E Pluribus Hispaniis Mors

Friday, October 29, 2004

Out of many Spains, death.

Osama bin Laden shows a greater appreciation for the Electoral College than the Democrats he hopes will win. Note his outreach to the yellow (meaning blue) states: "Each state that does not mess with our security, has naturally guaranteed its own security." This is the very essence of terrorism: make your opponent abandon his best weapon -- his mind -- by trying to make him act out of fear by threats.

Rather than stampede to the voting booths to select Kerry, let's think about this for a moment. Here's something to chew on, especially for residents of the yellow states: New York didn't vote for Bush last time, yet it was a target for al-Qaida. Why should any of you be any safer voting for Kerry this time? He even admits as much: [T]he al-Qaida leader refrained from directly threatening new attacks, although he said "there are still reasons to repeat what happened." Just ask Spain whether they have been left alone after capitulating to the tender mercies of the Islamofascists.

I pass over the rest of bin Laden's remarks as irrelevant: the only important thing from any terrorist's lips is his stated desire to kill us. In self-defense, we are right to exterminate the sort of mealy-mouthed vermin who indiscriminately threaten us, then act as if such random threats can be "justified."

Remember. This is a man who kills without provocation. Actions speak louder than words. His promises are meaningless and his "outreach" to the individual states should tell individual Americans quite a bit about who they should choose for President. Give this reprobate what he deserves: vote for Bush, then hold Bush's feet to the fire after he wins.

-- CAV

Nobel Laureate to MIss Date with Martyrdom

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Robert Tracinski calls the impending death of Yassir Arafat a tragedy -- because it will be from natural causes. My only problem with that way of looking at it is that I didn't think of it first. Granted, his flea-bitten admirers would have called anything violent a "martyrdom." Anything, that is, except, say, a well-deserved execution by a bullet dipped in pig fat! This may sound barbaric, but consider that this was the method of choice of none other than John J. Pershing. [Update: I have subsequently learned that this story may not be true.] It is quite an elegant way to deal with thugs who believe their own religious excuses for committing murder. The genius of his method is that he let one of his captives witness the execution and then escape. Word of this fate caused a marked lack of enthusiasm for further terrorist activity in the Philippines nearly a century ago. Call me insensitive, but open season on Islamofascists began on September 11, 2001.

With no successor, the death of Yassir Arafat promises some degree of chaos in the short-term. But then, his presence has afflicted both Israel and the people he rules with the violent and spectacularly unsuccessful intifada. While there may yet be a civil war on the non-Israeli side of the security fence, there is always the hope that better leadership will fill the void left by this vile, filthy tyrant. Only then will there be a real possibility of peace in the Middle East.

I recall, but I am not sure where, that the television broadcasts of the American triumph in Iraq, complete with grateful men kissing pictures of our President had a huge psychological impact on America-haters in the Middle East. It was even referred to as their 9-11. I also remember hearing how disappointed in Saddam Hussein some Arabs were when we aired film of him being checked for lice after his ignominious capture. Perhaps, for similar reasons, we should make it clear to Islamofascists whenever possible that Arafat's death will have been unbecoming for the leader of the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades. Terrorism "works" to the degree that it does partly because news coverage gives the brutality propaganda value. When a coward like Arafat hands us a propaganda opportunity like this, we should use it. After all, if his life is so precious, why aren't the lives of the people he sends to their deaths?

-- CAV


2-20-06: Added update on Pershing.

The True Relevance of Polling Data

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush will win. You heard it here first. I'll explain why I'm comfortable making this prediction by referring to polling data, but that's a pedestrian use of that information. I will offer my reading of these tea leaves to our Commander-in-Chief as a service to him, myself, and my country.

But first, why should Bush lose? I pass over his many faults, which can broadly be classified into two categories (1) his religious agenda and (2) his nurturing of the nanny state. After all, I am a single-issue voter in this election, and that issue is the war against the Islamofascists. Had the Democrats run a credible pro-war candidate who offered to fight this war more effectively, we would see America "changing horses in the middle of the stream." However, the Democrats didn't and America won't. Bush will win with a solid majority of the popular vote as Dick Cheney predicted earlier this week. He'll also garner a better Electoral College majority than in 2000 and perhaps a solid one, but not a landslide.

What are the why's and what about them are important?

I'll start by recounting some interesting poll numbers pointed out by T. Bevan on 10-27-04 at RealClearPolitics. A slim majority (51%) of Americans thought that the U.S. was mistaken to send troops to Iraq while a large majority (70%) think they have a clear idea about what the war in Iraq is all about. Bevan offers two factors that may contribute to the disparity: (1) "I suppose you could attribute at least a few percentage points to some hard core lefties who think they're quite clear on what we're fighting for and it's not something they approve of - like oil or American imperialism." I agree with him on that. Lord knows, that's all the Chomskyites here at work ever talk about. (2) "Maybe another point or two believes we are fighting to establish democracy in Iraq - which we most certainly are doing - but separates that particular task from battling global terrorism and thus concludes that establishing a democracy in Iraq is simply not worth doing." He's on the right track here.

I'd add that the execution of the war has left lots to be desired. First, consider this question I'd like to ask of Bush: "Why, exactly, is there still such a place as Fallujah?" Second, I thought we were going to stop negotiating with terrorists. We have chatted with the leaders of the terrorist "insurgency" however many times too many. (The correct answer is zero.) Part of the group who might approve of our presence in Iraq must be thinking something like, "If we're going to act like this in a place where the troops are in harm's way, we shouldn't be sending them there at all." In their book, it was a mistake to send troops, but it is not a mistake in principle to be there for our stated reasons. Further, you have people (like me) who can see a commitment to being in Iraq as part of establishing a non-Islamofascist beachhead in the Middle East. Bush's commitment to "democracy" in Iraq could lead to an Islamic Republic there. This will bother those people -- though it doesn't seem to bother Bush! Those of us who agree that a "forward strategy" is a good idea want a secular state in the Middle East. Failing that, we should run Iraq as we did Japan after WW II or even run it as a colony. The objective here is not liberation, though that will occur anywhere we run the show just as a by-product of us being there. The objective, Mr. President, in a war is to make the enemy unable to harm the American people. Furthermore, some would hold that an invasion of Iran would have been more appropriate than one in Iraq. (They have an excellent point, by the way.) They will also probably call being in Iraq a mistake.

The short-range meaning of this is bad for Kerry. As disappointed as lots of us are with Bush's execution of the war against the Islamofascists, we aren't ready to replace him with a committed pacifist who will simply not fight at all. The long-range meaning is this: start fighting the bloody war, Mr. President! And it can be bad for America. I'm not sure that the Democrats are capable of learning from a Kerry loss that maybe national defense is a good idea. And the Republicans won't learn that what Bush is doing isn't good enough either -- unless those who favor the war, but think Bush isn't aggressive enough, hold their feet to the fire.

To understand the short-term implications of the poll numbers, I invoke the Mystery Pollster's Rule of the Incumbent. The gist of his rule is that in a normal election, the important number in a poll is the incumbent's level of support. Thus, "the incumbent rule tells us that, at any given moment, the President's percentage of the vote relative to 50% is a better indicator of where the race stands than the margin separating Bush and Kerry. It also suggests the appropriate way to read the final polls just before the election (and these are my ranges – others may differ): If the average result of all the final polls (including undecided) puts Bush's percentage at 50% or higher, the President will likely win. If Bush's percentage is 48%-49%, the race is headed for a photo finish. At 47% or lower, the President will likely lose (add 1% to these ranges in any state where Ralph Nader is not on the ballot)." I'd also consider the job approval numbers as Mystery Pollster recommends. "[T]he two numbers I watch most closely are Bush’s job rating and percentage of the vote, as I believe these are most indicative of his ultimate support. That both are hovering just at or above 50 suggest an ultimately close contest, with Bush receiving just about the support he needs to win."

A Seat-of-the-Pants Guesstimation of Gut Voting

The serious discussion is over. I now go on to the obligatory prediction of election results. I credit an acquaintance with inspiring the term "gut voter." He was all set to vote for Gore in 2000, then entered the booth and couldn't bring himself to do it. He went with Bush. For the record, I refused to vote for President that year.

So here are my state-by state predictions. 70% of Americans think they understand why we're in Iraq and 51% think Iraq is a mistake. Let's say about half are pro-war and half anti-war. So a 9.5% of the electorate are like me: they want better than Bush's prosecution of the war. We'll say that about one in ten hasn't decided who to vote for or are even leaning Kerry out of disgust. I say that this 1% will enter the voting booth and let their gut do the talking. They'll vote for Bush. I'll go out further on a limb and say that the gut vote would make the higher number of Bush's stated support or his job approval be his starting point in the election. I don't have these numbers, so I'll fudge and just add 1% to his stated level of support. Another species of gut voters are unenthusiastic Kerry supporters. Blacks who still don't support Bush outright will alone easily make up about 1% in this category, the stay-at-home voter. In the interest of being conservative, we'll just call the stay-at-home vote 1%. We'll add 1% for Nader and other candidates. (So we have 4% total in fudge factors.) Wherever Bush exceeds 50%, he gets the electoral votes. We give the rest to Kerry.

[10-28: I had to correct the below for a math error. Having done this, it is apparent that Bush could be in trouble without at least one of the 50% states and/or the northern CD of ME.]

Here are the results My polling numbers came from electoral-vote.com about 7:00 pm Central Time on 10-27-04. My apologies for the lousy format. I hope to fix this when I have more time. The last number on each line is the number of Electoral Votes I project for Bush for that state. Electoral vote oddities could change the total as follows: Maine could give Bush an extra EV should he carry its northern Congressional District. A faithless elector from WV could drop him one. I show Bush winning in Colorado, so if their vote-splitting referendum passes, he'd lose 4 there. Interestingly, three states come in at exactly 50% using this projection (which my gut tells me might be a tad conservative): Hawaii, Ohio, and Wisconsin. By a slightly more generous estimate, then, Bush gets these and wins with 293 electoral votes. Without these, he has 269, the barest minimum he will need and then he'll need to hope that CO and WV hold up.

State Votes Bush Bush+4 Bush EVs

Alabama 9 53 57 9
Alaska 3 57 61 3
Arizona 10 50 54 10
Arkansas 6 51 55 6
California 55 44 48 0
Colorado 9 47 51 9
Connecticut 7 38 42 0
Delaware 3 38 42 0
District of Columbia 3 11 15 0
Florida 27 49 53 27
Georgia 15 57 61 15
Hawaii 4 46 50 0
Idaho 4 59 63 4
Illinois 21 42 46 0
Indiana 11 56 60 11
Iowa 7 45 49 0
Kansas 6 57 61 6
Kentucky 8 56 60 8
Louisiana 9 52 56 9
Maine 4 39 43 0
Maryland 10 43 47 0
Massachusetts 12 36 40 0
Michigan 17 44 48 0
Minnesota 10 44 48 0
Mississippi 6 51 55 6
Missouri 11 52 56 11
Montana 3 57 61 3
Nebraska 5 61 65 5
Nevada 5 49 53 5
New Hampshire 4 41 45 0
New Jersey 15 43 47 0
New Mexico 5 48 52 5
New York 31 36 40 0
North Carolina 15 54 58 15
North Dakota 3 55 59 3
Ohio 20 46 50 20
Oklahoma 7 61 65 7
Oregon 7 43 47 0
Pennsylvania 21 45 49 0
Rhode Island 4 36 40 0
South Carolina 8 57 61 8
South Dakota 3 55 59 3
Tennessee 11 53 57 11
Texas 34 60 64 34
Utah 5 64 68 5
Vermont 3 40 44 0
Virginia 13 50 54 13
Washington 11 45 49 0
West Virgina 5 49 53 5
Wisconsin 10 46 50 0
Wyoming 3 65 69 3

Total 538 293

Cocooning with Team America

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Inspired by an early movie review, I took the wife to a sneak preview of Team America: World Police. Overall, I liked the movie and would give it a B. As I expected, conservatives Trey Parker and Matt Stone produced not the Fahrenheit 9/11 clone some liberals seemed to be hoping for, but something a bit more decidedly pro-American.

What did surprise me is that they seem to have gotten away with it! They did so for the same reason that the LA Times called California a lock for Kerry and said Arizona was "in play" despite the fact that Kerry led by 15 in CA and Bush by 16 in AZ! Namely, liberals live in a cocoon: Isolated from reality, they fall victim to their own wishful thinking.

How does this phenomenon manifest itself with Team America? This passage from the review provides the clue: "Team America, you see, boldly goes where no one has gone before, sending up post-9/11 terrorism, Arabs, Koreans, the CIA and liberal-minded Hollywood actors all at the same time." This assessment of the satirical target is typical of other reviews I've seen of the movie. Another reviewer even went so far as to claim that Parker and Stone "mock right-wing American machismo, self-centeredness and the love of gratuitous destruction; however, they are also savage toward those on the left who automatically take the side of the countries opposing America no matter what...." Yes, the creators of South Park do make jokes at everyone's expense, but the Hollywood Left and Kim Jong Il are the ones taking the real beating. Yes, the Americans do blow up a few prominent Parisian landmarks. Yes, this elicited laughter. But only a blowhard liberal convinced that we Neanderthals on the right "love" gratuitous destruction would regard this as a "send-up" of the same order as that received by Hollywood or as a "mockery" of Americans. The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower fell because our heroes were klutzes and that's the end of it. Whence the comments here and elsewhere about Americans being satirized when the fun was good-natured? We were the good guys, after all.

Here's my stab or two. Theory one: obviously, those in favor of the war efforts are brutes, so Parker and Stone were obviously making fun of them, meaning "us." Theory two: Parker and Stone are so funny that some reviewers don't want to believe they're on the "Dark Side." My advisor in grad school reacted this way when he learned about my political convictions. Despite the fact that I was past thirty at the time, he said something to the effect that I'd "outgrow" them. Either theory would explain that reaction: either I wasn't a complete adult or I was "too good" to be a real conservative based on other things he knew about me. The common denominator is that the liberal, confronted with someone who disagrees with him, discounts the disagreement instead of looking a little harder at his own beliefs. No matter which theory might be true, Parker and Stone get away with a well-aimed kick in the seat of the pants of the Left. Our left-wing critical corps are simply unable to believe that a parody of their own ideological kind could possibly spare the nincompoops on the other end of the political spectrum.


Postscript to yesterday's entry: The joke on the liberals, for all their biliousness, is that they can't assassinate Bush, as the Guardian would like! Liberals are so blinded by hatred that they fail to see when they would merely be jumping from the frying pan into the fire! After all, wouldn't that leave Dick Cheney, the evil former CEO of Halliburton, in the Oval Office? This election has been an interesting window into the mental health of the Left as a whole!

-- CAV

Kerry for Sheik?

Monday, October 25, 2004

T. Bevan does a great job of summarizing the juvenile and often violent behavior of the left during this Presidential campaign (as of 10-21-04) at RealClearPolitics. It is bad enough that the "Democrats" are indulging in this kind of behavior. In fact, the shooting at and laying siege to campaign headquarters qualify as domestic terrorism.

But in what I'd say is now the most damning indictment of the Kerry Edwards ticket to spew forth from their own mouths so far is this gem from Elizabeth Edwards. In response to concerns about post-election rioting, she says, "Uh, well, not if we win."

Let's examine this for a moment. It is bad enough that the left is behaving as they have done in this campaign. But in one off-the-cuff comment, this ambulance-chaser's wife and would-be Second Lady has admitted that the top echelons of the campaign know about this sort of behavior and, in not condemning it in any way at all, implicitly accepts it.

I have been struggling for awhile to figure out what bothered me so much about this comment, but this is it: it comes across as a scarcely-veiled threat. At least when they were still spouting scare stories about Social Security, disenfranchisement, and the draft, the Democrats were not threatening us with physical violence.

While we can't expect John Kerry to keep a lid on every left-wing crackpot out there, we should be alarmed at the very least when his campaign is shown to welcome the support of such barbarians. Furthermore, just as the Islamic terrorists will be emboldened by Kerry's near-certain retreat from the war abroad, so will these domestic terrorists be emboldened by the fact that he condones (and indeed welcomes) what they are doing. Au contraire, monsieur Kerry, there will be riots and more if you win!

A vote for Bush is not a guarantee for a well-fought war, but a vote for Kerry promises that our foreign enemies will be emboldened by our retreat while our domestic enemies will corrode our great nation from within. Kerry is even worse than I thought!


Who is Gus Van Horn?

"Hi! I'm Gus Van Horn! I'm a trial lawyer from west Texas!"

That was how I introduced myself at parties for a short time as an inside joke with a few friends. The precise details of the birth of the "Gus Van Horn" identity are shrouded in the mists of time. I vaguely remember the joke arising spontaneously out of a conversation several of us were having after dinner and a fair amount of wine. We were, I believe, facetiously discussing the idea of re-creating ourselves out of whole cloth or something like that. At any rate, we elaborated on my "new identity" for a time and I ended up answering to "Gus" that evening and, later, whenever I met anyone in this circle. This went on for a few weeks, eventually dying down as inside jokes do. A couple of months later, one of the more avid fans of Gus Van Horn moved to Taiwan for a year or so to teach English. We weren't in touch, so he surprised me on his return by surfacing at a party. "Hi, Gus!" he said. The inside joke resurrected so naturally that I went with it for awhile, until I realized that people who didn't know me really believed I was named "Gus." I was correcting people off and on for the rest of the evening.

"So what's your point, Gus?" I can almost hear you asking. I'll tell you.

I am usually loathe to do something that irritates me when I see other people doing it. I don't email coworkers with my political views when I know they wouldn't appreciate it. I don't "double dip" my chips at parties. I don't block traffic on busy streets to let out passengers. I don't end every other sentence with a verbal question mark.

I don't go around using a phony name. Back in my military days, I knew someone with a perfectly good name who used "Rod" instead of his real name. I can see a nickname, but another first name? Legally change your name if you're that unhappy with your given name. (Children of hippies, take note.) I have to use my middle name because I was named after my father. Classes, legal documents, business relationships, conferences, and everything else involving my name always ends up being a pain in the ass. "No, 'Gus' is my middle name." Or, "Look under 'Caesar'." (And yes, my real first name is also bad enough that maybe I'd go through the trouble of using my middle name anyway.) "Can you change my name tag to read 'Gus', please?" Or, "Yes, but I use my middle name." Or, "No, it's not 'Augstus Caesar Van Horn': It's 'Caesar Augustus.'" Ad nauseam. Why would anyone ask for this by using a name that is not obviously a shortened version of his real name or a blatant nickname, like "Chip?" And then there's a guy I knew from grade school whose name was a variant of a common name. This fellow went bankrupt and then, several years later, popped up using the "normal" spelling of his name. What's he trying to get away with? And then you have terrorists. Almost every time I learn about one of these practicioners of the "religion of peace," he has at least one alias, even if his name isn't "Mohammed." (Which is essentially like not having a name at all. I can almost see that. See comment for children of hippies above.) A name is supposed to help people identify you and I usually find myself wondering about the motives of someone who doesn't use his own name.

Nevertheless, there can be honorable and nonirritating reasons to use another name. (And what other reason could I have?) In my case, I am adopting the time-honored practice of using a nom de plume. I've wrestled with the idea of having a pen name for quite some time, and am still not completely sure I want to use one or whether I will use it all the time. My goal is to become a syndicated columnist, but I am far enough away from the goal now that I have some time to decide whether to write my columns under my own name or keep calling myself "Gus." (I now have some idea why my wife has trouble deciding whether to use her maiden name or mine: there are merits to each and to both.) In my case, this blog is my chance to experiment without damaging my marketability later. But then, if the blog takes off, I've branded myself and may wish to keep the pen name. I have some pretty good reasons for wanting to maintain some measure of anonymity. But again, should the blog or my writing career take off, the anonymity will inevitably be lost. I could go on and on with pros and cons, but I'm running out of time. Coincidentally, that's why I decided to go ahead with the blog under a pen name: my need for anonymity is fleeting. It will be no big deal if and when my real name is revealed, but I want to get into the practice of writing something regularly. To name a couple more positive reasons for the pen name: (1) I can conceivably maintain some degree of anonymity in the sense that people may have to work a little to figure out who I am. This has a great deal of merit to a private citizen like me who wants some protection from any nut jobs cruising around on the internet. (2) "Gus Van Horn" is much more distinctive than my real name. This second, at least in terms of the recognizability of a web log, has quite a bit of merit.

And finally, unlike some people who don't use their own names, I am being up-front about it.

So for now, I'm Gus Van Horn. I'm a blogger from southeast Texas. I'm happily married. I'm glad to be working, but want another job. I like writing about philosophical issues, primarily politics, from a pro-reason, pro-individual rights perspective. Welcome to my web log.

-- CAV