Blog Credo

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

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The View From The Other Side

I have been on call at my father's sick bed and he tends to watch a lot of Fox News.  A lot.

We have brokered an agreement where when I come in the room, he hits mute, but I've heard a ton of Fox propaganda simply by being under the same roof.

Basically Obamacare is a terrible, terrible failure that is failing in a failure-type way every failing day.

Except, you know, it's not.

My father - being himself - wanted to pick a fight on Medicaid expansion to people who are working.  I demurred, but the idea that everyone on Medicaid is either unemployed or loafing or both is a pernicious lie.  If you make, as a single person, about $15,000 a year and don't get insurance through your employer, you get it through Medicaid.  (The baseline goes up with the number of people in your household.)  Many of those people work part-time here and there, either because they are single parents or their employers keep them under 30 hours a week so they don't have to offer health insurance.  Maybe they are self-employed.

We give them health insurance through Medicaid.

His nurse's assistant today was railing against that, because why should someone who won't work (again, false about Medicaid) get health insurance?

And as long as that is our attitude about health care, we will remain a cruel, petty people.

Monday, June 26, 2017


I don't know if the American Shitburger Bill will pass, but if it does, it is because in the Republican Party, "the moderates always cave."

Leaning on Heller, Cassady and Collins is a weak reed.

Also, I've been busy with family business, but thank God it's kept me from the news.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baked In The Cake

With the narrow losses in GA-06 and SC-05 last night, there is the inevitable hand-wringing and self-flagellation that typifies liberal politics. And inevitably, someone will try and tie this back to Sanders v. Clinton, because that's helpful.  Josh Marshall points out - as many others have - that all these special elections are taking place on Republican-favored turf.  The fact that they are so close SHOULD unnerve the GOP.  If Democrats ride a 10 point wave in 2018, they will flip the House.  Not by flipping GA-06, but by flipping districts in CA, NY, VA and FL.

The arguments about messaging or which policy proposals mostly miss the point.  Democrats always run on better policies.  Look at the American Shitburger Bill currently winding its way in secret through the Senate.  You want good policy outcomes?  Elect Democrats.

And yet, people don't elect Democrats.

The lesson from last night and last November is that Republicans vote for Republicans.  That's how we wound up with Trump.  Republicans voted for him, even if they didn't "like" him.

Democrats will win once Republicans are embarrassed to admit they are Republicans.  You have to make the party radioactive.  Trump is certainly helping, and if they pass the American Shitburger Bill, that will help, too.

It's not about your message.  It's not about your policies.  It's about how many voters support your party.

Also, fuck you, Jill Stein.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tweet Of The Day

"Mitch McConnell is the answer to the question 'how much damage could Trump do if he was clever.'" @ZeddRebel

Seriously, if you have any Republican Senators in your state, call them and decry the removal of health insurance from 20M Americans.

Monday, June 19, 2017


Too much going on.  Luckily, that means I haven't been following the news.

I assume Trump tweeting something absurd.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Monster Is Calling From Inside The House

EJ Dionne goes about as far as nice NPR-listening pundit can go in pointing out that the GOP went insane at some point during the first Bush Administration.  He noted the violation of the no-new-taxes pledge as the moment the GOP lost its moorings (which was signaled by Gingrich's no-holds-barred brand of politics).

I think he missed the critical moment - it was the rise of Pat Buchanan.  Looking back, we can see in Buchanan a forerunner of Trump.  He was the angry, xenophobic, racist populist before Trump.  Trump merely managed to catch the right moment to take Buchanan's schtick to the next level.

The GOP has given itself over to the John Birch Society.  Once that was unthinkable.

Now we will have to see if it's survivable.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


A long four days. Not sure it will entirely ease up, but it couldn't be any busier. I know everywhere looks great in June, but Chicago was just great.  The broad streets and wide sidewalks reminded me of the streets of Paris, complete with cafes and restaurants spilling outside.  The Loop is like a clean, friendly NYC.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I Must Concur

Our cabbie from the airport said Chicago was the best. So far I'd have to agree with him. It's like the best of Boston combined with the best of NYC but clean.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Violent Country, A Violent Creed

Word that the shooter was a Sanders supporter does not reflect poorly on Sanders, but it does reflect poorly on the idea that "we need a revolution." This is what revolutions look like: bloody.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Call Your Senator

If you have a Republican Senator, please consider calling them and urging them not to strip health coverage from 20,000,000 Americans.

Here's a handy guide.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Kids Are Alright

A lot has been said about how Jeremy Corbyn defied the odds in the recent general election in Britain.  That's true, but I'm not certain how much of that is because of Jeremy Corbyn, per se.  

First, you have the collapse of the SNP, who were big winners in 2015.  They lost 19 seats to both Labour and Conservatives.  Perhaps this was a not-so-subtle jab at the SNP for a Scottish Exit from Britain.  Also, Labour poached seats in Wales and in Northern England.  In the north, it was especially a case of a collapse in UKIP.  UKIP went from 12.6% of the vote two years ago to 1.8% of the vote this June.  Either way, the real story is probably the collapse in support for the minor parties like SNP and UKIP.

Labour also won big in London, again with anti-Brexit voters.  The real message I take from the election is Brexgrets.  Sorry.  But it's clear that Britain is having serious second thoughts about Brexit.

Most notably, it was young voters who tilted the field to Labour.  They don't like Brexit and we are seeing a resurgence of socialism in young voters - at least in part by those who don't have living memories of the problems of state planning.

The Populist Right is undeniably an older cohort, presumably because they stay home and watch shitty TV.  There is a liberal wave coming demographically.  Sanders and this Labour result certainly suggest it's on its way.

The First Crisis

The Trump administration has largely been the author of most of its crises, and most of its crises are essentially political in nature.  Their impact is real, but limited to the political arena.  Experts have wondered what would happen when a true international crisis arose, how would the Trump "administration" handle it.

We are in the process of finding out.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have led a coalition of Arab states in a boycott of Qatar, primarily because of Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood has become a convenient straw man for the supposed fight against terrorism that Saudis pledged to Cheetoh Benito last month.  The fact that the MB has largely withdrawn from political violence and rejected terrorism doesn't seem to register, especially to a moron who only hears "Muslim" and "Brotherhood" in the same sentence and assumes they are bad.

In fact, Qatar is the home to a major American military base, from which raids on ISIS are launched, and Qatar has been funding the same rebel groups in Syria that the CIA funds.

Now, Turkey is pledging their support, along with Iran, to Qatar.  Significantly, neither Turkey nor Iran are Arab states, nor do they fear much from the Brotherhood.

The current conflict in Syria is best understood as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with ISIS as the wildcard.  Now, we have a second front under way in a conflict over support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Rex Tillerson correctly understands that Qatar is a key American ally in the Middle East.  Donald Trump is a tangerine colored moron.  Their conflict over this exposes the dangers that Trump's emotive, irrational "leadership style" is bringing to this crisis.  Trump likes the Saudis.  They let him touch their glowing orb.  He can't see the deeper picture that Qatar represents a future Middle East not ruled over by retrograde monarchs like the House of Saud.  Or he doesn't care, because he likes the House of Saud's style.

Either way, a true Gulf War with Iran and Turkey on one side with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt on another would be an absolute calamity.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Own Goal

Congratulations to the Conservative Party of Great Britain.

They manage to commit unforced errors in consecutive Junes and still maintain control of 10 Downing.

That's oddly impressive.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Now What?

The Comey testimony - what little I could glean of it from bathroom breaks - appeared to have a few rhetorical fireworks but more along the lines of firecrackers than TNT.

What stood out in the coverage was how Republicans are running cover for Trump.  Seriously, McCain?  Hillary's emails?

There is little doubt that Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.  We have yet to determine the full menu of his criminality - follow the money - but that first charge alone was enough to bring down Nixon.  Plus, how is there not a strong contingent of Republicans who would prefer boring old troglodyte Mike Pence in the White House?

Trump is a criminal.  His supporters are morons.  His enablers in Congress are something worse.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


When Saudi Arabia and several other Arab states broke diplomatic relations with Qatar, because of their support for ISIS and Iran, that never made sense.  First, ISIS gets more support from Saudi Arabia than it gets from Qatar, and Iran and ISIS hate each other.

Trump, being a fool, took credit for this development which was really all about the power play between Riyadh and Tehran and not about terrorism.  Now, ISIS has attacked Iran, killing more people than were killed in London.

A smart president would use this to leverage better relations with Iran.

We have the walking comments section from a Yahoo! article as president, so that won't happen.  Nor will he acknowledge what the Islamaphobes overlook: more Muslims die at the hands of Islamist terrorists than non-Muslims.

Monday, June 5, 2017


More people work at Arby's than in the coal industry.

But I bet they produce roughly the same amount of greenhouse gasses.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ISIS, Europe And Terrorism

I have a "friend" on Facebook who posts a lot of inflammatory stuff about Muslims and terrorism.  His position is that Islam, as a religion, is inherently violent.  Certainly, he seems to revel in every assault upon a European city as validating his thesis.

However, there are a lot of Muslims in the world.  There are a lot of Muslims in the US.  Within the US, there was really one dyed in the wool jihadist attack, and that was San Bernandino.  The Orlando shooter, and probably the Ft. Hood shooter, seemed more expressions of American mental illness, though I could be persuaded about Ft. Hood.  There are also Muslims across Africa and Asia.  I mean, there are a billion Muslims.  If the religion itself was to blame, we'd have a lot more Londons and Manchesters and Parises on our hands.

Terrorism, properly understood, if political violence.  Political violence occurs when politics doesn't function properly.  A person or group does not have access to governance and so resorts to violence.  This makes sense when we think of groups like the IRA, ETA or even the PLO.  It's no less true of Islamist terrorists in Europe.  They feel disenfranchised and they have the same sense of a gap between what they feel society should give them and what they have.  That's the anger Trump voters feel, but they have access to the ballot.

There is no doubt that liberal democracy is facing a crisis.  In some ways, it is facing a crisis as it attempts to add pluralism to a culture (Europe's) that really has no experience with it.  It is facing a crisis in places like the US, as a form of authoritarian populism has taken surprising hold in Washington.

To me, there is a huge governance problem in the Middle East.  There is also a disenfranchisement problem in Europe.  Hopefully, we can keep most of that away, because you know Trump is salivating at a chance to exploit a terrorist attack in the US.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

At the AP Reading

Great people.

Still a death slog.

The Boston Tea Party was not a REAL party, yo.

Friday, June 2, 2017


Apparently the Trump Administration is telling federal agencies not to comply with oversight information requests from Democrats.  And they are at least considering blocking Comey's testimony, though I'm not sure how that would work.

We are slipping more and more towards a half-Russian political system.  I doubt seriously that we can get all the way there, but it will rely on this actually happening.  To be fair, I think it might, especially if Trump's global warming act wears thin among suburban whites.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

In Which I Disagree With Booman

I have long been a fan of Martin Longman's political analysis.  He has devoted a lot of time since November coming up with his plan for a return to Democratic governance.  He unveiled it.

I'm skeptical, though I think he proposes a fine policy.

First, he predicates his vision on a repeat of the alliance between Populists and Progressives around the turn of the last century.  This seems historically flawed.  Populists were reactionary, hoping to turn back the clock to an imagined golden era.  Sound familiar?  Progressives were largely interested in cleansing American democracy from the corruption of machine politics and the "malefactors of great wealth."  There was overlap, but Progressives always held Populists like William Jennings Bryan at arm's length.  They never really bridged the rural-urban divide, except in certain policy areas.  Their alliance was tactical, fragile and short-lived.

Secondly, I don't think there is a policy magic bullet.

If policy mattered, Al Gore would have won.  Hillary Clinton would have won.  Generally speaking, people prefer Democratic policies.  They want family leave.  They want a fairer tax code.  They want a cleaner environment.  They want universal health insurance.  Some of the historical unpopularity of Trump and the Republicans comes from the fact that Republicans have to put forth their agenda and no one really likes it.

Trump, to a certain degree, conned them into believing he was a different type of Republican.  My worry is that motivated reasoning will come into play and many of his voters will embrace whatever he does as a way to retroactively justify putting this ignoramus in power.  Trump did not win with a policy agenda beyond "build the Wall and make Mexico pay for it."  He won, because he actively reflected back to his supporters their sense of status anxiety and proposed himself as a magic bullet to solve the problem that it's not a white man's country anymore.

Adding a policy arrow to the Democratic quiver isn't going to solve that.

Perhaps running an explicitly class warfare campaign, targeting the 1%, would make sense.  As Charlie Pierce put it about the drum circles of the Occupy movement, at least they were shouting at the right buildings.

To me, that's the critical fulcrum.  If Democrats can run against the "malefactors of great wealth" and the "economic royalists" then they can plausibly fold anti-monopoly into that emotional message.

The GOP - and Trump - are doing all they can to reinforce this message; however, we have to get past motivated reasoning.  Most Trump voters were Reagan voters.  They liked Reagan.  So, eventually, they adopted Reagan's anti-government positions as their own, no matter the fact that they liked the programs that they benefited from.  This voting pattern and this anti-government position remained mostly unchanged, and in fact, it grew to a point where I doubt Reagan would recognize it.

The trick has always been to get voters to see the GOP as the Party of Money, and then to get them to see that Money is ruining their lives.  Anti-monopoly is simply another arrow in the same quiver.

Democrats win when they nominate charismatic, compelling persons.  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are magnetic personalities, and as a redneck and a black man, no one could accuse them of being part of the "Establishment."  Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and Hillary are all very competent technocrats.  Hillary was the only one with a really compelling story, as potentially the first female president, but she was killed by the Clinton Rules that magnified poor email practices into a national scandal.  Meanwhile, Trump's connections to Russia went largely unreported outside of the Washington Post.

There is also a pendulum effect in American politics.  2008 leads to 2010, which leads to 2012.  Yes, Democrats don't vote as much in midterms, but they voted in 2006.  If Trump spends the next 18 months fighting off scandal and the congressional GOP spends the next 18 months trying to funnel money upwards, while the opiod epidemic and the hollowing out of manufacturing continues apace, then Democrats will win because of what the GOP does, rather than anything they do or say.

FDR won in 1932 because of Hoover, not because of the "New Deal" which was more rhetoric than program.  He won because the New Era of capitalism of the 1920s proved unstable.  That's true now.  And that unbridled capitalism of the 1920s came immediately after the Progressive moment.  Republicans were able to hide their unpopular policies behind Obama's veto.  They don't have that luxury anymore and it's showing.

The key for Democrats will be to attack the GOP as the Party of Plutocrats, not just the Party of Trump. If anti-monopoly helps, OK. I just don't see policy proposals, however laudable, as doing any real good.