, in large ways and small, and it is all to the good for us to take some time this Thursday and reflect on our inestimable riches.

Truly, I live a blessed life. And I am thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

You Never Miss The Water ...

Part of the problem with what passes for energy policy in this country is that so little real thought has been given to what is liable to happen when the oil runs out.

Not that it actually has to run out for all sorts of interesting things to happen. A large fraction of the world's easily available oil lies under the territory of people who hate our guts. Let's leave aside for the moment the issue of whether or not they have good reasons for doing so. It is sufficient for us to note that they would, in fact, greatly enjoy making balloon animals out of our intestines.

That said, let us make the logical observation that it is probably a poor idea for so much of our energy economy to be dependent on the good will of people who hate us.

But here's the problem: in order to get off of foreign oil, we have to find something that will replace oil watt for watt and erg for erg. There are two realistic answers, one short-term and the other long-term. The ugly truth is that real energy independence is liable to mean embracing something the environmental Left has spent a lot of time demonizing: nuclear power.

Mind you, there's a lot wrong with the nuclear power industry in this country. But I do believe that those problems can be ameliorated, if care is taken in planning and execution.

The first step, task the Navy with the job of designing and certifying ONE land-based nuclear power reactor for civilian power generation. This design will be pre-certified for all of the reasonable environmental conditions to be had in the United States. The Navy has had about a half-century's experience with shipboard nuclear reactors. For the most part, Navy veterans do not glow in the dark. One would assume that (a) the Navy has had a lot of time to perfect their technique and expertise, and (b) that designing and building a reactor that does not have to move around is easier than designing and building one that does.

The second step is to build these all over the place. No new oil-fired plants will be certified, ever. These will take their place. The need is two-fold: first, to replace the generating capacity currently filled by oil-fired plants; second (and probably more importantly) to supply the grid with enough power to juice up electric cars to replace the gasoline-powered cars currently on the road. That's one issue we currently have regarding batteries or fuel cells for automobiles. There just isn't enough generating capacity to support an instant conversion to electric motor technology. But if we start beefing up the grid, the generating capacity will be there by the time the electric cars are there.

As to the issue of radioactive waste ... It's not as much of an issue as some would like you to believe. Short-term waste and long-term waste need to be handled differently. Short-term waste consists of isotopes with short half-lives, which tend to be more energetically radioactive. The best way to handle that sort of stuff is just to keep it far away from population centers, and out of the ground water. After a few years, it becomes like long-term waste. That consists of isotopes with long half-lives, which tend not to be so energetically radioactive. They emit mostly alpha and beta particles, which can be stopped with a quarter-inch of steel. So: grind up the long-term waste, and seal it in glass or ceramic, which will keep it from reacting chemically with any water it comes in contact with. Then, seal it in a steel drum, and store it in a deep hole somewhere.

That's the short-term energy solution. Long-term, you'd like to have something that doesn't generate quite so much nuclear waste. The long-term plan is to devote enough resources to bring Inertial Confinement Fusion technology to practical fruition. The problems involved in doing so are mostly of a technological nature. We don't have to develop any new physics to make it work, just a few bits of new technology here and there. It's an engineering problem, not a science problem; the sort that can be solved just about any time we really care to.

Once that problem's cracked, we're golden. Gasoline, fuel oil, and diesel require access to oil, which has the source problem we started with. On the other hand, to make lithium deuteride -- one possible ICF fuel -- all you need are rocks and water. We got plenty of both.

If we start now, we've got the expertise, knowledge, and resources to think and work our way out of the fix we find ourselves in. The longer we wait, the fewer our options will be, and the nastier those options will get.

Besides, wouldn't it be simply glorious to be able to tell those primitive cretins what we really think, and then be able to tell them to drink their damn oil?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Smells Like ... Federalism?

The Stranger has an interesting bit on the 2004 Election. Starting from the same map referred to in the post below, they arrive at the concept of the Urban Archipelago.

My first impression was distinctly unfavorable. On the face of it, this is a doctrine of abandonment, retreat, and surrender; they entirely give up the goal of being a national party. If the Democratic Party wants to continue its luge ride to oblivion, this is exactly the sort of thing to pursue. Also, I'm not a fan of the tone used in the piece. It drips with hatred, condescension, and about a half-dozen other negative and unhealthy emotions.

On the other hand, it isn't necessarily wrong to have a party of unabashed urban advocates. There's a place in American politics for that sort of thing.

And ... on reflection, there are some good ideas there, too. Something I hadn't expected to come from the Left. Just the faintest whiff, mind you, but nevertheless it carried the scent of ... Federalism?

Here's a thing to understand about rural Americans: they loathe, hate, absolutely detest other people minding their business. I suppose we all do. But nonetheless, what upsets them as much as anything about the current state of affairs is the extent to which good-intentioned busybodies are always mucking about in their lives. In fine, they don't much like city folk telling them what they can and can't do.

And yet, we have to live with each other. It's not like one side or the other is going to up and move to another country, or suddenly vanish to reappear on Mars or something.

So what do we do? We go back to the basics.

You see, democracy is an empty word, a sham, a LIE, if it does not mean government by the consent of those governed. A logical consequence of that is that most laws need to be made at as local a level as is practical. That's the essence of old-school Federalism: each level of government is reasonably sovereign within its own bailiwick. You need to have some uniformity of laws, but beyond that, people need to be able to live under laws that they've consented to, more or less.

Naturally, there has to be some broad-based agreement on basic human rights. We can't allow any part of America to slide back into Jim Crow. We can't allow any part of America to slide into barbarism. But we can, at least, agree that part of what diversity is all about is that there are different ways to order one's lifestyle. We can, at least, come to what Herman Kahn used to call a "second-order" agreement: an agreement on the areas where we just have to agree to disagree.

The best part of what the Stranger is proposing is that rural America and urban America can each live under laws that fit their needs. I suspect that there could even be an interesting synergy, here. Without the constant drive for national gun control laws and the perceived enviro-nannying, rural Americans might begin to vote their real economic interests again.

Give them the freedom to live under laws of their own choosing, and they might well be persuaded to come back. We could re-build the New Deal coalition. We could actually run, and win, as a national party again.

It might be worth a try.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Election 2004 Post-Mortem

A Retro-Democrat Manifesto

November 5, 2004

The recent electoral defeat is not the most disturbing thing. The distribution of votes for and against the Democratic nominee for President is the disturbing thing. Looking at a map of the 48 contiguous United States that has each county colored by its electoral choice, a disturbing trend becomes immediately obvious.

The almost unbroken sea of red for Republican is only sprinkled here and there by blue for Democrat.

This is not the picture of a national party. This is barely a picture of a regional party. Worse yet, the regions where the Democratic Party still shows strength are losing population. We are already being marginalized. A few more election cycles like this one, and we will become essentially irrelevant. This slide can be stopped, even reversed, but action must be taken now.

We must recover our old place as the champion of the working man and the middle class. This means that we must have values that are within shouting distance of those espoused by the working man and the middle class. We cannot win middle America if we are exclusively the party of the urban intellectual and the academic ideologue. And this is what the electoral map indicates.

We have values that middle America can not only respect, but embrace. These values were espoused by the last truly great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Those values are encapsulated in his State of the Union address in 1941:

1) Freedom of speech and expression,

2) Freedom of religion,

3) Freedom from want,

4) Freedom from fear.

These four points, now famous as the Four Freedoms, are the cornerposts of what I call the Retro-Democrat Manifesto. It is a repudiation of the politics of cowardice. It is an embracing of the call to heroism sounded by FDR on the eve of World War II, and by JFK at the height of the Cold War. We reject the politics of selfish ease. We embrace the call to pay any price, bear any burden, and endure any hardship in the cause of liberty.

Freedom of Speech and Expression

There is a reason why the First Amendment is the First Amendment. Freedom of information is the fundamental civil right. Free dissemination of information is absolutely vital to a healthy democratic society. Free interchange of all ideas in the national marketplace of ideas ensures that only the best ideas gain currency. This is the ideal that we support. We do not believe that trying to hide or banish hateful or harmful thoughts is beneficial. Foul things grow best in dark, damp conditions; clean and lovely things flourish in the wholesome light of the midday sun. Let every citizen say what he or she will. It is only in this way that we can lay open the pits of evil, exposing them to the searing light of truth.

To this end, we will support the right of everyone to express their opinions, even when we disagree with them. We will let everyone have their say. We will confront hateful or evil speech with truth, not with efforts to stifle or silence. The truth is always its own best defense.

Freedom of Religion

We are a nation founded by refugees from the Wars of Religion that wracked the European continent in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. We fully believe in bringing this attitude full-force into the Twenty-First Century. Every faith and creed has its place in our national marketplace of ideas. Every man and woman has an inalienable right to worship in any way they see fit, or not at all if that is what their conscience dictates. We will not use the apparatus of the State to advance any faith or creed over another, nor will we use it to suppress the same. It is not the purpose of the State to help or to hinder. All faiths are to be treated with respect and honor, never with contempt or disdain.

To this end, we will attempt to be as fair and even-handed as possible. But we also recognize that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. You do not and have never had a right never to be offended. You must respect your neighbor's right to practice his faith, even as you practice yours.

Freedom from Want

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Far and away the greatest prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." One of the greatest joys a man can know is the satisfaction of earning his bread by the sweat of his brow. We believe that everyone who wants to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay should be able to do so. While we are interested in prosperity all over the world, we are called first to look after our own. Therefore, we should see to it that all of our own are gainfully employed before we start sending work overseas. That said, we should also be mindful of those who are unable to work, or have otherwise fallen on hard times. Even as each of us has a responsibility to all of us, all of us collectively have a responsibility to each of us. We are rich enough that none of us should be desperately poor. No one should go to bed hungry, or go without basic medical care.

To this end, we must ensure a robust, vibrant economy where everyone can work that wants to. We should not take more than we must for the maintenance of our government. The government must be good and faithful stewards of the public's money. We must pay for today's projects with today's money. And we should see to the needs of the least of us, who are unable either by ability or circumstance to see to their own.

Freedom from Fear

Both at home and abroad, we seek a world where people can live out their lives and raise their families without the scourge of fear. At home, crime should be controlled and criminals removed from the general population. The root causes of criminal behavior are open to discussion, but leaving criminals free to roam the streets is irresponsible and unacceptable. Punishment of crimes should be swift and certain. Abroad, America needs to be strong. We must have a strong defense. We are a maritime trading nation, whose lifeblood depends on access to foreign markets. To this end, a strong Navy is vital. To this end, a strong Air Force is vital. The tyrants of the world must have good cause to fear the might of the American Eagle. This fear will restrain their hand, and while it will not keep them from coveting that which is their neighbor's, it will probably keep them from acting on their appetites. And we must be ready at need to put aside ease and comfort to take up the cause of those who are too weak to defend themselves. War is an evil, but not the greatest evil; worse still is a nation that possesses the awareness and might to aid the defenseless and yet does nothing. But we also must take care that we do not use our power oppressively. We, who were born of a struggle against a tyrannical superpower, must not become the thing we once fought against. At the height of our power, we must have the wisdom to use that power well and justly.

Retro-Democrats, Unite!

We do not wish to destroy the Democratic Party. We wish to reclaim the heroic roots of the progressive movement that has become so horribly derailed of late. We have become so enamored of ideological purity that we have lost sight of the things we really care about. We have forgotten that all true things are truly simple. The natural laws discovered by Newton and Einstein all have simple, elegant statements. The same is true for the basic tenets of our movement.

We believe in the Four Freedoms.

We pledge eternal enmity to any enslavement of the mind of Man. We pledge eternal enmity to any restraint on individual conscience. We pledge eternal enmity to unrestrained greed and avarice. We pledge eternal enmity to the tyrants and slave-masters who hold our fellow humans in bondage. And we pledge that we will pay any price, bear any burden, endure any hardship, support any friend, and fight any foe to advance the cause of human liberty.