Monday, November 29, 2010

A good point

Some people may see the leak that shows the Saudis want us to bomb Iran, and say "AHA! See? We should bomb Iran."

But Mark Kleiman points out:

"What could be better, from a Saudi viewpoint, than war between the U.S. and Iran? Note that the Saudis (and our other Arab quasi-friends) are willing to fight Iran to the last American. They have no interest whatever in doing anything themselves."

Indeed. We would weaken Saudi Arabia's greatest regional rival while simultaneously causing the price of oil to skyrocket.

Interestingly, when we invaded Iraq in 2003, who was the greatest beneficiary? Why, it was Iran! We destroyed Iran's greatest enemy and rival while simultaneously increasing the price of oil by shrinking the supply as Iraq's wells went offline. Of course, many people said that destroying Iraq would send Iran "a message" but things didn't quite work out that way - it has been the opposite.

Maybe we should let the people in the Middle East handle their own problems?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Experimental therapies are free

A useful quote for people outside of medicine who are looking for cures:
"Whenever you see an "investigator" charge patients to undergo an experimental protocol, be very very wary. Be very, very afraid. In general, with very few exceptions, reputable medical researchers do not charge patients to undergo experimental protocols; their studies are funded with grants from the government, private foundations, or pharmaceutical companies."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stick this one in the "I told you so" file =)

Vatican changes position on condoms and AIDs.

Epidemiologists are physicians who have spent their entire careers studying the science behind disease transmission and infection. Any epidemiologist who suggested that condoms could worsen the spread of AIDs would have their license revoked immediately.

What the Pope finally realized is that it is morally indefensible to take a position that is in opposition to such unanimous scientific opinion solely because that position is more consistent with existing church dogma. Fair enough. He is only human, after all.

This could be a useful learning point. I've heard representatives of the Vatican on more than one occasion complain about how the "liberal media" is out to smear Benedict and the Catholic Church. If I was in the Catholic hierarchy, the lesson I would take away from this is "pick my battles" and "think before I speak".

When the Catholic church makes wildly unsubstantiated and frankly destructive claims such as "condoms makes AIDs worse" it has the unintended consequence of alienating a lot of reasonable people. And it is these people who, the next time, may not be as willing to give the church the benefit of the doubt when it does stake some morally defensible position.

A lot of these people might work in the "liberal media" or be consumers of it. They might be more accommodating to Church positions on issues that result from lots of debate, soul searching, and serious consideration instead of positions that almost seem like they came out of nowhere from a sort of "because I said so" dogmatic attitude.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another Obama foreign policy failure

Russia agrees to work with NATO in developing missile defense shield.

On a more serious note, Republicans blocking Obama's nuclear arms treaty with Russia is a bit of the worst kind of politics that I've seen, which is, blocking something that is good for the country just to spite Obama. I expect to hear a lot about that in the presidential campaign.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An overdue pro-Tea Party read

I really liked this:
Anyway.  I am almost more frustrated by the means of the current right more than the ends that they are pursuing.  I hate the idea that political gains could be made by lie, deceit, and manipulation.  More importantly than my desire to see a more pure political process is that I do not believe political gains made by such methods are sustainable.  Republicans may have accomplished electoral victory this year but there will be a big question whether or not they accomplish legislative victory; the former is worth nothing without the latter.  When you gain political momentum on false pretenses...for example, by lying about Obama and demonizing his intentions, you aren't winning an argument in the minds of the American people, you're just scaring them.  And the Democrats can obstruct just as easily as Republicans can, and scare the American people right back.
I think the thing that conservatives should always remember is that I think that big government policy wins by default.  When there are major crises, and the problems seem intractible, the people ultimately demand that "someone" do something about it, and that someone tends to be Uncle Sam.  You can look at the New Deal post Great Depression, or TARP in 2008 by a "conservative Republican".  When there is a crisis, government intervenes.  Back to the topic at hands, Republicans have been playing a scorched-earth policy here.  Cause gridlock, spread misinformation about Obama.  Win the battle.  I fear that conservatism in general, something that I sympathize with as illustrated by the essay I linked above, will lose the war as a product of this kind of strategy.  Because we can make gridlock now, and the Republicans will come back to power.  But ultimately government must function, and it must function effectively.  Because if it doesn't, there will be more crises, and government will inexorably expand. 
Conservatives should be less short-sighted.  The foundation of a strong conservative movement won't come from cheap sound bytes put forth by idiot news casters on Fox.  They'll come from real thinkers who don't need to beat their political adversaries with lies - they can beat them with better ideas and stronger arguments.  That was the movement that Buckley and Goldwater supposedly started and it lasted a generation.  The movement of intellectual hacks like Palin and Gingrich will last two years.  If that. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

People actually care what this man says.


"What have I told you about diet and exercise? Exercise is irrelevant.... "How do you know all this?" One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama's gonna be out there ripping into "food desserts" and saying, "This is why people are fat," I know it's not true. "Rush, do you really believe that? It's that simple to you, liberals lie?" Yes, it is, folks. Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy. Very, very simple. Now, my doctor has never told me to restrict any intake of salt, but if he did, I wouldn't. I'd just spend more time in the steam or the sauna sweating it out."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Worth reading

If you want to know why I despise the right of this country even as I always saw myself as a moderate part of it, read this:
Reality is subjective, but only to a point.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The backlash will begin tonight

Interestingly enough, I am not only a fan of divided government but I suspect that Barack Obama is as well. Barack Obama in 2008-2010 was to some extent a victim of his own success. He had this enormous progressive mandate and huge majorities of Democratic congressmen to back him up, but I don't think he is a very liberal guy. Thus he was stuck between his tendencies to be a pragmatic centrist and the pull of the outer fringes of his party. Republicans really had no choice but to oppose anything and everything that happened in congress, because otherwise they would have gotten steamrolled by a Democratic agenda...and to some extent, they did anyway.

But the Republicans just retook the house, although I am not sure about the Senate. And unless the economy just absolutely refuses to improve, I think there will be a backlash in the country from the left. There is a palpable feeling in the left half of the country that they have been cheated. Democrats won fair and square in 2006 / 2008, and Republicans abused rules and procedures to gum up the works of government in every way possible. A lot of people aren't happy with it. Obama did not get to accomplish what he wanted, and millions of his supporters know he was more than accommodating and made efforts to be bipartisan. These people aren't happy about it, and there will be a backlash.

It is one thing to go out in a midterm to support the sort of weak Democratic congressmen that have been half of the problem anyway. So the "enthusiasm gap" in this election is not at all surprising. Now, the Tea Party has its way - Republicans are back in power, but they have promised the impossible. They have also only spoke of confrontation, of refusal to compromise. They would do well that above all, this election was not an affirmation of the Tea Party and it was not an affirmation of Republicans, who remain less popular than Democrats still. It was a rejection of incumbents, none of whom are getting along while the economy remains a smoldering mess. If Republicans think this is a mandate to act on these ridiculous fantasies they've been having, they will be sorely mistaken.

My hope is that this election opens the door for some genuine bipartisanship. Now that the GOP has some say, it has something to lose. I think Obama will be ready to listen, if the Republicans want to talk. But if the GOP thinks a winning strategy is to come out and try to repeal Obamacare, consider impeachment, or continue to be obstructionist, they will only make the backlash worse. 230,000 people just showed up for a rally with Jon Stewart, which was really nothing more than a rally to support Obama that was described as otherwise for obvious reasons. Republicans would do well to ask themselves why. They say pride comes before the fall. I've never seen a group of more arrogant, prideful men than some of these Republican candidates who have won tonight. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I suspect I won't be.