Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Progressives" Shocked To Discover Lockean Roots Of Constitution

Wow, the left is pretty stupid:

Every week, the Tea Party Nation hosts a weekly radio program, calling itself a “home for conservatives.” Two weeks ago, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips hosted the program and discussed changes that he felt should be made to voting rights in the United States....

PHILLIPS: The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.
[Rather moronic emphases removed]

Phillips is of course correct about the property requirements originally needed in order to be a voter. The legal concept was that of a "freeholder." Phillips is also correct in his assessment of the reasons why the Founding Fathers (or most of them) supported such a view. Phillips is undoubtedly wrong in thinking such provisions could be re-implemented or would meaningfully address any current deficiency in our voting practices.

However, Phillips is actually engaged in working through the political theory (at least in a limited fashion) and that is a hell of a lot more than his critics seem willing or able to do.

Think Progress (which ironically seems to require very little in the way of thinking):

Phillips is advocating a policy of voter disenfranchisement that has its roots in the 18th century. When the United States was first founded, ownership of property was one of the requirements to vote in most elections. Many of these restrictions were phased out by the 1820s and replaced with requirements that the voter pays taxes. By 1850, these requirements, too, were phased out.

This is all true, but trite. It in no way is an attempt to asses the reasons why we would make the changes we did; how the changes affected the way politics happens; the relative strengths and weaknesses when compared to the freeholder system; in other words the kind of thinking that should be done when engaged in political theory.

Granted Think Progress doesn't win the award for "I have no idea what I'm talking about stupid." That goes to Crooks and Liars. They quote the same Phillips soundbite above and respond:

Sure, let's just do away with the principle of "one man one vote" altogether! After all, the Roberts Court has now enshrined corporate personhood -- this would be the next logical step.

What? One man one vote? What does that have to do with the idea of restricting voting to Freeholders? Well, nothing. The poor folks at Crooks and Liars just got themselves confused while they were attempting to parrot another lefty site who were going on about the idea some Tea Parties tossed around about getting rid of direct election of Senators and mentioned that this would mean the principle of one person one vote for U.S. Senators would be violated. (This is so muddled I have no idea what they could be talking about. You cannot have "one man one vote" nationally when both Rhode Island and California both get to vote for two U.S. Senators. And since Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, all state legislatures have to adhere to "one man one vote." Simply giving state legislatures the task of picking U.S. Senators wouldn't alter that.)

The stupidity has given me a headache.

Maybe more later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The New York Times Model

The idea, we have been told from time immemorial it seems, is that a news organization like the New York Times would be dedicated to the principle of objectivity, so it wouldn't matter what the ideological/political proclivities of the individual reporters or editors were. If they voted 90% for one party over another we were never to worry because their objectivity would save the day. If you were to question that assumption based upon, oh I don't know, maybe a rudimentary understanding of human nature, well, you were a bad person who didn't appreciate how hard these journalists work. (Yeah, it was always a non sequitar, but that's what they always said.)

Well, Power Line points to something interesting. When the Climategate documents were released last year, the Times science reporter, presumably with the backing of the Times editors, stated the following policy:

"The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."

What noble principles!

Yesterday, however, the Times published the following concerning the Wikileaks papers:

The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The New York Times and a number of publications in Europe were given access to the material several weeks ago and agreed to begin publication of articles based on the cables online on Sunday. The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match....

The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest. As a general rule we withhold secret information that would expose confidential sources to reprisals or that would reveal operational intelligence that might be useful to adversaries in war. We excise material that might lead terrorists to unsecured weapons material, compromise intelligence-gathering programs aimed at hostile countries, or disclose information about the capabilities of American weapons that could be helpful to an enemy.

On the other hand, we are less likely to censor candid remarks simply because they might cause a diplomatic controversy or embarrass officials.

Unless, of course, those remarks are made by scientists espousing the pet catastrophe theory of today's left, in which case "mum" is the word.

As Power Line states:

Without belaboring the point, let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable.

But I'm being silly. Of course, the famous objectivity of the Times will come and save the day. All we need to do now is redefine what objectivity means.

1. The state or quality of being objective.
2. External or material reality.
3. Whatever the New York Times says it is.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Well, this holiday isn't exactly going to plan. The wife and I are at home instead of being with the rest of the family in St. Louis. The combination of a mouth recovering from a root canal and bad weather on the roads made it impossible to do anything but stay put.

But, while it may not be what I was expecting, I can still give thanks for a tooth that is feeling better (something I share with an elephant), and rejoice that a feast will be had. Granted, a more appropriately sized chicken will replace the turkey, and my wife's Greek style green bean dish is no green bean casserole (thank God), but the pie is pumpkin so that is something.

So, for my American friends and readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

For my non-American friends and readers: Have a nice Thursday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Dumber Guy

This is Snarkalicious: Steve Benen Finds the Shooter on the Grassy Knoll

If there weren’t so many exciting football games on today I could probably crank out several thousand words on the subject of fever swamp ramblings and overt political showmanship, but why ruin an otherwise perfectly nice Sunday? What Mr. Benen has really stumbled upon, (with the help of Mr. Yglesias) is the shocking fact that, in addition to digging the country out of a vast, black hole of spending, debt and taxation, Republicans would like to win the 2012 presidential race. Yes… shocking, I know.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Profiles In Courage

I see the collective weight of the lefty blogosphere has decided to descend upon a 16-year old girl.

Is that a Pulitzer I smell?

(Gleaned with the help of Memeorandum, who obviously have the stomach for more inane shit than I ever could.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Idiots For A New Age

Losers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your... um... well... you have nothing to lose period. 2 Dems claim Huffington stole website idea

Two Democratic consultants are accusing Arianna Huffington and her business partner of stealing their idea for the powerhouse liberal website Huffington Post.

Peter Daou and James Boyce charge that Huffington and partner Ken Lerer designed the website from a plan they had presented them, and in doing so, violated a handshake agreement to work together, according to a lawsuit to be filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The complaint is a direct challenge to the left’s most important media property from two stalwarts of the progressive movement. And it challenges Huffington’s own oft-told story of coming up with the idea in conversation with Lerer and other friends.

“Huffington has styled herself as a ‘new media’ maven and an expert on the effective deployment of news and celebrity on the Internet in the service of political ends,” says the complaint. “As will be shown at trial, Huffington’s and Lerer’s image with respect to the Huffington Post is founded on false impressions and inaccuracies: They presented the ‘new media’ ideas and plans of Peter Daou and James Boyce as their own in order to raise money for the website and enhance their image, and breached their promises to work with Peter and James to develop the site together.”

That's right. Because no one had thought of putting ideologically based opinions on the Internet before Boyce and Daou came along.


Food Justice

Be gentle with me. I'm still learning how to do these things.


It's a start.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Remember, You Heard It Here First

Vindication, it is way too rare an event. From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Florida insurers rely on dubious storm model

Hurricane Katrina extracted a terrifying toll -- 1,200 dead, a premier American city in ruins, and the nation in shock. Insured losses would ultimately cost the property insurance industry $40 billion.

But Katrina did not tear a hole in the financial structure of America's property insurance system as large as the one carved scarcely six weeks later by a largely unknown company called Risk Management Solutions.

RMS, a multimillion-dollar company that helps insurers estimate hurricane losses and other risks, brought four hand-picked scientists together in a Bermuda hotel room.

There, on a Saturday in October 2005, the company gathered the justification it needed to rewrite hurricane risk. Instead of using 120 years of history to calculate the average number of storms each year, RMS used the scientists' work as the basis for a new crystal ball, a computer model that would estimate storms for the next five years.

The change created an $82 billion gap between the money insurers had and what they needed, a hole they spent the next five years trying to fill with rate increases and policy cancellations.

RMS said the change that drove Florida property insurance bills to record highs was based on "scientific consensus."

The reality was quite different.

Today, two of the four scientists present that day no longer support the hurricane estimates they helped generate. Neither do two other scientists involved in later revisions. One says that monkeys could do as well.

In the rush to deploy a new, higher number, they say, the industry skipped the rigors of scientific method. It ignored contradictory evidence and dissent, and created penalties for those who did not do likewise. The industry flouted regulators who called the work biased, the methods ungrounded and the new computer model illegal.
Florida homeowners would have paid more even without RMS' new model. Katrina convinced the industry that hurricanes were getting bigger and more frequent. But it was RMS that first put a number to the increased danger and came up with a model to justify it.

Long time readers of The Iconic Midwest might remember that I took these RMS people to task almost four years ago (!) for this work. I wrote:

Insurance companies are now using the threat of global warming to rip its customers off. Evidently a group called Risk Management Solutions (RMS) supplies the models insurance companies use to get an idea of what their risks and liabilities are in hurricane prone areas. Well, last spring threw out its old models based upon 100 years worth of empirical evidence in favor of a guess; a guess real life hurricane experts call "actually unscientific."

Those guesses have not only been unscientific, but they have been spectacularly wrong:

The new RMS model called for at least 11 hurricanes to come ashore in the United States by the end of 2010, most of them aimed at Florida.

Four hurricanes struck the U.S. None hit the Sunshine State.

RMS stands by its five-year outlook and contends that the risk of hurricanes remains higher than normal. Company officials last week said they would continue to adjust their model as needed, but a single five-year lull does not disprove their results.

Yet a growing number of experts now wonder if the changes spurred by RMS -- and the accompanying spike in insurance premiums -- were justified.

The woman credited with launching the industry of hurricane modeling questions how near-term models were introduced. She accuses RMS of overselling software that lacked sufficient scientific support, and says insurers accepted the output of that model as if it were fact.

"I've never seen the industry so much just hanging on what a handful of scientists or one model would say," said Karen Clark, founder and former CEO of AIR Worldwide, an RMS competitor.

"They're just tools," Clark said.

"They're models.

"They're wrong."

The details on how the "model" was created in the first place are fascinating in that they really seem to indicate fraud on the part of RMS:

The daily papers were still blaring news about Katrina when Jim Elsner received an invitation to stay over a day in Bermuda.

The hurricane expert from Florida State University would be on the island in October for an insurance-sponsored conference on climate change. One of the sponsors, a California-based company called RMS, wanted a private discussion with him and three other attendees.

Their task: Reach consensus on how global weather patterns had changed hurricane activity.

The experts pulled aside by RMS were far from representative of the divided field of tropical cyclone science. They belonged to a camp that believed hurricane activity was on the rise and, key to RMS, shared the contested belief that computer models could accurately predict the change.

Elsner's statistical work on hurricanes and climatology included a model to predict hurricane activity six months in advance, a tool for selling catastrophe bonds and other products to investors.

There was also Tom Knutson, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist whose research linking rising carbon dioxide levels to potential storm damage had led to censoring by the Bush White House.

Joining them was British climate physicist Mark Saunders, who argued that insurers could use model predictions from his insurance-industry-funded center to increase profits 30 percent.

The rock star in the room was Kerry Emanuel, the oracle of climate change from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Just two weeks before Katrina, one of the world's leading scientific journals had published Emanuel's concise but frightening paper claiming humanity had changed the weather and doubled the damage potential of cyclones worldwide.

Ah yes, Kerry Emanuel...what are the chances he would have been involved in the RMS debacle? Based upon the tenor of his work (which I have discussed before here, here, here and here) it was almost inevitable he would be involved in this.

The entire article is worth reading, and if you live in Florida it will be enough to send your blood pressure soaring.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Steve Benen = World's Biggest Moron

The sheer ignorance of it all is amazing:

If our political system made more sense, this would be an astounding scandal that would dominate the discourse.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday during a meeting in New York that the new GOP majority in the House will "serve as a check" on the Obama administration, a statement unusual for its blunt disagreement with U.S. policy delivered directly to a foreign leader.

Yep, you heard it here first. Steve Benen is shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, to discover that one branch of the United States government can serve as a check upon another branch of the United States government!

The real scandal is that foolish maroons like Benen are not dismissed out of hand when they say things so stupid a fourteen year old could correct them.

Steve Benen, either resign or prove you can pass high school civics.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Ethical My Aching Ass [UPDATED]

First Amendment anyone? Keith Olbermann suspended after donating to Democrats

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay after POLITICO reported that he made three campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement Friday: “I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

Olbermann made campaign contributions to two Arizona members of Congress and failed Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Olbermann, who acknowledged the contributions in a statement to POLITICO, made the maximum legal donations of $2,400 apiece to Conway and to Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. He donated to the Arizona pair on Oct. 28 — the same day that Grijalva appeared as a guest on Olbermann’s “Countdown” show.

NBC has a rule against employees contributing to political campaigns, and a wide range of news organizations prohibit political contributions — considering it a breach of journalistic independence to contribute to the candidates they cover.

Don't get me wrong here. I believe Olbermann is a mean spirited nitwit, but this "ethics" policy is more stupid than Olbermann. I'm sorry but being a journalist, even a really bad one, does not make you a second class citizen. The free exercise of citizenship has to include the ability to "put your money where your mouth is." It's one thing for an organization not engaged in an activity intimately connected to the First Amendment to put restrictions on the free political activities of its employees. Its another for a journalistic operation to do so. Oh, they are free to make whatever policies they want; it is just in the case of MSNBC, or any other organ of the press, such policies are asinine.


I just loved this from Simon over at Stubborn Facts:

At first blush, this is all to the good: Olberman is vile, a poison to public discourse, and so there's a certain satisfaction seeing him get slapped. Alas, on closer inspection, it's Griffin who's the jerk in this story. Just what are those policies and standards that Olberman violated? "Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions."

Is this a joke? How could anything jeopardize the "standing as an impartial journalist" of Keith Olberman, who is one of the most viciously partisan hacks ever to defile a television studio? Olberman is paid to be partial, and now he's being suspended for endangering an impartial reputation that he's never had?

Presumably, before today we were supposed to believe Olbermann was an ethical jackass.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

First They Came For The Toys...

Since when has San Francisco been run by Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger?

George Will sums it up:

The point of progressivism is that the people must progress up from their backwardness. They cannot do so unless they are pulled toward the light by a government composed of the enlightened - experts coolly devoted to facts and science.

The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers...

...Responding to [these kinds of ideas], George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux agreed that interest-group liberalism has indeed been leavened by idea-driven liberalism. Which is the problem.

"These ideas," Boudreaux says, "are almost exclusively about how other people should live their lives. These are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else's contracts, social relations, diets, habits, and even moral sentiments." Liberalism's ideas are "about replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas . . . with a relatively paltry set of 'Big Ideas' that are politically selected, centrally imposed, and enforced by government, not by the natural give, take and compromise of the everyday interactions of millions of people."

You do not have to agree with the above criticisms, but there is no doubt they are a substantial, measured and rational response to the political vision offered by the political left in this country. Sure, for most people this unease may be only felt in an inchoate manner, a sense of unease and dissatisfaction with the path the Democrats have followed the last two years, but there is little doubt about the message voters sent to Washington and their state houses on Tuesday. They want something else.

The reaction from the left has been a combination of denial, hissy-fits, and crap like this:

Republican voters are dreadful unlettered hillbillies who poo in their trucker caps and only have sex with chickens because the goats move too fast

Gee, where can I learn more about this sophisticated and exciting political world-view? Is a full frontal lobotomy necessary or only recommended?

But, really, Will is right. The political left today does seem to operate and think of themselves as a "vanguard party" and the greatest mass of people they believe are unwashed and child-like peasants who need to be taught by Democrats not to screw the livestock and how to feed their children. It's a creed that increasingly makes disdainful moralizing pronouncements about "average" Americans so severe they would make a Puritan blush, and then they are shocked, SHOCKED I SAY!, when people don't want to vote for them.

It's no mystery to me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

IMW Report Card

OK, lets check the old election predictions from your friendly neighborhood blogger:

House: Republicans 227 Democrats 208 (Dems lose 48 seats)

Hmm. I didn't do so well here. Oh, I didn't miss the Republicans taking the House (like most Political Scientists did back in 1994), but I missed the margin of victory rather badly. There is still some final counting to do, but it looks like the Dems will lose 64-65 seats. I am shocked at how Democratic support simply collapsed in the Midwest. The implications of that could be huge down the road, and I'm sure there are plenty of Democratic analysts trying to figure out how to reverse fortunes there.

Senate: Democrats 53 Republicans 47 (Dems lose 5 seats)

As of right now it looks like I nailed this one. (We are still waiting for Washington state's numbers, like we wait every election. They really ought to update their systems up there. A team of five blind Capuchin monks could do the job quicker; five Capuchin monkeys quicker still.)

So, prediction wise, the night wasn't a total loss. I give myself a B-.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I'm Supposed To Be Sad About This?

The only phrase that comes to mind here is WTF? From Think Progress:

Every single day, President Obama receives a special memorandum with “10 pieces of correspondence addressed to” him from Americans of all walks of life, a tradition he has kept up since he made the request to receive these letters on the second day of his presidency.

In January of this year, Obama read a letter from Jennifer Cline, a 28 year-old woman living in Monroe, Michigan. Cline informed Obama that she and her husband had both lost their jobs in 2007 and fallen on hard times as a result. “I lost my job, my health benefits and my self-worth in a matter of five days,” she wrote. Following the loss of her job, Cline “was diagnosed with two types of skin cancer, and she had no health insurance. She signed up for Medicaid, and treatment was successful. She went back to college after her unemployment benefit was extended.” She hoped that in “just a couple of years we will be in a great spot.”

After reading the letter, Obama chose to reply with a handwritten note on White House stationary. He wrote, “Thanks for the very kind and inspiring letter. I know times are tough, but knowing there are folks out there like you and your husband gives me confidence that things will keep getting better!”

But things, unfortunately, did not get better. Crunched by the costs of a down payment on her home and cancer treatments, Cline has been forced to sell her letter from the president to earn some money.

So, with the help of Medicaid, a young woman kicks cancer, and is now planning to BUY A HOUSE, and as a result needs to raise cash for a down payment.

Yet, for some unknown reason, I'm supposed to be crying a river here. Why? Because in this day and age someone is still expected to put a down payment on a new home?

Oh, the humanity!

More On Election Predictions

For those watching the poll numbers (particularly the last Gallup generic ballot with had the GOP up 15 points - yikes - on the Democrats) my predictions seem relatively positive for the Democrats. (Heavy on the relativity.)

Why is that? Well, simply put, I do not believe the poll numbers are going to translate into the kinds of losses I see being forecast. (Some are saying an 80 seat GOP gain is possible!) I really think it is more likely that we will see an election akin to the 1958 or 1974 elections; elections where the party of the sitting President (i.e. Republicans during the Eisenhower and Ford admins) lost big. However, they only lost 48 seats in each election, even though in 1958 unemployment had risen over 50% in two years, and the 1974 election was less than three months after the Nixon resignation. I have a hard time believing we will see a repudiation of the Democrats on a vastly larger scale. (And, yes, the lost of over 58 seats would be an outright repudiation.)

The reactions from the Democratic faithful runs the gamut from uneducated anger to resignation, but denial is noticeably absent.

Still, there are those that try to see the glass as half-full, like Marc Ambinder:

So let's stipulate that the Democrats will be heartbroken come Tuesday. But can we set a baseline level of expectations as to what would constitute the LEAST worst night they could have? Here's what I'd suggest:

-If Democrats prevent Republicans from picking up MORE than 50 House seats...

-If Democrats retain their Senate majority WITHOUT Joe Biden having to trek down to the Hill and cast the tie-breaking vote...

-If Democrats pick up/keep at least three of the following four governors' mansions--Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania--or two of the preceding states AND if Bill White comes within 8 points of beating incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in Texas ...

-If austerity ballot measures in Colorado fail to pass and pot legalization does pass in California ...

Well, at least on the national politics side, *I* think the Democrats can reach some of that.