November 10, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM

Pokey LaFarge And The South City Three On Mountain Stage (NPR, November 9, 2012)

Pokey LaFarge and his backing band The South City Three make their first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Paramount Theater in the border town of Bristol, Tenn./Va., in partnership with the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance. Hailing from St. Louis, LaFarge mixes the sounds of a bygone era: early string-band music, ragtime, country blues and Western swing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


More Evidence that Obama's Victory Reflects the Economic Fundamentals (Patrick Egan, 11/08/12, NY Times)

By September, the fundamentals had improved enough to make Obama a slight favorite.  The figure below plots the incumbent party's share of the two-party presidential vote against the average growth rate in the nation's GDP over the three quarters preceding the election.  Separate regression lines trace the relationship for years when an incumbent was actually on the ballot (like 2012) and those when he was not (like 2008).   (The steeper slope of the first line indicates that the economy affects election results more strongly when the president is actually running for reelection; the fact that it lies above the second line illustrates the advantage enjoyed by incumbents.)

The growth rate between January and September of 2012 averaged 1.8 percent.  As shown in the figure, this yielded a predicted share of 51.2 percent of the two-party vote for incumbent Obama.    How well did this forecast the actual outcome?  Right now (as of noon on November 8th) the popular vote totals stand at 60,771,081 for Obama and 57,876,223 for Romney--exactly 51.2 percent for the incumbent. 

What really stands out is how badly Ross Perot screwed GHWB.
Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


MY WIFE'S LOVER (CHUCK KLOSTERMAN, July 13, 2012, NY Times Magazine)

My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be "true to my heart" and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD

Don't expose the affair in any high-profile way. It would be different if this man's project was promoting some (contextually hypocritical) family-values platform, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The only motive for exposing the relationship would be to humiliate him and your wife, and that's never a good reason for doing anything. This is between you and your spouse. You should tell her you want to separate, just as you would if she were sleeping with the mailman. The idea of "suffering in silence" for the good of the project is illogical. How would the quiet divorce of this man's mistress hurt an international leadership initiative? He'd probably be relieved.

The fact that you're willing to accept your wife's infidelity for some greater political good is beyond honorable. In fact, it's so over-the-top honorable that I'm not sure I believe your motives are real. Part of me wonders why you're even posing this question, particularly in a column that is printed in The New York Times.

Your dilemma is intriguing, but I don't see how it's ambiguous. Your wife is having an affair with a person you happen to respect. Why would that last detail change the way you respond to her cheating? Do you admire this man so much that you haven't asked your wife why she keeps having sex with him? I halfway suspect you're writing this letter because you want specific people to read this column and deduce who is involved and what's really going on behind closed doors (without actually addressing the conflict in person). That's not ethical, either.

How do folks like General Petraeus manage to screw their own lives up so badly?
Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


The Party of Work (DAVID BROOKS, 11/08/12, NY Times)

The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.

Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it's often not government. It's a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don't rise. It's a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It's a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It's chaotic neighborhoods that can't be cured by withdrawing government programs.

For these people, the Republican equation is irrelevant. When they hear Romney talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He doesn't get me or people like me.

It';s especially peculiar that a guy who built his fortune on making companies more efficient by cutting deadwood jobs should have been so confused about the job numbers.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


The Election and the Right (Yuval Levin, November 8, 2012, National Review)
The Democratic Party is mostly an incoherent amalgam of interest groups, most of which are vying for benefits for themselves and their members at the expense of other Americans. This kind of party is why America's founders worried about partisanship and were, at least at first, eager to avoid a party system. It is a bunch of factions more than a party. The basic distinction between a faction and a proper party--a distinction proposed by Edmund Burke, among the first positive proponents of parties in the Anglo-American tradition--is that a faction seeks power over the whole for its own advantage while a party seeks power to advance its own vision of the good of the whole. "A party," Burke wrote, "is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavor the national interest upon some principle in which they are all agreed."
Some of today's Democrats do advance such a view of the good of the whole--a progressive view by which the national interest is served by replacing traditional mediating institutions with the more rational and technocratic public institutions of the welfare state, replacing what they take to be a stifling combination of moral collectivism and economic individualism with what they take to be a liberating combination of moral individualism and economic collectivism. It is this view that conservatives call "the Left" and which we oppose and resist. But the Democrats are not united by this view and are by no means all agreed in it. The party's electoral strength is not a function of its commitment to this view or of the public's acceptance of it. Its electoral strength is a function of a coalition of special-interest groups that provide both voters and activists in return for the party protecting their interests at the expense of those of other Americans when it is in power.
The Republican Party has its own interest groups too, of course. It has often been too protective of big business, above all. But interest groups of this sort in Republican politics play nothing like the role they have in Democratic politics. The Republican Party, for good and bad, is much more of a real party--largely united and moved (and increasingly so) by a complicated and often contradictory but at bottom very coherent worldview we call conservatism which, to vastly overgeneralize, argues for traditional morality, free enterprise, and a robust national defense. The party's electoral strength is without question a function of this view and of the public's acceptance of it (or lack thereof). Its electoral fate therefore depends on its ability to lay out this vision of American life (at least in part translated into concrete policy) for voters in an appealing way and to persuade them of its virtues and its value to them and their country.
This can of course involve explaining to specific groups why a more conservative government would be better for them in particular, but it generally should not mean offering certain groups benefits or protections at the expense of others for the sake of their votes. I do think there are some parts of our society that deserve special consideration and special treatment. I would favor a tax code designed to be more supportive of middle-class parents, for instance--but that's because I think it would be good for America, strengthening us where we are weak and helping to redress the mistreatment of families in our current tax code. I favor benefits and protections for the poor and the vulnerable, provided they are designed to encourage independence and to lift people out of poverty wherever possible. But those are, at least as I understand them, outgrowths of a broader conservative worldview--they are my conservatism applied to specific instances, and I think they should be persuasive to everyone, not just to people in the groups that might benefit, because I think they would be good for the country. I don't think I would change my mind about them if an election went poorly, though I might change which of them I emphasize in response to the needs of the moment or I might change the way I argue about them to try to be more persuasive to one kind of fellow American or another.
There is much legitimate room for debate among conservatives about immigration, for instance. I probably fall on the less restrictionist end of that spectrum on the right. But I would not suggest that the Republican Party should move my way because there are more Hispanic voters in the country. I think it should move my way because I think that way is right for our country, and it's my job to persuade other people of that.
And that, at the end of the day, is the challenge for conservatives in the wake of this election. The argument that any individual (and therefore party) should just change substantive positions (especially on crucially important issues) because there is more of one kind of voter or another than there used to be is just not a serious argument. It suggests that the substance of our politics is nothing more than cynical electioneering. Republicans tend not to believe that, and even those who do could never hope to compete with Democrats on that front. They should instead offer the country an applied conservatism.
The job of conservatism, and to the extent that it is a conservative party then also the job of the Republican Party, is to lay out its vision before voters in an attractive and serious way, to show them how it builds on America's strengths to address America's weaknesses, how it enables human thriving, how it could be applied to the particular problems we face today in ways that would help solve those problems, and why it is good for each and all of us Americans. That means we need to speak to a coherent and appealing understanding of American life today, and that we need to translate our ideas into very concrete policy particulars that would advance them.

It is, of course, the case that the GOP is the party of traditional morality (Christianity) and American values.  So for it to have become so closely identified with the hatred of immigrants is not only antithetical to its principles and purposes but is to some significant degree self-delegitimizing.  Indeed, the notion enunciated here, that opposition to immigration is a "substantive position," is particularly embarrassing from someone like Mr. Levin, who knows better.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


McCain Beats Romney! (PAUL KENGOR, 11.9.12, National Review)

Brace yourselves, conservatives. What I'm about to say will hurt, and it should hurt -- and I'm not the first to notice. (Kudos to Rush Limbaugh, who noticed and is hitting this point hard.) Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election not so much because he got fewer votes than Barack Obama but because he got fewer votes than John McCain in 2008.

Additional votes are still coming in, but, as of the time of my writing, Romney received around 57.8 million votes in 2012. In 2008, John McCain received 59.9 million. Romney got over 2 million fewer votes than McCain. And in the final count, he will almost certainly have received considerably fewer votes than McCain.

Obama received 60.6 million votes in 2012, almost 9 million less than he received in 2008. If Romney would have had McCain's vote total, he would have been much closer in the popular vote and might have even had enough to win the Electoral College. Or, better put, if Mitt Romney had secured just a tiny fraction more votes than John McCain -- as we conservatives were certain he would -- he might have won the presidency.

We know this: Romney won independents by 5 points, and they made up 29% of all voters. McCain didn't win independents.

The weakness of the primary field was ultimately fatal.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Welcoming Immigrants Begins With How You Talk About Them (Seth Mandel, 11.09.2012, Commentary)

Immigration reform and taking a more welcoming attitude toward immigrants makes sense on every level-economically, morally, culturally, etc. But at the risk of being accused of looking a gift horse in the mouth, I think something needs to be said about the way this argument is taking shape, with particular emphasis on the newfound expression of support for Hispanic immigration on the right. As I said, there are many logical reasons to welcome immigrants and to support immigration reform. But conservatives who have previously opposed it and are now admitting that cynical electoral considerations are driving their evolution are making an understandable, but still devastating, mistake.

The way that conservatives talk about immigration reform must be reformed as well. They must understand that there is now a cultural suspicion of the right on the part of a large segment of the immigrant population, especially Latinos, and for good reason. Immigrants are well aware of the debate over immigration here. And they remember-and will for some time-that when they arrived here with nothing but the clothes on their back, desperate for a chance at a better life for themselves and their children, one party said "come on in" and the other said "turn around and go back."

Simply supporting immigration reform is not going to do away with this, especially if people describe Latino immigrants as some kind of demographic setback they must alleviate in order to win elections. That's dehumanizing too. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Belcea Quartet Plays Beethoven At Carnegie Hall (TOM HUIZENGA, 11/07/12, NPR)

This concert is one of three the ensemble is presenting at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. They focus on Beethoven's final quartets -- among the most personal, enigmatic and powerfully forward-thinking pieces in his output. In the late quartets, the idea of the string quartet became whatever Beethoven wanted it to be.

The Op. 127 Quartet in E-flat, heard in this concert, might be laid out in the traditional four movements, but the piece has the weight and the length of a massive symphonic statement.

The Op.130 Quartet in B-flat, constructed as a light-hearted serenade in six movements, feels more like a raw, intimate communication -- like a late night phone call from a troubled friend. In the Cavatina, Beethoven instructs the first violinist to play as if "choked up" (beklemmt). And even the momentary rays of sunlight in the preceding German dance are somehow veiled.

The quartet originally ended with a muscular, unprecedented 15-minute fugue (known as the "Grosse Fuge") that Chorzelski calls "a nuclear explosion, aimed at threatening the very idea of structure and gravity." Beethoven's publisher forced him to write a substitute finale and released the fugue as a separate piece. But even that more docile ending, Chorzelski told, is filled with mischief.