Thursday, September 30, 2010

Election Disaster Update

Let’s do a quick update on the latest election news, because it continues to look pretty darn bleak for the Democrats. . . and it’s getting bleaker. Indeed, the estimates for the number of House seats the Republicans will win keep going up, and the Democrats have begun infighting.

1. First, we have this little tidbit. Republicans are now leading in 54 Democratic House districts. In 19 more districts, the Democratic incumbent remains below 50% and the Republican challenger is within five points. Thus, some commentators are now raising their estimates to 73 seats. The modern record was 74 seats in 1922.

2. These numbers could actually be higher, but there is no polling for 160 Democratic House seats that were considered too blue to bother with. . . until now. So no one knows the full extent yet of what is going on. BUT, a ton of interest group money is pouring into what were considered “marginal” races, i.e. races where the Democrat was assumed to win with no problem. In some cases, millions of dollars in ads are being run against Democrats who last won re-election by as much at 10-15%. Money is a stronger indicator than polling of what is really happening.

3. Right now, Republican leaning independent groups are outspending Democratic leaning independent groups 4-1 in House races and 7-1 in Senate races, and large Democratic donors are holding back support.

4. In the Senate: In deep, deep blue Connecticut, Linda McMahon has pulled within 5% of the Democrat, putting that seat back into play, especially if there is a depressed Democratic turn out. New York Republican Joe DioGuardi is within 1% of Kirsten Gillibrand and has momentum, while NY Democrats seem to be imploding in scandal and infighting. And Harry Reid remains stuck in a dead heat somewhere between 44% and 48% each. This could mean a nine seat swing, which would bring the Senate to 50/50, and put Joe Biden to work.

5. Most Democrats are running away from the administration, and none are running ads defending ObamaCare, card check, the stimulus, the GM takeover, cap-and-trade, Iraq, or financial regulation. Instead, they are almost uniformly running negative ads against their Republican opponents. Most are touting their “independence” (no matter how fake) and some are actively running against their party:
• Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly is running against “Pelosi’s energy tax on Hoosier families.”

• Alabama Democrat Bobby Bright refused to say that he would vote for Pelosi as speaker again, as did Texas Democrat Chet Edwards.

• North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy is actually touting how he voted for the Bush agenda.
I don’t put any faith these assertions as Democrats always play this game. . . lying is part of their cover-up, but Democratic insiders fear this will harm Democratic turnout because it’s turned so negative.

6. As Joe Biden tells Democrats to stop whining (always a great campaign slogan), Obama is whining that the Democrats aren’t motivated to support him. Also, he’s been blasting the Republicans every day for a week or two now, but it doesn’t seem to have helped -- his polls numbers keep hitting new lows all over the place. The latest to declare a new low is CNN, which had him at 42% support.

7. The Democrats just adjourned without voting on the Bush tax cuts, giving the Republicans yet another issue: a vote to adjourn is a vote for a tax increase. The 47 Democrats who “wanted” to vote to extend the tax cuts are now exposed as lying. . . again.

8. Ethics troubles continue to catch up to the Democrats. This time it was former lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti pleading guilty to funneling more than $380,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Democrats Jim Moran (Va), Peter Visclosky (Ind.), and John Murtha (Hell), who directed $137 million in defense contracts to Magliocchetti’s defense contractor clients. Even the MSM is saying that Pelosi’s ethics pledge has failed.

9. Bob Woodward just released a book that makes Team Obama look like a collection of infighting idiots and blows away any idea that they are competent when it comes to Afghanistan. It also continues to show Obama as indecisive and without military support.

10. Word has leaked out that the rats are planning to flee the White House, led by Chief Rat Rahm Emmanuel (leaving Friday). Apparently, even David Axelrod is leaving, ostensibly to start working on Obama's re-election campaign. Pre-election staff changes are a sign of turmoil.

11. Obama has given up on Strategy 517: Demonizing John Boehner, and is now moving on to Strategy No. 518: attacking the Republican Pledge which no one knows anything about. . . or cares about. If the election doesn't come soon, they will run out of strategies.

This is what happens during a route, and it’s only going to pick up speed as the situation gets worse and the Democrats get more desperate.

33 Days to Go!

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LA Times Allows Editorial Opposing Jihadist Threats

The Los Angeles Times is not exactly known for its opposition to jihadists, and it loves free speech threatening violence, so long as the free speech comes from Islamofascists threatening anyone who dares to say something un-Islamic. But it did allow an article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Daniel Huff to go into print.

The writers are proposing that instead of merely lamenting death threats against those who "dishonor Islam and its Prophet," it's time to pass legislation making it a crime to threaten death or injury to those who criticize either Islam or jihad. Now considering that America has a First Amendment, that's not a slam-dunk. The wording of the statute would have to be very carefully drafted so as to avoid restricting speech which is merely offensive toward non-Muslims. There is the clear and present danger test to go with the "realistic and reasonable fear" tests that death threats produce.

Given that Ayaan Hirsi herself had to flee the nation that had elected her to office, and the brutal murder of Theo van Gogh for mocking Muslim extremists, it doesn't seem a stretch to believe that such statutes could be enacted without torturing the meaning of the First Amendment. Consider also Molly Norris, the Seattle cartoonist who merely suggested "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" as a way of expanding the number of potential victims to such a degree as to dilute the threat. She is currently in hiding, having changed her name and canceled her identity to escape the very real Muslim threats.

Liberals will of course oppose any such legislation, complete with their idiotic misunderstanding of the purposes, intent and wording of the First Amendment. The same people who have no problem supporting "hate speech statutes" that apply to their voting pool of non-victims are unalterably opposed to restricting Islamic death threats. Of course their lily-livered fear of being targets themselves is also a major factor in their support of jihadists. They feed the beast in the hopes that it will consume them last.

Likewise, liberals will fail to see that they themselves obtained legislation that curtailed speech which contained realistic threats of death or bodily harm during the height of the abortion rights wars. Facing the realistic threats of radical abortion foes, they got federal laws making it a crime to threaten abortion providers and clients and providing for civil damages. But the right to threaten critics of Islam is deeply embedded in their mindset, while their belief in the right of free speech for those critics is a hole in their belief system.

The legislation would not be a cure for crazed jihadists, but it could at least make a dent in their ability to threaten. Just because a statute can't stop all crime, that is not an excuse for passing no legislation at all. It would gain international attention, and some judgments might even be enforceable overseas. Those convicted in absentia would be hesitant to come to the United States to carry out their threats. Those making the threats on US soil would be immediately subject to the jurisdiction of American courts. The civil portion of the statute would allow plaintiffs to do some severe damage to the pocketbooks of terror purveyors, and would also vitiate the problem of our current Department of Justice being reluctant to prosecute bullies, gangsters and jihadists.

While the liberals complain about "chilling free speech," threats of death or great bodily harm have never been protected by the First Amendment. Yet the liberals are incapable of seeing the chilling effect death threats have on genuine free political and religious speech, the only kind actually guaranteed by the Constitution. Citizen juries are capable of distinguishing between an idle "I'm gonna kill ya" threat, and a "you have defamed the Prophet, and we are now ordering your death" threat.

Violent hate groups such as the Aryan Church and Neo-Nazis have been prosecuted and sued into near-oblivion because of their threats to blacks and Jews. Why should Islamic terrorists be immune? When a radical antiabortion group posted the names, photographs and addresses of abortion providers on "wanted" posters, even the leftist Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that to be a threat not protected by the First Amendment. There is no reason to assume that the US Supreme Court would hold any differently when faced with a clear and direct jihadist threat and legislation forbidding it.

Those of you who read my posts know that I am a strong advocate of the First Amendment right to be offensive as hell. I would protect without hesitation the right of Muslims to caricature Christ, and call Jews pigs. But when they threaten to kill Christians who criticize Islam or to kill Jews simply because they're Jews, I have no problem with law enforcement and the courts coming down very hard on them.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Star Trek TNG Take Down. . .

Today I’m introducing a new feature, which I’ll run every so often on Wednesdays: the Star Trek TNG Takedown. Basically, I’ve been watching a lot of STNG and the daffy liberalisms are swelling my brain. So I’m going to poke a few holes in their goofy world, because there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Jean-Luc, than are dreamt of in your contradictory and nonsensical philosophy!

Today’s takedown involves the episode “The Survivors,” from Season 3. This episode begins with Jean-Luc and the weepy ship Enterprise responding to a distress call from a Federation colony on Delta Rana IV. As they arrive, they discover that the entire planet has been devastated (and not in a good way), except for one square little patch of land.

Ignoring the fact that destruction on that scale would rob the planet of its atmosphere, the crew beams down to discover an AARP couple, Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, two retired gangsta rappers. We soon learn that Kevin is not what he appears to be. Indeed, it turns out he’s a creature called a (Maureen) Douwd, an immortal energy creature who describes himself as a being “of great conscience.” Uh huh. . . if you gotta tell people what you are, then you probably aren't.

When Jean-Luc queries Kevin about what happened, Kevin tells him that an evil race called the Husnock attacked the colony. Kevin didn’t join the other colonists in defending themselves because he thinks of himself as a pacifist. But when he saw Rishon killed, i.e. when this war affected him personally, he abandoned his pacifistic principles and wished the Husnock into the cornfield. . . all of them. Yep, peaceboy killed 50 billion men, women and children. But don’t worry, they were all bad.

Well, peaceboy turns himself over to Jean-Luc for punishment. And what does Captain Inconsistent do? He whines that Kevin has suffered enough, and he declares “we have no law for what you’ve done.”

WTF?? Are you kidding me?!

Have you ever looked in a law book Jean-Luc? I’m pretty sure in the section “crimes against humanity” (a liberal favorite), you’ll find a little thing called “genocide.” Indeed, you’ve whined about this law before whenever someone wanted to kill a “race” of robots or a unique machine, plant, animal or mineral. . . or eat the last cookie. Kevin is a citizen of the Federation, putting him under Federation jurisdiction -- an issue Jean-Luc rarely lets stand in the way of one of his self-righteous speeches -- and he admits killing all 50 billion. So how about it, Jean-Luc? Slap the cuffs on this space Hitler!

Sorry. Not this Jean-Luc. Oh no. This Jean-Luc thinks Kevin’s “suffered enough.” Really? I don’t recall Jean-Luc (or any liberal for that matter) ever accepting such a defense to a crime they truly despised. Nor does Kevin appear to be suffering as he’s simply recreated his wife, his house and he’s having a good old time continuing to live his life.

What we have here is classic inconsistent liberal justice. Jean-Luc, who loves to throw around the word “genocide” to show his moral superiority to all the people he’s "not" judging, suddenly can’t bring himself to say the word when he’s faced with an honest to Q genocide because he likes Kevin and he feels bad for him. Or, more accurately, he feels like he would feel bad if he were Kevin. He never once thinks about the 50 billion slaughtered aliens, nor does he investigate what really happened here. Maybe they came to arrest Kevin for buggering their sheep? Doesn’t matter, Kevin seems honest. . . apart from his lying to Jean-Luc throughout the episode and his mental battery of Troi. Besides, what’s 50 billion rotting corpses among friends?

Is this justice? Hardly. Jean-Luc whines about justice, but when faced with implementing it, he defaults to an arbitrary rule where he decides right and wrong based on his own whims at the time. And far from implementing any sort of universal justice, he only looks at one side of the equation, i.e. he only considers how this will affect the guy he sees before him. He doesn't think about the victims or the message this sends to the future or to other would be sheep buggerers. How is that justice?

Why have laws at all?

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Messiah Denied

Have I got a treat for you! What is it? It’s Grade A, prime cut leftist anguish. An anti-Obama rant crawling with conspiracies and hand-wringing. Hmm good. More interestingly though, it shows us the problem Obama and the Pelosicrats will have in this election and it possibly portends an even bigger danger for them: civil war. All of this and more from a post entitled: “Dump Obama”!

Here is the “article” in question:

Dump Obama: more urgent than ever.

After all, a movement can be built around a candidate. That is what happened in 2008. There was a vibrant Obama movement, and when he revealed himself to be a corporate hack -- most egregiously in the healthcare debacle -- the movement was left high and dry. It had no solid principles, no organizational vehicle, no tactic, that was not dependent on Obama's leadership. Evidence of this was around jobs creation. After healthcare, unemployment was to be the "next big thing." When all Obama offered was a few more tax breaks for small business, the left had nothing to offer, nowhere to go.

And now Obama thinks he can spit in our eye with impunity.

Contrast this with 1968. McCarthy lost the nomination fight in Chicago. Kennedy died. The movement did not die. The anti-war movement did run up against its own limitations, not the least of which was lacking a plan that extended beyond Nixon ending the war, and a plan on how to move away from the campuses. So it then died. It was transformed into a strictly candidate movement -- the George McGovern movement in 1972 -- and it went down with him. But it did not die with McCarthy and Kennedy.

I’m not surprised that someone noticed that the whole time the Democrats were bashing Wall Street they were simultaneously doing its bidding with a vengeance, but I am surprised anyone on the left noticed. They usually accept the Democrats’ rhetoric and assurances of “good intentions” as enough. Not anymore?

In any event, this raises some interesting questions:

First, does this confirm the Democrats have lost the left? I think so. Another post at this website (Open Left) answers the question “what is the difference between Democrats and Republicans” thusly: “Democrats don't believe in their own policies, and don't want to talk about them. Republicans do.” That’s not love.

Secondly, what does this tell us about the success of the progressive takeover of the Democratic Party? The progressives spent billions of Soros dollars trying to take over the Democratic Party, doing everything from getting their own people into leadership positions to dominating the communications outlets that support them. If you believe the post above, all of their efforts got them nothing. I think that's mistaken. They did win the party, but they put their trust in the wrong guy, a guy with no experience, no intellectual curiosity, no actual ideology except unfocused anger, and no real interest in doing anything more than enjoying the perks of office.

Third, could this be the beginning of a reformation for the left? The left is in trouble worldwide because it has nothing to offer except spite. Indeed, leftism once boasted an impressive (if wrong) intellectual tradition, but that ideology has given way to factionalism. The modern left consists purely of whiny, hateful, self-described victims whose sole “ideological” concerns are to punish those they despise. To compensate for surrendering in the war of ideas, they now put their faith in leaders who they hope will impose their will, even as they aren’t willing to explain what their will really is. I’ve explained this before HERE and you can see it confirmed above. If the left were to abandon hero worship and replace it with ideas, then it might once again become a thriving ideology. But I don’t see that happening. For while this leftist whines about no longer putting all of their eggs in the basket of a single leader (a wise move), their lack of ideology requires it. How else do you implement something you are afraid to discuss openly and which is little more than a collection of grievances? Moreover, the reflex to put your faith in an expert to solve your problems is a personality defect that requires more than simply getting upset at your latest savior. Thus, they may be finished with Obama, but the next messiah is just around the corner.

All in all, this paints a grim picture for the Democrats. These people won’t be placated before November and probably not by anyone currently in power. Indeed, I’m thinking this may be the opening salvo in a new civil war. And if the history of leftist civil wars has taught us anything, it is to watch for purges, some terrorist actions (political and otherwise), and an attempt to destroy the village to save it.

Get your popcorn ready!

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The New Democratic Agenda!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a sucker for lost causes. So this weekend I decided to take up the lostest causes of all: the Democratic Party. To help them, I put together an agenda that would regain the initiative for them in 2010 and beyond. Yes, I did that thing. Follow this plan my Democratic friends and you will win this election. . . guaranteed. Without further adieu, I present to you the new Democratic Agenda:

1. The Freedom From Speech Act: People hate hate speech. This act will ban any speech that anyone might consider offensive and any words that could be used to express such thoughts, no matter how such words are spelled on twitter.

2. The Random Choice Act: Discrimination is everywhere and our government has turned a sight-impaired eye for far too long. This act will ban discrimination of any kind, rational or irrational, in any kind of choice. That’s right. To end the specter of discrimination, this law will hereafter require that all decisions be made using a random decision generator, with the results posted on the internet.

3. The American Film Re-Restoration Act: Have you ever been to the movies and just found yourself so offended because of hidden messages in the films? Are you tired of seeing thinly-burqaed two hour promotions for the NRA? Does it bother you that films hide behind stereotypical bad guys when we all know who the real bad guys are but the rich white men who run studios won’t let us tell the truth? Well, we’re going to set aside $850 billion stimulus dollars to correct the film-based injustices of the past. Our first plan will be to repair Saving Private Ryan by digitally removing all the guns, by replacing these so-called “Nazis” with Republicans, and by moving these “Nazi” deathcamps to Crawford, Texas.

4. The George Bush Did It Act: From now on, by law, once a week, all editorialists will voluntarily write how something they have complained about during the week can be attributed to George Bush.

5. The Let My Voters Go Act: Prison discriminates against criminals. You don’t see non-criminals locked up. This seems like an insidious form of discrimination. This act will free all criminals unless the prison can prove that it has not unfairly targeted the convicted.

6. The Carbon Free America Act: There is an element in nature that is dangerous beyond all others. The release of this element causes the planet to warm, it can be radioactive, breathing it can kill you, and it can seriously scorch your droid. Rich Republican businessmen love this element, and they all possess it. . . carbon. It’s time we stood up to this monster to make the world safe for our children. Hence, this legislation will require the country to go 100% carbon free. That’s right, we’re going to do whatever it takes to rid our country of carbon.

That or we could just introduce a new logo.

Anything you would add?

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Here Lies Ozymandias, King of Kings

No, that's not the man in the picture. The dejected looking semi-corpse is Muammar Gaddafi (this week's spelling of the name) who wants to be king of kings, but his fellow Africans just won't let him. No matter how much he pays them. Alexander wept because there were no nations left to conquer. Muammar weeps because the people he buys just won't stay bought.

Each year for the past three years, the very wealthy Gaddafi has put on one of his ostentatious all-expenses paid vacations for the various leaders of the African nations in hopes of forming a United Africa, with himself as king. I specifically used the word "king" because there's no resemblance whatsoever to an elected president or prime minister. Idi Amin's generalissimo and president for life would be the closest thing to it, or perhaps the Kim regime in North Korea.

Six months ago, Qaddafi tried to have himself re-elected to the one-year chairmanship of the African Union, but couldn't even pull that off. He really wanted that position because the AU is the largest organization in Africa determined to form something resembling a United States of Africa or a Union resembling Europe's federation. The AU would have fast-tracked that concept with Gaddafi as leader, but instead is now being run by his much-hated "gradualist" allies.

What is really peculiar about all of Gaddafi's machinations is the determination to create something as anachronistic as a king. The main opposition to this comes from the two sub-Saharan nations of South Africa and Nigeria. His support, tepid as it may be, comes largely from the strongmen and tribal chieftains of the more backward and destitute African nations. But as the representative of Zambia's Tonga tribe put it: "Most of our traditional leaders here are very poor and as such they are just agreeing with everything without objection." In other words, "anyone who can put on a party like this and give us freebies is a king in our book."

It seems that Gaddafi is envisioning something faintly akin to the Holy Roman Empire. A vast feudal congregation of nations varying in governmental form and leadership, but united under one leader. But "king" is not a word that has been bandied about much outside of Africa of late. Still, it is rumored that Gadaffi already had the papers elevating him to that position, waiting only for the signatures of the various heads of state present at the gathering in Tripoli.

Gaddafi has delusions of adequacy, and in his pipe dreams envisions himself as a king, or maybe even an emperor. Still, the thing that seems to have hung many of the delegates up is not the kingship itself, but Gaddafi's clear intention to make the throne hereditary. Even the Holy Roman Empire had pretensions to electing its emperors. Gaddafi's document doesn't specifically mention hereditary monarchy, but very noticeably goes out of its way not to mention time limits on the king's rule nor any provision for a successor. By default, that seems to mean hereditary monarchy.

Gaddafi has sons to assume the throne, and there's something eerie about his favorite son's name--Hannibal. I wonder what Rome thinks about that. But I digress. Before we entirely laugh off the concept of a king in the modern world, we do have to remember that there are many kings and queens in modern Europe, although I don't think Gaddafi has the idea of a true constitutional monarchy in mind. He will want to be both the head of state and head of government, and undoubtedly the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Lest anybody have any doubts about Gaddafi's real idea of kingship as an elected monarchy responsible to an elected legislature, consider his own words: "There would be no elections because there are dozens of examples of people who have lost their lives across the continent because of election disputes." So much for a republic led by a titular king. He solved that problem in Libya by simply murdering all his opponents, their supporters and fellow-travelers. Now it's all cozy and peaceful in his country. You do understand, don't you?

Another problem for Gaddafi (although he has the remedy) is that there are large Christian presences in Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa. In addition, there are also large numbers of animists in central Africa. Gaddafi is a jihadist Muslim, and recently sent 1,000 troops to launch a Muslim campaign to end Christianity in Uganda. He has also made his contempt for black Africans known, most particularly by his ejection of thousands of black workers from Libya and imprisonment of thousands more for nothing more than attempting to rise to positions of authority in labor organizations or start their own businesses in competition with Arab Muslims.

And if you didn't grasp the racism there, how about his attempt to coerce the European Union into giving him $6.3 billion to organize a project to keep black Africans out of Europe because, in his own words, blacks are "starving and ignorant." By dividing and insulting most of the rest of Africa, Gaddafi's bribes just don't convince even the most insular of African statesmen that he has the temperament or ability to organize a United States of Africa which will exert its rights and authority without mass murders and suppression of the majority African population.

One last question. Am I the only one who thinks that Muammar Gaddafi is actually Mickey Rourke in disguise? Well--have you ever seen them in the same place at the same time? I have heard from a friend whose sister's uncle's friend knew a grad student from Columbia who visited Libya once and saw Rourke getting into Gaddafi drag. How much more proof do you need? I sense a major international conspiracy.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Meg Whitman Has A Champion

Meg Whitman recently discovered what a great many Republican candidates are discovering. You don't mess with Chris Christie or his friends. At a Whitman campaign event in California, Christie took on a heckler in the inimitable Christie manner that is becoming a big reason to have him at Republican events.

Whitman was making a speech when a heckler in the audience started shouting epithets and disrupting the event. "What are you hiding? You're looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a dress," shouted Ed Buck. Big mistake when the big man is on the podium.

Christie waded into the crowd and defended the honor of his lady fair. OK, enough with the allusions to medieval chivalry. But it was a joy to watch. I'm still not sure whether the heckler was a Democrat, a libertarian or a disgruntled Republican. But it really doesn't matter. Bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of party affiliation, or lack thereof. This clown didn't want to wait for a Q&A session, or even to let Whitman finish her remarks. He just wanted to interrupt and get his fifteen minutes of fame.

Christie armed himself with his lethal weapon, his forefinger, and let the big-mouth have it. "You want to yell? Yell at me, but don't give her a hard time" quoth Christie. "It's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We're here to bring this country together, not divide it." That got the crowd on its feet and cheering--as much for Christie as for Whitman.

The leftist spinmeisters went into full attack mode almost immediately. Christie became the bully. The heckler was just exercising his right to free speech (never mind that he was denying Whitman her right to free speech). Christie's confrontational style was the real issue (as opposed to Obama's listless demeaning style, I suppose). Ed Schultz at CNN couldn't come up with any logical reason for criticizing Christie's defense of Whitman's right to speak, so he just called Christie a "smug bully and a fat slob." That's pretty much what former New Jersey Corzine called Christie, and we all know how well that worked out.

Meg Whitman is perfectly capable of defending herself, but there was something charming about an old-fashioned gentleman taking it upon himself to intercede on behalf of a damsel in distress. Not to mention, I'm really enjoying watching a no-nonsense male politician get in the face of men (and occasionally women) who claim victimhood, a monopoly on genteel behavior, and big mouths. The gloves are off, the future of the republic is at stake, and politics ain't beanbag. Now I'm just hoping to see a New Black Panther attempt to stop Christie from voting. That should be a sight to behold.

Invitations from Republican candidates for Christie to appear at their events are increasing at breakneck speed. I suppose I should add that Christie has disproven the adage that real men don't eat quiche. Christie looks like he eats a lot of quiche. Well, I say, more girth to him!
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Republican Agenda: A Stinker

It’s fairly obvious the Republican Pledge hasn’t excited anyone. The candidates have given it lukewarm support at best, typically calling it “a good start,” and then never mentioning it again. The public pretty much ignored it. Conservative bloggers picked out a couple acceptable pieces and shook their heads at the rest and the missed opportunity. I’m feeling less charitable. I see it as sad confirmation that the Republican leadership doesn’t get it, and I see them blowing a greater historic opportunity than was handed Obama in 2008.

Here’s the good as I see it: The existence of this document shows that the Republican leadership finally understands that being the party of “Not-Obama” won’t help them once they get into leadership.

Now let’s talk about the bad:
• It’s 21 pages long. The public won’t read a document this long, you can’t incorporate it into a political message, and this demonstrates a disorganized mind that doesn’t know how to explain what it believes. Moreover, it’s oddly “talky” at times, like a drunk arguing with himself.

• The more you need to tell people that your plan is “new” and “different,” the less likely that is to be true, and saying this as often as the Pledge does sounds paranoid.

• It’s wonkish. It’s long on jargon and insider ideas and short of anything the public can relate to. When a “Pledge” starts providing specific examples of how taxes affect a family of four and it credits Deloitte Tax LLP for the example, you know the author has no idea what the purpose of a pledge should be. This pledge reads like an IRS instruction manual.

• Oh look, meaningless charts.

• It mistakes minutia for significance. For example, they’re going to rein in the “Red Tape Factory” and put an end to “the 191 regulations” that cost employers $100 million a year! Why, that’s almost 0.000007% of the American economy! Perhaps they meant "reign in"?

• They’re going to cancel the stimulus. Great. But then they say they want to cut discretionary spending to 2008. Of course, 2008 is the year the government got into the “spend like a drunken sailor” business. They should have picked 2006 if they’re serious.

Moreover, they’re excluding entitlements and defense spending from these cuts, making this promise entirely meaningless. Indeed, they’re talking about saving all of $100 billion. . . less than 0.3% of the budget. Aim high my friends.

• They continue tinkering with the tax code. For example, they propose giving a 20% tax “deduction on income” for small businesses. That’s nice, but what about reforming the system across the board rather than carving out more confusion?

• Too much of it lacks specifics. They’re going to stop “job-killing taxes,” I guess the rest are safe.

• They want to end government control over Fannie and Freddie. . . which means what exactly? Are they going to end the laws that made lenders give out bad loans too or are we just going to cut these mega-slush funds free from oversight? How about eliminating them instead?

• They’re going to root out waste and duplication in government. . . a standard, meaningless promise that usually costs taxpayers more than it saves.

• They plan to put "hard caps" on discretionary spending, which sounds great except those caps are routinely and bipartisanly raised.

• They’re going to cut the Congressional budget, which sound great but is like promising to drink one less glass of water when your house is flooded.

• They promise to take "the long term view" on entitlements, a promise they immediately break by not mentioning entitlements again except to exclude them from cuts.

• In health care, they promise to repeal ObamaCare, which is good. They will allow insurers to sell across state lines, reform medical malpractice laws and expand HSA accounts, all of which I like if the details match -- there are no details. They promise to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion, which is about time. Then they promise to “use common sense to strengthen the doctor patient relationship.” That’s right, you will now get a free dinner for two with your doctor at the federal restaurant of your choice. Oh, and they’re going to improve your marriage by fiat and make your kids smarter and less ugly. Would someone serious about reform make this kind of nonsense promise?

• The entire plan to reform Congress is inside baseball and won’t change a thing. I’ve addressed it here: LINK.

• Their foreign policy stuff is awful. They’re going “to keep terrorists out of America.” Thank God, I thought they were going to issue invites. Actually, this cryptic statement is about keeping Gitmo open, which hasn’t been an issue since Obama decided to ignore his promise to close it. They’re opposed to foreign terrorists having “Miranda rights,” another issue that went away when the Democrats decided that fighting a war is harder than bashing Bush. They favor tough sanctions on Iran, which of course don’t work, and parroting Obama’s campaign plan is pretty ridiculous. They also plan to secure the border and enforce immigration laws. . . believe it when you see it.
Let’s be honest, this Pledge stinks. It lacks vision. . . actually, that’s not quite right: its vision is “let’s turn the clock back to 2008.” It will do nothing to stimulate the economy, free up our economy, encourage hiring or investing, cut the growth of government, rein in the expansion of government, improve health care, correct our mistaken foreign policy, bring energy independence, improve education, or anything else.

This document reads like someone focus-group tested every idea of the last 10 years and then picked all of those that scored "somewhat positive/indifferent." It’s written by people who don’t understand politics or governing, and its authors delude themselves if they think it will address voters' concerns or change anything except the direction of the public's anger.

Sorry, no sale.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Racist Democrat Runs Again In California

It's always interesting watching Democrats accusing Republicans of racism, even though they can't produce any evidence of it except that Republicans disagree with them. Yet when a Democrat make an outright, unsubtle racist remark, the mainstream media are blissfully unaware of it. And when it's pointed out, they simply deny it.

Fourteen years ago, Representative Loretta Sanchez defeated long standing Representative Bob Dornan ("B-1 Bob") in an election that reeked of voter fraud. Still, the area of Orange County, California that Sanchez represents had become less white, less wealthy and more Hispanic. That fact contributed to Sanchez's continuing re-elections over the next six House cycles. Her questionable victory in her first election was not truly attributable so much to ethnic hostilities as it was to simple changing demographics and Democratic control of the election machinery.

For those who know Bob Dornan, there is the additional fact that he was always his own worst enemy. In a completely safe district, it's not a good idea to make outrageously hostile remarks about the opposition party, even when most of what is being said is true. But it won't cost you an election. When the district changes demographics and becomes almost equally Democratic, it's time to learn a little tact. Dornan never learned tact.

Move forward to the present. Demographics are changing again in what is now the 47th Congressional District, and Sanchez seems to be repeating Dornan's mistakes, with the additional charm of racist remarks which Dornan never made. You see, when the district changed from middle-class/wealthy white to working class/Hispanic, Sanchez just loved talking about Democratic openness to all races and the restrictiveness of the Republican "White Man's Club." So what has changed?

Over the years, apparently while Sanchez was busy being a wise Latina, the district began to welcome a large Asian community, particularly Vietnamese immigrants escaping the communist massacres and repression following the fall of Saigon. Each generation of Vietnamese came here legally, worked hard, followed the rules, obtained earned citizenship, and became the new creators of business and employment in the district. Sanchez is faced with a Republican candidate of Vietnamese descent who is a naturalized citizen. When Sanchez praises minorities, like most race-baiting politicians, she means only her own special ethnic group.

During her recent campaign, Sanchez showed up on Univision, the Spanish-language and leftist leaning "news" station which is highly popular among Hispanics in Orange County. You don't need to speak or read Spanish to know what she said: "Los Vietnamese y los Republicanos" are trying to take the seat away which rightly belongs to the Hispanic community (which means of course, to Sanchez).

Now what do you suppose the mainstream press (the Los Angeles Times for instance) would have said if a white candidate in Newport/Balboa (also Orange County) had said "the Hispanics and the Democrats are trying to take away the Congressional seat which rightfully belongs to a white northern European?" The hysteria would have been ear-splitting, and the mobs would already be descending on the candidate's headquarters. The only thing that the candidate would be missing is a "secret language" unknown to "the others" to make his racist statement.

Sanchez is not the brightest crayon in the box. She thinks she is living back in 1985 when she could make a statement like that and not have a blogger or talk-radio station pick it up. In an era of instant communications and millions of unpaid watchdogs, it was inevitable that she would get caught playing her ethnic card. Sorry, Loretta, there are no secrets anymore, and you can hide behind the mainstream media, but you can't escape the scrutiny of the free internet.

As far as the Republicans go, I have to say "a plague on both your houses." While the Democrats were gleefully gerrymandering districts to be safe for "minorities," the Republicans were perfectly content to go along with it because at the same time safe white middle-class districts were being created for them. Sanchez is wrong, wrong, wrong. Her district is not an Hispanic, or Vietnamese, or black, or anything district. It's an American district, and a California district. If the demographics change, and it means a Vietnamese Republican will get elected, all whining about white racism becomes just the shrill cry of another failed Democratic politician.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

What's Wrong With Black And White?

I often wonder about black and white films. Filming in black and white was a real art form. Some directors were masters at it. . . others weren’t. Since they didn’t have color, they had to use shades of gray and shadows to convey depth and meaning. And often the results were really impressive. Indeed, many times the images produced were much more striking than color films could achieve. But the thing about black and white is that it’s not my preferred way to watch a film, and I don’t understand why.

I like black and white films, I really do. My list of top 50 films certainly includes a good number of black and white movies. But I admit that watching a black and white film is not my first choice when it comes to picking a movie. I don’t know why this is. My first thought was that this was just because of the era from which these films came. Indeed, between the censorship boards, the more simplistic story telling techniques, and the often stage-like acting, I thought that maybe the problem was one of content?

But then I realized that I would be even less interested in a modern black and white movie. Indeed, for the one or two modern black and white movies that pulled it off, there are a dozen more where this gimmick just turned me off completely. And if you told me that you planned to make a black and white film today, I would probably lose interest in the film at that point.

So maybe the problem is in the black and white itself? Maybe it’s the fact that it’s only “half an image” when movies that include the “whole image” are readily available? But then how do we explain the draw that black and white photography has? And if it is only a problem of being half an image, then you would think that colorizing would have made these films complete. . . but that atrocity only robbed these films of their charm.

In the end, I suspect that the problem with black and white is that it’s become like literary classics: we don’t see them as “entertainment” anymore so much as historically, culturally or educationally significant. Thus, they fall into the same category as Shakespeare. And while I love every word Shakespeare wrote, he’s hardly my first choice of what to read on a lazy afternoon. For that, I look for something “entertaining.”

And that of course begs the question about 3D. Right now, 3D is a gimmick, but it’s becoming a reality. As they develop 3D televisions that don’t require glasses, look for 3D to replace 2D across the board. At that point, all the films we’ve known over the past 60 years will seem as strangely dated as black and white seems today. Will they suddenly seem less entertaining as well?

It's hard to imagine that a film like Predator 2 might one day be seen as a "classic." But then, I'm sure people felt the same thing about Invasion of the Body Snatchers or pulp noir films.

What do you think?

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Judiciary Committee Does It Again

Barack Obama, the great constitutional scholar, seems to think the law and the Constitution should be matters of emotion rather than intelligent thought. So rather than use an illustration of what kind of judges he should be presenting to the Senate, I thought I'd use an illustration of the way he thinks the judiciary should operate.

Yesterday, Obama was given his wish by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Of the eleven judges voted on in committee, five were controversial re-appointments who had been previously rejected or stalled by the committee. Four of the five were voted out favorably, and the fifth was postponed. That's the bad news. I'll discuss the five briefly, including the nominee I love to hate (whom I hope you'll recognize from my previous posts).

First--the postponement. Robert Chatigny is Obama's nominee for a seat on the Second District Court of Appeals. He'll have to wait awhile. There was simply too much dissension on the committee, including some Democrats to move his nomination forward to the full Senate. Chatigny loves death-row inmates, and the more perverse the crime, the better Chatigny likes the criminal. His most famous ruling in favor of a subhuman murderer was the case of the "Roadside Strangler," Michael Ross. Instead of finding Ross's sexual sadism as a factor in aggravation (in other words, a higher end of the punishment ladder) as the jury and judge below did, Chatigny found Ross's perversity to be a mitigating factor requiring a reduced sentence.

Ross tortured, raped and murdered six women in Connecticut with ages ranging from fifteen to twenty-five. Chatigny ordered two stays of execution of the Ross death penalty as a district court judge, and both stays were reversed by the appellate court. So Chatigny tried a different course of action. When the case came back to him, he browbeat the defense attorney into filing another death penalty appeal, even though Ross had decided that after twenty years of appeals, he just wanted to get it over with. Chatigny had decided that Ross suffered from "death row syndrome," and thus was no longer competent to make his own decisions. No--I didn't make that up.

And it gets better. In reviewing the case again on appeal from Chatigny's order once again staying the execution, it turned out that the appellate court investigators found out that Chatigny had been a member of Ross's defense team when he was in private practice before being appointed to the bench. He had called his client "the least culpable person on death row." That resulted in successful ethics complaints and one Connecticut Representative calling for Chatigny's impeachment.

His track record on appeal is worthy of the regularly-reversed Ninth Circuit, but that seat already had a nominee. Chatigny did sentencing downward departures in eight out of twelve child pornography cases, and in the remaining four, issued the federal standard sentence. He never issued an upward departure from the basic guidelines in a child pornography case. Maybe Obama felt he needed a friendly judge to protect the Safe Schools Czar from prosecution for his inordinate advocacy of sexual activity for kindergartners and his fondness for child pornography.

Second: The approval of Edward Chen to the federal bench for the Northern District of California (yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's the one located in San Francisco). The vote was 12 to 7 along straight party lines. Chen began his legal distortion career as an ACLU lawyer. While sitting as a federal magistrate (think "judge with limited powers'), Chen said he felt no patriotic pride when hearing America the Beautiful. but rather he felt "ambivalence and cynicism." Well, that was probably the clincher for Michelle Obama, the president's most important adviser.

He has made numerous public and recorded statements which clearly indicate that he would not be a neutral judge. Consider, for instance, that he has stated that he will always rule in favor of affirmative action and against English-only statutes regardless of the law, precedent and points and authorities. In other words, his mind is made up in advance, and nothing as petty as the law is going to get in his way. His position on judicial temperament is "judges have to make determinations that draw not so much upon legal acumen, but on an understanding of people and of human experience." That echoes legal scholar Barack Obama's view of the judiciary, despite it sounding much more like the words of a sociology lecture than a legal one.

He was very emotional about the 9/11 attacks. But not in the way you might think. "One has to wonder whether the seemingly irresistible forces of racism, nativism and scapegoating which has occurred so often in our history can be effectively restrained." Look out, Hussein, they're comin' to getcha. It's a good thing the Ground Zero mosque isn't located in his jurisdiction. He topped the 9/11 statement with his view that "criminalization of illegal immigration is institutionalized racism," and also stated that "the slow response to Hurricane Katrina was due to racism." Well, I guess we know where this civil rights lawyer is headed, don't we?

Third: Sleazebag former ambulance-chasing personal injury attorney Jack McConnell was passed to the full Senate on a 13 to 6 vote. Good ole Jack hates business and espouses the discredited labor theory of value. McConnell was a pioneer in the disreputable practice of private attorneys acting in place of the official advocacy of attorneys general. You see, an attorney general cannot benefit from his position as a public advocate by receiving a contingency fee--but a private attorney can. And what did McConnell do with his ill-gotten gains? You guessed it, he gave large amounts of political cash to the political campaigns of the attorneys general whom he stood in for. Pure coincidence, I'm sure.

If McConnell didn't like the decisions of the courts, he ignored the canons of ethics and publicly attacked the intelligence and integrity of the judges who disagreed with him. In his advocacy of the shaky theory of damages in lead paint cases (well, at least he wasn't channeling dead babies), he was soundly rejected by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. His reasoned judicial approach to the rejection of his outcome-based legal philosophy was to state that the R.I. court was letting "wrongdoers off the hook."

Fourth, we have Obama darling Louis Butler, nominee to the federal bench for the Western District of Wisconsin. It was another party line split of 12 to 7. The Supreme Court in Wisconsin is an elective office, and the Wisconsin voters twice rejected Butler for a seat at that bench. Third time's the charm, and he finally pulled the wool over the eyes of enough voters to get the seat. Well, piffle. Obama wishes to educate the people of Wisconsin by going over their heads and appointing him to the federal bench.

During his stint on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Butler frequently overrode the legislature and formerly binding precedent to obtain the result he wanted. He arrogantly wrote opinions which said, in essence, that if the legislature couldn't get it right, he would simply use the court to impose his own policies.

Here's a Butler opinion that is absolutely breathtaking in its arrogance and stupidity. Butler stated in a manufacturing liability case that "the manufacturer may or may not have produced [a product] which may or may not have caused the plaintiff's injuries," based on conduct that may have occurred over 100 years ago when some of the defendants were not even part of the relevant market. Huh?

In another Alice-in-Wonderland decision he wrote that a voter-approved state constitutional amendment clearly written to expand gun-carrying rights instead limited gun-carrying rights. And you'll love this one. Because of his ability to win reversals of criminal convictions on arcane procedural grounds having nothing to do with guilt or innocence, he earned the nickname Loophole Louie.

Fifth and last, but not least, is my previously announced bete noire, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Goodwin Liu. This clown is so bad that I did not one, but two posts on him in the past: A Perfect Nominee, and Nomination Drones On. Liu also was passed on to the full Senate by a 12 to 7 party line vote. The short version is that Liu has neither practiced law nor sat on the bench. He has spent his entire career as a law professor, most recently at the University of California Boalt Hall School of Law at Berkeley.

His legal philosophy (which would be no different from his judicial philosophy) is that health care and welfare are constitutional rights. He is an economic ignoramus and a social engineer, opining that "expanded health insurance, child care, transportation subsidies, job training and a robust earned income tax credit are affirmative Constitutional rights." Not that they are a good idea, or might be legal, but that they are constitutional rights.

Liu is enthusiastic about ignoring the Constitution and precedent when foreign law is so much better. He has written articles which either mimic or instruct the Obama legal philosophy: "Judges are not bound to apply the Constitution according to its written meaning, but rather are free to adapt the Constitution in light of changing needs, conditions and understandings of our society." Then why the hell do we need a Constitution in the first place, Mr. Liu?

Instead of being nominated to a federal appellate seat, Liu should be taken out behind the woodshed and beaten into consciousness with a copy of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. He should then be required to spend at least two hours a day asking himself: "What would James Madison do?"

OK, that was all the bad news. The good news is that there are more Republicans in the Senate than there were when Liu and the others were rejected the first time, Democrats outside the Judiciary Committee are running scared, and it would be nearly impossible to get these law school truants to a vote in the full Senate before the November elections. Only McConnell received a single Republican vote (I don't know which Republican and I hope someone can enlighten me on that). The makeup of the Judiciary Committee probably won't change substantially if the Republicans fail to take control of the Senate, but the greater number of Republicans in the Senate make the confirmation of the radical nominees less likely by the day. Promises of a filibuster of Liu and Chatigny are already in the works.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Worry About The Lame Duck Congress Is Lame

Daily it becomes clearer that the Obamists and leftist Democrats are in real trouble. They have just gone back into session, and they still have major goals that they want to accomplish, but won't have time to debate and bring to votes before the November elections. They are already trying to attach socialist and bureaucratic legislation to defense bills in hopes nobody will notice. It isn't working. The DREAM Act ploy just failed.

So now, the big worry among Republicans and conservatives is that after the Democrats lose the House and possibly the Senate, they will attempt to ram their agenda through before the new Republicans can take their seats in 2011. Let's stop the hysteria. First of all, we don't want to start using the word "unprecedented" since lame duck Congresses doing the opposite of the electoral will of the people is hardly unprecedented. Republican Congresses have done it, and so have Democrats.

Next, as much as I put nothing past the leftists, if they couldn't accomplish their massive governmental takeover when they had a huge majority in the House and a filibuster-proof Senate, how likely is it that they could pull it off now, when their numbers have already been depleted? Republican crossovers, on the other hand, become less likely because the message at the ballot boxes is going to be "stop this out-of-control train!" RINOs who didn't get the message earlier and are not up for re-election in this cycle are not going to risk being bumped off in the next election after they get the November report card.

In addition, the Democrats have a wind-testing, poll-watching president who will not give them any support for lame duck radicalism after his party loses control of Congress. Obama truly is a socialist prole, but more importantly he is in love with himself and wants the American people to feel the same way. He will even soften his big government socialist rhetoric when his party is handed its teeth in November. The day after the November elections is the first day of the next Obama for Messiah cycle, and he's not going to screw that up by encouraging lame duck Democrats to find a way to pass legislation that will cause an even bigger public revolt in two years.

There is also the big scare tactic that Democrats who lose their seats will work extra hard to take revenge on the public for disavowing them. These are politicians, for God's sake. Some will immediately start working on looking reasonable and misunderstood (particularly House members who only have to wait two years to run for their old seat) and will not risk alienating the public entirely by spitting in their eye. The remainder will be too shell-shocked to do much of anything. They thought their districts were safe forever and that the Democrats would never, never, ever lose control of Congress. Many will just be thinking, "What am I going to do now? Am I going to have to look for a real job? Omigod, there aren't any. We killed them all."

As much as it's a good idea to watch out for sneaky leftists desperation maneuvers, it is far more important that the Republicans concentrate on developing a simple, clear and positive message about what they intend to accomplish after November. Trying to use scare tactics about a lame-duck session is like trying to scare little children with the boogeyman. First, it makes the Democrats, even those who lose, look like the victims of irrational right wing propaganda if the lame duck session doesn't try to push unpopular legislation. Second, if they do try something, the Republicans merely need to stay united and show that they were prepared for but not shaking in their boots over such an eventuality.

The Democrats might want to write and compromise on some kind of energy bill before they vacate their seats so they can claim some kind of accomplishment. But such a bill is unlikely to resemble in any way the radical cap and trade and carbon emission controls that they have tried to pass before the elections. Any additions to Obamacare are dead on arrival. That leaves the union favorite, card check, and the Bush-era tax cuts. The card check proposals are becoming less popular by the day as regular people come to understand that card check prevents free union elections and coerces membership in new potential union shops.

Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, then rewriting them the same way or extending them temporarily for everyone except those "earning" over $250 thousand is their best shot at lame duck legislation. People are starting to catch on to the fact that a wage-earner making $250 thousand is well off, but the small to medium-size business owner, who is the engine for job creation and innovation is put in the same category as the wage earner, and is therefor paying taxes on $250 thousand dollars when his or her real income from the business after costs may be less than his lowest-paid employee.

The Republicans are absolutely right about extending all the Bush tax cuts, and better yet, making them permanent. But their message is muddled, and the Obamists have suddenly discovered how effective it is to talk about "retaining the tax cuts for the middle class" when they don't even really understand what the middle class is comprised of. They've always made the middle class the enemy of the poor, downtrodden and helpless. That class warfare nonsense isn't playing well now, so they've switched to praising the middle class by claiming to protect their tax status. It's all smoke and mirrors, ignores sound economics and the Laffer curve, but for the uninitiated, it sounds good.

Republicans should quit warning everyone about a lame duck disaster, and instead concentrate on getting out the message that the Democrats' claim to be preserving the middle class tax cuts is an outright lie on one side, and pure ignorance on the other.

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Solving The Riddle of the Tea Party

It’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around the Tea Party. What had me confused was the strangely contradictory messages it seems to keep sending. It wasn’t until I realized that there are two “Tea Parties” (one real, one fake) that all the pieces began to fall into place. And now that I understand what’s going on, I can firmly say that the Republican leadership/establishment is doomed, the Democrats are about to become a permanent minority, and the country is undergoing a seismic shift that will reshape our politics. . . and not everyone is going to like it.

Let’s start with the real Tea Party. When I’ve spoken with actual Tea Party people and I watched their responses to events, a clear pattern began to emerge. These people are largely new to politics and they come from across the political spectrum. They are bound together by a common set of beliefs that they feel is no longer represented in Washington: smaller government, fiscal sanity, an end to interest group politics and corruption, and the replacement of ideology with common sense principles. And most importantly, they are serious about remaking the country to reflect these views, i.e. they have no interest in being a mere protest movement. Indeed, they have set goals and then methodically gone about learning how to achieve those goals.

Moreover, unlike other interest groups, these people are not interested in power, money, fame or political theater. They resent celebrity, which they see as not serious, and anyone who tries to exploit them. Indeed, they disdain leaders entirely. We know this from several facts. First, they are loosely organized with no chain of command, an unheard of structure for a political movement. Secondly, they’ve refused to anoint a leader; indeed they reacted angrily whenever anyone tried to claim the mantle of Tea Party leader. Third, they’ve set about doing the kind of work that doesn’t require a leader. In other words, rather than rushing to the Jones campaign and demanding that Jones be made President so (s)he can impose the Tea Party agenda, they’ve set about infiltrating the Republican Party from the ground up and doing whatever they can individually to fix whatever they can reach. They are in essence a million do-it-yourselfers who have decided to renovate their portion of our political system.

All of this adds up to something fascinating and truly rare in human history: a spontaneous popular movement. Popular movements occur when a critical mass of people suddenly all get the same idea AND choose to act upon it. These are really rare and really powerful. In fact, the only ones I can think of are the Civil Rights Movement, the abolitionist movement, the fall of Eastern European communism, the French Revolution, and the creation of Protestantism.

What separates these from the way societal change normally happens historically is that most change is the result of a determined group of leaders seeking to impose change upon the population from the top down. Examples of this range from the Communist Revolution to the Inquisition to the American Revolution. By comparison, a popular movement is based on a shared set of ideas and tends to be leaderless, meaning that the movement draws its momentum and goals from the collective beliefs of its participants and it spreads person to person until it simply overwhelms the old way of doing things from the bottom up. This makes these movements impossible to combat and much more permanent because the change happens in the very belief system of the population. For example, the Civil Right Movement didn’t just make discrimination illegal, it changed the culture so that people began to view discrimination as wrong and thus turned against the practice whether or not it remained legal. Moreover, you can’t stop a popular movement by discrediting its “leaders” because they aren’t what drives the movement; they are in fact irrelevant to it.

If this is an accurate assessment of the Tea Party, and I think it is, then the future looks like this: the Tea Party represents a permanent major realignment in American thinking, from which a new Republican Party will emerge as thousands of Tea Party people flood the GOP and instill their values in it. I understand this is already quietly happening. This will take some time, but it is inevitable, and its completion will be marked by a purge of the leadership.

When completed, the New Republican Party will advocate (1) smaller government, (2) fiscal sanity, (3) an end to government-sponsored privilege, and (4) an end to the party’s cozy relationship with lobbyists. This means an end to the relationship with K-Street and Big Business. The New Republican Party also will place a lower priority on social issues and likely won’t be as ideologically strident, which probably means a rocky relationship with the Religious Right, though the two groups clearly share some views, i.e. ending government funding of abortion. (As an aside, don’t confuse the Tea Party with the Libertarians on either social or economic issues; the Tea Party is not anti-government so much as it favors a humbler government, and it’s not libertine by any stretch.)

As a result of these changes, I would envision the establishment wing leaving the party. In their place, I would look for conservative Democrats, who are finding themselves unwelcome in the increasingly far left Democratic Party, to join this New Republican Party. This should produce a strong, lasting majority.

So what took me so long to figure this out? It’s this second “Tea Party” I mentioned, which had me confused just as it’s blinded the establishment to the true nature of the real Tea Party. What the establishment sees as the “Tea Party” is a group of opportunists who spend their time trying to get headlines. These people are political and celebrity opportunists, lobbyists, armchair revolutionaries, and establishment conservatives looking to hijack political muscle. These are the people who were for the bridge to nowhere before they found it brought them more celebrity to be against it, who charged fees to speak at Tea Party events, who disclaimed leadership of the Tea Party while trying to become its national spokesman, who formed alleged-Tea Party groups using lobbyist money and put lobbyists on their board of directors, who claimed to support the Tea Party (after attacking it) while trying to redefine it to fit their own ideologies. These people are a rogues gallery of bogus-outsiders who use victimology and conspiracy theories to build a cult of personality, and who skillfully exploit a symbiotic relationship with the media to further their own fame and fortune. These people have nothing to do with the real Tea Party and are merely a distraction to a movement that does not need them.

I know some of you won’t accept this fact, but it’s true. The Tea Party has no leaders because it is not a movement that is amenable to leadership -- it is not a cult of personality sitting at home waiting for the right politician to lead it to the promised land. It is, instead, a million average people all struck by the same idea at the same time who are going quietly about achieving their individual goals. They've learned that they cannot rely on politicians to change the system, so they’ve decided to change it themselves.

Thus, put your faith in a Palin, a Bachmann, a Beck, an Armey at your own risk, for they don’t represent what is really going on. For that, put your faith in a BevfromNYC or a PittsburghEnigma and a million others like them. . . they’re the ones who are changing the world.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Senate Races Update

You may have heard about a little thing called the 2010 election. Let’s see how things are going in the Senate. A total of 36 Senate seats are up for grabs. Of those, 18 are currently held by Republicans, the other 18 are held by Democrats. Those numbers are going to change.

Safe Republican Incumbents
Richard C. Shelby -- Alabama
John McCain -- Arizona
Johnny Isakson -- Georgia
Michael D. Crapo -- Idaho
Charles E. Grassley -- Iowa
David Vitter -- Louisiana
Tom Coburn -- Oklahoma
Richard Burr -- North Carolina
Jim DeMint -- South Carolina
John Thune -- South Dakota

Republican Seats Leaning/Safe Republican
42% Joe Miller (R)
27% Lisa Murkowski (I)
25% Scott McAdams (D)
41% Marco Rubio (R)
30% Charlie Crist (I)
23% Kendrick Meek (D)
61% Jerry Moran (R)
28% Lisa Johnston (D)
54% Rand Paul (R)
39% Jack Conway (D)
53% Roy Blunt (R)
43% Robin Carnahan (D)
New Hampshire
51% Kelly Ayotte (R)
44% Paul Hodes (D)
49% Rob Portman (R)
41% Lee Fisher (D)
58% Mike Lee (R)
28% Sam Granato (D)

Democratic Seats Leaning/Safe Republican
65% John Boozman (R)
27% Blanche Lincoln (D)
50% Dan Coats (R)
34% Brad Ellsworth (D)
North Dakota
69% John Hoeven (R)
25% Tracy Potter (D)
49% Pat Toomey (R)
41% Joe Sestak (D)
51% Ron Johnson (R)
44% Russ Feingold (D)

Democratic Toss Up/Undecided Seats
47% Barbara Boxer (D)
43% Carly Fiorina (R)
49% Ken Buck (R)
45% Michael Bennet (D)
41% Alexi Giannoulias (D)
37% Ron Kirk (R)
48% Sharron Angle (R)
48% Harry Reid (D)
Republican Seats Leaning Democratic

Democratic Seats Leaning/Safe Democratic
53% Richard Blumenthal (D)
44% Linda McMahon (R)
53% Chris Coons (D)
42% Christine O’Donnell (R)
New York
49% Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
39% Joe DioGuardi (R)
51% Patty Murray (D)
46% Dino Rossi (R)
Safe Democratic Incumbents
Daniel Inouye -- Hawaii
Barbara Mikulski -- Maryland
Chuck Schumer -- New York
Ron Wyden -- Oregon
Patrick Leahy -- Vermont
The Senate currently sits at 59 Democrats to 41 Republicans. Interestingly, none of the 18 Republican seats up for grabs appear to be leaning toward the Democrats. Of the 18 Democratic seats, nine are considered safe, four remain up for grabs, and five appear all but lost. Thus, the Republicans should do no worse than 54 Democrats to 46 Republicans. Assuming that the toss ups go as they currently stand only gives the Republicans one more seat: 53 Democrats to 47 Republicans.

This is worse than our prior estimates because the Democrats have improved their changes in Nevada, Delaware and Connecticut. However, I still suspect Reid will lose in Nevada because he has yet to break the 50% mark and undecideds tend to go against the incumbent. Also, I suspect there will be a 2-3% boost for Republicans across the board based on voter enthusiasm. Even with this, however, it still appears that the Republicans will do no better than 52-48.

So let’s hope the enthusiasm stays high for 2012.

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It's Not That Simple...

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss how the Tea Party is bringing much-needed common sense back into politics. But before I do that, I want to dispel this idea that governing should be simple if we only used common sense. What I'm talking about is best illustrated in a recent commercial which asked, “what would the world be like if firemen ran it.” As the firemen sit in the legislature, the chief asks, “who wants clean water?” Everyone raises their hands, and the chief says, “easiest job in the world.” Sadly, many people believe this utopian view is how government should be and they see any suggestion that governing is more complex than that as an attempt to keep "real" people out of government. This is utter nonsense.

To explain why, let’s start with the most basic principle ensconced in law. This is one we can all agree upon and which most people view as so entirely obvious and unambiguous that they think it could be put into law “as is,” and they complain that only a lawyer could see ambiguity in it: thou shalt not kill. Unambiguous, right?

Well, let me ask: what if I kill in self-defense? Suddenly, we've found an exception and the statement is no longer as inviolate as it seemed. But this is only one exception and everyone understands what self-defense is, right? Ok, is it self-defense if I kill someone who wasn’t actually trying to kill me? Does his intent matter or how I perceived it? What if I acted preemptively, before he made the threat? What if I started the fight or if I could flee with no danger? What if I killed an innocent bystander in the process? Does it matter if the danger passed before I finished the killing? Does it matter if I was defending someone else instead of myself? What if they didn’t want my help? What if I was drunk? What if someone else made me drunk or a medication made me lose touch with reality? What if the medication was illegal? Ok, forget self-defense, what if my killing took place on a battlefield where the government instructed me to kill? Can I kill in the government's name? Anyone at any time? What if I’m violating orders? What if I kill an enemy soldier who has surrendered? What if I kill a friendly soldier by mistake? What if I kill purely by accident? What if the accident resulted from my carelessness or recklessness or indifference? What if I built a dangerous product that I knew would kill someone? What if I only suspected it might? What if they misused it, but I knew they probably would? What if the person I killed was about to die anyway? What if they were being eaten by a shark, and they asked me to shoot them to stop the suffering? Does any of this apply to animals? Should it apply to a fetus? What if the woman was on her way to get an abortion when I killed the fetus? I could go on for pages.

Do you see the problem? It sounds easy to say “this is an obvious principle and there’s no reason it should be complicated” until you stop to realize that it is complicated. This is the clearest, most agreed upon principle across the planet, but it lends itself to hundreds of pages of discussion because there are thousands of scenarios to consider. And as you get further and further along, you’ll find that opinions begin to diverge until you find scenarios where there is no clear consensus. Now imagine how much more complex this becomes with less clear issues like “respect another’s property” or with dividing up the use of river water.

You can often see that people don’t grasp that these issues are inherently complex when they start talking about the Constitution. Too many people who adopt the simplistic view will spit out a single phrase they’ve picked from the Constitution and they will assume that settles the issue. For example, gun people often say, “shall not be infringed,” to argue that the Constitution clearly forbids any regulation. But that’s an irrationally simplistic view of the Constitution, as even the “no infringers” will simultaneously agree that police should have the power to disarm you in a confrontation and that wardens can keep prisoners from buying guns. Both of these are infringements. And if you accept that the phrase “shall not be infringed” cannot be taken literally, i.e. it does allow for infringements, then you’ve interjected ambiguity, the same ambiguity the simplistic view finds so offensive.

Moreover, despite popular opinion, the Constitution is not a complete guide for government nor is it a detailed list of dos and don’t. . . it is ambiguous. For example, while the Constitution provides a list of rights and powers, that list is crawling with vague terms, such as allowing the government to impose regulations for the “health, safety and welfare” of the people. Taken literally, that would seem to grant unlimited power. It took the Supreme Court to decide that the Bill of Rights limited state governments as well as the Feds -- the Constitution is silent on that point. So should we undo that? It's the rare literalist who says we should. Even more interestingly, the Constitution doesn’t actually tell us who decides what's constitutional, the Supreme Court grabbed that power in Marbury v. Madison, yet everyone seems to accept that now.

There is also often a utopian flavor in the simplistic line of thinking. You often hear: why don’t the politicians just do what the people want? But which people? And what if the majority want to enslave the minority? We’ve asked before, should the role of representatives be to do the will of the majority in their district or should they use their judgment? None of our readers was willing to say entirely one or the other, in other words you all accepted an ambiguity in the system.

The point to all of this is that the simplistic view that governing is all about just reading the Constitution and doing the common sense thing is flawed. Simplicity is not a sign of purity of thought or wisdom, it is a sign of ignorance of reality. (The same holds true in science as well, where answers usually only seem simple when you’re missing critical details.)

Now, that said, let me state that we need a return to common sense principles in government. Too many politicians live in a world of semantics and false logic where verbal games and procedure trump substance. They see a critical difference between a fee and a tax, even though both are the same. They see a reduction in a projected rate of growth as a cut. They think they can balance a budget by taking spending “off budget” or by adding in fake future cuts that will never happen. This is where common sense is badly needed.

What we need are people who understand the complexities of making laws, but who also grasp the common sense principles about how a government should be run. We need to avoid the snake oil sellers who tell us “it’s simple, I’m just gonna lift the hood and fix it,” but we also need to avoid the snakes who think they can dance on the head of a pin.

This isn't that hard, but it's just not simple.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Powell Receives A Revelation

I haven't believed anything Colin Powell has said since he played the general greeting the Martian ambassador in Mars Attacks. Later, I found out he didn't even play that part, so I'll have to go back even farther to find something believable coming out of his mouth. But I will admit that I did believe him when he endorsed Barack Obama for president even if I didn't believe a single word of his stated reasons for doing so.

I've always referred to the former general as Bowel Powell, but only in part because of the way his first name is pronounced. For some reason known only to Powell and a few of his confidantes, Powell claims to be a Republican. At least one reason for his continuing to appear publicly as a Republican was the fact that he was granted far more honor from Republican presidents than was his due, and far better treatment from the right than from the left.

Over the political course of his life (which I contend includes all his military service above the rank of colonel), Powell has followed orders while stabbing his superiors in the back, supported abortion at all stages prior to actual birth, promoted affirmative action, and endorsed whatever wild spending the government wanted in its zest for control of nearly everything. With Republicans like that, who needs Democrats? So needless to say, it came as no surprise to me when this fine Republican endorsed socialist nonentity and Democratic nominee Barack Hussein Obama for president.

Somehow, through almost everything up to his endorsement of the messiah, Powell managed to maintain an image of integrity and honesty as well as wise thinking among almost everyone who wasn't on either the far left or far right. Even after his endorsement, about the worst criticism one could find on conservative sites was "ingrate." One can only hope that the same people who stubbornly refused to own up to the fact that Powell is a facile manipulator with no agenda but his own will now listen to him in his latest reincarnation.

Good ol' General/Secretary of State Powell has indicated that he is shocked-shocked-to find out that Obama is not the moderate that Powell claimed to believe he was. This is supposedly an honest, principled stand he's taking, but I suspect it's more likely that he put his wet finger to the wind and discovered the American people really don't like Obama or his supporters very much.

Powell hasn't exactly come out of the closet to make any stinging denouncement of Obama, but his criticisms fit nicely into the mainstream without actually saying anything truly ground-shaking. Says Powell: "The President needs to change his approach in the White House because voters are feeling overwhelmed by sweeping new laws that expand the scope of government." Note the hesitation. Powell isn't saying that Obama is wrong, but knowing the sense of the country, he is criticizing Obama's approach.

Powell goes on to say on Meet The Press: "The President also has to shift the way in which he has been doing things. The American people feel that too many programs have come down. There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we're having trouble carrying it." Again, not a genuine criticism of Obama's policies but rather the speed at which they are being thrown at the American people. It should not surprise anyone that Powell would think this way. He almost single-handedly convinced the elder president Bush that the American armed forces were moving too fast and too successfully during the first Gulf War. He was instrumental in turning a clear victory into a stalemate in order not to offend Muslims by winning. Right and wrong were unimportant to him. Only perception mattered.

So for Powell to criticize Obama in any way is a major landmark. In the first place, he didn't have to do it at all. Second, considering his inability to take a truly principled and clear stand on anything, any criticism of Obama by Powell is an event. Third, the action required Powell to admit, horrors, that he might just have been wrong about the snake-oil salesman from Illinois. The latter is not as earth-shattering as his incorrect assessment of Saddam Hussein, but uttering a discouraging word about this Hussein is news when it comes from a great statesman like Powell.

Making sure that everybody fully understands what a great intellect and political analyst he is, Powell was quick to add: "Republicans shouldn't cater to fringe elements who question the president's religion or whether he was born in the U.S. Let's attack him on policy and not nonsense." Clearly, Powell has forgotten that he originally endorsed Obama based on nonsense. Then Powell went the extra step of once again claiming to be a Republican, though he's unhappy with the rightward drift of the party.

Powell either doesn't realize or is being disingenuous about the fact that the MSM have blown up the religion and nationality issues precisely for the purpose of drawing attention away from Obama's failing and failed policies. And I can claim to be the King of Siam, but it doesn't mean I actually am the King of Siam. Finally, if he considers his mildly-critical words "an attack" on Obama's policies, he's even more foolish than I had previously thought.
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Media Bias: Finding Real America

Bias is a defect in the thought process that interferes with a person’s ability to see the truth because it causes us to ignore or downplay facts we don’t agree with, to over-rely on facts we like, and to dismiss valid arguments from sources we don’t like. At its most benign, bias causes us to simply award the benefit of the doubt in favor of things we want to believe. But bias can also cause us to intentionally become dishonest in our analysis. Some people are so overcome with their own biases that they don’t even understand how blind they’ve made themselves, and how much it permeates their thinking. That brings us to Joe Klein.

Joe Klein is a liberal Democrat, though not a leftist. He probably considers himself a moderate, but what Democrat doesn’t? He’s also a journalist for Time. And like all liberal journalists, he periodically needs to assure himself that he’s not suffering from bias. Thus, like so many before him, he’s taking a trip out into “real America,” beyond the talking points, to find out what real people are thinking. But is he really or is he simply feeding his own biases? Let’s look.

He begins by assuring himself that he intends to be honest. He “doesn’t trust the things [he’s] been seeing on TV and in the papers,” and he wants to get to the truth. And what doesn't he trust? Well, he doesn't trust the "talking points" being bandied about on Fox News and MSNBC that tell us the public is angry, and he doubts the polls tell the real story. Indeed, he assures us again, he’s “not going to . . . troll for quotes that reflect the polls,” no, he’s going to “report what he sees” and “let the chips fall” where they may. In theory this sounds fair, except that he admits the polls show a "big Republican year," and it’s unsurprising that a liberal would want to find the “real” (read: contradictory) story to such polls. Indeed, it would be a lot easier to believe this was an unbiased impulse if he had the same desire in 2008, when the polls supported his view. It would also help if he hadn't defined "anger" in purely Democratic terms, which of course he does -- anger at the war and anger at the economy... nothing more.

Having set his goal of finding evidence to disprove the polls, he is surprised to immediately discover that he’s meeting “roughly equal numbers of people on both sides,” despite the polls showing only 40% support for the Democrats. He sees this as significant, but he’s wrong, this is the result of his bias. In a country of 300 million people, that 40% figure means that there are 60 million more right-leaners than left-learners this year, and those left-leaners are all concentrated in the coastal cities. So he should find an overwhelming number of conservatives in Middle America, but he doesn't. Why? Because of the route he selects. He tells us he’s going “diagonally across the country” from New York to Los Angles. A diagonal trip from New York to L.A. lets him avoid the entire conservative South. But more importantly, his diagonal claim is false, he’s actually traveling from New York to Philadelphia to Buffalo to Detroit to Wisconsin before dropping down to Kansas City. That’s not diagonal, it's a tour of big liberal cities. Thus, it’s no surprise that he’s found a large number of liberals. Moreover, everywhere he goes, he meets with local Democratic candidates, which makes finding liberals a guaranteed certainty.

How he discusses these Democrats further exposes his bias. In each case, he starts by personalizing them, something he does not do with the Republicans he meets. Further, anything the Democrats say, he immediately confirms with a quote by some "neutral" person, whereas he immediately contradicts any quote given by a Republican. For example, his first stop is with a Democratic House candidate in Philadelphia. This Democrat is a former paratrooper and prosecutor, and we learn that this guy had the genius idea to make his pamphlets black and white because this would save money AND because people are more interested in reading black and white material. How do we know? Because Klein immediately confirms that “all along the train platform, people were reading” this material. He also points out that this candidate did this over the objections of his staff. Thus, we have a brave, maverick genius.

It takes five more paragraphs before he mentions the Republican (Meehan), whom he does not personalize in any way. Instead, he introduces Meehan by telling us that Meehan claims that people are complaining about the stimulus. But in the next sentence, Klein shoots this down by uncritically quoting a steel worker who says, “don’t let anyone tell you the stimulus isn’t working.” He also points out that the Republican is handing out glossy, color pamphlets, something that would be irrelevant if he hadn’t already pointed out the heroic brilliance of using black and white pamphlets.

And that’s just the beginning. Over the next several entries he:
• Meets with a handful of “model Muslim immigrants” in Detroit (all born in the US and all small business owners), who were Republicans until recently until Bush and Gingrich (who they once met) started talking about Muslims like they are “Nazis.” He then uses a quasi-joke to chide Christians for not getting the “don’t judge others thing.”

• He talks to a UAW couple who hate Palin and love Obama and the UAW.

• He assures us that Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold is a great man.

• He tries to tell us that Missouri Democrat Robin Carnahan has real Tea Party credentials.

• In Iowa, he delivers an ugly attack on a Sarah Palin speech. Actually, he hides behind “quotes” from his wife so he can pretend he’s not doing the savaging.
And what about the Republicans he meets?
• In Wisconsin, he meets a “deeply conservative” man who doesn’t like the Republicans because they aren’t conservative enough for him. Oddly, this “conservative” stresses that he’s pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and he thinks Obama’s “doing what he can,” he just suffers from inexperience.

• And in Ohio, he meets with Senate candidate Rob Portman, who he describes as “a conservative, no question, but not one of the lunatics--he's solid, sane and civil.”
I think Klein is being genuine in his belief that he’s looking for an honest assessment of America. But his biases blind him. He seeks out big, rustbelt cities and avoids conservative areas, he seeks out Democratic candidates wherever he goes, he humanizes the Democrats he meets because he likes them, and he defines away any conservative he meets who doesn't share his views as a “lunatic” or cynical. These are classic examples of bias, and they blind him to the truth that he hasn't found real America, he's set out to confirm his prejudices.

And he’s not alone. The Economist has a guy who does the same “road trip” thing. His route is from New York City to upstate New York, and his view into “real America” comes from his talks with a New York City lawyer with whom he travels to the lawyer's villa in Italy twice a year. I’ve seen reporters go to Maryland, suburban Los Angeles or suburban San Francisco/Oakland to find “real America.” When they venture to places like the South, it’s usually inner city Atlanta or the only Democratic districts in Texas. And whenever they meet someone who expresses things they don't like, they simply dismiss them as unrepresentative crazies. It's easy to confirm your own views when you go where people like you hang out and when you dismiss anyone who doesn't fit your views.

But attacking Joe Klein isn't my only point. Conservatives are equally guilty of this type of bias too. Too many have blinded themselves to the "real world" because they hang out with people who think like they do, they only listen to people who tell them what they want to hear, and they pick out the things they want to believe. Ignorance is never a plus, and bias-induced ignorance only sets you up for disaster. We should all ask ourselves at all times, am I really considering the evidence, or am I just reinforcing my own biases?

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