Saturday, July 29, 2006

By the Grace of God

Robert Novak has a new column up in which he says Al Gore’s stock for a 2008 Presidential campaign is rising fast. This is attributed to the “success” of his film touting Global Warming. The film has garnered $18.79 million in gross revenue so far, well below the numbers needed to call it a “hit”. I would be reluctant to suggest, therefore, that his movie in any way makes Gore a viable candidate. It is strange, given the intemperate nature of the man and his peculiar habit of blaming America when speaking to foreign audiences. To say nothing of his maniacal rants on-stage at times.

Several major polls agree that Gore could get the ticket again. I have to say I love that list. Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Edwards, John Kerry … any of these would help America wake up to the fact that Democrats are far more interested in the welfare of their party and personal self-interest than in the needs and priorities of Americans. Any of these candidates would sharply remind us that there are people who woke up on 9/11, and others who want to pretend it never happened, and one national party for security and another for running away. By the grace of God, it seems America will again be spared from the Democrat’s notion of leadership. There are, to be sure, qualified and competent individuals in the Democratic Party, but once again the DNC refuses to even give them a look. Given the preponderant values held by Democrats these days, it is indeed a blessing from God to be spared their intentions coming to fruition.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Know Your Constituents, Ignore Fools – How to Win This Fall

The Wall Street Journal has finally noticed something I have pointed out before – that while approval of Republicans is low, the public is not enamoured of the Democrats, either. But as is so common with MSM writers in New York and LA, John Harwood remains clueless to other equally vital truths. Harwood, after noting that the Democrats cannot hope to win this fall simply because the Republicans are not polling well, suggests that Republicans can win this fall if they “attack Democratic foes and separate themselves from President Bush's struggles.” In the actual fact, one course is risky and the other would be absolutely suicidal.

Harwood makes the normal mistakes so typical of people who don’t read far below the headlines from opinion poll press releases. He cites the “generic” poll which says Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans, without considering how drastically those numbers change when specific names are placed. He cites the “wrong track” polling, without realizing that the national elections do not proceed in alignment with such polling – the 2000 “right track” polling and 2004 “wrong track” polling led Democrats to think they would win the White House, but in both cases the polling proved to be disparate from the actual voter intention. So it is no surprise to me, that Harwood failed to note that while the media blasts away at President Bush’s Job Approval polling, they never stop to consider that the President continues to enjoy significantly higher polling than either party in Congress. To be blunt, the most obvious fact from the polling is that if one is a Republican running for election or re-election, they need to be linked to this President, and if one is a Democrat, they need to be careful not to contrast themselves with this President. Negative attacks on George W. Bush will back-fire on the attackers, and while this may seem counter-intuitive, it is a critical fact.

Ironically, the basic strategy to winning any of the election races is pretty straightforward. A candidate needs to know what is most important to his constituents, and address those needs, directly and repeatedly. And any candidate, whether Republican or Democrat, should be wary indeed of trusting the media – the track record of advice from New York or Los Angeles should be warning in itself.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Andrea Yates Retrial – Not Guilty By Reason Of Slick Lawyer

There’s a lot of noise in the media, and in the Blogosphere, about the Andrea Yates retrial here in Houston. As I am a Houstonian, and flatter myself to think that I have a reasonable grasp of the facts and the issues in this matter, I am accordingly submitting my thoughts on this case.

Let’s start with the basics. Andrea Yates killed her five kids. Deliberately, methodically, and she has admitted she knew exactly what she was doing.
That should have made the decision simple, but in the actual case it did not happen that way. Yate’s lawyers, led by George Parnham, managed to blur the facts by dwelling on the question of whether Yates specifically knew that what she was doing was wrong – and Yates, of course, had been carefully coached to convey confusion and bewilderment – in short, to make Yates another victim instead of the killer. The Prosecution, led by District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, blundered badly by admitting publicly that Yates was mentally unbalanced. This made it difficult to sell the jury on the claim that Yates was mentally ill, but well enough to know what she was doing. It was easy from that point for Parnham to walk the jury away from the cold nasty facts that Andrea had deliberately murdered her children, to whether he could make the jury feel sorry for her.

A lot of people are happy with the verdict. A lot more are furious. I am reluctant to play around with a decision which decided the course of the rest of Yate’s life. I accept that Yates loved her children, and did what she did out of a sense that she had no choice. But countless murderers, properly convicted and sentenced to harsh consequences, were in identical situations. I do not blame the jury. If we are to be honest about the shortcomings of the American Criminal Justice system, we have to acknowledge that most people try to avoid jury duty, especially difficult cases. What we end up with, is almost always a collection of people who – to recall the blunt phrase of one wag – were not smart enough to figure out a way to get out of Jury Duty. The pay for jurors is a joke, as is the cattle-like way they are treated, close to abuse in some cases, to say nothing of the way juries are manipulated by both prosecuting and defense attorneys. The cast of any significant trial, therefore, ends up being a judge with too high an opinion of him or herself, running a court room with a mistreated and unrespected jury, cajoled by teams on each side who are focused solely on the win – with little if any regard for how far they are headed from the truth of the matter.

A few closing thoughts. Russell Yates may be as innocent as he has claimed, but I have to say that I find his conduct – the lack of tears for his dead children, the quick divorce from his wife, even while he claimed to stand alongside her, and the equally quick rush to get married again – such which conveys an image that I cannot reconcile with any decent father. I also cannot help but wonder why Russell allowed conditions to become as they were when the children were killed. This bothers me quite a lot. Next, a lot of people seem to think that Andrea Yates will be safely placed in a mental hospital, most likely for the rest of her life, while in actual fact she will, as a direct result of this verdict, be released immediately upon the agreement of a psychiatrist and a judge that she is “healthy”. Bearing in mind that her psychiatrist thought she was safe to be near her kids when she murdered them, this point is hardly reassuring. In fact, once she is released there is nothing in the law to prevent Yates from having more children – even though the basis of her post-partum depression includes the medical diagnosis that any further childbirths would be increasingly likely to recreate the conditions which led to the murder of those children. And George Parnham never once considered Yates’ children as anything other than markers in a game he was playing to win the case. Not once did he suggest that Yates should bear responsibility or face consequences for what she did. Looking sorry in court was the whole for him. I cannot imagine what kind of callous heart and ice-cold soul would play such games with the lives and memory of innocent children, or how Parnham can reconcile his own guilt in this case.

Andrea Yates murdered five children. It says something terrible about our society that we can so easily ignore that fact.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

World War Six – A Reminder

Niall Ferguson, who has written stupid things before, has opined again in the LA Times. The headline reads “It’s Not World War III, but It Could Be Almost As Bad”. Interesting. The article makes some historical comparisons to World Wars I and II without really looking below the surface, as is apparently the method in major coastal city news reporting these days, then touches on the 1973 war between Israel and one of the various leagues of Arab nations determined to wipe them off the map. As if to confirm his superficial understanding, Ferguson warns that at one point, “the White House issued DEFCON 3, putting American strategic nuclear forces on high alert”. Actually, DEFCON 3 is serious but not at all the highest level of alert, but to Ferguson this hardly matters.

Ferguson makes a few more points which seem to amuse him, although they –as happens with this guy – miss any attempt at support or serious consideration of cause, effect, or evidence. He finishes, as again is required of anyone writing from California, with a poor-mannered and unreasonable snipe at the President. But Ferguson manages to do nothing except raise an intriguing question, which he proves he cannot answer. How and why do world wars start anyway?

The conflict between Jews and the Arabs did not start with the creation of the Nation of Israel in 1948; the fact that Arabs were eager to cooperate with Nazi “Final Solution” plans, to the degree that national leaders in the Middle East expressed hope that similar programs would be put into operation in their own region shows that hatred of the Jews had very little indeed to do with national sovereignty. It is as it was, an unending desire to wipe out the Jew. When Ahmadinejad derides Europe for, in his mind, establishing a Jewish state in the Middle East to ‘push off their problems’ to someone else, he not only ignores the clearly valid historical claim Israel has, but also the reason for the Diaspora in the first place – the Jews have spent almost two thousand years trying to find homes where they wouldn’t be hunted down like animals, or treated as if they held no rights. The one thing the United Nations got right, was in understanding that re-creating the Jewish homeland would give them a chance to defend themselves.

With that fact in mind, we move to the nature of World Wars. I have mentioned before that we have actually had more than two World Wars by now. The present conflict, the War on Terrorism, is actually the Sixth World War by my reckoning.

If you click my link – shameless, I know – you may see certain characteristics of World Wars, which include economic and cultural conflict on the intercontinental scale. The reason we are in WW6, therefore, comes not only from the economic impact of a war which will affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, but also the fact that this war is necessary to eradicate the threat of Global Terrorism – again, integrally connected with Fascist Jihadism. Ferguson is clueless to the events of more than a decade, or he would not have missed that fact.

Israel is more than just a single nation taking on a single, if particularly repulsive, terrorist group in Hezbollah. Hezbollah is trying to make the key evolutionary move from terrorist group as non-government organization (NGO) to sovereign power, which is why they are receiving such support from Iran and Syria. If the proxy war against Israel is at all successful, this pact of Jihadists can and will be directed at other targets of opportunity, which at some point would include acts of terror against American targets perceived to be soft. Accordingly, it is very much in the National Security interests of the United States to stand with Israel. The same, perhaps even more so, for Britain, Spain, Australia, and other nations which have already felt the cost of allowing the Jihadists to play their game inside those nations’ borders.

We are at war against legions of terrorists, by their choice and provocation. Lebanon is just one more front. There is no place to run, no excuse to hide, no way that ignoring the danger will make it go away. It’s well past time for people like Ferguson to wake up to that truth.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Demographic Vectors

I have been playing with poll numbers this past week, specifically digesting the fascinating results from Survey USA. I have enjoyed the results I wanted for the most part, which were to tweak Liberals about their blind spots in assuming they owned the minority vote no matter where one looked. I also have been pointing out the fallacy of suggesting that a small respondent pool may be valid in one poll but not another – if it’s not reasonable to consider a small sample for a poll which produces results you don’t like, it’s unreasonable to accept small samples from a different poll just because it says what you want to hear. And of course I have long understood that not all polls are equal in validity or consistency. To put it another way, elections are the most reliable polls. And sorry Kerry fanatics, exit polls are not as valid as actual elections.

But elections themselves can be misleading. Richard Nixon in 1972 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 won huge landslide victories, yet shortly afterward found hard times, and a collapse of support even from their own parties. Two years after Bill Clinton won the White House, the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives. And so on in many other campaigns. That is probably the biggest reason why both major parties spend so much on private polling themselves – to try to find the way to gaining or improving control of one of the legislative chambers or the White House.

I should be specific here, in pointing out that opinion polling, if done correctly, is a valid science and has been useful in many past elections. However, not all polls bother to use valid methodology, nor do all polls properly understand the data they receive. More than a few, especially when sponsored by media, are prone to play with the numbers and over-emphasize the things which seem to say what they want to hear. This is one reason I had some fun with the results from the Survey USA poll – my statements were every bit as valid on the evidence, as many statements trumpeted by the press from other polls in the last year. The Liberals were not amused, but then they have not been a very happy group for some years now.

But to the topic. One salient difference between the Democrats and the Republicans on the national level, is that Democrats tend to target key groups of interest, while Republicans tend to aim for the broader whole. As a result, this means that minorities who still vote in blocs tend to receive a much higher level of attention from Democrat candidates during the election season. This may be a reason for continued broad support for national Democrats from Blacks and Asians more than from Hispanics, because of the different ways in which each cultural community expresses itself. While in specific issues and in terms of direct benefit, minorities do not receive much support or gain at all from Democrats in office, there is the sense that Democrats are more willing to come to them at union halls and community centers and answer questions. That, however, has begun to change.

The continuing decline in the power and influence of labor unions is also driving minorities to other centers for community involvement, such as civil groups, volunteer charities and churches/mosques/synagogues. Republicans have begun in the past decade to do a much better job of reaching out to these places, especially the ones which are family and values-oriented. This is not to say that Democrats do not also reach out to such places, but they no longer hold a monopoly on the discussions there. The recent evidence that minorities in different places hold differing political opinions, in my opinion demonstrates that the lock on the minority vote is eroding.

In terms of elections, this may be more important than is initially recognized. As Republicans make inroads where Democrats have previously enjoyed near-complete control, the vector of key demographic sectors is likely to shift. And while by definition a change in minority vectors is less important than the majority opinion, unless Democrats can begin to make effective arguments to the nation as a whole, the loss of even some of their minority support will cost them in future elections.

Monday, July 24, 2006

2006 Senate Update

The Wall Street Journal has sponsored a Zogby poll, looking ahead to the fall elections for the United States Senate.

The gist of the poll is that Zogby expects the Republicans to lose three Senate seats (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) , but is forced to admit that Tennessee is close enough that Frist could keep it, that Maryland is close enough that Steel could win, and that while two Red states where the Republican is leading are within Zogby’s stated Margin of Error, it is also true that four Blue states where the Democrat is leading are within that Margin of Error. In other words, even the biased Zogby (who arrogantly predicted in Summer 2004 that Kerry would win the White House, and essentially became a DNC cheerleader from that point on) is forced to admit that the Senate is likely to stay in Republican control.

A better-balanced projection, with some good history behind it, is Scott Elliott’s Election Projection, whose Senate projection also points to a 52-47 GOP hold, but on better data. Scott notes that the Democrat gains in Montana and Pennsylvania are “Moderate”, not unbeatable, while the Missouri race projects a “Weak” Democrat gain, which makes it a real race right now.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

More Fun With Poll Math

Perhaps the most amusing thing I have noticed this week from Survey USA’s State-By-State Job Approval poll, is the way Liberals want to throw out anything which won’t fit the bumper sticker. Blacks must not only hate President Bush, they insist, it must be pervasive throughout the nation. And the same for Hispanics, they demand, there cannot be a state, much less many of them, where the President is respected, or worse, admired?

There are two important messages coming from these polls. The first is that there are many states where minorities like and trust President Bush. It’s simply foolish to pretend that support or rejection would be nation-wide, yet that is exactly the reaction from Liberals – they cannot accept what even simple common sense would tell them.

The second message comes from those self-righteous prigs who on the one hand want to ignore Bush’s support in certain states, because they dispute the sample size, yet they expect to be able to cling to results presented which use equally small respondent samples. A few examples:

The Associated Press (AP-Ipsos) has locked President Bush in the mid-thirties for Job Approval for quite a while, and claimed 11% Black and 13% Hispanic response portions of a total respondent pool of 1000 adults. Those people trumpeting the results must, in the interest of objectivity, admit that 110 respondents is far from the same statistical accuracy of one thousand adults, nor is 130 much better. My own results had the virtue, at least, or cross-supporting separate states, something not evident in the Ap-Ipsos internal data.

Gallup is the most reliable nationwide pollster, but even they admit they weight by nominal demographics, which means that a standard respondent pool means significantly less reliable results from minorities.

But it did give me an idea. One thing which turned out to be different than it seemed, was that Survey USA asserts that despite the apparent control by local television stations in managing the direct polling, the stations were merely the sponsors of the poll, which Survey USA handled in every location.

Presuming then, that the methodology is consistent throughout all fifty states, and taking into account the other weighting factors based on prevalent assumptions on religion and political allegiance, I found that applying the reported results by Black or Hispanic responses and tallying them up together gave the following overall nation-wide result:

Blacks: 2,826 responding
426 Approve (15.0%)
2,343 Disapprove (82.8%)
61 Not Sure (2.2%)

Hispanics: 2,064 responding
722 Approve (35.0%)
1,311 Disapprove (63.5%)
74 Not Sure (1.5%)

At least this gives a statistically valid reference point for consideration. The prior comments made should also be considered to demonstrate the regional and demographic vectors which affect the specific topography of the results.