Sunday, November 23, 2008

But I Don't Want to Own Citigroup!

Some announcement on Citigroup expected tonight.

Does. Not. Want.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Filing Label

File this under "How Far We've Come" or "How Messed Up America Can Be"? Both?

I recently watched actual footage of an American soldier coming home to a USO dance after fighting in Europe.

The soldier was Japanese-American.

The USO hall was in his family's new neighborhood: a Japanese interment camp.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Changes: It Seems Heaven-Sent

This would've been more timely two weeks ago, but I've stopped pretending to myself that I'm either cutting-edge or quick on the draw.*

Anyway, it wasn't too likely, but Tupac's "Changes" should've been the Obama theme song.

Kinda obvious why it wasn't, but it should've been.

I'm not sure when he recorded it, but it was released posthumously, so maybe twelve or thirteen years ago. Anyway, Pandora popped it up just now for me, and I was struck how it sounds both outdated and painfully relevant at once:
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?
We gotta start makin' changes,
Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers.
And that's how it's supposed to be—
How can the Devil take a brother if he's close to me?
I'd love to go back to when we played as kids,
But things changed, and that's the way it is...

I see no changes all I see is racist faces.
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races.
We under, I wonder what it takes to make this
One better place. Let's erase the waste,
Take the evil out the people they'll be acting right,
'Cause both black and white is smokin' crack tonight,
And only time we chill is when we kill each other.
It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other
And although it seems heaven-sent
We ain't ready, to see a black President.

It ain't a secret, don't conceal the fact:
The penitentiary's packed, and it's filled with blacks.
But some things will never change...

And still I see no changes can't a brother get a little peace
It's war on the streets & the war in the Middle East
Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs
So the police can bother me...

It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes.
Let's change the way we eat, let's change the way we live,
And let's change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn't working so it's on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.

Or original. I just did a Google search and am shocked--shocked!--to discover that I'm not the first person to have had this thought. Whatever. Time-traveling plagiarism artists and other haters will not drag me down.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

It Intensifies Your Political Philosophy, Man

I'm psychic.

And remarkably good-looking, but the psychic part is more relevant here. On Friday, I responded to Paul Krugman's ecstatic proclamations about Obama's "mandate" and how he'd won that mandate during a referendum on "political philosophies" that "the progressive philosophy won." I said:
In 2004, cultural conservatives misunderstood the significance of Bush's victory--they thought so many people voting (in part) out of fear of terrorism meant that the country was ready to return to 1948, only with better wiretapping technology. It wasn't. And this year, so many people voted (in part) out of fear for their pensions. That doesn't mean the country is salivating for the New New Deal. Voters in 1932 knew that the stakes were much higher; contrary to FDR's speeches, Depression-era voters had to fear not only fear but also starvation.
And then today, Krugman wrote this:
Barack Obama should learn from F.D.R.’s failures as well as from his achievements: the truth is that the New Deal wasn’t as successful in the short run as it was in the long run. And the reason for F.D.R.’s limited short-run success, which almost undid his whole program, was the fact that his economic policies were too cautious.... Obama’s chances of leading a new New Deal depend largely on whether his short-run economic plans are sufficiently bold. Progressives can only hope that he has the necessary audacity.
Krugman, god bless, clearly hasn't slept since Tuesday. Near as I can figure it, since they called the election, he's been using America's maxed-out credit card to scrape transcontinental, Union Pacific rails out of a Montana-sized pile of powdered optimism.

Get some sleep, dude. Barack Obama will still be President-elect when you wake up and come down.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Stop Saying Mandate

The Obama victory feels good. It really does. And it should.

But let's not kid ourselves. Obama's election marks a shift in race relations in this country. It constitutes a small step back from the edge of a very deep crevasse of self-destructive stupidity. Lovely, the both of them.

But it wasn't a mandate. The only mandate worth talking about in this election is the mandate in California, Arizona, and Florida that now legally cannot turn into a manmarriage. (In California, at least, we can thank some Obama voters for helping make that civil rights triumph possible. Swell work, fellas.)

Because they illustrate the point better than talking and because I'll never get tired of their odd beauty, here again are Mark Newman's cartograms:


The 2008 map is notably bluer, but parts of it are redder and a whole lot of it is still purple. So let's not allow the the electoral college numbers to blind us. Obama only won about 53% of the popular vote. Admittedly, unlike Bush's party in 2004, Obama's party in 2008 picked up a lot of seats. But even there they still hold no more than 60% of seats in the House and Senate. Tidy gains, but hardly transformational. So talking about Obama's "mandate" is only fractionally less silly than all the wishful conservative talk of Bush's 2004 mandate, when he barely cleared 50% of the popular vote.

Of course, that's not stopping Paul Krugman from imagining that America has suddenly turned into the Netherlands:
Anyone who doubts that we’ve had a major political realignment should look at what’s happened to Congress... Since [the 2004 elections], Democrats have won back-to-back victories... [and] now have bigger majorities in both houses than the G.O.P. ever achieved in its 12-year reign.

And, since in American political punditry, one can only get a mandate after holding a referendum, Krugman says that progressivism won that referendum:
Bear in mind, also, that this year’s presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies — and the progressive philosophy won.

Now, there were a bunch of ballot initiatives in California, so maybe I missed it, but I don't remember that particular referendum. In 2004, cultural conservatives misunderstood the significance of Bush's victory--they thought so many people voting (in part) out of fear of terrorism meant that the country was ready to return to 1948, only with better wiretapping technology. It wasn't. And this year, so many people voted (in part) out of fear for their pensions. That doesn't mean the country is salivating for the New New Deal. Voters in 1932 knew that the stakes were much higher; contrary to FDR's speeches, Depression-era voters had to fear not only fear but also starvation.

We may get to starvation, but we probably won't, precisely because we elected Obama when we did. A little competence and accountability might be enough to turn things around, which means it might be enough for most voters. Of cousre, after the past eight years, a little competence and accountability almost seems like too much to ask.

After dancing his mandate jig, Krugman goes on to argue that Obama should seize his chance to help rebuild the America's infrastructure and social safety nets. Well, amen to that. But let's not imagine that'll be a snap for him.

The last thing we need three months from now is a bunch of unrealistic lefties sniping at Obama for not unveiling a National Recovery Act on inauguration day. The damage done over the past eight years will require some bold action, but it will first require some careful analysis and then some skilled politicking to get that bold action through the Congress. I'm not saying that we should stand on the sidelines uncritically waving pompoms for Obama, but I am saying we shouldn't act like those drunk, moronic fans who get red in the face because their team has a game plan that acknowledges the presence of the other team and of complicating factors like gravity and friction.

Oh, and an afterthought: I'm not sure that any candidate in America has ever gotten a true mandate from "the American people." For a long time, only a small percentage of the population could vote freely. And once most of the adult population could vote, many people simply didn't bother--and still don't. This year, despite the record voter turnout, almost as many voting-age adults in America didn't vote (about 100 million) as did (about 122 million). If anybody had a mandate in this election, it was None of the Above, continuing decades of strong showing for the Apathy and Alienation Party.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

American Rorschach

For an explanation see comments or go here.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I'm Opposed to Gay Marriage

So Prop. 8 passed in California. The legal challenges will no doubt clog up the courts for a while, but Prop. 8 is definitely a short-term blow to gay marriage in CA and the US in general.

I've argued this at length (length!) before, but the ridiculous arguments for Prop. 8 have reinforced for me that I'm opposed to gay marriage--at least if by gay marriage we mean the government's solemnizing the sacred union of two people of the same sex. That's because I'm opposed to all such marriage.

People opposed to same-sex unions haven't noticed it yet, but marriage as a civil institution of the sort it used to be 150 years ago is already defunct. They're defending the shell of corpse. And may it molder in peace--we don't need to resurrect an institution designed in large part to relegate women to a second-class citizenship in which they couldn't own property, vote, or work outside the home (unless poor).

Civil unions can fulfill some of the duties of civil marriage (creating a legal framework for dealing with property and child-rearing), and I'm fine with that. Civil unions for all.

But the sort of marriage that most of the Yes on 8 voters defended yesterday had nothing to do with civil unions. Those voters were defending a religious covenant. And the wisdom of the First Amendment should guide us on this one: if marriage is a religious sacrament, then the government should stay the hell away from it, not enshrine it in a state or federal constitution.

Sure, as long the government continues to arrogate to itself the right to affirm the marriages of straight people, gay people should get the same treatment. But at this point that's like the government giving permission to Catholics to pray to Mary since it already gives Protestants the right to pray to Jesus. Not the government's job.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hell, Yeah

That's much, much better, isn't it?

Why You're Voting for Obama

It's not just what he'll have to do, it's what he'll have to undo.

Pollward, people. Pollward!