The Book!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

McCain Surges

The latest Rasmussen polls apparently show a sudden jump in support for McCain. Currently, he would beat either possible Democratic nominee. More interestingly, the bump occurred immediately after the New York Times smear piece on him, featuring rumours of an affair with a lobbyist.

Essentially as I expected. Those who don't believe it, are outraged at a hit against an honest man based on almost no evidence. Those who believe it, are impressed.

This almost makes up for the NYT endorsing him on the eve of the Florida primary.

One marvels, really, not just at the partisanship, but at the revealed incompetence of the vaunted media giants: CBS, the New York Times et al.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Buy This. I Can't.

One more good way to spend your money: a classic Catholic library, all on one CD. Sadly, I can't have it myself. They will not ship outside the US and Canada.

Consider this a public service announcement. I get no commission here.

Please Read This

Please read this post by Ezra Levant, who has shown himself to be a true Canadian hero, and consider donating to his legal costs.

He is defending the rights of all of us. Rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of thought, due process, and, by logical extention, our right to self government.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Baker's Dozen Reasons McCain Could Win

Could go either way. But in a race between McCain and Obama, if you’re going to bet on either, I’d say, bet John McCain. Here’s why:

1. Obama still has a fight on his hands for the nomination. He may get damaged in this fight. It was Al Gore who dug up Willie Horton against Dukakis.

2. The fight will drain Obama’s financial resources, while McCain can husband his for the general election. This is what killed Bob Dole.

3. Obama is relatively unknown. His public persona can still be shaped by new information. He is open to scandal, smear, and clever characterizations by his opponents. McCain, long a public figure, is much less so. This killed John Kerry, not to mention John Dean.

4. For the same reason, Obama is more vulnerable to a gaffe; and, being less experienced, more likely to make one.

5. Gaffes seem to have already begun. Michelle is “not proud of her country,” for example… Obama’s story of soldiers scrounging for ammunition in Afghanistan is being questioned.

6. Obama has received a free ride and more, so far, from the press. They are likely to get bored by this story line in time for the general election. The knives will come out. Again, being new, Obama is especially vulnerable to this. McCain has already been through this to some extent, and does not start as the same sort of media phenomenon.

7. If the situation in Iraq goes well, it hugely helps the Republicans. If it goes badly, it hugely helps the Democrats. Currently, the news looks good. The best bet is that present trends will continue.

8. There is always the chance, even the likelihood, of some new foreign affairs crisis. If it happens, it argues for McCain, with his foreign policy expertise and experience.

9. An economic downturn should help the Democrats. But maybe not with this matchup. Economic turmoil too calls for an experienced hand. McCain’s overall experience and proven leadership, even though without expertise in this field, may also in this case trump Obama’s inexperience. McCain is not identified closely with the Bush regime and its economic policies; it will not be easy to blame him for the problem.

10. Republican National Committee fundraising this quarter is running ahead of DNC fundraising. They’ve already banked the max for their presidential nominee. This too suggests McCain may have more money to get his message out in the fall. This also suggests that the folks with big money are now betting that the Republicans will win the presidency this cycle—they usually invest in the probable winner. This sort of money market has in the past been more accurate than polls in predicting election results.

11. Republicans are more likely to unite behind their nominee. Republicans historically have this discipline. Democrats are more likely to stay home if they are unhappy with a nominee. And, with a tougher battle for the nomination, there is also more likely to be more disgruntled Democratic than Republican voters.

12. Bill Clinton did not actually tag Obama as a “fairy tale.” But a lot of people think he did, and I’ve seen the phrase used several times since. This is a strong indication that the label resonates. That’s a big vulnerability.

13. Right now, polls show Obama and McCain about even. On even polls, bet on the Republicans. They’re better at getting out their vote.

New York Times vs. John McCain

You can’t hurt a 71-year old candidate with a sex scandal. Even if people believe it—you’ve only succeeded in eliminating the age issue.

In any case, the nation has no business in the bedrooms of state.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Back Pages

You may have heard it here first: that McCain would win the Republican nomination (December 28, 2006, again on April 10, 2007); that Romney could not (November 24, 2007); that Hillary Clinton was doomed (November 28, 2007 for that quote; I said on September 3, 2006, that she was “unlikely even to win the nomination”). And I stuck with those predictions throughout, though I notice I expressed openly a temptation to call it instead for Giuliani in April—before backing off and staying with the McCain prediction. They now look pretty good, at least to me.

The one thing I called wrong was Obama. I expected Edwards, not Obama, to be the Democratic nominee. But that, I said at the time, was based on supposing Edwards finished very close to Obama on the first ballot in Iowa; otherwise it would be Obama. Here’s what I actually wrote on the eve of the Iowa primary:

On the Democratic side, a tight race—which we seem to have--almost certainly means Hillary is doomed. Because of her perceived frontrunner status, she already has almost all her likely supporters. Expect her to come in third. Edwards is most popular as a second choice—in a close race, this should put him over the top, unless Obama is well ahead of him on the first ballot.

As it happened, Obama was indeed well ahead of him on the first ballot, thanks to an influx of young people voting. That, I think, was how close it was.

When Obama instead of Edwards took Iowa, I did switch to predicting Obama would have the nomination. On the morning the results came in, I wrote:

Anyway, the big media spin coming out of this looks to be Obama. Fair enough, I think. It looks as though he drew huge numbers of new caucus-goers. This makes him the new favorite to take the Democrats’ nomination.

I did less well on details, but the broad picture has turned out pretty much as I thought.

It’s been fascinating to watch Hillary’s decline. It was all inevitable, but her surprise comeback in New Hampshire—thanks to the women’s vote—made it all happen in such slow motion that it was almost imperceptible. Kind of like watching someone swiftly decapitated, but continuing to walk and talk until she tries to take a bow. But there is not another comeback in her. Her inevitability is shattered, and that’s all she had.

This is bad news for Republicans, if good news for America. Obama is a lot harder to defeat in a general election.

Still, I think, contrary to current conventional wisdom, that McCain has a better chance than Obama of becoming president this cycle.

Because Obama is relatively inexperienced, he is more likely to make gaffes over the next year. Because his past is not yet well known, there is a chance something there will come back to haunt him. For the same reason, he is more vulnerable to whispering campaigns and the efforts of Republicans to shape his public image to his detriment. All this gives him handicaps McCain does not have. So far, he has been the press’s darling. But there’s every chance they will get bored by this, and try to take him down, by next November. McCain is also the press’s darling; but they’ve already been through this cycle with him. There’s little news value left in doing it again. If they do, there’s less to lose by it.

Given all that, and that McCain roughly ties him in the polls today, the odds have to be in McCain’s favour—but it is a gamble, no sure thing. Not like Hillary’s defeat.

Good news from Iraq will help McCain; bad news will help Obama. The story line now is the success of the surge. This will probably continue; it’s the better story. Advantage, McCain. If the economy tanks, this ought to hurt the Republicans—but may not, with these two candidates. In troubled times, do people turn to an inexperienced hand at the helm? And McCain can also credibly distance himself from the current regime’s failures. Call it a draw—but it could make a difference who the VP candidates are.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

For Those Who Give a Damn

A note to longsuffering readers—the Internet problems in the Middle East persist, making posting to this blog a bit difficult currently.

At times, it is not worth the effort.

Castro: "Everything I Say is a Lie"

Fidel Castro has reacted rather badly to John McCain’s revelation that the torturers at the North Vietnamese POW camp at which he was a guest for some of his formative years were Cubans. Castro warns him: “The commandments of the religion you practice prohibit lying.”

I love it when the irreligious pull this kind of comment on Christians—as they so often do. The devil speaks truth in spite of himself. For what Castro is actually saying here, implicitly but unambiguously, is that he believes that, if he is not Christian, he is free to lie.

Which, we can assume, he is doing here.

Lutherans for Obama

There is chatter among the chattering classes about the odd datum that Hillary Clinton does particularly well against Barack Obama among Catholics. Why so? What’s the link? As there is no obvious one.

A couple of theories I have read: 1) Hispanics are a significant element of the Catholic vote, and Hispanics are inclined to see blacks as rival gangs in the hood. 2) Catholics, because of the cult of Mary and the tradition of nunhood, are more accustomed than Protestants to the idea of women in responsible roles outside the home.

Both are reasonable hypotheses; and how about possible Catholic sympathy for Clinton sticking with an adulterous partner?

But I wonder that no one else has noticed something else: that Obama’s rhetorical style has something in it of the traditional “inspirational” Protestant preacher. A grand and admirable tradition, but one more likely to resonate with Protestants. Not that Catholic are necessarily turned off by it; but cradle Protestants are more likely to be turned on.

And what about the chance that Catholics, whose ancestors generally arrived on North American shores as immigrants only this century—from places like Italy, Ireland, Poland, Mexico—are a bit short on white guilt over the issue of slavery?

If white guilt is a significant factor in Obama’s appeal, it is likely for historical reasons to be higher among Protestants than Catholics.

Indeed, these children of more recent immigrants, themselves often facing discrimination, may resent the special attention given to blacks, often, with affirmative action, at their expense. It is on their backs, after all, that the old Protestant families have assuaged their own guilt over slavery.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My White Guilt

A column in the Toronto Star suggests "white people" should feel more guilt than they do about slavery.

Kate McMillan, of Small Dead Animals, writes of her struggle in feeling any such guilt. After all, her own Scottish ancestors were relatively slave-deprived.

Ditto. My ancestors were Irish. Why should I feel any more guilt for slavery or for English colonialism than might an Indian or a Zimbabwean? Their ancestors, after all, were rather more benevolently colonized by the English than mine. And, leaving aside the English, slavery was traditionally practiced domestically in both those places until modern times. It has not been for many centuries in Ireland—not since its Christianization in the fifth century. Similarly, there have been both Indian and Zimbabwean empires; the British were apparently just better at it than the locals were. There has, by contrast, never been an Irish Empire. Perhaps due to mere incapacity, of course; who knows?

But why then am I guilty of anything the Zimbabwean or Indian are not? Just because of the colour of my skin? What position could be more perfectly racist?

Then again, the problem starts when anyone is held responsible for what their ancestors did, in the first place. Over such things, we of course have no control; so the premise is nonsensical. If your ancestors are better than my ancestors, or vice versa, doesn’t this logically require reinstatement of a class system? And doesn’t any kind of racism become reasonable—say, the supposed racial inferiority of blacks or natives (what did their ancestors accomplish?) and the notorious “blood guilt” of the Jews (their ancestors historically did have a hand in killing Jesus)?

Not where we want to go. is it? And after all, if we are going to hold the English of today to blame for imperialism and slevery, and if the English really were worse imperialists and slavers than other races, as opposed to better at it, don’t the English then also get credit for ancestors who invented science, parliamentary democracy, the free market, industrialization, vaccination, and the rights of man? Or for saving the world from Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Hitler?

Heck, you’ve just made the case for a British Empire.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

McCain and Illegal Immigration

A conservative American friend has challenged me on my support for John McCain on illegal immigration.

I think this issue is an important one. Here’s an edited version of my response:


First, he called me on referring to it as “immigration. As he rightly pointed out the controversy was over illegal immigration, not immigration per se. Big difference.

But he was also under the misapprehension that McCain was for amnesty. He is not.
From the YouTube Republican debate:

“Q: Will you pledge to veto any immigration bill that involves amnesty?

McCain: Yes, of course, and we never proposed amnesty.”


McCain’s plan includes “fines, would require back in the line, would require deportation for some.” That’s no amnesty, by normal definition. It is just not as tough on illegal immigrants as most others in the GOP want to be.

But I think, with McCain, that more than this is inhumane, bad for the US economy, and plain unrealistic. It’s no small thing to deport 12 million people. That would involve one of the bigger refugee problems in history.

And, as I noted, any liberal in the true Clear Grit sense (as opposed to what passes as "liberal" in North America today) should favour immigration. Allowing immigration is a matter of fundamental human freedoms--freedom of movement and the right to work.

If you say—as we all are accustomed these days to do—that only Americans have a right to move to and to work in the US, we are making a distinction between American rights and human rights. But do only American citizens have the right to work? If so, either this is no human right, or you do not hold Mexicans to be human.

We are all brothers and sisters; we are all God’s children. Yes, those who commit a crime waive rights. But in moral principle, the border should be completely open. To close it is already sinful. And, at least in conventional Catholic morality, a poor man has the absolute right to do what he must do, even including theft, in order to sustain himself.

My friend is under the misapprehension that “illegals” (sic) “have depressed wages” and are “preventing US citizens from making a living wage.”

I don’t buy that. I sincerely doubt there are many employed American citizens earning less than a “living wage”—i.e., not enough to physically survive. Less than they’d like to, perhaps. I hope I’m not being callous here, but with due respect, a whole lot of people in the Third World manage to live on less than even welfare pays in the US. Why, indeed, would a Mexican want to come all the way to the US to work, if the money he made was not enough to live on? Surely it is, for him.

But let’s also not suppose that nativists on this score are really acting in the best interests of American workers, as opposed to specific vested interests. Realistically, if foreign workers will do the same job as Americans for less money, you have two choices: 1. allow the workers into the US, or 2. watch the factories move out of the US. The former is far better for the US economy and for the US working man. It will produce more jobs, and better-paying jobs, for everyone.

It is, indeed, exactly how the US grew to this point. It is the American way.

All of this applies equally well, of course, to Canada.

Pretzels

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. Lent is upon us. And here’s an idea for a book someone should do: a Lenten cookbook, featuring and celebrating traditional recipes from across the Christian world. Even if Lenten observance per se is not as common as it once was, vegetarianism surely is, and they are about the same thing. And I do expect Lent to make a comeback as well; it’s time.

Did you know that the classic foods of many lands in fact began as Lenten foods? Consider the pretzel: the idea was to bake a bread without eggs or butter, both then prohibited during Lent as animal products. The classic design is supposed to represent two arms folded in prayer.

How about falafel, tabbouleh, hummus? Considered the ultimate Arab - Muslim foods, they in fact were adopted from pre-existing Christian cultures of the Hellenic Levant. They were, and still are, in Greece, Egypt and Lebanon, traditional Lenten foods.

From the Orthodox world: borscht, kasha, potato pirogues, cabbage rolls.

It all illustrates a wider point: the best foods in most cultures tend to be the ordinary foods of the poorest folk: pizza and pasta in Italy, German sausages, nasi goring in Indonesia, bibimbap (“rice with whatever”) in Korea.

This is because necessity is the mother of invention; because in this world the cream does not regularly rise to the top, and there are far more poor than rich cooks; and because, in the end, God is good. Being good, he has made all the best things as common and cheap as dandelions. Had we but ears to hear, and tongues to taste.

This, no doubt, is one of the lessons of Lent.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Case for McCain-Huckabee

Assuming McCain is the Republican nominee, he might do well to choose Mike Huckabee as his running mate.

By conventional wisdom, the most a VP nominee can do for the ticket is to deliver his home state. Huckabee can probably do that—and Arkansas might well swing otherwise to Clinton, its former first lady, if she is the Democratic nominee. So Huck is ideal on the conventional measure.

But there is more. Huckabee also ably represents a specific constituency, which is notably loyal to him: the born-again evangelicals. It seems likely he can pull them to the ticket; McCain holds no particular attraction for them otherwise; and they are a crucial voting block.

This article points out why.

First, they actually represent about half the total votes cast in a general election.

Second, they are, perhaps contrary to popular belief, up for grabs between the parties. Here are the stats for recent contests:

Bush I vs. Clinton: 39% to 35%
Dole vs. Clinton: 49% to 43%
Bush II vs. Gore: 57% to 42%
Bush II vs. Kerry 62% to 38%

With the closeness of those last two elections, the evangelical vote was crucial.

Here’s what polls of born-agains say so far this year:

Democrat 40% Republican 29% Undecided 28%

In other words, the Republicans could easily lose this vital group, if they do not actively target it. Huck likely pulls them in.

Huck also presumably helps in the South, which is huge: the Dems have never won without it.

Huckabee may help with another crucial group: Hispanics. He and McCain stand out as “soft on immigration,” bucking the bulk of their party. On this issue, not incidentally, the party is wrong. Allowing immigration is a matter of fundamental human freedoms--freedom of movement and the right to work. But on a purely practical level, Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic in the US, and are presumably sympathetic to their illegal compatriots. Lose the Hispanics, and you lose the future. Bush and Rove, wisely, worked hard for Hispanic approval. A McCain--Huckabee ticket should further that work, and slap down unfortunate nativist tendencies in the Republican Party.

Huckabee is also young enough to succeed to the presidency after four or eight years. Given that much more time in the public spotlight, that much more national experience, and his talents, I expect him to grow into a truly formidable candidate when that time comes. This is important for the future of the party and the conservative movement.

Huckabee’s executive experience as a governor is a good balance to McCain’s legislative experience; and the geographical balance is there.

Beyond this, all else aside, Huckabee is a formidable political talent, a prodigy. He ought to be harnessed if at all possible. He would be superb as a point man, another traditional role of the Veep-designate. His down-home style would complement McCain’s “straight talk” well, underlining the message that this would be an honest, straightforward administration. I think this would run well against Clinton, who always gives one the sense that she is hiding something, that what she says has been carefully scripted.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Forty Years On

My theory for years--since at least 2000-—is that the oughts are the 60’s, only more so. It’s really rather that the ‘60’s were a kind of foreshadowing of what is happening now, at the millennium, the symbolic dawning of the Age of Aquarius. But the 60’s were by their nature, as a foreshadowing, also abortive. Things went wrong; they had to, for it was not yet time. It was all seen through a glass darkly.

The parallels multiply. George W. Bush is JFK, following Reagan as FDR. We now see what would have happened had Kennedy not been assassinated—for better and for worse. Kennedy’s assassination was part of the abortion; now we see what the young scion would have been like. 9-11 was the equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The War in Iraq was the War in Vietnam. But instead of Tet, or following it, we get the successful surge. This time, it looks like, it will be followed through to a US victory. Now we’ll see what this means.

We are currently in the campaign of 1968. Some might think Hillary Clinton is Richard Nixon in lipstick, but that’s too partisan and too cruel. Al Gore was Nixon; he’s retired happily and successfully this time to other projects. Clinton is more like Humphrey, the party establishment warhorse, unexciting but solid, trying to straddle the war issue. Obama is a happy blend of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King—with a Kennedy-Harvard charisma, but also the incarnation of King’s 1960’s dream. Obama and Clinton are in about the same relative positions at the moment that Humphrey and Kennedy were at the same point in that ‘68 race. Now the California primary is upon us: we are about to see what might have happened had RFK not been assassinated.

Romney is back as Romney. But this time his campaign was not aborted by a foolish gaffe; this time Nixon is not running; and this time he is the hope of the conservative, not the liberal, wing of his party. John Lindsay, mayor of New York, is back as Rudy Giuliani, and has lost again in similar fashion, despite good prospects. He was always more popular with the general public than within his party.

Fred Thompson reprised Ronald Reagan’s half-hearted ‘68 campaign, and like Reagan lost—this time. Mike Huckabee stands in about the same relation to the rest of his party and to the general public as George Wallace did at that time—although his populist message is a happier and a more blessed one. It is a sign of how much better things have become in the South.

And this time the McCarthy figure, the lone man of principle, the party maverick, looks likely to take the nomination. Though he’s changed his name to McCain, become a Republican, and is now for war, not peace.

I expect McCain/McCarthy to do well on Super Tuesday, well enough to make his lead insurmountable. On the Democratic side, I expect a closer race. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Just maybe this time Kennedy wins.

But I expect a wild convention. I remember Chicago.

Microsoft Claws at the Coffin Lid

Yahoo! is an obvious move for Microsoft. But it’s too late. The train has left the station. Microsoft’s own search service plus Yahoo!’s is still only a small fraction of Google. Google is already the established name brand, elsewhere Microsoft’s only advantage. And Google is free to users; Microsoft cannot kill it by giving away their competitor free, as they did with Netscape or RealPlayer. They are never going to catch up to Google now. This means Microsoft is dead meat.