Monday, December 31, 2007

Tell us what you really think, Fred

In a rambling seventeen minute video, Fred Thompson manages to squeeze "Left-Wing-Big-Government-High-Taxing-Weak-on-Defense-Democratic Party" into about four seconds. If only the rest of the message was so concise.

In the grand scheme of things, a voter in Iowa probably ought to see a single seventeen minute video as preferable to the onslaught of political ads blanketing the airwaves.

At the urging of another blog, I watched the whole video after attempting to watch it earlier but stopping out of sheer boredom.

In the video, Fred summarizes his philosophies and policies, he makes the case that he can reach out to the Zell Miller Democrats whose party has drifted away from them, and he argues against the pursuit of power for its own sake. There. That didn't take long, did it?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Roundup: Hillary the Interventionist

On ABC's This Week, Hillary Clinton casually discussed her advice to her husband that the US intervene militarily in the Rwandan genocide. Does anybody else think this subject was a little too big to be discussed so briefly and recklessly? I've grown to have some respect for George Stephanopolous as a journalist and host, but he never developed that Russert-esque zeal for nailing an interviewee. I blame GS's timidity more than his history as a Clintonista for this oversight.

I was slightly irritated with Clinton' posthumous first-name-basis with Benazir Bhutto. I was also a little confused as to how she could have played such an integral part in WJC's Presidency without noticing that an intern had repeatedly slobbered on her husband.

McCain was also on This Week, and did no harm nor good. Ho-Hum.

On Meet the Press, Obama pulled out the "master of a broken system" argument, which I think works very well, and which I've discussed a little in the previous post. Obama did well, making no major gaffes and seems to have worked a little on filling out his empty suit, or at least appearing to do so.

Huckabee was also on MTP, and much to my chagrin, performed well as a matter of political theater. Though I dislike Huckabee, I couldn't argue with most of his statements about Romney. The exception to this was Huck's response to the criticism over his "bunker mentality" statement about the Bush administration. Romney's point was that there is a right way and a wrong way to criticize administration policy - namely, criticizing the policy (or its implementation) rather than making broad personal attacks against what one supposes is in the mind of another.

Thompson was apparently on Fox News Sunday. I haven't yet watched it but it's supposedly pretty ho-hum as well.

"Master of a Broken System"

Responding to Hillary Clinton's claim that her greater "experience" as co-President First Lady gives her a leg-up on other candidates, Barack Obama called Senator Clinton the "master of a broken system". According to Obama, you can't expect Washington insiders to fix the problems of Washington.

I think he has a point. In fact, his point is broader than the Presidential election; it has implications for every office from President to Dog Catcher.

My thoughts turned immediately to the race I'm involved in, for William Russell over Congressman John Murtha. The Wash-Post has recently joined the ranks of the Wall Street Journal, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and other papers in digging into Murtha's role as Johnstown's biggest employer.

WaPo's "Millions in Earmarks Purchase Little of Use" calls into question why Concurrent Technologies is a non-profit charitable organization, why the National Defense Center for Environmental Excellence (run by Concurrent) has put only nine systems (out of 500 developed) in more than just one military installation, and how so many millions of dollars in earmarks producing so little can be allowed to go on for so long.

"Something is very wrong here. Why is the government pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a contractor whose work it isn't using?" said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group in the District that has examined defense spending over the years.

Indeed. The Congress' needless defense earmarks are detracting from real military needs. Murtha is the master of a broken system that short changes our armed forces and the taxpayers. Murtha however, is unapologetic for bringing home indiscriminate pork to his district.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bill Richardson still an idiot

I can't get over the insanity of those who think Bill Richardson is a polished statesman.

Can't we just replace him with Horatio Sans and be done with it, "Dave" style?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Federal Judge Fantasizes about Dictatorship

Ya just can't make this sort of stuff up!

Federal Judge Midge Rendell, wife of PA Governor Ed Rendell and a Clinton appointee, causally daydreamed in front of The National Association of Women Judges - “Gee, a benevolent dictator would really be good right about now to, to put in health care and to put in some of these policies that we all want, but somehow the gridlock within the legislature makes it impossible.”

Um, if we all wanted those things we might have elected people to do that. But we didn't. So maybe we don't all want those things.

[Insert predictable rant against liberal fascism here. Some assembly required.]

Not quite as bad as Will Smith's "Hitler" thing, but dang.

Thanks to PA Rep Metcalfe for bringing this to our collective attention.

Process of Elimination: Still Fred

I've criticized Fred Thompson a little bit on this blog, but it's mostly been on the style rather than the substance. Fred still has the substance. I basically agree with the following video's process-of-elimination argument, but it would be nice if it hadn't come to that sort of calculus.




I haven't thrown up in my mouth, but I do get queasy. Puppies? Take 'em or leave 'em. But I'm still for Fred.

Monday, December 24, 2007

WaPo to Dobbs, Dems: Eat it.

Somebody at the Washington Post has noticed that all the Lou-Dobbsian and Democratic rhetoric about the middle class just isn't so.

"[T]he entire "decline" of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder."

"Assets have grown faster than debts for most middle-class families."

"And Commerce Department data show that even at the state level, including in Midwestern "Rust Belt" states, employment is up at least 14 percent since 1993, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed."

"Per capita income has increased by at least 15 percent in every state since 1993 -- a good sign that state economies are large enough to adapt to the changing economy."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Congress doesn't believe in science

Nobody seems happy with the omnibus spending bill except Congressional appropriators and the President. Among the bill's many faults, it seems scientific research has suffered at the altar of the 1.2 x 10^4 earmarks. Many programs were given "meager" increases of less than one percent, or outright cuts.

What's sticking in my craw? Cuts to Dept of Energy Fusion research and High Energy Physics.

'Cuz who would want nuclear fusion energy anyway?

A Big Typo

The Omnibus spending bill had a $31 Billion "typo" in it that threatened to hold the bill up.

Heaven forbid we slow down enough to actually see what's in the bill... Clearly the Senate clerk is at fault, and none of the very careful Senate appropriators.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Announcement: Campaign Activities

I've written before about William Russell's campaign for Congress against seventy-gajillion term incumbent John Murtha. I've been in contact with the campaign, met the candidate and campaign manager, and I will be volunteering some of my time as Outreach Coordinator.

This campaign is hitting the ground running. The Camp. Mgr. is a USMC veteran and has a multi-decade career in political affairs. The structural model for the campaign is based on very good social science foundation which has been successfully field-tested in Bush's presidential campaigns. Russell has already gotten some earned media from the Mark Levin radio show and the BBC (in addition to local media coverage), and the campaign has been in contact with Limbaugh and Hannity.

(Audio from the Mark Levin Show on 11-30-2007 is available here for the time being.)

Everything is on track to make sure the whole nation knows there's a real challenger in the 12th District of Pennsylvania. Russell is starting with a bang.

Please help Western Pennsylvania embrace a more hopeful, ethical, and prosperous future by donating to the campaign.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rahm Emanuel: Senate a Mistake

This NYTimes article describes an all-too-familiar situation of partisan wrangling in the Congress between parties and houses.

The extent to which there have been "filibusters" or "obstructionism" is disputed though.

Democrats blame Republican obstruction. “They are filibustering as if they are on steroids,” Mr. Reid said.

Republicans say the Democrats are to blame, for pursuing a partisan agenda. They also say Democrats call for votes to end filibusters that do not exist and, in some cases, seek to end debate on bills before debate has started.

Things are so bad between Mr. Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, that in some cases they even fight about whether they are fighting about something.

It's pretty standard stuff, but now that the Republicans are accused of being obstructionist, Congressman Rahm Emanuel (in the Dem leadership, former Clintonite, former DCCC chair) has decided the Senate, as an institution, is for the birds:

“As an amateur student of constitutional history and as a member of Congress, I have come to the conclusion that the Senate was a historic mistake,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the No. 4 Democrat.

"Amateur" indeed. The whole purpose of a bicameral legislature is to stop stupid bills. To be, essentially, obstructionist when need be.

One can only wonder how such otherwise obviously intelligent people get elected without knowing the first thing about why our Constitution functions.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blind Squirrel finds Acorn

From the "duh" department,

"Military Weighs Recruiting Afghan Tribes to Fight Taliban"

You mean we weren't doing that before?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

MTP: Webb's first trip to Iraq

Yeah, that's right. Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb just made his very first trip to Iraq. I was extremely surprised to hear that the Dems' new point man in the Senate on military issues had made his first trip after offering lengthy and numerous pontifications on that subject.

On Meet the Press, Webb called on the Bush administration to engage in "robust diplomacy", and to bring surrounding nations to the table. Why is this a good idea? Robust diplomacy can backfire, as it has numerous times with the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Since when have American diplomats been able to use the sheer force of will to change the behavior of other players? The surrounding nations "with a dog in the fight" don't have an incentive to give up their interests for a stronger Iraq, and they often have the opposite incentive.

Perhaps a better strategy would be to cut off surrounding nations and make the Iraqi factions come to their own solutions. That's pretty much what we've been doing, and this in concert with the surge has shown progress heretofore unseen.

Webb argued that the Sunni Anbar awakening began before the surge, and that much of the improvement we have seen since the surge began has had little to do with the surge. Why then, were prominent Democrats loudly proclaiming the nascent surge a failure as early as July when it had barely begun? Shouldn't the data have reflected improvement by then?

I acknowledge that the surge by itself has not been 100% determinate in the events that have transpired since it began. We've caught quite a few lucky breaks. But neither can the Anbar awakening be viewed in a vacuum. The tribal leaders knew we were making additional commitments, and they used that information and took that opportunity to break with AQI. I doubt that the awakening would have been nearly as successful without American support.

Webb at least hinted that cutting off funding for the mission was "not a winning formula", which hopefully indicates that Democrats will once again give in on that issue.

Huckabee feels your pain

Or at least in his former life as a Baptist minster he saw "what it looks like" to see cradle-to-grave trials and tribulations ordinary people experience, as Huckabee explained on ABC's This Week.

Much as I dislike Huckabee-the-candidate, he performed well for George Stephanopoulos. Underneath the WJClintonesque veneer though, I think he has no philosophical opposition to larger government under the guise of what some have called "heroic" (nee "compasionate") conservatism, and he showcased his unwillingness to be firm on illegal immigration issues.

He's a liberal who's against abortion.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Stem Cells A'Plenty

Can Science Save the GOP?

This Time Magazine column says it can't. New procedures have been discovered to coax adult skin cells into a pluripotent form, perhaps as effective as controversial embryonic stem cells.

The author, stricken with Parkinson's disease, says not only that we shouldn't abandon research on embryonic stem cells, but we should not forget the six years between Bush's funding decision in 2001 and now because they demonstrate the GOP's misplaced value of embryos over the ill.

While one must have some sympathy of the author's personal plight, I am also within my rights to be insulted by the insinuation that Republicans just don't care. Diseases potentially treatable by embryonic stem cells don't just target Democrats. Giuliani, Thompson, and McCain all have had cancer, and Mitt Romney's wife Ann suffers from multiple sclerosis. My own grandfather suffered from Parkinson's disease before developing terminal lymphoma. My other grandfather suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Pardon me if I take the author's Absolute Moral Authority™ with a grain of salt.

The author claims that Bush "ban[ned] almost all federal financing of embryonic-stem-cell research in 2001" when in fact there had never been any federal financing, and that "[t]he result has been a severe reduction in embryonic-stem-cell research," which is clearly false since there had never been significant research in this area, and is further false in that research has increased due to private and state level initiatives.

Like the Time author, I was once of the opinion that discarded embryos from fertility clinics might be an acceptable source of scientific material. I was later made aware of what would likely happen if embryonic stem cell research actually turned out to be as good as we've been promised; Millions of human embryos would need to be cloned in colossal scientific facilities in order to meet the demand for compatible tissue. Excuse me if I think that sounds a bit creepy.

Hearing once again about how the Republicans "don't believe in science", I'm also reminded of the Left's tendency to oppose some other science that benefits man - genetic modifications of food-source organisms. We dare not eat cloned beef, pest-resistant corn, or vitamin enhanced rice. Some would rather we not even spray our crops with insecticides. We can't "play God" by genetically altering our food, but we can genetically alter ourselves any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Monsanto is the bogeyman.

The hypocrisy boggles the mind.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ann Coulter is skinny

The Smoking Gun has released the police reports relating to people harassing conservative firebrand Ann Coulter at her home.

The obscenities lobbed at Ann were not what caught my eye. What grabbed me was the police record of Ann's weight and height. She's 5'10" and 115 lbs. That gives her a Body-Mass Index of 16.5, and according to HHS anything below 18.5 is "underweight".

Basically Ann is my height and weighs 45 fewer pounds. I may be a guy, but I have no idea how an adult human being can pull that off.

Ann, order a steak. And cigarettes are not a food group.

Monday, November 26, 2007

MS-Lebanon

An extremely geeky blogger compares Lebanon to Microsoft Vista.

And I thought I was a nerd!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thompson on FNS

Fred Thompson's recent performance on Fox News Sunday displayed a slightly more energetic Thompson than we have seen in other forums. Asked about the apparently poor state of his campaign, Thompson critiqued the media in general and Fox News in particular as being naysayers of his campaign, ignoring the good and focusing on the bad. He probably overplayed this point, but there is some substance to the allegation.

The Bad - Thompson pointed out that he has by far the most complete policy plans laid out among any of the Republicans. (Probably among the Dems too.) But voters, in particular Republican and Independent voters, do not vote primarily on policy plans. They vote on gut instincts. Who can lead? Who do you want standing with a bullhorn on the next pile of terrorist-produced rubble? Who can best Hillary in a debate? Fred has much room to improve on these points. Fred's appeal was supposed to be the marriage of consistent conservatism with the ability to sell it. He's not selling it like he should be.

The Good - Fred was energetic and fully engaged, and not just in his typical too-much-coffee-human-bobblehead way. This is the first step toward fixing the problems mentioned above.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Islamic Investing

Standard and Poor's has a family of Shariah equity indexes. Islam appears to be the only religion with S&P recognition. I've seen third party investment vehicles for Catholics and some generic ethically lofty funds, but dang.

Huckabee and the Human Life Amendment

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was on Fox News Sunday recently explaining that his support for the Human Life Amendment is in keeping with "the logic of the Civil War". Huckabee is claiming that just as slavery is wrong and was therefore wrong everywhere, so too is abortion wrong and is wrong everywhere. Merely overturning Roe-v-Wade will only create a condition where babies are still being killed in some states, and anybody who could live with that (like Fred Thompson) is in moral error.

This sort of argument does have a certain point, but by that logic we should also have one national policy on the death penalty, gay marriage, cousin marriage, divorce, age of consent, etc. The idea that we should have completely uniform views and laws across this diverse nation seems to fly in the face of reality and the Constitution.

This circle cannot be squared. There will always be a tension between morality and the law because some part of the population will disagree on what is morally acceptable. The federalist solution doesn't make this problem go away, but it does have the tendency to diffuse the problem by allowing people to make decisions along more or less culturally significant lines. Issues like slavery are the exception rather than the rule.

The National Right to Life Committee seems to have some sympathy for this position as they have dropped support for the Human Life Amendment as a condition of endorsement and they have endorsed Fred Thompson.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Opportunity Knocks for Conservative 527s

Attention conservative PAC operators - this may be your big chance to make a splash this election cycle.

Any Republican worthy of that appellation has a strong visceral dislike of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Murtha has make ridiculous statements about national security affairs (Hey, let's "redeploy"... to Okinawa), and has slandered several good Marines (a few of whom already have had their charges dropped - they're suing Murtha in federal court). He's also the poster child for the corrupting influence of federal pork, and he exploits his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee like a schoolyard bully. He is a longtime buddy of Nancy Pelosi, and if Pelosi had her way Murtha would be House Majority Leader.

And now Murtha has a challenger: William Russell.

Russell has is own military background, which will help to counter the halo of absolute moral authority Murtha has so far successfully exercised with respect to military affairs. While Russell's motivation for running appears to be primarily a reaction to Murtha's statements about national security issues, Russell also appears to be an economic conservative with a libertarian streak.

I know, I know. Murtha has beaten every challenger. Badly. Last time was 61%-39%. And Murtha is the "biggest employer in Johnstown".

Let's say for a moment that Russell can't beat Murtha. A significant scare could tie up some Democratic campaign money that might have been used in other races. (You don't think Nancy Pelosi would let her buddy Jack fend for himself, do you?) Let's talk "earned media" for a moment. National media attention is a "force multiplier", both for this particular race and in helping to establish a Democrat culture of corruption in the minds of voters outside the 12th District. Limbaugh, Hannity, and O'Reilly would probably jump at the chance to interview Russell if enough noise is made in Western Pennsylvania to move the needle on the polling data. Maybe even a Sunday show or two.

But I think Russell has a decent shot. Murtha has slaughtered his previous opponents in part because nobody's ever had the support to challenge him effectively. Murtha's sleaziness is easily established, and a few well-written television ads will drive the point home as it has never been done before. The 12th District is also bizarrely shaped and must have a degree of cultural discontinuity outside of Cambria county. This can be exploited with a good ground game built on the foundation of some solid polling data to show us where the cracks are in the plaster of Murtha's political career.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rove's Newsweek Debut

Newsweek has hired Karl Rove as the blogging counterpart to Markos ("Kos") Moulitsas ZĂșniga. In his debut piece for Newsweek, Rove describes his plan for "How to Beat Hillary".

I gave up on Newsweek long ago, and I saw their hiring of Kos as just more of the same. My initial reactions to the Rove hire were:
  • Do they really think Kos is in the same intellectual universe as Rove?
  • Who the heck wants to read what Rove has to say now that Bush has basically crashed and burned?
While Rove certainly had a point in his earlier proclamation that Republican Congressional scandals (rather than the war) pushed some voters to flee the GOP in 2006, I still think that was a fundamentally disingenuous read of events. I expected Rove to be just as essentially disconnected from reality when he began writing for Newsweek. Viva MC Rove!

I was mostly wrong about that. Rove lays out classic, time-tested advice that will work in the best or worst of times. My only gripe is about the following segment:

Tackle issues families care about and Republicans too often shy away from. Jobs, the economy, taxes and spending will be big issues this campaign, but some issues that used to be "go to" ones for Republicans, like crime and welfare, don't have as much salience. Concerns like health care, the cost of college and social mobility will be more important. The Republican nominee needs to be confident in talking about these concerns and credible in laying out how he will address them. Be bold in approach and presentation. [emphasis added]

Herein lies the basic existential crisis for the Republican party. For the vast majority of "sellable" candidate plans for these issues, government action will cause more harm than good. Health care could cost less if there were fewer state mandates and people were able to save 15% by using Geico from out of state like they can for car insurance. The cost of college is so high in part because supply is inelastic and demand is subsidized by state and federal government grants and guaranteed loans. And there's very little the government can do about social mobility apart from funding mass transportation in urban areas and making sure K-12 education is as good as it can be, and clearly those efforts have limited effect.

Rove is saying, as others have, that Republicans need to play the Democrats' game of redistribution and nanny-statism. That may win an election here and there, but it's a long-term loser because nobody does redistribution better than the Democrats.

The long term success of any party honestly attempting to represent the principles of limited government and free trade must communicate those principles effectively. I'm not hearing much of that from our current crop, save for Fred Thompson, who so far seems to lack the enthusiasm to convince anybody of anything. Somehow the Democrats gained a lead on the issues of jobs and the economy. A populace that thinks the Democrats are better than Republicans on those issues needs to hear a heck of a lot more from Republicans than what Candidate X says about the cost of college.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A White Elephant Pardon

President Bush should grant a full pardon to...

Sandy Berger.

Indulge me in this fantasy for a moment.

Berger, WJClinton National Security Adviser who stole and destroyed documents from the national archives related to the 9/11 investigation, is now advising Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. A Berger pardon would be so high profile that the media would be forced to cover it. Even the sheeple watching the network nightly news broadcasts would be reminded that (1) a WJC crony did something very bad, and that (2) the very same crony is now working for Hillary.

It's the ultimate White Elephant gift.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ohio to Dems - No illegal drivers

A Quinnipiac poll shows that Ohioans do not like the idea of giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants - 55% "less likely" to vote for a candidate who supports that policy, (3% "more likely"), and even among Democrats 43% "less likely" and 4% "more likely".

More in-depth coverage at HotAir.

The eye-popping thing to me is not just that Ohio is a swing state where it is still possible to elect a Republican for President (though that is interesting), but that it is nowhere near the Rio Grande. This confirms my idea that illegal immigration is a problem across the nation, even in places where you might not think (like Hazelton, PA). My county in rural Pennsylvania is losing population overall, but the high school where I graduated ten years ago now has English as a Second Language courses. When I graduated I don't think there was a single Spanish speaking student in the whole school, save for exchange students.

Being "pro [illegal] immigrant" is a losing issue, and perhaps increasingly so the further one travels from the southern border because the problem is not even close to being contained.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Did you get the memo? Armitage on Plame

CNN's Wolf Blitzer interviewed Richard Armitage about several topics including the Plame affair:

BLITZER: Normally in memos they don't name covert operatives?

ARMITAGE: I have never seen one named.

BLITZER: And so you assumed she was, what, just an analyst over at the CIA?

ARMITAGE: Not only assumed it, that's what the message said, that she was publicly chairing a meeting.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Double Standards: Bake Sales

So this bake sale at San Diego State University where people were charged different amounts corresponding to their race and gender was a bold move by the National Organization for Women ("NOW") to "raise awareness" of "difference of pay between genders and races".

But this bake sale in 2004 at the University of Rochester conducted by the College Republicans where people were charged different amounts corresponding to their race and gender was "bigoted, intolerant, and patronizing".

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Double Standard for "Conservative"

In our ongoing quest to find the perfect transcendental conservative Presidential candidate, we have stumbled across a fairly large internal inconsistency.

On one hand, we have TV-evangelist (and 1988 Republican Presidential contender) Pat Robertson endorsing Giuliani. This despite all of Giuliani's well-documented policy disagreements with social conservatives, not the least of which is his idea that a "strict constructionist" jurist might rule that Roe-v-Wade is consistent with the US Constitution... or not. No big deal either way.

On the other hand we have columnist Robert Novak criticizing Fred Thompson for taking a Federalist, anti-Roe position on abortion. Novak claims Thompson is, as the title of the column indicates, making "a major abortion blunder" by not supporting federal laws or a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.

Now I understand that the Real Conservative Alternative® hasn't emerged, but can we stop pretending that Giuliani's positions are acceptable while the other candidates' positions are insufficiently conservative?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Zing! Parsing Hillary Clinton

The Edwards campaign has been getting some understandably good reviews for this ad:



Despite this absurdity, Clinton's numbers may have improved slightly after the most recent debate (according to Rasumssen), and NYT commentator Gail Collins gave HRC some left-handed (?) complements about her performance:

She took it all and came out the other end in one piece. She’s one tough woman. Kudos.

Her fighting spirit was all the more impressive because so many of the positions she was defending were virtually indefensible.

For conservatives this is the most infuriating aspect of Clinton's candidacy. She's been implicated in so many scandals, screwed up so many policies, made so many gaffes that all the bad news is already cooked into her stock. She has the Teflon coating to shake off any challenge literally effortlessly, to lie about any subject and come out stronger. And the media loves her for it, just as they loved Bill.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tough Questions for HRC Just Beginning

On the heels of the so-called pile-on by Hillary Clinton's competitors, Jonah Goldberg at NRO has some more questions...

Among them:

You keep saying that Social Security has lost 14 years of solvency on President Bush’s watch. In 2000, your husband’s last year in office, the program’s trustees said it would be solvent until 2037. Now they say it will be solvent until 2041. As the most serious female candidate for president we’ve ever had, aren’t you setting a bad example by not being able to do math?
~~~
You’ve said this administration’s secrecy “on matters large and small is very disturbing.” In particular, you and other Democrats have criticized Dick Cheney’s refusal to be more open about his energy task force. Were you disturbed by your health care task force’s similar secrecy? How about your refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents for two years? Why do you tacitly support your husband’s refusal to release your White House correspondence from the National Archives? You’ve said the documents are being released on the Archives’ timetable, but your husband appointed his longtime henchman, Bruce Lindsey, to manage the release of such records. Why isn’t that disturbing?
~~~
You’ve repeatedly denounced Halliburton’s “no-bid contracts.” Did you object when the Clinton administration awarded a similar non-competitive contract to Halliburton for reconstruction work in the former Yugoslavia? If not, why not? If so, why didn’t your husband listen?


[note: It has come to my attention that Halliburton-proper no longer has those contracts. They are now owned by the spun-off Kellogg-Brown-Root ("KBR"). Hillary can't take any contracts from Halliburton because they don't have them. - Joe]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quote of the Day: Dean Barnett on Obama

"In an effort to appeal to Democratic values voters (both of them!), Obama has been burning a path through the South in a manner reminiscent of William Tecumseh Sherman."

(Note to self: make more some layered cultural references.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

MTP: What progress?

Senator Chris Dodd was on Meet the Press today pretending to be a Presidential candidate. (Dodd was unwavering when confronted with evidence that he was polling zero - exactly zero, below everybody including Gravel.)

But the painfully irrelevant Dodd isn't the subject of this post - it's Russert.

I like Tim Russert, at least in so far as a person can like a political reporter. I get the feeling that he tries, even if he sometimes comes short as I think he did with Dodd.

Russert probed Dodd's evolving stance on the Iraq war. Probing inconsistencies is what Russert does best. Ultimately I think Dodd accounted for his position sufficiently, but Dodd was allowed numerous times to make the unchallenged assertion that what we're doing in Iraq "isn't working". Russert never confronted Dodd with the increasing and overwhelming evidence that the Petraeus "surge" is showing remarkable progress in reducing the level of violence in Iraq.

Dodd said he was in Iraq a year ago and heard from numerous soldiers that what they're doing isn't working. ("But I came to the conclusion [about withdrawal deadlines] almost a year ago—in fact, I was here, having just come back from, from Baghdad. We talked at this table. And I met with young soldiers over there who said this is just not working. We need to change this policy.")

But a year ago we hadn't begun the surge.

Until the media confronts the Democrats with the apparent progress made under the surge, the political dialog will continue to stagnate in its anti-war malaise.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Subprime

Via Donald Luskin

Sweet Zombie Reagan

Forty-three years ago today, October 27th 1964, Ronald Regan delivered a now famous speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater's Presidential campaign. (Brought to my attention by NRO.)

I wish to cast my Presidential primary ballot for the future-reanimated Zombie Reagan, who -adjusting for inflation and Islamo-Fascism- gave a speech that could apply just as well today as it did in 1964.

Creeping Socialism. Threats to our freedom, domestic and foreign. Eminent Domain abuse. The utter failure of the Welfare State to meet its goals. Moral cowardice.

Video (RealPlayer)

Some excerpts (emphasis mine)

There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in doing so lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.
~~~
In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a "greater government activity in the affairs of the people." But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves--and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say "the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me--the free man and woman of this country--as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"--this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.
~~~
Private property rights are so diluted that public interest is almost anything that a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes for the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a "more compatible use of the land."
~~~
So now we declare "war on poverty," [...] Now, do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add $1 billion to the $45 million we are spending...one more program to the 30-odd we have--and remember, this new program doesn't replace any, it just duplicates existing programs--do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic?
~~~
Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against" things, never "for" anything.

But we are against those entrusted with [Social Security] when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those who depend on them for livelihood. They have called it insurance to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified that it was a welfare program. They only use the term "insurance" to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is $298 billion in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble! And they are doing just that.
~~~
[C]an't we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provisions for the non-earning years?
[...]
I think we are for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program was now bankrupt. They've come to the end of the road.
~~~
Back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his party was taking the part of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. [...] Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? Such machinery already exists. [...] Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men...that we are to choose just between two personalities.
~~~
Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer--not an easy answer--but simple.
~~~
[Khrushchev] has told [his people] that we are retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically.
[...]
If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin--just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Putin: Free Markets Overrated Anyway

Russian President Vladimir Putin has "convinced" food producers and retailers to "voluntarily" fix prices of certain staple foods.

The Kremlin blames the rapid food price inflation on rising global costs (correct), higher wages (an incorrect but common mistake), and greed/speculation (asinine use of evil Kapitalist bogeyman).

Of course the Telegraph couldn't be bothered to find out the real reason for food price inflation and just settled for this:

It is energy that has driven the Russian economy, which continues to grow at rates far outstripping western rivals, and with oil prices just below record levels of $90 a barrel a slowdown is unlikely.

But the inflation crisis, economists argue, shows how one-dimensional and vulnerable the Russian economy really is.

"The fact that in this situation the government could come up with no measures except for administrative interference shows how weak the economy really is," said Pavel Trunin, an economist at the Gaidar Institute in Moscow. "It shows that the economy is dependent on oil prices."

What does the dependence on oil have to do with either food inflation or general inflation? If food prices are inflating faster than the rest of the economy that is due to good old supply and demand. If there is high overall inflation that is a monetary problem and has nothing to do with dependence on the oil industry. Either way price controls are not going to solve any problems.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Steyn: the "Cold Civil War"

Conservative commentator Mark Steyn has written an excellent piece about our current "cold civil war".

It's so nearly perfect I can can't add much to it, only excerpt bits of it:

As far as I can tell, April Gavaza, at the Hyacinth Girl website, is pretty much the first American to ponder whether a "cold civil war" has any significance beyond the novel: What would that entail, exactly? A cold war is a war without conflict, defined in one of several online dictionaries as "[a] state of rivalry and tension between two factions, groups, or individuals that stops short of open, violent confrontation."
...
A year before this next election in the U.S., the common space required for civil debate and civilized disagreement has shrivelled to a very thin sliver of ground. Politics requires a minimum of shared assumptions. ... [I]f you want to discuss the best way forward in the war on terror, you can't do that if the guy you're talking to doesn't believe there is a war on terror.
...
Let's assume, as polls suggest, that next year's presidential election is pretty open: might be a Democrat, might be a Republican. Suppose it's another 50/50 election with a narrow GOP victory dependent on the electoral college votes of one closely divided state. It's not hard to foresee ... Dems concluding that the system has now been entirely delegitimized.


Enticed? There's more where that came from.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Post-Debate Thoughts

Of course, the first question asked at the debate was about which candidate was a "real conservative". It provoked some lively sniping between the top four including Giuliani's attack against Thompson for having blocked some tort reform measures, and McCain's somewhat confusing accusation that Romney had not only distorted his own record but might also distort McCain's.

I find it interesting that the cross-fire was generally limited to McCain -vs- Romney and Thompson -vs- Giuliani. I'm not sure yet what to make of that.

Regarding the "Thompson or McCain" choice I wrote about in the previous post, I don't think either candidate moved the football much. McCain occasionally drifted into what I would describe as his characteristically "demure" posture. Thompson was slightly more engaged than he has been previously, but I cannot help but be somewhat disappointed by the public speaking abilities of this attorney and professional actor.

Most disappointing however, was the unwillingness to confront the central deception of Hillary Clinton's main issue of healthcare. What Clinton is proposing is not, and is carefully designed to avoid appearing to be, is a "government takeover" or "single payer" system. Calling it that will only encourage Clinton to lie about how she is respecting market forces and not expanding bureaucracy.

Pre-Debate Thoughts

The Republican Presidential candidates are having a debate on Fox News tonight. Some of the Sunday political scuttlebutt has been about Huckabee's strong showing at recent a "value voters" event. Huckabee blew away all the other candidates by far among those attending the event, and came in second (to Romney) when internet votes were included. One Fox News Sunday panelist (Kristol I think) called the race a five way contest - Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, Huckabee, and McCain. I think that was too generous.

There is palpable uncertainty about who the "Real Conservative"® candidate is. Giuliani isn't it. Some other candidate is likely to emerge in response to Giuliani's ascendancy. I can't bring myself to see Huckabee or Romney getting the nomination.

Without over-thinking things, we know that GOP voters are looking for a real conservative because that's what the candidates (McCain and Thompson in particular) have been hammering on lately, and we know that they all have polling data that is telling them to do just that.

Huckabee is the anti-Thompson. Thompson is conservative in philosophy and demeanor. The proverbial and literal "old white guy", if you will. He's not rabidly religious. He's an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" kind of conservative. Huckabee is a more activist sort of Republican, in my opinion less philosophically pure, and he's a Baptist minister, which is almost the definition of rabidly religious.

Romney has his Mormonism to contend with. If it comes down to the Mormon or Hillary the Red, I'm booking my ticket to Salt Lake City, but I hate to think it might get that far. Romney also falls short as a "true conservative" because he hasn't been "true" for very long.

That pretty much takes it down to Thompson and McCain. McCain has so angered the base that the moniker of "Real Conservative"® is Thompson's to lose.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One Response to Socialized Healthcare

PA State Senator Folmer has released his "Healthy Pennsylvania" plan in response to Gov. Ed Rendell's unsurprisingly bloated socialization plan for health insurance in the state.

This is a good start. Among the best parts of Folmer's plan are reductions in state mandates for insurance, promoting HSA's, and allowing out-of-state competition. In order to avoid bloated social healthcare programs Republicans need to have a positive plan of action, not, as Hillary Clinton retorts, a "Just Say No" policy to healthcare.

Democrats say our healthcare system is a result of market failures. Republicans must make it known that a truly free market for healthcare does not currently exist.

Why don't we try the freer market before the more centrally managed market, eh comrade?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Can I get an "Amen"?

(1) K-Lo expresses the appropriate level of disgust that Hillary Clinton is chumming around with convicted felon and 9-11 investigation obstructionist Sandy Berger, reminding us of the bad old days.

(2) Also, Thomas Sowell goes where few dare to tread on the subject of the Armenian genocide issue: "It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this resolution is just the latest in a series of congressional efforts to sabotage the conduct of that war."

Monday, October 15, 2007

McCain takes one for the team?

McCain has been trashing Romney recently for his Johnny-come-lately conservatism. Is he setting himself up to be the Veep candidate?

I'm not a believer in McCain, both in the sense that I want somebody else to be our candidate, and in that I don't think he is capable of winning the nomination. It's a political truism that going "hard negative" often causes a certain amount of popular backlash. But people go negative because it actually works at lowering perceptions of the targeted candidate. If it didn't work it wouldn't be done.

Assuming that McCain can't win the nomination, who benefits from Romney's decline? Giuliani and Thompson. Particularly Thompson though, as Thompson has launched an eerily similar (coordinated?) positive push of his own unwavering conservatism.

The fly in the ointment of my theory is that McCain has a god complex and probably wouldn't jump on any grenades in order to have a shot at the least important Constitutional office. But that's sure what it looks like to me.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good Vibrations

(H/T James Altucher's Weekend Blog Watch)

I'm no more crazy than other people - at least in one aspect. Apparently phantom phone/Blackberry vibrations are a common phenomenon.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

UPI Less Rational than Chimps

Well, on par with chimps anyway.

UPI reports "Chimps choose more rationally than humans", when in fact the opposite is true.

In the experiment, a subject is asked to share some reward with another subject. If the offer is rejected by the other, neither subject gets any reward. Humans usually make offers approaching 50% of the reward, and reject offers that are deemed unfair. Chimps make smaller offers that tend to be accepted by the other subject.

UPI must have skipped Game Theory in college because the human response is more rational when repeated over time, as are virtually all game theory applications pertinent to bargaining and cooperation. The receiving subject maximizes his/her utility by occasionally punishing the offering subject, and the offering subject reacts rationally to this threat in a repeated game. The result is a much more equitable distribution of utility.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dems, don't count your chickens

Bill Kristol gives us the case for why Republicans still have a fighting chance in 2008.

Here, judging from the debate, is what the 2008 Democratic nominee is likely to be for. Abroad: ensuring defeat in Iraq and permitting a nuclear Iran. At home: more illegal immigration, higher taxes, more government control of health care, and more aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror.

I think it's slightly optimistic in that it relies on voters to see Democratic proposals for what we Republicans see them as.

But this is the case, put as succinctly as possible.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rush v Media Matters: Much ado about very little

... but not quite nothing.

The folks at Media Matters love to listen to the Rush Limbaugh program more intently than any of Rush's own listeners. They've found a short exchange with a caller in which Limbaugh refers to "phony soldiers" who criticize the Iraq war.

Here I have truncated the quote Media Matters is bothered by. It begins with Rush, mid-phone call and mid-rant:

[beginning with Rush] "[I]t's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people." "Mike" from Olympia replied, "No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media." Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller, who had earlier said, "I am a serving American military, in the Army," agreed, replying, "The phony soldiers."


Media Matters claims Limbaugh's language suggests that all soldiers who question the war are "phony". Honestly, it sounds bad.

The chronology, best I can put together, is something like this:

In the "Morning Update" (a stand-alone segment that is run as a teaser several hours before the program), Limbaugh commented about a specific person, Jesse MacBeth, who despite washing out of boot camp and never setting foot in Iraq, professed to be a Purple Heart Iraq vet who was opposed to the war. Of course, MacBeth found plenty of favorable media coverage until he was discovered, as have numerous other "phony soldiers" around the country. Such frauds have been reported by other more mainstream journalists and commentators.

Several hours later, the above exchange occurs without any context whatsoever. Less than two minutes after this exchange Limbaugh reminds his audience about the Morning Update segment.

Perhaps some subconscious part of Rush's mind knew that the audience needed some context for this questionable remark. However, since Media Matters and the Dem establishment made this mountain out of a molehill Rush has gone into full denial mode.

Rush - your comments were indeed taken out of context, but they also lacked sufficient context to make them unambiguous, which is why you instinctively gave the audience the back-story... after the fact.

(Notice, however, that the caller is the one who first refers to "real" soldiers.)

The Democrats, on the other hand, would have us believe that this short, improvised remark, is somehow the conservative equivalent to the very deliberate "General Betray Us" advertisement, for which they could muster no outrage. They would have us believe that Rush really thinks all dissenters who served honorably are "phony". The evidence does not support this case. The Dems are further diminished when one of their own Senators who is criticizing Limbaugh has himself padded his military resume.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

HillaryCare 2.0

Hillary Clinton has announced her latest plan for expanding health insurance in America. Below is a lengthy point-by-point answer to what is being called HillaryCare 2.0.

Clinton has stated her confidence that she can out-debate the Republican candidate on the subject of healthcare, claiming Republicans have a “just say no” healthcare policy. After looking at what she has to offer, I gladly put myself in that “just say no” camp. Some of what Clinton promises is logically impossible, some of it is meaningless gibberish, some of it is very base class warfare, and some of it utterly fails to solve the problems she seeks to address. In summation, it is an ill-conceived fantasy.

The first thing that must accompany any discussion of healthcare, or any other scarce good or service, is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Healthcare can not be high-quality, prompt, and cheap all a the same time. At least one of these criteria must suffer.

What does Clinton promise?

The first sentence on her healthcare web page states: “Hillary's American Health Choices Plan covers all Americans and improves health care by lowering costs and improving quality.”

So, it looks like we’re going to be waiting in line. As I explore the plan further I suspect that she will somehow make America suffer on all three points.

Linking to the more in-depth explanation of the plan, one discovers a bullet-point rundown of the plan.

In Point 1 Clinton’s plan allows individuals to keep their existing health insurance if they choose to, but “offers” “the same menu of quality private insurance options that their Members of Congress receive”, “without any new bureaucracy as part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program”.

It is unclear to me why private insurers could not offer any of a nearly infinite number of plans regardless of how much they resemble Congressional benefit plans.

Perhaps Clinton plans to put the Federal government (further) into the insurance business. I can’t imagine her “offering” will be cheap, as it necessarily will cost either in premiums or taxes.

In Point 2 Clinton promises to streamline the existing bureaucracy to remove waste and promote preventative care, thus reducing costs. Her proposal “ensures that job loss or family illnesses will never lead to a loss of coverage or exorbitant costs,” and “ensures that no American is denied coverage, refused renewal, unfairly priced out of the market, or forced to pay excessive insurance company premiums.”

It is unclear why private insurance is obstructed from introducing preventative care plans, as it is also unclear how she will ensure against any loss of coverage or impose a (purposely vague) “fair” coverage within market constraints.

In Point 3 Clinton wishes to “Promote Shared Responsibility”. She fears that relying on market mechanisms will result in “scaled-back coverage or limited choices”.

[I]nsurance companies will end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions,” and “drug companies will offer fair prices and accurate information.

Clinton does not explain how outlawing price discrimination will not result in higher premiums for most Americans, nor is it obvious what is unfairly priced or inaccurate about prescription drugs. Undoubtedly she will create disincentive for the robust continuation of America’s first class pharmaceutical research and development.

Individuals “will be required to get and keep insurance”.

What level of insurance? Unspecified.

Providers “will work collaboratively with patients and businesses to deliver high-quality, affordable care.” How this differs from the current arrangement is not obvious.

Who pays?

[L]arge employers will be expected to provide health insurance or contribute to the cost of coverage: small businesses will receive a tax credit to continue or begin to offer coverage.

Here Clinton is explicitly picking winners and losers, giving government the ability to divine the dividing line between large and small business. Here she codifies the horrible mistake of linking health insurance to employers that is the genesis of the current problem. Isn’t the whole problem of losing one’s insurance when one loses a job a major gripe against the current regime? She also appears to be hiding the costs of her plan in a demagogic attack on the bogeymen of “big corporations”.

Point 4 addresses affordability and universality.

Working families will receive a refundable tax credit to help them afford high-quality health coverage.

Didn’t Bush propose individual tax relief for health insurance purposes?

Limit Premium Payments to a Percentage of Income: The refundable tax credit will be designed to prevent premiums from exceeding a percentage of family income, while maintaining consumer price consciousness in choosing health plans.

Huh? So, poor families will still be “choosing” a level of coverage related to how much they can afford. Isn’t this exactly how things work now, other than the fact that they’ll be required to purchase coverage?

She will “strengthen” (i.e., spend more money on) Medicare and S-CHIP to “fix the holes in the safety net”.

Generally, conservatives favor a safety net, but one that doesn’t float permanent benefits into the middle class, and one that socialist Democrats haven’t explicitly called a “down payment” on single-payer healthcare.

Launch a Retiree Health Legacy Initiative: A new tax credit for qualifying private and public retiree health plans will offset a significant portion of catastrophic expenditures, so long as savings are dedicated to workers and competitiveness.

One man’s tax credit is, by definition, another man’s tax increase. Clearly she intends to lower premiums for current employees, but again she wants to codify the relationship between employment and heath insurance.

Point 5 attempts to sell the plan as fiscally responsible.

“Most savings” come through modernization and cost savings - savings that can be completely divorced from the rest of her plan.

Most Americans will get a net tax cut to pay for insurance premiums that will come from tax increases from expiration of the Bush tax plan and limiting the employer tax exclusion.

The government giveth and the government taketh away.

Making the Employer Tax Exclusion for Health Care Fairer: The plan protects the current exclusion from taxes of employer-provided health premiums, but limits the exclusion for the high-end portion of very generous plans for those making over $250,000.

So again, Clinton codifies the link between health insurance and employment, but does as a class warrior. The Bush plan to eliminate the exclusion while providing a standard deduction for health insurance is much simpler and less arbitrary, while maintaining Clinton’s preferred outcome of greater taxation on “generous” plans for the rich.

In conclusion, Hillary Clinton’s healthcare "plan" is a mishmash of logically independent proposals and meaningless campaign buzzwords. Her proposed regulations of private insurance will have the effect of increasing premiums for everybody. Her tax manipulations are both misguided and arbitrary, smacking of class warfare. She promises to expand government into healthcare by spending more on classic welfare programs like Medicare and S-CHIP. She will require every individual to purchase some as-of-yet unspecified level of insurance. And she has the gall to call it the “America’s Health Choices Plan”.

To add insult to injury, a side bar on the website explains how her plan is supposed to benefit Women, Af-Ams, Hispanics, and Seniors, as well as those living in California, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. As a young white male from the late-primary state of Pennsylvania I feel distinctly ignored.

Friday, September 21, 2007

GoogleDocs "Presentation" - Review

I've used Google's "Documents" service for a few minor projects. The word processing and spreadsheet functions work pretty well for jotting a few things down quickly that I can retrieve later on another computer. The collaboration function looks nice, though I haven't convinced anybody to get a Google ID in order to collaborate on anything yet.

In the case of the Documents and Spreadsheets, these can be saved in standard formats such as OpenDocument or MS Office for later editing in a full-fledged office suite where the finishing touches can be added.

Not for "Presentations" - at least not yet.

Until I can faithfully export to a recognized format I can't see the point in creating much content in "Presentations". Like the other Google utilities, "Presentations" is pretty bare-bones. You simply can't make a presentation look as slick as in PowerPoint, or even OpenOffice (which lags PowerPoint significantly). This could be forgivable if I could export my work when I need to, but we just can't do that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The End is Near - for Microsoft?

Billionaire Mark Cuban recently joined the chorus of Macintosh cheerleaders and Microsoft Vista haters. His chief complaint is freezing/crashing in Vista despite his use of primarily three software products, all mainstream - Firefox, Outlook, and MS Office. In addition to crashing less, Cuban (and others) cite Mac superiority in startup time and laptop battery life.

As an XP user who will eventually buy a new system, the conclusion I come to is that Vista pretty much stinks. Dell still offers WindowsXP on select systems, and not just stodgy business systems but home user systems too.

Microsoft has made other mistakes with Vista. DirectX 10 ships with Vista only and is not being backported to XP. On top of this, the Dx10.1 upgrade (expected with Vista Service Pack 1), will render some Dx10.0 hardware obsolete, leaving game and graphics oriented users to wait for SP1. With tepid uptake on Vista, game manufacturers are making games Dx-9 compatible, further reducing the incentive to upgrade to Vista.

I'm not a serious gamer, but I'm anticipating Blizzard's eventual release of StarCraft-2. My understanding is that StarCraft-2 will be released for Mac simultaneously with Windows, and may be Dx9/WinXP compatible. I'm in no hurry to upgrade just yet.

Microsoft's business is built on the twin pillars of Windows and Office, and Microsoft is also being challenged on the office productivity front. The OpenOffice.org suite is free and provides a medium-duty alternative to the heavy-duty MS Office. In my experience, OOo also imports/exports MS Word documents better than commercial competitor WordPerfect. To the extent that a person can survive on OpenOffice, Firefox and a generic email program, one can probably get rid of Windows entirely and switch to Linux. If you still need it, MS Office products exist for both Windows and Mac, though Outlook is Windows only. (MS offers Mac users Entourage to connect with MS Exchange servers, but Outlook it ain't.)

OpenOffice is somewhat clunky but usable as it stands, but IBM has recently indicated it will support OOo (which is primarily a Sun product) and IBM will be releasing a free office suite, probably derived from OOo, as is Sun's StarOffice.

Improvements in Office alternatives are contrasted with a controversial user interface overhaul in the latest MS Office. The contextual "ribbon" has replaced drop down menus. So many users hate the ribbon that third party software exists to undo the change. Further, it is widely believed that, for most users, the marginal utility of new features in MS Office peaked 8 to 10 years ago, leaving many users with little incentive to upgrade to the latest MS Office.

Summing up, Microsoft has alienated core users of its two cash-cow products just as commercial and open-source alternatives are stepping up their game. If this trend does not reverse, Microsoft will suffer throughout this upgrade cycle, and MSFT may not survive future upgrade cycles.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why bother? Linc quits GOP

"Chafee quietly quits the GOP"

Why now? I mean, you made the NRSC blow a ton of cash on you, thumbed your nose at the values of the party, and NOW you decide to quit?

Chafee said he disaffiliated with the party he had helped lead, and his father had led before him, because the national Republican Party has gone too far away from his stance on too many critical issues, from war to economics to the environment.

“It’s not my party any more,” he said.

Linc, it never was your party. You disagreed with us about everything. You being a Republican was a bad joke. You made Arlen Specter look like Jerry Falwell. I can't think of a single issue where Senator Chafee resembled a Republican.

Good riddance.

Memo to Dems: Hide Kerry in a closet

Senators McCain and Kerry appeared head-to-head today on Meet the Press to discuss the Iraq war and the Petraeus-Crocker testimony.

What planet is John Kerry living on? He wants fewer troops there, but not a total pullout, and also not the number we had before the surge. He would like enough troops to train Iraqi security forces and to fight AQ, but he gave no indication how many troops that might be.

Aside from being completely ambivalent and/or contradictory about what it is that Kerry wants, he had the misfortune of debating the single most credible and knowledgeable Republican Senator on this issue, John McCain. McCain was, of course, for the war from the start, critical of the Bush/Rummy management from the start, and as a constructive critic he eagerly welcomed the Petraeus "surge" campaign which shows some tentative signs of progress. From a pro-war stance, it doesn't get any better than that.

Kerry on the other hand has been all over the place, which is representative of the Democratic coalition. Some want out yesterday, some want out within a year (or some other arbitrary time frame), and some want Kerry's indeterminate number of troops necessary to do things that we've only recently had any success doing under the Petraeus plan.

McCain bested Kerry hands down. And when Kerry felt threatened he went back to the old chestnuts of Bush "misleading" us with "false pretenses", and the fairy tale of how AQ was not in Iraq beforehand - which has the twin virtues of being both factually wrong (-1-, -2-, -3-) and strategically irrelevant.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Et tu, CQ?

I've been mildly irritated with Congressional Quarterly's slight leftward bias for some time, so I'm calling it out.

In their "midday update" e-newsletter article "Skeptical Senators Confront Crocker, Petraeus on Iraq", the first sentence was "A bipartisan chorus on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed skepticism Tuesday that Iraqis will mend their sectarian differences sufficiently to allow recent security gains to produce stability."

Bipartisan? In the loosest sense of the word. The piece cites exactly two Republican Senators, Hagel and Lugar. Hagel has been against the war for a very long time, and Lugar has been a thorn in his fellow partisans' sides since at least June.

Two senators.

The Petraeus hearings allowed both sides to engage in idiotic political theater by grandstanding about their position and asking extremely loaded questions of Petraeus and Amb. Crocker. But they didn't reflect "bipartisan" skepticism.

Monday, September 10, 2007

No amount of evidence

It says something about one's capacity for judgment when "... no amount of charts or statistics (t-7:24)" will change Congressman Lantos' mind about Iraq.

Statistics, aren't they representations of, you know.... facts?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fox means Business (?)

News Corp's acquisition of Dow Jones (and consequently the Wall Street Journal) was made in anticipation of the launch of the Fox Business News channel. FBN seems designed to compete head-on with CNBC.

I have mixed feelings about FBN. None of them stem from the leftist paranoia about dominance of the Rupert Murdoch media empire.

On the positive side, it may provide a kick in the pants to CNBC. The content on CNBC is repetitive, and often irrelevant or wrong. I've even heard guests on CNBC criticize the channel for concentrating on market price action rather than analyzing potentially tradeable news and data.

On the negative side, Fox is stealing away talent from CNBC, such as popular Fast Money trader Eric Bolling, and some-time contributor Doug Kass. CNBC has recently realized it is competing on the broader entertainment segment and has enlisted star Jim Cramer and promoted the so-far unique and very popular Fast Money show. But Cramer is getting long in the tooth, and Fast Money has suffered greatly from the loss of Bolling, and is still smarting from the prior loss of Tim Strazzini. Fox's dilution of the space may mean that more hackish personalities fill the void of those relatively more entertaining and informative.

Also negative is the probability that FBN will provide programming that is more similar to CNBC than to Bloomberg. More price-action reporting, more "bulls and bears" talk. If Fox News's Saturday morning business block is any indication, FBN will be worse than CNBC. A recent segment on CNBC's Fast Money recently spent most of the segment making fun of the name of an options trade strategy (the "Iron Butterfly"), and a just a sliver of time actually explaining what it was and why anybody would want to put on that trade. I fear Fox won't even discuss such things at all.

Additionally, the weekends at CNBC are largely filled with infomercials, leading me to question whether there is enough content for another business channel.

There's room for improvement in the business news space, but Fox had better provide a useful information service and would be wise to steer clear of superficial reporting.

Dear Fred - please find second gear

In the astronomically unlikely event that somebody who once shook hands with Fred Thompson's babysitter will read this, here it goes.

Fred - Your online announcement video was too long by half. It should have ended after your autobiographical story with an invitation to watch other (also shorter) videos, and to otherwise poke around your website. All I wanted was for it be over.

There's not much wrong with the content of your message, just the presentation. There is indeed a demand in the Republican party for a first-principles candidate, as you appear to be projecting, but unfortunately our principles are often either out of favor with the voters or the voters don't believe that we eat our own dog food, as evidenced by the prescription drug entitlement, the "bridge to nowhere", and Larry Craig.

Our principles need to be easily digestible in bites no longer than 90 seconds, and voters need to think we mean it this time - even if it seems we didn't mean it in the past.

As you jostle around your campaign staff in a transition from a kitchen table campaign to a war-room campaign, remember that you can't just jettison the idea of a new-media communications strategy. Winning the nomination will take both a top-rate traditional campaign as well as an outstanding new media strategy.

A fantastic looking website is only the beginning. A serious new-media strategy will give potential supporters more than a web-widget for fundraising. A top notch web campaign is more than a half-hearted blog. Your supporters need a way to connect with each other to spontaneously organize, and they also need a link back to home-base.

In short, you probably should have kept all your old staffers and merely added to the payroll, creating two parallel campaigns. In "real life" as well as online, you need to distill the conservative message down to meaningful, common sense concepts so we can have a fighting chance against socialized medicine and trade restrictions. In short, go read a few of Reagan's speeches. You're supposed to be the Reaganesque candidate, no?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Clinton promises to raise taxes

... in order to save Social Security.

(As seen on NRO)

Well, she doesn't say so explicitly, but she's logically ruled out everything else.

No benefit cuts, no increased retirement age, and absolutely no privatization (because "it's not the answer to anything").

Just "fiscal responsibility", the only free variable remaining in the equation.

How many mainstream media organizations are going to ask Clinton about this?

[crickets chirp]

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Assimilation Probably Overrated Anyway

"State Faults Teachers of English Learners"

"Hundreds of students in Arizona are trying to learn English from teachers who don't know the language, state officials say. "

(As seen on Hot Air , NRO, and elsewhere.)

"Some teachers' English was so poor that even state officials strained to understand them. The state also found that students learning English at all ages were being taught by teachers who did not have appropriate training or materials. At a dozen districts, evaluators found teachers who ignored state law and taught in Spanish."

"At nine districts, some teachers did not know correct English grammar or pronunciation. In one classroom, the teacher's English was "labored and arduous." Other teachers were just difficult to understand. Some teachers pronounced "levels" as "lebels" and "much" as "mush.""

Wow. Go read the above link. There's more where that came from.

I thought a teacher had to, you know, actually graduate from college and pass a state examination to teach. How do you pass any examinations if you don't speak the language well?

It looks to me like assimilation of the current immigrant population is going to occur at about half the generational rate as previous immigrants such as Italians. Once upon a time, if an Italian moved to the US, he would learn some English -maybe enough to run a business, maybe not-, the kids would be fairly bilingual with a bias toward English, and the grandkids would be 99.9% assimilated. This is structurally impossible if the current generation of immigrant children is not being taught English outside the home.

Video over debate

Fred sez: Let them eat cake watch me on Leno and on the Intertubes.

Really, Mary Matalin has it right - Leno has the audience, and no normal person watches Presidential primary debates, particularly debates between the seventeen dwarves.

Are "expectations" high? Yes. Would expectations be any lower if Fred hadn't been a colossal tease until September 6th? Not really. We expect a lot from a President, and the ability to pull of a stunt like this has the ability to demonstrate that prowess. And in the process he's saved a couple of million bucks.

If he flakes out, it's no harm - no foul. I'm betting that he'll do well, but even if he doesn't I think John McCain's "Titanic" campaign ought to be seen as significantly more embarrassing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lil' Tikes Nanny Statism Woefully Wasteful

Exploring the most literal interpretation of "nanny statism", a study has shown that early childhood education initiatives in the UK have wasted about £21 billion over the last decade. (In the neighborhood of US $42.2 billion.)

"Sure Start", which sounds a lot like "Head Start" in the US, has "done more harm than good". Other research suggests state-sponsored daycare has "hindered their intellectual development as well as exacerbating their behaviour problems."

The solution? More state intervention!

"Undeterred by such failures, ministers are trying to produce a national curriculum for babies that will set targets for infants to reach before they are a year old."
...
"Alongside Sure Start, the Government has also introduced free nursery education for all year- olds and an early years curriculum.

This requires children to smile at toys at 11 months, respond to words by 20 months, recite numbers by 36 months, and sing familiar songs by the age of four."

Smile, kid. Or you fail!

Why, Governor Rendell, would we want to impose pre-kindergarten statewide in Pennsylvania when those funds could be used to better fund traditional education?

Early Childhood Education: When Governor Rendell took office, Pennsylvania was 1 of only 9 states in the nation that failed to fund pre-kindergarten. Today, thousands more students have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and small classes in grades K-3 through strategic investments in Head Start and the landmark accountability block grant. With continued commitment to our future, Pennsylvania will expand its investment in quality pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten to give all children the chance for a jump-start across the commonwealth.

While we're at it, let's give all the kids laptops too. Such a shame that "classrooms look exactly the same today as they did a generation ago". Too bad they don't get the same results.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Meet the New War...

...same as the old war.

This video is all over the place, but Hillary Clinton is simultaneously saying that the surge is working, but that it's "too late" - we're fighting "the last war" and "we have to be preparing to fight the new war".

Just so everybody has that straight, the war we're in right now, currently, in the present, is "the last war". And no matter how well we do, it's too late. Not sure what the new war is. Is Hillary getting ready to attack Iran? Surely not.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Enough with the Huckabee already

Frm Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee is not in any position to be "the next" Fred Thompson, or the next anything. Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO thinks otherwise.

Huckabee and Thompson [Ramesh Ponnuru]

If Gov. Huckabee manages to make something of his strong showing yesterday, isn't it a problem for Fred Thompson? Like Thompson, Huckabee is a southerner. But he has stronger social-conservative credentials and more executive experience, and he is now what Thompson was a few months ago: the new thing.

Huckabee placed second in the Iowa straw poll because nobody else was there except for Romney. Somebody on that list of losers had to be the "surprise" second. Huckabee trailed Romney by 12.9 percentage points. Senator Sam Brownback followed only by another 2.8 points, and only 4.4 points separates Huckabee from Tancredo, who wants to keep open the "deterrent" option of nuking Mecca and Medina.

(By the way Tanc, those cities don't lie in some imaginary Islamastan, but in Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally in the WOT. Ya might want to keep the nukes away from them.)

Huckabee has zero chance of being President, and a near zero chance of being Vice President. The Iowa poll is meaningless since only one of the big dogs decided to play. To me, Huckabee has the smell of Bush, somebody who will continue to implement new Federal spending programs that have a whiff of "social conservatism".

Thompson is (yawn!) blogging about Federalism and how Washington needs to continually ask itself whether any proposed program is within its proper purview. Heck, that's almost Ron Paul territory! Oh, and Thompson gets a second chance at being "the new thing" whenever he gets around to officially announcing.

Though totally statistically insignificant, I find it interesting that Fred beat all the other "no show" candidates, plus that Cox guy that less than nobody cares about.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Recession That Wasn't

Ken Fisher cites the Bureau of Economic Analysis in his book "The Only Three Questions That Count" for quarterly GDP data (pp 60, table 2.1), finding that no quarter in the period from 2000 to 2002 had negative GDP growth. The lowest was 2001-q3 at 0.06%.

Thus, for the classic definition of "recession" (two negative GDP growth quarters), we didn't have one.

(Fisher doesn't like the GDP definition of recession, and cites other evidence that there was a brief one in 2001. Fair enough, Ken Fisher is smarter than I am and a gazillion times richer. The point is things still weren't terrible.)

So now Larry Kudlow can stop talking about the "recovery" now as there was hardly anything from which to recover. And we're well into the business cycle, possibly going down the other side if you listen to some. At some point the "recovery" blends into "the normal cycle of economic expansion". Also, the Democrats can stop talking about how the economy under Bush has been awful, because that's a flat lie.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hillary won't "socialize" medicine

socialize - Verb, trans. : (1) To place under government or group ownership or control. (American Heritage Dictionary via dictionary.com)


When asked about her continued plans to socialize medicine in the US, Senator Clinton responded:

"That was a string of misrepresentations about me and about the systems in other countries," Clinton started. "Number one, I have never advocated socialized medicine, and I hope all the journalists here heard that loudly and clearly because that has been a right-wing attack on me for 15 years."

Clinton's plan, which died in Congress in 1994, would have required employers to provide health-care coverage to employees through health-maintenance organizations. Insurance firms opposed the proposal, as did political conservatives who thought it removed health care -- a huge portion of the nation's economy -- from the competitive marketplace.

"Do you think Medicare is socialized medicine?" Clinton asked her inquisitor, who did not identify himself.

Hillary, get a dictionary. Yes, Medicare is indeed socialized medicine. The only reason it isn't a total disaster is that it is parasitic on the free(er)-market healthcare system for little things like hospitals, doctors, and drug research.

If anybody doubts this is socialization of medicine, ask whether her proposals tend towarad "free market capitalism", or "government or group control". Let's call things by their proper names - this is increased socialism. Don't like the word? Think it sounds to harsh? Tough crap.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Presidential Panderfest Tour: 2007-2008

I hate to call them debates because virutally nothing gets debated.

We had the Af-Am debate at Howard, the YouTube debate - did they have the gay debate yet? I know I just watched part of a GOP Iowa debate.

Now we're looking at a Spanish language debate for Univision.

I don't want to get into the whole "speak English in America" thing. It's been done to death. I'm disturbed by the broader fractionalizing of the electorate. Or to put it another way, the utter lack of any unifying goals as Americans. We're no longer debating the best way to skin the cat. We can't even agree that the cat needs to be skinned. Today's most pressing political question: What can you do for my extremely narrow identity?

With the arguable exception of gay marriage, every single issue addressed at one of these forums impacts the rest of the country. The Corn Mafia demands ethanol promotion, which raises food prices for the rest of America - nay, the whole freaking world!

Not just Iowa.

Immigration affects school districts with ESL class expenditures, small businesses, labor wages, etc.

Not just Hispanics.

Politics would be so much easier if politicians couldn't just get away with saying "I secured X percent more funding for project Y" without having to justify why Y needed more funding and whether the additional funding was empirically beneficial to Y. But I digress.

Let's have actual debates among few enough people that they can all be in the same camera shot. Let's debate tax policy, Iraq, immigration, gay rights, energy, healthcare, free trade, whatever. And let's do it all at the same time. For everybody.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

House Dems perform economic voodoo in energy bill

Apparently, the House Democrats want to ensure lower energy costs by mandating that power companies use more expensive fuel. This was part of a bill to tax oil companies and mandate the use of renewable fuels in electrical generation.

"This will save consumers money," said Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the provision's co-sponsor, maintaining utilities will have to use less high-priced natural gas.

Yes, because those greedy profit-motivated utility companies hadn't considered the high cost of NatGas, and just figured they'd burn fossil fuels for the sheer fun of polluting the air, ignoring their much impugned profit motive.

For the record, I'm all for getting rid of tax incentives for oil companies so long as they are then allowed to drill offshore and in ANWR and any other place where there might be resources.

Clearly when a Democrat says they respect or understand market forces you should reach for your wallet. A more realistic energy plan would pump money into R&D in order to make alt-energy sources economical, rather than just legislate that they be economical. To be fair, the article mentions some R&D funding for cellulosic ethanol, but I must have missed the mention of increased nuke-fission power plants and nuke-fusion R&D. And I somehow doubt that the cellulosic ethanol funding is anything close to the order of magnitude required to get the job done within a decade.

No, this is a fantasy-land energy bill destined for the Presidential veto pen, full of scorn for the evil corporations who sell you the products that power your cars and computers.

Fantasy Member of Congress Joe Collins (R-Pennsyltucky) would have introduced an amendment to the bill requiring windmills to be built within view of the Kennedy compound.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Double Standards

I'm not just paranoid - I'm not just paranoid - I'm not just paranoid.

I'm not just paranoid?

If this incident of alleged vote-stealing in the US House had occurred under Republican management I doubt the media coverage would have been as accommodating. People would be screaming bloody murder. Culture of Corruption and all that.

Dark Lord of the Sith Nancy Pelosi (D-Tatooine) attempted a Jedi mind trick, "There was no mistake made last night."

And If Prez Bush or any GOP candidate had talked cavalierly about invading Pakistan (in hot pursuit or on impeccable intelligence) I doubt he would have gotten the lenient treatment Obama got.

Mitt debates Moron

During a recent radio interview in Iowa, Mitt Romney was accosted by the radio host about the relationship between Romney's Mormon faith and his political views, particularly about abortion. Fortunately this clip (see link) reveals the idiocy of the host Jan Mickelson by showing him making some ridiculous argument about how a real conservative President would ignore spurious Supreme Court decisions. You know, just tell them who's the man. That's real democracy for ya.

I'm not the biggest Romney fan, though I certainly see some good qualities in him, and I wouldn't mind if he was the veep pick. But I think Romney did very well, and even though some described his demeanor in this clip as "heated", I think Mitt responded rather mildly to some asinine statements by the radio host even when he thought he wasn't being recorded.

A Romney spokesman said, "...[W]e reviewed and thought the governor handled the situation very well."

I agree. Score one for Mitt.