January 18, 2010

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Power Line posts on dueling rallies in Mass.

President Obama came to Massachusetts yesterday in a last-minute effort to preserve his party’s filibuster proof majority in the Senate. He did so at a rally at the campus of Northeastern University in Boston which featured the Massachusetts political establishment. Scott Brown countered with a rally in Worcester which featured Massachusetts sports legends Curt Schillling and Doug Flutie.

I didn’t watch the dueling rallies, but this report by Politico leaves the impression that Brown may well have won the duel, or at least that if Martha Coakley needed a big day, she probably came up short. …

Jake Tapper has another report on the Mass. race.

Political operatives say the Senate race in Massachusetts between Democratic state attorney general Martha Coakley and Republican state senator Scott Brown is too close to call. But the fact that President Obama felt the need to fly to the Bay State to campaign for a Democrat in one of the most Democratic states in the nation speaks volumes about the ugly climate for Democratic candidates.

Coakley has run an imperfect campaign and has had a rough couple weeks. But, as one senior White House official acknowledged to me, “in Massachusetts, even after a rough couple weeks the Democrat should be ahead.” Polls have Coakley and Brown neck and neck.

At the rally in Boston for Coakley yesterday, President Obama said a few things worth paying attention to: …

David Brooks has interesting comments on Haiti and the methods for fighting poverty.

On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not. …

David Warren offers his thoughts on Haiti.

…A knowledge of Haiti itself already provides intending rescuers with some idea of the difficulties they face in delivering food, water, medicine, and shelter. Looting, gang violence (with machetes, when guns are unavailable), and such spontaneous acts of public despair as piling corpses across a street to protest the lack of aid (thus creating a roadblock against its delivery), must all have been predictable, from past experience of delivering aid after hurricane disasters. The collapse even of surviving infrastructure, and of all government services, went without saying. …

…For such reasons as I’ve sketched above, they are already tripping over each other. According to reports, the airport at Port-au-Prince is blocked with the accumulation of planes that cannot be refueled; the city’s hospitals collapsed; inmates of the main prison escaped. Rescuers are not to be blamed when making their best efforts. …

…But the same informants who described to me the worst of Haiti, often also described the best: exhilarating encounters with warm, kindly, often very creative and thoughtful people, who were no less “typically Haitian” than members of machete gangs. An earthquake makes no distinctions between them. …

Hugh Hewitt interviews Mark Steyn on a number of current topics, including Game Change, the new book about the election.

HH: Yeah, what’s remarkable, the people who come off the worst, though, is the media, because you’ve got Hillary and Bill wandering around obsessing about President Obama’s past drug use and not being reported…

MS: Right.

HH: …Hillary muttering about Obama’s mother being a communist. I mean, there’s all sorts of stuff in this book.

MS: Right, right, right.

HH: None of it made it into the media.

…HH: Hillary at one point says, “Am I the only one who sees the arrogance? Does it not bother other people? Bill says he’s an, “off the rack Chicago politician.” Over and over again, they’re amazed he’s an empty suit, and they can’t touch him.

MS: Well, and the arrogance thing, and I think Hillary is right. I think there is, that you can certainly make the case, I mean, I’m not someone who cares about sexism and mean-spiritedness, and all the other obsessions of the Democratic Party. But I think if you do, then I think that you can certainly make the case that Hillary was the victim of that, that in fact, he’s in many ways a quite unpleasant man, this sort of curious habit he has of composing himself so that his hand on his face appears to be flipping the finger at you, which he has done a significant number of times, toward political opponents, that it doesn’t seem like an accidental gesture. And I think this is the question….somebody said to me before the election, Obama isn’t cool, he’s cold, he’s cold. And I think that’s what America saw in the performances after Fort Hood and the Pantybomber. …

In the National Journal, Charlie Cook discusses the disconnect between the political struggle over Obamacare, and the economic struggle facing so many Americans.

…Last week’s disappointing December unemployment report was the final blow in what was already a bad week for Democrats. One of the most sobering findings in the report was that if 661,000 Americans had not given up even looking for work that month, the unemployment rate would have moved up rather than holding steady at a horrific 10 percent.

Most economists had been expecting an increase of about 50,000 jobs in December; instead, the total declined by 85,000. Some 6.1 million Americans, the highest number in the post-World War II era, have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. The “U-6″ rate of unemployment, which adds in people who are working part-time while seeking full-time work and those who have stopped looking, stands at 17.3 percent, the highest level in the 15 years that the Labor Department has calculated it.

…Another piece of bad news was the distressing late-December report that the housing sector’s slow improvement had stalled, raising the specter of a second dip. As Wellesley College economist Karl Case, one of the developers of the definitive Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index, told The New York Times recently, “I’m worried. Everyone’s worried.” He added, “If prices sink 15 percent from here, which is a possibility, and the 2008 and 2009 loans go bad, then we’re back where we were before — in a nightmare.” Faster action in Congress to renew (or even increase) the tax credit for first-time homebuyers might have boosted housing prices, which in turn would have improved mortgage lenders’ balance sheets. …

Good news! Bret Schundler, once mayor of Jersey City, is back. In the NYTimes, David Halbfinger discusses New Jersey Governor-elect Chris Christie’s appointments.

…The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.

It was the first selection by Mr. Christie to suggest even the possibility of a confirmation battle with Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature. Thus far, the governor-elect has chosen nominees heavy on managerial experience, if lacking in drama or outsized personalities, and drawn bipartisan praise for his selections. …

…“We agree on the type of significant reform that needs to happen in our educational system here in New Jersey,” Mr. Christie said in making the announcement at the State House. “I want a strong, reasonable, bold leader who’s going to help me implement those policies.” …

Richard McKenzie, in the WSJ, writes an interesting article about the successes of orphanages.

…I watched the Gingrich-Clinton debate with a personal interest, having grown up in an orphanage in North Carolina in the 1950s. I wrote a column for this newspaper defending my own orphanage and others like it: “Most critics would like the public to believe that those of us who went through orphanages were throttled by the experience. No doubt, some were. However, most have charged on.” The children at Barium Springs Home for Children worked a lot and didn’t get the hugs many children take for granted, but we did get advantages that many children today don’t get—a sense of security, permanence and home.

I was shocked by the number of orphanage alumni who called, faxed or emailed in agreement. What’s more, many added, “My orphanage was better than yours,” which made me wonder if the experts knew what they were talking about.

During the past decade I have surveyed more than 2,500 alumni from 15 American orphanages. In two journal articles, I reported the same general conclusion: The orphanage alumni have outpaced their counterparts in the general population often by wide margins in almost all social and economic measures, including educational attainment, income and positive attitude toward life. White orphanage alumni had a 39% higher rate of college graduation than white Americans of the same age in the general population, and less than 3% had hostile memories of their orphanage experiences. University of Alabama historian David Beito replicated the study with several hundred alumni from another orphanage, reaching much the same conclusions. …

Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings report in the Times, UK, that climate scientists are having more problems with facts.

A warning that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report. …

…Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

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