How Conservatives Remain Republican

How Conservatives Remain RepublicanThe other day, my father was watching television and he heard about the new Republican healthcare bill. He was outraged, and he said, “There’s no way they will be able to get that passed.”

Now there are a few things about this. First is that conservatives, not to mention, Republicans themselves are very much against this bill. Second is that my father is very naive. But mostly, the comment reflected to me that this was typical of how Republicans like my father manage to live with themselves while voting for a political party that is so consistently vile.

Republicans Are Consistent — Really!

It’s all very simple for my father and Republicans like him. The idea here is that, sure, the Republicans are kind of mean, but they (and by extension those who vote for them) aren’t heartless. My father, who is, at rock bottom, something of an ol’ softy, can vote for a party that is cruel, hateful, and vile. And so my father can continue on voting for the GOP, and pretend that sentencing to death hundreds of thousands of people whose only crime is to be poor as a mere aberration instead of its core philosophical nature.

This is not to absolve my father. He should know better. Now at 84, I suppose he can be forgiven, because his mental functioning has really gone down in recent years. But he was the same way twenty years ago. Regardless, I’m not just talking about him.

I’ve long been fascinated that Republicans vote for this. Forget Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas. In that book, he was talking about something else: people allowing social issues to trump the economic issues they traditionally care more about.

What I’m talking about here is Republicans voting for a party that consistently votes against what they believe in. And I think this is the mechanism. They’ll convinced themselves that the Republican Party really does vote as they would like. It’s just that now and then they vote in an odd way.

It’s like going to the same mechanic that you father went to when you were a kid. The GOP may claim that they actually believe with their base of voters. But that isn’t the case. The Republican Party really has changed.

Republicans Really Will Destroy Obamacare

Despite what my father thinks, the Senate will vote for its vicious healthcare bill and tens of millions of people will lose coverage. It isn’t an aberration. It’s what they actually believe. And by extension, it is what my father believes it because he votes them into office.

He can pretend that what the Republicans actually vote for isn’t what they believe, but it is what they believe in. I’d love to give my father an out — an excuse for voting for an authoritarian who wants to see children and the old folk and weak die. But there is none.

Republican Is Republican — Trump Is Nothing Special

And let’s not forget: from a policy standpoint, things are no different now than they would have been in 2013 had Obama won. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up. Call it corporatist money management or nationalistic bigotry. It all ends the same: poor people die and rich people get tax cuts.

This is the Republican Party. This has been the Republican Party for at least four decades. They don’t just hate people like immigrants and black-skinned people; they hate people like my father. The only question is whether people like my father will figure it out before it’s too lake.

Don’t count on it.

We Have a United Democratic Party

Bernie Sanders - We Have a United Democratic PartyYesterday, I heard a bit of Majority Report. This sometimes amazes me because it goes along with my thinking so much. I hear from other people that I’m really rare, yet here is this very popular podcast with people who agree with me almost all the time. Ultimately, I think we have a united Democratic Party; it’s just some who can’t stand minor differences between us.

What I heard was another podcaster calling in. He was a Bernie Sanders’ supporter, and he was complaining that the show wasn’t being harsh enough with Hillary Clinton or positive enough for Bernie Sanders. That’s an outrageous claim.

Their position on Sanders and Clinton is the same as mine. They supported Sanders during the primary. They still would have preferred to have had him as the Democratic nominee. They have many problems with Hillary Clinton. Just the same, they fully supported her during the general election.

(And let’s be clear: how could you not be in favor of Clinton in the general election? There were two parties running. If people want to make themselves feel good by voting for Mickey Mouse — or Jill Stein, who had as much a chance of winning — fine. That’s their choice. But the most important thing about that choice is that they are choosing not to be a factor in the election. A vote for Stein was certainly not a vote for Trump; but it was a vote for no one. So the position of the Majority Report folks just seems obvious to me.)

“The Election Was Stolen!”

But this guy who called in went on and on about Democratic Party malfeasance during the primary. His proof? The Democratic establishment wanted Clinton to be the candidate from the beginning. Who cares? Really! Who cares? Isn’t this what we expect? The fact that they set up the debates to make it easier on her is expected. But the truth is that the Republican Party actually did worse to Trump, and he still managed to get the nomination.

It’s sad for me to say, but Sanders lost the primary because he lost the primary. And I really think that had he been our candidate, he might be president right now. But this is hardly the first time that the Democratic establishment has convinced the voters to choose the “electable” candidate, only to lose. Remember how we chose electable John Kerry rather than unelectable Howard Dean, even though political science shows that if any Democrat would have won that year it would have been Dean?

“I Hate Sanders ‘Cause Some Idiots Like Him”

Hillary Clinton - We Have a United Democratic PartyOn the other side, I hear almost nothing about Sanders except as it is filtered through this caller’s lens. Because that’s all Sanders is. Take his most wacky supporters and define him as such. Matt Yglesias pointed out that the populist demographics in the UK went along with Hillary Clinton voters, “Corbyn’s electoral map, in the end, turns out to look a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. He did well in the most diverse and most educated parts of the United Kingdom and worst among older voters.”

The truth is that most people who prefer Sanders still like Clinton and vise versa. And generally, liberals are becoming more economically liberal. It makes sense. The truth is that economic inequality is the greatest tool that conservatives have against gender and race inequality. The whole of the Democratic Party has turned left — including Hillary Clinton. (Who thinks that Bill Clinton circa 1992 could win a Democratic primary today?)

We Have a United Democratic Party

I’m getting tired of this. Yes: both sides can find people on the other who are annoying as hell. But I think we have the most united Democratic Party in my lifetime. I also think it is more economically liberal than it has been in decades.

One thing that unfortunately also seems to be true is that most of the Democratic Party elite is afraid of this left turn — just as they were in the UK Labour Party. I think that has more to do with their wrong assumption that moving to the left is bad politics. They’re wrong, and they will eventually learn that — or they’ll figure out that they aren’t actually liberals and move to the Republican Party.

The Change Has Already Come

I think I’m a typical Democrat. I think the people on Majority Report are typical Democrats. And yes, I would prefer that this tiny minority of Sanders supporters would run for office rather than try to litigate the 2016 Democratic Party. And I would prefer this tiny minority of Clinton supporters who can’t find it in themselves to support Sanders would do the same thing.

But if not, I don’t suppose it matters. We have a united Democratic Party. We don’t need to change to come.

Democrats Lose When They Talk About Nothing

Jon OssoffOssoff, like so many losing Democratic candidates over the years, was brought down fundamentally by arguments grounded in identity politics.

Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s healthcare bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”

Much of this was unfair or ridiculous. And the stuff that wasn’t unfair — like the location of his home — is honestly pretty silly. None of this has anything to do with the lives of actual people living in the suburbs of Atlanta or anywhere else.

Ossoff’s team was aware, of course, that the district is not accustomed to voting for Democrats and that he was vulnerable to this kind of attack. They attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes. It’s a strategy that makes a certain amount of sense, but it also makes it hard to mobilize potential supporters. And by lowering the concrete stakes in the election, it also makes it easier for trivial and pseudo-issues to end up dominating in the end…

Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign — and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans…

If your opponents are unpopular enough, it’s certainly possible to win elections this way. But especially for the party that has a more difficult time inspiring its supporters to turn out to vote, that’s an ominous sign. Right now on healthcare and many other issues, Democrats suffer from a cacophony of white papers and a paucity of unity around any kind of vision or story they want to paint of what is wrong with America today and what is the better country they want to build for the future. And until they do, they’re going to struggle to mobilize supporters in the way they need to win tough races.

–Matt Yglesias
Jon Ossoff’s Georgia Special Election Loss Shows Democrats Could Use a Substantive Agenda

OCD Editor: Dealing With Weird Quotation Marks

OCD Editor: Dealing With Weird Quotation Marks

As an editor of online materials, I find myself with a curious problem: how to deal with single and double quotation marks. Because I suffer from a mild form of OCD, I like these always to be represented by the typewriter keys ' and ". Then I let WordPress, or whatever other content management system I’m using, convert these characters into the typographic symbols with left and right sides.

For example:

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”


‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’

But as an editor, I get text in many forms. Rarely are single and double quotes delivered as ' and ". Instead, they are entered as ‘/’ and “/”, as well as ‘/’ and “/”.

If those last two sets are confusing you, they are just how HTML actual stores these right and left quotation marks. All you need to know is that writers actually do submit text with these symbols in the text and they are perfectly correct.

The problem is that I don’t like them. I like my text to be straight ASCII7, and so I like my straight ' and " keys. If I had to choose from the other sets, I would take ‘ over ‘.

The other day, I was talking to a fellow editor who was complaining about this. She didn’t mind ‘ so much, but ‘ drove her crazy. It’s understandable; they really do make the raw HTML harder to read.

Since I was no longer alone in my complaints, it occurred to me that I should write a program to fix this problem. At first, I thought I would write it in PHP, given that I really like its string (short for “text string” or more generally a collection of characters) library. But then I thought it would be downright trivial to do with JavaScript.

One great thing with JavaScript is that you don’t even need a server. You can just run the program locally on your machine. And a few minutes later, I had the following program:

Remove Annoying Quotation Marks

This program removes annoying special quotation marks and replaces them with normal ASCII7 characters. The characters are:

  • ”
  • “
  • ’
  • ‘

Text Box

Source Code

I often pine for the days when you had to really get inside a machine. But I have to admit that it’s pretty cool to be able to write a program that solves an annoying problem like this with almost no thought or time.

Here is the entire program. All you would have to do is put it in a file with an html extension and then run it in a browser on your computer.

    <title>Remove Annoying Quotation Marks</title>
function Clean() {
  var t1, t2;
  t1 = document.getElementById("text1").value;
  t2 = t1.replace(/”/g,"\"");
  t1 = t2.replace(/“/g,"\"");
  t2 = t1.replace(/“/g,"\"");
  t1 = t2.replace(/”/g,"\"");
  t2 = t1.replace(/‘/g,"'");
  t1 = t2.replace(/’/g,"'");
  t2 = t1.replace(/‘/g,"'");
  t1 = t2.replace(/’/g,"'");
  document.getElementById("text1").value = t1;
    <h1>Remove Annoying Quotation Marks</h1>
    <p>This program removes annoying special quotation
    marks and replaces them with normal ASCII7 characters.
    The characters are:</p>
    <h2>Text Box</h2>
    <div style="text-align: center;
    margin-left: auto;
    margin-right: auto;"><textarea rows="5"
    cols="50" id="text1"></textarea></div>
    <p style="text-align: center;"><input
    onClick="Clean();" type="button"
    value="Clean" /></p>

You can download the program if you wish:



I realize this is pretty arcane. It combines a number of things people don’t care about: computer programming, editing, and my neuroses. But I still think it’s interesting.

It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill Obamacare

Paul Waldman - It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill ObamacareThe fate of the American health care system now rests with a group of allegedly “moderate” senators, who are getting ready to approve a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a repeal bill so monumental in its cruelty that they feel they have no choice but to draft it in secret, not let the public know what it does, hold not a single hearing or committee markup, slip it in a brown paper package to the Congressional Budget Office, then push it through to a vote before the July 4th recess before the inevitable backlash gets too loud.

“We aren’t stupid,” one GOP Senate aide told Caitlin Owens — they know what would happen if they made their bill public. Even Republican senators who aren’t part of the 13-member working group crafting the bill haven’t been told exactly what’s in it.

Today, we learned that in a break with longstanding precedent, “Senate officials are cracking down on media access, informing reporters on Tuesday that they will no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.” Everyone assumes that it’s so those senators can avoid having to appear on camera being asked uncomfortable questions about a bill that is as likely to be as popular as Ebola. As Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News tweeted about the secrecy with which this bill is being advanced, “I have covered every major health bill in Congress since 1986. Have NEVER seen anything like this.”

–Paul Waldman
How the Republican Coward Caucus Is About to Sell out Its Own Constituents — in Secret

All President’s Trump’s Incompetent Men

President Donald Trump - All the President's (Trump's) Incompetent MenIt was always funny, during last year’s presidential election, to hear Donald Trump talk about all the talented people he surround himself with. It was clear even then that this wasn’t true. His entire life was a good example of how the society does everything it can to help the rich.

Trump’s Incompetent Doctor

But the most impressive thing during the election was the statement that we got from Trump’s personal physician. Rather than provide a normal physician’s statement about the health of a patient, Dr Harold Bornstein’s statement rambled on with with the kind of superlatives that I normally associate with Trump himself.

The letter ended, “If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” At the time, Dr James Hamblin noted, “Donald Trump would be the oldest individual ever elected to the presidency. He sleeps little and holds angry grudges. He purports to eat KFC and girthy slabs of red meat, and his physique doesn’t suggest any inconsistency in this. His health might be fine, but a claim to anything superlative feels off.”

Dr Harold Bornstein's Bizarre Letter About Donald Trump's Health

It was clear then that it was more important to Trump that he had a physician who would tell him how great he was than one who was actually good at his job. Bornstein is the medical profession’s equivalent of a “yes” man.

Trump’s Incompetent Lawyer

I got the same feeling last week after James Comey testified before Congress. That was when Trump unleashed his personal attorney on us. Much has been made of him starting the letter, “I am Marc Kasowitz, Predisent Trump’s personal lawyer.” As Matt Yglesias noted, it was just one of many errors in the written statement. That just shows the kind of carelessness of everything in Trump-world. I disagree with Yglesias, however, in his belief that the problem is that the best people won’t work for Trump. There is a pattern here.

These errors didn’t offend me that much, though. It was the contents of the statement that did. The main thing was the repeated claim that Trump was innocent. If the FBI was not actively investigating Donald Trump, then he must be innocent. And then there is the claim that Comey releasing his own private memos — written specifically so that they contained no classified information — was equivalent to “selective” and “illegal” leaks.

What the statement said was just what Trump has been saying. All of his people are just there to repeat what the boss thinks. And I suppose there is something to be said for it. Repeat something often enough and people will believe it. That’s certainly true of Trump’s statement’s about his wealth and his ability to make deals. Both are lies, but they are widely believed — even by people who don’t like him.

Trump’s Incompetent Men Are America’s

But it all goes along so perfectly with my experience in American business. I’ve always found it easier to work with people from China and India than the United States. And the reason is that people from those countries care about results. Donald Trump is the perfect example of American business, where “getting along” is far more important than getting things done.

And now we have the President of the United States deciding who is going to lead all the different parts of the government. But we should count it as a great blessing that he has nominated so few people to run the government. And from Trump’s perspective, it doesn’t matter. You can use only so many “yes” men. And I think Trump has far more than any rational person would ever have.

All the Republican Excuses for Trump

Brian Beutler - All the Republican Excuses for TrumpIn the midst of the most devastating testimony delivered about a sitting president in the living memory of nearly everyone serving in Congress today, the Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, shuffled before microphones to say that Donald Trump—in trying to interfere with FBI investigations—probably just made an innocent mistake: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Ryan wants us to imagine Trump sitting alone in the White House with only his intellect and his muscle memory as his guides. He asks us implicitly to forget that Trump has a White House counsel, a vice president with years of governing experience, and an attorney general who campaigned with him for a year, all at his behest to instruct him. He asks us, again implicitly, to forget that Trump pierced the veil meant to separate the White House and FBI, to corrupt the rule of law, and that he then fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about why, and confessed—to NBC’s Lester Holt, and to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office—that he did it to remove “the cloud” of Comey’s investigation of his campaign.

It is an article of faith in Washington that no revelation about Trump’s conduct, no matter how severe, could convince Ryan and members of his conference to launch an impeachment inquiry. As dispassionate political analysis, this may well be true. It would certainly be foolish to believe the opposite—that Trump’s impeachment is a certainty.

But for everything we know about Trump’s conduct already, all this means is that the ethical and strategic conduct of Republicans in Congress should now be as heavily scrutinized as Trump’s. Republicans may not know what they’re covering up, but covering up they are; and they may believe they’re acting in their own political self-interest, but they almost certainly are not.

–Brian Beutler
Comey’s Trump Testimony Will Haunt Republicans

Left-Wing Populism Will Beat Upper Class Journalism

Jeremy Corbyn - Left-Wing Populism Will Beat Upper Class JournalismI’m really happy to see how well the Labour Party did under Jeremy Corbyn. It is a great victory for left-wing populism. Of course, it is of some interest that even in victory, I see the mainstream liberal press taking pot-shots at him. “Wow, it’s great that Labour did so well; too bad they are led by a guy who supports Hamas and Hugo Chávez.”

But I just wanted to share with you what I jotted down in my notebook yesterday. My hometown has the worst public transit system I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve ridden them on four continents in dozens of cities. But one of the best things about my “smart” phone is the little memo app that allows me to talk and create notes when I’m stuck because the bus isn’t working.

It’s “speech to text” feature doesn’t work that well. But it’s pretty cool that I can send my notes via email so I don’t even have to transcribe.

Just Yesterday

If the Labour Party does well tomorrow, Jeremy Corbyn will be said to have done a reasonable and maybe even a good job. They will never say that he did a great job. If the Labour Party does poorly, the media will blame it all on him.

In this particular case, I believe Corbyn deserves a great deal of credit if the Labour party does well. That is based upon the way that he’s managed the party. However I do not think that if the Labour Party does poorly that it is Corbyn’s fault.

I believe instead it is the Labour Party’s establishment that is to blame. Because they have done everything they can to sabotage him. Of course equal credit goes to the media which has done everything it can to delegitimize[1] Corbyn.

Then Left-Wing Populism Won!

Regardless, Corbyn and Labour did far better than I could allow myself to hope for. The truth is that the Torries were expecting to improve their position — not get beaten badly. And I think the whole thing shows that when liberals are allowed to be liberals, they do better.

A big problem with the New Democrats or the Tony Blair Labour Party types is that they aren’t authentic. Sure, they can win elections. That’s because elections are more about fundamentals like economic trends. The truth is that when Bill Clinton ran as a new kind of Democrat, he was still seen as a Jeremy Corbyn socialist. It doesn’t matter that Bill Clinton really, truly was a new (bad) kind of Democrat. The people still saw him as a leftist.

But we’ll win. As long as we vote, we’ll win. The people will support candidates who will support them — authentic left-wing populists.

And the people are right to think this. In a two party system, you expect that there is going to be one party on the left and one party on the right. When you have two parties on the right, the one that is slightly less conservative will be seen as, “Socialist! A socialist, I tell you!”

The People Need a Choice — And They Know It

And I still maintain that the Republicans’ move over the last four decades into a form of fascism is the result of the Democratic Party’s move to the right, starting in the early 1970s. Jimmy Carter was responsible for the success of Ronald Reagan. And Bill Clinton was responsible for the success of both George W Bush and Donald J Trump.

So the fact that the Labour Party won by being an unabashed leftist party is good news for the whole world. Everyone can see that there really is a constituency for left-wing populism. But our continued foe is the mainstream media. And that’s because they have never seen a conservative who was too conservative.

Liberal Journalists Think They Define Liberalism; They Don’t

But given that most journalists are liberal in the American sense of the term, they always define what they think as the right amount of liberalism. Thus, when a Jeremy Corbyn (or even an extremely moderate Bernie Sanders) comes along, they attack! The reporters define liberalism, not these politicians! So even if working people who make minimum wage like left-wing populism, the upper-middle class journalists can’t abide it.

But we’ll win. As long as we vote, we’ll win. It doesn’t matter that MSNBC thinks being pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage is all it takes to be liberal. The people will support candidates who will support them — authentic left-wing populists.

[1] My phone, in its infinite “speech to text” wisdom heard “delegitimize” and converted it to “deal egitim eyes.” As far as I know, “egitim” is not even an English language word. But it hardly matters. I knew what I had said.

Jonathan L Rudd on the FBI and Loyalty

Jonathan L RuddIt is significant that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity. This is true for the simple reason that the Constitution is based on lasting principles of sound government that provide balance, stability, and consistency through time. A government based on individuals — who are inconsistent, fallible, and often prone to error — too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other. The founding fathers sought to avoid these extremes and create a balanced government based on constitutional principles.

The American colonists were all too familiar with the harmful effects of unbalanced government and oaths to individual rulers. For example, the English were required to swear loyalty to the crown, and many of the early colonial documents commanded oaths of allegiance to the king. The founding fathers saw that such a system was detrimental to the continued liberties of a free people. A study of both ancient and modern history illustrates this point. One fairly recent example can be seen in the oaths of Nazi Germany. On August 19, 1934, 90 percent of Germany voted for Hitler to assume complete power. The very next day, Hitler’s cabinet decreed the Law On the Allegiance of Civil Servants and Soldiers of the Armed Forces. This law abolished all former oaths and required that all soldiers and public servants declare an oath of unquestioned obedience to “Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German Reich and people.” Although many of the officers in Hitler’s regime came to realize the error of his plans, they were reluctant to stop him because of the oath of loyalty they had taken to the Fuhrer.

–Jonathan L Rudd
Our Oath of Office: A Solemn Promise