Thursday, November 29, 2007

Planting Questions at the You Tube Debate

The issue of General Kerr's appearance at the You Tube debate continues to raise a firestorm. General Kerr lends his name to a Clinton campaign committee on gay rights. (And apparently his name was on a letter for a Kerry veterans committee in 2004). At the very least it shows bad judgment on his part, especially in light of questions whether the Clinton campaign was planting questions at her rallies.

CNN apparently edited the General out of the rebroadcast of the debate.

There are other issues now being raised regarding whether other questioners were "plants." Some of the other questioners were either supporters of Democratic candidates or have some other left wing connection. That does not really bother me. All of the questions were respectful and serious questions. The Muslim woman might have been a former CAIR intern, but the question was a good and serious one, and was respectful (not a GOTTA type of thing). The black man who asked about getting more black support for the GOP apparently runs a satire site about black Republicans, but again, his question was serious and respectful. (I doubt the guy who asked the gun question of Biden in the Democratic debate was a Democrat)

My only problem is with the General because his name is attached to the Clinton campaign, and he was flown in at Google's expense to give a rebuttal to the answers given. His question was a serious one, but one that someone else should have asked.

How long in Iraq (and elsewhere)?

I want the surge to work and recognize that we have interests in the Middle East that will remain until a substitute for Middle Eastern oil is found. But I am dismayed by reports that the US and Iraq have agreed that US troops will stay there long term.

We should not be permanently occupying Iraq. Yet, 62 years after the end of World War II and 18 years after the Berlin Wall fell, we still maintain troops in Europe. The Europeans whine whenever we talk about reducing them further and a long standing plan to remove 2 heavy combat brigades was recently shelved. We still have 300 nuclear warheads in Europe. We maintain a force in South Korea too small to influence North Korea or defend the South (the real defense of South Korea should be and is with the South Korean army). We maintain a force in Japan. We maintain troops in the Balkans after our temporary occupation following the Balkan Crisis (and Kosovo still does not have an effective government).

Whenever we talk about removing troops from anywhere, the locals whine. Because we have effectively promised to defend them, so it removes real responsibility for their own security. Which is why the Europeans were completely useless in dealing with the Balkan Crisis and why South Korea in the end will follow a policy of appeasement with the North.

So it is not just Iraq. Our entire security policy has a lack of imagination and a certain amount of inertia. And not just us. Britain still has troops in Germany.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vodka Pundit on the You Tube debate

Always entertaining

The You Tube Debate

Well, I finally watched a debated -- or at least most of it. I really like the You Tube format, although I think people should dress better if they want to ask candidates questions. The questions did not seem to be as silly as during the Democrat's debate (even the Cheney animation was a serious question, and the Red Sox v. Yankees question was a funny way to end it all).

The question on "don't ask don't tell" and the seemingly forever rebuttal by the questioner lost me. It also turns out that the questioner, a retired Army general, is connected to the Clinton campaign.

McCain came off extremely well. He seems to have done well in the debates so far. He is calm, focused, and shows both his competency and his principles. The showed his incredible grasp of foreign policy as well as taking the torture question head on. Yes, this man should be president.

Another who did well was Huckabee. He had the best answer of the night -- what would Jesus do about the death penalty? " Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office." Huckabee, however, continues to run as the great social conservative hope and sounded like he was interviewing for a pastor's job. I think he will end up if not winning in Iowa and maybe South Carolina, coming a close second.

Romney did not impress me. He seems too polished, too much answering questions based on what he thinks will be popular.

Thompson seemed very relaxed and answered the questions well. Thompson was a better non candidate than candidate and has lost much of his early bounce. So maybe he was relaxed as he was trying out for VP. He (and the other candidates) really punted the Rebel flag question though.

Giuliani stumbled at times. He was expecting to skip Iowa and New Hampshire and concentrate on Florida with the hope of pulling off an upset in South Carolina. But he is in trouble in the early states now. The pressure is on him and he knows it.

Ron Paul was, well, Ron Paul. The Paulistas reacted, well, as you would expect.

We should have a pool as to when Hunter and Tancredo drop out. My wife (not a Republican) has no clue who they are.

In the end, McCain won and Huckabee really helped himself. Let's hope we see more of this type of format.

The Democrats Escalate! McCain Responds!

The Democrats are getting serious. Barack Obama has announced that Oprah Winfrey would begin campaigning with him in some key states.

Escalating the tension, Barbra Streisand has come out publicly in support of Hillary Clinton (no word yet if it is the Mecha Streisand)

John McCain delivered the Republican response

EDITED TO ADD -- From commenter Rodak, Obama's new slogan in New Hampshire -- "WINFREY, OR DIE! "

Monday, November 26, 2007

A quote I like

"I chose to be an American. What did you ever do, except for having been born?"

Ayn Rand is supposed to have used this rejoinder to a heckler who claimed that as a foreigner, she knew nothing of America. I am not a big Ayn Rand fan, but for me, that sums up a lot of the American experience. We are all immigrants in a way. My grandfather, born in Naples, had a love of America that I can only approximate. I take her for granted, but he realized how wonderful it really was.

In the ongoing immigration war, I hope we all remember these words.

New McCain Ad

This is McCain at his best -- the quiet unassuming patriot. Admitting he may annoy many, but always taking positions based on principle.

From now until Super Tuesday, McCain needs to keep this focus. If Romney falters in Iowa and the GOP base cannot reconcile itself to Giuliani, McCain becomes the obvious choice. Though I would say he should have been the obvious choice from the beginning.

While I am not thrilled with Obama, I agree with Andrew Sullivan that an Obama-McCain race would be the best for the country.

Good Bye Trent

Trent Lott is resigning. I blame my old DC pal Robert George for running him out of town.

I will miss the unintentional irony that Lott's leadership position was a "Minority Whip."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chuck and Huck

Yes politics is important and serious. But that is not to say you cannot have a little fun.

I am still not sure what to make of Huckabee. But he definitely is not your father's evangelical conservative Republican.

If 24 was in 1994

This is the unaired pilot of 24, produced in 1994 (well, not really).

Truth is, I have never seen a single episode of 24, though I did watch the South Park parody.

Please God make it stop!

Ever get a song or two stuck in your head? This weekend, I was visiting my mother in law when my sister in law rented "La Vie En Rose", a French biopic about singer Edith Piaf. I am something of a fan of French films. The film was decent, not great, not bad.

The problem is that now I have swimming through my head, in alternative moments, the song "La Vie En Rose" or, worse, "No Regrets". Please God make this stop.

Drunk Blogger on the Democratic Debate

Stephen Green, aka the Vodka Pundit, has a great way of watching the debates -- drink vodka and they all start to make sense. His drunken take on the Nevada debate was spot on.

I have never met him, but he has been a great influence on me and a major part in how I will survive the soon to be Clinton presidency.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blog McCain

I am still holding out hope that John McCain will be the GOP Nominee. I think he is the best suited to address the current world crisis and is the most honorable person of either party in Congress. He has an uphill battle, but I hope when the time comes to actually vote, GOP primary and caucus voters will put aside past squabbles and do what is best for the country.

A blog has been established to discuss ways for pro-McCain bloggers to help the campaign. My idea -- why not a "money bomb."

The first time I saw Phoenix

I was speaking at a conference in Reno last week and for some reason, I found it difficult to get there. My flight plan required me to change planes in Phoenix. The only times I have been to Phoenix were also to change planes, and both times my planes were either delayed or connections were missed due to late arrivals. So I have always tried to avoid Phoenix.

This time, it was worse. My plane arrived in Phoenix no problem, the board said everything was on time, so I stopped off for a quick dinner. I then noticed that my flight had disappeared from the board -- no indication of anything, no announcement. It was cancelled. The original plane had mechanical troubles in Washington and its replacement also broke down. So for the first time ever, I spent the night in Phoenix. I only saw what you could see from the hotel shuttle, the hotel was in Tempe and not much was going on (despite ASU being right there).

I am sure it is a nice city, but given my experiences with the airlines, I will stay away from Phoenix if I can.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pakistan gets worse

Bhutto is now back under house arrest and opposition marches have been banned, though President Musharraf promises to hold elections in January. With Bhutto essentially under house arrest, and her rival Sharif still out of the country, any elections would be a farce.

President bush needs to make it clear now -- unless Musharraf resigns from the army and ends the emergency, there will be real repercussions.

It will not happen of course.

Who supports jihad?

Andrew Sullivan notes that a recent study shows that among Arabs, the richer you are, the more likely you are to support jihad.

One could probably spin these numbers lots of ways. But there is much anecdotal evidence that the usual line that "poverty breeds terrorism" is not really true. Bin Laden is [was?] a billionaire and we do not see much terrorism in Sub Saharan Africa.

Sullivan believes the problem is religious ideology. While I have little doubt that is part of the problem, I believe the larger part of the problem is simply the authoritarian nature of those governments. In Western societies, those who are wealthier or better educated are more influential politically. They can give money, host talk shows lobbing soft ball questions toward favored candidates, establish think tanks and run for office. (As an aside, I think that is one of the reasons Hollywood is so far left of the rest of the country -- they have money and glamor but generally are locked out of political influence.)

But if you are a wealthy or educated Saudi you probably find yourself locked out of government. There is no parliament to run for and any think tank will be censored. So you turn to religion and jihadism.

If this sounds far fetched, think back to European history. The Glorious Revolution, while portrayed as a religious and liberal revolution, was in any ways the revolt of the "squirarchy" who felt left out of the governing class by an increasingly authoritarian James II. The French Revolution began as an attempt of the urban middle classes and wealthy to take control of the French government (and it rapidly spun out of control). Even our own revolution was the result of the local elites wanting to control the colonies' destiny, not some far distant parliament.

I know most Americans have given up on democracy as a panacea for the problems of the Middle East (Sullivan seems to), but liberalization of the political structures in the Arab world is needed to stop jihadism. If wealthy and educated Arabs are in parliament or able to have influence in civil society, then maybe they will be less inclined to support bomb throwers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What I hope comes from the Ron Paul Candidacy

I sympathize with Ron Paul, but I do not wish to see him as the Republican nominee. The Ron Paul movement has a tendency to range off into conspiracy kook land (NAU anyone?). He himself gets hung up on the gold standard. But the movement is raising issues that conservatives and to a some extent the political system as a whole should have been raising since the end of the Cold War.

Here are a few important ones:

1. The proper role of government
2. Monetary policy (Paul gets hung up over the gold standard, but the role of the Fed and its lack of transparency should be a major issue)
3. Federalism -- on the GOP side at least people are seriously talking about federalism again.
4. Foreign policy -- for 45 years we had a foreign policy designed to fight the USSR. For 15 years since we have not really retooled that policy. Iraq is merely a symptom of a much larger policy failure. Why must the US be the enforcement arm of the UN? Why do we still maintain a large army in Europe? Why was Europe unable on its own to address the Balkan crisis of the late 1990s?

If nothing else, the Paul campaign should help restart the conversation about where the conservative movement and the GOP should go -- "compassionate conservatism" is not it.

Mother Teresa and Darkness

I have finally finished the book of Mother Teresa's letters. It is a wonderful book, but very hard going. She was a very complex person yet also very single minded in her what she felt was her mission. Hence, the pain in what she feared was the rejection of Christ was very real and very strong.

As I have noted earlier, some in the press have stated that these letters show that Mother Teresa was some sort of hypocrite or a secret atheist. Otters have argued that she was feeling "the dark night of the soul."

From reading her letters, however, I think it was in fact something else, something deeper. Was she simply reacting as any loving human being would to the poverty and rejection of the Indian slums? Or was she feeling spiritually the pain of loss and rejection felt by Christ on Calvary? Was it from God, or was it a reaction to her surroundings?

I cannot say. But what is clear from her letters is that she eventually welcomed the darkness as a gift from God. And despite this darkness, she never waived in her mission.

A thought for my Father on Veterans' Day

My military experience (if it can really be called that) was limited to a year of army ROTC in college. But given the numbers of older members of my family who were in the Army, Veterans' Day (or Armistice Day, as my father called it) always had special meaning.

This photo is of my Dad when he returned from Korea. A newspaper photographer was at the dock, and a closeup of my grandmother feeding him ended up in the newspaper (the Daily News I think -- the clipping is somewhere in with the stuff I emptied out of my Parents' house).

My father saw quite a bit of action in Korea. He was an acting platoon sergeant by the end of the war, though he never had a permanent rank higher than corporal (he was promoted very fast so he must have been a good soldier, but he also had a tendency to mouth off to officers who he felt were below par, so he never received higher permanent rank).

He was wounded on a night patrol. He never talked much about it except to say that he got some shrapnel in his finger and his bullet proof vest was badly damaged. When I was an ROTC cadet in college, his only additional comment was to always wear my flak jacket. My mother also said that his badly damaged flak jacket was hung up on a pole at Inchon for the newly arriving troops to see with a sign saying "THIS SOLDIER IS STILL ALIVE" with an admonishment to wear their flak jackets.

At my father's funeral, one of his army friends arrived and told me the story of what actually happened. My dad, as the platoon sergeant, decided not to send his men out to do what he would not do so he decided to head a night patrol. Because he wanted to set a good example, he wore his flak jacket at all times (they were somewhat new and most soldiers did not like wearing them), none of the other members of the patrol wore theirs. They marched out, and unfortunately the Chinese decided to send a patrol out at the same time and place and they ran into each other. Artillery was called in and a battle ensued.

My father's friend was in the company that was on alert-reserve so they were called in to reinforce the line. Volunteers were asked to go and get my father and his patrol out of no man's land. Because my father was well thought of (probably because he was not afraid to stand up to officers on behalf of the enlisted men), all who were asked immediately volunteered (my father's friend was not allowed to go).

Of the four men on the patrol, only my father returned, probably because he was wearing his vest and the others were not. My dad quickly got stitched up and returned to his unit. (According to Uncle Jack, my father's telegram home that he was wounded but OK was intercepted by the neighbors and my grandfather did not know until he saw my dad wearing the purple heart ribbon on his uniform on his return.)

He was there when the war ended. He had said that toward the effective time of the of armistice, there was fear that the Communists would use it to launch a surprise attack, so his company was ordered up a mountain and told to dig in. He knew the war was over when the appointed time came, the shooting stopped, and the Chinese soldiers on the opposite hill came out of their bunkers and started waving.

He somehow sent a message ahead that he wanted a meatball hero on his return, and his family came through. If you look really closely, you can see they are also all holding small cups -- why let a few regulations keep up from toasting a return with wine.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Socialism or Death!! Viva Chavez!

Yes, God bless Hugo Chavez as he continues his fight to bring down Yankee imperialism and lead Venezuela into the perfection of Bolivarian 21st Century Socialism!!!!!

I've seen this movie before -- I think Madonna was in it and I remember lots of singing

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What's Your Inner European?

Mine is no surprise

Your Inner European is Italian!

Passionate and colorful.

You show the world what culture really is.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Why can't we just all admit it -- Congress lacks the courage to outlaw waterboarding.

Republicans won't do it because they then will have to admit they were wrong.

Democrats won't do it because they expect the next president to be a Democrat and they do not want to look soft on National Security.

John McCain, however, thinks the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act and the 2006 Military Commissions Act already make it illegal. He even suggests anyone waterboarding after 2006 is guilty of war crimes. (Why is this man not president?)

The red herring in all this is the claim that outlawing torture will put the US at risk. I look at it this way. If something happens in the heat of battle I may look at it differently than if something happens at Gitmo. If a 20 year old sergeant under fire somewhere in Afghanistan threatens a prisoner to reveal a sniper's nest, I view that differently than waterboarding someone captured 6 months ago in a prison. The whole ticking time bomb thing is the creation of t.v. writers (all of whom are now on strike anyway).

My E-Mail to the President on Pakistan

I e-mailed the president earlier today on Pakistan. It will not do any good, but it will make me feel better.

Subject: Pakistan

Dear Mister President:

I am writing to express hope that you will speak out forcefully and quickly against the declaration of emergency in Pakistan. According to press reports, you have called President Musharraf and pushed for elections. You must go further. On places like Lebanon, Ukraine and most recently Burma, you have spoken out eloquently in defense of liberalization and democracy. Pakistan's struggle is no different. While realpolitik might call for continued support of the Pakistani regime in the fight against terrorism and to help Afghanistan, that is short sighted thinking.

No matter what course is taken, Pakistan is going to explode. Speak out against the emergency and in support of those demonstrating for the return of the constitutional order. They are not only fighting for democracy against a military government, they are also under threat of Islamic terrorists who wish to turn Pakistan into a rerun of Taliban run Afghanistan. They need and deserve our support. Their fight is our fight, both short term and long term.

I know you face difficult choices each day I can only imagine. Please know that my prayers are with you.


The citizens of Utah have defeated the most comprehensive school voucher proposal in the country. I view this a defeat for poor parents who want a better education for their children. There may have been something more going on here, but school choice allows parents of more modest means to have better educational choices.

As it stands, there is school choice in this country right now. The rich can choose whatever school they wish. The middle class can usually choose to move to places with better schools. The poor however are often stuck with failing schools.

While this is a defeat, my hope is that more modest plans will still go forward.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stop Global Warming -- Let's All go to Bali!

Global warming has become the new Marxism -- all the hip cats are for it. I mean against it. I mean they demand massive control of everything in the name of it.

I am something of a skeptic on anthropogenic global warming. I see that the mean temperatures have increased, but this follows a relatively cool period. The Earth was warm in the not so distant past (especially in the warm period before the "Little Ice Age"). Many of the glacier retreats are revealing prior inhabited areas.

I do agree, however, that reducing carbon emissions is a good thing. However, my scepticism is due in part to the fact that those most trumpeting climate change are not personally acting as if it is a crisis. Al Gore's electric bill for one or John Travolta lecturing about carbon emissions while he flies a personal 707.

But don't worry, the United Nations is on the case. And to solve the problem, they are all jetting off to Bali to talk about global warming. The 12 day conference will, I am sure, solve all our climate problems and the Earth will reenter the ice age. They need the ice for their scotch I guess.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ron Paul has a Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Ron Paul has set a goal to raise $12M in the forth quarter of this year. Today, his supporters raised over $3.8 million.

Say what you want about Paul and his supporters, they definitely are motivated and have l;earned how to use the Internet.


General Musharraf has called a state of emergency and Pakistan is under marital law. Thousands have been arrested, including lawyers protesting the declaration. Musharraf claims he is trying to fight terrorism.

Stephen Green asks the important question -- as both India and what is now Pakistan were long under the control of the British Raj, why is India a democracy and Pakistan on the verge of disintegration?

We have seen this all before. In 1999, Musharraf gained power in much the same way and for the same purpose. Back then, the choice was as follows:

Musharraf who was an authoritarian general
Sharif who was allied to Islamists
Bhutto who was a somewhat corrupt democrat

Which basically are the same choices today. So if we are supposed to be in the new world of "realistic" foreign policy (as opposed to idealistically pushing for democratization) is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I think the reliance on "stability" is partly how we got into this situation (and not just Pakistan and the North West Frontier Province, but the entire Middle East). We support the Taliban to bring "stability" and get 9/11. We supported Musharraf to get stability and we got nothing.

Given the choices, I say go with the somewhat corrupt democrat. Throw the dice. Every result is generally a bad one, so let's go for once with one that at least is the least cynical for a change. Bhutto is back in Pakistan. Throw the dice.

Why I am a Republican

Stephen Bainbridge wonders why he is a Republican (and seems to conclude he is not). (HT

As for me, I describe my political beliefs and their sources as follows (with apologies to French author Chateaubriand):

I am a Republican out of honor (and genetics)
A libertarian out of reason
A conservative out of taste and temperament.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A McCain Rally?

A while back, I noted my somewhat forlorn hope that John McCain would find a way to rally himself back to the Republican nomination. Now the Washington Post shows that he may just have that chance.

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, Rudy Giuliani maintains the lead nationally. McCain, however, has gained 7 percentage points in the past month, while the Fred Thompson boomlet seems to have run out of steam. Giuliani now leads McCain by 14 points nationally. Giuliani's support, however, is somewhat soft, especially among social conservatives. McCain, of course, may not make those folks happy either, but he comes without the baggage that Giuliani carries.

We have seen McCain rally before, only to drop quickly. And McCain still is in trouble on the fundraising front. But given Giuliani's soft support, he has a chance to put himself back into contention before the start of primary season.

Romney still has the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, the early states with the most interest. Given the early and compressed primary calender, this could propel him to the nomination.

The Post is calling this the most open GOP race since 1980, when Reagan had the early lead, but there was no one dominating candidate. It is going to be a wild ride.

Hillary Hatred

Glenn Reynolds noted that while at a law clerk reunion, quite a few hard core Democrats were noting their, shall I say, extreme dislike for Hillary Clinton.

I have noticed this myself. Granted, I live deep in the heart of Obama land (in my mind, Obama is not the "black" candidate but the liberal yuppie candidate), but I have noticed it here too. And like Reynolds, it is not always limited to Republicans. I have come across a few Democrats who clearly hate Hillary Clinton on a deep level that goes far beyond ideology or her somewhat hawkishness.

All in all though, this will not affect the prospects of "She who must be inevitable."

Pass the martinis please.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Belgian Public Service Announcement

It is November 1, do you know where your government is?

Belgium still does not have a government, though it looks like it is getting closer. No one in Belgium or Europe seems to have notice.

No government, lots of frites and great beer -- Belgium is paradise!

Tax Reform

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel has proposed a tax reform bill, which the GOP immediately denounced as a big tax hike.

Maybe however, it would be better for the GOP to take a good look at the bill. The bill is being touted as a reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax paid for by a surtax on the highest incomes. I personally am not that worked up about the AMT (despite having to pay it 3 out of the past 4 years). The AMT really acts as a back door flat tax and addresses the myriad of tax preferences in the code (such as the deduction of state and local taxes -- I live in a high tax city in a relatively high tax state but think people would care more about local taxes if this subsidy was repealed).

However, Rangel is looking at something which you would think is anathema on the left -- namely, lowering the corporate tax rate. Think about that. A very liberal Democrat from Harlem is proposing to use money from tax reform to partially reduce corporate income taxes.

Corporate income is really taxed twice, at the corporate level and when dividends are paid. Most of the other industrialized countries have a system whereby corporate income is taxed only once. Further, the US taxes corporations on their world wide income while in other countries, especially those with a value added tax, give relief on foreign earned income. If I had my druthers, I would replace the current two step corporate tax with a corporate level tax which is credited to dividend recipients. That would still tax corporate income paid to tax-exempt and foreign owners while taxing corporate income only once.

Given the politics, there will not be a major tax reform bill passed next year (though you may see some stopgap AMT relief. There is an election on and President Bush has no political capital left. But historically, there have been major tax reform packages in the first year of the last few presidents. And if Charles Rangel has placed the corporate income on the table, that means a chance of real reform of the tax system is possible,

Let's not reject this out of hand.

Norwegian Borat Want-to-be In New York

This is really funny, though if you object to strong language, turn it off!