Free Markets, Free People

Polling

So How Are The Special Elections Shaping Up?

Right now, if you believe the final Public Policy Polling surveys in New Jersey and New York’s 23rd Congressional district, it looks like wins for the right side of the ideological curve.

In NY-23, PPP has Hoffman at 51%, Owens at 34% and Scozzafava – the GOP’s favored nominee – at 11%. So the insurgent conservative candidate who the GOP is now quite happy to claim, is pulling a majority in the district. Head to head, PPP has Hoffman at 51% and Owens at 38%. The former GOP candidate has chosen to act as conservatives thought she would – she’s endorsed the candidate which most closely matches her politics – the Democrat. Joe Biden will be in the district today to try and push Owen’s numbers up.

PPP’s analysis:

“Polling the race was a little haphazard in a weekend with many twists and turns but Hoffman showed a similar lead at all junctures… The bottom line though is that Hoffman led by double digits during every segment of the poll, an indication that he may have been headed for a definitive victory regardless of Scozzafava’s actions over the course of the weekend.”

We’ll see.

In the NJ governor’s race, PPP has Christie at 47%, Corzine at 41% and Daggett at 11%.

PPP points out that in NJ, the difference is independents going over to Christie’s side in a big way:

“Christie’s advantage is due largely to his support from independents and because he has Republicans more unified around him than the Democrats are around Corzine. Christie leads Corzine 52-29 with indies, as Daggett’s support with that group has declined to 16%. Christie is getting 82% of Republicans to Corzine’s 72% of Democrats.”

Of course this is NJ we’re talking about and 6% would seem to be a pretty significant lead, but there are factions at work which will most likely do whatever is necessary to overcome that.  But the defection of independents to the Republican candidate has to worry Democrats.

And I’d guess that what is happening in the VA Governor’s race is much the same as what is being seen in NJ – McDonald leads Deeds mostly because of a more unified Republican base and the defection of Independents.

Should all 3 go to the Republicans, it will be very interesting to see the spin – from both sides.  Democrats will most likely downplay the significance while privately being very concerned with 2010 right around the corner.  And Republicans will most likely misread the results as some sort of mandate for them and their “big tent” compromising ways.

Suffice it to say these are 3 specials that I’ll actually be interested in following tomorrow, if for no other reason than to hear the establishment party types on both sides explain what happened.

~McQ

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WaPo Tries To Spin Poll On Health Care

The Washington Post has a new poll out in which they declare that two of the most controversial aspects of the health care reform legislation working its way through Congress now enjoy majority approval. Those are the public option and the insurance mandate that requires everyone get insurance.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that much of the support for the public option is based more on a fantasy than reality. I think that a majority, if there truly is one, have bought into the talking points of “choice and competition.” Neither will exist once the public option, as envisioned by Congress, is actually in place. What leads me to believe that’s the case is this sentence later in the WaPo story:

Independents and senior citizens, two groups crucial to the debate, have warmed to the idea of a public option, and are particularly supportive if it would be administered by the states and limited to those without access to affordable private coverage.

Essentially what that describes is Medicaid – not a public option. Medicaid is administered by the states. Of course removing restrictions which prohibit insurance companies from selling across state lines and removing state mandates which drive up the overall cost of a policy would most likely provide “affordable private coverage”. But as usual those provisions have been rejected by Democrats writing the legislation even though they’ve been brought up repeatedly by Republicans.

Now I don’t equate Medicaid with the “public option” that I’ve heard politicians talk about.

Interestingly, deeper in the story and after trumpeting a “majority” now backing the public option, the Post says:

Overall, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed, about the same division that existed in August, at the height of angry town hall meetings over health-care reform. Seven in 10 Democrats back the plan, while almost nine in 10 Republicans oppose it. Independents divide 52 percent against, 42 percent in favor of the legislation.

In other words, the headline could have just as easily been “Majority still opposes health care reform” and/or “Majority of Independents Not In Favor Of Health Care Legislation”.

Instead we get “Public Option Gains Support”. That’s really irrelevant if the total bill is seen as unacceptable not to mention the numbers of opposed vs. those in favor haven’t changed since August.

But then, it all depends on how you want to spin something, doesn’t it?

~McQ

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This Is Why Obama’s Health Care Support Continues To Erode

Along with his credibility.  When the House bill on health care (H 3200) came out, anyone who read the bill, to include Republicans, noted that it planned to pay for much of what was offered through Medicare cuts. And, in speeches and talks following that, President Obama said that he wanted to “end subsidies” to Medicare Advantage, a Medicare supplemental program very popular with those using Medicare (because it covers what Medicare doesn’t).

Even the CBO has come out, as noted yesterday, and said what President Obama is talking about when it comes to Medicare will cut the level of benefits for Medicare users.

Be that as it may, and as he has in many things, he claims everyone else is wrong, he’s right and those disagreeing with him are simply doing it for political purposes. In talking points distributed by the White House today, they say:

Talking Points: Republicans’ Disingenuous Scare Tactics on Medicare

• Recently, as part of an ongoing effort to revive their political fortunes by killing health insurance reform, many Republicans have been attempting to scare America’s seniors with false myths about what reform would mean for Medicare.

• These distortions and outright falsehoods would be offensive under any circumstances, but they’re especially disingenuous coming from a group who has a long history of opposing Medicare and who very recently tried to kill the program as we know it.

• Just this past April, nearly four-fifths of Republican House members voted to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program that provides a fixed sum of money to buy private insurance.

• And this most recent assault on Medicare is just the latest in a war Republicans have been waging on the program for decades.

They also attempt to spin away the CBO finding that benefits will indeed be cut and they further attempt to justify the Medicare Advantage cuts.

But this just isn’t selling to those at whom it’s aimed.

Gallup reports that seniors 65 and older are the demographic with the largest percentage against the reform being offered. By a margin of 10% (42% to 32%) they oppose it.

I think it is pretty safe to say that seniors, at this point, don’t trust the Democrats and certainly aren’t now going to buy into the old “Republicans are using scare tactics” canard. Nor are seniors going to be mollified by claims that Medicare Advantage “overcharges” and therefore should be eliminated.

I’ve talked about the erosion of independent support for the administration and Democrats in general. If the Democrats want to ensure a minority in the Congress in 2010, continue to alienate the seniors as they are presently doing and they’ll get their desire. And that might also mean 2012 won’t be looking so hot for them either.

This is a demographic which knows their issues (especially health care) and votes them. Screw with this program (and yeah it’s ironic that we’re talking about leaving a government program alone, but again, since they don’t have a choice, that says nothing about its quality or efficiency) and you can almost bet the house (pun intended) that 2010 will find a new majority in one of the chambers of Congress.

~McQ

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And The Polls Say …

That there was no bounce from the president’s speech and a majority of Americans still oppose the health care reform being offered by the Democrats:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters nationwide now oppose the health care reform proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s the highest level of opposition yet measured and includes 44% who are Strongly Opposed.

Just 43% now favor the proposal, including 24% who Strongly Favor it.

Of course that being said, it is still not precisely clear what all the Democrats are offering. However if it is a collection of what they’ve offered in the 4 bills now circulating, they need to start over. When you have 44% “strongly opposed”, then politically it is time to start rethinking what’s going on.

In fact, what is being offered by Democrats is so bad that a plurality would rather keep what they have than have what is being offered imposed on them per a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll:

More Americans would rather Congress do nothing than pass Obama’s plan: 46 percent to 37 percent of people polled say they prefer the current health care system to the one the president has proposed.

Similarly, more people oppose — 48 percent — the health care reform legislation being considered right now than favor it — 38 percent. While most Democrats — 65 percent — favor the reforms, majorities of Republicans — 79 percent — and independents (55 percent) oppose them.

That tracks very well with the Rasmussen poll cited above. Additionally, the response to this question was telling:

By more than three-to-one, Americans say if they were sick they would rather be covered by a privately-run health insurance plan (62 percent) than a government-run plan (20 percent).

It should be clear by now, even to Democrats, that the majority of Americans do not want a government run monstrosity. Although they do believe that health care needs some reforms, they obviously don’t agree those being proffered are the ones needed.

Time to drop the present mess and start over, looking at reforms which actually do introduce real choice and competition. Neither of those will be found in any choices which increase government control and intrusion. That is the message these polls are sending.

~McQ

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Surprise: Jimmy Carter Plays The Race Card (Update)

Racialist Jimmy Carter plays the race card:

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter said. “I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that share the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans.”

Carter continued, “And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

Notice the key words – “I think..”. Not really. If he did his first inclination wouldn’t be to consider the opposition to the government takeover of health care as “animosity toward President Barack Obama”. If he really thought about it, he’d have to factor in the trillions of dollars that have been poured into banks, financial institutions and car companies – something a majority of the nation was strongly against. If he actually did think about it he’d have to consider the 9 trillion dollars in budget deficits conservatively promised and a trillion dollar “stimulus” bill that isn’t working. And cap-and-trade that will increase the cost of energy for everyone, not to mention a pork laden 700 billion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president.

If Carter actually did think about things instead of taking the easy way out and playing the race card, he’d have to confront the real reasons for much of the anger and animosity and recognize they have nothing to do with the race or color of the president, but instead with the direction of the country. If Carter’s thesis is true then he will be able to easily explain why the independents, the primary group which elected Barack Obama, have been deserting the Democrats in droves.

Did they suddenly develop racist “inclinations”? Or is it possible they feel that hope-and-change was really just bait-and-switch?

UPDATE: How well is the race card playing? About as well as you might expect:

Twelve percent (12%) of voters nationwide believe that most opponents of President Obama’s health care reform plan are racist. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of voters disagree, and 21% are not sure.

When every set back or bit of opposition is blamed on race, pretty soon it becomes another in a long line of excuses for failure instead of a real reason to be concerned.

~McQ

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About That Claim That Doctors Support Obamacare

The Democrats have made the claim that the AMA, doctors and nurses all support the Obama plan for health care reform. But if a new IBD/TIPP poll is to believed, it is possible a large number of doctors would leave their practice if the present version of health care reform was passed:

Two of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted, a new IBD/TIPP Poll has found.

And, like most Americans, a majority of doctors polled found the administration claims to be unbelievable:

72% of the doctors polled disagree with the administration’s claim that the government can cover 47 million more people with better-quality care at lower cost.

Additionally:

Two-thirds, or 65%, of doctors say they oppose the proposed government expansion plan. This contradicts the administration’s claims that doctors are part of an “unprecedented coalition” supporting a medical overhaul.

Another fact that should be taken into consideration when the administration claims that the AMA supports their plan, presently the AMA only represents 18% of American physicians.

Four of nine doctors, or 45%, said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passes the plan the Democratic majority and White House have in mind.

In 2006, there were 800,000 doctors practicing in the US. A 45% reduction would leave 440,000 doctors to treat the present insured population plus the 40 million more the administration plans to add.

I’ll leave it to you to do the math, but if you can figure out how fewer physicians and more patients equals less cost, better care and no changes in the health care you enjoy today, I’d be interested to hear it.

If the answer is “rationing care”, I believe we’ve been saying that for quite some time, haven’t we?

~McQ

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Two Reasons Americans Don’t Want Obamacare

While the rest of the nation ponders whether Kanye West is a “jackass” and President Obama was correct in calling him that, I’ve been thinking about why the Democrats and Obama are having such a tough time selling their health care proposals.

Obviously part of the push back by the people has been because of the recession. Common sense says you don’t exacerbate a bad financial situation by adding debt. Nothing anyone has claimed about the “health care savings” reform would bring has resonated with the public. That’s because people don’t believe or trust the rosy estimates that Democrats have used. And of course it hasn’t helped that the CBO has shot down just about every one of their claims as well.

In fact it looks a lot like 1993 all over again according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released today:

Sixteen percent of the respondents to the most recent poll say their health care would improve if the proposed changes are enacted, and 32 percent say their health care will be worse if that happens.

By comparison, the same poll in late September of 1993 found 19 percent saying their health care would improve and 31 percent saying it would get worse.

Even deploying Obama to use his vaunted oratorical skills to turn the tide hasn’t worked according to another poll:

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken after the president’s dramatic address to a joint session of Congress last week shows Americans almost evenly divided over passing a health care bill and inclined to think it would make some of the system’s vexing problems worse, not better.

Six in 10 say Obama’s proposal, if enacted, would not achieve his goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans without raising taxes on the middle class or lowering the quality of health care. For the first time, a majority disapprove of the way he’s handling health care policy.

So what’s the problem? Why does public opinion seem so dead set against what Democrats feel is beneficial legislation for all?

Well, what Obama and the Democrats are running up against is the same problem Bill Clinton et. al experienced. People, for the most part, are quite satisfied with the insurance they have and don’t want to chance government messing that up. And they understand that the chance of government messing it up, given how government does most things, is very high.

Although polls have consistently shown that just over half of Americans think the health-care system is in need of reform, a substantial majority say they are satisfied with their own insurance and care. Any hope of change will require their support, according to experts and advocates across the ideological spectrum.

“They are critical,” said Drew E. Altman, president and chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization. “This debate will turn on people like this trying to answer the question ‘Will this benefit my family?’ “

Most are concluding it won’t benefit their family and, in fact, may end up being detrimental to them.

Democrats seem to be missing the point that while health care reform is popular, their version of health care reform isn’t. I guess health care reform somewhat resembles porn – the people will know it when they see it. But they’re not seeing it in the proposals the Democrats are offering right now – and that is why there’s this massive push back.

The majority of those opposed do not believe the claims that nothing will change pertaining to their health care. It simply doesn’t makes sense to them that the scope and goals of the change being discussed won’t effect their coverage.

Then there are the seniors:

One of President Obama’s biggest challenges this fall will be persuading seniors to accept his healthcare proposals. Many elderly voters are deeply worried about “Obama-care” because they fear that his plans will reduce their coverage and increase their costs. Seniors, in fact, are more opposed to Obama’s healthcare ideas than any other age group.

Of course the irony, as pointed out any number of times, is that most seniors are on a government program. Rarely pointed out is the fact that they have no choice in the matter. Consequently those who love to point this out and crow about how seniors “like” their government insurance never follow that up with the fact that seniors are forced into a system which may or may not have been their first choice.

But that aside, seniors don’t like change. And, they’re smart people who understand that they are the demographic that spends the most on health care. Given that understanding, when the goal of “cutting costs” is put forward as a primary goal of the reform being discussed, they know where those cuts are most likely to be made.

But they have developed a deep skepticism toward Obama’s agenda of expanding the reach and power of Washington. They basically agree with the conservative attack that he is a liberal zealot who wants to inject the government into every nook and cranny of American life—including everyday decisions about the choice of doctors and medical plans, pollsters say. Some seniors specifically fear that the healthcare overhaul will take money away from their cherished Medicare program, and they don’t want to take that risk.

Only 35 percent of people 65 and older approve of Obama’s handling of healthcare, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll in August …

Their defense of a government medical insurance program for themselves and their skepticism of further government intrusion into our lives isn’t quite as contradictory (or ironic) once you understand the whys and wherefores of the mandatory nature of Medicare. Seniors aren’t interested in more government or the chance that the only insurance available to them will be cut to meet a savings goal.

Those are how the planets are lining up in the health care reform universe. Obama and the Dems aren’t succeeding in convincing the skeptics with their arguments. In fact, as it drags on, more skeptics are being born than believers.

The answer, devoid of politics, seems clear. Stop the process right now, reset the debate and actually have one. Find out what “reform” means to the public and act on that consensus. It may end up merely insuring those without insurance. It may be that and tort reform plus opening up the intra-state private insurance markets and eliminating mandates. Or more. Or less. But what should be clear to both the Democrats and Obama at this point is it is not what they’re offering.

The danger to them (electorally) and to us (reduction of liberty) is they’ll disregard that in the name of politics and ram through something we’ll all regret but find difficult get rid of once passed.

That’s what I fear and it appears that’s what some on the left are prepared to do. They have waited too long and have too much invested politically to back off now.

~McQ

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Media’s Credibility Continues To Tank

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the media’s credibility is at its lowest level since the poll has been taken (1985). Skepticism about the truthfulness of the media is rampant.

The survey found that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research’s previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy.

The AP points out that the poll didn’t differentiate between bloggers and broadcast and newspaper reporters. The obvious implication is that “the internet” may be a primary reason the numbers are so low. I may have missed it, but I don’t know of any bloggers who present themselves as news people. Most of blogging is commentary on the news, the newsmakers or the media and its handling of the news. While “new media” might suggest that bloggers are on a par with what is commonly referred to as the MainStream Media (MSM), it’s simply not true. Few if any bloggers claim to be “journalists” (but there are journalists who are bloggers).

AP then reports:

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

Carroll hopes the increased scrutiny and accountability fostered by the Internet will lead to better journalism.

“We’re in the early stages of a changing relationship between news organizations and consumers, who are becoming much more vocal about what they like, what they don’t and what they want to know,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “It’s not always pretty or pleasant, but that engagement can and does help improve coverage.”

The “internet” isn’t some amorphous blob. The part of the “internet” which “increased scrutiny and accountability” is the blogosophere. And that underlines the way the roles have broken out in the media as a whole – something the “internet” and blogosophere now figure in prominently. The monopoly on what is news as well as how that news is reported has been irrevocably broken.

It is that which the MSM is dealing, and, in most cases, it isn’t dealing with it well.

When the price of publishing dropped to the cost the price of an internet connection fee, the monopoly was broken. No longer consigned to letters to the editor (which may never be published), the people were able to speak out in various forums, but primarily through blogs. The result has been pretty stunning. Now a much more dynamic and democratic group decides what is news and how it is covered. In many cases, the MSM has been forced to cover stories it has obviously tried to ignore.

That is most likely one of the primary reasons their credibility remains low. In 1985 about 55% believed newspapers and broadcasters generally got things right.

By 1999, the figure had fallen to 37 percent. The only time the Pew survey recorded a significant shift in the media’s favor was in November 2001, when 46 percent said they believed news stories were accurate. Dimock attributes the anomaly to the sense of goodwill that permeated the United States after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The most recent poll found just 29 percent believed news reports had the facts straight. (Eight percent said they didn’t know.)

Similarly, only 26 percent of the respondents said the press is careful to avoid bias. The figure was 36 percent in 1985.

As has been the case for years, television remains the most popular news source. The poll found 71 percent of people depend on TV for national and international news. Some 42 percent said they relied on the Internet, 33 percent turned to newspapers and 21 percent tuned into the radio. (The figures don’t add to up 100 percent because some people cited more than one medium.)

A decade ago, only 6 percent of the survey participants said they leaned on the Web for their national and international news while 42 percent relied on newspapers. (TV also led in 1999, at 82 percent).

If you read this carefully, you realize that the credibility problem for the MSM began well before the internet, seeing a slide from 55% in ’85 to 37% in ’99. ’99 is when the internet began to be a factor. But note that even then, only 6% said they used it for their news source. In 10 years that has grown to 42%, faster than any other source.

And what has the internet and blogs been most successful at doing? Fact checking the MSM and pointing to bias. That’s one reason only 26% now believe the MSM to be unbiased in their reporting.

Obviously the media world is changing, and as AP’s Carroll says, the MSM is still trying to come to grips with the change. What seems to finally be dawning on the MSM is the “new media” isn’t going to go away. In some cases they’ve been successful in co-opting various players. But with bars to entry as low as an internet account, there are always new players who will enter the “new media” market. The MSM may as well resign themselves that fact and step up their game (maybe they need 4 levels of editors) unless they want to continue to see their credibility shredded.

~McQ

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CNN Tries To Spin A “Win” For Obama’s Speech

The good old media waterboy comes through again. Immediately after the speech last night, CNN released the following:

Two out of three Americans who watched President Barack Obama’s health care reform speech Wednesday night favor his health care plans — a 14-point gain among speech-watchers, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national poll of people who tuned into Obama’s address Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress.

Wow … hot stuff huh? You’d think that the magic was back and the silver tongued orator had done it again wouldn’t you? Of course had you bothered to go to the third paragraph you might have become a little uneasy with the result:

The audience for the speech appears to be more Democratic than the U.S. population as a whole. Because of this, the results may favor Obama simply because more Democrats than Republicans tune into the speech.

And had you then made the “jump” and read the second half of the report, you’d have been downright suspicious of the poll’s results.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted just before and just after the president’s speech, with 427 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The sample of speech-watchers in this poll was 45 percent Democratic and 18 percent Republican. Our best estimate of the number of Democrats in the voting age population as a whole indicates that the sample is about 8-10 points more Democratic than the population as a whole.

A 427 sample, loaded with Democrats and a plus or minus 5% sampling error?

Does the word “disregard” say it all?

~McQ

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Townhall Protesters Winning Public Relations Battle

Despite being called “brownshirts”, “un-American” and a “mob” of “astroturfers”, a Rasmussen poll indicates the public believes the townhall protesters to be a genuine reflection of the concerns of their neighbors:

Forty-nine percent (49%) have a favorable opinion of those opposing the health care reforms at town hall meetings. That’s up eight points from 41% a month ago. Thirty-five percent (35%) have an unfavorable view of the town hall protesters, unchanged from last month.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) now say the town hall protesters are citizens reflecting the concerns of their neighbors. That’s up ten points over the past month.

Thirty percent (30%) believe the protests are phony efforts drummed up by special interest groups and lobbyists.

Those are phenomenal numbers – within a month, the favorables for the protesters move up 8% despite an organized effort to demonize them while those who see the protesters unfavorably remains both flat and in the minority.

Another encouraging sign is the fact that most of those polled think that Congress members ought to shut up and listen:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters nationwide say that it’s more important for Congressmen to hear the view of their constituents rather than explain the proposed health care legislation. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% hold the opposite view while 7% are not sure.

The desire for Congress to listen may stem from the fact that voters believe they understand the legislation better than Congress.

Apparently Americans are in the mood to remind Congress members it is they who are the hired help and it is time they remembered it.

People ask, “what is the utility of a poll like that”? It is a temperature check, a mood indicator, a warning, if you will, that whatever is being contemplated by legislators and the president had best be checked against this trend. It isn’t a favorable trend for what they want to do and the utility comes in realizing that an tailoring something which won’t see them ushered unceremoniously out of office in a year or so.

Like, for instance, ramming something through that their constituents don’t like, but the party base does. The point to be taken here is if the protesters are the tip of the iceberg and most feel they truly represent the feelings of their neighbors, what do you suppose might happen in November of 2010 if legislators disregard the very strong signals being sent?

The president’s speech next Wednesday should be very interesting given these polling indicators. Will he continue to plow ahead trying to force a square peg in a round hole (and pay the political consequences) or will he bow to political reality and radically modify and shrink his goals for health care insurance reform?

~McQ

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