Saturday, April 07, 2007

Quote of the Day: 'Have the Nads to End it Now'

That's the message one retired Marine sounds like he'd like to deliver to all Congressional Democrats.

While Michael Arcuri seems to be hearing both from supporters and opponents of the US mission in Iraq (see next post), it sounds like Paul Hodes - a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire - may be hearing a stronger message from constituents angry with his vote for a date certain for withdrawal:

Hodes defended his support for U.S. troops by pointing to bill provisions that set aside money for better troop training and equipment. Gerry Duncan, whose husband fought in Afghanistan and whose brother-in-law is serving in Iraq, said that the issue wasn't about troop preparedness.

"The majority of our soldiers have what they need," said Duncan, of Nashua. "What they don't have is support of Congress."

"I disagree entirely with your characterization," Hodes said.

Members also questioned Hodes about the bill's provisions. The bill would require the complete withdrawal of the troops by September 2008.

"The worst thing to do was to put a date certain" for withdrawal, said John Rogers, a retired Marine colonel. You don't tell the enemy that, 'We're quitting at halftime, so if you're ahead, you win.' That's B.S. If you don't want to fund the war, have the nads to end it now."

Rogers said that if U.S. troops left too soon, Iran and terrorists could overcome an unstable Iraqi government.

Hodes tried to find common ground with troops' families, but he also was blunt in explaining his positions.

"I think there are no good options" in Iraq, he said.

"I think winning is a good option," Healy said. The other members applauded.

The article in the Monitor notes that the meeting was scheduled specifically for supporters of the war - so there was no way it could have gone well for Hodes. However, Members of Congress react to what they hear from constituents. And this meeting could only make him less likely to support a forced withdrawal the next time he votes on it.

House Democrats: How Are They Doing?

With Congress in its Easter recess, I'm looking around for reports on how constituents are grading the early performance of new Democrat House Members. I've noted that some Freshman Democrats in swing seats have already taken several votes that could be unpopular with constituents - most notably for the Iraq withdrawal and the Democratic tax increase. Here's one item from a newspaper in Utica, New York - in the district of Democrat Michael Arcuri. It's a survey of 5 ordinary people, and Congressman Arcuri - asking them their views on Iraq. The reaction is mixed, but here's one that caught my eye - and which Mr. Arcuri could not have welcomed:

Donna Parker


Mother Marine Sgt. Elisha Parker, killed in Iraq in 2006

Should we withdraw our troops from Iraq?

I would say no. I don't think we should withdraw them until we are done with our mission over there and I'm quite upset with Congress and the politicians. We feel that they are using our soldiers as game pieces in their little game, and their lives are at stake. They are taking this bill to say, 'yes they'll fund our troops, but they have to be withdrawn by 2008,' and they have added lots of little projects to that bill. Is it about our soldiers or is it about areas that they represent? Do they really care about or soldiers or is it about money? And they are tying the funds for our soldiers to an arbitrary date in the future.

I wish they wouldn't interfere. Our president is the commander-in-chief. You don't know what the future holds. You don't know if things will get better. In a war how can you say the end of next year we are going to withdraw troops?

They want American to give up and just forget about it and live our lives. Personally I believe that area in Iraq is a very important battleground for our future.

If we leave Iraq it's not going to be over, the battle is going to continue somewhere some place. They are not going to just leave us alone if we pull out of there. They have a much bigger agenda than just the war in Iraq.

Is the war winnable?

I'm not one to give up easily, I think perseverance is a great quality and I think that yes, of course, it's winnable. It's been much harder and more difficult and more costly in money and regarding the lives of our troops, and it's hit home much closer than we ever dreamed of, but I think it is winnable.

This is a GREAT Idea

The Baltimore Sun reports that there's a new way for people with bad credit histories to borrow money - for mortgages, or other purposes. They can 'rent' the good credit history of other credit holders, incorporating them as sponsors on their own applications. I'm a strong believer in the power of the market to empower individuals - but this neat market innovation sounds like one we could do without:

When your credit scores don't qualify you for the home mortgage you want, where do you turn? That's an especially timely question now, as banks and mortgage companies tighten underwriting standards for applicants with less than perfect credit.

But federal and state authorities fear that some borrowers are turning to a fast-growing business on the Internet: companies that claim to boost credit scores by transplanting the credit DNA of people with excellent payment histories into the credit files of people with sub-par histories - ostensibly without breaking any law...

The person seeking a higher credit score does not obtain actual access to the credit card. But within 30 to 90 days of being added to the account, the national credit bureaus incorporate the primary cardholder's account information into the files of the authorized user. The score-raising attributes of the primary cardholder's stellar payment record then flow through to the new user.

One company based in Tampa, Fla., recently solicited mortgage brokers promising FICO score boosts of 150 to 205 points for applicants "in as little as 30 days" for the "discounted" price of $750 per trade line.

McCain Revises and Extends on Iraq

Looks like McCain is going to kowtow to the mainstream media on 60 Minutes tomorrow, and say that he overstated the case when speaking about improved security in Baghdad:

In two interviews before the Army took McCain and 60 Minutes on the heavily guarded visit to the al-Shorja market last Sunday, the senator said security had improved in Iraq. Upon his return, he also told a news conference he had just come back from a neighborhood one could walk around in freely.

The remarks made headlines and he now regrets saying them. "Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future," says McCain. "I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that's just life," he tells Pelley, adding, "I'm happy, frankly, with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun."

He continues to maintain that the president's surge policy has improved safety in Baghdad. "I can understand why [the Army] would provide me with that security, but I can tell you that if it had been two months ago and I'd asked to do it, they would have said, 'Under no circumstances whatsoever.' I view that as a sign of progress," says McCain.

Continuing America's military presence in Iraq has been a key position in McCain's presidential bid. He says he knows he is out of step with the rest of the country. "I believe we can succeed and I believe that the consequences of failure are catastrophic," he tells Pelley. "I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. Failure [in Iraq] will lead to chaos, withdrawal will lead to chaos."

It'll be interesting to see how this plays. I suspect it will anger some conservatives, but at least in this limited excerpt, it doesn't sound that bad to me. McCain continues to speak honestly about the improvements in Iraq and the importance of the mission, despite the fact that he continues to be slammed over it. And while polls suggest that Americans have mixed feelings about the mission, there's no harm in acknowledging that a broad swath of the public doesn't think it's working.

To my great consternation (at times) McCain has earned a reputation as a 'straight talker.' That reputation may give him the ability to speak to the American people about Iraq in a way that the Bush administration cannot.

Update: I see that the Washington Post covers the same topic, with a decidedly different thrust. They suggest that McCain will 'double down' on Iraq - stressing the importance of victory there as a central focus of his candidacy:

The Iraq speech will be the first of three major policy addresses McCain will give in the coming weeks as he prepares to officially announce his candidacy, with stops beginning in New Hampshire and ending in Arizona at the end of the month. He will give a speech about taxes, trade and government waste on April 16 and a lecture on domestic policy, perhaps emphasizing energy issues, a week later, according to advisers.

Together, aides hope, the speeches and remarks will serve as a reintroduction of McCain to voters, helping to ignite some of the same kind of passion his candidacy evoked in 2000. They are also hoping to recapture the limelight from his GOP rivals, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Giuliani is leading in national polls, and Romney raised $10 million more than McCain in the first three months of the year...

Among the voters who will determine the Republican nominee, support for the war and the president's policies remains strong. In the Post-ABC News poll, 70 percent of Republicans said the Iraq war has been worth fighting. And in a recent Newsweek poll, two-thirds of Republicans said they oppose Democratic legislation calling for a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

And McCain's top finance officials say the senator's position on the war has, if anything, helped him with many of his wealthy donors.

This is fascinating. I have argued for some time that US troops would be out of harm's way in Iraq in a matter of months - convinced that they would have to take a more limited role prior to the 2008 election. The Post notes however, that the Iraq mission has strong support among GOP primary voters. Suppose McCain catches fire - and I think it's possible, given the weakness of Romney, the recent misstep by Giuliani, and the absence of Fred Thompson. If he retakes a lead in the polls, it will build pressure for a longer commitment in Iraq. If that happens, then Iraq will be the central election of 2008.

I've previously said that Iraq will fade as an issue in 2008, with the US role significantly diminished by then. If it's a central issue however, then one of the two parties may be punished by the voters for so badly mishandling it.

Novak: WH Uses Easter to Push More Spending

Bob Novak has his typical interesting Saturday morning compilation, highlighted by the decision of the White House to push federally-funded children's health care at the Easter Egg roll:


Parents taking toddlers to the White House Monday for the annual Easter Egg Roll are scheduled to be handed a brochure instructing them on how to enroll their children in government-funded child-care programs.

President Bush's staff requested that the Department of Health and Human Services supply 50,000 brochures for the traditional Monday event.

That might seem an unusual undertaking for an administration avowedly dedicated to limited government. The added irony is that many of the participants in the Easter Egg Roll are well-heeled supporters of the president unlikely to be interested in government child care.

Read Novak as well for news about Fred Thompson's burgeoning campaign, and the visit of several Republican Congressmen to Damascus.

Friday, April 06, 2007

HamNation Reports from Iowa

Mary Katharine Ham followed Rudy to Iowa - or so she would have TownHall believe. It's clear this video is wholly fabricated to justify her expense report:

Come on! If she was in Iowa, why does her rental car have a Minnesota plate?

On Iraq & AQ, Post & Others Get It Wrong - Again

Read it over at the Standard.

Happy Birthday to Us

Today is the first birthday of the Influence Peddler. Our first post was on April 6, 2006. Thanks to all our readers - who we hope get something entertaining or informative out of their visits here.

Happy birthday too, to the Editor's brother Joe. Thanks Joe, for all that you do,

Can Rudy Win Without Social Conservatives

Great catch over at Eyeon08, regarding a suggestion that Rudy Giuliani believes he can win the GOP nomination without the votes of social conservatives.

I think this is possible, but a dangerous strategy.

If social conservatives are divided among several candidates, then Rudy ought to be able to hold his own, on the strength of his national security, reformist, and leadership credentials. It's only once the competition dwindles down to one serious alternative that this strategy becomes problematic. If social conservatives comprise one-third of primary voters and those voters line up with Mitt Romney - or whoever - then Giulani may face serious trouble. But so long as there are several challengers splitting that constituency, he can probably get by.

The 'nightmare scenario' then, is for someone to suddenly 'take off' among Republicans (as Fred Thompson appears capable of doing). If such a candidate emerges as 'the' alternative to Giuliani prior to South Carolina, then there is probably no way Giuliani can win - at least without shifting ground.

It may be that the recent dustup over abortion financing was botched from start to finish, or it may be that Giuliani intended to burnish his credentials as a pro-choicer who won't trim his sails. Time will tell.

The Only Democrats Running Are Those Who Can't Win

How much is the current anti-Republican mood tied to the fact that George Bush is President? This much:

"The new Hotline/Diageo poll has a generic Democratic presidential candidate beating a generic republican presidential candidate by 18. 18. Yet (see last week’s Time mag poll) our alleged top tier candidates all lose in hypothetical match ups to real Republican candidates. That is, Senators clinton and obama are more than 20 points less desirable to voters than an imaginary Democrat. our “top tier” candidates may be the only Democrats in existence who can’t win in 08."

I think this finding strongly suggests that the Democrats' current generic advantage is due to dissatisfaction with President Bush - and to a lesser extent the Iraq war. Once those are eliminated from the equation - as happens when you begin to focus on the Democratic candidates and the Republican candidates - the Democratic advantage disappears.

Why Not Al Gore?

Kerry and Gingrich debate climate change. Read it over at the Standard.


Democrats develop and execute their own foreign policy - to the detriment of the US and themselves. The money quote reminds me of something I said:

Once we leave Iraq, America's enemies will still reside in the Mideast; and they will be stronger if we leave behind a failed government and bloodbath in Iraq. Mr. Bush's successor will have to contain the damage, and that person could even be a Democrat. But by reverting to their Vietnam message of retreat and by blaming Mr. Bush for all the world's ills, Democrats on Capitol Hill may once again convince voters that they can't be trusted with the White House in a dangerous world.

Great video of Kennedy arguing for a capital gains tax cut. As Democrats push for increases in capital gains taxes, it's good to hear Kennedy stepping up in implicit opposition. Oh - did I confuse you? I meant John F. Kennedy.

The joint chiefs stress the importance of a signed Iraq supplemental in April.

On impeaching Bush - the Democrats want to...

Harry Reid faces heat at home for policies he's pursuing in Washington.

Get an IPod - a US soldier in Iraq had his life saved by one.

Looks like Purdue University will make the first cloaking device - within two or three years.

Gay marriage legalized in... Disneyland?

Is Tom Maguire in the Phantom Zone?

Reimagining Happy Gilmore. Pretty funny.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Giuliani & Abortion - Ad Nauseam

I had a lengthy chat with another blogger who clarified to me where I was wrong on the Giuliani/Hyde amendment/abortion funding controversy. My mistake was in my misconception that the Hyde amendment blocked funding for all abortions using federal dollars, rather than funding for all abortions except those resulting from rape or incest, or in cases where the life of the mother is threatened.

Realizing the latter - that some federal funding of abortion is currently legal - then if you read Giuliani's recent statements 'in his favor,' you can argue that he has not staked ground as any more pro-choice than he was a day or so ago. Reviewing, Giuliani has said:

  1. (Through spokesmen) that he supports the Hyde amendment as is; and,
  2. That he supports some federal funding for abortion - if the failure to provide funds 'would deprive someone of a constitutional right.'

Point 2 was the one that ignited the controversy yesterday. The Mayor responded to the criticism by saying today: "If that's real important to you, if that's the most important thing, I'm comfortable with the fact that you won't vote for me." His campaign subsequently issued a statement:

What I said yesterday is what I’ve been saying throughout, I think in the last number of months publicly and privately for quite some time, which is I’m against abortion, I hate it, I wish there never was an abortion and I would council a woman have an adoption instead of an abortion but ultimately I believe an individual right and a woman can make that choice. I also, on public funding or funding of abortion said I would want to see it decided on a state by state basis. And what that means is I would leave the Hyde Amendment in place. It’s been the law now, 17, 18 years, it’s part of the constitutional balance that I talked about yesterday and the Hyde Amendment leaves the funding issue largely to the states. They have to decide how they’re going to do it. And same thing on the issue that you’re giving me now, which is I believe that the state should decide. And that’s largely my approach not only in the area of abortion but in the area of guns and other things. I think these things are best decided on a state by state basis and would have as limited a federal role as the law requires.

There is conflict among his statements here. He wants to provide funds where they're needed 'to guarantee a constitutional right.' He also wants to keep the Hyde amendment as is. But the Hyde amendment doesn't provide funds for those who can't otherwise afford an abortion. It allows states to offer funds in the cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. So Giuliani was either talking about some new use of federal dollars outside the Hyde amendment, or he misspoke - or was confused about the particulars - as I was.

If you're a pro-life voter and want to resolve this in Giuliani's favor, you clearly can do so. He misspoke when he talked of financing abortions to ensure that no one is 'deprived of a constitutional right.' He meant to say that he agrees with the current Hyde amendment, without changes. He backed it up when he issued his statement today, which speaks strongly in support of Hyde.

If you don't want to give Giuliani the benefit of the doubt, you can say that he showed his true colors. He is not 100% committed to Hyde, and he is open to expanded federal funds. He only issued his pro-Hyde statement today to quiet the controversy. And if you read it closely, you see he still doesn't state unequivocally that he would veto a bill that would expand financing, only that he would 'leave the Hyde amendment in place' - a phrase that's rather flexible.

The Mayor will have to speak on this more and clarify his views further, and I hope he does it more carefully than he has done in the last few days. It seems to me that his statements were sloppy at best, and they were bound to cause him trouble. On a topic as touchy as this one, he must tread very carefully indeed.

The Hotline is less generous in pointing out problems in the Mayor's statements.

Democrats Risk Post-Vietnam Syndrome

Read it over at the Standard.

Rudy Puts a Stick in My Eye

Rudy Giuliani has further addressed the kerfuffle that followed his statement that he still supports some federal funding for abortion. His message:

'If that's real important to you, if that's the most important thing, I'm comfortable with the fact that you won't vote for me,"

This is particularly galling because public financing of abortion is not just outside the Republican mainstream, it is left of center. I'm not sure how much left of center, but enough. For the Mayor to choose this principle to fight over suggests that I may end up uncomfortable with some of his other stances in the future. Further, this is the first decision by the Mayor that puts a hole in what was otherwise a great notion: that Giuliani really didn't want to put a stick in the eye of conservatives. Well, this feels like a stick in the eye.

All I can say is that the Mayor and I agree on a lot of things, but if this is real important to him - if it's the most important thing - then I'm comfortable with not voting for him.

Hat Tip: Allah.

Update: I see that Ace wrote on this topic today, before the latest news. He phrased it this way:

The social right, the pro-lifers, were willing to cut Rudy so damn much slack on this, and yet he couldn't manage to concede one fairly minor point in return.

I think that's right.

Update II: Here's a surprise: the price of a share of Rudy Giuliani for President at InTrade has fallen about 15 percent in the last day. Wonder what caused that?

Reminder from the ISG: We Oppose Deadlines

Read it over at the Worldwide Standard.

Novak: Olmert, Bush Blocking Peace Deal

Bob Novak writes from Israel, where he's doing some digging on the state of possible peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Reading what he has to say, you might infer that he thinks Nancy Pelosi's screwed-up message from Israel to Syria is the one that ought to have been sent:

The atmosphere has changed since I was here for Holy Week a year ago. Israeli self-confidence then was at a peak, with the newly installed Olmert openly avowing the unilateral solution to the Palestinian problem developed by his predecessor, Ariel Sharon. Behind that posture was confidence in military superiority. The unhappy results of the Lebanon incursion have modified Israeli expectations and caused a different tone. Olmert publicly indicates a willingness to talk, and the Haaretz newspaper quoted him as saying the Arabs' Riyadh summit "is evidence of a change."

But the moderates attending Tuesday's conference viewed this as rhetoric. Olmert told Rice here last week that any negotiations must be preceded by the release of the Israeli soldier seized by Hamas fighters last June 25.

The broader pre-conditions for talks are Olmert's refusals to include in negotiations any discussion of a return of Arab refugees to greater Palestine and a withdrawal of Israel to its 1967 borders. Negotiating those points does not mean that they will be conceded. Indeed, Bush in 2004 assured Sharon of U.S. guarantees against a massive return of Palestinian refugees or a rollback to unsafe borders. But setting pre-conditions for talks is a classic mechanism for escaping talks altogether.

Indeed, Olmert continues a boycott policy against the Palestinian Authority because of Hamas' election victory and Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister. The presence of Hamas in the Palestinian government is cited as justification for the absence of anybody from the negotiating table.

Novak points to the Lebanon incursion as the reason that Olmert's stance has shifted, and suggests that the participation of Hamas in the Palestinian government is merely an excuse for not talking. But as long as the Palestinian people continue to choose a terrorist organization such as Hamas to represent them, how can good-faith negotiations take place? Surely the Palestinians must first recognize that you cannot have a peaceful two-state solution when their government maintains that the other state ought not exist.

Remind Me Not to Buy Tickets...

A bunch of HBO donors to liberal Democrats intend to make a movie about the 2000 recount. And it seems that they aren't interviewing any Republicans in doing their research:

HBO is planning to make an unbiased film, titled "Recount" and scheduled to premiere early next year, about the 2000 presidential election.

That could be difficult, if not impossible, to pull off, because the director, executive producer, and writer of the movie are all Democrats. Oh, and Colin Callender, the president of HBO Films, is also a D.

The Hollywood Reporter this week quoted Callender as saying the movie won't take sides and instead would be "a fascinating look at democracy." Callender has made political donations to then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ( D-N.Y.).

Executive Producer Paula Weinstein, who has given to Sens. Clinton, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), praised Sydney Pollack for being the only director able to deal with the "dramatic twists and turns of the story with honesty and truthfulness."

Pollack has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years. Some of the recipients were Clinton, Boxer, and California Reps. Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters. In 1999, however, he gave to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Daniel Strong, the writer of "Recount," has claimed he did detailed research and conducted numerous interviews with the people involved.

That is news to one Republican operative who was in the middle of the hanging-chad controversy, who said he knows of no Florida Republican — including former Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) — who was interviewed by Strong.

Do you suppose we can count on it to be as accurate as Fahrenheit 911?


A possible successor to Russia's Putin is unhappy that independent Estonia is acting like it's independent.

The parents of 'American Taliban' John Walker Lindh are requesting that their son's sentence be commuted since Australian David Hicks will serve only 9 months for his support of terrorism. Lindh fought with the Taliban at Tora Bora in the battle in which CIA Agent John Michael Spann was killed. Lindh's attorney says he was treated 'harshly.'

Nancy Pelosi's smart, tough message to Syria. The Washington Post - not exactly an organ of the right - slams her for obstructing the 'peace process.'

Political arithmetik looks at Congress' approval rating over time. Interesting graphs.

Reading tea leaves - er, oil prices. Megan McArdle notes that while oil prices spiked when Iran seized British sailors, they did not drop when the sailors were released. What does it mean? Perhaps that markets believe Iran has tipped its hand, and is in fact seeking a confrontation.

The Washington Times notes that Fred Thompson's backers are basically putting together a campaign in the hope/expectation that he will run.

Victor Matus has seen the first two episodes of the final season of the Sopranos. His preview has no spoilers, but it sounds like Tony is more and more focused on how his life as a mobster will end. Philo has suggested that the resolution is given away by the series title: that Tony will sing. But Victor is skeptical.

HotAir has the audio of Dennis Miller's radio show, with guest Dana Carvey. The highlight is Carvey doing George Bush 41 and 43, discussing Rosie O'Donnell's having cracked the secrets of 9/11.

Catholic Church: Poverty Pimp

As a Roman Catholic, it's tremendously depressing when I see the Pope sending such a misguided message to the developing world:

Rich countries bent on power and profit have mercilessly "plundered and sacked" Africa and other poor regions and exported to them the "cynicism of a world without God," Pope Benedict writes in his first book.

The Pope also condemns drug trafficking and sexual tourism, saying they are signs of a world brimming with "people who are empty" yet living among abundant material goods...

In the 400-page book, called "Jesus of Nazareth," the Pope offers a modern application of Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help a man who had been robbed by thieves when others, including a priest, had not.

"The current relevance of the parable is obvious," the Pope writes.

"If we apply it to the dimensions of globalised society today, we see how the populations of Africa have been plundered and sacked and this concerns us intimately," the Pope says in his book, which comes out on April 16, his 80th birthday.

He drew a link between the lifestyle of people in the developed world and the dire conditions of people in Africa.


"We see how our lifestyle, the history that involved us, has stripped them naked and continues to strip them naked," he writes.

The German Pope, who has condemned the effects of colonialism before, said rich countries had also hurt poor countries spiritually by belittling or trying to wipe out their own cultural and spiritual traditions...

Let's begin by stipulating that there's truth in what the Pope says: there was lots of plundering of the lesser-developed world by the advanced west. That is not the cause of (physical) poverty in Africa and elsewhere now, however. The central problem is the pervasiveness of political and economic systems and policies that discourage private investment and wealth generation. And rather than encourage people to believe that they are poor because they are being taken advantage of, the Pope would do well to give a balanced view - which notes the continued support that the United States and other western nations for anti-poverty efforts, AIDS care, humanitarian relief, and other worthwhile causes.

I have great respect for the statements of the Pope on all matters concerning faith and religion. It's a shame that he gives me little reason to take seriously his statements about politics and economics.

Update: After reading the excerpt printed in Corriere Della Serra, Philo suggests I was too hasty. It appears that the story I linked suggests that the Pope said a lot more than he really did. A translation is provided in the comments:

The reality of the parable is obvious. If we apply it to the dimensions of globalised society, we see how the populations of Africa that find themselves stripped and robbed concern us closely. Then we see how these are "next" to us; we also see that our way of life, the history in which we are coinvolved, has stripped them and continues to strip them. In this is comprised above all the fact that we have wounded them spiritually. Rather than give them God, the God near to us in Christ, and receiving likewise from their traditions all that is precious and grand and carrying those to completion, we have brought them the cynicism of a world without God, in which only power and profit count; we have destroyed the moral criteria so that corruption and a will to power robbed of scruples become something glaring. And this holds not only for Africa. Yes, we are obliged to give material aid, and we are obliged to examine our means of life. But we give entirely too little if we give only matter. And do we not find also within ourselves the robbed and victimised man? The victims of drugs, of traffic in persons, of sex tourism, people destroyed in their intimate essence that are empty in spite of our abundance of material goods?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Giuliani & Abortion

I wanted to comment further on the kerfuffle surrounding Rudy Giuliani's comments that he still supports some public financing of abortion.

I have noted many times that Giuliani is running as about the pro-lifiest pro-choicer that he can. (Most recently here). I noted early that his promises to nominate strict-constructionist judges might be seen as a wink-and-a-nod to social conservatives that he supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade - even though he says he has no opinion on that landmark decision. He is pro parental notification (at least in some cases), and against partial-birth abortion. I have argued that on abortion alone, we had no reason to think that he would necessarily be different from Bush 43 (or Bush 41, or Reagan) on abortion.

But with his statement today that he supports public financing of abortion, I can no longer make that case. While the Mayor quickly repeated his previous promise not to push for changes in current federal policy, I do not think that's sufficient. It may be that President Giuliani serves 8 years with a Republican Congress, and never sees a bill that would promote abortion - either through public financing or in any other way. Or it might be that he serves with a Democratic Congress that sends him every manner of legislation promoting abortion. Based on today's statement, I need to reconsider whether I can trust President Giuliani to do the right thing.

If he is open to federal financing of abortions, then what else might he sign?

Given Giuliani's decision to run as a pro-choice candidate, it's essential that he build trust with the Republican base. The dance he's performing here - not supporting the Hyde amendment but not trying to change it, and supporting strict constructionist judges but saying that they might well be champions of stare decisis when it comes to Roe v. Wade - is too cute. It sounds like his positions are designed to allow him to thread the needle - not changing his position, not upsetting pro-lifers and not upsetting pro-choicers. It seems politically calculated.

It's no secret that navigating the Republican primary will be tricky for a pro-choice candidate such as Giuliani. I think he had a bad day today. And I think he needs to think a little more about how he intends to speak to pro-life voters. If Fred Thompson gets into the race, Giuliani will have a hard time winning the nomination without support from social conservatives.

Also a minor style point: in the post I linked above, I warned that Giuliani and his supporters need to stay away from what I'd call 'Mario Cuomo rhetoric.' That includes stuff like 'I'm personally opposed, but I won't impose my views,' and 'I don't support throwing women in prison.' Giuliani uses the latter formulation in this piece, and I think it raises the hackles of pro-life voters. And if you don't agree with them, it helps at least not to be tone deaf.

Update: Read also Captain Ed.

Edwards' Campaign Uses Wife's Cancer to Raise $$

If accurate, I find this disappointing:

When you visit the John Edwards for President Web site, you're invited to send a sympathy note to the Edwardses. And tens of thousands of well wishers have done so since that heart-wrenching news conference two weeks ago at which Elizabeth Edwards courageously discussed her incurable cancer.

What those well wishers get in return -- e-mail messages soliciting contributions to Edwards's campaign.

Visitors to the Edwards site who choose to "send a note to Elizabeth and John" are first taken to a heartfelt letter from the candidate that was written the day after he learned that his wife's cancer had returned. Edwards thanks readers for their "prayers and wishes," vows that he and Elizabeth will "keep a positive attitude always look for the silver lining" and declares that "our campaign goes on and it goes on strongly."

Anyone who then chooses to send a note of sympathy to the Edwardses -- and, thus, provide his or her e-mail address -- automatically becomes part of the Edwards campaign's online e-mail database, a list that is crucial to any campaign's ability to raise vast amounts of money over the Internet.

If you sent a note to the Edwardses before the critical March 31 end-of-the-quarter fundraising deadline, you would have received frantic e-mail solicitations from the campaign, such as the one on March 28 from Edwards campaign manager David Bonior titled, "96 hours to show substance works." The solicitation asked for "$25, $50 or any amount you can afford to give."

The Post does note that the Edwards campaign has generally tried to steer clear of using this tragedy to raise money:

While Edwards has enjoyed a big surge in donations since he and his wife disclosed the return of her cancer, the campaign has not mentioned the "C" word in any of its fundraising solicitations. In fact, an e-mail sent to supporters on March 22, the day of their famous news conference, omitted the usual link to contribute money.

What this amounts to is adding E-mail addresses from well-wishers to the fundraising list. That's a mistake - at best. One hopes it is only an oversight.

Readers will recall that I defended the Edwardses against Philo's attacks a few weeks ago.

Giuliani & Abortion

This makes it very difficult for me to support Giuliani. He (still) supports public financing for abortion, if lack of resources leave a woman unable to exercise her 'constitutional rights.'

I think I need federal help exercising my second amendment rights...

Hat Tip: Allah

Update: I've received the following note from the Giuliani team:

“As I have indicated before I will not seek to change current law as described in the Hyde Amendment.” — Rudy Giuliani

And his campaign points me to this Chicago interview from March 12, 2007:

REPORTER: There is a video clip around the internet today out today from your Mayor’s race where you came out in favor you support taxpayer funded abortion for poor women. Is that still your position today and what do make of this early attempt to discredit you with conservative voters?

GIULIANI: Well, everybody has a right to do that. I think that basically my position on abortion is that I oppose it, it’s wrong, everything should be done to discourage it, and I would discourage it personally, but ultimately however I think that the law has to permit people to make that choice, we can’t make that choice for them, and as far as the state of the law as it presently exists, I don’t have any real agenda to change that. That has to be decided on a state by state basis so far as issues beyond that, and then you know, the Supreme Court is going to decide issues like parental notification which I think is appropriate to have judicial bypass, and they’re going to decide about late-term abortion, (INAUDIBLE), and as long as there is exceptions for the life of the mother, I think that banning partial-birth abortion is the appropriate thing. So, you know, I’ve explained this many many times and I think people have to kind of evaluate what my position is and I do ultimately support a woman’s right to choose, and if there are some people who just feel they can’t vote for me because of that, well then they have to make that decision for themselves, and if there are other things that are more important to them, or they understand that my position is a balanced one, well maybe they will be. (Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Press Availability, Chicago, IL, 3/12/07)

More on Biden's Iraq Plan

Yesterday I criticized Senator Biden (over here) - one of his party's more serious and credible thinkers on foreign policy - for putting forth a plan for Iraq that made no sense. He expounds on his idea here, in an interview from the Tonight Show that Biden's campaign has posted at YouTube:

I encourage you to watch it. His plan is for a loose federation in Iraq, under a weak central government. He clearly takes it seriously and has thought about it a great deal.

My only question is, how is this achieved consistent with a date-certain for withdrawal of US troops? Does Mr. Biden imagine that we can tell the Iraqis 'we're leaving; please do this?' Surely Mr. Biden's ambitious plans - which are even more prescriptive than the President's - require some incentives to the Iraqis to adopt them. If he's taking away the troops, what does Biden offer Iraq instead?

Confounding Stereotypes

It is customary to paint the Republican Party's financial backers as sober, grimly realistic green-eyeshade-wearing accountants, carefully weighing every proposed contribution against each potential benefit, whereas Democratic loyalists are often seen as free-thinking dreamers, seeing things that never were, and asking why.

In fact, as the chart to the right indicates, the reality is much more complex. Contributions to Democratic Party candidates for the Presidency track almost exactly with overall popular support, representing a congruence of political support and financial backing which would be completely comprehensible to any risk-management actuary.

The Republicans, on the other hand, present us with the deep pockets and deeper imagination of those backing Romney to the tune of $20 million in the first quarter while his political support remains mired in the single digits with a downward trend the closer Fred Thompson comes to entering the race. Hopefully this was all just mad money from comfortable coupon-clipping former clients from Romney's banking days, and not an historic incident of highly misguided value-investing principles. The discounted value stream from an investment in Nigerian inheritance scams seems approximately equal to an investment in a Romney administration at this point.

On the other hand, they do call it the Stupid Party for a reason.

Michael Ware: Hero on the Left

The professional Left has made a cottage industry lately of defending Michael Ware against charges that he heckled John McCain. I did not comment on the story, and am glad I refrained - since it appears that the story was essentially false.

But Rob at Say Anything has picked up on an interview Michael Ware did recently, which is less likely to be heralded by the Left:

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I can tell you from the outset, Suzanne, is that, say, for example, by some bizarre political miracle, Congress was able to impose a real time line, a real deadline on the U.S. presence here or on the funding for the war here. Now that absolutely would play completely into the hands of America’s identified enemies, al Qaeda in Iran. That would be handing the entire advantage to them. That’s why that can never really happen.

But in terms of the broader debate, in terms of, you know, taking the temperature of the American mood, of the American public, adhering to what’s going on in Congress, looking at the Congressional elections, absolutely do the insurgents, do al Qaeda and does Iran and its proxy organizations in Iraq pay attention?

Yes, for sure. I mean they know that the most certain way to strike at their enemy is to strike at his support back home. And, indeed, they monitor these things. They know that, you know, what’s happening in D.C. doesn’t really relate to the ground. This is just political artifice.

Nonetheless, it does tell them about the pressure points to apply. And we saw from 2003 the Baathist insurgents saying from the beginning this war will not be won on the battlefield, it will be won on that—pointing to a TV screen.

That’s where this war will be won—Suzanne.

As Rob notes, Ware is essentially saying that the Democrats' agenda of setting a date for withdrawal plays into the hands of our enemies. That doesn't necessarily make it wrong, but it sure does have to make you think.

All Brit Morning

At least so far.

I LOVE this:


Ahmadinejad has seen fit to pardon the 15 British sailors. It seems to me that in the US, we'd call this declaring victory and going home.

Democratic thought police won't allow use of the phrase 'Global War on Terror.' Apparently if you deny something exists, it will go away.

As if you needed to ask, McCain's team denies that he asked to serve as Kerry's Vice Presidential nominee. The more I think about it, the sillier it sounds. McCain had to know that if he asked, Kerry would say yes in a heartbeat and give McCain whatever he wanted. Even if for some reason the deal was not consummated, it could not have stayed quiet so long.

I get the sense that Mary Katharine Ham needs these pictures for her expense report: 'see boss - I went to Iowa!' The presentation throws me back to grade school - I can almost hear the beep of the slide projector.

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks have gotten into a war of words over Marbury's line of discount sporting apparel. LeBron seems to think it's cheap and tawdry to sell sneakers for as little as $15; LeBron's signature shoes go for $150.

LeBron James has been regarded as a class act - but this is disgraceful. He can sell his shoes for whatever he - and Nike - want to. But to trash those trying to ensure that kids of all means can afford premium items shows no class, and no regard for the interest of his fans.

The All-Seeing Eye

Great Britain is making sure that Big Brother can reach you in far more places:

"Talking" CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England.

They are already used in Middlesbrough where anyone seen misbehaving can be told to stop via a loudspeaker, controlled by control centre staff.

Home Secretary John Reid has earmarked nearly £500,000 to add speaker facilities to already-existing cameras.

But why stop now? Surely there's offensive behavior in far more places than are reached by cameras outside. Why not start addressing undesirable behavior in homes?

Sign of the Apocalypse

This time, I think that headline is literal. Once you forget what Easter is all about, there's trouble:

A supermarket chain got itself into a huge muddle over the meaning of Easter yesterday in its attempt to sell more chocolate eggs.

“Brits are set to spend a massive £520 million on Easter eggs this year — but many young people don’t even know what Easter’s all about,” said the press release from Somerfield after a survey.

It then went on to claim that the tradition of giving Easter eggs was to celebrate the “birth” of Christ. An amended version changed this to the “rebirth” of Christ. Finally a third press release accepted Church teaching that Easter celebrated the resurrection of Christ.

The press release was written by Hayley Booth, 30, of the PR agency Brando. Ms Booth, who was privately educated, told The Times that she had corrected the release as soon as she became aware of the error.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dedicated to the McCain Campaign

I noted a few hours ago that John McCain needed to do something to shake up his campaign, and voila! The campaign is being retooled and relaunched.

You are witnesses at the birth of Spinal Tap... er... Straight Talk Express, Mark II. Hope you enjoy the new direction!

Biden Explains the Democratic Iraq Plan

Over at the Weekly Standard.

?מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת

"Why is this night different from all other nights?"

In addition to wishing everyone a Happy Passover, I pass along a potent reminder of how little human nature changes from Dr. Horsefeathers' blog, an interview with one of the last surviving leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, reflecting on Iraq, war, human nature, and the temptation to look the other way:

"Interviewer: But there are people who say it's not our business.

Edelman: And whose business is it? Every war with fascism is our business. In 1939 there were also many people who said that the war in Poland was not their war, and what happened? Great nations fell because politicians listened to those who were saying that it's not worth dying for Gdansk [Danzig]. If only we'd intervened militarily after Hitler re-entered Rhineland we probably would not have had the war and the Holocaust.

Interviewer: Many people do understand that, but they don't understand why the Americans have to go to the other side of the world and fight over Iraq now.

Edelman: And why did they go to Europe then? Who defeated Hitler and saved Europe from fascism? The French? No, the Americans did. We thanked them then because they saved us. Today we criticise them because they're saving somebody else..."

Much more at Horsefeathers...Senator Reid might want to think harder before declaring Iraqis not worth a drop of American blood.

My Regular Look at Intrade

I find it interesting and illuminating to see how investors think the Presidential candidates are doing. With the release of first quarter fundraising numbers now behind us, I thought I'd see how the 'markets' reacted to the news. First off, Romney:

It sure looks like his fundraising total changed the view of investors - at least for today - of his chances at the nomination. Shares in 'Romney' really spiked. The bad news is - as we will see below - he's still in fourth place.

Next is Giuliani. He clearly had a poor week - probably related to discussions of his wife as a member of his Cabinet. His fundraising total didn't stop the slide, and may have caused him to slide a little more. Still - he has a significant margin over the man in second place.

Now we come to the man in second place: John McCain. He is trading around $20 - just a little bit ahead of Romney - and he seems neither to have benefited nor suffered from his poor money total.

And last is a non-candidate: the man who raised no money in the quarter, and has nevertheless moved into parity with John McCain - Fred Thompson. He continues on the steady climb he began when his name was first floated as a possible candidate.

Looking at these numbers, it appears that Thompson is surging, Giuliani is dipping, Romney got the boost he needed, and McCain has nothing good to point to. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that McCain will need to do something to shake this funk. The good news is, the campaign has a long way to go.

Update: The Politico reports that McCain is re-launching his campaign. My comments are here.

McCain Asked Kerry for the VP Slot?

When the Hill reported that John McCain had approached Senate Democratic leaders about changing his party affiliation, I noted that it seemed plausible, and I did not care.

Now Senator Kerry tells liberal site MyDD that Senator McCain's people approached him about having McCain run for Vice President on the 2004 Democratic ticket:

Jonathan Singer: There's a story in The Hill, I think on Tuesday, by Bob Cusack on the front page of the paper talking about how John McCain's people -- John Weaver -- had approached Tom Daschle and a New York Congressman, I don't remember his name, about switching parties. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what your discussions were with him in 2004, how far it went, who approached whom... if there was any "there" there.

John Kerry: I don't know all the details of it. I know that Tom, from a conversation with him, was in conversation with a number of Republicans back then. It doesn't surprise me completely because his people similarly approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as Vice President. So his people were active -- let's put it that way.

Singer: Okay. And just to confirm, you said it, but this is something they approached you rather than...

Kerry: Absolutely correct. John Weaver of his shop... [JK aswers phone]

This seems to me to be a case of John Kerry trying to inflate his already substantial self-image. It was widely reported in 2004 that Kerry had approached McCain - repeatedly - to ask him to serve as his Vice Presidential nominee. Now are we to believe that McCain asked Kerry, (and then apparently Kerry begged him), and finally McCain said no - and Kerry waited until now to talk about it? If I were Kerry, I would be awfully angry about having been strung along like this. I would have been happy to talk about it - starting right after the 2004 election.

Further, are we to believe that this account of the Kerry-McCain flirtations - the one where Kerry asked McCain - has been wrong so consistently, for 3 years? I don't think it very likely.

If the alternate explanation involves John Kerry's big ego, Occam's Razor tells me that's the more likely one.

Update: Paul notes that if this is true, it likely means the end of McCain's Presidential campaign. I think that's right.

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

This is cool:

The Last Boss explains how it works:

Using topological depth technology, it figures out what's the static background, and differentiates it between the changing foreground. By pinching areas within the camera's view you section off ovals which you can use to rotate and move around the display, and the researcher said more gestures are being worked on. What you're looking at is basically an advanced, but limited, version of Eye Toy in disguise, but think about how many games you could use this technology with. Waving to other people on PlayStation Home, pointing soldiers around the battlefield, clicking on enemies in W.O.W., literally grabbing Pikmin on screen and throwing them around...

Hat Tip: Galley Slaves


Mitt Romney agrees with Mark Pryor on Iraq? That can only be bad for a Presidential campaign. From a position like this, it's not hard to wander into 'I was for it before I was against it' territory, or to find yourself saying 'it was a mistake, but I'm not going to apologize for it.'

And - does Mitt Romney have lots of rich friends?

Iran is two years away from a nuclear weapon.

Tee-hee! Kiddie porn sure is funny!

The British press tries to blame the US for Iran's hostage-taking.

How many anecdotes does it take before you have a statistically significant sample.

The tooth fairy? Simple economics.

Congratulations to the Florida Gators. Can I argue that this makes the Hoyas the third-best team in college basketball?

Reid's Empty Words

Can anyone take Harry Reid remotely seriously? He clearly lacks the courage of his convictions, and his position on Iraq seems to change by the day.

The Post reports on his well-covered decision to cosponsor legislation requiring an end to the US presence in Iraq on March 31, 2008. Recently he believed that the President should withdraw troops by that date. Now he believes that the President must have the US out of Iraq by then. Why the change?

Reid had previously opposed setting a firm end date for the war, a stance he has backed away from in recent months as others in his party moved to increase pressure on Bush. He officially converted after visiting wounded soldiers last week at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

That change is heartwarming. Would the Senator care to share what the troops told him while he was there? It has been my experience that the men and women of the US Armed Services - both active duty and veterans of the conflict - tend to be very supportive of the mission in Iraq. If Harry Reid heard a wealth of contrary voices, it would be refreshing to know that he had begun to pay attention to the soldiers on the ground.

The Post further reports:

"Talk about a way to be depressed," Reid said yesterday in a talk-radio interview with liberal host Ed Schultz. "The American people, I repeat, have to understand what is happening. It is not worth another drop of American blood in Iraq. It is not worth another damaged brain."

If Senator Reid really believes this, he has it in his power to end the conflict swiftly. He can refuse to provide funding.

He would be considered a hero in many quarters - a profile in courage. And he could rest assured that he was doing what was right. Otherwise, he clearly lacks the courage of his convictions.

And not to pile on, but the Post reports accurately that last month Senator Reid supported legislation providing that Congress would take no action "to undermine the safety of the Armed Forces of the United States or impact their ability to complete their assigned or future missions." And just four months ago, the Majority Leader said "we're not going to do anything to limit funding or cut off funds."

So my question is, what does Harry Reid believe... today?

And what will he believe tomorrow?

Build a Better Mousetrap, Win $10 Million

In this case, the X Prize Foundation is focused not on a mousetrap, but on a car:

The race is on to develop a commercially viable car that can travel 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline.

The same group that awarded $10 million to a team that built the first private spacecraft to leave the earth’s atmosphere is expected to announce today the rules for its automotive competition.

The group, the X Prize Foundation, says that the automotive contest, expected to carry a prize of more than $10 million, could have a significant effect on the automobile industry by speeding up efforts to use alternative fuels and reduce consumption. The average fuel economy of vehicles sold in the United States has remained nearly stagnant — around 20 miles a gallon — for decades.

“The industry is stuck, and we think a prize is perfect to disrupt that dynamic,” said Mark Goodstein, executive director of the Automotive X Prize. “Failure is frowned upon in this industry, and that doesn’t make for big advances. It makes for incrementalism.”

Even before it began publicizing a draft of the rules for the competition, the foundation had fielded inquiries from more than 1,000 potential contestants and institutions willing to participate. Many major automakers have also expressed interest in monitoring the contest, including some that are considering competing themselves.

Ideally, Mr. Goodstein said, some of the top teams would see their designs purchased and used in some form by automakers.

Here's the key:

Indeed, the organizers want to ensure that vehicles entered in the contest, which will compete in races in 2009 to determine the winner, are commercially viable. Entries must be production-ready, unlike many of the fantastical concept cars that are presented at auto shows. Each team must prepare a business plan for building at least 10,000 of the vehicles at a cost comparable to that of cars available now.

Great to see. One hopes that the automakers who actually have to build the vehicle will have some say in determining what constitutes a commercially-viable vehicle. It would be extremely unfortunate if a prize was awarded and the vehicle not built.

There's also more information here. (Hat Tip: Glenn)

Some Pork for Easter?

Roll Call's Matson has a good take on the Iraq supplemental:

Monday, April 02, 2007

What Part of "Shall Have the Power To Appoint Ambassadors" Doesn't She Understand?

On the one hand, Speaker Pelosi is unwilling to tamper with the complexity of negotiations seeking the release of 15 British sailors and marines, not even having breathed a word on the subject in the last two weeks--even after the Senate condemned the piracy last Thursday in a single day from the introduction of the resolution to its passage, instead sending her flack out to admire the problem:

"Pelosi’s spokesman, Brendan Daly, said the speaker was reluctant to weigh in on the incident without knowing for sure that such a message would do more good than harm. Daly said the British government had not asked Congress to try to pressure Tehran."

On the other hand, as regards the entirety of U.S. diplomacy vis-a-vis the nation of Syria, she's willing to jump right in and start splicing wires on behalf of captured Israeli soldiers:

They [the dog-tags] are in my office, I carry them with me today, with the promise that we must never rest until they are all safely at home. And yes, I will mention this to the president of Syria.”

Now, I'm as much in favour of freedom for captured Israelis as anyone else, but by what standard does Pelosi go to bat for the Israelis, but won't even permit a vote on a resolution in support of the British?

Congratulations and Best Wishes... the Beltway's first ethanol-powered power couple:

Representative now known as Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth marries former Texas Rep. (and current Fleishman-Hilliard heavyweight) Max Sandlin. I think Sandlin married, up; but that's just me.

Contrary to fears, MC Rove did not make an appearance at the reception.

About McCain's Numbers

Bob Novak writes that Fred Thompson's not-yet-in-existence Presidential campaign is soaring:

In just three weeks, Fred Thompson has transformed the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. It is not merely that he has come from nowhere to double digits in polls. He is the talk of GOP political circles because he is filling the conservative void in the field.

Republican activists have complained for months that none of the Big Three -- Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney-- fits the conservative model of a conservative leader for a conservative party. The party faithful have been waiting for another Ronald Reagan. But in conversations with them the past year, nobody mentioned Thompson as the messiah until he appeared March 11 on "Fox News Sunday."

Meanwhile, John McCain's first quarter fundraising numbers are disappointing:

Romney’s early fundraising success came in sharp contrast to the disappointing and comparably paltry numbers posted by McCain.

Though a veteran senator who has recruited many of President Bush’s top donors to his team, McCain couldn’t even match Giuliani, who didn’t definitively decide to mount a bid until February and whose organization still lags behind that of the other two.

McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson admitted in a press release that they "had hoped to do better in first quarter fundraising."

I have to ask: is Fred Thompson angling to be John McCain's running mate, or is McCain angling to be Thompson's?

Update: McCain's statement is here.

25 Years Ago

The Argentines invaded the Falklands two weeks after a nugatory British response to the occupation of South Georgia Island by Argentine "scrap metal workers" two weeks prior.

Within 3 days, the British Navy launched a task force to retake the islands.

Today, on the other hand...

Some Radical Thoughts

Inspired by Rosie's example, I have begun to question some assumptions.

Is the earth flat? And why is George Bush lying about it? Did he order the slaughter of innocents to make the earth that way? I'm just asking.

And did any Jews really die in the Holocaust? Perhaps George Bush was actually the one who slaughtered them, and then blamed it on Hitler.

Oh. Suddenly I can't even ask a simple question? Why? Were you frightened because I was coming a little too close to the truth, so now you have to silence me?

Well I guess this really is George Bush's America.

One more: are George Bush and his oil baron cronies intentionally bringing about global warming to submerge the East and West coasts - the only parts of the country that stand between Rethuglicans and absolute power?

Oh wait. That last one sounded way too much like Rosie.

Hat Tip: Allah

Change at the Influence Peddler

Readers of the Influence Peddler will be interested to know that beginning today, I will be blogging at the Weekly Standard blog as well as here. I'm delighted at the opportunity to be associated with one of America's best and most well-known conservative political and policy publications. I hope the bigger platform at the Standard will allow me to reach a broader audience and increase awareness of what goes on in the halls of Congress. It'll also give me a better opportunity to offer my (limited) wisdom on what's going on in Washington.

For the foreseeable future, some of my posts will be exclusive to the Influence Peddler. Others will be posted first to the Weekly Standard, and may be posted here after some delay. The posts at the Standard will be focused on politics, Capitol Hill, and Members of Congress and the Senate. There will continue to be some of that here at the Influence Peddler, as well as the other stuff you have come to expect from me. The upshot for you, the reader? If for some inexplicable reason you're interested in the stuff I post on, you'll need to read both the IP and the Weekly Standard to get it all.

Possible Trademark Issues Ahead

Tommy Thompson got in the race Sunday, but it's going to be uphill sledding for the man who isn't even the top-polling candidate with the last name "Thompson." Name recognition is sure to be an ongoing battle.

But enough about his problems! He at least plays a mean pinball:

About Hillary's Fundraising Record...

Hillary Clinton really got the headlines she wanted with her first quarter fundraising numbers. The Washington Post reports Clinton Shatters Record for Fundraising. The New York Times says Clinton Campaign Shows Fund-Raising Edge.

Patrick Ruffini offers analysis that goes beyond just the overall numbers:

I was under the impression that this was a Big Dog & Terry production. If so, then I’m not entirely impressed. This number was on the low side of expectations, and she really needed to beat Barack Obama by more than $4 million. The headlines about Bill doing more than a dozen solo fundraisers didn’t help with the expectations game. Her cleaning out the Senate account to the tune of $10 million gives her some breathing room, but remember when people were whispering about her winding up with $40 million cash-on-hand from 2006? Senator Clinton has the deepest network of contacts in Democratic politics, a huge direct mail program, and a decent-sized email list from three campaigns. But, as Marc Ambinder notes, candidates with that kind of institutional support tend to peak in the first quarter. She also has the largest staff; watch her burn rate when the numbers come up on 4/15.

Further, the big weapon of the 2004 Presidential campaign - particularly on the Democratic side - was fundraising from the web. Hillary raised 'just' $4 million online in the first quarter. I have not yet seen the corresponding number from Obama, but Ruffini suggests that Edwards' online total was right in Hillary's 'ballpark.' By comparison, the Kerry campaign and the DNC raised in excess of $100 million online in the 2004 election. (And that ignores the millions raised by Howard Dean online in his failed primary campaign).

Despite Hillary's success, there remain millions of online donors for Obama and Edwards to plumb for cash, if Hillary cannot seal the deal.

The Decoy Effect

The Washington Post has a useful column today attempting to introduce an important marketing principle in the context of the Presidential candidates, now that the field in both parties has clearly separated into two major contenders and a host of minor players.

The Post columnist makes the case that the also-rans in both parties have utility to both main contenders because the also-rans can be painted in such a way as to create dominance for one of the main contenders, crystallising support from those voters who are concerned about the features emphasised in the comparison. To an extent this is true, in that this creates a comparison which the relatively superiour candidate will dominate; but the real power of the decoy effect is that it can resolve the apples and oranges analysis paralysis between two strong contenders when one of the two clearly dominates a third choice at least weakly--that is, is better in at least one aspect and at least equal on all other aspects. To the extent that the major players both weakly dominate another candidate, there is theoretical room for both to use that third candidate as a decoy, but in practice the advantage will go to the major candidate who dominates the third candidate more strongly.

Unfortunately, the column doesn't really clarify the most significant component of the decoy effect--relative inferiority on one variable as the driver in resolving the multivariable conflict. The point of the decoy is that it crystalises attraction to the candidate who dominates the decoy at least weakly on all aspects and the other major contender on the issue seen as the decoy's strength. It isn't enough to dominate a decoy on some qualification which isn't seen as the decoy's main attraction; one must be perceived as dominating the decoy on some relative point of strength.

For example, drawing attention to Kucinich's military inexperience in contrast to Clinton's relatively superiour competence (marginal as that may be) only resolves the conflict for those people torn between Kucinich and Clinton; it doesn't help resolve the apples-to-oranges comparison between those undecided between Obama and Clinton on other issues unless Kucinich dominates Obama on the military issue as well. The point of the decoy effect is that the comparison which shows a clear advantage to one major candidate over a third candidate without similar relative advantage to the other major contender draws support for the relatively superiour candidate out of proportion to the importance of that particular issue to the consumers' overall menu of concerns.

Vedantam's column also confuses the issue by bringing another marketing phenomenon into the analysis without clarifying it: the compromise effect, in which consumers will gravitate to the intermediate option of any three offered. Talking about Nader vs. Gore vs. Bush possibly raising support for Gore over Bush vs. Gore alone is an example of the compromise effect, not the decoy effect, since Gore did not dominate Nader more clearly than Bush dominated Nader on most issues; instead Nader's more leftist positions generally made Gore seem a more moderate choice and increased his overall appeal.

Giuliani & Abortion

The folks over at the American Spectator are debating Giuliani's abortion views and the reception he received at the Club for Growth over the weekend. There are several posts worth reading but I'll excerpt this one from Dave Holman:

I have been thinking about Giuliani and abortion during this discussion of Romney's faith this week. If Hugh Hewitt and the various blogs for Romney think folks are raking Romney over the coals for his faith, they ain't seen nothin' yet.

Here's the thing: when was the last time Republicans nominated a pro-abortion candidate for president? 1976. That was during the brief period between Roe and the Moral Majority when many evangelical Christians (even the Southern Baptist Convention) embraced the right to abortion. The abortion issue had not yet captivated the Republican Party.

These days, a pro-abortion Democrat Catholic (Kerry) receives a hard time from conservative Christians and orthodox Catholics. When one of their own -- their "own" being the Republican Party because it is hospitable to the pro-life cause -- calls himself Catholic and embraces abortion, the sense of betrayal will deepen.

What should Giuliani do? If he runs away from faith altogether, he alienates many primary voters and risks James Dobson deeming him "not a Christian." If he embraces faith, he risks charges of hypocrisy and scandal. Either strategy should pose a substantial challenge to a Giuliani campaign.

I agree that this will pose a significant challenge. Giuliani is the only pro-choice Republican candidate. Presumably the race will eventually come down to Giuliani and a pro-life Republican, who will seek to sharpen their differences on abortion.

As I've noted before, Republican primary candidates have generally disavowed a 'litmus test' for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for that is that there was no likely gain. Since all candidates were pro-life, a promise of a litmus test offered little advantage in the campaign.

With Giuliani in the race however, it might make sense for a Romney or Thompson to 'raise the stakes.' In a close primary race, Giuliani might be under some pressure to shift his stance on this sensitive question.

The race will be interesting to watch.


Orrin Hatch for Attorney General? It is at least consistent with the tradition for replacing controversial officials: pick a Senator who'll be confirmed easily and be replaced by someone of the same party. Hatch comes from Utah, which last elected a Democratic Senator in 1970.

But why would Hatch want that job? The only reason I can imagine is if he were promised the next Supreme Court opening. But Hatch is 73, so Bush would earn no friends among Republicans with a nominee who was bound to serve a relatively short period of time.

Santo Subito? Well, not exactly subito - but pretty darn quick.

NASA's concerned about a 4-year gap in manned space missions. The gap would be from late 2010 to early 2015 - between the last Space Shuttle mission and the first Orion mission. Further - and not to be the one who breaks it to them - but government contracts tend to run late. But according to NPR, the Endeavour - which was built to replace Challenger - has has significantly fewer flights than any other shuttle. Could it bridge the gap, if NASA so desired?

Why won't George Bush fight back?

Fred Thompson's first campaign ad? Amusing. And it does hit on one of the first themes his opponents will bring up: what has he accomplished?

Keeping the Yankees in the family.

Goodbye to Coney Island? Next you'll tell me that Joltin Joe has left and gone away...

Committed to Reforming Earmarks?

So who's more committed to earmark reform - Congressional Republicans or Congressional Democrats? The impression I get from this Roll Call piece ($) is that the correct answer is neither:

Republican Senators are about to get a gift — $140 million worth of district projects — courtesy of Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

The projects will be added to the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization bill in coming weeks, in order to offset a $140 million water project in Montana that Baucus — chairman of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over WRDA — had demanded.

EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), at a markup March 29, said the only way to guarantee the WRDA bill moves speedily to the floor is to “oppose all amendments” and keep the bill “at the same level of funding as last year.” The Senate passed a $13 billion WRDA bill last year but was unable to reach agreement with the House on a final bill.

But keeping the bottom line the same has not meant that last year’s legislation is inviolable. Boxer’s markup vehicle had a new, $140 million project inserted at Baucus’ request to repair an 85-year-old system that delivers water to towns along Montana’s northern border.

Republicans objected, but Boxer explained that she had made an agreement with Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the ranking members of the committee and subcommittee respectively, to allow Baucus’ measure and provide a way for Republican project to be “treated equally.”

According to Isakson, the deal essentially means that Republicans on the committee now have $140 million to divide among the projects of their choosing.

It's nice that while Republicans and Democrats disagree on a lot, they seem to get along just fine when it comes to earmarking taxpayer dollars.

To give outsiders a sense of what the Water Resources Development Act looked like last year, here's a small excerpt. The legislation contains dozens and dozens of projects. Apparently this year's version will as well.

If either Congressional Republicans or Congressional Democrats intend to portray themselves as 'reformers,' they will need to oppose earmarks in authorization legislation as well as appropriations measures. They can't hope that voters will focus on what the right hand is up to and fail to notice the left.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Goodbye Power Cords, Hello Broadcast Electricity

Philips is preparing to launch Powercast:

It may sound futuristic, but Powercast's platform uses nothing more complex than a radio--and is cheap enough for just about any company to incorporate into a product. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device's battery at a distance of up to 3 feet.

Picture your cell phone charging up the second you sit down at your desk, and you start to get a sense of the opportunity. How big can it get? "The sky's the limit," says John Shearer, Powercast's founder and CEO. He estimates shipping "many millions of units" by the end of 2008.

For years, electricity experts said this kind of thing couldn't be done. "If you had asked me seven months ago if this was possible, I would have said, 'Are you dreaming? Have you been smoking something?'" says Govi Rao, vice president and general manager of solid-state lighting at Philips (Charts). "But to see it work is just amazing. It could revolutionize what we know about power."

Report: Us to Strike Iran on Good Friday

It's Russia's Novosti, so I don't know how seriously I would take this:

The United States will be ready to launch a missile attack on Iran's nuclear facilities as soon as early this month, perhaps "from 4 a.m. until 4 p.m. on April 6," according to reports in the Russian media on Saturday.

According to Russian intelligence sources, the reports said, the US has devised a plan to attack several targets in Iran, and an assault could be carried out by launching missiles from fighter jets and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a security official as saying, "Russian intelligence has information that the US Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory."

Of course, situations like Iran's ongoing hostage-holding spawn such reports. There are likely to be more, until either Iran releases the British hostages, or a strike is launched.