October 27, 2017

QotD: Russian meddling in US politics

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

In last week’s decidedly un-jocular “news”letter, I wrote about how the hypocrisy of the Left’s newfound outrage at Russia’s meddling in our politics can’t be summarized by saying “Romney was right!” when he said Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe in a debate with Barack Obama. Starting with George Kennan’s Long Telegram [link], conservatives spent the entirety of the Cold War pointing out that the Russians were undermining American life, and we got mocked and ridiculed for it by self-styled sophisticates who thought such concerns were little more than paranoia.

The ridicule didn’t end with the Cold War (when, by the way, the extent and danger of Russian meddling were much greater than they are now). Liberals were so invested in the idea that the political Right made too big a deal about Soviet Communism and that we used our hawkishness as an unfair wedge issue against Democrats that when Mitt Romney said an incandescently true thing about Putin’s Russia, liberals rolled their eyes and then laughed uproariously at Obama’s “the 1980s called” quip. In other words, they were so married to the myth of their moral and intellectual superiority, liberals preferred to stick with the punch-line than even imagine that reality wasn’t on their side.

Jonah Goldberg, “Binders Full of Asininity”, National Review, 2017-10-13.

November 19, 2015

QotD: The Kinsley Gaffe

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

Michael Kinsley once famously defined a gaffe as when a politician says what he or she truly believes (i.e., “a gaffe occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth”), a formulation so iconic that it is now known in the trade as a “Kinsley Gaffe.” A special subcategory of Kinsley Gaffe is becoming more common in these days of ubiquitous personal electronics: “accidentally telling the truth without knowing a camera or a tape recorder was running.” This is the category where we’d put Obama’s remarks about “bitter” working-class voters who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” and Mitt Romney’s complaint about “the 47 percent.”

Megan McArdle, “Simple Policies Win Elections”, Bloomberg View, 2014-11-11.

November 11, 2012

A major reason for Romney’s defeat

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:55

At Reason, Sheldon Richman explains one of the major reasons Mitt Romney’s campaign for president fell short of victory:

Romney couldn’t call Obama to account because he fundamentally agreed with most of what the president did. He could hardly have substantively criticized Obama’s fiscal record: Romney had little specific to say about cutting the government’s deep-in-deficit budget, and he even proposed to leave education and other federal spending intact. While Romney talked about cutting income-tax rates, he emphasized that he had no intention of cutting government revenues, which represent resources extracted from the private economy. He proposed only revenue-neutral tax “reform.”

While Romney promised to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the architect of Massachusetts’ Romneycare was hardly in a position to offer a fundamental critique. The insurance mandate is the linchpin of Obamacare, but since Romneycare has the same mandate, what could the Republican candidate say? His weak federalist defense of state mandates versus national mandates sounded more like a rationalization. Moreover, Romney doesn’t understand what is wrong with America’s overpriced health-care system: the pervasive, monopolistic government privilege and regulation in the medical and insurance industries at both the state and federal levels. There is no free market in health care — something Romney does not get. As a result, he made the fatal mistake of implying that a partial repeal of Obamacare is all that is needed.

He also endorsed economic regulation, just to a vaguely lesser extent than what Obama favors. That only muddled the message. Romney showed no sign of understanding the relationship between regulation and privilege, which usually go hand in hand. So it’s not enough to favor deregulation; a true advocate of the free market favors “de-privileging” as well.

The biggest pass Obama got was on foreign policy and civil liberties, where his record has been horrendous. Of course, Romney could make no principled criticism because he basically approves of the record, though he claimed Obama hasn’t been aggressive enough.

As early as August, this lack of actual substantive differences between the candidates had already become quite clear.

October 28, 2012

On foreign policy, Romney and Obama sing from the same hymnbook

Filed under: Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:42

At Reason, Sheldon Richman explains why there seemed to be so little difference between President Obama’s foreign policies and those of Mitt Romney:

If we needed evidence of the impoverishment of American politics, the so-called debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave us all we could ask for.

We normally expect a debate to highlight some disagreement, but in American politics disagreement is reserved for minor matters. The two parties — actually the two divisions of the uniparty that represents the permanent regime — agree on all fundamentals. If you need proof, observe how the establishment media treated Ron Paul, who challenged the permanent regime’s basic premises on foreign policy, civil liberties, and monetary control. He dug too deep.

It’s been noted, mostly by humorists, that Romney continuously expressed his agreement with Obama across a range of issues: drone warfare, Iran, Afghanistan, even Iraq. He tried to manufacture differences by suggesting that he would have done more sooner. But this all sounded flaccid; Romney seemed desperate to draw some contrast with a foreign policy that he embraces.

What does Romney really believe? Who can say? What we do know is that he’s taking his foreign-policy advice from a team of neoconservatives, formerly of the George W. Bush administration, who helped dig the hole the country is in.

October 17, 2012

Reason.tv: How to attract libertarian-minded voters to the Democratic or GOP side

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:05

Nick Gillespie explains a few things that either major candidate could do to attract at least some of the 10-15% of Americans who identify as libertarian:

How Obama and Democrats Can Appeal to Libertarian Voters: Get transparent fast, end the drug war, and cut military spending:

How Romney and Republicans Can Appeal to Libertarian Voters: Get serious about cutting spending, bringing the troops home, and butting out of people’s personal lives:

October 10, 2012

Mark Steyn “loathes” Sesame Street

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:31

In the National Post, Mark Steyn cuts loose on the sacred-to-American-childhood TV show (and associated toys, games, books, clothing, etc.) Sesame Street:

That’s what Mitt did in Denver. Ten minutes in, he jumped right on Big Bird, and then he took off — and never looked back, while the other fellow, whose name escapes me, never got out of the gate. It takes a certain panache to clobber not just your opponent but also the moderator. Yet that’s what the killer Mormon did when he declared that he wasn’t going to borrow money from China to pay for Jim Lehrer and Big Bird on PBS. It was a terrific alpha-male moment, not just in that it rattled Lehrer, who seemed too preoccupied contemplating a future reading the hog prices on the WZZZ Farm Report to regain his grip on the usual absurd format, but in the sense that it indicated a man entirely at ease with himself — in contrast to wossname, the listless sourpuss staring at his shoes.

Yet, amidst the otherwise total wreckage of their guy’s performance, the Democrats seemed to think that Mitt’s assault on Sesame Street was a misstep from whose tattered and ruined puppet-stuffing some hay is to be made.

“WOW!!! No PBS!!! WTF how about cutting congress’s stuff leave big bird alone,” tweeted Whoopi Goldberg. Even the President mocked Romney for “finally getting tough on Big Bird” — not in the debate, of course, where such dazzling twinkle-toed repartee might have helped, but a mere 24 hours later, once the rapid-response team had directed his speechwriters to craft a line, fly it out to a campaign rally, and load it into the prompter, he did deliver it without mishap.

Unlike Mitt, I loathe Sesame Street. It bears primary responsibility for what the Canadian blogger Binky calls the de-monsterization of childhood — the idea that there are no evil monsters out there at the edges of the map, just shaggy creatures who look a little funny and can sometimes be a bit grouchy about it because people prejudge them until they learn to celebrate diversity and help Cranky the Friendly Monster go recycling. That is not unrelated to the infantilization of our society. Marinate three generations of Americans in that pabulum and it’s no surprise you wind up with unprotected diplomats dragged to their deaths from their “safe house” in Benghazi. Or as J. Scott Gration, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, said in 2009, in the most explicit Sesamization of American foreign policy: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes.” The butchers of Darfur aren’t blood-drenched machete-wielding genocidal killers but just Cookie Monsters whom we haven’t given enough cookies. I’m not saying there’s a direct line between Bert & Ernie and Barack & Hillary … well, actually I am.

October 9, 2012

Paul Wells on “AndrewSullivanammerung”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 14:47

In Maclean’s, Paul “Inkless” Wells has a look at Andrew Sullivan’s most recent panic attack over Barack Obama’s re-election chances and how his debate performance makes that task seem much harder now:

The extended North American/ Anglosphere Twittersphere is agog these days over the latest spectacle put on by Urblogger Andrew Sullivan, who edited The New Republic in the days when paper was king and who has spent the past decade blogging, in succession, for (a) himself (b) Time magazine (c) The Atlantic Monthly (d) Tina Brown. Since 2007 Sullivan has been perhaps Barack Obama’s leading gay British Republican supporter; he wrote a 2007 Atlantic cover story explaining why Obama was “necessary” to binding up the nation’s wounds and a 2012 Newsweek cover story asserting that Obama was about to become the most significant U.S. president since Reagan. (“The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure…”) About 6,000 times he has ended blog posts on Obama with the sentence-thing “Know Hope.”

But now comes Sully’s crisis of confidence.

He watched the same debate everyone else did last week; noticed, as many did, that the incumbent had a hard time of things, and then read yesterday’s surprising Pew Center poll, which essentially showed Obama’s support collapsing so rapidly he will soon owe Mitt Romney votes. [. . .]

It is, in fact, entirely possible that Obama blew the election with a single 90-minute display of I-didn’t-know-this-would-be-on-the-exam. Certainly if he does lose, all the post-mortem tick-tocks will begin in Denver on the night of Oct. 3.

Wells also linked to Ezra Levant’s most recent article at Sun News:

Now we know why Barack Obama uses a teleprompter everywhere, even taking it once to a photo-op in an elementary school.

Now we know why he hasn’t had a press conference in months, preferring to go on entertainment shows like The View (he told his fawning interviewers he is “eye candy”) and David Letterman’s show (first question: How much do you weigh?).

We know because of the shock of last week’s presidential debate with Mitt Romney. The 60 million Americans who watched that debate had been told a hundred times that Obama was the smartest president since Jefferson, the greatest orator since Churchill. And they had been told that Mitt Romney was a heartless gazillionaire.

What they saw was the opposite, for 90 excruciating minutes. When Obama didn’t have a cue card or a teleprompter, when he couldn’t simply skip questions he didn’t like, or talk out the clock, he was a disaster.

Update: Buzzfeed has eight animated GIFs that show Andrew Sullivan’s meltdown rather cleverly.

Politics and economics: election-style

Filed under: Economics, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:32

At the Hit and Run blog, Tim Cavanaugh bewails economic illiteracy:

It’s “very hard to fine-tune an economy” using any tools. That seemed to be a clear lesson of the twentieth century workers’ paradises, and it is implicit when politicians claim (usually following up with a “but”) that the free market is the least-bad system for creating wealth. Spending and taxes can, however, have very destructive effects, and the best way for government to further an enterprise is by the alacrity with which it gets out of its way. As the Clinton-era example shows, you can have a boom even if you just slightly reduce the rate of spending growth. That’s not fine-tuning, it’s slightly easing the heavy hand of the state. The Post’s rhetorical question leaves out such options as “Did they screw it up?” or “Did they do too much?”

You get to this level of fantasy not by knowing too little economics but by knowing too much, by being persuaded that the same math you use when you shop around for bargains or balance your checkbook does not apply at the level of the macroeconomy. Unfortunately, Keynesian logic is like Videodrome: Once exposed to it you can never get rid of it, no matter how much trouble it causes. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman recently claimed that brisk sales of the iPhone 5 will spur economic growth, thus proving the broken-window theory of economics. In fact, it’s the opposite: People who buy the new phone think it will add value to their lives, not replace an equal amount of value that has been destroyed. As the Apple maps fiasco, the purple glare controversy, and this Jimmy Kimmel video suggest, they may be wrong about that. But that Krugman (who last year called for a hoax invasion by space aliens to spur spending) is down to such a transparently absurd argument suggests the time has never been riper to jettison both the new and old Keynesianism.

Just don’t look for either presidential candidate to do that. Right now the big question is whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama will use his presidential job-creating powers to create more jobs. Mitt Romney is promising to create 12 million jobs, which strikes me as a strategic error. All Obama has to do is promise to create 13 million jobs and he’ll obviously be the better candidate, because that’s a lot more jobs.

October 8, 2012

Warren Ellis: A common thread between two political debates

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:31

An uncharacteristically serious column from Warren Ellis this week:

John Kerry, for our younger readers, was a politician who strongly resembled a reanimated Boris Karloff in a badger-pelt wig. He was a distant, charmless waffler who blew every political point he tried to score in the debates by either garbling the headline or shovelling on so much detail that people lost track of what he was trying to say. President Bush, in contrast, rolled up as the smiling ranch boss who weren’t too big to have a laugh an’ a joke with the hands, and whipped the shit out of his opponent on the floor.

The room was actually more excited by a Senator from Chicago who had a speech excerpt broadcast just as the polls closed. This was my first exposure to a dynamic orator called Barack Obama. More than one of the assembled group (which was mostly artists and sex workers, as I dimly recall) said that they’d rather Obama was running for President. John Kerry’s appeal centered largely on the fact that he wasn’t George W Bush. Which was nonsense in many respects. These were both American Patricians, who had even belonged to the same secret society at university. They were facing each other not because of any deep-seated critical political commitment, just a certain conviction that the world is run by people like them and so they were entitled to the Presidency.

[. . .]

By the end of his presidency, Bush was visibly tired, and said in an interview that he was really ready to not be President any more. He was one of the least popular Presidents in American history, the Tea Party (launched in part by his signature of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008) had begun to corrode the GOP, and he was eager to go away and live quietly.

The first of the 2012 Presidential debates aired a little under a week ago, as you read this. I was unpleasantly surprised by what I saw. The dynamic orator was gone. In his place was a distant, charmless waffler who blew every political point he tried to score by sounding either confused or incredibly boring. And he also looked tired. While the boss at the other lectern laughed and lied and outright told the debate moderator he was fired when the boss got to trade up to the White House… President Obama looked like a man who was really ready to not be President any more.

September 24, 2012

Warren Ellis: the fun in politics is gone, gone, gone

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:29

In his weekly column at Vice, Warren Ellis finds it in his flinty heart to mourn the passing of fun in politics:

There has long been a notion abroad that positions of authority should be given to the best-qualified people who don’t want them, as the job of “ruler”, like “censor”, does not necessarily attract the best kind of human being. That would, of course, kill the inherent black comedy in politics-watching. The creatures who fight and kick and bite for the right to fuck with our lives tend to be grotesques, and serve as warnings. Warnings we never heed, of course, because we end up voting something in from that shallow pool of eels every time.

But, every now and then, there comes a period where that pool gets drained, and we find ourselves dealing with the dregs.

I actually find myself weirdly nostalgic for the authentic monsters of politics. Even the sly, hollow hustling of Tony Blair would be preferable to the callow bafflement of Nick Clegg, the unnaturally shiny forehead and beta-male posturing of David Cameron, and the… well, whatever Ed Miliband is. There’s Vince Cable, whom lots of people seem to like the idea of, but his presence, unfortunately, is that of Gravedigger #2 in one of the less successful Hammer Horror films.

Over the water, Mitt Romney doesn’t even have the facility to be slippery. He just staggers down the corridor of ideology like a cheap drunk, bumping into the walls. And President Obama isn’t even a tragic hero in the mode of Jimmy Carter, who struggled mightily (with himself, as much as anything else) and fell before the eerie charm of Ronald Reagan. I can admire the man’s intellect and general beliefs (or “values”, which is the season’s buzzword) while recognising that his main mode of operation is as a chilly functionary unwilling to take the big fights all the way.

September 21, 2012

Gary Johnson polling at 6% in latest Reason-Rupe poll

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:37

The headline most media outlets would run includes just President Obama and Mitt Romney. If you allow more than two choices, however, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson changes the numbers a fair bit:

A new national Reason-Rupe poll of likely voters finds President Barack Obama leading Republican Mitt Romney 48 percent to 43 percent in the presidential race. When undecided voters are asked which way they are leaning Obama’s lead over Romney grows to 52-45.

President Obama holds large advantages among women (53-37), African-Americans (92-2) and Hispanics (71-18). Fifty-two percent of likely voters view Obama favorably, while 45 view him unfavorably. In contrast, 49 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable view of Mitt Romney and 41 percent have a favorable view of him.

In a three-way presidential race, Obama drops to 49 percent among likely voters and Romney falls to 42 percent as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson gets six percent of support. Johnson is already on the presidential ballot in 47 states.

September 15, 2012

Gary Johnson on why both Obama and Romney are wrong on foreign policy

Filed under: Government, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, says both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have it wrong with their respective approaches to foreign policy:

Foreign policy is supposed to make us safer, not get Americans killed and bankrupt us. Yet, even as we mourn the loss of four Americans in Libya and watch the Middle East ignite with anti-American fervor, our leaders don’t get it.

In one corner, we have the U.S. apologists warning that — after the murders in Libya and the attack on our embassy in Cairo — we must be careful not to say or do anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. In the other corner, we have the chest-thumpers demanding that we find somebody to shoot — and shoot them.

I have a better idea: Stop trying to manipulate and manage history on the other side of the globe and then being shocked when things don’t turn out the way we wanted. As far as what we do right now in response to the tragic events of this week, it’s actually pretty simple. Get our folks out of places they don’t need to be — and out of harm’s way — and cut off every dime of U.S. tax dollars we are sending to clearly ungrateful regimes.

September 5, 2012

“What kind of Mormon is Mitt Romney?”

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:41

L. Neil Smith says that — unlike most of the Mormons he’s met in real life — Mitt Romney “has the same respect for individual liberty and the Bill of Rights that a dog has for a fire hydrant.”

Now I asked jokingly a while back on FaceBook, what kind of Mormon is Mitt Romney? One side of his family let the United States Cavalry drive them into Mexico (despite the constraints of the First Amendment), rather than give up what they believed in. But if Romney was a Mormon like that, at his age, with his wealth, he’d have sixteen wives by now.

Instead, he’s the kind of Mormon who rolled over like an obedient cur and changed their customs so they could be a state. The irony is that, hating gun ownership as he does (the list of his crimes against the Second Amendment is as long as Brigham Young’s wagon train) and favoring abortion and government healthcare, as he has, he couldn’t get himself elected in Utah even throwing around the kind of money he has.

So, skipping Michigan, where he grew up, he went to the Massachusetts S.S.R, and began the sort of lying and cheating that recently got him his Presidential nomination. He claimed to have “fixed” the Olympics, but the numbers are in now, and the man’s a fraud. He couldn’t make the residence requirement in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts so he most likely bought his way around the ballot laws, as he buys his way around everything, exactly like a Kennedy.

The silliest, most dangerous thing in the world is a communist with money. Look at Michael Moore. Look at Bono. Look at Rosie O’Donnell. No, you don’t really have to. It was just a rhetorical exercise. Twenty years ago, I heard Cher admit on TV that she was a grown woman and married before she realized that Mount Rushmore is not a natural phenomenon. These people have the intellect of a boiled onion.

August 27, 2012

US presidential election: one from column A or one from column B

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:00

Jesse Kline explains the lack of excitement among independent voters (those not formally registered as Democrats or Republicans) — they really aren’t being offered much of a choice between the top two candidates:

It would, of course, be unfair to blame Obama for a mess that has been created over decades by both political parties. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush presided over massive spending increases; Clinton and Bush II also increased regulation; while Congress has substantially increased the of new laws it passes on an annual basis since the early 1980s.

But Obama’s record in his first term is still dismal. For all his talk about creating jobs and improving the economy, Obama’s policies have only served to increase the cost of doing business and divert money from productive sectors of the economy to increase government spending. The only question is whether the Republicans can fix the fiscal mess they helped create.

To his credit, Mitt Romney has at least been talking about the regulatory burden the American economy faces. Paul Ryan is, likewise, one of the few politicians talking about entitlement reform.

But Romney has explicitly stated he will not use the Ryan budget as a template for his own economic policies — which he has left incredibly vague. And even the Ryan budget does little to cut real spending in the short term, partially because it does not cut military spending, which is arguably as big an issue as entitlement spending.

Not only are policy makers stuck in a catch-22 over how to prevent the economy from falling back into recession while staving off a looming debt crisis, the American people are also facing a similar conundrum in choosing the next president: Neither party has a track record to suggest it is willing and able to address the country’s serious economic issues, and neither is willing to work co-operatively in a political environment that is entrenched along partisan and ideological lines.

In spite of the way the term is hurled around, the common accusation of “racism” for anyone who doesn’t support Barack Obama has a slight kernel of truth about it: on the policy side, Obama and Romney are not very far apart at all. The two men are much more similar than different … except for race.

July 16, 2012

Mitt Romney and the NAACP

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:46

Steve Chapman provides a bit of rare praise for Mitt Romney after his speech to the NAACP:

It may have been a bit surprising when the NAACP held its national convention and Mitt Romney showed up. Romney, as comedian Reggie Brown put it, is “what people who hate white people think of when they think of white people.” He’s likely to do about as well among black voters as he is among Wiccans.

But there he was, taking precious campaign time in a vain and even humiliating search for votes. Naive folly or an excess of ambition on his part? Not quite.

Candidates normally put a high priority on assuring enthusiastic receptions and supportive audiences. Campaign managers typically prefer to avoid the risk of making the boss look unpopular. Sometimes, however, that risk is not a bug but a feature.

[. . .]

By presenting himself to the nation’s premier civil rights group, Romney signaled his aversion to bigotry without embracing any policies favored by the Congressional Black Caucus. With a college-educated suburban woman who dislikes Rush Limbaugh, say, the gesture could only help his cause.

But things may have worked out even better than that. By condemning Obamacare, Romney offered doubters a rare sighting of the Romney backbone. By reaping a chorus of boos, he strengthened his standing among hard-line conservatives who regard the NAACP as anathema. It was political jiu-jitsu, turning a weakness to his advantage.

While Romney was confronting his foes, Obama was avoiding his friends. Though he has spoken at past conventions, including last year’s, the president sent Joe Biden in his stead. Press secretary Jay Carney cited scheduling conflicts and said cryptically that his boss was busy working to help “all Americans.”

The nation’s most prominent black group convenes, and a brother can’t be bothered? Maybe this is what actor Morgan Freeman was getting at the other day when he volunteered, “He’s not America’s first black president; he’s America’s first mixed-race president.”

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