All posts by jochanan

Prepare for more unskewing

Already yesterday we heard Senator Barrasso allege that the Obama administration was “cooking the books” on the ACA signup numbers, because it looks like the number will be very, very close to the projected 7 million, last fall’s websitepocalypse notwithstanding.

But the much bigger news to me today is that there will be a net reduction of 9.5m uninsured people, today from RAND and the LA Times. This means the ACA worked.

Sure, the GOP will continue to shout nigger Obamacare, but in fact it worked. If the Dems run away from it, they suck even more than I thought. It’s working everyone knows the Republicans have voted to repeal it a million times and it’s all they talk about.

They could have had their input on the ACA, but instead they were blinded by their ideology and racism and refused to be part of it and even went so far as to brand it Obamacare for us.

Do they even want to win in 2016?

Malthusian Mishegas

So, here’s a NASA funded studying saying we’re doomed:

The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity,” and “The economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” (forthcoming in Ecological Economics)

Here’s a key point about the study:

The model Motesharrei used, Human And Nature Dynamics (HANDY), explores the relationship between population and resources, drawing heavily on predator-prey models used by ecologists.

What’s the trouble with that? There is no empirical basis for suggesting that humans are subject to this kind of logistic function, at least not anymore. I’m not making an argument that we can destroy the environment at will, or that using up resources for profit is a great idea.

It’s possible that civilization as we know it could collapse, but it wouldn’t be a deterministic swing of a mathematical model that does it. It will be a collectively stupid series of decisions not to do something about it. Making this sound inevitable is typically backfiring science speak that will be received by many as a license to “smoke ‘em while you got ‘em.”

No.

It really all depends on smarter energy. With energy that doesn’t cause climate change, we can more efficiently use other resources and feed a starving planet. It’s not that simple, but it’s not that complicated either, at least not as complicated as denying some law of nature.

We’re all Ukrainians

My face when I read that John McCain said we are all Ukranians was a smirk reflecting my belief that this must be an Onion headline.

Newsflash: the United States has no interest—none, zero—in the tensions inside the Russosphere (what you might call the ex-USSR minus the Baltics and some of the Turkic states). In fact, if Russia conquered the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Kazakhstan, I’m not sure that we should care. These countries were created in a  sort of post-Soviet afterglow and, in fact, we were so worried about some of them having nuclear weapons that we sped to help them either go to Russia or get rid of them.

I’m not saying the people there are entitled to a different opinion, but I would say that if Russia all of a sudden came to the defense of Cuba, say, I might feel differently.

Really, this is Europe’s problem. The countries on the Ukrainian frontier are EU states. True, some of them are NATO, but it’s not as if Russia is trying to invade NATO.

This is a damn shame but it’s not America’s problem and there’s no reason we should care.

Not sure I wouldn’t increase aid to the Baltics and Turkey, though.

The Tea Party Can’t Die

Because it’s a zombie. It’s undead. It’s always been.

It started simply as a rebranding of the same 27% crazification factor that led us during the Bush years. They changed the name because Republican meant the highly unpopular Bush.

Maybe the “establishment” Republicans are winning or something now, but pretending that the “Tea Party is dead” is stupid. They’ll just change their name, change their grouping, change their grifting, but rest assured: they will still hate Obama, still hate gays, still hate liberals, and still hate immigrants, women’s rights, and so-called “entitlements” that give nice things to non-white people.

Stupid Coal Tricks

Oh, he’s a physicist. He must know everything!

From today’s NYT:

The billions of tons of coal burned in Asia every year contribute markedly to global warming. Should the United States be selling them subsidized coal and encouraging this impending disaster?

Well, if you put it like that… yes! Because the coal they are going to otherwise burn will actually contribute more to climate change because it’s of lower quality. The other arguments in this piece include typical NIMBY concerns: noisy, smelly trains!!! oh noes!!! Whining about taxpayers subsidizing the coal industry and pressing all the usual protectionist trade arguments with not a small hint of yellow peril.

Cheaper relatively cleaner coal to Asia isn’t going to hurt our trade policy or the climate. It’s not an ideal policy, but it’s actually an incremental improvement over the status quo. Maybe if this guy was using his physics training to explain that we can eliminate coal by using nuclear power along with wind, solar, hydro, and other sources instead of fossil fuels, I’d give him a break.

Riordan just doesn’t want the terminal to be built and lower his property value. Fuck off and die. This kind of pseudo-enviroism is literally killing the planet.

Shame on you, NYT.

5 Fucking Years.

You’ve had 5 fucking years, GOP, to come up with a better solution to Obamacare and you haven’t done it. What’s worse, you have turned “Obamacare” into a culture code that is almost completely detached from any of its actual policies. “Obamacare” has more to do with gay marriage than with halving the number of uninsured in the United States.

So, as I often do, I offer solutions to my mentally challenged brothers in the other party. There is a very simple way to use this situation to amplify conservative values:

• Insist that now no one has no excuse not to have health insurance. Either they are an “illegal” or they are otherwise unsuited by Darwinism to survive. You should move to raise the penalty for those who don’t get insurance. At the same time, you could probably loosen restrictions on places that can refuse people if they don’t have insurance. That’s right, embrace the mandate. It’s the most conservative part of the law.

• Increase the subsidies a lot for people to get insurance through the exchanges by calling them tax cuts. Make it work somehow to call them this (tax credits?). At the same time, lower the Medicaid threshold and raise the Medicare age. You can say you cut taxes and got “millions of government healthcare” with absolutely no net loss in the number of insured. Call them vouchers, whatever. You’ve never had any problem giving money to people to make them buy a private product before.

There, that wasn’t too hard was it? I know, this is basically admitting that you’re never going to get rid of this law, and you aren’t. And you should realize that if you somehow did dismantle this law, just about every blue state would just go single payer. You’re going to have live without your freedumb on this one.

I personally don’t support any of these policies and think that they’re insane, but they’re just free advice since you’re current strategy is to just say Obamacare!!11!!!111 Benghazi!!1!1 and bank on this year already being in your column because it’ll be just like 2010 and you’ve never lost an off-year elec—oh, wait… 2006 and 1998.

The fact is, in 2010 the shock had worn off a bit and because Obama hadn’t simultaneously enacted Sweden the left was buttsad and didn’t vote for him and conservatives had crawled back out from under their rocks and were upset because black guy healthcare. And everyone could pretend all of a sudden that Bush didn’t exist.

But that all didn’t amount to much and no one knows what you guys want other than that you’re anti-Obama. But the fact is, Obama isn’t a bad president and not everyone hates him, and most of his policies are blandly centrist.

You also have no chance of winning in 2016. Though you might get a chance to keep Obama from replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg if you temporarily gain control of the senate. I assume they would just not allow any Obama appointee to get a vote. But I kinda doubt even that’s going to happen because I’m pretty sure that you have unskewed yourselves again and think you don’t have to do anything and people being mad at Obama will win you back all the senate seats. I don’t think so.

If something goes wrong for the Ds in individual races, they could lose it, sure. But that still gets you nothing other than the aforementioned Supreme Court cockblock.

Until 2016, when Hillary will carry the Ds back to control of both chambers, have a filibuster free Senate, finally get rid of the Federalist Society clown show on the Court and continue to relegate you to being the White Nationalist party, which you are anyway.

Global Warming and Nuclear Proliferation

Are there two bigger issues facing the world this century? I can’t think of many. I’m an adherent to the theory that history judges leaders on the basis of whether or not the get the big things right. All kinds of venial sins can be forgiven and all kinds of small virtues forgotten depending on how the big things go.

Since the economy is almost never a decade-long issue (let alone a century-long one) good stewards of the economy don’t always get credit for being great presidents. Hoover and Bush II will probably be remembered for being failures in that realm, but Clinton and Eisenhower will probably be remembered for other stuff.

It turns out that the big two issues of this century are connected by a simple nexus, as a January 28th New York Times story reveals: recycling nuclear weapons into fuel for carbon-free energy not only makes a neat swords-to-plowshares story, it shows that if the world goes to nuclear power, the demand for energy uses of the fuel will make it even more expensive to use the fuel for weapons. It’s a sort of simple supply and demand thing.

Proliferation has been used by flailing anti-nuke enviros as a last-ditch argument against nuclear power. This NYT story douses that whole line of argument.

The truth is basically that environmentalists who oppose nuclear power don’t really oppose nuclear power, they oppose much of the modern liberal consumerist state. And while there is merit to a lot of what they oppose, getting people to eat only organic local tofu is just not as important as preventing gigadeaths, war, and the destruction of the only habitable planet known to man. (I haven’t heard a lot of scoffing at nuclear plants not being able to exist without government subsidy much since the ARRA subsidized renewables, but the argument is ridiculous—since when do they care about the free market? and a large part of the risk comes from trustifarians protesting and litigating it at every stage.)

Similarly, in the hearts, conservatives don’t really deny global warming exists. They simply deny that doing anything about it is worthwhile, especially if they are forced to eat organic local tofu instead of slave-produced shitburgers from McDonalds.

The anti-nuke enviros need to find another way to deal and realize that only industrialized western democracies can produce people who feel the way they do because everywhere else people are busy with back-breaking labor that can be done by machine, getting sick due to a lack of refrigeration, and so on. Social justice demands electricity for all.

Conservatives on the other hand, just need to STFU and admit global warming is a problem and that fossil fuels are its cause. You can twit enviros all you want for being against nuclear power, but the argument in favor of nuclear is not all that compelling (especially from a capital-investment point of view) if global warming isn’t real. So, unless you admit global warming is real and serious  you cannot be part of any serious discussion about energy.

The only way to thread the needle on all of this is a massive deployment of nuclear power. That’s it. Tomorrow, we need to start building hundreds of them while we wait for 4th gen tech to mature. They should be built on the site of coal plants that are being turned off.

The Snowden Alignment

It’s not guns and religion they will be clinging to, but guns and gold.

In 30 years, are the political parties going to be polarized between a younger generation full of Ayn Rand, goldbuggery, guns, conspiracy theories, isolationism, white nationalism, “Austrian economics,” and all of the other paleoconservative shit from the Internet on the one hand and the technocratic state on the other?

The far left seems increasingly drawn into this chaos. The far left is becoming increasingly anti-scientific on issues like vaccines, GMOs, and nuclear power while continuing to hold its conceit over the right on global warming.

Somewhere on the other side of this is a pragmatic pole that comprises much of what was the bipartisan consensus between World War II and Reagan. Some might think that government can’t cure everything and some spending is wasteful and lean towards being more of a Eisenhower Republican, while others might favor aggressive government attempts to remedy problems, more of a Johnson Democrat. But both of these share an ideology of good government, be it large or small depending on the needs of the time.

Obama may be the perfect instantiation of this new alignment and he should be attractive to the residuum of mainstream Republicans not swallowing the blue pill of the gold-gun-techno-libertarian post-apocalytpic utopia and liberals not going all Lady McBeth on non-existent radiation and spying.

Books I don’t want to read

I was browsing through books this morning and I noticed a few things. There are a lot of books about American power that refer to America as the “empire.” Think about the work this term does. Most of it is polemic. First, because America is not a traditional empire, the term carries a pejorative tone. Second, because of that, it implies that America participates in the negatives of empire and everyone is under its heel.

I think in some academic circles, this notion is just unquestioned and so it’s a shorthand for a certain kind of book. But it’s still intellectually lazy.

America is something like an empire, but not. America’s power in the world is of a different species than anything before it. But not acknowledging that difference is, again, intellectually lazy. It’s also not very academic.

This isn’t to defend America from all of the charges bound up in the “empire” label. A lot of them apply, but to miss out on the complexity—the subterfuge if that’s what you want to call it—involved is to basically just fail to understand. Most of American power is economic.  A lot of that economic power derives from getting the supposed subjects of this empire to desire what it’s selling instead of forcing things on them. Sure, sometimes it makes them want it through obliterating their culture and heavy marketing, but isn’t that difference worth point out?

There is no man in a room issuing decrees about who shall live and who shall die and who shall eat what food.

The military element of the American empire is overstated because this type of academic is rather unlikely to be familiar with it.

Then I see a book saying that this new empire’s power is in its drones. Not its Trident missiles. Its drones. smh.

Scandal!1!11!!!!!

I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I don’t believe in being able to stage a political Pyrrhic victory—they happen, but only in hindsight. No one intentionally brings political damage on themselves.

So I’m not saying “this is part of Christie’s plan.” That would be insane. He might get impeached (something that won’t hurt him in a run against a Clinton). But I am saying that I don’t see this bridge scandal having the impact people think it is, namely the end of Christie’s political career.

It may be the end of his credible ability to win in 2016, but this (as anyone could have predicted) has only upped his standing in the right wing with gratuitous comparisons to Benghazi and now today Brit Hume saying it’s only because America has become “feminized” that they don’t like Christie.

For Republicans, crazy is a feature not a bug. While I in no way believe this was planned, it may actually help him in the primaries because of how much it’s making liberals and the MSM talk about it as if he were doomed.

Anyone writing this man’s political obituary right now is setting themselves up for a Dewey Defeats Truman moment.

“Rights”

Another one of the very effective uses of language accomplished by the Right has been the use of the term “rights.” E.g.:

“The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats,” Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack said at the meeting.

See, if you just bring up everyone’s hurted fee fees, suddenly the whole logic or rights seems to fall apart. Or at least it has been allowed to.

The problem is, he’s wrong. The “People of Utah” don’t have any collective rights (except to bear arms, but I don’t want to get into that at the moment). For better or worse, rights are an individual thing. If two different individuals have competing rights, we have to weigh rights. But there’s no such right as “not having to live around faggots.” And “rights” mean things you specifically have. Yes, you could argue, that notion has expanded over time, but that’s not really true. You have the same rights you always had—it’s just a question of whether that same old rights are interpreted to include the thing you just made up. Again, here, I’m not sure what right “not having to live around faggots” falls under.

“Freedom of religion” has been used for this kind of nonsense, but to expand the idea that right in any way coherently as it has been would mean I should be free from seeing uncircumcised dicks in the porn I watch. It’s that absurd.

Of course because liberals are pussies, they let this go unchecked

The Great Pot Backlash of 2014

Tina Brown says it won’t help us compete with China. Joe Scar-bro’ said something, but I don’t listen to him. David Brooks says it keeps you from being all you an be.

There are plenty of criticisms of all of this out there already, so I would be just be piling on. But I can’t resist.

All of these arguments are nothing new. They are the same arguments made 100 years ago by those trying to ban alcohol. All they succeeded in doing was to criminalize a huge segment of the population, which is useful only for amplifying existing social hierarchies.

This is therefore nothing but starting a new thread to go along with all of the articles we’ll see coming from Washington and Colorado. Yes, sure. The pro-weed people have over promised. They claim it will do everything from make us live longer to curing global warming to ending racism. So when it turns out there are a few difficulties with this, people like Brown, Brooks, and Scar-bro’ can bitch about it and say “see!!!!?!?”

It’s worth pointing out that nothing is legalized. All of this still violates federal law and anytime the U.S. government feels like funding a shutdown of all of this, they very easily could. This means, to me, that there isn’t going to be the degree of honest money in the “legal pot” business that there would be if the federal government would go ahead and fully make this a state matter.

Anyway, these people are losing. No one cares anymore.

Why Reporting On Palestine is Flawed, Part MCXCCXCLVVVII

Here’s an article from The Independent, which as far as European papers go is moderate on Israel and the US. I read it every day. But I got to thinking about this particular piece for a couple of reasons. Basically, it is about why Bethlehem isn’t getting the tourism you’d think around Christmas. Here are some quotes broken up for handy reference later:

(A) “For years, Palestinian Christians have been quietly abandoning the place where Jesus is said to have been born in a manger. Middle-class residents here have packed their bags for less chaotic lives in Latin America, Europe and the US.

(B) Tourism ground to a halt more than a decade ago, during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, and is now experiencing a comeback.”

Then the article claims:

(C) But Palestinians say major challenges remain: the Israeli military checkpoints and security barrier that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, a 10-minute drive away; the shuttered homes and shops that are symbols of a stagnant economy; and the Israeli settlements that are growing around Bethlehem on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.

but

(D) Tourist visits are up this year, to about 1.6 million, Palestinians officials say.

(E) Most visitors come by charter bus, however, and linger just long enough to peer into the grotto at the Church of the Nativity where Jesus is said to have been born. Few stop to buy a string of rosary beads, or enjoy a plate of hummus.

(F) Almost all spend the night at hotels inside Israel, which competes with Bethlehem for tourism dollars.

And this mayor claims the problem is the occupation:

(G) We cannot improve the tourism sector under occupation,” said the Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Ma’aya.

What’s the problem here?  (A), (B) People left because of the terrorism during the Intifadas, not because of occupation. (F) And the tourists that do come seemingly all want to stay in Israel proper. Apparently, it’s easy enough to think whatever you think about the situation there, but when you are choosing a place to rest your head, you choose Israel.

Now, I disagree with that. If I was going to Bethlehem, I would go to Bethlehem. The dangers are vastly overblown. I’ve been to Hebron, probably the most volatile place outside of Gaza in Palestine and while it was tense, it was by no means unsafe. Tense? Yes. It doesn’t feel fun so there’s no reason to be there unless you really want to see it, but that’s true for a lot of tourist destinations.

But the fact that so many people disagree isn’t because of Israeli propaganda and the fact that so many people left Bethlehem isn’t because of the occupation as claimed in (G). As the article notes, the mayor is Christian and Palestinian. It’s not an Israeli army commissar. Furthermore, the end of the occupation isn’t going to make the checkpoints between Bethlehem and Jerusalem disappear. On the contrary, it will make them even more lengthy and you’ll have a passport control as well. The encroachment of the settlements has nothing to do with this at all.

Occupation actually makes tourism viable there, even if it is not something we want to continue. There is no occupation of Gaza. But, really, Bethlehem is one of the areas where, in most of it, the PA is in control. The only impact of the occupation is the checkpoints, which, again won’t get easier under independence.*

This article has it all wrong. That there is any tourism at all is because tourists can feel safe staying in Israel and the occupation is successful enough at securing that part of the West Bank to make people feel safe enough taking a jaunt there.

The article is trying to paint a picture of an obvious tourist area that should be generating a good economy failing because of occupation, of occupation keeping the Palestinians down. The opposite is true and their own neighbors who left agree.

My 2014 Predictions:

  • Dems hold the senate, don’t make much progress in the house
  • Some kind of interim agreement in Israel/Palestine
  • A Supreme Court vacancy
  • The best economic growth in a long time, but it doesn’t help the bottom 4 quintiles
  • Argentina wins the World Cup
  • Queen Elizabeth passes, Charles abdicates
  • Scotland referendum barely passes
  • Iran nuclear agreement fails

Everyone knows wealth inequality is the problem, yet liberals are in a fracture about other issues

In the darkest days of the Bush administration, the diagnosis made in these pages and elsewhere was that the Democratic leadership was spineless and liberals were divided by their pet causes, be they race issues, women’s issues, the environment, etc. This made it hard to get good candidates in blue states let alone consider recapturing the national government.

Both times the left fell in love—first with Howard Dean in 2004 and then with Barack Obama in 2008—they fell in love with centrists. And once Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid became the Congressional leaders, replacing Gephardt and Daschle, the Congressional party got its spine back.

The election of Obama did not unite all of these groups into an enduring alliance, such as the New Deal. On the contrary, it started to break apart right away. For the radical left, the story of the ACA isn’t that it was a century’s accomplishment, but, rather that it didn’t even include the public option or that it wasn’t single payer. For the right, it’s the crime of the century, of course.

But the increasing insanity of the right hasn’t made the left circle the wagons and say “we must do everything to keep these maniacs out of power” the way it did a decade ago. Right now, we have the radical left attempting to draft Elizabeth Warren into a kamikaze-Nader run on Hillary Clinton. Many of these same people allege that Obama is just like Bush. Never mind wrapping up wars instead of concocting them, admitting mistakes when they occur instead of doubling down, or saving millions of jobs instead of destroying them. And then there’s the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile all of these same folks lambast the Tea Party for their purity trolling. If the Tea Party doesn’t teach us the need for not veering too far from the middle of the road in a Sisyphean task of ideological purity, nothing will.

The lessons of the Clinton-Bush-Obama years are:

• People want pragmatic, smart government, but compromise has to come from a position of ideology, not just the quest for the deal

• You get one or two major ideological agenda items per presidency. If you fuck them up, you will be punished. You will probably be punished even if they succeed.

• People aren’t afraid to shake things up in off year elections (98, 02, 06, 10)

• Social issues continue their leftward drift, but not fast enough for some on the left

• Money rules

Now, putting all of that together, I think you have a very strong mission and rationale for the left to stay together and push for some kind of smart workplace reforms that push towards more equality. Paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, some kind of pension security or other union-like benefits for the non-union workforce which is almost everybody. A push for basic income.

Any and all of these things will make people more tolerant, not less, on social issues, more willing and able to make changes for environmental reasons, and so on. Prove me wrong on that, but I don’t see much possibility of a case being made that the environmental movement taking the lead will bring about wealth equality, but I might be wrong. Honestly, is feminism identified that as a top goal, it might actually do the trick too, but I don’t see why we need the indirection.

It’s the economy, stupid.

 

 

Moar Snowden

The judge that ruled the NSA program likely unconstitutional isn’t going to have the last word on that matter. At the end of the day, the Supreme Court will likely uphold the program with a few notes.

The reason a lot of progressives are cheering this ruling, aside from the fact that they agree with it, is that they are saying “even a Bush appointee.” Yes, even a Bush appointee — what? Is finding this violates the Constitution or that so holding is a cost-free way (since there are two levels of appeal yet to be had) to embarrass Obama?

Senator Feinstein is correct to point out that this isn’t the last word.

Orwell and dystopian futures have started looming large in the right-wing conscience ever since we got this black president. Suddenly they are trendy among the youth with their “libertarian” message. But that’s our system. And so it’s not just that people on the right are suddenly waking up to the notion that they made mistakes with Bush. This is all about Obama and as soon as their someone with an (R) next to their name in the White House, they’ll suddenly believe in broad executive powers again.

Personally, I wouldn’t bet on the Supreme Court striking this down, though on issues like this we sometimes find a combination of people sticking to their guns and hacks making 5. If the Supreme Court gets the case in 2015-16, it’ll be interesting to see who is in the lead in the elections when they decide it or whether the composition of the court has changed in between now and then.

The problem with Snowden is that we cannot have individuals going around deciding what laws are what and what is unconstitutional and what is not without the system being destroyed. If that is your intention, to completely revolutionize things, then don’t sellout on that. Don’t take amnesty if it’s offered from the system you sought to break down. That only gives it legitimacy in the end and shows that it can work—which if true means you shouldn’t work to destroy it in the first place.

I’m agnostic on whether it should be offered, but if he takes it, he’s a hypocrite on the magnitude of his life.

 

Boycott American Studies

I’d love to read a book about Sociologist Studies. There is just something about people in that discipline. On the one hand, they break down cultures to understand the often hidden and taboo impulses that we are often blind to. On the other, they seem to think this is some sort of key to fixing things and are often willing to embrace extremely radical solutions along the lines of these deconstructed parts.

So, an American Studies Association wants to boycott Israeli academic institutions. This is one of the weirdest things you can do. Does the ASA do a lot of business with Israeli academic institutions? What about ones that have Palestinian students? Palestinian faculty? Also, of all of the “BDS” stuff, I don’t get this one. If you don’t support the occupation, I suppose you could divest from companies that work there or products made there by Israeli-owned (i.e. Jewish-Israeli-owned, right?) firms—but why would you want to cut out the academics?

This would be like the Soviets boycotting American universities in the early 70s. It’s the place where they’re most likely to find a sympathetic hearing in the whole place and they’re shutting it out.

It’s also not going to have the slightest effect on Israeli policy in the West Bank. It’s basically just a giant “fuck you” to all of their Jewish colleagues and students (except for those few that have been so beaten down by peer pressure as to go along with this).

Because has the ASA boycotted any other country’s academics? Who’s on the list? North Korea? Sudan? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Syria? Serbia? Russia? China? Nope.

Detroit Bankruptcy

I like Chris Hayes and I think he has written one of most important books on politics so far this decade, but I’m not sure why a discussion of whether Detroit’s bankruptcy is “constitutional” is even a discussion. We need to both stop using “unconstitutional” when we mean “odious” and stop expecting the courts, an unelected body, to bail us out from all of the “odious” laws.

  • Detroit is not a state. To the extent there is such a thing as “Detroit” it is because it is created under the laws of the state of Michigan. Michigan is the sovereign entity there. So, the “emergency manager” law is perfectly constitutional. It’s just odious. States are only required to provide a “republican” form of government by the US Constitution. This clause has never been widely interpreted largely because at the time of the drafting of the Constitution this simply meant “without a monarch.” Even if we expand it to mean some kind of representative democracy, Michigan still has that. It has a governor and a legislature. That’s all that’s required. If D.C. becomes a state, does the Constitution require that it also have a mayor? Is San Francisco unconstitutional because it is both a city and county? Is New York because it’s a 5 county city? All of these arrangements are outside—far outside—the zone of what is or is not constitutional.
  • Even if that weren’t the case, the Constitution gives explicit power to Congress to create bankruptcy laws and all of its necessary and proper features. Congress created chapter 9 for municipal bankruptcies exactly because these entities aren’t states. States can’t go bankrupt because they can’t be compelled to pay and are sovereign. (They can default and get shitty credit, but you can’t force their treasury to pay.) Cities, on the other hand, can. Therefore it makes no sense that the emergency manager can’t take it into bankruptcy if he is the authority according to state law in charge of the entity that is Detroit.
  • Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean all that much. You can file for bankruptcy and have the case dismissed. You can even file bankruptcy on someone else (i.e. “involuntary bankruptcy”). What makes the bankruptcy “bankruptcy” is either the total discharge of debts and the liquidation of the entity or the reorganization of the debt.
  • Of course the pension funds are going to take a haircut. This is a feature of the bankruptcy laws and a bug of the pension laws. It’s also a good reason (if an indirect one) to expand Social Security. The only conceivable good reason to cut Social Security (other than fictional scenarios from the year 2100) would be if most people had a guaranteed pension. Almost no one does, except perhaps federal employees.
  • All of these problems would be fixed if we elected more and better Democrats. Throwing the bums out will not do it.
  • The Supreme Court/federal courts shouldn’t even really save Detroit here even if they were inclined to do so because there is no legitimate reason. The Chapter 9 reorganization will probably just be a scaled up version of similar bankruptcies elsewhere.
  • Is it undemocratic? That depends. It’s not “democratic” for a city to be taken into bankruptcy by someone not elected to lead it, I guess. But the person who was appointed was appointed under a law passed by elected leaders by an elected governor. Elections have consequences. This is the usual problem with The Nation—they seem to think that if everyone just had their say, their magazine’s campus liberal policies would take over the world. Sadly, no. Sometimes, both “democracy” and “constitutional” are odious.

Amazon dr0nz

Shorter Salon #slatepitch: Delivery drones aren’t bad because DR0NZ but bad because J0BZ!

Personally, I think this is something that sounds good in theory and can be demonstrated in concept using relatively cheap technology right now, but the implementation details are just so ridiculous at this point that it will almost certainly be cheaper for a long time to save the jobs Salon is shrieking about.[1]

But this is all just so much left-wing good old dayism. Keeping technologically obsolete jobs won’t fix the problem, which is really that the wages are too damn low.

No one would be talking about “service jobs” as some kind of disease with spots and “manufacturing jobs” as some sort of masculine fulfillment if the former paid $20/hr with benefits and the latter was minimum wage. How manufacturing got from slave wages paid in scrip to be living wage jobs with health benefits and pensions was unions not the value of the skill inherent in the work or the inherent value of the production. (Which in laissez-faire capitalism will always approach 0.)

We’ve made it so that health care can be affordable, pretty much. But people are doing everything they can to fuck up Social Security so as to take away the minimal pension and put it into 401ks which are a casino where even those that win still end up cutting in the house (i.e. Wall Street) big time. And most people don’t win.

Now we just need to get the minimum wage up to a livable level. Then it wouldn’t matter if someone was packing boxes for DR000000NZ or bolting engines into Chevys.

 

[1] Are they going to fly low enough to bonk into things or high enough that if they stall gravity makes them into missiles? Along streets?  Will they be adaptable to weather? How will they know where to put packages? I applaud pushing technology forward, but technology is only a thing if it makes things simpler, more efficient, and better. Just to have flying cars because we were promised flying cars isn’t technology, it’s just toying. I can’t imagine there is any way in which this is better than a regular old brown UPS truck with a cellular connection and GPS and a human driver.

 

Midnight Green

The failed climate talks in Europe represent the darkest hour of the environmental movement since it began in the late 60s. After a series of tremendous victories including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the creation of the EPA, and other laws, regulatory and administrative pushback halted progress on most fronts. With the increasing awareness of global warming as an issue in the late 80s and early 90s, there was hope that the international community would be able to build on a successful effort to combat the ozone hole. For a while, it looked like developed nations might have had a chance, but what chance there was died when Bush became president and we haven’t had much good news since then.

While global warming reached an important awareness level in the mid 2000s with An Inconvenient Truth, it has faded. Other countries committed to Kyoto are either failing or refusing to meet its goals, including Japan and Canada, and others are reaching the political limits of the green movement, like Germany.

Part of the problem is the chasmic disconnect between the idealism of the green movement and implementation. Many of their policy proposals literally cannot be implemented and some are simply impracticable.

The Obama administration deserves more credit than it gets in advancing “green energy,” but we really haven’t done anything to move towards a positive outcome. We can’t just turn off the power or raise the price too high. That would cause a serious political backlash.  I’m personally in favor of building out an awful lot of nuclear. Of course, there are places where that is politically not possible at the moment.

But to get out of this particular rut, the green movement not only needs detailed punch lists of implementation details, they need a whole new strategy.

I think it has to start with a non-luddite, non-malthusian vision of the future. People might ultimately need to make sacrifices, but we should try to use this as an opportunity to improve people’s lives as well.

Sometimes I’m Smart

Reposted from February 15, 2008. Everyone else was so busy arguing over bullshit. Ironically, I’ve always been a much stronger defender of Obama than most of his loudest primary supporters—a disappointment I worried about that was well in effect by 2012. I pretty much only complained about Obama’s healthcare plan because it wasn’t universal. I even said he needs to make everyone buy it and subsidize it (in another post).

But this one, I think I nailed this:

Now that I’m completing the phases of grief over Hillary’s inevitable loss, I’ve been able to view Barack Obama much the way I did back in October, when I was still crossing my fingers for an Al Gore run.  That is, in a mostly positive light.

I still reject the contention that Obama is going to bring about a progressive revolution and I am scared to death of his conciliatory rhetoric.  I can’t think of analogy that won’t sound hyperbolic–but it’s almost as if, after getting battered by her husband for years, the wife says, look, just put me in charge and we can be a team, as if the husband will stop beating her.  (That reptilian brain impulse, in fact, reacts even more violently when put in the inferior position.)
Perhaps it’s a brilliant strategy by Obama—make it sound like he’s reaching out, and then getting the public to blame the Republicans after their inevitable refusal  to do so. . . assuming that works.
But I’ve been walking around my precinct this month talking to Democrats, and almost without exception, while they support and are energized by Obama, they are, on the other hand,  literally spoiling for a fight.
So, I will just hope that this energy gets channeled into a useful destination.
Now, why did Hillary lose? You won’t hear it on TV, but she lost quite simply because of herIraq war vote.  If she had maintained herself as the Clinton-in-exile defender of liberalism that we thought she was in the early years of her husband’s administration, with her safe seat in New York, I think she would have been coronated.
But between that vote in 2002 and the present, many Democrats with money and activist impulses simply ruled her out before the fact because of her vote.  I think that’s why support for Edwards came late–he admitted the mistake, but he still made it.
We were looking for a heavy-weight that was against the war.  That could have been Al Gore–and when we didn’t get him, people started shopping, and, I think, in the end, gravitated toward Obama, despite his often-times Republican sounding rhetoric.
Hilary just never made the short list for many people because of her Iraq vote.  If she had said it was a mistake and not exacerbated the problem by voting for the Kyl-Liebermann amendment, I think she would have helped herself.  On the kitchen table issues, she is far and away the better candidate.  You can pretend she was “just First Lady” in the Clinton administration–that’s a lie;  you can pretend that Obama’s years as a state senator–the oft-repeated line that he has “more legislative experience” than she does–somehow makes up for the fact that she has been in the senate for 7 years and he for 3–it doesn’t; you can pretend that she’s unelectable–she is; you can pretend anything you want–Hillary was a great candidate, but she was wrong on one of the two big issues of the day and was unrepentant: Iraq.
 (See my post on being right on the big issues as a prerequisite for meaningful victory, here.)
Now what has happened to her is disgusting.  She has been demonized and Obama has been sanctified.  Forget remembering anything as distant as the 90s — does anyone even remember 2004?  We all talked ourselves into John Kerry, even though we knew he was a total douchebag.
Obama’s high expectations are probably his Achilles heel.  I don’t think it will bite him in 2008, but I worry a lot about 2012.
Anyway, Hillary! It’s the war, stupid!

What ifs: nukes and JFK

Since I need to download and transfer my WordPress database in order to get the site that I’ve spent 10+ years writing up again, I can’t post this directly. I’m hoping against hope that this entry nevertheless gets spidered by Google so that the datestamp is subject to later proof. I was going to write just a blog entry about JFK & The Boomer Mythos, but Harry Reid went and nuked the filibuster!

Make no mistake. The filibuster is dead. Some of its vital organs may still be drawing blood, but they will fail soon. The Senate has two modes: (1) executive and (2) legislative. When it’s in mode 1, it considers presidential appointments and treaties. In the latter case, the Constitution sets the vote threshold. In the former it does not. With the exception of Supreme Court nominations, ostensibly, the rest of the Senate’s executive business is now subject to a majority vote. Mode 2 is a different question, though I hardly see much possibility in upholding this distinction for long once the House, Senate, and White House are in single-party control again. There’s a chance, of course, that could happen again on January 3, 2015. For that to happen, Obama will probably have to solve the nuke situation with Iran and Obamacare will have to be going swimmingly and we’ll probably need a Republican scandal, but it’s not impossible.

Obama could have a very productive second term if that happens. We might see some form of the takling filibuster put back in place, but why? Maybe legislation will be more robust, but I doubt it. The only thing I can think of is if the Democrats had 60 senators in 2009 and Frist had pulled the trigger in 2005. Instead of negotiating with President Snowe over a too-small stimulus and with Joe Lieberman over the public option, there might have been some amazing things done in the first session, including a cap-and-trade bill.

What ifs make a good segue into the other topic. While Oliver Stone maybe didn’t capture a lot of historical accuracy in his potrayal of Jim Garrison’s quixotic mission, he certainly captured the Boomer mythos well, I think. Other than the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy had a pretty hollow presidency. He blundered on the Bay of Pigs. He dithered on civil rights. He got pwned by Krushchev at Vienna and on space. He made a trade most people didn’t know about at the time , in fact, in the Cuban missile crisis.

And then there’s Vietnam. Now let’s be clear. Kennedy did pretty much start it. But he didn’t pull a Maine with the Tonkin incident and he didn’t escalate to hundreds of thousands of troops like LBJ, or lie about what was going on there, or continue to fight and bomb after it was a lost cause.

That was Johnson.

But so was Medicare. So was the Civil Rights Act. So was the Voting Rights Act. And most of that might not have occurred (let’s face it) if not for the assassination. In that sense, Kennedy is a worthy martyr for those causes, but he almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve that on his own. He showed nothing to suggest he would. It was ol’ cornpone Lyndon that did all of that.

All of these people who believed that somehow it was Nixon’s election that stopped the revolutionary wave of the 60s or that it wouldn’t have gone that way if JFK had lived or if RFK had been elected are engaging in wishful thinking. RFK only came to be anti-Vietnam to stick it to Lyndon, really. He was for it at first. The man was a Tailgunner Joe aid for christ’s sake.

Maybe they should have considered the plan of electing Humphrey instead of freaking out over Vietnam and making it worse, something the toddler left is about to do again in 2014 because dr0nnnnnz.

So instead, they all turned around and voted for Reagan later. Right.

In reality, it was probably the strange brew of the near miss at the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of Kennedy that caused the stalemate on civil rights to be ended, which caused a social earthquake that just had to have a backlash. Then you throw Vietnam into the mix and the lines are drawn.

The Boomers are the biggest “fuck you, I’ve got mine” generation in history and they deserve no credit for the 60s, which was a social advance that occurred because of hard work done by people older than 14 in 1960. When these clowns got the vote, they contributed to the most reactionary phase of the 20th century.

Most of the conspiracy theories hold no water. The audio of a 4th shot turned out not to show it. Ballistics work done recently shows that the magic bullet wasn’t so magic; it was just the behavior of that particular gun’s kind of bullet. And people could fire that rifle that fast. Oswald shot alone. What’s not 100% clear (though is probably 95% clear) is that he was nuts enough to do it without being involved in a formal “conspiracy” or acting as an agent of Cuba, the exile Cubans, or the Russians. But just because he was the only shooter doesn’t mean that he didn’t have material support (why he would have such a cheap shitty gun, I don’t know) or other kinds of encouragement. He got the job at the depository long before anyone had any idea that’s where the President would be. For all we know, there were a dozen nuts like him all over Dallas, but there’s never been any evidence of any such thing.

So, in the end, what I like more than the Oliver Stone explanation of a bunch of old establishment oil and military dudes in a smoke-filled room is what I’ll call the Michael Moore version. Not after any explanation he’s given (I know of none), but of his theory of gun violence in Bowling For Columbine. The easy availability of guns, the violent yet still sort of naive culture, and the times were the co-conspirators if nothing else. In the end, it doesn’t matter that much anymore. If the Russians did do it, those Russians are gone. If it was Castro, oh well. It wouldn’t matter all that much. But Oswald had already tried to kill someone a few months before, a general who had been involved in promoting segregation. It’s not impossible that he could have been egged on even if no one explicitly got involved in planning or anything like that. Just think of the kind of violent hyperbole that the Tea Party uses against elected officials, like Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle suggesting “2nd amendment remedies” against liberals, something that in fact came to pass in numerous incidents since 2008, when the rhetoric got dialed up. 1963 was the year that Kennedy finally put a civil right bill before Congress. It’s not impossible that people were creating this same ambience of murder and political assassination and it shook a nut loose, the way it has done to guys like Gabby Giffords’s shooter.

Ultimately, I’m using this theory to make the same kind of polemical point that Stone and other babyboomers would about Vietnam and to say more about 2013 than 1963. The difference is that I’m not making shit up. The other difference is that my explanation makes the world more chaotic, even more scary really. You can’t kill the bad guy and restore justice because chaos always comes back.

Why you can't fix education

Not everyone can be (or should be!) an astronaut. Society actually needs janitors, plumbers, construction workers, farmers–apparently more than some of the more prestigious jobs that have been offshored.

Sure, in a democracy, we need basic prerequisites for citizenship. But one oft hose might be, I dont know, making hard work pay enough to live above poverty on.

This is different than the whole “fix poverty and then everyone can go to college” sop. This is simply the recognition that we don’t need everyone to go to college and that’s ok.

I don't think Rob Ford will resign

I think the political conventional wisdom is that resigning closes the book on you and if you hold on, you have a chance however small it is. But I don’t think all scandals are created equal. Richard Nixon resigned. Bill Clinton didn’t.

Nixon’s malfeasance was directed at the state itself. He was trying to rig elections and attack political opponents and then blockading the state’s other agencies from investigating these things. You have to stretch further to get Clinton. He didn’t fuck Monica and never said he did, but everyone thought that the fact that he diddled her and she blew him meant he fucked her, so he must have been lying about saying he didn’t fuck her. But the cheating, such as it was, wasn’t directed at the government and there really wasn’t any lying. Clinton was impeached for diddling a fat chick.

Contrast Clinton with Mayor Filner in San Diego, who was a serial harasser of women. When we’re honest, we know that nothing Clinton did impacted his ability to do his job—in fact, he did a damn good job according to most people. But Filner bordered on the sociopathic with his harassing. Or Anthony Weiner, whose actual mental acuity seemed to be called into question by what he did. No one ever really though Clinton was stupid. That’s an important difference.

As they say, “it’s the lie that gets you.” But it depends on the lie. Many members of the Bush administration got away with grave lies and none were impeached. As Hitler knew and Clinton and Nixon can tell you, smaller lies, ones that are almost “white” in the minor scale of what they coverup seem to be reacted to the worst. You notice the glitches in the matrix, not the matrix itself, to use the standard Gen-X cliche.

In Rob Ford’s case, he seemed to have proved the CW by not resigning even after witnesses reported seeing his crack smoking video. He got away with it for the better part of a year. But when the other shoe dropped, it not only proved that he smoked crack (during a drinking binge no less) but that he lied about the whole thing. Everything else that has come to light has only made it worse.

So, as we speak, the mayor of Canada’s largest city cannot be removed from office unless convicted of a crime and the provincial government seems only to make veiled threats of doing anything (probably on the weak ass assumption that they should let their political enemy stew instead of immediately staunching the irredeemable damage this is doing to the city, province, and nation) the council is taking apparently illegal steps to curtail his power but it’s not clear they really can.

Ford’s crimes aren’t Nixonian (that we know of) but they are more than Clintonian. They show a marked lack of mental health and a literal inability to think clearly too often. They aren’t of the Bush character in that there is no massive edifice of bullshit for others that has come crashing down. Ford thinks he can weather this. He might be right.

I don’t think he’ll resign. I don’t think the province will boot him from office. I think his time will just run out. And instead of a more nuanced views, the next idiot to have a scandal in our country will just hang on further.

 

The 28th Amendment

The rights and liberties enumerated in this Constitution are the rights of human beings and are only guaranteed by this Constitution to human beings. Nothing in this Amendment shall be interpreted to deny Congress or the States to grant rights and responsibilities to legal entities, but such rights and responsibilities shall be statutory and not Constitutional.

Comment:

This would have the effect of repealing decisions going back about 150 years giving Constitutional rights to corporations. If Congress wants to give corporations the right to free speech, it can, but it can also take it away. This would take away from the Courts the power to find regulations on corporations unconstitutional except to the extent they interfere with some other Constitutional right enjoyed by a human being.

Callin' for scalps

I think Lara Logan should be fired if Dan Rather was fired and I think Richard Cohen should be fired because he seems like a horrible person and deserves it, but I’m not sure this really is all important.

What will happen to Lara Logan? She’ll end up on Fox News in no time. Cohen will either end up with Fox or some print equivalent in no time. Both will be received as martyrs of the war against the liberal media.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to criticize them or their publication, but firing Cohen and Logan won’t make the media liberal again.

Nemesis

A former U.S. President speaks to a group whose mission is to destroy Judaism.

Is it President Carter speaking to Hamas in Gaza? If so, can you imagine the reaction from Commentary and “The Emergency Committee for Israel.” They thunder how giving legitimacy to this organization is highly dangerous. They skewer liberal groups that suggest that dialog is a good thing and demonstrate how this proves that liberals don’t take Israel seriously and are really just a bunch of self-hating Jews. The Nation issues a statement calling for Carter to not speak with terrorists but for concern with “those on the right not to use this incident as a weapon to delegitimize those Palenstinians who seek peace.”

Well, I’m not talking about Carter or Hamas, of course. I’m talking  about Bush II* and Jews for Jesus. And the fact that Ari Fleishcer and Bill Kristol haven’t been all over the Sunday shows pissing all over him shows just how full of shit they are.

The Reductio ad absurdum of the Jewish right in America:

At CommentaryHere’s their thundering condemnation:

But while I condemn Bush’s involvement with a group that seeks to target Jews for conversion, I am just as troubled by those on the left who would seek to use this unfortunate incident as a weapon to delegitimize all evangelical supporters of Israel and to disrupt the growing ties between Jews and their friends among the Christian right.

The fucking title of the post is “George W. Bush, Messianics, and the Left.” So, the most important thing is to shit on the left in the process. Can’t let that one pass. As for these “friends” on the Christian right—Bush was supposed to be one of them. The Times of Israel had only a wire story from JTA and the Neocon Jerusalem Post had nothing. These are both papers that report headlines on whether John Kerry’s tie had a dimple in it whenever he talks about Israel.

Well, you say, this group doesn’t shoot missiles, and they can say whatever hocus-pocus they want, they won’t convert me. To that I reply: if Israel is the Jewish homeland, should it be filled with Christians? Is that OK? There is more than one way to destroy the Jewish homeland and the Zionist project.  Just as a single qassam rocket is no existential threat, but is still to be taken seriously, the increase of one or two shades of grey of assimilation pressure by itself won’t hurt anyone. But we seem to know that often times there is smoke when there’s fire with the rockets.

The fact that Bush is doing this overtly and isn’t receiving strong condemnation from his former allies is, in diplomatic and security terms, actually much more dangerous than a single rocket. This means that a significant faction within one of the two major U.S. parties sees no problem with this and won’t act to defend the spiritual integrity of the Jewish people unless it fits with their messianic plans.

Obviously, this just proves that these largely secular Jews don’t care about their own religion. They must be self-hating. Shoe. Other foot. A bitch—ain’t it?

Not even this is going to stop us from another round of articles telling us that the Jews will vote Republican next time!

* He is Bush II. I don’t care that he doesn’t have the same exact name as his father (that would be “junior”.) Enough with this W. and H.W. nonsense. Many of the Popes whose name sequence continues the regnal numbering only have that one name. Many of the Kings who do were from different entire dynasties. He is Bush-fucking-II.

Make Bibi Pick

Netanyahu doesn’t want a sanctions-easing deal with the Iranians, which he sees as a Munich-like pact that will simply result in an uncontainable Iran later. But he also isn’t making a deal with the Palestinians happen, either.

Now, how do these seemingly separate issues fit together? Because Israel’s natural allies in the containment of Iran are the Sunni Gulf states that cannot make any overt alliance with Israel at the very least while it occupies the West Bank.

I am not one who thinks that concessions to create a Palestinian state will cure the ill will coming from the Islamic world, nor do I think it will reverse the purportedly “anti-Israel but not antisemitic” bent of so much of Europe. But I do think that compared with a nuclear Iran, a demilitarized Palestinian state is much less of a threat. I am also skeptical of whether Iran is truly trying to come back into the fold, or if this is just a deception.

But the United States can’t have it its own way on everything forever. If the other world powers want to deal with Iran, our filibustering might even be counterproductive. If we had a Palestinian deal in our pockets, we could all afford to take a much harder line on Iran.

Of course, there’s also the probability that the connection here from Netanyahu’s end is that he is trying to sabotage both the Palestinian deal and the Iranian deal and the Obama presidency. Time will tell.

If I was Obama, I might be willing to trade a lot for the elusive Palestine peace.

Right by accident

Former Vice President Al Gore stressed the significance of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks in remarks Tuesday at McGill university. Gore… went as far as to suggest that Snowden “has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States.”

The only crime that appears in the Constitution is treason. I agree Snowden did that. In life as in hockey, it’s possible for a penalty to be committed and for the person who got hit to be diving. What Snowden did was a crime, and what he exposed wasn’t illegal. If you don’t like it, then you need to vote for different people who make different laws, not try and pretend the current laws are different than they are.

Most of us agree that marijuana shouldn’t be illegal, but tell that to the people sitting in prison for selling it. They’re there because breaking laws in a democracy can’t be an individual’s decision, no matter how Galtian of a superhero you are. We are then all at the mercy of a person who wants to break the law. If everyone feels they can violate laws they don’t like—and this is certainly part of the current right-wing zeitgeist: right-wing employers who hate Obama want to not have to provide insurance that provides birth control because it’s against their religious views (as of when Obama became president). There’s a term for this: nullification. At least the old nullification was a state doing it. Now we are starting to think that individuals can and should nullify.

Make no mistake: this is an attack on the direct foundations of our state, ones even more fundamental than the Constitution. And Snowden’s acts are largely defended on these nihilistic grounds.

None of that whitewashes what he revealed. The fact that someone like him even had access to that kind of information is deeply troubling. I don’t think spying on US citizens in America is good policy even if legal. But my imagination of whether it’s legal or not doesn’t make it so.

The NSA might be weakening our Constitution, but Snowden is weakening the very basis of our state.

A #slatepitch about #slatepitches

Almost anyone will tell you, it’s important to have “an open mind.” We all know the feeling of shame when something we thought was right wasn’t. At an early age, we learn the importance of care with things we think to be certain. At that same early age, in a related way, we learn about the importance of public discourse being open and honest.

The very people who tend to value this openness the most tend towards liberalism as a political philosophy for the very reason that liberalism, most of the time, is willing to go the extra mile for comity, doubt, and toleration. Combine that with the circumstances of the late 80s and early 90s where liberalism was dominated by an intellectual elite but at the same time had lost three presidential elections, including one involving a sitting president and one involving the loss of a 20 point late summer lead.

So, it’s not a shock that a guy like Michael Kinsley got famous by being contrarian. Obviously, at the time he got famous, someone needed to be a bit contrarian for liberalism. And combined with the likes of Bill Gates and the cult of elitism that grew up around him, it’s no surprise that the online site they founded, Slate, would be like this.

But this isn’t 1990. In fact, since then, Democrats have won the popular vote in every presidential election except one, 2004, which was one of the closest run elections that a sitting president has survived. Democrats even won off-year elections in 1998 and 2006. It’s fair to say that much of what was wrong with liberals in the Reagan-Bush era has passed and, except for a stolen election and then 9/11 and its effects, the party has been ascendant since then.

But there’s no doubt that polarization has increased since then. And this is the other side of the coin, here. Not only do liberals need less second guessing, it’s increasingly difficult to take any second guessing as coming in good faith.

Take for example, Social Security doomsaying. It can sound pretty bad and then you realize the people saying it’s bad don’t want it anyway. How can less workers support so many more retired people, they ask? The answer simply depends on our values. But reducing benefits might actually turn out to hurt the economy and thereby hurt the ability to fund the program. It’s not an easy answer.

It’s to the point that whenever I read a non-fiction book, I try to find out about the author. Is this ad hominem and fallacious reasoning? I’m afraid it isn’t. Arguments are only as good as the truth of their premises, no matter how logically valid they may be. I cannot know everything; I must rely on reliable sources.

This isn’t to say that I could never believe someone because they are politically right-wing, but if the book they write magically comes to the conclusion that global warming is a hoax, you can believe I won’t buy it hook line and sinker..

And so I think this is the other side of the coin. That there has to be an awful lot of skepticism associated with the second-guess agenda for the most part. Is it coming from someone trying to hurt the agenda that furthers our values, or from one who is willing to go to counter-productively radical ends to do so?

Then there’s the overall fact that Slate really isn’t a hotbed of actual expertise. We don’t get a transit administrator writing about the transit strike, we get a pinhead who has never worked in anything other than the media. He’s trying to arrogate to himself a polymath authority of everything, along with most others.

The trouble with such folks is that they really don’t understand the difficulties of implementation in a complex world, or, complexity at all for that matter. They think that people saying something is complex is really lazy or missing the broader point.

So, I’m trying to have an open mind about keeping an open mind, but between dilettantes and those with political agendas, it’s hard to see the need for this kind of thing at all.

BARTFFF

This is all well and good, but BART doesn’t serve Silicon Valley, so I’m not sure this person knows what they’re talking about. This is annoying as shit. Matthew Yglesias is the liberal Ross Douthat. He’s never done shit, he thinks he knows everything and even when he admits he doesn’t he’ll still tell you “how to think.”

Fuck you, Matt.

Unlike Matt, I have: lived in a small apartment (not in Manhattan like Girls, but in a medium-sized city); lived and gone to school in a gang-controlled neighborhood; had a family almost bankrupted by job loss and then medical expenses; had to move 100 miles away to an entirely different culture and town with no friends so one parent could work at a low-paying job at all; worked for 10 years at a profession that involves actually doing shit and being held accountable; raising 2 kids; and, not being a boiling pool of menses, AIDS cum, shit, and piss stirred by satan.

Obviously, it’s not easy to choose between adding more staff, cutting rates, and paying more money. That’s why they (ha ha) pay the managers the big bucks and they never seem to have to personally worry about those things.

But this isn’t a thought experiment at Harvard, Matt. It’s people’s lives. More lower paying jobs is not what’s indicated in this economy. The disgusting attempt (very Slate-like of course) to pit those poor transit users against the workers also fails. This is BART; it’s not the bus, the muni, etc. Matt doesn’t know that. He’s probably been to San Francisco a couple of times.

BART is extremely affordable and takes people up and down the East Bay and San Francisco (not North Bay, not Silicon Valley you fucking doofus) for less than a gallon of gas and less than the tolls on all of the local bridges. It is medium-range transit.

For people who choose to live further away from their jobs so they can have a bigger house, it is basically a subsidy. It is already mostly a middle class perk of the Bay Area in that regard. It does not get a single mother making less than $25k from her apartment in Oakland to her job a mile away like the bus.

Pay the fucking workers and shut up.

Why The Progressive Blog Movement Succeeded

I couldn’t disagree more with this whine about the alleged failure of progressive “netroots.” Here it is in a nutshell:

So progressives have no power, because they have no principles: they cannot be expected to actually vote for the most progressive candidate, to successfully primary candidates, to care about policy first and identity second, to not take scraps from the table and sell out other progressive’s interests.

The Tea Party, say what you will about them, gets a great deal of obeisance from Republicans for one simple reason: they will primary you if they don’t like how you’ve been voting, and they’ll probably win that primary.  They are feared.  Progressives are not feared, because they do not believe enough in their ostensible principles to act on them in an effective fashion.

That is why the progressive revolution of the early 2000s failed.  If you want the next left wing push to succeed, whatever it is called, learn the lessons of the last failure.

In other words, this writer is envious of the Tea Party which has stunningly low approval and has, according to most people, denied the GOP recapture of the Senate at least once through these very primaries.

I remember this story very differently. I remember the “netroots” being dedicated at the beginning to “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party” and being very conscious of the power of the gavels in committee chairpersons’ hands. That succeeded fantastically in 2006 when Democrats, led by Howard Dean who coined the “Democratic wing” party’s “50-state strategy,” regained control of both houses of Congress.

To Welsh, that doesn’t matter because neither Clark nor Dean (neither of whom were left-liberals) didn’t get the 2004 nomination and Joe Liebermann didn’t get ousted in 2006. And then he goes on some rant about paid Internet trolls taking over the Internet in 2008 for Obama. Huh? The failure to take a few scalps is irrelevant to, you know, actually doing good for people.

Where were the “progressives” supposed to go in 2008? They hated Hillary and not because she had an individual mandate in her health proposal and Obama didn’t. Some were for Edwards, but he didn’t last and thank god. No, this is a revisionist history of the worst kind.

The “progressive” movement fell head over heels for Obama because they simply didn’t believe what the man himself said. They convinced themselves if he was elected, he would make the United States into Sweden overnight. When he started actually doing what he said he was going to do, they felt betrayed. In fact, it started almost instantly upon his election. The “progressive” movement shat themselves when Rahm Emanuel got named his chief of staff. It just went from there. They cared more about Rahm than SCHIP.

And this continues today with the double-Hofstaedteresque paranoid style of the firebaggers who are convinced that if the Republicans are doing something and Democrats aren’t, it means Democrats are being weak. This is odd for a party that has won 3 out of the last 4 elections and retained the Senate in the election they lost. It was different in 2002 when it seemed as if Gephardt and Daschle were leading the party down the drain and wouldn’t stand up to Bush.

In fact, it seems to me that the progressive blog movement is owed some thanks for all of these victories. But apparently, the failure to enact Sweden makes it a failure for some. We are not going to turn America into Sweden, ever. Just like the Tea Party knows it has to rely on procedural tricks and not popular support to try and turn America into Galtland.

Being more concerned with the scalps of Joe Liebermann and Rahm Emanuel than in tangible policy victories is puerile, futile, stupid, and useless politics.

Why They Hate Krugman

It’s all in this post. Basically, he outs most economists and “serious” economic policy people as apologists and agents for wealth. Most of our high priests of the economy are only minimally concerned with growth and maximally concerned with wealth.

You can say this is a corruption of capitalism or whatever, but until it stops taking a depression to compensate for the differences, I fail to see how it’s a corruption and not just an inevitable outcome of a wealth-concentrating system.

Inflation makes people with tons of money and no debt a little bit less rich all the time, but it makes most of us—probably even close to the proverbial 99%—richer by putting upward pressure on wages, where we actually get our money, and reducing the real value of our debts, which most of us have.

It should go without saying that this isn’t a call for “hyperinflation” where we are using the money we earn before lunch to go buy toilet paper that ends up being worth more than the money we bought it with by dinner time according to the Weimar Republic myths. That would be a disaster too. But the whole point is that you have to tune this and not bias it one way or the other so far that you wreck things.

But doing so is the point of most Republican/Libertarian economics. But yet the fawning enabling media takes them seriously.

 

Spying.

Fine, Angela. Make Obama apologize for Bush spying on you. Maybe that shoulder grab incident was because he knew you liked that from staying up late nights with his iPod listening to your dirty cell phone calls. Eww. Cannot unimagine.

But, ok. Here’s the deal. “New Rule,” if you will: if you don’t want the United States to spy on you, then never ever ask us for any intelligence we get off of someone else. No dirt on Putin. No dirt on Egypt. Nada. Nichts. Rien.

It’s one thing for citizens to feel a bit weirded out that they are the subject of electronic intercepts. It’s another for Merkel and heads of state. Was she just talking on a regular cell phone?

Update: Heh, indeedy, Josh.

Greedy 2014

I’m all for pushing to regain the House, and the polling seems to suggest that may happen, but it’s easy to forget that that won’t solve all the problems if we lose the senate. That chamber still is the one that votes on nominations which makes it just a bit more significant. There are some tough races there too.

Pryor in Arkansas is toast. 54.
Landrieu in Louisiana is probably toast. 53.
Montana is going to be a tough hold. 52.
Kay Hagan in North Carolina is going to be a tough hold. 51.
We’re not holding South Dakota. 50.
We’re not holding West Virginia. 49.

I wouldn’t be so sure of Alaska either, but ok. Let’s say we need 1 or 2 pickups.

Pickup opportunities? Kentucky is a possibility if McConnell gets primaried out. I don’t think Maine wants rid of Susan Collins since she has them believing she’s really not so radical, and I guess she’s not, but she’s an enabler. The rest of the map is very, very red. We’re talking Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, two in South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. Georgia and Nebraska have retiring incumbents, but there isn’t even a candidate in Nebraska yet for the Ds.

Basically, the strategy has to be to hold Landrieu and Hagan and pray for some kind of tea party disaster candidate in one of these red states and maybe finding a way to hold Montana and without Schweitzer who is apparently going to try to be the anti-Hillary in 2016. But it’s going to be tough. It’s worked the last two times, I guess.

And of course even if it’s 50-50, that’s awfully tough because senators tend to be old.

 

Cheney

I always thought that Cheney, not Bush, should have been impeached. Impeaching Bush would have put this even worse man in charge, to the extent that he already wasn’t. Having to play footsie with a Democratic Congress, Bush would have had to name a second Nelson Rockefeller to replace him or leave the office vacant.

With new revelations coming out this week, I’m even more convinced that was what should have happened.

Means Testing

Again, I don’t think pyrrhic victories really exist in politics. This deal is an unmitigated win for the President. But the one “concession” Reid granted on Obamacare is bad for two reasons (this isn’t to say they shouldn’t take it):

(1) It hits them where it should hit them, making implementation more difficult. Someone needs to think of a slick way to implement this or it’s going to suck. But this just underscores the point that they’re not interested in fixing the system, they just want to break it. If you can’t roll out a website, it gets tougher to argue this.

(2) Reid didn’t think there was time to get into an argument about this. It’s the same basic argument with Voter ID: people’s reaction tends to be “if you’re not lying, what’s the problem?” But, as Republicans are keenly aware when it comes to paying taxes or getting development permits, every form you have to fill out makes it that much more costly and tough. In fact, it probably will end up costing the system money in that more man-hours will be spent checking this verification than it would take to root out fraud. Of course, the trouble is, if you say this then people think it’s a green light to rip off the system, both the people who want to rip it off and its critics.

So, policy-wise this isn’t the best even though the broader policy of not letting a veto point be turned into a control point is good.

Politically, this appeared to drive a real wedge between the pro-business wing of the GOP and the tea-party arsonists. And then there are the poll numbers.

To the extent both of those things make it more likely that more progressive policies get implemented, it’s good.

I still don't believe in political pyrrhic victories, but…

It is the case that the teanuts will be able to say they fought the good fight and if they only had more people in Congress, they could have won this, so they can fundraise.

Of course the more money they raise the more people like Christine O’Donnell end up losing winnable elections for them and the grift continues. These are people who buy gold because of messages they hear on their talk radio telling them “inflation” is going to get them when there hasn’t been much inflation in 30 years.

They are going to send their money for freedom to these idjits and the cycle will continue.

I'd say we're gonna default

The Senate plan that was supposed to come together this morning was going to be blocked by feces demon Ted Cruz, apparently. The GOP’s tea-masters wouldn’t allow a vote on the leadership’s plan there, either.

But these were plans that would send things down the road a while. I suppose it’s still possible that a clean debt ceiling increase will pass in time.

So, what do I think will happen?

I think we might default. Because no matter what the ratings agencies say, the United States has the capacity to pay debts denominated in its own currency even without printing money, I don’t think a “default” for political reasons would necessarily cause as many of the consequences as the experts say.

I’m sure it would cause the rates to go up—but what’s the alternative to the dollar? The Euro, which faces actual default problems still? The pound, which is only independent of the Euro in name? There’s no real alternative reserve currency at this point unless this default lasts more than a little while.

So, if we’re a day or two off the mark, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. But too much longer and the default could cascade sending people who need the money back either from the coupons or the principal to make other payments. They would burn their own credit lines first. (This, I think, opens the door for some kind of Fed action: it could buy all of the bonds seconds before they mature, it could open the discount window to banks who don’t collect on people in this situation, etc. — more bailouts for the 1%.)

That’s not good stuff. The markets may be more than marginally shocked if it actually happens, but I don’t think it will scare people until it gets nearer a week.

The question is how long does the blame fix on the Republicans before the stink of loserdom not sealing it becomes a problem? In other words, where’s the dead-cat bounce in the polls? I worry about that.

The political calculation for the Democrats isn’t often looked at though. For all the talk about palace intrigue in the House, the consequences of this aren’t hard to game out on the other side.

If they capitulate, Obama’s presidency is over. Democratic voters will be alienated and show up in even lower numbers than they did in 2010 next fall. Plus, the GOP will know it can get concessions every time this comes up. He can’t fold. He has to veto at least the first attempt if the wind switches direction and let them fail at overriding.

The Republicans, on the other hand, can pass a “surrender” with only 17 votes right now and let this whip up their base for the next election, blaming their lack of enough of a majority in the house and a senate minority.

It would seem then that the dominant strategy is a GOP fold. But do we have rational actors here?

 

Some unfinished business on Syria.

When we left Syria for Ted Cruz’s conservagrifter side-show, which has helped the President’s numbers rebound and has increased support for Obamacare, the conversation was still stuck between two poles. The isolationist and pacifist coalition is made up of the usual combination of pacifist fundamentalists and troglodyte isolationists both of whom share in common a total inability to see things the way they are, joined by the politically opportunistic on both the right and left who use anything they can to smear the president and, thereby, draw attention to themselves.

On the other side, there is the sort of “bomb everything” alliance of people like John McCain.

This potion has completely stymied the press, who so inbred and stupid at this point, you’d think they were running for Holy Roman Emperor. They are incapable of seeing the international chess match going on here and seem to think this is just a question of whether daddy is going to spank a child for misbehaving.

Assuming we are not living in a world where there is total peace and where America is neck deep in affairs world-wide whether or not it “should” be, the question becomes: what to do?

Should we just say “why are these deaths from chemical weapons different than any other death?” and say, well, it’s an internal civil war? There’s that word again: should. In reality, most states consider chemical weapons to be weapons of mass destruction inviting retaliation in kind. While we might have a two second debate with Barbara Lee and Ralph Nader on one side and the other 300,000,000 Americans on the other side if this happened in our country, we are having it differently because it’s happening in Syria.

Is there anything about Syria that might flag our attention in this case? Hmm… Syria… oh, oh! It’s next to Iraq! No, that’s not it. If you guessed that two salient facts are that Syria (a) shares a disputed border with Israel and that (b) supplies and allows its ally Iran to supply weapons to its clients in Lebanon you would be right.

Oh, never fear tote bagger, I know you are tired of hearing about Israel! So let’s pretend for a minute that the US isn’t Israel’s ally because you have a sad when they bogart Jerusalem from the peace-loving and buddhist-monk-like Palestinians. Let’s just stick to the facts. Israel has at least 100 sophisticated nuclear weapons, many of which are submarine launched.

Are we getting a little more clarity here?

In 2007, Israel struck a hidden and North Korean designed nuclear reactor in eastern Syria. Publicly, no one is sure whether this reactor was designed to breed fissile material for Syria or whether it was “outsourcing” for Iran or North Korea, but the fact remains it was designed to create weapons grade fissile materials. Just in case you doubt the North Korean connection, North Korea was the only country to protest this incident to the UN and a North Korean ship docked in Syria the day before the strike.

So, let’s just suggest that the use of chemical weapons is brushed off by Obama as just another death in a sad world full of death but it is not treated as such by everyone else. And let’s just say that a country full of chemical weapons like Syria or Egypt—you didn’t know Egypt had chemical weapons did you—that is falling apart accidentally lets some of those weapons slip into some not nice people’s hands and those people decide to martyrdom themselves in Tel Aviv or Haifa.

Totebagger nation would all like to believe that the Jews do their usual thing and get murdered and make everyone else feel guilty, but what if they don’t? What if they do what probably every other country would do and retaliate? And what if someone else retaliates or goes to war?

The United States’s internal political battles, and European anti-Americanism, gave Assad a get out of jail card for one major use of chemical weapons and their patrons in Moscow came up smelling roses.

I repeat again: George Bush was the worst president in American history and everything he did turned to shit. But right now, one of the worst things he did was fraudulently use the pretext of chemical weapons to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraq.

Now when Obama wants to do a small strike against an actual use of chemical weapons, he’s “just like Bush.”

The stupid. It burns.

I'll say it again…

…but, when are the elected GOP members of Congress going to realize that by letting people like Erick Erickson call the tune, they are just disposable playthings for them? Erickson is already blaming everything on McConnell so he can be a hero and primary him in Kentucky.

Seriously, if my own base is going to primary me when the polling says I’m already in deep shit for listening to them, I might consider changing a few things.

Just 18 Republicans could easily create a coalition with the Dems—a sort of “confidence and supply” agreement that would still be able to block things that didn’t have bipartisan support, the way a filibuster in the Senate can, but would still let things function. A pledge not to fund a candidate against those 18, seniority, chairmanships, and a few pet projects all could easily be had. All they have to do is vote for a new speaker, and, perhaps, support the immigration bill.

Just sayin’

Republicans in disarray

And really it’s because, like I said earlier this morning, their stupid inbred teaparty base got under the impression that their taking welfare from niggers cutting entitlements agenda was more important than the corporate profit agenda. Stupid baggers, trix are for the 1%!

The sooner these people learn that the entire pseudo-intellectual edifice of “small government” is a post-hoc rationalization of the greed of the established rich and that they are worshiping false prophets of a false god, the sooner things will get back to normal.

This stories is a great example: teanut admitting defeat on Obamacare. Also McCain telling the tea party to get off his lawn is great too.