Mourdock: “reporters are more interested in defeating conservatives than reporting the news”

Indy Politics has a post entitled Mourdock Camp Blames “Media Bias” for Loss. Would be Chrysler killer, Richard Mourdock, who caught attention for revealing God’s will with respect to children conceived through rape has sent out an e-mail to supporters. The e-mail was a fundraiser, seeking to retire campaign debt.

In our case, we found our campaign caught in the liberal media cross hairs. Never has Indiana seen a more obvious example of media bias by reporters more interested in defeating conservatives than reporting the news.

It’s hard to tell if this bit of self-pity is borne of true belief or an effort to stoke the base into parting with a few extra bucks. It’s the Nate Silver conundrum in a nutshell – are they getting it wrong because they’re in a groupthink bubble, or is it a bit of calculated hyperbole designed to motivate supporters?

The media has biases to be sure – sometimes different ones depending on the medium in question. But, often times political reporting is biased by a lack of institutional memory, faux objectivity in the form of “he said/she said” narratives, fixation on horse race narratives instead of substantive policy reporting, and general limitations associated with being a commercial undertaking.

But, “reporters more interested in defeating conservatives than reporting the news?” That’s just petulant.

Congressional Democrats Won the Popular Vote, Lost the House

I’ve seen in a couple of places a contention that returning Republicans to control of the U.S. House was an endorsement of their policy goals. Like the mandate talk for Barack Obama, I view that claim as dubious to start with. The voting booth just isn’t a very good tool for a voter to communicate much of anything other than possibly, “this is the candidate I hate least.”

But the claim of mandate or endorsement for the House of Representatives becomes even less defensible now that we learned that House Republicans, despite winning a majority of the seats (234 – 201), received a minority of the vote.

Democrats got 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. That’s a close election — 48.8%-48.5% –but it’s still a popular vote win for the Democrats.

Mark Small noted that, in Indiana, Republicans constitute 7/9 (78%) of Indiana’s Congressional delegation on the strength of 53.1% of the vote.

Redistricting is a powerful tool. I am not claiming that Republican control of the House is illegitimate in some fashion. They won that control under the current rules of the game. But, to claim it’s a mandate from the people to hold the line on taxes for the wealthy, is – as it turns out – slightly sillier than your garden variety mandate talk.

The Lost Cause is Lost

Long time readers know that Confederacy bashing is an area where I indulge myself in intemperate beliefs; much like I do when it comes to Daylight Saving Time and class basketball. So, you can imagine my reaction when I read a story out of Texas linked to by Sheila Kennedy.

The treasurer of the Hardin County, Texas GOP – and apparently someone involved in the state textbook screening process – is calling for secession.

“We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity. But in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity.”

“Texas was once its own country, and many Texans already think in nationalist terms about their state,” Morrison continued. “We need to do everything possible to encourage a long-term shift in thinking on this issue. Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government? Let each go her own way in peace, sign a free trade agreement among the states and we can avoid this gut-wrenching spectacle every four years.”

We had this national discussion once before, Mr. Morrison. Your side committed treason against the U.S. in service of the principle that property rights were superior to human rights and liberty rights. And your side lost because it was wrong and weaker.

I cannot recommend highly enough Tony Horwitz’s book “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War.” The Lost Cause mythology of the Civil War continues to be harmful to this country. It feeds into the feelings of pride and privilege for guys like Hardin and allows them never to address whether the pride and privilege he enjoys are warranted. The Wikipedia entry on Lost Cause introduces it as:

Many white Southerners were devastated economically, emotionally, and psychologically by the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865. Prior to the war, many Southerners proudly felt that their rich military tradition would allow them to prevail in the conflict. When this did not happen, white Southerners sought consolation in attributing their loss to factors beyond their control, such as treachery.

Two thoughts on this – first, it sounds a lot like the “stabbed in the back” mythology in Germany following World War I. Second, the myth of Southern superiority that preceded the war was dashed against reality when that myth was put to the test. Seems like there is a parallel in the pre-election “unskew the polls” movement and whatnot where the conservative information bubble deprived the Romney campaign and its supporters of crucial information about the actual state of the race.

In any event, guys like Hardin need to be chased out of respectable society as does the idea of Southern (or Texan) exceptionalism.

Russians Love Their Children Too

Today, I’ve read a couple of posts on Facebook from acquaintances of mine who are absolutely unhinged about the election results. I get it. I have been sorely disappointed by election results. But this nonsense about the country being brought down by hordes of stupid, lazy Americans who don’t love their country has to stop.  (I’m looking at celebrities like Ted Nugent, Victoria Jackson, Donald Trump, but more sadly at high school friends who seem to be drinking from the same punch bowl.) Maybe you’re working hard, and maybe you’re not prospering, and maybe the country is not what you envision. But, you’re fooling yourself if you think it’s because half the country is a bunch of lazy, ungrateful, godless America-haters.

That’s why I’m thankful for social media that has brought me in touch with a number of friends, thinkers, lawmakers, etc. who favor very different policies than I do; but who I can see, day-to-day, love our country, love their families, and are very sincerely acting in good faith — even if I think they are misinformed about the underlying facts and/or wrong about the best way to reach solutions.

I’m sure I get carried away at times. And, certainly, the country has its share of bums and sociopaths. But that is far from the norm.  I feel like when I start drifting off the rails, I’m pulled back by the basic humanity of the people with whom I disagree. They love their spouses. They want the best for their kids. They want America to be a good place. Even if I might think that their beliefs and policy preferences are making things worse for their wives, kids, and country; I’m almost always wrong if I believe they’re making their choices out of malice.

Taylorizing the Punditocracy

One of the most interesting things (to me) about this election has been the nastiness directed at Nate Silver by more traditional pundits. It is hard not to see the parallels with the Moneyball dynamic in baseball. To the extent I understand that dynamic anyway — I’m not well versed in baseball history. I’ve heard some stuff and I watched the movie. From the Wikipedia synopsis:

The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time. The book argues that the Oakland A’s’ front office took advantage of more analytical gauges of player performance to field a team that could compete successfully against richer competitors in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A’s became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.

So, you have Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com fame. Probably not coincidentally, Silver has a baseball statistics background which he applied to the 2008 and 2010 national elections with a great deal of success. Now, in 2012, he has a statistical model which suggests that Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the Presidential election are not that great. (This is not to say they don’t exist; but if this election were a coin, it would come up Obama about 80 times out of 100. Since you’re flipping it only once, it’s possible that the Romney side could turn up on election day.)

But I’m not primarily concerned about Romney or Obama or even Silver at the moment. The interesting thing has been the reaction of a lot of the traditional pundits to the statistical models. They have reacted badly. The statistical approach takes away a lot of their power. It is more difficult. It is less romantic. It tethers the current state of the race more tightly to reality (to the extent we can observe the reality) and less tightly to pundit’s preferred reality. If the pundit wants to spin a narrative, he or she is less able to rely on “ineffable” qualities that are in no way falsifiable.

To bolster (somehow) his contention that Silver was wrong, Dean Chambers accused Silver of being “thin and effeminate.” Conservative anchor of liberal MSNBC’s morning programming, Joe Scarborough brayed that Silver was “a joke” because “anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a toss-up right now is such an ideologue,”

The “toss-up” is good for business in the pundit world. It sells advertising. It draws attention. It gives the biased observer an opportunity to create reality more favorable to that bias under the guise of merely observing. They don’t understand the statistics because, as Mr. Sinclair observed, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

For cable news pundits, just as with old time baseball scouts, making calls based on your gut is a lot easier and more profitable than grinding through a bunch of boring old numbers. I can see why the pundits would resist. But this is probably just a continuation of the Taylorization that’s been turning artisans into disposable cogs for capital for over a century. Welcome to the world of the commoners.

On Wasted Votes and Purity

This time of year, everyone is a little disappointed in the major party candidates on the ballot. Sometimes it’s because the candidates are simply lacking. More often, I think it’s because opposing candidates have been beating up on each other for several months. Third party candidates are more appealing at times because they can cater to your niche political philosophy or because they have not had to broaden their appeal to the lowest common denominator or because they simply haven’t been the focus of attacks. In close races, you’ll hear discussion about how a third-party candidate is a spoiler “taking” votes from one of the major party candidates.

My personal philosophy (but hardly unique to me) is that you vote your heart in the primary and vote your head in the general. Vote who you think would make the best office holder in the primary; vote against who you think would make the worst office holder in the general.

I agree with Andy Horning – the Libertarian candidate for Senate – when he says that he isn’t “taking” anyone’s vote. He is right, the vote belongs to the citizen, not the candidate. So, I don’t think candidates or parties are justified in taking a proprietary view of anyone’s vote, regardless of who they vote for.

That said, if it is clear that only two candidates have a statistically probable chance of winning and if it is of any importance at all to you whether one of those two candidates wins the office or loses the office, then the logic of the math dictates that voting for a third candidate makes it slightly more likely that the outcome you favor least will come to pass.

But, I often hear, if we just keep playing the two party game, nothing will ever change. The problem with this rationale is that the two party system has remained mostly static since the creation of our Republic. If that’s going to change, it’s not going to be because some negligible percentage of people show up on election day and cast third party votes. I think it would require sustained effort at a local level, working upward with a goal of changing our voting system to include proportional representation or instant run off voting or something. Getting to the polls on election day, grumbling about your selections, and casting a vote for a third party candidate might feel good, but history suggests it’s not going to change anything.

But worse, in my opinion, are people who are too invested in their sense of political purity to dirty themselves with the major party candidates. More than one person I know thinks that political parties themselves are a corruption of the political system; maybe citing the Founder’s warnings against “faction.” Corruption or no, they exist and they are effective for the acquisition of political power. No matter how much more noble the single cell organism might be, it simply can’t compete against the multicellular organism to whom it is, more likely than not, food. Evolution, in biology or politics, goes with the organism that is successful in replicating itself and doesn’t give a damn about the details of that replication so long as it works.

So, get out and vote; and, when you cast your vote, give some thought to the math behind what you’re doing.

New Indiana Poll: Donnelly Up Big; Pence Comfortable; Bennett Underperforming

New Indiana polling is out just in advance of the election in a couple of days. Pence is up comfortably over Gregg but not by as big a margin as he once was. For me, the Governor’s race is really a shame because I think Gregg’s background would make him a really good Governor – and he’s not hugely liberal or anything. His political instincts are a good fit for Indiana. Pence is a movement conservative and will govern to the right of where, I think, most Hoosiers feel comfortable.

The big headline grabber is that Mourdock’s support has cratered with Donnelly leading that race 47 to 36 with Andy Horning getting 6%. Sounds like Mourdock is getting the Tea Party support that helped him beat Senator Lugar, but nothing else.

And a surprising one for me is that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has only 40% support with Glenda Ritz just 4% behind. Bennett has had all the money in this race which makes me surprised that he’s only at 40%. This might just be a function of most Hoosiers not knowing much, if anything, about these candidates or this race — which might be reason enough to consider making this office an appointed, rather than elected, position.

Mourdock and Hubris

The latest from the Mourdock campaign, as reported by Brian Francisco, reinforces for me the notion that Mr. Mourdock’s most prominent political characteristic is hubris. (“Excessive pride or self-confidence.”)

Excessive pride kind of goes with the territory in politicians and lawmakers. It almost has to. You are getting in front of the public and telling them that you are the best person for the job of writing laws that tell other people what to do.

But Mr. Mourdock’s recent political career, I think, takes things to a higher level. The Francisco article reiterates Mourdock’s disdain for bipartisanship. He says that his party is for low taxes and small government and he has a caricatured view of the Democratic Part as being the antithesis of his party and, therefore, there is no room for compromise. As he said earlier, he sees his job as inflicting his opinion on others.

This overweening pride can be seen elsewhere – his conviction that he knows the will of God such that he can impose that will on rape victims; and his conviction that he knew better about finance, bankruptcy, and economic policy than the vast majority of Chrysler’s other creditors such that he was willing to try to torpedo a deal that 90+% of the creditors had agreed to and kill the American auto industry in the bargain.

A bit of humility would seem to be in order.

Children of Rape: God’s Plan or Medical Impossibility?

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I’m a collection attorney. When I drag a person to court, it’s not pleasant for them. I’m making them go to court and answer my questions so I can take their stuff from them. From time to time during these discussions, some folks will, for whatever reason, try to soften my role in the unpleasantness. “I know you’re just doing your job,” they’ll say. Usually I’ll respond along the lines of “I appreciate what you’re saying, but I could choose another job, so you don’t have to go easy on me on account of that.” It is a job, and it’s not personal to them. I have my reasons for my actions, and I think they are good and sufficient reasons. But I still bear responsibility for my actions, and it would be a cop out if I pretended otherwise.

The other day, I wrote a blog post about Biblical interpretation entitled “It’s Us. Only Us.” One of my points was that I think people should take personal responsibility for the moral positions they adopt. It’s not enough to say that you’re against marriage equality because the Bible tells you homosexuality is a sin. I think that’s a cop out; an effort to shove responsibility for your moral positions onto the authors of the Bible instead of standing up, explaining your reasons, and owning them.

So too do I think Richard Mourdock’s latest statement on abortions and rape is a cop out.

Life is that gift from god. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

This, of course, is at odds with another Senate candidate’s contention that a woman’s body will “shut that whole thing down” if she’s been legitimately raped; posing the question of whether these children of rape are God’s plan or a medical impossibility.

I actually think Mourdock’s position on abortion is the one with the most internally consistent logic. He’s for making abortion against the law except when the mother’s life is in danger. Now, if you believe (and I do not) that, at the moment sperm hits egg, you have a fully human life, entitled to the same protections as all of us, then the sins of that child’s father don’t matter and abortion is exactly the same as walking into a first grade class and putting a bullet in the head of your kid. If both the child and the mother’s lives are on the line, then maybe you have to choose.

But, if as a lawmaker, you decide not only for yourself but for all women everywhere that the wrath of the government will come down on her if she tries to remove the growing child of her rapist from her uterus, don’t hide behind the “will of God.” You are choosing the job and you are choosing the policy that forces her to use her body in this fashion. God didn’t choose the rape. God didn’t mandate that the sperm combine with the egg. And God doesn’t vote in Congress. It’s us, only us.

Pro-Mourdock PAC Claims Lugar Support. Lugar Disagrees

Tom Kludt, reporting for Talking Points Memo has an odd story about the Indiana Senate race that I’ve seen in a few places, including Howey Politics.

Richard Mourdock, more popular among Indiana’s Tea Party and Republican primary voters, defeated Richard Lugar who is more popular among Hoosiers generally. Trying to coopt in Lugar’s more general popularity in service of the cause of getting Mourdock elected over Joe Donnelly, a Super PAC claimed in a mailer that “Indiana’s Lugar Backs Mourdock In Senate Run.”

Per Howey Politics:

The Lugar Senate office told [Howey Politics] that it did not authorize the flier and reconfirmed that Lugar has no intention of campaigning for Mourdock. “During the primary, Mourdock and his supporters perpetuated misleading statements about Sen. Lugar,” said Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher. “Unfortunately that has continued with this mailer funded by a committee that spent over $100,000 to defeat Sen. Lugar. It was clearly unauthorized and done without consultation with us. Lugar clearly stated on September 17 that he would not campaign for Mourdock in the general election for Senator from Indiana.”

Lugar’s coolness toward Mourdock is unsurprising given that, after he’d won the primary, Mourdock sent out a fund raising letter that continued to pile on Sen. Lugar claiming, Lugar “routinely betrayed conservative voters to push through some of the most radical aspects of President Obama’s agenda.”