Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Out on a Limb

One of the most destructive aspects of our public discourse is the supremacy of an accountability free pundit class. The op-ed pages were littered with war-mongering screeds dressed up as noble wisdom for the better part of the last decade. Even though their cheerleading led to thousands upon thousands of deaths, these Very Serious opinion makers suffered no loss of credibility. They are still held up as paragons of wisdom while the vindicated anti-war voices are still treated with contempt and derision.

Now, the pattern is repeating itself:

It isn't quite as extreme, but there are a lot of similarities between now and the Iraq debate. All of the Cool Kids know how fucking right austerity is, and are condescending to all of the silly children who think they're wrong. Team Austerity is where the cool kids are, at the parties with the fancy drinks, and all the losers hang out at that dorky Paul Krugman's house, playing dungeons and dragons.

Election season heightens accountability free prognostication. Horse-race style coverage turns election season into a sporting event where you root for your team instead of an informed democratic (small "d") endeavor. Information doesn't matter, so getting something wrong doesn't matter either.

All of this is prologue for saying that I got something wrong a few months ago when I complained the Democrats were far too passive in their politics and that they would remain meek while their electoral chances plummeted. Obama has stepped up his aggressiveness in a way that has been unseen in the last 15 years.

But I still think the President is more likely to lose re-election than win it. The reasons are largely structural and have nothing to do with the individual actions of either candidate.

Krugman recently explained why he has largely been correct while his detractors have repeatedly come up short. His economic predictions are built around a mathematical model that accurately describes the crisis. It's not that he's diving wisdom out of the ether. He's following a model.

I don't have the technical background of Krugman (or say Nate Silver). But there are several structural factors that seem to be determining the dynamics of this race:
  1. The economy remains incredibly weak
  2. Citizens United has allowed the GOP to out-raise the Democrats 4-1
  3.  Voter ID laws are systematically disenfranchising minority and student voters.
The economy can change, but the last two points are here to stay. If Obama cannot overcome Citizens United and voter ID laws, we might look back on this election as a watershed moment. I firmly believe these outside forces are going to do far more to determine the outcome of the election than anything either candidate can do.

If I'm wrong about this prediction, I want to seriously look back at this model and analyze what I got wrong and what that means for understanding the world going forward.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's in a name?

I'm generally opposed to privatizing government services because companies looking out for their bottom line have less incentive to protect the public's interest and welfare.

Nevertheless, this does not bother me:

The possibilities abound, Cook County officials say, as they look to sell everything from naming rights to advertising at most of its real estate holdings — from the hospitals to forest preserve paths and nature centers to even public areas of the city and suburban courthouses as a means of generating new revenue streams.
This is the privatization of bullshit, not essential services. If Portillos wants to throw a few coins in Toni Preckwinkle's direction to name a dirt path the "Italian Beef walkway," who cares?

Privatization is troublesome because it often entails corporations getting the upper hand on government (and the citizenry by extension). The reverse seems to be happening here. The County is offering up something inconsequential and pocketing the cash. This is privatization I can live with.

Hey Mancari family, I have some space on my refrigerator, would you like to buy an ad?

Monday, May 14, 2012

He Went Galt!

Renouncing your American citizenship is apparently the most patriotic thing you can ever do. As long as you're protesting taxes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Long time Virginia resident Richard Lugar is about to lose his GOP primary race for an unimaginable 7th term as Indiana's U.S. Senator.

Certainly, the usual suspects will howl and wail about the unwashed rabble chasing Very Serious People out of government. If the Lieberman, Bennet, Specter, and Murkowski overthrows are any indication, these "centrist" pundits will probably say something along the lines of  "the voters were mean to Dick Lugar by voting him out of office."

While I'm no teabagging Mourdock supporter, I find a sense of electoral entitlement to be one of the most detestable traits a public figure can exhibit. Senate seats are not life peerages in the House of Lords. Senators are democratically accountable, much as "centrists" might hate that. Lugar is not entitled to the seat just because he's kept it warm since 1977. And he's certainly not entitled to it just because elite newspaper columnists fawn over him.

Political parties are collective organizations of people who share common values and want to see specific policies enacted that advance those values. It's entirely reasonable for Indiana's Republicans to not want as their standard bearer a Virginia resident who occasionally sides with the president. I disagree with their underlying values and policy objectives, but I think it's entirely appropriate for them to nominate someone who more closely shares their beliefs.

Lugar is essentially complaining that his party does not want him anymore. Unfortunately for Lugar, voters get to decide who represents them.

I don't like the prospect of another teabagger in the Senate. I like even less having to listen to pundits cry about mean voters robbing Dick Lugar of a Senate Seat as if it was Lugar's personal property.  To make such an assertion is to basically admit one hates democracy and prefers aristocracy. Though, considering the crowd I'm talking about, this is entirely possible.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I'll make a prediction right now that absent significant economic improvement, Barack Obama will not win reelection.

Four years ago during the primaries I had this to say while discussing the Democratic Party's general spinelessness:
In this context, I find it difficult to get excited about Barack Obama’s campaign to end division and partisanship in Washington. At best, I see him trying to bring Republicans around to Democratic ideas, but failing miserably in the face of GOP opposition because he fundamentally misunderstands the political environment we live in. At worst, I see him adopting Republican proposals and talking points, and brow beating Democrats into compromise yet again
This is basically what happened. Obama's bragging that he passed the healthcare plan of his presumptive opponent, and he's still hated by the intransigent opposition. They are out to burn the house down while he keeps trying to reason with them.

The dynamic is set in stone and there's no changing now even if they want to. When you boil it down, Obama has made himself weak, and he will pay for it. A rising economy would likely lift all boats, but absent that, Democrats need to realize what they're in for. They need to realize they've been far too passive over the last 12 years. When will they finally fight back?

Limited Options

With Britain dipping back into recession, the two main options for president seem wholly inadequate. Romney will enact brutal austerity, and Obama will enact slightly less brutal austerity. The choice isn't between drinking medicine or poison, the choice is between what dosage of poison to take.

The dynamics of the economic mess are frighteningly similar to what existed during the run up to the Iraq war. Evidence flies out the window, and the Very Serious People who were wrong about everything continue to guide discourse and kick the hippies. Time for grandma to eat cat food. Suck on that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Tried to Figure Out Who Sisterofblackvision Was

A while back someone trivialized a suicide on reddit. I thought that was a terrible thing to do. The troll specifically mentioned me in his post, which made me think he might be willing to talk. I made a second blog to track my actions.

I am left with more questions than answers at this point. I honestly can't keep track of the players, factions, and trolls. I was appointed a moderator on a satire subbreddit by the suicide hoaxster, which I used as an opportunity to gather information. I found out today I was removed. There are a few more messages I have, but I'm pressed for time and honestly just don't care anymore.