Friday, March 30, 2012

Of Two Minds

The other night my son Political Sphere was commenting on the oral arguments on Obamacare from that day, and he made an amusing observation, about why he feels sympathy for Solicitor General Donald Verilli, who was tasked with defending the so-called Affordable Care Act:

I have to say, though, I feel for General Verrilli. He has been put in a terrible position. On day one he had to argue that Obamacare was not a tax. On day two, he had to argue that Obamacare was a tax and furthermore that the individual mandate was necessary (or inseparable, non-severable) from the rest of the act. Then, on day three, he was require tos ay that the individual mandate was severable in case it was determined unconstitutional. Meanwhile his opponent showed confidence in his argument and was allowed by his employer to keep a consistent argument throughout all sections of questioning.
It is possible (although I don’t see how) that Verrilli wasn’t bothered by his conflicting tasks. Truth, to some, is relative and malleable. But the flexibility of his “truth” seemed to strike even the liberals on the court as contradictory.
Ben Shapiro, waiting to speak
at King Street Patriots
This difference of how liberal minds work reminded me of something I wanted to share from Monday night’s interview with Ben Shapiro. Again, as I mentioned Wednesday, he was on a book tour, for his new book Prime Time Propaganda, which he did indeed talk about. But this is yet another tangent (these are from my notes, so a paraphrase of Shapiro, not a direct quote):
There is a fundamental distinction between how conservatives and liberals view rights. Conservatives believe rights descend from God, not the state. Liberals believe rights come from the state, so the bigger the state, the more “rights” it gives.
I have known this difference for a long time. But something about how he said it made me feel like I was discovering it for the first time. Liberals have a completely different way of thinking. This means we have essentially no common ground except that we believe we should have rights—whatever they are.
There is something of an innate sense of the right to ownership, found even in toddlers. If something is yours and someone takes it without your consent, you feel righteous indignation—you have been wronged. Liberals can’t win on basic economic issues, because they lose. So they tend to push social issues. And they tend to persuade using emotional stories and images rather than facts or reason. For example, a captioned photo I saw on Facebook yesterday showed a bald woman in a hospital on life support. The caption reads, “No matter how you say ‘Obamacare,’ ‘Let her die’ sounds worse…” [the ellipsis dots are part of the caption, for grammatical reasons unknown].
This is trying to say, if I’m translating correctly, that you either accept “Obamacare,” or the alternative is letting cancer patients die. That, of course, is a false choice, even slanderous. People against Obamacare are not heartless haters, but people who want a more practical way for that woman to pay for her care than having the federal government step in and take over all our health and personal life-and-death choices, which have very little connection to this woman for whom we all feel sympathy. Does my refusal to grant the federal government control of my personal health care choices and the money I spend on them mean I want unknown cancer patients to die? Of course not. But if you’re only listening to emotion, and you see the heart-wrenching image with nothing to counter it, you might believe so.
Oddly, I happened to read an opinion a week or so ago relating to former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s heart transplant. Some pundit was asking the question, was he too old to have been allowed to receive a transplant organ? (The story itself was mostly just informative; it's the title that I take issue with.) Was he worth wasting this scarce resource on at such an age? He’s 71. His first heart attack was some decades ago, at which point he stopped smoking, limited alcohol, exercised, and did the lifestyle changes that allow someone with heart disease to continue on with hope for a long and full life, which he has had so far. In addition, his wait time on the transplant list, 20 months, was some months longer than average. But the liberal media is questioning the wisdom of allowing his transplant; isn't that the job of a death panel--which comes with Obamacare?
My dad had a heart attack at age 69, never had another, but along the way had quintuple bypass surgery—without the help of Obamacare, but with health insurance. He lived to age 91. I would not have given up those last couple of decades with him by choice. He was there for the growing up years of my children. And he was able to live at home with my mother, and continued to be up and around, doing yard work and tasks around the house, up until very near the end. The odds are not in favor of someone his age living so fully for so long. So it is important that the decisions relating to his health were not in the hands of a distant bureaucrat, deciding how to dole out scare resources based not on knowing the person involved, but based on statistics and some cold calculation of  “what is best for society as a whole.”
It is not private health care choices that would ever deprive that cancer patient of the choice for life-saving care. It could only be a bureaucratic takeover that would do something so callous.
Shapiro suggested that, in order to win in the arena of ideas, when we’re dealing with so many who are emotionally persuadable, we need to make fundamental freedom the argument. Whose choice is it: mine or the government’s? On every issue. Point out where government interference always limits personal freedom.
Not everyone wants personal freedom, because it comes with personal responsibility. The liberal argument is, “You don’t deserve to be blamed for bad behavior,” and “I’m going to give you free stuff.” So there will be weak minds that will not see the truth. But among the masses subjected to liberal media images are also many who would choose freedom and its attendant prosperity if that was what they were being shown. Yes, there are two kinds of minds, but we still have a chance to win the ones not yet fully closed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oral Arguments

On Monday evening I heard an interview with Ben Shapiro, at King Street Patriots. He was there to talk about his new book, Prime Time Propaganda, but he also happens to write about the Obamacare issue for, so he spent a little time on that as well. He gave a good summary of what’s going on this week, sort of your armchair guide to the proceedings.

Shapiro said there are three main issues, one per day (there are also a couple of additional issues, if you read news elsewhere about it):
1.      Timing and ripeness—Monday
2.      Individual mandate
3.      Severability
One point Shapiro made was that oral arguments are pretty much a formality. Most of the justices have already researched and decided their positions—and have for the most part already written their opinions. It is expected that the four conservative members of the court will find the law unconstitutional, and the four most liberal members will find a way to claim it can stand. The unpredictable deciding vote is Anthony Kennedy. He tends to frame his opinions, however, based on his view of personal liberty. He decided Lawrence v. Texas, for example, on his opinion that a state couldn’t have an anti-sodomy law since a sexual act is a private decision (ignoring anti-prostitution laws, anti-bigamy laws, anti-child molestation laws, and a myriad other concerns in so opining). So maybe concerning Obamacare he will be hesitant to force individuals to buy a product.
Timing has to do with the question of whether the issue can be taken up now, even though the penalties don’t kick in for a couple more years. If there’s a tax injury question, the person suing can’t sue until after suffering injury from the tax. Thus the question couldn’t come up until after 2014. The Obama administration sold Obamacare as something other than a tax; it is a penalty forcing compliance, not a revenue source for the general fund. But now the lawyers are claiming it is a tax—so they can put off the question until after the election. But on Monday no one was buying that argument. It can’t be a tax and not a tax at the same time. Really the issue for the justices is whether or not they want to postpone a ruling or handle it now. They all seem ready to take it on, with the exception of Kennedy, who would probably be glad to procrastinate. But on that issue the vote would likely be 8-1.
Tuesday the big issue was the individual mandate. Questions asked by the justices reveal something of their opinions. And it looked very bad for the pro-Obamacare crowd. Government lawyers seemed surprisingly unprepared to answer the basic question at the heart of the issue: can government force a person to participate in commerce they would otherwise not choose so that government can regulate that commerce? The deer-in-the-headlights response made it look like they’d never considered the question, which isn’t possible. But it does reveal how unanswerable the question is for them. And the follow-up core question is, if government can force a person to buy a product they would not otherwise purchase simply because there is the power to regulate commerce, what can government not force a person to do? There were analogies galore: can government force a person to buy broccoli? Since everyone will die, can government force a person to purchase burial insurance? Since anyone might at some point need to make a 911 call, can everyone be forced to purchase a cell phone plan?
Near the end of the day, Kennedy gave a tiny spark of hope. The government argument was that young healthy people not participating in the health insurance market did possibly have an effect on the costs of the market. Actuarially that is true: if young healthy people don’t put themselves into the insurance pool, then the pool is made up of individuals more likely to make claims, and therefore the costs overall are higher. If those young healthy people who won’t be making many claims can be forced to pay for full coverage, the costs overall go down—because those young people are subsidizing the less healthy. Those young people without coverage, if they can afford it, would likely opt for catastrophic coverage only—and pay out of pocket for their fewer basic medical needs. But Obamacare prohibits them from having the option of buying catastrophic coverage; it forces them to buy full coverage. The mandate is intended to force healthy people to buy a product they do not want so that the government can say it is lowering costs for unhealthy people.
You might see it as enslaving the lower-earning youthful demographic to pay for the healthcare costs of those who have saved up enough to retire.
Anyway, Tuesday did appear to be disastrous for supporters of the individual mandate. I hope that proves true.
Wednesday is about severability—assuming the mandate is struck down, does that mean the whole bill is struck down, or can the mandate be removed with the rest left standing. This is probably the biggest question. Technically, there is no severability clause written into the bill as required; the bill was written intentionally to have the mandate be the means of making the rest of the bill possible. If the mandate falls, the whole bill falls. But, after arguing the other way to get the bill passed, the government is now arguing that even without the mandate, the rest of the bill should stand.
There are economic and plenty of other reasons this is wrong. But the Supreme Court as a whole isn’t about simply looking at the law and the Constitution; it’s about deciding what they and/or the people want and then crafting a slant toward that end. In this case the likely reason the mandate will be struck down is that a majority of the people are strongly against it and believe it is unconstitutional (this has been true since before passage and continues true even after two years, even before the pain of payment has kicked in). So I think it’s likely the mandate will be struck down. But then this severability question becomes the sticking point. The liberals on the court ask things like, shouldn’t we let Congress decide these things? (even though, clearly, that was a bad idea in the first place—particularly when it was totally partisan and required bribes and shenanigans even to get that single party to pass it).
Shapiro pointed out that deciding to leave the rest of the bill standing minus the mandate could be the worst possible outcome: insurance companies would be forced to insure the highest risk individuals (can’t turn anyone down) but have no way to force healthy individuals into the pool to mitigate their costs. Insurance companies would go bankrupt. And that would mean the only option left standing would be government healthcare—or socialized medicine. Costs would be higher. Care would be less. Choices would be limited. All our fears would be realized.
So let’s hope the court (particularly the unpredictable Justice Kennedy) can see the facts and rule justly.
And if for some reason that doesn’t happen, we must, absolutely must, vote Obama out of office before this catastrophe gets institutionalized.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games on the Spherical Model

Speaking of tyrannies, today is the day the Supreme Court hears arguments concerning Obamacare. I am not comfortable having what was intended to be the least powerful branch deciding whether or not we have the God-given right to choose which health insurance to buy, of to choose not to buy at all. Nevertheless, I will be joyful if the court come out clearly saying our Constitution does indeed limit the federal government to enumerated powers. At the end of the day, you can listen to the audio of the proceedings here.

fire logo found here
Meanwhile, I’m talking today about what everybody is talking about: The Hunger Games. After a book club last year, I wrote a little about it. But the movie has revived the discussion.
I’m always pleased when a movie based on a book is well realized—instead of disappointing. That was true of The Help this past year—more beautifully visualized than in my head while reading. And it is also true of The Hunger Games. The family joined in a reading frenzy over Christmas break and early January 2011. We read all three books one after the other, which becomes kind of essential once you start reading.
The books are disturbing, and the description isn’t at all something I would seek for my reading enjoyment: a combination of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Survivor (TV series), and some post-apocalyptic sci-fi stuff. The protagonist is female, and there are late-teen love interests, so this appeals to teen girls. But this really isn’t chick-flick fare. The 16-year-old protagonist is more masculine than feminine: she is the breadwinner and head of household since her father died; she has no expectations of ever marrying and having a family in the miserable world she lives in; she has no time for wistful daydreaming when she’s so focused on survival. She's good at hunting and smart at strategy. Women can be good at all of these things, but they're not usually the theme masses of young girls flock to.
The series was recommended to me first by a friend of my son Economic Sphere, someone whose tastes tend toward Japanese anime (that often makes my eyes glaze over) and over-the-top zombie fighting. But when my daughter Social Sphere picked it up with enthusiasm, I gave it a try. The books are upsetting and intense and will not be for everyone (and are not for pre-teen readers). Nevertheless, I thought they were a worthwhile read.
As for the movie (the first in a series of movies, I’m hoping), it was beautifully cast, maybe perfectly. And in most ways carefully faithful to the book. Very satisfying. The violence, while not what I would call sanitized, was nevertheless not overly graphic. (R-rated violence is simply beyond what I can stomach, so I appreciate the limitations of a PG-13 rating.)
Here’s TMI about me: I used to never cry in movies, ever. Occasionally a book would get to me (Where the Red Fern Grows hit me hard in 4th grade). But I just wasn’t overly emotional well into adulthood. Then pregnancy happened, and my tear ducts got attacked by hormones. When we lived in California in the late 1980s, there was a series of Pacific Bell commercials telling the story of two men and a woman from their young lives into old age. I cried during the commercials. Ridiculous, I know, but I do think they were well done. However, I am resentful of a movie (or book) pressing buttons to get an emotional reaction just for the sake of it—not by getting us to actually know and care about the characters.
I didn’t have any tearful moments reading the books, but I got in the movie, with the story and characters I already knew vividly before me, and the tears came. I cried when Katniss stepped forward to volunteer in her sister’s place—an almost certain life-giving sacrifice. I cried when Katniss and Peeta entered the arena in the fire-blazing chariot (I really can’t explain why). I cried when Katniss said goodbye to Cinna moments before rising on the pedestal into the arena and probable death. Then I pulled myself together and didn’t cry again until Rue fell, which, in my defense, was a perfectly reasonable time to get weepy.
The ending was a little unsatisfying—considering we’ll need to wait at least a year for a second movie. But it did leave us with the unsettling sense that all is not resolved, as the book does. We need to feel unsettled when a world is left in tyranny.
Let’s review what you’d expect from tyranny, according to the Spherical Model. Under tyranny, the state can do anything it wants, and individual freedom is limited to whatever the state decides to grant. That is precisely true in Panem, the post-American collection of districts in The Hunger Games. You can also expect savagery and poverty.
District 12, where Katniss and Peeta live, is a mining community, with pay limited to just above subsistence. Peeta’s family runs a bakery; he has worked there all his life. It is very low-tech, like you’d see in the early 1900s. Very few people can afford anything special, like a frosted cake. Katniss only gets bread when she trades it for a squirrel (meat), which she illegally poaches. A few government officials have a slightly better standard of living, but in general the whole district understands poverty.
Other districts are similarly specialized and limited. Rue’s district produces crops, but the people are not allowed (on penalty of death) to eat their own harvest, so despite food around them, they are on the verge of starvation.
Meanwhile, in the capital, there is opulence undreamed of—along with the decay of boredom, extreme fashion, and triviality. These decadent people are entertained by watching teenagers murder one another—or die due to the cruel creativity of the game makers. This spectacle is supposed to remind the people that they should be grateful for the iron-fisted rule of the government, because the chaos and cruelty of anarchy and famine were worse.
Here’s where the Spherical Model can be helpful in understanding. State tyranny and anarchy are not the only alternatives; they are simply the two sides of the lower half of the sphere. It’s true most of the world’s real history (let alone fictional worlds like Katniss’s) alternates between these two choices. But that is because so many people are blind to the entire northern half of the sphere—the freedom sphere.
What you can expect is that when a people are under extreme tyranny, they will gladly risk their lives to rebel and overthrow the regime. The rebellion brings about the chaos of anarchy, at least for a time. Then someone steps up and says, “Give us power; we can give you safety and order.” And then a new tyranny appears.
The American exception was a deliberate move away from both chaos and tyranny—toward organized and institutionalized freedom. It took an intelligent and righteous people to both come up with the concepts and to live in ways that made the ideas more important than the personal power. George Washington was a man provided by God for such a moment in history. Much the same can be said of the other founders. They risked their lives, their fortune, and their sacred honor—not for a chance to be the next power, but to return the power to the people, where God had originally placed it.
Looking at the character of Katniss and Peeta, they have goodness about them beyond the expectations from their upbringing. But they aren’t the power seekers. So we’ll see if they can bring about freedom-directed change in their world, rather than just more oscillation between the various southern hemisphere tyrannies.
There is one detail about the book that defies belief: the capital has extraordinarily advanced technology compared to the outlying districts. They have hovercrafts. The arena for the games is detailed and controlled well beyond The Truman Show. Medical care and healing are miraculous compared to the very limited resources available to the people (compared to most of our experience today). I’ve talked about this with various people, who solve the question by saying the technology existed before the fall of the previous civilization and rise of Panem. Maybe so. But what we do know is that tyranny limits creativity and invention. You get those things from the interrelationship of political freedom, economic freedom, and civilization—our goal.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Trampoline Effect

The other night I was reading something about the recovering economy—a recovery so tepid we can’t perceive it; instead we must take government’s word for it. Never comforting. And the reading led me to talk with my son Political Sphere about the concept that, the deeper the recession, the stronger the following recovery. I wrote about this principle with more detail in “Parabolas” on November 21st.

photo from
So, we were discussing this concept, and Political Sphere unveiled what he calls the Trampoline Effect. On a trampoline, the harder you come down (from a higher or heavier fall), the higher and more powerful the bounce back up. But if a big brother (yes, he worded it that way, with plenty of extra meanings) steps in to “help,” it doesn’t help. It usually disturbs the bounce, taking the energy out of it, and you end up with buckled knees and a few small bounces fading into flatness.
Picture the difference between a parabola (the natural down and back up bounce) and what is euphemistically referred to as an L-shaped recovery, but is really just the dribble that happens from interference in the bounce.
Big Brother “helping” is the government stepping in, taking actions that interfere with the energy of the natural growing economy.
So, every time you hear someone say, “We had to do something,” or “Think how bad it would be if we hadn’t taken action,” translate that in your mind to the Trampoline Effect. Does the jumper need you to step in and “help” in order to bounce back up? No, that is going to happen unless you interfere.
A recovery, by definition, is coming back up to at least the starting point. If that hasn’t happened, we’re either still going down, or we’re stuck down flat because of the interference. What we need is for Big Brother to get out of the way so we can make a few small tentative bounces and put our energy into building up a good parabolic rise. But every time he steps in, he zaps the energy out of your bounce and leaves you flagging.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fun with Economics

I considered talking about Paul Ryan’s economic reforms, in the news yesterday. It has been a while since we talked here about economic issues. (It’s harder to get commentary here at home right now, since my son Economic Sphere left for the Army, although Political Sphere can fill in pretty adequately; he's just having more fun doing the math on delegate counts.) But that seemed kind of serious for the beginning of spring, when bluebonnets are decorating the highways here in Texas.

It was my experience as a college freshman that economists are funny. In a good way. I laughed a lot in that class, as the teacher intended. He seemed energized by our laughter. But it does take some thinking to get the humor.
I often check in with Greg Mankiw’s blog; he’s a Harvard economics professor (author of the most popular basic economics textbook used in the country) and an economic advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And sometimes his sense of humor is evident in the blog. Today he references a summary of his 10 Principles of Economics, in a video, translated by yet another funny economist.
Here are the 10 principles:
1.      People face tradeoffs.
2.      The cost of something is what you give up to get it.
3.      Rational people think at the margin.
4.      People respond to incentives.
5.      Trade can make everyone better off.
6.      Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity.
7.      Governments can sometimes improve market outcomes.
8.      A country’s standard of living depends on its ability to produce goods and services.
9.      Prices rise when the government prints too much money.
10.  Society faces a short-run tradeoff between inflation and unemployment.
So, sensible, but not funny—yet. But when Yoram Bauman, the Standup Economist, translates these principles for the lay person (anyone without a PhD in economics, he suggests), you start to see the humor. And it’s important to laugh when times are as serious as they are today. Plus, there's evidence that when the learning environment is positive (and funny is positive), learning sticks better than when the environment is negative (boring or scary).
The video is a little more than five minutes well spent.

Monday, March 19, 2012

War against Women and Children

It’s probably time for a little review about international law. In theory, we are a sovereign nation, and our basic law is the US Constitution. No other law takes precedent over this document. But at the international level there are agreements among sovereign nations. It used to be that these were limited to some basics like how to handle piracy on the high seas. These became standard agreements over centuries of experience and practice.

In the past few decades there has arisen something more like instant international law. Supposedly, any time an international body meets and makes agreements, any nation represented there is subject to the new instant “international law.” Even when a nation’s representatives don’t agree. Even when the nation’s representatives are not actually national representatives but are simply members of non-governmental organizations from that country.
The absurdity of enslaving a free nation like the United States to some arbitrary ad hoc body is absurd on its face; we simply don’t need to consider these “laws” as anything more than suggestions that have no weight or relevance when considering case law within our nation. That would be true if we didn’t have judges in our country who, despite taking an oath to uphold our Constitution, they think it’s a good idea to override that with whatever international law might be pushing (Ruth Bader Ginsburg has admitted that this is her approach).
So there is an actual danger to us in the US when the UN holds meetings. You should also be aware that, at these various UN-sponsored meetings, NGOs tend to show up to lobby—because they can’t get their agendas through legislatively. And almost all of the NGOs that show up to lobby have agendas that are anti-US, anti-family, anti-woman, and anti-child. They have deceptive names, however, describing themselves pretty much as opposite of their goals.
So, during the past several weeks (February 27-March 9), was the UN “Commission on the Status of Women.” The stated theme for this conference was “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication.” Who could be against such a goal? But since these conferences are opportunities for pushing agendas, we need someone to guard against harmful language and in favor of language that will actually help families, women, children, and the poor. One of the very few NGOs that show up with this guardianship role in mind is United Families International. Their report on thisconference is here.
Here’s an example of the challenge UFI faces:
During the negotiations on the priority theme resolution, a suggestion to include a positive reference to “wives and mothers” and a reference to the “vital role of the family in society” met with stiff resistance while the same resolution included 15 references to “gender” (gender mainstreaming, gender sensitive, gender dimensions, gender equality, gender perspective, gender inequality, gender-stereotypes, gender transformers, and on and on). The resolution on maternal mortality at one point had 18 similar references to “gender”, and the HIV resolution had 29!
This alone serves as a reminder that the UN as a whole and the Commission on the Status of Women in particular is focused on the promotion of radical feminism and that the intentional overuse of “gender” also lays the framework for the promotion of the idea that a person’s gender is “fluid”- tying it directly to the homosexual agenda.
Could we be overstating the concern? Probably not. The concept of “comprehensive sex education” is a case in point:
What exactly is “Comprehensive Sex Education?” The shortest answer is probably this: Comprehensive Sex Education is pornography for children. Those who promote it are seeking to change society by changing sexual and gender norms and that includes training young people to advocate for “sexual rights.” The pro-family coalition actively worked against the U.S. delegation who repeatedly tried to strong-arm and deceive the other delegations into including the phrase “Comprehensive Sex Education.” It was our task to inform and convince these countries of what they would be signing on to if that language were included. To see an explanation of what is included in “Comprehensive Sex Ed” programs go here. (warning: contains graphic content)
In the end, there was some good news and some bad news. First the bad news:
The U.S. sponsored resolution on maternal mortality and morbidity was adopted last Friday—in spite of countless hours of work on the part of the UFI team and other pro-family groups to strip it of some very anti-life and anti-family language. We will be doing “damage control” from this resolution for years to come. We found we couldn’t compete effectively with the lack of transparency of the closed negotiations (mostly held within the U.S. Mission complex) and the less-than-honest manipulations of a highly-aggressive U.S. delegation.
But the good news is, some agreements were not reached. The resolution on the HIV was “tabled” for this year (but vigilance will still be required next year). And there were no “agreed conclusions” on the anti-family and anti-woman language in the resolution on rural women and poverty eradication. Ironically, the blame is being placed on the US delegation that refused to accept anything that did not accept their “comprehensive sex ed” and other radical agenda points. In general, when these groups of diplomats fail to agree, that means a temporary delay in the enforcement of their agenda on us family-loving free people.
Thank you to UFI and others willing to stand up to the Goliath of negative forces in this international arena.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Texas Voter ID
Wednesday’s post was concerned with the Texas Voter ID law going up against the DOJ, with the suggestion that the approach should include the unconstitutionality of section 5 of the 1964 Voting Rights Act.
J. Christian Adams followed up later Wednesday with the news that Attorney General Greg Abbott had indeed used this approach, by amending the complaint to aim it directly at the unconstitutionality of the law. Good news.
list provided by
Delegate Count
On March 7th I commented on the actual result of Super Tuesday compared to the negative media about Mitt Romney—even though he increased his lead. I was amused to see that Rick Santorum has been complaining about Fox News being a shill for Romney, and that the media is all in the Romney camp. You can hear the clip here.
Santorum seems to believe that mentioning the delegate count (fact) while also spending a disproportionately large amount of coverage on Santorum’s wins is “shilling” for Romney. It’s not true, and the interviewer called him on it.
One thing this extended campaign has done: show us more of who the candidates really are. Here is my new assessment: Rick Santorum complains about unfair treatment even when he has been treated disproportionately positively. What is he likely to do against the Chicago machine? Plus, he’s aware that there is no way (barring Romney dropping out, which isn’t going to happen) for him to earn enough delegates to get the nomination—but he is staying in the race based on the fantasy that all those Romney voters were wrong, and their delegates will gladly flee to him during a brokered convention just 2 ½ months before the final election.
Then there is Gingrich. We have learned (if we didn’t know it), that he is vindictive and delusional. He has no path to the nomination; his only reason for remaining in the contest is to do whatever it takes to deny Romney the nomination. (Think about the dirty tricks of Huckabee last time around, but expanded to the entire national convention, instead of just a state caucus or two.) Gingrich continues to put out ads that are clearly false and damagingly negative against Romney—because in Iowa Romney PACs put out accurate but negative ads against Gingrich. Does this man have the best interests of the nation in mind? Or is he using followers and their money for his own misplaced passions?
In case you missed it (because, even though it has been covered, the most reported story has been Santorum’s “big wins,” here are the delegate increases since Super Tuesday (during which Romney won 276, Santorum won 90, Gingrich won 81, and Paul won 21):
·         Romney 80[*]
·         Santorum 70
·         Gingrich 24
·         Paul 4
Gingrich and Santorum both claim that Romney isn’t a strong front runner, because he hasn’t sealed the deal. Yet it was a similar situation four years ago. The difference then was that Romney looked at the odds, and at what was best for the country, and stepped out of the race. Then he worked to get the GOP nominee elected—and as many conservative candidates around the country as he could help. It would be better for our country if Santorum and Gingrich were more interested in making sure Obama is defeated than following their personal dreams. 

One More Thing

Santorum has portrayed himself as the social conservative. While Romney has portrayed himself as the fiscal conservative—and economic turnaround expert—it might turn out to be a pleasant surprise to those Santorum devotees once they come to learn about the real Romney. There was an opinion piece in the Deseret News (the more conservative of the two newspapers in Salt Lake City), identifying Romney as much more conservative on all fronts than his opponents and the media have portrayed him. If you want to read something positive today, read this one.


[*] This list comes from the Romney campaign and coincides with Real Clear Politics. There are discrepancies in counts from one news source to another, because each state has its own formula for allotting delegates. One difference is accounted for because Wyoming was separated into two days (primary and caucus, one before Super Tuesday, and one after—both of which Romney won), plus the assignment of unpledged RNC delegates, which went up another 9 for Romney this week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Texas Voter ID

In last year’s legislative session, Texas passed a law similar to laws in other states requiring a photo ID for voting, in an attempt to reduce voter fraud. I havewritten about some of the voter fraud that has actually happened, that could have been prevented with a photo ID. I am strongly in favor of free and fair elections and have worked toward that end, volunteering as a poll watcher several times.

Texas is, unfortunately, subject to the 1964 Voting Rights Act. Texas is required to get federal approval for any changes in voting law and redistricting. I was not a Texan then, but the purpose was to prevent certain southern states from being able to prevent legal voting because of racism. That was 48 years ago. It may be that there were incidents of racist voter prevention back then; the state was solidly Democrat at that time. But now, while certain little pockets of racism still exist (among rural, older, less educated citizens), racism is simply not tolerated publicly or privately anywhere I associate. So, in essence, I believe such an act is outdated, unnecessary, and illegally discriminatory against Texas and the other sovereign states listed in the Act.
Today, subjecting all voting law changes and redistricting to federal review means subjecting ourselves to the racist discrimination of Eric Holder’s (and Obama’s) Department of Justice. It’s no surprise that they would be against Voter ID; they were the ones who refused to prosecute the New Black Panthers for several incidents of voter intimidation and violence since 2008. Their logic? Blacks can’t be considered racist, so anything they do is legal. (Read J. Christian Adams’ book Injustice.)
The claim about the Texas Voter ID is that legally registered Hispanic voters are unduly burdened, because they are less likely to have a photo ID, particularly in rural areas.
I’m suspicious of that assessment. In order to live in a rural area, driving just to a grocery store is a significant distance. Legal voters, we are to believe, live in the middle of nowhere, with no access to public or private transportation, and have no need to cash a check, get a library card, use a credit card, or fly on a plane—ever. And we are to believe this creates such a huge burden for such large numbers of Hispanics that even offering free state photo IDs cannot and will not solve the issue.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has already filed a lawsuit to fight the ruling, so that it goes up to a higher level court. I admire Mr. Abbott and generally see him as fighting strongly for Texas interests. I hope he is doing that in this case. However, yesterday, Christian Adams made suggestions for an approach to the fight the DOJ. He says the point of attack should be the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Adams believes that both that section of the law and the way it is applied is unconstitutional. He believes Texas didn’t go far enough in stressing that point when coming up against the redistricting question, and can only show it’s seriousness on the Voter ID law by attacking on the unconstitutionality of the law.
The use of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to block Texas voter ID is, in fact, unconstitutional. The Voting Section used statistical exaggerations and misapplication of the law to justify the objection. Why wouldn’t Texas challenge the constitutionality of the action against Texas?
Adams also points out that other states (Florida and Arizona) have used the unconstitutionality argument in their defense, and the DOJ has essentially folded. So there is no danger of political repercussions based on fear of the DOJ. Adams adds,
Had Texas filed a lawsuit in April 2011 to have voter ID approved, and challenged the constitutionality of Section 5 in the complaint, voter ID would now be in place in Texas. Instead, it is unlikely to be effective even by November 2012—unless Texas challenges the constitutionality of Section 5. Then approval will come faster.
This is one of those times when Texas needs to remember that we are the only state in the US that was once a sovereign nation; we joined the United States on the promise that the Constitution would protect our freedoms. Texas needs to stand firm—now and always.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Obama Bent on Stopping Israel, but Not Iran

This is a brief follow-up to Friday’s post about the feckless current president. I came across Charles Krauthammer’s assessment of Obama’s AIPAC speech and follow-up. Obama followed the AIPAC speech, in which he insisted, “I do not bluff,” by admitting in a news conference two days later, (as Krauthammer phrases it) “this phrase is just a historical reference to supporting such allies as Britain and Japan—contradicting the intended impression he'd given AIPAC that he was offering special protection to an ally under threat of physical annihilation.”

So, I was right about Obama’s speech being a feckless example of rhetoric, excuses, and obfuscation. 
Krauthammer’s summary is even more direct:
Obama garnered much AIPAC applause by saying that his is not a containment policy but a prevention policy. But what has he prevented? Keeping a coalition of six together is not success. Holding talks is not success. Imposing sanctions is not success.
Success is halting and reversing the program. Yet Iran is tripling its uranium output, moving enrichment facilities deep under a mountain near Qom and impeding IAEA inspections of weaponization facilities.
So what is Obama's real objective?
"We're trying to make the decision to attack as hard as possible for Israel," an administration official told the Washington Post in the most revealing White House admission since "leading from behind."
Revealing and shocking. The world's greatest exporter of terror (according to the State Department), the systematic killer of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, the self-declared enemy that invented "Death to America Day" is approaching nuclear capability—and the focus of U.S. policy is to prevent a democratic ally threatened with annihilation from pre-empting the threat?
Obama isn’t just occasionally wrong; he is consistently wrong. When he’s that consistent, it has to be purposeful. He is purposefully making America less strong and the world less safe. If this is true, then the next speculation is why? I don’t think he’s insane, and I don’t think he’s stupid. That means he has reasons for weakening America and endangering the world. His actual reasons are what we need to know—and have the public know—before there is another election that could risk irreversible harm to our freedom and prosperity, and safety in the world for ourselves and our allies.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Resolute vs. Feckless

Today is, in part, about adjectives. I was entertained a couple of days ago listening to Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. He noted that Phillip Rucker andDavid Farenthold had written a news piece (not an opinion piece) for the Washington Post in which they referred to the “famously genial” Mitt Romney. That means that the description is so widely accepted as to be considered fact rather than opinion.

It’s a positive term, and reinforces the theory that the most cheerful candidate is likely to get elected. Hewitt went on to conduct an exercise, to see what word(s) would be so widely accepted as to be considered fact about Obama. Callers contributed a number of suggestions, mostly negative about Obama, and also mostly very unlikely to pass the editorial rules of the Washington Post. The closest to being generally accepted was “thin skinned.” I would add (as some callers did) “narcissistic,” “arrogant,” and “condescending,” regardless of any editorial board. But then I came across another I think is fitting: “feckless.”
The word is used in an editorial in Monday’s Washington Post by Mitt Romney, in reference to President Jimmy Carter during the time when “U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House.” Romney reminds us that a new president made a big difference: “On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.”
The editorial looks at the similar, but possibly more dire, situation concerning Iran today. The response now, as ever, is to be strong and resolute:
The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy. While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world.
Romney then lays out a “peace through strength” policy. It’s nicely done. But there’s even more about this piece that indicates some brilliance. This was the day before the Super Tuesday vote, but it was written for a  Washington plus national audience, not one of the target states. And it didn’t at all follow the narrative Obama had been prescribing for the past week or two: “those evil Republicans want to take birth control away from women,” which is absurd on its face, untrue to the nth degree, but a surprisingly effective reframing of the actual issue: coercion against religious freedom. Romney simply doesn’t let Obama decide on the narrative.
Obama had two speeches this week, one of which was on Israel (and so peripherally about Iran policy as well), which was exactly what you’d expect from either Carter or Obama: rhetoric, excuses, obfuscating. Nothing convincingly strong. But you can decide for yourself.
I agree with Romney’s assessment:We can’t afford to wait much longer, and we certainly can’t afford to wait through four more years of an Obama administration. By then it will be far too late.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The End of the Beginning

What happened on Super Tuesday? A good outcome for Romney, moderately respectable for Santorum, a very low threshold of positive for Gingrich. Paulistas hung in there. Before we look at the numbers, take a look at some of today’s headlines from Real Clear Politics:

·         Danger Signs for Mitt Romney
·         Inconclusive Tuesday

Those are all just from today. But just the negative ones, so here’s a list of the positives:
·         Ohio, Romney & November
Yes, that is ten against to three neutral/positive. These are from a wide range of mostly conservative pundits, so if you ever thought conservative media was in Romney’s pocket, you haven’t been keeping score. MSM stories tend to run 70+% negative toward Romney, as you’d expect. So, essentially all of Romney’s success is in spite of overwhelmingly negative media.
If you were to read the headlines without doing any math, you might think Super Tuesday had been an unmitigated disaster for Romney. So maybe we should do the math to find out the truth.
There were ten states voting yesterday. Romney won six (60% of the states). Santorum won three (30% of the states). Gingrich won one, (10% of the states). Paul won zero, but he and all of them did pick up some delegates. And it’s delegates that count toward the nomination, so we want to look at those, but before we do that, let’s look at percentage of voters, and the lead winners held over the second place finisher.
59.5 % (+19%)
39.8% (+14.3%)
72.1% (+60%)
61.6% (+43.4%)
38.0% (+1%)
32.6% (+3/6%)
37.3% (+9.3%)
33.8% (+5.7%)
North Dakota
40.0% (+12.9%)
47.2% (+21.3%)

Romney came in second in three of the four states he did not win (3rd in the final state, North Dakota). In addition to the three he won, Santorum came in second five times (plus 3rd in Vermont and not on the ballot in Virginia). Paul, who won zero, came in second in Virginia, Vermont, and North Dakota (with a very close 3rd in Idaho). Gingrich did get that important win in his home state, but he still got less than half the voters there; he came in third or dead last in all the rest. There’s a little more to rub in about Gingrich: he had tried to claim Romney barely won his “home state” of Michigan last month, but Romney hasn’t lived there for forty years (he still won, but it was close). However, Massachusetts, where Romney has been living since his 20s resoundingly supported him. Gingrich’s support in Georgia was much more tepid. And in his other home state,” Virginia, where he has been living for the past decade, he failed to get on the ballot. If Romney had failed to get a vote in Michigan, then Gingrich might have something to say about that, but Romney won the “other home state.”
OK, but since the delegate count matters in the end, that’s the real story. Here’s how that went.

North Dakota

 Romney was awarded 168 delegates in states he won, plus 48 in states he didn’t win (he got delegates in every state), for a total of 276 for the day.
Santorum was awarded 55 delegates in states he won, plus 35 in states he didn’t win, for a total of 90 for the day.
Gingrich was awarded 54 delegates in the state he won, plus 27 in states he didn’t win, for a total of 81 for the day.
Paul was awarded 21 delegates for the day.
The total for the day was 468 (not all estimates are the same; these are the current estimates from, which may vary slightly from Romney was awarded 59% of the votes. Santorum got 19%. Gingrich got 17%. Paul got a little under 5%. Put another way, if you add up all the non-Romney delegates, that’s 192, or just 41% of the delegates.
Of the 731 delegates assigned so far, Romney has 404, Santorum has 161, Gingrich has 105, and Paul has 61. Romney has 55% of the delegates so far.
Is it a sure thing that Romney will get the nomination? No. But he is a very strong and very clear front runner. Santorum would need to garner over 60% of the remaining delegates (with Utah and California looming ahead) in order to have a chance. Another thing we’ve seen is that, when Romney goes in person to spend time in a state, so that people see him instead of the media-created perceptions of him, the trend surges in his favor. My guess is that more of that surging is likely to happen after healthy Super Tuesday wins.