Quotulatiousness

October 10, 2014

QotD: When bashing America is just code for bashing the Red Tribe

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

[A]lthough liberals and conservatives live in the same area, they might as well be two totally different countries or universe as far as level of interaction were concerned.

Contra the usual idea of them being marked only by voting behavior, we described them as very different tribes with totally different cultures. You can speak of “American culture” only in the same way you can speak of “Asian culture” – that is, with a lot of interior boundaries being pushed under the rug.

The outgroup of the Red Tribe is occasionally blacks and gays and Muslims, more often the Blue Tribe.

The Blue Tribe has performed some kind of very impressive act of alchemy, and transmuted all of its outgroup hatred to the Red Tribe.

[...]

Spending your entire life insulting the other tribe and talking about how terrible they are makes you look, well, tribalistic. It is definitely not high class. So when members of the Blue Tribe decide to dedicate their entire life to yelling about how terrible the Red Tribe is, they make sure that instead of saying “the Red Tribe”, they say “America”, or “white people”, or “straight white men”. That way it’s humble self-criticism. They are so interested in justice that they are willing to critique their own beloved side, much as it pains them to do so. We know they are not exaggerating, because one might exaggerate the flaws of an enemy, but that anyone would exaggerate their own flaws fails the criterion of embarrassment.

The Blue Tribe always has an excuse at hand to persecute and crush any Red Tribers unfortunate enough to fall into its light-matter-universe by defining them as all-powerful domineering oppressors. They appeal to the fact that this is definitely the way it works in the Red Tribe’s dark-matter-universe, and that’s in the same country so it has to be the same community for all intents and purposes. As a result, every Blue Tribe institution is permanently licensed to take whatever emergency measures are necessary against the Red Tribe, however disturbing they might otherwise seem.

And so how virtuous, how noble the Blue Tribe! Perfectly tolerant of all of the different groups that just so happen to be allied with them, never intolerant unless it happen to be against intolerance itself. Never stooping to engage in petty tribal conflict like that awful Red Tribe, but always nobly criticizing their own culture and striving to make it better!

Sorry. But I hope this is at least a little convincing. The weird dynamic of outgroup-philia and ingroup-phobia isn’t anything of the sort. It’s just good old-fashioned in-group-favoritism and outgroup bashing, a little more sophisticated and a little more sneaky.

Scott Alexander, “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-30.

October 9, 2014

QotD: “I can tolerate anything except intolerance”

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The result is exactly what we predicted would happen in the case of Islam. Bombard people with images of a far-off land they already hate and tell them to hate it more, and the result is ramping up the intolerance on the couple of dazed and marginalized representatives of that culture who have ended up stuck on your half of the divide. Sure enough, if industry or culture or community gets Blue enough, Red Tribe members start getting harassed, fired from their jobs (Brendan Eich being the obvious example) or otherwise shown the door.

Think of Brendan Eich as a member of a tiny religious minority surrounded by people who hate that minority. Suddenly firing him doesn’t seem very noble.

If you mix together Podunk, Texas and Mosul, Iraq, you can prove that Muslims are scary and very powerful people who are executing Christians all the time and have a great excuse for kicking the one remaining Muslim family, random people who never hurt anyone, out of town.

And if you mix together the open-source tech industry and the parallel universe where you can’t wear a FreeBSD t-shirt without risking someone trying to exorcise you, you can prove that Christians are scary and very powerful people who are persecuting everyone else all the time, and you have a great excuse for kicking one of the few people willing to affiliate with the Red Tribe, a guy who never hurt anyone, out of town.

When a friend of mine heard Eich got fired, she didn’t see anything wrong with it. “I can tolerate anything except intolerance,” she said.

“Intolerance” is starting to look like another one of those words like “white” and “American”.

“I can tolerate anything except the outgroup.” Doesn’t sound quite so noble now, does it?

Scott Alexander, “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-30.

October 8, 2014

QotD: Blue Tribe and Red Tribe media encoding

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Imagine hearing that a liberal talk show host and comedian was so enraged by the actions of ISIS that he’d recorded and posted a video in which he shouts at them for ten minutes, cursing the “fanatical terrorists” and calling them “utter savages” with “savage values”.

If I heard that, I’d be kind of surprised. It doesn’t fit my model of what liberal talk show hosts do.

But the story I’m actually referring to is liberal talk show host / comedian Russell Brand making that same rant against Fox News for supporting war against the Islamic State, adding at the end that “Fox is worse than ISIS”.

That fits my model perfectly. You wouldn’t celebrate Osama’s death, only Thatcher’s. And you wouldn’t call ISIS savages, only Fox News. Fox is the outgroup, ISIS is just some random people off in a desert. You hate the outgroup, you don’t hate random desert people.

I would go further. Not only does Brand not feel much like hating ISIS, he has a strong incentive not to. That incentive is: the Red Tribe is known to hate ISIS loudly and conspicuously. Hating ISIS would signal Red Tribe membership, would be the equivalent of going into Crips territory with a big Bloods gang sign tattooed on your shoulder.

[...]

In a way, Russell Brand would have been braver taking a stand against ISIS than against Fox. If he attacked ISIS, his viewers would just be a little confused and uncomfortable. Whereas every moment he’s attacking Fox his viewers are like “HA HA! YEAH! GET ‘EM! SHOW THOSE IGNORANT BIGOTS IN THE outgroup WHO’S BOSS!”

Scott Alexander, “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-30.

October 7, 2014

QotD: The Blue Tribe’s reaction to two famous deaths

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten to a blog post was when I wrote about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve written all sorts of stuff about race and gender and politics and whatever, but that was the worst.

I didn’t come out and say I was happy he was dead. But some people interpreted it that way, and there followed a bunch of comments and emails and Facebook messages about how could I possibly be happy about the death of another human being, even if he was a bad person? Everyone, even Osama, is a human being, and we should never rejoice in the death of a fellow man. One commenter came out and said:

    I’m surprised at your reaction. As far as people I casually stalk on the internet (ie, LJ and Facebook), you are the first out of the “intelligent, reasoned and thoughtful” group to be uncomplicatedly happy about this development and not to be, say, disgusted at the reactions of the other 90% or so.

This commenter was right. Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us.

And I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in”. From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”

I gently pointed this out at the time, and mostly got a bunch of “yeah, so what?”, combined with links to an article claiming that “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous”.

And that was when something clicked for me.

You can talk all you want about Islamophobia, but my friend’s “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful people” – her name for the Blue Tribe – can’t get together enough energy to really hate Osama, let alone Muslims in general. We understand that what he did was bad, but it didn’t anger us personally. When he died, we were able to very rationally apply our better nature and our Far Mode beliefs about how it’s never right to be happy about anyone else’s death.

On the other hand, that same group absolutely loathed Thatcher. Most of us (though not all) can agree, if the question is posed explicitly, that Osama was a worse person than Thatcher. But in terms of actual gut feeling? Osama provokes a snap judgment of “flawed human being”, Thatcher a snap judgment of “scum”.

[...]

And my hypothesis, stated plainly, is that if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.

Scott Alexander, “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-30.

October 6, 2014

QotD: The political tribes of America

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

I think these “tribes” will turn out to be even stronger categories than politics. Harvard might skew 80-20 in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans, 90-10 in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, but maybe 99-1 in terms of Blues vs. Reds.

Scott Alexander, “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-30.

September 30, 2014

Implementing libertarian principles in practical politics

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

P.J. O’Rourke talks to Senator Rand Paul:

The Senator smiled and shrugged. “I never really felt like it was a problem explaining libertarian principles in practical politics. Republicans are champions of economic liberty. Democrats are champions of personal liberty. Bring the two back together.”

The Senator said, “The problem is mostly how people characterize libertarianism. But that’s changing. Libertarian has gone from being something scary to something people like as a label for themselves.”

He said, “There are different ways to get where we want to go.” And gave an example of going nowhere. “Nothing good has come out of the war on drugs.”

“What’s a different way?” I asked.

“I like the unenumerated powers.”

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. The Tenth Right in the Bill of Rights keeps us from having just nine rights.

“In The Federalist Papers,” I said, “Hamilton argued against the Bill of Rights on the grounds that government even mentioning rights like free speech implied government had some power over those rights.”

“But it’s a good thing we did write them down,” the Senator said, “otherwise we’d have nothing left.”

Senator Paul asked, not quite rhetorically, “Is this the ‘Libertarian Moment’? If so, it probably won’t come from a third party. Probably it will come from within a party.”

“From within the Democratic Party?” He didn’t seem to think it was inconceivable. “In New Hampshire,” he said, “even Democrats are against state income and sales taxes.”

But he didn’t seem to think it was likely either. “Republicans are an ideological coalition,” he said. “Democrats are a coalition of ideologies. The only thing Democrats agree on is income redistribution.”

Sen. Paul said, “Republicans have tradition on their side. It’s the American revolution versus the French Revolution.”

This was a switch – a flip-flop if you will – from Thomas Paine’s radical liberty de facto to Edmund Burke’s traditional liberty de jure. But I don’t fault the Senator. No friend of liberty can avoid the tumble back and forth between Burke and Paine.

“Tradition is a good thing,” the Senator said. “Ninety percent of Americans don’t break the law, not because there’s a law against it, but because they have a tradition of conscience. Republicans are traditional. But tradition can be boring. Libertarianism spices things up. Republicans have to either adapt, evolve, or die. They either have to water [down] their message — or extend liberty.”

August 22, 2014

Broad, bipartisan support for … conspiracy theories?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:04

In the Washington Post, Alfred Moore, Joseph Parent and Joseph Uscinski show that it’s not just fringe activists on either side of the divide that indulge in conspiracy theorizing: it really is just as common on the left as it is on the right.

Krugman makes a fair point: in moderation conspiracy theories may show healthy skepticism, but in excess they can erode the trust needed for states to fulfill their basic functions and warp the respect for evidence necessary for sound decision making.

Yet Krugman is mostly wrong that nuttiness is found mainly among conservatives, and his misperception actually reveals a great deal about U.S. politics. People of all political persuasions believe their views are objectively right and others hold positions that are arbitrary and asinine. Daniel Kahan finds that partisan commitments make people look for evidence to justify their conclusions. Even when, say, liberals come up with a correct answer, it may not have been because of their high esteem for evidence. They just got lucky. The implication is that people use data like drunks use lampposts: more for support than illumination. Columnist Ezra Klein concurs with Kahan, although he points out the large numbers of Republicans who refuse to accept climate science and wonders whether there is a liberal equivalent to climate change denial.

[...]

In our survey, we also measured respondents’ underlying propensity to believe in conspiracy theories — that is, the general mindset that leads people to accept or reject conspiracy theories. We asked respondents whether they agreed with four statements:

  • “Much of our lives are being controlled by plots hatched in secret places,”
  • “Even though we live in a democracy, a few people will always run things anyway,”
  • “The people who really ‘run’ the country are not known to the voters.”
  • “Big events like wars, the current recession, and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people who are working in secret against the rest of us.”

We combined these questions into one summary measure. This graph shows the percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and independents that showed a strong or medium disposition towards thinking conspiratorially.
Conspiracy theories on the left and the right
The upshot: near symmetry between left and right.

If Republicans and Democrats are equally prone to believing in conspiracy theories, where then is the liberal equivalent of climate change denial? An obvious possibility is the belief that Big Oil conspires to marginalize unfavorable findings or block alternative energies. Our survey, for example, shows that 52 percent of Democrats believe corporations are conspiring against us.

August 9, 2014

QotD: What is it that keeps democracies democratic?

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

This is the only thing that keeps either party within a mile of good behavior — the understanding that if you deceive the public, or act with gross incompetence, that behavior is going to be politicized and used against you.

Consider the example of the various one-party cities in this nation.

Can there be any doubt that “politicization” of one’s errors or actual violations is, while annoying for the party who has erred, the only thing that restrains a party from wholesale violations of the public trust?

Besides the obvious salutary public policy effects, there is of course a more tangible reason why records should be retained and, when subpoenaed by Congress, disclosed to that body:

Because it’s the law.

And adherence to the Law is the only thing that keeps a society of feuding political parties from degenerating into a third-world system of coups and counter-coups.

If the party I oppose shows perfect contempt for following the law when it sees a political advantage in doing so, why should I not support the selfsame law-breaking when the party I support decides it might find some advantage in doing so?

The government’s basis for rule over the citizens is based on two things:

1. Sheer naked coercive power.

And:

2. Moral authority, and the notion that, while a citizen might not like the particular government serving at any particular time, that citizen values something more eternal than the temporary political circumstances of a four year period of time.

Namely, the idea that it is best for everyone to follow the law, because it’s more important to support a stable government without turmoil and violence than to violate the law to win on any immediate, ephemeral political point.

Note that it is far better for any society that the government’s power rests more on the second pillar than on the first. Because so long as that pillar, of moral authority, of general fairness, of a general sense that the longterm interests of America are better served by adherence to government than to rebellion against it, the government will rarely, if ever, have to resort to the ultimate pillar of authority, which is physical, violent coercion.

Ace, “Sure Why Not: HHS Emails Sought by Congress To Determine Why Healthcare.gov Was Such a Catastrophe Are, Get This, Missing”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2014-08-08.

July 23, 2014

The partisan reasons for institutionalized crony capitalism

Filed under: Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:38

There’s capitalism and there’s crony capitalism: they share a name, but they’re very different creatures. Crony capitalism thrives when government controls a large share of the economy, because then the politicians and bureaucrats have more goodies to share with their “capitalist” cronies. The bigger the slice of the pie controlled by political leaders and unelected regulators, the better the situation for the favoured companies — and that usually means the biggest of the big corporations. In the US government, one of the best examples of institutionalized crony capitalism is the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im): it exists to allow big corporations like Boeing to sell their products to foreign buyers at highly favourable interest rates, with the taxpayer picking up the risks and the American corporation creaming off the excess profits.

This system works so well — for the businesses being subsidized and the politicians who control the process — that it’s difficult to see it being stopped any time soon. Ex-Im’s enabling legislation is due to be re-authorized later this summer, so this is one of those brief chances to stop it. The problem is that it isn’t just Republicans who support it (because “what’s good for General Motors Boeing is good for America”), but also Democrats … sometimes the very same Democrats who make a lot of speeches about the evils of Wall Street. Jonah Goldberg explains why:

The Left’s anti-big-business populism is very different. It doesn’t want to cut the government’s incestuous relationship with big business; it simply wants to bring business to heel. Big business should do what Washington tells it to do, and when it does, it will get treats. When it doesn’t, it will get the newspaper to the nose. But big business will never be let off its leash, if the Left has its way.

“[Senator Elizabeth] Warren doesn’t have a problem with big banks or corporations,” the Federalist’s David Harsanyi writes. “She has a problem with banks and corporations that make profits in ways that she finds morally intolerable. She is an opponent of dynamism, not cronyism.”

This has always been the central idea behind progressive economics. Bureaucrats and other planners need — or at least want — ever more power to decide how economic resources are arranged and allocated. That doesn’t mean they’re socialists, it just means that corporations need to follow their lead. Indeed, good “corporate citizenship” means acquiescing to the priorities of progressive state planners and whatever their latest idea of “public–private partnerships” might be. The one constant in such partnerships is that business is always the junior partner.

This was the vision behind Woodrow Wilson’s “war socialism,” FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, Bill Clinton’s “Third Way,” and virtually all of Barack Obama’s economic policies. What is Obamacare but an attempt to turn the entire health-care industry into Washington’s well-fed lapdog?

What’s amazing is that people are still capable of shock when it turns out that a policy of treating businesses like dependent lapdogs yields businesses that try to have the government’s lap all to themselves.

June 26, 2014

“Voxsplaining”, epistemic closure, and intellectual stagnation

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:37

Shikha Dalmia linked to this piece by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry which talks about the problem (on both the right and the left) of shutting out unwelcome facts to support a political worldview:

Several long winters ago, when President Obama was thunderously elected amid Messianic fervor, and much of the right was in the throes of apoplectic confusion, some liberal writers warned of a phenomenon among right-wing intellectuals, which they called “epistemic closure.” The charge was that conservative thinkers had lost the ability to process the idea that the world of 2008 was not the world of the Reagan Era, and more generally to consider new ideas or, really, reality. The word “derp” entered our lexicon to mock forehead-slappingly stupid statements, defined by the liberal blogger Noah Smith as “the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors.”

Liberal writers overstated the phenomenon at the time, and there was always a bit of shadow-boxing and concern-trolling there. But they did have a point. [...]

Meanwhile, two things are particularly striking about the current Democratic agenda. The first is that it’s so tired. Raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on high earners, tightening environmental regulation — these are all ideas from the ’60s. The second is that nobody on the left seems to be aware of it.

One of the most striking examples of this epistemic closure among liberal writers are their forays into “explanatory journalism.” The idea that many people might like clear, smart explanations of what’s going on in the news certainly has merit. But the tricky thing with “explaining” the news is that in order to do so fairly, you have to be able to do the mental exercise of detaching your ideological priors from just factually explaining what is going on. Of course, as non-liberal readers of the press have long been well aware, this has always been a problem for most journalists. And yet, the most prominent “explanatory journalism” venture has been strikingly bad at actually explaining things in a non-biased way.

I am, of course, talking about Vox, the hot new venture of liberal wonkblogger extraordinaire Ezra Klein. It was already a bad sign that his starting lineup was mostly made up of ideological liberals. And a couple months in, it’s clear that much of what passes for “explanation” on Vox is really partisan commentary in question-and-answer disguise.

And the troubling thing is, I don’t think the people at Vox are even aware that that’s what they’re doing.

Many of the “Voxsplainers” don’t seem to be able to pass Bryan Caplan’s Ideological Turing Test — being able to correctly state the opposing position well enough that an impartial reader would not know the writer’s own position. If you can’t do that, you’re not debating the issues, you’re decimating straw men.

June 11, 2014

“None of the Above” wins Nevada Democratic primary

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:35

NBC News reports the breakthrough for perennial candidate in Nevada:

Elections have historically been defined by their winners and losers — but on Tuesday a primary in Nevada returned a disheartening result for all the candidates: nobody won.

Voters in the state’s Democratic primary for governor were so unimpressed by the eight men on offer that the most popular option on the ballot paper was “none of these candidates,” which received 30 percent of the vote, according to figures from The Associated Press.

Democrat activists in the state acknowledged earlier this year that they had failed to find a credible challenger to face incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, according to Politico. And it clearly showed at the polling stations, with more than 21,000 people turning out with the express purpose of saying “no thanks” to the sum total of their party’s would-be governors.

Unfortunately, Nevada state law doesn’t allow NOTA to be on the ballot for the general election:

If voters did in fact want an empty seat instead of a challenger to face Sandoval they will be disappointed: In second place behind “none of these candidates” was Robert Goodman, a man who has run twice before and this time received 25 percent of the vote. State law means he will be the Democratic candidate.

H/T to Popehat for the link.

June 10, 2014

The two Hillary Clintons

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:58

Charles Cooke on the political phenomenon that is (are?) Hilary Clinton:

It seems clear now that there are two Hillary Clintons. The first, who exists wholly in the abstract, is the one we have been waiting for. She is a Maker of History and a savior of women; an equal partner in the power couple that presided over the prosperity, cool, and competence of the 1990s; a world-beating secretary of state; a feminist who smashes glass ceilings and fights for all that is right and good. Millions of us are “Ready!” for her.

The other exists in the real world. This Hillary is a person who lacks concrete achievements; whose inevitability never quite translates into evitability; whose rhetoric always seems to turn up empty; who has an impressive capacity for saying things that hurt her and her interests; and, most distressingly of all, who becomes instantly less likeable the moment she opens her mouth.

It is the second Hillary that is currently making the news. Indeed, important as the Democratic party’s internecine war was to her loss, one has to start considering the possibility that what ultimately doomed Hillary Clinton in 2008 was that she is Hillary Clinton. The husband whose name she took has a political knack unmatched in our times — a capacity to spin straw into gold and to rise unscathed from the dirtiest of ashes. Hillary, alas, seems to have the opposite quality, possessing a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and to turn favorable moments into cudgels that might later be wielded against her. Responding in May to a question about suicide, Clinton voluntarily launched into an unwise disquisition about gun rights, including in her messy remarks the politically dangerous recommendation that the federal government should look to “rein in” the right to bear arms. This weekend, she made a similar error. Asked about her astronomical public-speaking fees, Clinton declined to give the honest answer — which is, “I have the opportunity to make a lot of money speaking; wouldn’t you take it?” — and instead went off on a peculiarly defensive tangent. “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt,” Clinton explained to Diane Sawyer. “We had no money when we got there and we struggled,” she continued, “to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses.” Later, she repeated the claim, noting that the couple was in dire need of the cash to “get us houses.”

What a difference a plural makes.

June 1, 2014

Getting on the ballot is a major struggle, if you’re not a Democrat or Republican

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:09

Doug Mataconis gives a few examples of how the two major US political parties have conspired to make it much harder for anyone to get on the ballot without being a nominee of the Democratic or Republican parties:

In theory, the purpose of nominating petitions is supposed to be to ensure some level of ballot integrity by requiring people who want to appear on the ballot for local, state, or national office to demonstrate some minimal level of support for their candidacy. In reality, what ballot access laws in many parts of the country have become are a means by which the two major parties in general, and incumbents specifically, restrict third parties and challengers from getting on the ballot, or at least making it more difficult for them to do so. The Michigan law at issue in this case, which requires Congressional candidates to get just 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Given the fact that the population of Conyers’ district is some 700,000 people, and that he got more than 200,000 votes in 2012, one imagines that it wouldn’t be too difficult for Conyers to meet that target. The situation is quite different, though, for independent and minor party candidates. According to Ballotpedia, an independent candidate for Congress must submit at least 3,000, and no more than 6,000, valid signatures of registered voters in order to get on the ballot, three times as many as a candidate from ether of the two major political parties. In other states, the ballot access requirements are even more restrictive. In Virginia for example, a candidate for statewide office must submit at least 10,000 valid signatures, including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 Congressional Districts. Other states are even more stringent, although there are some standouts. New Jersey, for example seems to be one of the few states where petition requirements for independent and third party candidates are actually lower than those for major parties candidates, at least when it comes to Federal offices. In general, though, even a short perusal of the nominating petition laws of the states leaves when with the inescapable conclusion that they are generally designed to make it harder for candidates to get on the ballot than aimed toward any legitimate goal of “ballot integrity.”

Other restrictions in various states include all sorts of timewasting — and volunteer effort-wasting — requirements for third-party efforts that often don’t apply to incumbents or to the two major parties. Every political party depends on volunteers, and those volunteer hours are used up quickly (and not renewed) when they have to be spent on busywork, rather than activity that helps elect their candidate.

For example, in Ontario, where there’s currently an election underway, it takes only 25 signatures from voters in the constituency to get a nominee’s name on the ballot. If you’re running as a member of a recognized political party, you also need the party leader’s signature on your nomination form (example here [PDF]). That’s an easy enough hurdle that anyone should be able to clear it (yet every election, a few would-be candidates fail to achieve ballot status … and sometimes it’s a major party candidate).

To run as a candidate in a Canadian federal election requires 100 signatures from voters in the riding (but only 50 in lower-population ridings in remote areas of the country). The nomination paper includes several pages for the signatures [PDF]. For more detail on how the signatures are validated, there was an interesting case in the last federal election.

May 13, 2014

Climate change policies – “a massive conservative blind spot … matched by liberals’ tunnel vision”

Filed under: Environment, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:35

Shikha Dalmia on the real reason the right fights against massive government action to fight climate change:

The decibel level in our national debate about global temperature went up several notches this week. The White House noisily released a report full of dire claims about the havoc manmade global warming is causing in America — and Republicans, equally noisily, denounced this as “liberal gloom and doom.”

The left has a deep ideological need to hype this issue, and the right to minimize it. And despite the deafening political noise on what ought to be a scientific matter, Americans must not be tempted to reach for their earplugs in disgust. After all, these ideological wars are how democracies sort out their differences.

[...]

The right’s chief commitment (which I share) is to free enterprise, property rights, and limited government that it sees as core to human progress. So when the market or other activities of individuals harm third parties or the environment, they look for solutions in these principles.

If overgrazing threatens a pasture, to use a classic example, the right’s answer is not top-down government diktats to ban or ration use. Rather, it is to divvy up the pasture, giving ownership to farmers — or privatizing the commons. The idea is that what individuals own, they protect; what they don’t, they abuse.

But there is no pure free market or property rights solution to global warming. There is no practical way to privatize the Earth’s atmosphere or divvy up pollution rights among the world’s seven billion inhabitants in 193 countries. This creates a planet-sized opening for the expansion of the regulatory state. Hence, right-wingers have an inherent need to resist the gloomy global warming narrative.

This is a massive conservative blind spot. But it is, in many ways, matched by liberals’ tunnel vision.

It is no secret that liberal commitment is less to promoting individual liberty and more to curbing capitalistic greed, which the left views as the great enemy of social justice and equality. At first blush, environmentalism and egalitarianism appear in conflict given that the environment is something of a luxury good that rich folks generally care about more than the poor.

Indeed, this conflict is why the 1960s New Left, driven primarily by humanistic concerns such as eradicating poverty and eliminating racism, shunned the emerging environmental movement for over a decade, according to University of Wisconsin’s Keith M. Woodhouse. Many in the New Left condemned the first Earth Day in 1970 as “the white liberal’s cop out” and believed that a preoccupation with overpopulation, for example, was “racist hysteria.”

April 7, 2014

Nick Gillespie on the politics of exhaustion

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:13

Writing in the Daily Beast, Nick Gillespie looks at the terrifying prospect of a 2016 presidential contest between yet another Bush and yet another Clinton:

For partisan and media elites, ‘the past is never dead. It’s not even past,’ which means with these two candidates likely to lead the race in 2016, the future doesn’t look so different.

As if we need it, here’s extra proof that contemporary politics is more thoroughly exhausted than adult actress Lisa Sparkxxx must have been at the end of her record-setting roll in the hay at the 2004 “Eroticon” in Warsaw, Poland.

The Washington Post reports, “Many of the Republican Party’s most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy.” For once, I found myself agreeing with Jesse Jackson. Can’t we just “stay out the Bushes” this one time at least?

On the other side of the aisle, it’s a given that Hillary Clinton is not only the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the only possible Democratic nominee anyone can name with a straight face (sorry, Joe Biden, but this just ain’t your century any more than the 20th was). “There was a Bush or a Clinton in the White House and cabinet for 32 years straight,” notes Maureen Dowd at The New York Times, whose headline writer adds, “Brace Yourself for Hillary and Jeb.” As it was, it shall always be. About the only cause for optimism is that there’s no Kennedy in the mix.

At least Lisa Sparkxxx participated voluntarily in her own screwing. For the large and growing plurality of Americans who identify as independent, there’s seemingly no way to opt out of the compulsive-repetitive disorder among legacy media types and partisan string-pullers. What is it that Faulkner said in Requiem for a Nun (1950)? “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Who knew that he was talking about politics in the goddamned 21st century, not Yoknapatawpha County after the Civil War?

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