Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Whistling Past The Graveyard

Ezra Klein does what a lot on the left are doing since the Tea Party in DC – trying to pretend it doesn’t mean much. He does it by deciding the crowd was 30,000 to 50,000 (note to Klein, that’s acceptable only if you declare you’ve never looked at a single crowd picture from Saturday). At that size, it is fairly equal to the largest of the anti-war demonstrations. With that as his premise Klein trots this out:

Remember when the Iraq War protests stopped the Iraq War?

Yeah. Me neither. Nor, for that matter, does Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh, which leaves me a bit confused by their joyous reaction to the Tea Party that took place in Washington on Sunday. Estimates peg it somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 people, which makes it an admirable bit of organizing, but not a contender for the protest hall of fame. What it seems, rather, is the progression of a broader societal trend: The advent of online organizing is making it easier to connect large numbers of like-minded people and ask them to attend a rally. It’s done that for politicians like Barack Obama, protesters of all sorts and stripes, and even flash mobs.

If this was a flash mob, it was the granddaddy of flash mobs. Obviously it wasn’t. In fact it appears that the correct crowd size is “several hundred thousands”. Speaking of estimates, I’m seeing more and more nonpartisan estimates at 400,000 to 500,000.

That’s one heck of a lot of people with no real leadership gathering to protest the size and scope of government. And that’s what elected officials should find disquieting about this gathering. Klein tries to imply this was a product of “online organizing”. But it doesn’t really seem to be the case. Certainly the date was thrown out there and there’s little doubt that emails flew among certain groups, but there was nothing, organizationally, which would even approach organizational attempts like ANSWER or others on the anti-war side used to get protesters together.

It was more like “if you’re in the area and you have a problem with what’s being done in DC, stop by”. And about a half million did (not to mention the thousands upon thousands that went to local event like those held in Ft. Worth, TX and Quincy, IL).

This should give politicians pause. If that many people can be convinced to leave their couches and head toward the nation’s capital, how many who couldn’t make the trip but agreed are out there?

But the politicos and many pundits seem bound and determined to ignore what happened. What happened Saturday happened specifically because the half million who did show up are tired of being ignored. If you listen to David Axlerod, though, they’re going to continue to be ignored. In fact, worse than being ignored, they’re being dismissed:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod told Schieffer about the taxpayer protests this weekend: “I don’t think it’s indicative of the nation’s mood. In fact, I don’t believe some of the angriest, … most strident voices we saw during the summer were representative of the thousands of town-hall meetings that went on around the country — that came off peacefully, that were constructive, people voicing their points of view. …

“But this is … one of the great things about our country, is that people can express themselves, even if they’re not representative of the majority. … I don’t think we ought to be distracted by that. My message to them is: They’re wrong.

The message to Axelrod and Klein and all others who plan to continue to ignore this movement as insignificant, unrepresentative and “wrong” is pretty clear. Their arrogance borders on that of Louis XVI of France. And if they continue pushing the agenda of bigger and more expensive government, their end will be similar – a complete loss of power.

They still don’t get it – this isn’t just about health care.

~McQ

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Obama’s Earth Day Windpower Claim

Back on Earth Day of this year, while visiting a wind farm in Iowa, President Obama said:

“Now, in comparison,” Obama said, “Denmark produces almost 20 percent of their electricity through wind power. We pioneered solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in generating it, even though we’ve got more sun than either country.”

“I don’t accept this is the way it has to be. When it comes to renewable energy, I don’t think we should be followers, I think it’s time for us to lead.”

Well as with most of the things he’s been talking about lately, it is factually wrong and the only place it may lead is bankruptcy. You see, apparently, despite all but blanketing Denmark with wind turbines wind isn’t producing anything close to 20%.

The Institute for Energy Research cites a study which finds the statement made by the president to not be accurate (that doesn’t mean he told a lie – Obama was only repeating what was supposed to be true at the time):

The report finds that in 2006 scarcely five percent of the nation’s electricity demand was met by wind. And over the past five years, the average is less than 10 percent — despite Denmark having ‘carpeted’ its land with the machines.

In fact, Denmark, as small as it is, has 6,000 wind turbines and it still hasn’t enough to shut down a single coal fired power plant.  In fact:

It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

And, of course, the other part of the promise is lower rates and more jobs.

But those too have proven to be false claims:

Danish ratepayers are forced to pay the highest utility rates in Europe. And the American people are led to believe that, though wind may only provide a little more than one percent of our electricity now, reaching a 20 percent platform – as the Danes have allegedly done – will come at no cost, with no jobs lost and no externalities to consider.

Speaking of jobs, the report also pulls back the curtain on the wind power industry’s near-complete dependence on taxpayer subsidies to support the fairly modest workforce it presently maintains. Just as in Spain, where per-job taxpayer subsidies for so-called “green jobs” exceeds $1,000,000 per worker in some cases, wind-related jobs in Denmark on average are subsidized at a rate of 175 to 250 percent above the average pay per worker. All told, each new wind job created by the government costs Danish taxpayers between 600,000-900,000 krone a year, roughly equivalent to $90,000-$140,000 USD.

The obvious lesson – beware of all claims coming out of any politician’s mouth. They’ll pick and choose any “fact” that supports their agenda and not do a lick of research to ensure it is true. Spin is is king and they have absolutely no shame about spinning you until you puke.

But here’s the other thing to watch for now – since we now know that Denmark hasn’t even approached 20% electricity produced by wind, and this info is available to both the president and his advisers, if we hear it again, then it most likely is a lie.

~McQ

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Political Dialogue Is Just Now “Coarsening”?

In his 60 Minutes interview yesterday, President Obama remarked on the state of political dialogue:

President Barack Obama said in an interview to be aired Sunday night on “60 Minutes” that he sees “a coarsening of our political dialogue.”

“The truth of the matter is that there has been, I think, a coarsening of our political dialogue,” Obama told Steve Kroft in an interview taped at the White House on Friday evening.

“I will also say that in the era of 24-hour cable news cycles, that the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention. And so one of the things that I’m trying to figure out is: How can we make sure that civility is interesting?”

So what’s his point? Well there are two. One is he doesn’t believe he and his ideas/agenda aren’t getting the news coverage they deserve because the “loudest and shrillest voices get the most attention”.

Of course, that was something the left counted on when they were in opposition to the Bush administration. But now that they are the establishment, they suffer the same problem the right did for 8 years. They’re not news. You’d think the “reality based” community would understand that dynamic.

That brings us to the “coarsening political dialogue”. The premise, of course, is it wasn’t coarse before, or at least, not as coarse.

Two points: one – it was just as coarse if not coarser prior to January 20th of this year. Anyone remember Harry Reid calling the president a liar and a loser? Nancy Pelosi claiming Bush was “incompetent?” Those are two of a myriad of examples that any reasonable person would agree are examples of “coarse political dialogue”. So I’m not buying the “coarsening of political speech” that Obama believes is happening. The difference between now and then is the “coarse speech” is aimed at him and what he’s doing.

Two – the coarsened speech occurred after January 20th of this year and well before Joe Wilson – the target of this particular riff by Obama – uttered a word. Citizens were denounced as “un-American” by Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. They were called “evil mongers” by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. Various Democratic Congress persons called them “brownshirts”, political terrorists and a mob.

Certainly political dialogue is coarse right now, but it is nothing new, certainly not worse than before and when you consider the examples I’ve given, definitely not the exclusive provenance of the right.

Obama’s remark about all of this seems to have a slight hint of whining about it.

~McQ

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Media’s Credibility Continues To Tank

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the media’s credibility is at its lowest level since the poll has been taken (1985). Skepticism about the truthfulness of the media is rampant.

The survey found that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research’s previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy.

The AP points out that the poll didn’t differentiate between bloggers and broadcast and newspaper reporters. The obvious implication is that “the internet” may be a primary reason the numbers are so low. I may have missed it, but I don’t know of any bloggers who present themselves as news people. Most of blogging is commentary on the news, the newsmakers or the media and its handling of the news. While “new media” might suggest that bloggers are on a par with what is commonly referred to as the MainStream Media (MSM), it’s simply not true. Few if any bloggers claim to be “journalists” (but there are journalists who are bloggers).

AP then reports:

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

Carroll hopes the increased scrutiny and accountability fostered by the Internet will lead to better journalism.

“We’re in the early stages of a changing relationship between news organizations and consumers, who are becoming much more vocal about what they like, what they don’t and what they want to know,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “It’s not always pretty or pleasant, but that engagement can and does help improve coverage.”

The “internet” isn’t some amorphous blob. The part of the “internet” which “increased scrutiny and accountability” is the blogosophere. And that underlines the way the roles have broken out in the media as a whole – something the “internet” and blogosophere now figure in prominently. The monopoly on what is news as well as how that news is reported has been irrevocably broken.

It is that which the MSM is dealing, and, in most cases, it isn’t dealing with it well.

When the price of publishing dropped to the cost the price of an internet connection fee, the monopoly was broken. No longer consigned to letters to the editor (which may never be published), the people were able to speak out in various forums, but primarily through blogs. The result has been pretty stunning. Now a much more dynamic and democratic group decides what is news and how it is covered. In many cases, the MSM has been forced to cover stories it has obviously tried to ignore.

That is most likely one of the primary reasons their credibility remains low. In 1985 about 55% believed newspapers and broadcasters generally got things right.

By 1999, the figure had fallen to 37 percent. The only time the Pew survey recorded a significant shift in the media’s favor was in November 2001, when 46 percent said they believed news stories were accurate. Dimock attributes the anomaly to the sense of goodwill that permeated the United States after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The most recent poll found just 29 percent believed news reports had the facts straight. (Eight percent said they didn’t know.)

Similarly, only 26 percent of the respondents said the press is careful to avoid bias. The figure was 36 percent in 1985.

As has been the case for years, television remains the most popular news source. The poll found 71 percent of people depend on TV for national and international news. Some 42 percent said they relied on the Internet, 33 percent turned to newspapers and 21 percent tuned into the radio. (The figures don’t add to up 100 percent because some people cited more than one medium.)

A decade ago, only 6 percent of the survey participants said they leaned on the Web for their national and international news while 42 percent relied on newspapers. (TV also led in 1999, at 82 percent).

If you read this carefully, you realize that the credibility problem for the MSM began well before the internet, seeing a slide from 55% in ’85 to 37% in ’99. ’99 is when the internet began to be a factor. But note that even then, only 6% said they used it for their news source. In 10 years that has grown to 42%, faster than any other source.

And what has the internet and blogs been most successful at doing? Fact checking the MSM and pointing to bias. That’s one reason only 26% now believe the MSM to be unbiased in their reporting.

Obviously the media world is changing, and as AP’s Carroll says, the MSM is still trying to come to grips with the change. What seems to finally be dawning on the MSM is the “new media” isn’t going to go away. In some cases they’ve been successful in co-opting various players. But with bars to entry as low as an internet account, there are always new players who will enter the “new media” market. The MSM may as well resign themselves that fact and step up their game (maybe they need 4 levels of editors) unless they want to continue to see their credibility shredded.

~McQ

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Uncle Osama Wants You!

Just when it seems we’re putting al Qaeda between a rock and a hard place, we’re seeing talk about leaving Afghanistan. While we may feel we’ve a way to go against the Taliban, we seem to be succeeding against our number one enemy – al Qaeda:

Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida is under heavy pressure in its strongholds in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas and is finding it difficult to attract recruits or carry out spectacular operations in western countries, according to government and independent experts monitoring the organisation.

Speaking to the Guardian in advance of tomorrow’s eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, western counter-terrorism officials and specialists in the Muslim world said the organisation faced a crisis that was severely affecting its ability to find, inspire and train willing fighters.

Its activity is increasingly dispersed to “affiliates” or “franchises” in Yemen and North Africa, but the links of local or regional jihadi groups to the centre are tenuous; they enjoy little popular support and successes have been limited.

It is getting harder and harder to recruit “martyrs”. And, apparently, the organization has been so brutal that it is welcome in few areas. Meanwhile drone attacks continue to decimate its leadership. And those they do recruit are all but driven off once they get to their training site:

Interrogation documents seen by the Guardian show that European Muslim volunteers faced a chaotic reception, a low level of training, poor conditions and eventual disillusionment after arriving in Waziristan last year.

In other words, they become disillusioned cannon fodder. And, of course, word gets back and the supply of more cannon fodder slows to a veritable trickle.

This is called having an opponent on the ropes. We now need to do what is necessary to knock them out for good.

~McQ

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Compounding The Problem?

The “too big to fail” intervention in the financial realm may have put us in an even worse position:

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize- winning economist, said the U.S. has failed to fix the underlying problems of its banking system after the credit crunch and the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

“In the U.S. and many other countries, the too-big-to-fail banks have become even bigger,” Stiglitz said in an interview today in Paris. “The problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis.”

A comforting thought.

Stiglitz said the U.S. government is wary of challenging the financial industry because it is politically difficult, and that he hopes the Group of 20 leaders will cajole the U.S. into tougher action.

“We aren’t doing anything significant so far, and the banks are pushing back,” he said. “The leaders of the G-20 will make some small steps forward, given the power of the banks” and “any step forward is a move in the right direction.”

Key phrase – “politically difficult”. I.e. it may cost the Democrats and Obama some political capital. Wouldn’t want them to have to make difficult political decisions, would we – so the hope is they can “outsource” it. Make the decision out to be one that a group of leaders came up with and thus a broad consensus that gives the administration some political cover.

“It’s an outrage,” especially “in the U.S. where we poured so much money into the banks,” Stiglitz said. “The administration seems very reluctant to do what is necessary. Yes they’ll do something, the question is: Will they do as much as required?”

That depends on what that political cost is calculated to be.

“We’re going into an extended period of weak economy, of economic malaise,” Stiglitz said. The U.S. will “grow but not enough to offset the increase in the population,” he said, adding that “if workers do not have income, it’s very hard to see how the U.S. will generate the demand that the world economy needs.”

The Federal Reserve faces a “quandary” in ending its monetary stimulus programs because doing so may drive up the cost of borrowing for the U.S. government, he said.

“The question then is who is going to finance the U.S. government,” Stiglitz said.

Indeed – and here we are set to spend even more money on a pet domestic issue.

Why?

~McQ

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BlogTalk Radio – Tonight 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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

Subject(s): “The speech” and the 9/12 protests and what each mean for health care reform and the Democrat’s (and Republicans for that matter) future plus anything else that strikes our fancy.

Michael and I will be winging it tonight – Dale’s doing other things. The broadcast will only be available on BlogTalk Radio.

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Imagining Racism At Every Turn

You have to read Maureen Dowd’s column in full to understand how far the left will go to try to make any disagreement with this administration into racism. They still believe that the political correctness they’ve attempted to impose on the country over the least few decades makes that charge into a magic bullet they can use to stifle debate.

No matter how tortured the logic, now matter how spare the evidence, and despite how much evidence to the contrary they have to ignore, if they can swing it, the big “R” card is going to be played.

And of course it all emanates from the liberal premise that the right in the is country is obsessed with the president’s race and therefore all opposition against him is based in racism.

How does Dowd set it up? With her imagination, of course – assuming unspoken but racially charged words:

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

Of course that’s what she heard – she’s the racialist. She hears the word “racism” in the caw of a crow.  She’d certainly have no problem imagining that’s what Wilson was really saying, would she?

And naturally, she introduces race immediately in a very subtle way with her description of the Republicans present. The use of “middle-aged white guys” is a sure sign that a racialist is about to pounce.

Then there’s this sweet little move:

I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.

I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

One assumes the “shrieking lunacy” of the past 8 years completely escaped Dowd’s attention (it didn’t – she contributed to it), but her denunciation of what has happened this summer (and yesterday in DC) is he way of calling everyone both a loon and a racist: “I’ve been loath to admit the shrieking lunacy of the summer … had much to do with race.” But the implication is unmistakable – she does consider them to be about race, loath to admit it or not.

So now that she has the “you’re all racists” group tarring done, this is where she again works from some false assumption to bolster the case. She, of course, has the prefect foil for the task at hand – Joe Wilson. She describes him in lovingly racialist terms – member of the Sons of Confederacy (I wonder if she checked to see if he had ancestors that fought for the confederacy), wanted to keep the Confederate flag waiving on the capital, and apparently mistakenly denounced as a “smear” the claim that a black woman was the daughter of Strom Thurmond who she feels obliged to remind us ran as a segregationist candidate for President in ’48 (She conveniently forgets to remind us that Thurmond was a Democrat at the time then as well).

However now having set Joe Wilson up properly, she leverages that to make everything that has happened on the right this past summer to be tinged with race. And then she plays what she believes is the most damning bit of “evidence” to wrap it all up in a neat little Dowdified racist ball.

After extensively quoting James Clyburn of SC – who sees a racist behind every tree – she lays this out there:

For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.

The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to “break” the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was “just one of Michelle’s ancestors.” Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.

Rusty DePass? Who in the heck is Rusty DePass and why is he included with DeMint and Sanford, or even Wilson? Well, quite simply, without DePass Dowd has nothing. A little known political activist in SC, who has never successfully run for office (gee, wonder why?) makes a racist joke on his Facebook page and that somehow links DeMint, Wilson and Sanford to him? Does DePass’ inappropriate joke mean that DeMint’s opposition isn’t based in an understanding of the damage this president’s agenda would do to the country, or Sanford’s desire to not take the money isn’t rooted in his belief state’s rights without federal strings, or that Wilson’s outburst, as inappropriate as it was, couldn’t be about actually believing that he was being lied too?

Nope, they’re all racists trying to bring down the black president. It’s an amazing performance by Dowd, but it  is so poorly crafted and unconvincing that even the White House has blown it off.

But this isn’t the last you’ll see this contemptible tactic used, believe me. The side obsessed with race is not the right. The side who makes everything about race is not the right. And, as with this example, the side that looks more and more desperate when it plays the race card is not the right.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of it.

~McQ

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So How Big Was The DC Tea Party?

The Daily Mail (UK) carries the story about the Tea Party in Washington DC:

Up to two million people marched to the U.S. Capitol today, carrying signs with slogans such as “Obamacare makes me sick” as they protested the president’s health care plan and what they say is out-of-control spending.

The line of protesters spread across Pennsylvania Avenue for blocks, all the way to the capitol, according to the Washington Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Now perhaps the count is a bit high – Michelle Malkin quotes Parks and Recreation estimate 1.2 million and DC Police 1.5 million.

Other outlets, such as the Washington PostNY Times, ABC, MSNBC and AP describe the crowd in the thousands or tens of thousands.  Fox and CBS used the AP report.  CNN merely said the crowd stretched “for blocks” although one of the pictures accompanying the story claimed “thousands” had attended the rally.  And ABC has since sent an email out saying it never reported 1.5 million as was misattributed to them, but think the crowd size was only “60,000 to 70,000” based on a report by “the Washington, D.C., fire department.”

It was that email that got me interested in the number because it seemed ABC was really upset about being attributed with saying the rally as big as 1.5 million. And frankly, and I may be wrong, but I’ve never heard the DC fire department quoted previously in crowd estimates. Parks and Recreation? Yes. DC Metro Police? Yes. Fire Department? Uh, no.

Of course you can see where I’m headed with this – look at the line up of those reporting “in the thousands”. Look at those reporting in the “millions”.

I’m just interested to see how this all shakes out, because while I’m not at all good at crowd estimates, the few pics I’ve seen show a pretty large gathering considering some of the protests I’ve seen documented in DC.  Perhaps it’s just too early in the news cycle for there to be enough information to make a guess beyond “thousands” or “tens of thousands”, but when an overseas newspaper is talking about “2 million”, it makes you wonder why they’re comfortable with that number and our domestic outlets aren’t.

~McQ

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Census Bureau and ACORN Part Ways

And given ACORN’s history and recent problems I say none too soon. The plan had been to have the ACORN be an integral part of the Census Bureau effort in 2010. But ACORN’s past has caught up with it (the little sting operation in MD and DC probably didn’t help) and the Census Bureau, bowing to the public’s concern, is cutting the organization loose.

“Over the last several months, through ongoing communication with our regional offices, it is clear that ACORN’s affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 Census efforts,” read a letter from Census Director Robert M. Groves to the president of ACORN.

“Unfortunately, we no longer have confidence that our national partnership agreement is being effectively managed through your many local offices. For the reasons stated, we therefore have decided to terminate the partnership,” the letter said.

Now the next goal ought to be to find a way to defund the organization, i.e. pull all of its federal funding. If it want to engage in “community organizing” let it fund itself the old fashioned way – beg for money.

Meanwhile, it appears MD has decided it may prosecute the filmmaker who exposed ACORN.

~McQ

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