Saturday, September 24, 2011

Election 2012: GOP Handicapping Update

Yes, it's been many moons since I did one of these, but it's finally starting to get interesting from a horse-race perspective. Hell, the last time I handicapped the 2012 GOP nomination, most of the candidates weren't even formally declared yet (and they still may not be).

After Thursday's debate, a lot of conservative pundits seem to be re-considering whether or not Texas governor Rick Perry is "front-runner material" -- just as I'm starting to think he is, and that there may even be a path to victory over Obama next November for him.

Yes, he stumbled and mumbled a bit, blowing a chance to really stick it to Mitt Romney on the "flip-flop" issue.

But he also separated himself from the rest of the "top tier," and in a Reaganesque way (and tactically, possibly in a "plurality for me, majority split amongst the rest of you" way), on immigration.

That's his path to victory over Obama: Relentlessly positive, visionary Ronald Reagan "Morning in America 1980 redux." And that seems to be the kind of campaign he's trying to get going.

Whether that approach can get him the nomination or not is another question, of course. But who are the other realistic choices?

Right now I'd say the "top tier" is Perry, Romney and -- can you believe you're actually hearing this from me? -- US Representative Ron Paul.

Paul has garnered more support this time around, and what support he has seems solid. I'm still not seeing any sign that he's about to break away from the pack, but hey, I guess it could happen.

Romney seems to always be in the top three for the nomination, but the simple fact is he has about as much chance of beating Obama next November as I have of winning the Boston Marathon. He's too much like Obama to energize the GOP base (who want something very different from Obama), or to court the center (in centrist versus centrist, the incumbent centrist has a definite advantage with the center).

Absent some kind of unpredictable Ron Paul surge that I still just don't expect to see, Perry versus Romney is shaping up as Ronald Reagan 1980 versus Bob Dole 1996. There's not only one way that can end, but there's only one way it can end that gives the GOP a reasonable shot at the White House.

If Perry sticks to his guns on immigration, a Rick Perry/Marco Rubio ticket might put the hispanic vote into play, and even possibly make the GOP competitive in Florida, where "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" probably costs them 10% right off the top.

Or how about Perry and a northeastern Republican -- Chris Christie, John Sununu or Judd Gregg, perhaps? Christie might do a lot for the ticket not just in the northeast proper, but extending west into the Rust Belt -- maybe not Michigan so much, but Ohio and western Pennsylvania (remember those "Reagan Democrats" of yesteryear?). Longer shot, but given Obama's abysmal civil liberties record, Gregg or Sununu might pull some anti-Patriot Act, etc. votes from the center.

Anyway, it's not over 'til it's over, but my take right now is that Perry can stay out front and pull away if he plays his cards right; that Romney's in second and whether it's a close or distant second is up to Perry, not Romney; and that Paul is lurking in the tall grass and just might find a way to pounce, to unknown effect.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Can Play That Game

Jim Henley and Thoreau recently did a "reboot the decade that began on 09/11/01" thing over at Unqualified Offerings. Pretty cool.

That got me t'thinkin' (uh oh!) about other such exercises, and the one that struck me as coolest is "what kind of cool anachronisms might happen if time started running backward?"

For some reason, the first one that occurs to me is a Todd and Sarah Palin biopic, circa 1975 ... with Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers in the lead roles, Carroll O'Connor as John McCain, and Jean Stapleton as Eric Dondero.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let Us Now Praise Rick Perry

Reiterated: I no longer vote. If I voted, I wouldn't vote Republican.

Revised and extended: If I voted Republican, I wouldn't vote for Rick Perry.

That said and re-said, I do find it encouraging that a "top-tier" candidate for president of the United States has now publicly described Social Security as a Ponzi scheme without falling from the "top tier" on account of that description.

It's one thing to privately surmise that politics' third rail may have blown its fuse. It's quite another to publicly test that theory by dancing on the rail. That there takes some balls. So, good on Rick Perry.

As a side note, I've been arguing with those who assert that Social Security isn't a Ponzi scheme, and I have to reluctantly concede the point. Social Security differs from a Ponzi scheme in one significant respect:

A Ponzi scheme generally collapses just as soon as its actual and prospective investors begin to realize they're being defrauded. Since Social Security's "investment" mechanism is contribution at gunpoint, it's been able to grind on well past that point.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Brief History of Rational Review News Digest

Actually, I guess, a long rambling history is more like it. We've been publishing RRND for almost nine years now, and it occurs to me that the history of how it came about, etc., goes back 20 years or so and may never have been put in "permanent article" form. So, I'm going to get down the bare basics, for posterity and such.

In the beginning -- before the World Wide Web, really -- was something called Libernet, a daily email news roundup by and for libertarians. I wasn't involved with that, but it was good.

Circa late 1994/early 1995, I started my own first web site, the now-long-defunct Freedom's Home Page. Articles, essays, what have you. At some point, in order to try and get some traffic to the site, I started an "award" program called "Freedom Home Page of the Week." The idea was that if I gave a bunch of high-traffic libertarian sites an "award" graphic, they'd put it on their sites, link to mine, and the traffic would flow from them to me like Milwaukee's Best flows from frat boys into urinals. And that worked, kind of.

One week, I chose a fairly new but already popular site called Free-Market.Net as my "Freedom Home Page of the Week," and its proprietor, Chris Whitten, asked me if I'd be interested in doing that feature for FMN. That seemed pretty cool, so I started doing that, and Freedom's Home Page died on the vine (and disappeared when its host, my ISP at the time, went out of business).

So anyway, I worked -- first as a volunteer, then as a paid part-time contractor -- for Free-Market.Net from 1995 to 2002 in various roles. During that time, it went from commercial to non-profit (under the umbrella of the Henry Hazlitt Foundation), began publishing a daily news and commentary roundup called Freedom News Daily, and eventually bought Libernet and rolled it into FND.

At the end of that roll, I was managing editor of Free-Market.Net, which made me largely responsible for publication of Freedom News Daily (I was not its editor-in-chief, that was Sunni Maravillosa; I was not Free-Market.Net's top boss, that was Louis James). I supervised a staff of part-time editors, gathering news and commentary items for FND, and more permanent items for a large resource archive. And so on and so forth.

So anyway, on Friday, December 20th, 2002, I got up, got dressed, had my morning coffee ... and discovered that I couldn't log in at FMN to get to the day's work. A phone call to Louis brought the news that the evening before, the Henry Hazlitt Foundation's board of directors had voted to shut everything down and declare bankruptcy.

Without going into great detail on the bankruptcy, I do want to note that it was unrelated to the daily operations I was involved with. HHF/FMN was doing a whole bunch of things, a lot of really forward-looking things ... that unfortunately just weren't paying for themselves yet, and never got the chance to (FMN/HHF took in more that year than it ever had -- it just spent faster). The board, to put it bluntly, panicked.

But anyway, back to the main story here: Freedom News Daily was, in an instant, defunct. Myself and several of its part-time editors (all of whom also worked with me on a completely separate e-zine called Rational Review) decided that the one thing that must not die was Freedom News Daily -- the freedom movement needed its daily newspaper. We were going to keep publishing.

Those editors were (in alphabetical order by last name) Mary Lou Seymour, Steve Trinward and R. Lee Wrights. A short time later, when we had time to think about the tech side of stuff, Brad Spangler also joined us.

Since FND was an asset of FMN, and tied up in the bankruptcy, we needed a new name. Since we already had the Rational Review webzine, we went with Rational Review News Digest.

We commenced publication on Monday, December 23rd, 2002 (FND had been absent for one business day) ... and we've published every non-holiday weekday since, without a missed edition, with the exception of a pre-scheduled/pre-announced one week all-staff vacation in 2008.

Some time in 2003, the International Society for Individual Liberty bought some of FMN's assets out of the bankruptcy sale, and re-commenced publishing Freedom News Daily with Sunni Maravillosa editing.

In late 2004, Sunni decided it was time to move on, and ISIL approached us about taking FND over. So we did. But we didn't stop publishing RRND. Rather, we continued publishing RRND and "re-branded" it each day as FND for their web site and email list. And that's how we still do it.

Via our descent from Libernet and our incorporation of FND, I'm given to believe that we are the oldest daily libertarian newsletter on the Internet, serving up "the freedom movement's daily newspaper" to several thousand web readers, email subscribers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers each day.

So, there you have it. Thanks to those readers, and to Mary Lou, Steve, Lee and Brad for sticking to this!

Some Related Links

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In support of Krugman

Bet you never thought you'd see that headline here, did you?

I'm talking about his 9/11 column in the New York Times, of course.

I'll keep it short:

That the piece is even controversial is insane. Anyone who claims to disagree with its substance is a damnable reprobate, a hopeless fuckwit, or some combination thereof. And I'm not going to waste my time trying to figure out who is which.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sarah Palin, left-libertarian?

She's certainly sounding a bit like one at the moment.

I wouldn't try to take that to the bank, though. As Long points out, she doesn't seem to have noticed (or at least doesn't care to mention) that the single biggest American corporate welfare / crony capitalism nexus is "defense."

And remember, this is the woman who ran for mayor of Wasilla as a "progressive," saddled the town with an eminent-domain-enabled white elephant sports center that it's still in debt for today, then ascended to the governorship where she rammed through half a billion in corporate welfare on a single pipeline project on one hand and backed full-blown gasoline socialism (a tax-financed "gas debit card" for every Alaskan) on the other, all before running for vice-president as a "conservative."

So it's not like we can rely on next week's Sarah Palin to look anything like this week's Sarah Palin. I sometimes wonder if she's perhaps a political extension of the Wall Street Journal's old "monkey with a dart board" experiment.

But it's still interesting.