Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Danneskjold method
Written by: Beck

"If the 21st Century nation-state can’t even fight pirates, what’s it good for, exactly? Collecting taxes? What happens when taxpayers decide they’d rather be pirates?"

-- Glenn Reynolds

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Electioneering, reductio
Written by: Beck

Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
- Douglas Adams

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
- Mark Twain

Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.
- Jules Renard

Thursday, November 06, 2008

On Politicians
Written by: Beck

Imagine a conversation in November of 1976... imagine one person said to another, "A Deomcrat will not win a majority of the popular vote in a presidential race for another 32 years, but when one does, it will be a black man whose closest Democratic competitor was a woman, and also, the defeated Republican's running mate will be a woman." The speaker's grounding in reality--to say nothing of his sanity--would certainly have been called into question.

I think, as I'm sure will come as no surprise, that Obama's policies will be harmful to the nation. But I'm also very proud to live in a country where discrimination really is fading into the shadows of history. It's certainly not gone. But things have come a hell of a long way since November of 1976.

I even think this election will be good for the Republican party, and as a consequence, good for the country. The Republican dominated House and Senate, under the guidance of president Bush, enacted the greatest increases in government spending since FDR. That is not responsible government. Not by any definition of the word. If you look at the principles espoused in the Republican "Contract With American" from 1994, you'll find not one that the Republicans continued to embrace once Bush took office. I believe this reflects a deep flaw in the nature of politicians generally, and I despair at the type of person who is drawn to seek elected office.

In China, government officials have received the death penalty for corruption. In America, politicians typically get off lighter than civilians for their crimes. If I rob a liquor store, the impact is limited to myself, the store's employees and owners, perhaps anyone else nearby if I was waving a gun around... if you really want to stretch it, you could add all of the liquor store's customers to the list of those impacted, if distantly. When a senator is corrupt, the impact is on every citizen of his home state, and if you really want to stretch it, every person in the United States. Yet who does more jail time?

In a sense, a politician's character is far more important than a politician's politics. A person genuinely motivated out of a desire to give back to the community and serve the best interest of the citizenry is likely to make better decisions. And while individuals will certainly be wrong headed and mistaken at times, a congress of such men is likely to generally point in a positive direction. A politician motivated by the search for and retention of power cannot be trusted to make any decisions. They will be motivated by the fickle winds of public opinion and their pocket book. And yet public officialdom, from the smallest town council on up to the highest elected officials in the land, is entirely dominated by the latter type of person.

Such people--as been demonstrated countless times in the more overtly despotic variety of regimes--run nations, economies, and peoples into the ground. The things standing in the way of American public officialdom are a combination of tradition and the Constitution. Traditions weaken, change, and eb over time, but it is defense of those traditions for reason of recognition of their value to both societal stability and governmental restraint that motivates true conservatives (people who are philosophically conservative I should say, so as to distinguish from "religious conservatives" or "social conservatives" who might be quite liberal or radical in other regards).

The United States Constitution is an old document. It certainly shows its age, and its inflexibility certainly can be a hindrance in an era of high technology and rapid change the likes of which the Constitution's drafters could never have envisioned. Nonetheless, it's that very rigidity which makes it so valuable as a defense against the professional political class which I think most citizens would agree cannot be trusted with any more power than they already have. There are a great many people who seek to weaken the Constitution: to soften its provisions, to broaden its interpretation, to render it down into a list of malleable guidelines rather than fixed hard and fast rules which must be observed. To some, rigid adherence to the Constitution seems downright silly: a pointless worship of a piece of paper written in an era when bleeding sick patients still seemed like a good idea. But it is one of the few dams remaining holding back the flood tide of acquisition of power by politicians. Its continued defense by honest and idealistic people is essential to protection of our own individual rights.

I don't know what kind of politician Barack Obama is. The weirdly skewed news cycle prevented a truly clear picture from emerging. We will now find out though, whether we want to or not. Let us hope the surprise is a pleasant one. But let us prepare for the obverse.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

There And Back Again
Written by: Marsh

When I asked Beck if I could join INCITE a few months ago, it was not without a bit of an ulterior motive. I'd had a couple post ideas brewing in my head. Since writing is a very time-intensive process for me, these never got off my internal back burner. But let me rummage through my mental file cabinet and blow the dust off 'em for a minute. These were the working titles:

Can I Really Pull The Lever For Bob Barr?
Top Ten (Thousand) Reasons I Can't Vote For John McCain
Dammit, I'm Writing In Rudy Guiliani: Why "Throwing My Vote Away" Really Isn't

And I'm going to be shelving these permanently, which is fortunate because considering this is my Election Day essay and (if I hustle) I might almost publish it before the polls close on the West Coast, it would have taken me no less than two years to write all three of those posts. Exhaustive work.

I quickly learned the answer to my interrogative first post idea would be "No" when I discovered two things. First, Indiana has optical scan ballots; second and more importantly, Bob Barr's position on Iraq is nearly indistinguishable from or even to the left of Barack Obama's: Barr wants withdrawal from Iraq "as quickly as possible" whereas Obama settles at least for "responsible and phased." But both of them prefer easy words like "mistake" to difficult ones like "victory." Funny how that extra syllable seems to stick in the craw of people who believe that the American military is somehow currently a net negative. But hey, at this point withdrawal from Iraq is like leaving the game early when your team's winning handily. Best to get out now and beat the rush. Wouldn't want to get caught in traffic with all those refugees when the whole country backslides into the very civil war we're supposedly fomenting by our continued presence.

Also, Barr spoke at my alma mater, and even though the house wasn't exactly packed, I was turned away because I wasn't a student. I'd think that the Libertarian Party nominee isn't exactly in a position to be spurning any potential voters, but given that I'm evidently not going to be a Libertarian, I probably shouldn't be so presumptuous about their GOTV efforts.

But I'd still like an answer from Barr or the LP about how to survive a post-9/11 world when the LP platform on "Foreign Policy" is one plank: Cut off all foreign aid. Seriously.

As for the other two, I'm not kidding about my disgust with John McCain. Of course, he's a damn fine American and I respect his service, but I said the latter half of that caveat four years ago about another senator named John, and I wasn't exactly giddy about voting for him, either. I'm still scratching my head on how we wound up with McCain in the first place. Rudy Guiliani seemed like the obvious and perfect choice, but his campaign was done in by his pro-choice views and his disinclination to actually campaign anywhere. So the Iowa caucuses were won by Mike Huckabee, who is basically Jim Nabors without the singing voice. Faced with the horrifying spectacle of nominating Gomer Pyle, John McCain was floated as a compromise candidate to unite the GOP's hawk and values wings, and in that role he's perfect, since John McCain has compromised on damn near everything in his political career. I suppose he made a better Republican candidate than Mike Hyukhyukhyukabee and Ron Paul (oh, snap; I so went there, and brought back souvenirs). But not by much.

I didn't feel like gagging on that shit sandwich, so I was thinking of ways to weasel out of it. Maybe I could write in Rudy Guiliani. Or Fred! Fred Thompson rocks. I think it says something about my long-held maxim that I love politics but not politicians when my two favorite candidates this year were ex-politicians who thought they could be nominated for president without actually trying to attract votes.

And that was pretty much my philosophy until a few game-changers sprang up. This is where Bill Whittle comes in and says it was the selection of Sarah Palin as VP, and while I totally <3 Sarah Palin, that's not it. McCain could have picked Romney or Pawlenty or Lieberman and it wouldn't have shaken my ambivelent inertia one jot, considering nobody goes with Plan A because they're really excited about Plan B. If I'm interested in leasing a car today, I don't care about the car I'm going to get in four or eight years.

At Protein Wisdom Pub, I argued that Joe The Plumber had the power to be a turning-point issue, but that wasn't for me specifically. I didn't need convincing about how few layers of Barack Obama needed to be peeled before the socialist in him came out; you don't win Most Liberal Senator awards by being a titan of rugged individualism and fiscal restraint.

Pointing out the attempted destruction by the Left of both Palin and Joe is getting warmer a bit, but again, the incivility of the Left comes as no surprise to me. You want to see a riot? Go to a peace march.

Joe Biden's gaffe? Please. If the fact that electing someone whose first instinct is negotiation will be considered by hostile nations to be an act of weakness actually surprises you, then I'm not sure how you can take a shower without drowning.

No, actually, the reason is a lot more petty and small: I live in Indiana, and suddenly Indiana this year is a toss-up state.

Suddenly, My Vote Matters.

I'd like to be able to stick to my principles, but considering My Vote Matters, it's tough to hang on to something so abstract when the consequences are so stark and concrete, just as many an environmentalist sang a different tune when the price of gas doubled, and "Drill, Baby, Drill!" has gone flat now that it's halved.

When My Vote Matters, it feels silly to burn it by writing in a candidate who didn't attempt to earn it when he had a chance, like Rudy or Fred. It also seems like folly to spend it on a third party that's nowhere close to me on the most important issue a government can have, or fourth/eighth/tenth parties that might but are light years away from anything even approaching relevance.

But that still doesn't mean I feel comfortable voting for John McCain, my friends.

That's when all the other small things began kicking in, and if you're like me and are only excited to vote for John McCain for (__insert_your_reason_here__), then welcome. As for me, I'm not excited for any one reason, but the combination of whatever reasons you have that have suddenly made this election something other than a fait accompli. I had believed that Indiana was such a reliably red state that if it were to possibly be considered a toss-up in the general election this year, then the entire electorate necessarily would have shifted to the left and thus Barack Obama would win by a landslide. I'm still not sure how Indiana can be within spitting distance of flipping blue but McCain still has a chance. (I have a theory, and should McCain lose I'll dash off an invective-filled diatribe that, with the speed I generally write at, should be posted just before the midterms.) (Oh, and if you think McCain has no chance, well, stay tuned.)

So count me in as someone voting against Barack Obama instead of for John McCain. That may be an immature and stupid reason to cast a vote, to which I say: They started it. In the one-word slogan of "Change," Barack Obama made himself the not-George-W.-Bush candidate. But in speeches, he generally doesn't mention the President by name, but only talks about "the last eight years," which is so vague that it's brilliant. If the last eight years sucked for you, even on a personal level, then Barack Obama is your new bicycle. "Well, I lost my job 'cause I showed up to work drunk. Then I burned my house down trying to kill spiders with a can of hairspray and a Bic lighter. Then I ran over my dog driving away from the flames. Then a cop pulled me over and gave me a DUI. So yeah, I need a change from the last eight years!"

Change could mean — and in Barack Obama's case it certainly does — that we're going to fix what ain't broke (at this moment, Iraq) and utterly destroy what's broken (the economy). Change, by itself, is not a political philosophy, but it works. Which is probably why all but one of the men who were elected president in the last four decades rode the idea of "change," at least in part, to their victories.

But with Barack Obama, it's different, because that powerful tonic is mixed with the perfect gin: an intoxicating confidence that's completely spun up. And I hate gin and tonics. (I do like a good Black And Tan, but the Democratic ticket ain't it.) The confidence in Obama is based on nothing, or as Obama supporters prefer to call it: "Hope." Hope is easier than action. (Again, it's that extra syllable that must be bothersome.) Why actually introduce bills in the Senate when you can just talk about them on the campaign stump and pretend that's what you were for all along? Telling people what they want to hear isn't nearly as difficult as doing what they want. Hillary was right.

The effect of this confidence borders on narcotic. People are so willing to believe that He Is The One We've Been Waiting For that they drop all pretense of common sense. In the Asia Times Online, a writer known only as Spengler talked about a group called "Veterans for Obama" who earnestly seemed to believe that Bush's Iraq policy was too weak, and Obama would redouble the efforts for victory. CNN's iReport found a voter who considers himself "definitely pro-life," but was still "trying to decide whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain is more in line with his views." And in perhaps the saddest case, Christopher Buckley, son of National Review founder and godfather of the modern conservative movement William F. Buckley, broke with those who stood athwart history yelling "Stop!" to stand athwart them yelling "Stop!" The basis on which he proclaimed his defection to Barack Obama? That Obama isn't dumb enough to enact left-wing policies at this crucial juncture, because "he is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for." (I shouldn't have to provide any evidence, I hope, of the creepy ways that the more rank-and-file Obama supporters show their enthusiasm. Lest there be any doubt, Google it.)

Buckley, in addition, wrote about Obama's "first-class temperament," especially when compared to McCain, about whom Christo had once thought the same way but now he calls him "irascible and snarly," as if McCain's volcanic temper hasn't always been the major knock on his presidential electability for the last eight-plus years. This became a major theme during the late stages of the campaign; Obama was "cool" and "confident" while McCain was "erratic."

Since I met Beck because of poker, I don't think it's totally inappropriate if I talk a little cards here. Let me give you the number-one "tell" that poker players look for in their opponents when faced with a significant decision: Strong means weak, and weak means strong.

When CNN's Anderson Cooper questioned Barack Obama on the relative similarity between his legislative experience and Sarah Palin's executive experience, Obama actually answered — are you sitting down? — that part of his experience includes running his own presidential campaign. This is nothing less than astonishing; it's the desperate tautology of the mega-bluffer. I'm making a big bet because I have a good hand. I have a good hand because I made a big bet. Or, in this context: I'm running because I have experience. My experience is that I'm running. Or: I will bring "hope" and "change" because I say so.

The Obama campaign has tried very hard to conceal that the emperor has no clothes. They all but attached a TelePrompTer to his head because when the words aren't in front of him, he tends to say something dumb. And when he does ("cling to guns and religion," "spread the wealth"), the instant comeback to the criticism is that it's a "distraction." We're an unbeatable juggernaut. The only way we lose is if you "distract" the voters, and we won't let that happen. YOU CAN'T WIN.

And when the Obama campaign stays on point, that's generally the unified message, as this pro-Hillary Obama staffer leaked:
This has been the Obama campaign’s sole strategy from the very beginning! The only way he wins is over a dispirited, disorganized, and demobilized opposition. This is how it has been for all of his campaigns. What surprises me is that everyone has fallen for it.
But have they? Barack Obama has certainly made the kind of gaffes you would expect of a campaign where the wheels are coming off. Remind us where Jacksonville is again, Senator? And where's John McCain? On "Saturday Night Live" acting like he's out of money and out of strategies. Who looks stronger to you? Who looks like they're merely trying to look stronger?

And what of this massive groundswell of inspired new voters Obama is bringing to the polls? Even though I generally frown on the amateur armchair psychology that passes for voter analysis, let me provide some. If you tell me that you thought The Dark Knight was a really good movie, I may agree or not, but even if I don't, you probably won't get too upset. But what if The Dark Knight is your favorite movie? What if it has made you appreciate film in a way no other movie has? What if you see in The Dark Knight a metaphor for all your hopes and dreams? Then if I tell you I thought it sucked and that Iron Man was much better, you might just get mad, like I was insulting all that you hold dear. But even then, you could probably compose yourself; after all, The Dark Knight has a whopping 94% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing, so all the people who don't like it are obviously in a clueless minority, one you can easily dismiss.

So, if you're an Obama supporter . . . why so serious? (And you probably thought The Dark Knight was a racial reference. Suckers.) Your guy is going to win, right? So why the visceral hatred of John McCain and Sarah Palin? Why steal all the McCain yard signs you can find? I don't remember seeing such invective toward insignificant candidates. Has anyone hated on Tommy Thompson recently? Mike Gravel?

But what about the polls?, you might ask. A fair question; RealClearPolitics has Obama up by more than 7 points, which would seem to be an insurmountable lead.

But if that's the case . . . why is McCain still trying to win? John McCain is a great many things, not all of which I like, but one thing he isn't is someone who shirks his duty. If he is really putting "Country First," then if he were doomed to lose he would try his damndest to limit the damage of the downticket races. If the GOP can hold the Democrats to under 60 Senate seats, then they still have some political pull for the next two years. McCain, as a Senator, surely knows this, and he knows that to abdicate that effort in a vainglorious quixotic holdout for the brass ring would be too mavericky even for the consummate maverick.

Furthermore . . . why is Obama still trying to win? If RCP is right on its projection, why isn't he trying to assemble a filibuster-proof majority? Or, why isn't he parking the bus in Pennsylvania and Ohio to make sure McCain doesn't establish traction (see for yourself at In the month of November he hasn't been to Pennsylvania at all, but he has been to (in order) Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, proclaiming, "We have a righteous wind at our backs."

We are unstoppable.

Give up.

Don't vote. It's futile.

Maybe, just maybe, the world doesn't revolve around the polls. Maybe if you're reading this and you haven't voted yet, you should. And maybe it's not a foregone conclusion after all.

Your Vote Matters, Too.

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