Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bad News Means Big Business for CNBC

This from MediaBistro:

"More from the August ratings reports. During Wall Street's rocky month, CNBC's 5am-7 pm ET programming ave. raged 87,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo. According to the net, its their 'best August since 2002 and up +50% versus August 2006.'

"Other highlights are in the press release after the jump... (note too, the caveat at the end of the release about Nielsen's audience universe being limited to 'in-home' measurement.)

'CNBC HAS BEST AUGUST IN FIVE YEARS.' August Ratings More Than Tripled Since 2005, ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., August 28, 2007---During one of the most volatile months the markets have seen in years, viewers turned to CNBC, First in Business Worldwide for fast, accurate, actionable and unbiased business news. CNBC's Business Day (M-F 5a-7p ET) had its best August in five years, and August ratings have more than tripled since August 2005. For August 2007, CNBC's Business Day (M-F 5a-7p) averaged 87,000 A25-54, hitting its best August since 2002 and up +50% versus August 2006. All 6a-7p CNBC programs had their highest August time period delivery since at least 2003."

Okay, I got carried away, but I found these numbers astonishing -- bad news resulted in big numbers for CNBC. Such numbers may have turned into multipliers for the often struggling network.

This validates a point that I make quite often in this blog. Consider these headlines:
"Why the Media Hates Bad News"

"The Half Empty World of the Media"

"When It Comes To Real Estate: Bad News or Ridiculous Expectations?"
"As the Economy Enjoys Good News, Critics Receive Bad"
Etc., etc., etc.
The rise in CNBC's numbers is directly linked to the insanity in the Stock Market. This is exactly why the media continues to do negative spins on the news. Anything to attract attention. The worse it is, the more viewers it attracts, and it is usually done in an irresponsible fashion, in my opinion.
It isn't just the media at fault, however, we reinforce their bad behavior by giving them ratings like those above. We have to say more than we are merely "tired" of bad news and start punishing them for being such passionate promoters of such by consuming media that offers more balanced and even positive perspectives.
P.S.: Do you know why August 2002 beat this rating period? It was because it was during the technology bubble burst of that year.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blog Goes Multimedia

One of the things I like to boast about during the Houston Business Show (now Hour, M-F, on CNN 650 at 7 AM) is that my Houston Business Show and Hour Websites are going completely multimedia. Podcasts of the radio show, podcasts of audio that are exclusive to the website, video, (starting in October) a TV show, and of course articles and blog posts. In fact, our websites are the only local business news and information website that is completely multimedia.

Well, one thing in my life that has remained very 20th century it this blog. Until now. If you scan down you will notice that each post on this page includes a video. There may be times where I have audio instead (because of the availability of resources), but I'm committed to provide multimedia whenever it is available. I will not, however, choose a subject exclusively on this criteria, but it will play a role.

I have long believed that different people learn different ways. Furthermore, different people are attracted to different types of entertainment and information. That alone has bolstered my desire to move towards multimedia.
Some times the media will reinforce the article. Other times, it will be a mere example. Other time still, it will be a desperate attempt to make the video some how relevant to the article. Seriously though, with the sheer volume of multimedia content, it shouldn't be difficult to find such information. I hope you enjoy this addition.
Note: Order Kevin Price's audio program The Accumulators, which explains the impact that the Internet is having on marketing and consumer behavior. It is available online here for only $10 plus p and h.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Four Compelling Reasons to Think Twice About Leaving Iraq

Four compelling reasons to think twice about leaving Iraq from FreedomsWatch.org:

"Iraq war veteran John Kriesel lost both legs in a blast near Fallujah on December 2nd, 2006. It was near the end of his second tour. Listen to why John believes Victory is America's only choice." See and hear the rest of the story here (first video).

"Laura Youngblood lost 2 family members to al Qaeda terrorists, first her uncle Henry a New York City fireman who lost his life on 9/11, and than her husband Travis died fighting for our freedom in Iraq. Listen to why Laura believes Victory is America's only choice." Hear and see the rest of this compelling story by clicking here (second video).


"Iraq war veteran Andrew Robinson was on his second tour of duty when he was wounded by an IED in June of 2006. Andrew lost the use of his legs. Listen to why Andrew believes Victory is America's only choice." See and hear the rest of this important story by clicking here (third video).


"Vicki Strong lost her son Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong, in Iraq fighting for our freedom. Listen to why Vicki believes Victory is America's only choice." See and hear why she believes such by clicking here (video four).

Leaving Iraq and thinking our problems will go away is a very simplistic view of the situation. We didn't start this war and we are going to have to finish it. All we have been able to do is determine where this war is being fought. Do you want it over there or over here? Do you want little children at schools and families at malls on the front lines or well trained volunteers? We didn't choose to fight this world, but we must choose to win it.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fast Money MBA Spills the Beans Early

In a surprise move, CNBC's Fast Money MBA Challenge announced the winner before the show was even over. The season finale had the Texas Longhorns take on Yale and a David vs. Goliath battle. I, of course, was rooting for the home team of Texas.

About half way through it appeared that the Bulldogs had won. Than it was announced that the two teams were going to have $100,000 (to Texas) and $110,000 (to Yale, because they had the lead) in stock market picks and the results would be announced after 6 weeks. For what ever reason, I decided to visit the website and there it was announced that Yale won the $200,000 prize.

I don't know how this happened. Was it a mistake? Was it meant to emphasize the power of the web? I have no idea. I would think that CNBC would want as much attention as possible for the TV show as possible. But they chose a different strategy. The person who came up with such an approach should consider going back to school for him or herself.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Duncan Hunter for President?

Duncan Hunter is an old friend of mine and, as many of you know, is running for President. He's not taken seriously by most and he seems to be playing the role of reminding the other major candidates what Conservatives should believe.

I believe Hunter, who has a son who is serving in the military in Iraq and running for Congress himself, is the strongest and most credible candidate when it comes to nationl security issues. A Vietnam veteran himself who has his own sone on the front lines, his message is very powerful and he cannot be accused of hyprocisy. Unfortunately, popular support for the war is in continued decline and in message in support of it falls on deaf ears.
Other key issues that he stands on is a staunch position against illegal immigration and opposition to free trade. I agree, illegals need to be brought out of the darkenss in order to protect our citizens. However, I also believe this economy needs the help of these immigrants. They make our economy grow. Furthermore, free trade has been fundamental cornerstone of Republican economic philosophy. Herbert Hoover, the last Republican candidate to support protectionism, propelled the into the Depression with such policies. Protectionism makes domestic companies soft, forces consumers to pay higher prices, leads to tensions between countries (as Fredric Bastiat like to say, "if goods are not crossing borders, troops are"), and is funamentally bad policy.

On Monday's Houston Business Hour (August 27, 2007 at 7 AM) Duncan Hunter will be on my program to discuss these and other issues. I believe it will be a very interesting program.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blog/Video: Creative Ad Placement

Back in the old days it wasn't unusual to have TV shows named after Texaco or Mutual Omaha. Over time the common belief was that a program lost its credibility by being so blatantly branded. Well, as the saying goes, "everything old is new again!" In fact, we are taking such advertising concepts to all new levels.

These days we have "Budweiser Half Time Shows," athletes where logos on their uniforms (e.g., the AFL), ads are plastered all over arenas and stadiums, I can't even use a public restroom without finding an advertisement on the wall!

They are trying to get brands on everything since consumers are making it so difficult for businesses to get their message across. Consumers are cynical. They have their favorite channels lined up in their mind and at the first sign of a commercial, they change the program. Similar things happen on the radio, I'm afraid. It is even worse for newspapers, which are so plastered with ads they often end up on the bottom of a bird cage before a single word is read.

One new airline, Skybus, has allowed companies to plaster their ads and logos virtually every where on the plane (including on the back of the uniforms on flight attendants, I've heard). This is an innovative way to keep prices down.

7-Eleven, however, has really taken the cake. Every Chicago White Sox game begins at 7:11 this season thanks to a $500,000.00 check from the convenience store chain. In addition to reminding people of the brand every time a sports and news station announces the time a game begins, the buzz surrounding the advertisement has lead to thousands of links (over 70,000) in a Google search and I have seen it repeated on national news programs around the country (see the example above).

In this demanding business culture we know one thing for sure -- companies are going to have to be creative to get noticed. 7-Eleven is leading this charge.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Christopher Dodd's Bold Move for Exposure

Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is considered an also ran in the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008. He lacks money, he lacks supporters, he lacks political base, but he keeps on running. Desperate times call for desperate measures and he is certainly in that situation. However, this week he has been one of the most mentioned names on the news, often eclipsing Clinton and Obama.
Why the sudden interest in Dodd? Well, the Connecticut Senator is the Chairman of the influential Senate Banking Committee and he is taking the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke to task for doing too little, too late in the current mortgage crisis.

There is a great deal of speculation as to his objectives. Some say that he is trying to look like the champion of the lower income individuals who have been harmed by the mortgages they obtained. Others think that he is trying to curtail the independence of the Federal Reserve. I'm cynical, I think the low profile candidate of the high profile race is looking for a little media attention. He isn't going to seriously influence our monetary system. Furthermore, he won't even intimidate Bernanke in rescuing home owners (although I won't be surprise if Congress does such a bail out). He simply is trying to develop an affordable way to get his face on the evening news. This week, it worked.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Going Daily

It has been ten years since I have done a daily radio show and the first time ever that I have done such during drive time in Houston. But Monday is my first day to host the new Houston Business Hour, 7 AM on CNN 650.

7 AM as "drive time." That's an interesting concept for a night owl like me. 7 AM would normally be drive time if:

* My wife was pregnant and she decided to deliver.

* My house was on fire and I needed some where else to stay.

* If I were on vacation and had left late in the night to get a great deal of time in while my kids are sleeping (like I did last week when we went to Orlando under the false notion that driving together was "good family time").

Now, every day, Monday through Friday I should already be in the studio at 7 AM! This will take some adjustments. I decided to start my own business in order to avoid such obscene hours. As I said, it will take adjustment.

However, to reach a larger audience and to do it daily, I'm delighted for the opportunity.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Morning Joe Questions Media Objectivity

Joe Scarborough surprised many of us by taking Don Imus's spot early in the mornings on MSNBC. It was a surprise because Joe is very conservative for a network rapidly becoming known for its liberal bias. On today's show, Joe Scarborough pointed out how the NBC newsroom broke out in "boos" when President Bush delivered the State of the Union Address in 2003. He discussed such with a managing editor and it never happened again.

He brought this up after a Seattle newspaper editor criticized colleagues for breaking out in applause when Karl Rove announced his resignation last week. View his comments as they appeared today.

Scarborough comment raises an important point -- the blatant bias that exists in media today. Joe is noted as a conservative, which is fine in my opinion. Does this mean that he and I are hypocrites? I don't think so. There are, in fact, more than one aspects to the news. There is "hard news," which should be "just the facts." That is the approach that should be burdened on every news person in news delivery.

There is also the editorial department. The Joe Scarboroughs and Bill O'Reillys who clearly have an axe to grind. Editorial can be biased, as long as they make it clear they have their own agenda. My concern and the concern of Scarborough and others are those who ostensibly come across as objective, but clearly are not. When a newsroom of reporters feel they can comfortably attack someone because he (or she) is conservative, indicates a culture that has clearly lost sight of what "objective" means. Scarborough, and the rest of us, have legitimate reason for concern.

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I'm Mad at "Mad Men"

I love a good TV series based on historical fiction. For example, I use to think American Dreams was great. Sure, it was a little political, but it was full of great story lines. For weeks, AMC has been tempting me with a new drama called Mad Men, which is about the birth of the modern advertising agency.

Mad Men promised slick scripts, great costumes, cool cinematography, historical relvence, etc. I must admit, when I turned it on it was eye catching. The sets were very appealing visually and the costumes seemed to match the historical timeline. But then the characters started to talk.

According to the episode I was watching, Readers Digest recently did an article about the horrors of smoking and the Mad Men make a living selling this vice's virtues. "Bold, beautiful," you get the idea. Everyone in the show smokes. I'm expecting the cats and dogs to puff away. The medical doctor comes into an examination room with a patient waiting and decides to fire up.
All of the characters are sinister, they know smoking is harmful and they promote them knowing that they destroy lives. This world is very politically incorrect, with men suggesting that they show more leg and to have weaker morals. After a while, I almost thought I was watching a remake of Star Wars. "Come to the Dark Side" Readers Digest. The nifty suits could be replaced with a Darth Vader costume. The leader of this group of evil Jedi's was even trying to recruit one of its members to manage the campaign of Richard Nixon for President! Terrible!
This show simply has too much of an axe to grind. I'll give it a few more tries, but I don't see this show sticking with me. If it does, don't expect to write a retraction.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Key to Affordable Health Care?

Steve Forbes recently wrote in his Fact and Fiction Column (Open-Heart Surgery -- 90% Off!, August 13, 2007) that certain countries are developing a flourishing medical tourism that is resulting in substantial savings to customers. Check out some of the recent numbers (US on the left, India on the right):

Bone Marrow Transplant $400,000 vs. $30,000

Liver Transplant $500,000 vs. $40,000

Open-heart Surgery $50,000 vs. $4,000

Neurosurgery $29,000 vs. $8,000

Knee Surgery $16,000 vs. $4,500

These procedures are being delivered with the same high standards expected in the United States. The Joint Commission International (the accrediting organization for foreign hospitals) was established by the Joint Commission, which accredits US hospitals. What is important is that they have the same standards.

So how do Indian hospitals do it at such a low price? Steve Forbes offers the following: Excellent hospitals can be built overseas without the bureaucratic red tape found in the US, thereby saving construction time. Construction costs are lower, as are nursing, physician and administrative expenses. Expert doctors who have trained here and in Europe are returning home, where money goes considerably further than in, say, New York or California. More and more these foreign hospitals -- currently numbering about 120, and growing -- are not just mirring the best US practices but are emerging as innovators."

Most "solutions" to our health care crises are government driven in this country, but the real solution in other countries are coming from the market and not bureaucracy. We need market solutions, not government failures.

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CNBC to Fox Business: We Are Ready

According to a recent Media Bistro ezine:

In today's Hollywood Reporter, NBCU's Jeff Zucker confidently reveals how CNBC will handle the arrival of Fox Business Network: "We're not going to make the same mistake CNN made when Fox News Channel came along a decade ago. We'll be strong and aggressive and continue to prove what makes CNBC by far the leading financial news broadcaster in the world."Zucker continues, "I think there is a degree of irony that the company that broke the story that Rupert Murdoch wanted to buy Dow Jones was CNBC."

Obviously Murdoch could have broke that same story and chose not to and this story reminds me of the saying that "pride comes before the fall." I don't think CNN fell over and played dead, but simply tried to down play the significance of the rival at their own peril. I believe Fox won the content war more than the personality battle (although I generally prefer Fox's people). I also think the quality of people that Fox brings will be better than what CNBC currently offers. We will have to wait and see.

With Fox's purchase of the Wall Street Journal, will the Dow Jones Industrial Average become the Fox Business Industrial Average? I'm dying to see a CNBC reporter say something like that.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Strange Little Show called "The Millionaire Inside"

I don't normally watch CNBC during the weekend because it is usually a series of infomercials. Recently I stumbled upon the program and I decided to spend a little time with it. I don't know who is usually on the show, but tonight featured:

Erin Burnett. The regular host and a CNBC "Money Honey" in her own right (I think that term is trademarked by another Money Honey, so I hope I don't get sued).
Robert Kiyosaki. The author of one of my favorite books, Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Laura Morgan Roberts. This Harvard professor of organizational psychology described the mental and emotional capabilities of millionaires.

Keith Ferrazzi. Arguably one of the world's greatest networkers.

Larry Winget. One of the country's most reknown success coaches.

Clearly this was an impressive group at an interesting setting (it looked like a Zig Ziglar seminar audience). However, there was an informercial "quality" about the show that I wasn't completely comfortable with. It felt like it was possibly underwritten, but the people involved with the program (maybe an ad hoc version of Forbes on Fox). On the other hand, it could be an educational program designed to help the people who watch the infomercials on the weekend, become financially interested to watch the program during the rest of the week (which are made for serious investors).

I will say that I learned a little on today's program and my curiosity will have me coming back again, even if it is to figure out the angle. If it is an infomercial, it is an highly innovative one.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

AFA for Fox

This from a recent Media Bistro ezine:

The American Family Association (AFA), a group standing for "traditional family values", has announced it will fight a boycott of FNC advertisers. Groups including Brave New Films and MoveOn are leading an effort to boycott Fox News Channel advertisers. Now, the AFA is organizing a counter-attack. "Every advertiser the liberals want to target for a boycott, we will target to promote," says AFA chairman Donald E. Wildmon (photo).Liberal groups are also trying to convince Home Depot to cease advertising on the network. A Home Depot spokesperson says the company will not pull its ads because it is "not in the business of censoring media" and needs "to reach (its) customer base through all mediums available."

I would also venture that Fox News provides an excellent demographic for businesses like Home Depot. Furthermore, Home Depot is a business and few businesses will find a friendlier place than Fox News.
I have to admit, I'm not nearly as aware of advertisers on Fox as I should be. This is funny, because during the work day I do very little channel changing. I'm going to start taking a closer note in the future in order to follow AFA's example. I believe viewers need the type of perspective that Fox seems to be the only one willing to provide. I hope others go out of the way to support this pro-business network.

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Privatize Those Bridges!

Any regular reader of this blog knows I am frequent viewer of Fox News in general and Cashin' In in particular. One of the debates through out the business programming day has been infrastructure versus social programs. During the debate, one of the participants -- when reviewing private options -- laughed and said "we are not talking about privatizing bridges." She should, because such an approach is working around the world.

In France, the government worked with a private company to create the Millau Viaduct (photo). This bridge has the highest pylons, highest bridge deck, and highest mast. It is an engineering masterpiece. Both beautiful and functional, it is being funded by the individuals who are using it and not be the general French population who may never have anything to do with it. This approach is refreshing to a country noted for being over taxed and it needs to be done more often.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that:

In Britain, Margaret Thatcher's privatization movement in the 1980s spurred both the sale of existing government assets and public-private construction projects. Later, the fall of the Soviet Union produced a vast round of privatization of public assets in formerly Eastern bloc countries. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that world-wide there have been more than 1,100 public-private deals in the transportation field alone in the last 20 years, with a value of some $360 billion.

The Journal article also points out that similar projects have come close to my home:

Texas has made private capital a key ingredient in a vast road-building project known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. The state has already entered into a build-and-operate deal with an international consortium (Zachry American Infrastructure and Cintra) to construct a 320-mile toll road for an upfront payment of $1.3 billion to the state and the right of the private owners to operate the toll road for 50 years. In California, a private company is building a nearly 10-mile, $800-million extension of Route 125 south of San Diego in exchange for a 35-year lease to operate the road and collect tolls.

I use that toll road gladly and usually daily. Why should people in Abilene, Texas pay for my toll road? The fact that I have to pay, there are usually less drivers on it and it becomes a more convenient way to travel. One of the things that frustrates me is the ferry off of Galveston that is state funded and doesn't cost a penny to ride. On the boat you hear a message about the "free ferry" funded by "the state of Texas." What is the state of Texas? People who live 15 hours and more away and have never even seen Galveston. These people are forced to pay for it?
If private ownership is involved with bridges, projects will get done on time and within budget.
As far as maintenance, Aristotle argued "that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it." Again, if private interests are involved, the long term care of the roads is far more assured.

There is no doubt that our infrastructure has been neglected and needs attention. But there is also no doubt, in my mind, that the answers are found in private solutions. (See video above).

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Murdoch Finally Gets WSJ

It appears official. Sure, I'm sure there are documents to be filled and lawyers to be dealt with, but it appears that Rupert Mudoch's quest for the Wall Street Journal has finally been sucessful. Media Bistro reports:

Nearly three months after CNBC's David Faber broke the news that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was making an offer to buy the Dow Jones Company, Faber reports this morning that it's a done deal, and an "agreement is expected tonight."

Apparently, enough members of the family which controls 64% of the voting shares, have agreed to sell. A little more than 3 months from now, Murdoch launches his business news companion to the #1 cable news network, the Fox Business Channel.
Many analysts, and Murdoch himself, expect the Dow sale to be a game changer for FBC; bringing the heft of The Wall Street Journal to 24-hour TV. "We just want to have a business channel that lives up to the quality and traditions of The Wall Street Journal," Murdoch told FNC's Neil Cavuto on the day the offer was announced. "We think that we can do that and we will do very well."
One hurdle: The Wall Street Journal has a television deal with CNBC until 2012. On that issue Murdoch said, "we think there is plenty of room for us all to work together."
I wasn't sure Murdoch was going to pull it off for a while. After all, the Journal is an old publication with deep family roots. I bet their next family reunion will be very interesting. But I'm not surprised either. One thing I have learned is that it is foolish to under estimate Rupert Murdoch. He might be the single biggest media player in history.

CNBC enjoys a coveted relationship with the Wall Street Journal and, I'm sure, enjoy providing the Dow Jones Industrial Averages (DJIA) with pride. But the DJIA is just a name. What if Murdoch changes it to the Fox Business Industrial Averages? If that happens, 2012 couldn't come sooner for CNBC.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bridge Tragedy Provides Communications Warning

Hopefully my father in law is in Alaska. That's the rumor at least. Minutes after the recent tragedy of a destroyed Minneapolis, Minnesota bridge, my wife and I were on the phone trying to reach her dad, Bill. Besides being the father of my wife, he's my golfing buddy who got me turned on again to the sport. We wanted to phone him.

As of the time of this writing, we haven't found him. In fact, all we have found is recordings each time we call telling us of "technical problems," that we are sure are related to the disaster that has had several casualties and fatalities.

Again, rumor has it, he's in Alaska. Everyone who knows for sure is in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I don't see making a successful phone call any time soon. We will soon try emails, but preoccupation with the tragedy probably will delay a response.

This is a terrible tragedy and I'm not trying to under estimate the magnitude of this tragedy. However, it could be worse. Much worse. September 11, 2001 proved that. This disaster reminds us that, in spite of the wonders of modern communications, we still have a long way to go.

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Democratic Leadership Council: Exit Stage Left?

The Democratic Leadership Council is having its annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee. The DLC was designed to provide a safe place for moderate and conservative Democrats to express their views and to be a force to help the Democratic Party.

A few years ago the DLC was a pretty big thing. President Bill Clinton said that the organization had everything to do with his election and believed that it should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Clinton, in fact, was one of the organization's founders.

The candidates for President in the Democratic party today have declared a war on conservatives and moderates today. Former Senator John Edwards likes to talk about "two Americas" in his message of class warfare. Sen. Barack Obama passionately promotes socialized medicine and has declared a war on capitalism with his threats of excessive taxation. And Hillary Clinton has been singing the praises of socialism and now declares herself a "progressive."

At the big DLC recent events, Democratic presidential candidates have always showed up. This year, not a single Democratic candidate for President is showing up. They did get Bill Clinton and Hillary may be using her man to hedge her bets, but none of the actual candidates are showing up. Not even second and third tier candidates are there. To me, this is good news for Republicans. The recent story of US politics is that Republicans run to the right in the primaries and behave more moderate in the general election. The opposite is the case for Democrats, who run left and try to shift moderate. But with the treatment they are giving the DLC, there will not likely be a moderate base waiting for them.

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