Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Two Horse Race?

Well, it appears that the Republican nomination for President is indeed down to a straight choice between Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The latest polls out of Florida seem to indicate that former new York mayor Rudy Giuliani is falling fast and will almost certainly not win in a state where he has been leading almost since the beginning. I think that is too bad. Guiliani had issues right from the start with some of the party;'s base, but I think he would have been a very strong candidate and certainly would have given the Republicans a good alternative to the either of the policy neophytes advanced by the Democrats. He also would have brought the security factors front and center, due to his previous position. However, it appears that he, like Fred Thompson, may have waited too long to engage in the process, and now may be forced to retire. I regret that I agree with both the guys at Power Line who write eloquently,
After tonight, the contest likely will be down to Romney vs. McCain. But, although the race has been simplified, for me the choice still isn't simple. Every time it looks like McCain will break away from the pack, I panic in anticipation of four years of watching him stick it to conservatives on a more than occasional basis. When things seem to be breaking Romney's way, I panic in anticipation of an electoral rout in November followed by four years of a Clinton or Obama presidency.

Today, Florida Republicans are asked to make this call, but my turn is coming soon.

This is kind of how I feel as well, though I agree with what many others have said, to wit, any of the putative Republican candidates are infinitely more qualified and more desirable in the middle of a war against Islamic aggression than any of their Democratic rivals. However, ultimately the Republican Party will have to make a choice. I still have not made up my own mind as to which candidate will ultimately be best for the nation and for the party. However, as the Power Line crew so aptly said, I also haven't had to decide yet, but my own decision time is rapidly approaching. Fast.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Math and Airline Delays

I hate to fly. Between the inconsistent and arrogant members of the TSA, and the constantly crowded ticket lines, flying is something to be avoided at all costs. Only on trips to places like Japan or cross-country will i force myself to actually take an airplane. In most cases, I prefer to drive, even if the distance is long.

Today, retired air traffic controller Don Brown has written on his blog Get the Flick an excellent discussion of the reasons for the massive airline delays that we so often encounter. Among other things, Brown explains that a runway has a finite limit of how many planes it can handle in an hour. Bwrown sets this number - in completely optimal circumstances - as sixty. He then goes on to write,
The reason is as old as it is simple -- greed. Airlines can make more money selling 70 airplanes worth of tickets per hour than they could if they limited themselves to the 60 airplanes per hour that the runway can handle. In fairness to the airlines, it’s not in their interest to limit themselves. It is easier to sell the tickets and blame the delays on the weather or the “antiquated” air traffic control system. Especially if the flying public doesn’t understand runway capacity limits and therefore fails to notice that the “antiquated” air traffic control system is delivering more airplanes to the runways than the runways can handle.

It seems to me this is perfectly logical. Safety should indeed be the primary determiner of how many flights are allowed to be scheduled in any given period of time. And airlines should be forced to scheduled accordingly. Brown says that the FAA does have the legal authority to regulate this and if so, then they must be forceed to use that authority. Although i am normally a small-government man, in cases like this, a decrease in the over-selling of airline tickets might lead to a reduction of irritation among passengers and perhaps renew the nation's joy of air travel- something that has become sadly faded in recent years.

Hat tip to James Fallows via Glenn Reynolds.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Commercial Spaceflight a Reality?

According to the London Evening Standard, it may indeed soon be a reality. Richard Branson's Virgin has unveiled a commercial spacecraft in New York today and intends to being offering commercial spaceflights within two years. According to the Standard,
More than 200 potential astronauts are believed to have already paid deposits for the £100,000 flights, including actress Victoria Principal, scientist Stephen Hawking, and Princess Beatrice.

Flights will last for two hours and will include four and a half minutes of weightlessness.

The 60ft ship is expected to reach an altitude of 110km - 68 miles - and will be launched from underneath a mother ship called White Knight.

This is fascinating. Although the duration is short and the passengers will be astronauts in name only, the idea is bold,. And in addition, although the price for these flights is still well outside the range of most people, the fact that Virgin is doing this will hopefully open the doors to even more development and perhaps lead to true commercial spaceflight.

I can recall reading many science fiction tomes as a child that posited true commercial spaceflight, and I believe that it is one of the last true frontiers for mankind to to conquer. Virgin's commercial spacecraft is not a realization of that hope, but it is a significant step in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And Then There Were Three

Former Senator Fred Thompson has withdrawn his candidacy for President of the United States, according to a Drudge Report story posted today. Captain Ed Morrissey comments over at Captain's Quarters,
Thompson had a great voice for conservatives in the race, but he had the weakest track record. He only had eight years in the Senate, no executive experience, and a mixed voting record. As a presidential nominee facing either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, the inexperience factor would have been negated -- perhaps the GOP's greatest potential strength -- and his reluctance to campaign as necessary in today's political market would have put the Republicans at even more of a disadvantage. In those senses, Romney, Giuliani, and McCain have better credentials and more upside for November.

I'll miss Fred at the debates, though, if he does withdraw. He put a little stiffener into the GOP's backbone in two breakout showings, and the remaining candidates would do well to emulate Fred a little more in the future.

Regrettably, I must concur. Senator Thompson impressed me when he chose to turn on the fire, but too often he seemed to lack the necessary fight, and his campaign, once he officially announced, never really seemed to get off the ground, despite the buzz preceding the actual announcement.

I think that maybe if a Democrat wins the White House, Fred might be an excellent candidate in four years, and he would be an excellent choice as Vice-President as well. He has not stated his plans, but it does not sound as though he is interested in a position in a Republican White House. Pity. I believe he would be a good adviser, as well as a reliably conservative voice for a Republican Presidency that may not be particularly conservative- especially on fiscal matters.

Fred's exit also means that Republicans are essentially down to a three-man race- Romney, McCain and Giuliani- and only if Giuliani can win in Florida. Huckabee's failure to win in South Carolina means that he also has reached the end of the line, though he may try to stick it out a bit longer. And if Giuliani cannot win in Florida, then his campaign is in real trouble as well. Things ought to be very interesting leading up to the Florida primary.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Clinton Touts Government Control of Economy

Hillary Clinton allowed her moderate cover to slip slightly in an interview with the New York Times' David Leonhardt. According to the story, Clinton said that,
if she became president, the federal government would take a more active role in the economy to address what she called the excesses of the market and of the Bush administration.

In one of her most extensive interviews about how she would approach the economy, Mrs. Clinton laid out a view of economic policy that differed in some ways from that of her husband, Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton campaigned on his centrist views, and as president, he championed deficit reduction and trade agreements.

Reflecting what her aides said were very different conditions today, Mrs. Clinton put her emphasis on issues like inequality and the role of institutions like government, rather than market forces, in addressing them.

She said that economic excesses — including executive-pay packages she characterized as often “offensive” and “wrong” and a tax code that had become “so far out of whack” in favoring the wealthy — were holding down middle-class living standards.

Conservatives have long suspected that Hillary would apply more centralized controls to the economy if she were elected and these suspicions are based on Hillary's long-standing support of socalist policies. This interview provides more evidence that we were right. I do not doubt that if she wins in November, Hillary will try to push the United States toward a centralized economy. My only questions is whether or not Congress and the courts have the will-power to actually uphold the COnstitution's limits on the federal government. Based on their performance over the past six years, I sadly conclude that they likely do not.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lakers In First

I am a long-time fan of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team. Since I have been rooting for them since before Magic Johnson ever arrived, I can truthfully say that I do not qualify as a bandwagon supporter.

The Lakers' struggles the past couple of years have been well-documented, especially their collapse last year and their consecutive first-round playoff exits at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. And star guard Kobe Bryant's comments about the makeup of the team prior to this season have also been well-documented.

With all of the drama that has surrounded the team, I thought it is notable that after their overtime win in Seattle last night, the Los Angeles Lakers now sit in the top spot of the Western Conference with a 26-11 mark. By virtue of their two wins over Phoenix, LA currently holds the number one seed in the West.

It is still early, and the Lakers' loss of precocious young center Andrew Bynum for eight weeks is a huge blow- it remains to be seen if LA can beat the other upper-echelon teams in the West without their center. However, their achievement of the top spot should be marked, as it is one they have not held since the 2003-2004 season- not coincidentally the last one in which Shaquille O-Neal wore the purple and gold. We can only hope that the wins continue, even without Bynum. Congratulations to LA, and best wishes for the remainder of the season.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Media Headlines Mislead- Again

File this under the 'Misleading headlines' category. On Drudge today, there was a link to story headlined Greenwich School Bans Desserts. Drudge's link was entitled 'School Bans Desserts; Parents Given Strict Policy For Bag Lunches'.

The only problem with this was that that was NOT the actual content of the story. According to the actual story, as reported by WCBS TV Channel 2 in Connecticut,
Glenville School in Greenwich is trying to turn things around, starting this year ice cream and cookies are no longer sold in the cafeteria. Instead they have fruit and yogurt as an option.

Parents were doing their best, sending their kids to school with healthy lunches or hoping they'd make decent choices if they were buying lunch at school. But when cookies and ice cream were offered two days a week, things changed in a hurry.

In other words, the school simply ceased selling certain desserts in the school cafeteria- they did not ban students from eating said desserts, nor are students forbidden from bringing these desserts from home. Despite the headlines, the story clearly made the point that,
Parents can pack anything they want in their kids' lunch, but they've all received the school's wellness policy that encourages them to go for healthy snacks.

Personally, I have nothing but approval for the school's actions. For too long, kids have had access to food that has essentially no nutritional value. However, the story does not agree with the sensational headline. the headline strongly suggests that the school not only forbade students from eating desserts, but also forbade parents from determining what foods to give their kids in bag lunches. To the contrary, if one actually reads the story, the school merely sent suggestions to parents- they did not ban parents from making whatever lunches they wish for their children.

To me this is a problem with the media's desire to sensationalize everything. This story is almost a non-event- a school stops selling cookies and ice cream in its cafeteria. But the headline tries to make it into a cause celebre, which in fact was not the case. And I consider that both the original news outlet- in this case WCBS TV channel 2 in Connecticut and Drudge are complicit in this.

News should exist to present real, straightforward stories. The original report had a very misleading headline, and Drudge made it even worse. yet the actual story contains virtually nothing that is cause for complaint, at least in my opinion. Yet if one only reads the headlines, as so many people do, then one would have a completely incorrect idea of the case.

Media in the United States has a very bad habit of inflaming stories with headlines that bear little resemblance to the facts. Think of the Duke rape hoax and the role media played in the inflaming of that case. Think of the Katrina reports that proved to be untrue or over-hyped. The media bears huge responsibility for this, and they need to do a better job of presenting reports in a sober, factual light.

Unfortunately, as this incident shows, the media has a long way to go. And if they cannot even do a good job on a small, local story such as this, how can Americans trust them on much bigger issues such as Presidential elections or the campaign in Iraq? Cross-posted on NewsBusters.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Huck On Immigration

According to a story in the Waashington Times today, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is ready to fight the 'anchor baby' provision that allows illegal immigrants access to US benefits. The Times reports,
Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens, according to his top immigration surrogate — a radical step no other major presidential candidate has embraced.

Mr. Huckabee, who won last week's Republican Iowa caucuses, promised Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge birthright citizenship, and would push Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remove any doubt.

Although I remain lukewarm at best on Huckabee as a candidate, due mainly to his positions on foreign policy, I am hugely in favor of this idea. The idea that American citizenship is a privilege, not a right, is long-overdue, as is meaningful reform of the 'anchor baby' loophole. If someone is here illegally, then their children should have absolutely no rights to American citizenship. The same is true for diplomats and other foreign appointees.

I predict that this will be roundly criticized by the open borders lobby and their many enablers in the Press, but this is one act of Huckabee's that I can find nothing but approval for. It is time for the United States to gain control over our citizenship and take the matter out of the hands of activist judges with a political agenda. I do not believe the Founders would have approved of the way that the judiciary has expanded rights for non-Americans at the expense of citizens, and the sooner that this is enacted, the better off the nation as a whole will be.

In the end, United States citizenship is a privilege that must be earned. Only by earning it will foreign nationals appreciate the benefits that this brings and only by ending the anchor baby scam will the United States be able to gain control over who is and who is not made a citizen.

Of course, this is merely a first step. I would also like to see the Immigration Service cleaned up, so that LEGAL immigrants do not have to face the confusing, humiliating and capricious process that they must currently navigate. US immigration should exist to assist legal immigrants who have followed the rules, just as it should offer no help to those who are here illegally. Let's clean up the process to aid those who will be a credit to their adopted country- not the criminals and low-lifes who are here only to take advantage of American generosity.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Goodbye Hillary?

According to this morning's headline on the Drudge Report, the impending exit of Hillary Clinton from the 2008 Presidential campaign may be a distinct possibility. According to the report,
Facing a double-digit defeat in New Hampshire, a sudden collapse in national polls and an expected fund-raising drought, Senator Hillary Clinton is preparing for a tough decision: Does she get out of the race? And when?!

"She can't take multiple double-digit losses in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada," laments one top campaign insider. "If she gets too badly embarrassed, it will really harm her. She doesn't want the Clinton brand to be damaged with back-to-back-to-back defeats."

This brings up two immediate thoughts- one, how Hillary's entire campaign has been based on the idea that her money, power and husband's name would make up for her own complete lack of experience and likability and two, how modern campaigns are so dependent on the media.

On the subject of Hillary, if she does indeed lose in New Hampshire and then drop out, that would almost certainly spell the end of her Presidential ambitions. 2008 was her best chance to win that elusive prize, with no incumbent running. If Barack Obama wins, Hillary cannot run again for eight years, by which time she will almost certainly be considered too old, and even if that is not the case, her high negatives are unlikely to recede. In addition, eight years of a Democrat in the White House will probably lead to voters' desire for a chance in leadership- Democrats have not done a stellar job of leading in the past and there is a good chance that will not change with an Obama presidency. And if a Republican wins, she would have to face an incumbent, and her bad performance in this campaign does not seem to indicate much eagerness by Democrats to nominate a candidate whose chances for winning are as low as Hillary's. I think if she is going to win even the nomination, she has to do it in 2008- this is really her only true chance.

On the topic of the media, it is a shame that cmapaigns have become more about the image than about the substance. How many of us really know what any of the candidates believe? the so-called 'debates' hoseted by the varioous media outlets have been designed more to show off the moderators than the candidates, it would seem. And at no point have we had a true debate of substance by any of the candidates. As shown by the Clinton insider quoted above, it is more about how the candidates are perceived than what they actually are. The Clinton 'brand' cannot take more damage? Isn't the election about the candidate who best represents the American people? What is this 'brand' idea? Bill Clinton cannot run again for President. Hillary has made a mess of her campaign. What is the 'brand'? Chelsea?

Personally, I would like to cut the media completely out of the equation,save as reporters, which is what they should be anyway. Let the candidates have real debates, as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas did. Let the voters hear what candidates really think. If a candidate has a true philosophy of government, let's hear it. I don't care what Chris Matthews or Tim Russert or any other talking head thinks. They are only reporters, not oracles. I want to hear what the candidates think. And I believe that in the flurry of media coverage, we have lost the essence of what the election should really be about. What does Barack Obama, or John McCain, or any other candidate really believe? I don't really know. In the case of Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, at least we have some governing record to look at.

I think that any of the Republican candidates would be a better choice than any Democrat, if only because of the amount of experience, both executive and legislative on that side of the aisle. But I would really like to hear the candidates themselves allowed to expound on their ideas, as opposed to some puffed-up moderator wanting sound bites for the six o'clock news.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year

I hope that everyone had a happy New Year and a very merry Christmas season. Now that the new year has begun, the permanent campaign we have been trying to ignore for the past year has begun to take on a more urgent tone with the approach of the first primaries. And before the primaries can start, we have the Iowa caucuses. According to the reports, it seems that on the Democratic side, the winner was Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and on the Republican side, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

To me, neither of these wins seem particularly pertinent, other than the fact that Huckabee's win has to be a blow to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who spent a lot of money and time in Iowa, only to finish a distant second. And the weak third-place finish of former Tennessee senator Ferd Thompson has to be a concern to that campaign as well. However, since former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Senator John McCain both essentially sat this one out, it means very little in the overall scheme of things, in my opinion. we will learn more once the major round of primaries begin. Until then, this is still anyone's nomination to win.

On the Democratic side, the third-place finish of Ms. Inevitable, New York Senator Hillary Clinton has to be a major concern. Especially since she lost decidedly to the inexperienced Senator Obama. If she loses New Hampshire, we might see a major meltdown in the Clinton campaign, since one cannot be inevitable if one cannot win primaries. I still think that in the end she will be the nominee, since the Clintons have money, power and the national press on their side. However, she is no longer looking like a juggernaut.

Overall, I think these results simply mean that there may be a real fight on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, we didn't have a clear-cut favorite before Iowa and we still do not. The only thing Iowa did is to deal a blow to the pretensions of Clinton and to put Thompson on the brink. If he cannot finish higher in New Hampshire, I think his campaign might just be done.