Monthly Archives: May 2008

Excellent Idea

About three months ago, on March 4, I wrote:

My best outcome is for Hillary to use her clout to get her healthcare plan in the platform. Barring an Obama implosion, it’s still over.

This appeared today in the Telegraph:

The former First Lady would get the chance to pilot Mr Obama’s reforms of the American healthcare system if she agrees to clear the path to his nomination as Democratic presidential candidate.

It says “Obama’s reforms,” but if Clinton is leading it, I’m assuming that odds are she would have some input. If there was one single thing that caused me to favor Hillary, it was that she actually had a universal heatlhcare plan, and one, I might add, that I think will work.

She’s got the chips to force herself onto the ticket, but I’m not sure that playing those chips is good for her legacy. But leading the new almost-filibuster-proof Senate majority would be a plum job, no?

Ha ha charade you are.

Here are the three scenarios.

DNC New:
2,118 required
2,052 Obama (needs 64)

DNC Old:
2,024 required
1,984 Obama (needs 41)

All inclusive:
2,209 required
2,063 Obama (needs 148)

Obama should pick up at least 30 delegates in the remaining three conventions, and, rumor has it, he has 20 or more waiting to “come out” for him. That means under either the prior or current DNC rules, this would be over on Tuesday.

If all of the Florida and Michigan votes had counted, Obama would have needed a lot more delegates, because approximately 55 would have been unpledged. If 50 of those would have gone to Clinton, she would have been virtually tied, but that was never likely.

The Democratic Party let itself be yoked to the importance of Iowa and more dirty tricks by Florida Republican governors, but there’s no telling what would have happened if those primaries had been contested. (I don’t think the results would have varied that much, especially in Florida.) I often wonder if John Edwards wouldn’t have survived longer if Michigan had counted. Still, the argument that those who did vote are more important than 30 bigwigs is compelling, and I’m sure the same arguments would be coming out of other mouths if the shoe was on the other foot.

If Clinton was still really in this, neither of those compromises, especially the Michigan one, would have gone forward. The nuts were cut and Obama won. Again.

Finally.

Sore Hillary?

Just a thought: don’t you wish Al Gore would have fought as hard as Hillary is?

In 2000 many people believed there were few real policy differences between Gore and Bush. In 2008, that’s the same “serious” view, even though followers of both Obama and Clinton point out differences. Of course Bush won because more people wanted to have a beer with him, and because James Baker mopped the floor with the hung-out-to-dry detritus of the Gore campaign that was left behind.

Of course, I believe that while there are few minor policy differences here and there, it was Hillary’s post-post-post-Feminist vote in 2002 for the AUMF that cost her the election. The fact that enough people made that a priority to shit on their fond memories of the 90s for someone who really has no record is significant. And that was a huge difference.

Those ex-Hillary supporters like me who have long since accepted Obama’s victory are also weary of her campaign (though, again, granting I wish Gore had fought this hard) must admit that it was thta AUMF vote that has created the relatively thin margin between the two. Sure, a bunch of things could have gone different, just like Gore. No Nader/No Mark Penn. No spurious Buchanan votes/No independents in Dem primaries. But all of those stand in stark relief to the most important causes: the Supreme Court in 2000 and the AUMF in 2008.

bravo

The moral panic over Hillary’s RFK reference is, of course, complete bullshit. You’re drunker on Kool-Aid than the most rabid denizens of 90s Clinton attackers if you really think she was calling for Obama’s assassination, or even raising the specter of it. (Which you are fucking dumb to ignore, by the way.)

That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the Obama campaign is showing its teeth. It’s showing it can turn an innocuous comment that even RFK Jr. doesn’t think was offensive and that Hillary has made before into a large bukkake session againt her.

Honestly, most of the reasons Obamites peddle for why he is the better candidate are more or less garbage except this one: He won the fucking primary.

He won. He won it in February. Anyway, color me impressed with this smear. Grampa McSame should be changing his depends if this is what Obama’s folks will do to him.

Court: Texas had no right to take polygamists' kids

AP: The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the grounds for removing the children were “legally and factually insufficient” under Texas law.

Let’s just say there really are kids in danger at this compound, which very well may be. Now they are in more danger because lazy Texas officials swept in in one fell swoop in an obvious exercise of religious persecution. So the next time, someone goes in to help a bona fide victim it will look suspicious.

This is the same with getting the wrong criminal. Yeah, maybe it pacifies the mob, but in the end it makes every subsequent arrest that more suspect, every subsequent criminal that tiny bit more likely to get set free.

This is why the so-called “law and order” types are nothing of the sort. They are vigilante anarchists.

The New Flavor

The emerging progressive majority is still in bunker mode after many long years of conservative onslaught. This was necessary, because for many years, Democrats still acted as a “governing” party, even when in the minority, and did not have the attack mentality that that required. Now both the base and the party is past the concern trolling that has plagued it for so long.

But what intellectual planks are going to be the foundation of the emerging majority? This is a mixed policy/politics question in that you have to consider your policy goals and your political base.

On simple cleavage is between New Left moral and social policies and liberal economic progressivism. There has never been a governing majority for New Left policies at the federal level, except for the very brief window around 1964. There is a reason that Republicans obsess over God, guns, and gays.

Economic liberalism, on the other hand, has been able to produce a series of large majorities in several elections historically. To the extent that the new Congressional majorities exist, it is due to this. There is a growing rejection of the neoliberal economics that is fueling this.

While there is certainly a continuous drip towards racial, gender, and sexual preference equality, there has been no moment of paradigm shift in a while. Contrast that with economic issues that are now coming to a head.

I believe that a new New Deal coalition is the answer, and not a new New Left movement, for the following reasons.

1. Progressive Social Movements Create Strong Resistance.

By way of example, there was no “orthodox” judaism until there was a liberal movement in that religion. Similarly, much of the current evangelical christian movement is a fundamentalist reaction to the compromises with modernity that mainline protestantism, and, to some extent, Vatican II Catholicism has made.

Similarly, the Conservative movement grew up as a reaction to the rapid social changes created by civil rights movements. The ground was shifting. The backlash was strong, and, though it did not reverse the gains of the civil rights movement, it stopped them short of their goals, and it also destroyed the economic security of earlier economic liberalism by reducing union membership, minimizing social safety nets, engaging in globalized trade, and the general deregulation of industry.

I submit to you that there is no existing concern of civil rights that is as pressing as those that existed in the post-WWII, pre-Conservative era. This is not to say that there are no problems in the civil rights realm, but that those can be handled largely through enforcement of existing civil rights laws.

2. States Are The Appropriate Forum For Social Progressivism.

Social movements are not like many economic problems in that they don’t require the participation of everyone to be effective. For example, one state going along to a single-payer insurance program would not be as cost effective as a federal plan. One state’s attempts to govern any commons, like, say, a river and protect it from pollution would be ineffective.

But if one state legalizes gay marriage, no one in that state loses his or rights without leaving. At the same time, the backlash is limited. Legalizing gay marriage in California will cause some shock in Alabama, but probably no action. Legalizing gay marriage nationwide would put people in the streets. And the representatives those people send to Washington won’t stop with a gay marriage repeal. If a bunch of reactionaries pass laws in Alabama, the reaction is contained there.

This is a political reflection of the reality that while the US shares many cultural aspects in common, there are in fact discrete cultures within the country.

3. Liberal Economic Policies Engender Social Progressivism; The Reverse Is Not True.

Lifting all boats gives more people a more equal voice in politics. Simply giving folks more economic security enables them to participate more actively in politics. When formerly marginalized groups can participate and wield power, they are less likely to need to rely on the good will of the majority to protect their rights.

On the other hand, allowing gay marriage will not cause an aggregate increase in real wages for the lowest earners. Abortion may be the exception that proves the rule, but I am not sure it’s effect is as directly aggregate as, say, single payer health care would be.

4. Social Progressivism Does Not Create a Governing Majority.

Social progressivism can only rely on approximately 225 electoral votes. In the process of getting those 225, however, they destroy their chances in many of the others. An economic populist can earn far more electoral votes with less resistance. My initial analysis confirms that the same is true in congressional districts. Recent special elections confirm this hypothesis.

In sum. there are many economic issues that can only be handled properly at the federal level, such as the environment, health care, and education spending. The number one economic issue, globalization, is necessarily federal in that it involves foreign relations.

There are no currently outstanding social issues that require emergency federal treatment.

Therefore, the new progressive federal majority should pursue a liberal economic agenda and simply preserve the status quo socially.

Millennial Generation Triumphalism

I interrupt this session of Millennial Generation ass kissing: this generation is not going to be the next “hero” generation, even if we elect Obama in 2008.  It’s not going to be people under 25 that put him in office, it’s going to be people between 25 and 45 that did.  Those are my folks.

Let’s face it.  Generation X got a shitty rep because we didn’t come out perfect with no effort, so, like everything else that didn’t come out perfect with no effort, the Boomers shit on us, and quit.  
Now, just like all grandparents, they really really like their grandchildren, so now they’re saying their grandchildren will be like their parents.
Bullshit.
I haven’t seen anything so impressive about this group.  I’ve seen young people having disdain for civil liberties in polls this decade, more than in a long long time.  I see an ever deeper acceptance of material civilization than my group.
And for christ’s sake, their music blows.

Obama/Clinton?

So, if because Obama doesn’t cannot mathematically get 2026 pledged delegates, this article makes a convincing case that Hillary is the VP if she wants it. (The article reminds folks that there is a separate ballot for VP, and that some of the Superdelegates won’t say no to her twice.)

Like I said — it’s nut cutting time. If Obama–Michell or Barack–doesn’t like Hillary, he/she ought to think hard about what it would mean for Hillary to be on the ticket without any support from Obama, and having overruled his choice.

If he doesn’t want that, he’d better get his butt in gear and get the majority with pledged delegates.

It’s a reality. He can’t win without Superdelegates. So, unless he thinks a bunch of those guys are going to knife the Clintons twice, it’s time to cut a deal.

It's Nut Cuttin' Time

Yet another wonderful expression from the master, LBJ. “Nut cuttin’ time” was how he described meetings where both parties had something to gain by cooperation, but something to threaten if they didn’t. I just learned that that expression comes from when bulls are lassoed, held down, branded, de-horned, and castrated at all once.

It’s that time for the Democrats. They need to do what they have to do to unify here. If that means Hillary as VP, that’s what it means, though I’m pretty sure she’s not the ideal choice.

Nut cuttin’ — it’s something most bloggers don’t get because they’re too damn idealistic and wonkish. But it’s how things get done.

The Fake Scandal Over Decreasing Quantities

Consumerist is one of my favorite blogs. It’s full of a bunch of good information. I’m glad there’s someone that takes consumer complaints seriously, instead of just dismissing them as scammers trying to get something for free. But sometimes, they are just wrong.

Take this example
.

So, B.J. Novak goes on Conan O’Brien’s show, cites Consumerist and shows that Cadbury eggs are getting smaller. Consumerist, as you can see on that page, keeps track of people who have been shrinking their products but not their prices.

This, I guess, has the feel of a ripoff to people. So, you pay the same but get less. How is that any different from costing more and getting the same? Can’t prices go up? When gas is $4/gallon, you have to expect prices to go up.

I’m generally very pro-consumer, but people look foolish complaining about prices going up in an extremely inflationary environment like it is now.

If you want to solve this problem, don’t punish the supermarket or the butter company. Get us out of Iraq, get us on sustainable energy, and get our federal government out of debt. (And don’t put up a border fence.)

They Don't Get It

How stupid is our American media? This article from Time on why Hillary lost is wrong on all counts.

Hillary lost because of her vote on the AUMF, plain and simple. In addition to that vote being the most important issue for Democratic primary voters at least until very recently, and Hillary’s vote being the wrong one, people thought she did it based on political calculation, not on “who she was” whatever that means. And she never apologized for it.

Combine that with a newly rabid Democratic base (thank god for that), and her front-runner status, and it simply was just a matter of time until the party coalesced around the anti-Hillary. Obama was lucky enough to have been against Iraq from the start, and notwithstanding his “there are no red states, there are no blue states” moderate schtick, that is what the base wanted.

And once these new Democrats were on board with him, they ate her alive. Sorry, Hills, your timing was off, and your calculation on that vote was myopic. It’s too bad for her, because if the primaries were starting now, I can guarantee you that people would be far less concerned with Iraq, and far more open to thinking about 90s prosperity. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

This wasn’t about Mark Penn not understanding proportional delegates, or Hillary underestimate caucuses. It was about zeitgeist–in this case, the party being against Iraq–and nothing else.

It would be nice to look at some of the tactical defects of her campaign and blame it on that, but that wouldn’t have mattered in the end.

Primary Over? Misc.

Primary Over. Duh.

Apparently the Olympian Gods of the media have declared the primary race over. It was over in February, barring a disaster. I’m glad that the time was taken to Spitzer/October-surprise proof Obama, but he passes that test.

I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure this out: his VP must be someone that appeals to the blue collar white man that was part of Hillary’s base. That means that any prior calculus based on needed to appease women is out the door. This relieves us of the burden of picking from the very narrow field that would require. I’d love to see Brian Schweitzer or Jon Tester, but that’s not realistic. Do we want whatever “national security” credentials are? Maybe Wes Clark fits the bill. Maybe Dick Gephardt, though I would prefer a southerner, not another midwesterner.

Israel at 60.

One fundamental assumptions of Zioinism were that Jews needed a sovereign state with a Jewish majority for security. Yet, Jews are far less secure in Israel over long spans of time than they were in Germany. The Nazis came and went in 12 years. Israel has been subject to wars and terrorism for its entire time. And some instances of terror in Israel were far deadlier than ever most of the worst European pogroms. Though the Nazis killed more Jews, does anyone dispute that the more violent factions wishing to attack Israel would do the same if given the chance? Jews are safest in America, Canada, the UK, and other liberal western democracies where not just the majority, but the overwhelming supermajority supports freedom of religion and basic human rights (at least most of the time).

The two-state solution will probably be tried, but it concerns me. I’m not sure how Palestine is a viable state with a viable economy. What will people think if Palestine as a state declares war on Israel and is destroyed? Is that an intifada or a war? Will the abject poverty there still be Israel’s fault?

Tourism is the only industry capable of supporting Palestine, and almost all of those tourists will be Christian pilgrims, some Jews and maybe a few rich Muslims who want to go to al-Aqsa in addition to Mecca and Medina. But in order for that to fly, they are going to need a few years of Singapore like security to bring them.

I wonder if, after all is said and done, an internationally supervised one state solution with powerful guarantees of religious freedom and powerful guarantees of access to certain holy sites isn’t the solution–that is, if accession back into Jordan and Egypt isn’t realistic.

Those are the only alternatives I can think of.

Just Mailed in My Ballot!

The whole Joy of Voting phase of this marathon fell by the wayside and puked out yellow sports drink right after Tsunami Tuesday, but to hell with it.

I missed out on the pleasure of voting for Bubba Clinton in his pre-race baiter height back in 1996 by about forty days. The first Presidential ballot I got to cast was in the California open primary. I sensed even then that Bush was enough of a demon to, I am now embarassed to say, vote for McCain given that the Gore/Bradley race was over and anything that would scotch Bush seemed worthwhile. I flirted with the idea of voting for Darth Nader in 2000 but again, out of fear and loathing for Bush, cast an uninspired ballot for Gore. 2004 was a no brainer, of course, but again I voted against Generalissimo Bush much more than for Kerry in my meaningless primary and the star-crossed general.

It’s sad that every presidential ballot I have ever cast has been against Generalissimo Bush, but this made filling in the oval for Senator Obama all the more gratifying. I finally got to vote for someone.

The entire tired old guard that was socialized into marital absolutism by the 1960s, and the enforcers of their boring stasis in the formidible yet increasingly obsolete mainstream media, is galvanized against Obama right now. He is running against the Titans of Queen Clinton, her vainglorious husband, their mini-celebrity daughter, and media-darling Charlatan McCain all at once. The bloviating bromides of Jeremiah Wright prove that the wit’me-or-again’me totality of the Boomer experience that has been so glorious for the Conservatrons has its servents on the left too, this greyless black-and-white dystopia has been good for him.

I remain convinced that America’s future and this election belong to the larger change symbolized by Obama: the rise of All-American weirdos, with backgrounds and genetics that do not fit into the neat boxes we seek to put experiences into, whose inner conflicts, complexity, aspirations and warts argue against the viscious simplicity of searching for justification to disregard contrary people and opinions that fuels the Clintons, McCains and Wrights.

I remain eager and excited for the 2010s.

TTC WTF?

I’m a big fan of “The Teaching Company” and its lecture series. I have listened to quite a few of them, and I am surprised at how many updates there have been–significant updates–in the scholarly world since I was in college. Ok–so that’s longer than it seems.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise (if you’re a geek) when I was listening to Dr. Gary Rendsburg’s lectures on the book of Genesis (Bereshith) and he claimed that the documentary hypothesis was old news. That’s a big development, if true. Second, he spent considerable time making arguments that bolster Urfa, Turkey as “Ur of the Chaldees.”

For the former, I can at least say that he explained the J-E-D-P theory before whacking it. He never explained that Urfa’s claim to be Ur of the Chaldees is more or less just local tradition in Urfa. (He mentioned that tradition.)

But neither of these are the predominant scholarly theory, so maybe less has changed than I thought.

Rendsburg makes some brilliant points about the literary unity of Genesis, and argues that this is a point against many sources. Another part of Rendsburg’s brilliance is his ability to connect the ancient Israelite sources with world-wide literary themes, I suppose because of his background in literature.

Then I wonder why he makes that logical sleight of hand. Because it’s more or less undisputed that many of Shakespeare’s plays had their source in Italian writings. That’s not to say that Shakespeare as poet and later redactor of these stories didn’t add his own brilliance—he did. (Those old Italian plays are junk in comparison.)

So, it’s not inconcievable that Ezra the Scribe or whoever was the Redactor didn’t do the same thing with the different sources.

His dating of biblical events is also not mainstream, but he advertises that.

I think it would behoove TTC to, in the future, still sell this minority opinions, but perhaps as companions to a mainstream introduction.

Knew it was coming…

I know that January might have been in the last ice age, but a highly touted study showing that marijuana caused cancer came out to a full two news cycles’ worth of FNORDs against weed back then. 79 whole patients were used in that study.

For those unfamiliar with this cycle, every once in a while, some kind of study comes out with dubious methodology and/or funding and/or research done by an agency and/or researcher with an anti-drug agenda. Shortly thereafter, another study comes out saying the opposite, but gets way fewer headlines.

As with global warming, anti-drug researchers have become smarter about their presentation. The one in January may not have been based on an agenda other than seeking headlines (same with some of the “objective” global warming studies).

The comparison is apt, because we have finally got to the point where the conventional wisdom is that global warming is real and pot is harmless, but we have this nagging residual anxiety that that’s not correct.

So, well, just in time (three months almost to the day), here’s a study calling bullshit on the cancer link. The time, size, and scope of this investigation are so much larger than the FNORD one it’s sad. 2,040 test subjects versus 79. But, we won’t remember this one.

In addition to the small size, the British study also admitted than marijuana consumption in the UK was inextricably linked with tobacco consumption. This study controlled for that and found that the tobacco increased cancer, but marijuana did not.

One is legal, one is not. One causes cancer, one does not.

God bless America.