Monday, February 22, 2010

2.5 years away...

While it is very early, the CPAC "meeting" over the past week has started talk of the 2012 presidential race already. Interestingly, Ron Paul beat out Romney in a straw poll, and Palin garnered less than 10%. But CPAC is a very strange place so I wouldn't read too much into that. At that meeting, both Gingrich and Cheney suggested that Obama would be a one-term president. Now, I don't begrudge them these thoughts, in that they are members of the opposite party so what are they supposed to say, that Obama probably will get re-elected?

One thing I've heard in liberal camps is that the Republicans don't have any decent nominees to put forward who could actually beat Obama: Romney, Palin, Huckabee, and Pawlenty, when put together, constitute what, at least 50% of the "who could get nominated" pool for the GOP. While 2012 is far away, it is getting a bit late for people to emerge as potentials -- remember, while Obama was not a household name in 2006, anyone who paid attention to the Democratic party, specifically his 2004 Convention speech, would know who Obama was.

But does it really matter who the Republicans put up? I mean, if things are going well, Obama wins. If they aren't, he loses. Now, "things going well" is obviously vague, and means different things to different people. But I can't imagine that the identity of the challenger makes much of a difference. Okay, maybe you make an exception for Palin, because she's much more celebrity than politician. But Pawlenty, Romney? They're generic white men, with no obvious-to-the-median-voter problems. I'd even put Huckabee in that category, and don't tell me his 'extremest' views makes a damn bit of difference to most voters -- he seems like a nice guy, and when you're voting for or against the incumbent, that's mostly what matters.

So, when does baseball season get here?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bye Bayh

Evan Bayh announced that he won't run for re-election, and since he is from Indiana, this represents an almost-certain loss for the Democrats. Now, I generally can't stand Bayh, because he likes to burnish his CENTRIST credentials by, um, being a vapid asshat. Of course, as much as one likes to bash Bayh, while he would extract his pound of flesh, he would eventually vote the way most Democrats vote, which is something that whomever his Republican replacement will do ~never.

But that's not my point. There's, not surprisingly, a very good correlation between the state of the economy and how well the incumbent party does. So the Dems are screwed. My only addendum is that if you read in the next little bit about how non-bad the economy might be doing come November, by then it is too late. I think there's good evidence showing that the state of the economy in the summer is actually a better predictor of voting than economic conditions on election day. Which makes Bayh's retirement even worse for the Dems. The midterms in '10 look like an oncoming bloodbath.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Poll reading

I don't know why, but I still read Newsweek even though I basically spend my time just getting pissed off at what I'm reading. Some of their columnists just make things up and have become unreadable (Samuelson, Will), the editor is a pompous ass (Meachem), their science writer gets things wrong pretty much every column where I'm in a position to know (Begley), and as a whole, they focus way too much on meta-narrative and assuming that the truth must lie somewhere between what people with a (D) or (R) are saying, with no attempt to actually discover and report facts. All politics, no policy.

Anyway, one theme of this week's issue is that America is a bunch of fickle mush-heads. Now, I happen to generally agree with this, but they way their writers get to this conclusion is wrong. For example, I've read and heard (from many places I should note, not just Newsweek) that the American citizenry doesn't want to make tough choices, that we are babies who want contradictory things. A poll with then be cited, whereby a majority wants things that are diametrically opposed. But this is not proof that any individual in America holds these opposing ideas! For example, here's a hypothetical poll asking people about the deficit and taxes and spending:

If you were to only read the "top-line" results, in bold on the bottom, you'd laugh and say ha, stupid people, they want to reduce the deficit with no tax hikes and no spending cuts! Ha ha ha, they are so dumb! But that isn't true -- there are three types of people in this "poll" each of whom holds an entirely self-consistent view of what should be done. It is just that, in aggregate, the results make no sense. I see this all the time in media reports. Guh.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stealthy Harvard

Wandered down to the floor's break-room, and speaking in the conference room to an audience of about three dozen people is Henry Louis "Skip" Gates. Huh. My guess is that's he's not talking about the latest genome assembly.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Satan has entered my sheepfold

I had two thought-blurbs bouncing around my head this morning, which were then joined to create a crazy theory that I'm posting here because, well, peer-review is a good thing.

My first thought -- prompted by Krugman's appearance on This Week, where he essentially told Roger Ailes, "your network makes shit up" -- was the phrase "facts have a well-known liberal bias." I'm not sure where I first heard this, as it sounds like an Onion headline, but I like it. Indeed, one hallmark of the more recent versions of populist conservatism, or whatever the hell you want to call the intersection of Fox News, Tea Parties, and Sarah Palin, is that "elites" with their "facts" can't be trusted. I hear these people call into radio stations a lot. There is no amount of evidence that can be marshaled to change an opinion, because there are no legitimate sources for such evidence. Indeed, several recent surveys have shown that Americans not only had no idea about what was actually in the health care bill but also had no idea how a bill actually gets passed into law. But that didn't stop them from having opinions about its politics and policy!

So I started thinking a bit more about this dichotomy I had set up: a good liberal like me is open-minded and while not slavishly loyal to authority, accepts "elitist opinions" like evolution and climate change and the incompatibility of deficit reduction and tax cuts. A nasty conservative, however, won't accept any thought that doesn't fall under the banner of "common sense" and has a very high threshold for cognitive dissonance. Somehow, this dichotomy led me back to Doug Ambrose's European History class, and the dichotomy between the Protestant Reformation (Faith Alone!) and the Catholic Counter-Reformation (Good Works needed!)

I don't want to push the parallel any further than this already-insular worldview can handle. But first, there are a helluva lot of Protestant evangelicals in the Fox/Tea/Palin nexus, while there are exactly zero on the liberal side of things. And just as Luther and Calvin didn't need no damn pope to tell them how to read the Bible, these evangelicals don't need no damn scientist to tell them about monkey-men or some crazy-fool economist to explain how government deficits stimulate demand during a recession. Faith alone is all they need to navigate the world and achieve salvation. The Catholics in this story, then, would be liberals. Works -- acts that god can see you doing to prove that you are worthy of salvation -- make a difference, and that sounds comparatively liberal to me.

P.S. the title of this post is from a letter Martin Luther wrote that I found on wikipedia.