Just finished watching the TV show Sarah Palin's Alaska. Stunned at the political brilliance of the concept.
Ray Charles used to use a phrase "country dumb". Which actually meant a country boy (like Ray) smart enough to play to city prejudices when convenient, so they'd underestimate him and end up handing him ground-breaking contracts. He was. They did.
Sarah Palin is "country dumb"...
I still don't think she'd be a good idea as a GOP Presidential candidate. Beginning with the fact that you're taking your best salesperson and making them a manager. If they're a good manager, you're still screwed because you just lost your best salesperson. If they're mediocre or worse, you're screwed twice.
The Presidency is a sales role, but Ms. Palin's style is a problematic fit with the modern office. By its nature, it will take away many of the things that help her connect so well with people. And the GOP has no-one to replace her in the role she's playing at present. NJ Gov. Chris "The Fat Reagan" Christie could certainly grow into that, but right now? Bubkes.
There are other questions in my head, but to me, that's the key one. A President needs a movement and organization behind them to accomplish things. Palin could lead that over the next Presidential term, but can't create it and make it solid enough before the 2012 term begins.
All that aside, you'd have to be a complete, blithering idiot not to respect Palin's political skills. Which, admittedly, hasn't stopped a lot of "smart" people. Top speaker, bestselling author, significant player in key debates ("death panels," anyone?), who has backed a number of winning candidates around the country. Resigning the governorship looks like it has gone from "kiss of death" to "even split" at worst. Now this. It's yet another step beyond in her efforts at reaching right over the partisan media, to define herself to the population on her own terms. The format accentuates many of the things that make her popular, and make her very "relatable" to a lot of people.
Best Presidential candidate in the USA? I'd give that one to Gov. Mitch Daniels, given the times we're in. But I might have to give the nod to Sarah Palin as the best politician in the country.
No wonder so many on the Left are scared of her, and hate her.
In "Tea? Yes Party? Not so Much, I Hope," I talked about a coming dust up involving the Tea Partiers and the GOP. Looks like some people have been getting some mail from constituents:
"The GOP caucus in the House of Representatives has come together to propose a ban on congressional earmakrks -- those pork barrel projects that get written in by an individual legislator and which do not face specific up or down votes.... At first, Senate GOP leaders balked at the idea, but the writing is on the wall.... As reported by FoxNews.com, on Monday, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell signed on to a two-year moratorium on earmarks."
McConnell was the K-Street Republican most in the way of earmark reform. His capitulation deprives the Tea Partiers of both a teaching moment, and a hard shot at the GOP. As it happens, however, likely Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski [I-$$$] is unapologetic about her embrace of this corrupt culture, and Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid [still D-NV with a big bullseye] is also digging in.
Earmarks may still become a teaching moment - but a far more partisan one. We'll see how it goes.
So, the elections have been held. California looks like an even better place to leave, though it will have its black humor moment when its bankruptcy bailout request runs into a Republican Congress. The House is now solidly Republican, the Senate is back in its standard mushy grey zone of an under 60 seat majority.
Obama, no matter what he says (and really, how many people are listening at this point?), isn't going to change one iota. This will depress both his supporters and his opponents. His Godzilla class, city-destroying level of suck can be expected to continue.
The Republican leadership, no matter what they say, aren't going to change, either. They will still sort of suck, in the same old way. Therein lies the dilemma - and the opportunity - for the people that make up the Tea Party movement...
The Tea Party's principles of a return to constitutional government are, in my opinion, the key to America's future. With respect to this election, and the results it eventually produces, I'd say that the Tea Party has had a minor but noticeable effect.
Which is about what I expected, because for me, its best analogue and promise is something we've seen before: the 1960s anti-war movement. Some are kooks. But some prove to be very savvy. And many have begun a long march through key institutions. Many of their ideas will be carried with them if they survive as a force, but even if this works, it's a long-fuse, big-bang phenomenon.
Their combination of movement fortune (and individual misfortune, for many) is that they are colliding with, and surfing on, an unfolding time and events that are right for them in very broad and deep ways. But there are going to be lots of points where reality and circumstances will test them, reveal some organizations' real agendas, and demand creative thinking about applying their principles effectively.
There will also be many, many teachable moments over the next few years, that illustrate why pinning hopes on individual representatives or parties is a necessary but insufficient exercise. And why the Constitution has to start meaning something more than "a judge's partisan political beliefs," or "whatever we can twist the commerce clause into today."
Sometimes, they'll get both of those things at once. And I think one of those very moments is coming on like a train.
The most interesting part of this election, for me, was the shift among independent voters. This "surprised" endorsement of Rand Paul by the Richmond Register is a really interesting barometer. And the first post-election teachable moments are likely to be provided by the Republican "leadership" of K-streeters. That combination is the opportunity.
Will the Tea Partiers vocally turn their guns on Republicans, who will be working to betray them with unpopular policies like continuing earmarks, and taking steps to protect the systemic architecture of corruption in Washington (as they have been for some time)? Or will the Tea Partiers simply become a party adjunct, captured by it rather than changing it?
The former approach offers deepened credibility with independents, and sharper/ raised media profile and inroads, while raising the pressure on K-street Republicans. That lays the groundwork for future movement victories. The adjunct approach will limit the movement's eventual reach, and represent individual Republicans' enrichment at the expense of party and country.
Which is not to say that broad education and organization efforts by the tea partiers, and engagement in the party process at all levels, should not continue. They must. If the Tea Partiers can maintain open bridges and deepen credibility with independents, while sticking to their long march strategy of steady grassroots organization, building and leveraging technological and organization infrastructure, and getting better at recruiting better candidates, they will eventually create much of the change they seek.
I say "much," knowing that nobody ever gets all, and that anything above "some" is a major accomplishment, even over a time frame of decades.
In many ways, however, what happens in the next 2 years will say a lot about how deep the amorphous "Tea Party's" penetration into America's political landscape - and hence their eventual success - will go. Early times are defining times.
That probably means some very public fights over the next little while. And not just with Democrats.
I've written before that I'm pretty tired of this, and less than amused by the few who keep trying to keep the "Is President Obama Really a US Citizen" meme alive. Over at Breitbart's "Big Journalism", Kurt Schlichter has also had it, and gives the whole thing both barrels.
"Birthers" are very much a fringe thing, but there are times when fringe things are dishonest about something serious enough that they deserve to be targeted in the public arena. And the responsibility for doing so should fall, as it does here, to their allies/ co-belligerents on the political spectrum. Responsibility is something that has taken a huge holiday in modern culture, on way too many levels. Politics is no exception, for reasons of technology and policy. Centralized party systems have become weak in America, and we can talk sometime about whether that has really been a good thing. But no matter the reasons, the result is a shift to generalized responsibility within political movements to balance accountability with coalition building.
That's why I'm cautiously pleased to see conservative spokespeople who continue to take on this particular issue, and hope the more general lesson spreads. The years ahead may well be filled with very angry politics, across the spectrum. Political centers of gravity that take more responsibility are something we're going to need, as a nation, in order to pull through.
Exclusive BMG/Research 2000 poll: Coakley leads 49-41 by: DavidI wonder how these guys do on Intrade?
Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 11:48:08 AM EST
(Bumped, because we shelled out BMG's hard-earned money for this. -- Bob - promoted by Charley on the MTA)
The results are in from BMG's exclusive statewide poll in next week's special Senate election. Research 2000 interviewed 500 likely voters on Tuesday and Wednesday (and we do mean "interviewed" -- Research 2000 does live interviews, unlike robo-pollsters Rasmussen and PPP). That means that our poll is the first (and so far only) one taken entirely after Monday's final televised debate. Here's what they came up with (margin of error is +/- 4%).QUESTION: If the 2010 special election for U.S. Senate were held today, would you vote for Martha Coakley, the Democrat, Scott Brown, the Republican, or Joseph Kennedy, the Libertarian candidate?
ALL DEM REP IND Martha Coakley 49% 82% 7% 36% Scott Brown 41% 12% 85% 49% Joseph Kennedy 5% 1% 2% 11% Undecided 5% 5% 6% 4%
Pyrrhus of Epirus wasn't a bad general - he beat the Romans twice, and was widely considered to be one of the great military commanders of his age, even by enemies. He was also smart enough to realize that while winning was better than losing, his tactical victories in 280-279 BC had cost him dearly.
Peggy Noonan can hardly help but see the analogy concerning Obama and the Democrats, whose talk of a permanent majority sure undid itself quickly. Though she doesn't mention it, she could add that it has quite a ways left to fall. If they keep going the way they're going, the bottom is a long way down. I hope they do, because it's probably the fastest way to get America back on its feet, and headed on a smarter course.
So do the Republicans, but Noonan's "The Risk of Catastrophic Victory" is also wise enough to see that the Republicans are gearing up for a Pyrrhic victory of their own - and provide evidence. I think the party's leaders have actually done well on the legislative front, given their position. On the other hand, many of those same people are part of the reason for that unenviable position. However capable in legislative tactics, they are also weak public leaders who project little vision, and display little behind the scenes. As a result, bright spots like the "Young Guns" are happening as much in spite of the party as because of it. With respect to the larger party, it remains deeply disconnected from its base, with the main bright spots of progress in 2009 being Sarah "Donna Reed-Quixote" Palin, and Ron Paul for his connection to the Tea Party Movement. With an honorable mention to, of all people, Dick Cheney.
The party is, in short, not ready for prime time. While it was impolitic of him to say it publicly, Michael Steele is absolutely right - and the lack of clue among senior Republicans concerning the truth of that message is a fundamental indictment of their own leadership. Their chosen approach of sitting back and letting the Democrats destroy themselves may result in tactical victories, but it will leave them incapable of winning the larger conflict.
There's an interesting subtext to this situation, and the Young Guns. Palin has been very publicly backing GOP reformers, and this kind of new blood. Contemplate what level of political clout that translates into, if her backing, fundraising assistance, etc. is seen by many of Capitol Hill's bright new talents as having helped put them there. And if Steele gets tired of being the RNC Chair, I really hope he's one of them.
I think Petrilli is correct here, as the notes the slippage of America's college-educated vote into a Democrat advantage in the last electoral cycle:
"There's no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation."
As the economic crisis, and attempts to paper it over, replace the aftermath of the financial crisis, those opportunities will increase. I'm personally less worried about Ms. Palin's admission that she doesn't read newspapers than Petrilli is. This in an era where that trait is shared by many, many college educated people - and will be shared by more in future. And she has a role to play in revitalizing the party around its principles, even as she climbs in approval ratings and shows people that hey, she's actually pretty smart (full Gridiron speech text here). Which, unless you're a partisan moron like MSNBC's nominated "losers" (this, from a guy who thinks Obama is a great President), was well demonstrated by her achievements in Alaska.
There's absolutely room, in the GOP and clearly in the country, for someone like Palin, who doesn't "speak politician." As a Presidential candidate? Don't know. The way her "revitalize the party" gig is going, I'd advise her to recognize a fantastic, fun, profitable, and necessary gig with few entanglements - and keep it. Beyond his dropped ball on Palin, though, the GOP would do itself a favor to take Petrilli's advice.
Yale School of Management's Jeffrey Garten, in the Financial Times:
"The two most significant structural consequences of the recent financial debacle are the massive deficits and debts of the US and the shift of economic power from west to east.... Washington will therefore have little choice but to take the time-honoured course for big-time debtors: print more dollars, devalue the currency and service debt in ever cheaper greenbacks. In other words, the US will have to camouflage a slow-motion default because politically it is the easiest way out.
There is another factor pushing America towards a weaker dollar: lacking the domestic consumer demand that came with the unrestrained credit of the past 15 years, the US is desperate to find buyers abroad, especially in emerging markets where the middle class is growing and infrastructure requirements are soaring. A cheaper dollar could make US products and services more competitive."
It will also have numerous negative personal effects on Americans, to compound their future problems with rapidly increasing taxes that pay for fewer and lower quality services. Abroad, the question is whether we're going to see what is, in effect, a cycle of competitive devaluations. There is already early movement to that effect in Vietnam (affected by the Yuan's peg to the dollar) and Russia. Future protectionism may not look like Smoot-Hawley, though outright protectionism triggered by currency policies deemed predatory is definitely a possibility. Either way, the effects on global trade could be very interesting, in a Chinese sense. The Chinese already find it a bit too interesting, judging by their recent comments.
Beyond that, there's the issue of yet another Fed-spawned bubble, and its consequences. From Doug Noland's "Reflation Issues Heat Up" in the Asia Times:
"To be sure, the Fed has been accommodating bubbles for many years now. With each bursting bubble came policy reflation and only larger bubbles.... Ultra-aggressive US policy stimulus ensures ongoing dollar debasement, which feeds already massive financial flows to "undollar" assets and markets. Only aggressive policy tightening would contain bubble excesses in China, Asia and the emerging markets. There appears no stomach for such an approach anywhere - and this is no "mini" predicament.
...It is fundamental to credit bubble analysis to appreciate that the unfolding reflation is going to be altogether differently than previous reflations. As I've repeatedly tried to explain, the epicenter of reflationary forces have shifted from the core (US) to the periphery (China, Asia, and the "emerging" markets). The dollar and sophisticated Wall Street credit instruments have been supplanted by non-dollar assets and markets as the inflationary asset class of choice.
....It is my thesis that there is no alternative other than a major transformation of the underlying structure of the US economy. In simplest terms, we must produce much more, consume much less and do it with a lot less credit creation. The objective of current policymaking, however, is to quickly rejuvenate housing and asset prices with the intention of sustaining the legacy economic structure.
Zero interest-rate policy is key to this strategy..... The nation's housing markets will remain rather impervious to low rates, while the household sector is punished with near-zero returns on its savings. At the same time, monetary policy will continue to play a major role in dollar devaluation and higher consumer prices for energy and imports. Financial sector profits have already bounced back strongly, but there is little market incentive to direct new finance in a manner that would fund any semblance of economic transformation.
The focus remains on financing the old structure. Indeed, I would argue that the current course of policymaking and market interventions only works to delay the unavoidable economic adjustment process.
I believe the unfolding risks to the US and global economy are enormous.... Or let's look at it from a different angle. From the perspective of stock market valuation - massive credit growth, the resulting flow of finance, and the course of policymaking basically created no additional wealth over the past 10 years. We now appear determined to repeat this dismal performance over the next decade."
That's certainly the way it looks. Elsewhere in the Asia Times, Julian Delasantellis thinks Ben Bernancke's coming December 3rd testimony to Congress has the potential to be very heated. The headline "Bernanke's neck on the line" tells you all you need to know. Julian is not exactly a fan of the Fed skeptics - but is dead-on in noting that its support is growing, quickly, on both the right and the left.
The trends, and the growth of this reaction, are solidifying some things I've been wondering about for a while.
I'm not a big fan of Ron Paul. "Bong-hit reality" doesn't even begin to describe the depth of his foolishness when it comes to international relations - "idiotarian" does. Having said that, America's financial bankruptcy is going to play an increasingly sharp role in curtailing its options, and pushing the USA toward a much less engaged position around the world. A neo-isolationist combination of "not our problem" retreat, coupled with a shift toward the Navy as a major form of presence, and a resurgence of punitive expeditions as a concept, strikes me as likely.
In that environment, the Ron Paul wing's policy liabilities decrease. And what's coming on the economic front does make me think that Ron might play a Barry Goldwater kind of role in the GOP's future, in the sense that many of his economic views are going to find their way into the hands of a more capable, popular, and balanced future champion.
Time will tell. On all fronts.
Here's Palin doing her usual make-it-up routine with Shimon Peres:Now, that's an entire post from Sullivan; he thinks this is important enough to do a post over."I wanted to meet you for many years," Ms. Palin told Mr. Peres, according to an aide to the president. "The only flag at my office is an Israeli flag," she was quoted as saying, "and I want you to know and I want Israelis to know that I am a friend."Er: there are several flags in recent photographs of her office, including the American and Alaskan flags, as one would expect. She meant the only foreign flag, presumably.
I know Sullivan wants me to check out his list of "lies." I picked one to check out, that she said the only flag in her office was the Israeli flag. As Sullivan himself notes, she must have meant to say the only foreign flag, since she did also have an Alaskan and an American flag in her office. That's the sort of sloppy speaking that one would correct easily if it were pointed out at the time. Of course, I also have the state flag and the American flag. I mean, it would be pretty ridiculous for a state governor to only have a foreign flag! There isn't even a motivation to lie.To which Sullivan responds:
That there's no motivation here doesn't mean it's an "odd lie" - which is Sullivan's term. It means it's not a lie at all. What's odd is his definition of a lie. If I said I was just wearing jeans to a party, you wouldn't have exposed me as a liar if I turned up wearing a shirt and shoes as well. In fact, you'd sound like a dork - or, with good enough delivery, a comedian - if you said, "You liar. You said you were just wearing jeans!"
Calling something like this a lie marks you as someone who's centered not on finding out what is true, but on destroying someone. It doesn't motivate me to go through the rest of the long list systematically to see what each item is about, and it certainly doesn't make me want to look at the list and accept the conclusion that wow, Sarah Palin really is a terrible liar.
Althouse picks an odd lie that is motivated by a desire to please a political constituency as well as say something with utter indifference to reality. It is indeed one of the milder ones, as I noted myself. It's an exaggeration that is literally untrue but not at the level of delusion of the rest. It is not what Althouse wants to say: a prediction of future events that doesn't work out that way. It is a statement of current reality that is untrue. But keep going, Ann. Debunk them all. With facts, not spin.Now let me take a second and see what sense I can make of this...
And, of course, Althouse is right that any single one of these "odd lies" could be explained by the usual human fallibility. We all make minor things up from time to time, white lies, on the spur of the moment. But all of them? Empirically disproven by the public record? In a relatively short career? It's the pattern here that I'm establishing. And the pattern is emphatically not one of mere bad memory or spin. It is one of clinical delusion.
It is my contention that all is not right here. In fact, something is very seriously wrong. This is not about destroying anyone. It is about saving a system that perpetrated an error as huge as this one. And we cannot save this system until we fully understand the depth of the scandal in front of us: that this clinically delusional person had a good chance of having her finger on the nuclear button. And still does if she is not fully vetted and understood. I intend to keep doing that until the whole truth is in front of us.
The ineffective response to the current financial crisis reflects trends that have been hurting California public education for years. To win votes, political leaders mandated long prison sentences that forced us to stop building schools and start building prisons. This has made us dumber but no safer. Leaders pandered by promising tax cuts no matter what and did not worry about how to provide basic services without that money. Those tax cuts did not make us richer; they've made us poorer. To remain in office, they carved out legislative districts that ensured we would have few competitive races and leaders with no ability or incentive to compromise. Rather than strengthening the parties, it pushed both parties to the fringes and weakened them.So what's not to like?
When the economy was good, our leaders failed to make hard choices and then faced disasters like the energy crisis. When the economy turned bad, they made no choices until the economy was worse.
In response to failures of leadership, voters came up with one cure after another that was worse than the disease -- whether it has been over-reliance on initiatives driven by special interests, or term limits that remove qualified people from office, or any of the other ways we have come up with to avoid representative democracy.
My story is not unique. It is the story of California's rise from the 1960s to the 1990s. Millions of people stayed here and succeeded because of their California education. We benefited from the foresight of an earlier generation that recognized it had a duty to pay it forward.But there's a problem...let me give some examples.
That was the bargain California made with us when it established the California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960. By making California the state where every qualified and committed person can receive a low-cost and high-quality education, all of us benefit. Attracting and retaining the leaders of the future helps the state grow bigger and stronger. Economists found that for every dollar the state invests in a CSU student, it receives $4.41 in return.
So as someone who has lived the California dream, there is nothing more painful to me than to see this dream dying. It is being starved to death by a public that thinks any government service -- even public education -- is not worth paying for. And by political leaders who do not lead but instead give in to our worst, shortsighted instincts.
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Over at the America Enterprise Institute, Charles Murray asks the question, links to some folks with a different view, and describes the people he tries to write for.
Who's right, do you think, and why?
"China mostly invests in activities that raise productivity, raising the amount of goods and services that they can produce. This could be manufacturing or infrastructure or various kinds of services. Agriculture lags but continues to get some new investment. And of course they pour money into education. I'm not a fan of the Chinese way of organizing their economy or their society.... But contrast their pattern of investment in recent years with ours. What sector in our economy has expanded more than any other? ....Finance.... What has this really added in terms of productivity?"
"The ATM and the credit card were great breakthroughs, but they are old. What has "financial innovation" brought us since the 1980s? ....Because financial innovation has mostly facilitated a big increase in finance.
....Rent-seeking means effectively a tax extracted by one sector from the rest of the economy.... Finance is rent-seeking. The sector has devoted great resources to tilting all playing fields in its direction. Consumers are taken advantage of; consumer protection is vehemently opposed. And great risks are taken, with the downside handed off to the government (and the consumers again, as taxpayers). This downside protection allows an overexpansion of debt-financed finance - reaching the preposterous levels seen in mid-2008 and now re-emerging.
Finance in its modern American form is not productive. It is not conducive to further sustained economic growth. The GDP accruing from these activities is illusory - most of finance is simply a tax on what is done by more productive members of society and a diversion of talent away from genuinely productivity-enhancing activities.
The rise of China does not necessarily imply slowdown or demise for the United States. But if they specialize in making things and we specialize in finance, they will eat our lunch."
In Johnson's comments section, the Mike Rulle comment thread provides a useful counterpoint with good questions. The aptly-named Bond Girl offers, I think, the most common sense reply, StatsGuy the most detailed one. It's a good and worthwhile debate, because there is an element of overstatement in Johnson's formulation of finance as a pure rent-seeking industry.
On the other hand, you look at banks insisting on tying corporate loans to derivatives, and marketing "structured notes" to small investors before the smoke has even stopped issuing from the crash, and "rent seeking" seems like a pretty obvious description. This is an industry that hasn't changed a bit, or learned a thing - and significant aspects of what they do magnify both the probability and extent of losses in the economy.
This is not currently a left-wing vs. right-wing argument - vid. guys like Peter Schiff (getting cheered on Jon Stewart, no less!), and also some smart Democrat politicians among the other side. Obama's Consumer Protection initiative might even have a lot more going for it than the other side of the aisle will acknowledge.
This could become a partisan issue in future if the GOP remains clueless, Obama decides he needs a lifeline/scapegoat as his other economic policies catch up with him, and financial firms continue with deceptive and fraudulent practices on a grand scale, leading to further financial shocks. The perfect storm O is generating for the American economy (exploding deficits and unemployment, coming jumps in interest rates and inflation, imploding energy exploration and production) is the GOP's biggest asset, and most of them realize that.
Even as they fail to see that Wall Street is shaping up to be President O's biggest political asset, possibly even his "get out of jail free" card.
Sure, it would mean throwing all of his loyal, high-contribution financiers under the bus, but that never stopped O before with power at stake. Especially if the GOP is stupid enough to be uncritical of Wall Street practices beforehand, then offer a Pavlovian defense of the so-called "free market" afterward. All without further thought re: what that market truly needs in order to be transparent and efficient.
Fraud is not capitalism. Paper is not productivity.
It's time for a wide, deep rethink in America, coupled with quick action to address the seeds of the next crash. Which have already being planted, and could well bear fruit before 2012.
If we want to get off this path, it's going to take dedicated, smart critics on both sides of the aisle. Maybe then we'll get to a happy future of fewer lawyers, curbed financiers with lower average earnings presiding over a much more stable base system, and fewer public employees - and more engineers, more domestic energy, more science grads, and more domestic manufacturers (the latter 2 merging as we speak in some areas).
Throw in steady savings, and we could have a prosperous America again. Fail, and the best scenario looks like Britain's long economic fall from the grace. The worst scenario looks like Germany's.