Free Markets, Free People

Glenn Reynolds


Common thread in all of these scandals? Abuse of power

That’s the conclusion Insty comes too in his USA Today column:

The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.

But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.

Anyone who, in fact, trusts government these days is simply not paying attention or is a part of it.  As Reynolds outlines above, each and every one of the scandals mentioned do, in some degree or another, involve an abuse of power.  And an abuse of power is always an abuse of trust.  This administration has been just about as abusive of both power and trust as any in our history.

What should bother you is they don’t seem to care.   To me that points to a culture that has come to accept the fact – at least in their world – that government is all powerful and can do no real wrong.  It’s “for the people”, after all, that they commit these abuses.  It is also in the name of “security” – that all-purpose reason to grind away at the freedoms we enjoy and put us under more and more government control.

One of those old dead white men who helped found this country saw the possibility of the latter long ago.  In fact, he’d seen it in his lifetime and had done all in his power to escape it and to build a system that wouldn’t tolerate the types of abuses of power we do today:

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison

Bottom line, we’re saddled with an arrogant and abusive, totally out of control goverment that badly needs reigning in.  The problem – we need statesmen who can do that.  And we all know where we are in that particular case. Without, that’s where. We’re stuck with self-serving politicians.

By the way, are we really any safer since the draconian security measures have been implemented?

Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.

And it remains “snooping” regardless whether it great or not.

Is this the the type of country in which we really want to live?  Where we’re afraid of our own shadow and our government to boot?

~McQ


Preference cascade: How solid are Obama’s favorability numbers?

I wonder about the validity of these sorts of numbers:

While rising 14 points since February, Romney still trails the president, who currently has a 56% favorable rating, with 42% saying they hold an unfavorable opinion of Obama. The president’s favorable and unfavorable ratings are unchanged from CNN polls in March and April.

“The biggest gap between Obama and Romney’s favorable ratings is among younger Americans. More than two-thirds of those under 30 have a favorable view of Obama, compared to only four-in-ten who feel that way about Romney. Romney is much stronger among senior citizens, but the gap is not nearly as big," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Romney may have a small advantage among independent voters, but that is offset by his lower favorable rating among Republicans than Obama has among Democrats."

A couple of things – how strong, really, is Obama’s favorable ratings among a demographic scared to death of being called a racist if they happen to have an unfavorable view of our first black president?  That’s a legitimate question.

Old folks, for the most part, don’t give a damn about that and may more closely mirror the real feelings out in fly over land.

The reason I say that is Obama’s “favorable ratings” have continued to stay high while his job performance numbers have continued to fall.  That seems somewhat unlikely.  Usually the two show some movement in the same direction even if one is higher than the other.

Romney is going to grow on Republicans if he continues to attack (i.e. not be the designated place holder for the GOP and refuse to do what is necessary to win as did John McCain), keep the campaign focused on the real issues of the campaign (and Obama’s record) and not fall for the distractions that are sure to be tossed out to the media every week by the Obama campaign.  Republicans are eager for someone, anyone, who will carry the political battle to the Democrats.

John Hayward talks about the Glenn Reynolds “preference cascade”, a phenomenon Reynolds notes while talking about the collapse of totalitarian regimes.   Hayward describes it here:

A large population can be dominated by a small group only by persuading all dissenters that they stand alone.  Most of their fellow citizens are portrayed as loyal to the regime, and everyone around the dissident is a potential informer.  A huge dissident population can therefore be suppressed, by making them believe they’re all lonely voices in the wilderness… until the day they begin realizing they are not alone, and most people don’t support the regime.  The process by which dissent becomes seen as commonplace, and eventually overwhelming, is the preference cascade.

This analysis doesn’t have to be confined to the study of repressive, dictatorial regimes, or even politics.  Consider the phenomenon of celebrity without merit – that is, people who are famous for being famous.  Their popularity tends to evaporate in a preference cascade eventually, as people in the audience begin wondering if anyone else is tired of hearing about the ersatz “celebrity,” and soon discover that everyone is.

He then applies it to the politics of this race:

That’s what began happening over the past couple of weeks: a large number of people discovered it’s okay to strongly disapprove of Barack Obama.  His popularity has always been buttressed by the conviction – very aggressively pushed by his supporters – disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him

That’s what began happening over the past couple of weeks: a large number of people discovered it’s okay to strongly disapprove of Barack Obama.  His popularity has always been buttressed by the conviction – very aggressively pushed by his supporters – that disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral.  You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him, or at least a greedy tool of the Evil Rich, or a “Tea Party extremist.”

A negative mirror image of this narrative was installed around Mitt Romney, who is supposedly a fat-cat extremist (and, thanks to the insidious War On Mormons, a religious nut) who nobody likes… even though large numbers of people in many different states voted for him in the primaries.  Of course he has his critics, and I’m not seeking to dismiss the intensity or sincerity of that criticism… but the idea was to make Romney supporters feel isolated going into the general election, particularly the people who don’t really get involved in primary elections.

Both of those convergent narratives began crumbling this week: Obama is deeply vulnerable, and his campaign has no real answer to criticism of his record – they’ve even tried floating an outright fraud, the now-infamous Rex Nutting charts that presented Obama as some kind of fiscal hawk.  (Stop laughing – major media figures took this garbage seriously for a couple of days, and Team Obama did push it.)  Major Democrats, beginning with Newark mayor Cory Booker, expressed criticism of the Obama campaign… and the Left reacted with shrieking hysteria and vows of personal destruction for the “traitors.”

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney effectively presented both substantive criticism of Obama, and a positive agenda.  Attacks on his business record that were supposed to destroy him through class-warfare tactics failed to draw blood.  The idea that he can win became widely accepted.  That doesn’t mean he won the 2012 argument… but unlike Barack Obama, he is offering one.

What is beginning to lose its effectiveness, it’s cache, is, as Hayward notes, " … disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him …”.

But when polled, especially among younger voters, that presumption is still powerful enough I would guess, to see those voters lie to pollsters.  It is a sort of social conditioning that has taught them to avoid such a label even at the cost of a lie (and even when speaking to a pollster).

So, and it is merely a guess, but based on a life long study of human nature, there is a distinct possibility that  the “Tom Bradley” effect may be pumping up Obama’s popularity numbers.

And, as Hayward points out, as it becomes less and less effective or acceptable to accuse those who do not like Obama of being racists, the possibility of a preference cascade negative to Obama’s favorability is a distinct possibility.

No one who has watched the beginnings of this race can, with any credibility, claim the Obama campaign isn’t struggling.  Donors are deserting him, his record is an albatross around his neck, there is strife between his administration and campaign and many of his political supporters seem luke warm at best with any number of Democrats running for reelection in Congress content not to be seen with the man.  Too many indicators that point to the probability that the numbers CNN are pushing aren’t quite as solid as they may seem.

Hayward concludes with an important update:

I should add that the most powerful cascades occur when an artificially imposed sense of isolation crumbles.  That’s very definitely what is happening here.  Widespread popular discontent with the Obama presidency has been suppressed by making the unhappy campers feel marginalized.  The failure of that strategy is akin to watching a dam burst under high pressure.

The race, once it gets into high gear, is what will cause the “dam burst” as more and more Americans discover they’re not alone in their feelings about the President and that they are not at all on the margins, but very mainstream. 

Once that happens (and it will), when everyone finally realizes they’re not the only one who has noticed the emperor has no clothes, the chances of a one-term Obama presidency increase exponentially.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Health Care Is Why We’re Broke?

The more I listen to Obama, the more of an ideologue I realize he is and how willing he is to use any opportunity to “justify” his agenda, even those that don’t fit. For instance:

In a sobering holiday interview with C-SPAN, President Obama boldly told Americans: “We are out of money.”

C-SPAN host Steve Scully broke from a meek Washington press corps with probing questions for the new president.

SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?

OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.

This is about as twisted a bit of reasoning as I’ve seen in a while. We’re “out of money” because of “health care decisions?”

What total nonsense. This is a politician using a crisis unrelated to “health care decisions” to push his ideology (i.e. that it is government that is the answer in all areas of life). As Glenn Reynolds says:

“I’ve bankrupted the nation, so now your only hope is to pass my healthcare plan.” That goes beyond chutzpah to the edge of pathological dishonesty. Except, I guess, that it’s not pathological if you get away with it. And so far, he has.

Very true – but at some point, as his favorite pastor likes to say, the chickens have got to come home to roost.

From the same interview:

SCULLY: States like California in desperate financial situation, will you be forced to bail out the states?

OBAMA: No. I think that what you’re seeing in states is that anytime you got a severe recession like this, as I said before, their demands on services are higher. So, they are sending more money out. At the same time, they’re bringing less tax revenue in. And that’s a painful adjustment, what we’re going end up seeing is lot of states making very difficult choices there..

Painful choices? But for the federal government – unprecedented spending spree. The cognitive dissonance there is mind boggling.

~McQ

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