Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is It Over?

I've seen several comments in various places wondering if—if the Conservatives ratchet up the stimulus—the whole "opposition deal" thing is off.

It may be. The opposition wouldn't necessarily have a lot to stand on, depending on how badly the Conservatives cave. They might decide that they can't defend their decision to the Canadian people.

But it shouldn't be. Let's be clear: if Harper stays in power, he will kill the subsidies. He'll make it a confidence motion, waiting just long enough to ensure that the GG has no choice but to call an election. He'll follow that up with a brace of conservative bills, all confidence motions, as he takes advantage of the financial disarray on the part of his opponents.

Meanwhile, Harper's as weak as he's ever been. The illusion of mastery is gone, and so is his ironclad grip on his party. Already some are taking advantage of it; others will follow. And now that it's gone, it's never coming back. People aren't going to forget his incredible miscue, and will refer back to it whenever he does anything remotely controversial in the future. He'll need the advantage that that subsidy gives him, because his other advantages are pretty much gone. He'll have crippled the opposition, but he'll end up at war with his own party.

And you know that? That doesn't sound like any more stable a government than a cobbled-together caretaker Dion government would be. So they might as well go forward.

A Part of the Game That Harper's Playing

In case you were wondering, he's probably banking on the Liberals falling apart as much as anything else.

As the week goes on, the "our faction at all cost" forces within the party are going to get rowdier and rowdier at the thought of either Dion or The Other Guy taking the lead. And, in turn, as things get rowdier, they're going to start pushing harder and harder for Their Guy to take the helm. Which is going to make the Other Side push Their Guy, and so on, and so forth.

The solution was, and is simple: Let Dion do it, with the understanding that he won't act without the consent of his caucus. He is neither Iggy's man, nor Rae's man, and isn't even likely to stay in politics after this is all over. He is, thus, the perfect caretaker here. Especially if the Coalition is waiting out Harper's replacement.

Though, if you think about it, that makes things a bit different. Part of the reason the leadership race was this Rae/Iggy affair was that they were both anxious to deal with Harper. If Harper's out the window, though, and the Conservatives are embroiled in their own leadership battle, the Liberals will likely see much more fertile ground. And, in turn, the Conservatives will no longer look like the staid, stable party that they professed to be under Steve-o. They'd be as chaotic as the Liberals, maybe even more so.

Canada could end up as changed by the middle of next year as America will.

Even More Talking Points!

This? This right here? This is hilarious.

Hey, this is kind of fun.

I don’t have time to go through all the other regions, but commenters are encouraged to type in their postal code to find out exactly what Doug Finley wants outraged Conservatives to say when calling up talk radio shows in their respective regions. Feel free to paste the results in the comments, too — let’s see whether they’ve had time to give a lovingly targeted Muttartian massage to the message in different parts of the country, or are relying on quick and dirty boilerplate shock and horror.

UPDATE: Aw, poor Tory MPs. They’re stuck with the same talking points, according to the super-urgent-top-priority-all-hands-on-deck Giornogram dispatched to caucus on Friday, which was - gosh, this isn’t a good sign, guys - promptly leaked to the Globe and Mail. Oh, unless this is one of those Doug Finley double-reverse mind tricks, where he actually wants his party’s footsoldiers to look like they’re incapable of coming up with their own words to express their fury.

As noted in an earlier post, Montreal Gazette reporter Elizabeth Thompson has the Montreal hotlist, and here’s what I got when I plugged in my downtown Ottawa coordinates:

Opposition lacks mandate to take power

  • Is anyone else outraged by what the Opposition Parties are doing in Ottawa?
  • We’re not even two months removed from the last election, and a group of backroom politicians are going to pick who the Prime Minister is. Canadians didn’t vote for this person. We don’t even know who this person will be.
  • Not a single voter voted for a Liberal-NDP coalition. Certainly not a single voter voted for the Liberals to form a coalition with the separatists in the Bloc.

  • Add – what’s worse the Liberals even promised that there wouldn’t be a coalition with the NDP – this is all about power, all about money and they don’t even want to face the voters
  • This is what bothers me the most. The Conservatives won the election. The Opposition keeps saying that the Conservatives have to respect the will of the voters that this is a minority and so on.
  • …how about Liberals, NDP and Bloc respecting the will of the voters when they said “YOU LOSE”.
  • And what’s this going to do to the economy. I’m sorry, I don’t care how desperate the Liberals are – giving socialists (Jack Layton) and separatists (Gilles Duceppe) a veto over every decision in government – that is a recipe for total economic disaster.
  • Here is what is bothering me about all of this backroom opposition coalition talk.
  • Sure it bothers me that parties Canadian rejected are trying to seize power through the back door.
  • But how more phony could these guys be?
  • I mean, I follow the news, virtually every single day you have Harper or Flaherty out there telegraphing exactly what they plan to do with the economy. And not once did you hear the Liberals, NDP or separatists talking about toppling the government in response.
  • No – do you know what set this off. When Flaherty said he was going to take taxpayer-funded subsidies away from the opposition. Now there is a reason to try and overturn an election– because the Conservatives the audacity to say “Hey, it’s a recession, maybe you should take your nose out of the trough.”
  • And I wish the media would be more clear on this point – the opposition aren’t being singled out by this fact the Conservatives stand to lose the most money of all. The only difference is that Canadians are voluntarily giving money the Conservatives, so they don’t need taxpayer handouts. The only reason the opposition would be hurt more is because nobody wants to donate to them. They should be putting their efforts towards fixing that problem.
  • I don’t want another election. But what I want even less is a surprise backroom Prime Minister whom I never even had the opportunity to vote for or against. What an insult to democracy.

So there you go. Lots of delicious talking points. And, for those Canadians who might be reading, the site in question gives you radio shows for you to call and repeat them!

So, if any of you were thinking about calling and, say, letting these guys know that the Conservative Party of Canada thinks they're such suckers that they'd get played by a bunch of internet yahoos with talking points...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Talking Points!

Here's what the Tories will be saying:
The email includes exact sound bites MPs and their supporters should use when giving interviews, including:

1) "We're not even two months removed from the last election, and a group of backroom politicians are going to pick who the Prime Minister is. Canadians didn't vote for this person. We don't even know who this person will be."

2) "And what's this going to do with the economy. I'm sorry, I don't care how desperate the Liberals are - giving socialists (Jack Layton) and separatists (Gilles Duceppe) a veto over every decision in government - that is a recipe for total economic disaster."

3) "I don't want another election. But what I want even less is a surprise backroom Prime Minister whom I never even had the opportunity to vote for or against. What an insult to democracy."
So now you know.

Counterpoints in order:
1) "A progressive coalition would represent a majority of ridings and a near super-majority of voters. It is what the voters chose. It is time we respected that choice."

2)"Harper already needs the votes of socialists or seperatists to govern, unless he's prepared to enter coalition with the Liberals. He wants to govern for the interests of his right-wing donor base, not Canadians. THAT is an economic disaster."

3)"Canadians already returned a progressive majority to the House. Harper has no mandate to govern as if he has a majority, and clearly only cares about his ideology and right-wing base. Minority rule is not democratic."


Hey, Libs/NDPers/BQs, You Wanna Talking Point?

Just came up with it:

"A progressive coalition would represent a majority of ridings and a near super-majority of voters. It is what the voters chose. It is time we respected that choice.”

You're welcome.

The Laschelles Principles

Over on CalGrit's ("terribly interesting") blog, Jason Townsend made a profound point: the events in Canada have been anticipated by the so-called "Lascelles Principles".

Here's the salient bit from the Wikipedia entry:

The Lascelles Principles are notable in that their formal statement was not incorporated in any governmental document, but rather was in the form of a letter to the editor of The Times by Sir Alan Lascelles, writing under the pseudonym "Senex", published on 2 May 1950:

To the Editor of The Times

Sir,—It is surely indisputable (and common sense) that a Prime Minister may ask—not demand—that his Sovereign will grant him a dissolution of Parliament; and that the Sovereign, if he so chooses, may refuse to grant this request. The problem of such a choice is entirely personal to the Sovereign, though he is, of course, free to seek informal advice from anybody whom he thinks fit to consult.

In so far as this matter can be publicly discussed, it can be properly assumed that no wise Sovereign—that is, one who has at heart the true interest of the country, the constitution, and the Monarchy—would deny a dissolution to his Prime Minister unless he were satisfied that: (1) the existing Parliament was still vital, viable, and capable of doing its job; (2) a General Election would be detrimental to the national economy; (3) he could rely on finding another Prime Minister who could carry on his Government, for a reasonable period, with a working majority in the House of Commons. When Sir Patrick Duncan refused a dissolution to his Prime Minister in South Africa in 1939, all these conditions were satisfied: when Lord Byng did the same in Canada in 1926, they appeared to be, but in the event the third proved illusory.

I am, &c.,


April 29.

First, a fellow pseud!

Second, the second point hits home. The wiki piece calls it "dropped from the canon", but there's a real argument to be made that Canada cannot afford another election. If it can't, and another government is in the offing, why not let them take a shot at it? It's not a "coup"—Paliament is still supreme and the House itself goes on—and it might be the only way of creating a government stable enough to last, since Harper is clearly willing to have as many elections as he can get away with.

Let's be honest. Mumbai is far more important in the broader scheme of things. But this Canadian thing is gripping; and it's only likely to get better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wells and the Mission

He accurately predicted what the Canadian Internet is already starting to experience: absolute FLOODS of wingnuts mindlessly rewriting their rote talking points over, and over and over....

It's actually happening in the very entry he made the prediction in!

That's why Harper has pushed the "opposition day" (where the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc can put forward their own bills and motions) back a week. He's counting on his machine to save his bacon, both online and offline.

The job of progressives, no matter what party you belong to, is to prevent him from doing it. Libloggers, Bloggin' Dippers, Bloquists of all stripes, that is your mission. Fight them at every turn, rebut them at every opportunity, and mock the HELL out of them when four or five show up saying the same damned things using different words.

Make no mistake: his job is on the line here. If he loses government for even a few months, his own caucus will devour him. He'll be finished. And if he's finished, his party will be completely listless. They have nobody else with his political skill and talent in caucus. Those that aren't idiots are dullards that make Harper himself look like a charismatic dynamo.

His attempt to finish you—and make no mistake, he is trying to bankrupt your parties, ALL of them, and force his ideology down your people's throat—may finish him.

But only if you act.

Holy Crap, They're Doing It

The Canadian Liberals are going to bring down the government 48 days after the election.

The federal Liberals plan to bring down the Conservative government in a confidence motion on Monday, saying they have a viable alternative, the Canadian Press reported Friday.

But Harper could still avert the immediate defeat of his minority government, re-elected six weeks ago, through procedural tactics.

According to the Canadian Press, the Liberal motion, which has the approval of the NDP and Bloc Québécois, reads:

"In light of the government's failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons."

A source says the opposition parties have agreed that Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion would lead the government for the next few months.
American readers may not get the big deal; Canadians will realize that this is historic. Maybe not as much as "first black President", but historic nontheless.

Free Advice for the Liberals

If the vote thing should come up again?

Just say something like this:

"In the last election, even if your chosen candidate didn't win, you still had a voice. That's because the party you voted for receives two dollars a year for every vote it gets. Win or lose, you make a real monetary difference. Win or lose, they have to pay attention to your issues. VOTER'S issues.

But Harper wants to take that voice away. He wants to return to a government where the highest bidders get listened to, and your issues get ignored. One where the wealthy call the shots and the voters get ignored, because the majority of votes don't make a difference.

Tell Harper that you think he's wrong, and let's preserve the voters' voice."

It's a little rough, but the point is that this public financing scheme is actually rather elegant; it ensures that parties have a real incentive to get votes, even in ridings where they aren't going to win. It would be at the heart of any real "308 riding" strategy, and would be a massive incentive for turnout if they bothered to highlight it. It's an additional voice for voters, and that's a GOOD thing. (No matter how Coyne may whine that the Liberals aren't scaring people into direct-mail donations like the Conservatives do.)

If you tell people that it's party welfare or an "entitlement", they might not buy it. But that's not what it is. It's a way of ensuring that every vote counts. And I'm sure that if you tell people that that's what it is, they'll think it's worth defending.

Three Nation Roundup

In America, it's thanksgiving. Obama has a thanksgiving address, and it's pretty good. Krugman has a column, though, and it's better:
A few months ago I found myself at a meeting of economists and finance officials, discussing — what else? — the crisis. There was a lot of soul-searching going on. One senior policy maker asked, “Why didn’t we see this coming?”

There was, of course, only one thing to say in reply, so I said it: “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?
The moaning about "how it wasn't predicted" does have a point though:
Now we’re in the midst of another crisis, the worst since the 1930s. For the moment, all eyes are on the immediate response to that crisis. Will the Fed’s ever more aggressive efforts to unfreeze the credit markets finally start getting somewhere? Will the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus turn output and employment around? (I’m still not sure, by the way, whether the economic team is thinking big enough.)

And because we’re all so worried about the current crisis, it’s hard to focus on the longer-term issues — on reining in our out-of-control financial system, so as to prevent or at least limit the next crisis. Yet the experience of the last decade suggests that we should be worrying about financial reform, above all regulating the “shadow banking system” at the heart of the current mess, sooner rather than later.

For once the economy is on the road to recovery, the wheeler-dealers will be making easy money again — and will lobby hard against anyone who tries to limit their bottom lines. Moreover, the success of recovery efforts will come to seem preordained, even though it wasn’t, and the urgency of action will be lost.

So here’s my plea: even though the incoming administration’s agenda is already very full, it should not put off financial reform. The time to start preventing the next crisis is now.

Not much more to add to that. Never mind the guys bailing out of their mess now: what everybody should be worry about is the guys who are setting up for the NEXT mess to bail out of.

In Canada, the Government is apparently backing down on its pledge to gut public financing in the face of an opposition drive to defeat the Conservatives and cobble together a three-party coalition government. (Well, two-party and one extra, the Bloc strikes me as uninterested in cabinet seats.)

The funny part is that the opposition might well do it ANYWAY. Why? Because their concern that the Canadian mini-budget contains no stimulus isn't just a cover, it's real. And, yes, it is valid: Harper appears to have had the brilliant idea of capping government spending during a recession, while not providing any real stimulus.

Now, unless his actual goal is to cut energy costs by harnessing all of Canada's electricity from Keynes' furiously spinning corpse, this is ridiculously stupid. It's out of line with the entire western world. Yes, Canada's system has helped shield it from the crises, but it's not going to be shielded from the effects. Stimulus will be necessary just to help Canada through America's tough times; and that must include any and every bit of government spending that might be necessary. Carving up the budget to please your idiot base can wait.

And in India, well... you already know. My first reaction was "spraying crowds with guns? They're disciplined, but that smacks of weak logistic capabilities." Obviously I was wrong there. This was a big, big deal. I'm not thinking it was Al Qaeda, the signature is all wrong, but could it actually be connected to the Pakistani government? I'm not sure.

Kos has a nice omnibus thread on it, and links to two other sources: Nataraj's Kos diary and Barcepundit's blog. Nataraj says that it's an old group:

Looks like most of the terrorists came from Pakistan. They are said to belong to LeT (Lushkar - e - Taiba) an old terrorist outfit that has been involved in high profile terrorist attacks on India in the past. Some experts are saying direct Al Qaida involvement is likely. The name of Deccan Mujahideen is a red herring - as none of the terrorists speak with a southern accent - they speak with a Punjabi Accent.

There were certainly some local accomplices. Some others are beleived to be British citizens.

The captured terrorists are from Firodkot near Multan in Punjab (Pakistan). They were highly trained and belong to the "suidcide" group of LeT....

...but admits it's somewhat speculative, and Nataraj appears to be no great fan of Pakistan (or, um, liberalism), so take it with a big grain of salt.

And here's Juan Cole's take, where he noted something a bit alarming:

CNN is reporting that two of the terrorists may have been Britons of South Asian heritage (about half of UK Muslims are originally from Kashmir). If true, that datum would make sense of some of the tactics used in Mumbai (concentration on Americans, British and Israelis or Jews), since many young British Muslims view Anglo-American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as a genocide against Muslims, and Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank as a slow genocide against Palestinians. In their fevered imagination, Hindu India is an ally in this generalized persecution of a harmless and righteous community.

In fact, the ruling Congress Party generally attracts the Muslim vote and in turn New Delhi does favors for the Muslims.

My suspicion is that a US withdrawal from Iraq will lead to fewer such incidents (The Iraq War was cited by the perpetrators of the bombings in Madrid and 7/7 in London, and it is probably implicated in this one too. Fallujah is a rallying cry).
Britons were involved in this? Hoo boy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This is Better

Eugene Forsey Liberal Sez:

We Liberals & the other parties have no option but to oppose the Cons' cynical move on election financing, or sign our own death warrants. Should the government be defeated on a confidence motion, so soon after the last election, the GG would have to ask the 2nd party, the LPC, if they could command the confidence of the House. I think we could. Failing that, better to fight yet another Con-provoked election now, with their previous economic lies & mismanagement exposed, rather than allow ourselves to be bled to death before the next election. The Cons have two choices: back down or risk losing power. We & the other parties have no choice, we simply can't back down. No-one wants an election, but better one now, on a level playing field, rather than one later on a severely inclined pitch. Whatever the result, better we resolve ourselves to go with a bang rather than a whimper.
It's clearly, clearly the case that the Conservatives want to put the Liberals between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, they cannot allow this bill to pass. CANNOT. Regardless of its merits, it would be crippling to the opposition, who had built their fundraising and financing strategies on this subsidy. They would likely not recover, and Canada would have Conservative rule for decades, perhaps, unless and until the left recovers and reorganizes. The NDP, Greens, and BQ can't support it either. The BQ and Greens quite literally face annihilation without public financing, and the NDP isn't doing so well that they could recover.

(It may not be the same Canada. The deliberate throttling of the BQ would likely inflame Quebec nationalists. It's one thing for the BQ to be seen as somewhat irrelevant, it's entirely enough to watch it get choked to death by the Calgary Mob.)

On the other hand, they cannot go to another election. They can't afford it, the Liberals don't even have a leader yet (oh, was THAT a great decision!) and the NDP are in dire financial straits themselves, considering they spent to the max in the last election and their core givers are likely in no position to give.

So there's this other option: go to the GG and create a Bloc/NDP/Liberal coalition. Would it be rickety? Hell yes. More so than most things you see out of Israel or Italy. And there's a good question about whether or not the Liberal party as a whole would even want it; Dion-as-PM might actually be a big success, he might change his mind about running again, and all of a sudden Ignatieff isn't looking so hot.

(Rae would be in a different position, as he's a bit more likely to produce policies the NDP and Bloc would like, but the NDP thinks him a traitor and the Iggy crew control most of the party apparatus. Which is one of the reasons Dion was so paranoid and distrustful in the first place.)

This cannot pass. It's profoundly undemocratic for a sitting government to change the electoral rules to benefit itself so completely. But the question of how to respond is one that the Liberals, NDP and Bloquists are going to need to carefully consider. And right now, I'm wondering if they should be talking about that coalition. To hell with "moving to the center." A left coalition might be the only thing that saves them now.

This is When Bloggers Piss Me Off



Jesus wept, you call yourself a Liberal and a progressive and you just say"hmm wow isn't this brilliant and INTERESTING?"

No wonder they got their asses kicked. Never mind that Liberals clearly appear far more interested in fighting leadership battles (with or without an actual "leader" to pretend loyalty to) than actually winning elections or forming an effective opposition. Though that's obvious enough.

But when the Prime Minister of Canada makes a move to bankrupt his opposition by taking away the public financing that was the backbone of the Canadian system, without opening up fundraising to replace it, because he's comfortable with HIS war chest of oil dollars... just call it "interesting"?

It's cut-throat, it's conniving, it's Machiavellian, it's underhanded. It's being done for no reason other than crass political gains.

And it's absolutely brilliant politics. Absolutely brilliant.

Symbolic cuts to politicians' perks, temporary relief for pension plans and a political grenade – ending the $30-million public subsidy to parties – are expected highlights of Thursday federal economic statement.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will ask the five political parties to give up the $1.95-per-vote subsidy that parties need to pay for staff and expenses.

Right after the election. Dressed up in the cloak of self-sacrifice during tough economic times. Bundled with MP pay cuts and a slew of other symbolic, and popular, moves.

How can the opposition vote against it? Then again, given the stakes, how can they not?
No. They didn't. They just got fucking nauseating. This is third world stuff. Robert Mugabe would pull this. Even Obama, when he bailed out of public financing, didn't breath a word about getting rid of public financing, and nor has he said anything along those lines. (He did question whether McCain qualified; he never questioned the legitimacy of his funding.)

Don't be a dispassionate observer. Sorry, bud, you're CALGRIT, you're kind of caught up in the game, you can't be a dispassionate observer. And nor should you be even if you weren't in the game; I'm no Liberal organizer, I'm just a pseudonym, and even I think this is absolutely odious.

Does it bother you? Does it make you upset? Does the prospect of a conservative boot stamping on progressive necks forever trouble you in any way?


Then SAY it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hilarious Irony Day!

Thomas Friedman: "overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye."

No, you're wrong. He's actually referring to bankers. Why you might have thought otherwise about the man is totally beyond me.

(Though, if other issues end up being reflected in this banking debacle, said dopes and cynics will end up in plush think-tank positions, New York Times sinecures, and nestled in the banker's equivalent of Obama's national security apparatus .)

(Albeit perhaps not CIA director.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Health Care

Ezra makes a good point on Obama's appointments: that a lot of them seem tailored to the idea that health care needs to be fixed.

Latest evidence? Peter Orszag at OMB:

Orszag will be coming from the Congressional Budget Office, OMB's legislative cousin. There, he's shown an almost single-minded focus on health care reform. He's added dozens of health care analysts to the staff, reconstructed the health policy division's management structure, and is readying to release two major books on health policy options and CBO's health care scoring models that will be extremely central in how Congress looks at building a health care bill. Amidst all that, he's toured the country giving a slide show about the problems of the health care system, the overwhelming danger it poses to our fiscal condition, the incredible inefficiencies that beset the delivery, and the research that suggests reform could not only save money but also improve care. He's also acted as a powerful and credible counterweight to those who counsel incrementalism, or delay, on health reform. Indeed, when it became common to suggest that the bank bailout should displace ambitious agenda items like health care reform, Orszag took to his blog -- yes, he has a blog, did I mention that? -- to write:

Many observers have noted that addressing the problems in financial markets and the risks to the economy may displace health care reform on the policy agenda...Although it may not seem immediately relevant given our current difficulties, it will be crucial to address the nation’s looming fiscal gap — which is driven primarily by rising health care costs — as the economy eventually recovers from this current downturn. Indeed, our ability to address our current economic difficulties (through both financial market interventions and potential additional fiscal stimulus) would be severely impaired if investors were not so willing to invest substantial sums in Treasury securities without charging much higher interest rates. That willingness reflects the (currently accurate) view among investors that Treasury securities are extremely safe investments.

If we fail to put the nation on a sounder fiscal course over the next few decades, though, we will ultimately reach a point where investors would lose confidence and no longer be as willing to purchase Treasury debt at anything but exorbitant interest rates. If that were to occur, we would lack the kind of maneuvering room that we currently enjoy to address problems in the financial markets and the economy. So if you think the current economic crisis is serious, and it is, imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have the ability to undertake aggressive and innovative policy interventions because creditors were effectively unwilling to lend substantial additional sums to the Federal government…

In other words, one of Obama's top economic advisers will be an economist who has clearly stated that he thinks health care reform central to our fiscal future, who has said that he considers delay or denial a dangerous impulse, and who has proven himself willing to leverage his position and agency to argue that position. That's important, as it assures that there will be voices around Obama arguing that health care is more than simply another item on the lengthy liberal wish list.
Obama talked a lot about eliminating "programs that don't work", which would normally be worrisome. But I did like the example he used: huge subsidies for "millionaire farmers" that make more than $2.5 million a year, which is supposed to be the cutoff for said subsidies.

I also like that Obama out-and-out said "I have a mandate." He didn't say "progressive mandate", and I still think he really, really doesn't understand just how badly the Republicans want to ruin him, and how much it would benefit them if they managed to succeed. Still, it's definitely a positive step.

Edit: On the other hand...

Drop down a tier, as Yochi Dreazen of the Wall Street Journal wrote last week, and you find the Obama transition people using a little known think-tank, the Center for a New American Security (CNSA), as a "top farm team" to stock its national security shelves. The founders of the center are -- don't be shocked now -- former Clinton administration officials providing yet more "centrists" to an administration that seems to believe the essence of "experience" is having been in Washington between 1992 and 2000. CNAS, by the way, is officially against a fixed timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. In that, it seems typical of the coalescing national security team, almost none of whom, so far, opposed the invasion of Iraq (other than the president-elect). Having been anti-war is evidently a sign of inexperience and so a negative.
Bolding mine, and the sentiment expressed is depressingly predictable.

I think we're seeing the shape of things: domestically, there will be real change, since Obama appears hell-bent on getting health care reform done and is facing a crisis that conservative ideology would only make worse. Internationally, though, it feels like a party and electorate that decisively rejected the "foreign policy community" are still having it rammed down their throats. Which is ridiculous, considering how Obama distinguished himself, and is only going to further increase alienation between Americans and "their" official foreign policy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Worthwhile Fight

So I raised a bit of a ruckus yesterday over in the Kosoverse over the Lieberman thing. Good times, and it was definitely the place to be when reading reacts to the netroots getting potentially thrown under the rhetorical bus. I suggested that the only way to ensure that the grassroots are taken seriously is to not always fall in line, but to serve notice that their help cannot always be taken for granted.

I specifically mentioned Georgia; since the Dems are desperate to win that seat now that Alaska and Minnesota look pretty positive and Lieberman is keeping his gavel, the netroots could make the point that they want to see some progressive change or those lovely online dollars and vigorous phonebanking would dry up. It, well, "provoked some controversy".

Thing is, I don't think Martin should get the short shrift for this; but I understand that the Dems are only going to listen if pressure is applied where they'll actually feel it.

But as usual, digby points to more useful fights.

Matt Stoller wrote a piece yesterday about the fight over the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship between John Dingell and Henry Waxman and he points out that the outcome of this is probably far more important to a progressive agenda than all this sturm and drang about Lieberman and he's right. Waxman is an effective, green progressive and he knows how to get things done. Dingel is an elder who is discredited by his relationship with the auto industry and the NRA. If pragmatic change rather than milquetoast status quo bipartisanship is what people voted for, this is where the action is.

Stoller lays out all the strange political machinations, with the fight over seniority (as this article in The Hill.) It's complicated, petty politics (which should be something the netroots should be good at participating in.) He concludes:
No one really has any idea how the votes will play out, but I am surprised that the blogs have taken so little interest in this fight. The 2008 freshmen are being absorbed into the House quagmire without any protest from our quarters, or even requests that they actually take a position to help a progressive chair one of the most important committees in Congress, the one that regulates climate change, media policy, net neutrality, and trade.
Waxman is the right guy to be in charge of these things as we deal with this economic/energy crisis. Whatever threats there may or may not be to the seniority system by putting Waxman in charge pale in comparison to the necessity to have the House working properly on these issues.
The seniority system is, to a certain extent, what's at fault here. Lieberman kept both his job and his committee chairmanship not because he's either a good Democrat or a good Republican—or even a good centrist—but because as an old-line Senator their loyalty to him was greater than their loyalty to either their party or their ethics. The newer Senators wanted him out, the older Senators wanted him to stay. The latter won.

So if the netroots has a chance to make a difference on that front in the House, why wouldn't they? Yes, Lieberman is a more accessible, simpler villain here, but perhaps the refocus isn't a bad idea. The key is to have progressive appointments, and if Waxman promises to be one, so much the better.

It helps weaken incumbency advantages, too. Yes, incumbency advantages might sound good right now, considering where the Dems are. But the primary battles that will be necessary to unseat (or at least unsettle) the Blue Dogs aren't going to happen if incumbency advantages scare off potential challengers. Besides, Republicans have a lot of tools that can overcome these advantages. They can get around it. Dems can't. So they're probably better off levelling the field a bit.

So call your Congressional Rep (if you're an American reader and have one; Brits, Canadians, Mexicans and whoever else probably don't) and let them know where you stand.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yep, He Kept It

The message this sends is simple: feel free to skew as far right as you want; you can only ever be punished in the village for being too far left.

Two words, kiddies:


Liebernan's Likely to Keep His Chairmanship

This means that the netroots have some work to do. They've pushed people over the top, and fundraised for Obama; now they have to make it clear that if they're ignored, they're going to subject the party to bruising primary fights.

Obama's been making plenty of concessions to the right, and that's because they have the ability to make his job difficult, if not impossible. (They will anyway, but he clearly doesn't believe that. Yet.) The reason why he hasn't been making concessions to progressives is because he clearly doesn't believe they can make his job difficult.

And I hate to say it, because of the popularity of the man, but that's not doing anybody any good. He needs to be shown he can't ignore the people who were right about Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy and the Republicans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saving GM?

Tom Laskawy, courtesy of Ezra, makes a convincing case for helping GM.

The Chevy Volt, by the way, is a huge deal. Not only will it be the world's first commercially-produced plug-in hybrid, but it will use a lithium-ion battery. Today's hybrid's use nickel batteries. Nickel mining is highly competitive with coal as the worst, most environmentally devastating, carbon-intensive industry. As a result, every hybrid drives off the lot carrying a "carbon debt" which, according to Wired Magazine, takes over 45,000 of driving to "drive off." Lithium ion is the acknowledged future of battery technology, and GM would be first out of the gate. But better to spite our faces, right?

But wait, there's more! After cheerleading for 3 million pink slips, most bloggers then say, "well, if we HAVE to bail those bastards out, at least attach some "green" strings," as if that's some meaningless little thrown bone. Um, hello? Has anyone been paying attention? Mileage standards have been stuck at around 27mpg for 20 years and will only need to go up another 8mpg over the next 12 years. In one swell foop we could revolutionize those standards, thus breaking a decades long political logjam. As Joe Romm (an eco-expert who supports a bailout) points out, greener cars will play a major role in lowering our carbon footprint. And here comes a once in a lifetime opportunity to show some fortitude and remake an industry. But, no, no. Better to make the "safe" decision and go with the pink slips.

And let's not forget Democrat John Dingell, congressman from Michigan, who has "protected" the auto industry from reform since long before most readers of this blog were born, and would jump on any bailout bandwagon, no matter what the industry was forced to do. Heck, he'd probably eat his Energy and Commerce Committee chairman's gavel if an amendment that so required was attached to bailout legislation, rather than oversee the destruction of the industry.

And I would also suggest that you turn your heads, oh you Big Three killers, and look whose shining face rests on the pillow next to you. It's none other than the GOP, which is honestly and truly gleeful at finally FINALLY destroying one of the last powerful unions left. There are strange bedfellows and there are toxic bedfellows. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a shower.

So, let's stop debating the possibility of bailing on the bailout and start debating the best way to help an industry transform itself for a carbon-neutral future. Can I hear a "Yes, We Can!"
I'm torn on GM. On the one hand, the big 3 have been appalling. On the other hand, some have made the case that they're improving, and the auto industry is one of the last that's providing good manufacturing jobs on a broad scale. I'm concerned that killing the auto sector wouldn't do anything but further depress the wages of most laborers, decimate the middle class, and further reinforce the division between rich and poor, as it's the wealthy who are likely to reap the reward from all this.

(The benefits of cheaper unskilled and semi-skilled labor are going to have to go somewhere, and it's likely to be the already-well-paid executive class that have been exploiting the financial bailout.)

I truly dislike corporate welfare. But these are not normal times, and it's not a normal sector.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Out! Out! All of You, Out!"

Digby says that the intelligence guys are unlikely to be kept around after Obama takes over:

The good news is that Obama is apparently unlikely to keep any of these jerk-offs:
In approving the post-9/11 law setting up an Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Congress hoped to put an end to the rivalries among the 16 fractious and secretive agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence "community." But the jockeying over the briefings for Obama is a sign that the bureaucratic maneuvering is anything but over. It also leaves open the question of where the agencies will stand—and who will head them—in the incoming Obama administration. Although both McConnell and Hayden expressed a willingness to stay on for some period of time, sources close to the Obama transition say this is unlikely, given that both men zealously defended controversial Bush administration policies—such as the warrantless-wiretapping program—that the incoming Democratic president opposed during the campaign.
Let's hope that's the case, although that last part isn't exactly true, is it?
That quote is from Newsweek. The problem isn't really the high-level guys, though. The problem is all the mid-level people from various far-right-wing colleges who have been seeded into these agencies, squeezing out the non-partisan professionals. Obama may not be willing to pull THEM out, but they're the issue here.

Yep. Called It. Apologias for Iggy All Around!

I had said Whatzisname was going to Iggy. It was patently obvious. And now, lo and behold, he's gone to iggy.

That's not what's striking.

What's striking is that, at a time when progressives have received a huge mandate in America, he seems ready to "throw them under the bus", in an attempt to replicate the ridiculous Democratic failure of triangulation between 1992 and 2006.

After all, never mind the blather about "going to the centre, where the votes are" (well, yes, but that's meaningless, if you're focusing on a center that doesn't reflect the views of the public), how else can you interpret this?

• On Québec, I had opposed the “Québecois-are-a-nation” resolution with which Ignatieff had been associated. I still oppose it. But every non-separatist political party – and every non-separatist political leader – came to support it. And, I admit, the country did not fall into chaos or the vortex of endless constitutional gamesmanship. We are still here, the resolution notwithstanding. That is the reality.
• On Iraq, like many Canadians (but not Stephen Harper and not a few Liberals), I had opposed the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and its allies. Ignatieff initially supported the war – as had the Clintons, and as had most of the Democratic Party establishment. By March 2004 – long before he became an MP, let alone a Liberal leadership contestant – he was writing in the New York Times that he had been wrong. That impressed me.
• On Israel, I and many others had been upset that Ignatieff wondered aloud if war crimes had been committed in Qana. Soon afterwards, he agreed that such determinations should be left to international bodies – and he went to Holy Blossom Temple to apologize, and accept personal responsibility for his error. That impressed me, too.
• On torture, I made an error myself. I relied upon some highly selective accounts of Ignatieff’s writings on war, terrorism and coercion – accounts cobbled together by Ignatieff’s partisan and academic detractors – and rushed to my computer keyboard. If I had read more widely, I would have seen that activists at places like Human Rights Watch had defended Ignatieff’s position – and I would have seen that his true position was a complete ban on torture, because the use of it places us all on the inexorable slide towards the appalling notion that, as he warned, “human beings are expendable.” I had fundamentally mischaracterized his views, and I regret that.
So, let's go through these, step by step.

First, the "Quebec as a nation" thing was what handed Quebec to Harper, and then kept the BQ alive. The question of constitutional recognition of the resolution is a source of constant agitation by Quebec nationalists, and the very existence of the resolution provides them with strong legal grounds for their claims. To say "well, no problem so far" is idiotic. That's like a banker saying "meh, what's the worst that could happen" when looking at default swap figures.

Second, notice that the one guy who did oppose Iraq from the get-go is going to be president in January? I realize Kinsella doesn't give (as Spider Jerusalem so memorably put it) "two tugs of a dead dog's cock" about progressives, but he should be insightful enough to know that they don't like Iraq war supporters. Especially ones who, like Ignatieff, didn't really turn their back on the war. Go read what he said; he defended his support of the war as "the least of bad options" while continuing to read out the old lines about "gathering storms" that were questionable then and ridiculous now.

(The man said "I still do not believe that American or British leaders misrepresented Hussein's intentions or lied about the weapons they believed he possessed", for God's sake, and has never apologized for that little gem even after the Downing Street Memos were unearthed!)

More importantly to progressives, his apology on Iraq argued that it should have been sold as "a preventive, instead of preemptive war." Is this really the view of the Liberal Party of Canada? Is it the view of Canadians? It's sure not the view of Americans, and holy HELL is it not the view of progressives!

What's going to stop Jack Layton and Elizabeth May (or her successor) from taking that line and gleefully feeding it to him?

On Israel/Palestine, the problem is not so much the Qana incident itself. It never has been. What Qana betrayed was the basic unseriousness and glib attitude of the man. It was a classic "gaffe", in that he said what he was clearly thinking, and paid the price for it. Has that unseriousness about policy gone anywhere? Certainly he's more serious about politics, considering the brutal factional politics within the Liberal party, but policy?

And as for the torture thing, well... to be honest, I'm amazed. If there are detractors who can put together a case so convincing that someone as savvy as Warren can be swayed by it, then isn't that a problem in and of itself? Yes, fine, Kenneth Roth defended him. So what? The detractors (like myself) had a point, and continue to have a point, when we point out that his apologias for torture leave gaping holes where he says "oh, no, we shouldn't torture, but I can completely understand why people would and completely believe in its efficacy."

No, No, No! It is not efficacious, people whose knowledge of interrogation goes beyond applying SERES to whatever Arabs are handy know it's not effective, and the man has zero credibility on the subject since he only came out against "enhanced interrogation" to save his hide.

And how on earth can anybody who writes something like this have credibility in the first place?
It is often said....that neither coercive interrogation nor torture is necessary, since entirely lawful interrogation can secure just as effective results. There must be some truth to this. Israeli interrogators have given interviews assuring the Israeli public that physical duress is unnecessary. But we are grasping at straws if we think this is the entire truth. As Posner and others have tartly pointed out, if torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur.
Oh, and he's one of those people who tries to draw a mealy-mouthed distinction between "torture" and "coercive interrogation". Even when trying to save his ass and win the Liberal leadership, he still couldn't jettison this crap.

Never mind the lack of intellectual rigor betrayed by anybody who would make the tiger-rock argument that "It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience" being a problem in-and-of itself. How on earth is he supposed to retain progressives who have two (strong) options for their vote AND the example of an American president who won big by opposing the Iraq war?

The answer? He doesn't give a rat's ass about them. He's going to fight Harper on his own right-wing turf. And, apparently, Whatzisname is okay with that.

The basic problem is the same one it has always been. The Liberals skew right. Harper holds his ground. conservatives—generally content with Harper—stay where they are. Progressives say "screw it, they're both right wing parties anyway." They vote NDP or Green, depending on where they live and their key issues. The Conservatives win. Big.

The Liberals try to skew farther right. The Conservatives continue to hold their ground, maybe move a bit to the left, because they can count on their flank's loyalty. More progressives flee. The NDP starts winning urban seats and working-class seats. The Greens start winning assorted seats as they fine-tune their message and focus their resources. The Liberals, rootless, faithless and philosophically unmoored, no longer demonstrate any reason to exist.

The Liberals die, absorbed by the new (Green?) Democratic party and the Conservatives. Harper wins. Flanagan wins. Layton wins. And Whatzisname? Bigtime loser.

Edit: Yep, I also know that he ain't interested in any of this stuff. He chose Iggy because he thinks Iggy is going to win, wants to be seen as backing that winning candidate, and is using the blog as a way of spinning. That's clear enough. He's jettisoned all of his principled arguments against Iggy because the principles in question aren't convenient anymore. That's clear enough, too.

What isn't clear is why he thinks that Jack is going to sit on his hands and not move his own party to scoop up all the disaffected progressives. I know he hates the NDP, but you'd think he'd be savvier towards their tactics and strategy at this point.

Edit 2: Ah, yes, I didn't link to the 2006 "Getting Iraq Wrong" piece. It was
unutterably goofy passive-voice "mistakes were made" nonsense, but if you do want to read it, enjoy. You'll especially like the part where he continues to call war opponents names for daring to think that the war was at least partly about money. Who wouldn't like being called "dumb-asses who were right about everything for the wrong reasons, instead of wrong about everything for the right reasons", as David Rees put it?

Edit 3: As I've said elsewhere online today, I do think that it's possible for Ignatieff to get out from under this. He's the presumptive nominee of a party that I still have a lot of respect for, albeit perhaps not as much as when I started writing about it in this space. If he wins, I hope he does do the right thing.

But the political situation in Canada is such that he cannot get away with jettisoning progressives, as he and Whatzisname seem so eager to do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh, NOW He's a Conservative

Yep, didn't take long for some conservative hack to start saying that Prez-Elect Obama's "really a conservative". Conservatism can never fail, you can only fail conservatism.

So why is he a conservative? Well, there was babble about "the entitlement crisis" that--despite not a soul caring about in the exit poll data--was the reason for the Republicans getting punished, and apparently the big ol' communist tax reform that Obama was pushing was "conservative" because people like tax cuts and therefore that makes them conservatives.


And then there's the more people self-identify as conservatives than liberals thing. Yeah, you've heard THAT one before. And there's some quote about how ""government is the problem and not the solution" is apparently popular with Americans. Which might be convincing, if that poll weren't a month old and if the exit polls didn't scream the opposite. He's hardly alone in this. Practically all of Official Washington is bleating about a "center-right nation" that doesn't exist.

But he's illustrative of the current Republican strategy: paint the Obama of the campaign as a "conservative", and then blast him during his presidency for being a "liberal." That disconnects President Obama from the incredible success of Candidate Obama, and will work to strip him of his incredible momentum. He'll have "sold out" to the base, and then maybe they can work to pick up seats.

"Obama vs. Obama" At this point, that's the only weapon they've got.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Case in Point Re: Fiber

Ok, Mr. President-Elect? See this story? Right here? The one about how a Telco is trying to sue a town for daring to provide fiber?


Take that big, fat mandate of yours and pound these idiots into the ground.

Because when you've got some Telco hireling bastard like Drew Petersen saying things like:

"As a job-producing, tax-paying company with millions of dollars invested in the state of Minnesota and the community of Monticello, we see the negative consequences of the decision reaching far beyond this specific case,"

"We also believe the decision endangers the appropriate relationship between municipalities and private enterprise. A city in competition with an existing business cannot fairly discharge its regulatory duties. The city of Monticello would have an inevitable conflict of interest with TDS"... know it's squishin' time.

If companies like TDS are such a better choice, then they shouldn't need to sue over this. They should provide their superior service, and the market will decide. But right here, right now, local telecommunication monopolies are fast becoming an absolute disaster. To hell with 'em.

Government Stimulus

So if there's to be stimulus, what sort of stimulus makes sense? Well, Robert Reich did a pretty good piece on this question for TPM. He notes that the problem is more demand-side:
The real problem is on the demand side of the economy.

Consumers won't or can't borrow because they're at the end of their ropes. Their incomes are dropping (one of the most sobering statistics in Friday's jobs report was the continued erosion of real median earnings), they're deeply in debt, and they're afraid of losing their jobs.

Introductory economic courses explain that aggregate demand is made up of four things, expressed as C+I+G+exports. C is consumers. Consumers are cutting back on everything other than necessities. Because their spending accounts for 70 percent of the nation's economic activity and is the flywheel for the rest of the economy, the precipitous drop in consumer spending is causing the rest of the economy to shut down.

I is investment. Absent consumer spending, businesses are not going to invest.

Exports won't help much because the of the rest of the world is sliding into deep recession, too. (And as foreigners -- as well as Americans -- put their savings in dollars for safe keeping, the value of the dollar will likely continue to rise relative to other currencies. That, in turn, makes everything we might sell to the rest of the world more expensive.)

That leaves G, which, of course, is government.
Yep, government spending, that bugaboo of the right, might be the best thing America can do. It might be the ONLY thing America can do.
So the crucial questions become (1) how much will the government have to spend to get the economy back on track? and (2) what sort of spending will have the biggest impact on jobs and incomes?

The answer to the first question is "a lot." Given the magnitude of the mess and the amount of underutilized capacity in the economy-- people who are or will soon be unemployed, those who are underemployed, factories shuttered, offices empty, trucks and containers idled -- government may have to spend $600 or $700 billion next year to reverse the downward cycle we're in.

The answer to the second question is mostly "infrastructure" -- repairing roads and bridges, levees and ports; investing in light rail, electrical grids, new sources of energy, more energy conservation. Even conservative economists like Harvard's Martin Feldstein are calling for government to stimulate the economy through infrastructure spending. Infrastructure projects like these pack a double-whammy: they create lots of jobs, and they make the economy work better in the future. (Important qualification: To do this correctly and avoid pork, the federal government will need to have a capital budget that lists infrastructure projects in order of priority of public need.)

Government should also spend on health care and child care. These expenditures are also double whammies: they, too, create lots of jobs, and they fulfill vital public needs.

The nice thing about government spending, when properly done, is that the spending can end up having a double-down effect. Yes, you get the value of the money being injected into the economy and the under-utilized capacity being employed for things. But you also get the end product, which—if properly chosen—helps raise the efficiency and productivity of America in-and-of itself.

So what's the problem? Well, there's a big deficit. Maybe now's not the time. Or maybe tax cuts would be preferable. Reich response to that, too:

Expect two sorts of arguments against this. The first will come from fiscal hawks who claim that the government is already spending way too much. Even without a new stimulus package, next year's budget deficit could run over a trillion dollars, given the amounts to be spent bailing out Wall Street and perhaps the auto industry, and providing extended unemployment insurance and other measures to help those in direct need. The hawks will argue that the nation can't afford giant deficits, especially when baby boomers are only a few years away from retiring and claiming Social Security and Medicare.

They're wrong. Government spending that puts people back to work and invests in the future productivity of the nation is exactly what the economy needs right now. Deficit numbers themselves have no significance. The pertinent issue is how much underutilized capacity exists in the economy. When there's lots of idle capacity, deficit spending is entirely appropriate, as John Maynard Keynes taught us. Moving the economy to fuller capacity will of itself shrink future deficits.

The second argument will come from conservative supply-siders who will call for income-tax cuts rather than spending increases. They'll claim that individuals with more money in their pockets will get the economy moving again more readily than can government. They're wrong, for three reasons. First, income-tax cuts go mainly to upper-income people who tend to save rather than spend. Most Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. Second, even if a rebate could be fashioned, people tend to use those extra dollars to pay off their debts rather than buy new goods and services, as we witnessed a few months ago when the government sent out rebate checks. Third, even when individuals purchase goods and services, those purchases tend not to generate as many American jobs as government spending on the same total scale because much of what consumers buy comes from abroad.

Having a deficit, or raising a deficit, during an economic downturn is normal and to be expected. Slaying a deficit is the job of governments in sunnier times, when they're more concerned with dampening "irrational exuberance." And Reich makes excellent points about spending vs. income tax cuts: with government spending you can target that spending at efficiency-raising objectives, whereas tax cuts are likely to simply be stuffed in some metaphorical mattress.

Sure, all this goes against conservative orthodoxy, and that's likely to get a serious stimulus package some serious resistance from the Republicans and their Village lackeys. But Reich is right: now is no time for worrying about the budget deficit, and certainly no time for supply-side bafflegab. The American people clearly don't care for that right-wing orthodoxy any more, big progressive mandate and whatnot, so president Obama should ignore that nonsense and do what's necessary.

Edit: And what KIND of infrastructure would be a good idea? Well, I've got three ideas, albeit similar to Reich's: Transportation, Energy, and the Internet.

On transportation, I'd say the most effective investment is simple to name: high speed rail. Acela's nice, but there is far more to be done: the tilting trains and constant-tension catenary that allows for true high-speed transit will require major track upgrades, and the whole thing needs to be brought to other regions around the United States, instead of just concentrating in the Northeast. This would not only reduce reliance on personal automobiles and carbon-belching jet travel AND increase worker mobility, but it would allow for a major chunk of American transportation to be powered through the electrical grid, instead of internal combustion.

(Whether that can be applied to freight is unknown, but frieght definitely would benefit from a move to rail, too. The difference in energy cost between rail and trucking is enormous.)

On energy, I'm hearing a lot about a "smart" energy grid. Obama's plan talks about how "Barack Obama will pursue a major investment in our national utility grid to enable a tremendous increase in renewable generation and accommodate 21st century energy requirements, such as reliability, smart metering, and distributed storage." Sounds good to me, and as part of a move from internal combustion-powered transportation to grid-powered transportation it's very, very smart.

(And to the extent it encourages reverse metering, where homeowners can actually supplement their income by providing more energy than they consume, it's vital.)

But the most important investment is the Internet. Make no mistake: commuting in the 21st century will be telecommuting. We're already seeing the growth of decentralized intellectual production; that isn't going anywhere. but up. And with countries like Korea and Japan building enormous telecommunication advantages, America needs to keep up. And yet where are things going? Towards capping Internet usage, trying to choke users off from using in a month what a Korean can use in a day. America's size is the excuse you often hear, but that excuse won't mean a damn thing to anybody thinking about where to locate their offices and hire their workers.

America needs fibre to the home. It needs fibre to the firm. It needs high-speed, ubiquitous wireless networking. It needs cheap, safe cellular telephony. It needs to light up those dark pipes, and upgrade them for more capacity, and then put in more upgraded pipes right beside them. And because the telecommunication companies have been pathetically inadequate at doing anything but inventing new ways to screw people out of their money and discourage innovation at every turn, the government might well have to directly intervene to get this done.

(Education and health care are key issues too, of course. But they aren't infrastructure. They're just common sense.)

Everything Old is New Deal Again

Krugman, he makes the funny.

He also points out that the greatest failure of the New Deal was not its progressiveness, but that it didn't go far enough. Yes, it had huge long-term progressive effects, but FDR was too focused on (oddly enough) raising taxes and cutting spending:

F.D.R. did not, in fact, manage to engineer a full economic recovery during his first two terms. This failure is often cited as evidence against Keynesian economics, which says that increased public spending can get a stalled economy moving. But the definitive study of fiscal policy in the ’30s, by the M.I.T. economist E. Cary Brown, reached a very different conclusion: fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful “not because it does not work, but because it was not tried.”

This may seem hard to believe. The New Deal famously placed millions of Americans on the public payroll via the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. To this day we drive on W.P.A.-built roads and send our children to W.P.A.-built schools. Didn’t all these public works amount to a major fiscal stimulus?

Well, it wasn’t as major as you might think. The effects of federal public works spending were largely offset by other factors, notably a large tax increase, enacted by Herbert Hoover, whose full effects weren’t felt until his successor took office. Also, expansionary policy at the federal level was undercut by spending cuts and tax increases at the state and local level.

And F.D.R. wasn’t just reluctant to pursue an all-out fiscal expansion — he was eager to return to conservative budget principles. That eagerness almost destroyed his legacy. After winning a smashing election victory in 1936, the Roosevelt administration cut spending and raised taxes, precipitating an economic relapse that drove the unemployment rate back into double digits and led to a major defeat in the 1938 midterm elections.

What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs.

Bolding is mine. Here's Paul's take away:

My advice to the Obama people is to figure out how much help they think the economy needs, then add 50 percent. It’s much better, in a depressed economy, to err on the side of too much stimulus than on the side of too little.

In short, Mr. Obama’s chances of leading a new New Deal depend largely on whether his short-run economic plans are sufficiently bold. Progressives can only hope that he has the necessary audacity.

That's a nice line there. And, yes, one can only hope that Obama and the Dems realize that while budget deficits are a problem that needs addressing at some time in the near future, a looming recession is not that time. Big government deficits have a nasty effect on the economy thanks to the crowding-out effect on debt markets, yes, but it's small potatoes compared to the effects of not using the tools that he has to do as much good as he can.

After all, a progressive mandate means you get to actually help people.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

"America is a Center Right Country"

Courtesy of DailyKos, the AFP sez "not so much"

US voters want the Republican Party, which took a beating in this week's general elections, to embrace progressiveness and work with Democratic president-elect Barack Obama to get America back on track, a poll showed Friday.

More than three-quarters of 2,000 people surveyed on Tuesday, the day of the historic election which saw Obama become the first African-American elected to the White House, and on Wednesday, said the US has gone "pretty seriously off on the wrong track" and needed change.

Only slightly fewer -- 71 percent -- said Republicans "should give Obama the benefit of the doubt and help him achieve his plans," against 24 percent who said it should oppose the progressive changes proposed by Obama, said the poll by the Campaign for America's Future (CAF) and Democracy Corps.

The dire state of the US economy was the "overwhelming priority of voters," it added.

Poll respondents said they voted for Obama because they believed his plans for fixing the economy, ending the Iraq war and making healthcare more accessible were more likely to work than those of his Republican rival John McCain.

"By nearly three to one, voters think the Republicans should support Obama's policies," Robert Borosage, co-director of CAF told reporters.

Even among Republicans, nearly half -- 45 percent -- thought their party should work with the new Democratic Party president elect and help him bring about change.

"What we have seen is not simply an extraordinary victory for Obama, not just a change election, but a sea-change election," said Borosage.

"Voters have given the Democratic Party a clear mandate for change and progressive leadership. On issue after issue, the voters came out on the progressive side," he said, adding the United States "is increasingly a center-left nation."

Progressive. Mandate.

Friday, November 07, 2008


So the Office of the Prez-Elect has a blog

Not much there yet, but hey, a presidential blog would be pretty neat, wouldn't it?

Newsweek Did an Excellent Piece on Obama

Channelling Homer Simpson here: "I know, honey, I'm scared too!"

But really, it gets into Obama's head really well, arguably better than anything I've read since Audacity of Hope.

I'm still early into it, but wanted to link it up:

Obama understood his wife's fears and even, to some degree, shared them, but he had a way of turning empathy into persuasion. "Her initial instinct was to say no," Obama recalled. "She knew how difficult it was for me to be away from the girls, she feels lonely when I'm not around, so her initial instinct was not to do it. And I think she also felt that, you know, the Clintons are tough, and that I would be subject to a lot of attacks." So that Christmas season, 2006, Michelle and Barack went for some long walks on the beach in Hawaii, where they were visiting his grandmother, and "just talked it through. It wasn't as if it was a slam-dunk for me," said Obama. "I think part of the reason she agreed to do it was because she knew that she had veto power, that she and the girls ultimately mattered more than my own ambitions in this process, and if she said no we would be OK." Michelle was able to extract a promise: if he ran, her husband would have to quit smoking.

In some ways, running for president was a preposterous idea for someone who had served as a two-term state legislator and had spent only two years in the United States Senate. But Obama, a careful student of his own unique journey, could see the stars coming into alignment—the country was exhausted by the Iraq War (which he, alone among leading candidates, had opposed as "dumb" from the outset). As Obama saw it, the conservative tide in America was ebbing, and voters were turning away from the Republican Party. People were sick of politicians of the standard variety and yearned for someone new—truly new and different.
Of course, it's followed by a whole bunch of stuff about the "liberal press"—this is still Newsweek, after all—but still a good read nonetheless.

Oh, and David?

The rest of the country doesn't want "The Obama Administration of your dreams."

The Obama administration of YOUR dreams is a Republican one. I realize it's going to be hard to accept, Brooks, but he's still on the other guys' team.

"America Remains a Center-Right Nation"

Dday's ticked.
"Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives."

-Paul Wellstone, Election Night 1990 acceptance speech
We are 18 years on from that piercingly simple statement, and yet nobody in the Democratic Party has managed to use it as the antidote to this endless effort to analyze and re-analyze the election through a conservative frame, by claiming this is a center-right country and Obama had better be cautious in enacting an agenda too far to the left, which would anger the public. This is of course true if you believe the public is directly analogous to the Washington commentariat. I've had a hard time chronicling everyone who has told me that, in the wake of the largest victory for Democrats since 1964, in the wake of winning a majority of the votes cast in 4 out of the last 5 Presidential elections, in the wake of reducing the Republican Party to a regional outpost in the South and part of the Great Plains, this is a profoundly conservative nation. Here's a partial list:

Ron Brownstein, Jon Meacham, Peggy Noonan, Howard Fineman, David Broder, John Heilemann, John King, Mark Penn, Doug Schoen, Charles Krauthammer, Ruth Marcus, Marc Halperin, Dan Balz, Peter Wehner, William Galston, Bob Kerrey, Fred Barnes, Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough.

I think they call that a meme. Just for fun, here's a textbook example of the genre:
"My own hunch is that Obama is smart enough not to want to govern as a liberal," said Peter Wehner, a former Bush administration official.
(On our side we have Nina Easton. Whoop-de-damn-do.)
I'd suggest not following all your links. Cleaning up exploded headmeats is difficult and frustrating.

Ok, so what's going on here? Dday talks about the "movement conservatives masquerading as journalists" in that list. That kind of implies the problem: that while the Republicans have been decimated, the movement conservatives are still very much around.

And why wouldn't they be? All the advantages they had two or three years ago are still pretty much advantages today. They've still got oodles of money to buy them nice Washington real estate and house publications. They've still got the rolodexes (well, Outlook contact lists) of reporters eager to receive the well-crafted, easy-to-quote copy that the movementarians provide them. They've still got their sinecures on various television shows. They've still got their place on the Washington cocktail circuit. And they've still got their legions of eager young conservative acolytes who are willing to do all the real work for them.

(And as much as I like the netroots, let's be honest: you could pay the entire netroots' annual operating costs with the budget for the AEI/Heritage axis for a week, and there's no comparison between the Washington presence. There's simply no comparison.)

None of these advantages have anything to do with elections. Elections don't take the money away, they don't take the people away, they don't take the needy reporters away, and they don't take the wingnuts away. They don't even change the rhetoric, because the rhetoric is about supporting the movement, not fairly interpreting events. They say that conservatism always win because that's their job. And they'll make sure their friends in the media say it, too, because that's their job too.

Your job? To deny it. Say "no, this is a progressive mandate." Say it over and over again. Say that he won the biggest majority since Reagan. Say that the Dems won a lot of seats. Say that the Dems are likely to pick up more in 2010. Say that the Dems came so close to getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate that they're waiting on recounts. Say that Obama has a mandate for change, and it ain't conservative change. Say that America's a more progressive nation than Washington, and Washington needs to change to match.

And say that if America wanted Republicans in power, it wouldn't have turfed them out on their asses.

Edit: Actually, dday said it well too, should have quoted him:

I think Obama's instincts in this regard may be decent.
The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."
But he's going to need a great deal of help, and this is where Digby was going previously. The liberal blogosphere is uniquely positioned to act as the counterweight to this large gelatinous mass tut-tutting that we mustn't rock the boat and have the candidate who ran on change actually change anything. Progressive organizations like Media Matters can attack this meme and treat it with the withering contempt it deserves. Obama is going to hear this in his ear (probably from his new Chief of Staff) every ten seconds from the moment he takes the oath of office. It's important for us to make sure he hears something else.
Yep. One of the reasons why people like Marshall Wittman are moaning about "Obamaworld" is because they know that a progressive counterweight exists out there, and Obama is savvy enough to realize that jettisoning his base isn't an option even if he were a reflexive centrist. (He isn't.)

Progressive. Mandate. Say it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Uniform Progressive Shift

That's what happened, according to Andrew Gelman: the whole country moved about 4 to 5% to the left. It's not a realignment in the sense of geographical distribution... it was pretty much the whole country.

Good to remember.

(H/T NobelPrizeWinningEconomist Krugman)

A Note to Digby To Make You Feel A Bit Better:

"Others pursue a more centrist approach, figuring that so long as they split the difference with conservative leadership they must be acting reasonably, and failing to notice that with each passing year they're giving up more and more ground."

That's from Audacity of Hope.

He may not be a hardcore liberal, but I think Obama does understand the problem with hewing to the center at the expense of all else.

"Rhetorical BS"

So Says Digby:

Good God, I hope this is just rhetorical bullshit.

Democratic leaders are tamping down on expectations for rapid change and trying to signal they will place a calm hand on the nation’s tiller.

“The country must be governed from the middle,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday. Repeating themes from election night, she said she plans to emphasize “civility” and “fiscal responsibility.”

After saying the word "change" at least 175,000 times in the last year, the Democrats had better not start sounding too much like Republican grandpas or millions of people who voted for them might get the feeling they've just been taken for a bunch of chumps. I get that they are trying to calm the village and keep the restive Republicans from staging a hissy fit right out of the gate. And delivering on all this massive change was never going to be easy.

But they had better keep in mind that they were elected by a lot of new voters and liberals too and they are going to need very high levels of support for a sustained period of time to get anything done. I don't expect them to cater to the base like Rove did, but they'd better not take it too much for granted either. We've seen what happened after 2006, when they raised expectations that they would fight Bush hard on the war. Their approval ratings ended up worse than Bush's because they were loathed not only by the right wing (who will loathe them no matter what they do) but by their own base as well. They simply can't afford to let that happen again.

There's nothing inherently wrong with co-opting conservative rhetoric for their own use, but the other side is very good at making them wish they'd never made promises they had no intention of keeping. (It's what they are really good at.) I just don't think the Dems are clever enough to play sophisticated rhetorical games and not end up hanging themselves with their own words. They should just say what they are going to do as forthrightly as possible.

Of course, that might be exactly what they are doing.
A single election, or pair of elections, is not going to override the logic and rhetoric and presumptions of the Villiage. Those presumptions are still generally Republican-based: that "conservatism can't fail, you can just fail conservatism" or "the American people distrust liberals" or "the market cures all" or "Democrats need to be careful to avoid overreach" or some such nonsense. And I don't think Rahm's presence in the middle of all this is necessarily going to help, either. I don't think he was a bad choice, Obama needs a partisan attack-dog and Dean has thoroughly made his point on the 50-state thing, but he's still an old-style DLCer.

(Nor is Obama's own temperment going to help; he does like to try to walk the tightrope between two sides, which isn't necessarily going to work when one of them is descending into lunacy.)

But all the conventional wisdom in the world hasn't changed the fact that the Dems won, that the last few years have seen Republican conventional wisdom take an absolute beating, and that Americans want the same sort of things that usually get called "liberal." If the Dems--including Obama--want to keep their jobs, they're going to need to tick some Republicans off.

Edit: I agree with a point several people made in digby's comments that you have to think about what "middle" we're discussing here. If it's the American middle, that's fine, since that middle is pretty progressive these days. If it's Washington middle, they're just dumb.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh, Hey, I Forgot...

What the HELL was up with that "holographic" stuff on CNN?

There's a blurb about it on Gizmodo, but it was still bizarre. Especially the virtual Congress.

Honestly, it felt like Jessica Yellin was going to start saying "help me, Obi Wan Wolfie, you're my only hope" over and over again.

The GOP Got Drubbed 'Cuz Heck, She Was a Millstone 'Round His Neck!

I never linked this, but today, why not? Here's "the vet who did not vet":

It's even better now.

Something People Should Remember

Barack Obama didn't win the presidency because he was intelligent, handsome and a gifted speaker. Those helped, but that's not why he won.

No, he won because he ran the best Democratic campaign in living memory. Arguably it was the best presidential campaign in living memory. No leaks, no mix-ups, no nonsense, with incredible mobilization of resources right when they were needed.

Usually Dems win because the Republicans screwed up; Republicans are better campaigners, but the Dems are far better at government, so the Dems can clean up Republican messes. There is an element of that here, but that doesn't explain Hillary, and it doesn't explain the size of the win. Those are testiments to campaigning skill.

No, this time the Republicans were simply flat-out beaten. Rove has been beaten and beaten decisively. Going forward, that'll be good to remember.


It was a speech about national unity and national service. It really didn't cover any new ground, exploring the themes of hope and change and that famous "yes we can" slogan, just as it did before. He talked about "United States" instead of "red and blue states", and really seemed to do the normal reach-across-the-aisle rhetoric. I suspect he may believe it, though he has to have been affected by the viciousness of the Republicans' attacks.

It did focus on Americans coming together to beat challenges, though. His habit of relating policies and slogans to ordinary people expressed itself this time as a reference to Ann Nixon Cooper.

And who is she?

But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

(The "yes we cans" worked better orally.)

I don't think it was necessarily as good an address as the one from his nomination acceptance, but I don't think that's what it was about, either. I think this was more about bringing people back to Kennedy's dictum to "not think of what your country can do, but what you can do for your country." It was about jettisoning "screw you, Jack, I got mine" and getting people to believe in common action again.

And you know what? As a liberal, and a progressive, I'll support anybody who works to make people think about common action. It's necessary, and it's right.