Monday, August 30, 2010

Ron Johnson: A Good Kind of Scary

With the start of classes, I took an extended blogging break. But the main theme of the local political blogs on the left has continued to be saturation bombing of Ron Johnson. Ron is not a politician, lawyer or academic and has not yet mastered the art of phrasing his views in a way that will minimize the ability of his opponents to twist them with uncharitable interpretations.

His statement on global warming is an example. It is an overstatement to say that claims of anthropogenic global warming are crazy, but it is perfectly "respectable," i.e., there is lots of scientific support, for the proposition that the claim - or at least its more alarmist manifestation - is unproved. (In fact, I think you can argue that Al Gore's views on global warming are just as scientifically flawed as the weakest of the "deniers.") One might express that, off the cuff, by saying that the claim for AGW is confounded by other impacts on the climate such as solar activity or the very long term climate changes that we know occur but for which we have very little data. While it is unlikely that Greenland was "green" when Lief Erickson tried to sell beachfront realty in Baffin Bay, it was significantly warmer.

Much the same silliness has accompanied the irrelevant accusations regarding Johnson's company benefiting from industrial revenue bonds and his statement that they are not a "subsidy." There is, of course, a subsidy in the sense that, because the state will not tax the interest earned by bondholders, they are willing to accept a lower interest rate. But not everyone would regard the advantages that flow from an absence of taxation as a subsidy. My house undoubtedly has a higher value than it would if potential buyers could not deduct their mortgage interest.

One can argue that IRBs are a bad idea, but wrangling over the use of the word "subsidy" doesn't get us anywhere.

Yet another example is the uproar over Johnson's use of the term "creative destruction" - a phenomenon that all economists recognize - as if it were some radical and evil right wing plot. There is a reason that we don't have many blacksmith shops or typewriter manufacturers and it is a good thing.

Imprecise and hyperbolic statements are something that all politicians - heck all people - engage in. There is, for example, no reasonable reading of anything that Ron Johnson ever said that supports Feingold's claim that he would "turn the Great Lakes over to oil companies." Even if Johnson would support extraction of whatever fossil fuels are located in the lakes, that is a far cry from "turning them over" to "oil companies."

The point of this is to make Johnson seem stupid or scary. So far, it's not working and I doubt it will. Ron Johnson is scary in one sense, though. He's got Democrats petrified.

34 comments:

Grant said...

you can argue that Al Gore's views on global warming are just as scientifically flawed as the weakest of the "deniers."

Absolutely true. You could argue that.

Jud Lounsbury said...

1) Ron Johnson is, by definition, a politician. Saying he is not, does not make it so.

2) Once again you're resorting to a straw man argument to defend Johnson.

Johnson said that Greenland used to be green when it was named in medievil times and wasn't white like it is now. And then pointed out that there wasn't cars in medievel times.

Putting aside that his greenland example is factually inaccurate, his larger point is that we had global warming during the so-called medievel warming period -- and those times did not have a large amount of man-made green house gasses.

Johnson, and you, of course refuse to acknowledge that there is a scientific explanation for the medievel warming period. And there is a mountain of scientific evidence of why the medievel warming period is different than the global warming we are experiencing now.

sean s. said...

"Imprecise and hyperbolic statements are something that all politicians - heck all people - engage in."

And this post is a good example of that.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Johnson may not be a politician or lawyer but he also isn't a progressive.

It's a victory for Johnson if the progressives are trying to make it appear he is wrong on their issues.

jimspice said...

If Johnson is the caliber of businessman his supporters say he is, he should have the skill set to read and analyze a spreadsheet. The same skills could be put to use to understand the science behind AGW (which already does, by the way, take into consideration "other impacts on the climate such as solar activity").

Given his disregard for the scientific consensus, either he is not the businessman he makes himself out to be, or he is stating something he does not believe for political purposes.

I suppose there could be a third possibility, that he has not looked at the data and feels qualified to comment authoritatively nonetheless.

None of these three instances seem particularly confidence instilling to me.

Anonymous said...

Odd that the Professor has apparently walked away from the discussion on Perry. I challenged him to draft a bill which contains the protections he believes that gay couples are entitled to. He did not respond. He may not be a liar -- the jury is still out-- but he surely is a hypocrite.

George Mitchell said...

Ron Johnson will defeat Senator Feingold.

He will make any number of "mistakes" in the campaign, using the conventional (and meaningless) definition.

A majority of voters who will turn out this year are oblivious to the insider stuff that pre-occupies Feingold acolytes. They completely get the contrast between Johnson and Feingold on issues that matter to them.

Mike Plaisted said...

Yeah, George. Truth and sanity -- that's "insider stuff" alright.

Wisconsin voters aren't nearly as stupid as you hope they are. They are not going to elect an over-his-head tea-party wacko over a solid senator in the Wisconsin tradition like Russ Feingold. A little more vigorous screening of the candidate might have been a good thing before you and the rest of the right-wing intellegensia sent out the talk-radio people to promote him, but, you folks are a little full of yourselves this year, so I guess I can see how you would have missed that little detail.

I love this defense of Johnson propagated by McIlheran and now, sadly and predictably, Rick Esenberg. He says stupid things that aren't really that stupid and it doesn't matter anyway. How about creationism in the schools? Nah, it's just Ron being Ron.

One thing is for sure. If any Democrat had even one of the dozen gaffes (and counting) that Johnson has suffered in the short period of time he has been allowed to talk out loud (like Sharron Angle, I expect this to stop soon), Esenberg would be pronouncing the horrors of such an idiot in dark tones on his blog and in the newspaper and Mitchell would be lining up secret financing for the carpet-bomb ad campaign capitalizing on it.

The double-standards of the Johnson apologists are staggering, though not unexpected.

Dad29 said...

The double-standards of the Johnson apologists are staggering, though not unexpected

Plaisted's middle name is "Pot."

Mike Plaisted said...

Brilliant, Dad. I mean, it's Bernard, but, what the hey. Very snappy repartee. At the top of your game, dude.

John Foust said...

RoJo said “Well in a free market capitalist system there are always winners and losers. It's creative destruction. That just happens. It's unfortunate." Do you think he is correct in asserting that we have a "free market capitalist system" here? That government decisions haven't interfered with that process, steering any "creative destruction"? That businesses are routinely jockeying for favors and subsidies like low-interest loans for expansion? In the political position he intends to fill, won't he be able to shape laws that also attempt to steer the economy? He plans to pick winners. Isn't it a bit odd when Rand acolytes want to join the government?

If RoJo is indeed a common man, a simple business owner not adept in science, wouldn't his proper response be to admit that he's not an expert? Instead, he asserted that warming was due to "just sunspots" with the implication that Man need not change his ways when it comes to those silly externalities of factories and cars dumping pollutants into the air and water. I think he wanted to recite the magic words to please the faithful. The dog whistle has been blown! All Republicans, get in line, you've been told who to vote for!

Darn! Sean S. is stealing my Standard Contradictory Disclaimer™ trick! Then Dad29 yells "Buy more ammo! Wolverines!" and then starts mumbling about the Natural Law that clearly shows which music should be played at what point in his Mass.

Petrified? The Democrats will pick apart the Republican candidate and trump up his most ridiculous statements. That doesn't mean they're frightened. It could mean they're bored with the cakewalk. You expect them to do nothing? You want a system that works otherwise? Last I read, you even defend the greatness of candidates who even outright lie about the other guy.

Anonymous said...

it'd actually do you credit to just say, "I don't like gays, and I don't like the idea of recognizing their relationships"

George Mitchell said...

Mike,

We agree on one thing. The choice between Johnson and Feingold is stark.

Anonymous said...

"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,"
6 days ago USA Today (Occurrences: 280)more by Ken Mehlman
Another hypocritical republican comes out of his closet

Why do republican closet cases loathe gay people so much

Anonymous said...

This is a really bad year to be a career politician. Because Senator Feingold can't hide the fact that he is a career politician, he and his supporters have to hoke up this depiction of "RoJo" as dumb, extreme, scary, etc. We'll find out in November if the strategy worked.

Anonymous said...

The thought of having to get a job in the private sector -- where he hasn't worked in two decades since his stint at mega-firm Foley & Lardner -- must have Russell sweating bullets.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of Johnson's radio ads slamming Feingold as a career politician. I'm curious about Johnson's aspirations. Has he pledged not to run for more than one or two terms, or is he just a career politician in the making?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:41 -- If you're conceding the point that spending nearly one's entire professional life as a politician is a bad thing, we can then have a discussion about whether Johnson wants to spend the rest of his life in politics. (I think it's pretty clear that he isn't inclined to.) If your real purpose is to avoid having to defend the incumbent and change the focus to challenging Johnson to take some silly pledge, it just supports the conclusion that Feingold supporters are really threatened by Johnson.

sean s. said...

Personally, I don't see why "career politician" is any worse than "career lawyer" or "career physician" or "career plumber". Experience is usually considered a good thing.

sean s.

Free Lunch said...

Given the nature of science, claiming that something discovered by science is unproven shows a lack of understanding of science.

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