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, November 20, 2017

There Is Never Only One

Another accusation against Al Franken.  He's marking time.  Any more shoes drop, and I don't think he can survive.  Time for Mark Dayton to get Lori Swanson on speed-dial.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tax Politics

Democrats should feel pretty good about the politics of this latest legislative monstrosity: The American Kick In The Nuts Act of 2017.  Republicans have written a too slick tax cut bill that allows Democrats to bend the truth a bit about how taxes will rise on lower income families.  Republicans are likely anticipating that those tax increases - designed to get around the Byrd Rule - will be nuked when they come due.  Maybe, sure.  But that's not the bill the GOP will be voting for.  The bill they are voting for will do a lot of terrible, terrible things.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Heh, Funny

Trump will pardon a turkey....the jokes write themselves.

What Next?

Ruth Marcus writes a piece that, frankly, a man couldn't write. She talks about what we should do next with allegations of sexual misconduct, against transgressions ranging from Al Franken's to Roy Moore's.  It's a nuanced bit of thinking about how we are apt to overcorrect to horrible events, and in the process trample the atrocious along with the merely boorish.  Few have mentioned the rights of the accused in these incidents, because few of the cases fall under criminal law (or in Moore's case, outside the statutes of limitations), but not every accusation is proof of guilt.

As always, we are making progress, but that progress is slow and frustrating.  That shouldn't dissuade us from trudging onwards.

Friday, November 17, 2017

If Franken Does Resign

I found his replacement.

Mark Penn Is Wrong; Mark Penn Is Right

Notoriously bad campaign strategist Mark Penn has an op-ed piece out that has some bad advice and some good advice. 

He advances some good ideas to reform the Democratic Party:

- Get rid of caucuses and superdelegates.
- Pick the order of the first 12 primaries out of a hat.
- Adopt transparency principles at the DNC.
- Reforming the finances of the DNC, so it doesn't become a shell for donors.

He also suggests a "jungle primary" but that's a stupid idea for a single party.  It's literally nonsensical.

However, he also comes to his pre-conceived, pre-packaged in 1994 idea that Democrats must nominate "moderates," whatever the hell that actually means.

The point of his reforms is to open up the nominating process and party apparatus.  That's good.  If it produces moderates?  Fine.  If it produces leftists?  Fine.

But don't enter the process with the idea that you are creating more democracy for the purpose of getting what you want.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Al Franken

The photo of him "groping" Leann Tweeden doesn't look like he's touching her.  It's sophomoric and wrong, though.  The kiss is certainly not OK.

However, when someone harasses women, they never do it just once.  That's the important lesson of Weinstein, Ailes, Clinton, O'Reilly, Toback, Packwood, Wiesenthaler and on and on and on.

Another woman comes forward, and he should resign.  Given his time at SNL, there probably will be another woman.

Economically Anxious

Can the GOP do anything right?  They managed to craft a regressive tax package that hurts the average American to benefit the wealthy at a time when populism is on the march around the globe.

Of course, the journalists who go on their next "Cleetus Safari" looking for Trump voters over 60 who still love them some Donald will be surprised when the regressive tax cut that objectively hurts them doesn't erode their support for Trump.

Maybe they WILL turn against the GOP Congress.  Frankly, they will do whatever Fox News tells them to do. 

Also, Democrats will rail against this upwards redistribution of wealth and call for tax measures that raise taxes on the rich.  And then we will get reports that Democrats don't have a message for 2018.

Moore Women, Moore Problems

The GOP is increasingly running out of options on the Roy Moore front.  Despite floating some potential machinations, there really is no way of keeping Moore off the ballot aside from him stepping down.  Roy Moore is not stepping down.  His entire career is about not stepping down.

So, the next Senator from Alabama will either be a pedophile or Doug Jones.  A guy who tries to date little girls or a guy who put their murderers behind bars.  Rumor has it that the GOP has a poll that shows Jones is crushing Moore now.  The race was already very close, but late deciders would've likely broken back to the GOP, like we saw with Trump last year.  Now, they will likely continue to break for Jones (or against Moore). 

There has been a lot of discussion about the "permission effect."  I think Moore's (alleged) child predation cancels that out and give people, in fact, "permission" to vote for a Democrat this one time.

I could be wrong. This could be another Trump surprise.  Without knowing what is going on in Alabama, I'm shooting blanks in the dark here.  But I just don't think there are enough women's votes to get Roy Moore elected. 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Big Dog

The recent revelations that have cascaded about sexual harassment has led to a critical re-evaluations of Bill Clinton.  I think that's a good thing, and perhaps overdue.

One of the issues is, of course, Monica Lewinsky.  The problem I have is that the affair between Lewinsky and Clinton doesn't feel like harassment to me.  She initiated the relationship (famously flashing her thong at him), and she claims it was consensual to this day.  If there was no Paula Jones lawsuit, then his behavior was inherently skeevy, but not harassment.

No, the problem with Clinton isn't that he had a brief affair with Lewinsky.  But there are real problems.

First, and least disputably, the conduct of the damage control team that sought to protect Clinton was objectively bad.  They trashed Lewinsky.  That is not OK.  This is a "blame the woman" approach that typified the maximalist tactics of the Clinton political machine.

Second, there is Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones.  I'm not sure how we look at those incidents as NOT being sexual harassment.  Maybe the Jones thing was consensual, but Clinton initiated that.  Maybe Jones was flirting with him, but I doubt it.  She worked for the state of Arkansas and he pressured her into sex.  He groped Willey. 

But the most serious allegations that we have to come to terms with is Juanita Broderick.  Her allegations are that Clinton out-and-out raped her.  There are corroborating witnesses to the aftermath.  To paraphrase Mitch McConnell, "I believe the woman."  What I find curious is the focus that Yglesias and others are putting on the Lewinksy affair.  I don't think that's the right focus.  The focus should be on Jones, Willey and, above all, Broderick. 

We are having an accountability moment as a culture.  I supported Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal, so maybe my feeling that the actual sexual contact isn't a problem is tainted by that.  But I also think that sexual contact happens.  It happens in the workplace.  It happens between people who do not have equal power relationships.  And it is not always harassment when it does. 

Where I have to change my mind - and have - is that the Clinton White House abused Lewinksy in the press after the fact.  I think he harassed Willey and almost certainly harassed Jones.  I think it is at least possible, if not probable, that he raped Juanita Broderick.

What that means for future evaluations of Bill Clinton and his legacy is complicated.  I do think there is room for complexity in our understanding of past figures in light of current moral standards.  I think Sally Hemmings had no autonomy in her relationship with Jefferson, but she may very well have had agency.  I don't know, and we will never know.  Judging the past is difficult when using a modern lens.

Clinton's behavior was not 200 years ago, though.  It occurred as we began to acknowledge, at least in the broadest of strokes, that sexual harassment was wrong.  How we evaluate Bill Clinton in light of the fact that we are being overwhelmed with the evidence that wrong-doing against women is much more prevalent than - some - men believed?  I think focusing just on the fact that the President carried on an affair with an intern is missing the bigger, more troubling allegations.  Clinton shows the signs of being a sexual predator, using his power to satisfy himself sexually.

I wonder if we will have more revelations about him, the way we have floodgates opening on other public figures.  If so, we should welcome and believe those accusations so that we can move forward into a culture where that is unlikely to happen again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Straight Line From Trump To Moore

We - we coastal elites sipping our godless lattes - are struggling to understand how Evangelicals can support Roy Moore.  It's actually not terribly difficult once you understand who Evangelicals are.

Evangelicals aren't "the most devout Christians," they are the most ardent culture warriors.  This has nothing to do with theology or doctrinal disputes over the role of the church in public life.  This is about the aggrieved, old white people who wrap themselves in the cloth of faith in order to hate on people they don't like.

This is how they rallied around Donald Trump last fall after the tape came out where he boasted of sexually assaulting women.  Didn't matter.  Trump was willing to hate the same people the Evangelicals hate.  He was willing to pick fights with the uppity Negroes of the NFL; feminists; LGBTQ activists; scientists; bureaucrats; reason; compassion...all the enemies of the narrow minded bigots who cloak themselves in the Blood of the Lamb.  That mattered more than any actual behavior.

Trump's victory is, of course, why Moore is very unlikely to drop out of the race.  If accusations of sexual assault weren't enough to deny Trump the presidency for 46% of the general population, why should it be enough to deny Moore a seat in deep red Alabama?

I honestly don't know if Moore or Jones will win.  Any substantial write-in campaign for Jeff Sessions or Luther Strange could tip the balance to Jones.  While Evangelicals make up a substantial part of the GOP, I don't think they make up a majority of Alabamans.  

Keep an eye on the women of Alabama.  Most of the people rushing to defend Roy Moore have been male.  Republican women swallowed their pride and scruples to vote for Trump last year.  But child molestation is, honestly, the worst thing out there.  It's the crime even prison populations consider beyond the pale.

In prison, murderers get a certain respect, but child molesters are pariahs.  Do Alabama Republicans have the moral scruples of felons?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seems Like A Nice Man

Roy Moore, ladies and gentlemen.

More and more Republicans are breaking with him.  Interesting to see how this plays out.  Three or four years ago, Moore would have been pressured out, but in the age of Trump and Bannon and Fox News I don't think so.

What's The Play?

Mitch McConnell has called on Roy Moore to step aside.  This adds to a growing list of Republican Senators who have un-endorsed him or called on him to step aside.

What is the play here?

Moore ran AGAINST Mitch McConnell as much as anyone else.  His entire persona is wrapped up in sticking his finger in whoever's eye happens to be handy.  Why in the world would Moore listen to McConnell?  And McConnell has to know that.

The smart guess going around is that Moore is now losing to Jones AND Moore is hurting the Republican party overall.  While a concerted blitz might save Moore's election chances, it would cripple the GOP in precisely those suburban districts that flipped so hard in Virginia last week. 

It looks like the GOP has decided that losing the Alabama Senate seat is necessary to save the national party, even if it makes things like the tax cuts even harder to pull off.  If so, that would demonstrate that perhaps, just perhaps, being a creepy pedophile really IS a deal breaker for the GOP in certain parts of the country.

However, and this is really amazing, being a pedophile is NOT a deal breaker for the so-called "values voters" among evangelical Christians.

I will never claim to be a good Christian.  There are too many theological problems I have with most of the faith to feel comfortable saying that. 

But I am objectively and categorically anti-child molester.  If you're not....Jesus wept.

Drain That Swamp

Clearly, Donald Trump's supporters are motivated by economic anxiety and the need for economic opportunities, and not raging resentment because they can't people f** or n***** anymore.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Meanwhile In Congress

The Republican establishment has tolerated all sorts of moral turpitude in order to give the wealthy even more money.  Trump, Bannon, Moore...They keep swallowing these awful people in order to make sure billionaires have even more money.

The problem is that the GOP is really, really bad at legislating. 

The Byrd Rule - which Republicans have to follow, because they won't and haven't tried to get any Democratic votes - means that there are a great many restrictions on what can be in any tax bill.  It doesn't look like the Senate bill can even pass the Senate.  Plus, you have some fiscal conservatives actually behaving like fiscal conservatives. 

All of this is the backdrop for the Moore-Jones matchup in a few weeks.  If, somehow, enough Republicans and Independents can behave like moral human beings and not just Republican drones, maybe Democrats can completely upend this drive towards plutocracy.