In the end, this column amounts to a strange kind of endorsement and the worst kind of constructive advice. By Martin Longman
Wish I could make myself care about the NBA playoffs. Maybe if the Hawks get through the first round….
Here are some remains of the day:
* Breaking news: David Koch tells a New York audience he and his brother think Scott Walker best bet for GOP in 2016. If this means they’ll spend money to help him win nomination, that’s huge
* Podesta dismisses new anti-Clinton book as web of conspiracy theories by former contributor to Brietbart.
* Next GOP presidential cattle call this Saturday in Iowa, where 9 presidential wabbabes (so far) confirmed for annual clambake of local chapter of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Jebbie and Carson only major candidates not coming. That’ll make two cattle calls in a row for Rand Paul, who doesn’t usually do these things.
* At Ten Miles Square, Martin Longman deconstructs the latest weird bit of advice for HRC from Maureen Dowd.
* At College Guide, Jill Barshay reports community colleges not on track to meet self-imposed graduation goals for 2020.
And in non-political news:
* “Material scientist” tops list of high-pay low-stress jobs.
That’s it for Monday. We’ll close with Tito Puente’s most famous song, the one that made Santana a fortune; here’s “Oye Como Va,” as performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1993.
I said at Lunch Buffet I might return to this if the political news remained slow. And since I haven’t figured out anything distinctive to say about today’s Big Story, the deal the New York Times and Fox News cut for access to source material from a conservative author about to release a book alleging corruption at the Clinton Foundation (you can read Martin Longman’s take on the Times’ participation here), I shall return to Eliana Johnson’s scenario for a New Hampshire-based Chris Christie comeback.
I’m interested in this not so much out of any particular hostility to Christie or his candidacy, but because the McCain campaign of 2008 inevitably represented a wellspring of False Analogy claims. Why? Well, McCain’s campaign that year was left for dead not long before the voting began; he was low on money and disorganized. But thanks to the wonder working power of the flinty, independent New Hampshire voter, McCain got a second wind, and went on to win the nomination against all odds. So, too, goes the planted axiom, might other candidates left for dead. Like, say, Chris Christie:
Whether the governor has a political future at all may now rest on his performances here in New Hampshire. He hosted a town hall in Londonderry on Wednesday, toured the Made in New Hampshire Expo with Manchester mayor Ted Gastas, and delivered remarks at the First in the Nation Summit in Nashua. According to a senior aide, Christie will unveil a series of policy proposals by the end of June on entitlement reform, national security, energy, and tax and economic policy.
That’s an almost certain prelude to a presidential bid, and the project began at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester on Tuesday, when Christie outlined an ambitious plan for tackling entitlements that covers everything from Social Security to Medicaid to disability. These proposals will give Christie a chance to return to his political roots: that is, to tangle with voters about his controversial proposals and go to the mat defending them. After defeating New Jersey governor Jon Corzine in 2009, Christie rose to political stardom by duking it out with his constituents over proposed reforms to teacher tenure and doing some teaching of his own about how to have a respectful conversation.
Well, if Christie wants to “duke it out” with potential constituents, he’s sure picked a good topic. Trouble is, unlike his attacks on teachers unions in New Jersey, which were wildly popular from the get-go with conservatives and appealed to some swing voters, his entitlement reform rap is unpopular with everybody, especially the old folks who are disproportionately represented among GOP primary voters in NH and everywhere else.
Where’s the analogy with McCain, who in 2008 had just concluded a long, slow spiral of a pivot back to the conventional conservative positions he’d held back in the 1980s and 1990s? And where’s Christie supposed to get his personal connection with Granite Staters—you know, the one McCain was able to rely on thanks to his 2000 primary win there? And what’s the aspect of Christie’s biography that makes him to some extent bullet-proof in electoral contests, equivalent to McCain’s POW heroism?
The more you look at it, there’s really not much that merits comparison between McCain ‘08 and Christie ‘16, in New Hampshire in particular, other than the fact that they both entered the cycle sinking in the polls. But hell, if the keys to the kingdom in New Hampshire are simply low numbers and the willingness to say controversial things, why not Bobby Jindal or Donald Trump as the beneficiaries of a big New Hampshire wave?
At the risk of beating a really dead horse, I’d add that McCain had a few things going for him in 2008 that either might not happen in 2016 or might benefit someone other than Chris Christie. By the time voters started voting the early frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani, was already losing steam fast. Mitt Romney was thrown off track in Iowa by Mike Huckabee, who did not himself have any traction in (or money to spend for) New Hampshire. After New Hampshire McCain was able to thread the needle and achieve plurality wins in South Carolina and Florida over a weakened Romney and a last-gasp Huckabee campaign (itself bumped out of a SC win by a last-gasp Fred Thompson campaign), and then roll on to victory. And again, this was a guy who remained relatively popular the whole way. It takes some real magical thinking to envision Chris Christie in that role—and probably anybody else.
One of the early presidential cycle themes here at PA has been to look a little more closely at the various GOP candidates’ electability arguments. There’s a bad habit among political analysts to think of ideology and electability as mutually exclusive choices, as voters decide to go with their heads or their hearts. But not even the most obsessive ideologue runs for president conceding electability to their intra-party opponents. And that’s especially true among Republican hard-core conservatives, who have a tradition dating all the way back to the 1940s of arguing that moderate presidential nominees are stone losers.
And that’s even more especially true for 2016, a year conservatives are anticipating as their own version of 1932, 1964 or 2008: an election that could give them enough partisan control of the federal government to instantly roll back the clock at least to 2004, and perhaps to 1980 or even further. Hell, control of the Supreme Court alone is enough to make ‘16 a huge election for the GOP. So all God’s children have got an electability argument.
As noted here before, the least credible from a traditional poli sci POV—but also one with enormous precident in conservative circles—is Ted Cruz’s. So it was interesting to watch WaPo’s Philip Bump try to tear it apart today.
Cruz’s argument has two prongs: first, conservative voters have refused to go to the polls in the requisite numbers as the GOP has nominated “moderates” in 2008 and 2012. And second, conservative candidates are more attractive to swing voters than moderates because they offer what Phyllis Schlafly back in 1964 called “a voice not an echo.” The proof of that one is supposedly, of course, Ronald Reagan in 1980s, who was so successful pulling voters across the line that they named a whole demographic—Reagan Democrats—after him.
Bump suggests the math behind the first argument is simply faulty; more conservatives voted Democratic in 2008 than in 2004 or 2012, but there’s no evidence of any big falloff, so the “hidden majority” claim is based on the dubious idea of people who haven’t voted in years. As for the second argument, it’s based on the partisan and ideological dynamics of 1980, when there were still a lot of conservative Democrats left to be “realigned,” and Reagan was running against an incredibly unpopular incumbent in a bad economy.
The trouble with Bump’s refutation is that it’s not over-powering enough to convince people who really, really want to believe Cruz is right. He in turn is right that Cruz is not according to the polls the favorite of conservatives to begin with. But Scott Walker’s electability argument is basically the same as Cruz’s, except that it’s reinforced by his own three victories in Wisconsin. And it’s likely about the same we’ll hear from Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal if any of them start doing well enough that anybody’s really interested in their marketability as a nominee.
You can make a pretty good case that Republicans this year are buying the electability argument of the candidate they prefer anyway. I’d say that’s particularly true of Rand Paul supporters, who by and large are not the electability-obsessed “Establishment” types but instead libertarians who have long believed there is a hidden, bipartisan majority for their views. As I said this morning, the polls will at some point create some real problems for this or that candidate’s credibility as electable. Until then, it’s just a matter of sounding like a winner.
On Friday WaMo editor in chief Paul Glastris, co-author with Jane Sweetland of The Other College Guide: A Roadmap to the Right School for You, was on MSNBC’s The Cycle to talk about how students and parents can get their acts together before the May 1 date on which most colleges expect final decisions to be made by those wishing to enroll in the fall.
Glastris walked The Cycle’s hosts through a series of pressure points on which the book can be helpful, including pre-college preparation, fihding the right “fit,” measuring value in terms of bang for the buck, graduation rates and loan burdens, and avoiding pitfalls like enrolling in a community college in a state that doesn’t let you transfer all your credits to a four-year institution.
Here’s the relevant clip:
I’m always a little nervous when commenting on the views of political scientists (as opposed to those of, say, Mark Halperin), as I just did in the last post. I’ve taken a grand total of one poli sci course in my life, and that was “Classical Political Theory,” focused almost entirely on Plato and Aristotle. Then again, I spent many years as a professional speechwriter before I even became aware there was this new discipline called “political communications” sprouting up in colleges everywhere. So I try to avoid the chip-on-the-shoulder of the unschooled practitioner, born of the fear of being in the outer darkness of the refuted.
Here are some rough-and-ready midday news/views treats:
* New York Times and Fox News reach exclusive access agreements with former George W. Bush and Sarah Palin consultant who’s penned anti-HRC book. More about this later.
* Brian Beutler notes the unpopularity of ACA mostly rooted in segments of the population that are not really affected by it: seniors.
* National Review’s Eliana Johnson makes extremely unconvincing case that NH could lift Chris Christie into contention like it did John McCain in 2008. I’ll return to this pinata if it remains a slow news day.
* John Kasich seems to be waiting for divine guidance before deciding whether to inflict his balanced budget amendment crusade on us via a presidential campaign. Please, Lord, no!
* Via E.J. Dionne, California Republicans remind colleagues once again of price of alienating minority voters.
And in non-political news:
* Rob Lowe latest example of celebrity endorsements gone wrong.
As we break for lunch, here’s Tito Puente with “Five Beat Mambo.”
Jonathan Bernstein had some good clean fun with colleagues the other day by posting some thoughts (and beginning a hashtag) on things political scientists believe to be true but cannot convince the rest of the world to accept. He mentioned the non-importance of money in presidential general elections; the “secret partisanship” of a sizable majority of self-identified independents; the relative insignificance of gerrymandering in causing partisan polarization; and probably the biggest issue, the marginal nature of campaign “events” in determining elections.
At Ten Miles Square today, in a gloss on Bernstein’s experiment, Marquette University’s Julia Azari argues that it’s important to understand these gaps between academic and general “knowledge” about politics aren’t just a function of poor communications by political scientists, but rather some pretty fundamental differences of opinion about basic matters like causation and human nature. In other words, shouting and stamping one’s feet at Mark Halperin won’t necessarily convince him to change his mind, or convince his employers and readers he’s peddling nonsense.
As a non-political scientist who is respectful of that tribe but not inclined to genuflect in their direction, I’d add another problematic issue: the tendency of academic folk to self-polarize a bit in order to counter what they regard as the bogus folk wisdom of journalists and operatives. Frustrated that pols won’t accept fundamentals-driven models of electoral behavior? Hell, why not have a model that reduces everything to just one fundamental like GDP growth? Convinced that journalists over-emphasize “issues” and “ideology” instead of simple partisanship? Then you might spend much of a book, as the impressively compelling John Sides and Lynn Vavreck did in The Gamble, trying to prove that the whole Mitt-Romney-Driven-to-the-Right-by-Primaries interpretation of 2012 most of us accepted to one degree or another, is a complete crock. Think The Party Decides resolved once and for all time that party elites play an overriding role in presdential nominations? Then you might tend to argue against any significant role for actual rank-and-file voters and the polls that measure their views and preferences.
As Azari notes, some of these arguments have to do with differences of opinion on human nature—but I’d suggest they extend to the human nature of political scientists as well, who sometimes over-compensate for being insufficiently listened to by doing exactly what frustrated people often do: exaggerating.
One of the many WTF moments in recent news for us old folks, per Lizzie Plaugic at The Verge:
Norway will shut down FM radio in the country beginning in 2017, Radio.no reports. The Norwegian Ministry of Culture finalized a shift date this week, making it the first country to do away with FM radio entirely. The country plans to transition to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) as a national standard.
A statement released this week by the Ministry of Culture confirms a switch-off date that was proposed by the Norwegian government back in 2011. The government has concluded that the country is capable of meeting all the requirements necessary for a smooth transition to digital.
Digital radio is a lot cheaper to operate, which certainly matters to governments like those of Norway who offer a lot of the available content themselves. You get the sense this is unmistakably the wave of the future, though it could take a while:
Several other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also considering a national move to DAB, but no other country has confirmed a timeline, Radio.no reports.
Sic transit gloria. In my particular sub-generation, most of us share the memory of the moment we realized that over there on the FM band (rarely available in cars prior to the late 1960s, and not always then) was a musical and informational world remote from the scratchy commercial-ridden Top 40 bubble-gum world of AM. In my case, it was hearing Vanilla Fudge’s cover of “Day Tripper” on the radio of a friend’s father’s luxury car, via “Progressive Rock” station WPLO-FM in Atlanta. I have no real clue now to what extent digital radio is popular in this country, and for that matter, it’s unclear to me how The Kids figure out what to listen to. But FM sure did serve its purpose for a very long time.
UPDATE: To commenter Illuminismo: Bingo! Management frowns when I use a headline that does not optimize search engine traffic and that nobody gets, so thanks for keeping me from being skunked on this one.
I should begin this post by noting I have been to New York City exactly three times in my whole life. So while I’ve tried to follow events in Gotham like any educated American citizen who understands its importance as a global cultural and financial capital, some things just don’t make sense to me. You know, like this:
Despite repeated claims to the contrary, Mayor Bill de Blasio is positioning himself to be the leftist “progressive” alternative to Wall Street-friendly Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president, a national party operative told The Post.
De Blasio’s hope, the operative said, is a “Draft de Blasio’’ movement will develop among progressive activists over the next several months that will lead to the mayor being able to defeat Clinton in the primary elections next year in much the same way leftist Sen. George McGovern successfully challenged the initially front-running establishment Democratic candidate, Sen. Edmund Muskie, more than 40 years ago.
That’s from a column by the New York Post’s Frederic U. Dicker. I have reliably informed offline by New York-savvy acquaintances that Dicker is a really, really big deal up there, especially in Albany, and that his long career as a reporter, columnist, and talk show “personality” has encompassed both legitimate scoops and wild-ass howlers.
So putting aside for a moment my hunch that this particular column falls a priori into the “wild-ass howler” basket, you have to wonder exactly why anyone would think Bill de Blasio has a legitimate shot at displacing Hillary Clinton and becoming president, especially via a “draft,” which hasn’t really happened since 1952 if even then. The number of mayors of New York who have gone from Gracie Mansion to the White House, directly or indirectly, is exactly zero. The McGovern analogy Dicker offers is flawed by the fact that it’s, well, wrong; McGovern wasn’t some late entry who upset Ed Muskie; he carefully built a grass-roots organization while Muskie collected endorsements, and Muskie started falling apart the minute voters became involved.
And then there’s the whole sourcing thing: what do you supposed Dicker means by “national [Democratic] party operative?” Fox News seems to mint new, photogenic “Democratic strategists” every other day. Presumably interns at the DNC regard themselves as “national party operatives.” Would anyone legitimately interested in making a national, as opposed to a local, splash with legitimate rumors of a challenge to HRC choose a columnist for the New York Post as a conduit?
But you know how it goes these days: something gets repeated a time or two and then it’s a fact. Betcha we soon learn from some equally sterling source that the DeBlasio “draft” has dissipated, as imaginary phenomena often do.
It’s becoming clearer every day that one of the big story lines of Campaign ‘16 GOP Edition is going to be a Super-PAC presence that makes the stuff that happened in 2012 look like penny-ante poker. According to Politico’s Alex Isenstadt, Marco Rubio has him a Super-PAC sugar daddy who’s going to race past the records set by Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess in personal investments in presidential candidates last time out, in part because said sugar daddy, an 82-year old billionaire named Norman Braman, is motivated not just by love for Rubio but by a serious grudge against Jeb Bush:
The Miami businessman, Braman’s friends say, is considering spending anywhere from $10 million to $25 million — and possibly even more — on Rubio’s behalf, a cash stake that could potentially alter the course of the Republican race by enabling the Florida senator to wage a protracted fight for the nomination.
The investment is as much a reflection of Braman’s regard for Rubio as it is for his distaste for the GOP’s other Florida-based presidential hopeful. Over the past decade, Braman, who has a fondness for art, American history and luxury cars, has nursed a grudge against Bush that he’s now positioned to act on with a vengeance.
At issue is Bush’s 2004 veto of $2 million in state funds that had been allocated for the Braman Breast Cancer Institute. Braman had established the center at the University of Miami two years earlier after his wife’s sister was diagnosed with the disease, seeding it with $5 million of his own funds.
Braman is both a benefactor and a friend to Rubio, and their close relationship dates back to when the now-presidential candidate was ascending the ranks of the state Legislature. Over dinners at Braman’s Indian Creek Island mansion, which is adorned with priceless artwork and Civil War artifacts, the two bonded over everything from their shared love of football to their affinity for Israel. He employs Rubio’s wife, Jeannette, part time through his charity, the Braman Family Foundation. After Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010 — a race that Braman and his wife Irma poured nearly $10,000 into — the two families traveled together to Israel.
In his recently published memoir, Rubio dedicated an entire paragraph of the acknowledgments to Braman and suggested that he’d become a father-like figure to him. Braman’s “advice, interest in my growth as a father and husband and pride in my accomplishments remind me of the role my grandfather and father once played,” he wrote.
Father-figure, sugar-daddy, whatever. This sort of relationship makes a mockery of the distance candidates are supposed to maintain with Super-PACs, and makes it clearer than ever that what we are really seeing is a return to the days prior to campaign finance regulation, when, for example, insurance executive Clement Stone gave what was then considered ridiculous amounts of money to Richard Nixon’s campaigns.
In any event, following this sort of thing is going to get complicated. Going into this cycle, there was talk of a “Sheldon Adelson Primary” to see which GOP presidential candidate (or candidates) would do back-flips for Bibi Netanyahu in order to gain access to checkbook of the global casino mogul (and Heavy Figure in Israeli politics as well). That is still happening, but there also could be an emerging competition among Super-PAC donors to see who can have a bigger impact on the nomination contest. Could be they’ll cancel each other out, just as the enormous general election spending in presidential races tends to wind up being neutralized so long as it’s not one-sided. And for candidates, of course, the primary within the primary is to identify the most generous sugar-daddy making the least specific and public demands.
Curious about how this weekend’s mammoth, 17-speaker First in the Nation Republican Leadership Forum in Nashua, New Hampshire, went, I consulted Bloomberg Politics, and sure enough, Mark Halperin had prepared letter grades (actually three, for “style,” “substance” and “overall”) for every one of these birds, yea, even unto Peter King. For the most part, what the reader learned about each candidate or proto-candidate was a murky stew of Halperin’s impressions in Nashua and Halperin’s prejudices about the field and American politics. Check out this review of Carly Fiorina:
Her stump speech, strong at CPAC, has gotten even better. She has two of the three Holy Trinity elements of message: biography, and where the nation is currently positioned along the arc of the American Experience. What she’s missing is policy proposals. Still, an overall performance that is elevated by a heroic optimism. Poll numbers and fundraising remain question marks, but her consistency and quality of performance at multi-candidate events now seem pretty assured.
Gee, must have missed that day in school—or maybe it’s Sunday School—where the Holy Trinity of message was discussed. In any event, what Halperin’s account somehow misses is the only thing you really need to know about Fiorina: she’s assured a place in the field up to and beyond New Hampshire as the Un-Hillary, someone who by virtue of her gender does not risk “bullying” charges when repeating every anti-Clinton line imaginable, thus making sure they are all heard.
Then there’s this assessment of Chris Christie:
Continued his newfound emphasis on entitlement changes to push his record of reform and image of truth teller. Plus: leader, leader, leader. Seems to have found a balance between confidence and brashness. Used his aplomb on the big stage to push his way closer to the top tier, but not a game-changing performance.
Again, the salient fact about Christie is that his standing among Republicans and the general electorate is hovering near elimination levels, and he’s chosen a theme—“entitlement changes”—that may preserve a role for him as a “truth teller” but will more likely make him one of the more reviled figures in American politics. So no, there wasn’t in Nashua, and won’t ever be, a “game-changing performance” by Christie, and that might be worth saying.
Or take two middle-of-the-pack presidential wannabes, Huckabee and Rubio. Guess which one Halperin likes:
Still transitioning back to the mode of hard-charging presidential candidate from the mellower tone he took as TV and radio personality and paid speaker. Needs to goose his poll numbers in order to return to the center of the conversation and raise money. Like some of his rivals, he must elevate his game on the issues of the day (including national security and Washington gridlock) or be dismissed as yesterday’s news. Too much same old same old, and an over-reliance on the Clinton meme, despite his charm, smarts, and wiles. Underrated as an Iowa force, but, as of now, not as a New Hampshire one….
Speaks about the American Experience and his own family history like an old pro, making him seem wise and thoughtful beyond his years. Continues to hit his stride, creating believers within the party and the press. When he leverages his youth to make his optimism seem more organic, he stakes a greater claim than Walker, Bush, and the rest of the field to being the right leader for a better future. Enshrined his place in the top tier more solidly than ever before.
There’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions about this or that presidential possibility, prior to and following a particular event; we all have them. But it just strains credulity at this early date to look at a single event and judge Marco Rubio as a top-tier candidate and dismiss Mike Huckabee—the only speaker in Nashua who has ever won a presidential primary—as a superannuated doofus, particularly if you are widely regarded as the Voice of Beltway Horse-Race Journalism.
I’m with Sam Wang on Halperin’s assignment of letter grades to the speakers:
I think these “grades” reveal at least as much about modern political journalism as they do about what happened in the Granite State.
In general, Republicans see Bush as the best possible candidate to match up against the Democratic nominee in 2016, but in hypothetical general election matchups against Clinton, Bush trails by a large margin, as do each of the other seven Republicans tested.
Marco Rubio fares best against the former first lady, trailing Clinton by 14 points, 55% to 41%. Bush trails Clinton by 17 points, 56% to 39%. Christie and Paul fall 19 points behind Clinton, each putting up 39% to Clinton’s 58%. Huckabee, Walker, Carson and Cruz each trail Clinton by more than 20 points.
Unlike the recent Quinnipiac polls of three battleground states that caused so much excitement by showing most of the Republican field running close to HRC in Colorado and Iowa (but not so much Virginia), the CNN/ORC poll was conducted after Clinton’s campaign launch. Maybe there’s a “bump” for her in the numbers that will fade over time, and obviously there will be hundreds of polls taken between now and November of 2016.
But these specific numbers are a reminder that Republican presidential candidates can talk all they want about their “electability” and/or their theories for why they’ll bury HRC and once and for all and prove America is a “Center-Right Nation” that will never again elect a Democrat president unless he or she is far to the right of Joe Manchin. At some point these claims will have to start being validated in public opinion surveys. This is a particular problem for Jeb Bush, that very well-known candidate who’s presently supported by 39% of the electorate. If he’s still in this position three or four months from now, when campaigning in the early Caucus and primary states gets serious, it will begin take a toll on his support among Republicans who, after all, probably would prefer someone else.
Tito Puente, “El Rey de los Timbales,” who did a lot to popularize Latin music in the U.S., was born on this day in 1923 in Spanish Harlem. Here’s his jazz band performing an outstanding version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”
Originally slated to cost $233 billion, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program could end up being costing more than $1.5 trillion. Which might not be so bad if the super-sophisticated next-generation jet fighter lives up to its hype. A recent report from the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation paints a pretty damning picture of the plane’s already well documented problems. The report makes for some pretty dense reading, but the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group that’s long criticized the F-35 program, has boiled down the major issues.
Among the biggest?
Unsafe at any airspeed? The high-tech stuff that was supposed to make the F-35 among the most advanced war machines ever built pose serious safety risks. For example: The fuel tank system “is at significant risk of catastrophic fire and explosion in combat,” according to POGO. The plane isn’t adequately protected against lightning strikes (in the air or on the ground); it’s currently prohibited from flying within 25 miles of thunderstorms. That’s a major problem for a plane training program based in the Florida panhandle…
Software bugs: The plane’s software includes more than 30 million lines of code. Problems with the code are causing navigation system inaccuracies, false alarms from sensors, and false target tracks. The operating system is so cumbersome that it requires the “design and development of a whole new set of computers.” The software glitches also affect the plane’s ability to “find targets, detect and survive enemy defenses, deliver weapons accurately, and avoid fratricide.”
More cost overruns: Due to all the testing delays, design problems, and maintenance issues, taxpayers could be on the hook for an additional $67 billion to deploy the F-35. That’s a lot of money. Even for the US military.
Meanwhile, here’s story #2:
The US military machine spends around $600 billion a year on national defense, but somehow it couldn’t stop a Florida mailman from landing his airborne protest right on the Capitol lawn. Doug Hughes arrived in a slow-moving, light-weight gyrocopter that he flew right past all the elaborate checkpoints and high-tech security monitors. His message to members of Congress: you and your institution are utterly corrupted by political money and we, the people, are coming after you.
“I’m just delivering the mail,” the Florida postal worker said with a touch of whimsical humor. “This isn’t my regular route.”
The guardians of national security said they saw him coming on their radar screens but thought he was probably a flock of geese. Stand-up comics should have fun with that.
You might think conservative politicians would look askance at the tremendous amount of money being wasted at the Pentagon for little to no gain. But no. Better to take swimming pools away from welfare recipients instead.
Because it’s not really about the money. It’s about making sure the wrong people know their place.
When they tell us that our struggles are all in vain,
When they tell us it’s too late,
When they insult us with voices filled with disdain,
And their speeches filled with hate,
That’s the time when our spirits will be stronger,
For our hope will never die.
That’s the time we will fight a little longer,
To make sure truth defeats the lies.
Men of greed, scared of the threats to their power
Filled our airwaves full of doubt
It’s the day, it’s the time and it’s the hour
To defeat them in a rout
For if these greedy men aren’t brought to justice
Then there’s good reason to fear
That the end result of their money lust is
Our grandchildrens’ bitter tears.
They say the hottest place in hell is set for
Those who know damn well what’s right
But, based for fear, they decide that they just abhor
The thought of waging a fight
Against those who have assaulted our planet
Just to hold on to their wealth.
Why don’t you get up and stand up, goddamn it—
And join us fighting for our health!
Sever ties with the greedy and the savage!
All that money isn’t worth
Helping those who choose to wantonly ravage
This precious resource we call Earth!
Stand up now for the future generations!
Stand up now for what is just!
Stand up now against our Earth’s desecration!
Your conscience says that you must!
If you say that every life really matters,
If you value what is best,
Then, to stop Mother Earth from being battered,
You’ll indeed move to divest.
Stand up now. Let your faith and wisdom guide you.
For this situation’s dire.
And there will be no one standing beside you
If it ends in flood and fire.
UPDATE: Bill McKibben interviewed on WGBH-TV, April 14, 2015.
Joel Kotkin over the The Daily Beast has scribbled out the millionth version of the “California is Dying” article—a genre of conservative wishful thinking that turns out to be hilariously wrong every time it is written. For years the story was that California would become the next Greece: hopelessly in debt, unable to pay its bills, with an exodus of taxpayers. That turned out to be bunk, of course: all the state needed was a 2/3 Democratic supermajority and a Democratic governor, and the state’s fiscal situation was rectified almost immediately.
The new opportunity to concern-troll California with big business propaganda comes with the drought. The drought has become the platform from which the conservative complaint machine hits all its favorite targets: Silicon Valley and Hollywood elites, environmentalists, immigrants, and public works (especially transportation.) Republicans who wish they could turn California into Texas want the state to divert rail funding into building more freeways, drain the wetlands to support oil fracking and big agriculture, and close down the borders so that racist whites will feel a little less uncomfortable. They also want to build lots and lots of desalination plants, and blame progressive policy for the widening income inequality gap that sets the wealthy coast apart from the poorer interior.
Fortunately, however, California isn’t Texas. We’re smarter and more patient than that.
We know that without addressing climate change, nothing we do in the short-term to alleviate drought issues is going to matter all that much. The droughts will get harsher and more severe, which will eventually flip the conversation from an annoyance about giving up almonds and front lawns to an existential question about whether parts of the state are even habitable. The only way to handle it is to lead the nation on climate change abatement, setting a gold standard as the nation’s most prosperous and most populous state.
We also know that no matter how much we spend on freeways, the state’s population and projected growth is such that we need alternatives, including but not limited to high-speed trains. The need for and efficacy of high-speed rail isn’t theoretical. Anyone who has been to Europe, China or Japan has seen that their rail services are heavily used and light years beyond anything we have in the states. There may come a day when self-driving cars provide greater efficiency and safety to freeway commutes, and when hydrogen and electric vehicles reduce the carbon emissions of all that freeway traffic. But that day is not today, and alternatives will be necessary regardless.
Fortunately for us, Californians are also aware that draining all of our natural resources and killing all of our wildlife is not a good plan for the future. Permanently destroying our wetlands and driving species to extinction so that frackers, golfers and almond farmers can continue to abuse exorbitant amounts of water is not the answer. It’s not just public policy makers that understand this, but the majority of California voters: much of the wetlands restoration is enshrined into California’s state constitution via the initiative process.
As for desalination, it is certainly on the table—many communities are already implementing desalination plans. But desalination can only do so much, and it is very costly and energy intensive. Much more can be done in the short term through reasonable efforts at conservation, a challenge that Californians in our wisdom are more than prepared to meet.
Finally, with respect to income inequality, conservatives have this bizarre fantasy about liberalism and feudalism. There they engage in classic psychological projection: it is progressive policy that protects the public from feudalism. It is conservative economic policy that is the guaranteed destruction of the middle class and harbinger of feudalism. Income inequality is growing everywhere, largely as a result of Reaganite and Thatcherite public policy, but also due to economic forces like automation. Those effects are most obvious where there is the greatest prosperity and economic activity—places like California and New York that drive most of the economic engine of America and pay more taxes to the federal government than they get back, so that states like Alabama and Kansas can have the road signs whose costs their own economies are too feeble to cover.
California, as usual, will survive just fine. The drought will eventually end; our forward-thinking climate policies will do much to reduce the severity of future droughts; a combination of wise planning and conservation will protect the public and the environment; our progressive transportation policies will ensure multi-modal options even as California-based entrepreneurs like Google and Elon Musk work to make car travel smarter and more sustainable; our immigration policies will continue to make our diversity one of our greatest strengths; and our economic policies will continue do much to mitigate the ill effects of wealth and income inequality exacerbated by conservative economic policy by providing education, healthcare and decent safety net to all.
And the California model will continue to roll forward, superior to the immoral, inhuman and unsustainable Texas model, while still covering the tab for all the federal infrastructure most of the red states can’t figure out how to pay for themselves.
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