What has the Democrats most upset at their party? Not social issues…

September 23, 2014

The Pew Research Center has a new poll out on how self-described Democrats and Republicans view their own parties on abortion, immigration, marriage, and spending. Most are focusing on the top line: namely, that we Republicans are more upset at our party than the Dems – across the board.

However, Pew did a little more digging about why Democrats and Republicans are upset at their parties (those who are). By far, the greatest source of frustration among Republicans is government spending: 48% think the party electeds don’t do enough to cut spending.

Now, here’s the kicker: the Democrats’ biggest source of frustration is the same thing. Thirty percent of Democrats think their elected officials don’t do enough to cut spending either.

In other words, the best shot the GOP has at winning over Democrats isn’t any social issue. It’s cutting government spending, the very thing that would most make upset Republicans happy.

The data speaks loud and clear. Let’s hope the GOP leadership is listening.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Meanwhile, Europe continues to fray at the edges

September 15, 2014

In the span of a couple of weeks, we are seeing three signs that Europe is falling into Yeats’ most well-known phrase (“Things fall apart; the center does not hold”).

The first took place in France, of all places. A recent IFOP poll revealed that Marine Le Pen, daughter of fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen and successor to him as leader of the Front National (FN), would “win” the first-round of the 2017 presidential election. She’d even defeat President Francois Hollande in the second round. To be fair, the poll also shows Hollande would not make the second round in any event; the center-right nominee would beat him to second place, and then go on to defeat Le Pen. However, that Le Pen has the strength reflected in the poll is a sign that her emphasis on getting France out of the eurozone is finding a hearing in what was – and still is – a core nation in the European Union.

Outside the eurozone, the nation that has long been the epitome of European sophistication and socialism – namely, Sweden – pitched out its center-right government (whose eight-year length in office was itself a modern record), yet the incoming left-wing coalition barely won any more votes than four years ago. The center-right government instead lost nearly 7% of the vote to the anti-establishment, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats (Coffee House). How the leftist coalition will survive this parliamentary session (four years) is anybody’s guess right now.

Finally, of course, there is Great Britian, which simply put, seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown (Coffee House). Scotland will vote Thursday on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom and form its own state again, and the polls are close enough that a panicked London is trying out plans to hand a slew of powers to the Scots if “No” wins. Already, pundits outside Scotland are wondering if the Kingdom’s leaders have gone mad (especially the acerbic yet side-splitting Dan Hodges).

Underlying all of the political quakes is a fault line right through the continent: the very battles between the elites and the common folks that run visibly through the Republican Party here (and, under the paper-thin loyalty to the president, through the Democrats as well). In Sweden, the center-right’s assumption that it can be more center than right has led to votes being bled to the Sweden Democrats. In the UK, the Tories are losing votes to UKIP in England, while Labour has bled Scottish voters to the Scottish Nationalist Party for so long that the UK itself might lose Scotland itself.

The lessons in Europe should be crystal clear for us here on our side of the Atlantic. Forty years ago, the idea of a right-wing populist party holding the balance of power in Sweden, the rise of a neo-fascist party on a euroskeptic platform in France, and Scotland leaving the United Kingdom were unthinkable nightmares. Today, two are reality, and the third may hit by the weekend. Who knows what disaster could face us in 2054…

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Obama takes the war (somewhat) to IS

September 11, 2014

The president announced a broader policy to take on Islamic State (IS) last night. I personally don’t think it was broad enough, but it is an improvement over the status quo.

Here are the good points:

  • Stronger policy against IS itself: The idea of defensive air strikes is gone. The Administration is publicly taking the fight to IS, with words and air sorties.
  • Nothing (yet) for Tehran and its Syrian puppet: The mullahcracy will be looking to use this to increase its influence and power in the region. Nothing would help better than Washington’s blessing. It didn’t come. That’s a good thing.
  • The Free Syrian Army will get more help and attention: The FSA has long been the best of a bad bunch in Syria. One could argue they’re also the only real enemy Assad has. They shouldn’t be forgotten, and they weren’t.

That said, this isn’t a perfect policy, Here are the bad points:

  • Ruling out ground forces: Given how much blood and treasure we shed dethroning Saddam Hussein and blocking al Qaeda and Tehran in Iraq, the idea that no ground forces are coming back will be seen as a sign of weakness and/or faintness of heart. It’s not entirely fair, but keeping redeployment open as an option would have dealt with this.
  • Relying on the Saudis to help coordinate aid to the FSA: No one is saying the FSA is perfect, but we’ve worked with less-than-perfect before. The Reagan Administration worked with Marxist rebels in Ethiopia to defeat a Communist regime, and said opposition gradually shed its Marxism as it worked closer with us. I am sure a similar result can be achieved with the FSA…but it’s a lot harder with the Saudis in the room.

Overall, as I said, this policy is an improvement over the status quo. As such, it has my support. However, I would prefer something stronger and more American-driven, and we have to remain a player in the region post-IS. We cannot simply declare victory and disappear as we tried to do in Libya. We won World War II in 1945. Seventy years later, we still have a presence in Europe and East Asia. These are the responsibilities of a superpower.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift


How feminism lost the plot

September 6, 2014

The “feminist movement” has been around long enough to easy move into the cultural Zeitgeist and, in many ways, take control of it. It’s clearly been a net positive. Yet as the calendar grinds on, feminism – which began and triumphed as a cultural phenomenon on the left – is falling victim to the usual experience bias that infects us all. Namely, the movement is seeing every problem women face as a cultural one, with a left-wing solution. In short, feminism has turned into a hammer, and all it sees are nails.

Interestingly enough, it is with nails (of a different kind) that first caught my attention. A new type of nail polish has been created, one that could help women detect “date-rape” drugs (as they are still called) that are designed to incapacitate them. Yet already a slew of would-be feminist champions are insisting that the nail polish should be opposed (Newsweek). Robyn Urback (National Post) explains the fallacy that should be obvious to all:

Those against rape-prevention technologies — and there are others, such as anti-rape underwear, drug-detecting straws, cups, lip-gloss, etc. — will forever contend that systemic issues are at the core of sexual assault, and that the focus must exclusively be on the perpetrator. The problem is that while we wait for “society to change,” people are still slipping drugs into other people’s drinks.

 

This structural perspective also assumes that all would-be perpetrators can simply be taught not to rape, which is obviously not true. That in mind, there is no reason why we can’t push for social change while equipping women with tools to protect themselves. The alternative is asking women to martyr themselves to maintain this sort of idealistic discourse that focuses solely on the offender. It’s ideological-driven nonsense. The more we can do to prevent sexual assault, the better. Full stop.

Indeed, the impression critics of this nail polish give is that cultural change is the only way to protect women, never mind allowing women to protect themselves, and never mind how many actual women become victims for waiting until culture does what the feminists want it to do.

I would also be remiss to omit that one of the would-be cultural arbiters cited by Newsweek is from Rape Crisis England & Wales, an organization that seemed to have reacted more quickly to this issue than the massive rape gang in Rotherham that was exposed around the same time (after a decade-long cover-up by local authorities who considered offending Pakistani cultural sensibilities more dangerous than letting hundreds of girls get raped). Note to any readers who think of themselves as feminists: if you’re more familiar with the raging nail controversy than with Rotherham, you’re part of the problem.

A similar problem pops up in the “equal pay” problem – and yes, it is a problem, but not for the reason most would-be feminists think. By now, just about everyone has at some point been exposed to that women-make-less-than-men meme, usually portrayed as a cents-to-dollar comparison. Most economists will tell you that the statistic is horribly misleading, and that once one takes into account work history, type of career, education level, etc., the difference is within the margin of error.

Yet feminists (or, to be fair, most of them) would rather dismiss all of the above caveats than ask why this is the case. The answer is not terribly complicated: for the most part, women are more likely to take time off work to raise children than men are. Of course, trying to change that reality requires actually talking to men, treating them as equals rather than enemies, and working towards a consensus on balancing parental responsibilities.

Oh yeah, and it also means encouraging married, two-parent households and, outside of that, custodial arrangements where men have more time with their children…neither seem to be a priority with 21st century feminism. Easier to bring the heavy hand of government in to “fix” the problem – and never mind that said hand has been spectacularly incompetent at it.

In short, feminism has become a top-down movement, one that is fighting for women while ignoring the individual woman. As a result, it has lost the plot.


Bob McDonnell is a WHAT?!?!?!

September 5, 2014

Reactions to the Bob McDonnell verdict our pouring in, and there’s one in particular (from many of his defenders) that I find completely flabbergasting.

The ex-Governor’s defenders are calling him a “man of integrity.” My jaw hits the table each time I see that.

Folks, Bob McDonnell spent all of 2009 insisting he would not raise taxes. He blasted his opponent (Creigh Deeds) for even considering it, and rode the issue to a landslide win in November of that year.

In the last year of his term (as it happens, last year) he broke that promise in spectacular fashion, ramming through the largest tax increase in at least 40 years.

Even then, he skirted the truth. He insisted the tax hike was for relieving commuter congestion, but in fact his top priority was actually a parallel road to US 460 that wasn’t needed for traffic relief – and which the Army Corps of Engineers said he couldn’t build anyway (Bacon’s Rebellion).

So please, spare me the “man of integrity” nonsense. If you want to complain about the federal decision to prosecute McDonnell (as opposed to other Virginians) or the bizarre nature of the “honest service fraud” statute, that’s one thing.

But Bob McDonnell was no angel.


Don’t fall for the Assad-or-IS false choice: they’re working together against anti-terrorist Syrians

August 25, 2014

One of the really unfortunate “ideas” entering the conventional wisdom these days is the notion that, in order to defeat the “Islamic State,” we must ally with the Syrian tyrant and butcher Bashar Assad.

There was a similar silliness in 2006, when “learned” people all over America were insisting we had to team up with Tehran to defeat al-Qaeda. Never mind that the mullahcracy and the bin Laden crew avoided fighting each other and were carving up Iraq between them before President Bush changed strategies and went after both of them in 2007.

Turns out Assad (Tehran’s ally) and IS (al Qaeda’s offshoot) are playing the same game (National Post):

As recently as 2012, ISIS was a marginalized movement confined to a small area of Iraq. Then Mr. Assad emptied Sednaya jail near Damascus of some of its most dangerous jihadist prisoners. If he hoped these men would join ISIS and strengthen its leadership, that aspiration was fulfilled. Several figures in the movement’s hierarchy are believed to be former inmates of Syrian prisons, carefully released by the regime.

 

By last year, ISIS had captured oilfields in eastern Syria. But to profit, they needed a customer for the oil. Mr. Assad’s regime began buying the oil from the jihadists, so helping to fund the movement, say Western and Middle Eastern governments.

 

Having provided ISIS with talented commanders, courtesy of his prison amnesties, and filled its coffers with oil money, Mr. Assad then focused his military campaign on the non-Islamist rebels.

Every town and suburb held by the Free Syrian Army was relentlessly pounded from the air and ground. A year ago, the regime even used poison gas against insurgent strongholds in Damascus.

 

But ISIS enjoyed a curious degree of immunity from these onslaughts. Until the past few weeks, Syria’s air force had scarcely bothered to bomb the town of Raqqa, which serves as the unofficial capital of ISIS.

 

“The regime was very happy to see [ISIS] rise and it has helped their narrative that they face an extremist Al-Qaeda type enemy against which all force is justified,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

 

“The evidence stacks up that they were definitely encouraging this sort of movement.”

 

The signs are ISIS has returned the favour. Instead of trying to bring down Mr. Assad, it has concentrated on fighting non-Islamist rebels. When the movement reached what may prove to be the apex of its military strength this year, ISIS did not try to overthrow the regime. Instead, it invaded northern Iraq — and triggered the current crisis.

As Telegraph reporter David Blair (whose piece is linked above) puts it:

Like many Middle Eastern dictators before him, Mr. Assad hopes the West will accept him as the only bulwark against the fanatics whom he has helped.

 

Put bluntly, he wants to be an arsonist and a firefighter at the same time. The question is whether he will get away with this time-honoured ploy.

A very good question. Our answer must be No. We defeated Iranian stooges and Wahhabi terrorists at the same time in Iraq in 2007-8. There’s no reason we can’t do it again in Iraq and Syria today.


More on temperature data “adjustment”

August 24, 2014

Walter Dnes (WUWT) examined American temperature “adjustment” by the USHCN (United States Historical Climate Network), and found that said adjustments were not just annual, but monthly as well (i.e., different months were “adjusted” differently).

Among his more interesting findings…

  • Winter months were adjusted upward more so than summer months, since 1970 (it’s quite possible their could have been a correlation between average monthly temperature and adjustment, but Dnes didn’t examine that). Dnes noted that “talk about winters in the USA getting warmer may be an artifact of the adjustments.”
  • Since 1970, the adjustment slope in annual terms is over 1 degree Celsius. In other words, when anyone talks about warming over the last forty-plus years, 1C of it comes from humans alright – human manipulation of the data
  • Annual adjustment for the 1930s (the decade the gave us the Dust Bowl and the most massive dust storm in American history), were over half a degree Celsius downward. As Dnes notes, “one wonders if this an attempt to disappear the heat waves and droughts of ‘The Dirty Thirties’ in a manner similar to attempts to disappear the Medieval Warm Period. It’s hard to talk about ‘the hottest ever’, when there’s ‘inconvenient data’ around, showing that the 1930s were hotter.”
  • Since 1970, the number of actual data points for temperature has fallen. In fact, we have 20% fewer raw data points today than in 1970. Yet final data points are unchanged, meaning there’s quite a bit of estimated data, a problem I’ve discussed earlier.
  • From about 1895 to 1930, “final” data points are well above raw data points (in 1896, the raw data points were about half the number of final data points

There have been more than a few posts here on the various and sundry problems with temperature data thanks to global warming alarmists. Dnes’ analysis is just the latest example.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


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