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Tag: "Straight-Talkin’ Maverick John McCain"

McCain Care

[ 0 ] May 1, 2008 |

You may have heard somewhere that John McCain’s health care proposal is crap. Andrew S., one of two new additions to Alterdestiny, has more.

The numbers tell the real truth—the amount of the tax credit/rebate is $2,500 per individual and up to $5,000 for families. I received some quotes from various on-line health insurance providers, and the results are telling. I only selected plans that had deductibles less than $2,500, copays less than $50, and coinsurance (the percentage of total medical costs the policy holder is responsible for after the deductible is paid) of less than 15%. This nominal coverage costs around $434 per month ($5,208 per year). The tax credit covers the premium only; remember that every office visit will cost you $35-$45, the insurer won’t cover a dime until you spend the deductible amount, and you will be paying 10 – 15% of total expenses after you shell out $2,500 for the deductible.

But this isn’t even the worst part, really. In order to get the tax rebate, you have to purchase a plan—for low and middle income people, just having that extra $434 per month is insurmountable. Take a family of four making $30,000; after state and federal income tax withholding, the net pay per month is $2,062. The $434 per month to even buy into the tax credit system is 21% of monthly take home pay. How many low and middle income people can afford to spend the 21% to buy in to the system?

But after a decade in Iraq, I’m pretty sure the occupation will wind up paying for itself — which will free up a lot of money for health care. And if that doesn’t work out, the Maverick in Chief will bail us all out with a few more gas tax holidays.


McCain: I Support Women’s Rights…As Long As They’re Meaningless

[ 19 ] April 24, 2008 |

A Republican minority in the Senate has thwarted attempts to repair the damage done by a bare majority of the Supreme Court in Ledbetter, which determined that companies should be able to engage in pay discrimination without the threat of punitive damages as long as they’re able to to keep employees in the dark about it for 180 days after it starts. John McCain, although he didn’t show up to the vote, applauds the Senate’s decision to help companies pay women unequal wages:

“I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems,” the expected GOP presidential nominee told reporters. “This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.”

In other words, McCain favors women’s rights…as long as they can’t actually sue to enforce them. People who, affected by the bitterness of the primary, are tempted to think that the parties are indistinguishable may want to consider the votes in both the Senate and on the Supreme Court.

Mavericks for Inequity

[ 0 ] April 24, 2008 |

Shorter John McCain:

Equal pay is a fantastic idea, so long as it’s secured through the intervention of winged ponies or the sowing of magic beans.

Future equal rights mavericism will include denunciations of the Bill of Rights as a gift to trial lawyers.

I’d be tempted to argue that this is the sort of thing that has the unfortunate potential to become a serious campaign issue this fall. Sensible American women, however, can count on George Stephanopolous to remind them that Barack Obama sometimes walked around without a tiny flag on his lapel.

In-the-Tank Hack of the Day

[ 7 ] April 22, 2008 |

Mr. Richard Cohen, ladies and gentlemen!

The Centrist Assumption Fallacy

[ 8 ] April 15, 2008 |

Excellent point about the tendency to assume that because lots of people in their respective parties (or ex-parties as the case may be) hate McCain and Lieberman their positions must be centrist:

Joe Lieberman says Barack Obama’s “got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America.” Andrew asks what Lieberman can mean by this. I assume Lieberman is referring to Obama’s overwhelmingly majoritarian position on Iraq. After all, it’s been the key conceit of “centrists” like McCain and Lieberman ever since 2002 that to be for war in Iraq but somewhat aloof from the Bush administration is the centrist position. After all, it’s the view adhered to be John McCain and Joe Lieberman and McCain and Lieberman are well known moderates so their views must be moderate ones and mainstream and anyone to their left is “far left.”

That’s the central conceit of McCainism and Liebermanism alike, and it’s important to both of them to just keep repeating over and over again. After all, if they stop saying it someone might notice that whether or not either or both of them hold centrist views on some issues, they’re the two most extreme hawks in the Senate at a time when 60+ percent of the population agrees with the orthodox liberal view that we need to lay down a marker for leaving Iraq.

A similar dynamic is often at work in the very successful “liberals believe in judicial activism, while conservatives believe in judicial restraint” scam. If the Supreme Court reached a different conclusion about the Constitution’s requirements than Robert Bork, it was therefore “countermajoritarian.” And this is true even if a Supreme Court decision is so overwhelmingly popular that post-Bork conservative nominees feel compelled to evade or give dishonest answers to questions about their positions opposing it.

Not Burke! Not Burke!

[ 14 ] April 12, 2008 |


But foreign policy questions are McCain’s passion, he’s chosen to put them at the center of his campaign, and there’s really nothing at all Burkean about McCain’s take on them. The “our country is democratic, democracy is awesome, therefore we should try to conquer the entire world in the name of spreading democracy” syllogism at the core of McCain “Enduring Peace Built on Freedom” is straight out of the French Revolution.

Quite. Read Uday Mehta Singh’s Liberalism and Empire for a good account of the differences between Burke and the Mills on colonialism and aggressive foreign policy. I’d add that a certain rump “Burkeanism” is almost a default position for a politician who doesn’t really care about domestic policy issues; it’s easy enough to disguise indifference as the appreciation for slow, careful reform.

…indeed, it’s just this kind of thing that Burke would warn against:

Suppose we replaced the mayor of your town with a twentysomething foreigner who didn’t speak English but did have a ton of firepower at his disposal and no real checks on his power. You’d probably feel that was a step in the wrong direction. And conversely, it’s not genuinely reasonable to expect relatively junior Army officers to do this sort of job well.

With the added insight that producing twentysomething imperial viceroys who have had the experience of virtually unchecked power is something that has never been good for a healthy democracy…

John Quiggin Makes John McCain Look Like a Moron (Difficulty Scale: 0)

[ 32 ] April 10, 2008 |

This bears emphasis:

As usual with McCain’s statements in his alleged area of expertise, the claim [that winners don’t offer cease-fires] is factually dubious. More importantly, the implicit analysis here, and in nearly all pro-war thinking is that of a zero-sum game, in which one side’s gains equal the other side’s losses. The reality is that war is a negative sum game. Invariably, both sides lose relative to an immediate agreement on the final peace terms. In the vast majority of cases, both sides are worse off than if the war had never been fought. With nearly equal certainty, anyone who passes up an opportunity for an early ceasefire will regret it in the end.

The negative sum nature of war is most obvious when, as predictably happened in Basra, the stage of bloody stalemate is reached. At this point, both sides typically want to come out of the fight with some gains to show for the exercise. Fighting on, they sometimes achieve this and sometimes do not. But the losses incurred in the process ensure that both sides are worse than they would have been with an immediate ceasefire.

Indeed; this is so simple that it doesn’t seem worth repeating, yet for some reason it needs to be repeated. Unless you assign a positive value to fighting war (and such is rejected in modern conceptions of war, and also pretty clearly rejected within the Christian conception of Just War), then war always incurs substantial costs. Even taking provinces or destroying fleets is cheaper to do by threat of force than by actual force; both sides are better off if no fighting occurs. As we know from our Fearon wars still happen even though they’re negative sum; opponents have incentive to conceal information about their capabilities, some goods may be indivisible, and some agreements may be unenforceable.

The typical right wing critique of this argument doesn’t actually challenge the notion that war is negative sum, although it pretends to do so. The Ledeen Doctrine, for example, asserts that there is a positive value to demonstrating that we are willing to incur serious costs by actually going to war, instead of simply threatening to go to war. By indicating to third parties that we are willing to incur the cost of deposing Saddam Hussein, we derive benefit beyond the actual deposition. Similarly, by demonstrating our willingness to incur costs in a losing war (when someone wants Florida, or something, and we know we can’t keep it but decide to fight anyway) we communicate to third parties our irrationality, thus forcing them to treat us with respect. But even these arguments are really dependent on the idea that war is negative sum; otherwise we aren’t really demonstrating any will to incur costs.

The conservative case for irrational war is pretty weak, in my view; it depends on a set of implausible assumptions about human behavior and about how humans react to information. It turns out, of course, that reputations don’t really form in the way they would need to for this kind of argument to work, and especially that the kind of signalling that war of this sort attempts is invariably indeterminate; we think we’re sending a clear message by invading random countries, but others don’t appreciate that clarity. It also seems to me that killing lots and lots and lots of people for what might amount to a “message” is inherently evil, but whatever. In any case, it’s not even clear that McCain’s understanding of war rises to the level of this conservative critique; McCain seems to understand war as bound up in a set of beliefs about national honor and manliness, which has the perverse effect of making the fighting of war a net positive.

Quiggin includes several of the many cases in which the winner of a conflict has offered a truce; McCain’s idiotic statements reveal that he doesn’t really understand that war, after all, has at its heart a political purpose. As such, he’s apparently rather less capable than Moqtada Al-Sadr, who appears to have understood that a) continuing the fight would have incurred further costs to both sides, and b) reaching a settlement without incurring those costs would pay political dividends in the medium and long term. I, for one, would prefer to have a President who’s less, rather than more, likely to get outsmarted by the Mook.

Also see Yglesias.

Take That

Why I heart Elizabeth Edwards.

John McCain: The Economically Irresponsible American President that Americans Who Didn’ Think Bush Was Irresponsible Enough Have Been Waiting For

[ 9 ] March 29, 2008 |

Yglesias is right that McCain’s reliance on the advice of Phil Gramm shows that the straight-talking maverick just doesn’t care about economic policy. The fact that Gramm equipped the Glass-Steagall Act with concrete shoes is certainly damning enough; it would be analogous, I think, to asking for Douglas Feith’s advice in scaling the difficult crannies of foreign policy.

Don’t forget, of course, that Gramm was a footsoldier in the Enron Revolution, setting the tables for the catastrophe that really should have spurred a national conversation about bringing back the gallows for corporate felons. Wendy Gramm, while at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, carved out a regulatory exemption for Enron in 1992 before resigning to work for the company until 1998. All the while, Enron continued donating to Gramm’s political campaigns as well as to several hundred other members of Congress. In December 2000, Gramm co-sponsored a recycled deregulatory bill that was inserted into an appropriations bill as a rider; it passed, Clinton signed it, and the the rest is history.

Ordinarily, this is the sort of association that might be disastrous for a presidential campaign, but I’m given to understand that Barack Obama consorts with Angry, Crazed Negroes, so I expect there will be other things for the press to discuss while they’re eating Butterfingers on the Straight Talk Express.

Bad ideas all around

[ 1 ] March 22, 2008 |

Via Steve Clemons, there’s Douglas Bandow’s comprehensive review of John McCain’s bizarre foreign policy pronouncements. It’s a reminder of just how consistently McCain has been ill informed or wrong — wildly so in many cases — on the most significant foreign policy questions of the past decade. This is true not merely with respect to Iraq and Iran (where his enthusiasm for conflict is apparently boundless), but in every other region of the planet as well.

It also reminded me to take a look back at the piece that appeared under McCain’s byline in Foreign Affairs in late 2007. Though not as dismaying as the mound of foam that Norman Podhoretz issued on behalf of Rudy Giuliani a few months earlier, the article is basically a K-Tel anthology of deep thoughts from the Bush administration. Lots of manifest destinarian nonsense, enormous statements about the “great struggle,” and an array of proposals that the costs (both financial and diplomatic) war in Iraq has rendered incredible. Does McCain seriously believe, for instance, that anyone would be willing to join a “League of Democracies” guided by the United States? Why not just go ahead and call it a “Coalition of the Willing?” McCain even argues that the US should create a “modern-day OSS” to “fight terrorist subversion.” I suppose their are less diplomatic ways of pointing out that the CIA is no longer politically correct to the anti-Islamofascist right, but I’d have to count this one (belatedly) as one of the least useful ideas of 2007.

I understand McCain will be fishing around for a vice president over the next few months. He really should consider keeping Cheney on the job. And Stephen Hayes, I’m sure, would make a fine Secretary of State.

In the Bag

[ 4 ] March 22, 2008 |

Since ignoring the fact that John McCain hasn’t released his tax returns while complaining that Hillary Clinton hasn’t isn’t quite enough, ABC News “chief investigative reporter” Brian Ross decided to just make stuff up and claim that McCain had released his returns.

The next few months of watching the media ride on the Straight Talkitude Express are going to be depressing as all hell.


[ 0 ] March 19, 2008 |

Since John McCain is clearly unable to comprehend basic facts about a war that he’d just as soon have last a century or longer, Spencer Ackerman kindly helps by reminding that what lots of folks were predicting five years ago has turned out to be, you know, accurate.

AQI has a lesson for us. Counterfactual conditionals are always problematic, but in all likelihood, according to MNF-I’s own profile, if the United States were not in Iraq, Mr. AQI would be back in his taxi in Algiers or Jedda. Were it not for Abu Ghraib — which, of course, never would have happened had we not invaded — Mr. AQI would never have felt that it was his religious duty to kill Americans. And were it not for the war, thousands of Americans and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would be alive, right now, and all without a propaganda windfall that spikes terrorist recruitment for the extremist lurking around the mosque trying to generate new Mr. AQIs. And what is true of our foreign-born Mr. AQI is all the more true of the perhaps 95 percent of AQI that’s Iraqi Sunni. Not one of them would have any reason to be a member of AQI if George Bush did not give him one.

In a different universe this might be a topic of serious conversation, but Ackerman fails to realize that there appears to be a Crazy Negro out there somewhere.

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