Congress – Ghost in the Machine http://www.ghostinthemachine.net Haunting the Web Since 1999 Fri, 22 Sep 2017 22:14:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Trump. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/next-time-america-eat-a-snickers/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/next-time-america-eat-a-snickers/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2016 16:11:43 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22254
Hello all, reposting this from Facebook, with a few minor edits and embedded links.

Ok, so, we’re five days out from this election now, and two months before Trump takes office, and here’s where we are.

This morning, the president-elect took to Twitter to attack the press (again), and then told an easily-disprovable lie about his stance on nukes, one that even Breitbart, run by his blatantly anti-Semitic campaign head — now his chief strategist — wrote about.

As of this writing, he has also said nothing about the emboldened hate attacks happening all over America now. Speaker Paul Ryan, when asked by Jake Tapper about them, just shrugged and said those aren’t Republicans doing those. (Ryan, for his part, is busy plotting the end of Medicare.)

Meanwhile, the President-Elect has tried to move the trial on his fraudulent business practices at Trump University, because being president-elect is too hard. (Spoiler: the job gets harder after January.)

Despite this apparent busy-ness, the President-Elect *has* taken the time to openly complain about protestors, so that’s speech, press, and assembly — three of your five first amendment freedoms, already getting challenged.

In the first five days.

When asked about the President-Elect’s many ethical conflicts-of-interest at the moment, Rudy Giuliani, who’s apparently up for Attorney General, said “Those laws don’t apply to the president.”

(Note: Giuliani also wants to “fix” cybersecurity — trust me, that’s not going to be in the direction of your privacy.)

Newt — yes, he’s back too — is calling for a new House Un-American Affairs Committee. Yes. HUAC. You’re not reading that wrong.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway today, when asked about Harry Reid’s rightfully angry press release about the new president, said the former Senate Majority Leader should “be very careful about characterizing someone in a legal sense.” In other words, she threatened to sue and/or imprison the political opposition.

Across the pond, Putin is telling Trump to withdraw NATO forces from Eastern Europe, while Britain is putting more long-range missiles there to protect it. However you feel about Russia or NATO — I would think Republicans are very divided on this point at the moment — this is the type of situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control if a steady hand is not at the till.

A steady hand is not at the till.

All of which is to say, we have to start recognizing what is happening here, and plan accordingly. People my age have had a good run, but the shit has finally arrived.

There are many good articles floating around right now about the election. One of the best, imho, is this one. Step one: Believe the autocrat.

It doesn’t do any good to hope Trump somehow turns out to be a closet lefty, or is just content to play Don the Builder and invests massively in infrastructure. That’d be great (tho’ his version of infrastructure — prisons, pipelines, walls — may not be your version.) I hope so too – that’d be the best case scenario at this point. But there’s also a lot of bargaining going on, and we’re all going to have push through the steps here and get to action.

I don’t want to tell you how to get involved, donate, volunteer, or organize — that’s up to you. Some of us are more privileged than others in that regard. But make a list of the things you are going to do to stand against what’s coming, because it sure does seem to be coming.

A few other thoughts on the inter-Dem recrimination happening at the moment, which I think is good and necessary to move forward. As others have pointed out, in the UK after a losing election, the party leadership usually quits. We need strong Dem leaders right now in the field. But we also need the people who failed here to be held accountable. No more failing upward or pundit tenure.

There’s obviously a lot of back and forth right now about whether Clinton lost because of racism or sexism or economic anxiety, Comey or WikiLeaks or just a terribly run campaign. The answer here to me seems to be…yes? Many of these things are not at all mutually exclusive. She lost the Electoral College in a handful of places, and a lot of things could’ve changed that — no Comey, or more money/visits in Wisconsin, or a media that wasn’t disastrously bad at figuring out what stories merit continuous coverage, or a message that better resonated with working white people.

I will say that I helped write a book with Bill Press this past January, Buyers Remorse, about how Barack Obama failed progressives in many ways, and I think it definitely holds up now. If his administration had addressed the foreclosure crisis in a way that was less banker-friendly and more people-friendly, or if he hadn’t continued building out Dubya’s extra-constitutional foreign policy of surveillance and kill-strikes, we’d be in a better place right now.

That being said, and as others have pointed out, Obama in 2012 also ran much better on the Rust Belt front, aggressively pointing out that Romney and Bain Capital were giant hypocrites that hated the auto bailout and took people’s jobs. (Mike Pence, FWIW, was against the auto bailout too.) Clinton did some of this with Trump’s outsourcing and whatnot, but the overarching message of the campaign was “he’s a deplorable human being.” Which he is, but clearly that didn’t matter for a lot of people.

In any event, Trump pulled his voters and Clinton didn’t pull hers. That was the difference. There was no massive white surge to Trump. He got the people who would vote for any Republican, and enough in a select few states in the middle who were angry about how things are going. That’s it. This isn’t a Reagan landslide. It was a close election with terrible turnout where many people disliked both candidates, and Republicans, as always, were more motivated to show up.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Dems need to pop their elitist bubble and talk to white working class people again. This is definitely true to an extent. But, by all that is good and holy, that doesn’t mean turning Trump voters into some sort of exotic Heartland “real Mur’ican.” Nor does it mean meeting fools halfway on the racist, sexist nonsense. I grew up with a lot of these folks — they don’t think they’re racists and get offended when you call them thus, but then go on to say and post deeply racist things.

As @theshrillest pointed out on Twitter, saying Clinton lost solely because of racism/sexism is like saying a plane crashed because of gravity. Both are real and pervasive, especially in the 99% white enclaves that went for Trump, and that’s how it is.

So for God’s sake let’s not lose our nerve on these issues and look for a Jim Webb type to save us. Let’s do a better job of conveying the true story about who the real villains are here — not poor people of color, struggling every single day, but the rich white assholes who now control every single facet of the federal government, and will use it as a trough.

Bernie clearly was much better at this sort of thing, and as someone who supported him, I’m more than a little annoyed that various people on our side were telling us to ignore what the polls were telling us back then. But that is water under the bridge, and we have a tsunami right in front of us.

Let’s get it sorted, let’s hold the people who failed our party accountable, and let’s get ready to fight. Because, again, the shit is here. This is not a drill.

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The Sit-In to Nowhere. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-sit-in-to-nowhere/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-sit-in-to-nowhere/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:18:34 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22208
“Every child knows that rule number one in fighting the dark side is to not succumb to the dark side. This week, it seems, Democrats and liberals have forgotten this lesson. In attempting to one-up their Republican rivals, they have employed two tropes usually found in the conservative playbook: trampling on civil liberties and demonizing the poor.”

In TNR, Clio Chang surveys the irritating wrongness of House Dems’ recent sit-in. See also Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in Jacobin, Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani in The Intercept, and Alex Pareene in Gawker: As Pareene says, “The move is fantastic political theater. It’s also a tremendous waste of popular support and activist energy in support of a measure that isn’t just ineffective but also actively offensive.

Honestly, this is why people can’t stand congressional Democrats. There are many, many positive actions we could take to reduce gun violence in America — banning assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, closing the gun show loophole, funding for CDC gun violence research, mandating gun safety classes with licenses.

So what do Dems do? They almost stumble into the right thing by (finally) taking a stand on universal background checks. But then they instead make the centerpiece of their precedent-destroying gambit — and just wait until the GOP is conducting sit-ins during the Clinton administration — a stupid, racist, and unconstitutional terror watchlist that has no gun violence prevention benefit whatsoever, except as a political stunt. (Apparently, attempts to include an assault weapons ban were nixed at the very top.)

If this is what Clinton means about getting back to the “spirit of 9/12”, no thanks. We don’t need another wasted decade of useless pandering and war on terror capitulation from the ostensible left. And let’s be clear: John Lewis, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie — they’re all at fault on this one. For shame.

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The Harsh Light of Cromnibus. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/harsh-light-of-cromnibus/ Tue, 30 Dec 2014 19:10:24 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21866
“One of the frustrating things about covering American politics from a vaguely left-liberal perspective is that many of the left-left theories turn out to be true, or true enough. You try to point out to the street protesters and tenured Marxists that things are more complicated than Noam Chomsky and the late Paul Sweezy would have you believe, and, all too often, it turns out they aren’t much more complicated. The richest 0.1 per cent really is getting richer and richer while most Americans see their living standards stagnate. The C.I.A. really did torture people in secret prisons overseas, and the N.S.A. has just received authorization to carry on gathering all of your phone records. The big banks and corporations really do run Washington—or, at least, that’s how it seems on this chilly December day.”

As the terrible-idea-filled, regulation-gutting “CRomnibus” became law earlier this month — thanks to a tag-team lobbying operation by Barack Obama and Jamie DimonThe New Yorker‘s John Cassidy laments what it means for American democracy: Namely, the banks clearly write the laws. “‘It’s morally reprehensible,’ Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat, told reporters. ‘They’re saying government bailouts are back.'”

By the way, if the bad news is too much to handle these days, there was one silver lining to the godawful CRomnibus: Crom may laugh at the four winds, but it does alright by space. Otherwise, well…

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America’s Moral Collapse. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/americas-moral-collapse/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/americas-moral-collapse/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 17:26:50 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21849
There are many reasons why I post less frequently at GitM these days, and a lot of them are the usual prosaic stuff — life is good, the days are very busy, my garrison isn’t going to build itself. But among them also is, quite frankly, it’s sometimes hard to see a purpose to it anymore, at least in GitM’s current incarnation. Case in point: this month’s CIA torture revelations.

Like countless others, I have been railing about the Bush-era CIA torture regime here for over a decade now. So this isn’t a breaking story. Still, the recent Senate Report — which the “most transparent administration in history” fought tooth and nail to buryably covers all we’ve known to date, and includes a number of horrifying new revelations.

For example, so it turns out that we — you and I — paid foreign governments $300 million to construct and maintain our dungeons.

We — again, you and I — also paid two psychiatrists $80 million to come up with more devastating torture techniques. (And their contract was originally for $180 million!)

These two assholes got on the payroll after Al Qaeda higher-up Abu Zubaydah was captured. Zubaydah was then waterboarded over eighty times, mainly so he and others would corroborate the false positive, demanded by Iraq War architects, that Iraq was involved with Al Qaeda.

We also tortured people for not calling CIA officers “sir,” or having a stomachache.

We even tortured our own informants.

We anally raped detainees with pureed hummus, causing anal fissures and a rectal prolapse due to “excessive force.”

We also may have raped detainees with dogs. And it sounds like a child was raped in our custody as well.

Another detainee froze to death during his Room 101 session.

Naturally, the CIA tried to cover all this up. First, they blatantly lied about the efficacy of their torture regime. (And, since it cannot be said enough, particularly in the wake of the CIA’s Zero Dark Thirty propaganda: Torture does not work.)

Then, they — with the full and active complicity of both the Bush and Obama administrations — blocked the American people from seeing the evidence of their depravities, including destroying torture tapes, repeatedly lying to Congress, and hacking into Senate computers.

And, still, over a decade later: Even though the Constitution bans torture, even though it is a crime to lie to Congress, even though it is explicitly a crime NOT to prosecute torturers, Nobody Has Gone To Jail — well, except the whistleblower.

And on top of everything else, Americans approve of all of this by 2-1.

So, what is there to say? The illegality here is black and white, the crimes abhorrent, the moral corruption pervasive…and yet we all just collectively shrug. The sad and hilarious thing about The Onion‘s recent minotaur video — “That hungry half-man, half-bull kept us safe from the terrorists!” — is this is basically the world we live in now.

Makes me sick, m*therf*cker, how far we done fell.

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Now as Ever, GOP-Lite Won’t Work. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/2014-midterms/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/2014-midterms/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:07:09 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21812
“On Tuesday night, a lot of Republican-ish candidates got crushed by the official Republican candidates, confirming yet again that a gutless, wincing version of one kind of politics always loses to the robust one. Nobody first starts drinking Diet Coke because they think it tastes better, and the only people who keep drinking it are the ones who’ve drunk nothing else for so long that actual flavor seems weird. Why vote for someone hesitantly and semi-apologetically tacking toward the right when you can just vote for someone who goes balls-to-the-wall rightward and is damn proud of it? At least that person gives off the sense of actually enjoying his own beliefs.”

THIS. Part of the upside of being newly off-the-Hill is I can escape a bit further from the dreariness of much of current politics, so no absurdly-belated, long midterm post this year. Besides, The Guardian‘s Jeb Lund has already well-articulated where I am on all this: Give people a choice between a Republican and a Republican and the Republican will win every time:

“[W]hether the Democratic Party stands for anything is a perfectly valid question at this point. On a macro level, a party that is already thoroughly militarized and corporatized — and largely indifferent to Main Street whenever it poses a conflict with Wall Street — offers little alternative to the other party that already celebrates that.”

Sure, the ground in 2014 always heavily favored the GOP: This was a six-year midterm, Class 2 year, and the seats up for reelection swung heavily Democratic six years ago, in that faraway, hopey-changey time of 2008. Still, when you have a party that hardly, if ever, has the courage of its convictions anymore, coupled with a President who seemed at times to be actively trying to discourage the base, little wonder that the lowest turnout since 1942 brought forth another shellacking. As Richard said, a withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.

So, yeah, bad times for the Democratic brand, and no mistake. The good news is the long-term story hasn’t changed: Republicans are still drawing dead, demographically speaking, even though they’ll probably hold the House until at least 2020 due to gerrymandering (and now, thanks to these 2014 results, will likely be able to hold the Senate for the first two years of the next presidency.) And, even better, Americans strongly supported progressive positions two weeks ago, be it on the minimum wage, marijuana, or misdemeanors.

But Dems can’t just assume the government will eventually devolve to them by fiat. We’re going to have to quit thinking the endless “but the other team is crazy-pants” blather will carry us over the top, and actually put up candidates that will stand for something other than GOP-lite camouflage. Of course, our 2016 standard-bearer is, at least at the moment, undoubtedly Hillary Clinton, sooo…I’m sure everything’s going to work out great.

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Continued Injuries and Usurpations. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/continued-injuries/ Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:19:09 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21503
Recent dismal developments on the War on Terror/Civil Liberties Front:

(1) “The court found Poland violated its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to prevent torture, ensure the right to liberty, and properly investigate allegations a crime had been committed on its territory.”

The European Court of Human Rights finds that Poland harbored one of the CIA’s infamous black sites — perhaps this is one of the old Soviet compounds? “[S]imilar cases have been lodged with the court in Strasbourg against Romania and Lithuania.”

(2) “The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press.”

Paging J. Edgar: The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, with help from Edward Snowden, uncover NSA and FBI surveillance of prominent, upstanding Muslim-Americans. “In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: ‘Mohammed Raghead.'”

(3) “Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of ‘reasonable suspicion’ as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat…individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.”

Also in The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux explain the absurdly broad net that is the terrorist watchlist. “There are a number of loopholes for putting people onto the watchlists even if reasonable suspicion cannot be met.”

(4) “Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the ‘direct involvement’ of government agents or informants, a new report says…rais[ing] questions about the US criminal justice system’s ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases.”

And in The Guardian, Spencer Ackerman expounds on the FBI’s apparent excessive leaning on entrapment to conjure up terror cases. “‘In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act,’ the report alleges.”

Torture, rendition, secret prisons, spying on Americans, surveillance policies that are obviously, woefully ripe for abuse…We are six and a half years into the administration of a president who promised us definitively this nonsense would end. And yet, virtually every day, we hear of a new outrage, and the only official response seems to be Lock Up the Messenger. So when are we going to get an accountability moment here?

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A Wasted Opportunity. | So Now What? http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/wasted-opportunity/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/wasted-opportunity/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:09:40 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21472
“The task facing the makers of the Obama museum, however, will be pretty much exactly the opposite: how to document a time when America should have changed but didn’t. Its project will be to explain an age when every aspect of societal breakdown was out in the open and the old platitudes could no longer paper it over — when the meritocracy was clearly corrupt, when the financial system had devolved into organized thievery, when everyone knew that the politicians were bought and the worst criminals went unprosecuted and the middle class was in a state of collapse….It was a time when every thinking person could see that the reigning ideology had failed, that an epoch had ended, that the shitty consensus ideas of the 1980s had finally caved in — and when an unlikely champion arose from the mean streets of Chicago to keep the whole thing propped up nevertheless.”

In Salon, Thomas Frank laments the wasted opportunity of the Obama years. “Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?”

Frank’s piece is definitely a bit overwritten, with its “mausoleum of hope” and all. That being said, I’m on board with his central thesis, as I’ve said several times before. (In fact, I was glad to see when fixing the old archives lately, that however hopey-changey I felt in 2008, I was more measured in my writing than I remembered, bringing up the ominous example of Herbert Hoover in my post-election post and wondering what the heck was going on within two weeks of Obama’s inauguration.)

Also, to get a sense of what a bad place our party is at these days, just look at Kevin Drum’s ridiculous response to this Tom Frank piece. Drum, mind you, is the official blogger of Mother Jones, named after the famous labor leader. And he writes: “It’s easy to recognize this as delusional…Because — duh — the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn’t have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed…As for Obama, could he have done more? I suppose he probably could have, but it’s a close call.”

A close call? C’mon. As I responded on Twitter: “And all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This neoliberal horseshit would’ve made Mother Jones blanch. This piece sidesteps O’s GWOT record. 2. It ignores O’s penchant for starting negotiations where they should finish. 3. It presumes filibuster reform impossible. 4. It ignores that financial crisis response grew inequality. And so on.”

And, remember: This fatalistic “Americans are all centrists anyway, Obama did all he could” shrug is coming from the house blogger of one of our foremost progressive journals. It’s pathetic. This is yet another example of we progressive Democrats no longer having the courage of our convictions.

See also this very worthwhile Salon piece on Zephyr Teachout’s challenge to notorious douchebag Andrew Cuomo, by my friend and colleague Matt Stoller, which talks about this exact same phenomenon.

“The basic theory of the ‘New Democrat’ model of governance is that Wall Street and multinational corporate elites produce wealth through the creation of innovative financial practices and technology, and that Democrats should then help middle class and poor citizens by taxing this wealth, and then using some of it to support progressive social programs…This method of running the economy has become so accepted among Democratic leaders that writers like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Vox writer Matthew Yglesias now argue that there simply is no alternative…

“There is a hunger in the Democratic Party for making the party serve the interest of regular voters, not the rich. In 2008, liberal Democrats decisively broke from the Clinton legacy and voted for Barack Obama, with his mantra of hope and change. Obama, however, stocked his administration with Clinton administration officials like Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Janet Yellen. A joke going around Democratic circles after the election was that ‘Those supporting Obama got a president, those supporting Clinton got a job.’ Obama broke with the Clinton name, but brought the Clinton intellectual legacy, and Clinton’s Wall Street-backed machine, into governance…”

“The potentially transformative message of the Teachout-Wu campaign is that the problem is not solely one of personalities or tactical political approaches. Rather it is that the New Democrat model itself, and the Democratic party establishment, is fundamentally at odds with the party’s traditional liberalism…Teachout and Wu are trying to place the citizen at the center of policy. They do that through their proposals for public financing, for antitrust, for social insurance, infrastructure and labor.”

Without vision, the people perish. If we ever want to see the real and positive change that Americans were promised back in 2008, we progressives have to stop acting like we have no other option than to fall into line behind the leftiest of the centrists and clap harder for every occasional, diluted-to-all-hell scrap they throw our way. There’s more to life than Rockefeller Republicanism, and it’s not like we don’t have excellent historical templates to borrow from. We need to dream bigger, stop thinking the status quo is all there is, and push back.

Are Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu going to knock out Andrew Cuomo, a guy who’s quite obviously the poster child for everything that’s wrong with our party? Alas, probably not. But one does not always fight because there is hope of winning. And New York in 2014 is as a good a place as any to start the long uphill slog of taking back our party.

Update: Right on cue, the NYT delves into Andrew Cuomo’s hobbling of the state ethics commission. “[A] three-month examination by The New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.”More here.

Meanwhile, Blake Zeff thinks Cuomo may have met his match in US Attorney Preet Bharara. “[Bharara] has not only taken possession of the files from the corruption-fighting Moreland Commission that Cuomo recently closed down as part of a budget deal, but has also publicly floated the possibility of investigating the governor’s alleged meddling in its investigations.”

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The Crisis That Wasn’t. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-crisis-that-wasnt/ Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:28:25 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21466
“It’s hard to escape the sense that debt panic was promoted because it served a political purpose — that many people were pushing the notion of a debt crisis as a way to attack Social Security and Medicare. And they did immense damage along the way, diverting the nation’s attention from its real problems — crippling unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure and more — for years on end.”

In the NYT, Paul Krugman reviews the waning of the deficit witchhunt. “I’m not sure whether most readers realize just how thoroughly the great fiscal panic has fizzled — and the deficit scolds are, of course, still scolding.” Of course they are. Now would be the time for embarrassment, if the Simpson-Bowles types out there were capable of it.

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Kid Icarus. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/kid-icarus/ Thu, 12 Jun 2014 20:06:58 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18666
“In the pundit rush to assign a ‘why’ and a ‘how’ to Eric Cantor’s surprising loss in Tuesday night’s primary, there have been a lot of theories thrown about…[T]he more convincing explanations are the ones that, trite as it may seem, are based on some variation of Cantor having gone Washington/gotten too big for his britches/lost sight of the little people back home.”

Examining the various reasons for Eric Cantor’s unexpected fall last Tuesday — like many, I spent the evening mainlining the sweet, sweet schadenfreude via Twitter — DKos’s David Jarman argues it all comes down to hubris. “The climb through the ranks through treachery and intimidation, and then the sudden realization when you’re at the top that you’ve burned through all your allies, is almost allegorical.”

For my part, I’d argue the primary reason for Cantor’s petard-hoisting was best explained back in 2007 by August J. Pollak (which I also posted in 2010.) Play with matches, eventually you’ll get burned.

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“Ronald Reagan’s Benghazi.” http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/reagans-benghazi/ Fri, 16 May 2014 18:17:12 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18570
“Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen…Six months earlier, militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, too, killing sixty-three more people, including seventeen Americans…In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit.”

As Republicans continue to lose their minds over Benghazi, to the detriment of all, The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer puts things in perspective by going back to Beirut ’83. “If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.”

See also: the Dubya record on diplomatic attacks — there were over a dozen of ’em. I know complaining about GOP hypocrisy these days is like complaining about the weather. But honestly, what an egregious waste of time this is.

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Ryan’s Slaughter. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/paul-ryan-irish-hunger/ Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:25:08 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18337
“[Y]ou can’t help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy…Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry…But with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod.

In the NYT, historian Timothy Egan notes Paul Ryan’s rhetorical debt to those who helped perpetrate the Great Hunger in Ireland. “You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything…Dependency is all one-way. ‘The whole British argument in the famine was that the poor are poor because of a character defect,’ said Christine Kinealy, a professor of Irish studies and director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. ‘It’s a dangerous, meanspirited and tired argument.'”

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Lithwick: “Guilt By Association.” http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/lithwick-guilt-by-association/ Wed, 05 Mar 2014 23:45:01 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18237
“Once upon a time in America this was called advocating for justice. But in today’s America, it’s deemed a miscarriage of justice…[A]s of today, you are as guilty as your guiltiest client, and your representation of that client — especially if it is both zealous and successful — is now disqualifying as well. Cop-killers deserve no lawyers and their lawyers deserve no role in government service. It’s not hard to imagine the scorching Fox News headlines, under the new standards set forth by the Judiciary Committee today: ‘John Adams Frees Vicious Patriot-Killer in Boston Massacre.’ ‘John Roberts Unsuccessfully Defends Serial Killer in Florida!‘ ‘Anarchist-Loving Felix Frankfurter Advocates for Sacco and Vanzetti!’ Clarence Darrow! Lover of Killers, Monkeys, and Commies; Disgrace to Legal Profession!.'”

Dahlia Lithwick weighs in on the Dedo Adegbile travesty in the Senate today, wherein, for patently ridiculous reasons, seven spineless Dems helped Republicans spike Adegbile’s nomination for DOJ’s civil rights division. As the NYT’s Jonathan Weisman succinctly put it, “Some have called Mr. Adegbile a ‘cop-killer advocate.’ Another word for that might be ‘lawyer.'”

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Who Watches the Watchmen? The CIA. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/cia-spies-on-senate/ Wed, 05 Mar 2014 19:04:19 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18205
“The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study…The development marks an unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers amid an extraordinary closed-door battle over the 6,300-page report on the agency’s use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons. The report is said to be a searing indictment of the program.”

On top of all their recent bad behavior, the CIA has apparently been spying on researchers for the Senate oversight committee, who have been (at last) inquiring in-depth into the agency’s Dubya-era torture regime. “The report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of [torture]…It also shows, members have said, how the techniques didn’t provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.” But…but…that was in Zero Dark Thirty!

In any event, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the relevant committee and usually an enabler and/or cheerleader for this sort of egregious intelligence overreach, had this to say: “‘There is an I.G. investigation’…Asked about the tension between the committee and the spy agency it oversees, Ms. Feinstein said, ‘Our oversight role will prevail.'” Oversight, eh? That’d be new and different.

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Ryan: Still Clownshoes. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/ryan-still-clownshoes/ Wed, 05 Mar 2014 17:25:58 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18190
“[S]everal economists and social scientists contacted on Monday had reactions ranging from bemusement to anger at Ryan’s report, claiming that he either misunderstood or misrepresented their research…The Columbia researchers found that, using their model of the SPM, the poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012. Ryan only cites data from 1969 onward, ignoring a full 36 percent of the decline.”

Still Clownshoes: Republican Serious Person™ Paul Ryan’s attempt to get super-serial about policy research turns out disastrously, as multiple authors he cites in his new anti-War on Poverty screed say that he’s misrepresented their work. “In my experience, usually you use all of the available data. There’s no justification given. It’s unfortunate because it really understates the progress we’ve made in reducing poverty.”

The above pic of the learned statesman in question via Mansplaining Paul Ryan dot tumblr dot com. Also, I see Jonathan Chait has already gone there, but this is the obvious movie reference here:

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Rolling in the Deep. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/rolling-in-the-deep/ Wed, 26 Feb 2014 17:09:31 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18107
“The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to ‘live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.’ ‘Living upon its principal,’ in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.”

In very related news, and in a somewhat overwritten but otherwise worthy piece, former GOP Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren summarizes the problem of America’s Deep State (a term Lofgren did not coin, borrowed from Turkey.) Think the military-industrial complex, now infused with financial sector/Pete Peterson-style rent-seeking. “[This] is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day.”

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With Friends Like These. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/with-friends-like-these/ Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:03:01 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=17209
“If the reporter’s own mother was losing $90 of foods a month out of an already-meager allotment, or the reporter’s son or daughter, I very much doubt that reporter would describe that loss as merely symbolic. I don’t know that reporter thinks their own breakfast, their own lunch, or their own dinner is merely symbolic. This is real money coming out of the grocery carts of real families.”

In Salon, former USDA official Joel Berg reads the riot act to lazy journalists and spineless Dems over the soon-to-pass Farm Bill, which cuts Food Stamps for the poor while expanding crop insurance subsidies for wealthy farms. “It infuriates me, that we live in a country with tens of thousands of actual loopholes that benefit the ultra-rich, [whereas] this is a provision authorized by law, perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, that governors of both parties have utilized…[Calling Food Stamp cuts “closing a loophole” is] basically a fabricated excuse. And it’s a smokescreen to obfuscate the fact that they’re taking food away from hungry families.”

Berg goes on: “George W. Bush proposed a billion dollars in cuts to SNAP, and virtually all these people were aghast at how horrible it is. For them to then turn around and justify cuts that are [eight] times as large as what George W. Bush proposed is a little hard to swallow. I do think our political system is basically evil versus spineless now.”

This. It’s the same dynamic you see on the NSA, on the Grand Bargain, and on countless other issues. And this is why I hard to find it to take so many Dems seriously anymore. Here’s the bill passage pablum from Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow: “Congress is on the verge of taking bipartisan action that will create jobs and help reduce the deficit. This is not your father’s Farm Bill. It implements major reforms and ends unnecessary subsidies…Congress can pass a bipartisan bill that helps take us into the future and beyond the policies of the past.” And here’s the missing subtext: “Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has received more contributions from the crop production industry than any other senator.”

Ain’t no use jiving, ain’t no use joking. Everything is broken, and we need to stop enabling it or it will never, ever get better.

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Not Too Distant Mirror. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/not-too-distant-mirror/ Mon, 03 Feb 2014 22:33:21 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=17162
“The ritual, by now, is well-established. President Barack Obama will travel to the lower house of the national legislature from the executive mansion, and…give a long speech extolling the nation’s virtues and present circumstances — the state of the union is invariably described as ‘strong’ — and laying out the regime’s priorities.”

A day before the big show, Joshua Keating’s consistently funny If It Happened There column at Slate looked at the State of the Union. “Members of the opposition typically do not applaud, though they occasionally join in with approval of paeans to the nation’s powerful military, the leaders of which typically sit stone-faced in front of the gallery.”

Which, of course, is exactly what happened. There are innumerable things Congress could be doing right now to create jobs, spur opportunity, expand the frontiers of knowledge, and generally make life better for families in America. Some of them — raising the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay for women, investing in infrastructure and early childhood education, admitting climate change is happening and proceeding accordingly — were even mentioned in Obama’s remarks, not that we can expect much in Year Six of this presidency (and an election year to boot.)

But with all due respect to Sgt. Remsburg’s sacrifice, when the only thing all of our nation’s legislators can get effusive about is venerating Americans wounded in battle, the republic is in a bad way indeed. As James Fallows put it: “[W]hile that moment reflected limitless credit on Sgt. Remsburg…I don’t think the sustained ovation reflected well on the America of 2014…the spectacle should make most Americans uneasy.” That it should – The last refuge of scoundrels and all that.

“This Sunday, the eyes of millions of Americans will turn to a fetid marsh in the industrial hinterlands of New York City for the country’s most important sporting event — and some would say the key to understanding its proud but violent culture.”

ICYMI, If It Happened There has aptly covered the Superbowl also. “The ethics of such an event can be hard for outsiders to understand. Fans, who regularly watch players being carted off the field with crippling injuries, are unbothered by reports of the game’s lasting medical impact on its players. Nevertheless, fans and the national media can become extremely indignant if players are excessively boastful at the game’s conclusion.”

Speaking of the handegg finals — as usual, also not lacking for tawdry paeans to militarismcongrats to the Seahawks on a convincing Superbowl XLVIII win. As I said on Twitter, I had no real dog in this fight – I was just happy to see the two states with sane marijuana laws karmically rewarded for their forward thinking.

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A Four-Year House? http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/four-year-house/ Tue, 28 Jan 2014 18:50:58 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16841

“I will ask you to make it possible for members of the House of Representatives to work more effectively in the service of the nation through a constitutional amendment extending the term of a Congressman to four years, concurrent with that of the President.” An interesting recent find by Greg Giroux of Bloomberg News. In the 1966 State of the Union, Lyndon Johnson called for a constitutional amendment to change House terms to four years.

Hrm…there’s one you don’t hear much about these days. So every incoming President (presuming he or she has coattails) would likely have an operational majority in the House for a longer period of time — so long, disasters like 2010 — and House members would have less need for constant campaigning and fund-raising. At the same time, you’re further insulating the House from electoral upheaval (which is kind of the point), and thus aggravating the possibility that a room full of millionaires will be unaccountable to the public. I’ll have to think on it.

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The Wisdom of the Elders. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-wisdom-of-the-elders/ Wed, 23 Oct 2013 17:56:21 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16373
“Does this rollout failure discredit the core goals of a liberal project, including that of a mixed economy, a regulatory state, and social insurance? Conservatives in particular think this website has broad implications for liberalism as a philosophical and political project. I think it does, but for the exact opposite reasons: it highlights the problems inherent in the move to a neoliberal form of a governance and social insurance, while demonstrating the superiorities in the older, New Deal form of liberalism.”

Assessing the failure of the healthcare.gov rollout, Mike Konczal makes the case for returning to the old ways. “[T]he Category B grouping, which we associate with the New Deal and the Great Society…creates a universal floor so that individuals don’t experience basic welfare goods as commodities to buy and sell themselves…My man Franklin Delano Roosevelt may not have known about JavaScript and agile programming, but he knew a few things about the public provisioning of social insurance, and he realized the second category, while conceptually more work for the government, can eliminate a lot of unnecessary administrative problems.”

Of course, Social Security had rollout problems too. And progressives at the time definitely lamented the concessions that were made as Social Security evolved from bill to law, including the exclusion of agricultural and domestic laborers [re: African-Americans] from the law. (Frances Perkins: “The whole thing has been chiseled down to a conservative pattern.”)

That being said, I think it’s important to keep this in mind every time the right starts complaining about byzantine complexities in the Affordable Care Act: We could’ve avoided many of these issues if this change-bringing administration hadn’t immediately ruled out the obvious progressive solution to the health care problem — a single-payer system of Medicare-for-all, like most other advanced industrialized nations enjoy, perhaps phased in with an immediate voluntary buy-in and a gradual lowering of the coverage age.

Instead, we adopted the Republicans’ proposal, the marketplace/exchanges plan originally conceived by the Heritage Foundation and enacted by Mitt Romney, without even including a public option to keep the insurers honest. And what’d we get for this ginormous unforced concession to the right? Nothing. Republicans still didn’t support the health care law in 2010, and they’ve screamed holy hell that it’s tyrannical government socialism for the past three-odd years — even though it was their plan to begin with.

Now, they’re deliberately sabotaging implementation of the ACA and trying to pin every misstep, including this rather sad website #fail, as a failure of the liberal project. As Konczal aptly points out, what’s failing here is the NEO-liberal project — the desire to embrace public-private, technocratic conservative ideas of a generation ago (see also: cap & trade), in the hopes that today’s conservatives will somehow be intellectually honest enough to support them too. That is a sucker’s bet every time.

One other important takeaway from this article: “[I]f all the problems are driven by means-testing, state-level decisions and privatization of social insurance, the fact that the core conservative plan for social insurance is focused like a laser beam on means-testing, block-granting and privatization is a rather large problem. As Ezra Klein notes, ‘Paul Ryan’s health-care plan — and his Medicare plan — would also require the government to run online insurance marketplaces.'”

In other words, here again conservatives are decrying exactly what they ostensibly espouse. Perhaps a better way forward on fundamental pieces of legislation, instead of playing Lucy and the football with the Republicans, is to try to enact our own ideas from now on.

Update: In Foreign Affairs, Kimberly Morgan makes much the same argument: “The real source of Obamacare’s current problems lies in the law’s complexity. A straightforward way to assure coverage would have been to extend an existing, well-worn program to more people…In the United States, [due to] political antipathy to government programs…policymakers regularly rig up complex public-private, and often federal-state, arrangements that are opaque to the public, difficult to administer, and inefficient in their operation.”

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Got to Have Kaya Now. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/got-to-have-kaya-now/ Wed, 23 Oct 2013 17:02:26 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16367
“Support for legalization has jumped 10 percentage points since last November and the legal momentum shows no sign of abating. Last week, California’s second-highest elected official, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said that pot should be legal in the Golden State, and advocates of legalization are poised to introduce a statewide referendum in 2014 to legalize the drug.”

As a follow-up to this post, Gallup finds that support for legalizing marijuana has shot up to 58%, following a similar pattern as gay marriage in recent years. Again, if they want to mitigate the usual midterm electorate problem, Dems should follow the Rove playbook on this, and get weed on the 2014 ballots ASAP.

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