Thursday, February 28, 2008

Voting With Their Feet

This article in The Wall Street Journal looks at some demographic trends and their political significance. I find particularly interesting the following couple of paragraphs:
People are becoming increasingly likely to live close to those who look, act and think like them. Author Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing of the University of Texas, argue ... that this is happening because people all over the country are moving to communities where they feel culturally and politically comfortable.

In the close presidential election of 1976, 27% of voters lived in "landslide counties" -- counties where the winning presidential candidate had a margin of 20 points or more. In the 2004 election, almost half the country's voters (48%) did. That same year 60% of voters lived in counties that had not changed their presidential party preference since 1988.

So we are moving to places where we "feel culturally and politically comfortable?" Sounds like residential segregation by race, class, and politics. Residential segregation by race and class is nothing new in America. However, residential segregation by political preference is new and therefore interesting.

It would appear that the red states are becoming redder and the blue states becoming bluer as we sort ourselves out politically. Expect the red states to cut taxes and attract new business investment and therefore jobs, while the blue states raise taxes and lose jobs.

One in 99 Behind Bars

This article reports results of a poll by the Pew Center on the States which shows that roughly 1 of 99 adult Americans is in prison. That sounds high upon first hearing. Then I did the following thought experiment and concluded it may be low.

I graduated from a small high school in a semi-rural area where all social classes attended the same school. In other words, residential segregation (which existed) did not result in kids of different social classes going to different high schools - there was only one. So, we had students whose fathers were bank presidents, doctors, dentists, CPAs, others from welfare homes, and everything in between. - the whole gamut. Our graduating classes, when I graduated 50 years ago, ran about 100 students.

Given that experience, I asked myself how many of my classmates should be behind bars and came up with a number larger than one, although smaller than five. Did I live in a particularly criminal area? On the contrary, my parents and I suspect most adults thought the area "a good place to raise kids."

Do we lock up some people who pose no direct threat to society? Sure. Most white-collar criminals are unlikely to mug you or steal your car. Can you think of another foolproof way to make them miserable without locking them up? If so, I'd bet your governor would like to know about it.

One reason we have so many people in prison is that several decades ago we mostly did away with our mental hospitals, places where we warehoused folks who could not function with or live around others. Many such dysfunctional people are now in prison. Would we be happier if we took care of them in 'hospitals' instead of prisons? I do know that would inflame civil libertarians.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Remembering Buckley

I've read maybe a dozen remembrances of William F. Buckley, Jr. All of them speak of his role in organizing the conservative movement in U.S. politics. Many speak of his founding the National Review, which continues today as a monument to his foresight. None I've read so far has mentioned the enjoyment we got from reading his version of the James Bond novels. I speak of his Blackford Oakes novels, set in the post-WW II CIA. Not great literature but for sure a fun read.

Religion in Flux, Further Thoughts

I was rereading the earlier post citing a poll which found 44% of Americans have changed their religious denomination. Imagine what that says to devout Muslims about our society.

Muslims might view it as a hopeful indicator that many Americans could be persuaded to convert to Islam. Or they might view it as the final proof that our society is so totally abhorrent (from their perspective, of course) that complete annihilation is the only answer.

Islamic societies forbid anyone leaving Islam. Sharia law apparently says anyone leaving Islam for another faith must be executed. Perhaps we will learn the reaction in the Arab press, in the next couple of weeks.

Good News

In this sad old world, any good news is worth celebrating. This Los Angeles Times article, reprinted in the San Jose Mercury News, reports polling data which shows McCain leading both major Democrats. Of course this is February; November is a long way off, and much can happen in the interim. Here is the key paragraph:
In head-to-head contests, the poll found, McCain leads Clinton by 6 percentage points (46 percent to 40 percent) and Obama by 2 (44 percent to 42 percent). Neither lead is commanding given that the survey of 1,246 registered voters, conducted from Thursday to Monday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In a technical sense, McCain is tied with Obama. That said, I'm sure McCain prefers being "tied and ahead by a nonsignificant amount" as opposed to "tied and behind by an nonsignificant amount."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Religion in Flux

This New York Times article reports a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life telephone poll of some 35,000 Americans concerning their religious affiliation both as a child and today. It concludes:
If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

Nearly half of us have changed denominations, I think that is amazing. It also finds that the number of people unaffiliated with any church has doubled in the last 25 years. In the 1980s about 8% of adults were unaffiliated.
In the Pew survey 7 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one in five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

I wonder why women find religion more rewarding than men? Do you suppose they value the social aspects of church membership more than do men?

The amateur sociologist in me finds these survey results very interesting. The rest of the article is worth your time too.

Global Cooling Alert

This article in Canada's National Post reports that North America has the greatest snow cover in over 40 years, since 1966 to be precise. Aren't satellite photos wonderful? If you are having trouble squaring that with global warming, you aren't the only one. Gaia is even more self-regulating than we thought.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kissinger on GWOT

The guys at Power Line blog report a Henry Kissinger speech (scroll down), given at their Book of the Year award ceremony. Here is the key thought:
There is no way to escape the conflict with Islam by leaving Afghanistan or leaving Iraq. Now that is not only delusion and it is not something that will have long term consequences, it is something that would have almost immediate consequences. That is the fundamental problem of our period. That this is a war against radical Islam that has to be won.

You can't say fairer than that. Henry the K has been, in my opinion, the best theorist of international relations practicing during the last 50 years. Whatever his other shortcomings may be, McCain clearly "gets" Kissinger's point. No leading Democrat seems to.

Superdelegates in a Bind

Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee political columnist, is the dean of the political commentariat in California. He writes about the history leading to the establishment of Democratic superdelegates and the dilemma faced by those individuals in CA. Here he puts the issue in its most basic form:
California's superdelegates – especially its Democratic members of Congress – are caught up in the rising angst. Six of the fifteen congressional members who have endorsed Clinton saw their districts vote for Obama on Feb. 5, while five of the seven who have endorsed Obama have voters who favored Clinton.

I wouldn't want to be one of those eleven members of Congress whose prior endorsement was contradicted by his/her district's subsequent vote. Read the whole thing, it is brief but good.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Conservative Humor Alert

This article by the pseudonymous David Kahane in the National Review Online is one of the funniest, and most right-on pieces of conservative political humor I've seen in a long time, better even than Mark Steyn, which is high praise indeed. Here is my favorite quote about Clinton:
The reason Hillary had to go was, well, to put it kindly — she was a dreadful candidate. That grim Nurse Ratched visage, that hectoring, flat, midwestern drone, the stubby finger-pointing: She was every guy’s first wife and his first mother-in-law rolled into a pantsuit.

Here is what he says about Obama:
Instead of the second coming of Jesus Christ, some of us are beginning to sense the second coming of Jim Jones. Instead of a new redeemer, we’re looking at an undistinguished first-term senator with no paper trail, a wife with a major-league chip on her shoulder, a politician from the insalubrious precincts of ... Chicago.

I don't know the identity of "David Kahane." Whoever he is can sure write.

An Epitaph for the Clintons

Mark Steyn writes a funny, but accurate, assessment of the Clintons' strengths (few) and weaknesses (many). He shows how Obama, whom he calls "Obamessiah," is the Bill Clinton of this election cycle. As is often the case, Steyn is worth your time and good for a chuckle along the way.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Same Old, Same Old....

Once again this November we will have the opportunity to vote for the lesser of two evils. It was true in 1996, 2000, and 2004, and it will be true again in 2008. As we noted in this blog last year, there is something toxic about our national political process that causes it to keep giving us flawed excuses for candidates in both major parties. And there is no point whatsoever in voting for third party candidates.

This article by Ann Coulter suggests one of the possible reasons for our political disfunction. Clearly another is the exaggerated length of the presidential race. Readers, feel free to suggest yet other process glitches, or to take issue with the basic premise.

Quote of the Day

The blog reports a campaign argument made by Hillary Clinton against B. Hussein Obama, and then gives their reaction to it. The two, taken together, constitute my quotes of the day:
Clinton: "I know it's very attractive to have the fresh and new, but I think I'm tested and true."

Lucianne: "(This is) a first-wife argument that never works."

That is one cold comment, and so true.

Barone: My HRC Optimism Misplaced

Michael Barone, writing in the U.S. News & World Report online, admits his rosy scenario concerning Hillary's chances was wrong. As he notes here, the Wisconsin results proved that he'd been too optimistic. He doesn't use the words but I'd guess he thinks she is toast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Alliterative Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn, writing in Macleans magazine online, commenting on the Canadian prohibitions against saying anything vaguely "anti-Islamic" because it could be viewed as being hate speech:
What was it they said in the Cold War? Better dead than red. We're not like that anymore. Better screwed than rude.

Love those diffident Canadians; that will do for my quote of the day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Huckabee Editorial

The editorial writers of The Chicago Sun Times do a very nice, brief summary of the role of Huckabee in the GOP primaries. They say it better than I can, check it out.

Brooks Disses Obama

David Brooks of The New York Times does a fine, funny take on Barack Hussein Obama, and the people who have been ga-ga over him. He observes that some devotees are starting to get over their high and experience hangovers. He calls this phenomenon Obama Comedown Syndrome and calls B.O. himself the Hope Pope. However, the best part of Brooks' article deals with the Clinton campaign:
Patients in the grip of O.C.S. rarely express doubts at first, but in a classic case of transference, many experience slivers of sympathy for Hillary Clinton. They see her campaign morosely traipsing from one depressed industrial area to another — The Sitting Shiva for America Tour. They see that her entire political strategy consists of waiting for primary states as boring as she is.

They feel for her. They feel guilty because the entire commentariat now treats her like Richard Nixon. Are liberal elites rationalizing their own betrayal of her? Is Hillary just another fading First Wife thrown away for the first available Trophy Messiah?

I love the lines, "Is Hillary just another fading First Wife thrown away for the first available Trophy Messiah?" and "her entire political strategy consists of waiting for primary states as boring as she is." When Brooks is on his game, as he is here, only Mark Steyn can equal him.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Brace Yourself

This article in The New York Times Business section indicates there is a very high probability that the U.S. economy is headed into a recession. Citing research from the Federal Reserve Bank, it concludes:
There have been six recessions since 1968, the year that the quarterly survey of economists began. At the start of each one, economists put the odds that the economy would shrink in the current quarter at 40 percent or more. In the latest survey, the forecasters also said there was a 43 percent chance that the economy would shrink in the second quarter of 2008. Every time that reading has risen above 40 percent, the economy has gone into recession.

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

A hat tip goes to my old pal Earl C. for this one:
Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like calling a drug pusher an "unlicensed pharmacist."

That will do for my quote of the day.

Barone: HRC Could Still Win Nomination

See this U.S. New & World Report analysis by Michael Barone, arguably the best journalistic analyst of modern American politics. Examining demographics of the next few big states to vote - OH, PA, TX, WI - Barone concludes that two of these races definitely favor Clinton: OH and PA. WI he believes will probably go to Obama, and TX is up for grabs.

He bases his conclusions on the relatively small number of black voters in all of these states and of educated white Democratic voters in all except WI. Barone completely ignores the so-called "momentum" factor about which other pundits are waxing rhapsodic. I suspect he ignores it because it has been a noticeably unreliable predictor this year.

Krauthammer and Noonan on Politics

Check out the Charles Krauthammer column in The Washington Post and the Peggy Noonan column in The Wall Street Journal for this week. Both are excellent.

Dr. K talks about the extent to which the frenzy surrounding Obama resembles a cult. "Obama as cult" is not an idea he originated but one upon which he elaborates with elegance and venom. He concludes about Obama:
He's going around issuing promissory notes on the future that he can't possibly redeem. Promises to heal the world with negotiations with the likes of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Promises to transcend the conundrums of entitlement reform that require real and painful trade-offs and that have eluded solution for a generation. Promises to fund his other promises by a rapid withdrawal from an unpopular war -- with the hope, I suppose, that the (presumed) resulting increase in American prestige would compensate for the chaos to follow.
Miss Peggy observes all the bad news the Clinton campaign has had to absorb in the past week or two and marvels at how Hillary manages to act like nothing has happened. She wonders if anybody, for or against her, believes the "everything is fine" spin?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama Supporters Idolize Che

See the following on the Little Green Footballs website for pix of Che Guevara and Cuban flags hanging on the walls of the Barack Obama headquarters in Houston. Guevara was, of course, a Communist revolutionary associate of Fidel Castro, and it is alleged here, a mass murderer.

To be fair to Obama, there is no reason to believe he had a hand in selecting the artwork for the Houston office. Heretofore, attracting radical followers has seemingly been the hallmark of fringe GOP candidate Ron Paul. Obama also would appear to be attracting followers whose politics are far out of mainstream, aka "wingnuts."

Global Warming Strikes Again

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the current snowfall will make this year the snowiest on record. They expect the high temperature there today will be 8 degrees F. The same storm brought temperatures of minus forty degrees F to Minnesota. Clearly, both states are suffering from the global warming about which John McCain promises to get serious as President.

Let's Go to Mars

The Telegraph newspaper of the U.K. reports online that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has urged the nations with space programs to work together to explore Mars. Sarkozy made these comments in French Guaiana during a visit to the launch site for Ariane rockets. He said:
I am convinced that an exploration programme can only be global, without exclusivity or appropriation by one nation or another ... Each will be able to take part with their capabilities, their strengths and their choices. Because Mars is there and is accessible to the technologies available to humanity, we cannot refuse to attempt this adventure.

Sarkozy is a breath of fresh air. This is a new approach for a French leader, one the world can welcome and the United States can support. Onward to Mars!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Huckabee Helps McCain

I've heard arguments both ways but have concluded that Mike Huckabee staying in the race is actually doing John McCain a favor. As long as Mike stays in, John has a reason to go around to the various primary and caucus states campaigning.

As soon as McCain is the sole candidate, he has to start running against the Democrats. Right now, McCain's real need is to talk to Republicans about supporting him. Running against Huckabee gives him the excuse he needs to make his case. Meanwhile, Huckabee is making no personal attacks on McCain while giving social conservatives a way to send McCain a message about his need to speak to their values.

Huckabee is a talented campaigner, he has a lot of natural charm. Foreign policy conservatives and social conservatives have no problems with him, but economic conservatives sure do. His economic proposals are relatively radical, too populist for most country club Republicans.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dick Morris Says Hillary Is Toast

The not-always-correct but always interesting Dick Morris writes that Obama will win. This is a complete position reversal for him. My favorite line from the piece is the following:
(D)on't bet on all the super delegates staying hitched to Hillary. These folks are politicians, half of them public office holders who are really good at reading the handwriting on the wall and really bad at gratitude for past favors.

I like that "really bad at gratitude for past favors" line. It means having a politician for a friend is like having anybody else for an enemy.

Corollaries of Murphy's Law

The following came in an email, hat tip to Cynthia Q. S. for providing them.
1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
2. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
3. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.
4. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
5. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
6. If you lined up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them, five or six at a time, on a hill, in the fog.
7. The things that come to those who wait will be the scraggly junk left by those who got there first.
8. The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.
9. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
10. When you go into court, you are putting yourself into the hands of 12 people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.

I thought those were fun, and some even true.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Republicans are Happier

Read this article in the editorially liberal Washington Post. It reports research, beginning several decades ago and continuing to the present, which finds that Republicans are happier than both Democrats and Independents. The writer pretends to be puzzled as to why this is so.

I believe the answer is clear. Happy people have their lives organized in a way that works, that is comfortable. Thus, they do not seek change and don't need government help; these are major characteristics of conservatism. I suspect they also have difficulty understanding why others cannot achieve the same pleasant equilibrium without outside help.

By contrast, unhappy people do not have their lives organized in a comfortable way and, as such, emphathize with the down and out, with society's losers. Such unfortunates are the traditional targets of Democratic governmental largess.

BTW, the key to happiness is not money, according to the researchers. Rich Democrats are less happy than rich Republicans, ditto for the poorer members of both parties.

Sister Peggy Explains It All

Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal online, does a devastating take on the Clinton/Obama duel. In her view, Clinton is losing...slowly, but may not be able to admit it. Her question has to do with whether HRC is willing and able to bow out gracefully. My favorite quote from the article follows:
She (Clinton) is preoccupied to an unusual degree with toughness. A man so preoccupied would seem weak. But a woman obsessed with how tough she is just may be lethal.

She also believes Obama is by far the Democratic candidate that will be harder for the GOP to defeat. She says that the MSM (mainstream media) will paint any attack on Obama's character as racism. I believe she is correct.

This is Peggy N. at the top of her game, give it a read.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Romney Steps Down

Mitt Romney has announced that his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination will be suspended. I'm not clear how "suspended" differs from "discontinued." In his prepared remarks he annoints John McCain as the presumtive nominee. Now the question is whether Huckabee agrees? If not, to what degree will Romney votes be available to Huckabee? And of course the overarching questions is this: does any of this GOP activity matter at all?

Meanwhile, folks are speculating about Huckabee as McCain's vice presidential pick. Some of the so-called experts I've seen seem to think McCain will look elsewhere for his veep choice. They may have been privy to off-the-record leaks from the McCain camp which cause them to take that view. On the other hand, I can see some logic in choosing Huckabee. Time will tell....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Further Thoughts on Super Tuesday

All precincts have been heard from, and we know who won in raw vote terms. It will take longer to get an accurate reading on delegate counts. Every candidate ends up with at least some bragging rights. The punditocracy says the Dem race is too close to call, maybe they are even correct. That same illustrious group of poobahs says McCain now has to be viewed as the front runner. On the other hand, if either Romney or Huckabee drops out and his supporters go to the one remaining, McCain could have a problem.

Pretty clearly, Huckabee and Romney are splitting the "anybody but McCain" vote, a group getting loud support from radio mavens Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, among others. Thusly, McCain could end up winning the nomination without the whole-hearted support of even 1/2 of the GOP. I am reminded of the election in 1992 when Bill Clinton won the White House with less than 50% of the vote because third party candidate Ross Perot drained off some of the Bush I vote.

One factor that has attracted attention is that the total numbers of voters showing up to choose between the two Dems has been larger in all but two states than the number showing up to choose among the three (four if you count nuisance candidate Ron Paul) Republicans. The experts call this a measure of voter intensity, the degree to which voters are excited by their party's candidates. The difference in turnout is a bad omen for the outcome in November, if many normally Republican voters don't bother to vote at all. One suspects that many voters don't think the GOP has much of a chance and therefore find this year's primary process irrelevant.

Isn't politics fun? My GOP prediction: McCain gets the nomination and picks Huckabee as vice presidential nominee. I don't yet have a prediction for the Dems. BTW, Mark Steyn doesn't agree with my prediction, see his view here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday Early Findings

As I write this each of the major candidates has won one or more states in the Super Tuesday/Mardi Gras primaries. When the final results are in and delegates are counted I'm sure there will be winners and losers, but right now all five major candidates (McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Obama, and Clinton) have proved that in the right setting they are winners.

McCain is a genuine hero, who is often wrong about everything except national defense. Handsome, rich Romney is whatever you want him to be, depending on the constitutiency to which he has to appeal. Huckabee is probably the most talented natural campaigner, but he appeals to a narrow slice of the GOP. Obama has style and grace, and almost no record for us to hold against him. Clinton is one tough old bird, whom almost nobody actually likes. It isn't exactly a parade of dwarves, but close.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Miss Peggy Writes

Peggy Noonan writes some good stuff in The Wall Street Journal online. The whole column is worthwhile but do check out her take on Ted Kennedy´s endorsement of Obama, it is a different look at this quixotic act.

Travel Blogging - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We´re sailing on the Norwegian Star, doing the Mexican Riviera. The Star is an impressive ship, relatively new, attractive and very smooth sailing. Day before yesterday was Acapulco, yesterday was Ixtapa, today is Puerto Vallarta, and tomorrow is Cabo San Lucas. These ports in Mexico are sure enjoying a boom in tourism. The (construction) crane appears to be the national bird.

On board ship I have been listening to a Canadian folk singer named Jana Seale who plays quiet acoustic guitar and sings nice stuff. Catch her if you get the chance, she is worth your time. The song and dance company, a Jean Ann Ryan troup, has done a good job too.

Each cruise line has things they do better and things they do not as well. That doesn´t surprise me and it shouldn´t surprise you. Those of us who cruise end up picking the line that does the best job on the issues about which we care.