Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Democrats whistling past the midterm graveyard

II’m always entertained by those on either side of the political spectrum who, when faced with an obvious and impending defeat, begin lists of why that won’t happen. This whistling past the graveyard is truly a testament to thinking which can somehow put aside every negative fact out there and some how spool up a "positive" outcome for his side. Today’s example is from a Democratic strategist who has discovered four more reasons Democrats will win in the mid-terms.

He sounds strangely like Republican strategists about a month before the 2008 presidential election who had umpteen reasons why McCain would win, none of which panned out. I have a feeling our Democratic strategist will have to reevaluate his ability to objectively analyze political races after the vote in November.

Nevertheless, his four reasons are, 1) Democrats will end up spending as much money as Republicans, 2)Voters aren’t voting for "generic" Republicans and that’s not good for Republicans, 3)Obama has switched to "campaign mode" and will save the day, and 4)the "enthusiasm gap" will close.

Sigh.

I feel for the guy. This is the thin thread upon which he hangs his hopes that Democrats won’t lose the majority in the House or seats in the Senate.

Feel free to read his "reasoning". It is full of stuff that might appeal to a political junkie who is knee deep into the whys and wherefores of this election. But for the average Joe – meh.

As the public’s attention as a whole slowly turns toward this November election, they will be guided by their overall perception of the shape of our country and its economy and who it is they think got us in this shape.  It is going to be incredibly hard shift the blame on the Republicans.  Crying about partisanship and in-fighting isn’t going to answer the mail.  For most, I would guess, the blame has already been placed.  So massive expenditures and “robust” GOTV efforts are unlikely to have the effect this gentleman might expect.  And, as he notes, the other side is going to be spending too – as well as mounting their own GOTV effort.

As for his point about Obama and campaign mode, let me beg to differ.  When has he ever switched out of that mode?  That’s part of his problem and why his job approval rating is 42% and only 38% say they’d vote to reelect him if the election was held today.  You’ve got politicians running from him.  HIs signature “accomplishment” is something not a single Democrat will campaign on.  And, you have professionals like Charlie Cook continuing to move races, as he did with 4 today, from “Solid Democrat” to “Likely Democrat” (see bottom right).

And that fact naturally speaks much more eloquently to this fantasy of closing the enthusiasm gap than anything else I can think of.

The Democrats are in a pickle of their own making.  They have had control of the Congress for 6 years and are hooked up to a failing presidency.  Those stark facts are what the public is going to take with them to the polls, and barring some economic miracle within the next 30 days, all this talk about generic politicians, the savior Obama, enthusiasm gaps closing and money to be spent is going to sound a lot like “we know McCain’s going to win and here’s why”.

Sometimes what is going to happen is just obvious – and this seems to be one of them.

~McQ

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Quick Hits: Scientific Journalism

In the vein of Jon Henke’s “The Ultimate Metablog” with the satire of a good Monty Python skit (is there any other kind?), Martin Robbins lays out the definitive article for how scientific journalism is constructed. Here’s the heading:

This is a news website article about a scientific paper

In the standfirst I will make a fairly obvious pun about the subject matter before posing an inane question I have no intention of really answering: is this an important scientific finding?

My favorite bits:

In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published. I won’t provide a link because either a) the concept of adding links to web pages is alien to the editors, b) I can’t be bothered, or c) the journal inexplicably set the embargo on the press release to expire before the paper was actually published.

[…]

This fragment will be put on its own line for no obvious reason.

[…]

This paragraph contained useful information or context, but was removed by the sub-editor to keep the article within an arbitrary word limit in case the internet runs out of space.

Be sure to read the comments as well, where most everyone plays along with the theme. But beware of the related links … you may be taken to a place you never, ever want to be.

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Promises, promises: If you like your insurance … nothing changes.

Remember this promise (it begins at about the 1:10 mark):

Here’s the reality:

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has notified customers that it will drop its Medicare Advantage health insurance program at the end of the year, forcing 22,000 senior citizens in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine to seek alternative supplemental coverage.

[…]

Under Medicare Advantage plans, the federal government pays private health insurers to sell customers over 65 years old enhanced policies, many of which offer prescription drug coverage not covered by standard Medicare. But the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been seeking to reduce the amount it pays to private insurers for such programs.

Medicare told Harvard Pilgrim to notify customers that its Medicare Advantage program, known as First Seniority Freedom, was being canceled. In a mailing, the insurer was required to list alternative Medicare Advantage plans, including those offered by its competitors.

[…]

It will be “slightly more expensive’’ than the Medicare Advantage plans, but competitive with supplemental insurance plans offered by rivals such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer, Bowman said.

Now I assume anyone who has read this blog for more than a day knows I’m not trying to argue for subsidized health insurance here.

Far from it. What I’m pointing out is the basic dishonesty that was rampant in the President’s promises about health care. An integral part of the plan to "pay for it" involved cutting out Medicare Advantage – an insurance supplemental plan that many seniors had and wanted to keep.

As you hear in the video, the promise wasn’t ambiguous or couched in rhetoric that gave a lot of wiggle room. Obama flat out says "if you like your insurance you can keep it. Nothing changes", or words to that effect.

A pure and unadulterated lie that he still tends to throw out there when trying to hype this white elephant Congress rammed through.

The simple fact – something anyone who took to understand where the Democrats were headed with this turkey – is that there was no way everyone could keep their insurance because the law was written to change the way insurance was delivered. And on the table, from the beginning, were cuts in Medicare that focused on eliminating what? An insurance program called Medicare Advantage.

It is one thing to watch a politician shade the truth a bit. It is quite another to watch one tell a bald faced lie (and I mean “lie” in the truest sense of the word, not how some tend to use it today). This one fits the latter category.

HT: Arley Ward

~McQ

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If you can’t kill Iran’s nuclear weapons program with bombs, try a worm

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the story about the cyber attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities, but it is both interesting and important.

"Stuxnet" is the name of a worm that has apparently been introduced somehow into the system that controls the Iranian nuclear processes – specifically at those facilities thought to be focused on producing nuclear weapons. This is no ordinary malware worm, but an extremely sophisticated and targeted one which is apparently causing some real havoc in Iran.

Iran admitted Monday, Sept. 27 it was under full-scale cyber terror attack. The official IRNA news agency quoted Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran’s government Information Technology Company, as saying that the Stuxnet computer worm “is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerized industrial equipment.”

Stuxnet was no normal worm, he said: “The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading.”

The mutation continues to infect and infest the Iranian systems causing all sorts of problems.  Experts say that such sophistication would require “the backing of a nation-state” to put it together.  I have a sneaking suspicion I know who it is, and this is their answer to whether or not bombing the facility is feasible.  Uh, no – but when you can do this, why do that?

Here are a couple of backgrounders on the story – here and here.  This is going to be an interesting one to watch.

~McQ

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Left wing fights back – with false accusations and groundless rumors of impending right-wing violence

Example one: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at a lefty panel discussion in NYC:

Trumka said it is vital to channel working-class anger away from Fox News and Tea Party extremists who are delivering "…a cynical, deeply dishonest and incoherent message—that big government is somehow to blame for the current crisis that the budget deficit will eat our children, and that illegal immigrants took all the good jobs."

However, he added, “The good news is they haven’t bought into right-wing ideology. They are just confused about who to blame.”

But: "We have to offer working people something other than the dead-end choice between the failed agenda of greed and the voices of hate and division and violence."

Speaking of incoherent messages, Trumka is obviously laboring under the delusion that the generational theft now under way – powered mostly by the left and executed by the government that represents them – isn’t doing any harm?

How does one look at the facts and honestly conclude otherwise?  Key word: “honestly”. 

Speaking of “hate and division and violence”, as I recall, just about all of that has been consistently demonstrated at various town halls by SEIU thugs – leftists.

And then there’s our old friend Kos, who has to make those sorts of accusations in order to pimp his new book, “The American Taliban”:

MARKOS MOULITSAS (32:48): Right now there is a six month backlog on ammunition in this country. People trying to buy bullets cannot buy bullets because they’ve been hoarding these guns. These aren’t people who aren’t people who are hoarding guns and ammo because they way to participate in a peaceful Democratic process.

STEPHANIE MILLER: Well you’ve got candidates like Sharron Angles saying second amendment remedies.

MOULITSAS: Right, when you have key top level Republicans saying that sort of thing, you have a movement that really rejects democracy as a tool and are willing to resort to violence and they haven’t yet. They started to resorting to violence after Obama was elected, cause having an African American with the middle name Hussein sort of blew their minds. But, the Tea Party movement sort of allowed them to channel their energies into something a little more healthy than shooting people.

MILLER: Well right, but Marcos there have been exactly what the Homeland Security Department report talked about. There have been a huge increase in right-wing violence.

Really? Where? Markos, surely you’re going to challenge that statement, right? Uh, no:

MOULITSAS: I know and there have been. MILLER: They all screamed about it and it’s true. It’s quantitatively provably true that there have been a lot of violence that have been, I think has been fomented by a lot of these right-wing characters.

Again, examples would be wonderful, but alas, none are forthcoming. And as Radio Equalizer points out:

But the ammo shortage is already over and was caused by a number of factors, including fears Second Amendment rights would be rescinded and old-fashioned production issues. In addition, the "right-wing violence" allegations made here weren’t backed up with actual incidents.

Beyond his extreme rhetoric, Moulitsas’ delivery is tough to take. Clearly the product of parochial, inward-looking East Bay "progressive" politics, he seems willing to accept at face value almost any conspiracy theory thrown his way.

Indeed. But when you’re trying to justify the lunacy you’ve contrived in your book, you have to buy into such conspiracy theories to justify your take on the issue. Facts need not apply. And of course, neither do actual examples of the claims.

Typical left-wing fear mongering.  And the irony?  It’s mostly projection.  As I’ve said, the only examples of recent violence related to politics belongs to the unions and the left.

~McQ

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Internet down

Sorry about the delay in posting but the hamster apparently died last night and the internet is down at the house.  I’m sure they’re training a new hamster to take over.  In the meantime

I’m at the local coffee shop getting ready to do my thing.

~McQ

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A homecoming

I arrived at Ft. Stewart’s Cottrell Field a few hours early – it was a long drive from Atlanta and I wanted to make sure I got there with plenty of time to spare. I was the only one in the parking lot as I pulled in, grateful for the opportunity to rest a bit before the ceremony. My son’s unit was coming home from Afghanistan and in a few short hours I’d actually get to see him, put my hands on him and rest assured that he was home and well.

As I sat there thinking about the upcoming event, my eyes wandered to two rows of small trees lining Cottrell Field at either end and what appeared to be markers at their base. Curious, and needing to stretch after the long ride, I walked toward them. It was a beautiful hot August Georgia day with a slight breeze, enough to keep the heat from being oppressive and the gnats at bay.Homecoming1

Walking toward the trees I noticed a walkway with two brick pillars. On the pillars were brass plaques, one announcing this was “Warrior’s Walk” and the other explaining it was a memorial to the soldiers lost in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. My heart caught in my throat as I looked down the long double row of trees and I thought, “there but by the grace of God …”.

Understanding the joy I would soon experience with my son’s homecoming, I felt an obligation to at least share some of the pain the families of the fallen must have endured when they found out that their loved one would never walk across Cottrell Field and back into their lives. I walked “Warrior’s Walk”.

If anyone can manage to do so with a dry eye, they’re a better person than I am. Each tree has a marble marker with the soldier’s name and rank. Each includes a metal flag representing the unit with which he served. But the most poignant items were those which families and fellow soldiers had placed under each tree. Lovingly left and carefully preserved, these mementoes tear at your heart and remind you of the lost love they represent. Many families had put wind chimes in the trees. Walking alone along the walk with the breeze gently stirring these chimes gave the walk an eerie almost otherworldly effect, strangely welcoming and embracing a visitor.

I finished my walk, sobered by the sacrifice of so many young lives. It was almost time for the ceremony and my son’s wife and my 4 grandsons, who had traveled earlier that morning to attend some classes at Ft. Stewart, had arrived. We all moved into the stands and waited for my son’s unit to arrive. The excitement was palpable. It continued to build as the time neared and more and more families arrived.Homecoming3

We were given updates – “they’ve just landed; they’re loading the busses; they’re enroute; they’re 10 minutes out” – and each update drove the anticipation up another notch.

Finally the busses were spotted and the gathered crowd went wild in a frenzy of cheering and clapping. Looking around it was a sea of smiles.

The unit unloaded behind a screen of trees at the far end of the field, shielding them from our view and then, dramatically, emerged from the tree line and marched in formation toward the stands. The gathered families cheered as they approached, some with tears streaming down their cheeks. Young children waved flags and signs they had lovingly made, all the while looking for their daddy. Homecoming5

The Colonel assigned the unenviable task of officially welcoming them home knew his duty and limited his remarks to about 2 minutes. At the conclusion, the PA announcer barely got, “and this concludes the formal portion of our ceremony”, out of his mouth before the crowd in the stands broke toward the formation. If the scene was pure pandemonium, it was the happiest example I’ve ever witnessed.

As our family pushed into the throng, we searched for my son. Finally, the crowd parted and there he was. He looked hale, hearty and happy. He looked good. We all tried to get to him at once, but everyone enjoyed a great big hug before it was over. My youngest grandson, age 6, had tears streaming down his cheeks and dripping off his chin as he wrapped his dad up in an embrace that he seemed not to want let go. More hugs, more smiles, more looking him up and down to ensure he was okay – that he was really here.

Finally, we began to walk off the field, and as I walked behind him and his son’s I smiled at the picture they made – the soldier holding the hands of two of his sons as we headed toward the cars. It was then that I heard that ghostly sound on the wind, the faint sound of wind chimes. A chill went down my back as I glanced back toward the double row of trees. It was as if those along Warrior’s Walk were welcoming him home too.

~McQ

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Some interesting poll results

As we enter October, now is the time to begin to pay close attention to election polls.  As the November election date approaches, more and more people will turn their attention to them and the polls will begin to more accurately reflect the probable outcome.

But there are other polls out there that are interesting as well.  They give indicators, moods and trends which, when combined with election polls help better explain why one candidate is surging and the other faltering.

Two of those catch my notice today.  The first is the POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll.  While it may mean absolutely nothing in 2012, the most important year for Obama, it does provide a snap-shot of the mood of the electorate.  In it pollsters found:

  • Only 38% say Obama deserves re-election and 44% will vote to oust him out
  • Voters trust congressional Republicans to create jobs more than Obama by an 11-point margin
  • Republicans hold a 4-point edge in generic ballot

The significance is the difference in his job approval rating (42% – an all time low) and his "deserves reelection" rating. The latter is the most significant, and it says he’s a one term president – for now.  Remember, in politics, it is all about the confidence one has in the leadership.  This poll could be considered a lack of confidence vote as it concerns Obama right now.

The fact that voters ‘trust’ Republicans to create more jobs than Democrats by 11 points isn’t so much an endorsement of Republican economic policies, but a rejection of Democratic ones. They’re deemed to have failed (and that failure, I would claim, is directly connected with Obama’s reelection number).

You have to wonder if Republicans are able to do a marginally better job on the job front (or the economy begins to rebound naturally and they get some credit) whether it will also pick up Obama’s reelection numbers.

The last number – 4% on the positive side for the GOP on the generic ballot – simply reflects the facts the other two numbers do. Voters are deeply dissatisfied with Democrats. That doesn’t mean they’re wild about the GOP though.

Some other news from the poll concerns the media preferences of the electorate:

  • 81% of those polled get midterm election news from cable news channels
  • 42% say Fox News is their main source – more than CNN (30%) and MSNBC (12%) combined
  • Bill O’Reilly seen to have greatest "positive impact" of opinionated media personalities with 49%, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are second and third
  • MSNBC personalities largely unknown – 70% have never heard of Ed Schultz, 55% haven’t heard of Rachel Maddow

Now this is interesting stuff for many reasons.  One is it provides proof that the left’s attempted demonization of Fox News has not worked at all.  I wonder how that’s going to sit with the White House.  In fact, it seems to have been a dismal failure.  What the left would characterize as “right biased media” apparently rules.

Secondly, I find it hilarious that the “stars” of the left are unknown to the majority of those polled.  And remember, the 30% who say they have heard of Ed Schultz (I’d be one of those) don’t necessarily listen to him (I’d also be one of those).  John Stewart, however, did quite well on the “positive impact” side of things.

Last – is Limbaugh’s star being eclipsed by O’Reilly and Beck?  I realize that O’Reilly, for some reason, has held the top spot on cable opinion shows for some time, and Beck does both radio and cable while Limbaugh only does radio, but that’s interesting info if correct.  However, regardless as to the ranking of those three, they apparently convincingly own the “positive impact” category of “opinionated media”.  Wonder what Hannity thinks about all this (and not being really in the running?)?

And as an aside, despite their declining circulation numbers, newspapers remain the most important news source for likely voters:

Despite steady declines in circulation over the past decade, newspapers are more influential than national news broadcasts when it comes to news on the upcoming election, with 72 percent of respondents saying they turn to newspapers or their websites.

Local news did better, at 73 percent, and conversations with friends and family was the second-most-cited source, at 79 percent. Radio was cited by only 58 percent of respondents, and non-newspaper websites and blogs by 39 percent.

Anyway, all of this makes sense when you view the results of the other poll.  And, given the majorities who’ve never heard of the liberal show hosts, I’m not sure it would be any different if it was the Republicans in control and failing as dismally as the Democrats are.  When that was the case, those folks were on the air and apparently few were tuning in to hear what they had to say.

Why?  Because for the most part, Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly talk about getting government out of our hair, making it smaller and less costly.  That resonates.  That reflects the mood of the country.  It is also something you’re not going to hear from the Ed Shultz’s and Rachel Maddow’s of the world.

There’s a free clue (and one that should be obvious by now) to any politician or political party that wants it. 

~McQ

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San Francisco Chronicle’s non-endorsement of Boxer underlines anti-incumbent feeling in US

Of course the Chronicle – the state of California’s liberal newspaper located in America’s most liberal big city – didn’t endorse Carly Fiorina either, but no one in the state expected that would happen.

However, the fact that the Chronicle’s editorial board couldn’t find it in itself to support Barbara Boxer’s 4th Senate term is news.  There’s debate as to how much weight endorsements carry with voters, but the refusal to endorse a candidate which it has supported in the past is indeed something voters should sit up and notice.

The most positive thing the paper could say about Boxer was she was a “reliable liberal vote”.  But it also called Boxer a Senator of little note or accomplishment and one whose only claim to fame is her rabid partisanship.

The Chronicle is not at all enamored with Carly Fiorina’s politics which should surprise no one.  But the editors all but say, “but for her politics, she’d be our choice”.

It is an odd and rare sort of editorial that you should take the time to read if, for no other reason than to understand the anti-incumbency movement has reached even into the editorial rooms of newspapers. There’s also something else important captured in the first sentence in the non-endorsement:

Californians are left with a deeply unsatisfying choice for the U.S. Senate this year.

Replace California with “Americans” and “US Senate” for “any national office” and make "choice" plural and you pretty well sum up the reason for the rise of the Tea Party, the unrest on the left, the confusion in the middle and the large majority that continues to say, in poll after poll, that the country is on the wrong track. 

California’s Senate race is a microcosm of races all over the US and the Chronicle’s non-endorsement reflects the feelings many voters have as they consider the candidates they’re left with, with rare exceptions.  This continues to be what the GOP is missing as it attempts to run (and support) the same old people for office.  They’ve done nothing to search out and recruit the candidates for which the voters are literally clamoring.  Thus the rise of insurgent candidates in GOP primaries.

“Politics as usual” or  “establishment politics” if you prefer, are under attack.  While there are certainly specifics in law, legislation or among issues that are important to voters, their general frustration is mostly driven by the fact that they’re unable to meaningfully change a political system  in any fundamental way that they view as non-responsive and broken. 

Instead they see an out of touch, out of control Leviathan blindly charging ahead and spending us into ruin whose only concern for the desires of the people manifests itself at reelection time.  And, as soon as the offices are again secured for the appropriate time period, they are quickly forgotten in the world of party politics and special interests.  As the SF Chronicle implies, Barbara Boxer is this problem’s poster child.

The first party that truly dedicates itself to defining and executing a plan that fundamentally changes the system under which we suffer now and makes it more responsive and reactive to the will of the electorate is the party that will rise in prominence and remain there for the foreseeable future.

~McQ

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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 26 Sep 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale are joined by special guest Clyde Middleton from Liberty Pundits to discuss Barbara Boxer, the controversy surrounding the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, and the week’s Congressional antics.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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.

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