The adventures of listening to the ill-informed, and the frustration of being unable to respond

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Recent conversation I overheard in a restaurant (paraphrasing):

Man 1: You know, you’d think with such an important issue like healthcare on the table, that both sides would be able to sit down and work this deal out.

Man 2: Yeah. I mean, sure, it’s not a perfect proposal but instead of complaining about it why not offer up some alternatives? You can’t just complain all the time without bringing your own ideas to the table.

Man 1: The opponents need to quit playing political games and try to work with the other side of the aisle in order to try and get something meaningful passed.

Man 2: But it’s not about getting anything passed. It’s about providing obstacles for Pres. Obama to tackle in order to stall, stall, stall. I read on CNN where Obama keeps trying to reach out to his opponents but they won’t bite. Sad.

!!!!! They had the O-Team’s talking points down, didn’t they?

The conversation went on for longer than that but by that point I had tuned it out. Blood pressure worries and all. I was not in a position to be able to respond, as I wasn’t even close to being a part of the conversation, but do you know how badly I wanted to take a few steps over to these two nearby loudmouths and tell them how absolutely stuck on stupid they were?

Oh well. Just because some Obama supporters have sobered up from of their drunken stupor doesn’t mean they all have. Sigh.

And BTW, the two gents having this discussion were fairly hot. Just goes to show (once again) that looks aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. ;;)

Pelosi: Let’s pass the HCR bill – so you can find out what’s in it

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Quote of the day (via Rob Port):

“You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking at the 2010 Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties, 3/9/10

Short and sweet video below:

Can’t make this stuff up, folks. Just.can’t.do it.

Chief Justice Roberts: Obama’s SOTU criticism of SCOTUS is “troubling”

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The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice Roberts opened up during a law Q&A at the University of Alabama today regarding his thoughts on Obama’s SOTU SCOTUS dis:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday the scene at President Obama’s State of the Union address was “very troubling” and the annual speech has “degenerated to a political pep rally.”

Obama chided the court, with the justices seated before him in their black robes, for its decision on a campaign finance case.

Responding to a University of Alabama law student’s question, Roberts said anyone was free to criticize the court, and some have an obligation to do so because of their positions.

“So I have no problems with that,” he said. “On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum.

“The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court — according the requirements of protocol — has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling.”

Yep, just one more in a long line of “troubling” precedents this celebrity administration has set.

Continuing:

Breaking from tradition, Obama criticized the court’s decision that allows corporations and unions to freely spend money to run political ads for or against specific candidates.

“With all due deference to the separation of powers the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said in January.

Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice to respond at the time, shaking his head and mouthing the words “not true” as Obama continued.

Roberts told the students he wonders whether justices should attend the speeches.

“I’m not sure why we’re there,” said Roberts, a Republican nominee who joined the court in 2005.

Justice Antonin Scalia once said he no longer goes to the annual speech because the justices “sit there like bumps on a log” in an otherwise highly partisan atmosphere. Six of the nine justices attended Obama’s address.

Justice Thomas said similarly back in early February.

Can you blame them? I would have felt a strong urge to walk out on the POTUS but the rules of decorum would have kept me in my seat.

In the end, President Obama’s SCOTUS slap said a lot more about him than it did about the SCOTUS decision itself – and a lot more than it did about Alito’s reaction which, contrary to what the left has wailed about, was very restrained considering the circumstances.

The “pre-Census” letter: Your tax dollars hard at work

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Got home this afternoon, checked the mail, and what did I see? A letter from the Census Bureau informing me that … I’d be receiving the Census in about a week, along with a note that it was important that I fill it out.

Are you kidding me?

A friend of mine Tweeted last night that she got the letter. In fact, according to the CB itself, approximately 120,000,000 US residents will receive the same letter:

Early Notification Increases Awareness That Census Forms Will Arrive Soon

The U.S. Census Bureau today began mailing advance letters to about 120 million addresses nationwide, notifying households that 2010 Census forms will be arriving March 15-17. The one-page letter urges households to complete the 10-question census form when it arrives and to return it in the accompanying prepaid envelope as soon as possible.

“The advance letter helps people know that their 2010 Census form will be arriving soon,” said Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. “It’s an important reminder about the impact the census has on our communities, that the census is important and that everyone needs to participate.”

Census Bureau research shows that reaching out to respondents with an advance letter and reminder postcard if necessary can boost census mail-back rates and save money. For every 1 percent increase in households that respond by mail, taxpayers save about $85 million in operational costs associated with census takers going door to door to follow up with households that did not mail back the form.

The more than 120 million households that receive both the advance letter and 2010 Census form by mail represent about 90 percent of all residential addresses in the country. Census workers last week started hand-delivering census forms to another 9 percent of addresses in areas where many households lack traditional city-style postal addresses. Hand-delivery of 2010 Census forms is also occurring along hurricane-affected areas of the Gulf Coast. Less than 1 percent of households are in areas where it’s more efficient for census takers to conduct census interviews rather than drop-off and require mail-back of the form.

The advance letter includes messaging in five languages other than English (Spanish, Chinese [simplified], Korean, Vietnamese and Russian) directing people to visit the 2010 Web site for in-language assistance. For the first time in U.S. census history, the Census Bureau is sending a bilingual advance letter and form to more than 13 million households in areas where Spanish is predominantly spoken at home.

The text of the advance letter is as follows:

Dear Resident:

About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it in promptly. Your response is important. Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need. Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share. Thank you in advance for your help.

Sincerely, Robert M. Groves
Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Go to <2010census.gov> for help completing your 2010 Census form when it arrives. [Note: this sentence is repeated in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian]

Indeed – it was on mine. How helpful. And, overall, how wasteful this is of your tax $$ and mine. But since when did the Obama admin care about .. oh, hell. I don’t even have to ask.

Turns out, a lot of people are questioning why the “pre-Census” letters were sent out. The WaPo’s “Behind the Numbers” blog tries to get to the bottom of it all:

As “Census Day” approaches, the U.S. Census Bureau has come under fire for some of its edgier attempts to encourage people to respond to its mailings, and now, some have begun to take umbrage with standard technique – the advance letter.

On National Review’s The Corner, John J. Miller questions the mailing itself while Bill S. on RedState writes, “I’m having a difficult time deciding if this letter is: 1. Supposed to be helpful or informative in some way. 2. A joke. 3. Some sort of Obama stimulus plan for the postal workers. 4. My imagination.”

But to those in the survey research world, including the Census Bureau’s new director, Robert M. Groves, the letters are standard operating procedure. The bulk of the research on the topic finds that advance letters explaining the purpose and benefits of survey research improve response rates.

For an effort like the Census, which attempts to contact more than a hundred million households, the educated bet is that the cost of postage and printing for the preliminary letters saves subsequent future outlays in sending Census workers to follow-up with those who don’t return the questionnaires.

The Bureau’s announcement of the letters puts a dollar amount on response rates, “Census Bureau research shows that reaching out to respondents with an advance letter and reminder postcard if necessary can boost census mail-back rates and save money. For every 1 percent increase in households that respond by mail, taxpayers save about $85 million in operational costs associated with census takers going door to door to follow up with households that did not mail back the form.”

ROTFLMAO. And the Census workers must “follow up” with those households that didn’t take time to fill out the form why, exactly? Why not save that $85 mil to begin with and not have the Census workers going door to door in the first place? I know – what a radical suggestion! Why radical? Because less people returning their Census forms to the USG means the they won’t know as much about how to “properly” and “fairly” “spread the wealth” – and we know that’s most definitely not how the BarryO administration operates. As John Fund wrote last February:

President Obama said in his inaugural address that he planned to “restore science to its rightful place” in government. That’s a worthy goal. But statisticians at the Commerce Department didn’t think it would mean having the director of next year’s Census report directly to the White House rather than to the Commerce secretary, as is customary. “There’s only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement,” a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. “And it’s called politics, not science.”

The decision was made last week after California Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hispanic groups complained to the White House that Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire slated to head Commerce, couldn’t be trusted to conduct a complete Census. The National Association of Latino Officials said it had “serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count.”

Anything that threatens the integrity of the Census has profound implications. Not only is it the basis for congressional redistricting, it provides the raw data by which government spending is allocated on everything from roads to schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses the Census to prepare the economic data that so much of business relies upon. “If the original numbers aren’t as hard as possible, the uses they’re put to get fuzzier and fuzzier,” says Bruce Chapman, who was director of the Census in the 1980s.

Mr. Chapman worries about a revival of the effort led by minority groups after the 2000 Census to adjust the totals for states and cities using statistical sampling and computer models. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Department of Commerce v. U.S. House that sampling could not be used to reapportion congressional seats. But it left open the possibility that sampling could be used to redraw political boundaries within the states.

Such a move would prove controversial. “Sampling potentially has the kind of margin of error an opinion poll has and the same subjectivity a voter-intent standard in a recount has,” says Mr. Chapman.

[…]

The larger debate prompted seven former Census directors — serving every president from Nixon to George W. Bush — to sign a letter last year supporting a bill to turn the Census Bureau into an independent agency after the 2010 Census. “It is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau,” it read.

The directors also noted that “each of us experienced times when we could have made much more timely and thorough responses to Congressional requests and oversight if we had dealt directly with Congress.” The bill’s chief sponsor is New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“The real issue is who directs the Census, the pros or the pols,” says Mr. Chapman. “You would think an administration that’s thumping its chest about respecting science would show a little respect for scientists in the statistical field.” He worries that a Census director reporting to a hyperpartisan such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel increases the chances of a presidential order that would override the consensus of statisticians.

The Obama administration is downplaying how closely the White House will oversee the Census Bureau. But Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insists there is “historical precedent” for the Census director to be “working closely with the White House.”

Uh huh.

As to the cost of the mailings, Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins did the math and came up with these numbers:

There were 105,480,101 households in 2000. At 500 sheets of paper per ream, that’s 210,960 reams of paper for the letter. It’s cheap paper, though. At $40 a case, Office Max has the cheapest price I could find online, so that’s $843,000 for the paper.

Five-hundred envelopes go for $30. That’s another $6.3 million (I’m rounding up and down here; it’s the government afterall).

Finally, there’s the cost of mailing. It’s presorted first-class mail. According to the U.S. Postal Service Web site, pre-sorted mail costs .335, although a standard rate letter could be sent for 17 cents. But this was first-class. Total: $35,335,833.83.

Total: $42.5 million (although I remain somewhat skeptical about the postage) to send you a letter to tell you you’re going to get another letter next week. Oh, and sending a postcard would’ve been $15.8 million cheaper.

The average person pays $13,000 in federal taxes per year. So it took the annual federal taxes of nearly 327 taxpayers to send you the letter.

To borrow a line from Collins, sending out advance letters notifying you that you will soon be receiving the Census is an idea that just doesn’t make census. That is, unless you’re a career bureaucrat/”healer” who enjoys seeing government grow and grow and grow and …

Bob Herbert goes raaacist, criticizes Obama’s priorities

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Because that’s what someone is who dares to criticize The One, right? Herbert writes (via Memeorandum):

The economy shed 36,000 jobs last month, and that was trumpeted in the press as good news. Well, after your house has burned down I suppose it’s good news that the flames may finally be flickering out. But once you realize that it will take 11 million or more new jobs to get us back to where we were when the recession began, you begin to understand that we’re not really making any headway at all.

It’s also widely known by now that the official employment statistics drastically understate the problem. Once we take off the statistical rose-colored glasses, we’re left with the awful reality of millions upon millions of Americans who have lost — or are losing — their jobs, their homes, their small businesses, and their hopes for a brighter future.

Instead of focusing with unwavering intensity on this increasingly tragic situation, making it their top domestic priority, President Obama and the Democrats on Capitol Hill have spent astonishing amounts of time and energy, and most of their political capital, on an obsessive quest to pass a health care bill.

Health care reform is important. But what the public has wanted and still badly needs above all else from Mr. Obama and the Democrats are bold efforts to put people back to work. A major employment rebound is the only real way to alleviate the deep economic anxiety that has gripped so many Americans. Unaddressed, that anxiety inevitably evolves into dread and then anger.

But while the nation is desperate for jobs, jobs, jobs, the Democrats have spent most of the Obama era chanting health care, health care, health care.

The talk inside the Beltway, that super-incestuous, egomaniacal, reality-free zone, is that President Obama and the Democrats have a messaging or public relations problem. We’re being told — and even worse, Mr. Obama and the Democrats are being told — that their narrative is not getting through. In other words, the wonderfulness of all that they’ve done is somehow not being recognized by the slow-to-catch-on masses.

Of course, he goes on to whine about how the GOP, on the other hand, only exist to make sure the Democrats “fail” in their agenda (which, while somewhat misleading, suits me just fine for the moment), so in the end, the column ends up being like most columns in the NYT (including and especially anything written by David Brooks) which are critical of the Obama administration: nothing more than desperate pleas for the smartest, coolest administration evah to, like, fix everything, dammit! Because, of course, that’s what the government is supposed to do.

Tom Maguire responds:

However, Mr. Herbert can’t quite get himself to the point of noticing that the endless Obama push for remaking three huge sectors of the economy – health care, energy, and financial services – is creating the sort of uncertainty that impedes a recovery. Over to McQ of Q&O:

Actually they [jobs] will materialize by themselves – unless government gets in the way, imposes new taxes (health care reform and cap-and-trade, etc.), more onerous regulation and otherwise keeps the business climate roiled and uncertain. Thus far, that’s precisely what the administration and Congress have managed to this point.

I don’t see Team Obama embracing this perspective until after November, when newly empowered Republican chairman can distract them with madcap investigations.

Nor do I.

But I do look forward to Herbert’s next column, in which I hope he sees in Democrat healthcare “reform”  what he saw in the “Celebrity” ad the McCain campaign used against Obama back during the 2008 election season: a “phallic symbol.” After all, in essence that’s what Obama’s healthcare “reform” really is: An instrument of sorts that will be used to “stick it” to the American people over and over and over again.

Ooops. Was that too crude?