Pressing 1 for English…

This post is spot on because we know that the Neoconfederate mind is fixated on the life-altering totalitarian impositions foisted on them like having to Press 1 for English when they call somewhere or use an ATM, not being able to say the n-word even though black people can, and other such manifest injustices.

David Cameron For Governor of California

Despite the fact that the UK’s independence from the euro hasn’t prevented its own stupid austerity measures from inducing a triple-dip recession and the irony of his desire for less unity with Europe while opposing a Scottish exit, I think David Cameron is right.

The EU has overexpanded more than the NHL. Giving German bankers de facto control over other European countries’ economies sounds like a recipe for World War II in reverse, and the Nazi-like rise of the Golden Dawn party in Greece bears that analogy out.

The EU was probably always intended by some, if not most, to be some kind of quasi-federation, but at first it was an economic union (and in some connections still is). This is not entirely dissimilar to the United States, whose original governing document, the Articles of Confederation was, more or less, the world’s first free trade area. It took the bloodiest war in American history to settle the question.

What drove me to blogging over 10 years ago wasn’t the desire to start at least brining something other than roses to gun fights (if not nukes)—even though I agree—and it wasn’t solely the bad taste that Bush v. Gore left me with. No, I saw a different picture that needed changing.

Realizing that the Obama administration is probably the best we’ll do in a generation, it’s time to admit that trying to drag the whole country forward isn’t going to work. It’s time to see the New Deal through the 60s as the anomaly that it was and that for most of the time, the federal government hasn’t helped. This is not to suggest that the Tea Party agenda has any merit. It doesn’t.

But I do suggest that liberals not spend the rest of their lives trying to get Medicare for All in all 50 states. Start with your state. This is something that the ACA actually makes fairly easy to do, or easier.

We need the federal government to keep us out of stupid wars, to preserve the gains that have been achieved and to not erode them any further. If they want to go Galt in Mississippi, then fuck them. Send us our money back and enjoy.

Civil Rights, I think, was different, because it was part of sewing up the original wounds of our Founding. It had to be universal.

So maybe California needs to think about doing what Cameron just did, if for no other reason than to try and get us a better deal.

Almost on cue…

Why should the Dems nuke the filibuster? Because the purpose of winning elections is to enact an agenda, not to win more elections. If you enact a good agenda, you should win more elections naturally.

The Republicans at least understand the first part. So, what are they doing and what have they done?

• Stacked the courts with partisan hacks like Judge Santelle on the DC Circuit who just happen to limit executive power when the executive is a Democrat.

• Create an ideology of hackery so that said hackery can be dismissed as an alternative “ideology”

• Ram through reforms to the electoral college so that they can more easily win the White House

• Gerrymander Congressional districts so that they retain a comfortable majority even when losing in the vote toal

• Filibuster Democratic appointments not just to the courts (not that they would “balance out” hacks like Santelle, but would probably just be judges) but to important government agencies, making their functioning very difficult

• Otherwise use every ounce of leverage from every veto point whether or not it really exists in the Constitution (and even create new ones)

Should the Democrats act like this? That’s a tough question. The fact is that they don’t. They want to govern. It’s good that they do. But so often, they end up coming into government to strike difficult “compromises” with the very people who created the disasters they are fixing, only to have the resulting fix either die by a thousand paper cuts, through a poison pill, or, as in the case of the Bush tax cuts, to simply be reversed.

The truth is, no one knows what will happen if the electoral college is eliminated or worked around. I sincerely doubt that it will improve the situation with respect to money in politics. The most expensive TV markets are those with the most people, so those will obviously be the biggest targets. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Texas will get as tired of the political ads as Ohio and Virginia have of late.

But it’s preferable to having state legislatures simply designate their electors (make no mistake this is what they are doing).

These are difficult questions. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if Democrats really should start matching these tactics. What I do know is that they must stop them.


The Filibuster For The Record

The weakling spineless imps that inhabit the Senate once again failed to kill the filibuster. They just pissed away a chance to significantly remake the judiciary (a point completely lost on the “but the House will block everything anyway” crowd). And it was done on the theory that this would protect their own right to block stuff in the future.

So, this post is here to say and to create a record saying: you were wrong, it was foreseeable that you were wrong, it will hurt people because you were wrong, and when you are proved wrong it won’t be bad luck. We can show our work.

First, the filibuster is wrong no matter who has the majority. Here’s a post from this site in 2005 condemning it when the Republicans controlled everything. There are numerous reasons that it is unconstitutional including one I was the first to come up with on the Internets.

Second, the Democrats blocked essentially nothing when Bush was President. Samuel Alito is on the Supreme Court, someone who is far less intellectual are far more hackish than Bork was. They never did anything to curb the Iraq war. So, on that level, who cares?

Third, the Republicans will kill the filibuster when it suits them. They threatened to in 2005—probably one of the only good ideas they had in the entire age of Bush. There is a very strong chance that they will do so in exactly 2 years, because the 2014 senate map doesn’t look so hot for Dems and just got worse with Harkin announcing his retirement.

The filibuster and activist courts give legislators the excuse to pass or propose hideous legislation and lets the electorate vote for personality, knowing (wrongly) that nothing too crazy will occur. It’s time for politicians to own their agendas and the consequences of that agenda. The Rs get this. They made the Dems own healthcare reform.


Lind's Wrongway Map For Liberalism

In a “what’s next for liberalism” piece, Michael Lind wants the abolition of the death penalty and a criminal justice system reform next. After that, he says, we should take a look at voting rights.

Is this the cliodynamics of liberal reform in this country? We enact bread and butter reforms like Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare and then we turn the corner to pie in the sky pony plans? After Vietnam, all liberalism had was a series of identity political bromides. While I actually agree with most of those goals, the political prioritization of things like this is only going to trigger further and deeper setbacks. We cannot afford another Reagan.

The first three things we must consider are labor, labor, and labor. Only when the middle class is secure and dynamic are anyone else’s rights secure in our democracy. Lind writes about the “populist” and “nativist” tendencies that sometimes foil liberals. Does he think this people are simply evil—or does he think they have some political instinct?

Almost in passing Lind calls for paid parental leave. This, of course, should be among the top priorities because it is a real benefit to working Americans where organized labor inly represents about 9% of all workers. If unions can’t get it done, then what should be the labor party should get it done for us through the political system.

The simple reason that the criminal justice system will not be reformed is because crime continues to decline. Absent a conscience shocking event like the beating of Rodney King, there will not be much appetite for this idea right now. Leading with it will set everything else back, whereas, on the contrary, leading with labor, labor, and labor, will only ease Americans’ other anxieties and, hopefully, thereby expand their openness. There’s no guarantee, but at least it’s a plan with historical precedent actually favoring it (instead of disfavoring it).

As for abolishing the death penalty, this is something I have always been powerfully agnostic about. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I don’t buy the substantive argument that no death penalty pacifies us even while I know that the process is deeply flawed on literally dozens of levels. I certainly support a moratorium.

But that’s me. Politically unless the Catholic Church wants to chew gum and walk at the same time and put some firepower behind this instead of abobos and teh gay, I don’t see much hope of this not resulting in a limousine liberal backlash as well.

Paid family leave. More tax credits for the working class. Living wages for heads of households. Student loan reform/amnesty. Public works.

Blue first. Then white and green.


Guns and Kansas

In his seminal What’s The Matter With Kansas, Thomas Frank made the argument that the once fiery heart of progressivism and the Granger movement has allied itself with the Republican party (which in the language of the totebagger means “voting against their self-interest”) because of the neoliberal economy. As candidate Obama put it, they “cling” to guns and God.

What one can take from this is that (1) not everyone defines self-interest the same way, (2) a large portion of people will react to adversity in a way different than you think is in their “interest,” and (3) the neoliberal economy is really the issue.

In a world where you’re becoming more poor, the outside world seems more dangerous, and the politicians don’t even pretend to care about you, religion and guns don’t seem like such a crazy thing to turn to. In fact, this is what people do world-wide, from the Kansas prairie, to the Judean hills, to the Pakistani and Egyptian megapolises. (I remain surprised to this day that this has not occurred in Latin America. Perhaps it’s precisely because radical groups do, on occasion, achieve power there that this is the case.)

Guns give some people the feeling that there is a line that cannot be crossed, even when every other line is crossed. And to a certain extent, this is true.

It may not matter if there are any more school shootings, but the problem with the current strategy on guns (at least the persuasive strategy, if not the legislative-legal one) is that it does not suffer this distinction. In that sense, it is the inverse of anti-abortion fanatics who scoff at major reductions in the number of abortions and only want to see it totally criminalized, even though this will unquestionably not eliminate it.

Ignoring some things that are true (even if tautologically so) coming from the pro-gun side will ultimately take a lot of the wind out of the sails of the less organized, less long-term passionate anti side. For example, you can shoot bad guys. Police at schools is something parents would love, even if civil libertarians won’t.

What level-headed policy-makers should seek to do first is look at the problem epidemiologically and try to find a way to reduce the absolute number of guns without necessarily banning anything. The first school shooting that involves the kind of gun that Lee Harvey Oswald used will show just how minor an assault weapons ban would be in relation to this particular problem. (The assault weapons ban is a vestige of crackdowns on “inner city” problems such as gangs, drug trafficking, and so forth.)

The most effective extant way to do this at present is a buy-back program. This would reduce the number of guns “in the wild” and may reduce a number of accidents (a huge problem) but will not take guns away from those who associate them the most with power or who are the nuttiest. In fact, it will just strengthen their resolve in a What’s The Matter With Kansas type of way.

I don’t know what comes next. Someone smart will have to come up with it.

But until we confront the root of the gun culture—and simply saying it’s some kind of pathological fixation on violence is a sort of tribalism that really misses the core of the issue—which is the powerlessness that is a side-effect of the neoliberal economy, it will persist. Now, it could be that this is a side-effect we want to live with because alternatives are worse, but until this question is really asked, it can’t be answered.


Bailout the USPS?

This is as close as I will get to being a deficit scold.

I won’t cry if the postal service is drastically restructured. First, let’s get rid of junk mail. How much carbon does this crap generate? Between cutting down trees and fuel to transport this crap, it’s gotta sting.

Second, getting bills by mail should be a privilege, not a right. If you don’t want e-mail bills, pay for it. 5 days a week, $1 for a first class letter, no junk mail.

Generally, I don’t favor harming a workforce that does a job just as well because technology has replaced them, but the days of writing letters to communicate is long since over. Even the christmas cards we get with the pictures on them seem like an antique formality. Post is really only used to send goods.