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

Thursday, November 28, 2013


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

So many things to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No Easy Answers

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

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

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

No easy answers, indeed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb. Bomb, Bomb Iran

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

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

Or, as always, what Booman says:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harry Reid Is From Nevada, He Knows Nuclear

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

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

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

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

Outsourcing Thursday

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

Read them all.

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

George Zimmerman

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

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


UPDATE:  Never write on the same topic as TNC:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fundamentals Vs Personality

The GOP outreach to women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Might Want To Look Into This

The website is glitchy, but getting much better.

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

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

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

But we don't.


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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Walking Dead Liveblog

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

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

Or maybe he's paranoid.

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

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

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

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

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

How did these schlubs survive this long?

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

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

OK, that was awfully gross.

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

12 Years A Slave

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

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

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

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

This is the American Schindler's List.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

The ACA Website Fix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And some guys threw this together in a few days.

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

Some Friday Awesome Awesomeness.

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

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

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

Can I have my house back?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Inside The Borg

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

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

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

Politically, the Right is winning right now.

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Good Analysis

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

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

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

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

Take your medicine now, as it were.

More On Cohen

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

Can We Just Euthanize The WaPo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yeah, Hillary probably beats Christie.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The WaPo

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, November 11, 2013

Zombie Lies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Awfulness

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

But whatever, let's keep burning coal.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Today In Awfulness

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

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

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

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

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

While I Am Still Tired...

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

This is water.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So Damned Tired

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

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

That was a proud moment.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This Is What Funny Sounds Like

This Is What Love Looks Like

Tea Leaves

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

I take away two things.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Of This Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

Oh, Let's Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should mend the Constitution, not end it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Walking Dead Liveblog

Will Herschel die?  Glenn?  The drug run group?

It's been a while since we've killed off a main character, so I think we're due.

Is Rick going to do something to Carol?  We have dramatic music, so maybe...

Lizzie is kind of nuts.  But she's a rational kind of nuts in this world.  She and Carol both.  That's a pretty messed up relationship.
Interesting.  Carol is using the logic that Rick using during the Ricktatorship.

Gas costs Hell during the apocalypse.

Tyrese is a little bundle of happiness, isn't he?

Oh, I think Tyrese just can't let it go...

It's interesting how the prison is a place of death with the sickness, but outside the prison is so much more tense.  Death is the prison seems depressing, because the prison was safe, but death outside the prison seems expected.
Carol may have just saved her life, if Rick was planning on killing her.

Ah... the crew.  The guy from Season Two.

"Anger makes you stupid and stupid gets you killed."  Words to live by.
As Marilyn Manson said, the show is really about morality.

This much talking, some one is about to die...

OK, someone besides her.
We are entering the carnage-zone of the show.  The last fifteen minutes is usually about death. I still have a bad feeling about this episode.

Again, too many walkers, mathematically speaking.

Now really isn't the time for an intervention.

Daryl just Big Dogged the hell out of Barksdale.
Wow.  An excommunication.  That's a first.

Carol seems to be taking this well...Can't decide what to make of that.

Hunh.  While exiling Carol was a big move, that's not the sort of big move I was expecting.

The professional wrestler on Talking Dead just made more sense than Marilyn Manson did.

The Wages Of Crazy

Charlie Crist was a popular GOP governor of Florida.  He will now run for the office as a Democrat.

Jason Thigpen, who would once qualify as a pretty middle of the road Republican, is going to run for Congress as a Democrat.

The question of what happens to moderates within the GOP is a fascinating one. There might be a place for moderate Republicans in certain northeastern areas of the country, because it will be hard for a Tea Party primary challenge to be successful.  But in the South, the Plains and the Southwest, there simply isn't any tolerance by the GOP primary voters (ie Tea Party) for moderate Republicanism.

This is how a party becomes irrelevant.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fair And Balanced

I think this is a pretty good overview of what the NSA has been doing and why it's problematic.  A lot of what has come out recently is embarrassing rather than illegal.  There are no laws prohibiting us from spying on other countries, even our friends.  Angela Merkel is not protected by the Bill of Rights.

But the problem is not that the NSA is listening in on your phone calls.  They <probably> aren't.  The problem is that we are moving to a place where the NSA feels unfettered by restraints of any kind.

And that's what I got from the above piece.

One Continent, Two Countries

Canada is recently making headlines because the mayor of Toronto is a crackhead who threatens the lives of people.  At this point, there is no evidence that this deranged jackalope has killed anybody.

Meanwhile, an apparently mentally ill man can wander into an airport and start shooting people in LAX.  Because freedom.

Canada will probably move in a sound, prudent manner towards some sort of resolution to Crackhead Mayor Problem.

America will continue to sacrifice people to Moloch.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Fly In Their Ointment

All of the complaints about the roughly 3% of Americans who "lose" under Obamacare miss a fundamental point.

We must admit that 3% of the population is about 9 million people.  That's a non-negligible number.

But the idea that they are losers, as Jon Chait points out, neglects one thing.  That's the way insurance works.  From a strictly cost-benefit analysis, you only want to pay for something you might use.  And if you are young and healthy, that means paying for as little health insurance as possible.

But ACA will require you to pay more (though you will likely get subsidies to help meet the cost), even if you are strapping young buck.  This is necessary to help pay for sicker people.

Again, that's the way insurance works.

The fundamental flaw in this argument - as should be apparent - is that strapping young bucks have no idea when their game of beer soaked flag football goes horribly wrong.

Insurance for the healthy is about managing risk.  Insurance for the insurance companies is about spreading risk.  Insurance for people who need it can be a matter of life and death.

Guess who I care about most.