Archives: October, 2008

New York Times: Less Difference between Candidates on Foreign Policy than Meets the Eye

Today’s Times features an article by David Sanger discussing the two campaigns’ claim that the candidates have “sharply different views about the proper use of American power.”  Sanger tallies the ledger and finds “contradictions that do not fit the neat hawk-and-dove images promoted by each campaign.”

Much of what Sanger covers, and his general conclusion, appeared in my Policy Analysis published earlier this month, “Two Kinds of Change: Comparing the Candidates on Foreign Policy.”  But Sanger points to an interesting contradiction within the McCain camp on Iran.  Sanger writes:

Questions to both campaigns in the past few weeks have yielded another example of role reversal. While Mr. McCain seems willing to consider that Iran might someday be trusted to produce its own nuclear fuel, Mr. Obama does not. The director of foreign policy for the McCain campaign, Randy Scheunemann, said that if Iran was in compliance with United Nations resolutions, “it would be appropriate to consider” letting it produce uranium under inspection, which Iran has said is its right.

This is interesting.  As I wrote in my paper,

In response to a two-question questionnaire sent to the candidates by the Institute for Science and International Security, McCain indicated that “there can be no such thing as an adequately controlled nuclear fuel cycle in Iran.”He went on to propose that Iran rely on foreign sources of fuel, and claimed that “There is no circumstance under which the international community could be confident that uranium enrichment or plutonium production activities undertaken by the current government of Iran are purely for peaceful purposes.”

Here (.pdf) is the ISIS report in question.  I’m not fond of the “flip flop” gotcha game, but this appears to be an interesting shift on the part of the McCain camp.  Something an enterprising journalist might want to follow up on.

Top U.S. School Districts Mediocre on World Stage

A new study by the American Institutes for research compares the performance of 11 large U.S. districts to that of countries participating in the international mathematics test known as ”TIMSS 2003.” As with earlier international comparisons, American kids do better the less time they have spent in school.

At the 4th grade, the earliest one tested, three of the 11 U.S. districts (Charlotte, Austin, and San Diego) score above the average of OECD countries participating in the test. (The OECD is a group of 30 or so nations, most of which are wealthy and industrialized, but a few of which are less wealthy transitional economies). By the 8th grade, the top two large U.S. districts (Charlotte and Austin) included in the report scored at the overall average of the participating OECD countries.

But the above results overstate the U.S. districts’ achievement. That’s because many industrialized countries that typically outscore us (France, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland and Poland) did not participate in the TIMSS 2003 test. When the U.S. is compared specifically to other wealthy nations, it peforms worse than the AIR report will lead readers to believe. Finally, U.S. performance continues to deteriorate as students progress through high school, and so the absence of high-school test results also gives an inflated impression of relative U.S. performance.

In a nutshell, even two of the top large school districts in America can barely tread water internationally, when compared to students in other industrialized nations.

Alan Reynolds’ Critique of Obama and McCain Tax Plans

Peter Ferrara writes that, “Obama’s tax increases will not produce nearly enough revenue to finance all his lavish spending proposals, as shown by a brilliant new paper from Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute.” Brilliant or not, it’s serious paper I prepared for a Hillsdale College conference, which is now online (at the link to my name).

How Much Racism in the Campaign?

At the Guardian I point out that “Liberal journalists are combing the back roads of America looking for evidence of the resurgent racism being generated by the prospect of a black man becoming president. The striking thing is how little they’ve turned up.” Despite headlines like “Ugly reception for Obama” and “Racist attacks on Obama growing more heated,” the journalists have had to go to Danville, Va., and the Arkansas-Missouri border to find a few individual instances of racist attacks. Nothing like what the Catholic JFK faced in 1960.

The Bailout: Secret Payments?

From the WashingtonWatch.com blog:

Just two weeks after the passage of the bailout bill, and one day after a Treasury Department official declared, “we are committed to transparency and oversight in all aspects of the program,” the Treasury Department began covering up the amount it would pay to New York Mellon Bank to act as a financial agent in the bailout.

Spending $700,000,000,000.00 in taxpayer money is not business as usual. And hiding the terms of government contracts shouldn’t be business as usual anyway.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on REAL ID

I just came across the transcript of an interview with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) about the REAL ID Act. His characteristic forthrightness makes it refreshing to read.

Here’s a key point about the REAL ID Act’s attempt to coerce states into complying:

So I spoke with Chertoff and it became apparent to me that Homeland Security needed all the states worse than we needed them to do this thing.

In the early going, many state politicians were cowed by the threat that the federal government would interfere with their constituents’ travel plans if they did not go along with national standardization of their states’ ID documents.

As this interview makes clear, Secretary Chertoff and the DHS recognized that the federal government would be blamed if the Transportation Security Administration interfered with the air travel plans of millions of Americans.

DHS blinked. And it’s not the first time that happened.