What Just Happened?

October 4, 2008

We’ve seen some very cool advertising this political season. Here’s a stylish one from the Republicans on the financial mess: What Just Happened?


SNL Tonight – VP Debate

October 4, 2008

Assuming that Saturday Night Live will be spoofing the VP debate on tonight’s program, here is my suggested take: Palin answering every question with a rambling non-sequiter; Biden giving straightforward, clear answers that are completely wrong. For example:

Ifill: With the financial crisis on Wall Street and global economic uncertainty, middle class Americans are facing difficult times. What policies would you pursue to restore confidence in the American economy?

Biden: You know, Gwen, whenever I’m in Wilmington, I always go to the local Burger King and order a Big Mac and a Frosty and talk to the people, and I can tell you they’re hurting. Gwen, I remember watching Teddy Roosevelt address the nation during the Depression and tell us to ask not what our country could do for us, but how we could put a chicken in every pot, and that’s what a Biden/Obama administration would do for America.

Ifill: Governor?

Palin: I think the American people are the best, most productive and also the fundamentals of the economy are strong with the focus on John McCain’s history of cutting taxes and, as a Maverick, his success in bringing the parties together to help America succeed also. But, Gwen, I actually want to answer a different question…

Ifill: Of course you do.

Palin: …and the answer to that question is… “Live from New York…”

Well, you know where it goes from there.

UPDATE: SNL nailed the VP debate out of the park on the show tonight, in my opinion. I also really liked the bailout press conference sketch. This was one of the more enjoyable SNLs I’ve seen recently. Their political humor has been spot on and pretty evenhanded.

I thought both candidates did well in the much-hyped vice-presidential debate last night. Neither had any major stumbles that attracted much attention and both stuck pretty well to their scripts. Palin bounced back well from her uninspiring interview with Couric to show herself able to engage in debate with a Senate veteran and Biden came across as personable in style and reasoned in his arguments. I think Palin was on message more often, but Biden made the better rhetorical points.

In fact, I would have said that Biden won the debate on points if it hadn’t been for his stunningly incorrect answer on Ifill’s question regarding the role of the Vice President in our Constitution. Biden claimed that the Vice President is in the Executive branch because discussion of the VP appears in Article I. There are two problems with that:

1. Contrary to Biden’s assertions, Article I does not deal with the Executive branch (it deals with the Legislative branch);

2. the Vice President does not appear under Article I alone (the Vice President appears in both Article I, which identifies his role as the President of the Senate, and Article II, which deals with the VP’s election and role in taking over the Presidency if necessary).

For a man who has spent over half his life in the legislative branch
(that’s nearly one-sixth of the life of the country since the adoption of the
Constitution), to get these facts wrong but state them with such certainty is a huge error.

I find it hard to believe that Senator Biden was completely unaware of the role of the Vice Presidency in the Constitution, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he was just tired and not thinking clearly at the end of a very long debate. Fortunately, Biden showed a lot of good humor and a willingness to engage in self-deprecation during the debate last night, so I would suggest that Biden put out a brief statement of apology to all high school government teachers for misleading their charges and publicly correct his statement as to the proper role of the Vice President in American democracy.

And, for comparison

September 27, 2008

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at www.FightConservatives.com

Actually, both of these place me fairly accurately. I’m a small government conservative who cares a great deal about protecting individual rights and promoting social justice (both links via Miss Celenia).

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Legal Immigration Flowchart

September 24, 2008

From reason (via Boing Boing)

Literally Abuse

August 25, 2008

From Best of the Web, quoting Joe Biden:

The next president . . . will have such an incredible opportunity,
incredible opportunity, not only to change the direction of America,
but literally, literally to change the direction of the world.

Budget Hero

July 16, 2008

Here’s a fun little site: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/features/budget_hero/

Reconciliation Blog

June 6, 2008

For some good thoughts on the recent attacks on Barack Obama’s spiritual advisers, check out Reconciliation Blog, which presents an honest and open perspective and a forum for reasoned discussion.

For my part, I think it is legitimate to question Obama about his perspective on racial issues, just as it is to question McCain on the same issues. I do not think it is legitimate to demand that Obama defend every comment made by his friends and pastors or to attribute all of their beliefs to him. Likewise, it is silly to suggest that John McCain be responsible for anything ever said by someone who once endorsed him. I am hopeful that the general election campaign will focus on the issues facing the country rather than try to push the guit by association argument past the breaking point. Fortunately, I think the differences between the two candidates on the issues are so great that they will move to the top of the discussion fairly quickly.

First hundred hours?

April 14, 2007

Remember how much the Democrats were going to accomplish in their first hundred hours in power? What has actually gotten done after a hundred days? Well…not so much as it turns out (link via QandO). More at Instapundit.

Note: Instapundit links to this video by the NRCC, which makes some good points. However, I believe the first few statistics presented are somewhat misleading. The first number dealing with the "record amount of dollars the Democrats want to tax the American people" is actually, in my opinion, the responsibility of the Republican congress that put the sunset provisions in place to make the initial tax reductions more palatable from a long term budgetary standpoint (see here for more). The second figure, the average tax increase per person, is not a good measure of the actual cost to most taxpayers because of the spread of income across people as well as the way our tax system works. I also think it’s disingenuous to list William Jefferson’s $90,000, since that happened prior to the Democrats taking power and the Republican leadership didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory by defending Jefferson from searches of his office.

That said, the rest of the video scores some points and Democrats really do seem content to sit on their hands even though none of their vaunted hundred hour bills has made its way to the President’s desk, let alone become law. If you don’t have the power or the guts to effect change, why should Americans believe your promises to do so?

Wanting the wrong things

April 13, 2007

A post at Mind the Gap (link via EconLog). Here’s a quote:

Like chess or painting or writing novels, making money is a very specialized skill. But for some reason we treat this skill differently. No one complains when a few people surpass all the rest at playing chess or writing novels, but when a few people make more money than the rest, we get editorials saying this is wrong.

It’s an interesting article, well worth reading in its entirety.

What is libertarianism?

March 17, 2007

I think Ilya Somin provides a succinct definition:

And of course the whole point of libertarianism is that purchasing more government is rarely, if ever, a good deal relative to the available alternatives.

The larger post is on whether libertarian success, in terms of increased income, leads to increased government. It’s quite interesting.

E-FOIA failures

March 12, 2007

Disappointing, but not surprising (link via Download Squad):

Ten years after Congress enacted the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only one in five federal agencies actually complies with the law, according to a new survey released today during Sunshine Week by the National Security Archive.

Experts and Their Uses

February 18, 2007

Radley Balko on experts:

The libertarian lesson: Experts can be and frequently are wrong. An expert working for the government is no less susceptible to bias or ill motivation as one working for a corporation. Which is why it’s foolhardy to rely on their expertise when making top-down policies that affect everyone.

Apparently, strong suspicion of corruption isn’t enough to disqualify William Jefferson a seat on a committee important to national security:

Rep. William Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat who’s facing an ongoing federal corruption probe, is being granted a spot on the Homeland Security Committee, according to Democratic aides.

Fitzmas Denied…Again

February 14, 2007

Link: Can Team Libby Pull It Off? – TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime.

The Libby trial is going out with a whimper. PlameGate followers, like Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, feel cheated. Without testimony from Vice President Cheney or Scooter Libby, there’s no bang for the buck.

The fact that we allow prison rape to occur and even joke about it as a consequence of crime is unconscionable. When we expect it and don’t take the necessary steps to prevent it in as many cases as possible we essentially sentence people to what most people would consider cruel and unusual punishment.

No Sense

February 3, 2007

T.A. Frank, posting at The Washington Monthly:

No Shame: So I visit a rundown zoo and see hyenas in miserable cages, lions in miserable cages, and antelopes in miserable cages. I’m disgusted by their conditions, so I attack the zookeepers and set the animals free. The lions eat the antelopes, the hyenas eat the antelopes (and sometimes the lions, too), and the antelopes run for shelter. Should I feel bad for not having minded my own business? No way, says Charles Krauthammer. Hey, who knew that lions liked to eat antelopes? "We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war."

Frank is getting hammered in the comments, and deservedly so, regardless of what you think of Krauthammer’s argument. This is a prime example of how not to use an analogy. Krauthammer argues that after Saddam was overthrown, the Iraqi people had a choice and chose civil war. Frank’s analogy removes the possibility of choice by conceiving of the Iraqi people as animals who are not responsible for their actions. It’s not only a flawed argument, but a deeply offensive one as well. Frank is the one who should be ashamed.

I think this is good news:

The New York Times leads with news that Florida will probably say goodbye to touch-screen voting machines and replace them with paper ballots that will be counted by scanning machines in time for the 2008 presidential election.

Electronic voting without a paper trail is not considered credible, which seems to me to be the most important component of a good vote counting method.

Huckabee for Pres.

February 2, 2007

Wouldn’t it be great to have a president named Huckabee? To hear Brian Williams pronounce it every night on the news, to see signs at protests reading "Hitleruckabee," etc. Much more interesting-sounding than Brownback, Clinton, Biden, et al.

MinWage progress

January 24, 2007


Democrats’ promise of a quick increase in the minimum wage ran aground
Wednesday in the Senate, where lawmakers are insisting it include new
tax breaks for restaurants and other businesses that rely on low-pay

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address last night, but I’ve heard about the President’s health care proposal. My take, briefly, is that it’s not a bad idea if you replace the tax deduction with a tax credit so that it provides a great benefit to lower-income families. I think Kevin Drum actually does a reasonably good job of describing the Democratic-Republican split on this type of proposal:

[Bush] wants to push the country toward "consumer directed
healthcare," a euphemism for gutting the current insurance system, in
which third parties pay for most medical costs, and replacing it with a
system in which consumers pay directly for healthcare and insurance
only kicks in if you suffer some kind of major disaster.

I think this is accurate with two quibbles: 1) Third parties don’t pay for healthcare; we do. The ’employer’ part of health care payments is part of the employer’s total cost of employing a person. If the employer didn’t have to pay this cost, the employer could pay you more to spend as you choose. The same goes for the ’employer’ part of Social Security taxes. 2) ‘Insurance’ by definition should not cover routine care, since it is meant to spread risk across large numbers of people. That doesn’t work if you cover routine care rather than only ‘major disasters.’

Otherwise, I think this really does describe the difference in opinion between liberals and conservatives. I, clearly, tend toward the conservative opinion, but I’m open to discussion.

Kerry’s not running

January 24, 2007

John Kerry has apparently decided against a presidential run in 2008:

A source close to Kerry and a Democratic operative who worked for him
in 2004 said the four-term senator has decided to sit out the 2008
race, which already has drawn more than a dozen contenders from both

Good decision.

In a previous post, I discussed the fact that the Democrats’ proposed minimum wage increase would exempt American Samoa, a move that would strongly benefit one of the companies in Nancy Pelosi’s district. In response to the backlash caused by this action, Pelosi claimed the following (link via QandO):

"I have asked the education and labor committee as they go forward with the legislation to make sure that all of the territories have to comply with U.S. law on the minimum wage," Mrs. Pelosi said earlier this month.

Let’s see what happened:

The House, however, passed the minimum-wage bill with the American Samoa exemption.

Oops. I guess either Speaker Pelosi’s influence with the committee wasn’t strong enough, or she didn’t push quite as hard as she said she would. Go figure.

UPDATE: In the comments, Cyril points out some information that makes this seem less like a clear-cut case of corruption and more like simple hypocrisy:

Pelosi co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1999 (and subsequent
bills), all of which had pretty much the same language. But all of
those bills were sponsored BEFORE Del Monte bought StarKist. All of
those bills included a wage hike for the Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands but not for American Samoa.

This information is similar to that presented in the defense of Pelosi posted by Media Matters. While I don’t believe that it lets the Speaker off the hook, particularly given her statement that she would have this loophole closed, I do believe that it makes it significantly less likely that this was an attempt to reward a company in her district and more likely that it was merely a recognition of the negative effects a minimum wage would have on a Democratic constituency. I still think it is worth looking into, but I am less inclined to believe that there was any sort of quid pro quo here.


Earmark reform

January 17, 2007

Now this I can support:

The days of lawmakers slipping pet projects into spending bills at the
last minute are ending after the Senate approved a new rule Tuesday
forcing members to disclose requests for those "earmarks."

Transparency is good.