Thursday, December 30, 2004

A missed opportunity...

I mostly agree with the Moose's post today about Bush's response to the tsunami disaster. This was a huge opportunity and it was missed by a wide margin. He calls it "an opportunity missed but not lost", but I'm not so sure it's salvageable. Had the President addressed the nation on TV right after the calamity and promised aid and exhorted private donation to the relief effort, he would have earned credibility for his claims of benevolence toward Muslims, regardless of the amount pledged. The importance of such a move can hardly be overstated. That is how one wins hearts and minds. As it was, the administration quietly offered $15 million and opened itself to charges of being "stingy". You can buy that charge or not (I think it's a bit overblown, to say the least), but the fact that it was leveled at all is evidence of an appalling political performance on the administration's part.

We should aid the rescue and recovery because it's the right thing to do, not because it's politically useful. But doing so the right way is politically useful, and it should be done in whatever way maximizes that usefulness. Rather, it should have been done in such a way. I'm afraid that nothing the administration does now can escape the charge that it is only being done under international pressure. Again, we should do all we possibly can anyway, and maybe the Moose is right that Bush redoubling his efforts can "repair our image in the world", but I'm not so sure that the moment to both ease the suffering and bolster our image in the Muslim world hasn't passed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Like I've always said...

...When noodling's outlawed, only outlaws will noodle. You smell that, fellers? It's the sweet, sweet scent of freedom. And catfish.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Better late than never?

One of the big issues in California in the last election was Prop. 71, a $3 billion bond measure providing funds for stem cell research. I support stem cell research, and I hope it bears the wonderful fruits its cheerleaders promise, but I voted against the measure. Despite Governor Schwarzenneger's promises to drag us from the fiscal sewer, California is still running tremendous budget deficits, and has the lowest bond rating of any state in the union. Under those circumstances I couldn't support adding an additional $3 billion burden (possibly as high as $6 billion with interest, etc.) to the budget for anything inessential. If the research is as potentially revolutionary as its proponents claim, private investors have every incentive to fund it, and I reasoned that they should step into the void, not this cash-strapped state with so many essential services riding on its budget.

Prop. 71 was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and ultimately the voters. Only now are we seeing some skepticism from the Times and the Chronicle.
When we asked Steve Proctor, the Chronicle's deputy managing editor for news, why his paper didn't report on these controversies before the election, he said, "It's fair criticism to say we should have done more aggressive research into the initiative and looked further into the bill prior to the election." He also pointed out, "As something becomes a reality, you delve into it more deeply."
Uh...thanks? While you're at it, you may want to have a look at methods of putting genies back in bottles and toothpaste back into tubes.

For good overview of the current state of Prop. 71 affairs, have a look at this uncharacteristically calm and cogent San Francisco Bay Guardian article.