Friday, December 27, 2013

Andrew Sullivan's Terrible Awards

I've actually never taken the time to look into Andrew Sullivan's annual "Daily Dish" awards before. They mainly focus on, much like Sullivan's writing, political punditry. So he has one like the "Malkin Award" for unhinged conservative kookery.

That sounds like good fun and games.

But then some of his nominee's this year are just terrible. He's giving out a "Dick Morris Award" for worst prediction, but awarded it to one made by Paul Krugman from 1998! It was:
The growth of the Internet will slow drastically [as it] becomes apparent [that] most people have nothing to say to each other…. By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s...
So yeah that's obviously wrong, but why are you awarding the 2013 Awards to something from a decade and a half ago? If you are going to use historically wrong predictions, why not nominate Field Marshall Montgomery's claim in the fall of 1944 that the war would be over by Christmas? Why not nominate the claims by Confederates that one southern solider was worth 10 Yankees? What on earth does this have to do with 2013?

And if we are going to use past predictions why aren't Sullivan's predictions about the Iraqi nuclear program and how great the Iraq War was going to be (or any other warhawk's predictions) put up every year too?

Then it gets worse. He nominated Kevin Drum's prediction that:
“Traffic on the Obamacare sites will settle down pretty quickly, and that will take care of most of the overloading problems. The remaining load problems will be solved with software fixes or by allocating more servers. Bugs will be reported and categorized. Software teams will take on the most serious ones first and fix most of them in short order. Before long, the sites will all be working pretty well, with only the usual background rumble of small problems. By this time next month, no one will even remember that the first week was kind of rocky or that anyone was initially panicked. … I’ll say this: If there are still lots of serious problems with these websites on November 1, I’ll eat crow. But I doubt that I’ll have to,”
But isn't that where we basically are today? And where we've been since late November? Oh okay, everything wasn't fixed with the Obamacare website by November 1, but most people agree it was working pretty well by mid-November. Is Sullivan really saying that Drum missing when the website would be workable by two weeks is some massive failure? And hell, this is pretty qualified prediction ("I'll eat crow.") to boot.

I know some people who love Sullivan for some reason, but I really don't get him. His strengths are so massively outweighed by his faults. Oh well maybe next year Sullivan will get nominated for his prediction on September 16, 2001 that, "The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -and may well mount a fifth column." Turns out we didn't, that was wrong prediction too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Tories And Saint Elsewhere

Paul Krugman made an excellent point in his column today about David Cameron's tenure as British Prime Minister. Basically after taking over in 2010 the new Conservative government imposed harsh austerity on Britain in attempt to "trim their way to growth." The results where spectacularly bad with the British economy is still smaller than it was five years ago. Now that the economy is finally starting to grow again, all be it at a very slow pace. As a result David Cameron's Tories are claiming vindication after half a decade of failure. Krugman pointed out that claiming victory now is a lot like the old Three Stooges gag where Curly bangs his head against the wall:
Economies do tend to grow unless they keep being hit by adverse shocks. It’s not surprising, then, that the British economy eventually picked up once Mr. Osborne let up on the punishment.

But is this a vindication of his austerity policies? Only if you accept Three Stooges logic, in which it makes sense to keep banging your head against a wall because it feels good when you stop. 
Yes, exactly.


Over at The Good Men Project I had a number of posts recently. I talked about our failed embargo against Cuba, how Republicans are open to new revenues when they are called "fees," the silliness of trying to depoliticize Nelson Mandela, the annoying GOP tendency to see outrages at every funeral attended by Democrats, Rick Santorum's attempt to bring back the death panel myth, and how Paul Ryan is a lot like those German nihilists from "The Big Lebowski."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Time's Person Of The Year And Saint Elsewhere

So the Pope got named Time Magazine's Person of the Year and there's a lot of talk about whether this is a "good" or "bad" choice. The choice sort of makes sense to me, the Pope is important and moving the Catholic Church away from doctrinal questions about regulating human (largely female and gay) sexuality and instead addressing things like social inequality and poverty will probably be important in the long run.

But honestly Time's list has always struck me as being pretty goofy. Sometimes they seem to try and pick "the most important person" that year, sometimes they seem to want to pick "the person(s) we should all try and be like", and sometimes they pick intangible patriotic concepts for some reason like "The American Fighting Man" or "Middle Americans." Heck they even come up with really silly ideas that aren't really people at all like "The Computer." And some people on the list I had to look up because I had no idea who they were like like Pierre Laval.

Basically its a silly list that tends to grow sillier as the years go on, picking the Pope is a vote for trying to make the list less silly, but it's not like it actually matters or anything.


Over at The Good Men Project I talked about how the minimum wage will likely be a big issue in 2014 and how shows like Scandal and House of Cards gets conspiracies in politics all wrong.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Michelle Obama Is Not A "Feminist Nightmare" And Saint Elsewhere

Recently Politico decided to publish an article about why Michelle is a "feminist nightmare." To be sure, these types of "provocative" articles are in no small way a sort of clickbait. By writing an article designed to annoy feminists you can cause a lot of people to post about the article and why they didn't like it on social media and their own personal blogs. You can even get professional writers to take you to task as well. You might look kind of silly in the end, but at the same time you drive traffic to your site, if only from people who are mad at you. In the blogging biz we call this "trolling."

But personally I found the Politico article haranguing Michelle Obama to be really frustrating. Why? Well, there's basically no nice way to say this, so I'll just say it: in her Friday cover Michelle Cottle showed a deep lack of understanding about how the government of the United States actually functions.

To review: the First Lady does not hold a policy or administrative position, like say United States Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, in fact her position is not even an elected or appointed office. So saying things like "...Michelle Obama is not about to tap her inner wonk..." is silly because not tapping your inner wonk makes sense when you aren't in a policy position. And again I hate to be rude, but the last time the a First Lady was given a major policy initiative was when Hillary Clinton was put in charge of the First Clinton Administration's health care policy. As I recall it ended in disaster. Not because Hillary Clinton is dumb or anything like that, but because of the fact that her position was very much unsuited for the task of building a coalition in Congress to pass a bill. It's not her fault that it failed, the failure was in large part because of a flawed approach to passing bills in Congress and Bill Clinton's overall dismal transition during his first two years.

It's like if I told Cottle that she needs to do more to improve education in the Mississippi Delta. She would probably respond with something like "Yes John, I agree that is a problem, but I'm a writer, not a philanthropist or Governor of Mississippi so I don't really control the educational policies there." I could then write a screed about how Collet "isn't a good feminist" because she doesn't care about the issue of girls being poorly educated in the Mississippi Delta but that would be silly because it's the institutional and structural reality that's driving things, not her failing as a feminist or whatever.

Michelle Obama raising issues like obesity in low income and minority communities does in fact make sense because these are issues that otherwise completely ignored. So actually she knows exactly what she's doing.


Over at The Good Men Project i recently wrote about how the issue of unemployment hasn't exactly gone away, I also revisited the media's coverage of George Zimmerman over the summer and compared to it the silence now that he keeps getting caught up in incidents of alleged domestic violence, and wrote about why we should be thankful for our politics.