Rand Paul’s Filibuster

Rand PaulI’ve been surprised at the reaction to Rand Paul’s talking filibuster. By and large, Republicans have been cheering for it, even though the vast majority of them disagree with Paul on the policy. Anything that makes the president look bad, I guess. More concerning, liberals are cheering it on as the way filibusters were meant to be. I will admit that it has a certain charm. But there are real issues here.

Talking Filibuster

The talking filibuster wouldn’t really fix the Senate. In fact, I think we can conclude that as long as we have a minority party that thinks that the Senate itself lacks legitimacy, there will always be problems. What we need above all else is a reformed Republican Party that plays by the long established but unwritten rules. Given that we aren’t going to get that any time soon, we really need to abolish the filibuster.

Jonathan Bernstein noted earlier this week a few of the reasons that even the supposed real filibuster reform wouldn’t have worked:

If you support the majority party, then you’ll be annoyed by a talking filibuster and angry with the minority party. But if you support the minority party you’ll cheer them on. And most people will barely know it’s going on, and at best will just be reminded of how much they hate Congress. Which, technically, is good for the party with fewer incumbents—the ones who are doing the filibustering. Not to mention that anyone who does turn on C-SPAN today is getting a steady dose of Rand Paul’s views, not the majority party’s views.

So unlike what almost all liberals seem to think, filibuster reform is not enough; we need the filibuster removed. After all, isn’t the Senate already undemocratic enough? And lest all my liberal friends go on tilt, remember: if these revolutionary Republicans ever become the majority, they will destroy the filibuster anyway. We might as well get a little use out of it. It would be great to get all those justice seats filled.

Drones

On the issue that Rand Paul was filibustering, I’m in much agreement. But what is the big deal with the drones? The truth of the matter is that the executive has long ago taken to using totally unconstitutional powers to kill people without due process of law. This is not about drones and it is not about citizens. The Constitution really doesn’t make much note of “citizens.” The Due Process Clause does not apply to citizens; it says, “No free man…” Last time I checked, those Pakistani farmers were free men.

Now Rand Paul has teamed up with fellow pretend libertarian Ted Cruz to create a new bill that says that the president oughtn’t to kill Americans except when they represent an “imminent threat.” Kade Ellis notes that this phrase is wide enough to fly a drone through it. And Adam Serwer thought the whole thing was a joke:

The bill all but disarms the US government, leaving it with few options for lethal force against citizens other than gunstanks, helicopterssnipers, paramilitary squads, bombstasers and blunt force.

I’m all for oversight. But this is just pathetic. These systems have to be well designed. And even when they are, like with FISA, they are mostly just rubber stamps for the executive.

The real question we face is when are the people of the United States going to vote in enough solid liberal legislators to get the work of the people done? As long as we liberals continue to sit out midterm elections and allow the local school boards to be filled with creationist idiots, we will continue to see Democrats who are more conservative than Republicans a few generations back, and Republicans who only need a swastika and a charismatic leader to fulfill their destiny. The road is long but the cow is patient. Or something.

Mississippi John Hurt

Mississippi John HurtOther than today being the birthday of The Skipper, the only person who really called out to me was Mississippi John Hurt, the great blues and folk musician. He had a great story. He was a performer in his youth in the late 1920s. With the Great Depression he stopped doing music and became a sharecropper. And the world forgot all about him until a couple of years before he died. In those last years, he was quite famous in the folk scene of the 1960s. He was everywhere at festivals and on the TV. And then he died of a heart attack in 1966. But it is cool he got those great last years.

Here he is performing “Lonesome Valley”:

Update (30 April 2013 11:06 pm)

I just discovered that the great Broadway director Joseph Hardy turned 84 on this day.

Economic Libertarianism

The Mendacity of HopeThe fundamental error of economic libertarians is one of faith, faith in the divine efficiency of the almighty market. And, like chiliastic Christians everywhere, market fundamentalists—no matter how many times events refute their articles of faith—can be relied upon to find some handy explanation, usually involving bureaucratic malfeasance, for avoiding the plain fact that any market more complex than a vegetable cart requires regulation. Market fundamentalists believe that if government would simply get out of the way, the goodness and virtue of our enlightened buisnessmen would lead us to a promised land of milk and honey and gold-plated bathroom fixtures. They would be better off attending to the hard teachings of Machiavelli, who observed that “it is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope.” This is a fine maxim for business regulation and one well borne out by the housing bubble, as is its corollary: “Men never do anything good except by necessity.”
—Roger Hodge
The Mendacity of Hope

Republican Lobbyists Bowles-Simpson

Bowles-SimpsonTwo years ago today, Damian Paletta interviewed Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. And in that interview, they said that a destabilizing fiscal crisis was coming in—Wait for it!—two years. Okay, they actually used a weasel word. The exact quote is, “The U.S. could face a destabilizing fiscal crisis in two years or even sooner.” In truth, the US could face an alien attack sometime this afternoon. But in saying that, it is clear that this is an unlikely occurrence. The Bowles-Simpson claim is meant to imply that the crisis is coming and that two years is the longest that it would take.

It is two years later. Want to know what the status of that crisis is? The government can now borrow money for half the interest rate it could when they said it. But the terrible thing is not that they made this prediction and it turned out to be wrong. The terrible thing is that they’ve been making these predictions for years, they are always wrong, and yet the mainstream media and politicians from all sides still treat them as oracles.

What I think is interesting is that it is standard in journalism to note who a lobbyist works for. If someone is lobbying for a gun manufacturer, it is understood that this might affect his thinking on increased background checks. But in the case of people like Bowles-Simpson and the many other deficit fear groups, the media treat them as objective truth tellers. But they aren’t. These groups are best thought of as good old fashioned conservatives. Above all else, they want to cut funding for Social Security and Medicare and reduce tax rates.

Again, I can’t help but quote Matt Yglesias:

What they believe in, instead, is the overwhelmingly importance of rate-cutting tax reform and reduced spending on retirement programs. Which is fine. Tax reform and the appropriate level of spending on bolstering the living standards of retired people are legitimate topics for debate. But if you saw a bunch of Quakers running around in a panic about the national debt pushing a plan to reduce the debt by cutting military spending, and then loudly objecting to all debt-reduction plans that don’t slash military spending you’d rapidly reach the conclusion that the Quakers don’t actually care about the national debt. They’re just pacifists. And good for them! But it would be extremely frustrating for them to run around pretending to be accountants.

These people are always wrong when it comes to what they claim to be doing. But given it is just a smokescreen, that isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that so many people don’t see that. To do my part, I will here after refer to these guys as Republican lobbyists Bowles-Simpson.

Afterword

Note: Yglesias was specifically talking about Fix the Debt, not Bowles-Simpson, but it equally applies.