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, December 31, 2015

Republicans Should Start Sweating

If this graph represents a trend, they are so very, very screwed.

Look at "Whites Under 40."  If the GOP loses that demographic, they have zero hope left.

Violence As A Societal Tool

This is a really interesting read.

It basically argues that murder is higher in the Americas as a legacy of forced labor - slavery and otherwise.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Perfect End To This F-ed Up Year

Can we just arrest these assholes?

I mean, we can't just shoot them, because they aren't a black 14 year old with a toy gun, but can't we just throw them in Gitmo or something?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thanks, Obama!

Iran has turned its enriched uranium over to Russia in the first major step of compliance in the nuke deal. 

But that's not scary, so don't expect it to lead the news. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Spoiled

I haven't seen the new Star Wars yet, but I imagine it will be decent to good, because it has good source material.  However, the "prequels" were so god awful, that I won't believe it until I see it.

Dan Diamond at Vox has a good illustration of just how awful the prequels were by suggesting how easy it would be to "reboot" the sequels and make them unsucky.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Working Class Revolt

David Frum has penned a deservedly much lauded piece on the current revolt going on within the Republican party.  Of course, it has an analog in both Sanders' campaign and Clinton's move leftward on many issues.

As Charlie Pierce wrote about the Occupy Movement: At least they are shouting at the right buildings.  Increasingly, working class Republicans are starting to shout at some of the right buildings, too.  Whether that can penetrate the Republican elite as defined by Frum is another question.

More Words Than You Need To Read On Schlong-gate

Josh Marshall goes DEEP into the Yiddish linguistics of "to get schlonged."  Shorter version: seems like in the time and place of Trump's youth "to get schlonged" meant to lose a sporting event badly.  However, the word is clearly of Yiddish origin from the word penis, and "to get schlonged" meant to get raped.

Of course, what Marshall seems to miss is that fans and athletes alike used to use the term "rape" to describe a particularly bad loss, until the casual use of that word became frowned upon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Contortionists

So, let's go with the thought experiment that either Trump or Cruz wins the GOP nomination.  I think you'd have to give better than even money right now that it will be one of them, but maybe Rubio wakes up or Bush...No, it would have to be Rubio.

Let's go with Trump first.  Recently, he has vomited forth another Trumpism about Hillary Clinton, schlongs and the overall disgustingness of her taking a piss.  Again, normally, this would sink most candidates, but Trump is gonna Trump.  His numbers will likely rise.  If so, what do the John McCains and Mitch McConnells and Charlie Dents do with this guy as their party's standard bearer?  He's not going to win, and he's going to possibly inflame so many elements of the American society that it could actually imperil GOP control of the House.  Same goes for Cruz, with the added spice that pretty much everyone in Congressional Leadership hates Cruz with a white-hot passion.

Which will make them contorting themselves to find nice things to say about these assholes all the more fascinating to watch.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The DNC Brouhaha

The kerfuffle over the breach in the firewall at the DNC is interesting, because it exposes the flaws in both campaigns.

For Clinton, the impression that she is using her institutional advantages to crush the upstart Sanders isn't what she has been trying to convey.  She has gone out of her way to demonstrate her respect for Sanders and his supporters, because she knows - rightly - that she will win the nomination and need Sanders supporters in the general election.  If there is one thing that could happen that would benefit Clinton and the DNC while defanging Sanders' arguments against her is to get rid of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.  She is a terrible face for the party and apparently not much of a player.

For Sanders, his entire appeal is that he isn't a typical politician.  That narrow similarity is why some lazy reporters tie him to Donald Trump, but unlike Trump, Sanders is a policy wonk with substantive positions.  He's a man of pure motives and incorruptible. And suddenly, his campaign is using Nixonian tactics?  This is exactly the opposite of how he has conducted his campaign, and while he was always a long shot, this is a dagger in the heart of his political philosophy.

I suppose this could be rupture in the party that Clinton has been trying to avoid.  It seems more like a death knell for Sanders though.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mancrush

The American right wing infatuation with Vladimir Putin is both revealing and disturbing.

Putin is a poor leader.  He benefited from high gas prices earlier in the century, but as oil prices have fallen, his economy has cratered.  The other reason that the economy tanked was international sanctions over his adventure in Ukraine.  In other words, circumstances beyond his control benefited his country, whereas his actions have hurt his country.  His Syrian expedition originally targeted our allies and only switched to ISIL after they blew up a Russian airliner.

But Putin has mastered optics in the creation of his cult of personality.  And the Republicans are currently entirely about optics.  Certainly, Donald Trump is entirely image and devoid of thoughtful policy thinking.  But they all talk tough.  They all swagger.

And like Putin, they are likely to make our country incontrovertibly weaker.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Your Free Market

Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli has been arrested and charged with security fraud.  He was the douchecanoe who jacked up the price of a critical AIDS drug.

Some people on my Facebook feed held him up as simply following the dictates of the free market.  But the "free market" is increasingly a monopoly, not a market.  It's increasingly a rigged game.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why Trump Is Worse Than A Clown

Donald Trump will not be the next President.  He could win the nomination, but I can't see him winning the presidency.

But he does matter, and part of the reason is this study.

One of the most discouraging things as a teacher and historian/political observer is that there is apparently a deeply ingrained human tendency to ignore facts that contradict a priori assumptions.  In the words of an old t-shirt: "If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of."  This basic insight - that emotional, irrational beliefs are impervious to facts - undermines a great deal of previously held political and economic theory.

If you believe that guns make you safer or immigrants are overrunning this country or crime is on the rise or climate change isn'y real or ISIL poses an existential threat or Obamacare is tyranny....then there is no set of facts that can change your mind apparently.  Without anything to back me up, I would say that the one thing that MIGHT change your mind would be broad based social approbation.  You might be a racist, but if enough people shame you on that subject, you will at least keep those thoughts to yourself and perhaps fail to influence others to believe the same thing.

Trump exposes all those ugly thoughts that we have labored to suppress via social shaming.  He's ripping the lid off the national id.  He's giving voice to the irrational fears of the Trumpenproletariat.

But he's hardly alone as last night's debate demonstrates.  The combination of Fox News scaremongering and the visceral belief that Obama is secretly opposed to the very idea of America means that 47% of the population is deeply wedded to a belief system that is verifiably false.

And it won't make a damned bit of difference to point this out to them.

Maybe We Needed Dubya After All

The Republicans - and conservatives as a group - are tremendously motivated by fear.  Fear of change, fear of the "other."

And when Bush was president, they had to keep a lid on their fears, because they couldn't criticize "their guy."

But now that there is a Democrat in the White House, their paranoia and lack of critical perspective is on broad display.

If you honestly believe that ISIL is a threat to the existence of America, then you are a paranoid coward with no sense of perspective and should be barred from holding elective office.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My Debate Prediction

One candidate will come out strongly against Trump's racism. (Christie?  Kasich?)  That candidate will drop out by New Year's. 

Fargo

My first Coen brothers' movie was Raising Arizona.  It was so gonzo in concept and so unsentimental about family and children that I was hooked.  My favorite Coen movie is Miller's Crossing, again it stretched the rules of drama - the story really kicks off with a murder that they never bother to explain - and unflinchingly unsentimental.  As Tom Regan say, "What heart?'

What was so impressive about Fargo was how they transferred this artistic tone to television.  It was gonzo - "It's just a flying saucer, Ed, we gotta go." - and bracingly unsentimental.  Characters were killed almost at random and in the blink of an eye.  Peggy was so bonkers and Ed so placid, that you almost hoped Peggy would snuff it to free Ed from this whack-job.

And this is why the finale was so unbelievable.  Unlike a two hour movie, a ten hour miniseries allows you to get really close to the characters.  The final gave us two indelible, emotional moments: Lou talking about the helicopter pilot of the coast of Vietnam and Hank talking about his attempts to create a universal language.  Both scenes were about family, and how maybe in the end family is all you have in a violent, chaotic world.

As Lou says about taking care of your family, "We act like it's a burden, but really it's our privilege."  And Hank says, "You'll know the angels when they come for you because they will have the face of your children."  and when told by his daughter that he's a good man, he gives an unbelievable line reading for: "Oh, I don't know about that, but I'd like to think I at least have good intentions."

The season ends with Lou and Betsy falling asleep in bed - Betsy dying of cancer - but there is a peacefulness that feels both earned and precious.

Top notch. You betcha.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Accurate But Incomplete

Josh Marshall notes that we are more scared of terrorism now than even after 9/11 and that seems nuts.  He suggests, accurately, that ISIL is better at mass media and social media than Al Qaeda ever was.

The difference between then and now is simply that there is an entire news network and really a few more fell travelers who are beating a constant drum of panic.  It was Ebola a year ago, now it's ISIL.

Meanwhile we are observing the 3rd anniversary of Newtown and doing nothing about mass shooters.

Fear makes you stupid, but for some people it's a short trip.

Three Years After Newtown

Preach it TBogg:

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown wasn’t a tragedy. It was a horrific event that should have galvanized the American public to begin taking the Founding Fathers at their word when they wrote about a “well-regulated militia,” and stop the sale of weapons of war and high-capacity magazines — that have absolutely no reasonable reason to be available– to the general public.
What is an “American tragedy” is that we are not doing one fucking thing to make sure another Sandy Hook or a Charleston church and, yes, even a San Bernardino shooting never happens again.
Shame on us.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Those French Elections

Everyone was freaking out when the National Front did well in the first round of regional elections.  But anyone who knows the French electoral system knows that's irrelevant.  It's a two-phase election, with the first round being olly-olly-oxen-free and then the top two run off against each other.

It's a great system frankly.

Today, the French population rallied around whomever the person running against the National Front. Instead, French voters flooded the polls and handed the FN a resounding defeat.

Just as there are Trump voters in the US, there are Le Pen voters in France.  But there aren't enough of them.

This Is Brilliant

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/snl-will-ferrell-george-bush


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Climate Talking

There is - as previously noted - only one major political party in the developed world that denies the science of climate change.  This forces them into strange arguments, because they can't engage the scientific merit of change, so they make political arguments about China or India or they make spurious economic arguments that switching to renewables will bankrupt...someone.

They will no doubt crap all over the current accord, because they really have no other alternative.  They have backed themselves into a corner and like the toddlers they are, they won't budge until everyone agrees to watch SpongeBob.

Ultimately, the climate talks will succeed or fail based on the technological advances that we seem to be creeping up on.  Hopefully at some point, the 47% American people will move past their Oppositional Defiance Disorder if non-fossil fuels get cheap enough, because I have few illusions that the party that is bought and paid for by the coal industry will budge in time.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Carson Has No Cards To Play

While Bennie the Knife has threatened to pull a Trump and leave the party if the Establishment tries to manipulate a brokered convention, his leverage is significantly less than Trumps.  Trump voters are invested in Trump and all that Trump "stands for."  If Trump runs as a third party candidate, half of his voters go with him.

Carson's voters are mostly evangelicals and people who like their outsiders with a touch less racism.  They aren't leaving the GOP.  They will simply move to Ted Cruz, as many of them are already doing.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Projection

The Republican Party is the only major political party in the developed world that rejects climate science.  This leads them to assume that other parties - all the other parties - accept "fake" climate science for nefarious Underpants Gnome-type reasons.

Which leads to the phenomenon that Chait talks about.  It isn't that China is legitimately worried that Shanghai and Hong Kong might cease to exist, it's that blahblahblah, magical thinking, PROFIT!

Occam's Razor is a hell of a thing.  The simplest reason why China and even India are accepting climate science is because climate science is right, and if climate science is right, then we'd better get off our ass and do something about it.

But if you argue the science is wrong (and you are universally alone in arguing this), then you have to constantly change your bullshit arguments to keep up with actions.

It's like Ptolemy's spheres within spheres, when you just need to accept the Copernican Solar System.

Trump Is A Boggart

In the world of Harry Potter, a boggart is the manifestations of your worst fears. Whatever you fear most, a boggart assumes that shape.

Trump is a real life boggart, except he doesn't exactly take the shape of his audience's fears, but rather gives voice to them.  The white hot fear that the Trumpenproletariat has of brown people and brown Muslims and Mexican Muslims and "teh blacks" and "those people" are perfectly distilled by Trump and projected back for the audience to experience.

While we're at it, Ted Cruz is Lucius Malfoy, Marco Rubio is Gilderoy Lockhart, Hillary Clinton is Hermione Granger, Bernie Sanders is Mad-Eye Moody and Jeb Bush is someone who died before the book even began.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blood Lust

As a country, we sure do like executing people.

And it turns out, these executions have little to do with justice and might have everything to do with career advancement.

Ponder that for a minute.

You have various counties in the US that produce the most of the executions.  There is no correlation that murders are worse in those counties.  Obviously, urban areas will have the most murders because they have the most people.

But there are places in Texas where basically your job as a prosecutor is to kill people.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Missing The Point

Donald Trump continues to front his George Wallace Tribute Band Tour, now calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.  And, you know, maybe rounding up Muslims and putting them in camps, while we close their mosques.

Even Darth Cheney is all, "WTF?". Fox News has actual people calling him out on it.

And it just doesn't matter.

Trump's numbers will likely go up in the primary field.  There was an inevitable pattern in 2012.  Romney would flag and some goofball like Michelle Bachman or Herman Cain would briefly surge ahead.  But then the goofball would implode, and Romney would rally.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

This cycle the pattern is a little different.  Trump has held a fairly consistent lead.  But as a candidate creeps up on him, that candidate says something stupid, but more importantly, Trump says something offensive.  The combination of these two dynamic leads to a Trump-Bump.  Throughout his campaign, Trump has crossed all the usual lines that should sink a politician in 2015.  Saying those things actually reinforces his poll numbers.

The response of people is to criticize Trump.  But Trump - reality TV star that he is - is simply giving the audience what it wants.  Roughly a third of all Republican voters - maybe two thirds if you factor in Carson and Cruz's supporters - WANT to kick all Muslims out of the country.  They WANT to close the mosques and kick out all the brown people.  They WANT cops to use excessive force to keep THOSE PEOPLE in their place.

Trump isn't the problem, except to the degree that he normalizes things that this racist 27% of the America couldn't say out loud before.  But they felt it.  And every time Trump creates a controversy, they love him all the more for it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Leftovers

I've struggled with HBO's The Leftovers, as I'm sure the other 47 viewers have.  It's a bold, complex, unyielding drama that takes on huge metaphysical questions and weaves them with personal drama and compelling characters.  Last night's season (series?) finale was able to simultaneously bumfuzzle me, put a lump in my throat and leave me with dozens of questions.

I don't know if HBO will bring it back, but it should.  And if you have an HBO/GO account...take the time.  It's not an easy road, but it's worth it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Islam In America

Josh Marshall touches on an important point.  Muslims in Europe are much more estranged and therefore alienated and susceptible to radicalization than are Muslims in America.  We are still trying to sort through what radicalized the San Bernadino pair, but it seems to center more on the wife - who was herself alienated and estranged in this new country.

I say this because literally almost every word out of a Republican politicians mouth on this issue is guaranteed to make this issue worse, not better.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Trump Stands Alone

Performance artist and amalgam of "mummified foreskin and cotton candy," Donald Trump has once again surged to the top of the GOP field.  He holds 36% support, with his nearest competitor being Tailgunner Ted Cruz with 16% and Bennie the Knife Carson at 14%.

Two significant things. First, Carson's support has collapsed as his "not-ready-for-prime-time" political intellect and skills has become apparent.  And that support looks to have migrated - unsurprisingly - to Trump and Cruz.

The second and more important point is this: Trump, Carson and Cruz account for exactly two-thirds of current Republican voters' preference.  I spoke to a prominent aid to a prominent Republican Congressman who is aghast that his party is going to nominate an experienced clown.  My guess is that sentiment is widely held among the so-called "party elites" or, alternately, Republicans with higher brain functions.

These three guys are guaranteed losers in November 2016.  Trump would be so toxic that we might see the same surge in Hispanic votes that we saw with African American votes in 2008 (though for different reasons).  Cruz is such an unctuous gasbag that Hillary might win by 10 points or more.  Her problem is "likability."  She's Beyonce compared to Cruz.

Martin Longman has an interesting thesis that the Republican Party is sort of where the Democrats were in 1971.  Their insurgents have taken over the party nominating process and are trying to cough up a candidate who appeals to no one outside their own political clique.

If this is true, we could be headed for a long period of real turmoil.  Like the party system of the '70s and '80s, one party will control the House and the other the White House.  But unlike that party system, the parties are so ideologically separate as to make governing impossible.

Yay!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I'm Just Going To Copy And Paste

This is from Josh Marshall:

Based on what we know today we don't have any evidence of jihadist terrorism beyond the suspects' surnames and religion (not terribly good evidence) and their apparent stockpiling of pipe bombs (better evidence). If every guy with a few weapons and tons of ammo was a jihadist, we've have quite a few jihadists in the US - not to mention various lifestyle magazines to cater to them.
But let's assume, for the sake of conversation, that subsequent investigations show contact with foreign jihadists and radicalization as a key motivator. Even with that, these sorts of attacks are not often targeted against coworkers -especially after what seems to have been an argument with a coworker at the party that was subsequently targeted. That sounds a lot like a workplace rage rampage.
And yet, it's clear that even on the basis of what we know now, Farouk and his wife did quite a lot more planning than they could have done in the 20 minutes or hour it took Farouk to leave the party and come back in body armor with guns blazing. So clearly Farouk and his wife, whatever their motivation, had seriously considered and made elaborate plans for killing a lot of people. Guns themselves might not confirm that - given that this is the USA. Pipe bombs do.
And then we have the further disconnect. We didn't they bring their pipe bombs? If the plan was always to attack the coworkers, why didn't they bring them? Did they plan to get away and mount further attacks? Or had they planned some separate attack only to have Syed get angry with coworkers and jump the gun by shifting the massacre target to them?
We'll probably have explanations for many of these questions soon. My only observation for now is that the various genres of DIY catastrophic mass violence we have become familiar with may not be as hermetically sealed as we imagine. A homegrown jihadist radicalized by some crazies in Yemen can also be a working stiff pissed off about work. I'm sure we'll soon learn more.

Good Read

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2015/12/3/9844438/cruz-trump-rubio-san-bernardino-terrorism

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Just Sickening

We live in a sick fucking country, because we won't do a damned thing about these shooting.

All we do is wait to see if this time the shooter is non-white, so we can decide whether to launch a pogrom.  Of course, in the end, it always turns out to be some white guy, doesn't it.

UPDATE: Oh, crap. He's an Arab. The shrieking of the monkeys will be unbearable. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Most Important Thing You Can Read Right Now

I just gave a school meeting on race. I was trying to give a broad overview of America's tortured racial history in conjunction with our summer reading and current events.

After completing it, I read this piece by Josh Marshall about a new study delineating the increased mortality among non-college educated whites age 45-54.  Unlike every other cohort in the developed world, this group has since its mortality rate increase rather than decrease.  The fascinating thing he notes is that this cohort of people are killing themselves.  The three main drivers of this trend are alcohol and drug overdoses/poisoning, suicide and liver disease.

Think about that for a moment.

There was an interesting article about why rural whites oppose welfare.  The common assumption - which I've shared - is that rural whites oppose money going to "those people," mainly minorities.  But there is some purely anecdotal evidence that a main driver of hatred of welfare is not the "welfare queen" but "cousin Merle" who is addicted to Oxycontin and living off welfare checks while dealing pills from his double wide.  It is not the faceless "other" but the nearby ne'er do well that makes this group of rural whites oppose social spending.

And yet, we see in this study that opposition to action - whether more economic opportunity or better health care - is literally killing this group of people.

The rage that animates a Trump rally is only part aimed at Mexicans and Syrians and blacks.  It is really aimed at a country that is crushing these people where they live.  Lacking education and opportunity, America is broken for these people.  And they drink and smoke and snort themselves to death.  The rage against "others" is certainly real and certainly virulent, but it's an externalization of a sense of their own failure and the "loss of my country."

Read Marshall's take on it.  It's worth the time.

Donald Trump And Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais is pretty far to the left politically.  But he made his bones as a comedian who pushed discomfort so far that it threatened to move past comedy into genuine human pain.  He was a performance artist specializing in human pain and discomfort.

Donald Trump seems to be cut from the same clothe.  Except, where Gervais made himself the target of the pain and discomfort, Trump projects it outwards.

Trump, in effect, takes all the darkest things in the recesses of the American mind and thrusts them outwards into the light.  He does all the things you absolutely should not do and sees himself rewarded for it in the polls.  He is the perfect manifestation of the American Id.

It all seems more and more like an elaborate performance than a presidential campaign.  As if Trump feels the need to slaughter more and more sacred cows before people finally turn on him.  As if he is exasperated that he has to keep doing this.  As if he hopes maybe THIS time the rubes will turn on him and he can go back to playing golf.

I don't know.  Can you explain it?

Monday, November 30, 2015

He's A Terrorist

The guy who took hostages and shot people at the Planned Parenthood clinic is a terrorist.  He engaged in violence that targeted civilians and had political aims ("no more baby parts").

There is an understandable reluctance on the part of news organizations to point this out, because to point this out is to acknowledge that the GOP is stoking the fears and animus of these far right terrorists.  Fox News is a mainline feed of lies and distortions about the America we live in, that creates a feedback chamber that motivates increasingly violent and strident extremists.

But that 3 year old from Syria is what has Ted Cruz terrified.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Falcons

They start 5-0.  They are currently 6-5.

This might be the most Falcon season ever.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Colorado Shooter

Have you seen his picture?  I suppose if his skin was olive, it would be easier for the wingnuts to call him a terrorist, but he's a terrorist. 

Given that he basically acted on the lies that Carly Fiorina and others were spreading, how can you exonerate the visciousness of GOP rhetoric from these deaths?  

More than a year ago, two NYPD cops were shot by a lunatic motivated by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. That was wrong then and drew condemnation from the left. 

When will Fiorina and others issue their apologies. 

Bridge Of Spies

Finally got around to seeing Spielberg's latest.  It was perfect, yet somehow not great.  Every shot, every performance was flawless.  It was Hanks and Spielberg doing what they do best.  Flawless.

And yet, this was not Lincoln.  Or Saving Private Ryan.  Or even Munich.  As good as it was - intelligent, warm, humorous, and of course humanistic - it somehow soared.

Still, worth the ticket just to see Mark Rylance's performance.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What The...?

About half of Americans fear that they or a loved one will be a victim of a terrorist attack.  That's the highest number since immediately after 9/11.

I suppose if you want to include deranged lunatics in the terrorism category, then sure, I guess it's possible.

But not really.

Murders are down, violent crime is down, few Americans are in war zones...objectively speaking, things are pretty good.

But Fox News and even real news are constant purveyors of fear and anxiety.  It's their business model.  And so we are reduced to a nation of quaking cowards.

Remember Ebola?

Holiday

We went to the Salvation Army Thanksgiving food distribution.

My boys were amazing, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and working their tails off.  Over 300 families got a full dinner last night.  Maybe 1500 people.

When we signed up, I thought, Good.  As we scrambled to get out of the house, I cursed the hassle.  But I wouldn't have traded that for anything in the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Don't Do Stupid Shit

I have to admit some frustration with Obama's go-slow approach to Daesh/IS.  I think there is a forceful response that can be imposed at least on Mosul and parts of Iraq.  We owe Iraq that, and if we do use ground troops there, we can up our contribution to ultimately political settlement, which frankly is going to require a Sunni state between Shia Iraq and Alawite Damascus.

However, if there is a good counter argument to "doing something" it is in Russia's actions.  Since putting Russian forces into Syria, Russia has suffered a terrorist attack on an airliner, attacked all the wrong people and now they have created a crisis with Turkey that could lead to all sorts of nasty repercussions.

Putin has become a favorite on the right for his "boldness" and "tough talk."  This is roughly the same dynamic that has catapulted Donald Trump to front-runner status.  The impulse towards appearing strong ultimately makes one weak.  And the focus on words and imagery ("Why won't Obama say Islamic terrorist?") ultimately betrays a lack of real ideas.

Russia has little plan in Syria beyond propping up Assad, which is an end-state, but not a strategy.  So they flounder around, bombing the wrong people and then provoking an international incident with Turkey.  I have argued and will continue to argue that Putin's belligerence in Ukraine and Syria is a sign of his weakness at home.  His economy is in the crapper, he's isolated and he's floundering from one crisis to the next.

We can see how this plays out, but Syria is getting worse.  And it's getting worse because Russia is floundering around in there.

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's The Politics

It's not a secret why Americans are freaking out over Syrian refugees.  Fox News and the Republican party have convinced their partisans that - contrary to the evidence - Obama is the worst president in history who secretly wants America to fail.

If you point out that it's much harder to get into the US than to Greece, that refugees are vetted over a two year period, that Americans are much more likely to be killed by a lunatic with a personal arsenal... it just won't matter.

Fear makes you impervious to facts.

Don't believe me?

How's that Ebola panic working out?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Yay!

Prostitute visiting, Syrian demagoguing, human shit stain David Vitter goes down to defeat in Louisiana.

After Jack Conway somehow lost to Teanderthal Matt Bevin in Kentucky, it was hard to be comfortable with Edwards' lead over Vitter.  But a combination of Vitter's personal awfulness and Bobby Jindal's complete failure to execute the office of being a governor was apparently the conditions needed to elect a Democrat in the Deep South.

Still, if Sam Brownback can win re-election and Bevin can win running against a successful iteration of the ACA, it does seem that it will take a perfect storm to elect a Democrat down there.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Conservative Politics Of Division

The current debate over how much to really, really hate Muslims is part and parcel of a bankrupt ideology foisted upon the world by economic elites, who mobilize rubes by appealing to racism and tribalism.

While some GOP elites are somehow shocked by the ascendancy of the "collection of mummified foreskin and cotton candy" that is Donald Trump, the fact is that this is their monster.  They created him.  Why?

They did it because the very rich want to be extremely, filthy, astronomically rich.  They just don't want to pay taxes at all if they can help it, especially taxes that go to help the poor.

Ever since Hoover, the main conservative argument has been that any sort of program to help the poor will result in a "culture of dependency." This is Paul Ryan's argument - himself a product of Social Security benefits - that the safety net is a hammock.  It seems so intuitive: If you give someone money, they won't work.

Except that's just not true.  Certainly after a point, welfare programs can be so generous that people would rather stay at home and watch American Ninja than get a job.  And this would matter if benefits were really that generous.  But they're not.  And people want to work.  They want a job.

But they also want to be able to eat and have shelter and all sorts of other perks.

This evidence won't make a damned bit of difference to conservatives, just like evidence of global warming, the efficacy of our refugee screening program or the failure of the Laffer Curve has not made a dent on their collective ideologically certainty.

The great crisis we have in America today is that half the nation has decided on a set of beliefs and then basically ignored the mounds of evidence that contradict it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How Racist Was Woodrow Wilson?

Dylan Matthews has a piece wherein he argues that not only was Woodrow Wilson unusually racist in terms of 2015, but he was unusually racist in terms of 1915. He notes that Wilson began re-segregating the federal workforce at the suggestion of his Postmaster General and Treasury Secretary.  So clearly, these men were also as racist or more racist than Wilson.  The head of the IRS in Georgia said the proper place for a "Negro was the cornfield."

Matthews points out that civil rights activists like WEB DuBois and Oswald Garrison Villard (a descendant of William Lloyd Garrison) were very critical of Wilson.  But that doesn't really put Wilson out of touch with his times.  If anything, DuBois and others were out of touch with the times.

The period from 1880-1930 were perhaps the worst for race relations in the country's history.  Contrary to popular opinion, Jim Crow laws didn't clamp down immediately after the Civil War.  It wasn't until the Populist movement sought to mobilize poor white and poor black farmers that the power structure of the South moved strongly to completely isolate black southerners.

This was the time period when county fairs held eugenics competitions to see which babies were most "Nordic."  They'd measure the head shape and the blueness of a child's eyes and award the happy couple for producing superior racial offspring.  Hitler actually borrowed from American eugenicists.

This was a time period when the Ku Klux Klan pretty much ran the state of Indiana, and Warren Harding - generally considered much better on race than Wilson - met Klan leaders in the Oval Office.  Wilson's adulation of Birth of a Nation shouldn't be considered without noting that it was popular among broad swaths of the American public.

Wilson's approval of the "Lost Cause" interpretation of Reconstruction was the dominant interpretation of the time.  William Dunning was at Columbia University - not Ole Miss - when he described Reconstruction as a crime upon the South.  Howard Beale wrote that Republicans only perpetrated Reconstruction so they could win votes from a naive and compliant black populace.  Reconstruction was seen as a crime committed upon the South as a way of balancing the scales against the Southern crime of secession.  "See, we are both wrong!  Now, let's all get along, and we'll forget the realities of race in America."

Matthews brings up Wilson's arbitrary defeat of a racial equality statement in the League covenant, but then notes that this was done to appease the British and their own racist policies.  He lauds Teddy Roosevelt in comparison, a man who called the entire Colombian legislature a "pack of dagos" and backed down from having Booker T. Washington to a formal White House dinner.  The same Roosevelt who caved to racist pressure over the Brownsville Affair.

You can make a strong case that the difference between Roosevelt and Wilson was that Roosevelt was forced to be more racist than he really was by political realities.  Wilson was a dyed in the wool white supremacist.  But you can't argue that political pressure was enough to make Roosevelt cave on his principles, and then argue that Wilson was somehow out of step with the times.

Wilson - like many educated Southerners - was a paternalist, believing strongly in black inferiority, but also in the responsibility of whites to take care of this "child-like" race.  So while his white supremacist views were ironclad and inflexible, he was probably towards the more enlightened edge of white Southerners - again, not saying much.

But was he notably out of step with an America that banned the Chinese from entering this country because of their race?  Or a country that risked going to war with Japan over racism in the San Francisco schools?  Or a country that stole and kept the Philippines because they assumed "brown people" couldn't grasp self-rule?

Wilson was a racist - unapologetic and vocal in his racism.  Students who are protesting at Princeton got that right.

But sadly, he was very much in tune with his times.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This Is Good, But Too Late

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2015/11/19/booo-isis-and-the-use-of-terrorism-as-psychological-operations/

Read it, go look at the roll call vote to make it even harder for refugees to get here and then weep.


It's Called Terrorism For A Reason, Assholes

The ongoing freakout over admitting Syrian refugees is as depressing as it is inevitable.  It is part and parcel of the Trumpenproletariat's adamant and unfounded belief that the Mexican border is completely unguarded and illegal immigrants are streaming over it like orcs at Helms' Deep.  This is manifestly untrue, but that doesn't matter.

The argument is that Obama is just letting them in, except Syrian refugees go through an 18-24 month screening process, just like all refugees do.  Bring this up, and the response is that we simply can't trust government bureaucrats.  So, "He's not doing anything!"  Yes, he is.  "You can't trust him to do the things I want him to do!"  Nice reinforcing arguments.

To argue that this isn't a manifestation of the deeply rooted and seemingly growing racism of the GOP is dubious, in the extreme.  They were freaking out about Syrian refugees before Paris.  This is simply a target of opportunity.  Anti-Muslim bigotry has been part and parcel of the GOP base since 9/11.  This, despite the ongoing bloody toll caused by angry white men armed to the teeth.  More Americans have died at each others hands in the past week than died in Paris.  But any solution to that is politically impossible.  Demonizing a group that has evidently don't nothing wrong - that's racism.  It's demonizing them because of their group, not their actions.

The only proper response to this is the one Obama and Dannel Malloy have taken.  Obama is calling the bigots out on their cowardice.  Because if they won't cop to the racism, they have to admit to the cowardice.  If they won't admit they just hate Muslims, then it's because they are really fearful of a 3 year old orphan.  Malloy has made the moral case that the most American thing we can do is take in the suffering.

The consistent drumbeat from the Democrats should take is the one Booman suggests.  Point out that giving into quaking, pants wetting fear is un-American.  Point out that rejecting Syrian refugees is exactly what IS wants.  Point out that the attackers in Paris were likely radicalized because the French don't treat their Muslim population with respect, and if we want to make sure there are no Paris attacks here, we have to stop creating them through fear, hatred and naked bigotry.

But mostly go with the cowardice angle.  It will be fun watching the same people who fawn over Putin get called out for being the cowards they are, hiding behind tough words and empty actions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Bloody Arithmetic

The completely predictable reaction to the Paris attacks shows how successful terrorists can be at influencing those who are already prone to fear "others."

More Americans have died by gun violence in the last week than died in the Paris attacks.  If it was simply about the loss of life, then we would respond to the crisis of violence in America with the same sort of sweeping generalities and oppressive measure assholes like Donald Trump are throwing about.  He wants to close the mosques.  How many Muslims have committed acts of terrorism since 9/11?  How many White Christian Nationalists have?

If it was just about the number of people killed, the Paris attacks don't measure up.  It is precisely because they came from out of the blue that makes them scary.  And it is the fear that IS is depending on.  They are losing ground in Syria.  They are unpopular across the Muslim world.  They WANT a conflict of civilizations.  That's why they attacked Paris.

Similarly, if we assume that these radical takfiri groups can carry out a mass casualty event every four or five years, how many soldiers lives is that worth?

If the solution is to invade Syria, how many NATO soldiers die?  Are their lives somehow less valuable than the people who died in Syria?  I legitimately ask the question, because it's tricky.  They did - to a degree - volunteer to risk their lives.  But how many dead soldiers is it worth to defeat IS?

More Americans died in Iraq than on 9/11.  That wrought zero net positive change to the region.  Leaving aside the tens of thousands of injured, how do we reconcile the number of dead Americans in Iraq with the dead on 9/11?  Which was worse?

I've said for the last few years that Syria can't be our problem.  IS is trying to make it our problem.  While I am not reflexively opposed to going to war - real war - with them, because they really are that evil, I think we need to reflect on what those costs must be.

What is the value of each life lost?

UPDATE: If we do feel forced to escalate, this letter encapsulates my thinking: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/why-do-we-need-to-stay

Who Knew?

George Bush was apparently the compassionate conservative he said he was.  Because the rest of the conservative movement is composed of flaming hate mongers.

Notably not on the hate parade?  Condi Rice.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

WTF?

Apparently the great sin of Obama and the Democratic candidates for President is that they won't use the term "radical Islam."  This goes back to the bullshit about Benghazi and whether or not or when Obama used the term "terrorist attack."

I suppose this makes sense, as they are focused on the great power of words.  By demonizing Muslims as a group, they reinforce the "us vs them" narrative that drives so much of conservative politics.  Scary brown people - whether they be Mexican or Muslim - are all that conservatives need to keep their fear and panic warm and burning bright.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Does This Change Things?

I am presuming that last night's attacks in Paris represent an escalation by ISIS against the West.  And the West will respond in turn.  Perhaps Hollande will invoke Article 4 of the NATO agreement.  Perhaps we will go to war in Syria.

Charlie Pierce notes that this is the ongoing cycle of violence between "barbarians" and civilization and after we up the ante, the Islamist fanatics will up the ante again.

Maybe that's true.

Personally, I think a few NATO divisions with an American division or two can make short work of ISIS.  A Toyota pickup with a mortar in the back isn't much match for an M1A1 Abrams tank.  The caliphate - if NATO so chooses - can be wiped from the earth.  And maybe it's time for that.  Syria was sort of our problem, because our invasion of Iraq destabilized the region and created a refugee crisis that led to the Syrian civil war that led to ISIS.

But in a larger sense, Syria was not our problem.  ISIS was a local tragedy, but not a geopolitical concern of NATO, beyond our desire to degrade their ability to do anything.

I suppose the Paris attacks could change that.  And perhaps it is time.  Perhaps after bringing down a Russian airliner and killing Parisians in cafes and concert halls, ISIS has changed what they mean for the rest of the world.

I'm sure the Neo-Cons will crow about being right about ISIS.  No one ever disputed that they weren't violent thugs.  And I'm sure they will say that those Parisians would be alive today if we had just taken action in 2012.

I doubt that.  In fact, if we do move into Syria, I'm sure things will get worse from a terrorism front before they get better.

Friday, November 13, 2015

This Is Right, But So What?

Ezra Klein points out that things are much, much better than Republicans make them out to be.

But given the never ending drumbeat of alarmist and inaccurate bullshit that people who watch the news are fed, it's difficult for anyone to think things are better than they were.  And yet they are.

So running on an unrealistic picture of the economy and the world in general is all the Republicans have and it's probably enough.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's Yeat's World

The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

I got nothing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ben Carson Is Tired Of Running For President

That's the only reason I can think of to explain this.  Unless maybe he just relocated his soul.

Historical Illiteracy And Economic Innumeracy

Reading the transcripts of the debates is very painful for someone who teaches history and government.

Consider the following statement by Princeton and Harvard graduate Ted Cruz, that there were no boom and busts under the gold standard.  This is precisely the opposite of reality.  The gold standard guaranteed a deflationary episode every decade, as the quantity of gold failed to keep up with the demand for currency.  Bank notes - unregulated and produced by every random bank in the country - took the place of a managed currency.  I can understand Ben Carson not knowing this, but Ted Cruz is ostensibly an educated person.

There was some sort of bizarre exchange about bank bailouts that roughly followed along the lines of "I would not bail out the banks, because Dodd-Frank is bad and we need more regulations, except for the regulations in Dodd-Frank."  It was so freaking bizarre, I still have no idea what was said.

You had Trump inveighing against China exploiting TPP, when literally the only compelling argument for TPP is that it counterbalances China's growing influence in the Pacific Rim.

You had Rubio somehow saying that welders make more than philosophers, which took about 30 seconds of fact checking to go down in flames, yet had to be a prepared line, because....seriously, welders and philosophers?

You had the preponderance of candidates agreeing with Trump's toxic message of, "Your wages are too high" and coming out against minimum wage increases.

You had Trump promising some sort of ethnic cleansing campaign of Mexicans by referencing Operation Wetback, largely regarded by those who give a shit as one of the worst federal actions on civil rights and liberties since World War II.

You had Carson give an answer on Syria so incoherent that I defy you to read it and tell me what the hell he said.

You had Fiorina - who may have yet to say a factually verifiable thing in her entire campaign - complaining about Clinton's lying.

You had several candidates tout their incredibly regressive tax plans, including a VAT tax and a flat tax, that fly in the face of even a partisan accounting of balancing the budget.

And you had Rand Paul and John Kasich every once in a while interjecting some sanity and objective facts into the debate.  As a result, I expect their poll numbers to fall.

These people are insane.  And I mean that in the sense that they are psychotic.  They have no objective grasp of reality.  Or they do and say these things anyway, which makes them sociopaths.

God help us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Street Gangs With Badges

Ed at Gin and Tacos uses the above phrase to describe the police in reference to this video of police arresting a bunch of white college kids.

In some of the handwringing over recent protest actions by college students at Yale and Missouri, one thing missing is the idea of common cause.  For the students, especially at Yale, who are wrapped up in their own hurt feelings and their refusal to engage in dialogue with those they disagree with, they are missing an opportunity to create change.

Once you engage in "my victimhood is bigger than your privilege" you've effectively walled off the opportunity to create a true political movement.  You've, in fact, divorced yourself from politics in favor of group introspection.

The issue of police violence towards the population is a real issue.  I've been absolutely reamed out by a cop for driving 60 in a 55 on the Hutchinson Parkway.  I sat there and took it, because I didn't want to pay the fine, but I'm sure if I had said anything, I was going to wind up hand-cuffed by the side of the road.  This guy came to my window to pick a fight, and he knew he had the force of the badge to back him up.

And this is only going to get worse. As cops feel more and more under siege, they are going to lash out more and more at the civilian population.  Every citizen is going to be seen as a potential enemy.

In the video, there is a clear line between a few of the cops who are looking to de-escalate the situation and a few who are looking the beat the shit out of some people.  These were white kids who were playing music too loud.  And for that they got the shit beat out of them and tazed.

The libertarian impulses of many Americans could be strung together across party lines, if we allowed any cooperation across party lines anymore.  There are some who crave the authoritarian society that this sort of policing represents, but I doubt the majority of Americans do.

Rand Paul might have been a voice on this issue, but he's lost it.

Can Hillary Clinton reconcile BLM with white libertarians?  Or will she get shouted down for denigrating the the unique struggles of black people in America?  That's a key test for her and a key test for BLM.

Marshall On Carson

I've found Josh Marshall's analysis of Ben Carson's travails the best.  Try this on for size:

The issue is more that, seemingly without fail, every misperception or failed memory Carson invariably casts in the most self-glorifying and self-righteous light imaginable. As I suggested above, the most charitable reading of the Carson spectacle is that Carson is a sort of self-awareness Mr Magoo consistently or at least repeatedly misunderstanding or misremembering incidents in his own life and piecing them together or reconstructing them a narrative of his own awesome. Much like his predilection for confidently pronouncing on topics he knows absolutely nothing about, this is less a matter of failed memory (if we're to interpret this generously) than arrogance.
Here is the crux of the issue.  Carson has absolutely zero experience running anything larger than a hospital department.  He has zero experience in elective office.  His candidacy is ENTIRELY about his personal narrative and the fact that he is the African American conservative who embraces both the GOP narrative of self-improvement in the face of impossible odds and can attack Obama without getting labeled racist - and in fact inoculates Republicans from the charges of racism that have swirled around them since Obama was elected.
These stories puncture Carson's personal narrative and deflate his calm, soothing demeanor.
I've never felt like Carson was a serious presidential candidate, so much as a branding tour.  How much longer will he suffer the indignity of having his bullshit called out?  How long before the sorrowful press conference where he leverages his victimhood into a three book deal with Regnery Press? 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Carsonalia

At this point it could become its own field of rhetorical study.

The key graph:

In each of these cases, you get the sense of a tiny kernel of truth which was told and embellished countless times until it congealed into its current fairly preposterous form, making up one part of the Ben Carson morality tale. To be clear, Carson's personal story is plenty laudable enough on its own. He was born into impoverished home, with a determined single mother with a very limited education and with determination and hard work he went to the country's best schools and became an accomplished surgeon. That's pretty good. But so many of the set-piece stories along the way sound like classic fish tales. Carson once had a two pound Largemouth Bass on his line and through a hundred retellings, it became a hundred pound monster that ate Carson's fishing partner and only got away after trying to devour Carson himself.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chait On The Partisan Divide

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/11/politics-where-nobody-changes-their-mind.html

This is a really good piece.

The More I Learn About Ben Carson

The scarier he becomes.

What could be more terrifying than a President with an unwavering sense of his own mental and moral superiority?

God, Country And Yale

Here is an interesting run-down of a controversy at Yale over Halloween costumes.

No, seriously.

The issue can roughly be boiled down thusly: Halloween is a transgressive holiday in a lot of ways. Masks, pranks and so on.  And college students are at the age where they are both mature enough to know better and immature enough to inflict real cruelty on each other.  And kids at Yale are often ridiculously self-confident, especially those fifth generation legacy assholes.

So, someone sends out an email urging people to be sensitive when coming up with costumes, enough with the blackface.  A professor responds that we shouldn't require bans on behavior: students should feel free to make bad choices, but then be held socially responsible for those choices.  And also that students of color should take responsibility for pointing out to their peers why their costume might be offensive.  Students responded in ways typified by the line, "I don't want a debate, I want to talk about my pain."

I am broadly sympathetic to both sides of the debate.  Students need to confront things, not hide from them.  But minority students can often feel marginalized, especially at a place like Yale.  How would you like to be a black student in Calhoun College?  Why do we ask minority students to speak out against things they find insensitive?

But why shouldn't people be assholes if they want to be?  And if they are being assholes, isn't that the proper context for everyone to explore these issues?  If your friend comes downstairs in his OJ Simpson costume, isn't that an opportunity to point out that he's being a huge dick?  Of course, in many ways, he probably is actively trying to be a dick.  So, how do we deal with that?

It is critically important that young people learn emotional resilience and also empathetic sensitivity.  Bans on certain speech or behavior doesn't accomplish either of those things.  The minority student is expecting a level of insulation that the world simply doesn't provide.  And the frat boy asshole isn't learning why his costume isn't "just a joke."  But neither do you want a campus that pulls itself apart over freaking Halloween costumes.

I was at Dartmouth when the Review assholes attacked the shanties protesting apartheid (the night before MLK Day, no less).  It was tense and ugly.  At the time, I was aware of feeling that divestment was a waste of time and the Review guys were assholes.  No one really liked the shanties or the sanctimoniousness of those that lived in them.  But once the Review people attacked the shanties, I become a lot more sympathetic to them.  Not enough.  I can't say I understood apartheid well enough at the time to have a strong opinion against it.  Nor could I see into the future to a time when international sanctions and condemnations ultimately led to the end of the apartheid state.

But there was something profoundly educational about that ugliness, and certainly not just for me.  I worry that an effort to keep people safe will restrict those educational opportunities.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Expanding On Last Night's Post

The Politico piece on Carson's West Point story is only slightly a hack job.  What clearly happened was that someone - maybe Westmoreland, maybe not - told Carson he could go to West Point for free, because he was such a good student.  Carson took this to mean that he was being offered a scholarship.  We see this all the time with students who get a "letter of interest" from a coach and then think they are going to Harvard.  If the story tells us anything about Carson it is that seems to have a profound indifference to things that he is indifferent about.  He never really looked into West Point, so he thinks he was being offered a scholarship, when he was only being encouraged to apply.

The pyramid story is simply another reminder of his fringe religious fundamentalism and disdain for experts.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece out today further calling into question aspects of Carson's biography. (It's behind a pay-wall, so I don't know what it says.)

All politicians embellish and obfuscate.  You shape and mold your story as needed.

But politicians typically have a career in public office to point to as a record of their achievements and philosophy.  Carson is basically running on his biography.  His message is that he is a Christian, a staunch conservative not sullied by Washington, an African-American and has a remarkable life story.  Conservatives are clearly looking for an outsider this year, and they are tired of being called racist for opposing Obama.  Carson is - to paraphrase Sterling Archer - a unicorn.

But beyond the fact that he isn't Obama and isn't Jeb!, Carson has run on his life story.  His policy pronouncements veer from the unintelligible to the inane.  He has no expertise running a large operation of any kind.  The entire rationale for his campaign is his life story.

And so it matters that his life story is perhaps less heroic than he is making it out to be.  It matters that he endorses quack medicine.  It matters that he confuses pyramids with silos.

Of course, this entire campaign might be a grift anyway, so....

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a list that is only likely to get longer.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ben Carson Is Target Rich

So far we've got stabbings, pyramids and phantom West Point appointments. 

This is only the beginning. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Obama's Singular Failure

There is a theme developing at Vox that the Democrats are in crisis.  I guess I would say, yes and no.  Democrats have an easy path to the White House, a difficult but achievable road to the Senate and an impossible road to the House.  But they are withering on the vine at the state level, as noted by the tweet in the Vox piece.

Of course, the decline in absolute numbers for Democrats comes after a historic set of wave elections in 2006 and 2008.  But the real issue is that Obama has failed in the issue that launched his career: the idea of post-partisanship.

It was always a chimera, but Obama made that a goal of his, and he has failed.  If anything, America is more riven by the red-blue divide than ever.  This is not entirely his fault.  The GOP has basically adopted a position of being opposed to facts, science and evidence in their implacable hostility towards his agenda.

But the continued apathy of Democratic voters and the structural problems of the House districting process, may mean that there needs to be a Republican president - with all the crackpot economics we saw under Bush and continue to see in places like Kansas and Louisiana - to restore Democratic majorities to the Congress.

I have no idea how bad it will have to get in the red states before Republicans lose control there.  Nothing seems to have mattered so far.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Matt Bevin Wins In Kentucky

Despite trailing in almost every poll imaginable, Matt Bevin defeats Jack Conway.  In the end, Kentucky's "redness" won out.

The kicker is that Bevin will likely decide to wrest health care away from about 400,000 Kentuckians, if we are to believe what he has said in the past.  Either he goes back on his promise and maintains the popular Kynect program, or the voters of Kentucky will realize the consequence of electing Bevin in short order.


Tonight

Watch the Kentucky and Louisiana governors races. Kentucky is kind of a mandate on the ACA. Louisiana a mandate on poor GOP governance. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Donald Shows His Cards

Trump is going after Rubio.

Increasingly, the idea that Trump is a Sleeper Agent Democrat looks more and more plausibl.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Problem With The Republican Debates

Outside of John Harwood, the CNBC moderators did a piss-poor job of preparation and debate control.  But they asked substantive questions, which might be why the candidates were so upset.

But the deeper problems with the debate are that there are too many candidates.  What - exactly - is Rand Paul doing on that stage?  Chris Christie?  Kasich can at least say he showed movement after the first JV debate.  But that movement has stalled.

If you have 10 people on stage, the debate will be a farce.  Period.

But the reason there are 10 people on stage is that the coalition that constitutes the Reagan Era GOP is fracturing.  Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee simply don't occupy the same political space as John Kasich and Jeb Bush.  And the people who support Carson are fed up with being told that Planned Parenthood is evil, and yet not seeing the GOP go to the mattresses for them on this issue.

I don't know what will force the GOP to examine its own problems, but I don't see it happening as long as they blame NBC for the fact that their candidates are a joke.

(UPDATE: I didn't realize the cancelled debate was on Telemundo.  I guess that makes sense.  If you thought the questions asked by the network that gave us Rick Santelli were tough, just wait until you have to answer questions from Jorge Ramos.  In fact, this feels entirely staged.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Epistemoligical Closure

GOP won't go back on NBC.

The moderators were poorly prepared, but they didn't ask bad questions.  Carson's activities on behalf of a quack snake oil company is a legitimate question.  Rubio's finances are a legitimate question.

And the bizarre, half baked tax plans that constitutes GOP orthodoxy absolutely deserve tough questions.  The more the GOP walls themselves off from contrary viewpoints, the less they will be able to reach any Americans who don't already mainline their "news" from Fox.

Josh Marshall nails it:

As you see, the RNC has now expelled NBC News from the Republican debate schedule. If I don't say so myself, I think my comparison to the Boehner drama was more prescient than I realized. There has to be someone betraying them or some new outrage to feed the machine. With Obama fading into history, with the 'establishment's' candidate vanquished, now it's NBC News. You get a sense of where this is going that Ted Cruz says that Limbaugh or Hannity should moderate the debates. To be clear, this isn't about whether the debate was good or bad or whether axing NBC is fair or not. (I said the debate was a mess while it was happening.) In the grandest sense, who cares? It's just that the entire drama and whine-a-thon is ridiculous. This is their new big issue? Like I said, the outrage needs a target. Who's betraying them now. The pattern takes over everything.

Krug Smash


Krugman once again gets so quickly to the point, he might be a dagger in human form.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Who Is REALLY Running For President?

There are so damned many candidates, I think this is a good question.  On the Democratic side, Larry Lessig is running an issue campaign, except no one on the Democratic side really disputes his idea, so...  Marty O'Malley certainly seems to be running for Veep.  Bernie might be running for President, or he might be running to advance his issue agenda - to inject some new ideas into American politics.  Hillary is really the only Democrat clearly running to work out of the Oval Office for the next four-eight years.

The GOP side is much more muddled naturally.  One of the issues is that a lot of "movement conservatism" is really just a personal enrichment scam.  Sarah Palin pioneered this, with help from people like Glenn Beck, but it's now spread throughout the GOP primary field.

I'm having a hard time believing that Donald Trump or Ben Carson are really running to be President.  They are running to advance their "brand."  Trump and Carson are trying to tap into a large field of potential investors and dupes to buy books and watch shows on Fox News.  Once they start getting asked governance questions, they collapse with the look of a child who has just been asked if they can recite for Grandma that book report they haven't done.

The same goes for many of the third tier candidates.  Rick Santorum is running, because his wife is tired of him sitting on the couch all day watching Seventh Heaven re-runs. Gilmore and Pataki...I mean, hell if I know.  Graham is running to be Secretary of Muslim Killing.

On the main stage, Huckabee seems to be running again in the grifter mode.  He's compiling a database of people he can hit up for cash for a crusade against whatever it is that conservative Christian will be outraged about in a year or four.  Trump and Carson, too.

Jeb! seems to be running a campaign to rehabilitate the family name.  Or something.  At this point, there is really no rationale for his continuing to run.  Rand Paul actually stopped running for president as soon as it got hard; he just keeps showing up for the debates.  Kasich and Christie are trying to be John Huntsman with balls, but that doesn't seem very viable.  They think they're Mitt Romney Republicans, and maybe they are.  But Romney lost to the Negro, so the only solution for the GOP is to move further right, because reasons.

So, Carson, Trump and Huckabee are doing "brand work."  Paul and Jeb! are lingering around out of inertia.  Kasich and Christie are running for Mayor of Wall Street, or maybe the GOP nomination in 1996.

That leave Fiorina, Cruz and Rubio.  Fiorina is an ego-driven, falsehood-engine.  She is almost incapable of opening her mouth without lying.

This could make her a viable frontrunner.

But in all likelihood, she's running for the Veep slot, so that they can have a woman to say incredibly sexist and cruel things about Hillary from the stump.

That leaves Cruz and Rubio.  Rubio seems to be the media's safe bet to replace Jeb! as the establishment's choice.  He's pretty slick on camera, telegenic and has a passing familiarity with how government works.  I don't think he's the safe bet to pick up Latino votes they think he is, because he's Cuban, and other Latino groups aren't real fond of the special treatment Cubans get.  But if I had to put money on a candidate, it would be Rubio.

However, last night, Cruz may have vaulted into position to steal the Trumpenproletariat and the Carsonians, should those two frauds decide that they've bilked the rubes of enough of the money they were saving for Franklin Mint collectibles and can move on to sinecures within the Wurlitzer.

Cruz has a vicious cunning and a link to the right wing hive mind that could move him rapidly up in the polls.  The fact that he is hated more than sexual harassment laws within the halls of Congress only adds to his appeal.

Cruz is the outsider who actually understands how politics works.  If you were to ask Cruz about the debt ceiling, he will likely give you a batshit insane answer, but unlike Carson, he will actually know what the debt ceiling is.

At some point, they are going to have to narrow the GOP field.  Bush's supporters naturally gravitate towards Rubio.  But the outsider's vote would seem much more comfortable with Cruz.

He is an odious, toadsucker of a "human being" who looks like some combination of a prison snitch, the villain of a 1980s movie starting Ralph Macchio and a slumlord.  But I'm not sure there isn't an appetite for that among the people who wildly throng to hear Donald Trump and Ben Carson blather inanities for $50 a ticket.

Cruz just might be the douchebag they have been waiting for.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hoooo Boy

Reading the transcripts of the GOP debate: Not only should they not be allowed near tax policy, they probably shouldn't be allowed near sharp objects.

Seriously?  A flat tax?

UPDATE: This is a good take.

Bennie The Knife Is A Scary Possibility

While many people have feared what might become of the republic should the Trumpenproletariat somehow foist the Donald on the country.  And while a Trump regency would be frightening and chaotic, the prospect of Carson scares me even more.

He is so basically ignorant of how government works that he has taken the idea of "outside" and turned it into a parody of itself - a parody that just isn't funny.  Like the last Leslie Nielsen movies.

Most people who run as outsiders were at least governors.  Maybe a general.  But they had some idea how government works - the basic processes.

Carson seems to have no fundamental idea how any of these things work.  Perhaps this is all simply another expression of the Palin Principle: that there is money to be made in shaking the angry rubes of the GOP electorate.  Maybe Carson is simply engaged in padding his own nest with the dollars of Talibangelicals.

But if the GOP nominates this guy.....

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pierce Strikes Again

Charlie Pierce is King of the Sobriquet.  He coined the following: Zombie Eyed Granny Starver (Paul Ryan), C+ Augustus (Dubya), Clinton Guy Shocked By Blowjobs (George Stephanapoulos), Governor Goodhair (Rick Perry), Girl With The Faraway Eyes (Michelle Bachman), the Manson Family Of American Geopolitics (the Cheney Family), Princess Dumbass of The Northwoods (Sarah Palin), Senator Huckleberry J Butchmeup (Lindsay Graham) and Tiger Beat On The Potomac (Politico).

He's at it again.

Ben Carson is now Dr. Bennie the Blade.  Perfect.

The explanation:

All American politicians now exist under the threat that Dr. Bennie The Blade will show up and slaughter them all. This is such a great election.
(A brief aside: so Doctor Ben used to maybe think about stabbing people. He grew up to be an acclaimed neurosurgeon. He's good with a blade. Hey, for me, this sounds like somebody making a constructive living out of what might only have been a childhood hobby.)

Some Quality Trolling

Krugman trolls Romney.

The central peril we face - from which all other perils emerge - is the fact that one of our two major political parties refuses to look at evidence.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloweek

As we prepare for FrightFest 2015 and the return of Ash vs the Evil Dead (and did they really kill that guy on The Walking Dead?!), there is something legitimately more frightening on the immediate horizon: default.

The Teahadists have bent Paul Ryan to their nefarious will and yet they are getting flack from their rabid, mouth-frothing fringe base.  So they have zero interest in raising the debt limit.  This is because they are nihilists.  They are so deeply dangerous to the country that they might almost be called legislative terrorists.

Boehner - if he was a true patriot and wanted a gravy train of lobbying jobs - should propose eliminating the entire idea of a debt ceiling.  It's a deeply illogical thing, as all the debt ceiling does is allow us to pay for bills we've already appropriated.

But that isn't going to happen.  Hopefully at least we will get a raise in the ceiling for at least the next year.

What is worrying is that these deeply stupid, deeply dangerous people have been given ANY control over our governing structures.

No wonder Ben Carson is gaining on Trump.

UPDATE: Looks like there might be a deal between the White House and Orange Julius.  Now we will see what Boehner's power MIGHT have been.

They Need Therapy

When did we become a nation of paranoids?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Trump Rallies

So much nicer in the original German.

JEB!

JEB!'s campaign is entering into the usual signs we associate with death spirals: cutting staff, closing offices, high level meetings.  As Trump put it, Bush was "low energy."  Like Biden, I think he felt obligated to run for various reasons that weren't entirely his own.  Unlike Biden, he ran anyway.

Now that he actually has to fight an uphill battle, he has to ask himself if he's doing this for pride or purpose.  If it's just pride, step aside and let Rubio get his resources.  If it's purpose....well, hell, he should step aside and let Rubio get his resources.

Bush is the Fred Thompson of this election cycle, only more so.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Madam President

I've always felt that Clinton would be a better president than a candidate.  After the soaring rhetoric of Obama '08, I think Clinton came across in those hearings as a no-bullshit master of detail.

Read all of Josh Marshall's post-mortem, but I especially liked this line:

Seriously, can you imagine Marco Rubio in the same chair under the same sort of questioning? Not to mention Donald Trump or - God forbid - the increasingly Chauncey Gardner-esque Ben Carson?

The Coronation

Biden was never going to run, once the summer waned.  Webb is pondering what merits exist in an independent run.  Chaffee is out.  That leaves Hillary and Larry David Bernie Sanders.  OK, Larry Lessig but not really.

Meanwhile, NO ONE is dropping out on the GOP side.  Not Gilmore, not Pataki, not Santorum....OK, Scott Walker.

I don't know what this means in terms of party dynamics.  Is the GOP really in the process of a schism?  Certainly the drama in the House suggests this.  And if there really is a schism developing, so that Rand Paul thinks he can linger around the margins and somehow....something...where does it end?

Especially after Benghazi the Sad Trombone Musical opened and closed on the same night, Clinton's path to the nomination is pretty secure.  Right now, Trump is shooting himself in the foot once again with demeaning tweets about Iowa.  Will it matter?  Who knows?  Carson continues to say things that suggest some form of paranoid delusion is at play.  And Rubio waits and waits.

I know Trump is the "story" of this cycle, but that's so freaking lazy.  The story is that he has a constituency in the GOP.  Meanwhile, Clinton rolls merrily along.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Clinton Luck

If there has been one consistent advantage the Clintons have had over their career it is this: Their political enemies are a bunch of fucking morons.

I give you Charlie Pierce, because I like you:

I would like to congratulate the United States House of Representatives for the very fine show they put on today on the stage provided by the Special Committee To Keep Benghazi In The News Until The Polls Drop. There has been no better example of non-governance displayed on TV since the last time Marco Rubio gave a speech. There has been no better view granted of the sheer stupidity and incompetence that has run riot in those halls because of the last two midterm elections since the last time Steve King parted his brain on the left side. There has been no more sterling example of the now-undeniable truth that modern movement conservatism has declined into a tangled mess of myth, shibboleth, and outright fabulism since the last time Ed Klein wrote a book.  A whole philosophy of government, and still an influential one, stands exposed as little more than a puppet show for the national Id, and not a particularly sharp one, either. A movement full of grifters and ignorami, acting out a simulacrum of representative government for the benefit of an audience steeped in comfortable, narcotic delusion.

If Benghazi Was A Musical, It Would Have A Lot Of Sad Trombone

Josh Marshall - perhaps not a truly objective observer - thinks the Benghazi Committee has thoroughly crapped the bed.

He links this to the Kinsley Gaffe McCarthy made, when he pointed out that these committees have brought down HRC's poll numbers.  This allowed the media to point out what everyone knew all along, that these investigations are entirely partisan.

What is mind-boggling to me, is that reporters needed McCarthy's "permission" to tell the truth about all this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Agonistes

The punditry is on tenterhooks as they wait breathlessly for people they wrongly assume hold some sort of charismatic sway among the American populace decide whether to run for President (Biden) or Speaker (Ryan).

I think Ryan has probably done the right thing. He has created a rather reasonable but stringent set of demands that are unlikely to be met by the Freedumb Caucus.  When they refuse to assent to his demands, he can go back to what he wants to do and maybe Pelosi and Dent can create a governing coalition that will keep the lights on.

For Democrats, there is an interesting gambit in play if Ryan doesn't become Speaker.  They can ask for a few key demands in return for abstaining from the vote for Speaker (which would allow for an establishment GOP candidate to win the Speakership).  They could ask for doing away with the debt ceiling entirely.  That would be my demand, because the debt ceiling brinksmanship practice by the Freedumb Caucus is potentially catastrophic.  If I see a six year old running around with a rock, I might ask him to put it down.  If I see one playing with matches and gasoline, I'm going to sprint like hell to take them away.

The debt ceiling is incredibly stupid anyway, and I would think Main Street and Wall Street Republicans might assent to taking it away from the nihilists.

Then, if they want to shut the government down?  Please proceed, numb nuts.

Oh, and as for Biden?  He's not running. (HA!  Told you so.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Ghost Of Howard Dean

Matthew Yglesias has a provocative piece out in Vox about the underlying travails of the Democratic party. He accurately notes that Democrats tend to rely very much on retaining the Presidency and have no apparent plan to win state offices.

There is a touch of click-bait in his overdramatic funeral oration, as he relies a little too much on Democratic setbacks in 2014.  That was - hopefully - an anomalous election in terms of voter turnout.  It was one of the lowest turnouts ever.

However, he is correct that Democrats have ignored winning control of state legislatures and governor's mansions.  Howard Dean was made DNC chair after 2004 and commenced to rebuild the party with his 50 State Strategy.  The results were the 2006 wave and the 2008 wave.  After Obama was elected, he followed precedent and put his own chair in - Tim Kaine.  However, all subsequent DNC chairs have tended to focus on national elections and national dynamics, while the local parties have gone moribund.

Currently, there is a growing sense of dismay with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as DNC Chair.  There was friction with other members of the DNC, including Tulsi Gabbard, a presumed rising star.

Perhaps this is the proper time to refocus the DNC on a 50 State Strategy 2.0.  Some of that energy was redirected into OFA, when it became Organizing For America, but there is a real need for coordinated efforts to win back control of some critical state houses.

Tops on the list should be the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.  Re-invigorating unions and worker's issues in those places could help win back some working class whites, or at least enough to put a dent in Republican control of those state houses.  Yglesias mentions Wendy Davis' failed campaign to win the governorship of Texas.  That's a really bad example, as Texas is a decade away from the sort of demographic changes that could make it competitive for ANY Democrat.  Florida, however, is a great opportunity for a locally energized party to regain the critical House seats necessary to implement any meager legislative objective.

When I heard about the article from the wife, my first reaction was that winning state houses in 2016 isn't hugely important, since you can't redistrict until 2021.  I also don't think Yglesias accounts for the fact that demographics DO favor Democrats in the long run and that party identity can be set fairly strongly at a young age.  Partisanship matters and there are more future Democrats than there are future Republicans.

The challenge is to get used to winning at the state level NOW, so that you can capitalize on those wins in 2020.

The Wrongest Man In History

Bill Kristol strikes back.

Oh, Canada

So, the Canadians ousted Conservative PM Stephen Harper pretty decisively last night.  Despite the possibility of a minority government, Trudeau and the Liberal party won 184 out of 338 "ridings" or districts, allowing them to form a government without help from Bloc Quebecois or the New Democratic Party.

Having written the above with some authority, I don't know what this means for Canada, except that the Liberal party takes a much more aggressive stance with regards to global warming.  Remember - for a moment - that the GOP is the only major political party in the developed world that outright denies the human impact of global warming, so this is a matter of degrees.

Still, this could have an impact on the Keystone pipeline and other aspects of the tar sands and shale gas boom.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Work At Your Local Food Bank

If you have time - and if you don't, make time - work at a food bank.  The people who come through there almost all work for a living, but they can't make ends meet.  They are a missed paycheck or a hefty doctor's bill away from total destitution.  One guy I helped today had been "outdoors" all summer and only moved indoors when his stuff got wet and too heavy to carry.  He had to get all his food in microwaveable portions, because his place has no stove.

All of these programs are critically necessary because the GOP Congress has insisted on cutting SNAP and demonizing those on it.  Some GOP hellhole (Tennessee? Florida?) insisted on drug testing SNAP recipients (most of whom are children).  They found a lower percentage of drug users using SNAP than the population at large.

Most of the people I saw today were white, had a job or were retired.  A few were recent immigrants (from Eastern Europe) with jobs and families.  Quite a few had obvious mental health issues and/or cognitive weaknesses.

We are the wealthiest nation on earth and we have millions of citizens relying on charity to eat.

And you owe it to yourself to look these people in the face.