Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: October 2010


Quote of the day – Bill Clinton gap edition

You’ve gotta love Bubba – when he’s not losing nuclear launch codes, or entertaining interns, he’s engaged in some pretty hilarious rationalization:

“This election is about whether you want to reverse all the things that we’ve done,” Clinton said. “Because there’s always a time lag between when you do the right thing and you feel better. We’re in the gap here. This election is occurring in the gap."

Yeah, because given time we’ll absolutely be delighted with spending 3 trillion dollars we don’t have in 2 years with trillions more to come over the next 10 years.   We’ll thrive on jacked up health insurance bills.  And the anti-business atmosphere – a wonderful thing which is definitely settling the markets and getting businesses to commit their money toward recovery.  “Lean forward” and you’ll just get more of the same.

The only “gap” evident to me is that between the ears of anyone who buys into Clinton’s nonsense.  But hey, it’s Bubba – a man never much acquainted with the truth.

~McQ


So much for frank discussions (update)

While it is certainly not a First Amendment violation (as it is being alleged by some), the firing of NPR contributor Juan Williams by the tax supported radio network is disturbing. It puts in focus how horribly served we are by political correctness.

I’ve always said that PC was a way for the left to stifle debate. Try to criticize anything about a minority community and you’re a "racist". That label used to have some sting to it but it has become so over used it no longer does. But what it would do in its day is pretty much stop the conversation as the accused tried to deal with the distraction of being labeled wrongly.

Juan Williams runs into exactly the same type of thing with his firing from NPR for supposedly making remarks that “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

What did he say that was so awful on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox show?

On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

I’ve got to tell you, that’s not an argument that causes me to jump out of my chair and yell, "fire the bigot!" It’s an intelligent guy expressing his honest opinion which may or may not please me. But I respect it. And it in no way undermines his credibility as an analyst to say something like that.

Unless that "credibility" is predicated on no real analysis but instead regurgitating the approved editorial perspective of NPR.

Apparently honestly expressing your thoughts and feelings are not condoned if they conflict with the “editorial standards and practices” of NPR.  Frank discussions have no place in their world.

Tow the line, or get fired.  And that’s fine – it’s their network (although I think we shouldn’t be paying for it).  But hopefully they’ll never again attempt to convince us they’re interested in all sides and perspectives of a story.  Obviously they’re not.

UPDATE: Watch this entire video clip and see if perhaps NPR didn’t bother to do its due diligence and pulled a “Shirley Sherrod” on Juan Williams.

~McQ


NAACP “unexpectedly” finds racism at the bottom of Tea Party

Katherine Zernike at the NYT writes about a just released “study” by the NAACP which is entitled, “N.A.A.C.P. Report Raises Concerns About Racism Within Tea Party Groups".

I know, I know – knock you over with a feather, no?  And the timing?  Perfect.  Just before the mid-terms, a chance to label the opposition racist.  Not that anyone would see through the attempt or anything.

I’ve scanned the “study” and wasn’t particularly impressed with the level of “truth” I found.  For instance, here’s an example of an assumption of racism not evident at all in the situation, but somehow the NAACP managed to dig it out:

Shortly after the Seattle and Denver protests, on February 19, 2009, a stock analyst for a cable television network, Rick Santelli, let loose a five-minute on-air rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Yelling “This is America!” he attacked the home mortgage rescue plan the Obama administration had unveiled the day before. It was “promoting bad behavior,” he argued, by rewarding the “losers” who took on more debt than they could afford. Santelli said that Obama was turning America into Cuba, and called for a capitalist “Chicago Tea Party.”

An unstated racial element colored Santelli’s outrage over the Obama administration’s home mortgage rescue plan. During the years leading up to the housing crisis, banks had disproportionately targeted communities of color for subprime loans. Many of the so-called “losers” Santelli ranted about were black or Latino borrowers who’d been oversold by lenders cashing in on the subprime market. Their situations were worsened by derivatives traders, like Santelli, who packaged and re-packaged those loans until they were unrecognizable and untenable.[9]

Don’t you love that “unstated racial element” assertion?  Because that’s precisely what it is.  Santelli’s remarks were not something anyone I know interpreted as “racist”.  It was a cry against government intervention in an area where it doesn’t belong.  His “this is America” resonated not because everyone thought he was talking about blacks and Latinos, but because freedom means the right to both succeed and fail.  “Promoting bad behavior” was a shot at government, what it had done (and enabled) and was then considering bailing out.

Another portion goes into trying to tar the entire Tea Party movement with various characters that have apparently shown up at events.  A “this guy knew this guy who was acquainted with this guy who is an anti-semite” type of inuendo that is supposed to show, one supposes, that there is underlying racism and anti-Semitism at the base of every Tea Party movement.  For instance:

Also on the platform that day was the band Poker Face, playing music, providing technical back up, and receiving nothing but plaudits from the crowd.[208] The band, from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, already had a reputation for anti-Semitism. Lead singer Paul Topete was on the public record calling the Holocaust a hoax, and writing and performing for American Free Press–a periodical published by Willis Carto, the godfather of Holocaust denial in the United States.

My guess is that the crowd giving “nothing but plaudits” had no idea who Poker Face was and, unless the band did anti-Semitic songs, had no one awareness of the lead singers absurd position on the Holocaust.  

And then this damning bit of “evidence”:

In preparation for Tea Party protests held on July 4, 2009, national socialists and other white supremacists created a discussion thread on Stormfront.org, the largest and most widely accessed of the many white nationalist websites.[216] While highlighting the distinction between themselves and the majority of Tea Partiers who were not self-conscious about their own racism, one person argued, “We need a relevant transitional envelop-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking towards racialism.”[217]

Or said another way, unlike the NAACP, the white supremacists assumed the “Tea Party Americans” weren’t racist and needed their help in becoming so.  In essence the attempt by the NAACP is to give a litany of white supremacist organizations and torturously try to link them to the Tea Party – with the inevitable slip ups like that above where, in fact the supremacists neatly contradict their premise.

And of course there’s irony.  In one portion of the “study” the NAACP goes after Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs as a dangerous “Islamaphobe”.  She’s cited as a very important cog in the Tea Party movement.  Of course Geller is Jewish which sort of injures the “Tea Partiers are anti-Semitic” canard but never mind that.  How about this instead:

With leaders like Geller, it is not surprising to find language on a ResistNet Tea Party website that denigrates an entire grouping of people because of their faith. “We are at a point of having to take a stand against all Muslims. There is no good or bad Muslim. There is [sic] only Muslims and they are embedded in our government, military and other offices…What more must we wait for to take back this country of ours…”[260]

We have an entire “study” dedicated to denigrating an entire grouping of people as “racist, anti-Semitic, nativist and homophobic”, but the NAACP is a bit upset that Geller isn’t a fan of Islam.

Anyway, you get the drift.  Read it if you want too, but you’ll find very little light and a whole bunch of tenuous nonsense that is excruciatingly void of real facts.  Certainly not at all unexpected nor surprising.

Two responses I found interesting came from Project 21 members – a black conservative organization:

Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli, "This is nothing more than a cynical attempt to mobilize support for their policies through fear. Even though Obama’s policies are harmful to the black community, tragically, they seek to manufacture blind loyalty to the President by scaring them about the opposition. As a frequent speaker at tea party rallies nationwide, I know the movement has nothing to do with race and everything to do with toxic liberal policies."

"As a black man, I scorn and resent this never-ending assault on the morals of all black people by the NAACP," said Project 21 member Oscar Murdock, who took part in the Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight, Nevada. "In spite of being an organization that was correctly established to procure and preserve rights for a people to whom rights and dignity were being denied, the NAACP has descended into a group that is a disgrace to the humanity of the very people it was created to elevate. It is now only a bigoted and politically biased blight among organizations."

I’d almost bet that these folks will soon be called “Oreos” or “Uncle Toms” by members of the organization which sponsored this smear job.

~McQ


Indies say Dem leadership too extreme

As we near the mid-term elections and people start paying attention (and early voting begins), we’re naturally seeing some tightening of the races.  However, one thing that hasn’t been tightening, per many polls, is independents going for the Democrats.

Anyone who has watched elections over the years knows full well that indies are the swing vote that, for the most part, determine the outcome of most elections.  Some refer to them as the mushy middle.  Others see them as voters truly independent of the 2 party system and not satisfied with either.  And during each election, they pick the side which best represents the direction they’d prefer to see the country go on the often mistaken assumption that the winner will head that way.

All that being said, keep in mind as you hear stories about tightening races that one thing that hasn’t been tightening is the Democratic hold on independent voters – at least not in this election cycle.  Why? 

Remember, this is a Congressional election and as much as the GOP might like it to be a referendum on Obama (and to some degree it will be) it’s mostly about the Congress we have.  Indies aren’t very enamored with it or its leadership (Nancy Pelosi is at 29% and Harry Reid is lower).  A new poll makes the point:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll found that 61 percent of likely independent voters in 10 battleground House districts — a critical swing demographic — think the leadership under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is more liberal than they are.

[…]

“That’s a very significant finding that tells you where independents are likely to go,” said Mark Penn, president of Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the poll. “In terms of independents, Reid and Pelosi are viewed as out of step.”

And that feeling is likely to effect the independent vote, because it is strictly a numbers game that keeps the leadership in place.  Change the numbers, i.e. vote for the other party’s candidate, and if the change is large enough, you change the leadership.  Pelosi’s the most likely to lose her leadership job (and, rumor has it that even if Dems somehow hold on to the House, she may not be Speaker), but if Reid manages a win in Nevada, his power in the Senate may be neutralized by GOP gains in that chamber.

I got a bit of a chuckle with this quote:

“The inability to define Boehner and McConnell as out of touch with mainstream values was a strategic failure of the Democrats in the election,” said Simon Rosenberg, a veteran of the 1992 Clinton war room and president of NDN, a center-left think tank and advocacy group.

“The Democrats have done a bad job this election cycle defining the Republican Party as out of touch with American values,” he said.

It is hard to define the other side as “out of touch with American values” when the Democrats were proving every day and in every way how out of touch they were.  The GOP does indeed have it’s ‘out of touch’ problems, but they’re insignificant in comparison (at least at the moment) to the Democrats.

For instance:

Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, said many Democrats have played into the Republican strategy by attacking business.

“A lot of the Democrats are resorting to economic populism, and the polling shows that voters aren’t buying it,” he said. “ ‘Corporate America’ is a Washington term. Outside Washington, that’s business and the people who employ you.”

The anti-business, government union party – is that really how the Democrats want to be identified?  Is it any wonder independents are deserting them in droves?

~McQ


Legislative Seat Counter

It’s getting close to election time, so once again, it’s time for me to release the 2010 version if Legislative Seat Counter shockwave app. The interface looks like the screen shot below.

The app will run in your browser, or you can download the SWF file  it and run it locally in your computers flash player.  The file can be found here: CongressSeats

Oh, and while we’re at it, even though it’s a couple of years early, you can also play with the 2012 Electoral Vote Calculator, too. Just remember, this will have to be revised once the 2010 census updates the electoral votes of each state: PresidentialElection


Early voting numbers may spell Harry Reid’s electoral doom

Sharon Angle might not be anyone’s choice for Senator if she were running against anyone else, but apparently when the opponent is the much loved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, she’ll do just fine:

In Reno’s Washoe County and Las Vegas’s Clark County, Republican turnout was disproportionately high over the first three voting days, according to local election officials. The two counties together make up 86 percent of the state’s voter population.

[...]

Some 47 percent of early voters in the bellwether Washoe County so far have been Republicans, while 40 percent have been Democrats, according to the Washoe County Registrar. Nearly 11,000 people had voted in Washoe over the first three days of early voting, which began Saturday.

Voter registration in the county is evenly split, 39 percent to 39 percent. The disproportionate turnout is a concrete indication of the Republican enthusiasm that is expected to portend a nationwide GOP wave.

Early voting is often an indicator of how a race will go on election day as it tends to demonstrate which side has, as the article notes, the most enthusiasm about the election. Right now the numbers are pointing to a decided advantage for the GOP.

Well, you say, that’s a heavily Republican county. What about turnout in a heavily Democratic one? The news is pretty much the same:

In Clark County, which is heavily Democratic, more Democrats than Republicans have voted, but Republicans are outperforming their share of the electorate.

Out of the nearly 47,000 votes cast in Clark County, 46 percent were Democrats, 39 percent Republicans, according to the Clark County Election Department. But while Democrats make up 46 percent of the county’s registered voters, Republicans constitute just 33 percent.

Harry Reid, the best argument going for not using seniority as a basis for picking your leaders, may end up being a statistic. Perhaps his loss will push unemployment back up over 10%. It would be a fitting end for a politician who has done much to "lead" us into the mess we now suffer.

I know its early and yes, I know he could eek out a win, but I’m just feeling it in my bones. Angle will be a junior Senator with little power and someone Nevadans can get rid of in 6 years if she turns out like I think she will. But I think they’re realizing that in relative terms, she’s a small price to pay for getting rid of Harry Reid.

I say, “Amen” to that.

~McQ


Homeland Security’s arbitrary law enforcement

Apparently if you don’t like the law and you’re the Homeland Security Department – you know, the department charged with ensuring your safety – you can just quietly refuse to do your job.  Judicial Watch clues us in:

A month after the Department of Homeland Security launched a covert program to dismiss pending deportations there’s been an increase of more than 700% in the number of cases that have been dropped by the government in one of the nation’s busiest immigration court systems.

In August Homeland Security officials quietly began to systematically dismiss the pending removal of illegal immigrants, even when expulsion was virtually guaranteed or the aliens had a criminal record. The move, first reported by Texas’s largest newspaper, stunned the legal profession and baffled immigration attorneys who said it was “absolutely fantastic” for their illegal alien clients.

Instead of enforcing the law, they’ve decided to interpret it as they wish and to modify the criteria for expulsion to whatever they arbitrarily decide

However, EOIR’s liaison with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Raed Gonzalez, said he was briefed on the guidelines in August directly by DHS’ deputy chief counsel in Houston and described a broader set of internal criteria.

Government attorneys in Houston were instructed to exercise prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis for illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least two years and have no serious criminal history, Gonzalez said.

To qualify for dismissal, defendants also must have no felony record or any misdemeanor convictions involving DWI, sex crimes or domestic violence, he said.

Now before some nimrod who never reads the blog beams in and claims I’m “anti-immigration”, let’s be clear.  No, I’m not.  But we have a proper and legal way of immigrating into this country and an improper and illegal way of doing so.  The government’s job is to enforce the law and its priority should be the protection of the rights of its citizens.  Decisions to arbitrarily enforce law or not enforce it at all shouldn’t be within the ability of the government’s enforcement agencies to decide.  We have a process for that – it’s called legislation. 

As I recall, law enforcement agencies require oaths of their agents to “enforce the law”.  Not to “internally” decide to modify them to suit their tastes or a political agenda.

I understand the “system” is broken.  But “clearing a backlog” by dismissing cases against law breakers on whatever grounds simply encourages more of the illegal behavior they’ve displayed.  If there’s really no risk in flaunting the law, there’s no reason not to engage in the behavior that breaks it.

Obviously the immigration system needs to be overhauled and immigration brought into the 21st century with a speedier and less costly process that better serves all. 

But that is a separate issue from the subject of this post.  It is dangerous and destructive to have government agencies who have been charged with enforcing the law to be internally deciding what if any of the law they will enforce.  It’s just another example of the government not serving the needs of those it is Constitutionally charged with protecting.  It has, however, become almost a trademark of this administration.

~McQ


Dems have become the government union choice

Charles Lane hits at least part of the Democrats problem with voters right on the head. 

Public sector unions are not just the base of the party — they’re the base of the base.

[…]

But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions.

Bingo. The supposed strength of the Democratic party was its support of the common man – the blue collar worker. The middle class family. I’ve always thought such a characterization was nonsense, however, that was the narrative they successfully embedded for years.

That is now visibly changing. And I think it is apparent that the new narrative isn’t a particularly good one politically speaking.  They’re now the party of big government and government unions.  In an era of financial difficulty that’s not exactly the constituency you want to be identified with – especially when it is becoming common knowledge that government workers now earn more than private sector employees doing comparable jobs.

And that’s especially true now that the woefully underfunded public pension plans are coming to light and Democrats are casting around for a solution to include considering ideas such as using 401(k) funds to rescue them.

This new constituency is not a particularly popular one and even more damaging is they’re a very visible one.  Think of all the incidents that reflect badly on government unions which have involved the SEIU lately.

When the majority of the country is oriented toward smaller government, less spending and less intrusion, working to satisfy a constituency whose entire existence demands precisely the opposite approach is not the best place to be at election time.

~McQ


QE2 is unlikely to save the day

In fact, it may set in motion inflationary pressures that will blow up in the Fed’s face.

Randall Wray has put together one of the best summaries I’ve seen on the subject, and it doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy at all.  Essentially QE2 (“quantitative easing”) has the Fed buying up toxic bank assets to push up their excess reserves.  The thinking is that pushing those reserves into excess will stimulate loans.  But it will also stimulate inflation. 

Bernake’s claim is the reserve creation will be “temporary”.  But – and this is the crux of the problem – it will have difficulty buying back those reserves because of the quality of the assets the Fed is sucking up to create them:

Bernanke carefully tries to navigate these waters by agreeing with the hawks that in the long run, Fed creation of too many reserves would be inflationary, but argues that in current circumstances the greater danger is deflation. Still, he reassures markets that reserves creation is temporary, and that the Fed will “exit its accommodative policies at the appropriate time”. Yet, if the Fed buys junk assets that will never have any value, it will not be able to sell these back to markets later — so there is no way to remove the reserves it created when it buys trash.

Indeed.  So without the ability to sell back marketable assets, the reserves remain out there and inflation does too.  You might think “deflation” is the biggest threat until you see run-away inflation reduce your retirement funds to zip and push your wages to poverty level.

This is a mess.  And as we discussed in this week’s podcast, screwing with the economy at the central bank level is very delicate thing and could go wrong quickly and dramatically. 

And what I’m hearing and reading – to include this article – says the possibility of that happening is high.

~McQ

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