Days of Change

Day 361

October 31, 2009

NY-23 just got more interesting. DeDe Scozzafava decided to “suspend” her campaign 4 days before the election. She went from being the frontrunner in a two person race to dead last in a 3 person race.

This is something of a non-story. Her biggest proponents were Newt Gingrich and the Daily Kos. Once conservative Republicans and independents learned about Doug Hoffman, her star fell fast.

If Hoffman wins, it gives a big boost to the independent, conservative, tea-party movement. He will be the first unaligned member of Congress elected since Joe Lieberman in 2006. The Daily Kos supported Lieberman’s opponent, too. It also regains political clout to Sarah Palin, who did more in a Facebook post than the rest of the media to publicize Hoffman.

If Owens wins, it will be by default. He was billed as a blue dog Democrat and does not have a record to defend. There are over 400 members of Congress who will have to explain why the bills that passed were allowed. It will be the only lesson the Republican Party will get to change their ways and be on the side of the American people.

Three days to go.

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Day 360

October 30, 2009
1 Comment

It seems that Jackass’ allies are starting to lose their steam. This health care monstrosity is a sign of desperation more than bravado. If they can’t get a coalition of even their own party, they’ll pass it and bully enough people to get it to Jackass.

Hope and Change has become Lies and Threats. Even worse, when Democrats get taken down on election day, red state Democrats will have to face the very real possibility of losing their seats in 2010. It’s now up to the people of three states to send a message.

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Day 359 – Run Off

October 29, 2009
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I continue to think of things that could keep democracy out of the dust bin of history. There’s term limits, of course. I also don’t think much about the direct election of Senators, considering the power they wield and the tendency of national parties to use them for anything but state interests. Now I’ve fallen in love with another concept, the runoff.

Runoff elections are fairly uncommon but enforce what should be a universal concept. No candidate wins an election in certain areas without winning 50% of the vote. If they don’t get the majority because of 3-4 candidates, the top two run head-to-head. Not only does this keep a loser from winning with 35% of the vote, it encourages third (and fourth, etc) party candidates.

No vote is wasted. If 3 people run and the independent “spoiler” get second place, they can now run against the “established” candidate on an equal footing. If the independent loses, the mainstream candidates will run unencumbered and the people will have had a chance to make their voice heard.

Imagine for example, if the 1992 (or 1996) presidential campaign had a runoff between Bush and Clinton. Who would have won? Was Perot really about not liking Bush or was the anti-Clinton sentiment enough for him to lose? What about 2000? That sliver of Nader support might have made a difference.

We have two major three-way races next week. If the Republicans win, it will be a blow for the third-party movement. If the Democrats win, it may be a blow for everyone. If the independents win, it will be a miracle. But then, I read Doug Hoffman was an accountant with the 1980 US Hockey team.

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Day 358 – Love Don’t Cost a Thing

October 28, 2009

It’s another Health Care rant.

I was inspired by a Michelle Malkin post about children being used as health care shills. David Axelrod even used his disabled daughter on 60 Minutes in a brilliant marketing ploy. The focus is that we all (Americans, the planet) deserve health care.

I have two issues with this. First of all, health care for children is pretty affordable. If they were taken as a single group without regard to condition, the cost is relatively small per individual. That’s why family health plans can be cheaper per individual than individual plans. This could be solved with minimal regulation of the health care industry.

The other issue is more problematic. Do people deserve health care? This question is an example of the question of rights. A constructionist would say that our human rights, independent of government, are to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then there is the progressive FDR model, from a concept he never completed, about a “second bill of rights.” Glenn Beck actually brought this into the mainstream after the original speech was discovered.

FDR proposed that as Americans we deserve the “right” to a home, a job, (that pays a decent wage) medical care and suitable leisure time. How would people be given these rights? Unlike the other kind, all of these are rights given by the state and not the Creator. All of them also require money.

After the last few decades of government subsidized college and medicine, we learned something. Those two areas of the economy have had the greatest increase in prices. When demand goes up and no opportunity cost exists, the costs increase to spread a consistently small supply around.

If everyone deserves a job and someone can’t find it, the conclusion is that one must be provided. How would that job be assigned? The best way would be according to the person’s abilities. What would be the pay? It would logically be according to their need. Put it all together, it spells K-A-R-L-M-A-R-X.

Most countries that have “universal” health care also have socialized medicine. That means the doctors work for the state and the hospitals are run by the state. You know how it’s supposed to cost $2 trillion to run health care in this country and it boils down to $7,200 per person while most countries spend only $4,000? That happens because most socialized systems in the world are running deficits. That $4,000 per person is probably over $5,000 when deb load is added in. The US still has a (dwindling) Medicare surplus. The quality of our care is still the best. That’s why people from around the world come to our hospitals. It’s also why some of that $7,200 per person includes non-Americans. It sure as hell includes millions of Mexicans.

From a purely practical perspective, it is simply not possible to give people all the things they “deserve” to have. Even now, this country has an economy of $14 trillion and a debt of $11 trillion. As citizens, we literally have $10,000 each to live on now. The entire United States is below the poverty line. We not only spent too much, we owe too much.

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Day 357 – A Tale of One Story

October 27, 2009
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The White House’s war on Fox centers around the general premise that Fox researches stories to support the Republican Party and then flat-out lies in its programming, opinion or not. So, lets look at a story that Fox and another network are both covering and how they cover it.

I’m going to use Fox News and MSNBC because CNN is becoming an also-ran. CNN is in 4th place, behind even its own Headline News channel. CNN’s excuse is that people apparently want more opinion than straight news. That’s kind of ironic given that Headline News is airing heavily opinionated shows in prime time and the parent network isn’t doing anything to change it.

The story I’ve seen today is the contest for NY-23. In it, a Democrat, a moderate to liberal Republican and an independent Conservative are running for a seat in Congress in a Republican district. How is this race being covered?

Fox was covering this story earlier than MSNBC, even though the latter bills itself as the “place for politics.” They started with Newt Gingrich’s endorsement of Dede Scozzafava (the Republican) in the light of Doug Hoffman (the Conservative) running in protest, even though Gingrich is a proponents of conservative political values.

Were they promoting Hoffman? Only by mentioning that he was running. Was it helping the Republican Party? No, it was driving down the numbers of the Republican candidate. Two weeks ago, it was putting Owens (the Democrat) in the lead.

What about MSNBC? They only picked up the story days after Sarah Palin endorsed Hoffman. I won’t assign motives, but their story centered around how the Palin and Gingrich “wings” of the party were dividing the Republican vote. They left out nearly any information about Scozzafava, Hoffman or Owens themselves. For example, Scozzafava was endorsed by the owner of the Daily Kos blog. He actively worked for a Democratic candidate in Connecticut and appeared in his campaign ad. The owner is also a frequent guest on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Olbermann for his part writes for the Daily Kos but does not disclose this fact when the site or its owner is mentioned on his show.

But that’s opinion, even if they don’t admit that. However, during MSNBC’s news programming today, (4pm) David Schuster, Olbermann’s most frequent replacement host, also had a story about Palin vs Gingrich where a guest referred to the conservative wing of the Republican Party  consisting of “tea baggers.” The other guest had to interrupt him and ask why he used that term and that, unlike “tea party protesters,” it was a vulgarity. The guest played dumb and Schuster cut them off, as if he were afraid that the other guest might explain that the MSNBC analysts are employing a euphemism for oral sex to describe a political movement.

So, which is the real news? Is it the organization that was first with the story, interviewed Gingrich and Hoffman and showed polls when Scozzafava, Owens and then Hoffman was leading? Or is it the network with hosts working for political action websites, using offensive terminology, not interviewing any of the people involved and failing to provide polling context? I’ll report and you decide where the “place for politics” is.

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Day 356 – Running on Empty

October 26, 2009

The public option is back. It looks more and more like the White House and Congressional leadership is trying to slap together the bill they want, hide it in thousands of pages of gibberish and pass it before the election results this year settle in.

This is what happens when you get a bunch of college rats in charge. They’re not in campaign mode, they’re in final exam mode. Stay up all night writing nonsense in a paper while inhaling coffee and running on empty. Don’t worry about the next semester because next time, you’ll do it right.

Want to see that outline 72 hours before you turn in the paper? Sorry, the dog ate it. Can you condense that 1500 page document into a coherent abstract? Nope. It loses all the context and shading that way. Accused of lying about your transparency pledges? That’s just racism.

And people said Bush never had a real job.


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Day 355

October 25, 2009

I was annoyed today when I heard talking heads completely misinterpreting what the White House is doing with their attack campaign. First, I realized they’re liars anyway. Then I realized that they don’t even know how to play the politics game anymore. They were missing a vital point because it didn’t track with White House spin.

There’s a difference between drinking the Kool-Aid and drinking Jackass’ bath water. For some, the former is a gateway drug to the latter. People drinking the Kool-Aid think that Jackass is being cautious but slow. They’re worried but they don’t know what to do about it. The bath water drinkers think he’s playing 11th dimensional chess and every “uhhhhh” he utters is filled with symbolism.

Back to the example. Today, a panel was discussing what the “wing nuts” are doing to the Republican Party. That’s the new insult term for conservatives because right-wing conservative and ultra-conservative never had the negative power “liberal” did. That is stupid. The Tea Party movement and the conservatives are not stumping for the Republicans. The races in NY and NJ prove that. A moderate Republican lost in 2008. The conservatives want to change the Republican Party, not prop it up as it is.

The blindness to this of Jackass’ minions shows what happens when you turn your followers into brainwashed slaves. They don’t help you in the brains department. This White House is already lacking in smarts, so it only makes it worse for them. They are waging war against something that isn’t there.

I’m not surprised. As thin-skinned as Jackass is, his pipsqueak Chief of Staff Rahmbo is far worse. He really only knows how to attack his opponents. Promoting his boyfriend in charge is not his comfort zone. Attacking the Republicans didn’t help, since they are scattered. Conservatives are a bigger target, but he’s using the wrong bait. Telling Glenn Beck, Hannity or Rush that the Republicans suck is like telling them the president sucks. They agree.

It’s the gang that can’t shoot straight in D.C.

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Day 354 – Stagflation, a Love Story

October 24, 2009

For the last few months, glowing economic data has been combined with regular “unexpected” negative reports on business and employment. So, how do these things go together? Is someone lying? Is this bad or good?

It turns out that yes, the media is lying to you. In a strict sense they are providing “real” data. They are presenting it in a process called cherry picking. You pick the stories that support you and throw out the ones that don’t. The problem is that certain data, like the monthly jobs survey and unemployment figures are benchmarks that tend to defy cherry picking. Those figures are showing job losses steady and unrelenting.

There’s another figure as well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a number that calculates the value of certain representative stocks in the economy. That number is thousands of points below its highs, a few thousand above its lowest lows this year and around 3% above where it was last year at this time. The rise in stock prices, however, tracks with an increase in gas prices as well. That seems a lot like inflation.

Inflation is a process where weak currency is propped up, making it worthless. Let’s say that you want to buy a widget. At the store, it costs $1. But that $1 is considered less powerful in the rest of the world and the next shipment of widgets is higher. Now the store sells it for $2 because of what it paid to get it. Normally, this is not too bad. A loaf of bread used to be 25 cents and people used to make $50 a week. When wages rise, it tends to counteract the effect of inflation.

Then the Carter Administration created an effect known as stagflation. Inflation occurred in currency, but the economy remained stagnant. Prices went up, but the ability to pay did not. It restricted spending and made the financial environment even worse.

The current Carter-style administration is becoming worried about the possibility of stagflation. Since things are looking rough for the economy, and more importantly to Democratic party coffers, a push has started to force banks to loan to business. This is definitely an inflation tactic, but the hope is to bring economic growth as well.

So, does anyone ever deflate? Reagan did. When you cut taxes, the pressure to raise prices and wages starts to lessen. In a stagnant economy, it makes it possible to lower prices. An atmosphere is created to increase employment and grow the economy.

This is why I still think Keynesians are idiots. Solving a housing bubble by blowing a big deficit bubble is asking for inflation. The current stimulus is disproportionately impacting the rich. States with the lowest unemployment rates are getting the most stimulus employment and vise-versa. Government employees making over $40,000 a year are getting a reprieve. The problem is that most people in the country make less than that. The “rich” people who would get tax breaks are frequently business owners who pay less than $40,000 to the employees they do and will hire.

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Day 353

October 23, 2009
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Dick Cheney is no Newt Gingrich.

Newt is all about party, Cheney is about his beliefs. The rejection of the squishy values shown by the White House and Congress is why he’s more popular than Nancy Pelosi and gaining on Jackass.

Cheney is still defending his president while Jackass’ weak second is bumbling around putting us in a depression. He revealed that the current President is passing off the Bush administration’s work as his own, which makes a lot of sense given Jackass’ track record.

After the revelation, I heard a lot of vitriol toward Cheney. We all know what that means now. You have him. You’ve reached the soft underbelly with your remarks. Unlike the doofus in charge, Dick Cheney doesn’t whine about the networks not being real news. He knows it’s just a fact of life that they’re not. Sunlight is the disinfectant, Washington DC is the disease.

Shine the light, Dick.

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Day 352 – The 35% Solution

October 22, 2009
1 Comment

Conservatives have criticized Newt Gingrich for supporting Dede Scozzafava in the NY-23 Congressional race. He’s in the strange company of ACORN (aka the Working Families Party of NY) and the Daily Kos. I heard his explanation tonight that the more conservative candidate needs to win a party primary before he can support them. First of all, the Republican “establishment” in New York chose Scozzafava and put financial backing behind her. Plus, the Republican Party is at about 20% approval. The Democrats are only about 35% but that may be enough.

Secondly, Gingrich is a Republican first and a Conservative second. That means he mostly used the Contract with America as a tool to get the Republicans into Congress. Now that the conservative movement has been injured and put int he hospital, Newt is handing it divorce papers.

This is not how you win elections. 1994 was two years after an election where the winner got 43% of the popular vote and the third-party candidate probably spoiled the election. Given the situation that Democrats were already in charge of everything and independent meant crazy conspiracy theorist megalomaniac, a Republican revolution was excellent marketing.

In 2009, people who don’t hate the Republicans hate the Democrats and the majority of Americans are sick of both. This is the worst time to come up with liberal Republican hybrids to tank elections. It looks to voters like the party is playing politics and it is.

2010 will be a referendum on everyone. The swing group is tired of politics as usual and wants a different direction. For Tea Party protestors that way is libertarianism, which has less support than the Conservative Party. Luckily, most of them will side with a conservative Republican who’s light on the social issues. Liberal Democrat support is around 35%. In a 2 way race, it’s a massacre. In a 3 way race, it’s the margin of victory.

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