October 22nd, 2003

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Dissent is a virtue

A letter writer in the New York Times commented yesterday on some Democrats votes against President Bush's $87 billion proposal on Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction. The letter writer wrote:

It seems they have no regard for the divided face it shows the world, particularly the Iraqi people and the terrorist operations within and without Iraq. This shortsighted view emboldens the enemy, potentially putting our troops at greater risk.

Letters like this sadden me. It cheapens democracy to say that dissent is bad. Dissent strengthens us. But even barring that argument, the writer is mistaken in his analysis.

The writer first fails to realize that a false unity provides no more protection for us than a minor disagreement. We cannot hide disagreements; it doesn't work. Our government is too large to hide such things. Lobbyists, aides, clerical workers, and especially garbagemen and dumpster divers would quickly know that that real disagreements sit beneath the surface. So what? The enemy would then know that we could put aside the differences to face their calumny. I think not. Instead, I think just as likely would be the thought to perpetrate acts which drive a wedge into the quiet chasm. But the fact remains, a false unity cannot be held.

Second, the fault and responsibility for the difference lies not with those voting against the proposal, but with the administration which made the proposal in the first place. The United States does not have a concept of a “national unity” government, as we govern on a winner takes all system, rather than a more proportional system like a parliament. In times of need in many countries, parties from the opposite ends of the political spectrum come together. Israel is most known for this, but such governments have formed in other countries, including Britain. Even the United States has known such a government. During the ware between the states, Abraham Lincoln chose a Democrat to run with him on the National Union ticket.

We do not have the system for that. But we could make an approximation. However, it falls on the party in power to take the steps necessary to present a united front. What would those steps be? Primarily, it would involve consulting with the opposition before introducing legislation. Come to an agreement first. It smacks of back-room dealing, and generally I am against such a practice. However, in some cases it may be appropriate. This administration has never been one to consult with those who hold differing views.

What the administration should do is get key Democrats into the White House and discuss the proposal. It's not too late even now. Work out the differences. Be willing to compromise. Be willing to lose some of the items in the bill that it really wants. The Democrats will likely be magnanimous. I could be stretching. But it's rare to see that party take a scorched earth policy.

Until and unless it does this, Republicans and whoever supports this (or other bills put forward by the party in power) lose whatever moral position they had to criticize for divisive, public dissent on their legislation. If the opposition exists merely to rubber-stamp the majority, then we have devolved into a one-party state. I'd prefer to keep our disputes out of the backroom, and allow meaningful public debate on matters of interest to the country. If necessary, the debate could happen behind closed doors. But in no event should a large portion of our population, as represented by the minority party in Congress, be shut completely out of substantive policy-making.

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Quiz results

  1. What did I do in my first job?
    Garden (2 points) 0
    Scoop ice cream (10 points) 15
    Stock shelves (0 points) 7
    Write software (0 points) 0
    Shipping clerk (2 points) 3
    My first real job was scooping ice cream at Karen's Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Moscow, Idaho. I was 17 and staying there for the summer to gain residency for tuition at the University of Idaho. 2 bonus points for knowing I've worked as a shipping clerk and as a gardener. Jason is correct through, I once got paid for a week to put magentic strips into books at Nathan Hale High School library, where my aunt was the school librarian and they were putting in a theft detection system. I also had a paper route for a while too.
  2. In the 2000 election, who did I vote for?
    George Bush (0 points) 1
    Pat Buchanan (0 points) 0
    Al Gore (0 points) 6
    Ralph Nader (10 points) 14
    Harry Browne (2 points) 4
    I voted for Ralph Nader. Not the first time either. In 1996, he ran on the Green Party ticket, but refused to cooperate with the Green Party, as that mean that they were considered an independent committee and he didn't have to report contributions or some such thing. I voted for Clinton in 92, but was turned off by his count the polls ideology and his lying and evasiveness. Also didn't like that he caved on his promise to allow homosexuals to serve in the military. Bonus point for Harry Browne as in a perfect world, I would be a pure libertarian. My first libertarian vote was in the 1976 Weekly Reader kids poll on the presidential race. I voted for Ron Brown. They didn't count my vote.
  3. What is my favorite band?
    Queen (5 points) 8
    The Beautiful South (2 points) 6
    The Hooters (10 points) 1
    Laura Love Band (2 points) 9
    Rammstein (0 points) 1
    Lots of bonus points on this question, but I've loved the Hooters for a long time. Only band for which I have bootleg tapes of live concerts. Queen is my second favorite band, and the Beautiful South and Laura Love Band are also favorites. Not real impressed with Rammstein.
  4. What was my first cat's name?
    Socks (0 points) 5
    Eve (10 points) 4
    Cayman (2 points) 4
    Guinevere (0 points) 12
    I can't believe 5 of you thought I would ever name a cat Socks! Yuck. I like classical sounding names for cats. Eve was my first cat. She was run over on the highway after I had her about 6 months. No bonus points for knowing Guinevere is my current cat. She's my second. Also had Cayman for a couple of years after I acquired Guinevere, so those who knew that got bonus points. He liked to pick fights and never came back inside one day. I assume he picked a fight with something bigger.
  5. Which author do I have autographed books from?
    Bruce Campbell (8 points) 2
    China Miéville (10 points) 15
    Evelyn Whitfield (8 points) 0
    John Grisham (0 points) 4
    Orson Scott Card (0 points) 4
    I don't really like Grisham, though I've read most of his books. I dunno why I am such a masochist. Card I like a lot of his older books, but I do not own anything autographed. I have Bruce Campbell's autographed biography and Evelyn Whitfield is a small press author who wrote a memoir of her time in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. She's not famous, but I love her story to death and have an autographed copy. Lots of bonus points for those. But the major bonus points go to my second favorite author, China Mié. I have three books signed by him, including a salutation To King Rat in his book King Rat.
  6. What is my favorite dessert?
    Napolean (2 points) 0
    Cheesecake (0 points) 1
    Carrot cake (2 points) 1
    Pie (10 points) 23
    Cookies (5 points) 0
    Der. Pie. Bonus points for Napolean (tasty) and carrot cake, and especially cookies, cause cookie was my first word.
  7. What college was I accepted to?
    Seattle University (2 points) 2
    University of Washington (0 points) 0
    Cal Tech (0 points) 3
    University of Idaho (10 points) 16
    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 4
    Seattle University accepted everyone from my high school, regardless of grades. I got into University of Idaho on merit, although that doesn't mean I did particularly well in high school. They had low standards at UI.
  8. Which movie have I seen the most times?
    Robocop (10 points) 1
    Star Wars (0 points) 8
    Highlander (5 points) 5
    Night of the Comet (9 points) 5
    Rear Window (0 points) 6
    I used to rent Robocop once a week. That movie cracks me up! Night of the Comen gets bonus points cause I've seen it so many times late night on Showtime in the 80s. Highlander I've also seen a lot. But not nearly as much as the other two.
  9. What is my mother's name?
    Jennifer (0 points) 2
    Vera (0 points) 2
    Othelia (0 points) 1
    Gail (0 points) 15
    Dorinda (10 points) 5
    Don't think I've ever mentioned her name in the journal, so you'd have to know the family, or have had lots of conversations with me to know this without guessing. Oddly enough, most of you picked my mom's sister Gail. Grandmother is Vera. Great grandmother was Othelia (married to Otto). No one in the family named Jennifer. No bonus points for this one though.
  10. What color are my eyes?
    Brown (0 points) 6
    Blue (5 points) 8
    Green (0 points) 6
    Gray (0 points) 5
    Not worth the full 10 points because if you've seen me outside club light, you could know this one. I have very very blue eyes. If you look into them you'll notice this. Look into my eyes. You are getting very sleepy. When you wake up if you are a hot chick you will want to have sex with me…