Monday, November 30, 2009
This sequence highlights the basic premise of go-for-it boosters. To win, your opponent needs to score points. To score points, your opponent needs the ball. If you go for it on fourth down and get it, you deny your opponent the thing he needs most: the ball. Had the Cardinals decided to go for it with 6 minutes left, they could have gone into their four minute offense to burn some clock. If they could make it just another 10 yards, they'd be in field goal range, meaning the Titans would have needed overtime or a 2-point conversion to win the game. In an era of weaker offense and lower passing completion percentages, punting made more sense. In todays high-octane offense times, holding the ball becomes more important.
(photo from flickr user rexhammock )
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Nick:Neil ratio of this blog is going to move upward quite a bit over the next two weeks, I think, as I fly around Australia and New Zealand giving philosophy talks. But after that, things should get back to their usual state.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Leave nominations for future kitsch covers in the comments.
You're especially encouraged to drop me a line if you want to hang out Down Under sometime around New Year's Day, when I'm just going to be wandering aimlessly around Eastern Australia and New Zealand.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I'm thankful for having Jane in my life, and for the fact that the Internet has preserved at least something she said.
That is all.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
There are a bunch of strange phenomena surrounding Sarah Palin that say something important about our politics and generate lots of fodder for analysis. So people spend lots of time chewing that fodder. This is as it should be. Lots of people (I'm thinking of Ezra here) have better things to do, so they will go away from the Palin conversations and do better things. That is also as it should be. Palin also is kind of a Big Shiny Object that attracts attention, so people who like to chatter about Big Shiny Objects will chatter about her. And that's okay too.
So, carry on, everybody.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Senate is basically debating a bill written by Max Baucus and edited by Harry Reid, and to some extent by other members of the Finance Committee. That leaves 46 Senate Democrats who've close to zero input on the current bill. If I were one of those 46 I'm not sure I'd feel great about that arrangement.
Western societies have been changing over the last couple centuries in a few fairly steady ways. For one thing, technology keeps getting better. For another thing, old prejudices like racism, sexism, and homophobia are slowly declining. So if you make it easy to change the laws, you make it easy for a society to have the laws that people want in a high-tech, unprejudiced society. But if you make it hard to change the laws, you stick us to laws from the past. The filibuster is basically a way of making it very hard to change big laws, so it keeps us a couple decades behind the present.
It's pretty clear that progressives have anti-prejudice reasons to oppose the filibuster -- we don't want another scenario where Dixiecrats are using it to keep Southern blacks from having rights. But I think progressivism is also the view more suited to a high-tech world. As technology gets better, you become able to make more and more cool stuff. Not just in the sense that now there are iPhones, but also in the sense that antibiotics are inexpensive and available. If you're stuck to laws from a time when there was less stuff, your social welfare programs are going to reflect that condition by being more stingy. Maybe you're only going to feed the hungry, because that's all they could do in the old days, when you've got enough resources to heal the sick as well.
There's a technocratic case that goes along with this. Having the economy of the future is great in a lot of ways, but weird new problems come up that you didn't expect. You put enough carbon into the atmosphere to mess up the climate. Financial institutions become capable of doing complicated things that crash the economy. Your employer-based health care system starts swallowing up 16% of GDP. At a very general level of description, these aren't problems specifically for people who have progressive views. They're things that, say, Edmund Burke would've recognized as genuine ills, and it's only the weird interest-group structure within the Republican Party that makes them seem like partisan concerns.
Now, you don't solve these problems by smashing everything up and living in a cave. You do it by devising regulatory or social-welfare solutions to them. And if those solutions need 60-vote supermajorities, it's a lot harder to put them into practice.
One thing I love about the whole effort is how it presses the fact that the health care legislation in Congress actually reduces the deficit. This is the sort of thing that the CBO has affirmed and wonks are going to know and newspapers will have in utterly forgettable ways and ordinary people are not going to realize. But when it comes up in the surprising way that it does here -- "We had to make sure health care reform wouldn't increase the deficit, so the Afghan War shouldn't either" -- it's a neat new way to get the message across.
I have no idea how this will all turn out, because it's pretty novel, but if David Obey's bill somehow succeeds and we end up generating the norm that wars must be paid for, that's going to be a truly world-historical development. A future in which War or Car doesn't really work as a blog idea because we don't blow enough money to coat NH and VT in gold leaf without seriously weighing the tradeoffs is a future I want to live in.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The office does, however, come with the power to appoint creationists to the State Board of Education. Since Texas is the largest unified textbook market in the country, Republican Texas governors are a menace to children across the land.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Forget all those guys out in caves who don't know what the Lambeau Leap is. Iraqi militants who understand the ins and outs of NFL rivalries will be dangerously effective in infiltrating our culture.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Also via Obsidian Wings, Lindsay Beyerstein has her first article in Newsweek about how the Stupak stuff isn't going into the Senate bill, making it very likely that it'll die in conference committee. (Congratulations, Lindsay!)
Today's Kitsch Cover is Jimmy Eat World covering The Prodigy's "Firestarter"
Firestarter - Jimmy Eat World
Leave your captions and nominations for future kitsch covers in the comments.
The difference, of course, is that while progressives have to deal with the black box voting people at conferences and rallies and such (and they have a point! It's just not my #1 issue!), they tended to be shunted to the side. And while I think lefties tend to exaggerate the importance of Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachman, Louie Gohmert, and the like, the GOP has still mainlined the crazy a bit more than Democrats did during their out years.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
After that, Congress should rename the the lowest tier of coverage so that it sounds like crappy insurance in addition to being crappy insurance. You could name it the 'Lead' tier, since lead is both a cheap metal and something that's actually bad for your health.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
13 (A) BRONZE LEVEL.—A plan in the bronze
14 level shall provide a level of coverage that is de
15 signed to provide benefits that are actuarially
16 equivalent to 60 percent of the full actuarial
17 value of the benefits provided under the plan.
This is the point where I snarkily suggest that pro-reform conservatives, who seem to be coalescing around "universal catastrophic insurance" as the latest phantom alternative health reform, should start supporting the current bill. As written, the Bronze plans will be, if not universal, certainly a popular form of individual catastrophic insurance with some first-dollar coverage for certain
In Massachusetts, 42% of the total population in the Connector, and 58% who don't choose the Young Invincible plans, end up purchasing Bronze insurance. That's a lot of folks who will end up with very high deductibles and co-payments. In theory this is supposed to give people incentive to choose low-cost treatment options. But of course we're not all MDs who are well equipped to determine the optimal course of treatment in many cases, so we just end up cutting back on health care across the board, rather than keeping the "good" health care and throwing out the "bad" health care.
This is, in my view, a suboptimal solution. Subsidies are supposed to help with this, but that just feels backwards to me. Why make people buy weak insurance, then subsidize their deductible, rather than just subsidize the purchase of better insurance? I think they really ought to either make bronze plans really unattractive to all but the cheapest of the cheap, or otherwise set the minimum level of coverage closer at 70% or even higher (I think Rockefeller wanted it at 73%, which sounds good to me).
7 ‘‘(a) PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATORY PREMIUM
13 ‘‘(A) such rate shall vary with respect to
14 the particular plan or coverage involved only
20 ‘‘(iii) age, except that such rate shall
21 not vary by more than 3 to 1 for adults
22 (consistent with section 2707(c)); and
The Senate Finance version of the bill that left Committee limited the age variation to 4:1, which would let insurance companies price anyone over 50 out of the market. The House version limits it to 2:1. The fact that the Senate has already shifted to 3:1 means that things are moving in the right direction.
On to page 81 ...
Thankfully, Ms Blackburn is not a Senator, so she can't force the executive branch to bend to her wishes by placing a hold random nominations.
Also, in the interest of gender equality let me add that the same thing goes for prostate cancer. As with breast cancer, the survival rate among diagnosed patients is very high, but the survival rate among the overall population is average. One read is that Americans are more cancerous and better treated. Another read is that Americans are overdiagnosed, with a number of patients receive treatment for "marginal" cancer that isn't life threatening.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
|MEEK ||FLORIDA17 ||184 ||14 ||170 |
|DAVIS ||ALABAMA7 ||227 ||59 ||168 |
|PELOSI ||CALIFOR8 ||153 ||10 ||143 |
|MEEKS ||NEW YOR6 ||148 ||9 ||139 |
|RICHARDSON ||CALIFOR37 ||161 ||30 ||131 |
|BRADY ||PENNSYL1 ||127 ||13 ||114 |
|LIPINSKI ||ILLINOI3 ||205 ||104 ||101 |
|MALONEY ||NEW YOR14 ||130 ||33 ||97 |
|DEGETTE ||COLORAD1 ||142 ||49 ||93 |
|SIRES ||NEW JER13 ||141 ||51 ||90 |
|RANGEL ||NEW YOR15 ||85 ||1 ||84 |
|TOWNS ||NEW YOR10 ||86 ||4 ||82 |
|HARMAN ||CALIFOR36 ||167 ||92 ||75 |
One last chart, this is a chart of white Southern Democrats. We're going to use the CQ South, defined as the old Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma:
Only seven of these 41 members are to their district's right (17%), better than to 17 out of 51 members of the '06 and '08 classes (33%). Six of those seven represent safe seats. These are reps who are dealmakers like Jim Cooper, (who's slightly to the right of his Nashville-based district), or have such liberal districts it's simply hard to get to their left (Lloyd Doggett in Austin). The exception is John Barrow (D-GA12; photo from Wik). Barrow represents a seat that was redrawn by state Republicans in 2005. He won his 2006 reelection in a nail-biter, but cruised to victory in 2008, winning 66-34. His district appears to have shifted to the left, though his large margin may in part be due to Obama's presence on the ticket and his district's large African-American population. He must think that the 2010 electorate will look like the 2006 electorate, because despite the fact his seat appears fairly safe, he's still behaving like an extremely conservative Democrat.
If people are casting about for members who deserve a primary challenge, Dan Lipinski is an obvious target, as is Jane Harman. Donna Edwards may provide a template for running challenges to entrenched CBC incumbents. And while it's tempting to go after members who have tried to stymie health care in a high-profile way coughMikeRosscough, don't forget about members who are doing their district a disservice. John Barrow is a "more Democrat" when his district deserves a "better Democrat". That may not be in the cards in 2010, but with Obama on the ticket in 2012 it's definitely something worth considering.
If people find this stuff useful, I may post more charts. What do you want to see? Blue Dogs? Stupak Dems?
I'll upload the spreadsheet soon, but at the moment Google Docs is misbehaving.
If I get this right, Waxman and Gordon flipping their votes takes it to 29-29, and Space's vote puts Team Human Decency over the top.
A day before the bill passed out of committee, Stupak co-sponsored, and voted for an amendment written by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)--distinct from the now notorious "Stupak amendment"--that would have limited the government's ability to include abortions in benefits plans to cases of incest, life of the mother, and forcible rape.
The Pitts amendment actually passed, 31-27, with the support of several Democrats and all Republicans. But the "forcible" language--legally significant--was a bridge too far.
In a parliamentary maneuver, chairman Henry Waxman actually voted "aye", according to a House aide, in order to retain the prerogative of bringing it up for a second, unsuccessful vote. Between votes, Waxman conferred with some of the bill's Democratic supporters to convince them to help shoot it down.
One of them, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), agreed to flip his vote. Another--Rep. Zack Space (D-IN)--didn't vote at all the first time around, but voted against it on its second pass. And that was enough to kill it.
I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, so this story makes me feel optimistic about the future. There may be very bad people in the House Democratic Caucus. But Henry Waxman is on our side, and if there's any way for the good guys to win, he's going to find it. People wondering how the Stupak amendment will fare in conference committee should take note.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The following paragraph has been edited for clarity, in addition to flipping the sign in the equations written to reflect what I actually wroete
On 4th down, with 2 yards or fewer to go, New England has gained a first down on approximately 66% of its attempts with Tom Brady as quarterback. The Colts had
(Probability of 4th down failure) xThe average New England punt nets about 40 yards. Let's give the Colts a probability Q of scoring a TD on a driving starting at the Indianapolis 32. Then, the chance of the Patriots losing is simply Q. For Belichick's decision to make sense, we just have to believe that he gave his team a
(Probability of Colts scoring a TD from the 28 Yard line) = 0.33P
Tom Brady is sitting in the postgame press conference doing yeoman's work trying to explain this to a roomful of stunned sports reporters in a language that they can understand. I don't envy him in this moment.
Update: Okay, the Patriots made one error
3rd and 2 at NE 28
(Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete short right to W.Welker (J.Powers).
Timeout #3 by NE at 02:08.
4th and 2 at NE 28
(Shotgun) T.Brady pass short right to K.Faulk to NE 29 for 1 yard (M.Bullitt).
The punt team should not have come on the field, forcing the Patriots to call a timeout. With the time out in hand, New England could have challenged the spot on the 4th down play, or allowed the Colts to score quickly so they could try for a comeback field goal (speaking of which, why didn't they let the Colts score a TD on the first play from scrimmage so they could try for a comeback field goal).
It's generally a bad thing when interest groups capture the political process and get lots of public funds for their thing by buying votes. But I don't think it gets any worse than the case of military spending, where the bad arguments used as justifications for the spending present foreign threats as more dangerous and conflict as more justified. If somebody makes a bad public policy argument for a bridge or a post office, the worst that happens is that we waste money on a useless bridge or a post office. The worst-case scenario with arguments for military spending is far worse than that. To justify buying unnecessary military hardware, you have to magnify the need to use it, and drive the nation towards war.
Friday, November 13, 2009
First Lady Michelle Obama hands out treats during a Halloween reception for military families and children of White House staff in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 31, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today's kitsch cover is five Harmonix's employees singing Paramore's "That's What You Get". Barber shop style:
I have Kitsch covers lined up for the next two weeks, but, keep 'em coming.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The American Chemistry Council, of course, is a totally different group, formerly called the Chemical Manufacturers' Association. According to Wikipedia, it's "in charge of improving the public image of the chemical industry." I guess they realized that their former name was worse for getting people to quiet down and enjoy their Bisphenol A.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
How would that worklogistically? Would insurance companies track your visit history(assuming this doesn't violate
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I'm sure why I don't hear more about this guy. Is he not being vocal enough? Is it that he's not a swing vote on any legislation so the media doesn't follow him closely? Is he too junior to make much noise? Whatever the case may be, I'd like to hear about him more often.
Sanders is a nifty asset as far as Overton Window issues are concerned. He's formally not a Democrat, and this gives him the opportunity to push good ideas that the party as a whole doesn't really want to be associated with, but which towards which they're happy to promote half-measures. Then he can get all grumpy about how Democrats aren't socialists like they should be, but vote along with them.
I understand how centrist positioning can be an electoral asset, so in some cases it's reasonable to pursue it. But of you want to be seen as a Democratic centrist, you need prominent and respectable people on your left, or nobody will see you as being in the center of anything. These people can introduce ideas that keep your votes from looking radical, and sometimes angrily call you a moderate and a non-socialist, which is what you want to be called. The Ben Nelsons of the world should understand that they need Bernie Sanders to do his thing.
If I had a degree in philosophy perhaps I could put together a story about mythos versus logos, but as it is I just see these email stories and think of the random white folks they show in By The People and their skepticism about Obama.
Democrats should seriously consider convincing Snowe (and Susan Collins, while we're at it) to at least become join Joe Lieberman as an independent who caucuses with Democrats. In fact, it might even be useful form a "Mugwump Party" consisting of socially liberal, economically moderate non-Southern Republicans and Democrats: Carper, Specter, Snowe, Collins, Lieberman, Herb Kohl, Jeanne Shaheen, and Dianne Feinstein could all form a little club and get jackets made.
Needless to say I find the Times' analysis an exercise in the pundit's fallacy. The most likely explanation for why Mike McGinn won a low turnout election is ... the McGinn campaign worked harder. Joe Mallahan tried to buy the election via establishment endorsements and high-priced advertising. He was outdone by a tremendous volunteer effort. Should we really be surprised that this happened in a low-turnout election, given what Carol Shea-Porter was able to do in New Hampshire, and what Barack Obama did in caucus states and small states?
Monday, November 9, 2009
During the evening news broadcast in West Germany, the anchor Hanns Friedrichs joyfully proclaimed that the ninth of November was a historic day, for the East German government had announced that its borders were open. East Germans who listened surreptitiously to the Western broadcast immediately gathered at the gate. Within an hour, thousands had gathered at the Wall.
In a nearby possible world, this story ends with a bloody riot. Armed guards shoot the boldest of the misinformed citizens; the uninjured retaliate. Guards are killed, the police put down the riot, and the Wall stands, not forever, but for a little white longer as the Soviets eased into openness.
In this world, Harald Jäger, in command at the Bornholmer Gate, decided not to shoot. He called his superiors, who of course had heard of no such policy change, and faced with the gathering, chanting crowds, decided to let a few cross the border; by midnight, he simply opened the gate to all, not taking names or checking identification.
During the protests in Iran, I was hearing from lots of smart people that what usually decides the fate of nonviolent protests against authoritarian governments is the behavior of the security forces. If they refuse to beat or shoot the protestors, the regime loses its control over the people and collapses. But if they carry out their brutal orders, everything ends in tragedy. That's the choice that faced Harald Jäger twenty years ago, and he made the right one.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
- Voted against final passage on H.R. 3296
- Voted for Stupak's amendment
- Voted for "Ordering the Previous Question", a procedural vote prior to debate on H.R. 3296
- Barrow, GA-12, D+1
- Boccieri, OH-16 R+4
- McIntyre, NC-07, R+5
- Altmire, PA-04 R+6
- Holden, PA-17 R+6
- Shuler, NC-11 R+6
- Tanner, TN-08 R+6
- Teague, NM-02 R+6
- Peterson, MN-05 R+7
- Ross, AR-04 R+7
- Chandler, KY-06, R+9
- Gordon, TN-06, R+13
- Skelton, MO-4 R+14
- Matheson, UT-02 R+15
But that's okay. A quality Democratic challenger with strong local connections runs on average about 5 points ahead of a Presidential candidate. John Boccieri should be winning his R+4 district in most years. Let's re-sort the list based on each member's share of the vote in 2008.
- Tanner, TN-08 unopposed
- Ross, AR-04 86.2%
- Peterson, MN-05 72.3%
- McIntyre, NC-07, 68.8%
- Barrow, GA-12, 66.0%
- Skelton, MO-4 65.9%
- Chandler, KY-06 64.7%
- Holden, PA-17 63.8%
- Matheson, UT-02 63.3%
- Shuler, NC-11 62.0%
- Altmire, PA-04 55.9%
- Teague, NM-02 55.8%
- Boccieri, OH-16, 54.0%
Saturday, November 7, 2009
But maybe you want to hear about primary challenges! Well, here's Bart Stupak's district, MI-1, consisting mostly of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. It's a fairly conservative district with a PVI of R+3. Last general election, he won 65-33. Time before that, he won 69-28. It doesn't look like the most promising territory either for a primary challenge or for any kind of Scozzafavaing.
Stupak's wikipedia page says, "Stupak is considered a possible candidate for Governor of Michigan in 2010." I don't know how serious such consideration was, but this should end today. His amendment is the kind of thing that should effectively disqualify you from winning a statewide primary. That, at least, is a consequence he can face.
Considering the events of today in general, the offensive/delightful video for Amanda Palmer's "Oasis" seems like the appropriate way to end this post. Health care reform is about to pass the House! But really bad stuff happened! But good! And, abortion!
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders were negotiating with the Catholic bishops and their representatives on Friday.
The apparent decision to jettison abortion services in the name of political expediency is really quite a remarkable climbdown from the Clinton era, when reproductive rights were much closer to core Democratic principles. And it can't really be attributed to Republican obstruction; at the moment there are roughly five Republican Representatives with decent records on choice issues: Judy Biggert (IL-13), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Mike Castle (DE-AL), Charlie Dent (PA-15), and Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11).
I really, really, hope that the endgame plan here is to kill this crap in conference. I can't see Barbara Boxer or any number of Northeastern Senators voting for this nonsense.
Update: On the plus side, this make or break time for Douthatism. We're going to end up with a bill that expands insurance coverage but reduces insurance coverage for abortions (individuals who currently buy insurance on the non-group market will have to buy it through the exchange, so some of them will not bother purchasing separate riders for abortion coverage). This is the sort of thing that Douthat and the 2007-vintage Mike Huckabee should support, right?
... Also, if there's no vote on Medicare+5% at this point, that's some grade-A bullshit. The whole point of pulling the vote on Medicare+5% was to give leadership an excuse not to allow Bart Stupak's wanker amendment to come to the floor. Since that's clearly not happening, we should get votes on both amendments.
Friday, November 6, 2009
As run by the government, the USPS loses money ...
Most Postal Service stakeholders believe that the PRA [Postal Reform Act] has been a success. The business model that the Postal Service should support itself on revenues collected from users of the mail has been validated by 38 years in which the Postal Service has broken even, sometimes had no debt, and stopped asking for an appropriation to cover the public service cost of mail service. The PRA gave the Postal Service some independence from executive control over its purse strings, and on the whole the Postal Service has used its discretion responsibly. Arguably, its financial performance is superior to that of the executive branch itself over this period.In fact, in recent years, the Postal Service has run at a surplus, but Congress continues to demand that it prefund its pension and retiree health benefits at a level that no private sector pension fund has to meet.
I'm semi-agnostic on the question of privatizing the postal service ... I assume it's another urban-to-rural cross subsidy, and people in the far reaches of North Dakota might not have any mail service if it were privatized, but there are so few people out there that increased competition for small parcel might lead to lower costs for so many more people that it makes sense. But like the VA, the Postal Service has escaped it's 1980s failures, and we really ought to end the stereotype that it's a poorly run government service.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Update: For comparison, I have included pictures of other things that are roughly as effective in covering the uninsured over a 10-year timeframe.
Better a donkey in office that acts like a donkey than a donkey in elephant’s clothing making a complete ass of the GOP.
The donkey clothing equals a vote for Speaker Pelosi, so I agree. We've got to come up with a nifty word for the kind of agreement about what would be good that is the product of a disagreement in goals times a disagreement about what would bring about those goals. Misagreement? If you've got a better one, suggest in comments.
In the short term, it's best for the Malkins of the world to grow somewhat stronger within their party, generating more intraparty conflict that creates more NY-23 situations where a fractured GOP helps Democrats win elections. Aside from occasional outliers, Republicans aren't going to provide any bipartisan support for legislation. So the party might as well be run by crazy people that freak out independents and lose elections.
I've been convinced (partly by some smart commenters) that over the long term we'd like to see a non-lunatic GOP, since at some point they're going to control everything again and we don't want insane leaders. But the question of how we get these long-term changes in the Republican Party from our current position is a complicated one. I don't know whether the quickest path goes through fiery intraparty civil war or through some kind of reconciliation. Whatever it is, it's going to be a long and winding path.
When it's clear what's good in the short-term but you have no idea what helps in the long-term, you go with your short-term good. So I'm quite happy to see Malkin say what she says, and I wish her a little more power for a little while.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Part of me wants to say that there's a rise in general anti-incumbent party/anti-establishment sentiment. Corzine lost, but Artur Davis is ahead in the polls in Alabama (it'd be really nice to have some independent polling of this race). The GOP took over the Governor's mansion in Virginia, but Mike McGinn is in the lead in the Seattle mayor's race. Mike Bloomberg's attempt to bend the rules and buy himself a third term only barely worked. The next mayor of Atlanta may be white. We live in interesting times, indeed.
Part of me also wants to say that the economic fundamentals are at work here. People are going to vote against incumbents when times are tough. It would be utter folly to expect Dems not to lose hold of some offices somewhere when unemployment has gone from 6% to 10% over the past year. Exit polls also show that most voters didn't see their votes as specifically for or against Obama. This shouldn't be surprising either; swing voters tend to perceive themselves as pragmatic and non-ideological. Yet, at the same time, while voters seem to be rejecting specific elected Democrats, they don't seem to be rejecting "tax and spend"; taxpayer bill of rights measures failed in Washington state and Maine, and to pour salt on the teabaggers' wounds, a highway bond issue passed in the Pine Tree State. Also, the NY-23 results suggest that anti-Democratic sentiment isn't enough; your candidate has to not suck, and you can't have a message that's too far out of tune with the district.
There's also a question of turnout among certain core Democratic groups that I want to address in more detail, but that will have to wait until later. For now, I think it's pretty clear that it was a bad night for Dems, who should have held New Jersey given the registration advantage, but NY-23 at least produced a pleasant aftertaste for the evening.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Neither do I have much of an idea what happens in the aftermath of this election, following either an Owens or Hoffman victory. The sheer crazy of the national GOP at this point makes it hard to figure out exactly what happens next -- at one point I think Stu Rothenberg was saying that a Hoffman win would embolden Republicans to do the self-destructive thing and run lots of third party candidates. But I think that was before Scozzafava dropped and endorsed Owens. Now they'd probably blame a defeat on Scozzafava and get even more furious at their party's moderates, which could also have exciting consequences. The party base is unmoored from mainstream news sources and attached to quirky political celebrities who have their own interests, and may push their followers into tactical absurdities.
Really I'm just hoping Owens wins. That'd counter any bad press we get if New Jersey abruptly stops working, and it's one more vote for Speaker Pelosi. I don't think we'll need it, but Nate sometimes seems worried, so I worry too.
Monday, November 2, 2009
the enemy of good beer and good wine, and good food in general, is bad beer, bad wine and, yes, bad food.Aspirational commodities are positional goods. They only get their goodness by being better than other things, which then seem worse. And maybe sometimes something can be appealing as an anti-aspirational commodity (I think Asimov's characterization of beer industry marketing might fit this model), but then it gets its goodness through something else's looking bad in a different kind of way.
What unites this team is the striving for real wine, real beer, and real food, as opposed to cynical product. That is the problem, and I think most people realize this no matter what they say or do. Craft beer’s battle is not against wine but against decades of cynical marketing from the giant breweries, which have done everything possible to portray beer drinkers as asinine fools. The enemy of good wine is the atrocious marketing that makes wine an aspirational commodity, just another luxury good to purchase for its status value. That has to offend the reverse snob in all of us.
So adding goodness to your product through this kind of marketing ends up being a zero-sum game. It's not that aspirational marketing can't increase a consumer's satisfaction with a product, especially an unreflective consumer -- it does. It just accomplishes this by damaging the value of everything else.
But you know what doesn't work like that? Tastiness. For me, eating and drinking are a genuinely fun part of life, because there's so much good food and drink around. (Food especially, out here in Singapore at the nexus of all these different cultures that know how to use spices well.) And while there is such a thing as having high standards and appreciating better food, the overall fun-ness of eating and drinking can be raised by things being more yummy. Things getting more yummy isn't a zero sum game.