Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Romney Hates You and Thinks You're Stupid

Yes, Romney hates you, the Republican voter, especially if you are conservative.  He doesn't want to get off of his elitist perch and try to actually campaign for your votes.  He thinks he is entitled to them (thanks to his pedigree and the fact he has been campaigning for 6 years) already and wants the elitists that he bribed with cash and future positions to reach out to you for him.  To make the attacks and to actually do the physican campaigning.  Haven't you noticed how distant he is from actual voters at events and how few interviews he gives (and when he does give interviews he seems to resent some of the questions)?  And his comments yesterday really drove home how much he despises us:

It's very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments. We've seen throughout the campaign that if you're willing to say really outrageous things that are accusatory and attacking President Obama that you're going to jump up in the polls. You know, I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am.

Basically, he is saying "oh that Republican base, they are like animals.  They are just too stupid to get me, they want someone to entertain them and show them something shiny. Well, I'm not stooping to their level."  He seems to have the same view of Republicans as the mainstream media, who think conservative Republicans are a mass of unevolved cretins.  That we don't like him purely because of his style.  That just proves that he really doesn't understand conservative Republicans at all.  We don't like Romney because we have absolutely zero faith that he will govern as a conservative.  He has a terrible record in Massachusetts and has already said he wants to increase the minimum wage and tax the rich as President.  It's also pretty clear that he won't repeal Obamacare, which is based on his own universal healthcare plan.  Also, it seems weird that Romney is unwilling to really go after Obama given the merciless attacks he has leveled against his own fellow Republicans. 

Which brings me to the real evidence that he thinks Republican voters are stupid.  The actual content of his attacks on fellow Republicans are 100% hypocritical and anyone with any memory can see through them.  Romney savaged Newt for supporting an individual mandate in the past, despite being the only Governor, Republican or Democrat, to actually pass an individual mandate in their state.  Attacked Newt for his plan to combat illegal immigration while at the same time not being clear how his plan would actually be different.  He even accused Newt of funding abortions despite the fact that Newt has a 98.6% lifetime rating from the National Right to Life Committee while Romney was pro-choice for years.  Recently, he attacked Santorum for voting for earmarks that he himself received and voting for No Child Left Behind, which he himself supported!

He probably can't wait until the nomination fight is over so he can pivot to the left and never have to deal with the hated Republican base again.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All's Fair in Love and Defeating Romney

I do understand why I should be upset by Santorum's robocalls in Michigan which try to attract Democrats by attacking Romney's support for TARP and his lack of support for the GM bailout.  In fact, Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has a great post on the subject.  But honestly, I have come to the conclusion that I don't care.  All is fair in love and defeating Romney.  He is the biggest hypocrite in politics that I have seen in a long time and he needs to be  beaten and beaten badly.  This is the guy who savaged Newt for supporting an individual mandate in the past, despite being the only Governor, Republican or Democrat, to actually pass an individual mandate in their state.  Attacked Newt for his plan to combat illegal immigration while at the same time not being clear how his plan would actually be different.  He even accused Newt of funding abortions despite the fact that Newt has a 98.6% lifetime rating from the National Right to Life Committee while Romney was pro-choice for years.  Recently, he attacked Santorum for voting for earmarks that he himself received and voting for No Child Left Behind, which he himself supported!

I don't care what tactics any of the GOP candidates use to defeat him anymore.  He clearly deserves it. 

What really is funny is the comment he made in December when Newt's campaign was complaining about Romney's over the top negative advertising.  Romney said,  "if you can't stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until the Obama's Hell's Kitchen turns up the heat."  Now what is that saying about Karma again?

Why is Obama Cutting Active Duty Soldier Benefits While Leaving Civilian Public Employee Benefits Alone?

Obama's war on our troops continues.  Seriously, he seems to have some vendetta against them.  Recently, he has agreed to put US soldiers on trial for burning paper and now is going to severely cut their benefits.  What has he done to civilian public employees?  Frozen their overly inflated pay and that's it.  If you look at government employees as a country unto itself, by targeting our active duty personnel, Obama is in effect targeting the poor in order to be able to continue to fund the rich.  In 2010, the average civilian public employee took in $83,679 in wages.  Based on the 2010 military pay tables that is the equivalent pay of a Lieutenant Colonel with over 12 years of service.  Just to let you know how high up that rank is, a Lieutenant Colonel typically commands a battalion, which can have anywhere between 300-1,200 men (in the Navy, the equivalent rank, Commander, commands a frigate, submarine or destroyer).  A Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank, with over 18 years experience, only makes $61,355.  It seems outrageous that parasitic bureaucrats who do nothing productive make more money than people who are physically defending our country and are also completely immune to benefit cuts!  But it is pretty clear why he is targeting soldiers instead of their higher paid civilian counterparts.  Civilian public sector employees are unionized and tend to vote Democratic, while soldiers tend to vote Republican.  How else do you explain it? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Is Obama Going to Let US Soldiers Go On Trial for Burning Korans?

This was a disturbing announcement from the Afghan government with relation to the Koran burning incident:

NATO officials promised to meet Afghan nation's demand of bringing to justice, through an open trial, those responsible for the incident and it was agreed that the perpetrators of the crime be brought to justice as soon as possible.

An open trial?  For burning pieces of paper?  Sure it was a mistake, but mistakes happen.  For our troops to risk their lives thousands of miles away and then to be thrown to the wolves when politically expedient is a travesty.  What's next, trials for female American soldiers for not wearing burkhas?

Can Santorum Win in Michigan?

I have to say I am relatively surprised by Santorum's resilience in the Michigan polls.  After his rather unfortunate detour into the rabbit hole of his very social conservative views (attacking prenatal diagnostics, etc.), which even Pat Buchanan criticized, and his poor debate performance, I thought Santorum's bubble was going to pop.  While it is certainly popping in Arizona and nationally, in Michigan he actually seems to be gaining some momentum in the last few days.  In the latest PPP poll, he actually leads Romney by 39 to 34 amongst people who plan on voting on election day.  It is only because of the 16% of people who have already voted, who break overwhelmingly for Romney, that Romney comes out with a 2% lead in that poll.  It seems that if turnout is high, Santorum will win, if it is low, it will be Romney, who hasn't been doing himself any favors with his comments about his Cadillacs and just a general lack of excitement for his campaign. 

The question is, why is Santorum continuing to do well in Michigan (and possibly giving Romney a loss in his home state) while he is doing poorly in Arizona, which also has a primary on the same day?  I think the answer is just basic politics.  He is physically campaigning in Michigan but is mostly skipping Arizona.  Despite often coming across as very unlikeable to many, it seems that when people actually get to see him, as they did in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri & Colorado, and when he is not in Newt's shadow (who is campaigning with an almost identical platform), people really like him and come out to vote for him.  Yes he has made compromises while in office, but unlike Romney, he admits his mistakes and rightly points out that he has a very conservative voting record considering he comes from a pretty blue state.  He just comes across as honest, diligent and hard working.  Sure, he isn't anywhere near as inspiring a speaker as Newt, nor as slick and prepared as Romney, but there is certainly some sort of x-factor with him that seems to be connecting.  Romney's attempt at constant character assassination seems not to be working as well as in the past also.  Perhaps people are used to it by now but also it could just be that Santorum is a pretty straight laced guy so slinging mud at him is particularly challenging.  Unless you find that he did something obviously out of character for the image he constructed, like had a gay love affair, it's tough to get stuff to stick.

If Santorum does win in Michigan, all the pundits will have to eat so much crow that there will have to be a new addition to the endangered species list.  His prior wins have either been in low turnout caucuses (IA, MN, CO) or in a non-binding primary where Newt wasn't even on the ballot (MO).  To win a primary in a major state like Michigan, Romney's home state where his father was Governor, will show everyone that his base is far beyond just "bible beating" evangelicals.  I would expect his national numbers to start to recover as they seem to be driven by momentum more than anything else.  And a Michigan win for Santorum will be a big momentum swing in his favor.  It would help him in Washington, which has a caucus on Sunday, March 3rd and then in quite a few states on Super Tuesday, March 6th.  If he wins Michigan, he has a great shot at winning in Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee, leaving Romney with just Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia (where only he and Paul are on the ballot).  Newt, unfortunately, even with a win in Georgia, would pretty much be crippled at that point.

I'm sure by this point many of you who have read more than a handful of my posts are wondering "hey, aren't you a Newt guy?  What is up with the pro-Santorum post?"  Yes, I am a Newt guy and have been very impressed with his campaign lately (just this weekend I watched him on Piers Morgan, at the CA GOP convention and at a Church in GA).  He has found the right issues to focus on (like $2.50 gas and Obama's tasteless apology to the Afghan government) and I think is the most electable candidate in the field in the general election.  Unfortunately, primaries are a lot about luck, momentum and scheduling and many factors can keep the best candidate from winning the nomination.  I'm of the mind that if the 1980 electon were held today that George H.W. Bush would be the nominee.  There was about 6 weeks back then between Iowa and New Hampshire and it took that long for Reagan to regain the momentum after losing Iowa.  If NH was only one week later, he probably would have lost that one too and we might have actually ended up with a second term of Jimmy Carter in the end.  So I am just being objective and realistic of what a victory in Michigan might mean for Santorum and to Newt.

Newt still has a chance.  It is small but nobody really thought his souffle could rise twice, so who is to say it can't rise a third time?  If Santorum is routed in Arizona, Michigan and Washington and Newt keeps pounding away so well on Obama as he has been, conservative voters might wake up to the candidate who so clearly is voicing our frustrations with the current administration and its actions.  But for something to happen, it probably has to happen by March 6th.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Romney: How Dare Santorum Endorse Someone like Me!

Alec MacGillis at the New Republic makes a phenomenal point (which is what it takes for me to link to something at the New Republic) about how ludicrous Romney's attacks on Santorum's Specter endorsement are:

Santorum is being pilloried for having endorsed against a primary challenge a sitting senator from his own party and his own state who was also endorsed by the Republican president at the time. The senator he endorsed was pro-choice and went on to vote for universal health care legislation. Santorum is being attacked for this endorsement by a man who himself was pro-choice and signed into law universal health care legislation. So Santorum's crime, in Romney's eyes, is to have endorsed someone whose moderation resembled that of ... Mitt Romney.


Romney Caught in a Big Lie During the Debate

The Boston Catholic Insider has caught Romney in an outright lie.  During the Wednsday's Arizona debate he stated:

KING (Moderator): Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the governor to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics' rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not.

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their part. There was no such requirement."


But here is what really happened:

In 2005 Romney vetoed a bill to provide access to the so-called "morning-after-pill," knowing his veto would be overridden, but months later, he decided Catholic hospitals did have to give the morning-after pill to rape victims. Key points to note:

  1. Romney had publicly claimed the bill did not apply to private religious hospitals
  2. He reversed his own July 2005 veto against abortifacients by signing an October bill seeking a federal waiver to expand distribution of Plan B abortifacients.
  3. On December 7, 2005, Romney's Department of Public Health said that Catholic and other privately-run hospitals could opt out of giving the morning-after pill to rape victims because of religious or moral objections
  4. On December 8, 2005 Romney reversed the legal opinion of his own State Department of Public Health, instructing all Catholic hospitals and others to provide the chemical Plan B "morning after pill" to rape victims.  He was quoted as saying, ""I think, in my personal view, it's the right thing for hospitals to provide  information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a  victim of rape."
The Boston Catholic Insider concludes:

For him to suggest to the citizens of the United States on national television that Cardinal O'Malley and the Catholic Church would "voluntarily" provide morning-after pills is an egregious misrepresentation of Catholic Church teachings and an egregious misrepresentation of what actually happened in this situation.

BCI hopes that the media and other candidates call him out on this.

I'd like to see him wriggle out of this one.  My guess is that he will use a Clinton-esque argument related to how in his response he said the "Catholic Church" was not required to provide the pills, which is technically true as Catholic hospitals are not the Catholic Church, despite the fact the question explicitly referred to Catholic hospitals.
 
What a slimeball.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Romney's Obama-esque Tax Plan

Romney just has this knack to remind me of why I decided to not vote for him if he is the GOP nominee.  The latest reminder is his updated tax plan, which actually seems to be a mirror image of Obama's corporate tax reform plan.  That plan reduces the corporate tax rate by 20% from 35% to 28% but then eliminates deductions and adds fees.  Romney's plan reduces individual tax rates by 20% (including the top rate from 35% to 28%) but then eliminates deductions, though the details around those are unclear.  He even made this Obama-esque comment:

I'm going to limit the high-end deductions particularly for high-income folks, we can make sure the top 1 percent is paying their current share or more.

Think my calling it Obama-esque goes to far?  Check out this passage from Obama's State of the Union address:

Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires.  In fact, if you're earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions.  On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up. 

Like Obama, he will probably go after charitable deductions, as if that is some sort of unfair tax shelter.  Charitable deductions create an incentive for people to give money to, well, charities.  While not all charities are created equal, a very large number of them exist solely to help the needy.  So by trying to punish the rich, you are, in fact, directly hurting the poor.  How does that make any sense if you are only punishing the rich because of a sense of fairness?  Oh yeah, how could I forget, Romney doesn't care about the poor anyway. 

Also, from a conservative point of view, cutting private funding to private charities will only make the poor more reliant on public handouts.  Again, that doesn't make sense.  Unless Romney just isn't a conservative. 
 

Highlights from Newt's Stellar Arizona Debate Performance

Calm, cheerful and knowledgable:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Newt is the Most Electable GOP Candidate

Now that all of the candidates have been properly vetted it seems pretty clear to me that Newt is the most electable GOP candidate.  That is not to say that he will have an easy time against Obama as historically it is very tough to unseat incumbents (it took a Reagan to beat the disastrous Carter and even then it was pretty close until the debate a week before the election) but he would have the best chance out of the current crop.  Mitt Romney would do more to fracture the GOP than anyone else in recent history and much of the GOP base would simply stay home or vote for a 3rd party in the fall.  Rick Santorum, aka Saint Rick, has a streak of social conservatism that borders on social fascism and will scare away most of the electorate.  Conversely, Newt, while not perfect, can excite the base while at the same time logically convince non-conservatives of the rightness of his views.  Also, many of the issues that have plagued him during the primary season (Freddie Mac, sitting on a couch with Pelosi and his opposition to cramming the Ryan plan down people's throats) won't be major issues in the fall.  Now, let's go through the candidates in greater detail:

It seems like only yesterday (okay, it was last week) that people thought Rick Santorum was the Chosen One who could finally unite the base and the establishment after a primary season that has been plagued by internecine warfare.  Now it seems pretty clear that he is a divider, not a uniter and has as close to a zero chance of actually winning the general election as someone can get in a major party.  Instead of focusing on the economy and Obamacare, which could unite people behind both him and GOP, he has focused on such issues as the evils of contraception and prenatal diagnostics. Instead of focusing on grand themes that just about everyone can agree with (and requiring the other side to point out why one group or another would stand to lose), he just outright offends people all by himself, doing the Democrats work for them.  He is someone who offends gays, women, parents, protestants and libertarians (in total about 80-90% of the electorate).  And I'm not talking about some gaffe taken out of context, I'm talking about actual beliefs that he vigorously defends.  Also, at a time when people are pretty much miserable, he decides to focus his energy on attacking things that people actually like.  He has railed against both gambling and porn, using left wing statist reasoning in the process:

America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.  A wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences... Rick Santorum believes that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced.

So because "scientific studies" say something may be bad, we need government officers telling us what we can and cannot watch in the privacy of our own homes?  Isn't that the same logic that led us to all those horrid environmental regulations? 

I just really don't think Americans want some sort of moralist telling them they are being naughty all the time and taking away some of their cherished vices.  Also, what is the point of kicking someone out of office because he thinks government knows best with another guy who thinks government knows best?

Romney, also, is unelectable for the simple reason that he completely horrifies the base. I would estimate that a good 10-15% of the base would simply stay home if he is the nominee or vote for a 3rd party.  It's pretty clear that he won't repeal Obamacare, he wants to raise the job-killing minimum wage, and has a terrible record as Governor.  You would think that some of his non-conservative views would endear him to independents but it appears he is in the midst of losing them as nobody likes a candidate who doesn't believe in anything and doesn't seem to care about the poor very much.  He also is in danger of chasing away the Reagan Democrats as he is exactly the type of candidate that repelled them away from the GOP before Reagan came to town.  He is an out of touch mushy moderate who has zero in common with them. 

Finally, the clearest evidence that he is unelectable is that despite the fact that he spent more in January than all the other GOP candidates combined (a whopping $32.6 million!) and had a massive organizational advantage, he still lost most of the races this primary season.  What do you think will happen when there is a level playing field and he has no financial or organizational advantages.  You got it.  He will lose.

Now on to Newt.  While he has been absolutely vilified by the GOP establishment and the Romney campaign, there has really been nothing that has been brought up that is an election killer.  In fact, many of the issues will simply go away in the fall.  Freddie Mac?  Let's see Obama bring that up when he received over $126,000 in bribes, err I mean donations, from Fannie and Freddie while he was in or seeking office (he was the #2 largest recipient in Congress, #1 was the notoriously corrupt Chris Dodd).  Nancy Pelosi?  Let's see Obama make an issue out of that one or Newt's opposition to cramming down the Ryan plan.  Sure, Newt will make some gaffes but usually he makes gaffes that are logically defendable (e.g. poor kids should be given work at school, his space comments) , unlike Santorum's claim that protestant churches have been infiltrated by Satan. 

Newt also has great potential to unite the party.  Economic conservatives like him because he balanced the budget and reformed welfare.  Defense hawks like him because he is the most hawkish of the lot.  Social conservatives, when they can get past his personal life, like him for his strong record on issues like abortion.  Even libertarians can live with him because although he is thoroughly conservative, he isn't over the top on social issues.  Romney won't make any of these groups happy.  And Santorum, while clearly a social conservative and a defense hawk, is not as economically conservative as you would think and outright hates libertarians.  This is a problem because libertarians and libertarian-leaners probably make up 40-50% of the party.

Also, unlike Romney and Santorum, Newt can actually explain the ideas of conservatism in an eloquent manner that might actually convince people to come over to the GOP as he has spent a lifetime arguing both with himself and others about those very same ideas.  How could Romney every convince anyone to be a conservative when he isn't one himself?  How can Santorum keep people interested when he constantly comes across as a joyless moralist?

Newt's biggest flaw seems to be the perception that he is erratic, that he doesn't have the temperament to be President.  Did you know that Reagan once told an ally who had betrayed him "I should have shoved it [the bat hanging on the wall] up your a*s and broken it off!" Or that he called hecklers "stupid" during one of his speeches because they interrupted him?  Or that he would throw his glasses when he got upset during meetings?  He seemed to do pretty well.

And one final point on Newt.  He has done what he has done without any establishment support and even less money and organization.  Now imagine, if he were the nominee, what he could do with the full force of the RNC and other GOP affiliated organizations behind him.

Hence, I remain 100% with Newt and believe he is our best chance at winning in the fall and reversing Obama's destructive agenda.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Santorum Just a Hawkish Pat Buchanan?

I finally got around to reading Santorum's "Satan" comments from 2008 in which he said:

This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age. There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America's preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.

He didn't have much success in the early days. Our foundation was very strong, in fact, is very strong. But over time, that great, acidic quality of time corrodes even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.

He was successful. He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions. The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful and first successful was in academia. He understood pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were, in fact, smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different. Pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they're smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell.

And you say "what could be the impact of academia falling?" Well, I would have the argument that the other structures that I'm going to talk about here had root of their destruction because of academia. Because what academia does is educate the elites in our society, educates the leaders in our society, particularly at the college level. And they were the first to fall.

And so what we saw this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being education in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you'd say, 'wait, the Catholic Church'? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. So they attacked mainline Protestantism, they attacked the Church, and what better way to go after smart people who also believe they're pious to use both vanity and pride to also go after the Church.

After that, you start destroying the Church and you start destroying academia, the culture is where their next success was and I need not even go into the state of the popular culture today. Whether its sensuality of vanity of the famous in America, they are peacocks on display and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable. The corruption of culture, the corruption of manners, the corruption of decency is now on display whether it's the NBA or whether it's a rock concert or whether it's on a movie set.

There are so many things to comment about but what I want to focus on is just how much this speech sounds like something Pat Buchanan would give.  Remember his "cultural war" speech at the 1992 GOP convention which helped Clinton/Gore take the center in the general election?  Here is a key passage:

There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so, we have to come home, and stand beside him.

The more I hear Santorum talk about social issues the more he sounds like Pat Buchanan with a hawkish foreign policy to me.  If anything he might even be more extreme on social issues that Pat Buchanan, which is scary.  Do we really want someone who says that mainline protestantism has been infiltrated by Satan and is "gone from the world of Christianity"?  Someone who attacks Rock and Roll for being indecent (It is, but that is the whole point!)?

By the time this election is through, Santorum will have alientated at least 80% of Americans with his over the top social conservatism.

Would Fewer Couples Have Babies if Santorum Has His Way?

Santorum's recent comments on the evils of prenatal diagnostics, especially the amniocentesis, has definitely spooked a lot of people, myself included.  Besides turning out to be a Pat Buchanan-esque moralist (and one of the few Republicans who could possibly try to pull off Carter's "malaise" speech), he has also demonstrated a particularly dark view of human nature.  Prospective parents don't get the batteries of tests, including the amniocentesis, to figure out whether or not to have an abortion but just to check to make sure their baby is okay.  Having dealt with both successful and unsuccessful pregnancies, I have to say that I have wanted to have a sonogram attached to my wife's belly 24/7 so I can check up on the baby, due to my delusion (though I don't think I'm along on this one) that if something is wrong there is something we can do to fix it.  In other words, parents like performing the prenatal diagnostics because of the positive attribute of trying to protect our unborn children, with physician-assisted abortion the furthest thing from our minds (spontaneous abortions i.e. miscarriages are unfortunately constantly on them).

Also, I think that if Santorum's goal is to have more babies born than less, his argument might be self-defeating.  Now let's say that he is elected President and through his moralizing he is able to vilify the amniocentesis so much that it is no longer offered to prospective parents (I realize that is unrealistic but I think that when judging a Presidential candidate you should consider what would happen if they actually could impose their views on society).  How many couples deemed "at-risk" due to maternal age or because of family history might decide to forgo having a child altogether? Right now, about 14% of babies are born to mothers who are 35 and over, while only 4 out of 1,000 pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnostic results.  In other words, a small percentage of "at risk" mothers changing their minds about having kids due to a fear of the unknown could swamp any benefits that Santorum thinks he would see through less prenatal testing.

Deciding to have a baby can be a tough decision, it doesn't seem to make sense to do something that could tip the scales the wrong way.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Santorum is Blowing It Already. Who Attacks Prenatal Testing?

Santorum attacked free prenatal testing yesterday and sounded like a complete crank while doing it. I am against any government mandated benefits because they increase the cost of healthcare but even I think that prenatal testing is one of the last mandates that I would attack. There are quite a few pregnant women out there that don't take care of themselves and the more they go to the doctor to check on themselves or their baby, the better. Anyway here is what he said:

One of the things that you don't know about ObamaCare in one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of ObamaCare -- another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.

Newt is probably looking better and better all the time for lots of conservatives.

Update: Here is the video of Santorum on Face The Nation where he attempts to defend his comments, though really fails (granted Bob Schieffer wasn't exactly being objective, but Santorum really came across as bitter and out of touch). Are amnio's really a menace?:

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Great Example of Why Newt is Better Than Santorum

Watch this great interview of Newt at the Hoover Institution. You see a great man who talks about important issues that the majority of Americans really care about. Santorum, on the other hand, focuses on gay marriage, attacking personal freedom and invading the bedroom.

Would Santorum Want to Ban Internet Gambling and Porn?

Alana Goodman at Commentary's blog points out some recent comments that Santorum made with regards to internet gambling which you can easily see expanded into other areas like pornography.

I'm someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we've seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It's one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it's another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom's not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — "let everybody have it, let everybody do it." No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn't have and make available, to make it that easy to do.

Seriously, I don't think I have ever seen a US Presidential candidate rail against individual freedom like Santorum does on a regular basis (you can read my recent post on it here).  Maybe a candidate in Germany, France or Venezuela, but not in a country based on freedom.  Just as a reminder, here is what Ronald Reagan thought about the government protecting you from yourself:

I don't believe in a government that protects us from ourselves. I have illustrated this many times by saying that I would recognize the right of government to say that someone who rode a motorcycle had to protect the public from himself by making certain provisions about his equipment and the motorcycle–the same as we do with an automobile. I disagree completely when government says that because of the number of head injuries from accidents with motorcycles that he should be forced to wear a helmet. I happen to think he's stupid if he rides a motorcycle without a helmet, but that's one of our sacred rights–to be stupid.

Do we really want to replace one President who wants government to make decisions for us with another who wants the government to make decisions for us?
 

The Media Says The Economy is Improving, But You Don't Feel It. Who's Right? You Are.

The market's up, Real GDP was up 2.8% in the fourth quarter of 2011 and unemployment is down to 8.3%, you should be happy as the economy seems to be finally getting out of its slump.  Instead, you, as they did in Star Wars, "have a bad feeling about this".  Well, there is good reason for this as the economy is nowhere near as good as the headline statistics are saying and some are showing that it's getting worse. The Bureau of Economic Analysis itself admitted that over 1.9% of the 2.8% growth we saw in the 4th quarter came from increasing private inventories, which is pretty much the equivalent of a private company "stuffing the channel" to make their earnings estimates.  The GDP number is more accounting gimmickry than a sign of actual growth of the economy.

And as I have mentioned before, the unemployment rate that is released every month is pretty much pure fiction.  If you account for the long term unemployed dropping out of the work force, the picture is still pretty dire.  If you keep the labor participation rate constant with the month before Obama was elected, our current unemployment rate is 11.4%!  Take a look at the graph below which shows the official rate in red and the true rate in blue:


As you can see, there are still hordes of people that are unemployed right now and the only reason that the rate is improving is because of people in the prime of their working years not even trying to find work anymore.

It also is very interesting that while GDP keep increasing a number that isn't increasing is real disposable personal income per capita (the money that the average American makes after taxes). Somehow we are growing without people making more money, try figuring that one out:


As of December of 2011, the average American is making 0.8% less after taxes than they did the year before.  This is a level of decrease we almost never see in times of growth and even didn't see in 3 out of 10 recessions!  If people don't make money, they can't get themselves out of debt and they don't have any incremental dollars to spend, hurting the rest of the economy.

There are a couple of  indicators coming from the energy sector which show signs the economy is turning over and not turning around.  Usually, when the economy is hitting on all cylinders, more energy is consumed.  We use more gasoline and consume more electric power.  That doesn't seem to be the case right now as you can see from this graph of data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of retail gasoline supplied:


While there is quite a bit of volatility in this statistic, usually, we can see that we are very abnormally falling off of a cliff right now.  And in the past this has been a relatively decent indicator of long term trends as it had peaked on August 24, 2007 and the recession officially started in December of that year.

I am not an expert in energy and do realize that any statistic could have kinks in it but it seems that this weakness is being seen across the energy sector as Charles Hugh Smith has pointed out.  Just take a look at the chart of electric power consumption for the United States.  It shows that we are still below the previous peak and seem to be rolling over as we speak.:


And finally, Morgan Stanley recently published a chart which showed that South Korea, Taiwan and China are all reporting a fall in exports compared to the previous year.  Much of this is probably related to weakness in Europe but as we are all interconnected, it surely isn't a great sign since these countries also supply the items that we buy:


What's really scary is that all of this is happening before any actual Greek default (which many are saying is increasingly likely for March 20th) and before any conflagration in the Middle East which could cause a massive shock to the economy (as Saudi oil fields are in harms way).

Anyway, we'll see what happens.  The environment is challenging to say the least right now and there are definite risks to the downside coming up.  The only thing you really can do in times like this is stay nimble, try to stay liquid and hope that we elect a true pro-growth President come November.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is Obama Making Concessions to Iran at the Expense of Israel?

I'm getting the feeling that Obama is in the process of throwing Israel under the bus, again, in hopes of starting negotiations with Iran, negotiations which have zero chance of success and only buy time for Iran to build a nuke.  Why do I get that feeling?  First, Obama's budget actually cuts funding for Israeli missile defense for 2013, despite the fact that they need missile defense more than ever (if Israel attacks Iran or if Iran develops nukes, they are going to need as good a missile defense as possible).  Second, a joint US-Israeli ballistic missile defense exercise was delayed in January for the rather lame excuse that they wanted it to be "better organized".  Seeing these and other probably unannounced concessions from Obama, Iran has just canceled war games for the Strait of Hormuz.  It seems they see they have an opening to begin negotiations with Obama and therefore stall an attack and additional sanctions until they become a nuclear power. 

Let's hope Bibi does the right thing and bombs anyway, regardless of what Obama is trying to do.  I don't think they can take the chance (assuming there is a chance that Obama's gambit works, which there isn't). 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Does Santorum Hate Individual Freedom So Much? Was He Dumped by a Libertarian Girlfriend?

As I read more about Santorum and listen to more of his speeches, one thing is striking, he REALLY doesn't like the idea of libertarianism or individual freedom.  He's mentioned it in speeches, at compassionate conservative social justice forums (just that name should scare people) and even in debates he makes sure you know that he isn't a libertarian.  Now this goes way beyond just trying to differentiate himself from Ron Paul, this actually seems like some sort of deep seeded hatred, as if he were scarred in the past by libertarians.  Was he dumped by a libertarian girlfriend because he wouldn't sleep with her before marriage?  Was he jealous of a bunch of libertarian friends in college who liked to smoke pot and galavant around?  Who knows, but whatever it is, it has left him a man who really doesn't think people should be allowed to do what they want to do, even if they aren't hurting anyone else.  It's not like this anti-libertarianism makes any actual political sense.  10% of the GOP are practically down the line libertarians and another 40-50% are what I would call libertarian sympathizers.  These would be believers in the free market who don't necessarily want to get involved in other people's private lives even if they are socially conservative themselves.  Ronald Reagan himself fits that bill as you can see from these comments he made to Reason Magazine in 1975:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

...

I don't believe in a government that protects us from ourselves. I have illustrated this many times by saying that I would recognize the right of government to say that someone who rode a motorcycle had to protect the public from himself by making certain provisions about his equipment and the motorcycle–the same as we do with an automobile. I disagree completely when government says that because of the number of head injuries from accidents with motorcycles that he should be forced to wear a helmet. I happen to think he's stupid if he rides a motorcycle without a helmet, but that's one of our sacred rights–to be stupid.

...

I think the government has legitimate functions. But I also think our greatest threat today comes from government's involvement in things that are not government's proper province. And in those things government has a magnificent record of failure.

Now let's take a look at what Rick Santorum said at the horribly titled "The First International Conservative Conference on Social Justice" of which he was Chair:

The competitor to conservatism's future, I believe, is libertarianism. It is a consistent and vibrant, although I believe misguided, strain of conservatism.

America's conservative heritage never pursued a limitless freedom to do whatever one wants so long as no one is hurt. That kind of "freedom" to be and do whatever we want, irrespective of the choice is a selfish freedom that cannot be sustained or afforded. Someone always gets hurt when masses of individuals do what is only in their own-self interest. That is the great lie of liberal freedom, or as I like to say, "No-Fault Freedom" -- all the choice, none of the responsibility.We here today believe in something altogether different. It is the liberty America's Founders understood properly defined. Freedom is liberty coupled with responsibility to something bigger or higher than self. It is a self-less freedom. It is sacrificial freedom. It is the pursuit of our dreams with an eye towards the common good. Freedom is the dual activity of lifting our eyes to the heavens while extending our hand to our neighbor. The only orthodox conservative philosophy that matches with this is compassionate conservatism.

Huh?  So we fought the American Revolution for the idea of sacrificial freedom?  I thought we fought the revolution because:

All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

I don't see any talk about sacrificing for the common good in the Declaration of Independence.  It talks about how individuals have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that if a government doesn't let them do that, the citizens have a right to overthrow it.  The only sacrifices they are making are for their own freedom, their own happiness.   So not only does Santorum have a warped view of conservatism and libertarianism, he has a warped view of history as well.  It actually seems that if he were around during the Revolution he would probably be a Tory.

Now let's get back to the present.  Right now there is a battle going on over Obama trying to force Catholic institutions to offer their employees free contraception.  This battle has the potential to sweep the GOP to victory as people are repulsed by government overreach into their religious freedom, now do we really want a nominee who will say something like this?:

One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, "Well, that's okay. Contraception's okay."

It's not okay because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that's not for purposes of procreation, that's not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can't you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it's simply pleasure. And that's certainly a part of it—and it's an important part of it, don't get me wrong—but there's a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.

Again, I know most Presidents don't talk about those things, and maybe people don't want us to talk about those things, but I think it's important that you are who you are. I'm not running for preacher. I'm not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society.

Does that sound like a winning argument?  Santorum would actually be the perfect guy for us to put up in order to completely defuse the uproar over Obama's contraception stand and instead make it about Santorum's overreaching moralism and anti-individuality.  I really don't think most people want a President of the United States talking about what we do or don't do in our bedrooms.

This is why I continue to be with Newt and will continue to be with Newt to the bitter end, whatever that might be.  He is the only candidate in the race who is a true Ronald Reagan conservative (Mitt Romney is more like Gerald Ford or Lowell Weicker and Rick Santorum is probably closest to Pat Buchanan in terms of his moralism though not his foreign policy stance).  He believes in the free market, believes in a strong national defense and will fight tooth and nail to defend our religious institutions without turning off those that aren't terribly religious.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Can't Fix the Budget Without Fixing Entitlements

After Obama released his disastrous budget yesterday, I was looking through some of the historical budget data and came upon something interesting which really hit the importance of entitlement reform home.  If you look at outlays as a % of GDP, you see that discretionary spending (everything from wars to the Department of Education) has actually fallen over the last 50 years and is clearly not the source of government largesse, at least in terms of spending (regulations are a different story).  What really is busting the budget are the "mandatory" items like social security and medicare.  Just take a look:


With taxes as a % of GDP expected to be at 15.8% in 2012, this means that even if we give up our entire military and shut down almost every federal agency (other than the IRS, CMS and SSA), we will just be meeting our obligations, not even running a surplus.  Some on the left would suggest we need to increase taxes, but given the recessionary nature of taxation (1% of GDP in increased taxation would decrease GDP by 3%), that is just not realistic, not given the levels of additional taxes we would need to collect.   It is just simply impossible for us to balance the budget again without reforming medicare and social security.   We just can't afford to ignore the problem any longer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Obama's Budgetary Malpractice

It is really amazing how bad Obama's budgets are.  The last one was voted down 97-0 in the Senate, potentially one of the only times Democrats and Republicans acted in unison since Obama was elected (there hasn't been an official budget passed by Congress for over 1,000 days!).  The one released today is no better.  Federal government outlays are expected to go up again in 2013 compared to the previous year and up 27.5% since 2008!  I don't seem to remember government being particularly small back then, do we really need to keep spending at this rate?  Even more ludicrous is that he expects to increase taxes by a full 2% of GDP in 2013 without any impact on the economy.  The budget even assumes continuing 4.7% growth!  Obama's own former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, admits that the tax multiplier is 3, so if you raise taxes by 2% of GDP, the impact on the rest of the economy could be -6%!  If we don't double dip in 2012, you can be sure we will in 2013 (unless Obama pulls an October surprise and delays the tax increases, thereby also blowing up his deficit numbers).  Seriously, is there anything in this festering turd of a budget to even like?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Occupy CPAC Protersters Have No Idea What They Are Protesting

Looks like quite a few people at Occupy CPAC have no idea what exactly they are protesting for or against. Some don't even know what the signs they are holding up even say. I especially liked the guy who kept telling the Daily Caller reporter to not ask anyone questions and just to film the signs. Classic:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Is the Republican Establishment Abandoning Romney?

This is just a sense I get but it seems like the establishment may have started to abandon Romney and possibly even turn on him. People who did their utmost to vilify every conservative challenger who started threatening his front runner status seem to be staying quiet on Santorum and even starting to criticize Romney himself. Peggy Noonan has referred to Romney as a "death star" because of his scorched earth campaign tactics. Even Jen Rubin, who has ruined her reputation by becoming Romney's cheerleader in chief, has offered some criticism. Apparently, some have even personally told Romney to not attack Santorum. He's even been openly mocked for calling himself "severely conservative".

And all of this coming at a time where the Romney campaign is flailing badly. Between his comment about not caring about the poor, his endorsement of a job-killing increase in the minimum wage and his string of losses in races where his organization & money should have taken the day, Romney's campaign is on the ropes. Yet, he seems to be unable to come up with any winning attacks on Santorum, just lame criticisms of earmarks. It's not like there isn't a lot of material he could use.

On February 28th, he might lose his home state of Michigan, where his father was Governor and CEO of American Motors. Then on Super Tuesday on March 6th, it seems very possible that he might only carry Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia (only because he and Paul are the only candidates on the ballot). Winning only 3 out of 10 races that day would be a catastrophe for his campaign and could be the end. This is the time for the establishment to get behind their guy, and yet they are eerily silent in his defense.

Perhaps the establishment finally had it sink in that if Romney is the nominee that they risk losing in the fall between his gaffes and a large portion of the GOP base staying home? Maybe they have decided that Santorum would be a good compromise candidate as he is establishment enough to play ball with them while at the same time appealing to the Tea Party?

Anyway, we'll see what happens. This has been one tumultuous primary season.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Newt's Awesome CPAC Speech

Don't count him out yet. I think he received more applause than both Romney and Santorum combined:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

(h/t Conservatives with Newt)

Obama Abandons the UK as Argentina Aggressively Threatens the Falklands

Under the Obama administration, you seem to be better off being an enemy of the United States rather than a friend.  And the closer the friend you are, the worse he treats you.  Take Great Britain, a key ally for decades that has fought alongside us in both World Wars, the Korean War and both Gulf Wars.  Argentina is currently threatening British sovereignty of the Falklands (again) despite the fact they have been in continuous British possession for almost 180 years and it appears that only about 17 out of the 3,000 inhabitants are actually of Argentine descent (not surprising since Argentina only settled the islands for about a year before the British re-established control in 1833, so you can't even possibly argue that there is some sort of colonialist oppression going on here).  And these threats to the British are not just words:

Argentina has pretty well declared war by other means on the U.K. over the islands it claims as "Las Malvinas."

It has detained Falklands fishing boats, denied port and flight rights to ships and aircraft flying the Falklands flag, harassed Spanish vessels fishing under Falklands license, and craziest of all, declared a "squid war" to encourage Argentine fishermen to harvest River Plate squid early. Why? To ensure they don't swim east to enrich Falklands waters, of course.

More seriously, Argentine mobs, likely paid for by the government, have attacked the U.K. embassy and burned the British flag in Buenos Aires. President Cristina Fernandez convinced Brazil and Uruguay to deny Falklands-flagged ships entry, isolating the islands.

Yeah, things are pretty serious.  You would think the United States would be backing up its ally in this situation.  You would be wrong.  Check out the statement coming out of the State Department:

We believe that this is a bilateral issue that needs to be worked out directly between Argentina and the United Kingdom. That's what we are encouraging both sides to do as we head towards this anniversary... We are encouraging Argentina and the UK to work this out peacefully, to work it out through negotiations.

So Argentina threatens the UK and the UK is supposed to negotiate?  Why?  They've done nothing wrong and have every right to the Falklands.  They shouldn't have to give up an inch of their sovereignty.  You know, another way to get Argentina to stand down would be for the United States to actually stand up for its ally.  Say that any attack on British possessions would be treated as an attack on the United States itself.  Argentina would have no choice but to back down then.  Sure they'll get mad, but who cares.  I don't see Argentina backing us up on any stage anywhere.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Once Again, the Obama Administration Throws Israel Under the Bus

You would think that if an ally tries to sabotage an enemy for the good of just about everyone, that you wouldn't besmirch an ally for doing so.  Apparently the Obama administration didn't get that memo, outing Israel for using the Iranian dissident group, the MEK, to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.  Check out the opening of this story from NBC:

Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran's leaders.

The group, the People's Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.

It just boggles the mind.  Why confirm the suspicions of the Iranian government?  Why back up a story in a major media outlet that does nothing but hurt an ally by saying that it supports terrorists?  This story would lose quite a bit of its edge if it was just pure journalistic or academic conjecture.

Also, how can you really blame Israel for doing any of this?  They are in an existential struggle with Iran.  It's not about oil or a strip of land, it's about their very lives.  Just as the US allied itself with the murderous Soviets to fight the even more murderous Nazis and Japanese, Israel is allying itself with a dissident group which gives them human resources on the ground in Iran, allowing them to conduct attacks just about anywhere.  Sure, if the MEK ever took power in Iran, it wouldn't be good, but at this point Iran is a much bigger threat to the world than the MEK.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rick Santorum on Why He Doesn't Like Libertarianism and Individual Liberty

Remember, he is not a small government guy:

Obama Realizes that Pennsylvania is 53% Catholic Right?

I wrote back in August about how ludicrous Obama's regulation forcing all health plans to cover free contraception was (without even a copay!) but I totally missed how it would have an impact on Catholic institutions.  That really just makes it even more outrageous.  I don't seem to remember a Right to Free Employer-Funded Contraception anywhere in the constitution or the Bill of Rights, but I certainly remember a Freedom of Religion.  And it's not like we are talking about some weird sect who believes that God told them to use lots of cocaine and have sex with prostitutes so they should be exempt from drug and vice laws, we are talking about the Catholic Church which has held this belief about contraception since before it was the Catholic Church (passages in Genesis and Deuteronomy condemn contraception, so if you are Obama, you can blame the Jews once again).  Effectively, this is the same thing as forcing Hebrew Schools to offer ham and cheese sandwiches in their cafeterias.  Or what some of the more anti-semitic European countries have done which is ban the kosher slaughter of animals under the guise of preventing cruelty to animals.  What right exactly does the government have to say which of your long held religious beliefs you are allowed to follow and which ones are just not considered to be in the best interest of the "public"?

Anyway, I think it is only a matter of time, possibly just days, before Obama folds on this issue.  Yes, he is going to piss off his base but if he does nothing he really is going to piss off the Catholics and that could cost him the election.  I know that most Catholics aren't religious and won't change their mind because of this issue but because there are so many Catholics out there, it won't take much to swing some battleground states to the GOP column.  For example, Pennsylvania is 53% Catholic and even before this he only had a 1% lead in the polls there.  A very small swing on the margin could cost him 20 electoral votes very quickly. You definitely could see a scenario where other historically blue states turn red because of this issue, like New Jersey (39% Catholic), New Hampshire (35% Catholic) and Wisconsin (29% Catholic).  This issue could be the impetus which gets a higher percentage of Latinos to vote Republican, which would put Florida (26% Catholic) squarely in the GOP column.  Assuming of course that the GOP nominates someone with an actual pro-life record (hint:  It's not Romney). 

So Much for Romney's Inevitability

This race has really been amazing, I think that when someone writes a chronicle of it, that it should be titled Things Change.  Just over 2 and a half weeks ago, it looked like Newt could romp after his stunning victory in South Carolina.  Then just a few days ago, after his victories in Florida and Nevada, it was looking like Romney would just skip the rest of the debates and focus on the general election and there were rumors Santorum would drop out.  And I don't even have to mention all the twists and turns that happened before that, which saw surges for Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and then Santorum.  Anyway, it looks like a whole new race for everyone now after Santorum won in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, where must a few days ago people were expecting Romney to win with 40-50% of the vote. 

For Romney, I think Michigan, which holds its primary on February 28th, becomes a do-or-die state.  Romney carried Michigan in 2008 in no small part because his father had been Governor and had also been head of American Motors.  For Romney to lose there would be a real black eye for his campaign to be President.  He needs to go nuclear on Santorum and do it now in order not to lose such a key state.  I would expect just about everything to be thrown at the wall to see what sticks as last night showed that when Romney doesn't carpet bomb a media market with negative ads about his opponents, he doesn't do so well.  I would also expect him to change his strategy and start participating in future debates (which probably means he will have to grovel to his debate coach, who he so ignominiously fired for getting too much credit for his debate performances).  Although this runs the risk of giving Newt another platform to showcase his very impressive oratorical wares, which could breath new life into his campaign (though at this point, perhaps Romney will want this to happen in order to take away votes from Santorum). 

Santorum, on the other hand, shouldn't get too cocky about his victories.  There was no grassroots surge propelling him to victory, in fact turnout for him was just as lackluster as it was for the Romney victories.  Compared to 2008, turnout in Minnesota was down 24%, turnout in Colorado was down 7% and turnout in Missouri was down a whopping 57% thanks to the primary becoming non-binding.  He won by taking votes from Romney and from Newt, not from actually exciting the base and getting them to show up on caucus night.  Also, just to put things into perspective, if you add up the turnout of both the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, it was slightly less than the turnout in Iowa, which has less than one third the population of those two states.  Put another way, only 1% of the population in those states turned out to make their preferences known, a very paltry turnout percentage.  Santorum has yet to prove that he has any sort of mass appeal and whatever appeal he does have will be tested over the next few weeks as the Romney camp vilifies him for everything they can find in their opposition research of him.

Newt seems to get a much needed breather.  Other than winning himself, this scenario is actually the best that could have been expected.  If Romney had won the three races, things would probably be all but over.  Now that Santorum has won in such an overwhelming fashion, he will be the target of all those negative ads that would normally be targeted at Newt.  When you compare a thoroughly vetted Newt, with all his warts, versus a candidate who people think is a saint, it doesn't take a PhD in psychology to figure out why going to the saint would be tempting.  Things will change after there will be wall to wall ads about Santorum's involvement in the K Street Project, his endorsement of Arlen Specter (who became a Democrat and helped usher in Obamacare), his "leadership PAC" (which gave a paltry 18% of its money to candidates and spent the rest on everyday expenses for Rick Santorum), his scam of a charity and his numerous "gaffes" which will help sour his appeal among women and independent voters (he blamed the church's child molestation scandal on Boston being liberal, he equated homosexuality with bestiality and he said radical feminism is to blame for the decline of the American family).  Then of course is his record which is more liberal than Newt's.  He voted against NAFTA, against Right to Work and for steel tariffs, as well as various earmarks (especially in election years).  People turn away from candidates when they realize they weren't what they thought they were, let's see how Santorum's support holds up after people see that his squeeky clean image isn't so clean.

One thing is for sure, it is going to be an interesting couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Obama's Afghanistan Lies

How do you know Obama is lying?  His lips are moving.  Check out his comments about Afghanistan at the State of the Union Address:

From this position of strength, we've begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan.  Ten thousand of our troops have come home.  Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer.  This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.
 
Now take a look at the comments of Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, who recently toured the country, interviewed hundreds of our troops and went on quite a few combat patrols:

I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army's Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.

Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

My arrival in country in late 2010 marked the start of my fourth combat deployment, and my second in Afghanistan. A Regular Army officer in the Armor Branch, I served in Operation Desert Storm, in Afghanistan in 2005-06 and in Iraq in 2008-09. In the middle of my career, I spent eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and held a number of civilian jobs — among them, legislative correspondent for defense and foreign affairs for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

As a representative for the Rapid Equipping Force, I set out to talk to our troops about their needs and their circumstances. Along the way, I conducted mounted and dismounted combat patrols, spending time with conventional and Special Forces troops. I interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. I spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders.

I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.

I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn't want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.

From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.

...

I'm hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground.

A January 2011 report by the Afghan NGO Security Office noted that public statements made by U.S. and ISAF leaders at the end of 2010 were "sharply divergent from IMF, [international military forces, NGO-speak for ISAF] 'strategic communication' messages suggesting improvements. We encourage [nongovernment organization personnel] to recognize that no matter how authoritative the source of any such claim, messages of the nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal, and are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here."

The following month, Anthony Cordesman, on behalf of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that ISAF and the U.S. leadership failed to report accurately on the reality of the situation in Afghanistan.

"Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the U.S. does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively 'spinning' the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead," Cordesman wrote. "They also, however, were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to 'spin' the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control."

...

If Americans were able to compare the public statements many of our leaders have made with classified data, this credibility gulf would be immediately observable. Naturally, I am not authorized to divulge classified material to the public. But I am legally able to share it with members of Congress. I have accordingly provided a much fuller accounting in a classified report to several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, senators and House members.

After losing the peace for us in Iraq, Obama seems to be trying to hide the fact that he is also losing the war for us in Afghanistan.  Casualties are still at near peak levels (January was the second worst January in terms of KIA's since the war began over 10 years ago) yet all he talks about is how we are winning the war and will be withdrawing, providing even less support for those troops still there.  While politically a withdrawal plays to his base  otherwise, his foreign policy seems to make absolutely zero sense. 
 

It Might Not Be Hormuz but the Saudi Oil Fields Themselves That Will be in Danger in the Coming Conflict

There has been a lot of talk lately about the potential for the Iranians to close the Strait of Hormuz in the event of conflict following an Israeli or US attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The danger is definitely very real as the shipping lane is only 6 miles wide, so even a second rate military power could create quite a bit of havoc if it wanted to. However, any temporary closing of the Strait, and it would be temporary, probably won't have that much of an impact on our oil supplies in the medium to long term. Tankers that are bottled up in the Persian Gulf can be unbottled again once the US devotes enough sea and air power to destroy any threats.

However, what people don't seem to be talking about much is the threat to the Saudi oil fields themselves. Saudi Arabia accounts for about a quarter of the world's proven reserves and produces 11 million barrels per day of oil. As you can see in the map below, the oil producing fields, including the immense Ghawar (it can produce 5 million barrels per day by itself), are concentrated in the eastern section of the country, the section closest to the Persian Gulf:


Unfortunately, the Saudi oil fields are relatively close to Iran, which is just across the Gulf. But more importantly, take a look at this map of the Shia sections of Saudi Arabia:


As you can see, the Shia population of Saudi Arabia seem to be living right on top of the bulk of the oil resources of the country (conversely it seems that the Jews wandered 40 years in the desert and found the one place in the middle east without any oil). Importantly, the Shia in Saudi Arabia have been oppressed by the Wahhabi Saudis for decades so what do you think might happen if Shia dominated Iran comes asking for their help? My guess is a large minority will be happy to stir up trouble by attacking the Saudi oil fields. If the Iranians were smart they would have been smuggling weapons to sleeper cells there for years waiting for their moment. Once the fighting starts, I also wouldn't be surprised if some Iranian Revolutionary Guards come across the gulf or smuggle themselves in through Iraq (which has a Shia dominated government & military).

So while our forces are focusing on keeping the flow of oil going through the Strait of Hormuz, the actual source of the oil itself could be in some very real danger. Let's hope we have some contingency plan for this, hopefully one that doesn't date back to Operation Desert Shield.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why a Shift by Conservatives to Rick Santorum Would Be a Mistake

A couple of polls came out from Public Policy Polling this weekend showing that Santorum seems to be replacing Newt Gingrich as the main "not Romney" candidate in Minnesota and Colorado.   There seems to be a desire to "give another conservative a chance" as well as to potentially field a candidate without as much baggage as Newt so that Mitt Romney's negative ad carpet bombing will not be as effective.

I think though that this reasoning is fallacious and switching support from Newt to Santorum at this point would be a major mistake.  Let's just look at what I believe are the two main arguments for the switch:

1)  "Give another conservative a chance".  Didn't Rick already have a chance after his victory in Iowa?  He had a ton of positive press coverage even when it appeared that he had narrowly lost (by 8 votes) in Iowa and he could have really taken advantage of it.  But he didn't.  He is just not as competent with voters or with the media as he should be.  He followed up his surprising Iowa finish with a 4th place finish in New Hampshire, a 3rd place finish in South Carolina, a 3rd place finish in Florida and now a 4th place finish in Nevada.  In none of these contests was he able to break through 17% of the vote (he got that in evangelical heavy South Carolina) and in two contests (New Hampshire and Nevada) he wasn't even able to break through 10%.  And it isn't like Newt has the establishment media on his side keeping Rick down, if anything it is the opposite.  After 25 debates and a victory in Iowa, Rick Santorum really has no excuse for not catching on, other than himself. 

2) "We need a candidate with less baggage than Newt".  Right now, because Rick Santorum has generally escaped much criticism in the media it appears that he would be a much safer candidate than Newt, one who could survive the carpet bombing of negative ads that will inevitably come from Romney once Rick is viewed as a threat to them.  But this is an illusion as I don't think any candidate with any actual record could escape unscathed from Romney's attacks.  Ad markets have been deluged with so many negative ads by the Romney team that their tactics practically meet the threshold to be considered brainwashing.  Just think about what Newt has actually been attacked for.  He has been attacked for an ethics charge related to the tax exempt status of a college course he taught (oooh, run for the hills!), something even the IRS decided did not hold water.  He has been attacked for, as a private citizen, consulting for a politically unattractive client, Freddie Mac (If it was Iran, I would understand, but a publicly traded company that even Romney was invested in?  Come on.).  He has also been attacked for sitting on a couch for a commercial with a liberal democrat and actually promoting green energy (the horror)!  All of these issues have been completely blown out of proportion by the Romney machine and the media and have nothing to do with Newt's very conservative record while in office.

I'm sure some people would argue that if they had anything on Rick Santorum, that they would have used it already.  Not really.  The Romney machine and its allies in the media establishment only attack when they see a threat to their candidate.  I seem to remember a time when the very same people who are vilifying Newt today were cheering him on for his witty answers in various debates.  The difference at the time was that they were trying to take down Rick Perry and Herman Cain and thought Newt had no chance.  Just wait until they set their sights on Rick Santorum.  There will be wall to wall ads about his involvement in the K Street Project, his endorsement of Arlen Specter (who became a Democrat and helped usher in Obamacare), his "leadership PAC" (which gave a paltry 18% of its money to candidates and spent the rest on everyday expenses for Rick Santorum), his scam of a charity and his numerous "gaffes" which will help sour his appeal among women and independent voters (he blamed the church's child molestation scandal on Boston being liberal, he equated homosexuality with bestiality and he said radical feminism is to blame for the decline of the American family).  Then of course is his record which is more liberal than Newt's.  He voted against NAFTA, against Right to Work and for steel tariffs, as well as various earmarks (especially in election years).   If you don't think the Romney attack dogs won't find enough fodder in Rick Santorum's record to vilify him to the same extent that Newt has been vilified, think again.  Remember, there was a time that even Newt had the highest positive intensity score in the entire field.  Things change.  In a few months, after the establishment is done with him, Rick Santorum's image as a straight shooting conservative family man will turn into one of a corrupt religious zealot who is only interested in his own advancement.

One final point.  I know that conservatives seemed to have become addicted to switching horses in this primary race, going from Bachmann to Perry to Cain to Gingrich to Santorum and then back to Gingrich, but at some point, it just becomes too late.  Due to his string of lackluster finishes, Rick Santorum continues to have a pretty decrepit organization which just recently couldn't even find enough signatures to get on the ballot in Indiana.  Newt was attacked for not having an organization, so how does it make sense to go to a candidate who probably has an even worse one, especially with Super Tuesday coming up?  Newt has his weaknesses, but like it or not, he is the best we have right now.  He is a Reagan conservative who has a great ability to excite the base and explain to everyone else why we believe what we believe.  We need to coalesce around him and defeat both Romney AND Obama and make America great again.