Posted by Brad @ 4:29 pm on May 23rd 2008

Harbinger Redux

Kos does some number posting, and the result?

[If the election were held today,] Obama would win 283-255, losing the Kerry states of Michigan and New Hampshire, and winning the Bush states of Iowa, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado, and Ohio. If you give him a tiny 3-point “primary boost”, he picks up Virginia and Michigan, for a 313-225 lead.

Clinton, for her part, posts better leads in OH, PA, FL, and MI. McCain has done alright basically standing still, but I have a hunch those days are coming to an end.

Posted by James @ 2:32 pm on May 23rd 2008

Anything for power.

Representative Paul Kanjorski of PA, seems to have come clean about how the Democrats purposely “over-promised” regarding the Iraq war and bringing troops home just so they could gain more power. Not that it comes as any surprise, not to me at least, since they have been using the war for political purposes from the get go.

It does surprise me that he is so willing to point that out in this video. Let’s not forget how much they all support the troops. Pretty poor, really.

Posted by Mark @ 9:47 am on May 23rd 2008

Make Love

Unmarried Soldiers in Afghanistan get to let off some steam

General Order No. 1 outlines a number of prohibited activities and standards of conduct for U.S. troops and civilians working for the military in Afghanistan. Previously, under the regulation, sexual relations and “intimate behavior” between men and women not married to each other were a strict no-no. The regulation also barred members of the opposite sex from going into each other’s living quarters unless they were married to each other.

Now I’m kind of on the fence on this one. Frankly, if I am living with possibility that I will be grabbed when on patrol and slowly roasted over an open fire by some mujahideen, I’d want some of the comforts of home.

I’m not remotely convinced either that romantic involvements in a war zone make you any less of a soldier.

But, with all the terrible press that westerners get regarding our relatively laissez faire attitudes to sex, it might not be the best practice to institute such a rule when occupying a strictly Islamic country.

Posted by Brad @ 10:25 pm on May 22nd 2008

Another Election, Another Big Tory Night

The Crewe and Nantwich by-elections are just ending, and it looks like Brown got another stomping. Cameron and his boys can do no wrong, it seems (and Labour shenanigans such as these aren’t winning them much sympathy).

Boris “Not the Albino From The Princess Bride” Johnson also sustained his first mayoral question time round, and though he got both barrels, appears to have acquitted himself well.

But despite the strong attacks from Green and Labour members Mr Johnson held court with admirable ease, swiping away objections with long-winded witticisms and sly retorts.

And the vast majority of the stuffed-to-the-rafters audience seemed to like it, many of them treating the new mayor as more of a celebrity than a politician. The two women sat next to seemed to hang on his every word as if they were fully paid up members of a comedy night.

“It’s like watching a variety show,” one of them whispered.

But no-one was as happy to be there as the Tory assembly members. After eight years being manhandled by Ken Livingstone’s superior wit and devastating grasp of detail, they seemed ecstatic to be headed by a man with similar talents but more sympathetic allegiances.

“Since your election the sun has shone on London every day,” one Tory suggested.

Ah, to be conservative and English right now.

Speaking of which, though he mentioned it yesterday, it’s worth another plug: our friend (and contributer) dizzy has an op-ed running in The Times of London that’s well worth your time. So put on your “superfluous u” filters and give it a read.

Posted by Brad @ 8:32 pm on May 22nd 2008


A new poll released today in California finds political momentum shifting dramatically toward Barack Obama—and away from both Hillary Clinton and John McCain—in the nation’s most populous state. According to a survey conducted over the past 10 days by the Public Policy Institute of California, 59 percent of likely voters here now have a “favorable” impression of Democrat Obama, while a majority view both of the other candidates unfavorably. In a state whose Democratic primary Clinton won in February, 51 percent of voters now say they have an unfavorable opinion of her; 53 percent of voters feel the same way about Republican McCain.

Obama, meanwhile, seems to be making strides across nearly every constituency. If the general election were held today, 54 percent of Californians say they would vote for him, compared with 37 percent for McCain. That gap has widened by 8 points since March. Obama enjoys the support of more than 80 percent of Democrats here, along with over half (55 percent) of independents. He leads McCain among men and women and is viewed favorably by nearly 70 percent of Latinos—a powerful political group, experts note, not just in California but in several other western states, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

To those who have been thinking that Obama has peaked, be prepared, as the nomination race wraps up, for an awful lot of support to come back home to roost with the Democratic nominee. All major demographic groups, of every stripe, according to Gallup, now support Obama (men, white men, men with high school degrees or less, Latinos, rural, under 50k, etc), save one: women over 50. They’ll be the last to come home, but make no mistake, they will.

I don’t think he’s going to have a massive spike anytime soon, but I do think that being in the race with an untouched Republican on one side and a Democratic opponent getting the support of half the Democratic electorate, has artificially depressed his numbers. Don’t take the last couple of months as the baseline. Take this August as the baseline.

Posted by Brad @ 6:04 pm on May 22nd 2008

The Libertarian National Convention

Begins today in Denver. We tried to get a liveblogger for the event, but alas could not.

FreedomDemocrats, however, has a nice roundup of coverage, including links to live-blogging from friends-of-the-site The Liberty Papers and Third Party Watch. You can also catch it being run on CSpan live beginning at 9 PM EST tonight.

Libertarian conventions are always a riot (thankfully, rarely literally), and I always, every cycle, wonder why I don’t make more of an effort to attend one. The political geek in me thinks it would be a lot of fun to just go see. This year promises to be full of fireworks, as the LP has been embroiled in a lot of internal strife of late, and the nominating contest for President is as heated as can be (if you think Bob Barr is a shoo-in, think again).

It also has the potential of playing at least some role in this year’s race for President. With a conservative base that’s never been particularly enthused by John McCain, and Barack Obama showing unusual strength in the deep south for a Democrat, some have speculated that a strong Libertarian candidate (specifically Bob Barr) might have the potential to have an impact, even flipping states like Georgie or Mississippi. The latest polling of the general election shows some enticing numbers, with Bar at 6% (and, 39% of voters believe it is somewhat or very likely that a third party candidate will be elected President in the next twenty-five years). Of course, the hope of having a real impact is aired every year by the Libertarians around their convention time, and it just never seems to materialize (and this far out, with the electorate not particularly polarized yet, third party choices enjoy a lot of inflated support that often doesn’t tend to translate into voting booth behavior come November). But on the heels of Ron Paul getting over a million votes and tens of millions of dollars, a Republican brand in disarray, and a lot of conservatives perhaps looking for a protest vote (and not moved to terror and instinctive circling-of-the-wagons by the prospect of an Obama presidency), it’s worth paying attention to.

In any event, I’ll try to keep up on news out of the convention, and relate the stuff that comes my way that has some general interest. At the very least, I’m fascinated to find out how the Presidential nomination comes out.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:03 pm on May 22nd 2008

The Keystone Kongress in: Farm Bill Follies

Congress manages somehow to lose an entire section of the farm bill prior to sending it to the President for his veto. Hilarious hijinks ensue:

Action stalled Wednesday, however, after the discovery that Congress had omitted a 34-page section of the bill when lawmakers sent the massive measure to the White House.

That means Bush vetoed a different bill from the one Congress passed, raising questions that the eventual law would be unconstitutional.

In order to avoid those potential problems, House Democrats hoped to pass the entire bill, again, on Thursday under expedited rules usually reserved for unopposed legislation. The Senate would then do likewise. The correct version would then be sent to Bush under a new bill number for another expected veto.

“We are trying to understand the ramifications of this congressional farm bill foul-up. We haven’t found a precedent for a congressional blunder of this magnitude,” said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman. “It looks like it may be back to square one for them.”

It takes some doing to make this administration look competent by comparison.

Posted by Brad @ 7:26 pm on May 21st 2008

The Veep Hunt Begins

Adam Nagourney at the Times scoops the story, much to the apparent chagrin of the McCain camp, that they have begun their Veep search in earnest. Three prominent short-list governors have been invited to McCain’s home for “interviews”. They are, Charlie Crist of Florida, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Mitt Romney.

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, on Friday is scheduled to meet with two Republican governors who have been prominently mentioned as potential running mates, according to Republicans familiar with Mr. McCain’s plan.

Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, have both accepted invitations to meet with Mr. McCain at his home in Arizona, according to Republican familiars with the decision. One Republican said that Mitt Romney, a former rival of Mr. McCain for the presidential nomination — is also expected to visit him this weekend. Mr. Romney’s advisers declined to comment.

The news, apparently, was not supposed to get out, so one can assume this isn’t just for theater. Nagourney does soft-pedal some suggestions that the Crist invite may, however, be part “message-sending”: it would likely be viewed as an insult to NOT invite Crist, and having him stay in the hunt helps McCain in Florida (and helps Crist in Florida) whether he ultimately taps him or not. However, I reiterate, the chances of Crist getting the nod are, in my view, nil.

Romney’s VP stock also took quite a hit this week. Polling by NBC of a lot of potential Obama/?? vs. McCain/?? matchups in Pennsylvania found a lot of interesting things, but most notable was that by FAR the worst pairing for any candidate was McCain/Romney. The single worst matchup had the McCain/Romney ticket losing that state by a whopping 15. Plus, as the NYT article notes, part of the point of the meet this weekend is to see how McCain gets along with the prospects in a “social” setting—personal chemistry being viewed as increasingly important to McCain, which probably hurts Romney further, given that McCain’s not exactly known as a huge Mitt fan.

On the Obama front, same news, less specific:

Democratic officials say Barack Obama has begun a top-secret search for a running mate.

Democratic officials said Thursday the party’s likely nominee has asked former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson to begin vetting potential vice presidential picks. Johnson did the same job for Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984.

Not much movement, as one would expect, but there have been a lot of rumblings this week in favor of newly-minted Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Webb is out on a book tour, and at virtually every stop the press can’t help but openly speculate that he’s also running something of an open audition for the slot, or at least the Obama inner circle will be unable to not notice how attractive a candidate Webb is. I find myself going back and forth on having Webb on the Obama ticket. The advantages are obvious, and it would almost certainly put Obama’s campaign on the offensive against McCain’s greatest strengths, and could provide a real turning point for Democrats on national security, which they’ve been in desperate need of for generations now.

On the other hand, Webb is no velvet glove; I find him to be overly blunt and pugnacious, not in a “fightin’ Dem” way, but in a “slightly unhinged drill sergeant” way. And, though he did very well in the Allen campaign, he did so mostly as a resume and silhouette. I couldn’t help but think, if the tables were turned and he got the kind of scrutiny that Allen did, he wouldn’t be able to hold up very well under the heat lamps either. He strikes me as a guy that would step all over Obama’s “unity and hope” shtick, and by sheer force of will turn the election into a knock-down drag-out brawl over national security and military issues. That, by the way, has a lot to recommend it in itself, but it certainly wouldn’t be the kind of “transcendent” “the best of us” election that a lot of commentators have hoped of the McCain-Obama thing, though, to be honest, that was always something of a pipe dream anyway. Obama-Webb would bring some forceful grit to the table, and would likely do a lot of grinding McCain’s face into the dirt. Like I said though, perhaps that’s precisely the reason it’s a good idea, from the Obama/Democratic party perspective. I would just have a feeling that such an election would have the capacity to get very very nasty and polarizing, and though I shed no tears for the prospect of the McCain branch of national greatness neoconservative foreign policy being on the wrong end of that (as, I believe, it likely would be), I do have to admit more than a little fatigue at the prospect of another “who supports the troops more and who will make the terrorists win” kind of election.

Update: I should also tack on this:

In Bill Clinton’s view, she has earned nothing short of an offer to be Obama’s running mate, according to some who are close to the former President. Bill “is pushing real hard for this to happen,” says a friend. […]

Some of Clinton’s own strategists are doubtful that Obama will offer to make her his running mate – in no small part because that would mean bringing Bill aboard. Her presence on the ticket would also undercut Obama’s core message of change and his promise of a new brand of politics. However, advisers say that in the interest of unifying the party, there may well be a good argument for tapping one of the Clintons’ high-profile supporters, such as Indiana Senator Evan Bayh or Ohio governor Ted Strickland.

Posted by dizzy @ 6:23 pm on May 21st 2008

Letters from London: Big Brother is watching you…..

My dear merkin friends,

I know it has been some time since my last letter and I apologise for not corresponding regularly enough. However, my latest letter will be short and sweet because it is already written. You see, “Big Brother” in dear old Blighty wants to get get even bigger, but thankfully it will never work in the way he would like it too.

Should you be wondering what I am referring to, then may I take the opportunity to direct you to my Op-Ed piece that appears in The Times of London today.

Warmest regards


Posted by Brad @ 4:56 pm on May 21st 2008

The Senate Picture: GOP, Be Afraid

Markos does a nice roundup of the top Senate seats that Democrats have a realistic chance of picking up. About three of them are, at this point, close to sure things, and about 5 beyond that are bonafide “lean Democrat”. Even races like North Carolina, Texas, Alaska, Kansas, and Nebraska are regularly being included on the list, and at least two of those can legitimately be called honest “tossups”.

But what’s the take-away message?

Momentum matters.

In a bad year, Democrats will “only” gain 3 or so Senate seats. If the election were held today, they could reasonably be expected to nab 5 or so (VA, NM, NH, CO, and then probably either AK, MN, or OR). With a powerful up-ticket draw running a fifty-state strategy and creating something of a wave? The Democrats could potentially beat the GOP down with a 10 seat gain. In other words, if things break their way this year, a supermajority is by no means out of the question, and that with a Democratic President in his first term.

The only reasonable pickup opportunity for the Republicans is in Louisiana, but at this point that seat’s only being included for nostalgia. Landrieu has looked very comfortably safe there for a long time now, leading her challenger by mid-double digits since June, by a margin akin to Warner in Virginia and Roberts in Kansas. The Republicans CAN console themselves with the notion that McCain may have some coattail success in Minnesota (though Obama leads him there by 12 or so), and the Coleman-Franken race is increasingly looking like the one that got away for the Democrats. But that’s a pretty paltry salve. The problem for the GOP is the baseline polling has them losing 6. They could manage to play effective defense and keep that number down, or get washed away entirely, but regardless, although you shouldn’t say “never” in politics, it appears effectively impossible for the GOP to get out of this year without a healthy bite taken out of their Senate caucus.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:42 am on May 21st 2008

The Gitmo Train Wreck

The Bush Administration is specifically and directly responsible for the failure to try an apparent would-be 9/11 hijacker. There was preponderant evidence that would have enabled him to be tried, convicted, and punished; but it was just vital that we torture him for some reason, and so now we have compromised the entirety of the case against him. So a man who, to all appearances, was an active co-conspirator in the attack on the World Trade Center is going to be released outright.

On the heels of that outrage, we now get word from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that, gosh darnit, we want to close Guantanamo, really, we do, but we’re–using his phrase here–“stuck” with it. Here’s his rationale:

For one, Gates said, there are about 70 detainees ready for release whose home governments either will not accept them or may free them after they return.

Gates said there were also several detainees who cannot be freed but who are also ineligible for prosecution under the military courts set up by the Bush administration. Gates did not elaborate on why those detainees would not be charged.

“What do you do with that irreducible 70 or 80, or whatever the number is, who you cannot let loose but will not be charged and will not be sent home?” Gates asked.

Take a look at the statement above. Take a good, long look.

See, it might seem to some of you that one would have the option of, I dunno, actually trying these people in a NON-military court. Or, if insufficient evidence exists to support a prosecution, doing what we do with people against whom we have no evidence of criminal conduct: releasing them. But apparently, for the SecDef, that possibility is so unthinkable as to not be worth mentioning; not even for so long as it would take to formally dismiss it. So, logic dictates that the only alternative is for the administration to reverse policy and keep in operation the single greatest stain on America’s foreign credibility in the recent history of the republic.

I just don’t even know anymore what to say about these people. It is almost impossible for me to fathom how the response to the 9/11 attacks could have been more comprehensively bungled. If one had set out to deliberately design a strategy to make America an international pariah and to place Americans at greater risk of terrorist violence, one could scarcely have done better than this.

There is at any rate no way, no earthly way, that we let them off the hook for Gitmo based on this incredibly imbecilic argument. Every prisoner held there needs to be tried or released. Every. Single. One. No more excuses are acceptable. And the moment the last one of them is out the door on their way to a pre-trial detention center, the place needs to be leveled with naval artillery. No two bricks are to be left standing atop one another.

Only then can we go about the long, painful business of expunging this blot upon our history.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:39 pm on May 20th 2008

Obama, the farm bill, and trade

McCain lowers the boom in the Chicago Tribune. The best of many, many excellent indictments is this:

Can we honestly demand fair and free trade from other countries when this bill increases trade distorting payment rates and restores an illegal cotton program? Sen. Barack Obama has raised the rhetoric on fair trade and restoring fiscal discipline, but his support for the farm bill betrays the inconsistency of his position: Cry foul with our trade partners, but break the rules at home.

The writers of this blog are all supporters of free trade, though some of us are less fond of specific agreements than others. We have all been cutting Obama a great deal of slack on trade; when he has indicated a desire to renegotiate or pull out of existing trade deals, we have gone so far as to assume that he was just saying it for political reasons.

Why are we giving him this kind of trust on trade? What, precisely, has he done to earn it? Agricultural subsidies are perhaps the MOST anti-competitive policy the US can enact where open markets are concerned. Not only is Obama supporting the heinous farm bill, he wants to substantially expand ag subsidies, including the wretched ethanol program.

If Barack Obama supports a single existing trade treaty, or any potential one, he has yet to say so. Every word that escapes his mouth on trade bemoans its effects. Here is the sum total of what his website has to say on the matter:


Obama believes that trade with foreign nations should strengthen the American economy and create more American jobs. He will stand firm against agreements that undermine our economic security.

• Fight for Fair Trade: Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. Obama will also pressure the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.

• Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers.

Exactly how many protectionist and collectivist policies does Barack Obama get to advocate before we stop letting him claim to be a centrist on economic policy?

I’m increasingly with Adam on the matter of the election and the economy. McCain’s foolishness on the gas tax is a drop in the bucket compared to Obama’s being flat damn wrong on multiple policy issues, and on basic matters of economic principle.

Posted by Adam @ 2:57 pm on May 20th 2008

Set killer arguments to stun, Mr Sulu

So, George Takei is getting married to his boyfriend in California, as Rojas mentioned yesterday. He uses his personal history to make a strong case based on emotional appeal:

“As a Japanese American, I am keenly mindful of the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that the law can impose. During World War II, I grew up imprisoned behind the barbed wire fences of U.S. internment camps. Pearl Harbor had been bombed and Japanese Americans were rounded up and incarcerated simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Fear and war hysteria swept the nation. A Presidential Executive Order directed the internment of Japanese Americans as a matter of national security. Now, with the passage of time, we look back and see it as a shameful chapter of American history…With time, I know the opposition to same sex marriage, too, will be seen as an antique and discreditable part of our history…”

Well, don’t hold your breath just yet, George, but it’s a nice contrast between “sky is falling” hysteria and the sober judgement of history.

Posted by Adam @ 1:18 pm on May 20th 2008

First they came for the hikers

A new outrage in the eternal bee-man war as bees push a man off a cliff:

The man, who is in his early 30s, was hiking alone around 5:30 p.m. when he left the trail to hike up a gully and was ambushed by hundreds of bees.

“He was waving his shirt and then he was actually just full of bees,” said hiker Ken MacKenzie, who witnessed the incident.

After the guy fell 200 feet down a ravine, the bees followed and apparently attempted to feast on his flesh:

Phoenix police Officer Craig Churella was the first responder. He tried to reach the hiker but was forced to retreat.

“He was absolutely covered in bees. It was quite the sight. I couldn’t get any closer — they started attacking me,” Churella said.

How much more of this must we endure before America wakes up to the threat of the stripy invaders?

Posted by Rojas @ 11:45 pm on May 19th 2008

Containing the cost of Iraq

Even as a pretty vigilant advocate of governmental spending restraint, there are situations in which it can be taken too far:

A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition.

“Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out,” Norma Perez wrote in a March 20 e-mail to mental-health specialists and social workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple, Tex. Instead, she recommended that they “consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder.”

Posted by Rojas @ 11:22 pm on May 19th 2008

Vomit-inducing, and for all the right reasons.

Christopher Hitchens, who is opposed to pretty much everything, endorses John McCain’s fired-up idea for regular Congressional questioning of the President:

Harold Macmillan, who was perhaps the most outwardly urbane and unflappable of the whole postwar Tory generation, once confided that he often had to go and vomit with nerves before entering the crowded chamber of the House of Commons for prime minister’s questions. There’s no script. The handlers can’t come in there with you. There’s no warning of the real question, because the topic can easily be concealed inside an ostensible or pretext question. There’s no defense against a crisply worded follow-up. Nobody can become prime minister, or continue as prime minister, who cannot stand up to it.

Nor should we permit anyone to serve as President who can’t handle such a situation. No better candidate screener is imaginable. Can anyone imagine George W. Bush even daring to run for the office in a system which included such a mechanism?

C’mon, Senator Obama, pony up. Are you for it or against it? And if you’re against it, what are your reasons?

Posted by Rojas @ 11:04 pm on May 19th 2008

Actually, no, we don’t have to draw the line somewhere.

You know how people who oppose gay marriage are always making slippery slope arguments about polygamy and beastiality, and how gay marriage proponents such as myself are always mocking them and calling their argument a silly thing?

Yeah. Um…

Posted by Rojas @ 11:01 pm on May 19th 2008

Warp Speed Ahead

In the wake of the California decision, Mr. Sulu gets gay married. Fine with me, as long as it’s not to an Andorran or something. We have to draw the line somewhere…

Posted by Adam @ 10:15 pm on May 19th 2008

Watch that space

Sorry about the light blogging today — things have been busy in real life — but something that is potentially going to play big over the next few months, up until the Presidential Election in November, is the effect of US troop numbers in Iraq tailing off to around 140 000. I don’t think that there’s a win on this issue for McCain whatever happens — if things go to Hell, people will be angry at him for supporting elongated US presence in Iraq and if things go OK, people will think that it’s OK to bring a lot more troops home — but it could certainly turn into a big loss if things really get noisy over there.

Iraq hasn’t really had potential to be a political winner for McCain, not in the Presidential election, but it’s a knife at his throat over the next few months. There are, of course, many reasons to wish for things to go well* in Iraq; those of us that support McCain have, I guess, another reason, although McCain’s political fortunes are obviously of lesser importance than the lives (American and, in significantly larger numbers although less domestic political importance, Iraqi) at stake.

*Relatively speaking.

Posted by Brad @ 3:48 pm on May 19th 2008

Where is Tucker Carlson?

And why are members of the Libertarian Party being polled about whether they’d vote for him for that party’s nomination?

Posted by Adam @ 2:59 pm on May 19th 2008

He has a point

Yuval Levin, that is. In the course of campaigning on US environmental leadership, Obama is reported to have said:

“We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,” Obama said.

“That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen,” he added.

Maybe he’s enough of a messiah to sell “self-denial for worldwide group hug” to the American electorate, but I think that he’d be better advised to reformat the argument somewhat; its implied condemnation of American selfishness may not be the sweetest medicine for the American middle-ground voter to swallow, even though it’ll sell well to a part of his own base.

Posted by Adam @ 2:21 pm on May 19th 2008

David Cameron soft-soaping it?

British Tory leader David Cameron’s gentle introduction of the potential of tax cuts seems pretty weak, to me. For sure, it’s better than promising increased public spending, but do people still fall for the “we’ll find efficiences” line as a substitute for painful spending cuts? Mind you, much as it’s hard to get elected promising a tax increase (the Liberal Democrats tried it, proposing a 1p increase in income tax to pay more towards education), you don’t get elected promising spending cuts either, I guess.

My question is whether Cameron has the spine to actually push those spending cuts through if he [i]does[/i] win, even though it’ll be painful. Any lack of resolve in that regard and there’ll always be more tempting alternatives (such as borrowing) in the place of making the hard decisions. And, for that matter, will he undo the actions by then-Chancellor Gordon Brown that disincentivised pensions contributions? Paying for that will require spending cuts of its own.

Posted by Adam @ 8:17 pm on May 18th 2008

Screwing Harvard

In the wake of this year’s appalling Farm Bill, I went on a fantastically detailed search for blog posts on it, a search which not only comprised looking at the front page of google news but also clicking on one of the stories thereon. Not only that, I then followed up by visiting the blog mentioned in the article (written by an economist at the University of Vermont) and, yea it was good. Not only does it have the anti-subsidy post referenced in the article, which makes an excellent point:

What’s most revealing about these articles is what they don’t say. Suppose the Vermont legislature passed a bill that raised everyone’s taxes and the price of food in order to give payments to a select group of people, with most of the money going to very well-to-do Vermonters. Someone managed to put in an “income sensitivity” provision that limited the payments to people earning under $750,000, hardly what anyone would consider low income.

That bill would have been met with howls of protest. But you won’t find any discussion of all the problems with the farm bill that was passed on the editorial or news pages of the state’s newspapers. (At least VPR gave a brief nod to the pork in the bill in its report.)

but there’s another post detailing plans in Massachusetts to tax universities with endowments bigger than a billion dollars at 2.5%. Colour me bemused that Massachusetts would choose to risk imperilling what might in effect be the state’s most important export, education. And read the VermontTiger blog, for It Is Good.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:21 am on May 17th 2008

Kill it

Here’s how bad the 2008 Farm Bill is: The New York Times and National Review agree about it.

And so does the President. But it won’t be vetoed, of course. Somehow, some way, Bush will find a way to sign it, as Presidents always do.

The farm bill has become a sort of quadrennial trip into the abyss for me. Every sane person in America hates it, and agricultural subsidies generally; yet every four years, it gets worse and more subsidy-laden. It is the ultimate example of narrow interests looting the treasury because nobody else cares enough to mobilize to stop them.

If only there were a Presidential candidate who were willing to take meaningful stands against agricultural subsidies at great political peril. Oh, wait…

Posted by James @ 12:04 am on May 17th 2008

Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for…

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. So sue me.

Posted by Brad @ 11:09 pm on May 16th 2008

Ron Paul’s ’88 Candidacy

Hey. I know this blog has a fair few LP activists as readers, as well as Ron Paul folks generally. I’ve got a writing assignment at present that focuses on telling the story of Ron’s 1988 run for President on the LP ticket. I know the broad strokes, but wasn’t personally involved in any of that.

If anybody feels they have a pretty good grasp of that, or better yet have some first hand knowledge of it, please contact me, baporterATgmailDOTcom. I’m looking at you, JoyfulCynic and Kaligula, but really anyone who thinks they might be of use to fill me in or even just orient me, please drop me a line. It’d be much appreciated.


Posted by Rojas @ 8:33 pm on May 16th 2008

Sebelius follow-up

I wrote here, and in the comments section, about the remarkable request by Archbishop Joseph Naumann that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius deny herself communion. A particularly cogent and persuasive criticism of the Bishop’s actions has been written by Patrick Whelan at Catholic Democrats. Again, this issue is one on which I cannot comment very freely, save to say that if the situation intensifies very much more, it will be hard for me to keep my job next year.

Meanwhile, Sullivan links to this astonishing incident: one of America’s more cogent Catholic pro-life advocates is denied the sacrament merely because he endorsed Obama.

I wonder if the people initiating these actions recognize exactly how their behavior is perceived by outsiders. In the course of my job, I spend a great deal of time educating Catholic youth on how to become effective public advocates for the church’s agenda, including pro-life advocacy. One of the hardest things to teach the kids is that the mere expression of what they believe to be truths is not sufficient; that one has to appeal to the pre-existing beliefs and concerns of one’s audience, not all of whom are Catholic, to achieve a change in behavior. I often wish that the leaders of the church would provide more cogent examples of this type of persuasion.

Somewhere in me, there is a post analogizing this sort of behavior to that of the Libertarian Party. Surely one of the most important things about principles is that you advocate and promote them effectively; if they are not to be translated into real, tangible good, then what are they for?

Posted by Rojas @ 7:59 pm on May 16th 2008

More madness over the KC-45

The KC-45 is an air refuelling tanker designed by Northrup-Grumman to replace the US military’s obsolete fleet. The contract for the new plane was initially awarded to Boeing on a non-competitive basis. John McCain blocked this, demanding a competitive bid process, which was won by Northrup-Grumman. This led to McCain’s boasting that he’d saved the taxpayers millions of dollars, Democrats whining that McCain had jacked things up and screwed over an American contractor (see Adam’s posts), and eventually a formal, and to all appearences specious, protest by Boeing.

This has now led to a point at which Northrup-Grumman apparently feels compelled to defend the bid through, of all things, banner ads on political websites. I will be frank: I am not quite sure that readers of RCP are going to be sufficiently psyched up by these ads to call their congresspersons and DEMAND that Northrup-Grumman be awarded the contract. But if they aren’t, then why is N-G running them? How, exactly, does this bring pressure to bear on decisionmakers? I’m genuinely confused by this strategy.

How delightful, in any event, that disputes over the bidding process for military contracts now play themselves out in the field of political opinion.

Posted by Brad @ 5:33 pm on May 16th 2008

Finkelstein on the American PMQs

Our blogroll mate Danny Finkelstein, who spent five years working 9 to 5 prepping Prime Ministers for their question times, has some advice for John McCain on his suggestion (that sent Rojas all a-twitter).

I hope McCain pressures Obama on this one. Be nice to get quick-thinking back “in” as a valued asset for Presidents and legislators.

Posted by Brad @ 4:35 pm on May 16th 2008


Just a personal note, after 10 long years of on-again off-again studentry, I finally finished my bachelor’s degree. I’ll be graduating with a degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Creative Writing here shortly.

It’s good to finally be done with. I quite like being a perpetual student, and I don’t regret the many things I was able to do by getting the degree piecemeal as I have (right up until the finish line: I effectively dropped out last semester to devote myself fully to Ron Paul stuff, the 527, and various other political work), but it is nice to no longer have it hanging over me.

Not sure where I’ll be along to next. Very likely at some point I’ll get an MFA, but probably not for a few years. I’ll be spending the next few months job-hunting.

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