Sunday, March 30, 2008

Executive, UN's ICJ, and opponents of death penalty all get served by SCOTUS

The Supreme Court shot down three powerful entities in one fell swoop:
President Bush overstepped his authority when he ordered a Texas court to reopen the case of a Mexican on death row for rape and murder [of two girls, aged 14 and 16], the Supreme Court said Tuesday.

In a case that mixes presidential power, international relations and the death penalty, the court sided with Texas and rebuked Bush by a 6-3 vote.

The president was in the unusual position of siding with death row prisoner Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican citizen whom police prevented from consulting with Mexican diplomats, as provided by international treaty.

An international court [the International Court of Justice, or ICJ] ruled in 2004 that the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on death row around the United States violated the 1963 Vienna Convention, which provides that people arrested abroad should have access to their home country's consular officials. The international Court of Justice, also known as the world court, said the Mexican prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether the violation affected their cases.
The President (and the executive branch more broadly), the ICJ (the UN's judicial body), and those opposed to capital punishment were all rebuked.

The state of Texas has some wiggle room in pulling directly from the Vienna Convention. Article 36, Paragraph 2 reads:
The rights referred to in paragraph 1 of this article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this article are intended.
So all parties to the treaty may go about it honoring in their own way, so long as they in effect do everything that the preceding paragraph (which states that consular officials are free to communicate with nationals and viceversa, and that the receiving State should make both aware of that ability to communicate) states they must do. Uh, and Texas has made sure that the US does just that.

That's pushing it! But the child rapist and murderer confessed to the heinous acts. So talking to Mexican consular officials wouldn't have changed the outcome of the case. Thus, the effect of how Texas went about offering that communication (it wasn't offered) to Madellin was ultimately the same as if Texas had gone about it as stipulated explicitly in the Vienna Convention (inform Madellin immediately of his right to communication). Whether or not they had the chance to tell him to blame it all on the gringo is irrelevalent--he's living on borrowed time in either case.

Further, the convention contains its own state's rights (actually, 'nation's rights') clause. The first paragraph of Article 55:
Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the State. [Aren't Mexican consulates that encourage Mexicans living in the US to vote for Mexican interests in US elections acting in violation of this?]
Okay, I'm playing the unscrupulous legalist here. It's pretty clear that if the US acts to honor the treaty in good faith, Madellin's in good shape. When the ICJ heard the case in '04, it came to the same conclusion.

In writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts doesn't deny that. Instead, he points out that since the treaty lacks specific self-executing enforcement mechanisms, creating them falls to the Legislative branch of the US:
While a treaty may constitute an international commitment, it is not binding domestic law unless Congress has enacted statutes implementing it or the treaty itself conveys an intention that it be "self-executing" and is ratified on that basis.
Otherwise, the Executive gains broad domestic legislative powers through treaties made, as the Senate (two-thirds support required) cannot foresee exactly how those treaties will be enforced within the US. Nor should the Senate's consenting to the treaty be seen as a grant of those powers to the Executive branch.

Roberts gives President Bush a shot for ordering the state of Texas to stop the trial proceedings from going forward:
The responsibility for transforming an international obligation arising from a non-self-executing treaty into domestic law falls to Congress, no the Executive. ... It is a fundamental constitutional principle that "'[t]he power to make the necessary laws is in Congress; the power to execute in the President.'" ... A non-self-executing treaty, by definition, is one that was ratified with the understanding that it is not to have domestic effect of its own force. That understanding precludes the assertion that Congress has implicitly authorized the President--acting on his own--to achieve precisely the same result.
Both the powers given to the Legislative branch and the Tenth Amendment undercut Bush's presumption of the power to halt the trial proceedings and stop the state of Texas from putting Madellin down.

From the casual observer's perspective, it seems sneaky. Yes, the international treaty expresses commitments on the part of the US to open up channels of communication between a detained national and his consulate, "but not all international law obligations automatically constitute binding federal law enforceable in the United States courts." So Madellin and Mexico are 'paying the price' because Congress has 'dropped the ball'.

Good. Any obstacle binding what takes place domestically in the US to international law is favorable in my view. As the world's market dominant minority, the US is not going to get sympathy from any UN organ. The ICJ is not inclined towards the interests of the US. There are no multilateral guarantees of reciprocity anyway, so US compliance can be (and often is) taken for granted.

Self-executing clauses within a treaty itself make it much easier for other parties to a treaty to identify one member's lack of compliance. Thus, they do more to ensure reciprocity. But that's what makes it much more difficult to get such clauses included in the first place.

Since, practically, the public cannot reasonably hold the executive to account for treaties made in the past when their consequences may not be made manifest until several years down the road (in this case, 45 years later), that's for the better. The alternative is to allow the legislative decisions to be made via international treaty, with potential disputes being adjudicated in foreign or international courts.

On the international level, I see this decision as a victory for US sovereignty. And on the national level, I see this as a victory for state sovereignty. No, judges from Jordan, Venezuela, Mexico, and Morocco will not determine how the state of Texas runs itself, even if the President wishes it were so.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rep Shuler's SAVE Act facing opposition from Pelosi, McCain?

The Democratic party's freshmen class in the House have shown themselves quite willing to buck the party's leadership on the issue of immigration. While the 30 Republicans who lost their seats in the '06 mid-term elections were more supportive of open-borders than the rest of the GOP was (the loss rate was three times higher outside of the Immigration Reform Caucus--then headed by Tom Tancredo and now by Brian Bilbray--than inside it), the rookie Democrats who've replaced them have been more restrictive than the rest of the Democratic party has been. Last summer, 57% of the new Democratic class voted for a Tancredo-introduced amendment prohibiting DHS funding from going to sanctuary cities. Only 13% of the rest of the Democratic party sided with Tancredo.

Back in November, Democratic representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina introduced H.R. 4008, known as the SAVE Act, in the House. It's not a wall along the entire US-Mexico border, but it's pretty heavy on the enforcement side:

- Mandatory participation in the E-Verify employment verification program
- A couple thousand more Border Patrol agents (to be preferrentially selected from the ranks of those with prior military service) per year for several years going forward
- New personnel to be hired specifically for the purpose of investigating illegal alien smuggling
- Authorization of the use of drones, sensors, infrared cameras, physical barriers, and the like to assist in maintaining border integrity
- Mandates for greater cooperation between federal and local law enforcement on the immigration front
- Authorization of rewards of up to $100,000 to citizens who provide information leading to the capture of illegal aliens and/or those aiding them

The Democratic leadership in the House has been in no hurry to get the legislation through the various committees (eight of them) it must go through prior to finding its way to the chamber floor, even though it now has 147 other co-sponsors. So Shuler is attempting to force it the floor by garnering 217 signatures for a "discharge petition". Thus far, he has 181 of them.

Of those 181 signatories, only nine are Democrats (six of those nine are rookie Democrats, by the way). Why such a paltry number when 49 of the resoultion's co-sponsors are Democrats? The Democratic House leadership wants the thing dead:
Shuler said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership were not pleased with his attempts to get the bill to the House floor.

"They said (the bill) was not the proper thing for our caucus," Shuler said.

But he said the SAVE Act is "not about Democrats. Not about Republicans. It's about what is best for America."

Shuler said he went to Washington to solve problems and was not willing to go along with the leadership in his party. "You can't be scared in Washington," Shuler said. "You have to do what is right."

Shuler said he understands party leadership and that the party system has a role. But he said partisanship and the struggle for power get in the way of solving problems.

Even though I've been a Cowboys' fan since elementary school, I'd vote for a Shuler Presidency long before I'd vote for any of the three remaining Presidential contenders.

Shuler also accuses someone on the other side of the aisle of interference:

U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler says he believes Republican presidential candidate John McCain blocked his immigration bill from getting a vote on the U.S. House floor. McCain's staff denies it. ...

"It was going great until McCain blocked it," Shuler said.

McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, called Republicans in Congress and asked them not to sign the petition, Shuler said. He said after McCain's intervention, Republicans in the House were less willing to sign onto the bill.
There isn't much else out there about the accusation at this point, so it's not fair to say it's been substantiated. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be true, though.

If McCain hasn't exerted such pressure, there's no compelling reason for him to say anything more about the charge. But if he wants to assuage a very skeptical 'conservative base', he'd do well to take the opportunity to publicly encourage members of both parties in the House to give the legislation a hearing on the floor. Heh, fat chance of that happening!

The leadership in both parties are opposed to any restrictionist legislation. Results have to come from the ground up. That means action at the state level and in the House. Here's a record (second list) of representatives who've signed Shuler's petition thus far. If your rep isn't among them, let him know you'd like him to be. Again, it's H.R. 4008 (the SAVE Act) that is at issue.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A frank conversation please, not more dishonest didacticism

Regarding the year-long lag in the Wright/Dreams from my Father 'controversy' becoming popular knowledge, it should have been picked up by the major media a year ago, when the magazine started by Pat Buchanan carried a feature on examining Obama's identity. I was stultified by how it continued to hide in plain sight as Hillary (wouldn't one of her media surrogates, say David Brock, give it some exposure?) took a pummeling at voting booths across the country and by major media outlets overwhelmingly supportive of Obama.

But now that much is known, it's the audio and video clips that have been so damaging. Apologists can spin the stories 40 different ways (earlier in the week I heard a putative feminist call Obama's speech addressing the Wright situation a "smashing success" on NPR), but as is said, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the clips are everywhere. I'm reminded of hearing about Nick Berg's beheading on the news cycle and then seeing a video of it [the link is very graphic] for the first time. My reaction become much more visceral after viewing the video, and the story became forever lodged in my memory.

Whether the electoral realignment among younger voters is a surging force for Hillary or can be explained away less extraordinarily, Pat Buchanan's recent column in response to Obama's didactic speech on March 18th captures my sentiment as a twenty-something white male well:
The "white community," said Barack, must start "acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination—and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past—are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds ... ." [Full text]

And what deeds must we perform to heal ourselves and our country?

The "white community" must invest more money in black schools and communities, enforce civil rights laws, ensure fairness in the criminal justice system and provide this generation of blacks with "ladders of opportunity" that were "unavailable" to Barack's and the Rev. Wright's generations. ...

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks—with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas—to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Barack talks about new "ladders of opportunity" for blacks.

Let him go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for "deserving" white kids.

Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America's fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes
of violence
. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?

Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.

Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago.
Would Obama rather be migrating westward through rutted mud roads with other members of the Luo tribe in Kenya? Would Wright rather be living in Zimbabwe?

The purchasing power parity of the average black in the US is about two-thirds greater than the PPP of the average person in Botswana, the world's wealthiest black country (excluding the oil-rich anomaly of Equitorial Guinea). A black American born today can expect to live into his seventies. If he's born anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, he'll be beating the odds in making it past sixty.

African slavery in the western hemisphere can be seen as one of the best things to have happened from the perspective of contemporary black Americans and one of the worst things to have happened from the perspective of contemporary white Americans. Crime, poverty, 'failing schools', curtailment of free speech, international embarassment, and the occasional personal destruction of scientific pioneers are among the consequences white America has suffered.

Koreans absorbed a generation of brutality at home that in many ways was worse than the black experience in the US during the first half of the 20th Century, and Jews have repeatedly faced persecution from Christians extending as far back as the sermons of St. John of Chrysostum in the 5th Century, after Jews no longer presented any serious secular threat to the Christian world. Yet today's Ashkenazi Jews aren't exactly languishing at the bottom of American society.

I know I'm making far more than a cultural comparison when I consider Korean and Jewish performance to that of blacks in the US. To expect parity is beyond unreasonable, to the 'credit' of black America. I'm interested in ways of ameliorating the situation at home and internationally. But the lecturing--Jon Meachem of Newsweek called the racial issues Obama had to address white America's "original sin" on last weekend's Meet the Press--of whites makes me boil.

It's hard for me, born in 1983, to think of exactly what racial sins I'm guilty of having committed*. And far from being ashamed of what my fathers have done, I'm awed at the trillions of dollars in concessions they've made, the moral lashing they continue to refrain from giving though it seems deserved, and the merit in society they've foregone in an attempt to integrate a largely ungrateful, underachieving, burdensome, and often downright dangerous minority into the larger majority--goodwill that surpasses in effort and scope any other ever undertaken by a nation's market-dominant majority on behalf of one of its minorities.

*It's not even relevant, but since this is personal, I might as well point out that I've dealt with more urban blacks through work, volunteering, and playing ball (there's a lot of court talent at your run-of-the-mill section 8 housing complex) than many people will meet in their entire lifetimes.

Barack's advantage over Hillary among young voters disappearing?

John Savage of BNWW points to an apparent trend that, if it holds, will be one of the biggest electoral surprises of the '08 Presidential race:

The news that voters under 35 are opposing Barack Obama more strongly than the population as a whole has to be one of the most heartening pieces of news that I’ve heard lately — especially since I don’t think it necessarily means they like McCain.
The polls being referenced are from SurveyUSA, taken after the Jeremiah Wright news 'broke' on March 14 (that is of the year 2008, not 2007, unfortunately). I'm not sure the data provide a reason to assert that 18-34 year olds are opposing Obama more strongly than other age categories are, as his support by age category remains strongest among younger voters in most states (including those where he gets a minority in every age group, like Alabama). But in several states, the under 35 crowd shows more support for Hillary against McCain than they do for Obama against McCain.

In Massachusetts, 75% of 18-34 yos support Hillary when she takes on McCain, while only 60% back Obama when he takes on the Arizona Senator. In Minnesota, Hillary gets 62% of the vote to Obama's 60%. In New York, Hillary wins 62%-59%, in California 74%-64%, in Missouri 45%-35%, in Ohio 50%-48%, and in Kentucky an astounding 55%-26%.

In New Mexico, both Democrats get 54%, in Oregon they both get 55%, and in Alabama they both get 39%.

In Virginia, Obama comes out ahead, 61%-58%, but in the state's Democratic primary, Obama clobbered Hillary 64%-35%. More convincingly, in Washington state Obama outdoes Hillary 64%-53%, in Wisconsin at 56%-42%, in Iowa 62%-52%, in Kansas 49%-35%.

The state scorecard for 18-34 year-old voters in places that have had polls of registered voters conducted after Obama's racialism became widely known has Hillary up 7-5 over Obama (and her state's are more electorally significant than his are), with three draws. This in contrast to the fact that even in the states surveyed where Hillary won big in the Democratic primary, she didn't take the younger vote, splitting it in California (likely due to the overrepresentation of Hispanics in the younger age categories) and Massachusetts, and losing it in New York and Ohio. That is, she didn't win the young vote in those states even though she won the states overall during the primaries, but she's winning those younger voters now.

I'm a little skeptical of the results, though. The Massachusetts' poll shows Hispanics breaking for Obama 51%-49% against McCain, but 58%-42% in McCain's favor against Hillary. That is exactly the opposite of how I would expect Hispanic support to fall, especially given the exit poll showing Hispanics on the Democratic side went 56%-36% in favor of Hillary over Obama (in Wisconsin, the results appear even more outrageous, with Hillary losing the Hispanic vote against McCain, 68%-14%, but Obama winning it against McCain, 72%-22%). The poll also shows McCain receiving 29% of the black vote against Obama and 30% of it against Hillary--absurdly high levels of black support for a Republican in both cases. In Washington state, blacks are only reported to favor Obama over McCain at 55%-45%!

Minnesota shows an even wilder Hispanic result (and a similarly incredulous black result), with Obama winning an astounding 91%-2% against McCain. The 2% isn't even mathematically possible, as the poll surveyed 532 registered voters, of which 3% were Hispanic. Thus the maximum number of Hispanics surveyed was 19, meaning if only one backed McCain, it should have shown up as 5% support, not 2%. Hillary, meanwhile, only gets 67% of the Hispanic vote in the state.

Further, the polls are of registered voters, not likely voters, and first-time voters have been an asset for Obama during the primaries and presumably would be during the general election as well. Obama's success in caucuses, where, relative to primaries, fewer (and more committed) people take part, means he's probably stronger among likely voters than he is among registered voters.

Also, these polls cover a pretty wide age range, from 18-34. Obama has beaten Hillary pretty soundly among voters of every age category under forty, but he's annihilated her among 18-24 year-olds. It is from his performance among the college-aged crowd that Obama has earned the popular reputation for being the candidate of choice for young America. So maybe Hillary's advantage has primarily come from those in their late-twenties and early-thirties.

Granting the polls working credulity for now, my initial thought is that younger voters tend to be votaries of the messianic Obama. They were more likely to turn away feeling bitterly betrayed when they found out that Obama neither has the ability to walk on water nor raise the dead, whereas the less quixotic middle-aged and elderly populations aren't as surprised by the revelation and so their support has for him has shown more stability.

It also seems to signal what is a perpetual complaint of non-centrists: That the far left/right supporters will move toward the moderate left/right more willingly than the moderate left/right will move to their respective 'extremes', especially when a moderate right/left alternative exists.

If we reasonably take Hillary to be the more moderate of the two Democratic contenders and McCain to be an internationalist in the political center, we'd expect Hillary's supporters more likely to back McCain against Obama than we would expect Obama's supporters to back McCain against Hillary. That looks like the net result at this point, anyway.

A national poll, post-Wright, with full crosstabs, would shed more light on what's happening at the youthful end of the electorate, but I can't find one yet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What percentage of voters would not vote for a white guy?

Over the last couple of months, I've spent a good deal of time looking at exit polling data pertaining to the Presidential nomination, especially on the Democratic side. Since the media story has largely been one of "personality" (to which I'd ascribe most demographically-related voter considerations), why have exit pollsters not queried voters on gender, racial, and religious motivations for the way they voted? The demographic data on the voters themselves are definitely useful, but it'd be interesting to know what percentage of voters report they voted for Hillary because she's a woman, Obama because he's black, or Edwards because he's white.

Polls consistently show much of the country is uncomfortable voting for a Mormon, with less opposition to a female, less still to a Hispanic, and even less opposition yet to a black. A USAToday/Gallup poll from a year ago phrased the question in a satisfyingly direct way: If the candidate is nominated by your party and is otherwise qualified, would you vote for the person if he's black, a woman, etc? The percentage of people who wouldn't vote for the following:

Black - 5%
Woman - 11%
Mormon - 24%

Other polls have found the level of opposition to candidates in their seventies and older falls between that of a woman and a Mormon, and the level of opposition to a Hispanic falls between that of a black and a woman.

I suspect the reason the exit pollsters didn't ask the question initially (and continue not to) is because what it would likely reveal wouldn't fit the script. It would require not just asking about the oppressed candidates, but also the oppressive ones. That's something polls like the one excerpted from above have been able to avoid (although it would certainly be interesting if they included an item gauging what percentage of people wouldn't vote for a white; it would likely be higher than the opposition to a black is).

Would (that is, have) more people vote(d) for Hillary because she's white or Obama because he's black? The Good people don't want to know the answer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

White Dems support white candidate when around blacks; blacks always support black candidate

Several shrewd bloggers have pointed to a Matt Bai article in the NYT Magazine that takes a look at the broad (black and white, anyway) racial voting patterns that have characterized the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination process. Specifically, Bai writes:

As some bloggers have shrewdly pointed out, Obama does best in areas that have either a large concentration of African-American voters or hardly any at all, but he struggles in places where the population is decidedly mixed.
That has been the case throughout the campaign. After the Super Tuesday contests, the correlation between Obama's white support and the percentage of the voting electorate that is black by state was an inverse .35.

The trend has become more pronounced over time, currently standing at an inverse .43, with a p-value of less than .02. The actual relationship is stronger still, as blowout states for both candidates weaken the perceived correlation.

The black shares of the total electorate on the Democratic side in Illinois and Arkansas are similar (24% and 17%, respectively). Yet, as 'home' states for each of the candidates, they are anomalies. And not only in how lopsided the overall outcomes were (65%-33% and 70%-26%), but also with regards to how the influence the general trend that as black proportional representation increases, whites move away from Obama. Obama took 57% of the white vote in Illinois (his second best performance among whites) but only 16% in Arkansas (his worst performance among whites).

Dropping these two states propels the inverse correlation between the percentage of the electorate that is black and Obama's white voter share to a vigorous .52. Excepting DC*, the caucus states without exit polling data that Obama has dominated in all have very small black populations. So presumably the real relationship is even stronger still.

I expound further on this to make clear that there is not a U-shaped pattern of white support for Obama as the black population increases. Bai didn't make that erroneous assertion either, but I can see how people following at a distance might.

The overall results (not the white results) do reveal a sort of U-shaped curve from Obama's perspective as the percentage of the total electorate that is black increases, but that is a result of the black-white proportions of a state's total electorate, not of either group changing their behaviors in the middle (black percentage between 10%-25%) relative to the extremes (black percentage less than 10% or more than 25%).

The bottom line is this: As the black percentage of the population grows, whites increasingly back Hillary. Blacks reliably back Obama no matter what. With Arkansas and Illinois included, for every 1% increase in the total electorate that is black, Obama's support among whites drops by .64%. When those two states are removed, the corresponding drop in Obama's white support is .90% for every 1% increase in the total electorate that is black.

* Unless DC's blacks totally broke away from the national trend of their brethren who have overwhelmingly supported Obama, Hillary held her own among non-blacks in the capital, where she was crushed 75%-24% overall. With over 56% of the district's population being black (and an even greater percentage of the Democratic electorate being so), Hillary probably took Obama in the ~35%-40% or so of non-black voters by a margin of about 60%-40%. Thus DC is not an exception, but instead an example of why Obama's loss of white support is only relevant to the statewide outcome up to a certain black threshold--once black representation hits 30%, Obama is home-free.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

See you in a few

I'm taking the rest of the week off from to ride the Katy Trail. Until then, farewell!

US, European incarceration rates compared

Concluding the Pew report (pg 36) on the US prison population is a graph depicting incarceration rates for selected countries. The US is situated on top, with a rate of 750 people per 100,000 locked up. In a distant second is Russia, with 628 per. The rest of the countries listed, with the exception of Azerbaijan and Turkey, are European.

The US is distinct from its European counterparts in a way that invariably leads to it performing poorly by most any comparitve measure of social pathologies. That distinction is that 28% of the US population is black or Hispanic. If members of these groups were incarcerated at the same rate as whites are, the US drops to 402 per 100,000 people*.

That puts the US next to Georgia, below Russia and Belarus. Still near the top and higher than Western Europe, due to mandatory sentencing guidelines and harsh punishments for drug-related offenses relative to those meted out on the Old Continent, but within the broader European range instead of towering above it.

* This assumes that Asians are incarcerated at the same rate as whites. The Pew report does not make mention of this inconvenient group once in 37 pages. If the prison rate for Asians is assumed to be the same rate relative to whites as the violent crime rate is, while blacks and Hispanics are assumed to land in jail at the same rate as whites, the national rate drops to 389 people per 100,000.

Friday, March 14, 2008

IQ and incarceration

One of the recurring topics here is the relationship between IQ and, well, virtually everything that is desirable--a higher material standard of living, greater livability (as measured by a set of 44 variables like average educational attainment and libraries per capita), longer life expectancy, greater physical health, relative income equality and more total wealth, lower rates of illegitimacy, higher rates of employment, and lower rates of infant mortality, just to list those I've looked at.

It's become a bit of a game to search for some positive attribute that correlates inversely with IQ. So far, that search hasn't yielded much. The only arguable exception, total fertility, is a worrisome one, as national birth trends suggest the meek (minded) may indeed inherit the earth. A nation's TFR and estimated average IQ inversely correlate at a vigorous .81.

In any case, the perception of fertility's goodness forms an inverted U-shaped curve, with both low levels (say, a TFR of less than 1.5) and high levels (a TFR of more than 3) causing an increasing level of concern as they move further toward either extreme. The optimal level falls somewhere in between, around the estimated replenishment rate of 2.1. By contrast, trends for all of the conditions listed in the opening paragraph are infinitely more desirable as they continue (until a bane like infant mortality is reduced to zero, of course).

So why not add another notch to the raising-IQ-is-good belt? Pew recently released a report on the US' prison population, with detailed data presented at the state level. Predictably, the report's commentary insinuates that because a large prison population is not a good thing to have, and sticking someone in the slammer for twice as long doesn't seem to have much effect on whether or not he'll commit another crime once he's released, shortening sentences and releasing more inmates is probably the way to go. It'll reduce government spending, too, and that's historically been a primary concern of the Pew Research Center, no?

Apparently neither party in California seems to agree. Seems to me that incorrigible recidivism rates suggest we should move towards, not away from, locking people up and throwing away the keys. But to try and look at the effects of incarcerating criminals without taking demographics into consideration is fallacious. Whatever the optimal percentage of Mississippi's population that 'should' be behind bars given present conditions is, it's not the same percentage that applies to Minnesota.

Media sources are favorably inclined toward Pew for its more-than-acceptable press releases, which gives the center its prestige and continued notoriety. What make Pew so valuable, though, are the hard data it collects. For a research institution to be left-leaning but honest is about as good as it gets!

Much in the report comes as little surprise. Among men 18 and older, blacks are seven times as likely to be incarcerated as whites are. For Hispanics, the multiple to whites is three.

The best predictor of a state's incarceration rate may come as more of surprise, though (if I hadn't already given it away). Economic inequality trends in the expected direction but the relationship isn't statistically significant. Population density has no appreciable effect, either, and actually trends in the opposite direction of what would be expected (greater density means a smaller prison population). It's not the poverty rate (r-value of .59), the illegitimacy rate (.54), the unemployment rate (.29), or the average age of the population (.40), either. It's not even (quite) the percentage of a state's population that is black or Hispanic (.648).

The strongest correlation with incarceration rates that I've been able to find comes from estimated average IQ (.649). Not surprisingly, a state's 'livability' also inversely correlates strongly (.63) with the prisoner population.

Poverty rates are arrived at by use of a rolling average from '04-'06. The rest of the data are from '06, except the incarceration rates from Pew which are from mid-'05, the livability index which is also from '05, and the gini coefficient numbers, which are almost a decade old (but the most recent I could find). Given that McDaniel's IQ estimates* are the least precise of all the data, the actual relationship between IQ and incarceration rates is likely to be stronger still.

The War on Unintelligence, or more palatably, the Crusade for Intelligence, has not yet been forthcoming (or has been comparable to the first wave led by Peter the Hermit in the form of No Child Left Behind). Strategies for raising IQ through the course of a person's life have been met with limited success, and the benefits realized tend to be temporary. I continue to wonder if the reduction in the common use of lead in paint, gasoline, candles, solder, and the like offers an explanation for the Flynn effect and its seeming abatement in the developed world today.

But there are areas in which the incarceration-IQ relationship provides more concrete direction. Regressive tax credits for those with dependents should be made progressive. Why offer an incentive to have children to those least able to afford having them, while removing that same incentive for those who are most able to raise them?

Allowing unskilled immigration from Latin America is destructive. If Hispanics are more than 2.5x as likely to end up in jail as whites are, why should we be taking them in en masse? We should have an immigration policy based on merit, and IQ should factor significantly into determining an applicant's merit level. Make the completion of a Wonderlic test, administered in the country of origin, part of the application process. It's quick, inexpensive, and tests for English language proficiency as well.

Given the report's veiled recommendation that states should temper prison sentences, consider releasing those who are not deemed particularly dangerous, and divert to education the money saved this way, the words of Randall Parker are pertinent:

Anything that could raise average IQ a few points would do more to boost economic growth and lower social pathologies than increased educational spending or the other typical liberal or free market libertarian nostrums.
* For state IQ estimates, I jump back and forth between using Professor McDaniel's estimates and my own. Our estimates correlate almost perfectly at .96, with the slight variance probably representing the superiority of his numbers. But because he arrives at his estimates by using a normal distribution centered on a 100 point scale and derived from NAEP scores directly, his methodology doesn't really work for coming up with estimates for groups that score significantly below the national average (ie, blacks). He has no estimate for DC, for example. So if I'm interested in black or Hispanic estimates, or want to include DC with the other 50 states, I use my numbers. If those sets are not needed, I default to using his.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Government spending as a percentage of GDP by country

++Addition2++See an updated version of the same here.

++Addition++Randall Parker weighs in, specifically on Iraq at the top.


When I tried to find national governmental expenditures as a percentage of total GDP by country, I was surprised to find that nothing came up. So here are the percentages for countries for which '07 data was available (in the case of Mongolia, the data is from '06 without adjustment). Governmental expenditures and total economic activity are both in exchange rate terms. I've sent the data table to Nation Master as well:

CountryGE as % GDP
1. Iraq87.3
2. Cuba81.4
3. Slovakia66.2
4. Timor65.5
5. Romania65.5
6. Moldova63.4
7. France61.1
8. Seychelles60.3
9. Hungary59.1
10. Guyana58.8
11. Czech Republic58.8
12. Sao Tome58.3
13. Sweden58.1
14. Denmark58.1
15. Iceland58.1
16. Malta57.9
17. Qatar57.2
18. Kuwait56.1
19. Belgium56.0
20. Norway55.8
21. Uzbekistan55.6
22. Colombia55.3
23. Italy55.3
24. Netherlands54.7
25. Austria54.3
26. Finland54.2
27. Portugal54.1
28. Lesotho53.8
29. Libya53.0
30. Belarus52.9
31. Cyprus (no Turk-adm)52.6
32. Ukraine52.1
33. Yemen50.9
34. Greece50.7
35. Brunei50.5
36. Georgia50.4
37. UK50.0
38. Bosnia/Herzegovina50.0
39. Bulgaria49.9
40. Swaziland49.9
41. Germany48.8
42. Malawi48.2
43. Canada48.2
44. Latvia47.7
45. Jordan47.6
46. Egypt47.5
47. Spain47.3
48. Slovenia47.1
49. Ghana47.0
50. Croatia46.8
51. New Zealand46.6
52. Oman46.5
53. Estonia45.8
54. Zambia45.4
55. Papua New Guinea44.9
56. Angola44.8
57. Namibia44.2
58. Azerbaijan43.9
59. Lithuania43.9
60. Jamaica43.9
61. Lebanon43.7
62. Zimbabwe43.7
63. Israel43.6
64. Australia43.6
65. West Bank/Gaza43.4
66. Algeria43.1
67. Uruguay43.0
68. Serbia42.8
69. Ireland41.5
70. Venezuela41.1
71. Saudi Arabia40.4
72. Congo, Republic39.2
73. Burundi39.1
74. Turkey39.1
75. Bahrain38.6
76. Switzerland37.8
77. Mozambique37.7
78. Luxembourg37.5
79. Kazakhstan37.2
80. Vietnam36.9
81. Rwanda36.7
82. Trinidad/Tobago36.3
83. Botswana35.9
84. Macedonia35.9
85. Syria35.5
86. Peru35.3
87. Cape Verde34.4
88. Eritrea34.1
89. South Africa33.9
90. Kenya33.6
91. Tajikistan33.4
92. Mongolia33.3
93. Indonesia33.2
94. Malaysia32.8
95. Gambia32.4
96. Belize32.1
97. Senegal31.5
98. Bolivia31.3
99. UAE31.3
100. Kyrgyzstan31.1
101. Dominican Rep.31.0
102. Iran31.0
103. Japan30.9
104. Gabon30.7
105. Morocco30.7
106. Sri Lanka29.5
107. South Korea29.3
108. Chile29.1
109. Madagascar28.3
110. Panama28.0
111. Pakistan28.0
112. Albania27.9
113. Burkina Faso27.7
114. Uganda27.6
115. Tunisia27.4
116. Mexico26.7
117. Paraguay26.4
118. Nepal26.3
119. Nicaragua26.0
120. Ecuador25.8
121. Honduras25.6
122. Aruba25.6
123. Togo25.3
124. Benin24.8
125. Tanzania24.6
126. Nigeria24.1
127. Equatorial Guinea23.9
128. Sudan23.3
129. Congo, Dem. Rep. of22.9
130. Thailand22.8
131. El Salvador22.5
132. China22.0
133. Ethiopia21.8
134. British Virgin Islands21.5
135. Cote d'Ivoire21.4
136. Poland21.2
137. Taiwan21.2
138. Mauritius21.2
139. Laos21.0
140. Guinea21.0
141. Russia20.9
142. India20.4
143. Chad19.9
144. US19.9
145. Cameroon19.1
146. Argentina19.1
147. Armenia17.8
148. Philippines17.7
149. Brazil17.3
150. Hong Kong17.0
151. Guatemala16.7
152. CAR16.6
153. Costa Rica16.5
154. Haiti16.4
155. Singapore16.3
156. Bahamas16.0
157. Cambodia13.3
158. Bangladesh12.8
159. Turkmenistan9.6
160. Afghanistan9.2

Here is a visual representation of the table. Other than the relatively high ratios in Europe, no patterns immediately become apparent. Iraq, still a major US focus, has a larger governmental 'engine' than even communist Cuba, while a feeble 'central' government tucked into eastern Afghanistan receives its paltry revenues mostly through customs, as well as more than $100 million a year through donors. In a country where nearly one-third of GDP is tied up in the drug trade, income taxes are virtually impossible to collect.

There is a modestly positive correlation of .25 with per capita wealth. To the extent that is of any importance, it is another reason why those on the left should favor policies that boost average IQ and by extension national wealth. Over time, as the economy grows, the government grows as well, generally at a slightly greater rate, then? But if European countries are removed from the analysis, the relationship loses statistical significance (p=.34).

A weak (though with p<.02) inverse correlation of .19 exists between government expenditures as a percent of GDP and total population size as well. Since we're looking at nearly the entire world, conjecture with that kind of relationship as the basis is guesswork. But larger countries might experience some benefit through economies of scale. Western European nations tend towards the top, while East Asian nations cluster towards the bottom. I'm surprised by how little (centralized) government spending there is in countries like Japan, China, Singapore, and Taiwan relative to their respective total economies. One obvious reason, though, are the lack of governmental welfare systems in these countries (with pensions, medical coverage, etc mostly provided by employers) compared to the expansive systems of Western Europe. The US' budget appears deceptively small as these figures are for national (federal) governments. Over 40% of our public spending is done at the state and local levels, unique in magnitude to the rest of the world, as far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong). Still, even if total US expenditures are aggregated and compared with only the national figures of other countries, as a percentage of total GDP, US government expenditures--at 34.6%--are still diminutive relative to the rest of Europe. Only Albania, Russia (I wonder how entities like Gazprom are treated for budget purposes?), and Poland have government expenditures that are smaller relative to total GDP than the US does. As economically ubiquitous as our government seems to be, it's relatively sparse by Western standards.

On its face, there doesn't appear to be much to validate the libertarian view that minimizing the size of the federal government, and suffering the consequent economic distortions its continued growth will otherwise cause, should be the primary goal of a society wanting economic prosperity (and a high quality of life). Ceteris paribus perhaps, but there are clearly a host of other demographic and cultural variables that are more important. Who would rather operate a business--or live--in Haiti instead of in Denmark?

Parenthetically, follow AE on twitter @AudaciousEpigon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

How to track pundit prescience?

At the beginning of February, Steve Sailer mentioned, in pointing out the media infatuation with political momentum, that he rarely makes exciting predictions for a fear of being wrong.

That's a prudent route, but it might be overly so, especially given the novelty existent in his work. A year ago, for example, he might've predicted that Obama would prove unelectable in the general election (if he made it that far) when the revelations about his race-obsessive, African-nationalist-church-membership past were mainstreamed by forces on the right. That prescience would have drawn more attention than the revelations alone did.

"Exciting predictions" basically pertain to situations where more than one outcome seems plausible in the minds of most people--Presidential elections, sports games, etc. Because the premium on certainty is so high, people seek out those predictions as a way of cutting through the fog of uncertainty and being in the know. Problem is, that high level of uncertainty frequently means those making the predictions turn out to be wrong.

That's not a big deal for those who play augur, though. Fox News doesn't profile the predictions of its individual panelists the day after a big vote to show the public how well their prognostications panned out. If it did, those panelists would be hesitant to make predictions in the first place. And it's the predictions themselves, not their credibility, that draw people in, as anyone who has watched Dick Morris tell the future knows!

After reading Steve's post, I started outlining one of my own to tout the accuracy of my sparse predictions. Just make a few, whenever there is a big disconnect between popular perception and callous reality, and presto! I had the Duke rape case from the get-go on the grounds that white guys simply don't gang rape black women. Randall Parker had just quoted an economist who summed up the housing crisis as I'd imagined it come about a couple of years ago. I'd just have to wait a day for the Patriots to cleanup the Giants, thereby fulfilling my prophecy made early in the season of a New England Superbowl victory, and then one more day after that for Hillary to regain the acclaimed 'frontrunner' status on her road to the Democratic nomination, as I'd foreseen her doing in the midst of all those crazy Obama predictions.

Uh, anyway, if you're a regular reader, you didn't miss that prospective post.

How standard is that 50% (possibly 75%?) "exciting prediction" rate? Seems to me that a database on the performance of predictions made by Important People would be quite useful. Gauging what people and predictions deserve to be tracked could be solved by open sourcing the site, along the lines of wikipedia. I haven't found anything close to a resource like that, but this BusinessWeek piece hints at how much fun it would be if there was one.

Friday, March 07, 2008

If ethnic nationalism is on the rise, so is the premium on ethnic homogeneity

Pat Buchanan, pointing to an essay by Jerry Muller in Foreign Affairs, summarizes the first half of the 20th Century in Europe as a story of a continent bloodily ripped apart along ethnic lines, pacifying itself in the process:

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were three multi-ethnic empires in Europe: the Ottoman, Russian and Austro-Hungarian. The ethnonationalist Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 tore at the first. ...

At the end of World War II, Europe’s nations were more ethnically homogenous than they had ever been, at a horrendous cost in blood.
Contemporary European trouble spots exist where an ethnic minority group is under the resented yoke of a larger majority. This map (via Dennis Dale) highlights potential independence and separatist movements that could potentially arise in the future. More troubling for the nations facing secession, some of those new states might petition for annexation by their ancestral motherlands (Transnistria to Russia, Northern Cyprus to Turkey, etc). There are, of course, several major European cities with significant Islamic populations from North Africa (in France), South Asia (in the UK), and the Middle East (Germany) that resent their hosts that do not register on that map.

Why, then, recognize Kosovo's independence? Ending (at least nominally) UN/NATO administration in favor of self-determination, along with political considerations, I suppose. Angering Russia through Islamic empowerment in a corrupt place that has yielded thugs who recently plotted to attack Fort Dix doesn't mesh well with what we're trying to do in the War on Terror, though. How do we square that with opposition to northern Kosovo's Serbian minority breaking away from the nascent state to be annexed by Serbia?

Why, conversely, demand that Kosovo not be recognized? Hopefully for reasons of realpolitik as well. It is of little vital interest to the US one way or another.

Demographics, not pronouncements from DC, are driving Kosovo's independence. It is nearly 90% ethnically Albanian, and Albanian birthing (TFR of slightly over 2) is more frequent than Serbian birthing (TFR of 1.69) is.

There's a pertinent lesson to be learned from nearby Greece. Following the population swap of 1924 that gave it over one million Greek Orthodox immigrants from Turkey in exchange for nearly 400,000 Muslims that had been living mostly in northern Thrace, Greece became the most ethnically homogenuous and (relatively!) well-functioning nations in the eastern Meditteranean world. Its greatest external conflicts following the Balkan wars were with Turkey over ethnically-split (or uninhabited) islands in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus.

Of more significance than whether or not other countries recognize Kosovo is to realize that a breakaway was bound to occur at some point. The downturn in violence in Iraq is partly the result of the ethnic separation that has taken place there over the last few years, through the movement of Sunnis out of Shiite areas and vice versa, and through the erection of physical barriers separating groups in densely populated cities like Baghdad. The relative improvement in Kenya corresponds with members of various tribes moving into their tribal homelands. Ethnic homogeneity in a region lessens conflict among people living in that region.

Seems to me we're wise to let these splits occur, and would be wise to facilitate them in Iraq, since we're on the hook there. How else are representative institutions going to be built on a foundation of something other than racial/ethnic characteristics?

On the other end, this mandates restriction of largescale migration into a nation by those who are going to remain outside of it. The Latinization of the American Southwest portends secession in the future. Census projections put nearly 130 million Hispanics living in the US by 2050, most heavily concentrated in the Southwest, and likely outnumbering whites in California, Arizona, Texas, and Nevada, as is already the case in the appropriately named state of New Mexico.

Fast-forwarding forty years, if those demographic predictions are borne out, and the white-minority states are clamoring for secession along with regions of Utah and Colorado on irredentist reasoning, it'd be prudent to let them go.

But back in 2008, the future has yet to be written. We need not put ourselves in a position where turning over the land our forefathers won in the 1830s and '40s is the best option. Stop illegal immigration from south of the US-Mexican border, and the can is at least kicked down the road another 50 years (and projecting population growth based solely on fertility rates that far into the future is very speculative).

The federal government's dereliction 0f its Constitutional duty (Art IV, Sec IV) is staggering:

The Bush administration has scaled back plans to quickly build a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border, delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from a network of tower-mounted sensors and surveillance gear, federal officials said yesterday.

Technical problems discovered in a 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson prompted the change in plans, Department of Homeland Security officials and congressional auditors told a House subcommittee.
There isn't even a system in place to adequately assess the success (or lack thereof) of the "virtual fence", and there will not be one put into action for at least three more years. The news that DHS needs another 36 months to 'construct' a virtual fence along 1% of the border comes a year and a half after both houses of Congress voted in favor of 700 miles of actual double-layered fencing. Staggering.

Despite Senator DeMint--one of only six senators to back Romney during the GOP nominating process--and company's attempts to get the barrier going, the Democratically-controlled Senate is not going to be cooperative even if 'insurgent' Democrats in the House are. None of the three Presidential candidates will do anything to improve on the Bush administration's failure, and an Obama-McCain matchup will provide more fodder for establishment Republicans to claim that supporting open borders is the key to long-term political viability.

Attrition has to come at the local and state levels. That's already happening, not just in the Southwest but in states like Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Missouri as well. Find your state representatives and send them an email or give them a call asking for state laws similar to the ones passed in Arizona and Oklahoma. By googling "find state representative kansas" as though I was unaware of who they are, I pulled up contact information for both of mine up in less than a minute (just using address information). Make it happen.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Obama already at the apex?

++Addition++In Mississippi, Hillary again won (by five points) among those who made their decision in the last three days.


My first extinct upon waking up to Hillary's victories was to look at evidence for Obama's over-polling. It seems plausible, has been alluded to in much of the major media fare as well as in more meticulous places, and the apparent Texas primary/caucus split we'd been anticipating suggests it might be happening.

Yet there has been little in the campaign to point to as much actually happening on the ground. Obama has for the most part been performing on par or exceeding expectations arrived at through polling information gathered nearest to the vote. Click on a state via the previous link to see the final results as well as what polls showed just days before the vote. California and Massachusetts superficially show the "Bradley effect", but that's really all there is to go on from the forty states that have gone thus far. Obama has even been out-performing the last polls in many of the states he's lost. If anything, it seems to be the Bradley effect in reverse.
The difficulty seems to rest in making sense of how much push Obama gets from the way he tends to continuously do better and better in polls (and by extension in electoral support) all the way up to the time the actual contest takes place, and how much opposing pull comes from the dissonance of white voters, who tell the pollsters one thing about how they are going to vote that doesn't match what they actually end up doing.

Looking at the exit poll results for those who made the decision within the last three days prior to the vote, prior to yesterday, Obama outdid Hillary.

Of the 25 states with exit polling data, Hillary took the last-three-days vote in ten of them, all states that she won overall. The candidates broke even in New York, and Obama took the other 14, including a couple of states Hillary came out on top in overall.

In only one state did Hillary's last-three-days performance exceed her overall margin of victory. In the other nine, she topped Obama among last-three-days voters, but by margins less impressive than her actual victory in the state was. In California, for example, she edged Obama 48%-47% among last-three-days voters, while winning the entire state by ten points. The one exception was New Mexico, where whites voted against her 55%-43%. If anything, this suggests that voters (at least non-Hispanic voters!) claim to be less, not more, supportive of the non-white candidate than they actually are.

Well, until yesterday, that is. The racial/ethnic results in Ohio and Texas are standard for the campaign. Blacks overwhelmingly back Obama; whites and especially Hispanics get behind Hillary. The big change this time around is that Hillary cleaned Obama's clock among those who held out until the end to make their decision.

Among last-three-days voters, she not only beat him in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island, she did so enjoying wider margins than she enjoyed in the overall votes in all three states. Again, she'd only done that one other time before, in New Mexico, where she had to rely on her Hispanic support to overcome her white opposition. And in Vermont, she outdid Obama 52%-44% in the last-three-days category even while losing the state 39%-59%. Up to this point, she'd not pulled that off a single time.

So is the Bradley Effect finally making a fashionably late entrance? Maybe the African pictures did it?!

Or might Obama really be losing his momentum? Are Democrat's eyes starting to glaze over when they hear their presumptive nominee speak passionately but predictably about "change" and "hope" for the umpteenth time? Whatever the exact political definition of 'momentum' is, the ability to absorb fence-sitters seems to approach it. And he clearly did not have that yesterday.

In all likelihood, Obama will win Wyoming and Mississippi, as the demographics of both states play strongly to his advantage. But it will be interesting to see how those late-deciders shakeout. If the Obama ship is running out of steam, it should also show up in forthcoming Pennsylvanian polls.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A tale of two states?

The 'second Super Tuesday' is being billed as featuring two states on opposite ends of the economic spectrum: Texas the land of prosperity, Ohio a stagnant miasma. The current trends in both states reveal that Texas is where growth is while Ohio is where it was. The Lone Star state has no corporate income tax and Houston, its largest city, is the nation's (and arguably the world's) energy capital--a nice asset when domestic gasoline prices are over $3 a gallon and oil tops $100 a barrel.

But the contrast is more about where people believe they are headed than where they actually are. Ohio ranked 26th in median household income to Texas' 31st in 2004, the latest Census numbers available. And Texas households are considerably larger--2.81 people per to Ohio's average of 2.47--so there are more bodies to spread the income over there (the cost-of-living index in Texas--89.3 where the national average is 100--is lower than Ohio's 93.9, however). In 2004, Ohio's unemployment was 6.1%, higher than the state's current rate of 5.8%. While 12.5% of Ohioans fell below the poverty line, 16.6% of Texans did. In the heart of the rustbelt, 11.1% of the population is without health insurance, while 24.1% of the population of Texas is uninsured ('06 numbers). The income gap between the haves and have-nots in Texas is among the very widest in the nation, putatively of major concern to Democratic interests especially. In Ohio, the spread is slightly smaller than the national average.

Most of those numbers, the most recent I was able to find, are a few years old, but it's unlikely that the states' relative positions have shifted with regards to any of the attributes above.

Tangentially, I find the narrative that "Hillary faces a tough choice if she garners anything less than decisive triumphs in Ohio and Texas" interesting. That a candidate could win California, Texas, New York, and Florida (that is, the four most populous states in the country) and yet be 'forced' to concede long before anything approaching mathematical elimination has been reached, would be (to my knowledge) historically unprecedented. Yet (again to my knowledge) the major media bias in favor of one Democratic candidate over another has little precedence, either.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Unwanted extra paragraph spacing in Blogger

The reason for the reprieve from my blathering is that I've been out on business for the last several days.

Perhaps someone can give me a little guidance now, though. When I open a blogger post I've been working on previously and have saved, it's not unusual for extra spacing between paragraphs to have been added, seemingly sporadically. Is that a Blogger auto-format quirk, or is it related to my html input? If someone has an idea as to why, please share it in the comments. Thanks.