June 30, 2005
Who Am I?
Via Lindsay Beyerstein, Richard Chapelle is compiling personality/political profiles of bloggers. Personality is being done through the IPIP-NEO inventory, and politics through the ubiquitous political compass quiz. Should be fun. My results, complete with commentary, are behind the jump:
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Writer, Student
Began blogging (dd/mm/yy): 02/24/03
Political Compass Results
Economic Left/Right: -3.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.41
EXTRAVERSION: 82 (High)
Gregariousness: 46 -- this is interesting. When I'm gregarious, I'm hugely gregarious. But I have a nasty habit of caring about very few social situations and not making an effort when I'm not fantastically engaged. So it's not so much that gregariousness isn't part of my personality as it only comes out occasionally.
Activity Level: 99 -- Huh. I'm busier than I thought.
Excitement-Seeking: 10 -- This is probably correct. I genuinely believe I'm boring before my time. On the bright side, I think I hide it well.
AGREEABLENESS: 68 (High)
Altruism: 95 -- Oh come now. I'm not that altruistic.
Modesty: 11 -- Yeah, I'm probably about that modest. On the other hand, publicly I'm more self-effacing. I was just being honest on the test.
CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: 61 (Average)
Orderliness: 7 -- Yeah. It's that bad.
Self-Discipline: 47 -- I'm very, very disciplined about some things, like this blog. My procrastination on others, however, is quasi-legendary.
NEUROTICISM: 33 (Average)
Anxiety: 93 -- What can I say? I'm Jewish.
Immoderation: 58 -- This is just wrong. I'm big on moderation.
OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: 77 (High)
Artistic Interests: 22
1. Philosophy, et cetera - pixnaps.blogspot.com - pixnaps97a2
2. Majikthise - 6ea37d10-e9b9-11d9-8cd6-0800200c9a66
3. Ezra Klein -- http://ezraklein.typepad.com
Here, by the way, are the instructions for spreading this. Have at it:
Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting: http://pixnaps.blogspot.com/2005/06/meme-worth-spreading.html
Instructions (to join in the experiment):
1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.
2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)
3) Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.
4) Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".
5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.
6) Post it to your blog!
Zogby Weighs In
Bad news in the new Zogby poll, at least if your name is Bush. Not only was there no bounce in Bush's speech, but the red states have turned against him and 42% of voters say they'd want congress to begin impeachment proceedings if only they knew about the Downing Street Memos. That's not going to happen, of course, not with a Republican majority. But if the media was serious about pushing the story in the way they pressed Whitewater, it'd prove a real danger to the administration.
The very fact, however, that Zogby is polling questions of impeachment shows that the memos are gaining traction. This is the sort of thing the media loves to report: numbers, information, artifacts that make their stories look driven by news rather than editors. And 42%, for that matter, is a very high number. How many media organizations pick up on it and how hard they push it will say a lot about how constant media coverage is between administrations.
Starving the Beast
David Broder has a surprisingly good column on the reversed PBS cuts, arguing that the zeal to save Big Bird might have hurt the kids he teaches. The $100 million in restored cuts had to come from elsewhere, and so they did:
None of this suggests that the House was wrong to rescue Big Bird and his friends in public broadcasting. But it is a fact, as both Regula and Obey pointed out, that the broadcast stations and their audiences have far more influence on Congress than most low-income Americans possess. As Obey put it, "At least the people who pay attention to public broadcasting do have a megaphone of sorts, and they can get their message known."
Obey was also on sound ground in pointing out that "the press has focused 90 percent of its attention on public broadcasting," playing down or ignoring the trade-offs that were forced in other programs by the strictures of the budget plan pushed by President Bush and approved by party-line Republican majorities in Congress.
It's one more instance of the prevailing political culture -- controlled by a budgetary and tax system that puts the lowest value on the needs of those who are most vulnerable.
Just goes to show how rough financial meltdown is on Democratic priorities. Little seemed more obviously worthwhile than repelling a politically-motivated attack on PBS and NPR. Of course, if it had been presented in the context of health, labor, and education cuts, it would have been a harder choice. But this is their strategy: starve the beast. It's generally thought of as a way to halt the growth of government, but it's more than that. When a body starves, it tries to eat itself. At the beginning, the fat goes, but after a while, lean muscle mass and a variety of other vital substances get burned as well. And that's where we are now.
James Hamilton, talking about Mitt Romney's attempts to restructure health care by ending free medical care in emergency rooms but subsidizing the needy, writes:
Even so, I count it as progress of sorts if we might in this fashion find ourselves at least able to agree on what we want to buy, leaving just the little matter of haggling over the price. A proposal like Romney's strikes me as a constructive way to frame a public discussion of exactly where America stands on who should pay the medical costs of the uninsured.
I don't know about that. Outside of the blogosphere, it's fairly impressive how much of the health care debate really is about haggling over prices. The constituency actively pushing single-payer in this country is quite small, in large part due to fears about its political viability. Moreover, support for health care entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, is widely bipartisan, almost sacrosanct. Even with a budget deficit spiraling rapidly out of control, the most radical Republican majority in memory couldn't force serious cuts in Medicaid. Back in the mid-90's, Newt's Revolution suffered a major public defeat when they tried to simply restrain the growth of Medicare. Bush just tacked a massive prescription drug enhancement onto the same program. Conservatives have no stomach for cutting health subsidization, and often find themselves expanding it.
So what we have in this country, to a large degree, is a health care consensus. Some degree of subsidization is necessary, particularly for the elderly, children, and the impoverished. That part's not a problem. What is a problem is that the status quo can only last so long, health care costs are moving too fast and our system is becoming too burdened for this consensus to hold. And that's when we'll really see folks have to pick sides. Not now, when it's safe to support what exists and prudent to oppose what doesn't, but when what exists becomes untenable and what comes next becomes pressing.
Good News, Bad News
See if you can find which is which:
For the first time since January, the Army met its monthly recruiting goal in June, but still faces what some senior Army officials say is a nearly insurmountable shortfall to meet the service's annual quota.
But that still leaves the active-duty Army about 7,800 recruits behind schedule to send 80,000 enlistees to boot camp with only three months to go in the recruiting year, which ends on Sept. 30. The Army has not missed its annual enlistment quota since 1999, when a strong economy made recruiters' lives miserable.
Army officials insist that they can still reach their annual goal, especially with hundreds of new recruiters on the street, armed with big enlistment bonuses and greater leeway to recruit more high-school dropouts and lower-achieving applicants.
First time since January. That's not good. Moreover, I'm a bit nervous about our new strategy of attracting the most hopeless, directionless, and uneducated recruits we can find. When "a few bad apples"* can do as much harm to the cause as the bushel running Abu Ghraib did, it kind of underscores the need for a military representing the best of our society, not one formed by trawling the bottom of Lake America and enlisting whatever floats up.
* Abu Ghraib, of course, was not the work of a few bad apples, but a host of bad directives, poor leaders, inadequate oversight, and so forth. Nevertheless, since conservatives seem to think we really do have an Army of Ones, they should be fairly nervous about recruiting individuals who the Army, mere months ago, would've rejected out of hand.
Gonna Party Like It's 1935?
I wish I could believe Ruth Milkman's optimistic op-ed on unions, but it's a little hard when it's peppered by omissions like this:
IT is a time of trial for organized labor. Only 13 percent of nonagricultural workers are unionized. The figure is even lower among immigrants who toil at unskilled jobs in the nation's newest industries. Employers have abandoned the paternalistic job security measures, pensions and fringe benefits of which they boasted only a few years ago. Instead, they are imposing wage cuts and speedups on their workers while the American Federation of Labor stands by helplessly.
This was the labor movement's plight in 1935. Like many Americans today, people back then believed that labor unions had become weak and irrelevant. In 1932, George Barnett, president of the American Economics Association, declared, "American trade unionism is slowly being limited in influence by changes which destroy the basis on which it is erected." Yet a few years later, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, an insurgent group within organized labor born out of a debate that few outsiders bothered to follow, set off America's greatest surge of unionism.
So what happened in 1935? Well, we were in a massive depression, and our president decided one way to effectively regulate the economy was by creating a powerful union movement able to exercise independent oversight in the workplace. As part of this, he signed into law the Wagner Act (which succeeded the weaker and unconstitutional NIRA. the first legislation to actually guarantee the right to organize), which guaranteed union rights, curtailed business's antiunion freedoms, and created the National Labor Relations board to oversee the whole thing. And that's why the CIO was able to succeed.
Then, of course, came Taft-Hartley, and decades upon decades of conservative efforts to chip away at union powers. Worse, the fines were rarely updated, creating a situation where the prescribed penalties for antiunion behavior are laughable -- pocket change for corporations unwilling to be unionized.
I want unions to revive as much as anyone, but let's not overstate the case. The last great flowering came out of the Great Depression. It was a mixture of favorable legislation, anti-capitalist sentiment, and worker desperation. The reason unions are dying today -- and Republicans are getting elected -- is that the economic situation is simply not bad enough to provoke a serious outcry for tougher corporate regulations and a more worker oriented regime. That's a good thing. At the same time, the Democratic party isn't good enough to create these issues on its own. That's a bad thing.
If we continue down this path, there's a fair chance we'll slam right into a severe recession, if not a depression of sorts. A housing crash, a terrorist attack on oil supplies, a trade war with China that makes them decide dollars aren't such a good investment after all...our room for error isn't high. But the better outcome would be a strong Democratic party that regains power, loosens the constraints on union organizing, institutes tougher corporate oversight and better fiscal management, and brings us back from the brink. In this, we're Batman*, unwilling to let Gotham be sacked no matter how far down the wrong path it's gone. We've got an economy worth saving, and if we could just get some of Spitzer's talent for corporate oversight, Hacker's understanding of risk-reduction economics, and Stern's epiphany on the importance of organizing, we could save it.
*Bet you weren't expecting that analogy to crop up.
This is Matthew Holt again. I still owe you all history of why Clinton's health reform went down, so Ezra let me stay as a guest poster. I hope he doesn't mind me posting this but Bob Herbert's column about the incompetence of Bushco in Iraq is beautiful, if tragic. And this line about Bush's desire for the Iraqis to take over from our troops is the best description ever of the mentality of the clowns running this country.
"We've learned that Iraqis are courageous and that they need additional skills," said Mr. Bush in his television address. "And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting, and then our troops can come home."
Don't hold your breath. This is another example of the administration's inability to distinguish between a strategy and a wish.
June 29, 2005
Judicial Fiat is Fine
I'm with Scott Lemieux on this one, Roe v. Wade is not the problem. Liberals, I think, are fairly desperate for some sort of rational explanation able to account for the conservative movement's all-consuming fury over this decision and their ability to channel it into a focused and highly effective strategy of judicial intimidation and lawmaker litmus tests. That Roe enraged them by being a major policy change (or codification, depending on how you look at it) instituted through judicial fiat makes sense to us because it plays into an outrage we could, conceivably, share.
Unfortunately, our security blanket has a bunch of holes. I doubt a single anti-choice warrior ever sat up and thought, "Abortion's one murderous practice, but what really galls me is the shoddy and undemocratic methods used to wedge it into the constitution." Rather, there's simply a surprisingly powerful belief that blastocysts are full-blown people and to abort one is murder. Moreover, this plays into a deep discomfort with the current social environment, gender equality, the sexual revolution, and a variety of other bits of cultural evolution that large swaths of the country would like reversed.
Now, there's a perfectly good argument to be made that Roe, in its way, hurt liberals by letting us relax over the issue. If we'd spent the past few decades massing pro-choice armadas and pursuing privacy laws with the sort of single-minded zeal usually associated with certain sorts of autism, we might have a stronger movement today. But that's neither here nor there, really, and the question is what to do tomorrow, not how things could've looked different yesterday.
Social Security: Round 2?
Well this is fairly surprising. House Republicans are vowing to vote on Social Security before the year is through:
House Republican leaders pledged to seek a vote this year on legislation creating a scaled back version of President Bush's call for personal retirement accounts under Social Security.
Republicans said the measure would create personal accounts for younger workers, and some of the funds would be used to replace part of their traditional benefit. At the same time, they added, the accounts could be inherited under some circumstances.
The program would also raise the government's official deficit estimates by as much as $1 trillion over a decade, a development that could increase pressure on lawmakers to cut spending or raise taxes in the future.
The strategy here is a bit surprising, House Republicans, so far as I can tell, are self-BTU'ing themselves. The Senate's not likely to pass this bill, and if they don't, each and every Republican congressperson voting "aye" has to go and explain it to their districts in 2006, and do so with no program to show for their troubles. Peculiar.
Nevertheless, this argues powerfully against defunding and disbanding Americans United to Protect Social Security. If the Republicans don't think the fight's over, then it's not. And if the fight's not over, we shouldn't be disarming.
Practice What He Preaches
Not to wish ill or anything, but I hope next time this guy goes to a doctor complaining of searing throat pain, his medical professional responds:
It's for God to determine whether you've got strep throat or not. I can't determine that. And until he sends me a divine prescription, I can't offer you antibiotics."