Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Darren Wilson May Be Not Guilty, but the System Isn't.

McCulloch speaks, and Ferguson riots. Who could have predicted?

Almost the nicest thing that could be said about Robert McCulloch's announcement and press conference last night that revealed there would be no indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown was that it was "tone-deaf." I saw it beyond tone-deaf, and as it unfolded, I was overcome by the stupidity and senselessness of choosing to release the grand jury decision at 8 o'clock at night, when it would be that much harder to control the outcome, which was as devastating as it was preventable. Releasing it at seven in the morning without McColloch's rambling, self-serving monologue and giving the local population, mostly trapped at work all day, a chance to process it before cocktail hour might have been more sensible. Ya think!??

Although I can't always rely on Andrew Sullivan's politics, I often check in on his blog during events like this. And he put together a thoughtful piece, even if its title, "Finding the System Guilty," doesn't amount to a breakthrough insight. Read it; it's short and mostly quoting others.

Yes, it's all about the systems, the multiple sets of systems that we've built out of our tortured history of race, race relations, and law enforcement in the wake of hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and attempts to cure them with civil rights legislation.

I say this from my safe perch of white privilege in a small Northern California wine town far from the battle lines drawn all across our country. Matters of race are barely a blip here compared to Detroit, Memphis, Cleveland, St. Louis and any other place where white cops and people of color collide, though we have our own occasional local tragedies that fade after a few protests and curbside memorials.

My sense of this is that a set of systems that has white cops patrolling streets in towns with large black populations creates an unending stream of petty stops for petty crimes leading to petty fines and short incarcerations -- all which are partly aimed at raising funds to pay for the next rounds of petty stops -- until, ad nauseum, we've run our black population repeatedly through the law-enforcement ringer leaving them stressed and brimming with rage and resentment.

It was this that officer Wilson saw in Michael Brown's eyes when he said, "The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked."

In the end, Darren Wilson looks like a typical cop who chose lethal force against an unarmed, young black man who was obviously engaged in a set of worst practices for anyone who doesn't want to get shot. But beyond that quick take, the reality is that we've built this world, and tragedies like this one are baked into the cake. I don't know what we can do to take this world apart and put it back together in such a way that we can make this outcome as rare as it is commonplace in today's America.

Wait, maybe I do know what it would take: more will than we've got. Wish I was wrong.

Getting rid of these would be a start. Not gonna happen...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The "OMG Life Is So Fair!" Chart

Okay, maybe not.

Which reminds us that Rick Santorum stated out loud the default Republican position on income inequality:

Here's how we "celebrate success" in "small towns across America":

Celebrating success in small-town Florida.

Funny how Santorum's idea of success requires failure. "But that's how it always has been, and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be." Don't sugarcoat it, Rick.

The Republicans are only as successful as their ability to convince white working-class people that the reason they are failing is because blacks and immigrants are taking their jobs and getting welfare and healthcare from their taxes. It's not true, but that's the key to the political dynamic at play these days.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Republicans Prove That Obama Is Right About Immigration Move

Obama in winter: He may be down, but don't underestimate him.
He's quite adept at making Republicans do damage to themselves.

How do we know that Barack Obama is making the right decision regarding immigration? It's because the very threat of doing it sends the GOP into hyperdrive to Moonsville. Could Tom Coburn prove that Obama knows what he's doing? Let's look (first 1:40 is enough):

If the Republicans want to threaten violence -- to fight immigration reform through fear-mongering -- then Barack Obama is clearly about to do the right thing. (h/t Talking Points Memo)

Kos at Daily Kos has an odd but possibly spot-on analysis of this action at this moment in time, that the GOP strategy of condemning the process instead of the man won't work:
It's clear at this point that people are pretty much sick of the president. His professorial style comes off as aloof and disengaged, and years of broken promises have erased virtually all of his early goodwill. Whether it's his emphatic pre-election promises to tackle immigration in his first year, unlike all those other promise-breaking presidents, or the years of pressure it took to move him on gay rights, to the continued fight to get him to do the right thing on the Keystone XL pipeline. (Not to mention civil rights abuses, NSA, lack of progress on labor, etc, etc, etc.)
Kos then flags two polls that 1) show people don't support Obama taking action, and 2) show people support the actual action. Typical. Back to Kos:
So Americans support the policy—overwhelmingly!—but ugh, Obama taking action is obnoxious. That's not a sign of a president with any goodwill left.
The good news is that no one gives a shit about process in the end. Quick, what was the vote on the Social Security Act? Don't ask me, and who cares? It's great law, and no one who takes advantage of it cares whether it was "bipartisan" or not. What about the Patriot Act? That was bipartisan so inherently good, right? What about the Iraq War authorization vote? So goodly bipartisan, so must be good policy, right?
Fact is, whatever it is that Obama announces today will be a step in the right direction, since anything that slows the pace of deportation is a step in the right direction. It is popular policy, it is politically popular. That won't stop the xenophobic wing from kicking and screaming and braying about DIKTATOR OBUMMER, but their approach betrays their position: they won't argue against keeping families together, they'll argue process, and they'll argue Obama.
They'll "argue Obama." That's what the GOP has been doing for years, nothing more, nothing less. And while I don't put Obama as far behind the eight ball as Kos does -- I feel when all is said and done, he'll build a pretty solid legacy -- I do see that the president has a pretty mixed set of failures that make even his most ardent supporters quite weary by this time.

Still, I think bold actions like his pending executive order tonight will awaken his supporters, corral a lot of Asians and Hispanics into Democratic ranks, and rattle the cages -- or clown car -- occupied by the Republican 2016 hopefuls. And that's a good thing.

Fun fact, as shown in this Slate article:
Here’s the statement from the House Appropriations Committee, the powerful, GOP-controlled panel that writes the spending bills that keep the government’s lights on (emphasis mine):
The primary agency for implementing the president’s new immigration executive order is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program. Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to “defund” the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new executive order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.
In short, not only can’t Republicans kill Obama’s plan with the scalpel (a specific spending bill), there’s not a lot they can do with an ax (a government shutdown) either. The silver lining for GOP leadership, though, is the announcement may take the steam out of their more right-wing colleagues who want a full shutdown to remain on the table.
Isn't that rich? The GOP can jump up and down and scream, but there's little they can actually do. They will not look good. The louder they scream, the more they alienate voters they desperately seek to win over.

The more ballistic they become the more the Democrats win. I agree that Obama might get tarnished short-term, but that kind of tarnish often disappears when, post-presidency, a former president's legacy gets burnished with time. Think Clinton. And Obama's got time to do a lot of things as a lame duck. He's not done, period.

What do beltway insiders think? Let's go to WaPo, which always reflects conventional wisdom that is seldom wise:
For Republicans the roiling debate over the president’s decision is not only a fight with the White House, but a test of whether they can contain some of the unhelpful passions among their swelling majorities in both chambers. The task is keeping on-message and away from the controversial and sometimes offensive comments that have traditionally hindered attempts to bolster support for the party among Hispanics.
Coupled with the desire to avoid the heated rhetoric is an effort to avert another showdown over government funding, weeks after the GOP made gains in the midterm elections and a year after a 16-day shutdown significantly damaged the party’s brand.
Many conservative lawmakers, however, are shrugging off those pleas from leadership. Furious with the president, they are planning a series of immediate and hard-line actions that could have sweeping consequences. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Wednesday that Obama’s executive action should be met with a refusal to vote on any more of his nominees, and on Thursday compared the action to the ancient Catiline conspiracy, a plot to overthrow the Roman Republic.
Yep, that's the problem. A hot head like Ted Cruz see this as the very thing to burnish his brand, and he won't be able to contain himself. This moment was made for the likes of him. What really concerns GOP leadership is that other nut cases will try to out-Cruz Cruz. That will be when it all falls apart.

The only way Republicans can come through this undamaged is if they collectively decide to let Obama off the hook. Not gonna happen.

Sen. Ted Cruz: Will a Texas GOP Cuban-American wreck Republican dreams
of attracting more Hispanic voters? Please, please, please...

Let the fireworks begin!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Tech Goes Stupid, It Really Goes Stupid, Uber-Style

Uber has gone all-in with obnoxious holy-shit-what-happened-to-them bullshit. I like crowd-based, let's-share-the-work-and-keep-the-profits-so-citizens-prosper stuff, like airbnb, blablacar (UK and Europe), and Uber, Lyft, and ride-sharing here in the U.S. sounded good even though as a wine-country rural small town resident I don't see much of it.

But to hear how the CEO of Uber has made both a fool of himself and a villain as well, I'm pretty disgusted. Read first the newzz:
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has responded to the controversy caused by Uber Exec Emil Michael suggesting the company should dig up dirt on journalists who criticize it, including PandoDaily’s editor Sarah Lacy.
In a tweetstorm, he said that “Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company…His remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals” He went on to say how Uber needs to instead tell the story of progress and regain consumers’ trust. “I will do everything in my power towards the goal of earning that trust.”
Kalanick stopped short of firing Michael publicly, though, which might have gone a lot farther than just words to repair the situation.
Here's Sarah Lacy responding:
Today, in his horrifying scoop, Smith writes about the the lengths that at least one Uber executive, Emil Michael, was willing to go to discredit anyone– particularly a woman– who may try to question how Uber operates.
Ruining her life? Manufacturing lies? Going after her family? Apparently it’s all part of what Uber has described as its “political campaign” to build a $30 billion (and counting) tech company. A campaign that David Plouffe was hired to “run,” that’s looking more like a pathetic version of play acting House of Cards than a real campaign run by a real political professional. Because step one of an illegal smear campaign against a woman is: Don’t brag about it to a journalist at a party.
The woman in question? The woman that this Uber executive has vowed to go to nearly any lengths to ruin, to bully into silence? Me.
Fucked up.

(thanks, Atrios)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Teacher Speaks the Truth About Education Reform

Read this from Ian Altman, a Georgia teacher, and published in the WaPo. Good stuff.

Hey Dems: Get a Backbone.

These guys just voted more Republicans in. Why?
Democrats didn't make a persuasive case.

David Dayen in the FT says what we should already have known: What Democrats used to support -- but are too war-weary to push anymore -- is what America wants and is a road back to power and productivity:
 In the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce.
The kicker is that those 70 percent of Americans who believe the system is rigged against them just voted to put more Republicans in power, thus handing the reins over to the party of the rich. Democrats, though, can't just throw their hands in the air. They need to support the policies that would fix the inequities. Eventually -- we have to trust that this will happen -- the white working class that doesn't understand this disconnect will get educated to what they need and which party is prepared to give it to them.

Come on, Dems, get populist. Populist policies are popular!

Dayen has a great policy list in the article. Read it.
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf
n the aftermath of the midterms, where voters displayed unusual anxiety over their economic plight — exit polls found that 70 percent believe the nation was on the wrong track economically, and that two-thirds think the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy — our nation’s pundits made the bold decision to actually find out what’s irking everyone so much. In doing so, they hit on a fact of life that’s been staring us in the face for over four decades: Americans aren’t getting adequate pay for what they produce. - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2014/11/14/So-So-Society-Democrats-Have-Forgotten-What-Made-Them-Great#sthash.HVbjRue4.dpuf

Liberals: Notice, Despite the Flailing, You Are Winning.

Same-sex marriage in the rear-view mirror? Looks like it.

A big, bad midterm election disaster just took place, and liberalism took it on the chin. Or, maybe not. I didn't see much liberalism around much of the nation, at least any that was at stake. The Republican victory went virtually unchallenged by the Democrats, from my point of view. Alison Lundergan Grimes wouldn't admit to voting for Barack Obama, a noted centrist, by the way. That's not liberalism taking it on the chin. That's milque-toast Dems acting très squirrelly.

The point is that white fear of flying in the early 21st century does not spell the end of liberalism. I'd make the claim that the exact opposite is happening, like a slow-motion un-crashing of a train.

It's conservatism in its death throes we're witnessing.

Witness this:
  • Same-sex marriage, a decade ago a successful Karl-Rove wedge issue, will soon be the law of the land. Oh, Religious Right, where is thy sting?
  • Hobby Lobby is not the stupidest Supreme Court decision in history. That spot may always be claimed by Bush v. Gore. But flipping out because someone wants to give away birth control for free (dudes, it was the insurance companies that wanted it because pregnancy is expensive, duh) is no way to win friends and influence people, as in half of them, as in women. It also has the perverse feature of making religion look petty and stupid. (Alito said in his decision that religious beliefs don't need to be rational to trump laws of the land. He said what??) Not good in the long run for conservatism because it makes liberalism look rational, which it is. People are bound to catch on.
  • Denying science, whether it's climate or biology, isn't a long-term strategy for appealing to the masses. Yes, it works short-term. Eventually, though, people catch on. When it's only the conservatives saying, "I'm not a scientist," while the rest of the world is working together to attempt to mitigate climate change, conservatives end up looking idiotic and desperate.
  • Same with evolution. Everyone accepts that viruses and bacteria mutate and change into more dangerous germs, yet religious conservatives maintain that God made us just the way we are. Which is it? Oh yeah, I forgot God made exceptions for germs. They're living things, but they get to mutate. Man, not so much. Gimme a break.
  • Yes, science will win. Derp has a sell-by date.
  • When our infrastructure is in tatters, people will get irritable at the side of the debate that wouldn't let government "be the solution." That's not the liberals, by the way.
  • When it's a Democratic woman that is the first to be president, the conservative freakout won't look good on their resumes. And her priorities are going to be her priorities.
  • About income inequality? Did you ever think about the underlying story of Hunger Games? The rich assholes in the capital don't get to live like that forever while the poor masses remain poor while serving the rich. It's called revolution, bitches. Could Hunger Games be radicalizing a whole generation? Who knows? But it doesn't make conservatives fighting on behalf of the JOB CREATORS look like the good guys.
  • Healthcare, OMG, healthcare. Obamacare sort of has a Pottery Barn kind of rule (there is no Pottery Barn rule, but follow me on this one). After Obamacare -- whether it works or the GOP somehow squelches it -- we're going to have to fix it. If Obamacare "broke" healthcare, then fixing healthcare doesn't mean we're going back to how bad it was before. Fixing it will involve examining how a good healthcare system should work. What if that examination leads to single-payer or a mere expansion of Medicare to include everyone. Yeah, there might be a temporary return to the bad old days, but we won't stay there. Advantage: liberals.
  • Social Security, what to do? Cut it? Leave it the same? Expand it? So far, the tea-partiers have been fooled into thinking the conservatives want to preserve Social Security and Medicare. When they get that it's the other way around -- maybe after the GOP gains control for one whole election cycle, including the presidency -- the liberals will get credit for "saving' it.
  • Lastly, when the Supreme Court shows its true political colors with a handful of toxic decisions -- Citizens United and Hobby Lobby are already in the bag -- then the circle will be unbroken. After all, it won't have been the liberal justices that brought these decisions to fruition, it will have been the Five Conservative Catholic Males who done it.
This all doesn't coming crashing down at once, but from my view the artifice that is the conservative movement doesn't need a Wile E. Coyote moment. It'll be a slow-moving landslide, not an avalanche. But it will bring down the conservative structure for several generations at least.

It starts with the immigration issue when Barack Obama sets millions of undocumented immigrants free of the chains that have bound them in fear. Conservative will howl and flail, and Hispanics and Asians will trend strongly Democratic for days to come. That will lead to more flailing by White Christian Males and their freaked out subservient wives.

Eventually, the party's over and the Party's over. Fox News will have actually hastened the day. When you keep a lot of people in the dark, you don't let them see what's coming until it's hit them.

Thanks Fox News!

(Liberal blogger salivating some more...)

Sharia law bad! Biblical law good! Constitutional? My ass...

This is going to take a while is all.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Er, Republicans, What Are You FOR, Again?

Sure, they're nuttier than I am, but now we have women in the picture! These
gals are against the minimum wage, against Obamacare, but for pink! And
Joni agreed to stop using the word castrate. Now she's leadership-caliber.

The answer is nothing. They are for nothing. Why? They've been against Barack Obama for so long, they don't know what being for something feels like.

They'd disagree, I suppose. They do have an agenda. For example:
  • They're for being against Obamacare. (That's health insurance for millions who never had it, while still letting insurance companies prosper. Oh, that's right, it was a Republican plan.)
  • They're for nobody signing up for health insurance on ACA exchanges during the new open enrollment period because then Obama would look good.
  • They're for shutting down the government if Obama doesn't do what he's told. (Obama probably won't do that, so...)
  • They're for not approving any infrastructure spending because that would be good for the economy and the country but maybe that would help Hillary!
  • They're for refusing to confirm the new attorney general because Obama might something or another (leaving the hated Eric Holder in place, go figure).
  • They're for refusing to confirm judicial appointees because then Obama would "win."
  • They're for the XL pipeline because nothing says American better than Canadian tar sands! (Oops, they're for something!)
  • They're against a major deal with China over greenhouse gases because that would be, like, being for believing in human-caused climate change. Ugh!
  • They're for impeachment being on the table because they need all their tools or something.
  • They're for blowing up the government if Obama uses his legal authority to accomplish some of the goals immigration reform would bring if the GOP-controlled House accepted the bill the Senate approved earlier in the year (it expires with the coming new session).
  • They're for being against raising the minimum wage. (That would be hard on the job creators, er, I think they mean rich people.)
See, they are for things after all. OMG, I'm being rather cruel with them. They are for more war in the Middle East, e.g. boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria. It's true, Obama is against that.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham think that negative Commander-in-Chief should get real and lead from in front, meaning of course that young American men and women should be in front of live rounds of ammunition. That's definitely going to fix the Middle East. I mean, look at Iraq and Afghanistan. We fixed them but good.

This lame-duck session is pretty lame. I wonder if Obama is going to issue an executive order that's going to un-lame it. Hmm... what could that be?

(Blogger salivating)

Yeah, their heads will explode when I announce it!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Has the Supreme Court Finally Become More Politcal Than Judicial?

How much damage can these five Catholic men do before they're done?

Linda Greenhouse thinks so, and that's a huge warning sign. Whenever I've read or watched Supreme Court commentary from the likes of Nina Totenberg, Linda Greenhouse, Jan Crawford, Dahlia Lithwick, and current PBS Court-watcher Marcia Coyle, they've always been deferential to the justices, respecting their motives and assuming that their decisions are based on a defensible interpretation of the Constitution.

No longer.

Linda Greenhouse as good as says that the days of the Supreme Court being above politics are over.
So no, this isn’t Bush v. Gore. This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing the Affordable Care Act in its cradle, before it fully took effect. When the court agreed to hear the first case, there actually was a conflict in the circuits on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate. So the Supreme Court’s grant of review was not only unexceptional but necessary: a neutral act. The popular belief then that the court’s intervention indicated hostility to the law was, at the least, premature.
Not so this time. There is simply no way to describe what the court did last Friday as a neutral act. Now that the justices have blown their own cover, I notice the hint of a slightly defensive tone creeping into the commentary of some of those who have been cheering the prospect of rendering the Affordable Care Act unworkable: that as a statutory case, without major constitutional implications, any problems for ordinary Americans that result from a ruling against the government can be fixed by Congress (where House Republicans have voted 50 times to repeal the entire law) or by the states themselves (36 of which failed to set up their own exchanges, thus requiring the federal government to step in as provided by the law).
I've looked from every angle at this case, and it's clear that the law's intent was for the federal government to step in if a state failed to create its own exchange. I'm no legal expert, but it doesn't take a genius to understand this case. The fact that it's clear the intent of the law is to have working exchanges in all states -- and that the IRS has adopted regulations based on that clear intent -- means that judicial review seems an obvious political attempt to circumvent the law.

Why else review it?

The uninsured who now have insurance don't find this funny at all.

Note. I'm an optimist. My hope is that the four justices who are mad at Roberts for allowing the individual mandate in the last test case are just messing with him. Will Roberts let his legacy take the fall for the conservative cause? It will be quite a fall, one that John Roberts might not want to undergo. Linda Greenhouse is not as optimistic as I am, and that's quite a shock.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

We Are Not Post-Racial, Not Even Slightly

Ferguson, post-Michael Brown. Does this look post-racial to you?

I came upon an interview in the New York Times between George Yancy, philosophy professor at Duquesne University, and Naomi Zack, philosophy professor at the University of Oregon. Naomi Zack:
Let’s work backwards on this. Middle-class and poor blacks in the United States do less well than whites with the same income on many measures of human well-being: educational attainment, family wealth, employment, health, longevity, infant mortality. You would think that in a democracy, people in such circumstances would vote for political representatives on all levels of government who would be their advocates. But the United States, along with other rich Western consumer societies, has lost its active electorate (for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here). So when something goes wrong, when a blatant race-related injustice occurs, people get involved in whatever political action is accessible to them. They take to the streets, and if they do that persistently and in large enough numbers, first the talking heads and then the big media start to pay attention. And that gets the attention of politicians who want to stay in office.
It’s too soon to tell, but “Don’t Shoot” could become a real political movement — or it could peter out as the morally outraged self-expression of the moment, like Occupy Wall Street.
But the value of money pales in contrast to the tragedy this country is now forced to deal with. A tragedy is the result of a mistake, of an error in judgment that is based on habit and character, which brings ruin. In recent years, it seems as though more unarmed young black men are shot by local police who believe they are doing their duty and whose actions are for the most part within established law.
When I read this I'm struck by assumptions of the Roberts Supreme Court. Roberts obviously wants -- and the rest of the conservatives on the Court back him on this -- to move beyond race. The Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act was based on a post-racial view, that we're so over it.

The killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent over-reaction of the police at the riots that ensued put the lie to the Court's central notion. That's what is so shocking about Shelby v. Holder: It's as if the conservatives on the Court announced with that decision that WE'RE POST-RACIAL, GODDAMMIT, NOW GET OVER IT! Shouting it doesn't make it so.

And Ferguson -- and the myriad examples of police shootings of young black men far and wide -- proved it in vivid black and white. Immediately after the decision, a number of states decided, "Gee, we get to be racist all over again." Read about that here in Mother Jones.

Why did five Catholic men on the Court -- I like to call them the Supreme Dicks -- decide that we were beyond racism? Because they could, and so they did.

It doesn't make it so because it ain't. Tell that to the gerrymanderers and the voter-ID fanatics. For them it's PARTY TIME!

Blacks waiting for hours to vote in post-racial America.

Waiting in line to vote in Beverly Hills:

Voting in Beverly Hills. Hmm, a BMW dealership... A test drive with every vote?

Yeah, we're so post-racial. Thanks, Supremes.

Citizenfour Is a Scary Movie

Sorry, Feds, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are the good guys,
in the movie and in real life. Bad guys? The Feds and the spy heads...

First, let me say that Citizenfour is a very good movie. It's suspenseful even though we know the outcome (so far). It tells us more than we've every known about Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, even if we already knew they were admirable characters.

Those of us who already knew or had been following the revelations about the NSA's massive surveillance programs -- at least in my case -- were nonetheless stunned at the betrayal our government programs amount to.

I'm beyond conflicted about where Barack Obama is in all this. His betrayal feels the most devastating of all. The issues portrayed in the movie and the light it shines on them make the rest of politics -- the part outside of our constitutionally protected rights -- seem trivial at best. Yes, I don't want Congress to cut food stamps, already a weakened program, but all the give-and-take of discretionary spending decisions pales in comparison to the near-complete erosion of our privacy rights.

(The only break I can give Obama stems from an observation: Keith Alexander, James Clapper, and John Brennan -- the above referenced spy heads -- blatantly and repeatedly lie to Congress about the surveillance programs and none of them get fired. Why not? Here's the frightening math that comes to mind: John Kennedy + Bay of Pigs = Dallas. Is that Obama's math, too?)

It's horrifying, the near-total surveillance, and it's taking place across the globe. The UK is just as invasive; Germany, upset that Angela Merkel's cell phone was tapped, nonetheless is probably helping the U.S. in its spy programs, as long as the U.S. shares some of the secrets and/or the capabilities to gather such information on their own German citizens and residents.

It's disgusting, and we shouldn't stand for it. Strange, though, that Republicans don't care as much. It's quite telling.

But more than the hardly surprising thought that the GOP goes along with this is the notion that the Democrats haven't mounted any effort to undo a single bit of the damage the NSA has done to our privacy either. Who do we trust anymore? Who?

Trying to think of somebody...

Conspirators? Maybe, but the heroic kind.

I don't know how this story ends -- probably not well for Snowden -- but history will call these people heroes. And, boy, that says a lot about America these days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yes, the Democratic Pary Needs to Go Full Populist

As I and others have said, it's because populist ideas are, uh, popular! Here Ryan Cooper of The Week weighs in:
It's fast becoming a consensus in center-left circles that the future of the Democratic Party will rise or fall depending on the economic well-being of the masses. In the wake of the midterms, top-shelf commentators like Josh Marshall and David Leonhardt have correctly identified a decades-long trend of stagnant incomes as the major problem for the Democrats. If the party of the left cannot provide material security to the people, then it simply has no business being in power.
Luckily, this is actually an easy problem to solve. If markets aren't producing enough money through wages, then the government should step in and provide it. It is really that simple.
But tellingly, Marshall, Leonhardt, and other center-left liberals make it seem as if this problem is hellishly difficult. Education policy is hard. Climate policy is really hard. Handing out checks is stone simple by contrast. All you need is paper and a pen.
To become the party of the people, the Democrats will have to let go of an ineffective, neoliberal policy that has been baked into their economic platform for years now. Then they will have to overcome the skepticism of voters, who are unused to the idea of income transfers, even though it's part of a populist legacy that reaches back to the New Deal and the Great Society. This, more than anything, will be the crucial question for the American left over the next several election cycles.
It's not hard to realize that Social Security, Medicare, and the underlying policies of Obamacare are terrifically popular, as is increasing the minimum wage and raising, in general, the wages and salaries of the middle class after years of stagnation. Tying income transfers into the solutions of income inequality should be easy. Tell people over and over that rich corporations don't share the wealth downward to its employees. Period. Pay more, rich cats!

Why did Mitt Romney lose? It was because he seemed like a dick
who didn't care about working stiffs. More elections like that one!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The U.S. Has Allies, but, Generally Speaking, It's at Odds With Most of the World

The statement in the title is, at first glance, an absurdity. How many countries don't like or admire the U.S.? I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want the U.S. as its friend?

The Dutch might swallow the random herring, but they have
trouble swallowing the way America does its business...

It's complicated, but, generally speaking, we've been a very bad country from an international perspective.

Why? It's because we don't just act like a bully, we are in effect the very definition of a bully. Also, we have very, very bad habits. Let me count the ways:
  1. We bomb the crap out of a lot of people, and not just Muslims, though we do like to bomb us some Muslims.
  2. Yes, we tortured people, in every sense of the word torture. It is a huge violation of international law and treaties and conventions the U.S. has signed, not to mention a violation of our very own federal laws. Signing treaties and then ignoring them -- with a certain evil glee, a la Dick Cheney -- is frowned on by fellow signatories to said treaties. Not a great confidence builder, but quite the contrary. Uh, who trusts us now? (Answer: nobody.) And we held none of our own citizens accountable, except for a couple of fall guys at Abu Ghraib. (Remember that? I almost didn't either.)
  3. Guantanamo Bay is a major violation of our own laws, let alone international law and human rights principles, and is a huge embarrassment to all Americans. Watch Obama close it somehow, yes, with one of his commander-in-chief orders. The conservatives and even some chicken-hawk Democrats will sprout heads on fire. But the U.S. maintaining prisons away from the mainland and pretending law doesn't apply there is an abomination of everything we stand for (er, stood for).
  4. When the whole world learns -- yes, from Edward Snowden, among others -- that we bug EVERYBODY WHEN WE FUCKING FEEL LIKE IT, it's hard to keep our allies on our side. And, yes, the UN has determined that this violates U.S. treaty obligations, as well.
  5. It might be obvious to all of us, but much of the world thinks we're freaking crazy -- yes, especially the Republicans -- when it comes to our behavior. Not having universal healthcare like the rest of the developed world, having a clear obsession with guns and being heavily armed and having the statistics reflecting pervasive gun violence throughout much of society, having a drug habit that has corrupted much of Latin America, well, it has much of the world wondering what the hell has gone to hell here in the U.S. Does any American think that "stand your ground" is a principle that lights up the heart of citizens of other countries across the globe? Yeah, maybe in Yemen, which is second to the U.S. in gun ownership.
  6. It's a common meme that we need more guns than, say, Europe or Japan because we're not "homogenous." Two facts that intersect bitterly: Young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than young white men, and the white gun ownership rate is 41%, compared with the black gun ownership rate, which is 19%. The rest of the world looks at these statistics and begins to wonder if it's safe even to visit the U.S.
 Bolivia's socialist president Evo Morales. Why would he not like the U.S.?
Could it have anything to do with forcing his plane down over Europe
looking for Edward Snowden? Yeah, maybe for starters.

I've traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, and by and large people there seem to like Americans individually. Though, ask a Dane, a Japanese, or a Spaniard what they think of Republicans, and they quickly and cheerfully offer how absolutely whacky they think Republicans are. That belief is widely held. Yes, they think what's wrong with America is the Republican world view. Their notion, not mine (well, mine, too).

I've met Republicans -- even played golf with them! -- and they can be charming and lots of fun. That's not the problem. It's the ramifications of their policy choices. Of course, I'm a European-style social democrat. Needless to say, Europeans like me better than Republicans. Of course, one of my favorite acquaintances in Europe was a bar/restaurant owner in the heart of Copenhagen named Hubert. He was such a libertarian, he made the average American Republican seem, I don't know, positively Swedish! Hubert, needless to say, was not a socialist.

But I made a habit of dropping into his place from time to time during three visits to Denmark in the past year. Our conversations were lively, intellectually relevant, and stimulating. We convinced each other of nothing except, possibly, our mutual humanity.

You can't judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to content, the U.S. doesn't fare that well these days. Here's to change, and plenty of it.

Copenhagen's Nytorv Square: Hubert's restaurant was two minutes from this fountain.
But it was ten parsecs from our American conservative view. Danes are for the people.
which is, yes, socialism. BTW, huge Muslim population. Seemed to all get along. Weird.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

More Training for the Iraqi Army?


Yeah, that's the ticket! More training!

Atrios flags this Balloon Juice item about the new troops we're sending to train the Iraqis, presumably to fight ISIS. They were so great the first time! So they'll be great after we're through with them, again, I mean. They'll be super because:
Haven’t we been training the Iraqi military for 10 years now, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars? They’ve got to be the most trained motherfuckers in the world by now.
Oh yeah, back to the future.

Wall Street Has the DOJ in its Pocket

Yes, Matt Taibbi is back at it. Read this to get the serious creeps.

Chase's serious creep Jaime Dimon: Our crimes weren't that big. They were
more like this big. My raise for helping us get away with it?
Oh yeah, it was that big. Well, okay, bigger.

How Did the Republicans Win So Big?

Running away from Barack Obama didn't work. So run towards him? Maybe shoulda.

This is not rocket science, but it is science, in as much as there is a logical explanation for the midterm successes of the Republican Party. Here's why they won:
  • The Democratic Party, as is characteristic of it, ran away from Barack Obama the way they ran away from Bill Clinton in 2000 -- thus losing the opportunity to tout the successes of Barack Obama -- yes, there are many -- and the continuously improving economy.
  • The Democratic Party is afraid to wear, proudly and loudly, the mantle of populism. So they lose the great issues like income inequality, minimum wage, safety net, social justice, women's rights, etc. that could, taken as a package, be the policy position that appeals to the great bulk of the citizenry.
  • The Democratic Party cannot attract the voters in their coalition -- all the minorities, including women, and the millennials, plus, potentially, the white poor and working class -- for off-year elections unless they can galvanize their coalition behind issues that excite them to come to the polls.
  • Yes, the Republicans have successfully gerrymandered districts across the country and continue to use voter ID laws and other tactics to limit access to the polls for members of the Democratic coalition.
  • Simply put, the Republicans won not because they're right on the issues but because their base is totally freaked out by Barack Obama. After years of the conservative media jumping up and down and telling their audience that Obama is the anti-Christ on all levels and that he's going to take their guns, their religion, their children, their jobs, their healthcare, their money, their very future as the freedom-loving Greatest Nation on the Face of the Earth, these gullible freaked-out white people would vote for an ax murderer as long as he said Obummer hates you.
  • Bonus point: Obama-freaked-out whites were never going to vote for the Dems. But the Dems could have excited their own coalition, at least a little, by running as a united team that wasn't afraid of its shadow, even if that shadow was Barack Obama.
The Democratic Party and the progressives who support it will be in the wilderness until the Party decides to fully embrace its values and trumpet them far and wide.

Apparently, the Democrats need a White Knight -- or a white woman? -- to ride to the rescue to get them to the polls. Hopefully, for better or worse, that can be Hillary Clinton. I'd rather it be Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, frankly, but that ain't gonna happen.

Stuck with Hillary? Yep, and it's time we hitched our myriad causes -- all of them very popular! -- to her wagon. Remember, she can bring white women and blacks together into the same tent. Oops, that didn't come out right, but you know what I mean. Don't tell Southern whites, it'll freak them out. Wait, they're already freaked out, so... Here comes 2016, and it starts, oh, it's already started.
 Okay, she's a hawk. So, America is going to elect a Gandhi?
Not on your life. So take her for the rest of the good stuff...

Final thought: Barack Obama might not be popular right now, but he's smarter than the Republican leaders. Remember the Grand Bargain we were afraid Obama was going to allow to happen? Never happened. Why? Because he got the Republicans to kill it. Dude might have some skills. And that will come in handy in the next two years. Let's hope so. Get the popcorn ready.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

We're Supposed to Share, Right? Okay, Here's Daily Kos!

Actual Vice-Presidential Candidate. Wow.

Hunter over at Daily Kos attempts to consume some Sarah Palin word salad, with patchy results. But funny!

Why Winning the Midterms Might Not Help Conservatives

Fine, Mitch, you won. Now whaddya gonna do?

For a progressive like me, the midterm elections weren't very much fun. I'll have more to say later about why I think things happened as they did (I have a definite idea). But I was struck by the matching press conferences where Mitch McConnell said he could work with Barack Obama where "they share common ground." Ha, as in hahahahahahahaha. Obama echoed McConnell's remarks in his presser. Ha, as in hahahahahahahaha.

There is no common ground.

Beyond that fact lies the big problem victorious Republicans face: They don't have any clear, straight-forward policy agenda except "GOVERNMENT BAD" and "LET THE RICH PEOPLE KEEP THEIR MONEY, YOU IGNORANT LAZY SLOBS." I might be summarized crudely, but let's face it, that's about it.

More to the point, please tell me the program conservatives can sell to the people that 1) works, and 2) doesn't take away from the people conservatives purport to want to help.

Privatize Social Security? Doesn't help the people. That's why it was rejected back in 2005.

Privatize Medicare? That's Paul Ryan's voucher scheme. Problem? Doesn't help the people. If the tea partiers ever strap a brain on underneath their tri-corners, they'd pull their guns out and start shooting at the Republican caucus. That's why nothing has happened to reduce Medicare benefits. Because, as an idea, it sucks. Why? More people will die, and people won't like that.

Fire bad teachers? Fine, go ahead. Michelle Rhee did that in the hundreds in DC. Big whoop. That sure worked. She promised high pay for qualified teachers. Great. Where's the money? Oops, no money. Want good teachers? pay more, like, you know, what they do in the private sector. Otherwise, you get what you pay for.

Want to let everybody make up their mind which law they're going to follow based on their religious beliefs, regardless of whether their beliefs are sound? (Yes, Samuel Alito said in his Hobby Lobby decision that making sense is not a requirement of religious belief.) Great. Now how are you going to stuff that genie back in the bottle? Après Hobby Lobby, le déluge.

I could go on, but instead I'll point you to a conservative writer, Reihan Salam of Slate, who I usually don't prefer, him being a conservative whose notions I don't cotton to, but in the case of his take on "Now what are you victorious Republicans gonna do?", he ends up with a very strong case. (Hint, the GOP is not going to do much.) Why? Salam's on to something here:
The beauty of the way Democrats approach politics is that their willingness to accept half a loaf means that they can keep making incremental gains even when they appear to be “losing.” Lane Kenworthy, a sociologist at the University of California–San Diego and the author of Social Democratic America, puts it beautifully: “Small steps and the occasional big leap, coupled with limited backsliding, will have the cumulative effect of significantly increasing the breadth and generosity of government social programs.” That is, conservatives can try to nibble at the edges of new social programs, but they'll rarely succeed in rolling them back completely.
Another way of saying that is Democratic policies tend to give half a loaf, while Republican policies tend to take away half a loaf. (Except on Defense because who doesn't love war?)

Where am I wrong? Ever since Barack Obama became president, the GOP has been in a constant battle to take away the safety net from the people. The fact is they haven't succeeded because they wanted the WHOLE LOAF, full stop. Obama, much to his discredit in the eyes of the progressive left, was willing to give away half a loaf here and there, the so-called Grand Bargain.

Bargains made in the Congress require the half-a-loaf deal, so no Grand Bargain. Whew! We progressives really, really had to thank the GOPers for their whole-loaf demands.

Reading the comments to the Salam article, I found a couple that ring true. Here's one:
When they give credence and respectability to the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich (admittedly, Gingrich was once a pol capable of setting aside ideology, however briefly, for legislative achievement; today however, Gingrich is pure distilled bats**t), Ron and Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Darrell Issa, and Ted Cruz, the GOP ceases to have any claim to an agenda of responsible governance.
Yeah, McConnell, what are you going to do -- legislatively -- given that on-going legacy? Are your new senators, Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis, going to help you craft half-a-loaf-Obama-will-sign legislation? Ha, as in hahahahahahahahaha.

Another Salam commenter:
Some of us see interconnections. For example, the profit a business makes comes, in part, from those who serve in the military to protect the business. The business owner may say, "I made this," but in fact he was just part of a team where one team member risked his life, and the other one stayed home to build a business. Both are worthy activities, but I think the soldier does not get his fair share in his paycheck. So we tax the business to provide both for the soldier and then Veteran benefits. It would be nice if the John Galts of the world acknowledged the contributions from those who support them, maybe even thanked them by not labeling the sharing as income redistribution.
That from a Thom H. It's dead-on and unleashes the whole "They didn't build that" conservative meme. A reply to Thom H. summed up the problem with the conservative "personal responsibility" narrative:
That would be nice, wouldn't it?  Every Republican I know has an extremely inflated sense of self, though.  They are where they are completely because of their own hard work.  It's an utterly ridiculous notion but they are so in love the "pull-yourself-up-by-your-boostraps" metaphor, they just can't see how dumb it looks from the outside.
Some people do succeed on their own terms through their own determination. That's great. But the idea that we succeed in isolation through our own independent means is hogwash, but it's at the heart of the libertarian dream. It is the John Galt mentality built on an extremely false premise.

It's that false premise -- that we deserve to keep everything because we "built that" -- that undermines conservative and/or libertarian thought. But, boy, does it ever appeal to the masses who want to blame someone else for what they didn't get in life. "If those bastards weren't living off the government teat, I'd have such a better life!"

It's hard to build a decent policy agenda by firing up your base with that one. The sad thing is that the Republicans just won a huge victory by firing up the base with that exact message. Everything else you heard this election cycle was just white noise.

Govern on that, Republicans. Good luck.

Love the quotes around "poor." How dare the poor have a safe place to keep
their food! Lazy ingrates. Just want a place to hide their food-stamp lobster.

And conservatives would buy this? It's not because they watch Fox News, is it?