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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Walter White Was A Piker

So the House GOP is engaging in "anarchism", "extortion" and "lemming" like behavior.

It is also clear that a clean continuing resolution could pass in 15 minutes, if Boehner let it.

The question is: will enough GOP House members force a vote on a clean CR through a discharge petition (then again, I don't know enough about House rules to know if you can apply the discharge petition here).

The American people voted for Obama and his agenda in 2012.  The American people returned a Democratic majority in the Senate.  The American people voted - by about 1,300,000 more votes - for a Democratic House.  But the nature of House districts - both the gerrymander and the rural skew of them - means that we are stuck with a bunch of anarcho-extortionists.

I give you two quotes:

First from Chait:
The first element of the strategy is a kind of legislative strike. Initially, House Republicans decided to boycott all direct negotiations with President Obama, and then subsequently extended that boycott to negotiations with the Democratic Senate. (Senate Democrats have spent months pleading with House Republicans to negotiate with them, to no avail.) This kind of refusal to even enter negotiations is highly unusual. The way to make sense of it is that Republicans have planned since January to force Obama to accede to large chunks of the Republican agenda, without Republicans having to offer any policy concessions of their own.

The Second from Fallows:
  • As a matter of substance, constant-shutdown, permanent-emergency governance is so destructive that no other serious country engages in or could tolerate it. The United States can afford it only because we are -- still -- so rich, with so much margin for waste and error. Details on this and other items below.*
  • As a matter of politics, this is different from anything we learned about in classrooms or expected until the past few years. We're used to thinking that the most important disagreements are between the major parties, not within one party; and that disagreements over policies, goals, tactics can be addressed by negotiation or compromise.

Breaking Bad

Countless pixels have been spilled about Breaking Bad as it ends its five season run.  Great show or greatest show ever sort of stuff.

The popularity of a show about a meth dealing megalomaniac has always been a little mystifying.  Vince Gilligan, the show's creator, is appalled at how many people still like Walt after all the evil things he's done.

But it strikes me that one reason Breaking Bad has resonated so much with people - and how Walt in particular struck a chord - is that the show really offers as good a snapshot of the current state of American capitalism as exists today in most people's lives.  If Rescue Me was a commentary on 9/11 and The Wire about the decline of American institutions, then Walter White's story is about the capitalism, red in tooth and claw, that we soak in everyday.

As Charlotte Shane over at Salon notes the most powerful drug on the show was not meth - which was sort of incidental to the story when it comes right down to it - but money.  In my favorite moment of the finale, Walt admits that he became Heisenberg because it made him feel good, feel alive.  In the penultimate episode, Walt has his delusions about family stripped away, and in particular, his son rejects his money, in effect rejecting Walt.  Everything he does, he did for money.  His family, he realizes in the end, was simply the rationalization for his cupidity.

What makes Walter White who he is begins with Gray Matter.  We never know exactly why Walt leaves Gray Matter - there is a reference to his pride again - but Grey Matter is really the current American Dream.  It's not making a good living, owning a home and providing for your family, Walt has that.  It's living in a hermetically sealed, post-modern dream home, like Gretchen and Elliot, in the hills near Santa Fe.

Walt missed his shot at riches, and America is about riches.  It's not about comfort or ease, it's about "more".  My students were learning about countries that have the highest "happiness" rating.  This is done simply by asking people how happy they are.  Americans are fairly happy, but they aren't Danes or Costa Ricans or even Mexicans.  We are happier than Germans but less happy than Venezuelans.  And "happiness" correlates strongly with how we feel we are doing compared to others.  It's about the gap between our expectations and our reality.  And in America, our expectations are astronomical.

As a result, Walt doesn't compare himself to other teachers, he compares himself to Gretchen and Elliot.  He compares himself to what he might have been.  And that is the drive that makes him Heisenberg.

Heisenberg (and to a degree Lydia) represents the omnivorous, insatiable modern businessman.  It is not enough to make money, Walt is in "the empire business".  Does his product destroy people's lives?  Whatever.  Is it healthy?  Of course not.  Does he care about what's right or what allows him to win?  You know the answer.

Walter White should have gone to Wall Street.  His ethics are the ethics of the London Whale, of AIG, of Countrywide Mortgages.  It's more stark because it's drugs, but aren't drugs a pure, unfettered market?  No regulation, no oversight.

I'm formulating a school meeting about how I think as a society we are driving ourselves crazy.  We work too hard, reflect too little, play not at all.  On the wall of my office is a cartoon of two co-workers and one says, "Everybody's getting together after work to do more work.  You in?"  Walt's entrepreneurial drive, his work ethic is phenomenal.  He earns more money than he can spend.  But in America today, that's precisely the ideal result.

I think people responded to Walt, because many of us feel like we could have been the Schwartzes if things had worked out differently.  But really we're Walter White from episode one, in our underwear, desperate and grasping.

Any conversation about the best TV show of all time comes down - for me - to Breaking Bad and The Wire.  The Wire is about big institutions and how they are failing.  The politicians and bureaucratic cops screw with "the numbers", while drugs run rampant.  The working class jobs disappear.  The schools struggle to reach kids in impossible circumstances.  The media chases awards and ignores the truth.  The triumph of The Wire was to take these huge themes and make them human in scale.

Breaking Bad worked in the opposite direction.  In many ways the story was very small and confined.  It was about "Mr. Chips becoming Scarface" (the most repeated quote about the show).  The show was about Walter White and the people immediately around him.  Breaking Bad was not commentating on "drugs" or "crime".  It was about the sin of pride.  It was about what happens when a smart man "breaks bad".

But if culture means anything, it is a reflection of the society that creates it.  And the story of Walter White is the story of pride and greed and immorality and selfishness.

It is the story of American capitalism in the 21st century.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Interesting Point

Ed notes that throughout our Republic, parties have used various incentives to keep their fellow Congresscritters in line.  But post-Citizens United, a lot of those levers of power are gone.

I ask my students what is the one reason political parties exist, and very few come to the answer I hope they will: To win elections.  Everything else follows off of that.  The reason a party embraces an ideological position is simply to win elections, to clarify the choice for the electorate.

But if members of Congress are legitimately more beholden to/threatened by some Koch Brothers-funded whack-a-loon primarying them, then what does the GOP even mean as a party right now?

Marshall Makes A Good Point

No.  This time it will work...

Josh Marshall laments - and rightfully so - how far down the rabbit hole we have gone as a country.  The GOP has now adopted - as a routine practice - the threatening of the very operations of government and the solvency of the United States.

Think about that for a second.

They have "defined deviancy downwards" (as Marshall puts it, paraphrasing Moynahan) to the point where we tacitly accept that this is going to happen.  The government is probably going to shut down - not from civil war or unrest, not from natural catastrophe, not from fiscal calamity - but because one party just thinks it should do it for shits and giggles.

No one with a functioning brain believes that Obama will sign any law that guts the Affordable Care Act, because you don't negotiate with terrorists.  Does called the GOP terrorists offend our sense of decorum?  OK, you don't negotiate with toddlers.

The behavior of the GOP is that of a tantrum-prone four year old.  They are going to make everyone's life miserable until they get what they want.  They are going to fling their sippy cups and cry and wail and read Green Eggs and Ham in the well of the Senate.

Obama tried to negotiate with them in 2011 and found them to be impossible to negotiate with, in that every concession from him led to more demands.  So he's not going to do it again.

And he shouldn't.

The GOP needs to govern.  They need to pass a Continuing Resolution - at levels far, far below what Democrats want - because that is almost literally the least they can do.  They then need to raise the debt ceiling, because responsible adults should not destroy the global economy because they don't like losing the last two presidential elections.

Booman can see an outcome where Boehner decides to create a governing coalition of about 40 GOP reps and Democrats to do the very least possible governing: CR, debt ceiling, maybe immigration.

But that requires Boehner to have vision, strength of character and intelligence, none of which he has demonstrated so far in his time as Speaker.

We are well and truly screwed by these clowns.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

One class, a videotaped interview for the big endowment drive, coach a soccer game, drive down to Bridgeport for another soccer game.  And tomorrow I have duty from 3-11.

What weekend?

Friday, September 27, 2013


UPDATE: This is interesting from Chait:
Most of us expected, at some level, that the election would cool the right’s apocalyptic fervor. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Paul Ryan candidly explained the calculation: "The reason this debt limit fight is different is, we don't have an election around the corner where we feel we are going to win and fix it ourselves. We are stuck with this government another three years." This is a remarkable confession. Republicans need to compel Obama to accept their agenda, not in spite of the fact that the voters rejected it at the polls but precisely for that reason.

UPDATE II: Here is what happens if we breach the debt ceiling.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Worth a read.

Hi Ho, Nate Silver

I was reading Nate Silver's last post at the Times and he went after low hanging fruit, namely the perpetually wrong Megan McArglebargle.  McArdle argued that the presidency switches parties every 8 years.

This - as Silver points out in his typically data heavy way - is a poor reading of the data.

I talk to my students all the time about confusing causation and correlation.  Yes, the office of the president has switched after Clinton and Bush 2.0 have been in office for 8 years.  But this is not a trend of any import.

Instead, it's helpful to look at eras of partisan domination.

From 1860-1932, there were two Democratic presidents.  You can plausibly argue that there should have been three as Tilden likely outpolled Hayes in 1876.  From 1932-1968, there was one Republican president.  From 1968-1992, there was one term of a Democratic president.

Since 1992, you have Florida 2000 and in 2004 the narrowest re-election margin of an incumbent since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Wilson was - like Bush 2.0 - a president who swam against the partisan stream and was elected under somewhat unique circumstances.

The Democratic party from 1860-1932 was tainted by its association with secession and Jim Crow.  Wilson and FDR broke that a bit by embracing the ascendant Progressive spirit.  The Republican party of 1932-1968 was the party of Hoover.  The Democratic party of 1968-1992 was the party of the welfare state.  The question is, how much longer with the GOP be the party of Dubya?

Namely, how much longer will it be a party dedicated to evangelical fundamentalism on social issues, militarism abroad and crony capitalism at home?

Ironically, of course, the strongest GOP candidate for President in 2016 might be Jeb Bush.  That is, if his last name was anything other than Bush.

While demographics is not destiny, the GOP has boxed itself into a narrow range of political options.  And that's not going to change before 2016.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Since I'm Busy...

I'll let you reflect on the majesty of this:

And Iran, Iran So Far Away

So much for the groundbreaking "handshake".

Just remember, if Obama had managed to shake Rouhani's hand he would have been the new Neville Chamberlain.  Since he can't, he's the new Neville Chamberlain.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sadly, I Don't Think We Will Have A Cruz 2016 Candidacy

Ted Cruz has a unique ability to piss off people at every stage of his life.  This is not a capability usually associated with successful politicians.  Most pols are extraordinary "people persons".  They "get" all sorts of basic human empathy and stuff.  I heard Chris Murphy on the radio talking about a missing persons law he's sponsoring based on a guy who went missing ten years ago from right down the road in Waterbury.  Murphy spent more time lauding this guy's parents than talking about his own contribution to the bill.  That's what a smart politician does.

The National Review is trying to prove that Cory Booker created a fictional drug dealer in a story he tells.  The story is really about Cory Booker, but technically it's about this guy "T-Bone".  From a rhetorical standpoint, you don't want to give a speed where you say, "I" a lot.

Ted Cruz is the sort of guy who says "I" a lot.

Now, he was catapulted into a Senate seat by the angry ferment, the rabid crazy of the Tea Party.  So it's not out of the question that he can ride that to the GOP nomination.  It would, in fact, be fitting for what the GOP has become.

But Cruz has managed to piss off just about every GOP mandarin in Washington.  I don't see how they let him get the nomination.  They knee-capped McCain in 2000, and they'll do the same to Cruz in 2016 (albeit for different reasons).

Maybe in an age of tarmac campaigning and 30 second ads, Cruz can hide his asshole-ness enough to win the nomination.  But if the entire DC GOP is against him, he's going to wind up deader than Dillinger, politically speaking.

Cruz will be in the mix, but ultimately, I think the GOP nominates a governor this time.  While it's Santorum's "turn", Scott Walker or Jeb Bush would seem to have the inside track.

UPDATE: As if on cue, we have this. This poll finds 71% of Teatards want to shutdown the government over "principles" (principles being loosely defined as screwing over poor colored people).  A plurality of Republicans as a whole would prefer a shutdown. Meanwhile, 57% of all Americans want both sides to compromise.

The Senate should pass a CR that eliminates the sequester.  Then suggest that they will leave the sequester in place in return for a clean CR.  But they should only do this, if they know the House GOP will reject it.

So maybe Cruz does stand a chance in 2016.  Because those Tea Party types are just freaking insane.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


So I'm watching the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad and I get some civil authorities alert scrolling across the screen.

I've never seen that before.  Was Gilligan behind this?

UPDATE: Well, Walt has lost his family, his empire and he's dying.  But he still has his rage, insecurity and lust for vengeance and validation.


Currently, the Things' soccer team is awful (I'm one of the coaches), the Braves are setting themselves up for their annual failure in the postseason and the Falcons look awfully Cleveland Brownish.

I seriously need to give less of a shit, because it's not making me happy.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Gay Lady

I quite reading The Times online because they make it a freaking hassle to access their content.

But Gail Collins is what Maureen Dowd wants to be if she ever grows out of middle school.

Friday, September 20, 2013

From The Twitterverse

Which I could totally properly format if I wasn't all.... busy... and stuff.

This week, Congressional Republicans have voted to take both food and healthcare from Americans in need.

Democrats In Disarray, Wait... What?

It looks like the kneecapping of Ted Cruz has begun.

Calgary Cruz will apparently be crucified for the sin of the Teatards.

Couldn't happen to a nicer asshole.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Intersection Of Stupid St. and Asshole Ave.

That story there is a 100% distillation of why the modern GOP is insane.  It's not that the individual members are necessarily insane, though I wouldn't recommend being stuck on an elevator with Steve King or Virginia Foxx, it's that they have created a world that is beyond the workings of facts and reason.

When I started this blog, the basic premise was that the GOP in particular was turning its back on the basic Enlightenment tenets that founded this country.

And boy howdy does this story bare that out.

UPDATE:  Another version of kind of the same thing:

The Courtier Press

Booman is right.  This is unbelievably stupid.  It is a prime example of the failures of the DC press to see anything beyond process.

Obama had a great quote the other night about Syria and his "messaging" problem.  He said the important thing was to get the policy right, not roll out a smooth product line of war.  In 2002-3, as he noted, the Bush Administration did a great job rolling out the Iraq war.  Top flight messaging.

But the war itself is America's greatest disaster since at least Vietnam.  If Kerry-Lavrov works, then Obama should (but won't) get tremendous credit for being flexible.

Meanwhile, if anyone thinks that the problems in DC stem from Obama's messaging, should come and sit in my wife's US Government course for a year, propped in the corner wearing a dunce cap.

A completely insane, delusional caucus exists with the House of Representatives that is going to shutdown the government.  They worry about being unseated by literally some of stupidest people to ever serve in this country's legislature.  They worry about a challenge from a Louis Gohmert/Michelle Bachman type.  And so they embrace the bugfuck insane stances of the Moron Caucus.

And because of the structure of the US government, the House exerts a virtual veto over everything.  If you refuse to govern responsibly, if you refuse to bargain and deal, you are courting catastrophe.

And there is nothing Obama's "messaging" can do about this structural reality.

For years, the GOP won elections based on appeals to cultural issues: racial resentment, homophobia, abortions and guns.  This "lily white" strategy is going to doom them at the national level.

But the same ignorance that leads people to think that most of the federal budget goes to foreign aid or that people on SNAP are lazy moochers is the same ignorance the GOP is (probably accurately) depending on to let them avoid taking responsibility for crashing the economy in the next few weeks.

Maybe at THAT point, we could talk about Obama's messaging.

This is not a process story, a personnel story or a horse race story.  It's a story about the structure of government and the intricacies of policy development.

Which is why the Courtier Press will be unable to cover it well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Is It Ignorance Or Apathy?

I don't know and a I don't care.

So goes the arguments against Obamacare.

I found this quote especially important:
“Change is good, and it may be a real change, but if it was doable, it would have been done by now,” Marina Sokolovsky, a 26-year-old who lacks insurance, told me when I met her late last year at a focus group on the health law. “For how complicated things are, it would be a really big shift to find something functional. I just don’t think that’s possible.”

This is why education is about more than testing scores, imparting knowledge or getting ready for a career.

Look through these and see if you can find what's wrong with the above statement.

I think there are several at play here.

Another Dozen More

And yet there is no way we put in background checks to prevent the criminal and the mentally insane from buying guns.

Of all the workplace accidents in the US, 8% are workplace homicides carried out with a gun.

But sadly, every time another one of these murderous rampages happen, the public becomes more convinced that there is nothing that can be done.  The apathy of ordinary Americans is matched by the unbelievable fervor of those who vote exclusively to make sure that every American has access to a semi-automatic weapon.

I have no idea how a solution happens, but some time in the next calendar year, we will have another mass shooting at a school or a workplace that will leave a dozen or two dozen people dead.

And yet there is apparently nothing we can do about it.

How is that for "American Exceptionalism"?

Monday, September 16, 2013

I Ain't Gloatin', I'm Yellin!

In some ways it's crass to suggest that everything Obama does is motivated by politics.  In fact, he's the first president in my adult memory who doesn't seem to give a flying fudge about how Politco/WaPo/Meet the Press thinks he's doing.

The classic DC narrative is that Obama "lost" on Syria and my guess is that people will say he "lost" on Summers.

If Kerry-Lavrov works, then this is a clear "win" for Obama, in that he got the policy result he's always cared about - the end of the use and proliferation of WMD - without having to go cowboy.

If Yellin gets the nod at the Fed, that seems a clear political winner with Obama's base.  Not because she'd be the first female Fed Chair - though that's not nothing - but because Yellin got it right in 2008, and Summer got it wrong, consistently, from 1999-2010.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Breaking Bad

I was watching a clip of Walt watching Jane choke to death under the influence of heroin.

Cranston's performance goes through several emotional arcs in the course of about 15 seconds, as he first rushes to help her, considers the advantages in letting her die and then is seized with remorse.

TV villains are usually like Todd's Uncle: cartoonish and one dimensional.  What makes Walter White such an indelible character is his villainy is real and human, almost understandable.


Read the whole thing.

On the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse, this is the best post-mortem I've read.


Syria was always a menu where all the food sucked.  Letting Assad violate the international regime against WMD was untenable.  But doing "something" wasn't necessarily better, unless that "something" was incredibly crafty and lucky.  I recall "Shock and Awe" which was going to decapitate the entire Hussein regime.  I recall it not being decapitated.  Something about a deck of cards.

When Kerry left an opening for Russia to walk through, I don't know whether that was completely an accident or whether it was hinted at at the G-20 summit or what.

What is important, as mistermix notes above, is that Obama was flexible.  I seem to recall in the last days before Shock and Awe in March 2003, Hans Blix and various sources in Iraq were frantically trying to get the word out that there was a negotiated settlement at hand.  Hussein allowed the inspectors in and Blix accurately reported that there was no WMD program left.  There were even rumors of Saddam leaving with a golden parachute.

But Cheney and Dubya had their war on, and nothing was going to stop that from happening.

Up until Monday, Kerry sounded every bit like Donald Rumsfeld running around talking about strikes and such. And so it is tempting to say that Obama was saved from the more bellicose members of his own establishment.

And it was not just Obama who was flexible.  Putin himself moved his hard line, too.

All the food on the Syria menu was bad.  So Putin and Obama went to a new restaurant.

And for all the emo-progs who were wailing that Obama was just like Bush?  DIAF.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Not sure I am going to survive being a soccer dad...

Two games, on opposite sides of the state.  Lost both of them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Private School Education

Thing Two goes to a private school in the woody hills of western Connecticut.  Posh, coat and ties, you get the picture.

But I want to share the "newsletter" I just got from his teacher after the first week of classes:

Students who earn less than 100% on this test will attempt it again the following week. Those who answer all questions correctly will move on to 5's, 6's, and 7's. Students will be able to master the times tables at their own pace.

II Form students will begin their first book group this coming week....All students have their own unique strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes in what and how they read. In order to make this process accessible to all, I have selected a book that has a reasonably straight forward plot, and has situations and language that should be familiar to all....The reading program in the II Form will be a mix of books that students chose and that I assign.

I collect an individualized list of words that your child has misspelled in their writing during the week and ask that they write one sentence for each word every day. My belief is that few of us are "natural" spellers, but we can all compensate for that by proofreading and looking up words we are unsure of. I model this behavior in class with students and we will be discussing strategies for finding the correct spelling of words throughout the year.

This guy isn't teaching a class.  He's teaching individual kids.

Which is only possible in a small class.

Just saying.

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

If 44% of Americans don't want to raise the debt ceiling, then 44% of Americans don't have a freaking clue what the debt ceiling is or what failing to lift it would accomplish.

In the past, we could rely on our representatives - steeped in the expertise and understanding that comes from working in government - to make the wise and considered choice.

But most of the House is not just as stooopid and uninformed as the average Americans.

Bless their hearts.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


It seems - a few Facebook notices aside - we have stopped stopping to commemorate that day.

That's not to say that there isn't still some residual fear and policy remaining.

The NSA programs exist because of 9/11.  The US's inability to make a clear moral case in Syria is undermined by torture and Guantanamo.  Drones continue to patrol the skies over Yemen and Afghanistan, launching a brave and terrifying new form of warfare.

To the degree that "nostalgia" exists for that day, it exists because for a few months there, we felt intrinsically bound to one another in grief and anger and resolve.

And all that's gone now.

All that we are left with is the lingering echoes of some of the madness and fear we embraced in the years after 9/11.  Embracing those fears instead of the better angels of our nature.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We Are A Sick Country

Thing One plays for a premier league team in Newtown, CT.

He practices at a field with 26 newly planted trees around it.  The parking lot of that field was a staging area for the news media last December. After I drop him off, I drive to a Starbucks with wi-fi to do some work.  I drive by the entrance to the school, which is barricaded off about 100 yards down the main road, with some Jersey barriers under some fir trees in the gathering shade of early evening.  The fire station where some of the families gathered to wait for children who would never come home is right there, strangely small after seeing it in TV.  Across the road is a plywood shrine with 26 hearts and the spray painted invocation: "Pray for the families".  Every other car has a green ribbon.

Twice a week, my son and I dip the tips of our toes into a sorrow I can't comprehend nor do I want to.

So to the NRA, who successfully recalled at least one legislator in Colorado for passing common sense gun safety legislation, I say this:

You are the servants of Moloch, to whom the ancient Canaanites sacrificed children.  Every breath that you take is a breath you have stolen from children across this country.  This weekend, in Yellowstone National Park, a three year old child was killed with her father's handgun.  Because freedom.

We have had a remarkably open and productive debate over the past week about whether or not to use deadly force to protect international conventions about the use of chemical weapons.  But we are afraid to have such a debate when it comes to the hundreds of children each year who are fed to Moloch, sacrifices to the god who devours children.  And when that debate is joined, you work to force out of office those who would join it.

You are a cancer on the body politic.  You have warped our commonwealth to the fears and needs of a paltry, craven few who cling to cold iron more than they cling to the lives of children.

You are slaves to the Cult of the Gun.  And as a better man than me said about another cult in the service of slavery:

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

This Is Awesome

The Russian Gambit

So it looks like Vladimir Putin has found a way to be relevant on the global stage.  By being the "honest broker"... stop laughing... stop it... it's just a phrase... Putin can claim the lion's share of global glory for averting US strikes in Syria.

Right now, with the Winter Olympics and the headaches of likely protests from athletes and LGBT activists around the corner, Putin needs a little international good will.  With John Kerry doing his Travis Bickle imitation, the US played bad-cop to the hilt.  Whether this was ironed out at the G-20 seems doubtful.  Kerry seemed surprised when the offer came through.

And let's be clear, there are a million ways this could fall apart.

But this always had to be about the chemical weapons.  Not regime change, not feeding the war pig.  It was about the chemical weapons.

And now, with this offer on the table, the question of chemical weapons is back in the forefront.

Obama obviously needs to make his case - to the public and the UN - in order to keep the pressure on Assad.  But if Assad even turns over MOST of his chemical weapons, Obama can rightly proclaim a victory in his fight for the non-proliferation and non-use of WMD.

It's not over, by any stretch, but this is the first good option the US has had in weeks.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Give It A Greenwald Unit

(A Greenwald Unit is 24 hours long, since most Greenwald revelations tend to erode under 24 hours of scrutiny.)

The news today that John Kerry may have said something and then Vladimir Putin said, "OK" and that could mean no bombing of Syria is... good news.

For me it was always about the chemical weapons and the ban against the use of same.

If Syria hands over its chemical weapons, we will have done what we wanted to do.

WTF People?

Secession talk shouldn't come of anything, but as the GOP increasingly makes itself irrelevant by embracing its whackaloon base, you could see more of this.

Secession is the whiner's way out, the political equivalent of trying to take your ball and go home, except it's not your ball.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Last night I had to run out to the local sports bar to watch the USMNT crap the bed against Costa Rica, because - despite buying every sports channel possible - I don't get the one channel that carried that particular game.

There are so many sports events, heck, so many sports, that traditional television can't properly cover them.  Instead, you should have the option of selecting what you want to watch off your cable box on demand.

But since that only serves the consumers, I'm sure it will never happen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

On The Merits

My Senator, Chris Murphy, voted against the AUMF for Syria.  I disagree, but I completely understand.  He doesn't see the merit in striking Assad's regime, and there are reasons to believe that's true.

But then you have things like this:

Here's a guy who was clamoring to strike Syria until the President put it to Congress and now he'll probably vote against it.  You saw something similar - I'd warrant - in Britain, where the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition was not strong enough to back Cameron.

The merits of a case like this are tricky.  There are rarely "slam dunks" in intelligence work and "beyond a reasonable doubt" is not usually the benchmark.  But after Iraq, no one trusts nobody in the intelligence world.

But this is the politics of the modern GOP and this is why Obama's decision to go to Congress will probably mean that Assad - in my opinion - will get away with gassing civilians.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Counts For Good News

If Boehner indeed is tired of managing the monkey House, then riding off to K Street makes a lot of sense.  If he can avoid shutting down the government, defaulting on the debt and maybe getting immigration reform passed, my guess is that he would indeed find a comfy landing spot amongst the lobbyists.


Getting the ACA up to speed and running smoothly will require a great deal of painstaking work and diligent management.

But so far it look pretty good.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This Is Why You Don't Go To Congress

The reason foreign policy - and with it being Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces - was invested in a single executive was that action, energy and decisiveness are key in that area.

Obviously commitments like treaties should be ratified by the people's representatives, but Obama won't get his Syrian resolution because  - not substantive reasons - the Congress is full of lunatics and prima donnas.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This Seems Right

Key 'graph:

For the purpose of deterring chemical-weapon attacks, the intent to strike matters nearly as much as the strike itself. Imagine that Congress votes not to authorize Obama’s plan. Then further imagine that Bashar al-Assad, emboldened, carries out another chemical attack. The media coverage would be far more intense. And members of Congress who voted no will have to answer for the carnage that will appear on television screens across the world. If the first vote lost by a relatively narrow margin, Obama would probably then call for a second vote and stand a good chance of winning.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day

via Anne Laurie

Here's to a livable wage in a market economy rather than a market society that treats people as cost problems to be solved.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Choking On Success

The Left (including the Center Left) in this country are on a pretty good run.  Since 1988, they have lost the presidential popular vote once, to an incumbent in the middle of a war who had the lowest margin of re-election since Woodrow Wilson.

They control the Senate and while they don't control the House, more people voted for Democrats for the House than for the Republicans in the last election.

And while Obama's and the Democratic Party's approval ratings are not great, they are stellar compared to the GOP's.

Iraq, Katrina and the Crash of '08 have widely discredited the GOP, as have their continued intolerance of minorities and the poor.

But at the same time, I'm really worried.  Will Rogers famously said, "I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a Democrat."  And during the latter part of Rogers' life, FDR cobbled together an somewhat unsustainable coalition of urban ethnic groups, Southern conservatives and the old Progressives.

By 1972, that coalition had collapsed at the national level.  While it could still control Congress because of its conservative Southern members, it was basically hapless at the national level for 20 years, with only Watergate gifting it the White House.

And the reason was because the Democratic Party seemed to be carrying on a conversation exclusively with itself.  In other words, they were in exactly the same place that the GOP is now: talking to itself, ignoring the broader political culture and alienating large swaths of voters.

Obama's recent agonistes over Syria has alienated large swaths of his base, but his actions from a long range perspective have been trying to balance prudence with America's commitment to international norms and laws.  But watching the commentariat at several left wing blogs, there were not a few "just like Bush" comments floating around.

Reading Salon has been interesting, as it has been like a caricature of leftist gobbledy gook.  There was a piece yesterday about the oppressive nature of the word "wife".

When I was in college in the late '80s, "liberalism" was also becoming a caricature of itself.  I remember the "Antioch Rules" for dating, Catherine McKinnon's arguments that most heterosexual sex was rape and the beginning of "meat is murder".

As the Left moves into ascendancy, it has a tendency to eat its young.  It forgets that it takes a coalition and compromise to govern.  This was the outrage over the public option in the ACA that was simply never going to happen.  If the Democrats lose the Senate seat in Louisiana next November, they may come to regret not having Mary Landrieu in the Senate, not matter how annoying it can be to work with her on environmental issues.

Now, this is happening just as much or more on the Right.  Part of this is the effect of parties re-aligning ideologically over the past twenty years.  As the parties become more polarized, it becomes harder to stray from the party line.  We see this in the House, as Boehner's inability to govern is because his Caucus demands a level of purity that is unreasonable and unsustainable.

What I worry is that we are just a few election cycles away from the same sort of internecine warfare and purity standards.

When Democrats stand for marriage equality, they will win elections.  If they have to pay for hormone treatments for transgendered prisoners, they will lose.  If Democrats stand for health care and a livable wage, they will win.  If they stand for massive redistribution of wealth, they will lose.  If Democrats try and thread the line between imperium and prudence in foreign affairs, they will win.  If they become isolationist and pacifist, they will lose.

We shall see what the future holds.