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I call your attention to this fascinating recent article in The Economist. The tl;dr is:

  • There's a little-known (and never-used) mechanism in the Constitution whereby state legislatures can demand a constitutional convention.
  • A quiet but steady right-wing movement has been slowly steamrolling towards this for a number of years now, and are within striking distance.
  • Their explicit goal is to require balanced budgets at the Constitutional level, likely destroying the social safety net.
  • If a convention were to happen, there isn't much stopping it from going off-topic and changing the Constitution more broadly, with far lower requirements than the usual process for changes.

This is pretty scary stuff -- not quite "OMG the world's about to end", but an unsettlingly plausible pathway for the right to force through their agenda, relatively permanently, on a much broader basis. (Even if they just stuck to the balanced budget requirement, that is extremely foolish economically unless it is very well-hedged to deal appropriately with downturns.) And they've made good progress towards it, precisely because nobody's been paying much attention to it.

Not a short article, but worth a read...

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I usually reserve my scorn for the Republicans these days, but right at the moment I am deeply cranky at the Democrats.

I just got a spam email (that sounds like nothing quite so much as a loud used-car ad) pointing me to this page. Suffice it to say, the Democrats have apparently submitted a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and they are trying to get zillions of signatures on a petition supporting it.

Now don't get me wrong -- Citizens United is a problem, and not a trivial one. The notion of the "corporate person" has taken deep root in American jurisprudence over the years, and this decision demonstrated that there are some real downsides. And while I'm pretty passionate about the first amendment, I also think there's a place for reasonable campaign finance rules: CU swung things a bit too far towards the fundamentalist viewpoint, IMO.

But I am deeply angry with the Democrats for tossing around a constitutional amendment as if it was just another political football. I am especially angry that, after a couple of minutes of looking around, I haven't yet found the proposed text of this damned amendment. It's not on their home page. Hell, it's not even on their "About" page. I'm sure it is out there somewhere, but they are, as far as I can tell, deliberately obfuscating it, and that is a fine way to lose my support. You can't just say, "We made a Constitutional Amendment, and we're on Your Side, so you know it's good!"

One of America's strengths is an exceptionally streamlined constitution. Compared to many countries, it is short, clear and highly focused on principles, rather than fine-grained rules. It is extremely difficult to change, and for good reason: it isn't a legal code, it is an architecture for that code, and the fundamental guidelines that everything else draws from. No, that isn't consistent, and you can certainly argue about whether you agree with all of those guidelines, but by and large it's still an impressive system, and we should be cautious about tinkering with it.

To me, the way the Democrats are handling this is demeaning to the Constitution. This game of screaming, "CU is evil! We must stop it at All Costs! And we aren't going to bother you with the details!" is deeply insulting to the electorate and the country.

Yes, we need a serious, reasoned debate about the influence of money on politics. And yes, that might eventually lead to an amendment. But hysterically insisting that we should sign This Petition Right Now is not the way to do it...

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Just finished this interesting article from Yonaton Zunger, which tries to break down the major groupings in American politics, in the context of the rifts we see in the Democratic Party. It's not a bad analysis, and much of it is correct, but I'm particularly struck by the way he lumps most people who don't belong to one of his six major activist groupings into the "Comfortable Middle".

I'm honestly unsure whether he intends that term to be pejorative or not, but he is explicit that:

Unlike the other groups, this group’s most salient feature is that politics is not at the center of their lives.

I see this a lot, and I confess, it gets under my skin, because of the implication that being moderate means being politically passive. And that is bullshit.

I've always had some difficulty summing up my political leanings, but I've gradually come to some variation of "Classical Liberal" (by the European definition of that word, not the American). Or simply "Economist reader".

The term often used in political writing is "Technocrat", although I dislike the connotations there: the word has a flavor of being cold and unempathetic, which misses the point almost completely. My viewpoint is passionate about both social and economic justice -- but on the large scale, recognizing the massive inequities around the world, not just the ones at home.

The "technocrat" term is correct in that it's a viewpoint that is focused on what works, empirically, without the BS economic religions that both the left and right are prone to. It is a passionately globalist viewpoint -- again, because the world works better all around when countries are working together and trading together, not retreating into little nationalist fortresses. But that doesn't imply the sort of ruthlessly (and short-sightedly) Darwinian approach of the Corporatists, mind -- open trading must be paired with deep investment in trade adjustment, education and retraining, something the right wing tries desperately to ignore.

Most importantly, there is nothing passive about it: it's a viewpoint that demands active thought and engagement, understanding that reality is complicated and that overly simplistic solutions will usually backfire, often tragically.

Really, I'm increasingly fond of the term "Radical Moderate". For all that it sounds like a contradiction in terms, it's exactly right, recognizing that the middle ground isn't just a default stance, it's a position to be argued for with every bit of fire and passion one has. And it doesn't mean fuzzy-headed muddle: it just recognizes that the extremes are usually wrong, and that the best position is weighing and balancing the concerns.

Not that either American political party has any damned interest in advocating that viewpoint nowadays. I'm genuinely tempted to see whether the American wing of En Marche! has been created yet...

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For those who care about the ongoing horse races: as largely expected, Jon Ossoff didn't win the special election in the Georgia 6th congressional district outright. But he did come first by a pretty wide margin in a crowded field, and they're heading to a runoff. This is turning crazy-expensive, as you'd expect, and the odds I've seen have it pretty close.

As a result, they're on a big fundraising push, and today they're doing a triple match. So if you're inclined to toss a few bucks into these races (which, remember, this is Georgia -- a Democratic win would be quite embarrassing for the Republicans), this is probably a good day to do so.

(Usual caveats apply -- be prepared for followup emails, and use a burner email address if you have one convenient. I wish I didn't have to make this caveat, but both parties are currently convinced that More Emails Are Better...)

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(This one's not really part of the "Wartime Thoughts" series -- it's simpler old-fashioned politics.)

For those who haven't been following the aftershocks of November: there are a series of special elections happening around now, filling Congressional seats that are currently vacant due to, eg, Cabinet appointments. And they are getting terribly interesting.

A couple of days ago, the Republican running in the Kansas 4th managed to win his election -- by seven points. This is Kansas we're talking about here, mind. Nobody expected the Democratic candidate to win -- but the spread was 20 points, and the pre-election calculations were that if the Republicans won by anything less than 20, it was a Very Good Sign for Democratic prospects in 2018. A 7-point differential was closer than pretty much anybody's wildest dreams. (The day before, the members of 538's weekly podcast put their guesses at anywhere from a 9 to 16 point differential.)

Now, the Georgia 6th is a toss-up. Seriously: the Democrats have a solid shot of winning a House seat in Georgia.

Yes, it's just one seat, and it's not going to tip the scales in any immediate way. But much of politics is about momentum, and it's time to make clear to the Republican Congress just how unhappy the country is with them. They're not going to listen to us unless they start losing elections, so it's time to start making that happen.

So -- if you're down there, you might want to help with the get-out-the-vote effort. And if you're not, but want to support the project, you might consider donating a few bucks to the Ossoff campaign.

It's time to start scaring the snot out of the Republican Congress. This seems like a lovely step in that direction...

ETA: while I think of it, a NB -- this is a political campaign, and they will start sending you emails if you donate. There are unsubscribe links at the bottom of those, but don't be surprised. (This is why I'm fond of using burner email addresses for things like this.)

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[I'm mostly just posting links over in Facebook, but my more technical friends tend to be over here.]

Here is a really excellent collection of ideas about how to fight the Fake News problem -- the way that services like Facebook and Google have been used as propaganda tools by the people (on all sides) who are muddying truth by propagating bullshit. The article suggests a bunch of relatively plausible approaches, both technical and organizational, that these companies could use to ameliorate the problem without undermining their core missions.

It's explicitly not trying to present a comprehensive solution, just some possibilities. But it's a fine rebuttal to the usual line that these services are nothing but pipes, and can't do anything about it. I commend it to everyone, but especially my friends *at* the various big tech companies, who should consider passing this link around as useful food for thought...


Nov. 9th, 2016 08:38 am
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*Sigh*. I was sure this was possible, and was thinking for the past two weeks that it was starting to feel likely, but was really hoping otherwise. I went to bed when they called NC and FL for Trump -- at that point, the writing was on the wall.

(The little cynical voice in the back of my head points out that the problem with effective "Everyone Should Vote!" campaigns is that the people you disagree with may also be listening. One thing this election proved is that it *is* possible to get peoples' butts off the couch, but that means *everyone's* butts.)

Trying to stave off existential angst this morning, so indulging the analytical side of my brain instead, with some initial still-waking-up reactions.

Not many silver linings here, save that the Republicans now have nowhere to hide: we can and should make sure that they get blamed for the consequences of their actions in the coming years. That will likely make *some* of them a bit more responsible, now that they have to actually govern instead of just playing political games, although certainly not all of them.

As for Trump, it's sad that I now have to put my faith in how much of an undisciplined, unprincipled liar he has proven himself to be historically: odds are decent that he will just quietly ignore some of his more heinous campaign lines. In particular, the "lock her up" bullshit is offensive to the core principles of democracy, and even he has been back-pedaling the "wall" nonsense.

Similarly, one can *hope* that the Narcissist in Chief is mostly going to be driven by what is popular -- his lack of any actual principles may well make him one of the great panderers of political history. The result would be likely to be scarily majoritarian, but I suspect he will be *some* check on the worst excesses of the right wing, at least in areas where the public is clearly opposed. But there's little chance of him making many things *better*, and he seems likely to retreat into Nixonian bitterness when things go wrong.

I take some comfort living in relatively sensible Boston, nestled deep in blue country. I think the odds are against *actually* seeing jackbooted thugs anywhere (although, seriously, "odds are against" is a depressingly weak statement), but they're less likely here. But my heart goes out to the immigrant communities -- more than perhaps anyone, they've woken up to a truly bad day.

The most immediate and stark damage, of course, is the Supreme Court. The Republicans won with their damned holding action. I can wish for the appointment of another Roberts, but we're more likely to see another Scalia. (And let us all wish Justice Ginsberg more years of good health.)

Trump is all but certain to damage America's reputation and power abroad -- all indications are that he's going to be a gigantic fuckup in terms of foreign policy, and he may well break the back of NATO simply through inaction. Putin is having a pretty good day. (Although I've heard reports that even he is somewhat wary of Trump's sheer insane unpredictability.) The really scary part is that I would guess the chances of Trump literally ending the world are non-trivial -- by no means *likely*, but it's easy to paint scenarios where the combination of a international crisis and a bad hair day go horribly wrong for everyone.

Let's start a betting pool: how soon does Trump start a war with someone? Here I'm talking about a small, winnable war, mind -- Trump may be dumb, but I'm sure he is aware that the Wag the Dog scenario of patriotic war fervor is a fine way to boost one's popularity when things slide. And he's enough of a schoolyard bully that finding somebody small to pick on seems exactly his style.


Sadly, this story is far from over. There are some serious priorities that are becoming clear for the next few years. One, obviously, is keeping an eye on Trump, and calling him on the stupid. But just as importantly, the left side of the aisle needs to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.

For better or worse, I think the Republican Party has just finished redefining itself, as the white nationalist party. The cultural and economic conservatives will be in denial about that for several years, but Trump has just crushed them pretty flat. (The economic conservatives especially: I expect a Trump administration to be *monumentally* irresponsible with the debt. That will probably be an economic plus in the short run, but I suspect we can count on excess from Trump.)

But the Democrats have proven themselves equally riven by this election, between the centrists and progressives. There are many stories to be written about this mess, but one of the major ones, I'm afraid, is about Clinton's inability to really engage the progressive wing of the party. If they're going to recover and be able to really bring it in two years (which, let's be clear, is going to be an uphill battle), they need cohesion at a lot of levels. I suspect that they desperately need a new generation to start taking over at the national level; the existing leadership is looking kind of tired and behind the times. I hope they can get their act together.

I'm glad that this damned election is over; I wish I could be less morose about the result. Anybody up for burning James Comey in effigy?
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From cnn.com today:
'Trump went on to again attack women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct, saying, "every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign" and vowing to sue them after the election is over.'
Okay, time to call for an opinion -- is it time to rename the Streisand Effect? Because it's pretty clear that Trump isn't going to pay attention to it unless it gets named for him...
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The subject line is flip, to keep some perspective, but nagging in the back of my mind, I'm concerned about a growing meme.

Politics in the Western world this year has been dominated by two stories, Brexit and the Trump nomination. And there's been a quiet but steady drumbeat of response to both stories, to the tune of, "The Voters Got It Wrong".

Of course, there's nothing new about whining about the results of a vote, or Monday-morning quarterbacking. But it's coming more than usual from the intelligentsia, who are traditionally the flag-bearers of Western democracy. And that's worrying.

It's just a meme for now, but it's the sort of meme that authoritarians down the ages have been good at mining. Combine that with deep economic uncertainty -- of the three Great Economic Disasters predicted as plausible this year, one has happened and the other two are still quite possible -- and you've got a recipe for Something Has To Be Done About It thinking, which usually goes horribly wrong.

So far, it's just a possible concern, and hopefully the rest of the year will turn out okay. But I do find myself slightly nervous about the trend lines...
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So there I was in the car yesterday, listening to the radio, when the news turns to politics -- and inevitably, Donald Trump whining about how the press is *sooooo* unfair to him. I flipped over to my iPod, not even so much because of how annoying Trump is, as of how incredibly *bored* I am with the Trump "phenomenon".

And in that moment, an epiphany struck.

Every politician has their Killer Truth -- their personal kryptonite that turns their strength into a flaw. For example, Mitt Romney was destroyed by the 47% quote because it illustrated what everyone knew, deep down, was true: the great businessman was also enormously contemptuous of the general populace of the country.

What is Trump's Killer Truth? The fact that, while he is masquerading as a businessman, he's really mostly a reality-TV star. He barely even hides that fact: his inflated claims of his personal wealth are built upon an assertion of billions of dollars of "personal brand". He's not a businessman -- he's intellectual property. There's probably a registered-trademark symbol buried somewhere in that hair.

And the thing is, reality TV stars have a very short lifespan. They're memes writ large, and once you've seen them a few times, they stop looking interesting, and quickly progress through Loud to Annoying to Dull. And you flip to something else.

It's time to say that. We don't need people protesting at Trump rallies -- we need people in the front row conspicuously *snoozing* at him. His campaign is built entirely on free advertising, on the way that, every time he says something outrageous, the press fall all over themselves to cover it. It's time to send the firm message of "Bored Now": that covering Trump is at *least* as boring as covering other politicians, and a way to lose viewers and listeners.

John Oliver is fond of boiling things down to hashtags -- that's a bit flip, but helps summarize. So here are a couple for your delectation:
Have fun...
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[Some political musings. This is relatively off-the-cuff, not too carefully thought through yet, looking for responses.]

I finally finished reading [livejournal.com profile] siderea's latest opus, "The Two Moral Modes". (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Highly recommended, although it falls somewhere on the spectrum between "disturbing" and "chilling". I wish I could say it was wrong, but I suspect the analysis is at least largely correct.

One of its premises is that there is a general mode of thought, common to many people in the US, to which Donald Trump is speaking *quite* directly, and that explains at least some of his devoted following. It has nothing to do with what I would usually call "morality", and (for purposes of this argument) not much to do with practical things like economics; rather, it has to do with espousing a firm distinction of "Us" vs. "Them", that taps into a not-very-latent desire for a well-defined out-group to abuse. None of this liberal wishy-washiness about "Them".

And I'm starting to realize that, in a weird way, we may have dodged a bullet. I mean, I believe that Trump is more an effect than a cause -- that he's tapping into a lot of pre-existing fear, hostility and (to use [livejournal.com profile] siderea's term) reviling, not just causing it through rabble-rousing. He's not steering this: rather, he has the born salesman's touch for figuring out what you already want, and pitching that *this* snake-oil is exactly that. If you look at his constant message changes, it's obvious that he's simply reflecting what he thinks folks desire.

Why is this lucky? Because he's such an *obvious* jackass. I mean, Trump is a cartoonish buffoon. He's doing a great job of turning himself into the leader that Mode 2 wants, but at the price of doing it so obviously that everybody else is completely repulsed. Unless you desperately *want* to believe in him, it's almost impossible to see the slightest sincerity or conviction (or competence) in the man.

Consider: what if we'd gotten a better politician instead? By historical standards of demagoguery, Trump is a crude amateur: unsubtle, careless, and crass. And he's *still* polling frighteningly well. Not well enough to get elected unless something weird and horrible happens, but well enough that, in a typical parliamentary system, he'd wind up leading one of the main parties in parliament, and quite possibly Prime Minister. A more polished operator, with his sales talent plus a modicum of discipline, might well have won this election even in the US.

So let's assume that Trump doesn't become President. (Because really, it's not worthwhile to assume the apocalypse.) If he *is* tapping into a deep latent stream of badness, that's not going to just go away -- it's going to keep fermenting. Indeed, given a taste of possible power, it's likely to catalyze and become something much more concrete.

At which point, what? Some of the politicians who *are* good at this, and sociopathic enough to view it cold-bloodedly, will surely be trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage. They won't *call* themselves fascists, of course, but the smart ones are going to recognize that there are a lot of people out there who are craving what amounts to a fascist / Mode 2 leadership, and will be trying to position themselves for that.

The silver lining is that Trump, through his sheer sloppiness, has probably woken everyone up to this. By being so obvious about it, he's breeding an early opposition. Still, I see a rocky road, and likely some serious political realignment, ahead. I don't see any way that the waves of emotion that Trump has stirred up are going to simply go away quietly.

Opinions? Anybody want to play with a bit of psycho-historical speculation here?
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There's been a prevailing narrative in the current Democratic primary, promulgated heavily by much of the media (which loves simple narratives), that goes kind of like this. *Real* Democrats, who have principles, are voting for Sanders. The people voting for Clinton are doing so reluctantly, mostly because of "electability", but they don't actually *want* her to win, they just want to beat the Republicans. That's because she's a "centrist", which means she doesn't have any principles, and she's "just" a politician.

Enough of this crap.

Let's say this clearly: I'm voting for Clinton because I think she'd make a very good president. Frankly, I think she'd be better than most, precisely *because* of who she is and what she stands for.

I quite enjoyed the '08 primaries, because I didn't feel like I was choosing between the lesser of two evils. Both of the candidates were smart centrists. (Much of the electorate deluded themselves into believing that Obama was some kind of radical, but I always found that mysterious: if you listened to what he actually said, he was *obviously* a centrist, and that was much of why I liked him.) I decided to vote for Obama over Clinton for one simple reason: I thought his campaign was better *managed*, and the Presidency is, first and foremost, the ultimate management job. That's the point of the freaking executive branch -- they're the ones who are supposed to get things done. Since then, I've developed more respect for Clinton -- she did a solidly good job at State (itself a big management position), and knowing what I know now I'm not sure which way I'd go if offered the same choice.

(Actually, Obama had one other advantage: I have a mild preference for younger leaders. That's not a viable option in the current Democratic primary, and that makes me sad for the party.)

Yes, she's an insider. That's a *good* thing. I am continually mystified by the cult of the "outsider", and rather scared by the apparent right-wing desire for a fascist who will come in from the outside and sweep everything before him -- the potential danger aside, it's a rather anti-American (if long-held and common) viewpoint. In a finely-balanced system of checks and balances, being an insider is how you get things done -- *effective* presidents, the ones who actually accomplish something, are the ones who have a lot of experience in the field. And yes, that means being a politician.

As for the whole "she has no principles" charge, give me a freaking break. Yes, she's a little nuanced. I like that in a politician. The dangerous politicians -- the *scary* politicians, ultimately -- are the ones who see the world in simple black and white, believe that their way is the only way and that complex problems have simple solutions. The world is complex and nuanced, and our culture is evolving a lot faster than most people notice. Leading that culture without causing more problems than you're solving requires recognizing and navigating that complexity.

And yes, she's made a few mistakes -- the whole email-server thing was a dumb own-goal. But seriously, as scandals go, this one's pretty pathetically minor. Frankly, for a woman who has been square in the spotlight for 25 years, I'm deeply impressed that the worst the Republicans are throwing at her so far are that and their delusional fantasies about Benghazi. Anyone who can go that long, under that kind of microscope, and only be getting those accusations, probably has more integrity than most of us.

She'd make a damned good President. Out of the entire circus of candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring this time around, she's the only one I can honestly say that about. I am supporting her on Tuesday, proudly and with my head held high. I encourage you to consider doing the same.
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Those interested in the Democratic side of the brouhaha should check out this fine summary of the tradeoffs. He doesn't really take sides, but I think concisely boils down what's going on here -- what Sanders and Clinton *represent* in this election, and the pros and cons of both those tendencies. It's a good step-back-and-think, and well worth considering, whichever candidate you prefer, to help understand where the other side is coming from if nothing else...
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Those who are interested in politics and economics might enjoy this three-part series over on Medium. (The link is to part 3; follow the links there to parts 1 and 2.) This trio of articles is called "Relitigating 2010", and is a serious, principled look at the arguments that the original bailout of Greece was a gigantic mistake, and that something else should have been done instead.

It's one of the better pieces of counterfactual analysis I've seen, digging deep into the finances, economics and politics of where things were then and what really happened. It's nicely even-handed, and winds up admitting some possibilities, but mostly argues, persuasively, that people making this point (especially in the US) are deeply misunderstanding the reality of what was going on in Europe in 2010, and that their crisis was very different in some critical ways from our crisis. (And that, the economic arguments aside, folks are mostly glossing over the political realities.)

It's wonkish and detailed, only for the folks who enjoy politics and economics, but it's well-written, not too long, and refreshingly willing to point out the underlying monetary mistakes that turned this from a crisis into a bit of a disaster. Worthwhile reading for serious fans of The Economist...
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Yesterday was the "got freedom?" button that I got from [livejournal.com profile] metageek some years ago. Today was "It's all right. We weren't using those civil liberties anyway."

I swear, sometimes I think my button box has its own subscription to CSPAN...
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h/t to [livejournal.com profile] siderea for the pointer to this beautifully horrifying little article about a visit to a nutritionists' conference. I disagree with Mother Jones' view on a number of issues, but have to agree with the upshot here, that this pretty terrible from a public-information and policy standpoint.

(It's worth reading, but the summary is that a lot of big food companies sponsor the convention, and apparently pack it with very slanted information. Sounds like a very subtle version of regulatory capture, essentially...)
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... today's example being the amorphous collection of entities that make up the Ed Markey campaign.

Look, I was planning on voting for the guy anyway. Gomez appears better than the average Republican nowadays, but that's damning with faint praise: the areas in which I agree with him are greatly outweighed by the ones in which I don't. Sadly, it appears impossible to be a Republican centrist in these times, and I've stopped seeing people who are trying, so I mostly want the party to die a well-deserved death. (At which point, we might be able to get a functional center-right party again, to restore some proper balance.)

But damn, I am getting irritated by the Markey junk mail. I believe we've gotten at least five flyers so far this week (two today), all of them Big and Glossy and Oh-So-Terrifying about all the ways in which Gomez will sell everyone out. They don't even mostly admit to being from the Markey campaign per se: instead, they're from a variety of groups, especially the MA Democratic Party and the "League of Conservation Voters", which sounds like nothing so much as a cynical attempt to make it sound like even the conservatives are against Gomez.

Heck, they're not even as effective as they would like to believe: telling me that Markey wants to keep Medicare unchanged and reduce taxes for seniors mostly reminds me of the irresponsibility of the modern Democratic Party. (Which is better than the sheer visceral evil of the right-wing Republicans, but it sure doesn't make me enthusiastic.)

The only saving grace is that it'll be over soon, and isn't as mind-numbingly horrible as the 2012 elections. But I have to say, the overall effect is mostly to make me dislike Markey, simply because I am increasingly revolted by the people behind him...
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Information still seems to be scant about Monday's events. Given the amount of photographic evidence, I suspect that the FBI will catch whoever did it, but it's still too early to make any sensible guesses as to who will turn out to be the culprit. Some on the left is desperate to pin it on fundamentalist militias, the right on arab terrorists; personally, I think it's about equally likely to be either, or some completely other cause. IMO, it's staggeringly irresponsible to be using this to drive partisan wedges, *especially* in the absence of any reasonably concrete information.

But I *will* make one guess, based on history, and I'd much rather say it now, before we know *who* was responsible. Ultimately, I would bet that one deep cause here was hate speech. Bombings like this are usually perpetrated by sad extremists (and this amateurish an attack was likely done by a small group), but even the isolated loonies -- maybe especially them -- generally get their triggers from outside.

The culprit of an act like this is usually angry with the world -- they feel disenfranchised and weak, and want to lash out at *somebody*. And along comes somebody preaching hate: hate against an ethnicity, a religion, a country, a class -- really, it almost doesn't matter who the target is. But the hate speech makes them into Other, and specifically an Other that has it coming to them. The message has to be sent -- loudly. And that excuse makes it easier to rationalize an act of simple evil.

We'll see -- I expect there will be some twists to the story yet. But I'd bet good money that when all is said and done, we're going to find a web browser whose history is full of nicely targeted bile. And in the resulting morass of partisan denunciations, rationalizations and conspiracy theories, everyone will forget the basic underlying lesson: when somebody does an effective job of preaching hate -- ANY hate -- this is what happens. Sadly, the end result is fairly likely to be the excuse for the next nutjob who can read basic bomb-making instructions...
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So this weekend's music was mostly off of Kate's father's playlist, and it happened that Janis Joplin came up a couple of times. That seems to have percolated in the back of my brain, because this came out in the middle of the night:

Lord, won't you buy me the Pre-si-den-cy.
I think I deserve it, since I'm a Romney.
And it will ensure that I remain tax-free.
Oh, lord, won't you buy me the Pre-si-den-cy.

Lord, won't you buy me a house painted white.
I know that it's small, but I'll try to pack light.
To earn it, I've made sure my wings are quite Right.
Oh, lord, won't you buy me a house painted white.


Nov. 6th, 2012 11:53 am
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As for myself: Burlington was as efficient as ever. It's actually one of the things I'm going to miss about this town -- they take great pride in elections as a part of civic life, and run them well. The whole town votes in the High School gym -- there are six tables in the front for the six wards, and each table has two people marking folks off in the books. Each table has fully 20 voting stations behind it, so you feel like you have time to read the whole bloody ballot instead of being rushed. The lines were all of 3 people deep.

The ballot questions made interesting reading. Question 3 (medical marajuana) was an easy Yes, even if it doesn't go far enough. (I still see no reason to treat pot differently from alcohol and tobacco -- it should be legal and highly regulated.) Question 1 (right to repair) keeps being a head-scratcher for me, but that's partly because I'm offended that a law is even necessary -- this *should* just be standard practice, and I'm appalled at the auto industry that it isn't.

Question 2 (right to die) was the interesting one. There have been a lot of claims in the past week that it is vague and poorly worded, and should be shot down on those grounds -- I found the truth to be quite the opposite. As described on the ballot, it's a pretty nuanced and well-thought-out law. There are probably flaws (no law is ever perfect), but it does seem to cover all of the usual objections I've heard to assisted suicide, and generally comes down on the favor of appropriate caution. It looks like a unusually *good* law, if anything, nicely balancing individual freedom of conscience with the need to avoid abuse. So that one also turned out to be a surprisingly easy Yes for me, and I'm forced to conclude that the opposition is mostly trying to play a disinformation campaign.

So, points to Burlington: they still run the best election-day operation I've ever come across. Other towns really should check them out, and see what ideas they can pick up...


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