Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick Round Up

FLG was busy today and didn't have time for his usual blogging. Here's a quick round up of half thoughts, visceral reactions, and bullshit from today.

Other people agree with something FLG has long maintained -- Twitter sucks.

FLG wants to tear this Roger Cohen column to shreds, but he's not sure why.

Buttonwood offers an interesting theory that China is saving more than the West because of the lack of public retirement programs and seems to imply that our problem is that Social Security creates a moral hazard problem that leads us to undersave. Yet, the government ain't saving either and we're fucking nuts.

A region in Spain is funding a masturbation campaign with the slogan "Pleasure is in your own hands." Say what you want, that's great marketing.

It's scares the shit out of me that more Republicans would seriously consider voting for Sarah Palin for president than ones who think she is qualified.


Withywindle said...

Aside from the possibility that Palin would be more qualified in 2012, and some Republicans are factoring that in to their responses, there is also the "She'd still be better than Obama" vote. Which I trust you are finding more and more persuasive with each passing day.

Andrew Stevens said...

FLG, didn't you vote for Obama? Was it really your opinion that a bit player in the Illinois Senate who had spent four entirely undistinguished years in the U.S. Senate (all of them principally spent running for President) was qualified to be President? And yet not only did you "seriously consider voting" for him, you actually did vote for him. Isn't this much stranger than what you're criticizing?

Andrew Stevens said...

Before I answer the obvious - yes, I agree that Palin isn't qualified to be President. For that matter, neither was Jimmy Carter in 1976 (four years as Governor of Georgia) or George W. Bush in 2000 (six years as Governor of Texas, though one can argue that his tenure as son of the President of the United States is an important auxiliary credit). The men in between Carter and Bush were well qualified. Ronald Reagan was Governor of California for eight years with extensive experience in national politics, George Bush Senior was ridiculously qualified, and Bill Clinton had been Governor of Arkansas for twelve years.

I am not necessarily saying that qualifications are all that matter, by the way. FLG was. Personally, I don't think it's insane to have supported Carter in '76, Bush in '00, or Obama in '08. I'm just pointing out that none of them was particularly qualified to be President. (Of the three, Bush was obviously the most qualified since he had six years in an important executive office. Being Governor of Texas obviously confers more experience than being Governor of Georgia, a U.S. Senator, or Governor of Alaska and he had also been re-elected unlike Carter, Obama, or Palin.)

FLG said...

I wrote a post a while back that explained that my criteria for minimum qualifications are relatively low.

"Speaking of which, conservatives need to realize something about Sarah Palin. I understand their infatuation with her. However, during the 2008 election she was woefully ignorant of basic facts that I expect an educated, involved citizen to know off-hand, forget somebody who would be next in line to the presidency of the oldest president ever sworn for his first term.

Yes, the media portrayed her as stupid, which she almost certainly isn't. But she actually didn't know stuff that she should have. For example, she couldn't say which newspapers she reads or name a supreme court case with which she disagreed. I can answer those questions easily. Furthermore, her answers in the debate left huge doubts in my mind. If she decides to run again the first thing she will have to do to get me to take her at all seriously is prove that she knows the equivalent of an educated, involved citizen. It ain't a terribly high bar. It wasn't simply a media conspiracy."

For me the president has to be an educated citizen, by which I mean a working understanding of government, history, economics, what used to be taught in civics classes. Intelligence helps, but beyond a certain point is often correlated with hubris, which is a negative. Then again, everybody who thinks they ought to be president possesses a level of hubris I find disturbing.

Is prior executive experience as a business person, military officer, governor helpful? Certainly, but it's not everything.

Obviously, I would prefer an experienced person over and inexperienced one. I'd prefer a smart one over a dumb one. I'd prefer an informed one over an ignorant one.

Between Obama and Palin, Obama is probably the smarter of the two. He is also the more informed of the two. Between the two I definitely prefer Palin's economic stance, but I feel far more confident that Obama knows more about economics behind his policies than she does, even if his positions are wrong I prefer that to some extent. Because then you can make an economic case against or for the position. With Palin it seems to be simple and reflexive anti-tax and anti-regulation bias.

So, I guess my point here is that I have a set of minimum standards for the presidency, which involve a certain amount of civic knowledge and a subjective judgment about character. I prefer more experience, but it's not a simple experience comparison.

If McCain had chosen somebody who didn't make a complete fool of themselves in interviews, and again I don't think it was all media conspiracy, I probably would've voted for him. He was just too old to not worry about his VP.

Andrew Stevens said...

Ah, there's the difference. I'm only interested in objective measurements of experience; I'm not at all interested in people's subjective opinions, including my own. I cannot accurately judge the intelligence of people I have known for years, nevertheless people I have never met.

I am also sufficiently versed in actuarial tables to not be too fussed about McCain's VP selection. In 2012, had he won and they were running for re-election, I'd have reassessed.

As to your reasoning on Palin's lack of smarts, Barack Obama described his visits to 57 or 58 states and made many similar gaffes. I do not distinguish a difference between his and Palin's except Palin's got more publicity. If you asked me what newspapers I read, I would no longer have an answer since I don't regularly read any. Once upon a time, I read eight. As far as not naming any Supreme Court decisions, it's quite possible that she knew several, but decided not to name any until she had coordinated strategy with John McCain. What if she had named, say, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld only to discover that McCain agreed with O'Connor and Rehnquist? All your examples really demonstrated to me was that Palin was not particularly media-savvy.

As for Obama, I never get the sense that this is a man who is actively engaged with the issues. He certainly doesn't strike me as any sort of wonk like Bill Clinton. When he talks about health insurance, for example, I get no sense that he even understands why insurance companies deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

This is what I mean by judging intelligence. I have no earthly idea how smart Barack Obama is. Maybe he's a genius, maybe he's an idiot, how the hell should I know? So I judge based on accomplishments and he, like Palin, doesn't actually have any.

Yes, I know. Magna cum laude from Harvard Law! Editor of the Law Review! But look carefully at those accomplishments. He did not graduate with any Latin honors from Columbia. He received admission to Harvard Law based on the recommendation of a well-connected friend (Dr. Khalid al Mansour who convinced the very influential Percy Sutton to put in a good word for Obama). He became editor of the Law Review based on all-night balloting (grades as the criteria had been done away with a few years earlier); he never published a scholarly article in the Review. And he graduated magna from a school famous for inflating its honors. (It is even possible he had a C average. This is not like a typical school where only 2% graduate summa, the next 3% magna, and the next 5% cum, so these distinctions are very meaningful.) Now, it is quite possible that Obama was brilliant at Harvard, but without a transcript, I honestly have no idea.

FLG said...


Why don't you have a blog? Then I'd just be able to read yours. Thereby saving myself lots of embarrassment and time.

Andrew Stevens said...

I honestly don't have very much that is interesting to say, certainly not enough to sustain a blog. If I had a blog, I probably wouldn't post ten days out of twelve. I apologize for my occasional contrarian streak and I certainly don't mean to embarrass anybody. (Like most bloggers I comment on, I probably agree with you ten times more often than I disagree, but the disagreements are the only things that are interesting to me.)

You just hit one of my pet peeves from the campaign trail. Hearing people who were supporting Barack Obama complaining about Sarah Palin's lack of qualifications. It was all just a bit too rich for me. (I hated McCain's selection of Palin, let me be perfectly frank. But not nearly as much as I hated the Democrats' selection of an unqualified dilettante at the top of their ticket. And what I hated most about the selection of Palin is that it made it impossible for McCain to push the experience argument without looking like a hypocrite.)

By the way, I should say that I have no personal grudge against Barack Obama. I don't hate the man or even his politics, really. I'm not the best conservative. I supported Kerry in 2004 because I thought Bush was running government spending out of control and was completely lost in Iraq and I wanted divided government back. (Bush did turn Iraq around, for which I give him credit.) I would have supported Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton over Huckabee and maybe even Romney (though neither of them over McCain). But Obama? This non-entity? This empty suit?

Well, we've got the government we deserve. I just hope the majority turns out to be right and I turn out to be wrong. Who knows? I've seen no evidence that there's any substance to the man, but maybe there is and I'll be happy to support him in 2012. I hope so.

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