Posted by Brad @ 2:14 pm on January 6th 2012

Blogroll Cleanup

Bit of housekeeping. Some inactive sites cleaned out, added a few. Any suggestions?

Posted by Brad @ 12:39 pm on January 6th 2012

The GOP Non-Race

Let’s put this out front, because for the next few weeks or even months a lot of people are going to try and pretend that this isn’t the reality:

Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee.

I wrote regarding Iowa:

At this point it is nearly impossible to fathom how he doesn’t get this nomination in a cakewalk. If you’re Team Romney, and guys like Gingrich and Perry have fallen away to a last-minute Santorum surge and a Ron Paul ~20% beachhead – you almost couldn’t write that script better. Mitt Romney not being the Republican nominee would be a collapse of historic proportions. He is more of a prohibitive favorite than any candidate in a non-incumbent primary in the last decade at least – in fact I can’t even think back to a time when a candidate’s path looked this much like a cakewalk.

You will not get this message from most mainstream sources or even political bloggers. I thought it was bleedingly obvious, but for some reason the coverage has been anything but “Mitt Romney running away with it.”

There are still interesting storylines to be sussed out, btw – most notably Ron Paul having staked out nearly a fourth of GOP voters as Ron Paul Republicans, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. But the competitiveness of the nomination is not one of them, nor is the prospect of anybody but Romney having a realistic shot at the nomination.

Sure I can caveat that – it goes without saying that nothing is outside the realm of possibility – but let’s face facts. As far as I’m aware there is not a single state in the union where Mitt Romney is not leading. He won Iowa despite only showing up in December. He is up 30 in New Hampshire. He is leading in South Carolina according to the latest post-Iowa polls (Rasmussen and PPP). The overwhelming likelihood is he wins Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina – a nearly unprecedented opening running-of-the-table for a contested nomination race (and this considering that, in Iowa and South Carolina, he’s leading despite never having thrown himself into competing there). He has more money, establishment support, and organization than any other candidate by far.

His only remote competition, at this point, is a constantly-marginalized candidate who probably has a pretty hard ceiling of 25% (Ron Paul), and a candidate who is only in the conversation at all due to sheer, dumb luck (Santorum). The media will pretend that the Santorum “surge” says something about the Republican party, but really, Ezra Klein is right here:

Santorum’s finish doesn’t say much about his ideology, or his campaign skills, or his endorsements. Quite the opposite, in fact. In a race where a large number of anti-Romney voters were desperate to find a candidate, Santorum was unable to attract significant support until the very end, when the anti-Romney vote literally had nowhere else to go. If he had been a better candidate, he would have crested earlier.

Or, to use an analogy from Andrew Sullivan, the only reason Santorum is in this is because, in the game of musical chairs, he just happened to be the guy closest to the last empty chair when the music stopped. “In this game of musical chairs, if the music had stopped earlier, the nod would have gone to Newt or Ron. But that’s politics. Timing is everything.”

Think of it like Wheel of Fortune, with Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all being little more than segments of the wheel (for whatever reason, Paul, Huntsman, and Johnson have a different kind of niche). It just happened to be Santorum’s square that was there when the needle stopped.

Now, again, I’m not discounting the possibility of some non-Romney upsets. I see Ron Paul having a good chance of stealing some smaller states like Nevada, and the possibility of the anti-Romney forces freaking out and flocking to Santorum in enough numbers to bolster him to a few early wins in places like South Carolina is very real – perhaps even likely.

But besides Romney, the only candidate with a national campaign of any note is Ron Paul. And besides Santorum, there are no other ciphers left.

Jacob Weisberg puts it most bluntly:

We journalists are sorriest of all, because Romney coasting to victory is a weak story. Were the press any other industry, cynicism about its self-interest in promoting marginal challengers would prevail. Local television stations (many of them owned by media conglomerates such as Slate’s owner, the Washington Post Company) count on election-year revenue bumps from political advertising in important primary states. If the nomination contest is effectively over by, say, the time of the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, valuable money will be left on the table. But for reporters, rooting for the underdog, any underdog, is really a matter of wanting a more dramatic story. The straight-laced front-runner winning Iowa and New Hampshire before securing the nomination early on does not count as a compelling narrative. Hence the media’s pretense of taking seriously a succession of nonviable candidates with outlandish views. Rick Santorum is not, under any circumstances, going to be the GOP nominee.

This confluence of motives amounts to an insider conspiracy to resist the obvious.

So expect to hear more and more about less and less likely alternatives to a Romney victory in the coming weeks. Jon Huntsman, the only candidate yet to enjoy a moment of popular enthusiasm, could do better than expected in New Hampshire. Once Rick Perry joins Michele Bachmann in dropping out, conservative sentiment could coalesce around the unlikely survivor Rick Santorum.* Chris Christie could still change his mind! Anything could happen, of course, but it won’t. In the end, the GOP is overwhelmingly likely to nominate Romney because he is the most electable candidate available and at this point, no one else can beat him.

So rather than a lot of thought given over to Rick Santorum or this or that nuance of the contest for distant second (again, save Ron Paul, which is interesting if not necessarily relevant to the contests of 2012), the electoral reality we live in is a Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney race for the Presidency. If you need to ponder or conjecture something, it should be that.

Posted by Brad @ 10:49 am on January 6th 2012

Oh, Incidentally, on Executive Power…

…it’s apparently cool now to make recess appointments when Congress is not actually in recess.

As sympathetic as I am to blowback from the obstinacy of Congress, particularly on appointments, this is the kind of thing, I think, that does more damage to the republic than any annoying single appointee, terrible law, or bad campaign. Just the decision that “you know what, we don’t like the way this works, so we’re just going to collectively agree that we don’t have to abide by it anymore.” I’m sure progressives love that Obama is finally sticking it to the GOP to get a consumer protection administrator through. I’m sure they’ll love it a lot less when it’s President Rick Santorum appointing a full slate of 100+ federal judges.

And lest you think I’m being hyperbolic, as evidence I point you to every single other one-off executive power-grab of the last 10 years that was billed as being required for a “special circumstance” and has since become the baseline for every circumstance.

Posted by Brad @ 11:21 am on January 4th 2012

Morning After Thoughts on the Iowa Straw Poll

So the results that will likely stick, at least over the next few days when it matters, is that Mitt Romney won by 8 votes, beating out Rick Santorum by a brass section. Ron Paul placed third with 22%. Newt Gingrich third at something like 11%, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann in the single digits, and Jon Huntsman with 1%.

Some of these thoughts are pretty obvious:

1. Because of the way these things are reported, the only thing that matters here is the ordinal. Mitt Romney wins. Rick Santorum second. Ron Paul strong third. Everybody else = losers. The margins mean essentially nothing – this result shakes out the three frontrunners, and in fact likely shakes it out further to trying to shoehorn a Romney-Santorum horserace, because do not underestimate the extent to which Paul is dissmissable as a frontrunner. The media, and casual voters, want an “X vs. Y” equation, and unless Paul consistently stakes out first and second place finishes, people are going to bend over backwards to consider him a footnote in this race.

2. The most obvious: this is a great, great night for Mitt Romney. At this point it is nearly impossible to fathom how he doesn’t get this nomination in a cakewalk. If you’re Team Romney, and guys like Gingrich and Perry have fallen away to a last-minute Santorum surge and a Ron Paul ~20% beachhead – you almost couldn’t write that script better. Mitt Romney not being the Republican nominee would be a collapse of historic proportions. He is more of a prohibitive favorite than any candidate in a non-incumbent primary in the last decade at least – in fact I can’t even think back to a time when a candidate’s path looked this much like a cakewalk.

3. The flotsam – Michelle Bachmann says she’s still in, Rick Perry is heading back to Texas to “reassess”, but both are done. Perry’s got money to continue, Bachmann does not, but both have to be staring down the “…if not Iowa, where?” problem. Perhaps, given the fact that this cycle has seen everybody who has stuck around get a second, third, and fourth look, they’re hoping for a second wind down the road, but for the most part, I think we can start writing them off.

4. Jon Huntsman, likewise. At this point all he’s got left is a bit of staff, no organization, no money, and will likely stop making whatever debates are left. And expect, if he doesn’t suspend his campaign, his staffers to start jumping ship. One of the most disappointing candidacies in terms of unfulfilled potential in a long long time.

5. The Santorum thing is interesting. I am of the opinion that his surge here is almost completely, entirely blind, stupid luck. This entire race so far has been about the Republican base looking for their anti-Romney consensus candidate, looking, looking, looking…and then saying “well, this person looks kind of interesting” and that person becoming a “frontrunner” for a few weeks until they wilt and entirely discredit themselves and go away. See: Tim Pawlenty, Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich. The ONLY thing different about Rick Santorum is he had the blind, stupid luck to get his moment in the sun essentially right as the clock ran out and there was no time left for him to get too long a look before people realized he was…well, Rick Santorum.

6. But, it is luck in the sense that now, people looking for a Romney alternative that are unwilling to vote Paul are stuck with him. They are going to have to carry what amounts to a dead weight of a candidate, and many will try – Christian organizations, various conservative mouthpieces and talking heads, etc. It will actually be kind of amusing to watch as they are forced to essentially make Rick Santorum seem like a viable, respectable candidate through sheer force of will. Imagine a two person footrace: on one side, a reasonably healthy guy in gym shorts and sneakers. On the other, 8 guys trying to drag a bloated, stinking 2000 pound horse carcass. That is what this race is going to look like for a few weeks at least.

7. The Ron Paul problem is interesting. I strongly suspect the newsletters cost him Iowa, which is beyond frustrating for so many reasons. But be that as it may, it’s clear that his ceiling is much higher than 2008, and unlike the other also-rans, he’s not a flavor of the week – his 20% will likely stay there in nearly every state from here to the convention. But because every other candidate is so week, he won’t be able to count on a fractured field much longer, which means his 20% will go less and less far as the race wears on (at least in the early season). That said, Rick Santorum is such a weak candidate, that he’s in a rather interesting position of being an ever-present not-Romney option for essentially every Republican voter from here to eternity regardless of what happens with the rest of the field. How that plays out is unclear to me. He’s pretty much guaranteed, at least in delegates, a #2 finish in this nomination contest, but will he at any point begin threatening or being treated as a legit challenger? To put that another way, even those he’s almost assured of a #2 finish, he may very well do that without a single marquee win and never attaining the patina of being an actual challenger for the nomination – so how much does being #2 actually matter?

Posted by Rojas @ 12:15 am on January 4th 2012

Not technically a music video of the Iowa Caucus Results

Hasa Diga Eebowai–from “The Book of Mormon”

Posted by Cameron @ 9:38 pm on January 3rd 2012

Iowa Liveblog

Though I haven’t really yet gotten into the spirit of the race, tonight could be interesting.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:53 pm on January 3rd 2012

Not technically a music video of the Ron Paul Iowa campaign volunteers

Man Up — Josh Gad, from “The Book of Mormon”

Posted by Brad @ 1:59 am on January 3rd 2012

Ron Paul for the Republican Nomination

I was going to write up a long post, as usual, making an endorsement, but at this point I feel like I’d be flogging a dead horse.

Mostly, what I want to say is entirely contained in this post by Glenn Greenwald (which is not an endorsement), and which should be read by any progressive, left-leaning libertarian, or civil libertarian who can’t find it in themselves to pull the lever for Ron Paul.

There are very few political priorities, if there are any, more imperative than having an actual debate on issues of America’s imperialism; the suffocating secrecy of its government; the destruction of civil liberties which uniquely targets Muslims, including American Muslims; the corrupt role of the Fed; corporate control of government institutions by the nation’s oligarchs; its destructive blind support for Israel, and its failed and sadistic Drug War. More than anything, it’s crucial that choice be given to the electorate by subverting the two parties’ full-scale embrace of these hideous programs.[…]

Paul — alone among the national figures in both parties — is able and willing to advocate views that Americans urgently need to hear.

I am trying to find a single compelling counter-argument to that, and cannot. I am also trying to find any more imperative, vital issues on the docket, and similarly failing.

This year, I’d have been happy to vote for either Gary Johnson or Jon Huntsman. But the former is out (and still my golden parachute for the general!), and the latter might not even be in the race come Pennsylvania (although in the extremely unlikely event of a late Huntsman surge, I reserve the right to change my mind). But if anything, I’ve been more inclined to move towards Paul over the last few weeks since the newsletters stories came up – for the third time, with no new information. Because it struck me that the motives of those pushing the story or using it as an “out” were operating on a completely different political calculus they would never employ in the case of, say, a mainstream Democrat vs. Republican contest, or even a relatively centrist intraparty one. And for all the reasons (and more) that Greenwald mentions in that article, I start getting angry, because for all the howling we do about how Bush Jr. and Bush Jr. Jr. are uniquely rewriting the entire American experiment in a way more fundamental than I believe we’ve seen in 75 years, it really is more about us than the politicians we hire to do these things to us / for us.

And even if you think that Ron Paul is a secret racist or horribly inept or whatever it is you think about the newsletters, the fact is you have to compare that to what you know about the other candidates – that they will all, to a man, further enshrine in our national charter all the worst excesses and offenses of the Bush administration and beyond, without argument or even spirited debate, fundamentally ending, for all intents and purposes, of the original American experiment.

I know that Ron Paul is the only candidate left who is bringing those issues to the table. I think he’s the only one with a chance of jolting us out of our complacency on them. I think the next two presidential elections are the last chances we have before Dick Cheney’s understanding of America becomes fully enshrined as America’s view of America. But I don’t know that we’re not there already.

And I know I don’t care about anything else.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:08 pm on January 2nd 2012

Music video of the New Year

Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, and Weird Al Yankovic–Come Together

Happy New Year, everybody!

Posted by Cameron @ 6:00 am on January 1st 2012

Discovered Thanks To Pandora

Since it is a significant source of new music finds, I’m going to try an ongoing feature which is limited to finds from Pandora. We’ll see how it plays out.

It was Ana da Silva’s song “Running in the Rain” which drove me to Amazon to hunt down more. Youtube’s offerings of the album were somewhat slim pickings but the following is a pretty remarkable tune.

Ana da Silva – Two Windows Over the Wings

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