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  • This is a pretty good postmortem on the election fiasco. Given that Udall only lost his race by about two points, while most of the red state Democratic senators were wiped out, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that delaying the immigration reform EO was indeed a major blunder, based on Democrats fancifully hoping to save Pryor and Landrieu (and Walsh, prior to his collapse), instead of having a much more sensible Colorado/Iowa/North Carolina-first strategy.
  • It probably doesn’t matter all that much that Chris Christie isn’t actually a very good governor. If the Republican money men decide he’s their guy, they have no shortage of people who can make it take whatever shape they want it to with the media. Christie’s bigger problem is that the base will have legitimate choices in 2016, so it’ll be hard for those folks to force him on a party that dislikes him. If I were them, I’d build up Cruz to some extent in order to scare the moderate/less conservative Republicans who choose these things into going for Christie, that’s a double game that could work. But damn if that’s not a dangerous one.
  • Much as I love David Cross, his albums are largely just not built to last (and arguably are not intended to, given how topical they are). Last time I took a trip through Shut Up, You Fucking Baby, I found myself rapidly skipping anything with political content because I’m worked up enough about present-day politics, who really still cares about John Ashcroft! But this actually has aged extremely well. If you’re a Prime person, it’s free.
  • Hillary Clinton can win the coveted Library Grape endorsement for President in exchange for one small thing: pledge not to give a job to Samantha Power. That’s all we ask, and believe me, you’ll be better off without John Bolton’s doppelganger.
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Shia militias acting with Iraqi government cover are leading the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis, sharply increasing their risk of death or exile, a report has found.

The role of the militias has added a new layer of danger to the country’s vulnerable LGBT community, which was already among the least protected groups in Iraqi society, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Association and the women’s human rights group, Madre said on Wednesday.

Given that the stated rationale of the ISIS war is in part to preserve the Iraqi government, perhaps the Obama Administration might kindly ask them to knock this shit off. Or, better yet, to simply call off this misconceived, panicked reaction called the ISIS war, though I very much doubt that will be considered.

At the moment we’re trying to preserve stability and human rights in the Middle East. Last time it was about democracy. Before that it was curbing aggression. US policymakers always find reasons to intervene in the region, though the longer I watch this, the less of an idea I have as to why. I don’t even think it’s entirely about oil–eliminating all sanctions would get that flowing smoothly, after all, and nobody seems to be advocating that. Christian fundamentalists may account for why Republican presidents love wars in this region, less so for why Democrats provide nearly as many. But of course this is merely facetious: I do know the answer. It is at this point a fully-fledged imperial enterprise that touches too many interests to simply be abandoned. Don’t get me wrong, America’s not an empire–more like a bunch of missionaries with machine guns, which is stupider and worse–but this is all too familiar. Even though, according to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, the American public soured on the imperial adventure in the Philippines very quickly, it continued for four decades. It took the New Deal sweeping out the entire political order that cared about such things, ultimately, to end it. Getting the hell out would make eminently more sense, though it seems as far off as ever.

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This month, Democrats managed to get badly defeated at the polls, losing ground pretty much across the board, in some areas dramatically. However, in California, Republicans failed to win a single statewide contest and actually dropped a U.S. House seat (though they did win a small number of state legislature and local races). Why did my state avoid the Republican wave again? The good folks over at the Field Poll organization have an explanation:

First, even in low turnout elections, the California electorate includes proportionately more ethnic voters than does the U.S. electorate. This benefits Democratic candidates across the state. However, its net effect in low turnout non-presidential election years is much less than in presidential election years.

In this year’s election, an even larger force underpinning the differences in statewide election outcomes here to those across the country was the voting preferences of white non-Hispanic voters. According to the exit polls, whites nationally voted for Republican candidates over Democratic candidates in House races by 24 points (62% to 38%). An identical result was observed in the 2010 mid-term election, which also saw the GOP dominating at the polls. Both were significantly wider margins than observed in mid-term elections prior to Obama’s presidency. […]

[California’s] white non-Hispanic voters were evenly divided in their preferences between the Democrat and Republican candidates across the six down-ballot races, with each party’s candidates averaging about 44% of the voting preferences. This is in stark contrast to the 24-percentage point advantage that Republicans held over the Democrats in House races across the country.

Thus, one of the major factors underlying the very different election outcomes nationally and in California relates to the voting preferences of white non-Hispanics.

So, essentially, our white people are more liberal. Good to know. There’s also a bit about how strong Democrats have become in coastal counties that is interesting. Perhaps over here we’re used to being a white minority and realize it’s really not all that bad?

The upshot is that Californians are in a position to really dominate the Democratic House caucus, given their relative size and that apparently they’re the only ones assured of not getting wiped out in a midterm, and can therefore build up considerable seniority much more quickly. This seems to me like a generally good thing from the point of view of progressive politics. Generally speaking, though there are a few exceptions (cough, cough).

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Fortunate Son is not really an anti-war song, it’s a song about people like Dick Cheney who cheer-led the war and then didn’t go, made no sacrifices for it, then congratulated themselves for their patriotism. It’s a condemnation for that sort of thing more than a critical evaluation of war or politics.

Born In The USA is also not really an anti-war song, so much as it’s a portrait of an America crumbling on every level, a theme carried forward on every other song on the album of the same name (as well as on his prior album, Nebraska, for which the song was originally intended). It’s those goddamn synth organ noises that make it seem bombastic. But overall it’s amazingly despairing for a pop album that sold roughly eighteen trillion copies, though perhaps it’s hardly amazing it sold so well because everything on the album was spot-on and is still all too relevant.

This, on the other hand, is an anti-war song:

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The movie remake of The A-Team would seem to have been the hardest ever thing to screw up. The show was basically like any B-grade generic action film, only it was on television and featured Mr. T. So, literally any kind of bare-bones ’80s-style actioner would have lived up to the legacy, such as it is, of the show. Dust off an unmade script from the time, insert the characters’ catchphrases, and go. Instead, they put out what this review accurately describes as “cartoon bullshit,” complete with silly origin stories, a lame romantic plot to lure another “quadrant” to the theaters, and the worst physics this side of a Star Wars prequel, practically guaranteed to keep you from investing anything into the movie.

Honestly, the Expendables films are the real heirs to the tradition of sub-par ’80s action films that The A-Team also belongs to. And after the novelty of the first one wore off, it became once again obvious that those films were terrible, and not in need of revival. Not that that group of movies was a total loss–Commando remains a hell of a time–but the ultimate effect of retro is to deflate nostalgia by removing your rose-colored glasses about how things used to be.

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The politics of this gambit seem to be entirely misguided. Too many Democrats think you can simultaneously get the public to believe you support an issue while supporting action that appears to undermine it–for example, saying you support old-age programs while advocating major cuts to them. While there is a way to make this logically consistent, and it’s entirely possible that the bill will only be passed with the knowledge that it will be vetoed after Landrieu’s runoff, only the highest-information types in the electorate will be sophisticated enough to get it. To the extent that it trickles out, it just makes people skeptical of the Democratic Party. It is a perfect example of the “too clever by half” saying.

Thank goodness Barack Obama seems to be resistant to this silly gambit.

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“Gridlock” in government eventually becomes “dysfunction” and “paralysis.”

A dysfunctional, paralytic democratic government very frequently finds itself fighting its own citizens, as they rise up against a failed government that doesn’t deliver what they need. (Good thing we reined in those municipal police departments getting military toys, eh?)

The length of the democratic tradition in these countries is essentially irrelevant–the Roman Republic had lasted for centuries, and Germany had strong democratic institutions from its founding to before the Nazis took over. France is on its fifth republic. That we’ve mostly stuck to democratic principles for 200 years is irrelevant. It’s entirely possible to imagine a right-wing strongman hailing James Madison and Thomas Jefferson while shredding everything they ever worked for.

I can’t really imagine the current constitutional scheme failing–the system seems to shake out of its paralysis in the event of serious threats against it–but it’s definitely worth saying that what would come after it would be really unpredictable. I suppose there are some less scary options (a Westminster-style constitution, the breakup of the United States into several autonomous nations in a customs union), but there are some really scary options too. One would think that self-styled conservatives would worry themselves about this, as tearing apart a constitutional order built largely on norms with no real vision of how to make things work has led to a great deal of instability and will only lead to more. That they are not apparently worried shows that they are not conservative in any meaningful sense of the term.

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