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, December 31, 2013

2013 Kind Of Sucked

Maybe the Mayans were right after all.

Or maybe that means 2014 will be awesome.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cleek's Rule

Cleek's Rule is that modern conservatives are most animated by hating whatever liberals are for.  Updated hourly.

This is example #899,082,772.

Friday, December 27, 2013


A few hours at Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza reminds me of why I was a Marxist as a kid.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cry Uncle

uncle (n) - an older male relative who has mastered the art of losing close games to children.

Friday, December 20, 2013


When I heard that many top western leaders were basically skipping Sochi, I wondered what the effect would be on Putin. Apparently, it was salutary.

There is a school of thought that the Olympics and World Cup can be used to prod recalcitrant regimes towards international norms. In China, not so much, unless you count their move towards some environmental responsibility.

But China is important globally, in a way that Russia still isn't, despite Putin's desire to return Russia to its former glory.

One does wonder how this is playing in Russia.  Since Putin's basic appeal is nationalism and Russian greatness, having to bow towards international pressure will have to be massaged.  There is always a danger in pushing Russia too far and too fast on anything.

Still, I would like to see at least one figure skater in a rainbow suit...

Thursday, December 19, 2013


With New Mexico joining the 21st century, by my account a third of Americans currently live in states that have legalized same sex marriage.  That does not include states like Colorado and Wisconsin that have civil unions and partnerships that figure to become the next states with legalized same sex marriage.

After that, the low hanging fruit is kind of gone.  You would need a major shift in the structure of power in the legislatures of Michigan and Pennsylvania for them to embrace equality.

Otherwise, it will come down - as it did in New Mexico - to the Courts, and eventually the Supreme Court will have to strike down DOMA.

Some day soon...

Mike Allen At #1 On The Hack List

I would have voted for Roger Cohen, but it's hard to argue with Pareene's logic.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gluttony Seems Low

America's awash in gluttony.

Man Of The Year

The two stories are linked.  Francis is committed to re-orienting the world's largest church towards service towards the poor.  That means getting out of people's bedrooms.

In the US this is a profoundly political act, as one party is dedicated to staying in people's bedrooms and one party is at least nominally interested in helping the poor.

The so-called "Reagan Democrats" of the Rust Belt were primarily ethnic Catholics.  They were attracted by the assaults on welfare and the anti-abortion stance of the Party of Reagan.  But they aren't quite as culturally conservative as Evangelicals.

Any defections from that group makes the Midwest effectively dead to the GOP.  Ohio and Wisconsin would drift away from battleground status.

Francis's message also resonates with Hispanic Catholics who have a greater connection to "Liberation Theology" than do American Catholics.  So while their Catholicism was a potential opportunity for the GOP among Hispanics, the fact is most Hispanics (especially Mexican Hispanics) are quite economically "liberal" and closer to Francis's view of the world.

So, go for it Rush.  Keep attacking Francis for being a Marxist.  Keep attacking the first Hispanic pope.  Keep f-ing that chicken.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hack LIst Is Out

Well, the first three anyway.

Do yourself a favor:



Is he lying or crazy?

At one freaking point does the DC press stop obsessing about Obama's selfies at a funeral and start noticing that the GOP are insane.

It's nice, and all, that Eddie Munster and Mrs Van Landingham got together and passed a budget agreement.  That budget is still largely a GOP win, because it continues to hurt poor people and the unemployed.  And that seems to be their main priority at this point, judging by their actions.

But if they are going to pass a budget and THEN TURN AROUND AND HOLD THE DEBT CEILING HOSTAGE, then they are freaking insane.  If you authorize the damned budget, then you raise the debt ceiling to pay for it.

Among the very first things a new Democratic House should do is remove the idea of the debt ceiling from the budgetary process.  If Congress approves a budget, then the Treasury is automatically granted the power to raise the debt ceiling to pay for it.

These torch wielding nihilists just boggle the mind.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


We went to see The Hobbit today, and it was very entertaining.  It's a rip-roaring tale - though I don't recall the book being that way.  It may have been Tolkein's English reticence.

Anyway, while it's very good, there is very little space for acting in it.  There were a few such moment in Lord of the Rings, mostly in the relationship between Frodo and Sam, and the way Aragorn was torn over his destiny.  And of course, Ian McKellan is wonderful.

But The Hobbit seemed to crowd out those moments.

I was thinking of this in relationship to the death of Peter O'Toole.  The sort of movies he made - with the exception of Lawrence of Arabia - rarely get made today.  The sort of idiosyncratic stuff like The Ruling Class just don't make it into theaters.  While TV has picked up some of the slack, it would be nice to see some sort of venue for great acting.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Failure Of Democracy

Great piece by Eric Boehlert and Booman, but I think it eventually comes back to a failure of democracy.  The GOP is not held accountable for its actions, because of money, because of gerrymandering and because of a DC press that can't see the forest for the trees.

But ultimately, it is the institutions of democracy that have been corroded and left wanting.

In Memorium

Not My Preferred Ally

While I am not a fan of overrated hack M. Night Shamalamadingdong's recent movies, he does make a very good point and one that needs to be repeated.

The public schools in this country are great.  As long as you are affluent or even middle class.  If you are poor - especially inner city poor - then they don't work.

And all the Michelle Rhees in the world aren't worth anything but a little more smug self-satisfaction, if you don't address the issues of poverty and the social ills that accompany poverty.

Here is the nut 'graph.
And what's interesting is, we always think about Finland, right? Well, Finland, obviously, is mainly white kids, right? They teach their white kids really well. But guess what, we teach our white kids even better. We beat everyone. Our white kids are getting taught the best public-school education on the planet. Those are the facts. 
Which means if you take the suburban, well-off white kids out of the picture and you now then just take the inner-city, mostly minority schools ... 
We're probably at the bare bottom, I imagine, because you can see the United States has education apartheid. 
Education apartheid.  That's a bit harsh, but it gets to the point that we have two separate systems.  And when students come into a school at age 5 or 6 already stressed beyond belief by the circumstances of being poor, having one parent, having one parents who is an addict... That's not something the schools can fix.

There are some other interesting ideas.  I urge you to click through.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wha Happened?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
I disappear down the work hole for a few hours and the government starts functioning again.

Apparently Eddie Munster and Mrs. Van Landingham got together and saved the economy from the crap that Congress did to it in the first place.

The interesting thing will be if the Senate decides to add Unemployment Insurance extensions to the bill.  What might the House do then?

If This Is The Death Of Journalism, It Didn't Come Soon Enough


I mean.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Booman Lowers The Boomstick

I'll just repost in full:

Whether you are making it or viewing it, there's not much that is more morally depraved than child pornography. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is now linked to child pornography through his chief of staff. I'm sure Sen. Alexander is surprised and disgusted to discover that his chief aide is a debased degenerate scoundrel, but it comes as no big surprise to me. The entire conservative movement is rife with tax-cheats, sexual deviants, grifters, and sociopaths who put personal gain before any societal or even social benefit. If you put 12 conservatives in a room, you'll find one person who dumps chemicals in the watershed, another that scolds people about the sanctity of marriage while dressing up in diapers as a prostitute spanks him, another who hires undocumented workers to mow his lawn and babysit his children, another that takes money from Big Oil to deny climate change, another that commits legalized usury, another that commits tax fraud, another that writes pseudonymously for a white supremacist website, and so on.

This is the norm in the conservative movement because it doesn't attract well-adjusted people. It is an ideology about self, not about collective action. It exists to allow the individual to live outside of the rules and to evade any responsibility to other human beings. They call this liberty, but it is just a cover to let them go on stealing, profiteering, polluting, gouging, and cheating.

You can probably go into any Republican senator's office and find someone on their staff who has secrets that will shock you. They wouldn't be working for a Republican officeholder if they weren't half a sociopath to begin with.

I didn't used to have such a dismal opinion of conservatives, but long experience and close attention have disabused me of the idea that they are just people who have different opinions about stuff. That might be true for most of the voters, but the people who are running the Modern Conservative Movement are just not good people. They cannot be trusted on any level, from running the government to watching your children to leaving you alone in an airport bathroom.
Sorry, Lamar, but these are the circles you run in.

John Robert's Poison Pill

When the Supreme Court ruled the ACA constitutional, Roberts did strike down the required expansion of Medicaid at the state level.  It was widely seen as a curious decision, considering he left the rest of the bill intact.  The "controversial" individual mandate was ruled okey dokey but the expansion of Medicaid was not.

With the benefit of hindsight, it looks like Roberts allowed the law to pass, but also allowed GOP governors to really sabotage the law.  The lack of expansion of Medicaid is having a truly profound effect on the rollout of Obamacare.  The only bigger problem has been the lack of state exchanges.  In just about every state with their own exchanges and Medicaid expansion, the rollout has been pretty smooth.  Kentucky obviously stands out as an example of a "red" state with a Democratic governor who has made Obamacare work really well in the rollout phase.

Dylan Scott outlines the next states that might opt in to the Medicaid expansion.  The fact is that NOT enrolling in the Medicaid expansion is truly awful public policy at the state level.  It is a level of stupid that resides somewhere on the absolute scale of stupid between Louie Gohmert and sticking your tongue in an electrical socket to see what electricity tastes like.

To summarize: Florida would be a huge gain for ACA, but the House leader there is trying to demagogue his way to higher office and sees opposing ACA as a ticket out of Tallahassee (and who can blame him for wanting to leave?).

Virginia just elected Terry McAuliffe, who ran heavily on Medicaid expansion.  But the legislature is still controlled by the GOP.

New Hampshire has a GOP Senate holding back the expansion, but it could be close.  Of course, it's New Hampshire - a small New England state with a relatively small population that would benefit from the expansion.

North Carolina is having a numbers crunch that might force them to take up the expansion just to balance their books.

Maine has a governor so dumb and mean, he's considered a bio-hazard in most developed countries.  The legislature could override his veto.

Iowa just got approval from HHS to do a hybrid form of expansion, and it could be that other red states follow suit.

But not enough is being made about the fact that the GOP - as a national party - is actively denying health insurance to millions of America because they just don't like the idea of the government providing health insurance.  Not because of fiscal reasons, expansion is a great deal for the states.  Simply for ideological reasons.

That's twisted.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Popcorn Time!

Steve Stockman is batshit insane.  He is Louie Gohmert's eviler twin.

If he wins the nomination (and Bevin knocks off McConnell) then the GOP will have lost its top two leaders to a pair of Tea Party lunatics.

I think Bevin beating McConnell throws the race to Grimes.

But there needs to be a credible Democratic challenger.  What's Julian Castro up to these days?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Third Way

I have no idea what the Third Way thinks it's doing.

The DLC/Third Way trend made sense back when the Democrats needed to change their message to win national elections.  But post-Iraq, post-recession, the Democrats have the more popular message.  Not to mention if the Third Way wants to influence Democrats, dismissing arguably the most popular voice in the Democratic party right now is not going to win them many friends.

Democrats very much should be as pro-business as they can be.  But being pro-millionaires is less of a winning message for them.  Hiking the Social Security tax to pay for more benefits is a winner both politically and on policy grounds.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I've been coaching wrestling for about 20 years now.

You'd think after all this time, I'd have learned better...

Friday, December 6, 2013

This Is Good

Close Enough

Less than 24 hours and we have Rick "Santorum" comparing the fight to free a people and a nation from the moral stain of apartheid to the GOP's struggle to prevent Americans from buying affordable health insurance.

I made the mistake of wandering into the Yahoo! comments section below the story of Mandela's death.  It was vile.  Mandela was a terrorist!  Except he wasn't a "terrorist" so much as he was an insurgent.  While there were terrorists within the ANC, Mandela focused his resistance to sabotage more than violence and violence was focused on governmental facilities.

But Reagan and Jesse Helms thought he was a terrorist - probably because he was once a Marxist and because, you know...

Mandela's struggle against apartheid can be dismissed by these ignorant yabos, because they don't seem to understand the brutality of Sharpesville, or any of the daily acts of violence that occurred under the apartheid regime.  What has always been Mandela's moral power has been how he transcended the treatment he received at the hands of the state.

Moral transcendence is incredibly rare.  I remember reading how Warrick Dunn came to know and regularly visit the man who killed his mother.

I can't begin to imagine what sort of strength that must take.

But those who dismiss Mandela as a "terrorist" don't even want to try.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


How long before Fox News starts telling us that Nelson Mandela was really a conservative?

What an amazing life.

I've been reading about Stoicism, because I greatly admire the idea that the world makes sense, but you have to take it as it comes to you, rather than lust after some idealized version of the world that doesn't exist.

But you sure have to admire it when a single man changes a country and indeed the world.

God Bless...


Pierce is right.  It's time to hang this group of corporate stooges around the neck of every Republican in the country.

In Pierce's words:

Nobody has any excuse any longer. Reporters -- local and national -- no longer have any excuse to treat ALEC and its work product as anything more than corporate-funded propaganda designed to exist outside the imperatives of democratic self-government.

Yeah... THAT!

This Is A Former Student Of Mine

I take no responsibility, but I'm happy he has a job, I guess.

Certainly he will never run out of work to do...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

12 Years A Slave Redux

Chait talks about the resonance of that powerful film with today's politics.

Also, I assigned the movie over break and the male students "thought it would be worse" while the female students found it profoundly unsettling.  Primarily because - as Chait notes - it is the psychological terror of slavery as depicted in the movie that is so disturbing.  And teenage boys don't really do psychological stuff.

Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please

All I want for Christmas is a Steve King led impeachment of President Obama.

Left, Left, Left, Right, Left

Booman touches on the single most important thing that currently holds "the Left" together: a reverence for data and truth.

For instance, I was not opposed to a limited Syrian intervention, because I based my position on the Libyan intervention.  Most on the Left compared it to Iraq.  But advocates on the Right tended not to tether their support for a Syrian intervention to anything of factual substance.  It was all about "credibility" and other forms of militarist dick measuring.  The debate on the Left was based more on what would work and what wouldn't.

Similarly, when Ezra Klein lambasted, he did so because objectively the site didn't work.  Now it works well enough to get a huge thumbs up from the noted Marxists at Consumer Reports.  Klein remains concerned - as does everyone invested in the law working - that the so called 483 issues on the insurer's end are remedied.  Meanwhile, the GOP was ginning up outrage that the health care navigators were actually identity thieves out trying to scam you.

New Black Panthers.  Acorn.  Death panels.  WMD.  Benghazi.

Objective reality is not without its subjectivity (see the Syria debate).  But it is baffling to me that anyone with a functioning relationship with reality can support a political party that has lashed itself to the mast of the good ship Palinism, with Darrel Issa at the helm.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Your Daily Obamacare Horror Story

Just read it...

Devilish Details

Patty Murray and the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver have apparently reached a tentative agreement on a budget that might rollback part of the Sequester.

The Sequester was designed to hit social services first, then hit the military.  That second part is coming into play now and everyone is freaking the hell out.  Except the Tea Party, because they are morons.

So there is a concerted effort to do "something" to ameliorate that coming evisceration.

But before everyone gets together to sign the bi-partisan kumbaya, we should see the details first.  We should see what spending is restored.  We clearly won't see any meaningful new revenues, but whatever.  The important thing is that we end some of the harmful effects of sequestration.

But even if it's a decent deal, it will have to pass the House.

And those sons of bitches are CRAZY.

I've Been A Bad Blogger

Much travel, little sleep.  Like a Frost poem.

I'll try to be better and more consistent, which has always been my goal.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Walking Dead Midseason Finale Liveblog

Watching last week's episode - The Re-Triumph of the Governor - and I have to say, I'm back to being ambivalent about the Governor's return.  Great episode, watching him bounce back from being Brian to being the Governor.  But the arc was probably too fast.  He kills Martinez for offering him a share of the crown and then grabs it himself five minutes later.

Basically the second half of this mid-season has been setting up a renewed clash between the Governor and the Group.  Interestingly, it was not the Governor feeding the Walkers.
How do you capture Michonne?

I call bullshit.
Now we know why they call him the Governor. Silver tongued sociopath.

Lily is the new Andrea.

That little scene between Herschel and the Governor is maybe the best 30 seconds of the show.
Is there any "Brian" left?  Or is it all Governor?

So, Glenn and Maggie... They still alive?

BTW, I don't think Glenn will be that happy the Governor is still alive.

And, at last, the confrontation between Rick and Daryl.  And at this moment, the Gov returns.  Nice structure.

Does anyone notice that Herschel and Michonne have been missing for a day?

Hmm, the psychopath on the inside... still guessing that it's that crazy girl.
Governor leaves the only thing he cares about alone?  Brilliant.

Yeah, saw that coming...
Psycho Carl is back.  Maybe Carl is the Interior Psychopath?  Nah.

Yeah, as soon as Herschel smiled, you knew he was a dead man.

Sin begets sin.  The Governor has become irredeemably lost.

Wow.  Big finale to the half-season...
Typical Walking Dead.  They can hit a Walker between the eyes, but can't hit human center mass.

Nice body count.

I was expecting Michonne to be the one...



Judith?  Messed up.  Messed up.

Lily with the coup de grace?  Nice.

Wow, Clara?  Wow.

That was a great episode.

Nice to see they haven't lost their storytelling chops with all the turnover on the show.

Racism Is Over, It Was Always Over

Except of course that it's not over.

At some point, most of American politics comes back to race: crime, education, poverty... it eventually comes back to race, with African Americans being the primary ethnic group.  But you can throw Native Americans, Asians and Hispanics in there, too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I am sitting on a balcony, 60 feet above the rainforest floor, trying to figure out what type of monkey is trashing around in the tree 20 yards from where I'm sitting and typing this.  Because my parents are incredibly generous and also I don't work for Walmart.

So many things to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No Easy Answers

Costa Rica has 97% literacy.  Their largest export if computer chips.  They have universal health care.  They have a thriving tourist industry.  They have no military to spend millions of dollars on.

Yet every time I look out the window, I see tiny little houses and shanties.

By my reckoning, they are doing just about everything right, but I'm having trouble seeing how the progress that is being made reaches the vast majority of the people.

No easy answers, indeed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb. Bomb, Bomb Iran

Few things  - economics maybe - are more pointless to take a politician's expertise for granted on than foreign policy.

If John McCain (R-Meet the Press) doesn't like the Iran deal, that is simply a vote in it's favor in my book.

Or, as always, what Booman says:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013


It is striking to me that Kennedy grades out as the most popular president of the last 50 years.

He beats out Reagan and Clinton, who both finished strong.

It's striking to me because Kennedy did jack squat as President. He nearly got us into nuclear war over Cuba, after a botched Bay of Pigs fiasco pushed Castro into Kruschev's waiting arms.  He was reticent to embrace civil rights.  He failed to advance almost any of his agenda.

It was LBJ who passed the Kennedy agenda, skillfully using the martyred Kennedy as a whip to get Congress into line.

Kennedy was handsome, but mostly he died young.  He is associated fuzzily with idealism and public service.  It would be interesting to see how many people could name a true Kennedy accomplishment - a concrete thing he did as president.

Meanwhile, LBJ and Obama actually achieved remarkable advances, but LBJ will be condemned for his Vietnam mistake and Obama will perhaps need time to rehabilitate him.

But mostly, this is a victory of high style over substance.

Don't get me wrong.  Kennedy is important.  But it's his death and the way LBJ used that death to pass a sweeping agenda that is important.  Not what JFK did himself.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harry Reid Is From Nevada, He Knows Nuclear

So the Senate just invoked the "nuclear option" to end filibusters of judicial nominees.

I realize that this could lead to problems should the GOP regain the White House or the Senate.

But I think it was pretty obvious that if that DID happen, the GOP would, itself, invoke the nuclear option.  Providing, of course, that the Democrats engaged in the unprecedented obstruction of otherwise qualified nominees.

If anything, it puts the focus where it should be: elections have consequences for the Courts.  So vote, people.

Outsourcing Thursday

Paul Ryan is back.  And the target on his back is bigger than ever.

Read them all.

Then lie down and take a nap.  You've earned it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

George Zimmerman

So, yeah.  Who could have predicted that he would turn out to be pretty much a violent sociopath?  Besides everyone who wasn't invested somehow in hippie-punching people who thought it was awful that Trayvon Martin was killed for possession of Skittle and a hoodie.

And as the Creigh Deeds story reminds us, too, the only thing America has more of than crazy people are weapons.


UPDATE:  Never write on the same topic as TNC:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fundamentals Vs Personality

The GOP outreach to women.

During the 2008 and 2012 elections, colleagues would sidle up to me and ask nervously: "Can Obama really win?"  And I would always nod and say, "Yes. And it won't really be that close."

Some of this was shell-shock from 2000 and even 2004.  Gore should have been elected and Kerry almost was.  Having elections ripped from their hands seemed the inevitable lot of Democrats, despite the manifest incompetence of C+ Augustus and Darth Cheney.

The piece above notes how the DC press tends to ascribe campaigns to personality.  And certainly in a close election, the personality of the candidate makes a difference.  But there is a certain post hoc analysis that ascribes political defeats to the candidate's personality rather than the underlying fundamentals.  Gore was wooden (but there was also a sense of fatigue with Clinton, and Gore got half a million more votes).  Kerry was stiff (but incumbents almost always win, and Bush's margin of re-election was the smallest since Woodrow Wilson).

The only personality piece that really moves the needle is scandal.  Otherwise, you are looking at broad trends and demographics.

The TPM piece talks about the trends (the economy foremost), but it leaves out demographics.  There are certain demographic truths about the American electorate right now.  Republicans are going to get killed among non-Cuban Hispanics and slaughtered among African Americans.  There is no "game change" that is going to alter that reality. At this point, the vocal nativism and racism that exists in the Tea Party and even the mainstream GOP has rendered those votes beyond the reach of the Republicans.  The votes of young women are also going to be very hard for the GOP to reach, especially if they can't seem to shut up about rape and sluts who need contraception.

On the converse side, there are huge swaths of white rural and exurban voters who would open a vein rather than vote for a Democrat.

One fundamental that was also omitted is the trend of locking in party identification.  Once you start voting consistently for one party, you tend to keep voting for that party.  It becomes part of your political identity.  Every once in a while, a group flips.  African Americans switched from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of FDR.  Southern Democrats switched from the Party of Jackson to the Party of Reagan.

But at the moment, the trends favor the Democrats at the national level and they will continue to favor the Democrats, absent a scandal.

As far as 2016 goes, I could see some fatigue for a Democratic White House.  But I could also see a lot of energy for having our first female President.  Hillary will likely run, and if she runs, she wins the nomination and wins the election.  Again, absent scandal or the collapse of the economy.

The Mark Halperin's of the world represent the worst and most superficial analysis of the punditry, and they should only be paid attention to for the purposes of mocking them.

(BTW, I'm sure Halperin would have panned the Gettysburg Address, too.  All the smart DC writers did.)

UPDATE: Paul Begala writes something similar, though I wish everyone would quit saying things like "calamitous" to describe the ACA or "near impossible" to access the website.  It's not "near impossible".  It's a hassle. That's all.  It's a time consuming hassle.  That is not a calamity.  Tornadoes and typhoons are calamities.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Might Want To Look Into This

The website is glitchy, but getting much better.

If your health care plan sucks, you won't be able to keep it.

But the central biggest factor in the struggles of the law - why the website is glitchy having to cover so many constituencies, why a throw-away political line has become a national outrage - is because the GOP is doing everything it can to destroy this law.

If we had a functioning press corps, we might be having a discussion as to why we should believe anything the GOP says about the law.  If we had a functioning press corps, we might be asking why GOP governors want their citizens to be without health insurance.

But we don't.


This is the reality.  For all the talk about "disaster" and "debacle", the fact is the ACA is rolling right along with a lot of its reforms.  The desperation that the GOP feels is that by the time 2016 rolls around, ACA will be impossible to get rid of.  Hell, by March or April, it will likely be hard to get rid of.

Any jackass can tear something down.  It takes a man to build something.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Walking Dead Liveblog

The return of the Governor.  I guess this was inevitable.  Still, I'd have liked to have developed some other storylines.

OK, after that opening, I'm glad to see the Governor back.
Wow, he really seems to be doing some sort of penance.

Or maybe he's paranoid.

The Gov was always so hard to read, that's working great now.

The family in the apartment definitely begs the question about how many small survivor groups might be out there.

And it occurs to me the Governor's presence explains why all those Walkers showed up at the fence.
Have you noticed that most of the women to survive the apocalypse are kind of hot?

It's kind of weird rooting for the Governor.
First aid as foreplay.  Romance at the end of the world.

Well.  This is a pretty interesting episode as a stand alone, but I wonder how we get back to the prison.
Nice chess metaphor.

How did these schlubs survive this long?

Ahhhhh, that's how the Governor comes back...

Or maybe not.  But somehow we have to go from little tamed Brian to the rage filled Governor again.
Road trip!  And a little sexual tension between the sisters, methinks.

OK, that was awfully gross.

Solid episode.  Got us out of the prison and reintroduced the perils of the road.

12 Years A Slave

(Somehow missed posting yesterday... sorry.)
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender

I went with Gentleman Jim and the Most Lovely and Compassionate Wife to see 12 Years A Slave.
It is a difficult experience to encapsulate.  My poor wife could only stay 40 minutes before she had to leave.

It is easy to fall back on talking about craft.  So, I'll start there.  This is a very, very well made movie.  The director, Steve McQueen (I know), does not force the pace of the story.  Scenes unfold slowly, recreating the pace of 19th century life and the interminable, permanent nature of slavery.  There is a devastating scene of Solomon staring into the distance, staring into the camera and then off into the distance again.  That's it.  But it plays out over about 90 seconds (an eternity on film) and leaves you feeling helpless in the face of his despair.

Chiwetel Ejiofar has always been a tremendous film actor that no one knows about.  His performance has a gravity that makes the entire film work.  When a bona fide movie star (and the film's producer) shows up in Brad Pitt, he seems a faded, pale thing next to Ejiofor's Solomon.

This is the American Schindler's List.

That movie is obviously hard to watch, and so is 12 Years, because they both are grounded in an historical reality that reveals the brutishness possible in human behavior.  Where 12 Years varies from Schindler's List is in the choices made by the director and writer.

Spielberg, being Spielberg, gives a faint glimmer of hope to Oskar Schindler.  In the face of incomprehensible horror, Schindler risks his life and expends his fortune to save people's lives.  So while the movie soaks in the blood and ash of the Holocaust, it ultimately redeems humanity in the form of a flawed man who embraces the good in him.

McQueen does not give us that respite.  He does not end with the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox or the passage of the 13th Amendment.  Spielberg would have, or he would have shown us Solomon Northup's current descendants.  McQueen gives us as happy an ending as possible, but one so melancholy and fraught with loss that it only seems happy in compared with the extended, grinding misery of the preceding two hours.

I read someone wondering if an American could have made this film.  Probably.  But an American could not have played slave owner Edwin Epps.  Ironically, the actor - Michael Fassbender - was born in Germany.  He embraces the sadism and debauchery of Epps in a way that is both artistically brave and makes you worry how you come back from playing a role like that.  If we make the obvious comparison to Ralph Fiennes' Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, what we see in Epps is more human than the cold, emotionless Goeth and therefore oddly more terrifying.  With Goeth there was a logic in random violence, it was used for control.  With Epps, the violence is unpredictable and mercurial, a product of his own delusions and emotional imbalance.

Epps is the personification of American sin.  He is the slaveholder from hell.  The movie does not engage in polemics: it does show a kindly slave owner in Benedict Cumberbatch's Ford.  There is another slave owner - Master Shaw - whose plantation seems an idyll compared to Epps'.

But it is precisely this relative compassion that shows the horror and waste of slavery.  When Solomon works for Ford, he uses his intelligence and experience to increase the efficiency and yield of Ford's lumber business.  Ford is impressed, but his overseer - a dim and vicious Paul Dano - is threatened.  Since slavery depends on the idea of white supremacy, Solomon's intelligence and ability are a threat to the one thing that makes Dano's overseer's life palatable: his racial superiority.  Slavery requires that blacks be brutes.  Any glimmer of humanity must be crushed.  Solomon's decision to be exceptional directly leads to his chastisement, debasement and torture.  From there on out, he has to hide his abilities.

Before the Civil War, roughly a third of the Southern population were enslaved blacks, in the cotton belt is was closer to 50%.  That population was kept ignorant and any effort to express their humanity beyond the infantile, the sexual or the musical was crushed.

That is the crime of slavery that the film hammers home.  There is a scene where slaves are being auctioned that shows how they were reduced to livestock, which was pretty much their legal status.  For all the beneficence of a master like Ford, the system itself was degrading.  And as the Epps character shows, that degradation happened to whites as well as blacks.  The scenes of sexual predation and the destruction of families are sickening.

There is no let up in this movie.  Like slavery itself, it is "All night, all night forever".   The decision not to leaven the movie with humor or love makes it hard to watch.  I'm not sure I took a full, deep breath during the last hour of the movie.  And when I did at the very end, it was mixed with trembling sobs.

Spielberg's historical epics have been derisively called "broccoli movies" - they are good for you, but bland.  I'm not sure what to call 12 Years A Slave.  It is a harsh, harsh medicine - a purgative perhaps - not even as enjoyable as eating your broccoli.

But it's an essential experience.  It has to be seen.  But sadly, it has to be seen especially by those who will never see it.  This is a horror movie where the monsters are the great-great grandfathers of audience members.  That central fact flies in the face of the lies we tell ourselves about our country's past.

If the truth sets Solomon free in the end, then we must embrace that truth about ourselves and our history to free ourselves, too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The ACA Website Fix

A bunch of code writers did something incredibly smart and easy.  It's called

Basically, what it seems to do is allow you to shop for plans.

This basic failure of the ACA Website is the worst failure it has.

Now actually signing up for health insurance through the website is - and probably ought to be - really thorough.  And thorough means slow.  They have to verify your income, your marital status, your residency, what kind of care you may qualify for from the VA or other government entities... there's a lot going on.

But one thing you should be able to do is sign on, give your zip code and compare prices.  I entered a zip code for Austin, Texas (Connecticut has set up an exchange that works outside the ACA website), entered the number of people in my family, the fact that I wanted a Silver level plan and it gave me the four prices per month for health insurance in Texas for me and my family.

Now, the one thing it doesn't do is describe the plans in detail.  I'd call that a glitch, frankly.

But it can tell your VERY FAST what plans are available and at what cost.

And some guys threw this together in a few days.

The fact that no one thought, "Hey, we should have a shopping website and a separate buying website." is mind-boggling.

Some Friday Awesome Awesomeness.

San Francisco values?  Yeah, I'll take them every day and twice on Sunday.  This is tremendous.

And if you like your awesome awesomeness with a little cynicism, I give you this:

JP Morgan was going to go on Twitter and answer questions.  Here are some of the questions:

Can I have my house back?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Inside The Borg

Rick Perlstein is the pre-eminent historian of the modern American Right.

He is fundamentally right about where it's coming from, how it operates and how it succeeds.

The current meltdown over ACA is caused by the nullification of the law by Rightist governors.  Obviously not entirely, but the website has to handle more traffic with more variable because state governors didn't set up exchanges.  One of the real successes early on has been Medicaid enrollment, but that isn't happening in states where the governor - with an assist from the Roberts Court - has stopped the Medicaid expansion.  The GOP is hellbent on neutering this law, and that is having an effect.

Politically, the Right is winning right now.

What they are not doing is offering a governing solution that addresses our health care deficiencies.  What they are not doing is offering a roadmap out of sequestration.  What they are not doing is solving our immigration quandary.

It's a fairly long read (try reading Nixonland), but Perlstein lays out that the animus against Obama is nothing new.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Good Analysis

Marshall is right that the current problems with Obamacare are political more than substantive.  Because of the crappy website and the confusion over who gets to keep their current plan and who doesn't, who wins and who loses, the genuine good news does not get reported.

While we don't know the number of people who will have to pay more out of pocket for insurance they don't need, we know the number is relatively small.  We also know that the breakdown in accessing the website means that some people who have existing policies are being pushed into expensive roll-over policies rather than shopping the exchanges, where they can find cheaper, better plans.

My guess is that the Congressional Democrats might coalesce around a Senate plan like Landrieu's.  Maybe it can be filibustered, but I bet it comes to a vote and passes, depending on Republican support.  Will Ted Cruz vote for a way to weaken the bill if it appears to be a chance to try and strengthen it?

But Obama will have to veto it.  The system needs everyone on board.  At most you could do a six-month delay, but that starts to push people into the mid-term elections.

Take your medicine now, as it were.

More On Cohen

TNC is the best writer on race in America today and you should really read this.

Can We Just Euthanize The WaPo?

Cilizza is occasionally a decent analyst, but his thinking here is premised on a fundamental flaw.

He notes that Obama put together a winning coalition of minorities and the young in 2008 and 2012, but he then makes a spurious conclusion about 2010: that his coalition didn't come out to vote when he wasn't on the ticket.

This is not a problem unique to Obama.  The constituencies most likely to vote Democratic tend to be absent in midterm elections.  This is the biggest structural defect that Democrats face: their voters tend to only consistently vote in presidential elections.

I think, though, that Obama's campaign apparatus has realized that they have to motivate voters more consistently.  I expect higher turnout from those groups in 2014.  Probably not enough to flip the House, but enough to hold the Senate.

But Cilizza relies too much on a single poll to draw his conclusions.  There is another poll that shows a collapse in Obama's approval rating.  That may very well be the case, but it would be nice to see another data point.

Another factor is that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, you can expect the gender gap to widen.  There are plenty of "culturally southern" white women who will vote for Hillary, who would never vote for Obama.  Pair her up against a loud mouth like Christie or Cruz and that number will only increase.

A final factor is... whatever.  Does anyone really think polling numbers in 2013 tell us ANYTHING about the election of 2016?

The structural advantage the Democrats have is that the Democrats have safely banked about 253 of the needed 270 electoral votes.  And that's not giving them Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida or Virginia.  That doesn't account for the fact that the GOP's prime demographic - old white people - is... how shall I say this... shrinking every year.

Nor does it account for the fact that the GOP continues to go out of its way to alienate blacks, Hispanics and the young.

So, yeah, Hillary probably beats Christie.

But making that conclusion based on a single poll and some faulty historical reasoning is pretty lazy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The WaPo

The first thing that the new owner of the Washington Post needs to do is fire everyone who writes for their Op-Ed page.  And I would include EJ Dionne and Eugene Robinson.

And then they would have to write a compelling argument for their being re-hired.

Richard Cohen has been an embarrassment for years.  Maybe not as much as torture-apologist Mark Thiessen, but he's been laughably bad.

Promote Ezra Klein from the blog page.  Hire David Frum.

But get some of these fossils under ground where they belong.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Zombie Lies

Since last night I was unable to liveblog The Walking Dead for the zeroes of people who read it, I thought I would deal with zombie lies instead.  And the current exemplar of zombie lies right now is Benghazi.  And the current hullabaloo is about the 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that was based on a liar who was trying to sell a book.

I am not enough of an authority on journalistic standards to know if Josh Marshall is right, but this sure seems like an accurate take on what's wrong with this reporting.  There is also the problem of Logan's admitted bias on the issue of Benghazi.

So, Logan thinks like a right wing war blogger (though to her relative credit, she is actively engaged in these war zones, unlike war bloggers), and she produces a segment for 60 Minutes that had numerous red flags before airing.  Those red flags turn out to be accurate, and Logan runs a bogus report that fans the flames of Benghazi-mania.

Back when Dan Rather ran his piece on Bush's military service for 60 Minutes, and that report turned out to be false, Dan Rather - who had a storied career as a reporter and anchor - lost his job.  The current leadership at CBS doesn't think that they will pay a price.  Here is the quote from the New York Times:

Overall, cries of “conservative bias” are not nearly as resonant as cries of “liberal bias” were in 2004, and conservative media outlets have largely ignored the CBS retraction in recent days. For those reasons, among others, “60 Minutes” is unlikely to take as severe a hit as “60 Minutes II,” the spinoff program that showed Mr. Rather’s National Guard report, took in 2004....But the staff members also agreed that the program would be helped by that absence of a cause to inflame right-wing media voices, as well as by the belated effort to apologize.

This, to me, ties into the other big story these days: the Obamacare rollout.  The adjectives most used to describe the website and "You can keep your plan" are "disastrous," "catastrophic," and "horrible."  Partly, this is because "liberal" outlets like Ezra Klein and Jon Chait have been very upfront about the problems the website, in particular, are having.

In some ways, what you are seeing is the different relationships to the truth that currently typifies the liberal and conservative spheres in the US right now.

"Liberal" voices like Klein, Chait and Nate Silver are trying to report the truth.  The website was a mess and very slow.  But it's getting better, and they are reporting as such.  And states that set up their own exchanges and accepted the Medicaid extensions are doing great.  But the only story that resonates is "the website is a disaster".  Because here we have Ezra Klein agreeing with George Will, so it must be true.  And since conservatives and liberals can't agree on the color of the sky most days, the fact that everyone agrees that ACA is a "disaster" (when that's not really what Klein and Chait are saying) allows the media to report a story without engaging in the political act of determining what the actual truth is.

Meanwhile, the Benghazi story - reported by a reporter with strong neo-con foreign policy leanings - is an outright act of fabrication.  But 60 Minutes issued a weak-ass apology, which they think will suffice, because the left - broadly speaking - does not engage in the sort of brow beating of the media that the right does.

Liberals want a better press corps that tries to figure out what is factual and true.  Logan didn't do the basic background work on her source, because she wanted his story to be true.  And conservatives have routinely preferred news outlets - like Fox - and stories that they want to be true, rather than are accurate.

Don't believe me?  Well, aside from Benghazi, how about the unskewed polls of 2012?  How about the routine assertions during the shutdown that the American people supported the GOP, when every poll showed very much the opposite?  How about Karl Rove's meltdown on election night?  How about the assertion that Cuccinelli nearly won because he started to attack ACA, when exit polls show no such thing?

Part of the rage on the right these days is caused - I believe - by the cognitive dissonance created by the disconnect between what the right wing tells itself is true and accurate, and what is actually true and accurate.  This morning, John Boehner said he would refuse to hold a vote on ENDA because jobs... lawsuits...blahblahblah.  He's lived inside the Bullshitosphere for so long, he may actually believe that.  And they he'll be shocked that Millenials are turning their back on the GOP.  Must be voter fraud!

And the reason the right wing can exist in this bubble is largely because they have spent 20 years mau-mauing the press.  And Dan Rather's scalp was their greatest trophy.

The question for the left is: do we want Lara Logan's scalp?  CBS seems to think that we won't pitch a fit.  60 Minutes is a great show; they do fine work most of the time, and Logan issued a "correction" - weak as it was - and liberals relationship to the press is different from conservatives.  We are exasperated by the media's failings, whereas conservatives are outraged by the idea of a liberal bias that doesn't report their preferred vision of the world.

Part of me thinks Logan should be fired.  She's become a hack.  But I don't want to create a world where liberals only accept their preferred vision of reality, unless that preferred vision is one where the media reports what is true and accurate instead of what is "balanced".

But when I read a lot of liberal blogs, they seem to think Bill DeBlasio could be elected governor of Iowa.

The most important thing I teach my students is not the passage of the Compromise of 1850 or the co-optation practices of the PRI.  I teach them (or try to) how to make arguments supported by evidence.

Lara Logan didn't do that.  She based her argument on lies, not evidence.  But I don't want the left to embrace a media that only reports on things favorable to them.  Because the right's single greatest vulnerability is that they simply can't see the truth when it is staring them in the face.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Awfulness

The death toll numbers coming out of the Philippines are simply horrific.  Weather isn't climate, but climate makes the weather.  And poorer, low-lying areas around the world are going to see storms that cause the sort of loss of life we typically associate with wars.

But whatever, let's keep burning coal.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Today In Awfulness

Kids are going hungry, because the GOP refuses to continue providing food stamps to people who need them.

Despite widespread public support, the House won't even vote on ENDA, because gays are icky to the teahadists.

Because of the importance of the DC Circuit court, Republicans won't allow a vote on Obama's nominations to fill those positions.

Republican governors who refused to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare will mean that millions of Americans who would otherwise get health insurance for the first time will struggle get it.  Some people will die because of this.

Listen, you assholes.  Either help govern or get the hell out of the way.

While I Am Still Tired...

I need to find energy to listen to Thing Two's endless stories about nothing in particular.  The energy for yet another soccer trip with Thing One.

This is water.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So Damned Tired

All I can say is that Rand Paul would have been kicked out of our school.

I overheard a kid say to his parents (I don't think he knew I was sitting behind him at a restaurant) that at our school cheating was considered worse than drug/alcohol violations.

That was a proud moment.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This Is What Funny Sounds Like

This Is What Love Looks Like

Tea Leaves

So, off-off-year elections tend to be anomalous things.  I could write how Democrats picked up a seat on the Watertown Town Council - a usually reliable Republican body - because of disgust with the Shutdown, but.... really?

I take away two things.

First, polls had McAuliffe winning by six or so points, but he wound up winning by about three.  What seemed to happen was decline for support for the Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Sarvis was polling around 10% before the election, but lost about 3% of those voters back to Cucinelli.

To me, this shows a sort of Tea Party "Bradley Effect".  There are Republicans who have trouble admitting they are voting for a guy who wants to make blow jobs illegal, but at the end of the day, they just can't punch the Libertarian ticket.  I frankly think Libertarianism might be the GOP's only long-term hope, but it's also a fairly off-the-wall ideology.  And it has zero appeal to the Talibangelists that make up the GOP base.

Second, if anyone really thinks Chris Christie will be the 2016 GOP nominee, I would love to have a wager on that.  Christie is - to put it succinctly - a raging asshole with ethics questions in his past.  These are not disqualifying defects in New Jersey.  Jerseyites like assholes; if they didn't, they couldn't live with themselves.  And just about every politician in New Jersey has some sort of ethics question in their past.

As I recall in 2008, Rudy Giuliani was going to sweep to the nomination, along with Hillary Clinton.  This is an inevitable by-product of being a politician from New York, where the media live.  That is not consistent with the country as a whole.

The more interesting question is what will the Christie/Cucinelli results mean to the GOP Civil War.  My guess is that the Tea Party will read the evidence in whatever way confirms their existing ideas.  For consistency's sake.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Of This Please

A few Democratic Senators want to expand Social Security and pay for it by getting rid of the cap on payroll taxes.  Frankly, I would include any stock options or bonuses as salary, while we are at it.

I have no illusions that this will pass.  But it's important that Democrats push back against efforts to cut Social Security.  Social Security is NOT IN TROUBLE.  Medicare is, not Social Security.

So we need Democrats reframing the terms of debate from the left to counteract the almost pathological need of wealthy Congressmen and even wealthier pundits and reporters who seem to insist on making Granny suffer for her own good.

Obama has been too quick to accept the idea of Social Security cuts.  While I would guess that his counterdemand for increased revenue means that we won't actually see those cuts, I still think it's bad idea.

Any cuts to Social Security should have the Republicans fingerprints all over them.  They've been trying to kill it for 75 years.

Let them put their necks out for when the ax falls.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Oh, Let's Not

Alex Seitz-Wald has a provocative piece suggesting that the US needs a new Constitution.  Largely this is a response to the current "crisis governance" that we are enjoying at the moment.  First, I would note that precisely because the crisis governance model is a disaster, that we are unlikely to continue with it.  I am hopeful, actually, that we shut down the government again in January, because I think that will be the death knell for the Tea Party.

There are some meritorious suggestions for changes in the Constitution that would help our current state.  First, a majoritarian electoral system would be a good idea.  Louisiana and California currently have this.  Basically, everyone appears on the ballot at one time and the top two candidates advance if no one gets 50%+1.  So if it's a fairly liberal district, you might get a GOP candidate, a Democratic candidate and a Green candidate.  And maybe the Democrat and the Green party candidates advance, in which case you get a Center-Left vs Left election.  More likely you would force the two parties to the middle, but at the very least, you would empower other voices.

Second, would be to deal somehow with gerrymandering.  All of these solutions would seem to falter on the alter of federalism.  The best solution would be if the House was elected by proportional representation.  This would insure a House that reflects the wishes of the entire population.  But it would destroy the idea of a constituent/representative relationship.  Plus, states would not want to give up their control of districting.  So while a proportional representation system would solve our current system, there is no way it gets passed.

Third, some form of campaign finance reform is necessary.  This could, however, be dealt with in a straightforward constitutional amendment.  So could an amendment that tries to end gerrymandering by requiring that a congressional district have the smallest possible circumference to include a district's population.  No need for a constitutional convention for that.

And the article concludes with the realization that such a convention would likely simply be a continuation of the hyperpartisan situation we see in Congress.  How would this new Constitution deal with abortion?  Guns?  Privacy?  Federalism? A balanced budget requirement?

At the end, Seitz-Wald starts throwing out bizarre science fiction scenarios.  Some of which border on the fascistic (Starship Troopers?  Really?)  Others are the sort of techno-libertarian claptrap that doesn't really deserve consideration.

Should America adopt a parliamentary system?  There are a number of advantages to a Parliament.  But while the British Parliament tends to be stable, this is largely because of the consensus nature of British politics.  Other parliamentary systems can be very unstable.

There is no doubt that we can change certain aspects of our Constitution.  I'd love to see campaign finance reform and electoral reform.

But re-opening the can of worms of creating a new Constitution seems to be both cynical and hopelessly idealistic.  Cynical, in that a new Constitution would be a way for groups to inject their own preferred wishes into the document (Life begins on the third date.)  Idealistic, because it presumes a perfect form of government.

Seitz-Wald eschews "judicial activism", and certainly there are problems with it.  But it has served to make our system stable, but with a capacity to change.

Much is made of the crisis of the moment.  But the longer arch of history is not so capricious.

We should mend the Constitution, not end it.