Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An update photo for Mom

This is a little embarrassing, but my mom asked to see how I was doing losing weight on my new diet and lifestyle, and I couldn't upload it on Gmail. I guess it's good to get it out there, both for my body image and to have a public record of progress. Here you go, Mom!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another comment on another Kling post

The post is here. I commented (with a typo :-( )

I'm sure there are many reasonable small government types among them, but, as inquiring minds notes, nost of them seem to be driven by nationalism and other not very (classically) liberal sentiments.

I think Arnold wants to believe in the possibility of a populist libertarian movement, one that jives with his notion of the elites and progressives versus the common man, but I don't think that's really tenable. We have big government because that's what almost everyone wants. Many say they want small government but want to keep Soc Sec, medicare, and a massive military. Most probably favor the pork projects in their particular area, and one can see what that adds up to. Concentrated benefits, diffuse costs...

There won't be smaller government until the situation gets tangibly more dire or until the basic logic of politics changes, or more people become principled libertarians. I'm not holding my breath for the last two.

I don't understand Kling's attraction to the tea partiers. What are we going to get out of them? A Sarah Palin presidential nomination? Roll back Obama care but boost the military budget some more and spend billions on "securing the border"? I'm probably painting with too broad a brush here, but I do think that's more or less what we can expect.

Comment on a post by Arnold Kling

The post is here. I commented:

I've said it before, and...
Arnold, I think you might be projecting your own hopes on the tea partiers bit. How many of them would seriously scale back the scale of government were they in control? Where were they during the Bush years? How many of them are motivated by the conviction that Obama is not an American?

Based on what I've been reading, I'd hardly feel more secure putting these people in charge. Send the Mexicans back to Mexico! Torture more people! Don't dare expand government involvement in health care, but don't dare touch Medicare and Soc Sec, and spend as much on the military as we "need"!

Ok, it's a bit of a caricature, but is it that much of one? I'm sympathetic to Arnold's distrust of elites, progs, etc, but are the TP's really the answer?

Yes I know they're a loose coalition, and I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

It's tempting to think that centralized power and its inevitable abuse can be curbed by these kind of populist movements, but I fear that such movements are often filled with internal contradictions, and they have no real alternatives to offer, so they just end of putting some other ass in power.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Responding to Matt Yglesias' response

I'm a bit late on this, but I was absolutely thrilled to see Matt Yglesias respond to my query. It's short, so I'll paste it all here:

Here’s a query I got recently and thought was worth responding to:

Mr. Yglesias:

I’d like to make a suggestion: You have a lot of insightful and important things to say. Do you think it’s constructive to engage in as much snark as you do? It seems to me like it serves to rile up people who are on your ideological side, and I suppose I could see some constructive purpose in doing that. But I would suggest we’d all be better off if political discourse was based more on humane and rational conversation and a shared commitment to building consensus about justice and finding the truth. I see your point that the right often represents entrenched power, and it may be necessary to struggle against that. But what about people like me, basically of liberal sympathies but not allied to the left per se, who are turned off by this tone of discourse? What about thoughtful and humane conservatives that might actually be convinced to change their policy positions? I guess it seems to me like your considerable talents and moral decency might be better served in a more consensus building, persuading, and a less base-riling, partisan role. I’ll keep reading your blog, but the bitterness will often leave me a bit sad, and thinking you could be doing better.

For one thing, I think this message reflects a widespread confusion about what it is to be “partisan.” Find me someone who thinks Olympia Snowe is history’s greatest monster but Ben Nelson is a great man and I’ll show you a partisan. I’m just someone with political views that are more liberal than the views of most Americans.

As for the rest, I think humane and rational conversation is important and I like to think that plenty of the posts on this blog are dedicated to it. But there are also a lot of liars and idiots in the world and subjecting them to

scorn and mockery is part of what you’ve got to do in life.

I responded in the comments, but I don't think that (mine) was a very good response, so I'll try it again here.

Yglesias is certainly right that he's not a partisan in the sense that he describes, and 'partisan' was probably the wrong word to use. He regularly criticizes other lefties and democratic politicians. Indeed, the only reason I sent him that message was because basically not a partisan, but a highly intelligent and morally decent person who seems to be concerned with the truth.

But he does often take a fairly harsh- one might even say smug- tone when speaking of many conservatives. It was this tone I was objecting to. I think it doesn't have a purpose other than fueling the sense of self-superiority of many of his reader.

In an earlier post I
gave some arguments for snark, and ended up kind of agnostic. But, as is often the case with my writing, my point is not to argue for positions that I'm really confident in, but rather to bring up points that strike me as reasonable but overlooked. In this case, I think Yglesias is probably overvaluing snark because it serves his interests to do so. This may sound like a serious accusation, but everyone has such blind spots. Part of the reason dialogue with those of differing opinions is so valuable is that it makes us more likely to find our own blind spots.