Hope: The Sequel

David Plouffe sits in his White House office, just a few steps from the Oval, staring at an oversize map of these United States. It’s late afternoon on May 9, two hours after Barack Obama’s declaration that his evolution on gay marriage has reached its terminus. The president is down the hall and on the phone, discussing his decision’s theological implications with several prominent African-American pastors—while Plouffe is being queried about its political dimensions by a querulous Caucasian reporter. The map at which Plouffe is gazing isn’t the electoral kind with the states shaded blue and red; as a federal employee, he notes wryly, “I’m not permitted to have one on the wall.” But given the way his head is hardwired, I’m pretty sure Plouffe is seeing those colors regardless.

The question of whether Obama’s new stance narrows or widens his path to victory in November is one that Plouffe and his comrades have been agonizing over since early this year, when their boss returned from vacation and told them he wanted to take the plunge. The possible political benefits are clear: jazzing up young voters, ginning up gay dollars. As are the costs: turning off socially conservative Democrats and independents, particularly in four pivotal swing states—Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. But as to the net effect of the announcement on Obama’s ability to accumulate 270 electoral votes, his adjutants are unable to render a firm verdict. “I think there is more upside potential than downside potential,” Plouffe says. “But is there a scenario where it’s harder? Yes.”

Such scenarios don’t rest easily with Plouffe, the nothing-to-chance operative who rose to prominence as Obama’s 2008 campaign manager. Since returning to the fold after a two-year hiatus in January 2011, Plouffe has seen his boss’s approval ratings rise (to a high of 53 percent, according to Gallup, after Osama bin Laden’s killing) and fall (to a low of 38 percent after last summer’s debt-ceiling debacle and the downgrade of America’s credit rating) and rise again. But all along, his message to his colleagues has been the same: 2012 was destined to be a corset-tight election.

The contours of that contest are now plain to see—indeed, they have been for some time. Back in November, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, two fellows at the Center for American Progress, identified the prevailing dynamics: The presidential race would boil down to “demographics versus economics.” That the latter favor Mitt Romney is incontestable. From high unemployment and stagnant incomes to tepid GDP growth and a still-pervasive sense of anxiety bordering on pessimism in the body politic, every salient variable undermines the prospects of the incumbent. The subject line of an e-mail from the Romney press shop that hit my in-box last week summed up the challenger’s framing of the election concisely and precisely: “What’s This Campaign Going to Be About? The Obama Economy.”

The president begs to differ. In 2008, the junior senator from Illinois won in a landslide by fashioning a potent “coalition of the ascendant,” as Teixeira and Halpin call it, in which the components were minorities (especially Latinos), socially liberal college-educated whites (especially women), and young voters. This time around, Obama will seek to do the same thing again, only more so. The growth of those segments of the electorate and the president’s strength with them have his team brimming with confidence that ­demographics will trump economics in November—and in the process create a template for Democratic dominance at the presidential level for years to come.

Read more here.

Climate Change Skeptics Know More About Science Than Believers

Despite allegations that they are tantamount to “flat earthers,” a study published Sunday in the Nature Climate Change journal indicates that climate change skeptics actually tend to have a slightly higher level of general scientific knowledge than those who believe in the theory.

The study drew the conclusion after asking 1,540 representative Americans a total of 22 questions, according to Fox News.

Some of the questions included:

“Electrons are smaller than atoms — true or false?”

“How long does it take the Earth to go around the Sun? One day, one month, or one year?”

“Lasers work by focusing sound waves — true or false?”

“As respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased,” the paper, funded by the National Science Foundation, notes.

Though, to be fair, it was a close call. Skeptics answered an average of 57% questions correctly, while those who indicated more concern for the effects of global warming answered an average of 56% correctly.

The lead author of the study, Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan, cautioned in an interview with Fox that the results are not to be used as evidence for or against climate change. Rather, they provide an interesting insight into the polarizing impact of the debate, and put to rest the allegation that those who do not believe in global warming are simply ignorant of science.

Both “sides,” he added, have proceeded to argue that the study gives weight to their respective belief.

Rad more here.

Romney tells vets dangerous world demands powerful military

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney chose Veterans Day to proclaim to the American people his conviction that the world is a dangerous place, and the United States must remain its most formidable military power.

“The world is not safe,” Romney told veterans on Memorial Day. He was joined by Senator John McCain, in a speech to honor the veterans of America’s wars.

The United States now has two paths forward, Romney said. He called one “the pathway to Europe,” suggesting Europe had acquiesced to geopolitical threats. “To shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs.”

The other path, Romney said, is “to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world.”

Romney, expected to face off against President Barack Obama in November, joined the 2008 Republican presidential nominee in thanking the nation’s veterans.

Romney, who has focused his campaign on the struggling U.S. economy, changed his focus on Monday in his warning about the dangers of the world outside America’s borders, indirectly criticizing Obama’s foreign policies.

“I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place. It’s not,” Romney said.

Read more here.

‘One of the Most Complex Threats Ever Discovered’

A new computer virus that appears to have been deployed five years ago was recently discovered in Iran and cyber security experts suggest it could have been built by the same entities that ordered the 2010 Stuxnet attack, according to Reuters.

The presence of the virus — dubbed “Flame” — was announced by the Russian-based Kaspersky Labs on Monday. Reuters reports the security software firm has not said whether the cyber weapon was deployed with a specific mission like that of the Stuxnet worm, which is suspected to have been launched to help take down Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Comparing Flame to Stuxnet, Reuters reports experts finding the virus has 20 times more code. Compared to most computer viruses that steal financial information, Flame has 100 times more code. Kaspersky Labs found it exploits a vulnerability in Windows, like Stuxnet. BBC reports that this newly discovered virus is being called “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.” Here’s a few more on the details being reported about the virus from Reuters:

Flame can gather data files, remotely change settings on computers, turn on PC microphones to record conversations, take screen shots and log instant messaging chats.

Kaspersky Lab said Flame and Stuxnet appear to infect machines by exploiting the same flaw in the Windows operating system and that both viruses employ a similar way of spreading.

That means the teams that built Stuxnet and Duqu might have had access to the same technology as the team that built Flame, [Kapersky Lab senior researcher Roel] Schouwenberg said.

Read more here.

God bless America’s warriors

Freedom isn’t free. Never has been, never will be. Very special warriors have provided freedom at supreme sacrifice since time immemorial. Good people will never forget, and we celebrate Memorial Day with a hard-charging spirit in appreciation for hard-charging warriors.

With his lifeblood pouring out of him from a mortal RPG wound to center mass, Pvt. 1st Class Todd Balding from Texas was, on the surface, but a bundle of red gauze and bandages, a jumble of tubes and numerous electronic apparatus beeping away. He was surrounded by a dedicated team of U.S. military medical experts at the Landstuhl hospital in Germany doing everything in their power to save the young American’s life.

Toby Keith and I literally stood in the young hero’s blood and said a very solemn prayer. Moments later, Pvt. 1st Class Todd Balding died. He was 21 years-old. He died fighting for freedom. That was one of many defining moments that struck me deep inside during my USO tour in 2004, and a defining moment in my life.

Toby and I were humbled beyond words to be allowed to join a presentation guard of warriors on the tarmac of the Iraq air base as we saluted a procession of flag-draped coffins being loaded onto a massive C-130 aircraft. Like our tears, the coffins just kept coming – and coming and coming and coming.

When I received the call, I immediately sent out an all-points bulletin to my management, staff and family to clear my schedule of all events. Within an hour, I had arranged a private plane, guitars and various electronic sound equipment. I had been requested to perform the national anthem and my song “Fred Bear” by Navy SEAL hero Chris Campbell in his will. How could I not honor his request. Regrettably, Chris Campbell’s dying request was thwarted by a politically correct bureaucrat, we believe by his commander in chief. On the night of his public memorial, all alone, I played the songs anyway in his honor in my home.

Read more here.

Muslims Stone Christians

And from the Great Spencer on May 27th….France: Muslims stone Christians in church during mass
No one will take much note of this. It is just one story among the thousands that together tell the tale of France’s decline and Islamization. Eurabia Update: Here is my translation of “Carcassonne Des fidèles caillassés pendant la messe à Saint-Joseph,” by Yannick Bonnefoy in Midi Libre, May 27 (thanks to David):

Carcassonne: The faithful stoned during Mass at St. Joseph

Yesterday at 6:20PM, as Fr. Roger Barthes began to celebrate mass, four youths, aged 14 to 18, broke into the Church of St. Joseph, before launching handfuls of pebbles at 150 faithful present at the service. Immediately, men began pursuing the young troublemakers, but in vain. They managed to vanish into thin air, heading towards the city La Conte.
Interrupted by regrettable unexpected event, Mass was finally able to proceed as planned. Although no one was injured and nothing was broken in the church, located along the Avenue Jean Moulin, the parishioners, many of whom are elderly, were greatly shocked by the disrespectful act of the youths of North African origin….

Read more here.

The Slaughter Continues in Syria

Another 41 civilians were killed by President Assad’s troops on Sunday, just hours after the UN Security Council condemned the Syrian government for the Houla massacre of 109 men, women, and children near Homs on Friday.

Annan can properly be seen as a successor to Saint Jude – the patron of lost causes. He is in Syria trying to breathe some life into the peace plan that Assad isn’t even pretending to follow any more.

Reuters:

Peace envoy Kofi Annan condemned the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla as “an appalling crime” on Monday and urged President Bashar al-Assad to prove he wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis racking his country.

U.N. monitors say at least 108 people were killed, among them dozens of children. Many of the victims were also hacked to death or shot at close range, as shown in graphic images distributed by activists.

Assad’s forces killed at least 41 people in an artillery assault on the city of Hama, activists said, shortly after the U.N. Security Council condemned the massacre in nearby Houla which took place on Friday.

With international criticism growing of Assad’s methods in trying to crush a 14-month-old uprising, now accompanied by a lightly armed insurgency, U.N./Arab League envoy Annan arrived in Damascus for talks on his faltering peace plan.

He explicitly urged the Syrian government to “take bold steps to signal that it is serious in its intention to resolve this crisis peacefully” before adding: “This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.”

Russia and China, which had previously vetoed resolutions condening Assad, both approved a non-binding text in New York that criticised the use of artillery and tank shells on homes in Houla, but declined to blame the government alone. The rebels do not have artillery and tanks.

China also used strong words about the killings.

“China feels deeply shocked by the large number of civilian casualties in Houla, and condemns in the strongest terms the cruel killings of ordinary citizens, especially women and children,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

Read more here.

Memorial Day Music Video Asks That Mt. Soledad Veterans’ Memorial Cross Not Be Torn Down

CNN Contributor Erickson and Family Targeted in Latest ‘SWATing’ Attack

Erik Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com and a CNN political contributor, reports that he is the latest conservative to be “SWAT”ed.

Local police received a call from an individual claiming to be Erickson, stating that an accidental shooting had occurred at his home. Says Erickson, “Tonight, my family was sitting around the kitchen table eating dinner when sheriffs deputies pulled up in the driveway.”

In a statement to Breitbart News, Erickson further explained:

I can say that the Sheriff’s Deputy told me someone had called from my number, giving my home address, claiming an accidental shooting.

Whether or not they actually gave the number, I don’t know. My actual guess is that, given how we have our number set up, someone called 911 from a blocked number and gave our home address.

This tactic has previously been used on conservative blogger Patrick Frey aka Patterico, a California Deputy District Attorney, and Mike Stack, a New Jersey private citizen, both of whom were targeted by the left following the sex scandal which forced Anthony Weiner to resign from Congress.

Read more here.