The end of Obama’s illusions

I think Pierce is a little too starry-eyed about Obama’s part in all this, but whatever:

Watching the administration’s momentum fade on this issue is to see a president presented with the final, practical refutation of the speech that made him famous. It turns out there is a red America and a blue America. It turns out that there is a conservative America and a liberal America. It turns out that the things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us. Or, at least, that the things that divide us are more politically salient than the things that unite us. The failure on guns is the last, final refutation of what Barack Obama said he believed about the people of this county.

It always depended on the notion that we were all together in the creative process of self-government. The fact is, most of us aren’t. Most of us have checked out. At the encouragement of two generations of ambitious politicians, we have accepted the notion that “government” is something alien, and therefore that it is something we cannot influence. You tell me that 91 percent of Americans support background checks. Wonderful. Put them on the ballot. They’ll pass, but only 40 percent of the eligible voters will bother to go to the polls, so where’s the danger to anyone in acting contrary to the expressed public will? Who does Mitch McConnell really fear in this particular controversy? He knows that there is a solid, active core of support behind the work he’s doing frustrating the expressed public will.

This is the fool’s gold that this president has been chasing ever since he broke onto the scene. He staked his entire career — and certainly, his entire presidency — on the notion that the right person at the right time could heal the “divisions” in our society — which, he told us, were not the real products of our politics, but the temporary fever dreams of a country led astray. The fact is that those “divisions” are our politics. They’re all we have, since we have determined as a political entity, that politics and government are a show, that nothing is permanent, that the scoreboard starts at zero every day. Who will win the morning?

Recently, Washington Monthly published the most important piece of public policy journalism that has appeared anywhere since Charlie Savage’s first dispatches in the Boston Globe describing the spelunking he’d done through the dark places in the Bush Administration’s national security apparatus. It was by Haley Sweetland Evans and it describes the diligent work done on behalf of the people who stole most of the world economy in 2008 and wrecked what was left to undermine even the moderate attempts of the Dodd-Frank legislation that sought to rein in merely some of the worst excesses. Read the thing. Gaze in awe. There was very close to a national consensus during the 2008 election that we’d all been the victims of obvious crimes. There was very close to a national consensus that something serious had to be done to keep the crooks from coming back for seconds. And the one expression of that consensus is steadily being picked apart by the very same crooks and their sublet hirelings in the Congress. This piece will make absolutely no difference to anyone. And there will be absolutely no price to be paid for any of it. And we’ll all treat the next collapse of the next economy as though it were a blizzard nobody saw coming, and nobody — least of all “the government” — was able to stop.

This is not cynicism. Honest to god, it’s not. Well, some of it is, but it’s more what I believe to be a realistic appraisal of what happens when, for private purposes, the citizens of a self-governing political commonwealth are estranged from the process of creating it. This process predates Barack Obama by several decades and it is now a permanent feature of our politics that will long outlast him. Nothing is permanent. The scoreboard is resetting to zero again, and the poor man should have run for president of a better country than this.

I’m not sure what he means. Are citizens “estranged from the process” when they keep petitioning the government, and the government does the opposite of what they ask? Seems to me that for the past ten years, citizens have been fighting as hard as they can (at least, without starting a war) to take our country back. Seems to me the fault lies with the money-grubbing, power-hungry empty suits of Capitol Hill, but that’s just me.

Your Democratic party

Rich Eskow:

Now comes this story in the Washington Post, about the party’s plan to brand its candidates as blank slates:

The best way to defeat the conservative, ideologically driven GOP, Democrats say, is to field non-ideological ‘problem solvers’ who can profit from the fed-up-with-partisanship mood of some suburban areas. These districts will offer some of the few competitive House campaigns in the country.

We’re told that party leaders want to play into what they see as the “fed-up-with-partisanship mood of some suburban areas.”

Total Recall

The Post article features Kevin Strouse, hand-picked by party leaders to contest a Congressional seat in Pennsylvania. We’re told that party officials think Strouse is “exactly the kind of candidate who can help them retake the House next year.”

“He’s a smart, young former Army Ranger,” writes the Post, “good qualities for any aspiring politician. But what party leaders really like is that Strouse doesn’t have particularly strong views on the country’s hottest issues.”

Strouse told the Post that Democratic officials asked him very little about politics or policy and said they focused on his background instead. “They’ve just liked the bio,” said Strouse.  Politics may be the only profession in the world where a lack of experience, coupled with what seems to be complete disinterest in the job, is considered an asset.

The Job

As a former Army and CIA officer, we’re told, Strouse likes to describe himself as someone who can “solve problems” and who “got the job done.” But which job, exactly?

Polls do show that voters are frustrated with Washington’s ability to “get things done.” But which “things”? The polling’s equally unequivocal on that score: Voters want government to create jobs. They want government to fix the economy. And, by overwhelming majorities, they don’t want government to enact the chained CPI benefit cut to Social Security.

The president understood that. His reelection campaign focused heavily on populist themes — themes he articulated brilliantly, regardless of his intentions. Will we see the same level of talent and expertise from the party’s new neophyte politicians?

“Certainly I have a lot of research to do,” said Strouse.

This Space Available

The Post profiled other blank-slate candidates, including Gwen Graham, daughter of veteran Democratic politician Bob Graham. Her only government experience seems to have been providing legal advice to the local school district.

We’re told that Graham’s campaign presents her as a “consensus builder” with the “skills to solve complicated problems.”

That’s campaign-speak for “lacks qualifications.”

Follow the Money

Then there’s this: “Without a presidential contest to compete with,” writes the Post, “Democrats also believe liberal mega-donors will open their wallets more generously (a PAC) supporting House Democrats.”

Not if Democrats have just voted cut Social Security, they won’t.

Turning Down the Base

While Republicans mobilize their base with “conservative, ideologically driven” candidates, Democrats think they can retake the House in an off-year election by fielding colorless, ideology-free candidates. If nothing else, that would certainly amplify the disillusionment of young people, minorities, and other core Democratic voters in a post-chained-CPI world.

Seniors would already be long gone, if the polls are any indication.

Who thought of this strategy again?

Allyson

I’m not a fan of Allyson Schwartz and neither is Howie Klein:

There are a number of races EMILY’s List is getting involved in that pit conservative women against progressive men and one of their keystone races is for the governor of the Keystone State. Their candidate is great on one issue: Choice. On economic justice issues, she’s a backward conservative and a danger to working families. Her record in Congress is disgraceful for anyone calling themselves a Democrat, let alone a Democrat from a safe, solidly blue district like hers. A vice chair of the repulsively corrupt, corporately-owned New Dems, her lifetime ProgressivePunch score on crucial roll calls is a wretched 76.68. But for the current session– where nothing is in her mind except her lust to become Pennsylvania’s first woman governor– her voting record has really gone into the toilet as she endeavors to prove how conservative she is by voting with Boehner and Cantor whenever she can. Her score for the current session has sunk to an abysmal 52.4, Blue Dog territory.

Allyson Schwartz isn’t a terrible candidate because she’s a woman. She’s a terrible candidate because she’s a conservative serving the interests of Big Business and Wall Street rather than of working families of Pennsylvania. EMILY’s List is terrible for supporting her just because she’s a woman. They should be supporting women– we need lots more in public office– but not women like Margaret Thatcher… or Allyson Schwartz. Oh come on, Howie… how can you compare Allyson Schwartz to Margaret Thatcher? Here’s how:
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The next flu pandemic?

Maybe.

Usually, when there’s a bird flu outbreak, scientists see sick birds before sick humans. This strain of flu doesn’t appear to cause symptoms in poultry, which makes it hard to trace and difficult to predict. When the 1997 bird flu hit, on the other hand, it killed nearly 100 percent of flu-infected chickens.

Another thing worth noting is that the H7 strain of flu hasn’t been identified in humans before, according to Osterholm. That means that we have no residual protection or immunity to the disease, which matters for two reasons: It means this flu could make us sicker, and that the vaccine will probably need more antigen in each dose to be effective. If we need more antigen—Osterholm guesses we’ll need 3 or 4 times as much—for each vaccine, that’s fewer vaccines to go around.

Is the US prepared for a bird flu pandemic?

As of Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had issued an advisory to doctors asking them to help identify any bird flu-like cases. The CDC has also started working on making a “seed strain,” which is essentially a prototype vaccine that can be copied by pharmaceutical companies to produce a vaccine.

Still, vaccines aren’t perfect. Osterholm emphasizes that avian flu vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective: “It would take months to do it,” he said, and there wouldn’t be enough of the vaccine to be distributed worldwide, at least not at first. So far there haven’t been any reports of people hoarding Tamiflu, the antiviral medicine people whose demand soared as fears rose around the avian flu outbreak in 2005.

This can’t be true

I’m sure Glenn Beck would have mentioned it!

While Republicans are quick to pounce on any proposals to raise taxes as a means of stimulating the economy, a new study finds that the U.S. collects a smaller share in taxes than most developed countries.

A look at 2010 data reveals that the U.S. is one of the least taxed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to a study released Monday by Citizens For Tax Justice.

6.3

In Iran, epicenter near nuclear power station. USGS says deaths may be in the thousands.

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