Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, March 28, 2015


As vacation ends, the thing I miss the most is the state of being truly rested every day.  Waking, falling back asleep, waking again.  Maybe a nap if you feel you need it.

Anyway, that's over with.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Everything Isn't Munich

Every dictatorial jackass in the world is not Hitler, OK?  We have had scores of really awful human beings running countries over the centuries, and there is only one Hitler.  Saddam Hussein wasn't Hitler. Kim Jong Un isn't Hitler.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei isn't Hitler.  Vladimir Putin isn't Hitler.


No more Hitlers.

The basic position of Universal Hitler is to render all diplomacy moot.  If every threat is Hitler then you can't negotiate with any adversary.  In fact, both before and after Hitler, we have had great success negotiating with terrible people.  We were close allies with Stalin for four years.  We reached out to Mao.  We installed freaking Pinochet!

Iran is a complicated country with a very complicated governmental structure.  But Iranians, as a people, are not a radicalized bunch of crazy people. Yes, they support Hezbollah.  But Hezbollah isn't lobbing rockets into Israel anymore, as they try and establish themselves as a political party.  Yes, they support Hamas, but so do many of our putative allies.

Flipping Iran from pariah state to something closer to what Russia was before they invaded Ukraine is a laudable goal.

But if you believe that all diplomacy is Munich, you are basically saying the only solution to international crisis is war.

And that makes you kind of Hitlery...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Richard Cohen Is A Troll

Benghazi is a nontroversy because the death of those Americans was a tragedy but not a scandal.

Meanwhile, the Justice report on Ferguson explains explicitly why Ferguson erupted over the killing of Michael Brown.

With Benghazi, the GOP began with a predisposition that Obama is a terrible commander in chief and wants America to be weak.  They then tried to create a scandal in their echo chamber about why Obama left Chris Stephens to die.  Subsequent facts came to light that demonstrated conclusively that Benghazi was a tragedy not a scandal.

With Ferguson, the eruption of anger was over a long train of usurpations and abuses at the hands of the Ferguson PD.  When Brown was killed, that community wide anger erupted.  The police, in this case, had lost the benefit of the doubt from that community.

Subsequent evidence has proven that the Ferguson PD uses its poor, black citizens as an alternative to raising taxes.  They engage in race-based policing.

All of this gibes nicely with Ezra Klein's piece on Obamacare, or rather what Obamacare says about American politics in 2015.  Klein's point is that the more we know about Obamacare, the more we can say it's working.  The evidence is clear, positive and overwhelming.

And none of that matters.

People tend to begin with their a priori beliefs and then organize their world around those beliefs.  And any information that contradicts those beliefs somehow paradoxically reinforces those contrary beliefs.

As Klein notes, Obamacare is costing substantial less than was predicted.  Like a $100,000,000,000 less.  And yet everyone KNOWS that Obamacare is costing more.  And presenting people with these facts doesn't seem to make a difference.

This undermines a hallmark of liberal democracy: that a populace, properly educated, could be trusted with self-governance.  And that an elected body would respond to both the will of the electorate AND the need for efficacious governance.

I would honestly guess that the Center Left - liberals - do a better job of listening to the evidence than does the Right or the Radical Left.  If there is a Center Right in America anymore, I would hope they see evidence, too.

The more ideological your thinking, the less likely you are to differentiate between Benghazi and Ferguson.  Between the dangers of vaccines and the dangers of a warming planet.

Maybe we are doomed after all...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Off To A Flaying Start

The Left thinks Ted Cruz is dumb.

The Center Right thinks he belongs in a carnival.

I know he's unelectable in the general election, but it will be fascinating to see how he does in the primaries.  Is the GOP still run by its mandarins?  Or has the Tea Party taken over?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Because We Need This

Nothing Like Having Good Enemies

First, you have Steve King (R-Crazytown) saying that he can't understand how you can be a Jew and a Democrat, despite the fact that most Jews in America are Democrats.  In many ways, he's distilling the identity politics of the GOP and applying them to Jews.  In some ways, this reminds me of Dubya's confusion when informed about the Sunni-Shia split in Iraq with the line, "I thought they were Muslims?"

Jews are a remarkably diverse group of people, for being so numerically small.  Most Jews have a strong sense of social justice, which is not exactly priority one in the GOP.  There is also an admonition to make the community you live in more just, rather than always pining for Israel.

Ironically, the Israeli Right has suggested that European Jews should leave Europe because they can't be protected there.  This has been met with outrage from Europeans and Europeans Jews, but it would really have the impact of undermining the Israeli Right, as European and American Jews are much more liberal than Israel as a whole right now.

But in Steve King's addled mind, all Jews are the same and if they don't conform to what he thinks a Jew should be - a militant nationalist - then how can they be Jews.

Statements like that should help insure that American Jews don't bolt the Democrats for the Republicans, even if Obama allows some sanctions to slip past the UN veto.

And now we have the first declared candidate of the 2016 Presidential Clown Car: Ted Cruz.

Cruz is such a flaming dickhole that even the other GOP Senators hate his guts.  His impulses are merely McConnellism taken to the next level but that next level is pretty close to anarchy.  He has spent his few years in the Senate throwing bombs, trying to destroy the credit rating of the US and shutting down the government whenever possible.

Cruz and King are exactly who Democrats would like to be the face of the modern GOP.  As the party veers further and further to the Right, they will try and bury their Todd Akins and put forth sensible seeming candidates - Jeb! - that are really just better at coding the crazy. Think the "Ryan Budget", a massive sack of lies, innumeracy and bullshit that is happily gobbled up by a press corps that desperately needs the GOP to not be crazy.

But as long as Cruz and King are making their brand of reactionary politics the face of the GOP, the Democrats should be just fine.

In fact, I urge all Democrats in states with open primaries to vote for Ted Cruz, especially if Hillary runs mostly unopposed.  If Cruz is the GOP nominee, I would wager Democrats win the House back.

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Is Hilarious

I didn't know CNN had a sense of humor, but then again, they were the people who hired Nancy Grace.

What Next

As usual, the Onion cuts to the quick of the matter.

Except, I do think things have changed.  Netanyahu's cynical and abrupt changes of position on a two-state solution opens the possibility that the US could allow some UN sanctions to proceed.  This is why he back-tracked so quickly on his vow not to allow a Palestinian state.  The US has committed itself to a Palestinian state and Netanyahu's has created too much daylight between the two.

While a lot of this has been credited to the personal breakdown between Netanyahu and Obama - and the increasing political alliance between Likud and the GOP - the fact is that America is coming to question who is calling the shots in this alliance.  And frankly that's a good thing.

Hopefully, the Onion's thinking is out of date.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


I watched Nightcrawler last night. It's basically a monster movie, where the monster is created by America's insatiable need for titillation and fear.

Jake Gyllenhaal - looking profoundly creepy and emaciated - plays a casual sociopath who discovers he can make money cruising around LA filming crime stories and selling them to the local news casts.  He is abetted in this by a TV producer played by Rene Russo, who craves the blood and gore, especially if it is from a white neighborhood.

As the Gyllenhaal character notes, people watch TV news to get informed - at least that's what they say when asked why they watch.   But TV news doesn't inform.  Not about politics or education or science or anything of substance.  It sells blood and fear.

This is why people think violent crime is rising in this country when in fact it's declining precipitously.  We have created a news-entertainment complex that panders to people's need to be thrilled.  And Gyllenhaal's sociopath is the perfect purveyor of this.  As he tells his partner, "Maybe I understand people.  And I just don't like them."

I realize that in some ways, this is no different that what Hearst and Pulitzer did when they coaxed us into war with Spain.  But TV has an immediacy that print doesn't.

This morning I saw a clip of Christiane Amanpour interviewing the deposed head of the Nigerian Central Bank over corruption and the coming elections.  I'm interested in that, because we study Nigeria in our Comp Gov course.  And it was substantive and lasted over 7 minutes.

And I'm guessing nobody gave a shit.  If it bleeds, it leads.  And a discussion about the conditions that allow Boko Haram to exist isn't as bloody as an attack on a school full of girls.

We are a nation of fearful idiots, but our public discourse is making us dumber and more scared.

Breaking News

Congress Does Its Job!

(Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The GOP Is A Cult

Jon Chait has written a really important piece to help understand the current state of the GOP.

The political figures within the Republican party have created a cult-like devotion to Ronald Reagan.  This devotion is detached from the actual realities of the Reagan administration.  In the world of the Cult, Reagan only lowered taxes, never negotiated with his enemies and was tough on terrorists.  In reality, he raised taxes several times, spent the last four years of his presidency working closely with Gorbachev and fled before the Beirut bombings before giving arms to Teheran.

The point of a cult, of course, is not an objective understanding of history.  It is a form of tribal signifier.  It creates in the member of form of belonging and separateness from non-cult members.  Here are a few things on the "Am I in a Cult?" checklist that apply to Reagan worship:
_ The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
_The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members
__The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group 
_ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
_The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

You can't argue against Reagan and remain a viable Republican politician.  Anyone who argues differently is shunned.  David Stockman is a good example, but there are others.

The GOP has a combative attitude towards "libtards".  While I find most conservative "ideas" repugnant and baffling, I'm more in a SMH state than DIAF state (OK, excepting elected members of the GOP).

The GOP is currently committed to reducing voting, which is a core tenet of American democracy, because some non-cultists are allowed to vote and ruin everything.

And then there is the Fox Bubble outside which no information is to be trusted.

American conservatism has always had a fond place for demagoguery.  There have been figures like William Jennings Bryan who straddled conservatism and reform, but veneration of people over ideas is a common trait among conservatives in this country, which distinguishes them from classical conservatives who tended to trust institutions over people.  This is why comparing American conservatives to English conservatives is unhelpful.

What is fascinating about the Reagan Demagoguery is, of course, that he is dead.  His imagined place in history is a form of retroactive demagoguery more in keeping with a cult than a political party.

As long as the GOP is married to Zombie Reagan, they won't be able to move forward into the new realities of the 21st century.


It occurs to me that being a "rising GOP star" is like being the drummer for Spinal Tap.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Worst President In His Lifetime

Odious troll and reputed human being (opinions differ) Dick "DICK" Cheney says that Obama is the worst president of his lifetime.

Dick Cheney was born in 1941 in a Nazi lab as a genetic experiment using Mengele's sperm.  President in his lifetime: FDR, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Dick Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, HW Bush, Clinton, W Bush, Obama.

What's fascinating is how Cheney's unslakeable rage has bypassed such arch-liberals as FDR and LBJ.  Or the moral turpitude of the Clenis.  I have no doubt that he would ever impugn Republican presidents, but...I mean fucking Nixon, people.  I know Nixon did some good things, but most of the good things Nixon did are things Cheney probably hates: affirmative action, the EPA, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, wage and price controls, opening to China, losing Vietnam...

And then you have those RINOs like Ike and Bush 1.0.  But, OK, of all the liberal presidents, Cheney ranks Obama below Kennedy, whose main accomplishment is nearly eradicating life on earth through nuclear brinksmanship over Cuba and screwing the entire secretarial pool.  He ranks Obama below perhaps the most liberal president of all time in LBJ, who began the process of insuring the uninsured and allowing the "help" to vote.

Lionel Trilling once wrote that  "the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."

And that's pretty freaking astute.


Nice to see that Americans aren't the only people to become idiots based on their fears.