Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nader Enters the Race

Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race, though his effect this time will be trivial as Nader last much of his support during the 2000 Presidential campaign when many feel his 5% of the popular vote effectively threw the race to George Bush in his win over Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote handily but Florida's razor-thin vote margin eventually was decided in Bush's favor, giving him the electoral votes and win.

Personally, I've lost most of the respect I had for Nader feeling that his economic philosophy is more anti-corporate than it is pro-people. Corporate abuses - even in the past when they were arguably more flagrant - pale in comparison to the disadvantages people face if they cannot participate in the big corporate economy that drives our world. Roadblocks of the type Nader favors that put legislation and regulation in the way of corporate progress hurt the poor, because they raise prices on products and make it much harder for companies to deliver goods and services effectively. There is a minor safety advantage but it's trumped in most cases by the cost disadvantages.

I'm sure there are exceptions to this - where safety is worth the cost to the corporation - but I don't think Nader advocates for intelligent ROI analysis. Rather, like many people who are mathematically challenged, he simply won't address the huge costs to society of regulatory structures that inhibit innovation and profit.

McCain's non-scandalous scandal

The John McCain lobbyist scandal seems to be dying down in light of the New York Times' failure to produce anything other than rumors of the appearance of impropriety combined with McCain's sharp denial of any romantic involvement or betrayal of the public trust.

Frankly, I think the story's somewhat foolish original intention was not to accuse McCain of illegal or immoral activity, rather to suggest that even McCain is not immune to the lure of the huge gray areas in political ethics. These are challenges McCain has talked about times both in regard to his involvement in the Keating S&L scandal and challenges with our process in general.

McCain's case is interesting because I'd suggest it is pretty clear what happened, but media speculation and frenzy simply cannot handle middle ground very well:

McCain had a friendship with lobby girl which was flirtatious but probably not scandalous - I doubt they slept together and may never have had any romance, though I'm guessing he technically lied saying "no romantic involvement".

Like other Senators, McCain participated in our crappy lobby system in legal ways.

Vicki Iseman's influence over McCain him was a notch above the normal due to the flirtatious and/or romantic overtones, but she did not *directly* ask for favors and he did not *directly* offer them. McCain is a man of honor and it would have been totally out of character for him to act otherwise.

Isemant did get more attention than average, but nothing that would approach illegal preferential treatment or breach any reasonable ethical standards other than the one that suggests our current and past lobbying systems are poor ways to do the people's business.

Note that decisions and clients are on the record, so where is the record of corruption here?

Appearance of impropriety here? Sure, but that's not enough.