Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Politics and Religion

Congressional winners on immigration (November 12, 2006)

We know that Republicans tried to distance themselves from the Bush administration and that Democrats tried to pin them to it. But the WSJ offers 'case studies' of immigration reformists who lost last Tuesday. We can offer open border losers tit-for-tat, but why not look at what the challenging Democratic victors and Republicans who faced tough challenges but retained their seats had to say on the immigration issue (I excerpted what the candidates had in bold or in quotes, and failing those, the first paragraph or first couple of sentences in the case of single-sentence paragraphs under "Immigration" or something similar to that)?

Senate Democratic Victors

Claire McCaskill, Missouri: "The President, while giving lip service to the immigration issue, has looked the other way while our border has become Swiss cheese and employers hiring illegal immigrants have gotten a free pass. We need a Senator who will hold the Bush Administration accountable for its failure to prioritize border security and for giving amnesty to employers who violate the current law with no fear of the consequences."

Jon Tester, Montana: "Our first priority must be to secure ports and borders to keep out terror threats, illegal drugs and illegal immigrants. Jon Tester opposes amnesty for those who are here illegally. People who want to come to America should follow the rules — and we should enforce them. There should be no cuts in line. Moreover, hiring illegal aliens is no joking matter. Tester believes we need to enforce the law on employers who hire illegal immigrants no matter who they are. It’s not just a matter of fairness — it’s a question of national security."

Bob Casey, Virginia: "The immigration debate is divided into three separate issues. How can we secure our border? What should we do about the 11 million undocumented workers? And, lastly there is the guest worker question. It is necessary to separate out the 3 issues. The primary concern must be securing the border. Immediate action is needed to stem the flow of illegal border crossings. Approaching the issue using an omnibus bill that attempts to solve all three issues simultaneously creates a political stalemate that delays the border security solution. There is a consensus that our border security must be improved and we should act on that consensus as soon as possible. Once the border is secure we can develop a fair solution to other immigration issues."

Senate Republican Victors

John Kyl, Arizona: "The security of the United States and its citizens should be the first and foremost consideration in formulating border and immigration policies. Before the September 11 attacks, some people believed that it was not necessary to either effectively control our borders or collect important information about foreign visitors and other immigrants welcomed into our country. September 11 demonstrated the flaw in that thinking: Knowing whether terrorists are trying to enter the country, and whether visitors abide by their visas and respect our laws, are legitimate issues to be addressed in counterterrorism and immigration policies."

Bob Corker, Tennessee: "We must effectively secure our border as the first step in dealing with illegal immigration. That will require additional border patrols and more surveillance equipment and physical barriers in those places with high traffic. It is essential to our national security to maintain control of our borders. I do not support amnesty. Illegal immigrants must return home before they can be considered for re-entry as legal workers."


Harry Mitchell, (D) Arizona: "Every sovereign nation has a responsibility to secure its border. In Congress, I'll make it a top priority to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and stop illegal immigration. I'll deliver results, not rhetoric, and will work with both Republicans and Democrats to get the job done. This includes both securing our border and offering realistic solutions for the immigration problem our country faces."

Gabrielle Giffords, (D) Arizona: "Arizona has paid a heavy price for Washington’s failures in immigration policy. For too long, the federal government has failed to secure our borders. Congress has refused to act in the face of this growing crisis. Our current Border Security policies are not working despite the fact that we have quadrupled the number troops on our border over the last 15 years. And Arizona is bearing the brunt of it, shouldering enormous costs for human services and law enforcement."

John Doolittle, (R) California: "The problem of illegal immigration continues to grow in California, and we must make reforms to curb future illegal immigration into the state. Irrespective of ancestry, an immigrant illegally entering the United States has broken the law. Congress must enact provisions to heighten enforcement of our borders and eliminate the social welfare benefits that attract illegal immigrants to our country. As a member of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, I am working with my colleagues to formulate legislation to improve our nation's immigration policies."

Jerry McNerney, (D) California: "The problem with our immigration policy is that the Federal government doesn't have one. For too long our government has failed to secure our borders, allowing easy access for illegal immigration, and having little to no enforcement at the workplace. No wonder people are frustrated and demanding action."

Brian Bilbray, (R) California: "For the last 3 years as a Co-Chairman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, America's preeminent illegal immigration reform advocate, I have lobbied for many essential reforms in our immigration laws to carry on the work that I began when the voters of San Diego County sent me to Congress in 1995."

Marilyn Musgrave, (R) Colorado: "Congresswoman Musgrave knows illegal immigration is a major issue facing Colorado. Immigration reform is a top priority for her. She is working hard to improve border security and stop the waves of illegal immigrants who pose a danger to our national security, health care systems, and economy."

Ed Perlmutter, (D) Colorado: "After the 9/11 attacks it has become clear to all of us that we have to do more to increase our border and ports-of-entry security. The Bush Administration and a Rubber-stamp Republican Congress largely ignored this issue for years and only recently became interested in doing something. Until this year the Bush Administration cut back on enforcement efforts and the Republican Congress has even failed to fund programs necessary to screen cargo containers and other entry points into our country."

Christopher Shays, (D) Conneticut: "I support increasing legal immigration, while vigorously reducing illegal immigration. The first responsibility of a nation is to protect its borders. As a nation of laws, we must defend our borders and also enforce all our immigration, employment and tax laws."

Vern Buchanan, (R) Florida: "Experts say terrorists are operating in America's backyard. With 850,000 immigrants crossing our borders illegally every year , we don't know how many pose a threat to our country. We do know that many of them join dangerous gangs, such as the notorious MS-13 gang, which is responsible for violence across our country. And we know that some are terrorists."

John Barrow, (D) Georgia: "In the past 20 years, more than 11 million illegal immigrants have crossed into the United States – more people than the entire population of the State of Georgia. And the number keeps rising. With more than half a million illegal immigrants coming into this country each year, Congressman Barrow believes America can’t afford to ignore the illegal immigration crisis that’s overwhelming many of our communities."

Bill Sali, (R) Idaho: "President Ronald Reagan was right when he said, The simple truth is that we ve lost control of our borders and no nation can do that and survive. Securing our borders is a matter of national security, personal security and financial security. We cannot claim to be serious about the war on terror or say that we support our troops when terrorists, in many areas, can simply walk across our borders. While employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be prosecuted, the fact remains that terrorists are not coming here looking for jobs. While illegal immigrants are clearly causing serious financial pressure on our schools, courts and health care systems, the terrorists are not coming here for education or health care. Something is terribly wrong when we send our military to secure Iraq s border with Syria while at the same time refusing to secure the borders of this country. Congress must take immediate action to secure our borders."

Peter Roskam, (R) Illinois: "We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. We must secure our borders and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. I believe that efforts to secure our border are a vital first step to dealing with today's immigration problem."

Joe Donnelly, (D) Indiana: "I do not support amnesty. Border security is crucial to solving the immigration problem and is a serious national security concern. I support more border agents, increased funding for surveillance and fencing that will prevent immigrants from illegally entering our country. I also support enforcing employment law which this administration has failed to do. For too long, this Congress has talked about immigration and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. That’s why we need change in Washington."

Brad Ellsworth, (D) Indiana: "We face a national crisis when it comes to illegal immigration. The honest truth is that part of it is our own making. When we capture illegals here in Vanderburgh County, my deputies call INS and INS tells them there’s no place to put them. That’s not right. It’s also not right when an Indiana employer passes over an American for a job only because an illegal worker is cheaper. We need to tighten our borders, enforce the laws we have, and punish employers who break them. This is about economic security as much as it is national security."

Nancy Boyda, (D) Kansas: "For years, illegal immigration has gone virtually unchecked. Congress must take steps to regain control of America's borders. First, we must immediately increase funding for border enforcement. Then, we should confront the root cause of most illegal border crossings: the promise of jobs for undocumented immigrants."

John Yarmuth, (D) Kentucky: "I believe we are a nation of laws and we need to enforce our current immigration laws. We must strictly enforce laws against the employment of illegal immigrants by prosecuting companies that knowingly hire non-citizens without work visas. We must also do all we can to secure our borders to stop the influx of more illegal immigrants and protect our country from terrorists."

Tim Walberg, (R) Michigan: "Tim Walberg believes the government has a duty to secure our borders. For our national security and sovereignty, we must demand people sign the guest book and enter our nation legally. America welcomes people from around the world to come here to work, speak English, realize their dreams, and become American."

Joe Knollenberg, (R) Michigan: "As you may know, there are currently between 8 and 12 million illegal, undocumented workers in our country. This situation is not acceptable and must be addressed. On January 7, 2004, President Bush outlined an approach to addressing this problem, including the establishment of a new temporary worker immigration program. This speech included broad outlines of how such a program could be administered."

Tim Walz, (D) Minnesota: "Tim Walz believes immigration reform is a serious issue that deserves an ethical, economically sound solution. Walz supports enforcing employer labor laws to the fullest extent, using advanced technology to monitor the border, and increasing the number of professional border patrol agents. He also supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers that requires them to return to their country of origin in order to begin the citizenship process. It is difficult but not impossible to reconcile a humanitarian response with one that ensures the security of American citizens."

Dean Heller, (R) Nevada: "Dean Heller opposes amnesty for those that enter America illegally. Immigrants that wish to become citizens must follow our laws. In Congress, Heller will support increased efforts to defend America’s borders and protect us from anyone that wants to do harm to Americans. Heller will defend our freedom, and our way of life in Nevada."

Paul Hodes, (D) New Hampshire: "Our immigration policy must be tough, fair and practical. The United States must put to work the reforms of the 9/11 Commission immediately, particularly port and border security. We need to beef up the border patrol, work to secure our borders and enforce existing laws, particularly with respect to employers who hire illegal immigrants. We must raise our minimum wage so that Americans will be readier to take the jobs now being done by undocumented workers. The United States should press Mexico diplomatically to help solve illegal immigration and assist Mexico in reform so that Mexican workers can earn a living wage in their own country. Ultimately, the issue of illegal immigration is a jobs and fairness issue. It is impractical to criminalize and seek to deport 12 million illegal immigrants but they must not be made scapegoats for this Administration's failure to enforce our laws."

Mike Ferguson, (R) New Jersey: "Defending America also means improving border security. Congressman Ferguson voted to increase manpower, upgrade technology and improve physical barriers along the U.S. borders. He voted to secure operational control of our borders, both north and south, by adding 1,000 new border inspectors with 700 miles of fencing, ending the "catch and release" policy, stopping employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and cracking down on alien smuggling."

Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York: "I support protecting our borders, but our solution must include more measures to ensure employer enforcement with regards to illegal immigration, building a wall or a fence alone is simply not enough. In conjunction with solutions taken on the ground at our borders, we must enforce the employment laws that are currently being ignored by companies who profit from hiring illegal immigrants. The urgency of dealing with our borders should not be held hostage by election year legislation and this summer's field hearings; securing our borders must be a national security priority."

Randy Kuhl, (R) New York: "One of the first jobs we must do is secure our northern and southern borders. There is tremendous risk in allowing undocumented people to enter our country and roam without fear of prosecution."

Heath Shuler, (D) North Carolina: "The United States is a nation built of immigrants, seeking opportunity and freedom. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to the greatness of our nation by enriching our culture, traditions and diversity. Hard-working immigrants help our economy grow by starting businesses, creating jobs and providing an essential workforce. The United States benefits from legal immigration, and we should continue to welcome newcomers to our great nation. However, our current system of immigration is broken. Illegal and undocumented immigrants are flooding into our country in massive numbers. The lure of a better life in the United States has always been strong, in spite of the risks associated with illegal immigration. The economic boom of the 1990’s exacerbated this problem, resulting in increased levels of illegal immigration. Current estimates suggest that there are approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States."

Steve Chabot, (R) Ohio: "Steve Chabot believes that ending illegal immigration should be a top priority for our nation and he has strongly supported efforts to toughen our border security. Our porous borders cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year and pose a real security threat."

Jean Schmidt, (R) Ohio: "Rep. Jean Schmidt’s voting record supported the interests of the Americans For Better Immigration 100% of the time in 2003-2006 earning her an A- Grade (updated as of Aug. 6, 2006 grade) Americans for Better Immigration (ABI) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, which lobbies Congress for reductions in immigration numbers. Rep. Schmidt is a co-sponsor of H.R. 4313 “True Enforcement and Border Security Act of 2005”. H.R. 4313 is the most comprehensive immigration law enforcement bill ever introduced."

Jason Altmire, (D) Pennsylvania: "America must do a better job of securing its borders. In Congress, Jason Altmire will work to tighten border security and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. He will fight any attempt to provide taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants and vote against any plan that rewards lawbreakers by moving illegal immigrants to the head of the line of those seeking American citizenship. Jason Altmire also endorses English as the official language of the United States."

Patrick Murphy, (D) Pennsylvania: "Patrick Murphy does not believe in amnesty. He does not believe that illegal immigrants should be offered benefits that are awarded to hardworking American citizens such as health insurance or Social Security. Patrick Murphy believes that we should be cracking down on employers who have been flaunting the law to make a quick buck. We need to build a fence to monitor who is coming into and leaving our country. Most importantly, we need new leaders who will protect American jobs for American citizens. At a time when our country is at war, we need to know who is coming in to and leaving our country."

Chris Carney, (D) Pennsylvania: "We need to secure our borders. In the war on terror, border security is national security, and Congress has been ignoring the problem for years. In the last year, we all saw the 2400-foot tunnel under our border with Mexico. Congress has abdicated its duty to protect our borders."

Henry Bonilla, (R) Texas: "'The Texas/Mexico border is a hot-bed for illegal immigration. Ignoring the problem is ignoring the war against terrorism,' said Congressman Henry Bonilla. Border Patrol - Henry has a long record of supporting legislation that recognizes the importance of the Border Patrol as the nation's first line of defense in homeland security. Using his senior role on the Appropriations Committee, Bonilla has secured millions of dollars for Border Patrol staff, equipment and check-point improvements. Bonilla is co-chair of the Congressional Border Caucus and Vice Chair of the U.S. / Mexico Congressional Caucus. He represents more than 700 miles of the Texas/Mexico border."

Thelma Drake, (R) Virginia: "I am proud to report that the House of Representatives has already passed border security legislation. Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which was passed in the House by a vote of 239-182 on December 16, 2005. H.R. 4437 provides for strict immigration regulations and strengthens our borders. I was proud to support this legislation because I believe it provides a solid foundation for comprehensive border security and immigration reform."

Dave Reichart, (R) Washington: "Congressman Reichert believes we need to strengthen our borders and protect this nation. There must be penalties for violating American immigration laws and for those who employ illegal immigrants. We must encourage undocumented individuals to “get right” with our government and register. This will allow us to focus valuable resources on those we know to be a threat and in this country with the intent to harm, rather than individuals who are here to better their lives and that of their families."

Barbara Cubin, (R) Wisconsin: "On September 11th the terrorists used our own flawed immigration laws against us to help them murder thousands of American citizens. The American people will never be truly safe until we get serious about border security."

If you just skimmed the verbiage, it should have been enough to get a flavor for how candidates from both parties approached the immigration issue. A few didn't highlight it, but most did. Not a word about xenophobia, nativism, or any of the other typical ad hominem habitually substituted by the open borders crowd in place of the empirical logic that is so saliently lacking. Nothing about needing to fill "jobs Americans won't do"--only Paul Hodes, (D) New Hampshire, came close, and he advocated the raising of the minimum wage to protect Americans from having their wages undercut by immigrants.

Instead, lots of tough talk about security and tough employer punitions. Many made no mention of a guest worker program, and those that did overwhelmingly purported to be putting off discussion on it until after security questions were settled. No one running in the House was attacked for his or her support for the Sensenbrenner bill, but more than a couple of incumbents proudly broadcast that they'd voted for it.

The disconnect between elites and the population on the issue is enormous. Thankfully, most of the Democratic victories were of moderates in center-right districts. All of these new House members will go through all of this in a couple of years. If they're actions match their election rhetoric, things won't be as dismal as they'd seemed last week.

Dems are--er, were--downers (November 10, 2006)

This time around, anyway. Looking over the exit polling data, I've been struck by just how pessimistic Americans favoring Democrats are about the economy, the future, and their own personal situations.

Of those listing describing the national economy as "not good" or "poor" (half of the electorate), 77% voted Democratic. The same proportion of those describing their family's financial situation as "worse" (25% of the total) went Democratic, while only 28% of those describing it as "better" (30% of the total) went for the irrendentist party. By a three-to-one margin, the 17% of the voting population that believes their families are "falling behind" went Democratic (74%-23%). For those believing life for the next generation will be worse than it is for those in their prime today (40% of the electorate), Dems were favored by more than 2-to-1, at 66%-32%. Among those who were "not very confident" or "not at all confident" that votes would be counted accurately, 73% went with the Democrats (will they push for vigorous investigations into purported voter irregularities?!) Are things really that dismal?

Democrats are, on average, less happy than Republicans (not surprisingly, given that they are less likely to be pious, married, wealthy, or have healthy sex lives, all of which correlate with self-identified measures of personal satisfaction). But surely not at the magnitude one might assume by looking at the exit polls, right?

Right. The 2000 exit polls reveal similar pessimism about the economy, the future, and life for the next generation. Except Republican voters were the melancholy citizens that time around. Of those describing their family's financial situation as "worse", 63% went for Bush. Among those saying the national economy was "worse", 52% went for Bush while 70% of those rating the national economy as "better" went for Gore. Regarding their progeny, of those believing life for the next generation would be worse than it had been for the current one, 58% went for Bush while only 37% went for Gore.

How heavily influenced are the assessments of the lives of ordinary Americans by the political ebb and flow of Capitol Hill? "Conservative" voters overwhelmingly went for the Republicans in both 2000 and 2006, at 81% and 78%, respectively. And "liberal" voters backed the Democrats in both 2000 and 2006, at 80% and 87%, respectively. So the gloominess isn't ideological in nature--it's clearly partisan. Most Democratic voters who thought Lake Woebegon had been discovered in 2000 thought the sky was falling in 2006. And viceversa for Republican voters.

Lots of people see what transpires around them through a partisan lens that distorts their ability to evalutate things empirically. Democratic rah rahs have apparently been miserable for the last six years, while Republicans bots are about to become so. After punching the ballot and having gone through the emotional voting process, and then being approached by a pollster wanting your take on what you just did and why, you're more inclined to be magnify the intensity of your opinions than you would be when chattering around the water cooler weeks before the election. To what extent is exit poll sentiment exaggeration, and to what extent do exit polls capture the actual feelings of the respondents?

Studies show that the partisans and drug addicts derive pleasure through a similar process in the brain when they get their respective fixes, while the dorsolateral prefontal cortex (which is the part of the brain most strongly associated with reasoning) shows no increase in activation. The exit polls lend credence to those findings.

Tuesday's election (November 7, 2006)

In response to a request that I tell a friend not especially interested in politics how to cast the votes, here's how I'll be fulfilling my civil duty.

A protest vote for Ranzau in the gubernatorial race. Sebelius has been a driving force behind the inane state policy of granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who've been in-state a few years, but Barnett has no chance. As the Reform candidate, Ranzau has been the most vociferous critic of continued third-world immigration.

Ahner has been a disappointment. Kobach was too 'hardline', and so damn articulate and forceful that he fell into the demonization trap and was portrayed as a KKK sympathizer, etc. So Ahner's attempted a different tract, speaking almost exclusively in generalities. Dennis Moore is a blue dog who has been decent on the immigration front, especially with regards to the risible Visa Lottery system. However, Ahner's courageous support for the FairTax gets my vote. Instituting a national sales tax in place of a federal income tax would go along way in cutting into the unfair advantage Hispanic helots have on our native menials.

Youth soccer park: Twenty-four fields, $75 million to fund it. Are you insane? I'm at a loss as to how grassy fields with a few strips of chalk running across them can possibly run over $3 million a piece. I've had enough of soccer's encroaching anyway, do not want to subsidize a magnet for laddists, and am aware of the fact that Honolulu built 18 fields with $11 million. No, we're not a destitute county, but Honolulu isn't exactly Magadon.

Orthogonal musings on birthates, religion (October 11, 2006)

A man I knew recently passed on. I had the opportunity to speak to him at length less than 48 hours before he died, and the conversation will be etched in my mind for as long as my memory holds out. Although he was in his eighties, his mind was sharp (he died of lung cancer). Despite facing the end through slow suffocation, he showed no anxiety. He was ready to see a daughter who had died in infancy. A pious and secularly erudite man, he 'lectured' to me on multiple occasions on the Beatitudes, especially the Sermon on the Mount.

I bring this up because it illustrates a recurring theme: How beneficial or detrimental to an individual and to society is religious belief? That's a question with so many externalities and exceptions that a straightforward answer is lacking. I'm terrified of death a good sixty years out (or much longer, I hope), yet this friend was indifferent, even eager, just hours prior. I'm not religious. He was. So score one for religion? But that's hardly a trend. It just illustrates the shortcomings of one eschatological monomaniac.

On a national level, religiosity and IQ are, using data from a Pew survey, inversely correlated at .848. Domestically, religious belief and educational attainment are inversely related as well. But in the game of survival, 'fitness' doesn't necessarily entail the characteristics we conventionally deem desirable. The bald eagle is stronger, can fly higher, and has better eyesight than the red-tailed hawk. The peregrine falcon is faster and delivers a more crushing blow than the red-tail, but the red-tail thrives while the others recover from near extinction. Grizzlies are physically superior to black bears in every way, but the latter are everywhere and the former are nearly impossible to find. And the pitiable pious are reproducing, while the astute apostates are not.

The correlation between religiosity and fecundity at the national level (measured in total births per woman) is a statistically significant .714. The meek are inheriting the earth. Irreligious nations are moribund nations. Russians and Japanese are both dying faster than they're reproducing. All of the developed world, save the US (barely) and Israel, is on track not only to lose population 'market share' but to begin hemorraging population in absolute numbers as well.
It takes time for birth patterns to show up in terms of total population. This accentuates the problem, because by the time the problem becomes salient, fifty years of extra fecundity still leaves a smaller population than existed as the society first went over the precipice a half-century before. A simple hypothetical demonstrates.

Say there are 50 men and 50 women that dropped out of the sky as infants (total 100). Each live to 95 and give birth to one child (the women does) at age 30. Thus, after 30 years we have 150 people. Of those 50 newborns, 25 are men and 25 are women who will follow the same pattern. Thirty years later, we have 175 people total: 100 at age sixty, 50 at thirty, and 25 infants (population still growing).

Another 30 years, with the same birth cycles for our third generation (say 13 are women, 12 are men) and we now have 188 people total. But the age distribution is economically disastrous: 100 people are ninety, 50 are sixty, 25 are thirty, and 13 are infants. Supporting the people on top is smothering the younger generations, especially the 25 who are currnetly thirty years old.

The economic burden of supporting the senescent people makes it likely that they will have even fewer children than they did (relative to their parents). It's a vicious circle. This is where the West is today. Thirty years later the proportions are the same, but the population has finally started shrinking (because the largest first generation finally kicked the bucket): 50 people at ninety, 25 at sixty, 13 at thirty, and six infants (94 total people).

Now we are in free-fall. Thirty years later at the same births per woman, and we have only 47 people (25 at ninety, 13 at sixty, 6 at thirty, and 3 infants). If we do finally get our act (er, bodies) together, it takes generations for the momentum to actually shift. Let's say instead of plummeting, that last generation actually became thrice as fertile and had three kids per woman: 25 at ninety, 13 at sixty, 6 at thirty, and 9 infants (total 53). The next generation similarly has three children per woman: 13 at ninety, 6 at sixty, 9 at thirty, and 13 infants (total 41). Three generations into three-children women: 6 at ninety, 9 at sixty, 13 at thirty, and 20 infants (total 48). Four generations of birthing well above the replenishment rate, and we still have fewer people than we did at the height of the single-child generation.

At the height of Western dominance just before WWI, people of European ancestry comprised one-fourth of the world's population. At the dawn of the sexual revolution in the early sixties, they comprised one-sixth of it. Today, they make up one-tenth and that proportion continues to fall.

The religious also tend to be more nationalistic (anabaptists and Jehovah's Witnesses excluded), and the decline of Western religiosity has paralleled the decline in Western nationalism. A Pew survey of white evangelicals, mainstream Protestants, Catholics, and secularists found support for immigration restriction proceeded in the same order, with evangelicals least supportive of current immigration patterns and secularists the most supportive of them.

To the extent that religion has a causal effect on procreation and nationalism, it's difficult to see how to increase it without importing a low IQ third-world population. We need to find a way to glean the benefits associated with religiosity (fecundity and support for sovereignty) without assuming the baggage (lower economic productivity and lower IQs).

Could it be as simple as making the intelligent more pious? While the idea is abhorrent to the sharp, critical brains out there, I'm not aware of any evidence showing that religiosity has a detrimental effect on IQ, although that seems to be suggested when people point out strong inverse relationship between religiosity and IQ. Ownership of a seeing-eye dog is strongly related to the inability to drive a car. But obviously the dog doesn't render one unable to drive, nor does the inability of the owner to operate a vehicle say anything about the value of the dog.

I suspect religion is only a part of a larger cultural shift in which there is little pressure on people to get married and have children, and virtually no stigmatization if they refuse to. While Catholicism still condemns the pill, it's available nonetheless. An increasingly competitive globalized economy makes childrearing costly by diverting energy from business pursuits. A few places like France, Portugal and Russia have introduced economic incentives to entice their populations to have more children, but historically the results have been marginal because even with stipends to soften the blow of husbandry, children are still an economic liability. It's simply becoming less rational on the individual level to have children. But what is good for the individual can be disastrous for society (stealing/cheating, for example). The irrationality of religion probably negates the natural movement towards voluntary childlessness that seems to inevitably result from a world progressively open to 'selfish' pursuits, so many of which are more intriguing and less costly than raising kids.

Demographics become destiny. The US is staying afloat in the battle for replenishment by comprising its ethnic composition, trading skills and smarts for babies. The rest of the Occident is dying. Introducing market forces into the academic world should help. So would policies focused on making affordable family formation as conducive as possible, such as an end to wage-suppressing peasant labor and the instituting of a merit immigration system to raise the average native's standard of living.

Some blacks feel abandoned by Democrats (September 12, 2006)

A state Congresswoman in St. Louis' 4th Ward expresses disillusionment with the Democratic Party:

Leggette said there are two Democratic parties in St. Louis - one that benefits whites and another that ignores blacks. "At one time, Democrats were a solution for us. I don't know when that changed or why that changed, but it has," Leggette told me.
That sounds like two sides of the same coin, but the semantics aren't important. Democrats have been consistently worse for the black community than the GOP has been, and not just in the Republican talking points regarding ancient history: Lincoln being a Republican and George Wallace a Democrat, etc. Welfare reform corresponded with a drastic drop in the poverty rate of black children (from 41% in 1996 to 30% in 2001). Stiffer treatment for criminality led to a 50% increase in the proportion of blacks incarcerated from the late eighties to late nineties. Not surprisingly, this has corresponded to a decrease in the number of black crime victims, as the rate of black-on-black crime is far higher than for any other perpetrator-victim racial classification. When Patrick Moynihan issued his famous report on the degeneration of the black family, the African American illegitimacy rate stood at 22%. The cultural revolution's self-indulgent, atomistic mentality that most devastates those with the least intelligence and little long-term orientation, helped propel that rate to the near-70% mark where it sits tragically today.

Leggette points out the obvious:
Her comments underscore a familiar complaint from blacks who claim the Democratic Party takes them for granted.
As blacks are the most lopsided political demographic in the country, voting eight-to-one in favor of the Democrats, it's no wonder. Why spend resources to better a group (granting that this could conceivably be done) that already unanimously adores you? The political cost-benefit is too unfavorable. The exclusivity of the urban black community virtually guarantees that a vote against the Party is perceptually tantamount to a vote against the community, anyway. And urban blacks aren't the best candidates for alacritous independent thought that bucks the trends of their communities.

The greatest long-term threat to blacks is continued unskilled immigration. As the supply of menial labor increases, the price of that labor is going to decrease. And with a minimum wage floor in place, an increase in labor supply similarly leads to an increase in unemployment, as the most marginal laborers are unable to add enough value to the entities potentially employing them to be worth hiring in the first place. Even in the face of an economic recovery, black unemployment has risen since the good times started back up.

A merit immigration system that skims the cream of the world's crop, coupled with a closure of the Southern border, would have a much more benign effect on blacks. Without even considering the quality of life improvements such a shift would bring, an increase in the supply of professional labor would push the cost of professional services down (which blacks of course use) and the need for laborious services up (where blacks are heavily represented). Such a policy change would also attenuate the wealth gap.

Instead, a majority of our leaders, in a bipartisan effort, want the US to become an extension of Latin America. It's difficult to see how a racially polarized society of citizens that are politically inept, where poverty is rampant but the few who are wealthy are spectacularly so, is good for anyone (including blacks) save the political class and corporations that can profit from it.

The political class stands to benefit from the lack of unity among the population as it becomes increasingly heterogenuous. Rather than coalescing into advocacy groups for populist causes, grassroots efforts will increasingly be racially defined. As whites are pushed into minority status, white special interest groups will form to rival the race-hustling prowess of groups like La Raza and NAACP. Do we want ethnic advocacy groups replacing ones like Citizens Against Government Waste and Americans for Fair Taxation?

The multinational nature of the contemporary business world means that corporations have little reason to be concerned with the long-term well-being of a particular geographic region or its inhabitants. It is considered passe for internationally competitive companies to consider themselves national organizations--they are increasingly redefining themselves as international ones. Meanwhile, unfettered Hispanic underclass immigration provides the two things big business loves--cheaper labor and a larger consumer market.

But some politicians are too close to the people to so blatantly sell them out. House members face reelection every two years and are the more beholden to their communities than Senators are, as they represent smaller populations and geographical areas. Speaker Dennis Hastert boldly refuses to let the Whitehouse and Senate continue to fiddle:
House Republicans, who have campaigned hard against illegal immigration with few legislative accomplishments to show for it, announced Thursday they would try to cobble together a package of border crackdown measures before their recess next month.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he would convene an unusual forum Wednesday in which Republican committee chairmen would report their findings from immigration hearings held around the country this summer and suggest proposals such as the creation of voter identification cards that the House would try to pass before Congress adjourns.
Disgusted as I am with the Republican Party, I fear what will happen if it loses both houses. Unrestrained by his own party, Bush would likely sign on to an immigration bill similar to the one passed by the Senate earlier this year, with all the media strappings of 'reaching across the aisle' and 'realizing political detente'. The Iraq war has cost us $300 billion, the lives of almost 2,700 soldiers, and left over 20,000 wounded. It has exposed the US' inability to both occupy and liberalize the Muslim world at the same time (we can basically only do one or the other, leaving us with two bad choices [or a third better option--get out]). And it has strained US relations with Europe. But the immigration situation still takes precedence, because with a high-powered economy, a well-educated and high IQ population, lots of incentivization for entrepreneurship, and natural resource and real estate wealth, we can recover from the Iraq debacle. But altering the composition of our human capital hampers the underlying strength of the US itself. Iraq is like wasting discretionary income; having open borders is like decreasing earning power. So I've become a one-issue voter.

As the media focus has been almost exclusively on the 14 seats in the House that Republicans can spare and still retain their majority, little attention has been giving to tenuous Democratic seats (and consequently I predict that the GOP will retain both houses in November):
Riding a wave of discontent over the economy, Iraq and gas prices, Democrats are hoping to win enough seats to retake the House of Representatives this November. But their success could also hinge on their ability to keep the seats they already have — and doing so could prove difficult in two key races in Georgia.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Marshall of Macon and John Barrow of Savannah are facing hearty challenges from a pair of former Republican congressmen with name
recognition and the ability to raise big money. Bolstering their chances are new district boundaries drawn up by the first GOP-dominated Georgia Legislature
since Reconstruction.
One of the challengers is running ads claiming that a Pelosi-lead House will grant blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants. It doesn't even refer to the incumbent, a Democrat who voted for the House's tough immigration bill. If that brand of message can prove to be a winner in this year's election, it will provide an impetus for another HR4437, a resolution that is good for black, white, and Hispanic Americans alike.

Republicans losing traditionally winning issue (September 2, 2006)

President Bush may go down as one of the worst stewards of the GOP the party has ever had. Republicans have nearly lost their edge on what has traditionally been the party's strongest issue:
The public's patience has frayed as the Iraq war grows bloodier in its fourth year, eroding confidence in Mr. Bush's stewardship of national security. ...

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in June, buttressed by other polls since, suggested Democrats have gained significant ground. It gave them a three-point advantage on the question of which party can best deal with Iraq, erasing Republicans' 30-point edge of October 2002. Democrats had a nine-point edge on handling foreign policy, a swing from Republicans' 18-point advantage in June 2002. Republicans did retain a 24-point advantage on "ensuring a strong national defense" -- though that was down from a high of 41 points just before 9/11.

Right after 9/11, Republicans held a 4-to-1 advantage over Democrats in regards to which party would do a better job in the war on terrorism. That this was prior to any ostentatious political wrangling at a time when both parties were in unanimous agreement in overthrowing the Taliban illustrates the inherent Republican advantage on questions of national security. But owing almost entirely to Iraq, the American public is nearing the point of political deadlock:
Republicans' edge on the question of dealing with terrorism has been slipping for four years, according to Journal/NBC polls -- from a 36-point advantage over Democrats in October 2002, to 18 points in December 2004, to six points in June.
Neocon policies have squandered this Republican strength. The longer the Iraq quagmire drags on, the more the GOP's advantage on its strongest issue will suffer erosion. As the initial invasion recedes further into history, Americans will see more clearly how Iraq served as a check against Iran, how alienating European allies who enthusiastically supported us in Afghanistan was counterproductive, and how 150,000 troops tied down in a place that is spinning into civil war costs a lot and makes us less able to commit elsewhere wasn't been worth the nothing we got in return.

The failure in Iraq is troubling not only in spite of being a 2,600-plus Americans, $300 billion-plus blunder, but also because the GOP has to carry the immigration reform torch if anyone is going to. The demographic growth of an unskilled, welfare-using, urban-concentrated, big government-accepting, ethnic minority is too suculent a prize for the Democratic Party to snatch up for it to rally behind the restrictionist cause. That would be as dumb as the Republican Party intentionally growing the size of the aforementioned demographic while making family formation, the key to creating Republican voters, more difficult!

If the GOP loses the House, as it probably will in November, movement on immigration dies. Or worse, a version of the S2611 disaster is signed by an eager President after being sent up by a Democratically-controlled Senate (unlikely given that more Democrat seats are up than Republican ones this cycle but certainly a possibility).

Not that GOP Congressional retention is anything to get excited about. Fancifully taking over Rove's mind:

"New strategy, George. No more Hispandering. See how poorly blacks have fared recently? During the economic recovery, the black unemployment rate increased almost a full point. New Census data shows that blacks are suffering median wage reductions. While whites, Asians, and Hispanics all saw income increases, black median income dropped .8% from 2005. While natives enjoyed only a .2% income increase, the foreign-born increased 3.3%. You look confused. Just tell blacks that you're not going to let Hispanics depress wages and take anymore of their jobs. Tell them that the Democrats have been ignoring them on the issue.

"We're going to grow the groups that vote for us instead of the ones that grow against us. See, people who can buy houses and have kids vote for us. And places with lots of unskilled immigrants have low wages and expensive houses that are hard to buy, let alone raise a family in. So we're going to try to get back to the ownership society thing we forgot about.

"And people who make money vote for us. So instead of bringing in people who don't make money and lower the wages of other Americans, we're going to encourage businesses to invest in new technologies to increase productivity so everyone makes more money instead of using wage slaves who vote for the Democrats."

Rationality gap (August 25, 2006)

Without realizing it, Paul Gigot let Arthur Brooks, writing in the open-borders, pro-Republican Wall Street Journal, put forth a devastating case against unfettered immigration from the perspective of the rational Republican pol. Quite simply, the birth trends of US natives, and by extension the demographic trends of US natives, heavily favor the GOP:

According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated, politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given the fact that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20% -- explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.
Leftist professors and MTV still can't keep kids from finding sagacity in mom and dad (sorry Carson, but Pop's genes mean more to Johnny than your blathering does). The diverging birth rate of liberals and conservatives was borne out of the sixties, with the ubiquitous availability of birth control and the hysterical backlash against the bare-footed, pregnant housewife preparing dinner for the breadwinning troglodyte of the house. When the South defected to the GOP in the eighties, the prospects of Republican replenishment and then some stretching far into the future looked impervious.

That was before the US began taking in the Mexican population at such a voracious rate that the Mexican-American population would double every decade. If the current growth rate was to continue for the next twenty years, the size of the Mexican-born population in America would total around 80 million by 2026 (in what year, I wonder, will the Mexican-American population exceed the population of Mexico?)!

The importation of unskilled Hispanics further hurts the Republican Party by accentuating the wealth gap, decreasing housing affordability (which in turn decreases fecundity, further neutering the Republican advantage), depressing the wages of natives (thereby making wealth transfers more favorable in their eyes), increasing the number of people employed in governmental positions to run and maintain prisons (Hispanics are about three times as criminally prone as whites), gather and disperse entitlements (a staggering 31% of third-generation Hispanics use welfare), patrol US entry points and remove intruders (governmental employees don't exactly represent a bastion of Republican support), and so on. That's just the indirect stuff. As Hispanics voted for Kerry at a rate a bit greater than three-to-two, more Hispanic immigration means more voting Hispanics (Democrats) in the future. Apparently, the GOP's self-immolation is a small price to pay in return for whatever it is that Latin America or her interests grant the Bush family.

An update to a well-known political adage: Legalize same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, euthanasia, [and restrict third-world immigration,] and in a generation Republicans will rule everything.

Mental health and politics (July 22, 2006)

Since Chris Evans garnered a ridiculous amount of attention for his risible hoax entitled "IQ and Politics", why not try to garner some partisan acclaim by pointing out that red states are mentally more stable than blue states? Percent of population by state that does not suffer from poor mental health:

1) Louisiana 75.5
2) North Carolina 74.2
3) Tennessee 73
4) South Dakota 72.9
4) Kentucky 72.9
6) Kansas 71.4

7) Michigan 71.3
8) Iowa 70.8
9) Nebraska 69.9
10) Florida 69.2
11) Alaska 68.3
12) Arizona 67.8
13) Missouri 67.8
14) North Dakota 67.4
14) Georgia 67.4
16) Montana 67.2
17) Wyoming 66.8
17) Virginia 66.8
19) DC 66.7
19) Conneticut 66.7

21) Oklahoma 66.6
21) New Hampshire 66.6
23) New Jersey 66.4
23) Illinois 66.4

25) Colorado 66.3
26) Maine 66.2
27) Mississippi 66.1
28) West Virginia 66
28) Pennsylvania 66
28) Massachusetts 66

31) Arkansas 65.9
32) Texas 65.7
33) South Carolina 65.5
34) Indiana 65.4

34) Rhode Island 65.4
36) Ohio 65.1
37) Idaho 64.9

38) Maryland 64.8
39) Vermont 64.6
39) Alabama 64.6
41) New Mexico 64.5
42) Minnesota 64.4
43) Wisconsin 64
44) Delaware 63.6
45) Oregon 63.4
46) Washington 63.2
47) New York 63
48) California 62.8
49) Nevada 58.9
50) Utah 58.6

Sane Republicans, daft Democrats (and Mormons). One of the strongest arguments against polygyny is that such relationships inevitably breed feelings of envy, helplessness, and inferiority, especially among the less desirable wives. With almost half the state of Utah reporting poor mental health, the argument appears cogent.

Values surveys consistently find Republican voters to be more satisfied with their existence than their Democratic counterparts (Pew found that 45% of Republicans considered themselves "very happy" compared to only 30% of Democrats).

It's hardly surprising that Republican states are psychologically healthier than Democratic ones when happiness is delved into a bit. Married people are twice as likely to report being very happy than lone wolves are. The more people attend religious services, the happier they are (a critic might contend that ignorance is blissful; an attendee might respond that winning Pascal's Wager makes him quite happy). Apparently in contrary to the conventional wisdom that money cannot buy happiness, income and happiness are unequivocally positively related, with people making over $100,000 annually twice as likely as those making under $30,000 to report being very happy. And whites are more likely to be happy than Hispanics, who are in turn more likely to be happy than blacks. Well, each of the "more likely to be happy" groups are Republican stalwarts, whereas the unhappy groups comprise crucial pieces of the Democratic base.

Politically, the Democratic party seems to have internalized this unhappiness. Whining about the Bush administration's Wilsonian liberalism hasn't worked largely because many on the left principally agree with the neocon position that exporting democracy and liberating peoples from tyranny even at the expense of American blood and treasure is a desirable foreign policy orientation. So they're left to moan about a lack of funding, tactical missteps, ineffective global PR, etc rather than marshalling potent arguments like Islam's incompatibility with liberal democracy, the problem of localism and inbreeding, Middle Eastern IQs in the eighties, and so on. They complain about tax cuts, global warming, increasing Presidential power, without providing palpable ways to remedy them. This whining is interpreted as unhelpful by Buchanan conservatives and treasonous by many independents and Republicans. As the minority party, Democrats have defined themselves in opposition to the majority, thereby staking the political future on the performance of the Republicans while taking pot shots from a safe distance.

Of course, by being the self-proclaimed party of the underdog, Democrats have a vested interest in making people less satisfied with their personal existence. When I was six my dad explained to me the basic philosophies of the two political parties. In a rare moment of precocity, I responded, "So when things are good the Republicans win and when things are bad the Democrats win. I'll be a Republican." Unfortunately, the RNC seems intent on doing everything it can to make life less joyful for its natural base by encouraging anti-merit immigration that raises the cost of living for natives, depresses wages, increases crime and pollution, increases cultural tensions, creates a Democratic dream (newly arrived Hispanics are relatively poor, uneducated, ethnic minorities concentrated in urban areas--the quintessential Democrat) voting bloc, ad infinitum.

Come on Bush, we just want to be happy. Make us so and we'll return the favor.

Religion and IQ (June 26, 2006)

As a vague deist, the question of whether or not religiosity independent of other variables is beneficial or detrimental. That's too broad a curiosity to be answered without massive qualification, but since it is generally assumed by intelligent thinkers that religion is no good, I tried looking at the relationship between religiosity (percentage of people in a country defining religion as being very important) and other characteristics of a nation once IQ is controlled for. Clearly IQ and religion are inversely correlated (-.886). But owning a seeing-eye dog and having low social functioning ability are surely strongly correlated. That doesn't mean owning a seeing-eye dog is a negative. Unless being religious causes a reduction in IQ (which seems unlikely, although conceivably a longitudinal study could provide the answer), the relationship tells us little about the value of religion, just as the existence of blind people tells us little about the value of seeing-eye dogs.

I'm hesitant to after religion without knowing whether or not it's, if indpendent of other factors, is a net benefit. Not that the thoughts of Half Sigma or the brains and Gene Expression are at all analagous to the garbage put forth by Gregory Paul last year, but the media reveal themselves to be irresponsibly credulous whenever papers like Paul's are released.

So how does religion relate to other factors once IQ is removed from the equation? It has no effect on wealth (as measured by PPP), but when only nations with per capita GDP of $10,000-plus are taken into account, every percentage point increase in religiosity leads to a boost in PPP of just over $210, although it only holds at about a 90% confidence (with 95% generally being the standard to consider a relationship statistically significant).

The biggest thing religion has going for it and secularists have going against them is fecundity. Atheists and agnostics don't have children. They've only biology to drive them, and contraceptives allow them to circumvent it. But does religion have any effect on fecundity independent of IQ? Not in a way that approaches statistical significance (p-value of .40), although the relationship is positive. When only well-to-do countries are considered, however, the p-value falls to under .13, suggesting a meaningful link between piety and procreation, all other things being equal.

When it comes to corruption, again the results are murky. The relationship with religiosity is slightly negative on the whole, but trends positively when only $10,000-plus countries are considered. Both do not enjoy statistical significance.

What to make of this? My guess is that IQ is crucial and religiosity is mostly predetermined by it, with the remaining portion freely determinable being marginally beneficial to enjoy (in the developed world).

I don't see a reason to be hostile toward religion per se. I see divine law as being a generally positive force in the lives of the less endowed (for example, blacks in the notoriously religious South are among the best behaved in the country while acting up the most in the irreligious West) without having much effect on the intellectually rigorous, who largely ignore it. Admittedly Muslim extremists are a significant exception.

Religion provides the answers to questions individuals are unable to determine themselves (even when the information is observable to many others). Pushing religion in a direction that conforms to values that are secularly desirable seems prudent.

Immaculate viewers view the maculate? (June 2, 2006)

Religious communities across the US have generally treated The Da Vinci Code phenomenon with hostility. Sensible, given Brown's suggesting that the biblical account of Jesus is significantly inaccurate and his painting of the Catholic Church as both suppressor and potential murderer of the Deity's ancestors. Just as The Passion lionized Christianity and the faithful flocked to see it, I suspected DVC's belittling of Christianity would make it a magnet for non-believers. But the inverse relationship between religiosity and the DVC index isn't statistically significant at even a lowly 80% confidence.

Maybe the index is just too crude. But a few things do relate in a meaningful way.

It's plausible to assume that Christian nations would be the most interested in going to see DVC. While The Dozen Analects Authors and the Confucian Conspiracy might raise an eyebrow, my counterpart in Beijing would devote a Friday night to see it long before I would. And the more nominally Christian a country (including East orthodox, all Protestantism, Catholicism), the greater the relative amount said country spent on the movie. The correlation, with a p-value of .029, is a modest .30.

Or perhaps the gullibility of a nation's population really is the best indicator of how likely they were to see DVC. The less corrupt the country, the more it spent relative to GDP on the movie, with a p-value of .008 and a correlation of .36. A clean society where people trustingly play by the rules--where better to peddle snake oil? Scamming Icelandic folks has to be easier than pulling a fast one on those filching Romanians! I wonder if an incorruptible society is less skeptical than a modern day Zozo.

Okay, that's hefty speculation for a moderate correlation lacking clear causation. Kind of interesting though.

Suspect Romanian Roma! *** Icelandic comity!

Those giving less want you to give more (January 18 2006)

Do stingy people compensate for their tightfistedness by didactically demanding others give more? Apparently those who give more on their own are the people who want the government to take less:

Consider two groups in the population: One that believes the government should improve living standards for the poor, and the other which believes that people should take care of themselves, without government help. Those protesting the president's current budget [cuts] would label the first group as "compassionate" and the second group as "uncompassionate." But how do they compare in their private giving behaviors? According to the General Social Survey in 2002, the proponents of government spending are six percentage points less likely to give money to charity each year than the opponents, and a third less likely to give money away each month.
The op/ed's author, Arthur Brooks, anticipates the protestation that money alone is not an accurate barometer of generosity. Indeed that is a legitimate point--the US was criticized for being parsimonious following the Asian Tsunami, yet the US took the lead early on in coordinating the relief effort (along with help from Japan and Australia). The logistics involved and the use of the US military was a gracious act of magnanimity that cost the US tremendously but was not counted towards the total tally (even without this expense being factored in the US still came out on top, almost doubling the aid of the next closest donor, Australia).

Brooks then uses blood donation as a rough control for non-cash generosity:
So let's look at a less problematic type of charity: blood donations. We have blood in more or less equal abundance, you can't give it to your church, and a pint of blood is not even tax deductible. These gifts exemplify unselfish compassion -- they benefit anonymous recipients, including the poorest in society and victims of disasters. So who exhibits greater compassion by donating more blood?

Once again, it is those opposed to government aid. These supposedly uncompassionate folks are 25% of the population, but donate more than 30% of the blood each year. Meanwhile, supporters of government spending to the poor are 28% of the population, but donate just 20% of the blood. If the whole population gave blood like opponents of social spending do, the blood supply would increase by more than a quarter. But if everyone in the population gave like government aid advocates, the supply would drop by about 30%.
Brooks' presentation of the numbers actually leaves one with a better impression of the 'compassionate' types than is deserved. Breaking the numbers down comparitively, the 'uncompassionate' folks give about 70% more than the putatively bleeding heart types.

These findings are not surprising. It would be interesting to see the rates of generosity correlated with religiosity. My guess is that a positive correlation exists. There is a woman at a facility where I do grunt work that is a dull and unwed mother of several who lives in the urban core and makes no more than $10 an hour. She tithes nonetheless. I find this extraordinarily admirable and virtually impossible without the 'dogmatic' command that Christians do so.

Those who despise religion (and Christianity in particular) for being dogmatic, paternalistic, absolutist, and so forth are generally not interested in the pragmatic benefits it bestows. They see it as an ideological roadblock standing in the way of socially liberal policies like same-sex marriage, drug legalization, and abortion-on-demand (I do believe religion gets in the way of potentially beneficial progressive causes like euthanasia as well as some views on the empirical right like serious immigration reform). Note the disdain in the non-sports entertainment world for Christianity. Yet the most selfless and indefatigable celebrity who does so much more than pay empty lip service to helping the poor and taxing the rich while enjoying a plush mansion in Bel Air--Bono--points to his faith as a reason for his noble (if quixotic) efforts. Religion can have a tremendously positive influence on people, especially the less endowed who have a more difficult time thinking critically and therefore need 'paternalistic' guidance.

Blacks and Hispanics in the Congregationalist, Baptist South, for example, are among the least criminally prone in the country (see map graphic) compared to blacks and Hispanics, respectively, in other parts of the US. These groups struggle more than whites and Asians and are, on average, less cognitively endowed. Consequently, they are going to be more likely to uncritically internalize what's presented to them. Not surprisingly, going to service with mama in Biloxi on Sunday morning does a kid more good than staying out all night in Brooklyn living the 50-Cent lifestyle.

Tragically, this encouraging information about our disadvantaged minorities is muted by the egalitarian myth. Instead of comparing blacks in Georgia to blacks in Delaware and whites in Georgia to whites in Delaware, the states are always compared in their demographic entirety. Thus, the South always looks bad because it has more blacks than any other area of the country. Even though blacks in the South are better behaved than blacks in other regions of America, their sheer numbers overwhelm this and pull the state down (keep in mind that blacks commit between seven and nine times--depending on the type of crime in question--as much crime as whites do). On a global scale this same kind of flawed comparison leads to condemnation of religiosity in the US as compared to other developed nations that are less spiritual, when the obvious cause is not due to ideological differences but instead to ethnic ones. I get so frustrated by people's obsession over what you believe at the expense of the equally pertinent, if not more so, question of who you are.

It would also be interesting to see how people compare based on party affiliation. Recent data was spun to show that red states are more generous, but after adjusting for a methodology that skewed generosity in favor of impoverished states, I could not detect any meaningful relationship between rates of charity and political preference. Presumably Republicans give more due to the simple fact that they make more. And certainly they are more likely to be in Brooks' 'uncompassionate' category than Dems are. Still, it's hardly definitive.

If nothing else, be weary of those who lecture you on how taxes should be higher to fund more social programs. It's a free country--if you want to invest your discretionary income in that way, more power to you. But maybe you should hop out of that Mercedes and into the free market loving business owner's Corolla (yeah, he could definitely afford twenty of your Mercedes but he chooses not to). That way you'll have more money leftover to give (ask him if you don't believe me)!

Fascism in Conneticut (December 8 2005)

The extreme Castroite left shows its love for open dialogue:
"Music that seemed to come from somewhere in the raucous audience that packed the Jorgensen Center at the University of Connecticut Wednesday night brought Ann Coulter's speech to an abrupt end about 15 minutes after she started.

After waiting with her bodyguard on stage for several minutes for the music to stop while a section of the audience chanted 'You suck, you suck,' an irritated Coulter said she would not finish her speech."

Deaniac types love to brand everyone to the right of Ted Kennedy a fascist. If you are critical of blank-slatism, oppose open borders, affirmative action, welfare payments, same-sex marriage, or on-demand abortion, you've likely been hit with the label. Here's the pertinent part of the definition:
"Suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship... oppressive, dictatorial control."

Who's the fascist? A more effective way to disparage speakers (and retain an element of probity) was demonstrated by those outside the auditorium holding signs and pictures. Disagree vehemently, but don't try to mute those with whom you disagree.

Coulter was invited by the University of Conneticut to give a speech followed by a Q&A two days after far left activist Cindy Sheehan (who was not shouted down or interrupted) did the same. Coulter is a contentious and caustic conservative commentator who has no love lost for her political antagonists. But she obviously should be given the chance to speak without Orwellian attempts at silencing by her opposition.

This is not an isolated event. When Ann Coulter visited KU earlier this year, the same fascist tactics were used to keep her from giving her point of view:

"'All I did was say they shouldn't stop her from speaking,' Conner said of confronting some audience members in the back of the auditorium.
Later, when heckling broke out again, a couple of uniformed KU Public Safety Department officers appeared and escorted about six people out of the auditorium."

Others on the right face the same thing (see commenters yucking it up over assaults on various right-of-center figures). Even moderates are not exempt. Arnold was subject to the a shout down at a graduation ceremony last June:

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to his alma mater turned into an exercise in perseverance when virtually his every word was accompanied by catcalls, howls and piercing whistles from the crowd...

Inside the stadium, the drone from hundreds of rowdy protesters threatened to drown out the governor's voice at times."

So much for the putative tolerance. Some might expect this sort of behavior from militant-right groups, but it is overwhelmingly the work of the left. Be weary of those who conspicously wear the 'tolerance' veneer. Liberal democracies are built on socratic discussions with a rolling back-and-forth that continues indefinitely. It's cliche but crucial. Those who incessantly claim to be open and understanding should eagerly embrace the words of a Coulter or a Buchanan, not blackball news organizations that give their thoughts a forum.

As a self-described racial realist (second definition), this sort of thing hits me on an almost regular basis in some form or another. It never ceases to amaze me how people so critical of what they see as uncritical dogmatism (read religion) hold many things so sacred that they cannot be discussed, regardless of their veracity or utility (how many in the popular press foresaw the unsurprising fact that a mostly black urban area would turn to rioting when police restraint broke down?)

The next time someone says "Shut up--stop being so intolerant," be sure to point out the hypocrisy in their request.

Roe v Wade and other thoughts (November 20 2005)

When Justice Sam Alito's hearings begin in January, no doubt Roe v Wade will be in the spotlight with a zeal. It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court revisists the case with Alito on board. The following is a few quick thoughts from an online discussion board:

I like the idea of America as a whole but I'm really tired of trying to get along with places like Kansas when it comes to issues like abortion, creationism, stem cell research etc.

Believe me, Kansas would be more than happy to part ways with you on abortion. Of course it can't, as it's bound by judicial fiat. Even though I am pro-choice, I'd like to see Roe v Wade revisited--it has always struck me as constitutionally weak. The majority admitted to agnosticism over when life begins yet arrogated to the Court a ruling based on a violation of several amendments together creating a so-called "right to privacy". In essence, they presumed that life did not begin at least until the end of the first trimester. We know, however, that the genome is present at conception and in nine weeks the major organs are formed. That's reason enough to kick it back to the states. I'm skeptical, though, that the Republican Party would want Roe v Wade overturned--it's too big a social conservative galvanizer.

As for embryonic stem cell research, does it matter what Kansas thinks? It's not outlawed. Just vote for state spending on it in New Hampshire like California did. I'd much rather see the federal government, if anything, create a Manhattan-Project to develop cost-effective alternative fuels. Stem cell research is not as subject to the whims of the market--energy innovation, on the other hand, is tougher for private industry to make a sure buck on. Honda and Ford can spend ten years working on the hydrogen internal combustion engine, but if a company like Syntroleum (recommendation to individual investors) perfects coal-to-oil in five, the hydrogen vehicles become an uncompetitive sunken cost.

Things that I think are a basic part of being an American-freedom of religion, the right to privacy, choice-and apparently they have a different definition of all this.

If the social positions of the midwest are too much for you, I fail to see why you would want a continuation of the very socially conservative Latin American influx. Unfettered multiculturalism begs you to tolerate everything--if you think Kansas is hostile to your beliefs, wait until Euro-descendants are a minority--your liberalism will truly be scoffed at.

And I feel my privacy is being violated when my government--whose ultimate priority is, theoretically, my protection--does not know who is coming into the country!

(Previous post)

What of Intelligent Design? (November 11 2005)

The pastor of my Church wrote to our congregation that Intelligent Design distorts the Lutheran understanding of God--that the creator is not accessible via reason or rationality, but by faith and grace. That is, we cannot know Him by looking around us or through scientific means, but instead must believe through what has been presented us in Scripture. In other words, that the Christian community should abstain from the debate on ID. My response follows:

Dear Pastor,

Interesting piece on Intelligent Design. I was recently talking to my parents and we somehow came to the issue of secular church activities. From what I understand, Lutheranism postulates an almost infinite separation of religion and ethics ("by faith alone")--morality naturally flows from faith, but does not bring it about. Catholicism is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with a crucial link between secular behavior and spiritual faith. Wesleyan denominations and other Protestant groups fall somewhere in between. Consequently, our emphasis is not on earthly concerns.

The criticisms of Protestant evangelism have always flummoxed me, as I've never once heard an ELCA sermon mention the contentious political issues of the day (ie abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, etc). Certainly the groups most antithetical to Protestantism, like the ACLU, scream more vociferously about the aforementioned issues than any well known Christian leader I am aware of, save maybe for fringe elements like Jerry Falwell. So to read your words on it was a (nice) surprise.

I have a few questions, however. Do we then reject the Thomistic arguments for the existence of God? The teleological argument (Thomas' fifth way) seems essentially the same as the contemporary theory of creation by Intelligent Design. What the ID crowd argues is the same thing Thomas argued 750 years ago. It's done a heck of a job standing the test of time. But it's only a theory--I am unclear as to how it purports to know God in a "clearly perceptible" way. The theory gives rise to vague theism--the nature of God himself is not posited (at least not that I'm aware of). ID seems to me a probabilistic rather than definitive argument.

Another powerful argument of a more personal nature is Pascal's wager. It's always made sense to me--the best an atheist can hope for is the worst a genuine believer can. If God does not exist, then both rot in the ground at death. But woe to the non-believer at the time of crossover if He does. I realize that Luther and Melanchton (to a lesser extent) saw it is as a sign of weak faith that one would demand a rational explanation of God, when the supernatural is so likely beyond the reaches of empirical verification. To me, though, it helps supplement the faith I am only tenuously able to hold.

Back in the temporal world, I do not see why ID cannot be mentioned alongside evolution. I am a strong believer in Darwin's theory--looking at humanity from the perspective of evolution provides answers to so much of what many ID advocates believe about society: The maternal instinct, the culture of life, the inclination toward cultural homogeneity, the discomfort with homosexuality, and so on. And those who fervently push evolution without knowing the first thing about it (The full title of Darwin's famous work is The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life--the last part mysteriously seems to get left out all the time!) do so largely because of their opposition to Christian values specifically and occidental culture in general. If they were more familiar with the theory, or other Darwinian works like Descent of Man, I do not believe they would so adamantly fight against ID. The ID crowd, if they were more familiar, would on the other hand welcome evolution as a part of God's larger intelligent design.

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Speaking through Pat Buchanan (October 10, 2005)

I am not that familiar with Pat Buchanan, but The Death of the West was a trenchant look at the danger the western (read civilized) world is in. Birth rates are below the replenishment rate in literally all of Western Europe, Canada, and Japan. The US is procreating just enough to keep the population constant in the long-term, although the numbers are inflated by higher birth rates among a growing Hispanic population. Here's a few highlights from the CIA factbook (2.1 births per woman is required to keep the population constant--more than that means growth, less means retraction):


The only country in all of the developed world that is not facing an aging, shrinking population? Israel, at 2.44 births per woman. I suspect, however, that a disproportionate amount of those come from Sephardic (middle eastern) Jews and Arabs. It is Ashkenazi (European) Jews, however, that have turned Israel from a desert into a blossoming diamond in the rough. Nihilistic humanism simply cannot sustain itself. If Greg Paul were not so tendentious and facile, he might have looked at how religion and birth rates are correlated, rather than making invalid comparisons across countries by neglecting to look at the ethnic makeup of the countries in comparison.

An interesting aside--fecund whites in the US are much more likely to vote Republican than are whites with few or no children. And kids tend to be ideologically similar to their parents. Consequently, the Republican Party will become increasingly white while the Democratic Party will similarly become increasingly non-white, as less successful Hispanics and blacks continue to look for help from the government. Asians are the wild card, although numerically they are small fraction of the total population and relatively insignificant.

Speaking of asides, I got off track. On Meet the Press last Sunday, Pat Buchanan said this about Bush's pick for Sandra Day O'Conner's vacancy on the Supreme Court:

MR. RUSSERT: ...the CIA leak case, the president didn't want another political fight?
MR. BUCHANAN: That is certainly speculation and surmise, and it may be true. Tim, but that shows a lack of understanding of politics. What you do in a time like this is pick a battleground on philosophy and principle and rally your troops and create political capital. This was a golden teaching opportunity, a golden political opportunity, and a golden opportunity in terms of the Supreme Court, and the president blew it.
I couldn't agree with you more, Pat! Two days before Buchanan went on Russert's show, I said this in Randall Parker's comments section:

Bush apparently has no sense of political self-preservation. As mentioned, his approval rating is at an all-time low. It's at the drone level now--the ~38% left are going to support him irrespective of what occurs. A fiercely conservative, perspicacious Bork-like nominee would have been a real galvanizer. The Pat Buchanan contingent would have rallied alongside the neocons along with the broader majority of the country that leans traditional. With today's media, Bork would have been confirmed, especially with a Republican House/Senate... There was a huge opportunity for Bush and he blew it.

Will Miers be the next Souter? I suppose the President believes he knows. Personally, I thought the unusually shrewd Janice Rogers Brown would have been fabulous. For one, intelligent blacks are relatively uncommon, and she is both a minority and female. Seeing the dopey far-lefties like Schumers and Kennedys try to pound on her after supposedly fighting so hard for "equal rights" would have been a blast.

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Bill Clinton blames Bush for poverty (September 19, 2005)

I never paid adequate attention to the Clinton Presidency. When I was on the newspaper staff in junior high, I wrote an editorial attempting to exonerate him from perjury charges. He seemed contrite enough, and Kenneth Starr appeared to be a rabid mongrel out for the kill. Can you blame me? That's what I picked up from the media, and I was not old or interested enough to challenge the tendentious propaganda being put out. At least he signed the Welfare Reform Act and subsequently saw the welfare rolls reduced from over 13 million people when he took office to less than six million by the time he left.

Fastforwarding to the present, Bill was on his former aide's show, This Week with George Stephanopoulos (free subscription required). He wasted no time blasted the Bush administration's policies, no doubt hoping to galvanize support for Hillary's 2008 Presidential run. I couldn't agree more with the former President as he starts off:

They're [the Bush administration] responsible for this big structural deficit, and they're not going away, the deficits aren't. Now, what Americans need to understand is that that means every single day of the year, our Government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts. We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else.

Indeed. Fiscal conservatives are now an endangered species. He continues:

So what if they just got tired of buying our debt? What if the Japanese got tired of doing it? Japan's economy is beginning to grow again. Suppose they decided they wanted to keep some of their money at home and invest it in Japan, because they're starting to grow? We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense. I think it's wrong.

Preach on, Mr. President! Maybe Michael Moore is on to something when he accuses you of being the greatest conservative politician in a generation. Don't let me interrupt:

We had the lowest African-American unemployment, the lowest African-American poverty rate ever recorded. We had the highest homeownership, highest business ownership, and we moved 100 times as many people out of poverty in eight years as had been moved out in the previous 12 years.

Well, it was good while it lasted, but the prevarications had to enter the fray at some point. He is correct in stating that in the year 2000, the black poverty rate was the lowest it has ever been. It's crept back up following September 11, although during Bush's time in office the black poverty rate has averaged 24.0%, while under Clinton it averaged 27.5%. The reduction has more to do with the drastic in reduction in the welfare doles that were pushed through by Newt Gingrich's Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Clinton than anything else either Bush or Clinton has done.

The homeownership boasts are completely fallacious, however. Bush can brag about having overseen the highest homeownership rates for blacks of any President in US history (49.1% compared to Clinton's highest rate of 47.2%). In fact, the ownership society appears to be having a positive impact in this arena, as all ethnic and racial categories have seen increased rates of homeownership over the last five year.

Clinton goes on to talk about how the Bush tax cuts have caused increased poverty and that it was higher taxes that kept the poverty rate low during the go-go Clinton years. I'll let the rah-rahs snipe back and forth over how well their guys have done while in office. The effect of a President on the economy is overrated, of course. Just follow the stock market--and the technological processes, investment decisions, global factors, etc that it relies on--and you will have your indicator of how well the economy is performing. Presidential policies are a diminutive piece of the overall economic pie. Although it is hardly enlightening, it appears a Democratically-controlled White House and a Republican-controlled Congress enjoy the greatest economic prosperity. A cynic might say that is because in such a situation there is gridlock, and the more impotent the government is, the more the citizenry benefits.

Clinton spoke on the upward trend in poverty rates today, insinuating again that tax policies are the culprit:

This is a matter of public policy, and whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up, and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made.

The problem is, Bush has outspent Clinton on poverty entitlements. The 2006 budget calls for an incredible $368 billion for poverty entitlements--that breaks down to an astounding $9,900 per impoverished person! Because it's run by government wastrels, most of that money is spent on ineffective programs rather "efficient" wealth transfers, but the sheer amount is stultifying. The PPP in socialist Cuba is $3,000--in other words, free-market America redistributes over three times as much to its poor as the average Cuban receives in work compensation and from the government dole combined! Sheesh. So, the fiscally responsible Clinton criticizes Bush for giving too much back to people and not spending enough. Why not stick with the criticisms you laid out earlier about Bush's profligate spending habits, and point out what a prodigal President he has been. Promise us you'll force Hillary to reign in spending and keep handouts at a bare minimum, unlike the pseudo-conservative that's in the White House now! During your Presidency, the federal budget grew at an average annual rate of 3% (p30). During your successor's term, it has grown by an average of 7%. Don't tell us Bush is not doing enough--tell us he's doing too much! It's all so inane.

Anyhow, when it comes to increasing poverty rates, the elephant in the room is immigration. Few will state this obvious fact, because the left wants to manufacture voters out of poor Hispanics and the many on the right want cheap labor and/or are terrified of the "racist" moniker. But if the average immigrant's annual income is some $20,000 less per year than that of the average native, what do you think adding more immigrants is going to do the overall average economic health of the nation? See my previous post on the detrimental effect huge Hispanic immigration is having on the US.

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Republicans are for the rich, Democrats are for the poor. Isn't that the putative conventional wisdom? I first stumbled across a challenge to that idea in Ann Coulter's partisan but interesting Slander. Instead, she claims the extremes (impoverished and very affluent) are Democratic strongholds, while the middle-class is a Republican bastion. After reading an article by the perspicacious genius, Steve Sailer, highlighting the stark differences between California and Utah in terms of educational attainment, running the whole country by state became irresistible.

It turns out Sailer was spot on, but Coulter's analysis is not so certain. Using 2004 Presidential election voter share data for Bush and Kerry by state and 2003 Census data, I looked at three potential factors and how they correlated with voter choice: Education (less than a high-school diploma, between high school diploma and just short of bachelor's degree, and bachelor's degree and beyond), income (median income as a percentage of mean income), and population density.

A quick refresher: The median is the middle number in a distribution. The mean is what we tend to think of as the "average" (although both are measures of averages). For example, in a town with five people who have incomes of $9, $15, $16, $18, and $100 the median income is $16 (the middle value) while the mean is (9+15+16+18+102)/5=$32. The large disparity between the median and the mean shows that income is spread out (median income is only 50% of mean income). If the distribution had been $20, $20, $20, $20, $20, then the median and mean would be the same ($20), and thus median income would be 100% of mean income. So as median income increases as a percentage of mean income, the more economically equitable the state becomes.

I found the greater the proportion of a state's population having at least a high school diploma but not a bachelor's degree or beyond, the more likely that state was to vote for Bush. And the correlation was pretty strong (a correlation of .48). Also, I found that the higher median income was as a percentage of mean income (parity), the greater chance a state was to go for Bush, although the correlation was a more modest .15. In the social sciences, a correlation of .2 is considered "low", .4 is "medium", and .6 is "high". Both were stastically significant (meaning the correlations were real and not the result of random chance). When both high-school but not bachelor's and median/mean income were regressed against Bush vote share, the correlation inched up to .49, although the P-value for median/mean income was .3 (meaning it was scarcely an underlying factor), while for education the P-value was zero. The more densely populated a state, the more likely it was to vote for Kerry, with a correlation of .45. Population density was also correlated (.4) with income and educational disparity. Put all three variables in against Bush votes, and the correlation shoots up to .6 with each variable statistically significant. However, median/mean income became negatively correlated to Bush's share of the vote. Pulling income out of the mix, the correlation dips a bit to .56.

Income is confounding--although income parity favors Republicans when looking at the nation as a whole, if the other variables are added in it appears detrimental to them. The best answer is that income disparity has little to do with how a state votes. Standing alone it correlated weakly (.15) for Bush; adding it to the other variables (education and population density) only raised the correlation .04 (albeit against Bush). It is related to both educational disparity and high population densities, and thus is basically a repitive measure that is not as effective a predictor as the other two.

To summarize (in English): educational inequality and people packed in like sardines are good for the Democratic party. Giving people their space and insuring they are intellectually on a level playing field is the ticket for Republicans. It validates a few images many hold: People in Montana going through high school and then staying in their sparsely populated communities or going off to a local community college. Few urban areas or family breakdown to facilitate high dropout rates, but not a slew of doctorate-level positions being offered either. Montana went for Bush 59%-39%. On the flip, take DC: Lots of high-earning professionals, lobbyists, politicians, etc out there living in their gated communities. And even more unskilled indigent street-wanderers taking your camera or asking for beer change. No room for a ride across the prairie, with a nation-high 9,316 people per square mile. DC went for Kerry 90%-9%.

Perhaps economic equity is a political motivation for No Child Left Behind? Maybe, but that hardly offsets the obvious self-immolation the Republican party is partaking in by allowing mass immigration of low-skilled immigrants with an average educational attainment equivalent to the 8th grade. Meanwhile, college graduation rates are hitting new record highs. The paper, however, is not going to Hispanics (from a 2003 US Census release):

Among races, Asians had the highest proportion of college graduates at 50 percent. About 30 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 17 percent of blacks had a
least a bachelor’s degree. In 1993, 24 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12
percent of blacks were college graduates. Hispanics with high school diplomas
rose from 53 percent in 1993 to 57 percent. About 11 percent had bachelor’s
degrees, up from 9 percent.
The economy of the future is knowledge-based--the trend towards growing educational extremes is going to exacerbate the gap between those who can and those who cannot succeed. Even with a slew of soft degrees like ethnic studies, philosophy of history, sociology, women's studies, and anything else that mandates a vehement hatred of the male WASP but not quantative work, Hispanics are not going to move that number up much. And, of course, the country is becoming more crowded. Homogenuity is a Republican ally that is being thrown by the wayside. It looks pretty good for the Democrats. If you're starting to get that sinking feeling about Hillary in 2008 and then again in 2012... Email or write to Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo and encourage him to seek the GOP ticket in '08.

They're down and out right now. The Presidency is still quite close, the Senate is within reach, and the House... well, Republicans have owned the House since Newt and company won it in 1994. Speaking of Gingrich, Senate minority leader Harry Reid (Nevada) and House minority leader Nancy Pilosi (Cali) are taking a page out of his playbook--firmly oppose everything the opposition brings down the pike. Check out the DNC website--the theme is resistance to and attack on Republican initiatives. Can such a strategy work for a party that prides itself on being progressive?

Getting people out to vote is an age-old strategy for the Democratic party. Since there are more Democrats than Republicans, the conventional wisdom goes, the more people that vote, the better our odds. Pray it doesn't rain, hope there isn't an early winter snowstorm in Ohio. While the adage is still technically true, it has nearly fallen within the margin of error according to a Harris Interactive poll. The gap between party affiliations has narrowed steadily over the last four decades:

1970s: 21% (Dem affiliation as % - Rep affiliation as %)
1980s: 11%
1990s: 7%
2000s: 5%

As of 2004, 31% of voters were self-considered Republicans, while 34% considered themselves to be Democrat. The gap continues to narrow. It's hardly a function of Republican affiliation, which has remained stagnant since Jimmy Carter. The culprit is a shrinking base of Democratic affiliates. Increasingly people consider themselves independent. A plausible explanation for this is the mushrooming of alternative media outlets and the numbing number of information sources available via cable news, radio, magazines, and most especially, the internet. And most of these new sources do not favor the Democratic party relative to how domination by the big three networks did. If they choose to be, people can become an order of magnitude more informed than they were just twenty years ago, and consequently they are less likely to align themselves with a party if they disagree with it on even a few issues (or just don't believe the party stands for what it claims to). (Businessweek has an interesting article on how this phenomenon is affecting marketing/advertising).

Interestingly, American ideology hasn't really changed over the same time period. In 2004, about twice as many people considered themselves conservatives (36%) as liberals (18%), with the majority considering themselves moderate (41%). Within literally a point or two, that has been the case for the last forty years, although classifying 300 million people into only three categories presents some problems. Fundamentally we are not changing much, beyond becoming dissatisfied with two parties that don't speak to us.

Does affiliation even matter? It's unlikely we're going to see a serious third-party emerge in the near future, so what counts is who we vote for. That is where things start looking good for the Democrats. The demographic trends are definitely in their favor: in the 2004 Presidential race Bush picked up the white vote, and Kerry cleaned up every other racial category (black, hispanic, asian, and "other")--a mirror of the 2000 Presidential vote.

Whites are not going over to the Democrats anytime soon. The growing share of minorities is going to intesify the burden of redistributive income and affirmative action on them. Mass-immigration from Mexico brings over a million new people a year into the US who have, on average, an eighth-grade education. Hispanic immigrant households have an average (median) income (as of 2003 census) of $33,000, considerably lower than $43,300, the average for all US citizens. And that $33,000 is for legal Hispanic immigrants--illegals make even less.

My point is not to bash Hispanics, most of whom come from decaying, corrupt countries that offer little opportunity to the US to try and make something of their lives. The average Mexican living in Mexico has an astounding low educational attainment equivalent only to the US fifth-grade. The ones who are coming here tend to be the cream of the crop, and most work very hard for relatively low wages. Certainly I would do the same if I were in their predicament.

Instead, my point is to show that the squeeze for whites is only going to get tighter. White households bring in $45,600. That means, on average, Hispanics are net liabilities in terms of taxes--they pay less in income taxes than their white counterparts for the same educational and medical services, road use, police force, etc. Those at the top (mostly white) have to pick up the tab, or let the deficit grow even larger (this is, in essence, what people are referring to when they admonish that in forty years the US will become "third-world"). As the numbers of Hispanics grow (and blacks as well, though Hispanics at a much faster pace), they will tug ever-harder on white pocketbooks (not to mention the cultural agitation that continues to mount), whites will look more and more to someone who offers some relief or at least less "hardship".

Much ado has been made about the strides Bush has made for the Republicans in growing Hispanic voters. Beyond the perplexing numbers that may overstate Bush's share of the Hispanic vote in 2004, the exit polls still showed him picking up 12% less of the Hispanic vote than Kerry--and that's during an election cycle when same-sex marriage was a big deal, something Hispanics stridently oppose (much more than whites). The Republican party is self-immolating by not restricting mass-immigration, even if Bush did make marginal gains in 2004. This is good news for Democrats, who acquiesce to large-scale immigration (see a few notable exceptions in Hillary Clinton and Cali Senator Diane Feinstein).

If the Democratic party ever lost the black vote, it would be in dire peril. It is the most lopsided demographic segment, voting nine-to-one in favor of Kerry last November. Yet blacks are, on average, socially moderate to conservative (fitting into Pew's conservative democrat and disadvantaged democrat categories). Same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and late-term abortion are opposed by most blacks. And the surge in unskilled Hispanic immigrants means more competition for jobs at lower wages for many blacks. Still, bread-and-butter Democrat items like support for affirmative action and a progressive tax system make it improbable that blacks are going to vote Republican anytime soon.

The Californication (the ultimate blue state!) of the US also bodes well for the Democrats (from Steve Sailer):

The Golden State is now one of only three states with above average percentages both of people who never got past elementary school and of holders of graduate degrees. (The other two are New Mexico and Rhode Island.) In California, 10.7 percent of grownups have no more than elementary schooling, compared to only 6.4 percent in the other 49 states.
Of all the states in the Union, California now has the lowest percentage of its population with a midlevel education consisting of at least a high school diploma or some college, but not a bachelor's degree from a four-year college.

According to 2003 Census data, only 80.2% of California's population had at least a high school diploma (or equivalent). 29.1% of Cali residents had a bachelor's degree or more. Utah, on the other hand, is educationally less diverse: 90.0% had at least a high school diploma in 2003, but only 26.2% reached a bachelor's or beyond. It was Bush's best state, going for him 72% to Kerry's 26%. Looking at another pair of dark blue vs dark red: New York registers 83.2% with at least a high school diploma and 29.7% at a bachelor's and beyond. Montana is thus: 90.5% at least high school, 25.8% bachelor's or more.

Think about that for a second. It shows that in states where there are large uneducated and well-educated populations (and consequently lower numbers of those inbetween), there is a propensity to vote Democrat. Any ideas why that is the case? (These numbers are fascinating--I'm going to run them all soon to find if a statistically significant correlation between educational parity and voting Republican exists, as I presume it does based on looking at a few states).

Egalitarianism serves the Republican party well; inegalitarian states tend to vote Democrat. The income gap is growing slightly, but the wealth gap is widening more pungently. It's not apocalyptic though--the rich are getting richer without the poor getting poorer. But materialism is usually judged on a relative scale, ignoring the fact that wealth creation is not a zero-sum game. The gains realized from technological innovation are utilized by the most industrious, perspicacious entities who are generally already wealthy. Meanwhile, unskilled menial labor is becoming less necessary even as its supply is growing. This trend definitely favors the Democrats.

The biggest hurdle for the party is going to be reconciling working-class Democrats with the increasingly progressive social platform of the Democratic party, exemplified in DNC chairman Howard Dean. But the demographic changes almost exclusively favor the Democrats, and the Republican party could rupture in 2008 over immigration. They're at a low point now, but in spite of themselves, the party will probably regain control in the next decade.

The Pew Research Center has an interesting analysis on US political typology. The overarching theme is familiar to anyone who even moderately follows politics--the two parties cannot come close to representing most Americans. In the Republican Party, unfettered illegal immigration, to the official tune of one-million new illegals per year (and likely much more than that) is brought to mind. On the Democratic side, social values split the Deans and the Liebermans.

Pew categorizes Americans into nine categories: three on the left, three in the middle, and three on the right. It's not completely satisfying--most notably absent is a category representing Libertarians, who are often classifed on both the left and the right. But for attempting to desribe 300 million people in only nine ways, they do okay. It provides an interesting, though incomplete, template for predicting the future of the two parties. I tried to cut to the pith and relate each category to something concrete.

On the right, the three categories are enterprisers, social conservatives, and pro-government conservatives. Enterprisers are the full-blooded capitalists who love America's entrepreneurial ethos and city-on-the-hill image. Seeing the US as a great country, they support an aggressive foreign policy that simultaneously helps America and betters those we come in contact with. The redistribution income and government obstacles to business are their greatest political concerns. While generally affluent white Christians, they are not particularly religious or overly concerned with social issues. Bush's pledge not to raise income tax rates is red meat to these guys. Think Rush Limbaugh.

Social Conservatives are those condescendingly referred to by the mainstream media as the "religious right". Issues crucial to them are things like abortion, the preservation of American heritage, the nuclear family structure, and immigration. Piously religious, they are most heavily concentrated in the South. While generally free-market oriented, they are skeptical of big business and favor more governmental regulation than do the enterprisers. Contrary to public opinion, they are often concerned with environmental issues and outsourcing. Bush's strong evangelism is a real plus to this crowd. Michael Savage is a spot on example (minus the irascibility!)

Pro-Government Conservatives are the often-overlooked group of Republican voters who are the subject of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? They are the poorest of those on the right, and favor government-provided protection and assistance to the disadvantaged. However, they are socially very conservative, especially on right-to-life issues. What pedantics from the Marxist school of thought (like Frank) fail to realize is that some people who struggle financially still put morality before their pocketbook. While Roe v Wade may never be overturned, the Hyde Amendment is very much in play (it deals with federally-funded abortions, which are currently restricted to health issues and incest/rape). It's tough to put a celeb here, because I'm not aware of any poor ones, but Bill O'Reilly's concern for "the folks" comes pretty close.

On to the left; liberals, conservative democrats, and disadvantaged democrats. Liberals are at Harvard Law School or enjoying the metropolitan atmosphere of New York City and San Francisco. They are well-educated, super-secularist whites who oppose most military intervention and harsh law enforcement while supporting progressive taxes, government subsidies to the poor, and government regulations (especially environmental ones) on business. Same-sex marriage is a cause they champion. They generally see America as a dangerous country that needs to be restrained. Michael Moore is their poster boy.

Conservative Democrats are the party's old guarde. These are the working-class union types who are socially moderate to socially conservative. They tend to be pretty religious and patriotic. Outsourcing is a huge concern, as are falling wages, burgeoning supply and declining demand for labor, and free-trade agreements like CAFTA. They are generally older and racially diverse yet immigration is causing them increasing tension due to the rapid growth in Hispanic employment while less-skilled job growth for other races remains stagnant. Lou Dobbs comes to mind.

Disadvantaged Democrats round out the left. They are the uneducated underclass with little prospect for the future. Skeptical of both government and business, they congregate in urban areas and suffer numerous social pathologies. This group is disproportionately African American. Distrustful as they may be of Uncle Sam, they support large amounts of government assistance to ameliorate their problems. Social issues are not high on their list of concerns. Unlike pro-government conservatives, they understandably consistently vote for their pocketbook. Not sure who characterizes them--maybe Al Sharpton?

In the middle, we find upbeats, disaffecteds, and bystanders. Upbeats are optimistic about their personal future and the future of the US. They are well-educated, financially secure, and keep abreast of current events. However, they do not possess a strong ideological bend and identify more with individual politicians than a political party.

Disaffecteds are similar to upbeats in their lack of allegiance to the left or the right, but unlike their counterparts they tend to be less-educated, financially shaky, and generally pessimistic about the future. The government irks them, as do most groups that interfere with their lives.

Bystanders don't know that "left" and "right" are political terms. They don't go much further than Entertainment Tonight to keep up with current events, and almost never vote... unless it's for the next American Idol.

So there we have it. Where do you fit in? If you're not sure, try letting Pew help you out by clicking here. Did it accurately describe you, or did it miss the mark? A look at these categories provides a nice seque into looking at the future of the Republican and Democratic parties, which is next on the slate.

The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum claims Democratic Presidents have a record of stronger economic growth than do Republican Presidents. Besides a sample size much too low to come anywhere near approaching statistical significance, it fails to take into account other factors like military campaigns, technological innovation, and that 800-pound gorilla--the US Senate.

The Senate has more clout in controlling legislation than does the President. Even Drum would not deny that. We know where this is going--since 1968, (I will look at data going all the way back to the 40s in the near future) using data from the US Census, we find that when the US Senate is controlled by Republicans, economic growth per capita is 34% greater than under a Democratically-controlled Senate.

(Red shows years that the Senate was controlled by Republicans, Blue shows years of Democratic control)

Year AvgInc. Change over last
2003 23276 -0.17156%
2002 23316 -1.81083%
2001 23746 -0.51948%

2000 23870 1.81710%
1999 23444 3.38684%
1998 22676 3.11491%
1997 21991 3.87322%
1996 21171 2.52797%
1995 20649 1.58910%

1994 20326 2.77076%
1993 19778 3.67458%
1992 19077 -0.90900%
1991 19252 -1.95060%
1990 19635 -2.49292%
1989 20137 2.69788%
1988 19608 2.18887%
1987 19188 2.68101%
1986 18687 4.06527%
1985 17957 3.18929%
1984 17402 4.61076%
1983 16635 1.50720%
1982 16388 0.03052%
1981 16383 -0.49803%

1980 16465 -2.16875%
1979 16830 1.50784%
1978 16580 6.98155%
1977 15498 3.16869%
1976 15022 3.46443%
1975 14519 0.10342%
1974 14504 -2.33654%
1973 14851 3.39762%
1972 14363 7.01088%
1971 13422 2.97683%
1970 13034 0.79654%
1969 12931 5.51612%

(All income stated in 2003 dollars)

There's the data, and here's the verdict (stated in average annual per capita income growth between 1968-2003):

Reps avg Dems avg
2.23405% 1.67040%

This is just a first briefing. I will expound on it in the near future. The abstract is thus: stats claiming ceteris paribus when dealing with something as enormous as the Presidency of the United States, especially when lacking tremendously in sample size, are dubious at best and should be taken with a grain of salt. Don't buy Drum, and don't buy me.

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