Sunday, November 4, 2012

Roll on thunder, shine on lightning

Cliff Schecter handicapped the election on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, and he thinks there are reasons to be hopeful at the prospect of two of the worst Senators in the Democratic caucus being replace with two progressives. Cliff says parties have been changed from within and we can do it again. Let's hope he's right. (Also, did you know Al Franken could draw the US map from memory?)

Here's Matt Stoller's "The progressive case against Obama," and here's Matt debating Sam Seder on the subject on The Majority Report. (And I was stunned to learn that Matt Stoller is a regular feature of Russell Brand's show. Crikey!)

Dean Baker, "Get ready for the phony debt fight: Both candidates agree: The national debt is the most urgent challenge facing the nation. But it's not -- at all."

Digby asks, "Will common sense prevail over the phony deficit crusade?" I think we all know the answer to that: "Sadly, budget realities have very little to do with the jihad against Social Security and medicare. It's not about the budget or the debt. It's about fixing the national 'character.' Just ask Paul Ryan. He thinks these programs are 'a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, and have that dependency culture.'" And Barack Obama thinks they interfere with our ability to "compete" with China in the race to the bottom.

"Silences Louder Than Their Words: Effective Economic Policies Neither Candidate Advocates" - I have an even longer list, but the fact is that Obama and Romney both avoid mentioning any policies that could genuinely be expected to have a positive impact on the American economy.

Jane Mayer responds to notorious election fraudster Hans von Spakovsky's response to her piece, "The Voter Fraud Myth".

"Political Polling Is No Longer Meaningful: When you receive an unexpected call from a private number or 1-800 number, do you answer the phone? Most people don't, and those who do are hardly a representative sample of the American population. Yet the results of all major political polls are based on the assumption that the 9 percent of us who answer the phone are perfectly representative of the 91 percent who don't." And that means we need good exit polls more than ever. Oh. "The Washington Post has reported that the major news networks plan to cut back dramatically on exit polling in 2012. This is a problem because with many states moving to paper-free electronic voting, exit polls are the only way to detect errors and fraud. Without a paper trail and with no solid polling, there will be no way to know that the results reported by private voting machine operators are in fact correct." (Not helped by the fact that we have the world's stupidest political press.)

Tell me honestly, if you interviewed a bunch of Obama supporters, wouldn't a lot of them sound just as wrong as these Romney supporters? (Really disappointed in Meatloaf, though.) (Meanwhile... Is Chris Rock being more ironic than he knows?)

"Civil Liberties in the War of 1812" - James Madison was the president we really needed on 9/11 in 2001.

Greg Palast offers a free download of his book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits. (But donations are welcome, of course.)

And now, a political message from Joss Whedon.

This is a story I completely missed last month that highlights an argument I've engaged before about the idea that a right - in this case free speech - is protected as long as the government isn't the entity that punishes you for exercising it. But the fact of the matter is that if private entities are acting in a way that prevents you from being able to speak freely and survive, you don't have free speech.

Diet soda makes you fat.

If you can, listen to Lou Reed's New York Shuffle.

I really enjoyed the Halloween Google Doodle, and it's nice to know there's a page to go to where you can find them all when you miss them or want to see what the other countries are seeing, right here. (I think they should have put this one up outside of Mexico, too.) And since I missed the Star Trek doodle, it's very handy. And I couldn't get the Little Nemo doodle to play properly before, but now that my Internet Access Provider has finally taken my complaint seriously, I can see it all.

I don't want to talk about the storm (or its potential impact on voting in neighborhoods where the polling places have been wrecked by it), but please comment below and let me know that you're okay.

"The Hell of It"


  1. Hi Avedon. I have to be honest; I think the case against Obama as Stoller and others on the left are making it is nonsense. Want a viable third party? Then quit bitching about it during election season and do some fucking work on it outside it. I've had it with these brave, lonely voices that only seem to be interested in passing along their Big Ideas.

    1. danps -

      Um, what's wrong with "passing along Big Ideas?" Pushing such ideas in a (for now-)losing cause is a basic way to start turning "Big Ideas" into "conventional wisdom."

    2. I meant that more in terms of Stoller-type electoral broadsides than advocating bold policies. I agree the "big ideas into conventional wisdom" approach on policy.

  2. Re storm: Yeah, we're okay. We didn't have too much damage right where we are, just some wind damage and that mostly though not exclusively to trees. Power was out but only for a short time. The biggest impact on me (and my wife) personally was that we were out of the area when the storm hit and were sort of stranded for two days trying to get home. We ultimately rented a car in DC and drove.

  3. danps: So what you are saying is that people should support voting for a third party unless it is time to vote, in which case they should be voting for the two main parties.

    1. Susan -

      I think you're being a little unfair to danps. I take his (I'm assuming "his" under the prior assumption that the screen name indicates his name is Dan) argument to be criticism of those who make presidential runs the whole of their effort and who do nothing to build a party or an organization in the time between elections. That was one of the criticisms aimed at Ralph Nader, for example, and in his case I think it's a fair complaint.

      Where danps is wrong is the implicit assumption that this is true of all third parties, that none of them do anything except run for president. That, as I'm sure you'll agree, is untrue.

      On the other hand, danps does imply allegiance to the old "they can't win so don't vote for them," which is a destructive and self-fulfilling prophecy. On that, I think your criticism is correct.

    2. You might be correct, but the time to increase the power of third parties is during election season, when they are a threat to the two main parties. Perhaps there are two ways to look at this: increase power before elections by gaining and organizing supporters, and increase power during elections by threatening to withhold support for appropriate the main parties. When the third party is strong enough, take on the two parties directly.

      What do you think?

    3. Susan, I think third parties should be built up between elections. Election day should be the result of a lot of hard work, not an isolated event. And they need to be built up down ballot before up.

      Increasing support for them needs to start at the local level. A presidential run should be the result of a whole string of successes that build up from that, not something that happens in a vacuum.

      It's something that seems obvious to the left when an ideologically opposed group tries it - witness all the snickering over Americans Elect. Well if the Greens are going to not just de-emphasize but ignore grassroots party building then I don't think they are so different.

    4. Susan -

      I wholeheartedly agree that the power of 3rd parties comes during election time precisely because that is when they are a threat. I've long argued that the role of most 3rd parties in the US has been just that: become strong enough to threaten the position of one of the majors, which then must shift to take into account the positions of the outsiders. (A good example would be that the New Deal was a watered-down version of the Socialist Party platform.)

      But there still has to be the work between the elections because that's what will establish the basis for being a true threat come election time. So, yeah, both.

  4. Re election: Congrats to Matt Stoller for biting the bullet, telling the truth, and, most importantly, not backing down.

    I said before why I refuse to vote for Obama but wimped out and added that if I lived in a genuine toss-up state, one that was really up for grabs, I could (not would, could) vote for him. "I'd have to do it with my tongue because one hand would be covering my eyes and the other would be holding my nose, but I probably could do it."

    Stoller did not wimp out and all praise to him for it.

    In my case, I guess it's that while I don't want Obama to win, I do want Romney to lose if only to show that there is some level of transparent lying that even our electorate will not tolerate. (I mean, it's not even that Romney is a liar, it's that - unlike Obama - he's not even a good liar.)

    One other point worth noting is an argument that Stoller makes but which I would have phrased more bluntly and should have included in the above-linked post: There would be a silver lining in a Romney victory in that the liberals and so-called "progressives" would not stand silent - as they have for the past four years - as Romney tried to do the same things that Obama has been doing.

  5. It's the problem of third parties in America that to establish themselves, they have to allow their opponents to win. By the time a new progressive party established itself in the current electoral regime, the Republicans would have cemented their hold on power for a generation--that is, if most of the New Progressives members were allowed the vote by the end of that time. But long before that time, the hopeful third party would have fallen apart.

    We may hope for the collapse of the Republicans, so that a third party can move in on them from the left.

    Amidst the blither in that Romney supporter video, one woman mentioned the surveillance state and drones. And of course she's right, though Romney is probably a supporter of those things as well. I was struck by the woman who said, apparently without irony, that Obama was "all three"--Communist, Muslim, and atheist. I think someone in a comparable Obama supporter video might say that Romney is racist, sexist, and homophobic--and they would be right. This election is about the voters and, at least, in an Obama Presidency, the right to vote is far better protected than in a Romney Presidency.

  6. It occurs to me that the "vote third party, even though it risks a Republican victory," position is the progressive version of shared sacrifice. :-( Avedon, I don't think it works.

  7. You may be right, Raven, but for third party to suceed somepne has to vote for it. All politics are local, eventually. My vote - paper, w/double super secret secuity envelopes, in the box - was/is a straight Paciific Green with Working Families (Oregon) endorsements, only deviating to Dem vote in the House, where current "representative" is a particularly reprehensible little trust-funder punk who's never done a day's work on its life: Oregon's own Myth Romney.

    Someone has to do it. Rest assured had I the least inkling Willard could "win" this I would have voted for the O. And I don't discount the possibily of another theft, which render whatever vote I had cast moot in the accepted vernicular.

    Not that I give a shit, anymore. Cascadia!

    No fear...

    1. I'm in a safe blue state, and I also registered a protest vote, but only for President--the Republican alternatives for everything else were toxic and might actually win. But it was very odd to vote and hope that the candidate I voted for either wouldn't win or else won in a landslide.

      We've got to get to work on electoral reform!

    2. I had to chuckle a bit over that remake of Reagan's 'first time didn't hurt at all' kerfuffle because... it didn't hurt a bit, was really quite pleasant.

    3. Ten Bears -

      I've been calling him Witless Romney on my show. "Myth Romney." Damn. Wish I'd thought of that. :-)

  8. I'm OK, finally. Heat, hot water, electricity, refrigeration, fresh food, drinkable water, connectivity --the East Village is back. It's on to the election!

    David Brooks may have finally talked me out of voting for Romney:

    link to David Brooks' selling Romney's malleable persona as useful to the centrists' agenda

    Published: 01 November 2012 09:08 PM

    "Why Romney is more likely to get big stuff done"

    "Let’s try to imagine what the world would look like if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

    Washington over the next four years would probably look much as it has over the last two: Obama running the White House, Republicans controlling the House and Democrats managing the Senate. Despite a change-hungry electorate, we’d end up with pretty much the same cast of characters.

    Obama would probably try to enact the agenda he laid out most clearly in his recent interview with The Des Moines Register:

    Obama said he would try to re-create the Obama-Boehner budget deal of two summers ago, with $2.50 of spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Then he’d try immigration reform. Then he’d cut corporate tax rates as part of corporate reform. Then he’d “weed out” unnecessary regulations. All the while, he would implement Obamacare and increase funds for infrastructure. This is a moderate and sensible agenda.

    The first order of business would be the budget deal, averting the fiscal cliff. Obama would go to Republicans in the Senate and say, “Look, we’re stuck with each other. Let’s cut a deal for the sake of the country.” He would easily find 10 Republican senators willing to go along with a version of a Grand Bargain.

    Then Obama would go to the House. He’d ask Eric Cantor, the majority leader, if there were votes for such a deal. The answer would probably be no. Republican House members still have more to fear from a primary challenge from the right than from a general election challenge from the left. Obama is tremendously unpopular in their districts. By running such a negative presidential campaign, Obama has won no mandate for a Grand Bargain. Obama himself is not going to suddenly turn into a master legislative craftsman on the order of Lyndon B. Johnson.

    There’d probably be a barrage of recriminations from all sides. The left and right would be consumed with ire and accusations. Legislators would work out some set of fudges and gimmicks to kick the fiscal can down the road.

    The ensuing bitterness would doom any hopes for bipartisan immigration reform. The rest of the Obama second term would be about reasonably small things: some new infrastructure programs; more math and science teachers; implementing Obamacare; mounting debt; a president increasingly turning to foreign affairs in search of legacy projects."

  9. (cont.)

    "Now let’s try to imagine the world if Mitt Romney wins. Republicans would begin with the premise that the status quo is unsustainable. The mounting debt is ruinous. The byzantine tax and regulatory regimes are stifling innovation and growth.

    Republicans would like to take the reform agenda that Republican governors have pursued in places like Indiana and take it to the national level: structural entitlement reform; fundamental tax reform. These reforms wouldn’t make government unrecognizable (we’d probably end up spending 21 percent of GDP in Washington instead of about 24 percent), but they do represent a substantial shift to the right.

    At the same time, Romney would probably be faced with a Democratic Senate. He would also observe the core lesson of this campaign: Conservatism loses; moderation wins. Romney’s prospects began to look decent only when he shifted to the center.

    To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.

    As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romnesia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn’t want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.

    The bottom line is this: If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation: House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done.

    New York Times columnist David Brooks may be contacted through

    1. Shorter bo-bo: give us what we want or we'll shoot the hostage.

  10. (cont.)

    So that's basically the opposite of the story that the Democratic center-wing has been selling the Village about Obama.

    There are some basic flaws in that argument, though, chief of which would be the yarn about how the popular right wing --the House caucus members the center-right Brooks disparages as "the most intransigent element"-- would somehow kneel to Romney when they've told Boehner and Cantor time and again to fuck off. That's the sort of intransigence that says "get the government's hands off of my Medicare!"

    That Brooks can make the claim that Romney can exercise Obama-esque shame-n-blame power over the popular right (the way Obama partisans easily manipulate the popular left) is a testament to that columnist's capacity to shamelessly shill.

    I mean, come on. Does anybody really believe that Romney can move the House rightists to go along with the establishment center-wing? What is Romney going to do to get honest-to-God Tea Party Republicans to fold and go along with Brookings' agenda for "reform" --imply that they're racists for opposing Their President? Good Lord, it's not like these are terrified liberal Democrats.

    But...if this sort of influence were likely, if that's a plausible outcome, it's something to consider. What's even more important to consider, and even more plausible, is the first scenario outlined by Brooks, the one in which Obama is re-elected, yet fails to "do the big stuff" of Evan Bayh's Third Way dreams.

    The plausibility of that scenario alone --that Obama is nowhere near competent enough to get the New Deal-destroying Grand Bargain past a populist right-wing shared House-- is worth my vote, probably. If Obama is as much of a colossal failure at selling the centrist Democratic agenda as Brooks makes him out to be, then I'd better suck it up and vote for him, with the optimistic, yet realistic expectation that Obama should miserably fail for the next four years.

    It's possible. Obama may only be successful at passing "historic," incredibly bad, Third Way policy regimes when he's got a House majority that includes symbolism-driven, liberal Democrats to shame, bribe and bamboozle. It may be that the worst of what an Obama Administration can do to the country is over, now that we have precious gridlock. The best case scenario is that either way --Obama loses, Obama wins-- the "big stuff" agenda the center has inflicted on the country comes to an end, at least for the next term.

    We can only hope, I suppose, which is why I'm voting at all.

    Brooks makes a somewhat reasonable case that a vote for Romney is a vote for an effective Grand Bargainer. Maybe, if I just forget for a few days how utterly, catastrophically wrong David Brooks has been about "the New Economy," post-invasion "progress" in Iraq, and pretty much everything, I can see things Brooks' way --and vote against Romney.

    I've still got a couple of days to mull it over, though. I'm still undecided.

  11. Good to hear you and la familia are OK, Zech. BTW, have you mentioned the thought of voting Romnoid to the Swamp faithful?

    And JFC what Stoller said.

    1. Thanks, Orgegon JC.

      Sure, I just told Michael Scherer that Brooks has just about talked me out of voting for Romney:

      It's not an argument that the Swamp folks are terribly accustomed to hearing, but of course they should be exposed to such lines of thinking.

    2. Good on ya SZ. If this Naderite trash was cast out merely for entertaining thoughts of abstention/a 3P-vote, I can hardly imagine what your apostasy would inspire. You may as well drop a load on their koran. But if Brooks spooks you into voting for BO all will be forgiven.

      Thank heaven my flight doesn't land in Versailles until 10 days after the dust settles. Cheers and keep that baby warm. Read Cormac's The Road since becoming a dad? Whoa boy.

  12. Wonderful to hear Nari Emeline isn't one of the 40,000 New Yorkers Mayor Bloomberg thinks is in need of temporary shelter. That's good news about SZ and his LB, too.

    And now, on with the wanking...

    To whom it may concern,

    "This is no time to go wobbly."

    In a related matter, it was disappointing to hear Matt Stoller pull a Ralph Nader 2000 on Sam Seder's show and pretend, if it is to have any traction at all, his call to everyone to vote third party will not be at the expense of the Democratic Party candidate. You see this type of playing it too clever by half by people on the left too often in my opinion. The whole Occupy thing has come and, apparently, gone with its most avid supporters having insisted throughout its brief manifestation that no one could speak for the movement nor state what its agenda was.

    1. I think Stoller was just frustrated that Seder wouldn't address any issue but his hobby horse, i.e., voting third party in swing states is a vanity vote that throws the election to Romney, who will deliver the country to the worst of the worst.

      As I read his article, Stoller presents voting third party as a kind of organizational tool - a psychological leap away from "letting malevolent political elites do what they want" and means of identifying those willing to build an alternative power base with the clout to back up their threats come the next elite-created crisis. As I heard him on the show, he was more reacting to Sam's missing the point than trying to claim his call for third party voting wouldn't come at Obama's expense.

      Now, I don't agree with that part of Stoller's analysis but it should at least be challenged on its merits. Sam is great at interviewing people he agrees with but he hasn't got the mental agility to address the fallacies of an argument he disputes.

      I feel much more optimistic about an Obama 2nd term after the Chicago teachers' strike - people are catching on and resisting, even when there's an election at stake. (Left a comment saying same as "xx" before realizing that I could change the username of a blogger profile I inadvertently created and couldn't get rid of a year or so ago). As for a Romney presidency, I used to make light of the idea that a vote for Romney was a vote for Hindenburg, but, looking at his policy advisors, I think it just might be.

  13. Interesting to see Occupy Sandy taking on a secular version of the Muslim Brotherhood role in poorer parts of NY.

  14. From the department of you couldn't make this shit up:

    "Clinton asks Philadelphia crowd: ‘Who wants a president who will knowingly, repeatedly tell you something he knows isn’t true?’"

    1. The Daily Caller, of course being "A conservative/Republican news spin organization founded by conservative reporter Tucker Carlson and former Dick Cheney aide Neil Patel." and hence an excellent source of Bizarro World.

  15. Nate Silver should seriously contemplate shoving his infallible crystal ball up Dick Morris's and Karl Rove's fat asses.

    Here's my thumbtack analysis of the elections that should tide you over until I can properly respond to last evening's historic night.

  16. Avedon, you crossed out an accurate descriptor of Hans van Spakovsky. I'm sure it's accidental.

    You said, "Cliff says parties have been changed from within and we can do it again." This has been my point all along. Dems have always been terrible, except for the moments when they rose to the occasion, like in the Great Depression and (at the congressional level) post-Watergate.

    If people want to replace the major parties, they should start running for the state legislature or the city council. Prove that you can get the garbage picked up on time and voters will trust you with the larger issues. That's how Bernie Sanders got his start, as mayor. But as long as the Greens or Labor can't win local seats in California or northern New Mexico or Boston or the other ultra-liberal districts around the country--and do such a sterling job that people raise them to higher office-- why should anyone take them seriously?

    I'm not for the Democrats. But I am for the best person actually winning. Winning higher office does not start from lofty statements. It starts from picking up the garbage or getting property taxes right or being a good prosecutor or, like Elizabeth Warren, spending years researching a topic no one cares about or... whatever draws public interest and approval.

    1. The strike-out is a long-respected fannish tradition.