In a town called malice

3 02 2017

nope not even close they haven’t even begun to absorb that there are real (as in physics and all not just public will/opinion) limits to economic growth, to employment, to pollution, wealth/resource extraction etc. —dmf

I was going to offer a short response to dmf, but decided to pull it out for a more considered consideration.

The short response is: yes, I agree. When I wrote that HRC and the Dems had done a decent job with the practicalities, I meant that there were some specific policy ideas (regarding, say, college and vocational education, job retraining, etc.) which would likely have done some good. Grand visions are grand, but how to build them?

That said, I agree with dmf that the Dems lack that grand vision which takes a hard account of the limits of our current economic and social standard operating procedures. Incrementalism has its place, is necessary. even, but it is not enough, and neither any post-Reagan Democratic presidential candidate nor the party as whole has offered a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the world as it is.

Despite occasional Democratic victories, the failure overall has been monumental.

I have my own ideas of what that strategy should be, as well as what could be some of the policies (again, some of which might be adapted from the 2016 Dem platform) which would put those ideas into practice. I’ll be tossing them out less with the sense that THIS IS IT than This should be in the mix—less from certainty, that is, than possibility.

I am certain, however, that that comprehensive strategy in service to a grand vision is necessary, not just to overcome the meanness of the GOP view, but to be able to comprehend how deep the troubles are.

We can’t get better if we don’t have a way to see how bad we are.

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Circus Maximus MMXVI: Damned I am

2 03 2016

I was wrong. Wroooooooooooongity wrong wrong WRONG.

I never thought Trump would get this far, or that the hated Ted Cruz would end up his main challenger.

I’ll hang on to my skepticism about him actually winning the nomination, but I must admit that the evidence is running ahead of my skepticism.

As to the general clusterfuck that is the GOP presidential process, I can only say: Y’all deserve this, every last bit of it.

And no, I ain’t helping you out, especially not with Dan Quayle lite.

As John Scalzi notes,

But somebody needs to do something! Well, yes. Those “somebodies” should have been the GOP, but it didn’t want to, and then when it wanted to it couldn’t, because it realized too late that its entire governing strategy for the last couple of decades, but especially since Obama came to office, has been designed to foster the emergence of a populist lectern-thumper like Trump. The GOP has made its electoral bones on low-information, high-anxiety white folks for years now, but has only ever looked at the next election, and not ever further down the road, or where that road would lead too. Well, it led to Trump.

And now the GOP wants a bailout, and people like Beinart and Strain are arguing we should give it to them, because the GOP is apparently too big to fail (and yes, this means that Trump is a festering ball of subprime loans in this scenario). And, well. …

… Saving the GOP from Trump doesn’t change the fact that the GOP is by conscious and intentional design primed to create more Trumps — more populist demagogues who will leverage the anxious discontent of scared and aging white people into electoral victories. That won’t be fixed. The GOP doesn’t want it fixed. It just wants the demagogue to be someone it can control.

Let it also be noted that Trump’s 1 1/2 main competitors hold terrible, terrible policy positions, so it’s not clear exactly why I should be worried that the hair-piece-of-racist-shit might beat the other two pieces-o’-shite. They’re all terrible.

No, my only interest is in beating whoever the GOP eventually barfs up, not in sticking my finger down my own throat.

h/t Shakezula, Lawyers, Guns & Money





Everybody knows the dice are loaded, 2

22 07 2014

Ariella Cohen, on “poor doors”:

Extell, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side asked the city to approve a plan for a 33-story luxury condo with a separate entry for the tenants residing in the publicly subsidized rent-stabilized units, which will be segregated from the rest of the building into a section facing the street while the luxury units will face the Hudson River.

This address isn’t the only one with citizen-subsidized egress segregation, but the overall numbers remain low, if only because, as Cohen notes, it’s hard to retrofit old buildings with separate-because-unequal entrances.

Still, one gets the sense that if it were possible, it would be more popular among the penthouse set. David Von Spreckelsen, a poor-door developer, defends the tender sensibilities of the wealthy living in tax-subsidized mixed-income housing:

I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.

Take it away, Jean-Jacques:

[I]f one sees a handful of powerful and rich men at the height of greatness and fortune while the mob grovels in obscurity and misery, it is because the former prize the things they enjoy only to the extent that the others are deprived of them, and because, without changing their position, they would cease to be happy, if the people ceased to be miserable.

~~~

It’s tempting to end on Rousseau, but Cohen makes an important point in her ending: such segregation is not inevitable. It was enabled by policy, and can be undone by policy.





The Revolution is just a t-shirt away

15 07 2014

Now this is a real shocker:

pewquizgraphic

I know, I know, it was only twenty-three questions and hardly captures all of my views about policy and politics, but would the result be much different were there fifty questions? a hundred?

Yeaaahh, no.





Between ideals and fact

26 01 2013

I said I wasn’t going to concern-troll the Republicans, right?

Well, what about concern-imp-ing? Concern-nixie-ing? Is it really concern-monster-ing if my recommendations apply to all political parties?

Whatever.  Here it is: Focus on governance.

Shockingly original, I know, but its obviousness has been obliterated in the past decade or so by Republican operatives (Karl Rove) so intent upon winning that they forget that winning is only the beginning, and not the end, of electoral politics.

I’ve described election campaigns as free-for-alls, governed solely by the standard of “what works”, i.e., solely by what increases the chances of winning. Another shockingly original insight: if you want to win, you have to concentrate on winning, full stop.

But after  you’ve won, you have to do something else: You have to govern.

Now, however distinct are the ways of the campaign from those of governance, it is worth considering whether a platform for governance can help you to win. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes all you have to do is remind the voters of what a great guy you are or what a great team you’re on and how terrible is the other guy or team. You go for fear or pride or collegiality (“I’d like to have a beer with that guy”) and don’t say much about the Eurozone crisis or CAFTA or the eligibility standards for SSI and bim bam boom, you’re in.

At some point, however, folks might wonder just what it is you plan to do once you’re in. A backbencher representative might be able to get away with platitudes and ideas to nowhere, but party leaders—governors, senators, presidents—have to do something. They have to govern.

If, therefore, you want your candidate or party to win, it might just help to have some ideas of how to govern. It’s not enough simply to say “there’s a problem and the other team caused it”; you have to offer solutions.

Edward L. Glaeser gets this. He’s an urban-conservative, and as such focuses on what can done to make things better. I disagree with both his analyses of and suggestions to fix the problems of urban life, but I really like that he grounds the symbolic appeals to conservatism in practical policy-making. I really really like that he thinks Republicans should engage in governance as something other than acts of arson, and that he doesn’t consider conservative policy-making a contradiction in terms.

He thinks Republicans should compete for cities, and points to what he sees as the accomplishments of Republican mayors as both reasons and guides for a GOP commitment to urban America. Focus on what we have to offer—what good we can do—he counsels Republicans, and go from there.

In other words, build an electoral strategy based on policy accomplishment, and you might just win.

Elections and governance are way too messy and contradictory for a simply Competence=>Victory equation to pan out (see: Michael Dukakis). Dirty tricks and fear-mongering and lies and money and error and passion and whole tangled nest of interests and reasons and desires will all play parts in electoral campaigns, as will the always-important backdrops of economic performance and unpredictable crises. Arguably, policy achievement might not play much of a role, at all.

And yet, it’s just possible that policy achievement might matter, perhaps even enough to cross that line from defeat to victory. There’s so much that can’t be controlled in elections; why not focus on what you can control, what you can do?

Unless, of course, you think it’s better just to control the elections so that you don’t have to worry about governing at all.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: We don’t need another hero

6 11 2012

Presidents are not heroes.

Even the best of them—the brave, the wise—are leaders, not heroes. They are not here to save us, from ourselves or anyone else, but to guide us through the present and into the future with an open heart and an open mind and with malice toward none.

President Barack Obama is not a hero. President Barack Obama will not save us.

President Barack Obama is a leader.

There are things I like about his presidency and things I don’t, and I doubt that the things I don’t like—the continued drug war, the unilateral and heavy use of drones, the timidity on global warming, among others—will change much in a second term.

But the things I like—his efforts to use the state for rather than against the vulnerable, the concrete recognition of the rights of women to control their (our) own sexuality and for queer folk not to be punished for their (our) sexuality, good Supreme Court picks, his measured approach to international affairs—point the way toward a future which just might be better than it would otherwise be.

April 14, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Barack Obama, 2012.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Which side are you on?

22 10 2012

I have no idea how this debate will play.

Obama seemed strong* to me, Romney less so, but, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney supporters thought he won.

And the undecideds?

Oh, do you want to hear another curse-filled rant? No, I am not feeling kindly toward those folks who haven’t decided between Romney and Obama.

Deciding between 3rd-party candidate (conscience) and Romney or Obama (compromise)? Okay. Between voting (principle, ideal) and not voting (resignation)? Okay.**

But between Romney and Obama ? Not okay, because in this case there are clear policy differences between the two candidates, differences which will not change between now and election day. If you don’t know if you want Romney or if you want Obama to be president then you don’t know what you want.

Oh, I’m picking on those poor undecideds, who insist that they’re really high information! Really!

Consider Buzz Bissinger, who’s so, so disappointed in Obama and so, so dispirited by his first debate performance that he’s decided to support Romney:

Buzz: But what has been the Obama policy? It seems it has been to use government to create jobs. I agree with it to some degree, [emph added] like the auto bailout (although GM still owes taxpayers about $50 billion), but government cannot become our major employer. That is not what America is about. And I think fundamentally that is what Obama thinks America is about — government as a social engine.

Jamelle: There’s no evidence anywhere that government is on our way to becoming the major employer. In fact, the economy has lost 600,000 public sector jobs in the last three years. It’s been a huge burden on the recovery, actually.

Buzz: I have absolutely no issue with Obamacare. It was right and it was bold. [emph added] I do think the costs are going to be far more prohibitive than we think. Placing cost containment in the hands of a panel is a joke: It never works.

But didn’t the stimulus and the auto bailout, all funded by the government, create private sector jobs?

Jamelle: They did, but that’s not the same as the government becoming an employer. If I get $100 from the government, buy some stuff, and that allows a business to hire more, those new jobs aren’t “government jobs.”

Buzz: You are splitting hairs. It is the government as the funder with taxpayer money.

. . .

Buzz: Call me a naive idiot, but I think Romney does care about a hundred percent of all Americans. More than Obama. All Obama is doing now is pandering to the middle to win. He does not like the wealthy, even though he has been fairly kind to them tax wise. [emph added] He has created class warfare. The wealthy in this country are not outsiders. They are not pariahs. They are part of the country. He treats them like outcasts.

Okay, unlike your interlocutor, I’ll call you a naive idiot. Especially when you continue to blame the president for the obstructionist policies of the Republicans in Congress and complain that he hasn’t done enough to reach those Republicans while simultaneously complaining that he hasn’t been tough enough.

Oh, and for saying that what really did it was that first debate performance: “I will never forgive Obama’s performance.” [emph added]

Actually, naive idiot [emph added] might be too kind.

And then there’s Scott Adams, who’s turned on the president over the continued war on drugs:

One could argue that the President is just doing his job and enforcing existing Federal laws. That’s the opposite of what he said he would do before he was elected, but lying is obviously not a firing offense for politicians.

Personally, I’d prefer death to spending the final decades of my life in prison. So while President Obama didn’t technically kill a citizen, he is certainly ruining this fellow’s life, and his family’s lives, and the lives of countless other minor drug offenders. And he is doing it to advance his career. If that’s not a firing offense, what the hell is?

Romney is likely to continue the same drug policies as the Obama administration. But he’s enough of a chameleon and a pragmatist that one can’t be sure. And I’m fairly certain he’d want a second term. He might find it “economical” to use federal resources in other ways than attacking California voters. And he is vocal about promoting states’ rights, so he’s got political cover for ignoring dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal.

So while I don’t agree with Romney’s positions on most topics, I’m endorsing him for president starting today. I think we need to set a minimum standard for presidential behavior, and jailing American citizens for political gain simply has to be a firing offense no matter how awesome you might be in other ways.

And the evidence that Romney would be better than Obama on the drug war? He’s a slimier bastard than the president!

I don’t care if these guys are voting for Romney, I really don’t, but when Bissinger claims he’s a high-info voter and Adams waves the rationality flag in support of his support for Romney, I have to wonder if we have the same understanding of the meaning of “high-information” and “reason”.

~~~

*Not that I loved everything he had to say (defense spending, drones drones drones) or didn’t say (anything about Mexico, Latin America, the drug war), but I’m not put off by a moderate-liberal Democratic president not veering too far off the America-is-aces path—given our politics, it’s gotta be done.

**Won’t explain tonight why it’s different—maybe because these are more forthrightly mood-affiliation choices as opposed to those which are allegedly about policy. Maybe if the undecideds were more honest about the fact they don’t know what they want and are simply waiting for their pleasure-buttons to be pushed I’d be less frustrated. But probably not.