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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And He's the "Smart" One

Eric Cantor shares his views on the Supremacy Clause...

So, Eric Cantor (R-VA) has a nifty idea.  He wants a Constitutional Amendment that would allow state legislatures to overturn ANY federal law with a 2/3rds vote of the state's legislatures.
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/va-legislator-says-gop-congress-wants-to-help-him-deconstruct-the-consitution-video.php?ref=fpblg

I guess to be fair, it's not HIS idea.  It belongs to the Speaker of the Virginia House.  Virginia, as in Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions...

You may not remember the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, but they were introduced by Jefferson and Madison to rule the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional.  Basically, they asserted the right of states to nullify acts of the federal government on constitutional grounds.  No one really took them seriously, and they probably would have drifted into obscurity except for John C. Calhoun, who revived the idea to combat a particular aggressive tariff, that he thought was a precursor to a federal assault on slavery.

So, South Carolina ("Too small to be a republic, too large to be an insane asylum.") nullified the "Tariff of Abominations" and set off a conflict with Andrew Jackson.  Now, you start a conflict with Jackson, you better win, because he was a crazy, bloodthirsty insane person.  Luckily, Henry Clay was around to negotiate a compromise and the issue more or less died away.

With the US victory in the Civil War, the idea of nullification pretty much drifted away until the Civil Rights era.  Then it was resurrected by racists to justify obstructing integration and equal rights.  It has since drifted away again.  But it is apparently an idea that can not die as long as their are venal, short sighted idiots around to drag it from its shallow grave.

The thing is, when Jefferson and Madison wrote the Virginia and Kentucky Resolution, there was still a great deal of worry in the US that government would tend towards absolute tyranny, and nothing was more indicative of that lurch towards tyranny than the odious Alien and Sedition acts.  Jefferson and Madison were right to oppose it.

But they were wrong in their methods.

The Constitution includes the supremacy clause, that basically says that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land and all other laws must bow before it.  John Marshall, in Marbury v Madison, then gave the Courts - and the Courts alone - the right to decide whether an act of Congress was constitutional.  Since then, that has been the role of the courts.  In McCulloch vs Maryland, Marshall ruled that federal laws take precedent over local laws when the two are in conflict.

That was 1819.

Cantor and his cronies are endorsing dragging the US back to something more akin to the Articles of Confederation.  He is trying to undermine the very essence of Constitutional and federal supremacy.  A federal supremacy that was cemented 150 years ago during the Civil War.

I have always given conservatives credit for playing the long game in politics, but this is beyond belief.

Imagine, if you will, a United States where certain states could decide to nullify federal laws within their borders.  Imagine a United States that is no longer a nation, but a confederation.

I have heard the modern GOP referred to as the Confederate party, but this really takes the prize.  One of the most important GOP leaders in the House wants to turn the USA into the CSA.

Awesome!

Of course, Governor Perry of Texas wants to nullify social security and medicare in Texas, so Cantor may just be trying to play catch-up.

The thing is, we all sort of knew Perry was a few figs short of a fruitcake, but Cantor was supposed to be one of the sensible grown-ups of the GOP.

I think we can say that the "sensible grown-ups" applies pretty much to Dick Lugar and that's it.

Milton Friedman Wants a Word With You

The EU: Combination Clowns and Police State

Milton Friedman has long been considered the Dean of the Chicago School of Economics, which in turn was largely assumed to be descended from Austrian Economics.  Therefore, Milton Friedman was an Austrian School guy, QED,

Except, as it turns out, not.

Friedman was one of the leading advocates of using monetary policy to deal with short term problems in the economy.  He was aghast when Nixon put in wage and price controls to deal with inflation during the first oil crisis.  Inflation should be dealt with via central bank, not central planning.  By restricting the money supply, you squeeze the economy, temporarily kill growth but kill inflation, too.

This, in effect, is what Volcker did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  The result was to kill inflation, which has never really been an issue since.

But Friedman apparently did NOT believe the sort of Hayek-style "Hey, recessions and depressions are good things" philosophy.  In other words, you should use monetary policy during a downturn as well as during inflation.

This is effectively what the Federal Reserve has been doing, dropping interest rates into the cellar and now buying US debt back in "quantitative easing".

Which brings us to Europe and the Euro.

Germany is doing great these days.  Their economy is growing, unemployment is relatively low, even in the former East Germany.  And Germany controls the European Central Bank.

The problem is that certain parts of the EU are in real trouble.  Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are the European equivalent to South Florida, Nevada, Georgia and California.  They got rich off cheap loans made to banksters who invested in American real estate.  When the bubble collapsed, they then scrambled to protect the banks, but in really stupid ways (at least in Ireland's case).

So now the Irish government has to cover private bankster's losses.

Capitalism!

Ireland is broke.  Usually, a country could devalue its currency in a time like this, when everyone is freaking out over the weakness of Irish debt.  That's what Uncle Milton would have done.

But Ireland can't devalue its currency, since its currency is the Euro.  Across the Irish Sea, the British - who never adopted the Euro - are faring somewhat better, in that they can devalue their currency more to deal with debt.

The end result of this, ironically, has been the wealthier, more stable EU nations forcing IMF-style austerity not on "global South" nations like Argentina, Bolivia or Nigeria, but on countries like Ireland, Portugal and eventually Spain.

And those austerity measure really, really suck.  They always sucked for the people of Thailand or Argentina or Kenya.  But now they suck for people who aren't used to things sucking.  There's a certain fatalism in the developing world about the fact that being poor is just part of life.  You're less likely to be that accepting of that in Europe.  We've already seen rioting in London over hikes in student fees.

When it comes down to it, the broader issue is this, whether in the US or Europe.  The financial sector screwed EVERYONE over, but after a few token scalps were claimed, they went back to making fortunes and earning billions in bonuses, as if nothing ever happened.

And everyone else is expected to suck on it.  Everyone else gets THEIR budgets cut: schools, social welfare services, college scholarships, health care, infrastructure repair.  As long as we don't tax the banksters!  It's important they we don't stifle their "creativity".

At some point, we're going to see anger erupt into violence.  Americans tend to be a remarkably docile people politically, at least on the Left (the '60s were an exception).  European leftists are a lot more radical.

If Europe continues to try and create solvency on the backs of the working class to pay off the disaster created by the financial markets, there will be blood on the streets at some point.  We've already seen some in Greece.

On the other hand, it's nice to see that America isn't the only part of the world with one set of rules for the rich and another set for everyone else.

Europe trapped itself in a system where you can't use monetary policy to get out of a slump.  We'll see if Bernanke can help engineer our retreat from the brink using QE.  But the Euro - and the needs of the European Central Bank - are currently killing the fringes of Europe.

We'll see where this all leads...

Monday, November 29, 2010

C'mon! Really?

No sparkle ponies for you!

Today, the President proposed a freeze on wages by the federal work force.

OK.  The idea was that it will help reduce the deficit.  It won't really.  It will barely make a dent.

It's not an especially good policy, but we've been dealing with passing school budgets that fail largely because people are incensed at the raises that teachers get in a down economy.

I understand the optics of it are appealing.

To Republicans.

It's the GOP that lives to denigrate and demean the federal government.  "They're all a bunch of overpaid bureaucrats sitting on death panels and trying to get their hands on my social security blah blah blah."

I also get that this relatively meaningless gesture might be used is a pawn to negotiate with the GOP leadership on other issues.

But that's not what Obama and his team did.  They once again capitulated on a point before the GOP had made any concessions.  I swear these guys are the WORST negotiators ever.  They continually give away their best bargaining chip before they even get a single concession from the other side.

I have supported the Obama Administration as being basically competent technocrats - something I think Obama is at heart.  But for a team that ran a practically flawless campaign in 2008, they have absolutely NO clue about leveraging an advantage or negotiating from a position of relatively equality.

The Public Option was very popular in polling.  They traded it away early in order to get Nelson/Lieberman and others to support the bill.  They never tried to push for something bigger in order to get something more to their liking.  They never tried to re-frame the debate in their advantage.

Right now, the GOP has minions out there talking about defaulting on the debt ceiling.  I mean that's financial suicide.  I can't remember WHY they want to do it, probably to repeal HCR.  A reform bill which actually REDUCES the deficit over the next ten years.  Basically, they want to bully Obama around, and from what I've seen, he's not the guy to stand up to them.

Clinton turned things around in 1995 by outmaneuvering the GOP during the Shutdown.  He framed the issues in a clear way that people could understand and showed the GOP position to be heartless and unnecessary.

Obama has to learn to stop negotiating with himself and giving away his bargaining chips before the GOP even gets to the table.  They will eat him alive if he doesn't start taking his own swings.

Why, in the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt has he not been flogging the airwaves over extending JUST the middle class tax cut?  What the hell does he believe in?

This lament was true of Clinton, too.  I seldom knew what Clinton's core beliefs were.  Sadly, we all know what Bush's core beliefs were, and they were crazy and wrong.  I guess there's some tactical advantage in being pragmatic before everything.

But FDR was a pragmatist, too.  And he also knew how to throw a crushing haymaker.  And from a wheelchair, no less.

These times demand an FDR, not a Clinton.

Because if he doesn't get up off the floor and start fighting for stuff that he believes in, we'll be looking at the Palin Administration in 2012, and that could possibly be the end of America as we know it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Have Reached the End of Me

The kids look just like you.

When the millennialist cultists come to the door preaching the end of days, I can usually summon a certain historical perspective.  Wars, plagues, depressions...these things are not new.

But I fear we have now crossed some cultural Rubicon.

I fear the end days may in fact be upon us.

http://www.accessatlanta.com/celebrities-tv/brides-to-be-compete-756952.html?cxntlid=thbz_hm

The horror.... The horror...

Diplomacy! Now With New Truth!

Illegal document dumps means never having to say you're sorry.

So, I perused the NY Times version of the WikiLeaks bombshell of hundreds of thousands of State Department leaks.

Yawn.

Apparently a bunch of jack-offs in various jack-off filled governments around the world are indeed jack-offs.

The Karzais are corrupt!  Berlusconi's a double dealing attention monger!  The Chinese aren't fond of Google!  The Pakistanis are more afraid of being seen as helping America than creating a stable world!  Syria's helping Hezbollah!  Germany doesn't like it when we kidnap their citizens, and we don't like them arresting our spies!  North Korea is an unsustainable hell hole and maybe the Chinese can help us put them out of their(our) misery!

And the BIG ONE: Saudis are helping Al Qaeda!!!!!!111!!!

In substance, the WikiLeaks aren't really anything new.  I can't say anything I read in the Times summary shocked me in the very least.

I guess the point is that diplomacy exists when everyone avoids uncomfortable truths.  That's true in real life, too.  Everyone ignores that Aunt Emily never really sobered up since Uncle Edgar left her for "Uncle" Jose.  Everyone ignores the borderline sociopathic activities of the neighbor's kids.  Everyone ignores the loudmouth racist at the bar.

We ignore unpleasant truths in order for society to more or less function.

And that's no less true for nations.  We ignore Saudi complicity in 9/11 and other acts of terror, because we need their oil and every once and awhile they come through for us.  We ignore the Karzai's brazen criminality, because what other choice do we have?  We ignore Chinese wrong doing, because we need the shelves of WalMart filled.

So what the WikiLeaks have done is basically the same is applying truth serum to a Thanksgiving dinner.  Now we all talk about "Uncle" Jose and Uncle Edgar's cruise to Fiji and tell Aunt Emily to get over it and sober up.  We tell our friend that if they don't punish their kid for lighting stray cats on fire, we will.  We tell the racist at the bar that when you say, "I'm not a racist, but..." that means you're a racist.

Nothing in the WikiLeaks dump was unknown to the US, nor was it really unknown to the governments that were "dished on".  I mean do we really need to worry about Robert Mugabe's feelings?

Maybe we will see some silver lining to all this.  Maybe this will be a necessary dose of truth in some of our relations with other countries.  Hey, Syria/Afghanistan/Russia/China/Saudi Arabia!  You're not fooling anyone.  I know we look big and stupid, but we really aren't that dumb.  We know the crap you're trying to pull.

So maybe now we can get down to actually talking about the issues?  Maybe now we can cut through the bullshit?

After all, is it at possible that things could get any worse?

I guess they could.  They could have included a lot more leaks from the Bush Administration

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of C-4

Commissioner Gordon calls on Impressionist Batman

This is a heart warming holiday story.

No, not the Kiwi teenagers rescued after weeks at sea.

This one: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fbi_thwarts_terrorist_bombing.html

Seems some angry young man wanted to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon.  Which I believe is the Evergreen State.  Take THAT Bill O'Reilly.  You want a war on Christmas, we've got jihad on Christmas!

Anyway, the FBI was on this guy from the start.  They discovered his intentions fairly early, and then insured that A) he was really intent on blowing shit up, as opposed to being a delusional wanna be that was easily entraped into being a bomber and B) he never was really in any danger of hurting anyone.

It's worth remembering as we travel around the US getting our junk fondled by TSA agents that every domestic terror plot since the Anthrax attacks have been discovered, rooted out and arrested.  Without waterboarding anyone either.

Where we have been under some risk is overseas flights.  Shoe bomber? London.  Fruit-Of-The-Loom bomber?  Lagos and Amsterdam.

What we need is junk fondlers overseas.

Oh, and a credible intelligence capability like the FBI has apparently developed in this country.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your Wednesday Morning Takedown

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/11/29/101129crbo_books_packer?currentPage=all

Yes.  It's a day late.

This is George Packer's review of Bush's memoir in The New Yorker.  It is exactly the sort of takedown one would expect from The New Yorker: polite, well-researched, authoritative and somewhat despondent that words like this must be written.  Packer manages to takedown Bush's pretensions of himself thoroughly and yet seems sad that he has to do so.

Adventures in Wankery

The ritual emasculation of a Democratic President

Sadly, my vacation has consisted of a lot of cable news being on in the background.

I hate cable news.

Right now on MSNBC they are discussing whether Obama will be a one term president.  The new Congress has not been seated yet, and we're already moving on to the next horse race story.  Because, goshdarnit, them policy stories is just too durned hard.

To make matters worse, the panel that "even the liberal" MSNBC is using consists of correspondent Karen Finney, a GOP strategist and an as yet unseated freshman GOP congressman.

Yes.

That's the panel.

The amount of wankery present in political coverage is astounding.  They're using a poll that says 48% of Americans will definitely vote against Obama. Leaving aside the merits of basing your conclusion on one poll, the political landscape for 2012 is over the horizon.

(Chuck Todd did have a good line yesterday, which I'll paraphrase: "Every night, Obama must get on his knees and pray that the economy recovers, Afghanistan becomes more orderly and Sarah Palin wins the GOP nomination.")

First, if the economy improves and continues to improve through 2012, that will do more than anything else to improve his chances.  And by the economy, I mean the unemployment picture.  There is only one President who was re-elected after a panic began in his first term, James Monroe.  And this panic began in 2008, maybe 2007.  So he needs to see the cyclical up-tick that will likely happen.  Unless we his a double-dip recession.  Then he's toast.  (Unless he can plausibly blame it on GOP obstruction in the House.)

Second, there are demographics on his side.  If the presidential electorate of 2008 had turned out in 2010, we'd still be seeing a Democratic House.  Two years of the expected GOP wankery will likely wear on voters.  Once people stop getting their unemployment benefits, once public works projects start shutting down, once tax breaks start getting funneled to corporations... You get the idea.  Even among people who voted for the GOP this month don't agree unanimously with the GOP agenda.  Over 35% of GOP voters want to see the government do something about unemployment.  That coalition isn't really a coalition.  It's the Tea Party and the protest vote.

Finally, the GOP nominee isn't decided yet.  I find Sarah Palin a combination of laughable and dangerous.  If she wins the GOP nomination, she goes down to a Sharon Angle-style defeat.  I think - I HOPE - that this would be true even if we have a double-dip recession.

Rather than talk about whether Obama can win two years from now, a more fruitful discussion would center on how the GOP nomination process will play out.  When Clinton was left for dead in 1994, I predicted he would win easily because the GOP bench was so thin.

I see the same thing today.

Palin is a media creature with the gravitas of a mylar Hannah Montana balloon.

Newt Gingrich, well, everyone hates Newt Gingrich.  He comes with built-in negatives that would make Goering blush.  He's also "old news".  Ask Bob Dole how that works out.

Mitt Romney.  He's easy to dismiss because he's the DC media's pick.  Just like Rudy Giuliani in 2008 or John McCain in 2000.  The guy passed a health care reform bill in Massachusetts that's practically indistinguishable from "Obamacare".  There is NO WAY a Mormon, health care reformer gets past the frothing crazies that make up the GOP primary.  Ask Mike Castle.

Mitch Daniels. Another trendy Beltway pick, because he's not stupid and he's a governor.  Ultimately, however, like most politicians who don't quit their jobs to become media personalities, he's had to make tough choices, especially in this economic climate.  And he's as charismatic as you would expect the governor of Indiana to be.

Mike Huckabee.  I think this might be the guy.  He's "country" enough and "white" enough to appeal to the overwhelmingly rural and white make-up of the GOP electorate.  He's got a touch of populism in him, and a touch of bigotry, too.  That will play well.  He has a sense of humor (something Alaska Snowbilly Grifter Lady lacks).  He's the acceptable alternative to Palin for the Tea Party.

John Thune.  Who the fuck is John Thune?

The GOP establishment will try and rally around an alternative to Palin.  They can see another Angle/O'Donnell train wreck coming from that.  But the more they try and tear her down, the more the GOP base rallies around her.  She is the living breathing personification of white-grievance politics.

Right now, I'd say she's the favorite for the GOP nomination when you take into account the "base" of the GOP.  Given the winner-take-all nature of the GOP primary system, she could easily rack up big electoral totals with 35-40% of the vote, unless they find a way to sink her.

So, media, speculate on THAT.  If Palin is the nominee, Obama wins by a landslide.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hack of Hacks

This guy single-handedly diminishes my diploma.

Alex Pareene at Salon is listing the 30 Biggest Hacks in political media.

Marc Thiessen comes in at #6.  First, I was surprised he warrants that much attention.  Second, well no shit he's a hack.

My friend Laura once wrote in our high school paper that Juniors signing up for classes should consider AP European History.  Sure, it's hard, but it's intimate.  "There are only 5 of us (Thiessen never shows)."

"Thiessen never shows" became a sort of catch phrase.  I wouldn't say I had a great deal of animus against Marc, for the same reason I don't sit around obsessing about Bristol Palin's improbable run on DWTS.  I have other things to shorten my life over.

But Marc was a loser.  Not a brilliant, flame out of a loser, like say MC Hammer.  There was nothing exceptional about Marc at all.  He was not at the very bottom of the class.  I would guess he was decidedly average academically.  He was not an athlete.  He was not a student leader.  He was just a nondescript dork. He was the sort of guy that when he wandered into your dorm room, you began to wonder how long it would be before he left.

Put another way, Marc was like lingering flatus.  Not pungent enough to comment on, but foul enough to make you shift in your seat.

He went on to work as a foreign policy advisor for Jesse Helms.  He then went on to be the speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush.

Look at THAT resume!  He was the foreign policy advisor for a guy who's ideas on foreign policy consisted of little more than grunting angrily and pounding on the desk whenever someone mentioned Fidel Castro. He was speechwriter for two men, who famously tortured the English language like it was Khalid Sheik Mohammad himself.  Rumsfeld's utterances were so bizarre, he inspired a book of avant garde poetry based on his extemporaneous musings.

Example:
Glass Box You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.
It's—
And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But—
Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But—

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

Bushisms are of course legendary.

Again, you can't blame Marc for being the wordsmith for people who can't actually speak English.  But when Rumsfeld and Bush look at you and say, "Hey, I want that guy to type my wordy-speech things."  You have to wonder.  It's like being hired by Snooki to be her spiritual advisor.  

Sure enough, Marc's writing is as bland and predictable as if it had been written by some artificial word processing program.  It's grammatically accurate, I suppose, but really says nothing that isn't being said with more panache by some mouth breather like Tom Tancredo or Sean Hannity on Fox.

So, he can't write.  Big deal.  It's the 21st century.  Print, I've heard, is dead.

What makes me ill that I know Marc is that he's perhaps the foremost torture apologist working in the news media today.  He has published the predictable Regnery book about how Obama's making us less safe by actually trying terrorists in court rather than looking them in a box in Cuba and waterboarding them.  Because the difference between being in a Supermax jail cell and being in Gitmo is the difference between the life and death of the American Way of Life.

Journalists like Jane Mayer have derided his book as being factually inaccurate and a gross distortion of what happened.  Thiessen defended his book by saying, "I know you but what am I!"  and "I'm rubber, you're glue."

Marc Thiessen has become the Pravda spokesman for the torture set.  He's the quintessential example of the "imperial" mindset of the Bush years.  He's the guy who helped "make our own reality" rather than observe the world as it existed.

Torture?  No, because America doesn't torture.  Sure, waterboarding is torture, and we waterboarded a bunch of guys, but because America doesn't torture, then our waterboarding wasn't torture it was SHUT THE FUCK UP MARC THIESSEN!

In the end (because everything is Obama's fault), it will clearly be seen as a mistake that we didn't lance this boil on the face of Lady Liberty.  We should have had a truth and reconciliation committee look at the torture that was committed as a matter of American policy.  Pardon those who come forward and tell the truth.  Arrest and prosecute those that don't.

By NOT prosecuting the likes of Addington, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Yoo, we've allowed this crime to go unpunished.  We've allowed torture to be up for debate.  There is now a "pro-waterboarding" position in our political debate.  You can't go back to normal from there.

Thanks, Marc.  Heckuva job!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Digby Said

The blogger Digby (Hullabaloo at right) is an extraordinarily incisive observer of social and political mores.

Read this:
http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/security-theater-flaw-in-plotline.html

Start the Clock


North Korea has attacked a South Korean island and killed South Korean troops.  Technically, this is an act of war, except North and South Korea have never been at peace.

I refuse to watch cable news, but I think we can start the clock on John Bolton swaggering forth, his walrus mustache thrusting from his face, and saying that this is entirely Obama's fault, because fuck him that's why.

One thread of our diplomatic and security politics that is especially ridiculous is that everything in the world revolves around us.  The 9/11 attacks?  That was our failure rather than their plan.  Why did they attack us?  Our freedom!  Simultaneously we are failures and awesomeness incarnate.

North Korea is in the process of changing from Kim Jong Il to one of his brood.  (I'm not going to bother to learn his name until they decide which spawn of Pocket Satan will take the throne.)

Whatever the calculus of the attacks are for North Korea, I am reasonably certain they involve North Korea. If they involved the US, they probably would have attacked US troops.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

147 Years Ago

Update: I apologize for the weird formatting...

                                                You can kick the asses of some of the bears
 all of the time, and all of the bears some of the time...

So, about 147 years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a little speech in a little town.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


It's so brief, isn't it.  Some of the sentence are so plain and unadorned.  "We are met on a great battlefield of that war."  How simple is that writing?  And how clear?

America produced two remarkable men in those cataclysmic years.  Both were born into the worst possible deprivation.  Both effectively taught themselves to read.  Both become extraordinary writers and thinkers, rising above the expectations of others and perhaps even themselves.

The other man was Frederick Douglass.  Here's a few things written by Mr. Douglass
:


Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.

A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people. 

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.







In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky-her grand old woods-her fertile fields-her beautiful rivers-her mighty lakes and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked when I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slave-holding and wrong; When I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten; That her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing.


We are about to enter the Sesquicentennial years of the Civil War.  Similarly we will observe many of the 50 year anniversaries of the monumental moments of the civil rights movement.


We do this at a time of fractious civil discord.  Obama rose to national prominence with his electrifying address to the 2004 Democratic national convention in which he decried the separating of America into "Red' and "Blue" Americas.  And he has endeavored to try and maintain efforts at bipartisanship.  He added inefficient tax cuts to the stimulus bill, he tried incessantly to bend the HCR bill to appeal to the Senators from Maine, he did the same with financial reform.  He recently offered to meet the GOP leadership to discuss the next two years.  They were too busy.

Before the Civil War started, Lincoln - a man Obama clearly wishes to emulate - said the following to the seceding South at the conclusion of his first inaugural address:







 In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."34
  I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.


Now we have the governor of Texas is talking about seceding from Medicare and the new Health Care Reform. We have an Alaskan snowbilly grifter who could possibly ascend to the nomination of the GOP in two years.  We have a major party in Congress who have openly stated that their job is to "insure that Obama is a one term president".

In effect, the GOP has seceded from governance.  They exist now, almost entirely as a party in love with power as opposed to governing.  The similarity is clearest to the PRI of Mexico that existed not to serve any policy goals, but simply to maintain the status quo and stability.  The GOP wants no forward change, only to return to the same policies that screwed over the economy, the military and our place in the world.

Several critics have referred to the modern GOP as the Confederate Party.  Indeed it is overwhelmingly, white, older, Southern and rural.

As we ponder the significance and remember the legacy of the Civil War and its final chapter written in the streets of Birmingham and Selma fifty years ago, it's worth remembering who seceded and why.  It's worth remembering that democracy requires cooperation and a common purpose.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gail Collins: Get Off My F-ing Lawn!

                                                         Gail Collins steals my schtick


In today's Grey Lady Op-Ed sheet, Gail Collins encroaches on my turf.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/opinion/20collins.html?hp

Now, I like Ms. Collins a great deal.  I consider her to be like Maureen Dowd, but with an actual human soul.  She manages a gentle, yet occasionally pungent sarcasm - which is essentially to maintaining your sanity these days, if you job involves monitoring the world as it is.  If you can't laugh, you wind up like Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman, modern day Cassandras - prophets whose curse is to be able to predict the future, but only the really bad parts.  Herbert and Krugman are almost always right, almost always dour and I worry that they are going to engage in a sort of Howard Beale meltdown one day.

Anyway, back to Ms. Collins.

While I appreciate her as a writer, stay off my turf.  She wanders into the same zombie metaphor that launched this site.

Now, to complete the metaphor, as a zombie-watcher, I can say that you have to be very careful about encroaching on other people's turf during a zombie outbreak.  During the Zombie Apocalypse, we will have to fear the walking dead, but also those humans who threaten our islands of sanctuary.  This blog has become my island of sanctuary.  My own Howard Beale moment.

So back off Grey Lady.

Friday, November 19, 2010

START Making Sense


So... Obama completes a long negotiation that will downsize America and Russia's nuclear arsenals, make the world a tiny bit safer and increase the leverage we can bring on North Korea and Iran (not to mention Pakistan and India).

The GOP won't ratify it, apparently.

The NY Times (and no doubt other news sources) are writing breathlessly about "what this means for Obama's leadership."

ARRRRRGGGGGGHH!!!!!!

Here's a question: What does the START treaty mean for national security?  Global security?  Nuclear proliferation?

Here's another question: What does NOT ratifying START mean, since the last agreement has expired and we can no longer inspect Russian nuclear facilities?

Here's one more: When will the political media stop being the ugly version of Entertainment Tonight obsessing over "who's hot and who's not"?  When will discussions of policy actually focus on what's in the policy rather than on the political optics of it all?

One of the reasons Republicans are so good at politics and Democrats are so shitty at it is that the media is constantly obsessed with process and the "horse race".  News stories are inevitably framed by political controversy and competition rather than good governance.  Politico is the current top purveyor of this nonsense with their goal of "winning the morning" news cycle.

But considering what the actual effects of something complex like the START treaty is beyond their abilities.  Beyond the way they see their job.

The result is a barren political debate where Death Panels and Swift Boat Veterans and Keeping Government Out Of Medicare become the coin of the realm.  And efforts to save the world from nuclear annihilation are a chance to explore the "optics" of the post 2010 election Obama administration.

Jefferson once said he would prefer a country with newspapers and no government over a country with a government and no newspapers.

Which is why I've always felt Jefferson was something of a prat.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Charts and Graphs



This chart accompanied a NY Times piece evaluating the Bush Tax Cuts.

Basically, there is very little evidence that cutting taxes for the wealthy increases GDP growth, much less increases standard of living, the fiscal situation of the federal government or does anything but increase economic inequality.

We knew this.  We now have a nice chart.

Why in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can the Democrats not win on this issue?

Oh, yeah, because they are Democrats.

The GM Bailout


So, General Motors will emerge from its government run bankruptcy soon.  It will issue an IPO and people will buy it and the government will get out - at some loss - and presumably GM will return to being a competent automaker now that it's free from some legacy costs, poor past management decisions and overwhelming debt.

Tens - if not hundreds of thousands of Americans will be able to keep their jobs because of this.

In an environment where official unemployment is around 9.5% and the number of non-job seekers and underemployed probably creeps close to 25%, this is an objectively and authoritatively good thing.

The Randian super-geniuses who genuflect before altars of Adam Smith that look suspiciously like mirrors rather than ikons were aghast at the government's involvement in the markets.  We were told that this was the death of capitalism/freedom/puppies/the Amurican Wayoflife.  This - crowed the Galtian crowd of "producers" - was socialism in its most blatant and this was how freedom dies.

Via bankruptcy restructuring?  That prevented the collapse of a major American industry?

Don't buy into the argument that Americans can no longer make things.  Ford has been doing great, because they happen to have had very good long range planning.  Ford is ahead of other American automakers in LEV and hybrid technology and they make a solid product.

Now, ironically, it was those "producers" that Ayn Rand fellated in her noxious tomes of narcissistic, arrested adolescence that screwed over GM.  It was the suits in the suites who thought doubling down on the Suburban and the Yukon were the way to go.

The engineers all along have been able to solve problems if given the mandate and resources to do so.  Remember, the suits in the suites argued against CAFE standards, seatbelts, airbags and catalytic converters. All of which have made the air cleaner and the roads safer.  All of which American auto executives said couldn't be done.  All of which foreign automakers did before us.

If GM really has turned a corner and can now make reliable, fuel efficient vehicles (in addition to their large market share of trucks), it will be because the government acted.

When Ronald Reagan uttered the sound bite: "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem" he unleashed a philosophy that effectively neutered the government from doing anything of consequence.  The droids that have assumed his mantle have taken as orthodoxy that government fails simply by being the government.

What that does is create a climate where government ceases to function.  Which reinforces the idea that government CAN'T function.

I think Obama's entire operating philosophy is to prove that government CAN act when required of it.  And therefore the GOP's plan of denying him ANY victories makes a sort of tactical sense.

But ultimately, we as  a nation suffer.  Just as we would have suffered if GM disappeared into oblivion, taking the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans with it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Your Wednesday MorningTakedown


So this might become a regular feature....

Today's Wednesday morning takedown is from Gin And Tacos.  In it, the last feeble remnants of Sarah Palin's dignity - previously detectable only by an electron microscope - are demolished.

http://www.ginandtacos.com/2010/11/17/at-long-last-have-you-no-sense-of-decency/

In this takedown, Ed uses a nice structural framework of an academician making a broad point about some cultural norm.  He then circles in like a raptor towards a mouse, finally culminating in a verbal evisceration that is both erudite and brutal.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Plutocracy and the Idiocracy Meet

                                              You and I don't live here.


I believe that the Health Care Reform bill passed last year was a significant, important and long overdue reform.  I believe that - while it was too small - the stimulus staved off complete economic collapse.  I believe that we are disengaging responsibly from the clusterfuck we created in Iraq.  I believe saving the banking system and GM/Chrysler were necessary steps for the continued economic health of the country.

In short, I believe that we have seen some good policy decisions from the Democrats in the White House and Congress over the past two years.

I would not say excellent, because they never took up unemployment or mortgage cramdowns as a policy agenda.  On most civil rights issues, I would grade the White House out as a C- or D.

But overall, we have pursued decent policies and if the GOP had not fully committed itself to obstruction maybe we could have seen movement on other issues, such as unemployment or climate change.

But the Democrats absolutely SUCK at politics.  They are incredibly tone deaf and narrative blind.  They believe everything that Sean Hannity says about them on Fox and cowering from their own shadow, they confirm to voters that they are spineless wimps.

Right now there is a very simply issue before Congress.  The Bush Tax Cuts - which had an effect on American's fiscal discipline similar to the effect a shotgun has on a wedding cake - are set to expire on January 1st.  Given that we are in a deep and abiding recession, it does not make sense to allow those taxes to expire for people who are already pinched.

For one thing, keeping taxes low for people making under $250K a year will allow them to spend more, which will hopefully spur an ACTUAL recovery, not just a Wall Street mirage.

But the GOP demands that ALL the Bush Tax Cuts be extended.  Why?  Not fiscal discipline, as cutting taxes on the rich at a time when only the rich are doing well will only make the budget deficit bigger.  Not stimulating the economy, as people who are in the upper income brackets are more likely to invest their money than spend it.

So.....Why?  It's not a popular move, it's not a wise move.

The Democrats should be beating the GOP like a drum on this issue.  The lame duck Congress should shove an extension of the under $250K tax cuts through.  I believe this can be achieved by a reconciliation vote, but I'm not certain.  Then they should allow the GOP in January to propose cutting taxes for the rich.

And then beat the living shit out of them over that issue for the next two years.  Obama can veto it and the Democrats can call out the GOP as being a party owned and operated by the richest Americans.

When times are tough, populism is a powerful tool.  But the Democrats won't use it.

Why?

Part of it is that Obama himself is not a populist and isn't comfortable with that language.

Another part of the problem is that Democrats are just about as bought off by wealthy donors as the GOP.  It's not QUITE as bad, but you only need a few Evan Buyhs and Mary Landrieus to screw over the caucus.

But the larger part is that Democrats are just inept politically.  They can take a winning political issue that is popular and make it unpopular by the way they try and sell it.  Health care reform is full of good things for a lot of people.  But by losing the narrative thread, they allowed ideas like Death Panels and scary lies become plausible.

It's the Swift Boat Veterans all over again.  Kerry didn't lose because they were telling the truth, he lost because he allowed it to become part of the narrative.  Kerry is a phony war hero.

Franklin Roosevelt was a blue blooded knickbocker from Groton and Harvard.  Hardly cut from the mold of William Jennings Bryan.  Read this from 1936:


We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.


Now imagine Obama or Harry Reid making that speech.

Neither can I.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today's Internet Kerfuffle

                                              These things happen....


Today's big discussion on the Intertubes today is about how the TSA has gone off the rails.

A few slices:
http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/11/15/israelifacation/
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/nov/14/tsa-ejects-oceanside-man-airport-refusing-security/

Here where I find this sort of stuff bewildering and an example of a real failure of leadership.

First, I don't hate bureaucracies, because I realize that you have to norm certain behaviors and responses.  You need to follow the same rules at the Social Security office in Tulsa that you follow in Utica.  But law enforcement does not follow the same rules and regulations that bureaucracies do.  A police office is given some latitude in some areas.  Speeding tickets are not automatic when you go 56 in a 55 zone.  Sometimes there are warnings given.  There is not a one-size fits all approach to policing, just as there isn't a one-size fits all approach to teaching, nursing or other semi-professional endeavors.

The problem is that it's pretty apparent that instead of creating "airport police" who are trained in detecting problems and exercising judgment, we have hired a combination of competent people and those who can fog a mirror.  In a work environment like that, you need the "fog a miror" type to perform as well as the competent screener.  How do you get that?  You put the rules ahead of the goals.  You make frisking a little girl a necessity rather than a judgment call.

Second, a lot of the problem stems from Cover Your Ass political leadership.  Shoe bomber?  Take off your shoes!  Fruit-Of-The-Loom bomber?  Full body scans and pat downs!  It's inherently reactive, and it assumes that you can definitively stop someone who is intent on blowing himself up from doing that.

Trust me.  Al Qaeda are clever.  They will find another way.  And frankly, given how poor our security is elsewhere, I can't understand why they aren't trying to blow up Grand Central Station or halftime at the Rose Bowl.

We've bought into a fallacy that we think we can make ourselves perfectly safe.  We have airbags covering every inch of the car.  We have childproof locks for the toilet.  And when it comes time to die, we segregate that from the rest of our lives so that we never have to face our own mortality within the mortality of others.

We think we can create a safe and sanitary world.  But ultimately to get there, we wind up fondling preschoolers in an airport security line.  And perversely, we wind up dulling our own ability to sense danger.

I remember many years ago when they were putting the stricter bans on cigarette sales, someone said, "If smoking was as bad as they say, the government wouldn't let people sell cigarettes."  There's a certain logic to that.

I'm not saying we should return to the days of no safety regulation.  I think most safety regulations should be improved, since we've come to assume that things like the food we eat is safe.

But we also have to get beyond the fact that everything is safe.  Yes, your peanut butter should not have salmonella in it, but hurtling through the air at 300 MPH might not always be safe.

On the other hand, a few more years of TSA screenings and their overall lousy service and we'll all be driving everywhere anyway.  Seriously, why would anyone fly anywhere?

Oh, yeah, because the GOP keeps killing funding for trains...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Save the World


The NY Times has allowed you to play Alan Simpson, but without the stale smell of Ben-Gay and maraschino cherries.

Go here and balance the budget.  I got us to a surplus in 2015 of $133B by slashing defense spending and increasing taxes on the rich.  In other words, by doing the exact opposite of what the GOP will try and do.

Have at it!




http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?hp

Saturday, November 13, 2010

To Sleep Perchance to Sleep


Having a wee puppy in the house reminds me why I'm glad my children are now children and not bawling infants.  But at least as bawling infants, the boys didn't leave steaming piles of feces around the house, they left it in their pants.

Heffley has decided that whining at all hours of the night is an effective way of getting attention.  Good plan since it works.

There was also the Falcons game going late into Thursday night and a flu shot and... Well, I'm tired.

In class, we are learning about the Mexican political system.  I really enjoy teaching it and discovering new aspects of it with my students.  But I was losing the thread often, and I couldn't summon the usual energy that can sometimes also energize my class.

We've learned a lot about concussion over the last few years and the very dangerous long term damage that can be done to the brain.  Our students do ImPact testing to help assess their neurological function as a baseline and then compare it to a post-concussive state.  They follow rigorous protocols and stringent safety measures, because there's no sense sharpening their minds in the classroom and then blunting them on the playing fields.

But it occurs to me that sleep deprivation - while absent the long term effects of concussions - similarly degrade the brain.  As one of my students said today, "Lack of sleep is like a learning disorder."

That's exactly right.

Your cognitive abilities are impaired, your short term memory is shot to hell, like a member of a Cheney hunting party, and you can't verbalize your thoughts properly.

So why in the hell does our school day start so early?  In our case it's 7:50am, but most schools start around 8am, so we're hardly unique.

There's ample evidence that starting the school day later improves student performance.  There's also evidence that a teenager's natural circadian clock has them sleeping from midnight to 10am.

So why do we start so early?

Part of it is a need to "stay on schedule".  Students need to take 5-6 academic classes including arts.  They need some physical activity and other extracurriculars.  They need to prepare for the next days classes.  And there simply aren't enough hours in the day.  So sleep suffers.  For the students, for the teachers, for everyone.

I think part of it is the same logic that keep medical interns awake for hours on end, because "we always did it that way."  I wonder how many people die in emergency rooms from sleep impaired interns and residents?  I wonder how many bright students sleepwalk their way through school?

And all because we live in a sleep deprived culture.  Parents think nothing of the lack of sleep their kids get considering they themselves are eeking by with 6 hours a night themselves.

The three best reasons to teach are June, July and August.  And when Obama talked about extending the school year, I choked on my own tongue.

But if the school year were expanded, it should not be to cram more "stuff" into a daily bag that is already bursting at the seams.  It should come with later starts and a more relaxed pace.

It should be for the benefit of the students.  It should not be for the benefit of "reformers" who want to be seen doing more rather than doing better.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Did We Vote For Again?

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20022599-503544.html

So, we had the epochal midterm election, but only 40% are pleased with the result.  About 28% are disappointed, whereas 27% don't care much and 5% don't even know what they think about the midterm.

Now that we've "thrown the bums out" the percentage of people disappointed with Washington has risen from 51% to 56%.

I think we can now safely interpret the midterm election.  The American people clearly sent a message to Washington, DC.  And that message is "Mambo dogface in the banana patch."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Finest Run-On Sentence O'The Week

Along with appearances at real book stores like Barnes & Nobel (where employees will spend the evening futilely masking their contempt before going home and committing suicide because they have just seen the future and it actually doesn’t get better) Palin will also appear at your finer Sam’s Clubs and Walmart’s where her fans will also be also be able to pick up ten gallon resealable containers of deep-fried high fructose salty snacks to shovel into the gaping maws of their dull-witted obese still-working-on-that-GED-at-23 couch-bonobo children.

http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2010/11/11/sarah-palins-boners-over-america-tour-coming-to-your-podunk-town/

A Swift Way to Reduce the Deficit


I have seen the Simpson-Bowles report outline ways to solve the budget woes of the United States.  But I agree with Kevin Drum; it is clear that the real fiscal issue facing the US is in Medicare.  It is this single program that has proved most difficult to contain costs within.

But I think I have a solution that can win bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and insure the solvency of the federal government for decades.  And what’s more, it will not involve any increases in the top tiers of the income tax, capital gains tax or inheritance tax!

The solution?  Co-pays!  Not your usual co-pay where you pay $25 for the privilege of Dr. Jellyfinger to pummel your prostate.  No, this is more ingenious and more fiscally sound. 

Everyone over the age of 75 should have to make a co-pay in order to keep their Social Security and their Medicare.  I’m thinking about $10,000 a year should suffice.  The large co-pay would then go back into Medicare so that it retains a steady revenue stream.

But that’s not where the savings really come in.  Obviously, there are certain poorer Americans who will be unable to make such a large co-pay in order to remain part of Medicare.  As a result they will lose their Medicare and Social Security.  And when these Revenue Deficient Americans are no longer drawing from Social Security and Medicare, we will see REAL cost savings. 

Some bleeding hearts may point out that programs like Medicare and Social Security are MOST important to those without vibrant 401Ks, pension plans or huge vesting stock options.  But can’t you see that this is precisely the point? 

Let’s just call it like it is.  Revenue Deficient Americans aren’t REAL Americans.  Most of them aren’t even white.  I can’t imagine any of them ever engineered an IPO for a .Com in the ‘90s or created a credit default swap or outsourced jobs to a sweat shop in Malaysia.  In other words, none of them really contributed to American when they were alive…Um, young.  If those waitresses and fry cooks had been smart, they would have planned ahead and created a viable retirement plan, rather than depending on the 300 million teated cow.

Also for this reason, it seems obvious that retirees with certain higher levels of wealth should be exempted from having to pay the $10,000 co-pay.  To winners go the spoils, after all, and to punish them by taking away their money is un-American.  The $10 grand that Charles Koch keeps will help him to employ another piss boy at his fourth home.  Trickle down!

I want to be clear I’m not proposing euthanizing everyone over 75 who can’t make the $10,000 co-pay.  I think we should only euthanize them when they reach the age of 85.  But it’s clear that we should stop people from expecting things from their government.  Grover Cleveland said that “The people should support the government; the government should not support the people.”  And that is why he’s on Mt. Rushmore.

This is good

And it's short

http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/11/deficit-commission-serious

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Simpson-Bowles Report: Deficits are the little people's problem


The Simpson-Bowles Report on deficit reduction has not technically been released.  The report that came out today was just Simpson and Bowles recommendations.  The Committee has to agree to recommendations, so it will likely include three concrete proposals in the end: Cut no programs, Raise no taxes, End "waste".

So it will likely be adamantly anti-waste.  Yippee.

But the main issue I have with the report is its focus on Social Security.  It has three main proposals: Raise the retirement age, raise the maximum income that can be taxed and cut benefits.

Two of those come at the expense of the middle class: raising the retirement age and cutting benefits.  The third comes at the expense of the rich.

Raising the retirement age makes sense if you're a lawyer or a doctor or an executive.  It makes less sense if you're a long haul trucker or a coal miner or a waitress.  Reducing benefits will also pinch middle class retirees the most (I think they actually increase benefits for the poor).

But from everything I've heard, all you really have to do is raise the cap on the social security tax.  Raise that, and you make social security solvent for as long as they care to project it outwards.

But if we're going to tax that segment of the population who has benefitted the most from the past 30 years, it is apparently necessary to hit those that have struggled twice as hard.

Like I said: the New Gilded Age.  If you're not rich, it's your fault.  And you should suffer for your lack of "character".

The final kicker is this: extending Social Security's solvency into the next century is a worthy goal.  But it won't do diddly to reduce the deficit.  It will help keep SS from dipping into operating revenues in a few decades, but it won't solve any of the systemic problems we have with the budget deficit.

And why do we have a problem with the budget deficit?
That's the top marginal tax rate since we've had an income tax.


Funny how it exploded around the time we cut the top marginal tax rate...

Coincidence?

Whenever someone talks about returning the top marginal rate to anything close to what it was before Reagan, they are accused of class warfare.  But the truth is, class warfare was waged and won by the very wealthy in the 1980s.  And the wrecked budget deficit is a direct by product of that.

But as the GOP takes over the House and talks about "fiscal responsibility" you can bet the farm that "revenue increase" won't pass their lips.  Ever.

So, Read My Lips: No Deficit Reduction!

Your Wednesday Morning Takedown



http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/matthew-norman/matthew-norman-how-did-this-wastrel-ever-find-his-way-to-the-white-house-2129608.html

Few cultures have mastered the art of the literary shiv in the gonads better than the British.  This link is to a "review" of Dubya's new book.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Sad Delusions of the Marginalized Left


I like the Internet, because I hate network and cable news.  I get to skip the stories about car chases and Natalie Hollowell (was that the poor girl's name?) and read about what I want to read.

But the Internet can also be an echo chamber.

Today, Senator Mark Warner said that MoveOn.org and the Tea Party both prevented their respective sides from compromising.  Now, I'm a member of MoveOn, and I think they do a pretty good job.

But I live in Connecticut.  Mark Warner represents Virginia.  The VA Democratic House delegation got its clock cleaned last Tuesday.  So I could see the political angle in Warner's hippie punching.

But the response at DailyKos was over the top.  They want to primary him from the left, they want a third party, they want to purge him from the party.

In effect, they want to act like the Tea Party.

Few people in politics annoy me more than Ben Nelson.  One who does is Holy Joe Lieberman.  But I understand that Nelson is from frakking Nebraska.  He HAS to be on the Right of the Democratic Party.  Lieberman is from Connecticut.  He's just a self-aggrandizing putz.

I like MoveOn and support MoveOn.  But if guys like Warner or Webb need some daylight from what is perceived to the "Left", then so be it.  Joe Manchin might turn out to be a Nelson-esque nightmare from West Virginia.  But it's f-ing West Virginia!  What did you expect?  Teddy Kennedy?

I agree with many posting over there that a dispirited base was a big reason that Democrats lost big on Tuesday.  But the Democratic base rarely votes in the same numbers in off year elections as they do in the presidential years.

And you may have noticed that the economy sucked.

But while Blue Dogs are endlessly annoying by seeming to equate MoveOn with the Tea Party (when really it was just the reluctance to compromise that makes them similar), they also provide the seats for the majorities necessary to get ANYTHING done, especially in the House.

Yes, voter enthusiasm made a huge difference on Tuesday.  But Mark Warner trying to get a public option would not have saved Tom Periello's seat.  The dude was gonna lose.  The Democratic base was demoralized only in small part by the lack of a public option.  They were demoralized because a lot of them have lost their jobs and their homes.

The Democratic party could have done better by them on THAT.  Cramdown of mortgages in particular would have been nice.  But the Democrats didn't lose because DADT wasn't repealed or the public option failed to clear the Senate.

They lost because the economy stunk, and swing districts swung the other way because of it.

And to get the majority back, the Democrats will need to have a few more Blue Dogs win seats in 2012.  Like it or not.  That's the reality.