I’ve had a correspondent or two pushing me to explain “what your problem?” with the modern Democratic party. Rather then write up something new, it occurred to me that a very old post of mine sums it up pretty perfectly:

From back in May, 2002:

I’ve been thinking about “Liberalism” (as opposed to Lockean “liberalism”) for a while – after all, I need to justify the title of this blog. I am trying to unify the examples of what mostly goes for Liberalism in this day and age, which I’m calling “SkyBox Liberalism” – which is v. different from what I’m promoting.

While the theory percolates, let me explain by example.In the late 1970’s, I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. It was good for me, got me almost exactly the job I wanted when I got out, and convinced me that none of my sons will go to mega-public universities as underclassmen.

While I was there, there was a small controversy that I followed. It involved the effort of the student government to evict from the student union one tenant, and to replace it with another. This is to me, the perfect example of SkyBoxing, and I hope that telling the story will help define what I mean.

In the 60’s in Berkeley, there was a movement to create a series of co-ops that would allow student-radicals to both generate jobs outside the hated-but-paying-their-rent capitalist system, and provide a living example that (for all I know) Trotskyite anarcho-syndicalism could triumph in the Belly of the Beast.

Most of these communal businesses failed mercifully quickly, as far as I know (this is all ancient history to me, so if I’m getting part of it wrong, drop a note). By the time I got there, there were two survivors – Leopold’s Records (“Boycott Tower Records, keep Berkeley Free”) and the Missing Link bicycle shop.

Leopold’s was off-campus somewhere near Telegraph, but the bicycle store was a part of the mini-shopping area that was in the ASUC building.

The student government decided that they were going to evict it to make room for a small-electronics (Walkmen, stereo, calculators, etc.) annex to the Student Store. Why??

The small-electronics store could pay as much as $50,000 more in rent every year.

Now this is an appropriately cold-hearted landlord kind of decision to make. But the people making the decision weren’t sweater wearing conservative Young Republicans, driven by their vision of the purity of the market.

They were a bunch of New Left, ethnic-identity, progressive communitarian kind of kids.

Why did they want to make this decision? Because it would mean $50K a year more for their organizing budgets; $50K more in pork they could carve up in the hopes of building their perfect communitarian future.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time imagining anything more keyed to a progressive communitarian future than a cooperatively owned bicycle store. I mean, how much better does it get? Nonprofit. Cooperatively employee owned. Bicycles, for chrissakes. If you really wanted to educate people in alternatives to the “mass consumerist repressive capitalist paradigm” (I think I got the buzzwords right), wouldn’t that be a good way to do it?

But reality couldn’t stand a chance against the cold need for this elected group to make sure that they and their friends were rewarded.

See it’s not about what you really believe in, in the SkyBox world … it’s about making sure you and your friends can be very comfortable while you think and write and feel very very seriously about it.

I’m not touting bicycles or co-ops right now (although there are things to say for both); it’s the fact that one group put their beliefs into practice in the world, while another made it a point to live comfortably while thinking really hard about making the world a better place.

One of those is a Liberal – the other is doing something else, but is definitely doing it from a SkyBox.

Watching The Races

So Michael Totten has posted something on the election, and while I’m not completely in agreement with him you ought to go check his post out. I’m a little more tied into the redistributionist, social justice stuff than he is, but I’m equally disgusted with the choices on the menu.

Let me explain.

I’m a huge fan of motorcycle road racing, and have done a bit myself. Right now, we’re in the midst of what will be an epochal season in MotoGP, the premier class in the sport.

Valentino Rossi has been the dominant racer in the world for much of the last decade, in several classes from 125cc up to the modern 200+ hp, 100+ 200+ mph 990cc bikes. I’ve watched him race here in the states, and watched many of his races on video, and he’s simply superhuman on a bike. I sat in a pub in Guildford and watched on TV as he took two seconds a lap out of the best racers in the world on a flooded track at Donington.This year, he’s had a tough time. The evolution of his bike hasn’t gone as well as one might expect. And it’s possible to infer that partying at his mansion on Ibiza might be more of a priority for him than the drudgery of training and testing equipment. He took a nasty spill, and was off his form for the first half of the season.

As a result, young American Nicky Hayden has held the lead for most of the season. They are quite a pair, these two, a real contrast. Both second-generation racers, each of them has arrived, in their mid-twenties at the pinnacle of their sport and profession.

I’ve been a fan of Rossi’s for a number of years. I’ve been a fan of Hayden’s for a shorter time. On one hand, it’s wonderful to see a master return to form when the pressure is on. On the other, it’s amazing to watch someone struggle to defeat someone who is and has been clearly the best in the world at something. Each champion has had a season marred by mischance, accident, mechanical issue, bad tire construction – all the drama that leads racers to shrug and go “that’s racing”.

This weekend, Hayden was knocked off his motorcycle by his Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, and fell behind Rossi for the first time this season.

So the whole shooting match will be decided in two weeks in Valencia. And I’m riveted, because regardless of who wins, I will be completely convinced that they deserve the championship, perhaps more than in most years.

So you’re completely confused now, right? I started out talking about elections that may determine the future of Life As We Know It, and moved on to an irrelevant, elitist sport that is hastening the end of the world as we know it through global warming.

Here’s the difference. Rossi and Hayden both deserve to win. The Democrats and Republicans both deserve to lose.

I don’t spend much time Republican-bashing on this site; I figure I’ll leave that to people who want to build a strong Republican Party – something I’m not terrifically invested in. but in case you’re wondering, I think the modern Republicans have a lot in common with the Russian apparachniks who sold themselves the assets that belonged to the state for pennies on the dollar and suddenly announced that they were now brilliant businessmen. The modern GOP seems compelled not to limit the power of the state – the root of conservative thought, as I was raised to understand it – but to use it to pay for their places in the Hamptons and Montecito.

The Republicans have one thing correct – we face a serious enemy that needs to be fought – but seem incapable of rising to the historical moment and convincing the rest of us to put the nation first – because they’re too busy looting it to put it first themselves.

And the Democrats…

Let’s not go there. They have sold out the working people of the country, along with a whole lot of other folks they were elected to defend, all for a mess of Hollywood and Silicon Valley pottage.

There’s one race that matters a lot to me, and should matter to you as well. I’ll talk about it in the next day or so, along with some comments on California propositions.

Speaking Of Nuclear Deterrence…

Here’s a good NYT article suggesting that the Administration is looking at new deterrence models, and on the technical difficulties involved in doing so:

Security specialists said Mr. Bush’s warning signaled a significant expansion of longstanding policies of deterrence, extending the threat of reprisals to the transfer of nuclear weapons or materials to another country or to terrorists.

That has long been a concern about the North Korean program, but the tools to prevent it are still limited.

Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview on Thursday that “to be credible, declaratory policy must be backed up by effective capabilities.”

Here’s how it’s done:

The Pentagon, in carrying out one of its most sensitive missions, maintains a team of nuclear experts to analyze the fallout from any nuclear attack by terrorists, not only to identify the attackers but also to figure out where they got their bomb.

Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations unit based in Vienna, compiles identifying markers drawn from the chemistry and physics of processes that produce radioactive material in nuclear programs around the world.

Using that kind of data and technology, it might be possible to figure out the likely origin of an intercepted shipment of bomb material … or of the radioactive debris of a weapon that was used. The atomic energy agency’s inspectors have significant records from their time in North Korea before they were expelled, and they could rule out many other possible sources of radioactive material by calling on records from nations that cooperate with the agency.

And what it means:

Mr. Bush’s statement was viewed by national security experts as a major shift in deterrence doctrine, one that acknowledges that the mission today is no longer preventing North Korea from building a nuclear weapon, but deterring its use or transfer.

“The administration will continue saying that a nuclear weapon in North Korea is unacceptable, but in fact they are beginning to accept it,” said Scott D. Sagan, director of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. “The administration is switching from a nonproliferation policy to a deterrence and defense policy. It is a form of containment rather than a form of nonproliferation.”

And why it’s hard:

…while the Bush administration at first charged that North Korea had been the source of Libya’s uranium, experts spent months trying to determine whether the contents of the cask had come from there as well or whether it had been filled up elsewhere. The result: plenty of suspicions, but no hard proof.

“We took months and months and months and still couldn’t come to a 100 percent conclusion,” one senior administration official said this year. “That happens. But it doesn’t help you justify a counterstrike against someone.”

Oh My God!! Lieberman May Be Angry!! Who Could Have Guessed It?

Remember how I said Matt Stoller of MyDD was a fool?

Well today, Chris Bowers joins him as he looks at the mess MyDD helped make, and whines loudly about it.

Further, since current polling shows a senate with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman would also potentially have the ability to flip control of the Senate if he chooses to caucus with Republicans. Back in 2001, the Democratic caucus gladly gave seniority to Jim Jeffords when he left the Republican caucus in order to gain control of the chamber. That was the price to pay for control, and after six years in the minority, the Democratic caucus was more than happy to make that compromise. It isn’t hard to imagine that if Republicans find themselves one seat in the minority after the elections next month that they will also gladly grant Lieberman seniority in order to retake control of the chamber.

What, exactly, did you think was going to happen, Bowers? I’ve been meaning to make my fortune with a reality TV show I’m calling “What the f*** were you thinking?” I want to go to jails and interview the guy who led 30 cops on a two-hour chase at 55mph in his minivan, until he ran out of gas. Or maybe I can get Foley. Or maybe Chris and the rest of the blogging braintrust that decided that “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.” would be good national politics could be the first guests.

Back – once again – to my very first comment about this race:

Ask yourself this, if you’re all excited at the notion of Lieberman running against Lamont as an independent. Who do you think is going to be sitting in the Dirksen Building in February of ’07? Lamont? In a state that was – in 2004 – 44 percent unaffiliated, 34 percent Democratic, and 22 percent Republican. Come Election Day, what exactly do you think is going to happen?

And when Lieberman is sitting in his Senate office next year, do you think the Democratic Party will be stronger or weaker for his departure?

I say it will be weaker.

Thanks for noticing, Chris.

Tim Oren’s Nuclear Strawman

In the comments to my ‘Godfather‘ post below, Tim Oren made a really smart comment that elaborated on my idea and turned it into something vaguely practical:

May I suggest an alternative framing that may find some common ground? In the commentary here and on Joe’s post there’s at minimum a volks-wisdom that we can grudgingly trust some newer nuke powers to act responsibly – India, Israel, China (let’s hope), but others we cannot: NK, Pakistan, Iran.

Is question is how to convert that intuition into a framing that is understandable by all, not seen to be simply arbitrary, and is utterly convincing to transgressors in regards of their fate. It should also be able to survive the probably inevitable further proliferation of nuclear power reactors. In short, a de facto effective ‘Nuclear Proliferation Treaty‘, with nasty, sharp, pointy teeth.

A strawman:

* All participating nuclear powers provide samples of output of their reactors to all other powers. If any power is ever caught not doing so, through the national intelligence means of any other power, they are out of the agreement.

* All non-participating powers are in one equivalence class. They may come into compliance only by agreeing and conforming to the above, to the satisfaction of all the currently complying powers.

* Any conventionally or unconventionally delivered nuke having the signature of one of the participating powers makes that party culpable. (A powerful incentive to report any fissile materials losses and enlist everyone in cleaning them up.)

* Any conventionally or unconventionally delivered nuke having no known signature, or one known to originate from a noncompliant power by national intelligence means, means that all noncompliant powers are jointly culpable.

* The target of an attack may deal with the culpable party or parties by any means it feels necessary. Other compliant powers may assist in this, but none will oppose.

This might be stable if enough of the incumbent nuke powers agreed to it as a de facto doctrine. The disclosure part is close enough to the current, ineffective NPT compliance regime that that it might be workable, at least technically.

Tear it up…

I have a few issues – the notion that all noncomplaint powers are jointly responsible is something that will take some serious thought.

But it actually may be a basis for a longer-term stable regime than the shotgun hooked to the piece of string proposal that I originally made, because a) it divides the nuclear world into those that embrace transparency and are willing to be held explicitly accountable, and those who are not; and b) it provides strong incentives to move from the latter to former category.

America, Loved and Hated

Had an IM with Biggest Guy, who’s in Brazil for 6 months:

BiggestGuy: actually, i had an interesting conversation with the cable guy

Biggest Guy: tried to talk about he thinks other countries are better places to live than the us and whatnot

Biggest Guy: sly little smile on his face, ‘im not trying to offend’

Biggest Guy: like i care

me: interesting…

Biggest Guy: and then i explained he would easily make 20 reas an hour in the us to do the work he does

Biggest Guy: he was much more thoughtful after that

And it made me think of a piece in Vanity Fair linked by democracyarsenal. It’s about the growing crisis in Egypt as the state oppresses harder in response to it’s citizens’ discontent, and how America is seen through that prism.

Read the whole article, but the quotes cited are telling. First:

[Farouk’s] ultimate dream, though, was to win the American-visa lottery. Every year, the U.S. awards some 50,000 work visas around the world, and this was the fourth year in a row that Farouk was applying…

For some minutes, Farouk rhapsodized about what his life would become if he won the lottery, how it would answer all his dreams. “Because I know in America I would be a great success. Everything would be wonderful for me then.” After a short time, though, Farouk seemed to reflect on just how improbably small the odds were of this happening, and grew more solemn.

“You remember my friend Ashraf?” he asked. “He didn’t tell you this, but last year he got an Iraqi visa. He wanted to join the jihad – as a fighter or as a shaheed [martyr], he didn’t care – but so many Egyptian men have gone there that they have closed the land routes. To go to Iraq now, you first have to fly to Syria, and he didn’t have the money for that.”

It sounded like some bad joke, a guy so down on his luck he couldn’t even get himself killed, but then Farouk continued in a soft voice.

“Sometimes I think maybe I should do that. They talk about it a lot in the mosques, about all the young men going there. I think I’m too soft to be a fighter, that it’s not in my spirit, but I don’t know … If I could go and kill some Americans before I die, then maybe my life would have had some meaning.”

The amazing cognitive dissonance here – between desiring the dream of America so badly and then, rejected, feeling that “killing some Americans before I die” is the thing that would give his life meaning – is mind-boggling.

And in there is the seam of belief that we need to somehow exploit to split people away from adopting beliefs that will ultimately mean we will have to kill them.

So…how do we do it? That’s the three-pipe problem.