Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: January 2010


I Had To Laugh …

Marion Berry, Democratic Representative from Arkansas, has decided to retire from Congress voluntarily instead of chancing an involuntary retirement via the ballot box. Berry is considered a “blue dog” Democrat and is from a nominally conservative state whose voters have made it clear they don’t support the policies or agenda of this Congress or this president.

Berry relates an incident that struck me as the ultimate in hubris and arrogance:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]

What got me laughing was how badly that statement may come to haunt Obama. They certainly have him, but as the political stars are aligning right now, “me” may end up in worse shape than did Bill Clinton. He’s already seen a super-majority go by the boards in the Senate – something Clinton never had – and it isn’t at all impossible that what most people would consider prohibitive majorities in both houses of Congress could be significantly reduced or, possibly, flip – although the latter is unlikely.

The only reason it wouldn’t be like ’94 is because there are enough Democratic safe seats to prevent the flip. But then, after Massachusetts, one has to wonder how many really safe seats there are. And what if the GOP trots something like this out in the interim?

In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, President Obama said:

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”

There is a third option which he obviously avoided. He could end up being a very mediocre and Carteresque one-term president the way things are trending.

~McQ


Obama And The “Hard Pivot”

President Obama is about to do what the pundits love to describe as a “hard pivot”. What that really means is he’s going to try to change th subject enough to divert attention from his troubles and give the impression he’s doing something for the people that they actually want. The first part of the hard pivot was his attack on banking and Wall Street. Meeting with a modicum of populist success there and in the wake of the message from Massachusetts, he’s decided it is now time to focus on jobs, the middle class and, of all things, spending.

Well sort of. He’s going to address run-away spending fostered by a Democratic Congress (don’t forget – its been a Democratic Congress for the last 4 years that has increased spending by $900 billion over the last 3 years) by asking for a 3 year spending freeze. Wait. A 3 year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending.

Make sure you understand that. Congress is quietly trying to raise the debt ceiling another 1.9 trillion dollars and Mr. Obama decides for a symbolism over substance move to address the deficit spending. The result?

The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.

Or put another way, we will “save” less over 10 years than we’re presently running up a month in deficit spending.

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong here – any spending reduction is good news. But this spending cut – or spending freeze, because it isn’t really a cut – doesn’t at all address the problem of runaway deficit spending. It is another example of the smoke and mirrors for which this administration has become so famous. No one who is seriously concerned about the depth of our deficit spending habit is going to take this piddling $25 billion a year freeze on spending as a serious attempt to cut the deficit. This is a reaction to public concern over the debt. And while it may sound good to the uninformed in the State of the Union address, it is a trivial drop in the public spending bucket.

Obama likes to say that he doesn’t want to “kick the can down the road” when it comes to domestic issues. Well he’s not only kicking the can down the road when it comes to domestic deficit spending, he’s making it bigger too boot. While he’ll tout the “savings” on this end, the spending on the other end will increase dramatically.  You are required to “suspend disbelief”, ignore the increased spending and pretend this is an earnest attempt to reign in the deficit.

If he wants to be seen as serious about this, he can cancel the rest of the stimulus, which had done next to nothing to help relieve joblessness. He can ask Congress to cancel the omnibus spending bill which was passed earlier this year and return the money that hasn’t been spent. And he can return what is left of the TARP money to the Treasury. And if he’s really interested in not kicking the can down the road, he can address the real drains on the budget – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But we all know that’s not going to happen – in fact, he and the Democrats are trying to grow two of those three programs as we speak.

So while this will be described by the adoring media as part of that “hard pivot” to address the public’s concerns, it’s really a bone (and a tiny one at that) thrown to try to buy off those who really don’t pay close attention and to give the impression he’s serious about the deficit and the debt. Don’t be fooled – he’s serious about neither, and that’s been obvious since he was the junior Senator from Illinois. Nothing has changed since he ascended to the presidency.

~McQ


Because It Has Worked So Well To This Point

James Carville, a Democratic consultant who is usually wrong about everything manages to be wrong again.  However, I have to admit to hoping Democrats and President Obama take his advice:

Contrary to what you might think, I am a proud member of the pro finger-pointing caucus. It wasn’t too long ago that my longtime colleague Paul Begala and I urged our friends on the other side of the aisle to engage early and often in the blame game.

Now it is the Democrats’ turn. Point fingers is exactly what Democrats have done following Republican Scott Brown’s surprise victory in Massachusetts, and the subsequent setback for healthcare reform .

The White House, Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney-general, Celinda Lake, her pollster, congressional Democrats, the Democratic National Committee, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, are just a few of the circular firing squad that has sucked up every last breath in Washington this past week.

[...]

Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the healthcare debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.

Really? Pointing the finger at Bush is panacea for all that ails the Democrats?

Pretty simplistic pap, wouldn’t you say? Martha Coakley could have stood at a podium 24/7 and talked about the demon George Bush and how he’s laid us low, but that wouldn’t change the fact that the Democrats owned the pork laden stimulus bill, the latest bacon bonanza of a spending bill, the economy killing (and thankfully languishing) cap-and-trade bill and the health care reform monstrosity, would it?

Blaming Bush seems so wussy. Like the playground habit of pointing your finger at a playmate and claiming the situation in which you’re caught to be of his making.  “He did it”. There’s a natural aversion to condoning that sort of blame shifting. It just doesn’t sit will with most people.

But Democrats, at least until recently, have believed the Carville route to the be one which would insulate them from criticism. Lay it on the previous guy and you will be covered.  MA, NJ and VA give some glimmer as to how well that’s worked so far, don’t they?  Some Democratic advisers are seeing that as a loser now:

Howard Wolfson, a senior official on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and veteran Democratic communications guru, noted that his party was able to run against Republican Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era presidency for 30 years.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case here,” he said.

Indeed it doesn’t. In fact, my guess is it tends to alienate voters because it is such a cheesy, infantile excuse. Most people understand that some of the troubles the country face didn’t happen under this administration’s watch. And they also understand they were “inherited”. But for heaven sake, does that have to be said each an every time you address a problem? If that’s not bad enough, how about trying to blame current problems that are indeed a result of Democratic policies on the previous administration? It is preposterous, tiresome and unworthy of an administration which would like to be considered seriously. How can you take seriously people who continually blame others and won’t take responsibility and ownership now that they’re in charge?

“Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

“Was?” According to Carville, it should be an “is” strategy. And to an extent he’s right, although he doesn’t make the clear in his advice. How can “blame Bush” card be effectively played? Very selectively in relevant elections – but certainly not as a wild card for everything.

“It’s got to be highly relevant,” said pollster Joel Benenson. “It has to be done in a way that’s not gratuitous and on issues that affect people’s lives. You can’t just brandish [Bush’s image] and wave it like a pennant.”

“Voters are smart about this,” added pollster Geoff Garin. “There’s got to be some credible relationship, either in terms of how they voted or [in terms of] specific policies that they’re supporting now.”

It’s not, Garin continued, one size fits all, but for some GOP candidates, the line of attack still carries some promise. He cited Rep. Roy Blunt, a House majority whip in the Bush years who is now running for a Missouri Senate seat, and former Rep. Rob Portman, who served as Bush’s budget director and is now running for the Senate in Ohio.

“Those people were really present at the creation, and making the case against them as helping to create the Bush economy is still very powerful,” Garin said.

Those two cases are two in which the “blame Bush” card might have some relevance. But my guess is it would have a very limited effect. Bush is gone, and frankly, Obama has some voters pining for him. In effect, depending on how the Obama presidency proceeds, it could end up backfiring on those who use it, even in relevant cases. It is the “now” that voters concern themselves with. That means they relate their condition to who is in charge now as well. Most are going to consider the blame game a pretty poor attempt to divert attention rather than facing the problems at hand. And voters rarely reward those they think are avoiding the issues via distraction.

So despite saying how lame I think Carville’s advice is, I have to hope the heck the Democrats heed it and double down on the blame Bush strategy. It will drive independents crazy and into the arms of the GOP faster than “Pants on the Ground” went viral.

~McQ


Republicans And Democrats Still Don’t Get It

The WSJ carries a story this morning entitled “White House Toughens Tone”. The essence of the article is the White House intends to use the State of the Union address to push an even larger agenda and isn’t about making any “abrupt policy shifts”. He will, however, be stressing jobs.

OK. So what? I think we’ve seen a year of speeches which, for the most part, pushed a nebulous agenda but then saw an ineffectual White House unable to push any of it through. What will be different with the SOTU address (other than the fact his use of his teleprompter will be in front of adults vs. sixth graders)?

The article also touts the fact that David Plouffe will be joining the staff of the White House. That is a purely political move, having little effect on policy or its accomplishment. Plouffe is a spin-meister whose preferred venue is a campaign where claims are rarely questioned. That’s not the venue he will find in the White House. And again, if nothing in terms of leadership from the White House follows the SOTU speech, the result will be much the same as it has been all year, Plouffe or no Plouffe.

“People are working harder,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the economy. “If they have a job, they’re working harder for less. They’re falling behind. That’s been true for a decade. They look at a wave of irresponsibility from Wall Street to Washington that led to that. And those were the frustrations that got the president elected in the first place, and they were reflected again on Tuesday” in the Massachusetts election.

All that Republican can hope for is David Axelrod and the White House keep believing this. The frustration he’s seeing from voters has little to do with Wall Street, despite the White House’s attempt to make it a populist cause. What is “frustrating” the voters is the out of control government spending and the massively increasing size of government and it’s continued intrusion into their lives. Yes, they want government focusing on the economy and jobs. But not if the “answer” is throwing more money we don’t have at it. Do what is necessary with tax cuts (such as an immediate one for payroll taxes) and rolling back some of the regulatory regime to encourage business to hire and expand. But Democrats and the White House seem oblivious to the fact that 56% of the country opposed the so-called “stimulus” and still do. So I look for Obama to promise massive spending increases to support whatever “focus” he brings to jobs in the SOTU address.

As for Republicans? Well, they have it wrong as well:

Republicans, meanwhile, said their victory in Massachusetts was spurred by opposition to the health overhaul. “The message in Massachusetts was absolutely clear,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The exit polls that I looked at said 48% of the people in Massachusetts said they voted for the new senator over health care. Only 5% mentioned any other issue. The American people had a victory in Massachusetts, and they were sending us the message ‘Stop and start over.’ ”

Certainly health care was the immediate issue that is most identified as a reason for voting for Brown, but Brown’s overall theme was less spending, less taxation and smaller government. The voter’s disapproval of health care was just part of a broader disapproval of an out of control government spending them into penury. People are finally frightened by what they see. Over the decades the increases in the size, scope and spending of government has been relatively slow and incremental. But within the last year, it has been so massive that even the most disinterested of citizens has been alarmed by it. Democrats are seeking to raise the debt ceiling by 1.9 trillion dollars – again.

This sort of spending is recognized as “out of control” by even the least informed among us. If Republicans focus only on the Brown victory being about health care, they will, as usual, have missed the real problem and the real issue. And that’s unfortunate because it is an issue that plays to their strengths much better than it does those of Democrats. Scott Brown is going to Washington DC because he’s talked about making government smaller, less intrusive and less expensive. He ran a good campaign focused on those primary core issues. It is a blueprint for the coming midterms if the Republicans are smart enough to figure that out and use those broad issues against this Congress and President. They need to get over gloating about stopping health care and make the point that it’s about stopping explosive government growth and the spending that goes with it. It’s about telling the people we can’t afford this and they’re the ones to right the ship of state and cut back on its size and expense. For once, it appears the people are ready to listen to that message. I’m not sure how many more hints they have to throw the Republican’s way before they finally figure it out.

~McQ


About That Settled “Science”

More information about the now discredited Himalayan glacier claim:

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

As is obvious the so-called “science” was nothing more than concocted tripe used strictly for political purposes. And the fact that it was included, without peer review and never double checked raises doubts about the scientific nature of the IPCC report in toto. Lal’s admission is incredible. The fact that it was never further checked by those who put their reputations on the line by signing the IPCC document is equally as incredible.

As we skeptics have been saying since the beginning, this is as much about a political agenda as it is about science, and in the last few months, the science has been found to be severely wanting. This is simply the latest in a long line of credibility destroying revelations which should have now made every thinking person out there a skeptic when it comes to the “science” of AGW.

~McQ


Podcast for 24 Jan 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the special election in Massachussetts, the dangers of hyperinflation, and Haiti.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s):

The Election of Scott Brown: Why did it happen? What are the implications?

Health Care Reform: What are the Democrats options? Will it pass? If so, in what form?

Obama’s 1st Year: What’s the verdict? Buyer’s remorse?


Buyer’s Remorse

We have two examples today and they’re each interesting because of who they are.

The first is a self-identified independent – Jill Dorson.  She voted twice for Bush, but, as she admits, fell hard for the hype Obama put out there.  She was also put off by the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.

I voted for hope and change and all the intangibles that Obama was peddling in the wake of the financial crisis, Sarah Palin, Sept. 11 and all the other ills that shook our country in the last decade. I wanted something new. Something different. What I got was, I suppose, exactly what I voted for – a spin doctor. And not a very good one at that.

She speaks of how quickly “hope” and “change” went by the boards. How she watched the same sort of policies she thought she had voted against continued. And the bailouts, huge spending programs and the like horrified her.

It was clear after just 90 days what a mistake I’d made. My taxes have gone up and my quality of life has gone down. Hope has given way to disgust and I see now that change is simply a euphemism for “big government.”

Like many others, my view is narrow. I vote for the candidate I think will be best for me. I often define myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. But above all, I want to feel safe and I don’t want to feel that I am being ripped off. I want a president who inspires me and cares about my contribution to the fabric of the country. I want a president with experience and savvy, a Commander in Chief who puts our country and its citizens first.

I only hope the Republicans can find him the next time around.

She nails three points – one, Obama’s a fraud and hasn’t even come close to living up to his promises; two, his “change” was to bigger and even more intrusive government; and three, none of that will matter in 2012 unless Republicans can find a good candidate that year (and, as you can tell, she’s made it clear that’s not Sarah Palin).

But the bottom line is, she’s open to another “change”,. In fact, she’s begging for it. And, I think, she’s indicative of the feelings of many independents (not necessarily for the same reasons) – this is not the change or the guy they thought he was.

Which brings us to the second example of buyer’s remorse – this one is scathing and it’s from a “progressive”. He entitles it “How to Squander the Presidency in One Year” and then David Michael Green spends at least a 1000 words describing how that has been accomplished in detail, calling Obama the Conan O’Brian of presidents. You may not agree with much of what he says, historically, but when he finally gets to Obama he doesn’t hold back.

One point he makes resonated with me as it is a point I’ve been making for a while, in fact, as recently as Friday:

* He does not lead. Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often – especially in the short term – they don’t even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead.

Everything after the first sentence is a load. But even Green has figured out that Obama isn’t a leader and has never demonstrated any leadership. And that has consequences. Green comes to the very same conclusions I voiced Friday:

* He has therefore let Congress ‘lead’ on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake. Instead of demanding that they pass real stimulus legislation – which would have really stimulated the economy, big-time, and right now – he let those d*ckheads on the Hill just load up a big pork party blivet of a bill with all the pet projects they could find, designed purely to benefit their personal standing with the voters at home, rather than to actually produce jobs for Americans. And on health care, his signature issue, he did the same thing. “You guys write it, and I’ll sign the check.” Could there possibly be a greater prescription for failure than allowing a bunch of the most venal people on the planet to cobble together a 2,000 page monstrosity that entirely serves their interests and those of the people whose campaign bribes put them in office?

Bingo. And Green goes on and on and on. Be sure to read it all. The point, of course, is he’s managed to alienate not only the voters who would be the determining factor in any election – the big middle – but his base, which held so much “hope” for his presidency and now realize they bought a pig in a poke and should have known better. What that translates into is an “enthusiasm gap” which is going to be hard to bridge if things don’t change. And, if nothing changes, Indies will vote for the other guy (assuming the Republicans have a worthwhile candidate lined up) and Democrats will stay home.

We’ve seen president’s change before. Bill Clinton was at one time declared to be “irrelevant” yet he managed to again make himself very relevant. And George Bush was counted out more times than any president I know of, yet managed to remain relevant through the majority of his 2 terms.

Obama has got a tough row to hoe – but it is one of his own making. Back to Jill Dorson. She made an interesting statement about the last election:

You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world’s most well-known hockey mom run this country …

But instead she decided on risking a junior Senator with absolutely no experience because he was so attractive:

I am ashamed to say that I was blinded by charisma. Obama was so convincing that I stopped caring about what he knew and started getting caught up in the euphoria. Imagine having a president who came from a broken home, who had money troubles, who did grass-roots community service? A young father. The first black president. It pains me to admit I got caught up in the hoopla.

Once that admission is made – and I have a feeling, bolstered by the results in VA, NJ and MA, that it is being made a lot – there’s no going back. That’s where Dorsen finds herself now. And interestingly, so does Green.  Those defections translate into votes for whomever opposed Obama and an “enthusiasm gap” among his supporters which may see them sitting home.

That doesn’t bode well for Obama in 2012 unless the Republicans again run some tired old war horse that is unable to excite the base or independents, as they managed to do last time.  So while Obama certainly has his problems they’re not necessarily terminal, electorally speaking, just yet.  However, I’d say if the Republicans can find an attractive candidate and run a grounded, issue oriented campaign (like Scott Brown in MA) that reflects their principles of less government, less spending and fewer taxes, they have a good shot in the next presidential election.

~McQ


History Is A B*tch

Why?  Because history is what it is and resists attempts to rewrite it for political reasons.

A week or so ago, I pointed to an attempt by Ezra Klein to change the history of the Civil Rights bill of 1964 by claiming that the Democratic Senators in the South were a “third party” with which the real Democrats formed a coalition. Of course, as I pointed out, that’s pure nonsense.

Today we see an attempt to whitewash the same period in history. In an article in The Hill, J. Taylor Rushing discusses the latest attempt by the Senate majority (the Republicans talked about it when they were in the majority as well) to do away with the filibuster. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will introduce a bill to take away the minority’s power to filibuster. Of course, it takes 67 votes to change that rule, something highly unlikely to happen.

But within Rushing’s story where the history of the filibuster was being recounted, I noticed this sentence:

In the 20th century, Southern senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a majority of the Senate.

Here, let me fix that so it accurately reflects what happened:

In the 20th century, Southern Democratic senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a bi-partisan majority of the Senate.

Al Gore, Sr. Robert Byrd. Richard Russell. William Fullbright. Etc. All staunch Democrats – never anything else. All filibustered the Civil Rights act of 1964 as Democrats.

There is no chance that the Senate filibuster is going to be ended by Harkin’s bill. And there’s equally no chance that I’m going to let any attempts to whitewash this portion of history escape my attention.  The conventional wisdom about which party is the friend of civil rights is a myth.  And I intend to take every opportunity availed me to point to the actual history of that event, not the contrived one.

~McQ


Hugo Chavez Accuses US Of Causing Haiti Earthquake

You may remember the post I did entitled “Haiti: Let The Conspiracy Theories Begin” where I jokingly cited a website which immediately blamed the initial Haiti earthquake on the US (supposedly it was aimed at Cuba and missed).  The supposed instrument of this US attempt is its HAARP facility in the area.  HAARP is an antenna array.  The acronym stands for “High Frequency Active Aural Research Program”.  It explains itself like this:

HAARP is a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes.

A antenna array aimed at the ionosphere is able to create earthquakes at will according to the black helicopter crowd.

However, they aren’t the only ones, apparently, who buy into this conspiracy theory. Of course you have to understand – believing in such nonsense isn’t particularly hard for someone who thinks authoritarian socialism is superior to freedom, capitalism and democracy. And Hugo is just such a believer:

Chavez is blaming the US for causing the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti as part of testing a “tectonic weapon” that can cause eco-type disasters, according to Russia Today. The Latin American leader added that the US should “stop playing God.”
Chavez said these “weapon earthquakes” would eventually be used against Iran and be taken over by the US military.

Chavez says these weapons can alter the climate and set off earthquakes and volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.

Although Chavez did not reveal his source, Press TV reports the Venezuelan media are reporting the earthquake may be associated with the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), which has been accused of generating violent and disastrous changes in climate.

So far the foreign policy initiative of reaching out to all of these little tin pot dictators who don’t like the US is paying off handsomely, I’d say.

Sometimes an anti-American whackadoodle is just that. And it is never in their best interest to mend fences since being anti-American is critical to their retention of power.

~McQ

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