Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dubya Knows More Than His “Base”

Remember the “peace dividend”? That was a rhetorical device used by Democrats to attack President G.H.W. Bush for the sin of winning the Cold War. Of course, it was President Reagan who won the Cold War, but even Democrats understood they could not whack him for that, so they went after Reagan’s Veep when he became President. The argument sounded sort of reasonable – we spent all this money fighting the Cold War, so now that it’s over we should be have a lot of extra money lying around, right? Of course, the actual facts were a bit more complex and the world not nearly the Disneyland that the Democrats pretended, but that was the beauty of it for the Left – the President could not point to the evils still rampant in the world without the Left calling him a fascist for it; after all thy started painting the whole Bush family as Nazis by demonizing the patriarch, Prescott. So the Left painted GHW Bush into a corner, and wouldn’t you know - the “base” of the Republican Party, those self-appointed guardians of “True Conservatism” and the self-righteous inquisitors of political purity, they decided to let Bush I fall by the wayside, because in their mind even Reagan was not quite good enough. Some of them followed the manic stylings of Ross Perot, some sat on their butts and pouted out the 1992 Election, and some just derailed any semblance of party unity and common purpose. For this collective discordance they helped put Bill “Bubba” Clinton into office.

Well, those yahoos are still around. And because they refuse to acknowledge their hand in delivering America into the hands of the Clintons for eight years – did I mention they were self-righteous and prone to denial? – they are still going on in the same arrogant ‘do as I command’ way that we used to observe from the anchor desk at CBS for so long.

Anyway, the “Base” of the GOP, or as I call them the “Rabies Wing of the GOP”, has been on a tear lately, deriding President George W. Bush for all kinds of things. Things he did that they didn’t like, things they demanded he do that he didn’t do, and twisting his words to make him seem to say things they could attack him for, even when all evidence was to the contrary. I did mention some of these loons are the guys who defected to Perot in ’92, after all, so stability and serious introspection are not requirements for these guys, all right? To get to the point, one area of rhetorical hemorrhoids for these guys is the issue of Illegals in the United States, which some have taken to mean we should regard Hispanics with suspicion and disapproval. More than one zealot has opined that the GOP should write-off Hispanics, in order to keep the White vote. They would hasten to deny that they are being racist, suggesting instead that they are somehow merely being “realistic” in claiming that considering the opinion of Hispanics in this issue is somehow a bad thing, politically.

Well, as usual the President knows more than the people sniping at him. And even the very polls that people use to claim he is losing ground, make some interesting points. In this case I am once again referring to Survey USA’s helpful poll for President Bush’s Job Approval in all 50 states.

What does this say about Bush and Hispanics? Survey USA broke down its respondents into four basic races – White, Black, Hispanic, and “Other”, which would include Asians, Arabs, Deaniacs, and other minorities which did not fit into the presumed groups. And in that information, some fascinating facts showed up:

[] In sixteen states, Hispanic Job Approval for President Bush was 50% or greater;

[] In seven states, Hispanic Job Approval for President Bush was above 60% (two states showed Hispanic approval of Bush above 70%)

[] In fifteen states, Hispanic Job Approval for President Bush was higher than from any other race.

As usual, President Bush knows more than the people pretending to be the “base”.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The NAACP Can Read Poll Numbers

I wanted to make a post in honor of President Bush’s appearance before the NAACP, and I think I found something fitting. I wrote earlier this week about the Job Approval ratings for Bush from all 50 states, courtesy of Survey USA. I noticed some interesting things, when one looks at the breakdown by race. Specifically, Blacks. To hear the Mainstream Media tell it, almost every Black American hates Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular. So it would be unexpected to see him do well with blacks in a Job Approval poll, right? Well, with that in mind, I found a few anomalies worth noting. Yes, on the whole Blacks disapprove of Bush, but it’s not quite the only response.

From the Survey USA overview:

Rhode Island: 26% Job Approval among Blacks, in a state where the total gives him just 23% approval.

Vermont: 29% Job Approval among Blacks, in a state where the total gives him just 27% approval.

New Hampshire: 30% Job Approval among Blacks.

Oklahoma: 30% Job Approval among Blacks.

Texas: 31% Job Approval among Blacks.

Wyoming: 34% Job Approval among Blacks.

Iowa: 35% Job Approval among Blacks.

Montana: 36% Job Approval among Blacks.

Alaska: 36% Job Approval among Blacks

North Dakota: 37% Job Approval among Blacks.

West Virginia: 38% Job Approval among Blacks.

Arizona: 43% Job Approval among Blacks, matching the state average.

Utah: 44% Job Approval among Blacks.

New Mexico: 46% Job Approval among Blacks, 9 points higher than the state average.

Oregon: 53% Job Approval among Blacks!

Idaho: 64% Job Approval among Blacks!

South Dakota: 66% Job Approval among Blacks polled!

OK, so part of this is the uncertainty brought about by the size of the respondent pool, but the next time the MSM tries to sell you that a whole race hates President Bush, just remember what they don’t want to have you notice. Like a big chunk of America. One reason President Bush went to speak to the NAACP, is that the NAACP has discovered they need this President.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Do They Choose To Lose? Another Look Into The Mind Of Democrats

A short while back, Michael Barone wrote a piece with the title, “How The Democrats Can Win”. The actual thought he was delivering in that article, however, was to observe that there are a lot of articles discussing how the Democrats can win elections, and a few discussing both parties, but no articles focusing just on how Republicans can win. Barone contended that this demonstrated a subtle bias on the part of the media; that they did not mind trying to find ways to help Democrats win, because they were in their hearts sympathetic to the Democrats, but because they personally disliked the Republicans they felt no inclination to help that party. There is something to that, but it occurred to me to consider another possibility – that winning is the default position for Republicans and defeat the default position for Democrats. That is, people expect Republicans to win, and so Democrats begin every campaign with the belief – right or wrong – that they are behind. As a result, Republicans are likely to stick with the campaign strategy they had at first, while Democrats are always looking for a new trick.

To test this notion, and to see what was being cooked up for 2006 and 2008, I went to my old buddy Google. OK, I have heard all the stuff about Google, but they are the leading meta search engine, so for this article I used the “Be Evil” people’s engine. Anyway, I entered two search phrases:

How Democrats Can Win


How Republicans Can Win”.

The first selection, “How Democrats Can Win”, saw “about 31,500,000” hits. The Republicans’ version saw “about 35,800,000” hits. The first page for the Republicans however included single-issue questions which did not address election objectives, articles which focused on Democrats and their chances instead of on Republicans, articles about Democrats’ strategy, and state issues where Republicans can make gains. I did not find a single article which gave a comprehensive review of Republican strategies and suggestions for party-wide adjustments. Perhaps I should do this, if only for the sake of initiative. But for now there was a lot more advice about what the Democrats should do to win national offices.

The first page for the Democrats’ hits included articles from The New York Times (subscription only –suggested debating moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan would change the focus of the war debate and give moral stature to Democrats), a book advertisement from someone claiming that using the right buzz-words would give Democrats the advantage in debates and political rhetoric, and a number of blogs debating the issue. Some had some interesting comments, even insights, like “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, which attempted to sort out why the Democrats cannot win in the South, and how they might change that. They also had comments which illustrated why intelligent observations might not be considered, let alone accepted. In that blog for instance, one 'Jeff In Texas' opined that the South has “obviously, a strong undercurrent of racism”. Jeff also believes that the South is all about “stories of the Old South and the Confederacy”. Doubtless there are pockets where such beliefs are common, but I have lived in the South since my childhood, and can speak for the fact that such claims do not describe the South with any real accuracy at all. Jeff and people like him simply impose their own beliefs on the region, and ignore the reality. In my experience, there is no more latent racism in the South than in any other region of the country, and I say this from my experience traveling all over the place.

The blog had some good observations, though, even if some were unintentionally funny and/or ironic, like the blog writer’s thought that in the South, voters would come over to Democrats “based on our performance in office”. Given what we know from the Clinton and Carter years, and the legacy from sixty years of Democrat control in Congress, as a Republican I am all for making sure people pay attention to what Democrats do in office. But the comment debate was actually a good back-and-forth. A reader named ‘Armand’ noted that Democrats need to define what they mean by “The South”, and observed that treating all the Southern states as if they were a monolith misses important characteristics of different states. To that, a reader named ‘DocAmazing’ fell victim to the straw-man assumptions of superior morals held by Democrats, which is a pretty stupid thing when you are reviewing your defeats – it seems a lot of Democrats would rather insult half a country for electing Republicans, than accept that those people also hold ideals and virtues. This blind spot showed up in the next comment from ‘LizardBreath’, who identified “a definable class of white southern voters that Democrats do very, very badly with; rural Christian socially conservative, whatever you want to call them”. ‘LizardBreath’ actually touched on the truth there, but failed to understand that the group he disparages is a concern for national Democrats because it is an active and growing community, and is increasingly likely to decide the South, and so should learn to respect those values, rather than insult them.

Another good observation came from ‘Armand’, who noted that Democrats need to work on “more efficient spending on education” and “curtailing health care costs”. Unfortunately for ‘Armand’, he neglected to consider that the Republicans have made the most common-sense proposals in both those areas, with such programs as vouchers, merit-based pay, and administrator accountability for education, and lawsuit reform for the much abused health care system. ‘Armand‘ demonstrates that he is blind to this fact by actually suggesting that John Edwards is a man who could address such problems, when in fact the trial lawyer is notorious for having brought much of the litigious environment to come about in the first place. Falling off the boat completely, reader ‘RBL’ soon after felt comfortable enough to suggest that “more Leninism might do our party a whole lot of good”. From your lips to Stalin’s corpse, comrade. But while unbalanced in places, the blog’s comment thread was an intriguing look into what happens when Democrats are willing to consider what went wrong.

Another blog of interest is Allen L Roland’s “Radio Weblog” in Salon magazine. What Mr. Roland chose to focus on was a speech from Robert Reich, the former Clinton cabinet member who proposed that the key to Democratic victory at the polls was in reclaiming “The Lost Art of Democratic Narrative”. Without belaboring the point, Roland cast every issue as a story to tell from one of two viewpoints, neither of which struck me as especially compelling. Obviously, Roland had no interest in accurately describing how Republicans relay their position on issues, but this failure only makes it harder for Democrats to understand why they fail. And as for Roland’s suggested narrative, here are a few selected phrases he though would be winners:

For Immigration, Roland blames “greedy and corrupt leaders in America and Mexico”, rather than the people actually crossing the border illegally, including drug smugglers and gang members.

For National Security, Roland blames “[m]assive wealth accumulated in the hands of a greedy few” for the hatred in the Middle East, and counsels “global equity”, which works out to moral relativism and socialism. Which, by the way, has been tried and failed already, in the Middle East as well as around the globe.

For Energy concerns, Roland blames “greedy oil companies” (which only proves this guy has never examined the profit margin, thin for oil companies in comparison with so many other economic sectors), and demands people must “confront automotive companies”. The practical benefits of drilling on our own available land, and building badly needed refineries, as well as rewarding energy innovation instead of crassly demanding the companies meeting our present needs be punished.

For Health Care, Roland claims “health has become a privilege of wealth”, which made me laugh out loud – throughout History, the wealthy have always been able to pay for better service and treatment than regular people. Even in countries with the Socialist Health Care Mr. Roland thinks would be so wonderful.
And Mr. Roland is woefully naïve and ignorant, to believe that socialized Health Care would be at all less expensive or superior in quality to what is now available.

Reich/Roland is a telling caution about how far from reality Democrats’ thinking has become. Roland writes “Democrats … must drive the debate into a new story – a big story” in order to win, in sad ignorance that people are focused on Issues, and do not want Spin. Pretending that a big story will ever amount to anything substantive, is self-delusion and irresponsible abandonment of the responsibility of elected office.

Finally, there is this article from “The Progressive” by Ruth Conniff, entitled “How The Left Can Win”. Conniff spent a bit of her piece snarking about Byron York, but eventually conceded that he had valid points the Left should address; “that the Left talks to itself too much”, that the Left believes its own hype, and “depending on billionaire donors and celebrities does not help the Democratic Party connect with the American people”. All very true, and all points that Democrats in the main do not want to face. But even Conniff could not long contemplate the very lessons she wanted Democrats to consider, as she soon fell back to praising the Democrats for basing their future course and strategy on groups like MoveOn and the Howard Dean campaign. She fell face-first into the thuggish practice of trying to consider the Bush Administration by first falsely attacking it as a “lying, corrupt, crony-capitalist government”. She was so unaware of the sheer fallacy of painting one’s opponent in colors not only known to be false but which the clear majority of Americans have rejected, that she immediately followed with the hypocrisy of labeling Washington D.C. as “the capital of sneering rightwing arrogance”. As long as even the most reasonable thinkers on the Left cannot manage to accept the validity of Republican election wins, or the basic fact that most Americans consider Republicans to be as honorable and reasonable as Democrats, this compulsion to denigrate the voters as well as the leaders they choose will only continue to cost Democrats elections.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Survey (USA) Says

Survey USA has released an interesting look at Bush's Job Approval numbers around the nation. The overall results are predictable, especially when you notice that the polls were taken mostly by television stations. In Rhode Island, for example, Bush has a weak-sounding 23% Job Approval, but the results came from WLNE-TV, who surveyed 600 "adults", with predictable overweighting on the young, Democrats, "Pro-Choice" adults and people who seldom attend church, if ever. On the other end of the spectrum, in Utah KSL-TV took the poll, resulting in 57% Approval in a respondent pool which was heavily Republican and who regularly attend church, but again who tend to be very young, who are not necessarily registered to vote, and which includes a sample of "pro-choice" respondents higher than the demographic norm for Utah.

What we see here is a hint to the method of poll-taking by television stations. The established nominal standard for national poll-taking is known as RDD, for Random Digit Dialed, where people are called randomly and asked identical questions. This is the process Survey USA used, per their Statement of Methodology. I would quibble just a bit, however, about their margin of error. Since each state was polled separately, each is a different poll and so the margin of error for the whole poll must reasonably be the highest MOE for any of the state polls taken, not derived from the total number of respondents nationally, because the poll was managed by fifty-two different groups (Survey USA plus 51 different TV stations), calling into question the constancy of the overall polling. I am not saying the numbers are not valid, but I am simply restricting claims to accuracy to the actual levels of procedure used. And reminding the reader again, to measure polls in their faithfulness to known demographics.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Evolution of Paying Attention: How Rush Limbaugh Changed America

There’s this comic strip I like a little bit. The guy who writes it tries to cast his perspective as a Christian, and that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, he sometimes is a bit simplistic, a little off the mark for people who have seen evil face to face, and so he sometimes can’t manage to convey a realistic message. And that is never more true than when he drifts off into politics. You see, this cartoonist is very much a liberal, and seems to believe the very worst lies told by the likes of Moore, Dean, or Wilson. And he plugs those falsehoods into his storyline, venturing farther and farther into the land of the unreal. By itself, this is no big deal, except that it is getting harder and harder to find a person of liberal center who can discuss politics with anything like civility, and this cartoonist is a sad example of the otherwise-reasonable fellow who simply ignores reality because he prefers the lie.

Don’t misunderstand me, please. There are still some liberal proponents who are courteous, even thoughtful, but when they debate their politics, most Liberals seem to fall back on the talking points we see used as flame-throwers by the likes of the DNC and Daily Kos. Conservatives, to be sure, have their own share of rabid dogs, but they seem to be far fewer in number, and in any case they do not get quoted by leading Republicans the way that slander gets issued almost daily by the Democrats. Some people call it “Bush Derangement Syndrome”, and certainly Dubya’s success has been aggravating to the Left for years, but the process started before Dubs came to the White House, and no one thinks it will end when the Great Texan heads home to Crawford. I think it is because the Liberals made a sucker bet, and have been trying to deny the scale of their loss ever since. Liberals have always sought out the intellectual position, which is why they so often send out professors, writers, and individuals they perceive as superior in Academia, to champion their positions. Conservatives, on the other hand, have made a better effort to determine what the people really want, albeit a sporadic and inconstant effort. But it has led to a condition where the regular guy gets to feeling that the Liberal is talking at him, while the Conservative is more open to talking with him. Look at Bush, for instance. The Democrats, frankly, could have beaten him in either 2000 or 2004, but they chose self-righteous prigs for their nominees. Remember the first debate in 2000, how the so-much-smarter Al Gore was supposed to wipe the floor with Governor Bush? Remember the aggravated sighs and eye rolls from Gore? Gore lost the election right there, and even all these years later he still has not realized it. As for John Forbes Kerry, choosing an elitist so aristocratic that his socks are probably embroidered with his initials wasn’t a good plan, if the goal was to resonate with the average American. Bush might come from a wealthy family, but he did his time working oil fields and making his way on his own effort. Dubs never married his money.

But the change started almost a generation ago. One thing which people wanted but felt they had lost, was the ability to be heard by government. Television did a good job of giving information out, but it was always whatever the Network wanted to say, not the regular guy. They needed a way to speak out, and that way was Talk Radio. People could and did call up their radio stations and speak their mind, and whole shows were created around the simple notion of asking people what they thought.

But for a long time, talk radio was only a local phenomenon, although a few state issues might catch on. National politicians had to speak through the mainstream media, and it seemed that the average American had no champion to make sure he was heard in D.C. Enter Rush Limbaugh and the Excellence In Broadcasting network.

Rush began his national show in 1988, and frankly it was slow going at first. Limbaugh was bombastic, irreverent, and newcomers to the show were not sure what to make of the man. But he listened to everyone who called in, and made a point of getting a broad range of callers – Limbaugh did not restrict his calls to people who agreed with him, and so he got a lot of debates started simply by letting ordinary people speak to a national audience. The ratings grew, and by the time Bill Clinton was elected, several million people a day listened to, and talked to, Rush Limbaugh.

The Clinton years were a perfect breeding ground for talk radio, with the MSM’s draconian policies suppressing any effective criticism of the Congress or Clinton. But talk radio, led by Limbaugh’s show, reflected a deep and burning anger, which foretold the 1994 ‘revolution’ in the House Majority, and which all politicians have – however grudgingly – learned they must heed.

Limbaugh is by no means perfect, especially on his policy positions. He has, at times done harm to the Right as much as he has to the Left. But he is scrupulously honest about his opinion, and allows anyone to speak their mind on the issues of the day. It seems so natural in this world of blogs and new Populism, but it really started because one man got folks the chance to be heard.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Where Are The Honest Liberal Leaders?

When I was growing up, I learned from discussion and debate about the differences between Conservatives and Liberals. It seemed to me when I was young, that there was something to be said for either side, the weight falling on the present need. Liberals generally wanted to make social corrections and to protect rights for minorities, which was good. Conservatives wanted to hold true to the Constitution’s directions and limits, and to protect America’s interests in the world, especially from subversion and insurrection. This too, was good. Naturally, people usually took some things they liked from both sides, because for a very long time people could and did vote on the basis of the individual candidate, and both Republicans and Democrats had a range of political thought in their numbers.

For a number of reasons, I found myself increasingly Conservative, especially as the Democrats (representing the Liberal perspective) became shrill and unreasonable. By the time I was thirty years old, quite a while ago, it was already apparent that Liberals were as a rule bitter and hostile. And it occurred to me that this is happening because as a rule, their leaders are bitter and hostile.

So, what happened?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Adventures of President Ross

In an earlier article, I addressed what I considered the development of what I call Modern Political Madness, and in that review I naturally covered the 1992 U.S. Presidential election. A number of readers pointed out the influence of Ross Perot in that election. I left Perot out at the time, because I wanted to focus on the Republican-Democrat divide, but as it is true that the little rich man led for the early part of 1992, right up to a well-publicized weird-out on national television, the question may well be asked - What if Perot had won in 1992?

I will be chewing on that question for a future column, but throw it out here for your own comments, if any.

Feng Shui – Uses and Limits

Back when my wife and I started shopping for a house again, our first experience having been emotionally torturous and financially ruinous, I discovered the ancient and surprisingly practical art of Feng Shui (pronounced phonetically Fung Shway). Over the past couple years, I have learned a fair amount about Feng Shui, and so pass it on in a brief primer just in cased anyone else might find it interesting.
Feng Shui is an art. I say that, because every art is subjective in its nature and value. We all understand that people like different kinds of music, books, and so on, and so it should be no surprise that different people will find a different flavor to Feng Shui. But that does not mean that you cannot get something useful out of it. A lot of people, especially in the West, do not understand even the most basic lessons of Feng Shui, and so they reject it out of hand, and do themselves a disservice.

East and West often misunderstand each other. Strange, since each has on occasion learned much from the other, as well. But Feng Shui, perhaps because of the only-recent immigration of Masters to the United States, has been long ignored as some kind of superstitious hoo-ha. In actual practice however, many centuries before the West had competent architects, China had experts in determining the right location, size, and layout of a house. Such things as how to get the most light in a room, proper ventilation, the right height of the ceiling, and where the house should sit with relation to roads were all considered in China more than two thousand years ago, and so created a quality of living far greater than other parts of the world. These kinds of common-sense and practical details made Feng Shui more than a pastime for homebuilders – it became a critical step in the planning and construction of a home, especially since in those days a home might be expected to serve several generations.

Feng Shui revolves around the nature and motion of ‘Qi’. Qi is sort of like a life energy, or else a life-enhancing power. It’s used in reference to Luck, Health, Happiness … you get the idea. Having Qi is therefore a good thing. But that does not mean you can collect Qi, say keep it in a jar for when you need it. Nope, it’s not so much a material thing, and certainly not an empirical thing – we should not expect the CDC to release a report anytime soon, on the therapeutic effects of measured doses of Qi to patients suffering various disorders. But it is real, at least so far as I can tell, and so it is worth at least consideration.

The premise to Qi is that this energy – everyone seems to at least agree it’s a kind of energy – flows and moves around, and you need a healthy current – not too slow or fast, not too hot or cold, but lively and fresh yet gentle and fulfilling. We get little does of Qi, I think, all the time, in the way things happen. When a street light turns green just as you get there, when your boss actually notices when you get that report he needs faster than he expect and he actually thanks you, when you wake up and for once feel refreshed and ready instead of stressed and running late, you’re seeing Qi at work. You still have to live your life, do your job and so on, but that little bit of energy helps. It also shows up when someone who has no reason to give you the time of day treats you like a real person they care about, when you find yourself more able than usual to look for the other person’s point of view, when you are suddenly able to understand that letting that guy in front of you is not going to be so bad at all or really delay one bit, that also is Qi working. You are you, only just running a little better than usual. A little sensitivity to what’s going an around you can help you perceive it.

OK, so maybe that sounds whack. But have you ever noticed that you usually side facing a certain direction? Have you ever noticed how some homes just feel more comfortable for a reason you can’t put your finger on? Have you ever noticed that some days seem to go better than others, as if there is something making the day a little bit easier or more difficult than normal? Ever consider that there might be a reason for these things? You don’t have to believe in spirits or set up a shrine to a porcelain frog to gain from insights into human behavior, environmental conditions, and biological responses to seasonal developments. In fact, most of the traditional Feng Shui masters strongly oppose any kind of superstitious behavior – I still remember one master who laughed out loud at the idea that a porcelain frog with coins in its mouth would improve business, or that a person could expect a promotion at work just by buying a certain charm. Qi is not something to be manipulated or conjured – we’re talking about a kind of science, but one which must be applied as an art, in order to maximize one’s potential and ability. Again, I refer you to certain habits and practices of athletes, performers, and historical prodigies, where certain foods, familiar colors and articles of clothing – lucky socks, anyone? – or methods of rehearsal are connected to the results attained. Some of it is bunk, but some of it works, and it helps to think the matter through to see why.

More to come, about houses, business, relationship and Feng Shui.