Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ron Paul doing fine

Having dispensed all that realism in the previous post, I shopuld mention that despite not having as much opportunity to talk as he should have been given, Ron Paul did fine with the few opportunities that were afforded him. He is much more polished than last May, when the first GOP debate occurred. I was proud that he is still forthright on the war and roeign policy, because I believe the sentiment that the United States shoold rethink being policeman of the world is fairly widespread among thoughtful Americans, including many who don't think of themselves as libertarian and aren't. Just his being in the race and making the case for a non-interventionist foreign policy will pay dividends in policy in years to come, I believe. As the Iraq war winds down (it has to some day, doesn't it?) people should be ready to think seriously about the kinds of assumptions about the U.S. role in the world that got us into that mess. One consequence of Ron Paul running and becoming the phenomenon his campaign has made him, is that a non-interventionist approach is more likely to receive serious discussion.

I had a chance to talk with Dr. Paul briefly, as I did in New Hampshire (he's the only candidate who ventured into the Spin Room himself; the others all sent surrogates). He was mobbed by reportgers and did several TV interviews, though I couldn't tell with whom; might have been foreign. We did a brief interview that should be on the Register Web site tomorrow, so I'll link to it when it goes up. He is in very good spirits and plans to see the campaign through to the end. He hasn't had as grueling a schedule as some candidates, but it has been very demanding; he seems to be holding up well.

Blogging the GOP

I covered the GOP debate or panel discussion or whatever it was in Simi Valley last night, including the Giuliani endorsement of McCain, which took place in the Spin room at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. I live-blogged it for the Register's Horserace'08 blog, so if you want to see the impressions I had while it was going on, you can go here. (You'll have to scroll down a bit, though I would note that the entries above the debate blogging, hardly any by me, are worth reading.) But after a day I do have a few overall impressions.

Let's face it, McCain has become the frontrunner, though Romney could still take it, especially if he's willing to dip further into his childrens' inheritance (he told our editorial board on a phone interview this morning that he's authorized a "seven figure" ad buy in the Feb. 5 states, but wouldn't be more specific than that). Huckabee has proved to have little appeal beyond evangelical Christians. I'm pleased as punch that Ron Paul is one of the Final Four, and I hope and believe he will stay in it through the convention, because he's saying important things that I believe will resonate and have the potential to change the country for the better beyond this election, but so far the lightning he would need hasn't struck.

Dave Boaz at Cato has written extensively about political science studies that estimate that anywhere from about 8 to 20 percent of American voters could be described as roughly libertarian if you use a fairly inclusionary definition. He also notes that under the Bush administration many of those libertarian-inclined voters have moved toward the Democrats, and even argues that libertarian-inclined voters, especially those frustrated about the war but also about civil liberties and Bush's big-government, big-spending approach, played a key role in the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006.

That means that quite a few such voters (some of whom don't self-identify as libertarians), are fed up with the Republican Party, so even though independents have been able to vote in some GOP primaries, like New Hampshire, Ron Paul has to appeal to residual libertarian sentiment among those willing to vote as Republicans. I can't cite the exact poll, but something like 70-plus percent of self-identified Republicans still support Bush and his policies, which is why all the candidates except Dr. Paul, while not invoking Bush as a model (to put it mildly; they don't mention his name), have been reluctant to criticize him directly.

What Ron Paul has accomplished in intensity of support and fundraising, is remarkable and gives me great hope for the future of this country. But if the percentage of the electorate likely to respond to his views is 20 percent in all parties, the odds don't favor him winning many GOP primaries. I'm not yet willing to say it's impossible, but the odds are long, especially when the dominant media of almost every stripe treat him as marginal or ignore him (that's improving, but consider how few questions he or Huckabee got now that the pundits are focusing on two frontrunners; I didn't think it was fair, but I can see the rationale).

I thought Romney would have to do something dramatic to overcome McCain's perceived status as frontrunner. I think he tried, and did well in dealing with the obvious McCain misrepresentation on a timetable for troop withdrawal -- sad to say, he's almost as bellicose as McCain. But I don't think he did enough. It's possible to overstate the importance of the debates since they're not all that widely watched, but those who pay some attention can get impressions, even from inadequate news stories. I thought I saw McCain visibly control himself to make sure his famous temper didn't spill over on national television, but he did control himself and landed a few blows of his own. I'm afraid he's looking inevitable -- though it's worth remembering that Hillary was seen as even more inevitable not so long ago.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blogging from Reagan Library

I'm at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, for the final GOP debate before SuperDuper Tuesday. My main assignment here is to write posts for the Register's Horserace'08 blog, and I will be live-blogging the debate there when it begins at 5:00. (Might have time for a post or two here, but probably not until afterward.)

Was in the Spin Room (they don't bother to put quote marks around the term any more, it has become so institutionalized) a few minutes ago when Rudy Giuliani announced he was withdrawing and supporting John McCain. He was gracious, of course, calling McCain a hero whose life of service had prepared him to meet the challenges of the time, etc., etc. I couldn't tell for sure if he was bitter or somewhat relieved. McCain vowed to unite the party and the country and defeat Islamic terrorism. If it hadn't been for all the cameras and media people with notebooks, and little cameras, the testosterone in the room would probably have been palpable

Monday, January 28, 2008

Off to Simi Valley

On Wednesday I'll be headed to Simi Valley, the Reagan Library, for the final GOP candidates' debate before the SuperDuper Tuesday primary Feb. 5. I'll be blogging for the Register's Horserace'08 blog, and I should be able to get a few items posted in this blog as well. I went to the first GOP forum at the Reagan Library back in March or April, and of course to the debates in New Hampshire. The advantage of going in person is the opportunity to listen to the candidates' spokespeople in the Spin Room afterward (Jazmine Graza, one of our interns, will go also to shoot video for the Register, and I might give a digital audio recorder another try after failing with it in New Hampshire). Steve Greenhut from the opinion pages will be covering the Democratic debate on Thursday, though I'll probably watch and have a few comments as well.

Obama wins in South Carolina

Here's the post I did for the Registers Horserace'08 blog on Saturday night after Barack Obama trounced Hillary Clinton, getting an absolute majority. I also have to say that listening to his victory speech almost made me appreciate Obama as an orator, which quite frankly had eluded me until then. But his speech had a cadence and rythm, a sense of when to pause and when to continue, that almost made one believe that this was the guy to bring about change (although the nature of the change was still kinda vague.

Andrew Sullivan, who confesses that he's rather enchanted with Barack, wrote that he had listened to dozens of Obama speeches, and this was the best he's heard. Well, maybe that's it, I found myself somewhat impressed by the best. But still only somewhat impressed. I think most pundits have pretty low standards for public speaking. Barack is good, but he's not that good.

I do think it's interesting that Ted Kennedy has endorsed Obama, along with Caroline. It suggests sttrongly that plenty of Democrats are fed up with Billary, and that there is a Democratic tradition that preceded the Clintons that they'd like to preserve. Fascinating that so many Demcrats and liberals are letting loose on the Clintons (Frank Rich at the NYT is almost apoplectic, though that's hardly untypical) now that they've seen Bubba exercising his campaign skills on a Democrat instead of on Republicans

More immunity for feds

Here's the Register's editorial on the Supreme Court decision last week that extended (as I read the law, the majority of justices obviously disagreed) the range of federal employees who are immune from lawsuits for their misconduct and/or crimes done as part of their duties. The case involved a Muslim in federal prison who was transferred from one facility to another, and when his belongings arrived he discovered his religious items, including two copies of the Quran, were missing. He sued.

The high court chose to interpret a 1946 law whose main purpose was to open government employees to liability, to make the thieves who stole his stuff immune from lawsuits. The old law had some exceptions, including customs officers who misplaced stuff they were inspecting or had confiscated, but included the phrase "any other federal law enforcement officer." I would read that as any law enforcement officer who was performing customs-related duties at the time, but the court said it applied to "any" law enforcement officer, in effect giving all of them blanket protection from lawsuits for misconduct. Outrageous!

If it were up to me, of course, no government employee or official would be immune from liability for actions performed under color of authority. Nor would there be such a concept as "sovereign immunity," which protects the government itself from lawsuits. If personal responsibility is desirable, and I believe it is, everybody in society should be personally responsible for their actions, especially those who work for the instrument of coercion and are constantly subject to the temptation to abuse their authority.

Register rates the candidates

The Register does not endorse candidates, as is explained at some length in the introduction. But we do pay attention to candidates and hold them up against a libertarian worldview. As you might suppose, few get much of a seal of approval, except for Ron Paul. But I thought the measuring the candidates feature Sunday, to which all three of us editorial writers contributed, was pretty good, in that it offered readers a fairly good glimpse at the presidential candidates, outlined some of their most important views (which sometimes weren't all that easy to find amid all the campaign verbiage), and explained succinctly but civilly where we agreed and disagreed with them. Commen6ts welcome, on the Register site or here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Carl Karcher remembered

Before he had business reverses and then got sick, Carl Karcher, founder of the Carl's Jr. fast-food chain, was a fixture at social, philanthropic and political events in Orange County. He was always outgoing and cheerful, with a booming voice and a manner that made you think he was really happy to see you again. And his hot-dog-stand-to-international-chain story was a classic American Dream story. Here's how the Register remembered him after he died at 90.

Martin Luther King remembered

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the Monday celebrated as Martin Luther King Day, which managed to get itself into the presidential race.

Hair of the economic dog that bit you

It looks as if we'll get some kind of economic "stimulus" program from Washington. The effect few are considering is that even if it softens recessionary blows a bit, it will postpone the time when the economy corrects itself from the housing bubble, and perhaps introduce new distortions into the marketplace. Let's see, now. I'm far from the only one to note that the housing bubble was fed by loose-money policies at the Fed, creating a moral hazard few could resist. So it's going to be fixed by making the money even looser? Sure. That'll work.

Here's how the Register viewed things yesterday, hoping beyond hope that Congress and the president wouldn't be able to get together on a package.

More border stupidity

The Homeland Security Agency has shown its arrogance by announcing it will require passports or other more extensive ID for both Americans and Canadians along the Canadian border. This is in spite of Congress passing legislation to postpone the move a few years because it will cause disruption, cost money, and it's unclear whether the passport office can handle the demand that will be created for new passports. The Register deplored it. I don't know yet if Congress will do anything to stop it (Schumer and others are dismayed). It just came out in a court case how skilfully jihadist sympathizers are using the Web to make contacts and plan stuff, making traditional controls like ID tightening at the border somewhat superfluous. It's been 6 years and they still haven't done much that indicates a real understanding of how al-Qaida and its sympathizers and satellites operate.

UCLA football could be great

A commenter noted that UCLA is looking as if it has good potential as a football school, with Rick Neuheisel as head coach. And he talked DeWayne Walker into staying as defensive coordinator and got Norm Chow (!) as offensive coordinator. I haven't yet allowed myself to consider the possibilities too heavily for fear of hurting myself in the excitement. It often takes a new coach a year or two to establish himself, but I can see the Bruins being pretty formidable this year. They had some good games last year but had a tendency to play to the level of the competition and lost games they should have won. I don't think Neuheisel/Walker/Chow will let that happen very often.

A gutcheck game

That kind of game is why I still like watching college sports. Having lost (and fallen apart at the end) to USC Saturday, the Bruins had to travel to Oregon to play a very good team. For a while there late in the second half I didn't think they were going to get it done (down by 7). MacArthur Court is a tough place for a road team and the Ducks were playing well. And M'Bah a' Moute and Mata-Real were out with concussions. Kevin Love, traveling home (he grew up in Oregon) to shouts of "traitor" from the crowd took over the game (26 points, 18 boards) and Darren Collison had a career-high 22, 6 assists, 1 turnover. Keefe, Aboya and Dragovic didn't score much but they played good D. A classic statement game.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

De-Baathification -- or not

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the Iraqi government's revision of the de-Baathfication edict handed down by then US Proconsul J. Paul Bremer in 2003, which forbade present or former members of Saddam's Ba'ath Party in the top four levels (of six) from holding any Iraqi government position. The decree threw a lot of midlevel bureaucrats who knew something about the infrastructure out of work and a lot of armed men with a greivance and no visible means of support into the arms of the insurgency.

(Did I ever tell you what a retired diplomat of my acquaintance said when Bremer was appointed to head the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003? "Ah, Jerry Bremer. He's almost as smart as he thinks he is.")

Anyway, the more I looked into this revision of the law, which was supposed to increase the number of former Ba'athists (generally Sunni) able to apply for government jobs and thus be a step toward reconciliation, the less reconciliatory it looks. If I get the fine print right, it prevents these former Ba'athists from being in the security forces, which could throw the whole Anbar American strategy of integrating those Sunni anti-al-Qaida fighters into a truly national military and police force, into a tailspin.

Race and identity politics

Here's a link to the piece I did for the Register's Sunday Commentary section on the unwelcome but probably inevitable entrance of race and identity politics into the Democratic presidential contest. The more I think about it, the more I think it was a calculated move by the Clintons. Hillary and Obama played lovey-dovey in Las Vegas, but their competitive spirit and obvious dislike for one another came through. I'm sure it's more an entitlement thing than anything remotely resembling a racial thing with the Clintons, but they'll use whatever they think will work.

UCLA loses -- to USC!!

None of the USC graduates who work in our office took me up on my offer to put a little money on the UCLA-USC basketball game, even though I explained that USC had a talented team that was taking a while to put things together and would be very good once they did. Well, they put it together Saturday night -- or UCLA played complacently, figuring they could put together a run at the end, as they had done several times this year. I can't figure out which. Anyway, USC won and did so rather decisively, and congratulations to them.

I don't live and die with sports exactly, but I didn't take that loss well. I'm preferring to think it will be a reminder that they aren't invulnerable, giving them motivation to come out with more intensity and discipline for many games to come. But we'll see, won't we?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bush's Middle East futility

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on Bush's silly trip to the Middle East. It's almost a cliche by now that an outgoing U.S. president has to take one last stab at settling the Israel-Palestine situation before leaving office. I doubt Bush even comprehends it but the trip neatly highlights how disastrously the Iraq invasion has turned out. It enhanced Iran's status as a regional power and emboldened the Ahmadinejads of this world, so now he has to try to cobble together an anti-Iran coalition of countries who have lost (if they ever had) all confidence in U.S. leadership. Pathetic.

Too little too late in Afghanistan

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the decision to send 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan. It at least reflects some understanding that the locus of al-Qaida regeneration is in Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than in Iraq, and things aren't going well for the U.S. It's likely to be too little too late -- and of course no official would consider one effective way to undermine the Taliban: decriminalizing opium and its derivatives. Ah, well!

Ron Paul a closet racist?

This may take several posts as there are different aspects to the question, but the short answer is surely no. Valid questions can be raised about his judgment, his due diligence, and perhaps his strategic thinking. But there's no evidence beyond some over-the-edge slurs (in my view) in some newsletters published over five years or so (out of 30 during which Dr. Paul published newsletters). I've done some blogging on this over at the Register's "Horserace '08" blog, and I have more I want to say, probably tomorrow.

To refresh, if you haven't been following. Jamie Kirchick at the New Republic posted a piece Jan. 8 quoting old Ron Paul newsletters that had some veering-on-racist comments and at least insenstive anti-gay stuff as well. I was too busy to read the piece until yesterday. I have little doubt the quotes are genuine, though some could use more context. The question is who wrote them and how much supervision Ron exercised over material that was going out over his name and was a source of revenue at a time when he was practicing medicine, trying to make sure his five kids had a good start in life, and in the last couple of years considering a political comeback. Reason has done a good piece and Jacob Sullum has written a good column.

The short version is that after Dr. Paul's poor showing as the LP candidate in 1988, Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard started developing an approach to advancing liberty they dubbed "paleolibertarianism," combining anti-statism and conservative cultural values (family, religion, respect for tradition, impatience with weirdos, hippies, disturbers of the peace). It was conceived as an outreach to the restless right. It got tied to Pat Buchanan for a while, the divorce coming as Pat moved increasingly toward "economic nationalism." It's likely though not nailed down that Lew wrote much of the stuff in question, in an effort to talk the language of the target audience. It wasn't the craziest thing libertarians have done to try to reach out to other groups with which they share some values or affinities, but it didn't pan out that well.

Several people have noted that in 35 years of public life nobody has reported hearing even faintly racist remarks drop from Ron Paul's lips. My contact with Ron Paul has been sporadic over the years, but it began when he was first elected to Congress, I was living in DC, and was assigned by Conservative Digest magazine (long defunct) to do a profile of him. He strikes me as an individualist to the core, who sincerely believes, as he told Wolf Blitzer that it's impossible to be a libertarian racist, because he judges people as individuals and understands that a free society will function best when most people do so as well. As Ayn Rand put it (paraphrasing), racism is the lowest form of collectivism. And I've never heard anything faintly racist come from his mouth.

Anyway, I don't think Dr. Paul or the campaign have dealt adequately with this issue yet. It was a hit piece that tells us something ugly about how Marty Peretz views libertarians, but there was enough "there" there to warrant enough details to put the issue to rest.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pleading for some substance

Here's a link to the article I did last week for, deploring the fact that the war has receded to such an extent as a live issue in the presidential campaign. I'm frankly not sure just what to do about it. The Democrats seem to get all they need on the issue by criticizing the war and Bush and not going into much detail beyond that. And the Republlicans (except for Ron Paul, of course) vie to top one another in bellicosity. They need an incentive to do much more than that, but the political landscape has tilted toward domestic concerns.

Plus ca change!

Here's a link to the piece I did for the Register's Sunday Commentary section yesterday on the mantra of change in the presidential marathon. I hope I got a little deeper than simply deploring the use of an essentially empty slogan, given that change means little without a hinto or two as to what direction the proposed change is going. I discuss Andrew Sullivan's thought-provoking article in the December Atlantic, but conclude it's a bit pollyannish. The interests that control the two parties are still dominant, although we may be in a transition to different issues than those that have fascinated the baby boomers. But when it comes to real change, it will come from the private and independent sectors, and the politicians will deplore it or take credit for it, depending on their disposition (or how it affects their most cherished interest groups).

Political violence in Kenya

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the recent political violence in Kenya. It is to some extent true that there's an ethnic/tribal aspect to the violence in that mostly members of the long-dominant Kikuyu tribe have been targeted, but it is more accurate to call it political violence. What one article I read call "political entrepreneurs" are often skilled at stirring up identity crises and identity politics among people who have lived side by side and, as in Kenya, intermarried without uncommon tension. But when somebody wants to hang onto or seize political power (by democratic means in Kenya) they stir up latent identity/tribal feelings. It's happened recently in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, former Czechoslovakia, Iraq, Pakistan and too many otherplaces to count. I'm not saying that without the struggle for state power different races and ethnic groups would get along without any tension, but the friction would be notably less.
Whenever I don't blog for a little while it's usually because things are so busy in a good way that it's tough to find the time. So be happy for me.

And be happy that Canada's federal courts are protecting the rights of medical marijuana users. A federal court just ruled that the Canadian government's policy of having the federal government be the only legal supplier to more than one patient at a time deserved to be struck down. The federal government's policy has been that patients could grow their own or have somebody else do it, but nobody could be the grower/supplier for more than one patient. The court says that policy was arbitrary and unconstitutional (not sure on what grounds. I hadn't seen coverage of this story (I could have missed it over the weekend) south of the border in what Dick Cowan likes to call DEALand.

In some ways Canada is ahead of the United States in recognizing on a countrywide basis the value of madical cannabis, but their otherwise enlightened policies have been stymied by the government's Nanny-State instincts. The government is acting as if it believes patients are running grave risks using a substance that has not killed anyone, so they need tight supervision by enlightened bureaucrats who are only doing it for their own good. Fortunately, the courts are allowing challenges to such nonsense.

Below the level of the Supreme Court, which seems to be still in thrall to the War on Drugs and has made two particularly boneheaded decisions on medical cannabis, both state and federal courts are open to well-crafted challenges to arbitrary restrictions on patients in states with medical marijuana laws, so all is not lost here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why in South Carolina?

I have to admit that I haven't heard the official explanation yet to the obvious question. Why was Ron Paul excluded from the Fox-sponsored Republican debate (OK, they called it a "forum") in New Hampshire on Sunday but included in the Fox-sponsored Republican debate in South Carolina tonight? Did they get enough complaints that they decided to change their policy? The idea that he did well enough in New Hampshire to warrant inclusion along with Thompson, who came in at 1 percent, doesn't really wash given that he got 10 percent in Iowa and only 8 percent in New Hampshire.

The only explanation that makes sense to me is that they feared he might make a breakthrough in the "Live Free or Die" state and wanted to do whatever little bit might be in their power to prevent that from happening, but they figured he wasn't going to do all that well in South Carolina anyway, and perhaps exposing his views to more South Caolinians might actually hurt him (he came in last in Frank Luntz's focus group). As it happened, Ron Paul would probably have done quite well in the somewhat more relaxed (almost chummy) environment Chris Wallace provided in New Hampshire, but I have my doubts whether that one event would have helped him all that much (the foofaraw over the exclusion might have helped him). As Ron's New Hampshire office manager told me election night, he did almost exactly what the pollsters said he would do, as did almost all the other GOP candidates.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Keep it going

Here's a link to the Register's final pre-New Hampshire editorial, hoping the election isn't resolved too quickly so there can be a more extensive debate/discussion on the future of the country. I have a love/hate relationship with electoral politics (I don't participate myself except as an observer/commentator), and I ordinarily consider politics grubby and undesirable. But things may be a little different this year. I hope the major parties' choices are not resolved too early.

Hope in New Hampshire

A couple of aspects of my trip to New Hampshire have given me some hope for the future. The first was spending time at the Free State Project's Liberty Forum over the weekend. The Free State Project has urged libertarian-minded individuals to move to New Hampshire to have a long-term impact on the state's already independence-minded political climate. The numbers to date -- a bit more than 500 officially registered, though there are probably a few hundred more who haven't registered-- aren't as impressive as one might like, but they're growing steadily and the level of enthusiasm and activism is almost breathtaking.

These people really think they have the key to freedom in their lifetime and they're willing to work hard for it. There were about 350 registered attendees and some 20 exhibitors, from gun rights advocates to constitutionalists to the Fully Informed Jury Association to drug law reformers. Attendance for Ron Paul's speech Sunday (go here for a longer summary) was around 700 vocally enthusiastic freedom lovers. I talked to some of Ron Paul's campaign staffers later, and they said he was just blown away by the response.

The second was my visit last night to Ron Paul's state headquarters in Concord. People manned (personned?) the 35 or so phones constantly and groups were sent out to canvass in person, even on the night before the election. There were hordes of mostly young people there, from Texas, California, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, all eager to help. The most common phrase I heard was "what can I do next?" I don't know where all that enthusiasm will go if Ron doesn't get the nomination, but it's bound to have an impact throughout the country.

Need answers on CIA tape destruction

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the Justice Department's decision to convert the inquiry into the destruction of videotapes of the interrogations of two al-Qaida suspects into a criminal inquiry. That doesn't necessarily mean indictments will be forthcoming, but at least they brought a purportedly independent federal prosecutor from Connectict into the case rather than leaving it to the Northern Virginia prosecutors who deal with other CIA-related cases. I hope Congress continues to investigate the situation aggressively (though the fact the Justice Department is doing so also could create complications). I suspect strongly that the CIA destroyed the tapes because it didn't want such tangible evidence of torture, which suggests a guilty conscience, but we may never know for sure. The important thing is for us to learn as much as possible about what the government is doing with our money and in our name.

More substance, please

Here's a link to the Register's editorial Sunday in anticipation of the coming primaries, calling for more substance from candidates. It begins a theme I suspect we'll develop further as the weeks go on, that in the wake of the disastrous Bush presidency both major parties are engaged in a messy and sometimes confusing process of rethinking and perhaps reconstituting themselves. The Democrats' New Deal coalition fell apart in the Reagan era, though Clinton was able to succed by trangulating. The Republicans' Reagan coalition is in trouble and there's no new Reagan on the horizon, leaving many Republican voters disrpirited.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Links to Ron Paul's New Hampshire Town Hall

Here are links to Ron Paul's Town Hall meeting, broadcast on New Hampshire public-access TV this evening.

Here's Part 1.

And here's Part 2.

It was especially interesting to me that Barry Goldwater Jr. (who looks more and more like his old man as he gets older) is traveling with Ron Paul, saying he was getting tired of all the Republican candidates saying they were Goldwater conservatives, when the closest thing to a genuine Goldwater Republican in the race is Ron Paul (with whom he served in Congress in the 1970s). He appears early in Part 2.

The race is on

Here's a link to the piece I did for the Register's Sunday Commentary section today on the presidential race. On the Democratic side, in the wake of Iowa Hillary is looking much less inevitable, while Huckabee's win has put the Republican race into a certain amount of confusion, although Giuliani's strategy of focusing on Florida and beyond just might work. Having been in New Hampshire for a couple of days, I expect Obama to win here, and McCain on the Republican side. I expect Ron Paul to do better here than the 10 percent he pulled in Iowa, but the race is really up in the air. Local TV stations report that their polls show 39 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans are either undecided or open to changing their minds between now and Tuesday. Plus 40 percent of New Hampshire voters are registered Independent and they can vote in either primary.

Ron Paul on Jay Leno Monday night

I learned today from Kent Snyder, one of Ron Paul's national campaign coordinators, that Ron Paul will be on Jay Leno Monday night, the night before the New Hampshire primary. Hey, it worked for Huckabee in Iowa, when a number of pundits predicted it would hurt him. Of course, Ron isn't the frontrunner in New Hampshire, as Huckabee was in Iowa. In fact, the polls are all over the place, with Paul getting anywhere from 6 to 11 percent in various polls (as of today). It does look as if he'll beat Thompson.

Kent also told me that their phone canvassing -- trends based on hundreds and hundreds of phone calls over several days -- that they're finding voters wrestling between whether to support Paul or Obama, or Paul or Huckabee, or Paul or (of all people!) Giuliani.

Having a great time in New Hampshire

I've been in New Hampshire since Friday night, and I've been having a great time. I attended parts of the Free State Project's Liberty Forum, and was impressed with the incredible enthusiasm of these libertarian-minded people who have decided to move to New Hampshire to influence the political climate of the state. I also attended the ABC News/Facebook debates at Saint Anselm College Saturday night and blogged real-time incessantly throughout the debates. Went to Ron Paul's speech at the Free State Project today, which got an incredibly enthusiastic response.

I'll put up a few more posts on specific aspects of my trip, but if you want a fairly complete picture, go to the Register's Horserace'08 blog. Be sure to hit the "more" button if you want to see all the posts. I've been a busy boy!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Franking abuse

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on abuse of the franking privilege -- Congresscritters being able to send mail out with their signature instead of paying for a stamp. In the election year of 2006 they nicked the taxpayers for $20.3 million for mostly blatantly self-promotional material. There are rules against blatant "vote for me" mailings, but they aren't strict enough. This built-in advantage for incumbents is yet one more reason campaign finance regulations are ill-advised. Maybe they should mhave to personally sign mass mailings instead of having their signature printed. That would be fun.

Pakistan digging out

Here's a link to the Register's editorial this week on the rioting in Pakistan that finally has seemed to settle down a little in the wake of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Poor Pakistan, which some have called an essentially ungovernable country (not necessarily a bad thing, but in Pakistan's case it is). The significant U.S. interest is that Pakistan's nuclear weapons remain secure. It has been reported that U.S. special forces are standing by to grab Pakistan's nukes in the event the government falls or a civil war erupts. Not a bad use of those forces, though opne naturally hopes they won't be needed for that mission.

Link to Horserace'08

Here's the link I neglected to put into my previous post to the Register's Horserace '08 blog, where I'll be posting observations on New Hampshire in general and the Saturday night debate. The blog also features writers from around the Freedom chain, as well as Tibor Machan. We're also excited the Lew Rockwell has agreed to write an occasional post for us. He (and his contributors) are about as closely attuned to the Ron Paul campaign and background to the movement as almost anyone.

Iowa reactions

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the Iowa caucuses. I'll warrant we were almost the only outlet to note that this demonstrated (as often happens in real-life politics) that money is not always decisive in politics, as those who want the government to keep regulating campaign contributions would like us to think. It also noted that Iowa voters (or caucusers) seem ready for change, although "change" as such is an utterly empty political slogan. The question is what kind of change does the candidate or office-holder want, and it might not be coincidental that those who mouth the slogam seldom get much more specific. If they told us what they really wanted it might just frighten us.

Christmas thoughts

We’ve been in Las Vegas, staying with Tom and Steve, since late Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was very relaxed and pleasant. In addition to an I-Pod (which I promise myself to master; already have lots of music formatted for it on my home computer) I now have the machines needed to convert both vinyl and tape to digital form, suitable for i-pods, MP3s, CDs and the like. Doing it all should be a good retirement project.

I may have been in a more receptive mood than usual, but I thought I detected a certain intensity in the usual Christmastide messages from prominent religious leaders, from the Pope to local rabbis and imams, for progress toward peace, or something resembling it. Whether that’s borne of desperation or inspiration is difficult to tell. It may reflect simple war-weariness, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You could make a case that more wars end because of simple war-weariness than from decisive battles or skillful diplomacy. Constant war is simply not healthy for human beings, and normal human beings get tired of having to live with it. The most eager war-whoopers tend to be people beyond the age of military service, and a great many who have never served in the military and so haven’t seen the business end of war. Those who experience it at that level seldom see much glory, even though they may see and do acts of notable courage and persistence.

In New Hampshire

Well, it's been a little while. I'll post one that I wrote in Las Vegas over the Christmas-New Year holiday but couldn't get up there because the wireless on the laptop wasn't working. After vacation it was time to get ready to go to New Hampshire to blog for the Register and cover at least a bit of the days leading up to the primary on Tuesday. Making sure I remembered everything and packed everything while trying to leave behind an editorial or two for the Register and a column for Sunday pretty much took all my time.

I'll be at the debate tomorrow night -- tonight, really, I guess, at least New Hampshire time -- at St. Anselm's College, where those still standing (or limping) after Iowa from both parties will debate. I'm planning to live-blog as much of the debate as possible, for the Register's HorseRace '08 blog, and will put a few soundbites from the spin room onto the blog as well. I'll try to slip a few observations into this blog as well, but if you want it in something resembling real time go to the Register's blog (I know who pays me). I'll also attend at least some of the FreeState convention scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday (with Ron Paul as featured speaker).

A lot has happened -- assassinations in Pakistan, riots in Kenya, violence in Iraq, bombings in Turkey -- that I hope to discuss. Then there was Huckabee surprising (well, maybe not after the Des Moines Register poll) and Ron Paul getting into double digits, which I told phone callers who asked was possible, but I wasn't all that confident. The MSM can't ignore him or treat him merely as a novelty. Of course, the money, something that actually impresses the media, played a big role as well, but actually getting into double-digits validates his appeal.