Monday, March 25, 2013

Sod off, Jimmy! Sincerely, Your Wisconsin Fans

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Andrew Kohut: GOP Estranged From America

Andrew Kohut, former head of Pew Research and the Gallup Poll, had an interesting Op Ed in Friday's Washington Post of the dramatic disconnect between current Republican ideology and Americans' values as reflected in recent national polls:
In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today.

The outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the GOP what supporters of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s — radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization.
. . . .
The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably,
. . . .
Americans’ values and beliefs are more divided along partisan lines than at any time in the past 25 years. The values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than the one between men and women, young and old, or any racial or class divides.
. . . . 
For decades, my colleagues and I have examined the competing forces and coalitions within the two parties. In our most recent national assessments, we found not only that the percentage of people self-identifying as Republicans had hit historic lows but that within that smaller base, the traditional divides between pro-business economic conservatives and social conservatives had narrowed. There was less diversity of values within the GOP than at any time in the past quarter-century.
In Kohut's opinion, the shrinking number of persons self-identifying as Republicans, is a direct function of the  base constituency of the party (staunch conservatives, including Tea Party adherents) being adamant about maintaining ideological purity on such a wide range of issues including smaller government, lower tax burdens, foreign policy, immigration, abortion, same sex marriage and gun rights.  His view is that this problem for the GOP has primarily evolved from three developments:
According to our polling, three factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media.
If a Republican politician wants to avoid being written off as a RINO he or she isn't permitted to oppose the Affordable Care Act but favor same sex marriage and comprehensive immigration reform.  You could see this problem most starkly in the presidential primary campaigns of the 2012 election.  No one really stood out from the rest of the group of candidates as expressing more moderate or centrist views on any of the issues discussed other than former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman, who did abysmally with Republican voters and Newt Gingrich, on one issue, immigration reform.  The need to be ideologically pure was most dramatically underscored by the question posed in the Ames Iowa debate in August by Fox's Bret Baier, who asked all eight candidates to raise their hands if they would walk away from a deficit reduction deal that incorporated a dollar in new tax revenue for every ten dollars in spending cuts.

The vast majority of Americans have to compromise all the time in their daily lives.  The vast majority of Americans don't like control freaks.  While it is good to hold strong core values, and not change them without well thought out reasons, it isn't good to dismiss out of hand the values held by others.  The ideological purity being imposed by the current GOP base, its "small tent" approach, is going to have to change or the party will be confined to generally winning elections only where gerrymandering has successfully prevented a reasonably diverse electorate. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Francis I cancels his daily paper delivery in Buenos Aires

Pope Francis I and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meeting today at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome

The Brisbane Times (AU)and Catholic News Agency reported today that earlier this week Pope Francis personally called a newspaper kiosk near his modest apartment in Buenos Aires to cancel his longstanding order for home delivery of the morning paper.  From the Times and CNA:
Amid the pomp and ceremony of his installation as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis still found time to phone a kiosk in Buenos Aires and cancel his daily newspaper order.
At first Daniel Del Regno thought it was a prank call, perhaps made by a friend trying to pull his leg.
''Seriously, it's Jorge Bergoglio. I'm calling you from Rome,'' he said during the call last week. The Pope - the first from the Americas and the first Jesuit pontiff - asked Mr Del Regno to cancel the delivery of his newspaper to his modest apartment because he would not be returning to Argentina any time soon.

''I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn't know what to say,'' Mr Del Regno told La Nacion, an Argentine daily. ''He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.''

The kiosk owner said that he had asked the then Cardinal Bergoglio, on the eve of his departure for Rome, how he rated his chances of being chosen as the successor to Benedict XVI. ''He answered me, 'See you in 20 days. Keep delivering the paper.'
Among the “thousands of anecdotes” the elder Del Regno remembers is one involving the rubber bands that he put around the newspapers to keep them from being blown away when they were delivered to the cardinal.
“At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me. All 30 of them!”
He said he gets goose bumps whenever he thinks about Pope Francis’ simplicity.
In another development, The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis I plans to open the Easter Triduum by celebrating Holy Thursday Mass at a youth prison in Rome, rather than in St. Peter's Basilica as expected.  He will wash the feet of twelve inmates of the prison during the mass.  Rocco Palmo, the author of the Whispers in the Loggia blog, points out the significance and background of the change:
While the Popes have predominantly washed the feet of 12 retired priests of their diocese at the liturgy over recent decades, laymen and even special-needs youth have occasionally been chosen as the group for the foot-washing. However, the Mass has always taken place in a papal basilica.
 In its release, the Vatican noted that the second Holy Thursday Mass "is characterized by the announcement of the Commandment of love and the act of the washing of the feet.
Along those lines, "in his ministry as archbishop of Buenos Aires, [then-]Cardinal Bergoglio would celebrate this Mass in a jail, a hospital or a home for the poor or marginalized people," the release said (prior instances above).
Over years past, the groups among which the now-Pope led the Lord's Supper liturgy included drug addicts and HIV/AIDS patients as a way of highlighting Christ's preference for the "least" in the eyes of the world at his table.
Francis has been Pope for only four days, but already the tone of a new papacy has been set.  As we watch the evolution of this new pope, one less academic and more pragmatic, casual and populist than Benedict, keep in mind the saying that has been traditionally attributed to Saint Francis (perhaps without substance):  
"Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words."
It seems clear that Francis I wants to lead by example as well as by words.  

Jacque holding a Grudge Over Wisconsin's Delayed Spring?

Representative Andre Jacque
(R. De Pere)


                                                         Jimmy the Groundhog

The Eau Claire Leader Telegram reports that Rep. Andre Jacque (R. De Pere) wants to declare open season on Jimmy the Groundhog and his fellow woodchucks.  Jacque is closing in on the introduction of a bill that will remove woodchucks from the Wisconsin Endangered Species List and allow virtually unlimited hunting of the little rodents.

Top quotes:
Shahla Werner, director of the Sierra Club's Wisconsin chapter, said her group doesn't oppose hunting in general, but going after woodchucks doesn't seem responsible. Property owners already can kill nuisance groundhogs and she's never heard of anyone eating woodchuck.
"Why can't these trigger-happy folks shoot targets or cans like I did when I was little?" Warner wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "How are you going to explain to a second-grader in Sun Prairie why we shot Jimmy the Groundhog??"
Woodchucks are beaver-like rodents known for burrowing and devouring plants. "They're just like a lawn mower in the garden. They're ferocious herbivores," said Scott Craven, professor emeritus in the UW-Madison's Forest and Wildlife Ecology Department.
. . . .
Jimmy the Groundhog's owner, Gerald Hahn, blasted the bill. He said he hunts deer and pheasants but believes outdoorsmen already have enough targets.
"I think we've gone just kind of goofy," Hahn said. "I don't see any more groundhogs today than I did before. They do some damage, but then a lot of animals do. I know how lovable they can be. The little ones are just the cutest things in the world."
 Two questions occur to me:

1.   Did Mr. Craven mean that woodchucks are plant-eaters that are inherently ferocious, or that they are voracious eaters of plants?  I might view Jacque's proposal differently depending on the answer.  When we first moved into our neighborhood twenty-three years ago, the first neighborhood newletter we received contained a column with recipes for wild rabbits.  The rabbit problem for neighborhood gardeners may have abated a little with the introduction of coyotes in a forest preserve adjoining our neighborhood park.

2.   Should the protection of animals from gun targeting depend on their cuteness as youngsters?   Morally, it shouldn't seem so, but I could see an exception as to crows.

Delaying Marriage a Winner for College Educated Women

The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has issued a new study on the financial implications for women and men who chose to delay marriage. The Atlantic has an article about the study here.

Top Quotes:
Americans are getting married later and later. The average age of first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 (!) in 1960.
. . . . 
The average annual personal income for college-educated women in their mid-30s who married after age 30 is $50,415, compared with $32,263 for college-educated women of the same age who married before age 20--a 56 percent difference.

Ah, the inscrutable Oriental!

The New York Times today reports on an effort by a Chinese billionaire, formerly a highly-placed Communist government official, to develop a luxury golf resort on what is now a sheep farm in Grimsstadir, Iceland.  The speculation by Icelanders is that the investment is designed to give the Chinese a strategic foothold in Iceland, which will lie near the northern passage over the Arctic Circle once the Chinese and U.S. economies get finished melting the polar cap by burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates.  Making lemonade out of lemons.

Here is where Grimsstadir is located:

Grimsstadir holds the distinction of having the lowest recorded temperature in Iceland's history -37.9 degrees C, -36.22 degrees F. 

On the other hand, from mid-April to August you have enough daylight to get in four or five rounds per day if you are driven.

I guess it makes sense that once the northern passage opens up, Canadian tar sands oil can be loaded onto super-tankers and go directly to Chinese refineries!

Anyway, golf in Grimsstadir in the summer seems to make about as much sense as soccer in Denver in mid-March, where yesterday the U.S. and Costa Rica played a World Cup qualifier in a blizzard.  The U.S. won 1-0 on a Clint Dempsey goal in the 16th minute.