Real Clear Politics has constructed an election index that attempts to quantify Republican and Democrat party strength based on five values. I think it's a valuable tool for analyzing the disparate numbers.
Our index is the sum of five parts: presidential performance, House performance, Senate performance, gubernatorial performance and state legislative performance. The first is measured by the party's performance in the previous presidential popular vote (NB: In this, and all other measurements, third parties are excluded).
House performance is the average of the popular vote for the House and the average of the share of the House won by the party. This helps mitigate the effects of gerrymandering. Senate performance is the share of the Senate held by the party.
Gubernatorial performance is the party's share of governorships (again, with third party candidates excluded). We do not weight for population, for reasons explored further below. For state legislatures, we average four numbers: the share of state Houses and state Senates held by each party along with the share of state House seats and state Senate seats held by each party.
This gives us five metrics, all of which run on a scale from 0 to 100. Adding them together gives us a scale from 0 to 500. We then subtract 250 from the total. All this does is assign a score of zero to a situation where the parties are evenly matched, rather than 250. A positive score then means that the Republican Party is stronger while a negative score means the Democratic Party is stronger.
Sometimes it pays to be nice, and sometimes it pays to be a jerk. It shouldn't be a surprise that neither kind of behavior dominates every situation. The trick is knowing when to act how. Apparently the important aspect of jerkiness is the confidence, not the cruelty.
The problem with competence is that we can't judge it by looking at someone. Yes, in some occupations it's fairly transparent--a professional baseball player, for instance, cannot very well pretend to have hit 60 home runs last season when he actually hit six--but in business it's generally opaque. Did the product you helped launch succeed because of you, or because of your brilliant No. 2, or your lucky market timing, or your competitor's errors, or the foundation your predecessor laid, or because you were (as the management writer Jim Collins puts it) a socket wrench that happened to fit that one job? Difficult to know, really. So we rely on proxies--superficial cues for competence that we take and mistake for the real thing.
What's shocking is how powerful these cues can be. When Anderson paired up college students and asked them to place 15 U.S. cities on a blank map of North America, the level of a person's confidence in her geographic knowledge was as good a predictor of how highly her partner rated her, after the fact, as was her actual geographic knowledge. Let me repeat that: seeming like you knew about geography was as good as knowing about geography. In another scenario--four-person teams collaboratively solving math problems--the person with the most inflated sense of her own abilities tended to emerge as the group's de facto leader. Being the first to blurt out an answer, right or wrong, was taken as a sign of superior quantitative skill.
The Islamic State has conquered Ramadi in a stunning blow to American and allied forces. If we want to gift-wrap Iraq for Iran why don't we just say so and save some lives and money? What's the strategy? I don't understand what we're trying to accomplish, but it certainly doesn't look like victory.
Just a month ago, when the ISIS offensive against Ramadi began in earnest, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried to reassure the world that it was no big deal. Ramadi, he claimed, "is not symbolic in any way.... I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of a campaign should it fall."
We can only watch and wait to hear what spin General Dempsey--who has increasingly defined his role as telling the president what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear--will put on this latest catastrophe. It is, in fact, unspinnable. The fall of Ramadi is a sign of the abysmal failure of the misnamed Operation Inherent Resolve launched by President Obama in August 2014 to "degrade" and ultimately to "destroy" ISIS. Operation Uncertain Resolve is more like it.
There is no doubt that US bombing has succeeded in slightly degrading ISIS--Central Command helpfully puts out a long laundry list of all the buildings and vehicles its aircraft have blown up. But there is scant sign that ISIS is on the path to destruction. True, its offensive toward Baghdad has been blunted and it lost control of Tikrit. But the fact that the assault on Tikrit was led by Shiite militiamen under the effective control of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, indicates the self-defeating nature of this offensive. Sunnis will never turn on ISIS, as they turned on AQI in 2007, if by doing so they will open themselves to domination by Shiite militias.
Jonathan Adler is mostly right but ultimately wrong in his argument that the federal government lacks the power to regulate abortion, and that such power is reserved for the states. However, he seems to slide past the most powerful and obvious counter-argument: the Supreme Court has injected itself into the issue (and it's part of the federal government).
(Obviously I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that abortion is a moral and political question, not primarily a legal one. I'm not trying to create an air-tight legal position that supports any specific abortion restrictions.)
Relevant legal questions -- how to define murder, when to excuse the taking of life as defensible or otherwise permissible, even defining what constitutes the end-of-life for medical and other purposes -- have always been matters of state law. Drawing such lines necessarily involves drawing distinctions that will please some and offend others, but that hardly creates an equal protection problem, let alone justify federal legislation. Again, where protected classes are not involved, a state's decision to draw different distinctions than would the federal government, even on matters involving life and death, is insufficient to justify a federal law.
Note there the invocation of "protected classes" -- who decides what the protected classes are? Can't Congress? Of course it can; Congress (with sign-off from the President) can decide that unborn babies are a protected class. Most of the protected classes were created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was was passed by Congress and signed by President Johnson.
Glenn Reynolds also argues that Republicans should oppose abortion legislation because they support limited government. I respect the Instapundit a lot, but I think he misses the same element that Mr. Adler did.
One such conflict is likely to appear this week, when the House is expected to vote on a 20-week limit on abortions. Such a limit polls well-- Americans are much more supportive of early abortionsthan late-term abortions -- and would still leave the United States with more-liberal abortion laws than nearly all of Europe. Even so, the Republicans need to be asking themselves -- and the Democrats need to be asking them, too -- where, exactly, Congress gets the power to limit abortions to 20 weeks?
Where did the Supreme Court get the power to enable abortions? Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution says that Congress may limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (except for "Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party"). So clearly Congress could remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court if it wanted to. That's de facto power to regulate abortion without interference from the courts, if Congress chose to exercise it.
As I wrote at the top, I'm not skilled enough to make an air-tight legal argument. But I know that if the law allows the slaughter of millions of babies every year then the law is wrong.
Congrats to the UK for awarding an outright majority to the Conservatives. I wonder if this stunning landslide makes American Democrats nervous? Prime Minister David Cameron had previously led a coalition government because the Conservatives didn't hold a majority of Parliament, but now he can form a majority government and lead much more freely.
Free and peaceful elections seem so routine to those of us in the West, but let's not forget how astounding they are.
David Cameron today vowed to make Great Britain 'greater still' as he set out how he will use his shock outright Tory majority to ensure the 'good life is in reach for everyone who's willing to work and do the right thing'.
The Prime Minister used a statement outside Number 10 to pay tribute to both Labour's Ed Miliband and his former Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg who have both resigned after suffering heavy losses in one of the most unpredictable election results for a generation. ...
Mr Cameron had earlier walked out the doors of Number 10 to declare he was forming a majority Tory government after routing Labour and the Lib Dems in the biggest electoral shock in living memory.
Congress has passed the first budget in a decade thanks to the new Republican majority. I haven't read the details, so who knows if it's a good budget, but at least it's something we can look at and debate. That's better than the omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions we've had for years. Good job! But, of course, President Obama will stonewall.
The White House signaled in statement Tuesday evening that the budget has no chance of getting Obama's approval. "The president has made clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, nor one that reverses sequestration for defense - whether explicitly or through backdoor gimmicks - without also reversing sequestration for non-defense," the White House said.
Sequestration is law and will require an act of Congress to reverse, so it looks like the President is going to hold it hostage.
Even China -- home of the world's "cheap labor" (though not as cheap anymore!) -- is investing in robotic manufacturing. The numbers look big, but these are baby-steps. Once the bugs in the robotic systems get ironed out we'll see robots displacing millions of workers.
Robots are set to take over in many factories in the Pearl River Delta, the area of southern China known as the 'world's workshop' because of the huge export manufacturing industry there, as labour shortages bite and local authorities face the need to spur innovation to counter the economic slowdown.
Since September, a total of 505 factories across Dongguan have invested 4.2 billion yuan in robots, aiming to replace more than 30,000 workers, according to the Dongguan Economy and Information Technology Bureau.
By 2016, up to 1,500 of the city's industrial enterprises will began replacing humans with robots.
At current exchange rates that's about $22,500 per worker.
So, we're having the hottest year on record, but economic growth was suppressed by the abnormally cold winter? I mean, c'mon, if you're going to BS us at least get your stories straight.
Jeremy Warner writes that widespread negative interest rates demonstrate that the world is fighting for every scrap of demand. If you're young enough, stay employed and ride out the coming correction by staying fully invested.
The flip side of the cheap money story is soaring asset prices. The bond market bubble is just the half of it; since most other assets are priced relative to bonds, just about everything else has been going up as well. Eventually, there will be a massive correction, in which creditors will suffer sickening losses.
Nobody can tell you when that moment will arrive. We live in an "extend and pretend" world in which economies pathetically fight between themselves for any scraps of demand. One burst of money printing is met by another in an ultimately futile, zero-sum game of competitive currency devaluation.
Baltimore hasn't had a Republican mayor for almost 50 years, so don't blame "America" as a whole for the city's problems: blame the Democrats who have run the place. Pray for Baltimore and that its leaders find wisdom.
In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore City vote. Democrats run the city of Baltimore, the unions, the schools, and, yes, the police force. Since 1969, there have only been only been two Republican governors of the State of Maryland.
Elijah Cummings has represented Baltimore in the U.S. Congress for more than thirty years. As I write this, despite his objectively disastrous reign, the Democrat-infested mainstream media is treating the Democrat like a local folk hero, not the obvious and glaring failure he really is.
Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat.
Liberalism and all the toxic government dependence and cronyism and union corruption and failed schools that comes along with it, has run amok in Baltimore for a half-century, and that is Baltimore's problem. It is the free people of Baltimore who elect and then re-elect those who institute policies that have so spectacularly failed that once-great city. It is the free people of Baltimore who elected Mayor Room-To-Destroy.
It appears that some prominent scientists and researchers have been hired by the Global Warming Policy Foundation to look into the adjusted surface temperature records for the last 150 years or so. The GWPF is generally skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, but hopefully the inquiry will be rigorous and transparent enough that its conclusions, whatever they are, will be above reproach.
Their inquiry's central aim will be to establish a comprehensive view of just how far the original data has been "adjusted" by the three main surface records: those published by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss), the US National Climate Data Center and Hadcrut, that compiled by the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (Cru), in conjunction with the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction. All of them are run by committed believers in man-made global warming. ...
For this the GWPF panel is initially inviting input from all those analysts across the world who have already shown their expertise in comparing the originally recorded data with that finally published. In particular, they will be wanting to establish a full and accurate picture of just how much of the published record has been adjusted in a way which gives the impression that temperatures have been rising faster and further than was indicated by the raw measured data.
Happy Monday! If you're looking for some encouragement, check out this bullish article about imminent American energy dominance. We've got the right combination of geography and culture to harness oil and natural gas resources that no one else in the world can touch.
"We're just fifteen years into a 150-year process," said Steve Mueller, head of Southwestern Energy, the fourth biggest producer of gas in the US.
Our buddy Putin in Russia is worried.
Russian president Vladimir Putin warned at the St Petersburg economic summit last year that US shale gas was abruptly changing the international order, with serious implications for his country. The early effects have forced down global LNG prices, creating a rival source of gas supply in Europe.
Any future American cargoes would further erode Gazprom's pricing power in Europe, and erode the Kremlin's political leverage. The EU already has a large network of import terminals for LNG.
Lithuania has just finished its "Independence" terminal, opening up the Baltic states to LNG. Poland's new terminal should be ready this year.
Russia has the gepgraphy, but not the know-how or culture to support fracking.
Lukoil analysts say Russian extraction costs for shale are four times higher that those of US wildcat drillers. Sanctions currently prevent the Russians importing the know-how and technology to tap its vast Bazhenov basin at a viable cost.
John Hess, the founder of Hess Corporation, said it takes a unique confluence of circumstances to pull off a fracking revolution: landowner rights over sub-soil minerals, a pipeline infrastructure, the right taxes and regulations, and good rock. "We haven't seen those stars align yet," he said.
Above all it requires the acquiescence of the people. "It takes a thousand trucks going in and out to launch a (drilling) spud. Not every neighbourhood wants that," he said.
Certainly not in Sussex, Burgundy, or Bavaria.
The 21st Century will be another American Century.
We tend to look back on the past and note a few differences here and there, and then our minds fill in all the blanks with similarities to the present. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry takes a small step to correct this enormous blind spot we all have by writing a bit about how Christianity invented children, and how modern humanity takes the worth of a child for granted. (Well, except for abortion.)
We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.
Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. We also romanticize children -- their beauty, their joy, their liveliness. Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures. What could be more natural?
In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity. If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe's ancient pagan world.
The New York Times builds on Peter Schweizer's book, "Clinton Cash", with an investigation into Russian nuclear giant Rosatom's purchase of American owned uranium supplies around the world. It's hard to summarize the details, because transactions like this are inherently complicated, so read the whole article if you want to really understand it. Conflicts of interest abound, but it doesn't look like there's a smoking gun quid pro quo. The appearance is bad enough.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One's chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company's assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
It's inconceivable to me that Hillary Clinton could win the presidency with a history like she has, but then I was shocked when Obama won re-election.
North African refugees frequently attempt to flee to Italy from Libya by boat. The crossing is extremely dangerous and hundreds to thousands of people seem to die each year making the journey. It's worse than it sounds though: apparently Muslim refugees are throwing Christians overboard to their deaths.
Italian police said Thursday that 15 African Muslim migrants have been arrested after witnesses said the refugees threw 12 Christians into the Mediterranean following a brawl. ...
During the crossing, the migrants from Nigeria and Ghana -- believed to be Christians -- were threatened with being abandoned at sea by some 15 other passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
Eventually the threat was carried out and 12 were pushed overboard. The statement said the motive was that the victims "professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim."
The surviving Christians, the statement said, only managed to stay on board by forming a "human chain" to resist the assault.
Is this an isolated crime? Or do Muslim refugees commonly murder Christians at sea? Hopefully the investigation will look deeper than this single incident.
Update: President Obama has nothing to say about the persecution of Christians.
(HT: Stephen Green.)
James Taranto notes that the Left support speech by corporations, as long as the speech lines up with the Left's viewpoint. Everything makes sense once you realize that the modern Left is totalitarian.
The Times's position is that corporations (with the convenient exception of "media corporations" like the New York Times Co. itself) have no rights under the First Amendment. That view underlay its histrionic objections to both Citizens United and last year's Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in which the high court extended the religious-liberty protection of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to corporations that objected to the ObamaCare abortifacient mandate on conscientious grounds.
But now the Times is urging corporations, and executives acting in their corporate capacity, to speak out aggressively in favor of a political cause the Times supports. How could they even do so without free speech?
That seems like a rhetorical question but isn't. Opponents of free speech, such as the Times editorial board, do not oppose speech. They oppose freedom. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes may not brook dissent, but they encourage speech in favor of the regime. Totalitarian regimes frequently compel pro-regime speech.
J. D. Tuccile makes a great point about this IRS pity party.
Whether they worked in Manhattan or Peoria, IRS veterans talk about something else that kept them at the service: the feeling of camaraderie. It was nice that they appreciated one another, because nobody else did. "You go to a party, and if you say you are from the IRS, half the people move into the other room," says Richard Schickel, a former senior collections officer in Tucson who retired in December 2013. "After a while, your wife and relatives get tired of listening to your stories. They say, 'How could you take those people's houses and their businesses?' The only place you get understanding is with other IRS people."
I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for these IRS employees, but Mr. Tuccile makes an insightful observation:
You know...When the people who live with you and (let's assume) love you recoil from you in shock and horror because of your behavior so that the only refuge you can find is among others guilty of the same conduct, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you're doing something really bad.
I don't think that the families of most government employees feel this way -- IRS families may be unique. We should consider why this is the case.
Austin Bay rattles off a list of reasons that people don't trust President Obama -- using a weaving metaphor! What's not clear is whether the President intentionally or unintentionally over-promises and under-delivers.
Obama's "historic understanding" has the sad woof and warp of so many of his administration's domestic and international policy efforts: glowing, inspirational, dramatic rhetoric disguising episodic, hodge-podge, ill-considered, poorly planned and often hastily organized operations. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" is a domestic example. When Obamacare arrived, many Americans learned they could not keep their preferred doctor. Obama said Americans would eventually love the health care law. A substantial majority despises the legislative monstrosity. Now a foreign policy example: Obama's promise to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations. For Vladimir Putin, Obama's reset was a setup. Putin's Russia is now a neo-Fascist expansionary nuclear power slowing carving and digesting Ukraine. Obama's "red line" threat to punish Syria's Assad regime if it used chemical weapons against civilians, and his failure to do so when the Syrians used nerve gas, is another example.
Obama has an enormous trust problem; the man does not keep his word. But his obedient, word-mongering national media corps consistently fails to call him on this grand malfeasance.