Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for President08 (page 1 / 1)

Free Trade and Christian Charity

It's popular among the Christian left to talk up the "Old Testament" values of social justice: caring for the poor, paying fair wages, not perverting justice, etc. They're fond of the Old Testament prophets and the prophets jeremiads against wealth and privilege.

Increasingly, the Christian left is also fond of promoting Democrat candidates and talking about how Republican candidates only look out for the rich and powerful. The exact people that the Old Testament prophets inveighed against. Ergo, the Old Testament prophets hated Republican ideals and all good Christians will vote against Republican ideals.

If that's true, what should we make of the Democrats record on free trade? After all, the poor in America are far richer than the poor in the third world. By any just standard, the America's poor are rich. They're poor only if they're exclusively compared to other Americans. Free trade is the biggest and best "social justice" platform in existence. Free trade spreads the wealth around the entire world and gives opportunities to billions of people in the third world.

If we do as the Democrats demand -- if we restrict free trade -- we remove opportunities from billions of impoverished people. "Fair trade" would take jobs away from those that need them the most. "Fair trade" would raise prices for those that can least afford to pay them. "Fair trade" would benefit rich Americans (that is, all Americans) at the expense of the global poor.

Is that Christian? I don't think so. But don't take my word for it. India has good reason to fear a Democrat government.

So, pressures will mount for protectionist measures and beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the US, hurting countries like India. Apart from erecting import barriers and subsidising dumped exports, US politicians will seek to curb the outsourcing of services to India. Visa curbs will slow the movement of skilled workers and their dollar remittances back to India.

[Obama] has voted against trade barriers only 36% of the time. He supported export subsidies on the two occasions on which he voted, a 100% protectionist record in this regard.

In 2007, he voted to reduce visas issued to foreign workers (such as Indian software engineers), and to ban Mexican trucks on US roads. He sometimes voted for free trade - he supported the Oman Free Trade Act and a bill on miscellaneous tariff reductions and trade preference extensions. More often he voted for protectionist measures including 100% scanning of imported containers (which would make imports slower and costlier), and emergency farm spending.

In 2005 he voted to impose sanctions on China for currency manipulation, and against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). He voted for the Byrd amendment, a disgraceful bill (later struck down by the WTO) that gifted anti-dumping duties to US producers who complained, thus making complaining more profitable than competitive production.

Obama says the North American Free Trade agreement is a bad one, and must be renegotiated. He has opposed the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement on the bogus ground that Colombia is not protecting its trade union leaders from the drug mafia. In fact, such assassinations have fallen steadily from 205 in 2001 to just 25 last year. Obama is cynically twisting facts to woo the most protectionist US trade unions. This cannot but worry India, which may also be subjected to bogus slander and trade disadvantages.

Unlike Obama, McCain voted against imposing trade sanctions on China for supposedly undervaluing its currency to keep exports booming and accumulate large forex reserves. India has followed a similar policy, though with less export success than China. But if indeed India achieves big success in the future, it could be similarly targeted by US legislators and, will need people like McCain to resist.

Obama favours extensive subsidies for US farmers, hitting Third World exporters like India. This has been one of the issues on which the Doha Round of WTO is gridlocked. McCain could open the gridlock, Obama will strengthen it.

Obama also favours subsidies for converting maize to ethanol. The massive diversion of maize from food to ethanol has sent global food and fertiliser prices skyrocketing, hitting countries like India. But McCain has always opposed subsidies for both US agriculture and ethanol. While campaigning, he had the courage to oppose such subsidies even in Iowa, an agricultural state he badly needs to win if he is to become president.

I want to help the poor. I want the poor to succeed and become rich. I don't want to protect the rich at the expense of the poor. That's why I support open borders, free trade, and no import / export tariffs. That's why I'm surprised that so many people who talk so much about helping the poor consistently support policies that will make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Don't Freeze the Future

Life is full of risk. No matter how hard we try, we can't eliminate that risk. Nor should we. Risk leads directly to rewards. Not all of the time. Sometimes risk leads to failure. But those failures teach us what we need to know in order to reach the rewards. More than that, it's impossible to reach a reward without taking a risk along the way.

Each crisis that comes along gives us a chance to learn a lesson and reach for a bigger reward. But we have another option. Instead of striving forward, we can cower in fear of what's around the bend. Instead of striving forward, we can attempt to stay exactly where we are, praying that things don't get worse.

That's where we are with this election. Michael Barone wrote today about Obama's vision for the country. It's a vision of fear. It's a vision that says we need to freeze things where they are, before they get any worse. It's a vision that seeks to remove all risk by franctically holding tight to what we have. It's a vision that just may prevent us from getting poorer. But it's also a vision that we'll ensure that we don't get richer.

Is this the vision you want?

The purpose of New Deal legislation was not, as commonly thought, to restore economic growth but rather to freeze the economy in place at a time when it seemed locked in a downward spiral. Its central program, the National Recovery Administration (NRA), created 700 industry councils for firms and unions to set minimum prices and wages. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), the ancestor of our farm bills, limited production to hold up prices. Unionization, encouraged by NRA and the 1935 Wagner Act, was meant to keep workers in jobs that the unemployed would have taken at lower pay.

These policies did break the downward spiral. But, as Amity Shlaes points out in The Forgotten Man, they failed to restore growth. Double-digit unemployment continued throughout the 1930s; despite population growth, the economy failed to rebound to 1920s production levels. High taxes on high earners (a Herbert Hoover as well as Franklin Roosevelt policy) financed welfare payments ("spread the wealth around") but reduced investment and growth.

Obama seems determined to follow policies better suited to freezing the economy in place than to promoting economic growth. Higher taxes on high earners, for one. He told Charlie Gibson he would raise capital-gains taxes even if that reduced revenue: less wealth to spread around, but at least the rich wouldn't have it -- reminiscent of the Puritan sumptuary laws that prohibited the wearing of silk. Moves toward protectionism like Hoover's (Roosevelt had the good sense to promote free trade). National health insurance that threatens to lead to rationing and to stifle innovation. Promoting unionization by abolishing secret ballot union elections.

Roosevelt in the 1930s had some extremely competent social engineers, like Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes and Fiorello LaGuardia, who could enroll 750,000 people on welfare in three weeks and build an airport in less than a year. But even they could not spur the economic growth produced by utterly unknown and unconnected people, as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were in 1970.

Reject social engineering. Reject the temptation to believe that somewhere out there is some One that can lead us into a brighter tomorrow. No One person can understand the American economy well enough to plan a brighter tomorrow. We only have one hope. And I won't lie: it entails risk.

We must place our hope in the thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs that will create the world of tomorrow. We don't know who they are. We don't know what they'll create. We don't know where they'll come from or where they'll take us. But if American history teaches us one thing, it teaches us this. The American entreprenurial spirit will take us somewhere we never expected, somewhere we never could have imagined, but somewhere far better than we dared dream. Just contrast the world of 1908 with the world of 2008. Wasn't it worth a little risk? Even with a Great Depression in the middle, didn't it turn out far better than our great-grandparents would have ever dreamed?

Reject fear and embrace hope. Reject those who would tie our economy down with new rules, with new regulations, with new concepts of "fairness". Embrace change, embrace risk, and look forward to the future with confidence. Looking back, I see no reason to fear looking forward.

McCain's Healthcare Plan

I've said before that McCain's healthcare plan is one of the few proposals he's made that I actually like. Robert Carroll explained some of the benefits in the Wall Street Journal.

The McCain health-care insurance tax credit may well be one of the most misunderstood proposals of this presidential election. Barack Obama has been ruthless in his attacks. But the tax credit is highly progressive and will provide a powerful incentive for people to purchase health insurance. These features under normal circumstances should endear Democrats to the proposal.

There has been a lot of rhetoric and misstatements, but what exactly does Sen. McCain have in mind? He would replace the current income tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance with a refundable tax credit -- $5,000 for those who purchase family coverage and $2,500 for individual coverage. Mr. McCain would also reform insurance markets to stem the growth in health insurance premiums.

What many may not realize is that the federal government already "spends" roughly $300 billion to $400 billion through the tax code to encourage people to pay for their health care through employer-sponsored health insurance. This subsidy takes the form of the exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance from both income and payroll taxes.

Consider the current exclusion. Its value rises with how much someone spends on health care, and how much of this spending is funneled through employer-sponsored health-care coverage. This creates an incentive for people to purchase policies with low deductibles, or which cover routine spending. These policies look a lot less like insurance and more like prefunded spending accounts purchased through employers and managed by insurance companies. Consider homeowners and auto insurance policies. Do these cover routine spending on cleaning the gutters or tuning up a car?

The subsidy encourages people to buy bigger policies that cover more, and leads to greater health-care spending. Moreover, lower deductibles and coverage of routine spending dulls consumers' sensitivity to price. Reducing the tax bias should result in insurance that is more focused on catastrophic coverage and less on routine spending.

By replacing the income tax exclusion with a fixed, refundable credit, the McCain proposal reduces the tax bias for large insurance policies. Because the credit is for a fixed amount, regardless of how much you spend on health care, it helps break the link between the existing tax subsidy and how much is spent on health care. This improves incentives in the health-care market by reducing the bias that has contributed to such a high level of health-care spending.

Moreover, the credit provides a powerful incentive for people to purchase insurance. The two tax provisions -- the new credit and the repeal of the income tax exclusion -- on net provide a substantial tax cut of $1.4 trillion over 10 years. Not only do most Americans receive a tax cut under the McCain proposal, but the tax cut is directed toward low and moderate income taxpayers.

What is striking about this picture -- and contradicts Mr. Obama's public comments -- is that the McCain tax credit for the purchase of health insurance exceeds the value of the current exclusion for all income levels shown. Indeed, it generally provides more resources to purchase health insurance than the existing exclusion. The total subsidy for health care would rise from about $3.6 trillion over 10 years today to roughly $5 trillion under his proposal.

Will the insurance that is purchased be a generous plan with first dollar coverage or low deductibles? It is much more likely to be a plan with higher deductibles that is more focused on providing true insurance against catastrophic losses rather than a more generous plan that includes a lot of prepayment for routine and predictable medical expenses. But this is precisely one of the objectives of the policy: to reduce the current tax bias that encourages people to funnel routine health expenses through insurance policies.

The elimination of the income-tax exclusion should reduce private health-care spending; to the extent this reduces the cost of health care, it should also put downward pressure on the growth of Medicare and Medicaid costs. Thus, by removing the tax bias for more generous health coverage, the McCain health credit also has the potential to provide important dividends to the entitlement problem down the road.

To be clear, I'm not wild about the subsidy that McCain's plan excludes. But I love the way it changes the current health insurance incentives. It not only gives people the motiviation to spend less on healthcare -- it also gives them the means to do so.

Too bad it has no chance of being passed into law. Even if McCain wins the presidency, the Democrat House and Senate would never pass this plan.

Could You Be Forced into a Union?

Do you want to join a union? In Barack Obama's America, you may be forced to. Obama has promised to sign the Employee Free Choice Act, if elected President. What would the Employee Free Choice Act do? Well, take this example.

The Union targets Joe's employer for unionization. There are 100 employees in the proposed bargaining unit, so under EFCA the union only needs to convince 51 of them to sign authorization cards for the union to be certified as the collective bargaining representative for all 100.

The Union leaders are pretty sophisticated at organizing. After all, it's what they do. Pretty quickly they identify both the employees most receptive to unionization as well as those most opposed. Joe falls into the latter group so the Union never even attempts to get him to sign a card. In fact, since most of the pro-union employees work a different shift, Joe's not even aware a union drive is going on.

The Union gets 51 employees to sign cards and gets certified by the NLRB as the collective bargaining representative for all employees -- including Joe, who had absolutely no say in whether he wanted a union.

The Union and Joe's employer begin negotiations but can't get an agreement within 120 days. Under EFCA, a government-appointed arbitrator then writes the "contract". The arbitrator puts a union security and dues check-off clause in the "contract", thereby requiring Joe's employer to deduct $45 a month from Joe's paycheck and remit the amount to the union. The arbitrator also orders Joe's employer to pay a 5% wage increase -- an amount that squeezes the employer's margin. The employer considers lay offs to avoid losses. Joe is near the bottom of the seniority list.

Under EFCA, the arbitrator's order is binding for two years. Joe and his co-workers can't reject it. Joe's company can't reject it.

Let's review: Joe had no choice in being represented by the union. He had no choice in paying union dues. He had no choice in accepting the arbitrator's order that might lead to his lay-off.

Joe concludes that the correct title is the Employee No Choice Act.

How do you like that? I sure don't.

Major Redistributive Change

Obama, 7 years ago, lamented the fact that the Civil Rights movement wasn't able bring about more wealth redistribution.

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I'd be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.

To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that. ...

I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way.

The Department of Peace and Non-Violence

A sign of things to come?

The DC Examiner reminds us that already proposed in the House (HR 808) is the creation of a new, multi-billion dollar, cabinet-level monstrosity: The Department of Peace & Non-Violence. (Thanks to Dr. Andy Bostom for calling this to my attention.)

The DPN-V would house such vital new agencies as The Office of Peace Education & Training, the Office of Domestic Peace Activities, the Office of International Peace Activities, the Office of Technology for Peace, the Office of Arms Control and Disarmament (ACM -- notwithstanding that Barnie seems to have that covered already), the Office of Peaceful Co-Existence and Non-Violent Conflict Resolution, and, of course, the Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights. (Emphasis added.)

Orwellian much?

This entry was tagged. President08

Obama Staffers Planned to Vote Illegally


Thirteen campaign workers for Barack Obama yesterday yanked their voter registrations and ballots in Ohio after being warned by a prosecutor that temporary residents can't vote in the battleground state.

A dozen staffers - including Obama Ohio spokeswoman Olivia Alair and James Cadogan, who recently joined Team Obama - signed a form letter asking the Franklin County elections board to pull their names from the rolls.

These jokers needed a prosecutor to prick their consciences before realizing that this might not be a good idea? What happened to the integrity of democracy? What happened to fair play? Guess none of that matters when an election is on the line.

McCain's Socialist Tendencies

I said earlier today that I don't really trust McCain on economic issues. Slate quotes McCain's hero, Teddy Roosevelt, on taxes.

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. ... The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and ... a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

That's the same type of thing that McCain has been known to spout, when he forgets that he's running as a Republican. And it's another reminder of why I won't be voting Republican for President this year.

Fred Thompson Gets Out the Vote

Fred Thompson gave a great speech this morning, exhorting Republicans to get out the vote. It's just unfortunate that his candidate is John McCain. While John McCain might be better than Barack Obama on economic issues, I'm not really convinced that he would be. McCain is a deficit hawk who would be comfortable raising taxes in order to pay for the recent bailouts and his proposed increases in defense spending. McCain is an economic populist who hates profits and "greedy" businessmen. McCain is an economic populist who believes the government needs to buy mortgages to bailout homeowners.

No thanks.

But this speech is great motivational material for anyone thinking of voting for Bob Barr. An excerpt:

All of this is important, because how we respond to our economic challenge is more important than the crisis itself. For the last 25 years the United States, and indeed the world, has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. You wouldn't know it from listening to Obama, but worldwide over 1 billion people have been able to lift themselves out of poverty. This is due to America's influence, from our defense of freedom in World War II to the Cold War, to the ascendency of our free-market capitalism, the adoption of open trade policies, and globalization. Yet some say our current financial difficulties are evidence that we should turn our back on our founding, free market principles ... that it's time for big changes.

But in a world that is increasingly inter-connected by jobs, trade and global finance, how our economy is viewed by the rest of the world is extremely important to America's economic well being. The worst thing in the world we could do is appear to be unfriendly to investment and trade with an economy constrained and made uncompetitive by layers upon layers of new regulations, and bogged down in the divisiveness of class warfare. Yet if you are to take them at their word this is precisely the direction that an Obama administration and a Democratic Congress would take us, turning a short term recession into a long term economic decline for the United States.

And while our regulatory regime needs to be examined and improved, we should be clear: capitalism is not the cause of our nation's economic challenges. The subprime mortgage crisis was not rooted in lack of regulation, but in bad policies made by Democrats in Congress that forced banks to give mortgages to people who could not afford the houses they were buying. These are the same politicians who protected the excesses and fraudulent conduct of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They are the same ones who now want to control the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to solve the problem they helped create, and who tried to slip $200 billion into the first bailout bill for their political cronies in ACORN, the organization that is now systemically perpetrating voter registration fraud around the country. This record, Obama and the Democrats say, entitles them to total control of all of the levers of power in Washington.

Under an Obama-Reed-Pelosi scenario nothing will restrain them from making the secret ballot in union elections be a thing of the past. The so called "fairness doctrine" will likely be passed, restricting free speech on talk radio, possibly even the Internet.

Obama Hoped to Change Kenya

One of the things that has continued to disturb me about Senator Obama is the gap between his rhetoric and his actions. He continually talks about changing politics for the better. But every time he has the ability to actually change things, he votes for keeping the status-quo. Earlier, I wrote about his endorsements of Chicago machine politicians. Yesterday I read that he's endorsed thuggish Kenyan politicians.

National Review's Andy McCarthy summarized a Washington Post story about Senator Obama's connections to unsavory Kenyan politicians.

Odinga evidently has a very close relationship with Obama. He is native of Kenya's Luo tribe, the same one to which Obama's father belonged. In fact, in early 2008, Odinga told the BBC he is Obama's cousin (i.e., that Obama's father was Odinga's "maternal uncle").

Like other Obama connections -- Ayers, Dohrn, Wright, and Mike Klonsky (about whom I have an article today) -- Odinga is a socialist. He was educated by Soviets in East Germany, he named his oldest son after Fidel Castro, and his father was the leader of Kenya's Socialist opposition.

The former Kenyan government of Daniel Arap Moi was pro-American. (ACM -- I can attest to this personally, having worked with Kenyan authorities extensively during the investigation of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, which was carried out by the jihadist cells al Qaeda established in Kenya in the early Nineties.) Odinga served eight years in jail because he was implicated in a violent coup attempt against Moi's government in 1982.

Odinga sought the presidency in Kenya's December 2007 election. In 2006, Obama came to Kenya and campaigned for him, simultaneously voicing sharp criticism of the pro-American government. His comments will sound familiar to Americans. As Hyman writes, Obama declared, "The [Kenyan] people have to suffer over corruption perpetrated by government officials[.]... Kenyans are now yearning for change." Obama's visit, the culmination of consultations with Odinga that had gone on for years, vaulted Odinga's candidacy.

(ACM -- the outraged Kenyan government issued a rebuttal, greatly disturbed that Obama had represented that he was coming to Kenya to nurture Kenya/U.S. relations but, in fact, had used the trip as a platform to lecture to Kenya about social justice. Obama's interference in a foreign election, transparently designed to topple a government cooperative with the United States, comes close, to say the least, to violating the Logan Act, 18 U.S.C. 953.)

Are any of Obama's supporters the least bit concerned about this display of hypocrisy? Are any of them even aware of it?

Vote As Though You Were Not Voting

Lately I've been thinking about how Christians should respond to political outcomes. I'm a Libertarian. I believe that government governs best which governs least. Liberty loses no matter who wins -- Senator Obama wins or Senator McCain. Both support a stronger, more assertive government that strips away liberty. How should I respond to that loss?

Well, ultimately God still rules over the world. Things are imperfect -- and will be getting less perfect -- but God never told me that I'd live in a perfect world. In fact, he promised the opposite. I should devote myself more fully to God, no matter who wins. This election is just one huge reminder to trust God, not man. For all men are fallible, weak, and imperfect. Only God is the perfect ruler of this world. One day, he'll rule openly. And that's the day I'm waiting for.

Until then, I'll follow Pastor Piper's advice and vote as though I was not voting.

Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That's because "the present form of this world is passing away" and, in God's eyes, "the time has grown very short." Here's the way Paul puts it:

The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Let's take these one at a time and compare them to voting.

1. "Let those who have wives live as though they had none."

... So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don't. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.

2. "Let those who mourn [do so] as though they were not mourning."

... So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (21:4).

3. "Let those who rejoice [do so] as though they were not rejoicing."

... So it is with voting. There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived--and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.

4. "Let those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods."

... So it is with voting. We do not withdraw. We are involved--but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.

5. "Let those who deal with the world [do so] as though they had no dealings with it."

... So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

McCain seeks special 'fair use' copyright rules for VIPs

I didn't need any more reasons to dislike John McCain. But I have another one anyway. Continuing his general theme of believing that government employees are just plain better than regular folk, he wants copyright law to favor politicians over everyone else.

(Via McCain seeks special 'fair use' copyright rules for VIPs.)

John McCain's presidential campaign has discovered the remix-unfriendly aspects of American copyright law, after several of the candidate's campaign videos were pulled from YouTube.

McCain has now discovered the rights holder friendly nature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forces remixers to fight an uphill battle to prove that their work is a "fair use."

However, instead of calling for an overhaul of the much hated law, McCain is calling for VIP treatment for the remixes made by political campaigns.

McCain's proposal: complaints about videos uploaded by a political campaign would be manually reviewed by a human YouTube employee before any possible removal of the remix. The process for complaints against videos uploaded by millions of other Americans would stay the same: instant removal by a computer program, and then possible reinstatement a week or two later after the video sharing site has received and manually processed a formal counter-notice.

Just one more reason to vote for Bob Barr this year.

Obama Backers Officially Unhinged

Obama fans think that McCain's "The One" ad tries to link Obama to the anti-Christ. I think they've gone completely batty.

The ad has also generated criticism from Democrats and religious scholars who see a hidden message linking Sen. Obama to the apocalyptic Biblical figure of the antichrist.

The spot, called "The One," opens with the line: "It shall be known that in 2008 the world will be blessed." Images follow of Moses parting the Red Sea and Sen. Obama telling a crowd, "We are the change we've been waiting for."

Critiques of the ad started surfacing earlier this week when Eric Sapp, a Democratic operative, circulated the first of two memos pointing out images that he believed linked Sen. Obama to the antichrist.

"Short of 666, they used every single symbol of the antichrist in this ad," said Mr. Sapp, who advises Democrats on reaching out to faith communities. "There are way too many things to just be coincidence."

Stewart Hoover, director of the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the references to the antichrist in the McCain ad were "not all that subtle" for anyone familiar with "apocalyptic popular culture." Some images in the ad very closely resemble the cover art and type font used in the latest "Left Behind" novel. The title of the ad, "The One," also echoes the series; the antichrist figure in the books, Nicolae Carpathia, sets up "the One World Religion."

Ooookay. It takes a "special" kind of mind to see these connections. (Update: You can read an extensive excerpt of one of the memos.)

But don't take my word for it. Watch it for yourself.

50,000 Harleys

John McCain, starting to hit his stride:

Thousands of motorcyclists greeted Republican presidential candidate John McCain with an approving roar Monday as he sought blue-collar and heartland support by visiting a giant motorcycle rally.

"As you may know, not long ago a couple hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day," McCain said.

Sure, it's pandering. But it's effective and it doesn't cost the taxpayer anything. I'll take it.

Obama's New Politics

Obama's not even President yet and he's already revealing plans to stack the deck in his own favor. Protein Wisdom reveals What's behind Obama's national service plan?:

His broader approach proposes to expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots and double the size of the Peace Corps, integrate service-learning programs into schools and universities, expand service initiatives that "engage disadvantaged young people and advance their education", expand the capacity of nonprofits to innovate and expand their programs and so on.

Indeed, in making his proposal, Obama alluded to his time as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side, and his stint heading the group Project Vote -- and it turns out there is a direct angle here. Obama directed Project Vote for ACORN -- an "antipoverty" group also frequently involved in scandal-ridden voter registration drives. Obama has a long, sybiotic relationship with the group. He was their lawyer, helped train ACORN activists, and fed them grants from his position at the Woods Fund; they endorsed Obama's candidacies and provided troops for his early campaigns. ACORN has a long history concerning both election fraud and misuse of federal funds, including AmeriCorps funds:

In 1994, the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC) received a grant from the newly created Americorps to assist low-income families at finding housing. In applying for the grant, the AHC claimed its activities were completely separate from ACORN.

But one year later, the Americorps Inspector General would testify that "AHC used Americorps grant funds to benefit ACORN either directly or indirectly." She found several instances of cost-shifting from ACORN's lobbying group to the housing entity, and also found several instances of the steering of recipients of housing counseling into ACORN memberships.

It is difficult to imagine Obama rigorously policing ACORN from using the national service program as a recruiting tool or to further its non-partisan-in-name-only voter registration drives. To the contrary, his national service plan looks like another avenue for Obama to realize his vision of creating an army of left-wing activists to push his agenda and register more likely Democrats.

Obama's Dirty Politics

The New Republic accuses Barack Obama of consistently playing the race card during his campaign.

Misleading propaganda is hardly new in American politics --although the adoption of techniques reminiscent of past Republican and special-interest hit jobs, right down to a retread of the fictional couple, seems strangely at odds with a campaign that proclaims it will redeem the country from precisely these sorts of divisive and manipulative tactics. As insidious as these tactics are, though, the Obama campaign's most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign's strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters--a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a "post-racial" figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.

More than any other maneuver, this one has brought Clinton into disrepute with important portions of the Democratic Party. A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card" were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the "race-baiter card" before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.


It may strike some as ironic that the racializing should be coming from a black candidate's campaign and its supporters. But this is an American presidential campaign--and there is a long history of candidates who are willing to inflame the most deadly passions in our national life in order to get elected. Sadly, it is what Barack Obama and his campaign gurus have been doing for months--with the aid of their media helpers on the news and op-ed pages and on cable television, mocked by "SNL" as in the tank for Obama. They promise to continue until they win the nomination, by any means necessary.

If you're interested in the race so far, you should read the whole thing. It's a pretty convincing write up.

John McCain -- Ignorant Meddler

I really, really don't like the idea of John McCain as the GOP nominee for 2008. Thankfully, every time I try to fool myself into thinking that he might not be a bad candidate, he reminds me of why I don't like him.

Take the mortgage "crisis" for instance. He was asked about it in a recent debate. Here's what he had to say:

I think that we've got to return to the principal that you don't lend money that can't pay it back. I think that there's some greedy people on Wall Street that perhaps need to be punished. I think there's got to be a huge amount more of transparency as to how this whole thing came about so we can prevent it from happening again.

When a town on Norway is somehow affected by the housing situation in the United States of America, we've gotten ourselves into a very interesting dilemma.

If necessary, we're going to have to take additional actions and particularly in cleaning up a mortgage. A mortgage should be one page and there should be big letters at the bottom that says, "I understand this document."

We ought to adjust the mortgages so people who were eligible for better terms, but were somehow convinced to accept the mortgages which were more onerous on them. We need to fix the rating systems, which clearly were erroneous in their ratings, which led people to believe that there were these institutions which were stable, which clearly were not.

(Via In the Agora.)

A few comments here. What about personal responsibility? A lot of people tried to buy homes that they couldn't afford. Isn't that a form of greed? I think both the borrowers AND the lenders were greedy. I think both should suffer the consequences of their actions.

Secondly, Senator McCain says that "erroneous ratings systems" fooled people into investing in unstable institutions. Maybe, just maybe, those institutions were stable right up to the point where they started making poor investments. Sometimes it takes a while to tell the difference between a poor investment and a risky, but worthwhile, investment. Maybe investing is risky business. Maybe people shouldn't invest in new, speculative investments unless they can afford to lose their money. Maybe Senator McCain should admit that he's not God and can't remove all risk from people's lives.

Thirdly, about that "town in Norway [that's] affected by the housing situation in the United States of America". It's called risk management. It's a way for companies to lower the risk of a new investment by spreading the risk across more investors. Companies won't make a lot of investments unless they can find a way to decrease the risk of the investment. Because the risk could be spread worldwide, companies made many loans that they never would have otherwise made. True, some of the loans went bad. But many of the loans went to people who were able to pay them off. Would you prefer that banks stopped lending money to risky borrowers?

Senator McCain, please leave the market alone. Your uninformed, ignorant meddling will only make things worse.

Romney's Healthcare Plan

While in Massachusets, Mitt Rimney created the "RomneyCare" mandated health plan. Now that he's running for President, he's getting ready to push for a free market solution.

Romney to Pitch a State-by-State Health Insurance Plan - New York Times

It relies on federal incentives for market reforms, tax deductions and other changes to encourage people to buy health insurance and drive down costs.

There is no individual mandate in Mr. Romney's plan for the rest of the country. Instead, it concentrates on a "federalist" approach, premised on the belief that it is impossible to create a uniform system for the entire country. Along these lines, the federal government would offer incentives to states to take their own necessary steps to bring down the cost of health insurance.

According to a preview of the presentation provided by Mr. Romney's policy advisers yesterday, Mr. Romney will highlight how the nearly 45 million uninsured in the country can be divided into roughly three groups: about a third are eligible for public programs but are not enrolled; a third are low income but ineligible for public programs and need some help from the government to purchase health insurance; a third are middle income but have chosen not to buy health insurance.

In his plan, Mr. Romney proposes taking federal money currently being used to help states cover the cost of medical care for the uninsured and offering that money to states to help low-income people who are not eligible for Medicaid and other public programs to buy their own private health insurance.

The same pool of money will be wielded as a carrot for states to reform their health insurance regulations to help drive costs down and make plans affordable. That would include reducing the number of requirements for coverage that states impose on health insurance providers or lifting restrictions in some states on health maintenance organizations.

Mr. Romney, who helped found a hugely successful private equity firm, argues that the existing tax system penalizes those who do not acquire their health insurance through their employer, and that has prevented the development of a vigorous, affordable health insurance market. Those who acquire health insurance from their employers pay for their premiums with pre-tax dollars, but those who do not must use post-tax dollars to buy it. So Mr. Romney wants to allow people who buy their own health insurance to be able to deduct premiums, deductibles and co-payments from their income.

Eventually, Ms. Canfield said, the goal would be for people to be able to opt out of employer plans if they do not like them and go out on the individual market to buy health insurance on their own.

These all sound like really good ideas from the bare bones descriptions. It's a shame that Governor Romney didn't push for a plan like this while he was in Massachusets. It's possible that he didn't do so because the Massachusets legislature never would have gone along with it. On the other hand, his actions as governor leave me unsure of how President Romney would react to a stubborn Democratic Congress.