Friday, February 29, 2008

He Became Governor To Chew Bubble Gum and Kick Ass, and He's All Out of Bubble Gum

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has had an eventful first six weeks in office:

BATON ROUGE, La. — Downstairs, legislators gnashed their teeth, while upstairs at the Capitol here this week, the new governor claimed victory against the old customs down below.

Six weeks into the term of Gov. Bobby Jindal, an extensive package of ethics bills was approved here this week, signaling a shift in the political culture of a state proud of its brazen style. Mr. Jindal, the earnest son of Indian immigrants, quickly declared open season on the cozy fusion of interests and social habits that have prevailed among lobbyists, state legislators and state agencies here for decades. Mostly, he got what he wanted.

More here.

On the downside, If Jindal succeeds in cleaning up Louisiana, West Virginia may well be next in line for the title of Most Corruption-Ridden State.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Day of Sadness and Celebration

As you all know, I'm sure, yesterday morning William F. Buckley, Jr. passed away in his study.  He was 82.

I thought about trying to say something semi-profound here about the importance of Buckley to the modern conservative movement, which in turn has had such a strong impact on all Americans (whether they like it or not) and the face of the world, but instead I think I'll let the facts of Buckley's life and the opinions of his colleagues speak for themselves.

Buckley was an astoundingly productive individual. Of course, he started National Review in 1955, taking his stand "athwart history [ie. the rising tide of collectivism], yelling `Stop' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it."  He wrote more than 50 books in his life, fictional and non-fictional, on an incredible range of topics.  He hosted the debating show Firing Line for 34 years (the longest run of any one host in U.S. television history), and in his prime gave more than 70 speeches and lectures a year.  Somehow, he also found time to become an accomplished harpsichord player, a skilled trans-oceanic sailor, and a fervent skier.

(For a number of moving tributes to Buckley's great personal decency and goodness --qualities that surely deserve mention alongside his discrete accomplishments-- see The Corner.)

George Will has argued, only half-jokingly, that Buckley won the Cold War.  But maybe the best description of Buckley's role that I've seen comes from Mona Charen in today's Washington Post:

The credit for reviving conservatism as a respectable intellectual tradition must be widely shared. Milton Friedman, Whittaker Chambers, F.A. Hayek, Thomas Sowell, Robert Bork, Irving Kristol and many, many more provided essential support. But no one could match Bill Buckley for elan. He was our Samuel Johnson and Errol Flynn rolled into one.

That would be an appropriate note to close this post on, but I feel compelled to end instead with a passage from Buckley's famous mission statement for National Review:

We have nothing to offer but the best that is in us. That, a thousand Liberals who read this sentiment will say with relief, is clearly not enough! It isn't enough. But it is at this point that we steal the march. For we offer, besides ourselves, a position that has not grown old under the weight of a gigantic, parasitic bureaucracy, a position untempered by the doctoral dissertations of a generation of Ph.D's in social architecture, unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups, uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaves us just about the hottest thing in town.

Indeed.  R.I.P.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Interesting Criminal Procedure Cert. Grant

In New York v. Belton (1981), the Supreme Court decided that a bright-line rule about the reasonableness of police searches of automobiles incident to the arrest of an occupant  was necessary to serve the interests of protecting officer safety and preventing the destruction of potential evidence.  The Court announced that police, after arresting a subject could -- even where the subject was securely handcuffed in the back of an officer's car --  search through the vehicle the subject had been driving or riding in and any compartments in that vehicle (except for the trunk) without obtaining a warrant. 

On Monday, the Court announced that it was granting certiorari to hear Arizona v. Gant.  In Gant, the Arizona Supreme Court held that officers who want to search a vehicle incident to an arrest without a warrant must have particular reasons to fear that the arrested subject still poses a threat to the safety of the officers or to the existence of potential evidence.  The case presents the Court with an opportunity to either reinforce or reconsider the 27 year-old Belton rule, and their choice may well have implications for the other bright-line rules that form a major part of modern U.S. criminal procedure jurisprudence.  The case will be heard next term.  More here, courtesy of SCOTUSblog.

On another note, I've been working on a lengthy piece on Danforth v. Minnesota, a case that came down last Wednesday that dealt with some very interesting questions about the nature of constitutional rules. It will probably be up tomorrow.

Correction: Fixed some embarrassing spelling and grammar mistakes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Huckabee on SNL

I know some readers will probably disagree, but I thought he was pretty funny:



Update:  Fixed the video.

Justice Kennedy Strikes Back

At an event last Wednesday, Justice Kennedy returned fire (sort of)against critics of his discussion of foreign law in his majority opinion in Roper v. Simmons, the 2004 case announcing that a "national consensus" had developed against executing juvenile offenders and that such executions had therefore become cruel and unusual punishment.  At the event, Kennedy said of the fights over Roper  "[t]here was kind of a 'know-nothing' aspect to the debate, it seems to me." 

I won't revisit the whole dispute about the Roper majority's use of foreign law in the case, but I think it's worth remembering that one key reason (though hardly the only one) why that aspect of the majority opinion prompted so much flack is because the majority's arguments that American national public opinion had evolved to a point where a national consensus existed against the execution of juvenile offenders were almost comically weak.  Put another way, the mere fact that the justices in majority turned to an examination of foreign law at all seemed to imply that even they realized there was no real evidence to support their view that a new domestic consensus had developed.

Continuing on the evolving national consensus front, the Court is faced with a case this term, Kennedy v. Louisiana (the name of the petitioner is a coincidence) , where evolving moral standards appear to support broader application of the death penalty.  A lot more on that case later, but I'll point out that it will be very interesting to see whether and how Kennedy addresses that situation.  

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yet Another Corrupt Congressman (Allegedly)

PHOENIX - Federal authorities announced corruption charges Friday accusing Rep. Rick Renzi of engineering a swap of federally owned mining land to benefit himself and a former business partner and stealing from his insurance company's clients.

A lengthy federal investigation that had put the three-term Republican congressman under a cloud for more than a year culminated in a 26-page indictment issued Thursday against him and two other men. Renzi announced Aug. 23 that he wouldn't run for re-election in Arizona's mostly rural 1st Congressional District.

"Congressman Renzi deprived the citizens of Arizona of his honest services as a United States elected representative," U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa said.

More here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Unsettling Incompetence

Via UPI:

The Secret Service told Dallas police to stop screening for weapons while people were still arriving at a campaign rally for Barack Obama, a report said.
Police stopped checking people for weapons at the front gates of Reunion Arena more than an hour before the Democratic presidential hopeful appeared on stage Wednesday, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported.
Police said the order to stop using metal detectors and checking purses and laptop bags constituted a security lapse, the newspaper reported.

You would think that if there was one city where the Secret Service could not be help but be vigilant, it would be Dallas.


Update:  The Secret Service denies the story.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Constitutional Cases Before SCOTUS in 2007-2008

I've been working on a significant new feature for a while, and am pleased to announce that it's finally ready for use.   Of the approximately 75 cases the Supreme Court has decided or will decide during this term, 21 of them turn, at least in part, on the interpretation of some constitutional language.  Despite the outsized importance of these cases and the news coverage given to them individually, I haven't found one good place where one can quickly get up to speed and stay current on all of these cases at once.  Thus, I created my own.

This feature -- a look at the constitutional cases before the Court during the 2007-2008 term -- currently contains for each case some basic background info and  a brief description of the major constitutional issue or issues raised.  The cases are listed in chronological order by argument date or scheduled argument date.  Cases that have been argued by this point have links to argument transcripts (and audio, if available,) and cases that have been already been decided (only two, as of this writing)  have links to the SCOTUS opinions.  Of course, links to new argument transcripts and opinions will be added as the term further progresses.  Additionally, I am gradually working on adding links to the relevant lower court decisions being appealed and some links to news and scholarly coverage.   Case information is taken from the invaluable SCOTUSwiki, from the Oyez project website,  from various places on the Court's own site, and from my normal travels around the net. 

I'm sure I'll revise the general format and content of the feature as I go along;  this is very much an evolving project.   Right now the info is in a .pdf file, but that might change if I find a better way to do this within the limitations of Blogger.  I hope you find this feature interesting and useful, and if you have any suggestions (or corrections) leave them in the comments.


Update:  The links in this post will continue to point to the version of the file that was posted on this date.  For the most recently updated version of this feature, click the permanent link at the top right corner of the main page.

It Worked

From the AP:

A missile launched from a Navy cruiser soared 130 miles above the Pacific and smashed a dying and potentially deadly U.S. spy satellite Wednesday, the Pentagon said. Several defense officials said it apparently achieved the main aim of destroying an onboard tank of toxic fuel.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Priciest Laptop of All

Most of you have probably heard about this already, but for those who haven't it's worth bringing up.  A Washington D.C. woman is suing Best Buy for losing her laptop after she had taken it in for repairs.  The sum she's asking for? $54 million

The plaintiff admits that there's no way that she would ever actually be awarded $54 million, but says she is suing for that amount as a way of getting the company's attention.  (By the way, isn't making a monetary demand you know you have absolutely no entitlement to supposed to be sanctionable, under virtually every jurisdiction's rules of civil procedure?)  If the $54 million figure seems familiar, it should be:  the plaintiff in the now-infamous D.C. pants lawsuit asked for the same amount.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Reminder

Today, February 18, is George Washington's birthday.  For the tale of how the celebration of that blessed date became the god-awful "Presidents Day," see this.  For an absurd and very vulgar, yet somehow still reverent, video tribute to Washington, see this.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hezbollah and Al Qaeda

In a provocative cover story in the current Weekly Standard, terrorism researcher Thomas Joscelyn takes the occasion of the mysterious killing of a major terrorist leader to examine the pre-9/11 connections between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda.  The opening:

Late Tuesday night in Damascus, Imad Mugniyah, senior terrorist of Hezbollah, was killed in a car bomb explosion. It was a fitting death for a founding father of Islamic terrorism, a man who himself had built many bombs. If you had not heard of Mugniyah before, there is a good reason. Terror chieftains like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri seek the limelight with their frequent and widely disseminated diatribes. Not Mugniyah. Until recently, only a handful of photos of him were publicly available, and he never gave interviews. Instead, he was something of a ghost, confined to the terrorist underworld since the early 1980s, quietly doing the bidding of his masters, the Assad family in Syria and the mullahs in Iran.

Mugniyah, however, was well known in counter-terrorism circles. His role in the kidnapping and torture death of William Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut in 1984, had earned him special enmity. Indeed, law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the globe hunted Mugniyah for nearly 30 years. But until last week he always escaped, leaving behind him a bloody trail. Finally, someone--we cannot be sure who, as of this writing--got him.

The evidence Joscelyn lays out in the piece suggests that some of Hezbollah's Iranian and Syrian backers may have known about and given support to the 9/11 plot,  although Joscelyn makes it clear that there is not enough evidence to definitively prove that at this point.  However,  Joscelyn argues, very convincingly, that it is virtually beyond rational contention that Sunni Al Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah made common cause in lots of ways during the 1990's.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Nice Anecdote

The things candidates do and say to get elected in modern America may seem, well, less than befitting the dignity of elections in the world's oldest continuous democracy.  By the standards of earlier eras in American political history, however, they are actually rather mild.  Here is a description, by historian Richard Brookhiser, of how George Washington won his first political contest:

Washington ran for the House of Burgesses in 1758 while still serving as a colonel in the militia. He could not be at the polling place on Election Day, but he delegated a friend, Lt. Charles Smith, to tend bar in his absence. We know from their correspondence what the Washington campaign served: 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, two gallons of cider (probably hard), for a total of 160 gallons of booze. There were 397 voters. Washington won. If you’re not the candidate of Change, be the candidate of Have Another.

As Brookhiser points out, in a nice piece on Washington's excellent and quite underappreciated political skills, such tactics were hardly unheardof in early American history.

WVU v. Rodriguez Remanded

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge John Bailey ordered West Virginia University's suit against Rich Rodriguez remanded to state court.  Bailey, applying a test from Maryland Stadium Authority v. Ellerbe Becket Inc., concluded that WVU is an arm of the state of West Virginia and thus is not a "citizen" for diversity jurisdiction purposes.  A PDF copy of the judge's opinion can be found here.

Of course, those of you who read this blog regularly can say you saw pretty much this exact development coming in December

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Have To Say, This Is Really Cool

Remember the bus-sized spy satellite that went dead it space and  started to fall back to earth?  The Navy is going to shoot it down:

The plan is to fire a modified SM-3 interceptor at the satellite, "just prior to it hitting the Earth's atmosphere," Cartwright said.  If the missile connects at that height, the collision would reduce the amount of debris that would be released into space; most of the satellite chunks would likely burn up in the air, within the first 10-15 hours, he noted.  And a hit then would likely "slow the satellite down" so we can "put it in the ocean," Gen. Cartwright added.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This is Not England

Last week, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (ie. the head of the Church of England) stated that the partial adoption of sharia law in Britain was both desirable and "unavoidable."

I'm not a huge fan of modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence, (particularly the notion that it is applicable to the states, which finds little support in the history of the clause). However, having a strong legal separation between religion and state in America certainly does have some very salutary policy effects. One of them is that we don't have to worry about being governed by sharia law.

Update/Correction: Changed the headline.

The Wrong Kind of Government Diligence

On Monday, the ABC network announced that it was appealing a fine imposed by the FCC for an "indecent" scene in a 2003 (2003!) episode of NYPD Blue.   The crime:  "multiple, close-up views" of female "nude buttocks," broadcasted before 10:00pm.  The fine: $1.4 million. 

The FCC imposed the fine because it considered the ass in question a "sexual organ."  Perhaps the FCC should subject itself to an indecency investigation.

More here and here, including a link to the scene in question.  (I thought about posting the YouTube clip here, but while the scene is hardly indecent it is probably NSFW (Not Safe for Work)).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

In Case You Missed It: Ethanol and Other Current Biofuels Aid Global Warming

From Friday's New York Times:

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.

These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development.

More here.

So, to sum up what we're learning about ethanol mandates, they trigger higher food prices, higher energy costs, and greater accumulation of greenhouse gases.

How Much of an Annoyance Will Huckabee Be?

His campaign is sending lawyers to Washington state in preparation for a potential challenge to the results of the GOP caucuses held there yesterday.  McCain narrowly defeated Huckabee in the contest.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Astonishing if True: The Conservative Chasm in California

I was just looking at the final exit poll data from California on the GOP side.  "Very conservative" voters purportedly* made up 26 percent of the electorate; they voted Romney 50, McCain 20, Huckabee 16.

"Somewhat conservative" voters made up 35 percent of the electorate; they voted McCain 43, Romney 31, Huckabee 13.

* Of course, we really don't have much way of knowing how accurate these subgroup numbers really are, especially considering the broader exit poll problems we saw (yet again) on Tuesday.


Update/Correction:  Obviously, I have some confidence in such exit numbers, or I wouldn't have written a column-length analysis of them.  In particular, the fact that the gap between conservative voters has been present in every prior major GOP contest makes the California numbers at least plausible (unless all the earlier numbers were way off, which is quite unlikely). 

On Romney (One Last Time)

I'm both surprised and not surprised that he got out so soon.  Before Tuesday, there was talk that he would withdrawal if he didn't win or at least do very well in California.  However, on Tuesday night he said (albeit before the California results came in) that he was going all the way to the convention no matter what.  In any event, his prompt withdrawal probably helps whatever political future he has (maybe in a run for Senate somewhere).

As for why he lost, there are many pieces out there addressing that, and after today there will be a lot more.  I think the best one I've seen is this WSJ editorial; the authors argue, essentially, that Romney never really grasped how different being a political leader is from being a business leader.

Romney to Withdrawal Today?

That's the word on the street.  Some caution is probably prudent, since this doesn't square with what Romney said on Tuesday night, but the info does come from a source within the Romney camp.

Update:  It's confirmed.  More on this later.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Selflessness of Obesity

This is great stuff:

LONDON - Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers.

(Full disclosure:  I'm a man of substantial size, though my size is not nearly as substantial as it once was.  Perhaps, for the good of society, I should order a pizza.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


The exit polls have McCain ahead by a few points, but the exits haven't tracked the actual results that well tonight.

Update (12:22am):  Fox News has called the statewide vote for McCain.


Exits have McCain ahead by a few points, but with 51 percent of precincts in it's Huckabee 35, McCain 32, Romney 27.

Update (11:10pm):  With 79 percent of precincts in McCain has moved into the lead.

Update (12:28am): CNN calls it for McCain.

Exit Poll Mania

The latest data out of Arizona has both McCain and Romney at 36 percent.  That won't hold, but Romney may make it closer than just about anyone thought.

Update (10:10pm):  Exits now show McCain ahead, by single digits.  

Update (10:40pm): Called for McCain.

Update (10:59pm):  Looks like the exit polls here were way off; McCain's winning the actual vote by 20 points.  Mark Hemingway in The Corner reports a McCain staffer's reaction:  "'[Oedipal expletive redacted] exit polls!'"


Exits right now show a tight three-way race in Georgia, with (perhaps) Huckabee with an edge.

Update (8:00pm):  Exits are extremely close, and right now only 2 percent of the vote is in.

Update (9:15pm):  With 43 percent of the vote in, it's Huckabee 35, McCain 32, Romney 29.

Update (10:05): With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Huckabee 35, McCain 32, Romney 29. 

Update (10:43pm): With 82 percent of precincts in, Huckabee is up by 4 points.  Not too much longer before it's called.

Update (11:31pm):  A little later than I expected, but it's called for Huckabee.

The Importance of "Somewhat Conservative" Voters in the GOP Race

According to standard conventional political wisdom, the way to win an election is to motivate one's base voters while simultaneously pursuing swing voters.  However, in this year's GOP nomination race storylines have focused very heavily on the first part of that equation and very little on the second.  We have heard again and again that the contest centers around a moderates vs. conservatives divide in the Republican party.   More specifically, we have heard  that John McCain has been more successful in the primaries and caucuses thus far because McCain has been able to unify party moderates behind his campaign to a greater degree than Mitt Romney has been able to unite party conservatives. 

There may be some truth in the "moderates vs. conservatives" theme.  If, for example, Mike Huckabee had dropped out of the race before the Florida primary his votes may have gone disproportionately to Romney (though that is far from certain, at the least) . However, the theme is also somewhat misleading because one of its fundamental assumptions -- that the GOP is divided into moderate and conservative voter blocks -- appears wrong, or at least incomplete.    

In conducting exit polls from the five strongly contested states so far -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida -- pollsters did not simply ask GOP voters whether they were "moderate" or "conservative" in their views.  Instead, they used a more informative five-choice model, asking voters whether they were "very liberal" (not too many responded that way, as you might expect), "somewhat liberal",  "moderate", "somewhat conservative" or "very conservative." 

Perusing the exit poll figures from the major contests, I put together a table listing the percentage of voters who labeled themselves "moderate," "somewhat conservative," or "very conservative" in each race.


Moderate Somewhat
Iowa 11% 43% 45%
New Hampshire 34% 34% 21%
Michigan 33% 32% 24%
South Carolina 24% 34% 34%
Florida 28% 34% 27%


As you can see, in each race the "somewhat conservative" voters subgroup was either the largest group or a close second.

More interesting lessons come from how those somewhat conservative voters voted (or, at least, how they told the exit pollsters they voted).  The following is  a table showing the candidate who won "somewhat conservative" voters in each state and that candidate's margin of victory over his next closest competitor for those voters,  along with the data for the overall winner of the state (from actual vote counts). 


Iowa Huckabee +7 Huckabee +9
N.H. McCain +3 McCain +5
Michigan Romney +3 Romney +9
S.C. McCain +2 McCain +3
Florida McCain +3 McCain +5


Obviously, the data for the winners and margins of victory in the "somewhat conservative" voter block fits fairly neatly with the overall results of the actual voting.  But what about "moderate" and "very conservative" voters?  Here are the results among all three subgroups, compared with the overall actual vote results.


Moderate Somewhat Conservative Very
Overall Winner
Iowa tie (Mc/Rom) Huck. +7 Huck. +12 Huck.
N.H. McCain +17 McCain +3 Romney +24 McCain
Mich. McCain +6 Romney +3 Romney +24 Romney
S.C. McCain +30 McCain +2 Huck. +19 McCain
Fl. McCain +22 McCain +3 Romney +23 McCain


While the winner of each state won the "somewhat conservative "voter subgroup everytime, the same is obviously not true for the winners of the "moderate" and "very conservative" blocks .  Moreover, in each state the winning margin among "somewhat conservative" voters was closer (usually much closer) to the winning margin among all voters than either of  the other subgroups .

What does all this suggest?

That "somewhat conservative" voters (for lack of more narrow targeting), far from united for one candidate or another, are essentially a swing voter group in the race.

That point, if it's true, rather throws a monkey wrench into many assessments of the race between Romney and McCain.  Many pro-Romney commentators (or, put more accurately, anti-McCain commentators) have been asserting that Romney is the leading conservative candidate in the race.  The data shows that to be true among "very conservative" voters, but things are far more competitive among "somewhat conservative" voters.  Indeed, while Romney might or might not be the frontrunner today if Huckabee had not competed for "very conservative" voters in New Hampshire or Florida, he would almost certainly be the frontrunner had he been able to win "somewhat conservative" voters in those states.

So why has Romney done so much more poorly among "somewhat conservative" voters than among "very conservative" voters?  My educated guess (or perhaps not-so-educated guess): "somewhat conservative" voters tend to feel much less strongly about McCain's alleged heresies on illegal immigration, or even find themselves in relative agreement with McCain, than "very conservative" voters. (Full disclosure: I'm one of those voters who agrees with much of McCain's current position).  Moreover, in my view many conservatives are unconvinced that Romney himself has a core of conservative principles.

Whatever the reasons for Romney's underperformance among "somewhat conservative" voters, he probably can't win the GOP nomination if it continues.  

(As I publish updates on various results tonight, I'll also point to the exit poll data on what "somewhat conservative" voters did.)


Update: Did the best I could to fix the presentation of the tables.

Huckabee Wins WV GOP Convention

Mike Huckabee has won the 18 delegates up for grabs at today's GOP presidential candidate selection convention in Charleston, on the convention's second ballot.  Romney had a lead over Huckabee on the first ballot, but McCain supporters (McCain was well back in third) threw their support to Huckabee in the second round giving him a majority of the delegates.   Both Romney and Huckabee personally appeared at the convention this morning.

UpdateLooks like McCain sent word to his backers in West Virginia to vote for Huckabee on the second ballot, thus denying Romney a victory here.  Romney, as is his wont, is carping about that.

Forgive me for saying this, Romney-backers, but if McCain's going to win the nomination I hope he puts it away today: I'm growing to loath Mitt more and more with each statement he makes.

Update IIHere's an informative piece about the resources Romney put into the state and his campaign's expectations of a victory.

(And, incidentally, the piece starts off with a well-deserved shot at the Charleston Civic Center.)

Update III:  The great Richelieu chimes in:  "I'm shocked, shocked to see Politics in West Virginia!"

Some Quick Super Tuesday Thoughts

So, it's finally upon us.

On the GOP side, everybody's looking to California, of course.  If Romney can win the statewide popular vote (the polls are all over the place), he's back in the race, at least temporarily.  California awards its delegates per Congressional district, with three delegates per district (regardless of the number of Republicans in the them), winner-take-all.  With that setup, the delegate total for the state may wind up closely split between McCain and Romney, though I think the statewide vote total is still much more important in determining post-Super Tuesday momentum.

Two  somewhat-overlooked but quite important states are Georgia and Missouri.  Both were once expected to go for either Romney or Huckabee, but recent polls in both have shown McCain tied or slightly ahead.  If McCain can win the popular votes in Georgia, Missouri, and California, along with the big states where polls have shown him strongly ahead (New York, New Jersey, Illinois, etc.) the Republican contest will be effectively over.   

As for the Democrats, with the polls so close in so many states, well, it looks like we're in for a very fun night.

The polls in the first major state, Georgia, close at 7:00pm.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Romney Evolves On Gun Control

Ran across some discussion in the conservative blogosphere today about Romney's positions on gun control, and thought I'd post a sampling of his views through the years.

Romney in 1994:

When asked about his then-support of the Brady Bill and the federal assault weapons ban:

'"That's not going to make me the hero of the NRA"


"I don't line up with the NRA.'"

Romney while running for governor of Massachusetts in 2004:

"We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them. I won't chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety."

Romney in December 2007, on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: So the assault ban that expired here because Congress didn’t act on it, you would support?

GOV. ROMNEY: Just as the president said, he would have, he would have signed that bill if it came to his desk, and so would have I.

Romney in an interview on Saturday:

"Yeah, I don’t support any gun control legislation, the effort for a new assault weapons ban, with a ban on semi-automatic weapons, is something I would oppose. There’s no new legislation that I’m aware of or have heard of that I would support. In regards to guns, I think we have enough legislation and should enforce the laws as they exist.  I was pleased that when I ran for Governor that I received the endorsement of the NRA and I hope to receive their support now."

(1994 statements sourced here; 2004, 2007, and 2008 statements sourced here.)


By the way, the NRA didn't endorse Romney when he ran for governor.  That's either a mistake (one he's made more than once) or a lie. 

Food vs. Fuel

George Will has attacked biofuel mandates and subsidies in his Newsweek column.  Here's one particularly interesting passage:

James and Stephen Eaves, writing in Regulation quarterly, note that if the entire U.S. corn crop were turned into ethanol— it might have to be to meet the goal of 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017—it would displace 3.5 percent of gasoline use, just slightly more than would be displaced if drivers properly inflated their tires. And because the United States produces 40 percent of the world's corn supply and 70 percent of global corn exports, turning corn into fuel will damage the world's poor at a time when rising demand will require a tripling of world food production by 2050.

Will doesn't mention cellulosic ethanol, but I take it that he either doesn't think its development will affect the situation much or that its development won't pan out.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Why Republicans Like Obama"

Peter Wehner has penned an incisive take on that question.  In sum, Obama's a fundamentally good guy, he's not Hillary, and he tries to inspire rather than divide.  Wehner goes on to argue, however, that if Obama wins the Democratic nomination his hard-left policy positions will indeed pose a big problem for him in the general election and suggests some ways he could move more to the center.  Well worth a read.    

New California Polls

The good news for Romney fans: a Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby poll released today has him up by 3 points in California.  The bad news for Romney fans: two other California polls, a Mason-Dixon poll and a Field Poll, have McCain ahead by 9 and 8 points respectively.  As for the Dems, the Field Poll has Clinton sightly ahead, Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby has Obama slightly ahead (yes, that's big) and Mason-Dixon has Clinton up by 9 points.

For more Super Tuesday polls, see here.

(A reminder: California's primary is not winner-take-all in either party.)

On Drudge for the Last Few Days

"West Virginia considers gun lessons for schoolchildren..."

We just keep making our image problem worse and worse.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

It's Good To Have Allies

From today's Washington Post:

BERLIN, Feb. 1 -- Germany on Friday rejected a formal request from the United States to send forces to war zones in southern Afghanistan, the latest setback to the NATO alliance as it tries to scrape together enough troops to battle resurgent Taliban forces and stabilize the country.

Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung said his country's contingent of 3,200 soldiers would stay put in the northern provinces, where they patrol some of the most secure areas of Afghanistan. "That will have to continue to be our focus," Jung said to reporters.

NATO commanders have said they need to add 7,500 troops to the 40,000-member force that NATO oversees in Afghanistan. But there have been few countries willing to comply. Meanwhile, NATO has been struggling to persuade some members not to worsen matters by pulling out.

More here.

Hillary, When Challenged

A great vid from Slate on Hillary's real feelings about Obama.  You'll enjoy this even more if you've seen and liked Election.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Next for McCain

David Brooks explains McCain's next big challenges in a piece today:

John McCain is exhausted. He hasn’t had a full-night’s sleep in forever. It took him 10 hours to get to California because of flight trouble. He underperformed in the debate Wednesday night, as his staff understands. He took some shots at Mitt Romney that were gratuitous considering the circumstances, as he privately acknowledges.

But somehow in the midst of all this frenzy, McCain has to transition from being an underdog to being a front-runner. He has to transition from being an insurgent to being the leader of a broad center-right coalition. He has to transition from being a primary season scrambler to offering a broader vision of how to unify the country.

More here.

Another First for Google

If you heard an odd sound on Thursday afternoon, it may have been that of 10,000 people in Redmond, Washington laughing simultaneously:

Google reported earnings and sales for the fourth quarter that missed Wall Street estimates, sending the stock tumbling after hours.

Shares of the leading Internet search company, which has typically blown away analysts' forecasts, plunged nearly 9% after the closing bell. The stock had risen about 3% in regular trading Thursday. Google's stock has taken a hit in recent weeks, dipping nearly 25% below its all-time high of $747 last November.

More here.

Update:  Looks like the folks in Redmond had bigger things on their minds on Thursday.

Mitt's Spending

The Romney campaign filed its FEC disclosure for the fourth quarter of 2007 on Thursday.  Romney raised $9 million in October, November, and December and "loaned" his campaign $18 million from his personal fortune.  After the figures from January and February are eventually added in, Romney will have probably wound up spending a total of more than $50 million of his own money and about $65 million of raised money on his presidential bid.

(Hat tip: Byron York in The Corner)