Date ►►► September 30, 2010

The "Loudest Minute" Begins in Florida as Crist Sinks

Hatched by Dafydd

In yesterday's post, the Loudest Minute, I offered a few examples of longtime incumbents in Washington state, California, and Nevada who couldn't break through the 49%-52% ceiling of support; I opined thus:

These are classic examples of incuments who simply cannot close the deal. Given that, I expect that starting in October, Rossi, Fiorina, and Angle will "unexpectedly" surge forward by at least the amount of the undecided respondents, which ranges from three to eight percent.

We're starting to see some actual "unexpected" surging in the U.S. Senate race in another state, Florida... not for front-runner this time, but for runner-up:

[Coat-turning Gov. Charlie] Crist had been leading the state's three-way Senate race in surveys taken after he abandoned his failing Republican primary campaign in April and switched to independent, presenting himself as a middle-of-the-road alternative to both parties. His campaign envisioned a formula of centrist Democrats, liberal Republicans and independents -- a counterweight, strategists thought, to the tea-party movement boosting his chief competitor in the race, GOP nominee Marco Rubio.

But surveys now show [Marco] Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, taking the lead and Mr. Crist dropping into a battle for second place with Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek, a congressman from the Miami area. Mr. Rubio is ahead among independents and Mr. Meek is beating Mr. Crist among Democrats, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released over the weekend.

The survey showed 40% of voters backing Mr. Rubio, 28% Mr. Crist and 23% Mr. Meek.

Notice how close Kendrick Meek is to Crist; we'll come back to that point in a moment.

While the Rubio surge may be news to the conventional-wisdom media, it actually began a month and a half ago. Crist had elbowed his way into the lead even before May 13th, the day he renounced his Republicanism and declared himself "unaffiliated with any party" -- running as a squishy, "third way," grey area between the liberal Kendrick Meek and the conservative, Tea-Party-esque Marco Rubio. Looking at the RCP polling history, Crist was solidly in the lead in the three-man race by anywhere from three to 11 points in every single poll except Rasmussen. (Rasmussen continually showed Crist tied with or trailing Rubio.)

Crist's front-runnership lasted right up until August 9th-11th, when both Rasmussen and Mason-Dixon noticed a Rubio surge. A Quinnipiac poll a few days later still found Crist ahead by 7 points, but that proved to be a late outlier; in fact, since August 16th, every single poll conducted by anyone has shown Marco Rubio with a substantial lead. And since September 11th, Rubio has led in every poll by double digits.

The latest Mason-Dixon poll that the Wall Street Journal is so het-up about is just one of seven polls that show Rubio with a commanding lead of 11 to 16 points. Simply put, Charlie Crist is toast, and Marco Rubio is the next senator from Florida.

Ergo, the Florida race for the lead is not really an example of a well-known incumbent running ahead or neck and neck with an unknown challenger in a two-man race: It's a three-way, not a two-way race; Rubio is nearly as well known as Crist; and he has been running strongly ahead of the sitting governor for many weeks. The main event fits none of the three criteria from our previous post.

But there is a perfect example lurking in the sideshow of this race, far away from the big top... and that is the race for the silver medal between Crist and Kendrick Meek:

  • The race for "first loser" is a two-man contest between Crist and Meek.
  • I cannot imagine that Meek is anywhere near as well known as either Gov. Crist or the high-profile former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Marco Rubio. Meek's electoral victories have all been pro-forma events, as his district is so liberal that Meek ran unopposed all four times. In fact, in 2008, he was "automatically elected" without even being on the ballot, as he had no opposition at all -- not even a write-in candidate. I suspect that he is little known outside his own district.
  • Meek has been behind Crist in every three-way poll, but not by much; Crist has been unable to nail down second place.

Taking the September polls and ignoring front-running Rubio, we see the following pattern:

Lead-in paragraph:

Caption here
Poll/date Crist Meek Crist lead Undecided/other
Sunshine St. News 9/7 34 24 10 5
CNN/Time 9/7 34 24 10 6
Fox News 9/11 27 21 6 9
Reuters 9/12 26 21 5 13
Rasmussen 9/14 30 23 7 6
Mason-Dixon 9/22 28 23 5 9
Quinnipiac 9/26 30 18 12 3
CNN/Time 9/28 31 23 8 4
Rasmussen 9/28 30 21 9 8

The important numbers here are those in bold italics, and the take-away is that in all but two polls (marked in blue), Crist's lead over Meek is very close to the the number of undecideds and those voting for some other candidate; that is a tenuous lead for a sitting governor and arguably the best known candidate in Florida; it indicates a very strong chance that Charlie Crist will in fact come in third in the Senate race, as the undecideds break for Meek or for Rubio, abandoning the Ineffable Crist.

The "why" is fairly obvious in this case: Republican partisans dislike Crist because he turned his coat; Democrat partisans dislike him because he used to tout himself as a staunch conservative; and the vast middle of liberal Republicans, moderate Democrats, and Independents -- the constituency he targeted for his run -- dislike him because he flip-flopped on a number of hot-button issues, such as ObamaCare... and because most voters really don't like candidates who are neither fish nor fowl, "beyond Left and Right," no matter what they tell pollsters about the joys of "centrism."

In reality, we like to enforce centrism by electing lefties and righties and letting them duke it out... not by electing squishy, indecisive, "on the one hand, on the other hand" ditherers whose position on actual bills is always a deeply shrouded mystery until the roll is actually called.

But watch your hat and coat, because the race for first loser fits the Lizardian paradigm: If Crist manages to eke out a second-place finish, it will be by the film on his unbrushed teeth.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 30, 2010, at the time of 1:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 29, 2010

The Loudest Minute

Hatched by Dafydd

A Lizardian maxim is that in elections, the last minute is the loudest minute. That is, last-minute roaring surges are the norm, rather than the exception.

In particular, in a race in which incumbent (or much better-known) nominees are running against little-known challengers, the same pattern typically emerges: If the incumbent cannot break through the 50% ceiling by a significant margin -- say consistently averaging 54% or better -- then in the last month, undecideds will generally break for the challenger.

The reason is simple. Voters have waited and waited for the incumbent to give them a reason to reelect him; but if he cannot make the sale by October, he likely won't do it at all: He's so well known already that he has no surprises left. By contrast, the lesser known candidate still has a great surprise-potential; and as voters become impatient for a reason to reelect the incumbent, they take a longer, friendlier look at the challenger.

I dub this the "stale incumbent" factor.

Of course, the challenger's "surprise" could also be something terribly negative, leading to a surge for the incumbent. It doesn't usually happen; if such a deal-killer existed, it would almost certainly have already come out earlier. In Delaware, Democrat Chris Coons is wasting no time bringing out all the nutter utterances of Tea Partier and Republican nominee Christine O'Donnell; he's not waiting for the last week, he's been pounding on her since the moment she won the nomination!

In most (two-person) elections where (a) an incumbent is not noticibly above 50% by October, and (b) the challenger or his party has a tailwind, the challenger will win -- even if he is running somewhat behind the incumbent right up through the last poll.

I think we're seeing that dynamic right now in Washington state, based upon Paul Mirengoff's reporting in Power Line. He begins:

I've been a bit disappointed by the polls I've seen of the Senate race in Washington State. Dino Rossi, an attractive Republican challenger who very nearly was elected Governor in 2004, has been consistently behind incumbent Patty Murray. Murray's average lead, according to Real Clear Politics is 5.3 percentage points.

The pattern occurs in many, many races this fall:

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA, 95%) has led challenger Dino Rossi in the U.S. Senate race there in sixteen out of 24 polls since January (one was a tie), and this month she has led by 5-9 points. But she has never managed to get to 54% the entire year -- not even once. In fact, in all the polls in which she has been ahead, she has only been above 50% four times. Most of the time, Murray has been mired in the 40s, even when she led Rossi.
  • Similarly in California, Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) is limping along in the mid-to-high 40s in most polls (the CNN/Time and the LA Times polls have her above 50%, but no others). Republican nominee Carly Fiorina is riding 6.8% behind... which would be a likely loss, if the split were Boxer 53 to Fiorina 46, instead of Boxer 49.5 to Fiorina 42.5.
  • And in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) has never been above 50% in any poll this year, and he only touched 50% one time. (Republican nominee Sharron Angle hit 50% three times, and once she even nosed above to 51%.)

These are classic examples of incuments who simply cannot close the deal. Given that, I expect that starting in October, Rossi, Fiorina, and Angle will "unexpectedly" surge forward by at least the amount of the undecided respondents, which ranges from three to eight percent.

As Paul reports, such a jump seems to have begun a bit early:

But two very recent polls suggest a closer race. A Survey USA poll released on September 23 shows Murray leading by a margin of 50-48. And a Fox News/Pulse Opinion Research survey of 1,000 likely voters, taken on September 25, has Murray leading by only 48-47. Both "leads" are within the margin of error.

That puts the race dead even within the margin of error. But there is another factor at play here: When voter sentiment for Republicans is rising, pollsters typically underestimate it; but when voter sentiment for Democrats is rising, pollsters typically overestimate it. I call this the "I can't believe it's not butter!" factor: Pollsters see surging Republicans -- and they just can't believe it.

They conclude they must have accidentally "oversampled" GOP respondents, so they "correct" their mistake by reweighting the poll, reducing the number of likely GOP voters by enough of a percent that the final results show... well, whatever number seems more "reasonable" to the pollster.

They're not deliberately cheating; they're just dead certain that Republicans cannot possibly be doing that well, and they don't want to report such an obvious "outlier" and be embarassed on election day. And hey, none of their friends are voting for the Republican; how well could the GOP possibly be doing?

Contrariwise, when a typical pollster sees Democrats rising, it's just what he's been expecting all along. He gets excited and again monkeys with the weighting of likely voters, giving the Dems the boost that he believes, to the bottom of their soles, is what's really happening.

This pro-Democrat, anti-GOP fudge factor typically amounts to at least 2% and sometimes as high as 5% - 6%. The "I can't believe it's not butter!" factor and the "stale incumbent" factor are additive: If Republicans are ascendent in an election cycle, most races in which the final poll is 50-50 or even 52-48 for the Democrat -- will "unexpectedly" break for the Republican when the actual vote is counted, prompting Democrats to file a lawsuit and try to sue their way into office. (And assuming Democratic voter fraud is not so rampant that it overcomes all obstacles.)

That is why we predict that the GOP will in fact win all the so-called "toss-up" races in November and may even pick up one or two Democratic leaners or likelies. And that is why we're nor surprised to see Dino Rossi suddenly neck and neck with "Patsy" Murray.

Nor will Bill Clinton campaigning for Murray turn the race around; nobody in Washington state doubts that Murray is a good liberal or that Clinton supports Democrats over Republicans... so of what value is a campaign turn by the popular former president?

In general, campaigning by more senior politicians only has a significant impact when the lucky recipient of such help is himself little known; in that case, support from a better-known and popular figure can reassure the base. For example, Sarah Palin campaigning for her virtually unknown "Mama Grizzlys" is extremely helpful. But Bill Clinton stumping for embattled incumbents -- not so much.

I'm pretty sure Rossi will win on November 2nd... just as I'm pretty sure Carly Fiorina will beat Barbara Boxer in the Golden State and Sharron Angle will defeat "Pinky" Reid in the Silver State. None of the incumbents seems capable of closing the sale, despite -- or because of -- many years in office.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 29, 2010, at the time of 5:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 27, 2010

Paladino (R) vs. Cuomo (D) - Steel-Cage Death Match, Loser Leaves Town!

Hatched by Dafydd

In this follow-up to a follow-up, we have one new and very welcome piece of news on the New York governor's race. Our two previous posts on this topic are here:

In our second post above, I included this mini-prediction:

And despite the possibility that Rick Lazio could run as a third-party Conservative -- which I doubt, actually, if it looks like it would throw the race to Cuomo -- the Quinnipiac poll found only 1% of respondents saying they planned to vote for someone other than Cuomo or Paladino in the election; so it's a two-man race.

Well now it's officially a two-man race (aside from fourth-party loony-tunes), as Rick Lazio has bowed out of the race for exactly the reason we predicted:

Lazio, who lost the Republican primary to Paladino, said at a Manhattan news conference today that staying on the ticket made a Cuomo win more likely....

“While my heart beckons me forward, my head tells me that my continued presence on the Conservative line would simply lead to the election of Andrew Cuomo and the continuation of an entrenched political machine,” Lazio said.

Instead, Lazio will accept a nomination to the New York Supreme Court -- which is what most states would refer to as Superior, District, or Circuit Courts, since it's an ordinary trial court. (What the rest of us call a Supreme Court in that state would be the New York Court of Appeals.) Evidently, this is one of the few ways he can actually force his own removal from the ballot.

He had been representing the Conservative ballot line; historically, Republicans rarely get elected statewide in New York if they don't represent both the Republican and Conservative lines; and the Chairman of the Conservative Party of New York, Michael Long, really hates Carl Paladino:

As recently as last week, however, Long intimated he'd rather lose the governor's race than see Tea Party Paladino win it, slamming the WNY businessman's "hateful rhetoric" and praising Lazio's intention to tackle an "out-of-control" Legislature.

During their meeting, Long, Lazio and Paladino discussed "the right way to do this. Carl wanted Rick's support, and Rick wanted Carl to stay focused on the issues about what's wrong with Albany and leave out the personal attacks," the second source told Lovett.

However, Long appears to have come to his senses. In the Bloomberg story linked above, he says:

Lazio, who lost the Republican primary to Paladino, said at a Manhattan news conference today that staying on the ticket made a Cuomo win more likely. The Conservative Party will probably vote to nominate Paladino on Sept. 29, Chairman Michael Long said.

“If there’s anything that all conservatives are in agreement on, it’s that Andrew Cuomo should not be the next governor,” Long said in an interview.

Long said he intends to campaign for Paladino, and the party will nominate Lazio for a judgeship.

On the polling front, Cuomo still leads Paladino by a wide margin; but on the other hand, a second nationally respected pollster, SurveyUSA, joins Quinnipiac in showing Cuomo below the magical 50% level, indicating the Man Who Would Inherit the Governor's Mansion still hasn't closed the deal with New York voters.

Keep watching the skies, and let's see how much of Lazio's Conservative support Paladino picks up over the next couple of weeks.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2010, at the time of 5:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

U.N. Ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Alpha Centauri-stan

Hatched by Dafydd

This story from the U.K. Telegraph sends chills down my spine; its subhead reads:

A space ambassador could be appointed by the United Nations to act as the first point of contact for aliens trying to communicate with Earth.

I'm not frightened, I hasten to add, by the prospect of us discovering alien civilizations, or even by the prospect of alien civilizations discovering us. I'm absolutely convinced that there is no even vaguely plausible reason why extraterrestrials would care one way or the other about us, unless we somehow gave them cause for anxiety:

  • We couldn't possibly pose a serious threat to any civilization that could cross such vast distances: A single lightyear is 5,874,589,924,200 miles, or about 25 million times the average distance from Earth to the Moon; and the distance between civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy would likely be measured in the thousands or tens of thousands of lightyears. What are we going to shoot at them -- an ICBM? We'd have better luck with a pea-shooter.
  • All conceivable natural resources are widely distributed throughout the galaxy; and even if they weren't, a civilization that could even attempt interplanetary travel, especially at hyperluminous speeds (so they're not spending millenia on every trip), would necessarily have such advanced science and technology that it would be easier to create any needed elements, materials, and structures than to journey hundreds or thousands of lightyears to take them away from somebody else. Forget about the V scenario!
  • The distances are simply too great to bother crossing them except on very important missions involving either trade or some other equally vital cultural imperative. I doubt comparatively primitive humans qualify... except perhaps for anthropological survey missions, probably conducted by alien graduate students. (Say, maybe that explains all the UFO sightings: The kids doing the field research are not yet experienced enough to avoid detection!)
  • If there is any intelligent life at all in the galaxy apart from here, then there are likely tens of thousands of alien civilizations -- not just one or two. We would probably get a minor inscription ("mostly harmless") in a database, and that's all.

So what am I worried about? It's contained in that phrase I used above: ETs wouldn't care a whit about us unless we give them cause for anxiety. And the easiest way I can think of offhand would be... if the very first point of contact for an alien survey vessel was the United Nations!

I can picture the spacefarers recoiling in horror and vowing to stamp out the contagion of socialism, pandering to radical religious imperialism, and hive-mindedness; and that is what scares the bejesus out of me.

Please, Secretary General Nanki-poo, don't do us any more cosmic favors.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2010, at the time of 3:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BlogRolling.com Security Alert Problem Should Be Fixed

Hatched by Dafydd

Commenter MikeR alerted us to the fact that the security protocols on a number of ISPs have begun flagging BlogRolling.com as a "malware" site. (We had been using BlogRolling to manage our blogrolls.)

In fact, it doesn't contain any malware; see the discussion here. However:

  1. It's easier for us to change all the Big Lizards templates and rebuild the blog, to remove BlogRolling and manage our blogrolls ourselves, than to argue with every ISP in Phosphoristan.
  2. BlogRolling is about to be terminated anyway, so (1) is required in any event.

We changed all the templates to remove all script calls to BlogRolling and rebuilt the main page (which is fast and easy); the rest of the blog, the archives and system pages, will all be rebuilt as soon as our domain host tells us all is clear to do the (monster-sized) rebuild.

(The Bear Flag League, which lists California blogs, presents a special problem: Its list of links is enormous, and there is no way we can type them all individually into Big Lizards even once, let alone keep them continually updated! Therefore we must forgo those links until such time as the BFL finds a different blogroll-manager that doesn't generate security alerts. BFL links will resume when and if it can do so.)

This should resolve the problem. If you navigate to Big Lizards later today or tomorrow and still get the security alert, try reloading the site in your browser: Sometimes browsers bring up a cached version, which might still have the script call. If that doesn't work, let us know, and we'll investigate.

Thanks, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

-- the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2010, at the time of 1:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 25, 2010

More on the Black Beauty, the Green Hornet's Car

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm pretty sure the Black Beauty from the 2011 Green Hornet movie (which I confess I hadn't even heard about until just now, when I went to IMDB) is the same car as in the 1966 TV series; that is, not the same literal car but the same make, model, and color (black Chrysler Imperial 1965-1966-1967 -- they used many cars).

Here's a shot of Seth Rogen -- as the "loveable goofball" version of the Green Hornet, I gather -- in front of the Black Beauty used in the 2011 movie:



Black Beauty with Seth Rogen posing

Black Beauty with Seth Rogen posing, 2010

Compare that with this production still from the 1966 TV series (Bruce Lee as Kato in front):



Green Hornet Black Beauty 1966 series

Black Beauty from 1966 series

It's clearly the same car, same year, except the new one has too much chrome. In fact, I found this snippet from the Wall Street Journal, of all places:

If you’re going to be a superhero, driving old Detroit steel is a must.

There are no crumple zones or airbags, but the heavy gauge steel body on frame is better suited to ramming enemies or brick walls.

Such is the case with Black Beauty, the Green Hornet’s Chrysler Imperial in the coming feature of the same name that’s due out in January 2011.

Twelve Chrysler Imperials were used for the movie that range from 65 to 67, because they’re hard to get in good shape says Nancy Meyer, a spokesperson for the movie. “Most people can’t tell the difference,” she says.

So it does appear that the movie uses the same car as in the TV series, with maybe a couple of additions; I don't recall whether or not the 1966 version had Gatling guns that rose from the hood, for example.

(Is the movie set in the mid-60s? The IMDB faq says it takes place in contemporary times... so why the ancient auto? Even a modern minivan could probably outrun -- and certainly outhandle! -- a 1966 Imperial.)

As an aside, another compare and contrast; here's the new Britt Reid (the Green Hornet's secret identity), played by Seth Rogen, side by side with the 1966 version played by Van Williams:



Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, 2011    Van Williams as Britt Reid, 1966

A Tale of Two Hornets: Seth Rogen (L) and Van Williams (R)

Which guy looks more like a serious, crime-fighting vigilante -- Rogen (2011) or Williams (1966)? Yeah, me too. Here's what Van Williams looked like decked out as the Green Hornet:



Van Williams as the Green Hornet

Van Williams as the Green Hornet

If that guy loomed up in front of me, I would throw my hands in the air and give him any information he demanded. If a similarly masked Seth Rogen loomed up, I'd be tempted to give him some candy and ask, "Who are you supposed to be, little boy?"

I don't have a good feeling about this movie at all, at all. Maybe they should rename it the Green Bumblebee.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 25, 2010, at the time of 5:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 24, 2010

The New Girls Network

Hatched by Dave Ross

The Tea Party has always been predominantly a women’s movement, or else they would have called it the “beer party.” Because of the high profile of Tea Party types like Glenn Beck, it is easy to forget that those frequently taking the point in reforming the Republican Party -- and the nation itself -- are outsiders like Sarah Palin and her “constipated grizzlies,” or whatever she calls them.

The latest of eight almost unbroken series of Tea Party victories in Republican primaries -- against candidates endorsed by the National Republican Senate Committee -- was racked up last week by Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, who is reminiscent of Palin, but without her laserlike intellectual firepower.

But you don’t need a big brain -- although perhaps a big mouth helps -- if your message is simple: cut spending, get big government out of our lives, and cut taxes.

It is becoming obvious that we are witnessing a movement that comes along once a century; and like most such movements, it will wreck anything that stands in its path.

It is vastly entertaining on several levels. One is the obvious discomfort of old time feminists who just can’t understand how a feminist could be a) a Republican, and b) a conservative. It’s been Democratic Party doctrine for ages that the GOP is just a "good old boys" network. How can women, of all people, run as conservative Republicans? I mean, ewwwwwww!

In a sense the GOP is a good old boys network, as one can see by watching notable political hacks like Karl Rove having fits on TV about outsiders like O’Donnell challenging establishment candidates.

For me, finding something nice to say about Rove is like trying to pick up the poo by the clean end; under his firm pilot’s hand, Republicans drifted into being as much a big-government party as the Dems. But one thing he has always had going for him was that he is an incredibly savvy (if totally amoral) political operative. Rove is obviously flummoxed by the pitchfork and guillotine quality of the Tea Party movement; but let’s face it, there is nothing that has more righteous indignation and pure, electric fury than a female on the rampage... hence Palin’s grizzly-bear metaphor.

But the Tea Party isn’t just anger; it is sophisticated, supple, and as net-savvy as a ‘Droid.

Two years ago political pundits remarked about the online organization of the Obama team and its remarkable exploitation of the net. However, today’s organizational effort by the Tea Party defies the term organization. It has been described as being like a “hive,” without a central guiding hand, with each individual party in contact with each other, but run independently. It runs rings around the old style organizations.

[I have been calling the Tea Party movement the "popular front for Capitalism and against government expansion and intrusion; students of history will understand the nuclear fusion packed into the phrase "popular front." -- DaH.]

It is a true grassroots movement, with the impetus moving up from the bottom. Democrats who think there is some conservative Soros as its Wizard of Oz are delusional.

I have a liberal friend who buys into that comforting fantasy. He keeps repeating the mantra, “Well, why weren’t they complaining eight years ago when Bush was running up all those deficits?” The answer to that, of course, is that they were, and the Republicans didn’t listen to them; and that was, in part, why the Republicans were kicked out of power in 2006 and 2008.

But that didn’t mean that the disaffected Independents and outraged Republicans wanted big government solutions. The Democrats decided to party like it was 1932, and they are about to pay in a big way.

As columnist David Paul Kuhn wrote this week: “The political establishment's reign has finally ended.... One week ago, the primary season closed with the most suitable of metaphors: The tea party movement sacked GOP’s Castle.” I wish I’d written that; if I were Joe Biden I eventually would have.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, September 24, 2010, at the time of 10:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Green Hornet's Car

Hatched by Dafydd

I saw this car, the Morgan Aero 8, on Top Gear, the BBC car program (and the only car program I would ever watch)... and I fell completely in love with it. Alas, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, I believe.

But what immediately occurred to me was... what a smashing car this would be for the Green Hornet, if someone made a contemporary movie, à la the newest Batman movie series. Here, take a look, a green version:



GreenHornet-MorganAero8

Green Hornet hardtop (green)

It's fast, too; top speed is about 170, and it'll do 0 - 60 in about 4 seconds. It corners very, very well as well.

This one's a convertible, still green:



Green Hornet convertible

Green Hornet convertible (still green)

For the purists, who insist that Britt Reid drive the Black Beauty:



GreenHornet5-MorganAero8-BlackBeauty

Green Hornet's "Black Beauty"

Another view of a black Morgan Aero 8:



Black Beauty cross-eyed and painful

Black Beauty -- cross-eyed and painful

Finally, there's the coupe version, the Aeromax, which is just brilliant:



Green Hornet coupe

Aeromax coupe

That's the model I want -- but I want it in flat matte black, not grey; maybe some pinstriping in gloss black, only visible as reflection when the light hits it just right.

I'm an absolute sucker for retro 30s or 40s design; I believe that era was the apex of automobile artistry. Later cars looked like stealth aircraft or shrunken garbage trucks; and now there's a whole industry designed around cars that look like toasters, and "green" cars (enviro-mentalism) that look like roller skates -- and about the same size, too. You don't drive modern ultra-compacts so much as wear them.

For me, the Morgan Aero and Aeromax are definitely what the hosts at Top Gear call "money no object" cars: If money were no object, I would buy a Morgan Aeromax, no matter how many people I had to slay to get one.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 24, 2010, at the time of 4:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 23, 2010

The Pledge Report

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, the Republicans released what they call, with obvious reference, their Pledge to America. Many fiscal conservatives and TPers are savaging the Pledge on grounds that it doesn't go nearly as far as necessary; a good example is Karl, a too-infrequent guest poster at Patterico's Pontifications. (Note to Patterico: More Karl, please!)

Karl inexplicably sees the Pledge less as a political campaign document than as a roadmap (if I may use that term) to how the new GOP majority will govern... and by this analysis, the Pledge comes up wanting:

This year, with the odds already favoring the GOP regaining a House majority, it is again better to judge the new “Pledge” -- which this year’s candidates are not even formally agreeing to support -- on the basis of how well it serves as a governing document and potential confidence builder....

The rise of the Tea Party was driven in no small part by failures in political leadership, particularly Republican leadership. The political task of Republican leadership now is to reconcile the demands of the Tea Party (and, more broadly, the small-government base of the GOP) with the limits imposed by a divided government and the need to attract swing voters who are voting more for gridlock than they are for Republicans. There is not much in the Pledge to suggest the House GOP has figured out how to square that circle.

I don't follow Karl's logic. The main beef every other detractor has against the Pledge is that it comprises nothing but vague generalities; how can that be a governing document, when governing documents tend to be tortuous, byzantine exercises in lawyerese? At best, the Pledge to America is a restatment of the foundational principles of the United States of America, axioms which the GOP now pledges to rededicate itself to restoring.

I have a very different take than Karl: Pledges are useful distractions; by nature, they're all nothing but campaign broadsides:

  • Pledges always materialize before the election, never after. Obviously they're intended to affect the outcome in a way favorable to the pledgers.
  • It's impossible to know exactly how the new majority will govern, because you never know in advance the contours of victory. Will the new Squeaker of the House have enough hegemony to control the agenda? Will the Senate majority be filibuster-proof? Will the president decide to cooperate with the new Congress in order to leave a legacy -- or fight hammer and tooth out of quixotic principle, quasi-legal bribery from special-interest lobbyists, or out of sheer cussedness?
  • Nobody knows for sure how the new majority will vote in the congressional leadership elections, hence who will be running the show.
  • Nobody knows what unexpected crises will derail the entire agenda. Think of mid-September 2001 for an extreme example.
  • Nobody can say for sure how the judiciary will respond, and how that might reshape the majority's governance.

Once in power, the majority will decide and revamp its own agenda on a continuing basis, and it may or may not resemble any previous pledge. Furthermore, voters will approve or reject it based upon its ongoing content -- not whether it conforms with a campaign promise.

I mean what I write: I don't believe significant numbers of voters really care whether an elected representative does what he said he would do; they care that he does what they (now) want him to do! On some occasions, voters may actually demand that an earlier pledge be broken; think of those hapless Democrats elected in 2008 on a pro-ObamaCare platform, who today feel compelled to run away from the very package for which they voted, threatened by the very constituents who were for it before they were against it!

For that matter, think of Barack H. Obama in the 2008 elections: The only people who cared that he broke his solemn oath to accept public funding -- were those who never had any intention of voting for him in the first place. His supporters didn't give a rat's badonkadonk.

In any event, earlier pledges are far less important than what the majority does in office. Case in point: Tea Partiers will be furious if the new GOP majority doesn't cut the budget significantly below its level in November 2008; but their anger will be just as great given the Pledge to America -- which only promises a cutback to the last George W. Bush budget, which in this scenario the GOP fulfills -- as they would have been had the GOP promised to cut back to, say, the 2004 budget, then broken that promise.

The anger is the same; they would just use different words to describe it... "fiscal irresponsibility" in the first scenario, "a broken pledge" in the second.

As a campaign tactic, I think the Pledge works just fine. It aligns the GOP with the midpoint on the anger scale... going not as far as Tea Partiers would want but probably further than many Independents and "moderate" Democrats (Jim Webb, e.g.) prefer.

(I called pledges "useful distractions" above; they're useful because they can help boot Democrats out of office; they're distractions because they discombobulate the multitudinous liberal talking heads, since a good pledge must be answered by some handwaving -- time those master debaters could have better spent going on the attack instead of playing defense.)

As far as governing, the test will be who gets the chairmanships of which committees, and what they do once ensconced in their new chairs. We need to see some significant shakeups in the current heirarchy to be reassured it's not just business as usual. If every financial, banking, taxing, and spending committee chairmanship slides automatically to the ranking Republican, and if the current Republican leadership moves seamlessly from minority to majority, then we'll know that the tin-ear GOP has done it again -- and 2012 may become another 2006.

But if a few ranking old toots on critical committees find themselves passed over in favor of younger, more dynamic, and more economically conservative members, we should be optimistic that Republicans have finally learnt their lesson.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 23, 2010, at the time of 11:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 22, 2010

Cuomo Drops Below 50% - and Lizards Say He's Goin' Down

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A follow-up on our previous post, Oh Don't Be Such a Baby, about the hard charging Republican Carl Paladino, who is giving heir apparent Andrew Cuomo an unexpected run for his gobs of money in the New York gubernatorial race.

After paraphrasing Abe Lincoln by saying "I like this Republican; he fights," I added the following parenthetical and perhaps cryptic remark:

(Check back in two weeks and see whether Andrew Cuomo has dropped below 50% on Rasmussen; if he has, he's toast.)

Obviously I had no foreknowledge, or I would have written, "Check back tomorrow." Because today -- yesterday's tomorrow -- I woke up to this New York Times story about "Republican" Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC endorsing Democrat Andrew Cuomo, son of liberal icon, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

And why is Bloomberg endorsing Cuomo? First, because Bloomberg is that rara avis, an actual, honest-to-wickedness RINO, a lifelong Democrat who switched to the GOP just because the Democratic mayorial primary was too crowded; and second, because of this tidbit buried in the story:

Released Wednesday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, the poll found that Mr. Cuomo, the state attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor, leads Mr. Paladino by just 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, driven by overwhelming support for Mr. Paladino by voters considering themselves part of the Tea Party movement.

The poll surveyed 751 New York voters defined by Quinnipiac as likely to vote in November -- as opposed to earlier polls that surveyed all registered voters -- and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

This is the first poll in the entire campaign in which Andrew Cuomo was not above 50%, and generally far above -- as high as 60% in the last Quinnipiac poll less than a month ago.

Why did I write that slipping below 50% likely means that Cuomo is "toast?" It's a well-known maxim of polling: When the incumbent is below 50% in a two-person race this close to the election, and the challenger seems to have momentum, then the incumbent is very likely to lose.

The reason is that the incumbent in a race is a known quantity; voters have had years to decide what they think about him -- there's nothing new and exciting about the office-holder. Contrariwise, a challenger is often new and fresh, and he always has room to grow in stature and popularity... or to plummet to the depths.

But with the election looming, almost certainly anything really bad about the challenger that can be brought out already has been, especially if the incumbent is a savvy campaigner. Typically, the race "tightens" as the election looms... which usually means the challenger moves closer to the incumbent.

Andrew Cuomo is not actually the incumbent, of course; it's an open seat, as current appointed Gov. David Paterson is not running for "reelection" -- an odd word for a man who was never actually elected on his own to any post higher than state senator. Paterson withdrew from the race due to widespread voter anger at his fiscal mismanagement of the state and looming witness-tampering and Superbowl tickets scandals, all of which led to an unpopularity that made the idea of Paterson running for reelection almost a joke.

But Cuomo now occupies the "pseudo-incumbent" position: The entire electorate knows every detail about his career, his positions, his plans, his rhetorical style, his ambition, his ruthlessness, his parentage, and everything else, and has known for nearly three decades. Andrew Cuomo personifies the political establishment and "business as usual" in New York state.

It's unlikely that anybody who is not supporting Cuomo today will suddenly decide to support him on election day; typically, the undecideds at that point will break to the challenger... if Cuomo could have made the sale with them, he already would have. And despite the possibility that Rick Lazio could run as a third-party Conservative -- which I doubt, actually, if it looks like it would throw the race to Cuomo -- the Quinnipiac poll found only 1% of respondents saying they planned to vote for someone other than Cuomo or Paladino in the election; so it's a two-man race.

Barring some really nasty October surprise regarding Carl Paladino (which seems unlikely, given the unfriendly media scrutiny so far), I believe Paladino will continue drifting up, while Cuomo slowly sinks:

  • Following Paladino's primary victory on September 14th, Cuomo's lead over Paladino plummeted from 30-40 points down to 16 points from Rasmussen, and now down to a scant 6 points from Quinnipiac; the last Quinnipiac poll in August had Cuomo ahead of Paladino by 37 points, and the previous Rasmussen poll in July had Cuomo ahead by 29 points. Paladino has all the "big mo."
  • Much of Paladino's support comes from Tea Partiers, whose number is growing.
  • The enthusiasm gap strongly favors Republicans this year.
  • By a large plurality (41%), likely voters in the Quinnipiac survey say that the most important quality that will guide their choice for governor is that the candidate "can bring about needed change to Albany" -- beating "shares values" (22%), "Honest/Trustworthy" (21%), and "Right experience" (10%). "Change" always favors a little-known challenger over a better-known establishment figure (think Barack H. Obama over John McCain, or George W. Bush over Al Gore).

For all these reasons, unless this Quinnipiac poll turns out to be an outlier, I say Andrew Cuomo is toast -- and Tea-Party Republican Carl Paladino is the next governor of New York state.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 22, 2010, at the time of 5:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 21, 2010

Oh Don't Be Such a Baby

Hatched by Dafydd

New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, son of famous and fatuous former governor Mario, is beside himself with inchoate, self-pitying outrage and indecisive dithering -- just the qualities New Yorkers are looking for in their next chief executive:

Stung by Carl Paladino's below-the-belt attacks, an angry Andrew Cuomo summoned his war council on Monday to figure out how to fight back against his slash-and-burn GOP rival....

The Democrat wields a 54%-to-38% lead in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll out Monday, making Team Cuomo reluctant to climb down into the mud and fight Paladino on what they say is his turf.

His staff stressed to Cuomo on Monday that they'd like to push the positive aspects of his agenda to the press, insiders revealed.

The brain trusters also mulled if they should start hitting back atPaladino, rather than leave it exclusively to campaign surrogates such as Democratic Party boss Jay Jacobs. They didn't reach a decision.

They also fretted about the pitfalls of repeatedly telling the press "no comment" to Paladino's broadsides -- fearing the practice could ultimately turn the media against them.

The poor, sensitive plant. So exactly what vile slander did Paladino hurl at Cuomo that up with which the pampered "scion" cannot put? I suspect no political candidate has ever been verbally wounded as badly as Andrew Cuomo. Just read:

"It's difficult to understand why you, a polished veteran campaigner, scion of a political dynasty and king-designate, would fear a simple businessman from Buffalo, who candidly has never been in a debate in his life -- except maybe in a bar," Paladino wrote.

"Frankly, I don't think you have the cojones to face me and the other candidates in an open debate...."

Several times in his letter, Paladino invoked Cuomo's father, former three-time Gov. Mario Cuomo, who he said "left our state economy in a wreck."

"So Andrew, for the first time in your life be a man," Paladino wrote. "Don't hide behind Daddy's coattails even though he pulled strings to advance your career every step of your way. Come out and debate like a man.

"Because no one inherits the New York governorship -- you have to earn it...."

"He has an arrogant, egotistical attitude about him that is wrong for the people," Paladino said.

"Shocking, simply shocking," to quote James Bond. Or turning to another master of literary astonishment:

Golly golly oh my gosh; golly golly my oh my; golly golly goodness sakes alive; can you beat that?

Did you ever hear of such a thing? Oh boy, that really takes the cake. Well I never ever saw the likes of that.

Holy cow. Jeeze Louise. Man alive. I declare. Now I've seen everything. Well I'll be. Will you look at that?

For Pete's sake (sorry); as Finley Peter Dunne wrote, "politics ain't beanbag." On the same day that Andrew Cuomo -- lawyer, son of the erstwhile governor of New York, former top aide in his pop's 1982 gubernatorial campaign, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (during which he was one of the architects of the collapse of the home-mortgage industry and a prime instigator of the Great Recession of 2008) -- whines about being called cowardly and arrogant, the GOP senatorial candidate in nearby Delaware is accused of embezzlement and income-tax evasion. Oh the humanity!

At least Carl Paladino didn't accuse Cuomo of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, being complicit in the 9/11 attacks, stealing from women, infants, and children living in poverty to enrich himself, and invading and colonizing countries to create an American "empire" singlemindedly devoted to stealing Middle Eastern oil... though I wouldn't be surprised if Cuomo himself eagerly participated in flinging such slanders at George W. Bush.

I have never been a fan of the Cuomo clan, so take this for what it is; but this sniveling just makes Cuomo-fils look smaller, weaker, and more limp-wristed than ever. The only thing that could possibly make things worse would be if Andrew inveigled his 78 year old papa into cutting a commercial, wagging his finger and telling Paladino to leave his boy alone!

(Memories of Republican Matt Fong in California: While running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Barbara Boxer in 1998, Fong came across as a mama's boy. In response, he put up an ad starring his Democratic mom, former state Secretary of State March Fong Eu -- who basically said that Fong was a good boy who loved his mother! The widely disliked Boxer nevertheless crushed Fong by 53%-43%.)

I'm sure that Cuomo would love to make a pact with Paladino that each would remain high-minded and collegial throughout the campaign; as the better-known candidate and odds-on favorite to win, the Democrat could only benefit by muzzling his opponent. Then, in the final week of the campaign, Cuomo would wave away the pact and unleash a barrage of vicious and probably mendacious attacks, leaving the hapless Republican insurgent stammering and blinking. That's fair play for Democrats.

Fortunately, Carl Paladino understands the suicidal nature of such a nicely-nicely agreement for peace in our time. I haven't been following this race, but I think I'll start. I like this Republican; he fights.

As the underdog, Paladino must attack, attack, attack, as anybody who has watched even a single political race understands. I would think that Cuomo was simply portraying the wounded innocent to voters, except that he said much the same to his own campaign "war council." I can only imagine the sinking feeling they must have felt when their principal displayed such stunning naivete. (Check back in two weeks and see whether Andrew Cuomo has dropped below 50% on Rasmussen; if he has, he's toast.)

Can't liberals ever just fight a normal, vigorous electoral campaign? If they're not savaging their opponents in both primary and general with smears and slanders that leave powder burns and a whiff of sulphur, they're whining for protection from all that free speech, filing complaints with the Federal Elections Commission, and engaging in six kinds of special pleading (think Harry "Pinky" Reid). Honestly, I have more respect for outright, forthright fascists and Communists than I have for unctuous, guilt-tripping liberals who use their own weakness as a weapon.

Blech.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 21, 2010, at the time of 2:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 18, 2010

As Hecate Is My Witness, I Never Dabbled into Witchcraft

Hatched by Dafydd

Not even once. Oh, I knew a lot of witches; I was even (common-law) married to one at one point. But even she will tell you that I was never, ever into witchcraft at all: no covens, no cauldrons, no bells, books, nor candles.

I consider witchcraft (or Wicca) to be puerile, usually leftist, wish-fulfillment twaddle. Besides, I'm allergic to all those "blessed wanna-bes." (Stolen from Willow on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series.)

I consider Wicca a nonsensical non-religion, fit only for ridicule. (E.g., Brad Linaweaver's short story, "My Wiccan, Wiccan Ways," found most easily on page 223 of Clownface.)

By stark contrast, I am an ordained Archdruid in the Reformed Druids of North America, and I used to dabble into [or alongside of] Discordianism on the side. On both sides, actually.

We druids are not a bunch of hysterical, middle-aged, planetoid, political lesbians and their PWed girly-men, acting out Gardnerian fantasies of a non-existent, matriarchal "Old Religion;" we're stuffy pseudo-academics and self-styled scholars of esoteric and useless lore... it's completely different.

But as Nuadha of the Silver Hand and Eris, Goddess of Chaos are my witnesses, I never thought witches could fly. And I never dabbled into [or onto, or under] witchcraft. (All right, I did read Drawing Down the Moon, and I once observed a Dianic sabat led by Marion Zimmer Bradley; but I vow I was cynical and jaded throughout the entire ritual.)

 

 

There is only one outright lie in this entire post.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 18, 2010, at the time of 4:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Still Waiting for the Fathead to Sing

Hatched by Dafydd

Everybody tells me the fat broad already sung her aria, but somehow I missed it.

John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff at Power Line state as a fact that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 68%) is going to tell Alaska Republican primary voters to drop dead -- and she will run as a write-in candidate against tea partier "Average" Joe Miller and some other guy nobody cares about. The lads are probably keying off of this New York Times story:

A top Republican official in Washington said Friday that Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has informed the party’s leadership that she intends to run as a write-in candidate for re-election despite losing the Republican nomination in the primary earlier this month.

But three points need making:

  • It's not a "story;" it's a blogpost on the Times' "Politics and Government Blog." And its only source is unsourced, another anonymous rimshot.
  • The Times, as the Democratic Party's newspaper of record, has a double-handful of wishful thinking and a big dollop of special interest in spinning the meme that Murkowski might still win if she were to run as a write-in; it may stir up a little civil war in the bubbling GOP cauldron.
  • Finally, until very, very late in the day, we had yet to hear from Lisa Murkowski herself. Or even from her campaign mangler. Every word we heard was from a third party who may or may not have his finger on Mrs. Murkowski.

On the ultimate bullet point, the Times is casual:

The official said Republican leaders were still hopeful she might change her mind, but now fully expect her to run. Ms. Murkowski is expected to make a formal announcement later on Friday in Anchorage.

She didn't; but then at last she did, after taking off her gloves:

On Friday, Alaskans learned her decision: She's in. And, this time, she said: "The gloves are off."

By which she evidently means the mask is off. She will gleefully follow the Charlie Crist precedent and repudiate all her previous political positions that were in any way conservative. Or Republican. She will announce that from this moment on, she will caucus with the Democrats; and during the lame-donkey session of Congress, She will vote against all Republican filibusters and for card check, cap and tax, full and complete immigration amnesty, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, Stimulus 3, and same-sex and polygamous marriage.

On the penultimate bullet point, the Times is coy:

It is not clear how much the entrance of Ms. Murkowski will help the prospects of the Democratic nominee, Scott McAdams, mayor of Sitka.

Hum.

Now that She Who Must Be Oboed has risen to the occasion and enunciated herself, we shall comment: Murkowski's monstrous family ego, always an Alaskan embarassment, has now driven her to utter absurdity. Even with a million bucks in the bank, she isn't going to get the hundreds of thousands of people to write her name on the ballot to reelect her, after the Republican voters already voted against her. She won't even get the tens of thousands of votes necessary to derail the election of "Average" Joe.

I suppose she must think there is a vast and silent majority of Fundamentalist Centrists (i.e., Pelosi liberals) in the Last Frontier, pining away for the mother-wisdom of the poster child for nepotism.

She will come in a distant third, even behind Democrat Scott McAdams. She will be humiliated. The political career and legacy (such as it is) of She will be ground into powder.

And in the end, She will find a way to blame her disgrace on Sarah Palin and George W. Bush.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 18, 2010, at the time of 4:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 15, 2010

O'Donnellphobia

Hatched by Dafydd

I still think it's going to be very, very difficult for Christine O'Donnell, the GOP nominee for U.S. senator from Delaware, to win the general election there. Not impossible, but a lot less likely than, say, Joe Miller's chances in Alaska (which are excellent).

It's not just the 10-point deficit -- which will probably instantly drop to about a 5-point deficit, now that she's the nominee. The problem is the problematical nature of the problem-child herself: Christine O'Donnell is simply a lousy candidate; she only won in the primary because Tea Partiers wanted another scalp, and they didn't care about the long term consequences (where "long term" in this case means "49 days from yesterday").

She can't answer simple policy questions, she has a history of financial flakiness, she has no experience in office, and she seems a bit, well, loopy. As we get closer to November 2nd, I believe her manifest unfitness for the job will cause the gap against her to widen, not shrink, as her primary-victory bump recedes; she'll end up losing to Democrat Chris Coons by about 7 or 8 points.

But honestly, I don't see what all the hysterics are about. Until recently, I didn't believe Republicans had a chance in a million of picking up ten Senate seats this year -- which is what it takes for the GOP to seize the majority. But now, I think we have an excellent chance -- with or without Delaware.

Here are the 19 Democratic seats up for election this year::

Democratic seats up for reelection
State Candidate RCP polling category
Arkansas Blanche Lincoln (incumbent) Safe Republican
California Barbara Boxer (incumbent) Toss-up
Colorado Michael Bennet (incumbent) Toss-up
Connecticut Richard Blumenthal Lean Democrat
Delaware Chris Coons Likely Democrat
Hawaii Daniel Inouye (incumbent) Safe Democrat
Illinois Alexi Giannoulias Toss-up
Indiana Brad Ellsworth Likely Republican
Maryland Barbara Mikulski (incumbent) Safe Democrat
Nevada Harry Reid (incumbent) Toss-up
New York Chuck Schumer (incumbent) Safe Democrat
New York (special) Kirsten Gillibrand (appointed) Likely Democrat
North Dakota Tracy Potter Safe Republican
Oregon Ron Wyden (incumbent) Likely Democrat
Pennsylvania Joe Sestak Lean Republican
Vermont Pat Leahy (incumbent) Safe Democrat
Washington Patty Murray (incumbent) Toss-up
West Virginia Joe Manchin Lean Democrat
Wisconsin Russell Feingold (incumbent) Toss-up

We assume Republicans will pick up all seats labeled Safe Republican, Likely Republican, Lean Republican, and Toss-up. There are no seats currently held by the GOP that fall in the categories of Toss-up, Lean Democrat, Likely Democrat, or Safe Democrat; thus, we assume Republicans will hold all their current Senate seates. Thus, we should have a net pickup of ten from the low-hanging fruit alone... and note that does not include a pickup in Delaware, which RCP now rates as "Likely Democrat."

But in a strong GOP year like this one, we should pick up at least half of the "Lean Democrat" seats; that gives us an additional seat from either West Virginia or Connecticut, for a net pickup of 11 for Republicans.

Finally, there are three "Likely Democrat" seats; I'd bet that with a Cat-5 Republican hurricane, we can even pick up one of those, choosing from Delaware, Oregon, or the New York special election (to fill the seat currently occupied by Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed to Hillary Clinton's seat after the latter became Secretary of State). That means a net pickup of 12 seats for the GOP... just based on current polling. (And I expect the polling to get even better for the Republicans by election time, since Democrats seem intent upon alienating as many voters as humanly possible.)

I allocate all the "Safe Democrat" seats to the Democrats.

That means, when the smoke clears, I predict the GOP will hold 53 seats in the U.S. Senate, while Democrats (and third-party groupies) will hold but 47. On a good day, we hold the other "Lean Democrat" and maybe a couple of the "Likely Democrat" seats for a majority of 55 Repubs to 45 Dems. If the day breaks badly for the GOP, we capture only the Republican-leaning and toss-up seats for a scant majority of 51 Repubs to 49 Dems.

But were we to fail even to achieve a majority, that almost certainly means we lose several of the toss-ups, as well as all the Democrat-leaning races. Under those distressing conditions, we'll probably lose half the toss-ups, thus ending up with a net pickup of only seven, for a total of 48 Repubs to 52 Dems... still enough to sustain a filibuster but not enough to hail Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 96%).

The odds that we would pick up exactly nine Democratic Senate seats, such that Christine O'Donnell's victory yesterday would actually cost us the majority, seem remote to say the least: Either we'll easily surpass 10, or else we'll fall significantly short of that mark.

So let's all buck up, support O'Donnell (as the National Republican Senatorial Committee is now doing, with the maximum contribution allowed by law), and understand that a GOP majority in the Senate is not going to hinge on Delaware, come what may.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2010, at the time of 5:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 14, 2010

The War on Judgment

Hatched by Dafydd

First Lady Michelle Obama is once again on the warpath; this time, she's bullying the National Restaurant Association, coming as near as makes to difference to ordering them to reduce portion sizes, expunge ingredients that she considers bad (sugar, salt, butter, cream -- "not enough to sacrifice flavor -- we all like flavor -- but just enough to make a meaningful difference in the amount of calories and fat"), and substitute her veggieland choices for traditional side dishes... e.g., "make healthy sides like apple slices or carrots the default choice in a menu and make fries something customers have to request."

I'm all in favor of restaurants deciding (without State coercion) to offer salads and vegetables and fruits on their menus; sometimes I'll buy them -- I love Souplantation, for example, a restaurant that is basically nothing but a huge salad bar. But voluntary cooperation is not what Mrs. Obama has in mind; she makes her intention quite clear:

Right now, many restaurants are making a point to offer fresh produce and healthy choices aimed at kids and adults. Others are serving more low-fat dishes, whole grain breads, fruit on the side. Some are even offering kid-size portions of the meals they serve on the main menu. And chefs across the country are partnering with local schools to help them make healthy choices.

But as positive as these examples are, the reality is it’s just not enough. Together we have to do more. We have to go further. And we need your help to lead this effort.

The time for talk, talk, talk is over. We need action, action, action!

And action the government has taken:

As part of “Let’s Move,” we’re setting a goal of doubling the number of schools that participate in the Healthier US Schools Challenge by next year. And we’re working with schools and food suppliers to offer more fruits and vegetables and to cut down on that fat, sugar and salt.

And, finally, we’re working with mayors and other local officials to make our cities and towns healthier and to highlight restaurants that agree to serve smaller portions and promote more nutritious options.

So I hope that all of you will join with us in these efforts. Together, we can help make sure that every family that walks into a restaurant can make an easy, healthy choice.

We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture -- imagine this -- where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.

It's not an exaggeration to call this nutritional battle plan "Orwellian" because of the mindset that clearly motivates it: Michelle Obama rejects the crazy idea that choosing what and how much to eat is part of freedom of choice, and she dismisses with nary a thought the even more risible notion that we ourselves must be held accountable for the consequences of the choices we make. Rather, the Fist Lady sees the federal government as the nation's health conscience, substituting its judgment of what is best in place of our own, and in place of parents' judgment on behalf of their own children.

The terminus of the arc of this mindset was expressed very clearly in an Italian pronunciamento of the 1920s: “Everything inside the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State” -- and chillingly analyzed by Robert Anton Wilson in his 1977 book Cosmic Trigger: "Everything not compulsory is forbidden.... Everything not forbidden is compulsory."

The mindset -- don't think, don't choose, just sit quietly and wait for instructions -- has likewise been explored in detail in works as varied as classical-liberal Friederich Hayek's the Road to Serfdom, 1944, and modern-liberal Philip K. Howard's the Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America, a full half-century later.

Simply put, the more government decides, the less taste the citizen has for making his own decisions. In very short order, an infantalized people begin to avoid making any decisions at all, waiting all the while for someone to tell them what to do. The end result is a craving for order-taking and the self-immolation of will; we become, in Ayn Rand's term, truly "self-less."

Ironically, Mrs. Obama enunciated a structurally identical argument in her harangue to the National Restaurant Association:

But here’s the catch. See, feeding those cravings [doesn't] just respond to people’s natural desires, it actually helps shape them. The more of these foods people eat, the more they're accustomed to that taste, and after a while, those unhealthy foods become a permanent part of their eating habits.

What we see here has been noted by many that passed before us: Liberals reject moral reasoning; they want total "freedom" (license) to do whatever they want, then preen about it. But they must fill the "rules" gap with something; it's scary not to have any rules at all. So they elevate health concerns to moral imperatives: Thou shalt not eat too large a portion; thou shalt not eat anything made with white flour; and this above all -- thou shalt not eat the deadly poison, salt! (Or breath the deadly pollutant carbon dioxide; but that's a rant for a different post.)

To the war on portions, white bread, and salt, add the wars on fat, peanut butter, sugar, sugar substitutes, mac & cheese, Mexican food, Chinese food, Italian food, fast food, tobacco, war, doctors, playgrounds, sunshine (skin cancer!), and recreation (as in recreational use of any natural resource) -- a war on everything but the lawyers, praise Burger (but not burgers).

(Exceptions granted to the Anointed, of course: They're saving the world, for Gore's sake; they can't be expected to hew to the same laws that govern the rabble.)

All the little wars collide into a giant Ur-war in which every enemy behavior, activity, or comestible is condemned for being "bad for children and other living things." The freak show that composes the Committee for Science in the Public Interest (and how's that for an Orwellian name!) is revolting, and has already seized the presidency, cabinet, and much of the Congress.

Of course, to maintain loyalty in war, governments often resort to wartime censorship; the State must keep a lid on opinion-mongering, especially opinions about the war itself, its necessity and conduct. In the case of the vital Ur-war against unauthorized freedom for the unenlightened, it's already here; Mrs. Obama announces the plan:

Our kids don’t learn about the latest fast-food creations on their own. They hear about them on TV, advertisements, in the Internet, video games, and many other places. And as any parent knows, this marketing is highly effective.

As a mom, I know it is my responsibility, and no one else’s, to raise my kids. But we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean when so many parents are finding their best efforts undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at our kids.

A study last year found that only a small percentage of advertising aimed at kids promoted healthy foods, while most promoted foods with a low nutritional value. And let’s be clear: It’s not enough just to limit ads for foods that aren’t healthy. It’s also going to be critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy.

And if there’s anyone who can sell healthy food to our kids, it’s all of you, because you know what gets their attention. You know what makes a lasting impression. You certainly know what gets them to drive their poor parents crazy because they just have to have something.

So I'm here today to ask you to use that knowledge and that power to our kids’ advantage. I'm asking you to actively promote healthy foods and healthy habits to our kids.

Everything because of the kids. Nothing apart from the kids. Nothing against the kids.

Today she only "asks," as your teacher might "ask" you to hand in that overdue book report; tomorrow, she -- or her minions at the FCC and FDA -- will command, using the full force of government action, action, action.

The penchant for controlling all speech and communications becomes a compulsion; compare this amusing directive from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the president of America's Health Insurance Plans, which lobbies for private health insurers. Sebelius (I don't think she's in Kansas anymore) was infuriated when AHIP issued a report noting that ObamaCare had already driven a number of insurers to raise their rates, in order to pay for expanded benefits demanded by the new law. The secretary responded:

It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases....

Given the importance of the new protections and the facts about their impact on costs, I ask for your help in stopping misinformation and scare tactics about the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, I want AHIP’s members to be put on notice: the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections....

We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.

Americans want affordable and reliable health insurance, and it is our job to make it happen. We worked hard to change the system to help consumers. It is my hope we can work together to stop misinformation and misleading marketing from the start.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sebelius

(Since I expect this breathtaking pronunciamento to be rewritten or tossed down the memory hole as soon as the popular front gets wind of it, I post the entire news release in the "Slither on" extended section.)

Recall, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was passed, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) informed us that we would have to pass the bill in order to find out what was in it. Who knows? Perhaps it did give Sebelius authority to regulate private speech about ObamaCare. (The Sedition Act "was good for Woodrow Wilson, and it's good enough for me!")

More generally, the Harpy Brigade of nanny secretaries appears to be well along the path of total control over new media. Now Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (I don't think she'll ever take off her rainbow shades) appears to covet the power to "police the world wide web" and even "shut down parts of the Internet" if she perceives a cyberthreat.

How long, I wonder, before Napolitano's lidless eye begins seeing blogposts or online newspaper stories critical of the Obama administration as exactly the sort of threat that needs nipping in the bud? The administration has already informed us it has "zero tolerance" for "misinformation."

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." And who controls communications controls the present. Of course any liberal-fascist State, or any other form of socialism or socialism lite, must control and ultimately own all communications to have even a hope of implementing its directives -- which will tend, with every passing season in the natural progression of "five year plans," to become more irrational, unpredictable, and against basic human nature.

The Obamacle and his acolytes in the administration and Congress must realize that the popular front for Capitalism and against government expansion and intrusion depends upon the ability to communicate, particularly over the internet. Ms. Napolitano must be greedily eyeing that medium and longing to get her mits on it, particularly if she harbors any dream of running for President of the United States herself. Certain things are better left unsaid; it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

But in the end, it will all go for nought; because Team Obama long ago lost the battle for communications when its excesses and failures lost even the normal channels for liberal-fascist policy: the antique media of newspapers and television. Today, one is as apt to read a denunciation of Obamunism in the New York Times (or see in on Jon Stewart's the Daily Show) as in the Wall Street Journal or the National Review.

Today, it's the popular front that controls the present... from which you may draw your own conclusion.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Sebelius calls on health insurers to stop misinformation and unjustified rate increases

Affordable Care Act will help lower costs and crack down on unjustified rate increases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national association of health insurers, calling on their members to stop using scare tactics and misinformation to falsely blame premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius noted that the consumer protections and out-of-pocket savings provided for in the Affordable Care Act should result in a minimal impact on premiums for most Americans. Further, she reminded health plans that states have new resources under the Affordable Care Act to crack down on unjustified premium increases.

The text of Sebelius’ letter is below.

Ms. Karen Ignagni
President and Chief Executive Officer
America’s Health Insurance Plans
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
South Building, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Ms. Ignagni:

It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.

The Affordable Care Act includes a number of provisions to provide Americans with access to health coverage that will be there when they need it. These provisions were fully supported by AHIP and its member companies. Many of the legislation’s key protections take effect for plan or policy years beginning on or after September 23, 2010. All plans must comply with provisions such as no lifetime limits, no rescissions except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact, and coverage of most adult children up to age 26. New plans must comply with additional provisions, such as coverage of preventive services with no cost sharing, access to OB / GYNs without referrals, restrictions on annual limits on coverage, a prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions of children (which applies to all group health plans), access to out-of-network emergency room services, and a strengthened appeals process. And health plans that cover early retirees could qualify for reinsurance to sustain that coverage for businesses, workers, and retirees alike.

According to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact from the new consumer protections and increased quality provisions under the Affordable Care Act will be minimal. We estimate that that the effect will be no more than one to two percent. This is consistent with estimates from the Urban Institute (1 to 2 percent) and Mercer consultants (2.3 percent) as well as some insurers’ estimates. Pennsylvania’s Highmark, for example, estimates the effect of the legislation on premiums from 1.14 to 2 percent. Moreover, the trends in health costs, independent of the legislation, have slowed. Employers’ premiums for family coverage increased by only 3 percent in 2010 – a significant drop from previous years.

Any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law. These savings include a reduction in the “hidden tax” on insured Americans that subsidizes care for the uninsured. By making sure insurance covers people who are most at risk, there will be less uncompensated care, and, as a result, the amount of cost shifting to those who have coverage today will be reduced by up to $1 billion in 2013. By making sure that high-risk individuals have insurance and emphasizing health care that prevents illnesses from becoming serious, long-term health problems, the law will also reduce the cost of avoidable hospitalizations. Prioritizing prevention without cost sharing could also result in significant savings: from lowering people’s out-of-pocket spending to lowering costs due to conditions like obesity, and to increasing worker productivity – today, increased sickness and lack of coverage security reduce economic output by $260 billion per year.

Given the importance of the new protections and the facts about their impact on costs, I ask for your help in stopping misinformation and scare tactics about the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, I want AHIP’s members to be put on notice: the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections.

Already, my Department has provided 46 states with resources to strengthen the review and transparency of proposed premiums. Later this fall, we will issue a regulation that will require state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases filed by health insurers, with the justification for increases posted publicly for consumers and employers. We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.

Americans want affordable and reliable health insurance, and it is our job to make it happen. We worked hard to change the system to help consumers. It is my hope we can work together to stop misinformation and misleading marketing from the start.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sebelius

###

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: September 12, 2010

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2010, at the time of 3:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 13, 2010

What If We Made Every Day "Burn a Koran Day"?

Hatched by Dafydd

I rib you not; what if, every day of every week of every month of every year, folks in the West held a good old, traditional Koran despoiling?

Suppose each of us ran out and bought 52 copies of the Koran (or al-Quran, if you prefer); then, joining in covens of seven, each of us picked a day of the week -- and burned one Koran each name day. That's a year's worth of poached prophet for each cabal!

  • Wednesday's child could burn the book.
  • The Friday desecrator could fling that week's copy into the sewer.
  • The Monday marauder could mangle the monstrosity in a meat masher.
  • The man who was Thursday could trample it underfoot with muddy boots.
  • Saturday's cross-tab could wrap it with strips of bacon, fry it up, and eat it, leaf by leaf.
  • Tuesday's tot could drink lots of Budweiser, then toss the tome in the toilet and make lots of Budweiser.
  • And of course, he who is blessed to have the duty of desecrating a Koran on Sunday could hammer a spike through its heart and bury it at a crossroads -- beneath a veritable Vesuvius of hog jowls, pickled pig's feet, and pork rinds.

Then we start all over again.

Dear Mr. Huge: Have you finally and irrevocably flipped your Yid lid? Signed, the Society for Prevention of Lighting Up Holy Lit

No no, I have a point, and it's a good one. Suppose we did this day in and day out, so that never did a single day pass without someone, somewhere creatively desecrating a Koran. On the telly. On YouTube, in the papers, on the sacred soil of the wirefeed. Suppose Koran-obliterating became ubiquitous, offhand, humdrum: Yawn, another Koran in the trash compactor, how droll. Desecrate, desecrate, desecrate!

Hard as it may be to believe, even radical Islamists are human beings; and as humans, eventually they will just plain run out of outrage. Only a tiny handful of people have a literally infinite capacity to become incensed, hysterical, like a middle-aged matron who thinks she saw a mouse. (Or like the gangster Woody Allen described in one of his books, probably Without Feathers, since that's the only one I read: Allen's mafioso was so paranoid, ne never allowed anyone in New York City to get behind him.)

For the rest of the world, including the vast majority of Moslems, outrage is not infinite: Pitching a spaz requires hormones such as adrenalin coursing through one's body; but the body cannot produce adrenalin all day, every day without it taking a terrific toll on health. Sooner or later, each individual hysteric must either calm down, take a deep breath, and resolve just to ignore the unholy undertaking in future... or else die of a coronary delusion at age 38.

Therefore, if the West made every day "Burn a Koran Day," then after a very few months, the ummah would greet each day's desecration as conservatives greet each day's Obamunism: With an exasperated eye-roll, but elsewise equanimity. When Ahmadinejad or Nasrallah or Zawahiri screams "The infidels are burning the Koran, we must rush forth and slay the nearest Christian and the ten nearest Jews!" -- the rest of Islamdom will shrug and say, "So what else is new?" The action of burning a Koran will have utterly lost all impact, all effect, all meaning... it will have become just another book.

And then we can stop.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 13, 2010, at the time of 9:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 10, 2010

Emily Returns

Hatched by Dafydd

And now a guest post from a well-known, concerned reader:

What's all this talk I hear about some pastor in Gainsville or Miami or one of those states pushing for an International Burn a Korean Day?

How can a Christian talk about burning people? Christians don't burn people. We've never burned people! I mean, I don't particularly like Korean food. It's too hot, especially kachoomi. But just because Korean food burns your tongue doesn't give you any excuse to go out and burn Koreans!

What is this world coming to? It's monstrous to talk about roasting human beings just because they smell funny and can't even decide which direction their country is, north or south. Even just suggesting an International Burn a Korean Day should get that pastor exfrockticated.

I could understand an International Burn a Social-Security Administrator Day, or maybe a Burn a Hobo Day; those tramps always frighten me. And those sticks with a tied-up handerchief they carry... you never know what's in them!

But you can't single out one race, not even Koreans, and start burning them. Not in this day and age.

I think we should burn that pastoral instead, like...

What's that? It's International Burn a Koran Day? What's a koran?

Oh -- that's very different.

Nevermind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2010, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Companion Piece: Risible Racism vs. Gender Benders

Hatched by Dafydd

Same-sex marriage (SSM) activists frequently cite the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), a unanimous ruling that overturned all anti-miscegenation laws across the United States by holding that marriage was "one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival," and that laws banning mixed-race marriage violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. SSM activists argue that if marriage to the person of one's choosing, regardless of race, is a fundamental right, then so too must be marriage to the person of one's choosing regardless of gender.

But there is a flaw in this first, naive version of the argument: No right is absolute, not even fundamental ones; they are simply held to the strictest scrutiny, with the state or feds having to show:

  • That the government has a compelling interest in the law, that it is vital and necessary, not merely desirable;
  • That the law itself is narrowly tailored to accomplish that purpose without branching out into irrelevancies;
  • And that the law uses the least restrictive means of achieving that purpose.

Laws which pass that three-pronged test can and do limit even fundamental rights. For example, we limit the fundamental, First-Amendment right to the free exercise of religion in various ways, such as prohibiting Christian Scientists from denying urgent medical care to their children or prohibiting human sacrifice, even of willing victims.

The brighter SSM radicals recognize this problem, so they attempt to get around it by denying that the State has any legitimate "compelling government interest" in promoting opposite-sex marriage over same-sex marriage (or, one presumes, in promoting two-person marriage over polyamorous marriage). In particular, they argue that:

  1. There is no possible reason to prefer opposite-sex marriage over SSM other than the purely religious, specifically the Judeo-Christian and Moslem belief that homosexual acts are an "abomination."
  2. Yet such a sectarian interest constitutes an "establishment of religion" and cannot possibly pass the "strict scrutiny" test.
  3. Therefore, the traditional definition of marriage is prohibited by the First Amendment.

I fully support the Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia: Given the clear meaning of the words of the Civil Rights Amendments and their obvious application to racial equality, the Court made the right decision. But I utterly reject its application to SSM.

Is this inconsistent or irrational? Not in the least: There is a bright line between the two that should be obvious, even to the activists themselves.

There is no possible compelling interest in preventing mixed-race marriages other than perpetuating "racial purity" and ultimately "racial supremacism." Yet there is no significant biological difference between the "races," and it's frequently hard even to distinguish between them.

Biologists cannot even generally define a "race"... there is no specific scientific guideline to judge how dark one's skin can be while remaining "white," or how narrow a nose can be while still being "African," nor even exactly what percent African, American Indian, Causasian, or Oriental descent makes a person that race: If one great-great-great grandparent of African ancestory makes one black, then why don't the other thirty-one great-great-great grandparents of European ancestory make that same person white? (Is white blood that much weaker than black blood? Did any racist ever think this argument through?)

Similarly, there is no inherent or genetic difference in how different races think, behave, or reacts; all such differences are cultural or driven by will. Even if one buys the premise of the Bell Curve, which I do not (yes, I read the book), a supposed difference in intelligence is not the same as a difference in how one thinks, behaves, or reacts.

Thus we long ago concluded that legally, there is no essential difference among people on the basis of race. And therefore any racial classification or racial law is inherently invidious and requires the absolute strictest of scrutiny.

In the case of laws banning miscegenation, no compelling government interest other than the even more vile racial supremacism or separatism has been offered for banning mixed-race marriages... so such laws clearly fail the test of "strict scrutiny" and were rightly struck down as unconstitutional.

Contrariwise, only the most radical of radicals would dispute the essential difference between men and women. The claim itself is preposterous: Men can impregnate, women cannot; women can give birth, men cannot.

Moreover, much scientific testing has discovered profound differences in the way men and women think, behave, and react; and as any parent knows, such profound differences begin at birth (some say even earlier) -- so they are not simply constructs of an oppressive society, as the most radical feminists argue.

One can easily find many compelling government interests in promoting traditional marriage over SSM (and over polyandry):

  • To raise the fertility rate, so our population doesn't dwindle (as it has in many European countries), causing society to collapse.
  • To provide a more stable, well-rounded environment for raising children, thus lowering crime, drug use, and other socially destructive behaviors.
  • To mate the aggressive male personality with the loving female personality, in order to civilize the former and embolden the latter.
  • To prevent the objectivization and abuse of women by restricting men to but one wife, not the harems we find in, e.g., the ummah and among primitive tribal cultures.
  • To promote marriages that tend to last longer and be more stable -- as research clearly shows traditional marriages do, compared to same-sex or polyamorous marriages -- which in turn makes society itself more stable.

Each of these interests is compelling in itself; and traditional marriage promotes all of them. And please notice one point: Not a single one of these listed compelling government interests is in any way driven by religion. In fact, I myself am not in the least religious, yet I support all of them.

So yes, marriage to the person of one's choice is a fundamental right; but both laws that prohibit racial discrimination in marriage and laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman clearly pass the "strict scrutiny" test. We can prohibit racial separatism and supremacism, saying there is no essential difference between the so-called "races," without having to profess the absurdity that there is no essential difference between the sexes. The two claims are worlds apart.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2010, at the time of 2:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Don't Sue, Don't Judge

Hatched by Dafydd

Two positions from the Lizards:

  1. We both strongly believe that marriage should be restricted to opposite-sex couples, not currently married to anyone else, not too closely related, of age, and consenting. But we believe even more strongly that the definition of and rules for marriage for each state should be decided by the legislature, governor, and ultimately the people of that state... not by unelected, life-tenured federal judges.
  2. We both strongly believe that openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in all branches and capacities of the United States military, and we have said so, often and loudly -- perhaps to the detriment of readership, which is quite unified against our position. But we believe even more strongly that such a profound change must be made democratically by Congress and the President of the United States... not by unelected, life-tenured federal judges.

So even though we agree with the fundamental position of the Log Cabin Republicans that Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be repealed, we fundamentally deplore and reject the injudicious judicial process the LCR chose to "repeal" it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2010, at the time of 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 9, 2010

Bottoming Out: the Commonest Manifesto

Hatched by Dafydd

The title refers to three "bottoms" we may be about to reach almost simultaneously, involving the Koran-burning threatened for Saturday, September 11th, 2010; the "Ground Zero Mosque" (GZM) threatened for next September 11th, 2011; and what I call the Zeroth Principle of Real Reality:

  • Many on both sides the aisle have described the threat by Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, to burn Korans during a self-proclaimed "International Burn a Koran Day" as a "bottom" of anti-Moslem bigotry and insensitivity; but is it really? Or does it mark the bottom of our willingness to be "sensitive" to Moslem feelings, even when those feelings are backed by blatant extortion and threats?
  • On another front, when (if ever) do we reach the bottom of our own deeply held principles, such as religious tolerance and property rights, when actual national and cultural survival is at stake? Must we, as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX, 91%) demands, follow our principles even to the point of extinction?
  • Finally, we have the root-bottom axiom from which all other axioms, principles, and fundamental rights arise... the Zeroth Principle: The people will do what they must, no matter what law, religion, or creed demands, to survive as a people. Have we already reached that point, or is it far enough in the future that we needn't worry about the cultural imperative just yet?

Until we confront these three bottoms, we're just flibbertigibbets and whirligigs in the hurricane of the war against radical Islamism. So let's take a look.

Nota bene: After mostly writing this post, I learnt that a "deal" was -- or was not -- cut to cancel the Koran burning in exchange for moving the GZM to... well, somewhere else: Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, who had threatened to burn the Korans, says "was;" the imam of the GZM, Feisal Abdul Rauf, says "was not."

At first, I thought this tossed the entire post into a cockeyed hat; but then I reflected that, apart from the uncertainty of whether the deal is on or off, everything I have to say about it is universal and timeless (as always!)... so I have no reason not to plough right ahead. Excelsior!

In response to Rev. Jones vow (or threat) to lead a Koran-burning on Saturday, Moslems across the world have vowed to go on a mass killing spree; already, they're burning American flags and chanting "Death to Christians!" in anticipation of a delicious round of international riot and ruin. President Barack H. Obama is alternately begging and ordering Jones to call it off (which he may or may not have done). Even Gen. David Petraeus chimed in, warning that the burning could result in our troops being attacked.

As to the latter, it's a 100% certainty: After such a Koran burning, Moslem insurgents will attack our troops. But of course, it's also a 100% certainty that if the burning is called off -- Moslem insurgents will attack our troops. So it goes.

Shouldn't we stop the Koranic holocause, somehow prevent Rev. Jones from disposing of his church's private property via the incinerator? (Hm, what would Ron Paul say?) Or even if such interdiction is too destructive of our First Amendment, shouldn't we at least redouble our efforts to persuade Jones to forbear, deal or no deal?

Before answering that question, let's think a second and a third time; there are more reprecussions, no matter what path we choose, than the few we're encouraged to obsess upon to the exclusion of all others. And let's start with...

Moslem sensitivity

We're told "we" can't burn Korans -- or even allow our soldiers to carry personal Bibles into Afghanistan -- for fear Moslems will be offended. When offended, they lash out with bloodthirsty savagery, killing innocents. (The Bibles were burnt instead -- burnt by American "military officials;" religious sensitivity, thy name is irony!)

But what behavior doesn't cause Moslems to lash out and kill innocents? They riot, loot, slaughter, and burn in response to everything America, Israel, and the West do -- from supporting freedom; to caricaturing some unnamed imam with a bomb for a turban; to allowing military guards at Guantanamo to touch the Koran with their "unclean" hands; to the continued existence of Jews; to attempts to end chattel slavery in Sudan; to allowing unshrouded females and schooling for girls; to the presence of Westerners on the "sacred" soil of Saudi Arabia; to the refusal of the West to "return" Palestine, al-Andaluz, Vienna, England, Africa, Europe, Asia, and eventually South America to the rightful grasp of the ummah; to Salman Rushdie writing the Satanic Verses; and to the presence of El Al at the Los Angeles International Airport. It all provokes the same violent reaction, including (inter alia) mass murders of Christians, Jews, and imperfectly conforming fellow Moslems. (See also this Emo Phillips routine, especially starting around 2:35.)

For that matter, if America were to crawl on its hands and knees and lick Ayatollah Khamenei's and Ayman Zawahiri's sandal straps, that too would spark an orgy of violence and slaughter. In fact, that would be the quickest route, since the real Moslem motivation for such rapine and atrocity is their perception that they are the strong horse, while the West is the weak horse; any action on our part that encourages this belief will (you guessed it) lead to riots and butchery of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Animists, wishy-washy Moslems, and the like.

Do we not finally comprehend, at some point in this crisis, that Moslem "outrage" is a calculated political tactic deliberately ginned up by Moslem leaders to pressure the West to make concession after concession? It is a form of Dawa, "soft jihad," playing upon our liberal guilt and conservative principles to gain for radical Islamism much of what they demand, without the radicals having to confront real armies that can actually obliterate them. When that revelation finally sinks in throughout the American people and their counterparts in the rest of the West, we shall abruptly find the bottom of our "sensitivity" to Moslems' perpeturally wounded feelings.

And I think we're just about there, judging from the polling on the so-called Ground Zero Mosque (GZM).

Freedom of religion and other farces

But to heck with Moslem sensitivity, which we all agree borders on hysteria. What about our own deep principles, such as "religious tolerance," upon which our country was founded (according to President Obama)? Here, he says it directly:

Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" in an interview aired Thursday that he hopes the Rev. Terry Jones of Florida listens to the pleas of people who have asked him to call off the plan. The president called it a "stunt."

"If he's listening, I hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans," Obama said. "That this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance."

Should such religious tolerance be absolute? If so, it would be the only fundamental right or deeply held tenet that is.

Contrariwise, America was not founded on generic religious tolerance; many American colonies had colonial churches and were pretty intolerant towards other sects; and many retained them as state churches, with special privileges including state monetary support, after the American revolution. And in any event, even today, we certainly do not blindly support "absolute religious tolerance": We outlaw American Indian peyote rituals, religously based child abuse (beatings, clitorectomies, refusal of medical care, child rape), and of course, human sacrifice. Or animal sacrifice, for that matter.

What America was actually founded upon was religious freedom, among others; and those two, freedom and tolerance, can easily be antithetical. In particular, we cannot tolerate religion (radical Islamism) that cannot tolerate freedom.

This paradox is one specific instance of the the great fallacy of tolerance: You cannot, in the name of tolerance, tolerate those seeking to impose their intolerance upon the rest of us; to do so is to become a willing accomplice in bigotry and discrimination.

The controversy over Cordoba House, the putative "Ground Zero Mosque," is a perfect example, a tar baby that has ensnared everyone from Obama to Rep. Ron Paul and many other libertarians, liberals, and conservatives who argue that our American principles of religious tolerance and property rights require us not merely to allow Feisal Abdul Rauf to build Cordoba House but to celebrate his doing so -- since he assures us that, regardless of appearances, the GZM's purpose is "interfaith outreach," not Islamist triumphalism.

In particular, Paul issued an official statement that, in essence, insists we adhere to "principle," even if it leads to the utter destruction of the culture that professess those very principles:

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque....

There is no doubt that a small portion of radical, angry Islamists do want to kill us but the question remains, what exactly motivates this hatred?

If Islam is further discredited by making the building of the mosque the issue, then the false justification for our wars in the Middle East will continue to be acceptable....

Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam–the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia....

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

In other words, Rauf is a uniter, America is a hater, and we deserved what happened to us in 2001. And we need to apologize and make amends by offering the Islamist victory shrine at Ground Zero.

This is classic sophomoric libertarianism that runs afoul of the more general principle of freedom; for there is ample evidence that Rauf actually supports radical Islamism: He is a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood; he cannot admit that Hamas is a terrorist organization; he believes (as does Paul himself) that American foreign policy was complicit in 9/11; and Rauf wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in 1979 -- which he now refuses to repudiate -- praising the totalitarian, theocratic, sharia state established in Iran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rauf knows very well the mosque will be seen by Islamists around the world as a "victory shrine" celebrating the great martyrdom at the World Trade Centers; and that he supports that mission.

So by insisting that the American people "tolerate," or even applaud, Cordoba House in its present location, supporters of the GZM necessarily demand we tolerate those who express the ultimate form of intolerance against us: the mass butchery of Americans and others on September 11th, 2001. It is inherently paralogical -- a state of cognitive dissonance that is no stranger either to Barack Obama or Ron Paul.

The Zeroth Principle

But there is a deeper bottom below even our own foundational principles in America and the rest of the West. Call it the Zeroth Principle which underlies all other axioms: In the end, people will do what they must to survive and to preserve their culture, no matter what other laws or principles may say. In other words, sometimes you just have to shoot the bastard first and apologize later for "violating his rights."

Idealogues neglect to factor in the Zeroth Principle all the time, but they do so at their peril; we saw the Zeroth in action in Iraq, when the Sunni in Anbar and other provinces finally decided it was impossible to live under the insane and fickle rules of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Life was utterly unbearable, despite the Iraqi Sunni's agreement (in theory) with al-Qaeda... so the former rose up and obliterated the latter, and to hell with the Koran, sharia, and Moslem solidarity!

Folks will do what they must to survive, they and their culture, and you can't stop them. It doesn't matter if you point out that the principles by which they live -- sincerely live -- require them to accept the unacceptable and endure the unendurable; they will reject it and drive it out, and principles be damned. They understand that the Zeroth Principle trumps all others: What you cannot endure you must change or destroy. Sometimes you just have to shoot the SOB and justify it later.

And that is where Barack Obama, Ron Paul, and Feisal Rauf just don't get it; but the Rev. Terry Jones does. We have about reached the end of our collective rope anent Moslem bullying, extorting, whining, and special pleading; we have had enough. At this point, I think an actual majority of Americans is at the point of saying that religious tolerance is all well and good, but we want these radical jackasses out of our hair and out of our lives. It's a tipping point: If the government won't do it... then we'll do it ourselves, and the powers that be won't like how we do it.

In fact, we've hit a triple-whammy tipping point:

  • You bureaucrats had better do something about the Islamist problem -- or we will.
  • You'd better do something about illegal immigration and fraudulent voting and Mexican drug wars slopping over into America -- or we will.
  • You'd better do something about government intrusion in our lives -- or we will!

So Republicans and Democrats alike (and Libertarian loonies) had better start swimming, or they'll sink like a stone. (I place my bet on the first over the latter two.) From now on, when Moslems (radicals or "moderates") whine and threaten, we're going to tell them to take a long walk on a short pier. Come November, Congressman Taxaholic and Senator Nannystate are going to be pounding the pavement looking for honest work. And one way or another, we the people will not allow an Islamist victory shrine on the ashes of the World Trade Centers.

This is what I've been yammering about ever since February in my post "What Makes Lefty Run?": This is what a popular front for Capitalism, Judeo-Christian culture, and American exceptionalism looks like, up close and personal:

  • If Moslems want to burn Bibles, fine; then they should shut their falafal holes when Americans burn Korans. And if they riot and kill and try to conquer the world, then don't be surprised if we bomb their countries, kill their leaders, and convert their citizens to Christianity. (If we make plain that we are the strong horse, that last task won't be so difficult!)
  • As a small minority in the West, Moslems live and thrive at our sufferance; their job is to assimilate as much as possible -- and shut up about the conflicts that remain. (Like Jews in America, who wouldn't dream of insisting Congress enact laws forcing everyone to wear a yarmulke and keep kosher.)
  • And if radical Islamists think we're going to let them dance on the mass grave of 3,000 Americans and other Westerners, then it's time to tell Imam Rauf to go pound sand down a rathole.

So to answer my own question from above -- yes, I believe that if the Dove Outreach Center burns some Korans, Moslems will "retaliate" by killing some Christians and Jews in Pakistan, or Iran, or Qatar, or Indonesia, or France, and by attacking American soldiers who are keeping the peace in various Islamic countries. And yes, that is an enormity; but it's not our enormity, nor even Rev. Jones' enormity; moral guilt fully belongs to those who commit actual murder in response to mere symbolism.

And in the meantime, I'm glad Islamists suffer the humiliation of no longer inducing the terror they once wielded, and of seeing their own books burnt; and I really don't give a hoot that some religious Moslems who don't support jihad (or at least not much) also feel humiliated and maybe even a little frightened. It's more urgent that the West finally rouse itself, stand up, and fight back, both physically, though our military forces, and especially symbolically, through such metaphors as burning Korans and driving the GZM off of GZ. Symbols are especially vital in rallying the people and stoking the flames of the popular front.

Sober conservatives cautioning against what Terry Jones wants to do may have the technical right of the argument... but those willing to stand up and fight, consequences be damned, have its heart and its soul.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 9, 2010, at the time of 11:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 6, 2010

Happy Productive Laborious Day!

Hatched by Dafydd

I have no idea what sort of inspirational graphic to affix here, but this should satisfy everybody and put us all in a festive mood...

 

 

Enjoy the barbecue, Comrade!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 6, 2010, at the time of 6:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrat Campaign Grand Strategy: Money Will Save Our Seats!

Hatched by Dafydd

Desperate Democrats held a war council and finally concocted a grand "triage" strategy for the 2010 elections; the new plan is simply to abandon their colleagues who aren't gaining any traction against their Republican opponents, thus focusing all their attention -- that is, all the campaign cash -- on a few "fire wall" races that will (they believe) allow them to hang onto the House, by a sliver.

What appalls me is the underlying, corrupt assumption at the core of this strategy; Democrats evidently believe that heaving enough money at a race guarantees victory:

To hold the line against Republicans, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, issued an urgent plea for members in safe districts to help their endangered colleagues by contributing money. She called out to Democrats who were delinquent on paying their party dues and instructed members with no re-election worries to tap into a combined $218 million from their campaign accounts to help save their majority.

"We need to know your commitment," Pelosi wrote to lawmakers last week in a private letter, demanding that they call her within 72 hours to explain how they plan to help.

She added, "The day after the election, we do not want to have any regrets." [No funds unspent, no poll watcher unbribed. --DaH]

A national campaign trumpeting Democratic accomplishments on health care, education and Wall Street regulation has given way to a race-by-race defensive strategy. Democratic incumbents are moving to aggressively define their Republican opponents and individualize races in an effort to inoculate themselves from the national mood.

"Inoculate themselves from the national mood."

Clearly they have no intention of changing their policies to bring them in line with what their own constituents want; Pelosi knows best. They won't moderate any of their radical schemes; they certainly won't cooperate with the Republicans in a bipartisan effort to solve the country's terrible economic and national-security problems.

They approach the election from the opposite side: Focus their entire campaign war-chest on a couple of dozen House races -- and use that wad of moolah on adverts to "inoculate" them from voters.

Well at least we can't say they didn't warn us!

Here's a sample of the electoral vaccine Democrats seek:

In Missouri, Rep. Ike Skelton has rarely run hard-hitting advertisements during 34 years in office, but he sternly accuses his opponent in one of not supporting the troops. In Texas, Rep. Chet Edwards, using the word "lie" three times, accuses his rival in an advertisement of claiming that he voted in a recent election when polling records said he did not. In New Jersey, Rep. John Adler accused his challenger, also in an advertisement, of buying a donkey so he could call his house a farm and get a tax break on it.

What a set of priorities! Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) grand strategy is to sling meaningless canards at Republicans on utterly irrelevant issues, while ignoring the looming catastrophes that actually confront this nation on multiple fronts:

  • No practical plans to stimulate business and commerce, especially small business, the backbone of America. Nothing to promote private-sector jobs (not government handouts) or greater entrepeneurism.
  • Not a word about repealing ObamaCare, giving Americans more control over their own medical decisions, expanding Medical Savings Accounts, shoring up Social Security by partial (or full!) privatization, or finding a way to fully fund the hysterical promises federal and state governments have made to seniors and retirees... without massive tax increases.
  • Not a hint about reducing taxes, government intrusion into the workplace, and the almost unfathomable spending spree of the past 20 months (actually four years and 20 months, counting the huge increases that started after the Democratic majority was seated in January, 2007) -- the very match that lit the fuse of the popular front for Capitalism and against socialism.
  • Dead silence about securing America's borders, fighting the radical Islamists who seek to destroy our way of life, improving intelligence gathering, or diplomatically supporting our allies, not our enemies.
  • And not even a pledge to protect and promote American exceptionalism, restore our honor and trustworthiness, stop trying to radically change American culture and human nature, stop politicizing health care, science, and space exploration -- and worst of all, no pledge to begin listening to the voters for a change, instead of telling us what we must think.

To translate the Pelosi Plan into simple English, Democrats believe voters are pliant sheep, easily driven hither and yon; it takes but a strong whip-hand -- a few fearmongering commercials calling Republicans despoilers, exploiters, racists, homophobes, and "fascists," accusing us of acts of villainy that sound vague but are in fact meaningless: My opponent on the right is well known to be a raging heterosexual; his wife was an admitted thespian in high school; and he himself has frequently been caught masticating in public! Just empty enough loot into a race, and the Democrat will surely win; for liberals believe to their very bones that money trumps voters every time.

And if that doesn't do the trick, there's always the illegal alien vote, the prison vote, the fabricated person vote, and the graveyard vote. That ought to hold the House! (At least until after the election. As for the deluge that must come later, Pelosi, like Scarlett, will think about that tomorrow.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 6, 2010, at the time of 3:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 3, 2010

Why Do Folks Think Obama Is Racist?

Hatched by Dafydd

Perhaps because, using the Left's own definition, he is.

If the liberal definition of racism includes pursuing policies that have a disparate racial impact, especially against members of a federally protected minority group (such as Hispanics), then Barack H. Obama and his administration are busted; because the policy of non-enforcement and non-feasance they pursue anent illegal immigration in, e.g., Arizona clearly has its worst impact on the law-abiding immigrants from south of the border and on Americans of Hispanic origin.

The connection isn't that obscure: Criminologists have known for more than a century that criminals tend to commit the great majority of their crimes intra-racially -- within their own race. White criminals primarly target white victims, blacks target blacks, and Hispanics target Hispanics. (There is some crossover, but intra-racially is the way to bet it.)

And the Obamunists pursue such anti-law-enforcement policies with a vengeance that borders on the vicious:

Thursday's lawsuit is the latest action in a slew against Arizona by the federal government.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stripped Arpaio's office of its special powers to enforce federal immigration laws, and in May, the Obama administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent Arizona from enforcing its employer sanctions law.

In July, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to overturn portions of Arizona's strict new immigration law that would require police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally. A federal judge put that provision and most of the law on hold.

And via a column by the Washington Examiner's Byron York, we discover another U.S. Justice Department attack on Arizona's policy of prosecuting and deporting illegal aliens:

In addition to the drive to kill the new law, Attorney General Eric Holder is also suing the Maricopa Community College system in Phoenix, alleging it broke the law by requiring a job seeker to provide a green card before being hired.

Policies that inhibit the arrest and prosecution of illegal immigrants in a state that borders Mexico (especially those who are already being arrested for some other crime) have the effect of empowering Mexican drug gangs and other Latin-American criminals coming up from Mexico to spread their corruption and terror in this country... with Hispanics as their principal victims.

What have Obama and Holder done?

  • The U.S. Justice Department sued to prevent Arizona from checking the immigration status of suspects already being arrested for other crimes, even when probable cause existed to suspect they were here illegally.
  • It sued to prevent Arizona from enforcing a policy of holding employers accountable for hiring illegals.
  • The Justice Department is criminally investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, the self-proclaimed (but generally acknowledged) "toughest sheriff in America," via a federal grand jury in Phoenix.
  • And now, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to force Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office (MCSO) to "cooperate" in a separate investigation by handing over a staggering number of documents -- in a vaguely defined fishing expedition, hoping to find some evidence of racial discrimination.

Everybody in Phosphoria has been talking about the lawsuit against Arpaio and the MCSO, excoriating the Justice Department for the message it sends and the policy of "non-enforcement" it tries to enforce. I have yet to see a substantive defense of the lawsuit.

But what I find more appalling is the real-world death and destruction it wreaks among the very people Justice purports to "protect" by interdicting the law. When a policy causes so much more damage to Hispanics than whites or blacks, any sincere liberal civil-rights advocate would denounce it as racist.

So why the shock when ordinary Americans, steeped in the strange brew of American racial preferences and governmental prejudices, correctly apply the disparate-impact racism test to the One -- and conclude Obama and his administration are, in fact, racist? The Left especially should denounce him by its own definition... that is, if it were honest.

'Nuff said.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 3, 2010, at the time of 10:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► September 1, 2010

Through a Lens Darkly

Hatched by Dafydd

In a post published today on Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico highlights a pair of news stories that seem at sixes and sevens. Both relate to the two Moslem immigrants from Yemen to the United States who were arrested in the Amsterdam airport and charged with plotting a terrorist attack... but one story says the two were actually friends, while the other says they were complete strangers -- at least according to unnamed U.S. government officials. ("The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.")

Detroit News:

Both of the detained men are friends who lived and worked in Dearborn [Michigan], said Imad Hamad of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The al Soofi and al Murisi families are prominent within the Yemeni-American community in Dearborn, Hamad said.

CNSNews.com reprinting an AP story:

The two men arrested in Amsterdam -- both traveling to Yemen -- did not know each other and were not traveling together, a U.S. government official said.

The point most important to the investigation is whether the two were connected; because if they didn't even know each other, they clearly weren't joined in a conspiracy to blow up planes, and this flight could not have been the "dry run" that many believe it may have been, including police in the Netherlands.

But the salient point to me is the simple fact that one story said the two were "friends who lived and worked in Dearborn" -- and relied upon Imad Hamad, who appears to be local to Dearborn, from the way he speaks of their neighbors; while the other that said they "did not know each other" -- and its source was a pair of anonymous federal officials, presumably associated with the FBI, which is conducting the probe.

Patterico goes on to say, "Who ya gonna believe? I think you know where I stand." But I'm less interested in the metaphysical truth of the terrorism allegation here -- any prosecution would likely occur in the Netherlands -- than I am in the epistemology of terrorist law enforcement. How does the FBI purport to know that the two are strangers to each other?

I'm not a philosopher, but I understand that classical philosophy is divided into three broad areas of study: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. (Though with modern philosophy being taken over by psychology and deconstructionism, I have no idea whether anyone else still uses these concepts -- save perhaps in an "archeology of philosophy" class.) Very roughly and glibly put, I define them this way:

  • Metaphysics: What we know.
  • Epistemology: How we know what we know.
  • Ethics: What we do about what we know.

Most people seem to focus on ethics; most of the rest appear lost in metaphysics. But I've always been fascinated by how we "know" what we know -- or think we know; how do we try to answer Pontius Pilate's famous question, "What is truth?"

Problems abound everywhere. First, we must find evidence, which may require a lot of digging. Where is it? Who's got the evidence, and will he tell us?

Next, all that digging will invariably unearth conflicting evidence; how do we reconcile it when (as in this pair of stories) some evidence says one thing, while other evidence says the polar opposite?

Then the third problem: How much of the evidence can we believe? People lie, people forget, people misunderstand or misremember. People do all of the above when they write books, produce documentaries, or publish blogposts, as well. So who is persuasive, and why?

Finally, once we've found as much evidence as we can, and once we've reconciled the contradicitons as best we may, how can we put what's left into a narrative, a story that tells us what happened before, what's happening now, and what's likely to happen in the future?

But even when we've surmounted these general obstacles, there is another and larger hurdle to overcome: the filtering effects of ideology, expectation, face saving, faction, and interest.

  • Ideology: Your belief system can determine what you can and cannot accept; for example, a person who, for deeply religious reasons, believes biological evolution doesn't happen will tend to disbelieve any scientific evidence supporting it. Similarly, a devout environmentalist may be ideologically incapable of considering evidence that global warming is natural and has many positive and benign effects.
  • Expectation: The expression "seeing is believing" has it exactly backwards; it's more accurate to say believing is seeing. That is, we all tend to see what we expect to see.

    In the one psych class I took, we were briefly shown a drawing of a subway scene, then asked to write down everything we remembered. One mini scene was an angry encounter in one part of the car between a white and a black man; the white guy held a straight razor in his hand -- not threatening, just holding. Yet more than three quarters of the (very large) class "remembered" the black man holding the razor -- and remembered him threatening the white man with it.

    The misremembering seemed evenly divided among Left and Right in that class. Expectation can easily color (sorry!) one's perception and memory... we all tend to remember things, not as they happened, but as they should have happened.

  • Face saving: Human beings don't like being embarassed or humiliated, and they will often remember things happening differently to avoid such painfulness. For example, if you were the guy who thought James Joyce wrote "Trees," and the other guy mocked you, then a month later, you might confabulate a memory where you were the one who correctly identified the author as Joyce Kilmer, and it was the other idiot who thought it was James Joyce!
  • Faction: If you are a member of a political, business, social, or other faction that vehemently argues for one side of a contentious issue, you may have a very hard time even understanding the other side's evidence, let alone acknowledging it. This is true even if you, yourself don't particularly care about that issue; it's an important issue for your "side," and you identify with that side.
  • Interest: If you have a financial or other personal interest in one particular side of an issue, you might not be trustworthy on that point; you may even lie to yourself! For example, if you have a huge investment in a company that sells carbon allowances, you may very well be incapable of fairly evaluating arguments against anthropogenic global climate change. For the same reason, trial lawyers can't see any benefit in tort reform, while even conservative politicians tend to drift into supporting more government control (they "grow in office"), thus giving themselves more power.

Now that we have the rhetorical tools we need, we can get to the point of this post... at last!

Let's assume that Imad Hamad either lives in Dearborn or knows many people who do, so he would actually know whether Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezem al Murisi were in fact friends. I suppose Hamad could have some obscure reason why he would either lie about it or be unable to imagine the two not being friends, but I confess I cannot think of any. Why would ideology, expectation, embarassment, faction, or interest hinge on whether those two were friends or strangers to each other?

But let's look at the other side: Members of the administration of Barack H. Obama have many reasons why they really, really wouldn't want to admit (even to themselves!) that this might have been a dry run for a terrorist attack, even if their own evidence implies it:

  • The ideology of the Obamunists is that terrorism against the United States was caused by America's own wretched actions -- invading Moslem countries to steal oil, bullying the world, and of course, supporting those Zionist squatters in Palestine. Heck, the president won't even say the word "terrorism;" such events are just "man-caused disasters." Surely anything they do to us, we richly deserved!
  • The expectation of the administration is that the election of Barack Hussein Obama, coupled with the wonderfully pro-Moslem and pro-Arab policies he has put into place, will absolutely resolve the "miscommunication" that led to all this violence (in the previous administration). But if guys named Mohamed are still anxious to attack America, then that means... But no, that just can't be.
  • And think how embarassing to have a domestic terrorist attack while B.O. was president! Especially two or three years into his presidency, not eight months, as with George W. Bush. The One would never live it down.
  • Too, his own ultra-liberal-verging-on-socialist party is absolutely committed to the idea that all we need is diplomacy. They're already looking askance at the Obama administration, what with not shutting down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, continuing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and talking about possibly still using Bushitler's military commissions. To remain in good standing with his evaporating political allies, Obama simply cannot prosecute people before they actually set off a suicide bomb or murder some Jews; that could only be racial profiling -- just like W. used to do.
  • Finally, the president must consider his own reelection prospects in 2012. If he ever admitted (even if he knows it's true) that radical Islamists continue to attempt massive terrorist attacks, it would immensely complicate his reelection strategy. What is Obama supposed to argue -- "Reelect me, and I swear I won't do as bad a job on national security as my first term?" His own power depends upon convincing voters that he has kept us safe, much better than did his predecessor. He cannot admit it's only sheer luck that we haven't been hit again, or he'll start seeing those "Miss me yet?" t-shirts on his own White House staff.

In other words, Imad Hamad has no obvious reason to lie or misremember that al Soofi and al Murisi are pals, no detectable "parsing filter;" but Obamunists have many filters pushing them to believe the pair were total strangers.

Which is yet one more reason to lean towards believing the Detroit News story over the Associated Press... at least until more and better data comes through.

That was my point, small though it may be. But hey, getting there is half the fun!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2010, at the time of 6:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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