Monthly Archives: December 2010

1550 Warheads

There was some concern in the Hawk community about the effects on Mutually Assured Destruction if we went below about 2,000 warheads. Hmph. Let me show you what just five 750 kt weapons would do to the United States. Given the sociological hysteria that ensued from a mere 3,000 deaths on 9/11, you can only imagine that it would literally end our civilization if just five weapons struck America. Take a look.

Washington, D.C.:

New York:

Portland:

Chicago:

Los Angeles:

No One Could Have Predicted

That the porcine Conservatron Governor of Mississippi would be a racist boor. Or that his idiot trumpeters in the Weekly Standard would be too stupid to realize how disastrous his bloviations would be and print them anyhos. Because, of course, the whole point of the Weekly Standard running a profile on a Conservatron swine snorting at the chance to feed at the Presidential trough like Barbour is to knee cap him. Exit stage backwards to your sty Pig Man. “Ha ha charade you are!”

Fukuyamaed

Francis has an interesting analysis of our recent history (which was evidently restarted at some point) of  populism generated by right wing “left behinds” that only serves to embolden the plutocracts that are leaving these Conservatron Patsies behind. Fukuyama does make some worthwhile points about Chicago School economics providing a pseudo-intellectual rationalization to Reaganism and allowing bankers and “economists” to participate in a revolving exclusive circle jerk that enriches them both. Still, Fukuyama is leaving out the Racist Elephant in the room, namely the Republicans’ Southern Strategy. Fukuyama notes that somehow there was a populist sense that government would only waste money that cropped up in the 1970s  without ever considering that for a southern FDR Democrat the government redistributing wealth to electrify the south and the west in the 30s is worthwhile, but once the government assures that blacks are no longer formally second class citizens in the 1960s, then its redistribution must surely go to helping THEM (whoever they may be — there are many THEYs) at the expense of HIM. Or, as Ronald Reagan said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.”

Sure I used a Strawman and my analysis isn’t appearing in an academic magazine, but click on the link and decide for yourself who has the more compelling argument. I feel that MacGregor’s First Rule of American History still holds: At the end of the day, everything comes back to race.

The Mandate

Is the “individual mandate” component of the ACA unconstitutional?

In any kind of system where precedent matters, no. But the increasing politicalization of the judiciary by Republicans means that on high-stakes matters, judges cast political votes much more than they apply the law.

In other words, whether the individual mandate is constitutional is up to Justice Kennedy. I think he will uphold it because striking it down would essentially create open season on numerous government programs.

But it’s pretty obvious that this can be fixed if necessary. All the government need do is pass a tax of the same amount as the penalty/fine for not getting insurance, which anyone who has insurance is exempt.

There may or may not be the need for the government to do anything other than claim they acted under their taxing power and that this is in fact a tax. Normally, acts of Congress are deemed valid if they can be sustained under any of their powers.

But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible that the right could conceive of some sort of rule that says forcing people to buy something that impacts their medical care is a bridge too far or something. There’s no limit to what they’ll argue.

Actually, I find this exercise a useful vent for bagger rage. They’re going to need it when they realize the people they elected don’t give a shit about repeal and are just interested in juicing the government for the rich.

Balls

The President could kiss and make up with the left by making a bunch of recess appointments, including especially Elizabeth Warren.

Anyone think we could use a 4th circuit judge this year too? (i.e. the health care appeal)

Fill ‘em all up. Every single last vacant position. Some of them will get confirmed, some won’t. But you’ll get better people than if you’d asked the fucking Senate first.

WikiFail

Instead of the cut and paste reporting so prevalent in the mainstream media today—oh, and the rank speculation, coward phrasing of “some say”—the press has abdicated about 25% of its active reporting duties to simply commenting on whatever the latest Wikileaks dump says.

This strategy, designed to keep the story alive over time, has backfired.

In this day and age, you don’t have that long to capture people’s attention. If there was something worthy of the comparison to the Pentagon Papers in this massive database, where is it? If it’s so important, why is it being withheld? That certainly isn’t consistent with the stated goal of WikiLeaks, which is to change “regimes” behavior.

The truth is, there is nothing really that shocking in the cables. The story is that they got out, and got out so easy. That and the story of Julian Assange, the latest Technomessiah. While I find the security crowd’s condemnation of the leaks as so much kabuki, they really haven’t lost anything.

All of the information released so fat is out there for anyone to find out. Is “Israel Sought To Counter Influence of Iran” breaking news? No, I think what offends the Gang of 500 is that this information is now quickly, searchable to any proletarian idiot. It’s hard not to see why this might be a problem considering how little information it takes to start a conspiracy theory or make a campaign ad. Most of the time, the publicity of information bothers few. It isn’t some wall of secrecy being pierced that upsets, rather the cross-over into the mainstream consciousness of even those marginally interested in the news. If it’s on The View, SNL, any late night show or any morning zoo radio show, it’s too public. If every Ph.D. in the subject area knows what’s up, it’s not.

But this cross-over has more or less stopped. The public is bored of it already. Which means that it won’t change a damn thing except to make future leaks that might actually change the direction of the country on something less likely. And the fact that even Daniel Ellsberg himself compares this to what he did is shocking. The Pentagon Papers, more or less, ended the Vietnam war and, less proximately, played a huge factor in the series of events that led to the downfall of the Nixon administration.

Wikileads probably won’t even claim the head of a single political nominee in the State Department.

Of course, we didn’t need Wikileaks to know that the Bush administration committed war crimes, outed a CIA agent’s cover who was working on nuclear non-proliferation, used the office of the U.S. attorneys to target political enemies, started a war based on fraud, destroyed the U.S. economy, watched a major American city be destroyed, ignored warnings about 9/11, tortured, appointed hack judges to enable unlimited corporate cash into politics, did nothing to stop a wave of perversion and corruption in the U.S. Congress, encouraged voter intimidation and suppression, all while coming to power by stealing an election. None of these revelations, not even Abu Ghraib, led to anything other than brief political consequences.

Nothing happened. What makes you think that a bunch of news articles taking people who pay attention to issues for babes in the woods will do anything?

Finally.

The Democrats force a losing vote and the backlash from the Republicans’ obstruction is of more political importance than the loss of the vote. In this case, it may simply cost the Republicans a hunk of good will and then happen anyway.

Why wasn’t this ever done before? If people think they have something and then it is taken away, people don’t like it. Turning around and saying, oh, sorry it had a majority and everything, but these Republicans get to control everything.

The last week has been bad for the Republicans. First, the mere announcement of a deal shattered the illusion that they were now running the show—a sentiment prevalent among their base. Worse is the fact that the Republicans ignored their base in cutting this deal, and made it clear that their #1 priority was the rich, only had to make the Teabaggers feel like whores who just got dumped in the cheap hotel. The Tea Party was supposed to repeal the health care bill, not make the Bush tax cuts permanent!

The fact that it includes socialism like unemployment insurance only makes it worse.

And now, on top of that, the Senate leadership is forcing the Republicans to take votes that reveal that they aren’t there to work together to make things work better by checking Obama’s work, but to force a show down for their right-wing agenda.

Obama may alienated have a few bloggers, but he did not actually damage himself with his base, as his approval ratings among self-described liberals and Democrats attests. But the Republicans just did great damage to the “enthusiasm” they won the last election on.

Americans hoping instead for bi-partisan compromise now look to Obama and can relate to his very frustration: the right is only interested in the right, the left is only interested in the left, and the President is the only one paying attention to the deadlines in their lives, the consequences of an extra $100 or so every month in planning next year’s budget and the disaster losing an unemployment check or, due to the failure to pass middle-class tax cuts, their paychecks were actually reduced!

The voters didn’t think the Democrats were paying attention to their problems. They thought the Republicans would force them to. Obama seemed to get the message. The other two just continued off in their own separate worlds. In a sense, it’s more ingenious than Clinton’s triangulation, because it forces both parties to barter with him for the measures they will need to look sane and responsible while they meanwhile jockey for their own ideological advances—even ones that are DOA, like health care repeal.

I predict that Obama’s numbers will inch up the rest of this month as the lame duck session comes to a close, and he will have a chance to build momentum with the State of the Union speech, when he’ll be able to mention to people that he fought for that extra benjamin in their paychecks.

All he had to do was abandon the Hoovernomics fever that had swept his administration since the GOP managed to bamboozle people into conflating the Bush bank bailout and Obama’s stimulus bill. People think they disapproved of the stimulus, so instead of working to clarify the messaging, Obama internalized this misinformation and focused on austerity like tax increases, balanced budgets, and massive cuts.

This mistake, as many commentators pointed out, was the same one that Roosevelt made in 1936, and though Obama lost more seats in Congress, he did more things wrong than FDR. He let HAMP turn into an additional layer of predatory lending—letting people cut down their mortgages in bankruptcy would have been the easiest solution and the best solution for, you know, people who vote. He isn’t explaining what the fuck we are still doing in Afghanistan if we aren’t going to bag Bin Laden (he could simply explain we need to keep a thumb on the region of the only Islamic bomb in Pakistan, and the putative second Islamic nuclear power in Iran, but he doesn’t do that). He never really got out and pushed on the Wall Street bill, which only reinforced the meme about the stimulus that it was all part of the banker buddy system Obama shared with Bush.

All of this vagueness recalls his lack of leadership on the healthcare bill. He was still acting, more or less, like just another senator instead of the man with the plan.

And he seemed to be on this same self-immolating course as recently as last week when he announced a pay freeze on federal workers, as if he was pledging to a fraternity and needed to go in public and do something strange and humiliating to his friends for the frat boys to giggle to.

But then he announced his deal, this huge deficit spending, Keynesian lame duck surprise that—wait for it—is actually larger than the original stimulus.

The right wing is freaking out at this the way the left freaked out over Bush escalating the war in Iraq after the media declared the 2006 election about a rejection of Bush’s policies in Iraq. Bullshit. The 2006 election was about the gargantuan buyer’s remorse the public had about all aspects of the disastrous Bush presidency. He had lost his public mandate to take any action unilaterally, and the conventional wisdom that Bush should have been shamed into not doing something he unquestionably had the power and the desire to do was not only defied, but told to fuck itself.

Even if you argue that 2010 intended to send the same message, Obama only complied: he worked with the Republicans. In reality, it was a message that Obama wasn’t paying enough attention to fixing the Bush years, which is why the atmospherics of refusing to investigate or prosecute Bush administration crimes, even if more or less frivolous and of far less import than the justice left believes, was bad. It was asking: why are you spending a whole year doing healthcare when we’re going broke. (Simple answer would have been: this is the #1 reason for your economic insecurity, but they didn’t even really try that.)

Hopefully this means that the austerity hawks have been told to pack their shit.

DADT

It’s clearly Obama’s fault that Brown and Murkowski lied about their vote on DADT repeal.

Update: It’s not over yet. A stand-alone DADT repeal vote will allegedly be had before the Senate adjourns.

Goodlinx

Altermann:

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Bush v. Gore decision—technically December 12—it is interesting to note how much of our current political predicament can be discerned in the events of those days. The Bush-Gore election illustrates three key points about today’s political and media environment:

  • Conservatives fight harder and dirtier for what they want than progressives.
  • The mainstream media gives conservatives a pass for acting and speaking in their own political interest while criticizing progressives for the same thing.
  • Conservative commentators recognize few if any boundaries in their willingness to demonize progressives, with virtually no corollary of any kind among progressives.

Krugman is shrill.

The point is that by seeming angrier at worried supporters than he is at the hostage-takers, Mr. Obama is already signaling weakness, giving Republicans every reason to believe that they can extract another ransom.

And they can be counted on to act accordingly.

They can extract another ransom. They control the House. Even if Obama was the best politicker in US history, there would still be some horse-trading involved with Republicans.

Krugman does a good job of pointing out that the real problem here is the Republicans. Except we all agree on that. The problem is that some of us are still aiming our fire at them. Some aren’t.

A Great Internet Comment

One in a million:

You know, I really had a depressing insight today. “Progressives” are, by far, the smallest political fraction in the American political spectrum. In Pew Polls going back to the mid nineties, the percentage of people who describe themselves as “very liberal” (the other choices being “liberal, moderate, conservative and very conservative”) have banged around inside the MOE surrounding 5%.

They are a small voting bloc, they’re not sufficiently affluent to really compete in the money game, they don’t have a lot of representation at any level of government, except in isolated geographical patches. Add to that the ideological rigidity, resistance to organization or any kind of exertion of authority, and throw in their endency to hate based on ideological proximity rather than distance, and you have the picture of an entirely ineffectual political movement.

And rather than deal with that, rather than do any of the hard work of moving more people to their viewpoint, they want some deus ex machina to step in and just do everything they want with a wave of his magic wand. And hence their ongoing rage at Obama–if he can’t do what they want, when they want, in the order they want, without the slightest change or deviation from their ideal, it must be because he’s secretly against them, certainly not because they need to do anything themselves to move the country’s ideological needle.

And so it goes. Time after time, they find some thing they know they can’t have and fixate on it as the one thing they must be given so as to generate the rage necessary to keep them from facing their own political insignificance and apparent inability, over the last thirty years, to do anything about it.

But even knowing that, it’s the avowed willingness to throw the unemployed under the bus–whether implicitly, explicitly or through the introduction of newly discovered goalpost movers like their sudden concern for the plight of “the 99ers” that to serve as conscience balm–that’s made me realize there’s just not a whole hell of a lot of meaningful difference between them and the baggers.

I can’t find much in this to disagree with. This is why it has become clear to me that it’s time to reinvent liberalism yet again. [Sept. 24, 2010.] The late 2000s wave has ossified, was ineffectual, and completely disconnected from its voters.

Gail Collins FTW

Ha.

Look on the bright side, Democratic base. You’ve been urging President Obama to get really mad. Ever since the inauguration, you’ve been waiting for him to take a stand, point fingers at the people who are blocking progress and demand that they get the heck out of the road.

And this week he did it! Yippee!

Of course the liberal Democrats did not really plan on his getting mad at the liberal Democrats. But you can’t have everything.

It’s true. He finally stood up. Except he punched hippies instead of tea baggers.

The Left

The Left thinks the reason it gets no respect is that Democrats are as captured by the corporate elites as the Republicans are.

If this is true, it’s because The Left is not a reliable political force. The Right may refuse to turn out in huge numbers from time to time, but it learned its lesson from primarying Bush I and Ford. Bush II did plenty of things to upset the Right, including the biggest expansion of government since LBJ in Medicare Part D.

The Right turns out for Republicans. The Left only turns out for Democrats when they feel like it. They did not feel like it in 2000. They did not feel like it in 2010.

It’s perhaps a chicken and egg problem with the corporate capture of the Democrats, but this is getting ridiculous.

President Obama is on the cusp of ratifying the most significant nuclear non-proliferation treaty since the end of the Cold War, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and providing substantial economic relief for the unemployed and middle class in a lame duck session of Congress and he’s still not good enough for The Left.

I’m so old I can remember when we said people were racist when no matter what he did Obama couldn’t please them.

Relevance and Liberal Disenchantment

The icy analysis of the Tax deal is that it be a worthy gain of stimulus even with its fetid Bush Tax Cut for the Rich after birth. Sausage making process. Hold nose. Compromise. Be satisfied knowing that UI has been extended for some and that worthy things have been accomplished. Onto the next battle.

Legislative process. Been there. Done that.

So why the liberal disenchantment?

I think it all goes back to the vital leadership quality of relevance. Relevant leadership is, obviously, leadership that addresses pertinent concerns or issues. At first glance it appears that what any president or major public figure is doing is relevant — that’s why there are a gaggle of media filter-feeding barnacles there to report on it and beam it into your living room. But an audience does not relevance make. Consider pre-historic relevance archetypes. If a group of early hunter/gatherers needs to navigate a fearsome jungle to get food, then the person that claims to know the way through will be highly relevant. If an early agricultural village’s water supply has dried up from drought, and someone decrees that they know of a new water supply, the person with that knowledge becomes politically important quickly. Imagine how relevant someone with the demonstrated ability to immediately cap a rupture oil well 10,000 feet below the ocean would have been during the Gulf Oil Spill disaster in the summer of 2010!

Obama burst onto the scene through a mastery of relevance. Regardless of how obtuse his “hope” rhetoric was, it was the perfect antidote to the venality and mendacity of the Bush era — especially when juxtaposed with Hillary’s early “inevitability” strategy. The confounding undercutting of the Obama presidency has been the his loss of relevance. The too small Stimulus was passed without adequately describing how it addressed the economic crisis. Health Care Reform was formulated without anyone being sure what Obama was for, other than the resolution of the legislative process. Worst of all, the infuriating Bankster bonuses were allocated with nary a peep from the President. Time and again, Obama has played Prime Minister or else been mute on the pressing issues of the day.

Now, in the wake of the Conservatron resurgence of 2010; so called austerity is purportedly relevant to the electorate. Regardless that, intellectually, what is needed is more stimulus; the fact that there must be shared sacrifice to balance the budget for the greater good makes an intuitive sense because sacrifice is what just about every American has done since the Great Economic Collapse. Obama justified an anti-stimulative freeze in federal pay by saying that, this was the sort of broad sacrifice that was necessary given the debt situation. His Cat Food Commission has just finished describing the sort of baubles that must be given up to balance the budget.

And into the maw of the great sacrifice beast is extracted… an unnecessary bon bon for the Wealthiest! Freezing federal pay ($5 billion savings) is necessary sacrifice, not extending ultra-stimulative unemployment ($5 billion per month) is necessary sacrifice, raising the retirement age is necessary sacrifice; but the Wealthiest need not have their tax cuts sacrificed. Just as the Banksters that caused the Great Economic Collapse need not have their shenanigans seriously investigated, need not have their bailout money monitored, need not have their compensation reconsidered, need not be cajoled into actually loaning any of the money they are sitting on to worthy customers, and need not have anyone less familiar than Larry Summers or Tim Geihtner populate high economic places.

At the end of the day Obama is asking everyone to sacrifice instead of the wealthiest. Given the reality of the Conservatrons, he got the best deal that he could. Given the reality of the inability to hold the architects of the Great Economic Collapse accountable or demand any ballyhooed sacrifice for the wealthiest, it’s infuriating. And irrelevant.

"The Wrecking Crew"

Although it never sparked chattering class buzz, “The Wrecking Crew” Thomas Frank’s sequel to the iconic What’s the Matter with Kansas, is most pertinent to American politics on the eve of President Obama’s Health Care speech to Congress. The elemental point of the wrecking crew is that Conservatrons (my word) use the functions of government as an entrepenurial means to cash in for various monied interests; in exchange for lobbying of pseudo-intellectualizing for a monied interest a Conservatron gets lots of money and the interest gets favorable policies. Or see, War, Iraq II.

In the process, the Conservatrons leave the actual stewardship of the government in duress. A Democrat is then elected to mend the catastrophe, only to see his popularity plummet as he delivers the sour medicine. He does just enough to right the disaster, giving the Conservatrons a nicely righted Ship of State to steam towards the shoals at their next opportunity. Or see Clinton, William Jefferson 1993-94.

I never did finish this post up, but it appears that Mr. Frank was surely correct.

Liberals

Liberals are supposed to care about the middle class and the unemployed, right?

What’s sad is that for so many years, liberals have been bitch slapped by Republicans that they think the only thing to be done in politics is bitch slap back. I fully support bitch slapping. But with a purpose, as part of a strategy. Not as and end, but as a means.

Obama just got a huge stimulus bill out of Republicans because they were so greedy for millionaire tax cuts on income and estates that they would give a lot of this stuff up.

The left can feel betrayed. It can feel used. It can feel whatever it wants. But Obama will be more popular when people start getting more money in their paychecks on January 1.

Also, the right wing is freaking out because they thought they were just going to unilaterally govern after the last election. That last part told me everything I needed to know.

Prop 8 in USCA9

LA Times, December 6, 2010:

Federal appeals court judges Monday seemed headed toward a decision that could reinstate same-sex marriages in California while avoiding a ruling of national sweep that would invite U.S. Supreme Court action.

Polemic, August 15, 2010: Prop 8 Rejection Might Be Limited to California

The technical action that the district court took in this case was to strike down Prop 8, which was a specific law enacted by the voters to repeal an existing right, as the Appellees note in their papers. It could arguably be the case that Prop 8 taking rights away is unconstitutional but that this does not compel it being granted elsewhere. If this is the case, it would mean that only in places where there is an existing state-based right to gay marriage would this apply. Splitting hairs? Yes. Some might call it “judicial minimalism.”

This is separate and distinct from the separate standing issue that many feel may cause this case to end before there is a total reckoning.

I don’t think this was put out there before by people at all. They were focused either on a sweeping Constitutional declaration of gay rights, or the cheap legal trick of using the standing issue.

I like my resolution better.

Presidential

Will it work? Will people start believing Obama is “above the fray”? I don’t know. But that’s what he’s going for.

And his press conference on the compromise today sounded that note.

Ezra FTW

Once again, Ezra has his eye on the ball instead of on Random Tea Bagger Punching:

… if the White House gets the deal that the early reports suggest are close — and that they seem to think they’ll be able to get — this is a two-year stimulus package that approaches $300 billion.*

* * *

[Update: Just to be clear, that's $300 billion for tax cuts for income over $250,000, and tax extenders. Add in the rest of the tax cuts -- which I left out because they're already at consensus -- and it's closer to $750 billion. So the $300 billion is the marginal cost over the tax cuts for income under $250,000.]

In other words, rather than paring the tax cuts and the deficit back, they’re making both larger. If you’re of the mind that the economy needs all the extra help it can get right now — and you should be — this is a lot more extra help than anyone expected Republicans and Democrats would agree to give it. And from a political perspective, if you believe that what matters for elections is the economy — and you should — then it’s worth it for the White House to lose news cycles in 2010 if it means adding jobs by 2012.

Does this seal reelection for Obama? Of course not. But it’s hardly the cowering surrender it’s being portrayed as. If the “progressive” base destroys Obama’s presidency, it will never forgive itself, and probably neither will America.

Keep in mind, I have clamored repeatedly on this page for Obama to force the right into a Pyrrhic victory on some legislative issue. Taxes, unemployment, and stimulus are not the right area for that. Honestly, if I had to pick one, it would be START because the backlash might actually matter. The point of such a move is to improve your political standing to do other good things. It’s not to do it for its own sake (what I call Tea Bagger Punching when done by the left and Hippie Punching when done by the right). It has to go somewhere and gain some ground.

* I guess that’s a net stimulus because it’s comparing what is in effect now to the future where the tax cuts expired. In gross, it’s the amount of the UI extension.

Obama Damned If He Does, Damned If He Doesn't.

So, Obama is “ramming through” an unemployment extension by wheeling and dealing, the way all of the Lefties told him to do during the healthcare debate, but now he’s caving on tax cuts for the rich.

Really, people, what exactly do you want the man to do?

I understand the opposition to the tax cuts for the rich, I just don’t think it’s like the number one most vital thing in the entire frickin’ universe. The Republicans have a certain amount of power in Washington. You can either water down single issues, like the healthcare bill, or you can trade one thing for the other, like unemployment (and perhaps DADT repeal, START, and the middle class tax cuts) for something else—here a three year extension of the Bush cuts.

Really, if you care about the deficit, you’d want all of the tax cuts to expire. The bulk of the cost of the cuts are for the middle class. As people are fond of pointing out, we did fine during the Clinton years. So, if the deficit is such a concern ,we could go back to them and be fine.

But of course, this is politics.

I’m not arguing that the rich deserve tax cuts or that said cuts will help the economy. I’m not arguing that the Republicans are doing the right thing here. I’m just arguing that they are the price for things we do want. And while I do believe our politics have been massively corrupted by the lobbying influence of the rich, this tax cut is not the crucial difference. It may have made an impact in 2000-2009, but in 2010 we have Citizen’s United at the top of the list first.

Another Dumbass Solution to Illegal Immigration

By a local yokel.

Short version: bust the employers.

The genius of NAFTA was making it so that all of those “dirty Mexicans” could still do work at slave wages, but we wouldn’t have to look at them anymore. So, shit is still cheap, but we don’t have to know about it. Same goes for the world-wide free trade agreements. Would you really buy those shoes if you knew a 13 year old made them? Would you really buy that TV if you knew that the electronics in it contributed to the heavy metal poisoning of a village’s water supply?

Of course not. But if you can’t see it, you know you will. Everyone knows this. Some people can live with the dissonance. Some people have to believe that’s a bunch of liberal crackpot shit and it isn’t true. Some people refuse to buy stuff made under these conditions, but most well read people know what they’re doing and do it anyway, usually with nothing more than a sigh—if that.

But, unfortunately for xenophobic America, some of this stuff has to be done locally. And so some people want to put firing squads at the border and round ‘em up and send ‘em back. The manual for doing this was written at Wannsee, Germany in 1942, but that doesn’t seem to phase these folks. Neither does the fact that it would probably destroy our food supply and cause hyperinflation, especially in food prices.

The article I linked to represents the evolution of thought by the Honda driving suburbanite from downright bigot to authoritarian. Instead of rounding up the workers, instead we’ll round up their employers. If they don’t have anywhere to work, well, hell, then they won’t come, right? The author notes that he thinks drugs are the other big problem we have. Obviously, he hasn’t read about terrorism, the wars we’re in, or the unemployment rate, but I’ll admit that it’s Very Serious® to care about drugs and illegal immigration, and the solutions to the drug war usually are authoritarian in nature too (especially the enlightened ones who care less about the drugs white college kids fuck with marijuana and psychedelics and worry more about the drugs poor white people do methamphetimenes and the drugs poor black people do crack.

I digress.

Anyway, there are any number of ways of appropriating real concerns and applying them to illegal immigration. The communist agressors killer bees terrorists will come through the porous borders! They’re stealing our jobs! Etc. So maybe given that escalation we should go up the causal chain one level to the employers. Yeah! The corporate fat cats! That will appeal both to liberal communists and conservative racists! Sounds like a bipartisan solution! I’m so smart!

But in reality, the ultimate source of the problem is the consumer demand for cheap products. That’s you and me and the other people with the computer made in China and the lettuce picked by José for $1 per hour, whether in California or Mexico. We need cheaper food because our wages have been stagnant for 40 years, our household savings doesn’t exist, we’re in debt, we can’t keep up with the cost of higher education, healthcare, or, up until recently, housing—the cornerstones of middle-classdom.

But there isn’t even a serious proposal in Congress or anywhere else that I know of for that matter to impose tariffs on countries that cheat on wages, the environment and other externalities. There’s no proposal with a snowball in hell’s chance of passing to even tax the profits multinational companies earn by exploiting this difference (the latter example would leave the more Neoclassical trade theory in place, but at least would give us something for it).

So, sorry there Phil. There’s nothing to be done in terms of right-wing solutions to this problem. You either need to make that kind of work livable for people here without making food too expensive and starving a bunch of people here, or you are going to have to deal with those people here. Any tinkering of this kind will be subject to political poison-pilling, unforeseen consequences, and all kinds of other dangers.

The best solution, and probably the only one that will work at all, is to learn to live with Mexican workers in our country. I just don’t have a problem with a multicultural society. I don’t get why people are so pissed off that they have to press 1 for English or whatever.

It's the economy, stupid. Deficits don't matter.

Clinton and Cheney were both right.

If the START II treaty, DADT repeal, a permanent middle class tax cut and a permanent unemployment extension only cost $70b to extend the extra tax cuts for the rich, I really don’t see the downside of just giving it up, other than the fact that Obama has been painted into a bit of a corner on the issue. But haven’t the Republicans been painted into a corner on the other stuff?

The reality is that the Republicans can sustain a filibuster in the Senate right now and will control the House in the next Congress. This is standard political horse-trading. I don’t see the problem.

Maybe it’s because I just don’t care about the deficit when government can borrow at historically low levels and there is 10% unemployment. So, it’s $70B for the rich. Ideally, that would all go to the middle class, but the truth is that there it would take a fiscal stimulus of upwards of $2.5T to really get the economy back in shape.

Also, I know that the “deficit” just means government spending you don’t like. It doesn’t really matter, especially not under the current conditions. If the deficit really were a national security emergency, we would end the wars, not extend any of the Bush tax cuts, and have single-payer healthcare. But it’s not.

The voters have made clear that they don’t care about deficits. Politicians can’t tell voters to care about something 10 years in the future, because an entire government can be changed in 6. The voters will not tolerate a balanced budget, as they made clear in 2000. They want “their” money back. The voters will not tolerate high unemployment as they made clear in 2010, 1994, and 1992, and many times before. They will not tolerate cuts in social programs, as the 2005 social security attempted bamboozle demonstrated. On the contrary, the voters did not punish Johnson, Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II for running huge deficits.

This is hard to deal with for some people because it is internally inconsistent and crosses party lines. But it’s what the voters say. Politicians might be forced into bad policies listening to them, but it’s kind of their job and it’s kind of our system.

The President that has to deal with an Ireland-like situation in the future will be the first one the voters punish for the deficit alone.

Fun With Nukes

Just watched The Threads and The Day After again.

What’s interesting about The Day After is even though I was a small kid when I saw it and I didn’t really understand it, I never forgot it. It’s easy to see how it started such a dialog. What’s even more interesting is going back and reading over some of the batshits on the right complain about it. Phillis Schafly claimed it was propaganda aimed at making America “unilaterally disarm.” Ben Stein lamented that ABC should make a movie about Soviet domination (which they did, but it sucked) to show why we have to live on the brink of such destruction. Same day, different shit? Yup.

Of course the Soviet Union never intended to invade the United States, nor could it have done so and succeeded. The irony of course is that these dipshit’s own hero, Ronald Reagan, was motivated to announce his policy of eliminating all nuclear weapons in large part in response to seeing The Day After. Was Reagan soft on communism? That movie combined with the psychological operations up to and including Able Archer 83 made things just a bit too real for Reagan, and, after he watched the movie, one of his advisers said that it “drew blood.” The Reykjavik conference followed shortly thereafter. Of course we know now that the Soviet Union was simply unable to keep up with our military build up, and could not have competed with us if we had decided to go ahead and weaponize space, but it was never entirely clear that this would have the result it did: the Eastern Bloc going out with a whimper. The men who ruled the Soviet Union before Gorbachev were convinced we were planning a first strike and thought that the only way to stop it would be to preempt it.

The Day After was one of those moments we can’t have anymore because, for better or worse, Americans don’t watch the same TV channel they were on. It’s too easy to change and there’s too much content on other channels. Some people might have seen it now, but it wouldn’t have been watched by 100 million people, or, a little less than half the country. In other words, everyone saw it. It changed the course of history in a way that movies, especially made for TV ones, aren’t capable of anymore, especially ones on a political topic. The best we can do these days is Sicko or Super Size Me which seem to only have the effect of giving an early warning to lobbyists to ramp up their push back.

The Threads is basically a British version that is ever more terrible, because, well, things in Britain would be even worse and, if I recall correctly, was censored to a large degree.

Ronald Reagan understood the stakes. Perhaps he had to see a movie to get it through his head, but he did. Those Republicans that claim to worship him don’t get it. I suppose they think it would be good to go back to the days where we were saved only by the common sense of a Russian Lieutenant Colonel from accidentally destroying civilization. We don’t fear “Amerika” anymore, do we? No, our worst nightmare these days is some muslim blowing up an a-bomb in one city. As terrible as it is, it is by no means as bad as what we lived under threat of for 40 years. Of course, a non-nuclear attack using box cutters has managed to deep fry the brains of so many Americans that we have actually taken several steps backwards on this issue by making the political will for military non-proliferation options anemic and by making the head hunting of an Internet gossip star (the Wikileaks guy) more important than the outing of Valerie Plame, whose life’s work was to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Too bad George W. Bush wasn’t President in the Cold War. The Russians could have counted on his reading My Pet Goat longer than the time necessary to make the decision to retaliate.

If I thought that the obstructionist fuckwads in the Senate holding up the vote on START II would be moved by watching these flicks, I would mail them a copy. But, they just don’t care anymore. Jon Kyl probably has some secret fortress in Arizona.