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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Politico Really Does Suck

If Mark Helperin was a teacher

Politco has a list of political predictions for 2011.  It is here.

I do NOT recommend reading it.  First, it is filled with GOP strategists and "think" tank denizens, a fair amount of corporate consultants and a few token Democrats.  Then the "guest" predictors are clearly conservative as well.

Consensus synopsis: Obama will continue to plummet in the polls (he's been rising), the economy will stay weak (it's getting stronger) and the GOP will be ascendant for decades to come (the GOP is unpopular).

It is such a basket of fail I don't know where to start...

Zombie of the Year!

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiiins.  I have no braaaaaaiiiiiiins.

The first annual Brain Dead, Soulless Zombie of the Year goes to... Christine O'Donnell.

Rarely is the question asked, is our political class learning?  O'Donnell represented all that was wrong about 2010's election season.  She was batshit insane and as intelligent as a lamppost.  She knocked off a popular moderate Republican and insured - along with Runner-Up BDSZotY Sharon Angle - that the Democratic party would retain control of the Senate.

And yet, like a crippled, inept Brett Favre, she sucked up the attention of the commentariat that should have been focused on substantive issues.  As Professor Hippie Longwhiskers notes today, someone should have been asking the GOP how, exactly, returning to the same policies that led us into this trainwreck would get us out.  Instead, we had to endure countless breathless stories about the Tea Party and simpering idiots like Christine O'Dumbass.

I bet O'Donnell is actually very sweet.  I agree with tbogg on this.  But the idea - which we can ascribe to that rat bastard Andrew Jackson - that any common idiot can be trusted to run things leads us to disasters like the Bush Administration.

It will be interesting watching guys like Boehner riding herd over the cast of idiots that the Tea Party snuck into the House.  Senate races draw a lot of attention, and the O'Donnells and Angles and Millers and McMahons went down to well earned defeats.  But in the House, no one really pays attention to the insane people that they have elected.

Watching Steve King pursue a racist pogrom from his committee chairmanship or Michelle Bachmann do... well... anything will be sad and disturbing.

And some of that credit goes to people like O'Donnell, who sucked all the attention to her craziness and distracted from the ultimately more damaging craziness of people like Pat Toomey.

So, congratulations, Christine and good luck with the investigation into your witchcraft campaign finance irregularities.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zomb-Pimp My Ride


People send me this stuff.

Honest.

Slow and silly season for news, so here's how to zombie-proof your car.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BIzarro World

Naked Came The Presidential Manatee...

I think Obama's incessant prattling on about "bipartisanship" is annoying as hell.  How can he really expect any true bipartisanship from the modern GOP?

Let's look at two events and a blog post.

First, the Fox News Wurlitzer is cranking up outrage over a phone call that Obama made to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to discuss the impressive green energy plan for Lincoln Field.  He also took the time to thank Lurie for giving Michael Vick a second chance when no one else would.

Now, as a Falcons' fan and a dog owner, I have a special multilevel contempt for Mike Vick.  But he did his prison time, he appears sincerely repentant and as Obama noted, few convicts actually get a second chance.

But c'mon.  The Freak Out over this?  Are you telling me that the fact that Vick is the highest profile black quarterback in the history of the NFL has nothing to do with this?  Fox will incessantly link Obama and Vick until the next freak out comes along.

And this might be the next freak out.  Obama wants to give Manhattan back to the Indians because... Well, he was adopted by the Crow nation in 2008, so clearly this makes him a Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist-Atheist-Gay Loving-CROW INDIAN betrayer of 'Murica.

Obama did something that should not be at all controversial.  He signed the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights.  It is not a legally binding document, it simply affirms what any sentient reader of American history knows to be true: Native people got screwed royally, and efforts should be made to ameliorate their situation.

You could start an interesting blog war about whether enslaved Africans or Native Americans suffered worse under European Americans.  I might actually go with Native Americans, because of the microbial genocide unwittingly unleashed by Europeans, not to mention the ethnic cleansing.  While you have horror stories like the Colfax massacre for African Americans, that was SOP for dealing with Natives.  Phil Sheridan - who said the only good Indian is a dead Indian - fought to free black slaves.

But I digress.

The fact that Obama has reached out in perhaps the minimal way possible to another aggrieved minority is enough to send the Right Wing Wurlitzer into overdrive.  It's on the Right Blogosphere now.  It will show up on Fox sooner or later and then the real networks will "report the controversy".

And more of the aging white base of the GOP will become convinced that Obama is "not American" in some fundamental sense.

So, reaching out to the GOP seems a fool's game.  They cannot stoop too low in undermining his legitimacy.

On the other hand...

Obama remains the most respected man in America.

Ed at Ginandtacos notes that Obama seems to want applause for things that aren't really applause worthy.  While I greatly enjoy his writing, I think he fundamentally misreads the climate here.  Getting ANYTHING done is applause worthy.  While I agree that Obama has often acted in ways that have not upset the plutocrats, I disagree that HCR was not opposed by said plutocrats.  And Wall Street reform COULD have been tougher but was still opposed by our Galtian overlords.

It's tough to oppose Big Money in DC, but when you see anything that manages to crimp their style in any way, that's actually a "big fucking deal".

I think also, that Obama's incessant "shark hugging" (to reference the photo) is cementing in most people's minds his essential reasonableness.  For all the calls on the Left for Obama to be Angry, he understands that Americans get uneasy around Angry Black Guys.  So he displays a quintessential cool that makes Steve McQueen look like Bobcat Goldthwaite.  (Man, was that reference dated.)

Conventional wisdom is that if Palin wins the GOP nod, Obama wins in a cakewalk.  But I think we may have reached Peak Palin.  Instead, he seems to be allowing the entire Republican party to Palinize itself, so that it won't matter who they nominate in 2012.

The wingnuts are wrong.  Obama isn't a Muslim.  He's a Buddhist.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pay to Play

I'm going to re-use this one...

A basic question about our health care system.  Why is getting sick your fault?  And why should the for-profit hospital take my house?


I admit, I've never really thought about it this way, but there's very little distinction between putting someone in debtor's prison for being poor and seizing someone's house for non-payment of medical bills.

And the fact that tens of millions of Americans started screaming their lungs out to protect a system that often screws people over is just appalling.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards All People


A few years ago, when Thing One was really struggling with his behavior, the chaplain at our school talked me into going to his church.  There, I began listening to the sermons of Father Jim.

I was amazed at the wisdom that he expressed on a weekly basis.  One day, he told a story about this lovely old woman back in West Virginia who kept needling him about entering the ministry, and he said, "Shouldn't you hear the voice of God calling you to the ministry?"  He thought he was being a smart ass.

She replied, "What do you think I am?"

And I realized, that the all the sermons I heard from him, the wise words that carried me through a difficult time... Those were the words of God.  They found me when I needed them most.

Jim retired this past January.  My church going slacked off.

Last night, I went to the first service in the local parish church right around the corner from where I live.  For a year and a half the church had been closed, because the previous congregation was one of those right wing splinter groups over the ordination of gay bishops.  I went to one of that guy's sermons and never went back.

But I went back last night.  The congregation was intimate, and I knew several people from work and town.  We sang the church's greatest Christmas hits.  The church itself was lovely, if spare.

And the sermon reminded us that Christmas is about finding love and therefore God right in front of us.  Love/God exists as close to us as the breath we breathe.  Earlier in the day, I lost my temper with my rambunctious children.  My kids are the first thing/person/idea that I would gladly lay down my life to protect. But they are also loud, impulsive, occasionally rude, often violent with each other and cannot hear the word "no" unless it is shouted four times.

Holidays are tough.  There is whole genre of holiday movies/stories about the hell of the holidays.

But last night, I was reminded that too often we see the problems and the hassles.  Because we can SEE them after all.  You can't ignore it when one of your sons kicks the other in the face and gives him a bloody nose.

But here in this chilliest, darkest time of year, we are reminded that you can find love/God everywhere.  Even in a stable, surrounded by migrant workers.  And in this chill, dark time of year, remember to see the breath that billows from your mouth before your eyes.

Remember to see the love that passes all understanding.

It won't be easy.  And I'll fail more times than I succeed.

But it's worth it.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry-juana Christmas


Soooo, Pat Robertson came out for decriminalizing marijuana.

Let's just let that sink in for a moment.

The guy is old, white and evangelical.  Pretty much the core constituency for the War on Drugs.  And yet he noted that we are locking people up for getting stoned.

Now, I don't agree with Pat Robertson on many things.  Ok, almost any thing.  OK, this might be the first thing Pat Robertson and I agree on.

Like Robertson, I agree that... Did I just write that?... marijuana should not be explicitly legalized.  I'm not comfortable with that.  But at the very least, we have to admit that no amount of legal coercion is going to stop people from sparking up.  We've been waging this stupid War on Drugs since Nixon.  It's pretty much an Epic Fail.

Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana will not lead to end of civilization.  It will lead to more room in our overcrowded prisons for actual criminals.  It will lead to fewer lives ruined by years in jail for reasons that are increasingly absurd.

Now, decriminalizing pot will not bring about the benefits of legalization that advocates for legalization put forth.  Namely, tax revenues and the end of a large part of the illegal drug trade.  And the latter is particularly relevant, I think, although both are important.

Legalized pot would allow a shift in law enforcement resources and the ability to levy a whopping sin tax that states in particular could really use these days.  And hopefully, steps could be taken to keep legalized pot out of the hands of teenagers.  I haven't researched the effectiveness of anti-smoking campaigns, but we do know that kids smoke cigarettes and kids smoke pot.  Both are bad for you, but one carries a jail sentence.

Mexico is being torn apart by drug violence that is largely caused by US demand.  In the last decade, Mexico has transformed from a quasi-authoritarian, one party state to an increasingly democratic regime.  Calderon's drug war increasingly jeopardizes this, and the drug cartels make a ton of money off US demand.  Legalizing pot would cut into their resources.

Still, I think we proceed slowly on any attempts to legalize pot.  Increasingly, medical marijuana is gaining acceptance in America.  If Pat Robertson of all people can see the wisdom in decriminalizing pot, maybe more people can.  Maybe we can lock up fewer Americans, because they prefer a bong over a six pack.

Maybe that gives us a road map to one day stopping the New Prohibition.  Or maybe everyone starts getting stoned and work and preschoolers drop out and follow Phish.

But if Pat Robertson can see it...

That's a Festivus miracle.

Merry Christmas Everybody



I wish I could improve upon this:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/12/21/930662/-Late-afternoon-early-evening-open-thread

But if ANYONE can improve upon Stephen Colbert, I will tip my cap to them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Zomb Comp Lit



So, I've read two zombie novels over the past six months.  I read Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History and Z.A. Recht's Plague of the Dead.  I have also obviously watched AMC's The Walking Dead.

Comparing Brooks and Recht's books is interesting.  Brooks is a talented writer (he's Mel's son) and he has a surprising capacity to evoke pathos and emotion from the "stories" the survivors "tell".  The oral history format is clever and allows the author to explore different viewpoints, different characters, different emotions and different situations.  All of this leads to a compulsively readable book.

Recht is a terrible, terrible writer.  You pretty much cannot escape a paragraph without coming across at least one cliche.  The dialogue is execrable, the characterizations thin and the story monotonous.

The interesting thing is, Recht creates a much more interesting and "credible" strain of zombie.  Brooks routinely decides to put his narrative ahead of "scientific" consistency.  For instance, in Brooks' novel, zombies can walk underwater.  Sure, that makes sense.  Zombies don't breathe, why not?  Well, first of all, YOU try walking underwater.  It's difficult.  Secondly, the pressure at great depths would crush flesh and bone, including the all important skull.  Brooks even acknowledges this, but then says, "No one can figure out why zombies can survive at great depths."  What a complete punt!

It works, though, for his narrative, because it means that no place is safe.  No island, not even a ship, is completely immune.  There's a chilling sequence where zombies start banging on a nuclear submarine walls as it lays on the ocean floor.  Good stuff, but c'mon.

Meanwhile, Recht wouldn't really know a compelling dramatic situation if it bite him on the neck and infected him.  He creates this stupid subplot involving the NSA that's implausible and unnecessary. But his "Morningstar Virus" kind of works.  And it behaves the way a virus would in terms if epidemiology.  He also seems to understand the military, or at least the acronyms and culture of the military.

So, you have a well-written piece with a somewhat unexplained and unrealistic strain of zombie and you have a piece of crap that reads like a precocious 15 year old wrote it but nails the "science".

Meanwhile, The Walking Dead is interesting.  No real attempts are made to explain it until the last episode, and those work OK.  They have set up some compelling dramatic relationships that could really pay off in the second season.  But it's been somewhat formulaic and rote in its plot.  I'm hoping as they move away from the graphic novels as a text, they will open up the plot somewhat.

I think in the end, this is why I loved 28 Days Later.  While technically not a zombie movie, it's plausible enough scientifically, it's compelling dramatically - the stuff between Brendan Gleason and his daughter is great - and it holds together metaphorically.

Wow, that's a lot of spilled pixels on zombies...

Winning



Josh Marshall catalogs a lot of good reasons why the GOP "allowed" Obama a bunch of wins during the lame duck session.
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/12/why_the_run_of_wins.php?ref=fpblg

He mentions the fact that the GOP's obstruction of no-brainers like START was entirely political - making Obama look like a failure was the goal.  He mentions the fact that the election freed up moderates in the GOP to actually BE moderates - think Murkowski.  He also brings up the goodwill engendered by giving the GOP the only solitary thing they care about: tax cuts for millionaires.

The one thing he doesn't mention, and I think it's important.  Harry Reid was going to make them work on Christmas.

I'm serious.

As we approach the prospect of filibuster reform in January (check this out to discover what it is), we should remember that the modern filibuster is a joke.  It's a pain-free vote that requires no more commitment than showing up, blowing a fart at the majority and then jetting off to a fundraiser.

Because a filibuster became effectively part of the legislative process - rather than a last ditch effort to protect the rights of the minority - it meant that the GOP suffered no damage from obstructing meaningful legislation.  In fact they gained a great deal from it politically.

When they were faced with an actual painful consequence to their actions, I think that helped free up a few votes.  Ultimately, Bob Corker and George Voinovich want to spend the holidays with their families more than they want to give another hollow victory to Mitch McConnell. **

If the Merkley filibuster reform goes through, and - bigger if - if the Democrats regain control of the House in 2012, it would be interesting to see what sort of legislation we might see.  Energy policy?  A sane immigration policy?

It would have been nice to have this in place over the last two years.

** Correction: in the original post, I identified the Senate Minority Leader as Mr. Banana-Slug-Face Weaselbreath.  I apologize for the mistake.

Another Gem From Gail Collins



She nails it again, in her own snarky way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/opinion/23collins.html?_r=1&hp

Because My Kids Can't Stop Watching This


I don't usually like this stuff, but this is amazing.  This puts the X-Games back into X-mas this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Never, Ever, Ever Be Happy

Lady Justice is blind drunk and apparently dropped her blindfold.

So, DADT?  Repealed.

START?  Ratified.

Health care for 9/11 first responders? Passed.

But the Left, always looking for outrage the way Larry Craig looks for bathroom buddies, has now freaked out about another thing.

The Administration is coming up with a plan to deal with the 48 detainees in Gitmo who are unlikely ever to be released.

Now, the original plan was to try them in US courts whenever possible.  They wanted to try KSM in Manhattan.  But New York pols and Congress wet their pants and screamed, "ZOMG!!!11!!  NOOOOOOOO!!!!"

And that was that.

Obama was trying to make a SuperMax prison in Illinois to house Gitmo detainees.  More freak outs.  Frankly, life in a SuperMax is probably worse than life in Gitmo.

So, the new policy will allow detainees to review some of the evidence against them at regular intervals.

Now, this is not a policy that anyone particularly WANTS.  Obama and Holder wanted to try them in court.  Cheney wants to just shoot them in the face.

But once again, I'm having a hard time seeing what the alternative is.  Trials are out.  Releasing them is out.

So, you hold them, review the evidence against them.  Try and extradite them back to their own country when possible.

I honestly don't know what the options are.

A Good Day At Daily Kos

Master Class

Some guy at Daily Troll makes a very astute point about Obama's strategy.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/12/22/930875/-I-was-wrong

Basically, Obama believes that ideological, bitter partisan fights are good for the GOP, because the GOP requires a great deal of cynicism about government.  "A pox on both your houses" is not a good mood for the electorate to be in, when it comes time to elect Democrats.  After all, the Democrats are trying to govern in a way that changes the existing structure of power.  The GOP seeks to perpetuate it.

This justifies Obama's strategy of focusing on results over victories.  He wants government policies to be accepted, because they make people's lives better, not because they are ideological pure.  It's a remarkably astute observation by Obama and this Karl Trautman guy.

Additionally, look at THIS from DK:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/12/22/930899/-Poll:-Lame-duck-boosts-Obama;-GOP-slips

Obama "capitulates" to the hostage takers and the Left freaks out about how Obama is terrible and will be a one term president.

And his polling numbers go up.

Additionally, the public now more than ever sees the GOP as the party that is obstructing progress.  When we have our government shutdown soon - likely over the budgeting for HCR - Obama has already defined himself as the reasonable one.  Things like the GOP denying health care to 9/11 responders are what will help define the debate.

UPDATE: Spoke too soon.  Some are in a freak-out over Obama's executive order about 48 Gitmo detainees.  I tried to point out that Congress kept Obama and Holder from trying these guys in court.  Pointless.

Your Wednesday Morning Takedown



This is about a week old, but entirely worth it.

http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/80140/nick-gillespie-responds-and-his-point-i-have-no-idea

Jon Chait is perhaps the only semblance of credibility The New Republic has left.  He is very bright, astute in his observations and a good writer.

Nick Gillespie is a libertardian who wears a leather jacket.  Someone (John Cole) dubbed him the "Fonzie of Freedom."

Gillespie wrote a piece of libertardian drivel about balancing the budget with magical arithmetic.  Chair pointed out that it was magical arithmetic.  Gillespie responded.

And then Chait hit him upside the head with a 2x4 of facts.

To dissect the takedown, I should note that Chait never "raises his voice" or employs any histrionical devices. He uses facts and knowledge as a cudgel to beat Gillespie about his head and neck.

A really good rhetorical takedown usually is reserved and calm.  To keep your head when all about you lose theirs is the sign of a good takedown artist.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do We Have To Know Dates..erm.. Facts?

So, I read this via Dengre at Balloon Juice.

Basically, a bunch of racists-who-realize-being-racist-is-uncool had a ball.  Because "balls" are cool.  Not as cool as cotillions, but still... cool.

Problem is, the ball celebrates South Carolina's secession from the United States.

You read the dumb fuckers who are celebrating and you come across quotes like this:

“We are celebrating the bravery and the tenacity of people who were protecting their homes from invasion,” said Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the S.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans, a major sponsor of the ball.


And you think... Well, who wouldn't protect their homes from invasion?  I mean, what if it were... I dunno... zombies?  Certainly, we would want to protect our homes from the invasion of the walking dead.

And this goes to why I am a history teacher.

I always get this question from students: "Do we have to know dates?"  And I always say the same damned thing: "No, specific dates are not important, but the cause and effect of events that happen in a sequence is very important."

Knowing that the Kansas-Nebraska Act happened in 1854, whereas the Dred Scott decision was handed down in 1856 is less important than knowing that both were in the lead-up to the Civil War.

Apparently when the Mayor of Charleston (motto: "Now 50% less secessionistic!") said that the cause of the Civil War was slavery, he was booed.

We live in a world where people are booed for speaking facts. Facts.

The South seceded because Abraham Lincoln - who only refused to allow slavery to spread into new territories (acquired by pillaging Mexico of  the half of their country with all the good PAC-10 schools) - was elected President.

Put another way, the Civil War was caused by people who couldn't abide by losing an election that turned almost entirely on the issue of the spread of slavery.  Not the existence of slavery.  Lincoln would move very slowly on the issue of existent slavery ("I would like to have God on my side, but I have to have Kentucky.").

No, those dim-witted, hair-trigger traitors in South Carolina who finally succeeded in dragging the still young country into the conflagration of civil war were upset that Lincoln wouldn't allow slavery into New Mexico.  Not that the Catholic Hispanics that lived there wanted slavery.  It was the principle - THE PRINCIPLE - that mattered.

As an aside, anyone that wants to start a war that will kill hundreds of thousands of people because of an abstract principle should be the first sonofabitch to march into battle.  Sadly, this is rarely the case.

Secession is treason.  Slavery is a moral abomination.

But I don't need to say anymore about it.  Because there was this country bumpkin who said some shit.  He spent some of his youth leaving in a lean-to and learned to read because a neighbor lady took pity on him.  The bumpkin said this:
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came....


(The) slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

But what the hell did HE know?

I remember heading north to school, and my grandmother warned me about the "Yankees".  I figured she didn't mean Don Mattingly.  I had an ancestor who lead a charge at Malvern Hill for Robert E. Lee.  He was wounded and therefore promoted and lingered in agony for so long they promoted him to Brigadier General.  I imagine I have other ancestors who wore grey 150 years ago.

But the warning my grandmother should have issued was against "facts".  Those facts will mess you up.

And the fact is that the Civil War was a war over slavery.  It was started by people who wanted to extend slavery into areas where it did not exist.  And it became a war to free ALL the slaves.

We are entering the sesquicentennial of that conflict.  We have - you may have noticed - a President who is of a darker hue than his predecessors.  We have segments of the country who are profoundly "not OK" with that, and we have this little anniversary.

Fifty years ago, we had sit-ins and Freedom Riders.  Maybe some of you remember those?

In a saner world, we could have a fascinating and open discussion of our nation's history.

But we won't.

More Americans are immune to facts than they are to swine flu.

Footage of Harry Reid meeting with Mitch McConnell


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (standing) meets with his GOP counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

This EXCLUSIVE VIDEO to Zombieland.  I expect a frakking Pulitzer for this!

You Got To Be STARTing Something

Obama meets with Senate Republicans.

When the tax cut deal first came down, I thought it might be worth it, especially if it allowed DADT, DREAM and START to pass, too.

The DREAM act didn't pass, which is beyond a shame.  But in addition to getting a second mini-stimulus, the Democrats managed to get a piece of bigotry erased off the books and now appear to be ready to ratify a treaty that will help keep nuclear weapons out of the wrong people's hands.

No, the treaty does not prevent Sarah Palin from becoming President.

Nice job by the President and the Majority Leader to get some shit done.  As I say, enjoy it while it lasts.  We won't be seeing any good legislation for a few years at least.

Also, Too, Read This

Man, I'm bossy...

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2010/12/obama-is-suffering-because-of-his-achievements-not-despite-them.html

Since you've been good and done your reading and your video watching, I shall throw a video out there, because I just learned how to do that!

Watch This


I was walking through a Spencer's Gifts today out of morbid curiosity and after two minutes became convinced that civilization as we know it is ending.  Not by Visigoths or Huns, but by Vulgars.

Then I came home and watched this.

My Lord, how the world has changed.

Yeah, for the better.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't Just Sit There. Do Something!

Joe Lieberman (left) and Olympia Snowe consummate the deal on DADT.

Ezra Klein has a nice litany of all the the things the 111th Congress has done.  While Nancy Pelosi is a polarizing figure (because doing things is more polarizing than NOT doing things), the fact is, she has been a remarkably effective Speaker, and since dispatching Crazy Cat Lady Sharrrrrrron Angle, Harry Reid has been pretty kick ass his own bad Mormon, boxer self.

In the lame duck session alone, the Congress has passed the tax deal that - love it or hate it or tolerate it - is still a major accomplishment.  In fact, if you look at the entire legislative legacy of the 8 years of Dubya, he has three things: No Child Left Without a Number 2 Pencil, Medicare Plan Deficit and tax cuts.  So, by extending the tax cuts, the Congress matched 33% of Bush's agenda over 20% of the time period (carry the four...) which equals... FREEDOM!

The Congress passed a Food Safety Act, because the Terrorists hate us for our salmonella laced marshmallows.

Oh, yeah, maybe you heard that they passed the Military Fabulousness Act of 2010, repealing DADT.  Because when they finally pull Obama or Zawahiri out of their hole, I want it to be by a homosexual, a lesbian and a Jew whose parent worked in the Trade Center.  That's MY dream act.

If they pass START - and why the hell wouldn't they - the lame duck session will equal most Congresses entire output.  Which is good, because the GOP has already signaled a return to the three day work week, so Congress will mostly pass the "Hey, Who's Up For A Nap Act of 2011" and the "Gardengate" investigation of Michelle Obama's vegetable patch over the next two years.

Oh, but that's not all the Do Something Congress has done!

There was Health Care Reform.  You may have heard that it was a "big fucking deal".

There was Financial Reform.

Those two went about 60-70% of the way towards being awesome.  But almost awesome is better than "meh" any day of the calender.

Then there's other stuff: Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay act, the expansion of SCHIP, the Depression Prevention Act (unfortunately titled the Stimulus Bill) and student loan reform.  We can throw is helping save GM and Chrysler while we're at it.

Yes, the DREAM act - not to mention serious, sane and compassionate immigration reform - would have been nice and needed.  Yes, a national energy policy - as opposed to the laudable but ad hoc measures adopted by the administration - would have been nice.

But as we head into the legislative equivalent of a coma, we should pause and thank the people who made real change happen.  Maybe not all the change and maybe not the change a perfect world could have provided.

But real, substantive and compelling change of the like we haven't seen in a long, long time.

Krugman, Get Off My Lawn


So, Professor Hippie Longstocking is at it again.

I actually think this is a very good critique of Obama's failures as a negotiator.  Obama has not really tried to kill the "zombie idea" of market infallibility.  He hasn't rolled back the disastrous effects of Randian economics on America.

On the other hand, I do think Obama is simply trying to avoid the rhetoric and just SHOW that the government can get things done.  He's trying to take a long term view of this.

We'll see if the historian or the economist is right.

Oh, and the NY Times better stop stealing my zombie schtick.

Grinding Up the Rumor Mill

Where to now?

There was a piece written in Politico by some guy.  He says that Obama is considering talking about spending cuts and will include much of the Simpson/Bowles stuff.  It will be part of his State of the Union and an attempt to keep the GOP from taking a harsher line and framing the debate.  At least, that's how I read the anonymous quotes and poorly sourced info in the piece.  The author (Rutton?  Sutton?  Mutton?) says that what this must mean is that Obama will cut Social Security benefits.

I read the article (actually an opinion piece) and was trying to see where the White House source was saying "We're going to cut Social Security."  And I couldn't really find it.  They are talking about deficit reduction, but Social Security does not ADD to the deficit.  Hell, it FUNDS the deficit.

But there was a post up on Daily Troll before the pixels had dried and it was closing on 1500 comments when I checked it last.  Basically, the question was whether to primary him or stage a revolution.  If so, it will be the flabbiest, whitest revolution since the little known Couch Potato Putsch of 1973 in Milwaukee.

I am guessing that Obama will not embrace anything more than some means testing in terms of benefits cuts.  I feel pretty confident of that, given what he has said about Social Security and how he tends to hew fairly closely to what he says he believes.

But the Left has become so paranoid about Obama that they literally see nothing but betrayal.

Obama is going to talk about spending cuts?  Well, that MUST mean Social Security cuts!  What else could it possibly mean?

 I never made a habit of going to Red State or Little Green Footballs back in the Bush years, because I was not interested in the lunatic ravings of the Rightist fringe.

I wonder when the day comes when I will no longer even stop by Kos to see what's going on?

How does Thursday work for you?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Well, If You Put It Like That

This. This is the face of evil....

Blackwater Dog, inveterate and delightful cheerleader of Obama's going back three years or more, has a nice summary of all the ways that Obama has disappointed people by not disappointing people.

Read for yourself:
http://blackwaterdog.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/1506/

No Labels? No Clue!

Navel gazing as a scientific pursuit...

It's always a good idea to read Frank Rich.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/opinion/19rich.html?_r=1&hp

Here, he takes apart the transparently toothless centrism of the No Labels movement.  (It really sounds like a bad ad campaign for the Gap or something.)

I could summarize and expand, but after reading Rich... what's the point?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So Now We Know

Sorry, Dora.  Maybe if you were a lesbian...

So we had two cloture votes in the Senate today.

Several GOP members crossed the aisle to vote for cloture on DADT repeal and lo and behold, our military has become FAAAAAAbulous.

But when it came time to vote for cloture on the DREAM act, not enough GOP members voted for cloture for it to pass.

Now we know.  The GOP hates brown people more than Teh Ghey.

Several Democrats also failed to vote for cloture and as per usual, Markos is spouting off about refusing to help Jon Tester get re-elected, how he's ashamed for supporting him in 2006, and - the piece de stupidite - he hopes he loses in 2012.  Because, as we all know, a Democrat who doesn't vote the way Markos wants to all of the time is worse than a Republican who won't vote the way Markos wants to at any time.

Liberte!  Egalite!  Purite!

(psst, Markos... I know Hispanic issues are really important to you.  But it's not about you.)

Anyway, back to the repeal of DADT and the failure to repeal DREAM, while I think that there may have been some strategic voting going on among the Tester-Hagan group of Dems - it wasn't going to pass regardless of their votes - the fact remains that a majority of Democrats voted for cloture and a majority of Republicans didn't.

So, the GOP has once again decided that sticking to their aging, white, tea party fringe is more important than doing ANYTHING to reach out to the largest growing ethnic group in the country.  Nelson and Pryor voting against cloture doesn't surprise me, because they really are barely Democrats at this point.  I guess Pryor got his instructions from the Perdue family back in Arkansas that they don't want any fast track to citizenship for these husky hued illegals who pluck all those fucking chickens.  But it would have been nice to have cleaner "optics" on this.  If it had only been Nelson and Pryor, you could say, "Yeah, but those guys are assholes."  And everyone would nod and shrug and say, "Ya gotta point there."  Tester and Hagan muddy the optics a little.

And the optics should be this: George Bush doesn't care about black people.  The GOP doesn't like Hispanics.  Harry Fucking Reid even understands that Hispanics are the key to any electoral coalition in the 21st century.  And Harry is not anyone's idea of a genius.  Karl Rove understood this, too, and tried to get Bush behind the comprehensive, sane immigration reform that most Americans - including many Hispanics - want.  Reform that helps close the border, but also provides some way to legitimize the millions of Hispanics who come to this country to do work that we won't do.

The GOP can only squeeze so many elections out of the Red Chili Menace before the tide of demographics swamp them.

Interestingly, they seem to have given up at least a little of the gay-bashing that was the singular focus of right wing bigotry for the last 15 years.  (Well, that and Muslims.)  DADT repeal is pretty starkly drawn along generational lines.  The younger you are, the more likely you are to support equal rights of any kind for LGBT Americans.  I don't think Olympia Snowe got any younger recently, unless the rumors of her bathing in the blood of baby harp seals in a pentagram shaped hot tub are true.  So what gives?

I think some credit needs to go to four distinct players in this.

First, Obama put the pressure on Congress to do the right thing by repealing rather than relying on a stop-loss order.  And the haste to get the tax cut deal finished help get this passed.  By forcing the tax cut issue through, he freed up enough time to get DADT repealed.

Second, yeah, Joe Lieberman.  I still despise the guy for the blatant lies he told to get re-elected in 2006, not to mention the mendacity he showed prior to that or the fecklessness he showed throughout the past four years.  But he deserves a great deal of credit for this.  When I am going door to door for Chris Murphy trying to unseat Holy Joe, I will concede that on one issue, Lieberman finally came around.

Third, the military brass finally conceded that very few of the troops give a damn, and frankly, for some reason, most of the Arabic translators are gay and they're kind of important.  They ultimately let the facts talk, not their own pre-judgments.

Finally, all the activists who worked tirelessly to get this repealed.  Look, this is about bigotry.  It's about believing that one set of people are less worthy of the same treatment as other people.

Eighteen years ago, this issue nearly sank the Clinton Administration before it had pulled away from the dock. Today, John Ensign voted to repeal DADT.  John.  Ensign.

By the time my kids get old enough to marry, I imagine the majority of Americans will live in states where same sex couples can get married.

That's a stunning change.

So, a good day.  It could have been better.  The DREAM Act should have been a no brainer.  But we need to relish the victories we have.

If the Senate ratifies the START treaty before heading home, maybe even Kos will acknowledge that Obama made a silk purse from a duck's ear.

Sorry, that was really lame.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pascal's Wager as Applied to Santa Claus


So we've had our first crisis of faith in our household.  Thing One no longer believes in Santa.

Now, he has not done what I did, which is find the presents in the basement as a form of proof.  Like a Galapagos tortoise, except in an Amazon.com box.

No, I think he's gotten there from friends at school and a growing sense of skepticism about things like flying reindeer.  I swear, the kid gets more cynical and sarcastic every day.  Where does he get that from?

The problem is that Thing Two still believes in Santa.  In fact, now that I am done with my "work" I get to spend a relaxing day as follows:
11am, Cub Scout assault on the police station.
1pm Party at the YMCA pool, leave early to get to
3pm Santa arrival in the faculty room

Somewhere in there is a Happy Meal in all likelihood.

So he wants to leave the pool party to see Santa, which is sweet.  And he's sweet, so that's great.

But like some sort of elementary school Christopher Hitchens, Thing One is proselytizing his Santa agnosticism.  The missus created this neat Santa video where Santa points out all the (very specific) things in the kid's life and tells them to be good.  Thing One immediately launched into conspiracy theories.  It was done by the school where we work, by the town, by the CIA and the mob working with Cubans on the Grassy Knoll.

So we had to take Thing One aside and explain that whether he believes in Santa or not, he can't go around poking holes in his brother's faith that a large man breaks into your home and gives you gifts.

In desperation, we pointed out that if there was no Santa - and we are not admitting that there isn't - then WE must be the ones keeping the naughty and nice list.  So be careful, buster!  Either the fat man at the North Pole or the fat man in the living room will get you!

In fact, the Missus already has some coal to put in Thing One's stocking.

The thing is, third grade seems about right to stop believing in Santa.  But let the younger ones acquire their skepticism naturally.  Don't force it on them prematurely.  Otherwise they risk become part of the Cult of the Cool.

And those guys are assholes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Left (A History of the last 60 years)

Yes, you're right.  Get over it.

If we go back to the Great Depression, the "Left" was made up primarily of real, honest to God Socialists.  I knew a couple of ex-Communist blacklisted screenwriters.  They were devoutly committed to their positions and good for them.  As Leonardo Bercovici said to us, "In the '30s you were either a Fascist trying to conquer the world, or a Communist trying to save it."

But Communism, or at least Stalinism, was not trying to save the world, was it now?

By the 1960s, we had had three decades of a center-left governing coalition called the New Deal coalition, and it brought a remarkable era of growth, both economically and in the welfare state and public spending.  In 1960, there was no reason to think America was not easily the finest country in the world no matter how you defined it.

But liberals knew that the country could always be improved, especially that whole issue down South.  You know... Jim Crow.  So, with liberal earnestness and good intentions, they tackled that problem.  Or thought they did, because while Jim Crow was a Southern feature, racism was universal.  Malcolm X was harder to tolerate than Martin Luther King.

At some point in 1965, Rick Pearlstein pegs the Watts' Riots as the exact moment, the Left split with the Liberals.  The Liberal Coalition had embraced the gradual change of an evolving Social Security system, expanded infrastructure spending, Medicare, union rights, an aggressively progressive tax code and civil rights legislation.

The Left was interested in something else.  Put succinctly: Burn, motherfucker, burn.

The Left saw the whole system as corrupt.  Vietnam was a huge part of that.  But so was the realization that civil rights legislation was not nearly enough to end racism.  Because it had to end this instant.

It was the union members who first looked at the Left and said, "Not for me."  So they voted for Nixon and Reagan (even though Reagan was perhaps their worst enemy).  During the Watts Riots, Lyndon Johnson looked at blacks looting stores and whined, "How can they do this to me, after all I've done for them?"  And the political class turned against the Left, too.

Now, the Left WAS CORRECT about a lot of things.  They were right about Cambodia and Vietnam.  They were right about racism.  They were right about corporate power structure.

But the Left's aggressive brand of "Burn the whole thing down!" did not endear itself to Americans.  Nor, frankly, to Liberals.

And so, the Democratic Party - the party that had created the New Deal Coalition - entered the wilderness, barely eking out a single victory between 1968 and 1992, and only then because of the singular taint of Watergate (the Left had been right about Nixon, too).

The fact is that the mushy middle had too easy a time linking a wonky technocrat like Michael Dukakis to the angry rantings of the Left.  And as long as that was the case, the Democratic Party would not be trusted with the reins of power.

When Clinton took over, he did so from the center.  He benefitted from an insane leprechaun splitting some of the right wing vote, but he ran on competence rather than ideology.  And competent he was.

But the Left had reason to fear and distrust him.  He was cozy with corporations.  He did seem to validate the whole Reaganesque assault on the very idea of government being able to help the average American.

So the Left was relieved when they got a true champion.

Thank you, Ralph Nader!

Actually, that's not snark.  The Left did love Nader subconsciously.  Because Bush turned out to be a perfect storm of rightist bullshit.  Nixonian power grabs, Reaganesque redistribution of wealth upwards, warmongering, bigotry (this time against LGBT) and also he was just a dumb son of a bitch.

All those years being correct had not won the Left any friends.  Was Nader right in many of his criticisms of the two party system?  Yes, he was.  But does anyone remotely think that we would have invaded Iraq if Anthony Kennedy had ruled the other way in Bush v Gore?

So, the Left could now be safely right about everything.  Bush tax cuts?  Terrible idea!  Invading Iraq?  WTF!  Denying global warming?  Are you shitting me!  Stem cells?  Valerie Plame?  Katrina? Privatizing Social Security?  Bushanomics?

And what's more, lot's of people saw that the Left was absolutely correct.  For the first time since McGovern went down in flames, the Left was cool again.  They were the center of the internet universe.  Kos and Hamsher and Digby were at the epicenter of a fundamental realignment that would be led by the Left for the first time ever!

Only... You know.  Not.

Obama is a Liberal.  He's not of the Left.  He's a part of that group that oversaw the evolution of Social Security and Medicare.  That slowly built a consensus around civil rights legislation that took a decade of activism to create.  He has absolutely zero interest in burning it all down.

I think the overboard caterwauling of the Left has happened because Obama has stolen their Fifteen Minutes away from them.  The boring, placid Liberals are back in control of the Party and the Left is once again shown the door.

And what aggravates them most of all is that they are still right about most things.  HCR would have been better with a public option.  Financial reform would have been better with a return to Glass-Steagall.  Taxes should be allowed to return to where they were for the rich.  DADT should have been repealed a long time ago. There should have been official inquiries into torture.

They are right!

But it just doesn't matter.

Because the system IS broken.  Especially the Senate, but the system as a whole is not about doing what is best, it's about doing what you can do in the moment with the fragile coalition that you can scrape together in that moment.  If DADT doesn't pass the Senate before the Lame Duck ends, it won't pass.  Simple as that.  That moment will have gone.  Rand Fucking Paul is not going to vote for cloture on DADT.

But it's the only system we have.  And broken or not, you have to work within it.  Because no one else is really interested in "Burn motherfucker burn."

The Left can still be valuable.  I do think we need more moments like the Bernie-buster the other day.  Precisely because the Left is often right, they should keep agitating and speaking out.

But they need to get over it when their perfect solutions butt up against the realities of an imperfect world.

And realize - in ways that Malcolm X and Abbie Hoffman never did - that the Liberals are not really the enemies of the Left.  They are your exasperated older siblings, not the bully down the street.

Remember that in a family tussle, you are still family.

But those sons of bitches over there on the Right...

If Jesus Ran for President

Internet Jesus 

You really should click through and watch this:
http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/12/16/if-jesus-ran-for-president/

Counting My Chickens..

Hooray for the new economy!

Considering I was up at 5:20am to drive a student to the airport and am still groggy (and now behind on my work), I'm in a very positive frame of mind.  Which is weird.

First, the more I read Bondad's blog, the more it looks like we are headed for the real end of the recession.  All the leading indicators look good and we're even having hints of major new hiring.  Hooray!

Second, unless the House manages to pull some crazy monkeyshines, I think the tax deal will become the tax bill and that will be that.  Hopefully, we have bought two years of economic recovery from this.  Combined with the news above, I actually have some hope.  Or change I can believe in.  One of those.

Third, when the tax deal was first brokered, I said that if the tax deal led to START ratification and DADT repeal, that would constitute an acceptable trade-off as part of the plan.  START really shouldn't matter with the influx of new GOP Senators - it should be ratified unanimously... OK, Coburn, DeMint and Paul can sit it out - but it needs to be ratified as soon as possible.   

The possibility that Joe Lieberman - a man I openly loathe - might have brokered a deal to end DADT is interesting.  In fact, there are many reasons I hate Joe Lieberman, but one is his fetish for "bipartisanship" over "good legislation".  It was annoying as hell during the HCR debate.  Of course there are other reasons, including the fact that he's a liar, a warmonger and a hypocrite, that I dislike him, but I'll give him credit if he gets this done.  And if he does get it done, it will be because of his absurd fetish for bipartisanship.

I will also enjoy watching the heads explode over at Daily Kos Troll.  They have been whining about DADT since 1/20/09.  If Lieberman is the one who actually brings it in for a landing, and it also vindicates Obama's lame duck strategy... Well, I'm sure it won't change one mind over there.

Fourth, the Pentagon review of Afghanistan shows that Obama is doing the same thing as Bush, except completely opposite.  Bush fixed the intelligence to lead us into the war in Iraq.  Obama is fixing it to get us OUT of the war in Afghanistan.  Look, it's a whitewash.  Afghanistan MIGHT have been fixed if we spent 2002-2006 focused relentlessly on that benighted country.  But we didn't and it won't.  We have to get out.

Obama fulfilled his campaign pledge to increase our troop commitment to Afghanistan.  He launched his own little Cambodia by sending a wave of drone attacks into Waziristan on the Pakistan side of the border.  And when he did so, he said the commitment was NOT open ended.  So, now he's going to start withdrawing troops in July.

I hate to dwell on the anger at Daily Kos (and I can't imagine what FireDogLake is like these days), but it's striking how they are automatically assuming that Obama was going to betray them on Afghanistan, betray them on HCR, betray them on financial reform, betray, betray, betray.  They still assume that he's going to cave on Afghanistan and still say we're "at war in Iraq", when we're really not.  They just assume that he's a betrayal machine.

So when he made compromises and did the necessary things that have to be done in a democracy, they inflated those acts of compromise into treachery.  

In fact, he was simply and methodically fulfilling campaign promises.  One after another.  

Now, I'm still not happy about the absence of torture trials or the ending of some of our more ridiculous overreactions to 9/11, the fact is, he promised to end waterboarding, not to frogmarch Cheney into the docket.  I may not like it, but that's ultimately MY problem.

It will be interesting if we are seeing 7% and falling unemployment and significant reductions in American overseas military commitments by the winter of 2012.  I'm assuming that Obama will then use the 2012 election to run on tax reform that takes less from the middle and working class and more from the rich, including the closing of loopholes.  

I'm assuming this, because it's what the dude says he will do.  

And so far, for better or worse, he's been remarkably true to his word.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Morning Takedown

Wilford Brimley is pissed about something.

Trolling around for a WMT, I found this little gem at Gin and Tacos:
http://www.ginandtacos.com/2010/12/15/torpor/


It is something I've been mulling for a while.  Why don't we riot anymore?  It's clear our political system is rigged to benefit the few and not the many.  Are we so sated by material prosperity and so depressed by the relative inequality of its distribution that we do nothing?

The Brits rioted because the tripled university tuition... to $14K a year, or roughly a fraction of what we pay to go to community college.  Why can't we get suitably outraged?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

OBAMA LIED TO ME AGAIN!!!

Peace on earth?  F**k that.

So, it appears that Obama will discuss progress in Afghanistan and conclude that we will begin drawing down troops right in schedule.

The link is to Daily Kos, so you may need to reboot your computer to flush the hate out of your CPU.  Basically, Meteor Blade (whose writing I used to love) reports that - indeed - the draw down will commence on schedule and then proceeds to catalog what a clusterfuck Afghanistan is.

Yes.  I understand that.  And I agree that doubling down on Afghanistan was a poor decision.

But once again, Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do.  He said he would double down on Afghanistan - and he did.  He said troops would withdraw beginning in the summer of 2011.  Troops will withdraw beginning in July 2011.

The second part of the post catalogs the problems that will exist even after doubling down.  As I've pointed out elsewhere, those problems will exist if we stay there for a decade.  I have no problem acknowledging that it was not perhaps the best strategy to double down.

But if you read Daily Kos two years ago, when Obama announced his intention to surge in Afghanistan, this was the first evidence that Obama was a weak willed political virgin who would get rolled by the generals in the Pentagon.  He would crumble before Petraeus when Big P wanted another "Friedman Unit" to whip Afghanistan into shape.

Now, he still could crumble.  But my guess is he won't.  He can't.  He understands how this tax deal cut into his credibility.

But the fact is, as he pointed out in his presser the other day, he's done or tried to do almost everything he said he would do on the campaign trail.

Now the guys at Kos and FDL like to talk about the narrative and "setting the narrative" and "shaping the narrative".  But they can't see that they've fallen into their own narrative trap.

Obama can't be trusted.  He has no core principles.  He'll say anything.  He's captive to the generals and Wall Street.

Well, here he is, fulfilling a promise he made.

And all I hear is that it was a bad idea to begin with.

OK.  It was never going to work.

But consider our last President.  The one who couldn't think of a mistake that he'd made?

Compare and contrast.


Every time you fail to watch the Daily Show, a puppy dies...

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/12/14/928890/-Republicans-block-funding-for-9-11-respondersmedia-shrugs

And in this case, the puppy is strangled to death by a mob of GOP Senators...

Holbrooke's Last Words

There's a metaphor for our foreign policy in there.  You find it.

Rumor has it that Richard Holbrooke's last words were, "You've got to end this war in Afghanistan."

Now, maybe he was talking to a Pakistani doctor, in which case everything I'm about to write is less germane.

I don't know if Afghanistan was ever fixable.  I do know it was never going to become Sweden.  Hell, it wasn't even likely to become as stable and prosperous as Colombia is today.

When we speak of nation building, we speak of a complicated process of assisting, nudging and nurturing existing beneficial institutions.

There were no beneficial institutions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  No respect for human rights, civil liberties or the rule of law.  None.

Without those three things, you cannot have a representative government that is worthy of the name.  You can have elections, you can dip fingers in purple ink, but ask the Iranians what happens when the will of the electorate clashes with the will of the state.  In the US, the will of the electorate becomes (more or less) the will of the state.  In Southwest Asia, the state exists separate from the people, where it exists at all.

This is, in large part, because oil allows the state to ignore the people as a source of revenue.  Once you start taxing people, you have to respond to their wishes.  Ask King John.  As for Afghanistan, they don't have oil, so corruption has taken its place, and drugs, too.

We are not going to fix that.  Not in two years, not in twenty.  We certainly aren't going to fix it with Predator strikes and seize and hold counterinsurgency tactics.  If anything, we will only make it harder for Afghans to take us seriously as people who want to help.  "Let me help you or I will blow up your wedding" is hardly the stance of an altruist.

Ultimately, the real damage of the Surge was not to the Sunni insurgency, it was to us.  It gave us back our sense of Exceptionalism, that we can do no wrong.  We did wrong in invading Iraq.  That country will need decades to recover, if it ever will.  I look in Iraq's future and see Lebanon on steroids.  But because we brought about a "peace of exhaustion" for a few months, doesn't mean Iraq is on its way to pluralism and stability.

We've had nine years in Afghanistan, and while we screwed that up by diverting our resources and attention to Iraq, we were unlikely to get anything more than a corrupt narco-state that will be a plaything of Pakistan's ISI.

Well, we have that.

Can we leave now?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Your Zombie Preparedness Tip

This week's zombie preparedness tip

I promised those confused web surfers who came here expecting to see bootleg clips from the Woody Harrelson movie of the same name that I would keep up to date on the latest zombie preparedness information.

Herewith is important information about how to choose a vehicle in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
http://ww2.zombieinitiative.org/node/273

And Now For Something Completely Different

Yes, please...

Now for some good news!

Bondad's blog has become my favorite place to read charts and graphs that I only dimly understand because my pre-Calc teacher was insane and I stopped learning math in 1983.

Anyway there's this.

He basically relays that most economists foresee steady growth next year.  In another post, he shows how some sectors of the economy (including - counter-intuitively - manufacturing) have rebounded quite nicely.  Right now basically retail, construction and state governments are the locus of unemployment.

He also notes that the recovery stalled to some degree over Greece and Ireland and continued worries about Spain and Portugal.  IF - and it's a big if - Europe is serious about keeping the Euro afloat, then they will have to keep Spain afloat and that means...PONIES FOR EVERYONE!

Well, if not a pony, then maybe a real recovery.  Without the benefit of fancy Bondadian math, I would presume you would look for retail to pick up first.  Construction is hurt by so much excess capacity that it will likely take longer.  State governments will be the real tell.  With it unlikely that the GOP House will approve any more aid to states, local governments will need to wait for tax receipts to pick up before they can rehire the clerks and public works people that they are either laying off or attritting.

Again, this would seem to suggest that the short term stimulus of the tax deal that Krugman worries will be over too fast, might be OK.

Well, That Was Fast

Judge Henry Hudson at work.

So, a conservative judge in Virginia just struck down the mandate in the HCR bill.  But remember, he's a conservative judge, so overturning the will of a duly elected legislature is NOT ACTIVISM because SHUT UP!

Now apparently he assumed severality (which wasn't in the bill because Obama forgot to use the bully pulpit for a single payer or something).  Severality means that he is only ruling the individual mandate unconstitutional, not the whole bill.  So most of the bill stands, but the mandate is gone.

Probably not, of course, this is one conservative judge in Virginia.  Eventually it will probably make it to the Supreme Court.  The argument that the commerce clause and the elastic clause don't apply here is a bit stretched.  Two other judges have ruled HCR constitutional.  If this was a three judge panel, he would have lost.

Where it really gets interesting is if somehow the mandate WERE to be killed by the Courts as legislative overreach.  Here's why:

As I mentioned (about an hour ago), the GOP basically exists to transfer wealth to the wealthy.  They exist to help, well, not business per se, but the people who own businesses.

And the health insurance industry NEEDS that mandate.

Without the mandate, the scenario would be that people would likely drop their insurance until they really needed it.  I can treat my own cold, but when I get diabetes, sign me up, Blue Cross!  Since insurance is pooled risk, you have to have a bunch of healthy people to pay for the ones who are sick.  The mandate insures that the pool is large enough to compensate for ending the odious practice of insurance companies dropping people who are actually sick.

So, the insurance industry needs the mandate like Ken Mehlman needs a man date.

But there are two wings to the GOP.  The corporatist wing and the confederate wing.  The confederate wing is still worried that the federal government might free their negroes  integrate their schools  interfere with markets.  It's all about states rights with these yahoos, because Mississippi is AWESOME, as long as you don't mind the illiteracy, teen pregnancies and high incidence of rickets.  Judge Hudson is clearly of the confederate variety, even if he sounds like a 17th century Dutch explorer.

Teabaggers are mostly the confederate GOP being bankrolled by anonymous donations from the corporate GOP.  This has worked for the corporate GOP in the past.  Since 1980, the GOP has been talking about abortion, but haven't really done anything about it.  Whatever gets the rubes to the polls.  They think they're voting to save the snowflake babies in the local in vitro clinic from the evils of curing Parkinsons, but in reality, they're voting to shave a few million off the Koch brothers' income tax.

Now, both sides are on a collision course.  The corporatists need the mandate to some degree.  The confederates hate it.  Most of the Federalist Society judges that the GOP has been cramming onto the bench are likely confederates, but there are enough corporatists to make the result in doubt.  Scalito's a confederate, but Roberts and Kennedy?

This will be interesting.

(Also, given how few of Obama's judges have gotten up or down votes in the Senate, THAT would be a good filibuster reform effort to address before the new Congress is seated.)

What Does the GOP Stand For?

The Base.

A few days ago (I think) I asked what Obama stood for.  After his press conference, I think I have a better idea.  He believes in government that does the most good for the most people.

But there was an exchange on MSNBC with Howard Dean this morning that underscores an important point, that Josh Marshall teased out well here.  Dean was explaining that the root of his opposition to the Obama tax deal was that tax cuts for the wealthy do not stimulate the economy but are terrible for the deficit.  And I agree.

The host seemed startled that progressives care about the deficit.  But Dean has always cared about long term deficits.  The host - Chris Jansing - was simply internalizing the idea that the Democratic party loved to run up big deficits, whereas the GOP was the party of fiscal discipline.

But that's objectively false.  The last GOP president to care about the deficit even a teensy-tiny bit was Bush 41, when he raised taxes.  Reagan barely cared.  Cheney said - falsely - that Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.

Marshall's right - and Obama said the same thing - that the GOP only cares about tax cuts, especially for the rich.  That is literally all they exist to do.  They don't have anything against a government program that will win them votes, look at Medicare Plan D.  But the new raison d'etre of the modern Republican party seems to be, "Let's run up huge deficits so that Democrats can't do what they want when they get into power."

Grover Norquist, GOP kingmaker, famously said he wanted to shrink government to the size where he could drown it in a bathtub.  But does anyone really think the GOP is worried about the size and obtrusiveness of the federal government?  They gave us warrantless wiretapping, Medicare Plan D and the Department of Homeland Security.  One of the more impassioned critics of the modern GOP is Ron Paul, a libertarian, for crying out loud.  That's how far through the looking glass we've gone.

And it's worth noting that the Teatards that are SO upset with a health care plan that is estimated to actually REDUCE the deficit were fine with all the Bush era power grabs.  And one of their main obsessions right now is to allow Arizona to become a modern day police state for people with high melanin content in their skin.

Now, having come into power, they have leveraged themselves to one purpose.  As Obama pointed out, the ONE thing they care about is tax cuts for the rich.  That's IT.

You're average Teabagger is fairly wealthy and older (and of course, melanin-deprived).  They don't care about "liberty".  They care about what they see as a redistribution of wealth.  And they see THEIR money going to THOSE people.  They see it SO clearly, that they even see it where it doesn't exist.  Ask a Teabagger whether his taxes went up or down under Obama, and he'll say they went up.  They went down, but he'll just say he knows what he knows.

The idea that Democrats practice wealth redistribution is not entirely inaccurate.  But the Republicans practice it, too.  They redistribute wealth upwards.  They stand in foursquare opposition to anything that might impinge upon the privileges and perquisites of the rich.  Health care reform?  The rich have health insurance, but wealthy insurance companies and for-profit hospitals stand to lose, so the GOP is against it.

This is why the failure to have this debate in September was SO maddening.  This is why I hope that Obama continues to portray the GOP as essentially captive to the idea of a massive transfer of wealth from everyone else to the very rich.  He makes  a piss-poor populist, but maybe the case needs to be made in his rather Vulcan-esque calm.  At every opportunity, the Democratic party needs to reinforce the idea that the GOP wants to bankrupt the country in order to provide tax cuts for people who don't need them.

Just because Obama is willing to compromise on it now, doesn't mean that he can't run on this issue in 2012.  At least, that's my only hope for this country.

Not to be melodramatic or anything.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Well. That's Interesting...

Fun with math.

A poster over at Balloon Juice noted something very interesting.


It has been 82 year since the GOP has elected a president where a Bush or Nixon was NOT on the ballot.


Eisenhower had Nixon as his VP.  Reagan had Bush Pere as his VP.


This came in response to David Gergen thinking that Jeb Bush would be the figure to unite the GOP and prevent the Palinalia in 2012.  As Matt Taibbi appropriately responded:   "Whew. I was already depressed this morning, but thinking about another Bush as the better-case scenario in an either/or political future makes me want to douse myself with kerosene and jump into a blast furnace."


The broader point that this shows the utter cluelessness of people like Gergen is an obvious one.  If there is anything to get the Democratic base to shift fire from Obama to the GOP it would be Palin or Bush on the opposing ticket.  Secondly, Jeb's wife is Mexican.  Now, the redneck contingent of the GOP can twist themselves into pretzels to justify any vote they want, but if there's a legit cracker running, too (Huckabee, Barbour, Palin) I wonder.  Plus, Jeb is much more like George 41.  Given that George 43 was being denounced as "not conservative enough" in the last days of his presidency (because as Digby points out: Conservatism never fails) I can't see Jeb being anymore than the punditocracy's little wet dream.


And that's not even addressing the Tea Party.


But it would be interesting to see how the Tea Party "anti-elitists" would swallow the son and brother of presidents being the nominee.  As usual, their principles would desert them, because in the end, anything to win.


But the hypocrisy would be fun (read: nauseating) to watch.