Thursday, March 21, 2013

Karl Rove Thinks Voters Are Stupid - A Mathematician Proves Him Wrong

Karl Rove published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed that Republicans lost the 2012 Presidential election, in part, because Democrats maintain a significant data advantage over Republicans. While this may be true, Rove’s contention is that with its own “army of computer engineers, mathematicians and social scientists” Republicans will be able to win elections they would have lost otherwise. As a practicing mathematician, I can tell you that Rove has no idea what he is talking about.

Rove’s contention is the following: By hiring an “army” of mathematicians and data analysts as Obama did in 2012, the RNC or the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee can sift through voter files in order to rank and track likely voters. This is what marketers attempt to do when they sell soap. Unfortunately, politicians are not soap and no ad in Field and Stream of Mitt Romney and his lovely wife wrapped in white bath towels hopping out of the shower holding bars of Dove will make voters more likely to vote. The reason is simple. Voters HATE politicians. We hate them. We do not trust them. When people knock on our door or call us on the phone asking for our vote, we lie just to get rid of you. It is not accidental that 5 out of 6 Americans think Congress is doing a lousy job. So what would a mathematician tell Karl Rove if he asked for my advice about how to improve upon his 1.3% success rate in the 2012 elections? I would tell Karl to do some principal component analysis.

What is that? In short, it is a statistical tool to identify the most significant drivers of a physical process, in this case an election result. In other words, all other things being equal what is most important to voters to ensure that enough of them get out the door to vote for a candidate. I will save Karl the time and expense of hiring an “army” of mathematicians and answer the question for him. When voters are dissatisfied, if the opposition presents a stark contrast with the status quo and is believable, they win. That is how Obama won in 2008 and why Romney lost in 2012. When there is more than one election on the ballot, results are often driven by the result at the top of the ticket. It is just that simple. You do not have to be a mathematician to appreciate this fact. Rove does and is using his op-ed to deflect criticism.

A few facts. Obama lost 5% of his 2008 vote in 2012 yet still managed to win. This was, in part, because many voters were uncertain that the philosophical father of Obamacare, someone who spent the latter part of his campaign praising government run health insurance, would provide a significant enough contrast to Obama.

By campaigning as the 41st vote against the Obama agenda, Scott Brown increased turnout in Republican leaning counties by 77% to become the first Republican to represent Massachusetts in the United States Senate since Harry Truman was President. Two years later after embracing parts of the Obama agenda, Brown lost handedly to a more authentic liberal.

Karl Rove contends that "personal messaging” will help Republicans sway potential voters. Rove believes that was a source of Obama’s success. How many “independents” did “Republican” Linda McMahon’s door hangers sway when they asked voters to elect her to overturn the President’s health care law while simultaneously asking voters to re-elect the President? Apparently not many as McMahan lost in 2012 by the same 12 point margin that she lost by in 2010. Voters recognized a pander and we're not swayed.

Vote for McMahon and Obama

For all his years in politics, it is apparent that Karl Rove has never spent election day in an urban inner city neighborhood. Obama won re-election because he out-hustled Romney in urban neighborhoods where the vote favors Democrats. This was old-fashioned Democrat machine politics pure and simple. Republicans would do well to copy the Democrat model for election day grassroots organizing and focus efforts there. They should have local poll watchers maintain their own voter lists and deploy an “army” of volunteer election lawyers and poll watchers as the Democrats do.

Rove concludes “erasing the GOP's data deficit is no substitute for effective messages and strong candidates.” I agree. While Rove wants to focus his efforts on helping Republicans “deliver those messages better,” I believe that our efforts would be better spent on delivering a more effective believable message that contrasts with the Democrats. In a country where conservatives outnumber liberals in 47 out of 50 states, you would think politicians would pander to conservatives to try and win elections. Clearly, there is a disconnect. You do not need to be a mathematician to appreciate that a believable message is the meat that gets your supporters to the polls. Everything else is gravy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Follow the Pied Piper - Defund Obamacare and Restore Economic Growth

“Every Republican officeholder and candidate in the country should have two words tattooed on their hands; growth and opportunity.”

Those are the reasons U.S. Senator Ted Cruz gave for introducing his ‘Restore Growth First - Defund Obamacare’ amendment to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. Cruz seeks to frame the conversation emphasizing that restoring economic growth from the current average of 0.8% to the historical average of 3.3% will go a long way toward solving our unemployment problem, balancing our budget and preserving our military strength. Cruz understands that Obamacare will accentuate our economic difficulties. Attendant issues are forcing employers to cancel coverage as a result of rising premiums and limit employee hours to escape coverage mandates. As such, Cruz proposes to postpone funding Obamacare at least until our economy begins to grow again.

Yet, Cruz is a realist understanding that when there are 55 Democrats in the U.S. Senate “emphatically in favor of Obamacare,” the likelihood of passing such legislation is slim. Nonetheless, Cruz is pressing on as part of a broader effort to turn the conversation to issues that benefit Republicans, and Americans! Cruz wants Obamacare to be part of a broader conversation about tax and regulatory reform and the burdens government is placing on small business. Cruz is offering his amendment in no small part so that an amended continuing resolution will return to the House of Representatives and force Republican leadership to revisit their decision to re-authorize the Obama-Pelosi-Reid budget of 2009 that the federal government is continuing to operate under. Cruz understands that visiting these issues at every availability will shift the topics of conversation from gun control and immigration to those of interest; not only by grassroots activists who have been leading the fight against Obamacare but also unaffiliated less partisan voters.

GOP House “Leadership” caused a stir over the weekend when they suggested they would continue passing legislation without the support of a majority of their caucus. Republicans across the country would do well to follow the advice of the Pied Piper. Republican politicians and political operatives might be pleasantly surprised to discover that when you distinguish yourself from your political opponents by word and by deed, people will follow.

I Will #StandWithRand When He Stands with Me

Drones save lives! Let me repeat that. Drones save lives! Drones allow the military to attack targets deep in enemy territory without risking the lives of our soldiers and airmen.

As you may recall, a drone strike was considered when President Obama approved the attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as it was recognized that flying several hundred miles over enemy territory at low altitude in the dead of night is inherently dangerous. That said, it is important to recognize what drones are and that they are not all identical.

Drones are primarily flying cameras. Some, though not all drones, are armed with missiles. Though smaller and more agile, drones are not functionally different from blimps or helicopters with cameras. This is a distinction that often gets omitted from the debate about drones.

If drones were to be used in the United States, they would be used in a surveillance function. That is, drones would be launched without missiles. Let me repeat that. I cannot imagine a scenario where any President, Barack Obama included, would arm a drone with missiles and launch it over the United States. Why do I say this?

Let us imagine the likely scenario for their use, crowd surveillance at a large public outdoor gathering, such as an inauguration address or a major sporting event. If the drone identified a terrorist in a crowd at such an event, a President would not launch a missile to kill the terrorist, regardless of his nationality, because the missile would almost assuredly kill bystanders. Instead, cameras mounted on the drone would help law enforcement on the ground capture or, if necessary, kill this individual.

Some wonder whether Barack Obama believes he has the right to arm a drone with missiles and hunt people he deems to be terrorists on U.S. soil, becoming their judge, jury, and executioner contravening the Constitution. Barack Obama would not need drones to do this as FBI sharpshooters work for him. Remember why the military started using drones: to hunt targets without putting our servicemen in harm’s way. Barack Obama does not face those obstacles if he wants to start hunting people on U.S. soil.

How do I know it is unlikely Barack Obama believes he has the right to hunt his enemies or those he believes are terrorists on U.S. soil? When I walk by 48th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, I do not see a giant hole in the ground where Fox News’ headquarters used to be. Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin are still broadcasting five days a week. If Barack Obama wanted to classify his political enemies as terrorists and go hunting with drones, these would be some pretty tempting targets.

Further, the Obama administration is in the process of transferring bin Laden’s son-in-law to a civilian Article III court in lower Manhattan to face a civilian criminal trial. It would have been much easier to terminate his existence with a missile fired from a drone. Finally, Barack Obama enjoys life too much to risk trial for murder for targeting individuals on U.S. soil who do not present an imminent threat to others. Barack Obama need only ask his buddy Rod Blagojevich to learn that sovereign immunity does not provide a defense to criminal conduct. It is hard to play golf with Tiger Woods in a cell in Leavenworth.

Are drones (aka flying cameras) constitutional per se? Absolutely! How do I know? Since the time Ronald Reagan was President, the federal government has had satellites capable of reading the newspaper over your shoulder while you stand on a platform waiting for your train. There are cameras in every ATM. Heck, I can spy on my neighbors with Google Earth. Clearly constitutionality is not an issue, though citizens who do not like drones may petition their local government to prohibit their flight.

This leads us to Rand Paul and his filibuster. Many have praised Paul’s courage for standing up to the President. Drone policy became an issue only as a result of Obama’s utter contempt for his critics, especially those who consider themselves to be Tea Party Republicans. Do not forget that it took President Obama four years to produce a copy of his birth certificate and end that controversy.

Since Obama was unwilling to state the obvious, that murder is illegal, Rand Paul launched a filibuster to prove that it was and force the Attorney General to say so. Lost in the debate was that it would not matter if President Obama targeted his enemies with a drone or a team of FBI sharpshooters; murder is murder.

Having forced the Attorney General to admit that murder is illegal, even if the President commits it, Paul broke his own filibuster, voting for cloture so John Brennan could receive a vote on his nomination. In other words, Paul’s stunt had absolutely nothing to do with John Brennan’s nomination. Paul might have executed the same filibuster over the nomination of a Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. That is the travesty of this affair, since Brennan has expressed truly radical views that discount the danger of militant jihadism and its threat to our security.

Paul’s lack of interest in Brennan’s radicalism comes as no surprise since Paul voted for Chuck Hagel’s confirmation to be Secretary of Defense. It did not bother Senator Paul that Chuck Hagel endorsed the unilateral elimination of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Neither did Paul mind that Chuck Hagel is an outspoken anti-Semite and an Iran sympathizer, even as Iran arms our enemies in Afghanistan killing U.S. troops. One would think Senator Paul might object to Chuck Hagel’s desire to send U.S. troops to "keep the peace" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Not so much. The fact that John Kerry just gave $250 million to the Muslim Brotherhood did not bother Rand Paul enough to vote against him either, even though Paul spoke about eliminating foreign aid to nations “that burn our flag.” Even Jack Lew, the architect of Obama’s budgets such as they are, received a thumbs up from Senator Paul.

My point is this. If Rand Paul cared about the Advice and Consent clause of the U.S. Constitution as much as he claims to care about the rest of the document, he might help his brothers in arms like Senator Ted Cruz fight some of the truly radical nominees that President Obama has promoted. I am glad Rand Paul stood up to the President. Next time, I wish he would do it to actually fight the President’s radical nominees and roll back his unconstitutional agenda.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dr. Benjamin Carson Demonstrated That the Emperor Has No Clothes

The emperor has no clothes
Like the emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen fable, our modern day emperor parades before his subjects shrouded in a cloak of fantasy. He tells us the economy is “built to last” and yet it does not grow. He tells us HE “created six million new jobs” when the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms hardly any have been created and millions
of his subjects have left the workforce.

The emperor sows the seeds of resentment by proclaiming that he wants to raise taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” and forgets to tell everyone earning a paycheck that their payroll taxes will rise. He does this, in part, to offset tax breaks for favored “millionaires and billionaires” and sweeps tax increases on health insurance, medical devices, income, investment, retirement and death under the rug. 

The emperor promised that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” Apparently, the emperor forgot to tell Universal Orlando, one of many businesses cancelling health insurance coverage for part-time workers or converting full-time staff to part-time staff to avoid the requirement of providing health insurance coverage. The emperor forgot to tell his subjects that many will be forced to ‘trade up’ to more expensive health insurance plans that include many “free” preventative services often omitted from the less expensive catastrophic health insurance plans they are currently enrolled in.

The emperor tells his subjects that “we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings” when he knows that the inclusion of his 2009 “temporary stimulus” in the federal budget baseline is largely the reason the country is running trillion dollar annual deficits. The emperor claims to advocate a “balanced approach” to balancing the budget, yet strains to find $44 billion in spending cuts notwithstanding that his own auditor finds $125 billion in annual waste.

The emperor seeks to distract us by foisting 'immigration reform’ to the top of the national agenda. He promises to secure our nation’s borders 'this time' despite testimony that "the Department of Homeland Security no longer uses control of the actual border as a measure of how well the Border Patrol is doing its job." In fact, the emperor just busted 2000 criminal illegal aliens out of jail in an effort to “save money.”

Yet, the subjects re-elected their emperor largely because his opposition did not push back forcefully enough and expose these myths. What happens when Republicans in Congress raise taxes in the dead of night?  Or when a swing state Republican governor signs the largest tax increase in his state's history into law? Or even worse, Congressional Republicans and Republican governors across the country agree to fund a dramatic expansion of Medicaid under the emperor’s unpopular health insurance law, and a Republican United States Senator and a self-proclaimed fiscal hawk makes a campaign contribution to a liberal Democrat who supports the emperor’s legislative agenda? Republicans dilute their opposition to the emperor’s message of higher taxes, increased regulation and an ever more expansive federal government. As a result, more voters, especially those in states without clear partisan majorities, become less inclined to support Republican candidates since they do not see them supporting clearly articulated principles.

This brings us to Dr Benjamin Carson. Dr. Carson is a world renown pediatric neurosurgeon. He is not a politician or political operative. Nonetheless, the speech that he delivered to a room full of the country’s political elite received dramatic acclaim including millions of views on YouTube.

In a calm and rational tone with the emperor seated two chairs to his right, Dr. Carson spoke of the dangers of moral relativism and political correctness. While the emperor speaks of throwing good money after bad in failing public school systems, he promotes his charitable foundation which builds libraries in schools that have none. He also describes the virtues of family, hard work and personal responsibility crediting all three for his resultant success. While the emperor promotes the expansion of government to ease the burdens many face in life, Dr. Carson promotes personal responsibility teaching that overcoming such obstacles makes people stronger. While the emperor promotes the dramatic growth of the welfare state through his unpopular health insurance law,  He articulates the virtues and the feasibility of free market solutions. Dr. Carson admonishes the emperor for all the debt he has accumulated and reproaches the emperor for the seeds of envy that he sows. Dr. Carson expounds on the biblical origins of the fairest system of taxation, one in which everyone pays at an equal rate.

He does not claim to have all the answers and readily admits that several of his ideas might need “tweaking.” Yet, without imposing ideological rigidity or seeking to craft solutions that protect political interest groups, Dr. Carson has lowered the mask on the carnage the emperor has wreaked over the past four years. The author of a book titled “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great” presents an optimistic and specific vision about how to restore America’s greatness. He does not seek to tear us down and divide us like the emperor, nor does he craft solutions with an eye toward being able to point fingers and ascribe blame as some political strategists do. Like a scientist and a surgeon, he seeks to solve problems and heal a nation.

Washington politicians denigrate the Tea Party movement as uncouth. Yet, it attracts millions of followers because many do not feel their voices are represented in our nation’s capital. Dr. Carson spoke to several million of us. Imagine how many more would listen if our nation’s leaders started whistling his tune.