At the checkout line yesterday, I was behind some older woman who was just taking forever to figure out how that new-fangled credit card thingy was supposed to work. She finally managed to get it done and then a minute later had finally moved all of her purchases out of the way and into her cart so that I could proceed with my transaction. She apologized to the clerk for being so slow, and then she said, "And happy holidays to you. Oh well, you know what, I hope you don't get offended by this, but I'm just going to say it: Merry Christmas!"
Then she turned to me and said, "Can you believe that people would get offended by that?"
I was glad she asked. I said, "Actually, no. I've never met anyone in my entire life who has been offended by 'Merry Christmas' but I have met plenty of people who get offended when people DON'T say 'Merry Christmas' but instead say 'Happy Holidays.' I don't know why anyone bothers to care. I think it's just a made-up controversy so people can feel like victims."
I think I flummoxed her pretty good because she just kind of hemmed and hawed and said, "oh well" and walked off. The clerk was looking at her the whole time like she's crazy. I said to the clerk after she left, "There goes another rich, white Republican trying to figure out how to be a huge victim."
He said, "Yeah, that was pretty crazy." I guessed the clerk was a normal human being because a) he was working at Target, b) he was a minority and c) he had dreadlocks. When he agreed with me that bitch was crazy, that was just an added bonus.
Then today at another family gathering, somehow the conversation about retirement and the stock market and social security came out, and someone was repeating the talking point about how social security sucks and it won't be there when I retire, etc., especially with all of the ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS able to receive it.
I pointed out that, actually, social security isn't in much trouble at all. They just need to tweak it a little soon probably to raise the retirement age since people are living longer. And what's the problem with immigrants getting social security if they have paid into the system like everyone else? Don't we get annual statements that explain how much in benefits we're entitled to based on how much we've paid in to the system?
And since we're using nuclear weapons on stupid Republican talking points today, aren't you glad that we liberals didn't let Bush and the idiot Republicans privatize social security so that it was indexed to the stock market, which has lost half its value in six months? That's ok if you don't like Obama or the Democrats. We'll take care of you anyway and make sure the country isn't run into the ground.
Is this the best that wingnuts can do? I mean, is this all they've got for criticism, that Obama is naming a bunch of "Clinton retreads" to important government posts? Is the fear that we might re-experience the kind of government we had during the Clinton administration (minus the blowjobs, presumably)?
As Bartcop says with a gallon of sarcasm and a shot of Chinaco:
The Clinton model?
You mean eight years of peace and prosperity?
You mean tripling the stock market?
You mean never sending a man into battle who didn't come home alive?
You mean when our biggest problem was how to spend the surplus?
Please, not that!
The last thing this broken country needs is more Clintonian success.
Why on Earth do I feel like shopping tomorrow? I must have some kind of sickness.
For some reason today, my brother mentioned the election with family surrounding us on Thanksgiving, and I was explaining to him why it is so hard for Senators to get elected, what with the complicated voting procedure in the Senate, just about any model can be constructed to make someone the "most liberal" or "biggest troop hater" or "biggest tax increaser".
Then a relative who shall remain nameless chimed in with something about how Obama never voted for anything, just voted "present" and so forth. I just brushed it off because there's really no other rational response when someone starts quoting wingnut talk radio talking points at you. I mean, I don't carry a little card around with Obama's legislative accomplishments in the Illinois legislature and the US Senate.
The thing is, I don't think him voting "present" on some votes for strategic purposes means much of anything. I mean, if the argument is that he was somehow trying to disguise his beliefs so he could get elected, then that would only make sense if he hadn't already laid out a detailed platform on his website that he appears to be sticking to closely. He surely wouldn't be hiring a bunch of Clinton people if he were planning to go all Fidel Castro on us.
Anyway, fortunately, the conversation quickly returned to football, and I'll be thankful this holiday if I don't have to talk any more politics with any family members for the rest of the holiday season.
Normally, when it looks like a Republican president is going to get elected, lots of Hollywood liberal types have a habit of making themselves look stupid by threatening to leave the country. Of course, the election happens, the idiot is elected, and the celebrity doesn't leave. That's the time when the wingnut radio shows start publicly inviting them to leave the country.
I think we're getting the same thing now from wingnuts who are trying to blame our economic problems on Obama. Because of all the incredibly high taxes we're apparently all about to see, the wingnuts are complaining that they will lack the will to work. Hell, they will just go on welfare like all those lazy poor people and stop blessing the country with their massive productivity.
I'd like to invite all of the wingnuts who are worried that socialism is upon us to simply stop working and enjoy the generous system of American welfare. Enjoy the life of carefree luxury afforded to you by the American safety net. Enjoy life without health care! Good luck hanging on to that nice house. Every once in a while, if you don't feel it is against your capitalist principles, you can go to that bastion of local collective action, the public library, and log in to the internet to let us know how you're doing.
Don't worry, I'm sure the local churches will pick up the slack. Seriously, once you're homeless and walking the streets, try walking in to a local church, go up to the front desk and ask to see a minister while explaining you are homeless and need food and shelter and perhaps health care for yourself or your family. I'm sure they'll take care of everything that the federal government can't because after all, this is a Christian nation, and our churches always welcome the homeless with open arms (instead of quietly voting to shun them out of fear while donating to finance construction of a new sanctuary).
I just want to see one of these wingnuts walk the walk, you know? I promise if you do, then I'll try to talk Sean Penn or Barbara Streisand into moving to Canada, k thx bye.
Something is definitely up with C*dy, and he's not talking about it. We're still pondering over the right course of action on the smoking (thanks for the comments to yesterday's post ... I really like the idea of making him eat a cigarette or two, but M*chelle is against it). Meanwhile, M*chelle went upstairs last night very late to check on C*dy and his older brother J*stin, who is home visiting for the week, and they were in there setting fire to random bits of paper in C*dy's room!!
At that point, I yelled at J*stin to get the hell out, and I yelled at him some more today. I told him that if he can't be a responsible guest in this house, I'll take him back to the bus station and he can spend the week alone in his fucking dorm. We told him we were worried about C*dy and asked if he would help us by talking some sense into C*dy. Fat lot of good that did us. Now I'm separating those two numbskulls.
Meanwhile, we did a complete and total FBI search of C*dy's room with him standing there while we cleared off every shelf, dumped every drawer, etc. We found a condom he got from the kid down the street and let him keep that. And we found a used-up lighter and a couple of used matches but no more contraband, fortunately.
I made the boys clean up and told J*stin he can just move in to C*dy's old room upstairs for the week. That's been the big problem with C*dy, basically, that he has been in the most distant room in the house upstairs, and he can hear us coming because the stairs make a lot of noise. I toyed with the idea of putting a baby monitor in there, and he was insulted by that. I got a good laugh out of that, then I told J*stin to take the door off its hinges. That'll stay off for a while.
For at least this week, C*dy's new bedroom is downstairs in the little library we have (a small formal dining room, but we use it for books), and it has no doors and no privacy. C*dy isn't allowed upstairs for the remainder of the week without permission. We'll let him live for a week amongst all the humanity on the main floor of the house and see if he starts not taking his room and his privacy for granted so much.
He's not going to be home without an adult in the house (not counting his stupid older brother who is 19 and should know better) for the forseeable future, and we'll try to use this week to talk to him rationally and see if we can get any answers as to why he's suddenly flying off the handle. I can't think of anything that has happened around the house to set him off, so it must be a girl problem. Either that, or he's snapped and will need years of therapy. Seems more like the former. Hard to rule out anything with a teenager, though.
I've successfully avoided work much of the day by screwing around with the Backstage applications on Facebook. Mind Games is pretty fun, especially if you are willing to spend a few dollars to crank your credits up. Otherwise, it would take weeks to get to the more difficult and interesting puzzles.
Oh, in other news, we caught C*dy trying to smoke a cigarette in his room.
Stupid 14-year-old got mixed up with the wrong friends at school and they want him to smoke with them. And he's a distance runner! His coach won't be happy, to put it mildly. I'm trying to get C*dy to tell me what he thinks we ought to do, just as a way of getting him to think about it from our perspective.
Oh well, maybe his 19-year-old brother, who is visiting from college for the week, will talk some sense into him. The way those two act, though, C*dy may well convince J*stin that it is cool to smoke by the end of the week.
In case I left any doubt, that boy will not smoke again, at least not without some pretty fucking horrible consequences aside from damaging his own health. What is it about smokers that they seem to forget just how disgusting they smell? The boy's room smells like an ashtray, and I know it didn't on Thursday because I was up there. Fortunately, we think we've ended C*dy's smoking streak at two days. Now he starts a grounding streak.
As is tradition around here, the state school board is "debating" whether to include things like intelligent design in the curriculum, which just means they're trying to see if they can do it and make it stick.
As I tell my students, if you want to believe all the stuff associated with creationism, fine. You can believe that, for example, we don't understand radioactive decay and that's why we have the age of the Earth wrong. So would it be okay then if we store a bunch of radioactive waste in your house? I mean, quantum mechanics is "just a theory", so let's "teach the controversy" by exposing you and your family to this conveniently invisible so-called "ionizing radiation" for a few months and see what happens!
We can call it evolution in action!
According to this the projected totals based on the recount so far look very good for Franken, but I don't completely follow the analysis. I wish Nate Silver at 538.com would get a little more serious about projecting the outcome based on what's been done. He does a better job of explaining his projections.
I find that about 75% of the time when Gregg Easterbrook strays from football into a topic I have some knowledge about, he is seriously uninformed. But like a stopped clock, he occasionally gets one right, and I completely agree with him about how AIG is looting the treasury:
American International Group, the insurance giant that has swallowed $152 billion in federal subsidies in just a few months, "plans to pay $503 million in deferred compensation to some of its top employees, saying it must tap the funds to keep valuable workers from exiting the troubled insurance giant," Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post reported a few days ago. I suspect all the gold being shoveled to AIG is a colossal blunder by the George W. Bush administration.
Money to reinforce Fannie Mae or to buy stock in banks may or may not be a wise decision, but at least there is accountability regarding where the funds end up. The money being shoveled to AIG is simply vanishing -- AIG isn't even telling the Treasury Department what the money is for. When the General Services Administration buys pencils, many layers of auditors check the deal. Isn't it a tad naive to think $152 billion can be entrusted to a firm with a demonstrated track record of financial mismanagement and that money is not going to be looted? The Treasury Department's handling of AIG appears to be spectacular irresponsibility with public money.
Now, about the $503 million in tax-subsidized bonuses to prevent "top employees" from "exiting the troubled insurance giant." The top employees of AIG are the ones who drove the company into the ground by making crazy deals, taking on bad debt or promising to insure bad debt when they knew AIG lacked adequate collateral. Those "top employees" at AIG are either cheats or incompetents -- we want them to leave! They haven't demonstrated any financial expertise. Yet the same AIG top managers who did a terrible, terrible job are set to receive huge bonuses: an example of the problem that corporate bonuses are awarded regardless of performance.
Management-suite types often rationalize huge bonuses by threatening to jump to another job. What job exactly would a top AIG employee jump to? The financial services industry is contracting; lots of well-qualified people with strong résumés are out on the street; no financial firm in its right mind would hire a failed manager from AIG over the fully qualified financial managers looking for work.
AIG top employees have no career options right now; it is inconceivable any other financial firms are offering them lavish raises to hire them away. So "retention bonuses" aren't necessary. But either the Treasury Department is too dim-witted to realize this or it doesn't care and is merely trying to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the rich by allowing tax-subsidized bonuses that the giveaway team at Treasury knows perfectly well are not merited.
Side note: You might think, "How could the fancy-degree top people at Treasury possibly be that completely, utterly stupid?" But Treasury officials have a self-interest in maintaining the assumption that financial managers should receive gigantic bonuses regardless of performance. Almost everyone at the top of Treasury came from the firms being bailed out, plans to return to such firms and wants to pocket gigantic bonuses regardless of performance. So not only is the Treasury Department acting irresponsibly with tax money but its top executives have a personal stake in irresponsible action.
I expect nothing less but pure, naked greed from Bush appointees, and the Republican party will be fine with it as long as they get occasional kickbacks in the form of campaign contributions.
I read today that Citigroup plans on cutting 40,000 jobs over the next six months, one of many corporations I expect to see shedding jobs thanks to current economic problems. But I find it interesting that shedding jobs instead of shedding CEO salary is the priority.
Pandit's compensation in his first year was around $216 million. If the average worker being cut is being compensated at a rate of say $54k/year, then if Citigroup just fired Pandit they would save enough to pay the salaries of 4000 workers. I wonder if you cut the salaries of the top 50 compensated executives at Citigroup by a factor of five (I imagine most would be still well into six figures if not over a million), just how many $54k units that would add up to?
Citigroup hasn't asked for a bailout (yet), but this is the kind of thing that I hope Obama takes care of. If a company comes to the taxpayer asking for particular benefits, then one requirement we can impose is a harsh limit on executive salary. Even if we don't get to do this to all companies, we can at least drive the market down to a more reasonable level. It would save a LOT of jobs and also reduce the crowds at Republican $10k/plate fundraisers. Win-win!
Now the auto industry wants a bailout. Look, guys, it's easy. Just call yourself a bank or a bank holding company, and it'll be no problem. Just get in line.
One of their complaints is that employee compensation for US employees is too costly, and part of that is the health care package negotiated by the unions. Umm, ok. So why is it when the Clinton administration asked for your help lobbying for universal health care during the 90's that you told them to go to hell?
I really, really don't understand why industry isn't pounding down the doors in Washington to get the government to pay for worker health benefits to take the burden off of business, which is at a competitive disadvantage relative to other countries as it stands now. Let's start with that, then create a bunch of jobs on infrastructure and green energy projects, jack the taxes on the rich back up to what they were during the 90's (you know, back when the economy was prospering).
In the meantime, get out of Iraq, win hearts and minds in Afghanistan and around the world by prosecuting a war virtuously (no rendition, no torture, no Guantanamo), then reestablish meaningful oversight on our war contractors to prevent profiteering. Get all these companies who are borrowing money from us to adhere to a rule where no one gets paid more than 50 times the minimum salary of any full-time employee.
Boy, it really is amazing how easy and effective governing can be without Republicans in charge. I just hope the traditional media lets Obama actually do some governing. You know, maybe have some stories about how competence has returned to the executive branch, get some pundits on the TV who don't act like their hair is on fire whenever the subject of raising taxes on the top 1% or offering universal health care comes up (since both of these are supported by the majority of Americans it shouldn't be that hard to find a spokesperson who supports things like this).
I know, I'm a crazy dreamer. What can I say?
One of the talk shows I listen to, can't remember which, played a cut of Rush earlier this week blaming the past week's dip in the stock market on Obama. The biggest post-election market drop in history, he seriously intoned. Yes, that's right, everyone, the recession now offically is Obama's fault.
Of course, you have to be careful with stuff like that. After all, today the market went up 550 points, so does Obama get credit? Also, can I now accuse Rush of wanting the stock market to fail so that it makes Obama look bad? When a terrorist incident somewhere in the world occurs in the next 12 months, and the wingnuts start talking about it, can I assume they are secretly hoping for terrorism in their heart of hearts because it might somehow reflect badly on the president?
Just want to make sure I understand the rules before the game really begins.
Many have noted today that it is unusual how much attention Sarah Palin is still getting after the election is over. She has had (or will soon have) lengthy one-on-one interviews (don't worry, no policy, just "how do you feel?" questions) on all of the major networks. By contrast, the Vice President-elect, Joe Biden, is essentially invisible.
I forget where I read this today, but I think the real reason goes something like this: simple incompetence is not interesting, but if you combine simple incompetence with breathtaking take-no-prisoners, offer-no-apologies arrogance, it is supremely compelling. It's like a Shakesperian tragedy almost.
I think the reason people are watching her so closely is that they're waiting for that moment of self-awareness to hit Palin. It never will, of course, not publicly. My guess is that she'll give a little ground in this respect in her inevitable book that will come out late next year, just so it gives her a way to sell some books and kick off another round of "soul searching" (but don't worry, still no policy) interviews. It will give her a way to create a favorable narrative of how she's so much more experienced now, so much more ready for the challenge, blah blah blah.
But no one will buy it until she can sit down and perform more-or-less flawlessly in a wide-ranging fact-based interview about foreign and domestic policy. I don't think that will ever happen because she will never agree to it. She'll never be capable of it.
Now that Republicans have been banished to the political wilderness for some undetermined stretch of time, there is some discussion on the left whether we should just ignore them when they jump up and down, hooting and screeching and throwing feces, pounding out diatribes on their keyboards. You know, cut off the whole idea of debate between liberals and conservatives since they've lost. This essay is a good response, I think:
I used to have an idea of what a "good faith debate" was; that was in 1999. My general feeling now is that a liberal who says "fuck" a lot is one who got mugged by a conservative who pretended to be interested in a "good faith debate."
I am going to insist here upon the grouchy perspective: I do not believe that there is any such thing as a "conservative intellectual," never mind one who is "thoughtful" or "sane." I contend that "conservatism" in its 21st century incarnation is nothing more or less than a particularly ill-conceived social formation based upon pernicious doxa. Or to be blunt, it is stupid identity politics. Sound unfair? Well then. To be a conservative nowadays and not be Cast Forth from the Tribe, you need to believe:
1. Anthropogenic climate change is a Lie.
2. The "Main Stream Media" has a partisan bias in favor of Democrats.
3. The invasion of Iraq was based on an honest appraisal of the evidence.
4. Torture is acceptable, and also, we do not torture.
I could go on, but these will do to make the point. To be a conservative in the 21st century American sense, you need to believe things that are not true, and you need to tie yourself into knots to pretend otherwise.
I first had this experience when I was making the "Stupid Conservative Myths" series of posts in my sidebar. I realized pretty quickly that debating with a wingnut isn't really an intellectual exercise. You can't assume that if you marshal together a list of facts and superior arguments that you will "win". No, the best thing to do is to just point and laugh unless and until said wingnut is ready to rejoin the world of reality and accept that some of his or her beliefs might be wrong.
In the 1990s this was a fashionable attitude towards the crazy anti-Clintonoids -- against whom the best and the brightest on the left failed to mobilize. This failure occurred because Clinton was, well, not really very far to the left, so why defend him? But it was also because it was assumed that Clinton could take care of himself. Which he could. But what happened underneath...? Well, the foundations were laid for the Bush administration, that's what. The media in particular had their own institutional biases manipulated, with almost no pushback from liberals, who should have known better, but let themselves by and large get rolled. Where did the 21st century wingnuts come from? The 1990s. The case rests. And then throws up.
It seems to me that there is a powerful, but foolish, desire on the part of certain liberals, especially academic liberals, to want to engage in a nice, friendly, open debate with "conservatives." This is an error. You will always lose a game you do not realize you are playing.
The most ridiculous thing anyone seriously interested in politics will ever try to do is to "debate" an opponent. You're much better off trying to win. Try to fight for things like, say, a responsible environmental policy, or equal rights for homosexuals, or no more stupid wars that get a lot of people killed. Win one of these points, and I'll cheer you on, even if you had to stomp your opponent to do it. Go figure!
I dislike the notion of "debate." It is naive and counterproductive.
Ye take the high road, and I'll take the low road, and I'll get to gay marriage before ye.
It's too bad, but as long as our media is constructed in a way to present the argument in the form of "but SOME people claim 2 + 2 is really five, and we'll let you the viewer decide!" and as long as America is populated by "low information voters" (Moron Americans) who choose not to educate themselves before they vote, well, the best thing to do is just point and laugh and try to win. That doesn't mean we give up on trying reform the media. It is just a tactic to achieve our goals until the traditional media starts serving the public interest again instead of catering to the interests of the public to make a profit for the few companies that monopolize ownership.
I thought this diary had a funny take on how Sarah Palin is now "frantically sorting through clothes" to find out what she has to give back to the RNC from her multiple shopping sprees.
Truly, they were britches to nowhere.
Nate Silver of 538.com has the full mathematical breakdown of the Minnesota recount between Franken and Coleman. Very interesting stuff. It is actually a little worse for Franken than I thought, but still about a 50/50 chance for him to win. What surprised me the most was just how critical were the recent adjustments to the margin that fixed some errors and pulled the margin of victory for Coleman from about 700 to 221 votes. Without that change, Franken would have nearly an impossible hill to climb unless you make some very optimistic assumptions about the undervotes and overvotes.
What worries me is a number of the ballots supposedly "in play" are ballots in which a vote was recorded for president but not for Senate. I can imagine in that race that quite a few people decided not to vote for any of the three candidates, which is a reason the "protest" independent candidate got so many votes. The fewer actual undervotes there are, the worse Franken's chances.
So our 14-year-old 9th grader went to the regional cross country meet over the weekend. He had a tough week of running. Apparently, the district course had a fairly steep hill that they had to run up and down, and when C*dy was running down, he was pounding his feet a little too hard and apparently messed up something in his knee. He had a fairly poor week of practice, and then at the regional meet, he had a decent time (but tailed off at the end) but also came up lame in the last hundred yards or so. Now he can barely walk, so it looks like we'll get another trip to the doctor or physical therapist over his knee.
Meanwhile, I'm almost done with the prequel two-book set by Glen Cook called "The Fortress in Shadow" and so far, so good. I still think his best work is the original Black Company trilogy, but this is still very readable. Looking forward to the Dread Empire trilogy next which is called "A Cruel Wind".
If you haven't seen David Letterman's monologue from November 5, the night following election day, you should check it out. I normally think his opening monologues are the best part of the show, and they are hit or miss, but November 5 was a total classic.
If this AP story is to be believed, Franken is only down 221 votes out of 2.8 million votes cast. Moreover, the recount will include around 25,000 ballots where no clear vote was cast, it was rejected by machines. This usually happens because someone put a check mark where they should have filled in a box or something like that, usually first-time voters. Most of them vote Democratic, and most of the "undervotes" are first-time or young voters who also tended to vote way Democratic.
So it is looking good for Franken, although the bad news is that Republicans are going to try to act like they did in Florida and stop a legitimate recount when it looks like it won't go their way. Fortunately, Minnesota was a very smart, competent, Democratic secretary of state, and she'll see this through to the end, cross all the t's and dot all the i's, and the talk radio assholes can just shut the hell up. I want my Senator Franken! Woo hoo! Go, Al!
A couple of things I've read about Sarah Palin today, one I agree with and one I don't. First, there's some backlash beginning against McCain campaign staffers who are dishing dirt on Palin, and I'm sure this will continue once the tell-all memoirs hit the bookshelves in a year or two. Yes, the McCain people have a right to criticize Palin because she did and said some deeply stupid things, but these same McCain people PICKED HER TO BE VICE PRESIDENT. What the hell were they thinking? Every dose of criticism they dish out should reflect doubly back on them for making such a stupid choice.
Elsewhere, some Kos diarists are saying we should all fear the Return of Palin. I'm sorry, I don't buy it. You can't cure stupid. She can read all of the back issues of "The Economist" she wants over the next couple of years, but she won't. Like the Boy King, she's not curious, and she has a whiff of thinking now that she's entitled to a position of status and power in the Republican party, something her fundraising appearances over the next couple of years will only make stronger.
No, if she's going to run in 2012, it is because she thinks she deserves to be taken seriously, not because she's actually done the work to earn that right. Even if she does do a lot of reading between now and then, she has a lifetime of stupid to make up for. She is not going to be able to sit down for a serious, in-depth interview and prove herself, and she won't be able to duck such interviews for an entire two-year campaign. The damage has been done. People aren't going to forget the Couric interview or the interviews she had to do with McCain present as her "minder". She has to actively undo that, and I don't think she can.
If anything good is going to come out of the Bush presidency (and I know this is wishful thinking, but work with me here), it is that a large majority of Americans now agree that COMPETENCE is an important quality to have in a president. It doesn't matter if he or she is surrounded by competent people. The Executive has to be competent and in control or you end up with a government run by a bunch of people who could never be elected to a national office (and for good reason).
Wingnuts are complaining now about Obama's appointment of Rahm Emanuel because he's "too partisan". SERIOUSLY??!? After the last eight years of loyalty over competence, of staffing the justice department with Bible-thumping tier 4 school lawyers, of heckuva-job-Brownie, suddenly partisanship in the executive branch is a horrible thing? These same people were perfectly happy with Karl Rove running the show. Is Rahm a great choice? I don't know. Maybe not, if he is going to be divisive and raise too many hackles in the Senate, but I'm not too worried about it because I know THE PRESIDENT is calling the shots now, and he is both competent and in command, and if "Rahmbo" needs to be reined in, Obama will do that. I trust his judgment.
As for 2012, I think Mittens or some other plutocrat is the real worry. These people are smart enough not to embarrass themselves and can attract enough money to spread a foul message that will make the campaign competitive among the short-attention-span Moron Americans.
Great point today by Digby about the netroots and an Obama presidency.
I was reading through the comment section of a few posts this morning (something I rarely can bring myself to do anymore) and I realized that I need to remind people of something that's very important for successful governance:
FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."
He understood that a President does not rule by fiat and unilateral commands to a nation. He must build the political support that makes his decisions acceptable to our countrymen. He read the public opinion polls not to define who he was but to determine where the country was – and then to strategize how he could move the country to the objectives he thought had to be carried out.
If Obama wants to govern as liberally as the political circumstances allow, then we need to work to make sure that the political circumstances include a strong liberal base. Mindlessly cheerleading out of a misplaced sense of loyalty will not help him. As Roosevelt understood, politics are interlocking interests and constituencies that have to be brought to bear to achieve certain goals.
In the current political world, I believe that Obama and the Democrats need a strong left wing that is out there agitating in order that we can continue to build popular support and also give them a political excuse to do things that the political establishment finds too liberal. Being cheerleaders all the time, however enjoyable that is, is not going to help them. Leaving them out there with no left wing cripples them.
One of the problems for Democrats has been that there has not been an effective progressive voice pushing the edge of the envelope. Therefore, when they inevitably "go to the middle" as politicians often feel they must do, the middle become further and further right. It is my belief that one of the roles of the progressive movement is to keep pulling the politicians back to the left, which often means that we are not being publicly "supportive," in order that we really do end up in the middle instead of farther to the right than the country actually is.
I'm not an idiot and I know very well that Obama needs room to govern. A big historic victory, a village predisposed to at least give him a chance and a set of very serious crises to confront will give him that. My role is to make sure that the progressive agenda is pushed as well, and to make sure that the village knows that we are watching. I don't mind if they hate me, if they also have a healthy respect for the fact that I will stand up for what I believe in. I think this is necessary for successful politics. I don't expect to win all the time (or even most of the time) and I will be very, very supportive when the Democrats come through. But I believe that they need us to keep their feet to the fire.
In addition, we need to start the long process of making progressivism the default political identity of the young. That requires rhetoric that stands strong and takes pride in being liberal. Politicians may have to say that they "represent all the people" and give lip service to bipartisanship, but there is no reason that they should have to run from the progressive label or feel the need to kick their own base in the teeth in order to govern. That's bad for our politics in the long run.
So, everyone needs to relax a little bit about the blogosphere criticizing Obama and the Democrats. We are necessary. If all Obama has is the Villagers and the right defining what change means, then those are the parameters within which he will have to operate. He needs us to "make him do it."
I'm sorry if that's a buzzkill, but things move fast in politics and there's no time to waste. The mandate is being defined as we speak. We can't just sit back and bask in our glory while the villagers are busily narrowing Obama's options.
Now that we have a president we can support, we need to make sure we keep him honest and move that "Overton Window" to the left. Make sure the traditional media knows we're out there griping so that Obama "has to" compromise with us, not just the whiny wingnuts of the world. The stupid "sensible centrists" of the world just love compromise, and if all we do on our side is talk about how great Obama is, he'll be forced to move away from us toward the right to satisfy the establishment, especially the Senate, to get things done.
As promised, I've edited this post back to avoid having silly job-related stuff in my archive. With any luck, this will all work out flawlessly. :)
Now this is a beautiful map. It shows red/blue not according to how they voted but how the voting pattern has changed since 2004. Now even *I* live in a blue state!
Last night during the Obama acceptance speech, I told Michelle that this feels like Season 1 of "The West Wing" and I could imagine all of the staffers already scrambling to get ready to govern now that the "oh shit we won" moment has passed. So I smiled today when I learned that former Clinton administration policy advisor and current Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job as Obama's chief of staff. Emanuel during his years in the Clinton administration became the role model upon which the Josh Lyman character was based for the series.
I hope that Obama has a big enough "mandate" that the village idiots in Washington (the center-right pundit class) will start browbeating the Senate into letting him get some major legislation passed, starting with changes in the tax code and his health care plan. If that doesn't happen, we're going to have to look ahead to 2010 and hope that several old Republicans, who think it sucks to be in the minority, finally retire and leave some open seats for us to shoot for in competitive states like Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky and Ohio.
I'm really worried that over the next two months, the base is going to whip themselves up into a frenzy trying to get their 40-Senator firewall firmly in place to oppose any major legislation. Then in two years, the talk radio crowd will openly wonder why Obama can't seem to get anything done. "See?" they'll say, "he's too inexperienced, he doesn't have the political skill to get things done in Washington," when the real roadblock is the filibuster in the Senate.
Oh well, if nothing else, we can always hope for several retirements on the Supreme Court that we can fill with young, smart liberals to oppose the Scalia side of the court. Confirmation hearings won't be a problem with such a large Senate majority, no filibuster problems there. At least, that assumes the Dems can get their act together and be unified when it is critical, something their history shows is unlikely.
Of all the things we have to look forward to in the next year, I'm waiting for the inevitable campaign memoir by McCain aides who will tell us all in gory detail just how batshit crazy the Palin family was on the campaign trail. And of course, the Palins will respond with their own book about how cynical and impure the McCain people were, how the reason they didn't win was because McCain wasn't batshit crazy enough of a Republican.
I hope the base listens to Palin and nominates someone of similar ilk if not her in 2012 so Obama can easily coast to another four years. I'm worried if Mittens gets the nod, he'll convince all the rich people to shower him with money to erase the Obama tax increases, and if he has a money advantage, he can convince the Moron Americans of anything.
It's been a long time since I got to smile on a presidential election night. Best thing is that the race is WAY too big of a margin for anyone to question the legitimacy of Obama's win (not that some won't question it anyway, but they're pushed way to the margins now).
A lot of Republicans are anticipating getting taxed to death, but most of those I know are too ignorant to realize that they make less than $250k and so their taxes will go down. I want to ask these people in four years about their taxes and see if they are willing to admit they were wrong with hard numbers staring them in the face. Then again, anyone who is a hardcore Republican at this point, enough to be really sad about tonight's result, is probably not worth bothering with.
Now come on, Al Franken! We may not get to 60, but the closer we get, the easier it will be to hit 60 Senators in 2010!
In case you were wondering, yes, I am bummed that the Cowboys in six weeks have gone from looking like Super Bowl contenders to looking like the freakin' Raiders. I hope they can turn it around when Romo gets back. The game in two weeks on the road at Washington is really make or break and will set the tone for the last seven weeks. We have to win that one or else we're looking at a team that will be lucky to finish 8-8 and need some blowing up, especially the offensive line.
In the meantime, it's time for election predictions. Kos is sponsoring a prediction contest, and the winner gets a spiffy new Mac laptop. Here are my guesses, feel free to go make your own if you have an account there:
* 57 Democratic Senate seats
* 40 Republican Senate seats
* 257 Democratic House seats
* 178 Republican House seats
* 353 Obama Electoral Votes
* 185 McCain Electoral Votes
* 52.3 Obama Popular Vote Percentage
* 46.3 McCain Popular Vote Percentage
The district-wide track meet was Saturday, 14-year-old C*dy's first chance to officially show off his stuff. I've told bits of this before, but I'll summarize. At the start of the year, his first year in high school as a 9th grader, he wanted to try out for soccer. Though he hasn't played organized soccer in over a year due to his poor grades, he still plays with his friends around once a week during good weather at a nearby park.
Well, soccer is in the off-season right now, and they're just doing conditioning. The cross country coach and soccer coach asked C*dy to run a mile as fast as he could for them on the track, and he blew them away with something like a 6 minute mile. Most kids when you ask them to run a mile for the first time can't even finish or at best it is a slow 8-10 minute jog. I know I can't run a 6 minute mile, and I'm on the treadmill 2-3 times/week for 3 miles walking and running intermittently.
So C*dy was invited to come to some meets with the cross country team, even though he still practices or scrimmages with the soccer guys as much as he can. He now goes regularly to cross country practices, which thankfully have now shifted from 6am (20 min round trip drive for taxi dad) most days into the afternoons with the cooler weather. He got to the point by district that he felt he was the 4th or 5th fastest runner on the team.
He's lucky he even got to run with the team on Saturday. His first 6 weeks report card came back a few weeks ago, and he was failing two classes. Great, just like the last two years. We've tried everything with that boy, but we just can't make him care.
But his coaches can take away the team from him, and right now, that matters more than anything else to him except maybe his girlfriend, so when his coaches read him the riot act and told him to start passing by the 9th week or he'd miss district and all the guys on the team started getting on him, telling him they're counting on him, etc. Well, he responded. He's been staying after school 2-3 days per week to get caught up on things, and now he's barely passing one class by the skin of his teeth and is easily passing most of the others.
I've told the coaches on more than one occasion how thankful we are for their efforts, how much they have positively influenced C*dy. Remember before school started when this child snuck out of the house at 2am to skateboard and got busted for breaking curfew by the cops? Well, today, he was stuck up at the church all day getting in some community service hours for teen court so he couldn't run until this evening at about 8pm. He was complaining about having to run in the dark and being out so late! The same kid that broke curfew 12 weeks ago!
At the district meet, he finished 3rd on the team, 8th overall out of about 80 runners with a 3 mile time of 17:49, a time that would've won the JV meet by a full minute. Since he finished in the top ten and the team won the meet, everyone advances to regionals in two weeks. After the meet, he was shaking with excitement and he had that spiritual moment only a blissfully naive teenager can really have upon accomplishing something.
"I'm so proud of myself and my team," he said, awestruck. I told him I was proud of him and everyone else, too. I hope he keeps it up. I remember after J*stin got back from a week long church-based camp a couple of summers ago, he solemnly intoned, "I'm a child of God now." Well, the next morning, he overslept for church, and he never did start attending regularly. Oh well, I hope C*dy's team and his coaches continue to have a good influence on him. It could make all the difference in his grades and his future.
It seems that some minor network is kicking off a new fantasy series based on Goodkind's "Ayn Rand with Swords" series that I mentioned previously. It premieres tonight and is called "Legend of the Seeker".
I think I'll pass. Didn't like the books *that* much, and I'm sure if the series is good, I'll hear about it, then I can catch up on DVD someday.