Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Say what?

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard on how voters decide on a president:

The main rap I've heard on Cheney is that he lacks the charisma to get elected. This is nonsense. So what if he can be characterized as Bush without the pizzazz? Cheney has what's far more important--gravitas. He's a man who's taken seriously as a national leader by everyone here and abroad. Voters aren't stupid. They know that gravitas trumps charisma in choosing a president in a foreign policy era.

That's right. That's why President Kerry, the gravitas candidate, soundly defeated one-termer George W. Bush.

Monday, March 28, 2005

To reality based conservatives

This is who you make common cause with:

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a conservative Christian activist who has become a prominent figure in the protests over Schiavo's case, said he will go to Washington to plead with congressional leaders and the Bush administration to enforce a subpoena issued March 18 by a House committee for the 41-year-old woman to appear before Congress.


Mahoney said the fact that Schiavo has survived nearly 10 days since the removal of the tube that has supplied her with nutrition and water indicates that she wants to appear before the House Government Reform Committee.

My opinion is that someone with an intact, functional brain would seriously consider death as opposed to having to respond to a congressional subpoena.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

My favorite holiday

Today is Easter, which for me has never been much except an inconvenience because I always need to remember to shop on the Saturday before, as all the shops will be closed on Sunday. And, like Jule Saltman an excuse to eat chocolate. (Although, unlike Julie, I tend to confine my chocolate eating to after Easter, when I can pick it up for thirty cents or so on the dollar.)

But in the same post, Julie extols the virtues of my all time favorite holiday, Guy Fawkes Day. What? Never heard of it?

Rembember, remember the fifth of November.

The gunpowder treason and plot.

There is no reason the gunpowder treason

Ever should be forgot.

In case you haven't spent much time in England, Julie gives a fairly good description of the festivities:

For those not familiar with it, Guy Fawkes Day is a deliciously pagan feast falling on November 5, which involves building large bonfires, burning clumsily-constructed human effigies voodoo-style atop them, toasting the carcasses of marshmallows over the embers, and then attempting to set off soggy fireworks in the British drizzle. The whole affair is in remembrance -- get this -- of a guy named Guy who in 1605 attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament because he was pissed that the new king, James I, was a Protestant. Acting on a tip-off from an unnamed source, the police arrested Guy Fawkes in the basement of the building the night of the plot, where he was found sitting next to a pile of gunpowder the size of the Lusitania, getting ready to light the blue touch-paper and retire. (Fawkes of course was only the patsy. The real culprits were a consortium of disenfranchized Catholic nobles, who were also intercepted and shortly afterwards parted company with their heads.)

For the record, the fireworks are often set off before the bonfire.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Can we stop perpetuating this myth now?

Mark Shields cites the example of Bob Casey being denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic convention as evidence that the Democratic party is hostile to pro-life voters. Except that what he says never happened. Casey was denied a slot not because he was pro-life, but becaue he refused to endorse Clinton. This is an important distinction and it is intellectually dishonest not to draw it.

This isn't to say that we don't have our own 'big tent' problems, but can't people find evidence for them that is, well, true?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Well now

Apparently the federal judge ordered to take on the Schiavo case has refused to reinsert the feeding tube.

The ones that aren't stupid...

Howard Dean, on why we lose elections to Republicans in spite of our undeniably superior positions:

One major reason his party lost the 2004 race to the "brain-dead" Republicans is that it has a "tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail," [Howard] Dean told the semi-annual meeting of Democrats Abroad, which brought about 150 members from Canada and 30 other countries to the Toronto for two days.

Conservative law professor (and contributor to the Bush campaigns to the tune of several thousand dollars) Eugene Volokh's response:

Hey, how's this for another possible major reason: Might politicians who assume their adversaries -- and tens of millions of voters -- aren't just mistaken but "brain-dead" not be very effective politicians?

He has a point there. Dean ignores the fact that many of the Republican voters are not stupid, but rather completely corrupt and utterly lacking in common decency. I'm not sure what political strategy I would advocate, if any, to appeal to them, though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Policy vs Politics

Rana at Frogs and Ravens rants about her unhappiness with the view of politics as a popularity contest. She appears to equate attempting to be popular with abandoning one's core beliefs and principles. With all due respect, I must disagree. Taking this position, it seems to me, is incorrectly conflating politics with policy.

Let me start with what to me is an obvious premise: Our (which is to say liberal) ideas are, by and large, better. And, when put to the general public and accurately represented, a majority of the people agree with the left on a majority of the issues. So why are we so completely disenfranchised?

One of the reasons is that we start with the deck stacked against us. Our electoral system is heavily biased towards small and rural states, with the result that you have 55% of the senators representing fewer than half the population. (And the wrong half, to boot, from my perspective.) But that isn't the whole story.

A greater contributing factor, IMO, is our confusion of policy with politics. Many on our side seem to think that, since our ideas our superior, we need only adequately inform the voters and the voters will naturally choose our candidates. And this might be the case if only our positions could be assured a fair representation in the marketplace of ideas. But, as the last few election cycles have demonstrated, our adversaries won't let this happen.

Knowing they will lose on the merits of their positions, the Republicans have distorted and obfuscated our positions and theirs to win electons. Then, having won, they govern as they please in a manner that is often contrary or orthogonal to the way they campaigned. Did Bush actively campaign to scrap social security? To incur ruinous deficits? To go to war in Iraq? To decimate the clean air act? To give away public lands to corporate interests for pennies on the dollar? Of course not. He either barely mentioned these things on the campaign trail or distorted his positions on the matter. And yet these things either have happened, are happening, or are on the verge of happening. How do they get away with this?

The answer, it seems to me, is that they differentiate between politics and policy. Politics is what you do to get elected and policy is what you make after you are elected. And we do a poor job of separating the two. We make our sound policy proposals our political strategy. And we trust that our opponents will allow the voters to honestly evaluate them. Since our opponents won't let us do this we end up losing. What to do?

One thing we shouldn't do is change our positions to be closer to the Republicans. But our politics are another question entirely. We could learn something from the Republicans in this area. Not that we should emulate their example of corruption and ruthlessness. (Well, maybe a little bit of their ruthlessness.) But their idea that you win elections first and then govern second, rather than the other way around...well, that is a concept that we might be well served by embracing.

This shouldn't be construed as abandoning my core beliefs. I want a progressive tax system, single payer health care, more care for the environment, and a more enlightened foreign policy (among other things) as much as Rana if not more. Where we disagree is on how to go about getting them. Rana concludes:

We need a paradigm shift, not another popularity contest

I could agree with that. But how do we get there? Absent this paradigm shift (and Rana doesn't explain how to make this happen) we are left with the hard, dirty business of winning elections. And after we win, we can try for some of the things that we want.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Well, I'll say it

Via Crooked Timber we read that researchers in the UK and Canada have come up with a promising approach for curing Type I diabetes. Does this settle the question as to whether having a single payer health care system stifles innovation? Daniel at Crooked Timber is unreasonably charitable in his reply:

The temptation is almost overpowering to speculate that the reason this particular procedure was developed outside the USA might have something to do with the fact that curing a disease with a single operation doesn’t produce a lifelong dependence on patented pharmaceuticals. But this temptation probably ought to be resisted; it’s only a single case.

Well, I don't feel the need to equivocate. There are certain aspects of providing health care that are poorly suited to a free market approach and finding cheap cures for diseases is one of them. The sooner we recognize this the better.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I hate Illinois Nazis

Apparently Matthew Hale and his lackeys are demanding an apology because someone else tried to kill Joan Lefkow before they could.

As Bill James once said, I don't know if that qualifies as chutzpa or chutzpidity.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

On the other hand...

Joe Biden better not be counting on my vote for president in 2008 after his role in pushing through that abomination of a bankruptcy bill. I would rather see 8 years of a Sam Brownback presidency than reward him for this betrayal of all that the Democratic party stands for.

I don't understand

The one bright spot for the Democrats in 2004 was Colorado, where we took a formerly Republican senate seat, a formerly Republican house seat, and both houses of the legislature. Not happy with this result, the progressive side of the party has tossed out Chris Gates, the party chair who engineered the whole thing.

They are apparently unhappy because Gates refused to put Mike Miles up against Coors in the senate race on the losing end of what would undoubtedly been a 65-35 blowout. You would think that they would enjoy being on the winning end for once, but no. They would apparently rather lose with purity.