Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Moving Over

A while ago I mentioned that I would be abandoning Blogger for what I imagine is a sprinkling of the usual reasons. Well, that moment has come, and I will henceforth be blogging over at Typepad. Still using the moniker From Across the Pond. I've been posting in both places the last few weeks so there is some continuity at least. Its not quite as I'd like it, and it will need time to get lived in and attention, which is not what it is really getting while I am keeping going over here.

Anyway, I hope that those hardy people who follow my ramblings will follow them over there.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Using the veto

Joseph Britt posting over at Daniel Drezner's site while the latter is away posted this interesting piece on whether George Bush is a strong President. I don't really have much to comment on the substance of the post, but rather a reflection on one consideration of it. Britt writes:

Consider the veto, used by every President since Garfield to block enactment of legislation the President opposed. Bush has never used the veto even once. By contrast Bill Clinton vetoed 37 bills in eight years, Ronald Reagan 78 in eight years, Bush's father 44 in four years. ... One could argue that this merely signifies that Bush has such mastery over political Washington that Congress only passes the legislation he wants. To me it looks more like he has a talent for surrender.

Past Republican Presidents faced off against Congressional advocates of more spending. Bush doesn't. It doesn't matter what kind of spending, or how large the deficit is. If Congress can agree on a highway bill, a farm bill, or any appropriations measure, Bush will sign it. Some of the traditional Republican rhetoric on behalf of small government and fiscal responsibility remains in Bush's public statements, but he doesn't mean any of it.

Myself, I think it shows several things - not least the fact that President and Party seem to be more one and the same with this President than my impression is existed in the past. However, whatever the precise reasons for Bush's non-use of the veto there are some effects that need to be considered.

In mediaeval times lords made a point of regularly exercising their prerogatives, for fear of having them lapse and their non-application becoming custom. One fears that a presidential veto runs a not dis-similar risk. The veto was clearly an ordinary part of recent previous presidencies. A little less under Clinton than his two immediate predecessors, but still at an average of four and a half a year. Important events in and of themselves, but as a larger picture humdrum, routine.

Were George Bush to use the veto it would be anything but routine. It would be exceptional. The problem with the exceptional is that it brings an added level of controversy. And makes it harder to use. So, I wonder if a side effect of this could be the near-removal of the veto from American politics. I guess we will actually have to wait until 2012, or perhaps until 2020, before we can say whether there have been any medium-term effects of this peculiararity of this President.

Reading about Biden?

I do not particularly know why I clicked to read this article by Bill Whelan via Real Clear Politics on the possibility of Joe Biden standing in 2008. I suppose it has something to do with the fact one of the books I am currently reading is Andrew Marr's My Trade: A short history of British journalism which mentioned the plaigerism that sank Biden way back when.

Anyway, read the article. It is one of the best written political articles I have read in quite some time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A failed state

According to this short BBC article the South African deputy foreign minister does not want Zimbabwe to become a failed state.

Since South African support is one reason why Mugabe's predations continue to go on perhaps he should look in the mirror for some of the causes of the current tragedy unfolding?

Ashes 1-1

Yesterday's cricket was truly heart-stopping. Norm Geras has it aright again, this series is hotting up. It deserves to go down as one of the classics. Amazing that, rain allowed four, five days after the start it all came down again to the outcome of just one ball. This time Australia won the bowl, though instead of a win they saved a draw.

How sweet to see the Aussies fighting for the draw however. Onto Trentbridge, with everything to play for. I only hope that these last two matches can equal and exceed the heights already scaled by the first three.

Review: Flash by L E Modesitt Jr

Another offering from Modesitt, this one in a near future universe that I think is the same timeline as in Archform: Beauty and Octagonal Raven.

The form of this story follows more or less the standard Modesitt script: a hard-working man who wants to nothing so much as be left alone isn't, and all hell results. There are two subplot innovations into this well-worn, but still well written, plot-line. The first of these have to do with consequences - our hero has responsibilities other Modesitt heroes have not - and also an interesting little subplot about created life, both biological and artificial.

The book does being a little slow, and returns to that lethargic pace in places. This is not really a detraction - it is more evenly paced than some of his writing. The slower pauses are resting places along the tale's highway.

As ever, Modesitt is not what I would call great literature. It is pleasant entertainment. A good addition to his growing bibliography.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

I have not been following this ruckus particularly closely. Ultimately I think its worthless. Minds are generally too set now to change. In addition, with respect, Mrs Sheehan is just one mother. There are, unfortunately, over a thousand more who have had to say a final goodbye, and many thousands more who doubtless have a restless night wondering if there is going to be that fateful knock on the door in the morning. It also says something that it has taken over two years, and over a thousand mothers, for something like this to happen. I have no doubt her grief is real, but the way some try to use her to paint a picture is utterly contradicted by the situation.

Myself, I think Mrs Sheehan is probably sincere - I am not going to second-guess anyone when it comes to grief, having walked that road so recently myself. However, she is being blatantly used by those who, ultimatley, care nothing for her, her grief, or her son. They care only for their vendetta against George Bush. Vultures around the corpse of a dead calf show more compassion to the grieving mother.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Appreciating pitching

When I first starting watching baseball, a little over two years ago, watching pitching was pretty much a mystery to me. Of course back then I didn't really know much about the difference from a sinker to a change-up, so that can be excused. Last year though I could not really appreciate a good pitching AB. More or less I had to rely on the commentators to tell me what was going on, whereas I could tell myself what the batters were doing, and brilliant fielding just spoke for itself.

Watching the Braves against the Diamondbacks last night it came to me that this year I have finally started to be able to watch pitching. No longer is it just a sequence of balls being thrown in the batter's direction. Now I can tell more about what is going on, see how the AB develops and appreciate what it is I am seeing. A very welcome development.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Perils of prevarication

It is almost depressing when considering how people of today are so apt at repeating the same mistakes of the people of yesteryear. It is like a bad run of TV repeats. This week's offering: Munich 1938. Of course, its actually be running for quite some time now, but this week it has actually managed to penetrate the headlines a little more.

I speak of course of this business of the Iranian nuclear reactors, and the EU's shameful play-acting and connivance to this point. A sorry, sordid tale of prevarication upon prevarication. The final price will be ours to pay, and it will be all the steeper for our spinelessness.

In 1938 of course this course of action was given a name: appeasement, and many thought it an honourable course. However a decent man Chamberlain might have been the subsequent blood of millions is somewhat on his hands. One does not buy freedom, or security, only a temporary safety. This was true in the ninth century, when Norse raiders soon discovered that lords and kings would pay and pay again for just a season's grace. It was not Mercia or Frankia which became safe though, it was Wessex, the nut that refused to be cracked. The difference is plain. By the early tenth century the lords of Essex were busily on the offensive, reclaiming lost lands. Meanwhile the King of Frankia was surrendering Neustria, the land that is now known as Normandy. There are other historical examples, should one wish to seek them. On the cruel stage of this world, to prevaricate is to court disaster, to sow a seed for a frightful harvest.

Let us hope the Three Idiots wise up soon, for it will not be them or their generation that settles the bill. It will be the rest of us.


Posting on Instapundit yesterday Michael Totten wrote of this piece:

Marcus Cicero remembers the Cold War and wonders if, somewhat counter-intuitively, we’re in more danger now than we were then.

To which I have to wonder, what is so counter-intuitive about that. My father pronouced to me back in 1991 that the world was becoming a more dangerous place, and really its obvious. MAD was the key-stone in the arch of global stability for nearly forty years. The problem was the left side of the arch had been poorly built, collapsed, and global stability went with it leaving the heretofore vital key-stone just so much debris. Change is inherently dangerous, as ripe with possibilities for good as it is crammed with opportunities for ill.

However, perhaps not everyone had a father (or friend) as foresighted as mine was to tell them that the starker truth of 1989. Besides, after the likes of Bosnia, not to mention 9/11 and subsequent events, it must take some really dedicated blindness to think that the world is a safer place.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Treason - the crime that dares not speak its name

There has been some talk in the news recently over here about whether we in the UK should use treason laws to deal with various people who preach war against this country while living in it. I don't know when the last person in the UK was prosecuted for treason, though the last execution was Lord Haw-Haw in the aftermath of WW2. Undoubtedly treason is strong language, and I read in a BBC article that I cannot now find that a Lib Dem peer was opposed. To be fair, it is highly unlikely the government will go down this route at all, now or in the future, but I wonder why not? Might it be because of the very nature of the discussion treason forces us to consider real matters that all too many people want to sweep under the carpet: that there are in this country individuals and groups who seek to destroy us. Some of these people hold British citizenship, some do not, all are subject to this country's laws.

Just as we should not be afraid to label despots like Saddam Hussein as evil we should not be afraid to call treason by its name. If this requires ditching or amending the Human Rights Act, so much the better. It was one example of the sometimes extra-ordinary incompetence that this government occasionally displays, and it continues to indict them. We do not need new-fangled laws, we have a simple enough law. One does not give aid to the enemy, support him, plot with him, or conduct all the various activities some preachers and Muslims (and others) have done.

I am also convinced they should be hauled up and taken off to Tyburn to dance a particular jig. Hell, we could even sell the rights to Al-Jazeera to cover expenses, since that station seems fond of televising executions.

It won't happen of course, and although 'almost' convinced ultimately I am not. No need to create a martyr and, somewhat reluctantly, I follow the teachings of the Magisterium. A treason charge though would do nicely.

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