Friday, February 29, 2008

Freedom CEO makes case for Obama

This one has already made it around the blogosphere pretty well, and I think into a couple of news stories. Freedom Communications CEO Scott Flanders had a debate/discussion with the company's libertarian guru, Tibor Machan, on the voting choices this year. Tibor made a case for voting for a reasonably principled libertarian. Then Scott said the important things for him this year are getting out of Iraq, restoring separation of church and state, easing away from victimless crime laws like the drug laws, and the Patriot Act. He said the best chance for progress on those issues was -- Barack Obama (though he acknowledged he would probably increase spending and taxes, a tough trade-off).

That's Scott's personal opinion. As always, the Register and other Freedom Newspapers will not endorse any candidate (as I like to put it, it only encourages them). But Scott's opinion is interesting. Several older readers are very unhappy, as they've been eager to let me know. I'm just amused.

Register trying to survive

Here's an interview with Orange County Register publisher Terry Horne (brought in last September) about how the newspaper will try to survive during this time when all newspapers are struggling. When he came he described the "perfect storm" of increasing importance of the Internet, which no newspaper really understands yet, losing employment classified ads to and lots of merchandise classified to Craigslist. We used to get multiple full-page ads a week from several department stores, but they've consolidated and are advertising less. Car dealers still advertise but not as heavily. None of those are coming back.

We'll be zoning to attract local advertisers who couldn't afford the full run, and will roll out several free community tabloids. Plus we're thinking Web-first, lots of blogs, lots of stuff exclusively on the Web. We'll see how it works. We had a small layoff in January and there's a lot of gallows humor. It seems as if Romanesko is announcing layoffs at some newspaper or another almost every day.

Jihadists lose big in Pakistan

Here's the piece I did last week for, on Pakistan in the wake of the recent parliamentary elections. It noted that while the headline was the defeat of the pro-Musharraf party, perhaps the most encouraging news was the decline in support for Islamist or jihadist-sympathetic parties, including the defeat of a Taliban-like party that had actually won control of one province. Such parties had averaged 11 percent support last election and 4 percent in this one.

Now 4 percent of a population can wreak havoc with suicide bombings and the like, but the bogeyman of there being a great danger of jihadists getting control of the government and getting access to nukes, often used to justify the U.S. staying and subsidizing pretty much forever, is extremely unlikely. (There are already Taliban sympathizers in the military and the ISI secret police.)

It's also the case in Iraq, where the war whoopers talk about al-Qaida in Iraq taking control of the country if we leave -- McCain said it almost exactly that way in his recent long-distance campaign trail colloquy with Obama. Most unlikely. More likely is that without U.S. troops as a target it would be harder to recruit AQI members, and the Iraqis themselves would suppress it, probably more brutally and thoroughly than the U.S. would even think of doing.

Alyssia Finley on Obama

Last summer one of our interns was Alyssia Finley, a student at Stanford. She wrote a number of interesting columns for us on student life and political correctness at a prestige university today, and she still sends us a column from time to time. Here's her take on Obamania, noting that Obama's "inspiring" speeches are downers, describing problems in the U.S. as bigger and more serious than they really are, then casting himself as the only one who can fix things. Audacious, but a curious kind of "hoped."

Noonan and Judis on Buckley

Here are a couple of more pretty good appreciations of William F. Buckley. Peggy Noonan is such a graceful writer, and she usually finds a point or perspective nobody else has said quite the same way -- in this case the value to the country of people with broad and deep educations and wide-ranging curiosity. John Judis, still with the New Republic, is a liberal who wrote a pretty even-handed biography of Buckley, I think in the late 1980s. He describes Buckley as a rebel, but not a heretic.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Letting commerce flow

I could possibly have considered going the other way on this, but on balance, the Register editorialized, the Supreme Court's decision to immunize makers of medical devices who had fulfilled FDA requirements from lawsuits at the state level was correct. Of course my preference someday would be for the FDA to be abolished (its regulatory costs and delays have led to more deaths than saved lives), but if there are to be regulations, adding litigation to the mix simply facilitates the search for deep pockets. A case can be made that a society can rely on either the tort system or a regulatory scheme to create incentives for safety, but using both is overkil that raises prices and deters innovation.l

Movement on cocaine crack/powder sentencing disparity

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on House committee hearings on the crack/cocaine powder sentencing disparity. Drug law reformers -- talked to Ethan Nadelmann, Bill Piper and a few others -- think there's a pretty good chance of movement on the fact that back in the '80s Congress increased the sentence for crack so drastically that 5 grams of crack brings the same sentence as 500 grams of powder. Absurd. The U.S. Sentencing Commssion and Supreme Court agree that it's absurd, but Michael Mukasey (more sophisticated than Gonzales but far from sensible on this and other issues) disagrees.

Of course, I'd prefer no criminal penalties at all, but that's gonna happen this year.

There are about four different bills offering different levels of relief, and there's motion to get together on an approach that can be passed. Ethan said the reformers were surprised at how many congresscritters are there on this issue (including some Republicans), and the elected officials were surprised at the strength of support out there among the people.

Cross your fingers. And write your Senators and Congress members, if you do that sort of thing. Or maybe even if you don't usually.

More thoughts on Bill Buckley

Here's a link to the Register's editorial today on the death of Bill Buckley, and to a blog post that has some links to other comments. Dave Boaz at Cato did a quick piece that the Register will run on Sunday (at least it's on a page proof as of today, though sometimes things change) suggesting that the conservative movement Buckley was so influential in building died with him, taken over by Christian rightists and neocons, who are in a self-destructive mode themselves. While I'm at it, here's a roundup of comments from others, and a link to Tibor Machan's piece. Tibor came into the office yesterday and recorded a Webitorial as well. Maybe we overdid it a bit, but he was a writer who really had an impact on America.

Ron Paul looking good

I poked around the Web a bit today and did this post on how Ron Paul is doing for the Register's Horserace'08 blog. There's finally an independent public poll on Ron Paul's congressional primary race, and it shows Ron leading 63-30. Interestingly, he has a bigger lead among minorities than among whites. So it looks as if he'll be back on the presidential trail after March 4. Since he has a few pledged delegates, I expect him to stay in it until the convention, seek a speaking slot there, and make a good show at the convention. That would be a nice capstone to what is still looking like the most impressive pro-freedom mass movement in my lifetime. We'll see what the long-term impact is -- if all that enthusiasm can be channeled into something that helps to loosen up American society, or at least its political system, and eventually maybe its government.


That's the UCLA basketball team's record after beating Arizona State 70-49 tonight. I attribute it to me getting a UCLA cap on my head and a beer in my hand. Until about the 4:00 mark in the first half, it looked as if ASU just might make a game of it -- low-scoring and tied. But then Collison hit a couple of threes and they never looked back. Up by 11 at the half and then they turned it loose.

I think after watching a few more games that I'm even more impressed with Kevin Love (17-12 tonight, 17 double-doubles in 29 games). Of course he has to be in great shape just to play at this leve, but he doesn't have all that classically athletic a body. He's not fat but he has a big butt (which is probably not a bad thing for a center). But he really knows how to use his big body, and he's such a pretty passer!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Buckley, RIP

Here's the post I did today for the Register's Orange Punch blog. I met Buckley a few times but not enough to get to know him. I did get to know Bill Rusher fairly well, and he was kind enough to do a blurb for my Ruby Ridge book.

February 27th, 2008 by abock
From Alan Bock
I parted ways with Buckleyite conservatism — too warlike, too inconsistent in support of limited government, on the wrong side of the civil rights movement (not that it didn’t have excesses), too willing to give up liberties in the name of fighting a communism destined to die of its own internal contradictions, too respectful of authority, etc., etc. — in the late 1960s. Nonetheless, I never ceased to have an affectionate place in my heart for Bill Buckley himself, who died this morning at his home in Stamford, CT at the age of 82. His way with words never failed him, and his affection for the language was infectious. He was almost always civil and witty, even as he was slicing and dicing an intellectual opponent. And there’s little doubt that he had an enormous impact on the history of this country and rightfully deserved the sobriquet of godfather of the modern conservative movement. For better and for worse.
From time to time he declared himself to be on the libertarian side of things, and he had some libertarian impulses, as befits somebody influenced in his youth by such giants as the quasi-anarchist essayist and raconteur Albert J. Nock and the brilliantly quirky individualist Frank Chodorov. His intellectual independence shone through from time to time, as in his early understanding that the drug war was unwinnable and socially corrosive, and his realization fairly early on that the Iraq war was a disaster, something the war-addled folks to whom he turned over National Review have yet to come to grips with. I don’t know whether it is a commentary on present-day conservatism or present-day cable news that it is difficult to imagine a program of civil discussion like “Firing Line” from the current batch of angry shouters and rude dealers in the ad hominem that pass for conservative (and most liberal) talkers today.
People talk of his graciousness, and I have no doubt it was usually the case. But his nasty and mean-spirited 1995 obituary of Murry Rothbard, an early ally who made the mistake of being too consistent a champion of individual freedom (if sometimes tactically erratic) was the antithesis of graciousness.
Bill Buckley was not perfect, but he was an accomplished, protean figure who usually had a twinkle in his eye. Condolences to his son Christopher and his brothers and sisters who survive him. RIP.

Lew Rockwell hopeful but worried

Here's Lew Rockwell's latest post on the Ron Paul congressional challenge. He says he hears from people who should know that Ron is a shoo-in, but by nature he's a worrier. Here's a link to the Paul congressional campaign Web site (which gives the updated donation total at $1.037 million). You can donate or volunteer through it if you're so inclined.

Ron Paul's congressional opponent

Ron Paul is back in Texas, defending his congressional seat against a primary challenge from one Chris Peden, a local city councilman whose sterling record in public office consists of trying and failing to have English made the official language of the city (named Friendswood). In January he issued an admiring statement about how he respects Ron Paul for standing by principles even when it's politically difficult. Shortly thereafter he declared against him.

Here's a piece by Tom Woods that goes into some of the background. And here's a piece by a Houston native who says Peden is a consummate opportunist, and he's assisted by a devoted Establishment Republican lady who doesn't even live in the district.

I'm not sure what to make of all this. The word is that Ron shifted his fundraising efforts to the congressional race (he can't use the money raised for the presidential race) and raised some $800,000 in a week or so, compared to Peden's $220,000, $150,000 of which he loaned his campaign from personal funds.

Roger Simon of Pajamas Media has joined exuberantly in the smearbund, and says polls (which must be internal to the Peden campaign because nobody has actually seen them) show Paul trailing Peden 43-32. What's striking to me is that neither Peden nor Simon can come cl,ose to describing Dr. Paul's positions accurately and explaining why they disagree. They just babble on about him being a 9/11 conspiracist (he isn't) and blaming the U.S. for the terrorist attacks.

I'll try to get more up-to-date information, but does anybody else out there know more? Should we be worried?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pakistan before the election

Here's a link to the column I wrote for the Register a day or two before the election in Pakistan. I thought it summed up the situation fairly well. As to the American interest in Pakistan, I wrote that there are two -- making sure that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure and there's little or no danger that terrorists could grab one or gain control of them, and hoping that the resurgent Taliban and al-Qaida forces in the Northwest Provinces can be neutralized or contained. That doesn't require huge subsidies or U.S. troops or trainers. The election results show that jihadists in Pakistan command almost no support among the people, although small bands of determined people can certainly be mightily disruptive.

So over Nader

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on Ralph Nader's decision to run for president as a general aging maverick. In a word -- yawn.

Blogging the debate

I've been blogging the Democratic debate tonight over at the Register's Horserace'08 election blog. Not quite live-blogging, considering the train schedule, but more like Tivo-blogging. Please check it out if you're inclined to see my instant reactions to what the Hillster and Obamamessiah said when they said it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Doing "Webitorials"

The Register has begun putting what we call Webitorials on its Web site -- consisting of having an editorial writer summarize a current editorial he has written on video for a couple of minutes. I've done them recently on the Pakistani election and on Ralph Nader's announcement that he is (sigh!) going to run for president again, further tarnishing his legacy.

Unwarranted surveillance and the Supremes

The Supreme Court has declined a case brought by the ACLU challenging the unwarranted surveillance Pres. Bush began in 2001, in apparent violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to consider requests for warrant to do electronic surveillance of U.S. residents. The Register deplored the court's decision. I talked later with Roger Pilon at the Cato Institute, who has come close to accepting John Yoo's contentions that such surveillance is within the president's authority, and Congress didn't have constitutional authority to limit it by passing the FISA law (that's a minority opinion at Cato). I like and respect Roger, but I respectfully disagree. I think the Fourth Amendment limits both executive and legislative authority to do such unwarranted surveillance. In addition, even if the program is legal, it's bad policy and utterly unnecessary. If this program had really stymied some terrorist plans or led to neutralizing some of them, you can be sure they would have been bragging about it.

Campaign finance absurdities

There's been an interesting flap over whether Obama and McCain will accept only public financing for their general-election campaigns, as they seemed to promise to do last May. They've both been advocates of public (i.s., taxpayer) financing, but Obama especially has found he can raise a whole lot more money through voluntary contributions, and could be at a disadvantage -- or perhaps McCain would have a better shot, since Democrats have raised more money this year --with equal financing. McCain apparently used the implicit promise of taxpayer money into get a bank loan last fall. The absurdities here suggest we should get rid of taxpayer financing of elections. Why it ism considered "cleaner" or more "moral" for politicians to fund their nefarious activities through forced exactions from innocent taxpayers has always been beyond me.

Pakistan: provisional hope

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the recent parliamentary election in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf's party got trounced. Apparently the government understood that getting from 14% (Perv's party's poll standing) to 51% would be difficult and not a bit credible, so it didn't seem to try to fix the election. What's come out clearly since then has been that the Islamist parties lost support -- down to about 4% -- seriously. That demonstrates that the idea of the Islamists taking over Pakistan and getting access to nukes is something of a bogeyman. The U.S. really ought to reduce its presence in (and U.S. taxpayer support of) Pakistan. Don't expect to see serious improvement in Pakistan; some expect Perv to be impeached.

Big change unlikely in Cuba

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on Fidel Castro's decision to formally cede the presidency of Cuba to his younger brother Raul, who has been acting president since July 2006, when Fidel came down with a mysterious abdominal ailment that required surgery. Bottom line: don't expect much change any time soon. But we still should end the embargo.

Interesting chat with Roger Fontaine, who was on the Latin Amerrican desk at the NSC during the Reagan administration. He thinks (doesn't have definitive proof) that the surgery on Fidel was terribly botched, and he got to musing about the fact that dictators and presidents seem to get terrible medical care, though you might think they would get the best available in their societies. Mentioned Hitler and Stalin, FDR and JFK as examples. Is it because doctors tend to be intimidated by people with power? Or that dictators aren't accustomed to following orders, even doctors' orders?

Kosovan independence

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. We expressed some skepticism, noting that Kosovo remains a dependent of NATO. Didn't get nto the KLA's long connection with organized crime; now it will dominate the government. It's not that independence as such is a bad idea, but it's likely to unsettle things in a chronically unsettled part of the world. Russia, traditionally a Serbian ally, is opposed, partially also as a way to poke the West, and especially the U.S., in the eye. The Kosovan provinces along the border have fairly heavy Serbian populations, and could opt to be governed by Serbia if Serbia wants to be provocative. After a few demonstrations things seem to have settled a bit, but serious violence is still possible.

However, the decision in 1999 to bomb Serbia to protect it from Serbian domination (the charges of genocide were a bit overblown, though Serbia under Milosevic was hardly gentle). Once de facto independence, enforced by NATO troops, became the reality on the ground, formal independence was reasonably inevitable. When you intervene and create a dependent, you get yourself drawn into situations that have nothing to do with core interests, and even damage them.


Brought my computer back from sick bay, but it still needs some TLC before it's ready to rumble, so I'm blogging on a borrowed laptop -- which means with my thick fingers I'll probably be doing relatively short posts with links. On to a bit of catching up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Harold Johnson your uncle?

I've been asked by a reader if my old colleague Harold Johnson might be his uncle. Based on the biographical information I've been provided I kinda doubt it, but here's my old colleague's biographical information post at the Pacific Legal Foundation. He graduated from Pomona College, though I'm not sure exactly when, and he did spend a year at Oxford. As far as I know, before getting his law degree (he was going to law school while he worked at the Register), he had only done newspaper work (LA Daily News, Rockt Moutain News) after college. He left the Register 8-10 years ago. I'm thinking he graduated Pomona in the early '80s, but don't hold me to it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

130-124 Lakers!

Pau Gasol was The Man down the stretch, ending up with 29, sometimes fed by Kobe (who had 41). Vujacic made the free throws when the Suns had to foul in the last few seconds. That puts the Lakers in first by virtue of winning the season series. And whether they go all the way this year or not, it looks as if they'll have a dominant team for several years to come.

Lakers-Suns game doesn't disappoint

It's 105-103 Lakers as I start, but that's sure to change before I'm finished. What an exciting game. In fact, the Suns just went up 106-105 with a free throw from Amare Soutemire, who has been exceptional.

Backstory for those who might not know (or care). Kobe Bryant and Shaqille O'Neal won two championships together but they clashed (spoiled immature jocks that they both are, whatever their skills, and finally Shaq was traded to Miami. Since then the Lakers haven't gotten deep into the playoffs, with the Phoenix Suns, led by runnin' gunnin' Steve Nash and perhaps the most exciting team in thre NBA to watch being their nemesis. It got so bad that last summer Kobe was saying he wanted to be traded unless the Lakers made a big trade move. Meantime the Suns haven't been able to get past Dallas or San Antonio to get to the championship round.

Anyway, the Lakers have been better than expected this year, with young Andrew Bynum coming into his own (he's injured now). Then a couple of weeks ago the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, an exceptional 7-footer, and have gone 6-1 since acquiring him. Then the Suns traded for Shaq, who wouldn't seem to fit with such a fast-break-oriented team, but still can play and brings somethjing special when he's motivated. In fact, he's had the last 8 Suns points, and LA leads just 117-115 with 3:30 to go.

Naturally the Suns started the night one game ahead of the Lakers in the division. And both teams have played with enormous intensity. Fun to watch, which I'm going to do now for the last couple of clock minutes. Still 117-115.

Eclipse: Wow!!

Even though it has been drizzly and misty most of the day in Southern California, it was remarkably clear when it came time for the eclipse of the moon. It was spectacular! I saw it first from the bus on the way home, just coming out of the full eclipse with just a sliver of light on the upper right. By the time Jen and I were heading home from the bus stop it had started to turn a little orange, and didn't look like the moon at all but almost like a big balloon in the sky. We lso watched it for a while from the kitchen window at the house. What a beautiful phenomenon!

Back at the old stand

Did anybody miss me? I mentioned problems with the home computer in a sideways fashion earlier, and it turned out to be serious. The poor, sick thing is now in the Geek Squad infirmary, but I'm bringing the work computer home tonight so I'll try to catch up with things missed in the meantime.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On Ron Paul

Here's a link to the editorial the Register ran on Ron Paul recently. The Register doesn't endorse, but does write editorials when candidates come to visit. Ron hasn't made it to the Register for an editorial board yet (and who knows if he will now that the California primary is over; however there is still money he could raise with appearances in the state). He did get to the Freedom paper in Colorado Springs, however, and they did an editorial. We sometimes reprint theirs, as they do ours.

I keep promising myself I'll tabulate how Ron did on Tuesday, but haven't had time. Anybody know of a site out there that has done it? I'm sure there must be one.

As I was saying ...

. . . or writing, actually, before I was rudely interrupted by a computer (mine) going a little haywire (my tech savvy is such that my wife had to look it over and run the virus-catching program) last night, I put several items on the Register's Eye on on the Empire blog yesterday, about Gates declining to estimate closely how much the Iraq war might cost next year, the CIA admitting publicly that it waterboarded 3 al-Qaida detainees in 2002 and 2003 and more. Didn't have time to do it today because of Romney's CPAC speech withdrawing from the GOP presidential race, about which I had to write an editorial for tomorrow. Then one on waterboarding for Sunday. I like busy days, but there's so much out there that seems to invite comment just now and only so much time in a day.

Romney struck me as a businessman deciding to cut his losses. I'd be surprised if he doesn't have 2012 in mind, but I have no inside information. I was fascinated (though TV might not have given a fully accurate picture) at how this crowd of supposedly hard-core conservatives rolled over for McCain. My old colleague Harold Johnson used to say that Republicans love to "touch the purple." So if McCain is it, they'll prostrate themselves before power. Or even the prospect of power. It's not the monetary corruption that ruins a movement but the intellectual corruption. The leader-worship is almost Stalinesque.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Blogging the election

I had the assignment last night of blogging the Super Tuesday election for the Register's Horserace'08 blog, which you can see here if you're interested in my thoughts at the time, as well as a few morning-after ruminations. Briefly, Huckabee surprised me, and he may have sunk Romney. I don't know what the Huckster is auditioning for, but I hope he gets it and it pays well and he is never tempted to run for president again. It's not quite a done deal, but McCain is looking pretty inevitable.

It's intriguing on the Democratic side. I think I agree with Howie Kurtz at the WaPo that the TV "analysts" were too fascinated with Barack to give Hillary her due, at least until she won California (she'll only get 20 or 30 more delegates than Barack but it was still an impressive win, and made fools of Zogby and some other polling organizations. On the Republican side, because the GOP awarded 3 delegates foir each congressional district won whereas the Dems split them proportionally, McCain is slated -- subject to revision as some absentee ballot were still being counted today -- to get all but 6 of the 159 delegates chosen through CDs.).

I haven't finished tabulating Ron Paul's numbers, but although I saw some high teens and I think even a 21% in one of the caucus states, and he now has 10 delegates, I thought they were disappointing. Perhaps it's inevitable as the media focus (understandably and justifiably at this stage) on the frontrunners, but I would love to see him start scoring at least in the 'teens regularly. Even though the pundits and pollsters say the war is a secondary issue with voters now, I'd like to see him focus more intently there; it's his unique selling proposition, as the marketers used to put it, and it's frustrating to see Republicans who say they're antiwar voting for McCain the uber hawk. It will be difficult, but if he scores respectably in primaries to come there's just an outside chance that a GOP I think is destined to lose big in November will take his positions into account as it struggles to rebuild.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Kenya tribalism keeps violence going

Unfortunately, the Register's editorial last week on the mostly tribal-inspired violence in Kenya is still relevant. We lament that the most primitive of self-identification, tribalism, still has such power -- and it's hardly confined to Kenya. Plenty of U.S. politicians and movements encourage tribal-like feelings among Americans. How to encourage more people to see themselves primnarily as free individuals, with their tribe, ethnicity, etc. interesting facts but not necessarily dispositive?

Aside from one statement early on, Barack Obama has said little or nothing about Kenya. His father was a member of the Luo tribe, the tribe that has considered itself dissed by the Kikuyu, who have held political and business power since independence and before. He strikes me as being close to an individual first, his heritage and experience being so mixed, but I wonder if the violence is affecting him and what he thinks about it.

Reasons for caution in Iraq

Here's a link to the Register's editorial today critiquing Bush's characterization of the situation in Iraq in his State of the Union message. We conceded the decline in violence and reasons to feel more optimistic than in past years, but noted several potential problems.

The "Anbar Awakening" preceded the surge and could be transient, especially if the Sunni militias fighting al-Qaida and patrolling meighborhoods aren't integrated somehow in the Shia-dominated national government's security forces. Muqtada al-Sadr is getting pressure to end the cease-fire he imposed on his Mahdi Army last summer. And the Iraqi government has taken maybe 3 of the 18 steps defined as essential benchmarks a year or more ago. Even the de-Baathification program looks like less than meets the eye.

I ran across a WaPo piece today that suggests other reasons to be pessimistic. According to Thomas Ricks, Army commanders in Iraq see three wars going on or worth worrying about. One against al-Qaida in Iraq, two against the domestic Sunni insurgency, and "the third conflict, and perhaps the most vexing for U.S. commanders, is with Shiite extremist militias. All three enemies adapt quickly to changed U.S. tactics, finding ways to adapt and keep stirring things up, as by switching from car bombs to suicide bombers when better cvheckpoints made car bombs less easy to detonate.

It's hard enough to win against one insurgency when you're a foreign occupying power. Handling three at once won't be easy.

The Improbable Sen. McCain

Here's a link to the piece I wrote for Sunday's Register Commentary section on John McCain. Perhaps I'm fooling myself, but I somehow have the feeling that he might not be as inevitable now as I thought when I wrote it and as all the pundits seem to think. I think there's a chance Romney could realistically stay in the race after tomorrow -- not that he's any great prize. My utopian scenario might be that Ron Paul would start beating Huckabee (as he did in the Maine caucuses Saturday, pulling 19 percent to Huckabee's 6), but he was the only one besides Romney-and-surrogates who even went to Maine; the others conceded it to Romney -- neighboring state and all) and begin to approach the Romney-McCain numbers and establish his supporters as people whose views must be considered. What I'm afraid of is that with the media focusing on the two frontrunners so intently, people who might have considered voting for Paul will start thinking of it as a "wasted vote."

Hmmm. Maybe it would be better for McCain to clinch it tomorrow. Perhaps then more potential Paul supporters would actually vote for him if they considered the issue decided already.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

NFL spoils church parties

This to me is a real desk-pounder and, perhaps worse, strikes me as pretty stupid. The National Football League is cracking down on churches who have Super Bowl parties -- at least those that are too big or are shown on too big a screen. Seems some genius in the league office decided it was time to cracks down on that "for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast, or any pictures ... is prohibited" clause.

Our church used to have Super Bowl parties in the parish hall, mainly for the fellowship. Apparently it's become quite popular with churches, which find them fun and a way to get teenagers and others who might be on the cusp of being churchgoers to set foot on a church property and maybe figure it might not be too bad to return for a service. But the NFL bans "public exhibitions" of games on screens larger than 55 inches (with an exemption for sports bars), and with larger congregations large screens are often part of the facilities already, for projecting words of hymns and such. Last year the NFL went after a church in Indianapolis, so this year lots of churches have gotten the word.

I think it's a really stupid thing for the NFL to do, potentially alienating people rather than protecting the franchise. Anyone else have an opinion?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Romney Ed Board

Here's a link to the Register's editorial that came from the brief 20-minute conversation the Register editorial board had with Mitt Romney on Thursday. It's not as easy to judge somebody over the phone as it is face-to-face. When I did that much earlier this year with a question about Iraq based on what he thought was a misrepresentation of his position -- it was a disagreement about facts -- he got quite huffy. In the phone conversation he was gracious and responsive -- though we couldn't bait him into saying anything negative about John McCain's fabled temperament. He did have some other criticisms though.

If he didn't look so transparent in the desire to be all things to all people, or whatever he thinks it will take to get elected, or whatever, I might like him better. He is bright, he certainly has been successful in business and there's little doubt that he was the key to pulling off the Salt Lake Olympics after a scandal-ridden and disorganized beginning. And maybe he's been a conservative all along but ony played a liberal to get elected governor in Massachusetts. Or maybe he has few deep convictions. I just don't know.