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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Your Weekly Trump Fix

Politco asked some people how they thought Trump would play out.  I offer this answer for your amusement:

‘I’ll go with the scenario that has Trump leaving the Republican party to run as an independent candidate.’
By Anita Dunn, Democratic political strategist and the White House Communications Director from April through November 2009.
The Trump Show will last longer than your typical summer blockbuster that has a glitzy opening, gets bad reviews, makes plenty of noise, has lots of explosions, attracts a lot of eyeballs the first weekend out and then disappears until it runs endless loops on cable. Ignore the similarities! His financial disclosure suggests a serious effort at a campaign, and he is tapping a chord with a segment of the Republican electorate that no one else is right now. So I’ll go with the scenario that has Trump leaving the Republican Party to run as an independent candidate, sometime before Iowa but after a number of debates (so he gets maximum publicity but never loses a primary or caucus). Hey, he’s got the money to go the independent route!

Some interesting answers.  Most Republicans think he drops off and drops out, while most Democrats think he has more staying power.

Isn't that interesting?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Netroots Nation Situation

I've wanted to wait good and long before addressing what happened last week at Netroots Nation where #blacklivesmatter activists shut down Marty O'Malley and Bernie Sanders as they were trying to answer questions.  O'Malley got dinged for saying "All lives matter" and Sanders got crotchety.  Activists even created a mocking meme for Sanders called "Bernie So Black."  They also said pointedly, "I don't care if he marched with King."  Clinton - with a few days to prep - handled it much  better.

I guess I don't see the efficacy in hijacking an event like Netroots Nation.  The majority of white Progressives were miffed at having their Q&A interrupted.  The whole thing devolved into layers of recrimination and guilt.

The problem is that ideological cannibalism is about the only thing that can keep Democrats out of the White House.  And there is probably no force on earth - besides a Trump-Palin ticket - for Democrats to win back the House.

So we are back to a Green Lantern theory of politics whereby massive change can only be accomplished with sufficient willpower.  And activists (of all stripes and ideologies) are bound by the Tinkerbell Theorem of Louder Clapping.

Activism - properly executed - creates room to move the acceptable and inevitable compromise in a more acceptable direction.  Revolutions fail.  Movements where you are constantly tested for the purity of your thoughts become exclusionary and hide-bound.  They lead inevitably to losses in any democratic process.

The key for Black Lives Matter is not to discomfit Bernie Sanders, Marty O'Malley and a bunch of white Progressives.  They have to convince the confused and distracted middle that this is a broader issue that effects all Americans.  LGBT activists convinced a majority of Americans that marriage equality was about the freedom to love whom you want and not be judged negatively by the state for doing so.  It was about freedom and equality: American values.

There are elements of criminal justice and police reform that can probably help a lot.  Body cameras, better police training, independent prosecutors for police brutality: all of these would help.  And I'm guessing they are completely inadequate for the people who shut down NN.

The real problem - as shown in the Eric Garner case - is that white jurors will frequently not indict a cop for killing a black man.  And there is nothing Obama, Sanders, Clinton or O'Malley can do about that.  It is changing the minds of "those people" that should be the focus of activists.

As Charlie Pierce said about the Occupy movement in contrast to the Tea Party: At least they are shouting at the right buildings.

So, how can the righteous anger of Black Lives Matter be channeled into ways that will enact true change?  That's not a question I have an answer to, but I wonder if it's a question that they are asking of themselves.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Clinton Rules

The NY Times publishes a blockbuster story about a criminal investigation about Hillary Clinton's email server that turns out to be mostly bullshit, if not entirely bullshit.  They have to start walking it back before the pixels have dried.

Josh Marshall wonders what is up at the Times that they could do this.  And he notes that they have done this before.  There was the entire Whitewater saga and Judith Miller's work on WMD in Iraq (which he doesn't talk about but follows the same theme).  In both cases, the Times has privileged certain sources that give them great stories that turn out to be - as mentioned - bullshit.

The Times has one thing going for it in the decaying world of print journalism: It is the "paper of record."  But their record on the Clintons is atrocious, and this doesn't help.

Of course, if you're running against the Clintons, it only matters that you get the story out there.  Retractions don't matter, only the original story.  No one cares about the retractions, because people are pre-disposed to think the Clintons are corrupt because...of what exactly?  Whitewater?  Lewinsky?

Again, I have my reservations about Hillary Clinton - though I like what she has been saying so far - but the more she's subjected to this same baseless attack method that her husband was, the more I'm tempted to rally around her.

Friday, July 24, 2015

An Armed Society Is A Violent Society

One of the great lies Ammosexuals tell themselves is that the presence of an armed populace prevents violence.  "The only thing that stops a Bad Guy with a gun is a Good Guy with a gun."


Thursday, July 23, 2015

American Exceptionalism

Read this.

Now tell me again how America is the bestest, awesomest, f*&^ yeah! country on the face of the earth.

The focus on America the Infallible - which is a central difference between liberals and conservatives - is a crippling lack of imagination that ultimately means that we wait 70 years to make common sense changes that improve the quality of life for our citizens.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Godly Men

I'm teaching a workshop on the research paper this week, and in the afternoons, I have my students (teachers themselves) do an abbreviated research project to simulate their students' experience.  And I get to do some free ranging research myself, which is fun.

That's a round about way of saying I found myself reading about the schism between the Roman and Byzantine churches in 1054 CE.  This schism profoundly altered the history of Europe - allowing for a more separate church and state in the West - and therefore world history.  Fareed Zakaria places the birth of Western ideas of liberty in the schism.

And what caused this epochal rupture between Rome and Constantinople?

Whether or not to use leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist.

Historical knowledge like this - combined with a reading of the headlines - makes it really hard to see whatever good lies in the bosom of the church.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Be Afraid...

I know some people are reticent about a Clinton Restoration.  I have my own reticence.

But if you read Samuel Alito's remarks, you can't help but shudder.  If Anthony Kennedy is replaced by a Scalito/Clarence Thomas clone, we could easily see a Court that embraces things as self-evidently batshit crazy as, well, Alito's own logic in King v Burwell.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Donald Jumps The Loser Shark

Well, that was fun while it lasted.

Trump's spastic blowhole finally spit out something that the GOP party elites can use to bury him.  His statement that John McCain is only a war hero because he was captured will allow them to attack him without alienating his racist supporters.  The fact that the entire GOP pretty much did the same thing to John Kerry in 2004 demonstrates once again that "support the troops" means whatever it is they want it to mean.

Of course, self-implosion was always in Donald Trump's political future.  Just as it is Ben Carson's political future. Because neither man has the temperament for politically cautious speech. The first rule of running for office is too avoid self-inflicted wounds, and Trump is a machine gun in a concrete room - eventually a ricochet was going to take him out.  And of course, there are the plentiful examples from 2012 - Bachmann Nutcase Overdrive, Herman Uzbekistanstan Cain, Newt "Newt" Gingrich and Rick "Don't Google My Name" Santorum - of protest candidates from the 27% who were routinely coughed up, chewed over and then spit into the napkin to be thrown away in the toilet later.

While the GOP electorate is just wacky enough to maybe give Trump a pass on this - how much worse is calling into question McCain's heroism than describing most Mexican immigrants as rapists - chances are his time as frontrunner is over.

Out, out brief candle....

Your move, Rick Perry.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Can The Internet Be Saved?

I don't know much about Reddit, but it strikes me as the Internet that glibertarian netfreaks dream about.  It's free, caustic, organic and vicious.

The recent kerfuffle over Ellen Pao strikes me as an example of how internet "communities" automatically sink to their lowest common denominator.  Trolls gotta troll, y'all.

The anonymity of trolling is so incredibly toxic in some places that it really calls into question one's faith in humanity.  You can pretty much anything and everything pretty much gets said.

How do you have a free and open internet that doesn't degenerate into cruelty and trolling?  Hell if I know, but it's an important question.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why The Iran Deal Is A Good One

There has been the usual hyperventilating from the Fainting Couch Brigade over the Iran deal.  But it's so clearly a good deal because of several factors that have to be wrestled with.

First, Iran is not Nazi Germany.  The common complaint is that this deal "legitimizes" the Iranian regime.  But the Iranian regime is already fairly legitimate, at least in the eyes of its people.  While the Iranian regime is repressive, it's not exactly alone in that.  In fact, let's compare Iran to Saudi Arabia, our putative ally.  Iranian women can drive, vote and serve in the Majlis.  Saudi Arabian women can't even drive.  Iran has been a reluctant ally against ISIS and the Taliban.  Saudis helped fund both of those organizations, and Saudis were behind the funding for 9/11.

There is no doubt that Iran sees itself as the regional protector of Shiite interests.  And that makes them troublemakers in the Gulf.  But Sunni rulers in the Gulf have treated their Shiite minorities like crap.  The unrest in Iraq is a direct result of how brutally the Sunni minority treated the Shiite minority.  The sectarian issues in the Middle East are going to require a Middle Eastern solution.  If the Saudis think they have the Iranians isolated with US support, they will never feel motivated to address the issue.

As for the "death to America" and "death to Israel" chanting, at this point there is more rhetoric than reality.  Yes, Iran supports Hamas, but Hamas is probably preferable to ISIS in Gaza and those are your options right now.  Support for Hezbollah at this point is more political than military.  The Iranian people are actually relatively pro-US an less anti-Semitic than most Arabs.  Put another way, if you were Iranian and you heard Lindsey Graham and John Bolton talking about Iran, you'd assume we were going to launch an attack any day now on Iran.  Focusing on the worst voices is simplistic and usually self-serving.

So, Iran is a bad actor, but hardly the worst actor.  It's not 1979 anymore, and it wouldn't surprise me if the next Supreme Leader is more moderate than Khamenei.

If you can get past Iran as the devil, you still don't want Iran to have the Bomb.  And that leaves you three options.

First, do nothing.  Iran gets the bomb.  Doing nothing includes the current sanctions.  Leave those in place and the Iranian people suffer, but the bomb still gets built.

Second, attack and invade Iran.  Military and intelligence experts agree that Iranian nuclear facilities are well shielded from aerial attacks.  So, allied forces would need to invade and hold certain parts of Iran long enough to dismantle the nuclear facilities.  For comparison, Iran's population is close to 80 million.  Iraq's population is about 35 million.  And unlike Iraq, where we had Kurdish and some Shia allies, Iranians are very, very unlikely to fracture in the face of American attacks.  

This would also unleash complete havoc across the Middle East.  Baghdad is closer to Tehran now, and would likely fall further into their orbit, Iraq could further fracture, empowering ISIS.  Iran would be able to greatly restrict traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, crippling the world economy.  Terrorism would increases across the world.

The third option was negotiate.  In many ways, even a weak deal was better than no deal.  But this is a really, really good deal.  If Iran fails to comply with inspections, then sanctions can snap back without a UN vote.  Inspections are rigorous and comprehensive.

This deal gives Iran relief from sanctions.  That was entirely the point of having sanctions.  It was to force Iran to give up their weapons program, which it has.  They can have nuclear power and nuclear medicine, but they can't have weapons.  That is imminently fair.

Opposition to the deal seems to follow the Green Lantern Theory of international relations.  If you use sufficient willpower, you can make anything happen.  But international relations are about negotiations and meeting in the middle.

The fact that the modern GOP can't understand what negotiations and meeting in the middle are all about should surprise no one who has watched American politics for the last 7 years.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Iran Deal

It's a good one.  It rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior.  It is infinitely preferable to no deal at all.

Senator Huckleberry Closetcase is hyperventilating over the deal, which should mean nothing in a sane world.  He is no doubt trying to run his own version of the Trump songbook, with a neo-con backbeat.

We don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon.  This is the only way to make that happen.  No deal means a nuke.  Period.

Iran is not Nazi Germany.  No one is Nazi Germany except Nazi Germany.  The people who run Iran want a prosperous (religious) Iran.  They want trade and they want national greatness.  The sanctions worked, because it sacrificed trade and economic wellbeing in pursuit of national greatness.

In the end, this is a very good deal.  And the hyperventilating from the neo-cons is as good an endorsement as exists.

Walker, Wisconsin Dumbass

This is a good take on Walker's character liability that is exposed by his lack of a college degree.

Walker has that perverse combination of some intelligence and a total lack of curiosity that was so troubling in George W. Bush.  Education, it has been said, is primarily about learning what you don't know.  Walker couldn't be bothered with stuff that didn't fit his pre-ordained world view.  So he basically wrote off college until there was an opening on the Right Wing Gravy Train.

That's not stupid, but it's not the sort of wide-ranging curiosity and engagement with big questions that a President of the United States should have.  Even Reagan - who is referenced towards the end - had an engagement with Big Questions.

Walker will be a placeholder for the 0.1%.  Our transition to a rentier state would be complete.  And he's still my ultimate favorite to win the GOP nomination.

(Be back later to discuss the Iran deal.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

An Abusive Relationship

This Greece-EU(Germany) drama is beginning to feel like an abusive relationship.  Germany and the EU beat the shit out of the Greek economy.  Then when Greece starts talking about leaving, they soften a bit.  As soon as Greece makes noises about staying, they start getting the shit kicked out of them again.

And I don't say this to denigrate actual abusive relationships, because the people of Greece are undergoing real trauma.

The Greeks need to get the hell out now, before the Austerians destroy their country entirely.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Smelling the Barn

Getting close on the move.  While we will probably still be unpacking some things in October, we are close to putting the old house on the market and the new house is painted.  Slowly, order is creeping out from under chaos.

One thing I've re-discovered about moving is how much shit we accumulate for no real good reason.  It's a damned travesty.