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Archive for October, 2012

Broken Clock, Etc.

[ 67 ] October 28, 2012 |

My contempt for Tom Friedman is without limit. But he nails this column like Luther and a church door. At least until the point where he brings up Michael Bloomberg. But I’m going to focus on this part, which is actually good.

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”

“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s ovary, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon. I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.

I actually have a certain amount of intellectual respect (although I completely disagree with the point) for the fetus as life position. I can see the point in theory. But of course it is always about controlling women’s bodies and punishing them for sex. It’s not “pro-life” at all.


How to Organize Around Elections

[ 60 ] October 28, 2012 |

As I’ve said repeatedly through this election cycle, big national elections are not the primary vehicle for change in this country, nor should they be the singular focus of progressives. It’s my contention that the real change in electoral politics happens on the local level. Like conservatives who began organizing in their cities and counties in the late 1950s and early 1960s and then took over the Republican Party, progressives need to do the same for the Democratic Party. Avoid vanity third party campaigns and instead turn local elections into organizing campaigns for social change.

Thus, I read this Elise Foley piece with great interest. Last year in Phoenix, undocumented Americans who wanted to make change within the political system decided to dedicate themselves to help a Latino firefighter named Danny Valenzuela run for City Council. Calling themselves “Team Awesome,” they organized the district for a year and got him elected. Latino turnout rose 486% from the previous election.

This is how to do it.

The Arizona Democratic Party is trying to build upon this today to elect Richard Carmona to the Senate. Not surprisingly, that and the growing Latino power of Arizona is the real point of the article. But I think the more interesting question is the relationship between organizing and progressive politics on the local level.

Those undocumented Americans who organized to elect Valenzuela to the City Council have created more positive change than the entirety of third party presidential runs since World War II.

Conservatives Cheer for Detroit?

[ 142 ] October 27, 2012 |

I was sure that Mark Judge had the stupidest sports column of the year wrapped up for his Bryce Harper, Conservative Hero piece. But the Howler clearly wants to up the ante. And thus we have Matt Lewis arguing that conservatives should root for Detroit over San Francisco in the World Series. That conservatives hate San Francisco is no surprise. The glory of this is in why Detroit is really a good conservative city:

Detroit has real people who work hard for their money and cherish their jobs. Detroit loves hockey. Detroit loves to buy American. Detroiters like their boats and their beers. You do not ask to see the wine list in the bars around Comerica Park. Pabst Blue Ribbon, please. Tall boys.

Awesome. Conservatives are happy to let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt, but they have no shame in talking about how Detroit is where real Americans live. Conservatives want to outsource every American job to China, but they love American-buying Detroit residents. And tall boys, well hell, we all know that’s a metaphor for Detroit residents having large penises.

This is also great:

After all, the Auto union member and the hippie/feminist/gay rights activist (take your pick) would kill one another — if they ever met.

Oh right. You mean the last UAW members who you conservatives have tried to destroy? Does that include, say, the friends of Michael Moore? Do they want to beat up feminists and hippies? Or is Lewis stereotyping unions? I’m sure he’s a big fan of Walter Reuther and the social/racial justice programs of the UAW in its heyday so I’m sure we all know the answer…..

In the end, the Bryce Harper piece is actually worse than this. But this is pretty bad.

Come for the Misogyny, Stay for the Racism

[ 24 ] October 27, 2012 |

This send-up of the Republican Party is so close to true, it’s not funny.

OK, it actually is funny. But scary.

Third Party Nihilism: The Arguments Can Always Get Worse!

[ 221 ] October 27, 2012 |

To its credit, the occasional inexplicable book-plugging interview aside Salon no longer promotes Camille Paglia. Alas, it is now fairly regularly publishing Matt Stoller, who is sort of Paglia but 1)with fewer references to Madonna and uses of the word “Dionysian,” and 2)less coherent. His latest ridiculous argument in favor of throwing the election to Romney has all of the same transparent defects as his previous ones, the most notable being a lack of an argument for how throwing the election to someone who is far worse than Obama on most things and better on nothing will work any better than it did in 2000. (If you’re looking for an explanation for how taking health insurance away from tens of millions of people and eliminating a major expansion of Medicaid will address economic inequality, or a defense of the implicit proposition that the uninsured should go off quitely and die somewhere until the point sometime after we’re all long dead when Senate supermajorities have the votes to eliminate the American health insurance industry, you’re out of luck.)

But he does add a couple of new twists. First of all, needless to say he asks us to take Connor Friedersdorf’s conservative case against Obama seriously, silliness we’ve already discussed plenty around here. But, even better, we have this remarkably confused argument that electing Romney won’t even matter for the Supreme Court:

Meanwhile, Obama-appointed Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor has in her career already ruled to limit access to abortion, and Elena Kagan’s stance is not yet clear. Arguing that Romney justices would overturn Roe v. Wade is a concession that Senate Democrats, as they did with Alito and Roberts, would allow an anti-choice justice through the Senate. More likely is that Romney, like Obama, simply does not care about abortion, but does care about the court’s business case rulings (the U.S. Chamber went undefeated last year). Romney has already said he won’t change abortion laws, and that all women should have access to contraception. He may be lying, but more likely is that he does not care and is being subjected to political pressure. But so is Obama, who is openly embracing abortion rights and contraception now that it is a political asset. In other words, what is moving women’s rights is not Obama or Romney, but the fact that a fierce political race has shown that women’s rights are popular. The lesson is not to support Obama, who will shelve women’s rights for another three years, but to continue making a strong case for women’s rights.

It’s hard to know even where to begin, given the sheer density of nonsense that, I fear, isn’t even being offered in bad faith. But let’s make a valiant effort at noting the most flagrant errors:

  • The fact that he takes Romney’s statement’s about not wanting to change abortion laws at face value is, in and of itself, a reason to ignore anything Stoller ever writes again.   Anybody who believes this would give their Social Security number and account information to a mortgage broker who was fired for Countrywide for being too unscrupulous.   And this would be true even leaving aside the fact that if you look carefully Romney’s alleged “moderation” on abortion was completely meaningless; it wouldn’t contradict his statements for him to sign legislation restricting abortion or to appoint anti-Roe justices (as he has, rather more credibly, pledged to do, something Stoller omits.)
  • With respect to Sonia Sotomayor’s vote against an abortion rights claim, Stoller doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a circuit court justice and a Supreme Court justice.   In ruling on the constitutionality of the Bush administration’s Mexico City policy, Sotomayor was bound to apply black-letter Supreme Court precedent (that, incidentally, while very problematic did not directly conflict with Roe v. Wade anyway.)  To infer from this ruling that there would be any chance that she would vote to overrule Roe v. Wade would be remarkably foolish.   By the same token, Sam Alito voted to strike down legislation banning D&X abortions while he was a circuit court justice, but (as everyone with the possible exception of Stuart Taylor knew he would) voted to uphold an identical federal ban as a Supreme Court justice.
  • The bigger problem is with Stoller’s belief that what Obama or Romney “really thinks” about abortion matters.   Even if we stipulate that neither cares about the issue (despite the lack of evidence), as leaders of political coalitions presidents will appoint nominees with predictable beliefs on many issues.   Even relatively squishy Democratic nominees (like Breyer) will steadfastly support Roe, and the typical Republican nominee will oppose Roe.  And even if you happen to get one of the dying breed of moderate country-club Republicans like Anthony Kennedy, note that they’re far worse on abortion rights than the typical Democratic nominee even if they won’t go quite so far as to vote to overrule Roe v. Wade.   To pretend that there’s any serious question about whether Elena Kagan or Sotomayor will vote to uphold Roe betrays remarkable ignorance about American politics even if you think that Obama could have done somewhat better (plausible in the former case, not really in the latter.)   “Political pressure,” to state the obvious, doesn’t end once an election is over.
  • For related reasons, the argument that Senate Democrats will be to blame if Romney gets an anti-Roe nominee onto the Court is also all kinds of wrong.    Sure, if Romney can get someone with an egregious paper trail like Janice Rogers Brown confirmed, you can blame Senate Democrats.    But you can’t reasonably expect Democrats to serially reject Supreme Court nominees, which means a justice who’s anti-Roe since the generic Republican appeals court judge in 2012 is anti-Roe even if there’s no Bork-like paper trail to prove it.   The third choice isn’t going to be another Blackmun or Kennedy in 2014, and both early Blackmun and Kennedy are more conservative than you might think anyway.
  • The implication that Democratic and Republican appointees are equally pro-business is also profoundly wrong (note the subtle insinuation that the Chamber of Commerce went undefeated because of Obama — you know, his two nominees could have had three votes each if they really wanted to.)    To take a couple of many examples, AT&T v. Concepcion, an extremely poorly reasoned opinion restricting the rights of consumers who had been defrauded by phone companies, was a 5-4 decision along straight party lines (including Kagan and Sotomayor in dissent.)   So was an even worse opinion gutting Arizona’s public finance law.  Etc. etc. etc.   The Supreme Court is (not surprisingly) a microcosm of the presidential race.   Breyer and Kagan might not be as liberal as Brennan and Douglas, but that doesn’t remotely make them indistinguishable from Thomas and Alito.   Just as while there are many ways in which Obama’s record is less progressive than would be desirable (sometimes due to his choices, sometimes due to structural constraints), it is really stupid to argue that there’s no real difference between Obama and Romney.

And the sad thing is that you could do this with pretty much every paragraph of the article — there’s scarcely a sentence in it that isn’t premised on an obvious factual or logical error.   Could we at least get at Obamney argument that’s a little less insulting to the reader’s intelligence?

…and, yes, the idea that throwing the election to Romney would be a good idea because opposition to awful policies is a worthwhile end in itself is insane.  By the same logic, we should have wanted Bush’s Social Security privatization plan to succeed, because that would have created even more opposition.

Right-wing psychosexual obsessions, Nate Silver edition

[ 114 ] October 27, 2012 |

I don’t even . . .

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he’s made out to be. His political analyses are average at best and his projections, at least this year, are extremely biased in favor of the Democrats.

I actually saw the New Castrati open for the Pet Shop Boys back in 1986. (Shortly afterwards they discovered there was already a band in the West End called the New Castrati, so they became the New New Castrati, or NNC to their fans).

…[SL] If I had projections showing Mittens winning Oregon, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Minnesota (and 53 Senate Republicans!), I’d rather discuss my bizarre sexual obsessions than polling methodology too.

More Cultural Heritage Destroyed

[ 55 ] October 26, 2012 |

If there’s one thing we can say about the Saudi government, it’s that their commitment to subtlety is unmatched except by the Russians.

At least when Mexico decided to build that monstrosity of a church with the conveyor belt to see the original Virgin of Guadalupe image, they didn’t tear down the original cathedral. Ugh.

…..In other historic preservation news, the Times has done a really admirable job lobbying to save this Frank Lloyd Wright house in Phoenix from destruction. I mean, who knew there was anything worthwhile to see in that giant scab upon the desert?

“I didn’t know you had families.”

[ 34 ] October 26, 2012 |

That nice, reasonable, moderate Mitt Romney:

We’ve witnessed many Mitt Romneys, but the one unearthed by the Boston Globe‘s Murray Waas yesterday is perhaps the most vicious and cruel: a zealot who, as Massachusetts governor, became hellbent on stigmatizing the children of gay and lesbian parents, labeling these kids as outcasts and causing them to suffer hardship throughout their lives.


Romney hadn’t even previously fathomed that gay people had children. Boston Spirit magazine reported last month that when gay activists met with him in his office in 2004, as Romney was backing a failed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, Romney remarked, “I didn’t know you had families.” Julie Goodridge, lead plaintiff in the landmark case that won marriage rights for gays and lesbians before the Supreme Judicial Court, asked what she should tell her 8-year-old daughter about why the governor would block the marriage of her parents. According to Goodridge, Romney responded,”I don’t really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don’t you just tell her the same thing you’ve been telling her the last eight years.”

Additional lesson: even if your blue-state Republican seems better than the national ones in a state race, voting for one is almost certainly a horrible idea.


[ 39 ] October 26, 2012 |

I used to be a Democrat. But since Lena Dunham made a pro-Obama ad so incredibly obscene that the metaphor had been previously been used only by the most debased elements of society, I am outraged by the Voting Rights Act.

“It Will Be A New Lochner Era. We Mean That In A Good Way.”

[ 48 ] October 26, 2012 |

Oh. Goody:

That’s the limited scenario. Cato’s Pilon believes that replacing one liberal justice with a conservative could pave the way for a slow return to the Lochner Era — a pre-New Deal period when the Supreme Court invalidated minimum wage and child labor laws as unconstitutional.

“Yes, but not for a while,” the conservative scholar said. “Because there’s just too much to roll back. The court could find Social Security unconstitutional tomorrow, and that would be a good thing, but that would be suicidal for them because many people depend on it. We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”

Barnett — whose advocacy for smaller government has landed him in conflict with both liberals and conservatives — stresses that the conservative legal community’s goals are about principle and not a legislative agenda.

“I think that people who look at conservatives from the outside think this must be about a legislative agenda,” he said. “It would be a mistake to think that. We want to see the text of the Constitution interpreted to hold Congress to its enumerated powers.”

Yes, as a straightforward, technical legal question, it can be safely said that Article I of the Constitution enacted Mr. Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Of course, should the median vote of the Supreme Court shift to the right of Antonin Scalia, this would be entirely the fault of Senate Democrats, who if they wanted to could completely negate the appointment powers of the president with no negative consequences going forward. I mean, really, you think the Republicans would allow Obama get two Supreme Court justices confirmed? Please.

More Workplace Voter Intimdiation

[ 21 ] October 26, 2012 |

This time it is casino plutocrat Steve Wynn pressuring his 12,000 employees in Nevada to vote Republican up and down the ballot.

Travel Question

[ 59 ] October 26, 2012 |

Sorry to intervene in our round the clock coverage of why 3rd parties are silly to ask a personal question.

I am supposed to give a talk at Macalester College in Minnesota on Thursday. One slight problem–the gigantic hurricane/nor’easter/Hades’ fury/apocalypse that is going to hit on Tuesday, when I am supposed to fly out. Even better, I am connecting in Philadelphia which looks like might it get the brunt of this.

Should I call US Air now and try to get them to reschedule me? I can fly out Wednesday and still make the talk, for whatever that’s worth. What travel options do I have? Does it help to try and deal with this early? Obviously I don’t want to get charged for changing my reservation. Thoughts?

Figure some of you are a lot more experienced with this sort of thing than I am.

And now back to noting that people who say that there’s no substantive difference between Obama and Romney are not to be taken seriously.

….Thanks to the beneficent corporate overlords at US Air, I was able to move my flight to Sunday at no charge. Minnesotans’ right to hear me pontificate about logging unions cannot be denied!

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