Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Hidden Story About Dixie Blue Dems

Politico's going through a whole song and dance about how Dixie Dems are extinct. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. I've heard that sort of thing before.

But I wanted to highlight a somewhat buried point here.

Most people in north Alabama cannot identify with Nancy Pelosi” is how incoming Alabama House Speaker and state GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard put it.

But it also has to do with the narrative Republicans have ceaselessly driven.

“Democrats are the party of entitlement and of more government intrusion,” said Hubbard, calling health care reform “socialistic.”

And while Southern Democrats once could’ve avoided being painted with that brush thanks to personal relationships and influential newspapers in their region, the explosion of new media has made it more difficult for them to differentiate themselves from the national brand. How people get news about politics, and much else, has fundamentally changed.

Melancon, a Blue Dog Democrat, recalled how people would approach him in the final weeks of his Senate campaign to ask why he voted for health care reform. He hadn’t.

“I’d ask folks, ‘Where did you hear that?’ and they’d say, ‘I don’t know,’” he recalled.

Often, they would cite a forwarded e-mail.

“I have to tell my own friends to not forward me that gobbledygook unless they’ve fact-checked it,” Melancon lamented. “If you’re going to forward it without taking the time to figure out if it’s true, then you’re as bad as the person who sent it.”
I'm sure you noticed the key point there: it doesn't matter how you voted. Melancon voted against the Health Care Reform bill, and guess what? People blamed him for it anyway. They were convinced that he voted for it, because his party voted for it. The "D" beside his name meant "health care" no matter what he did. His actual vote didn't make a lick of difference.

ConservaDems and supporters of ConservaDems should pay very, very close attention to that. Taking a stand against a bill that your state or district won't like won't make a bit of difference.  You're going to get blamed regardless. The only hope you have is that the bill in question gets out-and-out killed, and even then you might get punished for your party having proposed it in the first place. You can't win by opposing.

So what CAN you do? Something that may be almost bizarre: you can try to make the best legislation you know how. ObamaCare is so controversial not because people think it went too far, but because of the concessions made to to try and get votes from recalcitrant conservative Senators. Those concessions were what made it such a pretzel of industry handouts and half-hearted regulation; without them, it would have almost certainly been a cleaner, more focused, more effective piece of legislation. With a public option, no less. If everybody involved had been focused on the quality of the legislation, instead of optics of "conservative" v. "liberal", they would have produced a reform bill that would stand up all on its own. Sure, the Republicans and the conservative movement would have taken shots at it, but what would have mattered would be how it improved people's lives.

Yes, this isn't necessarily going to help House ConservaDems that much, since the problem is primarily in the Senate, not the House. Senators will have to learn this lesson as well. But at least said CDs will realize that they can't run against their party like they used to. Dems, like the Founders, need to  "hang together, or hang separately". Useful lesson, that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Australia: "WikiLeaks Is Just As Bad As Child Porn" (Edit: Not So Much?)

Yep, Australia has just added Wikileaks to its list of banned websites. Anybody who links to WikiLeaks can now get fined up to 11 grand a day.

THAT will stop Australians from reading it, I'm sure.

Edit: Doesn't this do enormous harm to the list in general? Sure, you can justify a list that blocks kiddie porn and fining people who link to it. Not a great justification, but you can.

But WikiLeaks? What's next, banning people from linking to the Government of New Zealand the next time a trade dispute comes up? Banning people from linking to Chinese websites because China said something mean about the Australian Prime Minister? Banning links to adult porn sites because it encourages "deviant sexuality"?

So the government is entitled to omnipotent surveillance, and the people aren't allowed to read SFA. Well done. You might as well put up a big banner that says "Welcome to Australia: we just proved why Assange may have a point!"

Edit: And, just as fast, it would appear that it has been removed.  But this is more interesting: Apparently the Australian government is willing to go along with any American prosecution of Assange. Assange is an Australian national, so he may be more vulnerable here.

Then again, he may just as well renounce Australian citizenship. I'm not sure how that would affect things, but if he goes to Iceland—which has basically become a WikiLeaks haven—then he might well be secure.

Either way, I don't think this will stem the tide. If WikiLeaks falls, someone else will take up the slack.

Could Saying Nice Things About WikiLeaks Get You Arrested?

Hot on the heels of that last post, I find this: WikiLeaks should be designated a 'foreign terrorist organization,' Rep. Pete King fumes.

Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to designate WikiLeaks a "foreign terrorist organization," saying it "posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States," and to prosecute founder Julian Assange for espionage.
Again: Not an American.

But aside from that, this is deeply disturbing. As NPR points out, the laws against supporting supposed foreign terrorist organizations are incredibly extensive. It's not just material support: even talking to them could get you arrested and indicted, if not shipped off to one of the foreign covert prisons that we're not supposed to know about.

So is that how this is going to play out? Are Americans supposed to pretend that the site doesn't exist, for fear of getting arrested? Or are Americans only allowed to pretend it exists if they engage in the sort of kabuki dance of overt condemnation that you normally only see in salacious sixties films about the dangers of drugs and promiscuity? It won't keep any of this information out of American hands, since the Internet is global. The best that the Government could do is redirect DNS requests, as they've tried to do with BitTorrent sites. But that didn't work, and wouldn't work. It's not worth it.

As Susan Delacourt says, this is really just another revolt against "elites". America clearly no longer trusts the people that are supposed to be running it. Either they're spitting angry against a government that doesn't care that they're out of work, or simply distrustful of a state that seems to be governed BY Wall St. bond traders, FOR Wall St. bond traders.

In a country where Matt Taibbi seems to uncover fresh horrors on a daily basis, where security theatre has TSA goons laughing at your genitals when they aren't smacking them with the backs of their hands, and when Congress collectively decides that protecting mortgage fraudsters is more important than ensuring that people don't die of starvation during the Christmas season...why the hell should anybody care about whether some diplomats get some egg on their faces?

I don't know about you, but I'm drawing a blank.

"US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomatic crisis"

Well, how could it not? Pretty much everything marked "noforn" is going to be utterly embarrassing for all involved. That's kind of the point.

The best part about the WikiLeaks controversy, so far, are all the right-wingers asking "why aren't they being prosecuted"? No matter how many times somebody says "you can't prosecute them, they aren't Americans", it never gets through. You can't even pass a law against it, either, or else every other nation in the world would be breaking U.S. law for engaging in their own espionage.  And the U.S. would be breaking theirs.

(The U.S. probably shouldn't bring that sort of thing up, anyway, considering they have been trying to collect passwords, encryption keys, and biometric data from U.N. diplomats. Whoops.)

Edit: I think the right-wingers know that prosecution is impossible. Their protestations aside, what they really want is for Obama to kill Julian Assange. Obama wouldn't do it because it's stupid, it would bring down universal condemnation, and wouldn't help stem the flow, since WikiLeaks is bigger than Assange.

But, hey, if the American right had realized that "beheading" attacks do not work in situations like this, they wouldn't have botched Afghanistan and Iraq so badly, would they?

Chalmers Johnson Passed Away Last Week

I had missed posting about this while I was working on redoing the site.

Dammit. He was one of the greats. His "blowback" series was incredibly insightful and blistering at the same time, and his work on Japan helped define how people thought of that country's economy and political structure. He was also, by all accounts, a genuinely decent human being.

He received a moving eulogy on TomDispatch that I'd encourage you to read, and another by Steve Clemens at the Washington Note, which also highlights his unbelievably important work fighting against the movement by "rational choice" political scientists to import all of neoliberal economics' various pathologies.

(Thanks to Avedon for the links.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The WikiLeaks Cables Are Out

Haven't delved into the so-called "Cablegate" too much yet. Checked out the Israel stuff, since that's likely to be the most immediately explosive, but most of them seemed to primarily focus on how Israel is convinced that Iran is its greatest potential threat. (Which isn't exactly news.)

To be fair, they aren't all out. In fact, supposedly a relatively small number are out. It seems like WikiLeaks is serious about scrubbing information that's dangerous, instead of merely embarrassing. I have no doubt that there is still going to be dangerous information released,
 mind you, since there are supposedly over 250,000 cables in total. But since none exceed Secret classification, and since WikiLeaks is being more careful. I think that the potential threat that they pose may be limited. I certainly hope so.

I'm of two minds about this. These things are supposed to be secret for a reason. As an advocate of pseudonymity and anonymity in debate and communication, I can't deny that in good conscience. Privacy in comunication is vital, and too many people forget that in their rush to build their public social presence online.

But these aren't individuals, these are governments. Yes, diplomats need to be able to conduct their business privately. Governments do too. But many (if not all) of the governments in question here cannot and will not acknowledge that they should respect privacy too. The American government wiretaps the hell out of its own citizens; the Europeans and Canadians are worse, and the rest of the world is even worse than THAT. Governments, as a rule, have not recognized that there is a single line of personal privacy that they can't cross for even the most ridiculous, prosaic rules. They're tearing apart personal privacy to protect COPYRIGHTS, for God's sake—ripping up any protection that citizens may have expected just to allow private holders of government-granted monopolies to sue the bejeezus out of some dumb college kid.

In that sort of environment, in that sort of world, how can I unconditionally condemn WikiLeaks? Sure, they don't respect governments' interests. But the one thing that comes across in all of their leaks is that governments don't respect our interests either. They can get away with that principally because of the secrecy that these sorts of institutions enjoy. We don't realize what they do to us. But they work for us, so we damned well should.

If the only way to change things is through this sort of extreme response, then it may be as necessary as it is disquieting.

Edit:  Good piece by Colin Koopman about how this presages widescale information transparency. I don't know if I fully agree, since WikiLeaks itself is a product of a dizzying level of secrecy and privacy-consciousness. Assange is only the front man: the organization itself is mostly anonymous, and as far as I can tell, takes pseudonymity and anonymity VERY seriously. I've read comments pointing out that they don't even know each other's names.

Still, I agree that we've been moving to a world where,  Colin said, "transparency trumps secrecy". We were already becoming more and more transparent to our governments. Now they're discovering that they could be just as transparent to us. They were NOT expecting that it goes both ways, and that's why they're collectively losing their shit over this.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taibbi on Friedman Last Year

I'd missed Matt Taibbi's piece in the New York Press taking down Tom Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded last year. More the fool I. As an enormous fan of his legendary demolishing of Friedman's earlier The World is Flat, I should have expected that Taibbi would return.

And why wouldn't he? Apparently Friedman is an environmentalist now. Then again, according to Taibbi, he'd almost have to be. He has nothing left:

To review quickly, the “Long Bomb” Iraq war plan Friedman supported as a means of transforming the Middle East blew up in his and everyone else’s face; the “Electronic Herd” of highly volatile international capital markets he once touted as an economic cure-all not only didn’t pan out, but led the world into a terrifying chasm of seemingly irreversible economic catastrophe; his beloved “Golden Straitjacket” of American-style global development (forced on the world by the “hidden fist” of American military power) turned out to be the vehicle for the very energy/ecological crisis Friedman himself warns about in his new book; and, most humorously, the “Flat World” consumer economics Friedman marveled at so voluminously turned out to be grounded in such total unreality that even his wife’s once-mighty shopping mall empire, General Growth Properties, has lost 99 percent of its value in this year alone.

So, yes, Friedman is suddenly an environmentalist of sorts.

What the fuck else is he going to be? All the other ideas he spent the last ten years humping have been blown to hell. Color me unimpressed that he scrounged one more thing to sell out of the smoldering, discredited wreck that should be his career; that he had the good sense to quickly reinvent himself before angry Gods remembered to dash his brains out with a lightning bolt. But better late than never, I suppose. Or as Friedman might say, “Better two cell phones than a fish in your zipper."
Little surprise that he came up as #3 in Salon's list of the top fifty hacks in journalism. And, like a lot of the hacks in question, the biggest problem is that he retains his position despite being constantly wrong. You'd think that that would be a problem. But Friedman, like his fellow Salon "hacks" Richard Cohen, David Broder, and Mark Halperin, acts like a sort of reverse Cassandra: his predictions are inevitably wrong, but everybody in Washington believes him regardless.

But why wouldn't they? He's defending the status quo. He's advocating the popular. Friedman's only challenging insofar as you have to decipher what the hell he's on about. Nobody ever got broke aiding the rich and powerful, and in Friedman's case, it made him wealthy as hell.

Maybe his real skill is being able to look himself in the mirror every morning. In his position, I doubt I could.

Canadian Liberal Conflict

It'll be very interesting to see how the conflict within the Liberal Party of Canada over the extension of their commitment to Afghanistan is going to play out. Apparently there will be a vote, and it's anybody's guess as to whether or not Ignatieff can get his caucus to play ball. He's not the most popular man in the country. Or even among his party:
Just about two in three Canadians (64 per cent) believe the Liberals definitely or probably should change leaders. Naturally, that number includes a lot of people who weren't going to vote Liberal anyway, but the stunning finding under the surface of this poll is that fully 59 per cent of those who say they are inclined to vote Liberal think a new leader would be a good idea.
This represents a huge "enthusiasm gap" for the Liberal Party. Its the kind of factor that could depress their voter turnout, and turn marginal victories into marginal losses. To put these numbers in context, Stephen Harper is not one of the country's most loved political figures ever, but only 50 per cent think the Conservatives should replace him. And the vast majority of Conservative voters (74 per cent) are happy with him.
Bruce Anderson, the commentator I just quoted, thinks that it's not because of a "visceral dislike" but more due to "disinterest". He isn't alienating people, but he isn't really attracting them, either. Perhaps. But we all should remember that this is the man that the Liberals dumped Stephane Dion for, who was supposed to be their Kennedy or Trudeau. Nothing of the sort has taken place. He isn't even inspiring the loathing he once did when he was espousing the now-laughable value of "American Empire".

Progressive and liberal leaders aren't inspiring much support these days. Certainly neither Nick Clegg nor Barack Obama have been very attractive progressive party leaders lately. But they're in government, and are making the tradeoffs inherent to governance. Ignatieff doesn't even have that. He's that most unfortunate of creatures: a bland, uninspiring opposition leader. If he's to have any hope at all, he needs to break out of that. He needs to give people a reason to give a damn about him.

(And while I'm discussing Canada, I'll ask again: what did the Liberals do to the Eugene Forsey Liberal? Edit: He's back now. Still, the question remains.)

Site Upgrade

Okay, after reading other people complain about the comment system that Haloscan's moved to, I've decided to both upgrade this thing and clean out the Haloscan comments at the same time. Blog will probably be wonky for a while thanks to the upgrade. Comments may be down: but you can mail me here if necessary. Blogroll may be down as well, but I'll be replacing the entries shortly.

Edit: Or not? Have to admit to being somewhat impressed with how Blogger handled the transition. Regardless, I'll probably be messing about with this for a while.

And, yes, it's brown now. I still prefer the look of light-on-dark. But this template will do for the moment.

Re-Edit: Also fixed up the links. Anybody who wants to be added, email me the link and I'll look at it. One of the nice parts about having switched is that I don't have to hand-code the links anymore. Adding them shouldn't be an issue.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

War Is a Drug

This is what war does to you. (From an essay published by a former serviceman, Charles Whittington, who is being barred from attending his college because his essay a bit too...harsh for them.)

Note that I don't endorse the views in this essay.

War is a drug. When soldiers enter the military from day one, they begin to train and are brain washed to fight and to handle situations in battle. We train and train for combat, and then when we actually go to war, it is reality and worse than what we have trained for. We suffer through different kinds of situations. The Army never taught how to deal with our stress and addictions.

War is a drug because when soldiers are in the Infantry, like me, they get used to everything, and fast. I got used to killing and after a while it became something I really had to do. Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. I had a really hard time with this problem when I returned to the United States, because turning this addiction off was impossible. It is not like I have a switch I can just turn off. To this day, I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body, but now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind. War does things to me that are so hard to explain to someone that does not go through everything that I went through. That's part of the reason why I want to go back to war so badly, because of this addiction.

Over in Iraq and Afghanistan killing becomes a habit, a way of life, a drug to me and to other soldiers like me who need to feel like we can survive off of it. It is something that I do not just want, but something I really need so I can feel like myself. Killing a man and looking into his eyes, I see his soul draining from his body; I am taking away his life for the harm he has caused me, my family, my country.

Killing is a drug to me and has been ever since the first time I have killed someone. At first, it was weird and felt wrong, but by the time of the third and fourth killing it feels so natural. It feels like I could do this for the rest of my life and it makes me happy.

There are several addictions in war, but this one is mine. This is what I was trained to do and now I cannot get rid of it; it will be with me for the rest of my life and hurts me that I cannot go back to war and kill again, because I would love too. When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat it's a feeling that I cannot explain, but feels so good to me, and I become addicted to seeing and acting out this act of hate, and violence against the rag heads that hurt our country. Terrorists will have nowhere to hide because there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers like me who feel like me and want their revenge as well.
Never mind that last bit: killing "terrorists" and "ragheads" is what he was trained and socialized to do.

This is what it can do to you. Maybe it doesn't affect everybody the same way. Maybe Charles is an extreme case. But everybody should read the essay and think about its lessons, especially the odious "keyboard kommandos" who treat military intervention so lightly because they're so ignorant about it.

When the awesome explosions stop, when the pageantry is over, when the cameras showing APCs racing across the desert turn off...these are the problems that you have to deal with.

And you MUST deal with them. Or, very shortly, they'll be YOUR problems too.

Edit: Though there are questions about whether or not this fellow saw the sort of service that he's claiming. But if he didn't, and he had these issues before serving, then that just raises a question: why was he a Marine in the first place?

North Korea Shells South Korean Island

Story's at the BBC.

South Korea says it has returned fire after North Korea fired around 200 artillery shells at one of its border islands, reportedly killing one marine.

The South's military was placed on its highest non-wartime alert after the shells landed on Yeonpyeong island.

North Korea has not yet commented on the incident, in which three marines and two civilians were also injured.

Correspondents say this is one of the most serious since the Korean War ended without a peace treaty in 1953.

There have been occasional cross-border clashes since, but the latest incident comes at a time of rising regional tension.

North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il is believed to be ill and trying to engineer the succession of his youngest son. And on Saturday, North Korea showed off what it claimed was a new uranium enrichment facility - potentially giving it a second route to a nuclear weapon.

The move prompted the US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, to rule out the resumption of six-party talks on resolving the nuclear issue.

South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Hee-jung also said it was investigating a possible link between the artillery attack and a major military exercise near the western sea border which began on Monday.

It also comes just over a month after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, was appointed to senior political and military posts, fuelling speculation that he was being prepared to succeed him.
Un's succession is not in question, so I'm not sure what this is about. More as it develops.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Massive Insider Trading Probe?

In the United States? Possibly featuring Goldman (the Vampire Squid) Sachs? And featuring health care providers?


The criminal and civil probes, which authorities say could eclipse the impact on the financial industry of any previous such investigation, are examining whether multiple insider-trading rings reaped illegal profits totaling tens of millions of dollars, the people say. Some charges could be brought before year-end, they say.

The investigations, if they bear fruit, have the potential to expose a culture of pervasive insider trading in U.S. financial markets, including new ways non-public information is passed to traders through experts tied to specific industries or companies, federal authorities say...

...In another aspect of the probes, prosecutors and regulators are examining whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bankers leaked information about transactions, including health-care mergers, in ways that benefited certain investors, the people say. Goldman declined to comment.

Independent analysts and research boutiques also are being examined. John Kinnucan, a principal at Broadband Research LLC in Portland, Ore., sent an email on Oct. 26 to roughly 20 hedge-fund and mutual-fund clients telling of a visit by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Today two fresh faced eager beavers from the FBI showed up unannounced (obviously) on my doorstep thoroughly convinced that my clients have been trading on copious inside information," the email said. "(They obviously have been recording my cell phone conversations for quite some time, with what motivation I have no idea.) We obviously beg to differ, so have therefore declined the young gentleman's gracious offer to wear a wire and therefore ensnare you in their devious web."

The email, which Mr. Kinnucan confirms writing, was addressed to traders at, among others: hedge-fund firms SAC Capital Advisors LP and Citadel Asset Management, and mutual-fund firms Janus Capital Group, Wellington Management Co. and MFS Investment Management.

SAC, Wellington and MFS declined to comment; Janus and Citadel didn't immediately comment. It isn't known whether clients are under investigation for their business with Mr. Kinnucan.
You know what I love about that email? It isn't the smarmy, supercilious tone. That goes without saying.

It's the fact that (granting presumption of innocence and all that) it's very possible that he believes what he's saying. The tone of the thing doesn't imply shocked innocence, but that he believes this whole thing is a complete joke. And how could he not? Insider trading laws are for other people. Little people. The government is for keeping THEM slapped down; the real Heroes doing real Trading are to be left alone by the "dead hand of government".

It's the idea that the government has forgotten who it really serves.

So how does all this (allegedly) work? In a word, experts.

The action is an outgrowth of a focus on insider trading by Preet Bharara, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney. In an October speech, Mr. Bharara said the area is a "top criminal priority" for his office, adding: "Illegal insider trading is rampant and may even be on the rise." Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Expert-network firms hire current or former company employees, as well as doctors and other specialists, to be consultants to funds making investment decisions. More than a third of institutional investment-management firms use expert networks, according to a late 2009 survey by Integrity Research Associates in New York.

The consultants typically earn several hundred dollars an hour for their services, which can include meetings or phone calls with traders to discuss developments in their company or industry. The expert-network companies say internal policies bar their consultants from disclosing confidential information.

Generally, inside traders profit by buying stocks of acquisition targets before deals are announced and selling after the targets' shares rise in value.
Nice gig, if you can get it. Why make chump change working for a company that actually does things and makes things? That's for suckers. The smart players stay there just long enough to absorb everything they need to know, and then skip on down to Wall Street and (allegedly!) sell their insider knowledge to the highest bidder. THEY get fat stacks. YOU get fat stacks. Everybody wins!

(Except, of course, the people that might have benefited from experts actually doing things. Like with all those physicists, mathematicians, engineers and other "quants" going to Wall Street to rig virtual casinos instead of making the world a better place. Why do something useful when horrible useless bullshit is so much more lucrative?)

Anyway, read the story. Yes, it's in the WSJ, but it treats the subject relatively fairly. Sure, it's no Taibbi, but it'll do a good job of reminding you why America's going downhill. It isn't because of immigration, or crime, or media violence. It sure as hell isn't enough kids doing math in school: what does it matter now that all the mathy kids end up doing something so pointlessly destructive?

Nope, what's bringing down America, and arguably the rest of the world, is the Wall Street Titans who draw away everything productive in the economy and exploit it to keep on gambling. The ones that think that laws and government are to protect them from you. The TRUE "elitists". The Wealthiest One Percent.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Did the Liberals Do to the "Eugene Forsey Liberal"?

I had mentioned yesterday that the blogger who calls himself the "Eugene Forsey Liberal" was, perhaps, the perfect indicator of the white-hot anger that the Liberal base is experiencing over the possible deceptions by the party's leadership.

Now the blog has gone invite-only. I couldn't read the entry again if I wanted to. I've seen this sort of move over personal issues, but never over political opinions, especially by someone using a pseudonym.

What happened to him? What was DONE to him? What was he threatened with?

And what does this say about his party?

Edit: And why the hell hasn't Kinsella spoken up about this shit?

Re-Edit: Oh, he did do something. He removed the link. Well, I suppose that was a reaction to EFL shutting down incoming connections to the blog. Hope so, anyway. Still provokes the question, though. What happened to spook EFL?

Another Edit: And what is the meaning of Kinsella's cryptic comment here? "UPDATE: From a friend with deep Grit caucus connections: 'Rae to Jerusalem. Smitherman to Ottawa. All’s well that ends well.'"

Does that mean "Rae's going to Jerusalem, all's well that ends well"...or does it mean "Rae says to Jerusalem 'all's well that ends well'"?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Look Out, Radioactive Man! It Looks Like the Liberals Are Exploding Again!

If the "Eugene Forsey Liberal" is anything to go by, it would appear that the Canadian Liberals are right back to the sort of bitter acrimony that the Ignatieff victory was supposed to end for good.

Conniving, lying, anti-democratic traitors to Canada who send young Canadians to die in hopeless wars for their own political ends and to please their perceived colonial masters.

I have worked in aid of Bob Rae. Many of my friends and family have. Over many years. Never again.

Even knowing politicians, I never thought Rae & Iggy were the treacherous lying scum we now know to be. Bob Rae is right about one thing. I and many others, after all these years, remain naïve, by comparison. Thankfully.

Harper must go. Ignatieff must go. Rae must go.

That is all.
This is a shocking story. Canadians want out of Afghanistan, even more so than Americans do. They believe that they've done their part, and know that their country has sacrificed more lives—as a proportion of their population—to this mission than any other in the world. While all the other countries in NATO are bailing out, leaving Afghanistan to the Americans, it looks like Canada is going to stay as "trainers".

(Of course, Vietnam was originally about "training" as well. I don't put too much stock in that, and neither should any of you.)

If this had been some ill-conceived political move by the Liberals, that would be different. Sure, it would be stupid, since you can't outflank Republican-style conservatives like the Canadian Conservatives on the right. But that's not what happened here. What happened is that the Liberal leadership negotiated an extension to the mission that neither the Liberal caucus nor the Liberal party as a whole had any appetite for. The Liberals clearly want their soldiers to come home. But the leadership doesn't.

And Bob Rae? BOB RAE? Seriously? I'll admit that I don't know as much about the man and his history as some, but everything I've seen suggests that this is not his sort of game. He's always been the relatively honest, relatively progressive leadership figure in the Liberal party. What the hell is progressive about secret negotiations with the Conservatives? Did he look at what happened with Obama on health care and shout "ME TOO!", charging into the fray without a thought to the consequences?

Is he just getting tired of being in opposition and decided he wanted to contribute to government policy SOMEHOW, even if the government is odious and the method of contribution suspect?

In any case, we're (again) seeing the value of pseudonymity here. "Eugene Forsey Liberal" would probably be risking his association with the Liberal party if he said any of this openly. Even Whatzisname Kinsella is getting with the program, which may be even more surprising than the Rae thing. (Though Jason Cherniak's unfortunately "snotty" response to Kinsella's rage over this decision may have something to do with that.)

I suspect we'll see more "Forsey"-style posts as the days go by. Anonymous sources are already leaking how unhappy the Liberal caucus is about this. Forsey's post is all over twitter, too, linked by angry Liberals and jubilant New Democrats alike.

Unless Rae and Ignatieff can convince their party otherwise, this is only going to get worse.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memo To John A. Farrell:

Liberals don't like the deficit commission's proposals because we realized right away that it's a massive wealth transfer to the wealthy.

Amazing how Farrell misses the point so adroitly. Or, again, maybe he's acting like Brooks. Hard to think otherwise when you read this:

It does away with the tax code’s preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends, and the awful Alternative Minimum Tax, and offers fairer and flatter rates for the overwhelming number of working-class Americans who take the standard deduction.
As should be immediately obvious, flatter rates are not fairer to the working class. And they aren't going to think that the AMT is "awful", because the whole point of the AMT is to ENSURE THAT WEALTHY PEOPLE ACTUALLY PAY THEIR SHARE. That's a constant struggle, and will continue to be a struggle long after the bill is passed and the top 1%'s pet accountants and tax lawyers find new shelters.

Oh, and John? Nobody gives a rat's ass about "bickering" in Washington. Not really. What they care about is the fact that they lost their jobs and the only jobs available are flipping burgers for a few shifts a week at minimum wage.

Brooks: Liberals Are Emotionless Automatons

Or whatever the hell he's blathering on about in his latest. It's a bit unfocused.

See, what he's trying to tell us is that liberals have no emotional core to their economics. It's all dry logic and drier models. Which is a bit weird, since his beef appears to be with economists. That's ridiculously misplaced: most economists aren't terribly liberal, and most liberals aren't any more fond of economists' assumptions or dry modelling than Brooks is purporting to be. It's a bizarre strawman, and while Brooks has practically built his CAREER on erecting strawmen, this one's support is a bit more rickety than most.

But that's not what he's really talking about. It's not that liberalism and liberal economists don't have emotions, it's that they have a basis for their emotions. That's what Brooks is railing against. He's trying to repeat the worn-out Republican shibboleths about how business is avoiding investing because they're afraid of Obama, about how all America needs to do is "pay off its debts" and everything will be okay, and about how the continuing recession proves that stimulus didn't work.

All of those assertions are ridiculous. We KNOW that they're ridiculous. We know that business isn't investing because demand is weak, and because the banks are happier getting free money from the government than lending to, say, small business owners. We know that the stimulus had an effect, but was too small and too focused on tax cuts to be able to seriously make a difference for an economy as large and as troubled as the economy of the United States. And we know that not everybody can pay off their debts at the same time, because every debt is somebody else's assets: so either the people with the assets have to cut down a LOT on their assets, spending more than they're inclined, or the economy needs to completely collapse so as to make the debts functionally worthless through widespread default.

And I think that Brooks knows that they're ridiculous, too. I'm sure he's had this explained to him. I'm equally sure that he couldn't even begin to seriously rebut his colleague Paul Krugman's debunking of these notions. It's an argument he can't win. So he's trying to avoid it, by saying that "facts are irrelevant!" while appealing to a superficially convincing mantra preaching "high savings and low debt", which denies the reality that that's literally impossible.

What's maddening—hello, emotion!—is that it's Brooks that is the amoral one. There is no morality in letting the wealthiest 1% get away with acting like robber barons, or in apologizing for what they've done to the economy. Yet, again, that's what Brooks is doing. Liberals are trying to stimulate the economy because THEY WANT PEOPLE TO GET BACK TO WORK, and get decent-paying jobs that can support themselves and their families at that. They're trying to rescue the middle class that Brook's 1% buddies are working so hard to destroy. Does Brooks? I doubt it. If he were, he would have said something about how the banks are once again leveraged to the hilt, just to try to truly get himself on the side of the Middle Americans that he pretends to advocate for.

It's just another way of pushing his conservative, 1%-serving ideology that destroyed America's middle class, turned the working class against itself, and continues to damage profoundly America's culture, economy and society. An ideology that ultimately destroys itself whenever it gains traction, because it's unimaginably self-defeating and destructive.

It's profoundly immoral. And utterly irrational.

Guess those two things fit together after all.

Edit: Oh, and Brooks? Liberals are absolutely cognizant of economics that takes psychology into account. That's why so many liberals are enormously interested in the work that behavioral economists like Dan Ariely are doing. And guess what they're finding out? Your solutions DON'T WORK. Your assumptions are wrong, your morality is suspect, and your frameworks are broken.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Republicans Abandoning the Poor And Unemployed? Fancy That!

Yes, as seen on the Krug-blog, Bob Corker is now saying that the Fed should give up on doing anything about unemployment whatsoever. Instead, they should focus on price stability.

The former is unsurprising. Republicans see the unemployed as little more than a nuisance to be avoided only when they can't be distracted into fighting amongst each other over who's the most virtuous and/or faithful. But has nobody told this idiot that trying to maintain price stability is precisely what the Fed is trying to do? "Price stability" doesn't just mean "inflation". It means fighting core deflation, too. Sure, he's one of that class of idiot that thinks that Inflation Is Comin' Real Soon Now, No Really It Is. The Fed would still be making moves like QE2 if it disagreed with him. It IS still a semi-autonomous body.

Then again, maybe price stability isn't what people like Corker want. They're Republicans. They are, to a man, nestled deep in the pocket of the wealthiest 1%. The wealthiest 1% are universally creditors, not debtors. Why wouldn't they want deflation? It'd just make their bonds THAT much more valuable.

Sure, it'll screw everybody else. But I think the last ten years has showed us that they could give a rat's ass about the rest of the country, or the rest of the planet. Barring a sort of weak, puddle-deep Noblesse Oblige that nudges them into giving money to whichever charity makes them momentarily feel better, I see every reason to believe that they and their Republican creatures would gladly let the rest of us rot.

Nuking Newsweek's Website For the Beastweek Monstrosity Would Be Asinine

I'd add more. But why? The title covers it. I can understand why Beastweek happened, since Newsweek's print editors understand the Web about as well as they understand theoretical particle physics. That it's going to be an AOL/Time Warner-level disaster is not in doubt.

But it'd be a damned shame to kill Newsweek.com because of it. It's not a site that I always agree with, but it's a damned sight better than the Daily Beast. Of all things.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Currency Debasement"?

Good Lord, the Republican shills taking shots at QE2 really are barely-concealed Goldbugs, aren't they?

They clearly think, against all logic or reason, that a healthy level of currency inflation is somehow equivalent to clipping coins.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brooks: National Greatness For The Ultra-Wealthy

Let us leave aside the spectacle of David Brooks saying, without evidence or reason, that "Bond markets are with you until the second they are against you. When the psychology shifts and the fiscal crisis happens..." He's just repeating the babble of the right.

But if his column is to be believed, he's a big fan of the catfood commission's recommendations, pointing to them as a means by which America can regain its "national greatness". But Krugman aptly noted that said recommendations basically involve jacking the taxes of the middle class to pay for big tax breaks for the wealthiest 1%.

So is that what "national greatness" is to Brooks? He babbles on and on about America's "economic and social values", and even the possibility of "revived patriotism":

It will take a revived patriotism to get people to look beyond their short-term financial interest to see the long-term national threat. Do you really love your tax deduction more than America’s future greatness? Are you really unwilling to sacrifice your Social Security cost-of-living adjustment at a time when soldiers and Marines are sacrificing their lives for their country in Afghanistan?
David Brooks, who the FUCK is the "you" here? It's sure as hell not the tiny minority that captures much of the income, holds most of the wealth, and owns most of the Senators. They don't give a rat's ass about a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. It'd be a rounding error on their portfolios. THEY would benefit handsomely from the catfood crew's advocacy of slashed upper-class income taxes and corporate taxes. Where is THEIR pain? Where is THEIR sacrifice?

Sure, Brooks can take weak shots at the "upper-middle class". But who the hell cares about them? They aren't the issue. The upper-upper-UPPER class walking away with an increasingly grotesque percentage of the wealth that America and its people produce: THAT is the issue. The class war that people like Brooks are waging against the middle class on their behalf: THAT is the issue. The long slide of America into the kind of inequality that you used to see only in "banana republics": THAT is the issue.

America's national greatness is not built on propping up the incomes of exploitative Wall Street traders and well-connected executive managers.

Edit: Looking around, I've run across some sad, pathetic libertarians who are whining about that "tax deduction" line. Give me a break. He advocated for the deficit commission's wholesale transfer of wealth upward. He's an apologist for the wealthy, just like yourselves. He's clearly on YOUR side. You're just too dumb to realize it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"We're All Socialists Now" (Edit: Now With Election Stuff)

Lawrence O'Donnell edumacates America and Glenn Beck about an ideology that America has (perhaps unwittingly) embraced: Socialism.

(Had an embed, but it was handling the content column size somewhat badly. I'll replace it with a link for now.)

He makes the point that any modern economy is a mix of capitalist and socialist elements; that the attacks on social security and medicare as "socialist" actually had a factual basis, because they WERE socialism. They were just also the right thing to do at the time.

I somewhat disagree. I don't think that these things are incompatible with either liberalism or an appreciation of markets. They are contradictory with market fundamentalism, yes. But market fundamentalism doesn't make you a capitalist. It makes you an idiot. Capitalism requires governmental frameworks and institutions in order to properly function. To call that "socialism" is like calling someone a vegetarian because they like a baked potato and some grilled vegetables with their steak.

Still, it's arresting enough to see someone call themselves a "socialist" on a major cable news channel that, honestly, I could give a rats ass about whether or not the name is completely apropos. I have no idea how long O'Donnell is going to keep it, but I know that I'll keep tuning in.

(Edit: That said, I agree far more with Gleen Greenwald on why the Dems lost than O'Donnell. It has nothing to do with being "liberal" vs. being "conservative". There's simply no way that a significant plurality of the electorate changed its deepest political philosophy between 2004 and 2006, or between 2008 and 2010. To think that it's about ideology is to be naive about ideology. It was about all the people who were out of work, the Democratic disconnect with main-street concerns, the Republicans' better messaging, and the perception that the Dems were ineffective due to their complete inability to pass legislation.

(Which had nothing to do with the Republicans for a long time; it was 'blue dogs' that were blocking things, not Republicans. The Dems had no excuse when they had 60 votes.)

None of those things have anything to do with ideology, except to the extent that Democrats' pants-wetting fear of their own beliefs makes them look like frightened children when paired against Republican zealots. Independents didn't shrink from repulsive ideology; they shrank from a broken party.

Additional Deficit Commission Bit

I hadn't noticed until I checked out Krugman's post that they recommended reducing the top bracket from 35% to 23%, and the lowest bracket from 10% to 8%.

How ridiculous can one group of people be? Poor people are struggling and have seen little wage increase in the last few decades, while the wealthiest are walking away with every bit of the wealth generated by said decades' drastic increases in American productivity...

...and you're going to make it WORSE?

Welcome to the America of the right-wing populist, folks. He lionizes you while he and his paymasters walk away with everything you spend those long, hard hours producing. The more he gets, the worse it gets. You're lucky you're getting paid at all: by this time in 2020, you'll probably get nothing for your time and effort except a pathetic allowance of Wal-Mart company scrip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catfood Commission Makes Its Play

So, what's the story? From the Times:

The plan would reduce Social Security benefits to most future retirees — low-income people would get a higher benefit — and it would subject higher levels of income to payroll taxes to ensure Social Security’s solvency for at least the next 75 years.

But the plan would not count any savings from Social Security toward meeting the overall deficit-reduction goal set by Mr. Obama, reflecting the chairmen’s sensitivity to liberal critics who have complained that Social Security should be fixed only for its own sake, not to balance the nation’s books.

The proposed simplification of the tax code would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks — including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments — so that income tax rates could be reduced across the board. Under the plan, individual income tax rates would decline to as low as 8 percent on the lowest income bracket (now 10 percent) and to 23 percent on the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would also be reduced, to as low as 26 percent.

Even after reducing the rates, the overhaul of the tax code would still yield additional revenue to reduce annual deficits — a projected $80 billion in 2015.

But how low the rates are set would depend on how many tax breaks are reduced or eliminated. Some of them, including the mortgage interest deduction and the exemption from taxes for employees’ health benefits, are political sacred cows.
Yes, they are. There's actually a good case to be made for eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, since it's basically a tax penalty for renters. But renters are far less likely to vote than homeowners.

As for the rest...you must be joking. Tax simplification is a good idea, but it doesn't get to the basic problem of the American system, which is that the wealthy 1% earning 25% of the nation's income aren't really paying their fair share for a system that so handsomely benefits them. Certainly the reduction of corporate taxes is going to be a windfall for the upper class. The increased profits will be passed on either to executive management or to shareholders. In either case, that's John. Q. Plutocrat.

The plutocrats are also the reason why the means testing here is a terrible idea. If the wealthy have no stake in social security, they won't support social security. At best they might grudgingly support it out of a sense of noblesse oblige, but even that's unlikely. It's the same problem as you get with the wealthy having no stake in the public school system thanks to their children's ubiquitous private-school education. Raising the ceiling's a good idea, but it would be a good idea anyway.

TPM gets into the details, and they're insane. Never mind the big cuts in defense spending that the Republicans would never go for; it also references a call for a "cap" of government spending and revenue at 21% of GDP. That'd be near-suicidal. The Republicans might go for it, but it'd get busted almost immediately when circumstances warranted.

And then there's this. (Also on TPM)

All their proposals limit Congress to collecting taxes on income made within the United States, reducing or eliminating taxes on American expats and revenues companies earn abroad.
If this went through, expect that no corporation would ever make money in America ever again.

Some of these are just stupid, too. Eliminating earmarks? Eliminate the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools? Charging admission at the Smithsonian? All of these would be pittances.

The worst part is that all this is completely unnecessary. The problem in America isn't a structural deficit. It's the cyclical deficit, the long-term threat of deflation, and the skyrocketing income inequality. America stands absolutely zero chance of defaulting on its debt, and the cost of servicing said debt is insanely low. There is NO good reason for these cuts. All it will do is worsen the real problems.

But let's be honest here. This isn't going to fly. The Republicans are the party of angry old people now, and cuts to Social Security/Medicare/Defense will just make them angrier. There's zero chance that the Republicans are going to go along with this.This thing targets military contractors, for heaven's sake. The Republicans aren't going to go for that. They aren't stupid.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Taiwan Kinda Nails the American Economy

I wish it weren't true, but it is. Animation's poor, but it's a little humbling to see things summed up so well in a language few Americans can speak.

Not much to add to that, really. Except that it was never really that much of a war over tax cuts. The Dems were, as always, too busy fighting themselves to have a hope of dealing with the Republicans.

Monday, November 08, 2010

One Of the Big Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives

When liberals win big, as in 2006 and 2008, you never hear people say that it's a triumph for liberalism.

When conservatives win big, as they did this year, you CONSTANTLY hear people say that it's a triumph for conservatism.

If it were just the media, then that'd be annoying but understandable. They take their cues from Fox, and Fox is a propaganda arm of the conservative movement. What's bizarre is that liberals never claim victory either. They are, as we see over and over again with that "progressive" bullshit, totally afraid to claim victory for their ideology. Hell, they're unwilling to even DISCUSS their ideology. They'll talk about the economy, they'll talk about warfare, they'll talk endlessly about political missteps and tactics and strategies and all that horse-race crap that only the media actually cares about. But you never hear them say "this shows that the American public is actually pretty liberal; it's just had the word demonized by agitprop from the well-heeled-and-amoral."

Meanwhile, every two-bit conservative from Canada to Mexico is crowing about how the 2010 results are a victory for conservatism. People like Mike Pence babble on and on about how the results are "a victory for conservative values". They're shouting their ideology from the rooftops.

The results aren't any sort of victory for conservatism, of course. How could they be? It's been a grand total of two years since Obama swept the nation. People's beliefs don't change that fast. No, they're a reaction to an unbelievably shitty job market, combined with the regression from the Democratic wave of 2008 and a metric tonne of Citizens United-spawned attacks ads. Americans are no more "conservative" in values than they were two years ago, and every time you actually poll them about their REAL beliefs, they end up coming across as fairly liberal. Hell, most want to repeal Obama's health care legislation because they want to add a public option. That ain't "conservative".

And what'd be nice if a liberal was actually out there saying that. If one of these talking heads said "most Americans are liberal, but don't realize it, because they've been told all their lives that liberals eat babies for breakfast". I know it's not popular and, perhaps, not politically savvy to tell the American people that they're being bamboozled by agents and apologists of that 1% of the population that's walking away with a full quarter of America's income. Such talk always seems to raise the spectre of the Cold War Commies in the American mind. Class inequality was the cause of The Enemy.

Nonetheless, it's true. And wouldn't it be nice if liberals calmly, forthrightly, and unapologetically spoke the truth for once?

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Yep, that's right. You know all those people who say they want to repeal the health care legislation? The ones that wingnuts are always trumpeting?

What they AREN'T telling you is that, for more than half, it's because they want a public option added.

Many have assumed that those advocating for repeal wanted Congress to take no further action on health care reform. However, this survey found that 48 percent of Americans actually would like for Congress to continue working on health care system reforms as opposed to focusing on other topics. In fact, the survey found that 63 percent of those individuals who supported repealing the legislation also were in favor of Congress continuing to work on health care system reforms.

When asked how important they thought it was for Congress to work on “establishment of a public option that would give individuals a choice between government provided health insurance or private health insurance,” 67 percent of Americans rated this as an important topic to address. This finding is even more striking given the fact that 59 percent of those in favor of repealing the health care reform legislation rated the public option as important to pursue. Another surprise is that 67 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Independents also agreed that the public option was an important topic to be addressed by Congress.
They do want health care reform. They just don't necessarily want this form of health care reform. Which is understandable, since the Senate passed a dog's breakfast of a system that is largely a handout to health insurance corps.

That's why it's important to get past the hype and look more closely into what people really want. Even THEY might not be totally sure what they really want; but it's not the pro-business status-quo that the Republicans are selling. They want something better, and it's tragic that neither the Republicans nor Dems appear to be willing or able to give it to them.

Friday, November 05, 2010

*Olbermann* Was Suspended For Partisanship?

If I didn't see it...

Yes, despite the fact that Fox News is either a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican party or vice versa, it's Keith Olbermann of MSNBC that is taking a hit for supposed partisanship. Apparently he donated a few bucks to the Dems, and now he's taking heat for it.

Supposedly this is because NBC has standards about this sort of thing that Fox doesn't. Will this help those standards? Nope. Fox will just keep gaining ground. Will it be a blow for journalistic integrity? Nope, it'll just buttress Fox's position while harming MSNBC.

Oh, and NPR didn't let their people attend Jon Stewart's rally, either.

This is one of the reasons why the right inevitably wins. Because progressives can be such IDIOTS about this sort of thing. They handicap themselves, over and over, for reasons that mean NOTHING and accomplish even less.

(Not that NBC is that progressive, of course. But it's a damned sight better than Fox.)

Yes, Voters Can Be Wrong

It's a quick and seemingly obvious insight, but it's one that I'm sure you won't see much of over the next few months.

Yes, the voters can be wrong about something. Obviously individuals can disagree with the electorate on normative issues, for example. Anybody who agrees with the majority on everything is a tool who hasn't thought through the issues properly. You're going to disagree, and it's RIGHT to disagree. Non-voters disagree with voters, for example; they tend to be more satisfied with America and its government, as well as being more progressive. (Shame that they won't vote, or America would be a very different place.)

But that's not the point. The point is that the voters can be wrong on the facts; and to the extent that they're wrong on the facts, they can make the wrong decision for their value set. If they value a lower budget deficit, for example, but they think that deficits are going up instead of going down, guess what? They're likely to make the wrong decision. Not out of malice or spite, but simply because they don't know what the facts are.

That's literally what happened to Clinton. He reduced deficits and nobody realized it. They thought deficits had gone up, when they had plummeted. Anybody who punished him for rising deficits made the wrong decision. They should have rewarded him, but they just didn't know.

The same thing has also happened during this cycle for Obama. He passed tax cuts that nobody knew about and nobody noticed, despite being substantial. He was punished by an electorate who were listening to hucksters whinging about how Obama raised their taxes. They were wrong. They didn't know.

It is those hucksters that are the problem, too. Voters don't exist in a vacuum. They have to get their information SOMEWHERE. Because a lot of voters don't have the time, inclination or skills to pore over quantitative statistical data, or even over scholarly research, they have to rely on someone else to do it for them. And since they aren't necessarily equipped to distinguish between interpretations based on facts vs. those based on convenient fictions, they may well gravitate to hucksters spouting superficially-convincing-but-ultimately-factless bullshit.

Hence Beck and Limbaugh.

If voters are convinced by these hucksters, or by corporate advertising, or by email chain letters, or by "that guy at the water cooler" that a bit of nonsense is true, they'll develop the wrong impression on an issue based on that nonsense. If all those bits of nonsense add up to a great LOAD of nonsense, then many of their impressions will be flawed: not due to evil or naive values, but because of the information they're applying those values upon.

And if someone is a great big ball of false impressions and flawed conclusions, then why wouldn't they make "the wrong decision"? If they knew the whole story, they might believe differently and vote different. They'd change their policies, change their parties, and maybe even change their donation patterns. But they don't. So they're wrong.

Can that happen across an entire electorate? Lincoln's old saying is that "you can't fool all of the people, all of the time". But you don't need to. You just need to fool enough of the people, enough of the time. You just need to give them the wrong impression, based on a soup of false, misleading, misinterpreted or selectively omitted information. You laud their values while you provide that false impression, to build a connection between you; and then when they make the wrong conclusion, you support it with all your might. If you're good enough, with a big enough bully pulpit (like, say, an entire TV network and billions in advertising dollars), you can probably get away with it.

And then, afterwards, you'll have an electorate that will have voted against their interests and values—not because either of those changed, but because they weren't given the proper information to use them to make the decision that they WOULD have made. Irony as political philosophy.

So, yeah, they can be wrong. They shouldn't be. But they can be. And, in this case, I honestly do believe that they are.

Dem-Leaning Indies Stayed Home

Greg Sargent reinforces something that I'd seen yesterday in the CBS exit polls: The makeup of the electorate may have changed more than the beliefs of the American people as a whole.

The key finding: PPP asked independents who did vote in 2010 who they had supported in 2008. The results: Fifty one percent of independents who voted this time supported McCain last time, versus only 42 percent who backed Obama last time. In 2008, Obama won indies by eight percent.

That means the complexion of indies who turned out this time is far different from last time around, argues Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His case: Dem-leaning indys stayed home this time while GOP-leaning ones came out -- proof, he insists, that the Dems' primary problem is they failed to inspire indys who are inclined to support them.
"The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008," Green says.
And, again, a lot of the people who DID switch were almost certainly influenced by their economic troubles.

There's a lot to be said for this. The part about Independents "not being a monolith" is very important to remember. Democrats and Republicans aren't monoliths, either, but at the very least they have shared stated loyalty to a political party. Independents don't even have THAT, and are almost certainly not going to decide to vote or NOT vote as a bloc.

So why did they stay home? Sargent doesn't know. Fair enough. It could be likely that it has a lot to do with enthusiasm. Dem-leaning groups are already less inclined to vote than Rep-leaning groups. If you're a registered Dem, you'll be a little bit more invested in the process; but if you're a Dem-leaning Independent, you probably have nothing invested in the process at all. You won't vote as a matter of course; you need a REASON to get your carcass out to the polling station, wait in line, and pull those levers or push those buttons.

Have the Dems given them those reasons? No, they have not. They didn't even run a fiercely negative campaign about all the damage that the Republicans would do. As far as I can tell, they barely ran a campaign at all. Individual candidates ran campaigns, definitely; but how can that help against national trends?

Even a negative campaign may not have been enough, though. Dem-leaning Independents need a reason to go vote for you in the first place. That's one of the ways that Obama was so successful in 2008: he made a point of ensuring that people had a reason to go vote for him. The Dems never provided those reasons this time. How could they? They couldn't credibly promise a damned thing: Obama had broken many of his—or half-assed their fulfillment—and Congressional Democrats couldn't even marshall the votes of Senate DEMOCRATS, let alone Republicans! Even when they HAD sixty seats, they were being filibustered by their own supposed partisans!

So what the hell is the Congress supposed to promise the American people, exactly? A shitton of decent House bills sitting uselessly in Senate limbo! Dem-leaners won't turn out for that, especially when everything else in their lives is so depressing right now. They may not vote Republican, but they won't necessarily vote Democratic, either.

Kudos to Sargent and the PPP for bringing this up. I can only hope it gets spread quickly and helps challenge the coalescing media consensus that this is about liberalism. It isn't, of course. If it were, then 2006 and 2008 would also have been about conservatism, and the same people who avoided ideological conclusions then would be avoiding ideological conclusions now. The extent to which this is blamed on liberalism just shows the fundamental character of the American media.

Edit: On the other hand, maybe non-voters were satisfied after all?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The "Hold Your Nose" Factor (Along With Economies and ConservaDems' Responsibility)

I've been going over some exit poll results on CBS's website. A lot to digest, but something jumped out at me.

Is your opinion of the Democratic Party:

Favorable (43%)

House Vote Democrat: 91%, House Vote Republican 8%

Unfavorable (53%)

House Vote Democrat: 10% House Vote Republican 88%
So only 10% of people "held their nose and voted Democratic". That's really, really small. Pretty clear that the only way you were going to vote Democratic is if you liked the Dems.

Now the Republicans:

Is your opinion of the Republican Party:

Favorable (42%)
House Vote Democrat: 11%, House Vote Republican: 88%
Unfavorable (52%)
House Vote Democrat: 75%, House Vote Republican: 23%
See the difference? Almost a quarter of people with unfavorable views of the Republican party voted for it anyway! That suggests, to me, that there were a lot of people who pulled the "R" despite themselves. They didn't like the Republicans, and may not have even shared their agenda; but they're ticked off enough about the economy that they decided to punish the Democrats regardless.

Another bit that grabbed me was a possible indicator that this is a different electorate than in 2008 rather than just a change in views in the same electorate: the McCain/Obama numbers. McCain and Obama numbers were evenly split at 45% each. Now this may be people misremembering, but it was only two years ago and a big deal besides. I believe this better shows that these are not all the same people who voted in the last election. More McCain voters showed up because they were energized; Obama voters declined precipitously.

Oh, and one more thing. Look at this. It shows the importance of the economy as a factor.

Do you think the condition of the nation's economy is:

Good (9%) House Dem:79%, House Rep: 20%
Not so good (52%) House Dem: 52%, House Rep: 45%
Poor (37%) House Dem: 26%, House Rep: 71%
The Dems FAR outperformed their average among people who thought the economy was doing well. The farther down, the poorer the evaluation. It carried over to financial situation, too: if you are BETTER off or "about the same", you were more likely to vote Democratic; if you were WORSE off, you were more likely to vote Republican. Which fits the "punishing the Dems for the poor economy" thesis quite well, rather than some kind of wholesale embrace of Republican ideology.

(After all, that very same group punished the Republicans two years ago.)

This isn't a repudiation of liberalism. It was "the economy, stupid". If Obama had delivered a better economy, the group of people who are better off and thought the economy was recovering would have been larger, and delivered more votes for his people on Tuesday.

So, now, the battle appears to be over who gets blamed for the terrible economy in 2012. So far, I'm not optimistic it's going to be the Republicans.

Edit: There's a bit in TAP by Jamelle Bouie that reinforces this point.

Almost all districts voted more Republican in this election than in 2008, but much of that shift came from states hit hard by the recession. Republicans made big gains in Michigan (13 percent unemployment), Florida (11.9 percent unemployment), and Ohio (10 percent unemployment). The national unemployment average, by contrast, is 9.6 percent.
Well put. There's another point made there, too: that the Senate might have seriously hurt the house, even on unpopular bills.

So, are liberals responsible for the 15 other seats Republicans won on Tuesday? Yes and no. Congressional liberals were clearly the driving force behind adopting a climate bill in the House of Representatives, with strong support from progressive activists. Passing that bill required hard votes from vulnerable members in rural, conservative districts. If the Senate had passed a climate bill, those members might have been able to make lemonade from lemons. But the Senate failed to act on climate legislation, and the bill became dead weight for a number of rural Democrats. By all accounts, Rick Boucher, a 14-term representative in Virginia's 9th District, wouldn't have faced a serious competitor -- and would have cruised to re-election -- had he voted against cap-and-trade. Likewise, Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat in Virginia's 5th District, might have edged out his Republican opponent (or come closer to doing so) had he voted against health-care reform or any other piece of major labor.

That said, you can only go so far with this; the economy was the issue for most voters, and had centrist Democrats been willing to support a more liberal stimulus with larger payouts and fewer tax cuts, they might have saved a few of those vulnerable seats. Which is to say that moderate and conservative Democrats -- by reflexively opposing President Barack Obama on so many items -- bear as much responsibility for Tuesday as liberals do.
The parts I bolded are absolutely key, and likely to get overlooked. Voting for legislation that ultimately founders in the other chamber is likely to cripple you. This is ESPECIALLY true for legislation that is going to be easy to caricature, like cap-and-trade. The Senate, by blocking House bill after House bill, just made sure that House members had nothing to show for tough votes. And on the economy, it was ESPECIALLY disastrous, since as we saw people who feel "worse off" voted primarily Republican, and often did it even if they didn't LIKE Republicans.

Dispirited youth and minorities stayed home. Energized, "fuck-you" oldsters went to vote. People who were worse off went (R), and the Senate's "moderates" screwed everybody else. Just another election in America, during the long, slow, brutal slide to irrelevance.

Broder's Ignoring the Republicans' Actions Even As They Run Things

As usual, the media's advice is singularly unhelpful. It's almost certainly because they know that the Dems got beat because the public is impatient and always blames the party of power for economic trouble, but can't say it for fear of the reaction.

(And they call us Internet people "cowards".)

The justifications they get up to to try and AVOID saying that, though, are really funny. Take Broder. He's babbling his usual nonsense about how the Dems aren't centrist enough. That shit should be a non-starter in an election season where the Republicans have clearly and obviously moved to the right. The objection to "centrism" has always been the problem of goalpost-moving. Now that we've seen goalposts getting moved right in front of our eyes, it should be discounted out of turn.

Broder has no better ideas to offer. So he offers the same 'ol, same 'ol anyway.

Still, here's a good example of how far down that rabbit hole he goes:

Somewhere along the way, Obama lost sight of his campaign pledge to enlist Republican ideas and votes. Maybe they were never there to be had, but he never truly tested it. And the deeper he became enmeshed in the Democratic politics of Capitol Hill, the less incentive there was for any Republican to contribute to his success...
...What lessons should Obama draw? The worst mistake would be for him to abandon or reject his own agenda for government. If health care is to be repealed, let it be after the 2012 election when he will have a chance to defend his handiwork - not now.

Instead, he should return to his original design for governing, which emphasized outreach to Republicans and subordination of party-oriented strategies. The voters have in effect liberated him from his confining alliances with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and put him in a position where he can and must negotiate with a much wider range of legislators, including Republicans.
Folks, you know and I know that the Republicans were "never there to be had". They were NOT interested in working with Obama and the Dems. They were NEVER interested in working with Obama and the Dems. And since they won such a handsome electoral reward for obstructionism, they're not GOING to work with Obama and the Dems. They'd have to be idiots. Unlike Broder, they aren't.

It comes down to agency: Broder is taking it away from the Republicans and handing it all to Obama. Obama DID try to reach out to Republicans, over and over again. He did it so much that his legislation was arguably weakened beyond recovery in the attempt. Half the reason why the health care bill is as weak and corporate-friendly as it is is because of all the attempts to bring Republicans onside. Broder knows damned well that the problem was that the Republicans were never going to do it He even implicitly acknowledges it what that "never there to be had" line! What more could Obama and the Dems have done? Maybe they could have simply let the Republicans write the legislation FOR them. But three-quarters of the reason for this election debacle was because Obama's core supporters STAYED HOME!

Broder is doing everybody a disservice by not granting responsibility where it's due. The reason why the Senate didn't pass sweet fuck-all is because the Republicans exploited the filibuster. The reason why they did it is because they guessed, correctly, that the public would punish the Dems, not the Republicans, for the inability to pass decent legislation. That has nothing to do with "left" or "right". It doesn't really have anything to do with the Dems, either; Senate Dems tried to reach out and were rebuffed over, and over, and over again, by an opposition that was never interested in working with them in the first place.

All that opposition wanted to do, from day one, is set up what happened on Tuesday. It wasn't about legislation, it wasn't about "freedom", it wasn't about bullshit linear political scales, and it wasn't about the American People. It was about creating the conditions to revive their lifeless party from the dead. it was political necromancy.

Yet somehow, with that accomplished, it's people that Broder that sound like zombies.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

An Obvious Point About Political Ideology That Still Needs Stating

America is not significantly more conservative than it was two year ago.

No. Sorry. It isn't. Political ideology doesn't work that way. You don't whipsaw back and forth. If anything, once somebody fixates on something it's impossible to move them thanks to cognitive dissonance. Again, we'll have to see exit polls and data manipulation over the next few weeks as things settle, but one can safely grant that that wasn't what happened. The same America that tossed out the Republicans four years ago and embraced Obama two years ago is the one that swung Republican now.

What people can become in two years or four years is angry, scared, and frustrated. Most Americans believe that their country is on the wrong track, and haven't seen any benefits from Obama's (poorly crafted and poorly targeted) legislation. They won't have seen any benefit from the health care reforms, they didn't get to keep their house because HAMP never worked properly, and as for the bank bailouts that may have saved the economy, well, the less said the better.

Sure, some sources are saying that the electorate yesterday was more "conservative". That doesn't mean people changed their position. It means what we expected: Democratic partisans were dispirited and barely saw the point of voting, whereas Republican voters were activated by the combination of a deluge of corporate advertising and one of the biggest astroturfing campaigns the world has ever seen. As I said in my last post, the "tea partiers" are the same old white, conservative, well-off males that ALWAYS vote Republican; the only difference is that they were given a standard to rally around.

(Obama provided that for progressives in 2008, and then abandoned it in the dirt. I only wonder whether the Republicans will make the same mistake.)

I think that the big story here may well turn out to be Citizens United and the spending. There's some great research waiting to be made about the amount of spending that corps and their various advocates made in various districts and the succcess of the Republican candidate there. Yes, the Republicans have a better ground game and, yes, the Tea Party activated conservatives. But TV advertising still matters a LOT, especially among the older, white Americans that the Republicans were courting. I suspect that it will have made a big difference.

The only silver lining here is that the Republicans have probably taken the wrong lesson from this. They'll think they've received a mandate for conservatism. They haven't. They, like Obama, received a mandate for change. Since the only changes they can make are disastrous and stupid, I suspect that they won't last very long. I could be wrong, and maybe America will fall back into Republican hands only four short years after the Republicans helped destroy its economy.

But, again, the country that voted for Boehner's bunch tonight voted in Pelosi's crew in 2006, and swept Obama to power in 2008. Never forget that.

Edit: Cenk Uygur makes a good point about the Dems over on FDL:

Did you deliver for the average American voter or did you deliver for Wall Street? Come on, look at the numbers. Wall Street is backing to make record profits and bonuses and we’re at nearly 10% unemployment. People aren’t stupid. They got robbed. The system didn’t get fixed. It’s still rigged in favor of the rich and powerful.

Some liberals, progressives and Democrats will accuse me of party treason for saying that. They’re right, I don’t give a damn about the parties. In this day and age, I would never vote for a Republican in a national election because they have shown themselves to be a completely owned subsidiary of the rich and the powerful. They have demonstrated gross incompetence and are purposely derelict in their duty to the voters. But that doesn’t mean I have to be excited about the Democrats. Who is excited by Blanche Lincoln? Other than corporations who bought her years ago.

The Democrats said they were going to bring change – and they didn’t. That is their fundamental error. And that is why they are being voted out right now. But knowing how Washington works, they will not get that through their thick skulls. Instead, they will probably go further toward the jackals on the right after this election. They will cater to big business, Wall Street and the top 1% of this country even more after this election – and then wonder why people don’t trust them.
The bit I bolded couldn't have been better stated. Americans don't just want a change in how they're governed. They NEED a change. The Republicans sort of understand that, which is why Boehner kept blubbering on about change last night. It isn't a change in ideology, it's a change in structure and attitude.

The ironic thing is that Americans WOULD have gotten that change, had the Republicans not blocked it and had Reid and Obama not coddled them while doing so. We'll never know how they would have voted had Pelosi had the votes she needed in the Senate.

Precisely the Wrong Interpretation

Oh, Harry Reid. Why couldn't Sestak have won and YOU been tossed out?

Reid gets exactly the wrong lesson from this. From the Times:

In an early morning appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, Mr. Reid said it was time for the parties to cooperate. “The message to America today is that we’ve got to start working together,” he said. “The only way we can have progress is by working together. If that means legislative compromise, we’ve got to do that.”
Did the Republicans EVER say this? Ever? Even when they had gotten their butts kicked, they'd always talked about being a voice for conservatism, and their obstructionism benefited them handsomely in this election. Now you want to REWARD them for that by passing batshit-insane right wing legislation?

What, you think YOU will get the credit for that? In this media environment? Give me a break.

The Democratic Party of the United States of America are poorly named. They aren't Democratic. Not Liberal either. There's only one party name that TRULY fits this lot:

The Know-Nothings.

Yglesias Makes a Good Point on "Overreach"

I liked this bit quite a bit.

It’s inevitable that “liberal overreach” will be blamed for Democratic losses if they’re large tonight and also blamed if they’re small. But what I think overreach analysis always requires is more of a marginal approach.

For example, granting ad arguendum that the 111th Congress engaged in liberal overreach, which Senators who win today would have lost had the Affordable Care Act included a public option linked to Medicare? The answer seems to me to be nobody. Which Senators who win today would have lost had the 111th Congress passed a cap-and-trade plan through reconciliation? Here, it looks like Patty Murray. Would a “scaled back” health care plan have saved Blance Lincoln? Clearly not.
The ConservaDems extracted concession after concession from the President, leadership and caucus and still got their asses kicked. The party would have honestly been better off had it swung for the rafters; it would still have lost independents, but at least the enthusiasm gap wouldn't have been so crippling.

Edit: It also comes back to that disengagement problem. One of Yglesias' commentators said that "people might think that Obama, Reid and Pelosi went too far with that 'socialized medicine'". And, yes, they might. But there was absolutely nothing that the Dems could have done about that. It was the most corporate-friendly, conservative-friendly health care reform bill you could ask for. The only reason it's called "socialist" is because it was labelled as such by the Republicans, BUT THEY WOULD HAVE CALLED IT THAT NO MATTER WHAT.

There was no point to reaching out to the conservatives and blue dogs. It didn't help, and was never going to help. Maybe good legislation would have. But I suppose we'll never know.

Re-Edit: And once again, the public doesn't give a damn about right v. left "linear" politics. They don't punish "moving to the left" any more than they punish "moving to the right". They vote based on their lives, beliefs and identity. So the attempt to "move the bill to the right" would never have moved them.

Lessons from the 2010 Election

So there seem to be, in absence of detailed exit poll data, certain things that we CAN take away from this debacle.

First, to misquote Gordon Gekko, obstructionism WORKS. Obstructionism is GOOD. The American people voted in the Dems in 2006 and in 2008 to enact real, positive change. The Republicans made damned sure that wouldn't happen by posing a united front in the Senate. The Dems tried, over and over again, to try to pin the Senate's failure to enact cloture on the Republicans. It never stuck. It was never GOING to stick; the press was too busy focusing on horse races, and the public doesn't give a damn. They'll blame whomever is in power.

That also goes for the Republicans' negotiation tactics. Playing at being convincible when talking with the President and Congressional leadership, extracting concession after concession with no concession in turn, and then walking away at the end worked SPECTACULARLY well for the Republicans. It might not have if they ended up getting blamed for the resulting legislation, but they never, ever did. Part of that was due to Obama's own overly-concession-prone negotiation style, and the Dems' inability to create and stick to a message. But I think a lot of it is just the simple fact of politics, and something the Dems should remember going forward when they work to frustrate the Republican house.

Second, Citizens United paid off BIG for the Republicans. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Dems were yelling that they were getting HAMMERED with corporatist advertising in State after State. Obama tried to tie the ads to big money; but, again, the public was simply not in the mood for justifications or excuses. It's only going to get worse; I think that 2012 may be the first election that is basically bought-and-paid-for if things go badly.

Third, I also think that the teabaggers paid off for the Republicans, too. Sure, they lost Nevada, but Rand Paul managed to pull it off, along with others. More importantly, they did what they needed to do to relabel their party. The teabaggers are really just the same old, white, upper-middle-class conservative males that have ALWAYS been the backbone of both the conservative movement and the Republican party. What's changed is that now they have an identity to look at, and that the media can freak out over. That's something the progressives don't have, and have never really had. Partially it's because of their tendency to splinter, but I think it also has to do with our fourth reason.

Fourth, the Dems completely destroyed their electoral machine. OFA is a sad shadow of what it used to be. It was never going to be as big as it was in 2008, of course. But as one of the people on CNN pointed out, Reagan made sure that he kept his young Republican groups engaged throughout the term, instead of just trying to rally them when election time rolled around. The rest of the progressive groups were if anything WORSE off, thanks to the combative, hostile relationship the Obama administration had with its own base. The enthusiasm gap was dramatic throughout the race, and I expect that in the days ahead we'll find out just how dramatic it was. But I think it didn't need to be, and that it's Obama's own fault that it

And finally, the combination of the hatred of BOTH parties and the results, along with the economic situation, shows that the American people still want change and not necessarily what the Republicans are peddling. This may be the Republicans' undoing, since their policy prescriptions will NOT make thing batter. The best they can hope for is a slight spike from businesses and investors who assume that their party will be pro-business, but I suspect that the fundamental problems will likely reassert themselves soon enough. The Republicans' plans are economically suspect at best, and likely catastrophic; they would be best buried by the Democratic president and Senate. But since I doubt the Dems will have that kind of sense, it's likely that they'll try to "work with the Republicans" in enacting part of the Republican agenda. Then, when things get WORSE, the finger-pointing will begin.

This isn't what I would have wanted. THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. The Dems and the President should have known that this would be the ultimate end of their frustrated, inadequate, poorly-focused efforts over the past two years. THIS is what happens when you listen to people like Rahm Emanuel. THIS is why they need real victories to show the American people. THIS is why catering to the blue dogs to the exclusion of all else doesn't work. (They got hammered tonight.) THIS is why you don't abandon the networks you built up. And THIS is why you need to develop a strong identity and pay close attention to your Supreme Court nominees.

But I suspect that they'll get the wrong message. They'll think that they've "moved too far left" or some such nonsense. It's not about left and right. It never was. It's about people wanting some security and prosperity in their lives. And when the Republicans fail at providing it, things are going to get a whole lot uglier.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day!

No, I don't expect it to go well. No, I don't think the Dems have proven their case. (I don't think the Republicans have, either, but they aren't in power right now.)

And I'm with Krugman; I suspect that the next few years will bring little good. The chance was Obama and the Dems' to waste: and sure enough they wasted it. They did SOME good, of course. Health Care may well be better than nothing, as is FinReg. But only barely, and considering the outsized majorities they had, well...

In any case, the frustrating part will be if the Republicans DO win back the Senate. Because when they pass bill after bill, counting on the Dems to let them get cloture, I can guarantee all of you that neither the Dems nor the media will make a peep about the fact that the Republicans convinced all of them that a Democratic Senate needed a sixty-seat majority to pass legislation, while a Republican Senate does not.

In any case, go vote. It may or may not help. But there ARE good Dems out there; your Feingolds and Graysons and whatnot. They DO deserve your support. Even the Blue Dogs might, barely, if the alternative is one of those "Tea Partiers" snug in the pockets of the Koch brothers.

But while you vote, stop and think about how the Republicans were given up for dead two years ago. Think about what changed. And think about why.