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Libertarians for Sanders? Naaah.

With Rand Paul out, a lot of libertarians, conservative-libertarians and lib-curious are fumbling around for a new candidate. Ted Cruz looked like he might pick up the liberty vote for a while with his opposition to surveillance. But then he backed out of criminal justice reform and started striking an aggressive tone on foreign policy. Donald Trump is a fool. Hillary Clinton is a power-hungry shill. Rubio doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So where do we turn? Andrew Kirell asks if it’s … Bernie Sanders

While Sanders’s economic policies deeply conflict with libertarians—single-payer health care, government-funded college tuition for all, etc.—he is their only remaining ally on a slew of other big issues.

And, besides, “there’s this little thing called Congress,” as Michael noted. “Any radical law he tries to pass will run through an obstacle course.”

So the logic goes: With a Republican-controlled Congress—or one remotely close to its current makeup—President Sanders would have a tough time getting his most radical economic policies passed, leaving him to fight for the civil liberties causes that matter to liberals and libertarians alike: e.g., reforms to the criminal justice system, the ongoing drug war, and the government’s surveillance efforts.

In other words, backing a Sanders presidency would mean wagering that Sanders’s most left-wing economic policies wouldn’t come to fruition. And that he’d pull a conservative Congress to the left on civil liberties issues, with the help of cross-partisan allies like Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

The case for Sanders is this:

  • He’s way better on civil liberties that Clinton. Also marijuana, war, surveillance and criminal justice reform. He’s better than her on gun control, although he’s moved Left on that recently. Against the Republicans, he’s better on civil liberties but worse on the second amendment.
  • You talk about gridlock? Bernie Sanders and a Republican Congress would give you gridlock on just about every economic issue.

So that’s the libertarian case for Sanders. It’s tempting in this kind of anti-liberty field. But the case against is strong as well:

  • Sanders would be 75 years old on inauguration day. His health appears good but it could decay suddenly (to be fair, this is also a concern with Trump and Clinton). This could mean a sudden shift to a Vice President and God knows who Sanders will pick for that. If he picks Clinton, he could get a head cold and find himself removed from office.
  • We can not assume that a Republican Congress will continue indefinitely. A Sanders presidency combined with a Democratic Congress could be dangerous.
  • Sanders would appoint at least one, maybe two or three justice to the Supreme Court, maybe even one for a retiring conservative. This could be good if he focuses on civil liberties. More likely, he’d appoint some social justice types who would stand back while the federal government did whatever it wanted.
  • Sanders has zero foreign policy experience. This has become obvious in the debates. While his philosophy is better than Clinton’s, his lack of any credentials could be a problem. Foreign policy is not something you learn on the fly. I could see a Sanders administration being completely feckless and ineffective. Being against stupid foreign adventures is good. Being able to do that and deal with aggressive foreign powers is better.

That lost one is a big point for me. The one arena where the President has the most authority is foreign policy. It’s a big reason I oppose Trump and a big reason I’m partial to Rubio. Almost every other deficiency in a President can be papered over by a reasonable Congress. But foreign policy is the one place where it can’t.

As I said from the beginning, I prefer Sanders’ honest socialism over Clinton’s dishonest mercantilism. But if its Sanders versus a reasonable Republican, I don’t think you can make the case for Sanders. Not for a conservative and probably not for a libertarian and probably not for this conservative-libertarian.

Yet Another Republican Debate

I was in and out, catching parts of last night’s Republican debate. I missed what the media are assuring me today is the end of Marco Rubio’s campaign: when Chris Christie called him out for repeating the same canned talking points over and over and Rubio responded by … repeating his talking points.

Strictly on points, that was a big deal. Christie has been making this point for a while — and it’s a good one — that he (and Kasich and Bush) have a lot more experience in getting things done while Rubio (and Cruz) are mostly good at making speeches. Rubio does tend to fall back on canned speeches and his record of accomplishment is thin. He isn’t very good at improvising, something that has hurt him in direct interactions with voters and party stalwarts.

But …

This really crosses me as inside-the-beltway media stuff. I really don’t think the voting public is going to care very much whether Rubio is repeating himself. If this were debate club, Christie would have won, but it’s not. Repeating talking points is part of politics (Christie should know, as he never forgets to remind us that he was appointed as a federal prosecutor after 9/11). And Rubio gave an answer on abortion — talking about the rights of the woman the rights of the fetus being in contention — that was off the charts with conservatives in my Twitter feed. I disagree with Rubio on abortion, but his answer, pre-packaged or not, really resonated with GOP base. That’s what they’ll remember.

The other highlight was Jeb Bush finally landing a punch on Donald Trump. Bush hit the Donald hard on Trump’s abuse of eminent domain and the Donald had no answer, eventually turning on the audience as they booed him. I think the second place finish in Iowa and the leveling of the polls is getting to Trump. He’s still leading in New Hampshire, but if he loses, we could see an epic meltdown.

Overall, I think this is still a three-man race, with Christie as a possible dark horse should the leaders falter. I expect Trump to win New Hampshire. But the race is anyone’s to win right now.

Establishment? Moi?

I didn’t watch the Democratic debate last night because … well, I had better things to do. Apparently, it was quite contentious. But one point that came up was whether Clinton is part of the establishment.

Sanders: “I will absolutely admit that Secretary Clinton has the … support of far more governors, mayors, members of the House [of Representatives]. She has the entire establishment or almost the entire establishment behind her. That’s fact. I don’t deny it. I’m pretty proud that we have over a million people who have contributed to our campaign — averaging 27 bucks apiece.”

Clinton: “Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment … And I’ve got to tell you that I — [applause] it’s really quite amusing to me.”

Let me break that down for you. Sanders made the incredibly reasonable point that Clinton is in with the entire party establishment (including have already secured many superdelegate votes), has been walking the innermost halls of power for 25 years and has received six figure speaking fees from Wall Street interests. Clinton’s response?

She has two X chromosomes.

Clinton always plays the gender card when she’s cornered. And Sanders has her cornered on this issue. Clinton’s entire campaign is establishment politics. The reason she says she should be President is because she can “get things done” and “knows the ropes” and “has experience”. That’s the basic definition of establishment.

Clinton’s supporters — including her mouthpieces at Vox — are trying to argue that Sanders is establishment as well because he’s in Congress almost as long as Clinton has been around and has gotten a lot of money from unions. They have a small point. But there is a huge difference between being a third party crackpot Senator from Vermont and a first lady, New York Senator, Secretary of State who was given $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs for … well, I’m sure for no reason at all.

Establishment politicians are unpopular. And Clinton wants to have it both ways: playing up her experience and insider knowledge while pretending that she’s not really the establishment. Normally, she would get away with it. The fawning media would fall in line. The feminists would say, “well, of course no woman could possibly be establishment.” But Sanders, God bless the old crank, won’t let her get away with it.

Thursday Links

Time to clear out my tabs.

  • Barack Obama visited a mosque this week to denounce anti-Muslim violence. Anti-Muslim violence is a real and deplorable thing. But the majority of ethnic violence around the world is anti-Semitic and it’s not really close. In France, Jews are fleeing the country for Israel due to waves of violence.
  • MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most iconic and important speeches in American history. It’s not good enough, college students say, because it doesn’t include gender identity.
  • Last week was School Choice Week over at Reason. And I’d like to point out that School Choice works. Check out the performance of Louisiana schools since Jindal’s overhaul.
  • Italy covered up some nude statues to avoid “offending” Iranian visitors (interestingly, without Iran having asked for it). Marc Randazza lets them have it.
  • South Africa is going to lift the ban on trading rhino horn in an attempt to save the species from total collapse. Environmentalists are aghast. I think it can’t work worse than their current conservation efforts.
  • The latest on potential breakthroughs in nuclear power. Any serious attack on global warming should start with nuclear power. Hell, any serious energy policy at all should start with it, even if we ignore global warming.
  • Trumps whining and crying is delicious. I’m very curious to see how the national polls look next week.

Blast from the Future

Dateline 2048 AD, from the Associated Press-Fox news Hive Mind

With the 2048 Presidential election due to happen tomorrow, candidates have already announced their campaigns for the 2052 Presidential race (as well as a few for the 2056 race). One candidate that is particularly drawing attention is familiar face — Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton, having lost her 2008 Presidential bid to Barack Obama, her 2012 bid to Bernie Sanders, her 2020 bid to Nikki Haley, her 2028 bid to Ivanka Trump, her 2036 bid to Bristol Palin and her 2044 bid to a cloned Ronald Reagan, has vowed that this time she will at long last become President.

Clinton was woken from cryogenic sleep shortly before her first campaign appearance and appeared a bit confused, saying that she was looking forward to being America’s “first woman President”. When it was pointed out that she would actually be the third, her campaign advisors said that the quote was taken out of context by cyborgs of the Republican-Libertarian-Texas Alliance.

Clinton has promised free college to all Americans (although college, as such, was abolished in 2045 after direct brain uploads made it obsolete). She has also promised to complete the work of Obamacare, which may prove difficult given that the entire insurance market imploded in 2020 and was replaced with the barter system.

Clinton is expected to face some controversy over her past experience. Her tenure as Secretary of State under Obama saw the rise of ISIS while her tenure as Secretary of Defense under Sanders saw ISIS turn the entirety of Iraq and Syria into a Jihadist Theme Park, featuring stoning of adulteresses and beheadings of infidels. Her brief stint as Secretary of Treasury was marred by controversy over putting her own face on the $20 bill.

Still, her motto of, “She’s rested, she’s ready, she’s thawed out, she only has three bionic limbs and really anyone who would have surrendered to those aliens” is expected to resonate with the seven people who still vote instead of spending their entire lives in the virtual pornography chambers the Sanders administration distributed in 2019.

“Enough already,” she told the virtual hologram of George Stephanopoulos. “I’m going to President this time. I don’t care if I did finish second in Iowa to a species of intelligent moss. It’s my turn.

Hal, The Novelist

So yeah, it turns out I’ve written a novel. You can click through that link for the details and an excerpt. At the present time, it is only available a self-published Kindle e-book thought Amazon. If it sells a bit, I might try to find a publisher for a real book.

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The story, it goeth thusly: many decades in the future, medical science has made aging a thing of the past. Painter Walter Winston, at age 128, finds himself dying from simply being exhausted from life. He sets off on a journey to revisit the places he’s lived, trying to rediscover himself, his life and the people who made it worth living. It’s science fiction, yes. But it’s not really about science. It’s about time and old age and regret and art.

It is with some sadness that I let the novel go because … I know I will never write anything like it again. My interests and my previous writings (and the book I’m working on now) tend to be more “traditional” sci-fi with spaceships and aliens and RR Lyrae stars. I’d never written anything this personal or artistic before and I can’t think that I would ever be able to summon those muses again.

But you never know.

I would also add, for the purposes of this blog, that it is not political at all.

For the next four days, as a special offer to those of you have been reading my writing here for so long, the novel is available absolutely free (after that, it will go to $3). It will also be available, for at least the next three months, through Kindle’s lending library and unlimited features.

You can find it here. I hope you will find the interest and time to read it. And I hope you will enjoy it. And if you do enjoy, please tell everyone you know to buy it!

Bernie and Cruz Take Iowa

Well, take is perhaps a generous word. Bernie Sanders finished the night neck-and-neck with Clinton. Clinton will win slightly more delegates (based partly on winning six straight coin flips). But this is a big blow. A large part of Clinton’s campaign has been, essentially, “This is happening. Stop squirming.” Sanders’ tie disrupts that narrative. He’s likely to win New Hampshire going away. But I think he will have a problem winning Super Tuesday. In the end, this is still Clinton’s nomination to lose.

So why did Bernie win? Two reasons, I think. One, Clinton is a lousy candidate, as I’ve noted many times. This is the third time she’s been handed an election on a silver platter and blown it. But second, Bernie is … and I hate to say this … running a very enjoyable campaign. He’s positive, he’s refusing to mudsling and he’s running impressive patriotic ads. I still disagree with every iota of his economic policy. But I can see why a lot of Democrats are supporting him.

On the Republican side, Cruz won by several percentage points, with Rubio placing a surprisingly strong third. Trump’s numbers plunged in the last week. That might be because he skipped the debate. But it also might be because people are getting serious about voting. And I’ve said many times, the Republican Party may flirt with crazy. They may get in the backseat of a car with it and unhook its bra. But in the end, they will go with a nice sensible candidate they can take home to meet their mother.

Trump’s campaign has also been built a lot on his inevitability. And he still hold big leads nationally and in the upcoming primary states. Iowa is, at best, a shaky predictor of Presidential elections. But this is a sign that Trump is not inevitable.

PS – Oh, Huckabee and O’Malley dropped out. I note that just in case you forgot they were running.

Update: Lee loved this Downfall parody when Clinton’s 2008 nomination went up in flames. I still find it hilarious. I think Clinton is still going to win. But I imagine something like this played out in Clinton HQ last night.

Iowa Votes

Well, after a runup that seems to start shortly after I was born, we will finally get the first votes cast today in Iowa. It will be a while before we know what happens. I will post updates as events warrant.

This election cycle defies prediction, but I’ll make one anyway. Clinton narrowly edges Sanders, something like 49-45. Trump wins Iowa but with a smaller margin than expected. Something like Trump 25, Cruz 22, Rubio 17. He will then say something outrageous so that the media will give him free campaign ads talk about it until New Hampshire.

We might see one or two candidates drop out after Iowa, but I suspect most of them will hang on until New Hampshire and possibly South Carolina.

Series Review: Making a Murderer

So you’ve probably heard something about Netflix’s documentary series Making a Murderer. The series centers around Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man with a long criminal history who was convicted of a sexual assault he did not commit in 1985. After his exoneration, he sued Manitowoc County and the sheriff, alleging misconduct in the initial investigation and prosecution.

In the middle of this, a young photographer, Teresa Halbech, went missing. Avery was the last person she supposedly saw and police found her car and burned bone fragments on his property. He and his nephew were convicted of murdering her.

Avery insists on his innocence and claims he was railroaded again because of the lawsuit. The documentary goes through his case, from the previous charge, to the investigation, through the trial and the first round of appeals. It has caused an online sensation, with numerous blogs discussing the case and a White House petition for Avery and his nephew to be pardoned.

This review is going to be very spoilery. I’m going to discuss the case as if you’ve watched the documentary or read some of the coverage. So if you haven’t and plan to, you might want to bookmark this and come back in ten hours.

Read more… »

A Clown Car Without The Clown

Just a quick note on last night’s debate.

It was easily the best and most substantive debate we’ve had so far. The absence of Trump and presence of Megyn Kelly meant pointed tough questions for the candidates. Several of them did massively better. Rand Paul showed why I always liked him, giving an excellent answer on criminal justice reform and landing a few solid blows on Cruz. Bush looked better than he had in months, although it’s probably too little too late.

The big loser, in my mind, was Ted Cruz. Trump’s bloviating narcissism had the effect, in early debates, of making Cruz look good. Without that distraction, Cruz’s big flaws as a candidate were on display. He did a poor job explaining his flip-flop on immigration. The other candidates attacked him on various issues and were effective in doing so. This was his chance to make some headway on Donald Trump and he didn’t.

Really, this was the campaign we should have been having for the last four months, with Paul, Christie, Cruz, Rubio and Bush fighting it out for the heart of the party. It really highlighted just how badly the Trump Show has damaged the GOP’s chances.

The consensus this morning is that Trump was a big winner because he wasn’t there to get pinned on the issues while his rivals attacked each other. I’m not so sure, mainly because these are the same people who’ve been pronouncing Trump dead for the last year. If they think he did well, he must have done poorly. The caucuses are next week, so we’ll soon find out. But my suggestion for the future, if the GOP wants to recover, is to let the Donald sit out every future debate. They are way better off without him.