Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Not Her Problem

The headline in the New York Times is ominous: “Weiner’s Texts Cast a New Cloud Over Clinton Campaign.”  The article itself sounds even more filled with danger:

It was supposed to be a quiet, late-summer weekend on the exclusive shores of the Hamptons. But on Sunday, Huma Abedin, the closest aide to Hillary Clinton, received devastating news.

After accompanying Mrs. Clinton to fund-raisers, Ms. Abedin learned from her husband, Anthony D. Weiner, that The New York Post was about to report that he had again exchanged lewd messages with a woman on social media: the sort of behavior that destroyed his congressional career and 2013 mayoral campaign.

Only this time, the online indiscretions included an image of Mr. Weiner’s crotch as he lay next to the couple’s 4-year-old son.

Now, Mr. Weiner’s tawdry activities may have claimed his marriage — Ms. Abedin told him that she wanted to separate — and have cast another shadow on the adviser and confidante who has been by Mrs. Clinton’s side for the past two decades. Ms. Abedin was already a major figure this summer in controversies over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of state and over ties between the Clinton family foundation and Mrs. Clinton’s State Department.

Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin’s choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.

Would someone please explain to me how Ms. Abedin’s marital break-up is going to derail the Clinton campaign?  So she was married to a skank.  We knew that.  So Hillary Clinton’s husband cheated on her and was impeached.  We knew that, too; it was in all the papers.  Is the fact that Ms. Abedin was close to Ms. Clinton for two decades and received classified briefings relevant to the fact that her soon-to-be-ex behaves like a horny teenager?  “Here’s a shot of my basket, honey; tell me what Vladimir Putin is planning for Ukraine.”

It’s sad when any marriage breaks up, especially when there are children in the mix — although in this case it’s probably a good thing that the four-year-old may no longer be in the picture, so to speak — but unless there’s a real point to making the woman sound like a patsy and incapable of doing her job without her husband around  — and there most assuredly is not — this kind of patronizing pearl-clutching is bullshit.  And it has nothing whatsoever to do with Hillary Clinton or her qualifications to be president.

By the way, if marital fidelity and domestic turmoil are to be metrics for judging the viability of a candidate, the antics of the Trump family and the court records of Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s newly-hired campaign chairman, would disqualify that crowd from getting beyond the spitballing stage of a bad idea for a reality show on basic cable.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Don’t Feed The Troll

Good advice from David Sax in the Guardian on how to deal with Donald Trump the troll.

By being the world’s most effective button-pusher, Donald Trump has brought the tactics of trolling out into the real world, where they are much more difficult to combat. And that is the single biggest problem with him running a presidential campaign like an online flame war. The tools that work to snuff trolls out online – muting, blocking and deleting accounts – don’t exist in the real world, particularly when the individual in question is guaranteed around-the-clock news coverage up until election day.

“He is now the Republican nominee,” says Reagle. “You can ban someone in an online community, but you can’t ban Trump.”

We might not be able to ban Trump, but experts agree that there are tactical ways to mitigate his impact. The question is, how can we use them?

Do not engage

“We’ve found that engaging with trolls will get them the very attention they want. Any engagement is really adding fuel to their fire,” says Jan Reischek, senior vice-president of ICUC Americas. This means that Clinton and her supporters should never resort to trolling behavior themselves, no matter what Trump says. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz fell for this, reacting to Trump’s name calling with sneers that only emboldened Trump. “I worry about Elizabeth Warren,” says Powazek, referring to the Democratic Massachusetts senator that Trump has insultingly called “Pochahontas”, and who consistently fights with him on Twitter. “She’s out there fighting fire with fire, but tactically it’s a mistake, because it allows him to set the tone of the debate, and the debate is in the mud. If you fight fire with fire on that, everyone burns.”

Instead, Democrats need to act more like New Jersey senator Corey Booker, who responded on television to a Trump insult by professing his love and concern for Trump’s mental sanity. “Treat him like a seven-year-old having a tantrum and focus on the substantive issues,” says Powazek.

Keep it factual, not personal

Deprive Trump of the emotional reactions he thrives off by focusing on policy and facts, two areas that are his proven weaknesses. Bog him down in specifics, and hold his feet to the fire on statements he makes on complicated issues like defense and fiscal policy, where his trolling tactics are of no use. Bill Eddy says this is the most effective way for dealing with high-conflict personalities. “Respond with information as assertively as the other side is responding aggressively. Aggressive tries to destroy the other party, but assertive stands up for yourself. It’s not personal.”

Defuse the anger

Trolls live to stoke rage. That is all they can do. Friendliness is their kryptonite. Clinton should muster every diplomatic skill she picked up at the state department and keep every public interaction friendly, no matter how much she despises Trump. “You have to ignore the living hell out of it,” says West.

This is obviously easier said than done, especially for the media, which may take issue with Trump’s message and tactics, but is nonetheless compelled to cover the presidential nominee.

It’s harder than you think, but it can be done.  Yell at the TV, then get out there and vote.

Monday, August 15, 2016

That Which Survives

Labor Day, the traditional start of the presidential campaign in years past, is three weeks from today and it already looks like the campaign is over.

Via Washington Monthly:

First and foremost is the new CBS battleground tracker showing Clinton with sizable leads in Florida and New Hampshire, and within four points even in Georgia. Clinton’s lead is outside the margin of error in Florida at 5 points, and in blowout territory in New Hampshire at 9 points. Even if Clinton can’t pull ahead in Georgia (contrary to other polls that have shown her doing so), the likelihood of forcing Republicans to play defense there is already a big win for the blue team.

Meanwhile, a new USA Today poll shows that Trump is getting creamed among young voters by unprecedented margins, dwarfing even the gap faced by Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. Clinton is leading Trump by an astonishing 56% to 20% margin among voters under 35. By contrast, Nixon got 32% among 18-29 year olds in 1972.The RCP average with no toss-ups gives Clinton a whopping 362 electoral votes In other words, this isn’t just a single-year disaster for the GOP. This is an ongoing generational and demographic catastrophe that threatens to permanently change the electoral map.

Nor is it entirely clear where Republicans can go from here. Younger and middle-of-the-road voters are deeply offended by the overtly racist and sexist appeals of the white supremacist Alt Right. But even the white male working class voters that Republicans have long relied on for support no longer buy into the Romney Republican supply-side argument: minorities aren’t being adequately disadvantaged by subtle economic discrimination on behalf of the rich to make up for the damage that blue-collar white men are facing from free trade and Wall Street friendly policies.

Meanwhile, the voters under 40 of all races and genders who so strongly backed Bernie Sanders’s democratic socialism are just as hostile to Paul Ryan’s objectivist economic agenda as they are to Trump’s bigoted cultural one.

If the campaign stays on the track it’s on, Hillary Clinton will win with such numbers that challenging her totals will be akin to Walter Mondale asking for a recount in 1984.

Via FiveThirtyEight, the Nowcast; if the election were held today.

FiveThirtyEight Nowcast 08-15-16What will be left of the GOP?  Will Donald Trump still remain a force in the party or will he be given the bum’s rush like the Democrats did with Michael Dukakis and will the party reshape itself along more moderate lines?

Wait, didn’t they try that in 2013 with their autopsy that called for reaching out to minorities and women and embracing such things as immigration reform with a path to citizenship and less emphasis on being the Stupid Party?  How’d that work?

The problem isn’t the candidates that they march out and get their base to vote for, it’s the base they’ve recruited.  Doubling down on the Nixon-era Southern Strategy, the Republicans have gone after the foolish, the bigoted, and the gullible (see here for a sample of that) who now make up the foundation of the primary voters.  Through abstract threats about gay marriage, who is peeing where, abortion via vending machine, defending the indefensible (the Confederate flag is a symbol of heritage, right?), and shredding the Constitution in the name of defending it, they have let loose the worst of the American id.  And losing three or four presidential elections in a row will only make them madder.

This corner they’ve painted themselves into won’t be easy to get out of.  The various state legislatures have gerrymandered all these safe Republican districts and it won’t be until after the next census in 2020 that they will be able to reconfigure them even if they wanted to.  They are bought and paid for by a murderous lobbying group, the NRA, who can, at the push of an e-mail blast, replace a moderate Republican with a gun-stroking ammosexual in a primary who is sure the Bill of Rights ends after the Second.

Donald Trump co-opted the base of the GOP and exploited it for his own self-aggrandizement, and once the election is over he will — or so he says — retreat to his lair for a “long vacation.”  Trumpism will not survive without him because it is a cult of personality, and without him, it will return to what it has always been: white people who believe that their entitlements to wealth and power — or the dreams thereof which keep the poor buying Powerball tickets and drooling over celebrity gossip — are threatened by unknown conspirators and boogedy-boogedy Others.  It’s what gave rise to the Know-Nothings in the 1850’s, the Klan during Reconstruction, the Tea Party in 2010, and it’s been the fodder of dictators for centuries.  Exploiters like Huey Long and Joseph McCarthy come and go, but the seething base — those who believe somehow that their skin color and religion give them the right to surrender their grievances to grifters — will never die.

The only question is who will be the next one to pick up the burning cross and run with it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Answer Is Obvious

David Brooks mused, “Why is Clinton disliked?” and then proceeded to tell us that because we don’t know what she does for fun — macrame? crossword puzzles? barrel roping? — we can’t really know her and therefore we can’t like her.

Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.

I think there’s a simpler reason.  After twenty-five years of demonization, sexism, misogyny, and the full-throated attacks from the Right-Wing Noise Machine on every aspect of her life from her wardrobe to hairstyle to the way she laughs, it’s little wonder that the public’s perception of her is skewed to the negative.  And who in the world would willingly put up with that?

If you want to understand her in the context of the forces allayed against her, I strongly recommend you read this profile by Tom Junod in Esquire.

Of course, she sounded paranoid back when she first said it—participants in apocalyptic battles always sound paranoid when they first say they’re participants in apocalyptic battles. They sound especially paranoid when they answer a question in apocalyptic terms when the question was really about, well, blowjobs. This was a long time ago. This was back in 1998. Bill Clinton was the president of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. He’d offended people by being a resourceful rascal. She’d offended people by saying something about cookies. They’d both offended people by trying and failing to bring about universal health care and by trying (and sort of failing) to allow gays to serve openly in the military. They’d been under investigation for years for something they’d supposedly done in Arkansas when, really, everyone knew the investigation was about sex—and secrets. He’d been accused of rape in the nascent right-wing press; she’d been accused of murder; and now they were finally caught. He had a secret, indeed—he’d had sex with a young woman in the White House and he’d testified, under oath, that he hadn’t. He had sinned all right; he had sinned against her, his wife, so that now even she couldn’t defend him. But she did. And she defended him by inveighing against them—against the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

She sounded a little crazy. She sounded guilty of, at the very least, bad faith. Except that what she was saying turned out to be true—there really was an obscurely wealthy man, Richard Mellon Scaife, bankrolling the attacks against her and her husband; there really was a right-wing media spawned by structural changes overtaking the news business, and it had found, in the Clintons, the template for every story that was to follow. Her only error was a matter of language. She used the word vast to describe what she faced. It wasn’t vast, yet—

It is now. Nearly 30 years later, Richard Mellon Scaife has evolved into the Koch brothers, the then-fledgling right-wing media now claims the biggest and most powerful cable-news network among its ranks, and the money unleashed by the Citizens United decision has conjured a ring of super PACs organized specifically against her candidacy. The vast right-wing conspiracy is still here, and yet—and here’s the thing—so is she. The vast right-wing conspiracy has outlasted everybody but her. From the start, the attacks on her have had a tendency to resolve themselves in the most mundane terms—the Whitewater investigation turned out to be about a husband lying about infidelity; the Benghazi investigation turned out to be about, of all things, Sidney Blumenthal. But that doesn’t mean that both sides haven’t known the stakes all along. She’s always chosen to fight on metaphysical ground; she’s always defended herself cosmically because she’s been attacked cosmically, and so she’s lived to fight another day. But now that day is here. She helped create the modern right wing; the modern right wing helped create her; and now there is no place for them to go except at each other. The 2016 election is nothing less than the climactic event of the last three decades of American politics, and—it’s an amazing and scary thing to be able to write these words without irony—the future of the Free World lies in the balance.

So no, I really don’t care if she does the New York Times crossword puzzle.  And neither should you.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Reading

Maximum vs. Minimum — Zoë Carpenter at The Nation looks at the disparity between fast-food CEO’s pay and the people who work to help them earn it.

David Novak is the chief executive of Yum! Brands, the parent company that runs Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. Last year, while Yum! Brands and other restaurant companies lobbied against raising the minimum wage, Novak made at least $22 million—more than 1,000 times what the average fast-food worker makes in a year. In return for paying him so much, Yum! got a tax break.

The National Restaurant Association, which represents Yum! and other restaurant companies, is expected to launch a lobbying blitz in Washington next week against a minimum wage increase. For years the restaurant industry has fought to keep the wage floor low, all while rewarding its CEOs with increasingly large pay packages. As a result, the food industry is now the most unequal sector in the American economy. Thanks to a tax loophole that encourages companies to raise “performance pay” for executives, taxpayers are effectively subsidizing the imbalance.

While inequality between low-level workers and CEOs manifests in all areas of the economy, a new report from Demos concludes that the gap within the food industry is exceptional. Between 2009 and 2012 the CEO-to-worker pay ratio in food services and accommodation was about twice as large as most other sectors. In 2012, fast-food CEOs earned 1,200 times as much as the average employee.

Why is the gulf between executive compensation and average earnings colossal in the restaurant industry, in particular? One explanation is stagnation of wages at the bottom, abetted by low minimum wage standards. Fast-food workers are paid less than any other employees in the country, and that low floor has barely moved in a decade. The industry’s average hourly wage of $9.19 puts the salary for a fulltime worker below $19,000—poverty wages if she’s supporting a family of three. Most fast-food jobs aren’t even full-time; the average salary for average hours is under $12,000. Last year, fast-food wages fell to levels not seen since 2006.

Meanwhile, compensation for fast-food executives has more than quadrupled since 2000. Those CEOs pocketed an average $23.8 million in 2013, making them among the highest paid people in America.

[…]

Beyond the obvious hypocrisy of companies who throw millions at their CEOs while saying they can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage, the level of inequality within the food services industry has troubling implications for the whole economy. The jobs created in the wake of the recession have largely been in low-wage industries like food service. In other words, the jobs being added are the most unequal. Economists have pointedoutagain and again that inequality undermines economic growth, and there are more immediate costs as well, like the nearly $7 billion in public assistance that fast-food workers rely on to make up the gap between rock-bottom wages and the cost of living.

According to Demos the pay gap could hurt fast-food companies themselves, with bad publicity affecting their reputation and low wages encouraging poor customer service. “Consumer are increasingly dissatisfied with their experiences at the biggest fast food companies,” the Demos report found. “In addition to operational issues, the low pay practices of fast food employers have opened the companies to expensive legal risks.” A McDonald’s franchise, for example, settled a lawsuit with employees over uncompensated work, wage deductions and other infractions for $500,000 in March, while class-action suits are pending in at least two states over alleged wage theft.

Too Close for Comfort — Elias Isquith at Salon on how Cliven Bundy represents what Republicans are really thinking.

When renegade rancher Cliven Bundy was revealed this week to be very much a racist, most Republicans tried to separate themselves from the man with the kind of speediness and immediacy we don’t often associate with the conservative movement. (Remember, these are the same people who still carp about Benghazi and think every presidential election will be a repeat of 1980.) It was easy to see why: With references to porches, picking cotton and slavery, Bundy’s speech was like a greatest hits compilation of racial taboos. And if any group knows which words you can and cannot say in polite conversation today when talking about black people, it’s the Obama-era GOP. It’s a lesson they’ve learned the hard way.

But for all the earnestness of their attacks on Bundy — Sean Hannity alone called his former favorite rancher’s ideas “beyond repugnant,” “beyond despicable” and “beyond ignorant” — what many conservatives failed to notice is that, at their essence, Bundy’s comments were well within the conservative mainstream. Not the stuff about black people sitting on porches or needing to learn how to pick cotton, but rather the critique of the welfare state as somehow being responsible for the destruction of the African-American family. As others have noted, this line of analysis was just recently endorsed by Paul Ryan, the de facto intellectual leader of the GOP. So Bundy’s only real sin was, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie correctly wrote, not being “sophisticated enough to couch his nonsense in soundbites and euphemism.”

Perhaps even more uncomfortably for conservatives, it’s not only that Bundy’s vision of the social consequences of redistribution so closely mirrors theirs, it’s also that his way of framing his critique is the same as theirs, too. In his initial remarks as well as those he’s offered since in his own defense, Bundy has tried to engender sympathy by arguing that all he was trying to do is express his deep concern for the plight of black families in the U.S. today. It’s not that he doesn’t think they deserve “his” money, it’s that he worries government assistance will ultimately be detrimental to black people, that it will sap them of their ambition and force them to rely on others for survival. Bundy is worried that the safety net will, as Paul Ryan once put it, “turn … into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”

I call this move — the adoption of a stance of disingenuous or exaggerated concern for people of color — “racial concern trolling.” And while it’s always been an element of conservatism’s rhetorical repertoire, with the advent of the country’s first black president and the related shift in national politics away from questions of foreign policy and toward arguments over redistribution, it’s become increasingly prevalent in the political discourse. Yet as dishonest a tactic as this usually is, I think it actually offers reason for supporters of the redistributive state to be optimistic about the future of racial politics in America.

The Real House Candidate from Beverly Hills — Mark Leibovich in the New York Times Magazine on what happens when the rich feel the call to public service.

Brent Roske lives on a 45-foot yacht off the coast of Marina del Rey, which is technically on the Pacific Ocean, but for jurisdictional purposes is considered part of the city of Los Angeles and, more to the point, the 33rd Congressional District of California. In January, Henry Waxman, the liberal stalwart who has represented the district with little resistance since the year after Roske was born, announced that he would not seek re-election. Now Roske, who is 39, is part of a field of 18 candidates hoping to represent the heartland of Beverly Hills, Malibu and Bel-Air in the United States Congress.

A former creative director at NBC Universal, Roske is not without assets. He is the producer of a web series called “Chasing the Hill,” which chronicles the campaign of a fictional Democratic congresswoman. He also has support from the White House — or at least the soundstage White House of “The West Wing.” Richard Schiff, who played Toby on the series, has a big role in “Chasing the Hill” and is a Roske friend. So is David Hasselhoff, who played the governor of California on the web series. Should Roske get elected, he already has some bold ideas. He plans, for instance, to hire a film crew to document his every move in office. “People have a right,” he says, “to know what their elected representatives are doing.”

News of Waxman’s departure unleashed a kind of political anarchy on the Botox Belt. “When you represent a district for 40 years, it does tend to produce pent-up demand,” Waxman told me. Initially, fantasies were spun about celebrity candidates jumping into the race and vying “Survivor”-style for the privilege of serving in the People’s Chamber. Roll Call, the Capitol Hill publication, put out a call via Twitter for the likes of Courteney Cox, Danny DeVito and Betty White, as well as a roster of other A-through-C-listers. Ricki Lake and Richard Simmons replied — to say no. Lorenzo Lamas came back with a maybe.

Even so, the existing field reflects the vibrant collection of humanity that resides in California 33. Some are serious candidates, some not — three Republicans, three Independents, one Green, one Libertarian, the rest Democrats. You’ve most likely not heard of any of them except Marianne Williamson, the self-help guru, who dislikes being called a “self-help guru.” (Her spokesman has suggested the term “thought leader.”) Williamson has spoken of turning our political dialogue into “a conversation of the heart.” Katy Perry shows up at her events, as do multiple Kardashians. Kim officially endorsed her in a blog post just before press time. Williamson also received the support of Alanis Morissette, Nicole Richie and, for added sex appeal, Dennis Kucinich.

The more conventional candidates include Matt Miller, a Clinton White House alumnus and author who co-hosts a popular talk show on the public-radio station KCRW (and had a cameo appearance as a D.C. pundit in the Denzel Washington movie “The Siege”); and Barbara Mulvaney, a former State Department official who was the senior prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The Republican Elan Carr is a prosecutor and an Iraq War veteran and the president — or “Supreme Master” — of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. (If you want a congressman who led a Hanukkah service in Saddam Hussein’s former palace, he is your man.) Then there are the favorites: the former Los Angeles controller Wendy Greuel, who was the runner-up in last year’s L.A. mayor’s race and is backed by Emily’s List, the political-action committee, as well as by Ed Begley Jr. and Rob Reiner; and Ted Lieu, a California state senator and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, who emigrated from Taiwan as a child, lived in a basement apartment in Cleveland and helped his parents hawk jewelry as a child.

Doonesbury — Time is money.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don’t Fill In The Blanks

Speaking of lazy journalists, Paul Campos at LGM has a handy-dandy template for those who want to seem like they’re on top of the latest tragedy and make it sound like they’re a posting something worthy of Sunday Reading.

The [death, hospitalization, arrest, other misfortune] of [celebrity] is fueling renewed concern about a recent upsurge of [bad things], brought on by a new wave of [drug of the moment] users.

[Prominent drug warrior] warns that if [extremely expensive pet initiative featuring no data on potential effectiveness] is not adopted, “we could lose a whole generation” to [drug of the moment] addiction.

Indeed [various authority figures] are sounding the alarm that [drug of the moment], whose use many Americans believe is confined to [socially marginal deviants] is suddenly appearing/making a comeback among upper middle class white kids suburban youth, who are drawn to glamorous portrayals of [drug of the moment] addicts in films, music, and on the Internet.

[Credentialed expert] argues that new strains of [drug of the moment] are far more potent and dangerous than the versions of the drug which were previously available, when [readers of this story] were engaging in youthful experimentation with [drug of the moment], and that rapidly falling prices are making [drug of the moment] a tempting alternative to alcohol, prescription drugs, and even marijuana [ed. note: last three words of previous sentence not suitable for stories about marijuana].

I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I know people who did and who worked with him.  Reading their recollections of his life and their friendship with him has been devastating, made all the worse by the moralizing, judging, and concern-trolling that has gone on since the news broke on Sunday.  What makes it all the more maddening is that it has happened before: Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, or anyone else whose name and fame overshadowed their capacity for being treated as a human being in both life and death.

What I want to say to everyone who furrows their brow and tells us that there is a larger lesson in his or anyone’s untimely and — to them — avoidable death is to take and keep the lesson for yourself.  Do not turn it into something more than the already unbearable loss that it is for his friends, colleagues, and family.  Let them grieve in their own way and stop trying to show your moral superiority by telling us what it all means.  Save it for your novel.

Friday, November 2, 2012

David Brooks Is Disappointed

David Brooks bows to the inevitable and says that Barack Obama hasn’t been all that bad as a president.

In office, he has generally behaved with integrity and in a way befitting a man with his admirable character. Sure, he has sometimes stooped to the cynical maneuver. Contemptuous of his opponents, he has given himself permission to do the nasty and negative thing. But politics is a rough business and nobody comes out unsullied.

In moral terms, he hasn’t let us down. If he’s re-elected, his administration would probably remain scandal-free. Given the history of second terms, that is no small thing.

Moreover, Obama has been a prudent leader. He’s made no rash or disastrous decisions. He’s never acted out of some impetuous passion. His policies toward, say, China, Europe and Iran have had a sense of sober balance. If re-elected, he would probably commit no major blunders, which also is no small thing.

But he’s disappointed that Mr. Obama didn’t live up to the inspiring words of his inauguration, and then he gets around to his concern trolling, which you knew was coming all along.

If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration, he would have used this winter of recuperation to address the country’s structural weaknesses. He would have said: Look, we’re not going to have booming growth soon, but we will use this period to lay the groundwork for a generation of prosperity — with plans to reform the tax code, get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth.

When people say they wish Obama had embraced the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, they don’t mean the specific details of that proposal. They mean the largeness that Obama’s inauguration promised and the Simpson-Bowles moment afforded. They mean confronting the hard choices, instead of promising more bounty for everyone with no sacrifice ever.

Given the fact that Mr. Obama had to govern against an entire political party that was united in defeating everything he did starting on the night after his inauguration, it’s amazing that he got anything done at all.  Mr. Brooks acknowledges that, but still says he could have done better.

Sure, House Republicans have been intransigent, but Obama could have isolated them, building a governing center-left majority with an unorthodox agenda. Instead he’s comforted the Democratic base and disappointed sympathizers who are not in it.

That’s like saying to the crew of Apollo 13, “Oh, you’re not going to let a little glitch keep you from landing on the moon, are you?  C’mon, where’s your courage, your sense of adventure?  You’re letting America down!”

At least he acknowledges that the president has had it rough: “No one is fair to President Obama. People grade him against tougher standards than any other politician.”  Oh, really?  Why is that, d’you s’pose?

No president lives up to the hope and rhetoric of their inaugural address, and anyone who believes they should probably believes that using the right kind of toothpaste will get you laid.  For someone who has been around as long as he has — and gets paid by the New York Times — Mr. Brooks is showing a naivete that is both breathtaking and but not surprising at all.

He ends it all with a tepid hope that somehow Mr. Obama in his second term will be “free of politics.”  Because that always happens in a second term, according to no one.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Campbell’s Soup

If you’re in the mood to read an op-ed that is a fine example of lies, half-truths, distortions, and outright bunk about Planned Parenthood by someone who claims to be “pro-choice” but really, really concerned about the terrible image that the organization is putting forth, then go no further than the piece foisted on the world by Campbell Brown in the New York Times yesterday.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD has a large target on its back. At no time in the organization’s history has it faced such a concerted Congressional challenge to its agenda. But most worrisome is the organization’s shrinking number of defenders, and Planned Parenthood has only itself to blame. It has adopted a strategy driven by blind partisanship, electing to burn bridges instead of building them. That strategy is damaging, and possibly imperiling, its mission.

Most of Planned Parenthood’s work focuses on health care for low-income women, things like screenings for breast cancer and diabetes, and family planning. Despite the claims of its opponents that it’s solely an abortion provider, abortions represent only 3 percent of its work. Almost half of the organization’s funding (46 percent) comes from the federal and state governments, making it imperative that it have friends in both parties. But that’s tough to do when Planned Parenthood sees ideological purity as so paramount that it permeates every aspect of its strategic planning. There is almost no room for even slight deviations. Those who are not in lock step with the organization are viewed as enemies to the cause.

This mind-set will doom Planned Parenthood to failure. When an organization is willing to support only lawmakers who are with it 100 percent of the time, it virtually guarantees that the debate will be bitterly partisan.

This tome is what’s known as “concern trolling,” where a supposed ally of the cause furrows her brow and worries that Planned Parenthood might be alienating potential allies, all the while she’s really rooting for its demise.

It’s breathtakingly ironic for Ms. Brown to be so concerned about “ideological purity” on the pro-choice side when it is an everyday element of the anti-choice side. They’re now down to the level of being opposed to abortions even in the cases of rape and incest, and woe betide anyone who suggests that the life or health of the mother comes before the blastocyst; they’ll come at you with a vaginal probe, and they know how to use it. So for her to get so fretful about hurting the delicate sensibilities of the few remaining moderate Republicans who might support Planned Parenthood if only they weren’t so strident is a little much and a lot of pearl clutching. And obviously Ms. Brown is not that well acquainted with most left-leaning movements. To accuse them of marching in lockstep is sardonically hilarious: if only. (Exhibit A: Occupy Whatever.)

This is the second time the New York Times has run a piece by Ms. Brown in the last two months. Her first rumination was on how condescending President Obama is to women, and the raspberries she got for that bit of effluence are still echoing. So why they asked her back is a mystery for the ages.

(PS: The Times failed to note that Ms. Brown is married to Dan Senor, a top adviser to the Romney campaign. Just thought I’d point that out; take it for what you will.)

Campbell’s Soup

If you’re in the mood to read an op-ed that is a fine example of lies, half-truths, distortions, and outright bunk about Planned Parenthood by someone who claims to be “pro-choice” but really, really concerned about the terrible image that the organization is putting forth, then go no further than the piece foisted on the world by Campbell Brown in the New York Times yesterday.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD has a large target on its back. At no time in the organization’s history has it faced such a concerted Congressional challenge to its agenda. But most worrisome is the organization’s shrinking number of defenders, and Planned Parenthood has only itself to blame. It has adopted a strategy driven by blind partisanship, electing to burn bridges instead of building them. That strategy is damaging, and possibly imperiling, its mission.

Most of Planned Parenthood’s work focuses on health care for low-income women, things like screenings for breast cancer and diabetes, and family planning. Despite the claims of its opponents that it’s solely an abortion provider, abortions represent only 3 percent of its work. Almost half of the organization’s funding (46 percent) comes from the federal and state governments, making it imperative that it have friends in both parties. But that’s tough to do when Planned Parenthood sees ideological purity as so paramount that it permeates every aspect of its strategic planning. There is almost no room for even slight deviations. Those who are not in lock step with the organization are viewed as enemies to the cause.

This mind-set will doom Planned Parenthood to failure. When an organization is willing to support only lawmakers who are with it 100 percent of the time, it virtually guarantees that the debate will be bitterly partisan.

This tome is what’s known as “concern trolling,” where a supposed ally of the cause furrows her brow and worries that Planned Parenthood might be alienating potential allies, all the while she’s really rooting for its demise.

It’s breathtakingly ironic for Ms. Brown to be so concerned about “ideological purity” on the pro-choice side when it is an everyday element of the anti-choice side. They’re now down to the level of being opposed to abortions even in the cases of rape and incest, and woe betide anyone who suggests that the life or health of the mother comes before the blastocyst; they’ll come at you with a vaginal probe, and they know how to use it. So for her to get so fretful about hurting the delicate sensibilities of the few remaining moderate Republicans who might support Planned Parenthood if only they weren’t so strident is a little much and a lot of pearl clutching. And obviously Ms. Brown is not that well acquainted with most left-leaning movements. To accuse them of marching in lockstep is sardonically hilarious: if only. (Exhibit A: Occupy Whatever.)

This is the second time the New York Times has run a piece by Ms. Brown in the last two months. Her first rumination was on how condescending President Obama is to women, and the raspberries she got for that bit of effluence are still echoing. So why they asked her back is a mystery for the ages.

(PS: The Times failed to note that Ms. Brown is married to Dan Senor, a top adviser to the Romney campaign. Just thought I’d point that out; take it for what you will.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Short Takes

Mitt Romney won the Nevada caucuses; Newt Gingrich vows to stay in.

As expected, Russia and China vetoed the UN resolution on Syria.

Afghanistan — The U.S. plans to shift more to elite units as regular troops withdraw.

Cruise passengers come down with more than just seasickness.

R.I.P Ben Gazzara, 81, actor and the original Brick in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

Apparently there is some sort of athletic contest on TV tonight.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Above It All

David Brooks was disappointed the other day that President Obama is acting like a politician.

Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that are floating around.

But remember, I’m a sap. The White House has clearly decided that in a town of intransigent Republicans and mean ideologues, it has to be mean and intransigent too. The president was stung by the liberal charge that he was outmaneuvered during the debt-ceiling fight. So the White House has moved away from the Reasonable Man approach or the centrist Clinton approach.

Shorter version: You mean he’s actually going to fight back? Well, that’s so… disappointing.