Monday, March 31, 2008

Prediction: Obama has a chance in Pennsylvania

Evidence?

1) Obama is actually spending time jaunting around the state. Obama doesn't need Pennsylvania to get the nomination, and he hasn't been expected to get it. Clinton could be more efficiently stopped in later states if he would let PA slide. Campaigning here is an aggressive move.

Against all logic, he actually stopped in a restaurant in Mifflin County near my hometown of Lewistown. Mifflin is very small, very Republican, and very white. On the flip side, the Democrats here aren't under the thumbs of the Philly or Pittsburgh political machines.

2) Sen. Bob Casey Jr., the pinnacle of spineless political weather vanes, has endorsed Obama.

Polls? Eh... Obama has to make up no less than ten points... but I think somebody thinks he has a shot.

EDIT: The latest Rasmussen poll from 3/31 has Obama down by five, and HRC under the magical 50% mark. For what it's worth, I tend to have greater faith in Rasmussen than many other polls.

EDIT 2 : (4/02/08) I don't believe the PPP poll from 04/01 showing Obama ahead by 2. Besides the fact that I've never heard of them before, (1) They're partisan, which is a red flag, (2) They aren't based in the DC area, nor in PA, (3) Their previous poll from as recent as 3/16 had the spread at Clinton +26, which was the largest measured spread going back to the beginning of December where Quinnipiac had the spread at Clinton +28.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Buffett - Death Tax Profiteer

I never really thought about how Berkshire Hathaway profits from a high inheritance tax.

(H/T : NRO)

This might explain why I was never quite convinced that a guy as smart as Warren Buffett could be a Democrat, and why I found his vague ramblings about the civil rights movement back-in-the-day less than determinative in his party ID.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jim Cramer, Sane Leftie in an Insane Party

Jim Cramer catches a lot of media flak, but I like him. So it is from a respectful position that I must take issue with Cramer's assessment of the Democratic Party and some of his investment advice that flows from this political assessment.

Cramer jokes about being a Trotskyite, and about his passing physical resemblance to Lenin, but aside from his Socialist leanings he supports utilization of natural resources like coal and natural gas, particularly because they can be found in abundance in the United States. He wouldn't want to strip mine all of Pennsylvania, but some of those folks in the western part of the state could use some jobs, couldn't they? And he's completely against raising dividend taxes (unlike Obama), which is a rare thing to hear from a Democrat.

So basically, my political assessment of Jim Cramer is that he's a fairly moderate Democrat, open to argument and debate. He's not a shrieking moonbat, though he does occasionally shriek apolitically.

Sadly, he's projected this moderate left position onto the rest of his party. He's been recommending investment in stocks related to the defense and natural gas industries as plays on a future Democratic administration. I think he's wrong in both instances.

Cramer cites David Gregory for planting the notion in his head that a Democrat President would spend just as much (or more) on defense if only to allay the fears that Democrats aren't good on defense issues. Obama's website does mention increasing our troop levels by about 92,000 and providing new equipment, but he has also mentioned the potential price tag of the war:

"A trillion dollars. That's money not spent on homeland security and counter-terrorism; on providing health care to all Americans and a world-class education to every child; on investments in energy to save ourselves and our planet from an addiction to oil. That is a cost of this war."
Money not spent on other things. The only explanation is that Obama would reduce overall defense spending, and particularly on things like bullets, which make up 35% of the revenue of recent Cramer pick Alliant Technologies. You can't just pull out from Iraq and expect defense spending to remain steady.

I have similar fears over the natural gas call. Cramer is right to point out that NatGas is the cleanest burning hydrocarbon fuel, certainly preferable to coal, which the Democrats want "stopped". But without batting an eye Cramer goes on to say that "the enemy of natural gas is ethanol".

Ethanol, that "boondoggle", using too much water and energy, and that can't even be transported efficiently because it's too corrosive. Add to that the higher cost of food, and, contra William Jennings Bryan, "mankind is being crucified upon a cross of ethanol." (Video)

What makes Jim Cramer think the Dems will have a sudden outbreak of common sense? Ditch ethanol? Not on your life. Allow natural gas drilling? Are you nuts?!

That's not to say that NatGas is or isn't a good investment, but a Democratic sweep is not a catalyst for any investment in an industry that requires drilling in the pristine wilderness. Such things are just not allowed.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Buffett's Web-Minimalism

On-again-off-again richest man in the world Warren Buffett is famously frugal. (Not like "re-using old bread bags" frugal, but a cheeseburger and Coke diet, and if I recall correctly he drives an American car, a Caddy I think. I mean, the guy is so rich could have team of virgins carry him in a Maybach to wherever he wants dropped off.)

This frugality apparently extends to the website of the company that is the vehicle he used to build his fortune, Berkshire Hathaway.

The minimalist Berkshire site was probably hand coded back in the late nineties and doesn't appear to have changed at all other than minor content updates. It even carries an extremely antiquated self-pronouncement as the "Official Home Page". The page is dark lettering on a white background, and almost all the content is linked from two columns of bullet pointed items. Only two small images appear on the entire page, both in the form of links to some of Berkshire's subsidiary companies. Even the Berkshire "masthead" of the page is pure html. There is indeed something refreshing about a site that has accessible content and could load acceptably over a dial-up internet connection.

Clintonite/DLC shake-up...

The Democratic Leadership Council, the new-left Clintonite wing of the Dem party was seeking a new Executive Director as of approx. March 12th according to HillZoo's "Off the Hill" job board.

Executive Director

A center-left political organization that promotes a third way approach to national issues is looking to hire an Executive Director (ED). The ED is responsible for both the day-to-day running of the organization (and it’s sister policy think tank) and developing strategic plans for the long term future of the organization. He or she will report directly to the CEO and Founder of the institution. The ED would also manage the organization’s political department which oversees a large network of state and local elected officials and serves as the foundation’s liaison to the Congress.

Candidates should have a minimum of five to ten years experience in government (federal and/or state/local level), public policy, or political operations. Management experience is highly preferable. A graduate degree is preferable but not required. Salary is commensurate to experience.

Please send resumes to Emerald Washington, 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20003 or email jobs@dlc.org. No phone calls please.
Chaos? Or just somebody moving on. The middle of a Presidential primary seems an odd time to just move on... My vote is for chaos as the Clintonistas realize they're losing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's racial prescription? More Socialism!

Obama's Big Speech, aside from glossing over the completely bat-sh*t insane things Rev Wright has said (and Obama has subsidized), did a decent accounting of the origins of many of the racial tensions in our society.

The solution? (Besides Barack's magical multi-ethnic DNA...)

More Socialism! More "investment" that has been proven over and over again to have failed. Socialist health care that works nowhere else on earth. More money to inner city schools that already spend more per pupil than much better performing schools elsewhere. And some vagely anti-corporate rhetoric that shall no doubt lead us into idiotic policies for trade and taxation.

Sold to us as "Brother's Keeper" typical social gospel garbage. (Not that that would be a theocratic notion... Only Republicans are guilty of that.)

The Declaration of Independence requires no less.

Because if we're all equally poor, then we're all equal, right?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

D. Gregory on MTP: McCain's uphill battle

David Gregory thinks McCain has a "difficult argument to make" with respect to Iraq, mostly because the voters are against the war and are "not listening". Yes, blame it on the stupid, recalcitrant electorate. Meet The Press cited polling data showing a majority of voters wanting most troops out by 2009, and a similar majority thinking the war is a lost cause. (This does not entirely jibe with other data from Pew suggesting 53% believe "the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals" in Iraq.)

The full MTP quote as follows (Emphasis added except as noted):
...[McCain] is still going to be tarred as a George Bush Republican. And the proverbial and literal hug that he gave him in 2004 when John McCain was trying to court the conservative wing of the party is going to hurt. His proximity to Bush on the issue of the surge and the war generally - I mean - McCain's got a difficult argument to make, which is: Don't just listen to me supporting the surge and being the (emph. orig.) most stalwart defender of the war and talking about the troops being there for a hundred years. Remember back to when I was opposed to Rumsfeld and I opposed the management of the war. He's asking a lot of the voters, a majority of whom are against this war.
Well, I don't know, David. It looks like you did a pretty good job of describing the argument there. Was that so hard? Makes sense to me. I'm not sure why the voters might not be listening to the deafening silence of the media's non-reportage of the surge's successes. That's a real head scratcher.

David Broder also goofed, citing the misleading characterization of his newspaper's interview with General Petraeus. The outing of this mischaracterization is about two days old.

Broder:
As much as [McCain is] identified with Bush's policy on Iraq, he's even more identified with General Petraeus' operations in Iraq. And Petraeus said in an interview with the Washington Post this week he is very disappointed in the lack of action on the political side by the Iraqi government.
But Petraeus' comments are better interpreted in the context of tempering his positive comments when responding to the direct question, "Do you think enough has been done?"

Of course he's going to amend his original answer of "Sure." It is an entirely uncontroversial fact that satisfactory conditions have not been met. Characterizing Petraeus' remarks as "very disappointed" is a little over-baked to say the least.

The MTP panel went on to surmise that McCain's closeness to Petraeus was a hedge against Bush, and an escape hatch to bail out on the war if Petraeus doesn't see progress. I don't see how the panel reconciles this calculating image of McCain with their rap on McCain as the thousand-year occupier.

Wright -v- Ferraro : A False Equivalence

On today's Meet the Press and on other news programs, a false moral equivalence has been made between the ridiculous remarks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the controversial statements made by Geraldine Ferraro. Typically, the TV host asks an Obama supporter about some of Wright's comments, then turns to a Hillary Clinton supporter to ask about Ferraro's comments. Each surrogate tries to minimize the overall impact from both incidents.

The problem with this particular format is that Wright's and Ferraro's comments are not of the same fundamental nature. Simply, Wright's remarks are false and overtly racist while Ferraro's are essentially true and realistic about the role race plays in our society.

Wright thinks the government knew about Pearl Harbor, purposely feeds illegal drugs into the inner cities, has created HIV in order to suppress black populations around the world and in the US, and -often overlooked by news accounts- Wright claims Jesus was black and was kept down by the white Romans. Any sane human being should call this man a lunatic, and should rightly question any candidate for office who claims Wright was his spiritual mentor. (I'm not holding my breath waiting for a reporter to ask Obama if he thinks Jesus was black.)

Ferraro's comments about Obama's race being determinative in his political success are -in the opinions of myself and many others- essentially correct. If "Barack Obama" was "Barry O'Bannion" he would not have been viewed as a trans-racial political figure, and he would not have gotten 90% of the black vote in Democratic primary contests against another white politician. This is to say absolutely nothing about his oratory skills, policy positions, or overall fitness for office. Furthermore, nobody is claiming that Geraldine Ferraro was Hillary Clinton's spiritual advisor, or that she even spent much time in her company.

Promoting a false equivalence of the remarks uttered by these two personalities is a serious journalistic error and an injustice to the electoral process.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Myth of the High Class Hooker

The whole Spitzer thing has been done to death, including the de-mythologizing of the "well educated, good family" high-class call girl, but this caught my attention (NY Post):

"She vacationed in St. Tropez and carried luxury items from Cartier and Louis Vuitton. "Nobody knew she was a prostitute," the source said"

Nobody was tipped off by the tattoo on her hand?

Tattooing has certainly filtered beyond its lower class origins into, at the very least, professional sports, actors and actresses, and musicians. Lots of reputable persons have tats in discreet locations typically covered by clothing, and ankle tattoos can usually be obscured for appropriate occasions. But the stray hand ink is decidedly not upper class.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

McCain - Improving Socialist Security

Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO argues that the distinction between "add-on" supplemental private accounts for Social Security and the earlier Bush "carve-out" position is academic at best. McCain is now in favor of add-on accounts, and I'm basically OK with that.

The lack of a distinction comes down to this truth: the future value of one's Social Security entitlement is going to go down.

The carve-out plan is explicit about this. Conservatives, usually ones for being up-front on economic matters, were drawn to this idea naturally. The add-on plan is duplicitous in that it just hides the carve-out amid the gradual erosion of the real value of the Social Security payout.

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obstinate "Moderate" R's in MD

Less-than-conservative Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest lost his primary to the more conservative state senator Andy Harris. Now a bevy of belligerent Gilchrest supporters are supporting the Democrat!

"The members of this group comprises a large disenfranchised group of U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest supporters, such as longtime Gilchrest aide Karen Willis."

"Disenfranchised"? What are they, convicted felons?! No, "disenfranchised" means that your voice is not heard, that you are prevented from voting. Your voices were heard. You voted. You lost.

The article continues:
"I'm deeply saddened that Wayne didn't make it through the primary," Willis said. "I've found lots of people who feel the same way. I'm just trying to get behind Mr. Kratovil to continue to have 1st District representation from a thinking person."

So now Harris, the primary winner, is "not a thinking person". Nice.

More:
This isn't fleeting support from Willis. She's worked for Gilchrest for nearly his entire career in Congress, and she doesn't support Baltimore County Sen. Andy Harris' more conservative views, whether the issue be Iraq or the economy.

I get it. She's a big leftie who wants to raise taxes and lose the war. At least have the common decency to change your party affiliation, you hack.


The rich, creamy irony is almost too much to handle. Being a fairly conservative fellow myself, I've heard too many times to count that the "extreme" conservatives are threatening the party. Toomey-v-Specter. Laffey-v-Chafee. At a PA Republican Committee meeting I overheard a "moderate" loudly complaining that "we eat our young". Just this week I received an email from my county committee chair imploring, "[W]e MUST sooth the wounds inflicted and allow the healing to take place. Too often we shoot ourselves in the foot while the whole world watches and smiles. For this reason, I am asking each of you to throw ALL of your support behind the man who will be the nominee of the Republican Party, John McCain."

Most of us will vote for the Republican in a general election even if our preferred candidate loses in the primary. Can "moderates" now claim the same? Where's the outrage?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Guess that Party

"Smith owes $27,000 in taxes"

The article contains 21 sentences. State Rep Smith's party, Dem, is mentioned in the second to last sentence.

Free Speech Rights for Minors

A 17-year old has been blocked from participation in student government because she posted "vulgar slang" on her blog regarding certain actions taken by school administration. Her case is now before the 2nd Circuit Court.
A lower federal court had supported the school. U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz, denying Doninger's request for an injunction, said he believed she could be punished for writing in a blog because the blog addressed school issues and was likely to be read by other students.
So, outside of school and on her own time, she called the administration "douchebags", and because somebody might actually read it the school has a right to sanction her? Kids have so few rights in our society that the least we can do is hear them. They can't vote, have limited financial rights, are subject to municipal curfew, have increasingly limited driving rights, and are severely restricted when inside the confines of the scarcely veneered prisons we call public schools.

What would have happened had she called the administration "douchebags" for doing something that actually affected education like dropping language classes or ignoring deteriorating educational outcomes?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Theory of Political-Financial Attrition

The punditocracy is awash with those who think Republican efforts to take back the House and Senate are doomed. Frankly, it doesn't look good. What to do? Die with honor! And do as much damage as you can while you're going down.

The raw facts about the party finances lend credence to this dour sentiment. By any measure, Democratic candidates and Democrat campaign committees are bringing in much more money than their Republican counterparts. Republicans are out-gunned.

Entrenched incumbents almost never lose, barring the occasional "dead woman or live boy" scandal. Such Untouchables have large campaign war chests at their disposal, have first dibs at party and caucus money, and often represent safe districts. The unlikelihood of their defeat acts as a deterrent force against any potential challengers, or, if some fool does step in, the challenger's party lifts nary a finger in assistance.

What do these unchallenged incumbents do with their money? They give some of it away to help candidates elsewhere. By helping push their marginal fellow partisans over the finish line they accumulate favors for future battles.

Oppositely, what does an incumbent do when he as a challenger? He empties his coffers! Electoral history is littered with the corpses of challengers who were outspent 3-to-1 yet were only defeated by a few percentage points.

My suggestion is, if we are to lose, to make the best of this year by making the fat cats spend as much of their money as we can. Democratic money spent ensuring the comfortable re-election of an entrenched incumbent is money NOT spent meddling in marginal races and is NOT money carried over into the next election cycle. If we are going to spend down to zero then make them spend down as much as we can.