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From the monthly archives: December 2010

McCain and Graham sound like they might back out of supporting the treaty because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is going away, and small men that they are, they’re angry enough about it to risk not approving the treaty. It doesn’t look like Scott Brown will be joining them, thankfully. Thad Cochran, also thankfully, has switched to supporting the treaty. That leaves the treaty supporters one short if we can’t rely on the patriotism and principle of McCain and Graham, which pretty much means we need one more vote. At this point, it’s looking like it’s all up to Sen. John Isakson, who voted for the treaty in committee but against cloture. Unless there’s an available vote I don’t know about.

I’m not counting on Bob Corker, who also voted for START in committee, since he was last talking about what a nice treaty Obama had, and it would be a shame if something were to happen to it if Don’t Ask were to be repealed. After his cowardly stepdowns on climate change and financial regulation (and this), I’ve given up any hope that he’ll be anything other than a hack.


Matt Yglesias is just wrong here. He thinks it’s a bad thing that the House Financial Services chair will be a Republican who said, “Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” I think it’s terrific, and given his propensity for making statements like this, it was a huge mistake for Boehner to let him serve in the role, and one that will likely keep helping Democrats once the 112th Congress gets sworn in. Bachus isn’t one to cloak his protect-the-rich antics in platitudes about Burkean caution, he just states it baldly, in the finest tradition of corrupt politicians. What’s more, if his threats to cut funding to regulators aren’t just bluster, then I think it would be crazy for regulators not to force a confrontation with Bachus and even if Bachus won the battle, it would be the sort of loss that would ensure he loses the war.

A lot of liberals have fretted over Republican hypocrisy on TARP and the auto industry bailout, which were devised and initially implemented by a Republican president, and subsequently portrayed as voluntary ideological maneuvers on the part of Obama. There’s the additional matter of their harnessing the public’s anger at the banks while sucking up to the finance industry. It’s just not fair that this should not cause an uproar, and I have personally felt that frustration too. But the fact is that a confrontation with Bachus is win-win–either he backs off and regulators get to do their thing, or he makes a mistake and cuts funding, which would infuriate Democrats and lend itself to a real populist case for the left that is so obvious I scarcely need to elaborate on it (high points: record profits, Wall Street bonuses, campaign contributions, etc.). Such a move would obliterate the populist posturing of Republicans in a single stroke, and that would redound to the Democrats’ favor.

That’s my theory, anyway. Let’s be honest: while there are good things in the Dodd-Frank Bill, things that will give the feds the tools to deal with another Wall Street meltdown when it happens, many of the best provisions were watered down, dropped or included only in embryonic form. I’ve heard it described as a “B” bill on a scale from A-F, and I think that’s a fair approximation of its value. But Yglesias seems to be fretting over keeping the only partly-adequate measures instead of fulfilling the bill’s promise. The only way that happens is if public anger forces politicians to make it stronger. And with Republicans in the majority, Democrats will have partisan and populist reasons to push in that direction, especially with the Blue Dogs–those incipient defenders of finance–largely gone. The smartest course for the Republicans would be to keep themselves from getting too vulnerable to the very populist anger that got them in power in the first place, probably by largely accepting Dodd-Frank in exchange for dropping a few provisions they don’t like. It does not appear they want to do that, and Democrats should absolutely capitalize on any mistakes that are made.

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I happened to see this headline over at TPM:

Barbour Spokesman: Mississippi Gov. Is Not Racist

This is funny. Usually, politicians insist they’re not racist when they’re being accused of racial insensitivity of some sort or other. It’s a form of the straw man fallacy. For example: Governor Jones makes a joke that accidentally offends a minority group, gets angry when people notice and bring it up, and then holds a press conference in which he says, “I am not a racist.” Being racist is considered a terrible thing in our society, being called that is a terrible insult. Turning the debate in that direction usually serves to shut it down, because Governor Jones is a nice guy! No hoods in his closet.

This situation, though, is very different. It has to do with Haley Barbour saying nice things about white supremacist organizations. Angrily insisting he is not racist in the same fashion as the fictitious Governor Jones seems to me like a bad move because the quote is simply not ambiguous, and the question it presents really is, “Is Haley Barbour racist?” This differs from the hypothetical scenario I devised, where the question raised is, “Was Governor Jones’s joke offensive?” If Governor Jones had said, “The joke was not offensive,” the media will ask other people if they agree about this interpretation of the joke. So, Barbour’s guy saying this invites, rather than shuts down, further questions into the matter. In other words, this story is merely the beginning of the Barbour racism saga, and not the end.

In spite of the horrifying implications and amateur politics of this story, I don’t see this incident changing Barbour’s status as a top-tier GOP presidential contender. It should. I somehow doubt he’ll win the nomination, bet let’s not forget the regional pull of the South. If Huckabee does not run, Barbour is the only likely Republican candidate from the South, and Mike Huckabee’s better-than-expected 2008 performance can be attributed in part to him being the only viable white Southern guy in contention. The tribal currents of the region are what they have always been.

This story reminds me of this:


Ha ha: “What a bullet this country dodged in 2008. Frankly, I’m not sure he was even the best candidate on his party’s ticket at this point…”

I understand if you don’t have the heart to watch the video, but it’s grimly fascinating. McCain sounds bad and looks bad. He’s tired and worn out. I doubt he’s near death, but if it were to happen tomorrow I would not be surprised on the basis of that video. He’s blinking all over the place and shuddering, and he says he believes in following military leaders and names two Chiefs of Staff who are wary of ending DADT while ignoring the other three, as well as the friggin’ Chairman and the Secretary of Defense, not to mention the president. He must think we’re stupid. It’s just funny that, in the end, McCain and Lindsey Graham are the only ones who even care about keeping DADT in place. The Senate Republican leadership doesn’t even care and is probably glad it’s over. Gay rights are a liability for Republicans now and the next big fight–repealing DOMA–is probably 5-10 years away at this point. Additionally, I hope this incident will help the media get over their notion that Lindsey Graham is anything special. Like Bob Corker, he often likes to talk like a Senator, but neither one has yet met an inconvenient position they couldn’t just dump or an inconvenient vote they couldn’t duck. There’s a word for that.

Then there’s the enduring question of our age: why does the media still invite McCain onto the Sunday shows? Here’s one idea:

No doubt that McCain still has many lovers in the DC press who still have stars in their eyes as they recall romantic moments with St. John in the back of the bus a decade ago. And because of those starbursts one can be sure that John McCain will still be a regular on the Sunday shows. But as the new angry McCain narrative grows those starbusts will fade. And yet, McCain will still be booked on those shows. But more and more he will be booked as a freak who can easily be poked and tormented and goaded into saying something crazy and irrational out of anger. He will be the go to ‘angry old man’ who yells at clouds as a predictable punchline.

I think it’s just habit at this point. Like Andy Rooney. Sure, it’s been at least 30 years since he was funny, but habits are hard to break.

Update: Found a different video source.


I really don’t know how Sully passed on this quote by C.S. Lewis about bad writing without snickering:

[Bad writing] is immediately recognizable. ‘My blood ran cold’ is a hieroglyph of fear. Any attempt, such as a great writer might make, to render this fear concrete in its full particularity, is doubly a chokepear to the unliterary reader. For it offers him what he doesn’t want, and offers it only on the condition of his giving to the words a kind and degree of attention which he does not intend to give. It is like trying to sell him something he has no use for at a price he does not wish to pay.

This coming from a man whose close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, thought Lewis’ writing was a mishmash of ham-handed, barely disguised Christian propaganda:

Although Lewis was very proud of his first Narnia book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and it would spawn a massively successful series of children’s books, Tolkien didn’t think very highly of it. First, he thought that the Christian themes and messages were far too strong — he didn’t approve of the way Lewis seemed to beat the reader over the head with such obvious symbols. […]  In general, it appears that Tolkien didn’t think very much about Lewis’ efforts to write popular theology.

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[T]he economically downscale portion of the Republican party consists almost entirely of blithering idiots. And this is no accident: if you don’t make a lot of money and you vote Republican because of young bucks buying T-bone steaks and gays/retailers/schools/MSNBC desecrating the cradle of the Baby Jeebus, then you’re an idiot. You’re pissing your own health care, your own retirement, your own minimum wage because you’re dumb enough to believe some fairy tale that Rush Limbaugh told you. It’s a self-selecting group: people who don’t make a lot of money and do have brains don’t join the Republican party, because they’d like to have health care, Social Security, the opportunity to join a union, etc.


When even HotAir’s Allahpundit is calling out slimy anti-gay Republican Senators on their votes against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the wingnuts probably have a problem:

I support the move, but if you don’t, look at it this way: As Gates has often said, if it didn’t happen here it probably would have happened in the courts. Civilian control of the military is one thing, judicial control is something else, so the fact that repeal now wears a democratic halo will hopefully make it more tolerable to skeptics inside the branches. For your enjoyment (or irritation), via Think Progress, here’s video of a very peevish Maverick grumbling in his floor speech today about liberal civilians from coast to coast high-fiving over this. True enough, but it ain’t just liberals — support for repeal is upwards of 80 percent in some polls — and it ain’t just civilians.

This probably amounts to a new rule: Whatever pisses off President McCain is probably a good thing.