Archive for November 2013

The Council Has Spoken: November 29, 2013

Council Winners


Sixth place t with 2/3 vote –

Non-Council Winners


Happy Thanksgiving 2013

A comedy classic from WKRP in Cincinnati.

Council Nominations: November 27, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


New York Times Supports/Opposes/Supports Ending Filibuster

Man I love liberals. Seriously. They are so cute when they are being stupid.

Take for example the New York Times and the issue of the filibuster. The filibuster is a Senate rule that requires a “super-majority” of 60% or higher to pass legislation. The filibuster has existed for 225 years for presidential nominations as the Washington Post notes, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is about to end that precedent.

Today the New York Times editorial page supports this “return to Democracy,” writing, “Democrats made the filibuster change with a simple-majority vote, which Republicans insisted was a violation of the rules. There is ample precedent for this kind of change, though it should be used judiciously. Today’s vote was an appropriate use of that power, and it was necessary to turn the Senate back into a functioning legislative body.”

Of course Matt Drudge links immediately below this story to another New York Times editorial, this one from March 29, 2005, when the Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats were in the minority. In 2005 the New York Times editorial board wrote that it had made a mistake when it supported ending the filibuster in 1994. That year the Democrats also controlled the Senate and the Republican minority used the filibuster to throw out judicial appointments made by President Clinton. The 2005 New York Times wrote, “A decade ago, this page expressed support for tactics that would have gone even further than the “nuclear option” in eliminating the power of the filibuster. At the time, we had vivid memories of the difficulty that Senate Republicans had given much of Bill Clinton’s early agenda. But we were still wrong. To see the filibuster fully, it’s obviously a good idea to have to live on both sides of it. We hope acknowledging our own error may remind some wavering Republican senators that someday they, too, will be on the other side and in need of all the protections the Senate rules can provide.”

So think about it: The New York Times supports decreasing the power of the minority when that minority is the Democratic Party. When the Democrats are in the majority, let majority rule!

I personally believe the Republicans should not make much out of this change at this time. Why? Because I expect the GOP to retake the Senate after next year’s election, and making too much noise detracts from the ongoing White House scandals and the debacle of Obamacare.

Think about it: in less than 1 1/2 years the Republicans will not only get the Senate majority, they will get the new Senate Majority 2.0 thanks to the actions of the current majority Democrats. It’s a gift the GOP should thank their Democratic colleagues in private for all the while publicly denouncing – just not too loudly.

 

 

The Council Has Spoken: November 22, 2013

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


Bullying Has Far Reaching Consequences

In seventh grade, I got quite sick with a rather serious case of strep throat leaving me bedridden for about two weeks. I had lost my father two years before, my mother’s sister was killed crossing the street near her home a few months after that, my sister’s fiancee died in a car accident, my favorite sister lost a child during birth, and two months later my niece with Down’s Syndrome, so special to me in ways that bring a tear to the eye just thinking about her now, would die on the operating table. Needless to say I wasn’t the most emotionally stable 13 year old. When I returned to school, I noticed immediately something was wrong. As I climbed the stairs kids were looking away from me, not catching my eye. As I reached the top of the stairs and opened the double doors several boys met me. “Welcome back Kirwin,” one said, then sucker punched me in the face. I fell backward through the doors onto my back.

Before I had gotten sick I had written a list of 10 people I didn’t like called my “Sh*t List”. This list contained the names of popular boys, jocks who called me names during recess and boys who pushed me around in gym – guys I didn’t like. I remember I added the last name, a boy I didn’t have any trouble with but who hung with the guys I didn’t like, simply because I needed to round up the list to 10. I don’t know why I did it, and it wasn’t the last time my writing would lead to trouble. I made the mistake of telling my best friends about this list that I kept in my desk (another mistake), and one of them, a transfer from another Catholic school, decided to take it out of my desk and betray me to those on the list in order to score points with the popular kids.

The last two years at that school were hell for me because of that list and the betrayal. I lost all my friends at school and was shunned by everyone. I remember standing alone in the corner of the playground playing a mental game with the digital clock at a bank across the street, seeing if I could judge when the minutes would change simply through feel without counting, desperate for recess to be over. Outside school my best friends including my personal Judas would hang out with me, but at school I was alone. For the rest of my tenure there I was at the bottom of the social ladder. Those wishing to climb it would push me around to appear tough, boosting their appeal with those at the top. To the girls of the class I was a non-entity, a weakling of no consequence.

My mother was devastated by the same losses I was going through, and she tried everything. We spoke to my teachers, the principal and the pastor. None could offer much help. The principal suggested I could transfer to another school, but then followed up the suggestion with the observation that the bullying and ostracism would follow me there. When my Judas gave me the nickname of the Italian slang word for “penis”, and all the kids in the class started calling me that, my mother suggested I call him the Gaelic word for outhouse. Nice try mom.

The only thing she didn’t try and which I was too scared to do at the time was encourage me to fight back.

Being bullied changed my life. It pushed me onto a deeply destructive path throughout my teens and twenties that finally culminated 13 years ago in the choice of sobriety or a life alone in the gutter. Before the bullying I was a stellar student taking advanced math classes dreaming of a life in Academia. Afterward all I cared about was Oblivion, doing almost anything to achieve it. My grades cratered. I sought the extremes of subcultures and the solace of artists and the drugs and alcohol they called their muses.  I suffered flashbacks, waking up with the faces of my 13 year old tormentors in my twenty-something year old mind. It took years of bitter experience, counseling and therapy to finally let go of the anger, the hatred of my tormentors, and the loss of my childhood brought about through Fate and the brutality of children.

With the birth of my son I put my personal experience to work. When he came crying to me about being bullied, I comforted him but I also told him, “Next time, fight back.” As he progressed through school I realized that fighting back against bullies was being discouraged. Teachers and school administrators would punish both children for fighting, refusing to make the effort to determine who was right and wrong, who was the victim and who was the victimizer. I learned an important lesson about public school systems: they always follow the path of least resistance and especially the path of least effort. If a fight broke out they had to have authorities who were nearby and paying attention to what the kids were doing. It’s far easier to not expend the effort to be vigilant and be alerted to a fight after one has started then simply punish both sides.

Imagine cops being called to a domestic violence situation and arresting both aggressor and victim because they didn’t want to take the time to investigate what happened, deciding it’s easier to throw both in jail. Will this deter the batterer next time? No but it will deter the victim from screaming too loud and alerting the authorities.

This is a terrible lesson to teach kids.

What prompted this little bit of soul exposure on the Internet? Bookworm Room’s post, Schools and parents who teach children to become chum for bullies. Bookworm writes, “I cannot believe that a mother told her child to be a punching bag for bullies.  Moreover, I cannot believe that a mother told this to her girl child. One of the primary lessons women learn in every self-defense class is this:  if you fight back against someone who is assaulting you, you are likely to suffer physical injuries, but you are also much less likely than the passive victim to be raped or killed.”

In adolescence I told my son, “Don’t worry about the School. I’ll take care of them. You just make sure that if you can’t avoid a fight, you inflict as much pain on your tormentor as possible.” I knew this from experience. A busted lip will disappear in days; shame lasts a lifetime.

Bookworm agrees:

 

Ever since my kids hit school, I’ve given them a single message: Never be the one to start a fight but, if someone else starts the fight, you make sure to end it. And don’t worry about the school’s subsequent response. If you had to use physical force to defend yourself, and if the school attempts to punish you, I will take the school on if I have to go all the way to the Supreme Court. I’ve never had to make good on this promise, since no one has ever physically attacked my kids. I suspect that, with my instruction ringing in their ears, they don’t walk around like shark bait.

 

I made the Kid a promise. If he gets in trouble for defending himself he has nothing to fear. I would hire lawyers to turn his principal into a Cinco de Mayo pinata in court. I would own the trailers his bullies called “home,”  have them moved to our property, set them on fire and roast s’mores in the flames. I’ve backed this up with personal appearances at the principal’s office whenever there was a whiff of trouble. He knows I have his back even when I’m not there, and that confidence itself has deterred trouble. Bullies smell weakness like sharks smell chum. The personal losses I suffered between 1977-1980 weakened me. Had Fate been kinder I suspect I would not have become a target and suffered such life-changing torment.

But the lessons of standing up to bullies go far beyond the school yard. My experience has made me extremely suspicious of authority, whether small town cops, multi-national companies or the Federal Government. It has driven me to stand up to bad bosses and quit jobs rather than suffer torment in the workplace. When a company pisses me off I will fire off letters or even go to court. Neighbors have tried bullying me and received letters from attorneys then been forced to reimburse me for my trouble.

Bookworm Room writes, “I always back up this instruction to my kids by telling them that, had Jews not been conditioned by centuries of oppression to avoid arms, put their heads down, and try to appease authorities, its likely that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.  Please understand that I’m not blaming those victims.  First, no one could ever have imagined what the Germans intended to do.  Second, the Jews’ behavior wasn’t a conscious decision.  It was the result of a thousand years of conditioning.  Israel, thankfully, while not blaming the victims, nevertheless learned the lesson.  Like my children, Israel won’t start a fight, but she will finish it.”

We should be teaching our children to fight back and not be victims. Bullies don’t disappear at age 20; they will always be with us so learning how to confront them should be taught as a life skill in our schools.

Council Nominations: November 20, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


The Rich Get Richer Thanks to the Fed

Bloomberg’s Matthew Klein has an article describing how Fed policies backed by the Obama administration continue to benefit the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Walter Russell Mead writes, “This type of thing is an all-too common feature of blue politics. Despite the egalitarian and ‘social-justice’ impulses of the naive blue liberals at the grassroots, a decaying blue social model inevitably creates more inequality and privilege. Well-connected insiders get sweetheart deals from government, for example, and insurance lobbyists get to wield a veto power over Obamacare’s re-structuring of the American health care system. Most of the so-called green policies we’ve seen are basically ways to channel money from ordinary consumers to political insiders who invest in clever enterprises engineered to suck in subsidies or to thrive in protected, artificial markets created by regulations. Now Obama’s pick for Fed chief wants to add juice the economy by boosting the savings of the rich.”

Let’s put it in easy to understand terms. Say you have a checking/savings account with $10,000 in it. For argument’s sake we’ll imagine your bank pays you 1% on your money. This is pure imagination on my part because my bank pays a fraction of that. So after one year of leaving that money sit, you will have $10,100 in your account. Not great, but at least you got something for your money, right?

Wrong. According to this CPI calculator, you’ve lost money: Your $10,100 in 2013 is now worth only $9,903 in 2012 dollars. This is due to inflation which is officially running at 1.5% annually. This number is notorious for being easily manipulated by the government since it is a politicized statistic, and if it were calculated today the way it was by the government in 1990 the inflation rate would be closer to 5%.

Losing money is by design; it’s exactly what the Federal Reserve wants to happen to you and anyone else with money in the bank. When you earn a return less than inflation, economists say you are suffering the pain of “negative interest rates.” Klein writes, “Harming at least some savers, however, may be part of the plan, at least if Yellen agrees with Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He has argued that the threat of wealth confiscation by negative interest rates is necessary to restore spending and “risk-taking” back to “normal levels.””

So wealth confiscation is necessary to force you to spend that $10,000 or risk it on the stock market. And some wonder why ordinarily sane people are attracted to Ron Paul’s “End the Fed” crusade.

In the grand scheme of things $10,000 isn’t a lot of money. It won’t get you a new car, or even a decent used one. It might get you a great vacation in the US for your wife and two kids, but abroad? Forget it. Airfare alone to Europe would eat up half that sum, and the while you can make do with the remaining $5k if you are smart with it, you won’t be living large by any stretch of the imagination during your vacation.

Of course if you spent it on a vacation, you’d have something to show for it: memories and snaps of you and the kids at the Arc de Triumph.  On second thought, screw France. You and the kids outside Buckingham Palace. But then you’ll come home and your car breaks down and needs a new engine, or your furnace breaks and you’re looking at a $2,000 bill for a new oil heater. Where do you get that money?

Instead of a vacation, you decide to invest it in the stock market. In case you haven’t heard, the stock market is at all-time highs. Over the past 14 years we have had two financial bubbles: one in the stock market and the other in real estate. Do you see anything similar between today’s stock market and those bubbles? Do you believe the market will go up long enough for you to make money on your investment if you buy at the top of the market?  There’s a South Park parody that shows what happens to small investors in this stock market: the money evaporates before their eyes.

Can you make money in this market? Of course, just like you can make money at roulette in Las Vegas. The only difference between investing in the stock market and betting it in Las Vegas is the speed at which you lose it. The end result is the same. There are ways to make money when the market collapses, but bear market investors and those who short the market have been burned over the past two years as the market has continued to defy rationality. As economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent,” and while the economic theory that bears his name sucks, the man at least knew a thing or two about markets.

Why is this happening? Why are the poor and middle class, those with more of their assets in bank accounts than the wealthy and particularly those on fixed incomes like seniors losing money? Because of the Federal Reserve’s policy of Quantitative Easing. QE makes money cheap by flooding the market with cash. In short what it is doing is buying debt from the federal government and then lending it to banks, thereby increasing the dollars in circulation. If the bank can borrow from the Fed for free, it doesn’t need to pay interest to savers. Additionally, increasing the supply of something makes that something worth less which is why many skeptics of the Federal Reserve are suspicious of official inflation statistics. The amount of dollars in the market should boost inflation, and it has; prices of products such as food and fuel are not included in the CPI, and everything from the smaller Dollar Menu at McDonald’s to the decreasing product sizes in the stores tell of inflation within the economy. Yet this “stealth inflation” goes unrecorded by official statistics.

Just as one might feel the pull of taking out that $10,000 and buying stock, the wealthy do too. The only real difference is that one’s $10,000 might represent 100% of one’s net worth whereas the wealthy have diverse portfolios that protect them regardless which way the market moves. That $10,000 might be your retirement nest egg. The wealthy don’t have a single egg, they have many and they have multiple baskets to put them in: stocks, bonds, offshore accounts, real estate.

But you have something with that $10,000 in the bank that they don’t: liquidity. You can go to the bank and within a minute or two leave it with $10,000 in hand. It’s hard to take that Soho apartment and turn it into cash instantly, so they borrow against it. From where? Banks of course. But wealthy people aren’t stupid; at least the ones who stay wealthy aren’t. They are sensitive to interest rates when they borrow money just like most people are. When interest rates are high, they’ll avoid taking. Low interest rates encourage them to take liens on their assets and turn it into cash – or rather chips for the Wall Street casino.

Providing them with cheap money to gamble encourages them to gamble more, and that’s exactly what the Fed wants.

The logic behind this is that by allowing the wealthy to get wealthier by gambling with cheap money society benefits because house prices rise and companies whose stock rises are more likely to invest in new jobs or equipment. Klein disagrees, writing, “The tens of millions of Americans who own neither shares nor their own homes may have benefited indirectly as relatively wealthy people got even wealthier, but that’s not much different than saying lower taxes on the rich improve the well-being of the poor. The increase in asset prices and collapse in real yields have also meant that workers have to save a larger chunk of their incomes to get the same quality of life in retirement.”

And speaking of retirement, a common argument used to justify policies that benefit Wall Street is that the common person benefits because their 401k is invested in the market. Therefore a rising stock market is good for everyone.  The problem with this argument is everyone doesn’t have a 401k. I don’t, and neither does 53% of the American population. 401k’s are also highly illiquid; it’s not easy to convert them to cash without incurring serious penalties, so most people only do so when they have life-changing events. These events tend to be random, as does how the market is performing during a window when a 401k holder is thinking about retiring. For working people a 401k statement during a bubble  is a psychological benefit. It makes them feel wealthy. But that profit is only worth as much as the paper it’s printed on until the person retires. Today those who are retiring and beginning to cash in their 401k’s are doing well. This wasn’t the case 5 years ago, and who is to say what things will be like in five years?

The Federal Reserve policies supported by this administration through it’s choice of Janet Yellin to head the Federal Reserve proves that both are redistributing wealth from relatively poor taxpayers to the wealthy. In a sense it is a tax on the poor whose proceeds are is then passed to the rich. Is this what President Obama’s supporters expected when they signed on for “hope and change?” This doesn’t even touch the moral issue of  the Federal Government running extraordinary deficits that will have to be borne by future generations in order to support today’s wealthy.

Time for President Obama to do the Honorable Thing – For Once

I can’t believe we’re stuck with this guy for 3 more years. In the past when I felt this way I would say two words to snap me back to reality.

President Biden

After the disaster of this presidency those two words seem positively delightful now.

President Biden

Yep. Not scary anymore.

From the FT: The Obama Presidency is Not Over, but it is Failing

If this sounds too gloomy, consider Mr Obama’s second term record to date. With the exception of having stared down Republicans last month over their threat of a default, he has fallen at almost every hurdle. This year began with attempts to impose tougher checks on gun buyers following the massacre of 20 children in a Connecticut school. When the initiative began to falter, Mr Obama put his authority on the line. The bill was defeated. It has been much the same ever since, from his request for authority to strike Syria to prospects of a fiscal deal. Talk of an initiative on climate change is a memory.

Nurse Practitioners Aren’t the Solution to the Collapsing American Medical System

Let me begin by stating that my primary care provider is a nurse practitioner, as is my son’s. My mother’s is a physician’s assistant, and she trusts him more than some of her children. But let’s make something very clear: physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are not the same. They do not receive the same training, do not have the same responsibilities and do not treat the same. They all have their role in health care, but you cannot replace one with the other and expect the cost of treatment to go down and quality to remain the same.

And there is no shortage of primary care physicians.

Walter Russell Mead disagrees. He quotes Amelia Thomson-Deveaux’s piece in American Prospect who argues the solution to this shortage is to allow nurse practitioners to practice on their own without supervision of a doctor.

As you know my wife is a primary care physician (PCP) practicing in a rural underserved area. I’m a systems analyst who once ran a non-profit dedicated to fighting Industry’s efforts to flood the market with cheap H1-b and L-1 visa holders from abroad as they decried a “shortage of IT workers.” There was never a shortage of IT workers, just a shortage of those willing to work for the money IT companies wanted to pay.

Why is it that people become irrational when talking about professionals? If the price of something goes up, it means demand outstrips supply. This is a concept we innately understand. We know that the price will remain high until demand weakens, or the high price encourages producers to expand supply. This combination of reduced demand and increased supply inevitably leads to the price of that something declining. It could be natural gas, LCD televisions or salaries.

There is no shortage of primary care physicians. There is a shortage of PCPs willing to work long hours in disadvantaged areas for less money.  I’d love to see where that $189k average PCP salary quoted by Thomson-Deveaux comes from because it sure isn’t paid out here in the Styx. Salaries out here should be higher to encourage docs to come here, and they are somewhat higher than in big metropolitan areas with lots of amenities. But a shortage means salaries are rising, and they should be rising faster out here than elsewhere – but they aren’t. Why not? Because there is no shortage.

The shortage is a myth perpetuated by those who want to manipulate the market to their advantage. Hospitals want nurse practitioners because those in our area are paid $50k per year, roughly 2.5x less than the average PCP salary here, but they bill out at 75% of a PCP. NP associations are working to remove obstacles for allowing NPs to practice unsupervised. That’s fine – as long as physicians aren’t held accountable for their mistakes.

There is a reason a primary care physician goes through 4 years of medical school, followed by 3 years of residency and internship: exposure to a much broader range of conditions and treatment modalities than an NP receives. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a family physician receives 21,700 hours of training verses 5,300 for a nurse practitioner. This added training teaches doctors to differentiate between horses and zebras, to know when a condition is presented is either common or uncommon, and to do so without additional tests.

NPs order more tests than physicians, and since those tests are conducted often within their practice or hospital, these tests benefit the providers who pay them. But the cost of that testing is then passed to the insurance company and patient, so they do not benefit from the lower salaries paid to NPs, while the patients suffer the consequences of inexperienced care. Most of the time it won’t matter – remember, I go to an NP  as does my teenage son – but I’m healthy as is he. It would be a different matter if one of us were chronically sick.

KevinMD believes this argument between family physicians and nurse practitioners is a red herring. The problems with primary care go way beyond the threat posed to PCPs by nurse practitioners. He cites statistics showing specialists providing 41% of primary care office visits. He believes this is due to patients skipping the gate-keeping role of the PCP and going directly to the specialist because of the perception that they are more qualified. There is no reason for someone with a cough to see a pulmonologist unless he has been directed there by a primary care physician  first. This only makes sense because a patient does not incur the cost of seeing the specialist beyond the extra few dollars in the co-pay.

Look, everyone knows the medical system in the USA is a disaster. I’ve lived under socialized medicine (the Kid was even born under it), and I’m not instinctively opposed to it the way some are. But we need to be honest about the problems and avoid scapegoats; there is plenty of blame to go around, starting with the patients themselves. But that’s another essay…

The Council Has Spoken: November 15, 2013

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


Council Nominations: November 13, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


The Siren Song of the Moderate Republican Presidential Candidate

The recent government shutdown once again raised the idea of a Republican Civil War between moderates and conservatives within the party. This idea is carried forward in a profile of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie written by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough for Time Magazine. He argues that Christie’s cake-walk re-election this week came about because he “dominated the middle of a Democratic electorate.”

 

To win again—to make America great and growing again—requires a return to the spirit and substance of Eisenhower and Reagan. We Republicans will not win national elections if we do not broaden our appeal in the way these giants did. Nor will we govern well if we refuse to make principled compromises when necessary, the kinds of compromises that led Ike and Reagan to historical greatness.

 

Daniel Greenfield at Frontpage Mag disagrees with this approach, writing, “The Republican Party has allowed its enemies to define it. Its moderation has convinced voters that it’s crazy and dangerous because without raising its voice and fighting back, the only things they know about it comes from its enemies.”

Who is right? Should the Republican Party abandon its conservative Tea Party base and embrace moderation, by supporting a liberal Republican like Christie, or should the Party ignore the calls for moderation and follow a more ideological path by selecting a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz to bear the party’s standard in 2016?

Let me begin by stating I like Chris Christie. I disagree with him on many issues, in particularly his stance on guns, but if he’s the nominee I will support him, and not because I’m a good little Republican. I like his willingness, eagerness really, to bait his opponents in a fight. His aggression is something we have lacked in candidates with a few flashes from Michelle Bachmann, and the exception of Newt Gingrich, who catapulted himself to front-runner status after taking on CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a debate Cooper was moderating. The GOP base feels that the Republican Party establishment has been playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules in a street fight. Somewhere along the line, I’d guess the death of Lee Atwater, the Republican Party lost the stomach to do anything and everything to win an election. This spirit is not lacking in their Democratic opponents. The Democrats will do anything to attain and keep power. It’s like a football game between the New England Patriots and your local high school’s JV team. You can show all the heart on the field you want, but you’re still going to lose. Christie has that heart but he also knows the sport and plays it like a professional. He doesn’t just respond, he eviscerates. He uses both his size and his New Jersey accent as weapons, and he would shred just about any Democratic candidate in the debates.

But I am not convinced picking Christie as the nominee will win the GOP the White House.

The problem as I see it is that while he might may have dominated a Democratic electorate in New Jersey in his 2013 re-election, he likely won’t do the same nationally in 2016. The Democrats knew he had a lock on the governorship, which is why they didn’t put up much of a fight or waste money supporting his challenger. This will not be the case in 2016. Then he will face a Democratic electorate unified in its quest to control the White House for another 8 years. Liberal interest groups will open their checkbooks, as will billionaires like George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. And unless the Republican party and its allies mount an effective campaign to neutralize the air cover provided by the mainstream media for the Democratic candidate as Bill Whittle at Bamboo Spears warns, the Democratic Party will control the public perception of the Republican nominee. Whittle writes, “If you are fighting a conventional war and you do not own the skies, you are going to lose.” Picking Christie would be fighting a conventional war.

Today Christie is perceived by the media as a tough talking leader of a tough state, able to twist arms and get things done. Come election day 2016, he will be a “racist, 1% supporting, woman hating, gay bashing, right wing extremist. Did we mention he was fat? Gross…” Can’t happen? It already has. The Democrats and their allies in the media took a popular liberal Republican governor of a Blue State with the same “bipartisan” getting things done record and turned him into a caricature that Romney himself didn’t recognize. In fact, it’s the same playbook used against John McCain in 2008 except that McCain’s bipartisan record and legislative successes occurred in the Senate and not the state house. There’s already proof it’s happening as John Nolte at Breitbart.com noticed with the “Elephant in the Room” Time cover, concerns about his health, and weight jokes. “The media love Christie when he is hugging Barack Obama and trashing conservatives. But the media also know that he is about to threaten Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the White House. By laying the groundwork with the weight issue now, the media hope to turn Christie into a national fat joke as a way to undermine his candidacy.”

And before I go much further let’s stop the pretense. No more “Democratic candidate;” everyone knows that the Democratic candidate will be Hillary Clinton. The time has finally come for the Democratic Party to wield that old battle axe in battle that it has been itching to do since 2000.

The Democratic Party Lesson

The success of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 began on January 19, 2004 in West Des Moines Iowa with a concession speech by Howard Dean. Dean, recovering from a severe bout of the flu, was shouting over the cheers of his audience using a uni-directional microphone that filtered out the sound of the audience. In the speech Dean sounded possessed, his voice cracking when he screamed “Yeah!” at the end became known as the “Dean Scream.” Howard Dean, who had run an insurgent, grass-roots campaign against the Democratic establishment candidates of John Kerry and John Edwards, was left vulnerable.

Dean had raised millions through small internet donations, a first in a presidential election in the United States. He energized the liberal base of the party who had always opposed the Iraq War that both Kerry and Edwards had voted for in 2002. His supporters and volunteers were young and enthusiastic, striking some in the establishment as almost “cult-like”. Deans meteoric rise in the fall of 2003 scared the Democratic establishment. They saw Dean as unelectable in the general election, an extremist that President Bush would turn into a George McGovern surrogate in a re-run of the 1972 election. Dean had to be stopped, so the establishment  began leaking unflattering stories to the press, blunting Dean’s candidacy around the holiday season. But the Deaniacs remained devoted, distrusting the Democratic Party establishment just as much as the Tea Partiers dislike the GOP establishment today.

When Dean screamed, the Democratic establishment pounced, and within days Howard Dean had flamed out. With Howard Dean gone, so was the enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate, culminating in the awkward “Reporting for duty”  quip by John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.  The establishment ran an establishment-designed and executed campaign, and the base never got behind it. Kerry lost.

But Howard Dean wasn’t done. Within weeks of the inauguration of President George W. Bush to a second term, Dean focused on becoming the chairman of the DNC. Again the Democratic establishment opposed him in his effort; rumors are both Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi fought his candidacy. But Dean had the votes this time, and he won. Suddenly the candidate of the liberal grassroots, the outsiders arrayed against the establishment, became the establishment.

Dean took the party’s apparatus and immediately put it to work. He focused on the grassroots, ironically using a strategy first employed by the Republican Party regrouping after Vietnam and the Nixon resignation in the 1970s known as the “50 State Strategy.” This channeled the energy of the grassroots to the benefit of all political levels within each state. A feature of this strategy was to replace moderates and conservatives within the party who tended towards compromise or bi-partisan solutions with dogmatic liberals dedicated to pushing the liberal agenda beloved by the grassroots. The result was a party purged of its pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, free-trade and middle-class supporting, environmentally-agnostic members. Losing conservative and members of the party shifted its balance ideologically from center-left to the hard left, leaving the Democratic Party today more liberal than at any time in its history.

It worked. Not only did Dean’s strategy net the party the White House in 2008, it also gained them both houses of Congress. The Democratic Party did not gain control of two of the three branches of American government by running the most moderate or conservative candidates: it won by running the most liberal politicians dedicated to the principles of the Party. For the presidency the extremists who had lost in 2004 had backed Barack Obama by almost 2-1 versus the more moderate John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. Obama’s election, engineered by Howard Dean’s amazing rebound after his early 2004 collapse, stands as one of the greatest examples of a grassroots movement outwitting the establishment  and achieving victory in recent history.

Republicans would be stupid not to heed it, but we all know who the stupid party is in American politics.

The Game Changer

Charles Krauthammer believes soul searching by the Republican Party isn’t necessary. Its principles are sound; there is no need to kick the Tea Party caucus out of the party and reinvent itself.

 

The country doesn’t need two liberal parties. Yes, Republicans need to weed out candidates who talk like morons about rape. But this doesn’t mean the country needs two pro-choice parties either. In fact, more women are pro-life than are pro-choice. The problem here for Republicans is not policy but delicacy — speaking about culturally sensitive and philosophically complex issues with reflection and prudence.

Additionally, warn the doomsayers, Republicans must change not just ethnically but ideologically. Back to the center. Moderation above all!

More nonsense. Tuesday’s exit polls showed that by an eight-point margin (51-43), Americans believe that government does too much. And Republicans are the party of smaller government. Moreover, onrushing economic exigencies — crushing debt, unsustainable entitlements — will make the argument for smaller government increasingly unassailable.


 

Krauthammer recommends a single policy change. Embrace amnesty for illegal immigrants but do so after securing the border. Announce complete amnesty; anyone here will become citizen no fine print, no qualifiers. The only string is that the border must be secured first and it has to be secured properly. The Israelis have done it on a smaller scale using walls, electronic sensors and drones. We could do the same, and once that is done if you are here that’s it: You’re a citizen.

Living with Hispanics as I do in rural North Carolina I’m amazed the Democratic Party thinks they are natural Democrats. Hispanics are culturally conservative, more conservative in some respects than red-necks and the NASCAR crowd the liberal elite likes to make fun of. They are religious and family-centric. They are industrious and have an innate distrust of the government after having experienced the ineffectual, corrupt and oppressive governments in Central America. In short they are natural Republicans. But they have voted Democratic because of the Republican stance on illegal immigration and because the GOP has bought the Democrat’s narrative that they own that minority.

So change the political dynamic using the Secure-Amnesty approach. It would be a classic bit of political jujitsu; all the effort the Democratic Party has put into securing Hispanic votes suddenly is used against them. It would change the dynamic between the parties for generations. And that’s what a living party does: it evolves and grows while remaining true to its core beliefs. Immigration policy isn’t a core Republican belief; fix it and move on.

Let the Democrats Drink Kool-aid, the GOP Should Stick to Tea

Those who advise the GOP to select a moderate candidate with a record of “reaching across the aisle” is either a Democratic consultant or a self-hating Republican like Mr. Scarborough who probably needs to change his party affiliation (I think he’s been breathing the air at MSNBC too long.) Anyone the GOP nominates will be portrayed as racist, xenophobic, homophobic right wing zealot guilty of waging a war on women. It could put up the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the party would be accused by the Democrats and their lapdog press of being in the pocket of agribusiness and guilty of poisoning the food supply with gluten.

The only solution is to simply ignore the other side. Sure it’s great if the GOP can bring back some of the Reagan Democrats who haven’t died or converted into Republicans already, but the deciding factors should all be internal.

Does the nominee excite the base? The GOP primaries of 2011-12 seem like happening so long ago, but it’s worth remembering who got Republicans excited. First there was Michelle Bachmann, then Rick Perry, Herman Cain and finally, almost in desperation, there was Newt Gingrich. None of these four had the ability to maintain interest, and as a result the love affairs with each were intense but brief. When all these suitors were dropped, there was only Mitt Romney, and honestly the base just wasn’t into him. Choosing Romney was a chore for the base, and no matter how much the establishment promised he had what it took to beat Obama, it never warmed to him. As a result Romney got 2 million few votes than McCain in a contest decided by 3 million votes.

Did the nominee get wealthy through means other than finance? I doubt paupers will be serious primary candidates, but there is wealth achieved by what most Americans consider to be hard work, and there’s wealth that’s perceived to be ill-gotten. Getting wealthy in the financial industry makes one immediately suspect. Romney never escaped Bain Capital, and if the GOP picks Christie everyone will soon discover that he made his wealth at Goldman Sachs, known as the “Vampire Squid” in a 2009 article by Rolling Stones writer Matt Taibbi,  by stealing old people’s pensions and drinking the carbonated tears of orphans. Christie has so many skeletons in his closet that Romney slammed the door in terror, and he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate instead. Rest assured that somewhere one of Hillary Clinton’s staff is devouring and the book behind the accusations, and the more likely Christie will become the GOP standard-bearer the more the public will find them on public display.

Does the nominee really want the job and have “fire in the belly” to prove it? McCain really wanted to be president in 2000, but by the time it was his turn in 2008 his candidacy lacked the fire of his days in the “Straight-talk Express,” and obviously so did his belly. Had Bush had less luck and McCain more I’m convinced he would have won in 2000 against Gore by a wide margin. Romney seemed to have it in the primaries when he was fighting for the nomination, but seemed exhausted of both ideas, spirit and worse, fight by the Labor Day 2012 rolled around the partisan battle started in earnest. Running for president takes a level of courage, stamina, egotism and even insanity that normal people do not have. Their past should reflect a constant striving for the ultimate job, their decisions made at all levels of their career with the knowledge that someday they would have to justify them. They don’t need to be perfect, just justifiable, and the more honest the answers the better.

All candidates in the mix currently meet these criteria with the exception of Christie (missing 1, 2) and Rubio (missing 1). Three years out it’s impossible to say who will win the primaries in 2016 and become the GOP nominee, but here’s my take. Ted Cruz: Too inexperienced. Rand Paul:  The sane Ron Paul, but can’t we nominate a governor please after suffering a crappy senator for 8 years? Rick Perry: An early favorite as long as his wooden demeanor comes across as presidential timber. It didn’t in 2012. Sarah Palin: Worth nominating just to see liberal heads explode. Cat-fight for the Presidency would make a WWF cage-match look like tea at Downton Abbey.  Someone else? As the year ends and 2014 begins, it will increasingly look unlikely for another player to appear. I’d give the odds at 60-40 in favor today, declining to 50-50 in Feb 2014 (two years ahead of New Hampshire Primary)  and 40-60 against in Summer 2014.

 

The Council Has Spoken: November 8, 2013

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


GOP Establishment: Once Again Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

The Republican party establishment likes to claim the Tea Party denied the GOP control of the Senate in 2010 by fielding primary candidates like Christine O’Donnell who defeated Mike Castle in Delaware, and Sharron Angle who defeated establishment backed Sue Lowden in Nevada. The assumption is that the establishment, moderate candidates would have beaten their Democratic opponents and allowed the GOP to control both houses of Congress.

Now that establishment is taking heat for losing the Virginia’s governorship by not backing GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
 

Ken Cuccinelli campaign strategist Chris La Civita said that among the what if’s in the wake of the Republican’s loss were whether Cuccinelli would have been able to pull out a win if he had received more financial support from national GOP sources – which dried up as of Oct. 1, he said — and if the federal government shutdown had been avoided or brought to a rapid close.

“There are a lot of questions people are going to be asking and that is, was leaving Cuccinelli alone in the first week of October, a smart move?” La Civita said in an interview following his candidate’s concession speech.  “We were on our own. Just look at the volume [of ads].”

 
I believe it’s critical that everyone put their money where their mouths are by donating in support of like-minded candidates. But not a damn dime to the RNC until it stops its war against the Tea Party. Not a damn dime for the RNC.