Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Hampshire Debates

What’s new Today

Our #1 and #2 stories give you opinions on last night’s debate.  #3 story has a video showing Newt landing a big haymaker on the moderators to loud applause.  #4 looks at the Debate on Sunday on Meet the Press.  #5 looks at the tyrannical tendencies of the current occupant of the White House.  #6 is a more philosophical look at what is TRUTH.  Finally #7 talks about the Chump Effect and how the press seems to be set up to be chumps. 

1.   Saturday Night Republican Debate:  Romney the Winner:  ABC News the Loser

The big winner tonight was Mitt Romney for one simple reason: No one laid a finger on him. Romney repeatedly turned his fire on Obama while all the non-Romneys fought with each other. Paul called Gingrich a draft dodger. Perry called Paul a hypocrite. Paul called Santorum a big-government conservative. And Romney just stood back and watched it all. Whenever the moderators asked him to join the fray he demurred and turned the discussion toward Obama.

He even went after the moderators for asking a “silly question” and when asked to criticize his rivals said everyone on the stage would do better than Obama. The irony is that that was Gingrich’s role in the debates a few months ago — now Romney has appropriated it.

The big loser tonight was ABC News. We’re at war, the economy is in the tank, Iran is building a nuclear weapon, and ABC was obsessed with … contraception and gay marriage. They spent a good 15-20 minutes on those topics, while failing to ask a single question about Obamacare, the debt, entitlement reform, or other several other pressing issues….

Failing to ask about Obamacare, the debt, entitlement reform, etc. shows ABC is in the tank for the Democrats. 

2.  Kristol:  Summary of the Republican Debate

…Rick Perry is heading toward the exits gracefully, Jon Huntsman somewhat less so. Ron Paul will stay around, but his kookiness and unpleasantness have got to be wearing thin . . . I hope.

That leaves Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum.

Newt was on good behavior, and had a great moment when he attacked the moderators—but it's hard to see how he turned his declining fortunes around.

Romney did pretty well. His high watermark was dealing with the ridiculous contraception question. This was something he couldn't have prepared for, and his series of responses gave one a (hopeful) sense that the “real” Romney is actually better than the painfully artificial and well prepared one we usually see. Indeed, when Romney went out of his way later on to offer us his well prepared vision thing, it fell flat.

Santorum did well, getting stronger as the night went on. His explanation of why he disliked Romney’s talk about the “middle class” was strong, as was his discussion of Iran and of his economic plan.

The conventional wisdom about the debate will be that no one really laid a glove on Romney, who’s allegedly cruising to the nomination unless very soon derailed, so Romney is tonight's winner….

It seems from the two stories, Romney did well.  No surprises. 

3.  Newt Turns Tables on ABC and MSM

One of the biggest applause lines of the night was when Newt Gingrich, responding to a long (and embarrassing for the moderators) line of questions trying to pin candidates down on gay marriage, contraception and gay adoption, responded as follows:

Click the link and watch the video.  Newt gets a huge applause from the audience.  This is really bad news for the Democrats.  Their screed that the right is bigoted is not only nonsense, but is something waiting to be exploited by the right. 

4.  Meet the Stress

I’m watching the special edition of Meet the Press hosting the last debate of the GOP presidential candidates before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have landed some haymakers on Governor Romney — roundhouse rights that pack something of a wallop. Governors Perry and Hunstman have acquitted themselves decently. Governor Romney has done a good fending for himself without punching back. He exhibits an exemplary demeanor and a quick wit. I’ve thought this a weak field, but I was wrong. Our A team is on the bench, but this is a respectable field. Watching the candidates this morning, you nevertheless have to be concerned that Obama is the principal beneficiary of the candidates’ exercise of their skills at this point.

Despite all the talk of needed reforms in these debates, there is an elephant in the room. Yesterday in the ABC/WMUR/Yahoo debate it was ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, the debate’s moderator. This morning in the NBC/Facebook/Union Leader debate it is NBC’s David Gregory, the host of Meet the Press and moderator of this debate. They are remorseless hacks…

I heartily agree with the author about the hacks they have hosting the debate.  They keep asking the candidates to disagree with each other and to take offense at what someone else has said. The are like radio talk shows with the class. 

5.  The New Authoritarianism

 “I refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer,” said President Obama this week as he claimed new powers for himself in making recess appointments while Congress wasn’t legally in recess. The chief executive’s power grab in naming appointees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board has been depicted by administration supporters as one forced upon a reluctant Obama by Republican intransigence. But this isn’t the first example of the president’s increasing tendency to govern with executive-branch powers. He has already explained that “where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.” On a variety of issues, from immigration to the environment to labor law, that’s just what he’s been doing—and he may try it even more boldly should he win reelection. This “go it alone” philosophy reflects an authoritarian trend emerging on the political left since the conservative triumph in the 2010 elections.

The president and his coterie could have responded to the 2010 elections by conceding the widespread public hostility to excessive government spending and regulation. That’s what the more clued-in Clintonites did after their 1994 midterm defeats. But unlike Clinton, who came from the party’s moderate wing and hailed from the rural South, the highly urban progressive rump that is Obama’s true base of support has little appreciation for suburban or rural Democrats. In fact, some liberals even celebrated the 2010 demise of the Blue Dog and Plains States Democrats, concluding that the purged party could embrace a purer version of the liberal agenda. So instead of appealing to the middle, the White House has pressed ahead with Keynesian spending and a progressive regulatory agenda

Obama and the Progressive are dangerous to individual liberty.  They are the face of progressivism.  The next step you may see is fixing elections.  If the voters are too stupid to appreciate all they do, they may have to bypass them.

6.  What is Truth?

We frequently criticize MSM journalists for distorting the truth. But what is "truth"?

When Pilate asked that question, he was probably being ironic and didn't expect an answer. But philosophers have written piles of impenetrable books attempting to answer him. So far, there has been no consensus -- perhaps because we have been arguing about different types of "truth."

As in Dante's Inferno, "truth" can be divided into nine levels of ever-increasing deviation from "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." To use an artistic analogy, the topmost level 1 corresponds to the real subject, level 2 to a photograph, level 3 to a painting, and so on until the bottom levels, which correspond to cartoons or vicious caricatures.

1. The highest level, "truth-1," would be a complete and absolute comprehension of the reality of any object -- which (because of the connectedness of all things) would require an absolute comprehension of the universe. It is plausible to assume that this could be provided only by the Maker of the universe. Some of us believe that Pilate asked the right person, but, unfortunately, the occasion did not allow time for a full answer -- which Pilate (or we) could not have comprehended anyway. Therefore, we must reluctantly abandon our quest for truth-1 in this life.

2. Far below lies truth-2: the sum total of all the observations and experience that we acquire in the course of our lives. Unfortunately, there are as many truth-2s as there are observers. If a ring of people stands around a statue, each will see only part of it, and each will see something different. We tend to be like the blind men touching the elephant in the old story -- each feeling a small part of the elephant and thinking it to be the whole truth. Therefore, we strive to pool our observations into a collective truth-2 by literature, media, and personal communication.

3. Even truth-2 is an ideal, seldom if ever achieved in this world….

An interesting if esoteric article about truth but it does explain why we argue so much in politics.  Truth can be very different depending on each of our visions of the world.

7.  The Chump Effect

Lots of cultural writing these days, in books and magazines and newspapers, relies on the so-called Chump Effect. The Effect is defined by its discoverer, me, as the eagerness of laymen and journalists to swallow whole the claims made by social scientists. Entire journalistic enterprises, whole books from cover to cover, would simply collapse into dust if even a smidgen of skepticism were summoned whenever we read that “scientists say” or “a new study finds” or “research shows” or “data suggest.” Most such claims of social science, we would soon find, fall into one of three categories: the trivial, the dubious, or the flatly untrue.

A rather extreme example of this third option emerged last month when an internationally renowned social psychologist, Diederik Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, was proved to be a fraud. No jokes, please: This social psychologist is a fraud in the literal, perhaps criminal, and not merely figurative, sense. An investigative committee concluded that Stapel had falsified data in at least “several dozen” of the nearly 150 papers he had published in his extremely prolific career…

…The conclusions that Stapel drew were large indeed. One thing he liked to demonstrate in his studies was the exploitive nature of democratic capitalism. Last year, the New York Times reported on a typical Stapel study, called “The Self-Activation Effect of Advertisements.” It proved that advertising for cosmetics and fancy shoes “makes women feel worse about themselves,” as the Times put it. Another study, released at the end of the scandal-ridden year 2009, was called “Power Increases Hypocrisy.” Quite a timely little study it was. Stapel and his colleagues’ research revealed that powerful people were more likely to be “moral hypocrites.” And which powerful people did the researchers have in mind? “Politicians [who] use public funds for private benefits while calling for smaller government” and CEOs “accepting executive bonuses while simultaneously asking for government bailouts.”

No wonder he was successful.  His phony conclusions were catnip to a left wing press.  What great stories these “experiments” made. 

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