Saturday, July 05, 2008

America's Days Aren't Numbered

I have a simple request. As we celebrate the birth of the American Republic, can we all stop predicting its death? It's getting depressing. The last time I strolled through the local Barnes & Noble, there were so many books announcing the end of American power, wealth, influence, or just America itself, that I began to wonder whether my dollars would be worth anything by the time I hit the checkout counter....

As a historian, I find this trend fascinating. After all, since humans climbed out of the trees and began surveying the lion-infested Savannah, none have ever lived in a period more prosperous, secure and stable than Americans do today. The U.S. is not only the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth now, but in all of history. There's never been a better time and place to be alive than America in the 21st century.

So why all the decline theorists? Here's my theory: Prosperity and security are boring. Nobody wants to read about them. The same phenomenon occurred in ancient Rome, the last state to acquire such a firm hegemony. By the second century B.C., Roman citizens were affluent and their empire no longer had any serious rivals. With the dangers past and the money rolling in, they developed a taste for jeremiads. If you had a stylus, ink and scroll you could hardly go broke telling the Romans their empire, culture and way of life were yesterday's news.

Polybius blamed pandering politicians, who, he predicted, would transform the noble Republic into mob rule. Sallust claimed that Rome's vicious political parties had "torn the Republic asunder." Livy wrote his entire "History of Rome" just so that his fellow citizens could "follow the decay of the national character . . . until it reaches these days in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies." The Romans may have been unquestioned masters of their world, but they sure didn't like reading about it. And when the empire actually did start its decline in the third century A.D., criticisms and predictions of collapse became noticeably thinner on the ground.

The military dictators who seized power in Rome and led the empire on its downward spiral did not much like reading about their own shortcomings, and they had ways of making sure that they didn't have to. These were the days of the panegyric - an obsequious form of literature that praised the emperor and empire to the skies. When you start seeing those, it's time to worry.

Of course America could be falling, but I have my doubts. For one thing, the book market is too strong. So, on this Fourth of July, I am going to watch the fireworks and be grateful for the place and time in which I live. When Polybius, Sallust and Livy wrote their books the Roman state still had more than a millennium of life in it. Perhaps ours does too.




Disgraceful British pennypinching: "Former Gurkha soldiers today lost their High Court battle over a pensions deal with the Ministry of Defence, which they say has left them struggling to live. Three retired members of the famous Brigade of Gurkhas failed in a legal challenge affecting thousands of others. Kamal Purja, Sabahdaur Gurung and Kumar Shrestha were demanding the same pension rights for Gurkhas as the rest of the British Army. The Government conceded some ground to the Gurkhas over pensions last year, but members of the celebrated regiment who retired before 1997 were not included in the new deal and there is a discrepancy in the way years of service are calculated. In today's test case, the High Court ruled that the dates and exceptions imposed by the MoD were reasonable."

California confusion: To water or not to water? Greenies trump city bureaucrats: "Sacramento city officials on Wednesday admitted their code enforcement policies may not be drought-friendly, and said they won't fine the couple featured in Wednesday's Bee who let their front lawn die to save water. The story prompted a torrent of outrage from the public, who overwhelmingly supported Anne Hartridge and Matt George, the east Sacramento couple cited by city code enforcers after they stopped watering their lawn. ... The city's director of code enforcement, Max Fernandez, told The Bee on Wednesday the front-yard rules allow more flexibility than the code language indicates. The code states explicitly that front yards 'shall be landscaped, irrigated and maintained.' This would seem to preclude yards that are simply mulched, like Hartridge's, or those that use cactuses or other drought-tolerant plants requiring no water."

MSM economics: "Quite simply, our economy is in total collapse! So says ABC News. The Yahoo headline writer put it: "Skyrocketing food prices threaten Fourth of July celebrations." There's no doubt food prices have risen, but "skyrocketing?" As the story says, food prices are up 5% over 4th of July last year. Some perspective is in order: Jimmy Carter could only dream about 5% inflation when he was president. We learn 41 seconds in that a pack of hot dogs "runs about $4.29." Are those foie gras hot dogs? At Wal-Mart, Bar-S hot dogs are $0.79. Then at 1:26 a woman displays the typical ignorance of people about economics. She says, "I don't know why we have to pay so much for the same product." Don't worry, lady. ABC will blame it on oil companies for you"

WALL-E, No thanks: "I took my family to see WALL-E this weekend. I have been a huge fan of Disney Pixar's movies. Parents are usually just as entertained as their kids are. With WALL-E, that's probably true only if you thought An Inconvenient Truth was Oscar-worthy. As for me, Pixar's latest offering was Godforsaken dreck. Mankind has had to abandon the earth because there is too much garbage. WALL-E is the only remaining garbage compacting robot in a metropolis of garbage skyscrapers. And his only living companion is a cockroach, described by a Washington Post reviewer (who doubtlessly thinks very highly of the Nobel Committee) as cute, but pretty much just a cockroach. Really charming stuff for my three-year old, who was asking to leave about fifty minutes in. When we finally see the humans, they are corpulent, lazy slobs who move around by robotic deck chairs on a giant space cruiseship. Oh, and let's not forget the mega-corporation that runs everything (ironically, the ship looked a little like a Disney Cruise ship in the year 2800). From the first moment of the film, my kids were bombarded with leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind."

McClatchy newspapers nearly dead: "Shares of The McClatchy Co. dropped almost 6 percent in trading Monday and fell to a new 52-week low, after the newspaper publisher was removed from the Russell 1000, a closely watched index. The Sacramento-based company has been battling declining advertising revenue and fewer readers for the past few months. The drop in earnings and revenue prompted 10 percent across-the-board layoffs"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Friday, July 04, 2008


It's not independence day in Australia where I live. We became independent on January 1, 1901, without having to fight for it. But Australians and Americans are brothers in important ways so in honour of the American occasion I flew Old Glory from the flagpole in front of my house yesterday and will do so again today.


Patriotism in America


I believe politicians are the number-one cause of gastro-intestinal disorder. I think this is true because I get gas whenever a politician outlines his or her vision for America, or when they speak to us about morality, or lectures us about patriotism. I think this is because if anyone should refrain addressing such weighty issues, it is a politician - mostly because beyond the fact they've convinced some number of back-home voters that they deserve to be an elected official, politicians aren't qualified to lecture me about any of these things - especially about Patriotism.

When Barack Obama lectured about patriotism the other day, in advance of our annual Fourth of July celebrations, I wondered about his moral authority in doing so. In the first place, I am not convinced that any politician has ever placed the good of the nation above self-interest. I imagine our attitude regarding Obama depends on what we are prepared to believe about his meteoric rise to national prominence. For example, we might wonder if self-interest or patriotism prompted him to run for the presidency a mere 143 working days after his election to the United States Senate; one pundit recently said, "I keep leftovers in my refrigerator longer than that."

Let us for a moment consider what patriotism should mean to Americans. First, it should capture the best of our national spirit. It is pride in our nation's many accomplishments even in spite of our shortcomings. It is pride in our culture, a desire to preserve our traditions, a particular adherence to our values, and it is how we identify with our fellow citizens. And let me add that contrary to the views of multiculturalists, "nationalism" is not a despicable concept. Our institutions should promote patriotism, not demean its character.

When we speak of patriotism, we should probably understand that it encompasses personal sentiment, institutional demonstrations, and aspects that I regard as authentic and verifiable. Patriotism can be intangible (crossing one's heart during the National Anthem, wearing a flag pin), and measureable (service to country and community). It can be intellectual, and emotional. In most cases, I think our feelings of patriotism stem from one or more of these, depending upon who we are as individuals, and our experiences. And because the concept of patriotism is nebulous, Barack Obama is probably correct to suggest that we should exercise care before calling into question another citizen's patriotism. A soldier who gives up his life for his country is an authentic patriot - there is no greater gift than that, but this does not suggest that another person, choosing not to serve in the military, is unpatriotic. It only demonstrates that personal patriotism is difficult to measure.

Mr. Obama suggested that our country should call upon every citizen to demonstrate patriotism through some form of national service. I do agree with this sentiment, but note that Obama has not seen fit to do that. I wonder if Obama proposes reinstitution of the military draft - now that he is past that point in his life. My point is that a true leader will not ask others to perform a task that he is not willing to take-on himself - the underlying value of having a commander in chief with some military background.....

We all know what patriotism should mean, but it is apparent that liberals have a concept far removed from American tradition; these ideological platforms do not emerge from fortune cookies. Human beings develop political policy consistent with their personal or collective philosophies. That said, I think it is fair and relevant to question to patriotism of those who conspire to divide our nation - and in doing so, pave the way for their personal advancement to the highest levels of our government. Politicians who pander to voters according to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socio-economic status are dividers. Politicians who embrace "the world view" place foreign views over our own, nationally unique values; I cannot help but to wonder how a world-view encourages or reinforces patriotism among our people. Personally, I am offended when illegal aliens in California demonstrate under the banner of the Mexican flag. It is difficult to imagine a patriotic politician who encourages such activities in order to capture the Hispanic vote.

Obama's harangue on patriotism did not offend me; I only prefer that he know something about it. I love my country - spots and all. I do not think it is necessary to redefine our National Anthem to encompass a "black perspective," nor do I accept the view of liberals, which closely parallels the attitudes of the pre-World War II French. I do not agree with halfwits who claim support for troops, but treat them as victims. Flag burning may be an expression, but it is not a patriotic expression. Spitting on military recruiters may be a popular past time in Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein's state of California, but it is not patriotism. That said - I wish everyone a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.

More here



Rush Limbaugh is going from strength to strength. Big update on the latest here.

Oh dear! Ann Coulter tells us lots of stuff about McCain that we wish we could forget here

There is a new blog from England which I think is rather fun: The Fat Bigot

Christian Conservatives Unite Behind McCain: "At a meeting Tuesday in Denver, about 100 conservative Christian leaders from around the country agreed to unite behind the candidacy of John McCain, a politician they have long distrusted, marking the latest in a string of movement that bodes well for McCain's general election prospects among the Republican base. "Collectively we feel that he will support and advance those moral values that we hold much greater than Obama, who in our view will decimate moral values," said Mat Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, who previously supported Mike Huckabee's candidacy. "There are people who came through the primary with very mixed emotions of the candidate," Staver continued, noting that many in the group had been in Denver to attend a separate meeting for pastors. "This event was to put those aside."

Red tape nobbles British police: "Frontline police sergeants spend almost half their time on paperwork and just 10 per cent attending the scenes of crime and incidents, according to a report published today. In it sergeants complained that they were swamped by paperwork related to targets and work performance. One officer said: "Click, click, tap, tap best describes my job; mainly recording performance figures." The finding that frontline sergeants were spending 45 per cent of their time on paperwork is highly embarrassing for the Police Service and the Home Office, which have often pledged to cut red tape to get officers out on the beat. Sergeants also reported that they were afraid to challenge scruffy constables in case they were accused of bullying and that they were not adequately trained or supported to supervise constables"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Are Liberals More Open-Minded Than Conservatives?

Self-confessed hater, Jonathan Chait says below that they are. I add some comments below that -- JR
In a paper they wrote about the ideological leanings of blog readers and news-watchers, Henry Farrell, Eric Lawrence and John Sides find that conservatives tend to read only conservative blogs, while most liberals read only left-leaning blogs. That's not a huge surprise. They also find this:
Those few people who read both left wing and right wing blogs are considerably more likely to be left wing themselves; interpret this as you like.

I'm going to go ahead and interpet it: Liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view than are conservatives. Now, most people in general do not like listening to opposing views, but those who do are overwhelmingly on the left. I'm going to wallow in smug self-satisfaction for a few minutes, then go over to the Corner to see if anybody has a rebuttal.


Chait is quoting some research about blog readers that appeared on the Leftist "Crooked Timber" website. Even if the findings concerned are sound, therefore, they tell us nothing about the population at large. From blog readership alone, for instance, we can tell that blog readers are far from typical. Leftist blogs in general have far higher readership than conservative blogs. Kos readership completely dwarfs Instapundit readership, for instance. Most blog readers are Leftist but that is not true of the population at large.

So what IS true of the population at large? Are people in general more open-minded if they are Leftist? That is a very old question among political psychologists -- going back to the book The open and closed mind by Milton Rokeach, published in 1960. Rokeach constructed a questionnaire (the D or "Dogmatism" scale) to measure open mindedness. He allowed for it being equally prevalent on both sides of politics but found some tendency for Leftists to be more open-minded.

As it happens, by far the most prolific author of the many subsequent papers in the academic journals on the subject was myself. You can access all my papers on the subject here.

What I found at the end of many years of research was that the "D" scale really measured nothing at all. Since the topic was a very popular one within political psychology, it seems reasonable to say that the best brains on the subject have so far been unable to produce a definitive conclusion. In the circumstances, I think we have to treat Mr Chait's assertions as mere unsubstantiated opinion.


McCain is right on trade -- but it may sink him

John McCain demonstrated the global reach of America's presidential election last night by flying to Colombia where he will once more declare his support for the free-trade deals opposed by Barack Obama. The Republican nominee claims that Mr Obama's promise to embrace the rest of the world is contradicted by his populist rhetoric pandering to US trade unions and Rust Belt voters who blame trade deals for the loss of industrial jobs.

Opinion polls suggest that two thirds of US voters believe their economy has suffered from globalisation and, speaking before his visit to Latin America, which will also include a stop in Mexico, Mr McCain said that he had a "very tough" task in convincing the electorate that trade can help them.

He cited the example of President Hoover, whose 1930 decision to sign sky-high tariff legislation into law had ensured "we went from a recession into one of the great depressions of our history". Mr McCain added: "You gotta stand on principle. I believe in the principle of free trade." Mr Obama, described by the McCain campaign as "the most protectionist candidate that the Democratic Party has ever fielded", is planning his own international tour of Europe and the Middle East this summer.

More here



Greedy unions and complacent management get their just reward: " GM, once an emblem of U.S. post-war economic might, is being driven to the brink by dwindling sales that are expected to test cash reserves and the nerves of investors in the months ahead. Crosstown rivals Ford Motor Co and privately held Chrysler LLC face similar pressures. As the automakers weigh their options to ride out the industry's most-trying slump in 25 years, thousands of Detroit families are doing the same.... GM's sales have dropped 15 percent so far this year, and its share of the U.S. market is down to just 21 percent. When major automakers report sales for June on Tuesday, there is a chance that GM will be overtaken by Toyota Motor Co as the monthly sales leader, a reversal that points to the popularity of small cars like the Yaris and the abandonment of SUVs and trucks like the Yukon and Silverado. GM has responded by slashing costs, cutting truck production and slashing its factory work force to less than half of the 118,000 it employed four years ago. For Detroit, the downturn has been brutal. Michigan's jobless rate jumped to a 16-year high of 8.5 percent for May. Detroit led the nation with its home foreclosure rate in 2007."

Brainless attacks on oil companies: "Rather than do something productive to increase fuel supplies, Congress wastes time hunting bogeymen and fabricating distractions. Lately they have excoriated Big Oil for the cardinal sin of "under-investing" in alternative energy... But before Congress tars and feathers Big Oil CEOs for this alleged inaction, a simple question occurs: So what? Where is it written that any industry must spend money to subvert its business model? Since when must any company plow scarce resources into helping consumers avoid its products? If enterprises now must meet this standard, the interesting possibilities are endless... why does Senator Barack Obama (D., Ill.) insist on fundraising only for his campaign? When will he hold a benefit for John McCain? Despite this notion's manifest absurdity, Big Oil, in fact, has spent plenty on alternative energy. While Washington politicians spit venom at the petroleum industry, it funds more of such research than does Uncle Sam".

Britons set to retire in poverty: "British workers are set to retire on less than half their annual pay in retirement -significantly lower than many workers worldwide. The average British worker is looking at a retirement income of about $430 a week, according to research from investment house Fidelity International, less than the current minimum wage. In America and Germany, pensioners will expect to receive 58 per cent and 56 per cent of their current earnings respectively. Only Japan is on a par with the UK, with their pensions set to reach an average of 47 per cent of a worker's salary. The average weekly wage in the UK is $914, said Simon Fraser, president of the Retirement Institute at Fidelity International. But in retirement Brits can expect to receive just $430 a week on average, which would be less than those working a 40-hour week on the minimum wage of $11 an hour".


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why do people vote? Genetic variation in political participation

This is only a small advance on what was already known. It is known that Left/Right orientation is strongly genetic and the study below shows that the strength of that orientation is also genetically inherited -- JR

A groundbreaking new study finds that genes significantly affect variation in voter turnout, shedding new light on the reasons why people vote and participate in the political system. The research, conducted by political scientists James H. Fowler, Christopher T. Dawes (of UC San Diego) and psychologist Laura A. Baker (of University of Southern California), appears in the May issue of the American Political Science Review, a journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA).

"Although we are not the first to suggest a link between genes and political participation," note the authors, "this study is the first attempt to test the idea empirically." They do so by conducting three tests of the claim that part of the variation in political participation can be attributed to genetic factors. The results suggest that individual genetic differences make up a large and significant portion of the variation in political participation, even after taking socialization and other environmental factors into account. They also suggest that, contrary to decades of conventional wisdom, family upbringing may have little or no effect on children's future participatory behavior.

In conducting their study, the authors examine the turnout patterns of identical and non-identical twins-including 396 twins in Los Angeles County and 806 twins in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Their findings suggest that 53% of the variation in turnout can be accounted for by genetic effects in the former, with similar outcomes in the latter.

Moreover, genetic-based differences extend to a broad class of acts of political participation, including donating to a campaign, contacting an official, running for office, and attending a rally. According to Fowler, "we expected to find that genes played some role in political behavior, but we were quite surprised by the size of the effect and how widely it applies to all kinds of participation." "The fact that we have found genetic variation in voting, and political participation in general, should not be surprising given the large numbers of behaviors that have already been found to be heritable," observe the authors.




A point that's so obvious that the MSM can't seem to comprehend it: "As dumb as this claim is, and it is stupid on it's face, the one that continues to bug me is when the Dems keep whinning that any additional drilling offshore or in ANWR wouldn't yield any oil for a number of years. Instead, they want to invest in unproven technologies such as electric cars and solar and wind which will cost significantly more, require a massive overhaul of supporting infrastructure and...wait for it...won't yield any results for even more years if ever. Yet, nobody points out this obvious yet inconvenient truth."

That wicked outsourcing to India is OK when the NYT does it: "Reciting the outsourcing mantra is a required ritual for any self-respecting Democrat office seeker this cycle. Obama and Clinton both took up the battle cry in the primaries to rally big labor bosses and agitate the rank and file. Assisted by their allies in the drive-by media like the New York Times and NBC News, the candidate's rhetoric was reinforced with strategically placed stories to amplify the propaganda. For observers interested in exposing media hipocrisy, the announcement that the New York Times is outsourcing their internet operations to a unit of Mumbai India Newspaper publisher Deccan Chronicle is a most delicious nugget."

The Anthrax Fiasco: "Steven Hatfill finally has his life back. Thanks to FBI incompetence, he also has $5.8 million. In a late Friday news dump, the Justice Department announced it had settled a lawsuit with Mr. Hatfill, a former military scientist whom then-Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly identified in 2002 as a "person of interest" in the investigation into the anthrax attacks in the aftermath of 9/11. Mr. Hatfill sued, claiming the FBI had libeled him in leaks to the media. Justice's mea culpa is a major embarrassment, exceeding even the Richard Jewell debacle. It's worse because it is a virtual confession that the anthrax case is cold. Throughout one of the largest investigations in law-enforcement history, agents were fixated on a "lone wolf" theory that Director Robert Mueller's FBI, for all intents and purposes, now admits was wrong."

Spitzer remembered: "In 2005, then-Attorney General Spitzer sued Mr. Grasso over his $190 million pay package from the exchange, which was then a private nonprofit. To make his case, he stretched to the breaking point several obscure state laws designed to protect nonprofits from self-dealing directors. The state's highest court has now ruled that the AG had no authority to bring four of the six claims, affirming a lower court's finding. Exceeding his authority was one of Mr. Spitzer's predilections. The question is whether his successor, Andrew Cuomo, wants to continue down that path after this latest setback. The two remaining claims require the AG to prove that Mr. Grasso breached his fiduciary duty to the exchange and knowingly engaged in wrongdoing. The judge in the case granted partial summary judgment last year on one of those counts, but that legally tenuous ruling is also under appeal."

Church of England clergy plan mass exit over women bishops: "More than 1,300 clergy, including 11 serving bishops, have written to the archbishops of Canterbury and York to say that they will defect from the Church of England if women are consecrated bishops. As the wider Anglican Communion fragments over homosexuality, England's established Church is moving towards its own crisis with a crucial vote on women bishops this weekend. In a letter to Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, seen by The Times, the signatories give warning that they will consider leaving the Church if two crucial votes are passed to introduce female bishops. The Church's moderate centre is being pressured as never before by evangelicals opposed to gays, and traditionalists opposed to women's ordination."

Another mad British priority: "Violent assaults and serious antisocial behaviour are lower priorities for councils than stopping people smoking, town hall targets showed yesterday. Despite a government poll showing community safety was voters' overwhelming priority, anti-crime initiatives will not be the main focus of authorities. Details published yesterday by Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, set out the targets picked by each local authority - and agreed by her department - to be their future priorities. While performance will be measured across the whole range of 198 indicators, targets will be set only for the 35 chosen as top local concerns".

A good German: "There was another blow for the Lisbon treaty yesterday from Horst Koehler, the German President, who refused to complete his country's ratification. President Koehler decided not to sign the documents until a legal challenge is heard by the country's constitutional court, a process that could last until the autumn. Although the German head of state is a symbolic figure mainly, he has the power to delay legislation and can use that bought time to generate a national debate."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A strange politician: A man who does not shout his good deeds from the rooftops (Matthew 6:1-6)

Post below recycled from Atlas. See the original for links

The dirt, muck, and corruption scandals surrounding Obama are overwhelming. So much so that McCain's sterling character and list of accomplishments get little ink. McCain was not my candidate and I have serious domestic policy differences with the man but in the run for President - the contrast between McCain and Obama could not be more stark.

There's a wonderful piece in The Jerusalem Post on McCain's background. It's no wonder Obama is terrified to engage in Townhall debates with McCain. Obama is not fit to share the stage with McCain, let alone lead in the polls.
There is so much of his life that reveals an absolutely sterling character, but remains largely unknown to the public. And in spite of the tremendous political advantages that publicity could confer, McCain instinctively keeps that information private. Although as a presidential candidate he may be forced to overcome this reticence, he honorably shies away from using his personal heroics for political gain.

How aware is the public that McCain has raised seven children? Or that he adopted his two oldest sons as small boys (children from his wife's prior marriage)? Or that he has raised a Bangladeshi girl with severe health problems adopted from Mother Theresa's orphanage? Or that his own sons have served in the military, including in Iraq?

It's widely known that McCain, a Navy pilot, was shot down, captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese for 5 and a half years - an episode worth a forthcoming column all its own. But few are aware that he refused early release until all the POWs captured before him were freed, and that he refused special treatment offered once it was discovered that he was the "crown prince" (the son of the admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet) because he wouldn't provide the enemy with any propaganda victories.

Even fewer seem to know that those years were a fraction of a 22-year Navy career. Although broken and battered, after his release from Vietnamese captivity he went right back to the Navy, where he continued to serve for an additional eight years....

Anyone can talk about "supporting our troops"; the McCains serve. McCain's father and grandfather were respected American admirals. Of McCain's four sons, three have gone the military route. One was a Navy pilot like his father, one enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and recently completed a tour in Iraq, and one is completing his education at the Naval Academy (raising the strong possibility that, for the first time in half a century, the United States will have a president with a son at war).

Yet, likely because of those same values, McCain maintains a strict code of silence about his sons' military service, no matter how legitimate his pride or politically useful their military status. Through 2007, McCain was the strongest Senate advocate of vastly increasing troop levels in Iraq, strongly influencing the administration's wildly successful "surge" strategy. Yet McCain never brought up his own son's service in some of the roughest areas of Iraq. His principled refusal of political advantage from his son's Iraq service extends to refusal even to be interviewed on the subject, or to introduce his son to campaign audiences.

Also little-known is the story of McCain's youngest child. As a result of a 1991 Cindy McCain visit to Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh, the McCains adopted an infant daughter dying from a host of health issues. The orphanage could not provide the medical care needed to save the little girl's life, so the McCains, already the parents of six children, brought the child home to America, and paid for desperately needed surgeries and years of rehabilitation. That child is their teenage daughter Bridget. In fact, there was a second infant girl brought back from the orphanage that the McCains saved. She ended up being adopted by one of McCain's aides, Wes Gullett, and his wife. "We were called at midnight by Cindy," Gullett has stated, and "five days later we met our new daughter Nicki at the LA airport."


The Wild Differences in The Polls, Explained

If you've been watching Presidential preference polls over the past week, you might feel a bit whipsawed. For the second straight day, Gallup's daily tracking poll Thursday has John McCain and Barack Obama tied. Both candidates dropped a point from yesterday's tracking poll, down to 44 percent. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points. The Rasmussen daily tracking poll in the same period of time has shown a 3-7 point gap between the two candidates.

Neither of the daily tracking polls square with two polls from that show Barack Obama holding a stunning double-digit lead. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll showed Obama with a 12 point lead over McCain, and a Newsweek poll had Obama leading by 15 points, if Ralph Nader and Bob Barr were included in the mix.

Why the difference? Were the Newsweek and L.A. Times biased in favor of Obama? Do the Rasmussen and Gallup pollsters favor McCain? Or maybe the public is wildly changing its views, daily. All unlikely, says Richard Morin, a senior editor at the Pew Research Center. In an interview with CQ Politics, he said the discrepancy is probably a result of the Newsweek and L.A. Times/Bloomberg polls over-representing Democrats.

"When I look at those results, I know something is going on," said Morin. "The first place that I look when I see these discrepancies, I look for the percentage of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in the sample. We know that the best predictor of how someone is going to vote is their party ID. "Both the L.A. Times/Bloomberg and the Newsweek polls have (too) large percentage of Democrats and a (too) small percentage of Republicans." While there are indeed more people who identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans in the country, Morin says the other polls, including Gallup, are more in line with the actual disparity than the Bloomberg or Newsweek polls.

"Interestingly enough," Morin said, "if you do the math and apply the proper percentages to the L.A. Times/Bloomberg and the Newsweek findings, you find that their results change dramatically." In fact, Morin says, if the two polls that show Obama winning by a large margin were to modify their findings using the same percentage of Democrats and Republicans as other polls, Obama's lead would come down to somewhere between a toss-up and a small, single digit lead for Obama.




They're laughing at us: "You realize that when Libya says it is thinking about cutting oil production, or when the OPEC president muses about $170 oil, they are in all likelihood multiplying their already huge profits by playing the long side of the futures market. They know all too well just how the oil market will soar even higher when it hears such words, and they are happy to profit by the speculation as well as by their product. And why shouldn't they? They play Americans for suckers, and Americans oblige them by taking no action to fend for ourselves. They're laughing at us for the fools that we are. A serious country would not tolerate such a situation. We do. Yet another reason for them to laugh".

French military competence on display (they should stick to white flags): "Two people including a child were in a critical condition today after live bullets were used instead of blanks during a French special forces open day, army and regional officials said. Another two people are in a serious condition. Seventeen people, 15 of them civilians and two of them soldiers, were injured in the bizarre incident, as parachutists from a marines parachute regiment demonstrated to the public the techniques involved in hostage liberation exercises. According to the army toll, two are in a critical condition after "incomprehensible'' scenes at a barracks near Carcassone, in the country's southwest. One soldier has been detained, although no explanation was immediately forthcoming for why the wrong ammunition was loaded into weapons." [There was similar display of competence from another notorious group of bunglers -- British police -- not long ago]


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, June 30, 2008

A social science attack on that wicked voter ID

In my days as an employed academic, I used to follow the social science literature quite closely. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I knew the current findings better than almost all of my academic colleagues -- and I have the published critiques to show for that.

And keeping up with the scientific literature was particularly onerous for a conservative. One knew that the summary and conclusions of any given article would always be "spun" as supporting a Leftist viewpoint. So one had to go to the "Results" section of the article and plough through a lot of statistics in order to find out what really happened in the research concerned. That did of course take a lot of time but was often very instructive. I have seen results that could not have been more destructive of a Leftist theory presented as if they supported the Leftist theory. I offer a small appendix below in which I give an example of that.

After about 20 years of that, however, I gave up. There was so little wheat among the chaff that I just ceased to take the whole body of social science literature seriously. What was reported was usually very poorly done (Leftists corrupt anything they touch) and anything that was openly supportive of a conservative view would almost never get published anyway. So one was reading bigotry rather than science.

So it is only now that an article published last January has come to my attention. And even now I cannot justify a long look at it but I thought that I might make a few comments. The article claims that asking for ID from voters is a BAD THING. I reproduce a summary of it below and I will then go on to point to some of its weaknesses.
A new Brown University study reports that U.S. states that require voters to present identification before casting ballots have lower levels of political participation. The research also indicates that voter I.D. policies discourage legal immigrants from becoming citizens, particularly for blacks and Hispanics, reducing odds of naturalization by more than 15 percent.

Since 2000, and stimulated by new security concerns after 9/11, there has been an upsurge in state requirements for voter identification. By 2004, a total of 19 states required some form of documentation of a voter's identity, sometimes in the form of photo I.D. Proponents of such requirements believe identification is a necessary tool to prevent voting fraud, such as voting by noncitizens or people who are otherwise ineligible to register. Others argue that whatever its intention, I.D. policies have the effect of suppressing electoral participation, particularly among minorities.

The report, co-authored by S4 Director John Logan and graduate student Jennifer Darrah, concludes that voter I.D. is one of many factors that negatively influence civic participation in the United States. The report states, "At a time when many public officials express regret that immigrants seem to lag in their participation in mainstream society, even small suppressive effects on naturalization - the formal step to becoming an American citizen - work in the wrong direction and should be taken into account as people evaluate the benefits and costs of more stringent identification requirements."

The new study extends previous research on I.D. requirements by analyzing not only voter turnout, but also voter registration and - "the key prior step for immigrants" - the decision to become a citizen, across racial and ethnic groups. Key findings include:

* in states with a voter I.D. policy in 2000, the odds of naturalization for foreign-born residents of the United States were reduced by more than 5 percent, with the strongest impact on Hispanics;

* in election years from 1996-2004, the odds of being a registered voter among citizens aged 18 and older were higher for whites by about 15 percent in states with voter I.D. requirements. But this effect was more than counterbalanced by a reduction in white voter turnout. In 2004 alone the net effect was to reduce white turnout in these states by about 400,000 votes;

* in this same period, voter I.D. policies reduced Asians' registration and diminished voter turnout by blacks and Hispanics, by about 14 percent and 20 percent respectively. The net reduction in minority voting in these states in 2004 was more than 400,000 votes;

* the suppressive effect of voter I.D. disproportionately affected not only minorities, but also persons with less than a high school education and less than $15,000 income, tenants, and recent movers. While persons with these characteristics are substantially less likely to participate in civic affairs regardless of their state of residence, they experience an additional significant reduction in participation relative to others in voter I.D. states.

"It is incredibly clear how voter I.D. requirements disproportionately affect and suppress minorities," said Logan, professor of sociology. "This data shows that if voter I.D. policies had not been in place in 2004, voter turnout would have increased by more than 1.6 million. That is a strong argument in itself for change."


Those "incredibly clear" results are not so clear if one looks at them with the skeptical eye that is proper in science, however. For a start, how did they equate States with and without voter ID laws? As a broad generalization, I would expect that it would be the more conservative States that have such laws. So are observed differences between the States caused by the greater conservatism of those States or are they caused just by the voter ID laws? It could be either one of those -- and any attribution of the interstate differences to the voter ID laws is nothing more than speculation.

There are of course statistical means (analysis of covariance etc.) for holding one influence steady while examining the effect of the other influence but that requires a good measure of both influences. And how does one quantify the degree to which a State is conservative? Does one use percentage voting for the GOP in the previous Presidential election? Maybe. But as many conservatives will tell you with some vehemence right at this moment, even a GOP Presidential candidate may not be very conservative so a vote for him could be a long way from an expression of conservatism. So statistical control founders on such objections.

In essence, then, the research above is essentially epidemiological -- and therefore heir to the big limitation of all such research, the limitation that correlation is not proof of causation.

And there are in the results themselves indications that the guesses about causation are poor. How do we explain that voter ID allegedly increased white voter registration but reduced white voter turnout? The two effects seem contradictory. Surely registration should INCREASE turnout and surely ID requirements should REDUCE voter registration? Yet the opposite happened in both cases. One can of course come up with ad hoc explanations for both effects but once again we are forced into speculation rather than having clear evidence of anything.

And one should finally note that a reduction in voter turnout is precisely what the voter ID laws aimed at. If you prevent ineligible people from voting, that must (ceteris paribus) lead to a reduction in the numbers who vote. So if the research above proves anything, it proves that voter ID laws had the intended effect. The fact that the reduction seems to have been particularly marked among Hispanics (many of whom suffer from a sad lack of "documents") supports that interpretation.


An article on racism by Gough & Bradley (1993) is an example of how a respected author in the field concerned can reverse the plain implication of his research results. The article started out well. Gough & Bradley were unusual in that they used a properly constructed multi-item scale to measure rated racist behavior. They correlated it with a form of the California "F" scale (usually described as measuring authoritarianism but perhaps more informatively referred to as measuring a type of old-fashioned thinking). They found a correlation between the attitude and behavior measures of essentially zero (.08). A clearer disconfirmation of their theory would be hard to imagine.

So did they say: "We were wrong"? Far from it. They then decomposed their attiutude and behaviour indices into the individual items making up those indices and looked for correlations in the large matrix of correlations between the individual items. And there were some non-negligible correlations there. But there would be by chance alone! If you take 5% probability as your criterion for significance (which is conventional) and you have 100 correlations, 5% of them will (ceteris paribus) be identified as significant! What Gough and his friend did was then exactly what you are warned against doing in Statistics 101. And on the basis of that fraudulent procedure they claimed to have produced evidence in support of their theory

Reference: Gough, H. & Bradley, P. (1993) Personal attributes of people described by others as intolerant. In P.M. Sniderman, P.E. Tetlock & E.G. Carmines (Eds.) Prejudice, politics and the American dilemma (pp. 60-85) Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.



Decision Made -- McCain Wins : "Today's Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment is going to decide the next President of the United States and that is John McCain. The fact that the ruling was not 9-to-0 but only five-to-four means that one more leftist on the Supreme Court and the people's right to defend themselves would have been abolished. If I were McCain, I'd run an ad day and night for the next 90 days saying simply: the Four leftist judges voted to take away your right to protect yourself. One more and they would have succeeded. The next president will nominate one, two or even three Supreme Court justices, your freedom -- and your family's safety -- lies in the balance".

Bill Clinton still unhappy with Obama: "Mr Obama is expected to speak to Mr Clinton for the first time since he won the nomination in the next few days, but campaign insiders say that the former president's future campaign role is a "sticking point" in peace talks with Mrs Clinton's aides. The Telegraph has learned that the former president's rage is still so great that even loyal allies are shocked by his patronising attitude to Mr Obama, and believe that he risks damaging his own reputation by his intransigence. A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could "kiss my ass" in return for his support."

Anglican schism: "The Anglican Church faces what is in effect a schism this weekend after the declaration last night of conservative evangelicals to create a "church within a church". The new body, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, will have its own bishops, clergy and theological colleges. Details of the fellowship were announced in Jerusalem last night at a summit of conservative Anglicans, the Global Anglican Future Conference. It follows a protracted battle within the church over gay clergy. Many evangelicals were outraged when it was revealed this month that the civil partnership of two gay priests had been blessed in a London church with a traditional wedding liturgy... The new fellowship will return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 articles of religion, train its own priests and insist on more orthodox practices in its churches."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Can't Do Society

Excerpts from Victor Davis Hanson below. There is much truth in what he says but I disagree with his use of "We". Why should Americans in general and conservatives in particular take the blame for what Leftists have wrought?

We have become a nation of second-guessing Hamlets. Shakespeare warned us about the dangers of "thinking too precisely." His poor Danish prince lost "the name of action," as he dithered and sighed that "conscience does make cowards of us all."

With gas over $4 a gallon, the public is finally waking up to the fact that for decades the United States has not been developing known petroleum reserves in Alaska, in our coastal waters or off the continental shelf. Jittery Hamlets apparently forgot that gas comes from oil -- and that before you can fill your tank, you must take risks to fill a tanker......

We are nearing the seventh anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Its replacement -- the Freedom Tower -- should have been a sign of our determination and grit right after September 11. But it is only now reaching street level. Owners, renters, builders and government have all fought endlessly over the design, the cost and the liability.

In contrast, in the midst of the Great Depression, our far poorer grandparents built the Empire State Building in 410 days -- not a perfect design, but one good enough to withstand a fuel-laden World War II-era bomber that once crashed into it.

Despite unsophisticated 19th-century architectural and engineering science, not to mention legions of snooty French art critics, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was finished in a little over two years and is as popular as ever well over a century later.

In my home state of California, we spent a decade arguing over the replacement for portions of the aging and earthquake-susceptible San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Now that the design has finally been agreed to, it will be several years before it is finished. That's quite a contrast to the original bridge that was completed in just over three years.

California is also in yet another predictable drought and ensuing water shortage. Despite strict conservation and new water-saving technology, we simply don't have enough water for households, recreation, industry and agriculture. Building new dams, reservoirs and canals, you see, would apparently be considered unimaginative and relics of the 20th century.

The causes of this paralysis are clear. Action entails risks and consequences. Mere thinking doesn't. In our litigious society, as soon as someone finally does something, someone else can become wealthy by finding some fault in it. Meanwhile a less fussy, more confident world abroad drills, and builds nuclear plants, refineries, dams and canals to feed and fuel millions who want what we take for granted. In our present comfort, Americans don't seem to understand nature. We believe that our climate-controlled homes, comfortable offices and easy air and car travel are just like grass or trees; apparently they should sprout up on their own for our benefit.

Americans also harp about the faults of prior generations. We would never make their blunders -- even as we don't seem to mind using the power plants, bridges and buildings that they handed down to us.

Finally, high technology and the good life have turned us into utopians, fussy perfectionists who demand heaven on earth. Anytime a sound proposal seems short of perfect, we consider it not good, rather than good enough. Hamlet asked, "To be, or not to be: that is the question." In our growing shortages of infrastructure, food, fuel and water, we've already answered that: "Not to be!"

More here



Three in four likely voters - 74 percent - support offshore drilling for oil in U.S. coastal waters and more than half (59 percent) also favor drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows.

A majority of likely voters across the political spectrum support offshore oil drilling, with vast majorities of Republicans (90 percent) and independents (75 percent) in favor of drilling for oil off U.S. coastal waters more than half of Democrats (58 percent) also said they favor offshore drilling. Republicans (80 percent) and political independents (57 percent) are much more likely to favor drilling for oil in ANWR than Democrats (40 percent).

The telephone survey of 1,113 likely voters nationwide was conducted June 12-14, and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points

More here



Apes are human in Spain: "Spain is to become the first country to extend legal rights to apes, wrongfooting animal rights activists who have long campaigned against bullfighting in the country. In what is thought to be the first time a national legislature has granted such rights to animals, the Spanish parliament's environmental committee voted to approve resolutions committing the country to the Great Apes Project, designed by scientists and philosophers who say that humans' closest biological relatives also deserve rights. The resolution, adopted with crossparty support, calls on the Government to promote the Great Apes Project internationally and ensure the protection of apes from "abuse, torture and death". [No naughty comments about Hispanics now!]

Hong Kong cuts a tax : "For all their own policy foibles, Hong Kongers still understand one thing that sometimes eludes American pols: Tax cuts stimulate the economy. Witness Financial Secretary John Tsang's speech yesterday recapping the benefits of the territory's elimination of its 40% wine duty. The February measure has instantly made Hong Kong an Asian wine hub. An auction last month fetched HK$64 million ($8.2 million), an Asian record, on the heels of an auction in April that brought HK$11.5 million. The government's investment promotion agency says five wine-related companies, including dealers and storage companies, are considering opening Hong Kong offices. All of this creates jobs - perhaps only in the dozens so far, but industry insiders expect that number to grow over time."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)