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So, just as I predicted, the UK Election was a complete fiasco for the left aside from Scotland. Though I have to admit that even I didn’t expect the Liberal Democrats to wind up with less than ten seats. In retrospect, though, it makes perfect sense. Good summary here:

If the electorate felt an anti-incumbent impulse, they directed it not at the Tories but almost exclusively at their coalition partners. One-time supporters who leaned left abandoned the Lib Dems long ago; those who leaned right preferred to vote for the real thing.

Ultimately, I think, this is why it was such a stupid idea for the Liberal Democrats to join in a coalition. Nick Clegg often talks about the party carrying on this political and intellectual tradition down from John Stewart Mill and all that, but fundamentally, the party was two separate protest movements rolled into one: left-liberals who dislike the Labour Party (many due to the Iraq War), and conservatives who dislike the Tories (many over the party’s stance toward Europe), along with narrowly tailored appeals to specific voters in Scotland and Wales. The Liberal Democrats offered a perfect vehicle for all sorts of discontent: they had a definite presence in British politics and always got to take the high road, to stand on broadly appealing principle in part because they never exercised power (and it didn’t seem they ever would). As soon as they actually held power (or, at any rate, couldn’t avoid responsibility for its exercise), the entire thing crumbled like a fusilli hydra. And then there’s this detail, dealing with the intracasies of British politics that almost nobody here knows about:

Afterwards there was much talk of Lib Dem familiarity with disaster and historic resilience in the face of it. But now there must be a question over the viability of theparty. They lost a fortune – £170,000 – in forfeited deposits. They will no longer qualify for much of the parliamentary subsidy known as Short money. Their funding base in the prosperous London seats they once held has gone.

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It seems as though we’re living through a particularly long string of dispiriting elections: the Democrats’ disgraceful performance in the midterms, Israel’s further descent by rewarding Benjamin Netanyahu’s racism and panic, Rahm Emanuel, the UK elections (technically the future, but I’m not very hopeful). On the bright side, the Canadian left managed to wrest control of conservative Alberta for the first time in nearly a half-century. Kind of amazing.

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Carly Fiorina will not be president. But that’s not her goal. She’s clearly aiming for the vice presidency, which seems crazy, but I don’t know. Since it seems as though her campaign is essentially going to boil down to attacking Hillary Clinton with the implicit argument that, “if I say it, then it cannot be sexist,” an experienced attack dog who just happens to be a woman wouldn’t be, you know, wildly out of sync with what a Jeb Bush or a Scott Walker might need out of a veepster. Plus, she’s less of an obvious screw-up than Palin was. The fact that she keeps failing upward indicates that she must have some connections in the GOP to make this less than a joke. Given that she has that anti-Midas touch you have to think this would be a non-starter, but the last guy they picked was Paul Ryan, who may have even been a worse pick than Fiorina would be. To get your attacks recognized, it’s probably not a good idea to have them delivered in a bland monotone.

So, it’s probably not very likely, but not exactly impossible either. What I’m really excited to see is what she fails at next.

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I admit I haven’t watched Letterman regularly in years, but I watched religiously in high school and definitely revere the man for many reasons. I think history will record his NBC run as the last time late night was even remotely dangerous (give or take Conan’s last week on The Tonight Show). YouTube, as always, is indispensable, and there are numerous full episodes available, quality obviously varied. Check out his fifth anniversary show:

kool aid guy

Oh yeah! It really does look as though the NSA’s metadata bulk collection could end soon. This is genuinely good news, and especially surprising given the 2014 outcomes.

Oh no! Obama decides to create pseudo-NATO for Arab “allies” to US. I swear to God, if progressives spent one tenth the energy they dedicate to debating whether the Affordable Care Act could have been slightly more progressive if Obama had used his bully pulpit to debating whether Obama’s legacy- and politically-driven war decisions are optimal, then maybe we would not be in a place where endless Middle Eastern war has essentially been institutionalized without a peep of dissent. Shameful.

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For the New York Times to (nonexclusively) hire an anti-Clinton muckraker ranks as one of the stupider moves in recent political/media history. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard to figure out the logic of it. Negative Clinton stories get clicks, and the Times gets to (in its own mind) dust off the old “impartial” cap. But in the long term, mainstream media organizations continue to delude themselves that (a) there is any series of actions that they can take in order to insulate themselves from conservative bias claims, and (b) that the sort of informed liberals that form the core of their readership will continue to read a paper that allows people with a conservative agenda to spread their wares in its pages is nonsense. In the short run, it’s probably overall a smart move. In the long run…well, there’s a reason why left-oriented media continue to grow while mainstream sources continue to atrophy.

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It really is–huge and difficult and contradictory. And generally underserved by mainstream Western reporting and punditry, offered by people who got most of their knowledge of the place from TV and movies. I’d say this is a pretty good look at Russia’s present state. It doesn’t deny the realities of the currently dominant Slavophilic tendency: harsh nationalism, xenophobia, international swagger. But there is also a longstanding Russian tradition of reform, idealism and modernization–the Europhilic tendency. Both go back centuries in Russian history and, if you know the history, they tend to have a sun- and moon-like alternation, even (especially) when it seems like that’s unthinkable. Gorbachev followed Brezhnev, after all. It’s what makes the culture so interesting, these simultaneous extremes existing at once. So while it’s perfectly valid to criticize Putin and all he’s done, it’s not the whole story, nor a permanent state of affairs.

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