Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breaking News: Wikileaks Has juice on Bank of America!

Julian Assange

Wikileaks chief said he has 5GB of secret docs on Bank of America (exclusive) | Raw Story http://t.co/hPDmaBr

And More Breaking News: Wiki leaks founder Julian Assange wanted by Interpol http://gu.com/p/2yfc4/tw

Rosa Parks Tribute - 55 year anniversary

Today, December 1 marks the 55th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to Sit on the back of the bus. I always commend anyone that stands up and defends their own personal liberty, but what Ms. Parks did took a lot of courage, strength and sheer guts. Let's all reminisce and commend her for what she did. It was her right!!! It still is her right today.

Key Republican: White House playing 2012 politics on taxes - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Key Republican: White House playing 2012 politics on taxes - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Numerous Search Engines on 1 page.

The meta search page CVGadget.com does a good job of searching multiple engines and returning information in a useful layout. Search results are presented as drop down boxes in the middle of the page where you can easily expand or collapse the results of each search. Some of the search engines covered are Google, Google Docs, News, Blogs, Images and Videos. As well as Facebook, MySpace, Zoominfo, LinkedIn and Bebo.

Thanks to The Opposition Research Blog for the tip!!

Are you Kidding Me!!! Senate Bill 510 - Organic Farmer Fined 5000 For Growing Crops On Own Land

I ran across this video today and almost fell out of my chair. DeKalb County, GA is suing a local farmer for growing too many vegetables, but he said he will fight the charges in the ongoing battle neighbors call “Cabbagegate.”

In these times of economic crisis, rising poverty, and diet-related health problems, you'd think local governments would have bigger priorities than counting the number of squash and broccoli plants on people's lawns. Unfortunately that's not the case for Georgia resident Steve Miller, a landscaper by profession and organic farmer by heart, who's been caught tomato-red-handed growing a downright offensive number of vegetable plants on his property outside of Atlanta. (The exact number of criminal plants unknown.)

Dubbed "Cabbage-Gate" by friends and neighbors of Miller, officials in Dekalb County, Georgia, are suing him for $5,000 in fines for not having his land properly zoned to grow such an apparently ridiculous number of vegetables -- even after he stopped growing them and got rezoned.

If the county is suing this long-time hobby farmer for growing too many vegetables, how many are "acceptable" anyway? Twenty? Eleven? As many as you want as long as that doesn't include cabbage?

(Thanks to Grist Twitter follower @rvagreendrinks for the tip!)

The law was supposed to stop large commercial operations in residential areas, but is being used against a 2-acre farmer who sells to neighbors and farmers markets.

I really don't know how far this current state of government affairs will go, but I can tell you this every politician supporting, passing, and enforcing these laws will be exposed in the upcoming municipal elections as well as the 2012 election. I guess it's their last gasp before the wind blows in their face while they spit. This invasion of individual liberty is reprehensible.

Court documents from the case: Here and Here

And......furthermore, if you peruse Connie Stokes' website (one of the Great Commissioners involved) you find this quote "Connie Stokes has a proven record of working to create jobs through supporting the development of small businesses. She is keeping her promise to recruit new businesses and to expand existing business in our community." Yeah right!!! There you have it, more hypocrisy. She was defeated in 2010 in the Democratic party primary against incumbent Hank Johnson (D) with 19% of the vote.

GOP Earmark Ban Rejected By Bipartisan Group In Senate Vote

ANDREW TAYLOR | 11/30/10 10:35 AM | AP

WASHINGTON — The Senate Tuesday rejected a GOP bid to ban the practice of larding spending bills with earmarks – those pet projects that lawmakers love to send home to their states.

Most Democrats and a handful of Republicans combined to defeat the effort, which would have effectively forbidden the Senate from considering legislation containing earmarks like road and bridge projects, community development funding, grants to local police departments and special-interest tax breaks.

The 39-65 tally, however, was a better showing for earmark opponents, who lost a 29-68 vote earlier this year. Any votes next year should be closer because a band of anti-earmark Republicans is joining the Senate.

Earlier this month, Republicans bowed to tea party activists and passed a party resolution declaring GOP senators would give up earmarks. House Republicans have also given up the practice, but most Democrats say earmarks are a legitimate way to direct taxpayer money to their constituents.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday that Democrats had made the earmarking process far more transparent than it previously had been under GOP control of Congress. The reforms include requiring lawmakers to document every projects they seek and receive.

Seven Democrats voted with all but eight Republicans to ban the practice.

"I believe I have an important responsibility to the state of Illinois and the people I represent to direct federal dollars into projects critically important for our state and its future," Durbin said.

Critics say that peppering most spending bills with hundreds or even thousands of earmark projects creates a go-along-get-along mindset that ensures that Washington spending goes unchecked.

President Obama supports a ban as well, but hasn't fought them in the past two years.
Story continues below

Opposition from Senate Republicans leaves Senate Democrats are the only faction of Congress in a position to try to save the practice of earmarking. But their position doesn't seem very strong, since it's difficult to see how House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would allow any earmark-laden bills to pass.

McConnell had long been a strong supporter of earmarks – they were a big issue in his 2008 campaign – but reversed course shortly after the GOP's big win in the midterm elections.

Estimates vary, but earmarks went from more than 1,300 projects worth nearly $8 billion in 1994 to a peak of nearly 14,000 projects worth more than $27 billion in 2005, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group that opposes the practice.

Democrats cut back the number and cost of earmarks somewhat. The new reforms that made the process more transparent have made it easier for outsiders to track a "pay-to-play" system in which lobbyists and corporate executives showered lawmakers with campaign funds in exchange for earmarks.

Ban sponsor Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said they can create "a conflict of interest that benefits just those we represent from our states or just those who help us become senators. All we have to do is look at campaign contributions and earmarks, and there is a stinky little secret associated with that."

(This version CORRECTS Replaces 3rd paragraph to correct prior vote tally. Updates with additional background. This story is part of AP's general news and financial services.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Franken failed to pay $70,000 in taxes

Senator Al Franken reportedly failed to pay taxes in 17 states STORY HERE

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Senator Claire McCaskill Vulnerable!! Praises the health care bill on video.

That picture says it all. Well, below is another wonderful video of a now vulnerable democratic Senator Praising the Health Care Bill in March. This has doomed her. Senator McCaskill is the junior Senator from Missouri. I doubt she will be this giddy in 2012 when she is sure to face a tough challenge. I would imagine Jim Talent will be the front-runner. He only lost by 50,000 votes to McCaskill in '06 and is seriously contemplating another run in 2012. Check out her appearance on the Colbert report. She even jibes at Limbaugh.


WikiLeaks reveals U.S. diplomatic secrets

By: Glenn Thrush and Gordon Lubold and Laura Rozen
November 28, 2010 02:15 PM EST

WikiLeaks has dropped its bombshell cache of U.S. diplomatic cables, ripping the cloak off scores of secret deals and duds, including clandestine North Korean support for Iran and the Bush administration’s failed attempt to remove nuclear material from Pakistan.

The release — more than a quarter-million back-channel cables that include brutally candid assessments of world leaders and previously undisclosed details of nuclear and antiterrorism activity — represents the most embarrassing and potentially damaging disclosure of American diplomatic material in decades.

“I don’t see the world ending ... but lots of red, sputtering faces in D.C., embassies and capitals,” a senior American diplomat told POLITICO early Sunday, just before the release of the documents, which chronicle the sprawling growth of the U.S. diplomatic and intelligence corps after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The diplomat also predicted that governments and individuals overseas are likely to clam up as a result of the disclosures, “since no one will trust us to keep a secret for a while,” while “various and sundry interest groups will cherry-pick whatever can be found in the documents to support whatever version of reality they are peddling.”

For weeks, the Obama administration had been pressuring WikiLeaks, and its controversial founder, Julian Assange, to withhold publication of the documents, arguing that their publication could compromise the lives of U.S. service members and officials.

Assange, whose website came under cyberattack Sunday, refused to comply — even ignoring an eleventh-hour plea from the State Department’s legal adviser, who said publication of the documents was illegal and could undermine national security.

But they are also deeply embarrassing, providing off-the-cuff assessments by American diplomats of world leaders, critiques that were expected to be released only decades from now. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is compared to Hitler, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is called an “emperor with no clothes," Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is "driven by paranoia," according to the cables, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel earns high marks as a "Teflon" politician.

Perversely, the sheer size of the dump — a mountain of gossip, intrigue, high-stakes policy and lowbrow humor — may ensure that some damaging revelations that might have been front-page stories if leaked one by one get lost in the shuffle.

The long-expected release of the documents — scheduled to be published simultaneously at around 4:30 p.m. EST by The New York Times, Germany's Der Spiegel, Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Monde and Britain’s Guardian — was accelerated by a few hours after a German Twitter user obtained an early copy of Der Spiegel and began posting tidbits online.

The two previous releases of documents by WikiLeaks produced front-page stories — the recently disclosed Iraq war logs indicated that previous American estimates of the total number of Iraqi casualties were lower than the actual number — but overall, they contained few surprising details.

The batch released Sunday, however, included vivid details about current operations and the sausage factory behind foreign policy, delivered by officials in 270 overseas posts worldwide over the past three years. The massive leak reportedly came from a service member with access to the documents.

Some of the material was so explosive that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent much of the past week preparing foreign leaders for the fallout — what the Guardian described as a “meltdown” of the U.S. diplomatic corps.

Saudi King Abdullah frequently pressed the U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities “to cut off the head of the snake," the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, said, according to a report on Abdullah's meeting with Gen. David Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in the Middle East, in April 2008.

One especially damaging revelation — previously unknown — details a conversation between Petraeus and the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in which Saleh offers to claim U.S. airstrikes on suspected Al Qaeda militants were actually conducted by his forces.

That prompted Yemen’s deputy prime minister to “joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament” that Yemeni forces had been behind the strikes.

In another cable, a U.S diplomat ruefully reports that an Afghan vice president carried $52 million in cash with him during a trip to the United Arab Emirates last year, without disclosing its origin or destination.

Yet another describes a State Department effort to coax Slovenia to accept a Guantanamo Bay detainee. In exchange, top Slovenian officials were apparently offered a face-to-face meeting with President Obama.

In a statement soon after The New York Times published major excerpts on its website, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs “condemn[ed] in the strongest terms” the release of the documents to the Times, Germany’s Der Speigel and the Times of London — which followed the pattern of previous WikiLeaks document dumps of secret Iraq and Afghanistan war documents.

“By its very nature, field reporting to Washington is candid and often incomplete information,” wrote Gibbs. “It is not an expression of policy, nor does it always shape final policy decisions. Nevertheless, these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests but those of our allies and friends around the world.”

“Cable traffic is inherently more sensitive than spot reporting,” said Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a former naval officer who worked at the National Security Council. “This is a little bit more subjective analysis,” he told POLITICO. The cables reveal the kinds of private dialogues that any nation has to have with itself, he said.

“This releasing of these sensitive cables does a disservice not only to us but our allies globally. Our government needs to be able to operate and have an open dialogue.”

Nelson, now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that if the release of data was aimed at revealing a particularly egregious wrong the government had done, he could see its justification. In this case, he said, it was just a dump of thousands of documents with no apparent purpose but to embarrass the U.S. government.

Among the other significant revelations:

— North Korea, currently embroiled in a knife’s edge confrontation with South Korea and the U.S., was able to smuggle 19 advanced, Russian-designed missiles, capable of delivering nuclear payloads, to Iran, according to a Feb. 24, 2010, cable detailing a meeting between Russian officials and a State Department nonproliferation expert. The shipment of some R-27 components was widely known in intelligence circles, but the WikiLeaks disclosures represent the first confirmation that Iran now possess complete missile systems.

— In May 2009, Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, reported that Pakistani officials were blocking an American attempt to remove fissile material from a reactor in the country for fear the effort would be leaked to the local press.

— A Chinese contact tipped off the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that China’s Politburo OK'd a huge effort to hack into and eavesdrop on Google computers as part of a nearly decade-long cyber-sabotage effort aimed at American companies and supporters of the Dalai Lama.

— In 2007, U.S. officials warned Germany not to arrest CIA officials involved in the bungled rendition of an innocent German citizen who shared the same name as a wanted terror suspect.

— American diplomats in Rome reported on the close and odd friendship developing between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italy’s colorful billionaire leader, Silvio Berlusconi. A 2009 cable alleged the pair shared “lavish gifts,” valuable energy contracts. The cable also alleged that Putin wasn’t quite the strongman portrayed in the West — painting a picture of an autocratic leader with little hold over the huge, and largely unaccountable, post-Soviet bureaucracy.

The New York Times defended its decision to go forward with its story despite White House objections, noting that few of the documents were labeled “top secret” and passages that would have endangered individuals were redacted.

Of the candid cables themselves, the Times editors wrote, “We are less likely to censor candid remarks simply because they might cause a diplomatic controversy or embarrass officials.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman described the release as “the theft of huge amounts of classified data.”

He said that the leak was an unfortunate byproduct of “efforts to give diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to greater amounts of data," and the "unintended consequences” are to make “sensitive data more vulnerable to compromise."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified The Times of London as one of the recipients of the documents instead of the Guardian.

Nigel Farage Berates The EU!! "Who the hell do you think you are??"

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, went on a rampage recently. I think his own words speak for themselves:

"Good morning Mr. van Rompuy, you've been in office for one year, and in that time the whole edifice is beginning to crumble, there's chaos, the money's running out, I should thank you - you should perhaps be the pinup boy of the euroskeptic movement. But just look around this chamber this morning, look at these faces, look at the fear, look at the anger. Poor Barroso here looks like he's seen a ghost. They're beginning to understand that the game is up. And yet in their desperation to preserve their dream, they want to remove any remaining traces of democracy from the system. And it's pretty clear that none of you have learned anything. When you yourself Mr. van Rompuy say that the euro has brought us stability, I supposed I could applaud you for having a sense of humor, but isn't this really just the bunker [or banker?] mentality. Your fanaticism is out in the open. You talk about the fact that it was a lie to believe that the nation state could exist in the 21st century globalized world. Well, that may be true in the case of Belgium who haven't had a government for 6 months, but for the rest of us, right across every member state in this union, increasingly people are saying, "We don't want that flag, we don't want the anthem, we don't want this political class, we want the whole thing consigned to the dustbin of history." We had the Greek tragedy earlier on this year, and now we have the situation in Ireland. I know that the stupidity and greed of Irish politicians has a lot to do with this: they should never, ever have joined the euro. They suffered with low interest rates, a false boom and a massive bust. But look at your response to them: what they are being told as their government is collapsing is that it would be inappropriate for them to have a general election. In fact commissioner Rehn here said they had to agree to a budget first before they are allowed to have a general election. Just who the hell do you think you people are. You are very, very dangerous people indeed: your obsession with creating this European state means that you are happy to destroy democracy, you appear to be happy with millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor. Untold millions will suffer so that your euro dream can continue. Well it won't work, cause its Portugal next with their debt levels of 325% of GDP they are the next ones on the list, and after that I suspect it will be Spain, and the bailout for Spain will be 7 times the size of Ireland, and at that moment all the bailout money will is gone - there won't be any more. But it's even more serious than economics, because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bill Nelson Running for the Hills. May pull A Charlie Crist on the Democrats.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson trashes Obama in private meeting

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2010/11/19/florida-democratic-sen-bill-nelson-trashes-obama-in-private-meeting/#ixzz16XFJnkLG

This is just typical liberal politicians on the run. Bill Nelson will be buried in 2012. Bill "Waffler" Nelson forgets this:


Voted Yes on the Great stimulus package, VOTED YES ON OBAMACARE. Then, about face, trashes OBAMA because of the shellacking in the recent congressional election. Seems very wishy washy on a lot of issues when things don't go his parties' way. Are you pulling a Crist on the Democommies Bill? This will be brought up in 2012.

Nelson Publicly stated he supported Hillary in 2008. She lost and then Nelson considered a VP nominee with Obama? http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2008/08/baracks-big-vee.html

My Campaign Button Slogan for Bill Nelson "Bandwagon Bill".

Yeah The Democrats "Feel your Pain"

John Kerry: Deck my halls Kerry put up $85,000 in campaign cash to rent the 2,000-seat Boston Symphony

Formerly-Elected-Official: The I-Caucus 2010 Principled Representatives

Formerly-Elected-Official: The I-Caucus 2010 Principled Representatives

Friday, November 26, 2010

Opposition Research

Courtesy of Abacus Associates

Opposition research is a dirty job that needs to be done. If you say, “I plan to run a positive campaign so I do not need opposition research,” you are doing yourself a serious disservice. If you are a front-runner with good name recognition and are well ahead of an opponent with little name recognition, then you won't need to run negative. However, you will still need an opposition researcher, for your opponent will likely go negative. An opposition researcher finds out more than just negative information about your opponent. Your opposition researcher will also do research on you. An opposition researcher will also find issue positions and voting records that are needed for a comparative—not just negative—race.

If your opponent's stance contradicts past votes or statements, you will want to be able to point that out. If you have a negative that your opponent can use as part of his or her message, you need to be aware of it and to know how damaging it can be. Furthermore, if your opponent turns negative, you need to be ready to respond—which may call for your going negative.

You need a professional opposition researcher, for they know how to discreetly find all of the relevant information you need. Someone from your campaign will not be as discreet and will not know what to find out or how to find it.

You should hire your opposition researcher after you hire your pollster. Your pollster needs to be able to work with this person. Then, the opposition research must be completed before the poll so that you can test the persuasiveness of the arguments uncovered by the research in the poll. As a result, opposition research will be one of your first consulting expenses.

The cost of opposition research can range from about $15,000 plus room and board for
research on you and one opponent to about $30,000 for research on you and two or three opponents who have legislative records. The cost will vary depending on the scope and complexity of the research.

You should get recommendations for an opposition researcher from your other consultants. Since opposition researchers are almost never in the position of bringing other consultants into a campaign, the quid pro quo conflict of interest is not really an issue here. Furthermore, your consultants need the best opposition research to do their jobs, so they will push for the best opposition researchers they know.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"I was a Political Hitman" - Great article regarding Oppo's

I just finished reading this Fascinating, yet candid article by Stephen Marks in Politics Magazine. I have recently purchased his book "Confessions of a political hitman" Can't wait to get my hands on it. Access article here: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7703/is_200802/ai_n32263057/pg_2/?tag=content;col1

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jury convicts Tom DeLay in money laundering trial

By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press – 1 hr 9 mins ago

AUSTIN, Texas – The heavy-handed style that made Tom DeLay one of the nation's most powerful and feared members of Congress also proved to be his downfall Wednesday when a jury determined he went too far in trying to influence elections, convicting the former House majority leader on two felonies that could send him to prison for decades.

Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge, although prosecutors haven't yet recommended a sentence.

After the verdicts were read, DeLay hugged his daughter, Danielle, and his wife, Christine. DeLay whispered into his daughter's ear that he couldn't get a fair trial in Austin. DeLay had unsuccessfully tried to get the trial moved out of Austin, the most liberal city in one of the most Republican states

DeLay's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said they planned to appeal the verdict.

"This is an abuse of power. It's a miscarriage of justice, and I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system and I'm very disappointed in the outcome," DeLay told reporters outside the courtroom.

He remains free on bond, and several witnesses were expected to be called during the punishment phase of his trial, tentatively scheduled to begin on Dec. 20.

Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose tough tactics earned him the nickname "the Hammer," used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

DeLay and his attorneys maintained the former Houston-area congressman did nothing wrong as no corporate funds went to Texas candidates and the money swap was legal.

The verdict came after a three-week trial in which prosecutors presented more than 30 witnesses and volumes of e-mails and other documents. DeLay's attorneys presented five witnesses.

"This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically, and if not, they'll be held accountable," Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said after the verdict.

Lehmberg said prosecutors will decide in the next few weeks what sentence they will recommend in the case to Senior Judge Pat Priest.

DeLay chose Priest to sentence him rather than the jury. He faces five years to life in prison on the money laundering charge and two to 20 years on the conspiracy charge. He also would be eligible for probation.

Jurors, who left the courthouse right after the verdict was read, declined to comment to reporters, only saying that it had been a tough decision for them to make.

The jury had sent numerous notes to Priest during its deliberations, which began on Monday. Many of the notes asked various legal questions that at one point had prompted the judge to say the panel wasn't on the right track. But at the end of Tuesday, jurors had indicated they were making progress.

Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns.

Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the GOP majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 — and strengthened DeLay's political power.

DeLay's attorneys argued the money swap resulted in the seven candidates getting donations from individuals, which they could legally use in Texas.

They also said DeLay only lent his name to the PAC and had little involvement in how it was run. Prosecutors, who presented mostly circumstantial evidence, didn't prove he committed a crime, they said.

DeLay contended the charges against him were a political vendetta by Ronnie Earle, the former Democratic Travis County district attorney who originally brought the case and is now retired.

Lehmberg, who replaced Earle, said the trial was not about criminalizing politics.

"This was about holding public officials accountable, that no one is above the law and all persons have to abide by the law, no matter how powerful or lofty the position he or she might hold," she said.

Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice, a liberal watchdog group whose complaints with the Travis County District Attorney's Office helped lead to the investigation of DeLay's PAC, said he was pleased by the verdict.

"We can't undo the 2002 election, but a jury wisely acted to hold DeLay accountable for conspiring to steal it."

The 2005 criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of DeLay's ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing suburban Houston. The Justice Department probe into DeLay's ties to Abramoff ended without any charges filed against DeLay.

Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later.

Except for a 2009 appearance on ABC's hit television show "Dancing With the Stars," DeLay has been out of the spotlight since resigning from Congress in 2006. He now runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.

Howard Steven Friedman: Midterm Election Postmortem: Mike Bloomberg, Sarah Palin and Alvin Greene

Here’s an interesting post about Howard Steven Friedman: Midterm Election Postmortem: Mike Bloomberg, Sarah Palin and Alvin Greene

Post midterm election analysis ranges from partisan pronouncements of doom or gloom to debates about the long term implications of the election. Over-reactions and long term forecasting tend to make the false assumption that we have clear knowledge about the trajectory of the US political process many years or decades into the future. The reality is that unpredictable short term economic swings are often the dominant driver of elections. As we discussed previously, major shifts have occurred in the House in at least 6 elections in the last 40 years – simply put, shift happens and will continue to happen.

This shifting of power is a positive reflection of American democracy, to be contrasted with other countries where the ruling party has consistently maintained power for decades (for example, LDP ruled Japan almost continuously from 1955 to 2009).

To discuss the implications of the midterm election, we again chatted with Brett Di Resta, a political consultant and adjunct professor at George Washington University where he lectures on opposition research and campaigns.

HSF: Previously you discussed the idea that the 2006 and 2008 elections may indicate a trend of increasing voter activity among the younger generation. In the 2010 elections, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement estimated that approximately 20% of U.S. citizens under 30 voted, down from nearly 55 percent in the 2008 presidential election and about 23 percent in the 2006 midterm election.

Mr. Di Resta: There were two major trends observed in the election, seniors showed up and young people didn’t. Senior citizens made up 16% of the voting of the population in 2008 and 24% in 2010. Because seniors tend to vote more conservatively, this provided a major push for the Republicans. It was also observed that women moved away from the Democratic Party though that is partially explained by the senior citizen voting trend.

HSF: Some have suggested that the 2010 Republican landslide in state legislatures will result in even more gerrymandering and a solidification of the Republican dominance in the House. What’s the risk of this occurring?

Mr. Di Resta: Very high. Democrats lost a lot of state legislatures which opens the door to more gerrymandering. One thing many people don’t realize is that gerrymandering has exacerbated the problem of partisan politics- the safer your district the less likely you are to compromise.

HSF: Many people are still scratching their head over Alvin Greene. What happened there?

Mr. Di Resta: The main communication mode in media is TV. In a democratic primary where no money is spent on TV, a lot of people just pull the first name on the ballot. Do I think it was a plant by the Republicans? Probably, but in fairness to Republicans, the Democrats got busted doing similar things in the past.

HSF: Many have suggested that Mike Bloomberg will make a run as an independent in 2012. What scenario would make him more or less likely to run?

Mr. Di Resta: Bloomberg is a lot more viable than people in the Northeast would like to think. He could tip a state like New Hampshire or New Jersey to Republican or at least put them back into play. A guy like Bloomberg cannot win the presidency since there is no way he will take anything in the South. The South is a socially conservative place that will not connect with his pro-choice position. If Bloomberg is running because he thinks he can win, I think he is mistaken. If he is running because he thinks he can pull the Republicans back or make a viable third party movement (fiscally conservative but socially liberal – Blue Dog Democrats) then it is a possibility. He poses no threat to the Republicans and a major threat to the Democrats.

HSF: Bloomberg barely was re-elected in the NYC mayoral race after spending $102 million of his own fortune — about $174 per vote. His re-election involved the City Council changing the term-limit laws reminding many people of caudillo-style leadership. How much do you think Bloomberg will be hurt by the perception that he has used his influence to override publicly endorsed term limits and then buy elections?

Mr. Di Resta: Bloomberg’s chances depend on the economy. If the economy is bouncing back then it will be harder. If the Republicans nominate Romney then Bloomberg won’t run. If Palin or someone else that alienates many voters gets the Republican nomination then there’s a good chance Bloomberg will try.

HSF: Last minute thoughts on 2010 politics?

Mr. Di Resta: Probably one of the biggest concerns I have now is that politics has reached a time where facts don’t matter anymore.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Opposition Research News Roundup #1

McMahon Campaign staff uncovered Blumenthal Lie NY TIMES

Opposition Research Getting more attention Roll Call

Google Drops Phonebook Search Operators Opposition Research Blog

Great resource for opposition or fact-finding research Net for lawyers

2012 Republican Presidential Hopefuls UPI

Obama approval rating sinks to 39%, as even Democrats' support melts away

From the LA Times.

President Obama has passed the Big 4-0 -- going the wrong way.

Turns out voters were not simply satisfied to spank the Democrat and his party in the Nov. 2 midterm elections with historic losses in the House of Representatives.

Obama's job approval rating as calculated by the Zogby Poll has now sunk to 39%, a new low for his 22-month presidency that began with so much hope and excitement and poll numbers up around 70. As recently as Sept. 20, his job approval was 49%.

A whopping 60% now disapprove of his job, up from 51% disapproval Sept. 20.

Obama now trails in hypothetical 2012 matchups against Republicans Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the next Bush, Jeb.

And, oh, my! Lookee here! Obama has even fallen into a statistical tie with none other than Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. How embarrassing that is because other polls have shown a majority of Americans believe she is unqualified for the presidency. So it appears many have now decided, on second thought, Obama looks that way too.Democrat president Barack Obama enjoys a good laugh before the 2010 midterm elections

Obama began losing the support of independents in the summer of 2009, as he responded to polls showing voter concerns focused on the economy by staging 59 town hall meetings on healthcare. Independents were a crucial part of his coalition win in 2008 but have now dwindled to 39%.

Only 6% of Republicans, not surprisingly, approve of Obama's job performance. But younger voters, also crucial in the ex-state senator's convincing defeat of John McCain, now approve by only 42%.

Nearly 7 in 10 likely voters say the country is on the wrong track, rarely a good sign for incumbents.

But, Zogby notes, perhaps most ominous for the president is that he's now losing support among his own party people. His approval plopped nearly 10% in just one week, from 78% down to 72% in Zogby's latest read.

Obama, John Zogby writes, "is failing to please more than one-fourth of his own party’s voters. This is a perilous position for the President.

"Conventional wisdom calls for him to reach for the center and assume that Democrats will stay with him in 2012. But as we saw in the mid-terms, Democrats can't win without strong turnout from the young and minorities, both of which are demographics that need more motivation than others to vote."

Former governor Romney fares the best against Obama (44-38%), then comes Gingrich (43%-39%), then another former governor, Jeb Bush (40%-38%), who says he is not running. Palin ties (40%-41%). Obama does, however, destroy developer Donald Trump (39%-29%) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (32%-13%). (A separate Quinnipiac Poll Monday found Obama in dead heats with either Romney or former Gov. Mike Huckabee.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

Monday, November 22, 2010

Breaking News: North Korea Shells South Korean Island

(Reuters) - North Korea on Tuesday fired dozens of artillery shells at a South Korean island, setting buildings on fire and prompting a return fire by the South, Seoul's military and media reports said.

Seoul's YTN television quoted a witness as saying 60 to 70 houses were on fire after the shelling.

The military confirmed the exchange of firing, without providing more details.

(Reporting by Seoul bureau; Writing by Yoo Choonsik; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Predicting the Economy, and Obama’s Re-Election Chances

Courtesy of: NATE SILVER

November 22, 2010

Saturday’s Times had an article by Jeff Sommer that highlighted the work of Ray C. Fair, a Yale economist who has designed a model to predict the outcomes of presidential elections based on a series of economic variables.

According to Mr. Fair’s model, President Obama could be in surprisingly good shape in 2012. Based on Mr. Fair’s assumptions about economic growth (he expects gross domestic product to improve at an annualized rate of about 3.7 points in the first three quarters of 2012) and inflation (which he expects to remain fairly low), Mr. Obama would be expected to receive about 56 percent of the vote in 2012 and the Republican candidate 44 percent (excluding any votes for third parties). By modern standards, that would constitute a landslide, with Mr. Obama probably winning in the neighborhood of 400 electoral votes.

Needless to say, there are a couple of issues with this, many of which Mr. Fair is quite happy to acknowledge, once one reads the fine print behind his forecasts.

First, there is a lot of uncertainty about what the economy will look like two years from now. Forecasting the economy even one year in advance is quite tricky. A series of expert forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal, trying to anticipate the state of the economy in December 2011, predicted that the unemployment rate would be from 7.6 percent to 10 percent, that G.D.P. would grow from 1.8 percent to 5.5 percent, and that inflation would run 0.6 percent to 3.8 percent. And that only gets us through next year, to say nothing of what could happen in 2012.

Obviously, the upper and lower bounds of these ranges could make the choice fairly clear for swing voters. It is hard to imagine Mr. Obama failing to be re-elected if the economy is humming along at a 5 percent growth rate by this time next year, and 600,000 jobs are being created every month. Likewise, if unemployment is still at 10 percent or if there is a second period of recession brought on by, for instance, the European debt crisis — something extraordinarily might have to occur for him to win a second term.

But there is a lot of middle ground, and here’s where models like these might not be much help.

Mr. Fair’s model predicts, for instance, that if G.D.P. growth were just 1 percent in 2012, and there was just one more “good news” quarter between now and then (one in which G.D.P. growth proceeded at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent or higher), Mr. Obama would nevertheless receive about 50 percent of the vote — that is, he would have an even shot at re-election, depending on the vagaries of the electoral college. That intuitively does not seem right to me: while the economy would not technically be in recession, it would certainly be failing to meet voter expectations. While Mr. Obama might have some shot at re-election if he had had a major foreign policy success or two, or if a controversial candidate like Sarah Palin were the Republican nominee, it is likely he would be a clear underdog under such circumstances.

It could be that my intuition is wrong — the incumbency advantage has often been quite powerful in presidential elections.

But there is a potential missing link in the form of unemployment, which is not included in Mr. Fair’s model. Unemployment, after all, has been the central frame for discussion about the economy in recent months. The word “Obama” has appeared in conjunction with “unemployment” in about 26,000 news articles since the start of the year, compared with about 8,000 articles that mention both “Obama” and “inflation”, and 6,000 that mention both “Obama” and “G.D.P.”

Why isn’t unemployment included in the model? The literal answer is because, in designing his model originally — way back in 1978 — Mr. Fair found that it did not much improve the accuracy of his predictions once other variables like G.D.P. were accounted for.

But here, things get a little bit more complicated.

Historically, employment and G.D.P. are quite strongly correlated: when the economy grows over all, it also creates jobs, and vice versa. This contrasts with something like, for instance, real (inflation-adjusted) G.D.P. and the inflation rate, which are weakly correlated: there have been plenty of periods of high growth and high inflation, of high growth and low inflation, of low growth and high inflation, and so forth. So, if you knew what G.D.P. growth was going to be, it would be redundant to account for employment: by knowing G.D.P., you already had a pretty good idea of what employment was.

During the most recent recession, however, the strength of this relationship broke down. Clearly, the economy was not in good shape by any measure throughout most of 2008 and 2009. But it lost quite a few more jobs than would ordinarily be predicted based on the downturn in G.D.P. alone.

The graph below presents a version of Okun’s law, which is an empirically observed relationship between employment and G.D.P. growth. On the horizontal axis is the change in real G.D.P. from one quarter to the next (the values are not annualized, which is why they might seem small), and on the vertical axis, the change in nonfarm payroll employment, which is probably the most reliable of the several statistics that measure the employment situation. The relationship is not perfect, but it is generally fairly strong, particularly given that economic data can be quite noisy.

The next chart presents exactly the same data, except that it highlights the four quarters in the year 2009. In each of these quarters, the decline in employment was quite a bit larger than what Okun’s law would hypothesize. For instance, in the fourth quarter of 2009, when the economy grew by a decent clip, Okun’s law would predict about 250,000 jobs to be created; instead, about 450,000 were lost.

Over all, the economy wound up having about 4 million fewer jobs by the end of 2009 than would have been expected based on Okun’s law. (It has not yet begun to make up for the ground it lost; the three data points thus far in 2010 have been fairly consistent with Okun’s law, but job creation has not run ahead of pace, as it would need to do for employment to “catch up.”) If the economy now had those jobs in place, the unemployment rate would be somewhere on the order of 7 percent rather than 9.6 percent right now, and we might have a very different economic — and political — picture.

Why was this relationship violated? A number of theories abound, ranging from longer-term structural trends to poor definitions of G.D.P. to the questionable design of the stimulus package to the particular nature of the economic crisis that the country faced.

It is not necessary for our purposes to decide upon an answer: the point is simply that G.D.P. — as it is usually measured — did not mirror employment the way it normally does.

That is problematic for models like Mr. Fair’s. What we’d like to see is what happened in the past when there had been a similar discrepancy: when the economy performed all right according to G.D.P., but very poorly according to employment. However, since violations of Okun’s law are fairly rare, and since presidential elections are also fairly rare, there are really no good data points to work with: an econometrician would say the solution lies “out of sample.”

To the extent that there is a relevant example, it’s what took place this month — and it isn’t an auspicious one for Mr. Obama. A version of Mr. Fair’s model can also be applied to Congressional elections. It had predicted that Republicans would win about 51 percent of the two-party vote on Nov. 2 (excluding any votes for minor party candidates), when in fact, they won closer to 54 percent. While that isn’t a huge discrepancy, it does suggest that today’s voter — faced with lukewarm G.D.P. numbers, but awful employment numbers — will tend to focus on the latter variable, and punish the party in power more rather than less.

While one could probably publish an alternate version of Mr. Fair’s model that used employment in lieu of G.D.P., it would still face some problems. For instance, how to measure unemployment? Is it based on the change from the previous period? (E.g., unemployment has increased by 4 percentage points since President Obama took office?) Or is it based on the absolute level of unemployment? (E.g., the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent?) In 2010, this might not have made much difference: the unemployment level was terrible both in absolute terms, and relative to where it had been previously. But in 2012, the distinction could matter a lot more. If the unemployment rate is, say, 7.6 percent when voters go to the polls in November 2012, will President Obama get credit for having reduced it significantly from its peak? Or will he continue to receive blame because it is still fairly high relative to where it is ordinarily? (And higher than when he took office.)

There simply aren’t good answers to these questions in the historical record. Mr. Fair’s studies cover 24 presidential elections, since 1916. Even assuming that all of these data points are relevant (and they might not be, when one considers — for instance — the difference between wartime and peacetime elections, between incumbent and nonincumbent elections, and that the behavior of the electorate has changed in some significant ways since 1916), that’s not really enough data to permit much in the way of subtlety when deciding among several different versions of several different economic variables. This is particularly so when many of the variables are strongly correlated with one another, which creates both theoretical and practical problems for any sort of regression analysis, which is the technique that these models use.

I don’t mean to suggest that these econometric models are of no value. When Mr. Fair introduced his model in 1978, it was quite revolutionary in identifying a relationship between economic performance and voting behavior; some of the scholarship at the time had (wrongly) concluded that there wasn’t. Mr. Fair, moreover, is an outstanding economist, and has been careful to declaim exactly some of the limitations that I have identified here.

But given all of the different ways to measure the relationship between economic performance and voting behavior, there are too many ambiguities to come to any terribly specific conclusions. Mr. Obama, of course, will do better if the economy is performing better rather than worse. But exactly how well he will do — enough to win re-election and, if so, by a comfortable margin? — is not something the data can tell us right now.


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