Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net Neutrality: A Win for the Good Guys

Well put, Senator.

It was just announced that the FCC has voted to use its Title II powers to classify Internet service providers as "common carriers." This allows the commission to regulate the Internet much like a telephone company. The upshot is that powerful content providers can't cut deals to get a "fast lane" for their data if they pony up the big bucks. Now Google, Facebook, Netflix, and start-ups stay on a level playing field. If I decided to build a website and sell goldfish delivered by drones, I'd get the same speed as any Internet user. My website will sink or swim depending on the marketability of what I offer, not the speed for which I "qualify."

Naturally, conservatives and ersatz libertarians are decrying the decision, claiming it means the opposite of what it actually represents. The FCC means things stay the same, for now. Conservatives claim that the FCC is imposing new regulations that the Internet didn't have heretofore. Baloney. The FCC is using the correct statutory powers to keep the Internet the way it's been since the beginning, fending off ways money can corrupt a vital democratic communications platform.

Although the Internet is pretty fancy these days, basically it's still just a way to communicate and trade documents, images, and services. Going to your online bank is basically just the same as walking in to a branch and saying "Hey, do this for me." Clicks are the same as "Do this please" or "Yeah, take me there" or "Show me that document."

Not rocket science, unless you're a backwater congressman trying to sound all freedom-lovin' while giving away the store to the rich folks downtown.

Anyway, the good guys won today. And don't let Fox News tell you different.

Here's a good opinion/news piece on it in the New Yorker.

Oh, and the piece makes a good point that it's another solid achievement of President Barack Obama. Quiet, please, legacy burnishing taking place.

Sorry, GOPers, our man wins again.

Clown Car Rundown, Person the Second, Reprise: Chris Christie Declared Dead Again

Bloviate this, big boy...

Okay, just because a NY Times columnist say yer done doesn't mean yer done. But reading Gail Collins' treatment of Christie's sitcheation doesn't bode well for a guy that is apparently hanging on to the clown car's door handle and stumbling along, huffing "Let me in!" Maybe not, jerkface.

I call him jerkface in order to help describe his dilemma: Live by the bloviation, die by the bloviation.
Chris Christie is political toast.
Cause of his charred presidential prospects: an unreformed state pension system. I know that’s disappointing. Not nearly as exciting as the political near-death experiences that went before. We were hoping the next disaster would be something like Governor Yells at Elmo. Or a reprise of the day he chased a guy down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone, this time maybe featuring Tom Hanks or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Fixing New Jersey’s pension system was supposed to be Christie’s signature achievement. He explained it in his keynote speech at the Republican convention in 2012, right after he told us about his mom, his dad, his wife, his children and his love of Bruce Springsteen. “They said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics,” he bragged.
Trouble is Christie didn't touch the third rail. He punted, and now a judge has told him to meet his obligations under the law he signed and catch up paying into the pension system -- a system he and former NJ GOP governor Christy Todd Whitman systematically looted. Wow, those New Jersey Christies love their pension looting.

So why is he toast, 2016 nominee-wise? It's because he's what, famous for yelling at people? Famous for his malicious mischief with bridges? His withholding money and facetime from people who don't swing his way? Famous for not doing what he said, especially when it was his signature accomplishment? Yeah, maybe all of the above.

If you're going to swagger around, have something to show for it. No? Okay, you couldn't win a primary in New Jersey, fer chrissake. Yeah, you're toast.

Of course, you're talking about the GOP field...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is Evolution the New Litmus Test?

When Scott Walker "punted" on the question of whether he believes in evolution or not when he was on a visit to the UK "polishing his foreign-policy credentials," is it possible that A) he couldn't admit that he didn't believe in evolution, or B) his people had focus-group tested the question and discovered that Walker was in dangerous waters?

We may never know now that Walker has shown that his go-to answer to difficult questions is "I don't know if..." But thanks to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, we've discovered that 49 percent of Republicans don't believe in evolution. Add in the 13 percent that "don't know," and that's 62 percent of GOPers that don't believe in evolution or don't know.

I suspect that belief in evolution won't be a deal-breaker for the eventual Republican nominee in 2016, but if this is a new litmus test, the occupants of the 2016 clown car are going to be a very funny lot indeed. Will evolution be a required question in the coming debates? If so, holy shit.

On a serious note, with a political party that can make trouble for the nation going forward on issues like climate change or the environment in general, the U.S. is going to face a giant struggle building a responsible consensus for saving the planet.

How many Republicans are more focused on the End of Days than on saving the planet? How many take the presidency of Barack Obama as a sign that the Four Horsemen are upon us? What if those questions are not just spurious attempts to belittle the party that currently controls both the Congress and the Supreme Court but rather statements of likely facts that determine where our country is headed?

Since the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party -- read "the hardcore base" of the party -- came to the forefront of American politics in 2010, anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and anti-critical-thinking have reshaped much of our political culture.

Wow. Have we got work to do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CIA-Style Black Sites Come to America, but As Long As We're Safe!

The logical conclusion to Dick Cheney's one-percent doctrine. So fucked up.

Will Fox News defend this? Will the mainsteam media cover it? Who knows?

This report of a CIA-style black site in the Guardian is truly chilling, but so inevitable in our post-constitutional, post-democratic, post 9/11 world.

“It’s not really a secret location, but it’s kind of a cloistered location,” said Richard Brzeczek, a former Chicago police superintendent.
Police on site, at the intersection of West Fillmore Street and South Homan Avenue, refused the Guardian access to Homan Square on a frigid recent morning. Nor did police respond to a list of questions its public-affairs office asked the Guardian to email.
Lawyers who seek access to Homan Square are typically turned away. But interviews with ex-cops, the few attorneys granted a measure of access, and one person who was detained inside for nearly an entire day describe an unusual, secretive police compound, complete with armored vehicles, surveillance gear and places to hold people for interrogation.
I'm not even being paranoid when I say we're fucked. It's going to be interesting to watch how this plays out. Remember, we thought Sandy Hook would be a turning point. Gun laws have, if anything, gotten looser since.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Obama's Rhetoric about Islam Is Wise If Not Satisfying

Obama's speech at the White House Summit on violent extremism, as well as his
prayer breakfast talk, wasn't an anti-Islam war whoop. And that's a good thing.

We, of course, should have seen this coming. The president could have called out Islam as the cause of all of America's ills and called for unlimited war forever, and Lindsey Graham and the rest of the chicken hawks would have found fault with him. They would speak of the weakness of his core values or say it's all just too little, too late.

Just as an aside, when you take a good look at all the talk that criticizes Obama for his "feckless" foreign policy, you rarely actually hear any specifics Graham or others would have put into action. The rhetoric generally comes with a "there's only so much we can do at this time because of a host of logistical and diplomatic obstacles, I don't know what we should do, but that doesn't mean Obama is or isn't doing it or can't do it or should do it, but why isn't he doing or not doing what I'm not saying he should do, but he's weak!!" Or something to that effect. A proper label for that kind of talk is war-mongering word salad. Throw in the buzz words for those Americans that want to kill all the Muslims now, now, now, and that's what they'll take from the talk, not the part where none of the war-mongers actually have a plan for moving forward.

However, Barack Obama is president, and he has to bring a number of Muslim countries into a broad coalition that will be needed -- not just for the ISIS threat, which may be history in a couple of years, for all we know -- but also for the longer task of eliminating terrorism over a period of decades. Alienating moderate Muslim countries will hardly help us restore peace in the hornet's nest that Barack Obama wasn't, if your memories work at all, primarily responsible for. That was George W. Bush's handiwork, not to mention the damage done in decades of neo-colonial meddling going back to the First World War.

Josh Marshall did a fine job over at Talking Points Memo of sifting through the brighter minds on both sides of this overheated discussion and comes to a conclusion that fair-minded Americans should have no trouble signing on to. Read all the links that he offers on the subject.

I'll highlight one of them and another that I found along the way. Fareed Zakaria at WaPo clarifies the reasons why Obama is and should be proceeding the way he has been. Zakaria comes off as an apolitical voice of reason once again, as does moderate conservative Michael Gerson, also at WaPo, with his very sensible column in support of Obama's rhetorical choices, albeit with the off-point condemnation of the president's prayer-breakfast remarks. Oh, well, I'll take his grasp of the Realpolitik involved where it's offered. Read those and the ones Josh shares.

Obama is following the right course here. I've always felt the trick is to, over time, turn the war-making in the Middle East over to so-called moderate countries -- obstensibly allies -- like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, even Egypt. It's their fight, as much as we're responsible for messing things up. If they take up the fight and we recede, so will the ill-will we've earned over the years.

It's time we withdrew from this mess. We aren't helping.

Does Bibi even want peace? Did the thousands killed in Gaza in the most recent
attacks prove that Judaism is a religion of peace? Regrettably, quite the opposite.

An added thought. It's important that we remember that all this is taking place in an atmosphere, in Washington at least, of over-heated negative rhetoric, mostly by the GOP, that continues unabated. It began shortly after Obama won his first term. It isn't helpful, and it's based on hatred rather than anything resembling sincerity. That's why Josh Marshall's reasoned discussion is so valuable. Turn off the noise machine and get on with governance. Please. I'm talking to you, GOPers. Fat chance.

Does the GOP -- or Anyone -- Want to Live in Giuliani's World?

Rudy Giuliani was embraced, briefly, as the GOP's Great White Hope. Remember?

Really. Imagine: You live in Giuliani's world where, when you look at Barack Obama, you see a man who was warped by communism at an early age. Here's TMP reporting:
"From the time he was 9 years old, he was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, who was a communist," Giuliani said, adding that Obama's grandfather introduced him to Davis' works.
"He doesn’t talk about America the way John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan did, about America’s greatness and exceptionalism," the ex-mayor added.
He goes on to drag the Rev. Jeremiah Wright into the mix:
Obama was also negatively influence by Chicago Rev. Jeremiah Wright, according to Giuliani.
"He spent 17 years in the church of Jeremiah Wright, and this is the guy who said ‘God damn America, not God bless America,'" he told the Post. "Obama never left that church."
That was Oprah Winfrey's church, too, by the way, that's how "radical" the Rev. Wright is. And Barack Obama did leave that church. He left to become president of the United States.

I don't want to live in the crazytown where the new Rudy Giuliani is apparently running for mayor.

Just found the inevitable walk-back article from CNN. Typically, Giuliani actually fakes the walk-back:
The former New York City mayor took to The Wall Street Journal opinion pages Sunday night seeking to move beyond the firestorm over his comments, saying his problem is really with Obama's policies.
"My blunt language suggesting that the President doesn't love America notwithstanding, I didn't intend to question President Obama's motives or the content of his heart," Giuliani wrote. "My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance."

He went on to critique Obama's language, saying the President should tout the exceptionalism of America more and make the country's differences with nations that have fostered terrorism more clear. He said Obama should criticize the United States' history less often.
But Giuliani emphasized that he "cannot read President Obama's mind or heart."
Not much of a walk-back. He manages to add into the mix that Obama's failure is how he represents U.S. history. He should criticize it less often. He says this while saying he "cannot read President Obama's mind or heart."

What the GOP's rabid base hears when Giuliani says this is:
America is awesome! Obama doesn't believe this! He should look at U.S. history and admit that America is awesome! Obama's mind or heart? He must hate us, he's wrecking our morale!
A realistic look at U.S. history is to be avoided in Giuliani's world because it hurts our feelings. Why does Obama look at history the way he does? Because he was warped at an early age by communists.

Thanks for explaining reality to us, Rudy. And thanks to all the media outlets for letting the mayor of crazytown keep our morale up. Repeatedly. Weird, but that's the way we roll in awesome America these days.

Thanks, CNN. Now, find some real news in the real world for us, okay?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Read This First Draft First, Then Stop. Read Now.

First Draft is a blog. A good one. Read it now.

Shit is fucked up. Like Bonfire of the Vanities fucked up.

Clown Car Revisited: Scott Walker, the "I Don't Know" Man

This is Scott Walker hanging on a second, something he should
have done before he decided that he didn't know anything.

Scott Walker is getting a second or third look ever since he wowed them at the Steve King Iowa conservofest last month. He spoke in an animated way, and -- bingo! -- he was a contender. Nice work if you can get it.

It's even nicer if you can keep it. His strategy for doing so, which so far is not to answer hard questions or, in the alternative, not answer them in a way that telegraphs his tea-party bonafides, is not working as intended.

He "punts" on evolution.

He "doesn't know" if Obama loves America.

He "doesn't know" if Obama is a Christian.

One thing Walker does know is that America is the greatest country in the world when it comes to opportunity. Unfortunately, the Conservative National Review takes him to task for that one.

A New York Times article makes it clear that after being fuzzy on social issues during last fall's election in purplish Wisconsin, Walker is now having his own Etch-A-Sketch moment.

One unfuzzy moment occurred recently when Martha Raddatz tried to pin him down on foreign policy and succeeded, in spite of his efforts to be "aggressively aggressive," as Reason's Jesse Walker put it:
Raddatz: You don't think 2,000 air strikes is taking it to ISIS in Syria and Iraq?

Walker: I think we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world. I think it's a mistake to go down a path—

Raddatz: But what does that mean? I don't know what "aggressive strategy" means. If we're bombing and we've done 2,000 air strikes, what does an aggressive strategy mean in foreign policy?

Walker: I think anywhere and everywhere we need to go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that's what it takes because I think—

Raddatz: Boots on the ground in Syria? U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?

Walker: I don't think that's an immediate plan, but I think anywhere in the world—

Raddatz: But you wouldn't rule that out?

Walker: I wouldn't rule anything out. I think when you have the lives of Americans at stake and our freedom-loving allies anywhere in the world, we have to be prepared to do things that don't allow those measures, those attacks, those abuses to come to our shores.
Got that? The only real specific here is that he's willing to send ground troops to Syria, and even then he's trying desperately not to say that outright. But he's gonna be aggressively aggressive everywhere we need to go. Glad that's settled.
Reason is a leading libertarian magazine that, surprisingly, has latched on to Rand Paul's isolationist outlook, which does make sense from a libertarian perspective. So I'm not surprised that Walker is attacked for being "aggressively aggressive" on foreign policy. But it does show that Walker's way to the 2016 GOP nomination is riddled with pot holes.

One last example of this is a Times' blog post entitled "Establishment Republicans Question Scott Walker’s Handling of Giuliani Comments."
Mr. Walker is the rare prospect on the Republican side who is able to straddle different segments of the party: He appeals to members of the Tea Party movement and has received financial support from the political network of the billionaire Koch brothers, but also has won three statewide elections in a purple state and has a record to sell to the center-right.
But his lack of any separation from Mr. Giuliani over the comments has frustrated some senior Republicans, who said Mr. Walker was still not sure-footed on the national stage.
 Mwuh-oh. Pot shots from the ultra-conservatives, the establishment conservatives, and the libertarian wings of his party. That leaves the tea party. That does not a viable candidate make, but I think we knew that already. Don't forget, though, that his Iowa speech got him a seat in the clown car. So we have months of fun to look forward to, unless he continues his "I don't know" campaign much longer.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Barack Obama Thinks Before Starting Another War. Does That Mean He's Unpatriotic?

Obama thinks less war is better. Still, he's used force in at least seven countries.
Apparently that's not enough for conservatives and chicken hawks.
(Updated below.)

Rudy Giuliani got way more attention than he deserved from his off-the-wall comments about Barack Obama's love of country. If you strip away the crust from his words, you can't help but notice what retreads they are. It's just more birther, Kenyan-muslim-socialist bullshit, a reprise of the crap Donald Trump throws around when the spotlight drifts away and he wants it back.

It's simple why they do it. One, they can leverage the attention to make money somehow. That's a regular feature of conservative rhetoric. The other motivation was making themselves somehow relevant in the 2016 mix. Rudy doesn't stand a chance of getting into the clown car this time around, but he has delusions of becoming a power broker. He wants his endorsement to be a factor.

Unfortunately for Rudy, he performed badly enough that the smart candidates will distance themselves from him (Bobby Jindal is apparently distancing himself from the smart candidates). Of course, it might get Rudy a perch at Fox News, and that might make his newly found crazed stance worth it. Fox loves the crazed, the demented, most especially if it's aimed at Obama.

Still, Giuliani did get attention and ended up getting more as the press reacts to his comments. My favorite reaction so far comes from Jamelle Bouie of Slate. It's nuanced, thoughtful, and, I feel, quite accurate:
The obvious question is, Why? Why is Obama more circumspect than his presidential peers? Why does his praise come with a note of reservation?
The best answer, I think, lies in identity. By choice as much as birth, Obama is a black American. And black Americans, more than most, have a complicated relationship with our country. It’s our home as much as it’s been our oppressor: a place of freedom and opportunity as much as a source of violence and degradation. We’re an old American tribe, with deep roots in the land and a strong hand in the labor of the nation. But we’re often seen as other—a suspect class that just doesn’t fit.
As a president from black America, Obama carries this with him, and it comes through in his sometimes less-than-effusive vision of national greatness. He loves this country, but he also tempers his view with a nod toward the uglier parts of our history.
This isn’t the exceptionalism of the Republican Party or much of the national mainstream, and it can alienate Americans not used to a more critical eye—it’s why Mitt Romney chose “Believe in America” for his 2012 election slogan. But it is as authentically American as any other. And while Obama is far from a perfect president, I’m at least glad he’s here to give it a greater voice.
I respect Barack Obama for many reasons, and yet withhold praise for some of the excesses of power most presidents can't seem to avoid; he's no exception there. As I said above, he's used force in at least seven countries that I know of. He's slow-walked any effort to rein in the NSA and the abuses of the Patriot Act. And as a progressive, I wish he'd have held firm for a single-payer healthcare system.

Still, the values I hear him articulate are closer to my values, and many of the efforts he's made in managing the economy, increasing healthcare, protecting social services, reducing income inequality, and dealing with immigration have been laudable. He's come up short on so many things, generally because of GOP recalcitrance. It's hard to fault him there.

As someone who isn't motivated by love of country -- I think America sucks big time in many areas -- I could give a rat's ass what Obama believes about his country in his heart of hearts. I'm sure it's nuanced like any thoughtful Ameican's beliefs should be. But he's as American as any of us. No amount of calculated war mongering and wild flag waving will do anything but diminish his brand. And that's what his fans and I are buying.

Don't get me wrong: America is awesome, as they're fond of saying at Fox News. It's just that America has awesome problems and awesome assets. Unfortunately for Rudy Giuliani, he's one of our problems, and Barack Obama is one of our assets.

There's a fix for guys like this. Stop listening to them.

Update. Paul Krugman noticed Jamelle Bouie's excellent piece and weighed in in his usual, articulate way. Read it here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

David Brooks Tries to Define Islamic Extremism, Defines American Religious Extremism Instead

Truth eludes our Mr. Brooks again. Oh, well, his commenters found it for him.

David Brooks get paid a lot, one imagines, to represent the thoughtful conservative's muse. Instead, he more often than not unleashes the puzzled conservative's knucklehead. It's always wrapped in something that vaguely resembles moderate analysis -- while attacking Barack Obama's liberal failings.

That Barack Obama is neither a liberal nor a failure sometimes gets in Brooks' way. But enough. Here's what provokes actual thoughtful people this week. As background, remember that Fox News and other brainiac energies in the right-wingosphere are all atwitter because our president refuses to legitimize ISIS by calling them Islamist, maintaining -- reasonably, I claim -- that they don't deserve religious cover for their malevolent barbarism. So, then, Brooks avers:
The struggle against Islamic extremism has been crippled by a failure of historical awareness and cultural understanding. From the very beginning, we have treated the problem of terrorism through the prism of our own assumptions and our own values. We have solipsistically assumed that people turn to extremism because they can’t get what we want, and fail to realize that they don’t want what we want, but want something they think is higher.
Oh, yeah, Brooks, our mistake is that we think Muslims just want a bag of Fritos, a Pepsi, and a seat at an X-Men screening. Thanks for explaining the difference between what we want and they want, with them wanting something "they think is higher." Please continue:
At the summit meeting, President Obama gave the conventional materialistic explanation for what turns people into terrorists. Terrorism spreads, he argued, where people lack economic opportunity and good schools. The way to fight terror, he concluded, is with better job-training programs, more shared wealth, more open political regimes, and a general message of tolerance and pluralism.
In short, the president took his secular domestic agenda and projected it as a way to prevent young men from joining ISIS and chopping off heads.
But people don’t join ISIS, or the Islamic State, because they want better jobs with more benefits. ISIS is one of a long line of anti-Enlightenment movements, led by people who have contempt for the sort of materialistic, bourgeois goals that dominate our politics. These people don’t care if their earthly standard of living improves by a few percent a year. They’re disgusted by the pleasures we value, the pluralism we prize and the emphasis on happiness in this world, which we take as public life’s ultimate end.
They’re not doing it because they are sexually repressed. They are doing it because they think it will ennoble their souls and purify creation.
There it is, the requisite attack on Barack Obama. Trouble is, Obama's right, and Brooks succeeds in elevating the motives of ISIS. But I won't explain just how far off Brooks is. I'll let his commenters explain for us:
I've long pondered what is needed to cure religious extremism. So it would be a relief to have the answers from Professor Brooks, except that he's not got the answers.

He is right about one thing: "Extremism isn’t mostly about Islam. It is about a yearning for righteousness rendered malevolent by apocalyptic theology". Which explains America's very own brand of religious extremism that inflicts terror on non-believers in the form of highly effective lobbying against abortion, gay marriage, secular schooling, income inequality, employer-paid contraception, and a host of other issues based on malevolent theology. Separation of church and state, my tuchus.

He's also right in saying "These people don’t care if their earthly standard of living improves by a few percent a year". Witnessed by the alarmingly broad swath of Americans who regularly vote against their well-being and economic interests.

Now, there's no shortage of nationalism in these people's America, so it would seem that nationalism alone does not cure religious extremism. And let's not forget that nationalism spawns empires and war, so, thanks but no thanks, Mr. Brooks.

American presidents focus on the economic and political level not because it's what they're comfortable talking about, but because those are elements they can actually influence. How a president can counter malevolent theology - in the middle east let alone at home - escapes me, and it would seem escapes Mr. Brooks as well.
Spot on. Next please:
It is a disturbing thought that one can substitute a few choice words or phrases in Mr. Brook's column and the situation that would be described is the pompous, self-righteous religious extremism so prevalent in our American society today. Anti-abortion, anti-climate change, anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-gay marriage, anti-secular schooling, festering gun ownership and the right to shoot anyone dead because of fear generated by different skin color, income inequality, corporation''s religious beliefs, and a host of other issues, all justified by religiosity, constitute our own special brand of terrorism.
These are the two most recommended comments by David Brooks' own readers. They hit the nail on the head and clearly decipher what's wrong with both Brooks' thesis-du-jour and the conservative view-du-monde.

His readers see what he cannot, or will not. And how ironic that his caterwauling articulates the religious right's fundamental flaws. Let's end with a comment that squares the circle:
Perverted spiritual ardor applies to both sides. George W. Bush consulted his God before blundering us into a war that has triggered many unintended consequences. Muslim clerics are in no hurry to fix the theology that permeates their society and motivates its madness. It's working just fine in their view.

Obama's secular response many not work, but the apocalyptic spiritual vision of conservatives seems just as perverted. If the goal is to avoid a theological battle that will bring on the End Times, secular seems the only sane way to go. Instead, we have a frightening line-up of the usual Republican suspects waiting in the wings, thumping their bibles, denying science and fomenting their own apocalyptic visions.

Rapacious Middle Eastern leadership has left millions of young men disenfranchised, displaced and unemployed. American military adventurism has made us targets for theologically-fueled anger. There is no quick fix to a problem that we have exacerbated for decades, but there will certainly be a protracted conflict that presidential speeches have no power to stop.
Amen to that.

Rudy Giuliani's Brilliant Thesis on Racism

Rudy Giuliani issuing his "I'm not a racist" decree to a captivated press.

More than one journalist counseled our dear "greatest mayor in the history of Earth" that preceding a comment with "It's horrible to say this" means maybe you shouldn't say it. That the Rude one continued on to say that President Obama "doesn't love America" demonstrated that Giuliani doesn't appreciate that insight.

At moments like this there will be the inevitable defense. So Giuliani delivered big, as he always does. So reports the WaPo:
In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Giuliani dismissed the criticism and said he was describing the worldview that had shaped Mr. Obama’s upbringing.
“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”
Hiz Honor must be right because when attacking a black man it can't be racist if that black man was raised by whites and schooled by whites. Wouldn't the implication clearly be it would have been different if Obama had been raised and educated by blacks?

Somebody should tell Giuliani that it's too late to shut up now, because now has passed.

What a dick.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rudy Giuliani Runs Off the Rails

Giuliani is now a guy who says stupid shit. Great status upgrade, Rudy!

(Update below.)

Rudy Giuliani -- at one point in the 2012 election he was the Great White Hope -- has left the building, that is if the building is the place where people take you seriously. Yes, the ex-mayor has jumped the shark:
Here's the thing: Giuliani was once a very important -- and intriguing -- player in American politics: A tough-on-crime, take-charge guy tasked with running the biggest city in the country. Now, thanks to comments like this one on Obama, he is turning into something far more run-of-the-mill in the political world: A rank partisan willing to say the most outlandish of things to get attention.
Republicans -- like Walker -- who may be courting Giuliani's support in 2016 would do well to remember the transformation of the mayor and the risks that his endorsement may now carry.
If early returns are any indication, however, they won't be heeding that advice.

"The gist of what Mayor Giuliani said -- that the president has shown himself to be completely unable to speak the truth about the nature of the threats from these ISIS terrorists -- is true," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another presidential aspirant, on Thursday. "If you are looking for someone to condemn the mayor, look elsewhere."
Will do.
Cillizza has it right this time. And Bobby Jindal -- who wants to be taken seriously in the worst way -- may be shark-jumping, too. Oh well.

Update. Wayne Barrett weighs in on ole Rude and tells us what he knows Rude knows about love.

Clown Car Rundown, Person the Fourth: Why is Armstrong Williams Ben Carson's Business Manager?

I chose this graphic because it so succinctly encapsulates Carson's nuttiness.

Yes, Ben Carson is currently in the clown car because he makes "I'm running" noises that some people listen to. He'll never become president because he's the most insane person ever to be a really good neurosurgeon. I don't know if he fell down, or it's radiation or something, or maybe he never opened his mouth until a couple of years ago. But now he speaks and some people listen. Wow.

Anyway, a funny thing happened on the way to being taken seriously. One, a superPAC launched to draft the good doctor has raised millions of dollars, none of which have gone to help a potential Carson candidacy. But then we now know that out-of-control cons are a feature, not a bug, of the Citizens United decision.

What's most bizarre -- if not extremely telling -- is the discovery that Armstrong Williams is Ben Carson's business manager. Whaa?!?

Williams is a well-known African-American conservative commentator and author who has broadened his reach by purchasing a number of TV stations. He became famous for accepting $240,000 from the Bush administration to talk up the No Child Left Behind act, and talk it up good but of course without making it public that he was paid in advance to say how fantabulous the act was. He said he was real sorry later.

What I love about this Carson-Williams connection is that it telegraphs that Carson is in it for the money (why again is Armstrong Williams Carson's "business manager?") and part of the general, long-time trend of conservative cons. What's hilarious is that a superPAC got the better of Carson and ran a con that bilked Carson supporters out of millions well before Carson -- that we know of -- has leveraged his own fame in support of his own con.

Who knows? Maybe there are enough suckers around that everyone can get well behind a Carson "run," even the good doctor. Here's hoping, Ben!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Conservative Grift Is a Feature, Not a Bug

Working for Fox News while kinda sorta running for president works for Mike.
Ask Sarah Palin. She started with the Wasilla PTA, and would you look at her now?

As I eyed the crazy ride of Glenn Beck from backwater DJ to Fox News political philosopher king of comedy -- what else was his show? -- I knew something was fishy. Then when I noticed one of his biggest sponsors was a gold vendor, I connected the dots. Drive the conservatives into a frenzy of fear, and the gold bugs would deliver the gold to the gold vendor, who would pass it on to Beck. Nice work if you can get it.

Sarah Palin worked the same room. Now it turns out that Mike Huckabee sells cancer cures from the Bible on the side. What does all this have in common? It's simple: Get all the conservatives in the same room -- er, I mean the same mailing list -- and after you've sold them on the evils of liberalism and unions, sell them snake oil on the side. It's nothing new. It's been succeeding for decades.

The ultimate primer on this scam was published yesterday in the Washington Post, in the form of a lengthy exposé by The Plum Line's Paul Waldman. If you're an aspiring political flim-flam man, it's required reading. A taste:
For the most part, the bigger and more elite PACs Hawkins looked at are the ones that spent money in the way they said they were going to; for instance, Club for Growth Action spent 88 percent of its contributions on candidates. On the other end, the Tea Party Express spent only 5 percent of its contributions on candidates; Hawkins even found a couple of smaller PACs that spent nothing at all on candidates.
This particular con is just one variant of a wider system, one that has been in operation for decades. While there may be some cases of similar scams on the left, they’re absolutely rampant on the right, because they’ve been so central to the conservative movement for so long. In the 1960s, conservatives realized that the nationwide grassroots network that activists built to support Barry Goldwater could be an ongoing source of funds, not only for conservative causes but for people wanting to sell snake oil. Lists of names and addresses became a valued commodity, built, bought and sold again and again for the benefit of those who controlled them and those who used them (Rick Perlstein lays out that history here).
That tradition continues, but in new and more complicated ways that I like to call the circle of scam. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks pay radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity big money to offer on-air endorsements that are the radio equivalent of “native advertising.” Future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sells his email list on “miracle cancer cures” hidden in the Bible. Conservative media figures like Dick Morris solicit contributions that somehow are never turned to the political ends they claim. Nobody wants to upend the system, because too many people are getting a taste.
The common thread can be found in the marks: the little old lady in Tupelo who sends in $50 thinking that she’s striking a blow against Barack Obama, the couple in Topeka who hopes Mike Huckabee’s biblical cancer cure can save their daughter’s life, the man in Toledo who thinks that the group with “Tea Party” in its name is going to have an impact on his state’s races. What none of them know is that their money is just going to make somebody who’s already rich a little bit richer.
Read the whole Waldman piece if you've got the stomach. Then read all the links in the article, though the best ones are in the above excerpt.

I knew this, generally, already, but this in-depth look at the grift was startling. Now I totally get how Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Dick Morris -- and the rest of the legions of con men big and small -- have careers with serious legs. They were welcomed into the scam because it was their forté to begin with. It's in their DNA. The early work came out of the exploitation of the Goldwater conservatives. It's where the Koch brothers' father built his early political capital, with the John Birch Society. Take communist hysteria, whip up the fringe and take their money. Wow. It really works when you build a political movement on mailing lists, then slowly introduce the side cons. And, in recent years, Citizens United opened up the floodgates. Heaven help us all.

No wonder Dick Morris is happy. He's in the club. Don't worry, he was born that way.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Facts Are Overrated. Science Is for Dummies.

This guy in Portland overruled science. There is now no fluoride in Portlandia.

This Washington Post article about the failure of facts to win in scientific debates is a bit dismal:
Americans fall into two basic camps, Kahan says. Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.
In the United States, climate change has become a litmus test that identifies you as belonging to one or the other of these two antagonistic tribes. When we argue about it, Kahan says, we’re actually arguing about who we are, what our crowd is. We’re thinking: People like us believe this. People like that do not believe this.
Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers. “We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school,” says Marcia McNutt. “People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.”
We're all still in high school. Sheesh. When I was in high school I thought I was a mental giant. Now, when I look back, I realize I was as geeked out as that character in "The Breakfast Club" (too lazy to look it up). Not stupid, in fact kinda bright, just not up to most serious thinking tasks, other than McDonald's or Jack in the Box for lunch, which at the time seemed important, even vital.

Now we have two examples of just how much we're still in high school, even among our political "elite." I place elite in quotes to emphasize that the term is more often used in spite of its ironic implications.

Anyway, Jack Shafer, who was at least reliably centrist if not left-center when he was with Slate, goes after this recent Vox interview with Barack Obama. Why? It has charts and comments from Vox, which are almost undeniably factual as well as supportive of the policy points the president's trying to make. It's somehow wrong for Vox to offer facts and statistics that echo the president's views. It's, Shafer feels, so propagandistic.

Sorry, Shafer, but facts are not propagandistic. Manipulation of facts is. When you get this out of line, prepare to be smacked down by the DeLong hammer. Had it coming, Shafer.

As for the Rich Lowery attack, first, let's say comparing the Vox piece with Nazi propaganda deserves the broke-the-first-rule-of-political-criticism award: If you have to compare your target to Hitler or Naziism, you probably already realize that you premise was weak; and, second, Rich Lowery once said that Sarah Palin caused "starbursts" or something. Okay, it was six years ago, but I feel strongly that his credibility hasn't -- or shouldn't have -- recovered yet.

Point is that Shafer and Lowery -- both writing for Politico, imagine that -- are about as pointy-headed as that dude railing against fluoride in Portland. The only difference is that I'm not surprised at Shafer and Lowery. They don't know any better. The dude in Portland should know better.

How dare journalists use facts to bolster their positions. It's so, oh never mind.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Clown Car Rundown, Person the Third: Jeb Finesses His Brother's Legacy -- Not!

"When they ask me what I think about Iraq, I'll just say 'George W. who?'

That should work great.
"I won't talk about the past," Bush said on Friday when a reporter asked him about an upcoming foreign policy speech in Chicago, according to Bloomberg Politics. "I'll talk about the future. If I'm in the process of considering the possibility of running, it's not about re-litigating anything in the past. It's about trying to create a set of ideas and principles that will help us move forward."
The former Florida governor said that if he decides to run for president in 2016, his campaign would focus on a positive vision of the future rather than focus on the past.
BTW, Jeb's got the BIG MONEY lead and is doing his best to put distance between himself and the rest of the clown-car occupants, and, who knows, it just might work. I don't know. Getting all the money in the world may not help Jeb get people to forget his record or that of his brother.

Saying I don't wanna talk about it clearly is not a winning long-term strategy. Stand-your-ground law? The past. Terri Schiavo? The past. Quitting the boards of all your business interests suddenly? The past. Being against stem-cell research? The past. Being for Common Core? The past (maybe).
His stand on immigration? Who knows? That one cuts both ways.

How will my brother's foreign policy differ from mine? That's easy. His was in the past, mine's in the future!

Way to get your credibility on, baby bro.

And, BTW, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz won't allow you to slide by. They'll have the knives out. You may yet prevail -- my money's on you, as a matter of fact -- but at what cost? One thing's for certain. You're going to need an Etch-A-Sketch moment. Or two.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Talking the Crazy Is Easy, Doing the Crazy Is Hard

If he became president, would he "audit the Fed?" Probably not.

Paul Krugman lets one fly today as he attacks "the crazy" he sees in today's Republican Party when it comes to monetary views. More specifically, he rips into Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, John Taylor, and others who sent an open letter to Fed chair Ben Bernanke in 2010, warning of the dire hyperinflationary consequences of the Fed's program of quantitative easing, know as QE1,QE2, and QE3 (the one we're currently backing out of slowly).

The prevalent views on monetary policy -- the constant warnings that Fed action "printing money" will debase the currency and bring on inflation Armageddon -- among the elite of the GOP are bunk, says Krugman, and have been debunked over the last few years. Lots of easing, near-zero inflation. Yet the crazy goes on:
Modern money — consisting of pieces of paper or their digital equivalent that are issued by the Fed, not created by the heroic efforts of entrepreneurs — is an affront to that worldview. Mr. [Paul] Ryan is on record declaring that his views on monetary policy come from a speech given by one of Ayn Rand’s fictional characters. And what the speaker declares is that money is “the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. ... Paper is a check drawn by legal looters.”
Once you understand that this is how many conservatives really think, it all falls into place. Of course they predict disaster from monetary expansion, no matter the circumstances. Of course they are undaunted in their views no matter how wrong their predictions have been in the past. Of course they are quick to accuse the Fed of vile motives. From their point of view, monetary policy isn’t really a technical issue, a question of what works; it’s a matter of theology: Printing money is evil.
Krugman also drills into Rand Paul's views:
Right now, the most obvious manifestation of money madness is Senator Rand Paul’s “Audit the Fed” campaign. Mr. Paul likes to warn that the Fed’s efforts to bolster the economy may lead to hyperinflation; he loves talking about the wheelbarrows of cash that people carted around in Weimar Germany. But he’s been saying that since 2009, and it keeps not happening. So now he has a new line: The Fed is an overleveraged bank, just as Lehman Brothers was, and could experience a disastrous collapse of confidence any day now.
This story is wrong on so many levels that reporters are having a hard time keeping up, but let’s simply note that the Fed’s “liabilities” consist of cash, and those who hold that cash have the option of converting it into, well, cash. [...]
Krugman is rightfully worried that one of these GOP monetary crazies could become president -- as unlikely as it seems now with Hillary Clinton in command of the polls -- and drive monetary policy into an Ayn-Randian ditch.

But here's the thing: It's easy to talk the crazy for the Republican base, but if you actually get elected president it's hard to walk the crazy into reality. For reality is a strong tonic when you actually have to govern. As woe-begotten as George W. Bush's economic and war policies were, he still managed to tamp down a lot of the crazy and, well, govern like actions had consequences. He still ended up near the bottom of history's judgment of who were the worst presidents. Hopefully that's a warning to a Rand Paul or a Jeb Bush that, once in the Oval Office, sense needs to prevail.

Frat boy didn't completely ruin the country. The dynamics of the office has a way
provoking seriousness, even among the least gifted. He approved TARP, for god's sake.

Of course, heaven help us if I'm wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Media's Dirty Tricks: Slanting a Story -- and Politicizing It -- with a Headline

Yahoo! Finance ran a CNNMoney story today with the headline "You'll pay a lot more to see the doctor with Obamacare than with job-based health insurance." Straight news, right? Wrong. Look at the lede (opening paragraph):
Obamacare enrollees have to shell out a lot more to see the doctor or get medications than their peers with job-based health insurance.
Sounds pretty bad, huh? Well, look at the next five paragraphs:
Deductibles, co-payments, and drug payments are higher under the average Obamacare silver-level plans -- the most popular -- than employer policies, according to a CNNMoney comparison of reports by Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Education Trust. The reports looked at policies offered on the exchanges for 2015 and those enrolled in employer plans in 2014.
To be sure, having Obamacare coverage is often better than being uninsured, especially if you rack up big bills through a major illness or accident.
Obamacare also offers cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Americans, which reduces their deductibles and co-pays.
And there is wide variety in out-of-pocket costs in both Obamacare and job-based plans. For many in the individual market, Obamacare eliminated sky-high deductibles of $10,000 or more that were common before health reform.
"The cost sharing is higher on the exchange than in the employer market, but it's lower than it was before," said Gary Claxton, director of the Health Care Marketplace Project, at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
I put the line in bold that should have been the lede. And the headline should be: "Obamacare brings down costs for people without job-based insurance." Why isn't it? The reason is simple. Reporters generally don't write their headlines, editors do. Do think editors might try to slant a story for political ends, hoping the headline does the disinformational damage for people who scan the news rather than read in depth? Do you think?

Of course, no worse example exists than Fox News. The entire operation is built to slant the news to the far right. Good news comes out about how many new jobs there are. Fox News doesn't like good news for Obama. So they go to work:

(Thanks, Media Matters.)

Of course the dirty trick here is that it's all good news, even the uptick to 5.7%, because it means more people are back in the labor force, more confident they'll find a job. That, naturally, is meaningless to Fox News. Thus host Steve Doocy says, "So the headline is unemployment rate ticks up to 5.7." Asshole. Same goes to the editor at CNNMoney.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thanks Goodness Fox News Isn't into Vindictive, Explosive Nonsense

Fox's Dana Perino: so nonpartisan you wouldn't know she worked for Bush.

As best I can recall, it was Digby at Hullabalo who pointed out that you had to watch Fox News 24 hours a day to get the "Fox effect" that must transpire in the hearts and minds of those who are glued to the Fox News screen for all things newsy. I only get these tidbits in small doses from the various blogs and media watchman who pass them on. Here, then, are a few from the past day or two.

Watch as much of this as you want. The punchline ends at 3:43.

The next video has to be seen to be believed. Who knew -- Roger Ailes? -- would ever happen on Fox News.

In all fairness, Hannity and Rivera, were gobsmacked by the guest's remarks. Being the seasoned pros that they are, they didn't have the faintest idea what she was about the say. You go, Fox!

Let's finish with some serious Dr. Ben Carson and Tucker Carlson:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Clown Car Rundown, Person the Second: Chris Christie Is a Dead Candidate Walking

Bridgegate: If only that were his only problem...

Note. My complaint about Chris Christie's candidacy is that it's built on nothing but bluster. If he can't balance a budget except by stealing from public employee funds, and can't bring Atlantic City back from the grave, or run the Port Authority through his cronies without getting investigated from every angle, or, for god's sake, keep his own state's residents from turning on him, what's the rationale for his becoming president? I'll be damned if I know. So, read on...

The biggest problem Chris Christie has is that he's quasi-viable, for now. So he'll run on and on, while the dogs of his past nip at his ankles. What's his biggest problem? The people of New Jersey don't like -- or trust -- him anymore. Here's what an NJ rag thinks of him:
Yes, our governor is melting into a puddle of goo as his glorious power seeps away. His friends and enemies alike are watching, astonished at the speed of the decline.
"It's about the worst 30 days I've seen of any candidate," says Ed Rollins, a former aide to Ronald Reagan and a GOP campaign strategist. "In his first couple of years, he had a lot of promise. But people who a year ago thought he was viable now say he's not.
"He'll be the Tim Pawlenty of this election cycle."
For those who don't remember, Pawlenty was the former Minnesota governor who became the first major Republican to ditch the 2012 race.
Ouch. Hope Christie doesn't hear that talk. He might lash out with another "Sit down and shut up, stupid!" But wait, there's more:
That view of Christie is gaining momentum after a disastrous run that began with his goofy, jumpy hug of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on national TV, and ended with him snarling at reporters in London after his amazingly dumb suggestion that parents should have more "choice" over whether to vaccinate their children for measles.
In between, the New York Times published a devastating report on his gluttonous taste for personal luxuries, all paid for by other people. The highlight was a $30,000 hotel bill in Jordan paid by King Abdullah II. It's illegal for governors to take gifts from anyone but personal friends, but Christie is trying to squeeze through that loophole. After all, he met the king once at a dinner thrown by Michael Bloomberg.
Suddenly, the governor who presents himself as a common man -- even after famously helicoptering to his son's baseball game -- is looking a little like Mitt Romney in 2012 when it was revealed he planned to build an elevator to move his four luxury cars around a garage bigger than most homes.
"The Christie campaign is suffering death from 1,000 cuts," says Ross Baker of Rutgers University. "I have always thought this was hopeless."
Because he's the biggest bully in the car, he'll have a hard time finding people who feel sorry for him. I know I won't. After all, he's the guy who -- like Christie Todd Whitman before him -- gutted the crap out of public employee pension funds, by bilking them for $2.4 billion. The fund is suing him right now.

Instead, Christie used the money to balance the budget after his handling of the state finances -- tax cuts for the rich, anyone? -- went south. Even Fox News is now criticizing him.

You won't be the first out of the clown car, but you will take a hike sooner or later. Remind me: Why was he a star in the first place?

Germany Reaches 75% of Electricity from Renewables, and the Country's Not Wrecked

Yes, you can see the turbines from the autobahn...

In the fall of 2013, I went the length -- up Autobahn 1 to Hamburg -- and breadth -- across to Berlin on Autobahn 2 -- of Germany. I got a pretty clear view, and the country looks pretty much like the Germany I saw in 1971-72 when I lived across the pond. And, yes, I saw a lot of wind turbines dotting the landscape, but it didn't scar the view. It surprisingly enhanced it. Knowing that clean energy was so plentiful was almost a giddy feeling.

Also, of course, I didn't have to drive through East Germany to get to Berlin. That was cool.

So, today, when it was announced that Germany had reached a milestone -- almost 75% of its electricity from renewable resourses, mostly wind and solar -- It was a happy feeling.

If Germany can do it, so can a heck of a lot of countries. There's no reason not to get it done.

Put that in your Keystone XL pipeline and smoke it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Politics of Envy? Bah! We Want a Politics of Fairness.

Not really. We love the sound of rich people paying a fair amount of taxes.

I don't know the GOP pol who thought up the term politics of envy. Probably Frank Luntz, he's good at that sort of thing. It was hard to keep repeating "class warfare" because it doesn't evoke an image that the simple folk can apprehend.

Republicans have always, for as long as I can remember, been better at messaging, and I think it's because they have an advantage: Their constituency is the donor class. When the GOPers attack the politics of envy, their donors go "Ooooo."

Democrats have a problem because, when saying "the politics of fairness," they are speaking to their constituency, which is minorities and the working poor, while their donors respond with "Uh-oh." Still, I'm urging all Democrats next election cycle to say "the politics of fairness" twice as many times as the GOP trots out "the politics of envy." It can be an effective counter. "Envy" is negative, while "fairness" is positive.

Jeb: An actual compassionate conservative?
It's fair to say that elections don't turn so much on each party's base, though it is important that they're "fired up." What elections turn on are the voters that each side can claim as a natural, center constituency. The white working-class, which can be broadly described as stretching from those subsisting near but above the poverty line to those approaching but not quite reaching the median income, is that constituency that's up for grabs. Jeb can't win without it. Hillary can, but it's harder.

To the extent that this group decides that limiting government's reach is to their advantage, it accrues to the Republicans' advantage. Conversely, to the extent that this group sees government as working to restore economic fairness, it accrues to the Democrats' advantage.

Since the 1970s, the economic pendulum has swung toward capital (the rich) and away from labor (the poor, the working class, and the middle class). That trend continues to this day, with a still-growing gap between the rich and the not-rich. The trick for conservatives is to convince the white working class that taxes on the rich somehow hurt them, too. The trick for liberals is to convince that same voting block that income redistribution through higher taxes on the rich and lower taxes on them -- along with programs paid for by the rich that benefit the poor -- is what will get them out of the hole they're increasingly in.

It would seem a no-brainer, with advantage to the Dems, but it doesn't necessarily work that way. It's not about the truth. It's about which message wins, which messenger is seen as credible, likeable.

But the rich increasingly influence elections, so much so that in an article about Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-revealed economic message for her 2016 run, we're told what the crux of her problem is:
With advice from more than 200 policy experts, Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to answer what has emerged as a central question of her early presidential campaign strategy: how to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy.
That's an honest appraisal of her dilemma. Since she's not worried that losing the wealthy vote -- after all, they make up less than 1% of the voters -- she must be worried that they'll lend their financial support to the GOP candidate and not to her. If that's the case, then how do we get anywhere near an honest debate about income inequality?

Hillary: A likeability problem?
We don't, unless Hillary Clinton is bold enough to go as close to full-bore economic populism as possible in order to convince the white working class that she's unequivocally on their side. That's a winning message. But who will pay for her to spread it during the campaign if wealthy donors desert her?

If Hillary isn't bold, we might end up with a debate between a Mitt-Romney-lite -- Jeb Bush -- and Robert Rubin's best friend -- Hillary Clinton -- with the two of them saying, "I will help the poor, working stiffs without raising taxes on the rich," back and forth to each other while trying to wink-wink-nudge-nudge the middle class that one is really a liberal and the other is really a conservative. It doesn't matter which one is calling the other a liberal or a conservative, because all we'll end up with is vague subtext.

And that will be a dull and vacuous campaign indeed. Let's hope one of them busts out into true battledress and draws the other out into the open.

I'm not holding my breath. Glad to be surprised.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Clown Car Rundown, Person the First: Scott Walker Shows His Cards

We knew he was anti-education when he took away teachers' collective
bargaining rights. Now we know he regards truth as the enemy.

Scott Walker stepped in it this past week. It was bad enough that he announced he was asking the Wisconsin legislature to cut the UW university system's budget by 13 percent while freezing tuition at current levels for two years. He reckons to get past 2016 before the damage is visible. BTW, Walker suggests that professors "teach an extra class" to make up the shortfall.

It got worse, and Walker got some serious blowback for another move he made:
It was not enough for Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin suddenly to propose a destructive 13 percent cut in state support for the University of Wisconsin’s widely respected system. His biennial budget plan, released Tuesday, reached gratuitously into the university’s hallowed 111-year-old mission statement to delete a bedrock principle: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”
The budget — patently tailored for the governor’s conservative campaign for the Republican presidential nomination — inserted language that the university should be more narrowly concerned with meeting “the state’s work force needs.”
Brazenly deleted as well from the mission statement, which is nationally appreciated in education circles as the Wisconsin Idea, were the far from controversial goals “to educate people and improve the human condition” and “serve and stimulate society.” It was as if a trade school agenda were substituted for the idea of a university.
 Here is a man whose motives are clear: Destroy education to keep 'em down on the farm. What a dick.

He tried to brush it off as a "drafting error," only an email was discovered that showed the administration had ordered the specific edits. What a double dick.

Presidential? Timber!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Krugman on Krugman and His Detractors

Paul Krugman is my role model in punditry -- he's more of a professor than a pundit -- because he is so dogged, and he doggedly attempts to persuade while providing as much unvarnished data as he can. He doesn't mind being "shrill." He believes he's fighting the good fight.

I think he succeeds. His detractors are outraged. In this blog post, Krugman reflects on this harsh criticism. A good read.

Michael Kinsley went full-bore after Krugman over austerity. Why?

Note. I reread the Kinsley piece. He is only mildly contemptuous toward Krugman. What amplifies it are the rhetorical tricks he uses to mute the messages on both sides of the austerian debate. Krugman wasn't talking about endless platters of desserts, out-of-control spending, or budgets bigger than Jupiter. He was talking, yes, about the need for more stimulus spending -- especially with borrowing rates near zero -- and most especially about the paradox of thrift, which is cutting spending and saving more at a time of decreasing demand in the economy. When people -- and governments -- say, "I'm worried about my future, so I save more and spend less," the result is likely to be a further depressed economy in which demand drops further, and, guess what, you lose your job! Put that in your savings account!

Kinsley, instead, talks about how he doesn't know who's right or wrong, he just knows spinach is good for you and dessert is bad. He trims around the edges of the debate with snark and leaves little on the plate. His argument is an empty vessel by the time he's done being clever. A real debate can be had about whether austerity is a good approach during a down economy. He isn't taking part in that debate, but he takes his swings at Krugman. Why? To impress his friends?

Brad DeLong's deconstruction of Kinsley's article has the force of something called analysis, something sorely lacking in Kinsley's article. Advice to Kinsley: Snark is fine, just back it up with facts instead of tricks you learned in debate club.

I'm more ambivalent about Andrew Sullivan. I was annoyed by his heartfelt apologies for wrong past views, and I could have admired him for being so repentant about Iraq if the destruction wasn't so grim and on-going (ISIS anyone?). I did find his internal-debate style of blogging, including critical comments as he did, captivating. I clearly believe he's a formidable writer and commentator. Still, Krugman and DeLong are right about his unnecessary criticisms of Krugman while simultaneously claiming Krugman's right more often than not. It's like claiming okay, Angelina Jolie is beautiful, I just don't like the way she's beautiful. What's the point? (I'm sure it's that you don't like Angelina Jolie.)

In the end -- and Sullivan's blogging is ending -- Sullivan added a lot to the debate. I'm just not sure it added up to much beyond entertainment.

Finally, if you want to see a real snark-fest, google Niall Ferguson's pathological attacks on Krugman. Here's a primer.

Niall Ferguson: Looking over his shoulder a bit too much?