Friday, October 31, 2008

Are you sure...

... they didn't record this for Obama-Biden?

What a Difference a Year and a Half Makes

Good news from Iraq as the effects of the Surge continue. Fatalities at an all time low for the war.  What's even better is that one of the chief architects of the new approach in Iraq is finally where we need him to be.   Welcome to your new job, CENTCOM COMMANDER. 

Let's HOPE that if things go badly on 4 Nov, our new President doesn't CHANGE things before General Petraeus helps us win the war in Afghanistan.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Testing, testing...

Just making sure this thing still works.  I think we're gonna need it after 5 Nov.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Why We Need More Drilling

fallingoil.jpgAccording to the Energy Information Administration, global oil exports are on the way down -- and appear set to continue to decline:

The world's top oil producers are proving unable to put more barrels on thirsty world markets despite sky-high prices, a shift that defies traditional market logic and looks set to continue.

Fresh data from the U.S. Department of Energy show the amount of petroleum products shipped by the world's top oil exporters fell 2.5% last year, despite a 57% increase in prices, a trend that appears to be holding true this year as well.

Obviously, this is counterintuitive. You would expect that as petroleum prices soar, exporters would raise their production to take advantage of the better return. Nevertheless, exports by the top 15 oil suppliers fell by nearly a million barrels per day. That's because the exporters themselves are experiencing a hug spike in demand:

For all the attention paid to China's increasing energy thirst, rising energy demand in the Middle East may pose the greater challenge. Last year, the region's six largest petroleum exporters -- Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar -- curbed their output by 544,000 barrels a day. At the same time, their domestic demand increased by 318,000 barrels a day, leading to a loss in net exports of 862,000 barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration...

Saudi Arabia in particular has become a major energy consumer as the country pushes to put its oil riches to greater use. The kingdom is in the middle of a major investment campaign to become a world player in petrochemicals, aluminum and fertilizers, all of which will require huge amounts of oil and natural gas.

The U.S.'s top oil suppliers are Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Of those, Mexico, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia all seem likely to reduce their levels of exports in the next few years. Wouldn't it be nice if we had another supplier -- say, a domestic supplier -- to pick up the slack?

The United States is currently sitting on an expected 10.4 billion barrels of oil in ANWR and another 3.65 billion barrels in the Bakken formation, not to mention some 800 billion barrels more in the shale oil of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Given the high price of oil today and the questions regarding the dependability of our international suppliers, it's the height of irresponsibility not to begin to plan for production from these and other domestic sources.

Senator McCain may be poorly-positioned to make production from ANWR an issue, but Congress is also slammed the brakes on shale oil development. While McCain may oppose drilling in ANWR, he can still stand up for development of shale oil.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Worshipping a Mighty God

We hear today that Obama has decided that his church of 20 years, Trinity United Church of Christ, is no longer capable of bearing the scrutiny visited upon it as the church of a Presidential candidate.

The problem with his statement is this: if he disagrees so regularly with the statements of preachers there, be they regular clergy or guests, why has he been a member for 20 years?

Was there some unfortunate political Tourette's Syndrome which has lately infected the clergy, along with the congregation, which has always been shown to be cheering and otherwise vocally supporting the incendiary sermons which Obama then has to disown?

Since the meteoric rise in Obama's political fortunes began with his "Audacity of Hope" keynote address redolent with claims to respect for Christian sensibilities, buttressed by borrowing the title of Rev. Wright's sermons for the speech and his subsequent book, one is entitled to ask: In just what way was the message of Trinity different from the message of the hundreds, if not thousands of other Christian churches in Chicago, if not in precisely the corrosive and inflammatory rhetoric which Obama now finds he must disavow?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bringing People Together to Dump on W

The latest missive from the Obama camp:

"You vs. George W. Bush‏
From: Barack Obama (
Sent: Thu 5/29/08 10:05 AM
To: philo-juniua

Right now you have a unique opportunity to go head-to-head with George W. Bush.

This week, John McCain and George Bush gathered behind closed doors, away from the cameras, to raise money for McCain's campaign.

McCain used Bush to raise a reported $3.5 million from a group of about 500 Republican contributors.

That's a lot of money that will undoubtedly be used to attack us and make the case to continue George Bush's failed policies.

But I have an idea about how we can match it. And we don't need George Bush."

Imagine if he were indeed to run as a partisan...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Lure of Easy Money...

Former George W. Bush adminstration nonentity Scott McClellan has cashed out with a hatchet job memoir published by big-money Democratic contributor Frank Pearl's Perseus Press implying that the Bush administration's communications strategy in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq was dishonest. It is not clear why such a paragon of virtue as McClellan would have associated himself with such a shabby communications strategy--serving as press secretary himself from 2003-2006--unless, of course, it was develop a resume of sufficient length to win the book contract.

So, finally, we are forced to conclude that McClellan was either an amoral mercenary then, or an amoral mercenary now.

Well, Scotty, which is it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Little Remedial Geography

It has been documented that one unfortunate consequence of Obama's multicultural, free-to-be-you-and-me childhood in Djakarta and on the mean streets of Honolulu is a general haziness with the pesky trivia of U.S. civics and geography, such as whether the U.S. has 48 or 58 continguous states,

whether Sioux Falls or Sioux City is the largest city in South Dakota,

or whether Martin Luther King marched from Selma to Montgomery before his parents met in 1959, or, as history records, in 1965.

Now unfortunately, and no doubt more damaging in the eyes of the international community, Obama has decided to embroider on a family legend with similar indifference to the pesky facts.

A putative uncle of Obama's (presumably actually his great uncle Charles Payne) is alleged by Obama to have participated in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1945. The problem with this account is, of course, that Auschwitz lies in Poland, and was liberated in January 1945, before the first American troops had crossed the Rhein into western Germany. Presumably, there will be some backing and filling as the Obama campaign acquires service records to show that Payne was at some point near to at least one of the western concentration camps liberated by the Americans later in 1945--possibly Dachau or Buchenwald--but we'll just have to wait and see whether or not Obama's mouth has once again written a check his campaign can't cover.

UPDATE: Auschwitz, Buchenwald; what's the difference?
Turns out Obama is also hazy on World War II crimes against humanity, even the ones his typical white relatives helped stop.

Well, then, by all means carry on. After all, if you've seen one death camp, you've seen them all, right?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Where Am I, Again?

That wacky Obama:

Keeping the student body in stitches with his clever allusions to linkages between the founders of Methodism and the Duke of Wellington--yeah, that's the ticket!

I wonder if he'll follow up with some clever riffs on Marlboro cigarettes and Winston Churchill?

Seriously, if this guy's last name was Quayle, we'd laugh about running him for Senate.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Vice Presidents: Rob Portman

So continuing the spate of vice presidential speculation, Bob Novak reports that the frontrunner for John McCain's vice presidential slot may be former Ohio Congressman, U.S. Trade Representative, and Budget Director Rob Portman:

McCain won't pick a running mate any time soon. But the front-runner in the VP derby may be Rob Portman -- former Ohio congressman, former U.S. trade representative and former OMB director. He appears to have fewer negatives than any other possibility.
Regular readers will recall that I predicted Portman would be strongly considered more than a month ago. As I noted at that time, Portman is a rising star both in Ohio, and for the Republican party nationwide. While he doesn't have as high a profile as some of the other contenders -- largely because he hasn't served as either a governor or Senator -- there are plenty of reasons that Novak tabs him as the favorite.

Portman brings strong economic policy credentials based on his service on the Budget Ways and Means Committees while in Congress, and as Budget Director and Trade Representative. The latter position also gives him some foreign policy credentials -- perhaps more than most of the other names on McCain's short list. Like Chris Cox, he's a quick study, and strong on policy specifics -- including health care, which is likely to be a major issue in the campaign.

Portman is also a Reagan conservative -- one who'll satisfy all parts of the Republican coalition. And his biggest asset is that he's the strongest Republican in a critical swing state -- Ohio. The candidate who won Ohio has won the presidency in the last 11 elections. Ohio currently looks bluer than any time in recent memory however, as Democrats swept the state in 2006.

Can Portman bring Ohio to the GOP column? That's hard to say -- but he probably has a better chance than Cox would of bringing California. Further, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is a strong contender for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, which would complicate the matter.

In contrast to Cox -- the other former Republican House member turned administration official mentioned for the VP slot -- Portman has a pretty strong reputation as a team player. While he too, has been a leader on conservative reforms, his reputation has been of someone willing to set aside his priorities to put the team agenda first. For that reason and for others, he'd probably make a better fit on a McCain ticket than would Cox.

The wrinkle is that Portman continues to maintain that he doesn't want the job. Rather, he seems to be focused on seeking the governorship in 2010, which would give him an excellent perch to seek the presidency himself -- either in 2012 or 2016.

On Vice Presidents: Chris Cox

The amazing thing about the recent 'Chris Cox boomlet' is that it has not so far touched upon his compelling personal story:

[Cox] had sped through the University of Southern California in three years, then simultaneously gotten a Harvard law degree and MBA. At 25 he was ensconced at a prestigious clerkship with a federal appeals judge in Hawaii. It was August of 1978, and Cox and a friend decided to explore the rain forest on the island of Molokai. They were inching through mud at about five miles per hour in a rented jeeplike contraption when a wheel caught and the vehicle overturned. Cox's friend was thrown clear, but Cox was trapped underneath, with the weight of the jeep on him. His back was broken, a quadriceps muscle was severed, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
There's an obvious parallel to McCain here. Having your spine snapped and body shattered by a rolled jeep isn't the same as by the Viet Cong, but Cox is probably one of few men who can relate to McCain's experience. While Cox eventually regained his ability to walk, he's been in pain every day of his life since the accident. And where McCain can't lift his arm above his shoulder, Cox is basically forced to stand most of the day, since it's too painful for him to sit for extended periods.

Cox would bring some clear strengths as a vice presidential candidate. He's extremely bright and creative, with an impressive resume and legislative track record. He fathered the Internet Tax Freedom Act, as well as the Securities Litigation Reform Act (which made it harder for trial lawyers to bring frivolous suits against companies). He speaks Russian fluently -- even starting a business translating Pravda in the '80s. He's worked on export controls, and chaired the House Homeland Security Committee. importantly, his conservative credentials are impeccable. During his time in the Reagan White House, he helped select Scalia, Kennedy, and Bork for the Supreme Court.

Cox has also been something of a maverick -- though perhaps not to the extent McCain has. He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, against legislation to prompt hospitals to check on the status of aliens that they treat, and against a measure to put the onus on banks to curb internet gambling. He also earned a reputation as more of a China hawk than most other House Republicans, and he was one of few votes against normalizing trade relations with Vietnam in 2002. He's also a pro-life Catholic, which should earn McCain some support in this bellwether swing constituency.

One downside to a Cox nomination is that he probably wouldn't swing a state to McCain's column. Although polls currently show California as being close, it's hard to imagine that McCain could win a state that Bush lost by 9 points in 2004, and which hasn't voted Republican in 20 years.

But the real challenge for Cox might be his reputation among those who have worked with him as being at times too much of a loner, and too uncompromising. While he's consistently pursued conservative principles, there have been some who wished he was more of a 'team player.' That's another trait he shares with McCain -- but it's hard to imagine the ticket will be improved by having two such personalities.

Read the entire article to get a good idea of what Cox is all about.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

McCain Behind the 8 Ball?

The Politico reports that having secured his party's nomination while the Democrats continue to fight over theirs, John McCain is in big trouble:

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats do know who they are running against. The Democratic National Committee is already firing out faxes attacking McCain and the party’s outside allies are already putting the finishing touches on their attack ads.

When not picking on each other, Obama and Clinton are also sending rockets McCain’s way.

That incoming fire could be particularly threatening to McCain for several reasons.

First, Clinton and Obama have very strong incentives to go after him. If either can convince their own primary voters that they have the best shot at beating him in the general election, the odds of winning the primary go up.

Their barbs and criticisms carry extra power, as well, these days because they are picked up by the national press corps still tracking the Democratic contest — rather than McCain’s quiet, internal reorganization at his Virginia headquarters.

Add to that, McCain can’t do much to defend himself in the short term because he ended the primary pretty much the way Kerry did four years ago: flat broke...

The explosive fundraising strength shown by both Democratic candidates shows no sign of abating, which means the victor will turn to the general election phase of the race with a presumably unified and enormous list of potential givers, notes Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance.

OK, this is all true. But would it somehow be better if one of the two Democrats had already clinched the nomination? Then he or she would be unifying the party, expanding an already sizable cash advantage, and focusing fire on a bankrupt and under-staffed McCain. I suppose then McCain would have the advantage of additional media attention to both his reorganizing and his attacks, but is it remotely conceivable that would be a better situation for him?

Cummings points to this piece which lays out the challenges for Democrats.

Obama’s failure to win Ohio and Texas and lock down the nomination — combined with Clinton’s newly defensible decision to press on despite a deficit in delegates — virtually guarantees Democrats a draining contest that will give Republicans a months-long head-start on the general election.

It will heighten racial, ethnic, gender, and class divisions already on stark display, raise awkward questions about the legitimacy of the nominating process, and inflict potentially lasting wounds on the eventual winner...

Clinton advisers say Obama was also hurt by media attention to his murky connections to Tony Rezko, a former Obama fundraiser now on trial in Chicago on corruption charges. The Clinton campaign endlessly prodded reporters to insist that the Obama campaign provide answers to the many mysteries about the relationship.

This success will embolden Clinton for more of the same in Pennsylvania.

Obama, in turn, will step up his attacks on her appeal with independents and swing voters, her judgment in backing the Iraq War, and her attachment to "old politics” of the 1990s.

Add to that the fact that both Democrats will be spending boatloads of money to desrtoy each other, rather than stockpiling it. Is there any doubt that McCain would be far worse off if the Democratic nomination was settled?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Educating Obama on NAFTA

Philip Levy explains why Obama is so far off on NAFTA. He also tackles one of the basic misunderstandings about trade agreements -- that they have an effect on employment.

If we want to find the true consequences of NAFTA, we need to disentangle this mess of events. We could be guided by the wisdom of economic theory, but it says, loud and clear, that trade agreements have no impact on overall employment. Trade substitutes better jobs for worse jobs, but leaves the job total unchanged.

This is the type of answer that drives politicians berserk. Economic policies are loved or loathed by the public on the basis of how many jobs they create. How can trade policies not affect overall employment?

The number of jobs in an economy is set by the size of the work force, the health of the labor markets, and macroeconomic fluctuations. Trade can certainly create new jobs with export opportunities or cheaper inputs. It can also destroy jobs when firms succumb to import competition. Lots of job creation and destruction occurs every year in the U.S. economy. In an average year, 17 million jobs are created and 15 million are destroyed, with a net job creation of 2 million. When net job creation matches growth in the labor force, the unemployment rate stays constant.

He explains in greater detail why Obama's claim of 1 million jobs lost does not hold water -- because unemployment has been so low that the Fed would have taken steps to slow economic growth:

What of Obama’s claim that NAFTA cost the United States 1 million jobs? Imagine this were right. Then, without NAFTA we would have had 1 million more jobs. In the year 2000, this would have made the unemployment rate just under 3.3 percent, rather than the 4 percent we actually enjoyed. But Federal Reserve governors would have been in a panic long before we got down to that level and would have raised interest rates to slow the economy. They would have known they had gone far enough when unemployment increased to a level they were comfortable with – the same as with NAFTA.

Then what happened to those US manufacturing jobs? Simple: they continued to migrate to lower-cost locations -- as they had been doing, and as they will do even if NAFTA were to be repealed:

But what about the factory workers in Ohio? Are they just imagining those lost jobs? Of course not. Manufacturing employment in the United States did hit a peak and then begin a steady decline. The problem is that the peak was in 1979, 15 years before NAFTA came into force. The long-term decline of American manufacturing jobs has much more to do with technological change than with trade. We’re producing more stuff with fewer workers.

An excellent summary of an issues that will never be discussed honestly in a presidential campaign.

Friday Funny

If you've ever read this blog, you must have some feel for economics. With that in mind, 'stand up economist' Yorum Bauman translates Greg Mankiw.

Hat Tip: Paul

What's the Product?

There's an extraordinary and memorable new commercial out today, but what's it for? Ford trucks? The Superman sequel? A Ken Burns special? The reimagining of 'Greatest American Hero?' Take a look at the screen caps below, and see if you can figure it out:

The correct answer is 'none of the above.' They're all from John McCain's new webad. And I have to say, I certainly wasn't ready for something quite this... edgy.

Guess the Party: Texas Edition

The Mayor of Austin, Texas has apologized for choking a man at a 2006 party:

Austin mayor Will Wynn has apologized for his 2006 assault of a man at a South By Southwest party.

In a news conference Thursday morning, Wynn said "Two years ago I let a stranger pushed my buttons and lost my cool."

The mayor also said that in his anger he said stupid and insulting things.

The Mayor denies that he was drunk at the time -- saying he has an anger problem, not a drinking problem.

What party was the Mayor? It's not in the first line, or first paragraph, or even in the whole article. It's not here, or here, or here, either. In fact, I couldn't find it in any of these articles.

A cynic might conclude it's because Wynn is a Democrat. And if you did, Wikipedia says you're right.

Check out Jammie Wearing Fool for Guess That Party!, New York edition.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bonds' Home Run Ball Headed to Cooperstown

But not the way he would have wanted:

Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball, adorned with an asterisk, could be on display at the Hall of Fame by Opening Day.

Jeff Idelson, the Hall's vice president for communications and education, said fashion designer Marc Ecko still has the ball he purchased in an online auction for $752,000. Ecko conducted an Internet poll on how to dispose of the ball. People voted to send it to Cooperstown affixed with an asterisk. The other choices were sending it to Cooperstown as is or blasting it into space.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy -- even if Roger Clemens and others have pushed Bonds off the national stage.

The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen?

Quite possibly: the Battle of Gettysburg, as shown in Lego, and as told by seventh grade boys. Make sure to hang through for the Matrix effects:

If you like it, be sure to see how the battle ends.

Hat Tip: Norlos

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wednesday Funny

The Star Wars title track as done by Saul Bass:

If you're like me, you've never heard of him either. But you'll certainly recognize the style from movies like 'It's a Mad, Mad World.'

Hat Tip: Jonathan Last

Weather Channel Founder: Al Gore Should be Sued

John Coleman is the founder of the Weather Channel, and he's clearly not part of the 'scientific consensus' on global warming. He said yesterday that Al Gore should be sued for perpetrating a 'fraud:'

You can read much more of Coleman's work on global warming here.

Huckabee's Odd Source of Pride

Mike Huckabee has left the building, but his last number was intended to go over like Ronald Reagan, circa 1976:

“Look at where I won delegates,” Huckabee said. “John McCain won a lot of delegates in states that are not factors [for Republicans] in November: New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut. They are not going to settle the election. I won states that are quite red. I won in states where Republicans had better win or there is no chance of a Republican becoming president.” (McCain, it should be pointed out, also won the very red state of South Carolina, as well as the important swing state of Florida.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the 'quite red' states likely to remain in the Republican column in the Fall? I had thought the greater desire was for a candidate who could win the base and reach out to the middle, rather than nail down a narrow portion of the base.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bloomberg's Withdrawal Bad News for Spitzer

So Mike Bloomberg has recognized that with both parties set to nominate candidates with broad appeal to independent voters, it doesn't make sense to throw his money away on a doomed presidential bid. He writes in the New York Times today about what the voters want in 2008:

Over the past year, I have been working to raise issues that are important to New Yorkers and all Americans — and to speak plainly about common sense solutions. Some of these solutions have traditionally been seen as Republican, while others have been seen as Democratic. As a businessman, I never believed that either party had all the answers and, as mayor, I have seen just how true that is...

More of the same won’t do, on the economy or any other issue. We need innovative ideas, bold action and courageous leadership. That’s not just empty rhetoric, and the idea that we have the ability to solve our toughest problems isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream. In New York, working with leaders from both parties and mayors and governors from across the country, we’ve demonstrated that an independent approach really can produce progress on the most critical issues, including the economy, education, the environment, energy, infrastructure and crime.

Ed Morrissey sees Bloomberg's lament as an attempt to set himself up as a kingmaker for the 2008 presidential race -- and it certainly could be that. But I can't help but notice how much it resembles the language that Republicans use when they run statewide in heavily Democratic states. Could a gubernatorial bid be on Bloomberg's radar?

Largely unnoticed by the national media, Governor Eliot Spitzer's poll rankings continue to plummet. The Siena poll is conducted monthly, and if the election were today (instead of in 2010), Spitzer would be in serious trouble against a serious, well-funded opponent:


The number of New Yorkers that would vote to re-elect Spitzer today is just 25 percent. That sets up an attractive opportunity for Spitzer -- and potentially for another former New York Mayor whose presidential bid ended prematurely.

Note: Fausta suggests that Bloomberg may be aiming for an acting career.

Democrats: Tuna is an Economic Stimulus

Faced with falling approval ratings over their failure to accomplish anything significant, Congressional leaders have developed a new plan to prove just how effective they are: label everything they do an economic stimulus:

With a bipartisan compromise on their first economic stimulus package behind them, the second, third and fourth waves of Democratic legislative endeavors likely are to be partisan if this week’s debate on the Democrats’ second “stimulus” bill is any guide...

The housing bill has little in common with the $156 billion economic stimulus of tax rebates, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from dubbing it their “second stimulus” bill. It’s a branding approach that Democrats said will be a common sight this year.

“They don’t call ‘horse mackerel’ horse mackerel anymore. They call it tuna so they can sell it,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). “Labeling becomes extremely important. ... Sometimes it’s a bigger stretch than others...”

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Wednesday that the budget blueprint he intends to consider in committee next week probably would make room for a $35 billion economic stimulus package. The proposal is likely to include extended unemployment benefits as well as additional funding for food stamps and low-income home-heating assistance, he said...

According to the Democratic Senators quoted by Roll Call, home heating oil subsidies, food stamps, unemployment benefits, pork-barrel projects, mortgage assistance -- it's all an economic stimulus! By this logic, there's no government spending that isn't. Here's a suggestion: perhaps Congress can boost the economy by funding the war on terror, or not raising taxes on oil and gas. Either would be more effective than the lipstick-on-a-pig approach advocated by Democratic leaders.

Michelle looks at the inefficiency of the housing bill congressional omnibus residential infrastructure and fiscal stimulus package.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pawlenty Burnishes His VP Credentials

I've not seen any overt indication from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as to whether he welcomes the speculation that makes him a leading contender for John McCain's vice presidential nominee. If he's interested though, stories like this can only help:

The Minnesota Legislature voted to override Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the $6.7 billion transportation bill Monday...

Six House and two Senate Republicans broke party lines to support the override and send the bill into law.

The transportation bill includes a gas tax increase which will be the state's first in 20 years.

The initial two cents go into effect in 30 days, and another three cents will be added Oct. 1...

Despite bipartisan support for the bill in the House, Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, disputed its helpfulness to the majority of the state's population.

"This is probably one of the most important bills we can pass, but this bill is not that bill," he said. "There is a bunch of pork in this bill."

Standing in front of a gas-tax-increasing pork bill is not a bad way to earn the attention of the national media. The only unfortunate thing for Governor Pawlenty is that it has not attracted a lot of national attention -- at least not so far.

I suspect that most fiscal conservatives will cheer the Governor for his action, and hope that Senator McCain picks someone like him for the ticket.

Hat Tip: ATR

Obama the Liberal: More Bricks in the Wall

By now it's abundantly clear that to judge him solely on the issues, Barack Obama is as liberal as any candidate the Democrats have nominated for president in the modern era. George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis would be proud. As the campaign unfolds, we are likely to see more evidence of this. Today brings several items to bolster the claim.

Scott Mirengoff unearthed this video, which by itself would have ended Obama's campaign in the Cold War era:

Greg Mankiw points to this analysis of Obama's Patriot Employer Act, which has earned strong criticisms from economists and fiscal conservatives:

Barack Obama, the likely Democratic presidential candidate, has proposed tax breaks for US corporations that invest at home rather than abroad. This column argues that his proposal is protectionist, reactionary, and economically unsound.

That puts it firmly in line with the modern liberal tradition. Dorothy Coleman also comments on the problems with the proposal.

John Hinderaker considers whether, in light of Obama's liberalism, we are taking him too lightly. He argues that Reagan won because American voters saw how liberalism failed as a governing philosophy. He finds that times may have changed:

Today, the benefit of that experience has largely been lost. A generation of American voters has not experienced the failures of the Great Society, the near-collapse of American cities, double-digit inflation and unemployment, seventy percent tax brackets, or the disaster of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy. In the absence of historical memory, and with a powerful assist from the ever-forgetful press, liberalism is once again emerging as the philosophy that sounds good...

This is true. But it's also worth considering that no one on the national stage is willing to embrace the label 'liberal.' Obama avoids it, and Democrats are still trying hard to rebrand themselves as 'progressive.' If McCain can convince the people that Obama really is an old line liberal, that label alone may still be powerful enough to win him the election.

On Universal Health Care & Health Care Rationing

Greg Mankiw offers a compelling story and an astute observation:

...Technological advance is making state-of-the-art health care increasingly expensive. In any kind of national health system, some treatments will, by simple cost-benefit calculation, be deemed too expensive to provide to all citizens. But does that mean those of above-average income should be excluded as well? Should they lose basic benefits if they choose to pay for these marginal services with their own money?

If you say yes to this last question, as the U.K. health service has, here is a related one: Should a parent who hires an after-school tutor for his child be barred from sending the child to the public schools?

Some people like to think of health care and education of basic human rights. Maybe they are. But they are also normal goods. That is, the income elasticity of demand is positive. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the right cost-benefit calculation for providing the good depends on the income of the consumer.

It's virtually inevitable that there will be some sort of rationing for expensive and complex health care procedures. No system of delivering health care -- either market-based or single-payer -- is likely to cover the vast expense required to extend the same, state-of-the-art care to all consumers.

Yet that rationing seems to be at the heart of many liberal complaints regarding our existing employer-based health care. If it will not be overcome -- or cannot be overcome except by denying such treatments to all -- then much of the impetus for universal health care is lost.

And while we're on the topic, go check out Mankiw's story. It involves an English cancer patient who's denied treatment that she can afford, and which the private market will offer. In such a case, where is the incentive to continue development of cutting-edge therapies and cures for a range of maladies? After all, if there's little chance of making a profit at it, why develop it?

Mariachis for Obama

Hat Tip... someone. Sorry -- I forget how I found this:

So much for Barack having trouble among latino voters? It's good to see that Ted Kennedy isn't the only hispanohablante backing Barack.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Your Invitation to John Murtha's Big Fundraiser

A little while ago, Bob Novak wrote about John Murtha's 'annual payback dinner' for defense contractors who've benefited from the chairman's largesse:

Murtha, a close adviser of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is one of the leading earmarkers in Congress. The earmark recipients will be paying the $1,500 a person admission to "An Evening with Jack and Joyce Murtha."

Although the dinner is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Murtha's first special election to Congress in 1974, invitations for it were mailed just before the annual deadline for earmark applications.

Oddly enough, this fundraiser isn't listed on Murtha's campaign website. Wonder why he'd want to keep such an event secret?

But while it may cost you $1,500 to get into the party (if you find an invite), it doesn't cost you anything to spend the evening outside with conservative opponents of Congressman Murtha. The food isn't likely to be as good, but the company should be excellent.

No doubt Chairman Murtha will be gratified to by the show of support, but probably not surprised. That's because in recent years, every entity graced by him donates to his campaign. I wonder what he'll do with the money if he winds up running unopposed?

SEIU: A House Divided Against Itself

McQ points out that the Service Employees International Union is pulling out all the stops to help Barack Obama. At the same time, the SEIU is facing an internal rebellion against charges that union boss Andy Stern has put his own power and reputation ahead of the goal of improving work conditions for SEIU members. The basic complaint among the union rank and file is that Stern has negotiated agreements to unionize with employers, guaranteeing them labor peace by conceding worker conditions. That way the SEIU member rolls and contributions expand, even if members don't actually see any benefits:

According to an inside source, this “strategy” would gain for the union 300,000 members, but under the condition of template contracts, and in exchange for continued support of a bad-for-workers national health care bill that could provide a windfall for the hospitals. Plus, though the members would receive representation form the locals, they would be directly signed up to the International to avoid future jurisdictional problems.

This is the direction that the SEIU is headed: a streamlined, top-down, lobbying machine with many members with few rights.

The fight culminated in the recent resignation of Sal Rosselli, the leader of a 150,000-member local in California -- who formerly headed the more than 600,000-member SEIU California State Council:

Rosselli's basic complaint is that Stern and top SEIU officials have sidestepped local union leaders to make critical decisions and have merged locals without giving members a voice.

"Over the past two years, a stark difference has evolved between SEIU's projected image and its real world practices," he wrote to Stern. "An overly zealous focus on growth, growth at any cost, apparently has eclipsed SEIU's commitment to its members."

The anti-Stern dissidents have established a website to build support for (excuse the expression) 'change. The fight may be worth watching as the 2008 campaign unfolds, and we see just how effective SEIU is in delivering the votes of its members.

Hat Tip: Freedom's Watch

(Josh) Romney for Congress?

The Deseret Morning News reported yesterday that the GOP may be able to line up a blue-chip prospect to run against Utah Democrat Jim Matheson:

Josh Romney told the Deseret Morning News that after a year of campaigning across country for his father, he's been approached to run as a Republican against 2nd Congressional District Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

"I haven't ruled it out," Josh Romney, 32, of Millcreek, said of becoming a candidate himself. "I'm pretty young, but I've had good experience on the campaign trail." Plus, he said, he likely could count on his father's supporters here in Utah.

Matheson's district has a PVI of +17 Republican (the average Republican beats the average Democrat by 17 points). It's a tribute to him as a campaigner that he does so well in such a difficult district. After close races in 2002 and 2004, he prevailed by a healthier margin in 2006 -- when all Democrats benefited from the national tide.

That said, an opponent like a Romney would instantly move his 2008 race from a snoozer to a competitive race.

So Much for the 'Rush to War' in Iraq

CNBC notes that the review of the Sirius-XM merger is taking longer than the debate over whether to invade Iraq:

It’s now been over a year that the XM merger has been held up by regulators. Congress has spent more time examining this deal between two companies that, together, make up less than 5% of the radio market, than it did examining the Exxon-Mobil deal. Or Chevron-Texaco. Or even the decision to invade Iraq.

The Iraq invasion began in March, 20003. The debate had begun by the Summer of 2002. And if you believe the liberal critics, the administration had essentially decided to take out Saddam either before taking office, or on September 12, 2001.

Was there really a rush to judgment?

Monday, February 25, 2008

How Big Will the Democratic Tax Increase Be?

USA Today does the math, and concludes that Barack and Hillary are promising an awful lot of new spending -- given the level of the federal deficit:

As detailed below, both candidates have major new health care initiatives and other spending proposals; Obama tacks on a major tax cut for working Americans to offset Social Security tax payments...

A rollback of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans could generate perhaps $75 billion next year. The Iraq war savings are much harder to figure. The war has been costing about $100 billion per year. But a Democratic president, once in office, might decide that national security demands a gradual withdrawal, or a redeployment to Afghanistan. Health care for Iraq war veterans will run into the billions for decades. It's unlikely that winding down the war will produce a large, quick peace dividend capable of supporting a host of new programs...

None of this seems to trouble the candidates. Clinton — who also promises to bring back the fiscal responsibility of her husband's administration, when the budget moved into surplus — and Obama present their ideas with a mix of inspirational rhetoric and populist anger.

As Allah would say, Exit Question: how much longer can the Democrats' complain about the increased deficit under President Bush, while simultaneously promising huge spending increases of their own? And can Democrats win an election in which John McCain points out that simple math dictates their tax increases must be much higher than they are willing to admit?

Update: Ed Morrissey has a post worth reading as well.

The Future of Video Games

This looks very cool:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

All I Want for Christmas

If you really love me, you'll get me one of these:

Pro-Military Group Targets Berkley for Anti-Marine Stance

I wrote a little over a week ago that while the Berkeley City Council had rescinded its loathsome letter to the U.S. Marine Corps, it had failed to change policies it adopted to prevent the Marines from recruiting effectively in the city. The pro-military group Move America Forward is trying to make sure the city council doesn't get away with a cosmetic change, but is actually forced to live and let live, and to give the Marines the same free-speech rights that all other Americans have. They're airing the ad below in Berkeley, Sacramento, and nationwide on CNN and FOX:

In addition to the continued belligerence toward the U.S.M.C. displayed in the ad, the City Council continues to give Code Pink a special parking permit in front of the recruiting center from which to protest, as well as a weekly noise permit for the same purpose.

it's ironic that the liberals on the City Council are going to such great lengths to deny freedom of speech and freedom of association to the Marines, as well as to potential applicants. Guess some people are more deserving of civil liberties than others.

Increased Penalties for Hiring Illegal Aliens


The Bush administration is rolling out new rules in the coming weeks that will impose requirements and fines on companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced Friday. One of the rules will increase civil fines by as much as $5,000, or 25 percent, for employers who hire illegal immigrants, Chertoff and Mukasey said during a news conference. The rule will take effect March 27. The minimum penalty for knowingly employing an undocumented worker will increase from $275 to $375, according to the Justice Department.

The maximum penalty for a first violation will jump from $2,200 to $3,200. And the biggest increase raises the maximum civil penalty for multiple violations from $11,000 to $16,000, the department said. Mukasey said the rule will mark the first time since 1999 that fines on employers have been increased.

An increase of nearly 50 percent in the maximum penalty? One would imagine that this would have to make employers consider more seriously whether it's worth it to hire illegal immigrants. Any immigration lawyers know how frequently these fines are applied?

Leave it to the Bush administration however, to offend conservatives even as it does something they're likely to support. According to the Kansas City Star, Secretary Chertoff gave an odd rationale for why this move was necessary:

The administration contends that the actions are needed in response to congressional failure to pass “comprehensive immigration reform” that would have given illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship and created a large guest worker program.

So because there are not millions of illegal immigrants moving into the legal workforce, we must make it harder for employers to hire them illegally. I suppose that in a way, that makes sense.

Doesn't it sort of call into question the motivation behind the Bush comprehensive immigration proposal, though? It essentially says that the preferred answer to the illegal population was simply to make them all work eligible -- but as long as we're not going to do that, we're essentially compelled to enforce the law.

Not the best way to make people trust your bona fides on illegal immigration.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Inglis Can't Dance

I've long approved of Bob Inglis as an elected official. Now I learn that I approve of him as a dancer, too. You'll either love it, or conclude that he's deeply disturbed:

Inglis' lifetime ACU rating: 82 percent. Makes me glad I donated to the guy.

NRCC Outraises DCCC

This is a surprise:

The National Republican Congressional Committee narrowly outraised its House Democratic counterpart in January, ending a lengthy trend of losing the monthly money battles against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In FEC reports filed last night, the NRCC reported raising $3.79 million in January, compared to the DCCC’s $3.72 million. The NRCC still badly trails the DCCC in cash on hand, banking just $6.4 million to the DCCC’s $35.4 million.
The same article points out that the Republican Senate campaign committee raised nearly as much as its Democratic counterpart in January. Recall too, (as I wrote yesterday) that the RNC continues to raise significantly more than its Democratic counterpart. When you look at the overall picture, the three Democratic campaign committees (DCCC, DSCC, and DNC) started February with an edge in cash on hand of about $28 million -- a big edge, but not overwhelming.

The Democrats think that 2008 will be a good year for them for several reasons: the better presidential candidate, the edge in money, and the high number of GOP retirements. But it's starting to seem that McCain may be the better candidate in the general election -- no matter who wins the Democratic nod. The latest round of fundraising reports suggests the Democratic money edge may be subsiding (with one notable exception). And while the Republicans will have more retirements no matter what, the vast majority will be seats where the GOP candidate is favored.

Taking Down 5 Year Olds

This sounds about right:


How many 5-year olds could you take out?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain Hit Piece Authored by Democratic Hack?

It's the New York Times, so that's not a bad assumption in general. But in this case, there's a specific reason to wonder about the partisan motivation behind the hit piece. Specifically, Marilyn Thompson -- co-author of the hit piece in the Times today -- previously accepted money from a group out to get Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, to research an attack piece against McConnell in the Lexington Herald-Leader. She was the editor of the Herald-Leader at the time:

In 2006, as editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, Marilyn W. Thompson wanted her paper to undertake a major project examining Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's political fundraising practices and suggestions of influence peddling. When she realized her lean newsroom budget alone wouldn't cover it, Thompson got her Knight Ridder bosses' enthusiastic approval to seek a grant from the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. The California-based center provided $37,500 to underwrite the salary of reporter John Cheves, who took an unpaid six-month leave of absence to do the project, as well as to cover expenses.

Cheves was a staffer for Democratic Senator Ron Wyden at the time. At least this time Thompson's doing her own dirty work.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Barack Obama: The Next Reagan, or the Next Dukakis?

Many of my Democratic friends are thrilled at the thought that party revolutionaries may be on the verge of overthrowing the Clinton power structure and enshrining an inspiring young liberal as their party's nominee. I wonder whether they should be so excited about a candidate who may be well-positioned to lead the party to a Walter Mondale-style defeat.

First off, Barack Obama is clearly something new and exciting on the political scene. His rhetoric has inspired comparisons to Ronald Reagan (as well as a music video that's as insipid and cloying as Mmm Bop).

But when you get to the substance, he's more Mike Dukakis than Ronald Reagan. Fausta has a worthwhile compilation of his weaknesses, while Mickey Kaus entertains defenses against the charge that he is an unreconstructed lefty. He is the most liberal member of the Senate (to the left of his friend Ted Kennedy -- who's sure to be featured in attack commercials). He's a product of the Chicago machine, and so is vulnerable on ethic charges. He is out of the mainstream on partial-birth abortion. He is a high-tax candidate, whose plans are likely to scare Wall Street and the investor class more generally. He has a resume that's paper-thin. He opposes terrorist surveillance, and he's been inconsistent on Iraq, and now pushes for a speedy withdrawal -- despite improvements on the ground.

Barack Obama may be able to overcome his weaknesses as a candidate and win a stunning victory, but all the elements are there for a historic defeat. If Obama wins the nomination, he will face a real Republican opponent for the first time. While Hillary Clinton is forced to pull her punches to avoid upsetting the base, Obama will have to answer all of these charges.

Is he more likely to win a historic victory, or to join McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis as liberals from northern states who suffered landslide defeats?

Friday, February 01, 2008

F7: One Day to Stop Hillary (or Barack)

GOP online whiz Patrick Ruffini is working with Rightroots to address what they perceive as a critical weakness in the Republican presidential campaign: the lack of cash on hand. Whether Mitt Romney or John McCain wins the nomination (or even if it's Mike Huckabee), the candidate will be essentially broke. That's why they've come together to create

The point of the effort is to raise as much money as possible in one day, with all of it to go to the candidate who seizes control of the nomination on Super Duper Tuesday. If it's unclear who the nominee will be, then the site will continue to collect pledges until the race sorts itself out.

Ruffini explains:

If we fundraise the same old traditional way — with fundraising events and direct mail early and banking on Internet enthusiasm late — we will lose. There is no way we’ll be able to get the money when and where we need it. On the Internet in particular, contributions come in late, often too late for the money to be spent effectively. We’re hoping to help frontload some of this money so that the candidate can use it against Hillary/Obama right away. When it comes to giving, early is the new late.

If the nominee is McCain, we still have to do this. His campaign especially is running on fumes financially, but they’ve shown they can be effective with an even a small amount of money.

And if it is Romney, let’s be clear: he is rich, but not Bloomberg rich, and he cannot self-fund the seven months until the Convention. Building organizations in 19 target states is a whole different ball of wax than building them in four. He will need unconditional buy-in from the base — financially and otherwise — in order to compete with Clinton/Obama.

The only candidate the Republicans have who most certainly doesn't need this kind of help:Ron Paul.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is It Too Early to Select a VP Nominee?

Robert Stacy McCain offers up a new name for political junkies who must discuss the Republican vice presidential choice before we even get to Super Tuesday. His suggestion though, is an interesting one with some real potential:

I was very impressed with [Michael] Steele's performance on "Meet the Press" in October 2006. Steele ran circles around Ben Cardin, and Steele's subsequent defeat in the Senate race was more attributable to the situation -- running against an anti-GOP tidal wave in an overwhelmingly Democratic state -- than a reflection on Steele's performance as a candidate.

Like Romney, Steele is a "Blue State Republican" who has had to campaign and govern in an environment that is hostile to his conservative values. I've had the opportunity to meet Steele, and can attest that Steele's cheerful, upbeat -- dare I say, Reaganesque? -- conservatism is for real.

Given the current Democratic civil war over race, the selection of Michael Steele could help Republicans make a more serious play for the votes of African Americans than in any election in recent memory. Further, Steele earned a lot of fans among traditional Reagan conservatives, even as he ran a race in one of the most Democratic states in the U.S. In a year when the Republican candidate seems destined to have to work to generate some excitement, Steele would be a very memorable selection.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Senate Candidate Udall: Against Afghanistan Before He Was For It

I wrote earlier about the damage done by Al Franken to his Senate campaign this year. Turns out the Democrats have another Senate candidate in a critical swing seat, who appears to be doing the same thing.

Mark Udall is the likely Democratic candidate for the open Senate seat in Colorado (Wayne Allard is retiring). He is regarded as another of the Democrats' top recruits for a swing seat (polls have shown the race quite close). The race is sure to be a barn-burner, given that Colorado appears to be one of the most competitive states in the nation -- at all levels.

The NRSC however, points out that Udall recently declared Afghanistan to be the 'real central front' in the war on terror. That's a curious opinion, unless if you're prematurely declaring Iraq won -- which would be foolish at this point.

Whatever Udall's thinking, it's odd that he regards the war in Afghanistan as so important -- considering how many times he's voted against it:

  • In 2003, Udall voted against $87 billion in supplemental funding for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, including funds for body armor, armored humvees, and health care for National Guard members and reservists.
  • Udall voted against a bill intended to expedite the delivery of armor to troops on the ground in 2004.
  • Udall voted against $453.5 billion in defense spending in 2005.
  • In 2005, Mark Udall voted against $50 billion for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Udall voted against authorizing nearly $289 billion in Fiscal Year 2000 and 2001 defense funding -- including funds for six F-22 fighters.
  • Udall voted to cut $3 billion in Fiscal Year 2001 defense spending.
  • In 2007, he voted against protecting funding for homeless and disabled veterans from cuts, against increasing military housing funding by $275 million, against lowering college loan rates for graduates serving in the military or National Guard, and to prevent senior military officers from working at major defense contractors for a year after retiring.
(Click over to the NRSC site for specific vote citations.)

At least Udall will be able to benefit from the experience of others. Presumably he won't argue 'but I was for the $87 billion before I was against it.'

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Labor Department to Crack Down on Union Pension Abuse?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Labor has issued an unwelcome reminder to the managers of the AFL-CIO pension fund: while they may wish to use pension funds to advance political goals, the law forbids them from doing so:

The Labor Department letter addressed a reported AFL-CIO plan to promote shareholder proposals that press companies to offer more generous employee health-care benefits, and that would require companies to disclose political contributions so shareholders could see if support was being given to candidates who don't share labor's views on health care.

Before undertaking "to monitor or influence the management of corporations," the department said, fiduciaries "must first take into account the cost of such action and the role of the investment in the plan's portfolio, and cannot act unless they conclude that the action is reasonably likely to enhance the value of the plan's investments."

The Labor Department letter comes at an important time. A recent University of Chicago study showed that union-affiliated funds do indeed systematically exercise their proxies to support labor objectives rather than simply to increase shareholder value. This was already evident in unions' statements about their shareholder power, in corporate campaigns such as the attempted ouster of Safeway's leadership during its 2004 labor dispute, and the refusal of some union health and welfare plans to do business with Wal-Mart, despite its low prescription drug prices.

The Department of Labor is required to protect the interests of workers and Union members, not to turn a blind eye to efforts by Union bosses to steer member contributions to their favored goals. If legal action is required to get unions to comply, it would be welcome.

A Late Entrant to the 2008 Race

The Onion has the story:

After spending two months accompanying his wife, Hillary, on the campaign trail, former president Bill Clinton announced Monday that he is joining the 2008 presidential race, saying he "could no longer resist the urge."

"My fellow Americans, I am sick and tired of not being president," said Clinton, introducing his wife at a "Hillary '08" rally. "For seven agonizing years, I have sat idly by as others experienced the joys of campaigning, debating, and interacting with the people of this great nation, and I simply cannot take it anymore. I have to be president again. I have to."

We should have seen it coming.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Whither the Fredheads

Patrick Ruffini is conducting a poll on whom the Fred backers will support if Thompson gets out of the race. The big leader right now: Mitt Romney, with Giuliani in a distant second. Strong reason for Senator McCain to hope Fred stays in.

If Thompson elects to stay in the race, will it be seen as a tacit move in support of Maverick? At every turn, Thompson has been accused of being in the race more to help McCain than to win the nomination himself. One wonders if there's anything he can do at this point to escape the accusation.

Ruffini's poll seems to confirm one of the real oddities of Thompson's candidacy: almost all of his supporters express a real strong dislike for McCain. Considering the friendship between Thompson and McCain, and their similarities, it's bizarre that they have such different constituencies.

That's a big reason that there wouldn't be any point to Thompson endorsing McCain if he does get out; none of his backers can stand McCain, it seems.

Another thought: if Fred does end his campaign, does that mean I can no longer call it 'Fredstate?'

Conservatives Gain a Powerful Ally

I've written before about Freedom's Watch (over at the Weekly Standard). Today the Washington Post takes notice of them:

Freedom's Watch has loudly announced that there will be no limits to what it might do. From its $15 million summer ad campaign defending the Iraq strategy to its six-figure effort in the House special election in Ohio, the group has put Democrats on notice that its agenda will go far beyond the conservative principles of its largest financial backers.

"We're a permanent political operation here in town. We're not going to be Johnny One Note," said Joe Eule, executive director of the expanding group, a nonprofit organization that many are describing as the of the right.

Read the whole thing. Freedom's Watch will be influential in the 2008 cycle, pushing conservative ideas and candidates. For Republicans, it will be a welcome change not to be savaged by 'independent' liberal groups, without support from the Right.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

About that Fred Surge...

Jim Geraghty notices that the ARG poll shows a dramatic increase in support for Fred Thompson over the last few days:

Well, after yesterday's brouhaha over whether Thompson was really surging... American Research Group does show what I would all a real surge, rising from 13 percent in the poll taken January 15-16 to 21 percent in the poll taken January 17-18.

A finish like that - behind McCain with 26 percent and Huckabee with 36 percent, but beating Romney by 9, would be plenty reason to stay in the race.

So in Fred's favor, there's that.

On the other hand, I wrote yesterday about the potential value of online searches in telegraphing voter preference. If that predictor turns out to be accurate in South Carolina today, it may be Mike Huckabee who winds up the beneficiary. That's because looking at Yahoo buzz today shows the Huckster surging dramatically, while Romney and Fred fall off. Here's a clip of what it looked like at 11:15 eastern today. If it's too small to read, Huckabee has seen an increase of more than 9 percent over the last 24 hours in number of searches by South Carolina residents. In the same time period, Thompson and Romney have fallen significantly.

We'll know in a few hours whose packing it in -- if anyone.

Another thought: is this more proof of the influence of Patrick Ruffini?

Can a Robot Commit War Crimes?

The question has already been broached. And it has led to a session called 'When Robots Commit War Crimes: Autonomous Weapons and Human Responsibility,' at Stanford University's Technology in Wartime conference. The io9 blog -- whose blogger is also an organizer of the conference -- describes the question like this:

Now that the military is using autonomous surveillance/combat robots created by iRobot, the company behind the Roomba robot vacuum, a strange question emerges: What do we do if a robot commits a war crime? This isn't idle speculation. An automated anti-aircraft cannon's friendly fire killed nine soldiers in South Africa last year, and computer scientists speculate that as more weapons (and aircraft) are robot-controlled that we'll need to develop new definitions of war crimes. In fact, the possibility of robot war crimes is the subject of a panel at an upcoming conference at Stanford.

One of the participants in the panel has written about a study he's conducting to help better understand the ethical questions associated with the use of robots in warfare:

If the military keeps moving forward at its current rapid pace towards the deployment of intelligent autonomous robots, we must ensure that these systems be deployed ethically, in a manner consistent with standing protocols and other ethical constraints that draw from cultural relativism (our own society’s or the world’s ethical perspectives), deontology (right-based approaches), or within other related ethical frameworks.

We need to avoid mistakes like this guy:

Perhaps if all robots were programmed with three laws...

Flood the Grand Canyon?

Interesting. This is the first time I've ever heard of this:

Interior Department agencies want to release a high volume of water from Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Ariz., into the Colorado River in early March in hopes that higher water flows will move sand out of the riverbed and restore sandbars throughout Grand Canyon National Park.

Sandbars throughout the 277-mile length of the park provide critical habitat for wildlife and protect archeological resources. High water flows also create backwaters needed by native fish, including the endangered humpback chub. Since the dam began blocking water in the early 1960s, a number of native fish species have died off and non-native plants have taken root, significantly disrupting the canyon's delicate ecosystem.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Will John Kerry Face a Serious Challenge in 2008?

Read it at the Standard.

Soft Power?

Read it at the Standard.

IMF: Iraqi Economy Growing Strong

Read it at the Standard.

Chertoff Gets Around Congress to Enforce Immigration Law

Read it at the Standard.

All Ron Paul, All the Time

This recording of a call by a Ron Paul supporter to Senator Roger Wicker's office is amusing:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Carbon Nano Tubes?

Laura W has the story:

US researchers say they have made the darkest material on Earth, a substance so black it absorbs more than 99.9 per cent of light.

Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end, this material is almost 30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology as the current benchmark of blackness.

And the material is close to the long-sought ideal black, which could absorb all colours of light and reflect none.

How much more black could this be? And the answer is none -- none more black.

Is Ron Paul Deceiving His Donors?

It doesn't seem that Ron Paul is running radio or television ads for his presidential campaign -- which is surprising, since he's raised $19 million in the last quarter.

Strangely though, he IS running ads for his run for re-election to the House of Representatives:

But Paul has a vast stockpile of campaign cash at his disposal, thanks to his fundraising success in this year’s presidential bid. He raised about $19 million in the last quarter, and, if he chooses to, he can transfer that money into his congressional treasury.

Paul campaign spokesman Mark Elam indicated that Paul was planning on spending money from his presidential campaign on his House reelection bid. He went up on the airwaves Tuesday with his first advertisement, a radio spot touting his biography and legislative accomplishments.

How about it Ronulans? Did you donate to Ron Paul so he can get re-elected to the House of Representatives? Seems like a big waste of money.

I wonder what he'll do with the other $15 million, once his Congressional race is over...

Note: I wrote about Paul's Congressional race at the Weekly Standard a few days ago.

Update: Soren Dayton points out that Ron Paul did indeed, run ads in New Hampshire -- if I receive word that he's running ads in any other states, I'll add that.

Nevertheless, it's clear that Ron Paul is not running a presidential campaign. The presidential candidates are spending all that they raise -- and more, in some cases. Ron Paul is different. He's still raising money -- nominally for the presidential campaign. But it won't be spent on his presidential run; it will be spent either on his current House race, or some other cause yet to be determined.

But since he's not using the donations to pay for a presidential campaign, he ought to be up front about it.

Update II: I hope I don't have to retract this completely. A commenter reports:

He did a huge media buy with Clear Channel here in Central Florida. His ads are being played 3-5 times an hour on all 7 CC station in Orlando. It started a couple of weeks ago.

That led me to this:

Beginning this week, Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul's presidential campaign will begin running a series of radio ads in Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Maine and North Dakota in anticipation of the states' upcoming primaries and caucuses.

This demonstrates that Paul is indeed, spending his receipts on ads. It's also true however, that you have to buy A LOT of radio ads to spend $19 million. I suspect campaign filings will ultimately show a lot more spent on his Congressional campaign than his presidential bid.

A Lot Can Change in a Year

Read it at the Standard.

Truthers Taking Over Japan?

Read it at the Standard.

Time to Triple the Gas Tax?

Read it at the Standard.

Mommy, Where do Earmarks Come From?

Read it at the Standard.

And if you're interested in earmark reform, be sure to check out this encouraging item from the Club for Growth.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Will Democrats Bet on MUCH Bigger Government?

As Congress and the president are trying to figure out how to approach negotiations over an economic stimulus package, Rahm Emanuel is floating a trial balloon: a 'New Deal for the New Economy:'

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) proposed today a far-reaching "New Deal for the New Economy" that includes a requirement that every American get another year of education after high school.

In a speech to the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Emanuel outlined a plan to expand health care, energy incentives, and savings as a way to respond to the economic pinch caused by globalization...

He said he supported universal health care but, short of that, he said Congress should build on recent efforts to expand health-care coverage. He put in a plug for an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance program that President Bush vetoed. And he called for expanding the Medicare program so retirees from age 58 to 64 could qualify.

And he made a strong push for more government investment in energy that he said would create new markets and new jobs.

Emanuel said Americans must increase their savings, although many do not have the wherewithal. He supported universal savings accounts, which would supplement not replace Social Security. Employees and employers would each contribute 1 percent of paychecks into these accounts. The contributions would be tax deductible.

Emanuel is very influential within the House Democratic caucus. While his personality and ambition rub many the wrong way, his political instincts are widely respected. Plus, he gets a lot of credit for heading the DCCC in the cycle when Democrats took control of the House.

That said, it's clear that this proposal is not going to be enacted as a stimulus plan in the weeks ahead. It's unlikely to become the official Democratic position. Rather, Emanuel is setting a marker for the Democratic presidential campaign this year. He's clearly decided on a populist message, which offers new government programs for health care, education, and energy.

Interestingly, his plan includes a new tax-free, employer-matched retirement savings plan. While this sounds somewhat like the 'private accounts' favored by many Republicans as an option within Social Security, this one would be above and beyond the current Social Security system. Depending on how the program is structured, it could be superior to the private account--if for example, workers were allowed to save more, or had more flexibility to direct their investments.

It will be interesting to see which candidates--if any--latch on to Emanuel's plan. While it's likely to be costly, so are the current economic plans of the Democratic candidates. Plus, the plans for tax increases are already on the table.

Schumer Pushes DHS to Speed Up Naturalizations Before Election

Interesting -- this is the first that I've heard of this:

The Bush administration has authority to rehire retired workers to reduce a backlog of immigration applications that is preventing thousands of people from becoming U.S. citizens in time to vote in November's elections, a Democratic senator said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had pressured Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Homeland Security Department, to seek permission to rehire the retirees. The permission was granted Thursday by the Office of Personnel Management...

Citizenship and Immigration Services announced during Thanksgiving week that naturalizations of anyone who applied after June 1 would take 15 to 18 months. Without additional hires, many immigrants could not become citizens, giving them the right to vote, until after the Nov. 4 elections...

The backlog coincided with efforts by immigration groups and others to help legal U.S. residents naturalize and register to vote in time for November's elections. Some of the groups and those awaiting to be citizens have questioned whether the delays are politically motivated, which the agency denies.

According to the article, there's been a flood of new applications for naturalization as those eligible rush to file before fees rise. That said, backlogs are a common feature of the naturalization process. The National Immigration Forum for example, complained in 1998 that the naturalization backlog was requiring applicants to wait a year and a half for naturalization. More recently, a lengthy backlog was apparently eliminated in 2006--just months before the election.

What is the 'normal' wait for naturalizations? And does the current move to rehire retirees represent an effort to return the naturalization process to normal, or to change it? Naturalization can be politically controversial, for obvious reasons, and it doesn't help the process to have a partisan like Schumer as the lead proponent. And it doesn't add much confidence that the only Republican cosponsor of his backlog reduction bill is Chuck Hagel.

I'll stipulate that I can't find any indication that this is a political effort by Democrats to rush naturalizations so they can benefit from voting by new citizens. I can't find any objections from the Bush administration, Republicans in Congress, or party officials. As far as I can determine, the move is noncontroversial among leaders of both parties.

That said, this is clearly a very sensitive issue. It's important that the naturalization process not be changed to ensure that applicants can vote in a given election. Rather, it's essential that the process remain as much as possible the same as it has been, unless there's good reason to change it.

Earmark Debate Splits Hill Republicans

I wish I could say that this is a surprise:

The leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee are calling on President Bush to back away from threats to kill funding for lawmakers’ pet projects.

The pre-emptive warnings from the top Democrat and Republican on the panel are the clearest signs yet that President Bush could face a bipartisan backlash if he uses his executive authority to wipe out the more than $7 billion in earmarks...

[Senator Jim] DeMint said that “nobody should act surprised” if Bush issues the order, noting it is consistent with the president’s 2007 State of the Union address to slice earmarks in half.

“I’ve yet to read the part of the Constitution that gives Congress the right to secretly waste billions of tax dollars on a bridge to nowhere and hippie museums,” DeMint said. “The president has the authority and the backing of millions of taxpayers to end the earmark favor factory, and I think he’s going to do it...”

Dyer worked as a deputy assistant for legislative affairs to President Ronald Reagan in 1988 when then-OMB Director Jim Miller sent a memo to all federal agency heads saying they did not have to spend money on the earmarks included in committee report language...

“All hell broke loose,” said Miller, now a senior adviser at the law firm of Blackwell Sanders. Within weeks, he backed down.

Bush would be swamped with objections from lawmakers as well. Nevertheless, Miller argues that Bush should pull the trigger and issue such an order.

“The extent of earmarks is much greater today. … It is obvious Congress cannot do it on their own,” said Miller. Citing the public distaste for the projects, the former OMB director said he believes it would be a political “win” to issue such an order.

I don't think there's any question that it would be a political 'win' for the President, for the Republican 'brand,' and for Republican candidates more generally. That said, Members would be angry about losing on some of their political priorities, and would take criticism from the small number of constituents who care about the projects. On the balance, it would be a net win for Republicans and conservatives, but it's conceivable that one or two marginal incumbents might lose their seats.

My bet is against the President doing this, but I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Amputee Sprinter Disqualified From Olympics

IAAF Rules He Has a Clear Advantage

Oh, how quickly the world is changing before our eyes:

All his life, Oscar Pistorius has confronted obstacles. The double-amputee sprinter from South Africa now faces another one -- a decision barring him from the Olympics.

Track and field's governing body ruled Monday he is ineligible to compete this summer in Beijing -- or any other sanctioned able-bodied competitions -- because his "Cheetah" racing blades are "technical aids" that give him a clear advantage...

Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able-bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. The professor said that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.

The professor determined that the returned energy from the prosthetic blade is "close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting." The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage.

How long before some prosthetics engineer develops artificial legs that do perfectly mimic the human leg -- at least with regard to performance? When that happens, we might see an amputee gold medalist.

Will he look like this guy?