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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


That piece above should be read by every journalist, politician, and hell, while we're at it, every American.

That is some weapons grade rhetoric there.

Oh, and the correct answer is that Larry Summers shouldn't be Fed Chairman because he's a dick, not because he has one.

Not The Way It's Supposed To Work

It would be nice if the electorate held the Senate Republicans accountable for basically abdicating their role in governing this country.  Same goes for the House, but gerrymandering being what it is, I'm not seeing that happen.

I'd love to see Democrats actually pick up a few seats this cycle, though it's unlikely to happen.  They have reasonably strong candidates in Kentucky and Georgia.  It would be nice to see the good people of Maine chuck out Susan Collins for someone who actually represents the interests of their state.  But South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Alaska, West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina will all be hard to hold.

UPDATE: More on the GOP's dysfunction.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Immigration Reform

All the bigots in the GOP who just don't like brown people may be one thing, but I do think a lot of the GOP Congresscritters realize that passing immigration reform isn't going to win them many votes in the short run.

Which is true.

But killing immigration reform - which looks like the outcome - will make sure that the GOP simply won't be competitive among Hispanics for a very, very long time.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Two Things

Read those two stories.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the White House and commenced to undermine unions and rollback programs to help people get ahead.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and soon everyone believe in Capitalism!

After a while, we replaced a market economy with a market society, where things like cost efficiency went beyond pricing goods to valuing human beings.  And as this market society took hold, we were given some real benefits.  For instance, NAFTA and other free trade agreements significantly cut the cost of many goods.

But as the economy as a whole benefited from declining prices for many goods, the real benefits went to the top of the economic ladder. The resulting focus on shareholders' claims to maximizing their returns at the expense of paying your employees a fair wage has created a perverse and unsustainable economy.

The Great Recession of 2008 should have been the summons that called us to look at the problems in the market society.  The ethos of the market society turned homes - that place where you are always welcome - into just another commodity to be flipped, traded, turned into CDOs... and the results of this we all know.

The single most important issue facing us is global warming.  But the second is the profound inequalities in our economy.

And for what it's worth, the GOP has no intention of solving either.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Well... Shit

When the Egyptian military turned out Morsi, it could have gone basically two ways.

It could have gone back to a Mubarak style military rule.

Or it could have been a Turkish-style check on Islamist nonsense in government.

Looks like it's headed back to Mubarak style repression.

Things could change, but unlike Syria, there is a role for the US to play here.  We need to get the military to stop killing people.  That's, like, a really good rule.  It doesn't have to be Philadelphia in 1787, but it can't be Tiananmen in 1989.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Well, That's Interesting

This is what is best called a "thought piece".

Encouraging Signs, But....

It looks like we now have a "Gang" in the Senate of reasonable Republicans led by Minority Minority leader John McCain.  They moved the President's nominations past the filibuster rather than gut it.  Some of them even seem open to confirming judges.  They were the group that helped write immigration reform.

There has been more consistent pushback from the conservative think tank apparatus.  Norm Ornstein works for AEI, but I'm not sure he qualifies as part of the "conservative movement" anymore. But Ponnuru is no apostate.  And anyone who looks at the numbers has to understand the problems facing the GOP long term if they continue with their current behavior.

The House is - of course- a different beast.  And Tom Cole is among the more realistic and intelligent members of the House leadership.  It is notable this call did not come from Boehner.

So while there have been signs that the GOP wants to return to the old Washington traditions of log rolling and legislating, horse trading and pork barreling that made our country great, until I see real movement among the Crazy Caucus or efforts by Boehner to rein in the Crazy Caucus, I'm not holding my breath.

Still, it means that there is room to avoid the coming government shut down or at least make it brief.

But even those inside the GOP are saying that government by temper tantrum is ridiculous.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Death Of The Southern Strategy

Not enough of these guys left...

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House with a considerable assist from George Wallace.  From there on out, Republicans have used what Nixon's strategist Kevin Phillips called the Southern Strategy: pick off conservative white Southern Democrats with racial appeals.  It's why Reagan launched his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, why George HW ran the Willie Horton ad, why Romney decried the 47% and why the GOP has freaked the fuck out over "that one" in the White House.

But it looks like the efficacy of the Southern Strategy may have come to an end.

Obama fashioned a coalition of urban voters (not just African American, but predominantly so), young people, Hispanics, Asians, the non-religious and liberal whites.  And he rode that coalition to pretty convincing wins.  The 2008 election may have been a referendum on Bush, but 2012 showed that this coalition was not simply opposed to Bush.

Since November, the GOP gave some half assed lip service to "minority outreach".  Since then they have gutted the Voting Rights Act, probably killed Immigration Reform and introduced a slew of abortion restrictions in the state legislatures.  Outreach!

Josh Marshall puts it thusly:

At the moment we’re moving toward one party that is genuinely multi-racial in composition and another that is increasingly a white persons’ party, albeit having limited minority representation and a small number of non-white officeholders. There’s a small but substantial minority of the population that finds a new America where whites really aren’t the overwhelmingly dominant group, simply in numbers, very frightening. I’d put the number at somewhere between 20% and 25% of the population.* And they are overwhelmingly in the Republican party or they’re right-leaning independents who vote Republican.

But the problem, for the GOP, I think, goes deeper than that.

Barack Obama - I think the evidence shows - significantly under-performed among white voters.  In the "Cultural South", especially Appalachia, he performed much worse than John Kerry did among white voters.  There was not a lot happening between 2004 and 2008 to make white voters suddenly less likely to vote Democratic, except perhaps the attrition of the New Deal generation.

There was no "Bradley Effect" in the polling, but I think quite a few white people just didn't feel right voting for that Barack Hussein Obama fella.

As the story above notes, Hillary Clinton is well positioned to pick up some of those votes Obama lost, especially among white women.  Did you note how the GOP has started to swoon a little over Bill Clinton these days? Bubba was undoubtedly more "centrist" - especially on economic issues - than Obama.  The Clinton "brand" is still pretty strong in certain parts of the country.

What should have the GOP shaking in its boots (and I think is why smarter Congressional Republicans like McCain, Collin and Cole are bucking the Tea Party) is that Hillary Clinton could put an epic beat down out there in 2016.  If that happens, ACA gets implemented properly, which creates millions of potential new Democratic voters.  If that happens, the Supreme Court likely flips to the Democrats, with impacts on election law, commerce and all sorts of issues.  If that happens, the roadmap to a GOP White House gets very, very fuzzy, especially with Texas facing a demographic flip in the next decade.

Being the party of obstruction is not going to work.  Being the party of white people is not going to work.

* It's 27%.  It's always 27%.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Death Is Not An Option

If you had to listen to a bunch of stories on the Royal Spawn or Weiner's wiener, which would you listen to.

Death, as I mentioned, is not an option.

USMNT setting records

The US Men's National Soccer Team is kicking ass and taking names.

If you have time, watch the finals of the Gold Cup on Sunday.  It has been really entertaining.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Or as the Germans would say, Ausgelassen.

I took German for seven years and all I got was sprained vocal chords and a creeping sense of my multitude of inadequacies.

Predictions Are Hard, Especially About The Future

First the prologue from TBogg:

As you may have heard, Nate Silver, who is the Punxsutawney Phil of electoral prognosticators, emerging  from his Fortress of Gay Mathmagic every four years to choose our president for us so that we have more time to devote to eating Hot Pockets, watching reality teevee shows, and developing diabetes foot, has taken  leave from the New York Time to join ESPN where he will explain wins against replacement (WAR) and Defense-Independent Component ERA to Skip Bayless until he explodes in a flash of blue smoke that smells like fried Slim Jims.

Then the story.

Silver's political analysis is better than his sports analysis.  The reason is pretty simple.  Every sports contest can be subject to random chance or flukes.  But every election has dry runs in the form of polling that show us the lay of the land.

Put another way, it is impossible to predict the outcome of a game, because there is no data that tells you what will happen in any particular game, whereas elections come with polling and polling CAN tell you what will happen if you read it right.

All Silver did was read it right.

But then again, so did a number of other people.  Silver is not the Gay Wizard, he's just the highest profile practitioner of using polling averages.  Blumenthal, Wang, Moulitas, Cohn and plenty others called the election the same way.

This wasn't Silver vs. the Old School, it was Numbers vs. the Old School.  And Numbers won, with or without Silver.

The South Is The Problem

The South has been different from the rest of the country since there was a country.  In order to placate the Lords of the Lash, we wrote a ridiculous clause into the Constitution giving states representation for 3/5s of a specimen of human chattel.  This allowed slave owner Thomas Jefferson to usher in an era of rule by these Lords of the Lash.  For Jefferson the only possible model of economic growth was agrarian.  He failed to see the possibilities of manufacturing, because outside of some people like Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton, the idea of manufacturing benefiting the worker was too new to be understood.

And so the South remained stuck in an economic model of slave labor.  This was roughly the same economic system that built the pyramids and staffed the households of Rome.  Meanwhile, the North nurtured a bourgeois middle class of merchants, shopkeepers and manufacturers.  When the two sides came to blows, the economic system of the North overwhelmed the economic system of the South.

Despite some half-hearted attempts to re-order the Southern economy after the war, the South simply shifted from chattel slavery to debt peonage.  Debt peonage tied agrarian workers not to an "owner", but to their debts.  This meant that the South again depended on what we would now call a dysfunctional labor market.  Rather than price labor according to the demand for it, demand was managed by simply tying it up in sharecropping and tenant farming.

Efforts to unionize nascent industries in the South were quashed.  Efforts by the Populists to integrate poor whites and blacks into a cohesive political movement failed.  Populists like Tom Watson went from noting the economic similarities that poor whites and blacks faced to becoming a virulent racist.  Education was never a priority in a system dependent on poor agrarian workers.

Under the New Deal coalition, the South became a giant hog sucking on the public teat.  As a Democrat, FDR knew the value of Southern votes and as someone trying to reinvigorate the economy, he knew that "the South is the country's number one economic problem."  And so the Sunbelt was created.  It was created with cheap TVA energy and defense industries.  Eventually, the cheap labor and the effect of air conditioning opened the South to 20th century industries.

But in some crucial ways the South remained as it always was: suspicious of outsiders, hostile to the rights of the poor and fractured along racial lines.  It still clung to the old caste based system that informed chattel slavery and then Jim Crow.  Poor whites had suffered almost as much as blacks under this system, but they had benefited from being not-black and so tolerated the system.  Federal attempts to dismantle Jim Crow were as much an assault on them as on the old Bourbon elite.

Therefore, to be a white Southerner was to be suspicious of progress.  If you were in the elite, well it obviously worked well enough for you.  If you were poor, at least you weren't black.

And all of the efforts to create a social democratic system foundered on this basic fact.

The South was not interested in public education.  It was not interested in worker's rights.  It was not interested in racial equality.

The Pilgrims are often seen as the precursors to the United States, the first "Americans" (ignoring the people who already lived there).  We prefer our origins to be the authors of the Mayflower Compact and not the indentured servants and slaves toiling in the tobacco fields of Virginia.

But the South grew up fundamentally different from much of the rest of the country.  And the article above should surprise exactly no one.

Monday, July 22, 2013

In A Sane World

This would be the end of Ken Cuccinelli's gubernatorial bid.

If you click through, watch to the end, because the funny Jewish lady... no, not Barbra Walters... no, not Whoopi Goldberg... gets in the punch line for the ages.

Sign My Petition

I'm exercising my First Amendment rights to petition my government.

Keep Larry Summers of the Fed Chairman's seat:

I realize that this is not exactly the revolution that some crave, but it will do until a revolution comes along.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Well, At Least The Dog Didn't Shoot Him

I'm sure George Zimmerman would agree that Antonio Morrison looks like a punk, and frankly when I googled his image... yeah, not impressed.  He got in trouble for punching a bouncer, and that's not OK.  Punching people is not OK.

Now, thirty years ago, getting into a fight with a bouncer would've been considered kind of cool.

But two things: One, every fight is not a criminal case.  I've been punched in one form or another plenty of times.  Cross faces in wrestling; rugby is just one long series of punches in the face.

Two, do you seriously arrest a guy for barking at a police dog?  Seriously?  Personally, I think that's hilarious.

There are a lot of cultural right wing commentators talking about a "War on Men" to counteract the "War on Women" idea.  I disagree.

What we have is a War on Boys.  We've taken the rambunctiousness of youth and turned it into a police matter.  Men are doing just fine.  But boys - and that includes the overgrown boys of semi-pro sports - are no longer able to make youthful mistakes without getting the law involved.

The Golden Age Of Television

The Iron Age of everything else.

This is a longish article about how TV is currently churning out the best product in its history (at least in terms of drama) by filling small niches.  It's also about why this model doesn't work for music and movies.

The article laments the death of the indie films of the '90s.  As Hollywood chases the global market, a film like Pulp Fiction or Before Sunrise could never be made.  That sense of place and unique cultural context isn't going to translate into Mandarin (goes the theory).  Whereas when I was watching Battleship last night there was literally not a creative or unique thought on screen.  Everyone knows who Superman is, but who really knows the people who populated the off beat films of Richard Linklater, Hal Hartley or Steven Soderburgh?

And that's true.  Those films used to be around.  And they are hard to find.

But I think if you are looking for that sort of storytelling, it's still there.  It's there in TV.  It's there in precisely the foreign cinema that Iron Man 3 is reputedly replacing.  Film-making is both becoming more expensive  and less expensive.  Witness Joss Whedon making Dr. Horrible or Much Ado About Nothing.

And who knows what the future of Netflix type series holds?

As for music, the writer sort of glides over satellite radio as not paying much in royalties.  While I don't doubt that's true, anyone who has experienced Sirius/XM radio (and loves music) has a great deal of trouble going back to regular radio.  And when you select a few radio stations, you are exposed to artists that you just won't find on regular radio.  Maybe Mumford and Sons would have made it big without the Spectrum and iTunes, but I kind of doubt it.  And maybe it's the bias of my own experience, but I've never been more in synch with cutting edge music.

Most interesting was a suggestion that maybe the way newspapers and magazines survive is by bundling the way cable TV does.  Currently, my Insider subscription to ESPN gets me access to their premium web-based writing AND their magazine.

Why shouldn't the NY Times pair up with Frontline and NPR with a subscription based service?  I won't pay the Times to read Krugman, because I can find it easily enough.  But if a similar price got me access to other material?  Interesting...

Cultural trends are hard to see because they are all around you all the time.  Who could have predicted the trend from The Sopranos to The Walking Dead?

All I know is that if I was 23 again and moving to LA to write, I'd like my odds better today than 25 years ago.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Post Racial America

President Obama came forward to make some thoughtful remarks on Trayvon Martin.

The right wing Wurlitzer immediately began cranking out tweets and emails calling him a racist.

For speaking about race.  As if he would know more than some lily-white Fox News dittohead about race than them, because the white people are the real victims here.  They are the real victims of racism.  Because.

This is the America the Supreme Court said no longer needed the Voting Rights Act.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sir Ken Robinson On Education

At times this is a pretty clever stand-up routine, but it also speaks to a central problem in "education reform" and that is central planning and standardization.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

McCain Moves On

Who gets the cake?  McCain or McConnell?

Unlike a lot of people who lost Presidential elections, John McCain has stayed on in Washington.  Kerry did, too, but Gore left, Dole retired, Bush 41 went home, Dukakis and Mondale weren't there to begin with.

Unlike John Kerry, frankly, it took John McCain a little longer to get over losing.  Always kind of ornery, he tended to be a bit peevish.

What made McCain so appealing as a politician was the perception that he was above partisan politics.  But running for President - winning the nomination, securing his party's support - is inherently partisan.  And for the past five years, he's remained firmly in that partisan mindset.

Maybe it was watching Mitt Romney - a man he reputedly hates - lose to Obama, too, that made him come to peace with the existing power arrangement in DC.  Or maybe he just got tired of the pettiness.

But it sounds like McCain led the charge to end the nuclear option from the GOP side.

A lot has been made of the structural reasons why "bipartisanship" (whatever that means in a given moment) has failed.  Yes, gerrymandering.  Yes, epistemic closure.  Yes, a red state/blue state cultural divide.

But it has also simply been a GOP tactic.  The deadlock in DC is a conscious choice of the GOP.  It's policy as much as ideology.

Within a week, the immigration reform could pass the House.  Within a month you could repeal the sequester with sensible cuts to spending and increased revenues spread out over a decade.  Within a year you could address climate change.

I really believe the votes are there, if the GOP decided to let their members vote as they wished and as they thought was best for the country.

These would be compromises that would enrage both sides bases.  Progressives would see entitlements cut.  Conservatives would see... brown people get stuff.  But stuff would get done.

For guys like McCain, who used to be "bipartisan", they can remember before the Tea Party scared the crap out of the GOP and enforced a rigid ideological purity.  They remember the clubby Washington to horse trading and deal making.

And maybe this is the moment when the McConnell tactic of universal opposition ends and things get done.


Balloon Juice Links

Be careful with those links.  Balloon Juice is under a Malware warning.  My guess is the crack team over there has it fixed, but don't click through if you're worried about that.  My site seems fine.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Well Said

A Texas A&M researcher found that states that passed SYG laws experienced a 7% to 9% increase in homicides. This follows free market principles since the cost of killing to the shooter has dropped in SYG’s wake. It turns out the Invisible Hand has a trigger finger.

From Balloon Juice

You Stay Classy San Diego

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Perhaps Light Posting

Starting a week of "teaching teachers how to teach" which is really me learning from them.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sincerest Condolences

I link to Balloon Juice a lot.  John Cole runs a great blog and is a great story of a guy who yielded to evidence over Iraq.  Today he lost his cat to a horrible attack by his sister's dog.

I don't know Cole.  I've never exchanged emails with him.  He doesn't know me from boo.

But my heart breaks for him.

The internet is a time-sucking waste of life.  It's a constant drain on our time and resources, but it also lets us get to know people and share tiny parts of their lives.

With that in mind, and in memory of Tunch, let me offer a great anecdote to all the misery uncorked in West Virginia and Florida tonight:

Thought Experiment

A young white boy walks through an inner city neighborhood.  He was looking for snacks.

A black kid follows him through the neighborhood.  The white kid turns around and confronts him.

The black kid shoots him dead.

Anyone think the black kid get acquitted?

Not A Bad Day

USMNT rallies from down 0-1 to win 4-1 against Cuba in the Gold Cup.

Braves rally from 0-2 to win 5-2.

Winning beats losing.  Especially when you do it with your B team.

Democrats A Lock To Win White House In 2016

Over dinner last night, I opined that demographics all but insure a Democratic victory in the 2016 presidential election.  My father, naturally, was skeptical.

Now the case has been definitively made that Democrats will win the White House: Megan McArdle sez the GOP will win.

McArdle is the next generation's Bill Kristol, consistently wrong about everything.  Booman takes her apart here.  And here.

But if you really want McArgle Bargle to be deconstructed, go to the Master.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Deal Breaker

I have been - in the parlance of the Firebaggers - an Obot.  I have been very forgiving of Obama's failings, because I see most of them as structural.  Obama failed to get the public option and a bigger stimulus because the votes were not there.  Obama failed to close Gitmo because the Senate wet its collective bed.  Obama has not ended the expansion of the security state, because the security state expands under its own gravitational pull.  Obama has not taken action on cap-and-trade because the votes....blah blah blah.

I do fault him for giving too much leeway to the national security apparatus at times - in Afghanistan and the NSA.  I do fault him for his debt ceiling fiasco and the general assumption that perhaps the modern GOP is NOT full of nihilists.

But I have operated under the impression that Obama (unlike Clinton post-'94) has done the best he could under a system that makes progressive change hard.

But if he nominates Joe Lieberman as Secretary of Homeland Security, that's a deal breaker.

UPDATE: Right on cue!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This Is The Story Democrats Needs To Tell

Holy crap.

Nancy Smash

“[T]hat’s just their usual unprofessional way — their usual amateur hour, blame it on somebody else, because they can’t legislate,” Pelosi said.
But if things reach that point anyhow, she has a polite suggestion. “The Constitution says a majority. It doesn’t say the Hastert rule, or sometimes the Hastert rule, or when I feel like it the Hastert rule. It says the majority. And there are ways to achieve the majority that I hope they will pursue.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Conservatives Cannot Govern

The Republican Party has abandoned any pretense of being a responsible partner in government.  Of course, I think I wrote that in 2009, but still...

The problem is that our system is built to facilitate compromise.  Staggered elections and the divided government they bring means that for anything to happen, there needs to be compromise and tradeoffs.  But the GOP has completely abandoned any desire to compromise, because they fear the howling id of their party (the Tea Party) being unleashed on them in the primaries.

In 2014, the GOP will likely pick up some Senate seats and will almost certainly retain control of the House.  That is entirely structural, as the Democrats are defending a lot of Senate seats and the House is gerrymandered beyond belief.  Plus, the free floating sense that Obama is somehow mired in "scandals" which are more policy disputes will likely make it harder to draw the crystalline distinction that the GOP is simply not a responsible partner in governing.

And so immigration reform is dead.  Efforts to make ACA work better are dead.  We will see more assaults on women's reproductive freedom.  We will see more voter suppression.

But in 2016, we will almost certainly elect a Democrat back to the White House and the GOP will not have changed a bit.

Deep Thought

I'm not sure I want my kids watching SportsCenter.  Between Aaron Hernandez, the Boston Marathon and ARod/Braun, I just don't think it sets a good example for young boys...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Where Is Ted Turner When You Need Him?

I always thought it was sad that Ted Turner sold the Braves.  I guess I should be sad he sold CNN.

It's tough to say whether CNN has a responsibility to inform or simply to pander.  I suppose if you want to be informed there is PBS and NPR.  Hell, there's BBC America.  If you want your news to have POV, you have Fox and MSNBC.

CNN just doesn't make sense anymore so now they are, as the writer above puts it, a clone of Entertainment Tonight with more murder trials.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor basically says that the explanation for something that requires the least amount of caveats and additional explanations is probably the accurate one.  Put another way, the simplest answer is most likely to be true.

The US did business with Morsi because he was the head of the Egyptian government.  He was more or less democratically elected.  Egypt is an important country.  So we dealt with him.

That didn't mean we liked the Morsi government anymore than we like the Putin government or the Karzai government or the Castro government.

Obama has routinely dealt with the world as it is. That has apparently rendered him unknowable to large swaths of the planet who only see the world as they want to see it.

Damned If They Do

The GOP can tell itself any pleasant fictions it wants.  But when immigration reform dies in the House, it will be their fault.  And it will be catastrophic for their electoral future at the national level.  I imagine it was also lead to erosion even among younger Cuban-Americans.

They've set themselves up as the Lily White Party, and no amount of clever messaging will help that.  And frankly, acquiescing to an immigration bill won't help much either.

The key countermove by Democrats has to be a major voter registration push among Hispanics in Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.  Help them register.  Help them get valid IDs.

And watch the demographic wave crash around the GOP.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Part of my summer employment is running a shuttle bus for teacher's taking a workshop at our school.  I have to make two runs on Sunday to Meriden to pick up attendees at a hotel there, where the shuttle from the airport drops them off.

To do this, I have to drive down I84.  The section of I84 east of Waterbury has three nasty old bridges that can only accommodate two lanes in either direction.  So traffic funnels from three and four lanes to two.

Instant traffic jam.

This has been a problem for years.  Everyone knows about it, but it never gets fixed.   Because we need tax cuts for billionaires and farm subsidies for a bunch of hayseeds flying Gadsden flags over their barns.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Let's Get Greenwald On This

As Snowden finds his Shangri La (Venezuela?  Best possible outcome for him.), I'd like to point out that there are a lot of civil liberties issues that I do care about and more than whether the NSA might, hypothetically, abuse its data mining capabilities and do something something tyranny.

We have militarized our police.  Watch the video above.  The attitude of these officers is not that of public servants insuring that there are no drunk drivers on the road.  They have the power to harass this kid simply because he didn't roll his window down enough.  He was driving down the road, not breaking any laws and was subjected to THAT.  As I said on the Facebook post by Tom Horne that alerted me to this thing, thank God the kid was white.

When James Madison looked at the state of his country in 1786, he saw the greatest venality at the state level.  Here is where petty prejudices and personal politics created the tyranny of the majority that he so feared.  His entire argument for a national government was its ability to dilute faction over a large area.

At our states - and I'm looking at you Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio... - we are seeing consistent efforts to intrude into women's vaginas.  That is not hyperbole.  The legislatures and governors of these states want women to have mandated vaginal ultrasounds.  They want to close Planned Parenthood because every once and a while, PP provides an abortion.

And they empower their police to do crap like in that video.

And the Robert's Rump is empowering them to do it.

I still don't know exactly what the NSA did in excess of its legal mandate.  I hope they untangle that.  Frankly, the Robert's Rump is not going to rule it unconstitutional, so that's out of the question, because even if Scalia rules against it, Breyer probably holds for it.

But we've got to start edging away from the new police state we've been building for the last thirty years.  It has reduced crime.  I realize that and understand that this is a trade off that was made.

But police aren't gods.  They aren't all powerful.  And we should be able to drive down the a road without getting a police dog sniffing our car because we didn't roll our window down far enough.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cultural Myopia,0,6277689.story

Both op-eds suggest that what the military did was horribly wrong and an affront to "democracy".  But this assumes that there is only one model for democracy.  This assumes that every country can handle domestic crises as a mature and stable democracy.  This assumes that everyone must do it just like us.

Turkey for decades has used the military as a way of insuring stability within a democratic framework.

But Nigeria may be a better example.  Nigeria after independence was racked by civil war and proceeded to vacillate between democratic governments that couldn't do anything and military caretaker regimes.  But by the '80s, the military had lost patience and by the '90s you were left with the debaucheries of the Abacha regime.

What the Post and LA Times have done is taken a fluid situation and demanded an immediate response.  That's stupid.  Egypt is not France.  Hell, it's not Poland, or Italy.  It's democracy is weakly institutionalized and fragile.

It's not a good thing the military stepped in, but it was also not a good thing that Egypt was on the tip of anarchy and civil conflict either.

The significance of this event won't be known yet for months and years.

But everyone wants a solution yesterday.

History doesn't work that way.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth

Today, we celebrate the publication of the Declaration of Independence.  We will hear platitudes and Sousa marches, watch fireworks and wave flags.

Meanwhile, Egypt roils in accusations of coups and civil unrest.  There is breathless speculation about America's role and what we should be doing.  Everything is critical.  Critical, I tell you!

The War for Independence lasted from 1775-1783.  Without French help, we almost certainly would have lost.  By the end, the country - such as it was - was bankrupt.  The continental army in 1783 nearly rebelled and marched on the Congress.  The weakness of the Articles of Confederation government were manifest.  There was economic chaos, multiple currencies, no judiciary, no executive branch, no nation.

In 1786, farmers in Massachusetts rose up in rebellion.  Shays's Rebellion shattered public confidence and led to the Constitutional Convention, itself a sort of slow moving coup against the Articles of Confederation Congress.

When the Constitution was being debated - especially in New York - there were acts of violence.  Presses were burned, offices ransacked, personages assaulted.

During Washington's presidency, the French endlessly conspired to undermine Washington's authority and draw the US into the wars of the French Revolution.  When John Jay negotiated a treaty with Britain to avoid those wars, he and Washington were burned in effigy.  Washington also led an army larger than any he led during the Revolution to suppress a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania.

During Adams' presidency, sentiment switched against France and the Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, stifling free speech and the press.

Under Jefferson and Madison, governmental policies led to near rebellion in New England.  Aaron Burr talked with New England leaders about secession.  During the War of 1812, Federalists in New England - so contemptuous of the Virginia Dynasty - traded with the British rather than aid the war effort.  Again, secession was contemplated.

The War of 1812 was so incompetently fought that the capital was burned to the ground.

Democracy was never birthed easily into a nation's life.  Germany had to be leveled.  Japan irradiated.  France roiled by revolutions and counter-revolutions.

What is going on in Egypt is not troubling, though it does bring troubles a plenty to the Egyptian people.  What is going on in Egypt is the birth pains of democracy.  Not the made-for-TV birth pains of a sitcom, but the real, messy, agonizing, bloody birth.

And, if democracy is not stillborn on the Nile, it will be because the US was a midwife to the process.  We are keeping the military on a Turkish path, not a Burmese path.  We did not bear the pain, but we are helping to manage it.

In the age of Snowden, it is worth remembering that on the Fourth of July.

UPDATE:  More history!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


The Obama Administration is delaying implementation of the employer mandate, either because they want to make sure there are as few bureaucratic hurdles as possible or because they may be trying to kill one of the worst aspects of the bill.  At least that's Chait's take, and it makes sense.

Needless to say, this means that the GOP now wants this part of the law implemented faster.

This highlights this blog's first rule: "The GOP is good at electoral politics but lousy at governing."

It also highlights "Cleek's Law": "Conservatives are against whatever liberals are for.  Updated daily."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Predictions Actually Aren't All That Hard, Even About The Future

Let's recap.

Congress routinely and overwhelmingly re-passes the Voting Rights Act every time it came up.

In the process of re-passing it, they discover all sorts of shenanigans designed to dilute and deter minority votes.  (Or in some cases, herd all the minorities into a single district.)

The Roberts Rump says that, "Hey, it's 2013!  Racism in voting isn't a big deal!"

Ginsburg notes that - in fact - there are a multitude of examples of efforts to deny people the vote.

The Roberts Rump tells her to shut up.

After a 5-4 ruling, all the areas that were under the pre-clearance restrictions fall all over each other to start restricting voting.

I've always admired Paul Krugman's ability not to go full Howard Beale.  But then again, most "liberal" analysts can look at what the Republicans are doing and say, "If they do A, then B will surely follow."  And sure enough, B comes galloping out of the gate.

Meanwhile, the GOP is predicting that we will all be marrying our dogs, that Obama will sell us out to the terrorists and that tax cuts will pay for themselves.

Something to keep in mind as we debate the two current most important issues on the docket: global warming and immigration reform.  Pretty much anything the GOP says will be wrong.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Flattened Ass

I've drive to JFK twice, Bradley once, the "TEC Loop" three times and to Hyannis and back in the last five days.  I think I've heard every song on my iPod.

I am not up to commenting on the momentous developments in Egypt or Snowden taking refuge with that fun loving libertarian, Vladimir Putin.