Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is Indiana Turning Blue?

An interesting article appeared in the Indianapolis Star this morning. A poll taken by Selzer & Company, a public opinion research firm based in Des Moines, IA, breaks down the current level of approval for Bush and his administration within the Hoosier state. It has been reported in the media ad nauseam that Bush's numbers on a national level have and continue to be abysmal. But in Indiana? Despite a few anomalies over the years, Indiana has been about as dependably Red as any of the historically conservative/Republican strongholds in the country. The last presidential Democrat to carry the state was Lyndon Johnson in his landslide win over Barry Goldwater in 1964.

The Selzer poll was taken via land line telephone between November 13-16 with a total of 600 randomly selected Hoosiers. According to those polled, Bush enjoys only a 28% approval rating while 66% responded that they disapprove of how the President is handling his job. A further breakdown indicates disapproval ratings as follows: Bush's handling of the federal budget - 74% , immigration policy - 71%, the economy - 69%, the situation in Iraq - 68%.The poll revealed that if the election were held today 37% of those asked would vote Democratic to 31% who would pull the Republican lever, with the remainder as yet undecided. Another interesting tidbit revealed by this poll is that 47% of the respondents claimed that they would vote democratic if Evan Bayh shared the ticket.

The only significant number still in Bush's favor was a 48% to 46% approval rating regarding his fight against terrorism. Given the estimated 4% margin of error, the 2% approval margin is shakey at best.

Other questions were asked regarding Iraq, immigration, universal health care (with 60% support,) taxes and auto fuel efficiency. The numbers were also broken down as regards sex, age and race. Across the board excepting those war on terrorism figures, the numbers went consistently against Bush and his administration's policies.

What do these results mean? Perhaps at this juncture, not much. We are still nearly a year from the election. How Bush's approval ratings ultimately affect voting is anybody's guess. One could argue that the lower Bush's numbers go, the more difficult it will be for any Republican candidate to overcome. While that is not an automatic, it certainly seems a likely prospect.

What may make these numbers more problematic for Republicans is that, as noted, they are coming out of a traditionally conservative stronghold. If Hoosiers are this disaffected from Bush and the Republicans now, and if these numbers are found to be consistent in other traditionally hard line Red states, it could certainly be a steep, uphill battle for the GOP ticket having to slog along dragging Bush's legacy behind them.

Time may actually be on the Republican's side, though, as so much can happen between now and next November. Given the volatility primarily in the middle east, sudden, unforeseen events could make the election turn on a dime. Maybe Bush still has an ace up his sleeve. Failing that, perhaps the Republican nominee will be successful in divorcing himself from Bush. A tough job, but doable - maybe. Perhaps the Dems will falter. In-fighting for the nomination could cause disruption of a party that is all too often unfocused and chaotic. The Democratic nominee could say or do something that would be self-destructive.

Still, barring a near miracle coming out of Bush Land, the Republicans have their job cut out for them, and the Hoosier state may have little help to offer.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Something from Nothing?

I have had a number of discussions here and elsewhere concerning the existence of god. (Really? Yes, really.)

Any number of arguments have been tossed back and forth by myself and others. One of the more perplexing questions posed to me by Sweet Jazzy Cat among others is: Why is there something rather than nothing?

I've had no answer to that one. I've made a few stabs at it, to little effect. Stephen Colbert posed this question to Richard Dawkins on the Colbert Report several months ago. Dawkins had no definitive answer either. While I don't believe having an answer to this question is crucial in a determination of god's existence, it is a question that has dogged me since the first time Jazzy asked it of me.

I am currently reading Victor J. Stenger's GOD: The Failed Hypothiesis - How science shows that god does not exist. For a non-scientific fellow like myself it is a fairly difficult read. It covers a great deal of ground in debunking pretty much every argument for god's existence mainly from the scientific perspective.

While I haven't finished the book - at this writing I'm only about half way thru it - I was very happy to find a section, a sub-section actually titled - surprise, surprise! - "Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?" - the last section of a chapter titled "Cosmic Evidence."

I must admit that I had sneaked a peak ahead of my reading and found this enticing little discussion. However, I utilized great discipline in waiting to read the section until I actually read all that came before.

Now the "discussion" of this particular question is not what you'd call in depth . The section is only about a page and a half in length. But let's take a look at what Stenger has to say.

Stenger writes that this question "is often the last recourse of the theist who seeks to argue for the existence of God from physics and cosmology and finds that all his other arguments fail." Stenger goes on to quote philosopher Bede Rundle who claims that it is "philosophy's central, and most perplexing, question." Rundle's answer is "There has to be something."

First: What is the defiintion of "nothing." Does it have properties? If so, does that make it "something?" Is "nothing" a more natural state than "something?"

Stenger uses the example of snowflakes, one of the more ephemeral phenomenons in nature to illustrate that simple systems are unstable. "Nothing" is as simple as it gets. Why there is something rather than nothing is that 'nothing' is unstable. "The natural state of affairs is something rather than nothing. An empty universe requires supernatural intervention - not a full one. Only by the constant action of an agent outside the universe, such as god, could a state of nothingness be maintained. The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no god."

This is all rather cryptic to me. I must admit that I don't altogether follow it. I doubt that it will put the question to rest, but its something rather than nothing. No?


Saturday, November 03, 2007

I decided just to sit down and start writing. I have no particular ideas here. I'm just pecking away with the notion that the activity itself will bring about an inspiration. Nothing yet.

What have I been doing all this time? It's been well over a month since I posted anything. For a time I got into a series of debates over at Blog Critics Magazine. Sadly, I lost most of them. I've tried to take on some generally right wing politicos who came armed with a lot of facts and figures, poll results and such. I should have known better. I'm not a "numbers" kind of guy. I'd make a position statement - generally an opinion - then I'd get slammed by the numbers guys. I have been duly humbled. I made a few attempts to find and counter their facts and figures to some effect., but on the whole I just don't have it in me to immerse myself in demographic studies, graphs, pie charts and such. So what does that mean to me?

Well, first I should be more careful about what I say and how I say it. I need to harness my tendancy to make broad claims that I can't, in fact, back up. It won't hurt me to be more prudent about the way I go about writing the things I write. It does little good for the advancement of my positions if the only ammunition I carry into the fray is emotion or wishful thinking. I need to bring more to a debate than bullshit.

For the time being at least, I'm going to leave the political harangues to others. I don't know what that will mean with respect to what I post here. I'm still licking my wounds. I'll be more circumspect about things though.

Anyhow. Why can't we just all get along?

Read any good books lately?