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Is Blogging A Passing Fad?

Thursday, February 26, 2009
Rebecca. Tabitha Grimalkin. Crawlspace. MaggieMay. Styleygeek. Kermit. I could go on and on. All of these bloggers have either quit or just stopped updating. I think about how I used to post every day, and then started taking weekends off, and now I post like twice a week. It makes me sad, having lost so many people I came to care about. So, is blogging just something that was cool for awhile and now it's gone? I'm not sure. I hope not.

I've thought about quitting on occasion, but mainly because there are too many people in my RL who know about my blog (yes, that's entirely my fault). But I don't, because, as ever, there are some times that I have to talk about something and I don't want to drive my spouse insane. I used to motivated by being angry at the newspaper, but I'm not quite so angry every morning any more. And then there's the problem of time - I used to have more of it. There are so many reaons to stop blogging, but I don't.

There are still things I need to say, even if there aren't many to read them. So I'm not going anywhere. I just wish that my fellow bloggers weren't leaving at such at a disturbing rate.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:40 PM

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A Question of Funeral Etiquette

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Today I went to a memorial service for my supervisor's wife. I never met her, and I don't know my supervisor that well, but my boss is a nice man and has been struggling with his wife's bout with cancer with unquestioned bravery. He is one of those people who hates to make public displays of negative emotion - for months he's been pretending that everything was fine, when we all knew it wasn't. I couldn't help but think about the most recent memorial service I went to, and about my own (and Brazen Hussy's) mortality. I and a large number of my coworkers were present, and it was a nice service.

Now for my question, gentle readers: What does one do about demonstrations of religiosity at these events? I'm not a particularly religious person, but I do take religion very seriously. I try not to fake belief when I don't feel it. Overtly religious ceremonies make me pretty uncomfortable. During the event, I stood silently while others sang or prayed aloud, and a nodded my head when appropriate. No one who wasn't paying attention to me would have noticed that I wasn't really participating. It just didn't feel right. On the other hand, the service wasn't about my religious opinions - it was to honor the person who had passed, as well as their family and loved ones. Perhaps I should have mouthed the words and sang along with everyone else. I feel somewhat guilty about not doing so, although to my knowledge no one other than myself and my neighbor (who wasn't singing either) was aware of my forbearance.

Did I do the right thing, staying silent? Or should I have just gone along out of respect? I'm just not sure.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:05 PM

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Obama's Cannibalizing of the Democratic Party

Thursday, February 19, 2009
One of my biggest objections to the Clinton years was Bill's willingness to let the institutional apparatus of the Democratic Party deteriorate, and in some cases facilitate that erosion. The DNC became a presidential re-election vehicle. State and local parties continued to wither. And we all know what happened to the 40-year Democratic majority in Congress. No, Clinton might not have caused that decline, but he didn't do much to reverse it, and in some ways he made it worse.

By contrast, the Bush administration, for all its faults, was determined to strengthen the Republican Party. If Bush hadn't been such a disastrous president, he might have greatly strengthened his party.

Unfortunately, Obama seems to be going down the same road as Clinton, focusing on his own short-term political prospects rather than strengthening the party as a whole. During the campaign, he undermined independent 527's. For all the talk of "coordinated campaigns", he did precious little to help candidates down-ballot get elected. And since winning the election, he has systematically weakened the Democrats' position in Congress with his Cabinet appointments. By picking Salazar, he made the Colorado seat vulnerable. By choosing Napolitano, he removed the threat to John McCain (and hey, look how McCain has rewarded Obama, what with his bashing him on TV every night). He's killed the 50-state strategy at the DNC. And now it looks like he might remove another prime Senate contender, Kathleen Sebellius, by selecting her for HHS.

Yes, of course the Cabinet is important. But as we saw from the stimulus package, having an extra Senate seat has a much greater influence on one's ability to make good policy than having a slightly better than average Cabinet Secretary. I'm with Nicholas Beaudrot - this is a terrible idea.

So Barack, I don't expect you to undermine your re-election prospects for the sake of the party, but has it ever occurred to you that maybe a stronger party might be more useful to you than a weaker one?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:34 AM

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Not This Reagan Crap Again

Monday, February 16, 2009
So CSPAN has another ranking of presidents according to their "greatness." I could quibble with some of them, because I'm by nature a quibbler, but one of the relative positions is simply silly: Reagan has been rated as #10. Ahead of Lyndon Johnson (of the Civil Rights Act that transformed the country) and James Polk (who increased the size of the country by a third). Really. Reagan's great accomplishment was what exactly?

I know I've written about this before but I just can't let it alone. I was driving around recently on a street re-named for the Gipper and I nearly drove off the road while cursing. Reagan was a great president? For the big budget deficits? For slashing antipoverty programs? For an illegal war in Central America? For arms for hostages? For smashing labor unions? For shifting the tax burden onto the working class? For financial deregulation that has led to our repeated stock bubbles? For propogating free lunch politics?

And don't give me that garbage about "winning the Cold War." There is precisely nothing unique about Reagan's foreign policy. He used bellicose rhetoric, to be sure, but he was following the same old containment strategy in place since Truman. Whoop-de-doo.

Sorry, Reagan's "successes" in the 1980's paved the way for a lot of the mess we're coping with now. He wasn't a great president. He was the guy who used his childrens' college fund to take the family to disneyworld. The only streets that should be named after him are ones leading to landfills. Dirty ones.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:26 PM

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Don't Poke Sleeping Bears With A Stick

Friday, February 13, 2009
It's essential to compromise in politics, to accept quarter-loaves. It's why the political art is best practiced by adults - and by that I mean real adults, not just old people. It requires a certain maturity to recognize that you can't get everything you want. A democracy is a lot like marriage - you have to have be willing to bend as far as you are able, because the relationship itself is more important than the outcome of any particular debate.

But there's a limit. Some things are simply non-negotiable. To abandon them is to give yourself up entirely. You can't label something "non-negotiable" casually - it has to be a very select list. And for liberals, one of those non-negotiable things is Social Security. Social Security is probably the most successful social policy in the history of the United States, lifting millions of seniors out of poverty, lifting the burden of carrying for an old parents from their children and grandchildren, and giving a crucial amount of independence to all. Beyond this, Social Security is the exemplar of what liberalism is. When you ask a liberal what their beliefs have done for the country, you can point to Social Security.

Which is why movement conservatives have always hated Social Security. They voted against it when it was created, and they've opposed every extension of it. They've never ceased working to undermine it. Social Security is the living embodiment of the New Deal, which the right hates with every fiber of its being. It makes them crazy that every time they take on Social Security, they get burned. Trying to destroy Social Security destroyed George Bush's 2nd term. And I'm here to tell you, if Barack Obama tries to do it, it will destroy him too. There's a reason that Reagan's chief of staff Jim Baker used to devour anyone in the White House who said the words "Social Security."

There's this very weird belief that Social Security is going to bankrupt the country, even though the projections show a pretty modest growth in the program over time. Yes, there are more old people, but people are also richer than they used to be. When I was 19 I was worried about the effects of the program, but then I actually looked at it and decided it was probably fine. Sure, we should probably lift the income cap on the payroll tax, but that would probably do the trick. Any honest person would say the same.

Not that the rightwing opponents of liberalism and their lackeys in the press and among the Blue Dog Democrats are being honest. Every time they talk about Social Security, they cloak it in terms of "entitlement reform." They lump in Medicare and Social Security into one category, note the dramatic increases in projected expenditures in that category, and say "Hey, we need to cut Social Security! Reduce benefits! Raise the retirement age!" It's a ridiculously transparent sleight of hand, since the program that's rising isn't Social Security, but Medicare. Now the problem of Medicare is part of the more general problem of rising health care costs. The conservatives don't want to tak about health care, since that's "socialized medicine" - they fear health care would be a second Social Security, and they're absolutely right. So they try to distract people with scare talk about "entitlements", ignore the part of "entitlements" that are a problem, and go after their real target, Social Security. It's that simple.

I don't know how seriously to take discussions in the D.C. political press that Obama is considering "entitlement reform," i.e. the destruction of Social Security. I suspect that Obama isn't stupid enough to touch the program. The liberals would turn on him with the righteous fury of one scorned, a fury that would be all the more intense because we haven't become disillusioned with him yet. I imagine there's nothing so painful, nothing so likely to inspire thoughts of homicide, than betrayal by someone you just married. If Obama were to support cuts to Social Security, he would blow up the Democratic Party, no question about it.

So a word to Obama from a friend - don't even think about it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:30 PM

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A Meme That Makes Me Feel Old

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Where Were You When

1. Challenger Space Shuttle Exploded.
I was in between classes in Middle School. This really annoying girl was walking down the hallway telling everybody about it and laughing. At first nobody believed her.

2. Berlin Wall Falls Down
I was in high school. I think I was at a friend's house when it was on the news. I had a hard time believing that one too.

3. Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing
I was interning in a U.S. Senator's office. We were all afraid that the capitol might be hit. The Republicans actually shut up about how much they hated government for like 3 minutes after we found out who did it.

4. OJ Verdict
I was living in D.C. and having lunch with a friend. When the announcement was made on TV, all the African-Americans in the restaurant cheered, and the white people were silent. It made me sad that the whole thing had become about race rather than justice. I spent weeks defending the verdict on the grounds that we weren't in the jury and really had no idea what the proper decision was.

5. Princess Diana dies.
Didn't know. Didn't care. Sorry.

6. Columbine Massacre.
All I remember is that they had to push back a Buffy episode because of it.

7. JFK Jr. Plane Crash
Again, I really don't remember this one.

8. Bush/Gore Election
I went to bed thinking Bush had won, and woke up with Brazen Hussy telling me what had happened. I do remember deciding not to watch all the nonsense of TV tracking every little twist and turn. And I remember giving people crap for paying more attention to what happened in Florida than the fact that Gore had won the national popular vote and wouldn't be president. Stupid electoral college.

9. September 11.
Brazen Hussy and I had spoken on the phone earlier that morning - hers had just been hooked up in her Queens apartment. She called me when I was walking to class to tell me she was okay. I was like "Uh, sure you're okay. Why wouldn't you be?" I went ahead and taught class that day. We had just talked about the "rally-around" effect a President gets in time of crisis, and I told them to just watch what happened - George Bush would be treated like the Messiah for at least a year. And he was. God help us.

10. Space Shuttle Columbia Disintegrates
I don't remember that one at all.

11. Hurricane Katrine Hits
My first thought was horror. My second was rage at how incompetent the rescue and recovery operation was. And, predictably, despite all the avowals, afterwards nothing changed.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:30 PM

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Bloggers Can Be More Fun That Blogging

Monday, February 09, 2009
This weekend Brazen Hussy and I traveled to a blogger meet-up with Repressed Librarian, MaggieMay, and ComeBackNikki. It was great fun. There were a lot of laughs but strangely fewer drinks than I had anticipated. The evening's only disappointment was the total failure to find a Karaoke Bar. Ah, well.

For those of you interested in my political musings, I have little to add to the commentary of Paul Krugman with respect to the substance of the stimulus package. It's probably too small, some of the most important provisions (in particular aid to states) were eliminated in the Senate version, and some of the new tax cuts - especially the $15,000 credit for homebuyers - is just absurd. You can't re-inflate a popped balloon. I hope that the bill will come out of conference closer to the House bill, but we'll see. I'm coming to the conclusion that the plethora of veto points in our constitutional system only makes the country governable if the minority isn't crazy. Unfortunately the minority is crazy, so the nation appears to be headed in the same direction as California - fiscal meltdown.

Hold onto your hats.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:08 PM

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The Belated Education of Barack Obama

Thursday, February 05, 2009
He had to have known better.

Barack Obama ran on a platform of bipartisanship and progressive change. It was inevitable that a tension would emerge between these two aims - to turn down the temperature of politics, and to bring an end to the Reagan era so that we could finally address long-deferred problems and present crises. The difficulty is that bipartisan requires two partners, and the Republican Party, whose love for Reagan flirts with idolatry, would never accept the end of the conservative ascendancy. Conservativism has swalled the Republican Party and has become its raison d'etre. How could anyone imagine that they would simply surrender?

I had hoped that Obama wasn't naive enough to believe that the Republicans would cooperate, that they would accept the results of the last two elections. Give them an opportunity to participate in a constructive way? Why not? But to have any real hope that an embittered minority would give up its legacy? Never. The conservatives that run the Republicans are irreconcilables. Even if they weren't, the failure of Obama's Presidency is very much in their political interest in the 2010 elections. I'm sure Mitch McConnell and John Boehner go to bed and dream of a reprise of 1994, when pure obstructionism of Clinton's agenda gave the Republicans the Congress.

Obama has made the additional error of playing and "inside game." He's worked behind the scenes in Washington, bartering with this member and that. This is now how great change is accomplished. Obama should have surrounded himself with all 50 governors as he announced the plan to rescue America's economy. He should have barnstormed the nation. Democratic congressmen and other surrogates should have blanketed the airwaves. He should have used the momentum of his victory to its fullest. He should have made preparations to pass the law under reconciliation rules (vitiating the posibility of a filibuster) and told the Republicans to work with him or be excluded entirely. Perhaps then, in the face of overwhelming popular support, the Republicans might have knuckled under and stopped playing games, although I doubt it.

Instead, immured in Washington, he has compromised away piece after piece, even before negotiations began. He has watched the public debate become how much spending to cut out of bill whose entire purpose is to spend money. The Republicans have seen his bipartisan gestures as signs of weakness, and acted accordingly. Now it seems Obama has begun to learned lesson he should have learned from his time in the Senate, the lesson every Democratic President has to learn sooner or later: the only language Republicans understand is the language of power. That, after all, is what modern conservatism is all about.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:58 PM

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Lastest Chapter of "Liberals to America: We Told You So"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009
It's becoming difficult to find anything the center/left hasn't been absolutely correct about over the last decade. More evidence from economics.

Not that I'm gloating or anything.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:48 AM

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Keep Them In Their Place

Monday, February 02, 2009
There are reports that officers in the military are preparing to mount a public relations campaign to pressure Obama into staying in Iraq. Uh, hello? When did they stop teaching about civilian control of the military in officer training school? This is what happens when you have 8 years of a "President" claiming that he does whatever generals tell him to do. Even if it wasn't true (and I don't think it was), it gives generals funny ideas. Generals with funny ideas are very dangerous things.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:11 PM

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