Tuesday, December 31, 2013

LOL: A new Christmas tradition

Look closely--that's Bin Laden's compound rendered in gingerbread. I think it needs more candy decoration, don't you?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year in review 2013

Again this year, I'll review my favorite images, not my favorite posts. This year was tougher for selecting images, or maybe my imagination failed. Nonetheless, here are some favorites:

What my blog is all about, but attached to this one post.

Before we found the weak spot.

Noticing Tea Party fervor in May

A cartoon on a very serious situation

What we really think of our reps

What happens with the Tea Party in the driver's seat

Nightmare or sunny future depends on your perspective

Best month: October

Last outpost of crazy: Religious statue wars

Fact-checking is second-nature in me. So when I saw this comment, I had to check it out (emphasis added):
"Godless secular leftism is the end result--complete apostasy and the existence of a society that rips down symbols of the One God and literally puts up monuments to Satan." -- National Review comment
My good friend Google helped me discover that this is a real story, as unbelievable as that sounds. The quote is not quite accurate in all its parts. A tiny segment of society is trying to put up a literal monument to Satan, namely a statue of Satan. The same tiny sect isn't ripping down the symbol of the One God, but rather trying to share public space with a display of the Ten Commandments.

Here's the story: The Oklahoma state government allowed the display of the Ten Commandments on state property by the State House. The monument was paid for by private funds, so it wasn't literally funded with public tax monies. Some other groups have sought to erect statues to other religious figures in the same place under a fairness doctrine. These groups include a satanic cult (now raising funds) and a Hindu group that wants to erect a statue to the monkey god Lord Hanuman.  The ACLU wants the Ten Commandments monument removed, and no religious monuments at the public site.

Now, who seems to be the voice of reason? And who didn't pay attention to foreseeable consequences? Sigh.

Coming soon to Oklahoma
Image: theblackcatcloset.com

Update 1/7/14. See the statue proposal submitted by the Satanists. Children will love it, to the horror of non-Satanist parents.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bad behavior in the sand box

I've been reading National Review quite a bit more than usual since the government shutdown. They have constantly appealed for donations to their free-speech fund, or some such, that they're using to pay for their defense against charges of libel.

I finally clicked through to find out what this is about:
"Mann is upset — very, very upset — with this Mark Steyn Corner post, which had the temerity to call Mann’s hockey stick 'fraudulent...'
So why threaten to sue us? I rather suspect it is because the Steyn post was savagely witty and stung poor Michael."
One more click, and I'm finally reading the offending column:
"Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science...
Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann. And, as with Sandusky and Paterno, the college declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing."
That first sentence was a quote from elsewhere, but it was quoted approvingly. The second was penned by Mark Steyn. Somehow I don't think the word 'fraudulent' is the actual point of contention.

I've heard of Mark Steyn before but never read much. What I've seen recently shows that he loves to make comparisons to the most vile analogues he can find. Here he compares the gay pressure group involved in the Duck Dynasty fiasco to those who have driven Christians out the Middle East. And also to the Soviet commissar in charge of politicizing chess (what??), who was eventually executed.

After reading this column and being frustrated that National Review wasn't forthcoming about why they're in this trouble, I'm unable to feel upset that the National Review is being sued. Part of me is downright happy that such uncivil writing has repercussions.

Image titled "Mark Steyn and soul" -- Hits the mark
Image: sadlyno.com

Update 1/18/14. This comment prodded to find out what was happening now with Mark Steyn (gag) and the legal suit. It seems that Mark Steyn's work hasn't appeared in National Review for several weeks and his lawyers have dropped him. This writer blames one or both of these developments on a relatively mild post (for Steyn). Steyn slams the previous judge in the case but at least doesn't compare her to a group that committed a large number of murders. So sad that his fans are missing their regular doses of vitriol.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Outrage du jour

So a leading major high-profile semi-recognizable star person from a reality show got rather anatomical when he was explaining why he didn't understand homosexuality or perhaps he was being a homophobe. I don't know why anyone cares because reality TV participants aren't filmed for their mild observations or platitudes, but for their crazy antics.

Then a gay pressure group pressured the cable network (A&E, but it could have been any of them), and the network caved immediately and "suspended" the "star." Publicity ensues. Charges of abrogation of the First Amendment ensue. The news media is delighted because it finds next injection of controversy, especially needed right now because the congress critters (Damn them!) patched together an agreement and went home for Christmas.

I've never given a damn about what a reality star said. Not anyone on Jersey Shore, not one Survivor, not any of the numerous glitzy, boozy, over-made-up Housewives. These people are the lowest, and I don't know what they are doing on my TV (a topic that might deserve a discussion), but what they say is of NO CONSEQUENCE AT ALL.

So ignore it. Don't get involved in a controversy about what an empty-headed media whore says. That also goes for: Ted Nugent, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh, etc. And Sarah Palin too. She has to decide whether she's a reality star (which is how she behaves) or a politician. If she's a reality star, she doesn't have to been careful. Instead, she can trash talk all she wants. If she's trying to be an influential political leader, her words should matter, and they shouldn't fall to the low level of the reality TV personality, like these:
"Just finished a long week-thinking in a few weeks we could be living in a very different America-pls Excersise your right and Vote.Pls"
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care." 
"Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."
"Don't Retreat. Reload."

 Image: humorismy.biz

Extras. Other stupid Palin quotes. More here and here and here. Some people laud stupid. More on the Duck Dynasty person here and here, if you want to research it more. Personally, I regret the time I've wasted on this story, but I did decide one thing: Call them stupid and move on. No boycotts required.

Finally, to be honest, one of the Palin "quotes" above came from a real (dumb) celebrity. Read the other celeb quotes and then you'll realize why we can't hold celebs to the same standards as our politicians, reporters, or pundits.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why we should build the Keystone pipeline

...because these are the right kind of jobs. These jobs are involved in producing something of value in the world, and that value isn't likely to evaporate in a slowdown. Some industries, like retail, the arts, and casinos, don't have vitality because people cut back strongly in these areas during in a recession. Of course people cut back on energy usage in recessions too, but not nearly to the same degree.

So, if we build the pipeline, we'll have the construction jobs and then the maintenance and control jobs. We should also be collecting transit fees. If the Canadians want to run this pipeline through our country, they can  pay us some sort of royalty, but not so much that it becomes uneconomical for them to use the pipeline. If the oil ends up being processed in the US, there are more jobs in that too. But there's also a strong chance that the oil will be exported, so we shouldn't count on refining jobs. The long-term benefits to this country may be limited to maintenance jobs and transit fees, so that's what we need to lock in.

There may be some strong reasons not to build the pipeline too. If the pipeline leaks and causes expensive environmental damage, there go all the profits! If there aren't profits, why the hell would we want it? But probably the pipeline can be built and operated safely. I don't know for sure because it's outside what I can readily research.

Other considerations, like how dirty the oil is, how much carbon pollution it causes, how the extraction may cause environmental damage to Canada--these considerations are less important than our national need for productive jobs. I wish it wasn't so, but I feel it is. We have lost so many of our productive jobs, and this project would replace some of them. These would be new US jobs and new foreign exchange flowing into the US, not just eating the lunch of some other part of the country, so we need this.

We should do this project and other projects that bring production back to the US. That's the only way to rebuild a strong economy. An economy based on service jobs and finance--not so good, as the past decade has shown us.

Image: bakkendispatch.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

Short: Pop the cork in Utah

A federal judge ruled that marriage must be available to same-sex partners in Utah, prompting couples to flood county clerk's offices. I guess same-day marriage is permitted in Utah too. (When I got married in New York, you had to get the license a few days in advance.)

The federal judge didn't stay the decision even though it's predictable that it will be appealed. That allowed the couples to GO FOR IT in what may be a 1-day window to get legally married. If California is a precedent, these happy couples will remain married even if the ruling is overturned. Here are some of the joyous couples in line for licenses:

Image: KSL.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hard decisions for the GOP, again!

So both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are making noises about putting up a fight on the debt ceiling increase. One problem--they haven't decided what to demand yet. This is so much the same as earlier this year when the GOP met several times trying to figure out their strategy, and basically ended up with a strategy vacuum that was filled by Ted Cruz's "Defund Obamacare" fiasco.

Probably the GOP will plump for the a different fiasco this time. Just maybe they'll figure that a half-baked idea is worse than nothing at all, and will instead think through their position. Do they want to push for some more spending restraint? Entitlement reform?

They better decide damn quick because it's only 2 months until the debt ceiling is reached, and they can't be unveiling their position one day or one week before the deadline. The GOP looked incredibly stupid with their changing slate of ridiculous demands just before the government shutdown, so the GOP should know not to do that again.

But the problem has always been that having demands isn't enough. You must have specific, sensible demands. If the GOP wants spending cuts, what the hell are they? Is the pain balanced, or targeted only at their political enemies? It's going to be easy for Obama and the Dems to say "no negotiations" to a half-baked list of demands, but much harder if it's a well-considered plan. This should be obvious by now, but the GOP opinion leaders (the noise makers with their legions of dittoheads) are too cloaked in the conservative thought bubble to have noticed it.

I hope that the GOP decides on a small slate of targeted spending cuts. It's doable and they can run a PR campaign on it. There are rumors that they'll try to get some entitlement reform, but they aren't close to ready for that, with the exception of chained CPI. Entitlement reform will take a lot of heavy thinking from a bipartisan commission like Simpson-Bowles or the 80's Greenspan Commission. There's no way the GOP can get any meaningful entitlement reform in the next two months, so why the hell are they pretending otherwise? Again, it makes them look like ridiculous amateurs.

Meanwhile the Dems are just sitting back, letting the GOP shoot themselves in the foot. They're taking advantage to a small degree, but not enough to look greedy and untrustworthy. Somewhere along the line, the Dem leaders learned not to overplay their rather weak hand--not because they became responsible adults, but because they got their asses handed to them in the 2010 election. They learned how quickly the country will turn on them. The leaders learned, that is, not the noisy social justice element. Those guys still think the congressional Dems can play hardball to increase social spending and taxes. Some people never learn. Isn't that the truth.

Rushing to the next tactical mistake
Image: politico.com

Monday, December 16, 2013

Short: Massive voter fraud in Iowa

Of course not!

There are places with organized voter fraud, mostly through the bundling of absentee ballots, but not in Iowa. But too many conservatives are invested in theories of voter fraud to explain election results they disagree with. So it must be investigated, even in upstanding Iowa. Read about the horrifying cases, including [gasp] the mother who forged her daughter's signature... and then turned herself in.

Image: madison.com

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Civil War fallout 150 years later

The Senate may turn Republican in 2014 because of the Civil War. That's incredible, but likely true. A war 150 years ago is still playing out in US politics.

Not exactly. At first I thought some deep south states might still switch from D to R, but then I checked my hypothesis and found that the Deep South's switch from traditional Democratic representation to Republican was complete in 2004 when Zell Miller (D) retired and was replaced by a Republican in the Georgia senatorial election.

So why are the Republicans expected to take over the Senate in 2014, and why had it been expected in 2012? What are the developments that lead to that general expectation?

First, I'll dispel the notion that more states vote Republican than Democrat as a matter of course: Obama won 26 states in 2012.

So What Are The Trends?

To research this question, I used Wikipedia's list of senators, such as this entry for Maine. I looked at the patterns of the elections of senators. (Senators, being state-wide representatives, are better bellwethers.) I was surprised by the number of states that had mixed Dem/GOP electoral results for much of their history.
  • Myth - the inland west was mostly Republican. They were all mixed until Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona turned decidedly Republican.
  • Myth - The northeast has been mostly Democratic for a long time. Northern New England was very Republican until recently. The northeast has turned mostly Dem only since the 1980s, while Northern New England remains mixed.
  • Myth - The old Confederacy was solid Dem, and then became solid Republican. This isn't true of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
  • Myth - the rural plains and mountain states are strongly GOP. Surprisingly, North and South Dakota and Montana have a very mixed record, electing many senators from both parties.
  • Myth - the west coast has been liberal for a long time. These states were also mixed until the 1990s when they started turning decidedly Dem.
My research revealed that the GOP has a lot of reason for optimism when it comes to the Senate. Seven states that currently have Democratic senators are likely to turn more solidly Republican. The states are: North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, and Alaska.

The Dems don't have many states on which they can pin similar hope, at least for the 2014 election. Maine and New Hampshire have the potential to become more liberal/Dem. Until the demographics change in states like Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, Dems have to hope for lucky pickups or wins due to strong local candidates.

So the GOP will go into the 2014 senate elections favored to pick up seats.

Yes, Civil War Fallout

The biggest surprise is that this sunny outlook for the Republican is indeed Civil War fallout. Arkansas and Louisiana are both southern states that are coming late to the conversion from solid Democrat to solid Republican. But that is only part of the good news for the GOP. They are also benefiting from the shift of western conservatives to solid Republican status.

1959: A very different map. New York is red, Texas is blue.
Image: wikipedia.org

Other Notes/Observations.

The most solid Republican state is Kansas. No state has been solidly Democratic throughout its history.

Solid Democratic states: 12.
Solid Republican states: 15.
Mixed: 23.

Northern New England was quite Republican until the 1950's, but the rest of New England has been much more mixed. Southern New England, mixed, then mostly Dem starting 2000

New York - mixed until late 1990's, then D.
New Jersey, no elected R since late 1970s.
Delaware - D until 1900, then mixed until 2000, then D.
Maryland - D until 1900, then mixed until 1980s, then D.
Penn - R mostly except during D waves.
WV - mixed.
Virginia - solid D post reconstruction until mixed starting 1960s.
NC - Mostly D post reconstruction until mixed starting 1970s.
SC - solid D post recontruction until all R after 2000.
Georgia - solid D post recon, mixed 1980's to 2000s, then all R.
Ala - solid D post recon until 1980's, solid R after 1990s.
Miss - solid D until 1980s, then solid R.

Kentucky - solid D post recon, mixed 1890s- 1990, then R.
Tennessee - almost solid D post recon, mixed 1970s, then R 1990s.

Florida - solid D post recon, then mixed starting 1960s.

Ohio- mixed.
Indiana - mixed.
Illinois - mostly R until 1930s, then mixed.
Michigan - solid R until 1930s, then mixed.
Wisc - mostly R until 1960s, then mixed.
Minn - mostly R until 1950s, then mixed/lean Dem.
Iowa - solid R until 1920s, then mixed.
Missouri - mixed, lots of reelections lost.
Arkansas - solid D until 1990's, then mixed.
Louisiana - solid D until 2000s, then mixed.

Texas - solid D until 1960s, solid R since 1990s.
Oklahoma - mixed until 1990s, then solid R.
Kansas - almost solid R throughout.
Nebraska - mostly R thoughout.
SD - solid R until 1910's, then mixed. Lots of lost reelections.
ND - mixed throughout.

Montana - mixed/lean D.
Idaho - mixed until 1960s, then R.
Wyoming - mixed until 1970s, then R.
Colorado - mixed since 1900s.
New Mexico - mixed.
Arizona - mixed until 1990s, then R.
Nevada - mixed throughout.
Utah - mixed until 1970s, then R.

California - mixed until 1990's, then D.
Oregon - mixed until now, now D?
Washington - mixed until 2000, then D.

Alaska - mostly R since 1980s.
Hawaii - solid D since 1970s.

Edit 3/23/14. Fixed mistakes. North Dakota isn't having a Senate election in 2014. Added W. Virginia and N. Carolina as likely to become more Republican. Also, 538 is currently predicting that the GOP takes control of the Senate. The GOP will probably try very hard to be more careful this year in their Senate nominations because of the mistakes in 2012. That will also increase their odds of taking the Senate.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Big/small deal: Political analysis

In my last post I discussed some of the fiscal aspects of the deal--the simple math, walking back part of the sequester, some fees--mostly small stuff.

The bigger impact of the deal is that it's a two-year budget. There won't be a government shutdown for two years. This is an even longer period than that covered by the August 2011 deal, which laid out the budget until after the next big election. Why is this for a longer period, instead of until after the next election? A good question to ponder.

The deal doesn't include debt ceiling increases. Why? To allow the Tea Party congressional members to do a bit of grandstanding and vote against the debt ceiling several times. The debt ceiling increases will pass with enough votes from Republicans and amid charges of RINOism and treason. Yawn.

The Tea Partyers and their organizations are trying to raise a ruckus over this deal, but John Boehner told them to shut up. Besides, it's a done deal because THE HOUSE ALREADY PASSED IT!!!!! Wow, that was fast, and was planned to be that way. The House gets to adjourn and soon the Senate will rubberstamp the deal too. And everyone goes home for Christmas unlike last year. If you're taking a Christmas trip to a national park or monument, they'll be open and staffed. [House vote: GOP 169-62, Dem 162 -32.]

The Tea Party is a clear loser in this. The only leverage they'll have is the very dangerous debt-default-no-debt-ceiling-increase gambit. Their numbers aren't high enough to carry out that dynamite trick, but they can still make noise about it. This article points out that Paul Ryan gains stature as an adult politician when you need one. No one is writing the same about Patty Murray (I just checked). She's still a hack in my book, but she can be a good little sock puppet for Harry Reid when he needs her.

So, what will the two parties do in the next two years? They could start the really tough negotiations on Medicare, Medicaid, and, to a lesser extent, Social Security. They could lob mudballs at each other for the next 11 months until the 2014 midterm elections. The GOP could continue its Cold Civil War, and it could completely explode. Since it doesn't take that many people to negotiate, we could have all this possibilities playing out at the same time. Any negotiations that occur will be only exploratory because each side will want to wait for the outcome of the midterm elections in hope for an improvement in their position. (I should clarify who might negotiate: the establishment GOP, the establishment Dems, certainly not the Tea Party GOP.)

This is a better outcome than I was expecting. They compromised without kicking and screaming, and actually changed the terms from the previous testy agreement. That shows a modicum of flexibility where I hadn't expected any. Wow. Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

Image: itmakessenseblog.com

Big news about a small deal

Hooray! The budget deal was done with a few days to spare.

This isn't really a surprise. The hard work came in convincing the GOP to start negotiating and stop trying to defund Obamacare. So the real accomplishment was achieved get in October and consisted of getting the GOP to stop being crazy and act like adults. Since that deal, the adults have been in charge, and the adults were able to make a deal by splitting the difference. Of course, any fifth grader can probably average $967 and $1058 and get an answer close to $1012; it takes adults to do the math when it's billions.

The harder work was walking back some of the sequester spending cuts and putting other cuts or revenues in their place. The new revenues (called fees) are getting the press notice. The most notable one is the increase in the federal fee for airport security that's added onto the cost of airline tickets. This fee is increasing a non-painful $2.50 per ticket. It means that less general revenue (such as income taxes) will be needed to subsidize airport security, freeing the money for other spending, of course. This fee hike seems fair to me--it's not huge, it's not soaking one group, it's making the service pay for itself more. That's all good.

But what about those other cuts, which were supposed to be more targeted? I looked it up and it's the same cutting "waste and abuse." I hope they have actually done their homework and identified waste they can cut and therefore save actual money, not vapor money. But it's not really belt-tightening...

...except for federal employees, some of whom will now have to contribute more to their pension funds. This sounds fair too. It broadens the pain among the federal workers, who've suffered somewhat less than private sector workers.

The money that's been freed up is being split equally between defense and non-defense spending, so both sides are getting a small extra helping from the pot. That means there's not much budget discipline in this deal. It's sliding back from what the sequester tried to achieve--actual reduction in spending. I don't know how much of the sequester will actually go into effect. One article said 50% of what was planned for 2014 and 2015. So much for our collective attempts to rein in federal spending. We didn't even maintain half of round 1 of the cuts. We are sad wimps indeed.

I'd really like to see spending reduced in a gradual way, with the least effective spending targeted first. But Dems are set on protecting all their favored projects and so are the GOP. No one wants to give up anything on their side for the greater good. Sigh.

Image: opb.org

Extras. Analysis from the Heritage Foundation. The analysis of the airline fee increases is obviously muddled, which I discovered by following the link they helpfully provided. Some numbers from WaPo, an overview from the Atlantic Wire.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Short: View from inside Reid's office

Insider reporting is a mixed bag. It's great to find out what's in the minds of the decision makers or deal makers, but such news stories are often stuffed with the glorification of minutiae. This article, evidently sourced from inside Harry Reid's office, is better than most. It shows the successful partnership and political strategy used by Obama and Reid in this fall's budget negotiation. Yes, the same negotiation where the GOP was switching game plans twice a day.

Here's a summary through my jaded viewpoint: Reid is angry at Obama for giving too much in other negotiations. They agree to a united front and they pull it off. 

What is missing is a concern about the next election, and how this deal would help the position of the Dems with respect to the electorate. Instead, the focus is what the Dem elected officials hope to get or avoid giving up in the negotiations--not a bigger picture. How they decide which positions they should stake out and why those are good positions for them, or more importantly good for the country, that's the inside story I'd love to read.

Image: cnn.com

Mixed feelings about Reagan

I realized earlier this year that I can't imagine what this country would be like without Ronald Reagan having been president. Not having him would have been similar in impact to the civil rights movement failing. I also realized that I would have voted for him at the time if I had known how his leadership would have played out.

I didn't vote for him, but not just because I was still habitually in the liberal camp. Many of his positions were pure bullshit (bring back school prayer) and some seemed dangerous, like the bravado against the Soviet Union. I already knew not to believe everything a politician promised, so I didn't worry much about the loss of abortion rights.

The impetus for my thoughts and this post was hearing a Commonwealth of California broadcast with James Baker. [Sorry, but I couldn't find a link.] He spoke about several environmental issues, including Reagan's strong support for a robust treaty on the industrial chemicals linked to the ozone hole. That is such a contrast to today's GOP.

After listening to James Baker, I was in a particularly pro-Reagan mood, and I started to wonder: did I have any solid reasons to worry that Reagan was against environmental protections? Then I remembered that Reagan had appointed an egregious twerp as Secretary of the Interior. This guy was so bad I can still remember his name--James Watt. That memory killed the pro-Reagan buzz and put me back into crisp reality.

So here are my lists of what I liked and disliked about Reagan in retrospect:
  • Stopped the spiral of social spending
  • Tackled some tough problems like SS and Soviet Union
  • Flexibility--policy changes in  response to changes in situation
  • Good response to ozone hole--backed a strong treaty
  • Lowered ridiculously high tax rates
  • Genial with other people, willing to negotiate in good faith and for the greater good

  • Rhetoric, probably empty, about rolling back good reforms on school prayer and abortion
  • Rhetoric vilifying and dehumanizing various conservative targets like women on welfare and the Soviets
  • James Watt, the worst Secretary of Interior, who had  no sense of preservation or conservation
  • Robert Bork, a reactionary, evil legal genius who might have sent the Supreme Court on a course of incredibly harsh but solid rulings
  • Frequently pandering to the conservative base instead of using good judgment
Luckily we were spared the worst damage that Reagan might have wrought, but there were definitely some big risks. Because we got mostly the pluses and less of the minuses, Reagan was quite a good president. I sorely wish his like was running for office these days.
Image: dailykos.com

Extras. Reagan's Top 10 from a brainless conservative viewpoint, that is, the typical kind of bluster. A compendium of short intelligent essays. I'll be working my way through them. A fascinating detailed list that's remarkably even-handed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

One thing I learned: Cultural differences, cancer, and ACA

I'm a strong supporter of ACA. However, I didn't realize until this fall how much my middle-class background contributes to that viewpoint.

Here's the background. Middle-class people are used to living comfortably, with enough money so that running out of money isn't a problem that they've faced. Sure, some get into money trouble by excessive spending or risky investments, but most middle-class people avoid that because they strongly fear poverty--the hand-to-mouth existence is the opposite of middle-class security.

So imagine how a cancer diagnosis affects a middle-class person. He isn't used to the uncertainty, and the treatment of cancer is almost always physically unpleasant. However, it's manageable if there's a good chance that you can return to your old life.

Wrenching choices

Now imagine that cancer diagnosis if you knew you couldn't return to your old life. This is how it feels when a middle-class person faces an extremely expensive, uncovered medical expense. You are almost guaranteed to plunge yourself and your family into a poverty they have never experienced before.

It's little wonder to me that some/many middle-class people in this position might choose to ignore the signs of illness. On one hand, it looks like they (that is, me) value money over life. However, a different way of interpreting the choice is that they choose to maintain their family's comfort and way of life over their own lives. They sacrifice their own lives to maintain the family--something which is easier to understand than why they won't pay what it takes to treat the illness.

This is how I think, and perhaps I'm generalizing too much. But I'm not the only one who feels this way. This also explains the behavior of the woman made famous in the anti-Romney ad. She chose to ignore her symptoms because she didn't have medical insurance, and died because of it. She avoided saddling her family with debt--maybe they even got a life insurance payout. That could well have been preferable to her. I certainly would be to me.

This is why good medical coverage is so important to the comfortable middle class ethos. It's probably one of the first questions families ask when someone gets a job. With more of the middle-class out of work, 2008 was a great time to push for universal coverage, and it finally passed, though more because of the 60 Democrats in the Senate.

Answers from the class divide

If you don't believe there's a class divide in how people view health coverage, read this post giving advice to the uninsured. Look at the range of answers, from which social workers are the best; to how to cash in your insurance to pay for your care; to shopping around for care in other countries. The advice strikes me as coming from solidly middle-class people... until this answer from a commenter named so_so (sorry, no link):
"In August I was diagnosed with a Nice big fat cancerous tumor in My Bladder,,, It Required surgery because I had to have a Catheter .. Could not Pee!!!! [...] I was with a Catheter for almost 1 month and family took up a collection for me to give the Doctor 500.00 Otherwise I was just out of luck.... Needless to say I have not been to the Doctor again... Can not afford it... I do not have money....And do not want Charity... It does not make me feel good at all....( Still not over the Family and X family I had sending 500.00 here... Yes grateful, But taking help from People You know hate you is not a good feeling... ) And that will never let you live it down,,,EVER!!! despite the 500.oo they sent I now owe the Hospital close to 10 thousand.... And it was a day surgery,,,, I talked them into letting me go home....I knew i could not afford the stay.... Glad I did not stay,,,, It will take me a good long while to pay that off..... The Doctor told me 50/50 chance it will come back...."
I don't believe this woman will pay her $10K hospital bill, but it didn't keep her from getting or taking the medical care. I was astonished by this post because it is so different from my attitude. I wouldn't take on medical debt I couldn't pay as this woman did. Though she doesn't admit it, she is a charity case pretending that she isn't one. That option probably isn't open to me, nor should it be necessarily.

Why should my child's college fund, my retirement savings, my additional savings, and the equity in my house be exempt from the bills I run up? Sure, I'd like them to be, but that's not how our personal finance laws work. So I assume charity care is reserved for those who don't have the funds I have.

Self-reliance vs. Outside security

Here's another example of the difference in attitude to how the uninsured should deal with medical expenses:
"I have a good friend...  He is a manual laborer of sorts and has never had health insurance all the time that I have known him.  I am aware of one time that he experienced kidney stones and was in real agony.  He went to the Emergency Room and was treated.  The bill was $4,000.
He depleted his entire savings account and paid the bill in full.  The only thing he owned, which would have been attached had he not paid the bill, was his 12 year old pickup truck which he had to use to work.  I would also add that he has suffered with a bad back for 10 years but still has been able to work, most of the time, in pain.  But work, yes he has continued to do so."
The teller of this story, a conservative I follow named Anson Burlingame, sees this as a story of self-reliance. I see it somewhat differently. Yes, this man was self-reliant. He's been careful and hasn't squandered his money, and toughed it out what he could. But he's also used his entire financial cushion in one day, and he doesn't have any money for the next emergency. What will he do next time? That might also be another reason why he's a hero to conservatives. This man is willing to do what a middle-classer fears so much--pay all the money he has to settle his debt, and go on with his life. Why can't a middle-class family do the same?

There is a cultural difference, not just political differences, in attitudes to ACA. Many approve of charity for the truly poor, but everyone else should be self-reliant. The safety net shouldn't be provided by government, but by the family and community. The Mommy-State takes away this self-reliance and eliminates the need to stay on good terms with your family and community. You can be selfish, lazy, rebellious, or irresponsible, and Mommy will still take care of you. There is some truth to this, but it doesn't capture the whole truth.

Through the filter

The whole truth is that we each have a filter through which we see universal insurance. Some of us see it as a necessity for the financial security we value highly. Others see health insurance as a bonus, but it's wrong for it to creep into the category of a necessity or a birthright. We used to be made of tougher stuff, and not rely on government guarantees for our lives and healthcare choices.

As much as I respect self-reliance, I'm solidly middle-class by birth and education, and I don't want to be uninsured. That happens to be the same sentiment expressed by this Tea Party thirty-something: "This is my only option for employer care and I don't want to be uninsured." We bourgeoisie, we really can't imagine life without our security blankets.

As I said before, possibly I'm overplaying how an uninsured middle-class person would respond to a cancer diagnosis, or I'm generalizing too much from my own personal reaction. I'm not certain, but I see the evidence that others respond the same way.

What we're scared of: expensive and no guarantees

Extra. Uninsured cancer patients are twice as likely to die.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last outpost of crazy: Conversative haters of Mandela

Goddamn communist, pinko, terrorist murderer Nelson Mandela. Also destroyer of South Africa.

That's Nelson Mandela according to some comments in response to a National Review column where the author admits to being so wrong in his conservative's fear of Mandela.

I suppose that it doesn't matter if you manage to avoid a bloodbath when you negotiate the end of oppressive, violent minority rule. It doesn't matter if you try to heal your country through truth and reconciliation, and you largely succeed at that awesome and unbelievable task. To some people with tiny brains and tiny hearts, you're just scum. And a baby murderer.

For myself, I believe that angels sometimes walk among us, not as supernatural beings, but when people are inspired to do more good than you thought was possible. Farewell, Madiba. Deepest thanks for making a world so much better.

Mandela, Springbok fan. Look it up.
Image: sowetanlive.co.za

Update 12/10/13. Where did the talking points against Mandela come from? WND, perhaps, or Free Republic, or maybe this White Christian neo-Nazi site. Yuck, the places these people hang out.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Short: Weird pictorial of Congress wins and losses

Image: xkcd.com

Yes, it looks gross--like shredded blood vessels or color-coded spinal cord. In other words, nothing you want to see. However, this graphic shows the trends in the party affiliation of the members of both the House and Senate. A constriction on one side of this blood vessel means a big loss.

As volatile as control of the House and Senate has seemed in the last 30 years, it's nothing compared to the political shredding in the first 150 years of our republic. I was lulled by growing up during the relatively stable period between 1946 and 1978, but I definitely don't want to go back to that. I'm fine with throwing them out rather than letting bad policies get entrenched.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Political lesson learned and unlearned

In the early 90's, Bill Clinton showed the Democrats how to win again. The country had been sick of the liberal do-gooderism that was causing big increases in the tax burden and the welfare rolls. The lesson from Clinton was the private sector IS GOOD. Ever increasing social spending and taxation IS NOT GOOD. Run on a different platform from that.

The liberal/progressive Dems, however, never liked the lesson, and definitely never took it to heart. They jumped at a non-Clinton candidate in 2007 and crowed at their victory with their stealth candidate Obama. It turned out that he wasn't as progressive as they wanted, but he didn't smack them down, which Clinton had done. The Dems didn't go wild in 2009 because they had to get bills through the Senate, which didn't have 60 progressive votes. They toned it down, but the message was apparent. The tax-and-spend liberals were in ascendance in the Democratic Party.

Obama didn't smack them down, so the 2010 elections did. The Dems learned a lesson, which was to make deals when necessary. And definitely keep quiet about the secret longings for new spending and new taxes--not just a rollback of old tax cuts. Dems even pretended that they cared more about the deficit than the GOP did.

This keep-quiet strategy worked, and they had big wins in 2012. But why did it work?

Because the GOP was on a loony rampage. Yes, it was sometimes covered with a veneer of restraint and old-fashioned conservatism, but the crazy was always evident at or near the surface. So the 2012 electorate was right not to entrust lots of governmental power to the GOP.

Now, the true Democratic agenda is coming back. No more deals, no more cutting any spending, wasteful or not. They could be heading to another electorate smackdown in 2014, but I wouldn't count on it because the GOP may be as much on a loony rampage as before. The Dems figure that they have no reason to behave responsibly. They may win by default, and they can pretend that they have a mandate for their progressive policies.

This is so aggravating to me. There is a whole, huge, sensible middle ground to be scooped up. That's the middle ground in political policy and the middle group in the electorate. Yet neither side is moving to that middle ground. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU POLITICIANS????!!!!????

...until the masks come off.
Image: libertyworks.com

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Short: GOP needs better healthcare lies

I'm not the only one who believes our national dialogue on healthcare is saturated with lying. Josh Barro still identifies as conservative though he's definitely not a cheerleader for the GOP healthcare non-platform. Read how he destroys the current GOP mishmash of healthcare promises lies. Perhaps he explains why I support ACA better than I can.

But to be fair, he ought to focus a bit of that biting critique on ACA too.

The GOP warned us
Image: OBJECTIVEconservative.blogspot.com LOL

Friday, November 29, 2013

Short: A portrait of grieving

Here's fairly short but touching article about a woman grieving for her stillborn son. Most people don't get over the loss of a child, at least that's what I've seen from my five decades of life. This mother may have done the most effective grieving a mother can do.

Image: digitalspy.co.uk

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chamberlain capitulates to the mullahs

I was quite happy to hear that Iran, the US, and five other countries had come to a deal to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. It seems like a win-win situation to me:

  • Iran gets to move away from its prideful but destabilizing nuclear program.
  • Nuclear worries are cooled.
  • Iran gets to start trading again and get out of its spiraling poverty.
My biggest worry is that it could be a whitewash. Iran is eager for looser sanctions, but will it continue its program and give the world a nuclear surprise a la Pakistan or North Korea?

News Source - National Review

When I start my reading with National Review, I find out that this is the biggest mistake since blah, blah, blah, something with Hitler. Sorry, as everyone knows, it's the Munich accords with Hitler, which allowed Hitler to take over a large piece of Czechoslovakia.

Wow, if John Kerry and Obama, not to mention the other countries, have done a Munich-like agreement, why would they have big announcements? Maybe I should find out what's in this horrible agreement. So I google, and find this handy list of the provisions from CNN. It's too long to repeat, but it seems pretty good.

Iran's going to de-enrich its 20% enriched uranium and allow daily inspections. Most of the sanctions stay in place while the enforcer nations see if Iran fulfills its part of the bargain. As a carrot, there is some easing of sanctions. That sounds really good!!! ... as well it should because the list is taken from the White House press release.

Nonetheless, National Review is sorely lacking in its own list of what's wrong with the deal. In the list wars, the White House has won hands-down. That may not be a good way to judge, but the WH provided a damn good list and NRO provided article after article of warmed-over Hitler comparisons. Fourteen articles in all, and no list! Come on, tell me some solid reasons why this is a repeat of the accord that gave free rein to Hitler.

Evaluation Sorely Lacking

I didn't find a strong critique of the deal, so I'm left hoping that it's as good as it sounds. But it's not just me. One commenter reports that the Israeli stock market is soaring! WAY TO GO!!!!

What I didn't realize that the sanctions weren't meant to convince Iran to give up nuclear weapons programs. Instead, they were meant to collapse the Iranian government:
"Realists knew that the sanctions were good for only one purpose: to weaken the regime to the point where it would collapse or be overthrown."--National Review
Stupid me. Regime change was so good in Iraq and Afghanistan that we want it for the even more populous country of Iran. What a plan! That won't destabilize the mideast at all. No wonder the Israeli stock market is cheering.

[Apology: I didn't mean to turn this post into a rant. I honestly wanted to find out more about this agreement. Something in me got wound up by those 14 stories in NRO. I didn't get to chill out because among the Google top news for the US, the Iran story didn't even make an appearance.]

Image: jihadwatch.org

Extras. A more balanced piece in National Review. It reports that Iran's concessions will set its enrichment program back only a few months, with some checkable details. Fareed Zakaria tries to sort it out. George Will declares that Iran will get the bomb for sure now.

Some typical "Munich" rhetoric with an ironic kicker:
"There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements."--National Review
But wait, didn't the Soviets do just that, cool their aggression, and change their ways without a massive war? Nah, it couldn't ever work that way again.

Image: youviewed.com

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Debt Ceiling 201

This is the follow-up on the short post about why reaching the debt ceiling wasn't the rosy picture painted by some Tea Party wishful thinkers. I said that there was 1) no legal framework for prioritizing government payments (and thereby avoiding default on debt service) and 2) no practical mechanism to do it at this time.

No Legal Framework

The US government hasn't intentionally defaulted since FDR's presidency. Even then, that was a planned default, which is not what the Tea Partyers want. They want prioritized payments of US obligations to avoid default and do the least harm to the country.

No such prioritization has been established, so this is new territory. There aren't laws laying out how to do this. In the absence of such laws, who will decide what the priority should be? That's a huge constitutional question. Does the president unilaterally decide since he's the executive? Does the Congress decide? Can Congress impeach the president for making unilateral decisions? Can Congress impeach the president for refusing to prioritize payments? Will the Tea Partyers who want the prioritization of payments guarantee that they won't call for Obama's impeachment over the decisions he makes in this regard? I sure haven't heard anyone making such a promise.

Will Congress quickly pass the legal framework required? HAHAHAHAHA.

No Practical Mechanism

All the accounting programs, sign-offs, clearances, etc. that it takes for the government to send money to the correct people are probably much more complex than anyone's monthly disbursements. How readily can that all be changed to send out prioritized payments? Not readily, I'd bet. There would need to be an entire design/implementation cycle with the requisite planning, programming, testing, bug-fixing, and retesting.

Political Motivation (1)

Now that the practical considerations are out of the way, let's consider the motivations of the parties regarding prioritized payments. For Tea Partyers, the motivation is to prevent default, incur no new debt, and pay the most important government expenses. However, there isn't strong agreement on what the most important government expenses are. That's one reason not to leave the decision-making unilaterally to the president, just in case he's a scum-sucking, pinko, socialist bastard.

So those who support prioritized payments will probably also want a big say in determining the priorities. But again, there is no legal framework at this time for that. Congress would need to follow the usual law-making procedures--but the chance that the House, Senate, and president will pass one prioritization plan is so close to zero, it is effectively zero. So there will be no prioritization in established law.

I've never heard any proponent of prioritization discuss this wrinkle in their plan. I'm guessing that they gloss over that impediment, and imagine that their priorities are so obvious that they'll be followed. Then, reaching the debt ceiling is equivalent to immediately going to a balanced budget. By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they achieve one of their biggest policy goals. And they didn't even have to pass a balanced budget law or amendment. Hooray! No wonder they gloss over so many details.

So if priorities could be established, Tea Partyers have another way to achieve a major goal--just don't ever increase the debt ceiling. That's a lot of added leverage for them in any budget negotiation.

Political Motivation (2)

What is the political motivation of the Democrats, including the president? They aren't for an immediate balancing of the budget. They aren't for establishing spending priorities at a much lower budget target point. They don't want the Tea Party to have greater leverage in budget talks. Their motivation is to make the debt ceiling as painful as possible, so that the GOP will always back down.

In this, they have history on their side because the debt ceiling has always been increased. Neither Congress nor the president has ever stepped over that line, because it would be too catastrophic a move to make. The US government would go into default, which would destabilize the world economy and probably cause a worldwide depression.

The Democrats have no reason to make the debt ceiling less scary. That hands leverage to those who want severe budget cuts, which are not the Dems. So there's no way that the Dems will pass any legislation that prioritizes payments in the event of reaching the debt ceiling.

Wonderland Scenario

Maybe the next time the GOP controls the House, Senate, and presidency, they can pass the legislation and build the accounting mechanisms to implement prioritized payments. That will be somewhere on their list of must-have legislation including the repeal of Obamacare, rolling back regulation, closing the EPA, block-granting Medicaid or just getting rid of it, outlawing abortion, and ushering in the permanent GOP majority.

Maybe, like Rip Van Winkle, I'll go to sleep for two decades, and then wake up to a US where all this has happened. Somehow, I doubt it, but we'll see. Nighty-night!

Come on, it's simple.
Image: archiscene.net

Friday, November 22, 2013

Smallest nuclear blast ever

Finally the Democratic Senate got fed up with the GOP blocking just about every damn nominee. They voted to end the Senate rule that allows filibustering of judicial nominees, with an exception that still allows the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees.

Earlier this year, the GOP backed down in the face of the Dems going nuclear. Why not this time? Here's the best answer I've seen:
"It could make the difference for a Republican, in that they no longer have to tag team to break cloture on nominees they want to let through, so there won't be as many ads to run about how 'so and so says they're a conservative, but they voted with Obama 327 times!'" -- Plain blog commenter
This identifies the real reason for the change in the GOP position. It was getting harder for the GOP to stop their own filibusters even when they reached unthinking, foot-stomping stubbornness. So now they've allowed the Dems to render that problem moot. (Update. Bernstein make the same argument here, but it comes from a professional and highly educated political observer.)

No other writer came up with this analysis. The MSM was treating it as no big deal. At the Daily Kos, it was mostly cheers for the defeat of those obstructionist Republicans. HotAir was loud, negative, and scattered. Some pointed out the hypocrisy of the Dems, a few looked forward to using the same power when the GOP reclaims the Senate, a few quoted Limbaugh's laughable analysis that the rules would last only for the Dems' advantage, and then revert. George Will laments the end of a "deliberative" Senate and the beginning of a coarse, 'majority dictates' Senate that is not bound by rules, but by expediency. 

RedState had a different take--it wants the end of all cooperation in the Senate in retaliation. The Senate won't pass anything inconvenient like an immigration bill, a farm bill, a continuing resolution--zip. Except that no true conservative trusts the squishy Senate RINOs, certainly not at RedState or HotAir

Thank God for that clear-eyed commenter who understood why the change happened now. In the long run, perhaps George Will will be proven right--we might deeply regret this change. But I don't know a way around it because the Senate has already slid so far down the slope. 

Image: tripadvisor.com.au

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One thing I learned: a case against ACA

I'm not as open to different ideas as I would like to be. It seems to me that most people who are firmly against ACA fell into one of more of these categories:

  • Libertarians who don't want federal government in any kind of social program. (I give them a pass for deeply held, coherent beliefs that I happen to disagree with.)
  • GOP partisans who hate all Democratic programs regardless of their strong points.
  • People who think the country is made up of makers and takers, and the takers don't deserve access to health insurance, or probably healthcare either.
  • Fools/zipperheads who think that the GOP proposals would have solved the problems well enough at a much lower cost.
I found another category, or maybe I just started hearing the argument: fiscal conservatives who don't trust the finances of the program.
"Obamacare is basically just another entitlement. It has no solid foundation to pay for it despite all the rhetoric. I'm not 100% opposed to entitlements per se, but we do a pizz poor job of administering them - so in my view we don't need another one." -- National Review commenter
This is a strong argument. If I take the argument sentence by sentence, it holds up quite well:

  • Another entitlement--check. It's a federally-guaranteed and financed large-scale program.
  • No solid foundation to pay for it--a strong possibility. The dedicated revenue streams may not be enough.
  • Pizz poor job of administering them--check. The track record for federal programs include no cost containment in Medicare and Medicaid, welfare that grew far too large, etc.
I support universal health coverage for a variety of reasons, but I'm also aware that it could be a failure. I want to try it anyhow for the many benefits, which I already have as a Massachusetts resident. My empathy for people in need outweighs my worries. But for many people, the scale falls the other way. 

They have good reasons for their opinions, perhaps stronger than mine, yet I still don't agree. It's not that I'm giving in to illogical motives. It's because of the mystery of how some values take precedence over others.

Image: nationalmemo.com

Short: Elizabeth Warren forgets her math

I know Liz Warren is a smart person. She's got a background in bankruptcy, consumer finance, overseeing the management of TARP assets, etc. I bet she knows numbers pretty well.

But now she's pretending the equations don't have to equal, that increased spending doesn't have to be balanced with increased, um, what was that other thing? Warren, the great hope of the progressive wing of the Democratic party, wants to expand SS benefits, not consider reform that would reduce their rate of growth. And where will that extra money come from? Warren forgot to mention that.

Reminder for Professor Warren
Image: microsoft.com

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Did the Dems F*ck Up Universal Health Coverage?

It's looking like a strong possibility. The first major contributor to this fuck-up was the disastrous website rollout. This fuck-up was completely avoidable and unforgivably stupid. This wasn't cutting edge software since a bunch of states already had health insurance exchanges. No, this was a fuck-up and a whopping huge data point in the argument that the federal government shouldn't be trusted to manage healthcare.

The second major contributor were all the decisions to maximize coverage. These decisions have been made all along the way, so they have preceded that website debacle and could be considered the single major contributor to the Obamacare failure if it happens. The decision to maximize coverage lead to higher policy costs, higher subsidies, and more people deciding to flout the law and go without insurance. Maximizing coverage has its strong points too, but they don't matter if the strategy collapses universal coverage.

If you want to provide universal coverage, doesn't it make sense to do so at an attainable level? If you're going to invite the entire neighborhood to a cookout, you may have to settle for serving hot dogs and hamburgers, not filet mignon and king salmon.

Maybe Obamacare will work out, and in a year or two we'll have settled into it, have some minor grumbles, but generally be satisfied. But the risks were underestimated by the administration. They should have been more careful and, ahem, more conservative because universal coverage is a big fucking deal, and a major step forward in fairness. But Dems aren't careful like that, which is one reason I rarely admit my party affiliation anymore.

If Obamacare sinks, I'll give most of the blame to the Dems. The GOP of course will deserve some for constantly barraging or undermining the program instead of helping improve it. But it will be the Dems who sank their own ship.

Image: latimes.com

Friday, November 15, 2013

Short: Bad rules on guns

Even if you're against the general public owning guns, you probably don't want the rules enforced this way. A student protected himself against an intruder by scaring the guy off with a pistol. The student, who lived in an off-campus apartment, was licensed and trained to handle the gun. Good work, right?

Not according to the university powers-that-be. The weapons were seized in a 2am raid mounted against the partying sleeping student. So much for the expectation of privacy and respect for the individual in his possessions. The university, who was his landlord, enforced its no-guns-for-renters policy in the middle of the night. One only wonders what they would have done if the student needed to fire in self-defense.

Rulebreakers in suits and lawyered up
Image: cnn.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Political Lie Machine: Funnier than usual

Poor John McCain. He must be feeling more picked on than usual. As for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, this typical for her--she's a leadership hack, and an especially shameless one. I'm not sure why this tickled me. Perhaps it was the lie density. Here's the equation:
amplitude/column inches > 2000 ==> too funny

Short: Iowa pre-pre-preview

There was a conservative dinner in Iowa that garnered some major guests. Mike Lee seems to learned from experience that he can't bring down Obamacare in the current configuration of government. So, instead of doubling down on that failed strategy, he's working on new ideas. They seem fuzzy to me right now, but at least he's in the correct sphere--one that looks at reality rather than denying it. He's also thinking strategically:
"The senator from Utah noted that there is a gaping hole in the middle of the Republican Party today, and offered a solution on how to fill it."
I'm so glad to hear someone say this. Mike Lee is going to be worth watching. I hope he had bridge that gaping hole.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is basically a cheerleader with no brain for policy. Rah, rah! I've got no tolerance for an empty-headed politician, so I wish Palin was over already. She's an idiot, and she's steadfastly remaining one. Enough already!

Come on, you're not serious.
Image: dailymail.co.uk

Hat tip to Bob Costa. The only twitter I follow.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Christie is a big target

One day after his reelection by a 60-38% margin, lots of conservatives are sniping at Christie. Christie isn't a doctrinaire conservative, much less a Tea Party patriot who lives and dies by principle. But the targeting is surprisingly aggressive.

Tea Party Critique

Here's a line that you can say about any politician (just substitute a name): "Christie is only out for Christie." Christie isn't a strict GOP partisan, so that makes him "self-serving." Do the people who criticize Christie for that also criticize Ted Cruz or Jim DeMint for behaving the same way--not supporting all their fellow Republicans? No, I don't think they are tarred the same way.

Yet I'm pretty sure this is the inside meme about Christie among the Tea Party. It leaked nationally when Rand Paul said Christie was all "gimme, gimme, gimme" over Sandy disaster aid. Now I'm seeing it again in the comments sections of conservative sites.

This idea that Christie is a self-promoting politician is a convenient ad hominem attack that allows people to dismiss him. There will always be plenty of evidence to support this charge. I don't know how whether the charge will resonate with others--Christie seemed to have put his state first when Sandy hit rather than toeing the party line. Ironically, the same incident is used as evidence that he puts himself first. Good luck finding the objective truth in that argument.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio is reminding his party not to get too excited about Christie: "...some of these races don't apply to future races." So Rubio demonstrates again that's he's the biggest weasel lining up for the 2016 presidential primary. (Or is that just a different flavor of ad hominem attack that's hard to refute.)

GOP Establishment View

Establishment Republicans, often denoted as GOPe, aren't trumpeting Christie as much as the Tea Party is trying to tear him down. Michael Barone sees lessons for both the GOP and Dems in these elections. Provocation, especially on social issues, leads to losses. Dems can't count on the minority vote because Christie won 51% of Hispanics in New Jersey.

One of the HotAir writers wants the readers to see that Christie has a winning formula. However, the commenters mostly push back. Rich Lowry of National Review (quasi-establishment) sees some potential in Christie, but also some problems:
"...he offers a different kind of politics that can potentially unlock the presidency after a period of national futility for his party...
What Clinton had that Christie evidently lacks is a well-thought-out approach to his party’s predicament ...
Christie’s potential is in matching that Everyman appeal with substance. He could set out to make himself a Republican by and for the middle class in a substantive and stylistic departure for the contemporary party. -- Rich Lowry writing in Politico
Who Can Win vs. I Don't Care

The huge difference is how these groups see Christie is that one group (GOPe) sees Christie as a presidential contender who will bring in a lot a votes and won't be just a marginal winner. They are concerned with the mechanics of putting together enough votes to resist the Dems' demographic advantage.

The Tea Party group doesn't talk about demographics at all. They don't worry whether they can carry enough swing states. They are so sure a Tea Party candidate will win that they don't question it at all. To me, that's amazing--that you could be so sure that you wouldn't consider the electability of your nominee. Of course they've been burned on electability before. McCain was the most electable in 2008, though really he had only a ghost of a chance. Maybe they should have gone for the most conservative candidate that year, which was ... Romney. They definitely got burned in 2012. The Tea Party is pledging not to get burned in 2016. Well, we'll see. I'm not convinced that the Tea Party is the majority in the GOP, but perhaps we'll find out in 2016.

I know it's still too early to predict the 2016 primary race, but everyone is talking about it. Funny, the 2008 election didn't start in 2005, but the 2016 election started quite early in 2013. I chalk that up to the cold war in the GOP, which is getting hotter all the time.

Christie looks like the best hope for the GOPe even if a midwestern governor like Mitch Daniels or Scott Walker jumps into the race. Daniels looks like an older establishment Republican (yawn) and Walker is nerdly and possesses less charisma than Jindal. The establishment likes to coalesce around a candidate early, but that may not happen because Christie isn't exactly the GOP mainstream. Yes, it is too early to say.

Image: ronpaulforums.com