November 10, 2012

Taleb v. Pinker on the chances of war

Nassim Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, criticizes Steven Pinker's book on the decline in violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, in a short essay called The "Long Peace" Is a Statistical Illusion

Pinker answers in Fooled by Belligerence.

To my mind, the scariest precedent isn't World War One, it's the American Civil War. Europe in 1914 was a militarized continent divided into language groups with various arms races and a lot of professional soldiers looking for a fight. It was a catastrophe, but you could kind of see it coming.

In contrast, most of the world seems to be demilitarizing today, with arms races becoming ever sleepier as inventiveness gets sidetracked into making cooler Powerpoints to boggle other laptop warriors.

In contrast to Europe in 1914, America in 1861 was a prosperous, peaceful, unmilitaristic country with one language, a pretty good political system for working out problems, and only a tiny group of professional soldiers, who had all they could handle fighting Indians out on the frontier.  Indeed, a large fraction of the officers of 1860 spent 1861-1865 still out on the frontier, while retirees and amateurs won fame on the battlefields of the Civil War.

I wonder if the rise in organized sports since 1865 has lessened the chances of a dust-up by absorbing and re-directing communal excitements. The Civil War more or less made baseball the national pastime (it gave soldiers something to do in army camps). On TV today, you could see a lot of extremely excited people in towns like Palo Alto and Tuscaloosa cheering on their young heroes on the football field.

Or maybe the decline in family size?

These aren't original theories, of course. I wonder how you could test them?

Kevin Drum outlines the minimum liberals will accept from GOP on immigration

Blogger Kevin Drum of liberal Mother Jones is a sensible fellow, with (at least by the standards of us pundits) strong powers of logic and data analysis. He's like me in some ways: same age, same part of the country, similar career path (although he made a lot more money during the Tech Bubble and has no kids). So, I always like to check out his opinions.  

I think this one should give Republican strategists pause. Remember, this is coming from the logical wing of the Democratic party:
The GOP's Immigration Problem Goes Way Beyond Immigration 
—By Kevin Drum| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 11:02 PM PST 
Losing a couple of elections in a row to a radical socialist can apparently make your life flash before your eyes. Here is Sean Hannity on immigration: 
We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It’s simple to me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved. The majority of people here, if some people have criminal records you can send them home, but if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, it’s first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done, whatever little penalties you want to put in there, if you want, and it’s done. 
... I know they don't want to hear this, and I know that a lot of Republicans are deeply invested in a belief that liberals, not conservatives, are the real racial scaremongers. And I also know that it's almost impossible to talk about this because even the slightest suggestion of racial hostility is instantly toxic. 
But as Bernie Goldberg admitted earlier this year, "There is a strain of bigotry — and that's the word I want to use — running through conservative America....That has to leave the conservative movement....I am sick of it." He's right. Lightening up on immigration won't be enough. Like it or not, conservatives are going to need a much more thorough housecleaning if they want to survive in an increasingly diverse future. No more gratuitous ethnic mockery. No more pretense that reverse racism is the real racism. No more suggestions that minorities just want a handout. No more screeching about the incipient threat of Sharia law. No more saturation coverage of the pathetic New Black Panthers. No more complaining that blacks get to use the N word but whites don't. No more summers of hate on Fox News. No more tolerance for Dinesh D'Souza and his "roots of Obama's rage" schtick; or for Glenn Beck saying Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people"; or for Rush Limbaugh claiming that "Obama's entire economic program is reparations." No more jeering at the mere concept of "diversity." And no more too-clever-by-half attempts to say all this stuff without really saying it, and then pretending to be shocked when you're called on it.

Got that? 

Immigration isn't some technical issue like tax rates where the two sides can reach a compromise. It's a test of morals. Amnesty won't be just a practical tool for Democrats to solidify their majority; it will also be a symbolic milestone permanently delegitimizing any and all skepticism about the Democratic-run government electing a new people to elect a Democratic-run government.

And the only way the Republicans can pass this test is ... well, seriously, they can never pass it. There will always be some Republican out there who says something suggesting that he is not a goodthinker when it comes to immigration and diversity. And, like that guy in Missouri with his musings on abortion, you will never hear the end of it.

More election observations

More election observations from my inbox:
I added points 12 - 16

12. Jim Pinkerton points out that the Republicans have now lost the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 presidential elections. Whatever is wrong with the Republican brand isn't new, and can't be explained away as a consequence of changing demographics. The Republicans did win the popular vote in 2004 with 9-11 echoing loudly. Of course, you can argue that the Republicans might have won the popular vote in  1992 without Perot in the race. However, the polling data from 1992 appears to show that Clinton got most of the Perot voters when he (Perot) left the race in July of 1992. Conversely, when Perot reentered the race in October of 1992, Clinton appear to have lost more support than Bush.

13. Some folks argue that Republicans can prevail by running more minority candidates. This theory was actually tested this year in Texas. Romney carried Texas 57.2% to 41.4%. Ted Cruz got 56.6% of the vote versus 40.5% for Sadler. I think it is wrong to suggest that Ted Cruz lost votes because he is Hispanic. However, it surely didn't gain him any votes. The obvious inference is that Rubio won't save the Republicans in 2016. They need to save themselves. 

A reader points out that Cruz did a little better than Romney in heavily Hispanic South Texas and Romney did a little better than Cruz in white rural counties. Not a big effect, though.

As you know, the so called national exit poll didn't bother sampling enough people in Texas in 2012 to report demographics on that giant and fascinating state. Fortunately, my big upcoming article analyzing the election's demographics includes a brief analysis of Texas voting by ethnicity from an exit poll source that nobody else seems to have noticed.
14. Few people are mentioning it, but Citizens United was a big winner on Tuesday. Not the Citizens United won anything. Far from it. However, the failure of the outside spending organization to influence the outcome speaks louder than all of the dollars spent. Henceforth it will be rather hard for the Democrats to claim that Citizens United poisoned the electoral well for them.  ...

Yeah, but, still ... Just because it will be hard for Democrats to complain doesn't mean the Democratic media won't have enough gumption to man up and whine incessantly each time some backwoods millionaire takes time off from buying cars for cornerbacks to donate one ... million ... dollars to some Republican PAC.

However, somebody should try to estimate what percentage of all the money raised by pro-Republican groups was wasted or stolen via stupid ad buys, bad commercials, or get out the vote software that failed miserably.

My impression is that Democratic donors get a bigger bang for their buck right now. A Democrat giving a million bucks that goes to, say, walking around money in the 'hood in Philly is buying some serious results. In contrast, a Republican giving a million bucks will often wind up with some killer Powerpoint presentations, some fun team-building bonding experiences for the PAC staff after golf at Hilton Head, a big cut goes for the consulting firm's overhead, and then there's ... ?
15. Romney did much worse with Asians compared to any other group. He lost 9% of the Asian vote compared to McCain He lost the Asian vote by a larger margin 73% to 26% than the Hispanic vote. This raises some interesting (and disturbing) questions (for Republicans). Illegal immigration isn't the key topic in the Asian community, that it supposedly is among Hispanics. Romney and Republicans strongly embraced higher levels of skilled immigration (which means Asians in practice). Asians are not generally poor, welfare dependent, and family  stability is high. Why then? At some level it would appear that Asians are voting like Jews ("Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans" is an old quip). However, this doesn't reveal as much as you might think. As late as 1996, Republicans captured a majority of the Asian vote. Starting with Bush 43, Republicans starting losing the Asian vote and are now losing the Asian vote by a margin of 47%.

I look into the Asian vote a little more in my upcoming article, using my second source that nobody else is looking at.
16. Overall, Obama's winning margin was smaller in 2012 (2.6%) than in 2008 (7.27%). However, the shift towards Romney was highly variable by state. In 47 jurisdictions, Romney closed the gap versus 2008 (winning some but not all of them). In 4 jurisdictions, the gap actually widened (AK, LA, MS,. NJ). Romney's greatest gain was in Utah (no surprise there). Romney's greatest loss (while still winning) was in Alaska. The other large shifts towards Romney were mostly in resource extraction states (IN 11.53%, KY 6.47%, MT 11.24%, ND 11.17%, WV 13.68%).

Heavily Latino states actually don't show any pattern at all. Romney gained share in AZ and CA, but less than the national average. NV and NM were above the national average. Texas was slightly below the national average. If Latino backlash was a major influence on the election, it would have presumably shown up in states with high Latino turnout. It didn't.

How the world really works

From the NYT:
Many Chinese Intellectuals Are Silent Amid a Wave of Tibetan Self-Immolations 
BEIJING — In a gruesome act of resistance that has played out dozens of times in recent months, six young Tibetans set fire to themselves this week, shouting demands for freedom as they were consumed by flames. On Friday, for the second day in a row, thousands of Tibetan students took to the streets in the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai denouncing “cultural genocide” and demanding an end to heavy-handed police tactics, exile groups said. 
Here in the nation’s capital, where Communist Party power brokers are presenting a new generation of leaders, the outgoing president, Hu Jintao, made no mention on Thursday of the anger consuming China’s discontented borderlands during his sprawling address to the nation. 
Asked by foreign reporters about the escalating crisis, delegates to the 18th Party Congress blamed the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader, or inelegantly dodged the question altogether. “Can I not answer that?” one asked nervously. 
But while Tibetan rights advocates have long been inured to impassive officials, they are increasingly troubled by the deafening silence among Chinese intellectuals and the liberal online commentariat, a group usually eager to call out injustice despite the perils of bucking China’s authoritarian strictures. 
On Twitter, where China’s most voluble critics find refuge from government censors, the topic is often buried by posts about persecuted dissidents, corrupt officials, illegal land grabs or other scandals of the day. Since the self-immolations began in earnest last year, few Chinese scholars have attempted to grapple with the subject. 
“The apathy is appalling,” said Zhang Boshu, a political philosopher who lost his job at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences three years ago for criticizing the government’s human rights record. 
With a mounting toll of 69 self-immolations, at least 56 of them fatal, many Tibetans are asking themselves why their Han Chinese brethren seem unmoved by the suffering — or are at least uninterested in exploring why so many people have embraced such a horrifying means of protest.

Perhaps because the Han Chinese don't see themselves as the "brethren" of the Tibetans? The vast majority of Han think of Tibetans the way increasing majorities of Israelis think of West Bank Palestinians as Israel's German cultural heritage slowly dwindles.

This is a useful reminder that the vast majority of the non-European world is Rightist in the sense current in the Anglosphere and Europe of being ethnocentric and majoritarian: the Chinese, the Muslims, and so forth. 

Is there any part of the non-Euro world that is anti-ethnocentric and pro-minoritarian? Kerala in India, maybe? Probably not, but I don't see a lot of better candidates.

Rather than the mean Rightist Euro-white majority keeping down the Leftist minorities of the world, the real picture on a global scale is of a nice Leftist anti-ethnocentric white minority in a world increasingly dominated by not nice ethnocentric and majoritarian Rightist nonwhites.

I've sometimes wondered if the white leaders of American prestige colleges sort of grasp this deep in the unarticulated parts of their minds and they hope that they can somehow inculcate niceness in the Chinese (and the rest) before the Chinese totally push us aside. 

Unfortunately, it's such a triple-bankshot approach: let's have Chinese applicants write admissions essays about how they have been discriminated against by the White Male Power Structure ever since their family moved from China to San Marino, and then we'll make sure that we have lots of classes that emphasize how horrible was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and, hesto-presto, they'll grasp the secret unspoken message that the Chinese should be nice to Tibetans ... and to us white people when the Chinese eventually have the global whip hand.

It's a foolproof plan!

Election observations

A reader writes:
1. House democrats beat House GOP in popular vote 
2. Obama has fewer popular votes than Bush 04 but the gap is getting smaller as they count all the votes. Is that lost white vote the Massachusetts moderate thing or the Mormon thing? 
3. Nate Silver calculates the GOP needs to win the presidential popular vote by 2% to tie the electoral college. 

How stable are biases in the Electoral College? I can recall everybody assuming after 2000 that the Republicans had an advantage in the EC, but then Kerry almost sneaked the 2004 election by winning in Ohio, so it looks like the Dems have had the EC advantage for 3 elections in a row.
4. National polling is skewed GOP by the large white bloc vote and high white turnout in red states 
5. Romney won white women 
6. Reagan 84 and Romney 12 won the same percentage of the white vote, which would be my biggest concern if I was GOP. Robin Hanson's forager vs farmer is real. The GOP should vote against any Hudson River tunnel or mass transit anywhere that makes it easier to fit a lot of people in cities. 

Vote for water projects in Idaho, that kind of thing.
7. There aren't many modern post World War 1 two term presidents and fewer got more than 50% popular vote in both runs. Obama is one of them. 
8. Obama has done a lot, but even if you think he didn't, his presence had made it safe to be an open liberal. The climate is such that gay marriage and legal marijuana are now tossups in many states. We're far from freedom fries. 
9. Minority GOP candidates are a non starter. No Rubio, no Condi. This makes it too easy for Reagan Democrats to go home. The GOP should go the opposite and find "regulation whites" as was said in Primary Colors, Protestant guys like Rob Portman, Thune, or Virginia's McDonnell. Charisma doesn't matter. Rational whites don't need to be inspired. Sober whites look askance of rhetoric.

I suspect Romney was helpful in nudging the Republican brand a little toward the Responsible Grown-Up direction that it needed to go after Bush.
10. The GOP should focus mid term elections. The GOP has a structural deficit in presidential years (electoral college, Dem machine) so they should try to push important ballot issues and most promising candidates then. 
11. An emerging line is Romney was bruised from a long primary fight. For some reason this doesn't hurt the Dems which don't use winner take all system. Maybe the GOP should reorder the process to protect viable candidates, or restrict the field to senators, VPs, and governors. The GOP likes order, they'd tolerate it.

November 9, 2012

CIA director David Petraeus resigns in sex scandal

This didn't have anything to do with there having been an election three days ago. Only conspiracy theorists would imagine that Obama wanted the popular general in his administration up through Election Day, but wanted him out afterwards. Only they would  think that CIA and FBI directors can be tricky to fire (see tenure of J.E. Hoover, 1789-1972), so it's best if matters can be arranged where they fall on their own swords.

But only conspiracy theorists might think such terrible things.

P.S. Here's the opening of a letter that appeared in Chuck Klosterman's advice column last July 15:
My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job.

In other coincidental developments:
Lockheed Martin Corp. ousted its incoming chief executive, Christopher Kubasik, for having a "close personal relationship" with a subordinate at the defense contractor. 
The company said Mr. Kubasik was asked to resign Friday after an investigation determined the "improper conduct" violated Lockheed Martin's code of ethics. He will receive a $3.5 million separation payment. 
The announcement from the Pentagon's biggest supplier came just hours after Washington was rocked by the surprise resignation of General David Petraeus as director of the Central Intelligence Agency after admitting an extramarital affair.

Also, coach Mike Brown was fired by the Lakers. Excellent ... All the pieces are falling into place ...

Shaima Hate Hoax Update: Iraqi husband arrested

Late last March at the peak of the Trayvon Martin madness, the New York Times splashed on its front page a crime blotter item from 3,000 miles away:
Iraqi Immigrants in California Town Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing  
EL CAJON, Calif. — Shaima Alawadi’s family says they found the first note taped to the front door of their house on a quiet suburban street here. It said: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” according to her 15-year-old son, Mohammed.  
Ms. Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, says he wanted to call the police. But his wife said no, insisting the note was only a child’s prank. Like many others in the neighborhood, the couple were immigrants from Iraq. In 17 years in the United States, they had been called terrorists before, he said.  
But last Wednesday, Ms. Alawadi was found in the family’s dining room by her 17-year-daughter, lying unconscious in a puddle of blood with a severe head wound. Nearby lay another threatening note, similar to the one the family found a week earlier. Ms. Alawadi, 32, died three days later.

Quickly, there were calls for a joint Million Hoodies and Hijabs March.

But, the story always smelled bogus to me. (My first post on the murder and another).
For example, an awful lot of the hate crimes that make the news turn out to be hoaxes. That doesn't mean there are no such things as hate crimes, just that hate crimes like, say, Matthew Yglesias getting stomped for Walking While White is too boring and depressing to be news. The stuff that becomes big news is, typically, a noose is found in the Diversity Nook at some hyper-liberal college. 
One of these days, I'm going to have to write up something on What We Can Learn from Claude Shannon about What Makes the Newspaper.

In contrast to the NYT, the local San Diego paper and the Los Angeles Times took a more skeptical approach. 

Today, the L.A. Times reported:
Iraqi immigrant's death was domestic violence, authorities say 
Kassim Al-Himidi, 48, is suspected of killing his wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32, in March in El Cajon. A note found at the crime scene had suggested the slaying might have been a hate crime. 
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times 
November 9, 2012, 7:36 p.m. 
SAN DIEGO — The husband of an Iraqi immigrant fatally beaten in the family home in El Cajon has been arrested and charged in her death, police said Friday. 
The killing in March was a case of domestic violence, not a hate crime, as a note found near the body had suggested, El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman said at a news conference. 
Kassim Al-Himidi, 48, was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of murder after being asked to come to the police station. 
Al-Himidi's wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32, the mother of five children, was found bludgeoned and unconscious March 21 and died three days later. 
A note found by the couple's 17-year-old daughter expressed animosity toward Iraqi immigrants, including the phrase "go back to your country" and a reference to the family as "terrorists." 
The possibility of a hate crime sent shock waves through the immigrant community in eastern San Diego County. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 immigrants from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries have settled in El Cajon, La Mesa and adjacent areas east of San Diego. 
Crime statistics showed no history of hate crimes or overt hostility toward Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, even during the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. 
During an intense seven-month investigation, police refrained from calling the beating a hate crime, citing other unspecified evidence. 
Court records show Alawadi planned to divorce her husband and move to Texas to be with relatives. 
"I hope this arrest further eases any concerns in our community," Redman said. "Our investigators showed there was no one running around committing hate crimes." 

Supreme Court Death Watch

D/R Age Age + 4
 Ruth Bader Ginsburg  D  79.7  83.7
 Antonin Scalia  R  76.7  80.7
 Anthony Kennedy  R  76.3  80.3
 Stephen Breyer  D  74.2  78.2
 Clarence Thomas  R  64.4  68.4
 Samuel A. Alito, Jr.  R  62.6  66.6
 Sonia Sotomayor  D  58.4  62.4
 John G. Roberts  R  57.8  61.8
 Elena Kagan  D  52.5  56.5 

Krauthammer's brilliant strategy to enthuse Hispanics: Legal helotry for illegal aliens, but NOT citizenship

From Politico:
Late to this, but last night Charles Krauthammer came down on the side of amnesty for illegal immigrants. 
"Hispanics [are] not an intrinsic, ethnic-affinity problem, it's a policy problem." Krauthammer said on Fox News. "I think Republicans can change their position, be a lot more open to actual amnesty with enforcement -- amnesty, everything short of citizenship -- and to make a bold change in their policy. Enforcement, and then immediately after a guarantee of amnesty. That would completely change anything. If you had a Rubio arguing that, it would completely upend all ethnic alignments." 
Krauthammer did not go as far as Sean Hannity, who today said he has “evolved” on immigration and now supports a “pathway to citizenship.” But between the two it marks a very significant shift in thinking among leading conservative thinkers. Increasingly, the party is coming to terms with the fact that it needs the Latino vote in order to win office.

The Republican Brain Trust is so atrophied that Charles Krauthammer is being outthunk by Sean Hannity.

We've been through this over and over again during the last twelve years, but only evil people remember the past.

Every time the GOP establishment got excited over amnesty as a symbolic way to announce "Message: We Love You" to Hispanic current voters, it eventually dawns upon them they don't actually want illegal aliens to become voters, since they would vote overwhelmingly against Republicans. So, Republicans, as Krauthammer is doing here, then attempt to finesse the issue with this exciting compromise: "Message: We Love Hispanics Who Are Current Voters, so We Want Hispanic Illegal Aliens to Be Legal Helots, But Not Citizens, No, Horrors, Never That!"

In 2001, Bush's first of four failed "comprehensive immigration reform" efforts had collapsed in Congress in the week before 9/11 in large part because of the dismay of Congressional Republicans over its impact on their long-term electoral prospects. Bush's second plan, announced in January 2004, was therefore more cynical: legalized helotry without voting rights. Yet, as I pointed out on February 1, 2004:
But Bush's new Machiavellianism automatically cedes the rhetorical high ground to the Democrats, who are already pushing for "earned legalization" (i.e., giving illegals the vote). Bush is left contradictorily sputtering about how wonderful immigrants are and how we don't want them to become our fellow citizens. ...
It's important to note that illegal immigration is highly popular among Hispanic leaders and activists because their careers soar as the number of Hispanics rises. But Latino voters as a whole have rationally mixed feelings about it. They suffer the most direct consequences of lower wages and lousier schools. 
Among Hispanics who are registered voters (and thus are not illegal immigrants), interest in Bush's immigration plan was strikingly low. Two weeks after Bush's speech, a plurality of Hispanic registered voters (41 percent) either hadn't heard of the proposal or had no opinion of it, followed by 35 percent who supported it and 24 percent who opposed it. 
Worse, when given more information on the plan—such as that it required guest workers to go home i.e., be deported— a plurality disapproved (47-42). 
Among all Hispanics, the Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus' "earn citizenship" plan was favored over Bush's "temporary legal status" plan by a crushing 75-16 margin. 
... The Irvine pollsters summed up: 
"Bush's approval rating among Latinos and the percentage of Latinos intending to cast votes for him in 2004 did not show improvement over figures from recent national surveys completed before the immigration proposal was announced."

President Jeb Bush's 2024 replacement is powering up

There's been a lot of talk recently about Jeb Bush being the obvious GOP frontrunner in 2016 because he has a Mexican wife. But, what about beyond Jeb's two terms? Could we ever run out of President Bushes?

Not to worry. From the AP:
'Next Bush' makes campaign filing in Texas 
Nov 9, 12:06 AM (ET) 

DALLAS (AP) - George P. Bush, a nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of one-time Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has made a campaign filing in Texas that is required of candidates planning to run for state office, an official said Thursday night. 
The younger Bush, a Fort Worth resident, filed a campaign treasurer appointment Wednesday

Which coincidentally happens to be the day after the election, when all the smart money decided that Hispanics were the only hope of the Republican Party
, a requirement for someone to become a candidate under campaign finance law, Tim Sorrells, general counsel for the Texas Ethics Commission, told The Associated Press. 
Sorrells said the report does not specify what office Bush might seek, if any, and he had no other details on the filing, which wasn't available online. ... 
The 36-year-old said ... runs a consulting firm and has been active in Republican Party outreach to college students. He's also the co-founder of Hispanic Republicans of Texas, a group that seeks to elect Hispanic candidates. 
Ana Navarro, who was the national Hispanic co-chairwoman for John McCain when he ran for president in 2008, tweeted her enthusiasm Thursday.
"Wrote check for my friend, (at)georgepbush newly formed exploratory committee for office in TX. Young, pragmatic, Hispanic, just what GOP needs," Navarro's tweet read. 
Bush and his wife, Amanda, met while attending law school at the University of Texas at Austin.

I tried to look up something bad about Amanda, but came away thinking she sounds like a much better First Lady than George P. sounds like a President. People who went to Rice with George P. were not impressed, but this Amanda seems formidable. You have been warned.
Bush also has Navy service on his resume, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, where, for security purposes, he was given a different name. Not even those he was serving alongside knew he was a Bush.

Okay, so spending 6 months in Afghanistan in Naval Intelligence (doing what, checking on naval action on the Helmand River?) is at least something. He's making an effort.

In other Bush Dynasty news, George P.'s dad Jeb has a book coming out, cowritten with Clint Bolick, called Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. I can't wait.

May I offer some advice to Mr. Bush? Lose the word "Wars" from your title. Don't remind people.

Karl Rove slams headfirst into the world's most boring insight

In his dozen years of fame, Karl Rove has been wrong about a lot of things, most notably about the long term effects of immigration on the GOP. Karl was going to brilliantly manipulate immigrants into voting Republican to usher in an age of GOP dominance, like Mark Hanna did for William McKinley.

But, few find unchanging realities (immigrants and their children mostly vote Democrat) terribly interesting or even respectable to think about, so Karl is still considered a major source of wisdom on this topic.

On the other hand, Karl was wrong on Election Night about one state, Ohio, for about an hour or two, and he may never live that down.

As you may recall, Obama jumped out to a sizable lead in early vote counting in Ohio, but then Romney started narrowing the gap as more votes came in. However, with 23 percent of the votes left to count and Obama up by only 991 votes in the official tally, Fox News called Ohio for the President, in effect calling the whole election. Rove vociferously protested that this call, like the dual wrong calls various networks made over Florida in 2000, was premature.

After awhile that night, it turned out the Fox analysts were right about Ohio and Rove was wrong, and Obama held on to win Ohio.

This is widely considered a humiliating catastrophe from which Rove's reputation may never recover. Because what everybody actually finds interesting are near toss-up competitions that will be over real soon so we can know who is the winner and who is the loser. The more random the result, the more exciting we find it.

So, Rove being wrong for 12 years about the impact of immigration on his Party ... mehhhhhh.

Rove being wrong for 120 minutes about one closely contested state ... what a loser!

November 8, 2012

How big was turnout anyway?

Compared to many Third World countries, America has a ramshackle voting system, which makes it hard to tell what just happened. A few days after the election, informed observers can disagree on basic questions like: did more people vote this time than last time? In Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende (pronounced Tren-day) argues that white turnout may have declined by 7 million, but Nat Cohn in The New Republic is dubious about Trende's numbers.

If you have an insight into this question, let me know.

Irony out of Oakland

A reader writes:
TV cameraman attacked outside tough high school... 
...while filming a piece about how thanks to Prop 30, the schools stand on the edge of a new golden age:

From the newspaper article:
11-08) 11:36 PST OAKLAND -- A KPIX news cameraman was punched and robbed Wednesday during a live broadcast outside an Oakland high school, the latest in a spate of holdups targeting the media, police said.

You can see the camera swing wildly in the last one or two seconds of both clips.
Reporter Anne Makovec and cameraman Gregg Welk were on the air shortly after noon outside Oakland Technical High School near the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. They were at the school to do a story on the passage of Proposition 30, the tax measure preventing deep budget cuts to education. 
As Makovec was finishing her report, police said, five men rushed up and grabbed a $6,000 camera from the tripod. Viewers saw the live picture being jarred and turned sideways for about two seconds. 
One of the assailants punched Welk in the mouth before the group fled in a Mercedes-Benz, which apparently was accompanied by a Lexus, police said. ... 
Monifa said the station would continue to report in Oakland but declined to specify whether any changes would be made to protect its crews. 
Sources, however, said all KPIX crews covering stories in Oakland would be accompanied by security guards, day or night, effective immediately. 
The incident comes amid a series of robberies in which the news media have been victims throughout Oakland, often in broad daylight. 
Veteran Oakland Tribune photographer Laura Oda has twice been robbed of cameras since July. 
Late one night in June, a KTVU news crew was robbed of a computer, camera and tripod by several men who pushed their way into their van parked on Redwood Road in the Oakland hills. 
In May, a man stole a camera and tripod from a KNTV crew at 20th Street and San Pablo Avenue.

With Jerry Brown on top of the world again and talking about running for a fourth term as governor of California, I recall when I met him a decade ago. When Brown was mayor of Oakland, I attended a Milken Institue speech he gave in which he explained what he had learned as mayor. I was quite astonished, because the gist of his speech, as far as I could tell, was that being mayor of Oakland had been a most eye-opening experience for an old liberal like him, that he had concluded that the main hope for Oakland was persuading poor people to move out and for the the poor people who insisted upon staying, trying to get their kids to go to a public military school he started to get some discipline pounded into their dysfunctional heads.

Unfortunately, Brown is a remarkably incomprehensible public speaker for somebody who has won Presidential primaries in three separate decades. I don't think many other people in the room could follow his convoluted and halting sentences. I finally obtained a tape of the speech to see if it could be turned into an article, but my editor and I eventually agreed that even that Jerry's quotes had too high of a Gibberish Quotient for readers to follow.

I give Obama a hard time for being a moody introvert of a politician, but compared to Jerry Brown, he's practically Arnold Schwarzenegger. And yet Brown will be governor of California off and on over at least a 40 year span, and perhaps 44 years, plus he won multiple Democratic Presidential primaries in other states in 1976, 1984, and 1992. What a long strange trip it's been.

Now, that I think about it, why not Jerry Brown for President in 2016? Who is his competition? Hillary? Biden? That would be quite a field. The Democrats could really use some of that Senior Citizen Mojo that's been working for Republican nominees so well since 1992.

According to this Wiki page from the future, Jerry does run, but the 77-year-old drops out after a poor performance in the 2016 Iowa primaries. So, now we know...

Pot Calls Kettle White - Newsweek headlines "GOP: You're Old, You're White, You're History!"

From Wikipedia's entry on "Newsweek:"
The revenue declines prompted an August 2010 sale by owner The Washington Post Company to 92-year-old audio pioneer Sidney Harman—for a purchase price of $1.00 and an assumption of the magazine's liabilities. Editor Jon Meacham left the magazine after the sale. 
In November 2010 Newsweek merged with the news and opinion website The Daily Beast, forming the Newsweek Daily Beast Company, after negotiations between the owners of both publications. Tina Brown, The Daily Beast's editor-in-chief has since served as the editor of both publications. Newsweek is jointly owned by the estate of the late Harman and the diversified American Internet company IAC. 
On October 18, 2012, Brown announced that Newsweek would cease print publication with the December 31, 2012 issue and transition to an all-digital format, to be called Newsweek Global.

Disparate Impact for thee, not for me: "Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win"

Remember this photo from last spring of Obama campaign headquarters? Well, here's a Time article entitled "Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win," and here's the accompanying photo of some of Obama's MoneyVote sabermetricians:
This one has a smaller sample size, but I notice a lot of white guys and some white gals, but, once again, virtually no non-Asian minorities, which is striking considering the demographics of the Chicago employment pool. (Notice the Flag of Chicago flying proudly over the Obama HQ employees. By the way, I worked at a marketing research / software company in downtown Chicago way back in the 1980s, and I had a black boss, Trey Anderson, a good guy, for a couple of years, so it's hardly impossible for a Chicago operation to hire black talent.)

You might almost think the concept of disparate impact discrimination in hiring would be applied here as vigorously as the Obama Administration has applied that concept elsewhere. But, you would be wrong.

On another note, judging by how the Obama campaign outmaneuvered the Romney campaign in almost all the swing states, you'd have to say that Obama's Moneyvote experts out-performed Romney's vaunted hired guns. But which ones do you think got paid more per capita?

Bryan Caplan explains why finance professors and citizenists are monsters


Anyway, I want to thank Bryan for dredging up a seven-year-old analogy I drew in
By "citizenism," I mean that I believe Americans should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners. 
Let me describe citizenism using a business analogy. When I was getting an MBA many years ago, I was the favorite of an acerbic old Corporate Finance professor because I could be counted on to blurt out in class all the stupid misconceptions to which students are prone. 
One day he asked: "If you were running a publicly traded company, would it be acceptable for you to create new stock and sell it for less than it was worth?" 
"Sure," I confidently announced. "Our duty is to maximize our stockholders' wealth, and while selling the stock for less than it's worth would harm our current shareholders, it would benefit our new shareholders who buy the underpriced stock, so it all comes out in the wash. Right?" 
"Wrong!" He thundered. "Your obligation is to your current stockholders, not to somebody who might buy the stock in the future." 

The point of this story, of course, is that this fundamental principle of corporate governance is, while logically necessary, rather easily overlooked, such as by 22-year-old me.

I went on to analogize:
... That same logic applies to the valuable right of being an American citizen and living in America.

Bryan doesn't comment on the subtle distinctions between fiduciary responsibility toward current v. future stockholders or current v. future citizens. Instead, he just wants to change the topic and discuss some 3 AM in the Dorm Room hypotheticals that could be brought up to try to get any discussion of ethical responsibilities off track. He writes:
But I want to continue the conversation with Steve's professor.  If I'd been in the same class, I would have immediately raised my hand: 
Me: Well, suppose I could help current stockholders by poisoning the products of our competitors, leading to the deaths of thousands of children.  Do I have an obligation to do that?

No, Bryan, you don't.

That's not what was being discussed in that MBA classroom 31 years ago or in my essay 7 years ago. We were talking about the subtle but crucial difference between current and future stockholders / citizens. Bryan's hypotheticals aren't relevant because his Poisoning Children brainstorm applies equally well (or badly) under whichever rule of fiduciary responsibility you think should apply. If you rip off current stockholders by creating new stock and selling it below what it's worth to future stockholders and you poison children to benefit the new stockholders, well, that's bad, too. In fact, it's even worse because two wrongs just make two wrongs.

Bryan says:
Yet as far as I've seen, none of the defenses of "citizenism" address this [Poisoning Children] concern.  If an avowed citizenist were to announce... 
Of course I acknowledge fundamental moral obligations to all humans.  But we still have a little moral latitude to favor fellow citizens. 
...the two of us could have a useful conversation.  I'd ask, "If allowing a peaceful worker to accept a job offer from a peaceful employer isn't a fundamental moral obligation, what is?"  And I'd listen carefully and respectfully to his reply. 
However, if a citizenist recognizes no moral obligations to non-citizens, I can only dismiss him as a monster.

But, Bryan, as you may have noticed in the first line you quoted from me, I said,
By "citizenism," I mean that I believe Americans should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners. 

"Biased in favor of" is hardly the same as "recognizes no moral obligations to non-citizens" and does not imply Poisoning Children. I also do not, for example, to use one of your 3 AM in the Dorm Room hypotheticals from another post, believe America should invade Canada and enslave Canadians.

As for, "If allowing a peaceful worker to accept a job offer from a peaceful employer isn't a fundamental moral obligation, what is?" I say, lots of stuff is a more fundamental moral obligation, such as not violating fiduciary trust by watering the stock / watering the citizenship.

To adapt and extend super-commenter Jason Malloy's analogy: My adolescent child does not have a fundamental right to make a job offer to a wino to move into our house to do my child's chores for him in return for half of his allowance. Nor does the wino then have the right to invite his brother to move in to our house, nor the wino's brother to invite his daughter and her kids in, nor the wino's brother's daughter's daughter's husband and his kids from a previous marriage, etc etc.

It's worth noting that the Preamble to the Constitution is rooted much more in my way of thinking than in Bryan's:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.  [Emphasis mine]

On the other hand, some popular thinkers have disagreed with the Founders. For example:
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too 
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one 
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man 
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one 

Obama as feminist avenger? Huh?

From the WaPo:

Obama photo a snapshot of modern marriage

(Scout Tufankjian / OBAMA FOR AMERICA)
CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: The image sent from the president’s Twitter account that went viral Tuesday night, that clearly speaks to people, represents a more modern ideal of true equality in emotional relations.
I don't get it. In my new Taki's Magazine column,
The major exception of respected woman in the White House has been Valerie Jarrett, but Obama likes her less for her sex than for her race, class, and similarly exotic biography. Also, as his wife’s old boss from the Daley Administration, Jarrett’s West Wing clout reassures the suspicious but slightly clueless First Lady. 
By the way, has anybody noticed through the Comedy Blockade that the Obamas’ marital relationship rather curiously resembles that of old-fashioned radio comedies like The Bickersons, TV shows such as The Honeymooners and The Flintstones, or cartoon strips like The Lockhorns, in which the purported man of the house is in perpetual fear of upsetting his nagging helpmate (or his live-in mother-in-law), requiring him to sneak off for frequent rounds of relaxing golf? 
Obama has never taken white feminists seriously. The only bit of feminist boilerplate I noticed in Obama’s 150,000-word memoir was a single clause within a long sentence. Indeed, resentment of his working mother and grandmother is a constant theme running through his pointedly entitled Dreams from My Father. You can tell how un-African-American Obama is by upbringing from his passive-aggressive sniping at his mother and grandmother, something that a normal black man just wouldn’t do. 
Over the years, Obama’s treatment of his pioneering female bank executive grandmother, who paid for the bulk of his posh education, has been noteworthy in its nastiness. In his celebrated 2008 Philadelphia speech, for instance, he compared her to Rev. Jeremiah Wright over her supposed racism for wanting a ride to work because she feared being mugged by a black drifter who had been hassling her at the bus stop. This hurt the strapping youth’s feelings. Over a decade later in his memoir, he described the emotional impact on himself of his grandmother’s worries about her safety as a “fist in my stomach.” 
In 2011, Obama took the opportunity of his one meeting with biographer David Maraniss to call attention to his grandmother’s “alcoholism” (see p. 287 of Barack Obama: The Story.) Thanks, Mr. President, glad you pointed that out for us so we can remember her that way. Classy.

Read my whole column there.

November 7, 2012

No exit poll data for Texas, 18 other states

I tried to look up on exit poll data for Texas, the second biggest state, and only got:
  • No exit poll data available

From a Dallas News article:
To save money this year, the [exit poll] consortium is doing bare-bones exit polling in 19 states. Enough voters will be questioned in those states to help predict the outcome of races, but not enough to draw narrative conclusions about the vote - what issues mattered most to women voting for Mitt Romney, for instance, or how many Catholics voted for Barack Obama. 
The affected states are: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, along with the District of Columbia. 
Each is considered a non-battleground state with polls showing a strong advantage for one of the presidential candidates. 

Okay, Romney won 57-41 in Texas and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz was elected to the Senate 57-40. So, nothing too exciting about Texas ... except that it has a large fraction of the country's Latino voters, who are the Official Big Story of 2012. Unfortunately, the exit poll data from Texas was too sketchy too let the public see anything about the demographics of the Texas vote. 

Michael Jackson's rabbi loses in GOP bid for House seat

Here at iSteve, we always like to keep up on the latest doings of the enterprising Diveroli-Boteach clan, but there's sad news today, brought to us by Dave Weigel: Shmuley Boteach, uncle of jailed young arms dealer Efraim Diveroli and former rabbi to Michael Jackson (don't ask), has lost by about 50 points in his attempt to unseat a Democrat Congressman in northern New Jersey.

Question: How much has the conquest of smog cost?

I'm mulling over a major article about the differences between liberalism and conservatism, and I'd like to use an example that I've never seen anybody fully work out.

There is vastly less smog in Los Angeles today than when I was a kid. It's a real triumph of environmental regulation. 

On the other hand, it's not exactly a cost-free triumph. For example, do you remember decades ago when you went to the car dealership and the EPA gas mileage sticker offered two different estimates: the national miles per gallon number and the California number, which was about 10% worse? 

As I seem to recall, people would go to Las Vegas or Phoenix to buy a car without California pollution controls on it because they would save maybe 10% of the cost of gasoline for a year, which is not a small number in aggregate.

After awhile, though, there stopped being two numbers because the feds applied many of the California emission control standards on cars to the entire country to keep more polluting non-California cars from slipping into California. (Thank you, non-Californians, for helping us, and the limited number of Denverites, Albuquerqueans and others who live in mountain-ringed cities, out with our smog problems.)

Has anybody ever seen a study adding up all the costs of the Defeat of Smog?

Heckuva job, Roveie!

All 2012, the NYT was going nuts about how democracy was being undermined whenever some rich Republican donor like Foster Friess would scrape together one ... million ... dollars to back some GOP primary longshot, because the essence of democracy is that the Mainstream Media must rule.

From the NYT today:
"Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, in February. Mr. Adelson, the biggest single donor in political history, supported eight candidates through "super PACs." All of them lost on Tuesday."
Little to Show for Cash Flood by Big Donors 
At the private air terminal at Logan Airport in Boston early Wednesday, men in unwrinkled suits sank into plush leather chairs as they waited to board Gulfstream jets, trading consolations over Mitt Romney’s loss the day before.

... The biggest single donor in political history, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, mingled with other Romney backers at a postelection breakfast, fresh off a large gamble gone bad. Of the eight candidates he supported with tens of millions of dollars in contributions to “super PACs,” none were victorious on Tuesday. 
And as calls came in on Wednesday from some of the donors who had poured more than $300 million into the pair of big-spending outside groups founded in part by Karl Rove — perhaps the leading political entrepreneur of the super PAC era — he offered them a grim upside: without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

What cut of that $300+ million was pocketed by Karl and his allies in the political advertising business? The traditional advertising agency commission was 15%, but I don't know what applies in the Super PAC business, other than that it sounds like a nice business to be in.

Anyway, don't let Karl's $300 million fiasco cause you to think skeptical thoughts about his  free strategic advice to Republicans. That just wouldn't be nice.
The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country. 
But while outside spending affected the election in innumerable ways — reshaping the Republican presidential nominating contest, clogging the airwaves with unprecedented amounts of negative advertising and shoring up embattled Republican incumbents in the House — the prizes most sought by the emerging class of megadonors remained outside their grasp. President Obama will return to the White House in January, and the Democrats have strengthened their lock on the Senate. ...
Mr. Adelson’s giving to super PACs and other outside groups came to more than $60 million, though in public Mr. Adelson did not seem overly concerned about the paltry returns on his investment. 
“Paying bills,” Mr. Adelson said on Tuesday night when asked by a Norwegian reporter how he thought his donations had been spent. “That’s how you spend money. Either that or become a Jewish husband — you spend a lot of money.”

Sheldon is making a joke about how he didn't much care about politics until he married his second wife, who is an Israeli. Since then, Sheldon has dutifully poured zillions into Israeli and American politics, which has (I should hope) warmed the heart of the second Mrs. Adelson. He's an old man in love.

The real smart money turned out to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, who loaned $200 million to the New York Times in 2008 to keep it afloat, which he's likely to get paid back in full. Slim  makes monopolistic profits on phone calls between America and Mexico, so he profits exorbitantly off illegal immigration, which his New York Times has so vociferously supported. 

Are you saying that the New York Times has some kind of financial conflict of interest over immigration? What are you, some kind of racist?

Control of the Narrative is the most precious power.

¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

Steven Hunter's book American Gunfight about the two brave Puerto Rican terrorists who nearly assassinated Harry Truman in 1950 in the name of Puerto Rican nationalism, converted me to the cause of Puerto Rican independence. Sure, they were murderous terrorists, but they were men. Everybody else involved with Puerto Rican politics is a mercenary politician with his hand out.

From the Washington Post:
Why does Puerto Rico want statehood, anyway? 
Posted by Olga Khazan on November 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm 
Puerto Ricans voted Tuesday to change their relationship with the United States and become the 51st U.S. state in a non-binding referendum that would require final approval from Congress. The AP wrote: 
The two-part referendum asked whether the island wanted to change its 114-year relationship with the United States. Nearly 54 percent, or 922,374 people, sought to change it, while 46 percent, or 786,749 people, favored the status quo. 
Voters then chose among three options for their new status, and statehood won with 61 percent. “Sovereign free association,” which would have allowed for more autonomy, received 33 percent, and independence garnered 5 percent.

So, it's just a big ball of twine with no definitive answer: 66% of the 54% who wanted a change wanted a change to statehood, but the majority of voters didn't. Or other metaphysical interpretations of the results are possible, as well. A cynic might almost believe that the whole system was designed just to keep the Puerto Rico's Status issue up in the air for more profitable years to come.
It’s the fourth time in 45 years that Puerto Rico has voted on changing its national status — it’s currently a territory with U.S. currency and passports. The island governs itself, but its foreign policy is dictated by Washington. Puerto Rico fell under U.S. control in 1898, and in 1917, its people became U.S. citizens, able to serve in the military but not to vote in U.S. presidential elections.  
Even though a poll published last March in a San Juan newspaper estimated that just 37 percent of Puerto Ricans wanted a status change, it seems the majority now think statehood would be the more fortuitous path. 
For one thing, becoming a state would allow them to benefit from an extra $20 billion a year in federal funds –  something Puerto Rico could use, given its 13 percent unemployment rate.

Ka-ching ...
As a voter in the capital San Juan, Jerome Lefebre, told the BBC:  
“We’re doing okay, but we could do better. We would receive more benefits, a lot more financial help.” 
Puerto Rico the state would also gain two seats in the U.S. Senate and five in the House of Representatives — a major upgrade from the one non-voting delegate that currently represents the territory. 

And 7 Electoral Votes, too. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
“The case for statehood isn’t one of additional benefits and special treatment,” said William-Jose Velez, executive president of the Puerto Rican Student Statehood Association, told the Cronkite Borderlands Initiative. “It is one of equal treatment. We want the same benefits but the same responsibilities and rights.”
Outside observers also say that statehood would bolster both Puerto Rico and the United States. Puerto Rican residents currently don’t pay federal income taxes, and companies doing business there don’t pay corporate taxes — two loopholes that would be closed if the island were made the 51st state.

For example, Microsoft saves on billions in corporate profit taxes per year by pretending to earn almost all of their Western Hemisphere revenue from their small manufacturing plant in P.R. As I blogged in 2011:
For purposes of tax avoidance, Puerto Rico is considered, by the U.S. government, to be an untouchable foreign tax haven, because it's crucial, as Admiral Mahan explained in the 19th Century, for the U.S. Navy to hold Puerto Rico to protect the approaches to the future Isthmusian Canal from the Kaiser's High Seas Fleet and the new dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy. Or something. The U.S. doesn't actually have any military bases in P.R. these days, nor does it have the Panama Canal, but it still has lots of tax breaks for Puerto Rico. ...
Microsoft has over 40,000 employees in the state of Washington in the United States. But they don't actually physically burn on to disks the software they develop. Instead, Microsoft, has a manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico employing 185 people that gets credited in Microsoft's books with a lion's share of Microsoft's Western hemisphere revenue and profits. It's making disks that's the really important thing that Microsoft does. 
Despite all you've heard about Microsoft being a software company, they are actually a manufacturing company, at least for tax accounting purposes. To the IRS, Microsoft is basically a Puerto Rican, Irish and Singaporean industrial goliath with a money-losing R&D outpost in Redmond, WA. 

I can see a politically feasible compromise emerging: Puerto Rico gets statehood, gets $20 billion in more federal funds, and Microsoft et al get to keep their Puerto Rican tax breaks. It's win-win-win for Puerto Rico, the Democrats, Microsoft, and lose-lose-lose for federal taxpayers and Republicans, those racists.
“Once Puerto Rico becomes a state, its fortunes could arc upward,” writes Reuters columnist Gregg Easterbrook, pointing out that Hawaii saw marked economic growth after it was made a state in 1959.

Obviously, only racists would point out the demographic differences between the makeup of Hawaii's population (which resembles Silicon Valley's makeup) and Puerto Rico's (which resembles that of the South Bronx). (The real question for another day is why Hawaii is so economically non-vibrant despite a promising population mix. In answer to Easterbrook's analogy to Hawaii: 1959 also marked the introduction of jet airliner service to Hawaii. In summary, in the mid-1950s, Hawaii got statehood because all signs were pointing up for Hawaii, especially the onset of convenient jet tourist and business travel. Today, nobody realistically expects much out of Puerto Rico, except what they can manipulate the taxpayers into providing.)
Opponents of statehood in Puerto Rico have argued that becoming part of the United States might compromise the island’s language and culture, especially if the federal government requires it to adopt English as its sole official language (right now, it’s both Spanish and English), as a condition of its accession. 
That worry prompted a 2011 presidential task force on Puerto Rico to recommend: 
“Providing assurances that Puerto Rico will control its own cultural and linguistic identity would reduce concern over this possibility.” 

As I said, Puerto Rican statehood can be achieved by a few simple compromises in which all interested parties get whatever unprincipled exemptions they demand and America pays the price.
The island’s fate wasn’t as wrapped up in the outcome of the presidential race, however: Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have said they would respect Puerto Ricans’ statehood decision, whatever it may be.

I imagine that the Democrats will try to play this out in such a way that nothing much happens other than that some white Republicans get caught on microphone saying honest things about Puerto Rico and its Puerto Ricanness (e.g., it is corrupt, indolent, murderous, unintellectual, tax parasitical, and so forth and so on), thus allowing Democrats to trumpet how much white racist Republicans hate, Hate, HATE Hispanics!

As for me:

¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

One perspective on the rapidly congealing conventional wisdom

A friend writes:

A few notes on the election and what it 'means'. Much will be said about how Obama's win and Romney's loss reflects policy, politics, demographics, social issues, cultural issues, etc. In my opinion, most of the commentary is wrong.

1. The general consensus is that Obama ran a great campaign and Romney ran a terrible one. Really? Apparently, Obama is the first president in history to lose votes in his reelection bid. A few presidents (Carter, Bush 41, etc.) have been defeated. None (until yesterday) have been reelected with fewer votes (since 1832).

2. The amazing thing is not that Romney lost, but that he did so well just four years after the Bush catastrophe. The Bush administration failed at home, abroad, and on the border. It would be crazy to think that this didn't damage the Republican brand. It did. It takes a long time (or large events) for a party to recover from something like Bush. A few examples. The Crash of 1893 put the Republicans in charge for a generation. The disaster of Woodrow Wilson's presidency gave the Republicans absolute dominance in the 1920s (including the most lopsided popular vote in history). The Great Depression elected Democrats for two generations. The failed Truman presidency (as seen by the public at the time), easily elected Eisenhower (but left the Democrats in control of Congress).

It would be amazing if the utter failure of the Bush presidency didn't resonate for some time. So far, the failures of the Obama administration simply don't loom as large. A quick comparison with FDR is incisive. After FDR took office in 1933, the economy took off. Industrial production doubled (from a low level) in 4 years. Unemployment plunged (how much is unclear because statistical methods were so different back then). FDR did better in 1936 than he had in 1932. By contrast, the Obama administration didn't reduce unemployment and created near zero net jobs. He did worse.

Eventually, people will forget about Bush and/or new events will shift public opinion. Republicans would have dominated politics until at least 1940 barring the Great Depression (from a public opinion standpoint, WWI was Iraq on super steroids). Of course, that didn't happen. 1929 intervened with decisive consequences.

3. Few people from either party will admit it (for obvious reasons), but Romney considerably broadened the appeal of the Republican party (not enough to be sure). Take a look at Romney gained with

  A. Men - 4 points better than McCain
  B. Women - 1 point better than McCain
  C. Young voters  (18-29) - 5 points better than McCain
  D. Middle age voters (45-64) - 2 points better than McCain
  E. Old voters (65+) - 3 points better than McCain
  F. Republicans - 3 points better than McCain
  G. Independents - 6 points better than McCain
  H. Whites - 4 points better than McCain
  I. Blacks - 2 points better than McCain
  J. Other - 7 points better than McCain
  K. High school graduates - 2 points better than McCain
  L . Some college - 1 point better than McCain
  M. College graduate - 3 points better than McCain
  N. Postgraduate  - 2 points better than McCain
  O. $50-99K - 3 points better than McCain
  P. $100K+ - 5 points better than McCain
  Q. Married men - 7 points better than McCain
  R. Married women - 2 points better than McCain
  S. Non-married men - 2 points better than McCain
  T. Non-married women - 2 points better than McCain
  U. Liberals - 1 point better than McCain
  V. Moderates - 2 points better than McCain
  W. Conservatives - 4 points better than McCain
  X. Protestants - 3 points better than McCain
  Y. Catholics - 3 points better than McCain
  Z. Jewish voters - 9 points better than McCain
  A1. None (religion) - 4 points better than McCain
  B1. White evangelicals - 4  points better than McCain

Romney lost with

  A. Age 30-44 voters - 1 point worse than McCain
  B. Democrats - 3  points worse than McCain
  C. Hispanics - 4 points worse than McCain
  D. Asians - 9 points worse than McCain
  E. Dropouts - 1 point worse than McCain
  F. Under $50K - Less than one point worse than McCain
  G. Some other religion - Less than one point worse than McCain

4. Considerable media commentary will be devoted to how poorly Romney did with Hispanics. The shift towards Obama cost Romney 0.4% of the popular vote. Not too many commentators will notice that Romney's gains with blacks added 0.26% to his vote total. Of course, Romney's gains with whites added 2.88% to his vote total. Conversely, Romney's losses with Asians cost him (apparently) 0.27% of the popular vote. Perhaps even stranger, Romney's gains with 'other' added 0.14% to his vote total.

5. For better or worse, immigration was not a material issue in this election. To the extent it was, who did it help? The conventional wisdom will no doubt conclude that Obama won by getting more Hispanic votes via his administrative partial Amnesty. Perhaps that's true. However, Hispanics had plenty of other reasons to vote for Obama. Immigrants account for a vastly disproportionate share of the uninsured (1/3rd). Obamacare could have been called Aliencare with easy justification. The states with the fewest immigrants have the fewest uninsured by far (and vice versa). Of course, the same points could be made about food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, etc.

Conversely, immigration almost certainly helped Romney with white voters (turned off by McCain's pursuit of Amnesty) and may have helped Romney with black voters (many of whom are privately hostile towards mass immigration). If Romney had polled as well as McCain among Hispanics he would have still lost the election decisively. Conversely, if he polled as well as Reagan among whites (1984) he would have easily won.

6. As stated above, Romney's showing with Hispanics will be the source of considerable attention. Obama got 7.1% of the national vote from Hispanics versus 2.7% for Romney for a net loss of 4.4%. By contrast, Obama got 12.09% of the national vote from blacks versus 0.78% for Romney for a net loss of 11.31%. Obviously Republicans have a vastly larger problem with black voters than Hispanic voters. Obama got 29.15% of the national vote from women versus 23.32% for Romney for a net loss of 5.83%. Another way of looking at this is that Romney carried the male vote (of all races) by 7% and lost the (larger) female vote by 9%. This suggests that then conventional obsession with race based voting isn't justified. What the Republicans can do about this is another matter.

Few people will mention this but Romney won the married vote (both sexes) by big margins and lost the single vote by large margins as well. Romney lost the single female vote by 36% (but still did better than McCain). The conventional wisdom is that this is all about abortion. However, the single female demographic includes welfare mothers as well. Apparently, 2% of black single mothers support(ed) Romney. More broadly, 40% of all children are born out-of-wedlock (and into welfare dependency to a greater or lesser extent).

7. Romney lost a long list of states in the Midwest and elsewhere where immigrants and Hispanics aren't a large share of the electorate. Notably, he lost Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, etc. In some of these states he lost the white vote. This strongly suggests that race-based interpretations of the election are misleading. I don't agree that the auto-bailout cost Romney the election. However, I would argue that the poor results of Bushinomics did.

8. The conventional wisdom is that this election shows how polarized and divided America is. Actually, no it doesn't. Voter turnout was massively down from 2008 (129.3 million) to 2012 (117.416 million). Indeed, turnout 2004 was actually higher (121.068 million) than 2012. Since the electorate has been slowly growing, the percentage fall is even greater.

Genuinely polarized countries have high election turnout. Low election turnout is a characteristic of countries where the political divide isn't particularly sharp. For example, Switzerland has strikingly low voter turnout and minimal political conflict. By contrast, the modern history of Chile is tragic (less so of late). Voter turnout is above 90%.

In the U.S., high voter turnout has been associated with real polarization. In 1860, 81.2% of Americans went to the polls to elect Abraham Lincoln. Turnout in 1860, was second only to 1876 when 81.8% of voters cast ballots.

9. The Senate races were highly predictable. With a few exceptions, Democrats carried states won by Obama and Republicans won in states that voted for Romney. The exceptions are notable. Todd Akins and Richard Mourdock lost in Romney states for reasons everyone knows. Mourdock was a real Tea Party candidate who lost in the general election. Conversely, Heller defeated Berkley in a state that Obama carried.

Alan King ran as Independent in Maine and appears to have won. However, he is clearly Democratic-leaning in a state Obama carried. It is still rather impressive, given how hard it is for a third-party candidate to prevail. The other anonalies are Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia where a Democrat is leading in state Romney won. None are pickups however.

10. It is well known that Romney did slightly worse than McCain with Hispanics (27% vs. 31%) but considerably worse than Bush (39%). Did it make a difference? Actually, it did not. It appears that only one state (Florida) would have gone to Romney if had retained Bush's Hispanic vote share (and not lost any white or black votes as a consequence). This may sound surprising. But very few states were close in 2012. In only 5 states was the spread less than 5% (VI +3.0%, OH +1.9%, FL +0.6%, CO +4.7%, NC -2.2%).

11. Ohio is actually an interesting case in point. It's the closest of the Midwest states that Romney lost. It wasn't expected to be close (by the Democrats) and certainly not the closest (by either party apparently). Why isn't clear.

As always, the conventional wisdom is that the losing party has to change to win in the future. Sometimes that true. The DLC and Clinton pushed the Democrats to the right in the 1990s (in most respects) with favorable results. However, sometimes it isn't true at all. Obama's victory in 2008 wasn't about shifts in policy, but the collapse of the party in power.

If the next four years are relatively smooth (continued slow recovery, massive deficits, no major events abroad), the Democrats will probably win in 2016 no matter what the Republicans do. Conversely, a new global economic crisis (most likely triggered in the Eurozone) and/or a major war in the Middle East (and $10 gas) will destroy the Democrats (for at least one election cycle). Strangely, the Democrats might implode simply by doing what everyone says they should do; a grand bargain on taxes and spending. Higher taxes will send Republicans to the polls in the next cycle. Material cuts in entitlements will keep Democrats at home. The analogy isn't perfect, but Gerhard Schröder's entitlement reforms might have been right for Germany, but were quite harmful to his party (the SPD).

At a deeper level, we have reached the end of anti-tax, "free" trade, anti-regulation, Open Borders, cheap labor, pro-bubble, pro-outsourcing, pro-war, etc. Republican party. That's my opinion at least, although I don't expect too many Republicans to agree. Actually, I don't think too many Democrats will agree either. The Democrats would welcome a Republican party friendlier to higher taxes, regulation (in some cases), and Open Borders. However, the Democrats are genuinely concerned about a (very hypothetical) Republican shift away from an interventionist foreign policy. Note the almost hysterical reaction to (some) Republican opposition to the Libyan campaign in the Republican primaries. A significant Republican shift on trade would appall the Democratic leadership (including Obama). The status quo is perfect for the Democrats. They get the free trade policies they actually want while blaming the consequences on the Republicans (with considerably justification). A Republican shift would force the Democrats to actually chose between trade restriction (favored by the rank-and-file) and free trade (rigidly embraced by the leadership). Either way it's a lose-lose. Of course, a Republican shift on trade is very hypothetical at this point. Notably, the same points apply to cheap labor.

Thank you


P.S. See for the exit poll numbers in table form.P.S.S. My wife says that I am obsessed with hating Bush 43. I say that Bush 43 is the root of all evil in the world.

Romney's high-priced turnout experts turn out to be not so expert

From the Boston Globe:
A drop in voter turnout in Tuesday’s election didn’t keep President Barack Obama from winning a second term. 
Preliminary figures suggest fewer people voted this year than four years ago, when voters shattered turnout records as they elected Obama to his first term. 

By the way, turnout was huge in 2004, with white people enthusiastically going to the polls. The 2008 turnout, in contrast, was vast among nonwhites, with white turnout tepid. But 2012 seems down from both the last two elections, although it's still early in counting every last vote process, so this current perception shouldn't be taken as carved in granite.
In most states, the numbers were even lower than in 2004, said Curtis Gans, director of American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate. Every state but Iowa is showing a smaller turnout than in 2008, Gans said. Still, the full picture may not be known for weeks because much of the counting takes place after Election Day. 
‘‘This was a major plunge in turnout nationally,’’ said Gans, who estimated about 126 million Americans voted, for an overall turnout rate of about 57.5 percent. 
In Arizona, almost 19 percent fewer people cast ballots than in 2008. In Maryland, where voters approved a ballot measure allowing gay marriage, turnout in the presidential race was running more than 7 percentage points behind 2008. Alaska saw a drop-off of nearly 25 percent over four years ago, when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the Republican vice-presidential nominee. 
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press’ figures showed about 119.5 million people had voted in the White House race, but that number will increase as more votes are counted. In 2008, 131 million people cast ballots for president, according to the Federal Election Commission. 
Experts calculate turnout in different ways based on who they consider eligible voters. A separate, preliminary estimate from George Mason University’s Michael McDonald put the 2012 turnout rate at 60 percent of eligible voters, a drop-off of more than 2 percentage points from 2008. McDonald said the 2012 figure would likely be revised as absentee votes were counted.