Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Mass Senate Election Could Be Game Changer

Perhaps the most important political story this week – possibly this year – is the Senate race in Massachusetts. The vote is Tuesday. And, at the moment, it appears the Democrats are in trouble in a solidly blue state. The reasons are many. How much each reason contributes to the whole is debatable, but watching the reaction of Democrats to this unexpected and developing debacle has been somewhat comical.

Of course one of the reasons is the Democratic candidate. Mass Attorney General Martha Coakely has conducted a campaign – and I use the term “conducted” very loosely – that will most likely become the case study on how to lose an election in a state in which your party is the prohibitively dominant party. And a seat that has been in Democratic hands for almost 50 years. She’ not only a politically unattractive candidate, she is about as inept a politician as one can find. Combine all of that with a campaign that has mostly been missing in action and you can begin to understand why she’s trailing in the polls. I mean who else but the clueless would call beloved Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a “Yankees fan”. Her campaign is trying to sell that as a joke gone wrong, but in Red Sox mad Massachusetts, you just don’t joke about some things.

So even with all of that going against her, other politicians have run poor campaigns in states which heavily favored their party and still won. Why couldn’t that happen in Massachusetts? Well, it could – let’s not fool ourselves. But in this case as inept and poor a candidate Martha Coakley has been, Scott Brown, the Republican, has been a good candidate. He’s been on message, on target and all over the place. The little known Republican, prior to the race, is pretty well known in the state now. And polls have him up slightly (by a point or three). Even internal Democratic polls show Brown with a lead.

This has prompted Democrats, over the last couple of weeks, to go from being a bit antsy to outright panic. First it was sending in operatives from the DNC. Then it was escalated to having Bill Clinton do a little campaigning for Coakley. And now the big boss, Barack Obama, has been summoned to the fray in an effort to somehow revive the flagging Coakely campaign.

It may be too little too late – one of the things I’ve been pointing too and I’ve seen others cite is an apparent “enthusiasm gap” among the two side. Scott Browns supporters are very enthusiastic about his candidacy and his chances of winning. Martha Coakley’s – not so much. In fact Blue Mass Group, a Massachusetts Democratic group blog recently entitled a post “I know it sucks but vote for Coakley” or words to that effect. A ringing endorsement if ever I’ve seen one. Enthusiasm is what drives voter turnout. And obviously voter turnout is the key. The enthusiasm the Democrats had for their brand just a few short months ago, has gone with the wind.

Secondly – independents aren’t staying under the Democratic umbrella. In fact, polls show them deserting in alarming numbers. Again, not a good sign for Democrats in general, but surely not a good sign for Coakley.

And, during my reading this past week (sorry no cite) I remember a poll which said about 20% of Democrats in Massachusetts don’t like the state’s health care program and are leaning heavily toward Brown. That means it may be Democrats who put the final nail in the Coakley coffin.

That brings up the question that is constantly asked and consistently denied by David Axelrod – is this election a referendum on the Democrats and the Obama agenda?

How could it not be? Look at the state. Look at the stakes (Brown means the HCR bill is dead). It is fraught with national political implications. To contend otherwise is simply whistling past the graveyard. If Brown wins the US political world is turned upside down. It will energize the right as has no recent election anywhere – a Republican in the “Ted Kennedy seat?” Are you kidding? That would be like electing Ariel Sharon to the presidency of Egypt.

It would also be the death knell of the liberal attempt to pass their agenda in Congress as the filibuster proof Senatorial majority would exist no more. Axelrod knows that. Obama knows that. And so do Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

The next day or so should see a spin up of the dirty tricks department like none in recent memory. Already the DCCC has released a smear mailer that simply isn’t supported by facts (and that FactCheck.org has specifically refuted). More to come I’m sure.

But the bottom line is that there is a good chance that Scott Brown will win this thing. And per the GOP’s attorneys, if he does, Paul Kirk, the interim appointee there to fill the seat until the special election, may not be eligible to vote after Tuesday. What a wrench that throws, if true, into the machinations of the Harry Reid scheme to pass the bill before Brown could be seated.

This has the possibility of being a game changer of an election if Brown succeeds. And I’ve got to tell you, I’m ready for the game to change, that’s for sure.

~McQ

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NASA/GISS Accused Of Data Mainpulation In Support Of Man-Made Global Warming Agenda

After the scandal concerning the CRU at the University of East Anglia, this may be the sound of the second shoe dropping.

Data from the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at Columbia University in New York City, both associated with the US Government and the UN’s IPCC, have come under fire from two researchers. Programmer E. Michael Smith and Certified Consulting Meteorologis Joseph D’Aleo have combed through the data and the programming from which conclusions were made about man-made global warming and claim the data used was both cherry-picked and manipulated to produce findings that supported the hypothesis that man was responsible for climate change.

For E. Michael Smith this project was quite a test of his computer programming skills. “Opening, unraveling and understanding what is happening in a complex FORTRAN computer code, with 20 years of age and change in it, is a difficult and grueling task,” he says, “and the deeper I dug the more amazing the details revealed. When doing a benchmark test of the program, I found patterns in the input data from NCDC that looked like dramatic and selective deletions of thermometers from cold locations.” Smith says after awhile, it became clear this was not a random strange pattern he was finding, but a well designed and orchestrated manipulation process. “The more I looked, the more I found patterns of deletion that could not be accidental. Thermometers moved from cold mountains to warm beaches; from Siberian Arctic to more southerly locations and from pristine rural locations to jet airport tarmacs. The last remaining Arctic thermometer in Canada is in a place called ‘The Garden Spot of the Arctic,’ always moving away from the cold and toward the heat. I could not believe it was so blatant and it clearly looked like it was in support of an agenda,” Smith says.

Here are the numbers behind the startling findings of the new research paper. The number of actual weather observation points used as a starting point for world average temperatures has been reduced from about 6,000 in the 1970s to about 1,500 in the most recent years. Still, more stations are dropped out in related programs and in the final NASA/GIStemp data file, it drops to about 1,000. That leaves much of the world unaccounted for,” says Joseph D’Aleo of ICECAP.us and SPPI.org, who has released a research study of the global temperature pattern today. “Think of it this way,” he continues, “if Minneapolis and other northern cities suddenly disappeared but Kansas City and St. Louis were still available, would you think an average of Kansas City and St. Louis would provide an accurate replacement for Minneapolis and expect to use that to determine how Minneapolis’ temperature has changed with any hope of accuracy?”

E. Michael Smith pointed out that the November 2009 “anomaly map” from GISS shows a very hot Bolivia, which is covered by high mountains. “One small problem: there have been no temperatures recorded in the NCDC data set for Bolivia since 1990. NASA/GISS have to fill in or make up the numbers from up to 1200km away. This is on the beach in Peru or in the Amazon jungle,” he said.

Given these revelations, and assuming they’re accurate, it calls into question the entire AGW hypothesis since the supporting data is apparently invalid. I have to wonder, other than the sound of crickets, what reaction Al Gore and the rest of the warmist cabal will have to say about this?

~McQ

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Calling Michael “Sicko” Moore

I wonder if Michael Moore has seen this story about the Cuban health care system he so highly touted in his “documentary” about health care – “Sicko”?

Twenty-six patients at a mental hospital died during a cold snap this week, the government said Friday. A Health Ministry communiqué blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees,” but the ministry also said it was starting an investigation that could lead to criminal proceedings. The independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights said that at least 24 patients at the Psychiatric Hospital in Havana died of hypothermia, and that the hospital did not do enough to protect them because of problems like faulty windows.

Hypothermia? At 38 degrees? Look, it’s certainly possible as witnessed by these deaths, but hypothermia doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger at 38 degrees. It takes a while, and could most likely have been avoided by a little foresight, a blanket or two and some attention to the patients and their needs. Apparently that didn’t happen.  If 26 died, you have to wonder how many more came close.

Cuba claims the deaths were from natural causes, but CCHR disputes that:

Commission head Elizardo Sanchez said that so many patients dying of hypothermia was “absurd in a tropical country” and claimed the deaths could have been prevented if the government had granted long-standing requests from international aid groups to tour Cuba’s medical facilities, including the capital’s 2,500-bed mental hospital.

Yeah, not going to happen – only sickos like Moore get such tours. As usual, the Cuban government blames the problems on the “American embargo”, an embargo that has so many holes and is so laxly enforced that for anyone else in the world, it’s business as usual. Apparently Cuba would like you to believe it the the fault of the US that they didn’t have blankets or that they were unable to fix “faulty windows”.

Anyway, I’ll not hold my breath waiting for Moore to condemn the obvious negligence that was a major cause of these deaths. This is his preferred model when it comes to health care. I’m sure we won’t hear a peep from the man.
~McQ

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An Arrogancy of Jurisdiction

Suppose I told you that there is an organization which claims to have worldwide jurisdiction (literally, “where the law speaks”) over all matters of criminal law and justice, regardless of who a person is? No I’m not referring to the ICC, but instead to the Obama administration.

The Obama administration is considering a criminal trial in Washington for the Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of masterminding the bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people, a plan that would bring one of the world’s most notorious terrorism suspects just steps from the U.S. Capitol, The Associated Press has learned.

Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, was allegedly Osama bin Laden’s point man in Indonesia and, until his capture in August 2003, was believed to be the main link between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group blamed for the 2002 bombing on the island of Bali.

It’s not readily apparent what charges would be brought against Hambali, but a real question exists as to exactly what power our civil judicial system would have over him. In order to pass judgment on anyone, a court must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, which essentially means that he has some nexus with the place where his trial takes place. With respect to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, there is at least a good argument that his alleged activities with respect to the 9/11 attacks and the World Trade Center bombings creates a connection with the court of record in New York City. In contrast, Hambali does not, as far as anyone has alleged, have any connection whatsoever with the District of Columbia, nor with anywhere else in the United States. So on what basis can a DC court claim to have any power over his person?

Yet that’s just what the Obama administration proposes to do. It is considering trying Hambali in a federal civil court, supposedly for his terrorist actions (which are legion, to be sure) elsewhere in the world. Most famously, Hambali is thought to be the mastermind behind the devastating bombings in Bali back in 2002. But Bali is in Indonesia, not the United States. Indeed, Jemaah Islamiya, of which Hambali is known to be the operations coordinator and chief liason to al Qaeda regarding its Southeast Asia conquests, has not been alleged to be involved in any actions in America or her protectorates. All of which should lead to the inexorable conclusion that our federal courts have no jurisdiction over Hambali.

Perhaps no real harm would come from a court reaching such a decision. It wouldn’t lead to a release of the prisoner, necessarily, since the question of guilt or innocence would never be addressed. But what if, instead, a ruling is made that there is personal jurisdiction over Hambali? Stranger things have happened — witness the vast expansion of judicial power created in Boumediene v. Bush, where the Supreme Court found that its jurisdiction for habeas corpus purposes extended to any person within America’s exclusive control. Should a DC court find it does have personal jurisdiction over a person who has no connection to America except for being captured by her soldiers, that would be paramount to declaring American law and jurisprudence the law of every land. In other words, we would be claiming that our laws “speak” everywhere and for everyone, whether you like it or not.

If you are inclined to believe that holding enemy combatants at GITMO directly aids al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts, how do you think the terrorist organization and her adherents will take to our claim that they, and everyone else in the world, are subject to our civil laws? How will the rest of the world view such an arrogant statement? Beyond satisfying some petty political aims, by taking such a misguided step as this the Obama administration is not doing the U.S. any favors, and is likely damaging our interests.

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Obama’s Failure Can Be Blamed On Congressional Democrats – “It’s The Economy, Stupid”

There is a lot of analysis going on about Obama’s first year and why, it seems, his job approval numbers are so dismal. And why, given the promise he brought to the White House, at least according to the PR faithfully pushed by his campaign, are Democrats looking at the possibility of large net losses in both houses of Congress?

The first hints of the dissatisfaction of the electorate came in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races where Republicans won – in VA handily. The Democrats claimed their candidate there ran a lack luster campaign and it wasn’t at all a referendum on the Obama administration and the Democratic agenda. But now, the very same thing is happening in Massachusetts with an unknown GOP state legislator giving the Democratic candidate for the “Ted Kennedy” seat, a run for her money (and, in the latest poll, up by 4 points over the Democrat).

Is this too the result of just a lackluster campaign and a poor candidate? Certainly a case can be made for that – except in this case, it is reliably and overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts. It doesn’t work quite as well there as it might in VA. It is beginning to sound like a bit of whistling past the graveyard.

In fact, as with VA, it is a reflection of some deep-seated dissatisfaction with Democrats in Congress and yes, with Obama as well. Charlie Cook nails the problem today in his analysis of why the Democrats are in such deep electoral trouble:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

The latest unemployment and housing numbers underscore the folly of their decision to pay so much attention to health care and climate change instead of focusing on the economy “like a laser beam,” as President Clinton pledged to do during his 1992 campaign. Although no one can fairly accuse Obama and his party’s leaders of ignoring the economy, they certainly haven’t focused on it like a laser beam.

Cook is actually minimizing the problem somewhat. In fact, Obama and his party leaders have given little but lip service to the economy, unemployment and job creation while they’ve spent enormous time on agenda items which mean very little to a country suffering the depth of joblessness and economic hardship now prevalent. Add to that their extremely obnoxious handling of what they have focused on, the blatant partisanship in which they’ve conducted their “business” and the total lack of transparency in that process and you have a pretty toxic picture painted of Democrats in general.

Why, then, did Obama’s promise fail to materialize in his administration – at least in the first year? Well there are many reasons. Among them is a rookie politician (Obama) who got rolled by an experienced Democratic leadership that saw a small and closing window of opportunity to pass huge social welfare agenda items that had repeatedly failed in the past and chose to tackle them while ignoring the obvious elephant in the room. My guess is they miscalculated in more than just the way Cook contends. With their majorities, I’m sure they thought they could quickly put these bills together and pass them, leaving plenty of time to work on the economy. But, of course, given the diversity of opinion and interests even among Democrats, that wasn’t the case. It has dragged into the new year while work on the economy has been essentially non-existent (they threw a $787 billion pork bill out there and called it “stimulus”, figuring their usual panacea – throwing money at a problem – would work. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t).

Voters are mad about that. Rightly or wrongly, they blame the government for what does or doesn’t happen on their watch economically. For the most part, government can best affect the economy by making it easier for markets to expand and create jobs – tax cuts, less regulation, etc. Spending rarely sets up the conditions to do that. But regardless, of what action the government takes, voters expect the economy to be the absolute focus of government in times of economic crisis.

That has not been the case at all with this administration or Congress. And, it appears, they’re going to pay a huge price for that in 2010 and possibly 2012. What was a bright Democratic future less than a year ago has now become a scouting trip for a good place in the “wilderness” for Dems. If, as many economists expect, unemployment remains at 9% through 2012, we may be reading the obligatory columns about the “Death of the Democratic Party”. And while Obama’s personal popularity may remain high (while his job approval numbers tank), that doesn’t mean such perceived economic negligence will be rewarded with a second term.

~McQ

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Pat Robertson, Meet Danny Glover

Fools to the right of us, fools to the left of us, fools continue to volley and thunder.

Tell me again that AGW isn’t becoming a religion. Danny Glover opines on why the devastation in Haiti occurred:

GLOVER: When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m sayin’?

Oh I know what you’re “sayin'”. And you’re as big a fool as Robertson for saying it. But I wonder if we’ll see this denounced by the White House as quickly as it denounced Robertson’s foolishness.

~McQ

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By George The Stimulus Worked! We Say So!

Don’t you just love non-falsifiable government claims?

Why here’s one now:

The Obama administration, in its latest progress report on the $787 billion stimulus program, said both the overall economy and employment continued to be in better shape at the end of 2009 than they would have been without the government’s help.

Better shape, hmmm? Wasn’t this the same stimulus which promised it would keep unemployment below 8% if passed? Yet here we are at 10% with no real relief in sight. Wasn’t this the stimulus which was promised to create or save millions of jobs? Even the administration has finally given up making such claims, instead quietly changing the way it makes such determinations and including pay raises and anything even remotely job related on which the money was spent. So when further claims, such as this, are made, they should be taken with a large and skeptical grain of salt:

Though unemployment reached 10 percent at year’s end—two percentage points higher than the peak that the council forecast when the administration proposed the stimulus package to Congress nearly a year ago—the number of jobs was between 1.5 million to 2 million greater in the fourth quarter than it would have been without the recovery plan, the council said.

This is the same council that made the 8% claim and changed the rules for counting “saved and created” jobs. If anything, their claims should be completely disregarded.

This is the stimulus which was claimed to be so necessary to the recovery, yet of the $787 billion signed into law, only $263 billion has been spent. How is that a stimulus? The theory is the government pumps money into the economy as quickly as possible to “stimulate” growth and hiring. Yet this particular bill is structured so that less than half the funds are spent within what most would consider the critical first year? That alone tells you two things about this particular bill:

  1. It had little to do with stimulus and a lot to do with pork. In fact, it appears to be a 100% pork bill despite the President’s claims to the contrary. Just because individual earmarks weren’t in the bill doesn’t mean this bill isn’t a compilation of wasteful spending and pet projects. They were simply written up differently than they normally are. There was never any intention of spending this money to jump start the economy as witnessed by the amount spent in the first year and its lack of effect. It can be credibly claimed, in contravention of the administration’s claim, that it hasn’t done anything to stimulate economic growth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of the spending that has been done or its continuation, but any objective analysis would make the point that $263 billion in a contracting 14 trillion dollar economy is likely to have little effect if any at all. So far the numbers seem to verify that.
  2. Any claims made about the bill’s effect should be viewed very skeptically. In reality, this bill was a spending bill, not a stimulus bill. It was the bill which allowed Democratic legislators (and a good number of Republicans) to spend money on things they’d been unable to get through the body in the past. Again, its structure and the items upon which the money were spent make the argument pretty handily. Its failure to “stimulate” as advertised is precisely why there is talk of a second stimulus. There never was a first.

Whatever recovery has gone on in the economy has been largely a result of factors other than this bill. That includes the positive 3rd quarter GDP numbers they try to trot out as “proof” of the stimulus’s efficacy. Those numbers were driven by the cash for clunkers program, a program outside the stimulus bill, and were largely illusory. They were illusory because it was “growth” driven strictly by government spending, it was temporary growth because it was simply stealing from future sales, and when all the dust settled, that was quite apparent to those who analyzed the results.

What this present claim is all about is message preparation. These claims, which really don’t stand up to scrutiny at all, are being made now for a reason. The president has a State of the Union address coming up soon and needs some “good news” very badly. That’s why these non-falsifiable claims are being tossed out there now. Establishing these claims and repeating them often enough is done in the hope of having them become “conventional wisdom” by the time the SOTU address rolls around. Then when the President makes these claims, an uncritical press will parrot them, establishing them as “fact” for the administration and a part of the narrative that will be repeated in 2012.

That is how the game is played, folks.

~McQ

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Devil-gate

I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself. We put “-gate” with everything else.    And the only reason that I’m spending anymore time on what Pat Robertson said about Haiti is because of the asinine press release put out by his organization today.  It reads, in part:

On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath

Key words emphasized by me.

History isn’t “alleged”. And “scholars” don’t base their conclusions on rumor or allegations. As for “God’s wrath”, sophisticated listeners are quite able to understand when something is implied. While Robertson may not have stated this was a result of God’s wrath, he did state that the pact with the devil was a “true story”.

And speaking of God’s wrath:

RLTW!

~McQ

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Laughing With Liberals

Because, like kids, they say the damnedest things. Take Alec Baldwin who would like to be our Energy Czar (or something):

Energy policy is the lynch pin of nearly all of our other economic problems. And our dependence on oil is the tragic path that we are are still on, two wars in the Middle East in twenty years later, in order to deliver oil. Oil that costs so much more than what you read at the pump. You factor in both of those wars, the deaths of our brave soldiers, and the looming bill that our society will have to pay for our lack of maturity, foresight and courage on this front, the costs are incalculable.

Putting a major oil company out of business. That’s a war worth fighting.

The formulaic nod to the military, while holding on to the liberal canard of wars for oil (and thereby implicitly dissing the military). The shot at the lack of “maturity, foresight and courage” the rest of the “society” displays by using a readily available, cheap and efficient means of producing energy that isn’t to his liking. And finally, his rather incredible and short-sighted wish that a major oil company would somehow fail and go out of business. Of course he’s talking about private oil companies. Obviously he has no clue as to how little private companies control in terms of reserves in this world, and just as obviously doesn’t care to learn. You can bet he doesn’t care one whit about the jobs that would be lost or the ripple effect in other areas of employment it would have. It is a politically incorrect industry.  His job is to demonize it.

The good news is Baldwin may get his wish – a major oil “company” may go out of business soon. The bad news for him and his Hollywood cronies is it is most likely to be the nationalized Venezuelan oil company, PVDSA taken over by his buddy Hugo Chavez. And that would mean Citgo would go right down the toilet.  That would be a fitting irony, wouldn’t it?

Then there’s our old buddy Ezra Klein. Reporting on the House and Senate negotiators considering new Medicare tax, he cites a report by Martin Vaughan and Laura Merckler that lay it out. He then adds his own commentary:

Currently, the Medicare tax applies only to wages, without any limits. The 2.9% tax is divided in half, with workers and employers each paying 1.45%. The health bill passed by the Senate would raise the worker contribution to 2.35% for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 a year.

Under the proposal now being considered, people making more than those amounts would also pay the Medicare tax on dividends and other income from investments, the people familiar with the talks said. Income from pensions and retirement accounts, including 401(k) accounts, would be exempt.

A version of this that was previously introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow raised more than $100 billion over the first 10 years, so there’s significant money to be found here. Why Democrats prefer a new Medicare tax to, say, capping the itemized deductions rate at 28% for taxpayers making more than $250,000 is, however, beyond me. And if you did that, you’d have more than $300 billion in new money to play with.

Being a member of the juice-box mafia and having little or no experience outside of college and writing opinions based on, well, opinion, waving away the hard earned money of others as “$300 billion in new money to play with” isn’t difficult at all. And it points to a mindset that essentially says the it’s the government’s money to begin with so taking as much back as necessary to do what the “smart kids”, aka the elite, want to do is just hunky dory with the Klein’s of the world.  It’s also why he thinks the VA system is great without ever having experienced it, and that just about anything that can be put under the umbrella of government sounds good to him as well.  But he’d also tell you he’s all for “freedom and liberty” I’d bet.

Life with liberals – just full of yuks, isn’t it?

~McQ

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