October 29, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll: I-4 voters back Romney 51-45 (Adam C. Smith, 10/28/12, Tampa Bay Times)

It has been a fundamental rule of Florida politics for decades: Statewide campaigns are won and lost on the I-4 corridor.

Today that celebrated swing-voter swath stretching from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach is poised to deliver Florida's 29 electoral votes to Mitt Romney.

An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Obama's independent problem (Chris Cillizza, October 28, 2012, Washington Post)

In the last three releases of the tracking poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, Obama has trailed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among independent voters by between 16 and 20 percentage points.

That's a striking reversal from 2008, when Obama won independent voters, who made up 29 percent of the electorate, by eight points over Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

And if Romney's large margin among independents holds, it will be a break not just from 2008 but also from 2000 and 2004. In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush won independents by 47 percent to 45 percent over Vice President Al Gore. Four years later, Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts essentially split unaffiliated voters, according to exit polls -- 48 percent for Bush to 49 percent for Kerry. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader (DAVID BARBOZA, 10/25/12, NY Times)

The mother of China's prime minister was a schoolteacher in northern China. His father was ordered to tend pigs in one of Mao's political campaigns. And during childhood, "my family was extremely poor," the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, said in a speech last year.

But now 90, the prime minister's mother, Yang Zhiyun, not only left poverty behind, she became outright rich, at least on paper, according to corporate and regulatory records. Just one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, the records show.

The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth are not known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name. But it happened after her son was elevated to China's ruling elite, first in 1998 as vice prime minister and then five years later as prime minister.

Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister's relatives -- some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making -- have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Mind games: Why everything you thought you knew about yourself is wrong : The decisions we make and even the memories we hold are based on delusions, according to a new book (GILLIAN ORR, 29 OCTOBER 2012, Independent)

 Based on the blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart is not so much a self-help book as a self-hurt book. Here McRaney gives some key examples


The Misconception: Wine is a complicated elixir, full of subtle flavours only an expert can truly distinguish, and experienced tasters are impervious to deception.

The Truth: Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations.

An experiment in 2001 at the University of Bordeaux had wine experts taste a red and white wine, to determine which was the best. They dutifully explained what they liked about each wine but what they didn't realise was that scientists had just dyed the same white wine red and told them it was red wine. The tasters described the sorts of berries and tannins they could detect in the red wine as if it really was red. Another test had them judge a cheap bottle of wine and an expensive one. They rated the expensive wine much more highly than the cheap, with much more flattering descriptions. It was actually the same wine.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Pentagon Reopens Program Allowing Immigrants With Special Skills to Enlist (JULIA PRESTON, 10/28/12, NY Times)

Thousands of immigrants were so eager to enlist in the American military during the last two years, despite the strong odds that they could be sent to combat zones, that they signed a petition on Facebook asking the Pentagon to let them join.

Now they will have the chance. Late last month, the Pentagon reopened a program to recruit legal immigrants with special language and medical skills, which was active for a year in 2009 but was suspended in January 2010.

The program is small; it will enlist a total of 1,500 recruits each year for two years, mainly in the Army. But military officials said the yearlong pilot program brought an unusually well-educated and skilled cohort of immigrants into the armed services.

"Their qualifications were really stellar," said Naomi Verdugo, assistant deputy for recruiting for the Army. "And we have been very pleased about how these folks have been performing."

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


The Cold Math of Hurricane Sandy (Paul Vigna, 10/29/12, WSJ)

[E]conomically speaking, the clean-up is sure to generate its own visible effect on the economy. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Grey, put it this way:

If there is any silver lining in all the destruction the storm is expected to cause, it's that such storms tend to provide a boost to the economy in their wake.  After the initial shocks to the economy related to lost output and productivity, we will probably see an employment surge in construction, skilled trades and other professions needed to help repair the damage.  There will also be an increase in business and consumer spending and companies and homeowners replace damaged equipment, household items, etc.  While much of it will be paid for with insurance money, the injection of money into the economy will be beneficial nonetheless.

Let's just say Home Depot HD -0.73% is probably going to have a very good weekend. 

So we've got a question: Why didn't we take all this wasted stimulus money and do something useful, like burying all the utility lines in the Northeast?

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 AM


Romney set to visit UM this week  (MARC CAPUTO, 10/29/12, MIAMIHERALD.COM)

To win Florida, Obama needs a big lead in Miami-Dade, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 15 percentage points, 44-29 percent. Obama won Miami-Dade by a 16-point margin in 2008.

A Sunday Miami Herald poll, however, shows Obama is winning Miami-Dade by only 9 percentage points. As of Sunday morning, after the first day of in-person early voting, Democrats narrowly led Republicans in all 153,000 ballots (absentee and in-person) cast in Miami-Dade, 42-40 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 AM


Battleground Tracking Poll: Obama retakes lead (JAMES HOHMANN | 10/29/12, Politico)

[T]he GOP nominee maintains a potentially pivotal advantage in intensity among his supporters. Sixty percent of those who support Obama say they are "extremely likely" to vote, compared to 73 percent who back Romney. Among this group, Romney leads Obama by 9 points, 53 to 44 percent.

By any measure, the race is neck-and-neck: 43 percent say they will "definitely" vote Romney, compared to 42 percent who say the same of the president.

On the generic congressional ballot, Republicans lead Democrats, 46 to 45 percent, after trailing slightly for much of the fall.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


More People Opt Not to Work Anymore (BEN CASSELMAN, 10/29/12, WSJ)

As of September, the share of the adult population that either had a job or was trying to find one--a measure known as the labor-force participation rate--stood at 63.6%, close to a 30-year low. Other measures of job-market health, such as hiring and the unemployment rate, have shown slow but relatively steady improvement over the past two years. But labor force participation keeps falling.

Public attention on the shrinking labor force has tended to focus on unemployed workers who abandon their job searches. But such people make up a relatively small share of the millions of individuals who have left the labor force in recent years. Most of the dropouts are retirees, students or stay-at-home parents--people who wouldn't want a job even if one were available.

Indeed, sweeping demographic and societal changes were driving down the participation rate long before the recession took hold. Young people are starting work later as more of them go to college. The flood of women into the workforce, which drove the participation rate up sharply in the second half of the 20th century, has slowed. Most significantly, the population is aging. Americans over age 55 are half as likely to work as those between age 25 and 54--and the over-55 population is growing at more than three times the rate of the adult population as a whole.

Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago earlier this year estimated that such long-run trends account for close to half of the decline in the participation rate since 1999, and some experts put the figure even higher. Barclays Capital argues that fully two-thirds of the drop is due to the aging workforce and other so-called structural factors.

"We think the evidence is quite clear that the single biggest reason the labor force participation rate has been falling has been the retirement of the baby boomers," says Barclays chief U.S. economist Dean Maki. "This would have happened whether the economy was strong or weak."

The other big reason that the number is trending back towards its historical norm is that when women and blacks were first integrated into the work force they were simply added to it by white male bosses who did not make the corresponding move of reducing white male employment, so we ended up with artificially bloated job rolls.  It was only a matter of time before : (1) those older white men moved on and new management stopped protecting those jobs; and (2) economic forces put pressure on management to do away with the excess labor.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 AM


In Praise of Turncoats, Richard Nixon to John Roberts (Cass R. Sunstein, Oct 8, 2012, Bloomberg)

The parties might be at loggerheads even if (as is often the case) some members of both parties privately believe that the views of the opposing party have merit. A single turncoat, abandoning the party line, can embolden members of both sides to say what they really think -- and ultimately spur reasonable outcomes.

Turncoats also break down echo chambers. If conservatives or liberals are listening only to those on their side, they tend to become more confident, more unified and more extreme. The most serious problem with self-sorting is that it produces both error and dogmatism. It can severely impede learning -- especially because those on the other side are so easy to dismiss.

Because of their own allegiances and history, turncoats are much harder to disregard. If Nixon goes to China, and if Clinton supports welfare reform, they can make people question beliefs that have been able to persist only for one reason: Inside the echo chamber, everyone shares them.

Turncoats are often independent thinkers, and they promote independent thinking in other people. That is a public service because on hard questions it is tempting to ask not about the merits, but about the views of your fellow believers -- your party, your church, your group, your team. And some disturbing evidence shows that Republicans and Democrats are willing to suspend their own thinking, and to put aside their own independent views, after they learn about the opinions of their party. By eliminating internal unanimity, turncoats encourage people to get off automatic pilot and to think for themselves.

It is true that when Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the health-care law, many conservatives dismissed him as a turncoat and as a coward. But it is likely that at least some of those who admire him, and usually agree with him, have been considering the possibility that he was correct.

It goes without saying that leaders shouldn't betray their constituents or their colleagues. But in some cases, it is no betrayal, and it is neither cowardly nor a capitulation, for leaders to conclude that their constituencies and colleagues are wrong. Turncoating can be an act of exceptional bravery.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 AM


Late moderate turn carrying Mitt Romney far (Matt Viser, 10/29/12, Boston GLOBE)

If Romney's campaign comeback can be boiled down to one moment, it was on Oct. 3 during the first debate in Denver, after he walked on stage and began speaking in a new way. He was measured, he made a joke, he spoke in soothing tones about two women who were struggling economically -- "obviously," he said, "a very tender topic."

Romney's campaign recognized the importance of being able to reintroduce himself to 70 million viewers in the first debate, and he adopted an approach that was more moderate than any he had employed during the six years he had spent pursuing the Republican presidential nomination.

The shift contained echoes of the centrist version of Mitt Romney who ran for Senate against Edward M. Kennedy in 1994, and the former governor who won office in liberal Massachusetts by running in the middle in 2002.

Romney and his advisers seemed to bet that many in the audience would be viewing him for the first time, that they would be unaware that he called himself "severely conservative" during the primary, that he espoused a policy of "self-deportation" to reduce illegal immigration, or of his comment disparaging 47 percent of the country for considering themselves "victims" dependent on government aid.

"There was a presumption that he'd have a lot of baggage," Fowler said. "But the audience that he's trying to woo is looking at him for the first time." [...]

In recent weeks, Romney has softened his rhetoric on a wide range of issues, including abortion, access to contraceptives, immigration, Afghanistan, and Middle East peace. [...]

Romney's modulation should not have been entirely unexpected.

His campaign suggested in March that he would move to the middle to appeal to a general election audience, when Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom predicted an "Etch A Sketch" moment after Romney won the nomination, in which the candidate would redraw his political profile.

...is how much money Team Unicorn wasted on trying to make Bain Capital an issue when no one was paying any attention to the race.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 AM


THE GOP'S HISPANIC POLITICAL MALPRACTICE (Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais 10/29/2012, New Geography)

One of the more curious developments in American politics over the last two decades is the political malpractice of Republicans in dealing with Hispanic-Americans.  Indeed, it now appears that the 2012 election may well be determined by the share of the Latino vote that Governor Mitt Romney is able to keep from falling into President Barack Obama's column.

According to the Investor's Business Daily tracking poll, Hispanics prefer Barack Obama by a greater than 2:1 margin (61% to 29% on October 25).  Hispanic-Americans have tilted toward the Democrats for decades, so it is hard to blame the Republican Party's current predicament on just the political tactics of this year's campaign.

But unlike the African-American vote since the 1960s, which has remained rock solid Democratic, history indicates that on occasion the GOP has competed for and won a significant share of the Latino vote.  Hispanics tend to be family oriented and somewhat entrepreneurial, which should make them potential Republicans.

But deliberate, conscious decisions by Republican leaders focused on the short run gains from immigrant bashing have done severe damage to the long term health of their party. Attacks on immigrants have caused Hispanics to desert the GOP in droves, particularly in the two most recent presidential elections. And, because the Latino population is relatively youthful, if this concern is not dealt with, it may become even more acute for the Republican Party in the years ahead. 

Legalizing Latino immigrants isn't just good politics and a Christian imperative, it's also economic stimulus.