Thursday, March 31, 2011

Polling the Last Election

Public Policy Polling ususally does a stand-up job at horse race and issue polling, designing good surveys that tend to get within an acceptable error range from actual election results. What they don't do well is pick candidates to poll. PPP released a poll of Florida voters in which they honest-to-god tested Rudy Giuliani as a potential Republican nominee. Not only is Giuliani not running in 2012, he hardly ran in 2008, choosing to skip the four early (i.e. crucial) states of IA, NH, SC, and NV and hoping that he could pull a rabbit from a hat in Florida's primary. Other (actual) candidates Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich faired worse in hypothetical match-ups against Obama than the former mayor of New York City.

I understand the tendency to fight the last war given the knowledge gained on the battlefield. It's the most up-to-date test of your army's capability. I would however hope that public polling would be a little more forward-looking. After all, there's a wealth of information already out there about actual Republican politicians who are making an actual run. PPP did however discover that all of them are less popular than the man who finished an embarrassing third (with 14%) in the GOP primary in Florida in 2008.

NYT Paywall News Roundup

The game from now on is to follow a link into the NYTimes website and grab as many links as possible without clicking on any content links yourself. Repost on your blog, and you give your readers unlimited access behind the NYTimes paywall.

The CIA is on the ground in Libya, repeating the tactics that brought a (relatively) swift rout against the Taliban in 2001, partnering with the Northern Alliance and directing American air strikes against government forces. The Libyan rebels, however, have much less combat experience than the Northern Alliance had, and it seems less likely that Qaddafhi's regime will be as comfortable melting away to form a long-running insurgency, settling for local protection rackets and drug money to finance personal fortunes. The oil wealth inherent in control of a united Libya is a much stronger reason to stay in power, and Qaddafhi's regime is more entrenched than the Taliban were in Afghanistan.

Government bailouts are paying off for the American taxpayer, bringing in additional revenue.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pawlenty: Economic Mission Accomplished

Former full-term Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a message for the Republican presidential hopefuls: the Republican mission of creating a double-dip recession has been accomplished. Pawlenty is already attempting to blame the President for the recession his colleagues have been working towards.

The GOP playbook has been ratcheting up the war on jobs, beginning with Mitch McConnell's admission that the primary Republican motivation was to see the economic recovery fail. The House GOP has been taking the stuffing out of economic recovery programs, cutting jobs and mortgage modification programs. National Republicans have orchestrated a campaign to take capital out of the economy when the only evidence-based economic models would suggest that we need more money in the economy.

Republicans are scrambling to come up with a rationale for how the job-killing Republican agenda isn't the one killing jobs. Tim Pawlenty's move is certainly a novel one, blaming the coming double-dip recession on inflation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Old Inactivity Canard

The Republican legal attack on the Affordable Care Act rests on characterizing the Minimum Coverage Requirement as outside the authority of Congress. Congres can regulate activities related to commerce, and may even create any regulations or laws necessary and proper to regulate any commercial activity. The argument against the Commerce Clause power here is that the government, in requiring an action, is pursuing power that is neither necessary nor proper to regulate the insurance industry, which is clearly interstate commerce.

The same point came up in a debate with a good friend last night: could the state coerce citizens into vaccinating their children? The same characteristics of the health insurance debate are present. Private individuals have a personal belief that they do not need the vaccination/insurance. In the aggregate, the risk to society are unacceptably high if a substantial number of citizens do not receive vaccinations or purchase insurance. Health care costs for everybody skyrocket and more resources are squandered on reactive strategies instead of prevention.

For vaccinations, there appears to be the critically dangerous exercise in biopower. If the state can make health decisions for individuals, why could it not force sterilizations or outlaw abortions, not to mention conscripting citizens into unethical clinical studies?

While my friend's initial etaction was to rely on a distinction between positive and negative power (the government may prohibit the metabolization of certain chemicals, but could not force the same)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Still Ratfucking After All These Years

Nixon's team of paralegal political operatives used to have a term for discrediting, disorienting, and otherwise disrupting the opposition: ratfucking. It turns out that rank-and-file officials in the Republican party are still operating under the pretense that this is an acceptable way to conduct a party in a democracy. An Indiana prosecutor encouraged Governor Scott Walker to stage an assassination attempt and blame it on public employees and the unions that they organize. Of course, Scott Walker considered such options, and admitted to as much on his phone call with "David Koch," but ultimately decided against it. Probably because he isn't "Tricky" Dick Nixon.
If Nixon does have a second incarnation, there will surely be Republican operatives willing to do his misdeeds.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ad Hominem Ad Nauseum

I originally started writing this observation on Monday morning, but fittingly came down with a bad flu, postponing completion until today:

I couldn't help but be struck by the memeorandum-capturing headline "A Liberal Intervention" Monday morning, which typifies much of the right-wing analysis available to the blogosphere. The adoption of the anti-intervention screed across the right is equally fascinating. The original article, a Ross Douthat brainchild, is an attack on the "liberal way of war." Throughout, however, Douthat fails to articulate a reason that of any the following: a) the intervention is bad or b) an alternative would be better. Yet the article smack of a decidedly negative, if not downright dismissive tone towards the prevention of mass murder in Libya. Douthat comes closest to making a substantive point when he acknowledges that the current intervention is in line with the modern American diplomatic and military practice of launching interventions supported by the international community, except for the Bush invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Weirdly, Douthat pretends that diplomacy is a purely Democratic tactic, ignoring entirely the international build-up towards Operation Desert Storm under Bush I or the UN-supported military action in Korea, attributing all prior American international interventions solely to Clinton.

As always, several possible explanations exist for Douthat's curious omissions.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rand Paul's Budget: A Lesson in Publicaphobia

The Tea Party elements of the Senate (read: entrenched corporate interests) are coalescing around Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)'s 5-year plan for the budget. Since this is thus far the only budget proposal offered by Republicans that lasts for more than a month, let's just call it the GOP budget plan for short. The plan obliterates the departments of Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce. This is remarkable restraint from Rand Paul; devotees of the Senator's past would have expected Rand Paul to abduct the federal government, force it to take drugs, and coerce it into praying to "aqua buddha" rather than just cut off a few essential functions upon which its citizens and constituent states.

It's hard to imagine a worse plan for the economy right now, or for states. The Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development shovel federal taxpayer money into state coffers, paying for state-led projects, state teacher payrolls, and preventing fraud and waste. States are fighting tooth and nail to keep basic programs alive. An enormous part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act kept local progams afloat amid the massive dip of property taxes brought on by the burst housing bubble. The failure of Republicans to create a similar pro-state project has precipitated massive state budget shortfalls from Washington to Florida.

Yet the Republicans backing the Paul 5-year plan are making a grotesque argument that cutting grants-in-aid to states will strengthen state power

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Right Wing Cheers School Closings

Is anyone surprised that Michelle Malkin is leading the Republican cheerleading for closing down schools? Leaving children behind? hurrah, GOP!

That should illuminate any debate about the values of the mainstream of the Republican party.

Link the NYTimes

The New York Times is exploring a new business model for online traffic today. Canadian readers of start facing a 'metering' scheme today which erects a pay wall after a user makes more than 20 page views in a month on the Times website. Links that lead to NYTimes content will not count towards the metered pageviews. American and global visitors will wait until the 28th of March before facing the same metered traffic and paywall scheme.

Clever devotees of the Times would do well to start linking to articles on the Times site and seeking out other bloggers who do the same to avoid the metering. One pageview to the NYtims front page would yield dozens of links to articles. A blogger can provide links to readers, in essence creating free portals to the Times website. Twitter, tumblr, and blogs will provide links to free articles, making it easier for friends and connected media to share the information that a person wants friends to see. A failure to provide links to friends freezes the connected people out from content for which they might have to pay $15-$35 per month.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Boldest Marijuana Legalization Proposal Yet

News today from Washington State has a former US Attorney voicing support for a plan to have Washington State sell marijuana to adults over 21 years of age via the state liquor board. The state liquor board already controls all non-beer and wine sales in the state, excepting of course sales that occur on tribal lands.

The attempt to have state officials distribute marijuana to Washington residents is in direct conflict with the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits any sale, manufacture, or possession of Schedule 1 substances. Schedule 1 substances are classified as having a high addiction potential and no medical value. Marijuana was made a Schedule 1 substance when the CSA was signed into law despite a long history of being used in health tinctures in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the infamous program in which the federal government provided marijuana cigarettes to a limited number of patients who benefited from the drug. State officials are sworn to uphold the laws of the United States if they are in conflict with state laws.

There is little reason to believe that Washington state would prevail over the federal government if they chose to resist federal law in this instance. The federal government has vast resources devoted primarily to enforcing the controlled substances act, with plenty of backup possible from the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, a department that already has plenty of interaction with the Washington State Liquor Board. US Attorneys would likely not choose seek a federal judge's injunction on such a program when the executive branch already possesses precisely the authority to disrupt distribution networks. This bill is a rare honest attempt at imagining a post-prohibition marijuana regulation regime, and it deserves to be debated in that hypothetical realm. Dismissing the plan on the basis of incompatibility with federal law would do a disservice to the citizens of Washington.

Federal laws will necessarily occupy much of the field in the quality standards, packaging, and basic legality of marijuana. Federal power to regulate marijuana is well established.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wisconsin State Senator Recall Update

Progressive groups are flashing cash towards recalling Republican state senators in Wisconsin who voted to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights. Since the Wisconsin assembly passed the Attack On Union Workers bill, groups vowing recall efforts in the badger state have raised upwards of $1 million. This is an impressive feat for such an unconventional fundraising effort. Recall campaigns rarely are launched on a national level, mostly because they target state elected officials.
The feeling among donors must be that this campaign is an efficient use of resources. I see the value question split into two parts. First, can a recall campaign be successful, and we'll define success as having the elections called and having a challenger win. If the threat proves credible, the second value of the recall campaigns would come into pay, which is the spectre of "accountability" as some progressive groups are describing. In value-neutral terms, let's just say that the recall campaign would have to be reproducible in other states. Ohio Republicans won't care about Republican losses in Wisconsin unless the results can generalize to other states. The recall campaign is about making unpopular Conservative policy goals less attractive to Conservative politicians in the short run. Essentially, can the recall campaign force ideological Republicans to respect their constituents' values and aspirations?

The threat against the Wisconsin senators has certainly proved credible. Organizers are well on their way to collecting the recall signatures ahead of schedule. This is only the first bit of the credibility puzzle. The election is the more important test. Certainly Dan Kapanke looks very vulnerable based on the 2010 election results in his own senate district.

Friday, March 11, 2011

All Eyes on Fukushima

The 8.9 magnitude quake that hit Japan earlier today crippled the cooling system at a nuclear plant in Japan. The eyes of the world are on the Fukushima reactor, holding collective breath to see if there will be a second catastrpohic nuclear accident in thirty years.
As Republicans consider pushing through new energy bills, this should refocus American opposition to nuclear plants, which have the low-frequency potential for unthinkable consequences. Nuclear power has always presented this risk calculus, which is exceptionally difficult to perform in a rational way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NY-26 Special is a Go

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has scheduled the special election to replace craigslist-disgracing Chris Lee for May, 24. The Hill has a word on the candidates:
Republicans have chosen state lawmaker Jane Corwin as their nominee. The Democratic favorite for the nomination is Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, but officials are still deliberating.
Hard to know what "Democratic favorite" means here, but it probably reflects some comments gleaned from party infrastructure and not voters.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Best the Right Can Do

Looking at Memeorandum today, it looks like Conservatives got everything they wanted. Most of the day's blog discussion seems to be about the serial felon James O'Keefe's (probably doctored) attack of already-outgoing NPR executive Ron Schiller. The focus is on a traditional Right Wing enemy (non-corporate media), not the unbelievably unpopular Republican agenda in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Ohio of stripping workers of their bargaining rights. Nor is the discussion focused the possible economic plunge that the proposed Republican cuts to jobs would cause.

It seems clear looking at the broader media picture that the rest of the media are not biting on this story. CBS News and ABC News has the story on the front pages of their websites, but buried with other links. On MSNBC, the link doesn't even show up in the splash window; you have to scroll down to find it. The story won't be out front on the broadcasts. NYTimes is dutifully covering the story, as are other traditional media outlet blogs. The Washington Times presents a very odd anti-NPR angle on the whole affair.

My editorial judgment is that the story simply has no pull with a normal viewer/reader/voter.

Honest Question

The Washington Times tries a new attack on NPR, spinning off of the serial felon James O'Keefe's punkumentary propaganda:NPR officers compare deniers of climate change to birthers and flat earth believers.

Don't bother reading the article (I didn't; the website's ads were too annoying). Focus on the headline that the Washington Times provided, which I copied verbatim. Here is the allegation again:
[] compare [climate change deniers] to birthers and flat earth believers
Is there anything in that comparison that isn't apt?

Please, if you can answer that question honestly, or if you know anybody who can, send them here to comment. Again, your prompt is "Is there any aspect of the comparison between 'deniers of climate change' and 'birthers and flat earth believers' that is inappropriate?"

Or is the attack simply that NPR employs people?

Monday, March 7, 2011

#WIunion No Surrender

WSJ apparently stands for 'wishful thinking,' with this morning's banner article claiming that Wisconsin Democrats are surrendering to Governor Walker's union-busting bill. The Wall Street Journal seems to be caught in a Rupert Murdoch fantasy world where the rich always win against workers. At the beginning of the Wisconsin standoff, it looked to national pundits as though Republicans had a high-profile winning issue. After weeks of polling showing consistent support for public employee bargaining rights (at about 60% versus 30% against), the right-wing media outlets are attempting to bury the story. Democrats are highlighting Republicans' hostility towards workers with a series of U.S. House hearings. The union-bashing has tepid support from national Republicans, and Democrats are hoping to force a more public stand:
Other congressional leaders haven't been reluctant to weigh in. On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders have weighed in on behalf of Walker, whose proposal would eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees and force increased contributions by workers to pension and benefit programs.
Republicans have dramatically sloughed off all pretense of a mandate. The public has weighed the Republican agenda and found it wanting.

More heartening in the long run is the fact that Congressional Democrats are picking this fight. Nancy Pelosi proved her effectiveness as a minority leader against Bush in the 2005-2007 cycle, and now her team is picking the right fights with a much less disciplined opponent. If House Democrats can continue to gain the offensive against the GOP's less least popular ideas, we could see a return of Speaker Pelosi in 2014, if not necessarily Democratic control of the Senate. A Democratic House and a Republican controlled Senate would hardly be different from the first two years of the Obama presidency.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gut Check on Republicans and Jobs

All of a sudden, it looks like Republicans are mired in a war of their own making. The Republican Party was catapulted into power in the U.S. House and in State Legislatures across the country. After two months of seeing what Republican power looks like, voters are registering this displeasure for Republican ideas. The first legislative act that Congressional Republicans took was the "Repeal the [Lie About the Affordable Care Act] Health Care Act." Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care ACt would have added $200 billion to the federal deficit. Now they're trying to pass a spending agenda that takes 700,000 workers out of the workforce, meaning there will be fewer jobs for every job seeker.

Meanwhile Republican governors have riveted the country's attention on the GOP's crusade against the right to organize. Nationally, Americans disapprove of the Republican positions in Ohio and Wisconsin by a nearly 2-1 margin. The worker-busting agenda is the primary news story associated with the Republican brand at this moment, with a close second being "cutting social security," something that the Wall Street Journal rather blandly said Americans

The current Republican spending plan would depress the GDP by 1.5-2.0%, very likely giving rise to a second, prolonged recession.

Accordingly, Republican House members are starting to worry about their own jobs, blaming their messaging emphasis: