Friday, November 30, 2007

True Conservatives

Every election year, many conservatives wonder why there are no politicians who will simply stand firmly on the traditions of conservatism, and refuse to foray into mushy moderateism. They wonder why both parties seem willing to compromise on important issues. Where, voters wonder, are the principled candidates who stand up as consistent conservatives .

There are. And every years, the media gives them a label: defeated. There are usually good, solid conservative candidates. They inevitably lose. (Reagan was an exception).

The latest to fall has been Fred Thompson. Thompson is a very strong conservative, who has a great number of good ideas. His Social Security plan is very strong, and is the only one proposed by any of candidates. (Social Security is one of those issues politicians like to ignore). He wants to end the IRS as we know it, which conservatives have been pushing for for years. With the exception of McCain-Feingold, he is indisputably conservative.

Some, though, have questioned his position on abortion. He is against a constitutional Human Life Amendment, preferring to leave the matter up to the states. Abortion arguably is a states rights issue. However, it seems inconsistent to leave abortion to the states, while so many other issues, which constitutionally probably are also states issues, are given to the federal government. However, it does not seem to me to be an issue of such weight that conservatives should withhold their support. He would probably be as strong a pro-life President as George Bush is, and Bush in turn is easily the strongest pro-life President ever.

Thompson is a true conservative- and has little support. It demonstrates that many, perhaps most, Americans would rather have the flashy candidate (Mike Huckabee) than the ideologically strong one (Thompson). Conservatives should not complain that Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, or Mike Huckabee are diluting the party's conservatism as long as true conservatives like Thompson (or Duncan Hunter) are ignored.

Who is to blame for this state of affairs? While there is plenty of blame to go around, I think that Sean Hannity bears a large measure of fault. I don't expect him to endorse a candidate. However, I do expect him to acknowledge there are differences between the candidates. Rudy Giuliani is not the same candidate as Duncan Hunter. Hannity has covered the election closer than any other talk show host- and has never admitted to there being any difference between the Republican candidates. Hannity's listeners deserve better. (And speaking of endorsements, Rush Limbaugh [!] didn't quite endorse Fred Thompson yesterday. He did say that he was the only conservative in the race. That's good news for Fred).

Commenter Beth suggested in the comments to my last post that if Huckabee and Hillary debated, they would end up agreeing with each other. If Huckabee was consistant, they would. However, Huckabee is a political chameleon- he is all things to all people. In the Deerborn, Michigan debate (which suffers from high unemployment), Huckabee was the friend of the common man. If Florida, he was excited to propose new avenues of space exploration. Where does Florida get much of its federal funds from? Couldn't be NASA, could it? Huckabee's debate with Romney over his scholarship program for illegals was amazing- his program was indefensible- and Huckabee still won. He is that talented. I like Huckabee's attitude towards values, but it would be just as well if he didn't pay for his good works with taxpayer money.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Republican Debate

Some bloggers are excellent at debate recaps. I'm not one of them. Instead of a nice long liveblog, I give one or two sentences for each candidate. But here is my recap anyway.

The candidate was the worst performance was Ron Paul. Not so much for what he said, which was his standard kooky drivel, but for his obnoxious supports, who booed the rest of the candidates. Of course, that is their standard tactic on the Internet- they spam polls, troll chat rooms, and are generally irritating. (Not all, but many).

Bronze would have to be shared between Romney and Giuliani. I can't say that I disagreed with Romney, but he didn't give me any reasons to support him either. He was hesitant to answer some of the questions, such as "do you believe in the Bible", "should gays be in the military", and "is waterboarding torture". Giuliani did not do particularly well- I thought he lost to Romney in the opening argument about immigration, and actually got booed when he tried to steamroll the moderator. (Anderson Cooper, who did a poor job). He lost his temper debating Romney, which wasn't good for him.

Thompson got silver- he said some good things, but his presentation could have been better. He doesn't seem terribly motivated. I do like what he has to about entitlements.

The runner-up for gold (my medal analogy is a little messed up) was John McCain. He is campaigning two familiar messages- "I served in Vietnam" (Kerry), and "I am the national security candidate". The first is irrelevant- his Vietnam service thirty years ago doesn't have anything to do with his Presidential quality. The second is strong. Very strong. He endorsed the surge long before anyone else did- and was criticized for it. And he turns out to have been right all along. That, in my mind, is a pretty strong qualification.

The gold winner... Mike Huckabee. He is easily the most talented politician there. On religious and moral questions, the only thought going through my head was that he must have been an amazing preacher. I am going to say it: Mike Huckabee could win the nomination.

After reading National Review Online's The Corner and Campaign Spot, the consensus seems to be that Romney, McCain, Huckabee, and Thompson all did well. The NRO people critizied CNN's format, which was pretty bad. YouTube doesn't have the best picture quality, but some these videos looked like they were made with a really cheap cell phone camera. The audio didn't seem to match up with their lips either, and the questions were pretty awful. On the plus side, no snowmen. On the minus side, one could be forgiven for thinking that all Republicans are extremists nutjobs.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is Huckabee Conservative?

If someone had told me back in mid October that Mike Huckabee would have a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination, I would not have believed him. Neither would have anyone else. But in the ensuring weeks, Mike Huckabee has picked up a great deal of momentum. Now, according the the latest Rasmussen poll, two points behind Mitt Romney and just ten behind Giuliani. He has consistently placed second to Romney in Iowa.

There is a lot to like about Huckabee. He is quick-witted, and often displays an amazing sense of humor. He communicates well (unlike Bush), and possesses the ability to make positions known. Perhaps more importantly, he can also make them sound reasonable and practical.

His positions on social issues is another big plus. In a election where one frontrunner is pro-abortion, another converted to the pro-life cause two years ago, and another inexplicably opposes a human life amendment to the Constitution, values voters feel as if they have been pushed aside. (And it's not like they were a deciding force in the 2004 election or anything). Huckabee, with his strong and eloquent defense of life, is an ideal candidate for this issue.

Equally as important, Huckabee seems to a different kind of politician. He doesn't take himself too seriously. He does not sound like he has come from Washington, as the rest of the candidates do. He sounds like an average man from the South who wants to serve the American people (like another recent President, also from Arkansas). Huckabee's recent ad with Chuck Norris ("My plan for the border? Two words: Chuck Norris") was cheesy- but effective. It is a microcosm of Huckebee's campaign.

However, many conservative writers and bloggers display a remarkably strong repugnance to Huckabee. Many say that he is far too liberal, that he is a "false" conservative. Opposition to Huckabee comes on three main grounds: that he is a proponent of big, tax and spend government, that he is a not wholly opposed to illegal immigration, and Wayne Dumond.

It is tempting to wonder how anyone can be too liberal in a Republican race that features Rudy Giuliani as its frontrunner. Giuliani is liberal on at least five major issues (abortion, guns, gay rights, sanctuary cities, and global warming). In this election, being a pure, unblemished conservative is probably not necessary- its more of a having to be more conservative than Giuliani type of thing. However, it is informative to take a look at the three main charges against Huckabee.

To charge that Huckabee is in love with government, the only possible response is: guilty as charged. He raised spending in Arkansas. He has expressed support of a federal smoking ban. It is clear that he sees a significant place for government in the lives of Americans.

As to the second part of the first charge (that he would raise taxes), the situation is complex. He raised taxes as governor of Arkansas, which is a major factor in the Cato Institutes grade of F for fiscal policies. But now, he claims to be against any tax hikes.

Huckabee now supports the FairTax, which is basically a plan that would eliminate income taxes and supplant them with a really, really high sales tax. There are more that a few flaws in this plan (to begin with, it might not be the most efficient way to get money into the economy, as any expenditure is taxed through the roof), and National Review Online is probably right in calling it "half-baked". However, his support for this plan does give hope that perhaps Huckabee would push for tax cuts, or at the minimum keep the Bush tax cuts where they are.

So the first charge is half right, half possibly wrong. The second charge, which is that he is weak on immigration? His position is a little more ambiguous. He says that he does not support amnesty, which is good. But supports a "path to citizenship", which is bad. But wants the "path to citizenship" to require a fine and a place at the end of the line, which is acceptable. But he supported the infamous "amnesty bill" (the mention of which still sends shivers down conservatives spines), which didn't provide a pathway to citizenship, it essentially was a method of handing out green cards.

Huckabee's position on immigration must also be considered a weakness. So what of Wayne Dumond? Dumond was a convicted rapist who was sentanced to life in prison. It was possible to feel that he was treated badly- Bill Clinton may have been harsh on him because his victim (Dumond's, not Clinton's, I know its hard to keep track of predators here, but bear with me) was a Clinton relative, and Dumond was castrated (though some believed that he did it himself. It happens sometimes among sex offenders) Huckabee felt sorry for him, and commuted Dumond's sentence to a still lengthy 39 years- but with the possibility of parole. Dumond got parole- with Huckabee's support, and raped and killed again.

In this sounds familar, think Willie Horton. This mistake transcends right and left and instead is a insult to common sense. Things like this cast serious doubt on Mike Huckabee's judgement.

So, it appears that those who do not consider Huckabee the right man for the job are correct. His popularity is a reflection of the ideological weakness of his opponents. His popularity is a reflection of the desperation of social conservatives.

Count me among them. If the election were to come down to Giuliani versus Huckabee, I would vote Huckabee. Without hesitation. However, it would be better if it were neither.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hillary and Air America

According to this Reuters story, Hillary Clinton loses to the top Republican contenders in the polls, while Barack Obama and John Edwards lead. This poll is representative of most polls in the country- Hillary does not do particularly well in general election matchups.

The reason for this is that there is only one thing that voters are more disgusted with than Republicans- Clintons. If Hillary wins the Democrat nomination, then the Republicans will be able to ask if we want another Clinton in the White House. If Obama wins, the Republicans will be able to campaign on... not much. The Republican Congress has horribly mismanaged everything, from immigration to spending to education. Obama and Edwards will have some credibility. The GOP candidate will have almost none. Neither will Hillary, with her numerous ethical scandals. It will be ironic if Hillary Clinton ends up saving the Republican party from a humiliating defeat.

On an unrelated note, Air America Radio (remember them?) is having their first annual cruise. (Don't worry, tickets are still available). They have speakers and everything. Like Randi Rhodes, who (and I quote from their "speakers" page) "stared in the HBO documentary Left of the Dial." Maybe they mean "starred." Cenk Uygur (no one else has heard of him either) started his career with "talks shows". I mean, I don't claim to be a perfect proofreader, but I would think that Air America would take the time to make sure that there are no glaring mistakes on their site.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tax Freedom

On Black Friday, Americans spent over 10 billion dollars. While not all of that money went for luxuries, it is probable that most of it went for nonessential, such as an iPhone for the kids, a $400 dollar Wii, and the rest of the new electronic inventions.

Many wonder how we can justify such extravagant spending on frills while so many around the world live in poverty. A family in Africa starves, while a rich American upgrades to a Playstation 3. AIDS spreads across the real world, while Americans think only their virtual lives on MySpace. Even here in America, there still exist homeless, hungry, and impoverished people. Wouldn't it be better if just half of what we spend on our toys was given to those who really need it? Isn't it cruel to reduce taxes on the rich so that they can buy a new 54 foot yacht (because 38 feet really won't cut it). Wouldn't the world be a better place if that money was taxed in order to be given to the poor and homeless?

No. It would be a wonderful world if government charity worked. The world would be a great place if there was no sickness, no death. The world would be better if the desperately poor of the world have just some of the advantages we expect. (There are really enough resources in the world to go around. Most the the really desperately poor live in dictatorships where most their products are stolen to line the pockets of that countries ruling class or criminal gangs). But we don't live in that world, we live in this one.

Government funded charity just doesn't work. People create wealth primarily in order to enjoy it, not to make other people's lives better. (Helping others can be a desirable sideline, however, and many of the world's richest people do do impressive charity work.) The government can try to cure poverty, disease, or any of the world's ills. But it is a , hopeless, Sisyphean task.

If the rich are taxed too much, it removes the incentive to create more wealth. There is no point in taking risks, as any reward will be slashed by the highest tax bracket (over 65% in some countries). So the wealthy captains of industry stop taking risks, and stick to safe, tried and true methods that maximize short-term profits.

Or else they leave the country. During the Seventies, England had a top tax bracket of over 90%. So what did the rich do? They moved to nice islands in the Caribbean with low taxes. So England got nothing. England has lowered tax rates (not enough though), and has stopped hemorrhaging billionaires.

Their is only one way to make government funded charity work, and that is to find a country with a natural resources, a docile, small and hardworking population, and homogeneous culture. Then the government can manage that countries resources in order to provide everyone with benefits. Of course, any countries resources can only go so far, so the country always ends with massive debt and has to cut services after a few decades. But that is the best case scenario. (Look at Scandinavia for a example of this process).

Liberals say that "trickle-down" economics doesn't work. It is certainly not perfect, or even particularly good. The only thing you can say about it is that it is better than all the the other economic systems. (Much like Churchill's famous quotes about democracy: "Democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others").

Liberals may complain about the "cruelness" of our economic ideals, and speak scathingly of the "haves" and "have-nots". But it is better to live in a country with both "haves" and "have-nots" than a country with only "have-nots". The living rate for every American has gone up faster than almost any other in the world since Reagan slashed tax rates. Can any quasi-Socialist European country say the same? Does anyone want to live in their countries? These countries can call ours cruel, but when disaster strikes, they turn to us for help.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We have a whole lot to be thankful for. It seems that everything written by a everybody at this time of year reminds us of this fact, but it still bears repeating. As Americans, we are living in the nearest the human race has come to Utopia. Hunger has been eradicated, we have the strongest military in the world, and freedom of speech is absolute. We can worship as we please, and travel freely and easily around the country. Our life expectancy is the highest in history. We take these for things for granted, but only a small fraction of the people in the world enjoy these advantages. There is a lot wrong in the United States, but often we forget all that is good about our country. We are truly one of the greatest nations in the history of the world, and we are fortunate to live here.

Also, this is my 100th post.

God bless America, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Stem Cell Victory

Not so long ago, Democrats sneered that Republicans were heartless brutes for not endorsing, and seeking to prohibit, embryonic stem cell research. All the old cliches were brought out- "Republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth" and "Cures for (fill in the blank) are moral issues too. Admirably, President Bush stood firm in banning federal funds for embryonic stem cell research, in face of intense criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Now, it appears that conservatives were- gasp- right all along. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like
powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday
deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy.

Laboratory teams on two continents report success in a pair of landmark papers released Tuesday. It's a neck-and-neck finish to a race that made headlines five months ago, when scientists announced that the feat had been accomplished in mice.

The "direct reprogramming" technique avoids the swarm of ethical, political and practical obstacles that have stymied attempts to produce human stem cells by cloning embryos.Scientists familiar with the work said scientific questions.

Ian Wilmutt, who gained fame by cloning Dolly the sheep, has stated that he is going to abandon all his work on cloning in order to focus exclusively on the new method of extracting stem cells. Many other scientists are a excepted to follow his lead.

The evidence right now seems to indicate that embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary and prohibitively difficult. The ability of skin cells to transform into any cell on the body could very well revolutionize stem cell therapy- even apart from the moral implications, embryonic stem cell research was inefficient. Extracting embryos is a difficult procedure, and few woman want to be subjected to surgery. In addition, the level of development of embryonic stem cell theory is so low as to have little reasonable chance of being useful in the near future.

So if and when the embryonic stem cell movement comes to an end, it will leave behind almost nothing of scientific interest. Its promises to cure Parkinsons, Alzheimer's, and many other ailments will go unfulfilled. It will leave behind only the memory of the hate and anger directed at those who dared disagree. It will not be able to boast one cure.

It is seldom that either side of the culture war is able to definitively claim victory. But on this issue, it seems that the right can. We were right.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strikes in France

Lost in the furor regarding such things as Barack Obama's surge in Iowa, the crisis and Pakistan, and even the Hollywood writers strike is the situation in France. Thousands and thousands transportation workers have gone on strike, paralyzing the country, which relies heavily on public transportation.

Adding to the crisis in France is a general strike set for today. Many teachers, hospital workers, tax agents, bank tellers, postmen, telecommunications, airport and other public-sector workers, and weathermen are set to engage in a monster strike to intended to paralyze the country.

The reason for these strikes is a drastic reduction in benefits and pensions. Public transportation workers used to receive government benefits not shared by private employees. French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Any reduction in government aid is just unconscionable for these poor French laborers, thus the strike. Sarkozy, going against ninety years of constant surrendering by French leaders, refuses to back down. His word, he swears, will be law.

Of course, its hard to make sure your word is law if there aren't any judges. Next week, many French lawyers and judges are also set to strike, as the Sarkozy regime will also ruthlessly terminate over 200 courts. (But if you are one of the lawyers who shows up, you have an easy case).

And it is not as if France doesn't need economic reform. France's public debt is skyrocketing faster than anywhere else in Europe- and with the attitude that European governments have towards spending, that is saying something. France also features 8.4 percent unemployment. Among its youth however, unemployment sits at an unbelievable 22 percent. In 1939, near the end of the Great Depression, our unemployment rate was 15 percent. In some neighborhoods, unemployment is over 60 percent.

The French national debt is enormous. Their national debt is 48 percent of the GDP- not counting French Social Security. If you factor in Social Security, some estimates place the debt at 200 percent of the GDP. France, in addition to high unemployment and excruciatingly slow economic growth, also has a huge national debt.

It is clear that France must do something. The only tenable option is to trim some of the
Brobdingnagian French welfare system, a strategy that Sarkozy is pursuing.

The strikes are the response of a French people that have wholly dependant for government for everything. Even after Sarkozy reduces benefits, the government help that French will still receive make even the most extreme Democrat demands seem completely insignificant by comparison.

The French rely on government for healthcare, education (college students are striking too, it seems that Sarkozy is planning on reducing financial aid for students), and transportation. They even look to government for what to think- there is a reason there is no French Rush Limbaugh. Any dissident voice is quickly shut down. They let government control the countries wealth. The top tax rate in France is around 65 percent. The French, and virtually all of Europe, give government near complete control of their lives.

And that is why the Nicholas Sarkozy's reduction is government benefits is so important. By itself, it is insignificant. But seen as a possible precedent, it could very well be a move that changes France permanently. It may represent the start of the weaning of France from the allure of the welfare state.

No socialist country can survive long. If the country is despotic, it can string out its existence for a few more years by squeezing every last drop out of its inhabitants, if benign, it falls more quickly. France's policies have, historically, placed it in the "falling more quickly" category.

However, if Sarkozy can even begin to reverse the disastrous economic policies that France has embraced, he may give France a new lease on life- literally. Lower benefits may force some of the populace to provide for themselves, an ideal that has been lacking in recent decades. If Sarkozy can reinstill some of that spirit, he can count his Presidency a success.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Close Look at Ron Paul

Everybody knows that almost all politicians are corrupt and liars. Our pork barrel spending is out of control. The 2008 defense appropriations bill provides for over three billion dollars in pork. Jack Murtha's secured 48 earmarks which account for 150.5 million. In the year 2007 alone, there has been over 13.2 billion dollars worth of wasteful spending, down from over 29 billion in 2006.

Jack Murtha is hardly the only example. The Republicans campaigned in 1994 on a platform of ending wasteful spending. Instead of living up to their promises, they made earmarks an art form. When George Bush entered office, he didn't cut spending. On the contrary, federal expenditures skyrocketed.

Even though the people have made their voices heard regarding government spending, our politicians still squander our money on worthless projects, such as Alaska's infamous "Bridge to Nowhere". This incredibly inane project required almost 400 million dollars in federal funds in order to construct a huge bridge connecting Ketchikan to its airport- a fine idea, perhaps, but worth 400 million? This kind of wasteful spending is not only typical of Washington, not only expected, but near universally regarded as essential to remain in Congress.

Except Ron Paul, right? The last true constitutionalist, the one man in government willing to fight against pork. He is often called Doctor No on the House floor because his predilection to vote "no" on most bills, often being the only one to do so. He has based an entire Presidential campaign on the desire of the American people to end the wasteful spending our politicians love. In an era where politicians seems more driven by lobbyists and polls than principle, it is refreshing to see that there is one politician willing to stand up for up he believes in and keep his promises, right?

Whatever Paul's problems on foreign policy, we can at least admire, and hope the rest of our politicians emulate, his stand on spending, correct? He would never ask for eight million dollars to market wild shrimp, or three million to test shrimp for antibiotics. He would never consider requesting two million to renovate a historic theater. The idea that he would even consider requesting 400 million dollars worth of federal funds is laughable. Ron Paul is a man with principles. We need people like him, and should vote out those who want our hard earned money to market shrimp, don't we?

Except that shrimp-loving Congressman is none other than... Ron Paul. He gains considerable publicity railing against pork- but when it comes time to divvy it up, he takes his fair share. In fact, guess who leads the Houston area in pork requests? None other than Doctor No. Ron Paul, far fighting wasteful spending, actually embraces it. (Here is a list of Paul's spending requests).

But Ron Paul claims never to vote for anything not expressly allowed by the Constitution. So how can he get away with voting for wasteful spending bills? He doesn't. Pork bills are some of the more easily passed bills, since there is a great deal of quid pro quo in these things- "I'll send money to your district if you send some to mine". So Ron Paul, after making sure that he has gotten his own spending in, votes against the bill, which passes by a wide margin anyway. Then Paul can go home and tell his acolytes that he is a lone wolf fighting wasteful spending.

Paul has built his entire campaign around his opposition to federal spending. Every page in the Issues section of his campaign website mentions his refusal to vote for unconstitutional bills. Much of his support comes from people fed up with our governments tendency to spend money at a relentless pace. What favorable press Paul has managed to get is based on this issue. And it is all a lie.

It would require (to borrow a phrase from Hillary Clinton) a wilful suspension of disbelief to think that any of our Presidential candidates will drastically slash pork barrel spending. But at least they are more or less honest about their spending plans. They do not lie about their records, at least to the extent that Paul does. It appears that Ron Paul is not the principled man it once appeared he was.

We know that Dr. Paul would be disastrous on national security. A little research reveals that he is, if not a full fledged conspiracy theorist, at least sympathetic to their causes. He has appeared on 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones's radio show- but once but three times. But many were prepared to forgive these positions in the hope that Paul would reign in government spending. Since it seems that he can't even be counted on for that self appointed task, it would seem that there are no remaining reasons to support him. Ron Paul is not only a nut, he is a liar and a fraud.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Debate

Before tonight's debate, I predicted that Hillary would erase the negative impressions from her last. She did. The first question asked involved Hillary's infamous flip-flop on drivers licenses, and her flip-flops on general. She turned the question into one regarding her qualifications as President. Brilliant. She attacked Barack Obama for not covering everyone in his health insurance plan, a charge Obama couldn't answer. Her performance tonight should put right back where she was in the polls.

Also, apparently that drivers licenses for illegals question is pretty hard. Barack Obama tried his hand at it, and the results were disastrous. I think he said that we need them as a matter of safety, but isn't for them. Or something. He sounded far, far worse than Hillary did on that question. Now Obama has just lost his only handle useful for attacking Hillary Clinton. The nomination is Hillary's for the taking.

Also, the way CNN introduced the candidates was strange. They came out of a little tunnel one by one, sort of like a football game. I kept excepting to see fireworks and cheerleaders. And how do you come running out of a tunnel without looking like an idiot? Answer: you don't.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Giuliani and Double Standards

Imagine if a Republican presidential candidate voiced support for the idea of global warming. There would be a massive media controversy, pundits would wonder whether that candidate had sabotaged his chances of winning, and that fact would certainly become universally known. If that candidate went to far as to lavish praise on Al Gore's pseudoscientific screed "An Inconvenient Truth", even Republican bootlickers like Sean Hannity would probably wonder about the candidate's conservative credentials.

Unless, apparently, that candidate is Rudy Giuliani. He has received no negative media coverage for his evident belief in global warming. At a Silicon Valley fundraiser, Giuliani was asked a question regarding his belief in global warming. Giuliani started to channel Al Gore and responded that the vast majority of scientists regard global warming as manmade. Of course, that is incorrect- a majority of scientists probably do consider it manmade, but it is hardly an unanimous scientific consensus.

Giuliani then spouted some enviormentalist nonsense about ethonal as a clean fuel, then came out with his Al Gore admiration society speech. He said that Gore's movie was good for "frightening people" , but "didn't go far enough" regarding solutions to global warming. (Personally, I thought Gore had the solutions thing figured out. Buy carbon credits, watch global warming melt away).

Now Giuliani apparently is more or less completely lost when it comes to the causes of global warming. He says that we should be cleaning up pollutants anyway, so the global warming debate is unnecessary. Except the popular theory regarding global warming is that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cause global warming. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant- as everybody knows, humans breathe it. So we could clean up all sources of pollution, and still have Al Gore droning on about the dangers of global warming. It doesn't say much about Giuliani's attention to the issues. (See the whole video here)

Apparently no major news site or blog, with the exception of Pajamas Media, bothered to have anything to do with this story. (A Google search of "rudy giuliani al gore global warming" turned up nothing on this story on the first five pages of results, with the exception of a short article in the San Francisco Chronicle and the aforementioned Pajamas Media post). These same blogs dissect Mitt Romney's conversion to a pro-life stance, wonder if Fred Thompson's stand on abortion is acceptable, and pore through all of Mike Huckabee's public utterances on illegal immigration and taxes. When a John McCain supporter refers to Hillary as a "bitch", many are outraged that he didn't defend her adequately. (The rest thought: "but isn't she one"?) But a story on Giuliani's belief in global warming? Not worth mentioning.

This double standard applies to other areas of the campaign as well. In 2004, some Catholic bishops threatened to deny Communion to John Kerry. His stand on abortion was incompatible with Church teaching, many Catholic leaders said. The incident received significant media attention. A lively debate broke out regarding the proper role of clergy in political matters.But when Saint Louis Archbishop Raymond spoke out against Giuliani's abortion stance, silence reigned in the media.

When it was revealed that Bill Clinton had engaged in an extra-martial affair, conservatives were justifiably outraged. When Rudy Giuliani engaged in an extra-martial affair- what affair? Sean Hannity has an (weak) argument that we should be outraged when our leaders (as in Bill Clinton) have affairs, as that makes them easy targets for blackmail. Unless, apparently, that leader is Rudy Giuliani. Then it is all right.

I suppose that it is possible for some to live with Rudy's support for homosexuality and abortion, and his antipathy towards gun rights and immigration enforcement. But Giuliani should not receive special treatment. If global reason if a reason to hate Al Gore, then is a reason to oppose Giuliani. If Bill Clinton's sexual exploits make him persona non grata, then so should Giuliani's. Rudy Giuliani should receive the same media treatment as the rest of the field.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ron Paul

No one seems to be excited about the Republican candidates in 2008. Pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-gay rights, pro-illegal immigration Rudy Giuliani, while the frontrunner, doesn't seem to be getting the base fired up. John McCain appears to want to see how many times he can sink his campaign by supporting some crazy proposal (amnesty), then resurrect it. Everybody seems to have forgotten Fred Thompson is in the race, including himself. Now he's for it, now he's not Mitt Romney isn't getting anyone fired up, nor is he the frontrunner- except in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Since none of the mainstream candidates seem able to get the job done, many are looking to Ron Paul. Paul does have some genuinely good ideas. He is for a smaller government, reduced spending, and a very strong commitment to individual rights. But while he is sound on some issues, he is a disaster on most others. I do not exaggerate when I say that if somehow the election came down to Paul or Hillary Clinton, I would vote for Hillary. In a heartbeat.

If that sounds reactionary and shortsighted, consider Paul's foreign policy. He would withdraw from Iraq immediately, sending that country into a vicious civil war. It would also turn the United States into a laughing stock for the Islamic world- and it would be hard to blame them. If we turned and ran from Iraq, it is certain that some terrorists would follow us, and the ones already here would be emboldened. Our chances of getting hit again would rise dramatically.

Not that we would know what those chances were. Paul also wants to get rid of the FBI and CIA. He doesn't want any foreign entanglements. So we would have no idea what Al-Qeaeda or any other terrorist group is up to. And if another, comparable superpower ever appeared, the technology and information hijacked by people like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs during the Cold War would appear insignificant. In a world in which knowledge is power, any reduction in our intelligence gathering capabilities would be suicide.

Hillary would be make a poor President, but Paul would be incalculably worse. Hillary would hurt our national defense. Ron Paul would kill it. If Paul was elected, and managed to get any part of his radical agenda implemented, we would see another 9/11- and probably more than one.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vererans Day

As Veterans Day was yesterday, it is important to take a look at the wonderful job our brave troops are doing in Iraq. Many forget that the war they are fighting in Iraq is one of the hardest ones our military has had to fight- they operate under ridiculously strict rules of engagement while fighting a guerrilla war against a tough and determined enemy. In addition, the enemy, when hard pressed, can simply run into Iran or Syria for sanctuary. And even with all of these obstacles, we are now winning in Iraq.

We have lost about 4,000 men. We have killed 55,000 Iraqi insurgents. For every American soldier dead, over thirteen terrorists die. The US military is faced with a very hard task in Iraq, one that no other military in the world would even attempt. They are doing a superlative job, and all Americans should be very, very grateful.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can Rudy Beat Hillary?

It seems that a substantial portion of Rudy Giuliani's support is composed of people who are convinced that he is the only one who can take on Hillary Clinton. (The other primary reason for Giuliani's support is the fact that he is seen as tough on national security). While Rudy is many things, he is not a Hillary's silver bullet.

Many seem to forget that he already ran against Hillary in 2000- and lost. Just before the Republican primary (which he would certainly have won hands down), Giuliani dropped out of the race. In fairness, his prostate cancer played a major role in his decision. But so did his affair with Judy Nathan, who he later married. (Question: why is it anathema for Bill Clinton to have an affair while in office, but perfectly okay for Giuliani?) So that is Clinton 1, Giuliani:0.

People often seem to forget 2004 as well. The story of the 2004 elections was the importance of the "values" issue in deciding the election. Kerry lost by three points, and the conventional wisdom was that he might have won if not for those single-issue nutso value voters. Whole books were written by Democrats on this topic, wondering if maybe they could sell the environment or taxes on the rich as values issues. (This strategy worked about as well as you would think it would).

So which voting bloc are the Republicans casting off? Values voters. Is it that hard to see the flaw in this plan? Does the GOP think that there are enough voters who are passionate about staying in Iraq or keeping taxes low to make up the difference as evangelicals and conservative Catholics flee the GOP?

Some commentators have pointed out the general dissatisfaction in the Republican party with the current candidates as a obsession with finding the perfect candidate. They forget that the Republicans have historically been based on three issues- traditional morality, small (comparatively, anyway) government, and an aggressive foreign policy. None of the frontrunners are strong on all of these issues. Is it too much to ask for a candidate who can cover all the conservative bases? (In 2000, we found two-- the pre-amnesty John McCain and George Bush. So it is not impossible). I will vote the Republican nominee, as a Hillary victory would be a distaster. But if the Republicans nominate Giuliani (by far the most liberal of a liberal group of Republicans), they will almost certainly lose.

That's the end of that post, but just a random rant here. Would it kill Sean Hannity to once, just once, question any Republican candidate conservatism? Would it be possible for him not to ask a Republican a softball question? Why does he have to act as though all of the GOP candidates are alike. They aren't Sean. Some are better, some are worse, and Hannity should point out their flaws.

Sorry if I offended any Hannity fans, but that has really been bothering me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mafia 2.0

Although the Mafia has gotten a reputation as am efficient, ruthless killing machine, that perception, like so many others, is founded more on myth than reality. While it did achieve a significant amount of underworld power, the idea that Mafioso's achieved power by slaughtering dozens of people is mostly unfounded. The Mafia was run as a business, and achieved prosperity the same way your average business does. (The infamous Saint Valentine's Day Massacre was the most notorious example of Mafia violence, and only seven people were killed. In present day Chicago, that wouldn't even make the front page.)

This normalcy in the crime business takes a bit of the romance away from the Mafia of crime novels and movies. After all, if the real-life Godfather is more a hard-working business man than master criminal, it makes the Mafia seem a little less threatening.

But don't worry. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, is a large gang that more than makes up for any crimes the Mafia missed. They are a Hispanic gang that, according to an ex-member: "[T]hey wanna be the top gang, the top Hispanic gang. That's what they want. They want to be the one with the most killings, the most murders.” (That ex-member is now dead, murdered by MS-13.) In addition to the standard organized crime goals of controlling drugs, prostitution, and theft, MS-13 also engages in human trafficking and assaults of law enforcement officials. They are, naturally, a major player in the smuggling of illegal aliens across the border.

It isn't only poor Mexicans wanting to move across the border. Al-Qaeada has also been interested. (Links here and here) So in addition to being an internal threat, this organization is also a national security threat.

The Mafia was effectively broken up during the Seventies. That won't happen with MS-13. MS-13 is based in Mexico (much as the Mafia was based in Italy) The difference is, Italy is separated from the United States by an ocean and a sea. There is nothing separating the U.S. and Mexico- and given the foot-dragging on the building of a border fence, there won't be for the foreseeable future.

We might as well get used to the idea of MS-13. Since its leadership is safe in Mexico, it will be very difficult for any US law enforcement agency to take out any leaders. Since our politicians refuse to do anything about protecting our borders, the outlook is bleak.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why I Like Mike

It seems Mike Huckabee is for real. In recent weeks, his support has skyrocketed. In the latest Rasmussen poll, he ranks third, four points behind Thompson and eleven behind Giuliani. He is currently in a close second place in Iowa. He is still a long shot to get the nomination, but his shot is getting shorter.

It is pretty clear that Huckabee isn't a strong conservative. He is against free trade, sympathetic to illegal immigration, and has an awful fiscal record. He has been called a "protectionist compassionate conservative", combining the worst ideas of George Bush and Pat Buchanan.

So why does he gather support? Quite simply, it is a testament to the failures of the non-Rudy candidates to make even the most basic overtures to conservatives- and not just social conservatives, but also anti-immigrant and pro-gun ones.

Romney has all the right positions. Unfortunately, he seems to run his campaign the same way he might run a company- get a good product out there (in this case, conservatism), tell people about it, and watch them go for it. It looks like someone forgot to tell him that he is part of the product. During the debates and his TV appearances, he seems content to mouth conservative positions with little passion. He just doesn't seem to care.

Fred Thompson seemed to be the great conservative hope during the spring. It is easy to forget given his lackluster campaign, but he ran a nearly perfect campaign until he jumped into race. His radio commentaries were great, he was outstanding during his talk radio appearances, and he seemed energized and ready to take down Giuliani, then Clinton. Now he seems bored.

Even though he wasn't exciting anyone, he still kept many voters- until his Meet the Press interview this Sunday. For some odd and inexplicable reason, he stated that he was against the pro-life plank in the parties platform! Huh? I'm surprised he didn't send Romney and Huckabee cards saying "Take the pro-life vote".

Mike Huckabee is getting votes because he actually seems to care about winning, unlike Thompson and Romney, who act like they could take it or leave it. Huckabee may not be the best ideological choice. But his articulateness and passion will win him a large number of votes, possibly, just barely possibly, mine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Feet of Clay

Hillary has admitted "I wasn't at my best the other night." The other night being the last debate, during which she flubbed a question about public exposure of her husband's records kept in the national archives and flip-flopped on the question of whether to give drivers licenses for illegal aliens. She is wrong. She really didn't do badly in the debate. She did obfuscate on the previously mentioned questions, but she did fairly well in the rest of the debate (which I sat through. Give me credit for being able to stomach an hour of watching Hillary, Obama, and Edwards going at it). Given that Edwards and Obama were supposed to launch their individual anti-Hillary offensives, she emerged unscathed from their attacks.Her mistake was in her persistant clarifications and complaints of bias. The debate was a week ago- and is still in the news. If Hillary had just let it go, it would probably be forgotten by now.

This sort of simple mistake is a liability for Clinton. When she wins the nomination, she will have far tougher problems than these to solve. If she can't even mitigate the damage done by this relatively insignificant gaffe, what will she do with all the pressures of a general election?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Supporting Mushaffaf

Pakistan may no longer be a democracy. President Pervez Musharraf has seized complete control - he has taken over the media and the army, and has also rounded up thousands of dissenters. While Mushaffaf stills claims to be aiming for Janurary elections, he left open the possibility of an indefinite delay. In countries like Pakistan, indefinite delays usually are very, very, long. Pakistan, at least for the present, is ruled by a harsh, fascist dictatorship.

The United States has responded to this development in the mildest possible way. Bush has simply requested that Mushaffaf to restore democracy "as soon as possible." Hardly a ringing condemnation. Given the United State's stated commitment to spreading democracy across the globe, isn't it hypocritical and indeed wrong for them to look the other way at Mushaffaf's power grab?

No. We need Pakistan's assistance in the War on Terror. Mushaffaf has a been an ally, if not a very strong one. (It is pretty generally known that Al-Qaeada has training camps in Pakistan). Any other government in Pakistan would almost certainly be a theocratic, fascist, anti-American dictatorship. If Mushaffaf retains power, however, Pakistan will be a theocratic, fascist, pro-American dictatorship. There may not be any good choices here. But half a loaf is better than none.

Is this an application of the "the end justifies the means" theory? No. It is not as if the opposition is the Pakistani version of the Sons of Liberty. We can choose between two dictators in Pakistan. Neither of them are desirable, but we can support the better one.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Parenting Problem...

From the UK's Daily Mail:

They say twins share a strong bond - but the one between Gabriel and Ieuan Jones was unbreakable.
When doctors found that Gabriel was weaker than his brother, with an enlarged heart,and believed he was going to die in the womb, his mother Rebecca Jones had to make a heartbreaking decision.
Doctors told her his death could cause his twin brother to die too before they were born, and that it would be better to end Gabriel's suffering sooner rather than later.
Mrs Jones decided to let doctors operate to terminate Gabriel's life.
Firstly they tried to sever his umbilical cord to cut off his blood supply, but the cord was too strong.
They then cut Mrs Jones's placenta in half so that when Gabriel died, it would not affect his twin brother.
But after the operation which was meant to end his life, tiny Gabriel had other ideas.
Although he weighed less than a pound, he put up such a fight for survival that doctors called him Rocky.
Astonishingly, he managed to carry on living in his mother's womb for another five weeks - until the babies were delivered by caesarean section.
Now he and Ieuan are back at home in Stoke - and are so close they are always holding each other's hand.
Mrs Jones, 35, a financial adviser whose husband Mark, 36, is a car salesman, said: "It really is a miracle. Doctors carried out an operation to let Gabriel die - yet he hung on.
"It was unbelievable."
This seems to me to be an argument against abortion. Whatever this kid accomplishes in life, before birth me was deemed not worth trying to save.

Also, when this kid becomes a teenager, he will win every fight with his mother. "Mom, you always favor Ieuan, you never tried to abort him". And it seems that almost being aborted will be a hindrance to a great parent child relationship. I also wonder how they are going to tell him about their decision- "Honey, we seriously thought it would be for the best... Better to die sooner than, well we didn't abort you, did we? Be thankful for what you've got."

Not a good situation.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ten Most Influential Conservatives

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph released a list of the 100 most influential conservatives and liberals. Inevitably, the list was controversial. Bill O-Reilly was rated only 84th, Mark Levin was more influential than Sean Hannity, and Rudy Giuliani took first place, but that is to be expected. It is impossible to make list that everybody agrees with, or even likes. However, I decided to make my own list (only of the top ten), and see what people think.
1. Rush Limbaugh.
The Daily Telegraph ranked him fifth, but I think he is more influential than that. He is basically the spokesman for conservatism, and reaches more people than any other media figure, left or right.
2. George Bush
He is a lame duck, but he still has a great deal of influence. In these last fifteen months of his Presidency, he will shape the world that will be left for his successor. He will choose our policy towards Iran and Iraq, and possibly could nominate another Supreme Court Justice.
3. John Roberts
The face of the Supreme Court is changing. When Bush took office, it was 6-3, in favor of the liberals. Now it is 5-4. The Supreme Court has the chance to reverse decades of liberal precedent in the coming years. Roberts (and Samuel Alito) will play a large part.
4. Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani doesn't really have much influence now- he has a fairly slim lead in a wide open Republican race. However, if he is nominated, he will perhaps permanently alienate the GOP from fervent social conservatives and pro-gun people. If not, then any pro-abortion, anti-gun politition will almost automatically be excluded from a chance at winning the GOP nomination.
5. David Petraeus
Petraeus will determine if we win in Iraq. I think that pretty much establishes his influence right there.
. Sean Hannity
I'm not sure how intellectually influential Hannity is, given that he basically recites Republican talking points. I mean, I can accept partiality towards Republicans, but Hannity almost never questions anything the GOP does. He never actually criticizes the various Republican candidates for any liberal views they have- and I don't just mean Giuliani. Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee have had liberal moments too. However, he does have a huge audience, meaning that Republican politicians rarely get a better place to air their views to large numbers of people (without, of course, any hard questions asked by Hannity).
7. Matt Drudge
Drudge's influence, in my opinion, is a little overstated. His site is popular, but isn't in the top five news sites. However, he does break a great deal of news, and is also read internationally. He welds a great deal of influence among online newspapers, who get massive amounts of traffic when he links to one of their stories. In addition, merely being linked to by Drudge can send a story to the top of the news cycle, which gives him the power to emphasize otherwise ignored stories.
8. Robert Gates
Gates's defense policies win help determine if we win in Iraq, and also will determine our Iran strategy.
9. Mark Levin
Michael Savage is really no longer part of the "big three" of talk radio. He has distanced himself much too far away from mainstream conservatism to be respected. However, Mark Levin is quickly beginning to take his place. He combines Savage's ability to rant with views that actually make sense.
10. The conservative blogosphere
I don't want to go the Time magazine route (as when they named everyone Person of the Year), but there really isn't one single blogger with a great deal of influence. It's more a group effort. Besides which, I am a small part of the blogosphere, so I get to have a very small place on this list.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Senate Democrats seem inclined to try to block Michael Mukasey's nomination as attorney general. Of course, given the Democrat's success in investigating Bush, ending the Iraq war, and "solving" the immigration problem, Mukasey is presumably shaking hands with his supporters and choosing the color scheme for his office.

The Democrats primary problem with Mukasey is the fact he was nominated by Bush, but that doesn't play well with anyone, even the Daily Kos, so they accuse him of being pro-torture, torture being defined as waterboarding. There is no doubt that the US does employ waterboarding as an interrogation tool- the Army has admitting using it against select prisoners in Gitmo. The only question is: is waterboarding permissible?

Against Al-Qeada, it clearly is permissible under the Geneva Conventions, as Al-Qeaeda fighters are not technically prisoners of war. The criteria for being considered a war prisoner are:
a)that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates.
b)that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance.
c)that of carrying arms openly.
d)that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
Al-Qeada doesn't meet any of these criteria. Theoretically, the US could do whatever it wanted to these prisoners- drill through the kneecap, acid, broken bones, starvation- and still not violate any international prisoner of war rules. So a better question probably is: what interrogation techniques are morally justifiable?

While I suppose some people would disagree, I don't think torture is justifiable. The end does not justify the means, and torturing even manifestly guilty prisoners can set undesirable precedents. However, torture is not easily defined. defines it as "the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty."

This pretty vague. "Excruciating pain" is a vague term- people can see that in radically different ways. However, excruciating, in my opinion, implies truly agonizing, often permanent damage. While waterboarding is presumably not enjoyable, it is not permanent, and nowhere near as painful as many other "enhanced interrogation" techniques. By any reasonable standards, waterboarding is not torture.

Another obstacle to the confirmation of Mukasey (or maybe its just a beef with Republicans in general, its hard to tell) is the alleged spying on innocent Americans and secret CIA prisons presumably filled with innocent Americans.

As a conservative libertarian, I am uncomfortable with parts of the Patriot Act. But I still recognize that it is impossible to get a warrant and still efficiently track phone calls from suspicious foreigners. To my knowledge, the warentless wiretap regulations only tap phone calls from out of the United States from terrorist suspects. This does not exactly go with the image liberals try to project of a innocent, hardworking Americans being spied on by the Shadow Government run by Chimpy McBushitler.

I am not sure how liberals know so much about these secret prisons. (They're secret, aren't they?) They rarely back up their hysterical talk with any concrete evidence- they merely state that it is clearly unconstitutional to hold a confessed Al-Qeada operative (Jose Padilla) indefinitely. Given that Padilla is a prisoner of war, being held indefinitely is about what he should expect.

I would also add that there seem to have been few complaints by anyone who claims to have been improperly wiretaped. You would expect a flood of complaints if the Bush Administration was routinely violating civil rights. Instead we get... nothing. Likewise with our "secret" prisons- unless we are keeping them packed with political prisoners, you would expect at least a few horror stories to leak out. But again... nothing.

The far left fringe (that is to say, the entire Democrat Internet presence) simply respond that any such stories are being buried by the sinister media. They will recite the revealing fact that the entire media is controlled by four major corporations!!! (It's actually five, but still). Wow, what an amazing stat. Imagine, the whole media (they presumably mean just TV), controlled by four (five) companies. I mean, considering there are five news networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FNC, and CNN), who could have imagined that five companies would control them? (It's thinking like this that makes people wonder if maybe the Daily Kos isn't the best source for news).

The Bush Administrations stand on torture is correct, and Bush is to commended for standing behind Mukasey. Bush has made a number of awful mistakes in his Presidency, but on this issue at least, he is demonstrating real courage and judgement.