Friday, October 31, 2008

A small reflection about the relationship between England and Australia

Most Americans feel proud, pleased and blessed to be born in America. And rightly so. Australians and the English feel similarly and for similar reasons. But from the large and constant stream of English immigrants arriving in Australia, one gathers that a lot of the English like some sunshine with their English heritage. And there is more than sunshine to it. I remember a recent arrival in Australia who hailed from Yorkshire saying to me that Australia is "Yorkshire with brass", where "brass" is Northern slang for money. He was oversimplifying but there was a lot of truth in what he said nonetheless. The ties between England and Australia are a lot closer than either side will normally admit. Australians speak derisively of the English (calling them "Poms") and the English speak derisively of Australians (calling them "colonials").

But it remains true that both nationalities feel very much at home in the others' country. And I am probably a rather extreme example of that. When I was growing up in Australia in the 1950s, I grew up into a society that was very Anglophilic. Many Australian-born people still copied their parents' usage and referred to England as "home". And we had a Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who described himself as "British to his bootstraps". And I remember crying -- aged about 9 -- when it was announced that the King had died. An even stronger influence than all that, however, stemmed from the fact that I was a great book reader from an early age. And most if not all boys' books available were written and published in England for the English. So I grew up in a mental world that was half-English: Which was a very good start on understanding English thinking.

So when I first arrived in England in 1977 I found a few peculiarities but in general had no social difficulties -- which is saying something if you know the intricacies of English social rules. I imagine that I did transgress in various ways from time to time -- but never enough to be a bother. In fact my high level of social acceptance would have been the envy of many Englishmen. I was materially assisted in that by the fact that an educated Australian accent is quite close to RP ("Oxford" English) and accent is enormously important in England. Any Australian accent is in fact closer to RP than are many regional English accents. So I was often told in England that I had a "soft" accent -- meaning that although detectably Australian it was not beyond the pale in in the Home Counties. My conservative politics tend to go down well in the Home Counties too.

An amusing effect of this close but usually denied affinity is the way that some Australian women have constructed for themselves a version of English "society". In England there really is such a thing as "society" -- basically the English aristocracy. The Australian version is of course self-selected rather than genetically selected but they do a moderately good job of imitating the English original. And part of that is that they do a rather good job of imitating the speech of the English original. I remember one example vividly. When I was talking on the phone to Laurie, she sounded to me just like Margaret, who is an English lady I know who really is a born member of the English aristocracy.

So who was Laurie? She was the daughter of my father's accountant. In other words we both grew up in a small Australian country town -- going to school in bare feet in a tropical environment -- an environment beset by such perils as taipan snakes, funnelweb spiders, box jellyfish, finger cherries and crocodiles, rather than the more pleasant English phenomena of crocuses, daffodils, cuckoos and skylarks. From that humble beginning, however, Laurie had acquired all the language, mannerisms and values of the English aristocracy. And I imagine that she did so without ever visiting England.

It reminds me of something that someone wrote (probably Andrew Ian Dodge -- an Anglophilic American) when I first started putting up my "Eye on Britain" blog. He said that this is a blog about England from an outsider's point of view -- but the author really isn't an outsider because he is an Australian. Very insightful.


Don't Let the Polls Affect Your Vote: They were wrong in 2000 and 2004

By Karl Rove

There has been an explosion of polls this presidential election. Through yesterday, there have been 728 national polls with head-to-head matchups of the candidates, 215 in October alone. In 2004, there were just 239 matchup polls, with 67 of those in October. At this rate, there may be almost as many national polls in October of 2008 as there were during the entire year in 2004.

Some polls are sponsored by reputable news organizations, others by publicity-eager universities or polling firms on the make. None have the scientific precision we imagine. For example, academics gathered by the American Political Science Association at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington on Aug. 31, 2000, to make forecasts declared that Al Gore would be the winner. Their models told them so. Mr. Gore would receive between 53% and 60% of the two-party vote; Gov. George W. Bush would get between just 40% and 47%. Impersonal demographic and economic forces had settled the contest, they said. They were wrong.

Right now, all the polls show Barack Obama ahead of John McCain, but the margins vary widely (in part because some polls use an "expanded" definition of a likely voter, while others use a "traditional" polling model, which assumes turnout will mirror historical trends but with a higher turnout among African-Americans and young voters).

On Monday, there were seven nationwide polls, with the candidates as close as three points in the Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll and as far apart as 10 points in Gallup's "expanded" model. On Tuesday, the Gallup "traditional" model poll had the candidates separated by two points and the Pew poll had them separated by 15. On Wednesday, Battleground, Rasmussen and Gallup "traditional" model polls had the candidates separated by three points while Diageo/Hotline and Gallup "expanded" model polls had the spread at seven points.

Polls can reveal underlying or emerging trends and help campaigns decide where to focus. The danger is that commentators use them to declare a race over before the votes are in. This can demoralize the underdog's supporters, depressing turnout. I know that from experience.

On election night in 2000 Al Hunt -- then a columnist for this newspaper and a commentator on CNN -- was the first TV talking head to erroneously declare that Florida's polls had closed, when those in the Panhandle were open for another hour. Shortly before 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Judy Woodruff said: "A big call to make. CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column."

Mr. Hunt and Ms. Woodruff were not only wrong. What they did was harmful. We know, for example, that turnout in 2000 compared to 1996 improved more in states whose polls had closed by the time Ms. Woodruff all but declared the contest over. The data suggests that as many as 500,000 people in the Midwest and West didn't bother to vote after the networks indicated Florida cinched the race for Mr. Gore.

I recall, too, the media's screwup in 2004, when exit-polling data leaked in the afternoon. It showed President Bush losing Pennsylvania by 17 points, New Hampshire by 18, behind among white males in Florida, and projected South Carolina and Colorado too close to call. It looked like the GOP would be wiped out. Bob Shrum famously became the first to congratulate Sen. John Kerry by addressing him as "President Kerry." Commentators let the exit polls color their coverage for hours until their certainty was undone by actual vote tallies.

Polls have proliferated this year in part because it is much easier for journalists to devote the limited space in their papers or on TV to the horse-race aspect of the election rather than its substance. And I admit, I've aided and abetted this process.

In the campaign's final week, though, the candidates can offer little new substance, so attention turns to the political landscape, and there's no question Mr. McCain is in a difficult place. The last national poll that showed Mr. McCain ahead came out Sept. 25 and the 232 polls since then have all shown Mr. Obama leading. Only one time in the past 14 presidential elections has a candidate won the popular vote and the Electoral College after trailing in the Gallup Poll the week before the election: Ronald Reagan in 1980.

But the question that matters is the margin. If Mr. McCain is down by 3%, his task is doable, if difficult. If he's down by 9%, his task is essentially impossible. In truth, however, no one knows for sure what kind of polling deficit is insurmountable or even which poll is correct. All of us should act with the proper understanding that nothing is yet decided.

As for me, I've already cast my absentee ballot in Kerr County, Texas -- joyfully, enthusiastically marking the straight Republican column. I would like to have joined the line Tuesday outside the polling place in Ingram, where I've been registered the past few years. But I will be in New York, part of the vast horde analyzing exit polls, dissecting returns, and pontificating on consequences. I'll thoroughly enjoy myself that night, and probably feel guilty the next morning. But this year's 728 national polls and the thousands of state polls made me do it.



McCain is Winning --Here is the Proof

Some not unreasonable optimism from Evan Sayet

John McCain has the upper hand in the November 4th election. How can I say that when the polls show Obama leading by anywhere from one (IBD, the most accurate pollster the last time out) to 13 from the folks who brought you Dan Rather and the use of forged documents to try and steal the election just four years ago. A brief look at the methodolgy of these polls -- the degree of over-sampling of Democrats corresponding almost to perfection with the degree of Obama's "lead" in them -- shows a tight race, with McCain actually leading by a point or two. This reality is underscored by events within the campaigns which, when analyzed, show an Obama camp in desperation.

1) The politically savvy Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, is clearly panicking. Rendell has publicly begged the Obama campaign to send their star back to the state for no less than THREE major events to "close the deal" on a state that should have been closed for the leftists month ago. And it's no wonder the campaign is panicking, an Obama internal poll was accidentally released to the media and it shows The Anointed One in a statistical dead heat with his American hero opponent. And this was BEFORE John Murtha basically parrotted Obama's San Francisco speech in which The Anointed One candidly spoke of his disdain for the people of Pennsylvania. Murtha may not be as eloquent as The One, but the condescension and disrespect that he has for the people who "cling" to their Christianity and constitutional rights is exactly the same.

Murtha's poll numbers are cratering. I can't imagine that Obama, who shares Murtha's convictions, aren't doing the same. If I were a Republican strategist, I'd be runing an ad every ten minutes with nothing but these Democrats own words and the tag line "If this is what they THINK of you, imagine what they plan to do TO you."

2) Obama has "suspended" campaigning -- something he refused to do to help quell the financial crisis that he sees as working in his favor -- in order to visit his ailing grandmother. Since this is the same grandmother he had cynically thrown under a bus in his wonderfully eloquent speech in defense of his mentor, Jeremiah Wright -- a woman he later described as nothing more than "a typical white woman," it is fair to be cynical about his real purpose in suddenly caring so much about her he would actually visit her (when he barely spent a minute with her just a few weeks ago when he vacationed in Hawaii.) I suspect, more than anything, it was a desperate attempt to get his name out of the news for a few days, to let the stink of his campaign go away, after several disastrous stories made their way into the public consciousness.

Over the past few weeks a narrative of Obama's thuggery was more and more coming to the fore. Despite the leftist media's best efforts to protect him, the actions of his minions in the thugocracy of ACORN, his allies' vicious attacks on a plumber who merely asked a policy question and the close ties of Obama to the terrorist who segued from murdering Americans to brainwashing their children more and more reminded Americans that they really don't know this neophyte, first term, junior senator who somehow managed to rise to the top of Chicago's corrupt political landscape by affiliating himself with the worst of the worst of the worst. A quick trip to visit "granny" and suddenly questioning the "grieving" candidate would be seen as below the belt.

Meanwhile, it's obvious that Obama DIDN'T suspend his campaign but instead used his time in Hawaii to put together what his campaign is calling a "major economic policy" speech. Unless grandma is a Harvard MBA, it's highly unlikely he wrote, edited and rehearsed this speech at the bedside of the woman he "cares" so much about.

3) Candidates who are well on their way to a landslide do not make "major speeches" in which they introduce new policy. Candidates who recognize that there is a deep mistrust of their policies do. Again, despite the best efforts of the leftist media, Obama's deeply held Marxist beliefs have made it into the minds of mainstream America and Obama, without any lead in the polls, feels he must explain away the evidence.

4) If you'll recall, the reason the God of Change chose Joseph Robinette Biden -- a guy who has been sitting in the US Senate since he was about the same age as Britney Spears is today -- was because he would quell the rightful fears of an electorate that recognizes Obama's utter lack of executive or foreign policy experience. Now Joe has shown himself to be, well, to be nice about it, wholly unhinged. From ordering cripples to "stand up" to describing Obama's fiscal policy in "three letters...J-O-B-S, to his belief that FDR was president in 1929 and that Americans all sat around their televisions watching him, Biden's mental health needs to be seriously questioned.

These insanities, however, pale in comparison to Biden's promise that, should Obama somehow manage to win (or steal) the election, there will be an international crisis within six months BROUGHT ON BY OBAMA, not to mention Biden's expounding on the point by saying Obama's policies will appear to be the wrong response but trust us -- the wholly unknown Obama at the helm, the mentally unstable Biden his number two.

Just in case you think the recognition of Biden's mental instability is just my own, consider that even those fun-loving, Republican-hating kids at Saturday Night Live couldn't help but spoof Biden's insanity, titling their opening piece this week "Sen. Biden and Rep. Murtha Say Crazy Things..." What followed was an almost word-for-word re-enactment of Biden's actual speech.

Perhaps worst of all for the leftists is that cracks are beginning to appear in the monolithic and utterly corrupt media coverage. SNL's lampooning of Biden is but one example. Another is an interview that took place this week where Biden was actually asked a tough question or two. Biden, of course, failed miserably which, in turn, brought on the usual response from the Obama camp, the thuggish attempt to destroy, not Joe the Plumber but Barbara West, one of the few reporters Biden has met who doesn't work inside the cocoon of the Beltway or have aspirations to the anchor desk in leftist New York City.

Put together the panic in PA, the sudden "suspension" of the Obama campaign, the need for a major speech on "economic policy," the meltdown of the "experienced" one on the ticket, the gathering evidence of Obama's ties to thugs, criminals and terrorists, the over sampling of Democrats in the polls and more, and you get a clue as to where we really are in this campaign. With ten days or so to go, Obama's making moves of desperation.



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


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Group Pride, insecurity and the Left

Strictly speaking, the generalizability of the research below is limited by the sample they used but the conclusions are very ancient and almost certainly true. In ancient Athens, hubris (arrogant pride) was actually considered a crime while megalopsuchia (proper pride; big spiritedness) was a virtue. I follow the report below with a few notes about the wider implications of the research
From screaming baseball fans to political rally-goers, groups that engage in boastful self-aggrandizing may be trying to mask insecurity and low social status. "Our results suggest that hubristic, pompous displays of group pride might actually be a sign of group insecurity as opposed to a sign of strength," said researcher Cynthia Pickett, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

The new study reveals how two types of pride are related to a person's good feelings about one social group or another to which they belong. These good feelings could come from being a Los Angeles Lakers fan (when they win), a war veteran, a member of a particular ethnic group or a sorority gal or fraternity brother. But while authentic pride is linked with real confidence in your group, hubristic pride is a false arrogance that belies insecurities about one's group. These results build on past research showing similar pride characteristics in individuals.

"It turns out, people who have the hubristic collective pride in their group, underlying it all is an insecurity about whether the group is good enough, really," said researcher Jessica Tracy, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. The research was presented last week at a meeting of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology in Sacramento.

In three studies, Pickett, Tracy and their colleagues surveyed more than 300 undergraduate students, first asking each participant to write about an experience when they felt proud of their group. In one of these studies, students had to recall the UC Davis football win over Stanford. In another, Asian American students were asked to write about a proud experience tied with their ethnic background. Other experiences ranged from sports team wins to achievements by sororities, say raising a big chunk of money for a charity.

Each participant then rated to what extent they would use certain words to describe themselves at the time of the event or achievement. Some of the descriptors indicated hubristic pride, such as "snobbish," "pompous" and "smug," while others were linked with authentic pride, such as "accomplished," "successful" and "confident." Students also answered questions about the status of the group, including whether the group was valued by non-members, whether they themselves thought highly of the group, whether the group was under threat or in competition with another group, and other group-related questions.

The results showed that groups in which individuals boasted and gloated - a sign of hubristic pride - tended to have low social status or they were vulnerable to threats from other groups. So the worse the person felt about their group's status as well as how badly they thought the public viewed the group, the more likely that member would experience that empty, boastful pride. In contrast, those groups that expressed pride by humbly focusing on members' efforts and hard work tended to have high social standing in both the public and personal eyes.

Hubristic pride can rear its ugly head in both small groups like sports teams and larger groups like citizens of a country. "A lot of this has real-world implications," Tracy told LiveScience. "There are some kinds of collective pride where people get really angry and hostile and feel like 'it's not just that my group is great but my group is better.'" She added, "You can think of it as the distinction between nationalism and patriotism, with nationalism being the sense of it's not just that I love my country, it's that my country is best."

When group members show signs of hubristic pride, such as making grandiose statements about their country, that could be a sign of underlying insecurity, the researchers said. "When you hear groups starting to get into that type of rhetoric it may be because they're starting to realize they're in a losing position and that they need to do something to try to drum up respect, to drum up the kind of status that they feel they're lacking," Pickett said.


The first thing that needs to be stressed about the above findings -- something the authors themselves imply -- is that not all group loyalty is dysfunctional. Tribalism or group action is very common in the animal world -- from ants to apes -- and it is part of humanity too. Leftists tend to deny that, however. They see any kind of group loyalty -- such as patriotism -- as primitive. And tribalism certainly is a prominent feature of primitive societies. That something is primitive does not mean that it is weak, however. And in fact tribal loyalties of one sort or another still to this day dominate most human societies. In Muslim lands, for instance, there is virtually no loyalty to the nation. All loyalty is to your tribe, to your clan, to your kinship group or to your religion.

As Emmanuel Todd, a French Leftist historian, correctly pointed out, it is the Anglo-Saxons who are deviant. To Southern Europeans, the English family is incomprehensible. It appears pathologically fractionated. Instead of strong family loyalties, the English simply go their own way once they leave home and have almost no further contact with one-another by normal human standards. I saw this in the late '60s when I was doorknocking with a social survey in an ethnically mixed area of Sydney. One of the questions I asked was: "How often do you see relatives?" The Greeks and Italians would usually say: "Every weekend". By contrast, about half the Anglo-Australians said: "Never!".

So if even family ties are so weak among Anglo-Saxons, one can understand that tribal loyalties are very limited -- usually seen only in attachment to particular sporting teams. Sport is a re-enactment of real combat so it is a very primitive thing and draws out primitive reflexes.

But tribalism DOES have some life among Anglo-Saxons outside sport. In particular, Anglo-Saxons do have some attachment to their own nation and ethnic group. They put up surprisingly well with having other ethnic groups living among them but their preference nonetheless is generally for their own ethnic group. See here, for instance. And this tattered remnant of group loyalty is what Leftist routinely stigmatize as "racism".

Ironically, however, it is Leftists themselves who seem to have the strongest group orientation. Contrast the lukewarm support of conservatives for McCain with the hysterical adulation for Obama on the Left. And, from Hegel through Hitler ("Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer") to Obama, it is Leftists who glorify unity and seem to regard as ideal an anthill type of existence where everybody obeys implicitly direction from the top. So Leftists are clearly the political fanatics. And the research above does therefore identify them as the most insecure.

And there is reason for that insecurity and its compensatory fanaticism. They know that what they really want is the utter destruction of the "system" in which they live and there is always a great risk that the mask will come off that and expose them for the haters and destroyers that they are.

And that Islamic hypersensitivity about "insults" reflects insecurity is a common observation. They certainly have little to be proud of by way of real recent achievements and their sensitivity to slights shows that they know that a low opinion of them and their hamstrung lifestyle has some justification. By contrast, cartoons ridiculing Christians are routine (usually from the Left) but I have yet to hear of any Christian demands to behead cartoon publishers.

Reference: Todd, E. (1985) The explanation of ideology Oxford: Blackwell


Brookes News update

The coming Obama economic nightmare: Obama and his crew must love economic disasters, because that is what his economic policy would be. As for Obama himself. The man is an intellectual sponge. He soaks up these ideas without being able to carry them to their logical conclusion. This severe intellectual deficiency of his is concealed behind a carefully cultivated aura of sublime cerebral confidence. What sensible folk call intellectual posturing. Even his appearances are nothing but studies in theatrics
They are still getting it wrong on the recession: The recession is deepening and our economic commentariat still cannot get it right. Complete cluelessness on the nature of the crisis and what caused it has made virtually all economic commentary on the matter worthless
Obama, Alinsky and the Marxist Left: The Democrat Party has been taken over by the extreme left wing to the extent that earlier Democrats like Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey would not recognize it. A perfect storm of socialism has been developed by shrewd people behind the scene, a corrupt leftist media and careful long term planning
Paul Krugman's explanation of the financial crisis is pure baloney: Krugman admits that his forecasting record is not what one might call brilliant. In fact, if he had worked for a stock broker he would have been fired. My point is that accepting as accurate economic predictions from economists who ignore both monetary and real factors is akin to playing Russian roulette with 5 rounds in the chamber
The Joe-the-Plumber vote is bigger than you think: Obama's rich targets are not rich at all. They are high-income earners, many of whom believe that by rich Obama means the likes of Buffett. But the real rich will escape Obama's destructive tax net because it is designed to haul in incomes and not wealth. If Obama were really sincere about taxing the rich he would have proposed a wealth tax instead of taxes on getting wealthy
Obama's campaign built on lies: Journalists have delivered the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars in free advertising for Obama with puff piece reporting on his campaign, and far less favorable coverage of the McCain campaign. Not surprisingly, the mainstream media have been unconcerned about Obama's brazen dishonesty
Argentina's Obama policy of spreading the wealth sinks the economy: A massive surge in government spending, socialist redistribution schemes, confiscation of private pension funds and a contempt for the laws of economics sent the Argentinean economy into a downward spiral. These are also Obama's policies. He and his fellow Democrats are also greedily eyeing 401(k)s
The financial crisis and the worst campaign question: Because of those earlier political interventions, there are more malinvestments than ever. The liquidation of these massive malinvestments would be so jarring that all of official Washington is striving to postpone the day of reckoning with government controls and more easy credit from the Fed"
Obama's agenda is so "gay": If elected, Barack Obama - the 'change candidate' - will undoubtedly live up to his name. He will certainly institute sweeping change over the next four to eight years. But consider whether Obama's brand of change is change America can afford


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


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


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's a Brainiac

by Elaine Lafferty

The former editor in chief of Ms. magazine (and a Democrat) on what she learned on a campaign plane with the would-be VP

It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's "intelligence," coming especially from women such as PBS's Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes-God help me, I'm agreeing with Fred Barnes-suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I'm a Democrat, but I've worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin's nomination. Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women's rights.

What is often called her "confidence" is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is. Now by "smart," I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a "quick study"; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her "confidence" is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

For all those old enough to remember Senator Sam Ervin, the brilliant strict constitutional constructionist and chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee whose patois included "I'm just a country lawyer". Yup, Palin is that smart.

So no simple task then, this speech on women's rights. For the sin of being a Christian personally opposed to abortion, Palin is being pilloried by the inside-the-Beltway Democrat feminist establishment. (Yes, she is anti-abortion. And yes, instead of buying organic New Zealand lamb at Whole Foods, she joins other Alaskans in hunting for food. That's it. She is not a right-wing nut, and all the rest of the Internet drivel-the book banning at the Library, the rape kits decision - is nonsense. I digress.) Palin's role in this campaign was to energize "the Republican base," which she has inarguably done. She also was expected to reach out to Hillary Clinton "moderates." (Right. Only a woman would get both those jobs in either party.) Look, I am obviously personally pro-choice, and I disagree with McCain and Palin on that and a few other issues. But like many other Democrats, including Lynn Rothschild, I'm tired of the Democratic Party taking women for granted. I also happen to believe Sarah Palin supports women's rights, deeply and passionately.

More here


The Truman Show: How McCain Could Pull Off a Final Week Upset

The most reliable surveys put McCain five to seven points behind Obama as we enter the last week of this interminable campaign. But in a race that will be famous for years afterwards for its volatility, it is not too late for the Republican to pull out a victory.

For Harry Truman in 1948, the presidential race shifted dramatically in the final week, and it's happened three more times in the past 30 years. In 1980, Reagan came from eight points behind to a solid victory by winning his sole debate with Carter in the last week of October. In 1992, Clinton, who had fallen behind in the polls because of the pounding he was taking over his liberalism and propensity to raise taxes, surged ahead of Bush when Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh announced that he was indicting Defense Secretary Casper (Cap) Weinberger, an indication of Bush's possible complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal. And in 2000, Bush's three-to-four point lead in the polls was erased over the final weekend when reports surfaced that he had been cited for DWI 20 years before and had not revealed the fact to the public. Bush still won the election, of course, but Gore won the popular vote by half a point.

What does McCain have to do to pull off a similar shift this time?

1. Use the stock market crash to highlight the tax issue. With the Dow Jones dropping each day by hundreds of points, this election is being held against a backdrop of economic fear unlike any since the Depression. Almost every reputable economist agrees that it would be catastrophic to add to the economy's woes by raising the capital gains tax. But Obama is on record as favoring an increase from 15% to 20% and suggested during the primaries that he would consider hitting 28%....

2. Bring back Rev. Jeremiah Wright. For reasons that are beyond me, John McCain has vowed not to make an issue out of Rev. Wright's extreme anti-American statements. But that should not stop independent expenditure and 527 groups from raising the issue.....

3. Warn voters of impending socialism in America. The recent bailout legislation puts the United States government inside the ownership, management and direction of many of our major companies and financial institutions. The bureaucrats have entered as firefighters, trying to extinguish the blazes that threaten to consume these companies. But once the flames are put out, will the firefighters go home or will they set up shop and give the United States a socialist economy akin to that of Western European nations? Will the bureaucrats relinquish the power they are being given in a time of crisis? McCain needs to point out that bureaucrats never let go of power unless they have to.

McCain needs to point out that it was political meddling by liberals that led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to encourage subprime mortgage loans in the first place. Were it not for the pressure in the Clinton Administration to expand home ownership to poor people and minorities, Freddie and Fannie would not have relaxed their down payment policies and would not have been willing to guarantee mortgages without proof that the borrowers had sufficient income to repay the debts....

If the Dow continues to terrify investors and distract voters from the election, it will continue to bolster Obama's candidacy and his lead. But if there is some stability in the final week before the election, there is every chance that voters will take another look at Obama and decide that he is too risky. By stressing the tax issue and the potential of an Obama regime to subvert our free enterprise system, McCain can harness the crisis and warn voters of the impact of a decision to elect the most radical candidate for president in our nation's history.

More here


The financial crisis has been even more catastrophic outside the USA

By Spengler

It wasn't the world that got flat, contrary to New York Times pundit Thomas Friedman, but the emerging markets that got flattened. Faddish conventional wisdom over the past few years held that American influence was fading as technology radiated to the far reaches of the world. When America's economy went into a ditch, though, the supposed economic superpowers of the future went flying, like children on skates holding onto the back of truck.

The American consumer, it turns out, played Atlas to the global economy, taking the exports of Asia, so that Asia could buy the commodities of Russia, Latin America and Africa. Remove the American consumer, and Asian exports crash, taking commodity prices along with them.

The financial crash exposes the fragility of large swaths of the world. The political consequences will be terrible. The worst of it is that America will not be around to moderate the melee, not if Democratic Senator Barack Obama is elected president, that is. Those who objected to America's role as world policeman will get what they wanted, but they won't like it: a religious war reaching from Lebanon to Pakistan, and Colombian-style narco-war spreading to Mexico and Brazil.

The wave of American self-pity that may carry Obama to the White House stems, in turn, from a global crisis that has sunk a good deal of the developing world. Worst affected are the most populous Muslim countries, and Russia's "near abroad". Pakistan, Ukraine and Belarus are out of funds and have applied for help to the International Monetary Fund. Indonesia and Turkey face drastically increased borrowing and import costs. Iran's economy will implode with oil in the mid-US$60s....

The economic crisis buoyed Obama out of his post-convention slump and exposed the emptiness of the Republicans. But it also has crushed the aspirations of the most populous Muslim countries. Even before the financial crisis, Pakistan and Turkey had turned towards political Islam. Pakistan's intelligence service is providing support to the Taliban in Afghanistan, jeopardizing the Western position. The financial crisis will push Pakistan further towards radical Islam. Now this proclamation will be preached from every mosque from Tyre to Lahore: "The corrupt West tried to seduce you with consumerism. Now the poisoned gifts of the West are shown to be an illusion, and those of you who lusted after them are left only with your humiliation."

No one in Asia, it appears, knows how to make money when American import demand shrinks, and when Asian growth falls, raw materials prices collapse. No one in Latin America, for that matter, seems to know how to make money when raw materials prices collapse. For all the preening and posing of the emerging world's nouveau riche, it turns out that the American consumer was the center of the world economy, and without the American consumer, all that is left are busted stock markets and bad credit. Most embarrassing for the flat-worlders is the observation that the emerging markets crashed when the world concluded that Washington would not be able to reverse the financial crisis. The economic bomb that detonated in America caused more collateral damage in the emerging markets than casualties at home.

Until July 2008, commodity prices rose as stock prices deteriorated because investors falsely assumed that Washington would set off a new wave of inflation as it rescued the banking system. The commodity producers thumbed their collective nose at economic distress in the industrial world and expected the boom to go on forever. Once the markets concluded that Washington would not be able to prevent a financial collapse, the commodity indices crashed along with stock prices. The commodity producers went from boom to bust almost overnight.

Iran's theocrats, as I reported in June (Worst of times for Iran, Asia Times Online, June 24, 2008), managed to steal $35 billion from oil revenues. Luxury real estate prices rose to Parisian levels while poor Iranians lacked necessities. With the collapse of the oil price, subsidies for essential items will disappear and the regime will face economic collapse. Before it does so, I believe Iran will undertake an adventure to assert its hegemony in the region, probably at the expense of Iraq.

The low level of violence in Iraq during the past several months owes something to the skill of American arms in the so-called "surge", but it owes even more to a tacit agreement between Iran and the George W Bush administration: in return for leashing its irregular forces in Iraq, Iran would get a free hand with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and American forbearance with respect to its nuclear weapons program.

The Bush administration's motive to bribe Iran and avoid political damage in Iraq disappears on US presidential election day on November 4. Whether the US administration (or for that matter Israel) has the nerve to launch an air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is anyone's guess (and everyone is guessing that the answer is negative). Nonetheless, Iran has created the strongest Shi'ite presence since the original battles that determined the succession to the Prophet Mohammed. It can watch the Shi'ite cause fade away with the price of oil, or it can attempt to use its capabilities before they are lost for another thousand years. Nothing at all that we know of the Iranians indicates that they would go quietly into another long night of Sunni oppression.

Iran's leaders, in short, find themselves in a position similar to, but more urgent than, the one that Adolf Hitler described to his senior commanders three weeks after the German invasion of Poland. I have quoted this before, but it deserves to be tattooed onto the foreheads of analysts who think that economic weakness reduces the likelihood of armed conflict.
We have nothing to lose, but much indeed to gain. As a result of the constraints forced upon us, our economic position is such that we cannot hold out for more than a few years. [Hermann] Goering can confirm this. We have no other choice, we must act ... At no point in the future will Germany have a man with more authority than I. But I could be replaced at any moment by some idiot or criminal ... The morale of the German people is excellent. It can only worsen from here.

Iran's ultimate target will be Saudi Arabia, whose largest oil fields are found inconveniently in Shi'ite-majority areas just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. The Saudis will not sit quietly while Iran gains the upper hand in Iraq. Pakistan and Turkey, Sunni powers with large armies, will be loath to allow Iran to dominate the region, and they also will be all the more dependent on Saudi generosity.

A whole generation of Western analysts looked approving on Turkey's turn to Islamism, as I reported last summer (Turkey in the throes of Islamic revolution, Asia Times Online, July 22). Now Turkey will be Islamist - and broke. Turkey paid more than 20% for local currency deposits in order to attract the funds to finance a current account deficit amounting to 7% of gross domestic product. The Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan now faces the worst of all possible worlds. The Turkish lira has lost a third of its value in the past month, and almost all of the devaluation will turn up in higher domestic prices. Credit availability for Turkish businesses will vanish, and Turkey will enter a profound economic crisis.

A belt of ungovernability now stretches from Lebanon to Pakistan, with incalculable political and military consequences. I believe that a Shi'ite-Sunni version of Europe's 17th-century Thirty Years' War will engulf the region.

More here


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


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


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some deep background on the polls

Reader Frogg passed along this really interesting commentary from a professional pollster who is (a) a die hard Obama supporter and (b) laughing at the public polls:
I was having dinner a night ago with a friend of mine who is a statistician for a well-regarded private polling company. They do some work for Republicans in California, but most of the work they do is for Democrats or Democrat-leaning operations (Unions, etc.). Anyway, her shop was retained to do a few Presidential polls for targetted states on behalf of a union so the union could decide where to spend their ad dollars for the last week. They did Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Missouri. After mocking the hell out of the voter id spreads used by Rassmussen, Zogby, etc. (and this is coming from a committed Dem who will be voting for Barry O) she said the results of their polling lead her to believe that McCain will definitely win FL, OH, NC, MO and NV.

She says Obama definitely wins New Mexico. She said that Colorado and New Hampshire were absolute dead heats. She said she thinks there is a 55% chance Obama holds on in Pennsylvania and a 75% chance McCain wins Virginia. She absolutely laughed at the public polls showing Obama leading Virginia-and pointed out that all of those polls rely on Dem turnout being +4 and as much as +7, when in 2006, Republicans actually had the advantage by +3. She also pointed out that the numbers for Obama in SWVA look absolutely awful and that McCain is running 10 points better then Allen did in NoVa.

Anyway, her company's conclusion is that the election will come down to Colorado, New Hampshire and the Republican leaning district in Maine, which in her opinion might very well decide the Presidency (apparently the district in Nebraska that Obama thought he might be able to get is now off the table). She said she has very little doubt that the public polling is part of a "concerted voter suppression effort" by the MSM. She said IBD/TIPP was the only outfit doing public polling that was "worth a bucket of warm piss".

The turnout model scam of 2008 will be the big story of this election. In my last post on polls I noted how many of the polls out there are starting to fall into two camps. The first camp is the traditional approach using historic turnout models where party affiliation is actually quite close as both sides turn out their base equally well. The second model is new and unverified, and assumes there will be a huge difference in party affiliation turnout this year.

The first class of polls show a very tight race, the second class are so heavily weighted towards the dems they assume all the anger with the direction of the country has no impact on Democrats and their media puppets. The DC/NY Political Industrial Complex is mostly liberal in its make up, and it has recently become more and more isolated in its echo chamber. Just look at how it reacted to Sarah Palin. The end result is the polls of polls are showing a classic bimodal result with clusters of polls at one of these two modes: "traditional' and "extended" - just like the two turnout models now being openly produced by Gallup.

I think this pollster has it about right. LJStrata and DJStrata have been out doing the GOTV stuff this week and what they find here in our part of Northern Virginia is there are about equal numbers of Obama and McCain supporters, but the Obama supporters are more open, and the McCain supporters are a bit down because of the tilted polls. The GOP support is quiet, but just as massive as the Obama support.

Sadly, one of the better pollsters has gone to the dark side of the bimodal results. Rasmussen has decided to increase his Democrat edge to new heights, under the naive assumption Dem and GOP supporters are equally engaged in answering pollsters:
Like all polling firms, Rasmussen Reports weights its data to reflect the population at large. Among other targets, Rasmussen Reports weights data by political party affiliation using a dynamic weighting process (see methodology)..... The targets are not set arbitrarily. Rather, they are established based upon survey interviews with a separate sample of adults nationwide completed during the preceding six weeks. A total of 500 nightly interviews are conducted for a total of 21,000 interviews over the six week period.

While it sounds reasonable, the fact is willingness to participate in polls may not be uniform between the left and right. And pollsters are more and more considered part of the problem, part of the Political Industrial Complex which the public blames for the country being on the wrong track by 90+%. There is a `pox upon all your houses' mentality in the country that is starting to lump the media, the pollsters, the consultants in with the politicians from both sides. Trust in the political class is gone.

Rassmussen now gives the dems a questionable 33-40 edge in turnout (Indies at 27). Previously in September he had Rep-Dem-Indie (RDI) at 34-39-28. Each time he increased the dems edge McCain lost ground - duh!

Let's look at the latest Newsweek Poll which has Obama up 12%. One look at the internals gives the answer to the large lead. Supposedly from 1204 interviews they distilled out 1092 Registered Voters, which were further distilled down to 882 Likely Voters. Of these they claim 299 Reps, 380 Dems and 381 Indies.

If we do the math the total sample size for party affiliates is 1060 - which cleverly doesn't map to interviews, registered voters or likely voters. What is also interesting is they have error bars on their party ID? They claim the Rep error bar is +/-7 (which comes out to 2%.) and the indie/dem error bar is +/- 6. Not sure why they are not sure what party people claimed they were associated with was in doubt, but there it is.

Anyway, if we do the math the Newsweek RDI turnout model is 28-36-36. Recall Rasmussen's model was 33-40-27. I mean they are not even close!

One of the problems is a lot of people are still on the fence to some degree and pollsters are trying to push them into a lean for one candidate, but this is very shaky ground to be on. Look at this Minnesota poll which is making people sit up and take notice:
A St. Cloud State University poll shows that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama leads Republican opponent John McCain 42 percent to 37 percent in Minnesota.... After earlier surveys showed DFL challenger Al Franken with an edge, the SCSU poll shows Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman leading with 36 percent, compared with 27 percent for Franken. Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley trails with 16 percent.

Not only is McCain down only 5%, there are an enormous number of undecideds given the low numbers for both candidates. I included the surprise Senate seat race for comparison because it shows similar numbers for Coleman and Franken (with the Rep out front), but there is a substantial number voting for a 3rd party candidate in that race. There is no major 3rd party candidate on the national level. In MN and with this poll, the race is wide open because of the enormous number of uncommitted voters. Obama could easily lose this state if this poll is to be believed.

So what do we have? We have polls using dynamic turnout models which link willingness to take a poll to willingness to get out and vote (a very suspect assumption IMHO). Especially since different pollsters are deriving vastly different turnout models as a result of this approach. All these polls share one thing, they tend to show massive Obama leads, while the traditional turnout models show a tight or tightening race.

Much more here


Congressional folly is destroying the basis of America's prosperity


Financial panics, if left alone, rarely cause much damage to the real economy, output, employment or production. Asset values fall sharply and wipe out those who borrowed and lent too much, thereby redistributing wealth from the foolish to the prudent. This process is the topic of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book "Fooled by Randomness."

When markets are free, asset values are supposed to go up and down, and competition opens up opportunities for profits and losses. Profits and stock appreciation are not rights, but rewards for insight mixed with a willingness to take risk. People who buy homes and the banks who give them mortgages are no different, in principle, than investors in the stock market, commodity speculators or shop owners. Good decisions should be rewarded and bad decisions should be punished. The market does just that with its profits and losses.

No one likes to see people lose their homes when housing prices fall and they can't afford to pay their mortgages; nor does any one of us enjoy watching banks go belly-up for making subprime loans without enough equity. But the taxpayers had nothing to do with either side of the mortgage transaction. If the house's value had appreciated, believe you me the overleveraged homeowner and the overly aggressive bank would never have shared their gain with taxpayers. Housing price declines and their consequences are signals to the market to stop building so many houses, pure and simple.

But here's the rub. Now enter the government and the prospects of a kinder and gentler economy. To alleviate the obvious hardships to both homeowners and banks, the government commits to buy mortgages and inject capital into banks, which on the face of it seems like a very nice thing to do. But unfortunately in this world there is no tooth fairy. And the government doesn't create anything; it just redistributes. Whenever the government bails someone out of trouble, they always put someone into trouble, plus of course a toll for the troll. Every $100 billion in bailout requires at least $130 billion in taxes, where the $30 billion extra is the cost of getting government involved.

If you don't believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they'll do with Wall Street.

Much more here


Justice and Vote Fraud

Lawyers who supervise voting rights are Obama donors

We've all read a lot about the "politicization" of the Justice Department in recent years, and that political pounding is having an ironic effect. The prosecutors who are supposed to guard against voter fraud don't seem very interested in running the political risk of doing their job.

If voter fraud would ever be ripe for investigation, this would seem to be the year with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) having been caught filing thousands of bogus voter registrations in at least 14 states. Acorn's history of deceit and the national sweep of today's scandal demand a federal probe. Safeguarding the integrity of the vote is every bit as important as protecting access to the polls, yet Democrats want Justice to pay attention only to the latter.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers recently sent two letters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey deploring a news leak that the FBI is investigating Acorn, and warning Justice to focus instead on "voter suppression." Barack Obama has also joined in this political intimidation, demanding in two letters that Mr. Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Justice staff who he claims are engaged in "unlawful coordination" with John McCain's campaign to pursue "so-called 'election fraud.'" There is zero evidence that such coordination exists, but it is remarkable that a Presidential nominee would dismiss election fraud as a myth.

The lawyers at the Civil Rights Division are already falling into line. Justice recently decided to reverse a policy in place since 2002 to send criminal attorneys and other federal employees to monitor polling places. The decision came two weeks after a September meeting to which the Civil Rights Division invited dozens of left-wing activist groups to discuss voter "access" to the polls.

Justice has also failed to enter the fray in Ohio. As many as 200,000 new voter registrations in that state are suspect, yet Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is refusing to follow the 2002 Help America Vote Act that requires her to verify these registrations. The Ohio Republican Party sued Mrs. Brunner, but the Supreme Court said the GOP lacked standing. Justice does have standing -- it is charged with upholding that law -- but has ignored the fight. The Justice excuse is that it isn't appropriate to file litigation so close to Election Day.

Yet that hasn't stopped the Civil Rights Division this month from filing a lawsuit against Waller County, Texas, to correct alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act; a lawsuit against Vermont for failing to report accurately on overseas ballots; and an amicus brief in a case filed by a civil-rights group that is suing to stop the Georgia Secretary of State from complying with voter verification rules. Justice's election suits always seem to side with liberal priorities.

It doesn't help Justice's credibility that attorneys charged with supervising voting issues are avowed Barack Obama supporters. According to Federal Election Commission data, James Walsh, an attorney in the Civil Rights Division, has donated at least $300 to Mr. Obama. His boss, Mark Kappelhoff, has given $2,250 -- nearly the maximum. John Russ, also in Civil Rights, gave at least $600 to Mr. Obama.

More here

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand now up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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


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


Monday, October 27, 2008

A small personal note from a quiet Australian Sunday morning

I gather that for most employed people the financial crisis has had negligible effects. I am however one of the investor class. As a retired man, I live almost entirely on the proceeds of my stockmarket investments. And about half of those investments are in Australian bank stocks. So I am in big trouble, right?

Not at all. One reason why I invested heavily in banks was that Australian banks had big meltdowns at the time of the Hawke/Keating deregulation a couple of decades ago. Most of the State banks went broke and even Westpac (then the biggest bank) tottered a bit. And that all happened because of incautious lending to the "entrepreneurs" of the day. So I figured that the banks had learned their lesson and were not likely to risk any recurrence of that. And I was right. The Australian banks are in good shape. They were and are still making profits and sub-prime loans have not been a significant problem in Australia. The bank share prices are way down but as long as the dividends keep coming, why should I worry about that? The new high is always higher than the old high so the share prices will bounce back in due course.

And September/October is dividend time so I have had a good cash inflow recently. I like to keep a fair bit of cash on hand to fund the various gifts and donations that I give out from time to time. My own needs are minimal. I mostly give direct to the intended beneficiary. Giving to charitable organizations usually just supports a herd of parasites. Most of what you give to Big Charity pays for "administration". The only exceptions I make are that I do give to the Salvation Army and to Legacy (an organization that looks after the wives and children of military men who did not come home). The fact that I have some army background is probably sufficient explanation for the latter and it explains a lot of the former too. Many old soldiers will tell you how good the Sallies have been in wartime. And I do have a soft spot for real Christians.

Even so, I recently found that I did have about $10,000 that I had no obvious use for so I BOUGHT SOME MORE SHARES. Why everybody is not doing so rather escapes me. Prices are very rarely as low as they are at the moment. It is a great time to buy cheap.

All of which, in my view, shows one benefit of managing your own money rather than giving it to someone else to manage. I can ride out the share price downturn because I don't need to sell anything. But superannuation funds and the like are always having to sell in order to fulfill their obligations to people who have reached retiring age. So they are selling at a huge loss, which drags down the funds available to everybody on their books. Not smart!

So my recommendation is just buy blue-chip stocks in your own name as a way of saving for retirement.


Journalists hardly even pretend any more

The traditional media is playing a very, very dangerous game. With its readers, with the Constitution, and with its own fate. The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I've found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.

But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I've begun - for the first time in my adult life - to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was "a writer", because I couldn't bring myself to admit to a stranger that I'm a journalist.

Now, of course, there's always been bias in the media. Human beings are biased, so the work they do, including reporting, is inevitably colored. Hell, I can show you ten different ways to color variations of the word "said" - muttered, shouted, announced, reluctantly replied, responded, etc. - to influence the way a reader will apprehend exactly the same quote. We all learn that in Reporting 101, or at least in the first few weeks working in a newsroom. But what we are also supposed to learn during that same apprenticeship is to recognize the dangerous power of that technique, and many others, and develop built-in alarms against their unconscious.

But even more important, we are also supposed to be taught that even though there is no such thing as pure, Platonic objectivity in reporting, we are to spend our careers struggling to approach that ideal as closely as possible. That means constantly challenging our own prejudices, systematically presenting opposing views, and never, ever burying stories that contradict our own world views or challenge people or institutions we admire. If we can't achieve Olympian detachment, than at least we can recognize human frailty - especially in ourselves.

For many years, spotting bias in reporting was a little parlor game of mine, watching TV news or reading a newspaper article and spotting how the reporter had inserted, often unconsciously, his or her own preconceptions. But I always wrote it off as bad judgment, and lack of professionalism, rather than bad faith and conscious advocacy. Sure, being a child of the `60s I saw a lot of subjective "New" Journalism, and did a fair amount of it myself, but that kind of writing, like columns and editorials, was supposed to be segregated from `real' reporting, and at least in mainstream media, usually was. The same was true for the emerging blogosphere, which by its very nature was opinionated and biased.

But my complacent faith in my peers first began to be shaken when some of the most admired journalists in the country were exposed as plagiarists, or worse, accused of making up stories from whole cloth. I'd spent my entire professional career scrupulously pounding out endless dreary footnotes and double-checking sources to make sure that I never got accused of lying or stealing someone else's work - not out any native honesty, but out of fear: I'd always been told to fake or steal a story was a firing offense . . .indeed, it meant being blackballed out of the profession.

And yet, few of those worthies ever seemed to get fired for their crimes - and if they did they were soon rehired into an even more prestigious jobs. It seemed as if there were two sets of rules: one for us workaday journalists toiling out in the sticks, and another for folks who'd managed, through talent or deceit, to make it to the national level....

But nothing, nothing I've seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign. Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates. But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass - no, make that shameless support - they've gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don't have a free and fair press. I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather - not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake - but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Gov. Palin, by rushing reportorial SWAT teams to Alaska to rifle through her garbage. This is the Big Leagues, and if she wants to suit up and take the field, then Gov. Palin better be ready to play. The few instances where I think the press has gone too far - such as the Times reporter talking to Cindy McCain's daughter's MySpace friends - can easily be solved with a few newsroom smackdowns and temporary repostings to the Omaha Bureau.

No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side - or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for Senators Obama and Biden. If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as President of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography. That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: his job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so....

More here


McCain Versus the Juggernaut. We stand with him.

by William Kristol

It's always darkest before it goes totally black. This is one of John McCain's favorite remarks, ascribed (apocryphally, it seems) to Chairman Mao. Well, with 10 days to go before the election, it's getting pretty dark out there.

Still, we hope for a McCain-Palin victory, for the sake of the country. And also for the pleasure of seeing the dejection of the mainstream media, the incredulity of the leftwing triumphalists, and the humiliation of the pathetically opportunistic "conservatives" who've been desperately clambering on board the Obama juggernaut. We're proud to stay off that juggernaut. We're proud, in our modest way, to stand with John McCain and Sarah Palin against it.

An Obama-Biden administration--working with a Democratic Congress--would mean a more debilitating nanny state at home and a weaker nation facing our enemies abroad. We, of course, have confidence that the nation would survive such an interlude, and we would even hope that a President Obama might adjust course from the path he's advertised, especially in foreign policy. But the risk of real damage is great, especially when compared with the prospect of a tough-minded center-right McCain-Palin administration that could lead the country sensibly through these difficult times.

Reading the endorsements of Obama in the liberal media should strengthen the determination of all believers in American self-government and greatness to fight this election campaign to the end. Time magazine's Joe Klein tells us that Obama "seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision." To the contrary, we are a nation of adults. We don't need the "supervision" of a conventionally liberal and totally untested junior senator whose most impressive lifetime achievement has been the construction of an effective narrative about himself.

But wait. Obama does have one great achievement. He's run a good campaign. The New York Times tells us, "After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States." And how has he proved this? "Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change."

The "challenges" Obama has met have been political and electoral. He's met them well, and we'd be the first to pay tribute to his disciplined and effective campaign. Still, is this "proof" of a capacity to be president? Obama has run the most impressive campaign by a non-incumbent since George W. Bush in 2000, and by a non-incumbent Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Do the Obama acolytes want to hold up the Bush or Carter administrations as models for the proposition that a good campaign translates into a good presidency?

We also hear a lot of squeaking from rats deserting the McCain ship about Barack Obama's exemplary temperament. So what? If he'd had his way, Obama would have lost the war in Iraq--with equanimity. He would have been calm, cool, and collected as U.S. interests were sacrificed and U.S. honor besmirched. Neville Chamberlain also had a fine temperament and a good intellect. Joe Biden, by the way, has neither. But he did--much as he now wishes people to forget it--support the Iraq war. These days, he can barely be bothered even to mention Iraq. Oh well, start a war, lose a war. Gotta move on.

John McCain didn't move on. He helped to win the war. In a fine article on National Review Online last week, Byron York reported on a moment at a McCain rally:
"I just gave John McCain my Purple Heart," Marine Sgt. Jack Eubanks told me a few minutes after McCain finished a speech at a campaign rally in Woodbridge, Virginia, Saturday. "I said, 'I want to give this to you, sir, as a reminder that we want you to keep your promise to bring us home in victory and honor, so it will mean something.'?"

The 22-year-old Eubanks has been injured twice in Iraq. He's now teaching Marine recruits at Quantico--and walking with a cane. York explains that Eubanks saw remarkable progress in Iraq between his 2005 and 2007 tours and is concerned that it might all be for naught. "I think Obama's just going to pull everyone home as soon as he can, despite what's going on over there," he told York. "I just don't want it to turn into another Vietnam or worse where everything we fought for, and all my buddies who died over there, it was just for nothing."

We would hope that Obama might be more responsible with respect to Iraq as president than he was as senator, now that the surge he opposed and derided has worked. But hope is all anyone can do. And in dealing with other foreign threats, he'd more than likely follow his natural inclination--reflexively liberal, post-nationalist, timid to a fault.

More here


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


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


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hatred and Politics

Politics in America is a contact sport. Passions flare and the rhetoric can get heated and nasty. Political parties stoke these fires, playing on people's fears as a key fund-raising tactic.

Conservative authors have produced books with insulting titles like "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They Would Be Republicans" and "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder." The political left counters with ugly titles like "The I Hate Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh... Reader," "The I Hate Dick Cheney... Reader," and "The I Hate George W. Bush Reader."

It is ironic, yet natural, that the political left dominates hate literature. The irony is that the left championed "hate crimes" legislation. Having outlawed public expressions of hatred against various groups -- racial, linguistic, sexual orientation, etc.-- the left sees nothing hypocritical about fomenting hatred toward people of a different political orientation. Even if the "hate" authors don't personally hate Bush et al., people on the left must realize how such ugly language can poison susceptible minds.

While ironic, it is not surprising that hatred of political opponents is so virulent on the left. Hatred has long been a central pillar of leftist ideologies, premised as they are on trampling individual rights for the sake of a collectivist plan. Karl Marx boasted that he was "the greatest hater of the so-called positive." In 1923, V.I. Lenin chillingly declared to the Soviet Commissars of Education, "We must teach our children to hate. Hatred is the basis of communism." In his tract "Left-Wing Communism," Lenin went so far as to assert that hatred was "the basis of every socialist and Communist movement."

Indeed, it is easy to see the thread of hatred running through the various illiberal regimes of history, whether Soviet or Chinese communism or Hitler's national socialism. Only hatred could explain the willingness to kill, enslave, and rob vast numbers of innocent human beings. Hatred corrodes one's conscience. Under its toxic influence, a person will regard man's God-given right to be secure in his life, liberty, and property as nuisances to be overcome, not commandments to be obeyed. The flip side of hatred is an inflated self-love, self-importance, and self-righteousness so extreme that respect for other human beings diminishes and, in extreme cases (Stalin, Mao, Castro, Kim, et al.), disappears.

An incident recounted in the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago illustrates this mental deformity (see "Thank You, Alexander Solzhenitsyn"). Soviet officials wanted to transport heavier loads of steel by railroad. When railroad engineers said that heavier loads would break down the tracks, they were shot as saboteurs of progress. When the loads were then increased, the tracks indeed broke down. Political goals could not nullify the principles of engineering.

A leftist conceit is that will-power can change the way the world works. It can't. This mad tendency persists today; signs of it are all around. A recent letter to the editor angrily insisted that the law of supply and demand didn't cause high gasoline prices, but that (what else?) evil oil companies did. The writer then vilified Americans for using too much gasoline (thereby contradicting his earlier statement that demand was irrelevant). So full of hatred is this writer that he spews contempt for economic laws. In his arrogant egotism, he blames the world's problems on the fact that millions of people make choices that he-who fancies himself more enlightened and morally superior to his fellows-thinks they shouldn't make. Welcome to the soul of leftism/illiberalism.

Hatred of individuals for ideological reasons is pathetic to behold. After conservative journalist Tony Snow passed on from a horrible disease (see "Tony Snow: Defender of the President and the Faith"), posters on the leftwing blog Daily Kos wrote "rest in hell" and "[I hope] there really is a hell and [Snow]'s burning in it now." How tragically self-demeaning such hatred is. It is a great sickness of spirit.

More recently, Gov. Sarah Palin has been the object of vicious vituperation and seething hatred (like the threat by comedienne Sandra Bernhard that Palin would be gang-raped if she campaigns in New York City). Perhaps her female attackers feel rebuked by her decision to choose life for babies. Perhaps they feel inadequate by comparison. When I see their contorted faces and hear the desperate unhappiness in their voices, I feel sorry for them and pray that the venom might leave their hearts.



Virginia Officials Illegally Discard Military Votes, Allow Out-of-State Votes

In Virginia's liberal Fairfax County, officials are illegally discarding absentee ballots cast by members of the military based on a technical requirement that is preempted by federal law. Meanwhile, people who live out-of-state are being allowed to vote (some people have boasted of being registered to vote, and voting, both in Virginia and another state) in Virginia elections, contrary to state law, based on instructions from liberal state voting officials and false claims by liberal advocacy groups.

The Washington Examiner reports on October 24 that "Fairfax County elections officials are rejecting about 200 overseas ballots, many of them from members of the military, saying the voters failed to observe a minor technicality in filling out their absentee forms." As retiring Congressman Tom Davis notes, that technicality "violates federal law" through its "disparate treatment of overseas voters."

"The State Board of Elections last week instructed county officials to adhere to the letter of the [state] law," even though it is preempted by contrary federal law. Officials at the State Board of elections are appointed by liberal Governor Tim Kaine.

Meanwhile, that same Board of Elections ordered Norfolk registrar Elisa J. Long to ignore state law by allowing college students not domiciled in Virginia to register and vote in Virginia elections.

The military votes in Fairfax County are being discarded by long-time Democratic operative Rokey Suleman, who became the Fairfax County registrar (a supposedly non-partisan position) after long being "active in Ohio Democratic politics." Suleman earlier sent staffers into the Fairfax County jail to register criminals to vote.

Source (See the original for links)


Voter fraud last time

The problem of voter fraud today is thoroughly revealed in a recent book by Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy (Encounter Books). One of the best features of that book is that it reveals what really happened in Florida in 2000: The Democrats tried to steal the election for Gore, but failed.

On the day after the election, Bush was declared the winner in Florida by 1,784 votes. Gore kept demanding broader and broader recounts, which were conducted in heavily Democrat counties mostly by Democrat party officials. Bush's margin kept declining, but he kept winning the recounts by hundreds of votes. Finally, Gore won a decision by the notoriously liberal fiction writers on the Florida Supreme Court, who began rewriting Florida election law to require a new statewide hand recount without clear uniform standards for each county. Both because the state court was changing the election rules as specified by the legislature, and because the counties would do the recount without uniform statewide standards, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the mandated recount violated the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. With the recounts ended, the Florida Secretary of State declared Bush the final winner by 537 votes.

After all the shouting was over, a consortium of major news organizations conducted their own thorough Florida recount. Despite well-developed Democrat mythology, supported by an idiotically irresponsible HBO movie on the controversy, the New York Times reported the results as follows: "A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward."

But Fund shows that only widespread Democrat vote fraud made the election as close as it was. The highly liberal Palm Beach Post conducted an investigation concluding that the county had illegally allowed 5,600 convicted felons to vote. Felons, of course, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, apparently seeing them as soul mates. By contrast, Democrat lawyers won a motion to disqualify 1,420 military ballots because they didn't have a foreign postmark (which most likely resulted because the ballots were sent back through the U.S. military rather than foreign post offices). Those serving in the U.S. armed forces overwhelmingly vote Republican.

The national TV networks declared that Florida's polls were closed at 7 p.m. Eastern time, even though the polls in the heavily Republican Florida panhandle were still open for another hour because they are in Central time. Fund notes that CBS broadcast 33 erroneous statements between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. that Florida's polls were closed. NBC followed almost immediately by other networks even called the state for Gore at 7:48 pm Eastern time. Fund cites Democrat and Republican pollsters, as well as academics, who concluded that this cost Bush a net loss of close to 10,000 votes.

Most importantly of all, Fund conducts a detailed analysis of Palm Beach County election return anomalies, buttressed by local interviews, to conclude that Bush was deprived of another 15,000 votes through a little scam known as double punching. After the polls closed, Democrat election officials appeared to have taken dozens of the punch hole ballots at a time, and punched through the little box for Gore on all of them, using a nail or pencil. For ballots that had been voted for Bush, this would have resulted in invalid ballots that appeared to have been punched for both Bush and Gore. For ballots that had been voted for Gore, this would have had no effect, because the nail or pencil would have just pushed through a box that had already been punched out for Gore.

Washington State

Fortuitously, what Gore was trying to do by seeking recount after recount in Florida was demonstrated in the Governor's race in the state of Washington in 2004. On election night that year, Republican Dino Rossi had apparently won the Governor's race over Democrat Christine Gregoire by 3,000 votes.

Washington is comprised of heavily Democrat Seattle and King County, surrounded by a sea of Republican counties. Democrats in King County first focused on provisional ballots that were legally invalid because they were not signed or the signatures did not match the voter registration on record. (Provisional ballots are ballots that are cast because the voter does not appear on the registration rolls, so his vote is taken and kept to be verified later if possible.) Even though federal law requires the identity of such voters to be kept private, the Democrats found a judge who ordered that the names and addresses of these provisional voters be given to the Democrat party so they could go to the residence of each one and get the signatures straightened out.

Doing this only in the overwhelmingly Democrat county but not the others obviously would generate a lot more votes for the Democrat candidate. Fund further reports how the process worked, writing, "Democrats spent the next three days knocking on doors and speed dialing voters..Democrat volunteers asked if voters had cast ballots for Ms. Gregoire. 'If they say no we just tell them to have a nice day,'..Only if they said yes did the Democrats ask if they wanted to make their ballots valid." Gregoire got a net gain of 400 votes this way.

Then just two days before the final vote was to be certified, King County announced that it had found another 10,000 absentee ballots. Rossi's lead was soon down to 261 votes. That was enough to require a mandatory machine recount of all votes. Fund reports, "But in King County the recount went beyond running the ballots through the counting machines. Officials there 'enhanced' 710 votes that had been rejected by the machines, in some cases altering them with white out or filling in the ovals on the optical scan ballots." This netted another 219 votes for Gregoire, reducing Rossi's lead to 42 votes.

Democrats demanded and won yet another statewide hand recount. During that recount, heavily Democrat King County found another 561 ballots, more than a month after the election, that had been rejected because election officials couldn't find the voter's original signature in the registration records. Two days later, they found another 22 ballots hidden in voting machines that were already in storage, not sealed and secured in any boxes. "Another treasure hunt turned up 150 more votes that had been mistakenly put into storage," Fund reports. Meanwhile, in the hand recount, officials in King County decided they wouldn't automatically reject "overvote" ballots where the voter had mistakenly marked the ballot for both Rossi and Gregoire. These ballots were forwarded to the canvassing board, which somehow determined that some of these ballots were intended for the Democrat.

Fund reports, "The vote changes piled up so that by December 21, Ms. Gregoire took the lead by eight votes. Democrats promptly claimed victory..Ms. Gregoire was declared the winner by 129 votes two days before Christmas. She praised the whole process as 'a model for the rest of the nation and the world at large..'" This is how democracy has been suspended in Washington state for the last four years.

This is also what Gore was trying to do in Florida. Keep demanding recounts, until Democrat party election officials in heavily Democrat counties could find, create, manufacture, or rule in enough votes for Gore to take the lead. Then the counting would be over

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