Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poor Headline Choice

I'm not going to give it the "misleading headline of the day" award, but I can't help but think the Politico could have come up with something better than this:

"Bush approves soldier's execution"

Yes, a convicted multiple murderer and multiple rapist. Who was sentenced to death in the 1980's. By unanimous agreement of his court-martial. It's not like he was strapping G.I. Joe to the chair.

The Politico also tries to inject some additional controversy:
"In the military justice system, a member of the Armed Forces cannot be executed until the President “approves” the death sentence. Thus, unlike the civilian context, where the President may be asked to exercise his clemency authority to stop an execution, in the military system, the President effectively orders the execution. This is an important distinction."


Really? An "important distinction"? At best I'd call that a distinction without a difference. Whether in a military or civilian context, some big-wig exercises his own discretion to decide whether a convict lives or dies...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Minimal Effort GOP Support

I've made exactly two political donations in my life, and the sum of both is still under $100. Not having a lot of extra scratch lying around, I'm exceedingly disinclined to open my checkbook any time soon.

So I bring to you the GOP browser toolbar. Install it, search with it, and earn a few pennies for the party.

Giuliani over Ridge for VP

I'm hearing renewed speculation about Tom Ridge as McCain's Vice Presidential pick. This is a bad idea.

I'm certainly not the first to criticize the possibility of Ridge for VP, with perhaps the most notable criticism coming from National Review (On Dead Tree, sorry no link.) referring to Ridge as one of "McCain's Untouchables" (along with Lieberman, Crist, and Huckabee).

The biggest hangup would be Ridge's position on abortion. He has other negatives too, like not being particularly economically conservative, and being the first Secretary of Homeland Security - a monstrous bureaucracy that is hardly the model of efficiency (or perhaps even utility).

If we're going to have a Veep who is pro choice -which I would not be overly thrilled with- I say ditch Ridge and go for Giuliani. Giuliani can at least make the case that he was an effective executive who understands the economy and can placate economic conservatives on issues of taxation and spending. Giuliani has also undergone scrutiny from religious conservatives. No, clearly not all of them were on board, but he did earn their respect and bent over backwards to assure them on the matter of judicial nominations. Rudy also has national appeal, and I suspect more appeal among Pennsylvanians than their former Governor.

Giuliani isn't a perfect choice for Vice President, but he's better than Ridge. And in this political environment being a relative outperformer is worth quite a bit.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jindal-icious

Kathleen Parker at NR sings the praises of the young Governor Jindal, then decides that he should wait a while before engaging the national electorate.

"Yeah, but can he juggle machetes?"

Jindal's experience easily surpasses Obama's in any number of respects. Congressman, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, President of the University of Louisiana System, and nascent Governor. The "anti-Obama", as Parker says.

I'm not so dismissive of the possibility. An anti-Obama is exactly what we need if we're going to pull this election out of the fire.

Sure, he has his negatives, but then again so does Obama. Witnessing an exorcism and writing about it is no more unseemly than what went on in Trinity UCC during Obama's membership there.

There's also renewed support for a Palin VP nomination. I am supportive of this effort as well, and I think in many ways she also compares favorably to Obama. Whichever VP McCain finally picks I anticipate contrasting the experience of the bottom of the GOP ticket with the top of the Donks'.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hype Artist

Citizens United is releasing a movie about Obama entitled "Hype: The Obama Effect". It's a $23.95 pre-order on their website, which I think is a little steep for what is essentially an extended political ad. I think it needs to be like $9.99 on DVD and probably a free BitTorrent download.

Anyway, some video...

30 Second TV ad:


Trailer (4:35):

Monday, July 21, 2008

Plame who?

Whatever one thinks of the Valerie Plame affair, it seems the NY Times did not learn anything from it.

Basically, the paper deliberately published the name of a former interrogator against the expressed wishes of the CIA. Not some accidental slip by a reporter who may or may not have been fed some information about some Nth level bureaucrat by the Bushies. The paper purposefully reported the name of a man who interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

(click through to see the letter the DNI wrote to the NYT)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Convergence" is hypothetical

As the situation in Iraq continues to improve, some would have you believe that the Iraq policies of McCain and Obama are converging. Yes, in both instances there are scenarios where most of our troops are out of Iraq within the term of the next President, but this theoretical convergence is dependent on conditions largely outside the control of any American politician.

The fundamental difference of priorities remains. McCain's priority is to win, meaning roughly to leave behind an Iraq that is more or less democratic and not militarily hostile to us or to its neighbors. If we can win and get the bulk of our troops out, that would be great. You might even say that's the plan: Return on Victory.

Obama, on the other hand, has prioritized "ending the war". Roughly, again, this means getting the bulk of our troops out of Iraq, and if we happen to pull out some sort of winning scenario, all the better.

The convergence theory breaks down in case things start heating up again. McCain will keep us there, and Obama will walk away, to "end the war" one way or the other.

All of this convergence talk is in my estimation a very artificial narrowing of the candidates' positions, and by extension their ability to be Commander in Chief. Their strategies (in the strict sense of the word) are very different and those differences should not be minimized.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The need for ballot paper trails

It would be a pretty lousy for the American experiment to end with a crisis in confidence in the electoral process. The 2000 Florida debacle pretty much stretched the limits of our collective willingness to withstand that sort of thing.

In the process of supposedly cleaning up our voting mechanisms to create clear winners and losers, many jurisdictions adopted pure electronic vote counting machines with no paper trail for verification. This move has astonished me to no end, as it opens our political system up for endless claims of manipulation that can neither be proved or disproved. And now we have claims that the 2002 Georgia races of Governor and Senator were manipulated by Diebold, with implications for the 2004 Ohio Presidential ballot.

Once upon a time I worked for a private Republican polling firm that did work in Georgia in 2002. Our most dire scenario did not have Chambliss taking the drubbing that some of the public polls did, but we were a little surprised that the gubernatorial race turned in Perdue's favor. So I guess I'm saying that the numbers came in for us a little better than expected, but not totally out of whack like the article says.

Still, that is subordinate to the larger point. The point is that these sorts of allegations are simultaneously poisonous to American democracy and completely 100% preventable. Every election from now until our second civil war will be contested until results are verifiable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Misleading headline of the day

The award goes to Reuters for "White House threatens to veto oil drilling bill".

One would imagine that the bill in question somehow fundamentally alters the amount of domestic oil drilling, with a strong implication that the bill would increase said drilling. That would be wrong.

The White House on Thursday threatened to veto legislation being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives that would force oil companies to give up undrilled federal leases and ban the export of crude drilled in Alaska.

Ok, they're already called "leases" because they expire. If they didn't expire, they would be called "purchases".

The bill, which the House was to vote on later on Thursday, has a "use it or lose it" provision that requires oil companies to diligently develop their existing federal leases or turn them back to the government before they could obtain new acres to drill.

It's hard to see how this increases domestic production... if ABC Oil Company doesn't drill on a leased area that they've already paid for it's hard to see why XYZ Oil Company would be in a hurry to scoop up that property. And again, they're leased properties. They expire anyway. But the Democrats will say anything to change the subject from offshore drilling.

Back that whole Alaska thing for a moment. I've heard rumblings about Alaskan oil being exported, and I just don't care. Even Reuters says "virtually none of the state's crude has been shipped to other countries in the past eight years". But it doesn't matter if all of the Alaskan oil was being exported. It's easier to move money than crude oil, and if it's more economical to ship every drop of Alaskan oil to Japan and China, take the money and buy more of the same thing from Canada, Mexico, etc, then it would be idiotic not to do so.

Thankfully somebody at the White House was on top of that one:
"Such a ban would make virtually no additional oil available to U.S. consumers, and would not lower oil prices that are set in a world market," the White House said. "At the same time, such export restrictions are detrimental to the efficient operation of global energy markets and would send the wrong signal to our trading partners who may face pressure to impose similar trade restrictions."

What part of "world market" do you not understand, Democrats? I'm going to go with the "market" part, but you can make a case for the whole shebang.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

US funding for coercive abortions?

The Senate voted 70-24 (story, vote) to table Senator DeMint's amendments to narrow the scope of an international AIDS relief bill, including an effort to eliminate funding "for any organization or program which supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilizations." (emp. added)

Now, DeMint's amendments did several other things that a person might reasonably disagree with, like reducing the total level of funding and narrowing the number of nations receiving aid, but one would think that even the Democrats would be opposed to coercive abortions and involuntary sterilizations, let alone FUNDING such atrocities. (I guess it's only "reproductive freedom" if you aren't reproducing.)

I don't want to draw a bold pro-life/pro-choice line here, as several very pro-life senators such as Hatch and Brownback voted to table the amendments. But I might humbly suggest that this is at best a very poor use of US taxpayer money.

Kidney Stones from Global Warming?

What won't they blame on global warming?

More Americans are likely to suffer from kidney stones in the coming years as a result of global warming, according to researchers at the University of Texas.

Could people be any less serious about this?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Much Is That iPhone In The Window?

Journalists able to see through the new low price of iPhone v2.0 notice that it costs $1975 over the course of your two year ATT-Wireless contract.

And yes, that's something to consider. But how much MORE does that cost me than my antique (2.5 year old) piece of junk phone, also on ATT?

After rebate, I think my piece of junk cost me twenty bucks. Your basic "places phone calls" phone. My plan is $39.99 a month (plus fees and taxes that put on almost ten bucks of course, but we'll ignore that).

Farnoosh Torabi at thestreet.com cites the following figures for the 3-G iPhone...
$199 for the actual phone
$30 / mo data service
$39 / mo voice
$5 / mo SMS
----
$74 / mo total service charges

(I'm pretty sure the voice service would be like mine, $39.99, but what's a buck among friends?)

Over the life of the contract that comes to...
$199 phone
$1776 service
-----
$1975.00

Yeah, that's a decent amount of cash. But what does my plain vanilla phone cost me?

$39.99 / mo = $959.76 / 2 year contract
+$20.00 phone
------
979.76

So the marginal cost of getting an iPhone versus a hunk-o-junk is about $995.24 spread over two years, give or take a few bucks for rounding errors, or an extra $41.47 / month over those two years. And for that upgrade I get an iPod/phone/camera/mobile internet device thingie, not just a talking brick.

Given that having a cell phone is a greater necessity than having a landline for the iPhone target demographic, this isn't that extravagant. People easily spend that much money on their bar tabs over a month.

Apple is going to sell a heckava lot of iPhones.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Enviro-hubris strikes back

The ethanol boondoggle rears its ugly head once again. A World Bank report claims biofuels are responsible for the 75% increase in food prices, contradicting US government claims of only a 3% impact.

What has the greater chance of making a third-worlder hate the West - a war in Iraq that probably doesn't impact them at all unless they happen to live in Iraq, or a 75% increase in food costs due to US and European biofuel mandates?

I think a starving toddler carries more weight than a far-away war.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

What is wrong with Britain?

A day late for an Independence Day "England Sucks" post, but them's the breaks.... (via Drudge)

"Schoolboys disciplined for 'refusing to pray to Allah'"

At first I thought it might be some rebellious young muslims in a religious school. No. Non-muslim kids at a secular school were made to prostrate themselves to learn about Islam.

Their parents are understandably furious.

Said one parent, "It seems to be happening throughout society. People think they can ride roughshod over our beliefs and the way we live."