Politics Archives

Sanity Clause

A sanity check by both parties in the US is desperately needed. Look, I have no love lost for Mr Obama. I think as a President, if elected he will turn out to marginally worse than Jimmy Carter’s 4 year term. He’ll push for a number of programs, continue centralizing healthcare and attempting as much as he might in expanding various entitlements programs a number of fronts. McCain similarly will push for (and against a likely Democratically controlled Congress get somewhat less of what he desires) a different set of programs. But, no Mr Coates is completely loony when he offers that a McCain Presidency is to be equivalent to “sell the freedom of their daughters …” or that for the poor, a McCain Presidency implies … “the outcome will be sickness and death and homelessness and, for those cut off from health coverage and help …”

Look, Presidents have a lot less domestic influence than we pretend. Mr Bush has been in the office for 8 years and gosh, our daughters aren’t slaves and the lot of the poor is not that appreciably different than a decade ago.

But over the top rhetoric and outright demonization of the other side is just unhelpful all around.

Try some sanity on for size. It might help.

A Cure Worse Than the Disease

Poverty, as Glenn Beck notes, is an issue that unites us all, at least on the surface.  It’s not a political condition, he says; it’s a human condition. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly a third of the residents in those cities [Detroit, Michigan and Buffalo, New York] are living beneath the poverty line, the highest rates among large cities in the entire country.

No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, that is nothing short of appalling. Yet if you ask people what we should do about it, you’ll probably hear answers that inexplicably break down right along party lines.

Indeed.  Instead, we should see what works and do it.  Additionally, we should see what doesn’t work and stop doing it.  I mean, if providing the same solution for decades hasn’t helped, it’s time for a radically different answer. 

But as Glenn observes, there are some places that will stick with their solution through thick and thin (and failure).

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Christianity and Politics: Requirement or Calling?

I was talking with an old buddy of mine about a political topic last night (whether allowing China to keep its MFN trade status with us has helped or hurt Chinese Christians) when he told me that didn’t care one way or the other how our government interacted with their government (I’m paraphrasing) because God is bigger than any government and that He will work His will in that country regardless.

I was a little disconcerted about this, since I believe that we can and do have a part to play in the world as Christians, including the political sphere. My friend then got a little more specific. For him, politics was just not something he was gifted or interested in. He had relatives who were very politically inclined, and he’d had a number of conversations with them where they suggested that he needed to be more informed and involved. His point to me was this: There are those who are interested and gifted regarding politics just like any other ability (encouragement, teaching, etc.). For those that are gifted (and all these gifts come from God), they should get involved and active. It would be a misuse of their talents not to. For he and others who are not gifted in this area, it would be a waste of time to try to fit in where God had not intended them to.

I suggested that perhaps saying that everyone should follow politics is like saying that everyone should be a missionary. As high a calling as missionary might be, if God’s not made you for that, there is an even higher calling that He has you for. (Perhaps, policy wonk?)

We were at the church working with a professional sound technician who was helping us get more out of the system we have, so our conversation was done at that point as we got back into that subject. That was last night, and I’ve had some more time to consider that conversation today. Here are some additional thoughts I’ve had.

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Does the VP choice matter?

For the past few weeks, the political press has been waiting breathlessly for the most anticipated announcement of the 2008 Election campaign: the vice-presidential nominations. But does the actual nomination matter as much as the media would have us believe? Does the actual nomination have any real influence on the vote?

Pundits will tell you that by selecting a particular candidate will all but guarantee delivery of a swing state for the ticket. Others will tell you that a VP nominee’s experience will “balance the ticket” or counterbalance the presidential candidate’s weaknesses by bringing expertise in a given area such as foreign policy or economic issues.

Personally, I don’t believe a bit of it. In selecting a VP nominee, a candidate really only needs to think about one thing (besides the obvious question of whether their selection could step into the role of President under a worst-case scenario).

The main thing that the presidential candidate needs to guard against is destroying their chances at getting elected by making a lousy vice-presidential choice.

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Just what is “above my pay grade”?

If Barack Obama can only answer the question,

“At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?”

with,

“Answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade,”

Then he is declaring at least two things:

  1. he does not have the ability, knowledge, or wherewithal to determine the answer, and
  2. he is incapable of understanding any answer that he may eventually determine, or be educated on

That he is incapable of determining any answer stems from the fact that the question Rick Warren posed was improperly qualified with a subjective “in your view” loophole. Such a loophole opened the door for a subjective, “I’m personally opposed to abortion…”, rhetoric. Yet, despite the loophole, Obama could do no better than give a non-answer, thereby displaying either supreme ignorance, or supreme deceit.

Mr. Obama, if you cannot determine, even within the vagueness of an “in your view” opinion context, when a baby gets human rights, how can you justify supporting an abortion-friendly policy which could very well, and indeed does, violate the human rights of “babies” across this country? Wouldn’t the mere fact that you proclaim ignorance on the issue mandate that you take the safer stance of protecting the rights of the unborn?

Yes, Mr. Obama, the answer to that question is way above your pay grade, as is the office of President of the United States. You, sir, are either an ignorant fool, or a self-serving, platitude preaching, substance devoid politician, attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of many an American citizen.

Thoughts on the Saddleback Forum

I hadn’t really intended to watch last night’s presidential candidate forum hosted by Saddleback Church and their celebrity pastor, Rick Warren. Part of the reason was that I was uncomfortable with the idea of a church being the host of a purely political event.

I’m still not sure how involved churches need to be involved in politics although I agree with those who believe that IRS regulations that restrict pastors from discussing politics should be repealed.

I’m not a big fan of Rick Warren, either. For all the good he has done, I disagree with his whole purpose-driven approach to church. I didn’t care for his bestselling book as I thought it was too theologically shallow. I honestly wasn’t sure that he would be willing to ask tough questions. I doubted Pastor Warren’s motives thinking he was looking for a way to give Senator Barack Obama a chance to make an appeal to evangelical voters who could very much decide the outcome of the election.

The format of the forum with each candidate being asked the same questions separately and not knowing the other’s answers seemed a bit unconventional. I wasn’t sure it would work.

I was wrong.

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"Ich Bin Ein … Georgian"

John McCain said "…today we are all Georgians."  The Lefty blogosphere’s reaction:

Matthew Yglesias:

Common sense indicates that, no, I am not a Georgian. But John McCain says “today we are all Georgians.” But does he mean it? Suppose Russia was bombing Atlanta and threatening to advance to Savannah. In solidarity with Georgia (the state) Americans from all fifty states would band together and fight the Russians off. Now I don’t think we should go to war with Russia. And I hope John McCain doesn’t think we should go to war with Russia. But insofar as he doesn’t mean that we should go to war with Russia on Georgia’s behalf, what’s the meaning of the claim that “we are all Georgians”?

On one level, it’s empty political sloganeering. But on another level it’s not empty — it’s downright irresponsible, and an example of the sort of irresponsible behavior that got us into this.

"smintheus", on the front page of the Daily Kos:

How would the trad media have portrayed Barack Obama if he had behaved as John McCain has done since Georgian President Saakashvili sent troops into South Ossetia? Would it have been ‘presumptuous’ to issue proposals to intervene in the fighting even before the President had spoken? To stake out an aggressive position far in front of anything the US wished to adopt? To attack a rival candidate for refusing to do the same?

Jasen at ElectoPundit:

Maybe John McCain would like to get us involved in ethnic cleansing campaigns, or nuclear exchanges?

Michael Crowley at The New Republic:

It may be a noble sentiment, and Georgia is deserving of American diplomatic support. But is he really speaking for all–or even most–Americans? My strong hunch is that precious few Americans want to feel they’re the victims of Russian aggression. Instead they want all the foreign-policy madness to calm down already. It hardly seems a winning message for McCain to imply that in their hearts the American people should consider themselves at war with Russia.

A. Serwer at The American Prospect:

I think I speak for most Americans when I say:

"Does he mean the state?"

In all seriousness, if the battle over South Ossetia is 9/11, then didn’t McCain just commit us to a military response, since that’s how the United States responded in the aftermath of the WTC attacks? The election hasn’t even happened yet and he’s trying to start new wars.

Some people might call that "presumptuous."

I wonder what these folks would think if, say, a Democratic President, in the middle of the Cold War, went to West Berlin and said,

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!

Do you think there’d be nearly the accusations of war-mongering and presumption then?  (Hint: No.)  JFK claimed to speak for the entire free world, for goodness sake!

Perhaps McCain should have said, "I am a Georgian" in Georgian.  That would have been OK, right?  Right?

[tags]John McCain,Russia,Republic of Georgia,Matthew Yglesias,Daily Kos,The American Prospect,ElectoPundit,The New Republic,John F. Kennedy[/tags]

A person’s faith is a window into their soul. For a politician, how he or she speaks about his or her faith will tell you something about how they will govern. Stephen Mansfield, author of the new book The Faith of Barack Obama, says that in examining the Senator’s faith journey gave him insight not only into the Democratic presidential nominee but insight into larger cultural trends as well.
Barack Obama’s faith and his spiritual journey not only are shaping this election but also, as you tell the story and reflect on it, captures many of the trends that are most powerful and transforming in this age,” said Mr. Mansfield in a recent interview.

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Buyer’s Remorse

The fortress built by pundits on the left are starting to crack … from the inside.

In the aftermath of Barack Obama’s overseas trip, the liberal punditocracy has begun to fret. Certainly there is reason for concern. Obama’s poll numbers are within the margin of error in a year in which a generic Democrat would be beating a generic Republican by double digits. And the storylines which dominated the news since the trip have been ones unfavorable to their chosen candidate: his ego, the snub of wounded U.S. soldiers in Germany, a potential flip-flop on offshore drilling and a poorly received attempt to play the race card.

Richard Cohen was one liberal pundit who emerged from the fog of Obama-mania. Cohen threw cold water on the notion that a liberal Senate candidate from Hyde Park showed political courage by opposing the Iraq war, and then recited chapter and verse on the flip-flop orgy:

He has been for and against gun control, against and for the recent domestic surveillance legislation and, in almost a single day, for a united Jerusalem under Israeli control and then, when apprised of U.S. policy and Palestinian chagrin, against it. He is an accomplished pol — a statement of both admiration and a bit of regret.

But what really irked Cohen was Obama’s “tissue thin” record and the nagging sense that despite Obama’s attractive packaging Cohen was “still not sure, though, what’s in it.”

Indeed, these concerns (and other concerns by many other pundits including Dana Millbank; read the whole thing) have been raised by Republicans for some time.  Yet they were dismissed as being racist, jealous, out of touch, and distracting from the real issues.  Some writers chided McCain’s attacks on the media for being in the tank as desperate, but perhaps some have taken it to heart. 

By all accounts, Obama should be trouncing McCain.  That he isn’t, and that this is surprising to the media, is a bigger indicator of who is really out of touch.

[tags]liberal media,Barack Obama,Jennifer Rubin,Dana Millbank[/tags]

It’s common knowledge, among those intent on maintaining their automobile’s mechanical soundness, that there are certain rules to follow. For example, one should regularly inspect the belts and hoses of their engine for cracks, leaks, etc. Another commonly known tip can be found at Valvoline’s website (scroll down the page):

Proper inflation pressure makes tires last longer, and it also improves the vehicle’s fuel economy.

Yet, how many of you are aware that Valvoline’s recommendation is, in reality, Barack Obama’s Energy Plan®?

From TIME, Michael Grunwald writes, in The Tire-Gauge Solution: No Joke,

How out of touch is Barack Obama? He’s so out of touch that he suggested that if all Americans inflated their tires properly and took their cars for regular tune-ups, they could save as much oil as new offshore drilling would produce. Gleeful Republicans have made this their daily talking point, Rush Limbaugh is having a field day, and the Republican National Committee is sending tire gauges labeled “Barack Obama’s Energy Plan” to Washington reporters.

But who’s really out of touch? The Bush administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 barrels per day by 2030. We use about 20 million barrels per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage by 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone else did, we could reduce demand several percentage points immediately. In other words: Obama is right.

Ignoring the careless manner with which Grunwald tosses numbers around – is he serious? Is he so out of touch with reality that he sees a common sense car care tip as now, somehow, being part of Barack Obama’s change we can believe in?

What future addenda will we see to Barack Obama’s Energy Plan®, Grunwald? Tax rebates for driving with windows closed? Economic incentives for dropping the tailgate on pickup trucks?

Yeah, Obama is right. And so is Valvoline.

Update: Via Political Punch (ABC News), From the Fact Check Desk: Are Obama’s Claims About Inflating Car Tires Accurate?

Understand this general rule (economically derived): The higher the price of gasoline, the less driving an individual will do.

Now, understand that the Democratic Party’s platform states:

We will create a cleaner, greener and stronger America by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and use the savings to provide consumer relief and develop energy alternatives, and investing in energy independent technology.

So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that an economy with higher gasoline prices would be welcomed by Democrats? Wouldn’t such an economy yield, through the effect of less driving, a cleaner, greener and stronger America?

Yet, Nancy Pelosi recently stated,

The President knows, as his own Administration has stated, that the impact of any new drilling will be insignificant – promising savings of only pennies per gallon many years down the road. Americans know that thanks to the two oilmen in the White House, consumers are now paying $4 a gallon for gas. But what Americans should realize is that what the President is calling for is drilling as close as three miles off of America’s pristine beaches and in other protected areas.

Today, the New Direction Congress will vote on legislation to bring down gas prices by taking crucial steps to curb excessive speculation in the energy futures market. The President himself could lower prices by drawing down a small portion of our government oil stockpile, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The New Direction Congress will continue to bring forth responsible proposals to increase supply, reduce prices, protect consumers, and transition America to a clean, renewable energy independent future.

Does Pelosi really want to lower the price of gasoline or does she want to play politics under the guise of saving the environment? How high must the price of gasoline go before the Democrats relent, and actually do something?

$10 a gallon?

Lessons From a Trip Down Memory Lane

I’m currently on vacation in Ithaca, NY. My dad’s father, my dad, his 2 brothers, and a whole host of family in-laws and friends have purchases homes here and retired to the beautiful central New York region. Ithaca is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, and over the years students from those schools essentially paid for the homes while they rented them during the school year. We would take our 3 weeks vacation here every year to mow the lawn (5 feet high by summer; students don’t typically mow lawns) and see our cousins. Because the brothers and their sister tried to coordinate vacations, we got to know our first cousins very well, as well as some second cousins and others of various once-removed or twice-removed situations.

Ithaca lives up to the stereotype of a very liberal college town, politically speaking. Obama will carry this town with greater than 95% of the vote. For a very long time, large, “big box” stores — Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Home Depot, for examples — were kept out of town so as not to ruin the local town charm. The problem was, suburbs just outside the town were quite accepting of these stores, and they saw their tax revenues jump as the stores came in, while Ithaca found itself in a bit of a crisis. Money came in to the town, but it flowed out to the mall just on the other side of the town line or in burgs 20-30 minutes away. In the end, the “CAVE” people (liberal folks who were labeled “Citizens Against Virtually Everything”) had to relent to the fiscal realities. Ithaca now has a thriving shopping area for those that want the big stores, and after 5 or so years it still has The Commons where you can stroll around to find that corner bookstore.

What the CAVE people were worried about didn’t really happen, or at least not nearly to the extent that they predicted. The Meadow Court and the Grayhaven motels, longtime residents of Ithaca, have survived the introduction of the Hampton Inn chain. The Grayhaven caters to dog owners, one of the ways they stay competitive; defining their market. The local Wicks Lumber, which has a small hardware store attached, is still in business, even with Home Depot less than 2 miles away. The “mom & pop” establishments are essentially still here. The free market didn’t kill them off, and the CAVE people have grudgingly accepted it. (Well, some were simply out-voted. Acceptance isn’t always a given.)

In the end, capitalism worked. People got more choices, and the existing businesses survived, either by defining their markets, trading on their nostalgic or hometown quality, or enjoying customer loyalty going back decades. In Ithaca, both kinds of consumers — for the large and small businesses — exist, and businesses of both types can exist, side-by-side, in a capitalist society.

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Freedom, Rights, and Democracy

A long long time ago, when I had more free time in my life, I read copious quantities of science fiction (and other pulp fiction). Donald Kingsbury in The Moon Goddess and the Son had a crucial insight on democracy, which I suggest that many of us have forgotten. One of the primary threads in the book was a peaceful means to bring about (and bringing about) the fall of the iron curtain and the possible rise of a democratic in the place of the former Soviet empire (in part this was helped by a viral board/video/war game in the book). It should be noted that this book was written in 1986 some years before the actual fall of that regime.

One insight which might as well be drawn in part from our own revolutionary process is that, to embark on democracy is to fundamentally lose control.  Centralization of power is satisfying and tempting in the larger part because of the control. The (wise) leaders of a revolution (or democratic government) must, in order to remain a democracy, yield control to the (unwise) individuals. I’ll give a few examples:

  • First, in one of Ms McArdle’s essays today she writes on health care and choices. She suggests that we assume that people would prefer to spend “new money” from government grants to the poor on health care. But that is, in turn, paternalistic and somewhat dictatorial in making up their mind for them and treating them as children. If a poor man would prefer to die in 5 years with an untreated condition and instead spend the money on a fast fancy car. By what right do we insist that he spend that money on health care? [aside: Btw, I favor throwing #2 “overboard” and think the only fair method of rationing health care (demanded by #3) is ability to pay, with the caveat that certain minimum levels of health care should be available to all.]
  •  In Iraq, we say we want them to be democratic then at the same time, we complain that the choices they make are not what we would recommend. However, giving them democratic freedom means … we lose any control or ability/right to make recommendations.
  • The progressive movement often would put in place large scale structural elements to “guide us” in righteous thinking on racial and gender issues. Their centralization of doctrine and practice is their fear of the loss of control that comes with democracy. People will “misbehave” if they don’t force their hand pre-emptively. This urge is the very essence of the anti-democratic impulse. Leninism and the worst horrors of the 20th century were put upon their people, “for their own good.”

The question then, is how can we protect our individual freedoms and rights and at the same time prevent abuses that in a large measure give rise to the paternalism impulse that drives centralization?

Sharia law in the Middle East from a rights perspective is seen by the west as, well plainly said, horrible. The uneven freedoms granted differentially to men and woman (and infidel) within their society is shocking to the Westerner. It is my view of government that a state is acting within its bounds if it only takes the authority granted to it by its people. If they grant that women should be treated unevenly, then it is right for the state to reflect that. A Muslim community anywhere (including the US) might very well be within its bounds of authority, in my view is righteous.

How does one put this in practice however? What does it even then mean for such communities to overstep their bounds? Well, one might suggest that if I put you in jail unjustly it is one thing. It is another if you complain about being placed unjustly in jail but that the door is open and you can leave at any time. And that might be the key. If we allow great freedoms in the ordering of individual small communities and at the same time insist that information about the “outside” and other communities makeup and practices be available and that that “door be left open and unlocked”, that might be enough to insure your civil liberties be protected.

It might also, go a lot further to establish the sorts of civil progressive changes that the left wishes would occur. I would suggest that asking many more of us to get involved in the crafting of just law would go a lot further to internalize civil behavior than anything that might be attempted from “on high” within the beltway or the vaunted halls of the ivory tower.

20/20 Foresight

If you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that a vote for the surge in Iraq and its strategy changes would dramatically reduce the amount of violence and deaths, giving the Iraqi government breathing room to get 15 of 18 benchmarks completed, would you vote for it?  If it was a certainty?

Obama wouldn’t have.  The man of Hope and Change(tm) would have kept the status quo.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is playing politics with the war and the lives of our soldiers.  Bailing out at all costs — big costs, to Iraq if not to us — is irresponsibility at its highest.  That’s not the kind of man I want as President.

[tags]Barack Obama,Iraq surge[/tags]

Dude, I Found Your Recession

If America falls into recession, Democrats will blame Bush, no doubt.  But does Dubya’s influence on the economy cover the entire continent of Europe?  Retroactively?

A mood of fear and pessimism is starting to descend on Europe. It now seems the region could head into recession even before the United States.

Many EU nations are in real trouble. In Spain, economy minister Pedro Solbes declared that the country was facing its "most complex crisis ever" following a collapse of the property market.

A leading Spanish property group, Martinsa-Fadesa, filed for bankruptcy earlier this week.

Like Spain, Ireland has suffered a housing market collapse and many people have run up huge personal debts. The Irish economy shrank earlier in the year and economists say that if it continues to contract, the nation will fall into recession by the end of 2008.

Despite this, the Irish Prime Minister or Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, has insisted his country is still doing remarkably well, despite the global economic downturn, and has rejected claims that he is personally responsible for the downturn.

Denmark is already in recession and shows no sign of emerging from it in the near future. The government there stepped in to rescue a failing bank, Roskilde, in early July.

Unlike the US economy, which still grew (albeit very weakly) in the first quarter, European countries are already in different degrees of economic retreat.  And the emphasis above (mine) notes that this is a global economic problem which we are weathering better than the countries Democrats keep holding up as examples we should follow.

Is Bush that all-powerful?  (Hint: No.)  But it’s just too good a glop of mud to sling at him for Democrats.  They just can’t pass up the chance, and they hope their followers aren’t paying attention. 

[tags]economics,recession,Spain,Ireland,Denmark[/tags]

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