Photo of the day

Smithsonian photo contest Grand Prize winner.  Check out all the finalists for some amazing, amazing photos:


Mummy, I Am Down Here, and Hungry!

Bjorn Olesen

The morning this photo was taken was unusually quiet, Olesen says. “I was about to pack my bags I heard this juvenile Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) calling ‘chi-chit, chi-chit,’ trying to attract the attention of its parents above while flapping its wings.” Olesen snapped as many shots possible before the bird flew away seconds later. “[It was] the highlight of my Borneo Trip.”

Taken with a Nikon D3.

The loneliness of the conservative policy wonk

I think one of the most interesting and depressing (and truly bad for our democracy) asymmetries in modern American politics is the general ignorance, if not disdain, for serious policy analysis from those on the right.  Of course Republicans are going to disagree with Democrats, but on a basic level of approaching policy in an intellectually serious manner, the modern Republican party has almost completely ceded the ground.  Most of my favorite blogs are written by liberal policy wonks– and there’s a lot of them.  Practically the only conservative policy wonks out there (e.g., Frum, Bruce Bartlett) have become apostates in the Republican Party ultimately because they go where the data, and not ideology takes them.

Anyway, nice piece on this by Ezra, as conservative wonk Josh Barro has increasingly left the Republican party behind:

Over the last few years, the Republican Party has been retreating from policy ground they once held and salting the earth after them. This has coincided with, and perhaps even been driven by, the Democratic Party pushing into policy positions they once rejected as overly conservative. The result is that the range of policies you can hold and still be a Republican is much narrower than it was in, say, 2005. That’s left a lot of once-Republican wonks without an obvious political home…

As the Republican Party’s range of acceptable policies has narrowed, the Democratic Party’s range has expanded. Stimulus based entirely on tax cuts? It’s not their preference, but they’ll take it. Market-based approaches to environmental regulation? Sure, why not. Capping the employer-based exclusion for health care? Of course. Hundreds of billions of dollars in entitlement cuts to help reduce the deficit? Uh-huh.

If you imagine a policy spectrum that that goes from 1-10 in which 1 is the most liberal policy, 10 is the most conservative policy, and 5 is that middle zone that used to hold both moderate Democrats and Republicans, the basic shape of American politics today is that the Obama administration can and will get Democrats to agree to anything ranging from 1 to 7.5 and Republicans will reject anything that’s not an 8, 9, or 10. The result, as I’ve written before, is that President Obama’s record makes him look like a moderate Republicans from the late-90s.

Yep.  In general, I think it is good that the Democratic party is quite open to more “conservative” market based solutions.  My take (and increasingly that of the Democratic party)– whatever works.  Whether that’s government regulation or market forces, the ends is what matters.  For most Republicans and most conservatives today, it seems that the means are all that matters– government bad, markets good– no matter what.

Until we have two, not just one, political parties that actually take policy seriously it is going to be very difficult to effectively address our nation’s most serious problems.  Sadly, I’m not exactly holding my breath for that to change.

(Also, great piece by Chait on Josh Barro that inspired Ezra’s post).

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