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, May 31, 2013

The Season Of Meh

Having trouble waiving the pom-poms these days.

MSNBC's ratings are down.

Liberal bloggers are cutting down their writing.

Why is this?

I think it's because the election is over and governance is impossible.  So many of the fights in the news today are rearguard actions fighting the same fights we've been fighting for 30 years.

Obama got ACA passed.  The GOP is obsessed with ending it before it really starts.

Obama got bin Laden.  The GOP is obsessed with Benghazi to dent his national security credentials.

Obama won the election handily.  Must be because the IRS killed the Tea Party with its requests for additional information.

There are a few areas where real change might happen.  We might get some sort of background check bill passed.  We might get some sort of immigration reform passed.  I'm not terribly sanguine on either, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

But the other major issues that we face: climate change, a soft economy, tax reform, the future of entitlements, responsible debt reduction... these won't get solved, and in fact the battles over them aren't really worth fighting.  Because the GOP is insane right now, there is no point in even engaging.

Instead, all you have is a bunch of mularkey posing as scandals and legislative gridlock. Do we really want to get into what Erick Son of Erick said on Fox?  Is that what we want to re-argue?

What's the point?

As for me, I'll be posting less as I am the AP reading for the next week.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Harry Reid's Game Of No-Limit Hold'em

Will Harry Reid have this much moxie?

Obama's decision to fill the final three slots in the DC Circuit Court is going to be an interesting test case for Harry Reid.  Back in January, Reid had the opportunity to end the filibuster for nominations to the Courts and to the Executive Branch.  He choose instead to monkey around the edges and make some modest housekeeping changes.

The result?  He got played like a Steinway.  Mitch McTurtleface has continued to block everything he possibly can in his continued pursuit of a scorched earth policy that would make Stalin blush.

This becomes the acid test for both McConnell and Reid. If the GOP filibusters all three of the nominees (or even two of them), then Reid has his excuse to "go nuclear" and end the filibuster of nominations.  As Booman says, this will lead to the filling of a dozen positions within the Executive Branch, including Cordray at the CFPB.  Chait has also noted that this will allow Obama to pursue his second term climate change agenda through regulatory oversight.

But Harry Reid will have to follow through, if McConnell and crew filibuster.  And it's never clear that Reid understands the nature of his opposition.

Meanwhile, McConnell has to calculate whether it's worse to give the Democrats control of the most important Circuit court in the land or allow the other bottlenecked nominees to serve.  Also, would Reid "going nuclear" have a positive or negative effect on the GOP base for 2014.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sanity On the Rosen Case

The Great And Flawed

Something caught my eye in Charlie Pierce's argument for repealing the Espionage Act.  He called Woodrow Wilson "American history's most overrated man".  I've heard that a lot.  It mostly focuses on Wilson's conduct to restrict civil liberties during World War I.  There was the Espionage Act, the Sedition Act, the arrest and prosecution of Eugene Debs and the re-segregation of the federal government.

Lyndon Johnson, of course, also comes off poorly in progressive circles because of Vietnam, Vietnam and Vietnam.

Obama, if you've read anything at FireDogLake besides TBogg, is as bad as Hitler Bush.  They dislike him because drones, Gitmo and being a pansy when combating the Republicans.

One progressive president who has been spared the outrage of other progressives is FDR.  Apparently, Japanese internment, Dresden and kowtowing to the Southern Democratic mandarins in Congress on civil rights is not that big a deal.

When we examine these four presidents, it's curious that FDR largely escapes condemnation, that FDR skates free.  (And Truman is still held accountable for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Loyalty Act and escalating the Cold War.)

Woodrow Wilson passed the first income tax, lowering the high tariffs that enabled monopolists to control the American markets.  Wilson passed the Federal Reserve act to bring some order and stability to our nation's money supply for the first time since Andrew Jackson killed the Bank of the United States.  He passed the Clayton Anti-Trust act that allowed for more enforcement and specifically exempted labor unions from prosecution.  The Federal Farm Loan act finally provided cheap mortgages to struggling farmers.  He passed the first anti-child labor laws (subsequently overturned by the mossback Supreme Court.)  He put Louis Brandeis on the bench.  He gave interstate rail workers an 8 hour work day.  He created the Federal Trade Commission to investigate unfair trade practices.

And he tried like hell to keep us out of war.

Wilson's presidency ended weakly with the Versailles debacle, but much of that was because the massive stroke that nearly killed him.  And his conduct during the war was not a beacon of civil libertarianism.  But to condemn a man who really transformed the presidency from a "chief magistrate" to an active participant in legislation who rallied the populace around progressive causes because he was hard on the Wobblies, seems to me to be the same sort of nitpicking that plagues Obama.

Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, a massive Keynesian stimulus, saved the auto industry, passed the Lily Ledbetter act, got us out of Iraq, is getting us out of Afghanistan, he reversed a host of decisions on abortion and reproductive rights, he made student loans more affordable by cutting out the middle men, he signed Dodd-Frank, he signed the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell,  he pushed for the death of bin Laden and he did this while fighting a GOP in Congress that has gone insane.  (I'm paraphrasing Bob Dole there.)

As for LBJ, the list of progressive accomplishments is pretty long: Medicare, Medicaid, Civil Rights Act of '64, Voting Rights Act of '65, expansion of Social Security, immigration reform, the various aspects of the "War on Poverty" and education reform.

If there is a common theme in the Progressive criticisms of these men, it is that their involvement in foreign wars and the infringement of civil liberties that goes along with them have somehow nullified their accomplishments in other areas.

What's so curious about this is that Wilson's vision for a post war world was remarkably liberal.  His ideas of collective security were intended to bring peace and stability and avoid the sort of impingement on civil liberties that war brought.  Lyndon Johnson got us into Vietnam in order to protect his liberal agenda at home.  Obama understands that any major al Qaeda attacks on the US would imperil his presidency.

Liberals suffer from the preconception that they are "weak on national security".  This is why they have overreacted in many ways.  But their overreactions are intended to protect them and their liberal agenda from electoral defeat.

This goes part and parcel with the magical thinking that imbues most progressive critics.  They believe the president is a magical actor who can use the "bully pulpit" to sway public opinion and make wonderful things happen.  And when wonderful things fail to happen, it is blamed on the man in the White House.

This is in many ways the flip side of the GOP.  They imbue their leaders with magical powers, too.  But they remain steadfast in their support until it is no longer necessary electorally to do so.  But even their veneration of men like Reagan is more a projection of their own fantasies rather than an accurate picture of reality.  Whereas liberal project their own failings on their leaders.

Obama, Johnson and Wilson are not gods.  They are not perfect men.  But neither was FDR.  Neither was Lincoln.  What they have done is navigate a system designed to thwart change and stymie government action, a system crafted in an age when the state was used solely as an instrument of tyranny.  The Constitution was crafted as a counter-argument to the tyranny of the Coercive Acts and the anarchy of Shays's Rebellion.  It's unwieldy and imperfect.

And when you are trying to change things, it's a constant hindrance.  If, like Mitch McConnell, all you want to do is stop things from happening, it's remarkably effective.

Obama is doing the best he can, with the tools he has.  Just like those who came before him.

The constant attacks on him presuppose a world where magical thinking is the foundations of American government.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This Is Killing Me

I'm making carnitas tacos for the department party tomorrow.  It's a slow roasted pork shoulder cooking away right now.

The smell is just heavenly, and it's killing me.

Just thought I'd spill that out on the Internet.

Because I Got Nothing

Josh Marshall posed a provocative question:  Why should we continue to name so many military bases after men who committed treason and broke the vows they took as officers in the US Army by taking up the cause of secession?

I think that's a fair question.  Part of the problem, of course, is that these bases were named - as Marshall points out - during a time when we were still trying to reconcile the country.  Others were named during a time when powerful senior Southern Democratic lawmakers controlled these things.  This was as much about patronage as about "heritage".

Some of these forts named for treasonous generals are very important: Ft. Bragg, Ft. Hood, Ft. Gordon.  Frankly, I'd like to see Georgia ask to rename Ft. Gordon as Ft. Longstreet.  While John Gordon was a remarkably tough soldier having survived being shot in the face at Antietam, he was half the soldier Longstreet was.  Longstreet, however, reconciled himself to the Union, joined Grant's administration and criticized Lee (accurately) for his decisions at Gettysburg.

If you're going to name a military base after a Confederate general, at least do it after one who re-committed himself to the Union.

The decisions to lock in certain names also denigrates generals who served AFTER the Civil War.

Matthew Ridgway was one of the finest officers this country ever produced.  He was born in Virginia.  Why not rename Ft. A.P. Hill after him?

George Patton invented American mechanized warfare.  Why not rename Ft. Hood after him?

George Marshall was the architect of Allied victory in World War II.  Why not rename Ft. Bragg after him?

Of course, the easy answer is that there are enough people who still see the Confederacy in an inaccurate historical light and therefore don't see the problem in lauding these Knights of the Old South.

But the simple legal fact is that these men took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and then violated that oath when they were unhappy with the electoral returns of 1860.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This Is Good

WTF Canada?

Canada has this reputation as this boring, more fair, more just, more equitable America.  More than just America's Hat, Canada is America's Super Ego.  It's a lot of what we wish we were: mature, reasonable, tolerant, just.

And then Toronto goes and elects Rob Ford.

So props to you, Canada, for keeping us all guessing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Star Trek

Just saw it.  But just walked out the door, too.

Very good movie.  A "ripping yarn".  Plays off the old Star Trek mythology in a really fun and creative way without becoming hide-bound the way the other movies could be.

It makes me really excited to see what Abrams is going to do with Star Wars.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Please Watch

Meta Post

This has nothing to do with nothing.  I just want your attention.

Can someone who reads this blog tell me if I have ads on it?  Because I can't see any ads.  And I want ads, because when you click on the ads I can make money.  And I like money because it allows me to buy beer and cheese.  And I really like beer and cheese.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


The Boys Scouts just decided to allow gays to be Scouts.

I remember being told - when I was a Scout - that that was the whole purpose of Scouting: to create homosexuals.

V-T Day

Obama is nothing if not deliberate.  He rarely makes a hasty move.  In fact, one wishes in retrospect he had been a bit more urgent in his first two years.

Today, he basically said that the GWOT is over.  Which is good, because the formulation of the GWOT was stupid.  How can you wage war on a tactic?  And which terrorists are we at war with? The New Provo Front of the IRA?  MEK?  The Tamil Tigers?

At several points in our history we have declared wars on things that are not states.  Drugs.  Illiteracy.  Teen pregnancy.

But wars exists only between states.  The "War in Iraq" lasted a few weeks.  What followed was not a "war" but a long drawn out counter-insurgency.  Much harder than a war.  Same goes for Afghanistan.

You cannot declare war on something that isn't a state, because that war will have no end.  We are still fighting (and losing) the "War on Drugs".  The idea behind declaring "war" on non-states is to sound tough, macho and butch.  It serves no practical policy purpose.

Which is not to say it serves no purpose whatsoever.

Wars serve the power of the state.  States are enlarged and aggrandized by war.  Most political scientists argue that the very institution of the state arose from Europe's endemic wars from the Middle Ages onward.

The Global War On Terror served the same function.  It served to enlarge the power of the state.  This served the GOP well when they controlled the White House, but they weren't too uncomfortable with it under Obama unless you count Rand Paul, and why the hell should you?

The idea of war also serves a political purpose.  And that purpose is fear.  Wars are existential threats.  They can destroy the state and the nation that supports that state.

Terrorism isn't really an existential threat.  Not to the state.  To individuals, it can be of course, but so can cigarettes and we don't declare war on them.

Let's let the POTUS take it from here:

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.

And then a useful history lesson:

Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.

So what's the plan?

First, we must finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.

OK, that sounds a little open-ended.

Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. 

Targeted?  Sounds like drones to me.  And that's fine, to a point.  He then goes on to explain the use of drones in a way that makes eminent sense to me, but my guess is Glenn Greenwald is unimpressed.

So he goes further:

And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power – or risk abusing it. That’s why, over the last four years, my Administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists – insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.

He then addresses Greenwald and Rand Paul:

This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

He addressed the need to provide a shield law for journalists and closing Gitmo.

But the basic point is that we have to end the idea of the GWOT, because perpetual war will consume us.

His benediction:

America, we have faced down dangers far greater than al Qaeda. By staying true to the values of our founding, and by using our constitutional compass, we have overcome slavery and Civil War; fascism and communism. In just these last few years as President, I have watched the American people bounce back from painful recession, mass shootings, and natural disasters like the recent tornados that devastated Oklahoma. These events were heartbreaking; they shook our communities to the core. But because of the resilience of the American people, these events could not come close to breaking us.

I think of Lauren Manning, the 9/11 survivor who had severe burns over 80 percent of her body, who said, “That’s my reality. I put a Band-Aid on it, literally, and I move on.”

I think of the New Yorkers who filled Times Square the day after an attempted car bomb as if nothing had happened.

I think of the proud Pakistani parents who, after their daughter was invited to the White House, wrote to us, “we have raised an American Muslim daughter to dream big and never give up because it does pay off.”

I think of the wounded warriors rebuilding their lives, and helping other vets to find jobs.
I think of the runner planning to do the 2014 Boston Marathon, who said, “Next year, you are going to have more people than ever. Determination is not something to be messed with.”

That’s who the American people are. Determined, and not to be messed with.

Now, we need a strategy – and a politics –that reflects this resilient spirit. Our victory against terrorism won’t be measured in a surrender ceremony on a battleship, or a statue being pulled to the ground. Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school; immigrants coming to our shores; fans taking in a ballgame; a veteran starting a business; a bustling city street. The quiet determination; that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of fear – that is both our sword and our shield. And long after the current messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the brutal despots, deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter history – the flag of the United States will still wave from small-town cemeteries, to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.

Needless to say the GOP hates it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Party Of Assholes

Tom Coburn has walked back a bit from his stance demanding offsets (austerity by another name) for disaster relief for his home state.  Peter King came out and said, "Screw offsets. Let's get these people help."

In their own ways, King and Coburn are playing out interesting trends in the GOP.

King represents the old saw, "What do you call a Republican who's been indicted?  A Democrat."  The old joke is about the Republican tendency to be "tough on crime" until they actually need the protections offered the accused.

King's district was destroyed by Sandy.  Then his cohorts started playing "Let's be tough on people in need, to show how tough we are."  In short, they were being assholes.  (As an aside, the Things over the past few weeks have demonstrated real compassion for those in "weaker" positions than they are.  I couldn't be prouder as a parent.)

Coburn is being "ideologically consistent", which would be somewhat noble, if his ideology wasn't "Screw other people".  But since the GOP basically sees its job as literally inflicting misery on people by cutting things like unemployment insurance, food assistance and education budgets, being consistent with that ideology doesn't really earn you many points in my book.

The DC press has been somewhat bumfuzzled over the lack of traction of Obama using the IRS to drone kill the Tea Party with the IRS in Benghazi with a subpoena.  But the reality is that no one really cares.  No one likes the Tea Party.  No one really gives a shit about Benghazi except the Tea Party and no one gives a shit about subpoenaing phone records.

The economy is getting better.  But the new austerity of the sequester is the primary drag on the economy right now.  And the GOP - by focusing on these pseudo-scandals and taking hardline ideological positions like Coburn's - is not serving the public interest.

For all the talk about the Obama coalition and Hispanic voters and aging white populations, the real problem the GOP has is that their party is not serving the public interest.  They are serving a narrow ideological goal of funneling wealth upwards by decimating social spending, trying to cut taxes and destroy ACA and ending regulations and worker's rights.

And that agenda only serves a very narrow band of Americans.

Which is why the GOP is about as popular as head lice.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Andrew Sullivan Is Racist

Sullivan makes the following argument:

But what I really want TNC to address is the data. Yes, “race” is a social construct when we define it as “white”, “black,” “Asian” or, even more ludicrously, “Hispanic.” But why then does the overwhelming data show IQ as varying in statistically significant amounts between these completely arbitrary racially constructed populations? Is the testing rigged? If the categories are arbitrary, then the IQs should be randomly distributed. But they aren’t, even controlling for education, income, etc.
That’s the core problem with debunking the Richwine thesis. The policy inferences are repellent to me. But the data are real. And they correspond to our socially constructed racial categories. There’s no correlation between intelligence and height, for example, or between intelligence and gender (except arguably at the extreme extremes). So why would our constructed and arbitrary racial categories yield such dramatic IQ differentials? Remember this holds true even when controlling for class, money and education. The answer is: we can only guess. Once they find a specific genetic pattern for intelligence, as they are looking for in China, we may find out.

Yes, the testing is rigged.  We know the testing is rigged.  Because IQ itself is a construct.  IQ stands for "intelligence quotient".  Basically you take the score and divide the age.

But what are the questions?  Most IQ tests test certain forms of logical thinking and critical skills.  Many test verbal knowledge.  But they use norms and terms found in the majority culture.  So there is a bias in the testing.

Secondly, the idea of a fixed IQ is bogus.  There is no such thing.  There are multiple forms of intelligence, multiple ways of thinking.  IQ tests capture very few of them.

Most educators don't put a ton of stock in IQ tests, because they don't tell you a whole hell of a lot.  The reason SATs are important, is because they allow a college admissions office a chance to say "no" without having to consider all 50,000 applications.  SATs don't predict success in school or in life.  IQ scores are also pretty meaningless.  Most of them test scholastic preparedness.

When people start putting a lot of stock in a flawed metric to justify odious ends, chances are they are looking for reasons to reach that odious ends.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hillary '16

The Most Lovely, Beneficent and Now Newly Powerful Wife read to me Pond Scum Pete Santilli's take on Hillary Clinton.

Let's take a look:

I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don't want her to die right away; I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you've killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all. On behalf of all of those people, I'm supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.

I think that as vile as this is, someone on Daily Kos once compared Dubya to Hitler, so... both sides do it.

I was asked by a student today if I thought Hillary would run in 2016.  I said, I thought she would, and I think she'll win.

And this mouthbreather above is the reason why.

There is some evidence that Barack Obama is actually underperforming the demographic shift to the Democrats.  Because there are some voters who just won't pull the lever bubble in the circle for a black dude.  Whether they will do so for a woman, I guess is an open question.

But if, check that, when the GOP unleashes the ugly against Hillary (and this Benghazi nonsense is just the faintest of tastes) it will not take very long for it to sound like Mr. Santilli.

And while, hahaha, Obama is from Kenya, has a bone through his nose and likes watermelon will play with some people, over 50% of the population is female.

Hillary could win 60% of the female vote.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who Lives In A Pineapple Under The Sea?

Spent the day with Thing Two at the Mystic Aquarium.  Then took both Things to soccer practice. Then took Thing One to Iron Man 3.  I better get a damned Porsche for Father's Day.

Anyway, learned about the ocean critters.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blade Runner

I was watching the first half of Blade Runner last night.  Perhaps you know of the Blade Runner Curse?  Almost all of the corporations seen advertising in the movie have gone out of business.  All except Coke.

Anyway, the movie is set in 2019, which is now suddenly right around the corner.  How good a job did Ridley Scott do at predicting the future?

Some of the technology is laughably antiquated: the computers, video screens, communications.  Others aren't on the immediate horizon: flying cars, cloning.

But I was struck by two things: One was the vision of Los Angeles as a cosmopolitan mega-city with a mishmash of English, Chinese and Spanish being spoken.  The specifics are wrong,  but the general idea looks accurate.

The other was there seems to be some sense of climate change present in the movie.  LA is not a rainy place, yet it never stops raining, you never see the sun.  If anything, it looks a little like the air in Beijing.

Oh, and that voice-over is GODAWFUL.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Impact Of Scandal

(Enjoy the new site design at Balloon Juice.)

Doug J points out that Watergate, despite being the Ur Scandal, barely made a dent in the trajectory of American politics.  Nixon's crimes have only gotten more profound as time has let slip more tapes and more revelations.  And Nixon was largely carrying on some programs LBJ started, but Nixon made them personal (because it was always personal with Nixon).

But Doug's right.  Watergate may have given us Jimmy Carter, but the trajectory of American politics after the Watts' riots was towards the fragmentation of the New Deal Coalition and the rise of the Reagan Coalition.

Washington is currently obsessing of a troika of quasi-scandals and non-scandals and WHAT WILL THIS ALL MEAN??!!11>?

History shows it rarely means much.  Poppy Bush was nipples deep in Iran Contra, which was arguably "worse than Watergate".  Clinton retired popular, though you could make a case that no Monica means no Dubya, considering how close things were in Florida.  But the trend has been towards Democratic presidential majorities and that's no going to go away because of the Three Little Piglets scandals.

Benghazi: a tragedy, not a scandal.  A political circus intended to cripple Hillary's bid in 2016.  Admiral Mullen yesterday reiterated what Bob Gates said, there was no military response possible to Benghazi.  There is no scandal.  And the emails that ABC was breathlessly flacking were simply notes about emails provided them by GOP staffers.  Synergy!

The AP subpoenas aren't really a scandal in and of themselves.  Unlike the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration went to court and got a subpoena.  Bush's FBI just seized the phone records.  But this is the price of the "War on Terra!" that the press needs to realize.  Wars breed excess executive power.  And now it bit the AP.  Maybe the AP should have spent the last 11 years reporting on this increase in executive power.  The fact is the DOJ followed proper procedures.  The problem is the procedures.

The IRS scandal feels less like a scandal the more you dig into it, but it undoubtedly is the closest to a real scandal we have.  These low level guys dig something stupid and wrong and were told to stop.  I'm not sure where the scandal is there, but at least there was something stupid and wrong, which is more than you can say for the other two nontroversies.

Right now, the Courtier Press have their knives out for Obama, because he's "aloof" and doesn't invite them to swing on his tire swing and eat barbecue.  It's reached the point where they are bored with Obama and want a new story.

The nation didn't give much of a shit about Monica Lewinksy in the end.  It was a prurient tale and that set tongues a wagging.  But in the end, no one but the GOP thought he should be impeached.

Frankly, I hope the wingnut do try and impeach Obama over something stupid like this.  It worked out so well for them the last time.

UPDATE:  I think Booman is on to something here:

As a political writer, I was about ready to hang myself if I had to write one more article about sequestration and the budget. So, I get it. Now we all have something to write about again. I don't think the general public really understands how important it is that writing be fun. They know that writers are after page-views, but trust me when I say that writing for page-views isn't fun. What's fun is writing about stuff that you can get energized about, and that has a lot of carry-over to what people want to read. The damage being done by the sequester is the most important domestic story in the country right now, along with the cause of the sequester, which is the total radicalization of the Republican Party. But writing about the closing of health clinics and day care centers and access to cancer treatment and closed airports cannot compare to writing about a BIG SCANDAL.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Admiral Mike Mullen

I just got to listen to the former Chairman of the JCS speak to our school and then take questions in a smaller group setting.  It was fascinating to hear him speak of the importance of personal connections in managing a changing and dynamic world.  We get one pretty impressive military/foreign affairs speaker every year - in the past we've had Deputy Chairman of the JCS Cartwright and CINC of Centcom Abazaid - but I really impressed with Mullen's directness.

I asked him a question about drones - the same question I asked Cartwright, about the risk of military action being immediately cost-free and thus with potentially hidden costs we can't see or manage - and he actually answered the question.  He basically agreed and worried that our capabilities might outrun our values, and before you know it our values might change without our consciously making a decision to change them.  Very candid and thoughtful.

I'm not sure how he got so far in Washington with an attitude like that.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Benghazi Vs. Mothra... Er... The IRS

Benghazi is a witch hunt, in the worst sense of the word.  There is no scandal.  There is no cover-up.  There is, perhaps, some cover-you-ass on the parts of people at State, CIA and Defense in terms of turf wars and responsibility after the fact, but there is no scandal about Benghazi, except that the GOP has routinely cut security funding at State and now are trying to hang the President Hillary Clinton with it.

Cincinnati is also not a scandal.  But it smells like a scandal.  Josh Marshall points out that Obama is pissed about the Benghazi nontroversy, but is guarded about Cincinnati.  That's because he's in the reality-based community, not the wingnutosphere.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Seventeen People Shot At A Mother's Day Parade

But Benghazi is a scandal.

The New Paradox Of The Republicans

The Republican Party since 1994 has been an ideological party.  That's unusual in American politics, and it accounts for the dysfunction of today's politics.

The irony is that the Republican ideology is that of a modified form of anarchism, which is to say a negation of the state.  The GOP simply doesn't believe the state should do more than maintain public order, defend the country and maximize corporate profits.  Outside of that, the state should not really do anything.

But their abdication from participation in the processes of governance - call it McConnellism - has simply meant that the federal government gets to do more without their input.

Obama - being a centrist creature - wants a "Grand Bargain" that will likely involve giving away many of his party's important positions.  But rather than engage that, the GOP has decided to walk away from table.  Meanwhile, the size of the government is shrinking, ACA is going into effect with some success at lowering overall health care costs and more decisions about the exchanges will be made in Washington, which one has to think could be a precursor to Medicare For All at some point.

It is mystifying why the GOP can't realize its goals, because they are too intent on the purity of their victories.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Alumni Day

I never feel older than when I'm struggling to remember the name of a student I taught or coached five years prior.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Your New Benghazi

Since Benghazi is turning into a joke... no wait, it was always a joke.  Please proceed, Governor.

Anyway, the problem with Benghazi is it is impossible to explain to a non-wingnut what the "scandal" is.  When I was teaching Whitewater to my class the other week, it was easy to explain: "The Clinton were accused of protecting a friend from regulators in exchange for sweetheart land deals."  There was no scandal in Whitewater.  No indictments beyond the people who worked with the McDougalls, but it was easy to understand.

What happened in Benghazi?  A tragedy, sure.  But what was the scandal?  That the situation was fluid and they wanted to keep information close to the vest?  Really?

But now Darrell Issa (R-Asshole) has something more juicy.

The IRS in Cincinnati had a bunch of applications for 501(c)(4) groups in 2009 onwards.  Basically all those disparate Tea Party groups filed for tax exempts status.  And so the IRS tried to consolidate the process and "mistakes were made".

But "Obama used the IRS to harass the Tea Party" is understandable.  It's still a non-scandal, but that hasn't stopped Issa before.

This Is Water

Saw this via a former colleague on Facebook.  It's a fascinating commencement address from David Foster Wallace about the role education can have in making choices and exercising empathy. That education is ultimately about finding a perspective other than your own.

Too often we treat education as a commodity, something to be developed to prepare you for the job market.  But really it's about using the study of knowledge to develop wisdom.

Spent Yesterday Sick As The Proverbial Dog

And it doesn't seem to be because of that Benghazi nonsense, as nauseating as that is.

I'll try and post something meaningful if I can remain upright.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mike Teevee

My buddy, Gentleman Jim, asked me what I thought were the best TV shows on right now.

Here's a partial list:

Breaking Bad (AMC) - Shakespearean in its scope and character development.  Walter White's journey from hapless victim to calculating villain is believable, harrowing and oddly sympathetic.

Game of Thrones (HBO)- It's billed as a fantasy series, but really it's about politics - namely the gaining and exercise of power.  Like a lot of great shows, it has shown a real lack of sentimentality about killing off popular characters.

The Walking Dead (AMC)- Yes, there are zombies, but zombies are not central to the show.  Rather, the show is about what happens when the world breaks down and the old rules and conventions disappear.  How do you form a new society?

Justified (F/X)- Before the last season, I might have left it off, but this season was excellent.  The central appeal is the relationship and conflict between Boyd Crowder, the criminal, and Raylan Givens, the lawman.  But what gives the show its tension is that Crowder has his own strict laws and Givens is something of an outlaw.

Vikings (History Channel) - It's good, I don't think it's great.  But I like saying "Ragnar Lothbruk".

Last summer I immersed myself in Breaking Bad, and I have plans to do something similar this summer with either Mad Men, House of Games or The Wire.

But there are a few more HBO series worth watching (and re-watching).

Generation Kill - So far, this is one of the best works of art to come out of our endless wars in the Middle East.  By simply focusing on the company and platoon level action during the invasion of Iraq, it shows why we failed without being dogmatic or strident.  And the writing is fantastic.

Deadwood - I need to watch this again.  What forms does evil take at the rough border between civilization and anarchy?

Kind of some common themes there, I know.  But that's my list.  You could add to it in the comments, but the comments never work.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Example Number 27378398 Why We Should Be Glad McCain Is Not President

Turns out the most likely group using sarin gas in Syria is the rebels, not the government.  Quickdraw McCain would've had us bombing Damascus two weeks ago.

This is obviously similar to Benghazi, in that the administration is simply waiting for all the information to come in, rather than running around breaking crap and killing people.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kids These Days

Today we took the Things to look at a potential school for Thing One.  It's a really cool Montessori farm school.  He got to play with a kid goat named Cinnamon whom he immediately fell in love with as he's wont to do.  Then we inaugurated the Christmas kayak with a paddle on Bantam Lake, followed by a nice Cinco de Mayo meal at the only decent Mexican restaurant in the area.

We pretty much tailored our day around our kids.

"Did you have a good day?'

"I dunno."

You basically give up any idea of having a life of your own when you have kids.  And you have to wait until they have their own kids before they can appreciate it.

So, anyway.  Thanks Mom and Dad.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Greatest Weekend

So this is supposed to be the Best Weekend Ever.

You have the Derby, Cinco de Mayo and the weather always seems to be glorious here in New England.  It's our school's long weekend, which means a three day weekend because...

I had to leave the Thing's soccer game to go sit in a duty office and do nothing.

So, yay me.

Friday, May 3, 2013


There is literally no greater truism about the state of American politics right now than "Anything Democrats are for, Republicans are against. Updated daily."

They have a party who has abandoned all policy initiative and simply placed themselves in opposition to anything Democrats may propose.  If Democrats proposed renaming Yellowstone Ronald Reagan Park, the Republicans would oppose it.

It's a sickness.

UPDATE: Egan explains more.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Well... That's Disturbing

The fact that 44% of Republicans think that armed insurrection might be necessary soon is a frightening reminder that a certain strain of white Americans have not reconciled themselves to the 21st century ideas of pluralism, multiculturalism and tolerance of homosexuality.

For them, their America is broken and disappearing, so why not take up arms.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May Day/Mission Accomplished Day

And so it was, ten years ago today that a decree went out from C+ Augustus:  We have vanquished the foe that had nothing to do with 9/11, that did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction and was not vanquished.


Ted Cruz is the biggest asshat that Texas has produced since Charles Joseph Whitman.  He is an arrogant bully with enough intellectual firepower to convince GOP voters that he's the answer to their prayers.

If he runs, he wins the nomination.  If he runs against Hillary in 2016, it will look like Goldwater in '64.