Wednesday, November 19, 2014

AXIOMS VERSUS EXSCUSES

Defeat in politics can bring out the worst in us. We often insist that our opponent only won because he cheated or because he had the support of people who are either too gullible or uncritical in their approach to the election. Sometimes, people on the losing side claim they lost because people too stupid to see the issues clearly supported their opponent. Some claim that if more people had voted their candidate would have won.
The attitude is understandable. Defeat is a bitter pill to swallow.

Do the excuses make any sense? Not really.

In a recent op-ed published in the Gazette, syndicated columnist Ann McFeatters wrote this in the introduction to her post-election rant: “After the world’s most expensive election — $4 billion, Americans have made it crystal clear they haven’t a clue what to do about the nation’s problems.” It was a clever way to express the notion that the outcome of the election was decided by people who were too stupid to see what was in their best interests. In Kansas, that meant the 47% of Hispanics who voted for Sam Brownback or the 86% of self-defined conservatives who helped give him a second term. It would, by Ms. McFeatters definition, mean the 50% of college graduates or the 54% of high school graduates who voted for Sam. It would also mean that the 52% with annual incomes under $50,000 had to be dumb because they voted for Brownback. That would probably include all those fools in western Kansas who wear bib overalls and dry their laundry on clotheslines.

Were all these folks stupid? The theory reeks of elitism and contempt. Thank God the people who voted for Sam Brownback were actually much smarter than that.

Then, there’s the theory of under-participation. It goes like this. If more people had voted, they would have all voted for Paul Davis. As the National Review’s Charles Cooke recently pointed out, that argument flies in the face of thousands of years of human history. In the Roman Empire, for example, it was considered axiomatic that “Qui tacet consentire videtur (He who is silent is regarded as consenting). It was also considered axiomatic that “He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree.”

The principles hold true to this day. In some traditional Christian weddings, for example, the presiding minister often says something like, “If anyone objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”   

In other words, all that Davis supporters needed to do was show up at the polls and vote. But, they didn’t! They were silent. They consented with the result. Therefore, they need to hold their peace.

This nonsense line of reasoning also begs a question. Were the thousands who didn’t vote all Davis supporters? Every last voter? Or, would it be reasonable to assume that if everyone in Kansas had voted, the outcome would have been the same one we have today? You betcha!

The accusation about cheating sounds a lot like what I used to hear in barracks poker games. “How’d you manage to draw that inside straight?” My answer was almost always, “You tell me; you’re the one who dealt the cards.”

When it comes to gullibility and lack of political sophistication, the truth is, the “rubes” might just be a lot smarter and far more sophisticated than their accusers and detractors.

Losing is painful; winning is great fun. But that doesn’t mean that winning doesn’t have its pitfalls. Dancing in the other guy’s end zone is exhilarating, but there will be other elections and this year’s loser just might wind up dancing in your end zone when that time comes. If it does happen that way, accept defeat graciously and move on to the next election.

There’s one last thing. I have a bit of a bone to pick with my fellow conservatives. There’s been quite a bit written lately about what some believe to be the Gazette’s liberal bias. While I think it’s fair to say that most American media tend to lean left, I don’t think that’s the case with the Gazette. I’ve written for the Gazette for a while now. I write from a conservative point of view. I’ve never had anything I’ve written censored by Chris Walker or anyone on the Gazette’s staff. I’ve never been told by anyone at the Gazette to write or comment from a liberal perspective. I’ve been to 517 Merchant many times and I’ve never seen a “conservatives need not comment” placard there.

There’s no reason for my fellow conservatives to be angry in victory. We won! The Gazette really did their very best to keep the public informed in an unbiased manner.  Besides, if there was any bias (I honestly didn’t see it) in this election cycle, we overcame it. The best thing we can do now is a brief end zone dance and move on to the next election. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ELECTION 2014 POST MORTEM



The votes have all been counted. The Republicans won the night. The election cycle is now complete.

Almost all of our local kingmakers got it wrong. The pain of defeat is beginning to sink in. As Lord Byron wrote, “The widows of Ashur are loud in their wail, and the idols are broke in the temple of Baal.”

Prior to the election, everything here in Kansas seemed to be conspiring against Sam Brownback, Tim Huelskamp, Peggy Mast, Kris Kobach, and, to some extent, Pat Roberts. The well connected and those with what appeared to be considerable political clout were against them. Old guard Republicans were against them. The cops and the sheriffs were against them. The N.E.A. was against them. Even the polling data seemed to be aligned against them.

Yet, they all won by 4 percent or more. How could it have happened?

One thing seems pretty clear. Other than Lyon County, most Kansans didn’t vote the way they’d been told to vote.

This is an exceedingly good thing. The preamble of our Constitution begins with three beautiful words - “We the people!” It was our Founders’ way of saying that the collective wisdom of the people is always to be preferred over the so-called superior wisdom of the few and the well connected.

Prior to the election I had a few conversations about the upcoming vote. Some of those I spoke with told me that they’d never met anyone who’d ever voted for Tim Huelskamp or Peggy Mast. Well, someone has to be voting for them, because they keep winning elections. They’re out there and they’re showing up at the polls. They’re not voting the way they’ve been told to, but they are voting. They’re voting in accord with their own interests, not the interests others are trying to impose on them. The elites fail to see this because they know even less about the people of Kansas than they do about Laffer curves and supply side economics.

I honestly didn’t expect the election results we got. I thought for sure that the Republicans were going to go down in flames. The elites were telling me it was going to happen. The polls were too. I was very wrong!

A few days before the election, a Survey U.S.A. poll showed Kansas Republican candidates trailing badly. My wife insisted that I dig a bit more into the guts of the poll. I did and found something else in the poll that had gone almost un-noticed. The demographic breakdown of the poll revealed that people with annual incomes under $40,000 were supporting the Republican slate of candidates. Those with incomes above $40,000 supported the Democratic ticket. Apparently, the ham and eggers showed up at the polls and delivered victory to the Republicans.

There’s one last observation I need to make. Hatred is not a sound political foundation. It was clear to me and many others that the most vocal supporters of Democratic candidates hated Sam Brownback, Tim Huelskamp, Kris Kobach, and Peggy Mast. That was a big problem. Their political positions and platforms got lost in a fetid swamp of contempt and hate.

This was especially evident in the aftermath of the election. Some of the losing candidates were quite gracious. Teresa Briggs thanked the Democratic Party and her supporters. Good for her! But, some gave in to the urge to have a public tantrum. In a Facebook post to Teresa Briggs, Independent Bill Otto posted this gem:   “I don’t think a Democrat has a chance. I was hoping I could pull enough votes out of Coffee County to let you win. We both know the least qualified but best politician won. Good luck.”

Let’s see if I have this right. Bill Otto got 1,500 people to vote for him because he was trying to do Teresa Briggs a favor. Talk like that really does validate the old Kinky Friedman adage - “You can lead a politician to water, but you can’t make him think.”

The comment was also dripping with hate and that’s a real problem. I’ve known Peggy for as long as I’ve lived here. I’ve differed with her on matters of politics more than once. But, she’s really a very nice person. She’s never said an unkind word to me or about me.  I value her friendship. I would never abandon it or speak ill of her because our politics differ. The same would be true if I knew Sam Brownback, Tim Huelskamp, or Kris Kobach. I’ve never met them, but they seem like pretty nice guys to me. I think I could express my political differences with them without the conversation veering off into hate and contempt.

Hatred is a lousy political tool. I think the ham and eggers knew that and voted accordingly. Hopefully, those who were so virulently anti-Brownback, anti-Huelskamp, anti-Mast, or anti-Kobach will learn that lesson by the time the next election rolls around. It just might make all the difference.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

YUGOS AND LADAS










I’ve seen lots of charts and graphs over the past few weeks. Every one of them tends to re-enforce the education position of the “favored” candidate. This makes it very difficult to separate the chaff from the wheat.

One of the things that’s become very clear to me about education here in Kansas is that the education debate has little to do with education. It’s all about money…lots of money!

Now, there’s no doubt about it. Educating our children is critically important. We all want our children to get the very best education in the world. That’s not unreasonable, nor is it unreasonable to understand that there are costs associated with that desire. If, for example, I’m considering the purchase of an automobile, I need to decide what I would like and then find out what it will cost. I may want a B.M.W., but budget constraints might mean I’ll have to settle for a KIA Soul instead. It’s not that the KIA is a bad automobile (Nancy and I drove one to California and back. It’s a nice car), but it’s not a B.M.W.

When it comes to education funding, I think the same principle applies. It’s all a matter of inputs and expected outputs. If I put of lot of money into education, I think it’s fair for me to expect a lot at the output at the end of the equation. And, that’s where this Conservative has a problem. I’m not getting what I’m paying for. I’m throwing a lot of money at education and so are a lot of other Kansans, but, I’m not getting a reasonable return on investment. In test after test these days, when American students are compared with their international counterparts, our kids are slipping in the rankings. All too often, we’re finding ourselves in the lower tier.

The sad truth about education in America is that we’re paying for a B.M.W., but we’re getting a Yugo or one of those old Soviet era Ladas instead.

That’s not a healthy situation! The tragic old adage is being played out right before our eyes – “Johnny can’t read, Johnny can’t write, Johnny thinks the American Revolution started when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.”

Nancy and I have hosted international students for almost as long as we’ve lived here. One of them, Corina Nour, came to us from the Republic of Moldova, the poorest country in Europe. When it came to funding for her high school education, the poverty of Moldova meant they could only spend pennies on education compared to our dollars. Yet, Corina excelled from the moment she got here. Her grasp of English was better than the average American student, as was her grasp of science, mathematics, or American history. We’ve had friends tell us she was the exception. We’ve never believed that, nor has Corina. Part of the equation of her success was certainly her, but another part of the equation was the quality of education that she got in Moldova. And, it had very little to do with huge sums of money.

A few years ago I started getting anonymous letters from people within the belly of the beast. They usually read something like, “Phil, you really need to look at what’s going on in state education.” I didn’t want to get involved. But, the anonymous e-mails kept on coming. Then, someone left a large packet at my door with a note attached. “Please, Phil, look at this and speak out.”

I decided to open the packet, which turned out to be a study done on every school district in Kansas. A group of blue ribbon citizens had been commissioned by the education bureaucracy to look at each district and determine what budget cuts needed to be made. I went over the report with a fine-tooth comb. It took me a full week to give it due diligence. When all was said and done, it was clear that the recommendations didn’t have our kids in mind. The recommendations hit classrooms like a ton of bricks. Administration? Staff? Analysts? They were barely touched.

It made me wonder. Was the blue ribbon panel suffering from an anti-classroom fetish? Or, had someone convinced them ahead of time to produce the “desired” results?

According to the Kansas Department of Education, student enrollment has increased by 6% between 1993 and 2013. Over that same period of time, administration and other staff have grown by 40%.

Our education bureaucracy has become a lumbering giant, due in large part to the onerous reporting requirements being dumped on it by elements of an even more massive bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

And, the candidates who are clamoring for more money to throw at the problem have the gall to tell us it’s all for the kids.

I’ll close with this. Before you pull that lever on November 4th, you need to ask a question. Are you tired of paying for B.M.W’s and getting Yugos and Ladas instead? If you are, you’ll know which way to vote.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THE GRAND MYTHS






Every election cycle has its grand myths. Here in Kansas there's the myth of voter suppression. Along with that, there's also the Democratic party myth about non-existent voter fraud.

Kansas does, indeed, have a voter ID law on the books, but it has nothing to do with voter suppression. According to the non-partisan group rockthevote.com, “A voter who is unable or refuses to provide current and valid identification at the polling place, or if the name and address do not match the voter's name and address on the registration book or poll book, may vote a provisional ballot.”

It’s as simple as that. If the information provided is true and accurate, the canvassers will count that provisional ballot.

Are Kansans being deliberately disenfranchised? In a recent op-ed, columnist Rich Lowry pointed out that, “In Kansas in 2012, 1,115,281 ballots were cast. There were 38,865 provisional ballots, and of these, 838 were cast for voter-ID reasons.” After the canvassers completed their work, four one hundredths of one percent of the total votes cast were ultimately rejected for legitimate reasons.

Democrats are claiming there really isn’t a voter fraud problem in this country. The truth is, we’ve had voter fraud problems for a long time. Lyndon Johnson, for example, was a skilled practitioner of a creative form of retail politics. During the early 1930’s, Johnson would set up shop in the Plaza Hotel in San Antonio. In “Means of Ascent,” author Robert Caro described it this way – “He sat behind a table covered with five dollar bills, peeling them off and handing them to men at a rate of five dollars per vote.” He graduated to what Caro then described as “purchasing them (votes) wholesale instead of retail.” It didn’t stop there. Johnson became quite adept at “persuading opposition poll watchers and election judges.” “The price ranged from “ten or twenty dollars for a clerk to as high as fifty dollars for a judge.” Johnson and the Democrats had an incredible amount of purchasing power. According to Caro, “There were more than 10,000 votes available on the West Side that were, in effect, for sale.”

There was voter fraud when I was growing up. My mother never became a U.S. citizen. She was always faithful to the Democratic Party and would trudge around the government housing project where we lived to get out the vote. Then, on Election Day, one of Tip O’Neill’s precinct captains would whisk her away to do Tip “a little favor.” There was never any hard proof, of course, but I wasn’t na├»ve enough to think Tip and his team hadn’t found a way for her to vote. I asked her about the dishonesty of what she was doing more than once. Her answer was always the same. “They’re crooks, but they’re our crooks…and, besides, keeping the Democrats in office keeps the welfare checks coming.”

In 1960, Chicago mayor Richard Daley found enough dead voters to put John Kennedy over the top in Illinois.

But, that was then. There’s no voter fraud problem now. Right?

Colorado has a mail in ballot this year. Investigative journalist James O’Keefe recently asked young Democratic operatives there about whether using a neighbor’s discarded ballot would be alright. The response was interesting – “That’s not even like lying or stealing.”

Jim Moynihan is a Republican candidate for state representative in Illinois. When he went to cast his vote early in Schaumburg, he noticed something odd when he reviewed his ballot. He’d voted for himself, but the voting machine cast the vote for his Democratic rival. Officials called it a “calibration error.”

In this morning’s Washington Post, Jesse Richman and David Earnest, professors of Political Science and International Studies at Old Dominion University, asked, “Could control of the Senate in 2014 be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens?” They reviewed a  large sampling of data provided the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and it revealed that as many as 6.4% of non-U.S. citizens voted in the 2008 national election. Non-citizen votes may have meant victory for Al Franken in Minnesota and Barack Obama in North Carolina in 2008. Some of the other findings were every bit as interesting. (1) Non-citizens favor Democratic candidates over Republicans (2) Some non-citizens vote despite legal bans (3) Non-citizen voting likely changed 2008 outcomes including Electoral College votes and the composition of Congress. (4) Voter photo-identification rules have limited effect on non-citizen participation (5) 14% of non-U.S. citizens were registered to vote in 2008 and 2010. 

I can see why the Democrats want non-citizens voting. 

The Democrats claim they’re interested in protecting the poor and minorities and that Republicans are trying to disenfranchise them. The truth is, the Democrats are buying power. The medium of exchange is abuse of the ballot box. The product being peddled is permanent serfdom for those who fall prey to the scheme.
We’ll be voting in a few days. For some of you it might mean a choice between honesty and permanent serfdom. Therefore, when the time comes to “pull the lever,” keep what I’ve written in mind.