Archive for Political Science Fiction

Faster, please

The opening sentence of John Phillips’ column in the January Car and Driver:

In 1991, I wrote about a Top Fuel dragster that was homing in on the NHRA’s first 300-mph quarter-mile pass, a velocity that many felt might teleport the driver so far into the future that he’d land in an era where Congress couldn’t pass bills.

Current NHRA Top Fuel quarter-mile record at this writing is held by Spencer Massey of Fort Worth, Texas, who has done the deed in a certified 332.18 mph.

Apparently that’s still not fast enough.

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Getting mighty crowded in here

So: 619 million Americans, then? No wonder I can’t find a parking place.

2014 Bureau of the Census estimate is 319,309,000. So no matter what kind of number-crunching Abramowitz thinks he’s doing, it’s wrong from the word Go. And this whole scene could have been avoided had we realized from the start that the Seventeenth Amendment was a crock and killed it off before it could do any more damage.

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Quote of the week

Theodore Dalrymple, in Taki’s, muses on a major deficiency of democracy:

Modern politicians, having been given the mandate of heaven (vox populi vox Dei), do not accept limitations of their authority or their moral competence, even if, in practice, only a third or even a quarter of the eligible voters have voted for them. Procedural correctness is all that is necessary for such a man to feel justified in pursuing his own moral enthusiasms at other people’s expense.

But the more firmly the politicians believe in their heavenly mandate, the more the political class is divided from the sacred people from whom that mandate allegedly derives. (I have noticed with astonishment recently how increasingly many of the potential candidates in the perpetual American presidential race are close relatives of previous candidates or at least of high-flying politicians.) Indeed, many a monarch and even dictator has been more physically accessible to the populace than modern democratic politicians, suggesting a deficiency of real rather than assumed or theoretical legitimacy. Democracy in the modern sense encourages monomania in the population, in which every citizen is viewed as, and many actually become, a potential assassin, from whom the democratic politician must be protected like gold in vaults. Where politics is the location of all virtue, politicians are the lightning conductors of all discontents.

They’ll make a monarchist of me yet.

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A thin recruiting pool

The conventional wisdom, accorded even more conventionality during this particular administration, is that governors make better Presidents than do members of Congress. This sounds questionable to me, and downright ridiculous to Bill Quick:

Who were the most successful presidents of the past 100 years? I’d nominate Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Ronald Reagan, and LBJ. Three former governors, but one — arguably the most effective legislator post Roosevelt — a lifelong creature of Congress.

How about the worst Presidents? I’d go with Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and … George W. Bush. Three governors, one from Congress.

Being a state governor is no guarantee that a president will understand or be able to effectively deal with the intricacies of governance at the federal level, where the issues are larger and more critical, the bureaucracies more embedded and sclerotic, and the egos larger and more tender.

This makes more sense if one imagines, say, a Mary Fallin presidential bid: a nice pair of legs does not offset a tin ear.

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So how come you didn’t vote?

There is exactly one proper response:

I take voting seriously — if I have skipped an election, it is because my former party has nominated someone as objectionable as the other party has and I want no blame for whichever loser wins and subsequently makes losers out of the rest of us.

I will presume to speak on behalf of many registered voters of several parties and say that if those who send out letters about our voting frequency would like us to vote more often, they should make more of an effort to nominate candidates who do not suck.

But that couldn’t happen, could it?

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth, on the Wednesday following the first Tuesday in November:

I have to confess that I was entirely apathetic about the midterm election, insofar as I believe both parties are pawns of moneyed interests with plans to turn the nation into an economic facsimile of Brazil where drugged-out proles play Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy all day and mobility between the classes is murdered with extreme prejudice. Mr. Obama’s milquetoast pretensions to watered-down pseudo-populism have proven to be completely ephemeral and under his supposedly Democratic administrations the holders of capital in this country have experienced a new Gilded Age while the government openly fiddles the numbers in order to turn the tens of millions of healthy and competent but utterly unemployable men in this country into nonpersons.

Still, I was pleased to wake up this morning and see that American voters had delivered a hammer to the back of Mr. Obama’s head with a staggering repudiation of his administration and his nonexistent accomplishments. It cannot be helped that most of the politicians who benefited from this ballots-not-bullets revolution are scarcely any different from the ones they replaced. What is important is that the country reaffirmed its willingness to eject major percentages of sitting elected officials for low performance.

The metaphor that works for me here is the doofus who’s gone 120,000 miles on the same automatic transmission fluid: eventually, he has to do something about the stuff, which by now looks more like Nesquik than like Fanta Strawberry, but everybody screamed “DON’T FLUSH IT!” So he had someone drop the pan and refill the unit. This improved things a bit, but it eventually dawned on him that the fluid that was in the torque converter at the time he had it serviced is still sloshing around inside there, so he takes it back to the shop, parts with another $150, and repeats the process. Eventually the fluid looks like, and smells like, what it’s supposed to be. Of course, had he flushed it, it would have failed before he got it home from the shop the first time, or so everybody says. I’ve always suspected that this was confusing correlation with causation: the trans was already about to fail, and fail it did.

(Personal note: I once bought a car that pretty much demanded the flush: the pan was vertically oriented, and the filter was internal and couldn’t be reached for cleaning. It did not fail me. Then again, I didn’t leave the same ATF in it for 120,000 miles, either.)

Which is by way of saying that if things don’t look better in a couple of years — well, a third of the Senate will be replaced in 2016.

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Unsweet ’16

One can only hope:

[M]y hope is just for a stretch of peace before the presidential campaigning begins. We can already see how viciously contested that race will be. We can already estimate the density of the ads, the contribution drives, and the phone calls. And I don’t know about you, Bubba, but I’m putting out claymores to deal with the next batch of door-to-door pollsters and campaign workers. (Remember to put the side that says “Front Toward Enemy” facing the street.)

The posturing, I’m thinking, is already underway; we’ll be lucky if we get to the 26th of December before the Big Noise begins.

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Until it’s time for you to go

It’s too late now, but you might want to remember Tam’s advice a couple of years from now:

This may sound funny having just voted for a couple tepid incumbents over their likely worse challengers, but I voted “no” on all judicial retention questions. Because any time a ballot straight up asks you “Should we fire this incumbent?” without tacking on the qualifier “…and give his job to this other wrong lizard right here,” it should be a no-brainer. I don’t care how good a job he’s doing; I’m all for dragging Cincinnatus back to his plow kicking and screaming if he doesn’t have the grace to do it himself.

This is, you should know, a question with which I’ve wrestled before.

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Report from the polling place

In the 2012 election, I wandered in at the usual time — just before 5 pm, two hours before the polls close — and got out in half an hour with ballot #1211 for the precinct. For a mid-termer, I figured half the time and half the turnout would be more than acceptable.

And it was a little busier than that: I cast #783 at 5:07 pm. There was no line, really, but there was only one booth when I signed in, and fortunately, I’d already made up my mind on most of the races. (I admit, I totally forgot Lieutenant Governor.)

A few folks had address or identification issues, but so far as I could tell, no one at the time was being turned away: provisional ballots are not exactly routine, but everyone on site knew the procedure, which is always a good thing.

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No endorsements

Not this year, anyway; this year’s ballot is unrelievedly meh. (At least in the Second Congressional District, you have the option of voting for a dead guy.) The only local candidate I view with anything resembling enthusiasm is Forrest “Butch” Freeman, who’s done a heck of a job as the country treasurer. At least county-level offices aren’t an embarrassment these days; the three commissioners seem to be busting a nut to get things done without breaking us. (I will definitely be voting for incumbent Willa Johnson for District 1, who is not messing up; there have been years when this was too much to expect from a commissioner.)

Otherwise, I am motivated these days mostly by the possibility of disposing of incumbents. Most incumbents in this state being Republican, this means I’ll have to pull the virtual lever for some Democrats. Fortunately, in this state Democrats tend to be Democrats as I remember them from my younger days, instead of the neo-Stalinists that get all the national press coverage.

If you’re still contemplating the race for governor, Joe Dorman answered some questions from The Lost Ogle, and Mary Fallin didn’t. Hard to tell which of the two is less persuasive.

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You heard it here second

Bill Quick calls next Tuesday’s outcome:

I’m going to predict that the GOP takes all the close ones except for those the Dems are able to steal. So, call it a minimum of eight Senate flips, maybe nine.

Followed by a month of outraged leftists in media and government squawking that it didn’t mean anything.

I’d say he’s right on the money — and, given the GOP’s performance in recent years, so are the outraged leftists.

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Beside some unnamed road

Finally, someone I can endorse:

And assuming that’s his real name.

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Splitters!

Another case where you can’t tell the players without a scorecard:

The Australian Progressive Party and the Australian Progressives went public within days of each other. The parties have superficial similarities and they have nearly identical names and website colour themes. They both claim nation-wide interest in a spread of state and federal seats. They want to appeal to a wide voter base by producing policies on a range of issues rather than being a one-issue party of protest. And both rely on grassroots members and donations to stay afloat.

The People’s Front of Judea was not available for comment.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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Negative thrust

James Lileks, who’s had to take a lot of trips in those horrid aluminum tubes of death, probably won’t be won over by incidents like this:

Speaking of Frontier: worst website in the history of aviation, and that includes YTMND sites that show the Hindenburg exploding. Once you’ve checked in, a pop-up window offers you seats with more legroom. I declined. Next page loads: you have no assigned seats. You can get one at the airport or restart the check-in process. What a load of steaming codswaddle. Who designs a website that requires people to restart the entire process to perform the basic function of the purpose of using the website?

I mean, does upper management of the airline use the site? Of course not. Their staff does it for them. And if it’s hard for staff, well, they’re staff, and that’s why they’re there. If some conscientious member of Staff tells the boss that the website is ugly, old, and barely functional — just like some bosses, come to think of it — then perhaps the boss makes a note to bring it up in a meeting, whereupon someone will be tasked to form an exploratory committee, which will bring in all the stakeholders, and move forwards the end goal of arranging a mission statement, after which they can start to look for vendors to build the website. By then people are ordering mobile molecular-transmission units from Uber via a patch they wear on the underside of their earlobe.

Then again, it’s not just the online experience:

It’s an awful airline. They don’t nickle-and-dime you, though, I’ll grant them that. They twenty-and-fifty you.

They can get you to Oklahoma City, though, if you don’t mind a side trip down the Kessel Run.

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Czardonic

Recent administrations, rather than trying to get anything out of those damn bureaucrats, have appointed so-called “czars” to take control of a matter without any of that tedious “responsibility” business. This works about as well as you might think, though clearly the process could be improved:

I would not mind the office so much if the office-holders, like some blood-soaked versions of dollar-a-year men, took it with the understanding that it would end with internal exile followed by a firing squad.

Even external exile would work, provided the location is suitably difficult to escape. Heck, if we rocketed them into the sun, we wouldn’t even need the firing squad.

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Older but no grander

With Mitt “Mitt” Romney out of the picture for 2016, Roberta X contemplates the further thinning of the Republican field:

Now if a few more of the perennial it’s-my-turn GOP suits would step down, and their party admit there might be a little more wrong in DC than just the policies of a dislikable El Supremo, they might get somewhere in 2016. —Don’t hold your breath; with the media firmly against them and a general tradition of tone-deafness, I fully expect the Republicans to have me voting Libertarian again in ’16, even if they mostly only beat up on the Bill of Rights seven-eighths as much as the current leading brand… (Some of you will blame me for President Hillary afterwards. Hey, get your party to run someone I can in conscience vote for or shut the heck up.)

Oklahoma doesn’t allow write-ins — screws up the optical-scanning devices — and I figure they probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I wrote in Cthulhu, who, if nothing else, will not cause you to wonder if he is the lesser of two evils.

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Privilege checked and acknowledged

Not that I feel compelled to apologize for it or anything. Michael Kinsley writes in the November Vanity Fair:

[T]he least attractive man will always have one advantage over the most attractive woman: he’ll need less time for physical preparation each day. The most vain male politician (that would be John Edwards, who once paid $1,250 for a haircut) probably spends less time on his hair, his cosmetics, and his clothes than the most indifferent or naturally beautiful woman. This is extra time he can spend developing an anti-terrorism policy or catching up on sleep.

Naturally beautiful women are indifferent to me, but that’s a different matter. (Besides, so are the rest of them.)

Feminism is no longer, if it ever was, about burning bras or not shaving your legs. Or at least the female leadership pioneers in business and politics do not interpret feminism that way. The first woman president, be it Hillary Clinton or someone else, will travel with a hairdresser and wear designer clothes. And she will need an extra half-hour or more every morning to do things that cannot be delegated to an aide and that even Barack Obama — probably our most physically fastidious if not downright dandyish president ever — never has had to bother with.

It will certainly take longer than eight minutes, thirty-four seconds.

Did I mention that Kinsley’s piece was about Chris Christie? (Did I have to?)

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More patience than I would have had

The Friar actually answers one of those automated telephone polls from a state-senate campaign:

But now I’m confused, because I don’t understand what an election to a state legislature has to do with what religion I think the President is, whether or not he is effective in leading the nation against terrorism and whether his health care reform initiative has been a plus or a minus.

Which suggests that this was a Republican campaign calling, since state Democrats hardly ever mention that Obama fellow, who apparently isn’t all that popular in this neck of the woods.

Still, the relevance of this material is questionable:

What that has to do with who represents this part of the state in a crumbling capitol building and state political leadership that has at best one adult in the room when the heads of the executive and legislative branches gather together is beyond me. Maybe I’m just a low-information voter.

The best kind, according to campaign types.

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A site old enough to vote

Still like that old-time Robert Dole? Jonathan Blake advises that the Dole/Kemp 1996 campaign Web site is still up in more or less its original format, maintained by political-history site 4President.org.

I must tell you, it looks every one of its eighteen years. (Like I should talk, right?) Still, it’s no Space Jam, as Bob Dole would tell you if you were talking to Bob Dole.

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Enthusiasm curbed

Robert Stacy McCain, on the dodgy subject of GOP Election Possibilities:

The Republican Party reminds me of a Bible verse, which is to say it is “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2).

I might suggest “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

If the Republican Party were listed on the periodic table of elements, it would be in the right column, among the inert gases.

Also known as the “noble” gases, but that wouldn’t work here, would it?

From the foregoing discussion, you can perhaps understand that I’m just quivering in anticipation at the prospect that Republicans might — just barely, maybe — capture a majority in the Senate on Nov. 4.

Which they might, which is to say that the possibility is nonzero. However, one should never underestimate the GOP’s capacity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at the last moment.

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Versus Tweedledullard

Dave Schuler finds it hard to pick the next Governor of Illinois, given the choices available:

I honestly don’t know who will prevail in the Illinois governor’s race, the incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn or the challenger, wealthy Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.

On the one hand I don’t see how the same policies that have dug Illinois into the hole in which we now find ourselves will eventually succeed if we just persist at them long enough. On the other hand Rauner’s proposals consist largely of Underpants Gnome schemes and the reality is that his campaign is predicated on his not being Pat Quinn.

Which latter is not an inconsiderable virtue; Joe Dornan will pick up a fair number of votes in Oklahoma by dint of not being Mary Fallin. This Illinois race may wind up like so many: it’s a damn shame someone had to win.

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And we’re here to help

Constituent service will never be quite as important to politicians as fundraising, but it will never go away either, because it serves the purpose of burnishing the pol’s public image, a definite boon in his eyes.

Of course, what’s going on behind the curtain is perhaps a hair more sinister:

There are approximately half a million elective positions in the United States at this time, from the federal level all the way down to the school and library boards. Every politician who contends for an elective position wants above all else someone or something he can use as his target: an incompetent or a villain he can position himself against. This is because nearly all politicians would prefer not to have to run on their records; that would invite far too much scrutiny for most of them to bear. They’d rather campaign against some vilifiable enemy, and a faceless bureaucracy that can be castigated for its misdeeds, with promises of “reform” to come, is the ideal variety.

“Constituent service” is an integral element in this strategy. Consider a Congressman to whom some constituent appeals for help with something impeded by a regulatory bureaucracy. If the Congressman can “assist” the constituent past his difficulty — perhaps by promising to support the agency’s quest for expanded funding, or perhaps by threatening the relevant bureaucrats with a federal investigation aimed at them personally — he can create a loyalist, a potential campaign donor, and possibly an activist who will help him rally others to his side. Such a loyalist is likely to be much more strongly motivated to support the Congressman than are any of his detractors to unseat him. It’s basic “Public Choice” economics at work, with the “organizer” being the politician himself.

I can testify to the accuracy of this personally, having myself once prevailed upon a Senator to get me out of a potentially uncomfortable situation. (He is no longer in an elective office, so I can no longer support him; but while he was, I did.)

And this is, of course, a major reason why the faceless bureaucracy can never die, so long as a pol needs someone on whom to blame something — and a pol will always need someone on whom to to blame something.

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Your 2014 State Questions

Only three this time around, and two of them are kissing cousins. (Okay, they’re not about cousins, or kissing either, but they did sort of grow up together.) As always, I have my own take on all the measures under consideration, and also the ones that aren’t.

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As long as you give us money

You’ll notice that no one actually wants this structure to be torn down or anything:

If you’ve walked past New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art lately, you’ll have noticed the brand-new plaza in front of the building with the Beaux-Arts façade that is home to America’s greatest art collection. Whenever alterations are made to a familiar structure, opinions usually vary widely and sharply. But one view is currently drowning out all others: Several art critics are miffed by the fact that golden letters emblazoned on the Met’s new twin fountains identify the site as the David H. Koch Plaza, in honor of the trustee who wrote the $65 million check that paid for it in full.

And it’s not like you haven’t seen this sort of thing before:

In our bipolar age, political purists are increasingly disposed to raise a stink whenever arts groups accept gifts from sources deemed by said purists to be unworthy. This tendency initially manifested itself in the case of tobacco companies like Philip Morris International that supported the arts. No doubt the company’s commitment to what it calls “corporate social responsibility” was in part an attempt to divert attention from its less-than-socially responsible products. Nevertheless, the fact of its generosity is not to be ignored — or despised.

If you think about it, the idea of a “political purist” is absurd on the face of it: nothing in politics is “pure,” or ever can be, and those who would pride themselves on their ideological purity tend to be delusional, or worse. If you object to Koch Brothers money, but happily tolerate dollars from George Soros — or, for that matter, the other way around — I, for one, am grateful that there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it.

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Faster than my ballot

My fellow Americans, meet your candidates for the foreseeable future:

“Senator X said so-and so! President Y smoked the dope! Mr. Justice Z is a mean ol’ poopyhead!” The media does it. Opposition politicians do it. You do it. Hey, guess what? They’re flawed. It’s no surprise when they have a skeleton or ten in the closet. Nobody wants those jobs without being deeply flawed — workaholics, people with so much to hide they figure they’d better help write themselves clear of the laws, attorneys with no knack for wills, contracts or litigation, weirdos who have never really felt loved or secure, philosophical whackos with an ax to grind: our government is mostly made up of people who couldn’t function in a real job. Some of them are plenty bright, plenty useful when kept on task; others help keep the chairs warm. The actually functional ones only do it as a part-time job.

Emphasis added. Yes, there are idealists; I give them about three months into their first term, and then the toxins seep into their brains and their hearts, not necessarily in that order.

And there’s this:

Nearly all of them think of the Bill of Rights as something to be read closely and weaseled around. It will not surprise you that most of them have law degrees.

Well, it’s the easiest part of the Constitution to misquote.

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Justice much as ever

Balladeer says goodbye to Eric Holder:

Holder will be remembered as the most corrupt Attorney General in history and as the man who did the most to violate the civil rights of American citizens since the late FBI Director J Edgar Hoover. Despite his misconduct Hoover got a building named after him so at some future date I guess we’ll see the “Eric Holder Sewage Plant” or some such construct. The Democratic and Republican crime gangs afford each other these little courtesies, after all.

There once was a referendum to name a San Francisco sewage plant — um, “water pollution control plant” — after George W. Bush. The measure was somehow rejected.

Also, because we must, Fark reports on Holder’s departure this way: “US Attorney General Eric Holder to resign, presumably to take care of unfinished business at Coruscant”.

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Political branding

Most campaign signs are boring as hell, perhaps because the people running campaigns are mortally afraid of doing anything to which J. Random Independent can possibly object. In this century, I’ve seen only two I thought were memorable: the simple blue square used on some George W. Bush stickers in ’04 that said simply “W” and across the bottom “The President,” and Barack Obama’s O device, which has now been beaten to death and beyond. State and local candidates don’t even get that much.

Connie Johnson for Senate emblemConnie Johnson — “Constance N.” Johnson just sounds too severe — is the Democratic candidate for the US Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn. All her campaign material contains this little emblem, which strikes me as having all sorts of subtleties to it.

For one, few as those dots are, they make for a plausible representation of the state of Oklahoma, which, well, kind of looks like that, though the Panhandle is of necessity exaggerated, inasmuch as it’s only 34 miles north to south.

For another, there are two blue dots and three red ones; this hints at the actual electorate, where the Republicans hold a plurality, albeit not close to 60 percent. And the blue occupies the leftmost portion of the grid, the red on the right, with both colors in the middle.

This is pretty impressive stuff for a Senate campaign, especially one for a two-year seat — although truth be told, what I really want to know is how the campaign managed to make a woman older than I am look younger than my daughter, a task which should require, I would think, more than mere Photoshop proficiency.

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Quote of the week

Tam’s thoughts on EbolaCorps:

I was going to get outraged and say “The military is not there to boost the president’s poll numbers!” but that would be disingenuous; of course they are, and presidents have been using them for that since George had to make a standing army to go shake down Pennsylvanian farmers. But they should at least be used for military-type missions.

The administration says that the troops in West Africa will be there for logistical support reasons, to build hospitals and refugee housing and whatnot. But haven’t I just spent a whole damned Iraq war hearing about how KBR and DynCorp and Spacely Sprockets can do that stuff cheaper and more effectively than the lumbering dinosaur of the DoD?

Are we sending 3,000 personnel into even theoretical danger so that congresscritters in tough races can go pose with carefully-selected-for-diversity photo-op platoons of ACU-clad troopies stacking rice bags and building hospitals among throngs of smiling wogs right before election time? It’s cynical of me to think so, but if true, then for shame! (As though the parties responsible would know shame if it bit them on the ass.)

At the very least, we should be sending congresscritters into theoretical danger. Or maybe not so theoretical; if they’re so damned important, let’s have their boots on the ground.

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States fairish

WalletHub, borrowing data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, has attempted to determine the most fair — and the least fair — state tax systems. Admittedly, mine eyes glazeth over at the presence of “fair” and “tax system” in the same sentence, but I figured I wouldn’t come down with glaucoma from reading their pitch, and if I did, well, I have friends in Colorado.

Oklahoma shows up at #29, about where I expected; the state, says the report, is not overly dependent on property or income taxes, but makes up the difference in sales tax and some of our state-specific Wacky Fees. By this reckoning, the fairest of them all is Montana; bottom of the list is Washington state, which lacks an income tax altogether but which will kill you, or at least maim you, with sales tax. Looking at quintiles, Washington is 7th in undertaxation of the top 20 percent, and first in overtaxation of the bottom 20. (How they rank for glaucoma, I have no idea.)

I was at least somewhat alarmed when I noticed that WalletHub also ran an opinion poll, mostly because I, like most Americans, tend to think other people’s opinions of taxes aren’t worth diddly. I was not surprised, though, to see fairly universal support for a progressive (in the numerical sense) income tax:

Although conservatives appear to support higher taxes on the poor and lower taxes on the rich, the general trend is the same: all Americans believe a fair state and local tax system taxes wealthy households at a higher rate than lower- and middle-income households.

The bottom of the “poor” scale, for this purpose, is an annual income of $5,000; “rich” tops out at $2.5 million. But even the economic liberals quail at more than a 20% impost on the wealthiest, and are willing to accept a percentage point or two at the low end. Somewhere between $30k and $50k, the curves cross.

And this is where it gets interesting. Presented with the hard ITEP data, both sides awarded Montana the top slot, both picked Washington for the bottom, and both left Oklahoma at #29. I conclude that my opinion of taxes is likely worth as little diddly as anyone else’s.

(Roger Green found this.)

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The bogeyman from Fort Meade

The Z Man suggests that NSA’s espionage prowess might be the stuff of fantasy and nothing more:

The government buys all of its technology from the private sector. There are things done for the government by private contractors that are not for anyone else, but the government does not have special magic. Further, the government is not getting the best and brightest. There’s way too much money to be made in the private sector for the government to get the best and brightest. The Snowden affair shows you how sloppy this stuff is, even at the highest level.

More important, the volume of data involved is so large there’s simply no way to sort through it in a meaningful way. There are 150 billion e-mails sent every day. That’s 55 trillion e-mails a year. Searching that volume of records for useful data is simply impractical. Throw in the 100 trillion or so phone calls and probably the same number of texts and the volume of data is well beyond what could be useful. That’s why they don’t try, but they’re fine letting people think it. The Feds are relying on the CSI effect to convince the world they can read your mind.

What is this CSI effect?

The CSI effect … is any of several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials, thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors. While this belief is widely held among American legal professionals, some studies have suggested that crime shows are unlikely to cause such an effect, although frequent CSI viewers may place a lower value on circumstantial evidence. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent throughout society, people may also develop higher expectations for the capabilities of forensic technology.

Ever try to defuzz a fuzzy picture the way they do on TV? Not happening, folks. And even if it were, you wouldn’t get a 1000-pixel-wide pastel-colored box on screen that says “Completed.”

Then again, NSA could just be stockpiling all this crap in anticipation of the time when they can do something useful with it.

And, per the dreamiest security person on earth:

Obviously, the most immediate need is for more realistic TV procedurals.

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