Parents teach children discipline for two different, indeed diametrically opposed, reasons: to render the child submissive to them and to make him independent of them. Only a self-disciplined person can be obedient; and only such a person can be autonomous.
The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility. With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion "I am sick" as equivalent to the assertion "I am not responsible": Smokers say they are not responsible for smoking, drinkers that they are not responsible for drinking, gamblers that they are not responsible for gambling, and mothers who murder their infants that they are not responsible for killing. To prove their point -- and to capitalize on their self-destructive and destructive behavior -- smokers, drinkers, gamblers, and insanity acquitees are suing tobacco companies, liquor companies, gambling casinos, and physicians.
Can American society survive this legal-psychiatric assault on its moral and political foundations?
Drug prohibition is unwise social policy for many reasons, most obviously because forbidden fruit tastes sweeter: that is, because one of the easiest ways for a person (especially a young person) to assert his autonomy is by defying authority (especially arbitrary and hypocritical authority).
A hundred years ago, a person could legally purchase -- in the free market -- all the pure and safe opium he wanted. Today, he can illegally purchase -- on the black market and for a large sun -- a negligible amount of impure and unsafe opiate. This is what the anticapitalist mentality combined with the therapeutic ethic have brought us.
Predictably, the War on Drugs has failed to curb the use of illegal drugs; however, it has succeeded in obliterating, in the public mind, an elementary distinction concerning self-medication. Thomas Jefferson used legal opium to preserve his life. John Belushi used illegal "drugs" to destroy his. Like any behavior, self-medication may be disciplined or undisciplined and self-destructive. Most (illegal) drug use. like most use of other things, is, of course, neither self-preservative nor self-destructive.
Voltaire is supposed to have said: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." But who will say today: "I disapprove of what drug you take, but I will defend to the death your right to take it"? [...] In a free society, it is none of the government's business what idea a man puts into his head; it should also be none of its business what drug he puts into his body.
Insanity defense: 1. Formerly, a tactic for classifying/legitimizing the defendant as the type of malefactor upon whom the state cannot (legitimately) impose a death penalty. 2. Today, a tactic for classifying/legitimizing the defendant as the type of malefactor whose management should be diverted from the criminal justice system to the mental health system. 3. One of the sacred rituals of psychiatry, often confused -- especially by the public, the press, and psychiatrists -- with the scientific search, by a lay jury, in a court of law, for the ultimate causes of human (mis)behavior.
Formerly, Americans charged with murder were considered innocent until proven guilty; now they are considered insane until proven sane.
People, especially liberals and psychiatrists, say that the two main causes of crime are mental illness and poverty. Insanity is therefore a defense in the criminal law. If we really believed that poverty caused crime, we would have a 'poverty defense' as well, attorneys calling professors of economics to testify in court whether a particular defendant is guilty of theft or not by reason of poverty.
Gastroenterologists cannot ascertain what was in another person's stomach days, weeks, or months ago; but psychiatrists can certify what was in his mind days, weeks, months, or even years ago.
[A] person who believes he should kill someone has only two choices: he must control himself and not do so, or he must kill himself. The defendant's alleged motivation for the murder -- say, the claim that God commanded him to kill -- should be irrelevant to the charge against him.
Ideologue: A person who uses ideas as incantations. True believer: A person who accepts incantations as ideas. Skeptic: A person who assumes that ideas are incantations until proven otherwise.
Mathematics is a language without metaphors. That is why it is the perfect language for covering precise meaning -- and perfectly useless for inspiring people.
Music is a language with nothing but metaphors. That is why it is the perfect tool for moving people (as in religious or martial music) -- and why it is perfectly useless for conveying any precise meaning whatever.
Religion and the jargon of the helping/hindering professions are comprised largely of literalized metaphors. That is why they are the perfect tools for legitimizing and illegitimizing ideas, behaviors, and persons.
Ordinary language combines all of these qualities. It can be used literally and precisely, to convey meaning; metaphorically or poetically, to move people; or "religiously," to blind and numb people, making them feel elevated or debased.
The Greeks distinguished between good and bad behavior, language that enhanced or diminished persons. Being intoxicated with scientism, we fail to recognize that the seemingly technical terms used to identify psychiatric illnesses and interventions are simply dyphemisms and euphemisms.
In the natural sciences, language (mathematics) is a useful tool: like the microscope or telescope, it enables us to see what is otherwise invisible. In the social sciences, language (literalized metaphor) is an impediment: like a distorting mirror, it prevents us from seeing the obvious.
That is why in the natural sciences, knowledge can be gained only with the mastery of their special languages; whereas in human affairs, knowledge can be gained only by rejecting the pretentious jargons of the social sciences.
"He who excuses himself, accuses himself," says a French proverb. In other words, the person who speaks in the language of excuses -- advancing disability, illness, mental illness, ignorance, or poverty as an excuse -- has lost half the battle for self-esteem before he has begun to fight it.
An old proverb cautions the would-be lawmaker not to prohibit what he cannot enforce. Modern American lawmakers follow the opposite rule; they are most zealous to prohibit that which they cannot enforce.
If the person who break the law is not punished, the person who obeys the law is cheated. That is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to encourage law-abiding behavior as useful and to authenticate it as virtuous.
The aim of the criminal law cannot and must not be correction; it can only be, and must be, the maintenance of the legal order.
For the mental patient's family and society, mental illness is a "problem"; for the patient himself, it is a "solution". This was Freud's only discovery. Psychoanalysts now ignore it, and psychiatrists deny it.
The search for the neuropathological correlates of mental illness is based on a fundamental misconception: namely, on viewing complex social performances as if they were simple reflex movements, like a grand mal seizure. We use terms such as 'schizophrenia', 'manic depression', and 'psychosis' to identify enduring patterns of human behavior that so-called patients exhibit and which the patients -- or, more typically, their families and psychiatrists -- find troubling and undesirable. Accordingly, psychopathological terms do not resemble neuropathological terms such as 'grand mal seizure' or 'locomotor ataxia', but instead resemble evaluative terms such as 'great statesman' or 'sadistic criminal'. Whether a person 'is' a statesman or a criminal depends partly on what he does and partly on our judgment of it as virtuous or wicked. Since the very phenomenon for which we seek a neuropathological correlate is an opinion -- like whether a particular work of art is beautiful or not -- it is prima facie absurd to look for 'its' neuropathological correlate. For what is the 'it' supposedly caused by a brain dysfunction?
Financial analyses of the behavior of the stock market stand in the same relation to the behavior of the market as psychoanalytic interpretations of individual behavior stand to the behavior of individuals. Each is a fantasy of the interpreter/expert: attractive and plausible, if it appeals to the observer and confirms what he believes to be the case; absurd and ridiculous, if it repels him and disconfirms what he believes to be the case. Neither kind of analysis possesses the power to predict -- whether the behavior of financial markets or of human beings; yet it is precisely a belief in this predictive power that makes people interested in such analyses.
If you don't listen to yourself, you won't hear what others say.
The stupid never forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.
Although his behavior may be utterly hypocritical, the man who professes unwavering belief in God and conventional wisdom is looked up to as a pillar of society; whereas the man who acts with absolute integrity but scoffs at religion and conventional wisdom is looked down on as a dangerous cynic.
Conservative: 1. An autocrat -- in the name of morality and tradition. 2. A believer in small government -- just big enough to successfully impose his own values on others.
Liberal: 1. An autocrat -- in the name of equality and social justice. 2. A believer in big government -- just big enough to ensure fairness.
Libertarian: 1. A political oxymoron. 2. A believer in a government strong enough to protect people from external and internal enemies and weak enough to not threaten the autonomy of free and responsible individuals.
Christianity was invaluable for raising man's moral sensibility and laying the foundation for individualism and freedom, but was worthless for advancing man's understanding and mastery of the physical universe (including his own body). Science is invaluable for advancing man's understanding and mastery of the universe, but is worthless for raising, or even maintaining, man's moral sensibility (or for helping him cope with novel ethical problems).
When you hear an American politician running for office say: 'I want to serve my country', remind yourself that what the man really means is: 'I want the country to be at my service.'
Most people cannot accept the human condition -- that is, the actual physical and spiritual nature of man. Man's inability to accept himself as a physical being is manifested by the denial of death and the affirmation, as a reality, of life in the hereafter. Man's inability to accept himself as a spiritual being is manifested by the denial of human diversity and depravity and the affirmation, as a reality, of the fundamental uniformity and decency of human nature (spoiled only by demons or mental diseases). Not until educated persons accepted the finiteness of their physical selves could anything resembling a science of medicine come into being. Mutatis mutandis, not until most educated people accept the spiritual diversity and potential depravity of human beings, can we begin to contemplate a civilized and peaceful ordering of society -- maximally tolerant of personal differences and scrupulously protective of individual rights.
Psychiatric expert testimony: Mendacity masquerading as medicine.
The business of psychiatry is to provide society with excuses disguised as diagnosis, and with coercions justified as treatments.
Psychoanalysis: 1. The trade name of a certain kind of conversation (just as Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken are trade names of a certain kind of soft drink and fast food). 2. The name of a body of speculations about life and human relations put forward by the originator of the trade name. 3. The only medical specialty in which one must be a patient before one can become a therapist. (Which is like requiring that a physician be a cancer patient before becoming an oncologist, or that he be a dead patient before becoming a pathologist. Although such a requirement is alien to medicine, it is familiar to religion. The strength of Christianity, Christian Science, Alchoholics Anonymous, and other religious movements rests heavily on their recruiting members from among those saved by one or another of these sects.)
Psychoanalysis is a religion disguised as a science: As Abraham received the Laws of God from Jehovah to whom he claimed to have special access, so Freud received the Laws of Psychology from the Unconscious to which he claimed to have special access.
Beware of the psychoanalyst who analyzes jokes rather than laughs at them.
Intelligence tests: Hocus-pocus used by psychologists to prove that they are smart and their clients stupid. The general acceptance of these test suggests that this claim may not be without foundation.
The psychotherapist who calls his conversations with clients 'patient-interview' and tape records them is like a traveler who calls strange places and people 'tourist attractions' and 'native' and photographs them. Each puts a technological barrier, a gadget, between himself and his own experience, thus attenuating or killing it, while at the same time telling himself that he is trying to preserve it for a more perfect future recall.
But by objectifying and recording his experience each destroys precisely that which obstensibly he tries to preserve.
People with personal problems often behave like the proverbial drunk who looks for his house key under the streetlight, not because that's where he dropped it, but because that's where the light it. Should such a person consult an autonomous psychotherapist, the therapist's job is not to try to find the key, but to suggest to the patient that he light a match or borrow a flashlight from a neighbor and go look for his key where he dropped it.
The most popular and financially successful psychotherapists in the United States today are the faith healers -- the Oral Robertses, the Jerry Falwells, Jim and Tammy Bakkers. Far more money pours into the coffers of clerical than clinical healers. Indeed, the clinician in the psychotherapy business is to the entrepreneur in the guru business as the chef in an elegant French restaurants is to the owner of a chain of fast food restaurants.
The American Constitutional doctrine of the separation of Church and State means simply that religion and government are free and independent of each other. But freedom is a burden as well as an opportunity: in this case, the burden is that religion must manage without the suppose of the government, and government without the support of religion. It is not surprising, then, that this lofty principle has been under steady attack, along with two main fronts: taxation and psychiatry. By granting tax exemption to churches, the Internal Revenue Service functions, in effect, as a Federal agency, legitimizing belief systems the government recognizes as religion, and illegitimizing, as 'cults', belief systems it does not so recognize. Mutatis mutandis, by defining membership in a religion as a manifestation of mental health and membership in a cult as a symptom of mental illness, psychiatry functions as a quasi-federal agency legitimizing what it recognizes as a religion, and illegitimizing what it does not as a cult.
One cannot be an individual, a person separate from others (family, society, and so forth), without having secrets. It is because secrets separate people that individualists treasure them and collectivists condemn them. As keeping secrets separates people, so sharing them brings them together. Gossip, confessional, psychoanalysis, each involves communicating secrets and thus establishing human relationships. Traditionally, sex has been a very private, secretive activity. Herein perhaps lies its power for uniting people in a string bond. As we make sex less secretive, we may rob it of its power to hold men and women together.
When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him.
It is fashionable nowadays to assert, in the manner of Kant, that if one person 'uses' another, the rue humanity of both is violated; and hence that, in a morally proper relationship, a person should not use another. This is idealistic humbug. People always use each other. Human relationships are good or bad, moral or immoral, depending not on whether people use each other, but on how they do so.
People can stand each other for only a limited period -- hence they protect themselves either by ceremonial distancing or by physical escape. Insular societies with limited space, such as Japan, exemplify the former; continental societies with seemingly unlimited space, such as the United States, the latter.
In Japan, social conflict is managed, as a rule, by ceremonial separation: wife is kept at a distance from husband, worker from manager, and generally, subordinate from superior, not by physical distance, but by social distancing. This requires establishing discrete existential spaces for the contestants.
In the United States, social conflict is managed, as a rule, by physical separation: the Indian is exiled to the reservation, the young man goes West, husband and wife divorce, the mentally ill are segregated. This requires establishing discrete geographical spaces for the contestants.
In science, it's dangerous to lie: it discovered, the liar is cast out of the group as a faker and fraud.
In religion, politics, and psychiatry, it's dangerous to tell the truth: if discovered, the truth-teller is cast out of the group as a heretic and a traitor.
Drug addiction, alcohol addiction, tobacco addiction, sex addiction, relationship addiction -- diseases one and all. Surely, we are in the grips of a medical fundamentalism no less bizarre or extreme that the religious fundamentalism of the Iranians. Ironically, we belittle the behavior of religious fundamentalists as irrational, when in fact they recognize their behavior for what it is: religious fundamentalism; whereas we deny that our behavior is a species of fundamentalism and insist that is is science blended with compassion.
Conservatives want to make people virtuous; liberals want to make them healthy. Both believe that using the state to accomplish their aim is legitimate. That is why both conservatives and liberals favor anti-drug laws, psychiatric coercions, and other assaults against individual freedom and responsibility couched in therapeutic terms.
Thomas Szasz The Untamed Tongue: A Dissenting Dictionary (1990)
I received the following e-mail from George Axiotakis, who goes by "The Groundhog":
Most pollsters will use random sampling to produce polls; smart analysts will look at moving poll averages and compare these to historic patterns. We can consider the first factor objective because it is quantitative. The problem is that the second factor--assessment of the data is usually too subjective.
I myself employ three variables: 1) Moving averages; (2) Comparison with other analyses, especially Sabato, Fitzgerald, Zogby and the Leip Community; (3) History and Demography. This last merits explanation. Very often, pundits will reflexively call state A "blue" or state b "red" based on historic voting patterns. These can be useful, but things do change. For example, who foresaw the reddening of West Virginia in 2000? (Karl Rove, that's who). As recently as 1988, New Hampshire was a Republican landslide state and New Jersey reliably red. Things do change. Some factors to look at include age, immigration rates and--surprise-- the two parties actual political strategies.
Let us take the three aforementioned states as examples: I have wondered: "who the hell who voted for Dukakis in 1988 voted for Bush in 2000?" Well, one answer is that there may have been older new dealers, not around in 2000. In the second instance, people do MOVE. New Hampshire has an influx of people born in other parts of New England. This can also explain the "new" swing state status of Florida, Colorado and Nevada--a chunk of progressive voters are transplants; conversely, some mountain states may attract ex-Californians who don't want to live in a multi-cultural state (a phenomenon pejoratively called "Fuhrmanization," after the ex-detective).
What do I mean by political strategies? Simple: what attracts one group may be what repels another. THIS IS ESSENTIALLY WHAT ELECTORAL POLITICS IS ABOUT. In the case of West Virginia, in 2000 the Republicans realized that there are enough cultural conservatives receptive to their message (you know, "God, guns and gays"). In WV, a big part of this was, alas, environmentalism; Gore was prtrayed as a threat to jobs. This is the strategy that took WV, Kentucky, Missouri, ArkansasAt the same time, pundits refer to Connecticut and New Jersey as blue states, and they are. But why? I would suggest that successful people in the northeast are not immune to anti-tax allergies; when given the chance, they will often vote for "moderate" Republicans. Here comes the flip side of Rove's strategy: what works in MO or WV repels people here, who are mostly pro-choice, tolerant of gays, and not hostile to science, eg.,evolution, stem cell research; A good test of this hypothesis will be the electoral reaction to the Michael J. Fox ads.
I write this to point something out to the geniuses in the Democratic Party: ROVE already knows this. That is why he is ahead of the curve. Where from here? I am beginning to agree with the hypothesis that Democratic future gains lie in the belt from Colorado to Oregon (CO, NM, AZ, NV, OR) and NOT in the upper South. (As such, for example, we should definitely be targeting Allard in Co and Smith in OR in 2008.) As this Tuesday may show, it is time to start talking to people who may actually listen us.
SENATE: DEM 51 REP 49
HOUSE: DEM 231 REP 204
So Who Is Right--Sabato or Todd?
After all the turmoil, the Democrats will take both Houses on Tuesday. In the House, Dems have 16 leads and 10 more leans: I give them 2 of the remaining 7 tossups for 231. Prof Larry Sabato (www.centerforpolitics.org) gives Dems 232; he suggests that Republican turnout will leave the remaining Dem challengers "stuck on third base" (i.e, with 48-49%). Chuck Todd of the Hotline (www.hotline.com) demurs: he suggests that the Dem majority is held under 220, or they win 235+--no in-between. He reasons that if the Democrats win the aggregate popular vote by 8-10 pts, they win virtually ALL the contested races; if they win 51%-49%, they are stopped. In other words, the Dems win all three Rep seats in Conn, or none. Myself, I just do not see Dems actually winning seats in ID, KS, NE or WY; this is where the Republican turnout effort will hold (and besides, such seats would be sitting ducks in 08). For what it's worth, I see Dems winning 2 seats in CT (Farrell and Murphy), 2 in NY, 3 in PA (no pickups in NJ). But it is an interesting debate...
In the Senate, the Democrats will hold MD and NJ, and squeak by in RI, MT and yes, Virginia (but not TN). Jim Webb will win VA (or, to put it more precisely, George Allen will lose). The cliffhanger tonight willl come in--Missouri. Neither side has generated momentum, but I believe the stem cell debate will flip this to McCaskill. If there is one Republican sleeper, it may be RI: will some Democrats inside the voting booth feel a need to "excuse" Chafee? I would like to think not.
Finally, I highly recommend Ed Fitzgerald's 11/6 essay on unfutz.blogspot.com on Republican strategy. Through the ads, robocalls, voter suppression stunts et al, let us hope that the fix ain't in--that we are not fighting a Sisyphean battle against a stacked deck. That is all.
The purpose of the survey is to determine and illustrate the collective wisdom of the people, amateurs and professionals alike, who are seriously tracking the upcoming election to project what the balance of power in the House and Senate will be.
Although I consider myself a Democrat and a liberal, and fervently hope that the Democrats will take back one or both of the houses of Congress, I've tried to assemble the survey without bias or prejudice, and I include numbers from sites run by people from across the political spectrum.
From each website I've taken the most comprehensive set of numbers offered, if possible without a "toss-up" category or other caveats. Many of them differentiate between "solid" or "strong", "slightly" or "weak", and "leaning" or "barely" states, but I've combined them all together in order to present numbers which are as comparable as possible. All errors in converting projections from their native format into the one that I use are my own.
I encourage everyone to use the links provided in each report and check each site for the specifics of that site's methodology and presentation.
(For Tradesports, I've used the criteria utilized by Wikipedia, that a "toss-up" is when no candidate has 55% of the vote as polled. For those familiar with my Electoral College Survey of 2004, this is what I called the "Geekmedia conversion" as opposed to the "Fitzgerald conversion," where 50% was the dividing line - i.e. no toss-ups.)
My convention is that the Democrats are listed first and Republicans second. Italics indicate that a site has changed its numbers, or that the site is new to the survey.
Sites which haven't updated in a while, or which have shown no signs of activity, will have their numbers temporarily removed from the list until they're freshened.
Because I began this survey so close to the election, one week is the maximum time I'll keep a "stagnant" site in the survey, but this will tighten up as we get even closer. I also reserve the right to temporarily remove a site if the circumstances surrounding the election change drastically and most other sites reflect that change but the subject site does not.
Temporarily removed sites will be restored as soon as their numbers freshen.
One-time election analysis articles from the news media (as opposed to ongoing features) will be included, but only for a week or less, unless replaced by a new article. I will only include such articles if I can translate their analyses into comparable numbers with some degree of confidence.
As always, if anyone has links for any other sites that regularly track the status of the House and Senate elections, please feel free to send them my way and I'll be glad to add them to the list. I'm also more than happy to hear from the proprietors of any of the sites surveyed here, should they have any complaints, comments, or suggestions for improvements.
"Mean" is what is colloquially called "average." All items are added up and divided by the number of items.
"Median" is the center point, the middle value in a list. There are as many values larger than the median as there are values that are smaller.
"Mode" is the number in a list which appears the most times. Because the survey includes a relatively small number of entries, the mode tends to be the most volatile and least predictive of the averages, but it's useful in determining if there's some degree of agreement among the sites.
A note on my own numbers
I don't at this time have a projection of my own, but I may add one at some point. If I do, I want to make it clear that the numbers I would publish in the survey under my own name (Ed Fitzgerald) would be the result of my own methodology and are not an "official" result of the survey (although they would probably influenced by it). Also, although I am a partisan, my numbers would certainly not be designed to influence the survey's averages. As mentioned, my interest in doing the survey has to do with determining some collective wisdom about the projected results of the election, and deliberately skewing the results would undermine that goal.
On 29 October I added an "unfutz automated" entry to the survey. This line uses average numbers (means and median only), calculates the ratio of Democratic to Republic seats, and then applies this ratio to the unassigned seats, which are then added to the previous totals. (The means and median results are averaged and rounded.)
A note on the Independents (10/25)
Many sites project Bernie Sanders in Vermont and Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, who are both running outside the two major parties, to win their races, and some of them list these two projected Independent winners separately from the Democrats. For the purposes of this survey, however, I've included them in the numbers for the Democrats, since I expect that both men will join their caucus. Sanders did so as an Independent member of Congress in the House, and Lieberman has said that he will caucus with his old party if he wins.
I'm fully aware of the concern of many people that Lieberman will not follow through with his promise, and I don't discount that possibility entirely, but I don't think it's likely. Although it's certainly possible that Lieberman could be angry enough at the Democrats to throw in with the other side, I think it's more likely that he'll use any leverage he has to get everything he wants from his old party (i.e. senority and committee chairmanship), since in most circumstances he'd probably get more from them than from the Republicans.
The one scenario in which the possibility of Lieberman defecting seems strongest to me is the one in which the Democrats hold 51 seats (counting Lieberman and Sanders) and the Republicans 49, in which case it would be worth the while of the Republicans to give Lieberman almost anything he wants to entice him to the othe side of the aisle and regain de facto control of the Senate. However, given the current situation, that outcome (51-49) seems somewhat unlikely to occur.
A note on the professionals (10/26)
One of the problems I had with the Electoral College Survey was that its usefulness for its intended purpose -- predicting the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election -- was undermined somewhat by the tendency of the professional election prognosticators (Cook, Sabato, Rothenberg and so on) to be as safe and conservative in their numbers as possible, while, at the same time, hinting at possibly more radical results in their explanatory material, so that (I assume) they could claim credit for these things if they came about. The static nature of their number projections helped give the survey stability, but when push came to shove they were unwilling to make predictions about what would happen, which meant that even just days before the election there was no clear winner projected. (Of course, the 2004 election was astonishingly close as well, which contributed to the difficulty.)
This hesitancy to make bold predictions is understandable -- after all, these are professionals who make their living as political analysts and who have a great deal to lose if they shoot for the moon and miss. Amateur projectors, however, like myself, have much less riding on the outcome (at least as far as reputation is concerned) and are therefore much more willing to take risks.
To try and correct this problem in the current survey, I've decided to, whenever possible, integrate the professional analysts descriptive material into the numbers that I report for them, I hope in as objective a manner as possible.
For example, if Charlie Cook presents numbers which say that the current state of the election in the House is that Democrats will have 207 seats, the Republcians 201 and there are 27 seats that cannot be called (207-201-27, or a 4 seat pickup for the Democrats), but also says in his written material that he expects a 20-35 seat pickup for the Democrats (or that such a pick-up wouldn't be unwarranted in the circumstances, or whatever language he choses to use), I'd adjust the numbers by adding an additional 16 seats to the Democrats and removing them from the toss-ups, for a result of 223-201-11. By using only the lowest number of the predicted range, I hope to enhance the predictive power of the survey without destabilizing it entirely.
[This post was moved over from unfutz, where it was replaced by an edited version. Below is the original text of the final updated version. -- Ed]
Before the 2004 election, I did a series of posts which surveyed the various sites which projected the results of the Electoral College. (The final full post of that series is here.) I've been contemplating doing something similar for the upcoming election, but have been put off both by the complexities of the House races (the quest for control of the Senate being conceptually similar to the Electoral College) and by the memory of the long hours of slogging work that went into those survey posts.
Nothwithstanding my reservations, I've decided to at least dip a toe in and take a look at some of the predictions that are out there. I've started with some of the sites that I included last time, and will add additional sites as I find them or they are brought to my attention.
I don't expect this survey to get quite as complicated (and time consuming) as the last one, but I've been wrong about stuff like that before.
Anyway, here's my first baby step towards a survey of projections for the balance of power in Congress after the 2006 election:
P.S. I welcome any additions, corrections, explanations or complaints that will help to improve the scope or accuracy of this survey. I'll publish relevant changes as soon as possible.
Correction: I believe I've switched the Cook Political Report numbers, they should be Dem 44 - Rep 48, with 8 toss-ups. This brings the average down to Dem 48.6 - Rep 49.2.
Update: Well, I thought I was done with this for the night, but that turned out not to be the case -- I continued to search for new sites and rediscover old ones and update the information. Since I have it, I may as well post it (with the hope that it won't be filled with errors due to my bleary-eyed state):
Update: Oops! One thing I neglected to do was include any analysis, so here's a bit o' that.
Analysis: According to the collective perception of the people who put together these projections, it looks as if the Democrats are very close to taking the House with a bare majority, but may fall one or two seats short of taking the Senate.
Continuing with some excerpts from Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, not selected to accurately represent the thrust of Dennett's book, or to establish an argument of my own -- they're simply passages that struck me as interesting as I was reading the book. (All typos are mine.)
Ideology is like halitosis -- it is what the other fellow has. -- Terry Eagleton, Ideology
A philosopher is someone who says, "We know it's possible in practice; we're trying to work out if it's possible in principle!"
Evolution is all about processes that almost never happen. Every birth in every lineage is a potential speciation event, but speciation almost never happens, not once in a million births. Mutation in DNA almost never happens -- not once in a trillion copyings -- but evolution depends on it. Take the set of infrequent accidents -- things that almost never happen -- and sort them into the happy accidents, the neutral accidents, and the fatal accidents; amplify the effects of the happy accidents -- which happens automatically when you have replication and competition -- and you get evolution.
As Richard Lewontin recently observed, "To survive, science must expose dishonesty, but every such public exposure produces cynicism about the purity and disinterestedness of the institution and provides fuel for ideological anti-rationalism. The revelation that the paradoxical Piltdown Man fossil skull was, in fact, a hoax, was a great relief to perplexed paleontologists but a cause for great exultation in Texas tabernacles." (["Dishonesty in Science." New York Review of Books, November 18] 2004, p.39)
John Searle once told me about a conversation he had with the late Michel Foucault: "Michel, you're so clear in conversation; why is your written work so obscure?" To which Foucault replied, "That's because, in order to be taken seriously by French philosophers, twenty-five percent of what you write has to be impenetrable nonsense." I have coined a term for this tactic, in honor of Foucault's candor: eumerdification.
We used to think that secrecy was perhaps the greatest enemy of democracy, and as long as there was no suppression or censorship, people could be trusted to make the informed decisions that would preserve our free society, but we have learned in recent years that the techniques of misinformation and misdirection have become so refined that, even in an open society, a cleverly directed flood of misinformation can overwhelm the truth, even though the truth is out there, uncensored, quietly available to anyone who can find it.
Dennett tackles the question of what "spirituality" is, and whether it's intrinsically linked to religious belief:
[L]et your self go. If you can approach the world's complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things. Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready to hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered, and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will be a better person. That, I propose, is the secret to spirituality, and it has nothing at all to do with believing in an immortal soul, or in anything supernatural.
While I appreciate Dennett's attempt to fend off the insulting argument that "atheists lack 'values'; they are careless, self-centered, shallow, overconfident" and incapable of understanding or achieving spirituality, he unfortunately starts to sound here a bit like a self-help book. There's nothing really wrong with what he wrote, but...
What seems like an amusing aside on leftist politics ends with a disturbing thought, related to the quote from Frank Herbert I posted (via Billmon) yesterday:
Remember Marxism? It used to be a sour sort of fun to tease Marxists about the contradictions in some of their pet ideas. The revolution of the proletariat was inevitable, good Maxists believed, but if so, why were they so eager to enlist us in their cause? If it was going to happen anyway, it was going to happen with or without our help. But of course the inevitability that Marxists believe in is one that depends on the growth of the movement and all its political action. There were Maxists working very hard to bring about the revolution, and it was comforting to them to believe that their success was guaranteed in the long run. And some of them, the only ones that were really dangerous, believed so firmly in the rightness of their cause that they believed it was permissible to lie and deceive in order to further it. They even taught this to their children, from infancy. These are the "red-diaper babies," children of hardline members of the Communist Party of America, and some of them can still be found infecting the atmosphere of political action in left-wing circles, to the extreme frustration and annoyance of honest socialists and others on the left.
Today we have a similar phenomenon brewing on the religious right: the inevitability of the End Days, or the Rapture, the coming Armageddon that will separate the blessed from the damnned in the final day of Judgment. Cults and prophets proclaiming the imminent end of the world have been with us for several millennia, and it has been another sour sort of fun to ridicule them the morning after, when they discover that their calculations were a little off. But, just as with the Marxists, there are some among them who are working hard to "hasten the inevitable," not merely anticipating the End Days with joy in their hearts, but taking political action to bring about the conditions they think are the prerequisites for that occasion. And these people are not funny at all. They are dangerous, for the same reason that red-diaper babies are dangerous: they put their allegiance to their creed ahead of their commitment to democracy, to peace, to (earthly) justice -- and to truth. If push comes to shove, some of the are prepared to lie and even to kill...
If our tribalism is ever to give way to an extended moral identity, our religious beliefs can no longer be sheltered from the tides of genuine inquiry and genuine criticism. It is time we realized that to presume knowledge where one has only pious hope is a species of evil. Wherever conviction grows in inverse proportion to its justification, we have lost the very basis of human cooperation. -- Sam Harris, The End of Faith
In order to adopt such a moderate position, however, you have to loosen your grip on the absolutes that are apparently one of the main attractions of many religious creeds. It isn't easy being moral, and it seems to be getting harder and harder these days. It used to be that most of the world's ills -- disease, famine, war -- were quite beyond the capacities of everyday people to ameliorate. There was nothing we could do about it, and since "'ought' implies 'can,'" people could ignore the catastrophes on the other side of the glove -- if they even knew about them -- with a clear conscience, since they were powerless to avert them in any way. Living by a few simple, locally applicable maxims could more or less guarantee that one lived as good a life as was possible at the time. No longer.
Thanks to technology, what almost anybody can do has been multiplied a thousandfold, and our moral understanding about what we ought to do hasn't kept pace. ... You can have a test-tube baby or take a morning-after pill to keep from having a baby; you can satisfy your sexual urges in the privacy of your room by downloading Internet pornography, and you can keep your favorite music for free instead of buying it; you can keep your money in secret offshore bank accounts and purchase stock in cigarette companies that are exploiting impoverished Third World countries; and you can lay minefields, smuggle nuclear weapons in suitcases, make nerve gas, and drop "smart bombs" with pinpoint accuracy. Also, you can arrange to have a hundred dollars a month automatically sent from your bank account to provide education for ten girls in an Islamic country who otherwise would not learn to read and write, or to benefit a hundred malnourished people, or provide medical care for AIDS sufferers in Africa. You can use the Internet to organize citizen monitoring of environmental hazards, or to check the honesty and performance of government officials -- or to spy on your neighbors. Now, what ought we to do?
Surely just about everybody has faced a moral dilemma and secretly wished, "If only somebody -- somebody I trusted -- could just tell me what to do!" Wouldn't this be morally inauthentic? Aren't we responsible for making our own moral decisions? Yes, but the virtues of "do it yourself" moral reasoning have their limits, and if you decide, after conscientious consideration, that your moral decision is to delegate further moral decisions in your life to a trusted expert, then you have made your own moral decision. You have decided to take advantage of the division of labor that civilization makes possible and get the help of expert specialists.
We applaud the wisdom of this course in all other important areas of decision-making (don't try to be your own doctor, the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, and so forth). Even in the case of political decisions, like which way to vote, the policy of delegation can be defended. ... Is the a dereliction of [one's] dut[y] as a citizen? I don't think so, but it does depend on my having good grounds for trusting [the delegate's] judgment. ... That why those who have an unquestioning faith in the correctness of the moral teachings of their religion are a problem: if they themselves haven't conscientiously considered, on their own, whether their pastors or priests or rabbis or imams are worthy of this delegated authority over their own lives, then they are in fact taking a personally immoral stand.
This is perhaps the most shocking implication of my inquiry, and I do not shrink from it, even though it may offend many who think of themselves as deeply moral. It is commonly supposed that it is entirely exemplary to adopt the moral teachings of one's own religion without question, because -- to put it simply -- it is the word of God (as interpreted, always, by the specialists to whom one has delegated authority). I am urging, on the contrary, that anybody who professes that a particular point of moral conviction is not discussable, not debatable, not negotiable, simply because it is the word of God, or because the Bible says so, or because "that is what all Muslims [Hindus, Sikhs ...] [sic] believe, and I am a Muslim [Hindu, Sikh ...]" [sic], should be seen to be making it impossible for the rest of us to take their views seriously, excusing themselves from the moral conversation, inadvertently acknowledging that their own views are not conscientiously maintained and deserve no further hearing.
I think you can see here some of what I complained about in my previous post about Dennett's book -- he's taking here a point of view which is entirely antithetical to that of almost every religious person, which makes it practically impossible for them to accept Dennett's reasoning or go with him to his point. If a religious person delegates his moral decisions to a clergyman, it's not so much because of the good judgment and capabilities of the clergyman as it is because the clergyman is seen to be in some way channeling the word of God. What Dennett's saying makes perfectly sense if you already don't believe in God, but it's utterly dismissible by anyone who does. That's hardly a way to win converts.