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Presidential Campaign 2016 Kickoff: Ted Cruz, Hillary/Obama redux, notes on focus groups

Ahhh, campaign season. I guess we are officially in it now that Ted Cruz is going to announce. I don’t have much more to say about Cruz except that he is typical of his clan and will probably fluff the panties of the typical conformist, senior “I-got-mine-fend-for-yourself”, moralizing, judgmental, creationist conservative Fox News viewer. If there is anyone who has a different point of view, add it to the comments section.


Yesterday, commenter Perplexed left the kind of comment we have been dealing with for about seven years on his here blog. It was along the lines of blaming Bill Clinton for NAFTA (the deal was written by the time he took office. He tried unsuccessfully to get labor protections) and the financial catastrophe (for the record, the roll back of Glass Steagall was accomplished by an OVERWHELMING, veto proof majority in Congress. It was the Gramm-Leach bill, or something like that. Clinton couldn’t have stopped that train if he tried.). It is worth noting that Bill Clinton has said publicly that he regrets listening to some of his economic advisors. I’m guessing he particularly regrets the Summers and Geithner partnership that suppressed the warnings of Brooksley Born. I could go over other areas that I think the left protests too much in Bill Clinton’s record. He wasn’t perfect but he was the best president I have ever voted for and I don’t regret voting for him- twice.

But as for what happened in 2008 and why I think there WAS a difference between Hillary and Obama, I do have something to add. (By the way, I don’t buy the left’s facile excuses for why they preferred Obama over Clinton. These include, 1.) there was no difference between them 2.) We decided to let Obama go first and then Hillary and 3.) he ran an awesomer campaign. This is all bullshit. The real answer was Obama’s campaign donors offered the Democratic party more money for the following reasons.):

I think I understand your perplexity. Over the past 7 years, I’ve gone over this territory quite a number of times. I’m not going to go over it in detail today. But I do want to talk about something I think is the key to the whole Hillary/Obama mystery. There is genuine value in experience. A person who has spent a lot of time in government in various capacities has a lot of it. When we talk about the Clintons, we are talking about years of accumulated experience in many different areas and two major branches of government. We are talking about people who have done statewide politics and federal politics. They have foreign policy experience and legislative experience. Think of the first job you ever had. Now, think about all of the things you have learned since then. What you are today is a product of the opportunities you were presented, the risks you took, the envelopes you pushed. At one time, all these things were outside your comfort zone. But you either taught yourself on the job or you got an education or you learned from the experience of others. And with experience and accumulated knowledge and colleagues that you’ve known and worked with, comes power. For the Clintons, that power is substantial. They didn’t come into Washington knowing everything but they know quite a bit now.
Back in 2008, the financiers had a choice of two candidates to back. One had experience, a mentor, and a lot of mojo. That person would have known how to stand up for herself and which buttons to push, who to call and what to look for. She wouldn’t have been easy to control.
The other was a senator from Illinois with less than a single term to his name in Washington. He’d never worked on major legislation and all of the friends he had in Washington were bought for him.
If you were a big money entity and you saw a looming catastrophe coming at you and you wanted to make sure you controlled what happened to you, which one would you choose?

That’s it in a nutshell and something the right will ponder and roll around in its collective hive mind. That’s a pretty powerful motive to vote for someone. You could make a case that the political dwarfs that the right is planning to roll out won’t hold a candle to Hillary’s accomplishments and experience. Which brings me to my next point:


Notes on Focus Groups

If you are a writer or commenter on a political blog, your comments and writings will be mined for information about what makes you tick, the strength of your arguments and trigger words. The right does it and the left does it. They might even float someone over to ask a particular question in order to gather information. They will use this information to shape a narrative or crush your point of view. It happens.

This is all normal. Do not let it bother you.

It goes without saying that we do not disclose your email address or any other personal information to any entity. We’re not into that. We believe in privacy.

But don’t be surprised if you find that something you followed here or on another lefty or independent blog gets warped or exploited in ways you find unexpected. This is campaign season. It is what it is.

Other than that, feel free to contradict your own side. The left got pretty good at psychological manipulation in 2008. We like to poke holes in consensus reality. You’ll be safe here.

Neat Trick

Dashing off a few things before I dash:

1.) The Richard Cohen thing.  The lede kind of got buried in the Richard Cohen s^&*storm.  It’s not that the Tea Party people are racist, though some of them clearly are.  It’s that they consider their views to be “conventional”.  That’s the cover that the Fox News manipulators, Limbaughians and Glen Becksters have given them.  My hypothesis about how the right wing has been able to get away with so much is that it makes it Ok for some Americans to give in to their secret desires.  They want to feel superior to some  people and exert power over others.  That’s why they tend to take it out on people of color, women, gays and immigrants.  They’re f^*(ing cowards when it comes to taking on the real culprits who are making their lives an economic nightmare.  That’s why you’ll never see them at an Occupy rally, because that might actually make a difference but would also be potentially dangerous to their physical bodies. But they’re perfectly fine bashing people who have no political power.  And they allow this because they call themselves conventional.  I think Bob Altmeyer wrote a book about conventional people called The Authoritarians.

Richard Cohen, on the other hand, makes me despair for the future of employment.

2.) When you’ve lost Bill Clinton’s support, it’s bad.  The Clintons have stood behind the party that trashed Hillary and elected an untested, inexperienced, ruthless friend of Wall Street and Obama through thick and thin.  But it looks like The Big Dog draws the line with Obamacare.  I don’t think he is enjoying this bit of schadenfreude.  Some people take policy and politics seriously.

And some people just check that box on their CVs.

3.) Sylvie Guillem recently retired from the Paris Opera Ballet but oh, how wonderful it must have been to see her dance in person.  Here’s a very short clip of her rehearsing Dulcinea.  If only every day could be like this:

If Boromir had seized the ring…

Tolkien talks about WWII and speculates what might have happened if Boromir had seized the ring and taken it to Minas Tirith:

“The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-Dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

Tolkien hated allegories but it’s hard to not apply his scenario to just about any situation where a besieged group gets its hands on an unaccountable, powerful advantage.  Once you abandon your principles in order to gain the upper hand, there’s nothing to stop you or others from allowing treachery after treachery to happen without restraint.  Someone is bound to get hurt and it’s usually the little people who have no desire for power or unlimited wealth.  The powerful hold them in contempt and scorn them for failing to be as ruthless and selfish.

Before long, the hobbit gardener would be patronizingly praised for struggling to pull weeds without pay.


The accusations of neoliberalism have flown fast and furiously at Bill Clinton since Wednesday night when he reminded us all about what our lives *used* to be like before the Democrats seized the ring stabbed him and his wife in the back. We’ve gotten little lectures from Atrios, Thereisnospoon and Matt Stoller.  Matt seems to be having a moment of cognitive dissonance.  He clearly doesn’t love Barack Obama anymore.  But he, like the others, have completely lost the plot over Bill Clinton.  One of our commenters tried to explain it to my silly lady brains about what the neoliberalism thing is all about.  Unfortunately, he used Chile and Pinochet as an example.

Yeah, THAT Pinochet.  You know, the guy who made torture into an art form and trained dogs to rape dissidents?

Can anyone out there see Bill Clinton even coming *close* to behaving like Pinochet or entertaining ideas of being a ruthlessly cruel, powermad dictator?

Anyway, while I understand that the University of Chicago is now the new Isengard and Milton Friedman is Saruman the White (and have forbidden the kid from going there, I don’t care how many recruiting letters they send her or how close it is to Ira Glass), I think the neoliberalism thing has been blown up to ridiculous proportions and misapplied to Bill Clinton.

Furthermore, I think it is the delusional neoliberalism boogieman that has in a way contributed to the advance of the true neoliberal president, Barack Obama.  Yep, in your paranoid frenzy to avoid electing a person who was associated with the hated neoliberal William Jefferson Pinochet, you have managed to elect and promote the guy who seems to be completely devoid of any principles whatsoever.

If you crazy neoliberalphobics didn’t exist, the right would have to invent you (and for all I know, the right has invented some of you).  You have done more to help them achieve their goals than Bill Clinton ever could and they’ve been trying for 20 years to shut him up.  In four short years, your unbridled enthusiasm to nurture Barack Obama and protect the country from Hillary Clinton has resulted in the worst performance by a Democratic president in my lifetime.

I’m not actually sure that Barack Obama *is* a Democrat, to be honest.  He’s got a D by his name on the ballot but I have read Democrat after Democrat in the past few days who say that they do not feel like Democrats anymore. Whatever the party is, they feel completely alienated from it.  It is making it easier for them to feel comfortable with their third party vote this fall.  This is a party where a small group has seized control and our input is no longer required.

This is not a plea for Hillary Clinton.  I never give up on sanity returning to the party but it’s pretty clear that as long as the “neoliberalism is evil!” Democrats are vulnerable to the corrupt and authoritarian party leadership poking them when its necessary to squelch the voices of dissent, sanity will not return to the party any time soon.  Hillary’s presidential aspirations are over and were over in 2008.  She’ll move on to something else and if it turns out that she is more powerful than ever and bedevils the young, overeducated, grad student suckup guys who let their paranoia get the best of them, I can hardly wait to see it.

For the past four years, I’ve heard nothing but ridicule from these same party loyalist “neoliberalism is evil!” people who thought the PUMAs were stupid, uneducated, ugly, menopausal, working class women. And while a lot of former PUMAs let their anger take them places where Clintonistas should never go, there were a lot more of them who kept their heads down over the past four years so they wouldn’t have scorn and mockery heaped upon them.  Four years later, it is the “neoliberalism is evil!” clique and Obama faithful that look delusional and out of touch, sticking with a dying party that has gone out of its way to shed what it thinks are its losers.  Good luck to them.  No matter what happens this fall, they have managed to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the right and I want no part of that.

In the meantime, the rest of us will have to put up with the “You have to vote for Obama or the bad guys will win!” crowd freaking out for the next 8 weeks.  I am not afraid of what is to come.  As long as friends stick together and work for a better way to live, we will weather the bad stuff.  The last thing I will ever do is voluntarily surrender my principles in order to satisfy the mob.

“Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery …. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot. (On Fairy-Stories)”
― J.R.R. Tolkien


Take us out, Taylor:

Repeat after me, Duncan

Nobody outside of your little circle of Democrats gives a flying fuck about what you call “neoliberalism“.

Yes, you think there is a big, dark ugly political philosophy behind neoliberalism.  We are aware of the theories. To me, it sounds like you have blown up the neoliberal boogieman disproportionately to its actual effect.  But we don’t care.  No, we do not.

We have our own theories about what the Clintons were up to and we simply disagree with you.  We disagree strenuously because we weren’t brain dead during the past 20 years.  We know how to keep score.

Give up already.  It’s bad enough that you committed us to 4 years of Obama with Gitmo, Kill Lists and 9.8% unemployment in NJ.  Remember, in 2008 he was touted as the cure for “neoliberalism”.  And how did that turn out?

Don’t make us dislike you.


Best line: “Arithmetic”

I see on twitter that even the most Clintonly Deranged Democrats are having an orgasm over his speech and how he masterfully explained to the American people what the entire fricking party couldn’t.

Relax. Tomorrow you’ll be over it and back to resenting him for…for…fuck if I know, but you’ll be complaining anyway.

He has a wife you know…

The Big Dawg’s Magic Trick: Pulling Obama’s Bacon Out of the Fire.

So, Bill Clinton, who all of the Obama fans and loyal Democrats will never forgive for 8 years of peace and prosperity, will attempt to turn us refuseniks into devoted Democratic voters.

I hope he asked for something good in return.

(It’s not going to be Hillary in 2016.  Just forget it.)

Now, Bill’s got a big problem.  He’s going to have to make the case that the Republicans are the ones who decided to make unemployment sky high going into the election.  And I don’t disagree with him.  *Except* that Obama had two years of a filibuster proof majority and the unemployed were loooooow on his priority list after saving the bankers and passing an inadequate and largely unimplemented health care insurance reform bill so he could look like a hero to other Democrats.  If he had put jobs, and I don’t mean just “manly” jobs, as his first priority, he wouldn’t need Bill to save his bacon.  (Well, that and killing the Bush tax cuts, implementing a HOLC program to save people’s houses after they are laid off, putting bankers who threaten the economy in jail, break up the biggest banks, etc.)

No, instead, all he needed to do was push for the $100 Billion that Christine Romer said would put a shitload of people back to work.  But you know, Romer was a woman and the Obama White House doesn’t really listen to women.  She also recommended a much bigger fiscal stimulus package but instead of asking for the moon and having to dial it back to a Romeresque number of $1.2 Trillion, Obama asked for much, much less than that to start and negotiated down.  Unnecessarily less.  He spent no political capital on the rest of us and much real capital on the banks.

Then he let Tim Geithner cover up what bad shape the banks were in.  If Congress had known about the LIBOR manipulations, and what serious condition the economy was in, well, we couldn’t have counted on the Republicans to lift a finger to help but we might have prevailed upon the more sensible Democrats to do the right thing (I know I’m being generous here.  Work with me.).

You know what?  Just forget it.  The dude just blew his first two years.  Totally blew them.  Unfortunately for us, they were the crucial two years.  It looks like Obama’s campaign is going to be a sentimental journey into BoBo land where if you would have only worked really hard and gone to the right schools and didn’t have unapproved sex, you wouldn’t be in the straits you’re in right now.  That utopia conveeeeeniently leaves out what happened to all of the scientists with PhDs I know who were 33 before they got their real first job after their post docs, but the Obama campaign is busting a gut trying not to mention the word ‘unemployment” or to in any way burst the merry little scenario they have built in their heads of well tended gardens in idyllic upper middle class suburbs.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, back to Bill.  Well, he’s got his work cut out for him tonight.  He’s got to get the remaining Clintonistas back in the fold.  Except the remaining Clintonistas are pissed as all hell.  Four years ago, we were dragged, kicking and screaming to vote for Mr. Caucus Fraud against our better judgement (some of us protest voted).  He wasn’t ready, had no practical experience, used misogyny against his opponent in a way that reverberated throughout the social sphere and we didn’t trust him because he was a ruthless, unethical and egotistical campaigner who took more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history up to that point.  We still don’t trust him.  Not only that but we were right about Obama.  It’s regrettable that so many Clintonistas took their ire a step too far and joined the Tea Party.  Not the smartest move but you can hardly blame them.  Obama made a point of blowing off the working class (which in this context, O Best Beloveds, means anyone not making a living off their investments).  So, bad move or not, they are no more guilty of letting their emotions cloud their judgement than the 2008 Obots were.

Some of us didn’t defect from our values.  We just left the party and became independents.  But we’re still liberal, FDR Democrats.  And Obama ain’t.  Not even close.  So, I think the best that Clinton can do is deliver a powerful, enthusiastic vision of the future, which Obama will fail to pay any attention to.  Bill’s a loyal Democrat and a mensch.  That’s what he does.

And the nation will shake it’s head and think, we could have had a V8.

Pay close attention to Bill’s words.  Without careful parsing, you could be persuaded to think he said something he actually didn’t.


Oh, and the Democrats just f^&*ed the non-believers.  Would the Freedom From Religion Foundation care to comment?  Check out the expression on the face of the woman at minute mark 1:44.  Priceless.

Melange:A World of Woo, tribal belief, willful self-delusion and Jane Mayer

There are a lot of interesting nuggets in the intertoobz these days.  Some of these things go together and show the lengths we will go to delude ourselves or cling to tribal beliefs.

Let’s start with a podcast.  So, you’ve given up the Judeo-Christian belief system for God 2.0 or no god at all.  Some of us would call this progress.  Giving up bronze age superstition and tradition for something more modern and relevant is quite a bold step.  So, why are so many of you turning to woo?  Woo is defined as “ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers”. Woo includes the belief in astrology, auras, energy fields, homeopathy, accupuncture, chiropracty and vaccination phobia.  Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist interviews various professionals who debunk these woos and tries to explain why otherwise rational people are attracted to them. Let’s put it this way, if you’re into woo, it’s hard to take anything you say seriously. You’d might as well be a nutcase fundy eschatologist.   Check out Seth’s recent podcast here.

Jay Ackroyd tries to lead Digby to the light when it comes to Obama’s commitment to a Grand Bargain on Social Security and Medicare.  First, go read the piece from Digby where she actually sounds like she’s blown right on past where Conflucians are sitting straight into the arms of the former Democrats who are so angry they’ve started to identify with the Tea Party.  Wow.  That’s quite a leap.  I know the party will reel her back in and, to be honest, we don’t really need more Tea Partiers in Congress, thank you very much.  But, yeah, Digby.  Jay’s right.  The Obama contingent are not liberals.  However, Jay is not right that they’re centrists.  The Obama contingent is definitely on the right side of center.  Nooooo doubt about it.  The only way that they are centrists is if you consider moderate republicanism centrist.  That would make Bill Clinton a flaming commie.  No, no, don’t go there, Jay.  We have seen the studies.  There’s no way in hell that Bill Clinton is a centrist in the same way that Obama is a “centrist”.  The center moved in the past 12 years.  You guys have got to accept this because your irrational belief that Clinton is an evil Republican dude compared to Obama, is what got Obama elected in the first place.  You’ve been done in by your tribe’s woo.  I mean, think about it: your group is asking us to believe that Bill Clinton is, was and always will be more conservative than Barack Obama.  Step back and think about that and ask yourselves if that’s rational given everything you now know.  If YOU can’t swallow it, why are you asking US to believe it?

As for Digby, I really like her and I’ve found her recent evolution to be promising, if only temporary in the lead up to the election.  I expect her to chicken out even though her “Hey! We’re eating grass!” moments are fun to read.  There is a place for left of center Democrats who don’t have our minds so wide open that our brains have fallen out.  We just need to create it.  It probably won’t happen this election cycle unless the Obama half of the party is defeated by the Clinton half of the party.  That’s where we are now.  You may not think the Clinton half is sufficiently liberal but the American people do.  In any case, they’ll drag the party back leftwards like an earthquake in Japan.  It could be a true realignment on the way back to sanity.  And remember, Wall Street rejected the Clinton half last time.  So, you know, how much more proof do you need??  Besides, there is no hope for Howard Dean.  Most people don’t know who he is and wouldn’t like him if they did.  We need to be realistic and work with what we’ve got.  And as far as I can tell, Americans would be ecstatic to return to the Clinton years, even if they were supervised by his wife. A woman in charge would be very good for women in general, wouldn’t you agree?  Especially when that woman is a passionate defender of women’s reproductive rights?  I mean, can women really trust Obama after they way he dragged his feet on the conscience rule, betrayed us in the healthcare law and kept Plan B behind a counter?

As far as everyone having “skin in the game”, Obama’s term for sacrificing in the upcoming Grand Bargain, um, I’ve seen my industry devastated by Wall Street grasshoppers and I’ve lost a very good living, permanently.  So, you know, I’ve already been flayed.  Not only that but I’m in the age cohort who has to wait until I’m 67 before I get the Social Security I prepaid for decades.  I’m not sacrificing anymore skin.  No, do not even ask.  Don’t make us come down there to Washington to make your lives miserable.  You do not want crowds from the size of my graduating class on the mall.  No, you do not.  I suggest that Congress go hunt people with an excess of skin, ie wealthy people.  Give them a good reason to whine.

The last bit is an interview of Jane Mayer on Fresh Air with Terry Gross entitled “Obama in Impossible Bind Over Donors”.  The Impossible Bind is that he wants and needs money from the wealthy and Wall Street but he doesn’t want average voters to know how indebted he is to his big donors so he has to blow the donors off in public.  It’s a sad, sad situation.  Terry, to her credit, seems to have come around after being such an insufferable Obama fangirl in 2008.  Jane Mayer valiantly tries to make Obama look good when it comes to fundraising.  You can almost hear Jane pleading with the audience to understand what Obama is up against but I found her extreme earnestness irritating.  It’s a cruel world out there.  Poor Obama, forced to accept SuperPAC money and trying to make it look like he doesn’t like it.  It’s all the fault of the mean Republicans that he’s sucking up all the money he said he didn’t want.  And while Romney is appearing at the SuperPAC soirees, Mitt has a deputy actually ask for the money, while Obama goes to the soirees and the money just mysteriously appears for him but he doesn’t suck up to anyone to get it.  I find the distinction indistinct.

Oh, but Obama isn’t giving away the Lincoln Bedroom!  So, you know, there’s that.  And that’s presumably why the donors are complaining.  They get nothing from Obama.  Not even a tote bag.  He won’t even take pictures with his donors so they can use that to name drop. It sounds like Obama got too much of a reputation as a schmoozer in 2008 and he’s desperate to squash that meme this year but that doesn’t mean he’ll be turning the filthy lucre down.  He just doesn’t want to have to thank anyone publicly for it.

But the funniest part of the interview is when Mayer is forced to debunk the idea that Obama made the bulk of his campaign money from millions of teensy contributions.  I know, you’re probably thinking that small contributions mean less than $100 because that’s what the Obama campaign lead us to believe in 2008.  We were all under the impression that millions and millions of working class Joes were mailing $20 to him in gratitude with a little note saying, “Bless you, Barack!  Save the Republic.  We’ve been waiting all our lives for you!”  Right?  Intellectually, you know it’s not true because the sheer size of the amount of money he collected, plus all of the contributions from wealthy Wall Street contributors, is public information. But the meme kinda slipped into the chinks of the gray matter and created it’s own woo.  It just *had* to be true because so many people repeated it.  It’s sort of like that woo we debunked about Obama running a fabulous campaign.  Um, no he didn’t, unless you consider gaming the caucuses and paying off the superdelegates and DNC fabulous, and we can prove it but myths die hard.

Anyway, it turns out that the definition of small depends on who is using it.  Small donations to you and me would be less than $100.  Small donations to the Obama campaign means maxing out at $5000.  See the difference?  One is $4900 more than the other. What working class stiff has $5000 to stuff into an envelope for a guy who had less than two years of national political experience before he decided to run for president?  And inadvertently, Mayer exposes what the Obama campaign thinks of the people who gave less than $5K.  They’re not even on the campaign’s radar.

But the final bit of silliness from Mayer is when she contrasts Bill Clinton’s extroversion against Obama’s intellectualism.  That’s got to be a first.  Whatever you might think of Bill Clinton,  making the guy who went to Georgetown, Yale Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar sound like a high school dropout car salesman next to Obama doesn’t really work too well.  What she’s really trying to say is that Clinton is a gregarious politician who likes politics and can carry on an intelligent conversation with anyone, even his enemies, but that the Obama contingent doesn’t like politics and getting hands dirty and actually doing the stuff that gets things done.  I know that she didn’t mean to say that but that’s essentially what she said.  If you were a big money donor, whose campaign would you rather give $5 million to?  (George Soros, call me!)

Once the bloom is off of Obama’s rose, you can’t listen to this stuff without laughing at all of the holes in the arguments.  The woo is gone.


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