Traveling Man

Friday, 28 May 2004, 21:14 | Category : Other Stuff
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Drove from Madison, MS to Sevierville, TN today, on the way to DC. Except for some road construction north of Chattanooga, it was an easy drive. Eastern Tennessee is a nice part of the country to drive through. And free high-speed internet at the hotel is very, very nice.

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Midwest tornadoes

Tuesday, 25 May 2004, 10:00 | Category : Geek Stuff
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Bemusement Park is keeping an unofficial chroncile of the severe weather in the upper Midwest. For instance, here, and here. Sounds like it’s time for Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd to show up.

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Thoughts of the day

Thursday, 20 May 2004, 11:03 | Category : Politics
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Some thoughts about gas prices:

Poliblog is bemoaning the lack of joy among liberals concerning the rise in gas prices. I think he’s misguided somewhat, but not entirely.
– When you bought your enormous SUV with the huge V-8 engine, there was a sticker on the window. That gas mileage number on the sticker? It meant something. Stop whining.
– to John Kerry and certain other Democrats: as much as we’d like to think it so, the President of the United States is not a board member of OPEC. He can’t make them increase production. I’m sure George Bush has expressed his concerns to OPEC members. Drop it, already!
– also to John Kerry and others: this is not a national emergency. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve exists in case the Middle East goes nuclear or something, not so Mr. Enormous SUV Owner can buy $1.35 a gallon gasoline. Drop this one, too.
– to George Bush and those drill-happy Republicans: please leave ANWR out this. Really. There’s just not enough there.
– if the price of gas really bothers you, drive slower.

Other random thoughts:

– Much as I hate to admit it, John Kerry is a pretty boring presidential candidate. Or I should say, his campaign has gotten boring. If you ask me if I want Kerry to be President, I would say “yes”. If you ask me why, I would say “I’m not sure”.
– I wonder how many Republicans would replace George Bush on the 2004 ticket if they really had the chance to do it? I mean, do people really like the job he’s doing? If an employee was handling his job the way Bush is handling his, how many companies would keep him around?

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Thirty Years Ago

Thursday, 13 May 2004, 12:32 | Category : Geek Stuff
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One of the things I do sometimes when I’m bored is drop by the main Jackson library and look through microfiche of old news magazines. A couple of days ago, I dragged out the US News And World Report film from January-June 1974. Here’s some of the things that were newsworthy then:

-hospital costs were rising, and there were concerns that one day drug costs might become unaffordable
-there was talk of gasoline rationing, possibly some sort of alternate-day availability
-but, it was projected that there was enough oil in shale beds in Colorado and Wyoming to supply the US with oil for 15-20 years
-Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev was rumored to be in poor health and losing support in the Kremlin
-the Pentagon had concerns about whether the South Vietnamese Air Force could meet the challenge of an expected North Vietnamese campaign
-an explanation of why the Pentagon was shutting down major anti-aircraft installations at 7 US locations
-sources close to Ronald Reagan speculated that he was considering a run for the Presidency in 1976
-much, much speculation on how Watergate would affect Nixon’s ability to govern
-some people thought computers would not be useful to the population at large unless/until they were able to recognize English speech.

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A Field Guide To American Government, Chapter 1

Monday, 10 May 2004, 8:10 | Category : Politics
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Dave comments on the desirability of social democracy in the United States, reacting to comments by Crooked Timber. What Dave is saying echoes, somewhat, something I’ve thought and said for years – that US government policy is a never-ending reaction to previous US government policy. Currently we’re on a swing through the land of lower taxes and (theoretically) smaller government, although I would challenge anyone to give examples of real reduction in the size of government. 25 years ago, the United States was at possibly the peak of “big government”. It hasn’t always been a “big government” vs. “small government” thing – the late 1800s and early 1900s saw a swing from toleration of excesses by business barons to governmental enabling of labor strength. This isn’t any deep truth; it’s pretty obvious to anyone who observes the US over a period of time, or spends any time at all learning the history of out government. Why it happens is maybe a little more subtle, however. Probably 5-10% of the voting population would, if given their preference, institute a minimalist government, something along the libertarian principle. Another 5-10% would put in place a democratic socialist system like that found in the Scandinavian countries. There’s a 30-35% segment that favors what passes for mainstream Republican policy – they don’t like government involvement (or at least Federal involvement) in schools, health care, and social programs. And about a 30-35% segment that wouldn’t favor what they would call socialism, but do want Federal intervention in social issues like welfare and food programs, and environmental protection, and to some extent, health care. These two blocks tend to vote pretty much the same way election after election. Even a landslide election like the 1984 Reagan-Mondale contest showed Mondale getting 40% of the vote – meaning 4 in 10 of American voters voted against a sitting president, in what is maybe the biggest landslide in US presidential election history. The swing in government policy occurs because of a middle group that makes up maybe 10% of the electorate. Recent elections have shown that political professionals have figured this out, and they are targeted mercilessly in presidential campaigns. And they’re targetted because their opinions, and their votes, change. And when they change, the direction of US policy changes. They are the rudder of American politics, and the reason that the United States will always be moving back and forth between right and left, never sitting calmly on that center line.