Friday, September 28, 2012

What the Heck is Freedom of Expression?

I love this picture, because it captures so much. This is a CNBC/MSNBC pundit/activist named Mona Eltahawy, spray painting over a pro-Israel, anti-Muslim poster in the New York subway. If one could look up "entitled self-righteousness" in some dictionary you might see a close-up of Eltahawy's face. Beautiful.

The other woman in the picture, the one trying to block Eltahawy, protested that Eltahawy had no right to censor the speech of others, to which Eltahawy said she did, justifying it as freedom of "expression."

One tends to hear this bromide a lot on the left, so, what does that mean, exactly? We know we have freedom of speech, so why not just say that? Because freedom of expression is different, even though it's advocates would like us to think it's all the same thing. There is some linguistic sleight of hand going on here.

"Speech," of course, refers to things you say, or write. "Expression," on the other hand, can be anything you want it to be. I can burn down your house and claim I'm expressing myself.  Hey, it's performance art. I can strip naked in Times Square and claim the same thing. People have actually done that one. But hey, if I am self-actualizing, it must be okay.

I exaggerate to make a point. The term covers any behavior that its purveyors wish it to. Thus, Eltahawy's decision to unilaterally deny others the right to read the message was simply an act of self-expression. Got it? College students who routinely shout down conservative speakers also love citing their rights of expression, believing that it somehow trumps the very speech they are shouting down. We've seen this playbook before.

On the ACLU's own website they have a whole page where the two concepts are deliberately muddled. These things are not accidents, nor is this merely some silly argument over semantics. The left has always had an active interest in legitimizing the widest range of behaviors possible, particularly if they assist in the drowning out of inconvenient voices.

Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of freedom of expression. At its core, the idea is about ginning up phony rights in order to trump the legitimate rights of others, rights that have been getting chipped away bit by bit for decades now by the forces of political correctness. But, like the frog that doesn't notice it's being boiled slowly, most Americans don't pay enough attention to see what's happening. They need to.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Scenario No One Is Discussing

An interesting scenario is suddenly becoming quite plausible: one where Romney wins the popular vote but loses the electoral college. Same as in 2000, but with the parties flipped.

This could happen if Romney wins big in places like the South but loses a lot of swing states by close margins. Right now, the national polls are essentially neck-and-neck, but many of the swing states show an edge for Obama.

One wonders how vocal Democrats will continue to be about ending the electoral collage if this plays out.

For those fretting about the polls, there's an interesting piece on Da Tech Guy's Blog. Sampling has become a big controversy, for those paying attention.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Political Models Update - September 24th

Sorry I haven't updated in a while - been busy! We'll only do the pulse model today. For a complete explanation, click here.

It's comeback time for the Dems since their convention:

You can see that this is the first really sustained and deep period of progress they have made in the polls. Romney winning is no longer a layup. He has his work cut out for him and it will likely be close. I say "likely" because we are still 100 years from election day, and polls swing enormously in just the last week, and they typically swing to the challenger. Jay Cost has an excellent piece on this here. (Cost is one of the better analysts out there, by the way.)

Anyway, the Republicans remain ahead, overall, since I started the metric in April:

You can see, though, that Democrats have successfully erased about two months of Republican gains, and they finally broke the consistent uptrend that had been in place.

It will be very interesting to see what happens next. The Dems' convention bounce is still in place, but fading. Can they maintain it. Stay tuned. Promise another update in a few days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The GOP: A Thousand Ways to Die (well, two)

A few months back, I wrote about how a Romney victory could be the last presidential win for the GOP, ever. (See Mitt Romney, the Last Republican President?) The thesis was that we are at a crossroads, and that fixes, for say, things like entitlement reform, are politically difficult. Should Mitt turn out to be an incrementalist in the style of a George H.W. Bush, the Tea Party will split from the GOP. End of GOP.

Here's another scenario, perhaps one even more obvious: Romney loses. Conservatives and tea partiers in the GOP will say, that's it, we're done. We held our noses and nominated a moderate, and we couldn't even beat a president with the weakest hand in a century. Look for the rise of the "Constitutional Party."

Mind you, I hold no personal affection for the GOP. They have proved to feckless time and again. But splitting the GOP into two would give the left a clear field, and this would be a disaster felt for generations (and we certainly wouldn't recover in MY lifetime).

So, to avoid any of this, Mitt will need some serious backbone. Does he have it?

A few months ago, I would have said no. Then, the selection of Paul Ryan, to me, signaled that Mitt knows what needs to be done, and he's up for the fight. But lately, the campaign is suddenly not punching very hard, likely hoping a softer image will win over some stray independents. What is this business about liking "some parts" of Obamacare? Holy crap.

To Mitt, I say: no no no no no no NO! Not only does this bode poorly for how you will govern, but it makes it less likely you will have the chance. You must hammer the fraud in the oval office, and you must start adding specificity to your campaign.

If you treat voters like idiots, they will act like idiots. More precisely, they will vote like idiots.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Political Models Update

As Naked Dollar readers know, we have two proprietary political models that we follow. From here out we will update both each time. Interestingly, the models are saying two very different things right now. More on that in a moment.

Our first model, the Naked Dollar National Pulse Index, follows all polls for House and Senate seats as well as the presidency. It aggregates poll-over-poll changes, counting them for either the Republicans or Democrats, depending on the direction. The idea is to look for short and medium term trends in the national political news. (For a more complete understanding, click here.)

Here is the update:

An upward trend means Republicans are gaining ground, and vice verse. Since the presidential polls have changed very little, what you see above is a major trend favoring all the Republicans running for House and Senate seats. This is a story that not a single news outlet has reported. It means the gound is shifting under the presidential race, only people haven't realized it yet. (One caveat: this does not reflect any bounce for Democrats in the wake of their convention.)

Here's what the numbers look like on a non-cumulative basis:

Lines pointing up are good for Republicans, pointing down good for Democrats. You can observe longer and deeper upswings for Republicans.

Our other model is The Naked Dollar Electoral Model. This one focuses entirely on the presidential race and the only thing that really matters, the electoral college. This is the third presidential election cycle in which we have deployed this model, and it has been very accurate. The brief explanation is that we take the odds of each candidate winning a given state, as observed in the political futures markets on, and we multiply the odds times the electoral votes available in that state, awarding a proportional amount to each candidate. (For a more complete understanding of this, click here.)

Here's what the electoral model looks like right now:

It has Obama winning a very close election, 288 votes to 250. The last election was 365 to 173.

As you know, I actually think Romney is going to win with surprising ease. I've made this case for a number of months, and Pulse Index is part of my reasoning. But I also believe in the "wisdom of crowds" approach inherent in the electoral model, all of which puts me in a position of some cognitive dissonance. These models, not to mention my own reasoning, are saying two different things.

So, what to believe? I will stick by my prediction of an easy Romney win. The prediction markets are useful, but the further away from an election they are, the less accurate they are. Sometimes, they get it wrong in August or September, but then nail it in November. This was the case in 2004, for instance:

The last reading taken in 2004 got the electoral count exactly right, but you can also see there were times when the model had Kerry winning.

What's my case for why the markets are mispriced right now? First, I don't think anyone is noticing the incredible trending that's going on in all the other races, a trend that will absolutely have an effect on the presidential race. Second, the presidential polling remains, essentially, a tie. However, the samples being used by most pollsters resemble the electorate in 2008, and there's no way that's going to look like the electorate in 2012. It's possible this is the sort of poll-geek minutia that participants in the Intrade markets don't analyze.

I predict that Intrade will start reflecting these realities over the next 2-3 weeks. Better yet, I'd bet on it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Natural Rights and American Exceptionalism

The doctrine of "natural rights" may more be more critical than any other to the notion of American exceptionalism, and yet most Americans would be hard pressed to describe either concept.

The two concepts are inextricably linked, and the fact is, they are both under assault.

What does it mean, when we say we are "exceptional?" Barack Obama was once asked this. He said, sure, he thought America was exceptional but other countries like Greece probably thought they were exceptional too. 

He completely, utterly, misunderstands the concept. Exceptional doesn't mean that we think we're just awesome, it means that in the long course of human history, a history littered with the misery of state tyranny, we are a glorious exception. We were the first country to constitutionally limit the power of government to control our lives.  

Central to this is our embrace of natural rights. Natural rights are simply the acknowledgement that as human beings we are born with certain rights that cannot be taken away from us. But rights, by their very definition, must be conferred from somewhere. Our founders decreed that they are conferred by a higher power, God. The reason this is critically important is because it means they can't be taken away by anyone, i.e. the state. 

Our forefathers came here to escape the tyranny of states. They knew from experience that if rights are not conferred by God, all that's left is the state, and if states can confer rights, they can take them away just as easily.  Throughout history, states have been far more comfortable with the "taking away" part.

Were you taught any of this in school? I know I wasn't, and today our kids' curricula are far more concerned with sustainability or Native American repression than they are with constitutional history.

Which brings us to why natural rights are under assault. Leftist ideologies have always hated religion. In communist countries, it has always been banned outright. Why? Because otherwise citizens might get the idea that they had rights the state couldn't control. Such notions don't sit well with the commissars. The state can be the only religion.

It is no coincidence that the word God has appeared less and less in every Democrat platform, until this year disappearing altogether. It is simply another quiet step on the road to statism.