Thursday, September 30, 2010

The next absurdity you will confront is the $250,000-a-year government pension; the revolt is under way in California

Government pensions, built into law and mostly protected from stock market vagaries, are the envy of the private sector. Voters who have lost jobs, taken pay cuts, or watched 401(k)s plummet provide tinder for politicians condemning the excesses of government retirement protections.

But voter outrage will be fanned as states and cities face the prospect of cutting services or raising taxes -- or both -- to cover rising pension costs. "On a macro level, there is tremendous pressure on states," says Andrew Biggs, a pension expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "On a micro level, people are saying, 'Hey, I lost my job, and these guys are collecting six figures without working.' "

California is at the forefront of this voter revolt. In Los Angeles County, the summer of 2010 was defined by populist heat over the disclosure of salaries being collected by officials of the working-class city of Bell. Some of them, including chief administrative officer Robert Rizzo -- who stood to collect a $600,000 pension after allegedly writing himself a $1 million-plus compensation agreement -- have been arrested on corruption charges.

Even more widespread are troubling legal pensions. In Northern California, Contra Costa Times columnist Daniel Borenstein reported the salary of the city manager of San Ramon (pop. 63,000) at $344,200, and then calculated the pension due this 65-year-old government official: $261,000 a year. And a local fire chief was able to "spike" his base pension to $284,000 a year.

Intrepid reporters in California are finding that these stories aren't isolated oddities but symptoms of a generous salary and pension system built in good times -- and one that's crashing down on already-strained taxpayers. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has blamed his state's $550 billion in retirement debt on "huge unfunded pension and retirement health care promises."

Gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman, a Republican, and Jerry Brown, a Democrat, are both calling for pension reform, while local candidates are using pension horror stories to reinforce their calls for limiting spending.

The political ground is fertile. In August the Los Angeles City Council learned that pensions and health benefits for retirees will gobble up a third of the city's general fund -- up from 8% -- in just five years. In Orange County the chief executive predicted that pension requirements in 2014 will consume about 84% of the county's law-enforcement payroll. The underlying threat? Lay off current cops to pay for the vacations of retired officers.

The story will only get worse because pensions nationwide are underfunded. Earlier this year the Pew Center on the States calculated a $1 trillion shortfall between the $2.35 trillion states set aside in 2008 for employee retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion committed. Economists like Biggs say the gap is far bigger because the states use overly optimistic projections on investment returns. "If you calculate public pensions by private standards, it would be a disaster," he says.

Struggling states like Ohio and Illinois face the biggest crisis, as a percentage of GDP, with unfunded commitments totaling about half of those states' economies.

This is déjà vu: Generous retirement packages, enabling middle-age workers to retire early, helped sink Detroit -- eventually landing GM and Chrysler at Treasury's door. The United Auto Workers, of course, negotiated those packages -- and management signed off on them. Now a majority of union members work for the government, and labor is determined to protect its pensions. Unlike those in the private sector, government retirement packages are often embedded in law. Wait until politicians tell that to the taxpayers stuck footing the bill.

She fled the Chicoms but unluckily moved to Cuba; now she's in the U.S., a Tea Partier who hopes she can stay for a while

Fighting Goth culture, immortalizing politicians cost us $2.3 b

What do mariachi classes, wine studies and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have in common?
They were all funded by federal Department of Education earmarks, according to an extensive new report released Thursday by Sen. Tom Coburn.

The Oklahoma Republican, in a study called "School House Pork," is urging the federal government to suspend these education "slush funds" after finding that lawmakers have secured 5,563 such earmarks, worth $2.3 billion over the past decade. While earmark advocates argue they're a way to ensure taxpayer money is going toward worthy projects, Coburn's report claims the recipients often were not "deserving or needy" of the extra funding.

The programs were "created by Congress to improve the American educational system, but have been compromised by political interests and are overrun with education pork," the report says.

Coburn's study focuses on two Education Department funds -- the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education and the Fund for the Improvement of Education. He told Fox News the Congress is not focusing on priorities in allocating the money.

"We're in tough times and we're still doing this kind of stupid stuff," Coburn said Thursday. "Everybody's thinking we have to raise taxes, the first thing we need to do is cut back waste."

The report, claiming money often went to the schools with the best lobbyists, drew attention to dozens of questionable earmarks. Here are some of the highlights:

-- A Las Vegas school district received a $25,000 earmark in 2005 for a mariachi music program.

-- Jackson State University benefited from a $478,941 earmark to look at studying a school of osteopathic medicine. However, a local newspaper reported that the commissioner of higher education in Mississippi had "no intention" of opening one.

-- Central Washington University received $191,593 in 2008 for "curriculum development," which included a curriculum based on local wines.

-- Lawmakers secured more than $181 million in earmarks over the past decade for programs and projects that would bear their name. This included $1.9 million in 2008 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service; two earmarks over two years worth more than $19 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate; $2.4 million for the Lott Leadership Institute, named after former Sen. Trent Lott; and two earmarks worth $10 million for the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center.

-- Fifteen earmarks worth $2.7 million went to zoos over the past decade. This included four earmarks totaling $1 million for the Philadelphia Zoo.

-- Several education earmarks funded local and national halls of fame. The National Baseball Hall of Fame got $450,000 in 2005, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame got $200,000 in 2002 and the National Aviation Hall of Fame got $400,000 in 2001 -- then another $200,000 earmark in 2005.

-- Lawmakers secured $273,000 for a program in Blue Springs, Mo., aimed at fighting Goth culture.

Is it White House outreach to muslims? Or an embrace?

By Frank Gaffney

I had the opportunity to appear Monday in a Tennessee court as an expert witness on the threat posed by shariah. The case involves an effort by citizens of Murfreesboro, Tennessee to prevent the construction of a mega-mosque in their town’s outskirts – a facility that seems likely to serve, as do most mosques in America, as bastions of that supremacist, totalitarian political-military-legal program.

Among other things, I warned the court that – since shariah obliges its adherents to engage in jihad (holy war), whether through violent means or more stealthy techniques – in my professional judgment, any approval of a proposed 50,000-square feet Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM) required the most careful and informed scrutiny.

My testimony was drawn from the analysis and key findings of the pathbreaking Team B II report that have been serialized here in recent days. In particular, I noted that officials at every level of government have been, at best, willfully blind (in the words of Team member and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy) to the dangers associated with the so-called “civilization jihad” being waged against this country by the Muslim Brotherhood. At worst, some appear susceptible to charges of “misprision of treason” – a term the U.S. code uses to criminalize a failure to act in the face of evidence of sedition.

Unbeknownst to me, at approximately the same moment, Team B II member Patrick Poole was breaking the news at Big Peace of a prime example of this frightening failure of the “duty to know” about the stealth jihad, let alone the duty to stop this seditious activity. As Poole reported, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Chicago office had provided a six-week training program to a known operative of a designated terrorist organization, Hamas, complete with tours of classified facilities like the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) and the FBI’s training facility at Quantico, Virginia.

The individual in question is Sheikh Kifah Mustapha, who also happens to be an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in U.S. history: U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation. According to Poole’s sources, Mustapha was especially inquisitive about the FBI counterterrorism techniques and procedures. One can only speculate about how much valuable information must have been collected by this terrorist operative in the course of his FBI-enabled “training” sessions.

In an effort to understand the FBI’s thinking, my colleague, Christine Brim, had a fascinating, on-the-record conversation for Secure Freedom Radio with a spokesman for the Bureau’s Chicago office, Ross Rice. [Check back here at Big Peace soon]. Suffice it to say that Rice’s statements are further evidence of the obliviousness to the shariah-mandated, stealth threat now rife within U.S. government circles.

Speaking of Chicago, that city is the venue for three-days of meetings convened by what some have called “the new Caliphate” – a 56 Muslim nation entity that makes up the international institutional arm of the “civilization jihad” aimed at destroying Western civilization from within. Incredibly, at least three senior White House and State Department officials are among the scheduled participants: Rashad Hussain, the President’s special envoy to the OIC; Farah Pandith, the State Depatment’s outreach coordinator to the Muslim community; and Dalia Mogahed, an adviser to the White House Office of Inter-faith and Neighborhood Initiatives.

Failing schools

Judicial Watch: FBI is investigating SEIU leader Andy Stern

The powerful leftist union leader who regularly visited the White House last year and participated in closed-door Obamacare meetings with the president, vice president and House speaker is being federally investigated for corruption.

Andy Stern, who sits on President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is the target of an FBI probe focusing on his crooked dealings as head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Stern and Obama have long been good friends and last year the veteran Big Labor leader was the most frequent White House visitor, according to recently disclosed records.

Stern was also a key figure in secret Obamacare meetings, which violated the president’s campaign promise of televising all healthcare discussions. Health Department records obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit reveal that Stern attended the covert powwows to take over the nation’s healthcare system along with other leftist union leaders, Vice President Joe Biden, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others.

So far the president has refused to comment on his pal’s corruption probe, which centers on a six-figure book contract and a shady “confidential” deal he approved for a California SEIU leader (Alejandro Stephens) sentenced to prison a few weeks ago for fraud. Under the secret agreement Stern gave Stephens, who headed the Los Angeles SEIU local for county government workers, $150,000 for “consulting” work that was never performed.

With more than 2 million members the SEIU is the nation’s second-largest union and among the most corrupt. Under Stern’s leadership the SEIU, with an economic model that includes an expansion of social welfare programs, increased taxation and universal healthcare, regularly bullied companies into signing agreements to let it represent its employees. The SEIU also pushed hard to make Hilda Solis, a California congresswoman with close ties to the influential La Raza movement, Labor Secretary.

Judicial Watch just sued the Labor Department to obtain records involving Solis’s federal program (“Podemos Ayudar”—We Can Help) to assist “vulnerable and underpaid” illegal immigrant workers obtain fair wages. At least 1,000 field investigators have been deployed to reach out to Latino laborers and illegal workers who contact the government for assistance have been guaranteed that they won’t be reported to federal immigration authorities.

In Michigan, the teachers union opposes bonus pay for teaching but applauds it for those who excel at financing political action

The Michigan Education Association opposes bonus pay for teachers who excel at improving student performance, but supports a merit system for teachers who excel at raising money for MEA politicking.

Here are the details: A recent study based on some math teachers in Nashville, Tenn., failed to show three years of merit-based pay had any effect on student achievement. The MEA and its parent organization, the National Education Association, were quick to use the limited experiment’s results to reinforce their argument that teachers should be paid like assembly-line workers.

The MEA, however, sings a different tune when it comes to its own revenue raising efforts. In a training manual titled “PAC Attack,” the union promotes an incentive-based program to reward members depending on how much they raise for its Political Action Committee. Specifically, a pot of $25,000 is divided between union locals with the most members who give to the PAC, and to ones with highest average donation.

When it comes to those things that really matter to the union, apparently merit rewards are worthwhile.

Education bureaucrats close ranks against for-profit institutions

For-profit education is under assault from elitists who hate the idea of free market educational institutions. It is also under attack from bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Education who are trying to make it hard for students to arm themselves with the education needed to find a job. Elitism is alive and well at the Department of Education.

The Department of Education announced this week that they are “on schedule to implement new regulations of the for-profit education sector dealing with gainful employment and 13 other issues to protect students and taxpayers.” The non-profit sector feels threatened; therefore allies in the Administration are trying to use the power of the federal government to provide non profit schools a competitive edge to slow the growth of for-profit institutions. For-profit institutions are the trend and they are becoming more popular.

Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) has introduced legislation to prevent the Department of Education from denying federal financial aid to students attending for-profit colleges and vocational certificate programs. Senator Risch said of his effort:

The ‘gainful employment’ rules could deny hundreds of thousands of students access to the training and skills development they need to secure a job in today’s troubled economy. Highly-skilled workers are in high demand in certain sectors and propriety schools are uniquely qualified to meet that need. It is simply irresponsible for the government to throw roadblocks in front of students and institutions at a time when job creation in America should be the administration’s number one priority.

Senator Risch’s legislation, S.3837, the Education for All Act, would forbid the Department of Education from singling out students from proprietary and vocational institutions and treat them differently than other students. These institutions have proven to be uniquely qualified to help students find jobs in today’s complex economy.

Risch joins Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) in writing letters expressing concern about this proposed rule. Enzi wrote that the proposed rule “unfairly holds for-profit institutions to a higher standard for student debt and default than all other institutions of higher education.” These elected federal officials are all concerned about the Department’s action on this issue is the number of members sending letters of interest to the Department of Education is up to 80 members of Congress according to the Coalition for Educational Success.

The Pigford pigout takes on new life and many new claimants

Is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s settlement of the Pigford class action suit about to become a 2010 election issue? The case, which started to get national notice in July when it came to light as part of Andrew Breitbart's video clip of Shirley Sherrod addressing the NAACP, is back in the news this week.

The case is about alleged discrimination against black farmers in the administration of certain USDA programs in the Reagan years. The initial settlement dates from the Clinton administration, when it was estimated that two to three thousand potential claims might ensue under Track A, which provided for liquidated damages of $50,000 each. Over 22,000 claims were filed; 13,348 of those claims were actually approved.

Pigford took on new life when the Democrats took over Congress in 2006. A new claim period was established because of allegations that tens of thousands of black farmers did not have the opportunity to file claims during the initial settlement period. The suspected fraud in the settlement claims was big in the blogsphere this July when it came to light that Sherrod and her husband were the largest recipients of federal funds, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government for alleged discrimination by the USDA officials, including significant amounts for "pain and suffering."

So far, the actual funding for the second round of Pigford payments has been hung up in the Senate. Earlier this summer, there were stories in local newspapers all across the South about blacks petitioning the Senate for funding of Pigford, including a march on Washington in September if no action had been taken before then. Monday, there was this news from Washington, D.C., where the Senate was urged to pass the appropriation.


Black politicians are quick to say that Pigford is not about reparations. If that is the case, the math needs a bit of explaining. Boyd testified that there are 18,000 black farmers on one hand and then supports billions in payouts in a program that has 94,000 people claiming they were injured? It is to be hoped that as a member of a new Republican majority, Congressman King can look at how the plaintiff's bar and black activists ballooned a small settlement into a billion-dollar boondoggle.

Even in Norway, the natives are restless over socialism

Brother of Missouri Democrat Rep. Russ Carnahan highly stimlulated by $107 million Energy grant for wind farm

Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri is a rank-and-file Democrat. According to, he has voted with the Democratic Party 99 percent of the time since he assumed office in 2005, and was among those who consistently espoused the merits of the 2009 stimulus package.

He has, in other words, been a good reliable Democrat for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. And it seems the obedience has not gone unnoticed.

Earlier this month, the White House released a report entitled, “100 Recovery Act Projects that are Changing America.” Number 18 on the list is Lost Creek Wind Farm in DeKalb County, Missouri, which received a $107 million grant from the Department of Energy. And it just so happens that Lost Creek was founded by Tom Carnahan – Russ’ brother.

But Tom’s history associated with the war against fossil fuels and the world of renewable energy is a short one, beginning in 2005 — the same year his brother entered Congress — when he quit his law practice to start Wind Capital Group LLC to develop wind energy in Missouri. At first, business wasn’t so great, and the Lost Creek project was put on hold. That is, until the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, and along with it, the establishment of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program.

That loan guarantee program, it turns out, has since buttered Tom Carnahan’s bread very nicely.

He even admitted as much in a 2009 interview when he said, “We never really liked to say it out loud…A few months ago, the banks were closed…The stimulus changed everything.”

Ed Martin, a Republican who is challenging Carnahan in November to represent Missouri’s third district, told the The Daily Caller that, “The stimulus has shown to be a payout to special interests and family members; it’s not focused on jobs,” adding that the Carnahans are a prime example.

Public backlash against high pay and lavish pensions for bureaucrats is driving up opposition to labor unions

"Many state and local governments have made the mistake of courting the votes of public employees by fattening salaries and benefits, all the time imagining that pension-fund investments could only go up,” the tirade warns us. With tales of “lavish retirements for relatively youthful public servants” illustrating the “ugly…issue of public-employee pay and benefits,” the jeremiad estimated that state governments are anywhere from $1 trillion to $3 trillion short of their public pension commitments.

This end-of-days screed did not appear at, nor was it printed in folio, stapled together, and handed out at a Tea Party. It’s a cover story published this summer in Time magazine.

The word is out. It is now mainstream opinion that public employee salaries, benefits, and pensions are crippling state governments from coast to coast. When a group of comedians performed a “2010 Public Employee of the Year Awards” sketch—wherein lumpen freeloaders compete at Harrah’s in Atlantic City for the title of “Surliest and Least Cooperative State Employee” and so on—the performers were not the after-dinner entertainment at FreedomFest but the Not Ready For Prime Time venerables of Saturday Night Live. The sketch died. The rage lives on.

In 2009, the Gallup research group reported that for the first time in 70 years of polling, a majority of Americans opposed labor unions. An April Pew study showed that favorable ratings for unions had plummeted from 58 percent in 2007 to 40 percent in 2010. In the same month, the Republican research group Resurgent Republic found more than two-thirds opposition to current levels of compensation for government employees.

Barone: Republicans hold the heartland, Democrats the coasts

The map of the Senate races shows Republicans leading over almost all the landmass of America. Democrats are ahead in the three West Coast states and Hawaii (though not by much in California and Washington) and by 1 point in Nevada. They're also ahead in four states along the Atlantic Coast -- Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut -- plus Vermont.

Republicans lead in all the other Senate races, from Philadelphia to Phoenix and Boca Raton to Boise. True, their candidate leads by only 1 point in Barack Obama's home state of Illinois. And they've got narrow leads in some mountain states (West Virginia, Colorado, Kentucky).

The map of governors' races is not much different. Democrats lead in New York, all the New England states except Maine, plus Maryland. They lead in Arkansas, where they've got a popular one-term incumbent, and in Colorado, where the party's nominee has severe resume flaws and former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo is running as an independent. Democrats lead in Hawaii and Minnesota, normally Democratic states where Republicans have held the governorship for the last two years.

Two other big states have close races: In California, Republican Meg Whitman barely leads septuagenarian Democrat Jerry Brown, and in Florida, the race is tied.

But overall, Republicans are doing very well indeed, with statistically significant leads in every other state with a governor contest this year.

It would be more difficult to draw a map showing the party margins in the 435 House districts. For one thing, there are no publicly available polls in many districts. But if you could draw such a map, I think you'd see Democrats holding onto districts dominated by their core constituencies (blacks, Hispanics and the affluent voters Joel Kotkin calls gentry liberals) and struggling just about everywhere else, from factory towns to high-income suburbs.

Taken together, all these maps show a Democratic Party shrinking back to its bicoastal base and a Republican Party spreading to take in most of the vast expanse of the continent.

More chagrine for the EPA; it's helping the Republicans

The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Belkin reported this week that "anger against incumbent Democrats echoes across the rural Midwest." Belkin cited a WSJ/NBC poll from last month showing that Midwesterners and rural Americans are even more likely than other voters to disapprove of President Obama and to think the country is on the wrong track.

"There's little doubt that the Midwest is the Democrat's toughest region this year," Democratic pollster Tom Jensen concedes. "If the election was today, the party would almost certainly lose the governorships it holds in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania," plus a host of Midwest Senate seats.

But why? One underreported reason is the belief, widespread among Farm Belt residents, that Obama administration environmental regulators are gunning for them.

Farmers, ranchers, and foresters "are increasingly frustrated and bewildered by vague, overreaching, and unnecessarily burdensome EPA regulations," a U.S. senator charged last week. They "are facing at least a dozen new regulatory requirements, each of which will add to their costs, making it harder for them to compete.… [M]ost if not all of these regulations rely on dubious rationales."

Significantly, the protesting senator was not a farm-state Republican making partisan hay. It was Blanche Lincoln, the Arkansas Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Facing bleak re-election prospects in her heavily rural state, Lincoln convened a September 23 hearing to assess "the impact of EPA regulation on agriculture." Her clear, if tacit, message to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House was: You people are killing our election prospects in the heartland.

On handling domestic affairs, Obama ranks even lower than Richard Nixon, hitting new 40-year low in the Gallup Poll

A perusal of older Gallup Polls show something very interesting: On September 18, 2008, Gallup measured the confidence that the American people had in government since before 1973. In the category of confidence in federal government to handle domestic affairs, the numbers Gallup shows in that poll are lower than at any level since Gallup shows online archival data, which means since at least 1972.

That means during Watergate, the Energy Crisis of 1973, and the recession of the same period, Americans had more confidence in Richard Nixon to handle domestic affairs than Americans have today in Barack Obama to handle domestic affairs. The calamitous years of 1973 to 1974, when there were lines to get gasoline (which was suddenly sky high in price), when an American president resigned (preceded by an American vice president resigning), and when the nation dropped into a real economic downturn surely have to rank as the nadir of confidence in government to handle domestic affairs. During those years, American had a viciously divided government, with partisan Democrats, who controlled both houses of Congress, doing everything possible to create suspicion and rancor towards the Nixon Administration.

Gallup, curiously, never asked questions of Americans about their confidence in the ability of government to address their problems during the dreadful years of 1979 and 1980, the Carter Malaise, which would be the only comparable period in modern history. Carter, of course, always had a Democrat Congress, so there were no "Watergate" congressional hearings of his administration. Barack Obama also has overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and a fawning establishment media. Obama, like Carter, entered office with a huge reservoir of personal goodwill. Yet Obama has driven confidence that Americans have in the ability of government to address domestic affairs to a forty year, and perhaps historical low.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The biggest envronmental organizations and their bankrolls

Just because an organization is a nonprofit, that doesn’t mean it’s poor. Environmental organizations are thriving and have considerable financial resources at their disposal, with revenue coming from government grants and contracts, direct mail and Internet fundraising campaigns, foundation grants, and gifts from rich activists. According to the latest tax filings, here’s the net worth of some of the nation’s largest and most prominent environmental organizations.

1. Nature Conservancy

Total assets: $5,636,393,924

2. The Conservation Fund

Total assets: $451,178,482

3. World Wildlife Fund

Total assets: $426,048,663

4. Trust for Public Land

Total assets: $399,026,229

5. Conservation International Foundation

Total assets: $370,034,224

6. National Audubon Society

Total assets: $337,695,958

7. Natural Resources Defense Council

Total assets: $232,276,696

8. Environmental Defense Fund

Total assets: $145,765,426

9. Sierra Club Foundation

Total assets: $107,928,024

10. National Wildlife Federation

Total assets: $69,448,048

How leftists have used environmental issues to grow government

Self-financed Linda McMahon could tip Senate to Republicans

The news Tuesday that the Connecticut Senate race is edging close to a dead heat was bad news for Democrats looking at the national map.

Not only is Republican Linda McMahon’s self-funded steamroller of a campaign going to require national Democrats to divert money into the race at a time when they are already stretched thin, but Connecticut could be the state that moves the GOP to 10 pickups and control of the Senate.

Democrats tried Tuesday to push back against the idea that Connecticut was moving to a tossup, pointing to an internal poll from Monday showing Democrat Richard Blumenthal up 12 points over Republican Linda McMahon. But the reality of the aggregate polling is that former WWE CEO McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap with a barrage of ads, and shows no signs of easing off her stated goal of spending up to $50 million of her own money.

That is a huge boon for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which can focus its resources on other strategic states in a mad dash over the final month before Election Day. The NRSC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee both have roughly $24 million in their war chests to spend in the last 30 days.

The likelihood of a GOP Senate takeover seems a bit less likely than it did a few weeks ago, when Beltway speculation abounded. But as of now, the Nutmeg State looks like the most vulnerable of the five races that make up the Democrats final firewall: California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Washington.

Dick Morris forecasts the worst rout for Democrats in 110 years, with the Senate and the House falling to the Republicans

Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, the Democratic Party is facing the biggest defeat in midterm elections in the past 110 years, perhaps surpassing the modern record of a 74-seat gain set in 1922. They will also lose control of the Senate.

Republicans are now leading in 54 Democratic House districts. In 19 more, the incumbent congressman is under 50 percent and his GOP challenger is within five points. That makes 73 seats where victory is within easy grasp for the Republican Party. The only reason the list is not longer is that there are 160 Democratic House districts that were considered so strongly blue that there is no recent polling available.

There is no Democratic message. President Obama is heralding education - an issue never mentioned on the campaign trail. Secretary of State Clinton is trying to restart the peace talks in the Middle East. Attorney General Holder is re-evaluating online national-security taps. And a hundred Democrats are scrambling about on their own trying to get reelected!

The Democratic campaigns they are waging are formulaic. They make no attempt to defend the administration, but run away from it where possible. They never mention the words stimulus, healthcare reform, card-check, GM takeover or cap-and-trade.

Instead, they are running almost exclusively negative ads. They base their campaigns on tax liens, failed marriages, DWIs and the like. Where there is a paucity of dirt, they resort to three prefab negatives: that their opponent favors a 23 percent national sales tax, that he wants to privatize Social Security and that he is shipping jobs overseas.

This tea party, like the first one, signals a sea change that will end elite multiculti globalism and restore middle class values

The German philosopher Hegel saw history as a progression of culturally dominant ideas. An original thesis, Hegel says, is followed by its antithesis, and that in turn evolves into a synthesis of both.

Applying Hegel to Lasch, I would argue that the tea party movement constitutes such an historic moment. Make no mistake. What we are witnessing is the antithesis of elite-driven greedy self-serving government debt creation, multiculturalism and soulless globalism.

The tea party movement will assert middle-class values, economic nationalism, patriotism and other concepts derided by post-modern elitists. The movement's central tenets -- small government, decentralization of power and end to profligate spending -- are precisely what Lasch prescribed to restore American democracy.

The elite's fear and loathing of the tea party movement is rooted in the recognition that the real change is only now coming. They are right to be fearful, for the ultimate outcome of the tea party's triumph will be to constrain the elite's economic and cultural hegemony. This reversal of fortune, with power flowing from the elites back to the middle class, will take time to fully manifest itself. But an inexorable movement has begun.

If Lasch were alive, he could write a new book, "The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Rebirth of Democracy." Among its observations might be this: The Obama presidency is both the high watermark, and the beginning of the end, for elite multicultural materialism in America.

71% of Republicans say they support Tea Party movement

The tea party has emerged as a potent force in American politics and a center of gravity within the Republican Party, with a large majority of Republicans showing an affinity for the movement that has repeatedly bucked the GOP leadership this year, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.

In the survey, 71% of Republicans described themselves as tea-party supporters, saying they had a favorable image of the movement or hoped tea- party candidates would do well in the Nov. 2 elections.

Already, the tea-party movement has helped to oust a number of incumbents and candidates backed by party leaders in this year's GOP primaries amid complaints that they lacked commitment to small-government principles. The poll findings suggest that the rising influence of the movement, with its push to cut spending and oppose the Democratic agenda, will drive the GOP to become more conservative and less willing to seek common ground on policy.

"These are essentially conservative Republicans who are very ticked-off people," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart.

If the Republicans win control of the House or Senate this fall, Mr. McInturff added, the survey shows "enormous amounts about how limited the interest is going to be in those new majorities to try to seek negotiation with the president or the Democratic leadership."

The poll found that tea-party supporters make up one-third of the voters most likely to cast ballots in November's midterm elections. This showed the movement "isn't a small little segment, but it is a huge part of what's driving 2010," Mr. Hart said.

The survey also found growing energy among some core Democratic voting blocs, such as African-Americans and Hispanics—a tightening that is common as an election draws closer, according to pollsters.

The GOP now holds a three-point edge, 46% to 43%, when likely voters are asked which party they would prefer to control Congress. That is down from a nine-point Republican lead a month ago.

Still, Republicans retain major advantages, including a fired-up base. Two-thirds of GOP voters say they are intensely interested in the election, compared with about half of Democrats, suggesting that Republican voters are more likely to turn out at the polls.

The tea party is a major driver of the so-called enthusiasm gap, with three-quarters of supporters saying they are intensely interested in the election.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Education reform springs from New Jersey; so too does pushback against the state-by-state campaign for cap-trade

An anti-regulatory earthquake is stirring in New Jersey that could potentially free other states and regions from economically unsound energy restrictions and renewable mandates that have further burdened America's already beleaguered consumers with higher costs.

Representatives from private industry have joined with the state branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a grassroots free market advocacy group, to organize a series of protests and media events targeting global warming policies modeled after the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that came into force in 2005. Most recently, the New Jersey Restaurant Association (NJRA), which represents the state's largest employment sector, announced its support for a bill introduced in the state assembly that would both repeal "cap and trade" legislation and rescind N.J.'s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

If successful, this one-two punch could reverberate in other parts of the country that have succumbed to higher energy prices. Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) and Alison Littell McHose (R-24) are leading the charge for A 3147 on the Assembly side. They are now joined in this effort by Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) and Sen. Steven Oroho (R-24), who have introduced mirroring legislation in the upper chamber.

"The opposition that is building up against 'cap and trade' in our state could have national implications since the program here was crafted as a model for what President Obama had in mind for the whole country," Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, who heads up AFP's N.J. chapter, said in an interview. "The American people are opposed to these costly environmental regulations but they are still growing right under our feet at the state level with these regional initiatives. It's shocking how few people realize New Jersey already has the program."

A key figure here is Lisa Jackson, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, who previously served as the N.J. environmental commissioner under former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. Jackson helped formulate what is arguably the most restrictive and economically damaging global warming regulatory regime now in operation throughout the country. The N.J. law, which became effective in 2008, calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to where they were in 1990 "no later" than 2020. It further requires that emissions not exceed 80 percent of their 2006 levels "no later" than 2050.

Unfortunately, the New Jersey experience is part of a larger story.

Although the Kyoto Protocol has been held at bay on the federal level, environmental pressure groups have successfully lobbied for greenhouse gas regulations within various states. A crucial player in this area has been the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS), an unheralded but politically potent outfit that has worked successfully to bypass state legislatures and formulate regulatory policy with compliant governors in both parties. Chris Horner, a senior fellow with The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), has documented the organization's activities and methodology in a very detailed report for the Capital Research Center (CRC) that is worth reviewing in light of recent developments.

"The activists' new state-based strategy avoids open political debate," Horner explained in his report. "Instead, it depends on having the full range of left-wing pressure groups -- feminists, abortion and animal rights activists, labor organizers and other leftist factions -- make 'global warming' part of their message and mission. CCS is among those activist groups. This is the familiar 'crazy quilt' strategy of the Left, a long-march approach by which activists lobby states to adopt policies that cannot advance on their merits under the brighter glare of national legislating."

Under the existing Kyoto Protocol requirements, participating countries must commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to five percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Thus far, 187 countries have signed and ratified the treaty. While the U.S. was a signatory, President Clinton declined to seek ratification after the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 in favor of a resolution that opposed the treaty on economic grounds. For his part, President Bush described the treaty as "fatally flawed" and also refrained from pursuing Senate approval

Fat, fatuous Bob Beckel picks on Pamela Geller - bad move

Racist? 35% of black likely voters identify with Tea Party

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Tea Party movement, however, is the absence of a leadership hierarchy or centralized line of authority. There are thousands of Tea Party groups across America, including several that have established distinct national profiles. As Tea Party Patriots coordinator Mark Meckler told National Journal's Jonathan Rauch, "what we're doing is crowd-sourcing. I use the term 'open-source politics.' This is an open-source movement." Or, to put it in traditional terms, the Tea Partiers are a genuine grass-roots movement whose adherents span much of the political spectrum. "You could do worse than to think of the Tea Party Patriots as a left-wing organization with a right-wing, or at least libertarian, ideology," Rauch said.

And the movement is anything but racially segregated. Thirty-five percent of black likely voters identify with the Tea Party, including 17 percent who strongly identify with it, according to Vic Rubenfeld, director of polling for Pajamas Media TV. As for the liberal Democrats who have attacked it, the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll finds "likely voters say they are considerably more likely to vote for a candidate the president opposes than one he supports. On the other hand, 50 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a Tea Party-backed candidate while a third of Americans said Tea Party support would dissuade their vote for a candidate."

With numbers like that, Obama must wonder what the Tea Partiers know that he doesn't.

Finally, academics see fit to deny something to Bill Ayers

Every now and then, our monolithic, woefully over-priced universities do something right. A case in point is the news that University of Illinois trustees have denied emeritus status to a tenured faculty member: Bill Ayers.

Gee, with everything in his record, how did Ayers finally outrage university liberals? Well, it wasn't his past as a fugitive fleeing the law, when he assumed aliases taken from names of dead babies in cemeteries in towns where he hid. It wasn't even his more recent statements about harboring "no regrets" over bombing the Pentagon or police stations; after all, many aging tenured radicals, like Ayers in the 1960s, once referred to the military and police as "fascists" and "pigs." No, what did it was Ayers' dedication of his 1974 book, Prairie Fire, to no less than Sirhan Sirhan, assassin of Robert F. Kennedy.

The catalyst, of course, had to be something offensive to liberals, but we'll take it.

It turns out that one of the university's trustees is Christopher Kennedy, son of RFK. Kennedy implored the university community to "understand my motives and reasoning," noting, "How could I do anything else?" Indeed.

Kennedy shouldn't expect much level-headedness in return. This is, after all, the university community. One Ayers colleague told the Chicago Tribune she was "shocked" by the decision. And, naturally, the dean at the School of Education that hosted Ayers since 1987 protested that Ayers has been a "very good colleague" whose "good far outweighs any negative press."

Of course, the decision by the trustees was a no-brainer, but in our horribly un-diverse universities -- ideologically dominated by the left -- the real shock is that a just, sensible decision has been made.

Who's trying to fence out illegal aliens now? Mexico

Americans have been exposed to so much blatant hypocrisy from liberal Democrats and their fellow travelers around the world, especially those clowns at the United Nations, that we’ve almost lost our sense of outrage at the many examples of sanctimonious double-dealing that we’re expected to swallow unquestioningly. That being said, here’s another illustration of that flagrant pecksniffery (Bill O’Reilly’s going to love my actually using that word in a sentence) that’s being ignored by the liberal media and which just may trigger your gag reflex.

That’s right, Bubba, as Rob Nikolewski points out in his New Mexico Watchdog article, that wonderful exemplar of democratic principles, Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, who piously lecturedhis country from similar invasions and illegal activities from Central America. Americans on their lack of same for supporting Arizona’s attempt to protect itself from border incursions from his own lawless country, is quietly building a fence along a portion of Mexico’s own southern border to protect

And do you remember the boycott of the annual border governors’ conference, which was to be held in Arizona this summer, by several Mexican governors because they were protesting Arizona’s right to control its border?

When it comes to shameless hypocrisy, it appears the mendacious Mexicans could teach even the duplicitous Democrats a few things.

Shrunk by scandals, Teamsters move into growth industry - pot

In a first even for the notoriously shady labor movement, the marijuana industry has joined the country’s largest union in a state where the street drug is allowed for “medical purposes” and could soon be legalized for general use.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters welcomed the country’s first group of unionized “medical marijuana growers” this week, even though their work violates federal law. The 40 freshly unionized cannabis growers live and work in California, where pot is approved for medicinal use and could be legalized all together if voters approve a measure this November. Members of Oakland-based Teamsters Local 70 include gardeners, trimmers and cloners of a company that grows medical marijuana for patients.

Their new two-year contract provides them with a pension, paid vacation and health insurance. The union deal will also boost their current $18 hourly wages to $25.75 in a year and three months. After all, working in a cannabis yard can be grueling and requires long hours. Because the work violates federal law, the sorts of labor regulations that protect workers nationwide don’t really apply.

Good thing the Teamsters Union, famous for its ties to organized crime and the mysterious disappearance of its mob-connected president (Jimmy Hoffa), came to the rescue. The famously corrupt union, the world’s largest, has about 1.4 million members that contribute handsomely to Democrats.

Numerous corruption scandals over the years have caused a substantial dwindle in its membership so it’s not like the Teamsters can be picky. However, the union would not have gotten involved with the pot growers if it didn’t believe their business was legitimate. “The Teamsters would never organize an illegal business,” assures the union liaison handling the new marijuana group.

In a different but possibly related revelation involving marijuana in the Golden State, California’s largest labor union, the 700,000-member Service Employees International Union, has just endorsed the initiative (Proposition 19) to legalize pot. The coveted endorsement could boost the pro marijuana campaign, which has struggled to raise cash for advertisements.

Top Justice officials involved in Panther intimidation case dump

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released a draft Vaughn index prepared by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that shows that the two top political appointees at the DOJ were involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). The index, obtained pursuant to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, contradicts sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision.

The Vaughn index produced by the DOJ describes documents that are currently being withheld in their entirety. The index details a series of internal DOJ emails regarding the Black Panther case between the highest political appointees inside Justice, including former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and the Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli.

For example, a May 10, 2009, email from Associate Attorney General Perrelli, the third highest ranking official in the DOJ, asks Deputy Associate Attorney General and former Democratic election lawyer Sam Hirsh, “Where are we on the Black Panther case?” The email also includes Deputy Attorney General Ogden’s “current thoughts on the case.”

Another email from former Acting Assistant Attorney General Lorretta King, dated May 12, 2009, was distributed to Attorney General Eric Holder through Odgen and Perrelli. Entitled, “Weekly Report for the Week ending May 8, 2009,” the email “Identifies matters deemed significant and highlights issues for the senior offices, including an update on a planned course of action in the NBPP (New Black Panther Party) litigation.”

The index produced to Judicial Watch seemingly contradicts testimony by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on May 14, 2010. The Commission, an independent, bipartisan unit of the federal government charged with investigating and reporting on civil rights issues, initiated a probe of the DOJ’s decision to drop its lawsuit. During the hearing, Perez was asked directly regarding the involvement of political leaders in the decision to dismiss the Black Panther case.

COMMISSIONER KIRSANOW: Was there any political leadership involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case any further than it was?

ASST. ATTY. GEN. PEREZ: No. The decisions were made by Loretta King in consultation with Steve Rosenbaum, who is the Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Perez also suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Prosecutor in failed case against Sen. Ted Stevens kills himself

NPR has learned that lawyer Nick Marsh took his own life over the weekend.

Marsh was one of the lawyer's who prosecuted former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens for corruption, a prosecution that failed amidst charges of misconduct. The Attorney General dropped that case, saying there were problems with sharing evidence with the defense.

The judge in the case appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether the government had broken the law. Separately, the Justice department's Office of Professional Responsibility launched a probe of its own.

The investigation had been going on for more than a year and a report by the Special Prosecutor is expected in a few weeks. Marsh's lawyer, Bob Luskin, says he thought his client would not be charged. But apparently the strain of the investigation was just too much.

Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division released this statement:

"Our deepest sympathies go out to Nick's family and friends on this sad day. The Department of Justice is a community, and today our community is mourning the loss of this dedicated young attorney."

As the election nears, Democrats get out the rebranding irons

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Rep. Dina Titus has been a loyal soldier in pushing the Democrats' ambitious agenda, voting for health care legislation, extended unemployment benefits, new energy taxes and a repeal of the military's ban on gays serving openly.
Her campaign signs, however, proclaim Titus an "independent voice" for Nevadans.

Aware that their stock has taken the same tumble as home values, Congress' most vulnerable Democrats are declaring their independence from their party's agenda in Facebook profiles, television advertisements, news interviews and campaign websites leading up to the Nov. 2 election. That's when Republicans hope to retake control of the House they lost four years ago.

The rebranders include Democratic Reps. Betsy Markey and John Salazar in Colorado, Zack Space in Ohio, Jason Altmire in Pennsylvania, Glenn Nye in Virginia and Joe Donnelly in Indiana. In Texas, Rep. Chet Edwards, once promoted as a potential running mate for Barack Obama, has become a vocal critic of his party's policies.

The tactic could hurt Democratic turnout at a time when the party needs to protect its majority in Congress, some political strategists say.

"They want to get turnout as high as possible among those who vote for Democrats," said Joseph Bafumi, a government professor at Dartmouth College. "Running away from the president or the party might not be the way to do it."

Democrats such as Altmire, Edwards, Space and Nye stand out for defying party leaders on leading issues such as health care, but they are having to defend their independent bona fides because of the "D" after their name.

Titus and others have raised eyebrows for carrying water for Obama in vote after vote, only to pivot and say they are not beholden to a party.

Salazar, for example, opposed federal money for abortions and new clean-energy taxes. But he also voted for many Democratic priorities unpopular among conservatives, including the stimulus bill, health care reform and debt-financed extended unemployment benefits.

Sliding toward the middle is a tested tactic. It could appeal to moderate Republican and nonpartisan voters alarmed by the number of hard-right candidates under the GOP banner this year.

Washington Times demands house cleaning at Justice over Panther voter intimidation and race-based enforcement policies

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez has an obligation to clean house at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. That's clear after explosive new whistle-blower testimony under oath Friday in the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case, which triggers a pledge Mr. Perez made under oath on May 14. Failure to fire some officials and to radically revamp practices in the Civil Rights Division would represent clear dereliction of duty by Mr. Perez.

Friday's testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights came from much-decorated Justice Department veteran Christopher Coates, a hero of the civil rights legal community when he was a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The election of President Obama," he said, "brought to positions of influence and power with the Civil Rights Division many of the very people who had demonstrated hostility to the concept of equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act."

Mr. Coates named names and gave numerous examples of how the division and its political supervisors refuse to enforce civil rights laws to protect white victims against black perpetrators. He said his supervisor, Loretta King, then serving in a political position as acting assistant attorney general, specifically forbade him from asking prospective employees if they would be willing to enforce civil rights laws in a race-neutral manner. Additionally, he testified that the department under Mr. Perez has refused to enforce federal law that requires states to remove ineligible voters - including dead people and incarcerated felons - from their voting rolls. Mr. Coates officially recommended a full year ago that the department enforce the law against at least eight states that were flagrantly noncompliant, but Mr. Perez and the Obama team ignored the issue.

All of this puts Mr. Perez, among others, in a bind. Not only is some of Mr. Perez's sworn testimony misleading, but his pledge to crack down against employees who act in a race-biased manner is being put to the test. On May 14, under questioning from Civil Rights Commissioner Todd Gaziano about employees making racialist nonenforcement statements and decisions, Mr. Perez said four different times that he would not put up with what he called "people of that ilk." Mr. Perez indignantly challenged Mr. Gaziano, "If you have such a statement, bring such a statement to our attention."

Mr. Coates now has confirmed sworn testimony from other witnesses that Mr. Perez's team did and continues to act in a race-biased manner. Mr. Coates swore that he told the same thing to Mr. Perez before Mr. Perez testified in May. Even before that, multiple press reports dating back to last September indicated this allegation of racialist nonenforcement of voting rights laws was a serious concern. Yet Mr. Perez seems to have questioned nobody about it, disciplined nobody over it or raised a finger to address the problem.

This broad issue of deliberately unequal enforcement of the law is the main point of the Black Panther investigation. The evidence points to racially unequal enforcement - and a dangerous abrogation of justice.

Ann Coulter tries to nudge gay conservatives away from the marriage issue: "It's not a civil right; you're not black"

NEW YORK, N.Y. — They’re here. They’re queer. And they want a lower capital gains tax.

GOProud, a Washington-based group that dubs itself as “the only national organization of gay conservatives and their allies,” hosted its first national gathering Saturday night in Manhattan, which included a guest appearance from Ann Coulter, a high-profile member of a growing chorus of conservatives who are beginning to welcome gays into the conservative movement.

The group represents a sliver of the gay community who agree with conservatives on many policy issues and say they are tired of the Democratic Party assuming it has a monopoly on their support. They believe in free markets, limited government and low taxes, but just happen to be attracted to the same sex

They know that they don’t fit comfortably into any traditional label: Some social conservatives are apprehensive to accept them because of their socially liberal views on gay marriage, and there are pockets of the left that abhor them for even entertaining the thought of supporting Republicans.

To help bridge the gap between social conservatives and gays who want to play a role in the conservative movement, enter Ann Coulter. (Stage right, of course.)

In a speech to about 150 GOProud supporters who gathered at the home of billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel in New York City, Coulter acknowledged that gays could play an important role in the conservative movement, but was clear about her continued opposition to gay marriage.

“I thought I’d try to talk you out of gay marriage,” Coulter said. “I will warn you that I have never failed to talk gays out of gay marriage.”

While the crowd seemed thrilled to hear the best-selling author roll off a string of classic Coulter one-liners that left many of them in stitches –“It’s hard to believe this now, but when Obama was running for president he presented himself as a moderate Democrat. To be fair, in Kenya he is a moderate.” — her speech against gay marriage failed to find many converts, if any.

Daily Caller suggests GOP's Washington insiders and National Review joined in campaign to sell the "Pledge to America"

On Friday, our Jon Ward reported a piece that described how House Republican leaders went about selling their “Pledge to America” to the rest of the Republican caucus

In the story, Ward explained how, at a meeting last Wednesday night of Republican lawmakers, leadership aides passed out an editorial from National Review that strongly endorsed the “Pledge.” Notably, the editorial said nothing about the elements of the “Pledge” that have proved unpopular among conservatives, including its now-famous failure to call for a ban on earmarks. Instead, the editorial showered praise on the effort, calling it, among many other flowery things, a “shrewd political document.”

If you’re a member of the Republican establishment in Washington, ideologically out of sync with your conservative supporters but anxious not to offend them, endorsements like these are precious. And indeed, leadership aides passed out copies of National Review’s editorial at the GOP caucus meeting. As Ward reported, none of this was accidental. According to two high-level sources, the editorial had been “prearranged” by Neil Bradley, an aide to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, with National Review.

Both National Review and Rep. Cantor’s office immediately denied any such arrangement. Both attacked Ward personally. National Review did so in print.

Not so fast. In addition to the two trusted sources who spoke on background to Ward, we have evidence that there was in fact coordination between National Review and Congressman Cantor’s office. We know that GOP leadership aides were aware of, and excited by, National Review’s editorial before it was published. We know that the piece was posted online just minutes prior to the start of the Wednesday evening caucus meeting, yet somehow aides were ready with copies to pass out to members. A coincidence? Please.

But there are also some things we don’t know. Who at National Review (or its non-profit arm, the National Review Institute) spoke to members of the Republican leadership staff about the editorial, and when? What was the substance of those conversations? And are there other instances in which National Review has used its influence to help the Republican leadership placate its conservative base?

We haven’t nailed down those details yet, but we plan to – and not just because one of our colleagues has been unfairly maligned, but because it matters.

There is an important debate taking place over the direction of conservatism and the future of the Republican Party – one in which Tea Party and other grassroots activists have developed an understandable distrust of the Washington-based Republicans who claim to represent them. In this case, National Review has taken sides, providing ideological cover for the party’s establishment wing at a critical moment. We think it’s worth knowing a lot more about that arrangement.

How ACORN, social service activists and public sector unions built the governmental monstrosity that threatens our future

The Tea Party movement may have arisen to protest rising deficits and increasing federal control of everything from health care to the auto industry -- but the big-government coalition it's fighting wasn't born in Washington. The federal agenda that the movement is now battling to overturn originated in state capitals like Albany, Trenton and Sacramento.

This agenda has been promoted with growing success in the last 50 years by a self-interested coalition of public-sector unions and social-advocacy groups that benefit from bigger government, higher taxes and more public control of the economy. Merely "taking back" Congress on Election Day won't stop the relentless rise of this coalition, which has at its disposal enormous resources.

President Obama is an expression of the big-government coalition, and his election to the White House was a signature event in its rise to power. He began his public life as a Chicago community activist heading a nonprofit funded heavily by government to organize neighborhood residents into a political force.

As a young college graduate immersed in the world of tax-bankrolled activism, Obama learned a lesson that many other activists also absorbed: To protect the funding that created and nourished their groups, community organizers like him had to head into politics.

An attractive candidate, Obama garnered the support of other activists in his Illinois campaigns, laying the groundwork for his presidential run. Members of ACORN, the controversial social-service group, were among his biggest supporters and worked hard to elect Obama to the US Senate, according to a 2003 article by a Chicago-area ACORN organizer.

In New York, government-funded activists long ago took the same road into politics as the young Obama. Organizers like Ramon Velez (who ran a vast, government-funded nonprofit network in The Bronx), Pedro Espada (who founded and ran Bronx health clinics) and Vito Lopez (who built a Queens social-service empire) all leapt from community activism into state and local politics.

By the early 1990s, in fact, a fifth of all New York City Council members and 15 percent of state legislators had come out of the social-service world. They could be counted on to advocate for higher taxes and more money for government services.

Over time, these activists partnered with another growing force in local government that shared their affinity for bigger government -- public-sector unions. These groups became important players in city halls and state capitals starting in the late 1950s, when then-New York City Mayor Robert Wagner gave public employees the right to collectively bargain in order to win their support in his battles with the Tammany Hall political machine.

Ajad meets with New Black Panthers and Farrakhan in NY

It was a strange week for the loony strongman from Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's six nights in New York featured a secret sit-down with militant minister Louis Farrakhan, heckling in a hotel bar, and a fear of being rubbed out that bordered on paranoia.

The president shared a hush-hush meal with Farrakhan and members of the New Black Panther Party Tuesday at the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street.

The meeting of the podium smackers took place in a banquet room, where the fiery leaders presumably exchanged theories on what's wrong with the world.

On Thursday night, Sudanese diplomats trying to get in to see Ahmadinejad at the Hilton Manhattan East, on 42nd Street, squared off with security and a pushing match ensued. Two well-dressed women in their 40s came in, sat at the hotel bar and ordered drinks.

One of them caught the attention of the president's security detail, which had set up a station in the hotel lobby. She was soon surrounded by eight angry Iranians, who ordered her to leave. She refused.

A manager tried to calm things down. Suddenly, the woman stood up and pointed at the Iranians, yelling, "You stoned my sister! You're murderers!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Midwest: from Obamaland to Dem "killing field" in two years

Two years after President Barack Obama swept the Midwest, Democratic fortunes in the region are sagging, with the GOP poised to make big gains by scooping up disaffected independent voters in a wide swath of states hit by job losses, budget woes and political scandal.

From Ohio to Iowa, there’s a yawning stretch of heartland states whose citizens voted for Obama and congressional Democrats in 2008, but who have lost patience waiting for an as-yet undelivered economic revival that was first promised in 2006, and then two years later. Now, they look set to stampede toward the out-of-power party.

“There's little doubt that the Midwest is the Democrats' toughest region this year,” Democratic pollster Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling wrote on the firm’s website Friday, adding that the firm is also finding an enthusiasm gap of about 10 points down from what existed in 2008.

“If the election was today the party would almost certainly lose the Governorships it holds in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It's also more than likely at this point to lose the Senate seats it has in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana, miss out on a once promising pick up opportunity in Ohio, and quite possibly lose their seat in Illinois as well. And there are too many House seats the party could lose in the region to count,” Jensen noted.

Top GOP pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies wrote in even harsher terms last week: “The Midwest is going to be a killing field for Democrats this year from western [Pennsylvania] through to the Plains, Republicans are going to sweep a LOT of Democrats right out of office.”

The states in question magnify what’s happening elsewhere in the country: dissatisfaction with Obama, unrest with Washington in general over major legislation that voters feel has merely piled onto the national debt, and the steady erosion of jobs.

George Will saves the best line for the last paragraph

Today, the parties' modest reforms -- the best kind -- have somewhat reduced the risks inherent in thorough democratization of the nomination process. Certainly the democratization has not correlated with dramatic improvements in the caliber of nominees. And the current president, whose campaign was his qualification for the office, is proof that even a protracted and shrewd campaign is not an infallible predictor of skillful governance.

Al Gore's film-maker moves from "An Inconvenient Truth" to an even more inconvenient truth about failed unionized schools

It’s the film the teachers unions don’t want you to see.

The revelatory documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” opened Friday to parents’ cheers — and union howls.

The film follows five families trying desperately to escape failing traditional public schools in favor of charter schools — and it profiles education reformers rebuilding a national school system that’s in ruins.

The unions panned the flick, naturally: It exposes how they drag kids down into the swamp, spotlighting how bad teachers are passed from school to school and how all-but-automatic tenure allows even the worst teachers to stay on the job.

But the most crushing scenes show the public lotteries that determine which kids will get the painfully few spots in charter schools they’re aching to enter. Tearful audience members called it “heartbreaking.”

Unions called it “manipulative [and] deceptive,” and bashed charters for trying to “lure” kids with the “false and absurd” premise that school choice matters.

False and absurd? Tell that to the thousands of parents who line up for the lotteries every year. And tell that to the kids stuck in failing schools.

Some educators are already standing up for the film. As one Michigan teacher and union rep told The Post: “Some of the union stuff is a huge obstacle to progress.”

To put it mildly.

What’s even more encouraging is that the film was was made by Davis Guggenheim — the fellow who was behind Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

That is to say, a committed Hollywood liberal. And when those folks reject the union label, it means that the bankruptcy of teacher-union-driven public education has become glaringly obvious to even the willfully blind.

Upon such revelations are real reform movements built.

Lt. Col. Allen West chides Barack Obama and his accomplices

Snapshot of Detroit gleaned from new census data

Red represents White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot represents 25 people

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The scoundrels resort again to the last refuge - inflation

Fed head Ben Bernanke and the FOMC dropped a new policy bomb at their meeting this week. Now they say inflation is too low. That's the real problem. And the solution? Punch up the money supply and punch down the dollar -- or what I used to call King Dollar. No more.

In the 24 hours following the Fed announcement, gold rocketed up toward $1,300, a new record high. And the dollar plunged. It's a big vote against the central bank and its constant tinkering and fine-tuning.

The Fed actually has opened the door even wider for more money-creating, balance-sheet-expanding, Treasury-bond-buying actions at its next scheduled meeting, which will come the day after the midterm elections on Nov. 3. That's when QE2 may sail. "Quantitative easing" is what they call it. I call it dollar whack-a-mole.

Here's a currency-trader quote from The Wall Street Journal: "Quantitative easing is broadly viewed to be corrosive to a currency's value." Right on, brother. Even though Bernanke doesn't get it, the weaker dollar will rev up inflation mighty fast.

But right now, the reflation trade is king, not the dollar. Gold, commodities, some stocks and foreign currencies are the place to be.

And do we really need more inflation? And should the Fed sacrifice the value of the dollar to get it?

The libertarian case against nation building in Afghanistan

...many conservatives used to deride nation-building as a utopian venture that had little to do with the nation’s real interests. In the case of Afghanistan, troops are being deployed to prop up a regime Washington doesn’t trust, for goals our president can’t define. There is a principled case to be made that a prolonged nation-building occupation is weakening our country militarily and economically. It’s a question of scarce resources and limiting the power of government. The immense price tag for war in Afghanistan can no longer be swept under the carpet or dismissed as an issue owned by peaceniks and pacifists, much less “the Democratic Party.”

We wrap korans in surgical masks to show respect while our artists depict Jesus lying in urine; oddly, it's the American way

While I've been talking about free speech in Copenhagen, several free speech issues arose in North America. I was asked about them both at the Sappho Award event and in various interviews, so here's a few thoughts for what they're worth:

Too many people in the free world have internalized Islam’s view of them. A couple of years ago, I visited Guantanamo and subsequently wrote that, if I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new copy of the Koran in each cell: To reassure incoming prisoners that the filthy infidels haven't touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Korans are hung from the walls in pristine, sterilized surgical masks. It's one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it's hard to see why it's in the interests of us infidels to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry. What does that degree of prostration before their prejudices tell them about us? It’s a problem that Muslims think we’re unclean. It’s a far worse problem that we go along with it.

Take this no-name pastor from an obscure church who was threatening to burn the Koran. He didn’t burn any buildings or women and children. He didn’t even burn a book. He hadn’t actually laid a finger on a Koran, and yet the mere suggestion that he might do so prompted the President of the United States to denounce him, and the Secretary of State, and the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, various G7 leaders, and golly, even Angelina Jolie. President Obama has never said a word about honor killings of Muslim women. Secretary Clinton has never said a word about female genital mutilation. General Petraeus has never said a word about the rampant buggery of pre-pubescent boys by Pushtun men in Kandahar. But let an obscure man in Florida so much as raise the possibility that he might disrespect a book – an inanimate object – and the most powerful figures in the western world feel they have to weigh in.

Aside from all that, this obscure church’s website has been shut down, its insurance policy has been canceled, its mortgage has been called in by its bankers. Why? As Diana West wrote, why was it necessary or even seemly to make this pastor a non-person? Another one of Obama's famous "teaching moments"? In this case teaching us that Islamic law now applies to all? Only a couple of weeks ago, the President, at his most condescendingly ineffectual, presumed to lecture his moronic subjects about the First Amendment rights of Imam Rauf. Where's the condescending lecture on Pastor Jones' First Amendment rights?

When someone destroys a bible, US government officials don’t line up to attack him. President Obama bowed lower than a fawning maitre d’ before the King of Saudi Arabia, a man whose regime destroys bibles as a matter of state policy, and a man whose depraved religious police forces schoolgirls fleeing from a burning building back into the flames to die because they’d committed the sin of trying to escape without wearing their head scarves. If you show a representation of Mohammed, European commissioners and foreign ministers line up to denounce you. If you show a representation of Jesus Christ immersed in your own urine, you get a government grant for producing a widely admired work of art. Likewise, if you write a play about Jesus having gay sex with Judas Iscariot.

So just to clarify the ground rules, if you insult Christ, the media report the issue as freedom of expression: A healthy society has to have bold, brave, transgressive artists willing to question and challenge our assumptions, etc. But, if it’s Mohammed, the issue is no longer freedom of expression but the need for "respect" and "sensitivity" toward Islam, and all those bold brave transgressive artists don’t have a thing to say about it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Detroit prof: "The ($787 billion) stimulus had no effect at all"

Wait a minute -- economists are now saying the Great Recession ended in June of 2009, when the economy began growing again.

But President Barack Obama is defending the $787 billion stimulus package, which failed to deliver the promised reduction in unemployment, by claiming it kept the economy from falling into a depression.

And yet, according to some economists, the recession was over before the stimulus dollars were spent.

We've been had, folks. Nearly $800 billion of our money was spent to end a recession that was already over. The massive spending didn't put Americans back to work. So all we end up with is a hugely expanded government and a gigantic debt that will be repaid with higher taxes on either ourselves or our grandchildren

Worse, all that spending likely made conditions worse and prolonged our misery because it sucked money out of the private sector, and the policy-making that surrounded it gave job creators the jitters.

"The stimulus had no effect at all," says Harry Veryser, a University of Detroit Mercy economics professor and author of an upcoming book on the collapse.

At least it has had no effect on employment, the measure everyday Americans use to determine when a recession has ended.

Gary Wolfram, an economist at Hillsdale College, contends employment is lagging because fears that the deficit will lead to higher taxes, as well as the uncertainty about the costs of Obamacare, have kept investors sitting on more than $3 trillion private dollars that ought to be going into job creation.

"As long as government creates this high level of uncertainty about the future, employment will not rebound," he says.

Wolfram adds that the money was squandered on a wish list of politically motivated projects and programs, and not strategically targeted to impact job creation in the hardest hit states, including Michigan.

"If we'd cut corporate income taxes instead, there would have been an immediate reaction from the economy," he says.

The spending also did little to shore up the housing market, which typically leads an economic comeback.

But Obama and his Democratic cohorts in Congress couldn't demonize corporations for destroying the economy, and then hand them a tax break. And if they had spent the money on a broad reduction in tax rates for individuals, they couldn't have steered the stimulus money toward their political supporters.

Michigan may let community colleges grant 4-year degrees

Lansing -- Students may soon be able to earn a bachelor's degree at some of Michigan's community colleges.

A bill passed Thursday by the state House of Representatives would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in nursing, culinary arts, maritime technology and concrete technology.

If the reform is passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan would join 17 other states that offer at least some four-year degrees at community colleges.

"This legislation is critical for Michigan's citizens and students, as well as the future of our state," Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association, said in a written statement. "(This) is truly a step forward in the retooling of Michigan's work force and its continuing transition into a knowledge-based economy."

That's not how public universities see it. Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan, blasted the legislation as bad for the economy and students.

"There is no waiting line for these programs now," he said. "Community colleges do not have the base of professional educators needed to provide accredited bachelor's degrees." Hiring more faculty and support staff will increase the costs at community college, Boulus added.

But Luke Pickelman of the Michigan Community College Association said community colleges will add the four-year programs without adding staff.

"We won't be asking the state for more money," he said.

The bill has stirred tensions between community colleges and the state's public universities, where community college students often transfer to earn a bachelor's degree.

Community colleges have seen enrollments rise as the education needs of the work force increase, but they can't upgrade their offerings to the four-year programs that more fields require.

The bill received bipartisan support in the Democrat-led House and moves to the Republican-led Senate, where it may have a tougher challenge. Matt Marsden, spokesman for Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said "it's not something that is on the majority leader's radar."

Former voting rights chief testifies Justice Department wrongly dropped voter intimidation case against New Black Panthers

The Justice Department is ignoring civil rights cases that involve white victims and wrongly abandoned a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party last year, a top department official testified Friday. He called the department's conduct a "travesty of justice."

Christopher Coates, former voting chief for the department's Civil Rights Division, spoke under oath Friday morning before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a long-awaited appearance that had been stonewalled by the Justice Department for nearly a year.

Coates discussed in depth the DOJ's decision to dismiss intimidation charges against New Black Panther members who were videotaped outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008 dressed in military-style uniforms -- one was brandishing a nightstick -- and allegedly hurling racial slurs.

The case has drifted in and out of the limelight over the past year as the commission has struggled to investigate it. Former Justice official J. Christian Adams fueled the controversy when he testified in July and accused his former employer of showing "hostility" toward cases that involved white victims and black defendants.

Nearly three months later, Coates backed up Adams' claims. In lengthy and detailed testimony, he said the department cultivates a "hostile atmosphere" against "race-neutral enforcement" of the Voting Rights Act.

He said civil rights attorneys stick to cases that involve minority victims, and he said the Black Panther case was dismissed following "pressure" by the NAACP and "anger" at the case within the Justice Department itself.

"That anger was the result of their deep-seated opposition to the equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities and for the protection of white voters who have been discriminated against," he said.

He said a 2005 case against a black official in Mississippi over voter intimidation claims had stirred a backlash in the department and from civil rights groups -- and that the New Black Panther case was no different.

The Bush Justice Department first brought the case against three members of the group, accusing them in a civil complaint of violating the Voting Rights Act. The Obama administration initially pursued the case and at one point won a default judgment, but the administration last year moved to dismiss the charges after getting one of the New Black Panther members to agree not to carry a "deadly weapon" near a polling place until 2012.

Coates dismissed as weak the department's rationale for abandoning the case, saying the department let one of the Black Panther members off the hook because a local police officer had determined he was a Democratic Party poll watcher. Coates called it "extraordinarily strange" for the department to rely on this and urged the commission to consider what the legal backlash would have been if the Panthers had been members of the Ku Klux Klan.

"To understand the rationale of these articulated reasons for gutting this case ... one only has to state the facts in the racial reverse," he said. Coates said that with the United States becoming increasingly diverse, it is "absolutely essential" that the law be enforced equally.

"As important as the mandate in the Voting Rights Act is to protect minority voters, white voters also have an interest in being able to go to the polls without having race-haters such as Black Panther King Samir Shabazz, whose public rhetoric includes such statements as 'kill cracker babies' ... standing at the entrance of the polling place with a billy club in his hand hurling racial slurs at voters," he said.

"Given this outrageous conduct, it was a travesty of justice for the Department of Justice not to allow attorneys in the voting section to obtain nationwide injunctive relief against" the defendants, he said.

Since last year, Coates has been transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina. He said Friday that the Justice Department told him not to testify before the commission after he was first subpoenaed in December 2009; in testifying Friday, he claimed protection from retaliation under "whistleblower" laws.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., also wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder warning the Justice Department not to punish Coates in any way for testifying.

What do Walter Cronkite, John Kerry, Maxine Waters and Jimmy Carter have in common? Read on for the whole list

This is the first in a weekly series of exclusive interviews with Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, who has just released a major book revealing how the far Left—most notably, communists—has long manipulated America’s liberals/progressives. Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, is based on an unprecedented volume of declassified materials from Soviet archives, FBI files, and more, and is being hailed as groundbreaking. Herb Meyer, special assistant to the CIA director from 1981-87, says that Dupes “alters our understanding of the 20th century.” Big Peace’s own Peter Schweizer calls it the “21st century equivalent” to Whittaker Chambers’ classic Witness.

Each week at Big Peace, Professor Kengor will profile one of his book’s Big Dupes. We kick-off with this introduction.

Big Peace: Okay, what’s a dupe?

Kengor: A dupe is someone who has been deceived or misled by opponents of the United States, for the purpose of serving the interests of those opponents. The dupe is an active but unwitting participant. The word has been used since the founding of the republic; George Washington warned about dupes in his Farewell Address. The duping process, however, accelerated exponentially when the Bolsheviks took Russia in 1917, as they launched a systematic effort to target America’s liberals/progressives, with their allies in the American Communist Party carefully aiding the process.

Big Peace: Your focus, then, begins in the 1910s?

Kengor: Yes, particularly with the founding of the Communist Party in the United States in September 1919. The book features actual original documents from that founding, delivered by the American comrades to their pals at the Soviet Comintern—sent directly from their convention in Chicago.

From there, the book moves through the Stalin period. During the Cold War, the duping was done on a remarkable scale, with impressive craftsmanship by communist propagandists. The communists had amazing success with liberals/progressives—successes that shocked the communists. Bolsheviks handlers were astounded at how easily they managed and misled these Americans, especially elites from major universities. This is quite clear from the archives, particularly Soviet Comintern Archives on Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

Big Peace: Who are the dupes in your book?

Kengor: For starters: Ted Kennedy, John Dewey, Jimmy Carter. I should pause to note that Carter graces the cover, kissing Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev, a fitting metaphor. There’s also FDR, duped by Stalin himself, and possibly duped by his most trusted adviser, Harry Hopkins, who some now claim may have been a Soviet spy (“Agent 19”). Also, John Kerry, Dick Durbin, “Baghdad Jim” McDermott, Arthur Miller, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Jane Fonda, Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Howard Zinn, Walter Cronkite, Helen Thomas, John Murtha, Maxine Waters, Pete Stark, Barbara Lee, the late Claude “Red” Pepper. That’s merely a sample. This book covers 600 pages, but I was forced to hold back, so target-rich is the environment. This could be a multi-volume set.

Big Peace: What about Frank Marshall Davis, Obama’s mentor?

Kengor: Initially, I struggled to determine if Davis was a dupe or duper. I can now say he was a duper. Frank Marshall Davis was a longtime communist, an actual Communist Party member. No question. Shame on the liberal “journalists” and Obama biographers refusing to dig deeper and present that obvious conclusion. I lay this out in careful detail, with page after page of documentation. I’ll share some of that here when we profile him. Come back in a couple weeks and I’ll give Davis’s actual Communist Party card number.

Mind you, this was the literal mentor of our current president.

Obama bureaucrat announces start of propaganda campaign

( - U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan vowed on Tuesday that his department would work to make American children into "good environmental citizens" through federally subsidized school programs beginning as early as kindergarten that teach children about climate change and prepare them "to contribute to the workforce through green jobs."

“Right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, preparing our children to be good environmental citizens is some of the most important work any of us can do. It’s work that will serve future generations--and quite literally sustain our world,” Duncan said at the Education Department’s "Sustainability Education Summit: Citizenship and Pathways for a Green Economy."

“This week’s sustainability summit represents the first time that the Department is taking a taking a leadership role in the work of educating the next generation of green citizens and preparing them to contribute to the workforce through green jobs,” said Duncan. “President Obama has made clean, renewable energy a priority because, as he says, it’s the best way to 'truly transform our economy, to protect our security, and save our planet.'

Independents want time out, favor Republicans in 2010 election

In an ominous sign for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, independent voters now favor Republicans by nearly the same margins that they went for Obama in 2008 and for his party in the 2006 midterms, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released Wednesday.

“For the third national election in a row, independent voters may be poised to vote out the party in power,” Pew concludes after its study of 2,816 registered voters, including 1,069 independent registered voters. The study, conducted Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

If the breadth of the GOP’s gains this fall is determined by these independent voters, the one possible problem for the party, the poll found, could be if GOP candidates pay too much attention to a handful of social issues that historically have driven away some swing voters.

That is among the few areas in which more independents, 39 percent, say Democrats reflect their views, compared with 33 percent who say Republicans do.

Republican strategists are mindful of the risk, which helps explain why House GOP leaders downplayed such issues as abortion and gay marriage when they unveiled “A Pledge to America,” a pamphlet that emphasized the economic agenda Republicans say they will push if they regain the majority.

It’s a message they hope will have broad appeal with independent voters who, the Pew survey found, are paying more attention to and are likely to participate in higher numbers in this year’s midterms than in those of the past decade.

Unlike the most recent election cycles, when independents complained about the lack of progress in Washington on major issues facing the country, these critical swing voters now are expressing high anxiety with what Congress and the White House have already done.

Overall, 45 percent of independents disapprove of the health care reforms passed this year, compared with 41 percent who approve of them. A third of independents say Obama’s economic policies have made conditions worse for them rather than better, compared with 24 percent who take a more positive view.

“They feel that the issues have been dealt with but not in a way that is satisfactory to them,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

The upshot is that independents appear to be clamoring for a time-out in Washington, as they absorb what already has passed and stall any other big new reforms.

Cato's Gene Healy goes where no one has gone before, striving valiantly to kind of rehabilitate the record of Jimmy Carter

In 1978, hampered by post-Prohibition regulations, the United States had all of 44 breweries. "It doesn't get any better than this," the famous Old Milwaukee commercials assured us — and it wouldn't have, if it weren't for Jimmy Carter signing legislation legalizing craft brewing.

Today, "Joe Six-Pack" can choose from more than 1,400 domestic brewers. Conservative tipplers ought to raise a stein to Jimmy, thanking him that we're not still swilling Stroh's coast-to-coast.

Why, then, does our 39th president fare so poorly in the presidential rankings?

Carter-bashers seem obsessed with style over substance: that Mr. Rogers sweater, the "malaise" speech, Carter's sanctimonious, unlovable public persona — the way he seemed to personify national decline.

People want the illusion of control: a comforting, competent father-protector at the helm of our national destiny — and Carter couldn't fake that role as well as most presidents before or since.

Liberals downgrade the Carter presidency as one short on transformative visions: It brought no New Deals, no New Frontiers. Instead, at its best, the Carter legacy was one of workaday reforms that made significant improvements in American life: cheaper travel and cheaper goods for the middle class. Ironically enough, the president you'd never want to have a beer with brought you better beer — and much else besides.