Friday, October 31, 2008

The Economist to America: Go to Vegas

And I don't mean that as a euphemism for somewhere a bit hotter. The Economist, in quite possibly the single most idiotic endorsement of this presidential campaign, recommends that the United States "take a chance"--that's a direct quote--and elect Barack Obama.

The paper readily admits Obama's shortcomings. In short:

Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.

Why? Well, at the end of the endorsement, they finally get around to answering that...kind of:

In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent.

In short: We shouldn't worry about his ambiguous beliefs, his microscopic resume, or the hypothetical nature of his backbone in the face of a Democratic Congress because...

...he campaigns pretty.

That's it.

Certainly, it matters how well Obama came through the presidential campaign. It's a trial by fire, the most rigorous of its kind (even without the media doing its job) and that's how it should be--a test of the candidate's mettle, his fitness on a personal level to be President. It's an essential benchmark to be cleared.

But it's just the bare minimum. It's expected. It's a qualifier that should be used only to disqualify a candidate who fails to meet it. It is not a reason, in and of itself, to vote for one candidate over another.

But that's precisely what The Economist advises.

In the most important presidential election in recent memory, their recommendation to the American people is a blind leap of faith.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The judicial president

This, from today's Wall Street Journal, is flat-out scary. There's no other way to put it.

One of the great unappreciated stories of the past eight years is how thoroughly Senate Democrats thwarted efforts by President Bush to appoint judges to the lower federal courts.

Consider the most important lower federal court in the country: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan appointed eight judges, an average of one a year, to this court. They included Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Kenneth Starr, Larry Silberman, Stephen Williams, James Buckley, Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle. In his two terms, George W. Bush was able to name only four: John Roberts, Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh.

Although two seats on this court are vacant, Bush nominee Peter Keisler has been denied even a committee vote for two years. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, he will almost certainly fill those two vacant seats, the seats of two older Clinton appointees who will retire, and most likely the seats of four older Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointees who may retire as well.

The net result is that the legal left will once again have a majority on the nation's most important regulatory court of appeals.

The balance will shift as well on almost all of the 12 other federal appeals courts. Nine of the 13 will probably swing to the left if Mr. Obama is elected (not counting the Ninth Circuit, which the left solidly controls today). Circuit majorities are likely at stake in this presidential election for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. That includes the federal appeals courts for New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and virtually every other major center of finance in the country.

On the Supreme Court, six of the current nine justices will be 70 years old or older on January 20, 2009. There is a widespread expectation that the next president could make four appointments in just his first term, with maybe two more in a second term. Here too we are poised for heavy change.

Combine that with a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority, and you get liberal hegemony via judicial fiat for at least the next generation...if not for my lifetime (and I have yet to turn 30).


Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell endorses Obama

Was anyone surprised by this? Seriously--was anyone surprised by this?

He says it's not about race, and I find it very easy to believe him. From a policy standpoint, Colin Powell has always been of the Schwarzenegger/Giuliani mold--i.e. liberal on social issues--and that came through loud and clear as he explained himself:

As a key reason, Powell said: "I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration."

That's the long and short of it right there.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Iron Butterfly?

An interesting article by Bob Greene on the CNN Political Ticker, highlighting a possible case of political chaos theory: One man's decision not to enter politics may have led to another man later being on the doorstep of the White House.

Recall: In 2004, Republican nominee Jack Ryan was forced to pull out of the Illinois race for the US Senate. The GOP replaced Ryan with carpetbagger Alan Keyes, and Barack Obama eventually won the election.

However, Keyes wasn't the party's first choice to take over the nomination.

That distinction belongs to former Chicago Bears coach "Iron" Mike Ditka, a self-described "staunch conservative."

Greene recounts:

A lot of people in Illinois thought Ditka had a pretty good chance to win, had he accepted the invitation to run. Remember: four years ago, Obama was a relative unknown. He was back in the state senate after having been defeated badly in a 2000 primary in which he sought to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ditka, on the other hand, was one of the most famous– and in many, many places, beloved– people in the state of Illinois. He was controversial, yes, but that’s what his admirers liked about him. He was instantly recognizable in every corner of the state– he would have drawn enormous crowds to rallies. Mike Ditka, the icon, against Barack Obama, the novice?

“I am who I am,” Ditka told me. “People know that.”

Had Ditka run and won, there isn’t a way in the world that Obama would have been in the race for the White House now. And history would have been completely rewritten.

In short--sometimes, a butterfly not flapping its wings can cause a hurricane, as well.


(H/T: Grandpa John's, via Dr. Sanity)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Breaking news: Bishops do their job, for a change

There have already been more statements regarding abortion from the country's Catholic bishops during this election campaign than at any other time I can recall.

Now, finally, a few of them are doing what they ALL should have been doing for the past thirty years--that is to say, their job.

In Texas, Bishops Kevin Farrell and Kevin Vann issued a joint statement taking aim at the abuse of "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" to excuse voting for Obama. It was mailed to Catholic families in the Fort Worth area and read during Mass at parishes in Dallas.

The response was immediate. The Dallas Morning News reported that a number of people walked out of Mass in response, and Americans United for Insulation Separation of Church and State made threatening noises about federal tax laws.

I hate to think what their response is going to be to the following broadside from St. Louis Bishop Robert Hermann, reproduced here in its entirety (emphases mine):

Save our children! More than anything else, this election is about saving our children or killing our children. This life issue is the overriding issue facing each of us in this coming election. All other issues, including the economy, have to take second place to the issue of life.

Save our children! Many people in Germany supported Hitler for economic reasons even though, as his programs advanced, he put to death millions of Jewish people. He ended up wrecking the economy together with the country of Germany.

How are we different if we vote for proabortion candidates for office? How can we help change our political and legal situation to protect innocent children and support a culture of life?

Save our children! When I speak to some socalled good Catholics, I am shocked that they are quite ready to vote for a pro-abortion candidate under almost any circumstance. I find this hard to understand. We have heard the word "abortion" so often that perhaps we no longer associate procured abortion with the killing of children, yet that is what it is. The term itself can be misleading. The dictionary tells us that it comes from a Latin word that means "to disappear or to miscarry." Sometimes abortions simply happen because of natural causes. That is why this word abortion, for many people, apparently does not really connote the destruction of children. When a human agent induces an abortion, that human agent is taking the life of one of our children.

Save our children! How can a so-called good Catholic vote for a candidate that supports laws that take the life of innocent children, when there is an alternative? If there were two candidates who supported abortion, but not equally, we would have the obligation to mitigate the evil by voting for the less-permissive candidate.

Save our children! How can a so-called good Catholic vote for a candidate that supports laws that justify the killing of a child that survived a botched abortion? How can such a so-called good Catholic receive the Holy Eucharist?

In Chapter 10 of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he states: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? ... You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons."

Save our children! Have some of our so-called good Catholics become so hardened against the Gospel of Life that they believe that other issues outweigh the Gospel of Life? Have some of our so-called good Catholics put politics ahead of the Fifth Commandment, in which God states: "Thou shalt not kill"? Do some of our so-called good Catholics, who may go to Mass every Sunday and receive the Holy Eucharist, really believe that voting for a pro-abortion candidate, when there is a clear alternative and therefore no justifiable reason for so doing, is really not voting to have children killed? This election is all about saving our children!

Save our children! I have no doubt that there may be some so-called good Catholics who are reading this column and who may be really angry about now. I ask the question "Why would such a person be angry?" If we do good deeds, then our conscience is at peace. If we do evil deeds, then our conscience bothers us. It is my hope that this column will lead some of our so-called good Catholics to study the Catholic Catechism.

Save our children! Some of our so-called good Catholics may have hardened their hearts against the real understanding of induced abortions, that they can no longer see that this involves the destruction of our children. "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!"

Save our children! Supporting induced abortions is not the greatest sin in the world. A greater sin is the refusal to repent of such a serious crime or the denial that this involves the killing of innocent children.

Save our children! I have used this terminology again and again penetrate the defenses of anyone who in the past may have put personal, economic or political interests above the issue of saving our children. The right to life is our most fundamental right, and to defend this right on behalf of the most vulnerable is a great privilege and is worth giving one’s life for. Policemen and firemen always risk their lives to save human life. Why should we not risk our own reputation to save our children?

Save our children!You can see by now that I do not believe that this column by itself will change hearts. The issue of abortion involves serious sin, and to overcome serious patterns of sin requires grace. If you are still with me, may I suggest that you join me and many others in praying the daily Rosary from now until election day for the sake of life. Why not pray the family Rosary every night between now and the general election. The Rosary brought down the Iron Curtain. It can also help us turn around the culture of death to a culture of life.

Save our so-called good Catholics who ignore Catholic moral principles when applied to our political life. Pray the family Rosary daily. Pray the family Rosary for our so-called good Catholics who could use your love and your charity. Pray for our so-called good Catholics who ignore serious Catholic moral teachings and still receive Holy Communion. Love them by praying the family Rosary for them. Don’t debate with them. Intercede for them. Praying for them is more fun than fighting with them.

Save our children and save our so-called good Catholics who have abandoned Church teachings in favor of personal gain. Pray the Rosary. Pray it every day. Get the whole family to pray the Rosary daily. Prayer is more powerful than contentious arguments. Spread the word to other families. In praying the Rosary, children’s votes count as much as adult votes. Sometimes they pray with purer hearts than we do. If you are disgusted with the TV news, then turn it off and turn on the prayer Internet. What we hear in prayer leaves us in peace. When we pray for our country and for our fellow citizens, we are filled with peace. St. Paul tells us that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers and the spirits of darkness.

Prayer is our protection. Let it also be a protection for our country. If you want to make Satan angry, pray the Rosary for the sake of Life. Pray that as a nation we will choose leaders that will say ‘no’ to the culture of death and say ‘yes’ to the culture of life. Save our children! Pray the Rosary!

There's a schism brewing in the Catholic Church in America. And when it erupts, abortion is going to be front and center.


(H/T: [and again])

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hope where there is none

I haven't exactly been shy in my predictions. Much as I would like to think otherwise, I am all but certain that John McCain is going to lose this election in a landslide, due not only to a perfect economic storm but also to his own total and utter ineptitude during the debates.

If there's any chance left for McCain at all--and I have serious doubts about that--it lies in the fact that Obama's supporters are tactical morons.

I'm not speaking here of the insane assaults on Sarah Palin that completely and utterly backfired on the media. I'm speaking instead of what Zombie calls The Left's Big Blunder--an overemphasis on opinion polls that are almost certainly substantially inflated:

In the majority of strategy games, the most effective plan is to trick your opponent into underestimating you. The goal is to catch them unawares, to spring an attack when they least expect it. But there are exceptions to this rule: in poker, and sometimes in warfare, the most effective strategy can be the reverse -- to bluff, which means to trick your opponent into overestimating your strength.

There's a catch, however: bluffing only works when the rules of the game allow you to avoid a showdown with your opponent. Imagine, for example, that you were playing a hand of high stakes poker against a skilled opponent. You look at your cards and you see that your hand is not particularly good. Under these circumstances, some professional poker players will bet everything they have, and act confident, in hope of bluffing their opponents into folding. When the opponent folds, there is no final showdown; the player who was bluffing collects the winnings without having to reveal his cards, or, even if he does reveal them, doesn't actually need to have the better hand. The opponents gave up because they couldn't take the pressure. But what if the rules of this particular game of poker were changed so that every hand necessarily ended in a showdown: it was not possible to fold, and no matter how much you bluffed, and how much your opponent feared the strength of your hand, you still have to beat his hand at the end of betting. Under these circumstances, bluffing is not only ineffective, it's absolutely foolish, because you're risking everything on a group of cards that are not likely to win.

Similarly, in ancient warfare, if you could convince your opponent that your army was bigger than it really was, you could possibly trick them into surrendering without a fight -- a fight you might have actually lost if you had gone to battle.

Yet presidential elections are not like poker or siege warfare. There is no way to bluff your way to victory. The McCain campaign can't "fold" or surrender, nor can the actual voting on November 4 be cancelled. No matter how much the Obama supporters inflate their apparent strength, at the end of the day they're going to have prove it's true -- or lose the election. Because of this, bluffing in a presidential election is the worst possible strategy, because all you'll end up achieving is to inspire the opposing camp to fight more desperately, since they'll assume their backs are against the wall. Teddy Roosevelt advised that the best political posture is to "Speak softly and carry a big stick" -- but in 2008 the Democrats are yelling at the top of their lungs and carrying only a medium-sized stick.

It's the longest of long shots--but between the identities of the actual pollsters (i.e. the ones in direct contact with those being surveyed), the Clever Hans Effect, and a viscerally renewed Bradley Effect, Zombie lays out a pretty compelling case for the last hope McCain has left: that enough despairing conservatives go out to vote in protest, while enough complacent Obama supporters decide to just stay home.

Frankly, though, McCain would have a better chance of winning the lottery.


In a row.

Playing the exact same numbers.


(H/T: Dr. Sanity)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

3rd debate

For some reason (I'm not quite sure why) I went ahead and watched the final presidential debate.

McCain didn't do much to help himself...and then there was this little gem:

Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present benefits, which may be taxed, which will be taxed, but then you add $5,000 onto it, except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery and transplants and all of those kinds of things.

Transplants. Equated with cosmetic surgery.

That sound you hear? It's the last dwindling hopes of the McCain campaign--and of the United States of America, for at least the next four years--going down the drain.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's over.

I had a lot of trouble finding the second presidential debate online (the C-Span embedded video on RCP had the volume set so low I couldn't hear anyone, and no apparent way to turn it up). Once I did manage to track it down, I wished I hadn't--because I was turning it off in disgust before the candidates had even finished with the first question.

This race is over.

John McCain and Sarah Palin have both had a problem throughout this campaign answering a straight question. In Palin's case, it's not an unreasonable expectation for someone who was thrown in the deep end a little over a month ago--and to compensate, over that month she's demonstrated a very short learning curve, which suggests McCain did indeed make the right pick for his running mate.

McCain's case, however, is another story--and rarely was the disconnect more evident than on the first question. What's the fastest, best way to "bail out" older and retired citizens whose savings have been decimated by the market crash?

McCain's answer: Reduce dependence on foreign oil.

...I'm sorry. WHAT?

Forget not answering the question. This was so far out of touch, Barack Obama should be taking that clip and running it as a TV ad for the rest of the campaign. On the very first question of the debate--when everyone tuned in was still watching--John McCain shot himself in the head.

This is a disaster for the country in so many ways.

An Obama administration will be a disaster for the pro-life movement.

It will be a disaster for the First Amendment.

It will be a disaster for the economy.

It will be a disaster for national security.

It will be a disaster for global security.

I'm hard-pressed to think of a way an Obama administration won't be a disaster.

But make no mistake--come January 2009, there will be an Obama administration.

May the good Lord have mercy on our souls.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bipartisan. Right.

Writing at Human Events, Jay Homnick deconstructs the end of Joe Biden's performance at Thursday's debate:

The penultimate question to the candidates was: is there any position you changed while in office upon achieving new insights into the legislative process? Biden said yes. When he arrived in the Judiciary Committee, he brought with him a belief from law school. It held that if a President nominates a qualified jurist for the Supreme Court, the Senate was bound to confirm the nominee. He soon came to conclude that ideology should also be considered as a factor, so he proudly fought the elevation of Judge Robert Bork to the court.

Then Biden was granted the privilege of offering a closing argument. In it he assured the audience that Senator Obama and he would govern in a bipartisan spirit.

This pair of presentations combine to shine a piercing light into the dark soul of the Democrat worldview. If we decode – or “unpack”, in the jargon – his first point, he is telling us that until he arrived there was a bipartisan custom in place for handling Supreme Court appointments. Distinction was the only criterion for a Supreme Court Justice, with no thought of the Senate playing an adversarial role in their Constitutionally mandated “advice and consent”. When Biden arrived he decided that would no longer do, and henceforth every confirmation hearing would become a partisan wrangle.

So his self-described epiphany involved his bringing “change” to the Senate by making it more partisan. Immediately thereafter, he promises to usher in a new era of post-partisan cooperation.

This, of course, slots in neatly alongside the reality of the post-partisan scenario Obama et al have been proclaiming all along: full and uncontested Democratic control of all three branches of government, running roughshod over any and all Republican opposition (since it is, in their view, fundamentally illegitimate).


Friday, October 03, 2008

VP debate thoughts

If you missed the debate, C-Span has the whole thing up on YouTube.

At any rate, just flipping through my scribbled notes:

-Palin openly and deliberately switched topics multiple times during the debate, at one point even flat-out saying she was going to ignore the moderator and speak directly to the American people. That was a gamble, and I'm not sure whether it paid off.

-Palin once again hammered home the point that many small businesses are over the $250K threshold, and will thus have their taxes raised under Obama's plain. Biden countered that 95% of small business owners have incomes of less than $250K/year.

I'm willing to bet all the change in my pocket that both candidates are absolutely, positively, 100% correct. Can you spot the extra word Biden snuck into his above rebuttal?

-Biden picked up Obama's line hammering McCain's plan to pair the $5000 tax credit for health insurance with taxing employer health benefits. Steven Landsburg should be pleased.

-Neither McCain nor Obama gave an answer last week when asked what campaign promises they might not be able to fulfill because of the bailout. Biden did give one answer--namely, increased foreign aid--then went on to say the Obama campaign would also not carry out McCain's proposed tax cuts.


-Palin, after snarking that she hadn't been on the campaign trail long enough to make any such expensive promises, suggested that McCain hasn't overextended himself to that point either.

-Palin got her head handed to her on climate change. When she said that she didn't want to argue about causes, Biden pounced--if you don't know the causes, you can't find the solutions, as he rightfully pointed out.

-Palin had a quick recovery, though. When the discussion turned to alternative energy sources, she immediately noted natural gas--conspicuously absent from Biden's list--and the Alaska pipeline, then went back on the offensive with three quick strikes: Obama/Biden's unwillingness to consider any domestic solutions, their referring to safe drilling processes as "raping" the land, and Biden's YouTube coal moment.

-The sound bite of the debate: Palin saying, "We'll know when we're finished in Iraq." I'm not quite sure which side it'll end up benefitting, but there it is.

-Biden tried to spin his vote authorizing the Iraq war as not a war vote, but as giving Bush the military option to maintain sanctions. Palin countered by invoking the outsider's view, and said flat-out that a war vote is a war vote.

-I'm not quite sure what to make of the exchange over Afghanistan. I'm not clear on what the "surge principle" Biden and Palin referred to is, and how it relates to increased troop levels and classic counterinsurgency strategy (which were both part of the surge in Iraq).

-To my surprise and delight, a close variant of the NYT's question on the role of the vice presidency was, in fact, asked, with reference to Cheney's creative interpretation. Palin argued for the flexibility of the office; Biden, by contrast, argued that the VP is exclusively an executive position, whose Constitutional powers over the Senate are ONLY to cast the tiebreaker vote.

Biden is flat-out wrong on this one. Article I, Section 3:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The VP has voting power only in case of a tie, but his/her powers in presiding over the Senate are NOT limited to that instance. In fact, it would seem to be the exact opposite--the Constitution seems to imply that the VP's voting only in case of a tie break is a limitation on his/her powers in presiding over the Senate!

-Interesting, and disturbing, how Biden described his change in view on the fitness of judicial nominees, with explicit reference to the rejection of Robert Bork. Biden's former position is the one that Republican senators followed faithfully all the way up through the end of the last Democratic presidency, even after the spectacles of Bork and Clarence Thomas--putting Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer on the bench by votes of 97-3 and 87-9, respectively.

The GOP, apparently, was engaged in a little unilateral disarmament of their own. One hopes that if Obama is elected, they will keep this in mind.

-Snarky remark in Palin's closing statement about speaking to the American people without the filter of the MSM. For those who recall the creative editing of her interviews, this was a well-appreciated remark. For those who don't recall it...well, as I said at earlier, Palin's approach was a gamble.

-All pre-debate controversies aside, Gwen Ifill did an excellent job as moderator. No complaints whatsoever.

Overall, while Palin did a lot of meandering, she made very clear that she was changing the topic, so unlike her recent interviews, it didn't look like she didn't know what she was talking about. Biden didn't have any fatal gaffes.

Call this one a draw.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

One VP Q I'd like to see

The New York Times gathered together a panel of commentators and surveyed them for questions they'd like to see at tonight's debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Most of the questions the NYT solicited were of the "Gotcha!" variety towards one running mate or the other, but there was one question, directed towards both of them, that I would really like to hear Palin and Biden's views on:

The claim by Dick Cheney that he was exempt from certain disclosure requirements because the vice president was a “legislative officer” has been greeted with outrage. But the main power the Constitution grants the vice president is a legislative one — breaking a tie vote in the Senate.

So, Governor Palin, Senator Biden, doesn’t Mr. Cheney have a point?

But, then, if the vice president is a legislative officer, how can he wield the vast executive powers that Mr. Cheney has exercised, including orchestrating and supervising a warrantless wiretapping program?

Can the vice president shift between branches at his convenience? If not, what, in your view, is the constitutional status of the vice presidency?

— GENE HEALY, the author of “The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power”

Given Cheney's unusually prominent role as vice president in the Bush Administration, this is an extremely pertinent question, and one that gets to the heart of what Palin and Biden each see themselves doing should their tickets prevail. It's perfect for the vice presidential debate.

Meaning, of course, that there is roughly a 0.000002% chance it will be asked tonight (and that high only because it takes a swipe at the Bush Administration in passing).