Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bogus "war on Christmas"

This doesn't rate as "something big breaking," but it's about Christmas; so I'm going to post it anyway.

Republican presidential candidates and right wing preachers and pundits have been ranting about Obama's "war on Christmas."

Thanks to an article on "Daily Kos" blog, here's a little perspective on that from a Public Policy Poll:

Question asked: "Do you believe that there's a war on Christmas?"
Answers broken down to identification as:

Liberal . . . . . . . . 21% yes, 68% no
Moderate . . . . . . 29% yes, 52% no
Conservative . . . . 61% yes, 21% no
Tea Party. . . . . . . 71% yes, 18% no

Nothing surprising here. What makes this article worth noting is the blogger's speculation that: It would be informative and probably hilarious to get a break-down, not according to ideology, but to FoxNews watchers vs the rest.

Remember the recent poll that showed FoxNews watchers actually were less well informed than even those who watch no news at all. Meaning that FoxNews watchers are blatantly misinformed by their news source. Meaning FoxNews lies.

And guess where you're most likely to hear about "Obama's war on Christmas!!" Right.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Winding up the week . . .

It's Friday afternoon. The House GOP leaders read the political tea leaves (or maybe it's more accurate to say they had the tea leaves flung in their faces) and engineered a vote to pass the 2 month extension of the tax cuts, postponing the real fight over how to fund a longer range extension. Obama has already signed it into law. Everybody is getting out of town for the holidays.

True to his odious form, Newt has criticized the bill that 2 days ago he said the House should pass. Meanwhile, his campaign coyly promises that they are just waiting "to unleash" Callista as a campaigner. I'm not sure that's such a good idea -- for Newt, that is. It will just remind everyone she was his mistress for years while he was still married to #2.

Romney has refused to release his income tax returns but has promised all college students that, if he is president, they will have a job when they graduate. With his wealth, he could afford to create the jobs, personally; but, in fact, he made his name in business by closing failing companies and eliminating jobs. And both his GOP opponents and the Obama campaign are going after him.

Ron Paul is in trouble for some newsletters that went out in his name in 1987 that have racist and anti-gay language. He has denied he wrote them or even read them, but evidence is coming out that he commented favorablty on the newsletter back then.

Rick Santorum received the endorsement from Bob Vander Plaats, the head of a prominent evangelical group in Iowa. Now there are allegations that Vander Plaats was shopping around the endorsement, supposedly asking for money to pay for publicizing the endorsement, if he gave it. The truth is probably somewhere between practical talk of how to publicize the endorsement and outright buying the endorsement. The facts are murky at this point; but it's said that he talked with more than one campaign about money, and one source's mention of $1 million as the asking price does seem excessive for stamps and tv spots in Iowa. And talking to several different ones about money before you announce your endorsement sounds suspicious.

[Added later: In all fairness, both Santorum and Vander Plaats say that there was no request for money. S. says VP did talk about needing money to publicize his endorsement, but there was no request for S. to raise the money. And there is also no clear evidence that any other campaigns were approached. So take the above with a few grains of NaCl.]

And Perry and Bachmann? They're soldiering on, with no prospects of winning. But Iowa is going to be between Romney and Paul, with Gingrich holding on in third.

Nate Silver's latest predictions of who will win Iowa: Paul 40% (down from 52% two days ago), Romney 38% (up from 28%), Gingrich 13% (same). So it's still volatile between Romney and Paul.

And that's the week that was. Unless something big breaks, I'll take a break for the Christmas weekend. Have a happy . . .


Thursday, December 22, 2011

House GOP really blew it

Look what their own fellow conservatives are saying about the shameful political game the House GOP is playing with working class payroll tax cuts and with unemployment:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "The Democrats are winning the debate. . . . It is harming the Republican party. . . . The payroll tax cut must remain in effect."

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA): called it "irresponsible and wrong."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): "Republicans are getting killed in the public opinion battle."

Karl Rove: "The Republican leadership lost the political battle."

Even Newt Gingrich called on them to go ahead and pass the 2 month extension. "Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages . . . What Republicans ought to do is what's right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily."

The Wall Street Journal had a scathing editorial, "The GOP's Payroll Tax Fiasco."
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he's spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

And that is only the beginning of the opinion from this notoriously conservative editorial board. Further along, they refer to "the circular firing squad" and even warned against the possibility of "the return of all-Democratic rule."

Just a few weeks ago, they were still crowing about taking control of the Senate as well as increasing their margin in the House. That seems unlikely now. And voters can thank the Tea Party zealots in the House for that.

Both sides agree that the extension will get passed. For once, Obama and the Democrats stood firm. So this GOP power play -- for pure political points -- has already backfired and hurt the Republicans. Let's hope it hurts them very badly at the polls in November.

And let's hope the Democrats learn something from it.

It is possible to beat the Republicans.
Listen to the people, and we will win.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nate Silver's predictions for Iowa

Remember Nate Silver's 538 blog during the 2008 campaign? He's the one who does amazing things with statistics, using poll averages weighted by various factors, to come up with predictions. He zoomed to the top of everyone's list of smart people in the numbers-crunching game.

He's now doing it for the New York Times, and his predictions about the Iowa caucuses are out. He not only gives standings but calculates the statistical chances of each person winning, using some kind of alchemy based on averages, trends, demographics, etc. For example, he gives Ron Paul a 25.7% share of the vote but a 52% chance of winning the caucuses.

That's right.
Nate Silver is predicting, based on current data, that Ron Paul has a 52% chance of winning the Iowa caucuses.
And who comes in next? Romney has a 21.3% vote and a 28% chance of winning, followed by Newt with 13.9% vote and 8% chance of winning, nip and tuck with Rick Perry at 14% of the vote and 7% chance of winning. Bachmann and Santorum trail at 2% chance of winning each.

Does it mean anything? Iowa is still particularly volatile -- but it's getting pretty close and this seems right with the trends.

New Hampshire: Romney has 75% chance of winning, with Paul at 12% and Gingrich at 10%.

For what it's worth -- at least it's fun for me; good soap opera.


Meanwhile . . . .

Just to keep things clipping along in the crazy world of the GOP primary:

1. Rick Santorum says, "I have no problem with income inequality." He says people who work hard and have good ideas and take risks should make more money.

2. Michele Bachmann, "I am not a politician. I am a real person. I don't even know how to be a politician." Uh huh. She's currently polling at 4% in Iowa, her "breakthrough" state. She likes to claim she's a real person. "I am 55 years old, and for 50 years I have been a real person." Wonder what she was the other 5?

3. Rick Perry is even dumber than I thought. In the last debate, he just tried to be cute, because he doesn't know enough to debate with the big boys, even these idiots. Yesterday, campaigning in Iowa, he said that his flat tax plan will eliminate standard deductions. Gov. Bobby Jindal, standing with him, stepped up to correct him, reminding him that his tax plan does indeed retain the standard deductions. Mind you, this is Perry's own plan, and he doesn't even know such basic facts. Remind me why former Rhodes Scholar Jindal is campaigning for him? Courting a VP nomination, perhaps? Sorry, Bobby, I don't think that opportunity is going to come along.

4. "Romney Contradicts Himself." That's the headline of a blurb on Huffington Post: Duh !! That's news?

5. Newt Gingrich accused Romney of being "purely dishonest." As opposed to being impurely dishonest . . . like you, Newt?

6. Sarah Palin stirred the pot, lest the faithful get complacent. "It's not too late for folks to jump in," she said. "Who knows what will happen in the future?" (wink, wink).

Just another exciting day in the race to the bottom.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just keep it up, GOP, and you're going to end up like Newt

Newt went a step too far -- and caused such alarm in all the thinking people in the GOP (about 1%) that fellow Republicans are pouring money into negative TV ads against Newt. I think it was Newt's threatening to send the police to arrest judges that finally did him in. Yeah, the negative TV ads hurt -- but look at the stuff they throw at Obama, and he doesn't tank in the polls. With Newt, it's all true. You don't have to distort stuff. Just tell the truth about him.

Now the House Tea-Party besotted Republicans have (I hope) taken their own step too far in torpedoing the payroll tax cut extension bill.

Here is Republican Senator Scott Brown: "It angers me that House Republicans would rather continue playing politics than find solutions. Their actions will hurt American families and be detrimental to our fragile economy. We are Americans first; now is not the time for drawing lines in the sand."

President Obama used his strongest language yet in denouncing their failure to pass the bill: "I'm calling on the Speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring up the Senate bill for a vote. This is not poker, this is not a game. We have more important things to worry about than saving face, or figuring out internal caucus politics."

I must admit that my feelings are split on this. The payroll tax extension is badly needed. And I can't think of anything that will hurt the chances of those House Republicans for being re-elected as much as this.


Monday, December 19, 2011

That didn't take long.

Public Policy Polling reports: "Newt Gingrich's campaign is rapidly imploding and Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row."

The Dec. 16-18 poll of likely Iowa caucus goers shows that Newt has now slipped back into 3rd place in Iowa at 14%, behind Paul at 23% and Romney at 20%.

Just two weeks ago, Newt was at 27%, then 22% last week, and now 14% this week. There's a margin of error of +/- 4% -- but we're looking at a trend in the same poll, so the error is less significant.

This plunge (it's more than a slide) is confirmed by an even more devastating plunge in his personal favorability rating. This is measured by the difference between those who have a positive view and those who have a negative view of the candidate.

Newt's Iowa favorability rating has slipped from +31% to +12% last week, and now to -1% this week. Yes, that's minus one.

So it looks like Newt's ride is following the same pathway as Bachmann, Perry, and Cain. The explanation seems be:

Going up:
Newt's impressive performances in the last two debates, plus the voters' quest for anybody-but-Romney.

Going down:
Focused scrutiny on his ugly past and his unsuitable character, plus the negative ads flooding Iowa, plus his lucrative lobbying for Freddie Mac, plus his own over-reaching -- especially his outrageous threats to take control of the judiciary.

A 32 point fall in favorability in just 2 weeks. He's dropping like a rock. Wow.

Exactly what he deserves.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

This may be it . . . Newt's over-reach and downfall

On Face the Nation this morning, Newt doubled-down on his assault on judges who displease him with their decisions, those he has called "anti-American."

He's now saying he would be willing to arrest them "if they are out of line" and it becomes necessary, although he would prefer the impeachment process.

There is no question about it now:
What Newt is advocating is a violation of the Constitution and an affront to the separation of powers, a foundational tenet of our democracy.
In order to protect "an independent judiciary," federal judges are given life-time appointments and can be removed from office only by impeachment. They can of course be charged with crimes, as can any citizen.
Making decisions that displease a president is not a crime.

Seizing power over the judiciary is what fascistic dictators do. Even the power of impeachment is given to the congress, not the president.
An impeachment has traditionally been reserved, not for politically unpopular decisions, but for inappropriate behavior or malfeasance.

I've been waiting for Newt's megalomania to break out of his temporary self-restraint and bring him down. Of course, this may only increase his poll numbers among the ultra-conservative, Tea Party crowd. And he could wind up with the nomination, but this will kill his chances for being elected president.

If it doesn't, then our nation is in a more dire constitutional crisis than I realized.


Can you stand one more about Newt?

According to an article on Huffington Post based in part on an AP source, Newt was a popular young assistant professor at West Georgia College in Carrollton, GA before he ran for Congress.

But, much as he now touts himself as a history professor, it seems academia was not Newt's goal. Instead of climbing the academic ladder to achieve tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, he ran for Congress. Once he left for Congress in 1979, he never returned to an academic career. He had bigger and more lucrative things on his mind. Changing the world and becoming a historical personage needs a bigger stage than the West Georgia classrooms.

In fact, this article implies that he chose West Georgia College in part for the demographic makeup of Carrollton and its area, which he thought would be a good spot to try to end the Democrats' "century-long stranglehold on the 6th Congressional district.

This may or may not be true, but it fits with the patten we see over and over again with Newt. It's all about Newt's ambitions and grandizement, about his messiantic vision of himself as a transformative, historical figure.

A healthy amount of self-confidence and determined purpose is necessary to be a strong leader, but too much and you begin to see the kind of cosmic narcissism that reveals itself from time to time in Newt's character.

Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK), a colleague in the House, says of him: "I found him to be somebody who was primarily interested in his own advancement. ... Newt has had one primary interest for his entire public life, and that's Newt."

But it's really his tactics that are so odious. In a speech to college Republicans in 1978, when he was running for Congress for the third time and finally won, he said:
"One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire, but are lousy in politics."
He's infamous as Speaker for circulating a list of nasty words for his colleagues to use in their speeches and campaign rhetoric against the Democrats. Then he decided to get rid of then House Speaker, Democrat Jim Wright. He carefully plotted and for two years relentlessly pursued ethics charges against Wright until he finally got something to stick, and Wright was forced to resign for violating the rules about gifts and outside income (something to do with a book deal, if I remember right). In retrospect, the case against Wright pales in comparison with the ethcis case against Newt himself that finally brought him down and led to his resignation from Congress. And then there's his pursuit of impeachment of Clinton at the same time he was having his own affair with Callista -- whom he now wants us to accept as the First Lady of the Land.

Of course, we should keep in mind -- as Newt reminds us -- that he is a different person now that he has found true love and religion and has confessed and been forgiven for his past indiscretions. As he said in an AP interview this year: "I believe that I am a much more disciplined, much more mature person than I was 12 years ago."

Yes, but here's the rub. In 1985, he said much the same thing: "That was the old me – abrasive and confrontational. You'll see a change now."

Bah, humbug.

Don't trust someone who has to keep telling you
how much he has changed.


A poll we can believe

Here's one that is easy to accept:

A USA Today/Gallup poll taken last week asked: "Thinking about the 2012, which best describes you?"

Can't wait for it to begin . . . . 26%
Cant' wait for it to be over . . 70%
Me too.