Monday, April 28, 2014

OMG! Sarah Palin Is Not Trending!

Am I irrelevant? You betcha!

Somehow, during the time when Sarah Palin was HUGE, we survived. Now, Sarah is, by the lights of Wapo, gone SMALL. wow.

Aye, Sarah, we hardly knew ye. B'bye.

I'm Going to Yurp!

Yes, this is a favorite bar of mine in Amsterdam. I will drink
there soon. I will raise a glass to, uh, the absence of
American politics for four weeks. Fat chance!

I will try to blog from Yurp. I didn't do it much last time. I will try harder this time.

I will say in advance that Yurp is a socialist paradise. If you say Ayn Rand in Yurp, people start to laugh. If you say Republicans in Yurp, they say, "Oh my god, they're crazy! America must wonder what the hell!"

Actually, I'm not kidding. Anyway, Karl Marx, losers!

This photo was on today's WaPo front page, accompanying an op-ed
praising war as a tool of peacemaking. Holy shit, am I glad
I'm leaving for Yurp, socialist paradise, just in time!

The Right to Not Bear Arms

Hey, Republicans, you can put it back in your pants now.

Remarkably, the gun lobby has found ways to expand gun rights from "anything goes" to "no, really, anything goes, practically anywhere." Guns in bars, no problem. Guns in church. Of course. Jesus loves your handgun with its 10-bullet clip.

E.J. Dionne sums it up today in the WaPo.

A very serious question remains: Do American citizens have the right to feel safe without being armed?

If your answer to that question is "Get real, get a gun, fool," then here's the next question: Where does this end?

Do we have a right to be safe? It seems libertarians and conservatives answer, "Only as safe as your individual, unregulated choices allow you to be." If that's so, America has chosen a dangerous path away from safety.

Is this really what you want, America?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Racism: The Exceptions That Prove the Rule

Chief Justice John Roberts: fingers
in the ears doesn't end racism.
Oh boy. Just when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was convinced it was safe to go back into the water because, hell, everyone knows that racism is dead, elements in the country that were ABOUT AS FAR AWAY AS YOUR NEAREST NBA OWNER OR SOME BUMFUCK NEVADA RANCHER go and jump in the deep end.

Who knew? Everybody, that's who, and as far as I'm concerned that includes members of the Supreme Court who, like Roberts, probably waited half their lives to put out a series of rulings that make them look pretty moronic now.

To describe opinions held by members of the Supreme Court as moronic might be sophomoric, all the more so because I don't think those opinions come out of thin air. They come out of extremely cold, sophisticated calculations: The act of deciding that we're finished with race in America has the double effect of never again making a decision that is in support of minorities. In other words, racism may rear its ugly head -- and racism may not in fact be behind us -- but we can decide that it's just too fucking bad. We're done here.

Thanks, Supremes.

By the way, I guess Sonia Sotomayor told the boss that he was sticking his head in the sand. He was not impressed with what she said or how she said it.

LA Clippers owner Don Sterling: Couldn't you
have noticed that blacks are the stars of your show?
I feel if racism blocks or inhibits minority rights to due process or equal protection under the law, then remedies are needed to return those rights to minorities. That's not only a rationale for affirmative action, but it's also a justification for ruling racial profiling illegal, as well, and it certainly makes the Supreme Court's conservative wing look heartless when they gutted the Voting Rights Act. Minorities' right to vote is continually being denied equal protection under the law. If it takes a remedy beyond neutrality to provide minorities the right to vote, then so be it. Wishing shit was better is not a strategy, it's a cop-out, one that, yes, I believe Roberts and other conservatives on the Court are guilty of.

Emily Bazelon makes a good point in her discussion of the implications of recent Supreme decisions, especially the one that upheld Michigan's right to ban affirmative action:
For liberals as well as conservatives, there’s an upside to that outcome, despite the expected denunciation by groups like the NAACP and the ACLU. According to Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, who has studied affirmative action for years, in seven of the states that have banned it, leading and other public universities have maintained black and Latino enrollment and admitted more low-income students. As I explained in October, “Some of the schools have taken income and wealth and neighborhood into account. Some have plans that admit the top 10 percent of high school graduates statewide. Three have banned legacy preferences.” Those are strategies for achieving racial diversity that also improve socioeconomic diversity, which at many selective schools is sorely lacking. A year ago, a new study resoundingly showed that there is a “hidden supply” of high-achieving low-income students that most schools don’t do enough to recruit. Many of these kids don’t even apply to top colleges: The schools are too unfamiliar and seem unattainable. But if the students have better information, and universities make a bigger effort to reach them, they will come. If ruling out explicitly race-based preferences pushes the schools to do more on this front, that’s a real silver lining.
She goes on to point out, however, that this does little to advance diversity, with schools in states that have banned affirmative action in public-university admissions seeing a sharp decline in minority students on campus.

Cliven Bundy: yapping
his way to isolation.
America isn't over race, not by a long shot. Those who want to pretend that it isn't still in almost all corners of American life are just deluding themselves. It's as American as apple pie and will be for quite some time to come. If you don't believe that, then the Don Sterlings and Cliven Bundys will continue to pop up to remind us.

I hate to say it, but you can take that to the bank. If you don't believe me, you might want to look at the Confederate flags waving in front of the South Carolina and Mississippi statehouses. They're there for a reason, and it isn't to reassure blacks that they're welcome to a fair deal.

Friday, April 25, 2014

We Need a New Founding. Who Should Be the "Fathers?"

These guys did okay. But the Roberts Court is proving the limits of
constitutional jurisprudence. And Congress is showing the limits of ideology.
Oh, and Fox News is showing the limits of "fair and balanced."

Here's a thought experiment: If we wanted a new Constitutional Convention, and we wanted the best hundred people to attend -- say, two from each state -- who would they be? Would we want it to be the current Senate?

I don't think so.

Would we want Sarah Palin to represent Alaska?

I don't think so.

Would we want Elizabeth Warren to represent Massachusetts?

I think so!

For New Jersey, would we want Paul Krugman and Chris Christie? Christine Todd Whitman?

I would vote for Paul Krugman and Christine Todd Whitman. After all, would you want a guy like Chris Christie saying to Thomas Jefferson something like, "You wanna say all men are created equal? What are you, STUPID??"

I don't think so.

Finally, would you want Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity shaping tomorrow? Or, God forbid, Peggy Noonan?

Who are our thought leaders today? Who are the real leaders with the caliber of a Jefferson, an Adams, a Madison?

Freaks me out just thinking about it.

A final thought: If we put fifty or a hundred men and women in Independence Hall in Philadelphia and told them to come up with a constitution that had to stand for hundreds of years, with no BULLSHIT, could they do it?

If they were real smart, maybe so.

Final, final thought: How many of today's Supreme Court members would you want in that room? John Roberts? Antonin Scalia? Clarence Thomas? I have to stop now.

Rush Limbaugh for chairman of our new Founding Fathers:

I know, I couldn't watch all of it either. So, Sarah Palin for chairman of our new Founding Fathers:

Sarah should totally be in the room, right?

No? Okay, how about...

Ted Cruz?
Rick Santorum?
Mitch McConnell?
Rand Paul?
Eric Cantor?
Newt Gingrich?
Rick Perry?
Bobby Jindal?
Sam Brownback?
Tom Coburn?
Jim DeMint?
Marco Rubio?
George W. Bush?
Mitt Romney?
Paul Ryan?

I know, I'm not asking about any Democrats. Who would I want in that room?

Elizabeth Warren.
Bill Gates.
Melinda Gates.
Warren Buffett.
Jimmy Buffett (just kidding, but we could do worse...).
Jerry Brown.
Willie Brown.
Dianne Feinstein (I kind of don't like her, but after the CIA dust-up, she'd help write the part about no torture and spying on citizens).
Russ Feingold.
Bernie Sanders.
George Clooney (not actually kidding).
Barack Obama.
Rachel Maddow.
Margaret Warner (yeah, the News Hour).
Duncan Black (the economist/blogger).
Dean Baker.
Janet Yellen.
Sherrod Brown.
Howard Dean.
Harry Reid (he gets a bad rap, I like him).
Nancy Pelosi (same as with Reid).
Almost any of the SF Bay Area reps like:
Jackie Speier.
George Miller.
Mike Thompson.
Hell, even Gavin Newsom.
Of course, both Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Oh, Joe Biden!

There are people I respect, like Chuck Shumer, that I don't trust. They're liberals who sell the people out for Wall Street at the drop of a hat. It's his constituency, so it's not evil, just not my crew.

And it doesn't have to be limited to politicians. Example? Beyoncé. I know, that's weird, but is it? I'd trust her a country mile before I'd trust, oh, say Nikki Haley. Would you want to have Nikki Haley, who is just fine with guns in bars, writing a new constitution? Huh?

We need a new Founding. Do we have the people, the character, the wisdom? I wonder...

Phil Jackson: He got Kobe and Shaq to play together and tamed Rodman with the
Bulls. Does he have the stuff to run our new Constitutional Convention? Just maybe.

I promise to stop using the phrase "final thought," or "final, final thought."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliven Bundy: Nevada's Own House of Cards

Cliven Bundy: The Rancher on Horseshit Mountain.

At some point we often get a glimpse of the real man -- think Rand Paul, Anthony Weiner and, yes, even Bill Clinton -- behind or, better yet, below the public image. Famous-for-fifteen-minutes Cliven Bundy built his house of cards only to get knocked down by reporters and, yes, his own fool mouth.

And we know we're getting there when they start to say "I never said that." What? Don't these guys know the Internet wrecked 90 percent of a public figure's opportunity for pure bullshit? What part of Google or Freedom of Information Act don't these clowns get?

Point one:
"I've lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvements," Bundy said.
Clark County property records show Cliven Bundy's parents bought the 160 acre ranch in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt.
Water rights were transferred too, but only to the ranch, not the federally managed land surrounding it. Court records show Bundy family cattle didn't start grazing on that land until 1954.
The Bureau of Land Management was created 1946, the same year Cliven was born.
"My rights are before the BLM even existed, but my rights are created by beneficial use. Beneficial use means we created the forage and the water from the time the very first pioneers come here," Bundy said.
Every claim he makes is horseshit. Point two:
[...] What about Bundy’s claim that his forebears bought the land he is now accused of trespass grazing upon?  This land was once Mexican land, and was won by the United States after the Mexican-American War. It is part of what is known as the “Mexican Cession.” All of Nevada, California, Arizona and most of New Mexico were part of the Cession. Much of this land was privatized under various grants and laws such as the Homestead Act and the Desert Lands Act, plus mining claims. Several million acres were granted to Nevada for state lands, but those lands that were not privatized have always been Mexican lands or United States lands owned by the U.S. government. Before the Taylor Grazing Act, these government lands were called “the public domain.” They could be privatized, as mentioned, under the Homestead Act and such, but the acreage allowed per homesteader was limited to 160 acres.
[...] The result was disaster because the operator to find green grass and eat it first won out, promoting very bad grazing practices. That was the reason for Taylor Grazing Act — ranchers and others could see the public domain system led to disaster on the ground. Therefore, the more powerful ranchers with “base” private property received grazing permits. This got rid of the landless livestock operators. Taylor Grazing was administered on the ground by the U.S. Grazing Service. Now, ranchers with grazing permits had to pay a grazing fee to use their permits.
[...] In 1946 [the year Cliven Bundy was born] the Bureau of Land Management was created by executive order of President Truman to replace the Grazing Service. The Service had been defunded in a dispute between the House and the U.S. Senate. The BLM has since been affirmed by law rather than a mere executive order. It is supposed to manage the public lands for multiple uses and for sustained production (“yield”) of renewable resources such as grass. As before, you need a grazing permit for cattle, sheep, goats, or horses to legally graze. It is a privilege, not a right, and this has been firmly stated by the U.S. courts.
Bundy doesn't even know the history that proves his horseshit is horseshit. Now, point three, that he didn't say what they say he said:
Like everyone else to ever be quoted saying something untoward, Nevada rancher and new conservative folk hero Cliven Bundy, who just happens to be a huge racist, said this afternoon that his comments about black Americans being better off as slaves, as published in the New York Times, were inaccurate and taken out of context. They most certainly were not. "I didn't say nothin' about pickin' cotton," Bundy told Alex Jones on the radio today. "This is bombshell. This is bombshell," said Jones. "You're telling me you did not say 'picking cotton'?"
"No, I did not say pickin' cotton," said Bundy. Let's go to the tape.

Oops, there it is, at 1:45: "They never learned how to pick cotton ... were they better off as slaves, pickin' cotton?"
And just to finish off this trip to horseshit mountain, read this piece in Salon that lists the crap that conservatives threw together in defend of Bundy. It's hilarious, or would be if it weren't for how close to an armed insurrection we came at the insanity's peak.

More proof of Hannity's insanity?

My, how the right-wingers who took up Bundy's cause are "distancing" themselves from him today. If an armed mob shows up to defend Bundy when the feds do come again -- and they will -- they will leave themselves open to serious condemnation. Bundy has knocked down his own house of cards, leaving himself most likely alone on Horseshit Mountain.

Cliven Bundy Clarifies His Humanity

Offered without comment:

...other than to point out, if this is Bundy's humanity, where now, Sean Hannity?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Colbert Is Going to Have to Be a Lot Funnier than This to Rule the World

...or does he?

I don't think he does, so Rush is going to be very disappointed!

(totally from Atrios but you needed to see it...)

Talking Points Memo Scores Big on Princeton Influence Gap Study Interview

The home that proves the rule, Thomas Piketty-style:
Hyatt Hotel heir Anthony Pritzker's 53,000 sq. ft. mansion.

Sahil Kapur, a Talking Points Memo reporter and correspondent, got to sit down with one of the authors of the recent Princeton study that made quite a stir with its declaration that the policy debate is over and it's Oligarchy 1, Democracy 0.

The interview is here, with study co-author Martin Gilens, and it knocks it out of the park. It's marvelous. Here are a few samples. First, a summary of the paper's main conclusion:
Let's talk about the study. If you had 30 seconds to sum up the main conclusion of your study for the average person, how would you do so?
I'd say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups -- of economic elites and of organized interests.
Next, on the notion that voters are dumb (love the conclusion he draws, I boldface the key point):
There are criticisms of your study within the academic community. Some say public opinion surveys are a poor measure because people don't understand policy or that their stated preferences are self-contradictory. Tyler Cowen says citizens vote retrospectively so it's better to judge on outputs rather than whether voters get their preferred inputs. How do you respond?
These are all good questions. They're questions I address in some length in my book, "Affluence and Influence." There is some truth to some of these perspectives. But in a nutshell I think citizens overall have fairly sensible policy preferences which appear not to change much if citizens have an opportunity to learn more and debate the policy and view pros and cons.
On the perceived notion that Democrats are more in tune with middle- class wishes:
Which party, Democrat or Republican, caters to the interests of the rich more? Does your research find them to be equal or is one more responsive than the other?
We didn't look at that in this paper. Other work I've done suggest it depends. There are a set of economic issues on which the Democratic party is more consistently supportive of the needs of the poor and middle class. But it's by no means a strong relationship. Both parties have to a large degree embraced a set of policies that reflect the needs, preferences and interests of the well to do.
On whether or not ordinary citizens vote against their own self-interests and whether or not it matters (hint: they do, and it doesn't):
It seems to me the paradox here is that sometimes non-rich people favor an agenda that supports the rich. For instance, middle class tea partiers want low taxes on the highest earners, just as Steve Forbes does. Isn't that still democracy at work, albeit in an arguably perverse way?
Yes, absolutely. I think people are entitled to preferences that conflict with their immediate interests -- narrowly conceived interests. That may be an example of that. Opposition to the estate tax among low-income individuals is another. But what we see in this study is that's not what this is happening. We don't look at whether preferences expressed by these different groups are consistent or inconsistent with their interests, narrowly conceived. We just look at whether they're responded to by government policy-makers, and we find that in the case of ordinary Americans, they're not.
Wow. Read all of the interview. My key takeaway is that voters aren't dumb, but they can get bamboozled into supporting policies that aren't in their best interests, and that it sort of doesn't matter anyway, except that it's possible for pendulums to swing, and it doesn't hurt if we push the pendulum if and when we get the chance. Otherwise, uh, we're sort of screwed.

Send a letter to the Roberts Supreme Court -- not that it will alter anything -- telling them their decisions are big time fucked up. Maybe the conservative members will share them with each other for a laugh over cocktails at the end of a hard day of discussing which way to hand power to the elites next.

Watch me reach into this hat and pull out absolutely nothing for the working class!

The Twisted Message That Suckers Love

The wealthy elite: They're a tribe all right...

I now define life in America, perhaps in all the developed world -- don't know the undeveloped world well enough -- as a struggle to align tribes for control of private business and public policy.

Some of you don't need schooling on this, I'm sure. But as an argument that I've come to favor, I need to repeat or perhaps restate it: American political and economic thought is shaped and harnessed by competing interests that often hide their essential tribal nature. Let's make a rule for that:
  • We are who we hang with, who we collect with. Taking Personal Responsibility™ is a ploy used to hide the fact that we're in the thrall of our chosen interest group, or tribe. An example of this, as the charade it is, is that Taking Personal Responsibility™ often means organizing to get our slice of other people's wealth or productivity at a personal cost to them. This may be called capitalism.
Okay, I'm sorry if that's pretty dense. Here's our Rule One, restated: We Are Who We Collect With But We Pretend That We Are An Individual Who Plays By The Rules.

Now, the implications of this are vast and the iterations are legion. The first and most important implication is that it's a message easily twisted for personal gain by capturing wealth, influence, and power. Why? Because it's appealing to many people on different levels, depending on how much a given person can grok the implications.

Suckers love the rule because it gives them an ethical basis for interaction within their tribe and the other tribes they interact with. I Work Hard And Play By The Rules So I'm Okay. These particular people might not notice that others may not apply Rule One the way they do.

Non-suckers apply the rule thusly: I Have So Much Money That I Make The Rules. These people, as a tribe, are smaller in number. Let's call them plutocrats or oligarchs, even kleptocrats -- because that's what they are.

The Koch brothers are examples of this elite tribe. The Kochs take one extra step that many other members of the tribe don't: They use a good portion of their fortune to create or hone the twisted message, which is what?
We oppose collectivism. We approve of individualism. We highly recommend Taking Personal Responsibility™. While people are doing that, we're taking as big a slice out of their personal wealth and productivity as we can, and take that wealth and productivity and turn it into political power. For whom? Our elite tribe, our very special collective, the one that we say we don't belong to. Because we are free, we love liberty, we are individualists, and we Take Personal Responsibility™.
This is our Wizard-of-Oz-behind-the-curtain moment. Suckers who love the twisted message -- that no one or no elite collective is pulling the levers behind any curtain -- are the patsies who Work Hard And Play By the Rules.

The Kochs and others in their collective love the rubes who say "I'm going to get mine someday." A few do get theirs and prove the rule, or the exception, or whatever. But these days, in the era of the .01 percent, damned few actually do. And the Kochs are amused as they watch the unclean masses -- also known as suckers -- who peer through the bars of the Kochs' gated communities and say, "I'll move in there someday."

The Kochs are capital and most of the masses are labor. And the Kochs love it that way. They especially love those in the masses who Work Hard And Play By The Rules. Let's realize, though, that those in the Kochs' tribe don't. They both make and fake the rules. They may do this for reasons they believe are just, given their status as society's rule makers. The key is, though, that they don't feel obliged to follow them.

But they do expect the rest of us to do so. There's a word for that: suckers.

Note. I've just offered quite a cynical view, but such cynicism is called for these days. There is, however, a limit to that cynicism, which is explained quite well in this Krugman blog post that also contains a link to the recent Princeton study that has influenced my recent conclusions on the limits of policy possibilities in an America verging on oligarchy or, at the very least, plutocracy.

Krugman's key point:
So it’s worth pointing out it does make a difference [which party is in power]. Yes, Democrats pay a lot of attention to plutocrats, and even make a point of inviting Patrimonial Capitalism: The Next Generation to White House galas (I would have missed that, even though it’s in my own paper, but for Kathleen Geier. Thanks!). But it’s quite wrong to say that the parties’ behavior in office is the same. As Floyd Norris points out, Obama has in fact significantly raised taxes on very high incomes, largely through special surcharges included in the Affordable Care Act; and what the Act does with the extra revenue is expand Medicaid and provide subsidies on the exchanges, both means-tested programs whose beneficiaries tend to be mainly lower-income adults. The net effect will be significant losses for the super-elite — not crippling losses, to be sure, and hardly anything that will affect their elite status — and major gains to tens of millions of less fortunate Americans.
It's not much, this difference between Democratic and Republican policy, but, as Mercutio said of the mortal wound he suffered in a sword fight with Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, "Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, 'tis enough."

It is enough, this policy difference, even as we resent the paltry difference it represents. It does, however, tell us why it's worth fighting for. Because, as Louis XV said, "Après moi, le déluge." In our current reality -- a democracy shifting almost without respite toward oligarchy -- le déluge, or the flood, is the transformation toward rule by the Kochs, the Waltons, the Zells, the Langones, and the Perkins and their children, and their children's children.

Walmart: a store chain the poor can work in, shop in, die in.

Final note. I'm not suggesting there's no value in living a moral, ethical life. I believe it's the only life worth living. I am, however, insisting that we not be deluded into thinking that the plutocrats and oligarchs are the guys in the white hats. They're not and they are aligned against us. So it's ever onward to obtain our slice, the morally, the ethically, the better. And don't be a sucker.

Absolute final note. I don't mean to suggest that we're either suckers or members of the Koch brothers' tribe. Many of us go to work (or not) and do just fine (or not) and come home and light up a joint (or not) and watch Survivor (or not). People live without being suckers. I've just noticed a good number who are suckers, and a key reason is that they don't know it. I don't feel good about it, but there it is.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

When Will Conservatives Stop Defending Income Inequality?

The Tea Party: White people acting white.

I've always been fascinated by the support given by conservatives to policies that would seem to run counter to their values or interests. Conservation is one such case. Another is less obvious but shouldn't be: income inequality.

Nonetheless, the usual suspects gather round the issue and behave in the usual fashion.  Thomas Picketty writes a masterful tract, Capital in the 21st Century, on income inequality, pointing out with rock solid data that a new Gilded Age is upon us, and that, additionally, incomes for the middle class has been stagnant for decades. What do the usual suspects do? They do their level best to knock down the thesis. Why?

First, let's turn it around and ask: Why don't conservatives take Piketty's message -- that income inequality is at 19th-century levels and that a growing amount of the lopsided wealth is becoming inherited instead of earned -- and scream bloody murder?

An obvious answer is that the rich love lower taxes and so do conservatives. The rich love unfettered markets and so do conservatives. The rich love consolidated political power, and so do elite conservatives. If you want to have a slice of that political power, better to buddy up to the rich than to oppose them. I get that.

Yet middle- and working-class conservatives that should be outraged by damage to our ecosystem and the widening inequities in income distribution haven't caught on to the fact that their futures are compromised, too, and that their income streams have been drying up, too.

I suppose the usual pundit suspects need to keep their jobs by finding ways to nibble around the edges of Piketty's rock-solid thesis because they're paid to do it.

The conservative dream is to have it all in grand libertarian style, with free markets, low taxes, minimal regulations. Every conservative plebe is just one big payday, one lucky break, away from eternal financial independence, while every liberal is just one welfare check away from, I don't know, having another welfare check. That supposed dichotomy has never made any sense to me. Liberals are ambitious, too, and are no more likely than conservatives to be on welfare.

Everyone in the working/middle classes is one paycheck away from noticing that they haven't been keeping up, and if that job disappears there might not be another one.

Meanwhile Ross Douthat decides that Piketty is channeling Karl Marx and that some dude from Forbes has found a sliver of a way to undermine Piketty's data and that the middle class is okay after all. This is what Douthat spends his op-ed pages on?
Piketty’s dark vision relies, in part, on economic models I am unqualified to assess. But it also relies on straightforward analysis of recent trends in Western economies, and here a little doubt-raising is in order.
In particular, as the Manhattan Institute’s Scott Winship has pointed out, Piketty’s data seems to understate the income gains enjoyed by most Americans over the last two generations.These gains have not been as impressive as during the post-World War II years, but they do exist: For now, even as the rich have gotten much, much richer, the 99 percent have shared in growing prosperity in real, measurable ways.
Douthat, with an assist from Scott Winship, in essence is saying, yeah, the rich are enormously richer than the middle class, but the middle class actually have a few more bucks and they own their own homes for heaven's sake, so don't pick on the rich because the new model -- you know, where the rich have just about all the money -- is conceivably "sustainable" for the middle class. In other words, if the middle class would just adjust to its lowered expectations, scraps will be had for all. Because it's sustainable!

Sheesh. Among other points that are sloughed over is the fact that the self-same middle class is the one that just had millions of their homes foreclosed on if not stolen by the banks. Also, millions of Americans have fallen into long-term unemployment that may be permanent. Careers shut down early, never to be revived.

Douthat says that liberals can't make hay over Piketty's new assertions because there's a powerful cultural identity component that the right has used to usurp the populist urge.
This possibility might help explain why the far left remains, for now, politically weak even as it enjoys a miniature intellectual renaissance. And it might hint at a reason that so much populist energy, in both the United States and Europe, has come from the right instead — from movements like the Tea Party, Britain’s UKIP, France’s National Front and others that incorporate some Piketty-esque arguments (attacks on crony capitalism; critiques of globalization) but foreground cultural anxieties instead.
The taproot of agitation in 21st-century politics, this trend suggests, may indeed be a Marxian sense of everything solid melting into air. But what’s felt to be evaporating could turn out to be cultural identity — family and faith, sovereignty and community — much more than economic security.
Well done, Ross Douthat. You take what little you will acknowledge as valid in Piketty's critique of capital's dominion over labor and hand it over to white nationalists who also inhabit your happy place, i.e. family and faith, sovereignty and community. I'm sure I knew that the true believers have long claimed faith and family as their own special province, but I didn't know that the extreme right wing has properly acquired ownership of sovereignty and community, as well.

If Douthat left me anything to relish from his sorry attempt to claim it's okay that the rich get richer as long as they throw us enough scraps to be "sustained," it's his possibly accidental admission that the American Tea Party rightfully belongs in the category of white power fascists like France's National Front. Ross, you really did give away the store, intellectually speaking, with that one.

France's National Front: White people acting white.

Footnote. I did want to look for other conservative writers on the subject, and Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post delivered:
Still, the present concentration of income and wealth instinctively feels excessive. It understandably stirs resentment. We’d be better off if the rich were less so and other Americans were more so. But it’s doubtful that political action to force this transformation would be similarly beneficial. Class warfare is bruising; today, it would degrade the confidence needed for a stronger recovery.
So Samuelson's prescription is to do nothing. After all, class warfare is bruising. Brilliant.

To finish on a positive note, Thomas B. Edsall has a good critique of Piketty here.

David Brooks Goes There with Obama "Manhood" Comment

David Brooks gained, in my view, permanent adolescent dickhead status with his comment today on "Meet the Press:"

Regardless of your view of Obama's foreign policy performance -- I like the fact that he doesn't bomb people for the sake of his "manhood" -- the thought of a numbnut like David Brooks questioning it by citing an Obama "manhood problem" only means that David Brooks is a total fucking wanker, of the day, of the week, of the month, of the year. In fact, he might qualify for the Wanker Hall of Fame for this one ridiculous comment. Well done, Brooks. Now go back to gym class.

Footnote. Notice, of course, how Brooks qualifies his statement concerning Obama as being "undeservedly" and "unfair." That's double wanker points: I don't believe it, but some people say..." Double wanker. Chuck Todd gets a single wanker rating out of his tag at the end: "...internally it's not just Bob Corker saying it."

Dudes, you're not in high school anymore.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Obamacare Is Working. Is Saying It Isn't Good Politics?

Barack Obama is, generally, a happy man. Have you noticed that?

A reason to be happy is that the PPACA, aka Obamacare, is working. In fact, it's working in just about all the ways one could hope a plan like it would work. (I wanted single-payer, but it wasn't going to happen in an "exceptional country" like the U.S.A.)
Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological.

First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a "death spiral," wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak.
The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year.
As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary. Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest.
None of this is surprising to rational people, aka people who don't watch Fox News. What troubles me -- and those who just want good outcomes for their fellow citizens -- is that the GOP and its propaganda machine at Fox will hang on tooth and nail to the "obamacare is killing kids, mothers, and seniors," in spite of the fact that none of the bad things and most of the good things are happening as the rollout of the healthcare system known as Obamacare proceeds.

Hopefully, the country will outlive the GOP noise machine's attempt to lie all the way to the 2014 elections. It just might work, and that's depressing.

Conservatives: We Love Free Markets Except When We Don't

If we add enough solar panels to the mix, we might solve
energy shortages and global warming. Better not do that!

Oklahoma has been making its mark in hypocrisy lately. Maybe Sooners were jealous of Rand Paul getting all the attention. They've certainly switched eyeballs to their state.

I just reported Thursday that Gov. Mary Fallin had signed a bill banning wage and benefit improvements in her state. The bill only prevents lower-level entities like counties and municipalities from raising the minimum wage and benefits, but since the state is entirely unlikely to make any moves, it effectively bans any improvement for labor.

It's startling that this represents conservatives blocking free markets from setting minimum wages and benefits. If you love free markets for capital but not for labor, then you're not being honest, or you're really choosing sides.

Next, Oklahoma doubles down in the hypocrisy department with a bill advancing to the governor's desk that adds fees payable to utility companies when individuals install their own solar panels. If you're going to distribute power back to the grid, there's a price you'll pay, but only for this new class: private individuals. Everyone else is grandfathered in to the fee-free era. The fee makes no sense, especially because utilities gain when private operators send electricity to the grid in peak usage hours:
But distributed energy sources also provide a clear value to utility companies. Solar generates during peak hours, when a utility has to provide electricity to more people than at other times during the day and energy costs are at their highest. Solar panels actually feed excess energy back to the grid, helping to alleviate the pressure during peak demand. In addition, because less electricity is being transmitted to customers through transmission lines, it saves utilities on the wear and tear to the lines and cost of replacing them with new ones.
With solar power coming down in price to levels that make it truly practical for individuals to lower their costs and their demand, it makes no sense to tax individuals for helping to put a real dent in greenhouse gases. Again, Oklahoma loves free markets, except the one where the utility companies want to get their slice. Oklahoma hates taxes except when it doesn't.

In contrast, California has reversed itself and is cancelling a payoff to the utility companies. Costs for installing new systems, including connect fees to the utilities, were as high as $3700, putting a real crimp in new system installations. Solar City, the state's largest installer, had all but stopped new applications. Not good, and not called for:
Grid operators and utilities worry that the rise of battery storage and distributed generation like solar will cause more and more customers to simply defect from the grid entirely. In a blog post on SolarCity’s website, Rive attempted to allay those fears, pointing out that the spread of batteries at the residential, commercial, and utility level could work to grid operators’ advantage if properly harnessed.
“In this scenario, grid operators are suddenly empowered to store and discharge solar energy where and when it’s needed most, smoothing out peaks and ramps, while powering more of the total grid consumption with clean and renewable sources,” Rive wrote. “Additionally, utilizing storage to unlock massive benefits in the areas of frequency and voltage support can further lower grid costs. Many of these capabilities are available now through distributed resources, even without storage, and we should work together to put them into the hands of utilities for the benefit of the ratepayers.”
The way is cleared for new projects to proceed. BTW, The Week has a new article decrying Oklahoma's move. It's aptly titled, The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy.

"There's a bright golden haze on the meadow."
 Don't trap any of it with solar panels!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Princeton Study: American Democracy Is Dead Already

I loved the hustle and bustle of Tokyo life. Economic opportunity for ex-pats now?

This is not surprising. A study just released shows that our democracy has died and is already being replaced by oligarchy. Who knew? Most voters don't, yet.

The most interesting -- or obvious -- fact is that it isn't a result of Citizens United or McCutcheon decisions, since the current situation has roots back to the beginning of the eighties.

I recall reading toward the end of the Reagan administration that 80% of the wealth created under his watch has gone to the wealthy, that a rising tide was not lifting all boats as had happened in previous expansions. I was angry with that, especially since I was in my thirties and felt that my opportunities were squeezed, and I had had to be quite crafty to get by. It turns out it wasn't just me. The money was even then not flowing to the middle class.

What was my reaction? I left for a few years in Japan, where they threw money at me. When I came home, I had, if not a fortune, at least enough money to have options. By the way, while I was in Japan, I met ex-pats from all over the English-speaking world (I spent most, but not all, of my time working in an English language school for Japanese), and all of them were there for very much the same reasons I had come: in search of opportunity that had eluded them at home. We were quite the crew, and some of my best memories are of my days in Japan.

That was just before the real-estate bubble popped in Japan, from which they have yet to truly emerge.

So, as I often do, I've personalized my take of what's happening in our culture. We're shaped by our experiences. So, if I had advice to the young today -- who've seen their opportunity shrink to very paltry levels -- it wouldn't be to go abroad in search of opportunity. It's quite sucky everywhere, at least in the young-adult employment area.

Sorry, kids. Stay home and fight the oligarchy. It's an uphill battle, and we'll need all the bodies -- and minds -- we can find.

Link to the Princeton study here.

I found more than economic opportunity in Tokyo... Wish I could recommend it now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Reality of Inequality

Paul Krugman participated in a panel discussion after a talk by Thomas Piketty at the CUNY Graduate Center (Piketty is of late quite famous for his Capital in the 21st Century). Krugman's notes on it in his blog are tantalizing and enlightening. Here's a taste:
This brings me to my second point about Piketty, which is that his work greatly reinforces the notion that we may face a political-economy spiral of inequality, in which great wealth brings great power, which is used to reinforce the concentration of wealth. That was a concern even when we thought we were facing a one-generation dispersion of economic success. But it becomes much more of a concern when one realizes that we’re talking about creating an environment favorable to “patrimonial capitalism”, of sustained dominance by family dynasties.
And let me say that while the core of Piketty’s work is his economic analysis, his discussion of the political economy of dynastic wealth is a major additional highlight. I was especially struck by the somewhat paradoxical contrast between Belle Epoque France and Gilded Age America: a notionally egalitarian society in which anything that might challenge the privileges of inherited wealth was beyond the pale, versus a society that celebrated financial success but in which it was considered reasonable and respectable to advocate high taxation for the explicit purpose of reducing inequality. It seems to me that we want some real scholarship — from political scientists, not (or not just) economists — to figure out that contrast, and learn lessons that might help us break the cycle of rising dynastic power we face today.
When the vastly wealthy can control the political dynamics, it's game over for the masses. And that division -- between capital and labor -- is just another of the divisions that rive our society today.

Note. I've had a bit of an epiphany about division in our society and its implications and multiple iterations. It will be a theme of mine for some time to come. Piketty's explication of income inequality will be a powerful part of what I've discovered -- or believe to have discovered. Stay tuned.

Speaking of tuned, you will be able to tune in to the Piketty talk when the CUNY Graduate Center posts its YouTube of it. You'll find a link to it in the upper right corner of this page. I'll be watching and waiting and then watching, too. (As of now, it's not there yet...)

OKLA's Mary Fallin: Hell No You Can't Raise the Minimum Wage in My State!

Gov. Mary Fallin: No more money or benefits to low-wage workers on my watch!

Atrios noticed an Alex Pareene article on Susana Martinez that basically showed that she, like many governors, are just the state-level asshole we the people tend to elect based on the notion that, yeah, maybe they're jerks but they'll kick asses -- especially the asses of the unclean, undeserving that mess with Your Tax Dollars®.

That got me thinking of the asshole governors around the country, yeah, from my perspective mostly Republican governors, but New York's Andrew Cuomo is the Democratic asshole that proves the rule. And Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin shouldn't be allowed to pass under our radar. Don't know much about her, but this recent move in signing a bill that outlaws raising the minimum wage anywhere in Oklahoma on the local or municipal level. I guess on the state level is Oklahoma OK!, but that's not going to happen on her watch! The bill also limits increases in benefits, sick days, and vacations. Well, that makes sense. Don't want OKLA cities going all random and improving workers' lives.

Municipalities have independently raised minimum wage levels, by the way. An example out where I live is San Francisco, which has a higher minimum wage than that mandated by both the state and the federal governments. Also, it has had a citywide healthcare plan with better benefits than surrounding cities. This makes a lot of sense because the cost of living is higher in SF than in other cities and regions in California.

In any event, Mary Fallin and her Republican legislature proves what we can call either the Atrios rule or the Alex Pareene rule: She may be an asshole, but she's our asshole! Good on ya, Oklahomans, for reminding me why I'm glad I live in blue California, where we don't fuck each other over, at least to the extent you do in the Sooner state.

Oh what a beautiful morning without an increase in the minimum wage!

Update. Just found Charles Blow's latest op-ed in the NY Times. It's about the minimum wage and Oklahoma's new move. Worth a read.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Does the Federal Government Manage Any Western Land?

I haven't thought about it much, not until Cliven Bundy, rancher and Federal Government Denier®, started wagging his crafty little tongue. So I found this at Daily Kos:

(click image to make even bigger)

A lot of Nevada is managed by the federal government and its jack-booted thugs at the Bureau of Land Management. BTW, the BLM is an offshoot of the General Land Office, established back in 1812 (as in "1812 Overture," that far back). Most of our Founding Fathers were still alive then, BTW, so you patriots who think this is some new Obama "lawlessness" better think again, assuming you can think beyond this comment I found on a random web thread:
Re: Clive Bundy: moocher, taker, law breaker, welfare cowboy

In my opinion in a LAND dispute.   States have rights over Federal Govt.  
The States are the owners of the land.  The Federal Govt should not be buying land because we are the taxpayers. The Federal Govt should only be allowed to lease land from the states.
If Nevada gives up it's land rights to the Federal Govt than it's actually not a state.
The Federal Govt is not real so it should even be able to purchase land in our states only lease or rent.
Why would the states have border rights?  The Federal Govt is an agency to protect our borders from enemy's not purchase and manage land in other states.

Wow. You see what we're dealing with here?

Patriots Who Hate Their Country Are Not Patriots

Cliven Bundy: Sucking on the federal teat and
proud of it. Where is the conservative outrage?

Krystal Ball makes a clear, concise statement about patriotism:

(h/t Daily Kos)

The tag "Welfare Cowboy" is apt for Cliven Bundy. He's a patriot. Of what country, I don't know. He doesn't recognize the federal government.

Here's the #BundyRanch twitter thread.

Here's the Inagist #BundyRanch thread.

BTW, remember David Koresh? Timothy McVeigh? Why does this happen in Democratic presidential terms? I'm not paranoid, just askin'.

Fun fact: Koresh and McVeigh both died at 33. I wonder why Sean Hannity hasn't speculated about the federal government rounding up all 33-year-old men. Hannity may yet. After all, he's a patriot.

(h/t Crooks&Liars)

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Party of Lincoln Becomes the Party of Secession

Scott Walker: not ready to go there, but his party is.

The Wisconsin Republican Party’s Resolutions Committee endorsed a proposal reaffirming Wisconsin's right to secede from the Union. A vote is pending at the state GOP convention in May.

The word patriot -- in the American context -- is taking a beating lately, and Republicans, conservatives, and right-wing extremists aren't spending much time improving their patriotic cred, in fact quite the opposite.

Liberals talk of change. Conservatives talk of secession. Why is that?

Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Goes to....Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden: when a criminal is actually a hero.

Actually, no. But the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service has gone to the Washington Post and the Guardian for its reportage on the Edward Snowden leaks. The two papers were the chosen beneficiaries of the leak, with Barton Gellman at the Post and Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian.

On top of the Polk Awards just given to Greenwald, Gellman, Laura Poitras, and Ewan MacAskill for their NSA/Snowden coverage, the Pulitzers bring into stark relief the difference between the U.S. government's view of Snowden's actions and the view of the larger world, or even that slice of it called American journalism.

Congrats to all concerned, and special kudos to the reporters with guts and brains that gave us this gift of information that keeps on giving.

Poitras, Greenwald, and Gellman: reason to smile.

Obamacare Doing Better Than Expected. Shhhh, Don't Tell Anyone.

Why people think they deserve healthcare beats the hell out of me...

The CBO has a new report out, and Obamacare is doing better than expected -- and Obamacare was predicted to be a success by the original CBO estimate.

Read the Daily Kos take.

Read the TPM take.

Read the Huffington take.

Read the mainstream media take. Wait, there are no mainstream media reports on this yet.

Weird, or not.

Republicans: We Loves Us a Permanent Underclass!

Whaddya mean, help the poor or the working class! Why? They don't vote for us!

Tell me why I'm wrong about this. Explain it. Say, "You're wrong because Republicans clearly want to help the poor, the minorities, those without access to healthcare, those who suffer malnutrition and the physical stress of poverty. We're all in for policies that would help the poor." But, Republicans, you can't say that, and you know it.

Why can't you say it? It would be easy to say it's because you hate the poor. Now, I really believe that, in case you didn't know. What I mean by that can, in fact, be nuanced, in that conservatives' hatred of the poor is not rooted in a "I just fucking hate the poor" kind of certitude. It's rooted instead in an underlying quasi-religious set of values. One, hardcore Christians -- especially those who can trace their values back to the early Puritans of New England -- believe in predestination, the idea that God has already chosen those who are worthy of residing for eternity in Heaven with Him. For there to be a chosen people, there must be the unchosen, and that would be the poor, the permanent losers as dictated by God. Without that clear distinction, with losers one can easily identify, there are no obvious chosen ones. And, two, conservatives believe, or say they believe, in the efficiency of markets, in which the markets pick winners and losers rationally, and, once again, the markets will choose the chosen and unchoose the losers. This is the secular justification for a permanent underclass.

Sorry, libertarians, conservatives, Republicans, but you're busted, and you'll never be able to cobble together an argument that can disprove the consistency of the above statement. Why? Because your every action for the past thirty years has shown that this is, if not the nature of your policies, then the implications of them. You can't be against every effort to maintain or increase the safety net, improve access to healthcare, make education more broadly available or affordable, etc., etc. without it being obvious that anything that helps the poor or minorities will never get your support.

Hell, recently your party has been doing everything it can to limit minority participation in our democratic process, and everybody knows it. You don't like the poor, and the last thing you want is to help them vote, probably because you think the unwashed don't deserve to vote.

What is it that Republicans are actually for, you might ask? Rugged individualism! Efficient markets! Kickass armies! Zero gun control! More and bigger guns! Also, no Medicaid! No unemployment benefits! Privatize Medicare! Lower Social Security benefits! Cut food stamps! Not so many Pell grants! No judges nominated by a Democratic president! No free health services for women, especially contraceptives! No sex education! More abstinence! More teen pregnancies! No unions! Lower wages! No more brown-skinned people in America!

Tell me this isn't what Republicanism stands for these days. You can't because it's reaffirmed everyday by every action on the GOP on both the state and federal level. It's even grosser on the state level. For example, the Wisconsin state GOP is going to vote to affirm the state's right to secede from the Union. Rick Perry of Texas was talking this up a couple of years ago. You love America so much you'd rather destroy it than cede a single inch to the filthy liberals that have bleeding hearts. Wow.

Now Democrats did used to talk like that. Their names were Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, among others. But when it became unfashionable for Democrats to harbor these convictions, what did they do? Why, they became Republicans! It was the natural thing to do. What did the Republicans do? Why, they embraced them with a hearty "Welcome home!"

A word to the Democrats: This is your opposition. Don't pussyfoot around when countering them. Pick your policies, like strengthening Medicare, Social Security, healthcare, education, the safety net, programs for the poor, raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions and workplace rules, as well as laws that bring more equality to women, gays, minorities, and shout out support for these policies until it echoes from the highest rafters. Then gather the men, women, gays, minorities, and such together and march to the polls, drive to the polls, bring portable potties to the polls, lunch wagons to the polls and vote, vote, vote to bring people to power who believe in all the people, not just the chosen few whom God has anointed.

Want some inspiration for this kind of action? Listen to this from FDR:

Same forces aligned against us, no? Do the Republicans still feel the same way?

Yes, he referred to Charles Murray and Bob Putnam, and there's a chance that Ryan was using code words like "inner city" to, I don't know, refer to whom? Anyone got an idea?

Go ahead, Republicans, say you don't hate the poor and the minorities, or, at the very least, prefer to preserve the status quo so that we have a permanent underclass for you to blame for their own shortcomings.

Of course, you can't say that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Balancing Between Freedom of Speech and Equality

Mozilla tried -- and failed -- to thread the needle.

The controversy over Brendan Eich's departure from Mozilla, the mother company of the Firefox web browser, has kicked up a lot of dust on both sides of the equality issue, more specifically as it pertains to gays and gay marriage.

Eich, a leading light in the tech world, gave $1000 for the Prop. 8 campaign, which fought -- and won, briefly -- to ban gay marriage. Recently, Eich was elevated to Mozilla CEO. His views on gays came out; he was quickly dispatched as CEO.

Mozilla chose between freedom of speech (or beliefs) and equality, and equality won. Now everyone has an opinion, it seems, on the correctness of such an outcome. I found this U.S. News and World Report op-ed on it quite satisfyingly balanced:
In short order, Eich resigned and Mozilla issued a statement saying the company "didn't move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech … Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard."
The predictable result is that what had been a criticism from one quarter has now erupted into a storm of complaints from people (gay and straight) who feel strongly about free speech and from others who see an opportunity to attack gay advocates and political correctness.
Figuring out how to stand for both equality and freedom of speech is hard, to be sure. I admit to a little ambivalence here. I recognize Brendan Eich for the tech hero he is. Both Firefox and JavaScript have enabled programming dabblers like me to do modest web development. And as an older person, I was late, as so many were, to the gay rights party. I'm sympathetic to others, like Eich, who haven't gotten there yet.

At some point during Eich's resignation process, he must have had a chance to say, "I've rethought this and my position has changed." He decided he couldn't go there. Given that, where does Mozilla go? That they decided to go with equality means the company wanted to stand on its beliefs, not its tolerance for diversity of viewpoint.

Trouble is, both positions are defensible. Mozilla can call its decision principled. Yet it left it in a tight spot, an easy target for all sides in the debate.

Ross Douthat, earnest-appearing young man that he is, tried to square the circle and get a dig at the hypocrisy on the left. Douthat finds a random Harvard undergrad who gained fifteen minutes of fame by saying she preferred social justice over academic freedom, a position on the left not unlike a common position on the right: I'm with you if you agree with me. Otherwise, you're going to Hell! (The liberal's Hell, I presume, would be a secular one, while a conservative's is likely to be a literal one.) Our dear Ross is so in favor of diversity. It's lying that outrages him!
I am (or try to be) a partisan of pluralism, which requires respecting Mozilla’s right to have a C.E.O. whose politics fit the climate of Silicon Valley, and Brandeis’s right to rescind degrees as it sees fit, and Harvard’s freedom to be essentially a two-worldview community, with a campus shared uneasily by progressives and corporate neoliberals, and a small corner reserved for token reactionary cranks.
But this respect is difficult to maintain when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality — the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the “spirit of free expression” from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.
And with the pretense, increasingly, comes a dismissive attitude toward those institutions — mostly religious — that do acknowledge their own dogmas and commitments, and ask for the freedom to embody them and live them out.
It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.
I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.
It's easy for Douthat to suffer from the vapors over this "toxic" progressivism. He agrees with Eich's position on gays. I find the whole process of deciding between equality and diversity quite messy and easy to demagogue, and the choice of words, especially by Douthat, to be confusing on purpose.

If your belief in "diversity" or "pluralism" means you accept and support gay equality, you're in the clear, I'd say. But if one of your "diverse" views puts you in the anti-gay camp, then your vocabulary choices have laid you bare. You are, sir, playing games. That's where I see Douthat in this case. His "pluralism" leaves him room to be anti-gay and against equality. If Mozilla goes for equality, they're the "toxic" ones? Give me a break.

Hey, Ross, I don't Chick-fil-A's anti-gay stance means they support diversity.