Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rescuing Obama: I generally defer to Eno and Razor's political instincts, and I think Eno makes a great argument for how Obama can sure up his reelection chances by going moderate, a la Clinton. Middle of the road will bring some independents back to him and that may be enough. After all, the Republican primary campaign stands to be pretty brutal over the next 18 months, and he'll look a lot better against Romney after he's been savaged as everything from Obama-lite to a Mormon Billy Graham (or is it Scientologist? Can't remember sometimes, and believe me, nobody else can either). But I'll offer another tack for Obama, one he's probably more comfortable with.

This is a man who is clearly more skilled as a campaigner and advocate than as a manager or policy wonk. He'd much rather stand atop the barricades and rail against the corporate flacks that make up the Republican House majority and relegate actual policy agendas to Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, his bulwarks in the Senate. I think he moves even further left and stirs the base to a frenzy, basically telling them if they don't turn out they'll have failed the cause. This means a full throated defense and expansion of health care reform, playing hardball with the deficit commission's report next month, and pushing for another stimulus package, one targeted to "shovel ready projects" to create jobs directly. The fact that he's already acknowledged that these don't exist won't matter much because he'll be able to pin that on the Appropriations Committee or Ways and Means, aka feet-dragging, partisan Republicans.

I don't know if this is a better strategy than triangulation or not, but I just can't see Obama settling for trifling little legislative victories while his credibility on the left goes to tatters. This is where he differs from George W. Bush (or one way, at least). Bush was willing to take half-a-loaf on No Child Left Behind or expanded prescription drug coverage under Medicare and anger purists on both sides while winning the center. Obama proved unwilling to take the same kind of deal with health care reform and I think he's pot-committed to it and the rest of his domestic policy agenda. Better to go all in, rally the base and hope the public is distracted by the food fight that is sure to unfold on the right.

The same will hold true in foreign policy, and it's already playing out with North Korea. Compare and contrast these statements on the North/South dustup the other day.
“These latest brazen provocations demand a firm response from the United States, our allies, and the broader international community,” Lieberman said. ”The unprovoked shelling today of Yeonpyeong Island will only strengthen the resolve of the United States to stand alongside and defend our ally the Republic of Korea, as well as reaffirm our security commitments throughout the region. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those killed and injured in this outrageous and deplorable attack, and express full support and solidarity with President Lee for his strong and steady leadership.

“I am likewise deeply concerned by the revelation that Pyongyang has constructed a new uranium enrichment facility. This latest nuclear provocation fits into a broader pattern of North Korean behavior, which must not be rewarded or appeased. Rather, all responsible countries must take additional steps to increase the pressure on the regime in Pyongyang, by cracking down on the arms trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting, smuggling, and other illicit activities that sustains its nuclear and military programs.

“I am particularly alarmed by any possible linkages between North Korea’s nuclear activities and foreign countries. We must redouble our efforts to bring any such linkages to light, and any country that either provides or receives nuclear or other proliferation-related assistance from North Korea must be subject to crippling punishments — as must North Korea itself.”

"This is a -- just one more provocative incident in a series that we've seen over the last several months, and I'm going to be talking to the president of Korea -- South Korea this evening and we'll be consulting closely with them in terms of the appropriate response," the president said. "We've strongly condemned the attack...We are rallying the international community once again to put pressure on North Korea."

The first one is from Joe Lieberman. The second is Obama's. I don't see a president looking to kick ass and let the world know you better not wake the tiger. Now it's not a simple situation, and his ability show teeth here is very restricted by China and the fact that we are up over our knees in Afghanistan and Iraq still, but he sees the U.S. as just one player in the international community, and not necessarily the most legitimate. He's not going to alter this kind of core philosophy to score some votes. I don't think that kind of political maneuvering is in him, and he sure didn't have time to develop it in the Senate.

Of course how all this plays out is up in the air. It'll be telling to see who steps up as the dominant advisor as Rahm Emanuel goes back to Chicago, and maybe Eno's right that Obama's desire for a second term will force him to target middle American centrists. Maybe we need somebody in an actual swing state to give us their take. Raz?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saving Private Barry:  First, Obama's ego will not allow him to triangulate like Clinton did after his first mid-term ass-kicking.  (Honestly, to all those who hated Clinton after '94, what was the f*cking point?  He essentially became a moderate Republican -- until becoming a walking cigar joke through his lame duck years.)  For that reason, he needs to be talked into developing some small-bore policy ideas that bring the country on board.  Mom and apple pie won't work for him -- too aloof -- but he has some room to work here.

I think he was nuts to go balls to the wall for health care when the wind was clearly blowing against it.  The wise move would have been to cover the rugrats first.  Win the PR battle on that one and take your incremental steps as a blessing.  ("In this country, it's a shame that any child must go without health care," etc.  This shit writes itself.) Now he's got to stand up to the GOP as they screm for repeal for two years.  Also, he can't do any reform on Medicare or Social Security, other than trim around the edges, because he needs the geezer vote.

Point is, he needs to get himself a victory.  In two years, the economy will be in better shape, and if Obama looks minimally competent, enough people will stay home on election day to win it for him.  He said he wanted to be a "consequential" president.  From there to rooting for low turnout in '12 is a helluva long way to fall.  Now, if he wants a second term, he's going to have to settle for micro-policy.  To do that, he has to clear out the kool-aid drinkers to start with.  Too many people around him tell him he's brilliant.  He needs someone to tell him he's full of shit.  That done, here are four ways he can take back the center.
  • Tax reform:  Streamline the tax code.  Make it a moral issue, something to get people fired up.  Show examples of the craziness of the tax code, how arcane and byzantine it is.  Make it easy for Joe Citizen to file, keep his deductions, and not sweat April 15th next year.
  • Winding down affirmative action:  He hinted at this during the '08 campaign -- that racial set-asides are a policy for a problem that doesn't exist anymore, at least not in the same form.  This is a chance to bring white independents back into your fold.  Not to be glib, but what are the blacks going to do, vote for Romney?  Buff up those post-racial bonafides and suggest something new, based on different ideas.  Less focus on discrimination, more focus on getting opportunity to those who need it.  And change the name, for god's sake.
  • Grow a pair:  Obama's foreign policy has been abysmal -- a generous description, in fact.  A lot of the wild criticisms of Obama are off the mark: he's not a socialist, he's not out to destroy capitalism, he's not trying to nationalize the auto industry.  But one accurate criticism is that he is a naif on the world stage.  The Russians rolled him, his Afghanistan policy took too damn long and then he changed his mind, he's pushing Israel away with both hands, the Norks (see today's headlines) are returning to their old trick of banging the high chair until America sends them a billion barrels of oil, and he deploys the military with an air of distaste, like a yuppie scraping a roadkill out of his cul-de-sac.  He's looking like Jimmy Carter, and that's bad.  He needs to push back, and hard.  Message to the world needs to be:  I may be a liberal, but it's still true that you f*ck with America at your own peril.
  • Press flesh with the rubes:  Why is Obama out of the country so damn much?  You'd think he didn't like it here or something.  This will be the hardest for him, but he's going to have to go retail.  Show people he is an American, because they're starting to forget.  This has nothing to do with birthers or the "secret Muslim" conspiracy crowd.  Obama doesn't behave like an actual American.  Honestly, when did we last have a cosmopolitan as president?  (Probably Woodrow Wilson -- and see what that wrought.) Look, he doesn't have to eat bbq or pitch horseshoes like Clinton, but he does have to stop acting like he's allergic to people who do.  I've seen him do retail, and he does it well.  But when he hides behing the teleprompter, dropping Gs to sound folksy (listen to how he says words like workin', movin', gettin', for example), people see through him.
So that's the deal.  Four ideas -- simple, symbolic, and mostly bipartisan.  (The affirmative action stuff may be a tough sell on his side of the aisle, but this could be Obama's Nixon-to-China moment.)  All of a sudden, he's back in business.
The 2012 Hypothetical:  It really is true that the next campaign started as soon as the midterm was over.  LA Times has the news on current polling.  Right now Obama couldn't beat Marge Schott at an Anti-Defamation League meeting.  He can't even pull a lead over Sarah Palin, and half of the country already thinks she's dumb enough to eat her own socks.

I know that Razor has often been the go-to guy around here whenever we play defend the liberal, but I want to throw this open to you both:  Supposing Pete Rouse, Obama's chief of staff, threw the job into your lap tomorrow, how do you rescue Obama?  He's willing to take your advice, as long as you don't go against his core principles (he can do that fine on his own).  Seriously, how do you get this pony over the finish line?

I think there's time to save him from the one-term fate that many are predicting, even wishing for -- including some Dems.  But it won't be easy.  I'll post my ideas separately.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What I'm listening to right now: They've been around a couple years, and have done some solid touring with Dave Matthews and others, but The Avett Brothers are just starting to get radio play here in Charlotte. Maybe it's because they're from nearby Concord, but given the national programming or radio today their single Kick Drum Heart will almost surely reach the Clear Channel affiliates nearest you.

They're exactly the kind of band that used to get lost because they don't really fit a format, but today they seem to be able to build enough of a following that they demand to be acknowledged. Reviews compare them to Townes Van Zandt and Buddy Holly...I would add Ben Folds, Nick Lowe and something like Lyle Lovett so they definitely cover some ground.

I'm hoping to see them near Charlotte soon, as I expect they'd be a lot of fun live.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More:  Sorry to get going on one of my old hobbyhorses, but this Rangel thing has stirred me up.  I have to stifle a gag when I hear that warhorse cliche about the sacrament of public service.  To whom much has been given, etc.  I've carped abodut it before, so I won't run on here, but let me just say, to the Rangels out there, and to the future Robert Byrds and Strom Thurmonds and all the other careerists and gravy-trainers in Washington:  Get a job!
Chollie: Honestly, if Charlie Rangel wants my sympathy, now that the Ethics Committee panel has handed down the equivalent of an indictment, he would be better off downplaying this part:
I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions.

Reminding me that he's been running the scam for 40 years just makes me angrier.

Ed Koch used to rail about Rangel years ago on his radio show, calling him the prototypical New York hack.  The panel's findings only confirm what we know.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Happens When the ChiComs are to the Right of You: The world leaders at the G-20 blew off Obama when he asked for their backing against China's monetary policy. See, Obama hates it that the Chinese government is using its power to artificially devalue the yuan -- or what is termed competitive devaluation. See, when the government of a huge economy uses its official policy to f*ck with its currency, all kinds of corruption is on the table, and we as Americans shouldn't have to stand for it.

In other news, Obama's Treasury plans to use official government policy to f*ck with its currency.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

iTunes Version "Apple has changed a single pixel on a screen that you never use. Please download this 14 terabyte file to update your system."

My wife was on the laptop this ayem, and apparently she clicked "Install" before heading out to the gym. Sigh.

Update: I don't think that Razor was aware, but I do now have an iPod. I still have a turntable for the vinyl, naturally, but the 160 GB model holds almost all of my digital music, and damned if I don't love the convenience. The front end is a little funny, especially when you're scrolling for classical music. Bach, for example, shows up under
  • Bach
  • Bach, J.S.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach
  • J.S. Bach
  • Jean-Sebastien Bach

And I have a two disc set of Purcell's arias that iTunes sorts by performer in a funny way: disc 1 by conductor's name, disc 2 by soloist's name. But what the hell, nothing ever works perfectly.

Anyhoo, snarkily welcome me into the 21st century, Razor!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Groove-a-licious: Check out this awesome workout and try to place its vintage. It sounds like it could be straight from the mid-60s Stax line-up, until you realize . . . it's a cover of Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done for Me Lately." Welcome to the world of The Dap-Kings, where soul grooves are created the old-fashioned way: vintage instruments, analog recording.

Some find it too precious, too stuck in the past. (Meanwhile Amy Winehouse is a tortured genius for her blatant theft of Etta James's sound and style. Oh wait, she put a hip hop beat over it, so it is totally original. My mistake.) I say you can't argue with your ass, which wants to get up and follow this groove all the way home.

Bonus: Here's a cut from their newest record.
Gordian Tax Knot: This follows on an idea I floated a few years ago: Kill the corporate income tax for good. Corporations don't pay it anyway -- it's built into their pricing structure, so that the consumer pays it anyway. (No serious corporation ever lost money on a product by failing to work taxes into their overhead.) It's a tax on the consumer, and a regressive tax to boot. So when a politician tells you that the greedy corporations need to pay their share, they really mean that you need to pay higher prices at the store.

When I brought it up, I linked it directly to ending corporate welfare, and suggested that the hit Uncle Whiskers would take on revenue ($250 bil, according to the piece linked, although I was coming up with $150 bil -- don't recall where my numbers came from) would be partially offset by reduced outlays to the GMs and Chryslers of the world, along with famous rent-seeking pigs like the energy industry. But dynamic scoring side of the argument says that the increase in jobs would likely bridge the gap through increased income tax revenue.

I still think this is a great idea.

h/t Derb, who seems to think this idea has never been bandied before.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

State Legislatures: Mr. Underinformed speaking here, but isn't this the real news? Sure, the Fedrul Gummint has its spending problems, but they have the luxury of running a deficit until the cows come home. (What's that, Bossy? You're at the door and you want to come in?) Many states have balanced budget requirements, and as the Fed cuts back, they have to cut even deeper. What the states do over the next 10 years is going to mean a whole lot more than Congress trimming the low-hanging fruit from the budget. I mean, states were already talking about opting out of Medicare. That's pretty f*cking huge. And in Massachusetts, every time there's a budget shortfall, they heave the teachers, the fire fighters, and the police officers onto the chopping block and say, "Pony up on taxes, or I'll have to start cutting." As though those jobs are less imporotant than, you know, some guy's brother in law getting a no-show job on the turnpike authority.

Now, nobody wants to pay taxes, and everyone wants free stuff from the state house. And, despite his "aliens abducted my foreskin" break with reality, this is what Ross Perot told us twenty years ago. Practical conservatism.: Here's what you want, here's what it will cost you. You up for paying those taxes, Kemosabe? Or can we scale back on the government-pays-rich-old-farts'-healthcare gig?

Don't look for the GOP to suddenly become geniuses at the state level, but aybe we'll see necessity birthing some different ideas on how to finance all the shit we want from our governments but don't actually want to pay for in commensurate taxation.
Upshot? Clearly it's that politics just got a lot more entertaining. Say what you want about two years of Democratic self-immolation, it was truly a snore. The bastards were violating every principle I hold dear and I couldn't set myself to reading the New York Times on a bet. About the only thing I cared about was, on my next trip to California, whether I would be buying my marijuana on some dingy corner in Santa Cruz, or at Walgreens (aisle 4, bottom shelf, next to the Pokemon cards).

Having the GOP working the levers of power for a couple years was at least entertaining because of their naive foreign policy ideas. It's like watching the suburban dad try to knock down the hornets' nest under the eave. Yes, the nest must come down; truly, the thing must be done. But dad's going to do it badly and get himself stung. You know what's about to happen, but you can't look away.

Train-wreck domestic policy rarely involves the kind of violence and danger afforded by train-wreck foreign policy. Nobody ever shot scrambling, chaotic, roof-of-the-embassy documentary footage of a session of the Council of Economic Advisors. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services medicaring at full chat is somewhat less than enthralling.

In fact, I don't think anyone would have paid attention to a goddamned thing the Dems did, except for the fact that nobody had a job to go to, so they stayed home and watched Scarborough and got mad.

Truth is, the recession was caused by bad economic policy quietly building up for decades, from Fannie Mae to deficit spending under both parties. Barack and his buddies happened to have their hand in the cookie jar when the American electorate walked into the kitchen for a beer, so they get the spanking this time.

But now we have divided government! Gridlock! Partisanship! These are the very ingredients of political entertainment. Remember, in the 90s, when Clinton made Gingrich leave Air Force One by the service exit, and Gingrich got so P.O.'d that he shut down the government and impeached the president? That's some A-1 entertainment!

So, here's what I'm hoping for for the next two years: First, investigations out the whing-whang. If a guy gets a federal dollar, I want it investigated for traces of kickbacks, logrolling, or other shenannigans. Politicians being led away in cuffs, baby. Second, impeachment. If Senator Whatshisface ever had lust in his heart, never mind a stiffy in his pants, I want hearings! I want subpoenas! That should put Matt Drudge back in whitewall tires.

Finally, I want personalities. I don't know much about the new House leadership, except that Flyer used to smoke Camels with Boehner back in the day (which makes the speaker-to-be a dude in my book). But could they please not be boring? Maybe not LBJ banging his man-junk on the table at conference meetings, sure, but something more than the political Sominex of late.

There. Now I'm happy.
Much Ado: Things I found interesting about last night:

1. Palin is only good at promoting Palin. Her attempts at playing the king/queen-maker failed. Her justification: well, the traditional GOP candidate would have lost too, so ... oh look, a moose!

2. Rich women don't appeal to voters. Okay, it was probably that they were Republicans in blue states, but still, McMahon and Fiorina could not buy the credibility they needed. Too bad. I know Hulk Hogan was looking forward to a tour of the Capitol.

3. Democrats are mostly clueless -- except Harry Reid, who is simply craftier then anyone gave him credit for. I'm sure Feingold, Skelton, Spratt, Boucher et al. are scratching their heads. Well, it's not that hard: don't spend your way out of a depression unless you add jobs.

4. Expect even more energy to be spent on things not getting done. The past two years we had a Democrat House and a Democrat Senate. Still, the Senate sat on over 400 bills passed by the House. Now we have a GOP House and a Democrat Senate. This helps how?

5. I missed the holograms. Were there any? I didn't see them.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Like slipping on old pair of plaid pants, I return to blogging. And yes, the gentleman does dress to the left...

image h/t
So just the other day I was listening to a Coldplay CD while I drank a Red Bull when I thought, "Wow, when was the last time anybody blogged?" And what do you know, here come's Eno, getting his usual jump start on the retro trend. Well played, sir!

Explaining my equally long absence would be pointless, as I have no excuse better than apathy. And I can make no promises as to how often I'll post around the place, but I'm sure glad to see that my login still works (thanks Google!) and that Eno and Razor (if he can reconnect the memory circuits) still have some wisdom to impart. I'll do my best to contribute the occasional strained analogy and intellectual eye roll.

Since Eno asked about the meaning of today's group heave ho at the polls I'll give only the rationale for my visit. It's the bagel place next door. Now before you go all Chris Matthews on me and try to parse the implications of the Jewish vote from that statement, trust me, I just wanted a bagel. And the left turn arrow was green, so that sealed the deal. Once I was in there with the other three voters in my district who turn out in non-prez election years I tried to remember the names of all the asshats who had called me on the phone with recorded messages, looked for their names on the ballot, and pulled the opposite lever (metaphorically speaking - it's all touchy-screeny now). Except for the Libertarian running for Senate (one of two on the ballot - the 2nd is a real crackpot who runs for County Commish every 2 years and gets creamed) against an incumbent Republican and a Democrat that's for lower taxes on everybody that doesn't pay taxes. So I'm not only a crank, but a hypocrite to boot. I'm the worst person in the world!!!!

I don't know what it all means, but the American populace has the attention span of Lindsay Lohan after the 14th shot of Cabo. We don't have a clue what we want, but a cheeseburger would be freakin' awesome in the meantime (come to think of it, that sounds like our policy in Afghanistan). We'll elect enough Republicans today to grind the political process to a very non-screeching halt, since it barely moves anyway, because "Americans want to stop the partisan bickering and get things done!" First item on the agenda, undo everything from the last 2 years. Kay-dokey!

I'll tune in to MSNBC later, though, to see Olberman shoving pins in a Sharon Angle doll. Then it's time to start stocking the bunker for Decision '12!!!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Radio Silence: Apologies for hitting the undisclosed location for a stretch without at least a coded message through my usual agents. I really hadn't meant to be away for so long, but I got caught up in a bunch of stuff and, hey, two and half years just slid past.

So, the 401k tanked, my employer (health insurance) started laying folks off, and I jumped ship for a union job back in '08, which now seems like the best move I could have made -- now that the health "reform" law has essentially put my old company out of business. Other than that, we're still kicking up here in the Poeple's Republic.

I look back on some of my later writings here, and I realize that politics and blogging had become a one-two punch of ennui and frustration. Even my kid's hamster was blogging at that point (though I still had more readers). Now that the cool crowd has landed at Twitter (ugh) and Facebook (don't get me started), insisting that all must be said in 14 words and an emoticon or two, I felt like jumping back on here and airing some thoughts.

I'll alert Flyer and Razor, just to shock them, since I doubt they check FauxPolitik daily anymore. Beyond that, I think most of our links are dead, our referrers have moved on, and our corner of the sphere has gotten more than a touch cobwebby. In fact, I feel a little like Tom Petty in the "You Got Lucky" video, stumbling upon the disused old video arcade and kicking over the machines for a hoot.

Razor and Flyer, I've missed you, and I've missed exchanging thoughts on the monumental happenings of the times, to wit:
  • Roger Federer got old quickly, did he not?
  • That new type of politician Obama said he was looks a lot like that new type of politician Bush said he was.
  • Lady Gaga -- I just don't understand the fuss.
  • Tiger Woods goes "night putting."
  • Cheddar cheese -- should it be orange or not?

Anyhoo, quick question: What will happen tomorrow at the polls and what will it mean? Is the country throwing a tantrum? Are white males feeling threatened by a black president? Is this righteous rage, long overdue, against a government gone off the track? And finally, how long (over/under in months) before any tea party goofballs elected this cycle take us back to a status quo ante of the petty corruption and slimy hangers-on that follow politicians like flies after a garbage truck?