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Willisms

« April 2008 | WILLisms.com | June 2008 »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 494 - Unsustainable Liberal Policies.

Being Left-Wing Entails Self-Imposed Political Extinction-

Conservatives often exclaim that liberal policies are not sustainable. They are not solvent. They are socialist. They will bankrupt us. We can't afford them. We'll have to double or triple or quintuple taxes to pay for them. Etcetera. Etcetera.

All of that is true.

But liberals don't care about any of that. They even embrace some of those criticisms.

To really get the point across, liberals need to understand that their gargantuan government programs, paid for with ever-expanding tax rates and types, are politically unsustainable. I know it's hard for liberals to believe, because they look at polls showing how 55% support this program, or 60% support that program, or 80% support the idea that every child should have x, y, and z guaranteed. It's hard to believe, but people respond to big government. Policies matter. When people feel the burden of high taxes, they move themselves, their businesses, and their money to places where they'll be treated better.

Again, this is tough for liberals to digest. There's a real sense of moral superiority and concurrent denial from liberals about liberal ideas. Of course they're good. Of course they work.

Well, as Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation said yesterday at an event here in Austin, liberals like to point to the necessity of taxes to pay for roads and education and other things people and businesses require. What they don't tell you is that if you raise taxes too high, your people will just use all of that wonderful transportation infrastructure to flee your state. And once you've spent your wad on education, if your taxes are too high and therefore there aren't plentiful good jobs, your people will feel no obligation to stay and repay the state for the free education. No, they'll pack up and move to Texas.

And speaking of packing and moving, get a load of these numbers (.pdf):

cumulativedomesticmigration.gif

Note, as has been noted on this website time and time again, that the high in-migration states tend to be "red" states with low taxes. Meanwhile, the high out-migration states are more likely to be "blue" states with higher taxes. A million here, a million there, and soon you're looking at real numbers.

Okay, so states with liberal policies are losing people to states with conservative policies.

So what, says the liberal. If anything, that's good. People are bad for the environment, man. Save Mother Gaia. All that sort of thing.

Well, first, no civilization or culture can survive if it actively seeks to diminish its own population. Second, it's a bizarre contradiction: liberals set up these pyramid scheme entitlement programs that depend on ever-increasing numbers of people to support them, all while actively seeking to guarantee fewer people.

So, liberals still don't care. We've made some decent points, but all of that is just conservative mumbo-jumbo. They've heard it before.

Okay, this is what we're building up to, here (.pdf):

reapportionmentoverdecadesa.gif

New York, alone, will lose 16 Congressional seats during this period. Those are going mostly to Georgia and Florida and Texas. From the extended Northeast, 36 seats will shift to states with pro-growth policies.

That's 72 seats worth of difference over this period of time. Those numbers also apply to the Electoral College.

Liberals might retort that they'll just infiltrate Texas and Georgia and Florida and turn those states into liberal havens, too. That way, people will stop moving there from their home base in New England or New York or New Jersey (or Michigan, or California). That's admitting defeat, though.

That is an admission that their policies are unattractive and unsuccessful. That's hard to admit.

And, ultimately, if people and jobs move to low tax states, which become high tax states through the hard work and dedication of unions and lobbyists and the establishment media, and people move to Utah or South Dakota-- or wherever is left-- to find refuge, we'll eventually run out of low tax states. People won't have anywhere to move, right? They'll be locked in to liberal policies, wherever they go within the United States.

Well-- and it's already happening-- people and businesses and capital will start packing up and heading to Ireland or Slovakia or Hong Freaking Kong, where taxes are low and capital/business is treated right.

All of this ought to point to one imperative notion about the world:

Those of us with conservative governments (like here in Texas) must seize this chance. We must DO something with our political power that will sustain our ideas and our political viability for the future. Being liberal-lite Republicans, in the same way that America and Europe often tried the "third way" between communism and capitalism during the Cold War, is not only a recipe for destroying the GOP brand within the base of the party, it's a recipe for economic failure, and a recipe for growing more Democrats.

Liberal policies are most rapidly unsustainable when there are handy conservative policies nearby, to where people and money and ideas and everything else can reasonably flee.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Poisonous Political Environment.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 May 2008 11:51 AM · Comments (3)

The Next Right.

Just added The Next Right to the blogroll. It's off to a great start thus far and looks to be focal point for GOP strategery and activism. Plus, it's got Patrick Ruffini.

Check it out.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 May 2008 10:42 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 493 - This Terrible, Terrible Political Climate.

Republicans Face Uphill Battle In 2008-

It's bad out there.

Audience: How bad is it?

It's so bad, that when Republican candidates yawn, their teeth duck.

Okay, that doesn't even make sense.

How about some numbers?

How about the Electoral Barometer:

The formula for computing this score is simply the president's net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) in the Gallup Poll plus five times the annual growth rate of real GDP minus 25 if the president's party has held the White House for two terms or longer. Mathematically, this formula can be written as:

EB = NAR + (5*GDP) - 25.

In theory, the Electoral Barometer can range from -100 or lower to +100 or higher with a reading of zero indicating a neutral political climate. In practice, Electoral Barometer readings for the fifteen presidential elections since the end of World War II have ranged from -66 in 1980 to +82 in 1964. A positive Electoral Barometer reading generally predicts victory for the incumbent party while a negative reading generally predicts defeat.

So, the worst score ushered out Jimmy Carter in favor of Ronald Reagan in 1980, while the best score helped LBJ simply crush Barry Goldwater.

Here's a look at the data:

electoralbarometer.gif

In May of 2008, we're looking at an Electoral Barometer rating of negative 63. If GDP numbers come in stronger in a few months, though, that number could rise substantially, though it would probably remain negative. I also wouldn't be entirely surprised if people soften to President Bush just a smidgen, knowing he's not going to be around to kick around any longer. Even the annoying girl in your 7th grade class didn't seem quite as annoying on the last day of school.

Moreover, John McCain is hardly an incumbent. He and President Bush have been at odds on many items of the years. Even more, Democrats already control Congress (and it's highly unlikely that will change in this election), and people tend to express appreciation for divided government.

Still, the political environment is terrible this year for Republicans. I don't think you can exclusively blame the President, either. Republicans can still regroup most of their liberty-loving "leave us alone" electoral coalition before November, especially given how out-of-the-mainstream Barack Obama is.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Unions Mean Higher Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 May 2008 10:08 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 492 - Labor Union Members Wanting Out.

Union Bosses Coercing Membership-

This morning, on Turner Classic Movies, I caught a little bit of a late-noir film (1957) called The Garment Jungle. It's actually a pretty good flick, in terms of composition and pace and all those kinds of things. Unfortunately, it is cartoonishly left-wing in its politics. We tend to think of the 1950s as an ultra-conservative period in American history, but, really, it was between 1956 and 1958 that union membership as a percentage of all private sector workers peaked, at 39%.

Really, then, The Garment Jungle is a bit of a time capsule for the pro-union zeitgeist of the era.

In the film, mobsters are associated with busting unions. Violence, in this film, is the only thing keeping unions from penetrating every workplace. Quite a departure from real life.

Today, Democrats fight for "card check" legislation, which essentially eliminates the secret ballot and allows a union "organizer" to hover over and "help" a worker make up his mind about whether or not to join. Today, unions are declining. When given a choice, not everyone agrees to unionize-- and plenty of people are opting out of unions they are already in.

Grover Norquist, in his new book, elaborates:

Real elections have not been working well for union bosses. David Denholm of the Public Service Research Foundation reports that in the past five and a half years, labor unions have tried to organize 14,743 workplaces. They won 8,260 elections and lost 6,483 elections. In the same time span, unionized workers have demanded 2,379 elections to allow them to "decertify" their union, and workers have thrown out their union 66.2 percent of the time.

And recently, in Colorado, union bosses had to admit that more than half of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are essentially forcibly unionized against their will.

Labor union organizers in The Garment Jungle were willing to fight and die not just for themselves or even their fellow downtrodden garment workers, but for what they believed was the good of society. Whether or not all people appreciated what they were doing, their work was on behalf of all people. Sort of a sarcasm-laced "you're welcome" worldview, there.

Today, though, we know that states with high concentrations of union members are doing relatively poorly, economically. They have weaker job creation. They have slower GDP (or, GSP) growth. They are losing people and companies and capital to other states. They are the states that Obama says are clinging to guns and religion.

And it's no wonder, when you consider that the ten states with the latest "Tax Freedom" days have a unionization rate of 17.97%, while the ten states with the earliest "Tax Freedom" days have a unionization rate of 11.96%-- and that includes the high-union outlier of Alaska (24.7%), which has a unique Kuwaiti-like tax situation.

Moreover, examining National Taxpayers Union ratings of Senate delegations (.pdf), we see that high unionization is highly correlated with sending tax-and-spend individuals to the Senate, while low levels of unionization and "Taxpayers' Friends" in the Senate go together:

unionsequalhighertaxes.gif

Download the Microsoft Excel file of this data here.

Thus, when labor union folks give you the haughty "we are why you have a weekend" nonsense, or the holier-than-thou "you are riding on the coattails of our hard work, indirectly benefiting from our organizing" ridiculousness, know that this is bunk. Unions not only don't help society, they actually harm society. And they harm themselves (ahem, Michigan, ahem).

Thus, if you-- a member of the "Leave Us Alone" coalition-- get the chance to voice your opinion on unions, and you think to yourself, "you know, let them do their thing, they're not really affecting me..." know that union strength does affect you. Union strength, today, is antithetical to liberty.

For Republicans, there are some interesting outliers on the graph. Arkansas and North Dakota, the two green triangles nearest to the bottom-left corner, are both states with under 10% unionization that send high-tax/high-spend liberal Democrats to the Senate and therefore also have Senate scores under 10%. If Republicans are ever going to achieve a filibuster-proof Senate majority, those are the kinds of states that the GOP simply cannot cede to the Democrats.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Influence Peddling.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2008 11:12 PM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 146.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

dontaskdonttell.gif

The actual caption:

U.S. President George W. Bush watches as graduates carry a fellow squadron member on crutches during the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado May 28, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)

Seems like they aren't telling the whole story.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, June 3. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
davechapelle.gif

And... The Winners:

1. rodney dill:

Things really got dicey when Obama revealed his main political advisor was Cleavon Little.

2. elliot:

Leroy Johnson of 443 fifth Avenue is that you?

Leroy: Shhhhhhhhh!

3. Jr Ewing:

Will Smith will star in his most believable role yet in "Undercover KKK Super-human Black Conehead New York City Police Officer With Emotional Issues" set to open in June.

Captioning: it's why Al Gore created the internet. Enter today.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2008 03:46 PM · Comments (12)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 491 - Influence Peddling.

Proximity & Power-

In recent years, especially right before the '06 elections, we have heard a lot of talk about the terrible influences of lobbyists.

"Lobbyist" has taken on a particularly negative connotation in modern times. It seems, however, that lobbyists are almost exclusively associated in our establishment media and popular culture with big oil companies or tobacco companies or gun companies. Stuff like that.

Those are causes often associated, correctly or not, with the right. But what about the left-leaning lobby groups? You know, the big ones. The ones that actually matter.

One way to measure influence is to measure proximity to capitol buildings:

Of the 25 most influential interest groups, the teachers’ union is the closest in 14 of the 50 states. By comparison, the AFL-CIO is the closest in seven states. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the National Federation of Independent Business are the closest in five states, each. The American Association for Justice (AAJ)—the leading organization of U.S. trial lawyers, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, or ATLA—is the closest in four states.

The teachers’ union is among the four closest interest groups in 27 states. Meanwhile, the AAJ is among the four closest in 22 states, the AARP in 20 states, and the AFL-CIO in 19 states.

So, Trial Lawyers, Teachers' Unions, and other labor unions dominate the proximity battles.

They also tend to dominate the overall dollar battles (from 1989 to 2008):

influencepeddling.gif

Six of the next ten are strong Democrat-leaning, three are weak Republican-leaning, and one is roughly fifty-fifty. Republicans controlled Congress and the White House for more of this period, 1989 to 2008, than Democrats, and, if the "Friendly Incumbent" rule (which says that interest group money tends to flow to incumbents) has any relevance, it is remarkable that Republicans didn't receive more from some of these groups. Clearly, Democrats are far more the party of special interests than Republicans, which makes the "GOP=special interests" narrative of the past two or three years so mindboggling.

Looking at the '08 cycle, eight of the top ten lobbying groups gave overwhelming to Democrats, with one on the fence and one giving to Republicans.

When Democrats talk about special interests, they usually mean Republican special interests-- interests that organize in order to be left alone. The true malignant special interests are the Democrat special interests-- those that organize in order to take from and impose upon others.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Normal Tax Rates.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 May 2008 04:07 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 145. (FRIDAY EDITION)

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

davechapelle.gif

Dave Chappelle, anyone?

The actual caption:

People protest against the three detectives who were found not guilty in the Sean Bell trial outside Rev. Al Sharpton's radio studio in New York City, April 25, 2008. Bell was shot, along with two friends, after a bachelor party at a strip club in November 2006.

REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Hmm, I think they could have done better.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 27. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
mcauliffeandclinton.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Nathan Hale:

"So it WAS a banana in your pants!"

2. elliot:

Ooooooh, now that's the kind of caucus I'm talkin' about.

3. Dennis:

Hillary: OMG! So thats what one looks like!

Captioning: all the fun of being a photo editor, without all the icky pay.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 May 2008 02:35 PM · Comments (8)

Jeopardy Politics.

On yesterday's episode of Jeopardy!, an 800 dollar "answer" was:

Conservative PM Stephen Harper is working to lower wait times in the national health-care system of this country.

The "question," obviously, was:

What is Canada?

Interestingly, this question stirred up a bit of controversy on the official Jeopardy! message boards.

One message board denizen called the question "propoganda" [sic], saying that the question made him sick.

Sufficiently vague (did he think it was pro-Harper?), some of the other commenters tried to figure out how it qualified as propaganda.

One person suggested that the equivalent question in the United States might be something about President Bush trying to reform this depression-era entitlement program in 2005 (What is Social Security?), to which someone responded that Social Security is actually not a depression-era program, because it was fully implemented after the Great Depression.

Okay. Labored logic, there.

The question really isn't controversial, unless you are a devotee of socialized health care and believe that this was some sort of subliminal attack on the inefficiencies of government-run health care. Jeopardy! has plenty of political clues, and sometimes they are on the verge of controversy or advocacy, but this was not one of them.

Interestingly, I am not a Jeopardy! message board person. I had my own commentary on the question, but I wanted to look it up to make sure I worded it correctly for you, the reader. I just found the controversy on that board somewhat interesting, given that I had my own issues with the question.

My Commentary

Seeing the clue irritated me a bit. Not the clue itself, though, or how it was phrased.

Rather, it is sad that in so many other countries, the right-of-center parties are reduced to working toward things like "reducing wait times" for nationalized health care. Once you socialize 10-20% of your economy (which is roughly what health care is in most countries), short of major economic/social/political upheaval, there is no going back. There's only trying to make it a little more efficient, or give people a little better set of options, or improve customer service.

That's what is so menacing about an Obama presidency paired with an embolded far-left Congress. They may control the American government for 2 or 4 or 6 years, but that's plenty of time to radically and permanently alter the nature of America's economy. And if they are successful at passing a comprehensive left-wing agenda, the policy would feed back into the politics, potentially keeping Democrats in power for more than a mere 2 or 4 or 6 years.

There aren't sunset provisions in new entitlement programs, like there are in the Bush tax relief packages. There's no automatic expiration if it isn't renewed in ten years. If we socialize the remaining half or so of our health care that is still relatively part of the free enterprise system, that's that. There's no going back at that point.

And that's why the Jeopardy! question gave me pause. Not only would socializing the remainder of non-socialized health care be terrible policy, it would feed back into the politics. It would put serious constraints on the conservative movement, creating new Democrats vested in the system and binding our hands when it comes to major tax reform, Social Security reform, and other innovative ideas.

And speaking of Social Security reform, that is is a good example of what might happen decades from now when Republicans finally claw their way out from under the potential (it's not at all inevitable) post-2008 left-wing political and policy realignment.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the early 1930s, framed the Social Security issue and set the agenda. In 2005, seventy years later, Republicans still had to play on that hostile turf. Of course they were unable to pass reform.

The Republican Party as a whole is not without blame, here. Squishy Republicans in Congress helped to stifle Social Security reform. The Bush administration could have kept a better eye on non-defense discretionary spending growth, which has become such a misplaced focal point for deficit hawks. The GOP was neither gung-ho, nor united, nor coherent, about a conservative reform agenda in the past several years. Republicans, especially many in Congress, damaged the brand. They lost credibility on the big things because of sloppiness with the little things.

In essence, Republicans voluntarily submitted themselves to a political vasectomy by acting like slightly less spend-happy Democrats. Those are reversible.

Socializing the remainder of health care would effectively neuter the Republican Party-- this time not voluntarily or reversibly-- for years to come, on both the policy stream and in the political ring.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2008 04:43 PM · Comments (3)

Thin Skinned Obama Operatives.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post put this story, "Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause," on its front page.

The story retells all sorts of alleged racists that Obama campaigners have run into on the campaign trail. It's a difficult story to respond to without coming off as indifferent to the [sarcasm]ubiquitous scourge of racism that still plagues America[/sarcasm].

I am going to give it a shot, anyway.

When I heard the story's writer, Kevin Merida, on XM's POTUS '08 channel discussing the article, my blood started to boil. I think that was Kevin's intended consequence, only in a completely different way.

My blood started to boil, not because I was so upset that ignorant people were being mean to Obama's field staffers and volunteers. No, I was upset, because, as a veteran of retail politics, having worked on campaigns in nearly two dozen states, I have seen far worse than what is allegedly chronicled in the Washington Post story.

I also tend to believe that some of the incidents in the story are just that-- stories. Entirely made up. Some are exaggerated. And some are probably 100% true, if I know my electorate.

Let's dive into this article and see what we can find:

Danielle Ross was alone in an empty room at the Obama campaign headquarters in Kokomo, Ind., a cellphone in one hand, a voter call list in the other. She was stretched out on the carpeted floor wearing laceless sky-blue Converses, stories from the trail on her mind. It was the day before Indiana's primary, and she had just been chased by dogs while canvassing in a Kokomo suburb. But that was not the worst thing to occur since she postponed her sophomore year at Middle Tennessee State University, in part to hopscotch America stumping for Barack Obama.

Here's the worst: In Muncie, a factory town in the east-central part of Indiana, Ross and her cohorts were soliciting support for Obama at malls, on street corners and in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and they ran into "a horrible response," as Ross put it, a level of anti-black sentiment that none of them had anticipated.

"The first person I encountered was like, 'I'll never vote for a black person,' " recalled Ross, who is white and just turned 20. "People just weren't receptive."

A horrible response? People weren't receptive? How many responses and receptions does this 20-year-old have to compare against? In retail politics, you aim for 100 people, you'll hit 10. That's not evidence of bigotry. It's evidence of Obama's limited appeal.

I can buy the idea that Danielle Ross felt impatient and even personally attacked as people sneered and grimaced and shook their heads "no" at her. Some people probably yelled nasty things and did the thumbs down right in her face and otherwise let their feelings be known. I am sure there were dogs in Kokomo, and they may have even barked at her. It's rough stuff out there.

How do I know this? I've been in her shoes. I have led teams of people in her shoes. I've seen it. It can really demoralize a person to do retail politics, even in friendly political territory.

What I don't buy about her story is that the first person she encountered said he or she wouldn't vote for a black person. That just does not pass the smell test. But it certain does fit a certain narrative.

The writer of this article got taken. Willingly. Listening to him on XM, he clearly had an agenda. I tuned in just after the interview started, and I was astonished to learn at the end of the interview that he was not an Obama campaign staffer but an ostensibly objective reporter.

If I were interviewing him, I would have asked why in the bloody hell [there goes my blood boiling again-- keep reading to find out why] he didn't get any stories from other campaigns, as a control group, to determine whether these sorts of things happen to lots of candidates of all backgrounds.

NEWSFLASH, newsman: They do.

I would have also asked him if he had personally witnessed any of the incidents he describes. Or if any of it was even verifiable, since it seems like he just took the word of people with high incentives to make up these stories.

Of the stories in the article, I am sure some of those anecdotes happened. Some are based on real events but deeply exaggerated. And some are just (rather obviously) made up entirely. Ultimately, though, this story strings together a series of innuendos and tall tales and passes them off as a factual pattern.

Back to the article:

For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

Okay, let's see if I faced those, as a Republican field operative, directed toward me and my candidates:

Racially derogatory names: check. Unless it doesn't count, since I am white.

Malicious rants and ugly stereotyping: pretty much non-stop, check and check.

As for people who can't fathom that Obama could become the first black president: it's difficult for me to fathom. That doesn't mean that people can't fathom an African-American winning the White House. It just means that it's hard to imagine Obama, such a deeply flawed candidate as well as individual, being the first one.

I've always felt it would have to be a Republican, someone outside the Jackson/Sharpton political establishment. Someone with national security credentials. Someone moderate, maybe even right of center. Someone with a stellar track record of successful experience.

More from the article:

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"

Who even uses that phrase? It just sounds made up.

This should have tripped the wire on any truth detector this reporter had. To relay this sort of unsubstantiated garbage so willingly only incites passions based on some alleged event that likely did not happen.

Could it have happened? It's possible.

It's just not probable. And a good reporter would have tried to snag Victoria Switzer's call list, figure out who it was, and at least try to verify whether it actually happened. My strong hunch is that it didn't happen. My hunch is that the reporter went trolling for anti-Obama racism, and his supporters were more than willing to oblige. The reporter was willing to believe terrible stories, because they fit into the story he was already writing; people were able to get away with exaggerating and making things up, because, heck, he needed them to substantiate what he believed before he wrote the article.

The article details a veritable reign of terror against Obama:

The bigotry has gone beyond words. In Vincennes, the Obama campaign office was vandalized at 2 a.m. on the eve of the primary, according to police. A large plate-glass window was smashed, an American flag stolen. Other windows were spray-painted with references to Obama's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other political messages: "Hamas votes BHO" and "We don't cling to guns or religion. Goddamn Wright."

Ray McCormick was notified of the incident at about 2:45 a.m. A farmer and conservationist, McCormick had erected a giant billboard on a major highway on behalf of Farmers for Obama. He also was housing the Obama campaign worker manning the office. When McCormick arrived at the office, about two hours before he was due out of bed to plant corn, he grabbed his camera and wanted to alert the media. "I thought, this is a big deal." But he was told Obama campaign officials didn't want to make a big deal of the incident. McCormick took photos anyway and distributed some.

"The pictures represent what we are breaking through and overcoming," he said. As McCormick, who is white, sees it, Obama is succeeding despite these incidents. Later, there would be bomb threats to three Obama campaign offices in Indiana, including the one in Vincennes, according to campaign sources.

Here's one of the pictures:

obamavandalism.gif

That's terrible. Campaign vandalism is awful. It is an attack on free speech and should be taken seriously. But that's not evidence of anti-black bigotry. I have personally had to help clean up Republican campaign offices, plural, that have been vandalized in a similar fashion, with windows broken, nasty things written with spray paint, and so on. To elevate this sort of criminal mischief, however, into some sort of evidence that there is widespread bigotry targeted narrowly against Barack Obama or broadly against African-Americans is absurd.

But, again, it fits the narrative.

In the American Midwest, parades are still a huge deal. I cannot stress this enough. For political parties, they are some of the most important events of the year. That's why this line from the article was a flashback:

At Scranton's annual Saint Patrick's Day parade, some of the green Obama signs distributed by staffers were burned along the parade route.

This is part of the game. Signs and banners are distributed widely. People subvert the other side, Spy vs. Spy style. I've seen signs burned. I have seen other stickers slapped onto them, making them say things like, "Candidate Joe..." "...is a child molester" or, slightly more pertinent, "...takes money from Enron lobbyists." It's a game that people play. And every now and then, it's initiated entirely from individual citizens, who flamboyantly rip up your sign no more than a few seconds after you've given it to them.

Again, not evidence of bigotry, even if it did involve fire. But, again, it does fit the narrative.

Back to the pattern of bigotry:

In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.

"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."

Obama's campaign workers have grown wearily accustomed to the lies about the candidate's supposed radical Muslim ties and lack of patriotism. But they are sometimes astonished when public officials such as Ball or others representing the campaign of their opponent traffic in these falsehoods.

Okay, so this Hillary supporter lacks tact and is probably just repeating things he's heard. But is he really trafficking in falsehoods? I wouldn't be so sure, as Stanford's Islam expert Daniel Pipes points out.

This is perhaps the most sinister part of this article. It attempts to stifle serious discourse on Obama's roots, when there are some very real questions that people will want answered by the end of the campaign. In conversations with rabid Obama supporters, I hear this sort of thing quite a bit. "There are millions of idiot Americans who actually believe Obama is Muslim."

Well, maybe. But then there's those of us who think Obama is not being entirely truthful about his upbringing and agree with Daniel Pipes when he asserts:

Obama's having been born and raised a Muslim and having left the faith to become a Christian make him neither more nor less qualified to become president of the United States. But if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president.

Obama's youth in Indonesia, his enrollment in schools as a Muslim, his comment in his book about goofing off during Koranic studies, his ability to recite Muslim calls to prayer in Arabic even today, and all of the other anecdotes are totally legitimate. Americans have every right to scrutinize their potential Commander-in-Chief, including whether or not he shares a basic worldview ("America is exceptional; America is awesome; America is worth fighting for"), shaped as a child. In some ways, his overseas experiences as a boy might actually be a plus in today's world-- but not if it seems like he is hiding something.

For this discussion to be off limits is ridiculous. And, believe me, it won't be off limits. And people will cry foul. They will say, "Obama is being swiftboated." But these things will get out there.

Obama would be wise to address them sooner rather than later, on his own terms rather than in response to blog posts and campaign ads. He won't do that, though, because Kevin Merida and other writers have created a forcefield around Obama on this topic. Anyone who dares discuss it must be some sort of ignorant bigot. End of story.

The article has plenty of other anecdotes preemptively justifying Obama's terrible showing in West Virginia. Every anecdote was from the perspective of Obama's campaign, though. There was no attempt to look at other sides.

And that's what makes my blood boil. On the campaign trail, I have taken my share of abuse. I never expected the media to tell my story, verbatim.

A few percent of the population gets REALLY emotional about their politics, and they will unleash on you with anti-semitic, racist, sexist, and otherwise bizarre (hypersexualized, paranoid, or violent imagery) slurs. Sometimes they even believe what they are saying, although mostly they are just trying to irritate you.

I've even been physically roughed up a bit (not too bad, though... really, mom) by union thugs on the campaign trail. It's rough out there. And the majority of aggressive, hostile, and mean-spirited campaigning, dirty tricks, and vandalism/intimidation flows from left to right. We're talking campaign vans getting their tires slashed. We're talking Kristallnacht to the point that many Republican campaigns have staffers spend the night in the office, or hire security guards, on certain nights. We're talking signs being destroyed and vandalized and stolen. We're talking about threatening voicemails being left on campaign message machines. We're talking about people following around (very creepy) and harassing volunteers canvassing neighborhoods. We're talking all kinds of crazy stuff.

None of this has ever seemed particularly newsworthy. There are yahoos out there. They are jerks toward campaigns. They say and do mean-spirited things. They are also few in number and proportion to the population. More importantly, they are not just anti-black racists.

They are left-wing anti-Jew knuckleheads, who spout some of the most off-the-wall conspiracy theories about flesh-eating Republican Jews in the American government. Seriously. Flesh-eating. Apparently it's part of some initiation into some secret society... to eat human flesh.

Yeah.

They are atheist anti-Christian commandos who say things like they hope there is a hell so I and all other right wing Christians can go there when we die. This sort of stuff is totally unprovoked, other than asking for their support.

They are tough guy (...stuck in the...) Civil War-era Democrat patriarchs who tell you they'd gladly take your female candidate (Elizbeth Dole) behind the woodshed and show her a thing or two, but there's no way in hell they'd vote for the b1tc#.

There are "former life-long Republicans" who are tell you weird and bizarre tales about your candidate (Cheney) and his experimentation with witchcraft.

These things and more happen. To Republicans. They have all happened to me. At the same time, though, these sorts of things remain a small part of campaigning. Most people appreciate information. Most people like to engage in the mainstream of political discourse. Most people, even if they don't like your party or your candidates, will just say, "no thank you" or "I am not interested."

Are there a few bad apples? Of course. A lot of them are on union or ACORN payrolls.

Does the Obama campaign run into them? Oh, without a doubt, especially if they are targeting Democrats.

Is this a unique phenomenon, driven by racism? Absolutely not.

This is why my blood boiled when listening to Kevin Merida on the radio, then reading his front page Washington Post story. It completely omits the other side of the story. He comes off as even more of an Obama operative than the rest of the fawning news establishment in this country.

The article, timed to come out on the day that Hillary Clinton was expected to beat Barack Obama by 20 or more points (she ended up winning by 41%), fit right into the narrative that West Virginians specifically and white people around the country more generally are racists. At the same time, though, the article doesn't really stress to the reader that most of the alleged bigots are more likely than not Democrats (which is why they are being targeted to vote in the primary).

The article does a lot of things, namely:
1) it serves as a preemptive strike against attacks on Obama, his patriotism, his youth, and so forth, priming the agenda for pro-Obama stories.
2) it puts the McCain campaign and Republicans on the defensive on the issue of race, putting the burden of proof on Republicans. Just watch as this unfolds between now and November.
3) it plays on all sorts of stereotypes to rile up African-American voters, who must turn out in record numbers for Obama to have any chance in November.
4) it appeals to white people without particular political or ideological compasses to rally behind the unfairly-smeared victim, the implication being that if you are against Obama, you're racist, but you can absolve yourself by supporting Obama.

We keep hearing that Obama has problems with white voters. Well, yeah. But he also has problems with Asians and Hispanics/Latinos. And all sorts of other demographics. His problems are masked by getting 90+% of the total black vote and 97% of the black male vote in places like North Carolina. Ninety-seven percent. It's staggering.

This election is already frustrating for a lot of reasons (no discussion on entitlement reform; no discussion of tax reform, other than tax hikes; lots of discussion on trade isolationism and fleeing Iraq and socializing another 1/6 of our economy-- health care). I just hope, though, people can see through articles like the one on the front page of the Washington Post earlier this week. And I hope the Obama operatives grow a little thicker skin, for their sake.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 May 2008 04:22 PM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 144.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

mcauliffeandclinton.gif

Originally, this story had this picture just below the headline "McAuliffe: 'Need something big' " (thanks to Matt from Syracuse for the tip), but the folks at Yahoo/Politico seem to have wised up and taken the photo down.

The actual caption:

Hillary Clinton's White House campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe(L) seen here with Clinton in January 2008, said Thursday the Democrats' bitter nominating race would be swiftly concluded in June and that she would back Barack Obama if he is the nominee. DA(AFP/File/Stan Honda)

Yeah. Okay. I think they could have done better.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 20. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
cindymccain.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Hoodlumman:

As the guest missed step four of the 10 step secret amnesty handshake, Cindy signals the Secret Service to eliminate the infiltrator with extreme prejudice.

2. elliot:

Cindy:(cough)Mr & Mrs Anderson, big bucks(cough)

3. Bigfoot:

While her husband John presses the flesh, Cindy McCain attempts to sing karaoke with an "air microphone".

Honorable Mention. Cowboy Blob:

Is that Bill Clinton's little sister standing behind them?

Ouch.

Captioning: the greatest American invention since Jazz.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 May 2008 02:36 PM · Comments (15)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 490 - "Normal" Tax Rates.

Deviant Economics-

To hear Obama (and Clinton) talk about the Bush tax cuts, they were some bizarre anomaly in an otherwise steady pattern that guided America through its history. And, by golly, if we elect the Democrats, they'll swiftly return us back to where things ought to be.

No.

The out of the ordinary time in our recent history was in the second term of the Clinton administration:

individualtaxrevenue.gif
For most of recent history, the U.S. share was about equal to that of the OECD generally. It did deviate wildly at one point--in the second term of President Clinton, when the U.S. was collecting a markedly higher percentage of its GDP in income-tax revenue than were its fellow OECD members. But the Bush tax cuts returned us to normalcy.

But, although individual income tax collections are roughly in line with the post-industrial world, our corporate taxes are making us American businesses less competitive in an increasingly competitive world economy:

uscorporatetaxestoohighnow.gif
By standing still, the United States can expect to see reduced inflows of foreign capital and investment because the United States will be a less attractive place in which to invest, innovate and grow. U.S. firms will face a higher cost of capital than foreign firms, making it more difficult to compete in foreign markets. In the near-term, this would translate into slower economic growth, a slower advance in labor productivity, and less employment.

So, on the one hand, we have Obama, who wants to eliminate the Bush tax cuts and raise personal income taxes, implement trade isolationism, and vastly increase domestic spending on auto-pilot growth entitlement programs. On the other hand, there's McCain, who is for free trade, wants to slow government's growth, and keep individual taxes lower, while specifically reducing corporate tax rates.

How is Obama pulling more than 25.7% (ahem, West Virginia) nationally with these kinds of ideas? Is the GOP brand really that tarnished? It's almost as if we're back to a time (basically throughout the entire 20th century) in the Republican Party where, because there's so little hope for Congress, we've got to put everything into winning the White House. Yet, I am not sure Republicans quite yet understand that we're possibly back in that time. It may take a true disaster of an election to snap people out of their funk.

If Democrats pick up seats in Congress, getting more than 60 seats in the Senate (which is still a relative longshot at this point), and win the White House, we're looking at a politics-policy-politics feedback loop that just might make the Republican Party the minority party for decades to come.

The politics of a unified party government would allow Democrats to pass legislation that will actually create more Democrats for the future. Government expansion is sinister because it perpetuates itself, politically. Every new government job, every new government program, every regulatory and taxation action Democrats are currently proposing to take, creates people with vested interests in seeing Democrats win and who will vote and donate and otherwise participate with great regularity.

That's the politics-policy-politics feedback loop. It's not inevitable. It's not always unbroken. But I am ever more convinced that this election, if Republicans remain as inactive and unenergized as they were in 2006, might become a realignment of our entire political system for a generation. And that's even more unfortunate, given that if Republicans had passed personal accounts in Social Security and major tax reform and a few other items (conservative ideas on energy, trade, health care, etc.) on the conservative agenda when they were ostensibly in charge of the government, the politics-policy-politics feedback loop just may have worked the other direction, and we may have been talking about Republicans dominating elections for a generation.

This is why John McCain needs to win, even if he is squishy on green issues or campaign finance. Although the 2010 Census reapportionment will help Republicans in 2012, and although it is highly likely that Democrats-- as in 1993 to 1994, when they last controlled the entire federal government-- may overreach and produce a backlash to their Eurosocialism, realistically there's very little chance for Republicans to take back Congress in 2008 or 2010.

Therefore, John McCain must win this election. America's competitiveness and long-term prosperity are at stake.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Opportunity Cities.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 May 2008 01:36 PM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 143.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

cindymccain.gif

The actual caption:

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, shakes supporters hands next to his wife Cindy, right, after speaking at a town hall meeting at Oakland University on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Rochester, Mich. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Is that all? Surely there's more.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 13. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email via WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last Week's Photo:
chelseainpuertorico.gif

And... The Winners:

1. Dennis:

I wonder when I will get to meet Mr. Wonka...

2. sammy small:

Chelsea welcomes "Grandma Obama" to the Clinton camp.

3. Cowboy Blob:

Nun: My Father can beat up YOUR father....

Honorable Mention. Zsa Zsa:

Next stop Planned Parenthood!...

Zing!

Captioning: like sudoku, only not at all.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 May 2008 11:31 AM · Comments (11)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 489 - Opportunity Cities.

What Recession?-

I am not the biggest fan of Houston, Texas. The air is not pleasant (although it's truly getting better)-- the humidity and soot and chemicals all conspire to give your lungs the equivalent of a sunburn.

It is terribly spread out-- people act like it's no big deal to make you drive an hour or more. Where I grew up, driving an hour means you are four towns away (or... almost to San Angelo, or... halfway to Oklahoma City).

Aesthetically, it's pretty ugly. The bayou that runs through town is muddy and swampy. There are no mountains. The beach is more than an hour from downtown-- and it's not exactly South Beach or Venice Beach we're talking about, here.

It's essentially Summer 10 months out of the year, with about 3 weeks of "transition" (which you might get away with calling "fall"), three weeks of Winter (which is actually usually very nice), and three more weeks of Spring-ish transition (which is where it spasms back and forth between 65 and 85 degree days, before settling on 90 until Halloween).

Houston also has a lot of baggage. Negative connotations. Etc. Many of them are completely bogus, like the perennial Men's Fitness "Fattest City" distinction (Houston's only #10 this year). Some of them, like when George Costanza went to Houston to meet with the Astros, are totally accurate.

That being said, I am a big fan of Houston. It has low taxes, cheap housing, few regulations, and it is far more healthy-- spiritually-speaking-- than any other city of its size. It's got a lot of random quirks and interesting mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, despite what you might think after driving through on the freeways.

While I generally prefer my town to be a little smaller, Houston is a fantastic place to be, for a lot of reasons.

Joel Kotkin elaborates:

In 1950, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh ranked among the nation’s ten largest metropolitan areas; today they have been replaced by Houston, Dallas, and Miami. Equally significant has been the shift in the location of the nation’s largest companies away from the traditional centers of commerce.

....

Over the past decade, Houston, Phoenix, and Dallas each have matched the employment growth of New York, Boston, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley area combined.

Houston itself does not have a lot of natural resources (the oil is an hour or two away, the coast is more than an hour away, the landscape is drab), other than its people, who have been generally unencumbered by the stifling hand of government.

Houston is an amazing success story, given what it has to overcome. Rarely a day goes by during the brutal Houston summers that I do not think to myself, "what kind of lunatic would put a city here?"

The only thing Houston really has going for it, from an "organic resources" standpoint, is that is still has a lot of space to grow. This is fortuitous, because Houston is a pro-growth city in a pro-growth state in what remains a mostly pro-growth nation.

Houston, while far from some perfect mecca of free market principles over its history, is one of the greatest examples of how policies matter. It's one of the rare big cities in America that is growing not just with foreign immigrants but with domestic migration as well:

opportunitycities.gif

Think of Houston as a microcosm of America. It's diverse. It's thriving, due to low taxes, relatively few regulations, and a reasonable cost of living. It's fairly small-l libertarian yet simultaneously a city of faith. Most of all, there's a healthy spirit of "live and let live" in Houston. Mind your own business, and let everyone else mind theirs. That permeates every facet of life, including government.

This "leave us alone" spirit is why some of us view the modern left as such a sinister force today. While some on the right would certainly like to play bedroom police and dabble in regulating morality, it is the left that truly wishes to penetrate every aspect of life with its collectivist, nanny-state takings coalition run from Washington, D.C.

If Houston is a microcosm of the Republican America, Detroit is the Democratic America.

The way I see it, there are a few options, here:

1. Impose Republican America on the entire country.
2. Let Republican America do its thing and Democratic America do its thing. Eventually, there'll be a winner.
3. Impose Democratic America on the entire country.

I tend to believe that FDR threw us into number 3. Eisenhower moved us back to 2. LBJ moved us back to 3, and we're only sort of back to 2 thanks to Reagan and George W. Bush.

Believe it or not, I am not for number 1. I believe there is a place in America for San Francisco and Aspen and Vermont. I just believe they all should be responsible for their own long-term problems. And that they'll eventually choose option 1 when they lose all of their productive people.

Unfortunately, today's Democratic Party is firmly encamped in choice number 3 (option 2 is antithetical to an ideology that advocates centralization and equality above liberty), and today's Republican Party is mostly within the second option (if only because it is hard to impose things like "small government" on others). That means the center of gravity is actually somewhere between numbers 2 and 3. That's a problem.

Let's hope the continued growth of places like Houston is the solution.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Barack Obama's Questionable Electability.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 May 2008 09:10 PM · Comments (1)