Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Most Overrated Movie of 2007

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is certainly the most overrated movie of last year. Ken Loch has in-done himself.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot (most people probably haven't even heard of it), the story takes place during the Anglo-Irish War that lasted from around 1918 to 1921. It ended with Irish victory, independence and civil war (between those who wanted Northern Ireland and those who thought a headless Ireland was better than no Ireland at all.)

The problem with the movie is that it has no center and no heartbeat. The main character of the story--whose name I don't remember--is played with utter forgettableness by the usually creepy and intense actor, Cirian Murphy. As a young Irish physician who joins Shin Fein (if that's how it's spelled) after his cousin is murdered by Black and Tans, Mr. Murphy plays his character without any nuance or complexity. It is intriguing as watching the WorldWatch staff at work.

The movie is not saved by being an insipid political allegory either--Ken Loach, the director, has stated, in so many words, that he wants the movie to be a commentary on British involvement in Iraq--because the political debates in the movie never rise above the level of a History 101 class. More about bad things happening to poor people, the rich landowners, names beginning with O or not, are the devil, and the Roman Catholic Church is on their side. At times, watching the characters is like having to grade an eighth grade debate team.

The action sequences aren't even realistic or entertaining. I got the feeling that Ken Loach was making the scenes that he had fantasized about for years, but they look more like they were filmed as part of a high school project.

Here's your projects back, children; you all get F's.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fraudulent Folksiness

The people in this primary season who have pretended to be the most folksy are John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. The ironic thing is that John Edwards and Mitt Romney are the richest men in the race.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Night of John McCain Winning in Florida

John McCain has won in Florida! As you know, I intend to tell no one how to vote, but I think that this is good for the Republican Party to say the least because, in spite of what Mitt Romney thinks, it is the Arizona senator who will make a greater agent for change. Mr. Romney says that they need an outsider to fix Washington. ("Washington is broken!") That, right now, is the last thing that they need. Mitt Romney fails to note that Washington was broken by an outsider from Texas who had apparently been a popular and/or effective governor who also came from a political family. Both men's fathers even ran for president. Forget Washington, because there's more than one Washington. For the moment, I just want something that is different.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"There Will Be Blood": My Favorite Movie of 2007

"There Will Be Blood" works. To say that is high praise, I think, given that I can't think of any Thomas Paul Anderson movie up until this one that I liked. "Punch Drunk Love" tried to survive on quirkiness, but the concept grew tired after twenty minutes. I haven't been able to finish "Magnolia." But "There Will Be Blood" is an epic Californian tragedy which will outlive these movies, and, hopefully, the movies of his mentor, Robert Altman.

"Blood" is a Californian picture, but it is a different California from the California of, say, "Sunset Boulevard". This is not the California that Wallace Stegner meant when he said that the golden state was like the rest of America, only more so. This is a California which in which deprivation is the only thing ravaging the landscape and the only thing that needs to. The only evidence that anything had been there before the Midwestern looking settlers who inhabit its desolate edifices is the oil that comes seeping from the ground, lifeless and black.

It is hard to imagine anybody looking on this landscape and seeing opportunity. But, then again, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in his best role to date) is not anybody and no sooner has an inhabitant of a barren township called Little Boston told him that oil comes up from the ground, than he has packed his belongings, company and adopted son and established himself as a community leader.

This would hardly seem irregular or unnatural, but I do not recall having a feeling through the movie that could be described as either natural or regular. There is something in the seeping of the oil, the nodding of the grasshopper pump, the inanimate pools of black gold waiting to be shipped to their final resting place, that endues the movie with a sense of horror. The audience always knows something is going to happen--an earthquake, a falling object--but they never know what.

Daniel Day-Lewis matches the movie's sense of creepiness almost perfectly. His dialogue rolls off the tongue with a fullness and eloquence that is not seen too often anymore and, while we are not seduced by him, we get a sense of why his those who deal with him may be. He is reckless, insensitive and alcoholic, but communicates the sense that, beneath there exterior is a tortured and confused human being. An idea that is both touching and frightening.

The film covers several decades, but, unlike Mr. Anderson's best known earlier work, "Magnolia," this movie has the advantage of focusing on one central character. This does not mean that the other characters are not interesting. Plainview's main antagonist, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) does a good turn as a charlatan Pentecostal minister; the type who would assert that vengeance belongs to God and that he is God's vengeance. In a movie year which has produced many memorable villains, Dano's Sunday will have to take his place alongside some of the worst produced by Flannery O'Connor. The final confrontation between him and Plainview is one of the best character interactions in recent memory.

But it is Mr. Day-Lewis whose performance is the most memorable. I can hardly think of a single materialist who seemed so spirited and it is he, as well as Mr. Anderson, who makes "Blood" the best movie of 2007.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Conservative and Progressive Hypocrisy

I have something to say to both conservatives and liberals.

First, last night I came across a column by Ann Coulter criticizing John McCain for, among other things, being concerned about income inequality, believing that terrorists should be tried in civilian courts and be granted full civil rights, suggesting that the government should instigate policies which will counter global warming and supporting immigration reform which would make it possible for illegals currently working in the country to get on the path toward citizenship.

Second, "the New York Times" (to which I subscribe) declared that Mike Huckabee should be disqualified as a presidential contender because he brought religion into his campaign.

I'll deal with Ann Coulter first.

John McCain may be, as some people have said, a "maverick" Republican, but he falls well within the mainstream of the Republican fold. Yes, he opposed the Bush tax-cuts because of income inequality. What's wrong with that? Maybe, at the time, the tax cuts helped to bolster the economy, but, at the same time, deficits doubled and quadrupled. This is debt which will take years to pay off, and will require much higher taxes than the ones that Bush cut. Furthermore, income inequality is a legitimate concern of even the most pro-business candidate, if nothing else, because income inequality will very likely lead to the implementation of much worse tax policies should it come to be a dominating issue in financial discourse.

Second, there is the issue of the terrorists. Yes, they are terrorists and, as they do not subscribe to any particular country, may or may not be eligible for the rights granted by the Geneva Convention. But we are not legalists. We ought, instead, to look to the reason that such laws were created; in the words of John McCain, "what are Americans" (I think that's it.) More importantly, what will our allies or the rest of the world think of us if we, who have every reason to have the greater moral capital against our enemies in the war on terror, squander it to put behind bars a guy who might have driven Osama bin Laden to a linen goods festival.

As for global warming, I am an agnostic. But, if Friedrich Hayek, prince of libertarians, were here, I don't think that he would have felt an obligation to doubt that it was a real phenomenon merely because the Democrats believed in it. After all, it is better to have regulation and not need it than to need regulation and not have it. In short, I think that we ought to assume its existence until we can prove otherwise, which does not mean that we have to be reactionary like Al Gore. We need to introduce new measures to assuage our dependence on oil without gobbling up all of our arable farmland. It will take a prudent leader to accomplish this and, as he has devoted more time to the question than anyone else, I believe that Sen. McCain is the man for the job.

Which brings me around to the question of illegal aliens. First, I cannot think of a single economist that believes that illegal immigration is bad for the country. It is true that we need to defend ourselves against terrorists, but the least that we could do is make people pay outrageous fees to get across the southern border. People will cross the border, and, therefore, we need to implement policies which will make it easier for them to do it legally. Until then, why not talk about shamnesty? Who's hurt by it?

Now for the "New York Times"

Somewhat oddly, they've endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. She has been, more or less, a supporter of the war in Iraq from the beginning even though she lied about her opinion of General Petraeus to satisfy A more natural endorsement for the Times to make would be Barack Obama. But . . . they know he won't win and they'd rather compromise their principles than back a loser.

As for their comments about Governor Huckabee, I wouldn't endorse the governor myself. But bringing religion into the race is an age-old tradition. I see no reason why we should abandon it now. John Adams, for example, exploited the fact that Jefferson had no particular religion in the election of 1800. For his times, Adams was somewhat of a big-government candidate (more so than Jefferson, anyway). If the NYTimes had existed then--and existed then with the same editors that work for it now--they would undoubtedly have endorsed his candidacy. More than this, the prince of the progressive populists, William Jennings Bryan also told his constituents that they should not vote for his opponent William Taft. Why? Because he was a Unitarian. If, at that time, the NYTimes opposed Bryan's candidacy based on this statement, I would be interested in seeing that editorial. Not that it matters, because it was a different paper then. But the paper that exists now would probably be backing Bryan 110%.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Heath Ledger Tribute: A Good Actor with a Small Resume

More people in America probably know that Heath Ledger is dead than know that John McCain won the South Carolina primary. While this (if it is true) speaks to how poorly informed all of us are about the current state of affairs, I feel obligated, since I have been saying so much about politics in recent weeks, to take a break and write something about Heath Ledger.

First of all, he was a great actor. This is hardly news. Anyone who had seen movies such as "Ned Kelly" or "Brokeback Mountain" could have told you the same thing. But, more importantly, he was an animating presence in films which, otherwise, were not great. "Brokeback Mountain," alongside "Crash," is one of the most overrated movies of the decade. I hope this has nothing to do with its politics, though it might. But, in my defense, I enjoyed the novella "Death in Venice" which, I feel, is even more explicitly about homo-erotic love. The problem with "Brokeback Mountain," I feel, was not that it dealt with homosexuality, but that it was unwilling to deal with homosexuality honestly. Instead, the movie presented the affair like a conventional Hollywood love story when they should have concentrated more on the theme of masculinity. But I digress. For all of the movie's flaws, Heath Ledger gave a flawless performance as the narrative's protagonist, Ennis del Mar (an unfortunate name, if ever there was one.) The performance was one that was great not because of the passion that it poured forth, but rather because of the passion which it held in. Ledger seamlessly communicated the repression; he actually seemed to feel it, and we thought that we could, too.

"The Four Feathers" is the only movie in which Ledger appears that I have seen before and will want to see again. The movie was savagely mocked, particularly for the casting-directors decision to give Kate Hudson a leading role as an English aristocratic girl. This criticism has merit. It was one of her worst performances to date. But Ledger and Djimon Honsou (or some such spelling) were capable enough leads to make the movie into a memorable experience; the movie also has some excellent, if also infrequent, action sequences.

There were other movies as well. The aforementioned revisionist western, "Ned Kelly," was probably the other notable of those that I have seen. Not that this movie merits repeated viewings. It was (and will continue to be) overshadowed by another Australian western, "the Proposition." Nonetheless, Ledger did a good job of making a heroic and charismatic figure out of a bank-robber. I still remember the emotional intonations of his lines.

And then, of course, there is "The Dark Knight." As you know, if you visit this blog from time to time, I have already predicted that Heath Ledger will be the best Joker to date, and considering that Jack Nicholson played the Joker, that isn't saying nothing. Of course, the audiences will flock to see what may be the last movie in which Heath Ledger appears (there were other projects in production, but these may or may not be shelved depending on where they are in the process). Even so, it's tragic that there wasn't more.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Shortest Presidential Run in Recent Memory

Fred Thompson finally dropped out of the presidential race. I wonder if they're going to pick him as a vice-presidential runner. One can only hope not.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Charlie Crist for Vice President

I would like to see the GOP select Charlie Crist as John McCain's running mate. It's hard to imagine them selecting someone better. Crist is a centrist; for example, he supports stem-cell research, euthanasia and the environment, but he takes a conservative position on essential issues such as abortion. Not only that but he is the most one of the most popular governors in the history of a very large swing-state. Republicans have won Florida twice running and we can win it again, if we select the right running-mate for John McCain.

From Having Nothing to Say This Morning

So far, Mitt Romney appears to have the most delegates to the Republican National Convention, but that is likely to change, and it's a good thing, too. It is also refreshing to see people like Rush Limbaugh humiliated.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Populist Scam of Mitt Romney

Watching Mitt Romney say that the jobs in Michigan are not only coming back but he can make sure that they do and that the national relief package should be a tax break of $250,000,000,000 instead of the projected $130,000,000,000, I couldn't help but think that the former Massachusetts governor believes he is participating in an auction rather than an election. As David Brooks once said, if you want to bribe someone, give them a thousand dollars instead. It's not like he actually could bring the Michigan auto-manufacturing jobs back; nor is it particularly desirable that he does. If he did, then we might end up paying more for automobiles so that some blue-collar worker can have his old, comfortable job instead of biting the bullet, reeducating himself and getting a (probably better) job that actually ought to be allocating to his region. Mitt Romney may be a multi-millionaire, but I can't think of anyone on the campaign trail who has, so far, written so many rubber checks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Three Cheers for John McCain!

I don't make endorsements officially, but I must say that it is heartening to see that John McCain won in South Carolina tonight. It is, in a way, a chance at redemption for the Republican Party. We should have supported McCain in 2000, but instead we supported George W. Bush. We should have supported John McCain when he counciled that we ought to invade Iraq with more troops, but instead we listened to Donald Rumsfeld. We should have backed McCain on the immigration reform, but instead we caved to the nativists and still allow them to share our ranks. But now, I am glad that we have finally realized that McCain is a man worth listening to, and possibly supporting for President of the United States.

Giuliani Might Not Be the Candidate After All

Mitt Romney has just become the projected winner in Nevada. This means, more or less, that Rudolph Giuliani hasn't. He just retreated again. Maybe Giuliani won't be winning the nomination after all, but at least he has the consolation of not having tried.

Who Is This Subcommandante Person Anyway?

Subcommandante Marcos does not support Lopez Obrador because he believes the socialist candidate for the presidency of Mexico to be to conservative.

Subcommandante Marcos travels around Mexico on a motorcycle bicycle. Years ago, this would not have meant anything to any American (in Mexico, we are "estadounidenses," because Mexicans are Americans too.) Now, because of the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, a generation of estadounidenses will know what Marcos--the man in the wool mask--means.

Subcommandante Marcos believes that all Latin American governments, including the government of Hugo Chavez is a scam. He believes that these left-wing dictators have failed to deliver on what they have promised. The subcommandante (literally translated: Undercommander) desires that all natural resources be nationalized. He is opposed to privatization of Mexico's oil fields.

I doubt that Subcommandante Marcos is proud to be from the same country as the world's richest man.

Subcommandante Marcos is a ghost. He wears a black mask. His first name "Subcommandante" is an impersonal title. His last name merely means "Mark," the name of the traveling companion of St. Paul and St. Barnabas who refused to travel to Perga. He cared more for this life than his cause, at that time anyway.

Subcommandante Marcos no longer has an identity. Not one that can be put on paper or official documents. A rifle is always strapped to his back. A pipe protrudes from his mask. It might be part of his face, or maybe he breaths through it.

One wonders what Subcommandante Marcos is doing when he writes collections of fables and children's stories (one was published by the Lannan Foundation). Not long ago he tried writing a crime novel. A reviewer said that his co-writer was a lot better. He belongs to an outdated age, but I am told that women still find his mask to be cool. He is not a man of practical communism. He is the sort of mystic who still has faith without the religion. The others--Castro, Chavez, Obrador--learned, a long time ago, to endorse the religion without the faith. If there is one thing that is known, it is that people, whether directly or indirectly, die because of both types of men.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Some Notes on Nate Wilson's First Novel

I just finished reading Nathan Wilson's first novel, Leepike Ridge. After having read it, I can see why it is popular. Mr. Wilson is a good writer and his novel teems with luscious and imaginative descriptions of his fictional setting. The work, though it does not make any secret of this influence, is well informed of the classical traditions as well, whether this be the Homeric allusions which are scattered upon the surface or the classic adolescent adventure novels like Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (mentioned in the acknowledgments) which make up the book's DNA. This does not mean that the novel is perfect. The allusions to the Odyssey seem forced, at times; for example, the characters "based" on Polyphemus and the Lotus Eaters are here members of a gang of treasure hunters which also includes a corrupt cop named Sirens. Perhaps Mr. Wilson does not intend a perfect transcription but is merely acknowledging his debt to Homer but, whereas Mr. Wilson is clearly interested in themes such as civilization in the same way that Homer was, the thematic make-up of both works does not comfortably parallel; Homer was concerned with civilization in the future tense, Mr. Wilson is interested with past civilizations. Furthermore, the boy hero of Mr. Wilson's novel, Tom Hammond is never sufficiently developed to embody the charisma that such a story requires. This role is not fulfilled until later, by Reg who becomes is surrogate father. But, in spite of this, Leepike Ridge is by far better than most adolescent literature which is produced in this day and age, and, if you are a starving college student who is unable to afford a copy not unlike I, than I would recommend finding someone from whom you may borrow it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In Defence of Governmental Education

Steven Landsburg, a radical libertarian economist at the University of Rochester, had a somewhat polemical article in the NYTimes today in which he argued that the government should not pay for the reeducation of workers who lose their jobs to globalization nor give them workers' benefits. The premise on which he based his argument was that if people are unwilling to give money to the government when the benefit from free-trade, why should the government have to give to the people who don't benefit. Landsburg went on to argue that protectionists are "bullies" of sorts. They keep consumers from getting the best deals possible by regulating what leaves the country and, more importantly, what comes into it. For example, if I could buy a car in the United States for $10,000 and the same car in Mexico for $5000, then it is unfair for the government to charge me an additional $5000 to import the car in order to protect the autoworkers' union. On this basis, I agree with Dr. Landsburg from a purely theoretical point-of-view. I support free trade. But I disagree that reeducation programs and/or workers' benefits are unethical and should, therefore, not be practiced by our government. Education (and reeducation) of our workers, in fact, has largely positive economic benefits from the standpoint that it allows us to reallocate our industry in this country and find a new workforce whom we can adapt to it. This is the entire point of free trade: To assure that the right person fills the right job. Furthermore, if our trade deficit (the margin by which we buy more than we sell) continues to grow in this country, it may very well lead to further economic instability and higher chances of recession. With the decreasing value of the dollar, we have an opportunity to reverse this trend, and trade barriers are the last thing that we need to plague both the supply- and the demand-sides of production. Nevertheless, we're going to need a technologically literate workforce if we want to keep our edge as one of the world's leading industrial nations. Reeducating the unemployed is a step in the right direction, regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Most Dangerous Places to Be a Vampire

1.) San Francisco, post-Summer of Love era

2.) Woodstock, NY - 1969

3.) Victorian London

(to be continued)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Three Generations That Didn't Shake the World

A few days ago, an odd sociological phenomenon which makes very little sense occurred to me. Namely, that the Baby Boomers were the first generation to beget (meaning have) children who filled two other generations. The spawn of the Boomers are represented by both Generation X (people born between '65 and 79) and Generation Y (people born between '80 and '95). This might mean the people are living longer and, therefore, extending the time period over which they choose to have children. But the solution that I find by far more likely is that the country, as a whole, is becoming wealthier; this was what allowed for Generation Y. Generation X were the children that were begat (not a real word, I know, but it should be) during the summer of love and Woodstock concert. They were born because their hippie parents couldn't afford birth-control pills or condoms. Generation Y, on the other hand, was born because their Yuppie parents (Boomers whose parents were Republicans) were able to afford not to wear condoms or take birth control; they could pay for a nanny, boarding school tuition and college fees. What is consistent about all three of these American generations is that none of them is particularly impressive, nor are there many in any of these generations who accomplished anything. The Boomers are perhaps the people who were radical until they needed to get a job, the Generation X's are the cynics who are entrepreneurial, and the YGens are still yet to have any notable members. But at least we're not of the MFA guild.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Problem with Barack Obama

I was reading in a recent article (probably by a pundit) that Barack Obama has a stepbrother who he is, more or less, off speaking terms with. I suppose that wouldn't matter, but for the reason. From the passages in Barack Obama's memoir that I read, it appears that Senator Obama and his stepbrother decided not to write to one another because his brother did not have such kind "dreams of his father." Of course, Barack Obama hardly knew his father, so what is disturbing is that an abstraction of Sen. Obama's dreams could matter more to him than an actual person. Why we would want a leader like that I can't imagine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What's Wrong with Mitt Romney?

On Ross Douthat's blog today I read that Mitt Romney is the least popular of candidates with the Republican Party. This struck both me and my father as odd. He is the most mainstream Republican in the race. He is not a populist like Huckabee; he is not a pro-choicer like Giuliani; he is not lazy like Fred Thompson. The problem with him must be, then, that, as Frank Rich has pointed out, he is a follower, not a leader. Even though he wears a charismatic exterior, there is nothing new about him. He may be a perfect person to work with, but, in spite of what Governor Huckabee said, he is not the right guy to lay people off.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Six Word Autobiography

For one of my classes, I was asked to write my autobiography in six words. Here's the one that I ended up reading to the class:

Couldn't read; became an English major.

But I wrote another that may have been more appropriate:

Proletarian, non-Marxist elitist with traditional streak.

But the one that may have been the best of all is:

Can't write, but I haven't left.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Loser of the Year

I realize that I've been off recently. I was in California. Back to the old politics again.

I don't know who's going to win the presidential nomination at this point, but I can say that the man who should definitely win Loser of the Year Award this year (if such an award exists) is Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Fred Thompson comes close, but at least Fred Thompson announced and was able to run on a platform which was not particularly original but was sincere. Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, has not appeared to be able to say anything other than that partisanship is bad and we need more centrist (translation: pro-choice) candidates to balance out the national divide. Why this New York mayor of no particular notoriety (apart from being slightly better than men like Dinkins) should think that he is at all representative or relevant to the national center is still lost on me. There is nothing about him that it particularly moderate. I would not be surprised to see him running as for the governorship as a Democrat in two years (after all, he's been a Democrat for a longer period of time than he was a Republican), but he will probably run as a Republican, because, if nothing else, it will make it easier for him to win the election against the Democratic incumbent Eliot Spitzer. But, as with Lincoln Chafee, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a Republican whom I don't particularly mind in the party but also whom I do not particularly mind seeing depart.

Friday, January 4, 2008

What Huckabee's Victory Says

As any fellow traveler in the blogosphere can tell you, I am not any big fan of Governor Mike Huckabee. I am probably not going to vote for him in the primaries (if he is still in the running when the primaries make it to Iowa, which he probably won't be.) But I am still happy that he won last night.

This is because, if nothing else, it revealed the Ann Coulters, the Rush Limbaughs, the Pat Robertsons, the James Dobsons, the Phillis Shlaflys, the Clubs for Growth, the constructionists, the libertarians, to be the charlatans that they are. The old GOP alliance between evangelicals, tycoons and defense hawks is over (and it probably should never have existed to begin with.) Finally, a break in the coalition--and the break could not have occurred in a better location. Now, instead of the libertarians fleeing, leaving the social conservatives and neoconservatives on the same boat together, the social conservatives (if not their leadership) has jumped ship, leaving the remnants of the old coalition to face defeat next November.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to be defeated by any means. I would rather someone like John McCain were in the White House by this time next year. But Huckabee's victory in Iowa sent out an important message to candidates: the old coalition is dead, and it is time for forwardness rather than backward thinking.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Giuliani for Presidential Loser?

Mike Huckabee appears to be, more or less, the winner of the Iowa caucases by a significant margin. But I doubt that he is going to go on to win the Republican nomination. The next few state primaries will probably look something like this (I'm not sure that the order is correct):

1. New Hampshire - John McCain

2. South Carolina - Mike Huckabee

3. Nevada - Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney (to close to call)

4. Michigan - Mitt Romney

5. Florida - Rudy Giuliani

6. California - Rudy Giuliani

7. New Jersey - Rudy Giuliani

This is to say that Giuliani is most likely going to be the presidential candidate, but is also probably going to lose the presidency in November. The reason is because he has been an effectively ineffective campaigner; the only candidate who has been as unimpressive is Fred Thompson. (I just heard that Barak Obama won the Iowa caucus for the Democrats, by the way; bad news from Giuliani.) Giuliani's campaign, so far, has been one of retreat. He may have polled well in New Hampshire, but he didn't capitalize; he may have done well in Michigan (though he probably would not have won), but, once again, he will probably fail to do even this. In spite of this, He started out as the front-runner and has not lost this position yet. But, for the presidential nomination, we cannot win with a candidate who spends his time running away.

Drones Predictions

I made my Drones predictions today. Here they are on my blog for anyone who is interested:

1. Dmitry Medvedev will be elected president of the Russian Federation

2. The Democrats will maintain control of the House and the Senate

3. The Republicans will nominate their first pro-choice presidential candidate (Rudolph Giuliani) since Gerald Ford

4. Ron Paul will not seek to be elected as a third-party candidate

5. Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his performance in "There Will Be Blood"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Romney vs. Huckabee

Mike Huckabee, I think, took a shot at former governor Mitt Romney with a line that should be a classic if it isn't already:

"I grew up in a family where 'summer' was never a verb."

This is true. Using the word 'summer' as a verb is a privilege of only the upper-class bourgeoisie. His wit aside, I can't imagine that Mike Huckabee would be a good presidential candidate. That being said, I am pretty sure that he is better than Giuliani and Thompson and I haven't decided whether or not he would be better than Mr. Romney. (My faith in Sen. McCain as an ideal candidate has not flagged.)

Since the order runs something like this (McCain, Huckabee/Romney, Giuliani, Thompson) from best to worst, I think that I should explicate on why I don't go ahead and support Romney over Huckabee. After all, he has more experience, doesn't he? Well, maybe. We ought to look at their tenures as governor to figure out the answer to this question.

Both have attacked one another as fiscally undisciplined tax-hikers (in other words, Democrats in Republicans' clothing.) From their records, I would say that this is true in both cases. Taxes rose under the governorships of Mr. Romney and Mr. Huckabee, although they rose to significantly higher levels in Mr. Huckabee's Arkansas than they did in Mr. Romney's Massachusetts. But the charge that Mr. Huckabee's governorship had a deleterious effect on the economy (the reason that tax-cut fundamentalists always give for cutting taxes further) is unfair, given that the growth of Arkansas economy was slightly higher (albeit by about 0.2%) during his time in office than was the national average.

That being said, I am not a fervent believer in the belief of certain Republican fundamentalists that the only good tax is a cut tax. There are times to cut taxes and times to raise them. And, from this point of view, both governors may have been right to raise taxes when their states were deeply in debt and on the verge of introducing brand new, government-sponsored social programs. (Both states implemented health-care programs under the two governors' tenures and Mr. Huckabee also created a state park system in Arkansas.) From this standpoint, both of them appear to have been fairly successful. Messr. Romney and Huckabee left behind surpluses when they moved out of their governors' mansions.

If we consider their governorships in terms of popularity, Mr. Huckabee is clearly the winner. Both men served in highly Democratic states, but Mr. Huckabee managed to be reelected to office twice, whereas if Mr. Romney had run against Deval Patrick in 2006 he would almost certainly have lost (his approval rating was around 43%.)

On foreign policy, Mr. Romney is certainly more informed the Mr. Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee has a tendency to sound like a buffoon: "I don't think America should import our food from China, our oil from the Middle East and our weapons from . . ." (I forget the place he names.) Like Rich Lowry said, there is so much foolishness in that statement. But Mr. Huckabee has also made some observations that any buffoon would know but, somehow, the Republicans have failed to figure out. For one thing, he suggested that he supported resuming diplomatic talks with Iran before it was popular in the Republican field. Such statements, though, are more exception than rule with him. By this point, when asked about foreign policy, he more or less ignores it, saying more simply that we ought to be nicer to other countries if we want to be more popular in the world (we might have tea some time.)

Between the two of them, Mr. Romney seems to be the more adaptable candidate. The one who would be the most studious for on-the-job training. In short, there is no clear way to choose between the two of them, and I am convinced that we have a really bad Republican field this year (with the exception of Sen. McCain, of course.)