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, March 31, 2014

Skewed ACA

Yes, the RAND Corporation is cooking the books.  The CBO is cooking the books.

Or alternately, the ACA is kind of working as intended.  People are getting insured.  The government is not a bunch of blind monkeys trying to defuse a nuclear bomb.  It can do some things that makes people's lives better.

Given how that undercuts everything Republicans believe, I can see why they can't believe it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Walking Dead Liveblog - Season Finale

Ah!  Herschel!

You know, Scott Gimple - the latest "showrunner" - has a really good sense of how to set a story.  Great opening.
"Who are we?"  Apparently people who allow guys to die.

"You get to come back."  This finale seems to be about Rick going back into the darkness.

Nice that they are getting back to the desperation of the road.

Wow.  Getting the confrontation into it early.
Don't put down the crossbow, Daryl.

Oh... damn...
Rick's a better brother than Merle, by the way...

Still wondering what Terminus really is.  I guess we are about to find out.

Michonne is a better mother than Lori, by the way...

So suddenly this is Monsters, Inc?

OK...So Terminus is about as bad as we might have thought.
Did they just kill off a whole bunch of regulars?  Couldn't have.  Glenn, Maggie, hell, they just added Abe.

Post-apocalyptic Legos...

Once again, no one in the apocalypse can shoot unless it's walkers. (I guess they meant to miss.)

Oh, and they are cannibals.

This is going to be a ridiculous cliffhanger.
It's a veal pen.

Ah, there are the regulars!

Looks like Tyrese and Carol to the rescue!

Yes.  Yes they are screwing with the wrong people.

I like this half season, because it was about character development.  The Governor story got tedious, but this could be very interesting.

And, Rick Agonistes was never THAT interesting.  Rick Badass is much more interesting.

American Has No Foreign Policy...

... that disagrees with Israel's.

Holy Land Crap, Batman!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Impressive Ad Campaign

As part of the release of Noah, apparently the studio has arranged for us to get 40 days and nights of rain...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Krugzilla Vs. The Gay Math Wizard

I've only been mildly interested in the feud between Nate Silver and Paul Krugman.

I do think that Silver risks becoming a mere contrarian, rather than a data driven journalist as he proclaims.

And I do think Krugman has a point when he says that there are such things as "experts" in certain fields, though we can all agree that Op-Ed columnists rarely qualify.  Unfortunately for Silver, Krugman IS an expert and has a prognostication record about as good (and much longer) than Silver's.

I get that Silver might be picking fights in order to drive web traffic, but that's not a long term tactic to make himself the place I think he wants to establish in American journalism.

Anyway, this is a good take on it:

The Long Fight To Prevent People From Going To The Doctor

I wrote the other day about how the GOP is constantly engaged in fighting yesterday's battles.

But it occurs to me that it makes a certain amount of sense for them to do so.  Their aging base is engaged by the idea of turning back to "their America" where "people knew their place".

And when we look at the constant, even desperate, attempts to overturn ACA through the courts, it strikes me that this is merely the judicial equivalent of the Kristol Memo.

The Kristol Memo - written during the health care debate during Clinton's first term - basically acknowledges that passing health care reform would dramatically undermine the GOP's ideological claims that "government isn't the answer to your problem; government is the problem."  If the government can insure millions of people, which will have a powerful effect on the financial well being of millions of Americans, then we will have another example - like Social Security, Medicare and public education - of tangible efforts by the government to improve the lot of the majority of Americans.

This is a pretty critical five to six year window for Obamacare, because once it survives the myriad legal challenges it will be ingrained in the social and economic fabric of the country.  But it's most vulnerable in its infancy.

The GOP has certainly shown a desire to keep fighting fights long after they seem to be over.  In some cases - abortion - they seem to be tilting the battleground in their favor.  Whereas in other areas - immigration, contraception - it only makes them look worse.

But for the GOP to pay a political price for this constant assault on ACA, Democrats have to defend it and counterattack.  I realize that they don't have the Koch billions at their disposal, but they have to start making the point that this law is tangibly helping millions of people RIGHT NOW.

This isn't "bully pulpit" nonsense.  This is about flooding the airwaves with positive Obamacare stories.  Right now, the Kochs and others are running ads - almost all of which prove to be faulty, lies or half truths - that talk about the disruption of ACA.  Democrats HAVE to point out the good it's doing - while simultaneously talking up the minimum wage increase.

If you want to shape a populist economic message, the ACA is a wonderful opportunity to show how Democrats want to make life better for the 99%.

First, Democrats need to stop avoiding fights with a GOP that's unpopular.  Approve the nominee for Surgeon General already.  Stand up for judicial nominees.


Be Democrats.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wow, This Is Good

The strange credibility of one of America's premier war criminals.

It Goes Further Than This

While voters are no doubt tired of the Obamacare debate, I bet they're tired of all the rest of the GOP schtick.

I, personally, am tired of:

- arguing about a women's right to contraceptive care.
- arguing about a women's right of choice.
- arguing about whether kids on food stamps are moochers and takers.
- arguing about the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.
- arguing about marriage equality.
- arguing about whether unregulated financial markets will self-regulate.
- arguing about Austrian vs Keynesian economics.
- arguing about whether global climate change is derived from human causes.

The GOP has not had a genuinely new policy idea in years.  Medicare Plan D was a disastrous maladaption of a Democratic idea.  Maybe No Child Left Behind, but... meh to that.

The problem with being a retrograde political movement extends beyond the fact that the GOP base is a bunch of shouty old people yelling at the brown people to get off their America.  It's the fact that all they can do is fight the old battles.

And it does work to the degree that the Left gets tired of fighting the same old rearguard actions to protect gains already made (see abortion, contraception).

The only reason Rand Paul is at all appealing to the political press is that at least he's being stupid about new things.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


There can be no more perfect example of the batshit insanity of conservatives than this:

Here we have noted conservative attention monger, Matt Drudge, voluntarily acting against his economic interest for the purpose of protesting a law that is designed to either help or not even touch the vast majority of Americans.  The purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to provide affordable care.  It is designed to help take millions of Americans who have no health insurance and bring them into either government or private insurance.

That's it.

It's not an assault on liberty.  It's not the end of America.  It's a plan to get people health insurance, just like Medicare and Medicaid were.

For this numbnuts to voluntarily pay a penalty to protest a law that's designed solely to make it easier for people to get health coverage - when he doesn't have to pay that penalty - is the height of idiocy.

A lot of economics rests on the idea that people will make rational decisions about their fiscal situation.  They may have incomplete information or make a poor choice, but it will rationally proceed from the information they have, the intellectual abilities they have and the education they have received.

Conservative opposition to ACA began with states voluntarily denying themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies to enroll their citizens in Medicaid.  At least there is some signs that some states are reconsidering.  Freaking Utah is looking into it.

So hopefully the massive conservative irrationality is abiding somewhat at the macro level and will instead seep down to idiots like Drudge who are free to squander their money and their health in moronic protests that only prove what colossal dipshits they are.

Corporations Are People, Too, My Friends

It's just that they're assholes.

As we saunter through the new Gilded Age, it is worth contemplating the origins of corporate personhood.

Corporations were made people by a Supreme Court court reporter, who not coincidentally was a railroad official before working for the Supremes (many of whom had been... railroad lawyers).  In the Santa Clara decision, Bancroft took a position that Chief Justice Morrison Waite expressed orally and added it to the final decision.  Here is what Waite said:

"One of the points made and discussed at length in the brief of counsel for defendants in error was that 'corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.' Before argument, Mr. Chief Justice Waite said: The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."

The problem is that the case in question had nothing to do with equal protection of laws.  Which is why Waite didn't want to argue about that.  But by adding this interpretation, the Santa Clara case has become extraordinarily important in this post- Citizens United world.

The basic idea of corporate personhood should be extended to contract law.  Corporations must have the same legal rights to enter contracts as regular humans.

But that's not the same as having Constitutional rights.  The idea that a corporation enjoys the same rights as an individual is absurd.  For instance, Citizens United says that corporations have the right to free speech.

Yet who makes the determination what to say?  The President?  CEO?  The Board?  The shareholders?  Corporations have no individual rights because corporations are not individuals.

The greater perversion of the idea of corporate personhood arises out of the history of the 14th Amendment.  The Mighty Fourteenth was designed to do several things to resolve issues attendant to Reconstruction.  But the most important thing it was designed to do was to overturn Dred Scott and that "a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect."  The Fourteenth was designed to give citizenship to the Freedmen.  And then it was to make sure that ALL citizens have rights.  Previous to the Fourteenth, the Bill of Rights applied only to the NATIONAL government.  Any rights from the states would have to be the state constitutions.

So the corporate lawyers nominated by such worthies as Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester Arthur and James Garfield basically re-wrote the Fourteenth Amendment as a form of corporate protection clause.  At the same time, they were stripping away the Fourteenth Amendments protections for African Americans in the Slaughterhouse Cases and the Civil Rights Cases.

It's a travesty.

And it's a travesty that leads directly to Citizen's United.

And it could very well lead to a further tragedy if the "Free Market" Five decide to apply religious exemptions to the ACA in order to exempt it from contraception coverage.

The only possible solution would be a constitutional amendment stripping corporations of their personhood for anything but contract law.

And while that would be most welcome, it would be impossible with the dysfunction that we currently see in our government.

Welcome to the plutocracy, plebes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Soccer Day

Two games at almost the same time, and I appear to have some food poisoning.

Survived it.

This time.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Politics Is Depressing

It is the age of Yeats.

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

Time for a personal day.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Winners And Losers

I was reading an article about China being the real winner of the Ukraine-Crimea crisis/standoff, and it occurred to me that we need a new language to describe a multi-polar world.  Both the "Great Game" of the late 19th century and Containment strategy of the Cold War created a framework of "winners and losers."  If Russia advanced into Afghanistan, that was - de facto - a loss for the West.  As you can see from that example, there are problems with this framework already.  America "gained" Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush, but few people seriously argue that "winning" those wars created a gain for the US.  In fact, the "winner" in Iraq was Iran.  Except Iran continues to struggle under sanctions and a decaying, kleptocratic economy.  So what does winning mean?

It is clear that there are losers in international affairs.  The US lost prestige, moral authority and military readiness in Iraq.  But Islamic terrorist groups also lost. As did the Iraqi people who died, were maimed or uprooted.

Finding losers is easy.

But finding winners is tricky.  Because the parameters of victory change over time.  The US "lost" Vietnam, but "won" the Cold War.  Could the US have "won" the Cold War without going into Vietnam?  Or was Vietnam the price we paid for containment and keeping the Russian economy on a war footing it could not sustain?

Winning and losing is binary.  As noted logician, Ricky Bobby, has noted, "If you're not first, you're last."  And as his biological father notes: "That doesn't make any sense."  This is the logic that makes an Olympic silver medalist a "loser."

The obsession with winning and losing makes foreign policy somewhat hysterical.  McCain and Graham are typical of this manic obsession with "winning and losing" that typifies the foreign policy "thinking" that passes for elder statesman status in DC.

Washington has been called Hollywood for ugly people, but I think we can also call it Thunderdome for cowards.  (Not McCain, but Graham, Kristol et al)  There is a need to swagger and overcompensate and posture that is entirely wrapped up in this fallacy of winning and losing.

Putin "won" in Crimea.  Yet he is delivering a blow to a fragile, top-heavy resource-based economy whose weakness is already denting his domestic popularity.  The US "lost" because... I don't know exactly why the US "lost" except that Putin "won".  In fact, economically sidelining Putin in the G-8 could redound to the West's benefit.  Maybe it pushes Ukraine closer to the West, which allows them to sideline their neo-fascist factions?

Who knows?

In free trade circles, it is understood that both countries "win" with free trade.  With NAFTA, the US gets cheap consumer goods and Mexico gets a wider industrial base and higher wages.  This does not obscure that industrial workers in the US and farmers in Mexico lose, but the economies of both countries purportedly win.

Until we can embrace some nuance and subtlety in our understanding of internatioal affairs, we are going to be constantly and maniacally ping ponging from one "crisis" to the next.

Ironically, the mass of Americans - who don't give a shit about Crimea - already seem to understand this.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Do all the crazy people settle to the south of the country, with the especially crazy people settling deepest into Florida?

Because... Damn!

(Don't click through if you're sensitive.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finally An Explanation Of The Malaysian Airline

Occam's Razor...

Hippy Punching

There's a lot of hippie punching going on on the internets today.

TBogg has some.  Booman's thread has become one.

I don't usually comment on blogs, because it's mostly shouting at the wind.  But I feel strangely compelled to address the Purity Progressives.

I don't think TBogg is right that holier than thou Naderites cost Democrats elections by staying home.  But they may contribute to the fallacy that both parties are to blame, so there is that.  If you honestly believe that there isn't much difference between the two parties, then you are either ignorant or your perspective has shifted so far to the left or right that the parties seem identical from that distance.

So Purity Progs scream and yell about drones and the NSA, as if they are the same things as Iraq and TIA.  They aren't.  In type they are roughly similar, but in degree they are widely disparate.

And change rarely happens in the quick, clean way that Purity Progs seem to desire.  The US system relies on evolutionary, not revolutionary, change.  So we get ACA without a public option.  I would be surprised if we didn't have a public option in 15-20 years.  And I think we will see an increasing number of Americans insured by the government.  By the time my own actuarial table expires, I expect America will have something similar to single payer, though with private features.

Now, the "hippies" are important because they keep agitating for a public option and increasing numbers of Americans covered by Medicaid and Medicare.  The role of the Left is to draw the parameters of the debate in the direction they wish to see it go.

But if you get all pouty and petulant because Obama killed Anwar al Awlaki with a drone, then you are missing the broader historical significance of what he is trying to do.

Part of the real success of the GOP is that they have managed for years to pander to their Right Wing with rhetoric, while only fulfilling the economic aspects of the Rightist agenda.  True, they will appoint judges that uphold social conservative positions, but Bush didn't pass a law to outlaw abortion.

The GOP could be headed for a fracture, because that right wing - the Tea Party - is tired of feeling dissed.  And the very inelectability of a national Republican right now is because they have to campaign from the Right before they can campaign Center-Right.

If Democrats were to stake out positions on the Far Left, some would be popular: raising the minimum wage, a public option, leaving Afghanistan yesterday.  But there are also some that would be toxic: large scale disarmament, a heavier tax load that would allow for more redistribution, a ban on domestic hydrocarbon production.  It is worth noting that Obama has started to stake out more left wing economic positions.

The job of the "extreme" wings of the party is to influence policy, with the understanding that that influence can take a generation to pay off.  That's the only way change works in America.

It has taken a generation for same sex marriage to go from being a small minority position to being a marginally majority position, on its way to become a sizable majority position.  In 1994, this was a far-out position; in 2004, it was a wedge issue benefiting Republicans; in 2014 it's on its way to being the law of the land.  LGBT activists pushed this issue, but didn't sit out 2008, because Obama only embraced civil unions.  They voted for him, kept pushing and he "evolved".

That's how you change American politics and policies.  You play the long game.

Otherwise, you're as naive as a child.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Apparently the Russians are back to operating under Pravda rules.

Under the Soviets, the Politburo controlled everything.  Now it is Putin and the siloviki.  With any closed group of powerful men, you run the risk of them believing their own bullshit.  That's what got us into Iraq after all.

As for Russia annexing Crimea, it's tough to say whether the election was fraudulent.  While there was undoubtedly some fraud and intimidation, the fact is Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian.

Now the Turkish foreign minister has suggested that changing the borders of Ukraine could trigger a wave of similar actions across Eurasia.

The examples given are interesting ones.  First, the secession movements of Western Europe are really not comparable.  If Catalan, Basque and Scottish independence movements DO succeed, you're inevitably left with the question: So what?  An independent Scotland would mean very little in an integrated Europe.  Spain would obviously be aggrieved at losing a substantial part of its territory (and tax base), but with no passport or trade issues, you're talking about a loss of sovereignty over those areas, but no real change in commerce, culture or travel.

The Kurdish example - no doubt foremost in the minds of the Turks - is different.  First, the Kurds SHOULD have their own state.  They got robbed of the opportunity the first time around in 1921.  With Kurdish Iraq and Kurdish Syria effectively severed from their previous (dysfunctional) countries, a Kurdish state exists now in all but name.

Turkey's worry that Turkish Kurds might forcibly secede from Turkey could be easily remedied.  Simply arrange for any Kurd to repatriate to the new Kurdistan.  Population flows to Kurdistan and Turkey becomes more Turkish.  The Kurdish separatists within Turkey are kneecapped by the presence of a viable Kurdish state.

The persistence of illogical borders is an artifact of imperialism that still exists in the fringes of Europe.  The British, Russian and Ottoman empires still distort the map and force people to live in some cases under governments not of their own choosing.

National sovereignty once meant something when governments depended on tariffs for revenue and interstate wars were common.  But in an increasingly integrated world, those necessities should give way to people's desire to choose their own government.

And if Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi want to give secession another try, I'm cool with that, too.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis

I finally got to see the latest Coen Brothers' film, Inside Llewyn Davis.

It might be the most accurate depiction of the intersection of creative arts and the entertainment industry that I've ever seen.

I mean, it's depressing, but, you know, exactly.

The CIA And Dianne Feinstein

It takes a lot to get Senator Feinstein upset with the intelligence "community".  Spying on her apparently did the trick.  Obama is apparently stuck between Feinstein and Brennan, but I don't see why.

I get that Obama is an "above the fray" type of leader; he's not going to react to every glitch and every headline.

But he ran quite pointedly against the Bush torture regimen in 2008.  He very much disappointed his base by not pursuing prosecutions against those responsible for bringing into being this national disgrace.  I would guess every Democrat in the country (do we still count Lieberman as a Democrat?) wanted to see Dick Cheney in the stocks.

Ending it was not enough.  There should have been a reckoning.

(In fact, Obama's refusal to throw a few banksters in jail also didn't work either, as they are still jobbing the economy to their benefit and hate him more than ever, despite the bull market.)

Now, we have what appears to be a clear-cut case of the CIA engaged in illegal activities on American soil against the US Freaking Congress.

Obama now has an opportunity to clean house.  He doesn't have to worry about re-election and doing something on this requires not an iota of assistance from the recalcitrant House.

It is time America had a reckoning for its torture regime.  Bin Laden is dead.  Al Qaeda is scattered and ineffectual.  The CIA has engaged in criminal obstruction of justice and domestic spying.

Clean house, Mr. President.  Now is the time, and this is the opportunity.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Paul Ryan's Outreach

So, the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver is at it again.

Recently - I think at CPAC - Paul Ryan made comments about poverty being linked to urban culture.  Urban, for those of you not paying attention to post WW II America, means "black".  To be fair, it might also mean "brown".  What it does not mean is "white".

People responded poorly to this, and Ryan said he was misunderstood and articulated his points poorly.

But as Josh Marshall points out, the problem is that Ryan was basing his remarks on the work Charles Murray.  Murray has argued in the past that blacks lag behind whites because they are genetically inferior.  He made this point in The Bell Curve, which came out in 1994.  In case you were wondering, arguing that one group is racially inferior based on genetics is kind of the definition of racism.

Ryan's problems are indicative of the broader issues in conservatism, and they are linked to more than just Charles Murray.  Ryan is also a devotee of Ayn Rand.  And Objectivism is just as odious and corrosive as the ideas of Charles Murray.

If there is a common theme to Rand and Murray's work it is the idea of "I've got mine, screw you," which is at the heart of modern conservatism.  This is the philosophy - obviously - of the 1%, but also of the older, white middle class voters that make of the GOP base.  It is a philosophy that justifies doing nothing to help others who might need them.  It justifies everything from banning paramedics from carrying Narcon to cutting school lunches to refusing the need for a public works project to climate change denialism.

And Ryan is a wonderful avatar of this movement, because he himself benefited from the "welfare state" when he used Social Security survivor benefits to go to college.  In short, he got his, so screw the rest of you.

But I do sense that Ryan does have some understanding of his hypocrisy.  I sense that he "gets" that the GOP can't just go around saying "I got mine, screw you."  That's why he stages ridiculous photo ops in soup kitchens and packages his latest round of cuts in spending as "helping the poor."  Ryan is a Catholic and has a dim understanding that as a Christian, you can't write off your neighbor. (This makes his embrace of Randian Objectivism all the more paradoxical, since Rand explicitly chastised Christianity for embracing compassion for the poor.)

So Ryan the Politician understands the toxicity of going around saying, "Screw you, I got mine" but Ryan the Policy Maker is philosophically wedded to a bunch of ideas (Rand's, Murray's) that lead in no other direction.

The GOP remains a formidable "vote getter" because their base votes.  Rain or shine, they show up.  But they also remain incapable of governance.  Witness the body Paul Ryan helps lead; the GOP House is least productive legislative body in modern history.

Both their appeal to the electorate and their incompetence in governing are linked to the basic philosophy of "Screw you, I got mine."  This is why the angry old coots don't want the government messing around in their Medicare and Social Security.

The problem is that 8 years of Obama (and 8 years of Bush for that matter) have created responses that have painted them into a corner.  Bush's incompetence and Obama's mere presence have made them embrace ever more radical ideas and policies.  They have wrapped themselves ever more tightly around "Screw you" all the while losing more and more of the country's electoral future.

So Poor Paul Ryan, who no doubt sees himself as a compassionate, Christian man, is left impaled between the horns of Rand and Murray on one side and Jesus Christ and Pope Francis on the other.

No wonder he's inarticulate.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

OTOH, This IS A Nice Thing

"How does it feel to be the last black President?"

"What should we do about North Ikea?"

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

This has always been the thing about modern conservatives (and not a few conservatives from the past).  They have a steadfast refusal to consider evidence contradictory to their deeply held beliefs.  I realize that this is a consistent human feature.  We tend to cling to beliefs over evidence, but it especially true of conservatives.  And what's more, it's true when it directly applies to their lives.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Oh, God

Krugzilla Returns

I hate the NYTimes paywall, because I can no longer read the Professor.

But in this piece, he notes the compelling research from the IMF that shows redistributive fiscal policy actually enhances economic growth.  What's more it creates the sort of sustained, gentle growth we saw in the '90s.  When you have income inequality, you tend to see bubbles and crashes like in the '00s.

I've always felt that insufficient taxes on the wealthy create speculative bubbles simply because they have extra money lying around.  And out of cupidity, they desire more lucre.  So they pursue various means - stock or real estate speculation, increasingly byzantine derivatives - that create the bubbles that eventually the middle class gets sucked into.  And when it crashes, it is those with marginal assets that get crushed.

Nice to see that notoriously leftist IMF come to the same conclusion.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

TV Sunday

A few weeks ago, I was splitting time between Walking Dead, True Detective and Downton Abbey.  I'm down to Walking Dead after a tremendous (and unexpectedly optimistic) ending to True Detective.

I've always been intrigued but not invested in the mythologies that people create around well written shows.  The X-Files, Lost, you name it.  I prefer to let the story unfold the way the creators want.  Now sometimes in television, the creators don't know where they are going. But the beauty of True Detective was that it was a pre-written, contained storyline.  There was no temptation to outthink the audience and internet theorists.  Ultimately, they told a story about the conflict between the light and the dark.

Meanwhile, Walking Dead has finally decided to concentrate on characters.  It's made for a better show.


I love Pierce when he has his Irish up.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


One could hope that the comments listed above were trolling - and maybe a few were.  But the right's hatred of Obama is so profound, so all encompassing, the fact is many on the right would prefer Putin to Obama.

I've had the opportunity to study Putin a little bit, and he's not a guy you want anywhere near the levers of power.

He's benefited from Russia's natural resources - as many autocrats do - but he's not made a "Greater Russia" no matter what he thinks.

But then again, getting "high on your own supply" is also a feature of the right wing in this country.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Paul Ryan Might Be A Pathological Liar

I was going to write about how Paul Ryan pissed me off, so let me start with that.

Yesterday, the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver got up at the yearly clown show that is CPAC and created a whopper of a strawman to attack.

He said, roughly, that there was a kid who didn't want a free school lunch, but a bag lunch, because that meant someone cared about him.  Fair enough.

But then he created his strawman, which is that liberals don't understand that people don't want school lunches they want lunches made by mom or dad.

Screw you, dude.

In fact, what liberals care about is that the little kid gets a lunch, period.  What we care about is that kids who come from disadvantaged families don't have to go hungry.

Yes, we would prefer that they can bring lunches from home.  That's kind of why Democrats support things like the minimum wage and food stamps.  The idea is to allow the working poor more dignity and resources to live their life.

So, screw you, Paul Ryan.

But then it gets better.

Turns out the story he told didn't happen at all like he said it did.

Two things: First, Paul Ryan is now the GOP frontrunner, because he combines Nixon's honesty, Bush's homespun diction and Romney's warmth for the 1%.

Second, this party - that persists to live in a world of lies - could win control of the Senate this fall.

ADDED: Robert Schlesinger points out a fundamental contradiction at the heart of Ryan's appeal.  Let me clarify to for him.  The Americans who seek the "dignity of work" are different from those who want to "turn the safety net into a hammock."  The difference in the GOP's mind can be explained with a word that rhymes with "black".

Can You Hear Me Now?

This is really interesting.  America's internet is relatively crappy.  This kind of explains why.

It reminds me of my theory of why America could never move beyond the second or third tier of international rugby.  We're just too big a country to get the players - who were amateurs - together to practice.  Similarly, the US is a difficult place to wire with fiberoptic cable (or whatever is the current fastest conduit of 1s and 0s).

Generally speaking, where people live closer to each other, they tend to value government action more.  You realize Locke's version of the social contract is more accurate to your needs.  And so you imbue the social contract with more communal needs.

Frankly, US internet service is yet another example of where the so-called free market is failing Americans.  Between monopolistic practices and profit margins, providing the best and easiest internet service is less important that providing the cheapest internet service the customers will tolerate.

So, yeah.  America!  Number one, baby!  Whoohoo!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yes, Please

I would like $2000.  My guess is we would either use it to reduce our debt, fix the house up a bit or take a trip. If it were to reduce debt, it would be debt we've incurred to fix the house up a bit.  So one way or another, that money is stimulative.  Taking a trip would also be stimulative, providing we don't go over seas.

And on $4000 for the two of us, we are unlikely to get to Spain and do more than stay in hostels.  And then there are the Things and their incessant need for food and oxygen, so there goes the
"strap them to the wing of the airplane" idea.

Of course, something like this was sort of done during the stimulus, but it was done in such a way that no one noticed.

But a check for two grand?  I'd notice that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Just Keep Screwing That Chicken, Fellas

There was a poll about Hillary Clinton's biggest weakness going into 2016.  The headlines say it was Benghazi at 15%.

Actually it was "Nothing" at 18%.

The National Journal, staid mouthpiece of the DC status quo, inevitably concern trolls the Democrats that they ignore Benghazi at their peril.  Toppling Qaddafi is one of the perceived strong points on her resume.  I guess.  But the idea is that they will use the same old Karl Rove playbook of attacking a candidate's strengths until it becomes a weakness.  The word for this is "swiftboating".

The real worry is that Hillary Clinton somehow did not learn from her sclerotic campaign of 2008 and will create yet again a top-heavy, consultant driven campaign that plays it safe.  And if she does that, then possibly the GOP constantly harping on Benghazi could leave a mark.

But I think Clinton has a tremendous opportunity to turn the tables on them.  "How dare they drag the dead bodies of fine American civil servants - including a man I know and trusted who served this country well for years - how dare they drag them into the public square for cheap political purposes.  Have you no shame?"

A vestige of our Victorian morals is the idea that women are more moral than men.  More compassionate.

THAT should be Hillary Clinton's calling card.  It will defuse the sense that she is too cold, too calculating and create that empathetic bridge to female voters than could tilt the electoral map in wonderful new directions.

Yeah, This Is BS

Russia's top economic adviser.

Russia's main product are natural resources.  Once they get beyond the Russian border, they are beyond Russian control.

Russia recently became a source for Foreign Direct Investment, primarily because Western companies - especially petrochemical companies like BP - have been partnering up with Russian companies.  If Russia pursued the sort of Bond Villain economic doomsday scenario outlined in that dude's rambling screed, they'd find precious little leverage to recoup their investments.

Russia ranks 20th in the world in imports, between Switzerland and Australia.  They don't buy our crap.  If they ARE buying crap, it's from China (just like everyone else).  If they stop buying our stuff, we would barely notice.

Russia is the 8th largest exporter in the world - ahead of Italy.  It exports about $500B a year.  But Russia is the second biggest oil exporter in the world, and Europe is its primary market.  So basically it's primary source of income is oil and LG.  Which it sells to the very people who would level sanctions.  We saw what happened to the Russian markets after the Crimean crisis erupted.  That was a prelude.

So Russia's real threat is to cut off the oil.  That would have a profound effect on European markets.

Of course, it would crash the Russian markets, too.

So the only weapon Russia has is the Doomsday Machine.

But the idea that they could crash the US dollar is absurd.  Catch this nonsense from the article:

He told the RIA Novosti news agency Russia could stop using dollars for international transactions and create its own payment system using its "wonderful trade and economic relations with our partners in the East and South."

This has been Putin's dream - creating a Eurasian Economic Zone.

The problem is that Russia's best markets are to the West.  Starve those markets, and the Russian economy collapses, too.

This reeks of epistemic closure.  This guy is high on his own bullshit.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thought Experiment

High degree of difficulty to appear this stupid.

Is Lindsay Graham too stupid to be allowed to breed?  (Oh, THAT'S why he's single!)

Or does he merely assume - probably correctly, since he represents South Carolina - that he needs to appear this fucking stupid in order to get re-elected.

We have the perfect feedback loop on the Right.  Someone comes up with a dumb as shit idea.  That dumb as shit idea is picked up by some blonde haired mannequin on Fox or one of their screamy, shouty middle aged Irishmen.  Then everyone wants to know why Senator McWhiteguy or Congressman Oldfart isn't screaming about this dumb shit idea.  Senator McWhiteguy and Congressman Oldfart begin to fear a primary challenge from County Solicitor Mouthbreathing O'Bircher.

Then Fox reports that the Congress is investigating this dumb shit idea.  The other networks treat this seriously for a few days - longer than it deserves - and then decide that it's a great big nothingburger.  Then Fox and Congressman Oldfart starting ranting about how the MSM is covering up the scandal of the dumb as shit idea.

And about 45% of the country wallows in this toxic, fecal stew of opportunistic bullshit ladled on the rubes like a fetid baptism in the church of Dumbass.

Yes, I'm bitter.

Slavery Was Just Another Entitlement Program

Limbaugh has always been the shining avatar of the Hive Mind.  When he speaks he both reflects and shapes what the cranky, old, white, male GOP believes.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sadly Predictable

A lot of the op-eds today are faulting Obama for...weakness?  It isn't exactly sure, but something bad is happening and it's inevitably the President's fault.  In fact, one of Dubya's better foreign policy moments - along with his AIDS initiative in Africa - was doing very little during the Georgia crisis.  Similarly, Obama scores high - or should - for being flexible and backing off the use of force in Syria.

The central fact is that there is little we can do to pressure Russia in its "near abroad".  You can - and many have - made the argument that it is hard for the US to condemn another country for invading another country on trumped up charges.  Ukraine IS a mess and ethnic Russians are in some danger.  That's at least as compelling as Saddam's WMD.

Unfortunately, the one actor who can pressure Russia is also the most vulnerable to Russian pressure, and that's the EU.  But if Putin pushes further into Ukraine, they may have no choice.

Putin has a full range of options.  Others don't.  What constrains Putin?  That's the central question.

ADDED:  This is good news.

ADDED, TOO: This is a good take on the WaPo and WSJ condemnation of Obama's foreign policy, especially noting that what the editorial boards advocate as solutions are pretty much what Obama is considering and has said he might do.  But expelling Russia from the G-8 can happen Wednesday as easily as Monday.  What's the freaking rush?

Plus, we come back to the Univeral Theory of Iraq.  If you supported the invasion of Iraq, you should immediately count to 4489 before speaking.  So, WaPo and WSJ: you are in time out for now.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Not Watching The Oscars, But....

Steve McQueen did the best directorial job of 2014.  I loved Gravity.  Very good.  But what he did with 12 Years a Slave was the most impressive feat of storytelling I've seen in a long time.

My guess is that this means Gravity wins best picture.  Or maybe Dallas Buyer's Club eeks out the win, since the director wasn't nominated.

But I still think 12 Years a Slave wins the Oscar.

We now return you to your Ukrainian apocalypse.

Walking Dead liveblog

Looks like we will be spending some time with Daryl MoFo Dixon.

Which means the guys writing dialogue get some time off.

So far, this is a nice storyline.  So different from the others.

I think Beth has always been an underwritten character.  Could be a chance to remedy that.

So...will this be the only storyline tonight?  I've rather enjoyed the multiple storyline format.
Nice set-up of Daryl's survival skills.  He knows what to take from a car, knows how to set up a camp, knows to go through people's pockets.

And now we have Walker pinatas!

This is pretty standard horror movie stuff.  Dark rooms, can do better Walking Dead!

Too bad.  Beth lost her wine.

So, let me get this straight.  A bunch of apparently wealthy people took refuge during the apocalypse in a golf club?  Couldn't there be a joke in here somewhere?

Tempis fugit indeed.  Maybe Beth could lend a hand?  Or is there another horror movie trope, where the girl stands around helpless?

"Peach Schnapps.  Is it good?"
And this is why Daryl is the most popular character on the show.
(That, and his impending sensitivity towards Beth.)
"Your first drink ain't gonna be no Peach Schnapps."
Is getting shit faced on the run during the apocalypse REALLY a smart move?

I think Beth is trying to do more than get drunk.  She's trying to get a little jiggedty.
Daryl, I think is a mean drunk.


It's only safe to hug Daryl Mofo Dixon from behind.  This is a true thing.

Lot of commercials...
Is this some sort of counter programming for the Oscars?  Because - while it's good - it's not as strong as the rest of the new season.

It's an ensemble, but Reedus is the clear breakout star of the show.  He just showed why.

Is Daryl gay?  I mean, Beth is really cute and pretty much all over Daryl.  Maybe it's his lack of self confidence, but it was the same with Carol.

Ummm, you've just started a bonfire.  You should run like hell before every walker in the county comes for dinner.

Barefoot And Pregnant

Booman rightly notes that the center of Douthat's position is his definition of "traditional marriage".  This is what needs to be unpacked.

Booman writes:

Throughout his column he refers to the "older definition of marriage," but he doesn't mean by that what you would think. For me, the older definition of marriage was that it is necessarily between a man and a woman, not that it was all about procreation. I've known too many childless couples or exclusively adoptive parents for me to ever have had Douthat's view of marriage. For me, marriage is primarily about commitment. Two people take a vow involving certain promises. If they then procreate, that's their choice.

The centrality of gender difference in Douthat's "traditional marriage" is for procreation.  People get married in the "Catholic" manner of being fruitful and multiplying.  And there is tradition and some scriptural support for that, I guess.

But there are also 6 billion people on the planet. Maybe enough of the multiplying, people!

The problem is the overlap with other positions, especially on the "religious freedom" front.  The other big issue involving "religious freedom" is the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage on the health care exchanges.

The same people who are freaking out over same sex marriage are the same people who seem to think that birth control pills are "slut pills".  These are also people who run around yelling "Freedom" like they were Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart.

One would think the right's intersection with libertarianism on guns and taxes would extend to marriage, but it doesn't, and for the same reason they oppose birth control mandates.

They see women as vessels for child birth.

Seem extreme?  Consider this: a GOP legislator just referred to pregnant women as the "host" of the fetus.  OK, that might be "nutpicking", but the overwhelming opposition to abortion rights is founded on the principle that women are not morally able to make a difficult decision on whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term.  The right wing position is simply to remove that decision from them.  The fetus is more important than the woman.

Similarly, women who want to have sex without pregnancy, should pay for their own contraception.

And marriage can't be marriage if there is no conception involved.

This "tradition" of women's roles within a marriage is indeed an old one.  Women are urged in the Bible to submit to their husbands.  Hindu women were expected to climb on their husband's funeral pyre, her life literally ending with his.

I am certain that the theocons - like Douthat - would reject this interpretation.  They are defending a certain privileged position of motherhood.

But when you dig down to bedrock, you get the fact that conservatives seem to want every ejaculation to get birthday cake.

Douthat admits something profound, even if I'm not sure he understands what he's admitting.

"Now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don't get to negotiate anymore."

Well... yeah.  You don't get to base marriage on gestation.  You don't get to deny services to LGBT Americans.  You don't get to deny women the right to control their reproductive choices.

Women aren't vessels for babies.  Marriage is about who you love, not how your plumbing fits together.

I'm ambivalent about a Hillary Clinton presidency.  But I imagine it will rip the cover of the subtext within the GOP, just like Obama exposed the racism at its heart.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's Getting Real

I think Josh Marshall makes all the relevant points here.  There is little that the US can do to force the Russians to do anything.  But this is also not the same as the Georgian war of four years ago.  There, Georgia was at least as much to blame as Russia.  Here, the issue is really Russia's invasion of territory that is indisputably Ukrainian.

I think Marshall also makes a very important point that you could miss skimming the news.  It's unlikely that Putin has a game plan here.  He is simply letting Ukraine know that A) they better be careful about crossing him and B) he is not willing to lose Russian access and bases in Crimea.  He doesn't have a master plan.  He's reacting to the fall of Yanukovych and what that might mean for his immediate plans to draw Ukraine into his EU counterpart.

It's also worth remembering that Russia is profoundly weaker than the Soviet Union.  Yes, it is still a nuclear power, but it's military is much less impressive than it was in the Cold War.  The troops are underpaid, under-trained and under-equipped. And what's more, Russia is much more integrated into the world economy than you might think.  While their control of Europe's natural gas supply is a huge problem, the fact is that Russians have assets around the world now that can be seized. Sanctions will hurt Russia in a way that they couldn't hurt the Soviet Union.

Obama has always been prudent and slow moving in these situations.  It is his best quality as a foreign policy president.  Events in Ukraine may require a reaction, but it doesn't have to be today.  We simply don't know what tomorrow might bring.

Their Reality Outruns Our Outrage

This is the pathology of the modern GOP.  A complete lack of self-awareness, coupled with a sense of entitlement, augmented by a sense that everyone else is feeling entitled to things that they shouldn't have.  And by everyone else, I mean blah people.

I'm nominally a Christian, but I've never believed in hell.

I'm willing to reconsider.