Tag Archives: Politics

Miami gets it

Miami graffiti artists get it:

Wynwood: Obama as Bush

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Oh, Mason

I cannot get enough of this car parked in Mason’s student lot.  Yesterday my Contracts seminar devolved into a discussion of which was the “best” apostle.  Today these bumper stickers.  My law school is special.

My law school is special!

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State of the Union Cartooning

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Just a Thought

“In politics, you can tell a man’s vices by his friends, and his virtues by his enemies.”

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Krugman Provides the Numbers

Thanks, Krugman, for weighing in w/ the numbers.  Here’s what Everyone’s Favorite Keynesian predicts for public insurance stats:

DESCRIPTIONKaiser Family Foundation

Guys, this is a major program to aid lower- and lower-middle-income families. How is that not a big progressive victory?

For people in the center who worry, as my colleague David Brooks puts it, that there may be unintended consequences if you “centrally regulate 17 percent of the economy”: um, it’s a little late for that.

First of all, government insurance programs — Medicare, Medicaid, and smaller programs like the VHA, already pay more bills than private insurance companies:

DESCRIPTIONCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services

And even the private insurance is overwhelmingly provided through employers — and employment-based insurance is only tax-free unless it obeys extensive regulations. Not coincidentally, those regulations resemble, in a qualitative sense, the goals of the new health reform: employers have to offer the same policy to all their employees, which in effect rules out discrimination based on medical history and subsidizes lower-paid workers.

The point?  There’s no free market now, so why are conservatives screaming?  And the answer, of course, is: Everything happens at the margins.  If there’s no free market now, let’s move towards healthy competition, rather than away from it.  Every step away from competition is a step restricting liberty, kids!

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Sexist Newsweek Cover Inspires Frum’s Latest Opinion: “She Asked for It!”

And now, an entirely new argument for sexism: She asked for it! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Sarah Palin complains that her Newsweek cover is sexist. The magazine borrowed a photo from Palin’s Runner’s World interview last year, showing the fit governor in running shorts next to the question: How do you solve a problem like Sarah? Journalist David Frum scorns Palin’s complaints, claiming that “she brought it on herself.”

PalinNewsweekC

Where have we heard this one before?

For such a smart guy this is a remarkably tired argument. This smacks of all the flaccid-minded men who have long attempted to control women by demeaning them, justifying their actions because “she asked for it.”

This has nothing to do with Palin’s politics. This has everything to do with an old-fashioned Salem-style witch trial. Frum’s claim that Palin “brought it on herself” attempts to pigeonhole the governor into a prefabricated conception of women that comes from Frum – not Palin.

Frum told The News Hour with Jim Lehrer Nov. 18 that “[Palin] is a woman who has got into a position of leadership by sending very powerful sexual signals. And we see that in the way that men like her much more than women do.”

Or perhaps men like Palin much more than women do because she is a Republican. Men tend to lean right at the polls, while women lean left. Perhaps the gender disparity in Palin’s fan base comes from her politics, not her person.

Frum wants to inject Palin’s public persona with a Salem witch trial mentality. She must be a witch, your honor; she came to seduce me in my dreams! But the only “powerful sex signals” Palin sends come from the base fact that she’s a woman. Once, last year, she showed a little toe cleavage. But really, David, what would an attractive woman have to wear that could spare you from discomfort?

Society has long understood that insecure people impose those insecurities on the people around them. Folks eager to be perceived as the smartest person in the room treat every conversation like a competition, talking over their colleagues and only about themselves.

DavidFrum

Similarly, insecure men have long objectified the women around them. You need only look to how Rodrigo and Iago, and finally Othello, objectify Desdemona in Othello to see how deep this particular vein runs. Perhaps a more modern man than Othello should be able to engage with an authoritative woman without determinedly reducing her in his mind to one of those laughably-outdated sexist paradigms long after women shed those old pigeonholed roles.

It does not take a feminist to be offended by such intellectual laziness. Frum’s claim that Palin has forced sexuality on us reflects his own uncreative “scholarship”. This cheap attack is the punditry equivalent of a schoolboy dipping a compatriette’s pigtail in ink. It’s unnecessary. It’s weak.

It wasn’t Palin who sent “sex signals,” in the form of fit thighs on the cover of Newsweek – it was the magazine. Former White House press secretary Dana Perino notes that Newsweek’s decision to run this revealing cover without Palin’s permission was “worse than sexist”:

I think it is demeaning and degrading and Newsweek knew exactly what it was doing. They made sexuality a part of her performance. And this is something that if it had happened to someone on the left, the feminist organizations would be screaming about.

This is not a question of sexism versus feminism. This is a small-minded ad hominem attack by a man made uncomfortable by Palin’s femininity.

Says Perino:

There is a special burden for women in politics. And we saw that even for Hillary Clinton. And especially if you’re an attractive woman and a conservative woman, then that burden is even greater. But the great thing for Sarah Palin is she’s having a wonderful book tour, she’s done some great interviews. She’s going to tour the country.

This has nothing to do with politics. Women should not have to wear ugly clothes because attractive suits make men like David Frum blush. Old-school misogyny stems from insecurity and will thrive in a community that does not rebuke Frum for comments like this.

Lashing out at Sarah Palin because she dared to leave the house with her face uncovered is outdated and inappropriate. Of course, if Frum would feel more comfortable around women to whom he is not attracted, that remains entirely his prerogative.

At The New Agenda.

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More and Less

In 2007, when I lived in France, then President-elect Sarkozy incurred a lot of criticism for being “too American.”  Instead of taking introspective French strolls, he went for aggressive, ambitious runs like an American.  His policies, his taste in women, his clothes all suggested this same “new world” tendency.

That same year my most “American” French friend noted that the characteristic he most associates with Americans is our desire for more.  More wine.  More money.  More love.  We are greedy.  More is more.  What an accusation, from the people who invented l’amour a trois!

Whenever I first run after a long hiatus — no time like the present to start training for the Army Ten Miler this Saturday — I’m reminded of Sarkozy’s American tendencies.  I’m reminded that I want more.

Tonight I went from my apartment down through Rosslyn and over the Key Bridge.  That’s my favorite run; it’s the Potomac that keeps me going.  There’s something about that moment when a huge brackish breath rolls off the river and smacks my nostrils that just wakes up parts of me I tend to forget are asleep.

My running season starts when it cools down around here, so it makes sense that this first run, coincident with autumn and freshly-sharpened pencils and harvest would make me think of More.

When I first heard this indictment of Americans my reaction was: Of course we want more.  That’s the point.  To put ourselves in a position where we have the options, the opportunity.  We’ve learned we need to protect our power to choose later.

If I give it up and embrace the simple life too early — if I start dipping my hands in dried lentils before I finish reading my Tax homework — then when I graduate I will have no choice but to satisfy myself w/ the touch of dried lentils, because ain’t no firms hiring wayward law grads this year.  Money can’t buy me love, but frankly love can’t replace my broken brakes.

Part of what I loved so much about living in France was that people tend to be satisfied.  There’s something profoundly elegant about not wanting more.  I can count on two hands the number of Americans I know who are similarly so satisfied.

I am neither elegant nor satiable.  I am voracious.  There are times when I opt for less — less money, when an unpaid job is really interesting; less chocolate, when it’s winter and I want my pants to fit — but I always, always, want more.

For all of this I find the Eurofication of America so unsettling.  Many theories can explain why Americans want more while Europeans do not:

My personal standby, the American Dream, suggests that the American self-made man (and his daughters) cannot ever be satisfied, or he’s finished.  Americans raise ourselves by our bootstraps; to settle, to stop, undermines what it is to belong to this country.

We can look to the great European middle class, where everyone has always lived in close proximity to their neighbors, and the only difference between this bracket and that one is the depth of velvet on the walls or the name sewn into your boots.  Status symbols simply matter less, so status itself becomes imperceptible even among friends.

Finally, American suburban sprawl permits those hungry folks to grow.  If you work hard you can find a bigger house and feel like you’ve succeeded.  For many areas in Europe, keeping a house in the country isn’t even on the wish list — people have forgotten that they used to like space.

There are many other theories, of course, but the more critical point is that the thing that defines Americans is not having more, but wanting more. We are not satisfied with status quo.  We do not settle for “good enough.”  We have worked hard for our choice and damnit, our choice we shall have.

There is something noble about wanting more.  We may not be elegant, but we will work harder and we will reach more.  And the key to all of this is that what “more” implies is choice.

This is what I’m missing about the powers at be right now.  I have long called myself “libertarian,” but the reality is that we are all libertarians.  We all believe that your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.  Your right to mandate payments stops at my purse.  We have celebrated vocal minorities and voted with our feet.  The only thing all Americans agree that we demand in excess is choice.

When I say “choice” in this context I don’t mean any one decision an individual makes.  I mean that in general we prefer to enjoy the full bounty of our profits, we prefer to wear what we like, drive as quickly as we please, etc.  Community requires order in these areas, but we’re talking about the margins.  At the margin, I’d rather keep one more dollar for myself rather than throw it into a communal pot for whatever he would like to buy.

Of course what separates political philosophies is the degree to which a person believes other people are capable of making the proper choice for themselves.  Of course, I want my choice, but you?  You cannot be trusted.  And so it goes.

Indeed, I am no noninterventionist; I believe that Iran’s right to swing its nukes ends at Israel’s nose, and that this limitation should be enforced.  There is always some degree of intervention, some empowering a decision-maker who knows better than The People what is best for them.  The nature of government is to aggregate choice, that is to say, to take away individuals’ ability to make active choices at every turn.

And all of this comes back to more.  The purpose of a community is to thrive together, to find something more than the sum of its parts.  Certainly not everyone will remain hungry for more, but we will all benefit when there is an option for more.

And this is what I don’t understand about politics.  An attempt to aggregate decision-making seems wholly reckless.  I don’t know what will solve our policy failures, but I do know that what makes this country great lies in our vigorous obsession with preserving future opportunity.  We have voted with our feet for so long, via the Market, to have as disaggregated a decision process as possible.  What part of that patterned, active, determined choice indicates that we would prefer a central decision-maker to decide for each of us what’s best?

To vote with one fell swoop to aggregate after all that just seems …ridiculous.  Of course it’s tempting to take away his choice – it’s obvious he doesn’t know any better – but once we start down that path we’ve given up control over our own margins.  First they came for the gypsies, right?

Here’s the thing about America, and about more.  The way to deal with being swept off one’s feet is to hit the ground running.  Cooler heads cannot prevail if they are not sufficiently cleared.  There may be something elegant about satisfaction, but that something cannot hold a candle to the nobility and humility of the American Dream.

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