Archive for August 2010
So we got some more news on the economy today, and it doesn’t look terribly good. In fact, it looks terribly terrible–and coming on the heels of that sobering housing report earlier in the week, it appears as if the Recovery Summer has been anything but.
Again, though, I can’t fathom why the wizards of smart in D.C. would be shocked, shocked by this turn of events. The outcomes were entirely predictable, at least for those of us who live out here in the real world, where people respond to incentives instead of wishful thinking. Inconvenient Truth #1: What happens at the beginning of next year? That’s right–the Bush tax cuts expire! Inconvenient Truth #2: How do businesses respond to this looming threat? By front-loading their activities before 2010 comes to a close! In other words, the modest growth we experienced earlier in the year was largely artificial, spurred on by impending tax increases. Now that businesses are beginning to wrap up those efforts, growth is starting to contract. I expect we’ll see even more of that trend as 2010 winds down.
So what’s a government to do? In a world where Congress and the White House actually gave a hoot about how business works, they’d extend the tax cuts–or better yet, make them permanent. Alas, that is not the world in which we live. Perhaps in the face of heavy losses in the fall, the Democrat leadership might change their mind about this, but I have my doubts. It would be tantamount to admitting that tax cuts spur economic growth, and they can’t afford to have that meme floating around out there. Meanwhile, the rest of us can’t afford to pony up for their vision of America.
November can’t get here soon enough.
It seems that St. Petersburg Times columnist and resident somnambulist Dan Ruth has a Glenn Beck complex.
As much as I hate to admit it, I did see this coming. It was bad enough when he had his own radio show that didn’t quite achieve the same, shall we say, notoriety that Beck’s did; but I figured that when the Times gave him a column, he’d be a happy enough guy and let bygones be bygones.
Not so, I’m afraid. So in the spirit of bipartisanship, I sent Ruth the following note:
You probably got a flood of e-mail on this already, but I heard Jack Harris on the radio this morning vis-a-vis your latest tirade against Glenn Beck. He basically said you were, shall we say, fabricating a bit with that business about the doughnuts. Having worked in a newsroom myself, I have to come down on Jack’s side here. Newsies don’t get paid enough to turn down free food, even if it’s Kavli wafers and three-day-old cheese. For the interns, it might be the only meal they get all week.
And what’s up with all the hostility, dude? I mean, sure–he once said that your nobody should operate heavy equipment while listening to your old radio show (and I have to admit, the bumper music alone nearly put me out behind the wheel; luckily, I had a copy of Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” on hand to wake me up). But that was years ago! Time to move on, my friend.
I’d also suggest going a little lighter on the metaphors in the next column. While I appreciate a “Blazing Saddles” reference as much as the next guy, I would’ve gone with something from “Caddyshack” instead (perhaps with Beck as Judge Smails–pure gold, if you ask me). And tone down the vitriol, for Pete’s sake. You sound like a middle-aged Twilight harpie throwing down with a tween over who’s hotter, Edward or Jacob. Happy warriors are far more fun, not to mention convincing. Believe me, I say this out of nothing but love and respect–even if you are a political southpaw.
Fondly,Your Friendly Neighborhood Right-Wing Zealot (With Libertarian Tendencies)
Thanks so much for the generous note of support.
By Spartacus Thrace
The results for the judicial candidates in the August 24th primary election for Pinellas County and the Sixth Judicial Circuit (comprising Pasco and Pinellas counties) are in, and they are revealing. The following information was derived from data provided by the supervisors of elections for Pasco and Pinellas counties, and by the Florida Secretary of State’s Division of Elections:
As of election day, there were 897,503 registered voters in the Sixth Circuit divided into 334,874 Republicans (219,890 in Pinellas and 114,984 in Pasco); 339,532 Democrats (231,044 in Pinellas and 108,488 in Pasco), and 223,097 “other” (150,202 in Pinellas and 72,895 in Pasco). A total of 202,943 votes were cast in this election, 147,315 in Pinellas and 55,628 in Pasco (33,788 Republicans, 18,088 Democrats, and 3,752 “other”).
In the Circuit Court Group 18 contest 173,417 votes were cast. The vote tally was Edward J. Liebling 42,719 (24.63%), Patricia “Trish” Muscarella 68,593 (39.55%), and Kathryn Welsh 62,105 (35.81%). As no one received more than 50% of the vote, Liebling is out of the race and Muscarella and Welsh face a run-off election on November 2, 2010. Total campaign expenditures were $38,108.69 for Liebling, $56,456.19 for Muscarella, and $25,946.16 for Welsh. Welsh had the endorsement of the St. Petersburg Times.
In the Circuit Court Group 20 contest 169,904 votes were cast. The vote tally was Patrice Moore 86,704 (51.03%) and Tom Ramsberger 83,200 (48.96%). Moore was endorsed by the St. Petersburg Times. Total campaign expenditures were $21,798.20 for Moore and $59,821.49 for Ramsberger.
In the Circuit Court Group 27 contest 168,303 votes were cast. The vote tally was LeAnne Lake 28,640 (17.01%), Kelly Ann McKnight 42,193 (25.06%), Keith Meyer 52,287 (31.06%), and Jeff O’Brien 45,183 (26.84%). As no one received more than 50% of the vote, Lake and McKnight are out of the race and Meyer and O’Brien face a run-off election on November 2, 2010. In this race, the St. Petersburg Times endorsed Keith Meyer. Total campaign expenditures were $12,065.48 for Lake, $14,043.83 for McKnight, $43,527.34 for Meyer, and $13,339.41 for O’Brien.
In the Circuit Court Group 29 contest 170,673 votes were cast. The vote tally was incumbent Hon. Michael Francis Andrews 91,773 (53.77%) and Deborah Moss 78,900 (46.22%). The St. Petersburg Times endorsed Andrews. Total campaign expenditures were $88,657.85 for Andrews and $41,990.44 for Moss.
In the Circuit Group 30 contest 166,982 votes were cast. The vote tally was Susan St. John 76,726 (45.94%) and Kimberly “Kim” Todd 90,256 (54.05%). The St. Petersburg Times endorsed Todd. Total campaign expenditures were $15,390.31 for St. John and $47,423.46 for Todd. This race is remarkable for several reasons, including the facts that Todd overcame a ballot order effect that favored her opponent, and was the second-highest vote-getter (90,256) after Andrews (91,773) despite being in a judicial race with a turnout that was 3,691 votes smaller than the Andrews-Moss turnout. Todd’s defeat of St. John was so uniform and complete that, in Pinellas County for example, St. John was able to out-poll Todd in only 31 precincts out of a total of 376.
In the race for Pinellas County Court Judge, Group 8 a total of 121,236 votes were cast. Incumbent Hon. Thomas B. Freeman trounced his opponent Wayne C. Mineo, with 83,317 votes (68.72%) going to Freeman and 37,919 (31.28%) to Mineo. The St. Petersburg Times endorsed Freeman. Total campaign expenditures were $42,745.26 for Freeman and $10,973.13 for Mineo.
Female Judicial Candidate Superiority
This results of this election may have finally put to rest the local myth of superiority of female judicial candidates over male judicial candidates that arose in the wake of Susan Gardner’s 2008 defeat of Angus Williams 346,717 to 190,136 in the Sixth Circuit Judge Group 8 race, despite Williams having the endorsement of the St. Petersburg Times and his outspending Gardner more than 8.6 to 1 in the campaign. Although Muscarella and Welsh did out-poll Liebling who was at the top of the ballot in the Group 18 race, Meyer and O’Brien out-polled both Lake and McKnight who appeared on the ballot above their names. It now appears in retrospect that Gardner, who expended a total of $15,199.44 in her campaign, used the combined advantages of ballot order effect and outworking her opponent to overcome Williams, who expended a total of $131,989.71 in his campaign.
Endorsement by the St. Petersburg Times may have also played a small, but important, role these elections. The “newspaper effect”, by which voter preference is influenced approximately 3% in favor of the candidate endorsed by the local newspaper, in combination with other effects, seemed to be apparent in the fact that every candidate endorsed by the St. Petersburg Times either won outright (Moore, Andrews, Todd, and Freeman) or made it into the runoffs (Meyer and Welsh).
Ballot Order Effect
At least two of the candidates, McKnight and St. John, chose races in which their names would appear ahead of other candidates already in the race, apparently banking on the “ballot order effect” to improve their chances of success. The ballot order effect is based on the notion that candidates appearing at or near the top of a set of candidates will garner more votes than those whose names appear afterward. Theoretically the effect increases from approximately 2% at the top of the ballot to as much as 5% as the voter goes down-ballot. As the judicial candidates all appeared down-ballot in relation to most of the other candidates on the August 24th ballot, all of the top-listed judicial candidates should have had a significant edge over their lower-listed opponents. As born out by the results in the Circuit Court Group 18, 27, and 30 races, any such advantage can be overcome by outworking the opposition or other effects.
Use of the Internet for Messaging
Another, somewhat intangible effect, in this was the use of the internet to distribute the candidate’s message. The impetus for this is the relatively meager coverage the mainstream media gives judicial races. Those who made the most extensive and effective use of the internet, including email, social networking sites such as Facebook, and YouTube, tended to have somewhat stronger support at the polls due to the efforts of those who felt that they had a personal connection with their candidate. One of the candidates, Kimberly Todd, made extensive use of the internet to promote her “brand” and distinguish herself from her opponent. This may have contributed to the result that the point spread between Todd and her opponent was greater than in any of the other circuit court races.
An examination of the various judicial campaigns reviewed in this article reveals that the biggest factors in electability of a judicial candidate are name recognition and a personal connection to voters. Much of this is driven by the candidate’s personality, energy, and creativity, but external factors such as financial resources, quality and frequency of campaign consultation and advice from experts, number and quality of prominent endorsements, and the ability to conduct a long, grueling campaign without making embarrassing mistakes (especially when it comes to public statements and campaign financing). Judicial campaigns are fraught with risk, but the risks can be manageable by a competent candidate who prepares in detail for the campaign. The successful candidate thus can “see” the campaign all the way to Election Day and more effectively accumulates and manages the required resources to accomplish the mission than his or her opponent, while the unsuccessful one does not, and that appears to be what separated the winners and losers in these races.
By Spartacus Thrace
(August 20, 2010) Kim Todd, candidate for Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge, Group 30 (Pasco and Pinellas Counties), unveiled her latest web video today, four days before Election Day. It is impressive.
The video begins with a flashing reminder to vote by August 24th (the final day of the election), followed by a photograph of Kim Todd accompanied by a brief statement about her candidacy and an expression of her gratitude towards all who have helped her. The remainder of the video is a visual history of her campaign comprising a series of still color photographs and video clips set to Celine Dion singing “God Bless America.” The video is also a powerful demonstration of the broad support Todd has in her community, ending with a scrolling list of the individuals who have endorsed her in white lettering against a black background. All-in-all, the video is actually quite moving for many of those who have already watched it. Read the rest of this entry »
By Spartacus Thrace
(Sunday August 15, 2010) The Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee (PCREC) annual Republican Victory 2010 Picnic, held today at an indoor banquet hall, attracted hundreds of guests, and dozens or Republican candidates whose names will be on the ballot on the August 24th primary ballot. All of the Republican candidates, as well as the nonpartisan candidates for circuit and county court judgeships were on a straw poll held at the event.
The crowd was energized, and the candidates in attendance delivered a Conservative message. The two biggest names in the playbill were arch-rival Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Scott and Bill McCollum.
This is what Rick Scott had to say (video courtesy PCREC):
Shortly after Rick Scott spoke, Bill McCollum took his turn to address the attendees, and this is what he had to say (video courtesy PCREC):
McCollum trounced Scott in the straw poll 209-80, the results of which were announced, along with the results for other candidates, by PCREC Chairman JJ Beyrouti at the conclusion of the event (video courtesy PCREC):
The full results of the straw poll can be found on the PCREC website, at: http://www.pinellasrepublicans.com/
Gubernatorial candidate Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum addressed the members of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee (PCREC) on Monday night, and the crowd was very enthusuiastic.
This is what he said, in two parts (video courtesy PCREC):
Chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee JJ Beyrouti addresses an enthusiastic gathering of the membership at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater on Monday night, August 9th (video courtesy PCREC):
So as we ended last week with the news that the 9.5% unemployment rate remains unchanged, we’re left to wonder if anyone in Washington actually understands the nature of the problem we’re dealing with. To be sure, there’s been a lot of thoughtful head scratching and beard stroking–with Fed head Ben Bernanke chief among the strokers–but I don’t think anybody bothered to inform our D.C. betters that looking like a college professor doesn’t make you an economic genius. In fact, they kind of remind me of that old commercial–you know the one that went, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV?” More and more, it seems like we’re in the hands of people like that: they may not have any answers, but they sure know how to spin.
What nailed it for me was hearing Bernanke talk about the “unusually uncertain” nature of the recovery. The uncertain part I could wrap my head around–but what’s up with this “unusual” stuff? He’s acting as if it’s a surprise that individuals and businesses are stuffing their heads back into the tortoise shell, hoarding their cash and waiting to see how this whole thing is going to shake out. Lemme see–with deficits piling up, massive tax hikes on the horizon, the as-yet unknown drag of Obamacare and the specter of Cap and Trade looming in the background, uncertainty is the new normal. What would really be unusual would be a couple of months when folks didn’t have to worry about what Washington might do next.
Why is that so hard for Bernanke to understand? You really have to wonder sometimes.