Thursday, March 30, 2006

Representation and Polling

Powerline has a great discussion on polls and why Democrats are often surprised at the election results when they thought they were ahead in the polls. The media really enjoys polls that show bad things for Republicans. The actual representation of Democrats and Republicans in the population has become very close to even over the past 20 years, but the media polls tend to oversample Democrats by 10 points or more. Worse yet for the "surprise factor" (from a Democrat POV) is the Republicans tend to turn out better in elections.

The Democrats found a lot of the "evil" of the "Republican machine" on this. They claim that the "polls looked fine", but then they lost the election. The answer must mean that "Republican dirty tricks", or "election day shenanigans" somehow "stole" an election that they were all set to win.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I finished up the Bill Sammon book "Srategery" a week ago or so. It has been awhile since I've read anything pro-Bush, and it is pretty amazing to hear the viewpoint these days. The biggest thing that hit me as reading it (although Sammon never mentioned this) is the contrast of the Clinton apologists with the treatment of the Bush people like Karl Rove.

Remember James Carville, Paul Begala and George Stephanopoulas? I suppose many don't, but they were the big paid Clinton hit men of the '90s, and they are all still around. George now has his own "news" show on ABC, "This Week with lefty Clinton Apologists". Well, maybe not exactly that title, but name one Reagan or Bush 1 guy that has his own mainline media show, or even "other" show where they are called anything other than "conservative commentator". Why is that different when they are the left? Carville and Begala have a book out that I saw being fawned over on a show recently. "Take It Back", or something like that.

There seems to be a bit of a difference between the MSM view of Republican operatives and Democrats that do the same thing. Chris Matthews, "Hardball" worked for 4 Democrats, Tip O'Neil being the one he talks of most. Tim Russert of "Meet the Press" worked for Mario Cuomo and then Daniel Moynihan. These are the guys that the MSM puts out front and center to give us "straight news" ... Oh, but Fox is biased, because Al Franken tells us that Bill O'Reily may have registered as a Republican at one time in the distant past. I suppose we ought to expect the standard for FOX to be different. BTW, Britt Hume, no such political background as the MSM guys previously mentioned. Huh, FOX is the most biased, apparently "biased" means "employs others besides certified Democrat operatives".

The Sammon book talks of the Bush people as actually decent, talented people trying to do what they see as the right thing for the country. Interestingly, Clinton people that talked of "Dragging a $50 bill through a trailer park ...", attacked any Clinton opponent by any means possible, including dredging up marital affairs that were 30 years old are STILL talked about as not only "decent", they are GREAT, and even given jobs by the MSM. The contrast between the treatment of those people and say "Karl Rove" is not very subtle.

Sammon is unabashedly pro-Bush and has inside access to the WH. The book chronicles 2004 and 2005 ... The election, Abu Grab, the convention strategies, the Swift Boat guys, Rathergate, the exit polls, social security, Katrina, Meyers, and up to Alito from the inside. Most stories have far more than two sides, reading a book like this makes one question how the MSM could be quite as incurious as they are. Maybe they have an agenda rather than an interest in reporting what is happening?

One thing is pretty certain, Billy C was WAY short of being the "comeback Kid" that George Bush has been, don't expect the MSM to be saying that a President that has beaten the odds over and over is in any way deserving. What was a point to be celebrated for Clinton is a terrible accident with dark overtones in the case of Bush.

Personal Notes

I was thinking that I was getting close to a full year of blogging, like most other things, I was late. The first entry was the 15th of March last year. For a busy person, blogging is one more thing to be late at. Is it worth it? Maybe mostly for friends and family that don't really care what I think politically, they can ignore the blog, and don't have to ignore quite as many conversations or e-mail notes as otherwise.

Mostly people care very little of what others think of most anything, they have their views, they like their views, and they are going to keep them. If something is "wrong", the problem pretty much has to be with someone else. The set of people that look at positions from both sides of the spectrum is tiny, and the set of people that actually enjoy a political discussion with someone that knows enough to make some challenging points is even smaller. As the media becomes more and more polarized, people are more and more able to hear only what they want, and in general, it seems that is the course that the vast majority on both sides are following. They are gravitating to the news sources that provide only the views that they feel comfortable listening to, and their blood pressure just goes up too high if they get exposed to the other side.

Thinking of a year ago also reminded me of heading out on the 7 day cruise over spring break. No spring break cruise this year, will be a couple of days up in the Twin Cities of family fun at the end of the week, but otherwise work as normal. Having a senior in HS that is doing part time college credit and part time HS credit means that he gets no real spring break, so we are staying around home. There will be a summer cruise to Alaska, so the deprivation isn't too severe.

It looks like we may break 60 on Thursday this week, so that should really get us into spring fever mode in MN.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

City Hall Evicts Easter Bunny

Nice little article in the Pioneer Press about how tolerant our great state of MN is of "spring decorations". I hesitate to even consider an easter bunny and plastic eggs "religious" in any form, but they are too far out for the city of St Paul. Here are some quotes from that article:

A toy rabbit decorating the entrance of the St. Paul City Council offices went hop-hop-hoppin' on down the bunny trail Wednesday after the city's human rights director said non-Christians might be offended by it.

The decorations — including the stuffed rabbit, Easter eggs and a handcrafted sign saying "Happy Easter," but nothing depicting the biblical account of Christ's death and resurrection — were put up this week in the office of the City Council by a council secretary.

"I sent an e-mail that Easter is viewed as a Christian holiday and advised that it be taken down," said Tyrone Terrill, the city's human rights director. "It wasn't a big deal."

Why does the nation become more polarized? Christians are expected to tolerate anything from crosses in urine, constant swearing in the workplace, gay marriage and all other manner of direct attack on their faith in the public square, while a secular easter display is too large a burden to even contemplate a non-christian having to view. "Tolerance"? Don't expect to see any of that from the left.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pour It On

The following is a great post from the WSJ that is worth a read. For those of us who have ever seen W live, we understand completely. During the Clinton years, the press always spent a lot of sympathetic time on "how difficult it was for poor Bill". All decent Democrats ought to be getting regular oral sex in the workplace I guess and that evil Republicans would seek to restrict a guy with as tough a job as Slick who felt everyone's pain, was just too much to contemplate. The MSM "support for Bush" ... or even any notice if he does anything positive is quite evident.

I've blogged enough in the past on some very solid attempts by Bush and Cheney to get the real story about Iraq out. There have also been ads run in MN at least by private groups that make a good attempt. The reason that Bush was re-elected is that when 100's of millions are spent actually getting the other side of the story out, and people are faced with having to vote for an actual Democrat, the numbers get quite different. Yes, there is "Fox News", and while it isn't over in the left ditch like the MSM, it isn't exactly the "Bush support system" that the MSM and Democrats make it out to be either. It was the network that broke the Bush DWI story just prior to the first election for example. What makes Fox noteworthy is that it is PRO-AMERICAN ... that is what is unique about it comparted to the MSM. Yes, Conservatives tend to be more pro-American, so in that way it is more "conservative", but it is a long way from "Republican".

The whole MSM, the Democrats, and a goodly number on farther right want to see this President break. This article makes a point that I suspect to be true ... bring it on, it ain't going to happen.

Pour It On
Whatever Laura's feeding George, it's working.

Friday, March 24, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

For those of us who've complained for more than two years that this White House was ill-serving the troops in Iraq by not making the public case for Iraq, that changed this week in Wheeling, W.Va.

Whatever George Bush had for breakfast Wednesday morning, Laura should see that the White House larder is packed with it. By noontime, Mr. Bush was in Wheeling delivering the third in a series of public speeches to defend the Iraq war. For a president whose public persona--West Texas accent, smirk, swagger and errant word choice--has become the biggest butt of presidential comedy since Richard Nixon, it was an astounding, bravura performance. In fact, I'll pay him the highest possible compliment: It was Clintonesque.

Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill reside in the Valhalla of great communicators, but Bill Clinton and Harry Truman thrived as mere mortals, not only connecting with the mythic "common man" but somehow bonding to them. George Bush joined that class in Wheeling on Wednesday.

It wasn't the sort of set speech that presidents normally read, bobblehead bouncing between two teleprompters. Holding a hand microphone, Mr. Bush walked around a stage before a few thousand people giving a largely extemporaneous talk on Iraq and his presidency. It was mesmerizing. One kept expecting Mr. Bush, whose deepest supporters despair at his inarticulateness, to stumble into the underbrush of confused facts or argument to nowhere. Never happened. Not once. For over an hour, it was nothing but net.

OK, it wasn't Demosthenes, but it was George W. Bush at his Everyman best. The same George Bush who, when televised in front of the White House news corps comes across as a smart aleck, poured off the cable-news screens from Wheeling as a relaxed, buoyant, passionate evangelist for his presidency's most deeply held ideas--political freedom, military pre-emption and playing not to the polls but for the verdict of history.

Two obvious questions: Where's this guy been? And, to quote a long-ago factory boss, Is it a day late and a dollar short?

First answer: He was last sighted on the campaign trail. This is the man, liberal mockery and amazement notwithstanding, who won two hard-fought presidential elections, not as spin has it, only by Rovian genius but by connecting with audiences. But why what worked for a campaign was abandoned in time of war is something that will have to await an answer from the Bush White House memoirists.

The second question--does it come too late for his presidency or the war--is a tougher nut. Eerily, the Ides of March, the 15th of the month, just passed over the Bush presidency at perhaps its lowest ebb. His rating with the pollster's mob is an unseemly 37%. His version of the Roman Senate, the Republican Party, is in virtual political anarchy and content to let Mr. Bush bleed alone. Various Beltway solons have declared the president's war on Mesopotamia's Islamic fanatics a failure; Iraq is described by the press as on the edge of civil war. And almost daily one's close friends, strong supporters of Mr. Bush, say, "It's over."

But not until it's over.

When in our time people think of collapsed presidencies they often have in mind Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. For different reasons, both men broke. What Bill Clinton proved above all else is that no matter what the press, law and politics throw at you, the protective powers of the presidency are almost limitless--if you don't break. Mr. Bush's opponents, such as Democrats waving censure motions or blood-soaked front pages, had better get a grip: He isn't going to break. The Wheeling performance makes that clear.

Wheeling, however, also suggests both the promise and near-term peril for the Bush presidency. It was a signal event, but the print press largely ignored it. The Washington Post Thursday had no story; the New York Times and L.A. Times had minor accounts inside. The talk in fact broke no news in the traditional sense. But as in a presidential election, events that strike the print press as "nothing new" matter hugely in terms of public sentiment, that is, whose ideas win.

At the same time, the status of Iraq's government should be news. In last Thursday's Washington Post, columnist David Ignatius, writing from Baghdad, described in detail "unmistakable signs here this week that Iraq's political leaders are taking the first tentative steps toward forming a broad government of national unity that could reverse the country's downward slide." The column described intense negotiations following the February Samarra mosque bombing to form a national security commission acceptable to all political parties. A search of the Dow Jones-Reuters Factiva database for other accounts of these negotiations turned up only one story, a good one days later by Edward Wong of the New York Times, albeit on the bottom of page A10.

The tendentious editorial decision to paint the high-traffic front pages red with blood and demote the hard slog of political progress in Iraq to the unread inside has an effect. Any normal person would be depressed by constant face-time with stories of barbaric slaughter. If what amounts to a kind of contemporary brain-washing of both the American public and Washington elites causes them to falter and Iraq to "fail," no future president of either party is again likely to deploy U.S. military resources in any sustained, significant way. You can't imagine what "lose" will mean then.

The public's pessimism is at least understandable. Less defensible is that of Washington's exit-seeking elites. A bracing reality check for these folks has just been written by Frederick W. Kagan, a military specialist with the American Enterprise Institute. Hardly a flack for the White House, Mr. Kagan argues persuasively in "Myths of the Current War" (find under the Scholars listing at that all the woulda, coulda, shoulda about going into Iraq and now getting out fast is simply irrelevant. "It does not matter now why we went into Iraq," Mr. Kagan writes, "only what will happen if we do not succeed there."

The White House has paid a price for not engaging these issues. Wheeling was a start. Keep pouring the Wheaties, Laura.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sanding Off the Truth

MN Democrats have discovered a new way to talk about truth. While everyone in the world was on record as saying that Saddam had WMD, Bush apparently knew there would be none and his lie would be exposed, so he "lied" and went into Iraq anyway. At least that is what a "lie" used to be, you had to KNOW the truth but say something else.

Of course, things are far different if there is a "D" next to your name. For Bill Clinton, you just change the definition of "sex", "is", "perjury", and a few other things and "no lies". With MN Senator Majority Weasel Dean Johnson, it is "emebellishment" or "sanding off the truth". This is from a MINISTER, who other ministers have to tape record when he is lying to them, because they know he is a weasel. For non-weasels, you know they will continue to to stand by their words even if it is unpopular and costs them ... like Bush with WMD or Ports deal, but unlike Johnson.

'But Johnson said he did not 'lie' about the matter. To lie requires 'intent to deceive,' he said, while 'embellishment is sanding off of the truth.'" (Bill Salisbury, "Tearful Senate Leader Sorry For Supreme Court Gay Marriage Flap," Pioneer Press, March 17, 2006) No doubt the media will have a hard time staying on this story, but this web site should help

The man tells a group of ministers that he has talked to multiple MN Supreme Court justices and they have assured him there is no reason for a Gay Marriage amendment, there is no way they will overturn the law that MN has. Small problem, that would be a grave breech of judicial ethics were they to tell him that, but no problem it turns out they never even discussed it with him at all. So, he "sanded the truth".

The MN papers are being very careful to not call it a "lie", even on editorial pages, and they are mostly indicating that any attempts to keep this going are "politically motivated". A real rareity in politics. I'm sure we would see a similar viewpoint were there anything like this for anyone that had an "R" next to their name? Yea, sure, and if you believe that, be sure you aren't buying any discount watches on the street, I hate to tell you that they might not be quite "genuine".

Man, Democrats just hate tapes, stains, and oxegen starved wet secretaries bodies in their cars. They have this "sanding" down with complete media compliance even when there ARE physical facts, but those things are "inconvienient". The media is even willing to call any Republican prediction about the future that doesn't turn out to be perfect a "lie" (no matter how many Ds said exactly the same thing). It seems like the physical universe of fact ought to just be outlawed if one has a "D" next to their name and whatever they say is "truth". It seems only fair.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Feeling Lucky, Keweenaw Sledding

As a computer programmer I like to think that I understand reason and logic as well as the next guy and more than most, but I would never claim that those elements are the only, or even the major drives in my life. Case in point, I have been slowed and challenged by recovery of my broken elbow sustained on January 5th, with surgery on the 9th. I've been spending hours per day in various sorts of stretching activity trying to get motion back, lots of trips to the Doctor and bad nights of sleep trying to deal with a brace that keeps pressure on the arm to straighten or bend it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was first able to have enough motion to get my contacts back in, so I decided I was ready to snowmobile again. Anyone that buys a $7K machine that they may not get to use at all in a winter doesn't get top marks for reason, but I suppose taking off riding after surgery, rehab, and lots of lost hours when the arm still is far from 100% could be considered grounds for insanity, BUT, the trails were great, the sled was great, nothing bad happened at all, and it was WAY worth it! There are few things as much fun as doing something "insane" and coming out just fine.

Sometimes we like to think that it would be great if we humans felt the most motivated by what was logical and reasonable and showed the greatest odds of bettering our lives or the world around us all the time. In fact, a scientist thinking of "adaptive behavior" might assume that millions of years of adaptive evolution would produce exactly that outcome ... a very rational and adaptive human. They would of course be wrong.

We feel the best when we feel "lucky", when some sort of risk has paid off and things went well. We are forever cheering the underdog. Vegas and the lottery draw their billions, and like Lake Woebegone, we like to think all our kids are "above aveage".

Riding a snowmobile on groomed trails in the daytime without having any alcohol and staying generally at less than 60MPH isn't really completely "death defying" ... but relative to sitting behind a desk punching keys, it is pretty wild. The Keweenaw picked up 30" on top of the 15-20" that they had on the ground and we had some of the best trails ever, and very low traffic. managed to get the sled up from 160mi to 500mi, so got it broke in a bit for it's first year. It may not have been the most sane way to spend a couple days of vacation, but at least for me, it would have been hard to beat on the fun scale.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Capitalist Manifesto

I was encouraged to read the Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein, and although I think it is a fine book and would encourage many to read it, for me it was a bit too much "preaching to the choir". I've already been over a lot of this ground with Hayek, Freidman, and like Bernstein, Ayn Rand. I'd like to find an author from the left that came close to being as fun to read and had as much an effect on readers as Ayn. My personal opinion over the years is that isn't possible, since economic freedom, rule of law and allowing individuals to choose what to do with the fruits of their labors is as necessary to economic success of a country as oxygen is to most life on this planet. The collectivist ideas flat out don't work, and all manner of attempts have failed to change that result, so writing something like this from the left would be like writing about a flat earth.

Bernstein goes over the good comparisons ... Hong Kong, East and West Germany, North and South Korea, Cuba and the USSR vs the USA. These have been well covered in many other books, and the results are completely clear. He also does a good job of questioning the idea that the Scandinavian countries are the exception, that socialism actually works there. It appears that we may have a case there of "killing the goose that laid the golden egg". Relatively pure capitalism was used in the past to create the wealth, and today that wealth is being squandered and the future borrowed against. One could argue that much the same thing is going on in the US with the entitlement programs like Social Security.

Where he does a little better job is in pointing out the fallacies of "the glorious pre-technology, pre-capitalist" past. Hobbes pretty much defined it, life was "nasty, brutish, and short". The VAST majority, like 90%+ lived in filth, disease, chaos, starvation, and pain for mercifully short lives. The myth of the "primitive secular Eden" is more widely held these days than the account of Eden in Genesis which those of us who are Christian hold to be true. Bernstein tars religion with the same brush as other partakers in the feudal system and given the history of the Catholic church there is merit there. Whatever the fault, when the masses are chattel that are not educated and allowed to improve themselves and their state, their lot is horrific. Church, King, or modern state, without the power of access to knowledge and the ability to profit from their labors, the material existence of the mass of humanity is not to be envied.

It is unleashing the power of the mind and the willingness to leverage it that makes capitalism great. By allowing "creative destruction", capitalism stays vibrant and in it's purest forms prevents the winners from one age from locking in their wins by stopping advancement and keeping things the way they like them, since the last round turned out in their favor. In general I agree with him, but it is at this point that I have trouble with the "pure approach". I understand why Bernstein takes it, like Rand he wants to leverage the obvious success of the capitalist system into a philosophy of life that "explains everything" in a tidy way. "The good is what provides the most/best life" ... the cynic in me says "he who dies with the most toys wins". Simple yes, but sadly lacking any real meaning.

This is where I part ways with the manifesto. If we are here by randomness and there is nothing beyond this, then other than maximization of pleasure, what would all this be for? The old supposed deep philosophy is "what will it all matter in 100 years"? Which of course is a way of saying "nothing", but in fact if it doesn't matter then, it doesn't matter now either. Dying with the most toys, dollars, friends, pets, or even books is still dying, and as in all things human, that is the final, not optional reality.

He also does nice defenses of attempted arguments against capitalism as causing war, being responsible for slavery, taking advantage of 3rd world poor people, and even defends the much maligned "robber barons". It is a solid work in defending the utility of the tool of capitalism, his only weakness is that he (like Rand) wants to decide that an economic model can be expanded to explain life, the universe and everything. Standard human idolatry, to convert "A good" into THE GOOD, and the ALL. We have a built-in desire to want more than meaninglessness, and also a built in compass that allows us to allow that answer to find us. Many decide that answer is not for them and go off and invent one. In the end, Bernstein looks at the universe and sees it as a nail to the capitalist hammer.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Democrat Outlook

As I saw the UAE ports deal go down by huge inside the beltway margins, I decided that all the parties inside the beltway except for Bush had found something they could agree on, stupidity. All the folks in Congress, Republican or Democrat are politicians at heart, which is very often just a slightly more complimentary way of saying “weasels”. Reagan is the only guy of my lifetime that managed to get to a leadership position that seemed to have far more principle than politics. Bush shows some good tendencies to that direction from time to time, and on this one his weasel quotient was exemplary.

We have established that a huge percentage of Americans, maybe 75% or more are anti-Arab company “ownership” of US ports. Very few of them likely know what they are really against here, but the media usage of “Arab", “foreign ownership” and “threat to security” was enough to stampede even more than the usual sheep. I’m reminded that 75% of the sheep were once in favor of the Iraq war as well, so the sheep are fickle.

When I allow the negative Democrat side of my brain to run wild I can see a dark vision in which the protectionists of right and left get together, pass some protectionist legislation that kills the current round of globalization. The Democrats win both houses of Congress in the fall and start impeachment for Bush, they pull out of Iraq, the markets crash world wide and the world plunges into the great depression II along with global terrorism. The MSM and the Democrats are insufferable in smug happiness as they settle in to blame it all on Bush as they blamed the first depression on Hoover and we face a new 50 dark years of Democrat hegemony.

Actually, just a negative dream, but March being the cruelest month in MN, it is tempting to think like a Democrat sometimes. As I look at the current Bush travails, I’m reminded that the media does a 50% good job of reporting with both parties; they report success well for Democrats, and failure well for Republicans, but there is always an issue of “hope”. Bill Clinton was always “the comeback kid”. Whenever he faced problems due to the evil Republicans or nasty stains, the media expectantly licked their chops and looked for another sign of a “comeback” … a good speech, a slight uptick in the polls, some stock going up, a woman with big hair within his reach, ANYTHING was a sign of a new fantastic “comeback”. They loved him.

Bush was “certified dead on arrival” after the 2K election … not really elected, “appointed president”. He was double dead when the great hero Jim Jeffords defected to the Dems and gave them a Senate majority. He was guaranteed to lose seats in the 2002 elections, presidents usually do, and he was guaranteed to. Afghanistan was a “quagmire” in 2 weeks. Iraq was a giant mistake from the beginning, and the list just goes on and on … “Mission Accomplished”, Abu Grab, 1K soldiers dead, the economy, jobs, this poll, that poll, Katrina, Meyers, now the ports. The MSM has declared Bush “dead and over” so many times they can’t be listed. So far he has recovered and come back from every one of them to date bigtime. He isn’t any “comeback kid” though … when the MSM sees Bush recover, their attitude is the opposite.

The Republicans in Congress have done themselves no favors on this one. Today the sheep think it is a great idea to diss the Arabs and Bush on the ports deal, tomorrow they will have changed their minds. When you tie yourself to polls and politics vs principles, tomorrow is even more volatile than the normal events of life and the world make it. We will pay for the ports deal over time. We need friends in the mid-east, the UAE have been solid friends, yet we have shown that racism, protectionism, and playing politics are worth more to us.