Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Department of Easy Predictions

Two points about this item by Matt Yglesias about how Bobby Kindal blackmailed the democratic Lousiana AG into joining the healtcare lawsuit:

1)  It's fairly easy to see that the attempt to give a bapartisan sheen to the whole thing will, in all likelyhood, succeed, and not just on Fox news.  Since our journalistic class consantly displays a casual disrigard for actually informing their readers of facts, and since they can be counted upon to cover any "conflict" in a utterly predictable way, the "bipartisan" nature of these lawsuits will take hold and be repeated endlessly, much the same way in which the 2% of tea partiers which are dissapointed democrats got a great deal of media attention.  In this way, Jindal's move is incredibly smart: he will likely pay no consequence for his blackmail, it will benifit the GOP talking points, and the true believers will remember his contribution to the cause.  It's also worth pointing out how Jindal makes it clear he's part of the usual Nixonian GOP establishment with this decision.

2) Insofar as what will occur when the GOP bubble meets "actual legal practice" the answer is quite simple, the rejection of their arguments will be used further their view that the entire judicial system is full of corrupt activit liberals.  If the justice is nominally republican, they will streghten  their demands for ever tighter and higher loyalty tests for new judicial nominees, as part of the general right wing feed back loop that has been genuinly successful in moving the overall idelogy of both the country and the judicial branch very far to the right over the last 30 years.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How the right handles losing

It remains to truly be seen how the right wing populist movement, the so called Tea Party etc, will, in the long term, respond to losing HCR, but its worth keeping an eye on this for several reasons.

It's already clear, given the vandilism committed at several democratic congressmen's offices around the country, that the general levwel of fear, hate, and paranoia the republican party has been inciting against this bill is having some frightning consequences.

If that sort of mob like response continues, it will tell us alot about the Republican party.

However, wether the response by the republicans is violent or not, its also worth seeing if Republican ground forces get tired, feel defeated, etc, because this, again, gets at what I feel may be a diffrence between the republican and democratic coalitions.

Democrats, after being defeated, feel, well, defeated.  They tend to step quietly, become less engaged, and go home for awhile.  They are long soul searching post-mortems.  For better or for worse, the response of democratic voters to defeat, by and large, is, again, to feel defeated.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the response of Republican voters to defeat is *not* to feel defeated.  Instead, they get angry.  Republicans, after defeat, bounce right back and aggressivly fight democrats.  They lost 2008 by historic margins, and they bounced right back to fight aggressively with the democrats.  More to the point, it was this very bouncing back aggressively that begin to diminish democratic popularity.  It is clear that the opposition party's response to the political reality, whatever that reality may actually be, to a certain extent dictates how the electorate *percieves* that political reality, and thus begins affecting the political reality itself.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Responses to protests: now and then

In Steve Benen's item in the Washington monthly's blog about how the Tea Party protests on capitol hill got uglier than usual yesterday, with Tea Partiers calling black congressmen "nigger" and Barney Frank a "faggot", he says something, unintentionally, that's actually quite educational: "But by last night, a related question arose: why aren't Republicans making any efforts at all to denounce the actions of their extremist allies? Can there be any doubt that if liberal protestors, speaking out against the war in Iraq a few years ago, had engaged in these kinds of tactics, the demands for Democratic condemnations would be overwhelming?" (emphasis added)

But of course, there's an actual response to this rhetorical question.  Voters *did* protest the Iraq war, altough they never engaged in this ugly kind of name calling in any way shape or form, nonetheless, Republicans *did* demand democrats apologize for the allegedly treasonous behavior of the protestors.

But even more important, many prominent Democrats likewise questioned the patriotism of the Iraq war protestors and called on the Democratic party to distance themselves from them.

But to reiterate again, the Iraq war protests were nothing like this, they were bog standard protests. No racism, no homophobia, and certintly non of this feeling of being a mob on the edge of violence.  But democrats were called upon by republicans, everywhere, to condemn those protesters. Other democrats did the same.

Meanwhile, in the present, the Tea Party protesters who *did* all these genuinely objectionable things are not condemned by the Republican leadership, or even by their moderates.  The response of both parties to eahc set of protests, despite the Iraq war protests being quite normal and the Tea Party protests descending into something you' expect to see in the South during the 1960's, are actually quite instructive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What elites want is power

A general description of the phenomena Matt Yglesias (TMWIAC's number one source for links!) describes here, wherein the rich tend to support conservative policies even when progressive policies leave them better off is that it doesn't leave them better off *relative* to the rest of the country.  If elites can engineer high amounts of wealth disparity, they also, by the same token, engineer high degrees of *power* disparity, even if they might have fewer millions, our economic and political elites are as a general rule all wealthy enough that a few million dollars here or there are not all significant to them, especially when a near monopoly on economic and political power are the costs of that money.  Cheap at twice the price really.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do not promise what you cannot deliver

While Yglesias has a good point here that countries around the world are right to view the US askance and still potentially as a rogue state, I don't think this has been a failure by Obama, per se.

Republicans, as they have been proving for twenty odds years, love wars when they are in power, and especially since 9/11, the basic attitude of the GOP has been that war is not the question, war is the answer, the question is where and how soon can we get there.

Given that Obama cannot guarantee that these lunatics won't be elected into office again, there's nothing that can be done about the situation.  The status of America as a trusted superpower was borne out of a bipartisan foreign policy consensus that no longer exists. So long as the republican party has the foreign policy views it does, and so long as it continues to be a viable party capable of assuming governance, the threat of a new American rogue war ala Iraq exists.  In fact, I'll go ahead and place a bet here and now that the next Republican administration *will* start a new war somewhere when it is elected.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A feature, not a bug

I think one of the basic problems that the current crisis has revealed is that the set of instiutions we, the world, have, are not in any way commesurate with a global economy. Speaking as a historian in training, it's not an accident to me that the highest volume of world trade was 1929 right before the crash, a volume that only reached that level around the 90's and into the naughties.

You can see this in the failure of the euro for countries like Spain.  Krugman gets closer to the truth when he says it's a catotrophic success, i.e. that the elites saw the euro as a wya to force greater european economic integration.

My take is darker than that, actually.

Global capitlism is proven to work very well for economic and financial elites, and not so well for trade unions, socialized government systems, etcetera. In short, I think the world's elites quite simply don't care. They don't, per se want to stick it to poor people, but they pursue policies engineered with their own self-intrests in mind, and if these policies happen to hurt people poorer than them, oh well.

To take it further, its utterly predictable that greater eocnomic integration with low levels of political integration would result in a situaiton where elites can take advantge of regulatory arbitrage.  The very ineffectivness of our world governmental instituions is the veyr thing that makes it possible for them to be unaccountable.  Nation states find themselves more or less helpless in the face of a global dilemma, and the various western democracries have proven that the power of the elites to make government effective and responsive to their needs ahead of and even at the expense of others has also proven itself.  You see this is the German banking policy, in the fact that american programs whose primary benificires were corporations worked while programs whose primary benificiers were middle class individuals did not.

Add to this, in the american case, an amazing case of a populist right wing movement whose effective policy is to roll out the carpet for the corporate overlords they claim they are railing against.

It's really quite depressing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The ever changing middle

this post by Ezra gets at another aspect of the way our politics works that seems completely broken.  This dyanmic, fundementally, is what leads to the eternal lucy and the football meme that atrios and others point out.  To an outside observer like me, what's most surprising isn't that "moderate" compromises become controversial given the dyanmics of modern american politics, but rather that this development seems entirly surprising to democratic leaders. They keep engaging in good faith compromises and discussions hoping to create a "bipartisan" bill, where the current political and instituional incentives mean that republicans will be rewarded for causing democrats to not pass bills and that they have the power to do that very thing.

The frustating part is that I'm pretty sure that when democrats are in the minority, they won't play by these rules, much as they didn't during the Bush years.  Of course, given the still existant media bias towards republicans, its probable that if they attempted to play by republicans rules they'd be murdered by the media that has ignored the republicans doing the same thing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

You have to want it

A brief point that I'm not sure I've even seen anywhere, for one: when Al Franken was elected, the republicans dug their feet in and kept him from being seated for nearly half a year.  Meanwhile the democrats seem happy to let Scott Brown get seated as fats as huminly possible.

It's yet another one of the ways in which I can't help but feel that the Republicans are playing hardball while the democrats came prepared with nerf bats.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

If not now, when, if not like this, how?

Yglesias, in two posts gets at some of what is making me so pessimisitic about our situation in general.

I should make clear that this pessimism goes beyond health care reform. If we pass it, which is still possible, it will begin to combat some of the trends I'm trying to explain here without changing them.

The unique anti-majoritarian features of our constitution simulatniously make our government less effective and more suceptable to elite capture.  The first post by Yglesias gets at part of why this is on a federal level, the second at how it comes out at the local level.  This power of the elites has grown since Reagan, the growing inequality of the country has meant that their own economic power in comparison to middle class, much less poor voters, is outsized.  Over 30 years of this cultural rot, this Gorden Gekkoizing of America, has lead to a culture that celebrates wealth. If you are poor, in short, you deserve poverty. It has infected all our institutions, high and low.

If there's one thing Obama's eleciton has proved is that, while he is not a sell out, the interests of the rich and powerful still skew the practices and priorities of democratic administrations.  Bankers getting bailed out is an urgent political priority while jobs and stimulus are not quite as urgent.

Which leads to the question of this post.. the last eight years have been one long lessons to the american people of the problems with this world view and the political party that supports it. In 2006 and again in 2008 they voted said political party to within an inch of its life, democrats had majorities that no party has had in decades.

And yet, our nation continues its slow rot. Health care has been a stutterring uneven fight.  Banks have been bailed out even as unemployment at 10% is seen as normal and job reports that report a loss of "only" 100k are seen as signs that everything is fine now.  If what we have done cannot fix these things, what can we do? What more *can* be done?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Situational Pessimism

By temperment and general ideological inclination, I find I foten agree with the policy side of the liberal blogotubes, rather than the activist side.

I say this, partly by way of introduction and by way of clarfication and by way of disclaimer. The policy wonks appeal to me in a way that dailykos and FDL don't. This cleavature has become especially clear upon the Obama presidencny, and even more so during the inter-liberal healthcare spat.

Noentheless, part of me finds himself, as in other areas of my life, betwixt and between. The pessimism of atrios, for example, is definitly influential to me, altough it often leaves me unclear on what to do, what to say.

As I've mentioned before, partly through readings atrios, partly through reading other people, my pessimism in general, economic, political, social, often rises to the level of feeling futile. I can't help but see the many ways in which our society is really, truly broken, and I despair of our ability to actually fix what has gone wrong. The reasons behind this pessismism are worth unpacking, and I'll try to do so over the rest of this week.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gender Construction in Games

And now, because this blog needs slightly less serious stuff to talk about, something I noticed recently.  In my copious spare time I like to play strategy games, I was playing Birth of the Federation a little while ago, and then moved on to Sword of the Stars.  I could talk alot about these games in the game sense, but what caught my eye, or more properly my ear, was the voices.

Take BOTF, for example. Playing as the Federation, you'll find that science vessels and destroyers are voiced by women, while larger, more deadly vessels tend to be voiced by men. (when I say voiced, I mean the voice, presumably of the commander of said vessel, that acknowledges an order you give it)  By the same token, in SotS, you'll find Repair ships, when given an order to repair a fleet, speaking in a female voice telling the rest of the fleet to "be more careful out there", while other command are acknowledged by male voices, such as ordering your fleet to move "engines to power, aye!" and so on.

It's a miniature microcosm of how gender thinking informs what voices we expect to hear in certain contexts, really.

Friday, January 29, 2010

You can talk the talk

Really brief SOTU reaction, because I'm not sure I have anything to say here that's not already covered elsewhere:

The speech proved what we already knew, Obama can give a really good speech, and right afterward, you feel better about his political fortunes.

It was a speech dense with proposals ideas, and so forth, but, probably appropriatly, lacking in specifics.

In the end, therefore, what matters is what he does, or what the results are. Does the speech solidify the political will of the house to pass the bill? Does it nudge the senate into using reconciliation to pass the amendements the house wants on the senate bill?

If the NYT is right that Obama thinks he's going to tackle jobs and other stuff, then come back to healthcare.... well, I'm afraid I think health care would truly be dead if that occured.

What's really depressing about the way the last year has gone is that it's never going to get easier, or better, to pass something politically charged like healthcare.

I suppose we could someday get similar majorities in both chambers during an economic *expansion* which really would make this easier, but I don't see that happening for at least ten years, if not longer, if ever.

Monday, January 25, 2010

You come to change washington, but find it changes you

As per TPM, Ezra, and Yglesias, I am skeptical of Obama's deficit mania both on the politics and on the policy.

I may be being too pessimistic, but its really worth looking at the ways in which its fairly clear that washington's monetary centrism, focused on the needs and worldviews of our current financial and political elites, have changed Obama more than he has changed them. Perhaps this was always going to occur given Obama's tendancy towards mangerial technocraticism rather that populist fire, but its still very depressing.  It's the kind of thing that honestly makes me question the solubility of alot of the nation's problems and the brightness of our future.

Quite simply, all advanced first world democracies operate ona principle wherein the upper classes agree to give a sufficent share of their wealth, prestige, and effort towards the creation of a stable middle class and a safety net for the poor.  In countries where this political agreement never formed, most Latin American Republics, ex-soviet republics, the result is a poor country with very rich people in it. 

To put it another way, one of the promises of the Obama pragmatic change approach is that it will continue the long american tradition of halting and incomplete change towards the better as well as the salvation of the republic from its own inner demons (racism, class divisions, etc).  This aproach worked, to a certain extent, for FDR, it was even tried to a degree under a genuine crisis under Lincoln.

The last thirty years, however, a complex mix of political and social variable has led to a center right colation that sees its liberal counterpart as inherently illegitimate as a governing party even as its own ideology leds inevitability towards corrupt and ineffective governance.  Said ineffectual governance, meanwhile, is very beneficial to the short term interests of the wealthier portions of this country, who will always have the money to tolerate whatever happens here anyway.

If the Obama pragmatic aproach does not work to stall this, and it seems it is not, but that rather the administraiton is becoming to some degree corrupted by the very principles it sought to fight, then more radical, and therefore more damaging solutions may be the only ones that become practicable.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't feed the black people

TPM notes this and doesn't go on to explicity state it, altough that they understand it is clear, but the subtext here is racial.

When your average southern conservative republican imagines poor people, he sees black. And he does see them in almost precisly and literally these terms: as pests, animals, locusts, and so on.

You may think I am being too harsh here, but if there is one thing that history has taught us is that the white population of the south will go exceedingly out of its way to maintain blacks as second class citizens both legally and conceptually.

In many ways, the conservative world view is colored, from start to finish, from the offshoots of racism.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Magpie, Magpie

My initial response to this item in the washington monthly linking Politico saying that there is discussion of passing things what would have made the bill palatable to liberals via reconciliation and *then* having the house bounce back the bill to the president was a strong "yay!" but, while I am obvioulsy somewhat new to this whole blogging thing, I think its already effecting the way I percieve things. That is to say, there is very fats movement in my mind, to pounce on every development and talk about it or opine on it.

This isn't a criticism of blogging per se, I think its inherent to the medium, but nonetheless realizing how fast I was about to react made me realize some of the inherent pitfalls of the genre.

So.. time will tell?

My general attitude is that so long as democrats are discussing how to pass the bill productivily instead busily pointing fingers at each other over who's to blame, this is positive.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What we have here is a failure to leadership

If TPM is correct here than this is the first genuine off the shelf unmodified criticism I can make of Obama, right now, he should be leading instead of taking a hands off aproach and letting the dems run around like chickens with their heads cut off. If there's one thing that's been empirically proven, its that time is the enemy of HCR.

The sooner the house bounces the senate HCR bill, the better. Obama should calmly but delibritly schedule a caucus meeting give one of his world class speeches, and then they should vote on the damn thing and get it out. The other things we want can be done by reconciliation.

Messiah complex

Riffing off this Paul Krugman post, let me just say that while Obama deserves all sorts of various criticisms for how things have gone done, he's the first president to get HCR even close to passing, much less this close to passing ever. Given the objective political conditions, that's not to be dismissed.

Point being, Obama has made all sorts of mistakes, but all politicians make mistakes, some discussions among the liberal blogs treat this as some sort of dangerous anomaly, and express disappointment that Obama isn't the savior who will take us to the promised land (i.e "the one", although Krugman has long been critical of Obama).  But look, HCR as it "should" have have been was undone by a shitty canidate losing a race in Massachussets of all places. 60 votes means you can pass stuff, but as we've found out, it means your hostage to any little hiccup in the process.

But! HCR can still pass. It's not dead. More to the point, its clear that its the liberal wing of the party that's hitting the brakes. And this is good! Because liberal members should be more vulnerable and responsive to online and general activism.  Therefore, again, the responsibility lies on us to pressure them to pass the bill.

Yes, there are other options we could do to advance forward, among them doing a medicaid expansion via reconciliation, as mentioned by Ezra Klein and endorsed by Digby. But here's a critical point, doing any of those things isn't mutually exlusive with passing this damn bill, and this bill is worth passing.

We need to pressure our representatives to pass the thing, and then use reconciliation to fix the bill.  Now that there are 59 votes, using reconciliation may be less politically charged and piss off the conservadems, whose votes on some things will still be useful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Live death of HCR Blogging part two

Per TPM it seems that the threat to the bill is actually from the left which makes what is about to happen even more sickening.

I guess the kill-billers at FDL etc will get their wish now.

I hope it turns out better than I'd predict, which is to say, as a disaster.

Snatching Defeat from the jaws of victory

Let's review the situation:
1) The senate has passed HRC
2) Al the house needs to do is bounce it back, and viola! HRC is a fact.

But, it seems somewhat certain that this will not occur. Why? Because our elected officials are, to a certain extent, cowards.

This, however, is not their fault, it is, fundementally, the broader leftist movement's fault.

One of the broader frustions I have been developing over the last year is seeing how the two political sections of the country handle their present circumstances.

During the Bush years, conservatives pulled together, they didn't take their eye off the ball. Sure, they didn't get all of what they wanted, but they moved closer in just about every respect. The neocons got their wars. The fundies got lots of money, some anti-gay marriage laws, two supreme court justices willing to hollow out Roe, and judges in the lower courts friendly to their view of the world. The corporate world got their tax breaks, and so on.

During these years, the left was very angry, but it took them something like 6 years to get into gear and really fight like they meant it.

Come 2008, the national disaster this led to elected a democrat into office.

The left started to get its own goodies, the largest direct government stimulus since the great society and within inches of passing HRC, not to mention a supreme court justice, and lots of little things to be happy about besides.  What do we do? Start infighting, going in different directions, sniping at each other, and so on.

Meanwhile, the republicans get to work. They instantly get angry, they work hard. Within a year, its like Bush never happened.

I'm not sure things will change until the left decides it actually wants to win this game.