Thursday, April 5, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Rennie Stennett, 61. It wasn't his fault. OPS+ the two years before the Giants signed him: 60 and 56. If you sign a guy like that, the fault is clearly yours, not his.

Good stuff:

1. Andrea Campbell is a scholar of social policy; now her family is living with the consequences of US health policy. See also Harold Pollack's follow-up.

2. Lynn Vavreck on election prediction models. I'm not sure I agree with her entirely, but definitely a must-read if you've been following Nerdfight.

3. Good post by Andrew Sullivan on "the right's Obama." My answer to his final question: partisanship, but of course there are plenty of ingredients to partisanship, too.

4. And Spencer Ackerman has a key internal Bush Administration State Department memo about torture.


  1. Answering Sullivan's question: It is politics as therapy. The far right engages in politics to soothe their badly wounded egos and to escape the contemporary world of homosexuals, empowered minorities and females, and other unbearable offenses to their white-pride nineteenth-century minds. Reasoning with them about politics is like reasoning with an alcoholic while he's pouring himself another shot.

  2. I am a strongly conservative Republican, at least on economic issues, and I do not share any of these sentiments about Obama. Far from having contempt for him, I think he is a very formidable political adversary, with considerable charm and charisma, as well as a strong debater who significantly outperformed McCain in the 2008 debates. But he is a political adversary for those of us who believe in a small government, low tax society, precisely because he is a very effective advocate of higher taxes on those of us who have done well in the private enterprise system. Those of you not professionally involved in the financial markets likely do not appreciate how much micro-managing of the banking system is embedded in the Dodd-Frank bill; for example, the Volcker Rule, which Obama and Congressional Democrats enthusiastically supported in 2010, is turning into a regulatory monstrosity, with the regulators completely unable to reconcile it with functioning market-making in the capital markets by the July 2012 deadline in the bill. So the Milton Friedman wing of the Republcan Party is eagerly hoping for a Romney Presidency that will deliver us from federal micromanagement. I am aware that there were real problems in banking regulation in the prior decade that Dodd-Frank was trying to address, but the supporters of the Volcker Rule did not seem to understand the complexity of defining proprietary trading as opposed to legitimate market-making. An institutional investor cannot have liquid markets to trade in unless there are well-capitalized market makers who can buy and sell securities for their own accounts.

    1. Anon,

      The question, though, isn't that some oppose Obama based on issues or group attachments; that's normal. What Sullivan is pointing to, which I think is clearly correct in many cases, is the extent that many treat him as illegitimate. I think that's clearly the case with both Obama and Clinton. I think it was also the case for some Dems with Bush, but (1) it was a smaller and less official group of Dems, and (2) the circumstances of the 2000 election were unusual and an understandable cause of that.

  3. How does one get to "Obama as culturally transformational figure" without having a significant cohort that sees his presidency as illegitimate? The second thing is a necessary precondition of the first.

    1. Reagan was a culturally transformational figure, yet I can't think of any prominent political figures or really any ordinary people who, if they dislike what he did, cast their general disagreement with him in terms of illegitimacy and thoroughgoing contempt. Maybe there are exceptions, but I think that generalization holds.

    2. I'm not really sure what "culturally transformative figure" means, but it is certainly the case that many liberals treated Reagan with thoroughgoing contempt for much of his presidency. I'm not sure that I would characterize it as "illegitimacy" though. Certainly nothing like the birther stuff (or the reported beliefs of some that ACORN stole the 2008 election).

    3. I wasn't clear: among other things, Sullivan's piece engages in hand-wringing frustration that more on the retrograde right don't celebrate the walls broken down by Obama's election.

      Quantification of these things is subjective, of course, but how can you have the breaking down of walls without also the folks who built those walls in the first place?

    4. CSH, OK that makes more sense to me as a good point. But Sullivan's string of posts on this has also been confronting the striking way in which previously non-outwardly retrograde or reactionary or whatever people -- people who were relatively reasonable, moderate, and not overcome with resentment -- have become so, or at moments indulged in it to a degree one never would have thought. Some people on the far right were always ugly and radical in their ideas and fervor. But that ugliness has entered the precincts of the more respectable right to an unnerving degree.

      And to go back to my nod to Reagan: his gradual ascent did not proceed alongside the ascent of a radicalized left-of-center given to prominent absolutists condemnations of Reagan's legitimacy. Seems to me influential left-of-center people only went as far as thinking him stupid or cruel. The right's rhetoric around Obama always shades into him being an evil foreigner or a devious totalitarian gangster.

    5. Let's say Andrew Sullivan, and those like him, had a certain baseline expectation for racial animus toward Obama; per this conversation, call those racists the 'builders of the wall that Obama tore down'. Then, apparently it turns out that the personal animus to Obama was much greater (but unquantified) than A. Sullivan expected. Could be...?

      At the risk of mobilizing the politically correct police, I'm not sure the animus Andrew Sullivan sees means what he thinks it means. For reference, consider the 9/11 Truthers. Do they really think the Bush Admin was behind that plot? Or rather did they take a fairly innocuous data point (People saying they thought the Bush Admin had enough info to stop the attacks) and transmogrify that into direct responsibility, cause those liberals really hated the man in the WH - and hated 9/11 too? I think the answer is pretty clearly "sort of", and it mostly depends on the individual.

      Is some chunk of personal Obama animus driven by Americans terrified of the dislocating characteristics of the 21st century and projecting that on the unconventional profile of the President, as opposed to the good-old-fashioned racism Sullivan assumes? The answer, again, is sort of, and it depends on the person.

      Look, all due respect to Andrew Sullivan, but he's about the last guy who should be lecturing my neighbors here in the heart of red state flyover country on how much they should stand up and sing kumbaya about the changes taking place in America. Things are changing at a rapid pace - and its mostly going in a pro-Sullivan direction. The rise of the influence of the blogosphere. Gay marriage and gay rights, including the removal of the HIV ban. Expanded legalization of pot. Hell, ESPN is even covering most of the Champions League football matches these days.

      So before Sullivan passes judgment on the moral flaws of my neighbors, he ought to at least spend a bit of time in a place like this. Shop at my WalMart. Attend a revival. Etc.

      After a week or so, I predict he'd find himself far less judgmental about the fear my community feels toward the dislocating changes of which Obama is the face.

    6. Hah, thanks for this. Much to agree with, and snappily written. Don't have the time today to respond further, unfortunately. But you won't find me disagreeing with you that Sullivan is something of an obnoxious flake (at least in terms of his media persona; I'm sure he's a lovely guy outside of that).

      I guess when I think of these issues, I'm quickly drawn to my own context, which isn't proverbial middle America. In my own life, I've been struck by how my parents, well-off suburbanite professionals, formerly of an abiding Rockefeller Republican mold, have found themselves sucked into a right-of-center culture of hysteria. They're by no means birther crazies, but they somewhat mindlessly go along with forms of Obama hatred and enjoy Fox News and weird chain emails in ways I really never thought they would. It's unnerving; anecdotally-speaking, the figure of Obama really has caused some people to become surprisingly unmoored.


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