Saturday, November 10, 2007

Richie Farmer, Orator

Richie Farmer was a famous basketball player at the University of Kentucky. That seems to have been why he was recruited to run for Agriculture Commissioner four years ago. His campaign posters still show a basketball going through a hoop, which is larger on the sign than the office he is running for.

Also, his name is farmer.

He was re-elected this week. In his victory speech, he proclaimed that he won because his message "resignated" across the Commonwealth.

He has a bright future.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Diversity is Bad in the Neighborhood, Part Two (Muslim Britain)

I noted recently Robert Putnam's finding that the more ethnically diverse a neighborhood is, the less social capital it has. He was not too happy to be reporting this.

A new study of British Muslims (by an NYU-led team reporting for a German research institute) has found that Muslims living in integrated neighborhoods had a stronger Muslim identity than Muslims living in segregated Muslim neighborhoods. The team, led by Alberto Bisin, found that Muslim religious and communal identity was stronger where Muslims lived together with non-Muslims.

Muslims have a stronger oppositional identity when faced with the daily contrast of non-Muslims. British Muslims are significantly more religious and fertile than their non-Muslim neighbors. For them, assimilation would mean losing two of the most important things in life. Muslims in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, by contrast, don't feel as threatened by British norms and are less likely to develop an oppositional identity.

The main point, I think, is not that ethnic or religious neighborhood integration is bad or good. Rather, integrated neighborhoods are less likely to have strong neighborhood institutions and identities, even if they do develop stronger ethnic institutions and identities.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Good Spouse Beats Good Cholesterol

From the Smartmarriages quote page:

A good marriage at age 50 predicted positive aging at 80. But, surprisingly, low cholesterol levels did not.

George Valliant, MD, Harvard Medical School

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Marriage Gap Doubles the Gender Gap

The gender gap is the tendency of women to favor Democrats. In the 2000 election there was a 22 point gender gap. Less noted at the time was another gap, the marriage gap. This is the tendency of married people to favor Republicans. In the 2000 election the marriage gap was 28 points -- already larger than the gender gap.

A fascinating new study by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner has found that the gender gap has declined, while the marriage gap has gone up. In fact, they project that in the 2008 election, the gender gap will be 15 points, but the marriage gap will be 35 points. The main conclusion that GQR draws is that if the Democrats can mobilize unmarried women, they will win hugely. Unmarried women are the backbone of the Democratic electorate, second only to African-Americans as a reliable bloc. In fact, since African-American voters are so much more likely to be unmarried women, there is a big overlap. Unmarried women are to the Democratic vote what white evangelicals are to the Republican vote. And, unlike African-Americans, the unmarried women bloc is as big as the white evangelical bloc, if not bigger.

The problem for Democrats in taking advantage of the huge advantage they have among unmarried women is that unmarried women have been much less likely to vote than married women. Until, GQR argue, now. Now, unmarried women are so mad at the Bush administration and the Republican Party in general that they say they are going to vote in 2008 at much higher rates than in the past. Unmarried women in general favor Democrats over Republicans by almost 50 points, and young unmarried women favor Democrats by nearly 70 points.

Unmarried women, say GQR, are the "Democrats' evangelicals." Now all the Democrats need to do is mobilize them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kentucky's Bellwether Election - Today

It is election day in Kentucky, and it appears, in these early hours, that the voters will remove the incumbent Republican governor for incompetence and ethical obtuseness.

I may have to eat these words by the end of the day, but the polls suggest I am on solid ground.

Kentucky elects its governor the year before the country elects its president. It is tempting to see this election as a bellwether of the next one. Sometimes it looks that way. Four years ago, when a Republican evangelical replaced a Democrat with a zipper problem, our race looked like a preview of the presidential race. Of course, Democrats had won for three decades before that, which did not at all presage Democratic presidential victories since Johnson.

Ernie Fletcher came in promising to "clean up the mess in Frankfort." He promptly committed exactly the same mess as his predecessors. And then denied it, on the grounds, I think, that "we are the good guys" and by definition can't do wrong. Then, when it was proven that two dozen of his guys had indeed done wrong -- led, I am sorry to say, by a former Centre College student body president -- Gov. Fletcher pardoned them all.

I thought he lost the election right there, years before it was held.

Then, when forced to admit that they had been guilty after all, he fired them, though they were still pre-emptively pardoned.

I suggested that he make a campaign pledge to pre-pardon his second administration for all their future crimes. He did not take me up on it. It appears not to have helped him anyway.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Antony Flew, Deist

There was a stir in religious circles a few years ago when Antony Flew, a famous British academic atheist, changed his mind about God. The New York Times Magazine today has an article suggesting a semi-senile Flew was led astray by religious scientists.

I read the evidence in Mark Oppenheimer's story a bit differently. As Flew tells the story, Christians who believed in reconciling faith and science befriended Flew more than two decades ago. They brought him to conferences, corresponded with him, and listened to his arguments. And Flew returned the favor, taking seriously the arguments made and the relationships that he was developing.

In the end, years before Flew's current aphasia, he publicly proclaimed several times that he was an Aristotelian deist. He was not a biblical believer, but he did accept the idea that the universe was created by a supernatural intelligence. He was not hostile to more specific scientific supports for a theistic worldview, but as a philosopher he did not claim to be current on the science behind them. Flew's religious audiences accepted that he was not a biblical believer, as they were. That he had changed his mind about atheism for intellectual reasons was the main point.

Flew's story reminds me somewhat of Norma McCorvey's. McCorvey was the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, who in the early years after the Supreme Court decision became a crusader for abortion rights. However, she found that the evangelical Christian pro-lifers were nice to her and related to her as a person, including sympathizing with the sad conditions in her life that led her to seek the famous abortion of the case. The pro-choicers with whom she worked, on the other hand, were glad to have her as a symbol, but were, she said, personally condescending and uninterested in her as a person. McCorvey was herself born again, and is now a pro-life activist.

Meanwhile, Oppenheimer quotes Richard Dawkins, a crusading atheist of our day, on Flew's changed mind. "He once was a great philosopher. It's very sad."