Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Bipartisan Bash

Now that's the guy I voted for. Big O is getting a lot of credit for walking into the lyin' den at the House GOP Caucus in Baltimore and then devouring those cats alive.

True enough. In some ways, though, I was struck by how much tougher he could have been had he wanted to play it for blood. He generally treated those crackers with more respect than their "ideas" deserve, humoring, for example, the idea that they had genuine concerns about fiscal policy or that "our side" had engaged in equivalent acts of "demonization." A more effective demolition would have repeatedly referenced "George W. Bush" and the GOP's lockstep support for his budget insanity, and then would have railed against the White House "attack machine" canard by explaining the difference between accusing the President of being a terrorist-loving, secret-Muslim, illegal alien, grandma-killing, Marxist antichrist and, on the other hand, suggesting the GOP had "no serious plan" after they introduced a budget with no numbers and a health care plan with no health care. (Poor Tom Price seemed about to cry over the fact that Obama had never come to his district and given him an award for policy "supergeniusness.")

No, Obama actually seemed to give a shit about "bipartisanship." It is the quintessential DC pipe dream, and it is Obama at his most brazenly beltway. At least he managed to find a way to score some partisan points off it this time, even if it was but a secondary objective. He turned their partisan bash into a bipartisanship bashing. Kudos.

That said, I'm not convinced its benefits will last very long. One of the more frustrating aspects of our "democracy," revealed again this year and this decade, is the irony that the more democratic your politics the less effective they are under our democratic procedures. The GOP has never liked democracy much, for ideological reasons, so they care not a wit what "the people" think about their politics or policies (Dick Cheney's infamous "So what!" to CNN's Wolf). Saboteurs at heart, they mostly just want to ensure that government does not work so that they can profit from its not working. This creates no incentive to problem solve or cooperate with the last election's winner. Democracy is so principled about universal participation that it creates an open political space even for its existential opponents. Hence the GOP conviction--stated by every questioner yesterday--that the only acceptable Dem "compromises" would be to enact a 100% GOP agenda, despite the GOP having lost the White House in a landslide and despite holding near-historic lows of representation in both houses of Congress.

Meanwhile, since for the Dems respect for the electoral process is a core value, when they lose an election they feel morally obligated NOT to obstruct. (Or at least their inner conflictedness paralyzes collective resistance.) They lose one Senate race, knocking their majority down to a mere 59-41, and they're so afraid that the American people have lost faith that they contemplate ditching a century of policy objectives. So ideology creates governing asymmetry, with anti-democrats having a built-in advantage in advancing policy via democratic procedures. This is not then merely a problem of individual fecklessness on the part of the Dems, it is a tragic design flaw at the intersection of our institutions and our culture. I'm not sure how to solve that. Maybe we should take a poll.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Valerie Jarrett Is Full of Shit and Other Observations

So I hear there was some kind of speech tonight. I missed it, thanks to my night class--or at least all except for the last ten minutes or so, most of which I heard in my car. Plus that Bible Belt Ken doll addressing his high school pep rally while the multiculti club sat behind in rapt attention. Ergo, my comments will reflect a general ignorance of the speech as a whole.

1) "Don't run for the hills" seems like a bad catch line. From a rhetorical standpoint, you should avoid negations to frame you position. All I can think is "RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!" It reminds me more of what we all know the Dems are doing than what Obama lamely suggests they should be doing. Same for "I won't quit." Really? It sure seems like you might wanna.

2) Valerie Jarrett was an awful spokeswoman for Obama on Maddow. Bad enough that she talked about Scott Brown (Mr. "I am the 41st vote to kill health care") like he's the new Olympia Snowe. She went on to repeat over and over that the federal government has to "tighten its belt" when times are tough, "just like American families." Maddow rightly called her on her sad confusion of micro and macro-economics, but it just goes to show that even Democratic flacks do all their prep work for right-leaning villagers. They really have no clue how to answer substantive questions from the left.

3) I feel no more confident on health care passage than I did a few hours ago.

4) Props for taking on the Supremes in front of their smug faces. Even better, Sam Alito goes all Joe Wilson on us. Dude, get over it. Even your beloved Princeton accepts black people now. You're not going to turn this thing back by treating Obama like the uppity help. So you got dunked on by LeBron. At least you'll end up on the highlight reel.

Not a lot of optimism there. The poll #s are supposedly good, though. Any thoughts?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sentences I Never Expected I'd Hear

"This is a picture of me pooping on the potty!" ("Self-portrait" is actually the more exact term.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good News, Crazy Bad News

Quite a day. First the positive. After two months of negotiation, Mrs. TMcD and I appear to have bought ourselves a new house, about 50% bigger and only a few blocks from campus. If you're curious, shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you a link.

Hmm. . . what else? Oh, it appears that only a day after the Democrats decided to strip themselves naked, castrate themselves with a rusty spoon, and then run around singing Beck's "Loser" at the top of their lungs, the Supreme Court has decided that our pesky little experiment with democracy is officially over. Citizens' United v. FEC will certainly go down in infamy as one of the most toxic decisions in American history. Its arrogance is as staggering as its consequences are devastating. Less than a decade after canceling a presidential election to install George Bush via judicial coup, the same 5-4 majority (the same 5 seats on the court) decided that the greatest injustice of American electoral politics is the insufficient ability of corporations to influence, nay control, our political institutions. Its as if they decided that, after a year of Obama, Democrats should never be allowed to hold power again, unless that is, they become just one more species of Republican. Ralph Nader will have proved prophet not madman. Brrrrrr.

Dems should turn this into an opportunity to raise holy hell. But then these are the same guys who defer to the GOP majority of 41 in the Senate with nary a peep. I'll comment more later once I've had time to reflect. At the moment, however, I fear for our future.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Democrats Must Pass the Senate HCR Bill

There is no possibility that reform survives another vote in the Senate. There will never be 60 votes in the Senate for reform again. Even if Dems had eked out a victory in MA, I doubt that the 60 votes could have been marshaled a second time.

But there's no way around the 60 vote threshold. The most important elements of the bill (the exchanges & the health insurance regulations) can't be done through reconciliation. 60 votes is necessary given the reality of the Senate, and they will not be obtained again. The only possibility of reform is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then revisit it to make improvements to the things that can be addressed in reconciliation.

If the Democrats can't get health reform under the conditions in 2009 (with 60 votes in the Senate, 255+ House seats, a new president, and an AMA endorsement), they should just stop campaigning on the issue because they will never succeed on it. Who should even bother to listen to them if they so much as mention the issue? It will be clear to everyone that they cannot govern.

(Sorry for the typo in my original post. It's the Senate bill that must be passed.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tennessee Politics 2009

Quite a year in the Volunteer state. For any of you expats who have an interest, I can't sum things up any better than this article in the Scene. Highlight: Dems in the state legislature give the GOP the biggest FU ever in the history of FUs, snatching control of the House in a brilliant surprise maneuver. A fleeting victory, but still sweet.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Paul-ing Interview

Rachel Maddow is, hands down, the smartest and sharpest interviewer on TV today. So how did she whiff so badly in her interview with that infamous crackpot, racist, ideologue, misanthrope Ron Paul? She asked him a lot of questions re his influence on the GOP, allowing him to demur that he cares not for party only "principle," she flattered his anti-war bona fides, and she positively salivated over Paul's cool ass youth brigades taking on Dick Cheney and the authoritarian wing of the GOP.

Any hard-hitting questions about reinstating the gold standard or abolishing the Fed? Nope. Any exploration of the consequences of anti-bailout, anti-stimulus, anti-health care, pro-tax cut & deregulation radicalism? Nada. Any effort to probe Paul's racist past (his newsletters from the 80s, and connections to the von Mises Society, etc.) and its links to white supremacists in the Tea Party movement? Are you kidding? OK, then how about something on the irony of a "populist" insurgency that panders relentlessly to the god-complexes of the rich and powerful? Sadly, no.

I suspect the problem here is that a lot of liberals, like Maddow, see the "libertarians" as cute little anti-establishmentarians, fightin' the good fight against creeping statism, when they are actually the driving force behind GOP authoritarianism: servile worshippers of wealth and power who flatter themselves as defenders of freedom. Freedom for the wolves, that is, which means death to the sheep. Say, football would be a much better sport if there were no rules, the referees were all on the payroll of the richest team (who always got to play home games & use extra players), and refs existed only to remove the ball from the away team. Here is right-wing economics at its most absolute and least practical. The market is God's hand, not a tool but a religion to be accepted without question. Since the reality gap is so great, democracy with its self-correcting mechanisms cannot be allowed to intrude. No intellectual reservations (from pesky academics) can be tolerated. And if it doesn't all go their way, and the Mammon God is thwarted, there must be a nefarious conspiracy afoot.

In short, rather than resisting the most fanatical and tyrannical aspects of "statism," libertarianism necessitates them. Ron Paul is one evil dude. One day I'd like to see Maddow make that devil dance.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Agent 00-Kaboom

I've read and heard a decent amount of coverage on the "double-agent" suicide bomber who killed several CIA agents and Xe employees in Afghanistan a few days ago, including an extended NPR report today that included an illuminating interview with former CIA-man Bob Baer. Multiple sources, including Baer, noted that the other side is always trying to recruit your agents to switch sides.

One oddity, however, I haven't heard addressed: isn't it damned strange for an "agent" of any sort to turn "suicide bomber"? These would seem to be two completely different universes in the world of terrorism intrigue, ones defined by vastly different motives. Agents usually flip as a result of incentives, do they not? Money, status, some personal grievance that has been overlooked by one's original patrons. That seems quite different from the ideological fanaticism that leads one to strap a bomb upon one's body, travel to a remote locale over bad roads, and then detonate oneself. Presumably then this guy was ALWAYS on team Islamofascism, but did a great job of fooling some pretty high level Jordanian and American operatives for an extended time period. Yet that seems like a level of subterfuge that goes well beyond the pay grade of the sort of human shrapnel we usually see in the suicide bomber cadre. Even the relatively educated types who pulled off 9/11 were on easier duty than that.

Now, my understanding of counter-intel could fill a thimble. But this seems like something we should be thinking about.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year, Old Brooks

What better way to ring in FFB's new decade than with the first of what I'm sure will be many tenuous-10s columns by David Brooks (to which I would link if this remote locale Mac had the appropriate settings)? The ponderous one works up quite a sweat about how much American attitudes have changed over a half century, falling from our wise, Niebuhrian, Christian realist recognition that all human institutions have limitations to out present state of pee-pantsification over a lone underpants bomber who couldn't bring down a plane but seems to be bringing down our collective sense of national confidence. . . or something.

Poor David Brooks. Reality stares him so squarely in the face, and he so resolutely wets himself and calls it an atmospheric disturbance. Lost on Brooks is that we, as a nation, are not panicking in the face of this incident. I have yet to see any mass call for more intrusive security precautions. Or invasions of Nigeria and/or Yemen, save wrong-way Joe, the Senate fingervane. Oh I'm sure we would have been even MORE resolute back in the early 1950s, you know, back when Truman was so popular for all that buck stopping bravado, and when no one ever fell for McCarthyite madness. Here, in our wimpier age, support for President Obama appears unchanged or even slightly improved. Indeed, the only mass hysteria detectable to the naked eye appears to be the exclusive province of the Republican Party. Not its voters, just its elected officials. And, for risk of being called "partisan," doesn't it seem that their hysteria has been (a) baldly opportunistic and self-interested, and (b) utterly predictable? But why pluck out the mote in your own eye, when you can cast mote aspersions onto the great eye of America. After all, the GOP is "America," isn't it?