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February 19, 2010

The filibuster's conservative tilt

Ezra Klein - The filibuster's conservative tilt .
...the argument for majority rule in the Senate isn't an argument about the relative worth of health-care reform and gay rights. What makes something "democratic-minded" is whether it's, well, democratic. When 41 senators representing less than 20 percent of the population can block legislation, that's not a democratic state of affairs, no matter the issues involved.

February 16, 2010

In Utah, a plan to cut 12th grade

Can you spell "third world country"?

In Utah, a plan to cut 12th grade - latimes.com.
The proposal by state Sen. Chris Buttars would chip away at Utah's $700-million shortfall. He's since offered a toned-down version: Just make senior year optional.

February 09, 2010

The Tea Party in Context

The inanity of the media narratives is unbelievable compared to objective reality in America:

  • 65% - Pass comprehensive health-care reform
  • 60% - Republicans aren't doing enough to forge compromise
  • 33% - Iowans support the "tea party"

But the stories glorify tea partyists and a narrative that health care reform is bad and Obama is too left.  But the real problem is that Democrats haven't delivered (which of course was the Republican strategy).

These two stories, almost back to back!

The Tea Party in Context -- Political Wire.

Matt Yglesias puts yesterday's poll which showed 33% of Iowans support the "tea party" movement into context, noting that "38% of Americans have a favorable view of Cuba and 36% are favorably disposed toward socialism, but I don't see anyone writing newspaper articles about how a populist wave of socialism is sweeping the country."

"The number of Iowans who like the tea party movement is smaller than the number of Americans who want marijuana legalized or the number of Americans who believe the government has had secret contact with extra-terrestrials."

Most See Republicans as Unwilling to Compromise -- Political Wire.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that nearly six in 10 Americans say the Republicans aren't doing enough to forge compromise with President Obama on important issues; more than four in 10 see Obama as doing too little to get GOP support.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they want Congress to keep working to pass comprehensive health-care reform.

Sarah Palin: Faux Populist

This, actually, is a much deeper insight than it may appear.  

Alec Baldwin: Sarah Palin: Faux Populist.

So, you think Sarah Palin is embarrassed by the crib-notes-on-the-palm incident?

You're kidding, right?

...Palin reads off the palm of her hand because she can't whittle or cast a fly rod or shoot a wild animal while giving a policy speech. (Then again, who knows?) She reads her palm in order to send a message to her anti-Eastern establishment, Obama-hating, OK-You've-Had-Your-Black-President-Experiment, Tea Party types. That message is, "I'm just one person, doing the best I can with what God gave me. Like all y'all out there."

One of the reasons progressives are often flummoxed by the right's obvious hypocrisy, internally inconsistent positions, childish mockery, and lame policy proscriptions, is that progressives mostly fail to see that much of the right as driven more by tribal identity politics than principles and policies. Their goal is to reinforce their "us".  They do this via caricature (Kerry's looks so French! We need a commander-in-chief not a law professor!) and demonize others (Obama's palling around with terrorists! And not only that: he's not actually an American!) to draw the distinction clearly and pull themselves closer together.

This tribal identity politics is vastly more important than "deficit reduction", balanced budget, small government, "freedom" (followed by fist pumps), etc. except to the extent it helps define themselves as apart from and beleaguered by The Others. This is part of why the Tea Partiers are actually driving the Republican Party farther away from mainstream America, into their own little corner of non-pragmatic, rightwing nuttery rather toward a larger party.

It produces internal challenges for Democrats because Democrats now occupy three of four quadrants: not only progressive pragmatists and progressive idealists but also conservative pragmatists (Olympia Snowe being, perhaps, the only one left on the national Republican stage). That's a big tent!

C - P spectrum
 

 
 Inspired by Why bipartisanship can't work right now: the other axis.

February 08, 2010

How the First Amendment Works - Opinionator Blog

How the First Amendment Works - Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com.
... Regarding corporations as persons for some legal purposes ... has been the practice for a long time, but ... giving them rights enjoyed by flesh and blood citizens is arguably something new, and something Justice Stevens vigorously protests against ...: A corporation does not have a conscience. Its interests are exclusively economic and do not include the health and welfare of society. It is not seeking to join and further the free flow of ideas. Its acts do not reflect the will of shareholders. Its massive funding of political advertising amounts to buying votes and can not finally be distinguished from bribery.

The Senate's problem is not disagreement. It's elections.

Ezra Klein - The Senate's problem is not disagreement. It's elections. .
It's good to have a competitive electoral system! But if we're going to give the minority party a reason to want the majority party to fail at governing the country, we can't also give them the power to make the majority party fail at governing the country. We need a legislative system that works alongside our political system, not one that pretends we have a different, more harmonious political system than we really do.

February 06, 2010

Moving Towards Sanity in Crazy Times

Mike Lux: Moving Towards Sanity in Crazy Times.

The Rubin/Summers changes to financial regulation combined with the Bush administration's appointments of the worst set of regulators since the 1920s (at least) created an environment where the big banks became monsters capable of destroying our economy. And they did, creating the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. They quite literally broke our economy, and while things have stabilized some over the panic atmosphere of late 2008/early 2009, it is still broken.

What has also become broken is our ability to govern. Between the absurd filibuster rules and the abuse of them , and the huge and wealthy special interests (the financial behemoths above all), the system has the worst kind of sclerosis built into it. If the minority party and the power house lobbies want to shut things down, they can just do it.

Between the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the emergence of completely unregulated "dark" derivative markets (where no light of day is ever seen), and the laissez-faire regulators of the Bush administration, our country is in the grip of economic powers that have far greater economic and political power than any set of institutions at least since Teddy Roosevelt finally began to tame the robber barons over a century ago. Ponder this fact for a moment: six megabanks control assets amounting to more than 60% of the country's gross domestic product. That is unfathomable. How does our economy ever function under the weight of that kind of concentration of wealth and power? How does our democracy? And with our government so dysfunctional, how do we make the changes we need to make?

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