Posted by Rojas @ 11:07 pm on April 30th 2008

DUST BUSTERS!

Who you gonna call? Why, the EPA, of course.

The Environmental Protection Agency has imposed new regulations to restrict–I am not joking about this–the amount of “fugitive dust” emitted by farms. Joyful Cynic has the details:

This September 21, 2006, ruling defines fugitive dust as particles lifted into the air by man-made and natural activities such as the movement of soil, vehicles, equipment, livestock, blasting and wind. The bureaucrats at the EPA want to limit dust emissions to 150 micrograms per cubic meter in any 24-hour period. As pointed out in Jim Suber’s column in the October 19, 2006, issue of the Wamego Times, that’s “the rough equivalent of one twenty-eighth of one ounce of water in two Olympic-sized pools.”

Ah, where would American agriculture be without the EPA? Fertilizer runoff has created an annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico approximately the size of the state of New Jersey (which is also, by interesting coincidence, a dead zone). The EPA has no solutions in mind for the extermination of the gulf fisheries that made Bubba Gump famous, but by God, they’ve got a firm handle on the Impending Dust Crisis.

Posted by Adam @ 3:12 pm on April 30th 2008

So is it farewell to the Rawalpindi Express?

Shoaib Akhtar, the ‘Rawalpindi Express’, has been a somewhat mercurial and unreliable fast bowler (really fast, indeed, the fastest bowler since bowling speeds have been regularly measured) for Pakistan and it looks like his career is pretty much over after the rejection of his appeal against a five-year ban for criticising the PCB, an event which comes after a long career history of being an all-purpose prick. He’s banned from playing in, or representing, Pakistan, which means his international career is certainly over unless he somehow wins a second appeal.

A great talent, but he was never really making the most of it anyhow, I suppose (he only played 43 tests in his career, which is a real shame). Here’s a compilation of some happier times, where mostly he’s bowling batsmen out rather than hitting them (but be assured that he’s hit a lot of them, which is not against the rules as such):

Posted by Adam @ 2:17 pm on April 30th 2008

Operation Demented

I haven’t been listening to Limbaugh’s show so I can’t judge how tongue-in-cheek he is over this whole ‘Operation Chaos’ thing, but I’m not sure, in any case, for how long the joke remains funny. In any event, according to Jonathan Martin, Limbaugh has ordered a restart to Operation Chaos after a mere day’s merciful respite for the terrified Obamites.

Myself, I won’t shed any tears if Clinton wins the Democrat nomination — although it’s not completely obvious that she’s that much of a weaker candidate than Obama, I still think that she is somewhat weaker, so as I support McCain I’m sort of OK with her winning — but the problem with being a self-proclaimed leader of conservatism is that it’s a lot easier to do when you’re leading them in the direction they’re already going. If you call for this sort of stuff and it, hmmm, falls flat, then whom exactly are you leading?

Posted by Adam @ 11:16 am on April 30th 2008

What is the domestic political implication of the US death rate in Iraq?

Although it’s a pretty stupid metric to pick, the number and rate of US military deaths in Iraq is nevertheless an important one (you can generally see current and historical totals here, which although a site founded by anti-war types is pretty good on the US casualty figures, albeit having apparent server trouble as I write this).

So, although an increase to 47 deaths this month past might not in itself be enough to worry military planners (they might be worried about what underlies the increase, but that’s a more complex issue) it might have political impact, particularly on John McCain.

Anecdotally, it seems to me that whilst stories of increasing or steady rates of US deaths are newsworthy in the US mass media, the absence of deaths (like most absences of newsworthy items) isn’t very newsworthy in itself; when members of the public do apply the metric of US deaths to judge how badly things are going in Iraq, then, it’s politically bad for McCain twice. It hurts McCain when things are increasing or maintaining a level to which they have risen and it doesn’t much benefit him when they’re lower. Now, that’s the nature of one’s political fortunes being tied to something as intrinsically unpopular as a longish foreign war — I don’t think that there’s any point blaming the media, who are simply following their audience’s interests and whilst I do think that the majority of the voting public are pretty seriously mistaken in their opinions surrounding how to judge progress and potential success, not to mention the best course of action with respect to Iraq in general, that’s their right — but there clearly was some benefit to McCain from the reduction of the US bodycount rate over the last 6 months or so. If nothing else, it allowed him to focus on the underlying qualities that make him appeal to voters, including those underlying his continued (and unpopular) vocal support of the Iraq effort when things were much grimmer as reported by the press.

So, my question, I guess, is what effect an increase in the rate of US deaths might have on the election and to what level the rate of US deaths would have to increase to achieve whatever effects it might. This is not the only metric (and it’s certainly not close to the best one; even the rate of expenditure of money probably makes more sense) but it seems to me that it’s a powerful one nevertheless (as I linked, this month’s increase to 47 US servicepeople killed in April has made the press and I think that I heard Rachel Maddow mention it yesterday on MSNBC).

Personally, I think that over a hundred deaths in a month is going to re-awaken the passions of the anti-war section of the middle (the middle looking to be the key sector of the electorate, particularly if it’s a McCain-Obama election as it looks to be). I think that those people, who I guess are a significant majority of the middle, are currently against the war and maybe want withdrawal from Iraq soonish but it’s not their primary or only political concern right now; an increase in deaths could push it back up the list. An increase to the pre-lull levels of monthly deaths (say, 60-85 a month) would also get a lot of media coverage which would help the Democrat candidate (particularly if that person is Obama, as we expect). I guess there’s always the chance that an increase might push the anti-war left (whom I don’t think are particularly important in this election, in the sense that they won’t come close to deciding it) to paroxysms of electorally-damaging Sheehan-like fervour (Cindy Sheehan, incidentally, has filed to run against Nancy Pelosi in San Franciso, as she promised last year) but I think that both Obama and Clinton are adroit enough to avoid association with all of that

I’m not attempting a big discussion of Iraq, or even worthwhile metrics for progress (or failure, as you will); I’m particularly interested in the specific political effect of US death rate in Iraq on this year’s election campaigns and outcome.

Posted by Adam @ 9:16 am on April 30th 2008

From the annals of Great Moments in the History of Personal Humilation

It appears that Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, in Brazil to recuperate from an injury, dropped his (doubtless supermodel) girlfriend off at her house before picking up three hookers that turned out to be guys (judging from the picture, ugly guys). Who robbed him and tried to blackmail him.

The implication from the last line of the story is that Ronaldo appears to be trying to pull the teeth from this by blaming mental strain brought about from his knee injury. I am not sure that he is being well-advised.

Correction: His girlfriend was in her house, not her hotel. Don’t let this error distract you from the ugliness of the transvestite hookers.

Posted by Adam @ 2:12 pm on April 29th 2008

Wright. More Wright. Wrightest

The Reverend Wright farrago continues and Obama has said that he’s going to have a press conference about it.

I’m not sure Obama’s doing himself any good if he revisits this. Of course, Wright isn’t doing him any good either, continuing to talk about it, but one can hardly blame Wright if he believes, rightly or wrongly, that he’s been misrepresented (and/or thrown under the bus by the Obama campaign).

I have said earlier that I personally don’t care much about this and think that expectations that Obama should launch a full-blown attack on Wright were ill-formed. I have, however, little instinctive feel for what political impact this story’s continuation will have; I didn’t grow up with the racial tensions that appear to persist in much of America, nor with the (to me, somewhat bizarre) rigorous and publically expressed patriotism of many Americans. So, I’m interested to see what Obama’s calculation is and whether this press conference is really going to be (as Ben Smith reported it) a “big” one; does Obama have another rabbit to pull from his hat? At this stage he is presumably thinking more about the General Race rather than the nomination race (although, given Clinton’s “electability” strategy for the superdelegates, they’re not decoupled in any case) but he presumably has to exercise some care nevertheless.

Posted by Adam @ 1:46 pm on April 29th 2008

Paul campaign footnote

I was reading this account by Tommy Christopher of the threat Paul and his minions pose to John McCain (overstated, I think, not because they can’t hurt him but because if he gets to a position where the Paulites deny him the Presidency, he’ll have done a hell of a job pulling himself into contention and he’s right to focus on those other, bigger, obstacles in his path) and I followed the author’s link to another (somewhat profane) story about his doomed attempts to get an interview with the Paulster.

Now, I have no real opinion about Paul’s campaign team — Brad has had contact with them and can comment (as he has) on their competence, preparedness and strategic decisions — but Benton’s email is pretty ill-considered (as is, incidentally, Mr Christopher’s response). I have no reason to assume that Benton’s email is characteristic of him, let alone the Paul campaign staff, but I thought that some of the Paulite readers might be interested in the article.

Posted by Adam @ 1:28 pm on April 29th 2008

House prices falling, falling, falling

CNN reports some really bad news about house prices over the last year, with double-digit drops in some big markets. This is good news for some of the people that had been priced out of the market and would like to get into it at affordable prices, with two provisos: firstly, this might well screw the general economy and put their own personal finances in the toilet as a result and secondly that getting a mortgage is going to be more expensive than it might have been because of “adverse market” charges and general lender concern (albeit concern that has only really arisen somewhat late in the day).

For most of us, it’s a case of “grit your teeth and smile through the pain”; this might not get better, at least for some people, for some considerable time. In the meantime, foreclosures and increasing economic hardship for many look to be the order of the day.

Posted by Brad @ 2:46 am on April 29th 2008

In Retrospect, Comparing Outsourcing to the Holocaust Was Probably a Bad Idea

There’s the right way to make the fair trade case.

And then there’s the wrong way.

Bonus: She Bush-izes the ending. “You…you’re not going to fool me again.”

At the union hall in Gary, she grew so animated in describing the plight of old-line industrial workers that she described them in language from the oft-repeated poem, attributed to the German pastor Martin Niemöller, about the victims of Nazism. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist,” goes the version inscribed on a wall at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. After coming for the trade unionists, it continues, “they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.”

In Mrs. Clinton’s version, she intoned: “They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything. They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced, and nobody said anything.”

“So this is not just about steel,” she finished.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:59 am on April 29th 2008

And just to make things still more confusing…

Clinton is now outperforming Obama in head-to-head matchups against McCain.

Posted by Brad @ 10:42 pm on April 28th 2008

I Still Don’t Care About Jeremiah Wright

Maybe I should make this a regular series. Things I don’t care about.

Add Jeremiah Wright to the top of the list currently.

Today, he gave a speech and had an impromptu Q&A at the end of it in which he more or less said over again the things that people took issue with originally. Zionist this, Farakhan that, God doesn’t like this or that about America, he wouldn’t put it past the government to have created AIDS, yadda yadda yadda. It was apparently eye-opening enough that even Sully decided to throw down and declare that Obama must do this or that to reject or denounce or some damn thing so Wright doesn’t, I don’t know, get airtime? Beats me.

Adam has already cogently broached this, but I find myself reading this stuff and my eyes glaze over. I can positively 100% not seem to get excised about any of this. I could not care less what Jeremiah Wright’s views on America happen to be, and I could not care less the degree or extent to which Obama rejects or denounces it.

I feel like I should, in some way. It’s literally the only thing that is being covered anymore in Presidential politics. All the blogs are alight with it. It is, apparently, the campaign issue of this Spring so far. I’m told that, as a swing voter, this really, really ought to concern me.

And yet, I can’t muster an iota of give-a-shitness. Is there something wrong with me?

Sullivan puts it thusly:

I can well understand why Obama has not disowned the man who helped bring him to Christ. God knows I have had some spiritual mentors whose views I cannot accept in their entirety or some allies in the struggle for gay equality who are not my ideological confreres in many other ways. I have been in a movement where many others – most others – hold views very alien to my own. Obama is a decent human being, and cutting off someone who has nurtured and sustained his faith and been a father figure to him is not in his character. If I believed for one second that Obama shared any of this bile, I couldn’t begin to support him.

But….but….

But what? What more is there to say, really, that’s not campaign trail schtick and beltway game-playing?

To me, the whole Wright affair raises two legitimate questions, and only two:

1. Does Obama believe these things, or would his administration be reflective of these things?

2. Is there something more than he should be doing in his relationship with Jeremiah Wright? Any more distancing that is necessary, or personal denouncement that would make any difference?

The answer to both of those questions, it seems to me, is an easy “no”. And I fail to see any further questions. On #1, I suppose it’s the same question for me that was salient in the whole “Racists 4 Ron Paul” thing (and that strikes me as MORE potentially salient, in that it involved people who are still at least peripherally around the candidate in some functional way). The only sensible “next question” is “Okay, does the candidate believe any of this stuff?” And saying Obama is going to institute some kind of black liberation theology platform on America strikes me as equally ridiculous as saying Ron Paul is going to single out this racial group or that to disadvantage. In any event, I don’t think Obama has been in any way unclear, and in most senses has been far MORE forthcoming on his own beliefs as it pertains to faith, as it pertains to race, than most any other candidate I can think of in contemporary American history. So what’s the further question on this point that needs answering?

And as far as #2 goes, as it pertains to Obama, I think it’s fair to ask Obama if he agrees with this or that, and makes clear that he does NOT agree with Wright, what his relationship with Wright was and what it is now, but after that, what’s left for him to do? Tape a pro-wrestler smack-talking segment calling Reverend Wright out? TP his house? What?

Why are we asking questions of him to which we already know full well the answers? How many times do we demand he say something before we chose to either accept or reject that it is, in fact, the truth? 5? 10? One hour-long speech? Two? A town hall? A Fox News interview? What?

Or is it just that Wright went into more detail about the things he believes, and with every new detail, Barack Obama has to make a new, more specific denouncement, such that he should dispatch a staff person to follow Wright around from now on adding “This view is not endorsed by Barack Obama” everytime Wright opens his mouth?

Like I said, I recognize there must be something wrong with me, because it sure seems awfully important to everybody else. And I also admit I’m 29 years old, so as Sully often posits, maybe there’s some greater context here that I’m missing. But I still can’t find myself caring what some preacher in Southside Chicago happens to think about this issue or that, nor do I find myself really wishing Obama would just repeat himself a few dozen more times in different contexts, saying the same things he’s been saying for years now.

I get it. Reverend Wright, who has precisely ZERO effect or even potential effect on my life, has some wacky beliefs. Barack Obama does not agree with them, and has different beliefs, such that he’s outlined in books, speeches, interviews, and conversations over the course of his adult life. The guy that thinks some wacky things has a personal relationship with the guy that thinks less wacky things (I can relate, incidentally; about half of my friends I think are idiots on half of the nutty things they believe that I don’t agree with). So….is wacky contagious? Is that what we’re transfixed about?

What’s the story again?

Posted by Brad @ 5:19 pm on April 28th 2008

Irony of the Day

From the BBC:

‘Free Tibet’ Flags Made in China

Police in southern China have discovered a factory manufacturing Free Tibet flags, media reports say.

The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Workers said they thought they were just making colourful flags and did not realise their meaning.

Posted by Adam @ 2:05 pm on April 28th 2008

How many angels can dance on the spirit of campaign finance reform?

There’s been recent talk over the NYT piece about John McCain’s (legal) cheap chartering of private jets from a company owned by his wife, including, no surprise, some concerns that the Grey Lady is not practicing even-handed reporting. The “this is against the spirit of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform” accusations come after similar accusations relating to the cunning RNC-McCain campaign mixing and the earlier matching funds/loan issue (on the latter, McCain might have an actual case to answer, except we likely shan’t know because the Senate hasn’t appointed enough FEC commissioners so the case shan’t be heard).

So, the implicit (or explicit) statement is that John McCain is to be not just bound by the fact of the law but also its spirit, because he was a key reason the law came to pass at all (enough to get his name on it, something about which he hasn’t complained). Presumably everyone that voted for it should be similarly bound (a problem Obama escapes, as he wasn’t in the Senate at the time it was passed) as well as, to a lesser extent, politicians that expressed support for it I don’t know whether Obama supported it or not, although I’d be interested to hear if he did say anything about it near the time).

The problem I have, though, is that that position doesn’t make a great deal of sense when you consider what the law purports to do. It’s supposedly about levelling the playing field by imposing legal restrictions; the idea that the bill’s supporters should not get to explore the allegedly leveller playing field this law is supposed to have created seems pretty silly to me. After all, the point is that the law would purportedly enforce a better campaign system, not that there’d be a system where opponents of the bill were restricted by the law and supporters were restricted by the law plus the utopian ideal imperfectly driving the actual law through Senate and House votes and committees, Presidential signing and Supreme Court interpretation in light of the Constitution. Whilst such a general position might have the redeeming effect of making lawmakers too scared to ever try to make any law, given that the process by which an idea becomes US Federal law has about the same effect on the idea as a household mangle would upon testicles, it’s a standard which we would have to apply more widely than we apparently wish to.

The real problem McCain has, which Brad alluded to (second-last paragraph), is that these laws may be doomed to fail in their spirit and that the law with which McCain is so associated just hasn’t worked. That’s actually a pretty serious and damaging allegation if we are worried about competence in our leaders (which evidence suggests that we aren’t, but which logic suggests we ought to be). Once he passed the law, dog or not, he’s bound to obey it, but the idea that he should be bound to not explore ways to lessen its impact on his own campaign seems odd; the real spirit of campaign finance reform is to level the circumstances of different candidates and given that the law is the biggest constraint on what can be done in campaign fund-raising and money-spending, that has to apply equally to everyone, even if they helped write the law (that cuts both ways; they should be no more bound than others, but they should also not get exemptions, of course). Finding ways to maximise money raised inside the law is always going to be an essential part of campaigning so long as money is an important part of campaigning and there are laws (which there will always be; you’ll never be allowed to perform armed robberies to get campaign cash, for example*).

There is a legitimate political reality that this can do harm, of course, and it comes in part because the reason McCain would have to give to rebut the accusations is, indeed, to admit that the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill has not achieved the lofty aims promised by the rhetoric of its supporters, including most prominently John McCain himself. Indeed, such a discussion likely ends up as a consideration of precisely how big a failure the bill has been, which is not a conversation in which any candidate wishes to find themselves (although most candidates, presumably, appreciate the index-linking of the amount individuals can donate to individual candidates, that was in the Campaign Finance Reform bill in question).

Another issue and the most important ‘spirit of the law’, at which pretty much all limits on donations are predicated, is whether McCain has been ‘bought’ by donors. Concerns over that would be highest on the creation of entities merging RNC and McCain campaign interests and to which more than $2300 can be donated per individual; I am not yet entirely sure how different that is from the pre-existing situation as multiple organisations already exist that will be pulling towards a common goal, including in a co-ordinated fashion (unlike the PACs, who are supposed to be forbidden from coordination with campaigns).

Finally, and an issue that is mentioned by the NYT but not stressed, the big deal on the plan is whether McCain has gone back on his word not to use the wealth to which he has access through his wife for his campaign. As use of personal wealth is entirely allowed, it’s not a big deal legally or even in terms of the spirit of the law, but it is relevant in light of his previous promise that he wouldn’t use that money, much as is Obama’s apparent decision to go back on his word to take matching funds if the Republican did. Ironically, McCain would probably have escaped all of this if he’d not made that promise and, with his wife’s support, had self-financed a lot more than he has.

So, sure, make the (excellent) point about the law being bad and failing to achieve its aims or even construct the argument that there’s no point trying to legislate this at all, but the idea that McCain should not be able to explore what can be legally done regarding the money because he was instrumental in passing the legal restrictions is odd. Additionally, the idea that he should not be able to explore the possibilities because he has decried the role of private money in the political process is also pretty weak; after all, any complaints about the political process that need resolution through the political process almost inevitably require participation in the existing political process and money, needless to say, continues to be important in that American political process. So it’s not as if there’s no damage to be done to McCain over this issue (there’s a fair amount) but the ‘spirit of the law’ stuff seems to be the weakest element of it, to me.

*Libertarian readers should feel free to make a comparison comment about federal taxation here.

Posted by Brad @ 10:51 pm on April 27th 2008

Ugh, Free Trade Good

Via Freedom Democrats, here is very interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Senator Sherrod Brown, newly minted, of Ohio, on the whole “free trade v. protectionism” debate. Whereas most liberals are reflexively cowed by the “free trade” label (sort of as they have been by “family values” or “support the troops” or what have you), Brown decides to take it on, albeit pithily. His point, and I think it’s a good one, is that while the basic ideological concept of “free trade” is good enough, in practice, it usually isn’t simply a matter of tariffs vs. no tariffs, free market vs. government intervention.

The supporters of our trade policy rarely mention our exploding trade deficits. In just 15 years, our annual trade deficit has mushroomed to over $800 billion from $38 billion in 1993. With Mexico, our trade surplus evolved into a $90.7 billion trade deficit. With China, our trade deficit jumped to $250 billion today from about $22 billion. President George H.W. Bush once estimated that a $1 billion trade deficit represents 13,000 lost jobs. Do the math.

One country’s deficit is another country’s surplus. Our annual trade deficit helps fuel the growth of government-owned investment funds overseas. Free traders rarely mention these funds even as they proliferate.

Nonetheless, today, five governments control more than $2 trillion that they use to buy stocks and other assets in America and other countries. So far, the funds controlled by the People’s Republic of China and the United Arab Emirates have been passive investors. So far.

More to the point:

The Colombia Free Trade Agreement is being shopped around Congress by an overzealous White House. Let’s put aside, for now, the debate about rewarding a country that has done little to stem the tide of rampant labor abuses and human rights violations – including dozens of murders.

Let’s focus on the merits of the agreement. Supporters sell it as a free-trade agreement, a great opportunity for American companies because it eliminates tariffs on our products. If that were true, the agreement would be a few lines long.

Instead, we have a trade agreement that runs nearly 1,000 pages and is chock full of giveaways and protections for drug companies, oil companies, and financial services companies, and incentives to outsource jobs now held by Americans.

Nafta. The Central American Free Trade Agreement. China. Now Colombia. We have a pattern in our trade policy that aims to protect special interests, but betray our workers, our environment, our communities.

This is one of those issues on which I’ve gotten a lot more…I don’t want to say “liberal”, but perhaps “urbane”, if I’m being especially haughty about it? Maybe “wishy washy” is best. Regardless, as a young conservative, trade was an especially easy issue to handle. Anything short of unfettered free market was protectionism, anything championed as free trade was good. End of discussion.

But in practice, of course, things sold as “free market solutions” tend to be a little more complicated. As it pertains to trade, as Brown notes, it isn’t simply a matter of one side wants superfluous tariffs and the other wants none. Quite often, the byzantine agreements are wrestling between putting a thumb on the scale in favor of corporate interests (read largess) and the investor class, or putting a thumb on the scale in favorite of labor interests and the consumer class. Again, it used to be, as a 17 year-old Dole supporter, that anything that benefited business was, ipso facto, good, but the older I get and the more firsthand experience I have with government regulation, I’ve tend to found that no, something that favors business is not inherently or necessarily more free market than something that favors, say, labor, or consumer rights, or what have you.

On this, I think Brown has a point. It is, incidentally, one of the things that separates guys like Ron Paul from guys like James Inhofe, and a point of emphasis I don’t think small government conservatives emphasize nearly enough. Corporate largess is absolutely one of the factors that makes our markets unfree in this country, and in many ways, it may be the PRINCIPLE factor (that was probably not true until the last 20 years or so). When the government is bending over backwards to create “opportunities” for the investor class at the expense of workers or consumers, I don’t see any particular reason why the regular “free trader v. protectionist” label-throwing necessarily applies.

The principle, I think, is right from the free trade crowd, which is why I’d describe myself as one. But like anything—and especially as is the case in 10000 page bilateral trade agreements—the devil is quite often in the details, and even if one side seems to fall nicely under one rubric or another, I agree with Brown that people calling for a significant hashing through of our trade agreements are not, automatically, in favor of artificially retarding markets for the sake of it. I think conservatives, by and large, are losing credibility on questions of globalization and international trade precisely because they often enough refuse to engage in the debate past the label-throwing level. Which is bad for all of us. And I think quote-unquote “fair traders” are gaining credibility, in large part because they can easily point to any number of examples of the government bending markets to favor their favorite players at the expense of the, again quote-unquote, “common man”, and it touches the same “hey, that’s not right” chord in people that arguments in favor of free trade do, but with the added benefit that it makes free traders look like hypocrites besides. Perhaps being in the rust belt makes me unduly sensitive to this, but I think I agree with Brown, that maybe it’s time free trader conservatives actually deign to engage in these discussions, and even, when called for, go after, gasp, corporate interests when THAT’S standing in the way of market freedom.

This has been your Generalized Ramble of the Day.

Posted by Brad @ 6:35 pm on April 27th 2008

Another Casuality In the Falkland Islands War

Oops

An Argentinian government minister has resigned after an encyclopaedia in which the Falkland Islands were called by their British name instead of the Spanish ‘Las Malvinas’ was sent to hundreds of schools.

Marta Torino quit as an education minister after the error provoked a wave of protests.

Argentine veterans of the 1982 Falklands War with Britain are considering taking legal action if the book is not withdrawn.

Publishers were paid £1million to print thousands of copies of the encylopaedia for children.

But instead of calling the islands Las Malvinas – the name Argentina insists on using despite losing the war – a map depicted the territory as the Falkland Islands and put the initials GB in brackets alongside.

The publishers have printed thousands of clarification slips, but critics want the entire encyclopaedia replaced with a version showing the islands under Argentine sovereignty.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:37 am on April 27th 2008

The Joyful Cynic

New to our blogroll: The Joyful Cynic, the musings of Kansas LP activist Sharon DuBois. I like her writing a lot; sort of like an Erma Bombeck-Milton Friedman crossbreed. And I’m not biased at all. Nope.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:29 am on April 27th 2008

Can he do this?

Lew Rockwell quotes the Houston Chronicle about a possible use of Ron Paul campaign donations:

To further Paul’s Libertarian-leaning agenda, his campaign is exploring a novel way to use millions of dollars in leftover donations: setting up a for-profit publishing company that would focus on free-market economics and personal liberties — causes the Texas congressman holds dear.

I’m intensely curious over how this is even legal. Campaign donors make their pledges on the assumption that they are going to support a very particular cause; they are, in effect, purchasing a service from the candidate. As happy as I might be to see Dr. Paul starting a business, this would appear on its face to be fraud. In particular, it strikes me as illegitimate to start a for profit business with donated money without providing the donors with an ownership share. This wouldn’t cut it in Galt’s Gulch.

All this is, of course, to say nothing of the fact that apparently the campaign is in possession of millions of dollars in contributions that were not spent when it might have made a difference.

My fear is that this sort of thing is going to wreck future fundraising for Paul-esque candidates.

Posted by Brad @ 4:16 pm on April 26th 2008

Party Men

Or: “Obama to DNC: ‘I Have Too Much Money. Here, Have Some’.”

Or: “Obama to Merge with DNC, Creating Human-Party Cyborg to Face Off Against Mighty Morphin Power McCain”

Or: “You can now give $70,000 to McCain and $28,500 to Obama, but if you wish to donate to Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, sorry, the limit’s $2300, because we can’t have money influencing elections.”

I reported about the strange McCain-RNC hybrid that’s going on in the Republican party, whereby McCain can get around contribution limits by merging fundraising with the RNC, and can (hopefully) cut costs by folding some of his campaign operations into them.

Now, Obama appears to be following his lead.

After a series of discussions, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee have decided to file papers with the Federal Election Commission establishing a “joint fundraising agreement.” Under the law, such a committee can accept up to $28,500 from individuals, most of which would go to the DNC.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has already formed such an alliance with the Republican National Committee. Their group — called Victory — was created in March after McCain clinched the GOP nomination and is headed by McCain adviser Carly Fiorina.

Sources say the DNC has also held talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign about forming a separate vehicle with her, but that no deal has been struck.

I still find this to be a pretty seedy go-around for campaign finance laws. It’s not that I give much a toss for campaign finance laws, but it still seems to me pretty undeniable that this violates the spirit of them.

Of course, Obama doesn’t quite have the same level of responsibility on this as McCain, who has been a particularly visible champion of the notion of campaign finance and most of its particulars. On campaign finance, I think it’s pretty fair to hold McCain to a higher standard. The hypocrisy is pretty astounding.

The other difference is the flow appears reversed between the two. McCain/RNC is as much about McCain latching on to the RNC as a lifeline as anything. Obama/DNC appears to be the opposite—the DNC is the only Democratic committee to not be raking in the dough, and is well behind its Republican counterpart on fundraising. Both are making the arrangement to be able to raise more money (i.e. the de facto legalization of larger individual contributions), but McCain hopes to raise more money by siphoning off from contributions to his party, whereas the DNC hopes to raise more money by siphoning off from contributions to Obama. Obama appears to not be interested in folding operations under the DNC either, has McCain is in the process of doing now. So, he’s probably on the better side of that power-arrangement than McCain is.

Regardless, it annoys me greatly that this is a trick only available to candidates who have the D.C. establishment backing. In practice, in subsequent elections, it basically means that candidates can raise individual contributions of any amount, so long as they get their party committee’s blessing and have an arrangement to share the money with them. I find that to be problematic in no small ways. It strikes me as being something close to campaign finance racketeering. We can all be rest assured that monied speech cannot influence challengers, who have to lumber under the 2300 limit (unless they’re independently wealthy), but that for Party Men, 20k a donation, 70k, no problem. Plop it down to your heart’s content. They are, after all, sanctioned.

There is of course a lesson here. Whenever you limit freedom in the name of “fairness”, it always seems to end up that the powerful interests get their way regardless, and the only people who suffer are the challengers, for whom the laws both limit freedom and fairness.

Hooray for campaign finance reform!

Posted by Brad @ 3:59 pm on April 26th 2008

Dey’s No Killin’ What Cayn’t Be Killed. No Stoppin’ What Cayn’t be Stopped

That’s an obscure movie quote for you.

So, Alan Keyes, who had decided to run for the Constitution Party nomination, was handed a big bag of fail instead. As reported by Eric Garris at Lew Rockwell:

The Constitution Party just overwhelmingly defeated the warmongering neocon Alan Keyes by nominating Chuck Baldwin, 383 to 125.

Last night, CP founder Howard Phillips strongly denounced Keyes as a warmonger, neocon, and egomanic. Phillips was subsequently attacked by Jim Clymer, the CP national chairman.

In spite of Keyes bringing in a lot of delegates, the CP remained true to their anti-interventionist views and rejected Keyes.

I expect Mike Gravel to meet much the same fate.

Posted by Adam @ 10:08 pm on April 25th 2008

The evils of information

I’m aware that my posting has been light (although, inexplicably, my commenting has not) but anyhow, I was just reading again about the ‘abstinence only’ programs, in particular those that get funding from the Federal Government.

So, my questions would be:

    Why is this a federal issue?
    Why should all teens abstain from sex? And again, why is this a Federal issue?
    Why do some support the reduction of information given to teenagers so as to restrict their information to what they’re told about abstinence plus what they pick up as gossip from their friends? Oh, and why is this a Federal issue?

There’s nothing extraordinary or original about those questions, but I haven’t seen convincing answers even in principle, let alone answers that fit the actual reality of teenager behaviour.

Posted by Brad @ 11:05 pm on April 24th 2008

Dark Horse for McCain VP?

We’ve been talking about VP possibilities for the last few months, and one thing you might notice on McCain’s shortlist…they’re all older white men.

Today, it’s being passed around that one of the short-listers may in fact be a 53-year-old woman not from politics at all…former Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Carly Fiorina.

Sadly, the female or African American bench for the Republicans is pretty thin, at least for national players of the caliber needed to pull off a VP slot (that’s also, incidentally, true for Democrats). But, the idea of McCain picking a young woman for his VP has to just have his insiders salivating. It would be a very, very, very strong move on his part, if he could find the right person.

Posted by Brad @ 10:45 pm on April 24th 2008

The Election Maps of Clinton v. Obama

A poll out today showed the following for Minnesota:

McCain (R) 38 (43)
Obama (D) 52 (47)

McCain (R) 42 (47)
Clinton (D) 47 (46)

Leading to a lot of blog discussion about the two paths to victory that the two Democratic candidates would have. Kos examines this more in depth today using the scenario currently being floated by the Clinton camp, but coming to markedly different conclusions.

Democratic numbers versus McCain are currently artificially depressed because of our long-running primary. But despite that disadvantage, Obama still runs a far broader, map-changing campaign than Clinton.

If Democrats want to run the same campaign that has served us so poorly the last decade — hold the Kerry states and win Ohio and Florida, then Clinton is the person. It’s clear in her rhetoric that she can’t fathom any other path to the White House. That’s why she has insulted so many “Red” states and small states and whatnot. Because in her mind, 50%+1 is the only thing that matters.

Beside having a more solid base than Clinton, Obama’s campaign would have a tough time competing in Florida, no doubt about that. But he opens up the Mountain West — Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, possibly Montana, North Dakota, and even one or two of Nebraska’s EVs (they are apportioned by congressional district). Obama would be competitive in Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia — with their large youth, African American, Latino, and creative class voters.

And, as kos notes, this is what one would assume to be a depressed map for both the Democrats.

I think there is something of a valid argument to be had regarding the two maps (Adam, I gather, views the Clinton strategy as if not necessarily sounder, than safer), but it is worth noting that the line of demarcation, itself, says something. Clinton is still playing by the GOP playbook circa 1999. If you think the best path the Democrats have towards the Presidency is narrowing it down to the same 12 battlegrounds of the last two elections—only minus perhaps New Hampshire and New Mexico which go McCain—then Clinton’s strategy makes sense. She’d be running Al Gore and John Kerry’s playbook, and just hoping that she’ll be a better candidate than them. Another year that all comes down to how the Democrat manages in Ohio and Florida.

Obama, for his part, is a game-changer. The map looks markedly different for him then what we’ve come to view as the “set” red state-blue state thingie, which seems often enough a given until you realize that most states, given a particular candidate, can change easily from red to blue or back again (Reagan and Clinton both won on maps that looked nothing like the supposedly “conventional” path to victory, although the day after the elections they BECAME the conventional path to victory). I think it’s probably true that Clinton runs marginally better, at least right now, in the PA/OH/FL triumvirate—though I have a hard time seeing either Democrat lose PA or either win FL. But beyond that, Clinton has nothing, and Obama has entire swaths of states to pick off or at least threaten in. Things like Texas might seem ridiculous, and they aren’t likely wins, but that they’re in orbit with Obama says a lot, I think, and I see no good reason why Obama could not potentially win North Carolina or Virginia, extending to the Western states kos mentions, and even including some genuine threats in the deep South (where there is the most McCain distrust for GOP voters, and some of the most revved up centers of Obama enthusiasm). We have a tendency to view the red state blue state thing concretely. But remember it wasn’t very long ago at all that KY, TN, AR, GA, and LA were reliable blue states (I’m talking 92 and 96, btw, not the 50s). Hell, Carter in 76 won the entire South, and Bush in 88 won most all of the Northeast. Point being, the map changes pretty regularly, when particular candidates push it. We have a tendency to forget that and only focus on the results of the last Presidential election as “how it is”. The American electoral battleground is a lot more fluid than we give it credit for. (Play around with this if you want to take a look).

And, there are two side benefits that are important to that picture. The first is, of course, down-ticket. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Obama as the nominee wins the Dems an additional 3 Senate seats and probably a dozen House ones (Novak mentioned today that Al Franken will win in MN if Obama is the nominee, Norm Coleman if it’s Clinton, and I think he’s right). Even under the worse case, the Democratic nominee losing, Obama STILL brings something to the table (versus Clinton).

The second thing is strategic. John McCain simply does not have the resources to run on an extended map. I think one of the things that MOST endears a Clinton campaign to the McCain team is, if she’s the nominee…whew. Hunker down in OH, PA, and FL, and maybe throw some bones to MN, NM, and NH, and be done with it. He certainly doesn’t have a budget to do that plus defend, say, Texas, and be running around the South and West. Her strategy is much easier to oppose on a limited budget.

Obama will have more money than Clinton AND a much broader map, and if you’re a McCain strategist running through scenarios right now, that has to give you reason to worry.

Posted by Brad @ 11:26 pm on April 23rd 2008

A House Divided in Edwardian North Carolina?

Some interesting news on the Edwards beat; mixed messages of a sort.

It’s increasingly being reported that Edwards is choosing to opt out of the endorsement thing, and instead act as a “unifying figure” for the Democratic party when the time comes that such will be needed (which is, actually, not a bad call on his part at all, I don’t think).

However, 50 of Edwards’ most prominent backers all came into the Obama fold today. This is mostly not a sign reflective of Edwards’ thinking itself, and is, I would guess, largely coincidental. It’s mostly the fact that a large number of established North Carolina Democrats are all coming onboard to give Obama a boost in NC, and of course many NC Democrat movers-and-shakers were involved with Edwards to some extent. But, they could just as easily have gone to Hillary, so there is at least some correlation (if not causation).

But, there have been rumblings today that Elizabeth Edwards might be favoring Hillary. Howard Fineman apparently said that she might make a number of appearances with Hillary in North Carolina. Whether that’s just speculation on Fineman’s part is unclear, and I haven’t been able to find anything else to substantiate it. However, this month Elizabeth has already come out and said she thinks Hillary’s health care plan is better than Barack’s.

Could add an interesting wrinkle to the North Carolina race and the whole Edwards Unification Theory, if true.

Posted by Brad @ 11:01 pm on April 23rd 2008

Unclear on the Concept

Via Fark, there’s this headline.

“Cinco de Mayo set for May 2”

Posted by Brad @ 10:57 pm on April 23rd 2008

A Moment, Please, For Art

The lyrics to a new song recorded for John McCain.

Together forever
America is the country we all love
We believe our destiny
Comes from god above
Let’s link our hands for all to see
Our country’s majesty

Forever together
America is the land we’re fighting for
There’s a time in history
For a hero’s destiny
Together forever more

Hey John
Say John
They’re gonna hit you hard with ev’ry thing they’ve got

Hey John
Come on
They’ll be calling you
Everything you’re not!

But sure as heaven
We’re gonna win
Start celebrating
Now let’s begin

Together forever
America is the country we all love
Let’s link our hands for all to see
Our country’s majesty

Forever together
America is the land we’re fighting for
There’s a time in history
For a hero’s destiny
Together for evermore

Says an McCain campaign spokesman:

“We’ll see Barack Obama’s Bruce Springsteen endorsement and raise them an Orrin Hatch.”

Story here.

You can listen to it here.

Posted by Rojas @ 9:59 pm on April 23rd 2008

Collaboration status: enthusiastic

Those who contend that the ever-lengthening primary season is good news for the Democrats might want to take a long look at what the McCain people are saying…ahem…”to their supporters”…today. From an emailed press release:

Exit polls reveal why this poses significant problems for Obama if he becomes the nominee. The most important problem: Clinton voters don’t automatically become Obama voters after he becomes the nominee. In fact, Obama leaves large portions of Clinton’s coalition on the table in November. Clinton shows her broad coalitional strength and wins 81% in a general election match up against John McCain.

A full quarter of the Democrats in Pennsylvania are not willing to cast their ballot for Obama against McCain (15% say they vote McCain and 10% say they stay home), however, Clinton loses only 17% of Democrats (10% for McCain and 7% would not vote). This gap of 8-points would be significant in a general election match up. President Bush lost Pennsylvania by 2-points in 2004, when 41% of the electorate were Democrats. That 8-point gap among Democrats is enough to swing the state the other way (8% of 41% is 2.8-points, turning Pennsylvania red).

The point, of course, is that this talking point serves the interests of the Clinton campaign a lot better than it does McCain. As does this:

Since last night, the Clinton campaign reportedly raised $10 million dollars online – enough to make a significant dent in upcoming media buys in North Carolina and Indiana

The Democrats are certainly free to nominate whoever they wish. But there isn’t a lot of question who McCain wants to face at this point. He’s now actively carrying water for Clinton, and is wise to do so.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:59 pm on April 23rd 2008

Music video of the ultra-authentic street cred

Chuggo-C’mon F*cking Guy. Not work safe. In fact, NOBODY is safe…

It’s a parody of the genre, right? Please tell me it’s a parody.

Posted by Brad @ 1:45 pm on April 23rd 2008

Ceilings

One of the arguments Hillary Clinton is making—as are, for the record, my co-bloggers—is that Barack Obama, despite his massive financial advantage and, in the case of Pennsylvania, a fair bit of time to hunker down, is still unable to put this race away on his own steam. That he has a glass ceiling when it comes to certain, mostly rust belt or white working class states. I find this argument persuasive to some extent. Certainly Adam is right that there isn’t any good reason Obama COULDN’T have won PA, particularly given his considerable advantages.

Of course, this argument is useless coming from Hillary Clinton, because the obvious answer is “well okay, Obama can’t put you away decisively, but what does that say about you that you’re losing to him?” But it may have bearing in the general in November. There are obvious answers to it as well—while there is the possibility that some Clinton voters will be lost to Obama, for the most part he gets a lot wider a field to work from (being able to pick up Independents, who did not vote in Ohio or Pennsylvania, or when they did (re-registering Dem to do so), were picked up decisively by Barack), and he gets a lot sharper contrast to draw. But it does in some ways narrow the battleground for him, in that McCain will be more competitive then he might otherwise be in places like OH/PA. And, though again it’s doesn’t really do anything in an argument within the Democratic race, as dispassionate observers it is noteworthy.

But I still take issue with Rojas’ argument that Obama, in the Democratic primary, is stuck at 45%, and that shows he has no room to grow against McCain who, the implication is, has no such ceiling.

But he’s hitting the same problem. In general election matchups, at a time when he has the general election entirely to himself, and the Democrats are at the height of a heated primary, he, too, is proving unable to get over on his Democratic opponents, at best tying Clinton and losing slightly to Obama. And, for that matter, in PA yesterday, 1/5th of Republican voters chose to not sign off on him (I’m guessing that might have been even higher if a fair few hadn’t jumped ship to vote Obama in the Dem primary). Ross Douthat makes this point well:

But by all rights, this ought to be a peak time for McCain’s numbers – not the peak, necessarily, but certainly a high point. His right-wing critics are making nice with him, his favorable ratings are sky-high, and his opponents are too busy driving each other’s negative ratings upward to spend any time (or money, more importantly) putting a dent in his halo. Moreoever, the Democrats’ intra-party tensions are bound to diminish once the party picks a nominee: At least some of the Hillary supporters who tell pollsters that they’d vote for McCain over Obama may actually follow through on that pledge, but a lot of today’s McCainocrats will come home to the Democratic fold when all is said and done.

Yet even with all this going for him, McCain’s poll numbers are bumping up against the same 45 percent ceiling that they’ve been hitting since December. If the election were held today – a pretty good day for McCain, all things considered – he’d probably lose to Obama, and might lose to Clinton as well. That doesn’t mean he will lose, by any stretch, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for November.

I’m still trying to puzzle through Obama’s glass ceiling in the Dem primary—though to be fair to Barack he is posting results in many states where he’s winning by 20 or more points (almost a fourth of his victories have been by that margin or more, actually), and what that means for the general, but it is worth keeping it in context that McCain is hardly looking like a “sky’s the limit” guy either.

Posted by Brad @ 12:24 pm on April 23rd 2008

Who’s a Marxist?

Mickey Kaus, for once, has an interesting read on the whole Marxist thing.

There’s a lot of talk lately about Obama being a Marxist.

This rests on the assumption that Marxism is basically just a wishy-washy idea that people are vaguely defined and dictated by their economic class.

Real Marxists, of course, or what could be called much closer to “true” Marxism”, believes more than just that. the belief that socioeconomic status might influence the way people vote, even LARGELY influence the way people vote, even the way people vote on non-socioeconomic issues, is not, I don’t think, Marxist—or rather, I think all Marxists believe that, but not all who believe that are Marxists (not by a longshot).

Real Marxism believes that, but it also believes that people are so trapped by their class and cultural superstructures that they simply cannot (or cannot be relied upon) to choose to be awakened themselves. The superstructures have to be systematically dismantled and only THEN can the poor proletarian drones be buzzed with freedom.

The closest ancestor to Marxism we have in today’s political world (in America) is not mushy liberal elitism (“poor people are stupid”), but rather, militant neoconservative interventionism (“we must go in and overthrow the superstructures of economic and cultural non-determinism and then, and only then, people will be reborn as free”). In very real and non-trivial ways, the closest analogue to Marx on the broadest scale isn’t Barack Obama, but may well be William Kristol.

Posted by Brad @ 12:12 pm on April 23rd 2008

The Presidential Candidates on Autism and Vaccinations

So I caught a lot of flak for even deigning to post this story about the potential (or not-potential, or however I should say it so people don’t get mad at me) link between autism and vaccinations. John McCain, most of us know, has given indications that he finds it interesting too, and at least worthy of looking into (or, more accurately, of not shutting the door on looking into it).

hilzoy, exasperatedly, notes that Obama and Clinton have indicated similarly.

For the sake of knowing who stands where on this, the candidates:

McCain:

McCain said, per ABC News’ Bret Hovell, that “It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

McCain said there’s “divided scientific opinion” on the matter, with “many on the other side that are credible scientists that are saying that’s not the cause of it.”

Clinton:

“Would you support a large-scale federal study of the differences in health outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups?

Yes. We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism — but we should find out.”

And the most recent one, Obama:

“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

You can follow those links for extensive context and plenty of skepticism.

Those that view anything not in-line with establishment scientific communities as being inherently and vacuously “anti-science” probably won’t take comfort from much of that.

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