Nov 27

Bruce Bartlett, a man of impeccable Republican credentials (He’s worked for Kemp, Reagan and both Bushes), has found himself shunned, an exile from the Right, because he’s had the audacity to buttress his arguments with facts. Oh, and one more thing: he eventually came to despise George Walker Bush.

The following quote from his piece today in The American Conservative, is a stunner:

On the plus side, I think I had a very clear understanding of the economic crisis from day one. I even wroteanother op-edfor theNew York Timesin December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

No. 1, Numero Uno, Primo is Bartlett’s recognition that Paul Krugman’s economic analysis AND Keynesian ideas were accurate. The world is suffering from a demand problem, and that calls for spending, not austerity. (Yes, the deficit hugely matters. The question is when to address it, not whether it should be ignored) No. 2, and equally stunning (and reflects perfectly progressive anger with Obama), the President ain’t no liberal. No how. No way. It’s possible he’s not really a Democrat. I’ve been saying for years the guy’s actually a Rockefeller Republican, which hasn’t ‘zactly endeared me to a lot of Obama fans.

That Bartlett’s remarkable piece - and all of you should read it. Bartlett has a lot to say - was published at all, much less within The American Conservative - suggests things are changing more than any of us thought possible. We most likely won’t see visible evidence of that change for several years, but compelling ideas have a way of worming into one’s thoughts, subtly influencing words chosen, sometimes re-arranging the order and thus the meaning of constructed argument.

FWIW, I’m much more aligned with Bartlett than I am with the current Democrats. I’ve never voted for a Republican Presidential candidate ever, but if things continue the way they’re continuing, I may find my self there after all, especially if there are a bunch of Bartletts hanging around. Of course, I’ve the usual caveats: no bringing religion into politics, no intrusion into the bedroom. no swooning over tumescent defense budgets, and no voter suppression. Other than that, I’m really a mainstream republican kind of guy.

Oct 14

Consider the following quote:

Conflict is part of the human condition: there are limited resources, there are differing interests and cultures and tribes and value systems, with different conceptions of the good, vastly different priorities and first principles. Democracy is the system we’ve come up with to resolve those inevitable conflicts, but there is no such thing as a placid equilibrium in which those conflicts somehow disappear, or are only articulated in the gentlest fashion. That’s the point.

Conflict is the underlying constant of human society. The question is what we do with it. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that either we have people killing each other in the streets like dogs, or we have people running attack ads against each other. Bureaucracy, parliamentary procedure, extended multi-lateral talks, the back and forth of campaign ads, are largely glory-less enterprises, in the grand sweep of history, they are beautiful, sublime achievements, they represent nearly unthinkable progress and point the way towards a future of full human flourishing.

That’s from Chris Hayes. I found it via Digby who was making a point about the debates and the media critiques of same. Hayes’ elegant language wondrously floats above partisanship (despite Hayes being a staunch lefty). What are politics, after all, but a means of channeling physical violence as a means of securing power into a (mostly) non-violent expression.

So everyone needs to settle down. It was regrettable South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson loudly interjected “Liar!” into Obama’s State of the Union address, but it was a lot better than Representative Preston Brooks (also from South Carolina. What is it about the Palmetto state?) caning Senator Charles Sumner to the floor of the Senate Chamber. Deciding Biden was “rude” because he visibly (one might seven say risibly) reacted to Ryan’s unsubstantiated claims (I’m being moderate here) seems quaint compared to the every-day savagery of political combat these past 16 years in both chambers. Whatever Biden did was hardly on the level of the impeachment travesty foisted on everyone during the Clinton administration.

It was also a whole lot better than the pornography of a sitting president acting like a sitting duck.

Sep 30

From the Brad Blog (Read the entire piece here)


Nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal Widens, Becomes Criminal Matter in Florida

Potentially fraudulent forms in 11 FL counties; Concerns emerge in other states; RNC scrambles to contain damage

Latest developments in rapidly expanding story…

A major element of the Republican National Committee’s overall attempt to game the 2012 elections by trying to affect who gets to vote and who does not, has just been stopped dead in its tracks.

Along with it, a criminal election fraud complaint has now reportedly been filed with law enforcement in the state of Florida against a Republican firm, owned by a paid Mitt Romney consultant, which was hired by the GOP to carry out partisan voter registration operations in at least five battleground states.

We’re living in an Orwellian paradise. Organizations grant themselves monickers like "True The Vote," articulate their organizational purposes in virtuous prose: (from True the vote’s website)

Unfortunately, Americans have lost faith in the integrity of our nation’s election results and fraud and law-breaking has become all too common in our electoral system. We hope to change that perception. True the Vote is a citizen-led effort to restore truth, faith, and integrity to our elections.

…..and then focus all their energies in challenging, intimidating and otherwise restricting the votes of minorities, young adults and anyone else who might choose Democrats over  Republicans.

Question: what does the word “conservative” mean to present-day Republicans? What is it they’re conserving?

Sep 26

From Michael Powell’s piece in today’s NY Times Turn Out The Lights On The Mets

What’s our choice? To root for the triumphalist Yankees is to describe an impossibility, like walking through Manhattan chanting: “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!” Instead, we adopt the mien of Scottish highlanders facing the English army — loss is assured, but let’s go out with panache and a touch of humor.

We’re all suffering from a newly discovered disease “BuliMets.” Classic symptoms, really. Watch a game, throw up. Watch another. Throw up……….

Sep 25

I stole this entire post from Professor Juan Cole at his blog Informed Comment because I could never have done this so pithily.

 (Taken from his biography on his site) Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

1. Expensive emergency room care for those who have no health insurance.

2. Higher taxes on the middle class.

3. Lower taxes on millionaires.

4. War with Iran.

5. Intervention in Syria.

6. Make Egypt understand what the rules are.

7. Annoy both Russia and China. Brand the Russian Federation no. 1 enemy of the United States for no known reason.

8. Free skin dye kit for every American who wants to enjoy the tremendous advantages of becoming Latino in America–including the chance to join the ranks of all our past Latino presidents (who had this unfair advantage).

9. Cold fusion
.
10. Airplane windows that can easily be opened in flight whenever there is a fire on board at 30,000 feet. Also, free parachutes for all the passengers who will be sucked through the open window.

Sep 14

In fact, new ground may be breaking here. Once one advances past the superficial idea of subjective preference, one lands squarely within 1st Amendment protections…….at least theoretically, anyway, in arguments advanced by Jeffrey Kosbie. See below for the introductory summary. The full article can be download at the site

(No) State Interests in Regulating Gender: How Suppression of Gender Nonconformity Violates Freedom of Speech

Jeffrey Kosbie 

Northwestern University - Department of Sociology; Northwestern University - School of Law

September 3, 2012

William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. XIX 

Despite limited growth in legal protections for transgender people, dress and appearance are largely treated as unprotected matters of personal preference. In response, lawyers and scholars argue that dress and appearance are intimately connected to the expression of identity. Nonetheless, courts have generally deferred to the government’s proffered justifications for these laws.

This article refocuses on the government’s alleged interests in regulating gender nonconformity. Using a First Amendment analysis, the article reveals how seemingly neutral government interests are used to single out conduct because it expresses messages of gender nonconformity. This approach avoids impossible questions about the subjective intent of the individual to express their identity.

Drawing on social constructionist theories of gender, this article establishes that dress, appearance, and other behavior communicate the social meaning of gender, and should be understood as communicative under the First Amendment. When the state singles out conduct because it expresses gender nonconformity, the state’s interests are related to the suppression of a message. This violates freedom of speech under the governing O’Brien doctrine. Testing the theory against actual cases involving government employment, child custody, and restroom access, the article recognizes legitimate government interests in privacy, safety, and efficient workplace environments. However, the article argues that under present doctrine on freedom of speech, the government may not suppress gender nonconformity as the means of achieving these ends.

Sep 10

From Laura Tyson (a former chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers, She’s a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley)

The United States is beset by four deficits: a fiscal deficit, a jobs deficit, a deficit in public investment, and an opportunity deficit. The budget proposals put forward by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, could reduce the fiscal deficit, but would exacerbate the other three.

To be sure, Romney and Ryan have failed to provide specifics about how they would reduce the fiscal deficit, relying on “trust me” assertions. But the overarching direction of their proposals is clear: more tax cuts, disproportionately benefiting those at the top, coupled with significantly lower non-defense discretionary spending, disproportionately hurting everybody else – and weakening the economy’s growth prospects.

Follow the link above to the entire piece by Professor Tyson, which is hardly original (no slam intended, but Krugman, among others has been way ahead of everyone on these issues) but pithy and persuasive, assuming one still has an open mind on these matters.

One’s encouraged, though, by more and more frequent appearance of related pieces pointing out similar things. Bruce Krasting, whose chart I posted in a recent post, has also been on top of this (He’s had some interesting things to say about Europe, as well).

On the same point, the lack of credible academic and/or professional economists supporting Romney/Ryan assertions is startling. Professor Greg Mankiw, a Harvard Economics Professor of the Freshwater variety, is one of the official Romney advisers. Mankiw has a well-frequented blog, he’s the author of several authoritative economics texts, and he’s well-known but he has been invisible on these matters. Can anyone name even one front-rank economist, academic….whatever…..supporting the Republican arguments? I can’t, but I’d welcome any suggestions.

Even if you believe current unemployment is structural rather than cyclical (meaning it’s now baked into the economy and essentially unchangable regardless of fiscal policy), you’re left with the problem of how to change things. Without accepting investment in new technologies and education, how would it ever be possible to “un-structure-alize?” 

IOW, the Republican tax-cut strategy remains impoverished. If people’s incomes are stagnant or decreasing, tax cuts may help a bit in the short term, but you’re still left with huge holes in future revenue forecasts, the same forecasts you’re depending on for budgeting defense, infrastructure and vital Federal/State spending (even if you’re a Republican, you still need *some* roads, police, fire etc.).

So here’s what one is left with: a possible increase in a few dollars to spend and the sure knowledge you’ll need to save those dollars for your daughter’s abortion abroad when she accidentally gets pregnant during a Republican administration (those airfares can be a bitch). We won’t mention the increased medical costs you’ll be faced with after the cheap, incompetent doctor you turned to because your health insurance lapsed when you lost your job misdiagnoses your prostate cancer, which spread to your bones, which caused you to break your hips, your pelvis, and your ribs while opening a car door. Be assured, though, that Jesus will be by your side providing much-needed healing even if you haven’t paid your premium…..er….tithe.

Not to worry. You’ll be in that cherished lower tax bracket, and you’ll be washed in the Blood of The lamb. Who could ask for anything more?

 Just sayin.

Sep 09

Sometimes all one can do is scratch one’s head in helpless bewilderment. The chart Bruce Krasting cited (and which is just below in the previous post) highlights a few overwhelmingly critical facts:

  1. Our government - any government at all, for that matter - depends on revenue
  2. Government revenues can only come in the form of taxes and fees
  3. Taxes on income and profits form the largest base of revenue
  4. Revenue projections always assume people begin work when they’re young and that their incomes are likely to rise as they get older
  5. If people aren’t working when they’re young, revenues over their lifetimes will be less, possibly even significantly less, than projections
  6. Which means every budget based on projections will crash
  7. Which will put every government whether Federal, State or Municipal into perpetual fiscal crisis
  8. Which will warp all politics, and pit group against group in a desperate money chase.

So this is all about jobs, right?

Wrong.

It’s as much about The Type of job as it is about the job itself. Both are important. Developing a base of low income jobs without much increase in an individual’s income over time simultaneously destroys income projections while profoundly altering the individual’s relationship to the society at large.

Developing a citizenry that broadly can expect to develop a lifetime of increasing individual income depends on an educational infrastructure capable of richly educating large numbers of people so they can master developing technologies and skills, on a physical infrastructure capable of reliable, fast physical transport of people and goods and a super-fast, secure communications network intended to be the first necessary tool of all those “richly educated” people. 

Without all those things mentioned in the above paragraph, there can be no hope of creating sustainable jobs offering upward mobility, career paths, and advancing incomes.  Everything depends upon a well-educated and motivated labor force. Note that ONLY GOVERNMENT can make all of that happen at scale, at requisite quality, and accessible to the entire citizenry. It’s beyond private enterprise to do that while simultaneously making it affordable and accessible to the entire population.

Lastly, this takes time, and during that time (however long it may take) government not only needs to budget properly, it needs to strategically invest and sell the costs politically or everything will steadily decay over that same period, reducing competitiveness and increasing the divide between rich and poor until everything implodes politically, financially and socially.

Whether jobs are private or public sector oughn’t be an issue. Distinguishing beween the two seems mindless. The arbiter ought to be the inherent value of the job, whether it provides a necessary function at a reasonable cost while providing the individual with a rising income horizon, not whether it’s public or private.

I cannot for the life of me understand how even one part of the current Republican platform addresses any of this in any substantive way other than broad promises to make things better. Given that we desperately need investment in education, communications, and physical infrastructure, how is cutting spending and investment a solution rather than an invitation to entropy?

One last thought: what happens to our culture and our own sense of ourselves if the good jobs disappear?

Sep 08
AAAAAaaaaaRRRRrrrrGGGGgggggHHHHHHH!!         ::sob::

Consider this chart of WFP for two groups; workers 22-55 (white) and those 55+ (brown). The lines crossed in 2002. The negative gap has widened every year. It’s fallen off the chart the past three years.

This chart and the above quote is courtesy of Bruce Krasting. See my next post above for more on this chart, Krasting’s insights, and the inutterable economic stupidity informing our own political process.

AAAAAaaaaaRRRRrrrrGGGGgggggHHHHHHH!!         ::sob::

Consider this chart of WFP for two groups; workers 22-55 (white) and those 55+ (brown). The lines crossed in 2002. The negative gap has widened every year. It’s fallen off the chart the past three years.

This chart and the above quote is courtesy of Bruce Krasting. See my next post above for more on this chart, Krasting’s insights, and the inutterable economic stupidity informing our own political process.

Sep 02

What does it mean when votes are shaped rather than chosen? What happens when he who has the best toys wins?

Sascha Issenberg has an important piece in today’s NY Times: "Why Campaign Reporters Are Behind the Curve"   It’s importance, though, lies less in why reporting on campaigns isn’t so hot, but on the increasing ability to shape votes behaviorally by presenting more perfectly expressed cues in more perfectly drawn contexts.

Such an ability transcends both facts and arguments, even rendering them irrelevant. It’s time we all become afraid……..very afraid because, finally, it’s really all about who has the best toys. It’s a technological contest, not a political one (and certainly not an ethical one. Power is as power does).

Who cudda known we’d be utterly undone by iPhones and GPS?

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