Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Men Without Honor

Politicians shade the truth. Sometimes they even lie. They make a point of blame-shifting whenever possible, particularly incumbent politicians. And their "people"--whether actual employees in the government or managers/workers in campaigns--follow suit as a matter of course. The citizenry accepts this reality for the most part. Only hard-core ideologues imagine that government could actually be peopled with forthright, scrupulously honest elected officials, who would sooner cut out their own tongue than tell a fib or even stretch the truth. And only partisan fools believe in the complete innocence of their side and the absolute guilt of the other side, when it comes to issues of truth and fact.

We--as citizens--get to sift through what we hear, what we are told, and what we see, hopefully with a mind towards recognizing who is more truthful--if not only more believable--in a given moment. And since the founding of this nation, indeed since well before that moment, citizens have had--as an asset to this endeavor--the Fourth Estate, the Press.

There is some debate over who actually coined the term--the Fourth Estate--first. Many attribute it to Michel de Montaigne, though not in reference to the Press, proper. Edmund Burke supposedly used the term in reference to the Press sometime during his career in Parliament. But regardless, the idea that the Press constituted a sort bulwark against the rise of tyranny had become standard fare in political theory by the mid eighteenth century. It's worth repeating the words of Philip Dormer Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, spoken before Parliament in 1737:
The stage, my lords, and the press, are two of our out-sentries; if we remove them, if we hoodwink them, if we throw them in fetters, the enemy may surprise us.
Stanhope spoke these words in opposition to a proposal before Parliament to license to the Stage (public theater) and the Press, to have the government assert a measure of control over what could and could not be said in both arenas. Politically, Stanhope was a Whig, given to a worldview not unlike that of Edmund Burke. Like Burke--and true conservatives--Stanhope recognized the need for some institutions, even if the State lacked control over them. In this regard, the Press should--in the view of both Stanhope and Burke--be allowed to do what it does, to dig truth and dirt, to occasionally incite.

To limit such institutions is to negate their purpose, with regard to the survival of a properly functioning government, one that promotes and protects liberty. A state-run press or media is, as matter of definition, an oxymoron, something that would serve no useful purpose, with regard to the maintenance of liberty.

Both were, of course, wise enough to see the limits here: there are lines that--if crossed--require action. Libel and slander, intentional fabrication, giving aid and comfort to real enemies of the state, all of these things could be and should be frowned upon, possibly punished, or at least called out. But Burke, Stanhope, and others of a similar mindset supposed that the press would still be more beneficial than detrimental, not because it was actually a neutral party--it never really was or is--but because individuals within could only survive for as along as they served the public conscious, as long as some part of the public accepted them, wanted what they were serving or selling.

Which brings us to today and the current state of affairs in the media. First, note that the media of today is not what it was in the time of Burke or Stanhope. Indeed, it is not what it was in the time of Reagan or Carter. From the internet to the 24-hour cable news cycle, the actual size of the press--in terms of both members and output--is orders of magnitude larger than it was even twenty-five years ago, to say nothing of two hundred years ago.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Confederacy Gambit: senseless geography on the Left

On ABC News' This Week, a roundtable discussion on race and the Election featured a short "debate" between Andrew Sullivan and George Will. Sullivan argues that if Romney wins Florida and Virginia, the electoral map will very much be a recreation of the Confederacy. He supposes that--by and large--those white voters who had supported Obama in 2008 but are now supporting Romney are in those two States. Will notes Sullivan's statement is "empirically false" because it is. Indeed, the other members of the panel--when Sullivan offers the hypothesis--say the same as Will, "that's not true," "I don't think so," etc. Watch the clip:

What Sullivan specifically said:
I'm just pointing out the fact that the white people who have changed their minds happen to be in Virginia and Florida...It's the Southernization of the Republican Party.
George Will's actual response:
Andrew made an empirical statement which is checkable and false, which is that the people--or the white people--moving away are in those two States. 
Will is absolutely correct, of course. Obama's loss of support among white voters is not limited to Virginia and Florida in the least. If it were, there wouldn't be any talk of Ohio, Wisconsin, and other States being in play. Sullivan's statement is sheer idiocy. But true to form, Sullivan isn't willing to admit it. After the show, he tossed up a piece at the Daily Beast to argue his point further. And he begins by immediately misrepresenting the conversation with Will:
I made a point on ABC News' This Week this morning that George Will described as "empirically false"...
I made the following claim: that if Virginia and Florida and North Carolina flip back to the GOP from Obama this November, as now looks likely, Romney will have won every state in the Confederacy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


"This is so-and-so and I'm calling to ask for your support in my campaign for election to office."

Or maybe:

"This is such-and-such and I'm calling to ask you to join me in supporting so-and-so."

The constant bombardment of pollsters was already bad enough (I'm in Florida, a "swing state"); these recorded pleas for votes are even worse. Since I signed up to have dinner with Obama and ride the bus with Romney, I get a daily barrage of e-mails asking for more money (mostly from Obama, by the way) but my spam filter catches most of them and I can delete the ones that slip through.

The robocalls? The bastards sending them out are getting clever: caller ID used to be a good tool to identify both robocalls and pollsters, but not so anymore. Now, the ID info only indicates a local number, or sometimes "private caller."

The phone rings, I'm in the middle of something but rush to get it in case it's my wife, another family member, or otherwise someone important, then find out it's yet another recording. I guess someone, somewhere has determined that these robo-calls are effective campaign tools, that they actually help. Me, I think just the opposite: every call I get from candidate X makes me want to vote for that person a little less. Unfortunately, as soon as I hang-up on the call for candidate X, I get one from candidate Z.

And this isn't just limited to national races anymore. State and local politicians are using robocalls, as well. I got one yesterday from the mayor of a nearby town urging me who to vote for in the mayoral race for my town.

It's enough to drive me to drink. Or maybe just not vote. Could that be the real plan?

Cheers, all.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Benghazi is sinking Obama

There's no other solid explanation for the steady fall of Obama's numbers, particularly among independents:
Romney is currently doing better with independents than Obama did in 2008. Obama won independents by eight, in 2008 while Romney is currently leading by 10.6 points on average. If the independent numbers are entered in to the 2008 results, Romney would have a victory of over four points. Even if Romney does not take any more crossover votes (Democrats who vote Republican and vice versa) than McCain got in 2008, he would still win by over four points on Election Day.
Obama is projecting weakness and incompetence, with regard to Benghazi. His legion of media apologists have been unable to counter this reality. It's been a month and a half since the attack occurred, yet RealClearPolitics still maintains a sub-heading for Benghazi on its homepage.

There's no point in going into the details of the events in Benghazi or in discussing the latest stories surrounding it, what the Administration knew, when they knew it, and their response--or lack thereof--to these events. Such stories are all over the place--thus attesting to the significance of Benghazi--and one would have to be living in a cave (or be watching MSNBC) to be unaware of what has been happening in this regard. It's sufficient to recognize just how much the issue has captured the public's attention.

The Obama Campaign looks increasingly desperate, despite poll numbers in swing states where it still enjoys a slight advantage. Indeed, as of yesterday poll guru Nate Silver still figures Obama has a 73% chance of winning reelection. Sounds a lot like a weather forecast, if you ask me: easy to toss out such a percentage, because there is no way to actually be wrong. Regardless, the Obama Campaign is reading Silver, is employing its own army of "experts" to analyze poll data. If it was confident of victory, then why the air of desperation?

From repeating lines and tactics of the first President Bush, to using sexually provocative ads ala Vladimir Putin, to using juvenile slogans like "Romnesia," the desperation is readily apparent.

And I think it is ultimately less about a potential loss to Romney than it is about a total loss stature for the President. Assume things play out as Silver and others believe, that Obama wins the critical swing states and the popular vote is effectively spit. Where does that leave Obama as a second term President? There will be no "mandate to govern" to claim, only a squeaky "we did enough to win."

The President's foreign policy, meanwhile, will be in tatters. It already appears that security agencies, the military, and even the State Department are less than thrilled with their commander-in-chief. A slim victory on the back of slimy tactics will do little to impress these groups. Obama earned buckets of good will by taking out bin Laden. And Benghazi is steadily sapping every last drop of it. The President has revealed himself to be the worst kind of military leader: tragically weak and self-serving. To quote J.S. Mill again:
The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
The Oval Office is no place for such creatures. And on the occasion where it is occupied by one, we all suffer for it.

Cheers, all.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Choice for a NEW New Generation

Twice a year, the Harvard University Institute of Politics does a survey of young voters, of what it terms the Millennial Generation. From 2000 until 2008, the ages of those surveyed was limited to 18-24 year olds. In 2010, the range was expanded to 18-29 year olds.

Not unexpectedly, the current (Fall 2012) survey shows a pronounced preference for President Obama. The same is true of the study from the Fall of 2008, when younger voters helped Obama secure a relatively easy victory over Senator John McCain. But it is useful to see how some of the numbers have changed.

From 2012:
At the time the IOP’s new fall poll was conducted, 18- to 29- year old “likely” voters gave President Obama a nineteen-percentage point (19%) lead over Governor Romney (55%: Obama; 36%: Romney)...Obama leads Romney among 18- to 24- year olds by twelve points (41%-29%) and 25- to 29- year olds by 23 points (46%-23%)...18- to 29- year olds favoring Governor Romney are more likely (65%) than those favoring President Obama (55%) to say they will “definitely” vote this fall.
From 2008 (remember, this is limited to 18-24 year-olds):
Just weeks before Election Day, Senator Obama holds a twenty-six point lead (56%-30%; 15% undecided) over Senator McCain in the 2008 presidential race, a lead that has remained virtually unchanged since July (55%-32%) and March (53%-32%) 2008 IOP polling. Obama’s lead grows slightly among young people saying they will “definitely” be voting (59%-, 31%).
First, there is the straight forward percentages for "likely voters." In 2008, Obama led McCain by 26 points. Now, in 2012, Obama's lead  over Romney is 19, seven points less than in 2008. Then there's the matter of the added age groups in 2012. If we only consider 18-24 year olds from both periods, Obama's advantage narrows even more to 12 points, fourteen points less than in in 2008. But note the real joker in the deck: voter enthusiasm: in 2008, this favored Obama, with more of his supporters saying they would definitely vote, increasing his advantage from 26 points to 28 points. In 2012, Romney holds the edge in enthusiasm by 10 points, 65% to 55%. Factoring this into the numbers gives us a final breakdown--of 18-24 year olds only--of 23% for Obama compared to 19% for Romney. Thus, Obama's already shrunken lead of 12 points among younger voters shrinks yet again to a mere 4 points.

To make matters worse--for the President--the Harvard survey was compiled between September 19th and October 3rd, a period when Obama still enjoyed a comfortable advantage in the national polls. It wasn't until October 9th that Romney surged ahead in the RCP averages. Thus, the Harvard data fails to take into account what has since transpired. If we allow the existence of a similar trend among 18-24 years olds, it is very possible that Obama's advantage has completely evaporated. Indeed, Romney could easily be ahead in this age group.

Why? What's happened to the youth vote, the groups that was so overwhelmingly on Obama's side in 2008? Well first and foremost, we're not talking about the same people, by and large. Most of the voters now in this group were not even voting in 2008. It has been an accepted truth for quite some time that the Obama Administration and Obama Campaign--along with Democrats in general--are more "dialed in" to young people, that they are better at online politicking, have a superior presence on social networking sites, and are simply cooler, enjoying more support from celebrities and the like.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: as dead as the Occupy movement

In a piece today, Dionne argues that the Tea Party movement is dead. Not on life support, not declining, but dead. Permanently and forever more. His evidence? Why, Mitt Romney:
The right wing has lost the election of 2012. 
The evidence for this is overwhelming, yet it is the year's best-kept secret. Mitt Romney would not be throwing virtually all of his past positions overboard if he thought the nation were ready to endorse the full-throated conservatism he embraced to win the Republican nomination.
Let's begin by dispensing with the obvious silliness. Romney is not "throwing his past positions overboard." One has to wonder if Dionne even bothered to look at Romney's platform before putting his name to this silly article. The headline of Romney's platform: Smaller, Smarter, Simpler Government. Yeah, that sounds a lot more like a platform from the Left (insert eye-rolling emoticon here). The issues--and solutions--listed on the Romney platform:
Heathcare: repeal and replace Obamacare 
Medicare: preserve it, strengthen  
Regulation: cutting the red tape 
Social Security: preserve it, strengthen it 
Spending: smaller, simpler, smarter government 
Tax: fairer, flater, and simpler
Aside from Social Security and Medicare--which are complicated issues, to be sure--the platform looks like it came straight from a Tea Party rally. Then there's Romney's small business-oriented jobs plan. And his Reaganesque "peace through strength" foreign policy:
The unifying thread of his national security strategy is American strength. When America is strong, the world is safer. It is only American power—conceived in the broadest terms—that can provide the foundation for an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies.
Lower taxes, lower spending. less regulation, and a stronger military, all anchored in a belief in American Exceptionalism. Right or wrong, if this isn't a conservative agenda I don't know what is. And none of it is indicative of Romney dumping past positions.

As to the Tea Party proper, perhaps Mr. Dionne needs to be reminded who Romney selected as his running mate and the current state of the race. If the Tea Party was dead, if it was such a drag on the Campaign, why then has Romney been able to gain an advantage on Obama after the selection of Paul Ryan? This is not to say Ryan is driving the shift, but he certainly hasn't been any sort of a roadblock. Indeed, the Ryan selection--at the very least--coalesced conservative and Tea Party support behind Romney.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Return to Austerity Island

A new editorial at the New York Times--entitled simply The Austerity Trap--argues that electing Romney would put the United States on a course similar to that of Greece, contrary to what Romney suggested in the last debate:
In Monday night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney echoed other Republican politicians, saying that under President Obama’s economic policies, the United States is “heading toward Greece.” Mr. Romney was invoking Greece apparently to make the point that deep and swift budget cuts are needed in the United States to avoid a debt crisis.

That bizarre comment, sadly, is no surprise in a campaign that has parted ways with the facts. The president’s budget, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, would stabilize the ratio of federal debt to the economy over 10 years.

What is more disturbing is that the comment displays willful ignorance about the lessons of Greece, and such ignorance can only lead to bad policy decisions at home. The lesson that should be learned from Greece is that its fiscal mess has been made far worse by severe budget cuts.
It's been a while since the Austerity Demons have been summoned by the liberal media as a means of attacking Republicans. But with so little left in their quiver--given that new e-mails prove gross White House obfuscation with regard to Benghazi--it is not surprising that liberal pundits in the tank for Obama have returned to this talking point.

And it is beyond hilarious that the CBO would be singled out as some sort of last word on the issue. Remember, this is the same CBO whose predictions are consistently wrong, who has helped lead the nation to the edge of a fiscal cliff.

Greece reached that cliff years ago; it's fall was prevented--foolishly--for years until those actions simply could not be sustained. In that period, massive write-offs of debt destroyed the market for Greek bonds, as investors--both small and large--took it on the chin. The NYT writers argue that the solution is more spending and more taxes, pretending that the problems in EU nations like Greece are the result of budgets that have been "ruthlessly cut." But as I noted in a previous piece (via Veronica de Rugy of Mercatus), no such cutting actually occurred in these nations:

Most of the so-called "savage" or "draconian" cuts have been quite limited. In fact, many of the cuts where actually future cuts, particularly in places like France. What everyone knows--implicitly--to be a foolhardy road continues to be the one recommended by "experts" like the ones cited in the Times story: spend money you don't have, promise to spend less in the future. That program has pushed California to a very similar position Greece was once in: dangling over the cliff, saved from a fall by outside support and budget gimmicks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Practically Useless Debate

The pundits on the left say the President won handily (Greg Sargent actually says Obama pummeled Romney; I think he must have been watching the baseball game and gotten confused). Conservative pundits argue that Romney did what he needed to do: look competent on foreign policy and appear presidential. Either way, the combination of Monday Night Football and a game seven in the MLB playoffs means less-than-stellar numbers for the third and final Presidential Debate, so it's unlikely many minds were changed or made-up last night.

That said, I'll offer my two cents: Obama came across as obnoxious. His not-so-subtle little jabs and accusations didn't play well, in my opinion. In contrast, Romney was polite, elegant, and confident. Chris Wallace summed it up best:
I felt in the middle of the debate that if I had been on a desert island for the last four years, and I had just been parachuted into this debate, I would have thought the guy that turned out to be Mitt Romney was the President protecting a lead, and that Barack Obama was the challenger trying somewhat desperately to catch up.
Obama was looking for zingers, Romney appeared more interested in laying out his vision of American foreign policy (something which, according to the Left, he wasn't supposed to have). Romney purposely declined to go after the President on Benghazi, something that no doubt disappointed many of his supporters. Me, I thought it was the smart play. The Benghazi story continues to damage the Obama Campaign. Republicans in the House and Romney surrogates are effectively hammering the Administration on various elements therein.

There was one big--or perhaps just serious--moment in the debate however, one that some might have missed. It was the exchange over the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) for Iraq:
MR. ROMNEY:Number two, with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement. Did you —  
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That's not true. 
MR. ROMNEY: Oh, you didn't — you didn't want a status of forces agreement? 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, but what I — what I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.
The moment could have been big, but the reality is that most viewers were probably unfamiliar with SOFAs, what they are, how they are used, and why we failed to extend the one in Iraq. Put simply, a SOFA is an agreement that allows foreign troops to be stationed in a host nation. In this case, the host nation was Iraq, where a SOFA with the United States had been in place since 2008. That agreement expired at the end of 2011, meaning that all U.S. forces needed to be out of Iraq at that point in time. In 2010, however, the Administration tried to negotiate an extension of the SOFA. In that regard, Vice-President Joe Biden said:
Maliki wants us to stick around because he does not see a future in Iraq otherwise. I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA.
Maliki didn't extend it, which begs the question: why is Biden still in office? The long and short of it is, Romney nailed the President's figurative ass to the wall in this issue. Obama did want an extension of the SOFA, meaning that Obama did want troops to remain in Iraq past the end of 2011. The failure to achieve an extension was spun into a new narrative: "all of our troops in Iraq are coming home." Thus, a failure of policy became--as if by magic--a campaign talking point for Obama. It's a shame Candy Crowley wasn't the moderator last night, for maybe she would have stepped in and corrected the President.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Left's New History

Whenever I'm in the mood for some unhinged liberal ravings by an unhinged liberal writer, my first stop is always Salon. I rarely need to go anywhere else. That's not to say everyone there is unhinged or even those that do rant are always unhinged. As a group, the Salon writers are not stupid people. They really aren't. And yet, they always manage to make me smile, via some sort of less-than-clever (they think they're clever) manipulation of reality to make a less-than-valid political argument. For instance, I noted an hilarious piece by Joan Walsh some time ago, wherein she argued that any criticism of--indeed, any mention of--government entitlement programs by a Republican is naked racism, plain and simple.

That piece points to something larger, however: the creation of a different sort of political history for the recent past in order to justify questionable conclusions (like any mention of welfare by a Republican is racism). In this case the New History, as it were, is the argument that there is not a growing dependent class, that the expansion of government entitlements has not led to any such thing. In Joan Walsh's--and the much of the progressive left's--world, there somehow hasn't been any expansion or growth of entitlement-type programs: no new ones, no increases to current ones. Thus, there just can't be an increase of some sort of government dependence.

And what is critical in this New History is the absence of hard evidence, despite such evidence being readily available. Instead, the false narrative is just taken as a truism from the get-go, no evidence needed because it's just simple truth, stuff that's common knowledge, things everyone knows. Truth via repetition, repetition of things that never happened. For instance, we need only look at welfare spending across time (held constant in 2008 dollars) to see the falsity of this particular bit of New History:

The other graphs at Heritage provide additional--and incontestable--evidence on the growth of the welfare state, and therefore on the dependent underclass. Yet, the New History says this never happened, that Republicans and conservatives are spewing nonsense.

Orwellian stuff, to be sure. But what's truly fascinating is the job of the Ministry of Truth has been taken by elements of the media. People like Walsh at Salon are manufacturing the new history on their own; they're so blinded by ideology that they don't even need to be told to do it, they just do it. In return, they just like to be treated as special, as a part of the elite by those in power on the Left.

Axelrod: out of his depth and then some

David Axelrod has an interesting personal history. Prior to becoming a professional political consultant, Axelrod was a political reporter, and by all accounts a good and successful one. As a political consultant, Axelrod has worked across the nation, from Massachusetts to Oregon. He has deep ties to former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, worked for John Edwards in 2004, along with politicos like Eliot Spitzer and Deval Patrick. He's also taught "campaign strategy" at Northwestern University.

As a campaign strategist, Axelrod definitely knows the game, knows how it's played and what it takes to win. But when Obama took office in 2008--at which point he no longer was actually in a campaign--Axelrod moved from campaign strategist to "Senior Advisor," a position that gave him input into actual policy, along with messaging. Technically, Axelrod is no longer in that position (Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe are Obama's only Senior Advisors right now), having moved back into the role of campaign strategist. But he still speaks for the Administration. He still has the President's ear whenever he needs it.

I would guess that having the role of Senior Advisor and Presidential confidant is something that brought a great deal of satisfaction to Mr. Axelrod. It's one thing to be the guy organizing a campaign, with all the mundane tasks, repetitive activities, and daily organizing such a thing requires (no small feat, that). It's quite another to be a powerful political figure who speaks with the authority of the entire Executive Branch. It's enough to give one a swelled head, to elevate one's own sense of importance and supposed depth of knowledge.

Though Axelrod is not stupid, however, this inflated sense of self-worth betrays something: Axelrod--when it comes to policy and decision-making--doesn't know what the hell he is doing. Witness his appearance on Meet the Press this weekend:

Host David Gregory:
This [Benghazi] wouldn't be an issue, would it, if the Administration had a consistent response to what occurred there?
Axelrod's response:
There’s an investigation ongoing with the intelligence community– the FBI is on the ground. We have reported, the administration has reported, everything that we've been told, and we've shared it in real time. The fact is it’s a complicated situation, we’re thoroughly looking at what happened there, and reporting to the American people on it. 
There’s been no inconsistency, there’s merely been reports on the data and the intelligence that we've been given. And the intelligence community has been clear on this. They have been doing the best they can, giving us the intelligence they have, we've been sharing the information, and we’ll continue to do so.
Axelrod's answer to Gregory is six ways stupid. Of course the Administration's response has been inconsistent. It's gone from blaming a video on the attack (Susan Rice) to suggesting that the attack occurred alongside a protest about the video (Jay Carney) to feigning ignorance about the situation in Libya (Joe Biden) to blaming the intelligence community and the State Department for what transpired. State--in the person of Hillary Clinton--has essentially fallen on it's sword in this regard, even though it's apparent that State and other agencies knew that the situation in Libya in general and Benghazi in particular had been deteriorating in the months before the attack and knew within 24 hours--if not much, much sooner--that the attack was unrelated to protests about a stupid video, was pre-planned, and was directly linked to al Qaeda.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Who's afraid of Lawrence O'Donnell?

MSNBC is going through a metldown of epic proportions. Remember how, after the first Presidential debate, its cadre of talking heads got together and trumpeted their superiority, how Chris Mathews said Obama should be watching MSNBC because "he would learn something"? It was comedy gold, no doubt about it, but it was also a little sad because it made evident a level of self-delusion that is simply not healthy and maybe even dangerous.

On Wednesday night, for instance, what would Obama have learned if he had been watching Chris Matthews? Well for one thing, he would have learned that Romney--in daring to directly address the President in the second debate--apparently violated the U.S. Constitution:
You know, a couple points, I don't think he [Romney] understands the Constitution of the United States. He's [Obama] the president of the United States, you don't say, 'you'll get your chance.'
What Article, what Clause did Romney violate, Chris? Such a comment is so mind-numbingly stupid, it's difficult to come up with a serious response. Yet Matthews believes he has something of value to offer the President, that he's dialed in to the issues and knows them inside and out.

But as stupid as Matthews comments here were, they're nothing compared to what Lawrence O'Donnell said on camera last night.  First some background, though. On Tuesday October 16th, Mitt Romney's son Tagg was a guest on a North Carolina based talk radio show, the Bill Lumaye Show. During the interview, Lumaye asked Tagg how he felt when the President called his father a liar, Tagg responded thusly:
You want to jump out of your seat, and you wanna rush down to the debate stage and take a swing at him, but you know you can’t do that, because, well, first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because this is just the nature of the process... 
They’re gonna try to do everything they can do to try to make my dad into someone he’s not. We signed up for it, we’ve gotta try to kind of sit there and take our punches, and then send them right back the other way.
Lumaye asked Tagg "what it was like" to hear his dad being called a liar, what his internal response was. And Tagg gave a very honest response: it didn't sit well with him, it made him angry enough to want to throw a punch. Who has never had similar feelings? That's a far cry from Tagg saying he intends to punch the President in the face or some such thing though, which is how Tagg's rather typical response is being spun by the far left. But O'Donnell--in the above clip--goes eve farther than that. He not only literally challenges Tagg Romney to a fistfight, he also makes fun of his name. He says:
Okay, Taggert, let’s have a little talk, just you and me, you... 
When I hear you talk about taking a swing and taking punches, why do I get the feeling that you have never actually taken a punch or thrown a punch? I didn't have that luxury in the part of Boston that I grew up in. But in your rich, suburban Boston life, with your father filling a $100 million trust fund for ya? I don’t know. I just get the feeling that things were different for you. 
Now, I know you've got a lot--a lot--to be pissed off at these days starting with the name Taggert, which you have every right to be wicked pissed off with every day for the 42 years of your life. So lemme try to help you deal with this aggression you are feeling right now. 
You’re mad at President Obama for calling your father a liar? Well let’s get something straight, he didn't call your father a liar. I did. The president just said that what your father said isn't true. I been saying all year that your father is a liar, I've repeatedly said that, that your father lies and has been trying to lie his way into the White House. So you want to take a swing at someone for calling your old man a liar? Take a swing at me...come on, come on. And don’t worry, there won’t be any Secret Service involved. Just us. And I’ll make it easy for you. I’ll come to you. Anytime, anywhere. Go ahead Taggert, take your best shot.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New plan: let's make this election about Bush!

Since Obama's Campaign began in earnest at the beginning of the year, the President has made it a point to repeat one proposition over and over again. Namely, he likes to ask a rhetorical question of the following form:
Why should we go back to the failed policies--i.e. the policies of the Bush Administration--that got us into this mess?
And maybe early on it was an effective line. Not so much anymore, though. Why? Because as the year began, Obama and his Administration still had hope that the economy would really begin growing, that the real unemployment rate would begin to drop significantly. Obama, speaking in February of this year:
But over the past two years, businesses have added about 3.7 million jobs. Our manufacturers are creating the most jobs since the 1990s. Our economy is getting stronger.

The recovery is accelerating. America is coming back -- which means the last thing we can do is go back to the same failed policies, the very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. And that's what's at stake in this election. That's exactly what the other candidates want to do.
Ten months later and that "acceleration" is more like a series of sputtering starts and stalls. New data shows a loss of real income for middle class Americans throughout Obama's first term, over $4000 per family, per annum. Limiting the analysis to exclude the first half of Obama's first term doesn't make things much better:
Even if you start from when the recession ended in June, 2009, the decline since then has been greater than it was during the recession. Three years into the Obama recovery, median family income had declined nearly 5% by June, 2012 as compared to June, 2009. That is nearly twice the decline of 2.6% that occurred during the recession from December, 2007 until June, 2009. As the Wall Street Journal summarized in its August 25-26 weekend edition, “For household income, in other words, the Obama recovery has been worse than the Bush recession.
Got that? Middle class America has suffered a bigger loss of income in the post-Bush policies America., the Obama policies America. And yet, as Michael Medved noted almost eight months ago, there is little difference between Bush and Obama when it comes to general domestic policies (something the Tea Party crowd is keenly aware of):
The common indictment of the Bush administration isn't complicated: the 43rd president inherited a substantial surplus from Bill Clinton and turned it into a big deficit by raising spending and cutting revenue. 
But if this approach led ultimately to the economic disasters of 2008, then why should anyone have expected a better outcome from the basic contours of Obamanomics, which hiked spending even more than Bush and collected even less tax money to pay the bills? The result—four consecutive years of trillion-dollar budget deficits—represents an unprecedented but utterly predictable catastrophe for the nation’s economic health.
There are specific differences, of course. For one thing, the Obama Administration has added more layers of regulations. And it has thrown money away on pipe dreams like Solyndra and Abound Solar. But by and large, the pattern is the same: spend money we don't have, though at an even greater rate under Obama, as compared to Bush. Going back to the "failed policies" of Bush would actually mean spending a little less and maybe easing some of the regulations that stifle businesses. While this probably wouldn't be sufficient to solve all of our problems, it would certainly slow our rate of descent into fiscal hell.

Given all of this, it's no surprise that Obama's attempts to use Bush against his opponents have largely failed. Yet amazingly, his sycophants in the media have suddenly decided to join in on this ineffective narrative.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Does someone actually agree with this drivel?

As frequent readers of this blog may know, I'm not actually a fan of all things conservative, especially when it comes to pundits, media sites, and other blogs. Some--like HotAir, Malkin, Krauthammer, and the DailyCaller--I like very much. Others not so much, like RedState. I've jumped on stupidity and nonsense at RedState a couple of times. Most recently, I took issue with Mr. RedState himself, Erick Erickson, for the silliness of this diary entry:
The fix is in for Romney, which just means when he is crushed by Barack Obama a lot of Republicans will have a lot of explaining to do. Newt may not be able to win. But Romney sure as hell can’t beat Obama either if Newt can’t win. The problem remains — Gingrich supporters intrinsically know this to be so and are happy to die fighting. Romney’s supporters are still deluding themselves.
Erickson was--and I guess maybe still is--one of those sad creatures on the right who had convinced themselves that somehow, in some way, Newt Gingrich was the savior of the Republican Party, that he was the only viable candidate in the primaries. Note the stupidity of the above: "if Newt can't win, neither can Romney!" Hey, Romney may not win; I still think his chances are slim (but growing, definitely growing). If Newt were the candidate, where would he be? Given that Newt's about as likable as a used douche and people are complaining about Romney's "likability," I think it's far to assume he'd be much farther behind.

But I didn't really want to rehash old news. The point is, there are people on the right who say and believe silly--if not also stupid--things. Always have been, always will be. Unfortunately, such people often can have significant audiences. And I guess I betray my own elitism when this surprises me, when I expect better from people but end up disappointed.

The same is true of people on the left, though. I mean, apart from the flagrant favoritism of so-called journalists and the political hackery of people like Krugman--which garner audiences by dealing in half-truths and the like--there are some on the left who are just Full. Of. Shit. Perhaps no one fits this description better than Steve Benen, a writer for the Maddow Blog.

Benghazi still the story after second Debate

The first Presidential Debate was widely viewed as a severe trouncing of the President by Mitt Romney. How much of an effect that trouncing had on the race and polling numbers is open to discussion, but certainly Romney benefited from such a clear victory. Just as certainly, the Administration's muddled response to the attacks in Libya have hurt Obama's campaign. Indeed, the largely pointless VP Debate left us with one takeaway: Biden's fumbling on Benghazi.

Last night, the Second Presidential Debate featured a far more confident and aggressive President Obama, though Romney held his own, as well. But in a format more favorable to the President, insofar as he continues to be more personable than Romney, Obama has been declared the victor by most observers, with some suggesting it was more of a tie. No doubt, Obama's poor performance in the first debate helped in this regard: comparatively, Obama looked so much better while Romney looked the same. But let's take it the way the typical biased pundit saw it: a win for the President.
Ultimately, though, Obama managed the delicate balance of keeping his rhetorical fist in Romney’s face — challenging his evasions and contradictions and falsehoods — without coming across as overly aggressive, desperate, eager to make up lost ground, or unpresidential. As Taegan Goddard rightly notes, this provoked Romney, pushing him into a testy mode where he tried to roll over the moderator, which didn’t go too well. 
This race will still be the dead heat tomorrow that it was yesterday, but Obama made big strides towards turning things around tonight.
A fine bit of panegyricizing that, from Greg Sargent at WaPo. But he's wrong, as are all of the other pundits who offered similar views. Indeed, so are all of the ones who saw the debate as a tie. Because there was--as in the Biden-Ryan debate--exactly one takeaway from last night: Benghazi is still a problem for Obama. It's not going away and may actually be growing (evidenced by Hillary Clinton's decision to take the heat for the situation).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Race-based Insanity in Florida Education

Last week, the Florida Department of Education approved new guidelines for student achievement in reading and math. These guidelines--the Florida State Board of Education's Strategic Plan--lay out current levels of proficiency in these areas and set goals to be reached by the 2017-2018 school year. For instance, right now 57% of all Florida students--statewide and all grade levels--have scored at or above their grade level in reading assessments. 58% of the same scored at or above their grade level in mathematics. The Plan calls for raising both of these numbers to 82% in the next five years.

Noble goal, that. Is it attainable? Probably not, unless minimum requirements for each grade level are lowered. That's always the easiest way to improve test scores: widen the curve. Of course, such a tactic would be foolish and--more importantly--would also violate the Florida statute that defines the role of the Florida education system:
The mission of Florida’s K-20 education system shall be to increase the proficiency of all students within one seamless, efficient system, by allowing them the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills through learning opportunities and research valued by students, parents, and communities.
The same statute also instructs the Board of Education on the basis for increasing this proficiency:
The State Board of Education establish performance measures and set performance standards for individual public schools and community colleges, with measures and standards based primarily on student achievement.
Seems pretty clear: the Board is supposed to set some standards--or goals--and the system is supposed to work towards those goals, thus demonstrating an overall increase in student proficiency. What's missing from these two parts of the statute, indeed from the entire statute? Any mention of race or ethnicity. Why? Because race and ethnicity have nothing to do with overall standards, or at least they shouldn't if we assume one student can be as proficient in reading and math as any other.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Please Mr. Fantasy...

In my previous piece, I noted how--at the end of the day--the VP debate amounted to very little, how it was a harbinger of nothing, with regard to opinions on who the winner of the debate was. The only significant element of the debate was Biden's response to questions about the Benghazi situation. That response has been seized upon by the Romney camp and various pundits on the Right; it's been used to demonstrate just how weak the President is, when it comes to his foreign policy. Despite all of the left-leaning punditry gleefully proclaiming how Biden thrashed Ryan in the debate, how he did his job, and the like, there's been no post-VP debate bounce, no stemming of the tide moving against Obama. Exactly the opposite. Polls in various battleground states moved in Romney's favor and he continues to lead in the RCP average for national polls.

The Election is less than a month away and what I once thought was quite unlikely--a Romney victory--now appears possible. Very possible. And yet, the pantheon of Obama fanboys and sycophants seem blind to this. Most seem to think the Election is still "in the bag" for the President, as it were. Witness the following piece for MSNBC contributor Touré:
Now that Vice-President Joe Biden's strong debate performance has stopped the hyperventilating in Democratland that followed Obama's horrible, no good, very bad faceoff with Mitt Romney in Denver, we can all take a deep breath and face the fact that this race will still, probably, be won by the President. When we peel back the fear and look at the numbers - both electoral and economic - your breathing will return to normal. Romney's surge in momentum is real, but Obama remains the favorite.
He appears to be completely ignorant of the damage Biden's "strong performance" actually did. He actually presents Biden as Robin, rushing in to save Batman-Obama at the last moment. His look "at the numbers" is a superficial analysis drawn on DNC talking points, not actual public perception. But then, this is a guy who thinks "angry" is a racist term, so I guess his silly spinning is hardly unexpected. There is, however, a revealing nugget buried within the spin. In explaining why Romney took the lead after the first debate, Touré says:
So the media narrative shifted from "Romney's losing" to "Obama choked," and even Jon Stewart stopped dissing Romney and spent whole segments making fun of Obama.
Fascinating. Clearly, Touré believes Jon Stewart to be a member of the Obama cult. Though Stewart certainly leans to the left ideologically, he's never had a problem going after a Democrat, any Democrat, who says something foolish. Yet in Touré's version of reality, Stewart is the last one we would expect to take shots at Obama. I'm actually a bit surprised Touré didn't call Stewart a closet racist.

As to the numbers stuff, Touré puts a lot of stock in Obama's favorability ratings. And true enough, they do remain high. But let's look back to 2008 for a moment. In that Election, Obama garnered 52.9% of the popular vote. McCain received 45.7%. A nice margin of victory--7.2%--no doubt. Final RCP polling averages had Obama with a 7.6% lead on November 4th, not too far out of line with the actual results. So here's a question that would seem to be worth asking: how did the Obama-McCain race look in mid-October?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Biden on Benghazi: clueless or dishonest?

Who won the VP debate? Not that it matters, but if you check the punditry's opinions on they matter you'll find those on the Left trumpeting a Biden victory while those on the Right claim Ryan bested the current Vice President. A few pundits who are actually capable of being semi-objective allowed that the debate was exactly what it appeared to be: a draw with no clear winner. True enough, Biden came off a tad obnoxious, but doesn't he always? That's Joe Biden, nothing much has changed there.

But the real pull quote from the debate did come from Biden, and it wasn't good for him or Obama. The subject was foreign policy, specifically the attack on the Benghazi consulate. The moderator noted the request from Benghazi for more security. Biden's reply:
But we weren't told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security there.
As was revealed in hearings before Congress just the day before, requests for more security had been made by personnel in Libya. And denied by Charlene Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs. For what it's worth, Ms. Lamb's credentials and work history do not suggest incompetence on her part. Indeed, she was in Beirut in 1989, hardly a walk in the park, and has received a number of commendations including a Medal of Valor.

Which begs the question: why would someone with her experience and track record ignore such requests? Given other information that has been made public, it's not unreasonable to allow that security should have been increased, request or no request.

It seems likely that Ms. Lamb is going to be the scapegoat here, but I'm leery of dropping all of this on her lap. She looks to be playing the role of an Ollie North, as I think it quite likely that the denial of these requests came from above her, which means form outside the entrenched State Department bureaucracy. That bureaucracy is a problem in a number of ways, but it's not known for bailing on its own. Just the opposite, in fact.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The coming wave of bitterness

The latest RCP polling averages now show Romney with a slight lead over Obams, 1.5% to be precise. And that lead will likely increase over the course of the next week, as the trailing polls are updated and come to reflect the recent shift. This shift is not due to the first debate, in my opinion. Rather, it's a result of a loss of credibility for the Administration arising from the Benghazi attacks and the initial narrative--involving the YouTube video--touted by Obama and others. And I think the response to the latest BLS numbers did some damage, as well.

People don't like getting played and many are now realizing this is exactly what has been happening for some time. Will it be enough to actually win Romney the Oval Office? That remains to be seen, but certainly--right now--we have a real horse race. The Obama Campaign had hoped there really wouldn't be a race, that the numbers would keep breaking for Obama, thus discouraging the Right to the point of making November 6th an easy victory for Obama.

So what happens next? How will the Obama Campaign respond? Probably with more attacks, more negative ads. Obviously, it can no longer tout Obama's foreign policy successes. In fact, the Benghazi situation puts a damper on the whole "we got bin Laden" storyline, too. And the incredulousness that greeted the BLS numbers has prevented the Campaign from using the economy as much as it might want to now as an issue. Really, the quiver is empty for the Obama Campaign. All it can do is hammer Romney and hope he says something stupid. Well, that and keep spending money. Because Obama still has a lot to spend, make no mistake about it.

But what about the legions of Obama fanboys out there, from everyday citizens to media sycophants? How will they respond to this reversal in the polls? Angrily and bitterly, that's how. Kevin Drum, of the two faces, offered this piece two days ago. It's basically a rehashing of how Romney is "lying" because he doesn't accept the Brookings Institute's recreation of his tax plans. Drum's take on Romney's response:
Let me translate: Romney is lying about his tax plan and he knows it. When he's called on it, however, he turns around and smears the folks who pointed out his lie.
Drum bemoan's the situation poor, poor Obama is in: Romney is lying, but Obama can't stop him. Of course, Drum fails to note how Obama's deficit reduction plan--the one that would shave $4 trillion from the debt--has been exposed as a fantasy. Somehow, that doesn't matter. All that matters here is how Obama is stuck with Romney's blatant lies, never mind those of Obama. And Drum is beside himself over this, wringing his hands as he writes, because it's just not fair.

But Drum's outrage and bitterness are at least controlled. Not so for many others. Spurred on by the Obama Truth Team, the "Romney is a liar" meme is being repeated in various forms throughout the net and in real life. And at the same time, Romney's lead in the polls expands. If you listen closely, you can hear the popping sounds of exploding fanboy heads.

Cults of personality tend to lead in this direction: members just don't understand why everyone else doesn't think exactly the way they do, with regard to the fearless leader. In their minds, there is no debate, no "two sides," just what they believe and desire, nothing more. And if Obama's reelection continues to remain in doubt, it's only going to get worse. Because the "Obama as martyr" worldview has been building since the day he took office.

Cheers, all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Abandon all Hope, ye who readeth here

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate

Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times yesterday, presents the idea that American foreign policy in the Middle East is--to be blunt--ass-backwards. Friedman believes change in that part of the world, real progressive change with more freedom and less autocracy, must begin in and emanate from the people there. As he puts it:
The Middle East only puts a smile on your face when change starts with them, not us. Only then is it self-sustaining, and only then can our help truly amplify it.
In that regard, Friedman goes after Romney for not "getting it," for apparently sending the wrong message with his latest speech on foreign policy:
Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech on Monday that could be boiled down to one argument: everything wrong with the Middle East today can be traced to a lack of leadership by President Obama. If this speech is any indication of the quality of Romney’s thinking on foreign policy, then we should worry... 
The worst message we can send right now to Middle Easterners is that their future is all bound up in what we do.
And that begs the question: does that mean we shouldn't be worried right now, that the Obama Administration is getting things right in the Middle East? In a fascinating burst of self-contradiction, Friedman goes from criticizing Romney for assuming the U.S. has direct a role to play in the Middle East to recommending that the U.S. play a more direct role in the Middle East:
If it were up to me, I’d put Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, in charge of American policy in the Arab-Muslim world. Because we need to phase out of the cold war business of selling arms there to keep “strongmen” on our side and in power, and we need to get into the business of sponsoring a “Race to the Top” in the Arab-Muslim world that, instead, can help empower institutions and strong people, who would voluntarily want to be on our side.
The Real Politik ignorance on Friedman's part here is stunning. But then, as I've noted previously, Friedman seems to have completely lost it, to have allowed his once-formidable intellect to collapse into largely mindless blatherings on issues he appears to know nothing about. I guess we could call this the "Krugman Effect," which apparently afflicts every intellectual who manages to land a column at the New York Times. Contradiction, sophomoric analysis, and partisan rants are the hallmarks of this crowd. And amazingly, it appears even when members of the group write about what is supposed to be their area of expertise.

Because Friedman knows the Middle East; he knows its history and he knows it players, it's varying cultures, and traditions. And yet in this piece, he presents an analysis seemingly produced by a cock-eyed optimist, a simple country boy as it were, not a distinguished scholar of Middle East history. Friedman wrings his hands over arms sales in the Middle East, supposing that if the U.S. removed itself completely from this equation, Russia, China, or some other nation would not step in immediately to fill the void.

But even worse than that, he seems to feel U.S. foreign policy should be about grand ideas and noble goals, first and foremost, as opposed to simply protecting U.S. interests. It's this kind of nonsense from the Western intelligentsia that helped the Soviets extend their empire for decades longer than would have otherwise been the case, as "experts" like Friedman spent the fifties and sixties extolling the virtues of Soviet populism, pressuring Western governments to adopt policies of appeasement and assistance, and hoping against reason that a free and open society would magically take the place of the repressive Soviet regime (not that they could even see this repression).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Biden-Ryan: It just doesn't matter times ten

After the first debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, after the smoke had cleared to reveal that a huge percentage of people (67%) believed Romney had mopped the floor with Obama, our erstwhile media elites instantly began an "it just does't matter" campaign:

Sure, there were excuses aplenty offered for Obama's poor performance, but in the end this was all written off as meaningless because Obama was still going to win, end of story. And yet, less than a week later, the President's sizable advantage in the polls has seemingly evaporated. Democratic leaders are promising a better performance in the next debate and now frantically pumping up this week's Vice-Presidential Debate between Biden and Ryan. CNN says "the stakes are higher" now in this debate, while Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast opines that this debate could be "the rock’em-sock’em-est of them all."

Yeah, okay.

How about a little reality check? The 2008 Vice-Presidential debate between Biden and Palin was--more than anything else--a set-up for Saturday Night Lives skits. True, it was the most-watched Veep debate in history, but this was almost entirely due to Sarah Palin. Sorry Joe, but that's just the way it is. People tuned in to see her, not Biden. Some wanted to see her lay the smack down on Crazy Uncle Joe, others wanted to see her fall flat on her face, and many just wanted to see her, period. Pretty women have that effect on many guys (like yours truly).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who's driving who? Unemployment and labor-force participation

There are dependent variables and there are independent variables. An independent variable is--supposedly--not responsive to changes in other variables (or at least not the ones being scrutinized); when doing statistical analysis, the independent variable drives the results. It is changed to see what the consequences are for one or more other variables, the dependent variables.

A simple example: suppose you have a product to sell and you want to make at least a 20% profit, above what it costs you to make that product. How much do you sell it for? The simple equation that provides the answer:

price ≥ cost + (.2*cost)

The price you charge must be at least the cost to make the product plus an additional 20% of that cost. In this equation, price is the dependent variable, while cost is the independent variable. The cost can change, but not because of the price. In contrast, any change to the cost impacts the price. Thus, cost drives price. Got it? Easy stuff, I know. But knowing which variables are independent and which are dependent can become tricky when we're dealing with more complex analysis and systems.

With that in mind, let's talk about two of my favorite topics: the unemployment rate (UR) and the labor force participation rate (LFPR). With the recent drop in unemployment--according to the always-trustworthy BLS--the LFPR is all over the news; while Obama touts the improvement of the UR, Romney is busy criticizing the numbers because of the LFPR. For those unaware, the LFPR is currently in all-time low territory. It went up a smidgen, but it's still way down there. A chart from a few months back:

(courtesy Zerohedge.com)

Currently, the LFPR sits at 63.6, slightly higher than it was in August, yet still lower than it was in July. The significance of the LFPR is simple: the lower it is, the fewer people there are being counted to determine the UR. Look closely at the chart. The LFPR falls off a cliff in 2009, just after Obama takes office. And it's been trending down--way down--ever since. Month after month, the size of the labor force has been shrinking.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A feast of crow

The term "eating crow" goes back a long way, at least to the mid-nineteenth century. The basic idea of the phrase is saying with absolute certainty that something will happen, then having it not happen, thus forcing an embarrassing admission of having been wrong. It's a humiliating result for the person who makes the prediction. The first known example of the phrase being used--in English--was in a short story in an 1850 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. It was presented as a foul-tasting, nasty experience.

In the Bible, Leviticus specifically forbids the eating of ravens or crows--Leviticus 11:15--depending on the translation, but "raven" was and is often used interchangeably with "crow," the former actually being a kind of the latter. And this is because the crow is a scavenger, a carrion bird. Thus, it is "unclean."

Any way you slice it, no one wants to east crow, literally or metaphorically. But we might need quite a few crows, come November 7th. Various pundits and journalists have been proclaiming the race to be over for several months now, but the First Presidential Debate brought a whole new round of such predictions. A few of these were in Romney's favor, but most were for Obama. Like this one by Jamelle Bouie:
The former Massachusetts governor won the first presidential debate. Too bad it won't change the campaign.
Bouie--like other pundits offering similar predictions--marshalls up the Kerry-Bush debates in 2004 as evidence for this prediction:
It’s worth looking back to the 2004 presidential debates. The unanimous opinion was that John Kerry punished George W. Bush. Whereas Bush was churlish, impatient, and aloof, Kerry was dynamic and aggressive. He came away from the debates with momentum and a boost in the polls.

Twenty-two days after the final debate, Bush won reelection with 50.7 percent of the vote.

Winning debates doesn't hurt, but it doesn't do much to help either.
That debate took place on Spetember 30th, 2004 at the University of Miami. Going into the debate, Gallup had Bush up by a whopping eight points. Yes, that's right: eight points. The first Gallup poll after the debate showed a tie between the two candidates.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rule one: don't get high on your own supply

Every successful drug dealer knows this. Going down that road leads to ruin, complete and total ruin. Hell, every halfway decent stock broker knows it, too. You make the jingle with the transactions, off of your client, not by using your own money for naked speculation. It's no less true for successful venture capitalists: they don't actually use their own money.

Who doesn't know it? Well for starters, the self-proclaimed smartest people in the room, the political pundits of cable news.

Last night in the first Presidential Debate, Romney rolled Obama like a drunken sailor. Towards the end of the debate, I actually think Romney felt sorry for the President, as Romney noticeably backed off from the debilitating body blows he had been landing all night. There were almost no counter punches from Obama to speak off, much less any true offense. It was cover up and hold for the President all night long, from start to finish.

And Romney's total domination of the event was readily apparent in the forlorn looks on the faces of various journalists, both during and after the actual debate. It was even more apparent from the crush of news stories about the debate from the mainstream media: all of them involved admitting Romney did well, many actually allowed that he won, and a few that he won handily. If Obama sycophants say Romney won or even won big, what that means is that Romney won the debate with a crushing landslide of a victory. Imagine how difficult it was for Andrew Sullivan to say this:
Look: you know how much I love the guy, and you know how much of a high-information viewer I am, and I can see the logic of some of Obama's meandering, weak, professorial arguments. But this was a disaster for the president for the key people he needs to reach, and his effete, wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving Romney a second look.
But note how Sullivan characterizes himself: a "high information viewer." In other words, "hey, I'm damn smart, smarter than most everyone else." Sure you are, Andrew. Sure you are.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Running with jerks and the entitlement mentality

I try to be good about keeping up with my running, but it's been difficult as of late. Neither the weather nor the kids have been particularly cooperative since the start of the new school year. But I got out there today, getting a rousing cheer from my Nike Running app (which is just tremendous), even though I only did a little over three miles.

While running, I enjoy listening to music but that doesn't stop me from thinking, from delving even deeper into the many mysteries of life to wondering if the Dolphins will ever again play in a SuperBowl. Today, my zombie-like running trance--wherein I stare at the ground about six feet in front of me--was interrupted, not once, not twice, but three times by two different people. But first, a little background on where I run.

Almost always, about 95% of the time, I run the exact same route through a neighborhood park. It's a big park with a nice walking/jogging path looping through it, past playing fields and canals, partly shaded and partly in the open. It's about .8 miles long, so five circuits gives one a nice four mile run. The path itself is paved and--this being South Florida--completely flat. It's a little over six feet wide, thus making it fairly easy to avoid others, whether they are going in the same direction at a slower pace, or coming from the opposite direction.

So there I am, running along at a nice--for me--pace. I run on the right side of the path, of course, and actually make it a point to run close to the edge, thus not even using a third of the path's width. There are lots of others using the path, particularly in the early morning--when I run--and late afternoon. I see familiar faces everyday--when I actually look up--and offer a quick nod, usually receiving the same or a smile in reply. Oftentimes people run or walk in pairs or threesomes. When I come up behind such a group moving slower than me, a simple "excuse me" is enough to clear a path on the outside. And rightfully so. It's just common courtesy, after all. People who are moving faster then me offer similar alerts when they pass me.

But today was different. As I was on a straightaway on my first circuit, I espied a group of three women in the distance and I knew we would cross paths after the next turn. No cause for concern, since there was plenty of room on the path, right? As I continued running, I looked up to be sure there was room and, surprise, surprise, there wasn't! This group of three, busily gabbing while they walked, were taking up the entire width of the pathway. The one on the outside--whom I would pass closest to--saw me, our eyes met, but she averted her gaze and returned to her conversation, pointedly moving out farther on the path, even more in my way.

Her intent was easy enough to divine: force me to leave the path and run around her. Perhaps that is what I should have done, but I was annoyed by the rudeness and held my course. As we came to the same point, we both twisted away in the final split second to avoid a collision. I was truly flabbergasted; I looked over my shoulder and she was still gabbing. Maybe I was misreading all of this. Maybe she just wasn't paying attention.