Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, August 31, 2006

DailyKos approvingly links to this article:

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet...

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

How unbalanced do you have to be to conflate a defense of dissent with a critique of the Bush administration? A more vivid demonstratin of the continued vitality of the right of dissent than the past six years in America can hardly be imagined. Bush has been assailed, impugned, castigated, compared to Hitler; leading voices in the top universities and major media outlets like the New York Times have opposed him relentlessly and ferociously; the left-blogosphere has poured an endless stream of bile on him. All these people have done so without the least fear of reprisals from the administration, and I'd wager that not a single person is currently in jail in America today for criticizing the president. (Olberman goes on to compare the current government with that of Neville Chamberlain and say we need a Churchill to oppose it. No, I don't understand, either.)

I'm not a big fan of Rumsfeld, but he certainly looks good compared to some of his critics. To be fair, here's a more sensible response to the Rumsfeld speech, from Fred Kaplan at Slate.

UPDATE: What does Keith Olberman mean by "the man who sees in absolutes?" How can a "man who sees in absolutes" be distinguished from non-abolutists? What is the opposite of a "man who sees in absolutes?" Does this postmodern term of abuse convey any actual meaning, other than that the speaker dislikes the person he is referring to?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Strange to say, I sort of agree with Nato and Tom's pro-Darwinist comments in my recent post "Occam's Razor: Last Refuge of the Atheist/Darwinist True-Believer."

Tom writes:

What is "Darwinism", eh? It consists of two fundamental components and that is all. Do you know what they are? Descent with modification and natural selection. Darwinism thus defined is not a "belief" or even a whole system of such.

Okay, well, if that's what Darwinism means, then I'm a Darwinist. But in that case we need a term-- perhaps "ultra-Darwinist?"-- who believes (a) and (b) and also (c) that all life on earth emerged through this Darwinian process. It is (c) which lacks an epistemic basis and is believed dogmatically rather than rationally. (a) and (b) are both demonstrable, and together they provide the basis for an extremely fertile method of analysis of biological phenomena, which is brilliant and may well be one of the greatest intellectual achievements of our age. If Tom is signaling a retreat from ultra-Darwinism to Darwinism in this narrower sense (or perhaps he never was an ultra-Darwinist?) then he and I are on the same page.

Nato writes:

Let's say that "Darwinism" is as well proven as the roundness of the Earth*... I think evolution is as well proven as the roundness of the Earth. Not that our current theory of evolution is perfect by any means, but then, neither is Earth perfectly round.

Hmm. I don't think this is what Nato meant to say, but this implies that Darwinism is false. If the Earth is not (perfectly) round, then the roundness of the earth, strictly speaking, is a false proposition, albeit only slightly false. And the same for Darwinism? Myself, I think that Darwinism rests on physicalism, and we can recognize physicalism as false because it is inconsistent with our experience: we have a whole range of experiences, from numbers to moral choice to beauty to ideas and so on and so on, that are not reducible to particles and forces and energy. (Daniel Dennett introduces a bogus dichotomy here between reductionism and "greedy reductionism," in order to insist dogmatically on the former while labeling the numerous past failed attempts at reductionism as the latter. In fact, there is no grounds for embracing any form of reductionism.) But the Darwinian theory is still a very powerful tool for understanding our world, so perhaps in a sense it is partly-right, like the roundness of the Earth, though there is no reason to believe that Darwinism comes as close to the truth as the roundness of the Earth does. The claim that "Darwinism is as well proven as the roundness of the Earth" (unless we mean the non-ultra-Darwinist Darwinism Tom describes) is totally wrong: the roundness of the Earth is a well-described, testable fact, which passes the Popperian falsifiability test with flying colors, while Darwinist claims rely on a far greater degree of assumption and inference, and indeed in their most widespread form are not falsifiable and therefore should not be regarded as scientific claims at all.

The Darwinist theory needs to be re-framed, in much the same way as the Genesis Creation story has been reframed by many contemporary Christians. Christians once assumed that the Adam and Eve story was literally true (though it's hard to know; people's relationship to stories changes over time, and science and journalism may give us an idea of "facts" which doesn't correspond with that of, say, medieval Christians, so that we can't really understand how they understood the story). Today, many Christians read it as etiology, a way of describing the nature of things by a story about how they began. We need to treat the Darwinian theory etiologically: it's a brilliant theory and a useful intellectual tool, but the clues are much too scanty for us to hold justified opinions about whether it is a complete description of the history of the world. The actual history of the world we'll probably never know: it's like a mystery novel in which the author gives the detective too few clues to solve the case. Unfortunately, people are really uncomfortable not knowing, so they always invent creation-myths to fill in the gaps, like old mapmakers who wrote "Here there be dragons" in the unexplored corners of the map.

Nato attempts to make a reductio ad absurdum argument against leaving Darwinism out of the curriculum (maybe we shouldn't have schools at all, he suggests) that starts with this question:

Are we doing inexcusable violence to Flat-Earthers to require their children to be taught of the roundness of the Earth?

It's not irrelevant to the debate that there are virtually no Flat-Earthers. Advocates of putting the roundness of the Earth into the curriculum can at least plead democratic legitimacy; Darwinists cannot. But if there were sizeable numbers of Flat-Earthers, let alone if they were a majority, then I would say: No, don't force Flat-Earthers' children to learn the roundness of the Earth. The state should not be in the business of propagandizing its own definition of truth. Still less should an unelected judicial elite, deferring to epistemologically illiterate scientists, impose a belief system on a very large minority of Darwinism-skeptics who may indeed, be a majority of the population.

And no, that does not mean we can't teach biology. There is plenty of factual material in biology along with the ultra-Darwinist myths. Remember organelles, and mitochondria, and cell membranes, and DNA, and marsupials, and photosynthesis? One of the pernicious effects of Darwinism is schools is that it tends to distract biology teachers from the observations about the structure and behavior of plants and animals and other life-forms that constitute real biology.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Peter Beinart, arguing that it's good (for Democrats) that Democrats' ideas aren't getting a hearing, thinks that the Contract with America victory of 1994 is a myth:

The "Contract with America" [is a] myth. In 1994, according to legend, Americans were frustrated with Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress, but they only decided to vote Republican in the campaign's closing weeks--after Newt Gingrich and company strode onto the Capitol steps on September 27 and announced their ten-point "Contract" with the nation. Six weeks later, the GOP had picked up an astonishing 54 seats and taken control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

For newly elected Speaker Gingrich, who wanted to claim a mandate for his right-wing agenda, the myth proved useful--and it has stuck. But it's nonsense. Few Republican candidates mentioned the Contract in their TV ads. As Democratic pollster Mark Mellman has noted, a CBS poll one week before the election found that 71 percent of voters had never heard of the Contract--and those who had were just as likely to support Democrats.

Even if this is true, after the election, the Contract with America became very important. It gave Republicans a sense of mandate and purpose. So if Democrats want to do anything with their power after they get it, they should agree on what they want to do, pitch it to the people, and plausibly claim a mandate for it.

Because Democrats aren't doing that, and don't have what it takes to do that, if they do win in 2006, it won't be a comeback, just an interlude. They'll be unimpressive in office and give the Republicans time to reload. Beinart's cynicism just underlines how bankrupt the Democrats are.

For the record, though, I think Republicans will beat the spread this year, and hold on to both houses of Congress, taking minor losses if any. People are misreading the polls, I think. The government is unpopular right now because they've alienated both the right and the left, which leads to poll numbers that look grim, but right-wingers have nowhere else to go. In fact, if Republicans actually gain seats this election, I won't be at all surprised.

This opening paragraph of a Michael Hirsh article is a standard take from the left and much of the right:

Criticizing George W. Bush for his mistakes in Iraq nowadays is the authorial equivalent of taking on the Washington Nationals. As a challenge, it's just too easy to be interesting, or sporting. While commentators still squabble over the details--which was worse, Rumsfeld's decision to put in too few troops or Bremer's decision to disband the Iraqi army? Yada yada yada--the disastrous errors made in invading and occupying Iraq are already confirmed historical fact. They are disputed by no responsible or knowledgeable person, outside of a small circle of Kool-Aid sippers in the White House. Some new books, like Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, by The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks, have supplied a wealth of fascinating new detail, but for the most part, the critics have had their day. (my emphasis)

I for one am a skeptic about the charges of "incompetence." Many of those who allege it have an axe to grind: either they were anti-war to begin with, or they're capital-d Democrats or Bush-haters, or, on the other hand, they were pro-war, but since the war is perceived to have gone badly they cover themselves by criticizing the supposed incompetence with which it was run, implying that if it had been run better, it would have been a more attractive proposition. I read a bit of the Thomas Ricks book and the guy strikes me as an idiot. The troops were on the way to Baghdad, he narrates, and some Iraqis fired at them. This was in March 2003. This, he claims, is some sort of disproof about the liberationist hopes of war advocates. This is really dumb. Everyone knew that some Iraqis would resist. To claim that the initial entry of US troops was not perceived as a liberation by most or at least many Iraqis is probably untenable, but anyway if you think that anecdotes like the ones Ricks cites are even a shred of evidence in that case, you're too obviously biased to be worth paying attention to.

Also, I should say that I lost a lot of trust in mainstream media in April 2003 when they refused to acknowledge, despite the overwhelming evidence on the ground, that US troops were greeted as liberators. It was a surreal moment, when Iraqis were cheering in the streets-- subsequent polls, elections, blog posts, etc., have confirmed that these were real, widespread emotions, not some kind of camera trick-- and the news media kept talking in the same obsolete categories. They had an obligation, at that moment, to take the scare quotes off the word "liberation." They failed, and I've never trusted them since.

I resent the phrase "confirmed historical fact." I also resent being called a "Kool-Aid sipper."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


John Derbyshire posted this parody of the musical Oklahoma! at The Corner:

O-o-o-ccam's Razor!
Where the premiss must be plain.
When two things compete take the short and sweet—
Only what is needed—to explain.

O-o-o-ccam's Razor!
Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and know it's a hawk,
Not a UFO, up in the sky.

We know that all that stuff is myth,
Be it Allah, Jehovah, or Sith!

And when we sa-a-ay, Yeow!
Did you really have to pra-a-ay! Yeow!
We're only saying
Reason is fine, Occam's Razor!
Occam's Razor, O.K.!

Occam's Razor (if you're not familiar with it, I can't put it much better than the first verse of the lyrics above, but here's Wikipedia) is the best, and at bottom the only, case that atheists/Darwinists (the two are not synonyms of course but I'm interested here in a certain intellectual type) have. After all, if you want to claim, and back up the claim, that there is no God, and/or the creation of our world occurred in a purely physicalistic fashion without supernatural intervention of any kind, then there's a problem: you've assumed the burden of proving a negative. Which is (perhaps I'm glossing over some complications here but I'll just put it out there) impossible.

So, if you believe that there is no God and/or the world evolved without any non-physical influences, and if you want to persuade others of this belief, how do you go about it? Occam's Razor! First, you (attempt to) offer a complete explanation of the world that never relies on the divine or supernatural as an explaining factor. Second, you appeal to Occam's Razor: if there's a God-less, soul-less explanation of something, there's no need to bring God/the soul into it.

The first problem with this is that Occam's Razor is more of a rule of thumb than a hard-and-fast epistemic principle. Have you ever watched a murder mystery in which the heir who was about to be disinherited by the wealthy victim has no alibi, but the killer turns out to be the victim's long-lost, disguised bastard avenging his abandoned mother and sundry other ancient iniquities? Occam's Razor is like a detective who always accuses the heir, just because the heir might have done it, and it's the simplest story. But the case is not really proven thus. And sometimes the heir is innocent, and the culprit is someone no one suspected.

The second problem is that, for Occam's Razor to be applicable, for the physicalist account to be "only what is needed-- to explain," then the physicalist account must be enough to explain. Physicalists must offer a complete explanation of our experiences, sensory, intellectual, emotional, and so on, before their appeal to Occam's Razor is legitimate. Now, any reasonably intelligent and educated physicalist should know he must concede that they cannot offer this... "yet." But, they say, look at the advance of science! Look how little we knew once, and how much we know now! Isn't it reasonable to think that we'll eventually offer a complete explanation of everything, including consciousness? Or at least that if we'll never get a complete explanation, we'll asymptotically approach one?

I have up my sleeve what I take to be philosophical proofs that consciousness can never be explained in physicalistic terms (philosopher Thomas Nagel argues the same) but there's no need to deploy them here. If the physicalist explanation of reality is incomplete, if physicalists cannot offer a sufficient explanation of all our experiences but merely a research program or methodology which they hope will lead to one, then they have no business appealing to Occam's Razor to persuade others, or themselves, of the untruth of beliefs in God or the soul. All their bullying on behalf of physicalists against, say, body-soul dualists, is just that.

The most revealing part of the poem (and all right, it is a bit below the belt to make such a sustained argument against a casual satirical poem, but the question interests me, so why not?) is the claim: "We know all that stuff is myth." Know? KNOW?!! It's hard to figure out how the author can imagine that he's in a position to make a knowledge-claim here. Even if he were in a position to apply Occam's Razor, which he is not, Occam's Razor provides the basis for pragmatic, probabilistic inferences, not knowledge-claims. So how can he say he knows? Easy: he says he knows for the same reason that the Mormons I grew up with used to say "I know the Church is true." His knowledge-claim is based on dogma, not reason. The "Reason is fine" line at the end is 100% red-herring. Reason, true reason, is a humbling pursuit. It yields more skepticism and agnosticism than certainty. It is the nemesis of physicalism and many other groundless worldviews, and dogmatists of all stripes can only selectively allow themselves the luxury of engaging in it.

UPDATE: Tom Reasoner writes, in the comments:

Assuming that your criticisms of "Physicalism" are true... can't those same criticisms be levied against any and all belief systems, including your own Deist views? If that's the case, then how should we resolve disagreements between differing views, if not by violence? I'm really anxious to hear your response.

A good question, to which I surely cannot do justice, partly in the small space I want to allot to the question at present. But I'll try to sketch an answer.

First, yes, I think that any and all elaborate, relatively complete, and socially institutionalized belief systems are probably vulnerable to devastating skeptical attacks. However, one must distinguish between different kinds of beliefs. In his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett writes: "To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant-- inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write." (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 46.) This statement, which is so shockingly arrogant that it alone should suffice to expel Dennett from a discipline whose patron saint is the humble, ever-questioning Socrates-- indeed the statement is an indictment of the entire philosophical profession inasmuch as Dennett is still spoken of with respect among philosophers after having penned it-- can be called a certainty-claim of a kind that has probably not been uttered by a Christian intellectual since the Spanish Inquisition was abolished. Certainty-claims differ only in degree from knowledge-claims, I suppose-- to venture a tentative definition, they are "beliefs, plus beliefs that one possesses evidence which compels one to belief, and that should compel others to belief as well"-- but are different from mere beliefs, and from faith-beliefs: what the last are is too long a discussion to enter into here, except this hint: all of us, not just the religious, have them and live by them. Anyway, the Christian belief system is not vulnerable in the same way to a skeptical attack because it is not in the habit of making certainty-claims.

Second, while I value rational argumentation and belief that I have greatly profited by it, while I exhort others to engage in it, while insist that we have a duty to submit to the correction of reason when through reason our beliefs are proven false, nontheless it has this limitation: rational argumentation must rely on public evidence, but not all evidence is public. There are some things that we can know only by introspection. Only through introspection, if at all, can I discover whether or not I have the power to avoid thinking about an unpleasant topic, or whether I am able to remember the way the fields where I played in my youth looked, or whether I feel an angelic presence when I stand in a green wood through which rays of sunlight stream. If I save, "I felt that day that my sould was saved," I can neither prove nor be disproven, for only I have access to my own mind and my own memory. A very large and important part of reality is beyond the reach of the types of public observation that can be drawn into rational debate. Yet we do have ways of communicating with one another about these things; it is merely that we must do so through poetry or art, or perhaps through a form of argumentation that is not quite rational. Persuasion is a broader category than argument.

Finally, while Tom's phrase "if not by violence" is perhaps intended rhetorically, this is in fact the Darwinists' chief mode of spreading their doctrine. Citizens, including non-believers in Darwinism, are coerced to pay taxes, with the implicit threat of violence if they refuse, to support schools where Darwinism is taught to their own children. I agree with Tom-- if I understand his position rightly-- that violence is not a desirable means of resolving disagreements. Will he then agree with me that the teaching of Darwinism in public schools should cease? (If he wants his children to learn Darwinism, he can arrange private tutorials, or support a voucher system so that he can have his children learn Darwinism in private schools.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Man's a creator
Worlds to bring into being
Haunt his restless mind.

(by me)

Monday, August 21, 2006


My latest piece at Tech Central Station, entitled "Don't Look Now, But the World Economy is Booming," got picked up in a number of places in the blogosphere. Philosopher Stone calls it "an interesting read" and likes my distinction between "sweatshop countries" and "non-sweatshop countries." Craig Williams at StaticNoise adds that "there's pain associated with all this good news... for all intents and purposes high paying low-skill jobs are going away [from North America and Western Europe] and there's nothing to be done about that." I'm not sure that's true. A lot of low-skilled jobs, in many services for example, can't be outsourced. Anyway, a growing global economy won't make that worse, but better: if wages rise in other countries, there will be less downward pressure. The pain for Western Europe and North America from world economic growth is in high commodity prices, but we were aware of those already.

I always love getting a "Brothers Judd" link! As usual, they concisely contribute their own insight through a tendentious blog post title: "What the Deficits Buy." Brilliant. An exaggeration, but I do think that America's twin deficits are acting as a demand-side stimulus for the entire world economy, which is a bit risky but probably a good thing (though I'd prefer less of a government deficit).

Sam Koritz grabs a bunch of text, and adds no comments except a blog title post-- "Convergence?"-- and an interesting graphic showing the demographic transition.

BizzyBlog calls my article "reality-based optimism on ending world poverty." Yeah! (And I was the "column of the day.")

I got a link from the Club for Growth. And one from Free Republic, where none of the commenters recognized me as the firebrand immigration advocate they have despised in the past... Also a link from "World Trade Organizations," whatever that is.

This post at links to me but mostly talks about Cuba and Larry Kudlow.

They cut out one section from the article as I submitted it, which was actually the most interesting section from my point of view, though also the most controversial. I argued that the Iraq War, which began at about the same time as the world economic boom, might be part of the reason for the good years since 2003. How so? I gave two reasons: 1) business investors apparently thought the war would be worse than it turned out, considering that there was a boom in business investment starting immediately after April 2003-- this contradicts the phoney-baloney conventional wisdom that no one thought the Iraq War would be this bad-- and 2) the Iraq War showed that totalitarian dictators who wreck their countries' economies can be overthrown to the delight of the subject populations, however since nobody's talking about regime change in China, it seems like authoritarian regimes can get off the hook for not being democratic if they manage their countries' economies well. So the Iraq War created a new incentive for authoritarian leaders to try to survive by fostering economic growth, rather than by honing their repressive apparatuses. Brothers Judd would really have loved the article if that had been in there! But it is admittedly a bit speculative. I might not have gotten the "reality-based" plaudit from BizzyBlog.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pat Buchanan tries to explain why Joe shouldn't run?

"Joe, why are you doing this?"

That is a question Joe Lieberman will hear again and again from old friends, as he mounts his "independent" campaign for the Senate seat his own party voted on Tuesday to take away from him.

And there is no compelling answer Joe can give.

Joe insists he's a progressive Democrat in the mainstream of the party and has a voting record to prove it. But Ned Lamont is a progressive (i.e., liberal) Democrat, and the Connecticut party chose him as its Senate nominee, not Joe.

Joe could say Iraq is the dividing line and the critical issue facing America. But Tuesday's primary was a referendum on Iraq, and the Connecticut Democratic Party voted to declare itself antiwar. And Joe does not even intend to run as a war Democrat in November. For he knows it would drive away an even larger share of the Democratic and independent vote than he lost on Tuesday.

But if he will not run as a principled pro-war senator, what, then, is the argument for re-electing Joe? For the transparent conclusion is that his independent campaign is simply about Joe's unwillingness to accept the verdict of his party and give up his cherished Senate seat.

Joe Lieberman will, and should, run for senator, because he's the best senator for Connecticut, and the best Connecticut senator for America, and because most Connecticut voters support him for re-election. Connecticut's Democratic party wants to deprive Connecticut of a popular centrist senator, and force on them a partisan limousine liberal. There's no reason at all that Joe Lieberman should let them do that. What is so difficult to understand about that? Nothing at all; but there are a lot of people with an interest in pretending not to understand it.

Buchanan goes on to blast the Weekly Standard for speculating about Lieberman as a future Republican VP nominee:

In short, The Weekly Standard wishes to see, on a Republican ticket and a heartbeat away from the presidency, a proud liberal Democrat who supports partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, gay rights, affirmative action, reparations for slavery, gun control, higher taxes on the top 2 percent, distribution of condoms in public schools and driver's licenses for illegal aliens.

What does Joe oppose? School prayer, the American Legion's flag amendment, Sam Alito, drilling in the ANWAR and any phase-out of death taxes.

Last year, Joe's rating by Americans for Democratic Action was 80. The ACLU gave him an 83, the NAACP an 85, the AFL-CIO a 92, LULAC a perfect 100. In 2004, Joe got a 100 rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League and a zero from National Right to Life. His American Conservative Union rating was zero. His Christian Coalition rating was zero. The National Rifle Association, which grades by letters, gave Joe a big, fat "F."

But as long as you support war in Lebanon, war in Iraq and a "war-fighting Republican Party," in The Weekly Standard's phrase, you get a pass on everything else. Beat the drum for permanent war for global democracy and against Islamo-fascism, and all other sins are forgiven you.

Such is the state of conservatism, 2006.

Of course the idea of Lieberman as a Republican VP is a little implausible. But Buchanan is in no position to lecture anyone on being a conservative. Generally, I'm not a fan of quarreling over labels, and I'd rather let people call themselves what they want rather than try to purge people. But Pat Buchanan doesn't even support free trade, for heaven's sake. His ideas on foreign policy are close to Lenin's diatribes against imperialism, and he likes to deploy the rhetoric of class. Buchanan is closer to being a Marxist than to being a conservative. If the Democrats can purge Joe, isn't there some way that conservatives can purge Pat Buchanan for good?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Bush won in 2004 with over 60 million votes, 51% of the votes cast, the most ever cast for a president. Surely Democrats realize that to win, they must attract people who voted for Bush. So who among the Bush base are they trying to court? This blog post about the Lieberman loss suggests that it's not me:

2. In this new era, partisanship is a virtue. The conservatives rise to power, and their utter failure to govern responsibly or effectively, requires a new progressive politics of confrontation, not accommodation. This new politics may be uncomfortable to those used to an America governed by Democrats and progressive values, but for our politics and values to triumph progressives must and are learning how to resist “cutting deals,” working to “get things done” on terms set by an irresponsible governing majority...

Of course there is room for someone with Senator Lieberman’s view on the War, for example. He was after all endorsed by virtually ever major institution in the Democratic family. There is a growing, and necessary, intolerance, however, of progressive leaders unwilling to take on Bush and his failed government head on – and this was the battleground in this election, whether the Senator understood it or not.

I have great sympathy for those wishing our politics could be more genteel, where both sides could come together to work things out for the common good. But we live in a different time, and our the rising partisanship in the Democratic Party is a necessary, pragmatic and I believe virtuous response to the circumstances we face today at the dawn of the 21st century.

How can it be a smart strategy for the minority party to feel that "partisanship is a virtue?" Isn't that like saying, Republicans are the enemy? And if you're telling me I'm the enemy, doesn't that make me less likely to vote for you? Isn't it mathematically obvious that if the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party" purges what it sees as non-Democratic elements, it will get smaller, and the Republican majority, bigger?

"Bush and his failed government?" This at a time when GDP per capita is at its highest ever (admittedly, GDP per capita usually is at its highest ever, but that just goes to show that our times our normal). This after six years of a presidency that has witnessed the fastest rate of productivity growth ever. This when crime rates are near their lowest level in decades, when no terrorist attack on the US has occurred since 9/11. This at a time when wages are rising fast. This at a time when the unemployment gap between whites and blacks is narrowing. Maybe one could make a plausible case that the Iraq War is somehow uniquely disastrous. At least it's unique. But Rosenberg says that there IS room for someone with Lieberman's position on the war. So apparently that's not it. What is it?

"An irresponsible governing majority?" This from a party that wants to spend MORE, not less, that wants universal health care and who knows what else. This from a party that retreated into ostrich-like denial when Bush tried to discuss the long-term financial problems of Social Security. Okay, Bush and the Republicans have spent too much money, but is that what Rosenberg is complaining about, and if so, how does he figure that the Democrats are better.

Where do these alarmist notions come from? It would be one thing if Rosenberg offered an argument for why we're in such trouble, or if he recognized that his alarmism is idiosyncratic. But no: he states these things casually, as if everyone should know it. Every "progressive," that is; and those wicked souls who aren't progressives, they're the enemy. These people really frighten me. Please, Lieberman, run hard for that Senate seat! Save us!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


E. J. Dionne reports some Lieberman remarks that he thinks may save his bid for the Democratic nomination:

The "biggest lie being told about me by the other side," Lieberman declared, is "the false charge that I am George Bush's best friend and enabler." Lieberman's closing speech reflected a clear recognition that he had no chance of surviving as long as voters associated him with Bush.

If Lieberman loses the primary, and if he does run as an independent, he will suddenly have a whole new constituency: Republicans. Given that Schlesinger, the Republican candidate, is hardly viable, there's a good chance that most Republicans who aren't single-issue abortion voters will rally to Joe. In that case, looking like a friend of Bush will help him. Of course, any repositioning he might try will involve weighing votes lost on the left and votes gained on the right.

Josh Marshall suggests that Lieberman's announcement that he would run as an independent if he lost the primary did him in with Democrats. With partisan Democrats who vote in primaries. Perhaps that's not surprising. From a partisan-Democrat point of view, refusing to abide by a Democratic primary result is to betray the force they believe should be in charge: the Democratic Party.

But partisan Democrats who vote in primaries are almost by definition not representative of the state's voters. Voters who are less fond of the Democratic Party, or political parties in general, might rally to an independent. But Joe needs to show that he's in it for something more than personal power and position. His refusal to abide by the Democratic primary could look arrogant. He's got to say what he's doing it for, and that it isn't himself, but something higher.

What, in particular? 1) The will of the people. Lieberman has always been quite popular with the voters, if not with the Democrats. 2) The defense of liberal civilization. Sometimes the will of the people, and the interests of liberal civilization, do not coincide with the momentary passions of the political parties. Connecticut voters deserve a chance to vote for their brave, popular incumbent senator. Lieberman, don't back out!