Thursday, November 29, 2007

El Buen Samaritano

This story from KVOA in Tuscon:

"Regardless of what your politics is on illegal immigration, he happened to be in a situation where he had to put his goals and plans aside to benefit a young boy who needed help"
- Rio Rico Fire Chief Mike Foster

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

party of one, please

Are you pro-life? anti-torture? sorry - you still have to promise to vote for Giuliani in the general election. This is just one more astonishing reason to loathe the Virginia Republican Party establishment. What's next -perhaps a loyalty oath to your party's state and local career politicians?

In 1994, the party nominated Oliver North. Enough people who typically voted Republican were repulsed by a man they considered someone who lied to Congress, and Sen. John Warner endorsed an independant bid by former Republican Governor Marshall Coleman. In the midst of the Gingrich revolution, a strongly conservative state reelected a liberal Democrat. One might have expected the VA GOP establishment to reform its ways and reach out to moderates and conservative independents as crucial to its future. Democrats now control Virginia's state senate, governorship, and one (probably soon to be two) seats in the U.S. Senate. And the VA GOP keeps on shrinking its base in order to save itself from the "RINOs" in its ranks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the strength of a septuagenarian

In "In Search of Old Magic" The Economist writes of John McCain:

Most people know that he is one of America's great war heroes. His heroism still shines though in his commitment to political reform. He has done more than any other politician to savage vested interests in the name of the national good. And he has done more to form alliances with Democratic senators: on campaign-finance reform (with Russ Feingold), on immigration reform (with Teddy Kennedy), on global warming (with Joe Lieberman). Government watchdogs credit him with saving taxpayers billions of dollars, improving public safety, protecting Indian tribes and stopping illegal influence-peddling. He has never pulled his punches when criticising Mr Bush's performance in Iraq—particularly on the president's see-no-evil approach to incompetence and his see-no-incompetence attitude to his former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
Looked at in the right light, Mr McCain's weaknesses can also seem like strengths. The flip side of age is experience: Mr McCain probably knows as much about how Washington works as anybody, and certainly as much about what war is like.
That praise is partially in response to this challenge posed near the beginning of the article:

Mr McCain's most notable disadvantage is his age. He will be 72 in January 2009—three years older than Ronald Reagan was when he first moved into the White House—and he would be 80 if he served two terms. It may be true that 70 is the new 60. But Mr McCain has had a hard life. He spent five-and-a-half years in the Hanoi Hilton, a notorious Vietnam prisoner-of-war camp. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected from his plane, and his hosts left his limbs to set themselves. (He still cannot lift his arms above his shoulders and aides have to comb his hair.) On top of that came a serious bout with skin cancer in 2000. Some 30% of voters and 22% of Republicans express reservations about his age. His opponents say he should be anded a gold watch rather than the keys to the nuclear football.

Is it true that old age is McCain's greatest liability in the campaign? For many on the right, I'm sure his bipartisanship and his work on immigration and campaign finance reform are his biggest obstacles. But to the extent that many people see age as a disqualifying factor - What does it say for a culture that a relatively advanced age is assumed to be so much a laibility that it should
overwhelm credentials of experience and authority? And what does it say when those who live through their afflictions and accomplish great things, that this is for many a source of implicit prejudice rather than inspiration?
A pop culture preoccupied with marketing the fountain of youth saw the wise and distinguished Bob Dole in 1996 as merely geriatric. In 2000, John McCain was an energetic reformer. Eight years later, we are often reminded, McCain, if elected, would be the oldest candidate to ever take office. We are less often reminded that this of course was the case with a few other presidents also.

A 72 year-old McCain in 2009 would break the record for an initial inaguration held by a 69 year-old Reagan in 1981 (though still younger than Reagan was in 1984). The previous record makers were William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson and John Adams. It is remarkable that a full century and a half passed between the inaguration of W. H. Harrison and Ronald Reagan.
Harrison was the first president to die in office, and perhaps this led in part to an atmosphere where older candidates were less politically viable.
What is even more remarkable is the age and longevity of the early presidents when compared to their time and their successors. Of the ten presidents born before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, tha median age at inaguration was 58 - well into the range of adult life expectancy for that time. The median longevity for these presidents was a full 78 years. Benjamin Franklin, while not a U.S. President, demonstrated the energetic contribution of a septuagenarian statesman as ambassador to France - a position of importance equal or greater to that of any civilian in America's struggle for independance.
For the presidents born between the Constitution and the Civil War, the median age at naguration was a mere 51, while the median longevity - excluding those assassinated - was 67. For the presidents born after the Civil War who have died, the median age of ascendancy rose to 56, and the median longevity to 81. Modern advances in medicine and well-being have meant that for those Presidents born after 1910, only JFK has died before the age of eighty, and 83 year olds George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter continue to be active. It is very possible they will survive another decade and surpass the 93 years of Reagan and Ford.

McCain has suffered the scars of war and sickness, but is that any kind of a disqualification - that he has experienced the savage aspects of the human condition and faced them heroically? Many presidents have suffered maladies, including during their term of office. Bill Richardson received an endorsement from the NRA in his last run for governor, but he is among many who want to keep guns out of the hands of anyone with a mental illness. This may seem sensible, but it reflects the spirit of an age that might have not looked kindly on Lincoln's melancholy. For all the talk about diversity we hear, some discrimination when it comes to a person's perceived health and happiness continues to be largely acceptable in our society.

Senator McCain has said he's the "the luckiest guy that I've ever known" even as he has certainly endured the stresses and strains of life associated with a life of sacrifice and service to, as he often puts it, "a cause greater than one's own self-interest." The physical results of such service can be a powerful testimony. In "George Washington: Presbyopia Saves the United States," Dr. Zebra quotes Flexner's account of Washington before his officers at Newburgh:
[Washington] remembered he had brought with him a reassuring letter from a congressman. He would read it. He pulled the paper from his pocket, and then something seemed to go wrong. The General seemed confused; he stared at the
paper helplessly. The officers leaned forward, their hearts contracting with anxiety. Washington pulled from his pocket something only his intimates had ever seen him wear: a pair of eyeglasses. "Gentlemen," he said, "you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
This homely act and simple statement did what all Washington's [prepared] arguments had failed to do. The hardened soldiers wept. Washington had saved the United States from tyranny and civil discord.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

lost me at "stuck in traffic"

The VA GOP establishment would have us believe that former Governor Jim Gilmore is the best hope of holding on to the Senate seat of retiring Senator John Warner. Here he is announcing his candidacy:

There is a reason this guy didn't last long in his Presidential bid. How long into this video does it take before you are bored out of your mind?

Friday, November 23, 2007

a convenient truth

Perhaps the timing might seem a bit too convenient, but now might be a good time for Senator McCain to rethink his position on funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

McCain scores on healthcare

Last month the National Journal came out with its rankings on presidential candidates' healthcare plans:

National Journal asked 10 health care specialists to assess the proposals from the top-tier presidential candidates who have unveiled such plans: Democrats Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, and Republicans Giuliani, McCain, and Romney. Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee wasn't included because he has yet to present a plan.) After consulting with those and other health policy experts, we created a system for rating the plans' probable impact on the uninsured, on government spending, on consumer costs, on employer-based insurance, and on the quality of care. National Journal's judges gave each candidate's plan a series of numerical grades, from 1 to 10, depending on how close they think it would come to achieving a given goal, such as covering the uninsured. A score of 10 indicates that the plan would come extremely close to achieving the goal, and a score of 1 means that it would not come at all close. The judges, who span the ideological spectrum, are primarily from research organizations, universities, and think tanks. The scores in the articles that follow are averages of the 10 judges' marks for each facet of the candidates' health plans.
Democrats scored higher on universality of coverage, while Republicans scored higher on economic impacts. Scores of impact for consumers, employers, and quality of care were more of a mix when it came to the two parties.
John McCain had the best showing by far among the Republican plans. McCain's score was the highest of any candidate for encouraging patients to seek value for cost, and for keeping healthcare costs in line with economic growth. On two goals related to quality, McCain tied with the Democrats for highest. McCain tied with Giulliani on financial impacts to employers, and with Giuliani and Romney on cost to the federal government. Three additional goals gave McCain the highest score among the Republicans, though lower than the Democrats. Only on continued employer coverage did McCain score lower than Romney, this because of a shift to individualized coverage:
The Republicans' plans would probably cause some erosion of employer-based coverage, but individual coverage would fill in the gap, in Butler's view. He cites John McCain's proposal as triggering a migration from "inefficient small-business plans to plans offered through organizations but still linked to business." McCain would replace the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health plans with a refundable $2,500 tax credit for individuals ($5,000 for families)who buy health insurance. Individuals could get insurance through any organization or association, including an employer, and workers could carry the policies from job to job.
One of the judges of these plans was John Goodman, founder of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He has put up his own scores for the goals addressed by National Journal. On two ratings of competition, Goodman has McCain tied with Giuliani, and towards universal coverage - Goodman, like the National Journal judges as a whole, rates McCain highest among the Republicans and competitive on this with Obama. On the other 6 of 9 goals where Goodman gives a rating, including giving patients a broad range of providers, McCain outperforms all other candidates.
While believing that none of the candidates plans go quite far enough to enable consumer-driven health care, Goodman says the candidate whose plan is "most radical" is
McCain by a long shot. He would completely replace our arbitrary, regressive, wasteful system of tax subsidies for private health insurance with a $2,500 refundable tax credit for everybody ($5,000 for couples). By contrast, the leading Democrats would not repeal a single existing subsidy; they just add new ones. (That is why their plans are so costly.)

meanwhile -

Least Loyal to his Own Vision: Romney. He enters the contest with a huge advantage. He engineered a bi-partisan plan to credibly create universal coverage in Massachusetts. (Compare that to Hillary's failed reform.) So what does Romney do when he gets in front of primary voters? Pretends it never happened.

Of course, the Massachusetts plan did have some glaring faults, especially for libertarian-leaning folk like myself who absolutely loathe the idea of making it mandatory to buy health insurance. It stinks too much of fascism for government to make all individuals choose between a limited range of plans, a law that transfers wealth from individuals to companies. The car insurance analogy doesn't work here - you can still choose not to drive.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Webtangle: memo to candidate - don't go negative, stick to substance

In this day of the blogospher, in the pluripotent snarl of contemporary spliced-soundbyte ludicrous-speed digital telegram news, even a scent of smoking adverseriality can soon become explosive if things get too personal. It can become near impossible to recover original nuance from under the decontextualized debris of hyped hostility.
In such an environment, a candidate would be well advised, for exmple, concerning another candidate whose former business associate is coming under heat, to stand clear and let the news cycle ferret out the details until they are sufficientl exposed to the primary voters consciousness. Cable news is perfectly capable in this regard, being able to harp and nag upon the same question again and again completely unselfconsciously, even if it isn't leading anywhere.
And as far as that candidate who turned down an oppurtunity to serve on a panel concerned with crafting a policy bearing upon our military and security of nations, it should not be in any way suggested that such refusal demonstrates a lack of sympathy for the people and issues which that policy would effect. Let it rather be admitted plainly that such candidate had little expertise on the subject to begin with, and so was ill-prepared to engage in such study group, his withdrawal from it thus being perfectly understandable.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Credibility: Part 1 - America and the World

America faces a real challenge right now in terms of credibility. It is both about our place as a nation in the eyes of other nations, and also our view of ourselves and what we stand for.
President Bush has acted in what he has believed to be in the best interest of our nation and our world. And his policies have accomplished a great deal of good in the world - whether through saving lives through anti-AIDS programs in Africa or by liberating millions of Afghanis from the oppressive grip of the Taliban. And we cannot of course we should not forget the evidence provided by an absence – that we have not had a terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001.
Meanwhile, since the Bush administration first made the case for war against Saddam to the world and to the American people, there has been a serious diminishment of credibility. Part of this is because America did not gain the support and partnership of the UN Security Council in launching the invasion. Additionally, no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons stockpiles have since been found in Iraq. The credibility gap widened as the Bush administration pursued grievously wrongheaded policy in Iraq after the initial invasion that toppled Saddam’s regime. The images brought to the world of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib shocked Americans and highlighted the problem of torture. The Bush administration, while condemning the abuses at Abu Ghraib, failed to take a strong stand against torture in the War on Terror, and under the influence of the Vice President, actively resisted such a stand.
It is true that we have enemies who are willing to use torture against us and commit all kinds of atrocities, and who would be willing to continue these acts no matter what violence we forswear – as long as we represent freedom and pluralism, we will have enemies in those who oppose those ideas. It is also true that by engaging in torture we create a powerful recruiting device for these enemies. Meanwhile the most powerful nation on earth gives up the moral high ground, distancing ourselves from our allies and making it harder to achieve a coordinate response to international terror.
On this issue of moral credibility in the world, I would have a hard time voting for the likes of Romney (who says he wants to double Guantonamo) or Rudy (who says that whether waterboarding is torture “depends on who does it.”) And it's also one of the main reasons I support John McCain, who has credibility on these issues like no one else.