Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Beeb: Buckley contribued to neo-con'ism (!)

The BBC's obit piece on William F. Buckley Jr. contained this sentence:

"National Review became an influence on Reaganite politics and contributed to the rise of the US neo-conservative movement."

It's hard for me to see WFB or NR as having "contributed" to neo-conservatism other than the fact that neo-conservatism borrowed from... conservatism. To the extent that NR embodied conservatism and became the fount from which all other conservative sects sprang, I suppose the statement is true; but NR was not and is not a home for neo-conservative thought.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stock Market Bottom?

Investors are wondering whether the US stock market has put in a bottom. I have no special insight based on firm economic indicators, but some qualitative evidence colors my opinion negatively.

Watching CNBC, I see advertisements for all sorts of services and products, but two stand out for their audacity. Investools and E-Trade are promoting their wares via the sheer excitement of buying stock. In the Investools ad, regular Joe types appear on trading floors shouting orders while basking in the glow of their own independent genius. In the E-Trade ads, home-gamers sit at their computers either marveling at their own power or being cheered on by a friendly audience.

Silly me, I always thought people played the stock market hoping to make money. Stock trading can certainly give a drug-like experience, but that's not why a person should invest. Products advertised on financial television typically tout the ability for said product to make a person money, not give them an adrenaline pop.

If individual investors - "home gamers" - are being lured into the market as some sort of eXtreme sport then I fear not enough weak hands have been shaken out to produce a bottom.

Or maybe with so much blood in the streets the advertisers can't think of any better way to promote their products.

We shall see.

(As I write this the S&P 500 stands at about 1340-ish.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Anti-Huck

Lest we with McCain Derangement Syndrome be lured into voting for Huckabee, let's review the record.

An oldie, but a goodie:

"For God's sake, would Huckabee's supporters please look past his opportunistic rhetoric and examine his record. I know its hard for you, but, come on, give it a try."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Gerson opines on McCain's "victory" over talk radio

Michael Gerson, ex-Bushie who coined the phrase "heroic conservatism" to rebrand the disaster of "compassionate conservatism", rambles incoherently in this WaPo/RCP piece.

Gerson begins with a bang:

The attacks of movement conservatives -- particularly the talk radio and blogging crowd -- on John McCain have reached a shrill, off-key crescendo. McCain is not only "dangerous" and "stupid," he has "contempt for his fellow humans." His opponents will refuse to vote in the general election, or even will campaign for Hillary Clinton. With McCain now almost the last man standing, it will be interesting to see how, or if, these pledges are fulfilled.

McCain is partly responsible for this state of affairs. Over the years, he has enjoyed poking angry bears with short sticks -- flirting with conversion to the Democratic Party and lashing out at Christian conservatives as "agents of intolerance."

If anybody is to be accused of poking angry bears with short sticks it is Gerson, who without any sense of irony continues to do so throughout the piece.

He continues [emphasis added]:
Immigration is not a simple political issue like crime; it is a complex political issue like affirmative action. Many Americans, and most Republicans, oppose affirmative action. But a candidate who makes this issue the emotional centerpiece of his or her campaign gains a taint of intolerance. The choice itself symbolizes a divisive approach to politics.
Here, Gerson appears to be arguing that by taking a principled view that is at odds with what some measurably large group of people thinks, one is inherently being "divisive". And of course "divisive" is code for "bad".

Was immigration ever any candidate's "emotional centerpiece"? It was certainly a point of contrast with McCain. If it was emotionally charged it was in reaction to the heavy handed no-amendments/no-debate amnesty approach by McCain et al, who were all too quick to call their fellow Republicans racists. It was McCain who started this fight.

More:
The most pro-immigration Republican candidate is likely to be the Republican nominee -- not because his view on this topic prevailed, but because a strong, appealing presidential candidate does not target millions of men and women as a political strategy.
McCain won, in large part, for three reasons: the lack of a clear alternative candidate, the existence of several open and semi-open primary contests, and the arrangement of winner-take-all vs caucus contests that were originally devised to help tilt the table towards Giuliani.

And to wrap it all up in a cloak of "heroic" warm fuzzies:
But John McCain displayed the most ideological continuity with Bush's moral internationalism. McCain has argued that the "protection and promotion of the democratic ideal" is the "surest source of security and peace." He calls for a "League of Democracies" that would "relieve human suffering in places such as Darfur, combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, fashion better policies to confront environmental crises. ..." And McCain is one of the strongest Republican supporters (along with Huckabee) of the commitments of the bipartisan ONE Campaign to treat global AIDS, eradicate malaria, fight hunger and provide clean water in the poorest places on Earth. (By way of disclosure, I sit on the advisory board of ONE Vote '08.)

The ONE campaign is clearly advocating a large amount of international welfare. It would be one thing for the US to intervene in one-off crises or disasters, but a large-scale permanent welfare super-state is not at all a conservative sentiment. These people need infrastructure, the rule of law, and DDT. Not handouts and mosquito nets. Fix the disease, don't just treat the symptoms.

Romney 2012? - No.

Some conservatives are getting a bit carried away with their love for Mitt Romney. A few like K-Lo at NRO think Romney is setting up for a run in 2012 or 2016 as the official Next-In-Line Republican candidate. Let's slow down a bit.

Romneymania was a product of fear and loathing conservatives felt about McCain. If Romney really was Mister Conservative he would have wrapped up the nomination long ago, and Fred Thompson's candidacy would never have happened.

But Romney wasn't viewed as the second coming of Reagan - and with good reason. His conversions to conservative opinions were very conveniently timed. And some of his positions weren't even particularly conservative even after his conversion; He imposed mandated health insurance in Massachusetts, which while marginally better than a British-style regime is hardly a conservative plan.

This isn't to say that I'd be totally opposed to a future Romney candidacy, but he'd have to put in some time between now and then to shore up his conservative credentials.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Voting Strategery

It appears Mitt Romney's candidacy is in serious trouble, perhaps fatally wounded. C'est la vie. Sometimes elections are lost. I will continue to advocate for Romney until the bitter end, but I cannot join the ranks of those such as Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter who will refuse to vote for McCain come November.

McCain is a very bad candidate, but he's better than the Obama or Clinton. He has been duplicitous about why he voted against Bush's tax cuts, but I do believe he is a sincere hawk on spending. The Democrats claim the mantle of "fiscal responsibility" as a code word for higher taxes, but McCain legitimately can use the phrase to mean "less pork".

McCain will pick better judges than Clinton or Obama. Yes, McCain has said disturbing things about Alito's conservatism, but better a few Kennedys on the high court than a few Ginsburgs, should it come to that.

McCain will win the war in Iraq. He may not do much more than that, but he will at least get us that far.

McCain's immigration policy has been a consistent thorn in the side of any conservative worthy of the moniker, but he's pledged to "build the g*dd@mn fence." Do we think Obama or Clinton would do that?

McCain will keep us away from socialized medicine. This is actually the one area where he's better than Romney.

McCain has admitted he doesn't know much about economics. Perhaps this one instance of honest modesty will prevent him from tinkering with a system he acknowledges he is ill-equipped to deal with, which is light-years ahead of the promised interference Hillary would impose.

I hate McCain's campaign finance restrictions, I hate his previous immigration position, I'm not thrilled with his current immigration position, I hate how they tried to jam amnesty down our throats without debate, I hate McCain's class warfare, I hate how he denigrates Big Pharma, etc.

But I'll vote for the bastard. With one caveat.

If McCain picks Huckabee to be his veep, all bets are off.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Doctor Strange-Curve..."

... or "How Democrats should stop worrying and learn to love the Laffer Curve".

Democrats love to dis the so-called Laffer Curve, named after Arther Laffer, but conceptually with humanity for centuries before Laffer. Democrats reflexively set up a straw man that Republicans foolishly think all tax cuts pay for themselves. This is of course not at all what the Laffer curve claims, as indicated in the following short video. (h/t Larry Kudlow at NRO).



What the Laffer curve does is indicate the level of taxation at which government revenues are maximized. Republicans and libertarians don't want to maximize government revenue, but to minimize it while maximizing economic freedom.

One would think that Democrats would after all want to maximize government revenue. But they don't. They want to go beyond maximization to inhibit freedom and promote their social and economic "justice" values. This is otherwise known as "socialism".

Monday, February 04, 2008

Hill Wept - Fool me once... [updated]

Once again, right before a major electoral test, Hillary Clinton cries in public.

I thought her previous "episode" was probably genuine, if filled with narcissism.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

[UPDATED: Much ado about nothing...]

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hillary Dissembles on "This Week"

HRC was on ABC's "This Week" rambling about her candidacy. I don't have the intestinal fortitude to go through every forked-tongue answer she gave, but here's a good one on the issue of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants:
"I attempted to support my governor as he tried to do something that is admittedly controversial, but I said at the time it was not something that I supported. When that didn't work it was very clear that... my position has been consistent. I don't think we should be giving drivers' licenses to people who are not documented."
Is it just me or did she say two different things in the same sentence?

Another zinger was that she also refused to admit that the "enforcement mechanism" for her mandatory health insurance scheme would imply fines or wage garnishment.

Also, a note to Hillary from me: Stubbornly clinging to positions that have been thoroughly destroyed (like how Obama eviscerated your plan to interfere in the mortgage markets, let alone all the Republican criticisms) does not count as "being tested". You failed the test.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

McCain tells us he's a "True Conservative"

The latest McCain ad tells us he's a "True Conservative" who ... uh... was a POW and had his picture taken with Reagan. Oh, and he'll "keep taxes low" and is somewhat generically a "social conservative". But both of those last two things are true of Romney, perhaps truer. Why am I not impressed? Why would a true conservative need to tell us how conservative he is, particularly this far into the primary process?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Repubs on McCain - Bush buyer's remorse?

In politics, the electorate is almost always fighting the last battle, looking backwards. Even with the 1992 Clinton election in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, issues of a backward-oriented view of the economy were center stage.

It occurs to me that Republican primary voters might have a latent case of buyer's remorse for the 2000 primary where Bush prevailed over John McCain. In retrospect, it's reasonable to imagine McCain having done a better job executing military strategies in the post-911 world than Bush. To some, it would be hard to imagine anybody doing worse than Bush.

But this is not 2000, and Romney is at the very least a skilled technocrat. The next President needs a broad skill set to address the nation's problems. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. McCain is a hammer man. McCain has shown no real ability to further a conservative agenda beyond earmark spending and a subset of military issues. Romney has most of the toolbox at his disposal.

Just look at the Handy Dandy Candidate Comparison Chart.