VA – 7: No endorsement

April 15, 2014

I have previously posted my views on the political bloodletting within the Republican Party of Virginia. For those who chose not to click on the link, I lamented the vitriol, lack of strategic thinking, and personalizations that I have seen from both “sides” of this battle. It’s as if issues don’t matter anymore.

There is no better example of this debacle than the fracas over the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District – which is why I refuse to endorse either candidate who remains.

The incumbent – Eric Cantor – has been accused of much by the “insurgents” within the GOP. I have no idea if any of them are true. I do know that he was a leading supporter of TARP (a.k.a., the bank bailout), an economic and political mistake for which Americans are still paying (especially Republicans, from the political angle). I already slipped on this banana peel once in 2012, and I will not do so again – ever. Eric Cantor will never win my endorsement for a Republican nomination (supporting the Ryan-Murray budget didn’t help either, but that’s a minor matter, compared to TARP).

This does not mean, however, that I can support his opponent, Dave Brat. Brat, for all his strong rhetoric on spending today, spent years as an aide to State Senator Walter Stosch, one of the most prolific tax-hikers in the RPV (the Warner tax hike of 2004, HB3202 in 2007, and Plan ’13 From Outer Space). Brat even donated to Stosch as he faced the fight of his political life in 2007 – his nomination fight against Joe Blackburn.

That in itself would be troubling enough. When one adds Brat’s own statements on foreign affairs – such as his insistence (Breitbart) that Communist China “is feeding 1.2 billion people for the first time in human history” through “free market capitalism” (there are over half a billion desperately poor Chinese in the rural hinterland who would greatly dispute both points if they were free to speak) and his own campaign website where he rails against “two unfunded wars” – it becomes clear that he is not ready for Washington anymore than Cantor is deserving to stay there.

I am grateful that my home is in the 4th District, as thus I need not cast a vote in the 7th. To be fair, either man is sure to be superior to whomever the Democrats nominate.

That said, I do not know who would receive my vote if I were in the 7th. I do know that neither of them have deserved it. Therefore, I endorse neither. 


Oh joy…another immigration flame-fest

April 6, 2014

So, new RPV Executive Director Shaun Kenney (full disclosure, close friend of mine) takes some time to sit with center-left activists on the immigration issue. Much of his talk centers around thanking them for stopping by, talking about how it’s important to talk to folks who don’t necessarily agree with them, and an observation on the debate that was miles above anything discussed on the matter since…

I genuinely believe that both sides of this debate want to do the right thing; it’s just a matter of getting those wires to touch.

It didn’t take long for the wires to vehemently protest. Soon Greg Letiecq (also a friend) was slamming Shaun for advocating amnesty - something which, I confess, I didn’t catch in the video excerpt Greg provided, although Greg and Shaun have made clear their disagreement on the issue for years. Soon Jeanine Martin and Brian Schoeneman (whom I would also call friends, but as I’ve never met either of them in person, I don’t know what they would think), joined in the fray, with Martin claiming Shaun would hurt poor people and Brian calling Jeanine and Greg racists (in the comments).

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

Sadly, as both sides spent their time reminding themselves how wonderful they are – hey, we’re bloggers; it’s what we do – the questions I raised almost two months ago remain completely outside of the discussion:

  • What are we doing to encourage entrepreneurs to come to America?
  • What labor shortages in the American economy (such as, health care) can be alleviated via immigration reform?
  • How can we use our immigration policies to take advantage of capital flight in areas around the world, so that those who own that capital will feel more welcome here (along with their capital, of course)?
  • In other words, how can we use immigration reform as a supply-side economic opportunity, rather than merely an argument about Keynesian “aggregate demand”?

As I stated in that post, anything that doesn’t address the above subjects is just noise…which is exactly what we got from nearly everyone concerned – a lot of heat, but very little light.

As for Shaun, I’m glad he’s willing to talk to folks outside his political comfort zone. At the very least, we all need to remember how to disagree without being disagreeable.

I would have been much happier if he and Mr. Sajur had spent some time talking about the above topics….

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Just who did “destroy” the Soviet Union?

April 2, 2014

Normally, when I read Victor Davis Hanson’s work, I come away smarter and more aware of the world around me, or the world before me. Yesterday, however, he struck a rare wrong note in his criticism of the President’s response to the Putinist seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea (NRO, emphasis in original):

Obama said in the CBS interview that Vladimir Putin was “willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union.”

Is that any surprise? Why would Putin not “show a deeply held grievance” — given that Russians enjoyed far more pride and influence when they had far more territory and power than they do now?

To be fair to Hanson, this is very much the conventional wisdom about the Russian people – that they were much happier about themselves in the USSR. Based on what I remember of the early 1990s, however, this is also very, very wrong.

For starters, the end of the Soviet Union might have been a triumph for “the West,” but it wasn’t caused by “the West.” Anyone who remembered the Bush I Administration (including a bizarre speech from the president himself in Kiev demanding Ukraine stay in the USSR) knows that the capitals and elites of the free world met the end of the Soviet Union with great ambivalence.

It was the Russians that chose to end the USSR, through they’re elected president and champion: Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin reflected, built, and capitalized on Russian anger and frustration about their role in the USSR – mainly, praised nationalistically in public while gouged financially and ignored in private.

What the Russians learned in the late 1980s was the same thing the Brits concluded in the 1920s (and the French in the 1960s): empires cost. It was that cost that the Russians rejected in the early 1990s. Through Yeltsin – and especially with Yeltsin as they stood up to the 1991 putschists – the Russians chose to stop being an empire and start being a nation.

This would be well-known to anyone who was in Moscow during this time…and that’s the problem - Vladimir Putin was not in Russia during this period. He was in East Germany, not witnessing the decision his people made.

Now, that decision has been forgotten – in no small part by Russians themselves, who have lived through very trying times when its leaders (Yeltsin included) failed to make Russia a decent nation. Unfortunately, Putin’s absence during this period has likely led him to believe that he can rebuild the empire. In the short term, it might work, but Russians will remember the cost of empire again, and reject it.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift


IMF Introduces Ukraine to Faux-sterity

March 28, 2014

No matter what the situation, no matter how bad the problem, no matter how catastrophic the state of affairs, a nation can always count on the International Monetary Fund to make things worse.

This week, Ukraine is about to learn that painful lesson.

The IMF is sending $18 billion to the new Ukraine government, but like everything else the IMF does, it’s merely a loan, and it comes with crushing conditions that will damage the already-flattened economy there even more.

Among the faux-sterity demands on the IMF….

An income tax hike from 17% to 25%: yet another reminder that “supply-side” is still foreign to the IMF (The Hindu)…

An increase in consumption taxes: showing that at least the IMF is consistent – they don’t understand Keynesian economics either (Wall Street Journal).

A reduction in gas subsidies (which is good), but not a privatization of the Naftogaz gas firm (which is bad): When you manage to make the governor of Yanukovic’s home province (Donetsk) sound like Mr. Clean, you’re doing it wrong (WSJ again).

Some (perhaps) reduction in the government bureaucracy: although it’s hard to tell just how many. CNN says 24,000. Russia Today says 80,000, but limited to the “law enforcement” sector only – leaving aside than anything out of RT should be taken with a lotswife of salt. Either way, at least the IMF learned not to try the government-pay-cuts that kept Greece’s government just as large in size and scope while pretending to cut its cost.

Still, overall, this is a painfully unnecessary set of “reforms,” which will badly miss revenue targets and likely put Ukraine in a far deeper economic contraction than the current projection of 3%.

Meanwhile, the Russian creditors get full return, despite propping up the Yanukovic regime that put Ukraine on its back in the first place (Telegraph).

So Ukraine will follow Greece and Spain over the economic cliff…

…while Putin and his cronies laugh all the way to the bank.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


On the Bank Bailout, the Buckley Rule, and Ed Gillespie

March 27, 2014

There has been increasing talk among Virginia Republicans about “the Buckley Rule,” and how it should impact decision on the nomination for U.S. Senate. There are, however, two problems with the application (usually from Ed Gillespie supporters): the rule isn’t quite what they think it is; and even if it did, Gillespie still wouldn’t qualify.

First of all, the rule itself is repeatedly “both misquoted and misapplied” as Neal Freeman noted in his account of when the rule was first promulgated (National Review). He should know; he was there. Buckley came up with the rule during the 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller nomination battle. Despite what we may think, Rockefeller had his defenders on the right. He trailed LBJ by less than Goldwater, and his anti-Communism was rock-solid and unquestionable (Goldwater himself noted in his autobiography that before he decided to run himself, he was leaning to Rockefeller). It took months for NR itself to make a decision:

These intramural arguments, as I say, were protracted, begun in the winter and carrying on into the early spring. WFB sat at the head of the table, encouraging others to speak, keeping his own counsel. In early June, after Rockefeller had won the Oregon primary and Goldwater had won California, after all of us had had our say, after rumors had begun to creep out of 35th Street that NR might shift its support to Nelson Rockefeller — the equivalent, today, of word leaking out of 15th Street that the Washington Post might endorse Michele Bachmann — Bill, who rarely proposed, decided that it was time to dispose. With each of us in our assigned seat and with six pairs of eyeballs staring at him unblinkingly, Bill announced that “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.”

Victory for Team Goldwater! We all knew what “viable” meant in Bill’s lexicon. It meant somebody who saw the world as we did. Somebody who would bring credit to our cause. Somebody who, win or lose, would conservatize the Republican party and the country. It meant somebody like Barry Goldwater.

Indeed, NR did endorse Goldwater. More to the point, one year after this, Buckley himself chose to run for Mayor of New York – despite having no shot at winning – against the Republican establishment’s candidate, John Lindsay….

in the general election.

So clearly, those who use the Buckley rule as an electability argument have it wrong. However, even if they had it right, Ed Gillespie has a problem that sinks his electability: his support for TARP (a.k.a. the Bank Bailout).

Gillespie supporters will, of course, take issue with this. They will tell you (and me) that the key issue in 2014 isn’t the bank bailout, but the failures of the Obama Administration. As it happens, the critique against the Administration has three planks: government has grown massively large and costly; the economic “recovery” is so sluggish as to be hardly felt; and the president’s dangerous habit of assuming the Affordable Care Act is an American Enabling Act giving him legislative powers to change the law on the fly. The problem is that pro-TARP candidates are unable to use any of these arguments.

If Ed Gillespie tries to criticize the president and Mark Warner for reckless spending and government enlargement, Warner can throw the $700 billion bank bailout back in his face, but Mark Warner cannot accuse Shak Hill of supporting hundreds of billions in spending for America’s biggest banks.

Likewise, any attempt by Gillespie to discuss the economy will be trumped by Warner mentioning the 2008 financial crisis – and then remind everyone that Gillespie agreed the crisis was exceptional because of his support for the bank bailout. Only Shak Hill can remind voters that the bank bailout and hysteria ginned up by Washington to get it enacted made things worse, not better.

Finally, there is the fact that after TARP was enacted, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen rewrote the law at whim. That he had the authority to do so was bad enough, but Warner can play it simple and demand to know why Bush can change the law at whim but not Obama. Only Shak Hill can address this issue with the hypocrisy charge being thrown back in his face.

In short, Shak Hill can deliver the conservative message in 2014 far batter than Ed Gillespie can. As a result, he is a more “viable” candidate than Ed, and in my opinion, a more electable one, too.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


My thoughts on the current struggle within the Republican Party of Virginia

March 19, 2014

For those of you not familiar with the intricacies of the battle between the “establishment” and the “insurgents” in the Republican Party of Virginia, here’s a brief summary…

The 2013 campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor was short-circuited when Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling chose not to run. He was preparing for a primary, but in 2012 the Republican State Central Committee chose to make the nomination process a convention (reversing a previous decision). Bolling’s decision to drop out handed the nomination to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who went on to lose to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Bolling supporters and most moderates in the party are convinced that the switch to the convention was dirty pool on the part of Cuccinelli’s supporters. They are also convinced that Bolling could have defeated McAuliffe. They have responded by taking revenge on the “insurgents” or “Tea Party folks” by using the rules of convention calls to exclude those who they do not know or trust from the conventions (the process is known as “slating” – in effect, voting for only their “slate” of delegates to be allowed). It is within the rules, but considered very bad form, and the victims are furious at the “establishment.”

Folks in the party are taking sides, but I am not. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pox on both houses.

Why I have no sympathy for the “establishment”: Given the actual events of 2013, I can’t help thinking that the entire Bolling campaign for Governor was just a cover for the tax hike (Plan ’13 From Outer Space). I’ll admit that probably isn’t entirely fair, but as just about every single Bolling supporter I know is arrogantly defending that piece of legislative drek, it’s more fair than the alternative. Moreover, the notion that Bolling could have done any better against Cuccinelli in a primary than in a convention completely baffles me. Had Bolling shown half the energy in 2013 that his backers are showing this year, he’d have won the nomination. Still, that’s not as important as the tax-hiking nonsense.

Why I have no sympathy for the “Tea Party folks”: They have spent far too much time flying their causes and issues into a mountain. To challenge Eric Cantor (whose support for the bank bailout is enough to open my mind to supporting a replacement), they endorsed an aide to Walter Stosch, tax-hiker extraordinaire, and then hurl invective at anyone who criticizes the move. In the 10th district, they have decided to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Barbara Comstock, who opposed Plan ’13 From Outer Space. Last year, they insisted that Ken Cuccinelli was the real deal, completely ignoring his appalling squishiness on the aforementioned Plan ’13. They have turned a revolt against higher taxes and spending into a conspiracy of personal vendettas that have done nothing to advance their cause.

In short, I’m being asked to take a side in “a Republican civil war” or “a battle for the soul of the party”…between a group of tax-hiking, big-government politicos on the one hand and a group of vengeful, incompetent fools on the other.

Sorry, but no dice. I will choose my endorsees based on the issues. As for the rest, I’m sitting it out until both sides begin to act like they deserve the power to govern. At this point, neither side does.

 


Can the Crimea be saved? Yes.

March 18, 2014

There will be a temptation to consider the Crimea “lost” after Sunday’s plebiscite (under armed guard) and Putin’s dramatic acceptance of the same this morning (Telegraph, UK).

Despite the fanfare and forces on the ground in Crimea, the Ukrainian province can still be saved.

For starters, the fellow who claims to speak for the province isn’t from the party of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych (Party of Regions), but rather a radical pro-Russian party (Russian Unity) that couldn’t get to 5% in the last free Crimean election (Time). In addition, the Russia Unity leader (Sergei Aksyonov) managed to get himself declared leader of the province by a parliamentary vote that was not only conducted under armed guards loyal to him, but also officially included “aye” votes from members who are insisting they were nowhere near the building when the vote took place (Aftenposten, Norway). Meanwhile, Crimean Tatar leaders (admittedly, not an unbiased source) are claiming that Askyonov-regime claims of turnout are ridiculously inflated, and that only a minority of Crimeans actually voted on Sunday (Euromaidan PR).

In other words, the notion that Putin and Aksyonov speak for a majority of Crimeans is anywhere from tenuous to laughable.

As such, there are things the United States and its allies can do - well short of war - that can free Crimea from its current plight. I’ve listed a few of them before: Asset-freezes on certain Russians, military aid to Ukraine, and support for the resistance in Crimea (details here). To be fair, the last one (which I think has the most potential) may already be under way (the Clinton Administration was aiding the Serbian democratic resistance in 2000 without anyone knowing until years later), but I suspect if it were, the Administration would have leaked it already (not that I would have objected to said leak). Either way, it should be done.

One thing I can’t emphasize enough: Russians are terrible imperialists. No one who comes under their thumb enjoys it for very long (if at all). Even among those who did vote in Sunday’s referendum, there will be plenty of Crimeans feeling regret very soon.

It is far, far too early to write off Crimea as lost.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


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