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Oh, I See. NOW They Care.

Monday, October 25, 2010
Some of us having been harping about campaign finance reform, well, since forever. And we're always told that it's too boring, too technical, that the voters don't care about it, that it's a "process story" and we should focus on more important things.

Then the Supreme Court guts a century of campaign finance laws and the Democrats get buried under an avalanche of undisclosed corporate ads. And suddenly it's an issue.

I'd be full of self-satisfaction at being vindicated if the consequences weren't so appalling. It's not this electoral cycle I'm concerned so much about. It's the survival of the republic.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:05 PM

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Saturday, October 23, 2010
Hey, it's been ages since I did one of these. Seen lots of places:

1. What is your favorite word?

2. What is your least favorite word?

3. What turns you on?

4. What turns you off?
high-pitched laughing

5. What is your favorite curse word?

6. What sound or noise do you love?
a cat purring

7. What sound or noise do you hate?
my bird screaming

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

9. What profession would you not like to try?

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
good start

Hey, wait a minute, aren't these the questions James Lipton always asks his guests on Inside the Actor's Studio?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:42 AM

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Bipartisanship and Question-Begging

Friday, October 22, 2010
Politics is about enemies. It's not pleasant to say it, but it's a reality. I'm not speaking about exploiting deep-seated racial, gender, and homophobic elements in society. It's really quite a bit more general than that. The only way one can get someone to the polls is to give them a stake in the election. Now sometimes this can be an affirmational vote, such as the vote of a lot of young people about Obama in 2008. But more often one needs more than this, if for no other reason than voting entails costs and there's not some perception of risk from not voting - as in you're screwed if the other side wins - then a lot of people are going to stay home. Especially when times are the bad, you need to pin the blame on somebody. If you don't, your opponents are going to pin the blame on you.

Which is where we are with the long-standing village obsession with bipartisanship. If partisanship is the problem, then nobody is really at fault - it's just 2 kids squabbling over crap in the schoolyard. It's nice for the media and the D.C. elite to hold partisanship responsible for the country's problems, or the voters, because it means that they don't have to look at themselves in the mirror, because it assigns responsibility nowhere. The voters aren't going to buy it, of course. They never have. So Obama's focus on bipartisanship has enabled Republicans to define a whole bunch of other enemies in American society - liberals, "socialists", immigrants, muslims, etc. - in part because Obama refused to assign the blame where it really belonged: conservative Republicans. He could have used their obstruction to fix them in the public mind as the defenders of the status quo. But he didn't, and here we are.

The dispirited Democrats are without a clear agenda to run on, which leaves us with only one message heading into the general election: that the Republicans are a bunch of psychos. Now this has the virtue of being true, but it would easier to make the case if Obama and his friends has been laying the groundwork for the last 2 years. Thankfully so many Republicans running for office are so looney the job is still doable, but a dose of political reality from the White House in January 2009 sure would have been nice.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:21 AM

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What The Hell Are We Going To Do About This?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
A good question from Digby. In light of the fountain of lies being spewed from TV sets all over the country, paid for by anonymous - and even foreign - corporate donors, and the abject failure of the press to notice that a lie is a lie, one has to wonder at the long-term health of the republic. If we live in a state whose elections are influenced (I'll take the optimistic case and just call it influence) by wealthy interests, some of them not even located in the United States, how are we ever going to fix the mess we're in? Money is not the be-all and end-all of politics - lots of candidates spend more money and still lose, but together with the other structural advantages enjoyed by Republicans, it has to make you wonder whether we are ever going to be able to end the remorseless concentration of wealth and power that is slowly turning this country into a banana republic. My only hope is that eventually there will be sufficient public disgust that we can turn the tide. Regrettably such social movements have always required leaders.

And it is here that we have a problem. It's not that there aren't policy levers we could use to mitigate the influence of corporate money in politics: we could require shareholders to vote on contributions, strengthen disclosure laws, even campaign for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood (which might be easier to persuade people of than a direct campaign finance amendment, given the widespread if wrongheaded concerns about free speech). But who is going to champion such a movement? The Democratic Party is nearly as in thrall to well-heeled groups as the Republicans, a situation that will only grow worse as unions continue to decay and old-style new deal liberals are replaced by neoliberal ones. Money is even more important in primaries than in general elections, you see.

It's going to be long road. Those of us who recognize the danger need to start talking about, to lay out the argument in a clear way, and to follow up what we say with concrete political action. We have to make the funding of political campaigns - scratch that, the financing of american politics , into major political issue.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:51 AM

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Monday, October 11, 2010
I just submitted my first article for peer review as a first author. Better late than never.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:42 AM

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