The “conservative” case for Obama

That is, if you go by what “conservative” used to mean.  Andrew Sullivan makes the case for why “true” conservatives (or at least those with an appreciation for the meaning beyond the present American political context) should support Obama.  Of course, I’d argue that liberals should to.  Anyway, more than anything it is an interesting look at just how truly radical, rather than conservative, the modern Republican party has become.  Here’s a bit:

Michael Brendan Dougherty recently checked in on the Obamacons and found them a little chastened, but still adamant about the degeneration of the GOP and salvaging the term “conservative” from religious fanatics, supply-side fantasists and foreign policy utopians. The eyes roll, I know, when I cling to the word “conservative” like others cling to their, er, Second Amendment rights. But I’d be dissembling if I did not argue that on a whole array of issues, Obama is simply and unequivocally the more conservative candidate. One commenter on the piece put it pretty simply:

What do you call:

1. Nationalism, without the interventionist foreign policy.

2. Taxation equal to public spending, rather than just cutting taxes without making the hard choices to spend less.

3. Slow and careful to adopt change, but realizing that change is necessary sometimes.

I view conservatism as the practical engagement with policy and political institutions to adapt modestly and incrementally to social and economic change with the goal of maintaining the coherence and stability of a polity and a culture. It is a philosophy of moderation and balance, constantly alert to the manifold ways in which societies can, over time, lose their equilibrium.

Wow, you put it that way, and conservativism certainly sounds pretty good.  But again, historically speaking, it has very little in common with today’s Republican party.

Chart of the day

Via Seth Masket.  Kim Jong Un is onto something:

Chik-Fil-A and Party ID

Now, I don’t want to get into it again, but this is just a great demonstration of the power of Party ID (via PPP):

Alas, something tells me there’s no polling on this from a month ago, but if there were, I can pretty much guarantee the partisan gap would be dramatically smaller.

Photo of the day

A while back I saw an HBO documentary about Spencer Tunick who specializes in somehow getting thousands of people at a time to pose naked for his photos.  It makes for some pretty cool (and presumably not safe for less progressively-minded workplaces) images.  Alan Taylor has a set.  I’ve always been fascinated by massive circular parking garages, so I’m going with this one:

Naked volunteers pose for Spencer Tunick in the Europarking building in Amsterdam, on June 3, 2007. (Reuters/Koen van Weel)

The future of meat

Really interesting piece from Farhad Manjoo last week about the latest meat substitute, Beyond Meat.  Apparently, we’re really approaching the point where fake meat can almost fool people, and that is a great thing with potentially huge environmental consequences.  Meat takes so much more resources in terms of water, land, fossil fuel, etc., than plants that replacing that meat in diets  with plant-based meat substitutes with a similar (but healthier) nutrition profile would be a huge, huge boon:

Real meat is delicious, but it’s terrible in nearly every other way. Meat is environmentally toxic and colossally inefficient, ethically dubious (even if you’re OK with killing animals, raising and slaughtering animals in factory farms is hard to defend), and it’s unhealthy (that’s even true if you don’t eat it—there’s good evidence that the rampant use of antibiotics in livestock production has given rise to drug-resistant infections). I’d rate Beyond Meat as being 90 to 95 percent as realistic as chicken, but in every other way, it’s superior. It requires far less energy to produce, it’s got no saturated fats, no antibiotics, and no animals are harmed in the process.

Here’s how Beyond Meat’s founder sees the future:

“Our goal is to see that category redefined—instead of having it be called ‘meat,’ it would just be called ‘protein,’ whether it’s protein coming from a cow or chicken or from soy, pea, quinoa, or other plant-based sources,” says Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder. As the firm ramps up production, Brown expects to sell Beyond Meat for less than the price of real meat, too…

Over time, Brown believes, the firm will get all these little details just right. He’s also confident that society will accept his innovations just as it has adapted to tech revolutions of the past. “Once, we had the horse-drawn carriage, and then we had the horse-less carriage, and then we had the automobile,” he says. “I’m firmly convinced we’re going to go from beef and chicken products that are animal in origin to those that are made with plants—and at some point in the future you’ll walk down the aisle of the supermarket and ask for beef and chicken, and like the automobile has no relationship to the horse, what you get will have nothing to do with animals.”

That may sound crazy right now, but I do think he’s onto something.  There’s every reason to believe that as technology improves we should be able to create a plant-based product that is healthier, and cheaper, than meat that can fool most of our palates.   That would be a very, very good thing for our health and our planet.

Romney’s floor

Interesting post from Nate Cohn that suggests Romney should probably be able to pull off 45% or so no matter what, so it’s not like we should really expect to see his poll numbers drop no matter how much he screws up (and, he sure has been):

If Romney was above 50 percent and withstood a month of bad press, that would be a real sign of resilience. But Romney’s not at 50 percent; he’s at 45 percent. And that essentially means that Romney holds the reliably Republican vote, and not very much more. The polls tell us that nearly all of these voters disapprove of Obama’s performance and that most are Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. History suggests that they have voted for Republicans in recent elections—for instance, in 2008, McCain won 45.9 percent of the vote in a hostile political climate.  So 45 percent is a logical floor for Romney, given the intensity of Republican opposition to Obama. For that same reason, analysts shouldn’t be too impressed with Romney’s gains until he consistently scores above 45 or 46 percent, which would be a sign of persuading undecided voters rather than consolidating natural supporters.

Should Obama supporters be concerned that Romney’s horse-race numbers aren’t diving? Probably not. With a unified GOP-base committed to replacing President Obama, it will take something pretty extraordinary to get Romney’s numbers to fall beneath 45 percent. But the factors allowing Romney to hold firm at 45 do not necessarily ensure an easy route to 50.

He doesn’t have an “easy” route to 50, but a stagnating economy is certainly a good one.  Again, there’s no reason at this point to think this will be anything but a very close election.  That said, I think with a better Republican candidate we’d actually be looking at the Republican having a small, but clear advantage at this point.

Video (and question) of the day

Okay, sure, plenty of 11-year girls are actually horrible singers who think they are good.  What incredibly clueless adults (both parent-wise and soccer club) thought this could possibly be a good idea?  (via Buzzfeed)


The decline of women coaches

In light of watching a very enjoyable women’s volleyball match between the world’s two best teams– Brazil and USA– this afternoon, I was reminded of this interesting piece about how women coaches have declined since the advent of Title IX (both Brazil and US have male coaches):

Female college athletes have never been less likely to have a female coach. The same trend holds in this summer’s Olympics: Of the five sports in which the United States is fielding a women’s team under a single head coach — basketball, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo — only the soccer coach is a woman…

And there’s the dirty little secret of Title IX: Female coaches have become a casualty of the same law that provided such huge benefits to female athletes. In 1972, more than 90 percent of the people coaching women’s teams were women. Today, that number is 43 percent, according to data compiled by two retired Brooklyn College professors who have tracked the number of female college athletes and coaches in the United States since Title IX became law.

The explanation for the downward trend is as simple as it is discouraging. By legitimizing women’s sports, Title IX bestowed a new level of respect — and significantly higher salaries — on college coaching jobs, transforming them from passion projects for the most dedicated women’s sports advocates to serious career paths…

As soon as salaries began to rise, more men became interested in jobs coaching women, says Judy Sweet, a longtime athletics administrator who became the NCAA’s first-ever female athletic director of a combined men’s and women’s program at the University of California at San Diego in 1975. Assistant coaches of men’s teams saw a chance to be promoted faster by applying to head-coach jobs on the women’s side. Job opportunities doubled for graduating male athletes who weren’t going pro but wanted to stay in the game. Athletic directors, whose ranks have always been overwhelmingly male, increasingly hired other men for open positions.

I strongly suspect it’s more about perceived social/sports legitimacy for these men, than the money.  Nobody’s going to knock a man in any way for coaching a womens/girls team, but I’m sure that was standard fare back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  The article further suggests that what’s going on is discriminatory men just preferring to hire men, but I really don’t think that’s the main cause.  Quite simply, the pool of humans who want to completely devote their life to a sport for low pay (the situation for the vast majority of coaches) strikes me as a pool that has many, many more men than women in it.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s not like there’s gender parity in sports interest in this country.  Chalk that up to culture, biology, or whatever, but it certainly is very real and one would have to think would affect the gender balance of coaching.

Romney and Israeli health care

Now this is not the sort of thing that any ordinary voters actually pay attention to, but this is really rich:

 if you want to see a system with truly socialistic characteristics, you have to look elsewhere. Israel, for example. And guess who just praised that system? Mitt Romney, while addressing a fundraiser in Jerusalem.

Via Zeke Miller at Buzzfeed, here’s what Romney said:

When our health care costs are completely out of control. Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? 8 percent. You spend 8 percent of GDP on health care. And you’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care. 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, let me compare that with the size of our military. Our military budget is 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of GDP. We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to finally manage our health care costs.

Miller notes that Israel has a truly universal health care system, in which the government guarantees every citizen not just insurance but insurance with a minimum set of benefits and full choice of provider. That’s all true. But there’s more to it than that. Israel also regulates the health care system aggressively, with what would, by any reasonable standard, qualify as price controls…

So was Romney simply clueless about the details of Israeli health care? Was he too busy trying to ingratiate himself with his hosts to pay attention? Or does he secretly think government-run health care has its virtues? I don’t know—and I’m not sure Romney does either.

I vote for all of the above.

Climate skeptics won over

At least the open-minded ones that is.  The latest news (via the Guardian):

The Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and “humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate change sceptics’ concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.” He added that he now considers himself a “converted sceptic” and his views had undergone a “total turnaround” in a short space of time.

“Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 2.5F over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1.5 degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Muller wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

Boom.  Case closed– right?  Nope.  Climate skepticism is no longer about science, but about psychology and politics.  I think Drum diagnoses this quite accurately:

However, as near as I can tell, climate skeptics, including those who said they’d trust Muller’s results no matter what they showed, haven’t budged an inch since he published his initial papers last year. I doubt his new paper will change their minds either. That’s no surprise, since this has long since ceased being a scientific controversy. Climate skeptics are skeptics because they don’t like the idea of global warming, not because there’s truly any evidence that it doesn’t exist. It’s politically inconvenient, economically inconvenient, and personally inconvenient, so they don’t want to hear about it.

And, again in the Guardian article, we get this:

When the Best project was announced last year, the prominent climate sceptic blogger Anthony Watts was consulted on the methodology. He stated at the time: “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.” However, tensions have since arisen between Watts and Muller.

Early indications suggest that climate sceptics are unlikely to fully accept Best’s latest results. Prof Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who runs a blog popular with climate sceptics and who is a consulting member of the Best team, told the Guardian that the method used to attribute the warming to human emissions was “way over-simplistic and not at all convincing in my opinion”.

Something tells me this blog’s favorite climate skeptic is not convinced, either.  Because, you know, all us crazy liberals just really want to pretend that the planet is warming up so that we have more of an excuse of telling people what to do.  That makes a lot more sense than any kind of concern about a global environmental catastrophe.

Photo of the day

Well, as I am a complete Olympics junkie, you can expect a theme on photos for the next couple weeks.  Big Picture has a nice set from the Opening Ceremonies.  I’m not generally a big fan of these ceremonies, but they typically do make for some pretty stunning images:

Fireworks explode over the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters)


Guns and freedom

Really interesting piece in the Atlantic about Japan’s gun culture–  basically the mirror opposite of ours:

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world’s least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally…

Even the most basic framework of Japan’s approach to gun ownership is almost the polar opposite of America’s. U.S. gun law begins with the second amendment’s affirmation of the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” and narrows it down from there. Japanese law, however, starts with the 1958 act stating that “No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords,” later adding a few exceptions. In other words, American law is designed to enshrine access to guns, while Japan starts with the premise of forbidding it. The history of that is complicated, but it’s worth noting that U.S. gun law has its roots in resistance to British gun restrictions, whereas some academic literature links the Japanese law to the national campaign to forcibly disarm the samurai, which may partially explain why the 1958 mentions firearms and swords side-by-side.

As the article points out, there are, of course, vast cultural and historical differences between our nations.  But it certainly is interesting to see the opposite extreme in a country in which I don’t think any serious person would argue does not have “freedom.”  Maybe guns were important to freedom in the brand new USA (though, certainly a highly debatle point),  but most definitely not in the modern world.  Love this little anecdote/factoid at the end of the piece:

After all, the U.S. constitution’s second amendment is intended in part to maintain “the security of a free State” by ensuring that the government doesn’t have a monopoly on force. Though it’s worth considering another police state here: Tunisia, which had the lowest firearm ownership rate in the world (one gun per thousand citizens, compared to America’s 890) when its people toppled a brutal, 24-year dictatorship and sparked the Arab Spring.

In contrast, I recall reading that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had very high rates of civilian gun ownership.  In short?  Guns and freedom– not really all that much of a relationship going on there.   Love your guns, sure, but let’s not pretend that somehow freedom is at stake in the matter.

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