Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A More Perfect Union


Photo of George Orwell from his 1933 press card
Sasha Issenberg has written a three-part article that appears in MIT Technology Review.  The title of the article is also the title of this post, but here’s the subtitle:

How President Obama’s Campaign Used Big Data to Rally Individual Voters

If you look at the title of the directory in which the Web content for the third article is contained (hotlink above), you see this title:

obamas-data-techniques-will-rule-future-elections/

Mr. Issenberg’s story is about how the Democratic Party uses data mining techniques to predict the voting behavior of Americans.  This is the money quote:

The campaign didn’t just know who you were; it knew exactly how it could turn you into the type of person it wanted you to be.

The article (h/t Instapundit) describes the Democratic Party’s EIPs (experiment-informed programs) that “measure how effective different types of political messages were at moving public opinion.”  One technique was to sequence direct mail to individual voters and then follow-up with survey calls to isolate the particular piece of direct mail that changed voter opinion the most.

The article describes EIP testing done in July of 2012 that focused on equal-pay and health issues for women.  The idea was to pull women to Obama based on a specific message.

It all sounds very academic and innocuous.  That is, until you see one of the ads involved.

In EVERY case, the advertisements depict Mitt Romney as a bad person.  (See my Rope-a-Dope post for a partial listing.)  These are the ads that characterize Mr. Romney as a liar, a person who wants to hurt the middle class, someone who wants you to lose your job, and a rich person out of touch with reality.

The ads were tested with the EIP methodology, and they achieved the necessary outcome.

The MIT article makes no mention of the ramifications of the political techniques being employed.  It simply features the article as a technological extension of focus-group techniques.

If you are a Republican, you might want to focus on the ramifications.  The Democratic Party is using information about voters to manipulate voting preferences.  The Party is honing its negative advertising to create a sense of fear about a certain class of people so that Americans will keep them out of government stewardship.

To think this is not worth noting is a mistake.  Republicans should be concerned that they are being politically “played.”  A couple of instances from current events come to mind…

Republicans are concerned about the “fiscal cliff” and its consequences on the American people, but the Democratic Party has no such concerns.  It simply wants to ensure Republicans come out of the encounter labeled as “uncompromising zealots.”

Republicans are concerned about school safety and practical measures to thwart school shootings, but the Democratic Party simply wants to ensure Americans see Republicans as “violent extremists.”

Watch it unfold on Twitter.
The clear and present danger is that if Republicans continue to focus on policy issues and not political issues, there will be no Republican Party to focus on any issue.

UPDATE 12/20/2012:

Was Mitt Romney the first Republican to be Electro-Borked?

The death of Robert Bork reminds us of character assassination by Senate hearing.  The Democratic Party has now "progressed" to the arena of consumer electronics.  Who will be the next Republican to be Electro-Borked?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cultural Staging



The graphic above is a cultural view of candidates from America’s two main political parties.

From left to right, the pictures are from an Obama speech in Hatfield, Pennsylvania on 11/30/2012 (photo by Jason Reed of Reuters), a Huffington Post article from 11/20/2012, and an Obama speech in Redford, Michigan on 12/10/2012 (photo by Romain Blanquart of the Detroit Free Press).

Two of the pictures feature adoring Americans.

The picture on the left shows Americans hugging president Obama after he spoke about raising taxes on the rich.  The picture on the right shows Americans cheering president Obama after he spoke about right-to-work laws being unfair.

The middle picture is described by The Huffington Post as “A Humbled Mitt Romney Caught Pumping Gas.”

Our culture seems to present pictures of Republicans and Democrats in a slightly different context.


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Death of the White Male Republican Presidential Candidate


President Obama and Mitt Romney in the Oval Office after their 11/29/2012 lunch (Photo by Pete Souza).

Here is a thought experiment:

Would the Holocaust have endured for a longer period if Germany’s National Socialist Party had restricted its victims to just white males?  When women and children became a part of the extermination, the world’s sensibilities changed.  Is it possible that death camps for white males would not have been that big of a deal on the world stage?

OK, that first paragraph is an “attention step.”  I want to jar readers into some unconventional thinking.

Stick with me on this.

Republicans are exhibiting a monumental sense of sadness these days, and it is easy to say, “You lost.  Get over it!”  But the sadness is not associated with a one-time election loss.  It is bigger than that.  America has just experienced the end of all future white male Republican presidential candidates.

They will be no more.

Oh to be sure, there will be some political egotist who will make a run for office, but it will fail.  White male Republican candidates for POTUS are the walking dead.  The Democratic Party will ensure that result. 

In an odd twist of fate, Mitt Romney’s candidacy will be Barack Obama’s legacy.  President Obama’s primary achievement in his first term will be the elevation of the art of political character assassination to its pinnacle.  The Democratic Party is forever emboldened.

While that is good for the Democratic Party, it is not so good for the millions of Americans who are classified in that demographic of “White Male Republicans.”  These people have seen the opportunity of serving their country at the highest level foreclosed.

Imagine telling your offspring, “If you wish to be President of the United States, you won’t be able to do that.  You are a white male Republican.”

It almost seems un-American.

Maureen Dowd is particularly good at highlighting the extent of this transformation.  In her column from November 10, 2012, she tells us that white male Republicans are in a “delusional death spiral” and she provides the following quotes about Mitt Romney: 

Romney was an unpalatable candidate.

Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their “traditional” America.

Romney was still running in an illusory country where husbands told wives how to vote, and the wives who worked had better get home in time to cook dinner.

 
These remarks indicate a certain level of partisanship, and are to be expected from Ms. Dowd.  But why is she so “in your face?”  Where does Ms. Dowd get the “green light” to let it all hang out?

Maureen Dowd watched the 2012 elections and now believes the Democratic Party will stop any white male Republican from ever attaining the Presidency.  She has the triumphalism of a political insider’s understanding of the placement of the trump cards.

Maybe you see where I’m going here, but look at a more recent article from Ms. Dowd.  This one is from November 27, 2012 and is about Senator Susan Collins taking exception to the conduct of U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice.  Here are some quotes from that column: 

Collins drew up a list of questions to ask Rice at their one-on-one hourlong meeting slated for Wednesday. She wants Rice to explain how she could promote a story “with such certitude” about a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video that was so at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access.

Collins said that before she would support Rice for secretary of state, she needs to ascertain what was really going on. “Did they think admitting that it was an Al Qaeda attack would destroy the narrative of Libya being a big success story?” Collins asked.

Collins is curious why Rice is not angrier, if, as she insists, she was repeating what she was told. “I’d be furious at the White House and F.B.I. and intelligence community for destroying my credibility,” the senator said.

 
Do you see the style difference?  The comments about Mitt Romney are simple declarative sentences.  The comments about Susan Rice are reportorial in nature.

Why the difference in style?  Here’s a clue: Mitt Romney is a white male Republican.  Susan Rice is a black female Democrat.

When running a story about Ms. Rice, Maureen Dowd becomes a reporter.  When running a story about a white male Republican, Ms. Dowd is an opinion journalist.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Maureen Dowd is one of many journalists at work for the Democratic Party.  She has a strong influence on our American culture, and we can expect her opinion of white male Republicans to remain steadfast.

This puts Republicans at a cultural disadvantage, but there is a glimmer of hope.  While any attempt to run a white male candidate will fail, we have other Republicans who can step up.

Condi and Marco, are you taking note?  Now is your time.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Well, EXCUSE Me!


 
This is not a post about Steve Martin (pictured above).  It is about a political strategy for Republicans to follow in the coming years.

Where to begin?

Republicans lost the presidential election of 2012 because the Democratic Party had a stronger message.  That message was simply a continuous reinforcing of the Democratic Party’s main theme: Republicans are Bad People.

That is impactful.  The Democratic Party helped Americans understand that Republicans have sinister intent and it resonated.

What was the Republican response?  Something like, “We are not actually bad people…”

That’s weak, and reminds one of the Christine O’Donnell campaign.  Republicans have to stop this behavior.

How to do it?  Employ “Themes of the Republican Party” in the same fashion as the Democratic Party employs its themes.

Keep in mind that the Democratic Party has six separate themes.  Republicans need only these three:

--The Democratic Party has become a Political-Religious Movement.

--The Democratic Party promotes Authoritarianism.

--The Democratic Party’s prime directive is Power and Authority.

Here are examples of how the themes can be employed:

Last month, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice came under attack for promoting a false narrative in the furtherance of the Benghazi cover up.  While the Republican Party played up the idea that Ms. Rice was being used as a tool by the Democratic Party, the stronger point is that she is promoting Authoritarianism.

When Ms. Rice is eventually required to provide testimony under oath, she should answer questions on who directed her to deliver the anti-Islamic film narrative, which of the Benghazi classified briefings she received, and who directed her to change her narrative to acknowledge the terrorist attack.  In analyzing the timeline and the players involved, we will see a clear instance of Authoritarianism in operation:  A particular narrative is promoted as being unimpeachable, and then “evolves” to conform to political expediency.  The people involved were never wrong and never at fault.  Authoritarianism!

Americans should understand that Authoritarianism does not serve their interests well.

Another example is the recent voting patterns of people in Philadelphia and Chicago.  In Philadelphia, 59 voting divisions had no votes for Mitt Romney.  The same is true for 37 voting precincts in Chicago.  While Republicans suggest that voter fraud might be a factor, the stronger point is that this is evidence of a Political-Religious Movement.

Here in Colorado, Douglas County leans strongly toward the Republican Party.  Even so, in the 2012 election, no Republican received more than 75% of the vote.  When we see Americans voting 100% for a particular candidate, we should be suspicious.  (If you asked 100 people to mark a particular block on a piece of paper, a few of them would mistakenly mark the wrong block, simply because human beings are not perfect.  When you see “perfect” results from an imperfect group of participants, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on.)

What’s going on is that the Democratic Party has taken on the characteristics of a Political-Religious Movement in certain parts of the country, where people never dream of acting in a way counter to the interests of the Party.  This kind of “group-think” mentality tends to erode basic freedoms, and typically doesn’t work out well for those being governed.

A third example is the recent proclamation of racism by Representative James Clyburn (D-SC).  Congressman Clyburn finds Republicans are racists and driven to use “racial code words.”  Interestingly, he finds that no Democrats are racists, and that the role of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Civil War, the segregationist activities of the South, and the sponsorship of the Ku Klux Klan is not of concern.

Republicans should use this event to showcase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.  Congressman Clyburn is using race as a political weapon.  He knows that many Americans will be drawn to the Democratic Party to avoid being characterized as racists.

Do Americans understand that hatred for one another does not serve their interests well?  What did the “Hatfields & McCoys” teach us?

Here’s a final example that comes from The Denver Post this past weekend.  In an article reprinted from the 11/18/2012 edition of the Los Angeles Times, Paul VanDevelder delivers a rather snarky piece titled, “One nation, (maybe-not-so) indivisible.”  It is meant to mock those people involved in gathering signatures for secession petitions in Colorado, Texas, Georgia, and across the country.

With authoritarian panache, Mr. VanDevelder characterizes the people in “red states” as being incapable of appreciating America’s national monuments and parks.  Rather, we idolize the Osmonds and love Larry the Cable Guy.

He ends his article with a reference to the Civil War, saying “A lot of historians have argued that we would have been a whole lot better off going our separate ways in 1861.”

And then he delivers the money quote: “Sure, Abe Lincoln was a Republican then, but today he’d be as blue as the ocean.”

Mr. VanDevelder lets us know that Abe Lincoln was not a racist, and that today Mr. Lincoln would have nothing to do with those racist Republicans.

Mr. VanDevelder publishes these words as fact!  He knows without question that today’s Republicans are racists.

That’s a real problem for Republicans.  America is being transformed by the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party legitimized slavery in the 1860s, legitimized the KKK in the 1950s, legitimized racial segregation in the 1960s, and is now legitimizing its conversion to a Political-Religious Movement in the 21st century.

This should not be brushed aside.  It matters!

We should NOT spend time asking people like Rep. Clyburn, “Why are you attracted to organizations that consider me a racist?”  Instead, we should be pointing out the cultural transformation that is reshaping America.

And if (when) someone accuses you of being “mean spirited,” simply reply (with thanks to Steve Martin), “Well, EXCUSE me!”

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creepy


The New York Times ran a story in its Health section on Monday. The title of the story was “Academic ‘Dream Team’ Helped Obama’s Effort.” It tells about psychologists and social scientists working to help re-elect president Obama.

A panel made up of a “consortium of behavioral scientists” provided the Obama campaign with ideas on how to mobilize voters. The Analyst Institute, “a Washington voter research group established in 2007 by union officials and their allies to help Democratic candidates” was consulted, along with Dr. Craig Fox from Los Angeles, Dr. Susan T. Fiske of Princeton, Samuel L. Popkin of U.C. San Diego, Robert Cialdini of A.S.U., Richard H. Thaler of the University of Chicago, and Michael Morris of Columbia.

Dr. Fox described the group as “a kind of dream team” that proposed ideas to help modify the voting behavior of Americans. The group signed nondisclosure agreements with the campaign, so could talk only in general terms about its work. The Obama campaign would neither confirm nor deny a relationship with the group.

Behavior modification of American voters! Is this getting close to political indoctrination?

Karl Rove, in his WSJ piece today, notes that “the Democratic campaign ground game was more effective in communicating negative information.” He also points out that “Mr. Romney’s character and record were undermined by early, relentless personal attacks.”

I had an earlier post on Mr. Romney’s “rope-a-dope” tactic which did nothing to repulse the negative characterization of him by his political opponents. What’s going on here?

The problem is that the Democratic Party is getting really good at character assassination. With its psychologists and behavioral scientists at work, it is comfortable advancing a “Mitt Romney kills cancer-stricken women” narrative as a campaign message. When the message receives criticism, it simply turns down the rhetoric a notch and presses on.

Is that a little creepy? If the Democratic Party can impugn the character of Mitt Romney, the rest of us are easy pickings. Mollie Hemingway thinks something is going on, but America (so far) enjoys a breezy detachment.

Maybe we should watch “Conspiracy” again to understand how character assassination of a political group becomes “simply business” and then leads to something else altogether.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Maureen Dowd


New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (photo by Fred R. Conrad)

Maureen Dowd puts me in my place.

I live in a “fake world.” I voted for an “unpalatable candidate.” I am “clueless.”

If the death threats on Twitter were not enough, Ms. Dowd helps me better understand our anti-Republican culture.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Recap



Republicans just lost the election of 2012 and today we are seeing pundits pose the question, “Why?”

The answer (quite simply) is because the power and authority of the Democratic Party is AWESOME!

That’s an analysis you won’t see anywhere, but it has the unique quality of being true.

The impact of our anti-Republican culture was on display this Tuesday, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.  Colorado went “Blue,” and throughout America the power of the Democratic Party was intensified and solidified.

In our federal government, only the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court have any discernible Republican influence, and that will be gone by the 2016 election.

What is happening?

The Republican Party tries to set public policy.  It tries to put forward good ideas.  The Democratic Party simply tries to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

Republicans are all about domestic and foreign policy issues.  The Democratic Party maintains its single goal.

Guess who is going to win this political contest?

Perhaps a metaphorical context will help answer the question.  Think of our country as an airplane or as a train.

Republicans want to guide an “exceptional” plane named America, spreading goodwill, avoiding storms, and delivering passengers safely at the end of their journey.

The Democratic Party is on a train.  Ben Bernanke has set the throttle and the train is hurtling down the track.  The train’s destination and route are not important.  The Democratic Party simply keeps all the cars together on the train.

The first car is full of people with Hispanic ethnicity.  They are told they will receive special treatment.  The second car is full of unmarried women.  They will get free contraceptive services.  The third car is full of people with dark skin tone.  They are told the Democratic Party cares about them.

Republicans worry about the train.  They are concerned about the train’s itinerary and the fate of the people on board.  The Democratic Party knows these issues are not important.  The train will stay on the track (for the time being).  There is only one principle and only one goal: The power and authority of the Democratic Party.

If the Democratic Party encounters a natural disaster along the route, it is simply an opportunity to photograph Democratic Party leadership “in command.”  If a war is being fought, it becomes an opportunity to enact a “kill list” and issue veiled threats to adversaries.  A “fiscal cliff” is really an opportunity to avoid messy things like budgets and rules.

Emergency actions must be taken!

Republicans simply cannot understand this political construct.  While Republicans keep busy “trying to do the right thing,” the Democratic Party works to ensure Americans perceive Republicans as “bad people.”

AND IT’S WORKING!

The election on Tuesday showed that a majority of American voters don’t like Republicans.  The Democratic Party knows the necessary groups to energize with hatred, and it does it very well.  It is now warming up an outrageous “Republicans are perverts” theme, with the social issues of abortion and gay marriage being used to drive home the message.

Republicans may protest that they are NOT perverts, but that’s not the point.  The point is that this new anti-Republican campaign will increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

We will see a perfect example unfold when Mitt Romney accepts the President’s “conciliatory” offer to sit down and share views.  Republicans believe that president Obama is interested in what Mr. Romney thinks.

The Democratic Party intent is completely different.  It will cast Mr. Romney as a defeated warrior paying homage to the victor.  The event will (as intended) increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

The 2012 election should have focused our attention on the cultivation of anti-Republican sentiment by the Democratic Party.  It didn’t, but here’s something that could happen:

Suppose Mitt Romney tells the President that he cannot attend the meeting with him at the White House, but instead invites Mr. Obama to one of his homes for the visit.  Mr. Romney takes the opportunity to use the visit as the subject of a documentary, where he takes the President by way of a devastated home on Long Island to show the problems of government response to Hurricane Sandy. 

He then goes by the home of one of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attack to show the President where government failed in its protection of civil servants.

In his neighborhood, he takes the President by the home of a Catholic parishioner who is concerned about the overreach of government and the protection of the First Amendment.

Mr. Romney ends at his own home, where he shows the President a compilation of clips from various anti-Romney ads portraying Mr. Romney as a felon, a bully, a racist, a woman-hater, a person who wants to harm the middle class, etc.

The resulting documentary would set the occasion of a presidential conference not as something like a “beer summit,” but as a representation of America’s culture being used to portray Republicans as bad people.

The documentary probably wouldn’t get much attention from our popular press, but that’s the type of battle that must be engaged.

Until Republicans begin to understand the Rules of Engagement in this war with the Democratic Party, they will fail in their attempts at influencing public policy.

Let me take this in a slightly different direction:

John Boehner has said he will negotiate with the Democratic Party to avoid a fiscal calamity in the coming months.  In his negotiations, he might offer to keep Republicans from spending any money on the Congressional elections of 2014 and to bring about the retirement of two conservative justices on the Supreme Court.  In return, the Democrats would accept whatever fiscal policy prescription Mr. Boehner provides.

Do you see what is happening in this hypothetical?  Mr. Boehner offers to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party in exchange for getting America’s fiscal policy “right.”

That’s what Republicans have been doing all along.  Does it feel good?  Does it make political sense?

Would there be any hesitation on the part of Democrats to take the deal?  When the Democratic Party controls the judiciary, executive, and legislative branches of our federal government, it will have the power to change the Constitution and institute Authoritarianism.  Why care what a particular fiscal policy entails when you’ve got your eye on the prize!

Mr. Boehner would probably not make such a deal, but note what is at stake.

Until Republicans better understand what is going on in our culture, we will continue our (inadvertent) enhancement of the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE 12/29/2012:
Yahoo! News features an AP column by Julie Pace and Steve Peoples on the lunch between Mr. Romney and president Obama.  Here's the headline:

Victor and vanquished: Obama has Romney to lunch

 The article closes with this analysis:

Romney has virtually disappeared from politics following his election loss. He's spent the past three weeks largely in seclusion at his family's Southern California home. He has made no public appearances, drawing media attention after being photographed at Disneyland in addition to stops at the movies and the gym with his wife, Ann.
(At least the headline didn't say "Obama has Romney for lunch.")


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Turnout!


With less than a week until the election, political polling is in high gear.  But what if you want to get a “sense of the electorate” rather than just the results of telephone polling?

In Colorado, we have early voting taking place, and it tells us how things are going.  Scott Gessler, the Colorado Secretary of State releases voter turnout figures on a daily basis.  Here they are as of today.

What story do they tell?  If you look at the participation of voters who are registered as Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated, these are the voting percentages through 10/30/2012:

R – 439,269 (38.5%)

D – 404,870 (35.5%)

U – 295,122 (26.0%)

Total: 1,139,261

We have about 2,587,835 active voters in Colorado, and probably no more than 2,300,000 will vote in 2012.  As a result, about ½ of our voters have already cast their ballots, with another week to go before the election.

What’s an easy way to judge the way the election is going?  Simply assume that all Republicans will vote for Mitt Romney, and all Democrats will vote for Barack Obama.  That leaves the independent voters as the unknown.

If we take the polling done by Purple Strategies over the period 10/23/2012 to 10/25/2012 as a guide, they conclude “…the race is tied among independents.”  We can therefore split the 26% independent vote into 13% for Mr. Romney and 13% for president Obama.

Adding those percentages to the R and D figures sets the overall race at 51.5% for Mitt Romney and 48.5% for Barack Obama after half the votes have been cast in Colorado.

Maybe not earthshaking, but a pretty good indicator of what is happening in Colorado.  As each day is reported, we can track the direction of the election, and gain confidence in the outcome.

We can also shade the results based on additional information.  Here are my thoughts:

--This election will probably see a tendency for Democrats to vote against their party more than Republicans.

--Independents may also swing more toward Romney than Obama.  We see anecdotal evidence of Hollywood figures and sports figures “coming out” for Romney/Ryan more so than Republicans switching to Obama.

I would give a total of 2.5 percentage points to the Republican ticket because of this, so my prediction is that Romney/Ryan will take Colorado by at least 54% to 46%.  Those of you following this blog might try a similar exercise in your own states.

Right now, Rasmussen polling suggests that an 8-point spread is far-fetched.  They predict a 2-point spread in Colorado.

But then, which is the better indicator: actual voting or a telephone survey?  We will know in less than a week.

In the meantime, for all you political junkies in battleground states, if you’ve got access to voter turnout, do the R/D/U calculation and see how it relates to polling data.  It’s interesting and fun!

UPDATE 11/1/2012:
Resurgent Republic has a more optimistic take on the inclinations of independent  voters.

UPDATE 11/2/2012:
Colorado Peak Politics has data out as of 11/1/2012.  It shows about three-quarters of the Colorado electorate having voted (1,447,116 out of about 2.3 million).  The breakout is R - 547,150 (37.8%), D - 509,091 (35.2%), and U - 390,875 (27.0%).  Adding half the independent voters to the Republican ticket gives a 51.3% to 48.7% advantage to Republicans.

The Republican ticket still receives my 2.5% subjective advantage,  based on the Benghazi coverup, the anti-Catholic HHS actions, and the objectification of women campaign strategy used by the Democratic party.  Those factors weigh against Barack Obama, and make the race 53.8% to 46.2%.

That percentage difference is a minimum.  In Colorado, the race will end up at least 54% / 46%.

UPDATE 11/5/2012:
The Colorado Secretary of State has the breakout the day before the election at R - 624,788 (37.0%), D - 590,417 (35.0%), and U - 474,437 (28.0%).  Adding half the independents to the Republican ticket makes the Republican advantage 51% to 49%.

This is  no change since last week, so I still expect at least a 54% to 46% win for Republicans in Colorado.

UPDATE 11/6/2012:
The final report from the Secretary of State has R - 675,797 (36.5%), D - 642,834 (34.7%), and U - 534,012 (28.8%).  Add 14.4% independents to 36.5 % Republicans gives a 50.9% to 49.1% lead to Republicans.  That continues to indicate a 54% to 46% race.

UPDATE 11/7/2012:
Boy was I wrong!  The Colorado race is now being called 50% to 48% for Obama.  That means only 40% of independents favored Republicans.  With such a large swing in the Unaffiliated bloc, that is a very bad sign for Republicans.
 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Authoritarianism on Display

 


That’s the headline from last week’s Drudge Report as captured by Sister Toldjah.  The remark was NOT made about president Obama.  It was made BY the President as a characterization of his election opponent.

Matt Drudge, employing his genius for juxtaposition, helps us draw the proper connection.

Republicans will note the coarse language as "unbecoming of the President."  Barack Obama supporters will give the President high marks for “telling it like it is.”

I think all of this forms the basis for a case study on Authoritarianism.

Those who support the remark are people who admire Authoritarianism, and they (unfortunately) make up the majority of human beings.  We are all inclined to approve of Authoritarianism, and when we see the arrogance and moral authority that typically accompany it, we tend to view it in a positive light.

That’s the human conundrum, and political forces raise the stakes.  The Democratic Party defends the taunt, and the President’s followers point to the cleverness of the “dash of snark” that is implicit in the characterization.

Now take a moment to look at the downside of the Authoritarianism embodied in this situation and in our President.

It is not unusual that various authoritarians endorse president Obama’s re-election.  These world leaders show the same reverence and respect that is exhibited by Sean Penn and Harry Belafonte. 

We also take note of the “authoritarian salute” (bowing) that president Obama tenders to authoritarian leaders.  In the 21st century, this mutual admiration is reserved for those who are at the pinnacle of Authoritarianism.

As individuals, we acknowledge authoritarians in our daily lives with a mixture of fear and admiration.  If we are caught up in an authoritarian group, we attempt to get on the “right side” of the power spectrum.  We learn to acknowledge the authoritarian gestures that define the group and know that we ignore the necessary “choosing of sides” at our own risk.

But all this is covered in an earlier post and a subsequent post.

Keep in mind that a hallmark of Authoritarianism is that authoritarians are never wrong.  President Obama has no need to walk-back his “bullshitter” remark because he knows he is right.  If the political ramifications attending the remark become untenable, the President will simply revise his position and note that he has “evolved.”

A recent example of this “evolving” effect was on display with Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of Bashar al-Assad as a reformer.  When it became painfully obvious that her assessment was in error, she simply evolved, contending that her remark was misinterpreted.

People see Authoritarianism as a fact of life.  America’s founders understood this, and put in place a governing system for America that was anti-authoritarian.  The last few years of the Obama administration have shown how easy it is to mount attacks against “checks and balances,” “separation of powers,” and “the rule of law.”  It’s just what authoritarians do, and most Americans accept it.  (Defenders of the Constitution, gird your loins!)

We still don’t know if the ‘bullshitter” characterization will cause difficulty for president Obama’s re-election.  The last week of an election cycle is volatile, and there are crosscurrents of influence at work.  But the remark does bring Authoritarianism into sharp relief, and that might be worthwhile.

Here’s why:  Follow me in a “flight of fancy” for a moment…

Mitt Romney was confronted at a rally by an individual who was concerned about the issue of free contraceptive services.  Mr. Romney made the point, “If you want free stuff, vote for the other guy.”

What if president Obama, in a moment of candor, made a similar point:

“If you don’t want Authoritarianism, vote for the other guy!”

UPDATE 11/2/2012:
Peggy Noonan has an article up today in The Wall Street Journal that speaks of Authoritarianism and the presidency of Barack Obama.  The best quote:
"It is one thing to think you're Lebron.  It's another thing to keep missing the basket and losing games and still think you're Lebron."


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Civility

Sean Kedzie of Whitewater, Wisconsin

You are probably not familiar with Wisconsin State Senator Neal Kedzie’s son being beaten last week.

Nor would you be aware of death threats being received by Mitt Romney.

On the other hand, you no doubt know that Sarah Palin tends to incite right-wing fanatics to murder.  You also know that Tea Party supporters spit on legislators from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Our culture makes certain Americans know who is wearing the black hats.

Subsequent to the final political debate of 2012 between president Obama and governor Romney, this clip made the rounds.  Have you seen it?  It is being featured extensively by our media.

Another clip is also available (h/t Power Line).  I imagine you have not seen it.  It’s Mitt Romney’s speech at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner in New York on October 18, 2012:


I guarantee if you watch the first 30 seconds, you will stay for the rest.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Emotional Response


 
Last night, Candy Crowley moderated a town hall presidential debate.  It had one interesting moment when Ms. Crowley stepped out of her moderator role to correct Mitt Romney’s description of the president’s response to Benghazi.

If you were watching the debate, it was an emotional, gasp-inducing exchange.  The president had expressed outrage at the pretensions of Mr. Romney, and Candy Crowley saw her opportunity.  She rose to the occasion and the audience reacted with spontaneous applause for her courage.

I’ve noted before how Ms. Crowley is able to exhibit her anti-Republican credentials and still comport as a professional journalist.  Here’s the takeaway from this occurrence:

1) Our culture teaches us to view Republicans as bad people.

2) The current Democratic Party theme is that Mitt Romney is an unhinged (lying) flip-flopper.

2) Candy Crowley used her power as moderator to portray Mr. Romney as a liar and to evoke an anti-Republican response.


On national TV, before millions of viewers, we have been treated to a spectacle.  Republicans can try to set the record straight, but our culture will not be swayed from its “truth.”

UPDATE 10/18/2012:
Anti-Republican Culture categorizes its posts with four possible labels.  This incident has the extraordinary distinction of receiving all four classifications.

“Republicans Under Siege” is captured when Mitt Romney finds himself under attack not only from his debate opponent, but also from the moderator and a majority of the audience.  “So Right and Natural” is displayed in the spontaneity of the audience applause over the incident.  “The Themes” is present in the “lying Republican” characterization advanced by this incident (and also expounded by John Aravosis at AmericaBlog.com).  “The Ministry of Truth” is represented by the fundamental spin associated with a mention of the phrase “acts of terror” in conjunction with a Benghazi briefing.
The Candy Crowley incident is in a class by itself!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Hardball!



The Presidential Debate this Wednesday creased the fabric of the universe.  The outcome was not what the Democratic Party expected.

We are now seeing the Democratic Party roll out a “take no prisoners” strategy.  Peggy Noonan goes out on a limb to describe it.  She points to the treatment of Jim Lehrer:


Jim Lehrer has been criticized as an inadequate moderator. He was old-school and a pro. He didn't think it was about him. How quaint. He asked questions, allowed a certain amount of leeway to both candidates, which allowed each to reveal himself, and kept things moving. Most of the criticism seems to have come from those who hoped Mr. Obama would emerge triumphant. Mr. Lehrer should not take it personally. Every shot at him was actually a warning shot aimed at the next moderator, Martha Raddatz. She's being told certain outcomes are desirable.

Ms. Noonan says the campaign “will probably get dirty” and we see David Axelrod already working the Romney unhinged flip-flopper characterization.

Should Republicans sit back and take it?

Definitely not!  They should push back on that “Republicans are bad people” theme of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party preaches that Republicans are liars, killers, and racists - and that’s just as they are getting warmed up.  Let’s confront them!

We each have friends and relatives who support the Democratic Party.  What stops us from asking them questions like, “Why are you attracted to a group that considers me a racist?”

Is it too uncivil; too confrontational?

Maybe it’s time to quit cursing at the television and pose a straightforward question to our political adversaries:

“Why are you comfortable supporting an organization that teaches Americans to hate?”



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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Laffer vs. Poisson


Laffer (on the left) versus Poisson (on the right)
 
I’m still thinking about the current controversy on where the “hump” in the Laffer curve should be placed.

Maybe it’s time to do a little “thinking outside the box.”  What if the Laffer curve is not the proper representation for the economic situation we wish to model?

If you check out Wikipedia, you see that the Laffer curve is presented as a parabola, typically skewed to the right so that the peak in the curve is after the midpoint. Why is that? Why should the Laffer curve be based on a geometric shape?

Maybe it’s because a parabola implies a scientific basis.  We use a parabola to approximate the path of a fly ball in baseball.  It is based on scientific phenomena (drag and gravity) and allows us to predict where the ball will be at any given time if we know the velocity of the ball when it leaves the bat.

Does that sound like something that should be applied to economics?  Wouldn’t a statistical tool be better?

The Poisson distribution (see image above on the right) deserves a closer look.  It is meant to model the probability of actions, not to predict a specific action.  Furthermore, in contrast to the Laffer curve, it provides a better model of behavior near the 100% tax rate.  The Laffer parabola shows the tax collected will be zero, whereas the Poisson distribution has it tapering down toward zero.  It indicates that even though nobody should want to pay all their income in taxes, some idiot will do it.  That is a better model of reality.

And that’s important!  We should be using tools that represent actual data.  The model should reflect our reality, not a vision of what we want our reality to be.

The acceptance of the Laffer curve in our culture is based on the idea that the hump in the curve is skewed toward the right.  That implies higher tax rates will generate increasing tax revenue, even at tax rates over 50%.  The Poisson distribution skews the curve the other way.  It implies that if you set tax rates too high, you will see diminishing returns.

Do you see why the Poisson distribution is not being applied in our current political environment?

If our cultural narrative is to promote more federal government activity in our lives, then we need to be shown how greater government is good for us and makes us feel better.  One way to do that is to emphasize that increased taxes don’t hurt.

If the Poisson distribution shows the opposite, our culture will make sure it never sees the light of day.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Trouble with The Curve


 
Tim Groseclose has a video posted at Prager University postulating a relationship between tax rates and revenue.  It’s relevant to Hauser’s Law, which shows the relationship between tax revenue and income.

What’s an economic discussion doing on the Anti-Republican Culture site?  It’s all about testing our beliefs.

Mitt Romney makes a pledge to keep government spending constrained at 20% of GDP.  That’s in line with what is shown by Mr. Hauser.  If government can’t extract more than 20% in tax revenue, don’t spend more than 20%.

That’s the spending side.  On the income side, Mr. Romney wants to make permanent 20% cuts in marginal tax rates.  That assumes tax revenue increases with lower tax rates.  Mr. Romney believes America is to the right of the hump in the Laffer curve.

And that’s where there is controversy.  Where is that Laffer curve “hump?”  If it’s in the 33% area, Mr. Romney is right.  If it’s in the 50% area, the Democratic Party is correct.

How do we find out?  I guess we try to “tax the rich” and watch human nature come into play.

Can “the rich” avail themselves of more tax-avoidance schemes than the rest of us?  I imagine so, and this makes them more sensitive to the Laffer curve.  When increases in tax rates cause their net income to decline, they adopt the necessary tax-avoidance strategies.  Regular working people might not be able to stop working, but “the rich” will move their wealth into tax-free securities.

What’s the effect?  The Laffer curve will exhibit “dynamism.”  The hump moves left or right depending on tax policy, and – this is immutable – increasing overall tax rates moves the relative position of the hump to the left.

That may take an understanding of the mathematics of derivatives, but just realize that the slope of the curve begins at a peak value of one, and decreases from there.  Where the curve peaks with a slope of zero – the “hump” – is a function of our response to overall tax policy.

The Laffer curve is simply modeling human behavior.  It shows that if we get to keep more of what we earn, we keep doing what we’re doing.  If we get to keep less of what we earn, our sense of fairness causes us to look for alternative behaviors.

Tim Groseclose has a way of making the argument in a non-threatening way, but it is devastating.

The Obama Campaign preaches that it can get us free stuff and all we have to do is “tax the rich.”

At the risk of being less sensitive than Mr. Groseclose, let me pose this question:

What kind of masochist wants to re-elect president Obama just to see him proved wrong?
 
UPDATE 9/24/2012:
My wife and I went to see the Clint Eastwood film that is the title of this post.  It's a sweet movie, in the tradition of Gran Torino (with less bloodshed).  And who doesn't like baseball?

I don't mean to give economics a bad name, but when you've got the National Bureau of Economic Research showing the hump in the Laffer curve always at a tax rate of 60% or greater, and Mr. Groseclose saying it is closer to 33%, shouldn't someone in academia be interested in resolving that discrepancy?

What about Mr. Hauser?  If Americans historically balk at giving up more than 20% of GDP in federal taxes, shouldn't that appear as a discontinuity or inflection point on the Laffer curve?

Remember, "The Curve" is meant to model economic behavior, not to be an ironclad law.  Have we gotten things turned around?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Mask Slips


Thanks to Allen J. Schaben of the Los Angeles Times for this photo and to Zombie for the context.

Pat Caddell, a prominent Democratic Party pollster, showcases America’s current national security policy in an interesting way.  He notes the disparate treatment between the protections afforded Chris Stevens in Libya and Valerie Jarrett in Martha’s Vineyard.

According to Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com, Libyan Ambassador Stevens did not have a Marine detail in Benghazi, Libya, but White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett received a full Secret Service detail while on vacation at Martha’s Vineyard.  Foreign Service officers function without the armed protection of our government, while Democratic Party senior operatives receive the elite protection of our Secret Service.

What’s wrong with this picture?  Not a thing, if you understand the power and authority of the Democratic Party.  Americans are pawns, and our culture is engaged in splitting us into “good guys” and “bad guys.”  A few examples:

--The “Freedom of Expression” Grouping

Andres Serrano’s Immersion (Piss Christ) is celebrated in our culture.  So is The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili.  In contrast, the work of the gentleman shown above in the midnight “perp walk” is not being celebrated.  Our culture lets us know that art denigrating “The Religious Right” is good; works that embarrass the Democratic Party are bad.

--The “Equal Protection under the Law” Categorization

Members of the New Black Panther Party are granted exemption from our laws along with major Democratic Party contributors.  Unfortunately, Sheldon Adelson (a contributor to Republican political candidates) is now subject to IRS and NLRB investigations, and the Koch brothers, (supporters of Republican causes) suffer incessant verbal abuse.  Our federal agencies are  being used to reward allegiance to the Democratic Party and to punish Republicans.

--The “Promote the General Welfare” Classification

The contrast between the security detail for Valerie Jarrett and the safety of those who serve in the Foreign Service is a case of political emphasis.  A similar situation occurred at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month when the American military was honored. The backdrop for the presentation was a graphic of Russian warships and Turkish jet fighters.

The DNC ended up giving our military a token observation of service to country with an emphasis on the generic nature of their work.  If the United States Military were a Democratic Party identity group (e.g. young single women, people with dark skin tone, people with Hispanic ethnicity), proper recognition might have been afforded.  It is disappointing that our military is a DNC afterthought.

The three Constitutional ideals listed above are an abstraction to many people.  They are protections that we expect in America, but we don’t feel the need to “man the barricades” just because the Rule of Law is under assault or our First Amendment rights are losing protection.  Instead, we hear a single direct message delivered to us day in and day out:

Americans have a choice.  We can get free stuff – free healthcare, free education, and free birth control – or we can have bad people (Republicans) put in charge.


That is what our culture puts forward as the choice for Americans.  It is a coordinated election message, and its simplicity gives it power.

But if you look carefully, the mask is slipping.

UPDATE 9/27/2012:
Courtesy of Matt Drudge, we have evidence that the "free stuff" message is working.