Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mmmm... Veepsteaks!

I'm currently in the happy and exciting position of guestblogging for Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly! He gets over 30,000 readers a day, so it's an awesome gig.

I decided to start off by doing some Veepstakesblogging, since your average political junkie likes talking about that. So I produced a post discussing some general considerations for who would make a good VP, and then a post discussing specific candidates. The arguments for John Edwards in the second post seem to be impressing lots of people.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Six Reasons Why Clinton Shouldn't Be Obama's VP

I liked Hillary Clinton a lot back in my teenage political junkie years, and she won big points with me when she copied John Edwards' health care plan. Even though I've become an Obama guy lately, I was excited to see her stick it to him on domestic policy issues -- her one clear area of superiority -- during the Texas debate. But an Obama/Clinton ticket is a match made in a place with lots of brimstone for making matches. So let me tell you why she clearly won't be the best VP choice for Barack Obama.

6. We'll have party unity regardless.
Over at Shakesville, PortlyDyke wants a unity ticket, regardless of who the nominee is, because a unified party is important. Of course it is! But after a Democratic convention where everybody in the party including Clinton talks up Obama and a couple months of campaigning against a warmongering GOP nominee with a 0% NARAL rating who doesn't care about working people, Obama will consolidate Democratic support.

We're moving through the stage in the process where there's maximal bitterness between the candidates' supporters. (I remember this from 2004, except it happened a lot earlier in the year.) But sure as Dean people fell behind the once-hated Kerry and people who care about each other make up after a fight, you'll see the vast majority of Clinton people cast a vote against McCain. And looking at the numbers, Hillary-Obama animosity is pretty tame by historical standards, with 1/5 of Obama people saying they won't vote for Hillary and 1/4 of Hillary people saying they won't vote for Obama. You know what percentage of McCain supporters said they wouldn't vote Bush in March 2000? 51%.

5. Just look at her favorability / unfavorability numbers.

When I want to see how people think of a candidate (and therefore, whether they'll make a ticket more or less likely to win), I don't rely on my own subjective impressions. My youthful fantasies of being the young White House intern Hillary would use for post-Monica revenge, for example, shouldn't have led me to believe that everybody liked her the way I did. Instead, I should look at favorability ratings and other poll numbers.

Even at the end of a brutal general election campaign, I don't think a non-Clinton VP nominee will end up with fav/unfav numbers worse than Clinton's now. If you ask the question the way Gallup does, both her favorables and unfavorables have been stuck between the mid-40s and the low 50s for a long time now. To give you an example of what a more standard VP choice's numbers would look like, John Edwards ended the 2004 campaign at 48-37. Those were his worst numbers of '04 -- he usually had favorables in the 50s and unfavorables at 30 or less.

4. I don't trust the consultants in Hillaryland to play well with an Obama campaign.

Some of this depends on whether the disastrous Mark Penn really has been replaced -- word is that he retains his access, but not his official stature. But even if he is gone, I don't trust Harold Ickes, Terry McAuliffe, and Howard Wolfson -- all of whom came into this with the confidence that they'd be running the next Democratic general election campaign, and probably the next Democratic administration -- to take orders from Plouffe/Axelrod and fit their candidate into the role that Obama's folks want them to play. There's a huge potential for organizational dysfunction here, one that's much smaller with any other VP candidate. Hillary herself strikes me as less problematic -- if she really wants the VP slot, she'll adapt to it. But a lot of people under her won't be content with less than they expected, and they may make trouble.

3. I want to see the Republican Party's 15-year investment in smearing her come up absolutely worthless.

Over the years, the Republican Party has spent a gargantuan amount of money and effort smearing Hillary Clinton. Right-winger Lisa Schiffren's post is one of my favorites:

Let's say last night really did indicate that Hillary's negatives will keep her off the ticket. (Or keep her from winning if she's on it.) You know what? Deep in my psyche, in the place that kind of misses the toothache I've been prodding at with my tongue, I am having a tiny little pang of missing Hillary. Not her, but hating her. Hating Hillary has been such a central political impulse for so long now — 15 years — and I have had to work so hard to keep it up as she became more appealling looking, less shrill, more human — I don't really know what I will do with that newly freed strand of energy.

Imagine all that well-tended right-wing fury... gone to nothing. What a pleasure it'll be to say, in January 2009: "Guess how much that enormous anti-Hillary investment was worth? $0. We had another great candidate -- the smart black guy who will make sure that American foreign policy won't ever be done your way again. His army of young followers will be voting Democrats into office for the rest of their long lives."

2. We need a clear antiwar message.
Bill Clinton's presidency made the economy a Democratic issue. Obama's big promise is that he'll do the same with foreign policy, and advance a view of the issue that will serve the Democratic Party and America well for the next several years. For VP, he needs somebody who can reinforce that message -- either a Democrat who never supported the war, or one who has totally renounced his/her support and rejects the war with the zeal of a convert. Hillary could've -- and should've -- come out against the war full-force during or before the primary. As it stands, it'll be a grand shame if we accept a candidate who's tied into Kerryesque knots on this central issue, and whose impulses for how to do foreign policy and how to strategically position yourself on the issue are so far inferior to Obama's.

1. We've got a whole heck of a lot to choose from.
Stephen cites the polls showing that 60% Democrats think Obama should choose Hillary. But this data is most likely the product of low name recognition for any of the other contenders. Most Americans, for example, have no idea who Kathleen Sebelius is. John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Jim Webb probably didn't come before most respondents' minds at the time, as they weren't mentioned as options. (Hillary was the only option named.)

One of the pleasures of all this Veepstakes talk is that it gives people a chance to learn about a bunch of Democrats who have accomplished great things for the party. And in fact, we have some excellent people to choose from. I'm going to be talking up Sebelius (who accomplished some truly amazing things in Kansas), Edwards (probably the ultimate in-office VP pick), Brian Schweitzer (the badass governor of Montana) and my favorite dark horse -- domestic policy Senate superstar Sherrod Brown of Ohio -- over the next couple weeks. I'll read more on Napolitano, too, and see if there really is as much of a case for Jim Webb as some people seem to think. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

I don't have many original things to say about this, so I'll express my feelings by animated gif.


Those of you who have interesting things to say are encouraged to post them in the comments.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Night Of The Links To Female Bloggers Better Than Me

After the GOP convention chairman resigned due to his having lobbied for the vicious rulers of Myanmar, Hilzoy has a typically awesome post looking at all the dictators that McCain's top advisor, Charlie Black, has worked for. Best quote is probably this one: "Black has represented a more than usually repellent group of dictators. Two of Transparency International's top three kleptocrats in recent history (Marcos and Mobutu); a self-proclaimed God; torturers, murderers, and even someone who deliberately destroys reservoirs in arid country, so people will die of thirst."

Someday I'll be bouncing a little granddaughter (with a last name like McBabubaum, no doubt) on my lap and I'll say, "I once blogged for Ezra Klein, and one of my blogmates, just for a little while, was Kathy Geier!" And she'll say, "Wow! Was that when she wrote her post that told you everything you need to know about the minimum wage and employment?" And I'll say, "No, that's after she moved to Crooked Timber. But I linked it!" And she'll shrug, because all her friends, who will be precocious children with weird ethnic fusion names, will have linked it too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Name Fusions For Nuclear Families

Congratulations to Michael and Diana Bijon, who got the ACLU's help in overturning the California law barring men from taking their wives' names when they marry. From older news coverage, I recall that Michael had a bad relationship with his father, and was very close to his wife's family, and thus wanted to take her name. I don't know exactly what we should call his old name now -- "maiden name" isn't appropriate. Bachelor name, I suppose?

My preference is for both spouses to keep their names, and to invent clever name fusions for their offspring. So if I were to marry a woman named, say, Von Argebargebruger, the kids would be Sinhabargebrugers or Von Sinhas or Argebargebabus or something, depending on how many extra syllables of adversity we wanted them to overcome.

Philosophers Steven Yablo and Sally Haslanger call their clan the 'Yablangers', which always sounded kind of nifty to me. Definitely for academics and other people whose names show up in bibliographies, having people retain their names seems the way to go. You don't want people thinking, "Whatever happened to that book that Von Argebargebruger said she was going to write?" or "Why didn't Baroness Sinhababu publish anything until she got tenure?"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How To Help People In Burma

The basic outlines of the situation are laid out here. Tens of thousands of people have already died, and the ruling dictatorship (they're the ones who renamed the country Myanmar) believes that letting outside aidworkers care for the people would destabilize their rule and let outside organizations that don't like them gain a foothold in the country. So they're hardly permitting any aid in at all, and many thousands more people may die from the diseases that result when flooding mixes sewage and clean water. This is why dictatorship isn't the best form of government.
I've been communicating with a friend who works in an NGO in Vietnam, who knows a guy who works in Burma, to ask for aid advice. She writes:
I did get another brief email last night from this guy in-country, but the only thing of note that he really said was: "Things in Yangon are improving rapidly. Obviously that's not the case in the delta. But to be honest, here in the city, the recovery has been faster than in nola." 
Still, the situation in nola was so terrible that saying the recovery is faster than nola isn't saying much...also, the situation in the delta is the real disaster. He also says that "save the children seems to be the best organized INGO on the ground right now". But maybe the network of monks can deliver supplies in areas where save the children can't (?)
The aforementioned 'network of monks' is a group that MoveOn is directing people to, which I asked her about. In ordinary situations, I'd go through the big international NGOs which I'm familiar with. But the monks may be able to get aid into the country to the places where it's needed through their own networks of monasteries. Here's what MoveOn said in an email:
Humanitarian relief is urgently needed, but Burma's government could easily delay, divert or misuse any aid. Today the International Burmese Monks Organization, including many leaders of the democracy protests last fall, launched a new effort to provide relief through Burma's powerful grass roots network of monasteries--the most trusted institutions in the country and currently the only source of housing and support in many devastated communities. 
Giving to the monks is a smart, fast way to get aid directly to Burma's people. Governments and international aid organizations are important, but face challenges--they may not be allowed into Burma, or they may be forced to provide aid according to the junta's rules. And most will have to spend large amounts of money just setting up operations in the country. The monks are already on the front lines of the aid effort--housing, feeding, and supporting the victims of the cyclone since the day it struck. The International Burmese Monks Organization will send money directly to each monastery through their own networks, bypassing regime controls.

Says my friend, "I would imagine this claim about established networks of monks is true, though I'm not sure how one would be able to really verify it..." If anybody knows anything else about these monks, please do tell. They're firmly opposed to the military dictatorship, and have staged protests against it, so if you're looking for people who are likely to bring aid into the country without government approval, they're probably the people to turn to. I'm thinking that I'll be donating through them and Save The Children, unless someone can tell me about a better way.

Monday, May 05, 2008

When Politics Gets Weird

I'm so inured to the idea of my fellow voters stupidly falling for everything that I often find myself kind of happily confused when some transparently cynical ploy fails. This has happened only a few times on major (non) issues that I remember -- the Clinton impeachment and the Terri Schiavo episode are the major ones.

It's too early to be confident, but I'm hoping that maybe the gas tax mess will be another episode of this kind. If the relevant points can be gotten into circulation -- the oil companies eat up more than half of the tax cut, and this is a dumb short-term fix that does nothing to address the deeper problem -- it's possible that a political debate will actually be won by educating people so they come to have the right views on policy. Weird.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Good neighbor noises

I've been living in a rented room in an old mansion for the last couple years, and the guy whose room is next to the bathroom often plays excellent music quite loudly. This is a very good thing. The more Sleater-Kinney I can squeeze into my life, the better I'll be living.

Future AOC for Texas job candidates

Aidan McGlynn points out that with the hiring of Anna-Sara Malmgren, who sang in "What Would Jesus Buy?", Texas is positioned to move to the top of the Leiter Reports' specialty rankings for people with imdb pages who do epistemology. Our department chair (and my dissertation co-chair!) is David Sosa, who probably had the best segment of Waking Life, explaining to the people why quantum indeterminacy doesn't save free will.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

UT Methodology Workshop

I'll be reporting for duty at NUS on July 1, so I'll have to miss this (as well as Netroots Nation). But you don't have to!
The UT-Austin philosophy department is pleased to announce a week-long graduate student workshop on philosophical methodology, August 12 – August 16.

Possible workshop subtopics include (but are not limited to) intuition, conceptual analysis, reflective equilibrium, reduction, and ontological commitment.

Already confirmed speakers include Julia Driver (Dartmouth), Marc Moffett (Wyoming), Roy Sorensen (Dartmouth), Ernest Sosa (Rutgers), and a number of UT faculty.

We hope to accept around 10 outside graduate student participants. If you are interested in applying, please see our website for details:
I've interacted with Julia Driver a few times, and she's awesome. Also, what this announcement don't tell you is that UT's Josh Dever is also going to be participating. I often tell incoming graduate students in our program that the secret to becoming a good philosopher at UT is to talk with Josh Dever as often as possible. Despite the fact that he works entirely outside my area, I've learned a gigantic amount of stuff from him.