Category Archives: Civility

Can a Tragedy be left to be a Tragedy?

A sad day once again.  There have been so many.  Columbine high,the Ft. Hood shooter, the killing of Dr. George Tiller, 9/11 and too many to remember.  That itself says a lot.

Each one now often almost immediately becomes a political football.  Bloggers scramble to find the proof of affiliation of the killer with their opponents.  Then use it attack their opposition and to use a phrase from the post civil war era:  "Wave the Bloody Shirt”.

Today we’re certainly seeing that.  I’ve been reading comments at Politico.  It seems like the push and pull is:  “he read Mein Kampf and sounds like he was motivated by the Tea Party” vs “he read the Communist Manifesto and was a lefty”  The major media is no different.

It’s all unseemly.  Can’t we maintain at least for a day a respectful silence for the victims?  Can’t we determine fault and who did what later, when claims can be based on facts not a swirl of not al all vetted rumors?  Can’t we recognize that people with this kind of troubled mind are likely going to find a movement to affiliate with and lash out in the name of:  Whether its of the right or left is irrelevant?  No we can’t and we won’t.

A sad day once again.


Professor Bainbridge says: I Owe Bruce Barlett an Apology

This is from conservative academic Stephen Bainbridge at UCLA my alma mater.

Back when Bush 43 was President, I was a huge fan of Bruce Bartlett. I especially loved his book Impostor. But when Bartlett broke with the Republicans back in 2008, it seemed to me that he had gone "from being inside the tent pissing out to being outside the tent pissing in." It seemed like apostasy.

I still don’t agree with some of Bartlett’s current view on economics, which still strike me as "the sort of Keynesian economics he one would have found anathema." Likewise, I still don’t agree with his decision to vote for Obama.

But he is clearly right that there has been "a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already."

You can see the problem in the many hate-filled comments to my post on why the GOP needs an academic elite or my post on why it’s becoming embarrassing to be a conservative. You can see it even more vividly in Doug Mataconis’ post The Circular Firing Squad Takes Aim At Chris Christie,in which he powerfully argued against the trends that dominate today’s right:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has been one of the biggest stars in the conservative wing of the GOP this year, but his comments today about Christine O’Donnell’s doomed bid for the Senate have made him the focus of ire on the part of one blogger who has taken it upon himself to attack anyone on the right who bothered to take note of the fact that Christine O’Donnell was doomed from the day she won the GOP nomination:

While a Republican, a corporatist, or a governmentalist might describe Castle as potentially a good Senator, no honest, serious thinking Conservative ever would. That does not mean that O’Donnell was an ideal candidate. But it is imperative that the conservative movement learn from 2010, come to understand why we lost where we did, and reject the conventional Republican wisdom that only serves to undermine our cause. Surrendering to liberalism, while claiming victory as a Republican, is a defeat for conservatism. And it is precisely those types of defeats Republicans have been fostering for too long, damaging our movement and, ultimately, their own brand in the process.

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is rarely a good idea, and the fact that there are now two Senate seats in Delaware that are likely to be controlled by Democrats for the foreseeable future rather than just one should stand as a lesson to those who demand purity even when it’s suicidal.

And one final note.

When you start seeing people like Chris Christie being attacked for not being conservative enough, you know that the right is in danger of going off the rails. Or at least some parts of it.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I still think of myself as a conservative, and I still vote GOP as the lesser of two evils, but I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s belief that he hadn’t left the Democrats, they had left him. When I look at the GOP these days, I know what he means.

And so, Bruce, if you’re out there, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. It just takes some of us longer than others.

I Owe Bruce Barlett an Apology
Steve Bainbridge
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 19:16:43 GMT

We can’t even agree on facts – Bob Herbert of the NY Times OP-ED Retracts a Whopper

Amen to this.  If we could at least have facts to agree on and then recognize and negotiate on goals, then pick policies that will meet those goals, would we all better.  These days we can’t even agree on facts to know what the problem if any is.  Global warming is an example.


From:  Environmental and Urban Economics

via Bob Herbert of the NY Times OP-ED Retracts a Whopper.

Bob Herbert needs a new fact checker– the rich aren’t as rich as he thought.  Quote:  “My column on Tuesday incorrectly described the situation of the small group of Americans earning $50 million or more annually. Their incomes declined by 7.7 percent between 2008 and 2009; they did not quintuple. The incorrect information came from a report based on flawed Social Security Administration data. An inspector general is investigating after two individuals filed false W-2 forms that led to the skewed data.”  source

Folks, you do not have to be Jim Heckman to be able to tell apart a 7.7% decline from a quintuple increase.  This is a pretty serious difference.    Suppose you weigh 200 pounds.  A 7.7% decline would mean that you now weigh roughly 185 pounds while a quintuple increase would say that you weigh 1000 pounds. Do you see the difference?

During this time period of left/right screaming, we need to agree on what the facts are.  There is an objective reality that can be measured and described how it is evolving over time.  But, we need more measurement and we need trusted institutions and researchers to spread the word about their findings.   When people turn for information from sources who they know share common political goals, they know that they will solely hear “facts” that they want to hear.  How do we expose everyone to “consensus” facts?

When I taught at the Fletcher School, one student suggested that everyone should be forced to listen to the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. I laughed at the time but I now think he might have been correct.

Would we make better public policy if we all agreed on what the facts are?  If we disagree about the facts (such as whether climate change is taking place), what collective action decisions are tabled?

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Skidding Past Center, Again

via Skidding Past Center, Again.

Hatred that’s Hard for me to Understand

The dislike of some for Obama is so deep and visceral and hard for me to understand.

Check this out.

The photos of him that finish this post with are to some somehow showing how irresponsible or low he is? I don’t think anyone who doesn’t dislike him to begin with, as Nice Deb’s and most of her readers do will get it. But for her audience, I suppose that’s the point. I don’t get it.

He’s certainly made mistakes, the stimulus is too loaded with pork. The auto bailout was a mistake. I think she and I might agree on that. The healthcare law is going to be difficult to pay for. I hope the new congress will move him a click or two to the right on domestic issues.

We part company a lot on foreign policy I think. She I think sees the Iraq war as part of vital quest to rid the world of terror, but she can speak for herself. I believed that 7 years ago, but now I think that war has killed 5,000 Americans many for Iraqis, wounded many more, cost likely as much as the stimulus when its all said and done.

For what? To discover there were no WMDs. To install a government that is far from a model democracy, and where that country will be in five years includes many outcomes we may like less than Sadam.

On the war, I think Obama was right, it was dumb war that we rushed into in the heat of emotions after 9/11. George Bush (who I voted for enthusiastically in 2000) made one of the gravest decision a President faces much too lightly, in my eyes he is a failed President on that basis alone. I think he made up his mind and then basically didn’t want to be bothered with facts. Look how long it took before he recognized the 2003-2006 occupation was turning into a disaster and finally committed more troops.

Based on the belief that on a critical issue of war or not I think Obama recognizes that military force shouldn’t be used carelessly. That’s the lesson that I take away from Iraq. I don’t think most Republicans (except maybe Ron Paul) learned that and my fear is of what pointless war will they engage us in next if they come to power.

Obama may be a big spender, but I’ll take that over fighting wars for no good reason.

Rally to Restore Sanity | Whatever Works

I really like this idea.  The theme to promote seems like it might be a problem though.  I think most of us would like a less strident tone to debates, but then we’d still not agree what to CALMLY advocate.

Rally to Restore Sanity | Whatever Works.