Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Catch-22 Goes to Washington.

posted by Brad

Being a Pre-Medical student, I have lately been almost consumed by studying for tests and applying to school in the past months, leaving me little time for political pursuits. Every now and again, though, I would take the time to check in on the political arena (there is an important election coming up). The Democratic convention and McCain's announcement of his vice presidential canidate fell at a bad time and I ended up getting a lot of secondhand information from both radically conservative friends as well as the violently liberal. Now while I really didn't care about anything at the Democratic convention in Denver, I was curious about Sarah Palin. What kind of person would McCain, who I like in some regards but am not too keen on in others, pick to lead the senate and be his second in command. I am pleased to say that so far, I have found Mrs. Palin to be a very pleasent surprise from someone as centrist as McCain. I am especially endeared to her strong pro-life stance, something auspiciously laking in Mr. McCain. I'm also drawn to her devotion to her family, especially when things are less than perfect. As I sit here writing this now, I am watching her speak at the Republican convention and I have to say she's growing on me even more. She seems well spoken, energetic, earnest, and downright funny; the hot new hocky mom of the Republican party. All in all if McCain can pick his Supreme Court nominees as well as he seems to have chosen a Vice President then there may be hope for him yet. Now I'm sure you're wondering by this point what my title has to do with anything; well here it is. When I slipped off the map there was a great debate raging about Obama's experience. Having done nothing in particular, what qualified this man to run the country. Now as I again turn my gaze to politics, the arguent seems to have been bizarrely flipped. Democrats and liberal media outlets are now accusing Sarah Palin of not having enough experience, the same people that were only months ago has less than the Republican Vice Presidential canidate. Now setting aside the blatant absurdity of this argument, I would ask the democrats if they really want to bring up the matter of experience. Sarah Palin isn't running for president John McCain is. If you would like to present an experience argument, by all means compare Obama's experience to McCain's. Now we'll return to the blatan absurdity of this argument. It is the absolute epitome of a Catch-22, where Democrats both discount and flout the importance of political experience experience in the same breath, though hypocrisy might be a better word. I am excited to see what Mrs. Palin will do in the future, and hope she can knock some sense into John McCain on some important issues. As for arguments about her experience, I say she has quite enough to be the Vice President and if thats all the worst people can say about her then she is sitting pretty good. If she really is as wonderful as she seems, I forsee attacks on her getting more and more ludicrous. You can't really blame the Democrats though, when your opponent has good policy and experience on their side, its hard to come up with arguments to attack them. Joseph Heller, eat your heart out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday Roundup

posted by Christopher

I apologize for the lack of posting of late; I've been busy with a new job, and I don't know what's going on with the other regular contributors. I'll check into it.

In the meantime, here are a number of articles from other sources that I've been meaning to discuss. They're all worth your time to read.

The Tax Threat to Prosperity by Arthur Laffer, The Wall Street Journal
The venerable economist most notable for the introduction of the Laffer curve discusses the relationship between the change in the top 1% of wage earners' incomes and the change in the effective tax rate. His research comes to a commonly-held conclusion: that changes in the real wages of the super rich are not reflected in changes in tax revenues, i.e. that if Bill Gates wealth increases by 10%, he does not actually pay 10% more in taxes. It's an excellent discussion of the practical problems of the popular "tax the rich" theory for raising government revenue, and proposes alternative solutions.

Tax the Rich, Starve the Poor by Daniel Obrycki and Rafael Resendes, RealClearMarkets
These two co-founders of a capital markets research firm have done their homework on the respective economic policies of both Republicans and Democrats, and give detailed mathematical analysis as to their effects on the market. It's a startling indictment of Democratic economic policies, without using any rhetoric or propagandizing.

Berkeley, CA City Council OKs Crackdown for Parks, Sidewalks by Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Gate
In what can only be termed a double-whammy of collectivist liberalism, Berkeley is seeking to crackdown on offensive behavior in public places such as parks and sidewalks. This includes lying down on the sidewalk and yelling. Senior citizens and social workers will "patrol" public areas watching for wrongdoers. (I'm not making this up.) However, as this may upset the city's homeless population, they have provided free counseling for the homeless to help them transition into this new law.

Government Report: More Military Deaths in Some Years of Peace than War, FOX News
An interesting study has found that during some years of peace, such as 1981-82, have had more military deaths than years of war (such as 2005-06, one of the bloodiest times for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). The report is a reminder that even the "death toll" of casualties we see today pales in comparison to the wars fought by our fathers and grandfathers.

As an example, in the five years of the entire Iraq War, there have been 3,974 confirmed casualties (DoD). On one day in WWII (June 6, 1944), there were nearly 5,100 US military casualties.

By comparison, modern warfare seems almost humane.

Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming "Greatest Scam in History" by Noel Shepperd, NewsBusters
Not that one metereologist has the capacity to make such a claim, but he has more ground than the veritable Mr. Gore.

Militant Group Out of Baghdad by Damien Cave, The New York Times

This is an interesting one. The NYT reported in November that al-Qaeda was "routed ... from every neighborhood in Baghdad ... allowing American troops involved in the 'surge' to depart as planned."

Of course, the article was buried in the Mid-East section of the paper. It didn't appear on the front page or in the News section.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's the Recession, Stupid

posted by Christopher

Popular political analyst (and vociferous Clinton supporter) Mr. James Carville had a simple notion about how to win the 1992 Presidential election. He hung a sign in Bill Clinton's campaign office that stated: "It's the economy, stupid."

Clinton used this mantra to defeat the senior Bush, and the phrase has been stuck in political Americana ever since.

However, the same statement could easily be used today: just aim it at the public.

According to a poll by the Associated Press, 61% of Americans believe the economy is now suffering through a recession, the first since 2001. What justification is given for this blanket statement?

"Empty homes and for-sale signs clutter neighborhoods. You've lost your job or know someone who has. Your paycheck and nest egg are taking a hit. Could the country be in recession?"

...You know, if the only qualifer for a recession is that your house is for sale and Uncle Jerry got laid off from Meinke, then the country is in a recession a lot.

This is why matters economical are not voted on by the public, at least not directly. (You could certainly make the argument that depending on your personal economic philosophy you can vote by proxy; if you want lower taxes, you vote Republican, and if you want more welfare, you vote Democrat.) The reason the public doesn't get to vote directly on the economy is because the public doesn't understand the economy. People talk about the economy like they talk about the weather; "it looks like a recession" has all the scientific merit and analysis coming from John Q. Public as when he says "looks like it could rain."

Forgive me for being elitist. I don't mean to be. But this is what I do: I have a degree in economics, and unlike politics, economics is an exact science. Economics is simply the mathematical analysis of money -- it can be repeated with the same result and independently verified. Those who understand economics can explain any facet of the economy with precise detail.

Now, don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying economists can predict the future. We can't; we're not psychic. I don't know what the stock market is going to do tomorrow any more than does anyone else, whether they're an analyst at Goldman-Sachs or a retiree in his home office throwing darts at the Wall Street Journal. It's because the stock market, international exchanges, and consumers' economic behavior are all functions of the immediate now. What economists can do is read the present, reference the past, and make educated guesses about the future.

Let's do that.

What are the two major problems people cite for their statement that the economy is in a "recession"? They are: (1) the housing crisis; and (2) job growth.

A recession is not based on either one. Strictly speaking, the definition of a recession is "two consecutive quarters of negative growth." That growth occurs in the economy as a whole, usually measured by gross domestic product (GDP). That hasn't been seen in a long time, not even in 2001 where the economy shrank, grew, and shrank in 2Q01, 3Q01, and 4Q01 respectively.

This is the problem posed by armchair economists: they take a very specific, technical term like "recession" and bastardize it to mean "anytime I don't think things are going as well as they should be." You might as well tell a rocket scientist that a rocket can be anything you hurl upwards from the Earth, even a rock or a tennis ball.

Not to mention that the problems cited are fairly miniscule. The housing crisis occurred because people without a full knowledge and understanding of investing in real estate tried to make a quick buck off "cheap" housing prices. They got adjustable rate mortgages and thought they could flip the house by putting a few comestic repairs in place and selling it for twice what it was worth. The trouble was their only knowledge of real estate came from watching the "Design on a Dime" marathon on TLC. Then when the rate on their adjustable rate mortgage was -- surprise, surprise -- adjusted, they suddenly found themselves in a world of hurt. What kind of person gets an adjustable rate mortgage and is surprised when the rate gets adjusted? How comically inept do you have to be for that to happen?

But I digress. Long story short, what happened to the dot-com millionaires and amateur stock market playboys in 2000-2001 happened to the real estate geniuses this past year. Now, with people owning more than one house or owning houses they knew they couldn't afford, they find themselves spiraling downward.

A laissez faire economist would snicker and laugh, and say "Hope you learned your lesson." Which is more or less what I did, and it's also why I was appalled that the government is bailing them out with this so-called "fiscal stimulus."

Let's review:

  1. People buy houses they can't afford.
  2. Those new homeowners can't make their payments.
  3. They whine to the government.
  4. The government bails them out.
  5. Repeat.

Not to mention that the fiscal stimulus is picking our own pocket. We're taking a little money from a lot of people and giving a lot of money to a little group of people. Know what that's called? Here's a hint.

As for reason number two, the unemployment rate is at 4.9% -- this is compared to the "booming '90s" where the rate averaged between 5% - 6.2%. With an unemployment rate at 4.9%, you can't expect to keep creating jobs forever. Further, January 2008 is the first time in four years that job growth has dropped (as an aside, that's a testament to Bush's economic policies, which I'll give him credit for).

Does declining job growth represent a serious threat to the economy? Sure. But are we positive that job growth is declining? No. One month in four years does not represent irrefutable data. Further, who is complaining about slow job growth? No one is unemployed! Even I've got a job these days. And that's saying something.

In short, the government cannot kowtow to the general public's whimsical definition of a "recession" and certainly cannot bow to their economic demands. If we did, we'd all be getting million dollar checks from the government every month; absolutely worthless million dollar checks.

Why is the economy slow these days? "It's the economy, stupid!" It does that!

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What's a Good Conservative to do?

posted by Brad

With the political field narrowing every day the same question still remains that was there a year ago, what is a good conservative to do? With an obvious lack of truly likeable well rounded candidates it has been extremely difficult for me to pick a candidate to support, and consequently have been bouncing back and forth. Let’s start with the field when it first went to the Iowa caucuses. There was John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Ron Paul, and Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson became a non-entity early on so we will ignore him for simplicity’s sake. Ron Paul, however fun he may be to listen too, was never really a viable contender, though you still have to love the guy. In debates it was like all the other candidates were doing the waltz in topcoats and tail, the Ron Paul runs in wearing a Woody-Woodpecker costume and starts jumping around and yelling and pecking the other candidates in the head; sure its amusing, but at the end of the day we want someone who knows how to waltz and can keep the dance going.

Now to the candidates that actually stood a chance. Each one has his strengths or weaknesses, but it was apparent from the beginning that this was not going to be an election that conservatives would like. Just from watching the debates and reading the articles, Giuliani seemed to have some fairly good immigration and war stances, but abortion, gay marriage, and gun control were bad…very bad. Add to that a personal life that makes Bill Clinton look like a choir boy, and that makes him a very hard pill to swallow. This is all academic though, as he is no longer in the race.

Romney tried to place himself as the only true conservative in the running, the “conservative alternative to John McCain”. Romney touted his business experience and healthcare work in Massachusetts as credentials, which are not entirely without merit. Romney’s change of heart, authentic or not, was just a little too convenient though; anyone who claimed at one time that they could be a better advocate for gay rights than Ted Kennedy is going to have a very tough road to hoe to become the conservative alternative to anything. Add to that his Mormon faith, a religion at odds with a greater part of the conservative base and Romney is once again far from appealing.

None of these really matter though as Giuliani is no longer in the race and Romney has suspended his campaign. That leaves us with McCain and Huckabee, which is still almost an academic question as McCain possesses an almost insurmountable lead in delegates. Just for the sake of argument though let’s say Huckabee is a viable contender for the Republican nomination, and we’ll compare him to John McCain. Now without going into too much depth or detail Huckabee is a good social conservative. Abortion and gay marriage are particularly good spots for him. Speaking as a social conservative (and consequently one whose hot buttons are abortion and gay marriage) I like Huckabee. I like his stance on social issues, I like that he is a pastor and guided by Christian ideals, and I just kinda like the guy in general. The fact is though, he is somewhat scary on most larger issues. Economy, defense, all those bigger problems, he just seems, well, inadequate. McCain on the other hand seems very strong on bigger issues. National defense and global issues seem to be his strong suite, along with a widespread appeal to independents and right leaning democrats, but he’s very sketchy conservatively on almost everything. Reaching across the isle is all well and good, but reaching across and walking across and hanging out for awhile are two entirely different things.

Now we have the million dollar question, what is a good conservative to do? Sadly the only answer I can come up with is…I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, and judging by how the votes have been falling in the different primaries, I think other conservatives feel the same way. I like Huckabee on social issues, but I don’t like him on most others. If you’ve read any of Chris’ past articles, you’ll notice him referring to conservative friends supporting McCain; one of those friends would be me. I have several friends in the military whose opinions I trust greatly and they are adamant that McCain is their man; that counts for a lot in my books. Once again though, McCain is very sketchy as a conservative. With the scales in essence balanced, I’ve decided that the only thing a good conservative can do is vote against Hilary/Obama. Whether McCain or Huckabee wins the nomination, conservatives need to support the republican candidate. There never has, nor will there be a perfect candidate (yes even Reagan wasn’t perfect) and about the only thing that can be done is to vote for the lesser of two evils. I think McCain’s ability to draw in independents and right leaning Democrats will be key in the upcoming election. As much as I like Huckabee I don’t think he can win against a Democrat, and regardless of what Ann Coulter may say, Hilary is NOT better than McCain. Whichever Democrat wins their nomination, rest assured they will be much farther away from conservative ideals than anyone that wins our nomination. It is absolutely imperative that a republican win the Presidency to counteract the Democratic momentum, to appoint the next couple of Supreme Court judges, and to offset the now Democratic congress. So my fellow conservatives, I say don’t worry to much about the primaries, if you have a particular affinity for a candidate by all means support him, if not then don’t. Come November, though, we need to be behind whoever our Nominee is, whether we totally agree with him or not.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mike Huckabee wins the Kansas Caucus

posted by Christopher

According to reports from individuals who were at the caucusing locations, Mike Huckabee has won the Kansas Caucus. I don't have numbers yet but I'll post them as soon as I get them.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Real John McCain, Part 1

posted by Christopher

If John McCain is the new face of the Grand Ol' Party, then conservatives need to give the party a serious makeover.

With his skyrocketing popularity peaking at just the right time, John McCain looks poised to become the next Republican candidate for President. This naturally begs to question: "Where have all the conservatives gone?"

Don't be fooled by McCain's conservative veneer. It's calculated. Much has been made of McCain's purported difficulty in winning over the conservative base, and the Senator understands that conservatives don't like him. It's because he's not one of them. He never has been, and even now, despite his relatively recent change of heart on certain issues, he's not a conservative.

This isn't a Romney-esque conversion for the Senator from Arizona. Romney -- in my opinion -- is a political opportunist who wants to be elected. He wants power. He saw his best shot at running against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts was to run as a liberal. He saw his best shot at the Presidency for the Republican party was to run as a conservative. He recognized that in this race there isn't a real conservative, and thus he neatly and tidily championed each issue in each way that a "real" conservative would. He's not real: he's the aspartame to the conservative's sugar, the Astroturf to our grass, the tofu to our ... every kind of meat.

McCain is also seeking power, but there's a difference: whereas Romney was so liberal and "became" so conservative that it's unbelievable, McCain is still liberal but is packaging himself as a conservative to win over a very specific set of the Republican party. If McCain didn't change a single part of his agenda, his stump speech, or his attitude to mollify conservatives, he would still win liberal Republicans, moderates, independents, and swing voters. Those aren't his problem. As I referred to in the last article on polling, it takes two out of the three segments of the voting bloc to win an election: liberals, moderates, and conservatives. No one is ever going to win over liberals and conservatives while not winning moderates, it's impossible. So if you're a moderate candidate you have to win your base; if you're a liberal or conservative candidate, you have to win the moderates. McCain is the former.

He's going about it the right way, and doing a great job of it, too. Friends of mine whom I would consider dedicated and passionate conservatives have become McCain supporters. His mounting wins indicate that he is slowly accomplishing his goal. And if he were paired with a conservative running mate (say, Huckabee), he would undoubtedly prove a force to be reckoned with.

I'll say this now, and this stands for the rest of this election: I will not vote for John McCain. I won't vote for McCain-Anybody, even McCain-Huckabee. (Against my better judgment, I can't help liking Huckabee. I wouldn't vote for him for President, understand, but I like the guy.)

You're probably wondering why I don't like John McCain. As I haven't seen a good dissection of McCain's voting record and analysis as to his liberal tendencies, it seems apropos to provide one.

Social, Moral, and Societal Issues

Abortion
According to JohnMcCain.com, the Senator's official 2008 election website: "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned ... [h]owever, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion." This would seem to indicate John McCain's blanket support for ending abortion and explicitly overturning Roe.

However, his record does not merit such a statement.

In 1999, while running for President against George W. Bush, McCain made the following statement to the San Francisco Chronicle: "I'd love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

This seems to indicate that his support for repealing abortion is predicated on its declining necessity, which has yet to be proven.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has given him a 75% rating, indicating "mixed" support for the pro-life cause. They also provide an excellent dissection of remarks he made during his first Presidential campaign -- where he ran as the "liberal" choice for Republicans against the "conservative" Bush (who had a 100% pro-life rating). For example, McCain discussed nominating his friend Warren Rudman, a former Senator from New Hampshire, to be Attorney General; Sen. Rudman has been a vocal supporter of abortion, and while in Congress voted for pro-abortion initiatives. Rudman was also critical of the Christian Right: "Politically speaking, the Republican Party is making a terrible mistake if it appears to ally itself with the Christian right" — a group that he identified as rife with "antiabortion zealots" and "bigots," among other undesirables. When Senator McCain was given the opportunity to repudiate Rudman's words, he simply said that Rudman was "entitled to his own opinion." Rudman also said: "If someone had told me in the 1960s that one day I would serve in a Republican Party that opposed abortion rights — which the Supreme Court had endorsed — advocated prayer in the schools, and talked about government-inspired 'family values,' I would have thought he was crazy."

In perhaps the most egregious example of McCain's support for abortion, he voted to allow federal funding for experimentation using body parts of aborted infants.

The NRLC has the complete history of this issue, but the highlights are:
In 1992 and again in '97 the Senate considered whether body parts from aborted fetuses could be used in medical experimentation that was federally funded. McCain initially was against the procedure, but quickly changed positions and re-affirmed his support for such funding in '97. The NRLC explains: "[O]n May 8, 1992, McCain authored a letter discussing his change of position. Noting that abortion is 'a practice which is currently legal in this country,' McCain said he had concluded, 'I support lifting the ban on the use of fetal tissue for research by the National Institutes of Health.'"

Lastly, Andrew McCarthy at The National Review discusses how the Arizona Senator has thrown the pro-life movement under the bus in order to help his friend and campaign finance reform pal across the aisle Russ Feingold (D-WI):

"Senator McCain has engaged in a years-long campaign against Wisconsin Right to Life, an organization dedicated to advancing the pro-life agenda. Conservatives, one might have thought, would be stunned by a grand-slam only the modern Left could love: McCain has (a) urged the courts to judicially legislate a (b) suppression of free-speech rights (c) against an anti-abortion group which was (d) trying to urge the confirmation of conservative Bush judicial nominees.

"And the cherry on top? McCain’s exertions were singularly designed to protect one of the Senate’s most liberal incumbents: Russ Feingold (D., Wis.), McCain’s soul-mate in the evisceration of First Amendment rights (also known as the McCain/Feingold “campaign finance reform” law). A pro-abortion stalwart who scores a whopping 93 percent on NARAL’s pro-choice report card, Feingold has also opposed ... every sensible national security measure taken after 9/11."

Thankfully, this past June the Supreme Court struck down the clause in McCain-Feingold that allows such attacks on the WRLC.

In short, John McCain's record on abortion and tangential issues precludes him being able to claim the mantle of the pro-life movement.

OnTheIssues.org: John McCain on Abortion

Stem Cell Research
Last April, John McCain voted to expand stem cell research on more embryonic stem cell lines, and provide federal funding for that research. On this bill he voted "Yes" along with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. President Bush vetoed the legislation.

Prior to that, he also signed a letter sent to President Bush urging him to change federal policy to allow more funding of stem cell research. He was one of only a handful of Republicans to cross party lines and criticize Bush's stem cell policy. Hillary Clinton also signed the letter (Obama had not yet been elected to Congress in 2004.)

"I believe that we need to fund this. This is a tough issue for those of us [sic] in the pro-life community. I would remind you that these stem cells are either going to be discarded or perpetually frozen. We need to do what we can to relieve human suffering. It's a tough issue. I support federal funding."
-John McCain, GOP Primary Debate, May 3, 2007

Gay Marriage
John McCain 2008 does not give an answer to the Senator's views on marriage in the section entitled "Protecting Marriage."

In 1996, he voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This was a nonbinding resolution which stated that marriage was between one man and one woman. It has no legal authority.

In 1999, John McCain told Reuters in an interview that he would be "comfortable with a homosexual as President of the United States."

In 2006, John McCain voted against the amendment to ban gay marriage. However, he voted against this amendment on the grounds that an amendment to the Constitution would be un-Republican: marriage should be defined at the state level. The merits of this argument notwithstanding, it would be justification enough for his vote against the amendment.

However, the strongest evidence for his support of gay rights comes from this interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball in 2006.
MATTHEWS: "Should gay marriage be allowed?"
MCCAIN: "I think gay marriage should be allowed, if there's a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that, I don't have any problem with that."

Civil Liberties

Free Speech
John McCain's co-authored campaign finance legislation (The McCain-Feingold bill) is the greatest assault on political free speech since the Fairness Doctrine. McCain-Feingold bans all broadcast political advocacy advertising that mentions candidates by name, beginning 30 days before a primary and 60 days before an election, if such ads are paid for corporations, nonprofit organizations, political action committees (PACs), or unincorporated entities using any corporate or union funds. Of course, because of the immense cost of creating, distributing, and placing advertisements during election cycles, there are very few individuals who would be able to place such ads singularly. This, in effect, has abolished specific candidate issue advocacy -- apart from those run by the candidates themselves -- in the entire time period where such advertising may have proven relevant.

McCain-Feingold also banned "soft money" -- those funds raised by national political parties not subject to federal limits. No individual may contribute more than $2,000 to a specific candidate (corporations are banned from donating directly to candidates). Previously, the DNC or RNC could raise unlimited cash from individuals or corporations because they didn't raise it for a specific candidate. McCain-Feingold made that illegal. Now the so-called 527s (so named because of their place in section 527(c) of the tax code) have taken over that fundraising -- these are organizations that advocate issues. But as we've discussed, McCain-Feingold already banned them from advertising 30 to 60 days out from election, which severely curtails their effect.

The issue is not whether 527 organizations should or shouldn't be allowed to raise unlimited money, or when their ads are shown on television. The issue is that McCain-Feingold is an express and direct violation of the First Amendment. The law McCain created expressly bans certain speech -- political speech at that, arguably the most important kind. It does so not from concern for the immediate safety of others (e.g., you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded public place just for fun because people may get hurt trying to escape); nor does it make any exception for the truth or validity of said statements (e.g., slander and libel are illegal). Rather, it bans speech for the "explicit" reason that there's too much money in politics -- pardon me, but I hardly remember reading that Federalist paper. I'm also assuming, based on McCain's voracious defense of Feingold from the Wisconsin Right to Life Committee that we discussed earlier, the implicit reason is to help politicians protect their own. I mean, with organizations advertising about issues, people might learn the truth, they might even be informed when they vote! That could be very bad for some politicians.

Flag Burning
John McCain voted in favor of a Constitution amendment banning flag burning. This is why I don't buy his earlier rhetoric on gay marriage; if he votes against a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on strict constructionist principles (i.e., that the issue is not a federal matter and should best be left to the states to decide), how can he reasonably vote for a flag-burning ban? In that instance he is taking the power out of the hands of the states and making a federal determination. You're either strict constructionist or you're not, but you can't claim both sides to suit your whims.

The Real John McCain: Part 2 will cover his policies on economics and taxation, foreign policy, social security and domestic issues, and conclude with his views on the war on Terror and the War in Iraq.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Latest Poll Numbers

posted by Christopher

If you're new to America, or new to democracy (I'm looking at you, Russian immigrants), let me explain how elections work. After all the candidates get done endless debating who amongst themselves hates terrorism more/is more concerned about the economy/is most generally swell, and after the pundits get done analyzing the color of the President's tie during his pre-mid-afternoon post-lunch press conference, and after you've seen every single piece of political advertising in the entire universe, every now and then somebody asks the voters what they think. (This is as opposed to Russia, where you don't actually vote in the election: the election votes in you.)

The latest poll numbers are in, and they represent a few distinct elements which merit discussing.

1. Bush still has a better approval rating than the Democratic Congress.
Bush's job approval is +33% (approval) / -60% (disapproval) overall, while Congress is +22% / -66%.

2. Obama has closed the gap but still trails.
Hillary leads 47% to 37% with 11% still undecided. However, Hillary really hasn't changed -- a year ago (January 2007) she was at 50%. Since then she has fluctuated between 38% and 50%, but never really breaking into majority support. This means she's probably crested as far as her support is going to go, which looks bad for her in a vacuum. It depends who she competes with in the general election.

3. McCain-Clinton are virtually tied. Anyone else loses to Clinton in a landslide.
Overall: McCain 45% Clinton 44%
Democrats: McCain 15% Clinton 79%
Republicans: McCain 86% Clinton 7%
Independents: McCain 42% Clinton 38%

That McCain wins independents is no small matter; he always does well among undecided, independent, and swing voters. It's the base he'll have trouble with. Think of an American election as having three parts: conservative base, moderates, and liberal base. You have to win two out of those three or you don't get elected. McCain wins moderates easily, but he's not connecting with the conservative base (e.g. me).

However, it's encouraging that McCain has more support among Republicans than Clinton does among Democrats.

Hillary beats Romney or any other Republican by at least 15 points. Barack is in a similar tie with McCain and similarly wipes out Romney or other Republicans by 15+.

This means that McCain will almost certainly be the Republicans' general election candidate, which I called at Iowa. (Albeit, not perfectly.)

4. The Republicans understand that McCain is their best choice. Democrats don't understand that Hillary is not theirs.
I would bet that in a multiverse where you can actually compare elections running separate candidates, Obama either beats or comes much closer to beating McCain than does Hillary. Hillary does not beat McCain.

Looking at the poll data, Republicans understand this: when asked who would have the best chance of beating a Democrat in November, Republicans, Democrats and Independents all answered McCain (by 66%, 49%, and 54% respectively). This puts him 40-50 points ahead of the next candidate (Romney).

But Democrats don't; as I noted at the outset, Hillary leads Obama 47%-37%. But when asked what candidate would have the best chance at winning against a Republican in November, respondents answered Obama. So, you know who would have the best chance to win, but that's not the person you support? What are you, a third-party voter?

Among all respondents, Obama beats Clinton 41%-34% in electability. But among Democrats, who are isolated in their liberal bubble and don't understand the "two-thirds of the pie necessary to win" argument I advanced earlier, believe Clinton really does have the best shot (49% to 37%). Independents disagree, and the independents will decide this election: they picked Obama by 20 points. Meanwhile Republicans, understanding that any Republican is weaker against Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton, said Obama is the more electable of the two.

5. Clinton is seen as most power-hungry.
This should come as no surprise.
"Which candidate do you think is more likely to do anything -- even something unethical -- to win the election?"
Clinton 44% Don't Know 28% Romney 11% McCain 9% Obama 8%

6. Clinton is seen as most likely to embarass the country.
Clinton 37% Don't Know 26% Romney 14% McCain 12% Obama 11%

7. Despite the preceding two questions, and vociferous attacks on each other, Clinton and Obama are both seen as more postive than the Republicans.
Who is most positive: Obama 36% Clinton 22% McCain 18% Don't Know 13% Romney 11%

8. Hillary's attacks on Obama are unfair; Obama's attacks on Hillary are legit.
"Do you think Hillary Clinton is making unfair attacks against Barack Obama?" Yes 44% No 42%
"...Barack Obama...against Hillary Clinton?" Yes 29% No 56%

9. This year's voting issues are different for different parties.
Democrats care about the war in Iraq (36%), the economy/jobs (32%), and health care (12%). No other issues registered above the 3% mark, including terrorism/national security, immigration, taxes, or the environment.
Republicans care about the economy/jobs (26%), terrorism/national security (20%), the war in Iraq (11%) and immigration (11%).

This is unique from recent past elections where, say, corruption in Congress and the war in Iraq manifested themselves as repudiations of the Republicans in 2006, or where the war and terrorism/national security were the dominant forces in 2004. This year is the first time we've seen people view their own social/economic conditions through the lens of partisan politics, as The Pew Research Center noted.

Disclaimer: The individuals polled self-identified as Democrat (42%), Republican (33%), Independent (20%) and Other (2%).

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kathleen Sebelius & The Democratic Response

posted by Christopher

After watching the Democratic response to the State of the Union address, I had one thought:

"Kathleen Sebelius' campaign slogan must be: Snoozing To Victory."

Did anyone actually watch the whole thing? I tried but the part of my brain that doesn't let people get away with stupid crap kept making comments that somehow fell out of my mouth. Thus I didn't actually hear everything she said, but that's okay because apparently she said the same thing about 40 different times: "Join us Mr. President," "Let's get to work," and "Please don't sit near anything with corners because if you fall asleep listening to me I don't want to be held liable when you pitch forward face first and break your nose."

If you would actually like to watch the response (and I wouldn't recommend it for women who are nursing, pregnant, may become pregnant, or anyone who doesn't have an extremely high tolerance for monotony), it's available on YouTube. To save you the time, I'll give you the highlights:

  1. Kathleen Sebelius is very boring.
  2. She wants Democrats and Republicans to work together on the issues that differentiate Democrats from Republicans, which makes her plea effectively pointless.
  3. She wants President Bush to help, because a lame-duck, term limited President in the last year of office who is possibly the most divisive political figure in the country would really do a lot to bring people together.
  4. The most important issues are green energy, bringing people together to overcome their problems, and kids eating their vegetables.

You think I'm kidding? Go ahead, watch the speech for yourself. If you find anything else in there that I missed, I'll ask the Democrats to let you give the next response.

And speaking of responses, is there a statute of limitations on much you can disagree with somebody? The State of the Union is a required speech given only once a year, and almost entirely ceremonial. The President doesn't make policy (Congress does that, and Democrats control Congress), and this President doesn't really wield any political capital given his term situation. Now, despite all of that, the Democrats still felt it necessary to put forth both a pre-buttal and a rebuttal of the speech.

In other words, the Democrats don't know what the President is going to say, but they don't agree with whatever it is. And when they find out what it is, they immediately disagree with that, too. And not only that, individual Democrats (such as those running for President themselves) felt it necessary to provide their own rebuttals of the speech.

Let's be honest: if anyone out there thinks that Hillary Clinton is going to get up and say "You know, that Bush fellow isn't so bad," then I'd like you to wear aluminum foil hats so we know who you are.

But back to Mrs. Sebelius. How does her message measure up to her record as governor? On the economy -- about which, just like every other issue, she wasn't so much critical of the Republicans or Bush as she was politely nagging and condescendingly chastising -- she advocated the fiscal stimulus, but said more needs to be done. What has she done in Kansas?

  • Proposed tax increases totalling over $600 million. I'm sure this will help those families in the middle class, who will undoubtedly bear the heaviest burden of any new tax increases.
  • Proposed hiking property taxes by 10%; what a great way to help people struggling with rising adjustable rate mortgages -- increase their taxes!
  • Proposed state sales and income tax increases of 8% and 5% respectively -- because the way to foster economic innovation and strength is by taking money away from hardworking Kansans.
  • Increased local taxes by 6%, giving Kansas the 15th highest state-local tax burden in the nation.
  • Proposed a $0.50 per pack increase in cigarette taxes.

Is anybody noticing a pattern here?

Okay, sure, she proposed some tax increases. But she's a Democrat -- really, what did you expect? But surely, she's created some jobs, right?

Actually, Kansas ranks 49th in the nation according to Forbes in economic climate, which includes "job[s], income, and gross state product growth as well as unemployment and presence of big companies."

She rejected a new coal-fired power plant solely because they emit carbon emissions. This makes Kansas the only state that now has the radical view that no new coal plant can ever be built. Even one that, like the one she rejected, would have brought 2,400 jobs.

She does create some jobs though -- government jobs. Not accountable to the public and at her discretion. Kansas now ranks 3rd in the nation for most government employees per capita. She has also increased government spending 28% since she took office -- I suppose you do have to do something about all that tax money you're raising and all those bureacrats you're hiring.

Kathleen Sebelius looked the other way when thousands of illegal immigrants poured into Kansas to take low-wage jobs in meatpacking and agricultural sectors. Then, to keep all those people here, she granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, effectively rewarding lawbreaking. An illegal immigrant from Juarez, Mexico can now get into a state of Kansas university easier than can a kid from the Missouri side of Kansas City.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not necessarily in favor of kicking every illegal immigrant out of the country immediately. But I am certainly not in favor of any kind of benefit codified into law for breaking other parts of that law.

But it's okay, because while Kansas families are struggling, and immigrants are surging into the state in record numbers, Kathleen Sebelius is posing for Vogue magazine. That's what responsible governors do.

I wouldn't be so upset if I didn't love Kansas so much, and hate to see it so mistreated. I don't think Kathleen Sebelius represents the interests of Kansans, and it's partially the fault of the Republican party for not giving Kansans a viable, electable alternative. (Tim Shallenburger's campaign in 2002 was horribly mismanaged, and even then he almost won; Jim Barnett in 2006, despite my campaigning for him, was not a strong candidate and did not connect with people.)

But, we're stuck until 2010, when Mrs. Sebelius is term-limited from running again. And then the real fun starts, because you know who is going to be governor in 2010?

GOD'S GO-TO GUY.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

March for Life

posted by Jarrod

I am now mostly recovered from my trip to our nation’s capital to participate in my second March for Life. I went with a group of students from my school, and I was very proud of the number of people we were able to bring. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts and reactions on this, the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade, after spending a few days to reflect on the experience.

This was only my third trip to Washington DC, and so far it has snowed on me every time. The buildings and monuments are quite beautiful in the snow, but I must admit that the weather was less than optimal for a march. The 22nd was cold, gray and drizzly, and I was a bit worried about the turn out when we first entered the mall. As it happened, however, most people delayed their arrival so as to avoid as much of the rain as possible, and the march mustered many more people than last year. Most estimates I have read indicate that there were over 100,000 marchers, making it one of the most successful marches in recent years.

Notably absent from the area in front of the Supreme Court were the pro-abortion protesters. One of the most striking memories I have of last year’s march is of the hateful screaming and jeering which we met once we had reached this final stop. There had only been a few, perhaps a dozen or less, but there was a desperation in their voices which had truly chilled me. I had been mentally bracing myself for their attack during the last portion of the march only to find that there was not a single protester at the steps to greet us. I didn’t know whether to be glad or alarmed.

I later read that the West-Coast Walk for Life, which had taken place in San Francisco two days earlier, had attracted a small number of pro-abortion protestors. This event may explain the depletion of their number in DC…perhaps most of them are from that area? But even in San Fran, a haven for all things Left, the number of pro-life walkers far exceeded the number of pro-abortion demonstrators.

The tide has begun to turn, my friends. I want to let everyone in the pro-life community who was unable to join us in Washington know that now is the time to re-dedicate yourselves to the cause. The number of young people in the march was absolutely astronomical. I would estimate that the average age of the marchers was not above the early 30’s. There were so many high school and college groups present that at times I wondered if I had accidentally stumbled into a youth rally rather than a political protest. The younger generations in America are fed up with abortion and we are more than ready to overturn the mistakes of our political parents.

This march has underscored for me the urgency of electing another pro-life president this November. We are so very close to obtaining a majority of pro-life Supreme Court justices, and a couple of the current justices are looking to retire soon. It is very likely that the next president will appoint one or more justices during the first term of office. We cannot afford to allow a pro-abortion president to set us back another 10 or 15 years by appointing a pro-abortion judge to the court.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Real Mitt Romney

posted by Christopher

That's me at CPAC last year with Flipper the Dolphin, telling people what to do with Mitt Romney. Notice my now-defunct support sticker.

Yes, it's time we talk about Mitt Romney. I don't like John McCain, but I really don't like Mitt Romney. As the election comes down to the two of them (apparently), I now believe it will be a McCain-Huckabee ticket (which I won't vote for), but I would vote for Ted Kennedy before I'd vote for Mitt Romney. So would most of the state of Massachusetts, as it happens.

Yesterday, Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters endorsed Mitt Romney. Ed has been called one of the "most influential center-right" bloggers in the country. I'm not sure where center-right puts you, but he claims he would be able to support Guiliani, Huckabee, Romney or McCain "easily" if they became the nominee. Therefore, Ed finds himself in a rather unique position, as I don't think there are too many Republicans or conservatives out there who are having a tough time supporting a candidate because there are too many good ones. I think it's rather the opposite, but maybe that's just my problem.

Regardless, I sent Ed an email earlier, which I'm expanding into a full-length article here, describing what I'll call "The Real Mitt Romney."

The Real Mitt Romney was not always a conservative, by any stretch of the word. His conversion to traditional principles -- the result of a series of "Come to Jesus" / "I've seen the light!" experiences, supposedly -- occurred between 2005 and 2007. That's a rather recent change of heart for someone trying to convince the whole of conservative America that he identifies with them.

Romney is a brilliant man, to be sure. He was valedictorian as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, and received a joint JD/MBA degree from Harvard Law and Business Schools, graduating in the top 5 percent of his class at Harvard Business School. He has managed several business enterprises extremely successfully, and has a net worth of as much as a quarter of a billion dollars.

But simply being rich doesn't buy you political favor, no matter what the cynics may say. Romney's first race was an ambitious one: against the then-seven term Senator and liberal institution Ted Kennedy. In this race:

  • Romney supported homosexual rights1, including gay marriage2,3, which was legalized in Massachusetts during his term as governor of that state (albeit by judicial dictate, rather than executive passage).
  • Romney was a pro-choice candidate for Senate, and remained unabashedly so through his term as governor4. It wasn't until 2005 that he supposedly "became pro-life." (More on this in a moment.)
  • Mitt was to the left of Kennedy on campaign finance reform -- despite the amount of money that he personally made in business, he seemed to ignore those lessons of the private sector and argued that there was too much money in politics. He contended that Political Action Committees (PACs) should be abolished.5
  • Romney was a "strong supporter" (his words) of gun control, and backed both the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban, two measures which brought the ire of the N.R.A.6

This paints a picture of Mitt Romney, the 1994 Republican candidate for Senate: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-gun, and decrying money in politics (among other things). This doesn't exactly represent the heart and soul of the Grand Ol' Party. But Mitt lost the race, and retreated back into business until 2002, when he re-emerged to run in (and win) the gubanatorial race in Massachusetts. He did not run for re-election in 2006, most likely in anticipation of a lengthy and expensive Presidential run in 2008. (Romney's friends believe he is willing to spend upwards of $50 million of his own money for his shot at the Presidency.)

But what came of his time as Governor? What record does he have to run on?

For starters, he never quite got around to abolishing PACs. At least not ones that donated money to his campaign; he had his own PAC right up until 2006, and he now opposes the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.5

Also, he donated money to Planned Parenthood -- the country's largest abortion provider. The former head of the Massachusetts office said she believed Romney was "100 percent behind the pro-choice public policy position."4

In 2002, he gave a speech to NARAL Pro-Choice America in which he said: "I'm a strong believer in stating your position and not wavering."13

Whoops. That's a pretty clear signal. But supposedly in July 2005, Romney had one of his many "Come to Jesus" talks (the LORD must be getting exasperated by now), and decided he was pro-life. He vetoed legislation that would have expanded access to the morning after pill. Three months later (October 2005) he signed a bill expanding coverage for family planning services, and his new pro-life friends said, "Do what?" Two months later (December 2005) he signed a bill forcing Catholic hospitals to provide the morning after pill in spite of their vehement protest over their religious convictions.4

At this point, Jesus is going into the Governor's mansion and flipping over the money changing tables.

And today, Romney is running as the candidate who is "100% pro-life."7 He also appears on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson,8 is the "traditional marriage" (one man-one woman) candidate,7, and would "happily" sign a bill banning abortion forever.9

In 2006 Romney was in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants -- now in 2007 (a rather short turnaround) he opposes the Kennedy-McCain so-called "amnesty" bill.10

In 1994 he was fully in support of controlling guns, the Brady bill, and banning assault weapons. In August 2006 he joined the NRA and now goes hunting with some of those same weapons he formerly thought were so dangerous they had to be taken away from NRA members.11

On gays in the military:
1994: They should be allowed to serve "openly and honestly in our nation's military."
2007: Don't ask, don't tell.12

Stem cell research:
Yesterday: Safe and legal.
Today: Always illegal.12

The list goes on and on. Mitt Romney is a political opportunist who is almost worse than Hillary Clinton. His positions reek of political convenience and self-interest, and he flip-flops as much as John Kerry. (Maybe it's a Massachusetts thing.)

Simply being smart and having a sharp business mind doesn't merit the Presidency. I've heard too many people defend Romney for just that reason. As you can see, the National Review endorsed him (which, entertaining as the National Review is sometimes, doesn't go far; they also endorse marijuana legalization, and other liberal initiatives).

I can respect fellow conservatives who have different principles than mine. And I can respect that they would support a different candidate than I. But what I cannot respect is a candidate or a candidate's supporter who is engaged in barely-veiled deceit and deception, opportunism and double-talk, purely to win an election. Romney defends himself by saying others are "holier than thou" simply because they've been pro-life longer than he.

Mr. Romney: it's not how long you believe in something that matters. It's how much we trust your belief. And quite frankly, I don't trust you.

ENDNOTES
1Romney's flip-flop
2Romney softens tone on gay marriage
3Romney's '94 remarks on same-sex marriage could haunt him
4Mitt Romney's flip-flop-flip
5Romney's newest flip-flop: campaign finance
6Romney Retreats on Gun Control
7Mitt Romney: American Culture & Values
8CBN: Romney Feels Heat on Abortion
9Mitt Romney on Abortion
10Border Security Group Attacks Mitt Romney for Flip-Flopping on Immigration
11Romney joined NRA in August
12The Talented Mr. Romney
13Even more Romney flip-flops

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