Saturday, June 30, 2012

Short: Dems should be quiet about healthcare

Ezra Klein has another good column analyzing the dynamics of this election. He explains why the Democrats shouldn't crow about their ACA win at the Supreme Court.

The healthcare reform act remains unpopular, and it's also very complex. This complexity makes it harder to sell but easier to attack. The Dems can't undo the complexity, so a better strategy for them is to work other issues where they're stronger.

This isn't a message partisans want to hear, but I wonder whether the Dems will actually follow this strategy--go with their strengths for this election, and let ACA gradually pick up supporters as its benefits kick in.

Update. Some Dems at least are following the advice. The White House Chief of Staff said that Americans are tired of the health care debate and want to focus on jobs.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pity Bernanke and his difficult task

Have you ever walked into a situation with a bit of confidence and swagger, and THEN found out how bad it really was? As someone who occasionally has these crisis situations in my job, I can tell you that I dread these times. Maybe I'd like to hide under a rock, or wish it hadn't been my shift that day, but I have a job with responsibilities and I'll damn well perform as well as I can.

So I have sympathy for what Bernanke inherited. His job is to clean up after the biggest financial disaster since the 1929 Wall Street crash. Yes, he also contributed to the problems, but that doesn't make the task less staggering. In fact, I'm nearly dumbfounded just contemplating how huge a task it is. Anyone who pretends they have the absolutely correct answer to this problem is an unmitigated egotist, and I wish I could give such people a withering stare that would instantly deflate such pomposity.

So Bernanke has to deal with an overextended banking system that has many questionable loans and debtors who are facing lower and uncertain income. Naturally, he wishes for a soft landing, but we're past the point where that's possible. Instead, we mostly hope to avoid a full-on crash where the banking system and all private employment just freeze up. That part of the mission was accomplished with the help of the TARP.

The clean-up remains, as does the rebuilding. This is still very tricky, because the banking system still has scads of questionable loans and not-so-solid debtors.

I think Bernanke's choice of quantitative easing might have been the right one. Our banking system was an overstretched balloon that became untethered, flew around spewing out (actually destroying) trillions of dollars of assets. Maybe to stabilize the banks you have to do some partial reinflation. A bank has a better chance if it receives 80 cents on the dollar than if it receives 40. The strong debtors, who are paying back in full, rather have values rise to that 80% level than stay in cellar.

So I don't really believe that Bernanke has been pouring trillions of new dollars into the economy. He's only been replacing some of the destroyed trillions. Is this really true? What are the consequences? Um, um, let me cogitate some more. Or maybe I should just be forthright and say that I don't know if it's the right course, but it looks sensible to me (for the reasons I stated), and I haven't heard any other positions that were stronger. We'll have to see how it works out. And, of course, PRAY.

My reaction to the Obamacare ruling

I don't kid myself that Obamacare isn't a risk. The costs may blow up and sink our budget. It may be a vehicle for unwarranted social engineering and expense in the name of 'fairness.' It requires close scrutiny.

That said, it's miles better than anything the GOP has proposed to address the staggering cost of individual health insurance. Their solutions are simply ludicrous--health savings accounts, out of state insurers. It's like a band-aid on an open artery if you're low or middle income.Those ideas don't have a chance of working, but the GOP pretends that they're sound solutions. As I said, it's ludicrous, but it's also somewhat immoral to lie that way and to care so little for people who aren't getting the jobs that include good health coverage.

So I applaud that Obamacare isn't being scrapped by the Supreme Court. That decision gives us the best chance to reform our healthcare system, hopefully slim it down, but still have a strong base on which to work. This is a day to be happy and to count our blessings.

It's just a scratch. I don't need health insurance.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The elusive argument of what the Fed should do

After reading in two separate posts that there are 'many actions' the Fed could take to help employment in this country, I decided to search for a listing of these actions. I'm surprised that I had to search, because one of the first tenets of argumentation is that you support your assertions. So when someone asserts that the Fed could help employment, in the next sentence or paragraph, they should explain how. Simple, right? Not too much to expect, I would have thought.

Well, the arguments for what the Fed could do were largely attributed to Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics, so it wasn't too hard to find. Nor is it too hard to understand Krugman's suggestions:
  1. First of all, be bold and try actions other than the usual limited set of raising or lowering the Fed fund interest rates.
  2. Buy longer term government bonds and government-backed mortgage securities. (Krugman reports that the Fed is currently doing this.)
  3. Change the inflation target from 2% to 4%, signally that the Fed will continue pumping money until there's enough growth to start having significant inflation pressure.
Once the suggestions are enumerated, it becomes clear that there aren't 'many' actions. #1 isn't a specific action. #2 is already being done. So that leaves a single action--changing the inflation target.

With only one additional action being suggested, I would think our society or pundits could have a substantial debate. So what are the pros and cons, the risks of pursuing this course or not pursuing it?
  • Pro, from Krugman: "If the Fed were to raise its target for would help persuade investors and businesses alike that sitting on cash is a bad idea.
  • Con, from the American Enterprise Institute: Inflation lowers the purchasing power of dollars, which mean higher prices for commodities like oil.
I believe the con argument, but the pro argument is less probable. I don't know if the investors who got so badly burned in 2008 will unleash their cash out of fear of inflation that hasn't appeared yet.

What I find strange is the lack of more discussion. Is this all there is? No more ideas for what the Fed could do? It's no wonder that the economy is rebounding so slowly. The Fed can't really do much more, the Congress and president can't agree on what to do, the rest of the world either has its own problems or they aren't looking to pump us up. So, no quick fix. How unAmerican!

Inflate your way to riches.


Economist article with comments
St. Louis Fed comments
Background comments by Bernanke
Related argument on quantitative easy from AEI: The low interest rates force investors into riskier investments, like commodity speculation. Lovely.
Four specific suggestions with rationales from an economist. Many times better than Krugman, but more work to read.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Getting Married: To have sex or to have babies

I just realized something. The proponents of traditional marriage who say that the purpose of marriage is to provide a good environment for children are ignoring an important point in marriage traditions. Traditionally, you had to get married before you could legally have sex with the object of your desire. So the purpose of marriage was to have sex. If the sex didn't occur, that is, if the marriage wasn't consummated, the marriage could be annulled as though it had never happened. The lack of offspring wasn't enough to annul a marriage, but the lack of sex was.

Now a vast majority of Americans are having sex before marriage. So we don't need to get married to have sex. I think this is why marriage is breaking down in the US. The problem was that sex outside marriage destabilized marriage for many people.

Then again, I don't think that's the reason. Over 95% of Americans are having pre-marital sex, but 95% of marriages haven't destabilized.

More likely is that when society became more accepting of sex before marriage, it also became more accepting of other changes to tradition:
  • Divorce
  • Delayed marriage
  • Delayed childbearing through contraception
  • Voluntary childless marriages
  • Alternative sexual positions and techniques
  • Sequential relationships and sex partners
  • Dating and having sex concurrently with multiple partners (but not too many)
  • Raising children outside marriage
  • Getting married after the birth of a child
  • Women having both careers and children
  • Women in high-commitment jobs
Gosh, with all those other changes, accepting same-sex relationships and marriage doesn't seem like such a big deal. After all, it's apparent traditional lost a long time ago.

This isn't the first time tradition has been challenged. Think of the play The Fiddler on the Roof. It's all about Tevye's daughters breaking the tradition of arranged marriage. Maybe the lesson is that people accept the non-traditional when they see good aspects to the change.

You may now kiss the bride and finally have sex with her.
Photo: some twitter thing

Extra: Heavens! Changes to the Nuptial Mass are arcane to the rest of us.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Last outpost of crazy: Agenda 21 paranoia

Environmentalism (the interest in having and maintaining a healthy natural environment) is one of the biggest successes of 1960's liberals. It has energized many people and found solid support with a large majority. Here in Massachusetts, people are happy about the creation of conservation lands and public parks.

Elsewhere in the US, any environmental initiative, including the creation of bike lanes, is seen as part of the Agenda 21 conspiracy for world domination...

I'm basically speechless about this one. To these paranoids, caring about nice surroundings means that you're a puppet of our new world overlords. I guess you can't do anything to help your community lest you be accused of betraying all-American ideals.

Fall colors on the bike path to enslavement

Friday, June 15, 2012

"The worst danger facing the US:" A retrospective

Back in the early 1980's, when Reagan was president and the USSR was a communist state instead of a lot of kleptocracies, I read an article about the biggest issue facing the US. At the time, the most devastating concern I had was nuclear war. Do you remember that fear? Intercontinental missiles launched out of silos and nuclear submarines targeting military and population centers in the US and USSR. The explosions would kill millions instantly, and kill most of the rest slowly as society fell apart and we succumbed to disease and starvation. That was a standard fear in my generation, and the film Testament was our closest image of it.
But nuclear war wasn't the subject of this article because the writer didn't have the same fears I did. Instead, she wrote about her fear of the mounting federal debt. I remember scoffing at this. How could anyone worry about the deficit when our society (and more personally my entire family) could be annihilated in a nuclear war?

Now I don't worry about nuclear war anymore. A stray nuke, yes, but we'd get over that isolated disaster the way we got over 9/11.

However, I remembered that prediction in the article. At the time, I noted that the author was a born-again Christian and an avid supporter of Reagan, so I probably dismissed the rest of her ideas. I certainly don't remember anything else--whether she made particular suggestions on how to cut the deficit or spending, or the future effect the deficit would have.

Actually, I didn't dismiss everything because I took the time to note the different way of looking at the world. I decided to remember and check back in a few years. Was she right that deficits were the biggest danger, or was I right that it was nuclear war?

I can't answer that question even today. Back in 1981, nuclear war might really have been the biggest concern. If we hadn't treated it seriously, we might have made serious mistakes in our policies that would have resulted in nuclear disaster. Maybe our fear and concern led to negotiations that were tremendously successful at limiting the danger.

However,we didn't focus on that other danger: the deficits. So they just grew larger and larger as we half-watched. Now, they are a tremendous danger.

Well, maybe so, maybe not. Deficits will never be the same kind of existential danger that nuclear war was. Ironic if the worse danger is easier to solve than the lesser danger. But it will probably be that way. Sigh.

 My solution: Nuke the debt

Campaign message: Running against crazy

In politics, one of the most important tasks is to stop the crazy extremes in the other party. In fact, that's often the top agenda item because it's easier to block the other party than to gather up enough votes to make your policies happen.

It was ostensibly the agenda for the GOP after their losses in 2008, and it's been the agenda for the Senate and Obama since the GOP swept the House in 2010.

In this campaign, it makes sense for the GOP to talk about its agenda (tax reform, spending cuts, tax cuts, defense buildup, etc.) because they might actually get to enact this agenda. For the Dems, they have so little chance of displacing the House GOP that it hardly matters what their agenda is. If Dems talk non-stop about what they're going to do, they sound delusional. So they should be talking about what GOP plans they're going to stop.

Obama is already starting this. But it should be a centerpiece. They can line up what the GOP says it's going to do, and give the plans a critique. The GOP say they'll do 'A,' but really you'll get 'B' and 'B' has these negative consequences. The GOP has been doing a great critique on the Dems for years--that's what "tax-and-spend" is.

Frankly, the Dems can make a good case not to trust the GOP to do tax reform. If the environment is a high priority for you, you already don't trust the GOP on pollution regulation. If you depend on some government program or you're a federal employee (insert shout out to a family member), you probably don't trust how the GOP will trim (slash) spending.

For those concerned about Social Security and Medicare, it's not as clear-cut. Both the Dems and GOP are trying to trim the growth of the programs, particularly Medicare, so either or both can arouse suspicion. Since the GOP are going to attack the method the Dems are using to trim Medicare, the Dems might as well attack the GOP plans.

One other terribly important campaign point for the Dems--they can say that they are open to negotiating. That's a message not coming from the GOP. Of course that message can demoralize the Dem base, but if they remind their base what an unfettered GOP will do, the base should turn out.

I'd give the same advice about negotiating to the GOP, but their position has been pretty clear: our way or the highway. I doubt they'll be making any conciliatory noises unless they're way down in opinion polling or the election results split governing power between the parties (my preferred government configuration in any case).

So, to recap, my advice to Dems is:
  • Paint a believable but wretched picture of what the unfettered GOP will do.
  • Emphasize that you can stop that without going crazy in the other direction.
  • Make reasonable noises about negotiating, which is what the country will need in the most likely outcome from the election.
Finally, I have to admit that I don't expect that the Dems will actually campaign this way. There seems to be an unwritten rule that parties pretend they're going to win the triple crown, even when they're entering the race a little lame.

Will they try it? Do you think it will work? It'll take a miracle.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Campaign Theme: Competence

I think I spot a major theme for the presidential campaign: it's all about 'competence.' Specifically, Romney is competent. He knows how an economy works, he knows how to create jobs. He was a competent business manager who made himself rich with good business sense. Obama is incompetent, hasn't ever worked outside the liberal bubble of academia, social programs, and government, and has no instinct for what to do to turn around the economy.

In my opinion, this is a bunch of opportunistic crud. If Romney is so sure his program can create jobs, he should be touting the program non-stop. However, his program, when you look at it, has a strong resemblance to Bush's program, and we all know how well that worked. So Romney has to focus on the meta-message (Obama is incompetent in economics) while avoiding a real message (here's my economic plan).

The Dems have perhaps started to get into this vibe too. Dems are asking, who accomplished more, Clinton or Obama? They're mostly saying it's Obama. I think this is a meta-message too: Obama will be like Clinton, as opposed to being like Carter. After a catastrophic midterm election, he'll bounce back, win re-election, and effectively govern for 4 more years.

The bad news for Dems is that Obama is not Bill Clinton. Clinton had a warmer personality and could connect with more moderate, middle-Americans. Obama has more appeal to the well-educated, but weak rapport with blue collar voters. The good news for Dems is that, unlike Carter, Obama is running against Romney, not Reagan. We don't know yet whether Obama will suffer Carter's fate or Clinton's.

As to the question of competence, I think it's reasonable to talk about it. Carter was an incompetent leader. Reagan was a very competent one. Obama is somewhere in between. We can't judge yet with Romney. So how will we make a decision? Best to use criteria other than competence, like WHAT ARE THEIR DAMN PLANS????


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Running against crazy, Part 2

Sometimes I think the Democrat's main campaign point is "At least we're not as bad as those others." And it's not as though it isn't a valid point. If the electorate votes in a GOP president and a GOP Senate, we can't be sure we won't get a whole lot of crazy--additional tax cuts, no trimming of the military, and the bulk of cuts falling on discretionary spending, but less than promised since popular programs will be lightly effected. Also the dismantling of environmental regulations and financial regulations, with consequences to be suffered and discovered down the road. If a booming economy doesn't happen, the hole in the budget won't be pretty. So the GOP will have dismantled part of government, blown the budget again, and maybe set us up for another financial mess (though on a smaller scale).

So the Democrats have a point if they campaign (between the lines) on not being crazy. But it's not a strong enough message to get people to the polls... unless the GOP looks really crazy. That's one advantage of having Mitt Romney as the presidential candidate. He doesn't exude crazy like Bachmann did, or Newt. Maybe Republicans got the obvious crazy out of their system during 2011 and the primaries, and they'll be trying their hardest to look sane for the rest of the campaign season. But... ... they have to make it through their convention and their convention speakers. Perhaps there's some hope for the Dems in that.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Short: Romney is the Keynesian candidate?

Ezra Klein has an interesting piece on why Romney would have higher government spending than Obama. That's counterintuitive, right? But his argument goes like this:
  • Romney's smarter than to pass austerity measures that will immediately drop GDP by 5%. Romney quote: “That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course.”
  •  But if Obama is reelected, the GOP will force a showdown with all its jitters, and maybe this time there will be a shutdown, and government spending will plummet.
Klein fully acknowledging the hostage aspects of this argument: "In a sense, Republicans are holding a gun to the economy’s head and saying, “vote for us or the recovery gets it.'" He also says that the implied threat may sway some voters, but will raise the hackles of others. 

I believed this at first, but then I started to wonder--how many voters will view the GOP as hostage-takers and then decide to vote for them? A few, perhaps. Also those who feel like they're hostages anyway, so they might as well skip the drama of divided government. I don't think it adds up to that many votes, and maybe no net votes at all.

Then I started to question the premise. Are the Republicans really going to pull the trigger after not winning the presidency? That would be the biggest tantrum, bigger than any other imaginable tantrum short of activating a real secession movement (as opposed to the hollow bluster in 2009). I don't think the majority of GOP congress critters are that self-destructive. There might be some brinksmanship like last time, and the time before that... yawn. But before the end of the countdown, they'll have a deal.

So don't vote for a party because you think they might take hostages otherwise. And don't vote against a party because Ezra Klein says they might be hostage-takers. Think it through, take your best guess, and vote for who you think will run the government best. May the best party win, or may the best mix win.

(Sorry, no graphic. I can't think of a tasteful way of illustrating a story about hostage-taking.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Campaign: Team insignia

Bernstein wrote a post on Obama's announced support of same-sex marriage and the effect it had on black opinion. In the post, he talks about how people usually support the position they think reflects the team's position:
So it’s not exactly that Obama influenced black opinions, would be my guess. It’s that African American voters who really don’t care very much one way or another about the marriage issue — but do consider themselves on Team Democrat — are now aware that marriage equality is the normal position of that team.
So, I had to wonder--how much of campaigning and connecting with voters is about sending signals about  team affiliation?  I think it's a lot. Just think of all the GOP candidates pledging not to raise any taxes. Or the Dem base in fits of joy when Obama says that the problem is not Medicare and Medicaid and the Ryan budget plan is "unserious."

It explains why so many Republicans say that Obama is a Muslim--it sends the anti-Obama signal. It explains why our blog pages are filled with repeats of the same talking points--commenters use them to identify as Team Democrat or Team Conservative or Team Libertarian. It also explains why I gets blasted so much--if I'm not sending out the right team signals, I must be from Team Enemy.

Maybe someday there will be a team that's a good enough fit for me, and I'll join that team. Then what I say will be identifiably That Team. But when I differ with that team, I'll probably have the same problem as now. However it might be just 10% of the time, not 95% of the time. Or maybe I'd still be identifiable, the way we can identify "gay conservative" or "liberal Catholic" now.

But that is a digression. The real question is how to move past projecting the team's signals to actually discussing issues and influencing people's political decisions. I don't know HOW to do this. Any ideas?

 Team Glee--A Dem franchise from the looks of it

Extra: Is being a loyal team member the same as tribalism?

The Libertarian choice of rights

I notice that many libertarians are very proud of their fundamental belief and emphasis on rights. They deserve to be, because they take a principled stand to defend these rights even if outcomes are adverse. No profiling, no surveillance of possible terrorists without specific cause, so violations of other countries sovereignty to fight terrorists harbored within their borders--these policies would seriously hamper anti-terrorist efforts that have kept reprisals on US targets (targets meaning US lives and property) quite low.

I acknowledge their idealism, though I don't fully support it. But in one area, they have seriously made a poor choice. They put property rights above human rights, particularly the fundamental right to be treated as equal. So "All men are created equal" takes a back seat to "life, liberty, and property." This choice shows in their lack of support for the Civil Rights Act, which requires public accommodations (businesses open to the public) not to discriminate against classes of people who often suffer from discrimination. So you can no longer bar blacks from your lunch counter, Jews from your apartment building, or Catholics from your factory.

I don't understand how libertarians choose property rights ("it's my business, and I'll run it the way I want") over the civil right not to be discriminated against in a public venue ("unless I do something wrong, I should have the same rights in public spaces as anyone else").

It's quite possible that I don't know what I'm talking about here. I haven't delved into libertarian philosophy and have absolutely no plans to. But like most of my posts, this is based on honest observation and reflection of what I've seen in news and on the web. I'm not sure there are other ways to interpret it. (Example: Rand Paul comments about not supporting the Civil Rights Act.)

If I'm wrong, I'm counting on libertarian readers to set me straight, and to defend their position with reasoned arguments. That means that you should be prepared to answer my main point, which is property rights shouldn't have priority over personal liberty.


Freaky: The Most Heartless Insult

I'm too much a slave to the stats on my blog, but I have to share this one. My blog got a hit from someone doing this Google search: "the most heartless insult."

WTF? How did I end up on page 1 of that search? Here's how:
ModeratePoli: My take on Derbyshire
Apr 11, 2012 –
Derbyshire starts the piece by talking about "talk that most black parents give their teenage sons," then he produces a heartless, insulting ...
It's a sheepish look. Can't you tell?

Suspected of wrong-doing

We Americans are a suspicious bunch, in more than one way. We're suspicious of what other people do and think and get away with. And we're also suspicious that people harbor unfair thoughts about us, either because we're part of a group or just as an individual.

I'm going to focus on the feeling that you are a target of unfair suspicion, such as:
  • suspected of being criminal
  • suspected of being inferior
  • suspected of being racist
  • suspected of being elitist
  • suspected of being parasitic
  • suspected of wanting to impose cultural practices or religious beliefs upon others
  • suspected of ripping others off
  • suspected of manipulating the system to avoid struggles regular people have to grapple with
I hope we can have empathy with people who feel that they are being treated unfairly. It's a burden to have to fight people's negative expectations of you during long portions of the day, like when you're at work, taking public roads or transportation, in public places, or in commercial places. That's one reason that prejudice is so destructive--it's insidious and wears away your sense of belonging.

So imagine you are suspected, or even publicly accused, of any of the things from the list. A normal reaction could include righteous anger.
  • So Trayvon Martin was angry that Zimmerman was following him due to suspicions, either spoken or unspoken.
  • So blacks are angry at Derbyshire and those who call themselves 'racial realists' and want to discuss whether blacks are cognitively inferior.
  • So Tea partiers are angry about being called racist.
  • So the working poor are angry at conservatives who blast those who don't pay income tax. (I don't actually know any worker who is angry about this--they are too busy trying to get by.)
Enough, you get my drift. Let's not throw accusations around. Before you accuse or seriously suspect someone:
  1. Collect some solid evidence. 
  2. Collect a little more evidence. 
  3. Ask in as non-confrontational way as possible.
  4. Listen to the answer.

That's a lot of steps, but maybe that's what it takes to defuse our suspicions about each other. I haven't always done it, but I hope I'll remember in the future. Maybe this advice will help me with my own hair-trigger reactions. (Yes, I'm guilty, and I have plenty of company.)

Until then, let's assume the guy walking down the street is fine, the political speaker wants to improve the town, city, state, or country, and the guy drinking a Starbucks latte isn't passing a judgment on you.


"In this dirty minded world you are either somebody’s wife or somebody’s whore—or fast on your way to becoming one or the other. I wanted a job and I wanted to live alone. That made me a sexual suspect." -- The World According to Garp

Extra: Perhaps I'm wrong, but I anticipate this kind of question: "Should bigots be given the benefit of the doubt?" No, but people should be. Don't assume someone's a bigot. Go through the steps (evidence, more evidence, ask, listen).

There is a huge problem of cross-suspicions. I suspect you're a racist. You resent that I suspect you're a racist (not a surprising resentment). You suspect me of being a socialist or a traitor. I resent that you think I'm an unpatriotic American. See, the suspicions are insidious and growing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What does Chicago-style pol mean?

One of the frequent charges against Obama is that he's a Socialist, or a Marxist, or an anti-colonial Muslim. At least I have a pretty good picture of what those mean.

But what is the meaning of the complaint that Obama is a "Chicago-style politician," or alternatively, a Chicago thug? What is that charge supposed to convey?

My guess is that it takes a known fact about Obama (that he started his political life in Chicago) and insinuates a lot of unsavory characteristics, but without ever specifying them. Possible associations:
  • Voter fraud like vote buying and the dead voting
  • Graft and favors for ward bosses paid from the people's taxes
  • Selling jobs and licenses in exchange for campaign contributions and other favors
  • Mobster-style enforcement such as beatings and killings
  • Rioting and trying to occupy the 1968 Democratic convention
  • Alinsky-style radical politics, and Alinsky himself
  • All those 1960's radicals who ruined America with their hippie, Marxist, druggie, free-love, communal, do-gooder agenda
The picture it dredges up is pretty bad, but the reality of the charges are much less. Here are some actual (yes, actual, as in reality-based) charges of Chicago-style politics:
But why bother with details of actual slightly shady practices when insinuation can do so much heavy lifting with one word? You can smear Obama with "Chicago" and people will think this:
"If Obama gets re-elected, I seriously think Chicago Mafia, Ballot rigging, Lying, cheating, is going on!" -- blog comment
However, my favorite is from Michael Barone: "Loose campaign rules typical of Obama's Chicago style." He labels a common campaign practice--not verifying names and home addresses of donors-- and labels it as a Chicago trait when it's not particularly connected to any place or group. And then, with that Chicago opening, he trots out these well-worn charges, skipping any detail or evidence:
  • The Obama quote: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." (What a Chicago thug.)
  • "... endlessly plunder the local private sector without penalty."
  • "And don’t appeal in court unless you hire the lawyer with the right connections."
  • [A Chicago mayor] gets all the credit for all good things that happen on his watch, as Obama is attempting to do on the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The Chicago connection is such a payoff... unless you have personal honor and therefore want to deal in facts. At least I'm now ready to rip anyone who plays the Chicago insinuation card. 
Chicago mob boss - probably Obama's barber

Extra: More real, not imagined, Illinois corruption, but not connected to Obama, as far as I know.

Update 10/5/12. Former GE CEO Jack Welch tweets a high-profile use of the Chicago allusion and gets a lot of pushback, but mostly for saying data was fixed. I guess the short-hand use of "Chicago" is so common among the GOP and conservatives that no one besides me notices.

Short: Gays/Mormons

Not just on Broadway anymore. Here's coverage of the Gay Pride parade in Salt Lake City. Here's what the local paper says. Evidently hating on people took a vacation. Hooray!


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Usurpers: Bill Clinton

I published a thesis that many conservatives just can't stand for a Democrat (or any Democrat to the left of George Wallace) to be elected to the presidency. This is a problem because the constitution isn't set up to bar Democrats, in fact far from it.

From my memory and observation of political history, this irrational hatred of Dem presidents started with Clinton. But why him? There isn't going to be a scientific answer, so you can agree or disagree with my speculation, and that's fine because there won't ever be proof either way.

 Coming up: Speculation
Here's what I think: Clinton was treated this way because he was seen as a traitor or a turncoat. He was born into lower-class Southern society. So far, it's good, but then he went to Yale (worrisome), and married a northern liberal (huge red flag). I don't think the draft-dodging and marijuana non-inhaling really mattered because both were  common among the campus conservatives too. So Hillary was the first problem.

Then was the reform of the military policy to hunt and discharge homosexuals (Don't Ask, Don't Tell). Clinton showed he was going to be gay-friendly. He was already seen as black-friendly. The health care reform commission showed more willingness to pursue a liberal agenda.

This was deeply dangerous to the GOP, because if he was successful in reforming our awful healthcare system, he could earn for the Democrats the loyalty of a lot of Americans for another generation, just as FDR had done with the New Deal and just as the Great Society had. The Republicans were overwhelmingly successful with their messaging, and Clinton was stopped flat. However, the GOP didn't let up after this victory, They kept on for the rest of his two terms as President and continued smearing Hillary (as a senator) after that.

Why did the attacks continue unabated? It wasn't because he was trying to enact a liberal agenda because there wasn't a let-up during or after welfare reform. It didn't let up when Bill was at the end of his second term. So why?

Speculation and Pop Psychoanalysis
The only reason I can think of is that certain groups think they should have electoral hegemony, they were frustrated in this desire, and their revenge was endless attacks.

Which groups might have developed this sense of ownership? Groups that have had many decades of unbroken power.Two groups fit this description: southern conservative whites and northern liberals, and perhaps add in western and mid-western conservatives.

So now we are basically caught in the crossfire between two entitled political groups: southern/western conservatives and northern liberals. They are both conditioned to getting what they want, they throw the hugest tantrums, pull non-stop dirty tricks, and may blow up the political system if they don't get what they want. The Dems have been tamed a little, by none other than the Clintons, but no one has tamed those entitled conservatives.

I hope for a repudiation to both groups, but that didn't happen in '06 or '08, or '10. It doesn't look likely to happen in '12. I hope this country isn't stuck in an either/or rut, where the choice is crappy conservatives or crappy liberals. I don't know when I'll give up hope for some sanity and moderation. Not yet, but it's getting closer. God help us all.


Extras: Conservatives explain (or rationalize) why they hated Clinton. An idiosyncratic scorecard of presidents.

Puzzled by this campaign

The title says it. I don't understand how the issues in this campaign are unfolding. Not surprisingly, the GOP are on the attack, and Dems are playing defense. Not surprisingly, the main target is Obama.

As I've said before, I don't think Obama deserves as much blame as is heaped on him. The House Democrats were worse, particularly Nancy Pelosi. However, they don't make such good targets because they were already shredded by their 2010 losses. Still, Nancy Pelosi holds onto her leadership position, in a demonstration of her lack of accountability to the electorate. Or maybe it's the duty of the House Dems to throw her out, so it's the House Dems who aren't being accountable to the country.

The GOP is better doing attacks than simply presenting their case because their positions are questionable and tenuous. They don't have a strong story on the budget and the deficit. They have more tax cut pixie dust on the economy, because it WORKED SO WELL LAST TIME.

So their strategy has to be to attack, and hope that their attacks hit the target with Americans, and that something sticks to Obama.

I guess I understood this campaign after all. The reason it doesn't feel cogent is because it's not cogent.


We made the wrong choice

This is probably true much more often than we admit. I won't go into all the personal mistaken choices because their consequences are limited. But in politics, it's definitely worth talking about.

A slogan for this election is that IT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF THIS GENERATION. (Note, there's now a lot of pushback against that idea, thank God.) When a lot of people were screaming that during the GOP primary, I considered the question seriously, and decided that the most important election of this generation was in 2000 (Bush vs. Gore). Unfortunately, we got the wrong one. I'll argue that with anyone, and the sane ones will be agreeing in about ... 2 minutes, or a lot less. As I don't want to waste my efforts on the insane ones, I don't have the argument very often.

So, we made the wrong choice in 2000. Actually, the popular vote favored Gore, but not enough to swing the electoral college in basically a 48%-to-48% tie.

Another wrong choice preceded that. The GOP establishment chose the wrong Bush brother. Jeb Bush was generally acknowledged to be the smarter and more serious one. But George Bush managed to block him out and sign up a lot of early supporters. Or perhaps I should give in to my speculation and say Karl Rove did these things.

(Side note: After Karen Hughes' statement that George Bush was intelligent, I withheld judgment for at least two years. Never in that time did I see signs of above-average intelligence from Geroge Bush. So when I say that he's not intelligent, or that he's an idiot, it's based on observation, not on bias. I'd trust him to deliver mail or teach high school or build web pages, but he wasn't smart enough to be POTUS.)

Why did we end up with the dumber Bush brother? Well, if you were a conservative businessman and you wanted someone malleable rather than independent, wouldn't you choose George over Jeb? Now, I live about as far from Texas as an American can, so I have no idea who are the powers behind the Texas GOP, but there's a track record there of not-so-bright governors, as Rick Perry reminded us. Someone, maybe more than one, maybe a group decision, chose George Bush as Republican nominee in 2000. Whoever you are, THANKS A LOT FOR SUCH A SHITTY CHOICE.


Extra: The occasion for this post is Jeb Bush's announcement that he'd accept 10-1 spending cuts to tax increases. What a RINO.

Elizabeth Warren's stupid lies

I'm happy to shed light on local issues that may have national interest, like Romneycare, but I wish our Senate race wasn't one of them. Besides, being local doesn't make this issue look much different, except compared to a locality, say Texas, where an old-line liberal like Elizabeth Warren would never have a chance at a Senate seat.

The story swirling around her, that she parlayed a family story that she's 1/32 Cherokee into a professorship at Harvard Law, reeks of liberal privilege and hypocrisy to those that have a sensitive nose for that kind of stuff. I'm a little more understanding because my family has its stories too--that the unusual shape of my eyes (and my son's eyes) came from a Cossack raping a woman ancestor, probably in Ukraine. Lovely story, isn't it? So I'm attuned to family lore as lore, not as a lie used for advancement.

Story or Non-Story?
However, to others it stinks of the special favors that the liberal diversity police hand out to minorities and those white liberals who'll talk the diversity jive and even lie to claim some of the spoils for themselves. So if you're a libertarian or conservative partisan, you may love this story.

Me, I hate this story. It's a reminder of a dirty little secret in academia (which is my background), that it's hard to tell which professors are great because there's too much hype about too many of them; most of it undeserved; and all of it deeply envied by professors not benefiting from false hype. I grew up in this hot house world, and happily escaped it for industry at the first possible moment. So this has been a regrettable reminder of that world. (To be fair, it's often hard to tell which executives are good, and which only middling, which employee should get the promotion, which candidate should get the nomination, etc. So this problem isn't just a problem in academia.)

Those Little Lies
This story is also a reminder of how stupid little lies can cost you. Warren should have said that Harvard was (or might be) calling her a Native American right after she talked nationally about having a little Cherokee blood. Instead, she let the doubts surface and grow, whatever those doubts are.

So what are those doubts? That Elizabeth Warren isn't qualified for her position? She has quite a resume, especially work on consumer credit and bankruptcy law. So she herself has provided the easiest ammunition to use against her, distracting from her qualifications.

It reminds me how Bill Clinton gave the Republicans their best ammunition when he got that blow job from Monica Lewinsky. No blow job, no year long distraction, no impeachment. Ms. Warren, please come clean faster, don't fight it, and don't hand anymore noisy stories to the GOP. Hopefully you and Scott Brown can get back to the issues, please!

What's really behind this plain face?