Showing posts from September, 2009

word cloud and transcript: Sarah Palin on common-sense conservatism

This is the text and word cloud of the speech by Sarah Palin while in Hong Kong on September 23rd, for the CLSA Pacific Markets Conference. Note the dominant topic (in the cloud) in her speech is obvious, and hardly a surprise given the context and locale of the speech. You can call me a common-sense conservative. My approach to the issues facing my country and the world, issues that we'll discuss today, are rooted in this common-sense conservatism... Common sense conservatism deals with the reality of the world as it is. Complicated and beautiful, tragic and hopeful, we believe in the rights and the responsibilities and the inherent dignity of the individual. We don't believe that human nature is perfectible; we're suspicious of government efforts to fix problems because often what it's trying to fix is human nature, and that is impossible. It is what it is. But that doesn't mean that we're resigned to any negative destiny. Not at all. I believe in striving fo

Should conservatives embrace Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story" ?

I admit to not having ever seen a Michael Moore movie, though from what I understand his film Roger and Me was probably his defining film, one that predated the Bush era and thus was more balanced in its critiques. Of course his latest effort, a rant against the horrors of unrestrained capitalism, is not going to make any converts. Still, I was intrigued by the positive review of Capitalism: A Love Story at AICN by their resident conservative critic Massawyrm (he lambasted the animated film Happy Feet for being a propaganda film against religion, intended to indoctrinate children, and proclaimed The Ant Bully to be a storybook version of The Communist Manifesto. I have to agree with the former, and haven't seen the latter.). Massawyrm speaks of his admiration for the "old" Michael Moore, invoking Roger and Me, and then makes the claim that this new movie is the closest Moore has come to returning to those genuine speak-truth-to-power roots. And he puts it in contex

Do doctors support health care reform? IBD says no, NEJM says yes

There's an alarmist poll out from Investors Business Daily that makes the shocking claim that almost half (46%) of America's doctors will quit under Obama's proposed health care reform plan. The implications of such a finding - which runs counter to the American Medical Association's own support of President Obama for reform - are that one result of reform would be that America's doctors would revolt. But does this poll make any sense? It turns out that the poll was a mail-in questionaire, not the usual phone-based poll. This is important because of selection bias; doctors who are predisposed to feeling threatened by proposed health care legislation will be more likely to respond. Also, mail-in responses tend to be skewed towards older repsondents, who also are more likely to be skeptical, or at least more willing to retire. The poll itself was terribly written; one of the questions read, "Do you believe the government can cover 47 million more people and it

towards a "realist" foreign policy

There's a new foreign policy group in town called the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy , and they have written a letter to President Obama urging him to "focus US strategy more clearly on Al Qaeda" instead of explicit nation-building. The text of the letter follows: Dear Mr. President: During your campaign for the Presidency, Americans around the country appreciated your skepticism of the rationales for the Iraq war. In 2002, you had warned that such an endeavor would yield "a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, and with unintended consequences." You pointed out the dangers of fighting such a war "without a clear rationale and without strong international support." As scholars of international relations and U.S. foreign policy, many of us issued similar warnings before the war, unfortunately to little avail. Today, we are concerned that the war in Afghanistan is growing increasingly detached from considerations of leng

Baucus bill follies: the public option is anti-progressive

I've been reading Tyler Cowen , Ezra Klein , and the League on the matter of the Baucus bill and am frankly bothered by the way in which progressives seem to be losing sight of the main goal of health care: to bring affordable coverage to 100% of all Americans. This is a goal that the vaunted public options does exactly zero to achieve, and it strikes me might actually be undermining these basic principles instead. It should be noted, again, that the public option would only be available to a small fraction of citizens who are either ineligible or unable to afford private insurance. So the scope of the public option is limited to begin with, and certainly will be constrained so heavily that it will never, ever be the stealth road to single-payer that most of the progressives who are intent on making it a litmus test seem to think it will. The problem is that the bipartisanship-obsessed reformers like Baucus are trying to trim the overall bill's cost below arbitrary limits as

9-11 as an outlier

Earlier, I posted my thoughts about whether terrorism was still a threat , noting that in one sense the answer was obviously yes, but asking whether 9-11 was the outlier it seemed to be. My post was intended to provoke a discussion, and the best response was by Dave Schuler, reproduced here in full: The question reminds me of the story of the guy who jumped off the Empire State Building. As he passed the 30th floor, someone yelled to him "How are you doing?" to which he responded "So far, so good." Of course 9/11 is an outlier. Unfortunately, from a political standpoint that's irrelevant. Any resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will necessarily respond to such an event (my view is that President Gore would have done virtually everything that President George W. Bush did , including invading Iraq, but I seem to be an outlier in that belief). Yes, terrorism is a threat. As I pointed out in my memorial post , we haven't really responded prudently to the threat

9-11 reflections: Is terrorism still a threat?

The obvious answer to the question is yes - and that goes for before as well as after 9-11. In many ways, 9-11 distorts the picture because it was the single largest casualty count of any terrorist attack in history (unless you start to factor in acts of state-sponsored terrorism during armed conflicts, but let's accept the conventional though arbitrary definition of terrorism as solely due to non-state actors). The count of all major terrorist attacks resulting in 100 or more fatalities is an interesting one. There were 33 such attacks prior to 9-11, and a huge fraction of the post-9-11 attacks are in Iraq. I may be mistaken but the only attacks of any significant scale in the West after 9-11 have been in London and Madrid, though there have been numerous arrests of various Western muslims (mostly British) for various plots (mostly inept, like the ricin plot, the shoe bomber, and the liquid bombs). So, what does that all mean? If we exclude 9-11, then it looks like terrorism is a

Losing Afghanistan: the McChrystal report

cross-posted from City of Brass One of the major problems with the Bush Administration and its conservative Republican stalwarts regarding the Iraq War was the "stay the course" dogma which seemed immune to any attempt at an honest evaluation of the war's goals or purpose. There were no metrics for success, aside from a nebulous goal of "victory". Proponents of withdrawal were accused of defeatism and virtual treason. The bottom line was that " failure was not an option ", which in the absence of a well-defined success meant perpetual war for its own sake. President Obama promised a different approach, where success would be clearly defined and measured and the policy would be defined by the facts, not the other way around. The war in Afghanistan will put Obama's rhetoric to the test. Will he stay the course no matter the facts? Or will he be willing to adapt? It should be noted that the opportunity for genuine and timely intervention in Afghanista