Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some Reality-Based Community

At a very fundamental, core level, Springston did not share our vision for a news publication with a progressive perspective. He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn’t the right fit. - Atlanta Progessive News (HT: Derb)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh Really?

"Well, there is a third option. Republicans could realize that 1) the future of conservatism depends upon restraining entitlement spending, 2) They'll never restrain entitlement spending without Democratic cover, and 3) Democrats won't give them cover unless they give some substantive ground. That would entail...." - Jonathan Chait
What if, instead, we wipe out most of the Democratic Party as we know it today, and then restrain entitlement spending with or without the support of whichever Democrats are left over? For fiscal hawks that has to be the best-case scenario.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What They Said, pt XII

The central contradiction in modern liberal politics is that Otto von Bismarck's entitlement state for cradle to grave financial security is no longer affordable. The model has reached the limit of its ability to tax private income and still allow enough economic growth to finance its transfer payments. - Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

What He Said, pt XI

1. All Medicare savings must be used to shore up Medicare. None of those savings can be used to fund new insurance subsidies or entitlements. Medicare is unsustainable, and it is going to need every dollar that we can save, and more. There is nothing to spare for a new entitlement. - Arnold Kling
Mr. Kling has four other points to carry into the room as a hypothetical Republican negotiating a health care compromise with the Democrats. But this one is enough to kill the bill all by itself: no new subsidies, no new entitlements.

What He Said, pt X

My point is that the ones throwing the temper tantrum right now are the Progressives. They think that the 2008 election gave them the right to operate like China's autocracy, and they are lashing out hysterically at those they perceive as preventing them from doing so On the one hand, the villains are a small minority in the Senate. Or maybe the villains are the incoherent majority of the people. - Arnold Kling
As the prospects for the health care bill have dimmed over the last month, the liberals have taken several new talking points as outlets for their frustration. "America is ungovernable" is one, well rebutted by Jay Cost. But there are others as well: the filibuster is bad, the Republicans are obstuctionist, the American people are idiots who watch Fox News. This part denial, part shrewd calculation to avoid consideration of one obvious possibility (getting more obvious by the day): liberalism is comprehensively bad and wrong and should be repudiated root and branch.

The latest in this trend is from a colleague of Nate Silver, who argues that the complaints against the health care bill can be boiled down to "process" in which case they can be addressed and minimized. And Mr. Schaller (and Steve DeOssie, who he cites) are correct to characterize the problems as process. Unfortunately that doesn't mean what Mr. Schaller wants it to mean.

There's a scene in Patton, IIRC, where the general is receiving an order by radio that he doesn't want to obey. So Patton pretends that the radio signal is scratchy and inaudible and does what he wants instead. Unfortunately for the other team, that maneuver won't work for the health care bill. With the results of Massachusetts special election, we know that the health care bill has been repudiated and that message has been heard. The message of the election of Senator Brown is this: don't listen to Kevin Drum, Ezra Klein, or President Obama for that matter. You have to get right with us first. Anything else is raw insubordination.

At this point there are no real good options for the Democrats but the best one is to walk away from the bill, at least until it's no longer radioactive. It can't pass at this point, and the attempt to pass it will be severely repudiated by the voters.

Monday, February 08, 2010

What He Said, pt IX

"The decision to spend $2.5 million on a silly census ad is a remarkably damaging self-inflected wound, and I'm not sure anyone in the Obama administration grasps that . . . " - Jim Geraghty
The same goes for the Tim Tebow anti-abortion ad too by the way. The ad itself was obviously tame, contrary to the fears of some ideologues. But most grassroots or church-sponsored projects are run on a shoestring, because contractors either donate their services or sell them at a cut-rate price. I have to think $2.5M in prolife activism would go pretty far if it were spent somewhere else.

Cry For Help

Nate Silver wants to give Sarah Palin some friendly advice if she wants to remain a credible figure on the national political stage.

Truth be told most of his advice is good but it's missing the point. This wasn't a mistake of ignorance. At some level Gov Palin knows that it's ridiculous to write speaking notes on the palm of your hand for a nationally significant speech. I think she thought it was homey and cute, and also emphasizes the contrast with President Obama, who can't get out of bed without a Teleprompter. To some extent it really is homey and cute, but we also get a clue that Sarah Palin's character has a big streak of Drama Queen. In fact, I suspect that's why Andrew Sullivan dislikes her so much: she reminds him of himself.

For me at least the moral of the story is pretty clear: we like Sarah Palin but we're not invested in her.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Get Off My Cloud

Of the prominent liberals in today's blogosphere, Nate Silver is one of the more levelheaded. He does an honest job of handicapping the horse race of public opinion, so he was willing to acknowledge the unpopularity of health care reform while the rest of his liberal brethren were still drinking the Kool-Aid. But like his liberal brethren, he still wants Congress to pass the bill anyway.

It's not too hard why liberal non-politicians still favor the health care bill. If you believe in the power of government to fix the big-ticket problems of the day as they do, this bill is a big step forward. The negative electoral consequences are somebody else's problem. What's a little more interesting is the line of argument he uses to persuade fence-sitting Congressmen and Senators.

Yes you may lose your seat, Silver concedes, but you will still be better off if you pass the bill. The apolitical middle may turn against you if you support the bill, but the party base is guaranteed to turn against you if you don't. Silver and the others making this argument might even be correct as far as that goes. But that's not the end of the story.

First of all, if you're a Democrat gloomy at the prospect of facing the voters in November, eg Blanche Lincoln and her 27% approval rating, there has to be a strong temptation to wonder how we got here in the first place. And the answer for that has to be fairly clear: President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the liberal blogosphere have driven the party off a cliff, and arm-twisted the rest of the party to make sure they were in the car with them. Does Sen. Lincoln really want to trust her career to the likes of Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum, or Jonathan Chait, when her excessive trust of such people is what has gotten her in the fix she's in now?

And, we're starting to see the intellectual shakiness of contemporary liberalism. The likes of Sen. Lincoln have a fairly coherent story if they flip on the health care bill now. She was for it, but didn't understand or appreciate before how much the folks back home were opposed to it, so she'll change her mind to defer to her constituents.

No, it's people like Silver, Chait, et al who can't admit to themselves the faults of the health care bill. If they acquiesce to the defeat of health care reform, their status and self-identification as liberals is called into question. And the ontological assumptions of liberalism aren't strong enough to withstand much scrutiny.

Bandwidth, pt II

There will always be a scandal of the day in Washington. For those who otherwise might have missed it (ie, people with lives), Sarah Palin recently criticized White House advisor Rahm Emanuel for characterizing some temporary adversaries as "f***ing retarded" for not seeing things his way. She was offended by that usage, "retarded" not the profanity btw, for the sake of her son Trig who has Down Syndrome. We are supposed to show more sensitivity to the disabled, and so on.

In today's National Review Online, Hadley Arkes piles on. This is ridiculous on a couple of levels. Contrary to the opinion of some people, "retarded" will never be functionally equivalent to the n-word. The n-word is obviously intended as an insult by anyone who speaks it, because the speaker could have just as easily used "black guy" or some other formulation instead. But the reality is, some people are clever and others are dim, and there is no word for stupid that can hide the difference.

But more than that, we as conservatives have limited bandwidth, through which we can communicate to America at large. In some ways, that's the most precious resource we have. Moreover, bandwidth works like an investment. If we invest wisely, we will get more of it. If we squander it, it's gone.

With that in mind, we can't afford to crowd out our essential message: we can bring the return of prosperity and limited government to America, and the other team can't. And we're going to do that by X, Y, and Z. As long as we are engaged for this purpose, the American people will give us a fair hearing. And the same holds if we are talk about other important concerns worthy of the public's attention. But we can't appear to be engaged in cheap partisan point-scoring or mindless PC enforcement for its own sake. That's the same as telling the American people to ignore us, and it's a long time out of that wilderness.

Update: what he said.

Monday, February 01, 2010

What He Said, pt VIII

....President Obama will never be successful until he accepts the assignment that history has given him. No one (anywhere) believes for one moment that he can add 30-35 million people to the health insurance rolls and not increase (sharply) the cost of health insurance. President Obama has been peddling this fable for months now and it has only served to make him look either (a) naive, or (b) utterly cynical. - James Pethokoukis

What She Said, pt VII

Who are you more likely to leave: the spouse who makes a pass at another woman, and then thinks the better of it, or the spouse who goes through with it? Maybe you'll leave them either way. But it does not follow that they are better off going through with it. I don't think it is actually true that trying to pass a bill people hate, and then thinking the better of it because it turns out the electorate hates it, is no different from trying to pass a bill people hate, finding out that they really, really hate it, and then ignoring them and pushing it through anyway. - Megan McArdle