Posts Tagged ‘Pew Research Center’

Trump and NATO

July 25, 2016

National Review Online‘s Kevin Williamson wrote an article criticizing Donald Trump for his latest really bad idea, having the United States not necessarily follow up on its treaty commitments to our NATO allies. I might as well say that while I vastly prefer a Trump presidency over a Hilary Clinton presidency and I do not think that Trump will be the disaster in the White House that some are predicting, his tendency to shoot off his mouth, along with his apparent ignorance of the nature of international trade, cause me to have serious reservations about Trump’s fitness for the office he seeks. Unfortunately, he seems to be the lesser evil by a long shot. I might as well also state that even when Trump seems to be saying something stupid or unacceptable, it often turns out that he is making a good point after it has been stripped of its populist rhetoric. It may be that this is the case with his statements about NATO.

First,  here’s what Williamson has to say.

Trump, whose nickel-and-dime gestalt could only have come from a repeatedly failed casino operator, is a creature in search of petty advantages and small paydays. As such, he suggested yesterday that the United States might forsake its commitment to NATO — our most important military alliance — because he believes that our NATO allies are not carrying their share of the expense. Trump’s mind processes information the way a horse processes oats, and the product is exactly the same.

 

It is true that the United States spends more in both absolute and proportional terms than do other NATO members, but here the United States is the outlier. It spends a great deal more on national defense than other NATO members do, and more than non-NATO members, and pretty much every country on the face of the Earth. That has nothing to do with NATO; that has to do with political decisions made in Congress and by presidents of both parties going back to Franklin Roosevelt. It may very well be that the United States spends too much on the military — I believe that it does — but that isn’t because some other country spends too little. The myth of the free-riding Europeans, diverting domestic tax dollars from national security to welfare programs, is not supported by the evidence. They don’t have unusually small militaries; we have an unusually large and expensive one.

Since 1949, there has never been any serious doubt that the United States would fulfill its obligations to the North Atlantic alliance. That is a big part of why we had a Cold War instead of an all-out (probably nuclear) World War III in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a big part of the reason there is no longer a wall running through Berlin, and why the people who hold Bernie Sanders’s political philosophy were able to murder only 100 million innocent human beings instead of 200 million.

 

Thanks to Trump, the heads of government and defense ministers of the other NATO powers must now consider that the United States will welsh on its obligations the way Donald Trump welshes on his debts. He isn’t the president yet, of course, and he probably won’t be. But the chance isn’t zero, either. If you are, say, Lithuania, and you suspect that the United States will not actually have your back — a suspicion fortified by Trump’s man-crush on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin — what do you do? Maybe you try to get ahead of the curve and go voluntarily into the Russian orbit.

All of these are good points and Williamson is probably correct is asserting that our European allies are not really taking advantage of us when it comes to funding NATO. He is definitely right that NATO played a role in seeing that the Cold War did not become World War III and that the alliance helped us to win the Cold War. But, I think that Williamson, and maybe Trump himself, misses the larger point. Why does NATO still exist?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 in order to combat potential aggression from the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe. NATO was conceived of as a alliance of mutual defense among the free nations of Western Europe and North America. In many ways, NATO has been one of the most successful multi-national alliances in history, and although the NATO allies were never called into joint military action against the Soviet Union, the alliance was surely a deterrent against any Soviet plans to extend Communism into Western Europe.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The whole reason for NATO has not existed for a quarter of a century. Why is NATO still around? Who are we defending against?

There are still threats in the world. Vladimir Putin seems to be intent on restoring as much of the Soviet empire as he can ,but Putin’s Russia is only a pale shadow of the old Soviet Union. Russia is still a strong country, but it is not the superpower that the Soviet Union was. Putin can stir up trouble in the Ukraine, but he lacks the global reach of the Soviet leaders. The leaders of the Soviet Union were inspired by a militant, millenarian ideology, Communism, that had some appeal and supporters in West and elsewhere. These days Communism is discredited everywhere except on American college campuses and Bernie Sanders rallies. Putin’s appeal to Russian nationalism is not something to inspire people in Europe and America. There is also the threat of Islamic terrorism and other threats around the world that clearly call for coordinated action by the United States and its allies, but a framework for fighting the next world war may not work so well against a more diffuse enemy.

Looking over the Wikipedia article, I find that NATO has made many changes in its command structure, etc in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, but it seems to me that it is an organization that is seeking a role to play, particularly since NATO has been permitting Eastern European former Soviet satellites such as Poland to join the alliance, pushing the alliance all the way up to the Russian border. This may not have been wise. The Russians must surely see this as a threat. How would we feel if Mexico and Canada joined in a political and military alliance originally created to counter the United States?

Kevin Williamson mentions Lithuania in his article. Lithuania joined NATO in 2004. Obviously, under the terms of the alliance, if Vladimir Putin sent tanks into Vilnius tomorrow, the United States would have to respond as though it were an attack on American soil. How credible is that, really? Would the United States really fight a war against Russia over Lithuania? Are American interests really served by threatening war over Lithuania? It would be unfortunate if Lithuania had to return to its previous role as a province of Russia, but is it really America’s job to keep that from happening.

I am not an isolationist. I believe that America, like it or not, has to be the world’s policeman, both for our good and the good of the whole world. These peacekeeping actions we keep finding ourselves in are expensive, but not nearly so expensive as a full scale war would be, and I have no doubt that that is exactly what we would have if we let things go. But, I think we need to be a lot smarter about how we use our influence in the world and we need to understand that we cannot get involved in every single quarrel, nor can we bring democracy to people who have known nothing but despotism for centuries. The next president, whether Trump or Clinton, should probably begin a complete reappraisal of our foreign policy to determine what serves American interests and what does not, and this reappraisal must include considering whether relics of previous decades should be kept, reformed, or abolished.

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Rise of the Nones.

June 5, 2015

There has been quite a lot already said about the results of the recent Pew poll on the religious affiliations of the American people, most of the sharp decline of the number of Americans identifying as Christians over the last decade with a corresponding increase in the number of people with no religious affiliation.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.1 But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

Here are the charts that came with the article

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PR_15.05.12_RLS-00

 

There is a lot more to the article which I cannot summarize in a way to do it justice. You really ought to read the whole thing, if you haven’t already.

So, what is going on here? In the past there has often been a large number of unaffiliated young people, nominally Christian but not attending any church or being particularly religious. Generally, as these young people grow older and start families, they join a church and become more active in religion. This does not seem to be happening now. The decline in the number of Christians affects all age groups, races, levels of education, etc.

Could it be that that large numbers of American Christians are finally seeing the light? Thanks to the Internet, information about science, history and religion is more available than ever before. Religions depend on the ignorance of their adherents and it could be that more and more former Christians have been learning the truth and converting to Reason by abandoning such archaic superstitions like belief in God. That is how many atheists might interpret these findings. I am not so sure. I think something more subtle but no less momentous is occurring.

For most of its history, the United States has been a Christian nation, despite what the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State might believe. By this, I do not say that the United States was ever a theocracy or that Christianity was ever an official state religion but rather that the great majority of Americans have been at least nominally Christians and America’s politics and culture has been shaped by Christianity. Christianity has been the default option for most Americans, even those who have been largely secular. It has required initiative and perhaps even courage for most Americans to identity as anything other than Christian, especially as an atheist, and most people at most times would prefer to go with the flow. Times are changing, however. America is a more secular and diverse nation than it has been in the past and it is becoming more acceptable to not be even a nominal Christian. What we are seeing, then, is not necessarily a large scale movement of Christians abandoning their faith, but an increasing number of people who no longer feel they have to identify themselves as Christians. Indeed, considering the way Christians are often portrayed by the entertainment industry these days, as hypocritical, hate-filled, small minded prudes and bigots, it is not clear why anyone would want to be known as a Christian, particularly as a member of one of the more conservative or fundamentalist denominations that our social elite holds in such contempt.

There is an exception to this general trend that perhaps proves the hypothesis, Evangelical Protestants, which show only a very slight decline in percentage and an actual increase in numbers. This may be because Evangelicals tend to stress personal conversion more than the Mainline Protestants and the Catholics. For the Mainline Protestants and the Catholics, religion is more a part of their cultural background. You are a Catholic or Methodist because you are born into a Catholic or Methodist family. Evangelicals stress the conversion experience. Evangelicals are saved or born again, not baptized into the faith as infants. It may be that because there is more of a feeling of a break with the past, Evangelicals are more committed to their religion.

What do these trends mean for the future? This may be good for the Church. I would rather have a small church full of people who really believe than a large church with people who are only there, going through the motions, because it is expected of them. I would prefer for people to be honest about their belief, or lack of belief than be a hypocritical believer. There will be challenges for the Christian, though. We have grown up in a country in which Christianity is considered the norm and has played a dominant role in the shaping of our culture. That will be less true in the future. Already, as I have noted, there is an increasing hostility towards all forms of “politically incorrect” Christianity in our entertainment media. That will only get worse. In the past, being a Christian has been considered a good and respectable thing to be. That is already changing. More often than not, in some places, being a Christian means being an ignorant bigot. In the not too distant future, it may well be that admitting to being a Christian will be considered the same as announcing your membership in the Ku Klux Klan. I hope people are ready for this.

No matter what happens, the Church will survive. Indeed, Christianity flourishes best when it is persecuted. The United States and the West generally may not do so well. For the last fifteen hundred years, Christianity has played the major role in making the West what it is. As the influence of Christianity declines can the principles that has distinguished the West from other civilizations survive? The more militant atheists believe that a world in which religion, by which they mean chiefly a world without Christianity, is abolished will be a world which will experience a golden age of rational behavior. History and human nature suggest otherwise. Abolishing religion will not make human beings more rational. It will only cause new superstitions and cruelties to emerge. The history of the twentieth century is largely the history of substitutes for religion in the form of ultra nationalism and militant socialism. That didn’t work out so well.

They Want Sharia

May 2, 2013

It has long been an article of faith among many in the West and especially among our learned elites that the vast majority of Muslims are essentially moderate people who want freedom and democracy just as the people of the West do. Terrorists such as Osama bin Ladin and the Tsarnaev brothers who held to be part of a tiny minority of extremists who twist and distort the peaceful teachings of Islam. The problem with this view is that it is simply not true. While the great majority of Muslims are not terrorists and would prefer to live in peace with their neighbors, the truth is that the doctrines of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood are a lot closer to the mainstream of Islamic teachings than many in the West would like to admit.

There is a recent public opinion poll of the citizens of various Muslim countries which suggests that a large number of people in these countries would prefer to live under Islamic law or Sharia. Here is the story in Yahoo News which was originally published by Reuters.

Large majorities in the Muslim world want the Islamic legal and moral code of sharia as the official law in their countries, but they disagree on what it includes and who should be subject to it, an extensive new survey says.

Suicide bombing was mostly rejected In the study by the Washington-based Pew Forum, but it won 40 percent support in the Palestinian territories, 39 percent in Afghanistan, 29 percent in Eygpt and 26 percent in Bangladesh.

Three-quarters of respondents said abortion is morally wrong and 80 percent or more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

Over three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia want sharia courts to decide family law issues such as divorce and property disputes, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said on Tuesday.

Views on punishments such as chopping off thieves’ hands or decreeing death for apostates is more evenly divided in much of the Islamic world, although more than three-quarters of Muslims in South Asia say they are justified.

To be fair, it is likely that many of those who support the implementation of Sharia may not realize some of the implications of such rules. It is likely that after a decade or so of living under Sharia, many would come to detest it.

Those punishments have helped make sharia controversial in some non-Islamic countries, where some critics say radical Muslims want to impose it on Western societies, but the survey shows views in Muslim countries are far from monolithic.

“Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of sharia,” the study said. “Most do not believe it should be applied to non-Muslims.”

Unlike codified Western law, sharia is a loosely defined set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Koran, the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions. Its rules and advice cover everything from prayers to personal hygiene.

Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist who was special adviser for the project, said Muslims in poor and repressive societies tended to identify sharia with basic Islamic values such as equality and social justice.

“In those societies, you tend to see significant support for sharia,” she told journalists on a conference call. By contrast, Muslims who have lived under “narrow if not rigid” Islamic systems were less supportive of sharia as the official law.

Unlike Western law codes which leave a wide space of private actions, Islamic law tends to be totalitarian, in the sense that even private actions and beliefs are covered by the law. If a Man’s home is his castle in the West, under Sharia his home and his life belongs to Allah.

More than four-fifths of the 38,000 Muslims interviewed in 39 countries said non-Muslims in their countries could practice their faith freely and that this was good.

This view was strongest in South Asia, where 97 percent of Bangladeshis and 96 percent of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern result was 77 percent in Egypt.

The survey polled only Muslims and not minorities. In several Muslim countries, embattled Christian minorities say they cannot practice their faith freely and are subject to discrimination and physical attacks.

The survey produced mixed results on questions relating to the relationship between politics and Islam.

Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern states – 54 percent in Iraq, 55 percent in Egypt – and falls to 29 percent in Pakistan. By contrast, it stands at 81 percent in Lebanon, 75 percent in Tunisia and 70 percent in Bangladesh.

In most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried about Islamist militancy than any other form of religious violence.

I am sure that if a pollster had asked Whites in the Jim Crow South whether the Blacks were content with their lot, the great majority of Whites would have answered, sincerely, yes. No where in the Islamic world are Christians free to worship as they please. At best they can hope for a grudging tolerance. I have to wonder just what the respondents mean when they talk about democracy. It is no good if they are thinking democracy is a way to vote away other people’s’ rights and liberty.  Freedom is more than just having regular elections, even if they are free and honest. In order for a people to be truly free, they have to learn to respect the rights of others. No one wants to be oppressed. The trick is not wanting to oppress other people, especially the despised minority. So far, the human rights situation throughout the Middle East does not lend much support for the idea that the people of that region really understand this. The article ends on a slightly optimistic note.

Views on whether women should decide themselves if they should wear a headscarf vary greatly, from 89 percent in Tunisia and 79 percent in Indonesia saying yes and 45 percent in Iraq and 30 percent in Afghanistan saying no.

Majorities from 74 percent in Lebanon to 96 percent in Malaysia said wives should always obey their husbands.

Only a minority saw Sunni-Shi’ite tensions as a very big problem, ranging from 38 percent in Lebanon and 34 percent in Pakistan to 23 percent in Iraq and 14 percent in Turkey.

Conflict with other religions loomed larger, with 68 percent in Lebanon saying it was a big problem, 65 percent in Tunisia, 60 percent in Nigeria and 57 percent in Pakistan.

A section of the survey on U.S. Muslims noted they “sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world”. Only about half say their closest friends are Muslim, compared to 95 percent of Muslims globally.

So American Muslims are assimilating. That’s good as far as it goes. I hope there is never any sort of religious revival among our Muslim population.

Migration from Mexico

December 10, 2012

It is tempting to assume that whatever trends are occurring at the moment will continue to occur into the future. The fact is though, that the future is likely to be nothing we expect it to be and trends and issues that seem terribly important right now, may well be trivial a century from now. To get an idea how far off any prediction of the future is likely to be, go back and read books and magazine articles from the past.Doom and gloom articles predicting future environmental catastrophes are especially off the mark, which is why I tend not to put too much credence in contemporary doom and gloom predictions. Science fiction is also an interesting example. We don’t have the easy trips to the planets or flying cars, as predicted by golden age science fiction, but none of the golden age writers seem to have predicted anything like our current computer technology or the Internet.

I was thinking of that when I read this article in Townhall.com by Michael Barone. One of the prevailing trends of the last few decades has been the growing number of immigrants from Mexico entering this country. It would seem that as this trend continues, the United States will grow increasingly “hispanized” or “Mexicanized”. But what if the trend doesn’t continue? What if the era of mass migration from Mexico is coming to an end?

Is mass migration from Mexico to the United States a thing of the past?

At least for the moment, it is. Last May, the Pew Hispanic Center, in a study based on U.S. and Mexican statistics, reported that net migration from Mexico to this country had fallen to zero from 2005 to 2010.

Pew said 20,000 more people moved to Mexico from the United States than from there to here in those years. That’s a vivid contrast with the years 1995 to 2000, when net inflow from Mexico was 2.2 million people.

Because there was net Mexican immigration until 2007, when the housing market collapsed and the Great Recession began, it seems clear that there was net outmigration from 2007 to 2010, and that likely has continued in 2011 and 2012.

There’s a widespread assumption that Mexican migration will resume when the U.S. economy starts growing robustly again. But I think there’s reason to doubt that will be the case.

Over the past few years, I have been working on a book, scheduled for publication next fall, on American migrations, internal and immigrant. What I’ve found is that over the years this country has been peopled in large part by surges of migration that have typically lasted just one or two generations.

Almost no one predicted that these surges of migration would occur, and almost no one predicted when they would end.

For example, when our immigration system was opened up in 1965, experts testified that we would not get many immigrants from Latin America or Asia. They assumed that immigrants would come mainly from Europe, as they had in the past.

Experts have also tended to assume that immigrants are motivated primarily by economic factors. And in the years starting in the 1980s, many people in Latin America and Asia, especially in Mexico, which has produced more than 60 percent of Latin American immigrants, saw opportunities to make a better living in this country.

But masses of people do not uproot themselves from familiar territory just to make marginal economic gains. They migrate to pursue dreams or escape nightmares.

Life in Mexico is not a nightmare for many these days. Beneath the headlines about killings in the drug wars, Mexico has become a predominantly middle-class country, as Jorge Castaneda notes in his recent book, “Manana Forever?” Its economy is growing faster than ours.

And the dreams that many Mexican immigrants pursued have been shattered.

You can see that if you look at the statistics on mortgage foreclosures, starting with the housing bust in 2007. More than half were in the four “sand states” — California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida — and within them, as the Pew Hispanic Center noted in a 2009 report, in areas with large numbers of Latino immigrants.

These were places where subprime mortgages were granted, with encouragement from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to many Latinos unqualified by traditional credit standards.

These new homeowners, many of them construction workers, dreamed of gaining hundreds of thousands of dollars as housing prices inevitably rose. Instead, they collapsed. My estimate is that one-third of those foreclosed on in these years were Latinos. Their dreams turned into nightmares.

We can see further evidence in last month’s Pew Research report on the recent decline in U.S. birthrates. The biggest drop was among Mexican-born women, from 455,000 births in 2007 to 346,000 in 2010.

That’s a 24 percent decline, compared with only a 6 percent decline among U.S.-born women. It’s comparable to the sharp decline in U.S. birthrates in the Depression years from 1929 to 1933.

There really is no way to know what is going to happen tomorrow. Maybe there will be another wave of immigration from Europe, especially if the EU collapses. Maybe there will be waves of immigrants from Africa, this time voluntary. Who knows?

 

Riots After the Election?

October 14, 2012

The Drudge Report linked to this article on infowars which asks the question whether political tensions in the United States have risen so much that rioting by disappointed followers of either Obama or Romney is likely.

Will the most divisive campaign in modern American history culminate in massive riots in our major cities?  Right now, supporters of Barack Obama and supporters of Mitt Romney are both pinning all of their hopes on a victory on November 6th.  The race for the presidency is extremely tight, and obviously the side that loses is going to be extremely disappointed when the election results are finalized.  But could this actually lead to violence?  Could we actually see rioting in communities all over America?  Well, the conditions are certainly ripe for it.

A whole host of surveys over the past few years have shown that Americans are very angry and very frustrated right now.  In fact, a Pew Research Center poll from late last year found that 86 percent of all Americans are either angry or frustrated with the federal government.  We have seen this frustration manifest in protest movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, but right now things are fairly calm as liberals and conservatives both look forward to November 6th.  Many Republicans started the countdown to the next election literally the day after John McCain lost back in 2008.

All of their hopes of getting Obama out of the White House are riding on a Romney victory.  For many Democrats, Barack Obama is a “once in a generation” icon.  Just the thought of Mitt Romney replacing Obama in the White House is enough to push many of them to the brink of insanity.  In recent years we have seen horrible rioting erupt in cities after major sports championship games.  How much worse could the rioting potentially be if this bitterly contested election is decided by a very narrow margin – especially if there are allegations that the election is “stolen”?

First of all, this is not the most divisive election in history. However this election turns out, it is not likely that any of the principal candidates will end up in a duel, as in the election of 1800. I am certain that one of the candidates will get a majority in the Electoral College, unlike the election of 1824. I highly doubt any state will secede from the Union, as they did in 1860.  So far, neither side has descended to the depths of character assassination of some previous elections, though there is still time.

I notice that the writer of this piece, Michael Snyder, tries to imply that both Republicans and Democrats are equally angry and frustrated and so are equally prone to violence. That isn’t the case, as the article makes clear a little further on.

The election is nearly four weeks away, and many Obama supporters are already threatening to riot if Obama loses.  The following are some very disturbing messages that were posted on Twitter recently that have been reposted on Twitchy.com….

“If Romney wins I’m Starting a Riot….Who’s WIT ME???”

“I Hope The USA Is Well Aware That If In The Event This Character Romney Wins The Election, The People Will Start A Country Wide Riot! #Power”

“If Romney is elected president, its gon be a riot its gon be a riot.”

“If ROMNEY GETS IN THE WHITE HOUSE …U MIGHT AS WELL KILL ME NOW …..CAUSE ITS GONNA BE A ************ RIOT !!!”

“If Romney became President and took away welfare Downtown Cincinnati would become a riot”

“If Romney takes away food stamps 2 Chainzz in this bit IMMA START A RIOT”

“If Romney wins. (which i highly doubt) THERE WILL BE A RIOT—”

The following are a few more tweets that I found which threaten a potential riot if Obama loses the election….

From @joecools_world….

“Need 2 come up wit a game plan if Romney win…. Riot all thru Newark”

From @killacate….

“I swear on everything I love if Romney wins ima riot. I don’t even care if its just me.

Some of these people seem to be saying, “continue to support us, or we will riot”. That must be the 47%. The most incoherent tweet is the one saying that the “People” will start a country-wide riot if Romney wins. If Romney wins the election by a majority in both the popular and electoral votes, doesn’t that mean that he is the choice of the majority of the people in the country? Are the People going to riot against themselves.

Meanwhile, the best Snyder can come up with on the other side are vague threats to leave the country.

Romney supporters are not really threatening to riot, but many of them are proclaiming that they may leave the country if Obama wins.  Here are some examples….

From @BrentskiTheBoss….

“If Obama gets reelected I may leave the country”

From @AbbieFickes….

“im sorry but if obama were to win again, i might as well leave the country and live in zimbabwe”

I think the author of that second tweet is not so much threatening to move to Zimbabwe as making the point that four more years of Obama’s policies could leave the US becoming indistinguishable from Zimbabwe.

There may be despicable acts being committed by despicable people on both sides, but there is far, far more anger, hatred, and bad behavior on the Left. There are angry and hateful Conservatives, but Conservatives seem to have less tolerance for bad behavior in their ranks. Words and acts that are immediately denounced by the Right seem to be celebrated on the Left. If Paul Ryan had acted as boorishly as Joe Biden had in the last debate, most Conservatives would have immediately distanced themselves from him and there would be calls for Romney to pick a new running mate. So far, the majority of Democrats have seemed to praise his behavior.

Rush Limbaugh and other Right-wing talk radio hosts are supposed to be full of hate and anger, but I have never heard it in all the years that I have been listening to Rush and others on and off. As far as I have seen, none of them have fantasied on-air about the deaths of their political opponents. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have been compared to each other, but if the Tea Partiers are angry, it is the righteous anger that causes one to try to improve the community. The Tea Party has gotten involved in politics and taken steps to really make a difference. The anger of the Occupy movement is more the nihilistic hatred that only results in smashed windows. The two sides, Left and Right, are simply not equivalent. The Left is based more on anger and envy and appeals to the worst in human nature.

I don’t really think that there will be massive riots after this election. There may be some violence, if Obama loses, but I have a feeling that most of these tweeters may like to think of themselves as being “bad” and they may able to bully children,  but experience has shown they are no good against people willing to stand up to them.

Romney 49% Obama 45%

October 8, 2012

 

That is the headline at the Drudge Report. The link is to a report from the Pew Research Center showing that Romney has pulled ahead of Barack Obama in the polls.

Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.

I have been skeptical of the polls throughout this election season and I am not about to start believing them now that they seem to show what I want to see. I suspect that the polls are less accurate this year than they have been in previous elections for a number of reasons, not least because only they only get a response from 9% of the people they contact.

Still, it seems that Romney has made gains on his popular impression on almost every issue and personality trait. Winning the first debate so overwhelmingly has allowed Romney to positively redefine himself.

Romney now ties Obama in being regarded as a strong leader and runs virtually even with the president in willingness to work with leaders of the other party. And by a 47% to 40% margin, voters pick Romney as the candidate who has new ideas.

Conversely, Obama continues hold leads as the candidate who connects well with ordinary people and takes consistent positions on issues. And Obama leads by 10 points (49% to 39%) as the candidate who takes more moderate positions on issues.

Romney has gained ground on several of these measures since earlier in the campaign. Most notably, Obama and Romney now run even (44% each) in terms of which candidate is the stronger leader. Obama held a 13-point advantage on this a month ago. And Obama’s 14-point edge as the more honest and truthful candidate has narrowed to just five points.

In June, Obama held a 17-point lead as the candidate voters thought was more willing to work with leaders from the other party. Today, the candidates run about even on this (45% say Obama, 42% Romney).

I think that the Republicans are far more enthusiastic this year and this could make all the difference.

I like this point.

Nearly two-thirds of voters who watched the debate say it was mostly informative (64%) compared with mostly confusing (26%). Republican voters overwhelmingly found the debate mostly informative (83%); only 11% say the debate was mostly confusing. By contrast, about as many Democratic voters say the debate was confusing (41%) as say it was informative (47%).

I guess facts are confusing to some.

 

Likeability and Polls

August 11, 2012

 

 

I was reading this article by Roger Simon in the Politico.

“President Obama came in with a lot of promises,” he said. “But it is now 42 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.”

The unemployment rate under Obama hit a high of 10 percent in October 2009 and has never done better than 8.1 percent during any full month of his presidency. (It was 7.6 percent in January 2009, but Obama didn’t become president until the 20th of that month.)

And as has been pointed out many times, no president since FDR has been reelected with unemployment greater than 7.2 percent.

Further, more than 60 percent of Americans feel the nation is on the “wrong track” under Obama.

I could list other gloomy figures for Obama, but they all leave me with one question: So why is Obama still ahead in the polls? And not just in national polls, but also in key states that are needed for an Electoral College victory.

Shouldn’t Romney be wiping the floor with Obama? By the measurements Romney uses again and again in his speeches — prolonged high unemployment, a failed economy and the unpopularity of “Obamacare” — shouldn’t Americans be rallying around Romney by a significant majority by now?

After all, how long can Romney wait to catch fire? The election is only about three months away. True, Romney gets the opportunity to make a stirring convention speech — but so does Obama. True, Romney gets the opportunity to make an invigorating choice for his running mate, but Obama has already selected Joe Biden, who has shown himself to be a vigorous and popular campaigner.

It is an interesting question. Why are so many people reluctant to give Mitt Romney their full and enthusiastic support? Given his record, Obama should be headed for a landslide defeat, even with the mainstream media doing their best to prop him up, yet, it seems to be a very tight race so far. Romney should have won the Republican nomination easily, considering that all of the other GOP A-list figures sat out the race, yet he couldn’t quite close the deal until towards the end. What is it about Romney?

I don’t think that many people actually have a negative impression of the man. The Obama ad campaign depicting him as a vulture capitalist who gleefully closed companies and through working people out on the street, fell flat. I guess Romney just doesn’t seem very interesting.

Still, I am not sure I agree with Roger Simon’s analysis.

But what do the Great Gods of Politics, the opinion polls, show?

They show a country that still likes Obama more than it likes Romney. And by quite a bit.

As I have written for years, I have a simple — OK, simple-minded — way of determining who is going to win the presidency: The more likable candidate wins. Not always, but almost always.

On Aug. 2, a survey published by the well-respected Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found Obama was leading Romney by 51-41 percent for the presidency, the eighth time in a row since January that Obama has led Romney by between 4 and 12 percentage points.

But more importantly by my Simple Simon standard of likability, Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 37/52 compared with Obama’s 50/45. Which means Romney had a net unfavorable rating of 15 points while Obama had a net favorable of 5 points.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post and ABC News released a poll showing 40 percent of voters approving of Romney and 49 percent disapproving. When it came to Obama, 53 percent of voters approved and 43 percent disapproved.

I wonder how reliable these polls actually are. I know that when I get a phone call and the person identifies himself as a pollster, I just hang up. Any poll based on the people who actually are willing to talk to a stranger about politics is likely to be skewed.

Also, Obama is not really a very likeable person. People like him because they have, for the most part, been presented with a very one-sided and carefully selective portrayal of the man. No one in the mainstream media seems to have ever been interested in finding out just who Barack Hussein Obama really is. Once you strip away that hope and change facade, he is revealed as a rather ruthless and arrogant Chicago politician.He really doesn’t like opposition very much and he isn’t very good at the self-deprecating humor that many politicians master.

As he will not be able to get away with vague statements about hope and change this year and as he cannot defend his record, I expect that the mask will slip, it already has a little, and the real Barack Obama will be revealed. I expect that the Romney camp knows this. They are also doubtlessly aware that Obama is remarkably thin skinned so I think they will be doing their best to needle him in the hope that he lashes out. The debates should be fun to watch.

Meanwhile, here is a very different take at the Washington Times.

In 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stood before the United Nations and insulted our president: “The devil came here yesterday,” Mr. Chavez said of President George W. Bush, “and it smells of sulfur still today.” Now, in 2012, the Democrats may not smell sulfur exactly, but if you follow their desperate actions, you certainly can smell their fear.

Here’s why: Yet another so-called “Recovery Summer” has come and nearly gone and Americans are still reeling from the failures of Obamanomics. It’s been a full year since Treasury Secretary and admitted tax cheat Timothy F. Geithner announced, “Welcome to the recovery.” Recovery? The gross-domestic-product growth rate slowed to 1.5 percent. The unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent. Twenty-three million Americans are unemployed. A nearly $16 trillion debt looms large. A record 45 million Americans are on food stamps. More than 100 million are on some form of welfare. America’s credit rating has been downgraded.

The president’s response? “We tried our plan — and it worked.” This was his plan? Now his only plan is to attack Mitt Romney.

That giant crackling sound you hear is Team Obama burning through tens of millions of dollars to attack the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. All told, the president’s campaign and groups friendly to it launched a $131 million, three-month ad blitz that failed miserably. Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President Bush, points out that before the onslaught, the Gallup Daily tracking poll had the contenders tied at 46-46, where the poll remains. Rasmussen has a 4-point Romney lead.

Team Obama continues to flail. “No drama” Obama himself showed an uncharacteristic hint of desperation as he broke the trance of his teleprompter and betrayed his deep-rooted hostility toward small businesses and the hardworking Americans who build them. His arms nervously bouncing in the air, an unscripted President Obama uttered those now famous words: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Those four words — “You didn’t build that” — deserve a place on the Mount Rushmore of unbelievable presidential stupidity right along with “Read my lips — no new taxes” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” What do these whoppers from former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have in common with Mr. Obama’s? They are all hollow, insulting and downright dumb.

I think that it is possible that the Obama campaign knows some things that Roger Simon doesn’t.

 

Zero Net Migration

April 25, 2012

Walter Russel Mead has some interesting things to say about the declining immigration rates from Mexico.

Via Meadia has long considered fears that America would be overrun by waves of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America to be overblown. As with previous waves, immigration from Mexico will peak and then begin to fall.

Now a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that over the past five years, immigration from Mexico has fallen to a net zero—migrants are returning to Mexico at the same rate that they are arriving in the U.S. Among the report’s findings:

  • In the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the United States to Mexico.
  • In the five-year period a decade earlier (1995 to 2000), about 3 million Mexicans had immigrated to the U.S. and fewer than 700,000 Mexicans and their U.S. born-children had moved from the U.S. to Mexico.
  • This sharp downward trend in net migration has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S.—to 6.1 million in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007. Over the same period the number of authorized Mexican immigrants rose modestly, from 5.6 million in 2007 to 5.8 million in 2011.

This is an important shift, but it’s still too soon to foresee an end to mass migration from Mexico. As the US economy improves, immigration is likely to pick up again. The recession was deepest in the construction industry, which hired a lot of unskilled immigrants, legal and illegal. It’s not surprising that many of these immigrants have chosen to return home, but as that industry returns, many of these immigrants will return with it.

Nonetheless, those who think a fragile America is about to be overwhelmed by a human tsunami from Mexico need to take a deep breath and calm down. Yes, the US needs to control its borders, and yes, illegal immigration needs to be stopped. But in the medium to long term, Mexican immigration to the US is on a downward path.’

It’s hard to know what the medium to long term will bring us and we can be sure there will be surprises. I hope that Mead is right though. It is not good for either the US or Mexico to have large numbers of people crossing the border and going north. We have been having difficulties assimilating large numbers of illegal immigrants and the refusal of both parties to actually enforce immigration laws contributes to the decline of the rule of law here. Mexico has been losing a lot of the very people they need to grow their economy.

I think Mead is right though. There have been some positive developments in Mexico over the last decade or so. Despite the troubles with drug cartels, Mexico’s economy has been doing fairly well. They have had solid growth rates since 2010 and an unemployment rate lower than ours. Mexico’s GDP is actually the fourteenth highest in the world, between Australia’s and South Korea’s.  Mexico’s birth rate is dropping and there is a growing middle class, which I hope will have less tolerance for the traditional corruption in Mexico’s politics. If these trends continue, always a big if, then an increasingly prosperous Mexico will be good for both our countries.


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