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, June 30, 2014

Great Googly Moogly

I knew Paul LePage was bonkers, but I didn't know HOW bonkers.

He's REALLY bonkers.


In some ways, I think the nation dodged a bullet in today's two retrograde decisions by the Supremes.

The union case was limited to home care workers, which is a shame, but the worry was that Alito's decision would strip public unions of their rights, too.

The Hobby Lobby case applies to morning after pills and IUDs.  Not sure why an IUD is a bad thing, I guess because conception has occurred and the IUD prevents the zygote from attaching to the uterus.  But it leaves in place birth control pills, condoms, diaphragms, tubal ligation and the patch.

The problems are twofold.  First, as Charlie Pierce points out, the case explicitly denies the religious beliefs of Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses and others.  What the case does is preference Catholicism - and a certain conservative Catholicism at that - over other faiths.  Alito's opinion specifically calls post-conception birth control immoral.  That's a religious belief.

My hope as that Antonin Scalia gets called home soon, so that we can appoint a liberal protestant to the bench.  The five judge majority that decided the case were all Catholics.

The second point as that we continue to see decisions that prize the personhood of corporations over the personhood of actual fucking people.  Whether you are a home care worker or a Hobby Lobby sales clerk, your rights are less important that the corporation that employs you.

It's time - past time - to pass an amendment that strip all Constitutional rights beyond contract rights from corporations.

Corporations are NOT people, my friends.

Child Migrants

So here is a case where a loophole in US law dealing with child migrants from Central America (as opposed to Mexico) are detained for court proceedings rather than simply sent home.

All that is required to fix this is Congress to do the right thing.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Keep This In Mind

As Undead Thing Dick "Dick" Cheney shambles forth from his crypt to excoriate the President for his fecklessness in killing more Arabs and Americans in the Fertile Crescent, it is worth reflecting on news today that shows just how much more effective Obama has been in his Middle East policy.

Today, the New York Times informs us of the following: that the last of the known Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons has been turned over to international actors for destruction.

Last summer, as it became apparent that Assad was using chemical weapons on the population, Obama began to realize he had committed himself and the nation to acting. In that debate, some of the Right acted - not surprisingly - opportunistically to attack him for...whatever.

But he got as much or more heat from the Left.  Attacking chemical weapons sites in Syria would be another Iraqistan, and we would be trapped there for years and Obama was just as bad as Bush and yadda yadda yadda.

What has been clear to me is that there is a very different approach to global (or even domestic) problems from the 43rd to the 44th president.

We know that elements in the Bush Administration were looking for opportunities to attack Iraq before 9/11 and then worked to tie 9/11 to Iraq.  In other words, war was the answer and it really didn't matter what the question was.  Maybe it was 9/11, maybe it was WMD, maybe it was bringing jihadis to Iraq so we could kill them, maybe it was spreading freedom and democracy.


Just feed the War Pig.

Obama's foreign policy has been much more similar to the Powell Doctrine, in its insistence on knowing what your goals are and what your exit strategy is.  So as Obama has worked to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, he did help with military action in Libya.

Libya disappeared down the memory hole during the debate over what to do in Syria, but Libya is a good example of Obama's military policy.  There was a problem: Qaddafi was going to slaughter the militants in the east of his country (including Benghazi!) and touch off a refugee crisis in Egypt that was trying to navigate its Arab Spring.  Something had to be done.

The decision was made by various NATO countries to provide air support for the rebels.  We did this, and Qaddafi is dead.

Is Libya better off?  Far too soon to tell.  Maybe not.

But that wasn't our concern.  It never was.  It is not our job to midwife a new Libyan government into being.  It was our job to stop a genocide.

So we did that, and we went home.

Syria followed much the same pattern.  We had a goal: get rid of chemical weapons.  We threatened force, but when Russia came to the table with a plan to get rid of Assad's WMD, we moved on that because it was always about getting rid of the chemical weapons, not going to war for the sake of going to war.  It wasn't some Rumsfeldian experiment about light, mobile attack infrastructure.

The important thing was solving the problem, not "proving something" to the Middle East or the Russians or the Chinese.  It wasn't a Tom Friedman-esque "throwing some little country up against the wall to show we can."

I don't know how Iraq will play out.  No one does.  I personally would like to see the country splinter.  It makes no sense to preserve the borders of a state that has no national polity.

But I do think I know how our policy vis a vis Iran will play out.

In the next few months, Iran will agree to a regime of monitoring of its nuclear program.  Sanctions will be eased and maybe we can finally come around to normalizing relations with the 17th most populous country in the world.

Because the problem is Iran's nuclear program.  And the solution is bringing them into international norms.

If we had elected John McCain, we'd have bombed Natanz by now.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

This Is Great Advice

Hillary should go away.  Do some think tank stuff.  Not go on book tours.  Everyone knows who she is.

Go away.  Work with orphans in Alaska.  Teach at a low income community college.

But she doesn't have to "run" for office.  She just needs to give us a rest from Clintonland.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Your Daily GOP Racism Update

We should stomp out Spanish newspapers.

The Tea Party is looking to discourage voting by blacks in Mississippi today.

Poor people in Detroit are being gouged for water, which is kind of essential for life.

Islam is "not a relgion", says GOP candidate.

We can also add in your Daily GOP Corruption Update

Christie has more bridge troubles.

The former Governor of Virginia is a grifter.

Chuck Grassley launches an investigation into Obama and unearths a GOP staffer.

About Time

I'm not a supporter of legalized marijuana, but I do think it has medical uses and I don't support the mass incarcerations it provokes.

So this is good news.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

I was wasting time last night watching trailers for upcoming movies, and I was stunned at how many were about either a post-apocalyptic world or a dystopian society where "things are not what they seem."

Some of the latter is just the copy cat nature of The Hunger Games, but the number of movies about the end of the world is odd.

Not sure what it means, but it's interesting.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Re-Draw The Borders

I agree with much of what Booman has to say on domestic politics, but I tend to disagree more on foreign policy.

When it comes to the current crisis in Iraq and Syria, I think it's time to let the Sunni populations that extend from Baghdad to central Syria create their own state.  Let the Kurds become independent.  Let the Shiite Iraqis control everything south from Tikrit.

The only other option is to create a new Saddam or empower the existing Assad.

Because without a stable polity, you can't have even a notional form or representative government.  You can rule these groups with fear and co-optation, but you can't create pluralism among groups that viscerally hate each other.  And as much as Democrats and Republicans hate each other right now, they are the picture of fraternal love compared to the Middle East right now.

The "Bush Doctrine" of bringing democracy to the Middle East was always strikingly naive.  To some degree - to a large degree - what we are witnessing now is the fruit of that naivete.

But if there is ever to be some sort of peace in the Fertile Crescent, it will come when each national group has its own state and not one created by the British in 1921.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

True Story

Last night, a former student of mine commented on a post on Facebook from the Cato Institute about marriage equality.  This brought it into my FB feed.  So, I looked through the thread.

Now, presumably people who normally get posts from Cato would describe themselves as Libertarian.  So, presumably the majority of people commenting in the thread would describe themselves as Libertarian.

Yet what was fascinating was how theocratic the thread was. Cato came out roughly in support of marriage equality because that's consistent with libertarian thought.  The thread was populated by people who were saying that America was a Christian nation, inspired by Christian thought.  There were a few people with just messed up interpretations of the Constitution (state's rightists, mostly).  But most were making moral and religious judgments.

Personally, I can think of nothing less compatible than theocrats and libertarians.  Yet apparently quite a few theocrats are supporters of Cato.

The rancor of the theocrats towards the Cato post shows the fragility of the old Reagan Coalition.  Not only are the various constituents of that coalition getting older and proportionally smaller, but some are also coming to see the contradictions in their mutual support for a GOP agenda that doesn't serve their ends.

For years, it was the Wall Street Republicans and Neocons enlisting the votes of the Theocrats and Libertarians and then rarely following through on their promises.  The clearest change that the Tea Party created was to empower the Theocratic/States Rightist wing of the GOP.  They are now in the driver's seat.

Rand Paul might be the most dangerous candidate for the Democrats in 2016, not because he's a good politician.  I think his political skills are pretty average to below average.  But because he represents the Libertarian wing of the party that is ONLY outreach the GOP has to younger voters.

Hillary Clinton is a poor outreach to the glibetarian youth for a number of reasons.

But if the GOP nominates a Theocrat - and I would guess that they will - the fault lines between those Libertarians who support legalized pot and marriage equality will find it hard to continue to support a party whose head and heart reside firmly in the 1950s.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kind Of A Big Deal

The Presbyterian Church is going to allow ministers to conduct same sex marriage in states where it is legal.  With all respect to the Quakers and Unitarians, this is the first major protestant church to make this move.

No doubt a few more Presbyterian congregations will leave the US church (is there a Presbyterian church in Uganda they can join), but overall that seems a small price to pay.

One of the best results of the disestablishment of religion in the US 220 years ago is that it allowed for a multiplicity of faiths to emerge, thrive, die out or survive.  While most Americans are "Christian" there are so many different flavors that you can't really talk about a unified, central Christian church in America.  The Baptists?  The Unitarians?  Mormons?  Episcopalians? Pentecostals?  Methodists?  Presbyterians? Quakers? Jehovah's Witnesses? Seventh Day Adventists?

Catholics?  Jews? Orthodox, Conservative or Reform? Muslims? Sunni, Shia or Sufi?  Buddhists?  Mahayan, Theravada or Zen?  Hindu?

The very reason that religion in America is thriving relative to the rest of the post-industrial world is that Americans have the freedom to worship as they please.  I remember during the debate over ordaining Eugene Robinson as a bishop in the Episcopal church, my pastor said of those who threatened to bolt the church if an openly gay man was made a bishop, "Let them go. Not out of spite, but out of respect for the difference in opinion we have."

Religious pluralism is essential to healthy civic life.  Don't believe me, look at at the Middle East.  Look at Iraq and Syria.

If some Presbyterians bolt their church or form a new synod of their own, so be it.  Good, in fact.

We approach the mystery of divinity in so many ways, it's impossible to proscribe one approach without being a tyrant.  This realization is what makes Pope Francis such as awesome pope.  He understands that faith cannot be about rules, but about service and love.

This is something that the Taliban and ISIS and the mullahs of Iran and - yes - conservative American Christians don't seem to understand.

I used to watch this old British comedy sketch show - I can't even recall the name - that came on late at night.  At the end of the show, the host - who I imagine was Irish - would sign off with a simple benediction: "May your god go with you."

Only by acknowledging that can we have peace on earth and good will towards men and women.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What A Dick

Dick Cheney's recent emesis spewed upon the pages of the Wall Street Journal has prompted some vigorous reactions.

TBogg, for instance, wishes that the former Vice President and current undead creature of the night would STFU already.  Jon Chait suggests that we should hear more from Cheney, since cutting of debate is as unhealthy as Cheney's withered heart.

In the past year, Obama has given up on the idealistic and naive position he took back at the 2004 convention when he gave his face keynote address.  He has come to see that the GOP's basic position has been to reject any and all compromise, that they are a clown car of obstructionist, nullifiers and crackpots.

Which is what makes his decision in 2008 not to prosecute Cheney, Addington, Yoo and the other creators of the torture regime all the more regrettable.

Now, it's been pretty clear that the GOP has been trying to force a Democrat from the White House ever since Watergate.  They want their own Nixon-type scalp.  Hence the bizarre Benghazi fetishists.  And if Obama were to prosecute Cheney and his coven of torture enthusiasts, you can be damned sure that the next GOP President would prosecute Obama for forging his birth certificate and insuring millions of Americans.

But at some point, the rule of law should apply to the Dick Cheney's of the world.  He remains among the foulest creations that American politics has retched up.  A product of the Nixon/Ford White House, a coward who advocated for Vietnam while seeking out deferments and imperialist executive absolutist who abhors the nature of checks and balances.

And the man probably most responsible for getting us into Iraq.

Most figures in history have some redeeming qualities.  Nixon gave us the EPA and opened China.  Reagan saved Social Security and embraced immigration reform.  Dubya... I dunno, Medicare Plan D?  He has been great on AIDS in Africa.

But Cheney has added nothing to the history of this country but shame, bloodshed and ignominy.

And he should be behind bars.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

George Effing Will

George Effing Will and his bow tie have been a fixture of DC punditry for decades.  He - or more likely his bow tie - has been the voice of "Mainstream Conservatism" on countless panel shows and gabfests.

In the past few months he has become a climate change denier and insinuated that being raped confers some sort of special status on the victims.  This has gotten him dropped from one paper already.

I would, however, argue that denying global warming and downplaying the trauma of rape simply means that George Will remains the voice of "Mainstream Conservatism" in 2014.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Are You Willing To Fight For?

That seems a central question for any group, but especially political parties.

For the past few years, the GOP has been willing to shut down the government in order to deny millions of Americans health insurance.

Now they are considering shutting down the government in order to allow coal plants to keep polluting.

If they truly believe that these regulations are "job killing" "economy destroying" monsters, then shouldn't they allow them to go into effect and then run against them?  Or maybe they are afraid that these regulations WON'T kill jobs.  That in fact they will only hurt the bottom line of Koch and Massie industries.  That maybe - like Obamacare - it won't be as awful as they say.

Global warming is real.  It is measurable.  And we are at least a major contributing factor, if not the sole contributing factor.  And generally speaking, polluting is a shitty thing to do.

And yet this is the new hill the GOP wants to die on.

Is it any wonder that Millennials - who will have to live with the consequences of global warming - are abandoning the GOP?

This is yet another example of the perversity of the Fox News Bubble that insulates conservatives from scientific reality.

I hope the Democrats turn this on the GOP.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Obama Trolls The Far Right

First, he brings a bunch of kids who are undocumented immigrants to the White House to honor their hard work.

Then he oversees the capture of the Benghazi! mastermind.

I agree with Booman, he's basically going to spend the next two years trolling Fox News.

Monday, June 16, 2014


The USMNT victory over Ghana showed three things.

First, the US has a gritty team that can't be counted out until the final whistle.

Second, soccer's not a fair game.  Ghana outplayed the US.

Third it will take a team to win games.  Losing Altidore will hurt the US a lot.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The F&^@ Is Wrong With These People?

Laura Ingraham think we should have traded Cantor to the Taliban for Bowe Bergdahl.  Then complains when the only remaining Jew in the GOP doesn't think being turned over to Islamist extremists is funny.

Huckleberry Closetcase thinks that Obama should... well he should do everything, presumably with an Imperious curse or maybe a Vulcan mind-meld.  He says we should "get involved" in Syria and Iraq, and oh, let's call in the Iranians for help.  Because.... well, because the Iranians are going to get involved anyway, so you can say it was your idea.  The fact is that this idiot has been trying to get America back into the Levant since Obama got us out.  Shut up already.

Tom Price thinks that immigration reform stalling in the House is Obama's fault.  Because he's not "enforcing existing laws".  The article dryly notes - accurately - that Obama has sped up deportations faster than any President.  Now, he will, rightly, slow that down, because the GOP won't do squat on immigration reform.

And then we have Dana Perino saying Obama shouldn't take a vacation because the optics are bad.  This from a flack who served the guy who was on vacation during Katrina.  There are always crises, but the ones happening now are not urgent.  Ukraine simmers.  Iraq burns.  But you know what, Dana?  You know what, Lindsey?  Those aren't necessarily our fights.  If there is one great gift Obama brings to foreign policy it is that we have limits to what we can do.

So everyone who was involved in getting us into Iraq?  STFU about Iraq.  Everyone who makes it harder for immigration reform to happen?  STFU.  Everyone who spews hate and says it's humor?  STFU

Happy Father's Day, I Guess

With the Splendorous Spouse two time zones away, I was left to the tender mercies of the Things to produce a Father's Day.  So far they have either forgotten all about it or are coyly playing it cool for the big surprise later when Thing One announces he will behave in school, Thing Two renounces video games and my world becomes peaceful and serene.

You guess which is most likely.

Anyway, for more depressing Father's Day ruminations, I give you this:

I don't care about lost earnings or promotion opportunities I've lost.  I genuinely enjoy being with my kids.  But I've often wondered if my imperious temper damaged my kids, especially Thing One.  I know I'm a good dad; I know the boys need me around.  But being a father is the hardest damned thing I've ever done, and it's not going to get any easier until they are both married to sensible, level headed women who can take over raising them to "honorable manhood."

"Pack of cigarettes" indeed.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What Is This World Coming To?

For a moment there, Sarah Palin made sense.

But don't worry, it passed.

But at least she was able to discern that our current immigration system needs fixing.

John McCain has a lot to answer for: his support for the Iraq misadventure and every jingoistic military adventure anyone can dream up.  But when Sarah Palin was elevated to the presidential ticket, it signaled the complete embrace of the Idiot Wing of the GOP.  This was the root of the Teahadists.

And yet even she can see the problems with what we are doing now.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The World Cup

Soccer is an unfair game.  It's part of its appeal.

Today's ass whupping of Spain by the Netherlands was a great example of that.  Spain is one of the greatest teams in history.  Their time may be over, but not THAT over.

I like Spain, but that was fun to watch.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The System Never Fails, It Can Only Be Failed

An interesting take on how the international financial system actually worked as it should in 2008.

Interestingly, the author does admit that Europe screwed up by embracing austerity - presumably he agrees that austerity in the US after 2010 was also a bad idea.  The author is also sanguine about climate change, which is... nice.

On a side note, Vox is my new favorite thing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Comedy Is Tragedy Plus About 20 Minutes

After yet ANOTHER fatal shooting at a school, the usual ammosexuals came huffing and puffing and tweeting about how "you won't take my guns".

And then this happened.

To be clear to the Perpetual Outrage Machine, Whisman was not making light of the tragedy, he was trolling the ammosexuals and second amendment fundamentalists.

So, well played, sir.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Remember The Tea Party Is On The Ropes

Right, Eric?

This is the best take I've read:

Cantor was - at heart - a power wielding, deal maker wanna be.  He wanted to be powerful and you become powerful in DC by cutting deals.

But he couldn't cut any deals because he was worried about the Tea Party.

That worked so well for him....

Right now - and I don't want to read too much into it - but I think Ted Cruz will win the nomination in 2016.

Federalism Is At Fault

The impetus behind federalism was that the states in 1787 were essentially independent, sovereign entities and could not be gotten rid of.  In the following 235 years, "states rights" have mostly been used for mischief: the Hartford Convention, the Nullification Crisis, Secession, Jim Crow and now the refusal to cover millions of Americans with Medicaid because Obama.  The only instance I can think of where federalism was used for a good was the northern nullification of the Fugitive Slave act and that led directly to the Civil War.

The idea that the very fabric of governance under federalism is hurting the country is a pretty good insight.  To be fair, America is a large country.  But in some ways it was "larger" in 1787.  Today, Manhattan is "closer" to San Francisco than it was to White Plains back then.

Federalism also melds with the sovereign citizen movement to create a toxic stew of anti-government extremism that is currently killing people from Georgia to Nevada.

Working together is better than being torn apart.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Save Ferris

I make a crack about the health of the readers at the AP US exam and I get food poisoning.

The good news is that my Table Leader - may all honor and glory be his - saw me with the shakes and ordered me home.  I assented, thinking everyone else would be out by 1-2pm anyway.

They were there until the last dog died.

I blame the chief reader who suggested we might be done early.


Anyway, when I found out from my friends that they were reading up to 5pm, I felt like Ferris Bueller.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sodas Of Death

The health of the people here at the AP reading is pretty frightful.  Hell, I look svelte.  There are announcements every day about long term readers recovering from some dread illness, but send their regards to their former compatriots.

And they consume a ton of soda.

Which makes sense when you read this:

I have to say, I stopped reading Nate Silver's place and started reading Ezra Klein's.  Much better stuff.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

#Support the Troops

As we unravel the VA scandal and examine why the VA is underfunded, let's remember how important it was to "support the troops" by not questioning the war in Iraq or the timetable for getting out of Afghanistan.

However, for the GOP, "supporting the troops" ends when it doesn't gratify their war lust.

Supporting the troops means supporting ALL of them.

Here is what I mean:

Bergdahl isn't a "hero" but he's a US soldier and we don't leave those guys behind.

UPDATE:  Interesting kid:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

NY Politics

I don't really follow it, but Cuomo has basically governed to the right of George Pataki, until the Working Families Party threatened to run against him.  Then he made some concessions to the Left.

In a state like NY, where it's unlikely that a GOP candidate can win the governorship, it's helpful to have that level of accountability. In CT, Malloy might not survive a split with the WFP, which is fine, because I think he's been the best governor we've had in my 14 years in the state.