I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself – sometimes nature provides us with the best situational irony and this case is just hilarious:
A downtown protest of the climate change talks in Copenhagen became a victim of Wednesday’s snowstorm.
“Not many people showed up because of the blizzard conditions,” said organizer Clea Major, an international studies student at the University of Utah.
It didn’t take long for the six friends to pack up a bullhorn and posters they’d planned to use for their “scream-in,” an outlet for their frustration about the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks earlier this month to curb the pollution blamed for climate change.
Damn global warming.
Here’s an absolutely fascinating article by Micah Sifry in which he takes a detailed look at the myth and reality of the Obama campaign. As you might imagine the myth doesn’t live up to the reality.
What was the myth? That the campaign was a bottom-up, grassroots driven organization. Instead says Sifry, it was the 21st Century version of a top-down campaign (whereas the McCain campaign was the last version of the old 20th Century top-down campaign).
That’s not to say the campaign wasn’t managed brilliantly – the email list they built was over 13 million. However the myth they delivered was that A) the grassroots would have a seat at the table and B) they were electing a “different kind” of politician. In reality, neither of those promises has materialized. And it is that which has so disillusioned and frustrated many Obama supporters. They bought into the myth lovingly nurtured by a supportive media apparently as easily gulled as the public. For instance:
From Fast Company’s March 2009 cover story on Chris Hughes, the Facebook cofounder who led the development of Obama’s online community My.Barackobama.com (or “MyBO”): -“The theme of the campaign, direct from Obama, was that the people were the organization.” -“Trusting a community can produce dramatic and unexpected results.”
From National Journal’s April 2009 profile of Joe Rospars, the Obama campaign’s new media director: -“It was going to be something organic. It was going to be bottom-up,” Joe Rospars said.
From Rolling Stone’s March 2008 “The Machinery of Hope” story on the Obama campaign: -“Obama didn’t just take their money,” says Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000. “He gave them seats at the table and allowed them to become players.”
All are examples of the cheerleading and water carrying that was rampant in the press at the time of the campaign. And, for the most part, they uncritically helped develop the myth and enabled the campaign to push it much further than it should ever have been able to do on its own.
However, since January 20th – day 1 of “reality” – those grassroots supporters have not seen a “new” type of politician nor have they found themselves sitting at the table. Instead, an new organization (Organizing For America or OFA) has been formed around the old 13 million strong mailing list and seems to have the dual purpose of cheerleading for the administration and raising money. However, that’s not going as well as they’d like:
The returns OFA is getting on email blasts appear to be dropping significantly, for example. “”People are frustrated because we have done our part,” one frustrated Florida Obama activist told the Politico. “We put these people in the position to make change and they’re not doing it.”
That’s reality. As Sifry points out:
In The Audacity to Win, Plouffe writes often of an “enthusiasm gap” that he saw between Obama’s supporters and the other Democratic candidates, notably Clinton. Back then, there was plenty of evidence to support Plouffe’s claim: Obama was surging on all the online social networks, his videos were being shared and viewed in huge numbers, and the buzz was everywhere. We certainly wrote about it often here on techPresident. Now, there is a new enthusiasm gap, but it’s no longer in Obama’s favor. That’s because you can’t order volunteers to do anything–you have to motivate them, and Obama’s compromises to almost every powers-that-be are tremendously demotivating.
The question is, without the same enthusiasm as he was able to generate in 2008 in which Obama managed to turn out many first time voters, independents and young voters, can he win again in 2012 if the Republicans can find a viable and attractive candidate? Or perhaps the better question is, has he alienated enough of the marginal voters who gave him a win to ensure a good Republican candidate has a real chance in 2012, given the power of incumbency and all?
I think the answer, with those caveats, is yes. Obama was indeed a transitional candidate – the first black president and the first president elected based in a myth loosely contained in his “Hope and Change” motto. The electorate has now digested and marked “first black president” off the list. It doesn’t have the power it once had. Americans have proven they can overcome race in electing someone to the highest office in the land. However, the realization that his candidacy was based in this myth and they were gulled into believing the myth certainly won’t sit well with those marginal voters I spoke about – and that enthusiasm gap could become an enthusiasm chasm by 2012 (it’s why you’re beginning to see blog posts like this on the left).
Make sure you read the whole thing. There are many more aspects of the campaign covered by Sifry. For instance, how, in fact, it was a campaign immersed in “big money” from the usual suspects (something we pointed out repeatedly here at QandO) and what that meant in reality. It is a great analysis of a brilliant campaign which has had one major failing – it hasn’t been able to transition its promises into the reality of governing. Sifry seems to wonder if that was ever the plan to begin with. Regardless, that failing is not unique to this particular campaign – few are able to do that – however the difference between the promises and the perception they created vs. the reality of this presidency are probably unique in the magnitude of that failure, the frustration it has generated and the possible electoral results that frustration will bring if it isn’t addressed successfully. I, for one, don’t see how that can again be done, even with a compliant press (something I think we’re likely to see less of in the next few years, btw).
Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year from the QandO guys.
To those who read us (and watch and listen) – thank you.
To those who comment – on either side of an issue – thank you.
Blogging is, unless you make a living at it, a labor of love. And trust me, QandO is a labor of love.
It has been creaking along for 8 plus years now – that’s old in blog years. When QandO first started it was one of the few blogs out there. Now it is one of the millions, literally, but still has an excellent reader base and, at least in my opinion, one of the best commenter bases around. Since we switched to Word Press, we’ve recently passed the 20,000 comment threshold. And unlike the old platform, we have a handle on comment spam – you’ve not had to wade through 3,600 spam comments.
Anyway the labor of love continues into the year 2010 (my goodness, I never thought I’d see the 21st Century much less the year 2010) and it is with thanks for your continued readership and participation.
This little nugget from Science Daily:
Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere.
Hmmm … now if this is true (notice how, unlike alarmists, I still skeptically caveat my acceptance of this research until I see verification) it would put a very large dent in the argument for the draconian measures the warmists are attempting to write into law in various countries around the world, wouldn’t it?
Or at least it should. So why do I have this feeling that if true it will be mostly ignored.
Experience I guess.
The research was done by Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.
[Knorr] reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.
In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades.
The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.
I left that last line in there so that you understand that it is indeed published research and most likely his peers will try to replicate his analysis using his methods and data. As I recall, that’s how the scientific method works. We’ll see how “settled science” reacts to that if it should be validated.
Unfortunately, it leaves me still on my quest to find the answer to the following question: “If rising CO2, as science has told us, lags global warming by 800 years and is an “effect” of such warming, how in the world did it suddenly become a “cause” of such warming?
And I’m no closer to getting the answer to my second question either: “What is the optimum temperature for the “globe”?”
Any assistance in answering them would be greatly appreciated.
Fouad Ajami has a must-read article in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he lays out the emerging Obama foreign policy. In essence, however, he sums it up quite nicely in the subheading of this article: “No despot fears the president and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue”.
Instead, what they can expect is high-sounding rhetoric giving lip-service to past American foreign policy ideals (freedom for all, democracy, etc) with little or no action. As Ajami points out, there is no intent to live up to the rhetoric; the intent is to stay above it all. He calls it a “cold-blooded” foreign policy in which America withdraws, for the most part, from the world and takes more of an observer’s role. As for all that high minded rhetoric read or listen to any Obama speech on foreign policy and you’ll hear it. But Hillary Clinton provides the ground truth of the situation when she said, “Ideology is so yesterday”.
This administration has no real interest in the foreign policy agenda. But it can’t really admit that, since, as we all know, foreign policy is one of the primary jobs of the chief executive. However anyone with the intellect of a sand flea has been able to discern that this president’s interests are found more in the domestic agenda than the foreign policy agenda.
With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the “progressives” holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power.
In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration “cheats.” It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn’t fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid’s last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)
As revolution simmers on the streets of Iran, the will was summoned in the White House to offer condolences over the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, an iconic figure to the Iranian opposition. But the word was also put out that the administration was keen on the prospect of John Kerry making his way to Tehran. No one is fooled. In the time of Barack Obama, “engagement” with Iran’s theocrats and thugs trumps the cause of Iranian democracy.
As we’ve discussed many times, this is a man who wants to have it both ways. His “strategy” for Afghanistan wasn’t to do what was necessary to win the war, but what was necessary to win over most of his critics while still appeasing most of his base. In the case of his foreign policy, “engagement” is simply a device used to give the appearance of doing something while, in reality, doing (and accomplishing) very little.
In the Darwinian anarchy that is the world, leaders of the various tribes notice any weakness in those who’ve assumed leadership. And they instinctively exploit it. What 2009 has done is serve notice that the United States is a weaker nation to all those who want that and will take advantage of it. What 2010 will most likely bring is the expected exploitation of that situation. What forms or in what fashion that exploitation will occur is anyone’s guess at the moment (although astute observers will be able to point to probable actors and actions), but as Ajami points out with his little parable about Lebanon and Syria – reality is already adjusting the actions of the players, and not at all to the advantage of the United States or peace throughout the world.
I don’t know about you, but the attempt to continue to blame Bush for every failure of the Obama administration is getting to be quite old. In fact, it has become sort of a game – how will they manage to turn this is such a way as they can overtly or through implication, blame Bush.
Of course the latest attempt is the NWA bomber. Two simultaneous tracks on this one. First is the usual implication that this is an “inherited mess” from the previous administration. While I’m willing to concede some inheritance of problems from any previous administration, this isn’t one of them. I might be inclined to give such a concession on Jan. 20th of this year. But it is Dec. 31st, almost a full year since this administration has been in office and in charge of our security. This is their baby, not the previous administration’s.
Secondly, the claim that Bush didn’t take the flack Obama has when Richard Reid tried to detonate his shoe bomb. A couple of points. That was within months of 9/11 and plans and strategies were still being implemented. Additionally, Bush had been talking about terrorism in general since 9/11. So speaking out on this particular act of terrorism wasn’t a particularly necessary thing.
We’ve been doing this for 9 years since then. Almost one full year of it has been on the Obama watch. When the Ft. Hood shootings went down, the administration tried to play it down as something other than an act of terrorism, and then, belatedly and grudgingly acknowledged the possibility of such. Now we have this occurrence and again, we have an administration that looks inept and incompetent (“the system worked”) and again engaged in trying to downplay the significance of the attempted bombing and security breech.
Amazingly, Maureen Dowd most succinctly characterizes why this is much more significant a failure than Richard Reed (an act that took place well before the TSA and all the procedures designed to protect us):
If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?
This is a complete and utter failure of the system – and had it happened on the Bush watch, I’d say the same thing. But what I wouldn’t be doing, a year into the Bush administration, is blaming it on Clinton.
All the “dots” they love to talk about were there. What wasn’t there was any attempt to connect them. That says “FAIL” in big bold letters. And that “FAIL” falls squarely on the shoulders of the administration in charge at the time of the “FAIL”. That would be the Obama administration. And repeated attempts to pass it off to someone else are becoming both tiresome a bit worrying. It is time this President and his administration accept the fact that they are in charge and responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen on their watch. For military officers that’s leadership 101. For this crew, it seems to be anathema as they continue to try to pass the “responsibility” buck on to others. It reminds me of children who try to avoid blame by pointing to their siblings and claiming it’s all their fault.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has spoken out about the violence in Iran and the repression of the protesters, calling the violence against them by the state “disturbing” and hailing the “great courage” the protesters have demonstrated.
“The tragic deaths of protesters in Iran are yet another reminder of how the Iranian regime deals with protest,” he said.
“Ordinary Iranian citizens are determined to exercise their right to have their voices heard. They are showing great courage.
“I call on the Iranian government to respect the human rights of its own citizens – rights which Iran has promised to respect.”
Of course speaking out like this in support of freedom and democracy – something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said would remain the policy of the United States – has drawn an expected reaction from Iran’s Manouchehr Mottaki:
Mr Mottaki said the protesters “should not be encouraged by a few… statements by certain countries”.
He added: “They should not pin their hopes on them. Britain will get slapped in the mouth if it does not stop its nonsense.”
Mr Mottaki’s speech was broadcast on Iranian television with an English translation on screen.
“The lowly and downgrading remarks by some foreign officials show the black stain on their record in their… contradictory interactions.”
Oh, my. A “stern rebuke”. How ghastly. I’m sure Miliband is forever scarred.
Obviously, it is this horrific toll that is keeping our brave Secretary of State from speaking out on the violence and injustice now occurring in Iran. Instead it is left up to an NSA spokesman to make the denunciation.
NSA? So they’re now conducting our foreign affairs.
Where in the world is Carmen … er, Hillary Clinton?
President Obama said the attempted Northwest Airlines bombing was the result of a “systemic failure – an outright rebuke of Janet Napalitano’s “the system worked” remark. Almost 9 years after 9/11, we’re still having trouble seeing the “dots” much less connecting them. Everyone who should have known about this guy seems to have known about him yet he was issued a visa, allowed on an airplane to the US and almost killed over 200 people despite being on a watch list and having been reported as a potential terrorist by his father.
So yes, I’d agree with the “systemic failure” characterization. It sounds like there were plenty of dots and again no connecting. For instance, if he’s on a watch list, why is our State Department issuing him a visa? Shouldn’t they a) have checked that watch list or b) routinely run his name by the CIA and/or whoever maintains that watch list? Why have a watch list if no one is watching?
But, over and above that, you have to ask “why” after spending billions upon billions on aviation security wasn’t a fairly common explosive easily detected by bomb detection equipment detected by said bomb detecting equipment? After all, even if the CIA and State Department fumble the ball, couldn’t it be picked up technologically by the “system” at the airports designed to detect bombs?
Well, that brings us to the looting part of the title. Ask Sen. Chris Dodd where the money for that sort of equipment went. Apparently he managed to divert it to one of his pet projects which he figured had a higher priority than that of the lives of airline passengers. Here is the text of the amendment he introduced and was passed diverting funds for aviation security bomb detecting equipment to what the Washington Examiner calls a “notoriously ineffective program”:
Purpose: To provide additional funds for FIRE grants under section 33 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974)
On page 77, between lines 16 and 17, insert the following:
SEC. X (a) The amount appropriated under the heading “firefighter assistance grants” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” under by title III for necessary expenses for programs authorized by the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 is increased by $10,000,000 for necessary expenses to carry out the programs authorized under section 33 of that Act (15 U.S.C. 2229).
(b) The total amount of appropriations under the heading “Aviation Security” under the heading “Transportation Security Administration” under title II, the amount for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems under the first proviso under that heading, and the amount for the purchase and installation of explosives detection systems under the second proviso under that heading are reduced by $4,500,000.
(c) From the unobligated balances of amounts appropriated before the date of enactment of this Act for the appropriations account under the heading “state and local programs” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” for “Trucking Industry Security Grants”, $5,500,000 are rescinded.
You can’t get anymore specific than that. This too should be considered a “systemic failure” that is all too common in Washington DC. Obviously we have no idea whether equipment that 4.5 million might have bought would have been in place in Amsterdam to catch that bomber, but we do know that pulling it ensured it wouldn’t be somewhere, to include Amsterdam. And Democrats wonder why people don’t take them seriously when it comes to national security?
Just another, in a long line of reasons, that politicians like Christopher Dodd are the problem, not the solution, to many of our security issues. They don’t take it seriously and engage in behind the scenes looting of the very security mechanisms we’ve given our politicians as a security priority for pet projects. My guess is, other than what is found in the Washington Examiner, the analysis of what went wrong won’t contain anything about this shameful and irresponsible action by Dodd and the Democrats. But it damn well should.
In case you missed it, which is entirely possible, it appears one of the potential “show stoppers” for the reconciliation of the health care reform bill between Democrats in the House and Senate is no longer an issue. Surprisingly that would be the “public option”.
A week or two ago, the House Whip, Rep. James Clyburn, made it clear in an interview that the House wouldn’t be rubber stamping the Senate’s version of reform. No sir. Because, you know, the House isn’t some second class legislative body and it has certain requirements that must be in a bill, such as a strong public option, before the support of House Democrats can be considered to be behind it.
That, of course, was then. Now Rep. Clyburn is singing a different tune:
“We want a public option to do basically three things: create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies and to contain costs. So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I’m all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
When asked by CBS host John Dickerson whether he could give his support to a bill that has no public option, Mr. Clyburn said “Yes, sir, I can.”
I’m sure that Clyburn actually meant he wanted something which created more “choice for the insured” vs. “insurers”, but nevertheless his defense of dropping the public option is exceedingly weak by anyone’s standard. That’s not to say dropping it is a bad thing – obviously I’d like to see the whole bill dropped. But that’s not going to happen. However it is interesting to watch the willful self-delusion necessary to state the Senate bill does these things parroted by someone who was adamantly against the Senate’s version of the bill because it lacked that very thing he now says it contains.
And, of course, it doesn’t “create more choices for the insured” or more “competition for insurance companies” and it certainly doesn’t “contain costs”. It mostly increases government’s intrusion into the market by mandating coverage (Who is going to monitor and enforce that? Government.), requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions (Monitor? Government. Result? Increased cost.) and increase taxes (Enforced by? Government. Result? Increased cost, although not “direct”.).
It also leaves a significant portion of the uninsured uninsured. Well, not really. They either self-insure or pay a fine (or, got to jail). In fact, this bill is so bad that even the ever dependable statist hack Bob Herbert is having problems swallowing the “major accomplishment” line on this boondoggle. He’s not at all happy with one particular provision in the bill. Methinks it’s probably because Mr. Herbert knows he’s one who will be paying for it:
The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.
The so-called “Cadillac health plans” are those which cost more than what the government (via the Senate bill) has decided cost more than what it arbitrarily has designated as a “cost-effective” health care plan. In other words, it has declared a certain amount paid for health care coverage to be “enough” and anything over that excessive and taxable. The entire intent of the bill is to make those who enjoy better health care insurance benefits pay for the privilege through a tax penalty which will then subsidize those who don’t have insurance to the tune of 150 billion.
As Herbert realizes, that means a number of things might happen, none of which translate into “if you like your coverage, you can keep it”.
The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.
These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.
Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services.
Notice how it is in the private market that these “proponents” seem to be aiming their “cost cutting” knife. Tell me – how does cutting costs in these private plans at all effect the 89 trillion in future benefit obligations of Medicare and Medicaid? That’s where the unaffordable costs are. Isn’t that the area where government should be focusing its “cost cutting” effort? Sure it claims it will cut 500 billion from Medicare – something absolutely no one believes will be done. But this so-called “cost cutting” measure aimed at “Cadillac plans” is pure and unadulterated semantic nonsense.
There’s no benefit in terms of “cutting costs” to be found in taxing them. It’s a revenue stream, pure and simple. The “cost savings” rhetoric is purely to dupe those who don’t know any better. It does nothing to “cut costs”. In fact, it increases the cost of those plans. But it does accomplish two “progressive” goals – it levels the benefit field so the vast majority of people, most likely including the entire middle class, is on “equal footing” with everyone else, especially the “poor”. In fact, only the rich will enjoy Cadillac plans after the Senate gets done with it (oh, and the Senate of course, which has exempted itself from what we proles are allowed to have).
The other goal it will supposedly accomplish is ration health care consumption without calling it that (increasing the cost will impose self-rationing). And, it will do it through cost. Yes, irony of ironies, that was exactly the complaint progressives used to support government intervention in this market. But as we all know, the left is irony impaired. By jacking up co-payments to levels that hurt, people will indeed be less likely to consume health care. But that’s not a “cost cutting” measure no matter how badly progressives want to characterize it as such. Because someone will be consuming health care. It’s a finite product and government is in the middle of expanding the market by millions and millions at a higher cost (pre-existing conditions) than before.
Newt Gingrich is out there saying Republicans should be running on repealing this bill (obviously assuming it will pass and be signed into law). I agree. This is the perfect platform and perfect example of government out of control. The good news, if there is any, is the bill is structured in such a way (taxes begin immediately, benefits don’t kick in for 4 more years) that it can be repealed before the damage is done.
Unfortunately, and I say this based on history, the Republicans most likely won’t have the stomach to just repeal it and return to the status quo, or even better, pass legislation that enables the market (tort reform, sell insurance over state lines, etc). My guess is they’ll get wobbly and assume they have to pass some sort of nonsense that appeases the whining on the left. Of course it won’t appease the left’s whining – their compromises never do – but it will compromise the Republican’s principles – again. That’s assuming the same old faces that got the GOP in the mess it now finds itself in are still running the show then. I think you get my point.
So, in summary, the stage is set to pass this monstrosity. The stage is also set for the GOP to use its passage as a platform for electoral success and its eventual repeal. If even Bob Herbert understands that his travesty does much more harm than good, then the average voter is going to pick up on it as well. And since it is going to effect that average voter immediately while they see no benefit from the increased taxation, the GOP should have a very strong case to make. But they better have their ducks in a row and be willing, for a change, to actually stand on principle and then once in power, have the spine to implement those principles and do what is necessary to roll back government intrusion, power and spending.
And that, of course, is the weakness of the plan – the GOP has never, ever, shown it has the cajones to live up to its principles once in power. That’s because the perks of power are just too seductive and the incentives of the existing political system work at odds with any stand to limit them.