Saturday, November 17, 2012

Forget the election - Benghazi and Petraeus scandals are a big deal

Republicans grousing about the extent to which the White House very obviously kept the uglier aspects of both the Benghazi attack and the Petraeus affair under wraps until after Election Day need to get a grip. These things are frustrating, but anyone who thinks a Republican White House wouldn't (and hasn't) done precisely the same thing needs a reality check. As a friend put it recently, this is all part and parcel of the 'home court advantage' that comes with incumbency.

The real problem is that an election-and-politics-weary populace is naturally inclined to take a break from hardcore news and, to the extent that they tune in at all, to dismiss GOP criticism of the Administration as "sour grapes" or inability to "let go" and "accept the fact that they lost." Coupling criticism of the administration's handling of these intertwined scandals with griping about a pre-election 'cover up' plays right into that, and gives much of the Obama-friendly media an excuse to go on ignoring or minimizing events that, in a vacuum, ought to be deeply disturbing across the political spectrum.

A US Consulate was attacked, an Ambassador and members of his staff brutally murdered (underscore brutally - contra popular conception, the Ambassador wasn't blown up by a rocket; he was seized, beaten, and murdered), and for reasons not yet explained military assets that could have been deployed to defend the consulate and possibly save the victims were held back.  That is a big deal, entirely independent of the election.

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency, the man with perhaps more highly sensitive intelligence information in his head than any individual on earth, displayed a stunning lack of discretion and judgment by involving himself in what appears to be a tangled sex/jealousy/recrimination drama right out of the worst WB teen programming. That is a big deal, entirely independent of the election.

The left is correct: the GOP needs to let go of the election and move on. We also need to double down on these very real issues and the myriad questions swirling around them, and resist all efforts to suggest that November 6 rendered some kind of verdict on their importance. Hopefully some sober-minded folks on the left will join in.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

David Bernstein Hates the GOP (Sexism Edition)

David Bernstein over at the Boston Phoenix has me all fired up today.  He has written a blog post entitled “The GOP Is Institutionally Sexist” arguing that there is a “regular, long-term, systemic lack of opportunities for women to advance within the institution.”  As a Republican woman, I can’t let this one go without responding.

Let me begin by saying I have certainly come across sexist Republicans.  I have also come across sexist Democrats.  And I have a whole bunch of thoughts about women in politics and voting for women just because they’re women which will have to wait for another time.  Right now I’d just like to address the problems I see with Bernstein’s argument.

Bernstein’s argument rests entirely on the numbers of Republican women who currently hold and/or are running for office at both the state and federal levels.  There are too few Republican women running and in office, he says, and fewer than on the Democratic side, and the only explanation can be institutional sexism.  Bernstein fails to mention that a larger percentage of the Democratic Party is female than of the Republican Party, so Republicans are drawing from a smaller pool from the start.

Next, his analogy between the Republican Party and a private company is erroneous.  A company has complete control over who it hires.  A political party does not have complete control over which candidates are elected.  One could argue that the parties do have some control over which candidates run for office because they can recruit candidates and either encourage or discourage candidates from running.  Bernstein offers no evidence that Republican women are approaching the Republican Party structure (either national, state or local) with an interest in running for office and are being discouraged from doing so.  If X number of women approached the Republican Party about running for office and only 0.2X actually went on to become candidates, then a case could be made for institutional sexism.  But Bernstein doesn’t provide those numbers (if they’re even available).

Bernstein also doesn’t address the possibility that maybe Republican women seek to run for office disproportionately less.  Maybe there are just fewer women coming forward to run on the Republican side than men, or than there are women coming forward on the Democratic side.  Now, a perception of the Party’s sexism by Republican women could contribute to this, but there could be other reasons as well.  Perhaps the real or perceived barriers to running as a Republican woman (or just as a woman) - whether coming from the media, the public, or the party - lead women to take a pass on running before they even approach the Party.

Or maybe Republican women just don’t have as much of an interest in holding elected office.  Maybe they prefer to be politically active in other ways (like blogging!) and the Party couldn’t get them to run even if it begged. 

Bernstein does assert that "there is no evidence" that voters just don't vote for Republican women when they are on the ballot.  Ok.  I won’t ask him to prove a negative, but how extensive was his search for evidence?  Are there studies which show female Republican candidates are treated the same as male Republican candidates (or female Democratic candidates)?  How about how Republican women are treated by the media?  Anecdotally, the way Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and others have been treated suggests some level of bias that is not originating with the Republican apparatus.

I have no idea if any of what I've suggested is the case, but Bernstein doesn't acknowledge or disprove any of these fairly reasonable possibilities, simply dismissing other explanations with a sweeping, “there are plenty of possible contributing factors to the enormously gender-tilted GOP outcomes, but none that offer anything close to clear prevailing justification.”  We’ll just have to take his word that this is so because he doesn’t offer any data to bolster his claim.

I’m offering a lot of generalities and assumptions here, but my point is that Bernstein does not provide any actual evidence to prove his thesis that the GOP is institutionally sexist.  He seems set on the idea that Republicans are women-haters, which certainly suggests some sort of bias could be at play on his end. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thoughts on Romney-Ryan

I like the pick.  Some quick, random thoughts on Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his VP candidate:
  • Ryan is a substantive guy.  He is well-versed in the issues, particularly the economic and budget issues which are a focus of Romney’s case against President Obama.  He reinforces the campaign’s message, which is what a VP pick should do.
  • The Obama campaign is eager to attack Ryan (and Romney by extension) for his budget and entitlement reform plans.  I’m sure the Obama superPAC is already lining up the “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to murder senior citizens” attack ads.  But if this turns the campaign to a discussion of budget priorities and who has a substantive economic plan, rather than tax returns and Bain, I’m ok with that.
  • Ryan does not back down, even when a President is criticizing him to his face.
  • Ryan is someone who appeals to the Republican base, but cannot be dismissed by the Left and the media as an extremist or ‘not ready for primetime.’  With all due respect to Sarah Palin, this will not be like 2008.
  • The only thing I don’t like about the pick is that, should Romney-Ryan lose, the Republican Party will also have lost Ryan’s voice and leadership from Congress (at least for now). 
  • Ryan is a Catholic, meaning the two major-party tickets consist of a Christian (of unclear denomination), a Mormon and two Catholics.  I don’t know what that means (if anything), but I find it interesting.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong about Obama’s Christian denomination being unknown).   
  • On a shallow note, what a handsome ticket they make!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You misspoke? Inconceivable!

The phrase “I misspoke” didn’t make Dan’s political glossary, but it could be there right alongside “to spend more time with my family.”  Everyone knows that when politicians say they misspoke, what they really mean is “I would like to take back what I said and I would like the public and the media to pretend I didn’t say it.”  There are plenty of examples of this from both Democrats and Republicans.

Every now and then, a politician tries to use “I misspoke” to cover a statement that is so far from what misspeaking actually means that it becomes even more laughable.  That’s what happened today when Elizabeth Warren’s campaign had to trot out “she misspoke” after Warren called on Scott Brown to release more of his tax returns, when he has already released more years than Warren herself has.  So hours after Warren said “I think Scott Brown should release his tax returns for all the years he’s been in public service,” her campaign backtracked to “both Elizabeth and Senator Brown have released multiple years of tax returns that she believes give voters an understanding of each candidate’s financial circumstances.”  From insufficient to sufficient in less than a day – nothing to see here, she simply misspoke!

This incident also reveals how meaningless the word “transparency” has become in politics (as demands to see tax returns are always about transparency, never about scoring political points!).  The word is wielded by partisans (on both sides) as a political weapon and defined however is most advantageous for the one using it.  Thus, we get arguments that Mitt Romney should have to release many years of tax returns, but Harry Reid shouldn’t have to release any.  Four years is sufficient for Elizabeth Warren, but Scott Brown owes the public twenty years of returns.  Ted Kennedy never released any tax returns but that’s not relevant, stop trying to change the subject.

I will say, the Left seems more often guilty of changing the ground rules as they go, but maybe it’s just that the media lets them get away with it more than they do the Right.

This gaffe of Warren’s will surely be quickly forgotten, but stay tuned – another politician is sure to misspeak any day now!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Taking the baton

Like many of you, I'm sure, I am saddened that the blogosphere will be losing Dan's sharp wit and incisive commentary (although there might be 'much rejoicing' up on Beacon Hill).  It just won't be the same without him. 

There is no way I could hope to truly fill Dan's shoes, smart and funny shoes that they are, but I will do my best to carry on the spirit of CriticalMass.  I'm afraid you will probably see a decline in silly pictures, but likely a proportional increase in Princess Bride references.

Many thanks to Dan for entrusting me with his blog.  I hope I can continue to entertain and inform, and I hope you all will continue to read and comment. 

Good luck, Dan!  You will be missed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Handing off

I started writing this little blog about Massachusetts politics just about four years ago, when my long-suffering bride suggested that perhaps the blogosphere would be a more appropriate outlet for my ranting than the breakfast table (direct quote: "I can't take it any more - why don't you write a BLOG or something?!?").  What started as a bit of therapeutic release evolved over 900 posts into... a bit of therapeutic release that quite a few people actually bothered to read on a fairly regular basis.  That has been pretty darned cool, I have to say.  If you are one of those people, thank you.  Truly.

Now various circumstances in my life (all positive) have conspired to make continuing dedication to this blog impractical.  That bums me out.  Truth be told it probably bums my wife out too.  Though she hasn't yet explicitly warned me against resumption of the breakfast table rants, I have to believe the thought has occurred to her.  So anyhoo... this is my last post (sniff).

Your new editor
I am thrilled to report, however, that occasional CriticalMASS contributor Daisy has agreed to carry on.  Those who have enjoyed her posts in the past (they are consistently some of our most popular) know that Daisy is considerably smarter than I, with a greater facility with facts and figures (and therefore a lesser need to lean on, oh I don't know, snarky little illustrations and fifth grade humor).  Daisy will do a great job with our small corner of the web.  I encourage you to continue to check in.  I know I will.

Take it away Daisy!

Many thanks,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Top 10 Reads of the Week - July 27, 2012

Four Little Words: Kim Strassel [Wall Street Journal]
What's the difference between a calm and cool Barack Obama, and a rattled and worried Barack Obama? Four words, it turns out.
"You didn't build that" is swelling to such heights that it has the president somewhere unprecedented: on defense. Mr. Obama has felt compelled—for the first time in this campaign—to cut an ad in which he directly responds to the criticisms of his now-infamous speech, complaining his opponents took his words "out of context."... Read the Rest
Many more at
 Man With A Plan - Stephen Hayes [Weekly Standard]
Paul Ryan has come to Kenosha to deliver bad news. It’s May 3, 2012, and the United States faces an imminent debt crisis. The federal government is spending too much. Entitlements are out of control. Social Security is going insolvent. Medicare is sucking up an ever-increasing chunk of our tax dollars. There are too many retirees and too few workers to support them. And both political parties are responsible for the unholy mess.
Ryan, the seven-term representative from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, speaks quickly, as if the coming collapse might happen in the middle of his remarks if he takes too much time. It’s a bracing message. He is saying, in effect, that the American experiment, our 236 extraordinary years of self-government, is on the verge of failure... Read the Rest
Who Did Build That Business, Then, Mr. President? - Vincent Carroll [Denver Post]
...Obama's background is bereft of any significant first-hand experience that might foster respect or sympathy for business owners. To the contrary, he hails from occupational niches — community activism, academia and politics — in which disdain for commerce is quite widespread.
Of course, you can be a law professor or a politician who bucks the ideological tide. Far more telling is that Obama for years has been making similar statements that suggest a decidedly low regard for commerce and the motives of those who flourish within the private sector.
One of these revealing moments occurred four years ago during his commencement address at Wesleyan University, when he exhorted graduates to take up community service. That's a worthy theme, of course, but consider how he did it... Read the Rest
What Still Shocks Me About Obamacare - Nat Hentoff [CATO/Real Clear Politics]
Amid the huge response — both triumphant and agonized — to the Supreme Court’s preservation of Obamacare, I was surprised at how little attention was being paid to that law’s core purpose: to strongly control health care costs where government funding is involved, as it increasingly will be.
What still shocks me about this law is the government’s interference with the doctor-patient relationship. Many government bureaucracies will not pay for doctor-prescribed treatments costing more than a predetermined figure. And none of these bureaucracies’ members will have actually seen the individual patient... Read the Rest
Life of Henry - Matthew Continetti [Weekly Standard]
In May, the Obama campaign unveiled its “Life of Julia,” a website detailing “how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime​—​and how Mitt Romney would change her story.” Julia is a composite character, the invention of one of the several hundred minions toiling away at Obama headquarters in Chicago. She is intended to illustrate, in a literal and rather vulgar way, the benefits of the entitlement state, from Head Start to student loans to Obamacare.
But Julia and people like her are not the sole residents of the United States. Nor is America divided simply between superrich plutocrats who make up 1 percent of the country and desperate beneficiaries of government largesse who make up the other 99. One can slice and dice our huge population in innumerable ways, isolating and identifying countless groups, many of which are in positions vastly different from Julia’s. Consider Henry. For Henry, President Obama has been no help at all... Read the Rest

Small Firms Seek Workers But Cannot Find Any - Emily Maltby and Sarah Needleman [Wall Street Journal]
It isn't the just big manufacturers, oil companies and railroad operators that are struggling to hire skilled workers.
The "Help Wanted" sign is also a regular fixture at small firms such as Group One Safety & Security in Stuart, Fla., despite the high national unemployment rate, which was 8.2% in June.
About 31% of 811 small-business owners and chief executives said they had unfilled job openings in July because they couldn't identify applicants with the right skills or experience, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International, a peer advisory organization for senior-level executives based in San Diego, Calif... Read the Rest

Vote For A Change - Governor Bobby Jindal [NRO's The Corner Blog]
President Obama is in New Orleans today. One wonders if, during his visit to the Crescent City, he will repeat the now infamous claim that “If you have a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Given the firestorm that erupted after that claim, it’s doubtful he will do so.
But we should not forget his words. President Obama’s comments were not a one-off gaffe. Instead, they define his administration.
This election is defined by a single choice — will we put our trust in the government or in the American people? President Obama’s comments only make explicit what we’ve always known about his philosophy. From the first days of his administration, he has turned to the power of the federal government to address the struggles we face... Read the Rest
 The Chicken Inquisition - Editors [National Review Online]
Rahm Emanuel has been many things in life — ballet dancer, investment banker, congressman, White House chief of staff, now mayor of Chicago — and he apparently wishes to add another title to his curriculum vitae: Grand Inquisitor. He has denounced the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A and endorsed a Chicago alderman’s plan to block construction of a new outlet because the company’s executives do not share his politics. This is a gross abuse of power: Imagine if the mayor of Provo, Utah, had tried to punish a business for supporting same-sex marriage — the Left would demand his resignation, etc. The powers of government are not to be used for parochial political ends. Even in Chicago.
It is worth taking a look at precisely what has given the mayor of the nation’s most corrupt city such cause for concern. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives,” said Chick-fil-A chief executive officer Dan Cathy in an interview that launched a million angry tweets. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.” Mr. Cathy, a purveyor of sweet tea and chicken sandwiches, has a better understanding of the American constitutional order than do the city fathers in Chicago and Boston, among other places, who also have threatened to use their municipal powers to punish Mr. Cathy and his company for this alleged anti-gay bigotry... Read the Rest
Sorry Obama, Government Didn't Build That - Editors [Investors Business Daily]
President Obama whines that he didn't mean what Mitt Romney says he did when he uttered, "You didn't build that." But even if you take Obama at his word, he's hopelessly and terribly wrong.
After endlessly complaining that Romney has taken his words out of context and deliberately altered their meaning, Obama can't seem to shake off the damage done by his remark two weeks ago that "if you've got a business — you didn't build that."
Obama says he wasn't referring to the businesses themselves, but to the roads and bridges, and to the whole "unbelievable American system" that "allowed you to thrive."... Read the Rest
A Time For Choosing - Ronald Reagan [American Rhetoric]
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man.
This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves... Read the Rest
The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week