Blog Credo

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

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ezra Klein On Israel

The problem with couching any criticism of Israel in terms of antisemitism is that it cuts off dialogue.  All that's left is for Jews to carry on a conversation with themselves, since criticism from non-Jews is made taboo.

That makes Klein's piece, and the Chait piece he links to, very important.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Finally A Good Article About Teaching

So much of the debate over teaching and learning falls into the usual labor patterns of labor vs management.  I will concede that teacher's unions are very much a part of that problem.  But living in a town where the budget process is a continual assault on teaching and teachers, that seems inevitable.

The op-ed above steps back from the arguments over charter schools and teacher tenure and standardized testing.  It makes the valid point that most Education programs at the university level are completely irrelevant to the teaching of teaching.

My rule of thumb is that the most important quality a teacher can have is authenticity.  Kids can spot a faker, just ask Holden Caulfield.  If you're quiet, then you will be best at creating quiet spaces for students to venture into.  If you're an incessant talker, then perhaps a Socratic method will work (as it does for me).  If you're stern, then you should be stern (but fair).  If you are kind, then you should be kind (but demanding).

You obviously can't "teach" authenticity.  But you can inculcate it.  And what's more you can teach things like lesson planning, different pedagogical approaches, curriculum design and cognitive development.

Where I would disagree with Nocera is that programs that do this are rare.  Maybe I'm too cloistered, but we run a program that teaches teachers - many of them are coming for their required Continuing Education Units - and we do exactly that.

Even good teacher training can't ameliorate the jitters and insecurities of a young, new teacher.  But they can help.  They can give them the tools to manage a classroom better and to understand kids better.

Changing undergraduate education departments at universities should be a movement everyone can support.

Monday, July 28, 2014

All Politics Is Local

Interesting analysis of how Netanyahu is increasingly cozying up to the GOP as a form of proxy figure in his dispute with the Obama Administration.  Obama - to his credit - in unwilling to rubber stamp Israel's more egregious actions, but if Netanyahu thinks he can manage an end run around Obama through idiots like Lindsay Graham, he'll be rudely surprised.

An Important Point

Medicare - the "most endangered" entitlement - is not going to run out of money.

For years, we've been hearing that Social Security and Medicare are going to go bankrupt, and invariably this never comes to pass.

Presumably both the Left and Right have a reason to point to the coming insolvency of entitlements.  On the Left, looming fiscal restraints would be a call for more revenue, especially by eliminating the cap on Social Security taxes.  On the Right, the discussion would be on the basic impossibility of the government doing anything right.

Most interesting is the Center Right, Sensible, Serious Person take on entitlement crises.  These are the voices for austerity - which ought to be in the running for Worst Economic Idea of All Time.  There argument is for "belt tightening" and is some ways indistinguishable from the Right's complaints about entitlements in general.

But it's important to note that they rig the numbers to make it look like a crisis is looming.  This seems to benefit everyone but those who want to feel secure in their future retirement.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


America's Stupidest Foreign Policy Voice, Huckleberry Closetcase, has opened his mewling, drawling pie-hole again to say stupid things about foreign policy.  In this case, he is accusing the UN of Antisemitism.  Similarly, my Facebook feed is full of friends whose defense of Israel is often couched in terms of Antisemitism being at the root of anger over Israeli actions in Gaza.  Or that any outrage over Israel's actions is the same as support for Hamas.

Any statement that begins "I'm not X, but..." usually means you're "X".  So I'll try and avoid the "I'm not antisemitic, but..." formulation. outrage over what Israel is doing in Gaza is not motivated by hatred of the Jews or the state of Israel.  It does not call into question Israel's right to exist or defend itself.

But it is rooted in the same place that had me condemning American force used to level Fallujah.  When we used incredibly destructive weapons - including white phosphorus - on a civilian population, I thought that was criminal.  It was at the root of my desire to leave Iraq and even my concern and outrage over the way we went into Iraq.  As a student of mine once said, "Shock and awe was shockingly awful."

There may be a tactical reason for Israel is kill over a thousand Palestinians.  Although they have not seemed able to stop the short term rocket attacks that is their stated tactical goal.  Strategically, they have zero chance of destroying Hamas through the use of force and in fact they likely strengthen Hamas with every Palestinian killed.

But it is not antisemitic to say that Israel has lost its moral voice in its dealings with Gaza.  This is a statement about Netanyahu's policies and the need for the Right wing in Israel to "be tough and send a message" which is a factor it has in common with the American Right.  But bombing schools and hospitals and residential neighborhoods - even if they hide Hamas' rockets - calls into question the moral claims of self-defense.  Especially since the Hamas attacks have been so ineffectual.

Israel has dealt with a mosquito infestation by carpet bombing the neighborhood.

If the true goal was to get Hamas to stop lobbing rockets into Israel, a negotiated settlement would be the likeliest way to accomplish that.  Launching wholesale attacks into one of the most densely populated places on earth won't accomplish anything more that creating more recruits for Hamas.

And to point this out is not antisemitism.  And what's more, throwing about that term to defend Israel's actions only weakens the term.  Yes, the Arab protesters who attack synagogues are antisemitic.  But those that protest outside the Israeli embassy are not necessarily.

If criticism of Israel is the same as criticism of Judaism, then Israel must behave in a way that does honor to Judaism.  This is the logic of Jefferson's efforts to separate church from state.  If the church and state are linked then the crimes of the state will stick to the church, or the synagogue in this case.

Israel was created as a homeland for one of the world's most bullied people.  But the state of Israel has now adopted the logic of the bully.  That's not good for Israel.  And if criticism of Israel is attacked on the basis of religion, then that is not good for Judaism.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Live Slow, Die Old

I was reading this excellent piece on Ryan Adams, and it occurred to me that if a trouble artist can survive the tumults of youth he will likely produce some excellent work as he gets older.

However, Oh My Sweet Carolina is good, no matter how old you are.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Serious Question

Why the hell are people in Louisiana so happy?  I've been there.  It's inexplicable.

Off To The Appalachian Trail

Thing One is going on his first true backpacking trip.  Two nights, not many miles.

No blogging Friday, because that would be sad.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dog Daze

Very busy day.  Thing Two came home from a sleepover sick, which required the Most Beauteous Spouse Who Rises At Dawn...Like The Dawn to drive up to the sticks at 5:30 AM.  I only had to take him to the doctor's at 8:45.  Then it was time to repair the deck, which required two trips to the hardware stores.  All in crushing heat.  Then it was off to pick up Thing One who decided to skip Radiant Mom's own doctor's tests.  After lunch we needed to pack for a camping trip (no blogging Friday, folks).  That was another trip to the store.  It takes a lot of work to get away from it all.  Then it was time to work out, which felt redundant.

Summer vacation is HARD.

Anyway, I leave you with what passes for good news these days:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two Health Stories

For a relative pittance, the Carter Center has come close to eradicating guinea worm.  By improving education, digging wells and providing treatment, they have managed to dramatically reduce a truly horrific parasitic infection.

Meanwhile, there is a new drug to combat HIV.  It is incredibly expensive - up to $14,000 a year - and has to be taken every day.  It can help at-risk people avoid infection, but again it has to be taken every day.  It has already started to create resistant strains, despite being on the market for only two years.  The people who probably need it most - sex workers and the population of sub-Saharan Africa - can't afford it.

Roughly speaking, you're looking at two ways of treating illness.  One is focused on public health and prevention.  The other is "there's a pill for that (if you have insurance)."

Obviously, drugs have made tremendous improvements in people's lives.  But the way in which we treat illnesses could be made more comprehensive.  It will be interesting - for instance - to see a longitudinal study of preventable deaths from cigarette smoking and see if high taxes have an effect.  It's only been about 15 years since the tobacco industry finally cried uncle about their product.  Has there been an effect?

Or is there now a pill for that, too?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Huckleberry Closetcase Needs To STFU

Inevitably, Republican foreign policy can be reduced to "sending them a message."  Them can be whomever needs that message sent.

When Fluffy asked him how Kerry failed in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, Graham actually said we should have been arming the Ukrainians.  To "send a message" to Putin, I guess.  Because Kerry didn't call Putin a "thug" which would have TOTALLY worked, because Putin may look like a Bond villain, but he's really as frail and vulnerable to name calling as a 13 year girl who just had braces put on.

Because what Ukraine needs right now is MORE weapons.  Maybe this time the government can shoot down a passenger jet with an American weapon.

Graham is a moron and should just shut the hell up.

Single Servings

When I was in college - an age when you are supposed to listen to "college" music - my college radio station was the FM station for central New Hampshire.  So we got - I shit you not - a bunch of Madonna, Duran Duran and Billy Ocean.  There was an AM station but its format was so bonkers you never knew what to expect.

Meanwhile, my peers were being immersed in the Smiths, Husker Du and REM.  The local DJ actually pronounced REM as rem.

So it took me awhile to cultivate musical taste beyond Jimmy Buffet.  I spent most of my college years listening to old R&B from the Atlantic Records vaults.  At one point I was into Gordon Lightfoot.

It was sad.

About ten years ago, all of that changed.  While I had been gaining access to a greater variety of music, it was the advent of the iPod and iTunes plus satellite radio that changed everything.  Suddenly you didn't need to have the cool dude at the record store recommend Grizzly Bear to you, because the iTunes Genius would suggest it after you listened to The Decemberists, which you heard on Sirius Radio.  Plus, the advent of MySpace and other sites allowed for small bands to produce and promote their own stuff.

As a result, you can tailor make what you want to listen to.

When I'm in a car without satellite radio, I feel force fed crap.  The annoying DJ chatter; the stupid ads, the mass produced pablum.

But recently, I've soured on satellite radio.  Having access to an iPod means you never have to listen to what you don't want to listen to.  And even the minimal DJ chatter from Sirius is gone.

We live in a world where you have access to more and more varied content.  Hundreds of channels, thousands of bands.  And increasingly you can only expose yourself to what you want.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying we live in age of unprecedented choice, but that choice often winds up narrowing our choices.  I'll listen to Leonard Cohen's atonal "singing" but not Neil Young's.  I'll listen to Snow Patrol but not Coldplay.

When sociologists look at this time period, they will see the moment when technology led us further and further away from each other and from communal experiences, into our own private world of personal preferences.

I don't think the trend is permanent, but it could be.  And that's a little worrisome.

We cannot afford to fail further apart on every little thing.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


It pisses me off when I write a whole post like yesterday and Booman comes along and writes a better one on the same subject.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Deadly Folly

Two world leaders who most give off the vibe of "Bond Villain" have stumbled into a situation that Barbara Tuchman described as folly in her book The March of Folly.  Folly is basically a self-made error that people at the time recognize as being a self-made error.  This isn't something that benefits from hindsight, people at the time can see the error, but the powerful people in charge keep on marching.

Vladimir Putin exploited Ukrainian discord (that he helped nurture) in order to achieve the goal of re-annexing Crimea.  But in order to solidify his gains, he felt the need to arm a bunch of whackaloons in eastern Ukraine in order to keep the Ukrainian government back on its heels.  Yesterday, the readily apparent folly of arming extremists with advanced weaponry lead to the death of almost 300 people.

Sadly, the fact that those 300 people were overwhelmingly European means that we will care a little more than we will about the other massive act of folly unfolding right now.

Netanyahu's decision - which has a certain McCain-like simplicity - of "force now, force forever" has not worked.  It will not work.  There is nothing that raining rockets down on Gaza will accomplish - unless what you want to accomplish is more violence.

I am 100% in support of Israel's "right to exist" - as if that were really a debatable issue outside of the fringes of Islamic extremism.  But that support simply does not extend to waging war on one of the most densely populated areas of the planet.  The excuse I keep hearing is that Hamas is hiding their rockets in schools, hospitals and residential neighborhoods.  All of Gaza is a residential neighborhood.  And of course, they are going to hide their rockets in places that create moral problems when you attack them.

The idea that this is a "war" seems laughable when you look at the relative casualties.  This is a punitive exercise designed to kill Gazans.  This is a naked show of force, and it is the logic of occupation and oppression.

It may have some short term positive effects for Israel.  Tactically, they may achieve some goals, parade some captured Hamas rockets on TV.

But Israel was created out of global moral revulsion at the crimes perpetrated against Jews during the Holocaust.  And increasingly, their actions in Gaza are creating a similar wave of moral revulsion, if on a smaller scale.

Netanyahu's folly is thinking he can kill Hamas.  You can't kill an idea - even a repulsive one like the kind Hamas represents.  If you wanted to undermine Hamas, you would try and make life in Gaza less miserable, for every moment of suffering and pain in Gaza can currently be blamed on Israel.  Yes, Hamas' actions have led to the blockade, the bombardment and now the invasion.  But that sort of fine distinction is lost in the psychology of oppression.

If conquering the Palestinians would bring peace, we would have peace already.  If you could kill your way to a solution, we would have a solution now given the river of blood that have been spilled.

Both Putin and Netanyahu have reacted to the moment.  They are reacting tactically.  Neither one has a strategic plan to allow them to get what they want.  So despite his Bond villain vibe, Putin's folly is precisely his lack of a plan.  "Annex Crimea, Arm Separatists....And...."  Netanyahu has become the hammer that sees every problem as a nail.  He no longer has any long term vision for peace in his country.  I would hate to think he's as cynical as to create the conditions of permanent war in order to create a permanent Likud government, but you have to wonder if THAT is his real goal.  Few Israelis are dying in this conflict, so whatever mayhem he unleashes on Hamas and the civilian population in Gaza isn't hurting his electoral chances.

But the "World" still matters.  Putin's energy reserves can only buy him so much cover for the death of hundreds of people that his folly caused.  Netanyahu can only rely on American cover for so long.  We have excused and aided Israel's bad actions for the last decade or so as they moved from trying to find peace to embracing the logic of the occupier and the geography - yes - of the ghetto.

Things are shit right now.  The US didn't "do" this - except in our blank check for Israel, which no one in either party will condemn.  Putin and Netanyahu did this.  They created the chaos that has lead to death.

It's perhaps too hippie and simplistic to say, "War is not the answer" but really what else can you say?  You fight wars because you absolutely have to.  Putin and Netanyahu seem to have lost that thread.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


The logic of force is the logic of desperation, which is to say it is illogical.  It seems logical, but ultimately, it rarely works.

Ask the Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Ask the Israelis.

Ask the ammosexuals who fetishize their weapons.

Summer Reading

I've been forced to read a rather dry and tedious book called Beyond the University; Why Liberal Education Matters.  But I came across a quote from John Dewey that explain, I think, a fundamental idea present in the Tea Party right.  Here is the quote:

From a social standpoint, dependence denotes a power rather than a weakness; in involves interdependence.  There is always a danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual.  In making him more self-reliant, it may make him more self-sufficient; it may lead to aloofness and indifference.  It often makes an individual so insensitive to his relations with others as to develop an illusion of being really able to stand and act alone - an unnamed form of insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remediable suffering of the world.

(Underlining is mine.)

It is not coincidence that the Tea Party steeps itself in Revolutionary Era rhetoric and a preference for some of Jefferson's more ludicrous statements.  Their goal is independence from the United States of 2014.  Independence from the tree huggers in Berkeley, the blahs in the inner city, the hordes of immigrants from the south, the Prius driving lesbian.  They want no part of that "other" US.

They see themselves as the mythic frontiersman, battling the wilderness and enemies alone.  That's why Cliven Bundy resonated so strongly with them.  He's a perfect avatar of what they see themselves to be from their cubicle at Initech.

I would argue that perhaps the strongest predictor of political ideology is whether someone sees themselves as "aloof" - to use Dewey's phrase - or interconnected.  Take climate change.  The stunning lack of regard for the damage that we are doing to our planet is nothing less than a profound act of selfish independence.  "If my house on Nag's Head gets flooded, I will just move inland, but it's not going to happen because scientists are fakes."  You're not only declaring your separateness from the hundreds of millions of people who would be displaced by rising oceans, you're declaring your separateness from science.

Or take the refugee crisis.  Ted Cruz wants to deport DREAMers, despite being the son of an immigrant himself.  And when I see the crisis on the border, I see children who crossed all of Mexico rather than stay in a violence plagued homeland.  In other words, my heart aches for these kids.  Conservatives scream at them and brandish guns.

One of the reasons you find more liberals in cities is because it is impossible to be independent in a dense urban setting.  And that's why you have conservatives dominating the exurbs.  It's both shaping them and shaping their choices about where to live.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Worth Watching


And we apparently still have to explain why a return to the gold standard would be a bad thing.

Many conservatives have well and truly lost their marbles.  And presumably the only way to disabuse them of some of their folly is to hand them the reins of power, but even when we do that in places like Kansas, they seem oblivious to the error of their thinking.

All that is left is to relegate their ideas to the same ash heap of history to which we consigned Leninism and Maoism.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Long Read

This is an interesting - if long - read on why even some Democrats are turning against teacher's unions.

This is the Clinton - and to be fair, Obama - wing of the party that I distrust some.  The Aspen Institute/Davos/Tom Friedman set that has these "big ideas" that are going to be "disruptive" and "synergistic".

The key thing about these education reformers that I took from the article is that many of them are economists, not educators.  They are looking for efficiencies and productivity, and frankly, good education is inefficient.  It's time consuming and personalized.

If, indeed, the philosophical foundation of education reform is this economic perspective, then it is doomed to fail.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Picture, A Thousand Words

Interesting graphic of the changing state-by-state unemployment levels since the Carter Administration.

While we think of unemployment in national terms when talking about policy - "the unemployment rate is at 6.7%" - the fact is, unemployment is both an intensely personal experience and a communal experience.

When you see certain areas hit hard by unemployment, you are seeing the emotional devastation that accompanies each and every job loss written and rewritten over an entire community.  It is psychologically hard to loss a job and go on benefits for the vast majority of people.

While it is true that you can create a culture of dependency if a community experiences long term unemployment, it's important to note that it's the community aspect of this that creates social norms around dependency.  The guy who lives down the street and watches reality TV all day while he collects checks can only be "comfortable" (if that's the right word) if he's either unusually blind to public opinion or part of a community where that's the norm.

Or to put it another way: recessions turn everyone into poor African Americans.  Long recessions and depressions create whole communities of people who give up hope.  And in giving up hope, they abdicate their responsibilities towards social norms - or rather the social norms around them change.

What's striking about American politics ever since 1680, is that while a recession may turn a working class white person into the economic equivalent of an African American - who is used to being first fired, last hired - there is no corresponding empathy that is created among working class whites.

Tom Watson tried - during the First Gilded Age - to unite black and white farmers in the southern wing of the Populist party.  It proved impossible, and he adopted racial demagoguery from that point onward.  Even today, the machinist who lost his job can't see that the anger and helplessness he feels are effectively what African Americans and other minorities feel even during many "good" times.

The Dow is over 17,000.  The Lords of Finance are doing just fine, as they use the Fed's low interest rates to create another market bubble.

But the mass of the people aren't doing great.  Because the House of Representatives refuses to acknowledge basic macroeconomics (or acknowledges it, but prefers voters to be miserable and more likely to vote for them) we are stuck in a sluggish economy.  It's growing but not enough.  The promise that we feel entitled to as Americans is harder to realize.

But sadly, we are not seeing the creation of a "Labor" party to change this.  The closest we have is Elizabeth Warren, whose economic populism is leavened by a sense of social justice.

And this gets to the heart of my reticence about Hillary Clinton.  I think she would be a fine president.  But the moment calls for someone who can unite the millions of Americans who have been screwed over by an economy that is rigged for the 1%.  And I'm not sure that's her.

Eventually, the US economy will grow faster again.  But this could be a moment when we get working class whites to see that their economic situation is not protected by the color of their skin.  That their economic interests are only slightly different from the African American and Hispanic underclass that they have been trained to hate.

I worry that we've missed that moment already.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

More Driving

The Fascist World Cup (National Socialists vs Peronistas) is happening today and I have to drive a shuttle bus.

Die Mannschaft 2-1 over Albaceleste is my call.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Two Notes On Driving

Drove to Hyannis and back today to pick up the Things from Camp Grands.

Two things.

First, why in the world would anyone who lives in the Northeast NOT have EZ Pass.  There are enough toll roads and bridges to make is an essential part of driving.  And yet, I'd say half or more of drivers aren't using it.

Second, stay out of the left lane unless you're the fastest car on the road.  If there is someone behind you - or coming up behind you - get left.  Unless you, yourself are stuck behind someone traveling slowly in the left lane.

If Americans generally used the left lane for passing or very fast travel, my guess is not only would traffic jams decrease, but traffic fatalities.  Slowpokes in the fast lane are what causes people to jump lanes like maniacs.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Interesting, I Guess

So, LeBron is headed home to Cleveland near where he grew up.

That's kind of heart warming.

But he's also getting the maximum salary, so that's kind of mercenary.

I don't necessarily begrudge athletes their money, because the owners probably get more anyway.  But sometimes, you just have to tip your hat to guys like the late Tony Gwynn who stayed in one place, never tried to break the bank, got rich anyway and became local institutions.

I wonder how Cleveland will welcome him back.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Maybe We're Looking At The GOP Wrong

The above article suggests that perhaps we have been thinking about the GOP all wrong.  We've been thinking about it as a dysfunctional political coalition that can no longer control its disparate factions.

In fact, judging from that article, I'd say the GOP is perhaps better understood as a cult.

We are now 33 years into the post-Reaganomics hellscape, in which ridiculous claims were made about an economic theory - cutting taxes on the wealthy will both "life all boats" and "pay for themselves" - that has simply been proven time and time and time again to be the biggest load of horse shit this side of a rodeo corral.

What we have seen since the 2010 Teanderthal takeover of several states has been a sharper relief picture of this failed theory.  If you would like to know what America might have looked like under President McCain and a GOP Congress, look at the states where the GOP controls the government.

What makes the GOP a cult is the fact that despite the overwhelming evidence against their theory, they continue to believe in it.  There simply appears to be no level of economic data, no crushing amount of evidence that can shake their belief in their voodoo economics.

And yet, despite the fact that the main agenda of this cult is cutting taxes on the rich and telling women what to do with their hoohahs, they are likely to gain seats in both Houses of Congress because we have a deeply stupid media talking to a deeply ignorant and apathetic electorate.

Your democracy, America.  Cherish it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Climate Denialism In A Nutshell

Um, No

We have a "Slate Pitch" article here that argues that Warren Harding - who is in the news because of his sexy-time letters to his mistress - was not as bad as he's made out to be.

The author's argument seems to be that Harding signed a bunch of decent legislation - the Sheppard-Towner Act, the Budget and Accounting Act - to offset the bad - the Fordney-McCumber tariff, the Mellon tax plan -  and the ugly - the persistent and pervasive scandals of his administration.

The argument that he was relatively racially progressive is also kind of vacant.  The author suggests that Grant, too, gets poor marks for the corruption, despite being a racial progressive.

But we DO knock LBJ for Vietnam - which killed quite a few African Americans - in balance with his civil rights legislation.  But LBJ actively worked for civil rights.  Harding was simply "better than Wilson" despite the fact that many of Wilson's programs were good for ALL Americans, including African Americans.  Wilson was a segregationist, but so was Harding.  Harding also met with Klansmen in the Oval Office, something even Wilson didn't do.

The one area where Harding deserves credit is his pardon of Eugene V. Debs.  But no one doubts Harding's kindness (except perhaps his wife).  It was his ability as President that was lacking - something Harding himself admitted to.

When we look at Nixon's presidency, there is a tendency to credit him for certain things that Congress did: the EPA, the Clean Air and Water Act and so on.  The fact is that Nixon didn't care about that.  If giving Congress some domestic leeway kept him free to pursue his global power politics, so be it.  Giving Harding credit for a mildly progressive Congress pursuing administrative reform via the Budget and Accounting Act seems to be giving the roster the credit for the dawn.

Harding was not a forceful leader, he was not a visionary president.  He was a genial, somewhat dim avatar for the Republican Old Guard, led by Andrew Mellon, to roll back the income tax, protect wealth and undermine the progressive reforms of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

He was a nice man, but he was a lousy president.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An Infuriating Way That Democrats Are Different From Republicans

Henry Cuellar (D-TX) has criticized Obama for not anticipating the current crisis caused by underage migrants from Central America.

The problem is that this crisis was largely unanticipated.  And the solution to the crisis should involve Congress.  Basically, the US does not automatically deport underage immigrants from Central America. They have to go through an asylum hearing, because there is some awful shit historically that goes down in Central America.  Underage migrants from Mexico get shipped right back over the border, because Mexico.

This is the law.  The problem has been a massive influx of teenage migrants from Central America, which has destabilized the situation by flooding the asylum process.

The solution, of course, is to change the law, which only require the prompt and speedy action of a constructive and efficient Congress....

Rep. Cuellar's criticism of Obama is therefore fairly far off the mark.  This is similar to endless fondling of the fossil fuels by Democrats like Landrieu, Manchin and Pryor.  But at least that makes narrow sense, given their home states.

Cuellar represents the lack of party unity that doesn't exist in the modern GOP.  McConnell in particular has created parliamentary levels of party unity in the Senate.  Meanwhile the House remains so terrified of its Tea Party shadow that it refuses to govern at all.

There are a few examples of rhetorical apostasy in the GOP: the Paul-McCain argument over foreign policy doesn't really count, since the GOP currently has no foreign policy - it has the argument.  But Paul's dissent on civil liberties comes close.

But that dissent is also trained on Obama.  Cuellar could decry the inaction of the House on immigration, but instead he blames in the President who is trying to work around the constraints of the law.

All of this ties in to the poll that found 33% of Americans calling Obama the worst president since World War II.  You can take a wild guess what percentage of that 33% are conservatives.

It has been party unity that has allowed the GOP to survive, despite holding minority positions on economics, fiscal policy, marriage equality, contraception, the environment, guns and a host of other issues.

I certainly don't want the Democrats to emulate that unthinking brand of party loyalty, but sometimes guys like Cuellar should just shut the fuck up.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

POTUS Is A Bad Ass

The history of the Obama years is only beginning to be written.  As Chait notes in his opening, one long term effect of it will be the introduction of parliamentary style party unity by the GOP (and later to a much lesser degree by Democrats).  This has rendered American politics fundamentally dysfunctional on many levels.

Which makes the list of Obama's accomplishments all the more impressive.

Now if Scalia would just go ahead and die already....

Thursday, July 3, 2014

War On Women

The formulation of a "War on Women" is a bit over the top.  Wars destroy indiscriminately and wreck havoc over large swaths of the country.

But we use the "War" metaphor for all sorts of ways - Wars on Poverty, Drugs, Illiteracy - so why not this.

When it comes to contraception, the vivid distinction between those that have a problem with terminating a pregnancy and those who simply believe women should shut up and be pregnant becomes pretty vivid.

I disagree with those who believe abortion kills a human being.  But I can respect that neither of us knows what a first trimester fetus feels, thinks or whether it has any consciousness at all.  Both of us are acting, in effect, on a position of faith.

But contraception is different.  If you don't believe me, read this.

For a particularly odious - and not small - segment of the right, contraception is about "consequence free sex" in the words of Erick Erickson or "slut pills" in the words of Rush Limbaugh.

This is the logic of the "forced birth" movement.  That sex should have some sort of "consequence" is a paleolithic way to look at both sex and women.  The consequences of sex should be a bit of physical pleasure, increased intimacy and - if both people WANT to - possible planned pregnancies.  And of course, these are the same trolls who think sexual assault is overstated, even that it "confers privileged status" in the words of George Will.

I realize that the official position of the Catholic Church is to oppose all contraception.  But we also know that over 90% of Catholics use birth control.  And the Church under Francis really doesn't prioritize that narrow segment of belief.  And to reduce Catholicism to a giant, withered finger wagging against the Pill and condoms is itself a revealing tell.

The same figures who applaud the Catholic Five on the Court privileging the Catholic position on birth control over other beliefs and rights are vigorously opposed to the Catholic Church's position on capital punishment and preemptive war.  They are willing to ignore the current Pope on executing people but cling vigorously to an old proscription against birth control.

Why is that, if not because of a profound contempt for women?

Is it a "War"?  Perhaps "Oppression" is the better term, but War on Women is catchier and frankly not so far out of line in a country that talks about a "War on Christmas."

I am probably farthest to the left on economic matters, so Hillary Clinton's presumed ascendancy to the White House leaves me ambivalent.  She is just too close to Wall Street for me.

But I can only imagine the bile and filth that will be hurled at her by the vocal avatars of the Right's Anti-woman Caucus.  All the racism that was directed at Obama will morph into sexism (mixed with ageism) and be thrown at Clinton.

And just as the birth certificate nonsense and the thinly veiled racist attacks have consolidated minority voters within the Democratic Party, so, too, will the coming nastiness towards Clinton cement women into the Democratic Party.

The Right's retrograde position on sexuality - both via contraception and marriage equality - is the key to its coming irrelevancy.  For thirty years, the GOP won elections on social issues and culture wars.

But that time is coming to an end.

And not a moment too soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The GOP Is Broken And Should Not Be Allowed To Govern Anything

The nut graph:

You have to pay close attention to what the Journal is reporting here. It's not saying 144 Republicans planned to vote for immigration reform. It's only saying 144 of them wanted a bill to pass. Whatever meager cooperation has occurred between House Republicans and Obama has generally employed this secret-heresy method. A majority of Republicans give the private go-ahead to bring a bill to the floor, then most of them vote against it, letting Democrats supply the votes. This insulates them from any blame from enraged tea partiers.

These people are craven, confused and stupid.


This piece in Tiger Beat on the Potomac has generated a lot of discussion.  Probably because lines like this are true and discomfiting to the CW of the 1%.

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

This is the basic understanding that arose from the Great Depression.  I just finished reading John Kenneth Galbraith's analysis of the Crash of '29 and it's pretty apparent that the Crash of '08 was it's close cousin.  The fact that the Depression of '08 was short was precisely because of better policy outputs like TARP and the Stimulus and policy stablizers like the Federal Reserve, Unemployment Insurance and so on.  

But the fundamental flaw in the economy of 1928 and 2007 is wealth inequality.

Read this and tell me it's not true:

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages. We’ve had 75 years of complaints from big business—when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We’re all going to go bankrupt. I’ll have to close. I’ll have to lay everyone off. It hasn’t happened. In fact, the data show that when workers are better treated, business gets better. The naysayers are just wrong.

How can the data be ignored so strongly?  Because there is a powerful incentive to do so.

The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.

Hanauer here lays the wood.  Trickle down is killing the average American.

Here is a somewhat easy to understand example of why trickle down is wrong.

We rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. It’s simply not true. There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy. I earn about 1,000 times the median American annually, but I don’t buy thousands of times more stuff. My family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. I bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants I am wearing as I write, what my partner Mike calls my “manager pants.” I guess I could have bought 1,000 pairs. But why would I? Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn’t do the country much good.

The problem of course is that he's not "saving" his extra money, he's creating bubbles in equity markets.

Our current system is broken, but we're a wealthy enough country to fend off the consequences for awhile.  But not forever.

My only worry is that Hillary Clinton is an unlikely venue for the sort of radical economic revision of America that we need.  And that's why Elizabeth Warren remains so many people's first choice for President, even though she won't run (and probably wouldn't be a good president.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

F*&^# The Catholic Five

To exempt post-conception birth control is bad, but manageable.

To rule against ALL contraception is fucked up and bullshit.

That is preferencing one religion - conservative Catholicism - over the rights of employees and other religious faiths.

Well, That's Settled. Again.

Vaccines are safe and effective.

We knew this.  This is not new.

But the simple staggering fact is that people who don't understand science are using the scientific miracle of the internet to create widespread scientific illiteracy.

And like the similar scientific illiteracy surrounding climate change, the global impact of these willful ignoramuses is profound.  People have and will die because of basic science illiteracy.

In related news, my son's school district's budget failed again at referendum, continuing to insure that his district has the lowest per pupil spending in the state.