August 15, 2012

Good Bye

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Steve will have a post tomorrow but I would like to give my own goodbyes.  We are closing down Newshoggers.  It's the second blog I've shut down although my first one still lives.  This Newshoggers won't be so lucky, it will go away in the next couple of weeks although we will have an archive here. It;s still a work in progress and I hope to have it all archived before it is eliminated from the typepad server.  I will say good bye but hello at the same time as I will still be posting at The Moderate Voice. Thanks for your support over the years.

August 11, 2012

Weekend Book Review - Ayn Rand and the World She Made

Commentary By Ron Beasley

With the Ayn Rand cultist Paul Ryan becoming the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate today I thought this might be a good opportunity to republish my reveiw of the Ayn Rand Biography by  Anne C. Heller from 2010.

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Greenspan-Rand The picture on the left may represent the beginning of the deregulation frenzy that resulted in the current world wide economic disaster. It was taken in 1974 by David Hume Kennerly and pictured are President Gerald Ford, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand, Rand's husband Frank Conner and Greenspan's mother Rose Goldsmith. The occasion was Alan Greenspan being sworn in as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The significance of the picture is that Ayn Rand is there next to her disciple Alan Greenspan but to understand the significance you must understand Rand herself and her philosophy. Anne C. Heller helps us do that with her excellent biography of Rand, Ayn Rand and the World She Made.

I recommend this book not because I agree with anything Ayn Rand stands for but because it's a really good read and it's necessary to understand Rand and undererstand how we arrived where we are today. Heller makes it clear that Rand and her life are much more interesting than any of the creations in her fiction and there are times you forget that you are not reading fiction. I am going to concentrate on Rand's early life in this review – it's important because narcissists and sociopaths like Rand are either created early if not born that way.

Alyssa Zinovievna Rosenbaum was born in St Petersburg, Russia in 1905 of Jewish parents. While it's often said that it was the Bolshevik revolution that was responsible for Rand's philosophy and world view according to Heller the foundation for Rand's philosophy predates the revolution.

When Rand was five or so, she recalled, her mother came into the children's playroom and found the floor littered with toys. She announced to Rand and Rand's two-and-a-half-year-old sister, Natasha, that they would have to choose some of their toys to put away and some to keep and play with now; in a year, she told them, they could trade the toys they had kept for those they had put away. Natasha held on to the toys she liked best, but Rand, imagining the pleasure she would get from having her favorite toys returned to her later, handed over her best-loved playthings, including a painted mechanical wind-up chicken she could describe vividly fifty years later. When the time came to make the swap and Rand asked for her toys back, her mother looked amused, Rand recalled. Anna explained that she had given everything to an orphanage, on the premise that if her daughters had really wanted their toys they wouldn't have relinquished them in the first place. This may have been Rand's first encounter with injustice masquerading as what she would later acidly call "altruism." Her understanding of how power can be acquired by a pretense of loving kindness would grow only more acute with time.

Perhaps it's little wonder, then, that from the age of four or five onward, Rand developed a keen sense that anything she liked had to be hers, not her mothers, the family's, or society's, an attitude that readers of her 1943 novel The Fountainhead will recognize in the perverse and complicated character of Dominique Francon. As a corollary, she claimed not to care about being approved of or accepted by her family and peers. Since she generally wasn't accepted, the proud, intelligent child appears to have learned early to make a virtue of necessity. In her twenties and thirties, she would construct a universe of moral principles built largely on the scaffolding of some of these defensive childhood virtues.

The second influence in Rand's life came when she read a serial in a French Boys magazine, The Mysterious Valley. It was there that Rand met Cyrus Vance, a handsome and heroic figure and in Rand's eyes a hero in every way. Rand would spend the rest of her life looking for a Cyrus Vance and creating him in her fiction.

Rand herself was an elitist who lived on cigarettes, amphetamines and chocolate. Elitism was also what she was marketing in her novels. Her characters like Galt and Roark were unbelievable because they were little more than abstract principles personified. Her vision of capitalism was simple and had a grade school like quality to it.

But Rand has impacted us all and still does. The principal architect of our current economic crisis, Alan Greenspan was a disciple for most of his life but after looking at the havoc he had created had to recant. (Via Digby)

"I have found a flaw" in free market theory, Greenspan said under intense questioning by Representative Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. "I don't know how significant or permanent it is," Greenspan added. "But I have been very distressed by that fact."

Pressed by Waxman, Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.

Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

But she still has her followers in important places today like the Republican's wonder boy, Congressman Paul Ryan.

It's important to know what motivates the enemy and the Rand cultists are still with us.  As Digby notes Rand's followers are passing out free books.  For that reason this is an important read for anyone concerned about how Ayn Rand is still an influence.

Note:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for this review.

August 10, 2012

Romney: Stop Hitting Me

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Romney is tired of the Obama campaign being mean to him. He wants his business record and taxes to be off the table during the campaign even though it's his business record he's running on.  

Talking about candidates' personal finances is hardly novel, nor is it irrelevant — how candidates make their money, however much or how little they've earned over the years, is not only fair game but a legitimate line of inquiry. The question of tax returns is also not new (to that end, Romney has said he would also release his 2011 taxes, but has yet to do so, with less than three months to go in the race). 

What is surprising is hearing a candidate say, essentially, "stop hitting me." As the folks at First Read note, this would seem to be something of a concession that the negatives are bothering the candidate, whom a round of new national polls shows running at a deficit that exceeds the margin of error.

In addition to being a rediculous request it is really bad politics. It makes him look weak and voters don't want a weak President and Comander In Chief.

August 09, 2012

People Just Don't Like Him

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Roger Simon asks a question:  Shouldn’t Mitt Romney be ahead by now?  A good question since the economy is still in the tank.  He answers his own question - people just don't like Mitt.

As I have written for years, I have a simple — OK, simple-minded — way of determining who is going to win the presidency: The more likable candidate wins. Not always, but almost always.

On Aug. 2, a survey published by the well-respected Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found Obama was leading Romney by 51-41 percent for the presidency, the eighth time in a row since January that Obama has led Romney by between 4 and 12 percentage points.

But more importantly by my Simple Simon standard of likability, Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 37/52 compared with Obama’s 50/45. Which means Romney had a net unfavorable rating of 15 points while Obama had a net favorable of 5 points.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post and ABC News released a poll showing 40 percent of voters approving of Romney and 49 percent disapproving. When it came to Obama, 53 percent of voters approved and 43 percent disapproved.

Which gave Romney a net disapproval of 9 points and Obama a net approval of 10 points.

Two different polls don’t exactly establish a solid pattern, but the Romney people must be very, very worried.

Romney said in that Des Moines auditorium, “The American people are tired of being tired.”

But if the recent polls are correct, the American people also may be tired of Mitt Romney.

(Bold Mine)

Romney's problem is there is not much he can do about.  He is a pompous plutocratic sociopath - that's who is is and to the best of my knowledge there are no personality transplants.  People simply don't like him or trust him.

Update:

The latest FOX News poll gives Obama a 9 point lead over Romney - 49 to 40.

Out of this world - literally

Commentary By Ron Beasley

NASA has released some more photos today that include this color photo that shows the eventual target, Mt Stark in the background and the blast marks from the descent.

675358main_pia16032small

We will not have any high resolution pictures for a week because they will be doing a software upgrade which will take several days.  What an accomplisment.

August 06, 2012

And The Gold Goes To NASA

Commentary By Ron Beasley

It's appropriate that the MSL, Curiosity Rover, landed during the Olympics.  It was a gold medal for NASA.  I'm an engineer and I know that if anything can go wrong it will.  But nothing went wrong.  They were even able to to get a picture of the descent.

Curiousity-Descent-2-570x320
Is that cool or what?  It will be a couple of weeks before Curiosity  gets down to work and it will incease our knowledge of not only the Red Planet but the solar system.  But the real story is the engineering itself.  This is a real example of American exceptionalism.  It's not how many countries we can invade and occupy but ideas that make the United States exceptional.  I have been both a hardware and software engineer and I find this accomplishment  nothing less that amazing.  

Romney and Italy

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Mitt Romney didn't go to Italy on his European adventure and there is good reason for that - he wouldn't have been welcomed.

That’s because Bain Capital, under Romney as chief executive officer, made about $1 billion in a leveraged buyout 12 years ago that remains controversial in Italy to this day. Bain was part of a group that bought a telephone-directory company from the Italian government and then sold it about two years later, at the peak of the technology bubble, for about 25 times what it paid.

Bain funneled profits through subsidiaries in Luxembourg, a common corporate strategy for avoiding income taxes in other European countries, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. The buyer, Italy’s biggest telephone company, now has a total market value less than what it paid Bain and other investors for the directory business.

In Italy, the deals have spurred at least three books, separate legal and regulatory probes and newspaper columns alleging investors made a fortune at the expense of Italian taxpayers. Boston-based Bain wasn’t a subject of the inquiries, which didn’t result in any charges.

Romney himself was heavily involved in the deal and probably made about 50 million dollars on the deal. Bain and Romney may have been winners but the Italian government and Italian investors were not.

August 04, 2012

An Alternate Universe

Commentary By Ron Beasley

It often seems that The Weekly Standard must be published in an alternate universe.  My favorite example is this quote from Bill Kristol:

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular." ~Willaim Kristol, April 4th, 2003

And don't forget it was Bill Kristol who was pushing Sarah Palin in 2008.

But Stephen Hayes and Bill Kristol have outdone themselves with their suggestion that Mitt Romney should select Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio as his Vice President.  Paul Ryan is best known for his budget that would throw the elderly and the poor under the bus. His plan is so bad that people refused to believe that it was a real proposal.  He might be a good choice in The Weekly Standard universe but not in this one.

When it comes to Marco Rubio they say this:

An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll released in late July shows Obama with a 67-23 percent advantage over Romney among Hispanics. Last week, a Latino Decisions poll had Obama leading Romney 63-27 percent among Hispanics in five swing states with significant Hispanic populations—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia.

That’s worrisome. But the core of the problem is Florida—a must-win state for Romney. According to Latino Decisions, Romney trails Obama among Latino Floridians 53-37. (Even more, among voters who say they’re “certain” to vote for their candidate, Obama leads 49-29.) This kind of margin might well doom Romney. 

In 2010, by contrast, Marco Rubio won 55 percent of Florida Hispanics. Rick Scott, who was probably helped by having Rubio running with him, won 50 percent of the state’s Hispanic voters in his successful bid to become governor. Even in 2008, while losing Florida 51-48, John McCain won 42 percent of the Hispanic vote. In 2004, George W. Bush defeated John Kerry among Hispanics in Florida by 56-44 percent. (Those numbers were no doubt inflated because Bush’s brother Jeb was the popular governor at the time.)

The bottom line: Mitt Romney almost certainly will not win Florida if he wins just 37 percent of the Hispanic vote there. And Mitt Romney almost certainly will not be president if he doesn’t win Florida.

What to do? The Latino Decisions poll offers one possible answer: Pick Marco Rubio as your running mate. Some 31 percent of Florida Hispanics say they are more likely to vote for Romney if Rubio is on the ticket (47 percent say it would make no difference, and just 17 percent say it would make them less likely).

Rubio’s appeal goes well beyond Hispanics and well beyond Florida, of course. At a recent appearance in Nevada on behalf of Romney, Rubio drew nearly 1,000 voters to his former elementary school, with lines out the door. His autobiography, An American Son, spent several weeks near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. A recent survey of Illinois delegates to the Republican convention found that nearly half of them want Romney to pick Rubio.

I will leave it up to Daniel Larison to take this apart.

The supposed value of adding Rubio to the ticket is that he will pull voters into the Republican column that would otherwise not normally be there. Unfortunately, there is no reason to think that Rubio would attract these voters, and there never has been. Most Hispanics nationwide know little or nothing about Rubio, and what they find out about him isn’t likely to appeal to them. The very things that make movement conservative activists and pundits like Rubio are the same things that limit his ability to appeal to voters outside his party. According to Rasmussen back in March, Rubio’s favorability amonglikely Hispanic Floridian voters was 16%, and his unfavorable rating was 64%. Rubio’s fav/unfav ratings among likely independent Floridian voters in the same survey was 36/48%. Among likely moderate Floridian voters, they were 33/50%. Rubio’s appeal in Florida is already limited mostly to other Republicans and conservatives, so why should anyone believe that it would be any different elsewhere?

This is what happens when you live in an echo chamber in NY or DC.  Among the conservative punditry it really is an alternate universe.

August 03, 2012

Rasmussen Polls

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Electoral-Vote.com was one of the more reliable sources for election prediction in 2008.  They have this to say about Rasmussen:

After the 2010 elections, the New York Times statistics wizard, Nate Silver, analyzed the polls produced by various polling organizations, including Rasmussen Reports, which is the house pollster for Fox News. Silver's analysis covered only polls taken during the final three weeks of the campaign and compared them to the actual election results. For polls taken much earlier, say in June, no one knows what the true sentiment of the electorate was, so there is no way to tell if the polls were accurate or not. Also, any pollster deliberately falsifying the results for partisan advantage would be advised to reduce the bias as the election neared. After all, no one can tell if a June poll is accurate but everyone can tell if a poll released the day before the election is accurate.

Silver analyzed 105 polls released by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, for Senate and gubernatorial races in numerous states across the country. The bottom line is that on average, Rasmussen's polls were off by 5.8% with a bias of 3.9% in favor of the Republican candidates.

There is much to criticize about Rasmussen's methods. All polls are conducted within a 4-hour window, the person who answers the phone (even a child) is sampled, phones that are not answered are not called back, and much more. All of Rasmussen's polls are done by computer; live interviewers are never used. However, other firms that do robopolling such as SurveyUSA and PPP get much more accurate results with no bias, so the problem is not the robopolling per se.

Just to look at one methodological issue, if no one answers the phone, Rasmussen picks a different random phone number instead of calling back two, three, four or more times as other pollsters do. Why does this matter? Because 20-somethings (who skew Democratic) are often out, whereas 60-somethings (who skew Republican) are often in. By not being persistent in finally getting through to a randomly chosen phone number, the sample is inherently biased towards Republicans because they are easier to reach. This may not have been intentional but it is understandable if you want to finish your survey in 4 hours. Nevertheless, cutting corners in the name of speed and cost don't improve accuracy.

They give their projections both with and without Rasmussen.  When looking at the electoral college vote there is some but not a lot of difference.  But when you look at Senate races there is.

The projections with Rasmussen is Democrats 50, ties 3 and Republicans 47.

2012 Senate Races 1

 

This is the Senate map without Rasmussen - Democrats 52, tie 4 and Republicans 44.

Senate 2

 

Montana and North Dakota actually flip and Virginia goes from Republican  to tie.  

How Dare The Democrats!

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Doug Mataconis and the right wingers are really upset that Harry Reid and the Democrats are using Karl Rove's play book. 

As if doubling down on his unsupported allegations against Mitt Romneyweren’t bad enough, Harry Reid has taken to repeating those allegations on the floor of the United States Senate:

I don't like this kind of politics but the reality is this has been the MO for the Republican Party since Karl Rove came on the scene.  The only thing that is different  is Harry Reid and the Democrats have discovered  that you can't bring  a knife to a gun fight.

Romney could end this of course by releasing his tax returns but he really can't do that because they are toxic.  I think it's all about the 2009 returns - the year that UBS gave the US 4,000 names and the US offered an amnesty on foreign tax shelters.  Romney knew that not releasing his 2009 taxes would hurt his campaign  but a perk walk would have been worse.


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