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11/8/2012
Can the GOP Win Without the Crazies?

Birthers, truthers, paranoids, conspiracists — the whole angry, resentful, frightened mob of right wingers who make up a good portion of the Republican base scares the wholly living hell out of most of the rest of us. They exist on a different plane of reality — uncomfortable with deep thinking, irrational when their delusions are challenged, and unable to climb out of the echo chamber in which they find comfort and support with other like minded crazies.

Worse than who and what they are, the establishment Republicans and even other rational conservatives tolerate them, dismiss them as inconsequential, or actively encourage them in hopes of using their energy, activism, and money to win office.

I categorize the crazies, recognizing there is overlap in and redundancy in my taxonomy:

1. The Birthers. Still alive and kicking and insisting that either a) Obama wasn’t born here; or b) he is an illegitimate president because he’s not a “natural born citizen.” They’ve only got 4 more years to prove their case.

2. Conspiracists. Runs the gamut from the birther issue mentioned above to the idea that hundreds of reputable scientists are colluding to cook the books on global warming. Several prominent congressmen - Michele Bachmann among them — have joined this group by wondering if Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s close aide, isn’t a Muslim Brotherhood plant.

3. Anti-Science crackpots. Enter the evangelical right who dismisses evolution, the Big Bang Theory, as well as other right wingers who worry about vaccinations and are convinced a woman can’t get pregnant from rape because her body automatically shuts down to prevent it.

4. Anti-intellectual. Dismissing out of hand any criticism from anyone who they believe isn’t a conservative. They are suspicious of anyone who went to an Ivy League school or who thinks for a living, and they reflexively reject nuance and logic because if you don’t feel it in your gut, you’re probably a squishy moderate.

5. Paranoids. Pure Hofstadter. Read.

6. Cry “Communist!” and let slip the dogs of war! Is there anything loopier about the crazies than their belief that the US is turning into a Marxist dictatorship? Sheesh.

It is an open question how large this segment of “conservatives” might be. Being in a better position than most to hazard an intelligent guess, I would put the percentage at more than 25% but less than 35%. I don’t believe any polls on the matter for the simple reason that the way questions about birtherism or socialism are formulated sweeps up many on the right who have questions about such things, but don’t give them much credence.

So, how much did fear and loathing of the GOP crazies by ordinary voters contribute to the party’s debacle on Tuesday?

On Wednesday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray said the decisive Senate victories for her party had “proved to Republicans that extremists are dooming their party to disaster.”

“If Republicans want to follow the Tea Party off a political cliff, that’s their prerogative,” Murray said on a conference call with reporters. “But we will not let them take America off a cliff.”

Sorry, but it’s far more complicated than that. The self identified “Tea Party” has many faces, many factions — some of whom are rational libertarians, thoughtful federalists, or plain old Main Street Republicans.

But there is no doubt that the energy, the dynamism, and the soul of the Tea Party movement can be found in the angry, contorted faces of its members screaming about “Communism” and “Socialism” at rallies across the land. They are a fraternity of, for the most part, middle aged, Middle Class angry white males who believe they see the country they grew up in slipping away. Their vision of what America was like — a vision that obscures or ignores the more unseemly aspects of American society in decades past — lives on in Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” (a phrase The Gipper stole from Puritan leader John Winthrop). It’s a precious, if completely fanciful vision of an America that never was, but is embraced because it validates the sincere patriotic feelings felt by most ordinary Americans. They fear change because it is unsettling to have America’s perfection challenged in such a stark and obvious way.

America is changing — has always changed — and this has always unnerved some of us. It’s too easy to explain it away by saying that racism is the motivating factor in their hate. By limiting one’s explanation to the loss of white privilege, you lose sight of the traditionalist nature of their opposition to President Obama and his leftist allies.

Ed Kilgore:

As we have seen throughout history, cultural despair can lead to quiescence—to the withdrawal from politics and the building of counter-cultural institutions—or to hyper-activism—to the building of self-consiously counter-revolutionary political movements that exhibit contempt for democracy and treat opponents as enemies on an almost existential level. Maybe the kind of stuff I quoted above just reflects an emotional hangover from an election conservatives convinced themselves they were going to win. But it’s hardly new; much of the Tea Party Movement and its “constitutional conservative” ideology has involved a strange sort of anti-Americanism cloaked in super-patriotism. It wouldn’t be surprising if the same people reacted to the re-election of Barack Obama by taking their hostility to America as it is to another level.

For better or worse, the Tea Party has become the Tao of the GOP. Trying to remove them would sap most of the energy and activism from the party, which is why you don’t see too many establishment or mainstream Republicans trying to marginalize them.

But despite Kilgore’s use of scare quotes for “constitutional conservative” — as if this isn’t a valid philosophical construct or something to be feared or belittled — there is actually a purpose to the Tea Party’s obsession with the Constitution. The Kilgore’s of the world definitely don’t want to debate this, but the notion of “limited” government is at the heart of the Tea Party critique of the American government. Many of them have almost a biblical belief in the sanctity of the Constitution, that it must be taken literally, word for word like the Bible, and if something like national health care doesn’t appear in it, it is by definition “unconstitutional.” Others have a childlike understanding of the meaning of federalism, or the commerce clause, that makes them suspicious of anything that augments those concepts.

But despite all this, they are the only Americans willing to debate the limits of power granted to the federal government by our founding document. In this respect, the left, who prefer to keep their options open when it comes to defining limits on federal power, finds it convenient to tar tea partiers as racists, or authoritarians, or, as Kilgore does, anti-American. Some may be all of those, but to dismiss the argument they are making with scare quotes and name calling fails to recognize the value in what, in their own misguided way, they are trying to accomplish. I would venture to say that not since the ratification debates of 1787-88 has the Constitution been so seriously studied and debated. It’s a debate that needs to happen if there is any hope of maintaining a healthy balance between individual freedom and the needs of society to progress.

But the Tea Party does not represent the totality of the GOP crazies problem. Radical Christians who want to deny basic rights to gays, and even to women, are a far larger quandary. They vote. And no candidate for the presidency who runs on the Republican ticket can avoid toeing the line on their issues. If Mitt Romney had stood up to them by maintaining his position on gay marriage, abortion and other social issues, it is very likely he would not have been nominated. It’s at least partly the reason that governors like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie refused to enter the GOP field in 2012. Catering to the concerns of people who believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago proves to be too much for some.

It would be a dream solution for the evangelicals, the tea party, and the other crazies to form their own party, as Herman Cain suggested:

Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate who still has a robust following via his popular talk radio program and speaking tours, today suggested the most clear step to open civil war: secession. Appearing on Bryan Fischer’s radio program this afternoon, Cain called for a large faction of Republican Party leaders to desert the party and form a third, more conservative party.

“I never thought that I would say this, and this is the first time publicly that I’ve said it: We need a third party to save this country. Not Ron Paul and the Ron Paulites. No. We need a legitimate third party to challenge the current system that we have, because I don’t believe that the Republican Party … has the ability to rebrand itself,” Cain said.

Rush Limbaugh agrees:

Rush Limabugh, two months ago, echoed the sentiment. ”If Obama wins, let me tell you what it’s the end of: the Republican Party. There’s gonna be a third party that’s gonna be oriented toward conservatism,” he said.

Well, some people’s idea of “conservatism” anyway.

Of course, a third party of anti-abortion and anti-gay activists, evangelical Christians, radical anti-government Objectivists, and paranoid loons would never win a national election. But then, neither would the GOP. This wouldn’t exactly be a split between ideologues and pragmatists, but it would clearly define the divisions in the conservative movement and Republican party in such a way that one or both parties might attract enough Democrats who may be tiring of the relentless liberalism currently in vogue on the left and would seek a different brand of populism or moderate politics.

But for the present, the crazies and the GOP establishment need each other. And unless the pragmatists realize just how much of a drag the crazies are on their political fortunes, the GOP is likely to continue losing mainstream voters who look in askance on a party that tolerates such nuttiness.

By: Rick Moran at 1:59 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

11/2/2012
Staten Island Wondering Where the Government is 3 Days After Sandy

It’s just too tempting to compare the media response to government relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the response to Sandy. The dichotomy is stark.

ABC News:

The residents of Staten Island are pleading for help from elected officials, begging for gasoline, food and clothing three days after Sandy slammed the New York City borough.

“We’re going to die! We’re going to freeze! We got 90-year-old people!” Donna Solli told visiting officials. “You don’t understand. You gotta get your trucks down here on the corner now. It’s been three days!”

Staten Island was one of the hardest-hit communities in New York City. More than 80,000 residents are still without power. Many are homeless, and at least 19 people died on Staten Island because of the storm.

Three days after Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Nagin was on the radio, literally weeping about the lack of federal response to the desperation of the city (link is dead):

“You know the reason why the looters got out of control?” Nagin said. “We have most of our resources saving people. They were stuck in attics, man, old ladies. You pull off the doggone ventilator and look down and they’re standing there in water up to their fricking neck.”

“I need reinforcements,” he said. “I need troops, man. I need 500 buses.”

The relief efforts made so far had been “pathetically insufficient,” Nagin said.

“They are thinking small, man, and this is a major, MAJOR deal,” Nagin said. “God is looking down on this and if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price. Every day that we delay, people are dying, and they’re dying by the hundreds, I am willing to bet you.”

Rolling now, Nagin described distress calls he’d heard. Nagin mocked the efforts to block the 17th Street Canal breach.

“I flew over that thing yesterday and it was in the same shape it was in after the storm hit,” he said.

“There is nothing happening there. They’re feeding the public a line of bull and they’re spinning and people are dying down here.”

Although much of what Nagin was bitching about wasn’t true, there is rough symmetry between his remarks about the federal response and that of the Staten Island resident.

And yet…

There is no gaggle of national media today reporting around the clock about the desperation of Staten Island residents. There is no in depth reporting on conditions in New Jersey which is a little better off but hardly out of crisis with supplies running low and electricity still out for hundreds of thousands. There are no reporters relaying wild, unsubstantiated rumors about babies being murdered or “10,000 dead.”

In fact, I would say that media coverage of the aftermath of the hurricane has been subdued, rational, and factual. The question becomes: Since Katrina was a far more devastating storm in its destructive power and help for the victims was hampered by impossible conditions, how come the feds are getting a pass on Sandy despite obvious snafus and far less damage to infrastructure?

Well, there’s the distraction of the election. Reporters in 2005 didn’t have anything better to do and networks had no other big stories to cover. But any semi-independent observer would have to ask if there wasn’t a bias against President Bush and that the race of the Mayor of New Orleans (Nagin is black) didn’t play a role in assigning responsibility for the paltry response to the crisis.

Nagin panicked. He spread wild rumors about conditions at the Superdome which, while desperate, were nowhere near as bad as he was making them out to be. His demand for “500 buses” was ludicrous considering he had 300 buses available in a parking lot a couple of miles from the Superdome that he could have used to evacuate thousands prior to the storm making landfall. And most egregiously, he forgot to tell FEMA that there were thousands of additional residents taking refuge in the convention center — a place made a living hell because no one knew about the city using the facility as an evacuation center except Nagin.

The federal response could have been better. But as I showed in this timeline I prepared at the time, the delay in getting federal resources to New Orleans had far more to do with flooded and impassable roads, washed away bridges, and a fearful lack of coordination between state, federal, and local authorities than any inadequacies by FEMA. Who’s to blame for that? Take your partisan pick.

Am I playing the false equivalency game? To an extent, yes. No two disasters are the same and I would say that from what I’ve seen, the federal response to Sandy has the virtue of being better organized and not so ad hoc. But where the world came down on Bush’s head for the failures of government, Obama appears to be skating through undamaged.

And considering what the residents of Staten Island are going through, is that just?

By: Rick Moran at 9:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

10/5/2012
Right Wing Paranoia on Jobs Numbers

It must be a sad life living as a right wing nutcase. The entire world is against you — the media, the government, liberals, the New York Yankees (I have it on good authority that the Yankees manipulate coverage of ESPN so that they are always the lead story.)

Now, we can add to that enemies list the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS vomited forth the latest jobs numbers today and despite the fact that the number of unemployed and underemployed Americans remained the same from August, the “official” unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% to 7.8%.

Let us be absolutely clear. There is very little encouraging about these numbers. About the best you can say is that 114,000 jobs created in August and a revision upward of 86,000 jobs from the previous two months saves this report from being a total downer.

Meanwhile, net monthly job growth is still below the number needed to employ those entering the job market for the first time. An astonishing 183,000 Americans took a second job last month because there aren’t any full time jobs available. Labor participation rate is near the all time low since records have been kept — it dropped one tenth of one percent from last month’s record. The growth in jobs was due in large part to an incredible increase of 600,000 part time jobs created over one month — bringing the total of part time workers to 8.6 million Americans. These are people who want to work full time, but because of the stinky economy, can’t find a job.

In short, the right has nothing to be concerned about. This jobs report stinks - a political disaster if Republicans can articulate the underlying weakness. If the Obama campaign was going to manipulate the numbers, don’t you think they’d forget to include all of these indicators of a pathetically weak, stagnant job market? Or maybe they were counting on nobody noticing?

The confusing and arcane way in which the BLS figures the “unemployment rate,” or U-3, is beyond the understanding of most of us. But that hasn’t stopped a slew of right wingers from giving us a knowing wink and opining that the large drop in the widely quoted official rate is “convenient” and that the number has “obviously” been cooked.

Here are a few of the more prominent “jobs truthers”:

The leader of the “job truther” movement: former GE CEO Jack Welch.

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” he said on Twitter.

He had some friends in Congress too. Rep. Allen West (R-FL) tweeted “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here.” He added on Facebook that the jobs report was “Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals.’”

FOX News’ Stuart Varney apparently sensed where his audience was going. Within minutes of their release he told viewers that “there is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers.”

“How convenient the rate drops below 8% [for the] first time in 43 months, five weeks before the election,” he added later.

CNBC host Jim Carmer said he was pilloried by viewers for defending the BLS report’s integrity.

“This is very hot. You believe the number, you must be a card-carrying Communist,” he joked on the air.

All of these paranoids have made a classic error in logic; they have put the cart before the horse by adopting an assumption — cooked books — without any evidence that would buttress and undergird that assumption. Instead, they have substituted an outcome — large decrease in unemployment rate — to “prove” the assumption is correct.

Yes, but they “know in their gut” that the numbers are cooked. “I wouldn’t put it past Obama” is another bit of fancy that passes for “evidence.” I am perfectly willing to believe that the numbers are cooked — just as soon as someone shows me how it was done. Or even how it could be done. The BLS publishes reams and reams of data along with the numbers. Show me where the data is falsified. Show me where their computations are goofy. Show me where there is the slightest whiff of collusion between the BLS and the Obama White House. Show me one tiny piece of evidence that your paranoia is justified.

In short, show me or shut up.

Is there no Diogenes out there who will carry the lantern through the streets, seeking the truth to save us from this folly? Well, Ezra Klein is definitely not Diogenes but he’ll do in a pinch:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The data was not, as Jack Welch suggested in a now-infamous tweet, manipulated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000.

The fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this — and even drops bigger than this — before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent — two-tenths of one percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a .2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a .4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is.

The number could, of course, be wrong. The household survey is, well, a survey, which means it’s open to error. But the internals back it up. The number saying they had jobs increased by about 800,000. That seems high, but it’s counting 582,000 who say they got part-time jobs.

There’s precedent for this. As Daniel Indiviglio notes, part-time jobs increased by 579,000 in September 2010 and by 483,000 in September 2011. It might simply be seasonal hiring. You don’t need to resort to ridiculous theories like Democrats across the country suddenly deciding to lie to surveytakers in order to help Obama.

The idea that supposedly intelligent conservatives have eaten fruit from the tree of conspiracy isn’t surprising at all. When reason and logic are rejected and objective reality eschewed in favor of emotionalism and paranoia, the end result is always ugly and misshapen thinking.

UPDATE

My old friend John Cole at Balloon Juice has rediscovered my blog. Thanks for the link to this post, John — I need the hits.

As for his commentary…

Rick Moran, blogging at the most poorly named website on the planet, the American Thinker, letting the “paranoids” update his post:

I posted my AT blog about 15 minutes after the BLS numbers were released. As is usual with big stories like this, I added this to the post:

As usual with this number, the real unemployment data is hidden away inside the BLS report. We’ll update this blog as deeper analysis becomes available.

And indeed, as I mention above, those numbers “hidden away” in the BLS report are a disaster for Cole and his partisans.

But if John had bothered to read the masthead at American Thinker, he would know that the concept of me “letting” Tom Lifson update the blog is absurd. Tom is editor in chief and one of the founders of American Thinker. He also signs my paychecks. In what wacky world that Cole inhabits would you not “let” your boss do what he darn well pleases with your post?

(As an aside, when I disagree with Tom, he encourages me to add an update to that particular blog post registering my objections. I may do so this morning with the BLS story — time spent at my other job having been a factor yesterday in me not responding.)

Cole is as nutty as the right wing crazies. But I do appreciate the link, and welcome back, John.

By: Rick Moran at 1:00 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

10/4/2012
We Now Return You To Our Regularly Scheduled Racial Programming…

It’s been a few days without race being shoved into the campaign as an issue, so we were overdue for something like this.

Daily Caller:

In a video obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama tells an audience of black ministers, including the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that the U.S. government shortchanged Hurricane Katrina victims because of racism.

“The people down in New Orleans they don’t care about as much!” Obama shouts in the video, which was shot in June of 2007 at Hampton University in Virginia. By contrast, survivors of Sept. 11 and Hurricane Andrew received generous amounts of aid, Obama explains. The reason? Unlike residents of majority-black New Orleans, the federal government considers those victims “part of the American family.”

The racially charged and at times angry speech undermines Obama’s carefully-crafted image as a leader eager to build bridges between ethnic groups. For nearly 40 minutes, using an accent he almost never adopts in public, Obama describes a racist, zero-sum society, in which the white majority profits by exploiting black America. The mostly black audience shouts in agreement. The effect is closer to an Al Sharpton rally than a conventional campaign event.

You can watch the video at the link above. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before from other black spokesmen of one vintage or another about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. A nine minute version of the video itself had been circulating since the 2008 campaign and was widely reported on at the time.

But this expanded version features the kind of rhetoric that is definitely unpost-racial. The kind of conspiracy mongering suggested by candidate Obama is de rigueur among race hustlers seeking to whip up anger at the government or white America — usually interchangeable villains.

But I don’t understand the significance. A black political candidate pandering to the fears and emotions of a black audience? OMIGOD stop the world I want to get off! Listening to Obama and the cheers and shouts of the crowd when he scored whitey reminded me a lot of Sarah Palin and her politics of resentment.

Palin panders too. She panders to a specific group of white, middle aged, middle class voter who resents modern America and would like the country to return to the good old days when blacks knew their place, women stayed home, gays belonged in the closet, and all these annoying regulations that protect worker safety and health, as well as consumers didn’t exist. She, better than anyone on the right, articulates the incoherent rage against affirmative action, abortion on demand, gay marriage, and all the cultural issues that have divided America for going on 40 years. The growth of government is a catch all for the real issues that move this subset of righties. Theirs is a revolt against modernity — as significant as the clerical revolution in Iran (without the beheadings and dressing women in burlap sacks.).

A skewed reality is substituted for objective truth as the glorious past is framed in sweetness and light — a time before the New Deal and Great Society when America was nearly perfect and people lived in almost total freedom. As I’ve said many times, this supposed yearning for a “return” to the Constitution is no such thing. It is advocacy for an Articles of Confederation on steroids with a dose of nullification for good measure.

Palin is very good at it. Her spiel is almost liturgical in its incantations, with her admirers knowing by rote the litany of crimes by liberals and the government. In this way, her audience’s anger and resentment is purified and the listener is consecrated to a sacred task; bring back the treasured past.

Obama pandering to blacks isn’t quite as dramatic but he touches all the right buttons to get the response he wants. His anger in this video is no doubt genuine (I’ve often thought that if I was a black man in America I’d probably be a radical communist). And he is very clever in raising the conspiracy advanced by many black commentators in the aftermath of Katrina that George Bush and his government didn’t care as much about New Orleans as they did about other natural disasters because Bush is white and New Orleans is majority black. Blacks don’t want to believe that anymore than anyone else, but it is a relief to hear a presidential candidate vocalize their deepest fears. In other words, Obama descended to their level and embraced them.

Politicians who pander (Obama also panders excellently to Hispanics) are despicable but hardly a surprise. Trying to make a big deal out of this video was stupid and shows just how immune to objective reality some on the right truly are.

By: Rick Moran at 1:00 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

9/20/2012
Is Romney Toast?

No, but he is behind and time and circumstances are against him.

The latest Pew survey has Democrats on Cloud 9, as it gives the president an 8 point lead among likely voters. My sense from reading Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls is that it is probably half that. If the lead were really that big, there would be some reflection of that in the rolling averages. Rasmussen’s three day aggregation would almost certainly show a far bigger lead for the president (currently Obama 47, Romney 45) if the Pew survey was close to being accurate.

But Pew surveyed from 9/12 - 9/16 — before Romney’s producers/takers comments came to light. That’s another reason to distrust the margin for the president from that poll. Gallup found Romney’s comments were received negatively by a larger number of voters than those who saw them in a positive light (36% - 20%). But a strong plurality — 43% — said that it made no difference, so Democrats who declared the race “over” better go back to the drawing board.

But Romney has other troubles, most notably, he trails in several key swing states. The national numbers may not be too bad, but he is significantly behind in Virginia and Colorado while he is closer in Ohio and Florida, but still trails the president.

The reason the race is close nationally is fairly simple; states that the president won by double digits in 2008 are giving him far less support in 2012. For example, Wisconsin (+14 in 2008) and Michigan (+16 2008) show the president with a lead in single digits in both states. Wisconsin may be in play but Michigan is almost off the board. Those electoral votes will add to the president’s total exactly the same as in 2008 no matter what his margin of victory.

Romney may have been wrong in his “47%” comments, but he was right about something else:

“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he added. “What I have to do is convince the 5 percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful.”

He’s right that however far he is behind, the universe of persuadables is incredibly small. The overwhelming majority of voters have had their minds made up at least since mid-summer, leaving the two candidates to fight over that last 5-10%. So a 5 point lead for Obama in Virginia is significant. To overcome that lead, Romney must persuade about 6 in 10 of the remaining undecideds to pull out a victory. Given how close the race is, that’s a tall order indeed.

Not surprisingly, the right is in denial about the polls and many are convinced that the race isn’t even close — that Romney is far ahead and that he will win in a landslide in November. One example of dozens:

People fancy me a politico, and I’m approached by anxious Romneyites who see a tight race and wonder if Mitt’s going to be abe to pull it out. It happened on Sunday, in the halls at church. A guy pulled me aside and asked, with a note of panic in his voice, “Can Mitt really win this?”

My answer, which I now share with you, is yes. Yes, he can win this. Yes, he will win this. What’s more, he will win big. Landslide big.

This is neither bluster nor cockiness. It is a cold-eyed assessment of the facts.

“But the polls, Stallion!” I hear you cry. “The polls show a tight race!”

No, they don’t. The polls show that this would be a tight race… if exactly the same people showed up who showed up in 2008. Almost all the neck-and-neck polls presume that just as many Democrats as showed up when Obama was hardcore hopey changey will turn out this time around. In fact, some of them oversample Democrats, presuming that more Democrats will turn out in 2012 than showed up last time.

Um…no, that’s ridiculous. This fellow obviously never heard of sample weighting. He also is ill-informed about the new turnout models prepped by all the major polling outfits. Those models are based on current polling data and have very little to do with 2008 turnout.

And as far as enthusiasm is concerned, that gap appears to be narrowing. Gallup:

Voter enthusiasm in these states has grown among members of both political parties; however, Democrats’ level has increased more. Thus, whereas equal percentages of Democrats and Republicans were enthusiastic in June, Democrats are now significantly more enthusiastic than Republicans, 73% vs. 64%.

Independents’ enthusiasm also jumped substantially over this period — up 18 points, similar to the 20-point gain among Democrats; however, independents’ enthusiasm still lags behind that of both partisan groups.

Others on the right are far more dismissive of the polls, with some claiming there is a cabal of media out to discourage GOP voters from going to the polls by publishing skewed surveys showing Romney behind. This ignores the reality that if pollsters were deliberately cooking the books, they wouldn’t stay in business for long. Witness the fate of the polling outfit Research 2000 who cooked the books while polling for Daily Kos. Kos sued them and won a substantial settlement.

In this day and age, it’s just too easy to check the work of pollsters. Methodology is usually published along with each poll (although some algorithms and other means of statistical analysis are proprietary and are kept secret). A reputation for accuracy and honesty is all that recommends one polling firm over another. It would be beyond belief that Gallup, or Rasmussen, or any other nationally recognized pollster would risk it all to please partisans.

Many on the right have been asking why the race is close to begin with. They cite the dismal economy, the unpopularity of Obamacare, the still depressed housing market, and other factors that they believe should have Romney up by plenty.

Ramesh Ponnuru:

So why is Obama doing so well in the polls, if increased public dependency on government isn’t the answer?

For starters, the public at large isn’t as convinced as conservatives that he has been a dismal failure. Most people cut him some slack because of the economic crisis that began under a Republican president and kept unfolding as Obama took office. They know that the economy has changed direction. Some people think the economy has done about as well as it could have under the circumstances.

Another reason Obama is doing well might have to do with the weakness of the Republican economic message. Republicans dwell on the heroic entrepreneur held back by taxes and regulation, which must be part of the story that a free-market party tells. But most people don’t see themselves in that storyline, any more than they see themselves as dependents of the federal government. They don’t see Americans as divided between makers and takers.

To the extent Republicans do, they’re handicapping themselves.

Has anyone on the right really looked at Romney’s agenda? It should look very familiar because it’s the same one that Reagan offered in 1980. Cut taxes, cut the budget, strong defense, deregulation — I can hear Reagan talking about it now. Romney has dressed up this 30 year old agenda but it still sounds old and tired. New realities demand new answers and the GOP isn’t supplying any.

Neither candidate will realize a landslide unless a monumental gaffe occurs in one of the debates. Both men are pretty good on their feet so that doesn’t appear likely at this point. A larger possibility is that the big bad world outside intervenes to flip the election. Which candidate would benefit if Israel attacked Iran or attacks on our embassies worsen, or the euro falls is unknown, but a potential game changer from abroad cannot be ruled out.

The president is ahead and Romney is running out of time. That’s where the race is as I see it closing in on 40 days to go.

By: Rick Moran at 10:34 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/8/2012
The Real Crisis Facing America

Stanley Kurtz writing at The Corner:

As the Romney campaign sees it, the tiny sliver of remaining undecided voters consists of mildly disillusioned former Obama supporters, or at least voters who personally like Obama. Coaxing these folks to “break up” with their erstwhile beau means not making them feel like they were fools to buy into Obama’s vision to begin with. That cuts against any effort to unmask the president’s overweening leftist ambitions. Let’s just say that the president’s a nice guy who’s in over his head instead.

Okay, but Michelle Obama did a very effective job of pressing undecideds to give her nice-guy another try. And the convention as a whole did a better job of redefining government as nice-guyism writ large than Republicans would like to admit. Charles Krauthammer says that the counter to all this is exposing Obama as “a deeply committed social democrat” using his presidential power to enact the same “ambitious left-wing agenda” he “developed in his youth.” Well, yes. So far as I can tell, however, this sort of argument is the last thing the Romney campaign wants to make right now. Don’t want to drive away that tiny sliver of Obama’s wavering admirers.

I can’t say for certain that Romney’s strategy is wrong. But I do think it’s far riskier than we realize. Treating Obama as a nice guy in over his head, rather than a smart leftist who knows exactly what he’s doing, leaves the Democrats’ bogus narrative about government unanswered. America is changing, and Republicans are naive to rely on the public to simply recognize the problems in the Democrats’ claims without significant help from our nominee.

This is the civilized version of the internet right’s demand that Romney begin to savage Obama by calling him a socialist or communist, and start attacking the president for “taking away our freedoms.” Kurtz actually hits the nail on the head when he says America is changing and that the Democrat’s Santa Claus vision of government is gaining ground. Even if Romney were to point out that Obama’s ideas are liberal dogma going back to the 1960’s, the average voter would shrug his shoulders and say, “So what?” Government as a goody factory is just fine with a growing number of Americans who want their lives made easier by latching on to government programs that promise free or cheap services.

The bulk of government cash no longer goes to what we would define as “the poor.” As Nicholas Eberstadt points out in an essay based on his book, “A Nation of Takers,” it’s the “Middle Class” that is now the greatest beneficiary of entitlements:

According to a Census Bureau data run requested by the Wall Street Journal, just over 49 percent of U.S. households were using at least one government benefit to help support themselves in early 2011 (see Figure 16). This was a tremendous increase over the early 1980s, at which time about 30 percent of households were already estimated to be on at least one of the government’s many benefit programs, although the rise was not entirely uninterrupted. In the late 1990s (in the aftermath of welfare reform and at a time of relatively robust economic growth), the prevalence of benefit recipience declined temporarily before continuing on its further ascent. If the Census Bureau reports that over 49 percent of U.S. households are obtaining at least one government benefit, we can safely say that the true number is actually already well over 50 percent. To put it another way: a majority of homes with voters in them are now applying for and obtaining one or more benefits from U.S. government programs.

The prevalence of entitlement program usage is by no means uniform by age group or ethnicity. Meaningful variations within American society and the public at large are illustrated in Figure 17, Figure 18, and Figure 19. In 2004, according to a study based on CPS data conducted by a researcher at AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), nearly 48 percent of American families were already obtaining at least one government benefit (a somewhat higher level than Census Bureau researchers indicated for 2004 [see Figure 16]). By these numbers, nearly every household (98 percent) with someone sixty-five or older was obtaining at least one benefit, with 95 percent of them obtaining benefits from two programs—generally speaking, Medicare and Social Security / Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI).[18]

Perhaps more striking, though, is the proportion of households with no one sixty-five or older obtaining government benefits: entitlement prevalence for this group was already at 35 percent in the year 2004. Relatively few of these beneficiaries were Social Security / OASI or Medicare cases—and of the rest, only a minority was accounted for by unemployment or disability benefits. The overwhelming majority instead were accounted for by households and families availing themselves of means-tested benefits or antipoverty programs.

Fewer and fewer of us are willing to make self reliance part of our value system. And why should we when one is seen as a chump for not taking what’s being so generously bestowed by government? “Our tax dollars fund these programs so why not take advantage of them?” might be a common justification for grabbing for your share of the goodies, but if that also means trillion dollar deficits, unsustainable levels of debt, and eventual national bankruptcy, one might legitimately inquire, “Who’s the chump now?”

We are not going to grow our way out of this crisis. We are not going to spend our way out of it either. Nor will economic growth alone, or government spending by itself lead to a resurrection of a strong Middle Class. Raising the tax rate on the “rich” won’t fix our budget problems, nor will cutting a trillion dollars from the budget solve our long term spending problems. At bottom, entitlements, the budget, taxes — these are all manifestations of how we define our relationship with government. What do we want from Washington? What can we afford? How much do I want to pay?

Until we answer those questions, a government that leans right or left won’t matter. For it is not in ideology that we will find the answers but in placing more value on our liberty, than on what government can do to make our lives easier.

By: Rick Moran at 10:24 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/7/2012
God and Man at the DNC

So, the Democrats hate God. How do I know? I read it on the internet — at least, that portion of the internet that belongs to right wing crazies:

Are you a God hater? The Democrat party is for YOU, then. Bunch of godless paganistic freaks. I hate these people, yes I HATE these people. HATE, HATE, HATE.

Yes, ok — I get it. Video doesn’t lie. Democrats booed after they put the name of God back in their party platform. This is conclusive proof that the Democrats hate God.

But wait a minute. They were booing when they put Jerusalem as the capital of Israel back in that document. So the Democrats don’t hate God. They hate the Jews.

Actually, it would be more politically viable if they hated God. Jews donate a lot of money to the party and 3 out of 4 vote for the Democratic candidate. Then again, a lot of Americans like God a lot and showing that you hate him by booing when party leaders ram an amendment putting his name back in the platform would lose a lot of votes too.

Republicans, of course, don’t have this problem. They love God and pretty much like Jews. It’s sex they hate. Or women. Or women and sex. If the GOP wanted to take out the plank in their platform that opposes couples having sex, they would have booed that too. Well, they didn’t really have a plank like that in their platform. But we know the GOP hates contraceptives because if a woman takes them, she proves herself a slut and if there’s one thing Republicans hate, its sluts. And gays. And Mexicans. And the lazy poor. And transsexuals. And gender queers. And whatever other sexual identifiable group liberals want to add to the put upon class this week — maybe asexuals.

Now, hating Mexicans and gays basically loses you the gay and Mexican vote. But hating sex — this is a serious political miscalculation. Much like the Democrats who hate God, demonstrating that you hate sex could be a game changer in an election. Trust me, I know. I’m a top notch political analyst and I’m telling you, hating God and hating sex — well, it just doesn’t get any more politically stupid.

This is why I doubt the Democrats hate God. Nor do they hate the Jews. They may hate Israel and how mean they think they are to those pussycats in Hamas. But they don’t hate the Jews — I think. But Israel is full of Jews and the Israeli people have it in their head that Jerusalem is their capital. Who are Democrats to say that a sovereign people can’t decide where their capital should be?

How would Democrats like it if the Labor Party in Great Britain put a plank in their platform that said Washington, D.C. shouldn’t be the capital of the US anymore? Madness! Washington has been the capital since 1800. Well, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years. What does that say about the “reality based community” when they deny such a simple reality?

And I’m sure the GOP doesn’t hate sex, either. They may like it with the lights off and only in the missionary position — no dining room tables or kitchen counters for them — and only once or twice a month, and maybe with most of their clothes on. But I’m reasonably certain they don’t hate sex — as long as you do it to make babies and by no means have any fun while so engaged.

So what is it about God that so unnerved the Democrats that they first, took his name out of the platform, and then put him back in after Republicans began to make fun of them? I think it’s because God belief is so…so…Republican that the thought by these hyperpartisans that they would include anything so obviously traditional and conservative as belief in God in their platform that they temporarily lost their sanity and committed a political faux pas. No doubt the way party leaders shoved the addition of God down their throats by lying about a 2/3 majority voice vote also contributed to the booing and other manifestations of displeasure.

As we top notch political analysts are wont to say — it was “bad optics.”

The two sides can’t help it. Trapped as they are in their hatred for each other, and their self absorbed ideological cocoons, both sides are bound to create many situations where “bad optics” is the order of the day. They will deny they hate God, the Jews, sex, gays, Mexicans, and even Moooslims, but you and I know better. They are incapable of stepping outside themselves and viewing themselves as the rest of us see them; clueless, sorry ass partisans with a dissociative attachment to reality and a worldview glimpsed through a darkened prism of ideological fervor.

By: Rick Moran at 1:03 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/26/2012
Just Another Saturday Night in Chicago

The shooting toll: 2 dead, 8 more wounded. Most of them random. Most of them involving men under the age of 25.

Are they all African American? The Chicago Tribune does not give the race of the victims or the shooters. But you’d be hard pressed to find a white face on the South Side and West Side neighborhoods where these shootings occurred:

A 22-year-old man was fatally shot at a Far South Side liquor store Saturday evening, police said, and a 46-year-old man was killed about 45 minutes later.

At least six others were shot on the South and West sides overnight.

The younger man was shot to death at the store near 133rd Street and Indiana Avenue about 8:45 p.m., said Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Darryl Baety. Someone outside fired, hitting the man in the chest, police said.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified him as Timothy Scott, of the 13300 block of South Calumet Avenue. He was pronounced dead at the scene about 9 p.m., officials said.

[...]

About 9:30 p.m., the 46-year-old man was shot in the chest and right bicep and found in an alley by responding officers, according to police. Officers found Randy Streeter, 46, on the 1800 block of West 63rd Street in the West Englewood neighborhood, authorities said.

We live in a country where the race of the victim and the shooter actually matter - that the tragedy of an early death can be quantified by the color of the skin of the dead person’s assailant. If both victims are black, or the victim is white and the shooter is black, this is somehow less meaningful, less important, less a tragedy than if a “white Hispanic” kills an unarmed young black man.

What’s wrong with that picture? How did we reach a point where this kind of race madness afflicts both white and black?

Hundreds of people marched in support of “justice” for Trayvon Martin in Chicago on Sunday. Everyone wishes for this, whether it lead to Mr. Zimmerman’s punishment for violating the law or his exoneration. Who will march for justice for Timothy Scott? Or the ten victims of gun violence last weekend in Chicago? Or the dozens of other dead people killed around the country in random and not so random shootings? Each death every bit the monumental loss for that family as for the family of young Mr. Martin. Each killing wracking the neighborhood and community where the dead lay as the pain caused by Mr. Martin’s death in Sanford, FL.

Selective outrage is morally reprehensible. Those who seek to make political hay out of this tragedy - including the president of the United States - need to step back and examine the objective reality of the situation. You must reject the notion that Mr. Martin’s death was any more tragic, any less a tragedy than any other death of a young man whose life was cut short by gun violence.

Because when you strip away everything else, all you are left with is politics. And if that is truly what all of this ink being spilled, pixels being created, and tears being shed - real or crocodile - is all about, the injustice, dear friends, is being perpetrated by you and not the Sanford police, Mr. Zimmerman, or the white race.

This blog originally appears on The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 7:11 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

3/20/2012
Illinois Tailor Made for Romney’s Moderate Conservatism

My preview of the Illinois primary is up at PJ Media. And with recent polls showing Romney pulling away to a double digit lead, it may turn out to be a blowout for the Mittster:

Silver’s model for Mississippi gave Santorum only a 2% chance of winning that race. But it may be asking a lot for the candidate to overcome Romney in a state that is tailor-made for his brand of Republicanism. Illinois’ history is replete with GOP moderates winning statewide races, including recent governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, and George Ryan, as well as a tradition of Senate moderates like Everett Dirksen and Charles Percy.

But the party has changed over the last 20 years and moderates have a far more difficult time in state-wide primaries. Moderate State Senator Kirk Dillard lost to social conservative Bill Brady in the GOP contest for governor in 2010. Brady narrowly lost to the politically damaged Democrat Pat Quinn, who served as impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor. But current GOP Senator Mark Kirk (rehabbing from a serious stroke) seems to have bridged the gap between the social right and more secular-oriented conservatives with a successful 2010 campaign that stressed economic issues and his leadership qualities.

So while there is a history and tradition of moderate conservatism in Illinois, recent candidates are decidedly farther to the right, reflecting the rise of social conservatives in the party hierarchy. Romney hopes to tap the latent strain of secular conservatism that is most prevalent in the sprawling suburbs of Chicago, while tea party folk and evangelicals, who will make up around 40% of the GOP vote on Tuesday, will break hard for Santorum.

There isn’t exactly zero enthusiasm for Romney in the metro area of Chicago. His rallies have been well-attended — as one would expect from the good advance work being done by his team. But they lack the fire of the true believers who are showing up in droves at Santorum appearances. Romney spoke at the University of Chicago on Monday where the crowd was large, respectful, and, if not enthusiastic, genuinely pleased with the candidate’s message:

Since the debacle of 2006 senate race where Jack Ryan — who had a decent shot of beating Obama — was forced out of the race because of revelations about his divorce to actress Jeri Ryan, (replacing him with the nincompoop Alan Keyes), the IL GOP has barely recovered its equilibrium. They nominated a hard line social conservative for governor in 2010, Bill Brady, who failed to beat an extremely vulnerable Democrat in Pat Quinn. The more moderate alternative — Ken Dillard — would almost certainly have won going away. But he lost to Brady by a scant 119 votes in the primary and Quinn won the general despite serving as Lt. Governor to the disgraced Rod Blagojevich.

Dillard was moderate — by today’s GOP standards. But recent GOP state-wide winners like Senator Mark Kirk and Judy Baar Topinka are more conservative than just about any state office holders in the 80’s and 90’s. The IL GOP has lurched to the right in the last decade as social conservatives are now dominating the party’s leadership. The result has been a shrinking of the number of self-identified Republicans in Illinois as many moderates have either switched parties or gone indie. The Chicago suburbs — once a bastion of Republicanism — are now far less reliable as GOP voters. This has made Illinois - once a classic swing state — as deep blue as any Democratic state in the union save Massachusetts when it comes to federal elections.

Mitt Romney will not recapture most of these moderates for the Republican party. His pandering to the social right might get him the nomination, but it is doubtful that he will beat Favorite Son Obama in November. Perhaps that was never possible. But until the IL GOP rights itself and gets back to its roots, they will continue to lose state-wide races to Democrats and keep Illinois in the Democratic column for presidential elections.

By: Rick Moran at 8:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/21/2012
What’s the Real Rate of Inflation?

The following is completely anecdotal, which means it is useless as intelligent analysis. I make no claim to understanding the theory or practice of figuring the inflation rate any more than I can “understand” the Holy Trinity or Quantum Mechanics.

But something is horribly wrong with the “official” inflation numbers. They are meaningless to anyone who has to live in the real world and is watching in horror as food, fuel, and the cost of other goods we buy regularly go through the roof.

I used to think it was just us, that we were overspending on food and not being economical with the car. I don’t think that anymore. Our food bill has increased 20% in less than 6 months  and we have watched gas prices make an uneven climb toward the $4 a gallon mark.

OK - everyone can see the correlation there. Trucks bring food to the stores and if gas increases substantially, the cost of food will increase as well. Since gas has gone up 25 cents per gallon over the last 6 months, it stands to reason that food will have had a corresponding increase - or something close to it.

But the increase has been very uneven. Some processed foods have remained nearly the same while others have shot up. Fresh fruit and veggies are through the roof. Bread has gone up nearly 40%. The price of fresh meat has also taken off while even off-brand canned goods have increased substantially.

Having worked in a grocery store (customer service manager), I know that there is an art and science to pricing stock. The marketing people will hold the line on some popular items while increasing the cost of others based on arcane formulas and research into customer buying habits.  But the proof is in our monthly food bill.

I started to keep very careful track of what we were spending on food every month, largely because I believed we were buying a bunch of stuff we didn’t need and could do without. Naturally, Sue took umbrage at this. She is proud of her skills as a shopper, visiting three stores every time she went for the month’s major grocery purchases in order to get the best possible price on fresh fruit and veggies, meat, deli, and canned goods. For the last 5 months we have kept every receipt - even if it was just to the corner store to get some milk or deli.

The results floored me.

Comparing the same items month to month was an eye opener. Ground round  has increased 35%. Our Alfredo sauce went up 40%. Seasonal fluctuations can account for the rise in fresh fruit and veggies. But an increase of 110% for lettuce?

Instead of spending $500 a month on food, we are spending about $625 - a 20% increase. That’s can’t be all”volatility.” Along with the increases in gas and fuel costs, the cost of living at my house is rising far faster than any “official” rate.

I am not one to believe in some kind of Obama conspiracy. The BLS wouldn’t be able to get away with fudging the numbers The unemployment rate is also a fantasy number but not because of any deliberate attempt to fiddle with the numbers either. Both indices are calculated based on criteria that is out in the open for all to see.

The problems as I see it are twofold: What goes into the”market basket” used to figure inflation, and how the unemployment figures are reported in the press.

Basically, the things that really impact our personal cost of living are devalued in the market basket used today while other stuff that we might buy occasionally are seemingly given more weight. The reason isn’t to “hide” the true cost of living but because of the price “volatility” of certain items that would skew the CPI when measured month to month and year to year.

The reported unemployment rate is trickier. Much of the actual rate compared to the official rate is buried in a blizzard of data that would include part time workers, workers too discouraged to look for work, and those who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. But the business press is lousy in this country and they do an awful job - with some exceptions - of putting all those numbers together in order to give us an accurate picture of how good/bad things are in the job market. You are much better off reading econ blogs who, if you can get through their explanations without your eyes glazing over, do a better job of giving a “big picture” look at what the job market is doing.

So the CPI is not used to inform us about our personal financial situation, but to guide the Fed and politicians in formulating policies. A fat lot of good that does the average consumer who is watching helplessly as he becomes poorer by the month. The official inflation rate in January was just 2.9%. From January 2011 to January 2012, the yearly rate was also 2.9%.

Everyone I’ve talked to is mad about prices and thinks those numbers are a crock. They have the exact same reaction I’ve had to the official rate of inflation - like, “Who are you trying to kid?” Most see the hand of politics in these numbers but that just isn’t credible. It’s too easy to check the BLS’s math to see if they are being ordered to give fictitious numbers.

The purchasing power of the average American is seriously eroding and no one is doing anything about it because the “official” numbers are telling us that all is well - no reason to panic. Food, gas, and fuel to heat our homes are all going up far faster than that government inflation number. And now, even the cost of renting our homes or apartments is beginning to rise. Those 4 “market basket” items represent the bulk of our monthly expenditures.

Some smart politician running for president is going to start articulating what the vast majority of us are experiencing on the inflation front. The one who does  will probably end up winning in November.

But is it any wonder that most people you talk to these days thinks the CPI is a load of crap?

By: Rick Moran at 10:30 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)