Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Scalia: America's Judicial Troll

Noted conservative intellectual and legal scholar, Antonin Scalia doesn't even understand his own earlier opinions.

There are three possible reasons why he screwed up this badly.

First, his clerks wrote it and he didn't bother to proof it rigorously.

Second, he's beginning to show signs of aging.

Third, he really doesn't give a damn about precedence, legal consistency or accuracy.  He's just happy to punch some hippies.

I suppose a fourth and more likely option is a combination of all three.

Can we - once and for all - stop referring to Scalia as being "an intelligent person with deeply held principles that I happen to disagree with"?

He's a hack.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Need Some Good News?

What's surprising is that John Roberts voted with those who would protect the ability of Americans to breathe clean air.  What's unsurprising is that Scalia and Thomas didn't.

I've sometimes praised George H.W. Bush, and I even voted for him in '88.

But Clarence Thomas remains a stain on his legacy I can't really forgive.

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Million Dollar Idea

I came up with a million dollar idea.

Every gun has a wi-fi enabled microchip and comes with a similar wi-fi microchip on a wrist band that the owner wears on his or her wrist when shooting the gun.  No wrist band?  The gun won't fire.  And police will have the ability to jam the wi-fi signal when cornering an armed assailant.

Of course, this will get me death threats from gun nuts. So let's just keep this to ourselves.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Big Week For Racism

So, Don Sterling and Cliven Bundy decided to take off their hoods and smell the 21st century.  It did not go well for them.

But I made one of my masochistic forays into the Yahoo! comment section on the story about Sterling.  Big mistake.

You see, from the Yahoo! you will learn that the real racists are black people, because - as we know - when black people point automatic weapons at law enforcement officials, everyone just chills out and the New Black Panther party wins again.  And we all know that all those black billionaires are SO racist and won't hang out with white people at all.

This is the siege mentality of the aging right on full display.  It's never about whatever legitimate grievance the left (or in this case the center) may have.  They are always the true victim from Al Sharpton or Trayvon Martin or Barack Obama.  It is always white people who are suffering from affirmative action.

And facts are irrelevant.  The Supreme Court has yet to hear a case on whether legacy admissions - which overwhelmingly benefit rich white people - are unconstitutional.  The fact that racial profiling exists, is measurable and real isn't important.

And the sad part is that many of them are not wrong in their sense of victimization.

If you are a 55 year old, middle class white guy your status HAS degraded in America.  But here's the thing: It's not because of black people or illegal immigrants.  The reason "your country is slipping away" is not because of Mexicans or African Americans, it's because the wealth of this country is being funneled to the very top of the economic ladder.

This is the central revelation of Thomas Piketty's book: that the 30 Golden Years of 1945-1975 represent an historical anomaly.  The Rich have the game rigged for themselves.  But for a few decades, we had real economic equality - ironically at the same time we were fighting communism.  And the people who brought you policies that drastically warped the distribution of wealth in the United States did so on the backs of racial fears and prejudices.

Cliven Bundy said something else last week that got little attention.  He said he admired Hispanics for their work ethic and family structures.  My guess is that Bundy sees a lot more Hispanics than African Americans, and that has an effect on his views.

But imagine a world where those angry white men team up with the other working class Americans who feel squeezed from above by a system that perpetuates economic inequality.  A century ago, Tom Watson, a Georgia Populist, argued that whatever hurts a black farmer hurts a white farmer.  It nearly ended his career.  But he tacked right and became a virulent racist.  So, good for him, I guess.

I don't know if we might have an opening for someone to unite working class whites and minorities again, as FDR did.  I think that's the appeal of Elizabeth Warren for many.

But if it does happen, it could be an earthquake.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gun Nuts

Wayne LaPierre is getting increasingly unhinged in his rhetoric.  Georgia passed a law that basically allows you to bring your gun anywhere.  Then we have this.

Listen, parents.  Are you upset that your kids are crying, worrying about assholes with guns?

It's called voting.


So, the guy who owns an NBA team is kind of racist.  Maybe if he got Cliven Bundy to teach the Clippers how to pick cotton everyone would be happier.

I wonder as this generation of people who grew up debating MLK rather than venerating him dies off, will we be free of most of the sort of casual racism that we're seeing from these antediluvian white guys?

Or as you age do you just become less tolerant in general?

Friday, April 25, 2014

An Onion Convergence

Both Jon Chait and Josh Marshall make reference to a classic Onion piece (caution: NSFW).

First, it's an amusing coincidence.

Second, it's amusing because Chait and Marshall both represent as close to what I might call Progressive Establishment voices on the Internet.  Guys like Markos Moulitas are more comfortably being on the outside, but Chait and Marshall are both kind of staid in their positions (relative to the rest of Left Blogsylvania).  To see them use this particular piece, entitled "Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My C&%$?" is pretty damned funny.

And finally, it's amusing because it's apt.  The Onion piece is really about the complete lack of awareness of the narrator, and the Bundy issue is fraught with a lack of self-awareness from the Right.

So... funny.

Sweet Fancy Moses

Can't embed the video.

It's Colbert...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Piketty Explained

Nice summary.

The Racist Elephant In The Room

About a week ago, Jon Chait wrote a provocative piece about racism and opposition to President Obama.  As I understood it, what Chait was saying is that while all racists oppose Obama, not all opposition to Obama is racist.  And when Democrats accuse all opposition towards Obama of being racist, it effectively shuts down political dialogue.  Chait has been one of the leading proclaimers of how broken the GOP is in terms of its unilateral and inflexible opposition to compromise, so he's not making a Utopian statement about "grand bargains".  He's simply saying that you can't always lay opposition to Obama at the feet of racism.

Some of the criticisms of the piece were fair, some were not.  I don't think, for instance, that we should forbid white writers from writing about race.  Chait's opinions are perhaps less lived in than Nahesi-Coates, but we don't forbid French political scientists from writing about America, so...

Anyway, I would be interested to hear what Chait would have to say about the latest utterances from Sagebrush Anarchist and Welfare Cheat Cliven Bundy.  Compared to the idiotic drivel spewed by the Duck Dynasty patriarch, Bundy's words are just foul and inexcusable.

They are also entirely predictable.

The fact that this dipshit who rides around with an American flag talking about how he doesn't believe in the legitimacy of the US government is somehow unaware of the ridiculous hypocrisy of his statements should surprise no one.

Bundy is a welfare cheat.  He has lived off stealing government owned resources.  That he cannot see the correlations between that and his racist spew is a perfect encapsulation of the lack of awareness of those who live within the Fox Bubble.  Here's an excerpt:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” the rancher began as he described a "government house" in Las Vegas where he recalled that all the people who sat outside seemed to "have nothing to do."
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he said, as quoted by the Times. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

While Chait's writing about how conservatives may or may not see race was condemned for being tone deaf to the lived racism that African Americans survive, I think we can agree that a redneck talking about what he's learned "about the Negro" crosses every line possible.  Using slavery as a positive comparison?  Really?

And yet there is something more revealing in Bundy's statement than the racism.

Notice how he compares slavery favorably to living on government assistance.  Forget for the moment that Bundy has been living off government assistance for decades.  What sort of person thinks that slavery was comparable to getting food stamps and rent subsidies?

It's a person who has been exposed to the central lie of Ronald Reagan: "Government isn't the solution to your problem, government IS the problem."

That's a fantastic soundbite.  It's also incredibly careless with the truth.

Sometimes, government is absolutely the solution to your problem.  Any abuse of the Commons, any predatory practice that has the strong subjugating the weak, any need for pooled resources is an opportunity for the government to act.  As Lincoln said, "The proper role of government is to do for the people what the people cannot properly do for themselves."

Sometimes, this leads to a narrow preference for rules over common sense.  Frequently it does.  But the idea that the government of the United States - when it assists its citizens - is somehow analogous to slavery represents the extent to which Reagan's rhetoric (far more than his actions as President) have poisoned the mind of the American Right.

Bundy is an extreme example, to be sure.  But he is simply the logical output when you combine Fundamentalist Reaganism with Fox News Epistemic Closure and the legacy of American Racism.

We can be hopeful that this is a generational result of the Reagan years and therefore not permanent.  But Cliven Bundy's dad was probably in the John Birch Society.  This particular strain of the Paranoid Style has old and deep roots in America.

Luckily, Bundy's true colors have left his supporters scrambling, as once again the GOP has to distance itself from the racist, sexist, misanthropic elements that make up its base.

But just wait.  There is sure to be another Cliven Bundy right around the corner.

UPDATE:  And sure enough, various conservative media figures and politicians are trying to separate the racism from the political philosophy, without acknowledging that the two are inextricably linked.  Let me repeat: Cliven Bundy's racism is relevant because of what it says about his philosophy about government.  If you agree with the latter, you implicit endorse the former.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Malaise Speech

I just re-read Jimmy Carter's "Malaise Speech".  It's actually spot on.  It's not surprising that it was panned, because the truths are uncomfortable.  Here is what my students read:

Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very important subject -- energy. For the fifth time I would have described the urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper -- deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as president I need your help. So I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.
I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society -- business and labor, teachers and preachers, governors, mayors, and private citizens. And then I left Camp David to listen to other Americans, men and women like you.
It has been an extraordinary ten days, and I want to share with you what I've heard.
These ten days confirmed my belief in the decency and the strength and the wisdom of the American people, but it also bore out some of my long-standing concerns about our nation's underlying problems.
I know, of course, being president, that government actions and legislation can be very important. That's why I've worked hard to put my campaign promises into law -- and I have to admit, with just mixed success. But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.
I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July.
It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.
Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy…
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.
These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.
We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.
We remember when the phrase "sound as a dollar" was an expression of absolute dependability, until ten years of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our nation's resources were limitless until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.
These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed. Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation's life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like it, and neither do I. What can we do?
First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.
All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.
Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.
In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.
I will continue to travel this country, to hear the people of America. You can help me to develop a national agenda for the 1980s. I will listen and I will act. We will act together. These were the promises I made three years ago, and I intend to keep them.
Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources -- America's people, America's values, and America's confidence.
I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy secure nation.
In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God's help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.

Thank you and good night.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Fire Next Time

I am of the opinion that real change happens when a mass movement meets a forceful, competent leader.  Thus did the broad civil rights movement wed with LBJ to pass meaningful civil rights legislation.  Thus did the broad class of industrial and agricultural workers wed with FDR to pass Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

There have been two recent important academic efforts to talk about economic inequality.  There was Piketty's book that says - shocker! - that capitalism actually concentrates wealth among the very top rather than share it with the mass of workers.  Then there was the Princeton study that says - shocker! - that American politics favors the elite.

These studies help mobilize academic and intellectual elite opinion.  Although as Sarah Kliff noted in her analysis of the large sign-ups for ACA, people actually hate not having insurance.  They want insurance badly, which is something DC elites - who HAVE health insurance - don't comprehend.

So while we still have a ways to go, there is a growing consensus among intellectual elites to match the rhetoric of #occupy.

This, I think, explains the reticence of many progressives to commit to a Clinton presidency.  This explains their preference for Elizabeth Warren.

There is a growing consensus in America - as exemplified by the majority preference for raising the minimum wage - that wealth inequality is a major issue.  In the long term, only climate change is more important.

But it's clear that 2016 is the moment to make this movement a political reality.  And if so, there needs to be a charismatic, effective president to realize this moment and make it a reality.

I've often compared Obama to Woodrow Wilson, but Wilson was someone who was forced in a more populist, progressive direction by a movement below him.

Perhaps it will be Clinton who can similarly surprise the Left and be the agent of change that Wilson - a former Southern conservative, FDR - a plutocrat, and LBJ - a Texan, all became.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Big Data

I've tried to be a loyal reader of Nate Silver's new site, but it's frankly pretty boring.

Maybe it will pick up during election season, but right now I don't see the point.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Fundamental Truth About ACA

People want health insurance, but they couldn't afford it.  Now they can afford it.  So they're buying it.

Kliff hit on something essential: The people decrying the complexity of Obamacare and the website are people who have employer based health care, in which all the complicated work was done by the HR department.  For them, health care is a snap.  Why wouldn't it be?

But for the millions who live in fear of getting sick, it was worth the hassle of a glitchy website and so on to make sure that they can see a doctor and get care.

Some of this feeds into the Princeton study I referenced yesterday, but it's not only our politicians who are captured by the narrow perspective that their wealth gives them, but the chattering classes, too.

And not coincidentally, the rock star appeal of Elizabeth Warren among Democrats comes from her explicit and implicit empathy with people who don't have a 401K.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"A Republic, If You Can Keep It"

Some pointy-headed Princetonians have argued that America is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy.  If I was being pedantic, I would note that America has never been a "democracy" but a republic.  And republics naturally reflect the will of elites more than the masses.

But I also feel that this is a bunch of academic stunt writing.  Make a provocative claim, reap the headlines and talk show appearances, profit.

But on the other other hand, this is a real possibility if we don't address wealth inequality and its impact on politics. It deserves to be brought up.


The day after Edward Snowden proved his libertarian credentials by crawling onto Putin's lap and licking cream from his chin, we have this:

Meanwhile, our small town that has basically one violent crime a year is procuring a military anti-mine vehicle to arrest drunk and disorderly people.

The NSA should not be doing what it is doing, but it is the militarized, shoot first police in this country that is the real assault on liberty.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

RIP, Gabo

Love In The Time of Cholera remains my favorite novel.  And while I know that I've only read his works in translation, the spell he cast on language was truly magical.

Like a flock of yellow butterflies that steal your sleep.

The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has not limits.
"And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?" he asked.
Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months and eleven days and nights.
"Forever," he said.

Dismal News From The Dismal Science

So, yeah, inequality is a fact of life, global and hard to control.

Not impossible, but hard.

We'll get right on that...

Pity Party

So there's this guy and he's an "education reformer".  And he gets angry emails from teachers who complain about the agenda that education reformers often push on the classroom.

His defense in the above column is kind of bizarre.  He taught for two years before getting mugged and developing PTSD.  But two years with TFA is not the same as struggling with the issues in education for a career.  I can't imagine having the presumptuousness to tell a teacher what makes good teaching after two years in the classroom.

I'm really sorry he had a traumatic mugging and post-concussion syndrome.

But that doesn't excuse his lack of teaching experience.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Obamacare Is Working

The frustrating thing is that no matter how well it does work and how well it insures people and how well it contains costs, there are going to be people who hate it and refuse to believe the evidence because of ideological or partisan rigidity.

We can be a profoundly stupid country.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today In Neo-Confedracy

I have little doubt that the Wisconsin GOP will NOT vote to secede.  It's Wisconsin.  But it will get votes.  But the narrative will be: Look!  They DIDN'T vote to secede!  They must be reasonable!

And then we have the specter of an actual Klansmen killing people.  Again, it's not like ALL GOP members are Klansmen.  And even if SOME GOP are Klansmen, it doesn't follow that the GOP is RACIST!

All of this flows into a discussion that Booman was having about a Jon Chait article.

Is the GOP motivated by racism in its opposition to Obama?  Somewhat.  All the references to the birth certificate and his Muslim identity are elements of the racial panic of a "disappearing America".

Yet at the same time would opposition to the President be any different if it was Hillary Clinton?  No.  And then we could (and probably will) focus on sexism within the GOP.  And if the President was Joe Biden?  They'd still oppose every single damned thing he did.

What has been so distressing about the GOP has not been the thinly veiled racism within elements of the party.  When you assimilate the white South, that's just going to happen.

What I find distressing is that the GOP refuses to behave like a principled opposition party, but simply a band of institutional nihilists.

Now with extra racism!

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Worked in the yard, was Jesus at the reading of the Passion, worked in the yard, finished some grading, made a test, got ready for the week, now I'm off to watch Game of Thrones.

I'll take it.

(And Game of Thrones did NOT disappoint.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bundy Ranch? I Thought It Was Bunny Ranch.

This is an interesting story:

Basically, some guy decides to violate the law because freedom.  The federal authorities have tried to round up some cattle that are illegally grazing on federal lands.  The idiot freedom loving American whose cattle are grazing there does not dispute that his cattle are grazing illegally.  In his phrase, he "fired the BLM" for making him pay the same fee that everyone else has to pay.

So when the BLM began to round up the cattle, the right wing, black helicopter fearing gun nuts showed up in force to protest, packing heat.  The BLM backed off because they didn't want some idiot to start shooting.

Now, one of the tropes that the NRA throws around is that we have enough gun laws on the books already, dontchaknow, and the Feds don't enforce them because they want to seize all the guns, so they let Sandy Hooks happen to seize the guns.

So, in case you have seen where I'm going, we can't have new laws against guns, because we already have laws against guns.  But then again, as long as we have guns, we can violate existing laws anyway.

Basically: guns.

In my Comp Gov course, we just studied Nigeria and Iran and we discussed the pervasive and corrosive effect of corruption on those countries.  I point out that - despite the presence of odious human beings like John Rowland - corruption is not nearly the issue in the US that it is elsewhere in the world.

But that is all predicated on respect for the rule of law.  Americans mostly obey laws because Americans mostly obey laws.  It's part of what makes America successful and prosperous and, yes, free.

But when some dipshit yahoo who's been out in the desert too long starts nullifying laws on his own, and then when the government attempts to enforce those laws they show up armed and dangerous... well, you can see how that's corrosive towards the respect for the rule of law.

You could compare this to the blatantly ideological and political rulings of the Free Market Five on the Supreme Court, who have stripped the nation of any restrictions on predatory wealth in campaign finance laws and you'd be on the right track.  Or you could talk about how "Stand Your Ground" has basically legalized manslaughter.

But whether it's Cliven Bundy, John Roberts or Rick Scott, it's pretty apparent that there is a faction of right wing America that seems to desire America to be turned into a Banana Republic, where money and firearms determine what is right and what is wrong.

God Bless America, Land of AR-15, Home of the SuperPAC.

Friday, April 11, 2014

You Wanna Know Why Sebellius Retired?

Because I imagine she's had about 150 weeks like the one I'm just ending.

That's why.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


What a #$*@%# day.

Glad that's over with.

Now to survive tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Crimes In Your Name

There used to be a meme: "How has Obama failed you today?" that tweaked the Left and Right's criticism of Obama for not providing the magic ponies they wanted.  But if there is a way Obama failed me, it would be his decision not to prosecute the criminal behavior of the Bush years on Wall Street and in the torture regime.

Obama saw himself as someone who was going to try and rise above the partisan rancor of the Bush years, but as we have seen, that was a pipe dream.  He has recently come to the conclusion that he can no longer attempt negotiations with the legislative nihilists, and good for him.

But the release of Senate Select committee's report on torture is an opportunity.  It's an opportunity to force the GOP to defend what it did in our name, force it to relive the shame of Abu Ghraib and the Black Sites.  And of course, they will defend it.  Undead Thing Dick "Dick" Cheney is already defending torture, prompting mild mannered Mainer Angus King to invite Dick to be waterboarded himself.  Dick has a heart condition, so why don't we waterboard Liz instead, and Dick can watch.
Then let's see if that constitutes torture.

As Robinson notes, torture is illegal.  I hear the immoral argument he makes, and I share that view.  But to me, it is the fact that the CIA and parts of the Executive branch directly and obviously broke the law that is distressing.

When I teach my students about the necessary pre-conditions for democracy to work, we always return to the Rule of Law, which basically states that laws constrain the rich and poor alike, the government as well as its citizens.  What took place in the CIA and the Cheney offices was a direct violation of American law.  The idea that they should escape prosecution is sickening.

Torture was a moral blot on this country's history.  The failure to prosecute those involved is a failure of the very institutions of government that we depend on to maintain a free society.

So the Obama administration needs to prosecute those responsible for torture, but only if they are willing to follow that trail all the way up the ladder to Addington, Yoo and Cheney.

Does anyone see that happening?

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Oppressed Free Marketeers

Josh Marshall has been trying to figure out why - with a bull market boosting stocks to record highs - we've had so much talk about "Kristallnacht" and "Worse than Hitler" from the Wall Street "Masters of the Universe."

The letter above makes so much sense, because it feeds into what I think is increasingly the way to explain all of American politics today, especially but not exclusively on the Right.

It can be summed up as: "If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of."

This is the height of irrationality, but it is a natural human characteristic.  If we believe something deeply, then evidence that our beliefs are wrong actually makes people cling to those beliefs more tightly.

Given the ideological nature of the modern GOP, this is going to bite them more.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

So Much For Jeb! 2016

James Carville once famously said that "Democrats have to fall in love, Republicans just fall in line."

The idea was that the GOP ultimately accepted the establishment candidate, even if that meant they weren't thrilled with the choice.

And certainly McCain and Romney were not beloved of the "base".

But Jeb Bush is the ultimately establishment candidate.  Socially moderate for the GOP and embracing immigration reform like his brother is fine with Wall Street.

But C+ Augustus couldn't get immigration reform through a Congress he controlled and the 2012 primary was basically a competition as to who could hate on immigrants more.  For Bush to come out now and call immigration an "act of love" will prove the ultimate test of whether the GOP establishment can force their candidate on the Tea Party base.

(The fact that Jeb is right, is of course irrelevant.)

Saturday, April 5, 2014


We tried a compost system last year.  I had to empty it today.  I can't begin to describe the smell.  And what's more that smell has managed to remain on my hands and in the air.  It's amazing that on a windy spring day, it still smells of rot.

I may have to bleach the backyard.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bucket List

I've actually done a ton of these.

I guess I'm about to die.

Between Two Memes

The "Seven Million" number surrounding ACA sign-ups is a red herring, a macguffin.

Jon Chait explains why:

The biggest trouble with seven million is that it’s not the number of people benefiting from Obamacare. Conservatives are picking away at the figure,correctly arguing that it does not show a terribly high reduction in the uninsured. What they haven’t conceded is that, in many ways, seven million wildly understates the number of Obamacare beneficiaries.
It ignores people under 26 enrolling in their parents’ plans, and people enrolling in Medicaid. It likewise ignores the fact that probably millions of people have obtained insurance off the exchanges, and millions more can still obtain insurance through the exchanges after the deadline has passed. The last two points are important enough to merit a bit of explanation.

Go read the explanation.

Betty Cracker Lays The Wood

Modern conservatism in the US is predicated on a bizarre, ongoing inversion of reality. Item: an addled B-movie actorexplodes the national debt and is lionized as a champion of small government. A cowardly, none-too-bright male cheerleader from a patrician clan is packaged and sold as a brush-clearin,’ neo-Churchillian, genius cowpoke.
The party that bankrupted the country through ruinous, pointless warmongering and Wall Street wilding markets itself as the fiscally responsible foreign policy grownups. The party that lets a gun manufacturer flak organization intimidate it into allowing terrorists and the floridly insane to purchase unlimited semiautomatic weapons bills itself as tough on crime. Etc.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that conservatives’ perception of their ongoing defeat in the culture wars is exactly the opposite of reality on every level too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at the ahistorical ranting. Cue thePowertools, lamenting the resignation of erstwhile Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich:
So the liberals claim another scalp. This is something new in our history, as far as I know. Until now, private citizens could hold whatever political beliefs they wanted, and support political causes as they chose.
Ever heard of the McCarthy hearings? Where a wingnut senator persecuted private citizens and destroyed their livelihoods because of their political beliefs? See, when the party of free markets decides to regulate political beliefs,it does so via the government.
What happened to Eich is a free market phenomenon. You can make the argument that the companies and developers who balked at the prospect of working with a CEO who thinks gays are icky should have given Eich a chance. But the companies and developers are independent agents who are free to vote with their feet because freedom.
I would add that perhaps the best tool progressives and generally sane people have right now is the power of the purse.  Given the evisceration of campaign finance laws by the Free Market Five on the Supreme Court, we can expect to see more hollowing out of reform at the state level.  (I would guess that national elections won't be nearly as influenced by the tide of dark money as local elections.)
So, if you're as disgusted by Florida's "Stand Your Ground and Kill A Colored" laws, the only thing to do is not to go to Florida.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

More Guns

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the immoral death eaters at the NRA said that if only there had been armed guards at an elementary school Adam Lanza wouldn't have been able to slaughter children.

Yesterday, at a military base that has already seen a mass shooting, another gunman killed multiple people.  At a military base.  With armed guards.  Not some wannabe mall cop at an elementary school, a military base that increased security since its LAST shooting spree.

More guns don't make us safe.  This was always true.  Look at countries with strict gun control laws.  They don't have the incidents of murder that we have.

We are sacrificing our sons and daughters for a lie.

An armed society is not a free society or a polite society.  It is a society drenched in fear and blood.  But the bloodshed at Ft. Hood won't make a dent on the minds of those who feverishly love their arsenals and lust for more.  Theirs is not a rational position; it never was.

There is a separate point to be made, perhaps, about the psychological costs of Iraq and Afghanistan and how we will see more shooting like this as the damaged men come home from years of slaughter and mayhem into a society that says "Thank you for your service" but doesn't acknowledge that we send young men (and increasingly young women) into combat, have them kill for us, bear wounds for us and then bring them home and set them adrift.

But right now, there is more blood on the hands of the NRA and there isn't enough water in the world to wash it off.

UPDATE: TBogg reads gun nuts so you don't have to.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PETA's Restaurant Reviews

Shorter Chait: Republicans see all policy through an ideological lens.  Democrats see all policy through a policy lens.


So, yeah, Obamacare hit its target number.  It stuck the landing.  Certainly had trouble mounting the bar at first, but great finish.

The hyperventilating by the GOP over how awful ACA is was always a cynical political gambit.  Incessant attacks were designed to undermine faith in the law.  Add into it the incompetent launch of the website, and things looked shaky.

That was 120 days ago.

It is always a fascinating exercise to try and figure out how a political party has the support of less than half the electorate, has no positive ideas for governance, has few policy positions that people support and has its fair share of panty-sniffing creeps trying to pry open your bedroom door consistently manages to win elections.

But the knee-jerk, reflexive coverage the website rollout and the early struggles of the law have played perfectly to the headline-obsessed, ADHD press.  Our analysis for the most part is incapable of seeing past the "horse race" or the here and now.  Some writers like Ezra Klein have tried to disentangle policy from politics, but with mixed results.

In the end, Obamacare will work - not perfectly but well.  Repeal isn't going to happen unless the Republicans win both Houses of Congress and the White House - something I'd consider very, very unlikely.  By 2020, ACA will be the new normal.

The internet/cable TV obsession with the short term helps make our politics stupid, which helps elect stupid politicians.

Masters Of The Universe

It's long, but basically it lays out yet another example of how fundamentally sociopathic Wall Street is.

Just sickening.

But let's not tax these "job creators".