Blog Credo

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

H.L. Mencken

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

There's Something Happening Here

What it is ain't exactly clear.

Iran is electing it's parliament - the Majles - and more importantly the Assembly of Experts.  It appears as if the Reform candidates have swept the major cities, but in a twist worthy of the American Congress, rural voters have outsized influence in the Majles.

More important is the Assembly of Experts. There are 88 members of the Assembly of Experts and they have one primary role: to select the Supreme Leader.  Potentially, they could remove him as well, but their main role is to select the successor to Ayatollah Khamenei.  Khamenei is quite old and has been ill of late.  Since the Assembly is elected for 8 years, there is a very good chance this Assembly will elect the Third Supreme Leader in Iran's post-revolutionary history.

Khamenei was selected based on his fealty to hardliners and the late Ayatollah Khomeini.  If the Reform elements have a critical mass, they could push the next Supreme Leader in a more moderate direction.  The implications of that could be profound.

Stay tuned.  The possibility exists that the Interior Ministry could once more create fraudulent returns, but if they don't and Reformers carry the day, it could be very good news.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Hillary just put a beating on Bernie in South Cackalackey.  By winning almost 75% of the vote, she wins a comparable margin of delegates.  Given that she's already well ahead in the delegate count, this is a trend that can reduce Bernie's avenues to victory in a hurry.

In four days, we have Super Tuesday.  A lot of those states look a lot like South Cackalackey demographically.  Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.  If Clinton racks up similar margins in those states and wins states like Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado (and keeps it close in Massachusetts), then there isn't a plausible reason for Sanders to continue.  He probably should and will, because his candidacy was always about a set of issues rather than personal ambition.  And he's been a salutary force in the primary.

But his path to the nomination is closing very rapidly, and if South Cackalackey is any indicator, it could be over before your St. Patrick's Day hangover is gone.

This Is Clever

Friday, February 26, 2016

Peak Cole

I did not watch the debates, because I value my health.

John Cole did and wrote this.

Several thoughts I shared elsewhere:
1.) You know how sometimes in a city you see someone disheveled and crazy looking walking along talking to themselves? I think Ben Carson is having the other half of the conversation with them.
2.) I have a secret fantasy that at the final debate, when prompted for his closing remarks, Donald Trump will look directly into the camera and blurt out “The Aristocrats,” drop the mic, and walk off stage.
3.) Ben Carson said this after the debate: "This was the worst of all debates."
Yesterday, Carson figured out his campaign was little more than an elaborate fundraising grift and tonight he realized how awful the GOP debates are for everyone. It’s like we’re approaching the midway point of Flowers for Algernon.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The GOP Is Innumerate

Vox has a helpful breakdown of just how insane the GOP's numbers are on tax cuts and increased military spending.  Balanced budgets aren't the single most important things in the world, but blowing a massive hole in the center of America's finances and turning us into Greece on steroids is insane.  And yet, of course, the GOP's innumeracy is only matched by the political press and the American public at large.

Given what the Republicans propose, Sanders' proposals are down right realistic and fiscally responsible.  Still, I think that the fact that the GOP is about to nominate a guy whose budget will add another bankruptcy onto his career ledger argues persuasively that Clinton is again the safe option.

The 2016 election has the potential to further realign American politics and solidify the Obama coalition.  Trump scares minorities, but I think he also scares college educated suburbanites a bit, too.  Reasonable Republicans have had to excuse some pretty egregious policy choices and political stances from their party.  But can they excuse away something like the Trump tax plan?  Wouldn't the combination of his tax plan with GOP refusal to even hold hearings for Obama's SCOTUS nominee finally drive home the fact that maybe the best we can hope for from our president and our government is a basic level of competence?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I just saw a piece somewhere that said the Democrats had to nominate Sanders in order to beat Trump.  That's...insane.  It is precisely Clinton's "safety" that will be appealing to middle of the road voters if Trump continues his march to the nomination.

The possibility of Trump facing Sanders terrifies me.  Because there will almost certainly be a third party challenge that throws everything for a loop.

Sanders is not the guy to beat Trump.

Clinton most definitely is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


By all accounts, the GOP caucuses in Nevada are a raging shitshow.  There is ratfucking and double voting and chaos.

If - by 2020 - we have not purged American democracy of the carnival freakshow that is the "caucus" then we deserve the meteor that will blessedly end this failed experiment in democracy.

Why Do They Hate Obama?

Because they hate.  Their hate is what defines them.  They are not defined by what they believe, they are defined by the opposite of what Democrats try to do.  (This is why Sanders will never be able to poach Republican voters.)  Their tribalism is so profound that they can't even see the other side of the equation.

Josh Marshall lays out a case for the similarities between Obama and Bill Clinton.  In some ways, he illuminates more than he knows.  While he explores the similarity in how both men were treated, he misses the fact that understanding how violently and vehemently opposed to both men Republicans were and are is the key to understanding how broken our politics are.

As I mentioned the other day, America runs on certain understood, informal norms.  And the GOP has been breaking those norms to pieces.  The question is "Why?"

The answer is that the GOP believes its own bullshit about Obama not being "American."  And by American, I, of course, mean: white.  The Birther movement, the constant insinuation that Obama doesn't love America, the secret Muslim, the Alinskyite smears.  All of these are bullshit.  But the GOP - especially the electorate - believes this bullshit.  Just as they believed it about Clinton. Vince Foster, Whitewater, Travelgate...There was no "scandal" too obscure or unbelievable that they wouldn't pounce on.

Obviously, the same will be true of Hillary, but it would be true of Bernie, too.

There is a massive segment of the American population that simply cannot accept the legitimacy of a Democratic presidency.  So, violating every norm and rule of American politics does not become a malignancy on the body politic, but a call to duty to protect "America."

It won't change next January when Hillary Clinton is inaugurated either.

We are well and truly screwed as long as the GOP controls any branch of our government.


Monday, February 22, 2016


Jon Chait has a good piece showing just how broken our system of government is.  In it, he notes that most presidential systems fail but that ours has succeeded, because we have norms that allow it to function.  And now those norms are being destroyed - and almost entirely by the GOP.

It's worth noting that when we have had the opportunity to start a government from scratch - as we did in Japan and Iraq - we chose a parliamentary system.

Presidential systems have too many choke points - the vaunted checks and balances - that prevent government from actually governing.  This works fine for a party that doesn't want government to work at all, but it's very frustrating for the majority of Americans who want it to work.

Of course, the problem of how we apportion congressional representation is another reason why this system fails.  If the House was determined by proportional representation and the Senate by geography, we might reach a point where the system worked.

Anyone think that will happen?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where From Here

Realistically, Sanders has peaked.  If Hillary hold on to her 20 point lead in South Carolina - polling averages have her +24 - she will begin to dent Sanders energy.  On March 1st, she can be reasonably expected to win Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  That would leave Sanders with Vermont and probably Massachusetts.  Sanders will stick around, but the momentum will be clear.  Unlike in 2008, when Obama traded states with Clinton and racked up delegates, Sanders doesn't have a ton of states where he can be expected to put a dent into her delegate lead.  He will keep campaigning, because he wants to keep his issue agenda alive.  But he's probably done.

Once again, the GOP is more interesting.

Who benefits from Bush's departure?  The obvious candidates are Rubio and Kasich.  But Bush's support was so flaccid, that if his voters split between the two establishment candidates - I'm not calling Rubio a moderate - it is unlikely to let one guy break clear.  Carson - because his campaign has always been an elaborate grift -  continues to run so that he can build his email list and employ family members and hangers on.

So we are left with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  State by state polling is sketchy, so there are rough estimations.

Trump: Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts and Alaska seem safe bets.  Tennessee and maybe Oklahoma, too.

Cruz: Texas, Arkansas and maybe Oklahoma.

Rubio: Virginia and Minnesota, though I could see Kasich stealing his thunder there.

If Trump continues to win - even by small margins - he's the nominee.  Cruz and Rubio have to start winning states.

Here are the delegate counts, so you'll see what I mean:

GOP (1,237 needed to win)
Trump - 61
Cruz - 11
Rubio - 10
Kasich - 5
Bush - 4
Carson - 3

If Trump keeps accumulating delegates at those ratios, he's going to pull ahead in March to a place where the Establishment can't catch him.

On the Democratic side (2,382 needed to win)

Clinton - 51
Sanders - 51

However, when you add in the Super delegates:

Clinton - 500
Sanders - 70

That's the math.  Sanders has to start winning to overcome party resistance - and winning is not in his future.  Someone has to start edging into Trump's delegate lead - and no one seems to be doing that.

March 15th in the critical day for the GOP.  Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio are all winner-take-all primaries, and Florida and Ohio have favorite-son candidates.  If the GOP can't stop Trump there, they can't stop him.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Look At The Flowers, Jebby

And so, the Bush Crime Family slinks of into historical ignominy.  There hasn't been a winning Republican ticket without a Bush on it since 1972.  They represented the staid, moneyed establishment that really ran the GOP.  And now their "favorite" son slinks off in disgrace after losing to a short-fingered vulgarian, his protege and a man reviled by everyone who knows him.

The question becomes: what next?

With Bush out, where does his support go?  Presumably to Rubio, but Kasich remains relevant, I guess.

And when will Carson give up?   Presumably his support transfers to Cruz and Trump.

Trump did everything he could to alienate South Carolina Republicans, and he still won.

And so we are off to Nevada, as the Democrats move to South Carolina.

Hillary should begin to put a stranglehold on the delegate count, but the GOP field remains far from settled if perhaps a little clearer.

The Breeze You Feel

Is the entire Democratic establishment breathing a sigh of relief. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Please

More of this.

This Guy

TPM has a correspondence from a Vermonter who is voting for Hillary.

S/he makes the point I've been trying to make: Bernie isn't a Democrat.  That should matter.

I'm a little surprised Hillary hasn't used that angle of attack.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Proof That Sanders' Revolution Is Going Nowhere

There is a new poll out saying that Americans are split along partisan lines over whether Obama should be allowed to appoint Antonin Scalia's replacement to the Supreme Court.

Republicans - who claim to revere the Constitution - are basically making a partisan decision.  Sanders' entire "revolution" claim is that he can win those white working-class voters who have abandoned the Democratic party.


They found their tribe and they are sticking with it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Watch This


The Clinton campaign is playing the expectations game, by saying that Latinos might not turn out to the caucus next week.

Some of this is simply to prepare the party and her supporters for a close win or even a narrow loss.  If she wins by 5%, she can carry a lot of momentum in South Carolina.  If it's close, she can say: Well, Latinos didn't turn out.

All of this goes to the idiocy of having caucuses in the Democratic party.  The essential problem in Democratic politics is low voter turnout.  Whether it's in a midterm election or a primary, getting working class minorities and young people to the polls is tough.  Sanders has managed to motivate the young voters, but Clinton needs those minority voters.

Caucuses - almost by definition - retard voter turnout.  They are complicated; they are tough to schedule around; they take a lot of time.  Why in the world would the Democratic party rely on such an archaic and self-limiting practice?

The way we nominate presidents has to change.  Let's get rid of caucuses and go entirely to primaries.  And let's have Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina all go on the same day to avoid having unrepresentative states represent the American electorate.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Politics Of SCOTUS

Mitch McConnell has already stated that the Senate will not fulfill its constitutional responsibilities and even hold a vote on Obama's replacement for Antonin Scalia.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The "argument" they make is completely scurrilous, but since when has that mattered for them?  They aren't even having a hearing on Obama's budget this year.

All of this creates a political opening for the President and the Democratic party.

If the GOP is going to mindlessly obstruct every possible nominee, then cycle through two or three sacrificial lambs.  And make the politics hurt.

I would start with Godwin Liu.  He's quite liberal and probably would have been rejected by the GOP Senate even if they were willing to hold a vote.  But OK, start with him.  Let the GOP reject the first Chinese-American Supreme Court justice because he's...what exactly?

Then move on to Sri Srinivasan.  He's the favorite anyway, but you send him up after the Senate shot down Liu.  Now the GOP will be in the position of rejecting the SECOND Asian-American justice, because he's...I'm sorry, what's the problem with him again?

If they follow through and block Srinivasan, then you throw out a Jane Kelly, Amy Klobuchar or - if you're feeling really fiesty - Pam Karlan.  By this time, it will be the fall and the third rejection by the GOP of a candidate - this time a woman - will feed into all the retrograde things the candidate is saying about the GOP.

And I can't help but think that this battle will play to Clinton's advantage in the primaries.  The composition of the SCOTUS was always the primary prize in this election for the Democrats.  Bernie's "revolution" isn't happening.  But here is a salient issue for Clinton to point to and say: "We can't afford to gamble on a Sanders nomination.  There is a vacancy staring the new President in the face on January 21st.  We can't let Trump or Cruz or Rubio fill that vacancy."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pretty Good Day

My wrestling team took fourth in our league tournament. That's pretty good for our school. 

And Scalia's body finally realized it was living without a heart. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Well, This Is Nice

Apparently, all that permissive, liberal education that's turning Millenials into squishy approval mongers is working.  My guess is that we have put a great deal of emphasis on education that extends beyond the Three Rs.  All the various education campaigns about smoking and birth control and alcohol abuse: they actually seem to be working.

I was having a parenting discussion with my luminous wife and our children's preferences for video that tend to involve people getting his in the testicle and such.  After arguing that slapstick and humor based on pain is as old as humor itself, I also said that repetition matters.  Modeling, too, but constantly repeating certain creeds, beliefs and truths eventually sinks in.  You won't see it in a year, just as these changes in youth behavior took two decades, but you will see it over time.

As a teacher and a parent, this might be the best news I've heard in months.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meanwhile In Oregon

The FBI is taking out all the militia wingnuts Don Corleone style.

Can Bernie Win POC?

Matthew Yglesias thinks that Sanders can build on his victory in New Hampshire and start to erode Clinton's substantial leads among minority voters. I suppose there is some truth in that, as her numbers among minority voters have no where to go but down.

A few things Yglesias doesn't grapple with are the unique nature of New Hampshire and Clinton's relationship with Obama.

New Hampshire was made for Bernie both ideologically and geographically.  It was right next door to Vermont, and he is well known and liked there.  New Hampshire Democrats are a pretty liberal bunch, and Sanders probably would have won there, even if he had been from Oregon.  But the fact that he was from Vermont with an ideologically sympathetic electorate means that he was always going to win New Hampshire.  That doesn't mean he's guaranteed anything in Nevada or South Carolina.

One thing I think you will see is Clinton beginning to trot out Obama allies to support her.  It's already started.  She has tied herself to Obama as a way to subvert Sanders' appeal to minority communities.  By creating herself as Obama's heir - in ways that Sanders is not - she can remind African American voters in particular of her loyalty to Obama after a bruising primary in 2008.  This kind of echoes what I wrote yesterday.

Yglesias notes that minority communities - in the South in particular - tend to be risk averse.  Their status as minorities means they have to remember who their friends are and who has always been in their corner.  The Clintons pass that test.

Clinton's best friends right now are Elijah Cummings, John Lewis and Andrew Young in South Carolina and Harry Reid, Dana Titus and former Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones in Nevada.  Getting Julian Castro, Henry Cisneros, Ken Salazar and Bill Richardson out into Nevada would probably help, too.

I don't think Southern Blacks abandon Hillary.  But she might be vulnerable among Hispanics.

Sanders problem is getting vulnerable, risk-averse populations to take a gamble on him.  And he doesn't have much time to do that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Unsolicited Advice For Hillary Clinton

There was an interesting moment in the last debate where Clinton said she wasn't part of the Establishment, because she would be the first woman president.  I could see where she was going with this - that's Clinton's primary problem, you can always see the calculations.

I think she should reframe that question and claim the establishment mantel.  Not the Establishment, but the Democratic Party Establishment.  Booman makes a good point that Clinton needs a plan to retake Congress.  She has the endorsement of Howard Dean, who last put together the strategy to win in every state.  While that coincided with the disastrous last years of the Bush Administration, Dean's 50 State Strategy was widely mocked in DC and praised at the local level.

Clinton should run on a platform to bring Democratic politics and resources into every state in the country.  She should take on the mantle of a life-long Democrat who has served the party and its constituencies for decades.  She's not going to out-liberal Sanders.  That's stupid.  And she won't win hearts with the idea of fighting a retrograde action to defend what Obama accomplished - however accurate that is.

But if she ran on the idea that Democrats need to be competitive in the South and West by empowering local parties and getting away from DC consults, she could win over voters in those states and solidify the distinction between herself and Sanders who's only been a Democrat for a few months.  This partisan identity will especially sell well in her core constituencies of minorities and older voters.  By claiming she will work towards winning back the House, she sets herself up again as the candidate who actually knows how things work.

Clinton won't excite the Millenials, but she could win back most of the Grown Ups.

New Hampster Post-Mortem

So, Bernie nailed it.  He won by over 20%, though that only netted him four additional delegates.  Unlike Obama's challenged to the Clinton Restoration, Sanders has very few Superdelegates and is unlikely to get many.

(Side note: Clinton needs to embrace being part of the Establishment, I'll write about that later.)

The GOP side was much more interesting.

Trump did what he needed to do, win by a large margin.  Kasich had a great night, but he also may have peaked.  I find Kasich the most appealing of the Republican field, which is a pretty good indicator that he won't win the nomination.

Cruz, I think, did all right.  New Hampshire is a terrible place for him, but he emerged with a couple of delegates.  He will, however, have to do much better in South Carolina.  Bush did well enough to keep plugging away, but as with Kasich, the map turns against him soon enough.

And the Ru-Bot... Who says debates don't matter?  (Actually, I've said that.  I guess I was wrong.)  He is on life support going into the next two contests.  Given the revelations that he tends to crack under pressure, it could be an interesting two to three weeks following the Rubio campaign.

Finally, Chris Christie should probably go back to Jersey.  The question is: where will his supporters land?  Stylistically, they should go to Trump, but I know a lot of moderate Republicans who really liked Christie.  Will they latch on to Bush or Kasich?

Sanders, Clinton And The Supremes

In 2007, the Supreme Court said that the EPA had to regulate carbon if it determined that carbon was unhealthy. The Obama Administration responded a few years ago with an ambitious plan to get states to set regulatory rules for cleaner energy production.  As Jon Chait frequently noted, this was a major under-the-radar reform from Obama that would have a tremendous and far-reaching impact on the future.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court - along predictably partisan 5-4 lines - postponed this ambitious attempt to kinda sorta save the planet.  The assumption now is that this plan will not be able to go into effect until after Obama leaves office.

What does this have to do with the race for the Democratic nomination?  Two things.

First, most political scientists give Sanders a very thin chance of winning a general election.  While Clinton has been hitting Sanders on some issues, her attacks have to be tempered in ways the GOP don't.  And Sanders appeal was perfectly matched for Iowa and New Hampshire.  Yesterday's decision points to the fact that perhaps the most significant effect of the 2016 election will be the composition of the Supreme Court.  If Sanders can't pull off his "revolution" (and, for the record: he can't) and loses the election, the President Trump will be able to nominate Judge Judy or John Yoo to the Supreme Court and the result will be absolutely disastrous.

Second, the EPA carbon emissions policy is precisely the sort of small, bureaucratic reforms that Obama has been limited to since 2011.  And whether Sanders or Clinton become President, that will be the extent of their ability to reform, too.  Should a Democrats win in November, they will be constrained by the same institutional padlocks that Obama is constrained by.  Clinton understands this - and maybe Sanders does, too, though he won't admit it.  Clinton is already ready to implement this sort of executive branch-based reform.  Sanders is depending on a magical unicorn of his "revolution" to sweep the country leftwards.

Sanders crushed it last night.  He exceeded his benchmarks.  But the bigger story may have come from the Supreme Court, by demonstrating what's at stake in this election.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

This Is A Must Read

What Does "Winning" New Hampshire Look Like

Primaries - especially the small early ones - are really about perception.  While the goal of primaries is to rack up delegates, the real goal is to force competitors out of the race.  Iowa winnowed the field and New Hampshire should do the same.

So what does "winning" in NH look like to each candidate?

On the Dem side, the result is a foregone conclusion.  Sanders will win. The question is what will the margin be?  And since NH is an open primary, will any Dems cross lines to vote, knowing that their primary is effectively decided?  Sanders has anywhere from a 9 to 26 point lead.  That's a huge variance.  But I'll split the baby and say that the over/under is 15%.  Sanders bests that, it's a big win.  Clinton bests that, she can take a moral victory.

The Republican side is more confusing.

Trump absolutely, positively has to win, and do so by more than 10%.  Frankly, you could make a case for 15%.  But the wife was at a Trump rally last night with her students, and there seems to be a fair amount "I've come to see the circus" rather than hardcore support.  So let's say 10% win.

Second place is where the contest is, and it looks wide open.  There are four candidates within spitting distance of each other: Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Bush.  But Christie is seeing some movement in his direction, so let's include him.  Carson and Fiorina are toast.

Rubio, Kasich, Bush and Christie are all competing for the same votes: the Yankee Republican.  In other words: Not Crazy People.  If any one of those guys wins over the other two by more than 5%, that's immensely important for them.  Someone has to be the Main Street Republican, and it will come down to winnowing out the other guys to consolidate their support around a single candidate.  The problem the GOP has is that they haven't been able to rally around a single, doctrinaire conservative candidate, so the Trump/Cruz/Carson freakshow has lingered on.

It looks, however, if none of these guys will break free. Rubio's polling is eroding substantially after his Iowa bump and his disastrous debate performance.  Kasich looks good, but can Kasich win in the South?  Can Christie?  Can Bush win anywhere?

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Ted Cruz.  If the Yankee Republican vote splits four ways, Cruz could sneak into second place in a state where he has no business being competitive.  Nevada and South Carolina are much more amenable to him than New Hampster.

So:  Sanders/Clinton is a 15% over/under.  Trump has to win in double digits.  Cruz needs to come in second or a close third.  One of the governors or Rubio needs to separate from the pack.

Once again, the drama is on the Republican side.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hell Week Is Upon Me

Evening meetings, a home meet, seeding meetings, the league tournament and a stack of grading that starts coming in tomorrow.

Long weekend was nice.

Now it's over.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Rubot Blows A Circuit

So, Marco, how was your night?  The worst campaign gaffes are those that reinforce your negatives.  If you screw up in a way that hits on your positives, it's unlikely to hurt you nearly as much as one that drives home the thing that voters worry most about you.  Clinton's speaking fees are probably more politically damaging in this regard with Democrats.  The email stuff, Benghazi...I don't think they have a huge impact on her, since they are so clearly smears.  But the large fees she got talking to Wall Street is going to be a problem for her.

What Rubio did last night, though, could be really damaging.  He has three essential weaknesses: He's young, he was a squish on immigration and he seems overly programmed.  He reinforced the first and third weakness in a huge way last night in his exchanges with Chris Christie.  And the errors were entirely self-inflicted.  Even after Christie nailed him on the programmed speech and the youth, Rubio kept stepping on his own dick.  Just as his greatest asset is his youth, his greatest liability is that he's just not experienced enough.

Last night made that point really clearly.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hail, Caeser!

Took the fam to see Hail, Caesar!  Probably not the best idea to take two 11 year olds and a 14 year old to see a Coen Brothers movie.  Even the missus and a very bright student walked out scratching their heads.  OK, I walked out scratching my head, too.  Which is really the best part of a Coen film: deciphering what the hell you just saw.

Hail, Caesar! is a comedy, but only sort of.  Or rather it's a comedy with a few tremendous gags, but it's really just a prolonged joke without a real punchline.  The basic idea of the movie revolves around faith.  If faith is believing in something you can't see, then this move is about believing in what you can see.  Various faiths are tossed about in the course of the movie.  One of the great set-piece gags in a rabbi, a priest and patriarch and a minister debating the nature of Jesus with a studio exec.  There is a gaggle of communists - who are actually doing the nefarious things Joe McCarthy accused them of.  But for the protagonist, it is really about his belief in himself and his job and the movies they produce.

While he is tempted to hitch his wagon to technology and the future with a job at Lockheed that pays better and entails less work, Mannix ultimately has to decide what he believes in.  He's a devout Catholic, but his anguish in the confessional over small sins is belied by his immoral behavior in his job, which has no impact on him, apparently.  For all the "fixing" he does, he is working in the service of his faith.  And his faith is in the movies themselves - something you can see.

I worry that the film was sold as more Raising Arizona than A Serious Man, but while there are a few killer sequences, it's really not a side-splitting comedy, so much as an existential one.

Sing, Choir!

Al Giordano has a righteous rant.

I would only add that Progressivism, historically, encompassed a lot of different movements, but it generally desired to bring more democracy and more rationality to government.  Sanders represents the "more democracy" principles in his assault on money in politics.  Clinton represents the "more rationality" principles based on her entire career.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Progressive? Liberal?

Apparently the main fireworks last night was whether Clinton was a progressive or a liberal.  While Clinton has often taken moderate positions, the fact is that "moderate" really isn't a thing when it comes to policy.  You either advocate for progressive change, which makes you a liberal.  Or you advocate for the status quo, which makes you conservative.  Or you advocate for retrograde change, which makes you a reactionary.  Or you advocate for profound, immediate and complete change, which makes you a radical.

Jon Chait drew attention to this distinction, without noting that what Sanders is proposing is profoundly radical - or at least he didn't use that word. (It is worth noting that the modern GOP is no longer "conservative" but rather profoundly reactionary.)  Clinton has, of course, been considered fairly liberal for her entire life.  She was more "moderate" during her time in Arkansas and during the '90s, when that was called for.  But she was also a real pathbreaker, if you recall her 60 Minutes interview where she assaulted archaic gender roles and got pilloried for it. Because of the jobs she's held - health care reform, senator, secretary of state - she has constantly had to balance her liberal impulses with practical necessities.  Sanders simply hasn't had to do this.  He has been a gadfly his entire career, hence his independent status in Congress.

The only way to know if Sanders is truly unelectable is to nominate him and watch him lose.  But if we are going to nominate him, we need to understand that he is proposing a theory of American government that is profoundly radical in ways that extend far beyond attacking Wall Street or not.  And I think Sanders would welcome that label; he advocates for revolution.

But voters need to be clear what they are supporting, when they support Sanders. And what they are risking.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sick And Tired Of The Damned Emails

This is one reason why I support Hillary Clinton.  The amount of shit that gets thrown at her is extraordinary.  Clinton (and really Obama, too) have been subjected to the sort of scrutiny and outright calumny that few other public figures have.

People say she's too guarded and defensive.

People are stupid.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Getting Berned

David Roberts apparently has to make a case of the obvious about Bernie Sanders: He simply hasn't been attacked.

Yes, Clinton is making points about how political change works and the impracticalities of Sanders' plans.  But that's what a primary is supposed to be about.  Clinton has largely held back from the sort of attacks that Sanders will face in the general election.  Roberts does a pretty decent job of running down how awful the attacks will be and how vulnerable Sanders is to them.

You thought Obama's "palling around with terrorists" was bad, because he went to a few parties where William Ayers was?  Just wait until they get their hands on people Bernie Sanders used to hang around with.

You thought the distortions over Obamacare were bad?  Just wait until they get their hands on true socialized medicine.

You thought the lies about Obama's tax increases were bad?  Just wait until they show how Sanders will actually raise taxes on everyone.

This goes to two points that have me supporting Clinton over Sanders.

The first is that the Sandernistas basically live in their own little bubble, where everyone would see the light if only someone made the case.  Everyone would support Sanders' policy solutions, because they are self-evidently superior to what we have now.  Except that they aren't self-evident to a broad swath - probably the majority - of Americans.  The bully pulpit is a weak institutional lever.

The second is that I just don't think Sanders is mean enough for American politics in 2016.  Clinton has been savaged for 25 years.  She is arguably the toughest person in American politics.  And while the GOP has been working for years to draw up her negatives with some success, they may have squeezed all the juice out of that particular apple.  Sanders will get hit from every side should he win the nomination, and with a vehemence that he hasn't experienced in Vermont.

Them's the fact, y'all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Your Media Narrative

The story out of Iowa is that Marco Rubio won and therefore the GOP establishment won.  While these narratives have the effect of self-fulfilling prophecies, I have to say...WTF?

Rubio outperformed all expectations, which qualifies this as a win.  However, if you add up the vote totals for Cruz, Trump and Carson, you get 60% of the vote.

That means 60% of Iowa Republicans voted for the most loathed man in Washington, a loud mouth bully and a somnambulent neurosurgeon. Only 26% voted for Rubio or Bush.

Now, as I said, these narratives can become self-fulfilling.  Maybe Rubio vaults into second place in New Hampshire.  We have certainly seen that before.  But the media environment is much more fractured and decentralized with each passing year.  Rubio will now face the full brunt of Trump's fire, as the Donald has to win New Hampshire and South Carolina, or his campaign goes down in flames.  And Rubio has vulnerabilities that Trump is uniquely positioned to exploit, especially on immigration.

As for the Democratic side, both candidates won.  Both did what they needed to do.  News reports say that Clinton won, and that's all she needed.  She will lose New Hampshire, but if she can bounce back in South Carolina and Nevada, she can carry momentum into Super Tuesday.  I would argue that a longer campaign is good for Democrats, because the more debates, the better for Clinton.  She really shines there.  The more she has to supplicate for votes, the better she does.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Have We Changed Enough?

Charlie Pierce notes the similarities between the Sanders campaign and the Jesse Jackson campaigns of the 1980s.  It's an interesting comparison about the relative importance of the Left within the Democratic Party.  Jackson failed to win the nomination, and the narrative is that his rhetoric further cemented the Democratic Party as a party that kowtows to minorities over the white working class.

Bill Clinton won by running against Jesse Jackson's Democratic Party (and by having Ross Perot in the race).  But the Obama Coalition is a coalition that depends on the same groups that Jackson appealed to.  The change in America allowed that coalition to win the White House.

The question in this bizarre election year is whether or not Sanders can win the White House against a populist like Donald Trump.  Can dueling populists cancel out each other's radical nature and appeal?

Can we trust Bernie Sanders to beat Donald Trump?

That's the critical question for Democratic voters.  Clinton will do what it takes to destroy Trump.  I have little doubt of that.  It will be a campaign that the NY Times described as "nasty, brutish and anything but short."  But I believe the combination of demographics and the odiousness of Trump's politics will insure that Clinton will emerge as the "safe" choice not only for Democratic constituencies but several Republican-leaning constituencies, too.

The worry that Sanders has to address is whether he is mean enough to go toe-to-toe with a guy like Trump.