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According to my research, Michigan allows recalls of statewide officials. Considering that Rick Snyder’s approval ratings are already in the Gray Davis zone, I wonder if we’ll start to hear about significant momentum toward that end soon. Ordinarily I don’t give any money to other states’ gubernatorial races, ’cause I really don’t care all that much, but I might make an exception if a credible recall effort comes about. I mean, Snyder’s just on a whole other level here compared to the rest of them.

What’s so strange about the Midwest Red Squad is the sheer audacity. Scott Walker soft-peddled his plans during his campaign. Snyder seems to have outright lied about his fundamental political identity. Kasich stuck to platitudes and vagueness during the campaign, and now he’s just barreling ahead. They got their Dubya ’04-style phony mandate and just went to town. These guys all now have approval ratings in the low 30s (though it’s likely they won’t get much lower than that). That’s still really low. I seriously doubt any of these guys will get more than one term in office (Walker and Snyder stand a chance of serving a lot less than that), but I always wondered why more politicians didn’t just swoop in, say to hell with a second term, and pursue a maximalist agenda without fear of pissing off people and counting on it being too hard to completely roll back when the other party takes power. I figured that it was a combination of survival instinct and the risk of suffering such a huge backlash that moves the ball even further in the other direction. But judging by their policies and attitude, it looks like Walker, Snyder, Kasich, Corbett and Paul LePage of Maine could be giving this theory a try. Then again, some combination of stupidity, arrogance, inexperience, and ideology could explain it all too.

Update: Looks like a once-competitive Michigan Senate contest now appears safely Democratic, just as it happened in Ohio. I’m not sure why Republicans are so hell-bent on upping Democratic odds of keeping the Senate, but they sure seem to be.

Red Squad


Pennsylvania is not technically the Midwest, but it’s closer culturally to the Midwest than it is to, say, New York. Like Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, the state put Republicans in power in both legislative houses and the governor’s mansion. And, as in all those other places, Republicans are Emanueling their respective states’ crises to try to advance their ideology. I have no idea how any of it is playing in Indiana, but in all the other states, there are signs that the new day of Republican rule is not going down well at all. I suspected Pennsylvania would be the most hostile to it, being as it’s a weakly Democratic state and all, and it would appear that I was right: new Gov. Tom Corbett’s approval rating is 31 percent. That’s Dubya-level, after only two months. As always, this could change over the next four years. But I have reason to believe Corbett will stay uniquely unpopular, even amongst his peers like Scott Walker and John Kasich, largely because Corbett’s pursued deep education cuts on a much more ambitious scale than the other two have yet.

Look, I’m no expert in state politics, but I do know how things work in my state, and I know from personal experience how certain kinds of voters respond to certain kinds of things. In California, Pete Wilson became an extremely popular governor by spending more on education, largely by reducing class sizes. Parents loved it, and since education is the one area where it’s mostly left up to the states to implement policy, policies like this can make a huge impact and make very popular people out of the executives who implement them. Something like agricultural land use reform can very well be a meritorious endeavor, and it certainly affects everyone as it affects the food they eat, but it’s only going to directly hit so many people. Everyone’s kids, on the other hand, go to school. And most of those kids go to public schools, and most kids that continue on to college go to public universities. Making the system work better holds great reward for ambitious governors. But Corbett went ahead and slashed the money going to public universities by half. This is not just a stupid move, it’s a suicidal one. It means that every parent with a kid in college and every student in college will curse his name. This is not just the sort of thing that will help the Democrats in the next election, it’s the sort of thing that kills off political parties. Every suburban parent wants their kids to go to college. If the Republicans decide they’re not interested in accomplishing that goal, they’re finished. It’s too good an issue for the Democrats to screw up. And without the suburban vote, there’s no way Republicans win in Pennsylvania, or anywhere else they try this.

This situation reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine called “Valiant”. I linked to some YouTube clips of it last week in this entry, but it occurs to me that I didn’t provide context. For those of you who aren’t Trek geeks like myself, the episode is about a ship of elite academy students (called “Red Squad,” ironically enough) who get trapped behind enemy lines when a war breaks out. All their trainers die, so the students have to run the ship themselves. As they really are talented students, they manage to beat the odds and stay alive for nearly a year, against all odds. But these young hotshots start to think that, because they accomplished some really extraordinary things, that they can do anything, and take on an enemy ship with much more firepower with a flimsy theory on how to get the upper hand. It fails and pretty much everyone dies. The parallel is obvious, I think: a party that picks itself up out of the grave, led by assertive hotshots who think they know everything, and who can’t help but take things too far and be destroyed. More and more, I’m beginning to think that the Tea Party might wind up being the greatest thing ever to happen to the progressive movement. Yelling about federal spending is the sort of thing that independent voters flock to, but once you start fucking with college funding to this degree, you’re hurting real peoples’ pocketbooks. To a large extent, in the last election the Tea Party appealed to people who had a lot to lose. Now, it seems to be trying to give the Democrats the same opportunity by making college unaffordable. If in a few years Pennsylvania is as impenetrable for Democrats as California, don’t say I didn’t predict it. Anyway, if you’re interested in watching the episode “Valiant”, it’s actually on YouTube in full. Part One is here. Some dicey late-90’s CGI aside, it’s a pretty good story, and, well, it’s Monday. We all need a good distraction on Monday, right?


Team America: World Police

I’m sure this will turn out well:

As loyalist Libyan forces bomb the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the United States is pushing the United Nations to authorize not only a no-fly zone but airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery.

Reuters quotes U.S. officials as saying Washington has concluded that a no-fly zone is not enough to turn the tide against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Gadhafi is expressing increased confidence he will prevail. Libya’s armed forces offered to stop military operations Sunday to give rebels a chance to surrender, Al Arabiya TV reports.

At the United Nations, where a vote on the proposal could come as early as today, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the Security Council is weighing “a range of action” for protecting civilians in the fighting.

Why doesn’t our country ever learn its lessons? Seriously.

Colin Farrell as Alexander

No, I haven't seen the movie either. Doesn't mean I can't mock it!

Andrew Sullivan rounds up some of the big pro-war voices out there. He aptly dismisses all of them. I think I like Larry Diamond’s the best: “Presidents do not get elected to make easy decisions, and they certainly never become great doing so.”

I’m not going to do the whole epic takedown of neoconservatism thing–I’ve attempted that already, and you can check that out at your leisure by following the “Neoconservatism” tag at the bottom of the post. But it never ceases to amaze me just how indifferent these people are to anything that isn’t abstract. It’s all abstractions to them: greatness, patriotism, strength and weakness (technically, perceived strength and weakness, because they could give a shit if America is worse off due to their wars), and so on. This is sheer derangement from the concerns of actual people, but it’s par for the course for the neocons.

I know this might cause some controversy, but I think neoconservatism is the most awful ideology currently floating around on the American Right, which would have to put it in the running for worst ideology worldwide. The other options on the right pale in comparison. Libertarianism is a mixed bag for me, and racially-tinged populism is pretty awful, but neocons are absolutely the worst. Seriously. A grown fucking man wrote a sentence imploring the president to start a third land war in the Arab world solely for the sake of greatness. He sees nothing wrong with this. I see it as the sort of thinking we should have left behind when Alexander the Great died. That an American in 2011 would actually recommend that is just unfathomable to me.

Update: I forgot to include “credibility” to the list of neocon abstractions. It deserves to be there as much as any of them.

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Sarah Palin Winking

Rich Lowry's Computer Wallpaper. You know it is!

I agree with Metavirus that Rich Lowry can’t be taken seriously, but I just can’t quit him. His columns are bizarrely fascinating to me, even though I never agree with them and they’re always poorly reasoned and argued. Then again, I’m a fan of bad movies, which probably makes me more of an ironist than most, and like Karl Rove, Lowry is an unintentional genius at irony. Here’s a segment from his latest opus (entitled “Whiniest President Ever”, which begs the question of what Lowry would call his starburst queen if she somehow won):

Pres. Barack Obama has belatedly joined the ranks of presidential fatalists. The job isn’t too complex necessarily; it’s too damn influential. According to the New York Times, Obama has been telling aides that it’d be easier to be president of China. No one hangs on Hu Jintao’s every word, or expects global leadership from a grasping, one-party state that has never been a beacon to the world. […]

Obama lacks executive flair. Talk to New Jersey governor Chris Christie and he will tell you at length how much he loves making decisions. It’s hard to imagine a Chris Christie enjoying life as a legislator. Obama came to the presidency after a political career spent marinating in senates, first in Illinois, then in Washington.

But, as always, I give credit where it’s due. Lowry actually cops to this: “The no-fly zone isn’t a panacea — realistically, it’d only be a way station to more robust military action.” It’s almost refreshing to see such candor, being as it makes his position that much easier to reject. Still, Lowry is a difficult person for me to gauge. As David Bowie said, sometimes you can’t tell the bullshit from the lies. Hu Jintao is a dictator, and yet nobody hangs on his every word? Isn’t that the “dict-” part of dictator, that what he says goes? The Christie puffery is obnoxious, but this is a strangely bipolar argument. On the one hand, there’s the clear implication that Obama wants to be a dictator with unlimited executive power because of an accurate (though uncomfortable) joke, on the other, he’s too much of a legislator. It’s almost as if Lowry just wants to criticize Obama with every Republican talking point he can cram into his article! And Obama’s remark, funny or not, was a joke about legislative gridlock and frustration. He doesn’t literally want to run China. It takes a special kind of obtuseness to take that remark seriously. One can imagine a 10 year old Lowry on the recess playground, dispassionately insisting that his mother is not at all overweight.

As usual, Lowry’s column is a mishmash of conservative talking points, haphazardly assembled in a way that falls apart rather than coheres when subjected to even a smidgen of logic, and that barely coheres to his ostensible theme. Like many of the right’s “thinkers” (a category that excludes people like Daniel Larison, who do actually think), his only talent is synthesis of various strands of Republican populism, and his talents at that are meager enough. Surely what Lowry’s done can be done better? I mean, I’m a liberal and even I could make better right-wing arguments than this guy. And Lowry’s considered to be one of the smarter conservatives in the Republican mainstream. The sad thing is, he is.



funny facebook fails - Big Brother Paranoia FAIL


Yes, those Crusades:

Rick Santorum launched into a scathing attack on the left, charging during an appearance in South Carolina that the history of the Crusades has been corrupted by “the American left who hates Christendom.”

“The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical,” Santorum said in Spartanburg on Tuesday. “And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom.”

He added, “They hate Western civilization at the core. That’s the problem.”

After asserting that Christianity had not shown any “aggression” to the Muslim world, the former Pennsylvania senator — who is considering a 2012 run for the White House — argued that American intervention in the Middle East helps promote “core American values.”

Is any parody capable of being as funny as the self-parody they foist on themselves?

h/t JC