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October 14, 2006

Pillars of Government Week: Part IV, The Executive

Part I of Pillars of Government week looked at whether the military, as an institution, is in need of reform.

Part II examined Congress: the House and the Senate; the structural issues that have led to their corruption and some suggestions for fixing these institutions.

Part III looked at the Judiciary.

After taking a day off to recuperate, today we take on the Executive branch. Grim comments:

The executive is made up of two types: those who are part of the administration itself, either by election or political appointment; and those who are career civil servants.

We find this a useful way to organize today's discussion, but the President is such a compelling figure that we would further subdivide the conversation to single out the Presidency as a unique category of office meriting its own separate discussion.

There is no other institution in which, though a distributed network of thousands of public servants and civilian employees make thousands of cascading decisions leading to a series of outcomes, a single person becomes (in the mind of the public at least) inextricably tied to the outcome of those actions. Harry Truman wasn't kidding when he said, "The buck stops here".

THE PRESIDENT

Yesterday Allan, in the comments section, took exception to our characterization of the President as a compelling figure:

You write that "the President is such a compelling figure"

Do you mean, the Presidency generally, or this particular president? I am not sure that President Bush is a compelling figure.

Actually Allan's comment rather proved our point. The word compelling carries with it neither a positive nor negative connotation. It merely says that in the political arena, the office of the Presidency commands center stage. But it would be difficult if not impossible to argue that George Bush does not evoke strong feelings across the political spectrum.

The only comparable position in American politics would be that of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But there is a critical difference. Though that office also carries with it enormous influence, the reach of his power is of necessity mainly confined within our borders. Furthermore, the power of the CJ is generally exercised with less fanfare and behind closed doors. His personality takes a back seat to the traditions and procedures of the highest Court in the land.

Not so with the Presidency. Arguably, every act which proceeds from the Executive is filtered through the lens of how people perceive the Chief Executive; his personality, his motives, his morals, his hopes and dreams for the nation. And to a very great degree, how we perceive the President is very much a function of how he is covered in the press. For though he may make speeches frequently, they are rarely carried live on television nor printed in newspapers in their entirety; nor would the vast majority of Americans take the time to listen to them or read them if they were.

More frequently, they are excerpted - or worse, summarized or recharacterized - often inaccurately, as in the case of the imminent threat meme from the State of the Union address. And so the public gets, not a first-hand glimpse of the leader they elected but a product packaged for their consumption: sometimes viewed through a rose colored lens and sometimes distorted through something resembling one of those mirrors in a Coney Island funhouse, which stretches and twists the original image until it is no longer recognizable.

How many registered voters would trace this quote back to the correct administration? For most, it would raise the specter of signing statements and dangerous executive overreaching:

"He is an activist, muscular president," the chief of staff said in an interview, recalling that his boss intended to use the powers of the presidency to the fullest.

"Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kind of cool," says the President's adviser, dismissing objections of critics who despise the process as unconstitutional lawmaking, no matter which president uses it.

But these words did not come from the Bush White House. They are from none other than William Jefferson Clinton, who was chided for his aggressive use of executive orders and the line item veto to engage in what some characterized as a breathtakingly unconstitutional end run on Congress. But again, Clinton's personality was such that his actions, though he used warrantless wiretaps on American citizens in peacetime, improperly obtained FBI and IRS records of political opponents, and launched a record number of IRS audits of conservative think tanks, somehow was not viewed as a threat to our precious freedoms by the media; probably because the civil rights of conservatives are not viewed as worth protecting.

One has to wonder what it would take to shake our ostensibly unbiased press up, or what they would view as a double standard?

And thankfully, Clinton didn't engage in dangerous blurring of the lines between church and state like the present administration:

Evangelical Christians have honored the best traditions of Christianity and of patriotism in tirelessly fighting to end the genocide in Darfur. I've often referred to the words of the Epistle of St. James 2:17: "faith without works is dead" -- and Christian work in Darfur -- day in and day out to make sure that "never again" isn't just a convenient lie we tell ourselves to sleep better at night- is the embodiment of that Christian -- of that American -- ideal.

The fourth and final example of where people of faith should accept a common challenge is perhaps the most difficult and essential of all:
rekindling a faith-based debate on the issues of war and peace. All our different faiths, whatever their philosophical differences, have a universal sense of values, ethics, and moral truths that honor and respect the dignity of all human beings. They all agree on a form of the Golden Rule and the Supreme importance of charity and compassion.

Oops. Never mind. That was John Kerry just a few weeks ago, calling for faith to inform political debate and be transformed into works. Yet this speech launched no alarmist cries of Kerry foisting his faith on an unwilling nation. Oddly, conservatives have no problem with Kerry's ideas, so long as the State does not endorse any particular religion. There is no Establishment clause violation in using religion to inform one's moral framework. But we suspect the ACLU and much of the Democrat party would not see it quite that tolerantly.

Interestingly, Bill Clinton came into office vowing to use the office of the Presidency vigorously to enforce his vision:

If you won't use the powers of the presidency to help people, step aside. I will," Mr. Begala quoted the president as telling Mr. Bush.

In the early days of his presidency, Clinton acted aggressively, trying to bypass Congress and unilaterally use the Presidency to sweep away the prohibition on gays in the military, bringing his wife Hillary (an unelected and unaccountable outsider) into the debate on national health care and prompting cries that he had violated sunshine laws. Clinton also issued a flurry of executive orders:

Presidents have issued executive orders that exceeded the wishes of Congress since George Washington's 1793 "neutrality order" demanding that citizens stay out of foreign disputes. Such orders have been withdrawn under political pressure or derailed internally before they were signed, but only twice in history have federal courts directly overturned one, legal experts say.

They included Mr. Clinton's 1995 directive barring federal contractors from hiring striker replacements, which conflicted with existing law, and President Truman's 1952 order seizing steel mills in order to avoid a nationwide strike. The Supreme Court nullified the latter because the president acted during the Korean conflict under "emergency" war powers even though no war was declared.

"Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has essentially ruled over time that the executive orders have the force and effect of law. Well, they don't, but if nobody's there to challenge them they continue to carry the effect and force of law," argued Rep. Jack Metcalf, Washington Republican, leader of a brewing rebellion in the House for which he predicts only symbolic success.

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, went Mr. Metcalf one better and filed a bill seeking to designate executive orders only as advisory without the force of law, unless Congress approves. His proposed Separation of Powers Restoration Act would limit their effect except in cases of pardons, military orders or directives required by a specific federal law.

William J. Olson, a constitutional lawyer who formerly worked in the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel - which along with Office of Management and Budget approves every executive order for legality - is preparing a research paper for the Cato Institute that charges Mr. Clinton with using executive orders as a substitute for legislative consideration by Congress.

"It is a deliberate plan to usurp legislative function, and unfortunately most of the time he has faced a Congress that could be described as supine," Mr. Olson said.

Remind you of anything? Oddly, the press did not erupt in fury over this "muscular" and aggressive display of raw executive power. On the contrary, they celebrated it, because it was used to achieve goals they approved of. Taken in historical context, the current controversy over signing statements seems almost unbearably funny. Many analysts have admitted the counting of signing statements, given Congress' habit of bundling legislation to make the political cost of opposing or vetoing legislation draconian, is essentially a shell game. But the larger point here is that Clinton, like Bush, came into office fully intending to wield executive power aggressively. And the record shows he carried out this intent, even without the impetus of a terrorist attack to bolster his increased authority. In the New York Times, John Yoo makes some astute observations about the exercise of presidential power:

...the president has broader goals than even fighting terrorism -- he has long intended to make reinvigorating the presidency a priority. Vice President Dick Cheney has rightly deplored the ''erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job'' and noted that ''we are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 to 35 years.''

To his critics, Mr. Bush is a ''King George'' bent on an ''imperial presidency.'' But the inescapable fact is that war shifts power to the branch most responsible for its waging: the executive. Harry Truman sent troops to fight in Korea without Congressional authority. George H. W. Bush did not have the consent of Congress when he invaded Panama to apprehend Manuel Noriega. Nor did Bill Clinton when he initiated NATO's air war over Kosovo.

The Bush administration's decisions to terminate the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty and to withdraw from the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto accords on global warming rested on constitutional precedents going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln.

The administration has also been energetic on the domestic front. It has re-classified national security information made public in earlier administrations and declined, citing executive privilege, to disclose information to Congress or the courts about its energy policy task force. The White House has declared that the Constitution allows the president to sidestep laws that invade his executive authority. That is why Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of signing statements -- more than any previous president -- reserving his right not to enforce unconstitutional laws.

A reinvigorated presidency enrages President Bush's critics, who seem to believe that the Constitution created a system of judicial or congressional supremacy. Perhaps this is to be expected of the generation of legislators that views the presidency through the lens of Vietnam and Watergate. But the founders intended that wrongheaded or obsolete legislation and judicial decisions would be checked by presidential action, just as executive overreaching is to be checked by the courts and Congress.

Yoo's piece was right on target. Those who decry presidential overreaching tend to forget the Founders envisioned three co-equal branches of government. Implicit in this scheme was the assumption that if one branch overreached, the other two branches must of necessity respond: the "check and balance" function. In our previous analyses of Congress and the Judiciary, we concluded the legislature has largely sidestepped its oversight role. It is, perhaps, not so much an indictment of the Presidency that it is asserting its power as other Presidents have done during wartime, as of the legislature that it either refuses to do its job or (perhaps) wisely defers to the branch expressly tasked with defending this nation.

Unfortunately, this delicate balance of power between the branches has been disingenuously and persistently mischaracterized by the popular media. The result has been a popular perception of wrongdoing that we believe is very much ill-founded. Occasionally, however, even the media cannot keep up the deception. Reference this unintentionally funny slip-up in Dahlia Lithwick's excoriation of Congress over the habeas corpus law:

Members of Congress take the same oath as do Supreme Court justices, after all. And Congress regularly asserts its institutional prerogative to interpret the Constitution—to act on an equal footing with the Supreme Court in making decisions about the constitutionality of a law. Moreover, the justices are supposed to assume that Congress never intentionally adopts an unconstitutional law, and you need attend only a few moments of oral argument to see how seriously they take that charge. So how is it possible that an oath-bound member of Congress can support a law that he or she believes violates the Constitution?

Note to the readership: do not try this at home. Only professional journalists may attempt such feats of logical gymnastics. Not even the most ardent devotee of the Kama Sutra could twist herself into such painful yet diverting positions as Ms. Lithwick, contra some of her earlier columns: if Congress asserts an institutional prerogative to, on an equal footing with the Supreme Court, say what the Constitution means, and you have no problem with that - and you appear, in fact, to be taking them to task for not carrying out that duty aggressively enough - what (dear Lady) prevents the President of the United States from asserting the same prerogative?

That giant red mark on our forehead is from us smacking ourselves in frustration.

The point we tried to make the other day, and we may have made it poorly, is that the Founders envisioned a more participatory, muscular, and active form of government than the one in which we now find ourselves engaged; more of a contact sport, if you will. Thus, the faux shock with which various exertions of executive, legislative, and judicial power are greeted is by the punditocracy and the media is, in our opinion, rather too much overblown. Earlier we characterized Marbury as a "power grab" but not perhaps an unjustified one. But a power grab nonetheless because it was an assertion by the Court of a power implied, but expressly contemplated and then expressly NOT included by the Constitutional Convention. The power of judicial review could have been expressly granted to the Court, yet it was withheld. That may have been an error, and arguably the Court could not function effectively without it. Thus the Court acted unilaterally, asserting its authority and "grabbing" the power it judged necessary to do its job.

Likewise, the Executive branch has, many times over the course of American history (more often in wartime) unilaterally "grabbed" powers it judged necessary to do its job, asserting powers not expressly delegated to it under Article II, but using exactly the same reasoning used in Marbury: lacking these powers, we cannot do our job.

The remedy for improper exercise of power by any branch of government, we would argue, is a check of some sort by the other two branches. Presidential power naturally waxes and wanes over time, but abuse of power is very much like obscenity: we know it when we see it. Consequently, the standard for impeachment is of necessity somewhat vague: high crimes and misdemeanors. The Founders were wise. They left it up to us to judge with the times how much we would tolerate in our leaders. What is very much needed however, is historical perspective on current events. For without perspective we cannot place distressing things in their proper context and judge whether there is a proper historical parallel for modern day happenings.

Yoo outlines the problem well - few people truly understand the role of the Chief Executive:


Congress's vague legal mandates are handed off to the states or the agencies or the courts to sort out. Our legislators rarely turn their attention to the problems created by laws that are old and obsolete, or of dubious relevance to new issues. (This is why the Hamdan decision was less a rebuke of the presidency than a sign of frustration with Congress's failure to update our laws to deal with the terrorist menace.)

Unfortunately, much of the public misunderstands the true role of the executive branch -- in large part because today's culture transforms presidents into celebrities. On TV, a president's every move seems central to the universe, so he has the image of power that far exceeds the reality. But as the presidential scholar Richard Neustadt, a liberal icon, argued, the presidency is inherently weak, while mythic things are expected of and attributed to it -- like maintaining national security and economic growth.

Today many pundits and political scientists seem to want the president's power to be the sum of his communication and political skills, his organizational ability, his cognitive style and emotional intelligence. It is almost as if any president who uses the constitutional powers allocated to his office to effect policy has failed, not succeeded.

But the presidency, unlike Congress, is the only office elected by and accountable to the nation as a whole. The president has better access to expertise from the unified executive branch -- including its top secret data -- than the more ad hoc information Congress develops through hearings and investigations.

That is why, while jealous of its prerogatives, Congress usually goes along with a president's policy decisions. A strong executive can accept responsibility for difficult choices that Congress wants to avoid. The Republican Congress, for instance, wanted to give President Bill Clinton a line-item veto, only to be blocked by the Supreme Court. Despite hearings and criticism of the energetic executive, Congress has yet to pass laws reining in Mr. Bush very much.

Congress has for years been avoiding its duty to revamp or repeal outmoded parts of bygone laws in the light of contemporary threats. We have needed energy in the executive branch to fill in that gap. Congress now must act to guide our counterterror policy, but it should not try to micromanage the executive branch, particularly in war, where flexibility of action is paramount.

This is what has struck me over and over again over the past five years. Despite the shrill rhetoric, when push comes to shove nothing is done to rein in the President. Why is this? Because, arguably, no one is really particularly interested in stopping the Executive branch from doing anything that it is doing. It is the same as Grim's example of the Democrats inviting the Generals to Capitol Hill to testify about what the military "needed" to get the job done in Iraq...and then not introducing a bill to provide those things for our troops.

Even if the bill was destined for defeat, the Democrats could have introduced a bill and forced the Republicans to vote against it. But they didn't, did they? And that, more than anything else, tells you have none of this was serious.

It was all a dog and pony show.

THE AGENCIES

Grim writes:


What of FEMA? What of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or the other agencies wrapped up in DHS? The blame for the debacle falls on the administration part of the Executive. Which one? Both of the recent ones: the idea originated in the Clinton administration, but the Bush administration followed through with it. Just as with the failure to dismantle al Qaeda, there's blame to go around regardless of which administration is in office.

What about the military's closest peer -- the Department of State? Its deeply-felt ties to the UN are reason enough to say it needs top-down reform. More, though, it doesn't seem to be very good at doing what it is supposed to do. Diplomacy itself has fallen to the military to a large degree because the DOS is failing at its task.

Arguably the problems with the federal bureaucracy arise from its sheer size and the lack of an incentive to do better. The federal government is simply collapsing under its own weight.

The problem is too much centralization: the concentration of power and decision-making authority into what has effectively become a series of monopolies in the form of federal agencies. But no economist will tell you that monopolies are an effective form of managing resources except in specialized cases like the military where there are such high costs to maintain separate, competing concerns that doing so becomes impractical, or where there is a free rider problem as with a police force.

The answer to much of the ills which plague the federal bureaucracy would, in our opinion, be resolved by a partial return to federalism; by dissolving those functions which do not properly belong on the federal level (much of education, part of health and human services, etc.) and returning these functions to the states.

We realize this is likely to be a controversial argument. But the response to hurricane Katrina makes a case in point. The most effective part of the disaster response was arguably the part which didn't come from FEMA - it came from DoD. That is because unlike FEMA, DoD still has a relatively narrow mission focus and a culture of strict accountability and adherence to the rules: something which is sorely lacking in the rest of the federal government. Such a narrow mission focus could also have come from a state-sponsored and run disaster relief program, especially if the states perhaps had some form of cooperative reciprocity agreements with their neighbors to aid each other in time of need. But with FEMA to lean on, there was no incentive to develop such resources.

There would have been none of the massive confusion of a federally coordinated solution, had Louisiana been in charge of its own relief effort, and furthermore the citizens of that state would have been better able to hold their servants directly accountable.

We are inclined to think that a huge number of functions need to be pared from the federal government and returned to the states. This would accomplish several things:

1. It would create more jobs at the state level and decrease the dependence of states on the federal government. If necessary, some of these functions could perhaps be subsidized by federal tax dollars, but the accountability for how federal tax dollars are spent needs to be firmly tied back to individual states, whose needs differ. Let them plan for disaster relief, according to their widely differing needs. Let them handle education - why do we want to add another layer of bureaucracy into the mix to divert even more dollars from being spent on textbooks and teacher salaries? Why do we want to add more burdensome regulations onto the backs of already beleaguered teachers and administrators who have widely varying student populations? Let them decide how best to teach their students, according to the special needs of their student populations. With federal money comes some degree of federal oversight, whether it is real or perceived. Why presume the federal government can prescribe a one size fits all solution?

2. Preserve federal functions only where state solutions can't fill the gap: military, diplomacy, interstate infrastructure, liaison and coordination functions, vital R&D.

3. We believe that with a smaller bureaucracy, it would be easier to accomplish what Grim calls for, enforcement of the oaths taken by officeholders:

I have regularly opposed excessive secrecy, and support a robust declassification program -- in agreement with the principles of the Federation of American Scientists. Secrets that are not needed should not be kept, not in America.

Yet there are secrets that are needed. They must be kept.

Furthermore, the men and women who leak these secrets have in every case taken an oath to do otherwise. They have made a promise, and signed documents to that effect. Tolerating their continuance in public office is enabling oathbreakers, whose corruption rots their agencies from within. It rots trust, it rots accountability, it rots the sinews that hold the Executive together. It fires interdepartmental rivalry, political gamesmanship and jockeying for position.

Every one of these leakers should be hunted down and outed from their position as well as prosecuted, even if we have to turn an entire Federal police agency to doing nothing else for a year or ten years. As with Congressmen, officials of the Executive enjoy special power and trust. Those who abuse that trust are worse than criminals. Those who break their oaths betray us all.

Without such a watchdog, the Executive's civil service has become infested with oathbreakers of this sort. The disruption has severely hampered its ability to conduct operations critical to national security. Executive oversight is a legislative function, as well as an internal duty of the Executive. Both have failed in the role, and with that failure, damaged our nation's ability to do anything to confront the problems facing us.

The executive is embroiled in a culture of oathbreaking, right in the departments and agencies where secrets most need to be kept. This reinforces administrative suppression of dissent -- itself a problem -- and damages the trust that allow for interagency cooperation. The problems of stovepiping and political jockeying, always present, are severely worsened by the culture of oathbreakers. If the executive is to retain its proper function, it must be restrained by effective legislative oversight, and disinterested internal oversight. The culture of oathbreaking must be rooted out.

This last, we believe, is vital. No government can function if there is no respect for the fundamental ground rules. That the current administration beset with leaks does not, in our opinion, prove or even strongly suggest (as the New York Times would have us believe) that the administration is engaging in brutal repression of our rights.

If this were truly the case, we would have seen investigations long before now, and arrests of the journalists involved.

What it does say is that the journalistic community believes it is above the law, for it IS against the law to print classified information on the front pages (or any pages, for that matter) of a newspaper.

It IS a violation of the law even to receive such information. It should, as they well know, be taken IMMEDIATELY to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; the organization designated BY LAW with the oversight of the intelligence community. The transparent excuse of editors like Bill Keller who have CHOSEN to break the law when they could so easily have obeyed it was that they did it in order to keep the President from going around Congress, or the Judicial branch. And yet, when faced with a choice between breaking the law themselves and doing the right thing, they chose to break the law and go around Congress. In other words, they are no better than the President they purport to be "watching", yet they are neither elected nor appointed. They have no Constitutional authority to do what they are doing (i.e., breaking the law) - the Supreme Court has found no special rights for journalists to divulge classified information. Neither is there any federal shield law which allows journalists to refuse to cooperate with grand jury investigations they themselves have requested, yet the New York Times shamelessly asserted that "right" over and over again.

Who watches the watchers? No one, apparently. Unlike that of the unitary executive, the power of the Unitary Editor is absolute and unchallengeable. Part of the problem here is that the laws themselves are antiquated and unsuited to their function. Congress needs to step up to the plate to take the heat off the Executive branch and make it perfectly clear that disclosing national secrets will not be tolerated - by anyone. Grim comments (and I agree with him):

The law should be rewritten to include harsh penalties for anyone occupying an office of special trust and authority, who betrays that trust. Failure to keep your oath or do your duty should be a crime in and of itself -- a serious one. A list of duties for each office should be compiled, so that we can say clearly if someone occupying the office has or has not done his duty.

This would make it much more difficult to demogogue the issues and for the press to shamelessly distort the facts and inflate their own role. We need simple laws that make it clear where the line is drawn so the Executive branch can do its job and ordinary citizens can hold it accountable when it fails.

In the final analysis, a reduction in the size and scope of federal power would restore the proper balance to the branches of government and allow the President to exercise much-needed authority without seeming quite so threatening. It is, in our opinion, in many ways the encroachment of federal power on that of the states which makes the office of the Presidency loom so large in the popular imagination. We invest the President with powers far beyond his actual sweep.

The feeling of helplessness many readers have expressed on reading this series is shared by the author. Our government has grown so large that we can no longer truly grasp it in its entirety. We believe that in order to get the tiger by the tail, we must break the problem down into smaller, more manageable parts, and that necessarily implies a return to federalism, albeit perhaps in some modified form.

Your comments, both positive and negative, are most welcome.

Posted by Cassandra at October 14, 2006 12:18 PM

Comments

"there are limits to how far I'm willing to bend."

...I'm not going near that line....

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at October 14, 2006 07:06 PM

You write that "the President is such a compelling figure"

Do you mean, the Presidency generally, or this particular president? I am not sure that President Bush is a compelling figure.

I wonder whether President Bush is telling his minions what to do, or whether he blindly accepts what his assembled advisors, including the VO, tell him what to do.

If it is the former, I would find him a compelling figure in a MacBeth sort of way. If it is the latter, I would find him compelling in a US Grant sort of way.

If you are referring to the presidency as compelling, I would agree, wholeheartedly. If it is a reference to Bush, I would disagree. Reagan, Kennedy, FDR, Teddy R, Lincoln, Jackson, Madison, and Washington were compelling presidents (and maybe even Clinton). Bush 43, I would not call compelling.

Posted by: Allan at October 14, 2006 07:17 PM

OT...Cass,lease go visit Scrapplefce and leave a link for the Darthmeister.He misses you.

Posted by: Maggie at October 14, 2006 09:06 PM

Allan, I meant the Presidency as an office. I am not
trying to turn this into some sort of referendum on W. However I also disagree with you, FWIW.

Maggie, I will try to get over there tomorrow :) I don't spend much time on the Internet on weekends. That's usually family and social time, but I'll make an effort - thanks for telling me. I appreciate it.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2006 09:12 PM

BBH, you are worse than my husband. And that is saying quite a bit :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2006 09:13 PM

My goodness..... thank you sweets.... made my day..... :)

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at October 15, 2006 11:46 AM

Cassandra,

I could quibble about bits and pieces of what you wrote, but . . . Wow! What a tour de force! The basic prescription is dead-on: return the Federal Government to the core responsibilities given it in the Constitution, and leave the rest to the states. And once returned to their core duties, each of the three branches needs to be more focused, and much more accountable.

Unfortunately, while my first reaction was great admiration for what you've written, and agreement with it, my almost immediate and second reaction was one of despair. The American public is just not interested or disciplined enough to demand the sort of government you describe.

Posted by: Tim K at October 15, 2006 10:33 PM

I could quibble with bits and pieces of what I wrote too :)

While I'd love to pretend that everything I write is completely intellectually consistent and well thought out, the truth is that this is really a means of working my thoughts out on issues. IOW, I do this because I'm *not* always certain what the answer is.

Of course I have opinions, but they aren't carved in stone, though I imagine it sounds that way. That's partly why I'm a bit snarky when I could write in a far more serious tone (and I'm sure a lot of the "big bloggers" would take me more seriously). But it's intended as something of a warning.

To me there is far too much pomposity out there - far too many people who toss off opinion or even rank speculation shopped as fact. We're all just noodling, really. Why not admit it and be done with it? The people who take themselves too seriously scare me a bit.

I take the subjects I write about dead seriously. My own evaluation and opinions, not so seriously. I do the best I can each day, and frankly there are lots of times I think I do a damned good job. But there are times I've thought I missed the mark too. No one can tackle as many subjects and write as much as I do and hope to hit the bull's eye 100% of the time.

I just hope that by throwing ideas out there, it will keep my mind active and I'll get to bounce my ideas off other smart people. It forces me to grapple with ideas I wouldn't otherwise, at a deeper level than I would by simply reading an article. So in that sense, even when I get it wrong, I do gain something. And hopefully so do you all, because sometimes you don't know what the right argument is until you read something and think, "Well now that is the *dumbest* thing I've ever heard!"

Heh...

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2006 04:48 AM

I agree that some things, like the government and the popularity of Piff Duddy and Ben Afflunk, should shrink.

Some things, like the butts on most models, should expand.

A few things, like me and Cassandra's web site, are just right.

Posted by: J-Lo's Butt at October 16, 2006 04:40 PM

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