The (Non-Crazy) Case Against Palin
August 31, 2008, 6:13 pm
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Kudos to the always-biting Oliver Kamm, who shows what a true liberal (small “l”) case against the Palin pick should look like: Resurrecting Rove

Lefties, stop studying photos of the woman’s daughter, read the link, and learn. This is how it should be done.

Why Palin Pains
August 31, 2008, 5:28 pm
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Another word on Palin. I’ve been thinking about the line of criticism that goes like: ‘This is an obvious ploy to try to win the votes of disgruntled Clinton-supporters, and it’s insulting, and it won’t work. Therefore it’s a bad choice’.

The problem is, there was approximately 0.0% chance that, at the end of the day, those disgruntled PUMA-type Clinton supporters weren’t going to vote for Obama. Right? Does anyone really believe that any significant number of those people had any realistic chance of crossing the line and voting….for McCain?

No. This was rhetoric, and one understands why they engaged in that rhetoric, but come November, they were always going to fall in line and vote for the (D). And that’s my point: in modern politics, the letter (D) trumps all. Forget about any notions of ‘gender solidarity’, or breaking glass ceilings, trailblazing….it still all boils down to (D)s vs (R)s for most people.

And it seems to me that this is a big reason the Palin choice has caused so much anxiety and consternation on the left. The bottom line is that she is an (R), therefore as with all (R)s they are duty-bound to say bad stuff about her and be against her. But this automatic, predictable stance of theirs puts the lie to a lot of lofty idealistic rhetoric they’ve been telling themselves was behind their support for Hillary Clinton. Hence the need to play up a lot of distinctions between Palin and the ‘real women’ they would support; in essence, to write Palin out of the female gender by fiat.

Boil this down and all that’s going on is that she’s an (R) and they’re (D)s. But a lot of people who participate in and follow modern politics need to nurture the illusion that it’s about something more, something loftier than raw power-politics battles of ‘us’ vs ‘them’.

Governor Palin, a strong woman who (unlike both Obama and Biden) holds an executive leadership position, but has an (R) after her name, is giving those people a bad case of cognitive dissonance.

Matthew Yglesias: Genius II, Or: Consistency
August 31, 2008, 3:23 pm
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Everyone knows that Bush was wrong for not visiting New Orleans soon enough after Katrina. He was supposed to rush there right away! That totally would’ve helped!

Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias explains why it’s bad for Bush McCain to…visit New Orleans in advance of Gustav.

Too late, or too soon. Can’t you find the sweet spot, President Bush Rethugs? The perfect time?

The More Things “Change”
August 31, 2008, 2:30 pm
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The left side of the political spectrum is tired of the same old nasty politics. Everyone knows that. Right?

They decry “Swift-Boating” (which, as far as I can tell, means: ‘coming forward and giving one’s opinion of a candidate one knew in the past’). They hate “Rovian” tactics. They want a new kind of politics. They want hope and change. This is what the Obama campaign is about.

In that spirit, just for the record, I offer up a non-exhaustive list of tactics I have seen lefties use in just the first 48 hours since the announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate:

  • Criticizing the names of Governor Palin’s children.
  • Calling her a bad mother.
  • Criticizing her fashion sense (furs, etc.)
  • Belittling her executive experience based on the number of people she has governed over (so only people with executive experience in New York, California, or Texas need apply? There’s something inferior about smaller-populated states?)
  • Saying it’s ‘insulting’ and ‘sexist’ that McCain picked her because she’s a woman, which if taken seriously implies they would have accepted no female VP pick from McCain whatsoever.
  • Spreading a nasty rumor about her 16-year-old daughter, scrutinizing the daughter’s physique in old photos in the process. (Classy, people.)


UPDATE: Another substantive point against Palin from the ‘new kind of politics’ left: DID SHE TAKE PROPER PRE-NATAL CARE??!? Two words: Class. Sy. HT: Beltway Snark

UPDATE II: Now, it seems that Palin must be sleeping with John McCain. Of course! That’s the only way women get to the top.

UPDATE III: Just for contrast, lefties, this is what a reasoned and intelligent critique of the Palin pick looks like: Resurrecting Rove by Oliver Kamm.

Almost Escherian
August 31, 2008, 12:24 am
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These seem to go hand in hand:

  • disliking President Bush
  • disliking “neocons” who supposedly want wars all the time
  • having all sorts of sinister views about secret things done (primarily plotted/spurred on by “neocons”) for oil/fossil fuels
  • defending the invasion of Georgia, a country with a key natural gas pipeline, by Russia, a country whose economy is virtually entirely based on fossil fuels and which is overtly led by former members of its secret services

Disliking President Bush, it seems, has quite powerful effects on the brain.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting triplet.

1. These two go hand in hand:

  • disliking Bush/defending Russia as per above
  • citing the US action against Serbia ten years ago as part of the case for defending Russia’s actions (which, by the way, have led to ethnic cleansing in Ossetia & Abkhazia).

2. These also seem to go hand in hand, of course:

  • disliking President Bush
  • having liked President Clinton

3. Finally, these almost always go hand in hand:

  • having liked President Clinton
  • having been totally, 100% in favor of the US action against Serbia. (After all, we had to stop ethnic cleansing!)

Fascinating. Just fascinating.

Point: McCain
August 30, 2008, 4:24 am
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The more frenzied rhetoric I read from the left today regarding how inexperienced Sarah Palin is, their digging up stats on how small Alaska is, digging up old quotes and clips, grasping at scandals, etc., etc., the more convinced I become that this choice of running-mate has them scared to the bone.

Grab some popcorn.

It’s In The Price Already
August 29, 2008, 9:18 pm
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I liked this post from Arnold Kling at Econlog about whether people need to ‘behave more responsibly’ at the dinner table (e.g. eat less meat):

To argue that you need to “behave more responsibly” is to argue that there is something wrong with prices. If externalities are present (so that carbon-intensive consumption is under-priced, for example), then you need (a) a Pigouvian tax or (b) to be able to work through the input-output table. And I don’t trust even research specialists to do (b) accurately.

This strikes me as exactly right.

In our society many people to have their own list of behaviors that (they think) people – meaning you and I – ‘should’ do (or reduce/abstain from) in order to ‘be more responsible’ in one way or another. Whether it’s use less gasoline, recycle, eat less meat, whatever. And most such people are willing, if not eager, to use social policy and government fiat to force others to adjust our behavior to their liking.

Essentially none of the people who form such opinions have actually done the necessary calculations – worked through the input-output table, as Kling puts it – to be in a position to dictate what others ‘should’ do.

Whether I’m using ‘too much’ gasoline, whether I should recycle, whether I should ‘eat local’, whether I should take into account the ‘carbon footprint’ of this or that – if these are considered to be questions that are separate from the actual price signals that are already involved in these choices, none of the people with strongly-held views on these subjects have any real idea what they’re talking about. They just haven’t done the math – and most of them couldn’t if they tried.

Which doesn’t stop anyone from letting loose the little dictators inside them, of course.

The Librarian Fantasy
August 29, 2008, 8:33 pm
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Seeing McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin put me in the mind of this classic quote from a great little movie, The Station Agent:

Joe Oramas: It’s the librarian fantasy, man. Glasses off, hair down, books flying.
Finbar McBride: She doesn’t wear glasses.
Olivia Harris: Well, buy her some, it’s worth it.

It’s worth it.

Allies When Convenient
August 29, 2008, 3:34 am
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It’s long-forgotten now, I suppose, but for a long time one of the favorite arguments against the Iraq invasion and reconstruction amongst the left side of the spectrum was that we didn’t have enough allies to be doing it. We were “going it alone”, therefore we shouldn’t invade. When we did invade, we didn’t have enough help – therefore we should leave (supposedly). In 2004 one of John Kerry’s arguments for why we should vote for him was that he was going to try to “get our allies on board” (whatever that means; how are countries that aren’t helping us our “allies”?). This of course raised the question ‘on board for what? I thought you wanted to leave?’, but nevertheless, it seemed to make sense to his supporters.

Allies were, it seemed, very important to the left. Or so it seemed.

One of our undisputed allies throughout all this time, of course, was Georgia. Georgia is one of the few countries that actually contributed troops to the Iraq endeavor to fight alongside ours. This is precisely what the left claimed to want, so, even if they were right that we didn’t have ‘enough’ other allies, surely they were happy that at least we had an ally in Georgia.


Flash forward to 2008: Russian soldiers and tanks, across the border, into Georgia. Georgian villages burned, Russia occupies Georgia, sets up checkpoints, and recognizes their breakaway regions.

Which side does the left take? Russia’s, of course. The left instinctively reacts with favor toward the Russian action, believes Russian claims, becomes irate at Georgia, and casts it as something sinister that the US has had an ally-like relationship with Georgia, as if that means we’ve been doing something wrong. We egged Russia on by being allies with Georgia! Shame on…us!

So, question: Does the left want us to have allies or don’t they?

It appears that they’ll pretend to want us to have allies if they think that will help them argue against us using military force, but if having allies could lead to us using military force, they suddenly want no part of it. This is not merely inconsistent and hypocritical, it’s not a behavior pattern that’s likely to encourage other nations to be all that enthused about being our – well – allies.

August 29, 2008, 2:19 am
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I count among my many blessings the fact that I need not watch tonight’s Democratic convention. This is because I learned the outcome long ago (hint: it’s Obama).

Same goes for the RNC.

Yglesias, Genius (an ongoing series)
August 28, 2008, 12:53 am
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According to Matthew Yglesias, these two things are simultaneously true:

1. Russia is scared of our missile defense because it undermines their nuclear deterrent.

2. Our missile defense doesn’t work.

August 27, 2008, 11:13 am
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I always saw Cracked as a lame imitation of Mad Magazine, and I recognize that it’s a comic/satirical article, but I actually found this list of what movie monsters symbolize to be pretty insightful:

The Real World Fears Behind 8 Popular Movie Monsters

I would add these:

  • The “Alien” in Alien: Pregnancy/childbirth
  • The Ring: Being a bad parent/spoiling your child
  • “Damien” of The Omen: Being cuckolded/raising a child not biologically yours (and not knowing it)

Hmm. A lot of metaphors behind horror boil down to issues with reproduction.

Imagine That, the Propaganda Was Incorrect
August 27, 2008, 12:12 am
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Everyone knows that Georgia “started” its current conflict with Russia.

Michael Totten reporting from Georgia says that everyone is wrong.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn’t start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Read the thing. The whole thing.

What’s amazing is that Russian use of lying propaganda wasn’t at all subtle or secret. It’s just that some segment of the West – especially that segment of the West that on other issues likes to consider itself enlightened and skeptical of (U.S.) government claims – chooses to believe it anyway. Funny how little has really changed.

August 26, 2008, 2:56 am
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Wish I knew how these were done. “Making of” section is (deliberately?) artsy-vaguey.

HT Mike Beversluis

Money Where Your Mouth Is
August 25, 2008, 4:47 am
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A lot of people are fond of talking up a recession. You know: they say a recession is coming (usually mixed with snarky comments that the government, or someone, is in denial about this fact), or that it is already here, or something.

I’m just saying, to a lot of people it seems pretty important to call the current economic state of affairs “a recession” and get others to agree with them.

I can only speculate as to why, but that’s not what this post is about. I just wanted to observe here that the prediction-market site InTrade has a contract about this very issue:

The US Economy will go into Recession during 2008

Current Offer is 24.8. That’s more than a 4-to-1 payoff: if you think there’s going to be a recession in ’08, you can put up $2.48, and if you’re right, you’ll win $7.52. (minus about 8 cents exit fees)

In real size, you could buy up about ~400 contracts of this thing at around a 28 level. You’d be risking $1120 to win $2880.

This is real money: Two thousand eight hundred eighty dollars right there on the table for anyone who is convinced a recession will hit in 2008, and can lock up $1120 till at most December 31. By my calc that’s more than a 3500% annualized return coming back to you in just over 4 months. This amount is not going to make anyone rich, to be sure, but would be a nice cushion. Especially if you’re totally convinced a recession is coming. Which I am told is a sure thing, by many Smarty-Pantses on the internet. Indeed, all the Smarty-Pantses think it’s obvious.

But so wait. Why aren’t those Offers being taken? Why are they still there? Why are there still people willing to put up seven dollars to win three on the notion that recession won’t hit? Are those people stupid?

Well they must be. (Because it’s obvious a recession’s coming.) So go ahead, go pick them off, you Smarty-Pantses. You know a recession’s coming, right? Almost $3000 is there on the table. Pick it up. All you have to do is pick it up. It’s easy money.

I’ll check the contract again later.

Global Warming Skeptic
August 24, 2008, 1:44 pm
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Well-done, concise, reasoned post from Jeff Id on What a Global Warming Skeptic Believes:

A global warming skeptic is someone who reading and understanding the same data as others comes to a different conclusion.

1 – First and foremost, a global warming skeptic believes in science.

2 – A global warming skeptic believes in intelligent conservation and preservation.

3 – A global warming skeptic believes the earth has likely warmed to some extent in the last 40 years.

It captures my point of view on global warming pretty much exactly. Click over and read the whole thing.

Biden: His Time?
August 24, 2008, 1:20 pm
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Meanwhile the big news is the pick of Joe Biden as Obama’s Vice-President running mate. I suppose I’d comment on this – scratch that, I suppose I’d have an opinion on this – if the job of “Vice President” were a real job that had any responsibilities of any import.

Since it is not, I fail to see why one should care either way.

Yes, yes, there are the occasional tie-breaking votes in the Senate, but let’s face it: the main job responsibilities of a Vice-Presidential nominee are:

  • look good standing next to the Presidential nominee so that the “ticket” looks as appealing to voters; don’t be much taller than him, for example – a big no-no. In this sense Obama should have just picked a woman (any woman); picking a white man at least does no harm, however.
  • have a last name that meshes well with the Presidential nominee’s last name (for signs, etc.)
  • just don’t be obviously crazy (because you’re “a heartbeat away from the Presidency”)

These are pretty low bars to overcome. Biden is fine, but he’s not great. (For example, item 2? “Obama-Biden” – too many “B” sounds there.)

Not that it matters, because bullet-points above notwithstanding, nobody bases their Presidential vote on the running mate in the first place.

Lessons Not Learned
August 24, 2008, 1:10 pm
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This is a wonderful story, in all but one respect:

A stillborn Israeli baby who was pronounced dead by doctors “came back to life” on Monday after spending hours in a hospital refrigerator.

The baby, weighing only 600 grams at birth, spent at least five hours inside one of the hospital’s refrigerated storage units, before her parents, who had taken her to be buried, began noticing some movement.

“We unwrapped her and felt she was moving. We didn’t believe it at first. Then she began holding my mother’s hand, and then we saw her open her mouth,” said 26-year-old Faiza Magdoub, the baby’s mother.

What is missing in that story is any sign of self-examination and humility on the part of the doctors and medical staff involved. Like, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t have ‘pronounced’ that living human being to be dead”, for example.

Only Reason
August 24, 2008, 12:55 pm
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Jacob Weisberg seems to have caused quite a stir with this Slate column asserting that “racism is the only reason Obama might lose”. (HT Ace, many others)

The argument is that with the economic situation, the dissatisfaction with the current governing party, etc., as well as Obama’s undoubted charisma, the fundamentals all work heavily in his favor. His primary shortfall of expected support compared to those fundamentals is among “older white voters”. Therefore, it’s racism.

While I agree with Weisberg’s critics that this column is impolitic and demonstrates the bias inherent in mainstream media attitudes, I’m going to say, nevertheless, the Weisberg has a point.

Let’s boil it down to the very specific question: would Obama (given the same fundamentals) currently have more support among the general population (including those “older white voters”) if he were a white man, given everything else the same? I think the answer is quite possibly yes.

However, this sword cuts both ways, because: if Obama were a white man, there’s no way in heck he would be the (D) nominee for President right now, in the first place. In fact, he would not have been given a prominent convention speaking slot four years ago. He would not have won his Senate seat. Obama’s rise to prominence has been inextricably tied up with his race up to this point.

Is this “racism” or is this about broader notions of image and identity? Why exactly did the progressive crowd go ga-ga for Obama, and why exactly might those “older white voters” be wary of him?

Let’s do a thought experiment: suppose Barack Obama’s name had been, instead, something like (oh I don’t know) Leroy Washington. Everything else the same, but his name is some more traditional black American name.

Question: Would the hipsters who fell so ga-ga for “Barack Obama” still have fallen in love with a politician called “Leroy Washington” to the same degree? I think quite possibly not. (On the flip side, I suspect a “Leroy Washington” would be doing better in general polling among older white voters…) I don’t think Obama is simply a “black man” here; his image is more complex than that.

Barack Obama’s appeal and meteoric rise to the national stage has not been based on substance, it has been based on image. To people who like him, his image has an undeniable appeal that fits into certain emotional slots – rings their bells in certain ways.

It’s just the inevitable fact that the flip side can also be true: there will be constituencies who aren’t so attracted to that image, or are even put off by it. Do those “older white voters” disdain Obama “because he’s black”? Or could it be “because his name sounds foreign”? Because with a childhood all over the place in different countries, they’re suspicious and wary of how ingrained can be his love for the U.S.? Because he has a wife who has said things that sound militant? Because his posters look ‘Soviet’?

I say it’s possibly: all of the above and more. To Obama’s fans, these things were features, probably. But that doesn’t mean they are features to everyone, and the problem is, when a politician’s appeal is so heavily based on image, this can backfire quickly depending on who he’s talking to.

Live by image, die by image.

The Medication Worked, Therefore We Shouldn’t Have Used It
August 23, 2008, 3:22 pm
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The McCain/(R) position on the rumored coming U.S.-Iraq agreement on troop withdrawals is, it’s good that Bush took his advice and ramped up the troop presence in the last year+ to bring about conditions on the ground where such a thing is possible.

The Obama/(D) position seems to be that, they recommended withdrawal, and this is withdrawal, therefore Bush is ‘finally’ heeding their advice (albeit late), which proves they were right all along.

Imagine this situation:  a patient is sick and on medication, but it doesn’t seem to be working.  Doctor R. says: “Let’s up the dose.”  Doctor D. says:  “Since it’s not working, let’s stop the medication altogether.”

Doctor R.’s opinion carries the day and the dosage is increased.  The patient gets better.  Doctor R. says: “Great, I think we can stop the medication now.”

Doctor D. says:  “You’re going to stop the medication?  Ha!  This proves I was right all along not to want to give this patient any medication in the first place!”

The Obama/(D) position on Iraq troop levels makes just about as much sense.


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