Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Hope

people cling to selected “facts” as a way to justify their beliefs about how the world works. [Samuel Arbesman, author of the new book The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date,] notes, “We persist in only adding facts to our personal store of knowledge that jibe with what we already know, rather than assimilate new facts irrespective of how they fit into our worldview.” All too true; confirmation bias is everywhere. 

--Ronald Bailey, Reason

America is seriously divided. We live under a president who openly disdains the large minority of his countrymen who live outside his well-defined coalition of government workers, minorities, unmarried women, and youth; his coalition topped by a progressive national elite that dominates the media, nonprofits, academia, and the entertainment industry.

I believe that in a democracy, sharp divisions make sense. It’s how parties organize, after all, to win elections. I worry, however, that the two sides are so far apart that they no longer learn from each other. They--as Ronald Bailey suggests (above)--each watch their own cable channels, go to their own internet sites, and increasingly talk only to those who think alike.

We used to have conference committees to hash out differences between the two houses of congress. Now though, with one house controlled by Republicans and the other by Democrats--a time when conference committee compromises would seem more useful than ever--the conference committee has disappeared. And that has to be a bad development.

Can we hope for more comity in 2013?

Surprise: Religion Alive in the Academy.

Douglas and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, authors of No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education, write in the liberal “Daily Beast” about the state of religion on college campuses today. After pointing out that one-third of Americans under 30 lack any religious affiliation, the professors present findings about the others who do connect to religion in some fashion.

According to the Jacobsens, it’s difficult:
to draw any neat line of separation between “religion” and the wide variety of “secular” life stances that are also present on campuses. Whether people refer to the values and commitments that shape their lives as religion, spirituality, humanism, secularism, or agnosticism, they are referring to values and commitments that function socially and psychologically in much the same way. On many campuses, the definition of religious life has expanded to encompass all the religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical concerns of students.
The Jacobsens add these points:
  •  younger professors are more interested in religion than are their more senior colleagues trained in the 1980s-1990s secular heyday. It’s not that younger faculty members are more favorably disposed to religion, just that they are more comfortable discussing it. 
  • elite schools are less open to reengaging religion than non-elite schools. At community colleges, faculty often welcome discussion of religion, in part because they serve students still living at home, still in local faith communities, and bringing religious questions into the classroom. 
  • evangelical proselytizing actually helps others to articulate their own values and commitments. Princeton’s religion department asks students to examine divisive public issues in light of their own religious particularities, allowing students to practice the “obsolete political art” of talking respectfully with ideological opponents. 
  • reengaging religion prepares students for the real world where religion is part of politics, community and international affairs, interpersonal relations, and quests for meaning and purpose.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hollywood Gone Bad

“your television . . . is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident.”

 --Jonathan Chait, New York

“Hollywood,” the term, also includes the major television networks and their programming, as well as independent movie and TV studios. “Hollywood” propagates a unified cultural alternative to the traditional, Judeo-Christian ethic favored by conservatives.

How did this happen? As Johathan Chait noted, “Hollywood was founded by Jewish immigrants who lived in terror that their Jewishness would make conservative America suspect them of abusing their cultural power.” That “Hollywood” gave up on traditional values around the time of Kennedy’s 1963 assassination--the early Mad Men years.

In truth, Hollywood smoldered through the 1950s. Many in the older generation were unhappy about friends taken down in late ‘40s early ‘50s anti-Communist witch hunts. Younger Hollywood writers were fed up with the clamps their elders had placed on sex and violence, along with forced traditional religious piety and patriotic themes. Inherit the Wind, a direct attack on Christian conservatives and starring respected one-time Boys Town (1938) priest Spencer Tracy, came out as a movie in 1960, five long years after the Broadway play, but in time to usher in Hollywood’s new decade.

The 1960 Oscars proved a watershed for sex in Hollywood. The Apartment, with Jack Lemmon facilitating Shirley MacLaine’s affair with a married man, won best picture and best director, wayward evangelist Burt Lancaster won best actor for corrupting best supporting actress Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry, and Elizabeth Taylor won best actress for playing a prostitute in Butterfield 8.

These movies, however, were mild compared to what followed--Dr. Strangelove (1964, anti-authority), Darling (1965, free love), Alfie and Blow-Up (1966, free love), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, filthy language), The Graduate (1967, anti-authority, anti-marriage), Bonnie and Clyde (1967, extreme violence), Midnight Cowboy (1969, raw sex, violence, “X” rated Oscar winner), The Wild Bunch (1969, extreme violence), Easy Rider (1969, anti-authority).

The 1960s. As country club, white Protestant males lost national control to anti-Vietnam demonstrations and the civil rights movement, Hollywood’s previously suppressed resentment of the dominant culture exploded. Hollywood was a big part of the ensuing rebellion, emerging on the winning side in the 1970s, the decade women also claimed their rightful place in America. Hollywood’s counter culture in the process became the culture we know today--coarse, violent, committed to level equality (“justice”), anti-authority, anti-business (anti-“greed”), anti-church, anti-white male, anti-marriage-based family.

At Christmas, many long for a lost culture that encouraged sacrifice and hard work, faith, good teachers, homework, part-time jobs, graduation, employment, marriage and family, a culture that honored success. They resent the culture Hollywood has given us; they hope for something better.

Peace on earth, peace that begins with faith, hope, and love, family, work, community, and (yes) country, peace built upon equal opportunity, not forced equality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mass Killing of Innocents in America

It’s gun control, plus. Listen to Melinda Henneberger, a thoughtful political reporter at the Washington Post. Henneberger, who comes from a background of experience reporting on the mentally ill, writes:
The left is correct that actually, guns do kill people. But the right has a point, too, about the “culture of death,” in the language of John Paul II’s “Gospel of Life.” And if we haven’t glorified even mass shootings and their perpetrators, then why does one shooter after another show up dressed all in black, like an anti-hero ready for his big finale?
Conservative Matt K. Lewis, in the liberal magazine The Week, made the same point as Henneberger, though more directly:
the media predictably assumes that the availability of guns is the problem, without considering how journalists themselves might be contributing to the coarsening of our already-violent society.  The entertainment-media complex promotes and glamorizes violence — for profit — in film and on TV. Meanwhile, the news media ensures that killers get the attention and fame they so desperately crave.
And David Kopel, in the conservative Wall Street Journal, documents the media’s place in mass murder of innocents:
Cable TV in the 1990s, and the Internet today, greatly magnify the instant celebrity that a mass killer can achieve. We know that many would-be mass killers obsessively study their predecessors. Loren Coleman's 2004 book The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines shows that the copycat effect is as old as the media itself. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1774 classic The Sorrows of Young Werther triggered a spate of copycat suicides all over Europe. But today the velocity and pervasiveness of the media make the problem much worse.
Kopel is onto another contributing factor beyond gun availability: the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill. Kopel points to a 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers that found that 47 were mentally ill. [Another study] reported that 16% of all convicted murders were mentally ill. As Kopel noted:
In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated. . . the number of state hospital beds in America per capita has plummeted to 1850 levels, or 14.1 beds per 100,000 people. Moreover, a 2011 [study] found that a third of the state-to-state variation in homicide rates was attributable to the strength or weakness of involuntary civil-commitment laws.
The reasons behind America’s mass murder problem include wide availability of assault weapons and magazine clips, plus our wider culture of violence, specific media fixation on mass murderers, and insufficient legal and monetary resources devoted to the mentally ill.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Going Over the Fiscal Cliff

“the cliff’s consequences — huge tax increases and defense cuts — are progressivism’s agenda.”

--George Will, Washington Post  

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

--Thomas Jefferson

We said last April that if Barack Obama won re-election, he would raise taxes on all of us, doing so by simply allowing the Bush tax cuts expire. It’s happening.

And conservatives aren’t really surprised. Washington Post columnist and Former Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson writes about the real advantages Obama may accrue from smashing the economy and simultaneously doing in Republicans:
The Democratic left is perfectly comfortable with most consequences of the cliff -- large defense spending cuts, tax rates back to Bill Clinton levels for everyone, Republicans blamed for defending the rich. Obama may be calculating that his leverage with the House would be even greater in January. As the weeks of pain go by, political pressure might grow so heavy on the GOP that Obama could essentially dictate terms -- whatever mix of tax increases, tax cuts and spending he wishes. The risk of this strategy is serious -- market panic, credit downgrade and recession. The political reward for Democrats might also be considerable: marginalization of the GOP based on a three-point presidential victory.
And the Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone similarly discounts the pain a bad economy may inflict on Democrats:
doesn't this president, like his predecessors, want bounteous economic growth? Maybe not. First-term presidents want strong economic growth because they think they need it to be re-elected. But Obama has already been re-elected without it. And economic growth produces things Obama doesn't like. Some people. . . get very rich. Obama prefers a more equal income distribution. The Depression of the 1930s did a great job of increasing economic equality.
Earlier, I compared Obama to Herbert Hoover. Obama, like Hoover, is the president who presides over a four-year bad economy leading to a re-election defeat. I was wrong.

The American people treat Obama not as a Hoover-like incompetent, but rather as Franklin Roosevelt, the president re-elected twice (1936, 1940) in a bad economy. Roosevelt and Obama were re-elected not because they turned the economy around (they didn’t), but because enough parts of the Democratic coalition saw them as one of their own, and gave them a pass for trying.

In other words, the hidden re-election slogan turned out to be, “Stupid, it isn’t the economy!”

Barone even suggests Obama and Roosevelt found things to like about hard times:
Sluggish growth and recession. . . make things more predictable. Constituencies that enjoy political favor -- UAW members at General Motors or Chrysler, for example -- can be subsidized to remain in place. The cost of such subsidies can be extracted from disfavored constituencies. This is called, in Obama's words to Joe the Plumber, "spreading the wealth around." Remember when ABC's Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama if he would raise capital gains tax rates even if it brought less revenue to the government. Yes, Obama said. "I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."
So we’re going over the cliff. George Will reminds us why it’s so wrong for the country to do so:
At the end of the Clinton administration, when the budget was balanced, annual federal spending was $1.94 trillion and revenue was $2.10 trillion. “Adjusting for inflation and population growth since the start of 2001,” [University of Georgia economics professorJeffrey] Dorfman writes, “today’s equivalents would be $2.77 trillion and $3.00 trillion,” and a $230 billion surplus.
Today federal revenue is $2.67 trillion [just $100 billion below “the Clinton equivalent,” yet] spending is $3.76 trillion, so we are spending $987 billion more than we would be if we had just increased Bill Clinton’s last budget for inflation and population growth.
Increased tax rates will hurt growth, enlarging the deficit, not shrinking it.  The only rational path to a balanced budget is through lower entitlement spending.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Conservatives shouldn’t abandon the (cultural) field.

"People don't care what you know until they know you care."

--Jack Kemp (1935-2009)

Some posts are more important than others. One of our most important posts quotes New York’s Jonathan Chait, a self-identified liberal, on how liberal domination of our culture is driving politics. And we know from conservative Charles Murray that Hollywood’s culture has truly negative consequences--it is destroying working class lifestyles, even lives.

In the face of liberal cultural domination, conservatives cannot simply roll over.  They not only have to communicate with America’s working class, they must also help uplift the values of honesty, hard work, faith, and love of family that build a future for America’s next generation. Dependency and victimization are not acceptable ways of living.  Honest work is good for the soul.  The easier path, the road most taken, isn’t the best path.

Listen to the words of conservative Matt K. Lewis, writing in the progressive magazine The Week. Lewis, born to a working-class family, has grasped that while folks on top can survive a decadent lifestyle, working class people can’t:
A lifestyle of addiction, promiscuity, and chaos comes with a hefty price tag. Sadly, our elites are exporting those values to the people least capable of sustaining them. Most will likely spend the rest of their lives paying for the sins of their youth. The rich kids, on the other hand — well, they will likely land on their feet.
Lewis believes that while modern culture mocks social conservatives for "family values" such as marry first, then have kids, people should remember the “practical reason these values caught on.”

Lewis describes those growing up in rural communities as having to face tremendous economic pressures armed with little to believe in. He says they “lack a purpose in life, and humans need a purpose.” They end up feeling you "gotta be bad just to have a good time."

Lewis doesn’t favor government forcing failing businesses to defy the laws of economics. But we have to recognize that failing businesses or even failing towns mean people fail. There are real-life consequences to "creative destruction." He offers a poignant story out of the New York Times about golfing great Ben Hogan. Hogan's father, "a blacksmith put out of work by the spread of the automobile, had committed suicide, shooting himself while 9-year-old Ben looked on in horror."

How do we help? It begins with caring. We need a culture that uplifts, offering faith in the future, guidance down the right path. We need schools that work. Most of all, we need jobs.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The U.S. and Mexican Prosperity

We now know that by 2043, just a generation from now, the U.S. will be majority nonwhite. Hispanics are the biggest part of our growing demographic change.

Conservative writer Michael Barone is currently focusing on Mexican immigration. And he has useful data drawn from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Pew reports that net migration from Mexico to this country had fallen to zero from 2005 to 2010, that 20,000 more people moved to Mexico from the United States than from there to here in those years, and that from 1995 to 2000, the net inflow from Mexico was 2.2 million people. Barone says that because there was net Mexican immigration until 2007, when the housing market collapsed and the Great Recession began, we must have had net outmigration to Mexico from 2007 to 2010, and that that outmigration likely continued in 2011 and 2012.

Barone, who is writing about American internal and immigrant migrations, finds that migration surges typically last just one or two generations, with the surges’ beginnings and ends mostly unpredicted. Barone nevertheless predicts the Mexican migration surge may be over.

Maybe, but maybe not. In building his case, Barone writes:
Life in Mexico is not a nightmare for many these days. Beneath the headlines about killings in the drug wars, Mexico has become a predominantly middle-class country [see picture], as Jorge Castaneda notes in his recent book, Mañana Forever? Its economy is growing faster than ours.
El norte life, of course, has gotten worse. In Barone’s words, “the dreams that many Mexican immigrants pursued have been shattered.” He points to mortgage foreclosure statistics that, beginning with the 2007 housing bust, in the majority of cases afflicted the four "sand states" of California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida--areas, Pew noted, with large numbers of Latino immigrants.

Many of these Latinos were among buyers unqualified by traditional credit standards for the subprime mortgages granted at that time, with encouragement from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Barone believes one-third of those foreclosed on in the Great Recession were Latinos, people whose “dreams turned into nightmares.”

Pew’s report on declining U.S. birthrates provides further evidence of recession impact on Latino families. The biggest drop was among Mexican-born women, from 455,000 births in 2007 to 346,000 in 2010--a 24% decline. That drop contrasts with only 6% for U.S.-born women, and is much more like the sharp decline in U.S. birthrates during the 1929 to 1933 Depression years.

Liberal Says They Do Control Culture

So you think conservatives overstate the influence the entertainment industry has on our culture, politics, and American youth? I have to thank Rod Dreher for uncovering this amazing article by Jonathan Chait that appeared last August in the progressive magazine, New York. Chait provides an insight into honest liberal thinking as valuable as Lenin’s What is to be Done? into Communism, or Hitler’s Mein Kampf into National Socialism. Read; it’s long, but worth it, and much abbreviated from the full article:

the culture war is an ongoing liberal rout. Hollywood is as liberal as ever, and conservatives have simply despaired of changing it. [One sees] a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. . . the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee . . . The liberal analysis of the economic crisis—that unregulated finance took wild gambles—has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. . . we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures. . . cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. . . political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named “Tex Richman.” 

In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. 

Joe Biden endorsed . . . Will & Grace as the single-most important driving force in transforming public opinion on [gay marriage, confirming] the long-standing fear of conservatives—that a coterie of Hollywood elites . . . had transmuted the cultural majority into a minority. . . from the conservative point of view. . . large chunks of your entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once-uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that might be greeted with revulsion. 

from the outset[,] Hollywood was founded by Jewish immigrants who lived in terror that their Jewishness would make conservative America suspect them of abusing their cultural power. . . Starting in the seventies, popular culture thoroughly shed its postwar timidity and presented an image of America unrecognizable to those weaned on the pristine idealism of the black-and-white years. The moral signifiers that had defined popular culture have not only disappeared but been completely inverted, the heroes turned into villains. A 1991 study found that 40% of all murders on television were committed by businessmen. In Hollywood’s golden age, wrote the conservative film critic Michael Medved, “if a character appeared on screen wearing a clerical collar it served as a sure sign that the audience was supposed to like him.” By the seventies, religion had come to signify hypocrisy, or darker sins. 

we now have a far more precise sense of [the entertainment industry’s] power. . . researchers working for the Inter-American Development Bank [asked why] Brazil had, over the course of four decades, experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. . . The researchers[’ answer]: television. Television spread through Brazil in the mid-sixties. But it . . . expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to [TV] saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t[. What] caused this fertility drop [was] exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night[, each of which centered] around four or five families. . . usually small, so as to limit the number of characters the audience must track. Nearly three quarters of the main female characters of childbearing age in the prime-time novelas had no children, and a fifth had one child. . . a 2009 study. . . detected a similar pattern in India. 

Barack Obama attained such rapid acceptance and popularity in part because he represented the real-world version of an archetype that. . . has appeared in film and television for years: a sober, intelligent African-American as president, or in some other position of power. 

popular culture, in general, promotes liberal values and undercuts conservative values, especially sexual mores. . . If you ask Hollywood liberals [about their] social responsibility, they will happily boast about using their platform to raise their audience’s consciousness about racial tolerance or the environment or distrusting government officials. . . Making money is [the studios’] main goal, but they do blend profit with their artistic sensibility, which is heavily influenced by their ideological perspective.

The need to appeal to the widest possible audience generally drives film and television to avoid displays of overt partisanship, while still smuggling in a message. . . your television . . . is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident. 

[In 2008, Obama] mobilized younger voters by tapping into fears incessantly expressed in movies and television: cultural retrogression (Mad Men), greedy businessmen (The Simpsons), misbegotten wars (Syriana), environmental neglect (Wall-E). The right has no broadcasting device of comparable scope. . . This year. . . the cultural landscape [was] the same, essentially congenial place. 

This capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements. . . undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power. . . We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Lessons from Obama’s Win (III)

Votes in the 2012 election are still coming in. But a month after the election, Obama’s vote stood at 64.9 million, Romney’s at 60.5 million, a margin for Obama of 4.4 million. Some of Romney’s potential votes bled to Libertarian Gary Johnson, who received 739,000 more votes in 2012 than did Libertarian Bob Barr in 2008.

Had Romney held Johnson down to Barr’s 2008 total and added the extra votes for Johnson in 2012 to his column, Romney would have received 61.2 million votes, still 3.7 million short of Obama’s total (Bush received 62 million votes in 2004).  Obama dropped 4.6 million votes between 2008 and 2012, but Romney plus Johnson’s margin over Barr’s 2008 total added up to only 1.3 million votes more than McCain received in 2008. Most of those who left Obama avoided supporting the Republican and Libertarian candidates.

Conservatives were surprised by the “RealClearPolitics” (RCP) average of polls failure to predict the election margin, though the average did show Obama winning. The final RCP average had Obama up by just 0.7%. Obama won by 3.5%, a difference of 2.8%.

The RCP averages for the “toss up” states--North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, Romney’s “must win” states, plus New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada--showed Obama winning 8 of the 10. He won 9. Obama’s average victory margin in these 10 “toss up” states, according to the RCP poll average, was 1.7%. Obama won the 10 by an overall average of 4.0%, a difference of 2.4%. No single state average was off by more than 3.9%.  Missing by 2.4% on the 10 “toss up” state average, and 2.8% on the national total overall, represents a consistent underestimation of the Obama campaign's actual strength.

The New York Times’ polling guru Nate Silver nailed Obama's 51% winning total.  He also won praise for getting 50 of 50 states right, though the “RealClearPolitics” average of state polls called 49 of 50 right, missing only on Florida, which Obama carried by just 75,000 votes out of 8.5 million cast. And Silver, as a “Slate” article noted, did incorrectly predict some U.S. senate races, a slightly less than full-genius performance.

Comment:  Obama overperformend because he was a minority candidate running against a rich, white guy.  Caring for "minorities"--including unmarried women, liberals, and young people--overcame as an issue criticism of Obama's poor job performance.  "He's one of us and we forgive him for trying and coming up short."  Obama's campaign also followed the book on Bush's 2004 triumph over Kerry: forget the middle, bring out your own base in remarkable numbers, and destroy your opponent, thus driving down his base support.

The Obama campaign reached new levels of success in finding its base voters and getting them to vote--a good reason polls underestimated the end result.  Finally, Obama out-spent Romney.  It's devastating for a Republican, already at a disadvantage in the media wars, to have less advertising money.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Lessons from Obama’s Win (II)

Ben Domenech is a conservative blogger at “Ricochet.” In the aftermath of Romney’s 4.5 million vote loss to Obama, Domenech sought to bury the type of professional GOP political consultants Romney used by going after Mike Murphy, who did work for both John McCain and Romney:
Uber-consultant Mike Murphy. . . is a millionaire thanks in large part to the ad sale commissions from countless campaigns. He represents a way of campaigning based on massive air wars, top down direction driven by ad men consultants, the time when you dominated the three television channels and controlled the narrative from on high … all methods which have proven particularly irrelevant to electoral results in the internet era. . . What’s really [needed] – conservative ideas and ground-up grassroots activism.
I agree with the need for bottom-up activism. Though TV advertising is still vital, it won’t dominate as it once did. Obama’s victory importantly involved a solid ground attack, along with its massive TV bombing campaign.

Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, however, warns against over-interpreting Obama’s win. He writes our:
American subconscious assumes that the voice of the people really is the voice of God, and that being part of a winning coalition must be a sign that you’re His chosen one as well. [So] the losing coalition must be doomed to wander east of Eden. . . Republicans are now Radio Shack to [Democrats’] Apple store. . .
Douthat instead offers some “unpleasant truths” about liberalism’s gained future; it represents a coalition “created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear:”
  • winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.
  • unmarried women[:] single life is generally more insecure and chaotic than married life, and single life with children — which is now commonplace for women under 30 — is almost impossible to navigate without the support the welfare state provides.
  • the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general. 
  • What unites all of these. . . is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible. 
Douthat doubts renewal is on the horizon that justifies “blithe liberal optimism, and the confidence with which many Democrats assume their newly emerged majority is a sign of progress rather than decline.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lessons from Obama’s Win (I)

Commentary’s John Podhoretz has facts on why Obama won. Podhoretz writes:
Obama’s victory was an astonishing technical accomplishment. . .His team spent four years building a peerless political instrument, a virtual machine, to get him reelected. Both the methodology and the practical approach were nuts and bolts. The president needed to win enough votes among blacks, Latinos, single women, and young people [emphasis added] in the right electoral-college states to assure his victory.
For two years, we’ve been saying Obama started with a natural majority--liberals and government workers, plus the minorities, unmarried women, and youth Podhoretz mentions--a base over 60% of the electorate.

Podhoretz also found:

  • voters under 30 provided Obama’s margin of victory; he won them by 5.4 million votes (Romney won the over-30 vote by 1.9 million), offering students expanded college loans and youth overall gay marriage, free contraception, and a popular culture connection contrasting with Romney’s squareness. 

  •  The Ohio black vote grew by 30% over 2008, something the Romney folks considered impossible, and a tribute to Obama’s pure, simple get-out-the-vote work that politicos will study, says Podhoretz, “for decades.” 

  •  Obama’s campaign spent four years on maximizing his vote, something only incumbents do (as Karl Rove did in 2001-04 for George W. Bush), along with one year of negativity to minimize Romney’s vote. 

  • Obama’s advocacy of unabashed liberalism saved him from a primary fight that would have damaged his reelection efforts the way primaries hurt Hubert Humphrey (1968), Gerald Ford (1976), Jimmy Carter (1980), and George H.W. Bush (1992). 

  •  The Obama team’s entirely believable proclamation they planned to spend $1 billion solely on the general election probably narrowed the Republican field to, in Podhoretz’s words, its “distressingly uncharismatic array of B-listers,” making “the $1-billion-dollar laser-guided munition” perhaps the entire campaign’s  “killer app.”
Podhoretz has certainly taken to heart, as have many other conservatives, the importance of Jack Kemp's (1935-2009) admonition, ""People don't care what you know until they know you care."  Podhoretz  writes:
The exit-poll question [Romney] lost most definitively to Obama was about which of them “cares about the problems of people like me.” Obama won it by a staggering 81%–17%. Of course politicians should “care about the problems of people like me.” The “problems of people like me” are the root of all policy. Otherwise being a politician is nothing but regulation and management.

You read it first here.

On November 27, conservative Victor Davis Hanson, the Stanford Hoover Institution classicist, wrote:
Since 1960, and with the exception of Barack Obama, the Democrats always lost when they ran northern liberals — George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and John Kerry — so great is the American distrust of both old money aristocrats and Northern tsk-tsk scolds. Apparently southern accents — LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore — were necessary fides to win the popular vote, a sort of implicit reminder to voters that liberal Democrats could be just folks rather social engineers and redistributionists.
Yes, but on November 9, 18 days earlier, I wrote that my 1980s
list of stupid Democratic nominations--people from the base who didn’t bring new voters with them. . . began with Humphrey of Minnesota, then McGovern of South Dakota, Mondale of Minnesota, and Dukakis of Massachusetts--all losers. Later add Kerry of Massachusetts to that list. When Democrats went South for candidates--Lyndon Johnson, Carter, Clinton--they won. White, frost belt liberals don’t cut it with the wider electorate.
Hanson did make an additional point. After going through the familiar litany of liberal media bias--“the cultural influence of the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR, PBS, CBS, ABC, and NBC, . . . the slant of a USA Today or People magazine. . . the biases of AP, Reuters, Bloomberg News, Google, Yahoo, and the other wire services that feed supposedly neutrally reported news to local affiliates that ensure their prejudices are aired as disinterested information”--Hanson offered this confession:
The right-wing media is serving as an alternative to the bias of the mainstream news, but also as a sort of religious outlet where the depressed and pessimistic can find some shred of hope in a bleak world — understandable but not always empirical.
Is that us, then? Offering “some shred of hope in a bleak world”?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Stocks Wary of Fiscal Cliff

Stocks keep falling. The Dow has dropped for four weeks in a row, the NASDAQ for six. The fall reflects worries about the approaching fiscal cliff of expiring tax cuts and mandated budget cuts timed for January 1, 2013. Stocks rose slightly yesterday on positive words coming out of a White House meeting between the president and congressional leaders.

Our FOX Index (see chart), which tracks the distance from 15,800, the “healthy” market minimum total of a Dow of 12,000, an S&P 500 of 1,300, and a NASDAQ of 2,500, is now about to slip below 1,000. On September 14, it was at its all-time high (the index is 5+ years old) of +2,443. Its fall in just two months now takes it to about 40% of its earlier peak, though it remains in healthy territory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“Nice guys finish last!”

“Romney is a good man who made the best argument he could, and nearly won. He would have made a superb chief executive, but he could not match Barack Obama in the darker arts of public persuasion.”

--Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post  

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

 --Barack Obama

Rephrasing von Clausewitz, I have maintained, "[Politics] is . . . a continuation of [war] by other means." And so it is. I really liked Adlai Stevenson (loser 1952, 1956) and Michael Dukakis (loser, 1988), and I acknowledge Mitt Romney (loser, 2012) is, as Krauthammer says, “a good man.” But on the whole, I’d rather back a winner.

Republicans got whipped last week. In the spirit of taking a lesson from what happened, here are answers to “What happened?” from several leading conservatives:

  • From Christopher Caldwell, Weekly Standard:
the Wesleyan Media Project last week found that the Obama campaign was the most negative campaign ever. With 59% of its ads negative, it outstripped even the notorious George W. Bush reelection campaign (55%) of 2004.
Romney hardly knew what hit him. He liked to describe his experience running companies as relevant to running a country. . . A modern, diverse democratic republic is something very different from a company. It relies for cohesion on shared narratives passionately believed in. . . Run it as a business and it will fall to pieces. Obama has made a lot of mistakes, but running the country as a business is not one of them.
  • From Michael Barone, “RealClearPolitics”:
Obama owes most of his electoral vote majority of 332 to negative campaigning. His strategists barraged the target states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia with attack ads against Romney for months. The ads took a toll. Preliminary figures show that outside the eight clear target states, Obama's percentage declined by 2.8 points. In [Florida, Ohio and Virginia], it was down by only 1.4 points and in [the] five other target states by only 2.1 points. [He won the three] firewall states by a total of about 250,000 votes.
  • From Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal:
By Election Day, 53% of voters in the exit polls said Mr. Romney's policies would "generally favor the rich." They backed Mr. Obama with 87% to Mr. Romney's 10%. Even among the 59% of voters for whom the economy was the No. 1 issue, Mr. Romney prevailed only 51% to 47%. And the 21% of voters who thought "care about people like me" was the most important candidate quality split 81% for Mr. Obama, 18% for Mr. Romney. The president was also lucky. This time, the October surprise was not a dirty trick but an act of God. Hurricane Sandy interrupted Mr. Romney's momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan.
  • From Rick Moran, American Thinker:
Romney let the Obama campaign define him and he never effectively countered their image of him as a rapacious, evil capitalist even after he was able to advertise in response to those charges. . .while the voter gave Romney high marks in his ability to better handle the economy and deficit than Obama, the issue of trust dogged him throughout the campaign. . . the video that emerged of Romney talking about the "47%" did [real] damage[, playing] directly into the tens of millions of dollars in advertising by the Obama campaign that defined Romney as a heartless businessman.
So much for the whipping. How about moving forward?

There is general agreement, and across the ideological lines, that Republicans have to do better with minorities, especially Hispanics (only 27% of whom supported Romney). Nominating an Hispanic like Marco Rubio for president would help the party. But Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell is one of several who believe Hispanics, blacks and other minorities benefit from the same economic policies as whites; it's just up to conservatives to win minorities over to their side's economic message. Sowell writes:
the gap between black and white incomes narrowed during the Reagan administration and widened during the Obama administration. . . because free market policies create an economy in which all people can improve their economic situation.
Conversely, . . .minimum wage laws, which are usually pushed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans[, meant] unemployment among minority youths skyrocketed when minimum wage increases priced them out of jobs. [And t]he loss of income from an entry-level job is only part of the loss sustained by minority young people. Work experience at even an entry-level job is a valuable asset, as a stepping stone to progressively higher level jobs.

Friday, November 09, 2012

“I told you so.”

Before I was for Mitt Romney, I was against him.

I used to be a Democrat; the first GOP presidential candidate I voted for was Bush in 2000. In the 1980’s, after Dukakis lost, I made a list of stupid Democratic nominations--people from the base who didn’t bring new voters with them.

My list began with Humphrey of Minnesota, then McGovern of South Dakota, Mondale of Minnesota, and Dukakis of Massachusetts--all losers. Later add Kerry of Massachusetts to that list. When Democrats went South for candidates--Lyndon Johnson, Carter, Clinton--they won. (Gore really was from highly liberal Washington D.C., not Tennessee, a state he failed to carry in 2000.) White, frost belt liberal guys don’t cut it with the wider electorate.

(Obama's not a white guy. He's minority, that helped him with women and young people too, and it's why he won. There was no "Bradley effect" in this year's responses to pollsters, as I incorrectly suggested there might be.)

With Republicans, the problem is different. You lose if you are seen as more a rich, white male--if you fit the GOP image--and less a Democratic-like common man. Nixon (in his twisted way) was common, as were Reagan and even Bush 43, the guy you'd rather have a beer with. But not Rockefeller, not Dole, not Bush 41, not Romney. Especially not Romney.

This past election cycle, I was literally ABM (anybody but Mitt). My support ran from Marco Rubio through Chris Christie and Rick Perry, to even Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Anybody but Mitt. In my defense, I knew the party wouldn’t nominate Gingrich or Santorum, but if either (or both together) could stop Mitt, the party might then turn to the candidate we really needed, one like Christie or Rubio.

After Romney won, I got behind him, and even warmed to Romney after he took a risk and picked Paul Ryan to be his vice president over the colorless Rob Portman. I was thrilled by Romney’s first debate performance, especially his talk about bringing two sides together; working across the aisle.

It wasn’t enough to reach average Americans though. They saw a person detached from their problems--a true Republican. Also, Romney throughout the campaign was handicapped by pride in his own Romneycare. He couldn’t go after Obamacare the way any other GOP nominee would have.

Here’s the sad record of my failed ABM efforts over the past two years:

“Marco Rubio”

“Chris Christie”

“Christie, not Romney”

“Chris Christie for President”

“President Perry”

“[Stuff] they say about Rick Perry.”

“Republicans: No Ronald Reagan”

“Obama Campaign Can’t Wait: Already Targeting Romney”

“Romney or a Conservative?”

“ABM (Anybody but Mitt)”

“Some Things To Think About (#5)”

“Some Things To Think About (#4)”

“What happened to the wooden stake?”

“No! Not Newt!”

“Yearend Reading: Romney, GOP"

"The Fix: Democrats Want Romney.”

“The Romney Fix: Conservatives Speak Out”

“Pyrrhic Victory?”

“Big news: Santorum wins Alabama and Mississippi.”

“Will Santorum + Gingrich block Romney?”

 “‘I couda been president.’”

“Marco Rubio, now more than ever.”

“Romney types: no to Rubio as V.P.”

After the conventions, I understood Romney had failed to connect with voters when his big speaking moment came, a problem compounded when we learned that in private, Romney had earlier knocked the “47%” of Americans dependent on government support--the very people he needed to inspire:

“Democrats Win Convention War”

“Optimism, Business, not Dependency, not Government”

The next Republican nominee for president had better have the common touch.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Who Will Win?

In the wake of his performing as president during Hurricane Sandy, Obama has taken a 0.7% lead in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. In state by state polls, it looks even better for the president. But this is a tight race that could go either way. Here’s my case for each side.  

Why Obama will win.

Shortly after the 2010 Republican midterm election victory, we argued Obama and Democrats had good reason to be cocky about their chances in 2012. First, the turnout would be more like 2008 than 2010--more of their folks would show up to vote. And second, it was time to recognize that Obama’s coalition--minorities, unmarried women, youth, and liberal whites--constitute a national majority. We presented a chart showing the coalition combined makes up over 60% of the population. They don’t all vote, they aren’t all citizens, and a chunk of them will vote economy over group identity. But starting at 60% means leading from strength.

Then in September, we were struck by the following reasoning offered by American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead. Mead wrote,
Unemployment is heavily concentrated among people who are not very likely to vote for a Republican no matter what the economy is doing . . .African Americans, Hispanics and the young. Those groups aren’t likely to vote Republican [or] to blame their problems on a Democratic president.
Mead means that even minorities, youth, (and unmarried women) who put jobs first aren’t likely to vote Republican. He has a point. A vast majority of Obama’s folks decided long ago they are Democrats, not Republicans. Obama’s on their side; Republicans are the other side.

So Obama wins, right? Not necessarily.

Why Romney will win.

Since poll averages favor Obama, any Romney win will be a mild surprise. The polls will have turned out wrong. Enthusiasm is one possible reason for an error. More Republicans seem enthusiastic about Romney than Democrats about Obama. Another reason could be that independents, who seem to be polling in favor of Romney, end up being a large enough group to swing the election his way. A third possible reason for a Romney surprise could stem from Obama’s inability to rise above 50%--usually a danger sign for incumbents who watch undecideds move to the challenger on election day.

Finally, are some whites reluctant to tell a pollster they favor a white over a black? Will there be, in other words, a “Bradley effect,” named after black ex-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost the 1982 California governor’s race despite being ahead in polls?

Obama seemed post-racial in 2008, but this year, his weak job performance and his conscious rallying of minorities and women against white male Romney is driving white males--and to a lesser extent, their spouses--toward Romney. Is all of this shift showing up in the polls, or does some stay hidden?

We don’t know. But if Obama loses, you can bet many (most?) commentators will blame his defeat on white racial voting.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Final Pre-election Jobs Report a Mixed Blessing

American job creation improved in October with 171,000 new jobs, yet the unemployment rate moved higher to 7.9%. Also, the the Labor Department revised upward by 34,000 the new jobs total initially reported last month, and likewise moved August's numbers higher by 50,000. CNBC’s Jeff Cox called the report “better than expected but still representative of tepid growth that is doing little to generate escape velocity for the slow-moving economy.”

Today’s job report is the last before Tuesday’s election. We proclaim (see chart below) Obama has reached his minimum target: more people, finally, at last, and at the last minute, have jobs today than were employed when Obama took office--194,000 more, in fact.  

But America has added 6.1 million people since Obama took over--way more than the net 194,000 job gain over nearly four years. But since Obama earlier chose to brag about the number of jobs created rather than net job growth, he cannot at the final hour start talking up net job growth.  But Obama, having jumped all over the (separately calculated) unemployment rate of 7.8% last month, has to stay silent as that rate moves up to 7.9%.

In short, Obama can’t brag about either figure in the chart below. Nevertheless, we’ve watched the monthly job reports for years, and nevertheless we note Obama hit both (one in September, lost in October, the other only in October) of his minimum job growth and unemployment targets.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Harder They Fall

"Some Chinese argue that permitting the families of Communist Party leaders to profit from the country’s long economic boom has been important to ensuring elite support for market-oriented reforms."
--David Barboza, New York Times

November 7 (November 8 in China), the day after, maybe the very day the U.S. learns who its leader for the next four years will be, China convenes its 18th Communist Party Congress. A week later, we will know China’s leadership line-up for the next several years.

The Economist reports, “The party is particularly nervous this year as the country’s economic growth slows and members of the new middle class become more anxious about their prospects in the years ahead.” Here’s some of the evidence the Economist gathered:

  • in Ningbo, a Zhejiang province port, thousands waging three days of sometimes-violent demonstrations successfully halted construction of a planned chemical factory. 

  • a government-sponsored think-tank survey surprisingly found that only 1% of respondents said their quality of life had greatly improved in recent years, one-fifth said it had improved slightly, more than one-third said they felt no change, and more than 40% said their lives were worse. 

Elsewhere, the Economist reported:

  • social media give China the next best thing to a free press, with China’s biggest microblog service, “Sina Weibo,” said to have 30 million “active daily.” 

  • microbloggers expose injustices, attack official wrongdoing and high-handedness, and help scattered, disaffected individuals feel a common bond, with local grievances now discussed and dissected nationwide with a fervor that has startled officials. 

  • widely circulated comments on microblogs share a profound mistrust of the party and its officials, while classified digests of online opinion gain Chinese leaders’ close attention. 

The Economist suggests this “rising tide of cynicism” is dangerous for the country’s stability, coinciding as it does with “growing anxiety among intellectuals and the middle-class generally about where the country is heading.”

At the top, leaders including Li Keqiang, who is expected to take over as premier, worry about a sudden economic slowdown that could “precipitate a fiscal and financial crisis” unsettling to social stability. They are looking at economic reforms, including loosening the state’s grip on vital industries such as the financial sector.   These “rightists” face opposition from old-line party leftists who fear the party will implode as did Communist parties in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, because it has embraced capitalism and forgotten to serve the people.

Below the top, the middle class--besides fretting about the environment and food contaminated with chemicals--is concerned about protecting its gains from the whims of law-flouting officialdom. They and the rest of the country have followed the downfall of the corrupt Bo Xilai, the ex-Chongqing party boss formerly in line for a place on the party’s standing committee. They have a feel for the existing assets of China’s next party chairman Xi Jinping and his family, reported in Bloomberg at over $760 million, including homes in Hong Kong.

But if Chinese learn of the New York Times’ David Barboza’s disturbing, in-depth report on the family wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao (picture)--estimated in the article at $2.7 billion--how much more will they be unsettled? Wen is a reformer, according to Barbosa, “best known for his simple ways and common touch.” In 2007, he called for measures to fight corruption among high-ranking officials, saying,
Leaders at all levels of government should take the lead in the antigraft drive. They should strictly ensure that their family members, friends and close subordinates do not abuse government influence.
Elizabeth C. Economy, China expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, says flatly that China’s reformers “have taken a serious hit,” and that Wen’s fall could harm the political prospects of other up-and-coming reformers. Yet she is hopeful that the evidence of “political rot within the system” will necessitate “fundamental political reform.”

Yeah, well maybe not. But to keep their current kleptocracy going, China’s leaders will have to insure continued economic prosperity that reaches hundreds of millions. They are “riding a tiger,” and they know it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More on Obama’s 9.11

Quotation without Comment

From conservative blogger Paul Mirengoff, writing in “Powerline”:
keep[ing] in mind that our inability to assess [Benghazi] is due mainly to the administration’s unwillingness to speak about the decision and the surrounding events[, v]oters. . . must assess the administration’s handling of Benghazi with limited information.
But we do know this: (1) the administration erred grievously by leaving open our mission in Benghazi while turning down requests for more security, (2) the administration made the wrong decision on the day of the attack by not bringing our military to bear, a decision consistent with Obama’s instincts, and (3) the administration has not been forthcoming or honest in its discussion of Benghazi after the fact.
These facts, without more, present a serious indictment of Obama.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Benghazi: Truth and Coverup

Jonathan S. Tobin writes in Commentary about Charles Woods, the father of Ty Woods, the ex-Navy SEAL who died while trying to defend Ambassador Chris Stevens in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Turns out the son was safe at a safe house a mile away, yet responded to calls for help coming from the consulate. According to the father:
within minutes of the first bullet being fired the White House knew these heroes would be slaughtered if immediate air support was denied. Apparently, C-130s were ready to respond immediately. In less than an hour, the perimeters could have been secured and American lives could have been saved. After seven hours fighting numerically superior forces, my son’s life was sacrificed because of the White House’s decision.
Charles Woods was particularly upset with, following his son’s death, the exchange of words he had with Secretary of State Clinton. She “not only attempted to promote the story of the video being the cause of the attack, but went so far as to promise to have the man who produced it jailed.”

Comments Tobin:

While the White House has been furiously trying to persuade the country that it always knew that what happened was a terrorist attack, Clinton’s comments are another reminder of the administration’s effort to falsely blame it all on the video. That Clinton would go so far as to push for the man’s arrest for exercising his free speech rights is chilling, especially given the State Department’s prior and subsequent efforts to appease radical Islamists.
The administration. . . seized upon a lie about the video and promoted it relentlessly for as long as they could get away with it. They were determined to do anything to suppress the facts about the revival of al-Qaeda-related groups in Libya. Rather than Woods and Republican critics speaking out of turn, it was [the] administration that was [playing politics--] campaigning on the idea that the death of Osama bin Laden ended the war on terror.
Comment: The White House was covering multiple disasters in real time. By 10:00 pm Washington time on 9.11, it was known the American Embassy in Cairo had been breached and that Americans were dead in Benghazi (Ambassador Stevens’ death confirmed publicly 4-1/2 hours later). AmEmbassy Cairo had blamed the Cairo breach and flag destruction on an American anti-Muslim video, but events were still unfolding in Benghazi when Mitt Romney (10:10 pm Washington time) issued a statement attacking the AmEmbassy Cairo press release as a craven Obama administration attempt to mollify Muslim extremists.

The White House at that point had to deal with these facts: 1) anti-American actions in Cairo and Benghazi, including the death of the American Ambassador, offered dramatic evidence Muslim terrorism, possibly al Qaeda terrorism, was alive and well, 2) timing the attacks to 9.11 particularly drove home the al Qaeda connection, 3) Obama could not afford an al Qaeda success so shortly after the Democratic convention had wedded Obama’s winning foreign policy to a single accomplishment: the killing of Osama bin Laden and subsequent collapse of al Qaeda, and 4) Benghazi was a complete mess--a potential “Desert One” disaster similar to the failed hostage rescue attempt that brought down the Carter administration in 1980, in Benghazi involving (ex-)SEALS but the mirror opposite of the highly-touted SEALS raid on bin Laden’s compound.

Faced with these facts, the White House worked to make the anti-Muslim video and the Romney statement mistakenly blaming Obama for the AmEmbassy Cairo press release (the State Department didn’t clear the release) into a fog machine designed to obscure actual details surrounding the Benghazi attacks. The fog machine generated its greatest output with Ambassador Susan Rice’s September 16 definitive statement on five TV networks that what happened in Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction to the U.S.-made video that had led to the earlier Cairo demonstration, and was not a pre-planned 9.11 al Qaeda terrorist attack. The cover up worked for a crucial two weeks, as media focused on Romney's statement and the video, not on what actually happened in Benghazi.

Now that Charles Woods is talking, does anybody still care?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stock market falls; will it rise with Romney victory prospects?

U.S. stocks fell sharply Tuesday, with the Dow taking its worst single-day hit in four months. The Dow has dropped to 13,103, the S&P500 to 1,413, and the NASDAQ is below 3,000 at 2,990.

Our FOX Index, which tracks the distance from 15,800, the “healthy” market minimum total of a Dow of 12,000, an S&P 500 of 1,300, and a NASDAQ of 2,500, has now slipped below its previous +2,000 threshold to +1,706 (chart). On September 14, the FOX Index stood at +2,443, its all-time high (the Index is 5 years old). The drop since represents a 30% decline.

What’s happening? Quoting from the MarketWatch report referenced above:
“We have a weak earnings picture with a slower macro background catching up to the market,” said Sean Lynch, global investment strategist at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “We’ve had this week confirmation of weak earnings from large, industrial-type companies. And, there is talk that Spain may not hit its deficit target this year. It puts Europe back on stage.”
In China as well, the news is not good. HSBC's China manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index this month remains below 50, coming in at 49.1. While that’s up from September's final reading of 47.9, anything below 50 represents a contraction of manufacturing activity, and the HSBC manufacturing index has been below 50 for 12 months as of the October report--a full year of manufacturing contraction, each month below the previous month.

This bank of bad economic news includes worries about the approaching U.S. “fiscal cliff”--the triple whammy on January 1, 2013 of 1) expiration of all the Bush tax cuts; 2) across-the-board spending cuts ("sequestration") to most discretionary programs totaling $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, and 3) other fiscal hits including reversion of the Alternative Minimum Tax thresholds to 2000 tax year levels, expiration of the so-called "doc fix", expiration of the 2% Social Security payroll tax cut, expiration of federal unemployment benefits, and new taxes imposed under Obamacare.

Will Romney’s rising election prospects lessen Wall Street’s worries about the “fiscal cliff,” and will they more generally spur a stock market rise? We shall see.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Benghazi: Closer to the Truth

We asked on 9.16 if Benghazi was Obama’s 9.11. Today, we offer the following  

Quotation without Comment

 From FOX News’ James Rosen, carried in the Wall Street Journal:
William Safire, the late New York Times columnist. . .once defined coverup broadly to include "any plan to avoid detection of wrongdoing . . . an act to conceal a mistake." . .
"Everyone had the same intelligence," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Fox News last week. But that . . . appears untrue. How information immediately made known to an assistant secretary of state could somehow be withheld for eight days from the secretary of state herself—and from our U.N. ambassador, from the director of national intelligence, from the analytic corps at the Central Intelligence Agency, from the president's chief spokesman, and from the president himself—now forms the central question in the Benghazi affair.
In Tuesday night's debate with Mitt Romney, President Obama claimed to have "told" the American people that Benghazi was a terror attack the very next day, Sept. 12, when speaking from the Rose Garden. The assertion was untrue, despite moderator Candy Crowley's ruling to the contrary. The president had only spoken generally of terror attacks, and Benghazi would have been understood to fall under that umbrella only if it had been acknowledged as a terror attack.
On Sept. 12, that was not the administration's line. Not until his afternoon appearance on "The View" on Sept. 25—the "two weeks" of delay that Mr. Romney alluded to in the debate—did the president offer Americans an explanation of Benghazi that made no reference to a protest over a video. The YouTube connection had figured prominently in his Benghazi pronouncements as late as Mr. Obama's Sept. 20 appearance on Univision, and even in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on the morning of Sept. 25.
"The business of intelligence has become politicized," says an intelligence source with knowledge of the Benghazi episode, "regardless of which party is in charge." This is an enduring legacy of Vietnam and Watergate. Now, as then, American voters horrified by loss of life in a time of war will cast ballots without having all the facts that might inform their choice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Simple Map, Shared View

“Norwegians really do have a sense of humour. The EU may be getting the booby prize for peace because it sure hasn't created prosperity[, having instead] created poverty and unemployment for millions.”

--Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party 
The Norwegian parliamentarians who choose Nobel Peace Prize winners care about global warming (winner, Al Gore), detest American "cowboy" president George W. Bush (winner, the “not Bush” Barack Obama in his first few months as president), and hope to keep Europe unified (winner, the EU [European Union]). Hold the left together. Keep right-wing Americans and Europeans at bay.

The establishment and metro America are more comfortable with mainstream Europeans than they are with their countrymen in “fly over” states between California and the Northeast (see above map). Liberals are about 20% of the U.S. population, but dominate elites on both sides of the Atlantic. These progressives are secular, not religious, yet quite intolerant of opposing viewpoints.

The EU with its meritocracy caring for the masses top-down, democratic socialists guiding economies, guaranteeing health care, and linked closely to government unions demanding pensions, vacations, and early retirement, all nurtured by the Value Added (VAT) and other high taxes, is what our Democratic Party can only hope to become.

Collectively, they want ever bigger, ever more controlling government. As such, they seem doomed. For as Margaret Thatcher said, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Propaganda: Hollywood

“Won’t Back Down” is an excellent movie that dramatizes what’s wrong with American public education today. Top acting, with Academy Award nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal as a working-class single mom, Academy Award nominee Viola Davis as a beaten-down-by-the-system teacher, and Academy Award winner Holly Hunter as a teachers’ union official with a heart. A story that personalizes the facts behind the highly-respected documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’” by focusing on a fictional single, inner-city school in Pittsburgh. And does so with well-rounded, believable characters.

It’s a tough film subject for Democrats, to be sure. The cause the movie champions pits liberals who truly care about improving dead-end public schools against the teachers unions and their politician friends who tenaciously preserve the status quo. An example of a liberal education reformer is Davis Guggenheim, the documentarian who made “An Inconvenient Truth” about Al Gore’s fight against global warming before taking on education reform in “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” One would think the liberal critics who tolerated “Waiting for ‘Superman’” would at least give “Won’t Back Down” a fair shake.

One would be wrong. Critics are overwhelmingly scorching “Won’t Back Down.” Mary Pols in TIME calls it “cheesy, wholly manipulative. . .blatantly political and intended as much more than pure entertainment,” that turns the teachers union “into public school enemy number one.”

What? A movie pushing a cause? How could that be?

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times similarly writes the movie is “shamelessly manipulative and hopelessly bogus” and “has no hesitation about creating a villain for all seasons: teachers unions” (Turan’s review even quotes American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten calling one film claim "an egregious lie.") Turan’s advice: “Anyone who values their one and only life would be well-advised not to spend two hours of it here.”

Ella Taylor of NPR brands the movie “a propaganda piece with blame on its mind,” [emphasis mine] and adds (thank you, Ms. Taylor, for this gratuitous warning) that if we replaced unions “with a rainbow coalition of local parents and educators coming together to create the kind of school they want, the result would be chaos, not to mention an end to the tattered remains of our common culture.” Like Turan, Taylor has gone beyond a movie review’s normal scope to tell us the movie’s producer, Philip Anschutz, funds creationist curricula in schools (according to Anschutz’s Wikipedia entry, that’s not true).

For more movie critic attacks on “Won’t Back Down,” please go here. “Metacritic’s” overall rating for the film is a low 42, and “Rotten Tomatoes’” critics rate it 32, definitely rotten. Even though the audience at both sites likes the movie, “Won’t Back Down” is bombing at the box office, making only $5.1 million in its first 3 weeks. The critics have won.

Hollywood and the establishment rabidly oppose conservative movie messages the same way they oppose conservative blacks (Clarence Thomas) and women (Sarah Palin). It’s blasphemy to use a movie to advance a conservative cause. As we have argued, movies are the establishment’s Bible, pushing national behavior and culture down the correct liberal path. Deliberately departing from that path is akin to burning the Quran.

It’s all so sad.  Sooner or later, someday, Democrats will take on the teachers unions and provide poor students what they so desperately need--an alternative to no-choice bad schools. Obviously that day has yet to arrive.

In the meantime, Matthew Continetti at the conservative “Washington Free Beacon” has found an example of how the Washington establishment corruptly rewards its Hollywood friends:
Hollywood. . . benefits from complicated tax expenditures for film and television production. No one personifies the rotten relationship between Hollywood and the Obama administration better than DreamWorks SKG executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the largest donors to Priorities USA, who has raised at least $6.6 million for the president since 2008. Katzenberg relied heavily on his ingénue in the White House to secure a lucrative distribution deal on behalf of the MPAA, Hollywood’s trade association—a deal that was personally negotiated between Vice President Biden and incoming Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Soon came under SEC scrutiny. Shortly after the distribution deal was announced, DreamWorks Animation unveiled plans to build a $350 million animation studio in China; according to the New York Times DreamWorks’ partner in the deal is “Jiang Mianheng, the 61-year-old son of Jiang Zemin, the former Communist Party leader and the most powerful political kingmaker of China’s last two decades.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Propaganda: Media

"The modern press is at times sycophantic of the incumbent president and at other times trying to mimic Woodward and Bernstein; it all depends on which party is in office. With a Democratic president cut from the same cloth as they, many journalists have done everything in their power to set the national conversation in ways that favor Obama."

--Jay Cost, Weekly Standard

Our last post alluded to the fact that the establishment’s grip on the country is slipping. The “Blue Model”--the dominant coalition of big government, big business, and big labor that under Democratic leadership successfully ran America from 1933 to 1968--no longer works, and the establishment strains to hold its remaining pieces together.

Something similar is happening to the legacy media, the follow-on force that in effect ran the country as it in succession terminated the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter (1968-80), with CBS’s Walter Cronkite emerging at the time as our surrogate national leader. The media then were bigger than the White House, bigger than the Democrats. They were The Powers that Be, as David Halberstam described media giants at the time.

Long ago and far away. Now the legacy media are fighting for their collective lives against the immediacy of the internet and 24 hour cable news. No longer dominant, now with their continued high status dependent upon an Obama victory, the legacy media are content to serve as the establishment’s propaganda arm.

Yes, propaganda arm. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
pro·pa·gan·da   noun
ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause
Propaganda. The work of today’s media.

Listen to Matt K. Lewis, in the conservative Daily Caller:
President Barack Obama was a guest at the wedding of vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz. . . The bigger story is about the incestuous relationship that exists between the elite opinion leaders in America — and Democratic politicians. The Obama/Raddatz connection simply illustrates it.
And listen to Andrew Klavan, in the conservative City Journal:
The mystery Obama. . . is not a creation of his own making. . . It emanates instead from a journalistic community that no longer in any way fulfills its designated function, that no longer even attempts the fair presentation of facts and current events aimed at helping the American electorate make up its mind according to its own lights. Rather, left-wing outlets like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, TIME, Newsweek, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and the like have now devoted themselves to fashioning an image of the world they think their audiences ought to believe in—that they may guide us toward voting as they think we should. They have fallen prey to that ideological corruption that sees lies as a kind of virtue, as a noble deception in service to a greater good.
Also conservative Erick Erickson, in “RedState”:
Time and again, the media decides something is so or something is not so and reports it as the media sees it even when a sizable portion of the country disagrees with them, whether it be abortion, gay marriage, global warming, war, poverty, Hurricane Katrina, Mitt Romney’s campaign, Obamacare, and the list goes on and on and on.
Noemie Emery, writing in the conservative Washington Examiner, tells us why it’s especially difficult to separate the legacy media from liberal Obama:
It had been the real thing, not a commonplace fling with your generic Democrat, but the love of a lifetime, the genuine article, the sum of all dreams: He was not just a Democrat, he was also a liberal. He was not just a liberal, he also biracial, also multinational; also hip, cool, and clever. He was themselves as they wanted to be. Like them, he was gifted at writing and talking (and, as it turned out, not much beyond that), like them, he stood up for Metro America; like them, he viewed the people outside it with a not-very-measured disdain.
But it is Democrat Pat Caddell, a FOX News commentator, who is most upset at the legacy media’s failure to carry on the job to which the constitution in effect assigned it: question authority.  Says Caddell, in a tone of true despair:
We designed a constitutional system with many checks and balances.  The one that had no checks and balances was the press, and that was done under an implicit understanding that, somehow, the press would protect the people from the government and the power by telling—somehow allowing—people to have the truth.  That is being abrogated as we speak, and has been for some time.
The fundamental danger is this: . . .The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power.  When they desert those ramparts and decide that they will now become active participants, that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse. . . what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know,  they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.  And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on.
Question authority. “Afflict the Comfortable”. Media, do your job.