Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Message, pt VI

Michael Barone wrote in December of last year that Obama's electoral success was the result of a top-and-bottom coalition of the American electorate, roughly speaking the rich and destitute against the upper-middle class. He further notes that top-and-bottom coalitions tend to be unstable, and not just because there is too much divergence of interests but also because the establishment put in place by such a coalition only gets access to a very distorted picture of the reality around them.

We'll think about how this affects the Obama Administration some other time, but for now let's consider the opponents of the various Democratic health care plans circulating around. If not exactly top-and-bottom, we are definitely both ends against the middle. Mainstream conservatives want to reform and reduce the welfare state as much as is prudent. Medicare beneficiaries are want to keep the status quo. This is flying under radar a little bit now because in the media all the opponents get mushed together. But people will be figuring it out soon enough. Reihan has a piece on this today.

We need to make clear, that for the sake of the opposing the Obama bill, the old people are joining us, we're not joining them. So when people want to know what we would do, we have to be ready to tell them.

Stop The World And Melt With You

One interesting twist in the global warming debate is, for all that we've heard that the "science is indisputable", we've heard very little about the engineering. As far as I know, until the public debate over global warming, there was never any serious consideration to the idea that the earth's overall climate patterns were a plausible object for engineering to our specifications.

But of course that's exactly what most of the anti-global warming agenda is. Through cap-and-trade, Kyoto, carbon taxes, or something else, the proposition is that we have reasonably direct control over the trajectory of the climate. I have grave doubts about this, and largely for that reason I oppose cap-and-trade and all the rest.

Having said that, there is such a thing as geo-engineering, which is usually taken to describe less drastic measures to affect the climate in ways that we supposedly prefer. Most of this discussion tends to take place on the Right, like today's piece by Reihan, as an end-run around draconian controls over the economy. I have no idea whether any of it is going to work, though I hope that it does. However, I'd much prefer to see it come from the other team. If they want to stop global warming, here's their chance. The other team could actually spend their energy on something useful for a change.

Robert Novak, RIP

It's been published in many places that Robert Novak died today. RIP.

I wish very much that David Frum could have found a way to apologize for his unfortunate accusations against Novak while he was still alive.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let's You And Him Fight

As for the second question, this is where I realize that liberals often really just do not grok what libertarians are about. For them, this is a battle between people who like health care companies, and want to defend them, and people who like the government. But I don't care about the pharmaceutical companies qua pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies are interested in what is good for pharmaceutical companies. I am interest in what is good for society. - Megan McArdle

Oddly enough, I'm with the liberals on this one, at least as far as Megan characterizes the difference between liberals and libertarians. As Megan writes elsewhere, the business model of Big Pharma is contingent on the idea that somebody has to pay full retail. The way this has worked over time, that somebody turns out to be the US consumer. Other countries with various forms of collectivized medicine bully Big Pharma into selling its intellectual property cheap, and Big Pharma folds every time. That, in turn, puts substantial pressure on the American political establishment toward some kind of collectivized medicine here, and Surprise!, here we are. Those of us who might otherwise be supportive of Big Pharma shouldn't put ourselves in a situation we're defending Big Pharma's interest when it's not willing to defend itself.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Message, pt V

David Frum is following the money on the health care front. He seems to be worried that the Big Pharma's money on the airwaves is about to change the tide. I don't think so. I agree with Patrick Ruffini that in today's environment, message beats money. Money might be the deciding factor where the difference of opinion sways between the 40-yard lines on the political football field, but this particular game is going up and down the field.

This is especially interesting in the case of Big Pharma's ads in favor of health care reform. Liberals hate Big Pharma and the terms of this deal, that the liberals will not force price reductions on prescription drugs and Big Pharma will carry the political water for getting a bill through Congress, are not ones that I would trust holding up on either side.

You And Who's Army?

There's another small point worth making relating to Spengler's essay. As much as we are conditioned to think that Jews and Muslims are now and are eternally destined to be at war like Oceania and Eurasia from 1984, historically it's just hasn't been that way. There were thousands or millions of Jews who lived more or less peacefully as a minority in the Muslim Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I. In fact, Spengler points out that most Jewish Israelis today are not descended from the refugees of the Holocaust, but instead refugees from Arab lands formerly under Ottoman rule.

The radicalization of Palestinian Muslims against the Jews dates from the interwar period and was achieved largely through the efforts of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, with a substantial assist from Adolf Hitler himself. As circumstances mandate, we may have to deal with such people, but we cannot afford to legitimize them as the authentic voice of the region.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care and Porcupines, pt II

Fundamentally, however, the difference between the systems is psychological. In Britain you worry what will happen when you fall ill; many Americans worry about what will happen if you fall ill. - Alex Massie (HT:Rod Dreher)

Another way to put this is that Britons' health anxieties tend to be about the availability of treatment, whereas Americans' health anxieties are financial. And our financial anxieties over health care are going to continue (and most likely increase in intensity) until there is substantial change in our health care system. Therefore, we should all understand that the defeat of the Obama plans is a means, not at end.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Message, pt IV

It is here that I think the seeds of a Republican political recovery in 2010 are born. Republicans don't need to convince the electorate that Obama is the second coming of Karl Marx. They need merely to establish that if one has any doubt that the stimulus, or Government Motors, or health care will work out exactly as planned, the only prudent thing is to vote Republican as a hedge. - Patrick Ruffini

This is okay for the moment, where the Obama health plan is running into a firestorm of public disapproval. It may even be smart, for the sake of
bandwidth, wrt something like health care where we'll have to admit we don't have all the answers either when people start to care again. But ultimately they will, we'll have to show something concrete so we might as well get started on it now.

The Message, pt III

As a campaign manager, I'd much, much rather be running the guy with a message and no money versus the guy with money and no message. Why? Because the guy with a message will eventually find momentum, which will deliver all the money he needs when he needs it. - Patrick Ruffini

There's more at stake in the political process now than there has been in recent history. Whereas before the voters were happy to let the political establishment run on autopilot, now they want to assert more input. Therefore they're willing to take on more of the spadework themselves if their favored candidate has a message that's strong and clear.

The New Alinskyites, pt II

It's pretty amusing that after mocking community organizers during the presidential campaign, conservatives have enthusiastically adopted Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky's community organizing how-to, as a guide for mounting an effective opposition. - Ezra Klein

You heard it here first.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care and Porcupines

There's a cliche about how porcupines have sex (answer: very carefully) that's topical to the current problems with health care, especially as far as the Republicans are concerned. Even if we agree that the various iterations of the Obama health care plan ought to be defeated, Stacy McCain is wrong to criticize David Frum for looking at the bigger picture.

I'm not exactly sure if Frum is trying to say we should acquiesce to some kind of health care reform for the sake of exploding the third-rail status of the big entitlements. If he is, I don't necessarily agree with it. But, we do have to acknowledge that the cost of health care is creating substantial pressure against the status quo and that the GOP currently operates in a very limited bandwidth environment. Therefore it must conserve it's message as best as it can. In particular,

1. Health care costs are a very serious problem.
2. Just because the status quo is unsatisfactory, it does not follow that any change is an improvement.
3. So far we have no reason to be sure that any of the Democratic plans are better than the status quo.
4. The Democrats are in the majority so we have to respond on their terms.
5. As soon as the Democrats have a coherent explanation for why their plan improves the status quo, we'll consider it.
6. If the Democrats want to know how we'd attack the issue, we'll tell them.
7. So far, the Democrats haven't shown any interest in that.

I'm afraid this might already be too complicated, but on balance I don't think it is. The key is not to get distracted trying to push our own polemic.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Well...How Did I Get Here?

Spenger has a very interesting new post up at Asia Times today. I want to take it in a little bit and decide what I think about it later. I do have one immediate quibble though.

The Vatican's Middle East "foreign policy" has been soft-headed for at least a couple of decades now. But I don't think the Vatican has any nostalgia for some pre-1948 Israel-free period of Christian ascendancy in the Middle East. If anything, the Church is nostalgic for the apostolic period when these local Churches were founded.

The Vatican wants to think of the Middle East in a pre-Islamic context. Of course the Middle East was pre-Islamic in the apostolic period and thinking in this way subconsciously emphasizes that the Christian apologetic is some ways palpable and tangible. The Coptics and the Maronites and various Christian communities came into being through the historically contingent acts of real people. In an indirect way we are reminded that Jesus Christ was a real person who walked the earth and His disciples really did carry His Word among the nations.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Chicago Writ Large

David Goldman (ie, "Spengler") has a new post up wherein he argues that a GOP revival based on Obama's overreach is mostly wishful thinking. His thesis is distressingly plausible but IMO ultimately wrong. In Chicago, people who vote Democrat fall into two groups. The first are those who want to make the clout-based spoils system work for them. The other are those who want to associate themselves culturally with blue-state America.

For the purposes of extrapolation, it's this latter group which is important. For liberal urban professionals, the machine politics of the Daleys are a just a tax, not one that they're particularly happy with but a tolerable one. More than that, it's one that they can't do anything about. Even if they were willing to vote Republican, the party here runs at such a huge organizational deficit that disillusionment with the Democrats is more likely to turn to apathy than anger.

For America at large, the opposite is true. The financial burdens of welfare-state America are onerous, and getting worse under Obama. And the American people are for now still sovereign, and the expression of their sovereignty is the ability to veto the apparatchiks of government by voting Republican. Furthermore, even though it's not necessarily being expressed this way, the feeling of sovereignty being lost is growing among the voters. It's a close-run thing but I wouldn't be writing the GOP's obituary quite yet.

Ezra Klein Is Right

Those are words I'd never thought I'd write.

"Imagine Barack Obama was born in Kenya. So what?
This isn't like Bill Clinton murdering Vince Foster and running drugs through the Arkansas airport.It's not like George W. Bush having foreknowledge of 9/11. As I understand it, the argument here is that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, but that his mother said he was born in the United States and even had relatives lie to that effect. Presumably, she also told young Barack that he was born in Hawaii. The big reveal here is...what?" -
Ezra Klein