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Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

The One In Which I Hire the New York Times to Write for Me.

In my last post I said I had an idea about Obama’s “socialist” problem by which I mean, the view that he’s left-wing even though he’s actually centrist [also American conservatives really don’t know what “socialist” means even if it hit them in the face with a baseball bat which would then shatter because socialists can’t produce high quality goods]. <Rant off>

Anyway, David Brooks has written it for me and I’ll just hand you over to him: “Obama’s Very Good Week”.

 

And for Obama’s “black” problem, Ishmael Reed: “What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama”.

 

Enjoy.

Categories: Politics, United States

“Socialist” Obama is Big Business for conservatives

As you can see I’ve been working hard on writing newspaper-type headlines.

newsweek

via Frum Forum, the Daily Beast reports that there have been 46 anti-Obama books published since he was inaugurated 2 years ago (at this point Bush had 5 and Clinton, 11). And they’ve got some ridiculous names:

I started wondering how many Obama attack books had been published when I saw David Limbaugh’s Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of Barack Obama at a bookstore a few weeks ago—at this point the titles all blur together in a manic mad-lib, always accusing Obama of something close to war-crimes against the American people.  With the help of research assistant Nicholas Anderson, I compiled a full list of anti-Obama books available on Amazon.com. Among the choice titles:

The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and other Anti-American Extremists; Barack Obama’s Plan to Socialize America and Destroy Capitalism; Obama’s Change: Communism in America; To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine; How Barack Obama is Destroying the Military and Endangering Our Security; Obama: The Postmodern Coup—Making of a Manchurian Candidate; Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama’s Attack on Our Borders, Economy and Security; The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America; and my favorite: Whiny Little Bitch: The Excuse Filled Presidency of Barack Obama.

I think it’s ironic that it’s the growth-killing socialist who’s proving such a gold mine for conservatives authors. Also, I’ve always wondered, do they really believe the things they’re saying or do they know their peddling adulterated horse-piss. The former means they’re well-meaning idiots, while the latter means they’re just evil; whipping gullible people into irrational hate and fear while raking in money.

Categories: Politics, United States Tags: ,

President Sarah Palin

The Elephant Parade  

(Photo: (L-R) Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images; Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Steve Pope/Getty Images; Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

Brrrrrrr!

John Heilemann thinks so in an article that could be subtitled “How to get elected United States President”:

Firstly, she’ll put her hat in the ring; her ambition having won over her intelligence. Then she’ll overwhelm the Republican field [picture] first with the Tea Party’s backing:

All those guys they could try and turn it up and have the fervor, but voters are gonna read through it,” says Dowd. “It’s just not authentic to them, because they’ve been part of the Washington scene or taking part in state politics, where they cut deals and made compromises—which is part of governing but lethal in this environment.”

On this reading, the tea party and its populist brethren seem likely to emerge as the new Christian right, only more powerful—not merely exercising an effective veto over any nominee but altering the underlying dynamics of the race. “There will be two simultaneous primaries: a mainstream-conservative primary and a primary in the anti-Establishment wing of the party,” says John Weaver, McCain’s guru in 2000 and the early part of his run in 2008. “And then there’ll be a playoff down the road between the winners of the two.”

The sequencing of primary elections does its bit:

Beyond the intensity of her grassroots following, Palin would bring to the race two other significant advantages, the first being the calendar. That she would be the prohibitive favorite in Iowa, where the caucuses are dominated by Evangelical voters, is considered a given by most strategists. But, in fact, all of the first four states might provide fertile ground for Palin. “Iowa and New Hampshire both are places in which the tea party has manifested itself,” observes Dowd. “In South Carolina, [firebrand Senator] Jim DeMint has already shown that he’s a force to be reckoned with. And Nevada’s nominated Sharron Angle.”

then her unconventional, even insurgent campaigning and the media’s reaction to her every 140 characters takes its toll:

Palin’s second advantage, nearly incalculable in its scale and implications, is her ability simultaneously to drive and saturate the electronic media, new and old—the way that cable chronicles her every twitch, that with a trifling tweet she often earns 24 hours of breathless nonstop coverage. “It’ll be something that we’ve never seen before,” says John Weaver. “Obama wasn’t like that until the general election.”

How will the Establishment candidates cope with all of this? “The first thing it does is completely freaks them out,” says McKinnon. “And the hard part is, it’s going to be difficult for them to go after her, because she’s so popular [within the party]”—and also because she’s likely to be the only woman in a large field of men. “If you have somebody who can operate the way she does,” adds another strategist, “which is totally outside of political convention, where she does not engage with the free press, she does not answer questions when she speaks, her communication is done in 140-character bursts on Twitter or on a Facebook post, her ability to have the nine other people who are running afraid to disagree with her is problematic, right? It forces a guy like Pawlenty to say things that are obviously not true, like ‘Sarah Palin of course is prepared to be president!’ ”

In truth, what the Establishment candidates are likely to do is focus on their own bracket—on emerging as the Palin alternative around which the non-tea-party elements of the GOP coalesce. “If you’re a traditional candidate, you have to run a traditional campaign,” counsels Castellanos. “There will be an opportunity to seize that mantle, the Establishment, Reaganesque, visionary Republican mantle. My advice would be, don’t run in Sarah Palin’s primary. Go win your primary.”

In July (check me out), I tweeted:

Palin GOP

“I still think this is true although now, I’d add that the problem for more mainstream Republicans would be same as what is affecting the Democrats coming up to the November elections; uber-motivated right-wingers whose turnout will swamp your moderate vote. The same effect aiding the Republicans now- and which they’re cheering- will bite them in the behind going forward.

If that happens, I doubt she’ll win mainly because even though I have my criticisms about them, I don’t think Americans are stupid, nor enjoy self-harm. However, Heilemann thinks up a scenario in which New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets into the race based on his appeal to moderate Republicans (“economic competence and financial acumen”) and liberal social stances. This will occur especially if the economy doesn’t pick up soon:

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg—especially with the help of his billions—would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives—which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

Again brrrrrrrrrr.

NB: Today, Palin says she’ll run in 2012, “if there’s nobody else to do it”. Which I think means “If I don’t like any of the candidates, then I’ll run”. Or she knows that everyone will be dead then.

Electing many officials does not “The Greatest Democracy” make

I had a lecture on this literally yesterday.

Matthew Yglesias:

Via Adam Serwer, Radley Balko makes the case that elected judges lead to bad criminal justice policy:

How to reverse or ameliorate the damage already done is a debate we’ll be having for decades. But there is one change that could at least stop the bleeding: less democracy. As New York Times reporter Adam Liptak pointed out in a 2008 article, America’s soaring incarceration rate may be largely due to the fact that we have one of the most politicized criminal justice systems in the developed world. In most states, judges and prosecutors are elected, making them more susceptible to slogan-based crime policy and an electorate driven by often irrational fear. While the crime rate has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, polls consistently show that the public still thinks crime is getting worse.

I agree with that, but as I’ve said before I think there’s a much broader issue of too many elected officials in America. And I don’t think this should be understood as a call for “less democracy.” The United Kingdom is a democracy. But a resident of London votes for a borough councillor, a member of the London Assembly, a mayor of the city, a member of parliament, and a member of the European parliament. A resident of New York City votes for a city council member, a mayor, a public advocate, a city comptroller, a district attorney, a state assembly member, a state senator, a governor, a lieutenant governor, a state comptroller, a state attorney general, a member of the US house, two US Senators, and the President. Then on top of all that he votes for judges! [My emphasis].

And you have to ask yourself—is all that voting better described as “more democracy” or as “people voting in a lot of elections they’re not realistically going to know anything about”? I’m going to take what’s behind door number two. There’s no point in holding elections that just consist of ignorance punctuated by the odd burst of demagoguery.

Tom and Jerry Politics

 United States Capitol; Seat of Congress

Ezra Klein, in a very good post, looks longingly at what political scientists believe about elections; results have nothing to do with the quality of individual campaigns or specific policy proposals and all to do with “how things are going (for which the incumbent party is on the hook)”. This may perplex those who follow or have imbibed American-style electioneering- atomised candidates spending big on star pollsters, ad men and Mafiosi  political operatives to find out how best to make people vote for them- but in the UK at least, it is pretty obvious. A government remains in power until voters lose confidence in it’s ability to handle issues they care about i.e. the economy, National Health Service and crime* Which is why we have long-living governments which then fall once things eventually go bad or they “run out of ideas”. This view suggests (correctly in my opinion) that the Labour Party and Republicans had no chance of winning their last elections, they, as Obama has said in a similar context, had driven the car off the cliff and were now asking for the keys back. It also provides a reason for Obama’s declining popularity, the Democrat’s coming electoral losses and those of the UK coalition if their reforms do not adhere to the utility principle by the next election (scheduled for 5 years from now without political opportunism).

One paragraph reminded me of a thought I had some time ago; whatever members of a political party believe becomes consistent with their ideology or less benignly, any policies the party elite espouse become consistent with that ideology even though they are diametrically opposed. Example: conservative arguments against the rights of consenting same-sex couples to marry. The opposite holds for opponents.

Third is that voters don’t approach elections with strong views on policy issues. Instead, they look to the political leaders they already trust to tell them what their views should be. If President Romney had proposed ObamaCare before a mostly Republican Congress, it would’ve gotten an easy majority of Republicans — both in Congress and in the country — and almost zero Democrats. Party affiliation drives policy opinions, and not the other way around.

The quote references Mitt Romney, the Republican former governor of Massachusetts, and the recently passed US Affordable Care Act which contained an individual mandate**- everyone must, on the pain of monetary penalties, buy health insurance- as did Mitt Romney’s changes to the Massachusetts health care system. Once the Republican party decided it neither liked nor wanted ObamaCare, he then had to split the difference between Obama’s liberty-restricting governmental coercion and his “ultimate Conservative plan… [in which] people have to take responsibility for getting insurance if they can afford it or paying their own way [and not the status quo of emergency room free-riders]”. See some of his greatest hits:

You can read more and see highlights of his interview with Larry King here.

Also see conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation’s furious refutation(s) of the suggestion that many of the ideas in ObamaCare were taken from them (link within that link <Inception FTW> here). [I also read somewhere that many of the ideas Democrats championed in ObamaCare were actually put forward by Republicans during the Clinton administration’s push for HillaryCare, but they were rejected].

This is not exclusive to the US. Take for instance last week’s flap over the appointment of Labour’s Alan Milburn as an advisor to the Conservative-LibDem coalition government. This led to cries from both sides: “Collaborator!” from Labourites and “Why couldn’t Conservatives be appointed to these jobs?” from Tories. Or the coalition’s Big Society Initiative which  is similar to mutualism espoused by Labourites and Labour-friendly groups and thinkers but has been the object of scorn from Labour [I admit I did join in but it probably wasn’t funny, so no harm done].

I’ve always thought and still believe that this is one reason why the American political system is so dysfunctional and prone to non-debate “debates” in which everyone talks past each other, Godwin’s law is catalysed and the law-breaker becomes the winner of the argument! It’s impossible to come to a negotiated agreement (the aim of politics and policy making) if one side hops off in another direction once the other comes towards them. That is playing Tom and Jerry with people’s lives, and that is irresponsible and frankly, immoral.

 

*I do not include intra-party coups as those lead to changes of the head of government (Prime Minister) and not the government; the parliamentary majority.

**I use this portion of what is a highly contentious bill because it illustrates my point perfectly.

 

Update: Found this post:

If you were asked to judge a policy proposal for addressing a social issue, which would be more important to you, the content of the proposal or the party that wrote it? Most of us would answer that the specific policies would be much more important than the political party that proposed it. Most of us would be dead wrong.

Political marketers know that they have to target swing voters (undecideds, independents, etc.) with their ads and other efforts because trying to change the mind of committed party members is next to impossible. In The Neuroscience of Political Marketing, I described research by Drew Westen at Emory that showed political messages were processed primarily in an emotional, not rational, way.A study by social psychologist Geoffrey Cohen at Yale shows that cognitive dissonance plays a big role in the way people evaluate political issues, and that they will adjust their beliefs (and maybe facts) as needed to resolve that dissonance.

Cohen’s experiment was simple. He organized two groups of subjects, one composed of liberal Democrats, the other of conservative Republicans. Then, he showed them very different proposals on the topic of welfare. One policy proposal was very liberal, and involved large expenditures of tax money. The other was harshly conservative, and proposed far lower levels of assistance and expense. As you might expect, the liberal subjects preferred the free-spending plan while the conservatives liked the restrictive plan.

Here’s the bizarre twist: when the subjects were told that the plan they didn’t like had been proposed by their own party, their attitudes changed and they favored the plan they had initially opposed. Liberals thought that cracking down on welfare was a good idea, while conservatives found they could justify opening the coffers for this important social purpose. They even wrote essays explaining why the policy they now favored was appropriate.

And, as Neuromarketing readers could anticipate, the subjects were unaware of this influence. They did think that other people were influenced by party beliefs, but considered their own decision-making to be rational and not tainted by politics.

This is another example of why getting votes from opposing party members is so difficult. One’s political affiliation can trump everything, including logic and common sense.

Tom and Jerry Politics

 United States Capitol; Seat of Congress

Ezra Klein, in a very good post, looks longingly at what political scientists believe about elections; results have nothing to do with the quality of individual campaigns or specific policy proposals and all to do with “how things are going (for which the incumbent party is on the hook)”. This may perplex those who follow or have imbibed American-style electioneering- atomised candidates spending big on star pollsters, ad men and Mafiosi  political operatives to find out how best to make people vote for them- but in the UK at least, it is pretty obvious. A government remains in power until voters lose confidence in it’s ability to handle issues they care about i.e. the economy, National Health Service and crime* Which is why we have long-living governments which then fall once things eventually go bad or they “run out of ideas”. This view suggests (correctly in my opinion) that the Labour Party and Republicans had no chance of winning their last elections, they, as Obama has said in a similar context, had driven the car off the cliff and were now asking for the keys back. It also provides a reason for Obama’s declining popularity, the Democrat’s coming electoral losses and those of the UK coalition if their reforms do not adhere to the utility principle by the next election (scheduled for 5 years from now without political opportunism).

One paragraph reminded me of a thought I had some time ago; whatever members of a political party believe becomes consistent with their ideology or less benignly, any policies the party elite espouse become consistent with that ideology even though they are diametrically opposed. Example: conservative arguments against the rights of consenting same-sex couples to marry. The opposite holds for opponents.

Third is that voters don’t approach elections with strong views on policy issues. Instead, they look to the political leaders they already trust to tell them what their views should be. If President Romney had proposed ObamaCare before a mostly Republican Congress, it would’ve gotten an easy majority of Republicans — both in Congress and in the country — and almost zero Democrats. Party affiliation drives policy opinions, and not the other way around.

The quote references Mitt Romney, the Republican former governor of Massachusetts, and the recently passed US Affordable Care Act which contained an individual mandate**- everyone must, on the pain of monetary penalties, buy health insurance- as did Mitt Romney’s changes to the Massachusetts health care system. Once the Republican party decided it neither liked nor wanted ObamaCare, he then had to split the difference between Obama’s liberty-restricting governmental coercion and his “ultimate Conservative plan… [in which] people have to take responsibility for getting insurance if they can afford it or paying their own way [and not the status quo of emergency room free-riders]”. See some of his greatest hits:

You can read more and see highlights of his interview with Larry King here.

Also see conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation’s furious refutation(s) of the suggestion that many of the ideas in ObamaCare were taken from them (link within that link <Inception FTW> here). [I also read somewhere that many of the ideas Democrats championed in ObamaCare were actually put forward by Republicans during the Clinton administration’s push for HillaryCare, but they were rejected].

This is not exclusive to the US. Take for instance last week’s flap over the appointment of Labour’s Alan Milburn as an advisor to the Conservative-LibDem coalition government. This led to cries from both sides: “Collaborator!” from Labourites and “Why couldn’t Conservatives be appointed to these jobs?” from Tories. Or the coalition’s Big Society Initiative which  is similar to mutualism espoused by Labourites and Labour-friendly groups and thinkers but has been the object of scorn from Labour [I admit I did join in but it probably wasn’t funny, so no harm done].

I’ve always thought and still believe that this is one reason why the American political system is so dysfunctional and prone to non-debate “debates” in which everyone talks past each other, Godwin’s law is catalysed and the law-breaker becomes the winner of the argument! It’s impossible to come to a negotiated agreement (the aim of politics and policy making) if one side hops off in another direction once the other comes towards them. That is playing Tom and Jerry with people’s lives, and that is irresponsible and frankly, immoral.

 

*I do not include intra-party coups as those lead to changes of the head of government (Prime Minister) and not the government; the parliamentary majority.

**I use this portion of what is a highly contentious bill because it illustrates my point perfectly.

More on the Middle East Peace Process

There is a column in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedlander which discusses some of what I wrote about in my previous post. In it he writes about some reasons that the Obama administration decided to ramp up the pressure following Israel’s tactical blunder last week. One, just plain anger at the slap in the face. Second, showing the Middle East that the US is ready to be a proper negotiator:

There are other explanations for the US decision to hit back hard. One is that Obama is seizing on the Biden row to send a message to the Arab world: to show that he won’t be pushed around by Israel. This view has been given extra traction by a Foreign Policy article [SERIOUSLY COMPULSORY READING] reporting that a team of senior officers from US Central Command recently briefed the top brass at the Pentagon, declaring that Israeli intransigence was damaging US standing in the region, and that Arab leaders now deemed the US too weak to stand up to its Israeli ally.

Just yesterday, in testimony before the Senate armed services committee, General David Petraeus, the commander of Centcom, echoed that message, arguing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict posed a threat to America’s interests, that it "foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel", and that "anger over the Palestinian question" aided al-Qaida and other jihadist groups in their efforts to recruit support. Such views have long been conventional wisdom among liberal critics of Israel, but to hear such talk out loud from America’s most senior soldier in the field is breathtaking. Perhaps Obama has taken the Centcom warnings to heart and is trying to make amends.

Even military intelligence believes being seen as Israel’s unswerving, non-rebuking friend is not in America’s interests. I’m almost certain that they are not pinko communists. (Unless there is a massive conspiracy to throng the military with communists that I haven’t heard).

He also thinks that the “three demands laid down by Hillary to Bibi – the cancellation of the Ramat Shlomo construction; a confidence-building gesture towards the Palestinians; and talks on core, rather than technical, issues…” are very important. Together, but especially the third, they should send a message that the US is ready to start serious peace talks and that if Israel is ready to do that they should take this opportunity (the Palestinians should also show that they are ready to begin serious talks).

 

I heard the argument that bringing about peace with Palestine will allow Israel to build an anti-Iranian coalition with Sunni nations like Egypt and, presumably Saudi Arabia who also feel threatened by Iran. I think it sounds plausible and just adds to the evidence that a solution is better than remaining with the status quo.

By the way, I’m positively giddy that parts of my amateur analysis are shared by  others more knowledgeable.