Free Markets, Free People

Billy Hollis

Obama’s healthcare joint session may have been a sign of desperation

In any contest, you have certain assets, and your strategy is to use the assets in the most efficient and effective way you can find. In war simulations, for example, you normally don’t use offensive units for defense or vice versa.

But there is a point at which that breaks down. Anyone who has played war simulation games, such as Empire or Civilization, is familiar with the “edge of defeat” problem.

When it looks like you are about to be defeated, you use whatever assets you have at hand because your choices start to go away. Some people call this the use-it-or-lose-it point. If you are defeated, your assets don’t matter anyway, so you might as well use them to try and stave off defeat, even if your odds are not very good and you are using them in normally inappropriate ways.

Addressing a joint session of Congress is one of Obama’s assets. Using it ineffectively degrades the ability to use it again. If he did one once a week, or even once a month, then those speeches would get no more attention than the weekly radio address.

Looking at last night, I couldn’t help but feel Obama used that asset ineffectively. He got some juice out of it, but not much, and even the Democrats concede that it was not a game changer.

That asset is now gone for the purposes of the healthcare debate. If he tries to pull it out before sometime next year, it will be mostly ignored. So I’ve been wondering why he decided to commit that asset, even with a speech that didn’t break any new ground or attempt to dramatically change the terms of the debate in any way I can see.

The most likely possibility is that is that Obama’s overconfidence led him to believe he could get more mileage out of the asset than he did. He may be pretty out of touch with the real source of opposition to his healthcare wishes. He may think it’s just a matter of misunderstanding, and that if we all understood what he wanted better, we would just go along with it. I hate to think he’s that out of touch, but I have to rate that the most likely explanation.

But what if he understands that the opposition has hardened? What if he knows that the bill is in trouble, and he’s caught between the liberal caucus insisting on a public option and the Blue Dogs insisting they won’t vote for it, and just doesn’t know what to do? What if he knows that he’s at the edge of defeat on this, and thinks it will be the defining contest of his presidency?

In that case, it would make complete sense to use any asset at his disposal to try and salvage a win. Using the joint session asset to make a routine speech would be scraping the bottom of the barrel, but what other assets does he have that he hasn’t already used? He used up his strong-arming on many House members over cap-and-trade. He used up his high-pressure sales option in the summer. He used up all his influence with the industry to get concession from them, both monetary and that they would not publicly fight him. (I am wondering where that $150 million pledge by PhRMA went, though.)

If Obama is half as smart as his supporters say, the joint session last night could be a sign of desperation, an indication that he knows he’s losing on this and just can’t think of any other asset to use.

The preferred metaphor for his speech is “doubling down”. But you normally double down when you think you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning. I think a “Hail Mary” metaphor might be more applicable.

If true, that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to lose. Sometimes the Hail Mary works. It just doesn’t work that often.

A tale of two smears

As many predicted, Van Jones has resigned. Naturally, he picked the middle of Labor Day weekend to do it. That means minimal coverage, which is somehow fitting, seeing how little the mainstream media covered the whole thing. This has been the deftest handling of an Obama appointment miscue ever; by the time Labor Day cookouts end, this will be over and the average voter will have never heard of Jones.

Of course, Jones’ take on the whole thing is drearily predictable:

“On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones said in his resignation statement. “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.” [Emphasis mine]

He somehow doesn’t manage to pinpoint any specific lies or distortions. I suppose you could maintain that the whole thing about him signing a Truther petition was a distortion since he maintains that it doesn’t represent his views, but you would then need the underlying assumption that he’s a lazy radical who doesn’t bother to read what his fellow radicals write, and then fails to take responsibility for the resulting mistakes. I don’t see how that helps much.

The New York Times has yet to weigh in as best as I can tell. But they did find time late last week for this article, which contains the following:

Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator, speaking on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, accused Mr. Obama of trying to create a cult of personality, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

This was picked up and repeated by newspapers from Ireland to Las Vegas, with the usual “he’s loony” side comments. Problem is, here’s the actual quote from Mark’s guest host appearance on Rush Limbaugh that the NYT is using as a source:

Obviously we’re not talking about the cult of personality on the kind of Saddam Hussein/Kim Jong-Il scale. [Emphasis mine]

Now I suppose you could be pedantic and say, “Well, he is comparing the two, in a sense.” No, actually he’s contrasting the two, and one would hope the august journalists at the Times would know the difference, after all those “compare and contrast” essays in English class.

In my mind, this qualifies as a true smear. Instead of quoting someone, a misquoting is used that modifies the meaning of the original to make someone look bad.

As far as I can tell, this never happened with Jones. People just put up his own words and videos.

But it doesn’t matter. The word “smear” has been debased by the left, just as “fascist”, “rationing“, and plenty of others. Their post-modernist, Red Queen, multiple truths, “I knew what I meant when I said it” worldview makes that a perfectly legitimate tactic as far as they are concerned. The word “smear” now means “saying something that makes a leftist look bad” regardless of whether that something is true.

(From links originally seen at Instapundit and The Corner.)

*** Update 12:38 PM CST ***
Commenter Ernest Brown notes that the NYT finally says something about Van Jones. They delicately manage to avoid Jones’ “smear” allegations, but they do include this:

Mr. Jones apologized on Wednesday for derogatory words he directed at Republican opponents of Mr. Obama’s Congressional agenda during a lecture in February, calling his remarks “inappropriate” and noting that they were made before he joined the administration.

If all you read is the NYT, then you’ll have no clue what the heck they are talking about here. You won’t hear about the extent of Jones’ vulgarity or the cheering he got from the crowd for calling Republicans a$$holes. This is some beautifully done obfuscation for the benefit of the Obama administration.

But note that his vulgar depiction of Republicans was done before he was tapped by Obama. Well, I guess that makes it all right then!

Alinsky’s Rule 12: starting to wear thin

Andrew Briebart makes some pretty good points in his editorial about the “GWB43 virus”. He posits that the demonization of Bush by the left, which worked pretty well, is now being applied to any target of opportunity who dares stand up to leftist dogma and threatens to be effective at it. He quotes one of the sources of this strategy, Saul Alinsky’s infamous Rule 12:

Rule 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

I never cared that much for Bush, but I certainly didn’t feel the molten hatred for him exhibited by the left. As a result, I didn’t realize just how effective Bush hatred was as a strategy until early 2008.

It was clear from very early on in the campaign that any GOP candidate would be running into the wind. The feckless Republicans didn’t help their own cause, of course, yet there wasn’t really any possibility of “running against Bush” within the GOP to try and change the party’s direction. The left, with the complicity of the media, made darn sure of that.

The only person involved who leaned that way, Sarah Palin, was subjected to the most vicious character assassination I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m not a great fan of Palin, but that doesn’t blind me to the way she was treated. The molten hatred came out again, and it didn’t matter if it was founded on anything but rumors and emotional impressions.

Since then, Breibart lists the others who have endured the same treatment, including individuals such as Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean. We even saw Obama and his lackeys get into the act when they targeted Rush Limbaugh.

However, none of those were particularly effective. Oh, the left went along with the usual vitriol, but in the wider world Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean are more likely to be seen as victims who stood up for themselves.

Alinsky’s Rule 12 has limits. Using it too often makes it progressively less effective. The left is diluting the tactic to the point that it becomes meaningless, or even counter-productive.

Next up for Alinskyite demonization are the tea party / town hall attendees. Again, the media is all too complicit. But this attempt faces big obstacles. First, people are simply tiring of it. Plus, a large, diffuse target is not nearly as easy to demonize as a person.

According to the polls on Obama’s healthcare plan, it doesn’t seem to be working. Nancy Pelosi had to do some backtracking after calling them “un-American”. Even though leftists and media types raise the spectre of a violent mob, the most significant case of violence so far was perpetrated by bussed-in union thugs supporting the healthcare bill.

The left apparently thought they had been given a weapon with infinite ammunition. But it doesn’t work that way. If you go into your office today and accuse a particular co-worker of dishonesty, you’ll probably be taken seriously. If you do it with a different co-worker every week for a few months, you won’t.

Everyone involved starts to realize that it’s just a tactic. Then they begin to wonder why you’re doing it. Are you trying to cover up something?

Alinsky’s advice works well if leftists choose their targets carefully, and use Rule 12 about once or twice a decade. Using Rule 12 once a month isn’t going to work. Perhaps Saul should have warned them about that.

6 reasons why “reasoned debate” over healthcare isn’t called for right now

1. The left doesn’t want it. They just pretend they do. If they wanted it, they would not have tried to jam a thousand page bill through with virtually no debate, and they wouldn’t be using high-pressure sales tactics.

2. It won’t work – I. Beltway insiders are not going to have their mind changed by calmly and rationally pointing out the flaws in their bill. If their minds worked that way, they wouldn’t pass half the junk that goes through Congress.

3. It won’t work – II. If people are coming to these town halls in large numbers and mostly sitting there quietly, the spin from the media will be how everyone is quietly supportive of the “Health Insurance Reform” (or whatever the current focus-group-tested moniker is) except for a few cranks. Only if it’s abundantly obvious that the majority of the crowd is against the bill can that spin be forestalled.

4. It’s counter-productive. Incumbents really, really love it when they can appear to be listening and open even though their minds are already made up. Sitting down and calmly going over the points in the various bills gives them that facade that a deliberative process is going on when it’s not. It also takes away from the fear of losing an election they must feel if their mind is to be changed.

5. If we play Calvinball, we lose. We can’t afford to get bogged down in the details of the bill through endless talk-talk. What the protestors intuitively understand is that Congressional Democrats (and a few very foolish Republicans) are playing Calvinball. In fact, they’re world champions at it, and the rest of don’t even know how to play the game.

Case in point: I’ve seen signs at the protests that talk about how “If the plan is so great, why doesn’t it apply to Congress?” I understand and agree with the sentiment, but the last thing we want is to make that a bargaining point. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet occurred to some Democrat to float a “compromise” that supposedly “addresses the concerns of critics” with a laundry list of junk like that. This would be an obvious strategem to dampen down the protests. But it doesn’t really change anything. Since this is Calvinball, they can change the rules next year, or even during conference committee before the bill is officially passed, and get back everything they supposedly gave up.

6. We don’t want to turn discontent to cynicism. There has been latent discontent for the federal government and its incessant growth for a long, long time. We saw it with Perot and the 1994 Republican takeover. But the ones who feel that mostly have no way to express it, given the Tweedledum/Tweedledee relationship of the major parties. We’re seeing many of these people get engaged for the first time in a long time, and their long-felt anger is the motive force behind these protests. Anything that faintly smells of a sell-out would turn many of them back to their weary cynicism. We who support limited government need these people as engaged allies.

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The Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi and her “un-American” comments are floating the idea that vociferous opposition to healthcare reform is causing a backlash. Pundits have picked that up, and some critics of reform are buying it. I was particularly surprised to see the usually-astute Charles Krauthammer doing so.

I disagree completely and current polls back that up.. This is not the time to lessen the pressure. Determination and time are the only weapons we have. Time is on our side if we can keep up the pressure.

The media is mostly against us. The Beltway collective is against us. The whole Left is against us. To counter all that, we need to have all the visibility we can muster. No violence, of course, but being rude and obnoxious to arrogant and disconnected elected representatives is not violence, no matter how the Left would like to spin it.

Maybe in the future. we can reach a point where there can be a productive debate on healthcare. I concede that the odds are against it, because the two sides are so far apart. But we don’t even want to try until the current “reform” effort is dead, the corpse has been burned, and the ashes have been scattered.

This is getting surreal: Boxer says protestors “too well dressed”

Via Hotair, we see the Democrats’ poster child for intellectual firepower, Barbara Boxer, telling us these townhall protestors are fakes because they’re too well dressed.

The problem with this, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what the protestors do or how they act. Democratic propagandists will always tell us it’s wrong. If there were dressed like Code Pink wackos, then we’d hear how they are out of touch crazy people. If they’re quiet and just sit there in the townhalls, then the Democratic propagandists would claim it shows that most everyone is in favor of the healthcare bill(s). If they get up and make their displeasure known, then they’re disruptive extremists.

But Boxer is especially risible. I suppose coming from California, home of leftist protestors who sometimes wear no clothes at all, she really is suspicious when protestors dress like normal people. It must be some kind of plot! Activists just don’t dress like that!

Six months and counting: Team Obama looks pretty pitiful at this point

I have not posted much lately. Busy. Very busy. I don’t see how McQ does it. He’s a machine.

But I have been paying attention, and I must say Obama is as amusing during his first six months as I had hoped, and maybe more. Here’s a brief summary of where he’s at as far as I’m concerned, categorized into various types of success and failures on the political front.

Continue reading

Obama: “This is a limited time offer! Act now!”

Almost all adults figure out early in life how to deal with pushy salesmen. But there’s a small supply of gullible fools that keep alive the classic sales scam: “You must act now to get this deal!”

Any reasonably savvy adult knows how to deal with such a tactic. You pull back and don’t allow the salesman to bully you into doing something prematurely. The urgency he’s injecting into the situation is purely artificial, and it’s to his benefit for it to be there, not yours.

Obama’s continues to show contempt for the American people by using this tactic. It was slightly plausible for passing the bloated, pork-laden stimulus bill, though many of us saw through it. It’s been a common theme for the cap-and-trade legislation, with presumed incipient global warming as the urgency creator. Again, the excuse is slightly plausible but is far from established if you look at the other side of the debate.

But now he’s ready to drop even the facade of plausibility. Witness his attempted sale of the healthcare bill:

“This is what the debate in Congress is all about: whether we’ll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under and more Americans lose their coverage,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “Or whether we’ll seize this opportunity — one we might not have again for generations [emphasis mine] — and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009.”

Translation: Act now! You may never be offered this deal again! You’ll be sorry if you don’t act right away!

This is nonsense on toast. If his health insurance reform is such a good idea, why won’t it continue to be a good idea after more discussion on it? Why can’t it pass next year after Congress has actually had a chance to read the thousand page bill? Why the rush?

Because this salesman senses that he’s just about to lose his potential customers. His approval figures are dropping, Congressional members are being barraged with email and being visited by protesters, and the decrepitude, insolvency, and dysfunctionality of the healthcare systems already put in place by the government become more obvious every month.

Obama is probably right. If his more-or-less socialist healthcare reform doesn’t pass this year, it will probably be shelved for at least ten years. But that’s not because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime special deal. It’s because it’s a bad idea. And the very fact that he tries to sell it the way he does should tip off all but the most gullible to realize it.

More first hand coverage from Honduras

My colleague in Honduras, who sent me the material I posted yesterday, is back with more today. He’s also fine with using his real name. So please welcome Hector Figueroa for this guest post at QandO, with photos and news from yesterday’s march. (You may click on the thumbnail photos below for full-size versions.)

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Hi Billy,

Aside from have heavy-normal work day here, I managed to be at this march for support to our new authorities. This march went on at larger cities around the country. Unlike the previous government, which ordered its employees to stop working and go march, these were the lucky that managed to leave work and be there.

I’ll grant CNN that they do have these aerials on their site.

Mine, of course, were a bit to be more terrestrial. And to me, it went as far as the I could see. Sorry for the size, this way you have both big and small.

HondurasMarch1Reduced

Por esto luchamos unidos. Mel y Chavez fuera!
For this we fight (the book is our Democratic/Republican/Representative Constitution). Mel and Chavez, get out!

HondurasMarch2Reduced

HondurasMarch3Reduced

Rich & Poor, Young & Old, Workers & Execs, Civilians & Military, Teachers & Students. WE ARE ALL UNITED!!!

HondurasMarch4Reduced

Every street was packed.

HondurasMarch5Reduced

Our newly appointed President and our hero, Armed Forces Commander.

{I did an extract from this photo showing more detail of the new president, Roberto Micheletti.}

HondurasMarchNewPresident

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Thanks to Hector for furnishing us with this first-hand account. I continue to hope for a resolution to this political crisis that reflects the wishes and needs of the Honduran people.

I would be suspicious of any political figure backed by the UN, Hugo Chavez, and Obama, when the people of his nation are mustering the sort of opposition shown above. It pains me to see Chavez threatening the use of force, especially since he probably perceives that neither we nor the UN will do anything about it if he does.

The UN has passed a resolution insisting that Zelaya be returned to office. Given the kind of opposition shown above, I think that was a short-sighted action. I consider the Obama administration’s position to be short-sighted as well, but given their record to date, it’s not surprising.

My own opinion, guided by my preference to believe my colleague on the scene (and other analysts and witnesses) over political and media hacks, is that removal of Zelaya was justified. I hope the Obama state department and various functionaries at the UN look more closely at Honduran law and re-evaluate their position. I’d particularly like to see a firm warning to Chavez to butt out.

This situation in Honduras – a first hand report

I have a professional colleague in Honduras who wrote many of us a message yesterday, pleading for help getting the word out about the true situation as he sees it. I don’t know if it’s prudent to give his name at this point.

I requested permission to repost that message here, and he readily agreed. So this is written by a Honduran, directly addressing the rest of world and appealing for us to understand the situation there and take action appropriately:

I seek your advice. I have to find the best way to make all governments, especially the world leaders, understand what is happening in Honduras. I’m gathering IT friends and developers to brainstorm on this and hopefully save our country from terror.

This alias is not political [He refers to the mailing list on which he posted this message] so I won’t write in those terms. But can say that the great majority of my country celebrated the forced departure of our Ex President. He and Hugo Chavez did the best they could to divide this nation, making us fight against each other, but in the end, they made us more united and more aware of what Democracy really is, and embrace it. They’ve done us a favor actually.

Just so you know what happened in one line: Our Ex President was trying to repeat what Hugo Chavez has achieved in four other countries by controlling the national media, bribing top officials and threatening citizens. He wanted to illegally change our constitution so that he could create a one and only Party, do away with national media, change the way referendums are carried and be reelected indefinitely by these false referendums.

If you ask why we voted for him as President in the first place? Well, he presented himself as a normal candidate in opposition to corruption. We basically voted (me included) for him, because we were against the other guy. Little did we know that he would start insulting the USA (country where most of us have family and friends) and befriending all its enemies. He took a hard, hard left. With Hugo Chavez’s money, he bought three TV channels and a News Paper that is delivered “free of charge” to every citizen’s door step. You get 24X7 news on how “Pinky and the Brain” plan to take over the world. His own Party ousted him a few months after being elected President.

You need to know that all of the Churches (all the brands), the Teachers Union, Commerce Chambers, Worker Unions, The Congress, the Supreme Court, the Police, the Armed Forces, everyone has celebrated his ousting. Every single person I know (that did not work directly for him) (rich or poor) is very happy with the actions taken and the new temporary President that we have until November’s elections.

To sum it up we all just had it with this guy and are happy he’s gone. Unfortunately, what I see on the world news is astonishing to us. All Presidents back him up and want him reinstated. Hugo Chavez has troops from Venezuela lined up on our Nicaraguan border. Are we going into war for something that we all wanted as country to stop? Hugo Chavez knows that he has to act soon before the media and world start to see what really happened here. So we have to get the message out as fast as possible.

When I requested permission to repost, this was his response:

Dear Billy,

I’m sorry it took this long to get back to you. We’ve been having outages of Internet ever since the 7.1 earthquake that hit a couple of weeks ago. There are many reasons why it was so urgent for us to get rid of this man. He disregarded the whole country for the sake of Hugo Chavez’s interest. Bridges fell down, schools and houses broke down, etc, during the Earthquake. Even before that the roads and hospitals are destroyed by total lack of maintenance, etc, etc. We are losing jobs to economy crisis. Becoming a communist (Marxist) country to make Hugo happy is the furthest thing on our minds. Our real government had to take extreme measures (which we applaud) to oust this person.

I also need to add that our Ex President did not submit a yearly budget to the Congress as our Constitution demands every year. He was hoping to suffocate the Congress and Supreme Court by withholding funds. It is calculated that he spent more than three years budget into his campaign to be reelected (strong prohibited by the Constitution and named as treason). The only way that amount of funds availability is possible is by Hugo Chavez’s oil money. But he never reported any of it to anyone. How can the world expect us to carry a fair trial for this man when he has more cash than several neighboring countries together. Kicking him out of the country was the only way. If this was the 70’s, he would be dead. But like all modern terrorists, they rely on our respect for Human Rights; But that has a limit also.

So yes, by all means, post and repost as much as you can, please. Tomorrow I plan to go around taking pictures and video of the city so you can add them if you wish. I greatly appreciate the support I’m getting from several RD’s. [He refers to a program of Microsoft-oriented software developers.] We are very nervous, scared actually. We know very well that we are right and the media and the Presidents of other countries are wrong and uninformed. To me CNN is the USA’s worst enemy. It’s become ours too.[Emphasis mine]

If he is successful in getting pictures and video, I’ll post them. In the meantime, this corroborates the position set out by McQ in his previous two posts, maintaining that Obama’s response has been… well, let’s euphemistically say “unimpressive”, though my own opinion is that it demonstrates that Obama doesn’t seem to place much value on freedom, here or anywhere else. And don’t get me started on our media.

I wish the Hondurans good fortune in getting through this political crisis. I trust my colleague’s account, and I will be guided by it in my own opinions. You may judge whether you agree.