Monthly Archives: January 2010

Strange.

I’m experiencing a phenomenon that may explain the “Reagan Democrat” or whatever you want to call it. I’m in a situation where I’ve come to rely on unemployment—basically a form of insured welfare—when my main escape is through the meager remaining social safety net of bankruptcy, and I would really love it if the government’s program to help people prevent foreclosures was somewhat effective… all of this while expecting a child.

Despite that, the situation is making me start to have my internal though process—my “gut” reaction—is not to hope for a program for me, or whatever, but wishing that others would be so harshly judged. It’s silly, really. Even my situation as terribly as I described it means only a reduction in my standard of living well within the 1-sigma range of middle class. Yet the sense of loss is palpable and it is not causing me to reflexively feel more empathy towards others. I kinda just want everyone else to have to deal with this.

I think when I was a bit younger, these feelings would have manifested themselves in a more concrete way. Now, I know better. I know my impulse is childish and stupid and no way to make decisions for others. So, I guess I’m being elitist. Or not. Because I certainly think I understand the feeling.

You kind of want to see everyone who breaks “the rules” get theirs. And, of course, just about everyone is doing something against “the rules.” Isn’t being gay immoral? etc. To me, the people breaking the rules are still your usual liberal suspects: the money power and corporate rule, but it’s sure hard not to wonder if the government is even capable of providing relief along these lines and if we won’t just have to live out our lives enjoying the schadenfreude we can get.

I’m sure this has been studied in depth by all the right people, but it’s entirely different to go through this, of course, than to read about it.

Polemic March 2009=The Nation January 2010

I said fuck Geithner then. They say it now. Why prevent something when you can blame after the fact, right?

As I so delicately put it about a year ago:

Anyway, Geithner must have a small dick that too many of these ass holes have seen in the sauna at the Harvard club or something and he’s too worried about what they think. Fuck that shit. If I’m Obama, you’re fired and we tried it the bankers way.

Thanks for catching up.

What the hell?

When was the last time either party had a 59-41 advantage in the Senate and yet the Democrats are “chastened?” This has to be the most pusillanimous reaction by the Dems in a long history of pussy behavior.

When you believe that the other people say and internalize their message that you’re wrong and then act like you got caught doing something wrong, people gather that you think that by your conduct. You should just come out and say, “fuck you.”

Not these guys. Not this party. I almost regret supporting these weak ridiculous buffoons if it weren’t that the other guys are such pure liquidated evil.

Pass the fucking Senate bill through the House and then lard everyone up with a jobs bill. How hard is this?

Twitter Updates for 2010-01-20

  • Polemic is calling MA-SEN for Brown on the basis of the latest set of results and benchmark maps. Sigh. #

(Note: this was Tweeted at 5:36 p.m., almost an hour before the major nets. The model I used held up just as well as it did on election night 2008. It’s not all that complicated, really. Just some old data and a spreadsheet.)

Obama Year 1: A Report Card

While others appear to find it nearly impossible to have any criticisms of a politician and still fervently support him, I hope in what follows it will be considered that I do support Obama and am intolerant of the political games played by the anti-Democratic-Party left to hurt him politically. Some of these criticisms reflect what I believe will benefit the President in the short term, politically, and others I think reflect policy mistakes.

Education Policy: C

So far, the only major action by Obama in education policy has been a plan to require additional accountability for teachers in exchange for certain federal funding. This has pissed off perennial Democratic allies in the teachers’ unions. As you will see, forcing the base constituencies to take a shot in the hopes of getting independent cred and possibly less Republican resistance is one of Obama’s M.O.s, but it isn’t working and it is depressing the base voters. At first, this could have conceivably been done to show good faith to the voters, but now it just appears to be his actualy

Everyone knows that the NCLB regime requires fixing in the next few years. I think everyone also knows that the basic idea of test-based standards is here to stay. Obama has made a push on this. Also, the most urgent problem in the schools is the almost total collapse of their financing. Yet, the Diet Stimulus (see below) isn’t providing enough help to address this.

True, this issue actually isn’t on the top of voters’ minds right now, but in this environment that may actually give you more freedom of action. Not good enough.

The Environment: C-

This issue has ceased to have any meaning other than global warming. While I believe that global warming is perhaps the most important issue in the world right now, other issues still need to be addressed. There is still no significant federal law on non-point-source water pollution. Actually within the arena of global warming, Obama is pursuing the Bush I-era “cap and trade” solution to carbon, and forced the House to take a tough vote on it long before it got taken up in the Senate. Nothing may get done, because, again, Obama’s opening play is the “third-way” solution already, yet it won no independent or GOP support.

And then there’s Copenhagen. While I admire that he put himself on the line, as we will see is another one of his M.O.s, he tends to overcommit on diplomatic solutions by engaging with people who have no good faith intention of negotiating. (This is essentially the trouble in the domestic realm as well.) Getting the EPA to regulate Co2 is not a bad start, but we really need comprehensive legislation to deal with this, and all of these promises of green jobs—where are they? Wasn’t much in the stimulus bill.

Foreign Policy (Europe): A

Europe loves Obama. Good for them. There hasn’t been much to ask of them lately except for support in Afghanistan, and they didn’t exactly love that part, which is why this isn’t an A+. Otherwise, our much improved relations with Europe are an underrated issue.

Foreign Policy (Latin America): D-

Before Haiti, this would have been an F. While Latin American relations are improved simply by virtue of the absence of Bush, not much else of note has gone on. Real leadership could bring Cuba back into the fold and settle an issue that has been left to fester for too long and some concessions in American policy could deflate the massive amount of blowback generated here. To me, it seems highly probable that the next generation of terrorists (not counting the cartels, I guess) will come from Latin America, which we’ve left to rot on the vine. A case in point is the coup in Honduras. Both sides seemed to have official support. What happened? Latin Americans probably exude a desire for U.S. nonintervention, but are jaded by the fact that we only seem not to intervene when they actually need it.

Foreign Policy (Afghanistan): B+

Lefties who think we should just pull out of here are living in a dream world. This is not Iraq where there is a history of government and its institutions to hand off and a pool of wealth sitting underneath the land. Afghanistan is part of the most dangerous region on earth, and we abdicate responsibility for it at our peril. This grade is an A if there had been more buy in from our allies.

Foreign Policy (Iraq): A

Iraq is still a scary place, but it is getting better. A responsible pullout will put a close to this most farcical chapter in a long book of farcical military adventures in U.S. history. This grade could change severely if there is no substantial pullout by the beginning of the 2012 election season.

Foreign Policy (Israel/Palenstine): D

It’s not Obama’s fault that so many Israelis think he is a muslim. Obama doesn’t get an F because he has managed to get some movement from Netanyahu on settlement freezes, but, again, here Obama overcommitted to a policy and got hung out to dry, by both sides. No one on the Palestinian side can negotiate a deal—their entire power base is predicated on their not being a final deal and the Israelis are no longer willing to give power to anyone who will make a deal because they know how many times they’ve offered up sweet deals only to have the other side reject it. Not good enough.

Foreign Policy: C-

Including all other areas. I think of Iran. Obama got caught up in the Democratic idea that because Bush made a mistake about Iraq that this made it somehow desirable or possible to negotiate with Iran. In fact, Iran is a totalitarian regime that is trying to build nuclear weapons. This became clear over the summer with the election fraud. Again, the M.O. Obama overcommits to negotiation and gets pwned and can’t make the idea that he’s just making a good faith effort and it’s the other guys fault stick. Maybe because no one—not Joe Liebermann, not Achmadinezhad—has paid the price for negotiating in bad faith with him.

Health Care: C+

I think the people that want to “kill the bill” are idiots and, may get their wish in one more day. The CW seems to be that Obama over-learned the lesson of the Clinton failure by giving Congress too much control. With 20/20 hindsight, it may be the summer of trying to get GOP support that ultimately cost too much time to keep Ted Kennedy alive more than getting pwned by Ben Nelson or Joe Liebermann did in the end. Still, the bill’s passage in each house is a major achievement even if it doesn’t ultimately get enacted and it actually does a number of pretty good things.

The Economy: D

Sorry. This is just how it is. I know Bush left a mess of great magnitude. All the more reason the stimulus bill should have been larger. Either it should have been smaller so that it wasn’t a deficit hawk issue or much larger. Nobody would give a shit about the national debt if their jobs and houses would have been saved. Yes, most of the Republicans refused to negotiate on this and there weren’t 60 democrats at the time. Obama should have made a spectacle of their refusal. Ultimately, a reconciliation-based vote of 50 senators could have passed a better package.

And much, much more should have been made of a jobs bill during the worst of the health care fracas. We needed something to touch. Maybe another check in the mail? If the Dems couldn’t have done that, then perhaps something to alleviate the fiscal crises in a number of the states, or at least in neighborhood schools?

Plus, this really is always the most important issue. Obama’s failures here—really nothing more complicated than giving the middle class some token—may ultimately cost him an opportunity to do much on the rest of these issues where… there is so much room for improvement.

Domestic Terrorism: A-

There hasn’t been much here. The crotch bomber was a non-event. The Ft. Hood shootings were probably not really an issue for the President except politically. Using the Bush administration’s own standard of “keeping us safe,” Obama is several thousand American lives ahead of President Bush at this point in his presidency.

OVERALL: C

Obama needs to stick the knife to a few people so that they know he means business. When people know you need a deal and they know they don’t need a deal, negotiations don’t always work well. There is a lot more room to do this in foreign affairs where he has much wider control. Maybe there should be talk of American troops securing some token place in Gaza. Maybe we should finally do something to stick it to the imperious Chinese besides say something. I think health care reform is too important to scuttle in a cock battle. But there are other issues where it might not be a bad idea to put one potential 60th vote in one room and another in the room next to them and offer them each a deal if they say yes first. You know, the prisoner’s dilemma. Something.



Rescissionist Revisionists

I subscribed again to Harper’s magazine after letting my subscription lapse a few years back. If I hadn’t paid just $5 for it, I would be mad. It is a thoroughly depressing read. The academic left which forms the constituency of this magazine has apparently chosen to simply disengage from the political world and criticize only.

This month, we are treated to an article called “The Mendacity of Hope” by Roger D. Hodge, which is simultaneously an elegy for the mythical Constitutional republic of high school history books and a J’Accuse against Obama. This is ironic because Obama’s failure to deliver on the Naderite agenda is solely and exclusively due to the Constitutional checks and balances on his power as a president by the other branches of government and the electorate. Hodge even admits that a blunt withdrawal from Afghanistan would cost Obama his reelection. If Obama were the “secret emperor” Hodge claims, he would simply waive his hand and do what he pleased.

But it’s the pining for the past that strikes me because it sounds so… conservative. In Hodge’s world, there was never an illegal war before Korea. Civil liberties were sacrosanct. Things were nice.

This is absolute poppycock. For an author who chastises Obamabots for “knowing their history” and still praising the man, Hodge’s leading arguments are either intentionally made in bad faith or exercises in hypocrisy regarding historical knowledge.

If you were to list off famous American wars before Korea, I’m sure you would find appropriate Congressional “declarations of war” for all of them (this assumes that a Congressional vote erases all moral questions about war). But if you “know your history” you know that those wars were far from the sum total of American military activity pre-Korea. Anyone who knows anything about Latin America—Haiti comes to mind this week by way of happenstance—knows that American soldiers have adventured across this hemisphere under the guise of the Monroe doctrine since at least Monroe’s time.

Furthermore, while the de jure abrogation of civil liberties in our day is disturbing and should not be apologized for, the notion that justice was fairer in the past only requires a one word rejoinder: segregation.

The idea that we should (setting aside the question of whether it is possible) rescind the past decades is the élan vitale of the modern Conservative movement. They have sought (and have been largely successful) at rescinding the New Deal. They are also making inroads on early-20th century progressivism.

Hodge’s college-campus fantasies of setting the world back to the order of things before the President “arrogated to himself” the power of the atomic bomb is simply not possible. Simply put, the atomic genie is out of the bottle. It really isn’t not at all difficult to build a bomb if you have the materials. In 2010, an atomic bomb is not a very sophisticated device. We can never blot out the know-how of making one without some kind of Luddite Taliban world government that takes us back to the dark ages.

We can’t rescind the 20th century, neither the New Deal nor the National Security Act of 1947, the good nor the bad, without unleashing a whole new set of consequences. In any event, I can’t imagine how allowing a Palin or a Pawlenty to replace Obama will make the “restoration” of Constitutionatopia closer to reality.

This kind of revolutionary change that is demanded by the right and the left makes for unending criticism, depressed cynicism, and the risk that when you actually get what you want, you might be sorry you asked for it. I don’t disagree that the government needs more respect for the law, but I simply don’t believe that a return to the bad old days of the 1940s is how to do it.

Society requires its gadflies and critics, but it also requires those who can govern without burning the place down.

Twitter Updates for 2010-01-14

  • Going to watch the results, so no more tweets for a while. But, I think it's over. #
  • Virginia starting to close in. Rachel Maddow, still very annoying. #
  • O wins Ohio. It's over for real now. Blow me Joe the Douchebag! #
  • McSame blacking out news at "rally". Ignoring reality to the end. #
  • Obama goes officially over the top when the west coast comes in at the top of the hour! It still hardly feels real. #
  • CNN has produced Tron figures. Heavy. #
  • Fifteen minutes to change! #
  • McCain goes out classy. Crowd still terrifying. #
  • Polemicmag will go out on a limb here and finally call IN. Lake county is the only populous county with results still to turn in. #
  • Obama ahead in NC with 100% reporting by about 10,000. Recount? Lol. #
  • Damn it. Prop R, the Bush Sewage Plant, is getting its ass kicked. #
  • NBC confirms polemic's call of an hour ago: Obama carries IN. #
  • What's going on in NC? Is someone demanding a recount? 100% is in. Obama wins. #
  • So far my prediction of last week was only wrong in ND. #
  • Tweety wanted to ask everyone if the "Bradley effect" is dead. Make no mistake: Obama won this in the Midwest and the West—not the South. #
  • Obama 400 votes behind in Missouri. 400. Wow. #
  • Georgia shenanigans? #
  • Voter suppression seems to have captured Missouri. #
  • LA County and the East Bay are going to have to get it done on Prop H8. #
  • Nader, McKinney turn close NE-02 Red by 570 votes. ((Nader+McKinney)>Barr) #
  • Polemic: NE-02 to Obama #

Benefiting from your own wrongs

There’s a number of legal precepts that prohibit people from benefitting from their own wrongs. One example is the so-called “Son of Sam Laws” that prevent murderers from selling books and movies about their stories for profit.

But our electorate isn’t going to see it that way.

They aren’t going to see that 30 years of Reaganomics have bled the middle class dry. The three pillars of the middle class: a house, a college education, and health insurance have all increased in price faster than inflation. Since real wages have barely increased at all, it’s therefore not hard to see that most people are losing ground on those three things.

And despite 10% national unemployment and a widely recognized economic crisis, it still remains politically untenable to raise taxes on the rich or on big business. The latter have made credible their threat to simply go somewhere else and leave us unemployed if we don’t give them everything they want, so even those who might be inclined to tax them have been trained not to do so. A health insurance bill that should get most people covered and bring down costs to everyone has become the butt of this whole sociology and may ultimately fail either due to intercameral bickering or the loss of the Democratic 60 seat supermajority in Massachusetts of all places.

That Ted Kennedy’s seat could be lost to a Republican while there is 10% unemployment is exhibit A in my argument. The voters blame the incumbent for their troubles even if the opposition is blocking the fixes, or, even if they created the problem in the first place.

This is the popular logic of a two party system: get the other guy in there.

It’s not that the Democrats have staked out a powerful alternative. They have not enacted much of anything in a truly populist manner. They agreed, for the most part, to the highly unpopular (if ultimately necessary) bank bailouts, and most of Obama’s solutions are pragmatic and centrist, but he’s not getting any credit for that from the other side.

For all the lessons Obama seems to have taken from the Clinton years, at least regarding health care reform, he doesn’t seem to have learned that offering centrist compromises does no good, and, in fact may actually piss off the GOP even more.

If Obama doesn’t do something to repair the economy by 2010, the Democrats majority will be reduced, though they probably won’t lose it. But if things are the same in 2012, you can count on a further changing of the guard, just in time to permanently solidify the aging conservative majority on the Supreme Court and institute a bunch of regressive economic policies in an attempt to fix the economy. It won’t be pretty.

Something I might have actually said first

Usually someone else thinks of something before me, but this time, I think I got there first.

One of the reasons the filibuster is unconstitutional is because the Constitution says the VP breaks ties when they are equally divided. Here’s my argument on November 23, 2009. And here’s an article in the New York Times, today.

At the time I put the argument forward, I found it nowhere else after a Google, Nexis, and Westlaw search. Doesn’t mean I was the first person ever, but it’s nice to know I’m at least with it somewhat this time.

An End of the Decade Tirade

As a society we are not even close to owning up to the Fear Years. That horrible epoch that reached its peak in 2002-2003 but did not completely dissipate until 2007. How do we square the fact that everyone understood that the evil Iraq attack was a tragic mistake in 2007, but to even suggest that it was not wise in 2002 was to be libeled a traitor? — Even in the face of one of Generalissimo Bush’s minions explaining that they were launching Iraq Attack II to coincide with the first anniversary of 9/11 because “you don’t launch a new product in August.” Somehow, the collective fact of the matter turned from worthy to worthless over those wasted years. But the facts of the matter never changed. America did. But too slowly.

Osama bin Laden is a serial killer. A demon. Pure evil. But such hatred creates its own choice. Whatever validity one may give his grievances (and I give him little) violence against innocent people is not a legitimate recourse. As self-styled extremists Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda chose the hateful path and went down it. America did not have to. America is a free and respectful society that has a reasonable ability to chose its own destiny. But America did choose the venal chart. And whether you shouted until your throat hurt in defiance of Iraq War II (I did not), or thought it was a terrible and foolishly incorrect action at them time (I did), or were one of the lobotomized flag waving masses of nimrods that proved that “It” can happen here (I was not) you are complicit. All Americans are complicit.

So as a final decades end rejoinder to the Flat Landers and Texans, to the Rural Socialists and Junior Varsity Fascists, to the Tea Baggers and Polite Racists, to the Middling Concern Troll Masses and the FDNY Cap Wearing Confederates, to the Red States and the Red Counties in the Blue States, to Generalissmio Bush and the Conservatron Hate Machine please let me scream that NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENED TO YOU ON 9/11/01! THERE WERE NO FUNERALS IN YOUR HOME TOWNS! YOU HAD NO GRAVEYARD GREY ROTTEN MILK STENCH CLOUD HOVERING OVER YOUR HOME! YOU DID NOT HAVE THE FAMILIAR ARCHITECTURE OF YOUR CHILDHOOD RENDERED INTO DUST!

NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENED TO YOU! YOU ARE MEDIOCRE AMERICANS! AND YOU ARE DESTROYING AMERICA!