Category Archives: Politics

Social Justice

The protest during the playing of the national anthem violates a tradition at sporting events for as long as anyone can remember. It started, as everyone knows, with Colin Kaepernick. That did not sit well with many fans, and when he failed to get hired by any NFL football team, other players started to sit in solidarity with poor Colin. Once President Trump weighed in on the issue, it really caught on and whole teams were kneeling.

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Fans, believing that players were disrespecting the flag and the many military men and women who had died defending our freedoms, really got pissed. People started boycotting the games and burning their team gear. Viewership of televised games started falling off dramatically. The Sporting News reported that their surveys showed that fully 1/3 of adults said they were less likely to watch a game because of the protests. A JD Power poll showed that 26% stopped watching because of protests and 24% because of the players off-field behavior. (Note: The USA Today and their “NFL player arrests database” shows there have been 870 arrests of NFL players for everything from DUI and drug possession to assault, domestic violence and murder in the last 17 years.) The ratings for games that had been slipping in recent years are now deteriorating at even more alarming pace.

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The NFL is a huge business. TV broadcasters pay $4.6 billion annually to televise the games and they wouldn’t pay that unless they were making a fat profit from advertisers. The value of the average NFL team has grown to $2.4 billion and the average salary for players is $2.1 million with some of the star players getting $20 million or more.

I’ve always believed that it is not a good business strategy to piss off your customers. The fellows that own these teams did not get rich by being stupid so some of teams said “enough” and insisted players stand.  The TV networks started not televising the national anthem at the start of the games. That, I think, is a spineless approach but is nonetheless consistent with the way the major networks handle many news items. (If we don’t show it or talk about it, it didn’t happen.)

The players contend that their protests are not about disrespecting the flag and anthem but they are demanding “social justice”. I did not know what social justice is or how we would know when it had been achieved so that players could once again stand for the anthem. I found a number of definitions on the internet, most pretty vague. Two of them sounded intelligible. “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunity and privileges within society.” OK, that sounds like socialism to me. The government and its bureaucrats decide what is fair and hands out equal slices of the pie to everyone. I wonder how the best players in the NFL would feel if everyone on their team got the same salary?

This second explanation from the Business Dictionary was: “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to natural law that all persons irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions or race are treated equally without prejudice.” That definition defies an effort to either understand what is wanted or how to measure improvement.

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I believe that this whole thing is just an offshoot of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, a largely political anti-police organization. All the hysteria over the shooting of blacks by the police has had some negative impact of the lives of the innocents who live in the inner cities. Called “The Ferguson Effect” it intimated police into less aggressive policing and the result of that is an increase in black on black murders. Chicago saw a 32% increase in homicides in 2016 and is on track to top 700 murders again in 2017. The reality according to the NY Post is that police are 18.5 times more likely to be killed by black males than the other way around.

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The reality is that the inner cities where a lot of these players grew up are disaster zones of crime, dependency and drugs. 64% of the residents are on Federal assistance and 72% of all black births are to unmarried women. The inner city schools are a mess where according to a 2009 NYT piece the 50 largest cities have graduation rates of 53%.  Cleveland won the worst prize at 38%. Further studies in 2015 showed little to no improvement. Most of these fatherless young men grow up in hopelessness.

Except for those that win the genetics lottery and have exceptional athletic gifts. Those lucky few can parley those gifts into a free ride at a university where they are pampered, and if extremely fortunate, get drafted into the NFL. Even those that do not make it to the NFL have the opportunity to get a university education and escape the ghetto.

Some others may win the actual lottery and find places in charter schools like Harlem Success Academy. Those children have an improved chance of moving on to college or junior college and making their escape. For the rest…a short life is expected.

So how did the US cities become such a mess? I believe it all started with Lynden Johnson’s “Great Society” which is defined as “a set of programs designed to eliminate poverty and racial injustice”. So how did that work out after 53 years? Not great it seems. It did, however, work out just fine for Democrats. By turning many blacks into a dependent class they insured their loyalty at the ballot box. Blacks vote for the Democrat candidate about 90% of the time.

All major US cities have been controlled by Democrats for decades. Detroit last had a Republican mayor in 1957. For the arithmetic impaired that’s 60 years! Democrats have controlled in Chicago since 1927; St. Louis since 1949; and Philadelphia since 1952. Coupled with graft, cronyism and expensive deals with the public sector unions most of these cities accumulated massive debt. White flight from the cities and the migration of industry to non-union and low tax southern states caused jobs became scarce. Johnson’s dream exploded like an overfilled balloon.

If you ever get lost and accidentally drive through one of these inner city ghettos, you will see what an enormous task it would be to fix it. I have very little optimism it can be done. First, a lot of people like it just the way it is; the public sector unions, especially the teachers’ unions and the politicians. That means they will continue to elect the very same kind of people who created the mess. So waiting for the arrival of Social Justice will be like waiting for Godot.

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The Swamp

“When you’re up to your ass in alligators it’s difficult to remember that your original objective was to drain the swamp.”
Author unknown

Donald Trump came to Washington to “drain the swamp”. He’s finding it extraordinarily difficult to get it done. It turns out that the denizens of the swamp are fighting desperately to prevent it. And why not? It is one sweet deal for the swamp dwellers.

The four counties surrounding the White House are the wealthiest in the nation, surpassing LA and NYC. According to the NYT (5/12/17) there are 34 billionaires within a 25 mile radius of downtown and 2,049 residents worth more than 30 million, 45% of the workers earn more than $100,000 per year.

So who are these people and what do they do? According to Atlantic Monthly (12/18/13) they are lawyers, defense contractors, doctors and computer geeks. Mostly, they are lobbyists. In 2017 there are 34,700 registered lobbyists in Washington and among them 4,000 tax lobbyists.  They represent everything from large multi-national corporations to non-profits, unions and every manner of special interest groups.

Money is the lubricant that keeps the Washington machine running and there is lots of it devoted to lobbying. In the last decade corporations spent $14.4 billion and $2.4 billion on tax lobbying. The revolving door of government…. Retiring from government office and turning to lobbying your former colleagues can prove to be a very cushy retirement program indeed. Former Senators Breaux and Trent Lott put together a little lobbying team and netted $39.6 million in fees since 2008. The Podesta Group pulled in $32.3 million and former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein a piddling $29.2 million.

Congress is the other major group that does not want their comfortable swamp existence disturbed. There are 53 members who have held office for more than 40 years. Democrats have the distinction of having the top 17 with the longest time in Congress and despite having an approval rating with the public that is consistently around 10%, most get re-elected at an unbelievable rate. In the Senate it’s generally 90% and the House in the high 90s with 98% not uncommon.

So why would these guys fight to stay in office for what seems like relatively modest pay ($174,000 per year)? Simple. It’s the other stuff.

First, they get 239 days off. (Yeah, I know. They are back in their districts serving their constituents or maybe servicing their interns.) They have a generous allowance to manage their office and pay their staff. House members all receive $944,671 per year for this while Senators have an average of about $3 million. It’s slightly less or more depending on the population of the state.

Of course, there are other perks such as free gym, free deluxe parking at Reagan International (annual cost to taxpayers $740,000), many free flights and subsidies of 72% for health care under ObamaCare. Ever wonder why they are not too enthusiastic about repeal?

Retirement program is pretty nice too. Members need at least five years of service and must be at least 62 years old to receive a pension or 50 years old with 20 years of service. Depending on the number of years it can be up to 80% of their base salary.

The biggie though in my opinion is the weakened insider trading rules for members of congress and their staffs. For years members could trade in stocks with inside knowledge. How do you think all these guys become millionaires? For example, a CEO is having lunch with a member of congress ostensibly discussing a certain tax break that would benefit his company. He “accidentally” lets it slip that he is going to announce the takeover of a rival company meaning the stock price of that company is going to go up. The Congressman quietly buys shares of the target company and bingo, quick profit. Same deal and even more lucrative in the case of initial public offerings.

In 2012, an election year, Peter Schweizer, who had authored a book called “Throw Them All Out” went on 60 Minutes and exposed this scam. An embarrassed Congress publicly passed the STOCK Act to prohibit this practice. After the election they secretly and very quietly pulled the teeth of the restrictions and it was back to business as usual.

I guess if you’re a member of congress that’s been around for 40 years and some bombastic businessman comes in a says he’s gonna drain the swamp you would probably just say “why?” If they had wanted it drained they’d have done it already. Of course the Democrats are not going to vote for anything proposed by Trump. They have been on an unbelievable losing streak for a long time now and with the same leadership cannot imagine doing anything differently. Also, they still cannot believe Hillary lost but bitterness is not a policy prescription.

Many Republicans are no different. They like things just fine the way they are and resent Trump’s boorish, arrogant style. He said some nasty things to several of the Senators during the presidential primary so there’s a bit of payback going on. In addition, if Trump’s agenda gets passed and is successful he might be re-elected and a few of these fellows still lust after the Presidency and they don’t want to wait seven more years for a go.

Trump has had no legislative successes. The GOP attempts to repeal and replace ObamaCare failed and the tax cut proposals will likely suffer the same fate. GOP defections are the problem. The only accomplishment was the confirmation of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Democrats did not fight hard on that one because he was replacing a conservative. The next one will be a battle royal. All other successes for the new Trump administration have been by Executive Orders. He approved the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines; permitted fracking; allowed energy development on public lands and ended the war on coal by repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.

In addition, Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Global Climate Change Green Fund and the Climate Investment Funds, all expensive sops for the global warming crowd. Trump’s EPA also voided the Waters of the US rule, an Obama-era power grab that essentially put every ditch and wet spot in the US under federal jurisdiction. Good riddance.

Government jobs outnumber manufacturing jobs. 9,890,000 people work for the government. So far in 2017 13,000 federal jobs have been eliminated but 7,000 state and local jobs added. Trump’s businessmen oriented cabinet has also been chopping away at the deadwood in the big government bureaucracies. Trump wants to cut $54 billion out of the government agencies. According to a Scientific American article (3/16/17) the Trump budget proposes cutting funding to the EPA by 31%, the Energy Department by 5.6%, Interior by 12% and the State Department by 28%. Former Exon CEO Tillerson and now Secretary of State is finishing up a reorganization plan for State that will seriously downsize this bloated agency.

As everyone can understand, anyone facing the ax from their cushy job is unhappy about what Trump is trying to do. It is no wonder that the Administration leaks like a rotten wooden boat.

It will be fascinating to see whether Trump or the alligators win this one. I’m betting on the alligators.

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Occupiers

In my recent blog, I was a little cautious in predicting Obama inspired riots this summer. Looks like things are off to an earlier start than I anticipated. The “Occupy Wall Street” fad seems to be spreading across the continent like a YouTube talking cat video. College radicals, anarchists, Marxists and union thugs have formed a scruffy unwashed mob demanding….. well, that’s a little muddled. They are unhappy with capitalism and the current state of affairs but seem convinced that Obama had no part in the mess. It’s the fault of banks and “Wall Street” apparently.
Unsurprisingly, Obama and his dim witted VP seem to be encouraging this rag tag, spoiled collection of losers. They seem to believe that the OWS crowd is the answer to the Tea Party. Doubtful.
Certainly the arrival of winter and nasty weather will discourage the protesters but rest assured, they will be back when the weather warms up. If the inner city minorities get into it as I expect, we could be in for a long and contentious summer. As I have suggested in the past, this might be a good time to stock up on food and ammo.
Happy Thanksgiving (Canadian). Moose hunting begins Monday. Fill the freezer and hope for the best.

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Civility

In May of 2010 President Obama spoke at the graduation of the University of Michigan and echoed a theme often proclaimed in his campaign and speeches since his election. He spoke of the ”…basic need to improve the level of civility in our public debate.’ He warned against “demonizing our political opponents or questioning their motives or patriotism.” He continued, “This kind of vilification and over the top rhetoric discourages compromise, undermines democratic deliberation and robs us of a rational and serious debate. It can even send signals that violence is a justifiable response.”

He’s said these kinds of things repeatedly until the word “civility” has become trite. Surprisingly, he does not even make a token effort to rein in his supporters and administration officials who have become increasingly aggressive and uncivil, as his poll numbers have declined.

A classic example comes from Obama’s Labor Day address at a rally in Detroit. Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa introduced him with a fiery speech calling GOP congressional leaders “sons of bitches” and calling for Democrats to “take them out.” Obama took the podium and did not bother to caution Hoffa about the need for civility. Later AFL-CIO President Trumka defended Hoffa and added his own inflammatory comments on his website.

VP, Joe Biden, in his labor day remarks in Cincinnati opined that, “Unions are the only ones keeping the barbarians from the gate.” That’s not the dumbest thing Joe ever said but…

Andre Carlson, one of only two Muslim members of Congress and a leader in the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a vitriolic speech in late August that the Tea Party was intent on “lynching Black Americans”. He advised Black voters to “prepare for war.” Really? Lynching? War?

Maxine Waters, long known for her less than civil remarks weighed in with “The Tea Party can go straight to Hell!” Thanks for sharing, Ms. Waters. (article from the WA Post here.)

OK. We get it. Obama cannot run on his record so he needs someone to blame. His focus group testing has told him that blaming Bush for high unemployment and a dismal economy no longer sells. So he’s decided to attack the Tea Party and conservative Republicans in Congress. His “jobs speech” on Thursday was Exhibit A in this strategy. He said “pass this bill now” dozens of times. Only problem, Mr. President…. There is no bill!! Not a word has been written. There is nothing to vote on. I believe his plan is to play “rope a dope” on this like he did with the debt ceiling debate. IOW, keep changing the terms and backing out of deals until in frustration, little gets accomplished. Then on the campaign trail next summer he can say, “If the damn Republicans had done what I asked them to do, we wouldn’t be in this fix now. It’s not my fault.”

His other strategy is to allow and encourage his hard-core supporters to demonize the Tea Party in hopes of intimidating them into silence and to reduce their influence on less informed voters. This can be a dangerous path. Despite his wise and cautionary words about staying civil in our political debate, his failure to rein in the rhetoric of his supporters can easily get out of hand. Some worrisome examples:


· Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin attempted to make some modest adjustments in public employee benefits in an effort to get control of the state’s budget woes. Unions and leftist stormed the capitol and occupied the building for weeks, vandalizing the place. Democrat lawmakers fled the state to avoid voting and later millions of union dollars from outside the state flowed into recall campaigns against GOP office holders. Money wasted. It did not work.

· This summer roving bands of Black youths attacked whites leaving the Wisconsin State Fair, pulling people from their cars and beating them. The same thing happened at the Iowa State Fair.


· “Flash Mobs” in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Los Angles, Chicago, Cleveland and DC featured Black youths rioting, beating innocent by standers and looting stores. Read about any of this?

· In Longview, WA this past week 500 union members from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union broke into a grain terminal and took the security guards hostage while they rampaged through the facility cutting train brake lines and dumping grain from the boxcars. This despite a restraining order requested by the NLRB because of previous violence and harassment on the part of the union. This is not collective bargaining, its collective mayhem.


Hear about any of this in the mainstream media? Not too bloody likely. Did Obama or his AG, Holder speak out and condemn any of this? No. The preacher of “civility” remained totally silent. Worse, Holder in his refusal to prosecute the Black Panthers in the voter intimidation case in Phillie (Hey, they already pled guilty) has sent a signal to the Black community that lawlessness is OK.


Black unemployment has reached a 27- year high under Obama at 16.7% with Black youth at 41%. That’s a lot of people with plenty of time on their hands and there are many purveyors of hate out there to incite their anger and disappointment.

Consider this: Note: I am NOT predicting this, only saying that the following scenario MAY be possible.


As the 2012 campaign for President proceeds into the late summer and the US economy continues its slide into deep recession with high unemployment, especially in the inner cities, the rhetoric becomes more heated. The “rich” (code for “White”) and the Tea Party (“Racist and White”) are blamed. It becomes increasingly likely that Obama is going to go down to defeat in a landslide election. In the inner cities throughout the US, Blacks riot in rage and frustration. The cities burn and the violence spills out into the predominately white suburbs where frightened citizens break out their hunting rifles in self-defense. Meanwhile, unions fearing their loss of an ally in the White House stage illegal job disruptions and violent confrontations with police.

Obama declares Marshall Law and calls in the troops of the Army’s Northern Command to restore order. He orders the confiscation of all firearms. (Can’t do it? Posse Comitatus is full of loop-holes and they did confiscate all firearms in New Orleans during Katrina.) He postpones the 2012 elections indefinitely. Civil war erupts…. Again.

OK, that’s the doomsday scenario and I’m not saying it will happen. However, Obama could do much to calm things down by reiterating his calls for “civility” and kicking the asses of his own supporters in the media and fellow Democrats when they cross the line.

That he has not shown leadership and done so already worries me.

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A Big Melt

Midwesterners may “cling to their guns and religion” as candidate Obama alleged during the 2008 campaign. But it must also be acknowledged that liberals and the Obama Administration desperately cling to the theory of global warming despite a barrage of evidence suggesting the whole theory is a massive hoax.


As public opinion and concern has swung against them, AGW enthusiasts have become more and more shrill. Exhibit One in this phenomenon is Al Gore’s recent meltdown at the Aspen Institute where he addressed the Networks and Citizenship Panel. Bloated, red faced and with neck veins bulging, Gore delivered the following crude rant.


There’s no longer a shared reality. It’s no longer acceptable in mixed company – bi-partisan company- to use the goddamn word “climate.” Some of the exact same people
– I can go down a list of their names – are involved in this. And what do they do? They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message, “This climate thing is nonsense.” “Man-made C02 doesn’t trap heat.“ “It may be volcanoes.” Bullshit! “It may be sunspots.” Bullshit! “It’s not getting warmer.” Bullshit!

First of all, other than the obvious irony of having Gore overuse the word “bullshit”, something that has exemplified his whole career, one has to be stunned at his refusal to accept obvious
facts. Dr. Phil Jones who presided over the Climate Research Unit of the U. of E. Anglia, the outfit that got this whole hysterical movement going, admitted in Feb or 2010 that “… there has been no statistically significant warming in the last fifteen years.”


Say what?


He also admitted that he has “lost” all the raw data that produced Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph that got the socialists drooling over the prospect of taking over…. well, everything. Perhaps the dog ate his homework? (See “The New Deniers”, Dec 22, 2009 for specifics on the 3000 emails hacked from the CRU that exposed the fraud.)


In addition, there’s plenty of peer-reviewed science out there that shows C02 does not trap heat much, that volcanoes and the sun do have a great effect on climate. (See “Gaia is Pissed”, April 25,2010 for volcanoes). Also, you can check out the “Climate Audit” site for specifics
on the various studies.


Gore may be melting down because he’s going to have to split with his wife the considerable fortune he’s made being the guru of global warming. Tipper filed for divorce when she returned to their 20,000 sqft home in Nashville to find Al nude on the living room floor fornicating with a polar bear skin rug. OK, I just made that up. Maybe she just got tired of the boring clown or, being a Democrat, maybe he had an intern on the side?


Gore has made a pile of loot since leaving the White House with a net worth of some $2 million. 2008 estimates put the new number at over $100 million. His speaking fees variously estimated at $200,000 per and his many “green” investments have paid off handsomely. He got some $34 million of taxpayer money to start the Chicago Climate Exchange, a carbon trading operation, that promised to make billions if the Democrats came through with Cap and Trade legislation. When that didn’t happen and global warming fears cooled, the company folded. Poor Al is likely sweating his cash flow.


Meanwhile, the radicals at the EPA continue to pile on job killing regulations in their mad war on carbon. Lisa Jackson, EPA head, recently announced a new interpretation of old rules for clean air that would shut down 20% of the US coal generated electrical capacity. Estimated cost? 60,000 jobs and $129 billion. She was supposed to make these kinds of rule changes based on reports from the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee. She decided to go ahead a full two years before the report was due. Her justification? Saving lives.


The National Ambient Air Quality Study came out with a bogus report saying the rule changes would result in X number of “lives saved”. Really? That speculative crap sounds suspiciously like the “jobs saved” nonsense put out to justify the stimulus boondoggle. Donna Nelson, head
of the Public Utilities Commission in Texas, says the new rules will cause rolling blackouts in her state. Most likely many states will suffer the same fate.


This, however, should come as no surprise to anyone who is paying attention. Obama and Biden both promised in the campaign to shut down the coal industry. He happily said that he would bankrupt anyone who tried to build a coal fired electrical generating plant. Well, here ya go.


Unfortunately, it’s not just coal. The anti-carbon true believers in the current administration are now taking on the “fracking” technique that has unlocked vast sources of natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing, the pumping of liquids and chemicals miles deep into rock deposits, releases natural gas previously unavailable. Despite studies certifying it as environmentally harmless, the anti-carbonistas want to shut it down. Ironically, natural gas is the alternative to coal. Then too, let’s not forget the poor dune sagebrush lizard of West Texas. Environmentalists want to shut down oil drilling there by listing this useless critter as endangered.


Obama’s team wants to use regulations to achieve goals not wanted by the people of even the politicians. Jackson’s EPA has already promulgated 75 new job killing regulations through mid- 2011 at a cost of $38 billion. Total cost of federal regulation on an annual basis? $1.75 trillion.

When the lights go out in New York City and Washington, DC maybe the voters will demand the abolition of the EPA?

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Superman’s AWOL


File:Waiting for Superman.jpg“Waiting for Superman” won best documentary at the recent Sundance Film Festival but did not even get nominated at the Oscars. Surprised? Not me. The left leaning members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science were never going to vote for a documentary that exposed the failures of public education and implicated the teacher’s unions. Forget that! Better just to ignore it. Maybe it will go away.

I recently found “Waiting for Superman” listed on our PPV schedule here in Canada, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it in the US. I watched it a couple times and I urge everyone to check it out. In it you will become familiar with terms like “academic sinkholes”, “drop out factories”, “rubber rooms” and “dance of the lemons”.

The movie from director Davis Guggenheim, chronicles the heartbreaking stories of three poor families as they tilt against the long odds of securing a chance for their kids of getting a decent education by entering the lotteries for a handful of slots in charter schools. Many hundreds of families crowded auditoriums hoping their kids will be selected to attend charter schools like Harlem Success Academy. The kids and the parents are well aware that winning one of the coveted spots is their ticket out of poverty. If you can watch this process and not be moved, you have no heart. And, if you are not convinced that something radical needs to be done to the public education system, you have no brain.

Money is NOT the solution. Over $2 trillion has been “invested” in education over the last half century…. 57% of that in the last decade. $77.4 billion has been allocated for the Department of Education (the 3rd largest Federal agency) for 2012. And, let’s not forget the $100 billion bonus in the “stimulus” package. OK, that’s a union payback by Obama.

So what kind of return are we getting for this “investment”? Not great. While spending has exploded, achievement has been flat and comparisons with other OECD countries slipping. The US now ranks 25th out of 34 OECD counties in math and 26th in science. The 2009 Program for Independent Student Assessment placed the US 14th in reading.

What about graduation rates for public schools when compared to per pupil spending? No correlation. Washington DC has the highest per pupil spending at $17,600 and the lowest graduation rate at 55%. The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (de-funded by the prior Democrat Congress and recently re-instated by the new GOP House) spends $7500 per student and graduates 91%. WI, on the other hand, spends $10,791 and graduates 89.6% while New Jersey spends $17,600 to graduate slightly less at 84.6. New York spends $16,794 to push 70.8% through. A bunch of mid-western states all spend around $10,000 per and graduate around 80-85%. This, of course, does not necessarily mean that these “graduates” actually learned anything useful.

Clearly the problem is not that insufficient money is being spent, it’s that so much of it is being wasted in bureaucratic bullshit. According to the GAO, there are 151 K thru 12 child education programs in 20 Federal agencies spending over $55 .6 billion annually.

No Child Left Behind is the 8th reorganization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 passed as part of LBJ’s “War on Poverty” and was the first Federal meddling in state education. As an example of how DOE laws can cost the states big bucks, NCLB caused state education bureaucracies to double in five years and requires 7 million hours of paperwork. Federal spending on education has tripled since 1970 and the ROI on that investment is zero. Academic achievement nationally continues to be flat.

Of course, the teachers unions come in for a good bit of criticism in “Waiting for Superman” and deservedly so. Like any monopoly, the teachers will go to the barricades and fight to the death to protect theirs. They battle against charter schools, school choice and merit pay relentlessly and pour millions of dollars and boots on the ground support for Democrat candidates in exchange for political support. That’s been a great investment!

Union teachers generally receive tenure after two years and thereafter it is nearly impossible to get rid of, not only a poor or indifferent teacher, but also even criminal ones. New York City famously has their “rubber room”… actually a whole building…. where 550 teachers deemed too ineffective or dangerous to be turned loose on students are housed. They show up each day at the rubber room to read, do cross words or sleep at full pay and benefits. Union rules make it impossible to fire them. It costs the city of NY $30,000,000 per year to carry on this comedy.

Another sadly humorous abuse of this tenure policy is what school administrators call the “dance of the lemons”. Since firing ineffective and problem teachers cannot be reasonably accomplished, at the end of each school year administrators ship off their lemons to another school. In return they receive the dolts from some other school. It’s like the game of Hearts where you pass some crappy cards out of your hand to the guy next to you. Unfortunately, the player on your other side gives you his junk to replace it.

Just to see how determined and powerful the teachers unions actually are, consider this. As mentioned above Washington DC public schools are easily the most expensive and worst in the country. In 2007 Adrian Fenty took over as mayor, promising to reform the school system. He assumed responsibility for the public schools and appointed Michelle Rhee, a Harvard grad and reformer, to run them.

She wasted no time. She closed 23 schools, cut half the admin staff from head quarters and got rid of 75 ineffective teachers while negotiating a new contract with the teachers union. Needless-to-say, the teachers were not happy despite the fact that under Fenty and Rhee reading test scores went up 14% and math scores 17%. The unions wanted revenge.

When the mayoral election came around again the national American Federation of Teachers as well as the local unions poured millions into the campaign backing a primary opponent friendly to the union against Fenty. Fenty had been an early and enthusiastic backer of Obama but when he needed some help in his campaign, Obama remained mute. Under the bus with you, Adrian! Fenty lost and Rhee got canned. Last I heard, all 75 teachers had been rehired and given back pay.

If you have been watching the Democrats bend over and grab their ankles for the teachers unions these last couple of years and watched their behavior in the Wisconsin mess recently, you get an idea how difficult changing anything is going to be. Geoffrey Canada, the CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone and the guy who coined the term “Waiting for Superman”, grew up and realized that Superman was not coming to save him after all. Superman’s not going to save public education either. Nothing will…. at least nothing anyone is willing to do.

What? You want my suggestion? Simple. Disband the Department of Education saving some $100 billion. Let the states manage their own education bureaucracies and toss all that Federal paperwork. The states should give each student $7500 per year to attend the private school of her choice, saving the state $2500 on each student that opts out of the public schools. Break the monopoly by bringing in competition. It’s the only way.

Note: Next up: The war in Madison.

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Drill Baby Drill?

(What ever happened to that war cry?)

Note: I am back blogging by popular demand…. Actually one person suggested I climb back on the horse. Seemed sufficient. A lot of stuff going on right now so there are plenty of subjects to write about. Here’s a start.

Oil prices hit $104 per barrel today up from the 80s a few weeks ago. Speculators are nervous about all the protests in the Middle East. A weakening US dollar isn’t helping either. A popular uprising that started in Egypt and Tunisia and has now spread to Libya, Yemen and a number of other ME countries has folks worried that oil supplies may be disrupted. Even Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Algeria, all major oil producers, are potentially lined up for conflict with the same poisonous formula of a Sunni elite historically dominating a Shi’ite majority. A disruption of supply from Saudi Arabia could easily push oil prices beyond $200 per barrel. Naturally, Iran wants to stick its long nose into these conflicts and stir up as much trouble as possible.

Gas prices escalate quickly as oil futures rise and gas is now at around $3.60 nationally and creeping upward. Before the blow up in the ME, analysts were already predicting that gas prices would rise to $4.00 pg this year and hit $5.00 next year as the world-wide recovery gained momentum and demand grew, especially in China and India.

The rule of thumb on gas prices relative to oil prices is, if you divide the oil price per barrel by 30 you get an approximation of what the gas price will be. Steven Chu, Energy Secretary, once opined that he would like to see US gas prices as high as European gas prices. At the time gas in Europe cost $8.00 a gallon. At $250 pb ol’ Stevie would get his wish. His opinion on how US voters would feel about $8 gas has not been reported.

The Obama Administration has done everything they can to make conventional carbon based energy more expensive. They claim they want to “reduce dependence on foreign oil” which to them does not mean drilling for oil on US soil or waters, but expanding use of corn, wind, solar and electric cars. Speaking of the Chevy Volt…. GM quietly released sales figures on the Volt for February. They sold 281 vs. 321 in January. Not to worry, Nissan sold 87 of their electric “Leaf” models. In other words, this electric car thing is really catching on. Yeah, right.

If a $40,000 compact that gets 30 miles on a charge is not enough to move you to buy one to save the planet, how about this? The state of Washington is considering an extra tax on electric cars because (drum roll please)… the electric cars are not paying their “fair share” of the gasoline tax that maintains the highways. That should do the trick.

According to Nick Loris and John Ligon of the Heritage Foundation, Obama’s energy policy cannot possibly succeed. Wind and solar only generate 1% of the electrical need in the US and the ethanol initiatives costs taxpayers $4 billion to produce 2% of the gasoline requirements. Furthermore, turning corn into gas drives up food prices worldwide. Part of the unrest in the Middle East results from rising and painful food price increases. On top of all that, it may even be worse for the environment than regular gasoline.

Since Obama took over he and his Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, have been doing everything possible to cut domestic energy supplies. (Stats courtesy of Heritage)

· Salazar cancelled 77 leases for drilling in Utah in his first month in office. It is estimated that 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil exists in this oil shale deposit called the Green River Basin. That’s three times greater than the reserves in Saudi Arabia.

· In April Obama exploited the blow out of the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf to shut down all drilling there. They modified a report by a commission of experts from the National Academy of Engineers to make it sound like the commission supported the Administration’s moratorium on drilling. The engineers did not support such a ban and were more than a little pissed that Czar Browner had rewritten their report.

· In June LA Federal Judge Martin Feldman overturned the Obama Admin moratorium on drilling. So the Interior Department simply cancelled that one and issued another essentially identical ban. An annoyed Judge Feldman in February ruled the Obama Administration in contempt of court for ignoring his ruling. Last week the Administration issued the first drilling permit for the Gulf since April. Experts predict that the offshore moratorium will reduce domestic output by 13% this year.

· Secretary Salazar also placed the eastern Gulf and the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific, including Alaska, off limits for any drilling for oil. That puts an estimated 19 billion barrels out of reach.

· Of course, ANWAR can never be exploited under this Administration. That’s another 10 billion barrels.

· Interior also stopped the development of the Keystone XL pipeline. The first two phases of this 4 phase project are complete and pump oil from the rich Alberta oil sands to refineries in Cushing, OK. The next two phases were to pump 500,000 barrels per day to the refineries located on the Texas Gulf coast. Together these two pipelines would reduce dependence on Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil by 40%. Gee, that seems way too sensible… get a reliable delivery of oil over land instead of by tanker and from a friendly neighbor?

I guess what surprises me is that as we rapidly approach $4/ gallon gas nationally (already achieved in some places), where’s the outcry? Where are the chants of “Drill Baby Drill”? Four dollar gas is supposed to be the tipping point but we seem on a path to blow right through that and hit $5.00 soon. At the moment no one seems to be raising much of a fuss, even as the cost of fuel will soon put a big damper on a slow economic recovery. It may also trigger a dreaded round of inflation. Obama does not seem worried. They are still talking about increasing taxes on oil companies. They must figure the voters don’t give a damn. Do you?

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

“Jobs, jobs, jobs.” That was the mantra of every politician from both parties in the recent election. With real unemployment in the US at around 16% (at least) and a subject very much on the mind of every rational voter, that was unsurprising. When you think about it though, nearly all of these politicians have never created a job. And, in many cases, never actually had a real one, having spent their whole career in politics or entombed in the vacuum of academia. What do these guys know about creating a job?

Then too, for all the talk about a “wave election”, when you get right down to the numbers, 86% of the incumbents got re-elected. In other words, 86% of the idiots who got us into this mess are still there. True, that’s down from the usual 98% but still insufficient to effect real change in policy. I mean, why should the incumbents who got re-elected suddenly change policy? There’s no upside. For them, what they’re doing now is working fine.

To get an idea on how to create jobs it might be useful to look at why and how we lose them. I gave that a try in the recent piece “The Buffaloization of America”. Buffalo and all the other “rust belt” cities lost their manufacturing industries by a series of policies that made it difficult or impossible for companies to compete and make a profit. Aggressive and demanding unions, stifling regulations, predatory lawyers and excessive taxation drove companies to either move to more favorable climates (literally and figuratively) in the south or over seas … or die.

Corporations are not charitable organizations. They have to show a reasonable profit for their activities or their stockholders, many of whom are union retirement funds or the IRAs or 401Ks of average citizens, will demand the head of the CEO. If they can’t make a profit in Buffalo or California on their production of widgets they will simply move to where they can.

Then there is the matter of competition. If your company that manufactures in the US or Canada and is competing with a company making a competitive product manufactured in say, China you are going to be at a serious disadvantage in your cost of goods. The cost of any product is a function of the materials, labor, overhead and profit. The usual suspect in any discussion of “jobs going overseas” is labor. And it’s true as far as it goes. In the past much lower labor costs in Third World manufacturing was mitigated by improved productivity i.e. automation of the process. Of course, the foreign manufacturers eventually got the same sophisticated machinery and caught up.

Union work rules represent a bigger problem than the wage differential. These often conflict and cause work stoppages and productivity declines. Strikes are even more destructive.

Then there are labor laws and the employees and lawyers who game the system. In one of my businesses we had an employee who made a career out of getting fired. She would make everyone around her miserable until she finally got fired. She then sued for “unfair termination” or some such and won a big settlement every time. To my knowledge she has done this at least three times. We were the second company to hire this bit… er, pro. The company that got stung before us could not warn us because they would get sued again for saying something negative about her. Nor could we warn the next company in line. We were instructed by our lawyers to answer when asked for a reference on this crook to only say, “She worked here from X date to X date” and nothing more.

We had another employee at a different company who we fired for stealing from the company. She filed a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC… not against me, thank God, but against some of our other employees. Of course, the charges were totally bogus. One of them was that she was out drinking one night after work with a bunch of her young fellow employees and someone said something offensive. Imagine that. The leap here is that my company is responsible for the speech of my employees when they are on their own time drinking in a bar? Yep, apparently so. It cost us a lot of money.

And let’s not forget product liability. I once dropped in on a friend that was baby-sitting her grand daughter who was a year old or so. It was a hot day and they had a “swimming pool” set up for the tyke. It had to be less than 4 feet in diameter and maybe 3 or 4 inches deep. Emblazoned on the tube was the following warning: “No Diving!!” Ya think?

If you make something some idiot will figure out a way to injure himself with it and sue you. The annual cost of torts on businesses in the US is something like $300 to $400 billion, depending on which study you prefer to believe. Clearly, that direct cost does not even consider the cost of defensive measures and both add to the cost of producing that widget making it less competitive with the foreign produced product. Congress has been passing these laws for years giving lawyers hunting licenses to sue companies. These lawsuits drive up costs and drive business owners absolutely nuts.

The loss of manufacturing jobs has been going on for years and is not going to be reversed overnight, if ever, in the US and other “developed” countries. However, there are some things that the new US Congress could do immediately that would help the situation in the near term.

1). Ratify the free trade agreements with Columbia, S. Korea and Malaysia that were negotiated during the Bush Administration. The Democrats have been sitting on these agreements for two years as payback to the labor unions that object because… well, they object and the environmentalists object because that’s what they do. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that the S. Korea agreement alone is second only in importance to NAFTA and could create 345,000 jobs.

2). Extend the tax rates due to expire on January 1st for everyone. Keep the rates where they are for everyone and forget the class warfare shit. Not increasing capital gains and dividend taxes alone will be beneficial, not to mention eliminating uncertainty.

3). US international corporations are sitting on some $400 billion in cash in their foreign subsidiaries. If they bring it back to the US they get whacked for 35%, so in the past they have been reinvesting that in further foreign expansion. The Democrats want to tax that cash whether they bring it back or not. Instead, I suggest that they offer a limited time window for them to repatriate that money at a very low rate… say 5%. That would encourage a flood of new capital back into the US.

4). They should immediately lift the defacto moratorium on deep water drilling imposed by the Obama Administration. The have ostensibly lifted the ban but in fact have issued no new permits. If they would start issuing permits again they could put a lot of people back to work immediately on the Gulf Coast.

None of the above addresses the long-term reforms that need to be accomplished to really restore an economic boom and create the eight million jobs that have been lost. That would include: serious tort reform; deep sixing Obamacare; reducing the corporate tax rate to 25%; taking a brutally sharp knife to spending and letting oil and coal start again on US soil. None of the long-term reforms can possibly happen until after 2012 and unless a conservative President gets elected along with more, many more, conservatives to Congress.

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Major Ebb

After the tsunami sweeps ashore all that water has to eventually go back where it came from, taking with it all manner of flotsam and the carcasses of critters drowned in the flood. The election tsunami on Tuesday swept away a lot of Democrats with some 60 House seats swinging over to the GOP and with a half dozen or so races still counting chads. (Hennepin County where Minneapolis is located was trying to figure out how they had 880,000 votes to count and only 708,000 registered voters. I wonder if that’s how Al Franken made it to the Senate?) The Republicans also picked up five governorships and five Senate seats with Alaska and Washington as yet undecided.

The wave washed away three Democrat committee chairmen, seven Dems with more than 20 years of experience and most of the freshman representatives that came in two years ago on Obama’s coattails. James Oberstar, MN (18 terms), John Spratt, SC (14 terms) and Ike Skelton, MO (17 terms) were among the notables who now need to go find a real job. Actually, I suppose if you have spent 34 or 36 years in the House of Representatives you likely stole enough that working is no longer a necessity.

In one of the more satisfying purges, Alan Grayson of Florida, perhaps the most obnoxious politician in the US, got his ass handed to him. Good riddance.

Of course, this being US politics where incumbency means almost certain re-election, many Democrats more than worthy of being sent off to new careers, survived. Barney Frank, MA and 30 year veteran of the House prevailed over his first opponent even given a fleeting chance at beating him. Barney, who’s only real job was pumping gas at age 18 and the individual most responsible for the housing crisis, showed that in some liberal enclaves you can get away with almost anything and get re-elected. Pete Stark of CA is another example. He’s a very cranky 78 years old and 18 termer. Viral videos of him insulting his constituents at town hall meetings didn’t hurt him any. He got 72% of the vote. Yes, it is California.

Harry Reid survived. Although most polls showed him tied with Angle or slightly behind, he won easily. Pundits said he “had a good ground game” which means that the labor unions hired a fleet of buses, catered lunches and dragged people to the polls. Boxer thumped Forina and Brown showed Whitman what the California Democrat machine could do when threatened. McMahon in CT also got whacked.

To me the three highly successful businesswomen that entered politics for the first time in this election; Forina, Whitman and McMahon represent the biggest surprise.

All were enormously successful CEOs and rose to the top of male dominated industries. All three are smart, articulate and honest and all dumped millions of their own money into the effort. Yet they all got their asses handed to them. Why?

OK, they chose to run in notoriously liberal states but it’s got to be more than that. Is it possible that powerful women threaten men or is it that women are turned off by these assertive gals? Both? One would think that the feminist groups would be pounding the pavement for these accomplished women. But no, these are conservative, capitalist women not enthusiastic about abortion. The feminists wouldn’t go near them.

Whitman dumped $140 million of her own money in the campaign to try to get the job of Governor of California that, to me, is one of the least desirable jobs on the planet. Maybe she did want to save CA, but I can think of other things to do with $140 million. The “fruits and nuts” elected Jerry Brown. Good luck. If you’ve got any California bonds, this would be a good time to unload them.

So what can we learn from this and what can we expect for the next couple of years? A lot of the political wags say that Obama will now try to pull a Clinton and govern more from the center and find practical solutions with the new Republican majority in the House and new balance of power in the Senate. I’m not so sure about that. He is buggering off on an absurdly expensive trip to India and Indonesia tomorrow without meeting with the new leaders in the House. Not sure if that’s symbolic. Compromise and finding middle ground has never been his style and doesn’t fit his Chicago politics/ Saul Alinsky philosophy. He once said he didn’t mind if he’s a one-term president. Maybe he means it. If he and Harry Reid obstruct GOP efforts to preserve the Bush tax cuts and refuse to cut spending, then he will certainly get his wish. Maybe the Dems will even nominate someone else.

Another interesting thing to watch will be what happens to the Tea Party movement. Will the grass roots movement fade away? Will the enthusiasm die or will it persist? The Tea Party enjoyed some successes in this Tuesday with the election of Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. They also experienced some failures, most notably the selection of Christine O’Donnell and Sharon Angle. Both were elected in the primaries by the Tea Party folks based on their ideological purity and both got hammered in the general election. In both instances there were other Republicans in those states that would have had a better chance. Will the Tea Party folks be a little more pragmatic next time around?

Then there is the Sarah Palin question. What’s she gonna do for the next couple of years? Personally I think that her ego is going to get the best of her better judgment and she will run for President. Mistake. While I personally like her, I don’t think she’s right for the Oval Office. Most polls I’ve seen agree with me on that one.

Well, as the Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times.” No problem there.

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Paradigm Shifts and Flying Mud

Thomas Kuhn defined a paradigm shift in his 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” as “… when one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” Swiss Watch International Men's Limited Edition Automatic Chronograph Stainless SteelOne of the classic examples is the Swiss watch industry. Until the mid ‘70s the Swiss dominated the world market for watches. The Japanese approached the Swiss with a new concept in watches, digital vs. analog devices, in plastic cases and with few moving parts. They were extremely low cost, unrepairable and basically throw away watches. The Swiss demurred. The Japanese returned to Japan and introduced the “Swatch” and many follow on digital models. The Swiss watch industry was nearly wiped out.

Of course, there are countless examples that have occurred throughout history. Makers of buggy whips and manure shovels never thought much of the future of the new noisy, gasoline burning vehicles, much to their surprise and dismay. And, no one can deny that the PC and the Internet have changed the world forever.

With the elections in the US less than two weeks away we are left to ponder whether a paradigm shift in American politics is about to take place. For decades now the US has drifted toward a more socialist/statist government, culminating in the election of Obama and the dominance of the left wing of the Democrat Party in Congress. As the Democrats rushed forward with their agenda of pushing the US further toward a socialist economy with the pork laden stimulus bill, the take over of the auto industry, the unpopular health care law, take over of the student loan business and cap and trade legislation, voters reacted with alarm and anger.

Rick Santelli, CNBC business commentator, is widely given credit for striking the match that ignited the Tea Party Movement. As thousands of Tea Party groups sprang up around the country, many professional politicians of both parties ignored the movement and the liberal mainstream media sneered. Later, as the movement gained momentum, some Democrats, fearing disaster, retired and some complacent, “moderate” Republicans got booted by the Tea Party candidate in the primaries. Entrenched lifetime GOP politicians Lisa Murkowsk of Alaska and Charlie Crist of Florida refused to go quietly and are running against the Tea Party candidates that won the Republican primaries.

Many of these TP candidates are new to politics and come with military experience and business backgrounds and are, thankfully, not lawyers. Some are weak candidates and easy targets. In another surprise, boatloads of money flowed into these campaigns from motivated citizens around the country.

As the polls started to suggest a rout for the Republicans on November 2nd, the alarmed Democrats and their left wing allies have swung into action. Incumbent Democrats found themselves unable to tout their votes for wildly unpopular legislation and instead have resorted to personal mud slinging attacks on their GOP opponents. Of course, American politics has always been a brutal blood sport but I suspect, that this election will be remembered as one of the nastiest. That’s saying a mouthful.

Those of my vintage may remember the “Daisy” commercial run by Lyndon Johnson’s campaign against Goldwater. It featured a little girl in the foreground picking daisies while an atomic blast occurred behind her. The implication being that Goldwater was such a right wing nut job that he would use the bomb if elected. He was not. More recently, you might recall the James Bryd ad run by the NAACP against G. W. Bush suggesting that Bush condoned dragging blacks to death.

The list for this election cycle so far is long and if you are curious you can consult the blog site, The Daily Beast, and their “Hall of Shame”. Two stand out for me:

Meg Whitman California is an economic basket case with a $19 billion dollar deficit (probably more since they have pushed some debt into the next fiscal year) and some $50 to $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. The state is hemorrhaging jobs as businesses flee anti-business taxes and regulations. A company in a similar situation would call in a “turnaround CEO” to straighten things out. Enter Meg Whitman, the highly successful former CEO, who grew eBay from startup to mega company. She’s running against Democrat Jerry Brown, a 40-year career politician and former governor, who was dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” (for obvious reasons) by Mike Royko, Chicago’s famous columnist. (RIP)

Whitman, a Republican in a notoriously “blue” state, was doing pretty well against Brown so the Democrats trot out her former maid in the company of Gloria Allred, a publicity hound liberal lawyer. Allred’s claim? Whitman had knowingly hired an illegal alien and worse, mistreated her. It turns out the maid, Nicky Diaz, had been hired through an agency and Diaz had used a phony social security card and drivers license. The poor girl had “only” been paid $23/ hour for cleaning Whitman’s house… pretty good pay for menial labor. The whole thing was a sham to drum up sympathy in the large CA Hispanic community. Of course, there is much more in the way of negative ads against Whitman and now she looks like a long shot. California will likely get Brown II and continue its decline into the toilet.

Without question the prize for the most offensive and despicable ad came from Florida Democrat Congressman Allen Grayson. His ad against his opponent, Dan Webster, called him “Taliban Dan” and selectively edited his statements to make it look like he was saying something he never said. Should we be surprised? Not. Grayson is the same guy who stood up in front of the House and declared that the Republican plan for health care was to let old people die. If there is any justice in this world the liberal bomb thrower Grayson will be sent packing.

Once the voting starts and the counting begins the mud slinging will end and the corruption will begin. If history is any guide, we can expect lots of “irregularities” in this phase of the struggle. Remember the governor’s election in Washington State between Rossi and Gregoire? (The first one.) Rossi won on the original count and the recount but the King County (Seattle) election officials kept digging for votes, finding some in a closet and some in a car trunk and voila, Gregoire, the Democrat, finally won [in a hand-recount, no less]. Whew! The Democrat lawyers pulled the same stunt recently in Minnesota putting clown Al Franken in the Senate. And, let us not forget the vote counting fiasco in Florida in the Bush/Gore Presidential election of 2000. The Democrats have lawyers standing by to fly to any close election to contest every vote. They do. You could look this up. The dirty tricks have already started. In Illinois some counties failed to send out their military ballots on time as required by law. They say these votes may now not arrive on time to be counted. The military votes traditionally favor the Republicans. Coincidence? Hardly.

While I still have doubts that the GOP will win enough senate seats to take control there, it seems more than likely that the personal attacks will not sway enough voters to prevent the take over of the House by the Republicans. However, they will be on a short leash. If they betray the Tea Party they will incur their wrath in two years. A paradigm shift is coming and those that fail to recognize it are going to be swept away.

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Filed under Election, Obama, Politics, Tea Party, Whitman