This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



January 2004

The Saturn

Over the last few years, ever since I got the Saturn back in 1995, I’ve said I would keep it essentially until the wheels fell off. Over the years my formualtion for what that REALLY meant has changed a bit.

At first it was “I will get a new car when the annual maintenence bill is more than the value of the car”. But that passed a couple of years ago I think. And I wanted to keep the car.

Then it was “I will get a new car when I take it in and get a single repair estimate which is more than the value of the car.”

Well… that just happened.

Took my car in for regular service, and because the cigarette lighter adapter had fallen inside the dashboard, and the battery was dying on me, and it was burning oil. They also found some other stuff that was wrong. Without the oil issue, there is about $600 of work that needs to be done. But they couldn’t find an obvious oil leak, so that means finding what is causing my rapid loss of oil. In order to investigate more, they would have to start ripping apart the engine. Estimated cost… another couple THOUSAND dollars.

The car is only worth about 2 grand last time I checked the Blue Book.

So we have reached that point. I ordered the $600 of work, but told them to not do the other. For now, I will just check the oil more often and add oil when needed. But I think this marks the point I had always said would be the “new car” point.

Of course, I also still don’t have a job. That may change soon though. (Watch this spot for updates.) But it looks like I should RATIONALLY get a new car soon after the job situation is resolved.

On the other hand, I love my Saturn. I am also tempted to just spend the money, get a new engine if needed, whatever, and keep it running forever. There are still Model-T’s running today. No reason my Saturn couldn’t still be going when I retire!

Hmmm…. or a nice new car doesn’t sound bad. :-)

Oh well. Once I have a job and am all settled in it, then I will consider these things more.

Home-Schooled By a Cackling Jackal

Hey! Rebecca has a blog now!! And yes Rebecca, this does make you cool now!

Cackling Jackal

Most blogs annoy me. It seems like everyone has them and are using them to say very little. Most are dull, insipid, self-absorbed and inane. Some are interesting. Some are even fun. So they can’t be all bad and despite my original pooh-poohs, I’m going to give this a try. Why not, I broke down and gave in to Tivo and Friendster, why not a blog? I’m weak like that. Get off my tip.

I’ll have to adjust my links list….

Posted: November 2003 Top Ten

The results were given to the winners almost a month ago, but the November 2003 email contest results are now posted online.

November 2003 Top Ten!

Barb made a valiant try in November for the #1 spot. She sent tons and tons of email… mostly forwards… but she also got into a sort of email fight with Al, Chris, Rebecca, Chad, Ivan and Erica… but made friends with Brandy and Marilyn apparently. Kelly was not involved. It was kind of amusing to watch, although I gather some of the participants got a little upset. I just watched from a safe distance. It was fun.

Thoughts on State of the Union

Just for giggles, I’ll give some of my thoughts on the speech, paragraph by paragraph…

Full Text of State of the Union
President George W. Bush, 21 Jan 2004 02:00 UTC

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests and fellow citizens:

Nothing original here. :-)

America this evening is a nation called to great responsibilities. And we are rising to meet them.

Standard boilerplate still I think.

As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure.

A sop line to the troops. They are doing their job, that they signed up for. If the jobs they have been called to makes us more secure or not is an open question, yet to be determined by future history.

Each day, law enforcement personnel and intelligence officers are tracking terrorist threats; analysts are examining airline passenger lists; the men and women of our new Homeland Security Department are patrolling our coasts and borders. And their vigilance is protecting America.

The examining passenger lists sent a chill down my spine. I know the rational behind the security steps that have been taken, but it still makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t feel safer and happier because of increased security on flights and such, on the contrary. This stuff is not aimed at me. But the mechanisms could be aimed at anything in the future. I think this is the case where the cure causes more damage than the disease.

Americans are proving once again to be the hardest working people in the world. The American economy is growing stronger. The tax relief you passed is working.

Thanks for the tax cut. I liked it. I want even more. However, no thank you for not paying for it. Every dollar less in taxes needed to be balanced by budget cuts. I like tax cuts. I think taxes are way too high. But I value a balanced budget even more. You need to both cut taxes and spending, not just one.

Tonight, members of Congress can take pride in great works of compassion and reform that skeptics had thought impossible. You are raising the standards of our public schools and you are giving our senior citizens prescription drug coverage under Medicare.

I really haven’t followed those two issues and the related developments as well as I should have, so I won’t comment.

We have faced serious challenges together – and now we face a choice. We can go forward with confidence and resolve – or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us. We can press on with economic growth, and reforms in education and Medicare – or we can turn back to the old policies and old divisions.

This is really just saying reelect me or don’t. But it really misrepresents the choice. The choice is not going forward or going backward, it is which direction to go forward.

We have not come all this way – through tragedy, and trial, and war – only to falter and leave our work unfinished. Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same of us. In their efforts, their enterprise and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our Union is confident and strong.

Another throw away line that means nothing.

Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since Sept. 11, 2001 – over two years without an attack on American soil – and it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting – and false. The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombassa, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated.

Applause line, but a good one I guess.

Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us. And one of those essential tools is the PATRIOT Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists. Key provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire next year. The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens – you need to renew the PATRIOT Act.

When the patriot act was mentioned, the Republicans clapped and the Democrats sat on their hands. The Democrats are a bunch of hypocrits. Almost all of them voted for the Patriot Act. The vote in the Senate was 98 to 1, with similar margins in the house. Every single Democrat who turns his nose up today at the Patriot Act should instead be slapping themselves in the face for voting for it in the first place. Except for a few parts allowing communications between agencies, it is a horrible law, and never should have been passed, and it is appalling that the judiciary also failed in knocking it down on constitutional grounds. Everybody associated with it should be ashamed. And also, in comparining to to earlier laws against organized crime and the like… those laws were pretty bad too. Not a good comparison.

America is on the offensive against the terrorists who started this war. Last March, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a mastermind of Sept. 11, awoke to find himself in the custody of U.S. and Pakistani authorities. Last August 11th brought the capture of the terrorist Hambali, who was a key player in the attack in Indonesia that killed over 200 people. We are tracking al-Qaida around the world – and nearly two-thirds of their known leaders have now been captured or killed. Thousands of very skilled and determined military personnel are on a manhunt, going after the remaining killers who hide in cities and caves – and, one by one, we will bring the terrorists to justice.

OK, I can clap for that.

As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger.

Reasonable goal, but unreasonable execution. I’m not convinced that the actions of this administration have made us safer from any of those dangers.

The first to see our determination were the Taliban, who made Afghanistan the primary training base of al-Qaida killers. As of this month, that country has a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the boys and girls of Afghanistan are back in school. With help from the new Afghan Army, our coalition is leading aggressive raids against surviving members of the Taliban and al-Qaida. The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free, and proud, and fighting terror – and America is honored to be their friend.

Although the situation in Afghanistan is very fragile due to our half-hearted commitment after the initial hostilities ended. We are in there half-way, and we are counting on a lot of luck for it to not revert and contenting ourselves with a half solution at best.

Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein – and the people of Iraq are free. Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows.

Well duh. That should have been expected. The Iraqi people are not free yet though. They currently are occupied by a foreign power. They can’t be said to be free until that is resolved.

These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. Yet we are making progress against them. The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole, and now sits in a prison cell. Of the top 55 officials of the former regime, we have captured or killed 45. Our forces are on the offensive, leading over 1,600 patrols a day, and conducting an average of 180 raids every week. We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq, just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein’s evil regime.

Within the context of already being there, this is good. The issue of if we should have gone in or not is a dead issue at this point. It is done and over, and rehashing it is not of any use. The question is going forward. And going forward, the only thing that makes sense is consolodating our control, creating as stable an environment as possible, getting a pupper regime in place and strong enough to sustain itself (preferably with majority support of the Iraqi people, but that is optional) and then reducing our presence more to “heavy influence and indirect control” rather than direct occupation. So the fact that we are getting on with that is good.

The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right. Last January, Iraq’s only law was the whim of one brutal man. Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We are working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June. As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends – but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.

Clap Clap Clap. Good goal. But isn’t six months a bit too short? Actually doing this in June, rather than say a year or so, or maybe more, may just be a recipe for disaster.

Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future. And tonight we are honored to welcome one of Iraq’s most respected leaders: the current President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi. Sir, America stands with you and the Iraqi people as you build a free and peaceful nation.

I think Reagan started this thing of introducing people in the balcony during State of the Union speeches. It needs to end! It is stupid!

Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better. Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime’s weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Col. Gadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible – and no one can now doubt the word of America.

I’m not sure if the cause and effect is clear on Libya. Libya has been trying to come in out of the cold for years now. But having to have the stick beind the carrot is common sense. And even if it was ill advised for a host of reasons, it probably is true that the rest of the world no longer doubt that W is not afraid to carry through on his threats.

Different threats require different strategies. Along with nations in the region, we are insisting that North Korea eliminate its nuclear program. America and the international community are demanding that Iran meet its commitments and not develop nuclear weapons. America is committed to keeping the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous regimes.

Except those we think it is OK for like Pakistan, India and Israel. And of course it is OK for us, Russia, China, Great Britan and France!

When I came to this rostrum on Sept. 20, 2001, I brought the police shield of a fallen officer, my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end. I gave to you and to all Americans my complete commitment to securing our country and defeating our enemies. And this pledge, given by one, has been kept by many. You in the Congress have provided the resources for our defense, and cast the difficult votes of war and peace. Our closest allies have been unwavering. America’s intelligence personnel and diplomats have been skilled and tireless.

Shot at the allies who have not been unwavering there…

And the men and women of the American military – they have taken the hardest duty. We have seen their skill and courage in armored charges, and midnight raids, and lonely hours on faithful watch. We have seen the joy when they return, and felt the sorrow when one is lost. I have had the honor of meeting our servicemen and women at many posts, from the deck of a carrier in the Pacific to a mess hall in Baghdad. Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror.

Obligitary honor the troops stuff.

I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime – a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted, tried, convicted and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of Sept. 11, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States – and war is what they got.

America is NOT in a war. There has been no declaration of war by the congress since World War II. It is as simple as that. And I often wonder how things would have been different if September 11th HAD been treated simply as a crime. It probably was not practical. The action against Afghanistan was probably warrented. Although, as I have said before, there SHOULD have been a formal declaration in that case (and for Iraq). Our goal was nothing short of overthrowing the government of a sovereign state, and if that does not deserve a formal declaration of war, then what the hell does? Congress has completely shirked its responsibility in these matters by not properly declaring war in these cases if the cause was supported, or passing resolutions prohibiting it if not. These resolutions to “authorize the president” to decide what to do are complete BS and are simply congress avoiding its constitutional duties. But anyway… both Afghanistan and Iraq were were conflicts against other nations (and SHOULD have been properly declared wars)… the “war on terror” as serious as it is… is no war. And rules of due process and law should NOT be given up or weakened in order to fight it. Those principles are too vital to give up, even for the “war on terrror”.

Some in this chamber, and in our country, did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We are seeking all the facts – already the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq’s torture chambers would still be filled with victims – terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq – where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children vanished into the sands – would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein’s regime is a better and safer place.

Well… Iraq is undoubtidly a better place. Getting rid of a dictator like that is in and of itself not a bad thing. We should probably do it more often in more places. However, the world is not a safer place I don’t think. In the process of doing what we did we made too many new enemies, and gave them more places to hide and do their thing. And we took allies that were 100% behind us after 9/11 and made them luke warm at best. We MIGHT be leaving Iraq better than we came in. That is yet to be seen. But in the process there was a lot of collateral damage, than in the long run may come back to bite us.

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people.

He should have listed those 17 out in full too. It was a good point, and got a good laugh. “International” does not mean UN, and does not mean we need universal approval. Or needing permission. I disagree with W going into Iraq when he did. It was foolhardy and ill advised. But I agree completely that we do not need the permission or approval of anybody if we thing something is in our best interests. Having said that, our interests are often best served by working within the international institutions and building concensus… something that W’s father achieved masterfully in the first gulf war, and which W barely even tried.

We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.

Oh geeze… god stuff. I could do without that. But I agree with the sentiment. Liberty and self-government CAN be universal. However, they do require certain prerequisites that sometimes take generations to develop. I do not know if Iraq is in position to sustain a free society or not. I suspect it IS, because even during Saddam, pre Gulf War I, Iraq was one of the most forward and open and secular western-leaning countries in the region. Most of what is needed is in place or nearly so.

As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror, and expect a higher standard from our friends. To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian – and soon, a new television service will begin providing reliable news and information across the region. I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, free markets, free press and free labor unions in the Middle East. And above all, we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others, and help transform a troubled part of the world.

He actually said “higher standard from our friend” (no s by mistake). It came out as a direct shot at Saudi Arabia, which probably needs a few of those. There is nothing I object to in this paragraph. I think all this is positive… if it works.

America is a nation with a mission – and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace – a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom.

Except when we are holding people indefinately without access to legal remedies, fair trials, or any other of the protections that we deem to be a critical part of a free society and the “dignity and rights of every man and woman”??? This is a great goal. One I could agree with. But the fact that W’s administration is constantly undermining basic human rights in its operations at home and abroad in the name of “security” makes me doubt if it is more than just words.

In these last three years, adversity has also revealed the fundamental strengths of the American economy. We have come through recession, and terrorist attack, and corporate scandals, and the uncertainties of war. And because you acted to stimulate our economy with tax relief, this economy is strong, and growing stronger.

Well, maybe improving. But not good yet. Of course, I saw that from the perspective of being jobless at the moment. Hopefully that will change in the next few weeks, and I’ll feel better about the economy. :-)

You have doubled the child tax credit from $500 to a thousand dollars, reduced the marriage penalty, begun to phase out the death tax, reduced taxes on capital gains and stock dividends, cut taxes on small businesses, and you have lowered taxes for every American who pays income taxes.

But at the same time raised spending. Again, love the tax cuts! More please! But only with cooresponding spending cuts. Keep the budget balanced!!!

Americans took those dollars and put them to work, driving this economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the third quarter of 2003 was the fastest in nearly 20 years. New home construction: the highest in almost 20 years. Home ownership rates: the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. And jobs are on the rise.

Home ownership rates! I helped with that! Now for the job part…

These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than government would have – and you were right to return it.

Agreed! Never let the government have or spend money in any area where there is another choice!

America’s growing economy is also a changing economy. As technology transforms the way almost every job is done, America becomes more productive, and workers need new skills. Much of our job growth will be found in high-skilled fields like health care and biotechnology. So we must respond by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our new economy.

That sounds fine I guess…

All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered. By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, you have made the expectation of literacy the law of our country. We are providing more funding for our schools – a 36 percent increase since 2001. We are requiring higher standards. We are regularly testing every child on the fundamentals. We are reporting results to parents, and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing. We are making progress toward excellence for every child.

This all sounds good, although I have not followed this issue.

But the status quo always has defenders. Some want to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act by weakening standards and accountability. Yet the results we require are really a matter of common sense: We expect third-graders to read and do math at third grade level – and that is not asking too much. Testing is the only way to identify and help students who are falling behind.

Agreed completely. Standardized tests are cruicial. To undertsand any problem or to deal with it, you need real tests that can be used to evaluate changes, etc. The whole concept of “grades” probably needs to be trashed at some point. Classes should be tailored to the skills needed to be learned, and students need to continue at that until the skill is learned, not moved forward to keep up, or kept back just because the class isn’t ready yet ont he other extreme.

This nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without them learning the basics. I refuse to give up on any child – and the No Child Left Behind Act is opening the door of opportunity to all of America’s children.

Um. OK. Haven’t studied the actual act, and the name is fluff, so I can’t speak more to that.

At the same time, we must ensure that older students and adults can gain the skills they need to find work now. Many of the fastest-growing occupations require strong math and science preparation, and training beyond the high school level. So tonight I propose a series of measures called Jobs for the 21st Century. This program will provide extra help to middle and high school students who fall behind in reading and math, expand advanced placement programs in low-income schools, and invite math and science professionals from the private sector to teach part-time in our high schools. I propose larger Pell grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school. I propose increasing our support for America’s fine community colleges, so they can train workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs. By all these actions, we will help more and more Americans to join in the growing prosperity of our country.

OK. Fine. I can probably be for all that. But what other things will be cut to pay for it?

Job training is important, and so is job creation. We must continue to pursue an aggressive, pro-growth economic agenda.


Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax reductions you passed are set to expire. Unless you act, the unfair tax on marriage will go back up. Unless you act, millions of families will be charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child. Unless you act, small businesses will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax will eventually come back to life. Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase. What the Congress has given, the Congress should not take away: For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent.

I’m a broken record here, but keep the tax cuts, start cutting spending to match.

Our agenda for jobs and growth must help small business owners and employees with relief from needless federal regulation, and protect them from junk and frivolous lawsuits. Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run – so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. My administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America’s entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, and farmers, and to create jobs for America’s workers. Younger workers should have the opportunity to build a nest egg by saving part of their Social Security taxes in a personal retirement account. We should make the Social Security system a source of ownership for the American people.

I get nervous when they say free and fair rather than just free. There seems to be nobody in either party really advocating for true free trade these days. Putting part of Social Security in a place where it can be individually controlled is good though. The more is left under my control the better. Eventually the Social Security system should be eliminated entirely and replaced by 401K style retirement plans.

And we should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of taxpayer dollars. In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than four percent. This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending and be wise with the people’s money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years.

The deficit you started in the first place!!! If you had been responsible (along with the congress) we would still have a balanced budget!!!

Tonight I also ask you to reform our immigration laws, so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. I propose a new temporary worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy – because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system. A temporary worker program will help protect our homeland – allowing border patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security. I oppose amnesty, because it would encourage further illegal immigration and unfairly reward those who break our laws. My temporary worker program will preserve the citizenship path for those who respect the law, while bringing millions of hardworking men and women out from the shadows of American life.

This all sounds good. I think it is funny that the Republicans don’t like this one.

Our nation’s health care system, like our economy, is also in a time of change. Amazing medical technologies are improving and saving lives. This dramatic progress has brought its own challenge, in the rising costs of medical care and health insurance. Members of Congress, we must work together to help control those costs and extend the benefits of modern medicine throughout our country.


Meeting these goals requires bipartisan effort – and two months ago, you showed the way. By strengthening Medicare and adding a prescription drug benefit, you kept a basic commitment to our seniors: You are giving them the modern medicine they deserve.

Don’t know enough about the plan that was passed to comment.

Starting this year, under the law you passed, seniors can choose to receive a drug discount card, saving them 10 to 25 percent off the retail price of most prescription drugs – and millions of low-income seniors can get an additional $600 to buy medicine. Beginning next year, seniors will have new coverage for preventive screenings against diabetes and heart disease, and seniors just entering Medicare can receive wellness exams.

Sounds OK.

In January of 2006, seniors can get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. For a monthly premium of about $35, most seniors who do not have that coverage today can expect to see their drug bills cut roughly in half. Under this reform, senior citizens will be able to keep their Medicare just as it is, or they can choose a Medicare plan that fits them best – just as you, as members of Congress, can choose an insurance plan that meets your needs. And starting this year, millions of Americans will be able to save money tax-free for their medical expenses, in a health savings account.

Sounds fine.

I signed this measure proudly, and any attempt to limit the choices of our seniors, or to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare, will meet my veto.

has he vetoed anything yet? I guess he doesn’t need to when his party controls the congress and is pretty much agreeable to anything.

On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs. To make insurance more affordable, Congress must act to address rapidly rising health care costs. Small businesses should be able to band together and negotiate for lower insurance rates, so they can cover more workers with health insurance – I urge you to pass association health plans. I ask you to give lower-income Americans a refundable tax credit that would allow millions to buy their own basic health insurance. By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care. To protect the doctor-patient relationship, and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits. And tonight I propose that individuals who buy catastrophic health care coverage, as part of our new health savings accounts, be allowed to deduct 100 percent of the premiums from their taxes.

This all sounds good. Not finding much to disagree with, but of course in these things what end up mattering are the details, which are of course not reflected here.

A government-run health care system is the wrong prescription. By keeping costs under control, expanding access and helping more Americans afford coverage, we will preserve the system of private medicine that makes America’s health care the best in the world.

100% agreed.

We are living in a time of great change – in our world, in our economy, and in science and medicine. Yet some things endure – courage and compassion, reverence and integrity, respect for differences of faith and race. The values we try to live by never change. And they are instilled in us by fundamental institutions, such as families, and schools, and religious congregations. These institutions – the unseen pillars of civilization – must remain strong in America, and we will defend them.

Uh oh. Here comes the social agenda stuff.

We must stand with our families to help them raise healthy, responsible children. And when it comes to helping children make right choices, there is work for all of us to do.

Of course.

One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs. Our government is helping parents confront this problem, with aggressive education, treatment and law enforcement. Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the past two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001. In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I propose an additional $23 million for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children’s lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don’t want to lose you.

This is crazy! Yes, drugs are almost always bad. I agree. But this is an issue government should have absolutely nothing to do with. If people want to be stupid and use drugs that are bad for them, let them. Darwin will weed them out when it gets to the point where it affects too much. What should be illegal are the effects that directly affect others. Driving under the influence, parenting under the influence, etc. In all other cases, the laws and restrictions around illegal drugs that drive the market underground are far more dangerous than the drugs themselves. And it is blatantly hypocritical in the case where tobacco and alchohol are not included at an equal level with the rest. But for the most part, just drop this. It is not any of governments business what people ingest or take for medicine, or for fun. There shouldn’t even be a such thing as a drug that requires a prescription, much less one that is completely illegal.

To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message – that there are short cuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough and to get rid of steroids now.

Steroids??? We are talking about steroids? In a STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS??? Is there anything that could be further from being an issue that the federal government should be involved in??? Come on.

To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face – even when they are difficult to talk about. Each year, about 3 million teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases that can harm them, or kill them, or prevent them from ever becoming parents. In my budget, I propose a grass-roots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks. We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions children make now can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us – parents, schools, government – must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture, and to send the right messages to our children.

Abstinence??? Oh, apperantly it gets worse than steroids. This is once again a completely personal matter. PERHAPS a personal and family matter. But government should not have ANY involvement in these sorts of issues at ALL. Not one IOTA. Straight out education… perhaps. But a clearly slanted view promoting one type of behaviour over another? Most definately not.

A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

This is appaling. The mere thought is such a huge governmental overreach. Marriage is again something government should have absolutely nothing to do with. And the left wingers who want to “extend” marriage are on the wrong track too. The right track is to remmove government from the issue entirely. Marriage should be an arrangement of people with each other, and should be specific to those people making the arrangement… and perhaps… if the people are so inclined… also with some religious connotation. Marrage should eb a contract, just like any other contract. Some standard boilerplate versions that lots of people use, but also something that can be customized by the people engaging in the contract. Could be a “traditional” arrangement, could be two gay people, could be a group of five people. Could be for live, could be for a specified term. (Five year contract with option for renewal. ) Who cares. None of the government’s business. It should be an arrangement between the people involved. Government should have no involvement, and should not recognize the existance or non-existance of such, except in enforcing the terms if lawsuits are brought for breach and such. There should be no tax benefits, etc. Givernment should treat everybody as individuals, regardless. The only place law should come into place is with children. Certain responsibilities should be attached to anybody how fathers or mothers a child, but those responsibilities should be fixed and the same regardless of any “marriage” or lack thereof. The responsibilities should be attached at the moment of conception, regardless of any other arrangements. Anyway, all that is a bit radical I know. I think the status quo gives too much government recognition of what is fundamentally a contractual arrangement or a religious one. But at the very least we shouldn’t make it worse with a consitutional ammendment!

The outcome of this debate is important – and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God’s sight.

Oh please! Wretch!

It is also important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America’s religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country – mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely. Yet government has often denied social service grants and contracts to these groups, just because they have a cross or Star of David or crescent on the wall. By executive order, I have opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes faith-based charities. Tonight I ask you to codify this into law, so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again.

This is another place that the prionciple of separation of church and state should be the guide. The government should not distinguish between religious and non-religious organizations in any way. That puts the government in the business of deciding what is religious, which it should not be in. Having said that, the government shouldn’t be in the business of giving social service grants at all. Just reduce taxes by a comperable amount, and those to choose to can choose to donate directly. No need to have the government as a middle man.

In the past, we have worked together to bring mentors to the children of prisoners, and provide treatment for the addicted, and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.

OK. This might be a useful use of money. Of course, as always, if funded properly in a balanced budget.

For all Americans, the last three years have brought tests we did not ask for, and achievements shared by all. By our actions, we have shown what kind of nation we are. In grief, we found the grace to go on. In challenge, we rediscovered the courage and daring of a free people. In victory, we have shown the noble aims and good heart of America. And having come this far, we sense that we live in a time set apart.

Woo! Warm and fuzzies that don’t mean much. But woo! Warm and Fuzzy!

I have been a witness to the character of the American people, who have shown calm in times of danger, compassion for one another, and toughness for the long haul. All of us have been partners in a great enterprise. And even some of the youngest understand that we are living in historic times. Last month a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sent me a letter. It began, “Dear George W. Bush: If there is anything you know, I, Ashley Pearson, age 10, can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country.” She added this P.S.: “If you can send a letter to the troops – please put, ‘Ashley Pearson believes in you.'”

Oh gag. This is even worse than the people up in the balcony. Cute, but just so gimmicky…

Tonight, Ashley, your message to our troops has just been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties yourself. Study hard in school, listen to your mom and dad, help someone in need, and when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say “thank you.” And while you do your part, all of us here in this great chamber will do our best to keep you and the rest of America safe and free.

OK, Fine. I’m sure she will.

My fellow citizens, we now move forward, with confidence and faith. Our nation is strong and steadfast. The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable – and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power Who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.

More religious stuff. Bleh. But OK, whatever.

May God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Need to come up with a new way to end these things too. This is getting old.

And that is the end!

Might it Get Fun?

It looks like things are getting tighter in Iowa the last few days. (But Gephardt? PLEASE!) Since Iowa is first, that has been all over the news. But it has also been percolating that it is closing up in New Hampshire. Here is the latest….

Clark gaining on Dean in N.H.
(Thomas Fitzgerald and Dana Hull, Philadelphia Inquirer)

“There was a 13-percentage-point gap between Clark and Dean on Jan. 11, an 8-percentage-point gap on Jan. 12 and a 4-percentage-point gap on Jan. 13,” pollster American Research Group said on its Web site. The telephone survey of at least 600 likely primary voters had an error margin of 4 points.

“If the trend to Clark continues, Clark could be leading the race by the end of the weekend,” ARG president Dick Bennett said via e-mail. “Even if Dean holds his core support, Clark could tie and move in front of Dean in New Hampshire before the results from Iowa are known.”

Of course, what I really hope for is a situation where there are still several viable candidates going into the convention, and the candidate is chosen by the convention like it is SUPPOSED to happen… and so that states late on the schedule actually matter in the process.

I guess that is still unlikely, but I can hope. These things are generally wrapped up by early March though. But it is at least looking like it might not be a complete run away by Dean, which would be boring. (Not to mention he has no chance of winning against Bush unless Bush implodes.)

Only a few days left until the oddness that is Iowa. Can’t wait to watch!

To the Moon Alice! (And Mars!)

OK, lets try this again. The elder Bush did this, and it went absolutely nowhere. Time for another go. This Bush seems to have a tendency to try to finish his dad’s business….

Bush launches plan for moon-Mars quest
(Seth Borenstein & William Douglas, Philadelphia Inquirer)

President Bush set a soaring “new course for America’s space program” yesterday by proposing human exploration of the moon within a generation and of Mars sometime after that.

I actually think this is wonderful. I hope it does better than when the first Bush proposed something similar, and it just died. The fact that we have now gone about 30 years since the last time we were on the moon in inexcuseable. There has been an extreme slowing of our progress. It is time to get back on track.

There are a couple things that keep getting said that annoy me when I hear them.

The first is that any manned exploration is a waste of time, money and resources and it is much better to just use robots cause they can do more and better science for less money and less risk. I think this completely and totally misses the point. Even if it is true, which is somewhat debateable, this is not about the science. This is about manifest destiny and the human desire to explore and experience new things, and to achieve new things that have not been done before, and to meet new challenges. The science is a side effect. A great side effect, but a side effect none the less, not the primary goal.

Second is that we are better off spending the money at home. There is a need to be financially responsible, absolutely. The deficits are out of control and need to be balanced. I don’t believe in spending money that is not paid for. But, having said that, within the context of a properly balanced budget, things like this need to have their place, and even the large amounts needed for something like this are small compared to many other budget items, and this kind of thing needs to be included. And, even in addition to the straight “we should do this because it is good to do in and of itself” factor, this kind of effort often leads to many spin off technologies that end up helping society at large. And if it properly captivates the public imagination it can lead others who are not directly involved to become interested and educated in scientific and technological fields, which in turn leads to even more innovation. There is plenty of benefit.

Anyway, good job Mr. Bush. At least there are a couple things you can get right it seems. Of course, we’ll see if anything actually HAPPENS, or if it is just a bunch of words.

Zuri Kidege Minter

Um, here I go again… A couple months ago Brain died. Leaving Nacho as the only bird in the house. Soon after, while at the petstore for birdfood for Nacho, I saw a fuzzy little green bird with a round head in the bird section, who was all sweet and slow moving and came to the side of the cage and interacted when I sat and talked to it. Brandy really liked it too and talked to it and told me it was just a baby bird. A ringneck.

I was tempted, but it was too soon after Brain, and I needed money for Christmas, and it was a bigger bird and would require more elaborate care than the budgies I’d had in the past and would need a new cage and toys and stuff too.

Over the next couple months, every time I went to the petstore, I went over to the cute green ringneck and talked to it. I was thinking more and more I wanted to bring it home. And I was getting more and more worried that someone else would buy it. And I was starting to feel guilty that I had not brought it home yet. It was starting to look less babyish and slightly more grown up.

It was time. Last weekend I bought it and brought it home. The sex won’t be clear until it is over a year or so old (unless I get a DNA test) but I have decided for now to call it a “he”. The name will be Zuri Kidege Minter. Points for anybody who gets why. :-) We think the language overlaps the natural range of the subspecies of this bird (Psittacula krameri krameri) although perhaps not by much.

Anyway, his name is Zuri.

I’m working on taming him by spending a lot of time with my hand in the cage, but it is tough! He will eat grapes from my hand already though! But isn’t quite ready to be handled directly without being caught yet. :-) Working on it. Got to play with him every day.

Average lifespan in captivity is 25-30 years according to one site I found, and I have heard they can live much longer than that as well. So I’ve signed up for a long commitment. Zuri will hopefully be with me a long long time! I will try to be a good bird daddy.

Nacho may still need a small friend who can share the same cage though. That may happen before too long.

The Minter household is growing! :-) There is talk of Glo-Fish too! Someone stop me before I have a whole zoo! Right now I have Nacho the budgie, Nala the anole, Zuri the ringneck, and a bunch of crickets to feed Nala. Oh, and the Roomba.

Psittacula krameri

Description: Generally green, face, abdomen and under wing-coverts yellowish-green; nape and back of head variably washed with blue; chin, broad cheek-stripe and narrow line from cere to eye black; narrow band to nape pink; upperside of middle tail-feathers blue with greenish-yellow tips, outer feathers green; underside of outer tail-feathers olive-yellowish, middle feathers blackish; bill blackish-red with black tips; iris yellowish-white; feet greenish-grey.

Good Thing I Live in PA Now!

N.J. drivers: Prepare to phone hands-free
(Mitch Lipla, Philadelphia Inquirer)

In an attempt to hang up on the common practice of steering and talking on handheld cell phones, New Jersey’s Assembly voted yesterday to ban the practice, more than a year after the state Senate passed the ban.

Fines would range from $100 to $250, with no points assessed on drivers’ records.

Drivers could talk on cell phones only if they used a hands-free device such as a headset.

Of course, I’m still driving in NJ a lot. I guess it is time to buy that Handsfree kit. Palm One hasn’t come out with an “official” one for the Treo 600 yet, but judging from a quick google search it looks like there are a couple of 3rd party ones.

Not at the top of my “want to purchase” list, but I’ll get to it eventually. Hopefully before I get a ticket for talking on the phone while driving. :-)

Content Management Still Growing

Well, more companies are still buying Content Management Systems. This should be a good thing for my career prospects, since figuring out how to make these things work in a way that makes sense both technically and for the actual users is kind of what I have been doing the last few years, and most likely, will relate to things I do in the future.

Commentary: Clear thinking on content management
(Nicholas Wilkoff, Forrester Research on CNET)

Thirty-two percent of North American companies planned purchases of content management technologies in 2003. At the same time, the market has seen a mass of acquisitions and consolidation by the vendors, as evident from IBM’s purchase of Green Pasture Software.

(via Google News Alert on “Content Managment”)

A decent article on some things that matter toward choosing a platform to use. But as I have mentioned before, another very important question is “Do you need it at all?” as in many cases, you really don’t. Then if you do really need it, most of the platforms out there can do good things. But careful implementation is vital. Limit scope, keep things as clean and simple as possible, only add complications or diverge from the out of the box product when absolutley necessary. It is very easy for these projects to suffer from over broad scope, and get bogged down. But with careful control, content management can be a great thing…

Strategic Voting

I was talking to someone (whose name shall remain anonymous) about the whole voting for third parties thing, and although my response is long and rambling (the usual for me) I had fun with it, so I thought I would post it here as well.

I sent the following at January 8, 2004 06:44:53 GMT

On Dec 18, 2003, at 20:57, XXXXXXXXXXX wrote:

In a message dated 12/18/2003 8:35:06 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

I don’t mind voting for people with little chance of winning, because they still better represent my views than the “major” candidates.  Some people say that is “throwing away your vote”, but they are very wrong.  You do not get bonus points for picking the winner.  The only way to truely throw away your vote is to vote for someone who is not really the candidate you think is best.

I don’t agree. I think the most important thing is to get Bush out of office.

Hmmm… well there is a difference right there. I think the MOST important thing is to ensure the outcome best reflects the popular will, as modified by the basic principles of federalism and republicanism. (As opposed to direct democracy, which is pretty crazy.)

So in other words, even if I think another person is the best, if the plurality of people disagree with me, then I *should* be overruled, and the person I disagree with should win.

And I want the results to reflect the true opinions of the voters (again, modified by federalist and republican [small r, not capital] principles), not those opinions distorted by strategic voting.

But then again, I am someone who every four years gets a bit agitated and upset that the original idea of the electoral college has been horribly distorted for over 200 years now.

The way it is SUPPOSED to work is that each state appoints electors (not necessarily by popular vote) and then those electors meet in the electoral college in early January to pick a president. I can even buy the notion that the electors should be elected by the public. But it should be the way it was intended, where they are not committed to any specific candidate until after they get to the electoral college.

But it has been screwed all up, and people are fooled into believing they are actually directly voting for the president rather than slates of electors as they really are. And the electors can only be elected by slate, and not individually, and states are winner take all, and the lectors are pre-committed to a specific candidate… URGH!!! All messed up!!

But anyway… that’s really an argument of the 1810’s… long ago lost and in the past… so we have to work with the system we have now…

But anyway, lets talk a little more about strategic voting…

He is doing a horrible job and I disagree with him on almost everything.

I’m with you on that part. :-) (Of course, I felt the same way about Clinton before him as well.)

If say, 49% vote for Bush (very unlikely, probably more like 70% but this is an example), 45% vote for Dean, and 6% vote for Kucinich, then Bush remains in office. (I know the election is not based on percents but this is an example!) If the 6% who voted for Kucinich had voted for Dean, Bush would be replaced by Dean. But since they didn’t, Bush would have won. If (for example) you like Kucinich the best, Dean the second best, and Bush the worst, then by voting for Kucinich you are getting the person you don’t like at all. If you vote for Dean, you would get your second choice rather than your first. HA I WIN!

OK. Good arguments. And many many people agree. But lets examine them and look at them with a different twist. And we’ll look for a second as if the popular vote was actually relevant, and then look at how it is given the way presidential elections really work…

Instead of the 49, 45, 6 split you hypothesize, Imagine it was Smith 32%, Dean 34%, Bush 33% and 1% other people. (Where Smith is someone made up, but whose views are COMPLETELY different from both Bush and Dean.) In this case Dean SHOULD be the winner. Although he does not have a majority, more people like him than either Bush or Smith. But… if people vote strategically regularly, then the Smith supporters would start thinking they didn’t have a chance, and would not vote for Smith. Instead some of them might vote for Dean, and some for Bush. Which benefits more would be somewhat determined by which views were closer to Smiths, but not entirely. And some people would vote for Smith anyway. In the end, either Bush or Dean could win, despite the fact Dean SHOULD win, because more people agree with him. But what is for sure is that the end result of the election will show support for Smith MUCH less than it really is, which will in turn hurt the chances of Smith (or those with similar views) in the next election. The views represented by Smith will end up marginalized and ignored, even though he represents 32% of the population!!!!

Now, if we had a true popular vote preferential voting system, where each person not only voted for their top choice, but ranked all their choices, with automated runoffs reassigning votes to 2nd and 3rd choices as the lower ranking candidates dropped off, then that would be a very good way of making your first choice, but still having your second choice be relevant. Unfortunately, we don’t have that sort of system.

In real life, what happens is that because EVERYBODY is thinking “I *must* pick one of the top two, or I am throwing away my vote” the whole system gets distorted and polarized, so that everything ends up clustering around more extreme views on various sides of issues, with less room left for middle ground and alternative views, because they are never given an opportunity to grow as minority views and eventually rise to that 2nd or 1st place status. Which is an aweful self-inflicted corruption of the system. If *everybody* actually voted for the people they thought were best, rather than who they thought could win, then the political debate would end up being much more vibrant and dynamic, which in the long term would lead to results which better represent the true opinions of the electorate.

Thus why I think strategic voting (voting for someone other than your true preference in hopes that the short term end result of that particular election will be better) is evil, and it is better to vote for who you think is best, plain and simple.

OK. I’ve probably lost you by now, but if not, lets switch to the other side of the argument and talk pure strategic voting… lets say I buy the idea and think strategic voting is good, and now want to vote in the way that will be most likely to result in Bush losing.

OK, first thing is, my strategy will be different depending on where I live. Different states have different dynamics, and different weights in the electoral process.

We’ll do PA and DC as examples.

First lets talk general election.

In DC, the place is so solidly Democratic it is a gimme. There is absoluelty no chance of a Republican getting DCs electoral votes, and there are not that many anyway. In DC in the General election, if you think a 3rd candidate is better than either Bush or the Democrat, but you hate Bush… you can safely vote for the 3rd person you like. Your view will be represented in the popular vote, the Democrat will still win DC and get the electoral votes, and you will not have effected the balance of Bush vs Democrat in the slightest. There are many states that are so solidly one way or the other that this is the case.

Where I am in PA however, it is a whole different story. PA, like a number of other states, are “swing states”. They are closely divided, and easily swing one way or the other in elections depending on the situation of the moment. In this case, if one buys the whole strategic voting thing, then the argument you gave holds sound, and someone wanting to make sure to get rid of Bush, should vote for the Democrat, even if they really would prefer a 3rd candidate. Because, as you said, their choice has no chance of winning, but if they give their vote for their 2nd choice (the Democrat) then that MIGHT make the difference in making sure Bush loses.

OK, now lets talk Primaries.

Again, it matters very much which state you are in.

Now a few things matter here. First of all is when your state has its primary. To put it bluntly, states that have primaries early matter, states that have them late are completely irrelevant. The only exception is in cases where the primary race is very close… it would be great if that happens again, but it has been a long time since it has.

For instance, DC’s primary is on Jan 13th… but no delegates will be awarded there to let Iowa and New Hampshire go first, so the actual delegates will be decided in the caucus on February 10th… by that time Iowa, New Hampshire, Delaware, Missouri, South Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Michigan, Washington (state) and Maine will already have voted (in that order). By that time there is a good chance someone will be so far ahead that everybody is sure they are going to win… but there is a chance that some interesting things will have happened and things are still close. By contrast, Pennsylvania will not vote until April 27th. Chances are very strong that by the set of Primaries of March 2nd the nominee will be decided already. It *might* not be the case… if so, it will be a very interesting year, and that would be cool. But chances are, by the time Pennsylvania gets to vote, it will pretty much be irrelevant. It might not be mathematically impossible for other people to win at that point, but anybody who was not the frontrunner at that point will probably have “suspended” their campaign to wait for the convention, or dropped out entirely. They may still be on the ballot, but they will not campaign, and will not get results worth mentioning. So if I am in Pennsylvania, my opinion on who should be the nominee matters a LOT less than someone who lives in the states that vote early.

This is another case where the system is somewhat corrupted… what is really happening is that people are electing delegates to the party conventions, and once those delegates are at the convention THEN they should decide who the candidate of the party is… really delegates should be chosen uncommitted to any candidate… in fact there should NOT BE ANY candidates until the convention… then those people chosen to be delegates should decide on someone… but again, now all delegates are pre-committed for the first ballot, and only become free agents if a second ballot is needed, which has not happened for decades… Plus… they really should hold all the primaries nationwide on the same day, so people in all states have some say in the matter, rather than just the early states…

In any case, the pattern for at least the last couple of decades is that anybody who doesn’t win in the first handful of primaries drops out and then whoever is in the lead gets “momentum” because everybody wants to vote for a winner (rather than who they think is best) and everything is decided well before the last states have their primaries.

This is again a place where people actually voting for who they agree with most, through the whole primary process, would lead to better results in the end (and much more interesting conventions!) but, that’s not what tends to happen.

But to be strategic? Well, if the goal is to beat Bush, then one should not even consider how well or not one agrees with the candidates, but ONLY how well they would do against Bush. Who would have the best chance of beating him? All the polls seem to have Dean at way behind Bush if the two are placed head to head. Are any of the others better? I’m not sure they are. Maybe Clark. My personal opinion is on a head to head, he probably has the best chance. I’d have to look at the most recent polls showing all the head to head match ups right before my states primary though, and just pick the one who was doing the best vs Bush. If the goal is truely JUST to beat Bush, then if I agree with the person or not is pretty much irrelevant. Just pick the one that has the best shot against Bush.

Again though, only in primaries before the result is already decided. If by the time my state comes around, the nominee is already a done deal, then I should vote for the candidate I agree with most, because they won’t win anyway, but their delegates may end up having some influence in the convention on marginal issues, or if the candidate who is ahead dies before the convention or some such, in which case they may get to vote on something where the result is not pre-determined, and I want people as delegates who best represent my own views. (Again, a situation where you wish you knew the ACTUAL delegates you were voting for, rather than just who they were committed to… but usually you don’t.)

In any case…. to sum up…

#1) I think strategic voting is something to be avoided in all cases, because while it may give results which are preferred in the short term, in the long term, anything other than people voting for the people they actually think are best (as opposed to people they think can win) results in massive distortion of the process, which is bad for all of us.

#2) If you DO go for strategic voting, it is a very complicated matter since we do NOT have a system based on popular vote in any way shape or form. (And that is for the most part a good thing… there are good reasons for things being structured the way they are.) In the general election, which state you are in and the dynamics of that PARTICULAR STATE have to be looked at both in terms of likely results in the state, and how much weight the state has in the electoral college. The country as a whole is irrelevant. It is only state by state that should be looked at. In the primaries, the dynamics of the individual states are very important, but even more important is where your state is in the primary schedule. What the best strategy for voting is will depend on if you are in an early state or in a late state and what the status of the delegate count is by the time they get to you and how much of a difference your state could make.

Anyway, it is all good fun to look at!

Even better is looking at alternative constitutional structures and examining how they affect both strategic voting strategies, and the expected results of how governments look and how they will (or will not) reflect the views of the electorate, or different parts of the electorate.

Fun stuff!!!