Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama Quits Trinity United

I posted this at The Next Right trying to be the first to break this story (which I was), so it doesn't exactly go into great detail or feature penetrating analysis. Still, here are a few of my thoughts.
Obama has officially resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ, apparently in the aftermath of Father Michael Pfleger's incendiary comments about Hillary Clinton and race. This really couldn't be better for Republicans--Obama will more or less have to admit that he attended a church that preached racism, people will wonder why he didn't leave Trinity a long time ago, Jeremiah Wright gets back into the news cycle, and Obama is forced into the defensive (again). Perfect.
UPDATE: Two observations about Obama's speech: a) he speaks much better with a Teleprompter (I'm watching the Q&A part), and b) he is wearing (gasp) a substitute for patriotism on his lapel. Hmmm.
UPDATE II: Obama refuses to denounce Trinity United: "I will not denounce the church. It is not a church worthy of denouncing." He says that the nation has seen "caricatures" of the church. Sorry, Obama, but direct quotes aren't "caricatures."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts…

Patrick Ruffini, Soren Dayton, and Jon Henke have started a conservative equivalent of the Daily Kos called the Next Right. It is be a community based grassroots blog. I am planning on cross posting all of my content there, and it’s worth checking out.

Speaking of the blogosphere, it seems that conservative bloggers are almost unanimous in their abhorrence of John McCain. In the first days after he won the nomination, I thought that anyone who was seriously considering voting for a third party candidate was crazy; now, it seems that there are basically two kinds of conservative bloggers—those who absolutely refuse to support McCain and will vote for a third party candidate, and those who will do so, but only extremely reluctantly. Sometimes it seems that I am the only conservative blogger who actually likes McCain as a candidate. And really, with the exception of Fred Thompson, who among the GOP candidates was any better?

If you said Mitt Romney, remember that he supported amnesty for illegal aliens before he was against it, supported some forms of gun control, and believed in climate change.

It’s been a while since Mike Huckabee said something stupid, but he hadn’t stopped working at it, he was just resting. His latest:
“The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it's this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it's a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says "look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government.”
We sure dodged a bullet with that guy, didn’t we? Imagine if he was the Republican nominee.

Barring any attack tomorrow, May will have had fewer causalities than any month since the Iraq War began. Harry Reid might want to rethink his “the war is lost” statement. Conditions in Iraq could change quickly, but right now, it is indisputable that we are winning that war.

And Obama might want to rethink the notion that Iraq is actually a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda. They don’t seem to be very effective right now, do they?

Many people claim to be “spiritual,” but dislike “organized religion.” What is the other kind of religion?

Trinity United Baptist (Barack Obama’s church) had a guest preacher in on Sunday, and he is perhaps the only person alive crazier than Jeremiah Wright. He’s Father Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest who apparently moonlights as an occasional preacher at Wright’s old church. (I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure that Catholic priests aren’t, as a rule, allowed to take part in the religious ceremonies of other faiths). To appreciate the full extent of the Pfleger experience, you really have to watch the video, but if you don’t, imagine a pasty white guy in a Roman collar trying to imitate Jeremiah Wright. Watching Pfleger is almost surreal. (Transcript and video of Pfleger’s remarks is at Michelle Malkin).

Obama responded by denouncing Pfleger’s comments. It’s starting to become habitual for Obama to be forced to disown yet another crazy acquaintance.

Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan published a book that supposedly tells “What Happened” during his time in the Bush White House. He claims to regret his role in pushing the Iraq War, and feels that the Bush administration deceived him during the Place affair (which it actually did). Many conservatives are angry about the book, but really, there haven’t been any lurid allegations made. McClellan’s book doesn’t seem to have any new facts—just his personal thoughts about old ones.

A lost tribe has been discovered in the Amazon. There are apparently over 100 such tribes, and there is a great deal of debate over whether we should contact them. In my view, not contacting these groups is racism of the worst kind—we would rather that they live their lives as “noble savages” then enjoy the benefits of our technology. True, their culture would irrevocably altered, but most cultures are constantly changing. Why should we doom these people to a Stone Age existence?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blacks in the GOP

There are 199 Republicans in the House of Representatives. Not one of them is African-American. There are 49 Republican Senators. Every one of them is white. There are 22 Republican governors. None of them are black (though in fairness, there is only one elected black Democrat governor). The Republican party does not have even one black Congressman, Senator, or governor. African-Americans vote overwhelmingly Democrat, which explains some of the disparity, but that situation is intolerable.

Making this situation all the more incredible is the fact that so many of the conservative movement’s most influential thinkers are black. Thomas Sowell is arguably the most influential living conservative economist. If he isn’t, an argument could be made that Walter Williams is. Michael Steele is one of the most popular politicians among conservatives in the nation. Hoover Institute fellow Shelby Steele is very much admired among conservatives, Jesse Lee Peterson is very influential on race matters, and Deroy Murdock, Star Parker, and Armstrong Williams are all widely read conservative columnists. Larry Elder has a large talk radio audience. Black thinkers form a crucial segment of conservative thought.

Many liberals respond by saying that black conservatives are little better than Uncle Toms; that they simply repeat what their white masters tell them to say. But that is obviously wrong. Thomas Sowell’s word is law in conservative economics, Walter Williams is one of the most read columnists on the conservative website townhall.com, and Deroy Murdock is one of the most popular writers in National Review. Black conservatives don’t parrot conservative talking points—in many cases, they create the conservative talking points

And Republican leaders select many African-Americans as political appointees. The only current black Supreme Court justice is conservative Clarence Thomas. The first black Secretary of State was Colin Powell, and the second was Condoleezza Rice. The Republican party does not lack for blacks in appointee filled offices—only electoral ones.

If blacks are not held back by conservative racism, and are some of the conservative movement’s most influential scholars, why can’t they get elected as Republicans? There are at least three reasons.

The first reason lies in the fact that well over 75% of blacks vote Democrat. This limits the number of possible black Republican politicians—only a tiny fraction of people have the skills and the inclination to enter politics, and the fact that three quarters of the black population are staunch Democrats narrows the field still further. This means that there really aren’t many black Republican politicians to begin with.

Another reason for this disparity lies in the fact that most politicians are politicians first, and ideologues second. It is much easier for a young black politician to gain party support and funding if he is a liberal Democrat. In fact, being anything can hurt an aspiring black politician’s career—black Republicans are often taunted as “Uncle Toms”, pelted with Oreo cookies (get it? Black on the outside, white on the inside), and are sometimes referred to (in Condi Rice’s case) as “house n*ggas”. Being a black Republican politician is like crime—it doesn’t pay.

One of the reasons it doesn’t pay lies in the fact that the Republican party does not make much of an effort to find strong black candidates. While Ken Mehlman’s Republican National Committee made an effort to attract black candidates (many blacks ran as Republicans in 2006, although they ran mostly in long-shot races), many GOP strategists believe that such efforts never became an important part of the RNC. After Mehlman left the chairman post of the RNC, these efforts were mothballed.

The Republican party has few black politicians—and that is a pity, both for the GOP and the African-American race. The Republican party is missing out on some strong leaders whom would strengthen the party. The black community is losing an opportunity to lift itself out of the culture of government dependency in which so many blacks are enmeshed. (This is hardly a phenomenon unique to blacks—many, many whites are entangled in the same culture, as are many members of other races). The lack of black Republicans hurts both blacks and the GOP—and the Republican party should seek to change that. The black community has much in common with the conservative movement (many are religious social conservatives, and blacks form a large part of the military), and the Republican party should take advantage to this common ground.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guns in Britain

Britain is an anti-gun liberal’s dream. It is illegal to own a handgun, with a penalty of five years in prison for unlawful possession. No more than 4% of homes in England contain guns. Those few who are gun owners are subject to draconian gun laws, including laws regarding “safe gun storage,” even though the gun would probably then be inaccessible at short notice. Not that that matters to the British gun authorities—self defense is not considered a legitimate reason to own a firearm. Even imitation guns are banned.

And the British system works—there are very few guns in Britain. The police still go unarmed. Even criminals have trouble finding guns. Gun crime in Britain is far less than in the United States. There is no serious opposition to Britain’s effective ban on all weapons—the pro-gun movement in England is practically nonexistent. British law is the embodiment of every gun control advocates dream.

I read a great many mystery and crime novels, from writers both in the United States and England. And there is a difference in the role guns play in the plots—in the American stories, guns are literally everywhere, and both the police and the villains are heavily armed. In the British books, guns are rarer—the police rarely carry, and even the villains don’t pack near as much heat as there American counterparts.

But the American books are fairly optimistic—the villain usually gets caught (or shot), and even the darkest American mysteries usually have a glimpse of restored order in the conclusion. The British books often lack that optimism—the police spend pages agonizing at their inability to stop crime; the villain often escapes justice; and there is a sense of escalating lawlessness and anarchy. In American crime literature, the system, though flawed, works; in British detective novels, it is utterly broken.

But can you really judge two justice systems by comparing mystery stories? Perhaps not every time, but in this case, such a comparison is right on. British gun control advocates have succeeded in making guns illegal—but they also ensured that the only gun owners are violent criminals. Violent crime has exploded.

According to a November 2002 Reason magazine article (note that these statistics are slightly outdated, but there is no reason to believe that British crime rates have dropped significantly), violent crime is out of control. Britain enacted its handgun ban in 1996, by 2001, crime rates had doubled. By 2002, your chances of being mugged in London were six times higher than in New York City. 53% of burglaries took place while the victims were at home, compared to a mere 13% in the United States. According to the 2003 International Crime Victims Survey, Britain suffered from a crime rate three times that of the United States. By 2002, a UN study stated that England and Wales had the Western world’s worst record of criminal offenses. And British crime rates are artificially low—after the fifth crime against an individual, the government stops counting, which means that an extra two million violent crimes go unrecorded each year.

How do criminals get around Britain’s gun laws? This may come as a shock to liberals, but government is not omniscient. Many guns get through, and every one falls into the hands of violent criminals. And those criminals who can’t get guns just use knives—knife crime is a major problem, accounts for much of Britain’s violent crime. And no, you can’t use a knife for protection in England—carrying knives longer than three inches is a crime.

Gun control has been a total disaster in Great Britain. It is truly mind-boggling that so many liberals want to try it here. No matter how efficient the police force (and our police forces are often underfunded) or functional the prison system (and our prison system is very, very poor), a defenseless citizenry will always remain vulnerable to crime. They have found that fact out in Great Britain—and if the gun control zealots ever get their way, we will find that out in America as well. Crime novels aren’t always a good indicator of a county’s success in fighting crime—but this time they are.

I went to a lot of sites to get infomation for this post, and you can find them here, here, here, and here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Barack Obama: Gaffe Machine

Most politicians occasionally say dumb things. Dan Quayle, who was famous for his absurd remarks, once declared that Mars was home to canals, water, and oxygen. George W. Bush is notorious for inventing new words (misunderestimate), mispronouncing real ones (nukular), and botching quotes (fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.") Hillary Clinton recently applied the circumstances of Robert Kennedy’s assassination to the 2008 presidential race, drawing parallels between his position and that of Barack Obama. But for sheer number and stupidity of gaffes, it’s hard to beat Barack Obama.

Some of Barack Obama’s verbal miscues are merely amusing: he has given the U.S. ten more states (he visited 57, and had three more to visit), declared that his “racist” grandmother was a “typical white person”, and thought he saw some “fallen heroes” in the audience for a Memorial Day speech (fallen heroes are dead, so it would be hard for any of them to make his speech). Others illustrate his radically liberal worldview—he doesn’t want his daughters to be “punished with a baby”, and described his discovery as a young man that white people were only satisfied “if you [as a black man] made no sudden moves.”

However, other Obama quotes seem to come from a man who is far more liberal than he claims to be. His statement that “we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK” is terrifying. It implies that Obama would impose limits on the amount of food we food, and enact thermostat controls to ensure that no one uses too many resources. Obviously, he wouldn’t be able to do all that as president—but it seems he wishes he could.

Another revealing Obama quote is his answer to a debate question regarding a hypothetical terrorist attack on an American city. (Remember when there was a presidential debate about every two weeks? That seems so long ago). Obama’s answer: “the first thing we’d have to do is make sure we’ve got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans. And I think we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster but also a terrorist attack. The second thing is to make sure that we’ve got good intelligence. . . . But what we can’t do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast.”

If that answer still is Obama’s position (Obama’s views are maddeningly hard to pin down), then he clearly has not the vaguest idea of how to respond to a terrorist attack. The emergency response required for a terrorist attack is completely different than that required for a natural disaster—for example, natural disasters are handled first by state and local governments, while terrorist attacks fall squarely into the federal government’s bailiwick. In addition, terrorist attacks are preventable.

Also, Obama might want to consider retaliating against those who attacked us, a concept missing from his reply. Lack of retaliation against America’s enemies seems to be a premise of his foreign policy—if we talk to them, they won’t attack us. He seems to base his opposition to the Iraq War not so much on the strategic reasons behind it, but because he seems to think that war in general is almost always unacceptable. This quote is revealing because he rarely enunciates this idea so openly.

For someone who is supposed to be a Reaganeque, silver-tongued speaker, Barack Obama commits a lot of verbal gaffes. Some are stupid but harmless—but others reveal his true worldview, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts…

A lot of conservatives are angry that John McCain has recently hinted that he would attempt to pass an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants before securing the border. The remarks that have conservatives so angry probably aren’t that big a deal—conservatives think that McCain reneged on his promise to secure the border first, but McCain stated his intent to do so immediately after his pro-amnesty comments. McCain does support amnesty, but he does support (or claims to support) securing the border. Still, some conservative bloggers have announced that they will not support McCain.

I really wonder what these conservatives expected. McCain’s position on illegal immigration is pretty well known. If they consider it a disqualifying issue, then maybe they should have decided that back when he got the nomination? I like John Hawkins, but he is way off base when he says that he won’t vote for McCain based solely on McCain’s recent comments.

Conservatives seem to want to close the border between the U.S. and Mexico, but they rarely seem to have any concrete plan beyond a vague border fence. The border between the two countries is 2,000 miles long—wouldn’t a fence be pretty expensive? Not to mention hard to maintain. Securing the border is important, but if conservatives wish to be taken seriously, they should come up with a more concrete plan.

Observation: many blogs seem to think to stories by linking to another blog that links to the story, instead of linking to it directly. Why not link directly to the story? Take this post from Instapundit. He links to a blogger who provides a very brief recap and links to the original article. Wouldn’t it be easier to cut out the middleman and go straight to the original source?

Hillary Clinton has compared Obama’s situation to Kennedy’s…Bobby Kennedy’s. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California” she reminded voters. Her point was that at the time of Kennedy’s assassination, the nominating race was still competitive, but still. It’s hard to imagine a more awkward gaffe. Generally, mentioning any presidential candidate’s name in the same sentence as “assassination” is a bad idea.

Speaking of gaffes, Barack Obama knows just who is responsible for the (mostly nonexistent) increase in hate crimes against Hispanics—Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh. Because hate crimes just naturally follow once someone publicly opposes illegal immigration.

When I heard that Bobby Jindal was invited to John McCain’s ranch for Memorial Day, I was encouraged, thinking that McCain is considering him for his running mate. But if I had known that Tom Ridge was invited too, then I would have felt a bit differently. Tom Ridge is the former governor of Pennsylvania and the former national security advisor. He made up that color -coded terror alert system that always seems to be stuck on orange, and is a very liberal Republican. I hope McCain isn’t thinking too seriously of picking Ridge for his running mate.

Alaska governor Sarah Palin is suing the federal government to prevent polar bears from being added to the “threatened” specis list. It’s nice to see a Republican with a bit of backbone.

Does anyone like these “random thoughts” posts? It’s easier than putting together a long post on a single subject, and there are some things that aren’t really worth 600-800 words, but are interesting enough to warrant a mention. So tell me: should I keep doing them, or would you rather see something else?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obama the Appeaser

Barack Obama has received a great deal of criticism for his promise to meet without preconditions with enemies such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, and Kim Jong Il. Although the details of these proposed meetings are hazy (as are many things in the Obama campaign), Obama definitely plans on talking to hostile world leaders. Liberals praise Obama for his open diplomatic message; conservatives claim that he supports appeasement.

Obama asserts that he is following in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy and engaging in diplomacy with those who oppose us. He believes that talking only to our allies is counterproductive, and it imperative to use diplomacy to influence our adversaries. He points out that relying solely on brute force does not work.

Obviously, a nation can’t rely solely on threats (“nuke ‘em if they can’t take a joke”), but a nation cannot rely solely on diplomacy either. There must be at least two conditions met before a nation engages in diplomacy: the country negotiating must be operating from a position of strength, and the country being negotiated with must have a rational leader. Neither condition applies to Iran.

A position of strength does not always mean a clear military victory—it only requires that the country negotiating be able to inflict enough damage on its negotiating partner that any conflict would be undesirable. It would seem that the United States would always be in this position—our military is the best on earth, and most military observers believe that it could crush any other nation. Even in a worst case scenario, our nuclear capability gives us the ability to release a nuclear apocalypse. It would seem that America would always be guaranteed the upper hand at the negotiating table.

But this would not be true in the case of Obama-Ahmadinejad talks. By agreeing to talk to Ahmadinejad without absolutely no preconditions, Obama is signalling that he is desperate. Given his pacifistic rhetoric about the Middle East, it is clear that there is almost no scenario in which he would open another front in the war on Islamic terror. Ahmadinejad would have a free hand. Obama would not be operating from a position of strength, but rather one of desperate weakness.

The second condition is even more basic. If the leader being negotiated with is not rational, then such concepts as diplomacy and apeasement (which, in some condition, can actually be a good idea) are pointless. An irrational man doesn’t have the same goals that a rational leader does, nor does he have a realistic view of the world. A perfectly reasonable deal may be rejected, or more often reneged upon, due to a fantasy of a deranged madman. Negotiating with deluded fanatics is invariably futile.

And Ahmadinejad is clearly irrational. Apart from his domestic inanities, such as his declaration that there are no homosexuals in Iran (in reality there are, but he is doing his best to change that by killing as many as possible), Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy statements show that his is not a rational mind.

He has declared that the nation of Israel must be “wiped off the map”, that annihilation for Israel is near, and has referred to the Israeli government as “criminals”. In 2006, Ahmadinejad called a Holocaust denial conference. When Israel attacked Lebanon as part of a perfectly reasonable counter offensive against Hamas, Ahmadinejad compared Israel’s defensive action to the sins of Nazi Germany.

This is the man with whom Obama wants to try diplomacy. It is nearly impossible to see how such negotiations could succeed. Since Obama clearly has no plans to attack Iran, there is almost nothing that the United States could offer to Iran (is any country intimidated by U.N. sanctions?). And since Ahmadinejad is wholly irrational, any progress could be erased instantly by a dictatorial mood swing. Negotiating with Iran would be both pointless and harmful—it would give legitimacy to a regime that openly supports terrorism, and reinforce the radical Muslim notion that the United States is a paper tiger.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

VP Jindal?

Recently, I stated that John McCain should choose Bobby Jindal as his running mate. Jindal is young, talented, and popular among conservatives. He would mollify the fears of many suspicious right-wingers, while blunting the inevitable “Obama-as-first-minority-candidate” theme. A position as McCain’s running mate might not be the best thing for Bobby Jindal, or the best thing for the country (as Jindal lacks experience), but it would give McCain a much better shot at the Presidency.

I didn’t expect McCain to really consider Jindal. But McCain has invited Jindal, along with Mitt Romney and Florida governor Charlie Crist, to his Arizona ranch for Memorial Day. All three men have been suggested as possible running mates.

McCain manager Mark Salter claims that the meeting is “strictly social.” Right. McCain owes Crist a favor, since he endorsed McCain just before the Florida primaries, but Jindal can’t have had many social contacts with McCain (he was in Washington for a very short period of time), and McCain never bothered to hide his distain for Romney while on the campaign trail. Maybe McCain likes hanging out with politicians he hardly knows and (in Romney’s case) doesn’t like—but it’s not likely.

Of the three candidates (and, of course, there must be more than these three names on McCain’s list—Tim Pawlenty, for example, had a wedding to attend, so it would have been difficult for him to make it), it is hard to imagine Charlie Crist as McCain’s choice. He represents the most liberal part of the GOP—he supports climate change laws, abortion, and the “right to die” movement. McCain might not care very much what conservatives think about him, but I think he cares enough not to pick Crist. And since the Democratic party has effectively disenfranchised Florida from nominating process, it’s not like the Republicans have to worry about Florida, at least as compared to other years.

Of the two remaining invitees, most conservatives like Romney as a running mate far more than they do Jindal, but it’s hard to see why. As David Freddoso commented on National Review Online, Romney was “the lesser of two evils. I do not like the idea of choosing both.” Romney was pro-amnesty before he was against it, supported bans on “weapons of unusual lethality” (assault weapons), and experienced a suspiciously convenient conversion on the issue of abortion. He is not a conservative (he was number eight on a list of RINO’s compiled by Human Events, although in fairness this happened before his abortion switch), and a conservative is what McCain needs. Bobby Jindal is one of the few Republican politicians who would fit the bill. (Others who spring to mind: J.C. Watts, Michael Steele, Fred Thompson, though each of these men have significant disadvantages).

Of course, perhaps McCain really is doing nothing more than inviting Jindal for a cookout, and maybe a running mate position for him is the farthest thing from McCain’s mind. I have certainly been wrong before (I picked Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney as the presidential nominees), but I hope that I am right in this instance. McCain needs Jindal—and so does the GOP.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Congress' Farm Bill

In 2006, one of the key factors in the Democrat victory was the public’s disgust at the Republican party’s corruption and general lack of financial restraint. It’s hard to blame the voters—pork spending was out of control, the federal budget was growing by leaps and bounds, and crooked lobbyists like Jack Abramhoff worked hand-in-glove with many Republican congressmen. Many voters felt that new leadership in Washington would end all that, or at least slow it down, and Nancy Pelosi promised an open, honest Congress.

Congress hasn’t lived up to Pelosi’s promises, but no one really expected it to anyway. Most people don’t expect any sort of financial responsibility from Congress, and are happy to let Congress spend their money on $100 toilet seats or $400 million dollar bridges to nowhere. But America’s lack of concern or awareness of Congress’ soon-to-be passed farm subsidy bill is disheartening. It seems that perhaps the French are right: maybe Americans are stupid. The fact that there is no outcry against the farm bill is mind-boggling.

Pork spending is one thing. The farm bill is another. It will cost American over $300 billion—a thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child in America. Putting that number in perspective, the cost of the Iraq War over six years has been around $500 billion, which comes out to a little less than a $100 billion a year. Yet the same people who complain about the financial irresponsibility of the Iraq War happily vote for this absurd, bloated bill.

Almost nothing in this bill is excusable. Most farms are doing quite well; net farm income has risen 56 percent over the past two years. Most farmers don’t need government help, but will get it anyway. And it won’t discriminate—everybody will get some federal funds.

Farmers in the top 1% of earners are eligible for federal money. The bulk of payments go to large farms with incomes over $200,000, and a net worth of over $2 million. How much does a farmer have to earn before his subsidies are cut? One million dollars. Over five billion dollars of the bill are allotted to wholly unnecessary direct payments to prosperous farmers. This bill is Robin Hood in reverse—it robs from the poor to give to the rich.

Of course, there is plenty of outright pork included in the bill to keep the folks back home happy. $93 million dollars in tax breaks for race horses (well, not for the race horses exactly, but for their owners. And do people who can afford race horses really need tax breaks?), $250 million for the quite prosperous Montana-based Plum Creek Timber Company, and the bill includes a supply-control sugar program in which the government buys sugar from farmers, which it sells it at an 80% loss. And, of course, there is an ethanol provision as well—subsidies would drive over 25% of American corn into ethanol production.

This bill is so obviously completely unnecessary and corrupt that it is hard to imagine a way in which any congressman could in good conscience vote for it. Yet it will pass overwhelmingly, with overwhelming bipartisan support. 81 Senators voted for this shameful bill, along with 117 Representatives.

Of the presidential contenders, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama strongly support the bill. Hillary suggested that saying no to the farm bill was like “saying no to rural America.” (Which it would be, if all of rural America was worth over a million dollars).

Barack Obama supports the bill, though with reservations. However, he says that he doesn’t want “the perfect” to be the enemy of “the good” (is anything in this awful bill good?), and he “applauds” the Senate’s passage of the bill. He claims that those who oppose it are “saying no to America's farmers and ranchers, no to energy independence [I assume that he is referring to ethanol subsidies, which would do absolutely nothing to make us energy independent], no to the environment [ethanol again; ethanol doesn't help the environment much either], and no to millions of hungry people [except that the ethanol subsidies Obama support actually raise food prices by significant amounts, which is a major factor in world hunger]."

This bill gets support from nearly everyone in Washington. Does anybody have integrity to stand against this bill? To his credit, Bush plans to veto the bill, although his veto will be killed by Congress.

The other prominent politician to stand against the bill is John McCain. He is the one man in Washington willing to take a stand against the powerful interests fighting for this bill. (It’s hard to count Bush’s veto as “taking a stand”, since he signed a 2002 version of the bill before he became a lame duck, and the 2008 bill passed by a veto proof majority anyway). John McCain often upsets conservatives—but it is comforting to see that he doesn’t mind upsetting other groups as well. His opposition to this bill is commendable—and exactly what the Republican party needs to see from its representatives.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Obama as McGovern

Consider Barack Obama. He is running against a long, unpopular war, a solid majority of young people support his campaign, he supports universal health care, and almost the entire print and television media support him. According to many, perhaps most, political experts, that sounds like a winning combination.

Not really. It sounds more like George McGovern. Obama has widened his base among hardcore, ultra-liberal Democrats—but has probably narrowed his base of support among moderates and undecideds. Obama’s core of support is similar to McGovern’s: African-Americans and elitist white liberals.

Obama’s campaign has had some surprising parallels to McGovern’s. Both endured tough nominating fights, which alienated significant parts of the Democrat party. Both represented the most liberal section segment of their party, and each made ending the war their campaign’s signature issue.

McGovern became known as the candidate of “amnesty, abortion and acid.” It’s not hard to imagine Obama becoming the candidate of Jeremiah Wright, appeasement, and unpatriotism. In many ways, Obama is even more liberal and vurnerable than McGovern.

Barack Obama’s biggest attraction to many slightly-left-of-center moderates was the fact that he was a nonthreatening, sympathetic black man who they could vote for and feel good about themselves. He wasn’t a radical like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton who just made white liberals feel guilty—he was a nice friendly Bill Clinton Lite, or maybe Bill Clinton Dark. Obama was the incarnation of Spike Lee’s “magic negro”—he seemed to exist only to help whites feel good about themselves, without forcing them to really do anything. He represented a new era in racial politics.

Not anymore. Now, it’s hard to see Barack Obama as a friendly moderate. His friendship with Jeremiah Wright changed all that. To some, the relationship isn’t an issue, and their affection for Obama is no less than before. But no one can now claim that Obama is fundamentally different from Jackson or Sharpton—he obviously sees the world in terms of racial black and white.

Americans don’t like the Iraq War, and want to see it end soon, but they also want to win, and they want to be safe from foreign enemies. (Americans often expect impossibilities from their presidential candidates). Obama has firmly staked out the no-win position on Iraq, has received Hamas’ endorsement, and fanatically insists on negotiations between America and it’s adversaries. There is a fine line between “diplomacy” and outright “appeasement”—and Obama is creeping very, very close to that line.

Obama will certainly not be the electoral disaster McGovern was—but who could? McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton as his running mate, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for Eagleton’s history of electroshock treatment, which forced McGovern to hastily replace him. (Although things could have been worse for McGovern. Mike Gravel was seriously considered as a running mate). McGovern was an unprecedentedly awful candidate.

But Obama may share one of McGovern’s most devastating attributes—his appeal is largely regional, and the regions in which he is popular aren’t very important ones. Obama (like McGovern) isn’t getting very much Southern support—but he also lost the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire primaries by significant margins. Perhaps those Democrats who supported Hillary in those contests will flock to Obama in the general election—but the voters of these important swing states don’t seem to like Obama much. If even a quarter of them stay home next November, then Obama’s presidential aspirations would be ruined.

November is a long way off, and maybe Obama can overcome some of his difficulties (and even though Obama has had some problems, he and McCain remain more or less tied in the polls). But it is clear that Obama has some major weaknesses, and those who would coronate him as America’s next president are ridiculously premature. Obama has some major strengths—his youth, looks, and charm—but also some crippling weaknesses.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts…
Many conservatives like Christopher Hitchens, and I am among them. He is ridiculously anti-religion (is there anyone else in the world who would refer to Mother Teresa as the “ghoul of Calcutta?),” but he is never boring and at least attempts intellectual honesty (unlike, say, Bill Maher). I try to read all his stuff, and was surprised to learn that he blogs at the Daily Mirror’s (Britain) website. It’s worth checking out.

Also worth checking out is Jeremy Clarkson. He’s not wholly conservative, but he is about as politically incorrect as Rush Limbaugh. That’s not remarkable, lots of people are, but he has a popular television show about cars called Top Gear. I can’t imagine any television personality in America who would dare to write what he writes—they are all uniformly liberal. And is there entertainer in the U.S. who will challenge the idea global warming? Granted, Clarkson’s show consists of driving cars, so maybe he is a little biased, but then, Al Gore’s mega-mansion hasn’t stopped him from preaching global warming.

I was pretty critical of Atlas Shrugged, so I thought I’d recommend some books I do like. Cormac McCarthy is hard to read because of his strange grammar (no apostrophes or quotation marks, long sentences, and some missing verbs), but his books are really, really good. I just finished The Road, which won a Pulitzer Prize, and deserved it. No Country for Old Men is one of the best books—with one of the most conservative viewpoints—that I’ve ever read. Many books written today don’t like the idea of evil, so they just make their villains obnoxious jerks (think of John Grisham’s villains). McCarthy doesn’t have any trouble with that concept. My only criticism of No Country for Old Men is the fact that McCarthy portrays the world as having so much evil that good always loses.

Almost no popular books written today are willing to condemn abortion, but McCarthy will. He has the narrator say:
“I got set next to this woman...and she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that.... Finally told me, said: I don't like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation."

Brilliant.

Some thought that Mike Huckabee might make a good running mate for John McCain. Not anymore. While making a speech to the NRA, he responded to an offstage noise by “joking” “that was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak. Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor." Well, what would you do, if someone aimed a gun at you? Huckabee is supposed to be funny, and he sometimes is, but remember that he once actually said that the U.S. needs to employee “weapons of mass instruction” in our schools, a line that stopped being funny the second time it was repeated.

And Michael Moore is planning on a sequel Fahrenheit 9/11. That promises to be…interesting.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Case for Jindal

Bobby Jindal is one of the rising stars in the Republican party. At a time when few conservatives are excited about any Republican, Jindal has been effusively praised by Michelle Malkin, and been referred to as the “next Reagan” by Rush Limbaugh. He has a very bright future in the GOP. So bright, in fact, that there has been talk that John McCain may make him his running mate. Jindal certainly would add to the ticket—he is young (thirty-six), Indian-American, and a true conservative.

There are also compelling arguments against making Jindal McCain’s running mate. He is inexperienced—three years in the House of Representatives, then less than four years as governor of Louisiana. That sort of experience makes Barack Obama look like a grizzled old political veteran. Furthermore, Jindal’s youth may be too much of a good thing—voters want a nice young face, but Jindal looks like he just graduated from high school.

Jindal has impeccable conservative ideas—but those aren’t all one needs to run a country. Experience does matter—and Jindal has very little. Were something to happen to McCain (and McCain will be 72 when he is sworn in), it seems unlikely that Jindal would be prepared to run the country.

The VP slot would probably not be a good thing for Jindal’s career. He might be the fastest rising politician in America—is there any reason to take a chance by allying himself with John McCain, who could easily lose in November? Given his popularity, he can afford to wait a few years before considering a presidential run. If he governs well for four years in Louisiana, he could mount a campaign in 2012 with ample experience, the full support of the conservative media, and campaign in a political atmosphere far more favorable to Republicans. And he will still be only forty. If asked, Jindal probably refuse the VP slot.

McCain-Jindal wouldn’t be the best thing for either Bobby Jindal or the country. Yet McCain should still try to make Jindal his running mate. McCain wants to win—and with Bobby Jindal on the ticket as his chances of doing so would be increased very much.

One of McCain’s biggest weaknesses is the fact that so few conservatives—who still make up the backbone of the Republican party—support his candidacy. Adding Jindal to the ticket wouldn’t bring all these conservatives back, but some would be so reassured by this gesture that they would support McCain. Others would vote Republican simply out of allegiance to the man Rush has called the “next Reagan.”

Jindal is also Indian-American. One of the defining media narratives of the election has been the idea of a minority (a black man, a women) being elected president. Jindal wouldn’t defuse this issue—but he would at least partly neutralize it.

McCain needs someone like Jindal to energize his campaign and make it acceptable to conservatives. Besides Jindal, there aren’t many people who could do so. (Mitt Romney? Mike Huckabee? Charlie Crist? I don’t think so—none of these guys could get many voters excited). Bobby Jindal might not be ready—but McCain needs him.

Whether McCain thinks so is another matter. He tends to keep his own counsel, and has a sense of honor as confusing and occasionally irritating as Cormac McCarthy’s rules of grammar. He may decide that nominating Jindal as his running mate would be pandering to conservatives (something I would actually like to see McCain do), or decide that he needs someone a bit more established, or may decide to nominate, say, Lindsey Graham for some strange and incomprehensible reason. He may not pick Bobby Jindal for his running mate—but he should.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Social Conservatives and the GOP

One of the most common beliefs in American politics is the idea that the Republican Party sneers at the religious right, and that it is uninterested in advancing the social conservative agenda. This idea can be found on both the right and left—leftists sneer at social conservatives for being taken in so easily by a party that doesn’t care for them, while rightists angrily denounce the GOP and threaten to vote elsewhere next time (like there is anywhere else for them to go).

This meme is one of the most widely believed political theories—but is mostly false. The Republican party needs the Christian Right, and advances its agenda at least as much as it does that of any other part of the conservative movement.

Thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is still legal across America, and Roe v. Wade has not been overturned. Republican presidents have not always appointed pro-life, constructionist justices—in fact, it has appointed almost as many pro-Roe justices as anti-Roe justices. It has often waffled in advancing the social conservative program. The Republican Party has not been a consistent friend of the pro-life movement.

But the pro-life movement has made some progress, and a great deal of that is due to the efforts of Republicans. When Roe v. Wade was decided, the Court ruled in a 7-2 decision. Were the case handled by the present-day Supreme Court, it would probably be a 5-4 pro-Roe decision, which is progress. The Republicans have put through a partial-birth abortion ban, strengthened parental notification laws, rescinded the Mexico City policy (which would provide foreign aid to pay for abortions), kept gay marriage from becoming legal in many states, and Bush, to his great credit, vetoed a bill providing federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. The Republican Party could undoubtedly do more for the pro-life cause, but they have certainly not wholly betrayed it either.

In fact, compared to the way it has treated other parts of the conservative movement, it has treated social conservatives pretty well. Small government conservatives are another major part of the GOP, and the Republican Party has completely ignored the wishes of this constituency.

Republicans always campaign on small government, minimal regulation, low taxes, and less wasteful spending. All they ever actually do is lower taxes. President Bush, along with many congressional leaders and GOP nominee John McCain, has expressed support for a “cap and trade” carbon emissions program, which would put limits on the amount of carbon dioxide companies could produce. That would entail a massive expansion of government.

Of course, the federal government has already done some serious expanding under the Bush administration. He has increased the federal debt by about four trillion since becoming president. The budget for this year is the highest in American history. The second highest? Last year’s budget. The GOP has sometimes ignored the wishes of social conservatives—it always completely disregarded libertarian conservatives.

Fortunately, it’s not just the right that ignores the wishes of some of its most important supporters. This sort of thing can be seen on the left as well. Liberals have been pushing for universal health insurance for decades. It seems fair and just, the rest of the world has it (and has had it for years), and the media is in favor of it. And all liberals got from the Democrat Party on this important issue was a quickly dropped proposal by Hillary Clinton to nationalize health care. Remember the SCHIP bill? The Democrats initially put up a fight, then immediately backed down after Bush threatened a veto. The Democrat Party has not pushed for national health care any harder than the GOP has fought against abortion.

Or take Iraq. It is key tenet of modern liberal thought to immediately pull all American troops from Iraq. Neither Democrat candidate will do so. Both candidates support keeping troops there long enough to stabilize the country—in essence, exactly what Bush plans to do.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are particularly concerned with actually doing anything to effect the change in policy that they promise before each election. They refuse to act partly because an unsolved problem means votes from those who care about that issue (for example, some social conservatives might defect to the Democrat if the abortion issue didn’t bind them to the Republican party), but also for a more simple reason: politicians don’t like change.

Change is bad, from a political standpoint, because it involves responsibility. If universal health care ever did become a reality, the Democrats would get blamed for all problems stemming from it. If abortion was ever made illegal, the Republicans would get blamed for every botched illegal abortion. Both parties claim to want to change America—but neither want to take responsibility for whatever the negative effects of these changes are.

Yes, social conservatives sometimes are ignored their party—but so are libertarians, anti-war liberals, universal health care supporters, and practically every other group of voters out there. The reason that Republicans don’t support the pro-life movement more ardently is not because they don’t care—it is because they are politicians.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Obama and Hamas

Barack Obama has made it clear that he supports the state of Israel. He recently told Jeffery Goldberg that he “thinks that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea,” and that his commitment to Israel’s security is “nonnegotiable.” He condemns Hamas as a terrorist organization, and states that the United States should not engage in diplomacy with the group. His declared position on Israel is close to that of McCain or Hillary—but someone needs to tell Hamas and its friends that.

Barack Obama claims to oppose Hamas. And Hamas responds by endorsing him. The group’s political leader, Ahmad Yousef, commented that “We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the elections…I hope Mr. Obama and the Democrats will change the political discourse... I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principal. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance.” It seems that Hamas is on board the Obama campaign.

Robert Malley, an Obama advisor, was fired after he told a newspaper that he had met with Hamas leaders. It was no secret—Malley felt open enough about his negotiations to proudly mention them to a newspaper—yet Malley remained part of the Obamba campaign. Obama’s campaign manageers must have known of Malley’s Hamas meetings—but nothing was done until the talks were made public. Obama might not want to talk to Hamas—but at least one of his valued Middle East policy advisors does.

And Obama seems to surround himself with people who deny Israel’s right to exist. Rashid Khalidi, an Obama ally and Columbia University professor, has called Israel an “apartheid system in creation.” Jeremiah Wright has said that Israel is a “dirty word” among blacks. And Bill Ayers, of course, firmly opposes Israel as well.

Obama has been able to boast that many of his campaign’s biggest supporters have been young people. Undeniably, they have accounted for many of his primary votes. His campaign has attracted youth from practically everywhere—California, Illinois, South Carolina, Palestine…

That’s right, Palestine. According to an Al-Jazeera news report, 23-year-old Palestinian Ibrahim Abu Jayyab and his friends get together before every primary and phonebank for Barack Obama. Jayyab and company probably won’t make much progress—their poorly thought out gameplan is to call random American numbers and deliver an oddly phrased message in a heavily accented voice. But still, it seems that Obama has at least a few supporters in Hamas controlled Gaza.

Granted, perhaps Jayyab is not typical of most Palestinians. Maybe he doesn’t oppose Israel at all, and when he is not calling American voters he spends his time at Palestinians Supporting Israel rallies. But the Al-Jazeera piece strongly implies that Palestinians almost unanimously oppose Israel’s policies, and that Jayyab is no exception.

Why does Hamas support Obama? Why do influential anti-Israel advocates surround him? Why does he get support from inside Palestine? It cannot be because of his stated position on the Israel-Palestine question—he has often declared his support for Israel, and strong opposition to Hamas.

Hamas and its allies support Obama because they see him as an easy mark. His public statements about Israel show that he supports the country—but doesn’t quite know how to go about doing so. When asked during a debate to name America’s three most important allies, he dodged the question to avoid having to name Israel. When asked about his policy regarding Iran, which controls Hezbollah, he responds that he wants to start negotiations. When asked about Jimmy Carter’s fervent and oft-repeated criticisms of Israel, Obama initially refused to comment before expressing tepid disapproval. There is no reason to assume that he would take any meaningful action against Israel’s enemies—and they know that.

Obama probably means well. But his foreign policy, especially regarding Israel, is ineffectual. And even if Obama means no harm, his policy could have serious consequences. Obama opposes Hamas, but his election would be the best possible thing to happen to that group.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gas Price Worries

One the hot-button issues in the presidential campaign so far have been high gas prices. Gas prices are now around $3.80, with four dollar a gallon gas almost inevitable. These costs increase the price of food (between of higher transportation costs), make travel difficult, and are partly responsible for the nation’s present economic woes.

Adding to the frustration is fact that there seems to be no end in sight. Things aren’t getting any more stable in the Middle East, and China and India are increasing their demand for oil. Gas prices have shot up in the last decade. In 2000, gas was less than two dollars a gallon, now, it is approaching four. Many Americans are looking to the government for help.

Fortunately, both the Republican and Democrat nominees (I think we can assume that Obama will be the Democrat nominee) have plans for dealing with the problem. Unsurprisingly, both plans are designed primarily to pander to voters weary of high gas prices, so that must be taken into account when weighing their plan’s respective merits. John McCain’s plan would be quite ineffective. Barack Obama’s plan would be extremely harmful.

McCain advocates a summer gas tax holiday, which would eliminate all federal taxes on gas from Memorial Day to Labor Day. These taxes total 18.4 cents on regular gasoline, and 24.4 cents on diesel gas. In theory, that would add up to savings of about thirty cents a day. Assuming an approximately ninety day period, Americans would save an average of about twenty-seven dollars over that time span.

Unfortunately, that theory wouldn’t work in practice. If gas prices suddenly dropped twenty cents a gallon, people would buy more gas, pushing the price of gas right back up to its previous levels. Nobody would save much. McCain’s idea sounds good, but it wouldn’t really work.

McCain’s tax holiday has only one thing going for it—it does represent a tax cut, and tax cuts are usually beneficial in some way. It wouldn’t lower gas prices, but I’d rather give money to Big Oil than Big Government.

The one part of McCain’s plan that would truly help the country is his proposal to end ethanol subsidies. Ending ethanol subsidies, again, probably wouldn’t slow down rising gas prices much. But it would mean an end to one of the most wasteful, idiotic wastes of taxpayer money in existence. Ethanol subsidies make the Bridge to Nowhere look like a clever plan—it isn’t possible to produce enough, it’s not really good for the environment, and is a major reason for today’s high food prices. Ethanol has many drawbacks, and no advantages. Ending government support of it is the best part of McCain’s strategy.

Obama’s plan is very different. He realizes that high gas prices are a problem, and that oil companies set these prices. Therefore, he reasons, the whole problem is the oil companies’ fault. He supports a “windfall profits penalty” on oil selling over $80 dollars a barrel. (Currently, oil prices are around $121 dollars a barrel). The money taken from this tax would then be used to help the poor.

Ignoring, for the moment, the massive, unnecessary, and unconstitutional expansion of the federal government, Obama’s plan is a poor one because it wouldn’t lower gas prices at all. If a draconian oil tax were imposed, oil companies would slow the search for new oil fields and technologies, since any new profits would only be swallowed up by the government, and would probably increase gas prices as well, to make up for lost revenue. The only purpose Obama’s plan would serve would be to enable the federal government to control yet another part of American life.

McCain’s plan wouldn’t do much to solve the problem of high gas prices, but it wouldn’t do any harm either, and offers some benefits. Obama’s plan would only cause gas prices to rise. John McCain isn’t a perfect candidate—but on this issue, as on so many others, he is clearly the better candidate.

Friday, May 9, 2008

McCain and Hagee

Barack Obama has been condemned by many conservatives for his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright—and it’s not hard to see why. His support of Wright’s church, and tacit endorsement of his ideas represents stunning irresponsibility and incredibly bad judgment. Obama should never have stayed at Wright’s church, much less permitted him to become his spiritual advisor. Those who condemn him are right to do so.

John McCain, on the other hand, has gotten almost no criticism for his relationship with the equally controversial pastor John Hagee. The conservative media has, for the most part, either ignored the issue or attempted to downplay his relationship with Hagee (McCain’s relationship with Hagee was nowhere near as intimate as Obama’s relationship with Wright), while liberals use it primarily to excuse Obama’s friendship with his crazy pastor.

It is a pity that this story has received comparatively little coverage, because it represents an inexcusable error of judgment on the part of John McCain. Like Wright, Hagee has said a number of things that are both offensive and incredibly stupid. Hagee is a notorious anti-Catholic, and has accused the Church of being the Great Whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelation. In addition, he declared that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was borne of his Catholic upbringing. According to Hagee, Roman Catholicism preaches a “theology of hate.”

When not raving about the iniquities of the Catholic Church, Hagee establishes his craziness in other little ways. For example, he suggested that God personally sent Hurricane Katrina to strike New Orleans in a fit of divine retribution for a gay pride parade scheduled for the day the hurricane struck. I can’t say that I’m am expert in the field of divine judgment, but I’m pretty sure that there are at least a few places more evil than New Orleans. Contrary to what many fundamentalist Protestants think, there are actually sins that are worse than homosexuality—in fact, almost all of them.

McCain’s defenders are correct in saying that McCain did not choose Hagee as his pastor and spiritual advisor. However, he did expend considerable time and effort into courting Hagee’s endorsement. McCain’s staff argues that he was unaware of Hagee’s anti-Catholic views, but that claim simply cannot be true. Being ignorant of Hagee’s opinions while courting his endorsement would be like a political pundit not knowing that Rush Limbaugh is conservative. McCain must have known about Hagee’s inane rants—evidence is everywhere. On Hagee’s Wikipedia entry, his controversial views are prominently mentioned on the first page.

Most pundits and media figures know these facts—it’s not like I had to look hard for this information. But they don’t pay much attention to it—the Wright controversy drew weeks and weeks of (justified) attention, while McCain’s relationship with Hagee was only mentioned by embarrassed liberals trying to divert attention from Obama’s problems, with an occasional tepid condemnation by a few conservatives.

To be fair, McCain had nowhere near the relationship with Hagee that Obama did with Wright. But still, imagine if it turned out that Obama had actively lobbied, say, Louis Farrakhan for an endorsement. Commenters on all sides would be justifiably outraged. But when McCain does a nearly equivalent thing (I say nearly only because Hagee is not quite so extreme as Farrakhan), few say anything, and the condemnations of those who do are pretty tepid.

The difference in coverage cannot simply be chalked up to race. Wright’s remarks are far more telegenic than Hagee’s, and his close relationship with Obama makes him a more attractive target. The fact that Obama and Hillary Clinton are engaged in a fierce primary battle, while McCain sits on the sidelines, also undoubtedly plays a role. But whatever the reasons for the lack of coverage of this story, it deserves more airtime. McCain’s actions in this case are inexcusable, and should be known and condemned.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

McCain at NCLR--Bad, but Not Surprising

John McCain has taken a lot of flack from conservatives for his decision to make a speech at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a liberal Hispanic advocacy organization. They claim that it advocates open borders, and that it’s name, which can be translated as National Council of the Race, is divisive and racist. Those who make this charge go on to claim that the groups chant, “La raza unida nunca sera vencida,” should be translated as “A united [Hispanic] race will never be defeated,” which would seem to establish the organization as solidly xenophobic.

These charges are completely false. “La Raza” can also be translated as “the People,” which actually makes a lot more sense in context. “National Council of the Race” would only be appropriate if the group focused on discussing the Hispanic race, while “National Council of the People” works better for a Hispanic advocacy group, which this group is.

Of course, most people aren’t experts are translating Spanish words, so it’s easy to see how that mistake could be made. Unless, of course, the organization had a page on its website addressing that very issue. While finding that particular page may take time, it might be worth taking the five minutes required to find that information in order to avoid an embarrassing mistake. Whatever NCLR stands for (and it does stand for many anti-conservative principles), it is certainly not a racist or Hispanic separatist organization. Such assertions are dishonest.

Most of these McCain bashers go on to claim that the group supports open borders. Not exactly. In a FAQ about its immigration policy, the organization specifically states that “NCLR does not and has never advocated open borders. We believe that the U.S. is a sovereign country with the right to control its borders.” Granted, the organization does support some form of amnesty for current illegal immigrants, though its policies are actually less lenient to illegals than those of the Democrat Party. It believes that to “earn permanent status an immigrant would have to register with the government, undergo a criminal background check, maintain a clean record, pay all taxes, learn English, and pay a fine to the government.” This position, possesses many flaws (does anyone think that impoverished Mexican immigrants will be able to afford a fine?), but it does not exactly represent the hyper-liberal open-borders position that its critics claim it advocates.

However, the fact that NCLR is the subject of unfair criticism does not mean that all criticism of the group is unfair. It does reach out to illegal immigrants, supports a form of amnesty, opposes cooperation between state, local, and federal immigration officials, and support drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. (It’s not hard to find liberal positions held by the NCLR, so the fact that many conservatives resort to obvious lies about it is inexplicable). NCLR is undeniably a very liberal organization.

So should John McCain agree to speak there? NCLR clearly does not support the conservative agenda. Sadly, they also basically represent John McCain’s immigration position. His presence there is regrettable—but is in line with his stated position on the subject. Conservatives should resent his attendance (I certainly do)—but should not be surprised.

But McCain’s support of NCLR is not the apocalyptic event some conservative commenters claim it is. The groups has its flaws, but it is not racist, Hispanic separatist, or pro-open borders*. McCain is supporting a pro-amnesty organization—but it does not go any further than that. NCLR is not a radical group.

*And yes, I am aware that NCLR was against the 700 mile fence Bush signed into law. But that fence actually is useless—it isn’t long enough, doesn’t address the illegals already here, and isn’t getting any funding anyway. It really is nothing more than a political maneuver to throw a bone to the pro-enforcement people without actually bothering to do anything.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hillary's Fall

Finally, Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency seems to have come to an end. Her last possible chance at the nomination—decisive Obama losses in Indiana and North Carolina—has gone up in smoke, as Obama crushed her by fourteen points in North Carolina, and Hillary could only squeak out a feeble two point victory in Indiana. Barack Obama is now less than 200 delegates from the nomination. Superdelegates are moving towards him, and party leaders are calling upon Hillary to end her bid. She is finished.

The only thing that remains in doubt is the question of how much longer she will fight on. She claims that she will fight all the way to the convention, apparently in the hope that the superdelegates will experience a mass conversion and flock to her banner. That won’t happen. Unless she is simply bent on helping the Republican cause, she should quit now.

Of course, perhaps she is bent on helping the GOP. When the campaign started, things looked very bad for the Republican Party. They were divided over their candidate, people were extremely dissatisfied with George Bush’s job performance, and the Democrats appeared to have a field of strong, well-liked candidates. Now, the GOP has (kinda) united around one man, the Democrat-controlled Congress has lower approval ratings than Bush, and supporters of each Democrat candidate hate each other. Wonderful.

Hillary can’t take credit for the first two (except for the fact that her Senate performance didn’t do much for its approval rating), but is almost solely responsible for the third.

Hillary never had much momentum in the race for the Democrat nomination—but never quite let Obama land that knockout blow. Had Obama won New Hampshire in the wake of his Iowa victory, he would have sealed the nomination. Hillary won. If he could have won a few more Super Tuesday states, Hillary probably would have been forced to drop out. He couldn’t quite do it. Then came Ohio and Texas—an Obama win in either state would have mortally wounded Clinton. After that came Pennsylvania, and Hillary managed to dodge a bullet one more time.

For quite some time, there has never been any serious doubt that Obama would reach the convention with more delegates than Hillary. But he could never quite deliver that knockout blow. This served to extend the Democrat race, giving Obama time to commit potentially fatal errors, something he is good at.

Really good. First came the Reverend Wright controversy, which revealed that his long-time pastor frequently preached extreme, racially divisive rhetoric from the pulpit. Then came revelations of Obama’s cordial relationship with Bill Ayers, a notorious and unrepentant former terrorist. (And Obama’s claims that Ayer’s terrorist past is far behind him rings http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2001/No-Regrets/false when it is revealed that Ayers posed for a picture five years ago while stomping on the American flag). After that came the “bitter” comments, in which Obama complained that “bitter” flyover country denizens “cling” to religion, racism, and guns. Most recently was Reverend Wright Scandal 2.0, in which Wright expanded on his racist and crazy rantings, forcing Obama to disown him.

These scandals would hurt at any time, but they hit much more deeply while Obama fights Hillary for the nomination. As long as McCain sits on the sidelines waiting for his opponent to be selected, the liberal media cannot simply dismiss such stories as McCain propaganda. Obama is still fighting Hillary, and these stories are framed as pivotal to that race. The media can set aside stories favorable to the conservative McCain. They can’t simply reject stories that would help a fellow liberal like Hillary Clinton.

Hillary’s final contribution to the Republican cause is to finally drive a stake through the heart of the Clinton dynasty. Now, the Family has no base left—they have angered the Democrat netroots, the black liberal population, and those young people who voted for Obama. They will never, ever be able to come to a Joe Lieberman-like rapport with the Republican party. No matter what happens this fall, it is comforting to know that there will never be another Clinton in the White House.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reviewing Atlas Shrugged

I recently finished Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. At almost the same time, I finished Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Atlas Shrugged is long, serious, and tries to explain the meaning of life. Adams’ book is short, funny, and also attempts to explain the meaning of life. Rand’s philosophy is Objectivism. Adams’ answer is Forty-Two. Of the two philosophies, Forty-Two makes much more sense.

I find it hard to criticize a book so beloved of so many conservatives—both Clarence Thomas (one of my favorite political figures) and Larry Elder, among others, love the book. But after reading it, I can’t come to any other conclusion. Whittaker Chambers famously censured the book in the pages of National Review. My only complaint is that he went too easy on it.

The plot, while not the main focus of the book, makes absolutely no sense. (Spoiler warning: don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens). The book focuses on the adventures of Dagny Taggert, controller of a transcontinental railroad, and Hank Reardon, an inventor and steel factor director. There are other characters too: Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’Anconia (that name is intended to be completely serious), Ragnar Danneskjöld (again, this name is presented with a straight face), Hugh Akston, Midas Mulligan (yep, this name is not a joke either), and John Galt. Don’t worry about keeping all these characters straight—they are all wholly identical, callous, selfish, self-reliant technocrats. And of course, the heroes are attractive, while the villains are the opposite.

Dagny and Reardon both struggle to keep their businesses above water as the socialist government imposes increasingly greater restrictions on business. John Galt goes around spiriting off the world’s capable men to a hidden valley in Colorado as a protest against the totalitarian government. For some reason, he picks Dagny and Reardon to be the last people to join him, so they are faced with a lack of capable men, which hampers their ability to run their businesses. Eventually, (I’m leaving out a lot, but it’s not really that important), Galt achieves his role of complete societal breakdown, and he and his Objectivist friends stay snugly in their utopian valley as the world collapses outside. As the story ends, John Galt (who is a messianic figure) traces over the fallen world the sign of the dollar.

Heartwarming story there, isn’t it? By the way, all this is spread out over about 1200 pages. The events in the story take place over about three years, and it felt as though it took at least that long to read the book.

Fortunately for Rand, the book is not intended to be an entertaining read, but rather an explanation of the correct way of living. (Basically, it is the Objectivist bible, and Rand is the cult’s prophet). It preaches a doctrine of self-reliance, selfishness, and logic. By living life rationally, Rand claims, men can find true happiness on earth. The truly evil people are those who attempt to subvert man’s true selfish instincts by preaching altruism or socialism.

The portrayal of these “moochers” and “looters” is one of the weakest points in Rand’s book. In real life, socialism is attractive simply because it sounds wonderful. When I read one of Michael Moore’s books, I find myself thinking, against everything that I know is true, that he just might have the answers. Socialism doesn’t work, but it always seems as though it represents the end of mankind’s suffering and deprivations. Socialists always make their philosophy sound good—that is the reason it subverts so many.

Rand’s socialists bear no resemblance to their real-life counterparts. Their defense of socialism is unbelievably weak. Nearly every argument between adherents of the two philosophies goes something like this: the socialist spouts the collectivist argument, the capitalist fixes him with a contemptuous stare, and the socialist breaks down and screams that its not his fault. The debates in the book don’t go a whole lot deeper than that.

Lame socialists or not, Rand does make some reasonable attacks on collectivism. However, her philosophy isn’t much better. It displays a misunderstanding of human nature as great as that seen in socialism.

Objectivism is founded on several flawed principles—that man is not a social animal, that altruism is a moral evil, that man can become truly happy while on earth, and that material wealth is the way to happiness.

The idea that man can exist only for his own self-interest and still remain a sense of morality is absurd. If one believes that the goal in life is only material gains, that man will not respect the rights of others—why would he? This form of social Darwinism means that those who are strongest climb to the top by whatever means possible. This sort of man represents the worst kind of looter.

Granted, in Rand’s book, these types of people scrupulously respect property rights, and enjoy a little tough interbusiness competition. Too bad this sort of person doesn’t exist.

The idea that man can become truly happy on earth is also completely unsupported by facts. Perhaps a very few can—but most cannot. Consider, in your own experience, how few people you know who are wholly happy. Even among those who may be have achieved a measure of happiness, consider how easily it could all be taken away; cancer, an accident, or something of that sort. Pursuing happiness on earth is almost certainly doomed to end in failure.

If these postulates are incorrect (and I can’t imagine anyone who would argue in favor of them, although I assume that such people exist), then Objectivism is false.

Even if Atlas Shrugged espouses a failed philosophy, it is not a complete waste of time—after all, it kept my interest though 1200 pages. While Objectivism and collectivism are both wholly wrong, Objectivism is much closer to the truth. However, the respect with which Ayn Rand is regarded in conservative circles baffles me. The book has some bright spots—but it’s still pretty bad.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Case for McCain

Whenever either major party nominates a candidate, there are invariably those who find fault with that candidate and threaten to withhold their support. Usually, these people represent the extreme right or left wing of their party, and are the sort who could never be satisfied. They usually (but not always) represent the party’s extreme lunatic fringe.

The nomination of John McCain is an exception—many mainstream conservative leaders dislike him intensely. His biggest detractors in the Republican Party are not loons like Michael Savage; rather, they are respected conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin. Many of McCain’s most vocal detractors are pillars of conservative ideology; people whose opinions are universally respected across the movement.

They certainly have legitimate reasons to oppose McCain. His lapses have ranged from unconservative (greenhouse gas caps and penalties) to stupid (the Gang of 14) to potentially disastrous (the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill). He favors closing Guantanamo Bay, giving due process rights to terrorist detainees, and opposed the Bush tax cuts, all, stupid, inexcusable mistakes. Conservatives should vote for him anyway.

Why should conservatives vote for him? Three words: President Barack Hussein Obama. (Yes, you read that right. Liberals tell us that it is forbidden to even think about Obama’s middle name, so that word doesn’t count). That thought alone should be enough you send you running to vote for McCain.

Apparently not everyone agrees, though, as many conservatives still are seriously withholding their support because of McCain’s conservative transgressions. There is no excuse for these blunders—quite simply, John McCain is not a full-fledged conservative. Anyone who wants another Reagan will not get their wish.

Conservatives need McCain because there are at least three key issues that must be addressed in the next four years. First, we must win in Iraq; second, we must succeed in putting another pro-life justice on the Supreme Court; and three, we must (at least) start cutting federal spending. McCain will accomplish the first, and will probably complete the second. The third issue is more doubtful, but he will be better than the Democrat nominee.

Since Roe v. Wade was decided, the pro-life strategy has been based on appointing enough constructionist Supreme Court justices to overturn that ruling. Rove vs. Wade was decided by a 7-2 margin, now, the margin is a meager 5-4. Pro-abortion justice John Paul Stevens is almost ninety—it is almost a certainty that he will retire in the next four years.

If a pro-life justice is appointed, there would be an excellent chance that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. If a pro-life justice is not appointed, then the pro-life cause would be set back decades. If McCain is elected, the pro-life cause will have an excellent shot at an inspiring victory; if not, it will be dealt an absolutely devastating blow.

In 1983, President Reagan ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Lebanon after they were hit by terrorist attacks. Those responsible were emboldened, and struck again and again. In 1993, President Clinton left Somalia after the Black Hawk Down episode—again, those responsible gained confidence and respect, and struck again. If we leave Iraq, it will be a PR coup for Al-Qaeda that would dwarf any previous victories. It would be definite proof that the United States can indeed be defeated, that those who extremists who died did not do so in vain. It would be a devastating, perhaps fatal, blow to the United States fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

John McCain was right on Iraq at every step of the way. In the darkest days of the war, while most conservative politicians skirted the issue, McCain embraced it and dared to make it his signature issue. When most politicians debated the best way to take troops out of Iraq, McCain expressed the need to put more troops in. He advocated the surge long before it become popular, and spoke out against the failed Rumsfeld strategy.

Now, McCain is vindicated, as violence in Iraq is down and Al-Qaeda seems to be on the run. If this trend continues into a McCain presidency, the United States will probably win the war.

On the other hand, if Obama is elected president, America’s chances don’t look so good. I’m not sure exactly what Obama’s plan for Iraq is, and I’m not sure that he is either, but is does involve withdrawing troops, even in the absence of victory. An Obama presidency would be a disaster for American foreign policy.

America currently faces a massive national debt (around 9 trillion), and owes trillions more in entitlements. Eventually, the United States must get its entitlement system under control. Is McCain the man to do it? Probably not. But would his presidency make the job of the president who does do it (if there ever is one) easier? Yes. John McCain is death on wasteful spending. If nothing else, he will ensure that wasteful pork barrel projects are unfunded. It will not solve our fiscal crisis—but it would be a start.

When pondering whether to vote for McCain, project four years into the future. In the McCain future, another pro-life justice sits on the Supreme Court, Iraq becomes an American victory, and the worst of wasteful spending no longer exists. In the Obama future, one (or perhaps even two) pro-abortion justices are appointed, we lose in Iraq, and pork barrel spending goes through the roof. The stakes are too high to demand a perfect candidate. McCain isn’t perfect—but he is good enough.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts…

In Britain, the Conservatives have taken power in Parliament. Conservatives over there are far more liberal than over here, still, it’s an encouraging development. Nicholas Sarkozy in France, Conservatives in power in Parliament, Boris Johnson, first Conservative Mayor of London in thirty years—all good signs. Maybe conservatism is starting to make a comeback of sorts in Europe.

I’m reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I’m on about page 900, and it’s an interesting book, but really, Rand really isn’t much of a storyteller. I’ve never seen a plot move so slowly and pointlessly—the main characters overcome a crisis, the liberal government creates a ridiculous regulation creating another crisis; the main characters overcome it, on and on and on. And I saw the big “surprise” coming from about page 150, so I didn’t even have that to look forward to. Anyway, for those who have read it, I’m just to the part where the government has unleashed their ultimate weapon, which actually is about twice as impressive as anything the capitalists produced. I’ll have more thoughts on the book when I’m finished with it.

For years, Bill O’Reilly has salivated over the prospect of Hillary coming on his program. Then, when she did go on, she did a great job and probably got a boost. This is one of the strangest elections ever.

It seems that more and more conservatives are praising Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana—Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin spring to mind. He would make a great running mate for McCain, but probably should remain governor of Louisiana for a while longer. In 2012, though, he would be a great GOP nominee.

Apparently, former liberal talk show host and Senatorial candidate Al Franken has gotten into some foe tax troubles, which could threaten his Senate candidacy. His books were some of the first liberal books I read, and I initially thought that there was something to them, till a little googling showed that he didn’t seem to bother with any research at all. His books are mean-spirited and very unfunny (he wrote an entire book basically calling Rush Limbaugh fat; how clever). He is one of the last people I want to see in the Senate.

I’m almost certainly not going to vote for a third party candidate, but if I did, I would probably vote for Bob Barr. He seems less crazy than most third party candidates, and was a decent Congressman. His biggest drawback is that he would probably want to pull troops out of Iraq immediately. Still, for those who won’t vote McCain, he is the best substitute.

UK’s Telegraph tried to rate the top 50 pundits. I’m not sure what kind of methodology was used, but it couldn’t have been a good one—Chris Matthews was ranked number two! Karl Rove was ranked first. Even though they rarely make much sense, I love these lists.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is McCain Acceptable?

Many conservatives are unsure of whether or not to support John McCain for the presidency. They feel that, as conservatives, they must support only candidates who are also conservatives, and no others. They believe that giving their support to a candidate who has consistently fought against important conservatives issues does not deserve their support.

Before examine whether this attitude is the correct one, it is important to set some premises.

1. Pure conservatism is not a majority political philosophy. Most Americans support some facets of the conservative movement, but reject others. Evangelicals like the social aspects, low taxes and loose regulations appeal to people in business, and a strong national defense appeals to those who worry about security. Sometimes, there is an overlap of supporters of each of these issues—these people are the Republican Party base. But there are not enough to win a national election.

Therefore, conservatives are forced to make pragmatic alliances. There will be people who will not agree with all aspects of conservative ideology, but agree with enough to support key conservative causes. It is crucial that the conservative movement ally themselves with these people, even if sometimes there are costs. Conservatives will have to be pragmatic; they will be forced to sacrifice.

2. Conservatives will have to make the Republican Party their home. Independent and third party candidates never win, and rarely make even the slightest amount of difference. Furthermore, the ranks of their supporters are often filled with lunatics and extremists, which would serve to sully the reputations of any conservatives joining them.

Even when third party candidates do make a difference, those who voted for them are rarely happy they did so. Many conservatives voted for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. They got Bill Clinton. A small but important group of liberals voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. They have spent the past eight years regretting that decision.

And anyway, the premise behind third party voting (that the party will listen to those disenchanted voters) doesn’t work. The Republicans didn’t suddenly break to the right after Perot cost them at least one, and possibly two, elections. John Kerry was no more liberal than Al Gore. If conservatives want to have any measure of political influence, it will have to be from within the Republican Party.

3. The only remaining question is: which tenets of political belief are essential for an acceptable candidate? That question will, of course, differ from person to person, as not all conservatives have the same priorities. However, there a few issues that everyone can agree are essential in a conservative—a commitment to life, support for a strong national defense, the willingness to fight for individual liberties, and a belief in a small, limited government.

McCain has a pretty good pro-life record. He is against abortion, has supported every pro-life judicial nominee, and has never flip-flopped on the subject of life. The only blemish on his record is a support for embryonic stem cell research, although that issue’s importance is lessened by recent scientific advances rendering the practice at least somewhat obsolete.

McCain is easily the best candidate on the war. He is one of the few men in America who always supported the Iraq struggle, and advocated the correct strategy long before most did. Whatever his weaknesses, few conservatives accuse him of lacking in national defense credentials.

On issues of individual liberties, McCain has a mixed record. He supports the Second Amendment, and his health care plan, while not perfect, is not particularly intrusive. However, his support for aggressive government action against global warming is troubling. However, taken as a whole, his record on this issue is fairly strong, if not exemplary.

It would be impossible to call John McCain a libertarian. However, his tax plan is a pleasant surprise to many conservatives (he took many of his ideas from Fred Thompson’s tax plan). It features an optional flat tax, which would spare citizens the hassle of following the IRS’s onerous regulations. He also supports cutting the corporate tax rate and eliminating the AMT. And of course, he is well known as a mortal enemy of earmarks.

In fact, McCain’s weaknesses on limited government are more of what he wouldn’t do than what he would. He has spent little time denouncing our overstretched welfare system, which in the absence of any government action will lead to bankruptcy. He understands that high taxes and strident regulations are bad—but is still partially wedded to some of the ideals of the New Deal. He has rarely if ever mentioned a need to cut benefits.

McCain has his weaknesses. He won’t be a perfect candidate. However, he is reasonably ideologically sound, and certainly no worse than many other recent Republican nominees. He won’t be as conservative as Ronald Reagan—but then, he will probably be more conservative than George W. Bush.