hope for the gop

More like this, please:

"There’s a big debate over there. Fox News can’t decide, what do they love more, bombing the Middle East or bashing the president? It’s like I was over there and there was an anchor going, they were pleading, can’t we do both? Can’t we bomb the Middle East and bash the president at the same time? How are we going to make this work?"

--Sen. Rand Paul

(This was at a Congressional Correspondents dinner, where jokes are the order of the day. But the best humor is the kind that gets at uncomfortable truths.)

Also, this:



Sullivan's meditation on American exceptionalism is well worth your time. And too good to excerpt.


weep for the gop

Let's take a quick look at some potential nominees for '12, shall we?

In a time of unemployment hovering around 10%, Mike Huckabee says preventing gays from marrying each other is more important than being gainfully employed, and Rick Santorum says that the problem with Social Security is that we aborted all the workers. [Ed--Yahoo has completely changed the story at that URL since I read it. Anyway, here is coverage of the relevant comment.]

It's a shell game. If you get people lathered up about gays and abortions, they don't notice that you don't have a fucking clue about what to do with the economy or entitlement reform.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich says stuff like this:

"I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age [my grandchildren] will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists..."

(Try reading that out loud with a straight face. Go on. I'll wait.)

The less said about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, the better.

Mitt Romney, probably the least awful Republican people actually talk about, is thought to be dead in the water with GOP primary voters because of the health care legislation he presided over in Massachusetts. Which is a convenient way to avoid discussing the fact that evangelicals in the South and Midwest will never, ever vote for a Mormon in large numbers. And you cannot win the GOP nomination without them.

I suppose Daniels or Pawlenty could stage a rally, but they'd better get cracking since no one who doesn't obsessively follow politics (i.e., most voters) have any idea who they are.

I'm glad I gave up on the Republican Party a long time ago. Because if I felt invested in their success, this would depress the shit out of me.


"problems worth solving"

I *think* what the president is trying to accomplish with the American intervention Libya is establishing a precedent that America can act as a partner in an international coalition, rather than always leading the way. To the extent that I'd like to see America less involved in policing the world, generally, but also recognize that the world sometimes needs policing (setting aside the merits of this particular action for the moment), I suppose this is a positive move.

I nonetheless remain skeptical. I'll believe the American role is limited when it is demonstrably so.

And the notion that the US does not "turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries" would be laughable were we not talking about, you know, atrocities.

ADDENDUM--After scanning the transcript, that speech was even more nonsensical than I appreciated when I was half-listening to it while working on something else.

I can't help but wonder if this is how the Brits felt after Blair got talked into joining us in Iraq.


also, this


But all this context is relevant as an indictment of the elite leadership class of the United States of America... If everyone cares as much about the loss of innocent African life as Libya interventionists say, then what on earth are they doing ponying up so little in foreign aid and doing so little to dismantle ruinous cotton subsidies? These aren’t really points about Libya... I see no particular reason to think that Libya will have any impact on malaria funding, but I do think the level of malaria funding is impacted over the long term by the existence of a substantial number of people ... who seem to advocate for humanitarian goals in Africa if and only if those goals can be advanced through the use of military force to kill other Africans.

(I clipped that down quite a bit, so I encourage you to read the post in full.)

This isn't to say that individuals in the American governing class actually prefer killing people in order to advance goals, be they strategic, economic, or humanitarian in nature. Just like I don't think anyone who advances escalating the drug war intends to effectively wage a war on poor urban minorities. But at some point you really have to take a step back and recognize that it looks an awful lot like that.

This is a systemic problem of having a gigantic standing military, or a massively militarized police force. When your only tools--or at least the ones in which you've invested an overwhelming amount of your resources--are big, shiny hammers, every problem you encounter starts to look like a nail.


obama, libya, and the continuity of american foriegn policy

America doesn't go around toppling every bad regime in the world because--surprise!--we cannot. However, no one is allowed to admit that there are limits to the power of the great and might United States. So...we occasionally kick the shit out of someone with whom we have a beef anyway, AND that we are pretty sure we can defeat, eventually (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). And we let some of the other guys slide if they sell us oil (Saudi Arabia), play ball on Israel (Egypt) and/or let us park our ships and planes there while we kick the shit out of their neighbors (Bahrain). And we leave alone the countries where we might actually have some meaningful challenges in a conventional war, and where the local populace would likely hate us more than they hate their own government were we to invade (Iran--any wonder that they want nukes so badly?)

I'm disappointed that Obama has decided to join the Big Swinging Dick Club, but I can't say that I'm surprised.


things i've changed my mind about, v. 735: it is time to tax carbon

In response to what looks like an increasingly big mess at the Fukushima Daiishi plant, Gino throws his lot in with the hippies, Barry wants us to do the math, and Yglesias wants to defend nuclear power but doesn't want to be the "pro-nuclear guy".

Actually, I think all of this points to one thing.

The difference between nuclear power and coal is this: nuclear power has very infrequent, but very real and very scary negative externalities. Coal has negative externalities that are less scary, but that are a sure--and constant--thing. The main reason that coal costs so much less than nuclear is that the real, full cost of fossil fuel consumption is not actually born by the producers.

There needs to be a carbon tax.

We can't nuke our way off fossil fuels. But we can level the playing field for nuclear and other renewable resources by bringing the price of fossil fuel-derived energy in line with its actual cost.

Prices change behavior, which is why I sit in an apartment that is rarely heated above 65 degrees in the winter. If my power bill was half the price, I'd be sitting here in shorts and a T-shirt instead of jeans and a sweater.


When I was 21 years old, I had a couple of weeks to kill between graduating from college and moving out west for graduate school. As in, there were literally four weeks between graduation and when I had to report for class...not enough time to get a job or really do anything, but just a little too much time to just sit on my hands. So, I packed up my Jeep and set out on a 3 week road trip up the east coast and over to the upper Midwest before heading back down to Atlanta.

I kept a journal...most of which is not worth recounting, but I do remember writing something at Niagara Falls about the awesome power of water. Specifically about the unimaginable amount of energy contained in it as it fell several hundred feet and dispersed into droplets that I could feel on my face a hundred yards away.

I thought about that today as I watched this video of the tsunami hitting Japan, possibly the scariest thing I've ever seen not in person. (There were a couple of lightening strikes in the open desert that were really too close for comfort, that I count as the scariest things I've ever actually seen...and felt, and smelled.) This water wasn't falling, but rising. Relentlessly, mercilessly, rising. And really, its power is no less awesome.

To know nature is to know true humility.


sometimes you just have to put up with a little running santorum

I actually hope Rick Santorum runs for president, so that I can watch him lose another election.

Obligatory contribution to the best Google bomb ever here: Santorum!


"maybe the whole thing's over and nobody bothered to tell us...maybe we won."

According to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, the War on Drugs is over.

Well, that's a relief.


coates on malcolm, obama

This is good stuff:

I have sometimes remarked that Barack Obama reminds me of Malcolm, in his bearing, in his sense of irony, and in the almost epic quality of narrative. But mostly it's in his curiosity about the world, in his deep belief in intelligence and altering your views as evidence presents itself. The great tragedy of Malcolm X's life is how that curiosity was circumscribed and perverted. The great joy of Barack Obama is seeing that curiosity unbounded and rewarded.

I don't say that to clean Malcolm X. I don't buy the image of him as a complete convert to integration--nor do I need it, anymore than I needed it for Grant or Lincoln. My Valhalla is made of people--conflicted, complicated, people.

Read the whole thing.