Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dance Class Reading -- Part II

This was the other interesting item from November's National Geographic -- an article about how the best way to ensure a healthy environment is to promote capitalism.

Well again, that's not what the article is about nominally, but when you look at a list of the ten most polluted sites on the planet, and the thirty most polluted sites on the planet, it serves as an object lesson about the linkage between environmental protection and wealth:

Note that not one of the thirty sites is within the free-market western world. In fact, there's a staggering correlation between pollution and state-run economies -- down to and including India, whose economy was so largely state-directed for many years.

Lesson: if you want a clean and healthy environment, capitalism is your friend.

More on this story at National Geographic here.

Dance Class Reading

Regular readers of this blog are aware that on Saturday, I tend to post something eclectic. That's because most Saturdays I take my daughter to dance class, and I bring along National Geographic or Smithsonian to read (thanks, Beth). If I see something interesting, I tend to blog it. If my wife happens to take my daughter to class... well, you lose out.

Anyway, I went to class today and found a few things in the November National Geographic. The first is the item below on global warming.

OK -- it's not about global warming per se, but I couldn't help but thinking about the debate as I read the article.

I couldn't find really detailed data about where the photo was taken (although you can read more about this cave system here). But according to the caption, this cave was above water as recently as 18,000 years ago.

Take a look at that photo. It seems to me that sea level is at least a few dozen feet higher today than it was 18,000 years ago. Was that due to man-made global warming?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eliot Spitzer's Death Wish

Read it at the Standard.

Murtha Shows Dem Duplicity on Iraq; Dems Play with Fire

Read it at the Standard.

Lou Dobbs + President = Big Traffic

On Monday I beat the rush and wrote about Lou Dobbs' flirtation with a White House bid. I got a nice link from Instapundit which boosted my traffic. Then John Fund wrote about it, and the story went mainstream.

Today this blog is experiencing something unusual. I am getting more hits from a particular search than I have ever had. People visiting my site after searching for some variation of 'Lou Dobbs president' account for more than half my traffic right now. It's even more surprising because my post on Dobbs does not come up in the first few hits on a google search.

It seems there might be a great deal of interest in Dobbs candidacy.

I wonder if others are experiencing the same spike in traffic?

Update: As I write this Google Trends says that 'Lou Dobbs Running for President' is the 68-th highest rated search. That puts it well behind 'Ali Larter Nip Slip,' but none of the current presidential field rates in the top 100 right now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Can Huckabee Win Iowa?

Soren offers an excellent analysis of what's happening in Iowa, and what might happen between now and the caucus. As we enter deeper into the holiday season, caucus-goers might typically be expected to pay less attention to this race. But with the vote so hotly contested, and so many candidates desirous of seeing Romney beaten -- and not really trying to win themselves -- it seems entirely feasible that Huckabee could pull ahead.

That probably isn't the best outcome for Fred Thompson, who is my favored candidate. If Huckabee pulls off an upset, that becomes the major story from Iowa. I believe that Thompson is likely to need Romney to score an unimpressive win (implying a strong finish by Huckabee), then manage to score an impressive third -- or even second -- himself. That seems likely to make him the lead story coming out of Iowa, and give him the boost he needs to get past New Hampshire to South Carolina.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from Soren's commentary -- which you should read in its entirety:

The numbers suggest something more. Huckabee is way out ahead of Mitt Romney on "is a conservative", abortion, and "shares my values." But on "agree on issues", immigration, and "right experience", Huckabee is struggling places.

I suspect that the "issues" thing is really about taxes. There has been a lot of mail going out, phone calls, and people have run ads against Huckabee. Huckabee’s experience number can be moved with some good bio ads.

I am however, struck by Romney’s abortion number. This confirms the word on the street from Iowa. Romney’s voter base is the country-clubbers...

So Huckabee has room to go positive and drive his numbers more. Of course, not just the guys that write happy are reading these polls. I would expect some interest groups or 527s whacking away at Romney in Iowa. NRLC’s endorsement suggests to me that they would do that. But something seems clear. Abortion talk may not drive Romney’s numbers down. Attacking him on immigration and his trustworthiness (flip-flopper?) might work.

Friday Funny

It's almost Friday, right?

I direct your attention to the 1977 JC Penney catalog, which offers some examples of why we should burn clothes when they go out of style, and why the '70s should not be mourned.

Sit down, gather your strength, and click on over to Team Sugar (mild language warning).

I seem to recall my mom dressing me in that...

CAGW: Democrats Cut Earmark Spending by a Third

Never let it be said that I don't give credit where it's due. For all the criticisms I have (deservedly) heaped on Congressional Democrats regarding pork-barrel spending. Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that earmark spending will be down by about a third under the Democratic Congress. This report is from the Politico, because I can't find the information on CAGW's website:

Citizens Against Government Waste, which closely monitors federal spending, is putting the finishing touches on its tally of pork projects in the pending spending bills — and the picture isn’t pretty. The group estimates that there will be at least 8,000 earmarks this year, costing U.S. taxpayers, $18 billion to $20 billion.

Democrats and Republicans alike had promised to curtail the practice of directing money to specific projects.

They have, but not nearly as dramatically as their campaign rhetoric had suggested. In the last fiscal year, when Republicans controlled Congress, there were $29 billion in total earmarks.

So Democrats can rightly claim they are reducing the practice, perhaps by as much as 33 percent, as Congress Daily’s Keith Koffler reported this afternoon.

Now let's take that progress, and do even better.

House Tries to Ram Through FISA Rewrite

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Look to Close Government

Read it at the Standard.

Gallup Poll: Congressional Democrats Get Failing Grades

Read it at the Standard.

Congress Prompts Yahoo to Settle China Suit

Read it at the Standard.

Some Suggestions for the House GOP

I'm not a huge fan of Norm Ornstein. He's trashed Republicans so often in the last few years, it's become hard at times to read him. Nevertheless, his column today -- offering suggestions to House Democrats on how to reform the institution -- offers some value to House Republicans.

First, let's assume that House Democrats ignore most or all of what Ornstein suggests. It's hard for the team in power to make concessions to the minority. That should not be true however, of the team that's out-of-power. Republicans have a limited set of issues to use against Democrats, and they need to look at everything in the toolbox.

A critical tool in a time of voter anger is the reform agenda. Unencumbered with chairmanships and power, Republicans can and should embrace reform wherever possible -- immigration, spending, health care, national defense, etc. Ornstein offers some ideas on how to sell a reform agenda for the institution:

Democrats are taking comfort from the fact that much of the anger and disappointment people feel is aimed at Republicans. It should be scant comfort. To be sure, a recent ABC-Washington Post poll showed Republicans at 32 percent approval and 63 percent disapproval. But Democrats are not exactly exempt from public disgust; the same survey showed only 36 percent approval for them, with 58 percent disapproval. If Democrats think they can count on the unhappiness with President Bush and the residue of repugnance with the performance in Washington when the Republicans controlled all the levers of power, they are delusional. There is clearly a broader public anger about the performance of most institutions, but especially those in Washington, and it could very, very easily turn into a broader and deeper reaction against the status quo and all incumbents.

Dig a bit deeper, and it is obvious that voters are tired of the partisan bickering and ideologically driven rancor — they want problems solved in Washington, not yelling or posturing or revenge killing that only results in gridlock. The latter is what they see coming out of Congress...

The second thing Democrats should do is to accept the possibility of defeat on the floor as something short of a disaster. The biggest failing of the GOP in the 109th was an unwillingness to lose no matter what. Of course, you don’t want to lose, and can’t afford to lose on some basic important issues and priorities. But in other cases, amendments can be constructive or no great disaster (and in some cases, amendments the majority doesn’t like can be allowed to pass and jettisoned in conference).

The third thing Democrats should do is to move aggressively to more debate, and not only between Democrats and Republicans. Now is a perfect time to revive the idea of regular prime-time debates on important issues. Take one evening a week, in special orders, and structure a lively debate on something of concern to the country. Have two or four Members lead the way in debate, and follow with a free-for-all discussion. In some cases, say global warming or trade, have both majority and minority Members on each side. Add to that a regular process of having real debate on bills that reach the floor whenever possible.

Things like Oxford-style debates make good government types happy, without changing the substance of policy. So go for it. Include this promise in the 'Contract with America II' you release next Summer. They will of course, be ignored a few weeks after they start. But that's not a loss.

Also promise to let the majority in the House have its way on legislation. Offer more open debate and more amendments -- at least on other-than-critical legislation. Promise to refrain from arm-twisting to achieve a pre-determined outcome -- understanding that it will have to be used on must-pass legislation. And when the Republican leadership 'loses' a vote, crow about it and brag how it shows that you've restored fairness in the people's House.

I have other ideas as well, which I'll write about at a later time. But in a presidential election, most attention is focused on the presidential race and the policies laid out by the two candidates. It will be hard to establish a House Republican agenda that can give a boost to your candidates nationwide. While you can attack incumbent Democrats for their votes, it will be hard to win back control of the House going race-by-race. If you can find some issues that can offer traction -- to create some 'wind at the back' for Republican candidates -- your job is that much easier.

House reform -- which goes directly to the critical issue of restoring trust in the responsiveness and effective working of government -- will be important. It also offers a chance to showcase the failings of the Democratic House. EG:
  1. We won't steal votes after the gavel -- like the Democrats did.
  2. We won't bottle up popular legislation as the Democrats have done on border security and other bills.
  3. We will bring up for a vote real earmark reform -- to ensure that Congressmen can't buy re-election with taxpayer-funded pork.
I expect to write more about this as election day draws closer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dems Fool Netroots: Quietly Fund Iraq While Talking Tough

Read it at the Standard.

The Next Big Thing

In the era of cross-training and extreme sports, it was only a matter of time before some visionary combined two of the world's great spectator sports: chess and boxing.

Chessboxing: in a world where 'competitive eating' is a sport, is it any surprise someone came up with this?

Monday, November 12, 2007

GOP Has Multiple Strong Candidates Against Harry Mitchell

Congressional Quarterly has the story:

As the latest entrant to the GOP field to challenge first-term Democratic Rep. Harry E. Mitchell , former Arizona legislator and Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert argues that 2008 will be an obvious chance for his party to regain the Republican-leaning 5th District, and that he’s the strong candidate to do so.

Schweikert said longstanding political presence in the area — beginning with his first run for the state Legislature at the age of 26 in 1988 — have helped cement his ties in the district. “I’ve been really lucky but I’ve also been in literally this same area for 20 years in politics. .... I have gained a certain benefit by being a known commodity and that’s helped,” he said.

Sean McCaffrey, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, said there were now “three very positive, very forward-thinking candidates who have big dreams about what could happen” in Schweikert, lobbyist and former congressional aide Jim Ogsbury, and former state legislator Laura Knaperek.
Mitchell is another of the Democratic 'majority makers' -- one that analyst Stu Rothenberg puts in the 'opportunity that will not fall easily' catergory. Charlie Cook calls it a district that 'leans Democratic,' which is pretty much the worst rating an incumbent can get from Cook, until the challenger is leading in money and polls just a few months from election day.

Mitchell's district has a Republican tilt. If in a presidential year, the state returns to its GOP roots, Mitchell is likely to find himself in a real race.

Just another demonstration that the seats are there for the GOP to retake the House in 2008.

I think it's going to be a great shock when the media at large discovers this in August or September.

Lou Dobbs for President?

Political Insider finds Dobbs using the traditional language of future candidates testing the waters. In this case, it's the 'the American people are looking for [someone like me]' angle:

Is populist CNN broadcast Lou Dobbs mulling a political future? Writing at last week, Dobbs said, "One year from now, we will have elected a new president. As eager as I am for that reality, I can't imagine any one of the current candidates for their party's nomination being chosen by the American people to lead this nation for the next four years. I believe the person elected a year from now will be an Independent populist, a man or woman who understands the genius of this country lies in the hearts and minds of its people and not in the prerogatives and power of its elites."

Dobbs continued, "As I travel around the country, my feeling about the lack of true candidates is validated by those I talk with: They are not excited about the candidates seeking their party's nomination." He concluded by saying, "I believe next November's surprise will be the election of a man or woman of great character, vision and accomplishment, a candidate who has not yet entered the race."

Obviously, Dobbs' experience and appeal are too narrow to imagine that he would do be a legitimate candidate for the White House. However, he probably has more potential to affect the race as a third-party candidate than Ron Paul or Ralph Nader -- two other people mentioned as possible third-party candidates.

Would he hurt the Republican or the Democrat more? That's tough to say.

The Democrats are traditionally more protectionist than the Republicans; if the Democratic nominee sees an opening to win support from Wall Street, that could leave room for Dobbs to appeal to labor. His populist rants against the high and mighty might sound more Republican than Democrat right now.

But in the last few years at least, it seems that immigration has been a bigger issue for him than trade. He's had harsh words for Democrats and President Bush, over their support for 'comprehensive reform.' It certainly appears that whoever the nominees are, the 2008 race is likely to see a return to type -- with the GOP standing for tough anti-illegal immigration laws, and the Democrats more supportive of legalization. This might lead Dobbs to focus his criticisms on the Democratic nominee.

But in the end, it would probably be up to Dobbs. His populist repertoire is broad enough to allow him to train his fire on either the Republican or the Democrat. He could wind up being a kingmaker.

What a scary thought.

GOP Recruits Strong Challenger Against Hodes

From CQ:

Steiner said he isn’t “running against anybody” but is focused on running “for” the seat.

He labels himself a “Colin Powell Republican,” in the mold of the retired Army General who served as secretary of State under President Bush and as national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan. Steiner was co-chairman of the 1996 movement to draft Powell to run for the presidency.

Steiner, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, admires Powell for his military leadership but added that he also regards Powell as the type of “bipartisan consensus builder” he hopes to be in Congress.

“I do not believe in partisan bickering and partisanship merely to separate Republicans and Democrats,” Steiner said. “When you hear complaints by people across this entire country, the American people are sick and tired of it also and I will simply not be playing that game...”

CQ Politics currently rates Hodes as “favored” to hold his seat, but will be closely monitoring the Republican field as it solidifies.

Democrats Tout Poll Data on Gordon Smith; Won't Release It

From Roll Call:

A poll conducted recently for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R) electability numbers to be down from earlier this year.

But the DSCC declined to release any head-to-head numbers pitting Smith against his potential Democratic opponents, suggesting that the Republican might still be in good shape heading into his quest for a third term — at least at this point.

A poll conducted late last month for Roll Call showed Smith with a 9-point lead over Oregon Speaker Jeff Merkley, the favorite of national Democratic leaders for the Senate nomination. Merkley is battling attorney and Democratic activist Steve Novick in the primary. Neither has come remotely close to matching Smith’s fundraising numbers, which include a healthy $4 million on hand as of Sept. 30.

So Gordon Smith is ripe to be defeated, it's just that the Democrats' favored nominee trails him so badly, that Democrats refuse to release the polling result.

Sounds like Gordon Smith has solidified his re-election prospects.

Silky Maybe, But Definitely Not Fluffy

Heh, heh:

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen is surprisingly on-message. The activist businessman, who launched a group dedicated to redirecting federal government spending away from the Pentagon and toward health care, education and other domestic priorities, is backing John Edwards' presidential campaign.

After a news conference today in which a part of that organization, Caucus for Priorities, announced its backing of Edwards, Cohen pontificated on the possibilities his association with the candidate brought up. He denied there were plans for an Edwards-inspired ice cream flavor, even though, as one reporter pointed out, erstwhile presidential hopeful Stephen Colbert enjoys a concoction bearing his name.

Pressed on what an Edwards flavor might be, Cohen stuck to message. "It's not going to be a very fluffy flavor," he predicted. "It's going to be a very solid flavor..."

That's right. When I think 'Edwards;' I think 'tough guy -- hard as nails.' After all, it takes a tough man to look this pretty:

Will George Bush Sink the GOP in 2008

Stu Rothenberg has a column on one of the key questions of the 2008 election. Projections of Democratic victories in 2008 rest on the assumption -- implicit or explicit -- that the GOP nominee will be badly damaged by the Bush legacy. Much of the Republican party's unpopularity and its weakness on key issues -- such as controlling spending -- lay with the perception that George Bush has not been effective on those issues.

When the GOP decides its nominee, that person will have no close association with the current president. He won't be the Vice President, or even a former cabinet official. Whoever the nominee is, he will differ from Bush on key policy matters. Thompson and Giuliani disagree with Bush on abortion and other social issues. Romney will contrast dramatically on management. McCain has differed with Bush on the war, taxes, campaign finance, and pork-barrel spending.

How much of Bush's unpopularity will transfer to the party's nominee? Rothenberg says:

Unfortunately, history isn’t much of a guide, since there is just a single case in the post-war era when the party of a retiring president did not nominate his vice president to succeed him. That happened in 1952, when Democrats chose Adlai Stevenson for president over Vice President Alben Barkley (Stevenson actually was outgoing President Harry Truman’s choice)...

But is it reasonable to believe that voters completely disregard past performance — a party’s past performance — when an unpopular president leaves office? Probably not.

After all, Democrats have plenty of tape of Bush making promises that were not kept and asserting truths that turned out not to be true. And they’ll be running against a party that has been defined for the past few years by its leader, the president of the United States. That means the Republican nominee for president will inevitably be the candidate of continuity rather than dramatic change, no matter how passionately he delivers a message of change.

It’s also true, however, that once the GOP has a presidential nominee, he will start to redefine the public’s image of the Republican Party. George W. Bush will seem less relevant, less important. But he will never disappear. That doesn’t doom the Republican nominee, but it puts him in a hole even before the race has begun.

Rothenberg is a very accomplished analyst, but I think he's flat out wrong here. While the Republican candidate for president will need to defend the party -- and thereby try to burnish parts of Bush's legacy -- he is going to have strong distinctions as well.

Plus, voters will consider the Republican nominee in comparison with the Democrat. And if that person is Hillary Clinton (as I have repeated at length), the Republican will be the candidate of change. Hillary has been in Washington for 14 years. She is taking credit for the achievements of her husband's presidency -- which makes her a de facto 8-year incumbent. Furthermore, the Republican will depict Hillary as the last link of a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton legacy of polarization. This will link Hillary not just to the failings of her husband's administration, but also those of his predecessor and follower. Republicans will ask whether the American people want more of the same, or a clean break.

There's also the fact that Hillary is increasingly becoming the not-so-proud owner of a terrible Senate legacy. She is arguably the most influential Democrat in the 110th Congress -- one that is establishing a record for lack of meaningful achievement. If she is the nominee, she will have to answer for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, as well.

Rothenberg: The GOP's Not Dead Yet (08 Edition)

Read it at the Standard.