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.