Saturday, December 29, 2007

Virtual Swordsmanship

"My work becomes the deterrent, not so much the products of my work," said Martz, an advocate of the virtual swords concept. - from John Fleck's Albuquerque Journal Article.

that the deterrent benefit accrues through the weapons existence and is robust across disparities in the technical details" - from the Arms Control Wonk

The issue that connects these observations to news is Plutonium Pit Production in Los Alamos (John is a far better explainer, so consult his article for the details). More importantly than that, they are comments on what new plutonium pit production means for the United States nuclear stockpile, and the aims of nuclear weapons programs.

The big justification of new production is that the United States no longer needs to have the weapons on hand, but that the production capabilities should still be present. This is interesting logic, and it's quite distance from defense thought about terrorism. Nuclear deterrent requires fixed targets, and somewhat rational people who can be effectively deterred. Insurgencies, terrorists, and guerrillas all seem to be off limits for the power of nuclear force, and so nuclear policy as deterrent is directed at nations and governments. Nothing new, but it's worth clarifying that the policy, as it stands, is focused on deterring wars between states, and not wars within states or asymmetric war against states. The threat of a nuclear attack does little, if anything, for those other scenarios.

This is the virtual sword, a new outlook which is a step back from the days of Mutually Assured Destruction, and looks instead at conflict with an eye towards high costs, but not necessarily world ending ones. A nation in conflict with the US will have to weigh the cost of a nuclear attack, of some scale, against pursuing that conflict. This has worked for all conflicts between nuclear nations, which have been blissfully few; Pakistan v. India being the exception, and then war has been halted and not accelerated but the presences of nuclear arsenals and a very, very, very high cost to waging war beyond conventional means. Nuclear retaliatory force, and the knowledge that that force will be replenished, allows nukes to enter into the algebra of war, moving it from a last ditch, too-hard-to-consider option to an incredibly costly and futile option. Nations are unlikely to risk either, but I see this as a step down for the US (not a bad thing, necessarily); cold war capabilities guaranteed a tremendous amount of destruction, should the wrong sequence of events happen. This new rationale, this Virtual Sword means that any state risking armed conflict with the United States will still have to worry about a nuclear attack; the attack will render the conflict moot, and doesn't entail the most terrifying degree of destruction imaginable.
Nuclear conflict will still not be an option considered; the weapons capability is such that it will be on board as a possibility to back away from, to step down from. More notably, though, a reduced capability (in terms of numbers) but continued research means two things. One, that nuclear power will stay relevant, should an effective defense be devised, and two, that the arsenal is not enough to attack fifteen nations at once (as Cold War plans intended). Sheer volume is not what is needed for a nuclear arsenal in the future, and this necessitates new plans in hypothetical nuclear war planning.

This brings us to the Arm's Control Wonk's quote. Nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons, and as deterrent little more than being nuclear and deliverable is needed. Any weapon that is developed that affects this policy will meet both of those requirements, and so the details, the nitty-gritty of what exactly each can do, how deep the blasts can go, and how particularly devastating each weapon will be, are more or less irrelevant to the politics of the weapons use. Not that the details of a weapon are purely military considerations; they aren't, and that attitude is damaging. But whenever nuclear weapons are considered, they are to be considered as nuclear weapons, and the threat of usage of nuclear weapons is a political aspect, that varies little whether or not the depth penetrated is 3 meters or 50. Nuclear deterrent just requires that nuclear weapons capabilities exist, and be perceived as threatening enough to prevent a state from risking war, and especially war on a large scale.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dennis Kucinich

I've stated before several times that I tend to align on the far left. The left right dichotomy isn't a good model, but it's a familiar model, and if I identify with a fringe, odds are a person will understand what disagreements they can expect. The fringe is a diverse place, and the Democratic Party currently fields two candidates who adequately fit that description - Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. I'm picking Dennis first, out of sympathy (I favored another candidate in '04, watched the left go center-left, and was sorely disappointed). Also, the "New Mexico Presidential Preference Caucus" is coming up, and I want to make sure i cover my own party in adequate depth before moving on. It's democrats from here until February, unless circumstances change.

The format - This is my opinion on Dennis's written opinions, as stated on the issues page of his campaign website. He has two issues pages, so I will be going through the more immediately available page, as it is both simpler and shorter. I'm sure his opinions will change little, and that detail will be the omitted factor instead.

Before I go into this, there's a quick note I would like to get out about UFO sightings and presidential candidate. I more or less refuse to let things candidates do, other than vote or speak about issues, affect my opinion of their competence as a world leader. What matters is what they say, and for those still troubled by presidential smalltalk, I request you read this comic before continuing on.

Dennis Kucinich through the lens of Kelsey Atherton


Strength Through Peace: Voting records are important from those who have them, and Dennis voted against authorizing the war in Iraq. That's just plain sensible, and it puts this section off to a good start. After this point, his site stops feeling like the standard run-through McCain and Richardson presented, and instead he discusses the US military, and how superiority is so unquestioned right now that war doesn't make sense, and that war has failed to prevent a litany of woes (acknowledging, of course, that terrorism is among those woes). He provides over two dozen links for further reading on his specific stands (including bills), and lets specifics be specifics. It's an interesting approach, and seeing the raw ideology is something I enjoy. Acknowledging strength, Kucinich believes we should move towards other solutions. There's some hyperbole, and he underestimates the armies of the rest of the world, but I like it. Keep the military, and then move on.

A Healthy Nation: A "Universal, Single-payer, Not-For-Profit health care system" is what Dennis is proposing, and it's bold. It turn health care into a public good, values an insured populace for the benefit of the whole of the nation, and aims to cut bureaucracy. It fascinating, it seems to be the far extreme of what people want, and it polarizes nicely with Ron Paul. Kucinich places full trust in the competence of government, and no trust in the free market system. Ron Paul is the reverse, and every other candidate falls in-between. I would like to trust both government and the free market, I don't see them as opposed, and so I am looking for a good middle-of-the-road solution here, but I would be fine being part of a living laboratory with either (such is the confidence of my youth)

Survival of the Middle Class: Phrasing is big with me, and the phrase "casino captialists" doesn't stick, which makes many of his attacks fall short. On the other hand, he quotes from a book (citation and everything) when he admits others may know more than he does, and is smart enough to use the information for good.
Moving on from his language, we get to policy. Kucinich has a radical plan to make the middle class the most important group in American politics again, and hurls favors their way. Better tax refunds, universal pre-k through college educations (!) at government expense, the previously discussed health care plan, a New-Deal style agency for energy and the environment, powers against unions curtailed, and the word "patriotic" applied to tax incentives for businesses that remain domestic are all part of his plan for improving the middle class. The cost comes from the military, from savings made possible by universal health care, and by a shifted tax burden to even further up the economic ladder.
What he is saying is brilliant, and if all went well it would make the USA a middle class nation, with the pacifism and progress a middle class nation can expect to enjoy. It offers nothing to the people it disadvantages, and a new political efficacy for the middle class would be hard to form in the face of upper class opposition that is bound to follow. I like most of it, but I think that it would drive him out of office after one term and replace him with a powerful laissez faire and "trickle down" center-right candidate.

Securing Constitutional Democracy: In a discussion of civil liberties, it is worth noting that Dennis has a solid voting record, having voted against the Patriot Act. The action's enough to support him, and he expands his focus, looking at the justice department, and specifically the fired loyal republican attorneys, as signs that a "unitary executive" and concentrated, increased presidential powers are a threat for everyone. He defends the loyal opposition when they help principle before the party line, and that's a good move as well. Associated with that, Dennis claims that prosecutions for voter fraud are far less important than the harm to democracy caused by voter intimidation. I like the gist of his statements here (excepting the "We don't elect Kings" quote), but my problem is that I am only getting general opinions. it's enough to understand principles and ideology, but it isn't nearly as easy to dissect as stated plans.

A Sustainable Future: A redundant first paragraph is unfortunate, and when assessing quality by semantics, that's no good. I'm not that petty, so instead, let's focus on his acknowledgment of global warming. That's a good thing. He talks about sustainability and alternative energy, and that's very important, solid stuff. He proposes a new works administration to help do the groundwork for a new energy sector. He actually calls for reduced energy use, a first among candidates that I've covered. It's great stuff, from the modern and environmentally as well as scientifically aware voters perspective. And then he gets to nuclear power.
I've discussed my view on nuclear power before, so I won't rehash them here beyond a simple statement. Nuclear power is an idea worth considering, and excluding the idea from talk of a sustainable future out of fear seems to me to be folly, whether or not nuclear power is ultimately used. Kucinich, for his part, argues that nuclear industry is more threatening than nuclear terrorism, and that having nuclear plants, beyond being too risky in and of itself, provides opportunities for terrorists. It's a good watchdog perspective, and one that serves well in the legislature, making sure harm is minimized. It doesn't strike me as a presidential stance, and I also feel his fears of nuclear waste transport are overblown.
Reassuringly, he moves onto that other big issue of the future, and joins Richardson in acknowledging water as an important sustainability issue (Ron Paul and McCain didn't address it). He views water itself as a public good, beyond the reach of commodification, and publicly owned by safeguarded by governments on behalf on the entire world. It's very interesting, and I'm in general agreement with his principles. For sustainability, he's two for three for me, and I think it would be impossible for him to ignore nuclear power if he ever became president, so I would be content with him, far as these issues are concerned. He would make an incr3edible secretary of the interior.

End to Poverty: Ever the internationalist, I'll offer this quote before my analysis "Dennis Kucinich will make it a national priority to fight poverty worldwide. He understands that the path to a safe, strong America is through peace, tolerance and committing our nation to eradicating the root causes of global poverty." Global poverty as a cause of problems in the United States? How wonderfully, wonderfully true. There's a brilliant speech on this page as well, offered in a tiny font but still worth reading. Kucinich believe poverty and urban decay to be more damaging and more worth fighting than Iraq, and more broadly then a war on terror. It's a Great Society he seeks to build, and while the page offers only the general guideline of less military funding and higher upper class taxes as a solution, he knows the problem is real, and hie is willing to address it with the effort needed. This is magnificent stuff.

Saving Capitalism: This page is incomplete, which is a pity. I'll check back when it's up, and both edit this post and link to it again. It's pretty frustrating that this isn't done, though. This is where he has his best platform to be Keynesian and to attack organizations that exploit capitalism, rather than feed into it. He promises to attack NAFTA and the WTO (and to withdraw the nation from both), but there is no more substance here.


Conclusion -

Kucinich is brilliant, and it is easy to see why people are so passionate for him, and why there is such sorrow when they say he can't be elected. The trick is he can be elected, and has been, repeatedly, to perhaps the best office for him. Not to say that he wouldn't be a good president; he'd be an incredible one, but one who was stymied at every turn by both sides of both houses. The legislation that was passed would be pale shades of his idealism, but significant progress nonetheless.
Kucinich is the left fringe candidate, and so it is unlikely he will get the nod. That said, his candidacy is important, and votes for him will not be wasted. Kucinich is the name to vote for in a primary (or caucus, or whatnot) if you want the party to move further to the left, if you want idealistic votes to be counted for, and idealism to be somewhat accommodated by other candidates. Also, enough votes may help he gain a position of value that is not an elected office; secretary of the interior I've already mentioned, but there are other roles. Housing and Urban Development would be a particularly good choice for the Clevelander, while Labor and health and Human Services would also be valuable posts.
Kucinich has idealism, and that is just something hard to not support, to not automatically endorse, especially when it agrees so much with mine (Ron Paul is an idealist too, but one with a very different set of ideals.) I would like to see more substance, and though it is linked to on pages covered, it needs further investigation, and I will hopefully have covered those pages when I post about his updated stance on "Saving Capitalism". Then I will offer a final verdict, but for now I stand by my notion that a vote for Kucinich is a vote to shift the party to the left, and even if it doesn't help him, it does great things for the democrats as a whole.

One last note - Kucinich offers on his websites' sidebar link to a fun little quiz that I discovered back in August. It's fun, and is interesting as a tool, if not as a definitive anything. Bonus points for encouraging comparison shopping.

Russia and New Mexico

This is a summary of a conversation with John Fleck, who I need to add to my blogs sidebar.

Initial facts (the premise, if you will):
  • Russia, flush with new wealth and renewed national pride, is re-militarizing
  • Russia is fast becoming the regional power it should be, and will now be back as regional hegemon
  • Russia may well decide to renew its nuclear program (the conversation assumed they will; let's go with the assumption for now)
  • This is great news for New Mexico, as the threat (and not the reality) of nuclear war means lots more money for this state, and more good jobs)
Wait a second, why does a Russian Nuclear program necessitate a new US nuclear program? The old cold war scenario (below) no longer fits:
  • Russian tanks from Eastern Europe
  • Territorial Squabble
  • Escalation in turns
  • The small battle becomes the one moment when both sides try to win the war
  • Nukes held as last threat, but used simultaneously
The new Scenario doesn't involve static superpowers, and is more complex than two sides trying to win the last battle. The new nuclear escalation (as makes sense to me), is:
  • Civil unrest in a Central Asian Republic (the countries that end in -stan, and a few others); Azerbaijan will be the specific example (US already has plans for operations in Azerbaijan)
  • The government appeals for help, to many nations. Other factions may appeal as well
  • Acting unilaterally and independently, both the US and Russia intervene in the nation in turmoil (unilateral is assumed on behalf of at least one party; NATO/UN/EU could easily be the other)
  • A specific strategic resource. Ports, forts, government buildings oil fields are all likely. (In Bosnia, an airport was held by Russia. NATO, under general Wellesley Clark, were supposed to take the airport, and while troops were sent, communication with Russia worked, and accidental conflict was avoided)
  • Both sides converged on said specific strategic resource location, and both are unaware of the other's actions. A skirmish, as troops act to protect their own (George Washington, in the 7 years war, helped escalate the war by accidentally attacking allies)
  • Military decisions move faster than political ones, and the conflict escalates rapidly
  • Fear of retaliation mounts, and nukes become active
The idea is a political long shot, and one that hopefully improvements in communications technology and chains of command will have lessened. Also, more international cooperation would be beneficial in preventing this, but the scenario exists, even as a slim chance.

And this is relevant, because new nukes means better nukes means more jobs for New Mexico. High paying jobs, too.

Senators policies can be so weird sometimes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

John McCain

Taking advantage of a lull during finals week, and prompted by a classmate, I've decided to look at John McCain in this installment, with the next one focused on John Edwards. This post will follow the precedent established by my posts on Ron Paul and Bill Richardson, dissecting his opinions as they are best made available to the public. I have articles written by him in issues of Foreign Affairs, and comparing the two takes will be an interesting approach for later. Selling the intelligentsia requires such a different set of skills than selling "the masses", as it were, so it would be unfair to bring that in for this post.

I chose McCain for a few reasons. Firstly, I used to like him. In 2005, I wrote a report arguing that the way around partisan bickering and frustration was a center-center party, a collection of electable moderates who were willing to forge ahead with solid compromise solutions. I envisioned something like the political balance from 1820 to 1850, with a series of landmark compromises. At the head of this new electorate, I placed John McCain, and I chose him over the other reigning moderate Hillary Clinton. Hillary struck me as too much of a centrist, always gravitating towards the most universally minimally offensive position, and often falling in line with the president. McCain, I thought, was a man of some conviction, who was a moderate but ranged from left to right on his stances, and held strong opinions that allowed him to chose the right path for the nation. In 2005, I laid out an idealized version of John McCain, circa 2000. As I was working on this report, John McCain threw himself at the religious right, and later on helped authorize torture. This was off-putting, and I've been left with an impression of him as little more than a hack, trying desperately to flee from the left he once willing worked with. McCain is here to complete the trio of Ron Paul the idealist, Bill Richardson the pragmatist, and John McCain the hack.

Edit: Finals got the better of me, so this is coming out after he was endorsed by Lieberman; I would have cheered this in 2000, especially in 2004, but now it's a rather bleak turn of events.


John McCain through the Lens of Kelsey Atherton

Government Spending, Lower Taxes, and Economic Prosperity - He gets points here for attacking the deficit, which is a damn good move from those of us who like a nation with a realistic ability to pays its bills. He loses all of them when he says that pet projects are what should be cut, offers to cut taxes, and devotes priority funding to the military. The war is running up the deficit, Mr. McCain, and there is no realistic way around this unless you cut war spending. As for pet projects, they are a way of life, and while they are frustrating on the national scale, they are going to be almost impossible to get rid, ingrained as they are in the American political process. As for cutting taxes - Really? We have a tremendous deficit and you are proposing tax cuts. Really? That's what you're doing here? That makes no sense. None. At all. Reaganomics failed for a reason, and the Clinton economy worked for a reason. That reason is taxes.
He goes on, here, talking about transparency (good), changes to social security (questionable), and then talks about how low taxes only work with low spending, because this will spur private investment. It's a common line of thought; my frustrations with it are that it doesn't account for jobs the private sector is unwilling/unable to provide for all people. It's a problem that stems from frustrations with privatized education, but it applies everywhere - if we want something to be available for everyone, it has to be a public good provided by the government; if we want something to be exclusive, allowing access only to those with the means to obtain it, we hand it over to the private sector. Much of what government does I am unwilling to see handed over to the private sector.
He ends with a note about opening up new markets. Okay, sure. If you include Cuba and other nations we've long been petty-spiting, I've no reason to object to this. The time to object would have been when China was opened up, and that isn't going to be undone anytime soon.

Lobbying and Ethics Reform - This section is full of wonderful little gems of wordplay; "John McCain would shine the disinfecting light of public scrutiny on those who abuse the public purse" being my favorite. He attacks pork barrel, he calls for ethic reform, and it is all decent stuff, if unlikely to happen (under any administration, not just his). He looks at campaign finance reform, and says that the free society practice of giving money to candidates a person supports should be allowed; this isn't quite saying that it should be free market, but it is interesting. He follows it up with a compromise that I'd been looking for in his rhetoric: "enforce long-standing prohibitions on corporate and union contributions to federal political parties". This is a party-balanced measure, aimed at limiting reliable donors two both parties, and its a good move. Realistic if not ideal, and what I would have expected from him in 2000.

The Consequences of Failure in Iraq - My problem with this plan is that I like it. Not the posturing, not the "staying in Iraq" bit, but as far as execution of a policy I disagree with, this is very good. There's a bitterness to his plan, a sense of atonement for Vietnam (see "Win the Homefront), and he is trying to restructure the United States into a position of strength, so that we can more effectively posture at Syria and Iran, political moves of which I don't approve . However, despite the faults, he sees the importance of stable military leadership, of the whole "rebuilding" process, of a more valid approach than small zones of control for US soldiers to more safely exist in, and of a stable national authority in Iraq. I disagree with the policy so much that I can't support him in his goals here, but it is a strong showing for undersecretary of defense. A step down, sure, but it deals with political and military realities, and it would be a useful position for him.

Border Security and Immigration Reform: This page is a quick read, a bullet point list of some overall plans, hitting upon such points as the need for business-friendly policy, the need to keep Latin America on our side, the need for a "flexible labor market", the need for immigrants to be properly instilled with righteous American values. It's textbook stuff, as it were, and while I'm surprised the Arizonan doesn't have a more definitive stance, it could just be that Arizona is the border state with the white-bread mildly xenophobic attitude we find cropping up elsewhere. He bothers me with they "shining city on a hill" metaphor; it's a phrase designed to instill a holier-than-thou attitude, and to say that we are the beacon of moral righteousness. I've more trouble with that metaphor itself (trouble better suited to an English essay), but the attitude itself is harmful, and it reflects siege mentality. We are a pious city on a hill, defending ourselves from the hordes of barbarians who try every day to assail our noble kingdom, and why don't we have a moat already? It isn't isolationist so much as it is imperial, or a fitting metaphor for a crusader state. Not what I like, and especially not what I like in regards to immigration policy.

Commitment To America's Service Members: Past And Present - Lots of benefits for veterans, interesting choice sponsorship of Troops-to-Teachers and an expanded G.I. Bill, and generally decent stuff about making the military, and part-time military service, a financially rewarding option, and with enough money to pay for families left behind. The troubling part in this section is that he "believes that the fundamental role of reservists has changed over the last decade", which is frustrating because it means that the Army could look to reservists as standard soldiers. This is bad because it means that the reserve will become more of an occupation force, instead of troops held back for dire circumstances/US invasion. Reserves just shouldn't be standard.

National Security - His intro here is a broad covering of why the US needs to be powerful, and why the US military needs to be the foremost military power in the world. China and Russia may come into play as regional rivals, he says, and it's bold, fighting words with Russia becoming more common of late than they have been for almost two decades. That's the secondary threat he mentions, though it is the threat that justifies high-end technological development. The main threat, of course are "Islamist extremists" (saying "fundamentalist Muslims terrorist groups" would have been too wordy and only, you know, correct). I'm going to disagree with anyone who thinks a 'war on terror" is a simple two-sided affair, and that terrorist attacks by private citizens is equivalent to the war engaged in by nations. Terrorism is a tool, utilizing terror against a government is an attempt to make the cost of some action that government undertakes too high for the government to continue to undertake it. If the US pulled out of the middle east, stopped supporting Israel, and gave up on the Saudi royal family, Al Qaeda's objectives on 9/11 would have been fulfilled. There is no forced surrender, and no desire to harm the US if they keep these things up. Terrorism is complex, and no amount of rhetoric pandering to Middle America will make it anything like simple. "Sacred responsibility" is a scary term for a secular government, and he uses it too much. Viewing terrorist doctrine as a doctrine of "hatred and despair" is wrong-headed and ignorant, and overlooks broader issues.
Missile defense is frustrating, as it increases the risk of nuclear war, while doing hardly anything (if doing anything at all) to increase the survivability of such a war. Also, North Korea isn't really a threat, much as they would like to be.
In his talk of funding, he uses the word "parochial" too much for my tastes; while pork barrel is nothing great, it's a misplaced attack, and he hammers it down.
McCain, in the phrase "knows that the most difficult and solemn decision a president must make is sending young Americans into harm's way" mistakes what a president can do for what congress should be able to do, and bad constitutionality is no good.
Lastly, while I disagree over most military matters, including his undiscussed troop increase, his idea for "a new mix of military forces, including civil affairs, special operations, and highly mobile forces capable of fighting and prevailing in the conflicts America faces." is slightly redeeming.

Stewards of Our Nation's Rich Natural Heritage: Despite the fancy title, McCain skimps in this section. He addresses global warming, he attacks liberals, and he believes in the government helping to further along things like nuclear energy and buying carbon credits as a way to help address this earth-changing phenomenon. It is an okay policy, and a republican addressing global warming is smart. The phrase "History shows that poverty is a poor steward." is an interesting one, and shows that he is putting economic concerns way up their in his environmental view, which makes sense, even if it is a tad disappointing.

Protecting Second Amendment Rights: He is in favor of citizens having guns. Safety's on the guns, ID checks everywhere, and harsher penalties for gun crime are the bones thrown to gun control groups. Removing restrictions on ammo clips, ammo itself, waiting periods for buying guns, and restrictions on what types of guns can be bought are all things McCain supports. I am in a tricky place on the second amendment, so I'll skip commentary.


I can't support McCain. I like him in congress, from Arizona. I have little fondness for Arizona, and so he seems to be the best of what the state could produce. As a president, he would be the champion of compromise solutions between the far right and the center-right. That fringe of the left would be meaningless to him. He works well with Lieberman independents and Hillary democrats, making comprises between the center right and the center center. He takes more stands, and mobilizes the unwilling to resist. He's a product of the Gingrich majority, and of the compromise that is one-sided. Ron Paul is preferable, and I disagree with Ron Paul on half of what he says.

McCain would be a desperate gambit, a bid from the Republican party to sway the center. Look to him for vice presidential nominations.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Why does North Korea want Nucear Power?

I'll give you a hint:

The answer (as jfleck so brilliantly put it):
"Horrific failed states with evil dictators and collapsed economies don’t use much electricity."

But they'd like to.

They'd also like to have an excuse to make nukes, so it's not really that simple.
(Picture originally from the arms control wonk).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Three Quick Things

I've been meaning to get back into the 2008 election fray, with posts covering other candidates I know next to nothing about (which, honestly, would be all of them). While it's a bit rough to wade through such rhetoric and ponder what this nation would look like if it was implemented, it's also proved invaluable to me in small-talk political debate, so ever the academic I'll be bettering my own knowledge (and maybe yours?) in the future. If you have a particular candidate you want me to analyze, let me know in the comments; I'm leaning towards discussing McCain but I'm open to suggestions.

Right now, however, my blogging energies have been exhausted lately with a debate about police. I can't exactly recommend reading the whole thing, and since the forum topic has been closed there's no point in weighing in further. I am, however, happy with what I wrote, and I think the content there may help to overcome the initial frustration of the poster.

Lastly, so as not to leave you without witty political commentary, I'd like to direct you to this page by the brilliant writer of indexed (another really good read). Here's a taste: