Saturday, January 30, 2010

The first day of calming down

I got angry at President Obama when I found out that Scott Brown had won the MA Senate race, but not because Scott Brown had won the MA Senate race. I was away for most of the campaign, but by all accounts Martha Coakley and Scott Brown lost and won that race, respectively, all on their own. But I was nevertheless annoyed at Obama, because he didn’t find a way to get us this damn health care bill in a year with 60 senators. And all of a sudden we didn’t have 60 senators anymore, and the window was at least a little bit smaller, and we didn’t have anything to show for it.

I have since tempered, though – and of course Barack knew I would – for a couple of reasons, two of which I submit here.

One, I like the new tone. I liked it when he called out the GOP a bit in the State of the Union, and I liked it more when I watched this today: Obama taking it to the House GOP caucus on their turf. It won’t work – he’s not going to get Republican votes in the house for jack – but I just can’t believe that we’ve allowed 60 to become the new 50 without making the Republicans pay any political price. The last time the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate was 1979, and though I suspect that no one thought that enough Americans were stupid enough in 1979 to ask this question, so there are no data for historical comparison, what if we polled “How many votes does it take to pass legislation out of the United States Senate?” Gut check – what percentage of Americans today would say that the answer is 60? No, if this is the way things are going to go, then Obama should spread a bunch of quicksand on the floor of the Senate, and then make those 41 Senators stand in it until they get out or get sucked all the way in.

Second, the fact that we are not there on health care and nowhere on climate (and oh boy, are we nowhere on climate) is really, it’s important to remember, the opposition’s talking point. In fact, a lot has happened this year, and it was nice to get a reminder from Friend-of-The-Pickle Parisa that the Obama administration is still turning the ship of state in a wide arc. Witness this tidbit about the game face that the Civil Rights Division at DOJ has on.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reform: Back to the Drawing Board

Here's an interesting, fun, pie-in-the-sky idea for electoral reform: redrawing state lines such that states all have more or less the same population (5.6 million, based on the 280 million figure from the 2000 census).

Missouri seems to be the only state that's more or less intact.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ezra Klein on Obama's Anniversary

Klein's analysis of Obama's first year in office is right on the money.

That there is a wide gulf between Obama the Candidate and Obama the President is middle-aged news. Of course, the constraints of campaigning are far different that the constraints of governing. For one, there's the Constitution. For another, particularly with regard to security issues, the stakes are higher and information is better. But with regard to financial regulation, climate change, and health care, Obama's adoption of an "insider" governing style is puzzling, given that the strengths/lessons of the campaign, the reasons Obama beat Clinton and then McCain, were 1) control of the narrative, and 2) running an end-around the traditional communications apparatus/establishment to make direct contact with voters. My guess is that the administration has judged that the electorate would be exhausted by that approach, but in rejecting it has committed the cardinal sin of not dancing with the one that brung it. Governing is different from campaigning, but it's still politics, right?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Coinage: Hipster Garbage

My friend, Dave Bennet, posted on Facebook the following update: "Where the Wild Things Are. Boo. Hipster Garbage."

I had always wanted a pithy phrase to describe my antipathy towards Wes Anderson movies, and there it was! Hipster Garbage!

What, exactly, qualifies something as hipster garbage, of course, should vary from person to person, but I sense that everyone has a clear concept of what it means. It need not even be particularly negative. Some things that are clearly hipster garbage may have real value (for example, The Royal Tannebaums.)

My best (working) definition is:
Hipster Garbage (n.): a work of popular culture that displays some or all of the following characteristics: it is pointless, boring, and technically impossible. Yet hipsters think it is genius.

Wes Anderson is my quintessential hipster garbage auteur. Who are your favorite creators of hipster garbage? Bands? Movies? Books?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What? Slang? Yes.

Time to dust off the ol' "slang coinage" label - we have a doozy from Friend of Pickle MR, who refers to smartphones as "wonder killers." Granted, not a Pickle original, but it's excellent, and MR's mom apparently uses "Dundos" for Dunkin' Donuts, which is my top slang integration into the vernacular priority.