Blog Credo

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

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

You Take Your Friends Where You Can Get Them

Figures on both the Left and Right have been chortling with the news that Pope Francis met with God bothering serial marriage enthusiast Kim Davis.  "Ha!" they say, "How's your new idol now?"

Except I don't idolize Francis.  I admire him on many things.  I think he cares about people who are traditionally forgotten by those in positions of power.  I think he understands the costs of poverty better than any pope I can think of.  I think he is trying to place morality and kindness over dogma and rules in the life of his Church.

I just don't need to take lessons in sexual morality from a celibate.  While Francis has been an improvement over his woeful predecessors when it comes to clerical sexual abuse, he has been far from a breath of fresh air.  While he has demonstrated more compassion towards the victims, he has not cleansed the Catholic church of its sins, some of which are on going.

I do not agree with the Pope on the issue of female ordination, marriage equality, abortion or contraception.  But I applaud him for beginning to understand that women make up a majority of his parishioners.  I applaud him for understanding that almost all of his congregants have used contraception.  I applaud him for removing the judgment of celibate old men about the sexual lives of Catholics less central to the church.

But he's still a retrograde fossil on issues of human sexuality.  I disagree with him.

That does not, however, somehow negate the areas where we agree.  The idea that I have to agree with someone down the line is preposterous and a symptom of our badly divided politics.  The idea that I idolize him suggests that I need a hero to save the day.

What I need, politically speaking, is allies who can advance causes of economic and racial justice and who can help save this planet from cooking in its own gasses.  I need those allies.  If we disagree in other areas, so be it.  The idea of lockstep conformity is incredibly dangerous to both politics and civil life.

I agree with Bernie Sanders on quite a lot.  But I disagree with some of his foreign policy stances.  Does that mean I can't support him should he win the nomination?  Of course not.  Same goes with Francis.

If my neighbor can help me raise a barn, I don't condemn him because he can't help me paint it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How's That Outreach Going?

Sixty percent of Americans believe that the government should keep funding Planned Parenthood.  Probably because even those NASCAR voters have had a visit to PP at some point.  Maybe PP caught their sister's breast cancer at a screening.  Maybe they helped fill a birth control prescription.  Whatever the reason, it's pretty clear that people have a much more favorable opinion of the Planned Parenthood than the 35% who want to shut down the government over federal funding for the organization.

Meanwhile, human herpes sore Jason Chaffetz (R-Utahstan) is being a total douchecanoe to Cecile Richards.

2014 was obviously a big win for the GOP.  But it allowed them to forget what happened in 2012.  A president who took over at the beginning of a financial panic was re-elected quite comfortably for the first time since 1820.  The GOP is losing the following groups:

City dwellers
African Americans
Single Women
The college educated

That leaves rural, exurban and some suburban whites as their demographic.  And Cubans.  That can win you the House, and maybe give you control of the Senate from time to time.

But having claimed Boehner's scalp, the crazies - to quote Pete King (R-Ireland) have taken over and I would expect them to horrify those people who are still capable of being horrified.

Are there any of those people left?

It's Never About Race

Read this.  Consider this quote:
She also suggested there were white southerners who probably wouldn't support Carson because of his race.
"As much as people try to sound like they don't care, some people think a black president will look out for the black lifestyle," said Lopp, who worked in Lexington Barbecue for the last 36 years, adding that women like Fiorina would likely face discrimination from some voters as well.
Carson dismissed such comments with a shrug: "Racism exists everywhere," he said.

Now read this.  Consider this quote.
"We still have to convince Republicans racism is real. That's like we have to convince people global warming is real," contributor Rory Albanese said. "Now we can't even fix it because we have to convince you that it exists. That's a huge waste of time."

How in the world can we function as a democracy if half the populace is willfully ignorant of basic facts?  And how can we function if we simply shrug our shoulders at problems the way Carson does?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Indeed?

Jon Chait noticed something interesting: the GOP is the only major political party among the advanced democracies that is invested in climate change denialism.

The breadth and scope of this denialism is impressive.

Some argue that the science is flawed.  It's not.  It's solid.  It's measurable.

Others argue that they aren't scientists, but they heard a scientist somewhere said it was bunk, so who can tell?

Finally, you have some who say, "Yeah, it may be happening, but what are you gonna do?"

This is perhaps best encapsulated by this cartoon:

In the end, one of our political parties has gone insane.  They have divorced themselves from reality.

And THAT is what John Boehner's retirement is all about.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Will This Matter?

In the year of the Trumpenproletariat, it is safe to say that all the usual rules of politics have flown out the window.

So what are we to make out of Ben Carson bailing from an interview because Jake Tapper (of all people) forcefully pursued a line of questioning that the candidate's own words opened up?

Some of this is, no doubt, a product of the Foxification of the RW Echo Chamber.  Within the precincts of the right wing movement, Carson is a hero.  As I've written previously, he allows them to embrace a black man as a potential president, because he in turn embraces some of their more lunatic positions.

But how can you be president if you can't handle some grilling by Jake Tapper?  We are told time and again that Obama is a feckless weakling who can't withstand Putin's steely tiger-gaze.  Ben Carson can't survive a sit down with Jake Tapper.  THIS is presidential material?

Meanwhile, Carly Fiorina is doubling down on her lies about the Planned Parenthood videos.  Unable to corroborate her story, she has simply kept repeating it.

These are the sort of fundamental errors that novice candidates who have never successfully run for office can be expected to make.  Is their learning curve steep enough to overcome what would be campaign killing gaffes for most candidates?  I mean Hillary Clinton has seen her poll numbers collapse real reason that I can discern except that there might possibly, kind of be, maybe something wrong with her emails.

But Carson's a marshmallow and Fiorina is a liar.  Even Trump seems to be losing steam.  I can't help  but think that the person most primed to pick up these voters is Ted Cruz.

Suck on that for a minute.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Party Of Bigotry

First of all, let's acknowledge that Kim Davis is a bigot.  She doesn't like gay people and doesn't want them marrying.  If the sanctity of marriage was so important to her, she wouldn't be on her fourth.  She finds gay people icky and doesn't want them being all gay married and stuff.

Up until yesterday, Kim Davis was a Democrat.  She was one of those vestigial Yellow Dog Democrats that still hang on in some parts of the South.  Her experience - not surprisingly - has led her to become a Republican, because it's Republicans who are supporting her and cheering her on.

This is because the Republican party caters to bigots.

I read a Ben Carson quote on my Facebook page:
"What I have noticed as a Black Republican is that Republicans tend to look more at the character of people.  Democrats tend to look more at the color of their skin."

This is a really revealing statement, about Carson, about Republicans and about Carson's poll standings.  Republicans like Carson because he's a religious extremist, sure, but they also like that he agrees with them that THEY are the true inheritors of MLK's dream.  The sheer, monumental historical illiteracy of this position is as irrelevant as the fact that Carson believes that evolution was prompted by Satan.  And Carson's remarkable life story means that his "character" has triumphed whereas other blacks - presumably addicted to free stuff, says Jeb! - are mired in poverty.

In Carson's mind, he isn't lucky, he's blessed.  And that blessing is his character, which is superior to others who didn't escape poverty.  And conservatives agree with him.  For them, success is entirely dependent on individual will.

Democrats don't "tend to look more at the color of their skin", they tend to look at their economic and social circumstances.  Democrats don't look at poverty as a flaw of character, necessarily, but as a circumstance that you are largely born into.  And race and poverty are really tightly linked.  Not because blacks suffer a character flaw, but because there are systems in place to keep them poor.  Red-lining, poor schools, police practices, mass incarceration, lack of historical equity, last hired/first fired, and just plain old racist attitudes.

Democrats wish to change the structures of poverty, a poverty that disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics.

Republicans like to laud individuals like Carson - or Clarence Thomas - who have transcended that poverty.  They can point to outliers and say that the entire Democratic argument about structural poverty is bullshit, because Ben Carson.

But if you think that Ben Carson shows that you are the real heir of Martin Luther King, because you're looking at the content of his character, you're ignoring the unstated corollary that every black person who doesn't transcend institutional poverty is lacking that same character.  This justifies slashing their benefits, because they lack "character."  Some GOP mayor in Maine wants to publish the names of food stamps recipients as a form of public shaming.  The idea being that this shame will reform their wayward morals and they will reform their character.

I guess that's the thinking.

But if you assume that people use food stamps out of a failure of character, and if you assume (wrongly) that most recipients of food stamps are African American, then you are saying that African Americans have a shared lack of character that makes them disproportionately poor.

Which is, you know, racist.

And this is exactly at the root of Carson's appeal.  His policy ideas are nuts.  His religious ideas are...strange.  But he is living proof that Republicans aren't racist, but Democrats are.

Kim Davis will tell you that she's a Republican because of religious liberty.  But she's a Republican because Republicans share her religious bigotry.  Ben Carson will tell you he's a Republicans, because Democrats are the real racists, but he's a Republican because their mythology of success and failure agrees with his own sense of his specialness.  He's a Republican because they both share this bigotry against the poor.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bomb. Dropped.

Boehner's decision to step down is really, really monumental.  My guess is that he will cram through a continuing resolution to keep the government open (maybe longer than December) and then drop the mic.  Maybe he lets a few more bills move through his chamber towards the Senate.  Some form of watered down immigration reform that could also pass the Senate would do small wonders for his party.

But the bigger question is who the next Speaker will be.  Boehner rode an uneasy herd over a fractious, rebellious caucus.  The fact is that there are about 50 legislative nihilists in the House for whom nothing will suffice except an overturn of the New Deal.  They have the potential to hold the Speakership hostage.  Or they could force a coalition of Democrats and moderates to elect a Speaker like Charlie Dent (I ain't holding my breath).

In some ways the fault lines exposed by Donald Trump are the same issue that's playing out here.  The 30% of the Trumpenproletariat are the same 30% of the House GOP caucus who are just batshit insane or mind-numbingly stupid.  Or in the case of Louis Goehmert, both.

I always had a glimmer of sympathy for Boehner, sometimes more than a glimmer.  I still believe he wanted to be a deal-making macher who wielded enormous influence and left behind a conservative legislative legacy.  Instead, he was assigned the unenviable task to presiding over the lunafication of the GOP.

I'm sure the millions he is about to earn on K Street will keep him in Pappy Van Winkle though.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Il Papa

I've read the remarks from Pope Francis to Congress.

What has been most striking about Francis has been most simply this: He has placed morality rather than rules at the center of the Catholic Church.  Reading his remarks, he does talk about dogma or restrictions.  He speaks eloquently about our moral responsibilities to each other.  He lays out a clear case for why we should be our brother's and sister's keeper.

Booman made an argument a few days ago that progressives should be wary about allying themselves with this Pope, because the next one could be much more anathema to causes that liberals believe in.  This is laudable if you think anyone pays a price for being mildly hypocritical in American politics.  But it misses this key point about Francis.  What he is arguing is not a doctrine but a morality based in love of one another.

In the early part of his speech, he repeatedly notes the necessity of community in building strong individuals.  As someone once said, "It takes a village."  And when Hillary wrote that, or when Obama said, "You didn't build that" in reference to roads and schools and institutions, both were articulating a creed that focused on the "pluribus" and not the "unum."  The modern GOP, infused as it is with the spirit of Ayn Rand, simply doesn't care about the "us", it cares about the "me."  It's appeal to is harp upon the differences - Mexicans, gays, blacks - that can tear our country apart.

In so many ways, America is a fragile nation.  We have attempted to include so many different cultures - indigenous and imported - and so many different of visions of what America should be, that it might not take too much to tear us apart.  Aren't we in fact, tearing each other apart verbally?

The policy examples that Francis focused on were striking.  He did not explicitly mention abortion, despite the fact that this would have earned him applause from the Right.  Instead, he tackled the death penalty, immigration reform, poverty and climate change.  If he implicitly criticized gay marriage and abortion in his remarks on family, he also implicitly endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.  If the speech was partisan, it was partisan in the direction of the Left of American politics and must have been discomfiting as hell to those who would further wealth inequality, deny climate change, build a wall on the Mexican border and apologize for the extreme discrepancies in the number of African Americans who die by the hands of the police.

Pope Francis just gave Bernie Sanders' inaugural address.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What A Moment It Might Have Been

Vox plays a subtle Slate-type game by anointing Martin Shkreli a hero for being a truly world class asshole.  Shkreli is such a perfect, world class asshole that he becomes impossible for anyone to defend.  A failed hedge fund guy who's trying to turn a buck to cover losses off an AIDS drug?  What, he couldn't make a buck off illegal organ harvesting of puppies?

The assumption is that Shkreli's perfect odiousness will galvanize Congress into action...Stop laughing.  Look, that's the argument!  Stop laughing!  I didn't make it, I'm just...

Yeah, Congress won't do jack.  However, it has become a potential issue for Democrats to pound on.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I'm Not One To Defend Jeb!, But...

This really is stupid.

If anything this is not an example of him being...Trumpish.  This is Andover and Yale peeking through the pork rinds.

People Are Fearful and Stupid

There as a great line in Fear the Walking Dead last Sunday.  The character had grown up in death squad era El Salvador and told a story about them.  He then says the following (I'm paraphrasing):

"My father said, 'Don't hate these men.  People aren't evil. They do evil things because they are afraid.'  And I knew then that my father was a fool, because he thought there was a difference."

Most of the stupid and evil things that Americans do, like supporting Donald Trump or thinking Muslim kids deserve to be arrested for building clocks, is based on being afraid.  And so much of being afraid is tied to ignorance and stupidity.  From a caveman who freaks out during an eclipse to a Roman mariner who feared dragons and the edge of the earth to an elderly housewife who thinks the local mosque is a terrorist training camp, so much of the evil that we do to ourselves is based on being stupid and ignorant.

This is never more true than our discussions of crime.

The simple truth is that crime is falling and has been falling for some time.  As the Vox piece demonstrates it's not just perceptions of crime that is warped.  We think there are more teen pregnancies, when they are actually declining.  We think ISIS is growing when it's actually shrinking.  We think the budget deficit is increasing, when it's getting smaller.

In a climate of mass ignorance, it's no surprise that people like Donald Trump or Ben Carson have some political appeal.  How could they not?  They are feeding our irrational fears, which simply make those fears grow larger and stronger.  Trump in particular is so mind-boggingly vague about his plans that it's comical.  "I'm going to get a better deal." is pretty much his entire answer on foreign policy.  But his supporters don't care about policy, they care that Trump A) validates their fears and B) promises to end them.

He's not a presidential candidate, he's a bedtime story.

Needless to say, as someone whose adult life has been spent trying to learn and teach about how the world actually works, this is all very depressing.  But I'm hopeful that a message of pants-wetting cowardice is not the road to the White House.

Monday, September 21, 2015

0 For One

Scott Walker was my early pick to win the GOP nomination. 

Maybe I have some sort of jinx power. 

I believe Jeb Bush will win the GOP nomination. 

Did Not Know

Turns out Ben Carson is part of a slightly millennial sect of Christianity.  This might explain his confusion over whether the Bible or the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land.

A large part of being a Democrat this cycle is worrying that the GOP might cough up some candidate who might actually win. I'm less certain that Ben Carson fills that criteria.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Well, This Could Be Embarrassing...

Under Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard sold millions of dollars of equipment to Iran in violation of the spirit of the sanctions.

They used an offshore subsidiary to carry out the deals so it would appear to comply with the sanctions, but this is just Enron-type crap.

Printer ink isn't going to make Iran a global power, but the hypocrisy of her position on sanctions now is pretty galling.  It won't make a difference in the GOP primary, but it could hurt her should she get the nomination.

Fact Free Zone

The clear winner of the GOP debate on Wednesday was Carly Fiorina.  She has done the most via this debate performance to elevate her status from the first Kiddie Table Debate to being the potential Not Trump.

She had two strong moments.  One was her response to Trump's comment about her face, but I have to grade that one on a curve.  She had to know it was coming up and only a poorly run, meagerly thought-out campaign would fail to see this issue coming and have a response in the can.  A poorly run, meagerly thought-out campaign like Jeb! Bush's, I guess.

The other was her description of the Planned Parenthood abortion video.  Which was - unsurprisingly - a bald faced lie.  These forays into the Fact Free Zone were common throughout the debate.  Donald Trump's entire campaign is a refutation of the idea that facts and policies are the centerpiece of a presidential contest.  The words coming out of his mouth are almost as nonsensical as a Sarah Palin word-salad.  "I will get along with Putin and get a better deal."  WTF?  That is your GOP frontrunner?

Jeb! Bush said "My brother kept America safe."  Which is the gold star winner for chutzpah.  Bush kept America safe as long as you don't count the worst terrorist attack in our country's history, a deadly anthrax attack, arguably the worst foreign policy decision in our history that left more Americans dead than 9/11 and an American city left to drown.

And Jeb!'s line got his biggest applause.

The GOP primary is an unfettered descent into factual inaccuracy.  "Democrats killed the economy."  Unemployment is lower now than it ever was under Reagan.  "The Iran deal insures that Iran will get a nuclear weapon."  Just the opposite.  "The Iran deal allows Iran to conduct their own inspections."  No, it doesn't.  "We have to act now to stop inflation."  Inflation is practically non-existent.  "ISIS is a mortal threat."  Not to the United States it isn't.

Perhaps the greatest indicator of how bonkers, off-the-rails the GOP has become is this poll.  One of Fiorina's applause lines was "Name one accomplishment of Hillary Clinton."  How about her role in creating S-CHIP?  Her role in writing the Lily Ledbetter Law?  Working on getting veteran's benefits for National Guard troops?  Negotiating the Copenhagen agreement?  Sanctions on Iran?  Making gender equality a focal point of American foreign policy, especially in South Asia? Negotiating the cease fire in Gaza?  The START II treaty? Authoring the Pediatric Research Act?

Name an accomplishment from the "deepest and most talented field of GOP presidential contenders in years" that can match that.  In particular, name a governing accomplishment of the top three polling GOP candidates?  There isn't a single one, because none of them have held a position in government their entire life.  The Unholy Triumvirate of Trump, Carson and Fiorina have less experience in government than your average city councilman.  And the fifth place candidate - Ted Cruz - has made his name by pretty much trying to burn the Senate to the ground.

"Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos."

The current state of the GOP presidential race is surprising the DC punditeriat.  But it shouldn't.  There has been a steady decline in the belief in the GOP electorate of the legitimacy of governance in general.  They have become a party of thinly-veiled anarchists.

Their embrace of the Four Horseman of the Governmental Apocalypse - Fiorina, Trump, Carson and Cruz - shouldn't surprise anyone.  The debate devoid of facts and long on style is a natural off shoot of the Fox News phenomenon.

Right now, the only hope for the GOP establishment is Marco Rubio.  But remember, the anti-government vote is getting over 60%.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Know The Bar Is Low, But...

Reality TV star Bristol Palin has said that Barack Obama should stay out of the case involving the Texas boy Ahmed Mohamed.  Here's what the spawn of Caribou Barbie had to tweet:

This is the kind of stuff Obama needs to STAY out of. This encourages more racial strife that is already going on with the “Black Lives Matter” crowd and encourages victimhood.
The police made a mistake, clearly.
But why put more people against them? Why egg it on? Childish games like this from our president have divided our country… even more today than when he was elected.

Uh, WTF?

The teachers and police were fucking idiots and did something that was frankly, clearly racist.  They refused to apologize.  The rationale given by the police, by the way, is a perfect example of CopThink.  "The suspect refused to admit it was anything other than a clock, so we had to arrest him."

It was a fucking clock!  What should have said it was?

But in Palinland, when there is a miscarriage of justice against a brown person, it's terribly "divisive" to point this out.  Thank God, Jake Tapper didn't ask the America's Eleven Racist Grandparents what they thought of Black Lives Matter last night.  It could have been REALLY ugly.

Also, the idea that the President of the United States, MIT and Lord knows how many other people have reached out to this kid is not "divisive."  It is in fact trying to impress upon this young man that not everyone is a racist-assed Texas cop who thinks the Muslim kid has to be a terrorist.

What Obama and others are doing is reaching out to a kid who was traumatized by this event and letting him know that not everyone is a racist douchecanoe.

But in Right Wing Grievance Land, it is THIS that is divisive.  It is THIS that causes "racial strife."  And "victimhood"?  Obama and others are trying to make sure precisely that this kid does NOT see himself as a victim of a society that will never really accept him because he's Muslim, but that everyone from JPL engineers to Google to Mark Zuckerberg to the President of these United States has reached out to this kid.

Yet, Palin and the RW Grievance movement have focused on Obama.  Why is that?  Could it be that every time someone (a person of color or not) points out the vibrant remnants of Jim Crow and institutional racism in America, it makes that Holder of Grievance uncomfortable?

Does it Bristol?  Does it make you uncomfortable when the black president with the Muslim name reaches out to the 14 year old Muslim boy?  Does it make you uncomfortable when people note how often unarmed blacks are shot by the police?

Imagine, if you can, what it must be like to BE those families on the receiving end of that racism.  How uncomfortable would you be then?

ADDED: If you don't think America is still a deeply racist place, consider this.

Clown Car 2.0

So, I've read the transcripts, perused the early commentary - not that it's going to be accurate in Bizarro Primary 2016 - and come to an interesting conclusion.

I think Walker and Bush - the two guys I thought would duke it out for the nomination - are toast.  Neither one is ready to flourish in a multi-candidate field.  The Donald has figured out how to set himself apart.  Carly Fiorina did as well.  Carson is the Trump/Anti-Trump, the outsider who isn't a flaming asshole.  But the regular political skills that Walker, Bush and Rubio have polished over their careers are simply not what gets GOP voters' attention in 2016.

Walker should drop out soon.  Or at least the Kochs should gently push the pearl-handled revolver to him across the mahogany table.  He's not a good candidate and whatever qualities he brings, others bring more of them.

Bush can likely stick around and hope that as the field is winnowed, his star will ascend.  I doubt it.

The question is: What would a Fiorina-Clinton race look like?  I think Fiorina is a tremendously poor candidate based on her biography.  But the flaws in her bio are unlikely to be exploited by the GOP field.  She as a horrific chief executive that earned the hatred and animosity of everyone around her, laid off thousands and escaped with a golden parachute worth $40,000,000.  Gender is removed from the table as a disqualifying factor, which I think helps Clinton more than Fiorina.  And Fiorina's presence in the race makes Hillary look like Bernie.

But I can see the Final Four right now as being Trump, Fiorina, Carson and Rubio.

Chew on that for a moment, GOP establishment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The New New Left

Matthew Yglesias chronicles the somewhat surprising rise of left wing politics in the English speaking world.  While he offers the obligatory "Sanders probably won't win" the fact is that it is no longer possible to argue that Sanders CAN'T win.

He notes that a lot of this is about generational change.  If you were of age in the '60s and '70s, your view towards social change and economic leftism, is probably pretty bleak.  You became Alex Keaton in the '80s and cheered on Reagan and Thatcher.

Arthur Schlesinger argued that American history works in cycles of reform movements and conservatism.  From 1932-1980, America was broadly in a period of reform.  Even Nixon didn't stand in the way of ascendant liberalism on issues like the environment or wage and price controls.

But the if the period from 1980-2008 was a period of conservative retrenchment, the question remains whether Americans are ready to fully embrace a reform agenda.  The rise of Sanders and Trump don't have much in common, beyond a certain jaundiced view of party apparatchiks by the activist bases of both parties.

And even if Sanders or Trump or Carson wins the nomination, is it possible that any of them can win a national election?

When it comes to Sanders the question becomes: Is he a figure like James Weaver or even William Jennings Bryan?  Is he a John the Baptist figure signalling the advent of a new age?  Or is he a figure like Teddy Roosevelt who can vault from relative obscurity to the White House in a few short years and usher in a new era of reform?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hillary Feels The Bern

Bernie Sanders would normally be THE political story of Summer 2015, were it not for the Circus Freak Show residing under Donald Trump's combover.

I honestly don't know what to make of Sanders as a candidate.  As more economically liberal, I'm generally supportive of his platform; I love that he's articulating ideas that need more oxygen in American politics.

Yay for Bernie!

But I remain unconvinced that he can win a general election against a competent Republican candidate.  I'm not sure the Republicans HAVE a competent candidate, but one shouldn't leave these things to chance.

Jonathan Allen notes that Hillary is preemptively moving to the center, because her attempts to neutralize Warren and Sanders hasn't worked.  If you like the Warren-Sanders economic plan, you're not going to support Sanders-Lite (as Allen phrases it).  And, most importantly, Clinton is a moderate.

Of course, there are no such things as "moderates."  Typically, we give the name "moderate" to people who hold varying ideological positions and therefore do not fit easily into a Left/Right dichotomy.  Clinton is probably closer to the Sanders economically than many would assume, but she is more hawkish and more likely to embrace trade deals.  Maybe those are deal breakers in the 2016 Democratic primary.

But Clinton suffers from the fact that she is the first credible female presidential candidate, AND she represents a form of political dynasty.  Clinton has spent her adult life in the political blender.  She is very careful about the whirling blades beneath her. Too careful, perhaps.

But whereas Trump's outlandish statements - that would ordinarily be campaign-killing gaffes - actually improve his poll standings, any Clinton mistake is mulled over like an obscure Talmudic passage.  And there is a presumption of dishonesty in Clinton that really looks more like a surfeit of caution to me.  A lot of this comes from an unusual hostile relationship between the Press and Clinton.

Being more authentically moderate is a fascinating tack for Clinton to take.  I think she will lose New Hampshire, so she really needs to win Iowa, because I think she will clean up in more racially heterogeneous states, including South Carolina.

But it is not impossible for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination.  And up until recently, I assumed that it was.

This is a weird election and not a single ballot has even been cast yet.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Matthew Yglesias cuts to the heart of why I could not give two farts about the email "scandal".

The formative experience of my political life was the 2000 presidential campaign, in which the media mercilessly persecuted Al Gore over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals while giving George W. Bush a pass on the fact that the central premises of his economic agenda were lies.

We can include the Clinton impeachment in this, too.  Or Whitewater.

What Hillary Clinton did was legal and done by several other people who have held Cabinet posts.  But it's a "style" issue rather than a policy issue.  And most media doesn't do policy because most Americans can't understand policy.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Christ Died For Your Sins....What A Sucker.

“The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of theleast of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. - Matthew 25:40

"Screw those poor drowning Syrian kids." - Ben Carson 9/13

Having recently declared my fear of a Carson candidacy, it is worth noting his response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

He hits a nice Trumpian note about "political correctness."  But to understand the perniciousness of political correctness, it's better to read Jon Chait's epic screeds on the subject.  PC is about putting a trigger warning on Hamlet or shutting up a heterosexual white male who might have something to say about transgender rights.

Admitting Syrian refugees is not an issue of PC.  It's a humanitarian issue.  It's a crisis that has its roots in the Bush-Cheney experiment in the neighboring country of Iraq.  We have some culpability here.

But mostly, think about what this says about the state of modern Christian fundamentalism - Christianism, as opposed to Islamism.

Those that would make America a "Christian Nation" - and Carson is definitely one of those - are not practicing the Christianity of Matthew.  Blessed are the peacemakers?  Fat chance.  This about a Christian identity that unites a certain conservative, authoritarian type in America.  It's about rolling back rights and stifling dissent.  It's about living in Kim Davis' world, where her faith gets to determine what other people do, because she's a certain, correct type of Christian.

It's not political correctness, it's religious correctness.  And it's corrosive and anathema to everything men like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Hamilton believed in.

A guess I can end with Sinclair Lewis:
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Saturday, September 12, 2015


This piece about why Sanders isn't resonating with black voters seems to miss a central truth.  Sanders is running on policies.  But for most voters, personality matters a great deal.  And Sanders is a prickly old grouch.

If you're a motivated, plugged in economic leftist, you are reading his policy proposals and gushing.

But the actual guy?

I don't think he will wear well in the debates.

Uncivil War

Perhaps I've come to rely on this formulation too much, but I really think we need to look at the Reagan Coalition and try to determine if it is coming apart at the seams.

Broadly speaking, the Reagan Coalition embraced three main groups: Paleo-Cons, Neo-Cons and Theo-Cons.

Paleo-Cons are your Main Street and Wall Street business men.  They have been the heart and soul of the GOP since Teddy Roosevelt led the Progressives out in 1912.  Their main focus is on reducing the role of the state, primarily by starving the state of funds through massive tax cuts that redistribute wealth to the investor class.  Their standard bearers are Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker.  Maybe Marco Rubio.

The Neo-Cons are aggressive foreign policy hawks.  They see an America beset by enemies and therefore see necessity in an aggressive militaristic foreign policy.  Their standard bearer is Lindsey Graham, although there is a small element of this in Trump's appeal.

The Theo-Cons are the religious fundamentalists.  They speak of a "Christian Nation" and want to maintain the old social order.  Their standard bearers are Carson and Huckabee.

Finally, there are actual Republican voters.  And what is fascinating about the Trump phenomenon is how he exposes the absence of a standard bearer for a third of the Republican electorate.  Trump's basic appeal is his personality, and his personality is basically that of a huge suppurating hemorrhoid.  And it precisely this combative, assholish personality that is his appeal.

Cleek's Law only goes so far in explaining this.  Yes, if Obama came out in favor of breathing, hundreds of thousands of Americans would asphyxiate.  It seems to me that there is a large portion of the Republican Party electorate that has Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  The more you tell them X the more adamantly they will do Y.  There is no ideological consistency to this.  Obamacare - as you have been reminded a thousand times - was originally a Republican idea to counteract the Clinton plan for a single-payer system back in '94.  Now, only because it's a Democratic policy, it's the death of liberty.

Except, whatever.  Trump has praised a single-payer system as being probably the most efficient.  Because IT IS.  The data is overwhelmingly clear on this.  This is the position of Bernie Sanders, but Trump suffers no blowback from his 30%, because policy and ideology really don't matter.

What matters is that you oppose THEM.  THEM are a loosely connected group of people who aren't US.  THEM are the media, which can include Megyn Kelly.  THEM are pointed headed academics and minorities and scientists and Harry Reid AND Mitch McConnell.

THEM is the force that exists outside plan sight and makes US miserable.  THEM is the reason I got laid off from my factory job and have to work retail.  THEM is the reason my kid is doing poorly in school and the reason I can't afford college tuition.  THEM is everywhere and nowhere.  THEM is inchoate and pervasive.

For decades these ODD-cons voted Republican because the Republicans were closest to their sense of grievance.  It was William F. Buckley who said a conservative was someone who stood athwart history and yelled, "stop!"  While there was rarely anyone to perfectly channel their grievance - Pat Buchanan came closest - they could remain safely within the fold.  Trump has laid bare their existence and their anger.

These voters were the people who voted for George Wallace.  They were Southerners and people around the country who related to Southerners.  I see more than my fair share of Confederate flags on pickup trucks here in Connecticut.  And the Wallace voter used to be a Democrat (as Wallace himself was).

But race sundered the New Deal coalition and the ODD-cons left the Party of Jackson when it became the Party of Kennedy/Johnson.  They briefly alighted on Wallace before moving to the GOP.  The question is - will they bolt again?  Can they stomach another flaccid Paleo-Con like Jeb!?

The Democratic primary is mostly about the direction of the party.  Sanders sits only marginally to the left of Clinton on the issues, with the exception of the extent of his redistributive ambitions.  Clinton represents the DLC past in the minds of many liberal voters and they want a fresh, more left leaning direction.  But as Clinton herself moves to the left, I have a hunch that when she wins, the Democratic party will have little trouble rallying around her.

Can we say that about Trump or Bush?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Things Get...Tense

Over a week ago, I marveled at the fact that Kim Davis was not resonating with the Wingnut Wurlitzer.

I guess I should have waited.  (Or simply ignored Amanda Marcotte's prediction.  She's a fine writer, but a lousy prognosticator.)

I do still think that the Money in conservative circles still doesn't give a damn about God bothering bigots, outside of having them show up on election day.  But the Davis saga - along with the Trumpen Proletariat - shows that the mass of conservative voters is tired of being catered to around election time, while once in office, the GOP returns to doing what they always do (see Jeb! Bush's egregious tax cut policies.)

However, things just took a turn for the scarier in Kentucky.  The Oath Keepers showed up.  These are law enforcement and ex-military types who hold really fucking nutso opinions about common law, posse comitas and the Constitution.  Mostly they are a form of cover for white supremacists and, basically, domestic terrorism.

They are armed and ready to "protect" Kim Davis from US Marshals and presumably any other law enforcement that might come to throw her back into jail for breaking repeated court orders to do her freaking job.

I suppose they are counting on another Bundy Ranch scenario, where they can intimidate state and federal officials into not enforcing the law.  No one, the presumption must be, wants another Waco.

Except, maybe, sort of, why not?

We kill people every day in America pretty much for being black and lippy.  For selling loose cigarettes.  For running away from police.

Why wouldn't we gun down some of these heavily armed thugs who are preventing the execution of the laws of the United States?

What could possibly be the difference between the Oath Keepers and Michael Brown?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cleek's Law

Cleek's Law says that conservatives believe the opposite of what liberals believe. Updated daily.

This means that as soon as Democrats endorse a position, Republicans will oppose it, even if it is a good idea that conforms with what they might otherwise believe. 

So, Christians who are commanded to take in their impoverished neighbor will turn their backs on Syrian refugees. 

And small government Libertarians will turn their back on criminal justice reform

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Their Own Reality

I saw a cartoon in the local rag - a very conservative paper -  that held the following images/captions:

Iranian nuclear cloud/a mountain of debt/Uncle Sam saying a "Will work for work" sign/ISIS/Russia with a tank/China with a computer...and then Obama saying global warming is the greatest threat.  It was implicit that Obama was nuts for thinking global warming was our gravest threat because of these other issues.


The Iranian deal prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon - a weapon the Bush Administration's policies put them on a clear path to acquiring (even Chris Wallace at Fox gets that).  The real opposition to the Iranian deal is not that it gives Iran a nuclear weapon, but that it doesn't end the Iranian regime.  The Neo-Cons were hoping the threat of a nuclear Iran might prompt a military response and overthrow of the regime.

So, no.  Iranian nukes are not a threat.

The deficit has been falling for several years now, despite the inability of Democrats to implement their preferred reduction strategy of raising taxes on the very wealthy.  The deficit was a byproduct of Bush's unpaid-for wars, his reckless tax cuts and the Great Recession.

So, no.  The deficit is not a rising threat.

Unemployment in the United States is lower now than it has been than it EVER was under Reagan.  While wages have not caught up, unemployment has fallen precipitously from the heights of the Great Recession.  Soon, we should start to see some rising wages.

So, no.  Unemployment is not a threat.

ISIS is a regional problem that is exporting - to a certain degree - its misery via the refugee crisis.  But ISIS exists within the framework of a crumbling Syria and a destabilized Iraq (thanks, Cheney!).  ISIS presents almost no threat to the United States, beyond the regional instability is creates.  Normally this would manifest itself in rising oil prices.  That isn't happening.

So, no. ISIS is not a threat.

Russia is teetering on the edge of insolvency.  Its offensives in Ukraine have stalled.  Putin saw his popularity skyrocket when he invaded Crimea, but it has been falling to earth recently as conditions worsen in Russia.

So, no.  Russia is not a threat.

China's economy is also reeling, as their markets are struggling to reconcile market forces with state sponsored cronyism.  The Chinese regime has bought legitimacy by sustaining 8% growth.  That is no longer possible.  And the environmental damage wrought by this growth is outraging middle class Chinese.

So, no.  China is not a threat.

But for millions of Americans who get their news from Fox and Glenn Beck and the WSJ editorial page, or even for those who tune into the more sensational nightly news from the major networks, the world seems on the precipice of disaster.

But really, it's not.

Except, you know, climate change.  In fact, the refugee crisis in Europe has its roots in drought and famine in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Saharan Africa.  Ask Californians about the climate these days.

It is this rank lack of perspective and faulty information that creates the Trump voter who "wants to make America great again."  America is actually doing pretty damned good at the moment, except for climate issues (although we are making progress there) and the gun culture that leads to indiscriminate slaughter (no progress there).

Fear may get you viewers and clicks, but it creates a woefully ignorant electorate.


For some reason, this just tickled me to death.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Clinton Conundrum

HRC came out and made the sort of apology she should have made months ago.

But, the damage - which is pretty ridiculous - is done.  And what's more, people will assume that this is all done for the cameras, that she doesn't really mean it.

On the other side, she's doing everything we - the Democratic constituency - are asking her to do.  She's embracing more economic populism.  She's being feisty against the GOP.  She's downplaying her hawkishness.  She's reaching out well to minorities.

And now she's apologizing for the email nontroversy.  Which we asked her to do.

What more do you want?

More On Carson

I don't think my last post was all that clear, despite the fact I've been thinking about Carson for a week now.

Carson has captured the interest of the evangelical voters.  That was Huckabee's base and Santorum's, but Cruz had a shot at them, too.  They're moving to Carson.  And that could propel him to second place in Iowa or maybe even a win.  Carson currently polls poorly in New Hampshire, but he could vault ahead if he takes second in Iowa.  South Carolina has a fair number of evangelicals, and they could help him there, too.

That makes him pretty well positioned to be the Not-Trump.

It would behoove the Democrats to make sure he's seen as a spittle-flecked whackaloon rather than an esteemed neurosurgeon.  They need to "define him" by his nutso beliefs in Biblical creation and religious supremacy to the Constitution rather than let him define himself with his biography.

Rubio and Carson are the only too feasible nominees that can give Clinton a run for her money, I think.  Carson should be the main target, because Rubio has his own issues to deal with.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Quiet Nutjob

I have no idea who will win the GOP nomination.  I don't think it will be Donald Trump, because I'm not sure he has hired the sort of people who know how to corral the most delegates during a caucus.  I'm not sure he has the people who know which rings to kiss in South Carolina.  He has obviously hit a nerve, but candidates like that rarely succeed simply by hitting a nerve.

Which brings me to the guy who has come to scare me the most of all the potential GOP nominees: Ben Carson.

First off, let's eliminate the various Beltway Darlings.  Jeb! isn't doing jackshit.  He's lackluster, he's soft of character and soft of mind.  He's fading like, well, Scott Walker.  I had Walker pegged as the Dark Horse favorite, but he's simply so damned stupid and uncharismatic, he doesn't stand a chance.  John Kasich is just a new way to spell John Huntsman.

That leaves a few possible outcomes that take down Trump:

1) Bush or Walker experience a renaissance.  They rise from the dead like McCain in 2008.

2) Rubio breaks through.  Probably the most likely scenario, providing the alleged skeletons in his closet don't come out.

3) Fiorina somehow makes a race of it.  Perfect!  Mitt Romney without the charisma or record of public service.

4) Carson rides his momentum out of a strong Iowa showing to vault himself into the "Not Trump" candidate.

Carson has a lot of support amongst evangelicals.  He's a Bible Thumper through and through.  When Chuck Todd asked him if the Bible had supremacy over the Constitution, Carson couldn't answer.  His policy positions are lunatic.

But Trump is demonstrating something very important: the GOP electorate is sick and tired of GOP politicians.  After decades of GOP elites motivating the rubes to vote against abortion and the gays and so on, those rubes have noticed that no matter who they send to DC, those people wind up voting down tax rates for the rich while failing to end abortion, gay rights and on and on.  In fact, Trump supporters actually LIKE that Trump denigrates Wall Street.

But Trump is a suppurating asshole.  His act cannot help but wear thin.

Carson, on the other hand, speaks in the calm, measured tones of a surgeon talking to a patient before she goes under the knife.  The words themselves are bonkers, just like the rest of the GOP.  But he's so smooth in delivering them, he comes across as more reasonable than he is.  Plus, he has the single most inspirational life story of any candidate.  He's handsome, accomplished and not a complete overbearing dick.  And he is not a creature of Washington DC.  Additionally, he would allow all those Republicans who want to deny services to "those people" a chance to demonstrate that, "See, we really AREN'T racists.  We voted for the black guy."

He has some of the same liabilities as Trump.  When you actually unpack his policy statements, they don't make sense.  He has no experience running a campaign.  He will make gaffes, and unlike Trump, I'm not sure he has the temperament to bull his way through them.

But Carson is kind of a scary candidate, if you're looking at him from the point of view of the Democratic Party.  They would be wise to take him seriously.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Donald's Supporters

Don't know if that will load, but sweet Jeebus what a bunch of maroons. 

Their fundamental conception of how the world works is rooted in the idea that bluster and hot air will correct the decline that Fox News tells them exists but really doesn't. The decline exists in their own lives, as white middle class Americans. 

Someone should introduce them to Bernie Sanders. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Having been in Europe during the early stages of the crisis, I can attest that this is straining Europe's vision of itself.  Europe sees itself as the seat of true civilization, having ceded power to the US about 70 years ago (no matter what DeGaulle thought).

But Europe isn't immune to the same fractious racial identity politics that the US has.  Donald Trump would be quite at home in the UK Independence Party or perhaps even the Tories, given Cameron's position on migrants.

The fact is it is far simpler and safer to oppose migration, because the people who vote for you are already in the country that you are a politician in.  It can hurt you with those citizens who were once immigrants (or whose recent relatives were), but it's pretty clear the GOP, to take an example, is trying to maximize its share of the white vote, rather than reach out to Hispanics, African Americans or Asians.

But the Nativists have a point, which is that a country has a right to secure its own borders and determine its own immigration policies.  That's a little harder in Europe with the EU, but it's still an issue.

It is not at all surprising it took an especially heartbreaking photo to change the tenor of the conversation.  Nativist demagoguery depends on us denying the humanity of the migrants.  Once you see them as that small, lifeless body in the surf, you can't easily deny their humanity without denigrating your own.

But it will only take one Syrian emigre to shoot a police officer, or a Libyan refugee to commit an act of terrorism for the voices of nativism to drown out those whispers of shared humanity again.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Hate Huckabee

Huckabee was always the likable conservative.  He was warmly funny, had an ear for working class problems and seemed like a nice guy.

Now he's become a venom spitting hate monster with no demonstrable understanding of how American laws work.

Of course, it's fashionable to simply say that he's playing to his base.  But I really think it's important to listen to what politicians say.  They may not be able to deliver on their promises, but they always at least TRY to deliver.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Trump Coalition

Jon Chait has hit on something here.  He notes that Trump is to the right of the GOP elites on immigration, but to their left on taxes.

And the 25-30% of the GOP base who are devoted to Trump are perfectly cool with that.

One of the enduring political truths of the modern GOP is that the elites mobilize culture warriors on issues like affirmative action, abortion, gay rights and immigration, but once in office, they pretty much pursue fiscal policies that redistribute wealth upwards.

Trump has exposed a major fault line in the GOP coalition: white working class voters really don't want taxes on the rich cut.  They want hedge fund managers taxed at higher than 15%.

The question that Chait leaves begging is why do those GOP voters who are flocking to Trump vote for guys like Reagan, the Bushes and Romney?  It has always mystified earnest liberals why working class whites vote against their economic self-interest when they vote for a guy who will cut taxes on the rich and gut programs that these voters really like: think Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

Given their movement towards Trump, it's not religion.  It's not taxes.  It's not a mantra of small government libertarianism.

It's racism.

We've all known this, since Nixon launched the Southern Strategy and Reagan spoke of state's rights at Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1980.  Lee Atwater made it perfectly clear on his deathbed.

There are a lot of white working class voters who simply hate "them" so much that they have been willing to vote for economic royalists like the Bushes and the Romney, rather than for the black guy who is giving them health care.

The poobahs who run the GOP have been struck dumb by Trump's ascendancy.  Everyone has noted that he is a monster of their own making.  But what is terrifying to them most of all is how he is forcing them to come face to face with the racism that they have been exploiting to win elections for the past 40 years.

Finding A Hill To Die On

The saga of god-bothering, Jesus-freak Kim Davis - the George Wallace of fabulous marriages - is really interesting, as Amanda Marcotte points out.

For whatever reason, the main chords of the Wingnut Wurlitzer have not included her aria of uncivil disobedience.  Conservatives are more outraged at Obama calling Denali by it's right name than by pretty much every court that's been asked about this issue telling Davis to quit being a tool and do her damned job.

Unlike the anti-gay pizza parlor owner, there does not appear to be much of a groundswell of support for Davis, which might have surprised her.   Perhaps it was the Indiana fight of earlier this year - where corporate America firmly informed Mike Pence that anti-gay bigotry was unacceptable - that broke the fever.

Perhaps this opposition has simply been driven under ground, as Marcotte suggests, only to reappear in ten years.  More likely the manifest absurdity of preventing some people from getting married because....Leviticus? has become apparent to many conservatives.

Or perhaps Trump has simply focused right wing rage at Messicans and they don't have the energy to hate on the Ghey right now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Saving Your Job

The Democratic House members who voted against Obamacare pretty much all lost their re-election bids.

Some of this is because they represented swing districts who have swung to the right.  Some were likely swing districts that were re-districted as "redder" districts.  Some retired.

But the idea that voting against your party's main policy goal will save your job assumes that voters see beyond partisan labels.

They don't.

Vote your conscience.  It's much simpler that way.