Links, 2/12/10

Busy. Sorry for the inordinate number of link posts, but that’s about all I can give right now. Further apologies that it’s all US politics stuff and fairly repetitive:

  • Matt Welch, “Back to the Drawing Board” – from the article: Obama’s approach was supposed to produce a more cooperative Tehran and Moscow, fewer terrorists in the Muslim world, and vast new initiatives to fight global poverty. Instead, Iran has murdered dissenters while speeding up its nuclear program, Russia hasn’t discernibly budged even after the U.S. abandoned its missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, a Muslim suicide bomber was stopped at the last minute from blowing up a plane over Detroit on Christmas, and global gatherings have produced even less concrete action than usual. These developments illustrate a phenomenon that has been playing out across a variety of public policy areas: Progressive Democrats, after being outfoxed by Ronald Reagan, triangulated to the policy margins by Bill Clinton, then routed under the first six years of George W. Bush, are having many of the nostrums they championed during the wilderness years tested in the real world for the first time in decades. The initial results of this long-delayed peer review have been a shock to the progressive system.
  • Megan McArdle, “What Do “Rightwingers Really Think?” – not repetitive, go read this. A really nice, brief discussion of how statistics can or cannot justify policy re: health care, and very thoughtful. From the article: This is about how I feel about the minimum wage.  My intuition is that demand curves slope downward, so if you raise the price of labor, employers are likely to consume less of it.  But if you can get a study like Card and Krueger, than the effect simply can’t be that large–at least, within the range that the US usually plays with the minimum wage.  I don’t think it’s particularly good public policy, because too much of it goes to middle class teenagers and the like, and even small disemployment effects are dangerous for vulnerable populations.  But I don’t think it’s super-terrible public policy either.
  • Jay Cost, “The Blair House Stunt” – people really need to send e-mails to the White House asking them when they’re going to grow up. This article is right on the money. From Mr. Cost: I think the White House did best the GOP at the retreat, that Obama did get some nice press, and that the Republicans were made to look weaker. So, from a certain perspective, I understand the logic here. But, from another perspective, it is mind-numbingly ridiculous. What is the ultimate purpose of this? Memo to the West Wing: your guy is the President now. It doesn’t matter whether he can out-debate the congressional GOP. He gets the credit or the blame for policy output. That is all that matters.
  • Jonathan Kay, “Black Helicopters Over Nashville” (h/t LGF) – from the article: I consider myself a conservative and arrived at this conference as a paid-up, rank-and-file attendee, not one of the bemused New York Times types with a media pass. But I also happen to be writing a book for HarperCollins that focuses on 9/11 conspiracy theories, so I have a pretty good idea where the various screws and nuts can be found in the great toolbox of American political life. Within a few hours in Nashville, I could tell that what I was hearing wasn’t just random rhetorical mortar fire being launched at Obama and his political allies: the salvos followed the established script of New World Order conspiracy theories, which have suffused the dubious right-wing fringes of American politics since the days of the John Birch Society.

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