Thursday, January 31, 2008

Romney's Campaign Has Been Targeted for Termination

Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse McCain at an event in California today.

(Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rudy's Out

His campaign made some serious strategic errors (which I'll discuss more later) , but he ran a very honorable race centered on the strength of his record and ideas.

As for his endorsement, McCain would clearly be on the path to a decisive victory on Super Tuesday even without it, but it will help to unify the GOP somewhat more quickly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Typical Romney Move

Romney stepped on Rudy's concession/quasi-withdrawal speech.

He's done similar things in some earlier states, and even declined to give Huckabee a congratulatory call after Iowa.  To channel Gregg Easterbrook, the Political Gods will have their revenge.

CNN Makes the Call

McCain wins.

Has Anyone Seen Michael Barone?

McCain has been about three points ahead in the vote count pretty steadily for a while now (right now, about 51 percent of precincts are in).  Anyone know what milestones the networks are waiting on to make a call?

Huckabee to Hang Around

In his Florida concession, he just said he'll go through Super Tuesday.

Breaking: Rudy to Drop Out and Endorse McCain as Early as Tomorrow

Mark Halperin reports that Rudy and McCain have already talked it over and come to some sort of understanding.

And Now for a Shot at McCain

Now that he's raking in the fundraising cash, the great proponent of campaign finance regulation is considering dropping out of the public financing system.  In an even more delicious irony, he could have legal troubles if he does so: it is unclear whether candidates need permission from the (currently non-functioning) FEC to withdrawal from the system.  Details here.

Ah, Romney the Conservative

His campaign has been making robocalls that attack McCain for voting against the prescription drug expansion of Medicare.

(Hat tip: David Freddoso in The Corner)

Florida Exits

Multiple sources (Drudge, Campaign Spot) say the exit polls have McCain ahead by about 1.5 percent, although the final round of polling may not yet be in. In any case, we're in for a long night.

Post-McCain Win Update: Or not. I have to stop making political predictions.

Final Florida Polling

As of this posting time, here is the current recent RCP average data for Florida.

McCain          30.3%

Romney        29.8%

Giuliani         15.0%

Huckabee     12.7%

The final Zogby/CSPAN/Reuters tracking poll has McCain up by four; the final Survey USA tracking poll has McCain up by one.

Much Ado About Very Little

Those who have been tooling around in the right-wing blogosphere in the past 24 hours or so have probably noted a that a controversy has flared up over some remarks that John McCain supposedly made regarding Justice Alito.  WSJ's John Fund first reported on these remarks, in passing, in a piece yesterday about McCain's relationship with conservatives.  The most relevant paragraphs:

Then there is the issue of judicial nominations, a top priority with conservatives. Nothing would improve Mr. McCain's standing with conservatives more than a forthright restatement of his previously stated view that "one of our greatest problems in America today is justices that legislate from the bench." Mr. McCain bruised his standing with conservatives on the issue when in 2005 he became a key player in the so-called gang of 14, which derailed an effort to end Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees. More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because "he wore his conservatism on his sleeve."

Therein lies the problem that many conservatives have with John McCain. It is the nagging feeling that after all of his years of chummily bonding with liberal reporters and garnering favorable media coverage from them that the Arizona senator is embarrassed to be seen as too much of a conservative.

Not surprisingly, the reputed statement about Alito, which Fund later sourced to three anonymous GOP Senate staffers,  set off consternation among many conservative bloggers.  Those who are vehemently anti-McCain sounded the call to attack the loudest.   McCain has said that he does not remember making the comment, and has offered a response in an interview with NRO's Byron York:

"Let me just look you in the eye," McCain told me. "I've said a thousand times on this campaign trail, I've said as often as I can, that I want to find clones of Alito and Roberts. I worked as hard as anybody to get them confirmed. I look you in the eye and tell you I've said a thousand times that I wanted Alito and Roberts. I have told anybody who will listen. I flat-out tell you I will have people as close to Roberts and Alito [as possible], and I am proud of my record of working to get them confirmed, and people who worked to get them confirmed will tell you how hard I worked."

"I don't get it," McCain continued. "I have a clear record of that. All I can tell you is my record is clear: I've supported these guys. I went to the floor of the Senate and spoke in favor of them. It's in the record, saying, 'You've got to confirm these people.'"

I asked whether McCain had ever drawn any distinction between Roberts and Alito. "No, no, of course not," McCain said.

I asked about the "wore his conservatism on his sleeve" line. "I'm proud of people who wear their conservatism on their sleeves, because they have to have a clear record of strict adherence to the Constitution," McCain told me. "Remember, in all my remarks, I've said, look, we're not going to take somebody's word for it. You have to have a clear record of adherence to the Constitution, a strict interpretation of the Constitution. I have said that time after time after time."


I'm no fan of McCain (and I'm a huge fan of Alito), but this controversy seems wildly overblown.  There is no doubt that McCain fought hard to get both Roberts and Alito confirmed, and McCain has indeed often cited Alito as a model for the justices he would appoint.  Moreover, at the time of Alito's nomination many (including myself) were concerned that winning his confirmation would be more difficult politically than it was with Roberts, partly because Alito's record was somewhat more defined on some hot button issues (especially abortion).  Of course, those concerns quickly abated after Alito's terrific performance in his confirmation hearings.

There are some valid reasons, I think,  to have some doubts about the kind of judges McCain would appoint (especially McCain's deep belief in the need for upholding and expanding campaign finance regulation).  However, McCain's supposed "conservatism on his sleeve" comment, even if he made it, is not one of those reasons.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In Case You Forgot

Tonight is President Bush's final State of the Union address.  I admit that this had totally skipped my mind until just now, when I read a news story about it.

Substantively, it looks like Bush will announce, among other things, that he is using his executive power to crack down on the most common forms of Congressional pork-project earmarking. Now if only researchers could create a time machine so that Bush could go back to January 2005, when such a stance might have actually helped the GOP.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

Another Important Political Perspective

This time from Dave Barry, on tomorrow's Florida primary:

On Tuesday, millions of Florida voters will head for the polls. Being Floridians, many of them will become confused and drive into buildings, canals, cemeteries, other Floridians, etc. But some will actually make it to the polls, where they will cast ballots that will play a crucial role in the presidential election. Or, in the case of Democrats, not.

It turns out that the 2008 Florida Democratic primary doesn't count. Florida will be sending the same number of delegates to the 2008 Democratic convention as Uzbekistan. This may seem unfair, but there's a simple, logical explanation: The whole primary system is insane.

More here.

(Hat tip: G.B.)

Rudy's Last Stand

With Rudy's poll numbers continuing to decline, his wait 'till Florida/Super Tuesday strategy clearly failing, and one day left until the Florida primary, the end is in sight for the Giuliani campaign.  NRO's Byron York reports on Rudy in Florida here.  One striking passage from the piece:

The RealClearPolitics average of polls counted 41 surveys taken in Florida between February 25, 2007 and December 2, 2007. Giuliani led in every one of them, by margins as high as 23 points. And not just a long time ago — in one CNN survey taken in the last week of November, Giuliani led by 21 points. And yet today — 60 days later — Giuliani is nearly 10 points behind the frontrunners.

On another note, a plurality of  the Florida voters who have left Rudy have apparently gone to McCain, and that trend will likely continue if Rudy's support declines further today and tomorrow, as seems likely.  Will that be enough to put McCain in first place tomorrow night?  In this cycle, who knows.

Not a Reassuring Story

Via the AP:

The federal agency that regulates the nation's mining industry says it has failed to penalize mine operators for thousands of citations issued since 2000, and the oversight could extend back more than a decade.

"And we would guess it goes back far beyond 1995, but because of a lack of electronic records before that year, I can't verify that," Matthew Faraci, spokesman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said Sunday. "Given that this seems to have been an endemic problem that has been with the agency for quite some time, the part that we're optimistic about is that we know about it and are working to fix it."

From the piece, it appears that MSHA is starting to turn things around under new leadership, but there's undoubtedly still a ways to go before the agency becomes truly effective.  For example, as of the beginning of this month MSHA's five-member review commission was operating with two members and could not decide cases.  Of course, that specific problem is not the agency's fault; it's the President's and the Senate's fault.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An Endorsement McCain Actually Wanted

Popular Florida governor and GOP rising star Charlie Crist has endorsed him.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Valuable Perspective on the 2008 Election

For those of you who have, like I, been wondering whatever happened to P.J. O'Rourke, he has a new column up for The Weekly Standard laying out the current state of American politics as only he can.  An excerpt:

Also, America's political parties are indistinguishable to the European eye. A British journalist once described the situation thus: "America is a one-party state, but just like Americans they've got two of them." (I forget which British journalist said that. But there are so many British journalists who should be forgotten. Maybe it was Alexander Cockburn.)

The difference between American parties is actually simple. Democrats are in favor of higher taxes to pay for greater spending, while Republicans are in favor of greater spending, for which the taxpayers will pay. In foreign policy, Republicans intend to pursue the war in Iraq but to do so with a minimal number of troops on the ground. This is not to be confused with the disastrous Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld policy of using a minimal number of troops on the ground to pursue the war in Iraq. Democrats intend to end the war, but they don't know when. Democrats are making the "high school sex promise": I'll pull out in time, honest!

More here.

In Case You Missed It

The New York Times endorsed John McCain in Friday's edition. Reaction from McCain's rivals was swift and was collectively delivered through a spokesman on YouTube (volume alert):

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Quick Florida GOP Debate Roundup

Romney, McCain, and Giuliani all preformed well.  The round where the candidates were able to question each other worked out quite well (except for Paul's unsurprisingly odd question to McCain).  As a Rudy supporter, I think he seemed much more involved and impressive than he has in previous recent debates; perhaps that's just due to the fact that I paid more attention to him tonight because he's running hard in Florida, perhaps because he really was a lot sharper tonight.  McCain may have a legitimate gripe about not getting as much time as some others, particularly Romney, in the final potion of the debate.

Giuliani Fading in Florida

The current RCP average of Florida polling data:

McCain           24.5%

Romney          23.5%

Giuliani           18.8%

Huckabee       15.5%

Giuliani needs a major comeback, and he needs it to begin with the GOP debate tonight (9:00, MSNBC).

WVU Moves to Remand

As expected, WVU has moved to remand its case against you-know-who back to state circuit court.  Copies of the motion to remand and the accompanying memorandum of law can be found here.   The motion was filed last Friday.  Also as expected,  the attorneys for WVU argue that (1) under the alter-ego doctrine, WVU is an arm of the state and therefore not a "citizen"  under the diversity statute and (2) Rodriguez was still a citizen of West Virginia at the time the suit was filed.

Somewhat more surprisingly, perhaps, Judge Keeley decided yesterday to reassign the case to the docket of U.S. District Judge John Bailey.  Any thoughts on how this move will impact the case?

Update/Addition:  WVU also filed an amended complaint on Friday, adding a breach of contract claim after Rodriguez failed to make the first scheduled payment on the $4 million buyout.  A very rough copy of the amended complaint can be found here (sorry, haven't found the PDF yet).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gotta Love Financial Experts

From a fawning cover story on Bank of America in the October 2007 edition of Forbes magazine:

Aside from ill-advised dealings like issuing WorldCom debt and late-trading shenanigans with the bank's Columbia mutual funds, he {the company CEO} has deftly avoided trouble. Subprime woes? BofA presciently got out of these risky mortgages years ago, sensing they'd blow up some day.

From a Forbes story dated yesterday:

Both Bank of America and Wachovia reported abysmal fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday with Bank of America’s earnings tumbling 95% and Wachovia’s profits plummeting 98%.

(Hat tip: Gawker.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Global Warming & Hurricanes

From an article on a new study:

Global warming could reduce how many hurricanes hit the United States, according to a new federal study that clashes with other research. The new study is the latest in a contentious scientific debate over how man-made global warming may affect the intensity and number of hurricanes.

In it, researchers link warming waters, especially in the Indian and Pacific oceans, to increased vertical wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean near the United States. Wind shear - a change in wind speed or direction - makes it hard for hurricanes to form, strengthen and stay alive.

So that means "global warming may decrease the likelihood of hurricanes making landfall in the United States," according to researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Miami Lab and the University of Miami.

The piece goes on to nicely outline the debate about the effects of warming on hurricane frequency:

One group of climate scientists has linked increases in the strongest hurricanes - just those with winds greater than 130 mph - in the past 35 years to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said "more likely than not," manmade global warming has already increased the frequency of the most intense storms.

But hurricane researchers, especially scientists at NOAA's Miami Lab, have argued that the long-term data for all hurricanes show no such trend. . . .  The Miami faction points to a statement by an international workshop on tropical cyclones that says "no firm conclusion can be made on this point."

Fred is Gone

Thompson gave up his half-hearted run for the White House today.  The entirety of his withdrawal statement:

Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States.  I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort.  Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.

Quite an unintentionally appropriate epitaph for his campaign, I think.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On Recessions

Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, has a very nice piece up today that identifies and debunks five myths about recessions.  Here's myth number five and his accompanying argument:

5. There is a regular business cycle.

In a pair of articles in the Quarterly Journal of Economics published in 1920 and 1921, Columbia University economist H.L. Moore hypothesized that the primary cause of economic cycles was the regular eight-year cycle of the modes of the planet Venus. This type of thinking, along with 19th-century English economist William Stanley Jevons's theory that the 10-year sunspot cycle causes economic fluctuations, perhaps accounts for the widespread notion that there is a regular business cycle.

Don't count on it. The term "business cycle" is imprecise. Economic fluctuations affect everyone, not just businesses, and they are, unlike astral cycles, anything but regular. In the nine recessions since 1949, the shortest time between two recessions has been three quarters (the recessions of 1980 and 1981-82), while the longest has been just short of 10 years (the recessions of 1991 and 2001). When the next recession ends, a good guess will be that the expansion that follows will be somewhere between one year and 10 years in length.

A better analogy might be to think of our economic future as being a road trip in a 1971 Ford Pinto. Our car might burst into flames in the next instant, there might be a truck in our lane around the bend, or we just might make it all the way to California.

The whole article is short and well worth a read.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We Should All Be Ashamed

From a powerful AP piece:

Peter Mohan never did find a steady job after he left Iraq. He lost his wife — a judge granted their divorce this fall — and he lost his friends and he lost his home, and now he is here, in a shelter.

He is 28 years old. "People come back from war different," he offers by way of a summary.

This is not a new story in America: A young veteran back from war whose struggle to rejoin society has failed, at least for the moment, fighting demons and left homeless.

But it is happening to a new generation. As the war in Afghanistan plods on in its seventh year, and the war in Iraq in its fifth, a new cadre of homeless veterans is taking shape.

And with it come the questions: How is it that a nation that became so familiar with the archetypal homeless, combat-addled Vietnam veteran is now watching as more homeless veterans turn up from new wars?

What lessons have we not learned? Who is failing these people? Or is homelessness an unavoidable byproduct of war, of young men and women who devote themselves to serving their country and then see things no man or woman should?

If there is any cause for optimism, it is that we, as a society, still have time to provide aid (such as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder) to the new wave of veterans before a large number of them fall into homelessness.  Our record from past wars does not provide encouragement, but maybe this time, with our better understanding of the causes of veteran homelessness, will be different.

Of course, that hope assumes that lack of understanding of causes, rather than plain apathy, was the key obstacle to helping veterans in the past.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Quick Post-South Carolina Roundup

Thompson is done.   Huckabee will continue, but he's lost his viability (probably).   McCain will get great media coverage out of tonight, but so far this has been a truly momentumless nomination contest and he surely can't count on a huge bounce coming into Florida. 

If I were an oddsmaker, I think I would have to make McCain a slight favorite to win in Florida on January 29 over Romney and Giuliani, but no one should be much surprised if either of the latter two takes it.   More on Florida as that race heats up next week.

More on the Stimulus

Irwin Stelzer offers another view at The Weekly Standard.  His conclusion:

With politics trumping economics by more than the usual margin in this election year, the president is demonstrating his compassion by joining the pro-stimulus, bipartisan crowd. The plan that is taking final shape will not add to the structural budget; it will target the right people, and get the cash to them quickly; and it will be temporary. Not what big-government spenders would prefer, nor the first choice of those who believe that the effectiveness of an economic readjustment is proportionate to the pain it is allowed to inflict. But not a bad merger of sound economics with the politically possible.

More here.

Mitt Romney -- New and Improved

Just caught Romney on Leno.  His new economic-turnaround-specialist shtick is almost astonishingly better than his faux-social-conservative shtick.  He still said a few things of some concern policy-wise (for instance, he continued to refuse to acknowledge that most of the jobs lost through globalization aren't coming back and must be replaced), but the obviousness of his pandering has decreased considerably.

We'll see whether it's too late in the process to change the perceptions of GOP voters.

Friday, January 18, 2008

An Island of Wisdom in a Sea of Silliness

Washington is in the grip of stimulus-package fever; President Bush discussed the broad outlines of a plan today and Congress is in "just do something" mode.  In the midst of this Keynesian foolishness, Bill Thomas and Alex Brill have an incisive piece in today's Wall Street Journal:

Washington is abuzz these days with calls for economic stimulus. The presidential candidates are eager to "rescue" voters, and the administration doesn't want its final chapter to end on a sour note.

The current tax code -- designed to discourage capital accumulation and projected to collect rising levels of revenue in increasingly complex and distortionary ways -- does need serious reform. But what we're getting instead from politicians and economists are legislatively challenging, economically questionable and politically motivated policies to address a potential problem best handled by the Federal Reserve.

Hate to spoil the end as well as the beginning, but the concluding sentence is too good not to post:

If history is a guide, economically sound help from Washington will arrive late at best and likely not at all.


Rodriguez Removes Buyout Suit

The Rat Bastard's lawyers filed a notice of removal Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia -- Clarksburg Division (Judge Irene Keeley presiding). News coverage and a link to a copy of the removal notice can be found here. TRB's lawyers assert the existence of diversity jurisdiction.

Of course, no reader of this blog will be surprised by this filing.

More to say on this matter later.

Correction: The notice was filed on Wednesday, not Thursday as the post originally stated.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Iraq Withdrawal Advocates Beat a Retreat

From Politico:

After a series of legislative defeats in 2007 that saw the year end with more U.S. troops in Iraq than when it began, a coalition of anti-war groups is backing away from its multimillion-dollar drive to cut funding for the war and force Congress to pass timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

In recognition of hard political reality, the groups instead will lower their sights and push for legislation to prevent President Bush from entering into a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq for years to come.

More here.

In Fairness

Yesterday, I posted a criticism of Romney's proposed bailout of the Michigan auto industry.  Well, it seems that Rudy's come up with his own boondoggle for pandering to a key state: a "National Catastrophe Fund" that would (in effect) further subsidize the insurance rates of people who choose to live in hurricane-prone areas.  Not surprisingly, Rudy has come out with an ad (transcript here, video here) in Florida touting the plan.

Hat tips:  Campaign Standard and The Campaign Spot

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Coming Up

I've been working on a SCOTUS-related feature that I think many of you will find quite interesting (and perhaps even useful); hopefully it will be up this evening. Also, I've been doing some legal theory stuff that I'm quite exited about and I intend to make a first post discussing certain aspects of it (and asking for feedback) in the next day or two.

Update: Obviously, "this evening" didn't pan out. The SCOTUS thing is taking longer than I expected, but I think it will be worth it.

On Romney

Alex and G.B.  have raised some points about Romney and his strengths and weaknesses relative to the other candidates.  I was going to respond in the comments section of the appropriate post, but considering Romney's win in Michigan and the continuing nature of my concerns about him I'll do so here instead.

Romney greatly frustrates me.  I really do want to like him.  I'm no fan of Huckabee, McCain, or Fred (good on policy, but he's run his campaign like an arrogant ass who expects the nomination to just be handed to him).  Rudy is my favorite (still), but his chances are rather slim at this point, even with the new chaos in the race.  Thus, I want to believe that Romney would be a relatively meritorious alternative should Rudy fall out of the running.  Moreover, it's obvious that Romney has some very appealing (to me), policy-wonk-like qualities.  Alas, Romney constantly gives me (and a good proportion of the GOP electorate generally) more reasons not to support him. 

Romney's Michigan campaign provides a case in point.  With his business background, no one in GOP race was better qualified to diagnose Michigan's economic woes and propose solutions based on sound free-market principles.  What did Romney do instead?

He proposed a $20 billion corporate welfare and central-planning package for the auto industry.  As Byron York reported from Michigan for NRO:

His plan is to make the United States government a virtual partner of Ford, GM, and Chrysler. “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership,” Romney tells the Economic Club. “It will be a plan that works for Michigan and that works for the American taxpayer.”
The plan would involve easier-to-reach mileage standards, increased funding and extended tax breaks for research and development [there's the $20 billion -- B.A.], worker health care reforms, and more. “Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner, not a disinterested observer,” Romney says. “I am not open to a bail out, but I am open to a work out. Washington should not be a benefactor, but it can and must be a partner.”

Could any economic conservative believe that Romney's European-style bailout (let's call it what it is) is consistent with conservative economic principles?  As one wit put it, Romney won Michigan with "a Kruschev-style five year plan for Detroit."

I really do want to believe that Romney is not just a crass opportunist (even by the standards of a presidential candidate) who will say whatever he thinks will help in any given race.  But the evidence otherwise is growing rather than diminishing.


P.S. As for Alex's shot at Rudy, I'll answer that later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

For Better or for Worse

Romney has won Michigan. 

Two good things to come out of Romney's win: (1) Iowa/New Hampshire predominance in the primary process won't hold for this cycle and (2) to the extent that this impacts Rudy's chances at the nomination, it probably helps (on the theory that the more chaos pre-Florida, the better).

Low Turnout in Michigan

If this holds up, it will benefit Romney (the exit polls also suggest he's in for a good night). 

WV in the News

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, namely.  More specifically, various national news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and The New York Times, have picked up on a story about a motion alleging Chief Justice Spike Maynard and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship vacationed together in Monte Carlo while Massey was appealing a big case to the high court.  Massey later won its appeal, with Maynard's vote.   The WSJ Law Blog has a good summary of the situation up, with links to articles from other sources.

Maynard, a Democrat in name,  is up for reelection this year.  There are a whole lot of WV Dems who would love to see him get knocked off in the primary on May 13.   Expect some more shoes to drop in this story between now and then.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Three Articles

Bill Kristol properly excoriates the Dems for their failure to acknowledge the success of the surge in today's New York Times.  Over the weekend, both Jonah Goldberg and George Will had good pieces in The Washington Post about the current conservative/GOP malaise.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Killing Me Won't Bring Back Your Goddamn Honey!"

Some Sunday humor, courtesy of an unintentionally hilarious Nicolas Cage performance from The Wicker Man

You've Got to Be Kidding

From Politico:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who badly needs to win Tuesday's Michgian (sic) primary, has an 8-point lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona in a McClatchy/MSNBC poll of Michigan voters to be released Sunday.

Romney had a narrower lead in a Detroit Free Press poll and was tied in a Detroit News poll.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Excellent News from SCOTUS

Friday was a good day for defenders of the First Amendment. From an article in today's Washington Post:

The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will review the constitutionality of the so-called Millionaires' Amendment, which allows opponents of some self-funded congressional candidates to raise more money than federal law normally allows.

The court's decision would come in time to affect the 2008 congressional campaigns.

The law is being challenged by Democrat Jack Davis, who lost in 2004 and 2006 to Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.). In the 2006 race, Davis spent more than $2.2 million of his own money, and lost 52 percent to 48 percent.

The provision is part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act. It allows a House candidate who receives notice that his opponent will spend more than $350,000 of his own money to receive triple the individual campaign contribution limit of $2,300, even if the individual giver has already contributed the maximum. The provision also permits coordination with party officials about campaign spending. There are similar provisions for Senate candidates.

McCain-Feingold was a cynical exercise in incumbent protection generally, but the Millionaires' Amendment is arguably the most cynical and unjustified provision in the Act. If, as the legislators who pushed McCain-Feingold told us, the Act was meant to combat the influence that "special interests" obtain by giving money to politicians and political groups, shouldn't they have rejoiced at the existence of wealthy, self-funded challengers -- who are above the need to raise money -- rather than penalizing them and helping their incumbent opponents?

As for the case itself, why be so optimistic after a mere cert grant? Because, to refresh memories, five members of the current Court (including Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito) looked very unfavorably on the constitutionality of another McCain-Feingold provision last year in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC. This case presents an even easier call.

Update/Correction: The case actually comes to the Court in the form of a rare direct appeal from a three judge panel (as allowed by a provision in McCain-Feingold), not through a cert grant. Also, there is a jursidictional issue that the Court must decide before hearing the merits. However, I still think that ultimate prospects for the petitioners are quite good. More here from SCOTUSblog.

Snow in Baghdad

A surprisingly moving story.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Looking Ahead -- Dispiriting

From The Financial Times:

US's triple-A credit rating 'under threat'

The US is at risk of losing its top-notch triple-A credit rating within a decade unless it takes radical action to curb soaring healthcare and social security spending, Moody's, the credit rating agency, said yesterday.

The warning over the future of the triple-A rating - granted to US government debt since it was first assessed in 1917 - reflects growing concerns over the country's ability to retain its financial and economic supremacy.

More here.

The most dispiriting fact?  We'll have to rely on one of the people running for president now, along with future Congresses, to head off a downgrade.

God help us.

A Column That Will Get Some Attention

David Brooks has a very interesting column in today's New York Times.  An excerpt:

Supply-side economics had a good run, but continual tax cuts can no longer be the centerpiece of Republican economic policy. The demographics have changed. The U.S. is an aging society. We have made expensive promises to our seniors. We can’t keep those promises at the current tax levels, let alone at reduced ones. As David Frum writes in “Comeback,” his indispensable new book: “In the face of such a huge fiscal gap, the days of broad, across-the-board, middle-class tax cutting are over.”

The political situation has changed, too. Republicans used to appeal to the investor class with economic policies and the working class with values, crime and welfare policies. But that formula has broken down. The workers are walking away from the G.O.P., and the only way to win them back is by listening to their economic concerns.

Brooks goes on to describe how a number of conservative politicians and thinkers have begun formulating various new policies specifically designed to appeal to lower-class workers without sacrificing (or, at least, further sacrificing) free market principles.  I don't believe that supply-side policies are being removed completely from the agenda (and I don't think that Brooks really means to assert that), but there seems little doubt that emphasis is shifting toward modernizing state services and away from enacting broad tax cuts.

Any one have any thoughts about how the GOP should modernize its economic policies without turning away from the principles of economic liberty?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quick South Carolina Debate Roundup

After six months of waiting, we finally saw a bit of the Fred Thompson some were expecting when he got into this thing.  He looked like he actually cares about the outcome of the South Carolina primary.  Will he keep it up, or fade back to the "sorta, kinda in the race" Fred we've seen up until now? Even if he does keep it up, is it too late to matter?  I wouldn't put money on Fred on either question, but his performance tonight was enough to at least keep him in the picture (for now).

As for the rest, Huckabee did better than he had in the last two debates, even though he was in Fred's crosshairs most of the night.  McCain did reasonably well, and probably didn't harm his prospects in Michigan next Tuesday.  Romney and Giuliani didn't take any major damage, but didn't do much to revive their foundering candidacies either.

A SCOTUS Struggle Over Voter Identification Requirements

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard argument on the validity of an Indiana law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.  From SCOTUSblog:

Only two Justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens — even hinted at the real-world fact that the photo ID law in Indiana is at the heart of a bitter, ongoing contest reaching well beyond Indiana. It is a dispute between Republicans worried over election fraud supposedly generated by Democrats to pad their votes, and Democrats worried over voter suppression supposedly promoted by Republicans to cut down their opposition. The abiding question at the end: can a decision be written that does not itself sound like a political, rather than a judicial, tract? Can the Court, in short, avoid at least the appearance of another Bush v. Gore?

At issue in the consolidated cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (07-21) and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita (07-25) is the constitutionality of a 2005 Indiana law that voters who show up at the polls without a photo ID will be allowed only to cast a provisional ballot, to be validated later at another place only if they can travel there and then prove identity. It has been upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court, leading to appeals to the Supreme Court by Democrats or their state party apparatus.

More here.

Romney Going Protectionist In Michigan?

It seems that way from this report, posted on Wednesday in The Corner:

The first commercials for the Michigan primary started airing in force last night during the New Hampshire results shows. As expected, Mitt is apparently going to run hard on his business experience, as his commercials focus on economic issues (and seem to insinuate that we may be invaded by the Chinese at any moment). It's a smart move since Michigan is struggling with massive job losses to overseas and out-of-state factories and has a very involved Union vote. Most candidates who have stumped here in the last few months have tailored their message to address Michigan workers' fears of globalization, trade deficits, and fears about the decline of the American industrial machine. Duncan Hunter and Mitt Romney were very careful, in their last few visits and in the Michigan debate, to highlight their plans for Michigan's economic revival even to the point of incorporating some surprisingly un-Republican language on economic protectionism and trade.

Unfortunate, but certainly not surprising.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

An Astonishing Night

Here's a roundup of the last series of polls taken in New Hampshire before the Democratic primary, courtesy of NRO's Campaign Spot (and with data from Real Clear Politics):

"Obama by 5, Obama by 9, Obama by 13, Obama by 7, Obama by 9, Obama by 8, Obama by 7."

Hillary's win tonight is, to me, the most stunning and immediately inexplicable political upset of the decade thus far. If there is any recent precedent where so many credible pre-election polls have been proven so wrong, I am unaware of it. (Moreover, the late polls were basically right on target regarding the GOP contest.) Pundits and political scientists are already trying to figure out what happened tonight, and it seems certain that the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic Primary will be heavily studied for a long time to come.

In more immediate terms, it will be extremely interesting to see how this defeat will affect the extraordinarily favorable press coverage that the Obama campaign has been receiving since Iowa. The golden boy has had his nose bloodied.

Update: According to Tim Russert, Hillary's last internal tracking poll had her losing by 11 points.

Re: McCain Triumphs

And there we go.

McCain Triumphs

Expect a network call in the GOP race very soon.

Something Very Interesting May Be Happening With the Dems

From the exits and the early returns, McCain looks headed toward a big win.  But the real story is that Hillary may have turned in a performance much stronger than expected. 

Re: Probably Not Long Now

From The Washington Post, at 6:15pm: Obama, McCain Supporters Confident of Big Wins

Probably Not Long Now

Voting ends in NH at 8pm.  From what I've seen, expect both races to be called by 9:00, 9:30 at the outside. 

Romney Raising NH Expectations Now

He said earlier today that he thinks that he is probably going to win, and his staff is sounding optimistic notes to reporters (for an example, see this).  Do Romney and his people  know something we don't, or are they just being very, very stupid?

NH Turnout "Absolutely Huge"

More details via The Page.  Probably not what Romney and Clinton wanted to hear (again).

New Hampshire Primary Results Quick and Dirty Pre-Assessment

Obviously, McCain and Romney face the highest stakes tonight.  If McCain fails to win in NH, his candidacy will be in very deep, probably irrecoverable trouble (he's actually on the  brink of running out of cash now).  A narrow loss to McCain would be another hard blow for Romney, but he might still have something of a chance to win the Michigan primary one week from now and get back in the race.  A non-narrow loss to McCain, and, well, the Romney candidacy will continue on (he has the personal wealth to continue all the way to the convention) but without much of a point.

The contest for third will be well worth watching as Huckabee, Giuliani, and (yes) Paul compete to exceed expectations.  Don't be at all surprised if Huckabee takes a strong third (not a prediction, just saying). 

A Somewhat Anti-Climactic Argument

The Supreme Court today heard argument in Baze v. Rees, a case  in which a death row inmate contends that the three-drug lethal injection protocol used by Kentucky (and every other death penalty state) imposes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

When the Court initially decided to take the case, there seemed a  substantial possibility that it might issue a decision that would de facto prohibit executions via lethal injection (and thus, under current circumstances, executions in general).  From today's argument, however, I think it is quite clear that the justices, thankfully, are not inclined to go down that road.  Instead, it seems as though the broadest realistic outcome of this case would be a ruling that would strike down use of the current three-drug protocol but allow use of an alternative one-drug method that would carry less risk of causing extreme pain. (I won't go into specifics about the relevant differences between the two protocols here; if you're interested they are outlined fairly well in the audio and transcript of the argument.)  

Moreover, from the argument it seems unlikely that the Court will even announce that narrower conclusion, at least this term.   Several of the justices (not surprisingly, Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and presumably Thomas) appear inclined to rule that use of the three-drug protocol does not carry a substantial risk of imposing constitutionally-relevant cruelty, thus upholding it outright.  A few of the others (Breyer and Souter, at least) appear to believe that the case needs to be remanded for further factfinding.  In sum, Baze seems on track to an outcome considerably less important than some had expected and feared. 

My analysis here is quick and dirty (indeed, very quick and dirty).  SCOTUSblog has much more complete coverage here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

By the way...

I'll be posting updates on the New Hampshire primary at various points in the day tomorrow, and will be semi-live-blogging the tabulation of the results tomorrow night.

PS:  For you late night browsers/SCOTUS followers, in the next few hours I'll be posting  an analysis of today's argument in Baze (the lethal injection case) and a general SCOTUS roundup, including a look ahead to the argument in the super-landmark D.C. gun rights case.

Too Little, Too Late (Probably)

The Romney campaign is frantically trying to reduce expectations in New Hampshire.


From The Washington Post:

On the eve of President Bush's Middle East trip, five Iranian patrol boats charged at three U.S. Navy ships entering the Persian Gulf on Sunday in what the Pentagon described as a "serious" provocation.

The high-speed Iranian boats, manned by Revolutionary Guards, dropped "white box-like objects" in the water that the U.S. ships evaded, according to Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff. "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes," a radio transmission from one of the patrol boats warned.

The U.S. ships were preparing to fire at the Iranian vessels when the Iranians abruptly turned and sped away, U.S. officials said.

More here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

One More Thing About Tonight's Debate

It was the first time that I've ever heard a Republican presidential candidate directly say in a debate that Ronald Reagan made a policy mistake.   Huckabee asserted that Reagan was wrong for supporting and signing the 1986 amnesty.  It was actually a rather refreshing moment (and I admire Reagan as much as the next Republican).

GOP Debate Reaction - Sunday Edition

The candidates were pretty closed clustered in a pack tonight. Romney was probably at the front and Huckabee at the back, but there wasn't a huge amount of distance between them.  If Romney needed a decisive victory over McCain, he didn't get it.

George Will Further Confirms the Fact That He Is The Man

Will, in great form, takes on Huckabee's and Edwards' populist appeals in his syndicated column. A sample:

Huckabee told heavily subsidized Iowa that Americans striving to rise are “pushed down every time they try by their own government." Edwards, synthetic candidate of theatrical bitterness on behalf of America's crushed, groaning majority, says the rich have an “iron-fisted grip" on democracy and a “stranglehold" on the economy. Strangely, these fists have imposed a tax code that makes the top 1 percent of earners pay 39 percent of all income tax revenues, the top 5 percent pay 60 percent, and the bottom 50 percent pay only 3 percent.

According to Edwards, the North Carolina of his youth resembled Chechnya today - “I had to fight to survive. I mean really. Literally."

And I'll clip one more shot at Huckabee:

Huckabee says “only one explanation" fits his Iowa success “and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people." God so loves Huckabee's politics that He worked a Midwest miracle on his behalf? Should someone so delusional control nuclear weapons?

Ah, Nonsensical Protectionism

Yet another example:

HONOLULU - Foreign cruise ships sailing from California to Hawaii would have to spend at least two days in Mexico under a proposed federal rule meant to help U.S.-flagged ships better compete with them.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Superquick Dem. Debate Roundup

Obama was good, but not quite outstanding: his weaknesses on policy substance showed through at points. Hillary will be punished for being angry and shrill (though I must say that I quite liked her answer to the "likeability" question, no pun intended; she actually showed a bit of something resembling real human feeling  -- other than anger -- in that response).

Quick GOP Debate Roundup

Romney was strong: he showed a solid substantive grasp of policy and was more on point and articulate than he had been in most previous debates. Giuliani, who has been out of the media eye for a while and will be again after tonight, reminded a lot of people  (including me) why they like him, I think, with his reasoned and grounded answers.  He also had the best line of the night, quipping that Romney would have put Ronald Reagan in an attack ad for the 1986 immigration amnesty.  Fred helped himself by demonstrating thoughtful-but-conservative policy stances on a number of issues, especially health care, and by showing some fire in various exchanges.

On the other hand, I think McCain may have hurt himself slightly tonight: his personal punchlines against Romney might have worked decently in previous formats but (to me) just seemed rather cheap in this more intimate setting.  As for Huckabee, to steal a line from The West Wing he seemed like a .22 caliber guy in a .38 caliber world.

Of course, none of this may end up mattering very much, either next Tuesday or in the longer run.

NH Debates on the Web

WMUR is simulcasting them on the web right now. Link here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

29 hours? Please.

The "ultimate" couch potato champion, as chosen by ESPN:

Stan Friedman won the ESPN Zone Ultimate Couch Potato Competition, which began Tuesday morning at the ESPN Zone restaurant in Times Square. The event ended Wednesday afternoon after more than 29 grueling hours of continuous sports viewing — mainly college football bowl games and endless highlights loops.

The four participants, sitting in recliners in front of a dozen 42-inch high-definition plasma televisions and a couple of 14-foot HD projection TVs, could order unlimited food and drinks, but they weren't allowed to go to sleep or leave their recliners except for restroom breaks once every eight hours.

Unimpressive.  Distinctly unimpressive.

Romney Stays Negative

Here's a prediction I'm very confident in: Romney will crank up his already fervent attacks against McCain in New Hampshire an order of magnitude over the next five days, both in negativity and in frequency.  Indeed, he began to do just that today.


With Thompson coming in third -- about a quarter of a percentage point ahead of McCain -- all of my six Iowa predictions were wrong.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

McCain Moves into Third

With 78 percent of precincts in, McCain has passed Thompson.  If this holds (and probably even if it doesn't)  McCain ought to be considered the heavy favorite for the nomination.  More later on why that's so.

Re: McCain v. Thompson

Now 65 percent of GOP precincts in; Thompson's lead down to about half a point.

McCain v. Thompson

Thompson is in the lead for third by less than two points, with the percentage of precincts reporting still stuck at 41 (come on, AP!).

Re: Not Much Longer

There we go.

Not Much Longer

until the networks call the Dem. race for Obama, I think.

The GOP Results

Networks called it for Huckabee at 9pm EST.

Entrance Polls: Huckabee to Win

From an AP story, via Politico:

Mike Huckabee appeared headed to a convincing victory among Republicans, while Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama appeared to be in a head-to-head battle for victory, as Iowans began to render the first true judgments of the 2008 presidential cycle Thursday night.

John Edwards lagged in a survey of voters entering the caucuses by The Associated Press and the television networks.

In 1,781 precincts across the frigid face of Iowa, Republicans and Democrats started meeting at 8 p.m. Eastern time to begin winnowing tightly bunched fields in both parties and start setting the contours of what is likely to be an unparalleled nomination sprint.
Only fragmentary results were immediately available. Turnout appeared to be extremely high, according to initial reports. About 120,000 to 150,000 people were expected to come to the Democratic caucuses and 80,000 to 90,000 to the GOP meetings.

In preliminary results from interviews of voters entering their caucuses conducted by AP, more than half of all the Republicans said they were either born-again or evangelical Christians, and they liked Huckabee more than any of his rivals. Romney led handily among the balance of the Iowa Republican voters.

Big Turnout?

Seeing many reports of huge turnout from lots of different (but still, anecdotal) sources.   Not so good for Romney and Clinton if that pans out.

Flash: Entrance Poll Results Bad for Edwards

An AP story, in it's entirety, via The Page:

Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama vied for victory Thursday night in the Iowa caucuses, while Mike Huckabee battled Mitt Romney among Republicans. John Edwards lagged in a survey of voters entering the caucuses by The Associated Press and the television networks

Of course, this report should be taken with a huge chunk of salt considering the remarkable problems with exit poll data we've seen in the past few election cycles, but at least it's something to go on.

An Interesting Admission

The opening  paragraphs of a report posted on the New York Times Politics Blog:

DES MOINES — If Republican turnout today is 80,000 or above, Mitt Romney’s campaign could be in trouble, according to Doug Gross, Mr. Romney’s Iowa campaign chairman.

That would mean evangelical turnout is higher than expected, with the vast majority of those votes likely going to Mr. Romney’s rival, Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister who has clearly benefited from evangelical unease about Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith, as well as the fact that until several years ago he was a supporter of abortion rights.

(Hat tip to The Page.)

In any event, the time for speculation and guessing is nearly done: the GOP caucuses in most Iowa precincts should now be underway.

Don't Count On It

Another prediction of the death (or at least substantial downfall) of the billable hour in the practice of law.

Any thoughts from readers in firms that use hourly billing?

....and a Slam for the Caucuses

Christopher Hitchens tears into Iowa's setup:

It is quite astonishing to see with what deadpan and neutral a tone our press and television report the open corruption—and the flagrantly anti-democratic character—of the Iowa caucuses. It's not enough that we have to read of inducements openly offered to potential supporters—I almost said "voters"—even if these mini-bribes only take the form of "platters of sandwiches" and "novelty items" (I am quoting from Sunday's New York Times). It's also that campaign aides are showing up at Iowan homes "with DVD's that [explain]  how the caucuses work." Nobody needs a DVD to understand one-person-one-vote, a level playing field, and a secret ballot. The DVD and the other gifts and goodies (Sen. Barack Obama is promising free baby-sitting on Thursday) are required precisely because none of those conditions applies in Iowa. In a genuine democratic process, these Tammany tactics would long ago have been declared illegal. But this is not a democratic process, and besides, as my old friend Michael Kinsley used to say about Washington, the scandal is never about what's illegal. It's about what's legal.

Hitchens could have pointed out that the Republican process (one voting round, by secret ballot) is somewhat better than the Democratic one, but his piece is an entertaining read.

Update:  Jeff Greenfield has a more analytical and much more useful negative take on the caucuses here.

A Primer for the Caucuses...

The reporters over at the terrific First Read offer this preview of how things will play out tonight:

The caucuses will be called to order at 7:30 pm ET (6:30 pm local time) on the Democratic side, and they begin at 8:00 pm ET (7:00 pm local time) on the GOP side. Democratic candidates have to hit a 15% threshold of support in each precinct caucus to win delegate equivalents, and supporters of candidates who don’t attain viability can realign with other candidates. By comparison, there is not a second-choice aspect on the GOP side; the Republican results are simply a “straw vote” of everyone who attends. Anyone can caucus in either party: A participant simply has to prove residency and register to vote in that party that night. So independents can caucus on either side, and Republicans can re-register as Democrats that night and caucus, and vice versa. The turnout on the Dem side could be anywhere from 125,000 (what it was in 2004) to 150,000-160,000 (and perhaps even higher). Since two of the major GOP candidates -- Giuliani and McCain -- aren’t spending a ton of resources in the state, Republican turnout is likely to be lower than the Democrats; figures being tossed around are 60,000 to 80,000.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Iowa Predictions

Only a fool tries to predict the outcomes of contests as close as the Democratic and Republican races in Iowa.

Hillary will win a narrow victory over Obama, with Edwards in third.  For the GOP, Romney will edge out Huckabee by two or three percentage points, with McCain taking an attention-getting third.

Feel free to leave mocking comments when Edwards and Huckabee win.

It's Hammer Time Again (Almost)

From the AP:

SAN FRANCISCO - MC Hammer hasn't topped the music charts since the early 1990s, but the former rap star says he has another hit in him — only this time around he'll produce it as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Burrell, is choreographing a new career as co-founder and chief strategy officer of Menlo Park-based

The Web site, scheduled to debut in mid-January, will try to upstage YouTube and become the Internet's hub for sharing and watching dance videos. DanceJam then hopes to make money by grabbing a piece of the rapidly growing Internet advertising market, which is expected to rake in $27.5 billion in 2008, according to eMarketer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

For the Record...

a belated happy new year to all. Stay tuned for a set of largely baseless political and legal predictions for 2008.

He's Either Lying or Really, Really Out of It

From ESPN: "Rodriguez disappointed, surprised by WVU lawsuit."