Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Popular Overall Than They Actually Are

This Byron York post is being linked everywhere because it contains one of the most fascinating comments I've ever heard on race. It's not a throwaway line -- it's standing right there in thesis-statement position at the end of the first paragraph:
On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.
"more popular overall than they actually are"? Usually, racism doesn't push people to say things that are flatly contradictory. Though we might be able to make it consistent if we take a racialized version of Brian Weatherson's view and assume that black people have non-actual modal parts while white people are wholly actual. It'll be hard to reliably poll people's non-actual modal parts, but that's never stopped Zogby before.

The real issue here is that York doesn't regard black people's input in the political process as having the same legitimacy as white people's. That's the only way you end up saying crazy stuff like that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu And Smithfield's Pig Shit Lagoons

The fact that factory farming creates large "lagoons" of hog waste always seemed like a pretty bad thing from a public health point of view. You wonder when some kind of awful disease is going to emerge from the big lakes of pig crap.

Until I read litbrit's post on this, I didn't realize that the current swine flu could be just that. She links to Tom Philpott's article in Grist, which describes how the outbreak originated in a part of Mexico where Smithfield has big hog farms and the waste apparently isn't being properly disposed of. This link is being picked up in the Mexican press (litbrit helpfully translates some stuff). In the American press, not so much.

Specter, The Primary, and The Benjamins

There are noises out there on the blogoblags—noises with which I have some sympathy—that Arlen Specter's party switch has made it difficult or impossible for a mainline Democrat to represent Pennsylvania, and that he ought to face a robust primary challenge. At present, Specter enjoys high approval ratings from Democrats, but it's unclear how long that will hold.

I think it's worth considering that, should Specter face Pat Toomey in the general, Democrats will not have to spend quite as much money in Pennsylvania as they will if Joe Torsella is the candidate. Or Joe Sestak. That has value, since it means the DSCC and major national donors can move money elsewhere. Less money for Arlen Specter means more money for Paul Hodes in New Hampshire, or Chris Dodd in Connecticut, or whatever challengers emerge to Richard Burr, David Vitter, and the curiously unfunded Tom Coburn. In otherwords, having Specter as a "More Democrat" may mean that elsewhere Dems can fund a "Better Democrat" to make Specter's vote that much less essential.

I don't think this is a open-and-shut-cut case. I think there are real reasons to be frustrated at the Pennsylvania machine's decision to try to clear the field. I also think that the threat of a robust primary challenge will help ensure Specter maintains a progressive voting record (though I note that the notoriously pro-choice-except-when-it-matters Specter voted for the Sebelius confirmation). But Philadelphia is a huge media market, and Pittsburgh isn't exactly small. It's a lot of dough that could go to other states.

200,000 Pennsylvanians Under The "D"

I like Publius' point that the Specter switch may have been a happy result of Hillary Clinton keeping the primary going several months after astute observers knew she was going to lose. The desire to vote in the ongoing Democratic primary gave people an incentive to register, and the primary itself gave the Obama and Clinton campaigns a reason to register every voter they could within each of their preferred demographics. These processes turned 200,000 Republicans into Democrats in 2008, and they've turned at least one Republican into a Democrat in 2009.

There's an interesting theoretical issue here about how large you want your party to be in a state like Pennsylvania with closed primaries. When your party gets bigger, you're more likely to pick a winning candidate, even if you get bigger in a way that doesn't involve anybody agreeing with you more than they did before. Assume for the moment that none of the 200,000 people who left the Pennsylvania GOP left because their ideological views had moved leftward, and they just switched for the fun of voting in the Democratic primary. Also assume that their voting behavior in a general election stays exactly the same as they were when they were Republicans, so they're just as likely to vote for Specter in a general election as they were before.

Even under these assumptions where we don't convince anybody of anything, the Republican Party's chances of winning general elections decline. A smaller party is less likely to match the sentiments of the general Pennsylvania electorate -- it'll just be a bunch of people with idiosyncratic views. Candidates selected by the Growths who remain in the Pennsylvania GOP are less likely to match the views of the state as a whole and be competitive in a general election. The Growths are going to pick Pat Toomey, and he's going to lose.

There are some disadvantages to your party getting bigger in this way. If for some reason a lot of religious conservatives moved into the Democratic Party without changing their views, we might end up with more homophobic candidates. Some of them would win general elections that pro-equality candidates would also have won, and we'd end up with more homophobic Senators. There's some point at which you might want to shoo people who don't share your values out of the party, because you can win without their support. If you're a Pennsylvania Democrat and you were really optimistic about Joe Sestak or whoever winning the Democratic nomination and beating Specter or Toomey, maybe you feel this way right now.

But I'm pretty sure Pennsylvania is competitive enough that you want to be bigger rather than smaller.

Frank And Mill

Barney Frank's view of what should be legal (via Glenn Thrush) could've come from John Stuart Mill. Frank says that marijuana and internet poker should be legal, as any harms they generate are harms to the user, and it's not the business of government to address self-regarding harms. However, banning various kinds of financial transactions make sense, because as we've seen, these transactions can pose major risks to parties who aren't involved.

I haven't found anything on this specific issue in Mill, probably because he wasn't thinking about a society where a few banks could blow up the global economy by pursuing profit in ways that generated massive systemic risk. And as far as I know, the economy of his day didn't allow for that sort of thing to happen. But consequentialist defenses of liberty need to be updated for dramatic changes in the way the world operates, and I'm guessing that careful study of the issues that arise in a huge and interconnected global financial system would get him behind a reasonably aggressive system of regulation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Just wow.

As everyone seems to understand, the fact that Specter now calls himself a Democrat will change the calculus in the Senatea, but only on the margin. People like Specter, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins hold the balance of power in the Senate, when they choose to exercise it. The fact that Specter now has a (D) next to his name instead of an (R) won't really change that. While Specter has already announced he will not re-flip-flop on EFCA, his quasi-pro-choice votes will hopefully drift a bit to the left, since he will no longer have any pressure from a primary opponent.

Deep thought: does this mean John Cornyn will feel more pressure to light even more money on fire?


Don't get too carried away with the poll showing that only 21% of the public identifies as Republican. Party identification is actually fairly fluid outside of a core group of partisans, and the out-of-power party almost always scores lower marks when there isn't an election on the horizons. It's certainly possible that Republican self-identification has dropped without the large media presence of the once popular Bush or the atypical Republican McCain, but a single poll shouldn't be treated as convincing evidence on that front.

Update: Okay, two polls. Well, we'll see.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Public Opinion and Torture

Gallup follows ABC/WaPo in polling torture investigations. The polls seem to show a slight majority in favor of further digging into the misdoings of the past. But it's not clear what this information means we should do.

In particular, it's impossible to reduce the "political implications", such as they are, of any issue to a single poll. We don't have any measurement of the public's intensity on this issue. Are there an appreciable number of voters out there who will vote against Democrats on the basis of prosecuting Bush officials (or career public service employees) for torture? Are any of these voters people who might otherwise vote for Democrats? If not, than the "torture issue" won't affect The Only Poll That Matters in 2010 or 2012, so we should all just feel free to do the right thing.

Of course, we also have to consider whether Republicans will be able to mount a successful attack campaign to drive down confidence in Democratic elected officials. But with the exception of Joe Lieberman, there is no pro-torture bipartisan consensus. If anything, we can point to old-guard Republicans such as Larry Wilkerson who not only emphatically oppose torture but also support investigating its perpetrators. Thus conventional news outlets, which usually allow bipartisan consensus to dominate coverage, will be inclined to report fairly broad. However, this will be complicated by the presence of anti-torture but anti-investigation Republicans such as John McCain, who will try to maintain this "reasonable" position.

The third concern is whether or not Republican Senators will respond to investigations with reduced legislative cooperation. But given the current lack of Republican cooperation, it's not clear how much he has to lose here. Thanks to Senate hardball, health care expansion will pass one way or another. The climate change bill appears doomed until Democrats can pick up a few more Senate seats. The same goes for EFCA.

So what is there to lose? Probably very little. I know people expect The Right Thing to have negative political consequences, but that's not a universal truth.

Deep Thought

Does anyone remember when Hantavirus was going to kill us all?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ramesh Ponnuru Understands Laws

On torture-related issues, Ramesh Ponnuru shows that he hasn't entirely forgotten what laws and the judicial system are all about: "Surely the primary question is whether laws were broken; and if there is serious reason to believe that they were, then shouldn't there be a presumption in favor of investigation?" You see something like that at the house of madness that is The Corner, and it's like water in the desert, or eaves over the sidewalk during a cold rain.

Declan Power-Sunstein

We welcome young Declan Power-Sunstein into the world. As names go, that's pretty sweet -- I dig the Irish first name, and Power-Sunstein is probably in the top decile of hyphenated constructions. But I have to think that a fusion like Declan Powerstein would've been better.

And if you're willing to get a little funky, this is one of the few situations where someone can legitimately get a surname like "Sunpower." Sure, hippyish, but it probably gets Al Gore to babysit in hopes that the young lad will someday fulfill the prophesies embedded in our most sacred climate models, bringing balance to the atmosphere.

The Specter Of Defe... Everybody Uses That Title, I'll Just Post A Magic Card

I knew things were looking dicey for Arlen Specter. But a 51-30 deficit to Pat Toomey in the GOP primary? Okay, Rasmussen has recently shifted towards being the niche pollster of the crazy right, but I didn't expect Specter to be down by three touchdowns. Maybe an indy run would be better than staying with the GOP after all. Pennsylvania ballot laws don't allow you to Lieberman your way out of losing a primary and run as an independent, so if Toomey beats him, he's done.

Of course, going over to the other side and becoming a good Democrat would basically guarantee his survival. But after what he did to card check, I doubt there's any reasonable way to call the fire trucks to that bridge in time.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cry Budget Reconciliation, And Let Slip The Blue Dogs Of Wankery

An October 15 deadline for health care reform, or else budget reconciliation triggers and we dispense with Republican obstructionism by passing whatever plan has majority support? Hooray! Now the influential members are Democrats at vote 50, and not the Nelson/Snowe/Collins trio at 60. Says Ezra: "It's hard to overstate the importance of this decision. This could be the day that health care reform went from being unlikely to inevitable." Thanks for keeping us up on the process for so long, man, and I look forward to reading you at the Post.

So maybe Kent Conrad wants a trade. In exchange for making health care reform inevitable, he wants some centrist love for being involved with a Social Security commission that either (1) will be full of smart wonks who understand that it's the most secure part of the federal budget and you can fix any problems if you get decent economic growth or more immigrants, or (2) will be duly ignored. And maybe that's why he wants idiot Blue Dog Allen Boyd, past supporter of privatization, on the committee.

Again, I don't see the reason for fear. There's no way that current politics allow for actually doing a Bush-2005 job, or anything remotely similar, to Social Security. There's no serious popular support for changes. Obama has plenty on his plate already. Nancy Pelosi, who saved the program from Bush, has more soldiers than she did back in 2005. All I'm seeing here is a way for a some conservative Democrats to make themselves the wank objects of centrist editorial page wankers. I have no objection to that sort of thing, as long as everyone washes their hands afterwards and a good universal health care plan becomes law.

Scott Murphy: A Winner Is You!

Republican Jim Tedisco concedes to Murphy in Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat. A happy day for those of us who like further signs that people don't like Republicans.

And maybe for those of us who like Engrish references to classic Nintendo games! King Slender looks a bit more like Murphy than, say, Starman or Kin Corn Karn do, so I put him up there.

People were speculating before the election that a Murphy win might deliver a Back Breaker to Michael Steele's chances of remaining RNC chair. As much as I want to see turmoil on the GOP side, Steele is incompetent enough that I might be happy to keep him in charge. And to be less partisan, I can definitely appreciate Ta-Nehisi's point when he says, "I don't actually want the GOP's first major effort at ending the Southern Strategy to be a comic disaster." Having your black RNC chair go down in flames and get replaced with a dude who was in a whites-only country club until just before he ran for the position... that would be sad. You want to be in a country where both parties have gotten past the whole segregation thing.

In Which James Taranto Learns About A Neat Thing Called "Law"

Over at the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto comments on my support for prosecuting Bush Administration officials who approved torture. Matt Yglesias was thinking about a Eastern-Europe-style outcome where we don't put people in jail but just establish a social consensus against torture. I objected that we weren't likely to get a social consensus anytime soon, due to the power of right-wing forces in the media. Matt was sympathetic to my concern. Now here's Taranto, writing to an audience in front of which he can use the phrase "Angry Left" without anybody thinking about how it's angry leaders on the right, not the left, that ordered the torture of the innocent:
What troubles Yglesias and Sinhababu, then, is the existence of disagreement and debate--the essence of democracy. They seem to imply that prosecution is a method by which to force the consensus they would like to see. But a forced consensus is no consensus at all.
There's a very good reason why I'm troubled by "the essence of democracy" here. Holding criminal trials democratically, in the court of public opinion, is widely and correctly understood to be a bad way to do things. Instead, we should have criminal trials overseen by professional judges or carefully selected and well-informed jurors who understand the law in detail and are committed to interpreting and applying it correctly to an often complicated set of facts. This is how you set up the rule of law. It's a good thing to have.

The method Matt was suggesting -- changes in public consensus without prosecuting people -- is an interesting alternative for cases where many number of your political administrators (including talented people who know how to oversee road construction and keep public order and regulate the financial system and such) are embedded within an undemocratic regime that commits massive evils. You don't want to lose lots of good administrators after you become a democracy, and you don't want their self-interest and their connections operating against you to destabilize the country. So you have a de facto amnesty, or a Truth and Reconciliation Commission or some such, and make the price of entry into the new system be clearly abandoning the bad old ways and accepting the new consensus. There are reasons unhappy with this, as it often gives people amnesty for terrible crimes. But arguably in some situations it's what you have to do.

For a variety of reasons, I don't think the situation in the contemporary United States resembles that very closely. And in any event, the Truth and Reconciliation method is a special method for special situations. The first option, when you're looking at possible criminal acts, is to let the ordinary procedures of the legal system run their course. We do this with ordinary criminals, and if there's enough evidence of criminality in the most powerful positions, we should follow these procedures there too. Let the rule of law be respected, and as Amanda wrote before Taranto, hope it forces consensus in the way that fairly conducted judicial processes properly do. Simply put, we have laws against torture. Enforce them.

Taranto continues:
If those now in power yield to the temptation to use authoritarian means--however well-intentioned their ends may be--they will set a precedent that their opponents, perhaps equally well-intentioned, may one day use against them.
If by "authoritarian means", you mean "the judicial system figuring out whether someone broke the law, instead of trying them in the court of public opinion," that's what we want. If Barack Obama, anyone in his administration, or future Democrats go around engaging in serious violations of domestic and international law, they should be punished. If Obama's administration breaks the law by ordering captives to be tortured (let's leave aside the point about relying on a North Korean torture manual used to extract false confessions for political gain), he should be prosecuted as well, by whoever follows him of whatever party. I think Barack Obama is a very smart guy who cares about doing the right thing, but I think he should be subject to the law just like everybody else.

Insisting on this is what keeps us from falling into what's more traditionally understood as an authoritarian system -- one in which leaders are able to do whatever they'd like, unconstrained by the rule of law.

Today in Improve Relief Pitcher Usage

Last night Joe Torre used Jonathan Broxton to record a five-out save. Torre brought Broxton into the game to preserve a 2-0 lead, with speedster Michael Bourn on first base and Hunter Pence at the plate to pinch hit. Pence, a righty, would face a platoon advantage over the Dodgers traditional 8th inning pitcher, Hong-Chi Kuo, leaving Torre with a choice between Broxton and weaker right-handed options. Under these circumstances, where one good swing leads to a tie game, the correct decision is to use the most effective pitcher available, regardless of his pre-defined role. Torre's decision is bad for fantasy owners (as Broxton is probably unavailable to pitch tonight, or if he does, will certainly be unavailable on Saturday) but he's not in the business of pleasing them.

Elsewhere, I continue to be puzzled by the rising trend of teams carrying twelve and thirteen man pitching staffs, especially in the American league. With 13 pitchers, teams can only carry a starting 8, a backup catcher, an a measly three fielding substitutes. This almost requires the designated hitter to be someone who can at least passibly play one position in the field; to wit, only Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, and to a lesser extent Oakland carry a full-time DH. The continuing obsession with the 100 pitch limit at the decline of multi-inning relievers has reached the point where it impacts the offensive side of the equation. Some day, an inventive American League GM will go back to the four-man rotation (while reducing the number of 110+-pitch outings seem to have improved pitcher health and effectiveness, the extra day of rest does not) and bring back the long relief man, making even a DH Platoon a possibility. But that day seems to be far in the future.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Voting Rights

Good for Washington State. Previous crime waves have caused outbreaks of panic-induced efforts to enact tougher and tougher punishments without any discussion of what those punishments are trying to accomplish. Taking away rights for ex-cons who need to be re-integrated into society doesn't really accomplish anything. But once these laws are passed, no one wants to repeal them, for fear of looking "soft on crime". While crime rates are still to high, the electorate is less focused on the issue, which seems to have opened up some space to do the right thing.

Ezra Klein To The Washington Post


Catholics: Better Than The Pope

Says Nate Silver: "The institution of the Catholic Church is often unpopular with liberals for its position on issues like family planning, but it can also be a force for social progress." He cites data showing that Catholics have more progressive views on global warming than other groups. Sure, hooray Catholics, but I don't know if the Church deserves any credit.

People should be careful about crediting the views of lay Catholics to the Church hierarchy (or blaming lay Catholics for the views in the church hierarchy). Here's Gallup showing us that Catholics have basically the same abortion and stem cell views as everybody else. Given the extent to which lay Catholics make up their own minds regardless of what the Church hierarchy says, I don't know if the global warming results can be credited to its good position on those issues.

If I was looking for moral guidance on some issue or other, I'd trust some random Catholic guy or gal off the streets of Boston long before I'd trust Benedict XVI. I wonder if any ordinary Catholics out there are upset about the way the Pope flies around like some kind of Holy Roman Vampire, draining them of their credit for good deeds and using it to energize himself for more wicked schemes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deep Thought

If you're torturing a prisoner because you think he has "actionable intelligence" regarding an "imminent threat", and six months go by without any attack, isn't there a strong likelihood that your prisoner has no actionable intelligence because there is no imminent threat?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I'm not even to page thirty of the two hundred sixty-three page report from the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is closer to a Tom Clancy novel than reality ought to be. But let me just say that it appears that while a significant number of career bureaucrats raised various objections, the widespread use of torture required the collusion of an awful lot of very sick people.

It's also worth pointing out that the SACS memo probably means that we don't know the full story behind the "good faith legal advice" given to the CIA. We know that CIA's General Counsel received a memo from the OLC authorizing waterboarding. But we have no visibility into CIA's internal deliberations on the legality of waterboarding.

Oh, and almost goes without saying: Disbar John Yoo. Disbar Jay Bybee. Impeach Jay Bybee. Do it now. I've been something of a wet in terms of punishment, but we can't just let these people waltz back into polite society after these perversion of the law and basic morality.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The New York piece on the plight of our financier overclass is chock full of delicious sentences. I particularly liked the douche who thinks someone should paid well simply because he graduated from fancy school. And I say this is a graduate of a fancy school! You've got to do something with that degree, man! Which brings me to my second favorite sentence, the guy who whines "No one complains when Julia Roberts pulls down $25 million per movie or A-Rod has a $300 million guarantee." I have a piece of news for this fellow.

Lots of people complain about salaries for top celebrities and sports stars.

But let's set that to one side; after all, I don't even think Alex Rodriguez is underpaid! Professional baseball generates tons of revenue because people enjoy the game of baseball, enjoy having a winning team, and enjoy seeing guys hit the ball over the fence. The primary alternative, then, to A-Rod's high salary is for the Steinbrenner family to get richer. Likewise if Julia Roberts didn't get a cut of box office revenue, it would just mean more money for MPAA members.

So why do even pro-A-Rod folks like me feel differently about Wall Street? I'll give you two reasons. The first, I'll admit, is a lack of visibility into the distribution industry's compensation. We hear about the guys at the top of the heap who earn eight and nine-figure salaries. But we don't know how many people earn just above six figures, or how many college hires work two years of eighty-hour weeks at below-market wages only to have their bosses fire them suggest they go to business school. And aside from the traders and strategists, there are a host of other folks running these businesses whose compensation we don't know much about either.

The second reason is the larger reason that Wall Street Is Different. In case of both A-Rod and Julia Roberts, there's a straightforward choice between revenue going to labor (the employees) or going to capital (ownership). A-Rod is not going to make decisions about how the Yankees negotiate their next TV contract or set ticket prices. Julia Roberts is not going to set the advertising budget for her next film or convince AMC Theater's to charge less for popcorn. This is why I can muster at least a smidge of sympathy for the more self-aware folks in the New York article; after all, labor has to fight for its share of the revenue, right? But on Wall Street, labor is the capital; the guys doing the trading are making direct decisions about what the firm does with its money. They're also explicitly or implicitly taking a share of the profits, but they don't seem to suffer adverse consequences in the event of losses. In addition, the high margins in finance make it appear that its one of the few industries that is immune to competitive pressures found almost everywhere else. Nothing ever seems to be drive salaries or prices/fees down; the whole thing has the feel of a one-way ratchet. Of late I've thought this has been due to increased consolidation resulting in too little competition, but I have no way prove that wild-ass theory.

How Many Corrupt Things Can Jane Harman Do At Once?

Via Matt, this Jane Harman story from Jeff Stein at CQ is just amazing. The story starts with two agents of the anti-Palestinian group AIPAC being in trouble for spying on America. On the phone with Harman, an Israeli agent offers to lobby Nancy Pelosi to let Harman become chair of the House intelligence committee, if Harman lobbies Alberto Gonzalez to go easy on the AIPAC guys. She tells them that she knows Gonzales is just a Bush Administration sockpuppet who doesn't have the independence to be worth negotiating with, but she'll put pressure on figures lower down in the Justice Department hierarchy. Knowing that she's doing something wrong, she ends the conversation with "This conversation doesn’t exist" and hangs up.

(After the Democrats won the House, Pelosi gave the Intelligence chair to Silvestre Reyes instead of Harman, whom she didn't trust. Reyes is not the most intelligent guy on Intelligence -- that'd be Rush Holt -- but he's less tangled in corrupt machinations than Harman. Also, he voted against the Iraq War, while Harman voted for it, and the most senior non-Harman Democrat on the committee, Alcee Hastings, is kind of a mess.)

Anyway, how do we know about this conversation? We know it because Harman was caught on an NSA wiretap, and intelligence community people who have seen the transcripts told Jeff Stein about it. At the time, CIA director Porter Goss saw what she was tangled up in and signed off on a national security investigation. Pelosi and Dennis Hastert are about to be notified.

And here's where the story gets an extra dose of crazy. The NSA is going to investigate Harman about it, but when the possibility of an investigation gets up to Gonzales, he uses the situation as a bargaining chip with Harman. What deal does Gonzales offer? He won't investigate Harman on the basis of the wiretaps, or let Pelosi and Hastert know what she was doing, if she comes out and publicly defends warrantless wiretapping! And with the Bush Administration's wiretapping program under fire from the New York Times, that's what she does:

On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.”

This is just a horrendous story of corruption, folly, and self-pwnage. And it involves the Democrat who was in line to become Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Moral of the story: Nancy Pelosi is infallible, and will be the angel of your salvation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The New Trouble With Fox News

As Yglesias says, what would be really valuable for the future is building a national political consensus against torture and other gross violations of civil liberties. That would probably do more to deter future violations than imprisoning top Bush administration officials. Torturer presidents in the future can stack the Supreme Court with Bybee types who will help them get off scot-free, and torture without risking legal punishment. But you can't stack the American people. If public opinion is solidly anti-torture and your political consultants freak out when they hear the word, you're less likely to commit abuses.

But I don't think that we're going to be able to establish any such consensus anytime soon. It used to be that we were worried about Fox News defeating us in elections, or beating the drums for another Bush Administration war. Winning by big margins is nice, because we don't have to worry about those particular horrors for at least a little while. But now we have to worry about how Fox and the rest of the right-wing noise machine are going to continually sustain a substantial minority of crazy people, preventing the formation of an anti-torture consensus, an anti-war-of-aggression consensus, and anti-warrantless-spying consensus. Even if there's majority support for these views, anybody scrapping for power within the Republican Party will find reason to oppose them, just to get a majority of Republicans.

I think the impossibility of consensus on these issues is part of why nobody thinks about consensus and there's so much left-wing attention to judicial punishments for the perpetrators.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Poor Of Texas Call To You

I realize that fellow Democrats talking about the advantages of having Texas secede from the union are just treating Rick Perry's speculation with the disrespect it deserves. But Democrats from more progressive states shouldn't forget that their influence as fellow Americans is protecting minorities, gay people, single women, and poor white Southerners* from being left alone in a cage with the rich people and religious fundamentalists who will otherwise eat them. The former groups are all majority-Democratic constituencies. See them not as ungrateful beneficiaries of your tax dollars and your efforts to keep a pro-choice majority on the Supreme Court, my friend from a city where most people know that hummus and baba ghanoush are tasty foods and not terrorist groups, but as the good folk you're trying to rescue from the forces of evil.

*Paul Rosenberg had a great OpenLeft post on the poor white Southerners a while ago. Basically what you see over the decades from 1950 to the present is that rich and middle-class white folks switch in big numbers the Democrats to the GOP.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

260,000+ attend Tea Parties

So sayeth Nate Silver. I believe the Obama campaign would call that "Portland, St. Louis, and Kansas City".

Immigration rally organizers would call it "Between one-half and two-thirds of Dallas".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Deep Thought

What does Ross Douthat think of Afghanistan's attempts to enshrine conservative cultural norms into law?

Where is the "Chicago Project"?

The utter failure of the teabaggers has left me trying to figure out why the modern-day grassroots seem so ineffective in comparison to 1993. Then, as now, the outrage was fueled by talk radio and funded by monied conservative institutions. I can think of a dozen possible explanations, including "at this point in 1993, the conservative grassroots weren't all that effective", but what do our readers think? Why doesn't Ted Olsen have an army of lawyers roaming around Chicago trying to find people with dirt on Barack Obama? Why isn't Eric Cantor calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Obama's non-dealings with Tony Rezko? Where's the beef?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


FDR, May 1932:
It is well within the inventive capacity of man, who has built up this great social and economic machine capable of satisfying the wants of all, to insure that all who are willing and able to work receive from it at least the necessities of life. In such a system, the reward for a day's work will have to be greater, on the average, than it has been, and the reward to capital, especially capital which is speculative, will have to be less. But I believe that after the experience of the last three years, the average citizen would rather receive a smaller return upon his savings in return for greater security for the principal, than experience for a moment the thrill or the prospect of being a millionaire only to find the next moment that his fortune, actual or expected, has withered in his hand because the economic machine has again broken down.
Barack Obama, today:
It is simply not sustainable to have a 21st century financial system that is governed by 20th century rules and regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the entire economy. It is not sustainable to have an economy where in one year, 40% of our corporate profits came from a financial sector that was based too much on inflated home prices, maxed out credit cards, overleveraged banks and overvalued assets; or an economy where the incomes of the top 1% have skyrocketed while the typical working household has seen their income decline by nearly $2,000.
It has taken a long time—almost certainly too long a time—for our political system to reach the point where the President can say, unequivocally, "banks make too much money". What he proposes to do about that is another story, but just reaching this point shows how far we have come.

Why Aren't We Passing Future Tax Increases?

Passing fiscal items for future years seems to be a fairly ordinary thing to do in budgets. The Bush tax cuts were set to expire in the future, and some of the stimulus spending we've passed goes on in the future. So I would've hoped that the Obama administration would use the present moment to pass higher taxes on people who look especially bad at the present moment. If you wanted to set it up so capital gains were taxed equally to income in 2011, or pass some kind of securities transaction tax, or set up a millionaire's tax bracket, this would be the time to push the legislation.

So why aren't we seeing it? Usual menu of explanations: (Obama being chicken / Obama being politically realistic / It's bad policy for some reason I haven't thought of.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

That One Is Hit Hard, It's Got A Chance, It Is ... Outta Here!

George Kalas RIP. As a division rival I hate seeing the Phillies when, but I felt good for Kalas, who had to endure many years of poor teams prior to their recent victory.

The South Is Another Country

This data from the most recent Daily Kos poll is truly astonishing. On a broad range of questions, the country neatly divides into two groups:
  1. The South
  2. Everybody else.
It appears that the GOP's various cultural attacks are now unlikely to work anywhere outside the South, though perhaps due to intra regional difference they may succeed in parts of the Midwest or West. But the basic shape of public opinion is that most of the country is no longer interested in being envious, frustrated, or fearful of their fellow countrymen hundreds of miles away.

One hopes that these data will force the Republican party to shift its message in order to accommodate more voters in the Midwest and Northeast, but it's not clear that such a shift is truly necessary. After all, continued economic doldrums might put Boehner in the Speaker's chair without any change in the party's message, at which point we'd all be back to square one.

Why John Rawls Didn't Win Us Any Senate Seats, And Why I Blog

Asks Ezra: "If John Rawls had never existed, it's very clear that American political philosophy would look very different. But is it actually clear that American politics would look even a little bit changed?" Probably not, I think. The lesser reason is that his political philosophy actually didn't have very distinctive consequences relative to the American political environment. The greater reason is that we're in a political climate where intellectuals don't have much influence.

I was teaching two weeks of Rawls in my political philosophy seminar this semester, and on rereading it struck me how similar the practical consequences of his views are to the utilitarian views he displaced on the American political philosophy scene. Rawls' difference principle, which basically says that social distributions of goods are better insofar as the people on the bottom are better off, isn't a theory about how happiness should be distributed. It's a view about how social primary goods, like wealth and opportunity, should be distributed. Given the diminishing marginal utility of such goods, a utilitarian will be most concerned with helping the people with the least. There are still going to be differences between the distribution I want and the distribution Rawls wants. But given the existing distribution of goods in American society, Rawls and I are going to be pulling for basically the same political proposals.

Of course, the deeper you get into the theory, the bigger my differences with Rawls get. I think his justifications for why people in the original position would choose the difference principle aren't very good, and he'd do better to just appeal to diminishing marginal utility. His point about the separateness of persons and how you can't make up for harming one person by benefitting another -- his key objection to utilitarianism -- isn't respected by his own theory, which allows you to trade off harms and benefits as long as you do it within classes of people. At least as it's written, the methodology of reflective equilibrium doesn't allow for the sorts of debunking moves that my defense of utilitarianism depends on. But inside baseball stuff like that isn't going to have a popular impact.

(A relevant boast: we utilitarians may be almost as dead as the logical positivists on the US philosophy scene, but which philosopher does Nicholas Kristof sympathetically cover in a very nice column? Peter Singer, taking the side of animals against the meat industry. This is what happens when you have distinctive and striking commitments that touch diverse and sensitive aspects of human life. Which isn't an objection to Rawls -- it's just an explanation for why he wasn't as splashy.)

But the bigger reason why Rawls didn't make a big splash is just that the forces governing American politics at present don't put any premium on intellectual opinion, or show any interest in mainstreaming intellectual debate. The same circumstances that make it possible for George W. Bush to beat Al Gore in 2000 and Sarah Palin to be chosen as a vice-presidential candidate in 2008 prevent any current political philosopher from making an impact. If I saw a bunch of American TV pundits eagerly speculating about which candidate would win the intellectual vote, I'd make sure not to drive or operate heavy machinery in the next twelve hours. Rawls may have a nifty argument that you're not entitled to the things you get in the free market, since those things are really just products of other things that you didn't earn any more than a prince earned his hereditary title. But even though that argument was able to keep the young Texans in my Business Ethics section in their seats, trying to figure a way out, several minutes after the bell rang, it's not the sort of thing that you're going to see on cable TV anytime soon.

Being a philosophy professor who's interested in politics, you might expect me to be rather unhappy about this state of affairs. And, yeah! I'd really like it to change. The funny thing is that I've grown up so fully within this political environment that I've come to accept its constraints. My plans for having political impact generally stand apart from my research. It's kind of a weird thing to say now, just as I'm finally starting to write up my big argument for utilitarianism, the theory that stands at the foundation of my political views. But as awesome as I think the argument is, and as dramatic as its consequences are for how the world should be, I don't really think about it affecting the way anybody outside philosophy thinks about anything.

My teaching might inspire a few kids to do good things or turn their energies in socially beneficial directions, though I'm not under any illusions about my ability in that regard. I can give away a big chunk of my salary to people and causes that will make the world a better place. I can do the sort of thing that all of us bloggers do (thanks to all you for reading!) And hey, maybe the American political environment will emerge from the anti-intellectual shadow of whatever it was that made this happen. But until I see that happening, I'm not expecting to write any journal articles that change the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Uh, We Wish

When I saw this headline on one of my students' facebook feeds, I thought it was from The Onion, sort of like their classic "Drugs Win Drug War". Actually, it's from respectable UK publication The Telegraph.
I think the reporter heard some old-fashioned hell-in-a-handbasket rhetoric from far-right figures and thought it was something new. People had been telling me that what the British press says about American politics needs to be salted a little bit, and this would seem to be a case in point.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Not Change We Can Believe In

Throw out the damn first pitch. I know there's some concern about looking like your having to much fun, but come on. If William Howard F'ing Taft can do it, so can you.


Granting newspapers an antitrust exemption is a truly awful idea. If anything, Congress really ought to revisit the MLB's antitrust, which would probably have the effect of putting a third major league team in the NYC media market, probably in Northern New Jersey, and would have meant that Washington, DC area would have had a baseball team a decade ago rather than let Peter Angelos further exploit the Orioles' dominance of two media markets.

The fundamental problem facing the news is that while it has incredibly high social value, most news gathering is not particularly profitable. The advertising model worked as long as in each local market the major players held an oligopoly on news and ad placement. But with cable, the internet, and reduced print publishing costs, that oligopoly no longer exists.

This sort of conversation can get a little too close to topics I can't blog about, so I should probably stop there.

Friday Kitsch Cover

Japan performs "I Second That Emotion" originally by The Miracles.

Leave your nominations for next week's Kitsch Cover in the comments, lest you be subjected to Disturbed's rendition of "Shout" or Orgy's version of "Blue Monday".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Save-Driven Insanity

Having watched Corey Wade and an assortment of middle relievers blow three-run lead in the eighth inning, including being allowed to pitch with the tying run on third with two out, Joe Sheehan is absolutely right; managers have adjusted their in-game strategy to maximize their closer's save opportunities rather than maximize their team's chances of winning. Yesterday Frank Francisco and Jonathan Broxton were brought in to protect three run leads in the ninth inning. This is good for my fantasy team, but not for their respective teams; you actually do the more to help your team's chance of winning by bringing in your best reliever when you're one run behind—to minimize the chance of your opponent getting a bigger lead—than you do by having the relief ace close out a game when three runs ahead. Today, rather than call on Broxton to get four outs instead of three, Joe Torre left an obviously struggling Wade to cough up the lead. Perhaps the Dodgers' skipper didn't want Broxton to pitch back-to-back days so early in the season, in which case bringing him in the previous day with a healthier lead is even less defensible.

Ironically, in the postseason Torre has been one of the managers who is mostwilling to ignore the three-out straightjacket. Mariano Rivera routinely pitched more than one inning when the Yankees were in the playoffs. Sadly he's either forgotten this tactic or ignores it during the regular season.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Philosophy, The End Of, Not

Some people, including one of my students, have wondered what I thought of the David Brooks "The end of philosophy" op-ed. I'd say something, but really all that needs to be said is 'just read hilzoy'.

I Can Haz Nebulous Fear-Mongering

In a sign that either (a) we're all slipping a little bit, or (b) the lolcats meme has run its course, how has a video released by someone called National Organization for Marriage been released ...

... without someone linking to a picture like this?

My Cousins Will Happily Pay Your Grandma's Social Security

People sometimes worry about declining birthrates in Western countries, since this has the public policy consequence that we won't have enough young workers in the prime of their earning life to fund social welfare programs. Solution: bring in more immigrants! Get them in their 20s once they've finished college or their graduate degrees, and you won't even have to pay for educating them. They'll show up and spend 40 years earning high wages and keeping Social Security afloat.

But via Matt, Michelle Goldberg says:
While immigration is obviously part of the solution, immigration on the necessary scale is almost certain to produce serious nationalist backlashes. According to an article published a few years ago in the Journal of Population Research, if Italy’s 1995 fertility rate remained constant, then without immigration the country’s population size a century hence would be a mere 14 percent of what it is today. Even if Italy could smoothly adjust to a majority-immigrant society, will those immigrants really support a system in which a good part of their taxes go to maintaining a bunch of old Italians who they don’t necessarily feel any connection to?
Why won't they? If there's any data that they won't, I'd be curious to see it. My parents were Indian immigrants, as were lots of their friends, and I can't remember anybody complaining about this sort of thing. I heard some other unpleasant stuff, including the mom of one of my friends unashamedly pointing out the increasing number of black children at a school as a sign that it was going downhill. But nothing about funding social welfare programs for Americans in general.

I can see a couple reasons for this. One is that everybody ends up collecting Social Security and other welfare programs. I don't know how they do it in Italy, but the situation of 25-year-old immigrant here isn't any different from that of a 25-year old native whose grandparents happen to be fairly well off and don't need their Social Security money. Neither has an immediate self-interested reason to support the system. But outside of your local Young Republicans chapter, you don't find roving bands of angry 25-year-olds who are trying to get rid of Social Security. Personal connections to the elderly aren't crucial in keeping the system going anyway. (What keeps it going is the fact that the elderly vote, and that they really care about this stuff. That's not changing.)

But the biggest reason is just that immigrants in a well-functioning system that allows for full citizenship tend to like their new home and identify with it. They appreciate the opportunities America gives them, and are happy to play by its rules. Paying for old people's health care is a perfectly sensible social cause, and anyway the deal is that others are going to pay for you later, so why complain? Maybe if immigrant citizens had to pay higher Social Security taxes, or if they were excluded from the system, there would be a problem. But that's not the case.

Now, Goldberg's post is specifically on European countries, and perhaps that's essential to her point. While we do have an excessive set of restrictions on immigration (though from what I understand we're a whole lot better on paths to citizenship once you're in than most of Europe), one of the nice things about this place is that the whole concept of being an American isn't something that requires you to be of a particular ethnic background. It's not like being Italian or French or German, which are ethnicities as well as nationalities. Maybe in Italy, the Indian immigrants grumble about paying Social Security for elderly Italians. But what are you going to do in America? Grumble about paying Social Security for elderly Americans? You're an American too. It's hard to get a good us vs. them dynamic going when us is a part of them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I thought it was two weeks' salary. Even in good times, two months salary is an insane figure. That's a down payment on a car, or, as Dana points out, a long vacation staying in decent hotels. Clearly my peers are going to think I'm some sort of skinflint when the time comes.

The photos are quite interesting, though I suppose it would have been an improvement to get pictures of a set of rings purchased by actual people to see if the not just the size of the rock, but the style of rings also differs depending on socioeconomic status.

Defense Budget

I've only read the commentary on the defense budget inside my RSS reader, but it really appears that Bob Gates defense budget is a home run. Gates seems determined to re-orient defense spending away from overpriced weapons systems we may or may not need, especially when you consider America's absurdly large capability advantage over our "peer" competitors in Russia and China, and towards spending that will help fight the wars we're actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you asked me whether the proposed cuts would ever be politically feasible I would have sad "no", but at least Gates is going to try. Well done, sir, well done.

Universal Broadband: Not Cheap

People who talk about broadband infrastructure investment in the United states need to read this story about Australia's decision build a nationwide broadband network. The government will spend $43B AUS ($30.6B USD) to get the equivalent of a Verizon FIOS subscription to 90% of Australian households. This in a country with one fifteenth the population of the United States. When you consider that expensive part of a broadband network lies in the "last mile"—the cable running from telephone exchanges to the home—odds are that the tab for an equivalent investment in the United States would run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Even spread out over ten years, this is no small undertaking; $15B a year for ten years is on par with the budget for NASA ($17.4B), so we are talking about creating a fairly large agency or drastically expanding the FCC in order to oversee the buildout.

Harold and Kumar Go to the White House

Well, just Kumar. Good for Kal Penn. He worked his butt off for the Obama campaign, and seems to have found politics interesting enough to shift careers, at least temporarily.

Monday, April 6, 2009

When Is An Estate Tax Cut Not an Estate Tax Cut?

When it's part of a deficit neutral reserve fund. Obviously given an almost guaranteed Kabuki vote on the estate tax, any Democrat feeling any pressure at all on the issue is going to vote Yea. Thus while it's ludicrous for Murray and Cantwell to continue operating from such a defensive crouch when the PVI for Washington state is now D+5, they're not actively trying to destroy the country's finances.

Take that Frank Blethen! Hopefully this will conclude our series on the latest estate tax rounaround.

People Who Vote For Bad Stuff That Will Die In Conference

The state of play with the estate tax break seems to be as follows: it passed the Senate 51-48, with nine Democrats joining the Republicans -- Bayh, Baucus, Cantwell, Landrieu, Lincoln, Murray, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, and Tester -- and taking the pro-deficit position. Fortunately, it's pretty sure to get stripped out in conference committee, since Kent Conrad and the House negotiators are against it.

How should I regard the Democrats who do this kind of thing? I'm assuming that it doesn't make it into the final bill. If they've found a way to score some campaign contributions from plutocrat Frank Blethen or defend themselves from him without generating any bad policy consequences, good for them and I won't criticize. On the other hand, he's doing a pretty bad job as a plutocratic villain if he's letting himself get scammed by Senators who vote for his legislation and then run off giggling with fistfuls of his money while it gets killed in conference committee. So is he getting what he's paying for? If so, what is it, and how mad should I be at his nine servants?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chavez Wants To "Reset" Relations With The US

You catch more flies with Obama than with vinegar.

US-Venezuela tensions always seemed a lot more smoke than fire to me. Chavez may want to become a dictator, but he's not one at present, and on the whole he hasn't done anything as horrible as any number of villains we backed during our long and brutal history in Latin America. His real beef, as I understand it, is just that America has always opposed him, and that we weren't very nice to Venezuela when oil was cheap in the 1990s and they were hurting. Right now, it's relatively cheap again, and that plus a president who cares about good international relations is making Chavez talk sense. If he's open to a deal where we send them some foreign aid or something in exchange for long-term oil price security, I'd be for it.

Let's hope Obama seizes this opportunity.

Reconciliation: The New Sensation That's Sweeping The Nation

Ezra lists the "three serious possibilities" for how to set up budget reconciliation, which allows you to pass health care reform with the standard 50 votes. He hears that the real choice is "between the second and third options" of reconciliation being written to automatically kick in if no bill passes by September, and the budget committee chairmen standing up and saying that budget will be revised to include reconciliation if the process breaks down because Republicans refuse to play ball.

If correct, this sounds like good news, just because Ezra hasn't listed an idiot option 4 that goes like: "Democratic leaders come out and announce that they're not going to use reconciliation, in deference to Republicans who are subsequently going to get up from the table, moon them, and run away."

I guess the reason for this is something like what he says here: "no one is sure of what health reform would look like if Democrats use reconciliation. But everyone is sure of what it looks like if Democrats fail to pass a bill. Democrats are much more afraid of total failure than they are of reconciliation." And that makes sense. Now that we're finally over the hump and there's going to be a major drive for health care reform, it's not touching the issue, but failing to deliver on it, that raises thoughts of everything ending like 1994 where you don't pass a bill and everyone gets executed by Newt Gingrich's firing squads.

Also, Ezra shouldn't listen to commenters who find the reconciliation discussion boring. I find it absolutely thrilling because if you get to use reconciliation, it's basically the equivalent of getting 10 Democratic Senators elected. Okay, 10 Senators who only get to vote once, but it's a more important vote than many Senators will ever cast in their careers. And you can pass an awesome lefty health care bill, not only without Republican obstructionism, but without having to write something Ben Nelson will vote for! I guess that's why people like Nelson are anti-reconciliation -- it's not, or not just, his love of bipartisan comity in the Senate. It's that reconciliation makes him a lot less relevant.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Two-Faced Pol Of The Day

Ron Sparks.

Sparks, you may recall, attracted Chuck Schumer's attention after denizens of Daily Kos suggested he might be a good Senate candidate after two terms as Agriculture Commissioner. He's popular, he's run on a platform that includes a lot of stuff that progressive like, so why not give it a shot, right?

Sparks declined to run, because State Senator Vivian Figures, who is African-American, also ran, and Sparks, who is white, didn't want to get into a primary that might have racial overtones (news reports suggested that had the primary field been cleared, he would have run). Fair enough.. The Republican who ran against Harold Washington wasn't a racist, but once he got close enough to winning, he let an awful lot of racist folks get close to him. Bill and Hillary Clinton have incredibly good records on race relations—Stan Greenberg thinks that Clinton viewed overcoming racial divisions as the underlying mission of his Presidency—and yet they were accused of playing the race card repeatedly during the primary. I can see not wanting to hug that particular tar baby wade into that particular swamp.

But now Sparks is running for Governor. After Artur Davis, who like Figures is African-American, has already entered the primary. At first blush, it looks like Sparks was just looking for an excuse to avoid running for Senate. Which, let's face it, is a much more grueling and risky process in exchange for a much smaller reward. The governor gets to go to the Auburn-Bama game every year and live in a nice mansion in Montgomery gratis, spending relatively little time raising money for a reelection he's very likely to win. Senators have to shuttle back and forth to DC every week and spend an absurd amount of time fundraising, especially when they represent a Red state and fear their reelection prospects (compare the reelect rates of first-term governors to first-term Senators). Between Sebelius, Napolitano, and now Sparks, Democrats have lost three of their better candidates for upcoming Senate elections. Not good.

The Future of Voice Mail

It's not the end of voice mail; it's that the voice mail message will show up as an mp3 attachment in your Inbox, which will text your phone "voice mail message from 202-555-XYZW". At that point, you'll at least know who contacted you at which point you can call them back, ask what it is they wanted, and have them repeat what they already told you on their voice mail.

Of course, this is a totally ineffecient use of the world's time and we would be better off if (a) the default posture was for no one to leave voice mail, and (b) everyone therefore understood that someone leaving a message probably has something very important to ask/tell you, and thus (c) everyone listens to the relatively small number of voice mail messages they receive. Failing that, people should check their darn messages.


Marc Ambinder: "BTW: senior administration officials tell my colleague Ron Brownstein they have no trouble with Nelson and Bayh voting no given their support for earlier measures and given their electoral situation." Nelson, sure. But what the hell is Evan Bayh doing here? He's extremely famous in Indiana. Barack Obama just won his state, a studding 22-point swing towards the Democrats. Unless Mitch Daniels challenges him there are no viable opponents, and even then he'd beat Daniels in a walk. His campaign war chest is huge, and he doesn't share it with anybody. Can't he find some other way to cultivate a moderate image besides voting against the President's budget?

Frank Blethen Strikes Again

You can, in some sense, blame the passage of the estate tax amendment on Frank Blethen. Blethen is the majority owner of the Seattle Times and one of the prime members of a group that has been spending millions to save billions, or at least try to save billions. And he uses his paper as a bully pulpit for this issue; almost any Washington State Democrat whose district is at all competitive tends to support estate tax repeal (or in this case, steep cuts in the tax), if only to avoid going twelve rounds with the Times editorial board and risking negative coverage. What's more, the state party remains traumatized by 1994, when Washington was Ground Zero for the Gingrich revolution. Of course, in addition to the national party falling apart, the state's governor appeared at the University and made noises about legalizing marijuana, vetoed bill banning the sale of violent video games to minors, and proposed his own statewide version of Clintoncare. Needless to say, the current governor isn't going to make those mistakes. Thus while from the outside, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray appear extremely safe, in their own minds they're just one false step away from crushing defeat. Hence their ridiculous votes on the Lincoln-Kyl amendment. Had both Washington Senators voted "nay", the amendment would have failed.

Put this one on the list of "things to be killed in conference".

A Theory Of Gingrich

Newt Gingrich:
"If the Republicans can't break out of being the right wing party of big government, then I think you would see a third party movement in 2012."
Or whatever. I think the correct general theory of Things Newt Gingrich Says is that they're produced not by adherence to some norm of truth wherein the speaker tries to accurately describe reality, but by adherence to a norm of maintaining Newt Gingrich's position as the voice of the Contract With America. As long as he talks that way, he'll be the patron saint of the death cult faction of the Republican Party. Insofar as he has any sort of future that's relevant to politics, it's something that comes out of the love that the Mike Pence faction bears for him, and that's why he talks the way he does.

Which must complicate his life. Does he get in a cab and ask the driver to take him as far away from the United Nations as possible? Does he order pizza with extra cheese, tort reform, and Medicare cuts? Does he ask his doctor for pills that will help him cut taxes in the bedroom, like he did back in his younger days? It must be a weird way to live.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Deep Thoughts With Barack Obama

"In life there are no guarantees, and [in] economics, there are no guarantees. The people who thought they could provide guarantees, many of them worked at AIG, and it didn't work out so well." —Barack Obama, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Life Imitates Blog

Keith Olbermann: "Congressman Ryan's budget offers lower deficits, lower spending, lower taxes, and at least two million more jobs. Apparently he forgot to include the pony for everybody."