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Chafee

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

Interesting; the extant polling has seriously understated support for an incumbent against a primary opponent twice in the last month. I understand that polling for a primary is one of the most difficult tasks in the business (putting together a likely voter model is particularly onerous), but I would think that something more productive could be learned from this experience.

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Bill

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

Apropos of nothing, I’ve been giving some thought to Kill Bill. I agree with Scott that KB is Tarantino’s weakest work, but this isn’t saying very much; his first three films are among the best of the 90s. Tarantino’s extraordinarily annoying personality sometimes makes us forget that he’s a magnificent filmmaker. For some reason, his irritating sociability irks me (and others) more than the genuine misanthropy of any number of other directors.

Anyway, Kill Bill combines a largely unengaging storyline (to me, at least) with technical mastery, and provides an occasional showpiece for Tarantino’s most exceptional strengths. Tarantino’s two most important talents are his ability to write dialogue and his capacity to bring out the best in mediocre actors. In Kill Bill, I think it’s fair to say that the second is on impressive display; David Carradine isn’t just good, he’s GREAT, and one of the flaws of the first film is that he’s not on display often enough. I find it interesting to think about what Tarantino could do with other mediocre actors; what about Keanu Reeves, for example? Regarding the former, the Chiba-Thurman restaurant scene must be rated among the strongest that Tarantino has ever written and directed. Thurman in particular does an outstanding job shifting from the innocent and hapless American to the vengeful killer, all in four lines of dialogue.

Anyway, the exceptional aspects of the films make me more tolerant of the wankery. Tarantino is one of those few popular figures who have become so overrated that they are, in an important sense, underrated; his reputation tends to get in the way of the genuine quality of his product. There are few directors I can think of who, with only five films, have demonstrated a more consistent level of mastery. Kubrick, perhaps, would be another.

SOB of the Day

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

Joel Mowbray.

Kentuckans in Space

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

This is old news, but probably not well known. For some reason, my adoptive state has decided to join the space race:

Kentucky will become the nation’s first state to send a satellite into space — probably by late 2007 — in a cooperative venture among state universities and agencies designed to promote education, research and economic development.

The satellite program, announced Thursday at the state Council on Postsecondary Education, could help attract high-tech businesses to what is being touted as “Silicon Holler” near Morehead State University, said Morehead President Wayne Andrews.

[…]

The KySat program, expected to cost $375,000 to $400,000, will be funded with state money from the universities and NASA grants, Kimel said. He envisions launching new satellites “with increasing complexity” every 12 to 18 months.

The first satellite will serve mainly as an education tool for Kentucky students, ranging from kindergarten through college. The satellite will have a camera, data storage and a UHF/VHF radio for student and ham radio users.

Tom Layzell, president of the education council, said the KySat program fosters collaboration among the universities, strengthens the state’s position in the “knowledge economy” and further opens an “engineering pipeline” by “creating exciting opportunities for students.”

Garrett Chandler of Quitman, Texas, a UK master’s degree student in electrical engineering, was excited about KySat’s emphasis on outreach to K-12 students. “This is important because the second-, third- and fourth-graders today are going to be developing the manned mission to Mars,” he said. “The emphasis is not just to launch a satellite but to build a pipeline to K-12.”

If it were up to me, and if I were trying to improve on Kentucky’s 48th ranked math and science high school test scores, I’d probably spend the $400 grand trying to improve our math and science test scores.

I’m just sayin’.

Finland?

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

Huh. As a long term and vocal critic of Finnish foreign policy, I’m not sure how I feel about being Finland. I’m also unsure about how the scores were computed; I imagine they probably shorted the Russians a bit on expertise, and likely the Americans as well. Via Arms and Influence.

You scored as Finland. Your army is the army of Finland. You prefer to win your enemy by your wit rather than superior weapons. Enemy will have a hard time against your small but effective force.

Finland

88%

Poland

81%

Italy

75%

British and the Commonwealth

69%

France, Free French and the Resistance

56%

United States

56%

Germany

44%

Soviet Union

38%

Japan

31%

In which World War 2 army should you have fought?
created with QuizFarm.com

Executive Authority

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

At the risk of wandering into Scott’s territory, it seems obvious to me that the Framers understood the dangers of executive power in wartime, and that they intendeded that Congress have significant powers to restrain the President. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, the Republic had been at war for well over half of its history, and this war was conducted, in large part, with a weak executive. Now, certainly the Constitution was designed in part to remedy the difficulties of engaging in international politics (including the fighting of wars) with a weak federal government, but the institutions established seem to have no particular preference for strong executive over strong legislative power in wartime. Indeed, it would seem quite the opposite…

I suppose that the next argument would be that the character of war and of international relations has changed so much over the last two hundred years that the burden of decision ought to shift, for wholly practical reasons, to the executive branch. Certainly, the conduct of foreign policy has become more complex since 1790, with the duties of even peacetime embassies and foreign stations dwarfing those of a hundred years ago. Warfare, and especially the support of the war-making machine, has also grown significantly more complex. It could be argued that this increase in complexity should result in the shifting of important decision-making from elected and appointed officials to career professionals in both the foreign policy and military services. Even if this is true, I’m not convinced that the trend should affect the balance of responsibility between the executive and legislative branches. The executive branch is every bit as susceptible to political pressure and political difficulty as the legislative, and the legislative has as much (and perhaps more) opportunity to accumulate and act on professional expertise as the executive.

It could also be argued that the tempo of international politics (and war) has increased to the degree that the normal legislative process is too cumbersome to operate properly in response to a foreign threat. It’s probably fair in the context of, say, a nuclear attack that the some important decisions need to be made by the executive without resort to immediate legislative input. But that only goes so far; most decisions, even in wartime, don’t require snap judgements (the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan could certainly have been deliberated upon, as could the various decisions regarding the disposition of detainees), and, moreover, to say that the executive should be able to make some decisions without legislative input does not mean that it can make those decisions without legislative oversight and evaluation. It’s this, in particular, that Yoo and the Bush administration seem most unhappy about, but post hoc evaluation of executive decisions is absolutely critical to the functioning of a liberal democracy, and in particular to the construction of the institutions of governance in the United States.

The final point to be raised is that the assertion of increased executive power during wartime must be limited to some kind of time frame. In other words, even if you think that the gravity of decision-making shifts to the executive during war, there must be some mechanism for determining whether a state of war exists and when that state will cease. In the context of the War on Terror, which is essentially a conflict against a tactic, the war can, almost by definition, never end. It surely was not the intent of the Framers, and it surely is not defensible on its own merits, that the executive should be able to aggregate to itself emergency powers without any specific temporal limitation on those powers.

Early Admission

[ 0 ] September 12, 2006 |

Good.

Harvard Ends Early Admission, Citing Barrier to Disadvantaged

Mr. Thacker and other critics said that under binding early admission programs, students have to commit to a college long before they know how much aid they will be offered. Students who apply for admission in the regular cycle are able to compare financial-aid offerings from various colleges before making up their minds in April.

Fear of being committed to a school before having any idea how much financial aid would be available certainly affected my college application decisions. Even though my school councilor explained to me that there was no way they could force me to attend a particular college, I was still concerned about signing a piece of paper that committed me to attendance when I didn’t know if I’d have the cash.

Born to Blog

[ 0 ] September 11, 2006 |

I have to agree with Jack Shafer:

Fools, knaves, and liars. Ignorant journalists. Traitors and more traitors. Marty Peretz was born to blog.

It’s absolutely true. Peretz’ posts have always stood out at the Plank; angry, bitter, capable of containing one thought supported by half a shred of evidence. He doesn’t waste any time worrying about counter-arguments or marshalling evidence. In some sense he’s a perfect conserva-blogger, with the always crucial “I didn’t leave the Democrats, the Democrats left me” schtick to rely on. Blogging is a form amazingly well suited to the way that Peretz writes and thinks.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I plan to actually read his blog. Shafer ends with:

If he didn’t own a piece of the New Republic and didn’t blog, where could Peretz get published?

That’s a damn fine question.

Niall Ferguson is Making Sense

[ 0 ] September 11, 2006 |

There are so few today who are willing to stand up and make a forthright defense of hereditary monarchy.

Yes, I understand that he’s (probably) joking, but reading this column was much like re-reading Colossus; the inclusion of things that are not like one another (constitutional and absolute monarchs), an ill-defined sense of what a monarchy is or what it does, an invocation only of the most positive aspects of the governmental form, and a blind eye turned to any negatives. I don’t know whether to bang my head against the table or to congratulate Niall on some truly inspired self-parody…

Model Emergency

[ 0 ] September 11, 2006 |

This is odd.

[ 0 ] September 11, 2006 |

Drunken Orson Welles

I can taste the bitterness… but where are the fish sticks?

Fugly

[ 0 ] September 10, 2006 |

So here’s a question that I’ve been contemplating for the last two days in Council Bluffs, Iowa; what is the ugliest state in America? I’m going with Iowa, although I’ll also entertain Ohio, Kansas, Rhode Island, or Ohio as answers.

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