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17 January 2010

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Lysander

"But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there.
And none so poor to do him reverence."

Sorry. I've been waiting a long time for an excuse to use that line.

different clue

Given that President Obama
seems to be steering America's Israel-Palestine policy in a better direction, a direction-change which will require eight years to be made irreversible; certain of his domestic approaches and decisions seem all the more unfortunately likely to make him a one-term president.

For example, just recently DNA evidence of the
"Asian Carp" (really 2 species...the Bighead Carp and the Silver Carp) has been found in the Chicago Ship Canal. Michigan's Attorney General Mike Cox has filed an emergency brief with the Supreme Court
to force Illinois and the Army Corps of Engineers to close the last few locks standing between the Asian carp and the Great Lakes. If the Asian carp get into the Great Lakes they will destroy a 7 billion dollar per year commercial fishing and sport'n tourist fishing industry per year...all to save some Chicago area barge-shippers a hundred million dollars per year. And the Obama Administration has announced
it will oppose Michigan's lawsuit to close the locks.
Some shipping convenience for his Chicago buddypals is more important than saving an international fishery from Asian carp destruction. (International because the Great Lakes are just as much Canadian as American). This action will disaffect millions of voters in 7 Great Lakes states; especially if the Obama Administration is able to keep the locks open, let the carp in, and destroy the Great Lakes fishery. That concern may sound parochial to some, but it doesn't feel parochial to those who live around the Great Lakes.

And its a series of things like that which make Obama appear more and more potentially a one term president.

walrus

I'm afraid I'm 100% in agreement with you Col. Lang. Obama cannot make any progress against the opinion makers and their special interest group backers.

I think you are very close to losing your Republic to the "Opinion Makers" who seem to be able to overwhelm rational argument and set the agenda anytime anywhere.

The opinion makers are financed by the corporations and their owners who have constructed an Orwellian reality of perpetual war on terror.

I foresee a Petreaus/Palin Republican ticket in 2012 that is going to be unstoppable.

After that a "soft" uber patriotic quasi military dictatorship is possible by drawing John Yoo out of retirement and dusting off the "Unitary Presidency" garbage that has been conveniently pigeon holed until another Republican is elected.

But it's Monday morning, not a good time...

J

Narcissism, narcissism? Who would have thunk.

Twit

Doesn't the Colonel's (spot on) post beg question of why should we even be trying for 'national health care legislation.' Would it not be more politically feasible, more in line with our federalist system, and ultimately more effective and efficient to just make health care a state issue?

Why not instead just have the federal government - through a combination of executive orders, the HHS and CDC budgets, and some funded and unfunded Congressional mandates where necessary - just set certain minimum health care principles, and it would be up to the states to figure out how to implement. These basic principles could include for example universal insurance provision, no disease-related termination of coverage, no caps on lifetime pay-outs, and free government-provided intrinsically public health services, e.g. child vaccinations. Naturally people afraid of communism could opt out of the latter, and pay for it themselves. The states could also of course choose to add more principles and compete for taxpayers by providing a better health system for its residents.

Bobo

When Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling a Yankee fan it was all over. A mistake like that is like a Southerner saying Robert E. Lee fought for the Union.

Nicollo

Lame duck?

Perhaps a little early for that epithet....

batondor

Pat,

Writing as I do from a Boston suburb, and being a liberal Democrat who thinks and hopes that Coakley will win, I'd be tempted to disagree with much of your commentary on the subject of the "special election" but instead will offer a few specific conjectures:

1) Coakley's campaign has been rather uninspiring and slow off the mark while Brown did well initially with few resources until he got the lift from a few somewhat biased polls that drew much media attention for horse race purposes and then some national GOP support, but I don't think the reasons go beyond relative complacency on Coakley's part. For what it's worth - which is admittedly speculatively counterfactual at this point - I think that Mike Capuano would have run a campaign far more energetically from "The Left" with fighting unemployment and constraining the banks from knee-jerk foreclosures and dangerous risk-taking as his core messages and he would have faired much better than the AG (imho...).

2) Your point about the people of Massachusetts being 'vaccinated' (sorry...) against hyperbole from both sides concerning the national health care bill is well taken, but the double irony is that Brown actually voted for Romney's bill and it is the model for the national bill (and just to be fair, Brown's "hypocrisy" is perfectly normal...). The expansion of health care here has actually worked pretty well, but that doesn't mean it's viable independent of a national effort over the long run (but people can't see that yet...). I won't say that it was a non-issue, but I do think that some may have overestimated the connection with the late Senator Kennedy and the national plan because she's going to get those votes anyway...

3) On the other hand, Coakley has been an unapologetic critic of the Obama "surge" in Afghanistan while Brown has taken the standard GOP line to "finish the job", but I cannot decide whether that hurts or helps her (or him) in a state with a significant active and reserve duty tradition as well as a significant National Guard contingent in various deployments versus the overrated impact of vocal islands of anti-militaristic sentiments around Cambridge and Northampton.

I will dare to suggest that your apparent surprise that Massachusetts could be so unreliable for the Dems is as misguided as some who may have thought that Virginia was transformed simply because Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Tim Kaine and Barack Obama showed that a Democrat could win statewide...

... because the polls show that the largest cohort of voters in Massachusetts is declared independent and moderate if generally leaning Democrat just as I am guessing the same is true in Virginia if you replace the D with an R (I believe the breakdown for registered MA voters is about 50% "I", 35-40% "D", and 10-15% "R"). Let's not forget that John Adams and Tom Jefferson are still "alive" in so many ways. My family has been in Massachusetts since immigrating in the late 19th century, but they thoroughly abandoned their Latvian roots and as such I think we can claim as much a link with our "founders" as you clearly have with your own in Virginia...

One last point, if I may: we've been living for a century with demographic shifts such that the disproportionality of Senate representation that the current cloture rule reinforces is not, in my opinion, sustainable ad infinitum. I could cite chapter and verse on the numbers that go well beyond the obvious incoherence of 60-40 as a criteria for majority rule or the 70-1 ratio of citizens voting in California versus Wyoming or that about 15% of the American people elect 50% of the Senators, but simply put we are in a predicament that has been "solved" in the past whether with coercion when left to fester too long by our leaders and with collective adaptation when the will of the people was taken seriously...

... and yes, I know it's simplistic to blame 1860 on the leaders while commending the masses for the direct election of the Senate or the suffrage of women, but it is arguable that our system has evolved as conditions and circumstances warranted, though often at a considerable (and perhaps avoidable) cost.

My ultimate point, however, is simple one: how dubious is it that so much depends upon the election of a single member of just one body of Congress? (and that's true no matter who wins... except for the fact that I think it is statistically accurate to state that the Republican party is benefited considerably more by the distortions of representation previously noted...).

It certainly puts "special" in an unusually bright light, no?

Patrick Lang

batondor

Surely you understand that that the smaller states will not agree to their emasculation? What do you expect, a California or federal extra-legal coup against Vermont?

I am surprised that a lot of you do not seem to understand, that, unlike in many other supposedly "federal" republics, the constitution of the United States is the product of an agreement among the states (large and small) without which there would not have been ratification of the constitution. The outcome of the Civil War did not change that in spite of all the tripe about "the United States were and now is." The victors changed nothing because the interests of the states dictated then and now the status quo. The states remain in charge of the instruments of their power; the electoral college, the senate, election, etc. Nothing in the constitution can be changed without state government approval. The ERA is an example.

Perhaps a dissolution of the Union follwed by a constitutional convention? you should know that once that process started the agenda and ratification process would be uncontrollable.

Keep it real. pl

Redhand

Today the president gave a speech on national television that will irritate some people. The narcissism was on display.

I read http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/01/obamas-sermon-remembering-mart.html>the speech. If my own reactions to it are any guide, what's irritating is not Obama's identification with half his heritage, but the fact that he's just another "say anything" politician out of touch with reality:

"I know it's been a hard road we've traveled this year to rescue the economy, but the economy is growing again. The job losses have finally slowed, and around the country, there's signs that businesses and families are beginning to rebound. We are making progress."

Sorry, but this sounds like a Larry Summers talking point. It isn't just "Wall Street bankers" who "don't get it." It's Obama.

If he loses the Senate in MA it'll be because of Obama's ties to the financial oligarchs, rather than the incipient racism of the Rush Limbaugh lunatic fringe. At least that's how I see it. While this election may be about "health care," I really see that issue as simply the most prominent of his sellouts to monied interests.

batondor

Pat,

I agree 100% to the degree that I never suggested anything like a constitutional convention was in the offing nor that it was desirable because I believe neither to be the case... nor did I recommend that an "emasculation" of the smaller states was either inevitable nor a panacea (especially when it is protected explicitly by Article V of the Constitution)...

... but I do believe that having an evolving compromise between the principles of direct and representative democracy has been embodied in the United States Senate and that this compromise will continue to evolve as conditions and circumstances warrant.

After all, there is nothing sacrosanct about the 60 vote rule to end debate...

Brian Hart

Brown has run a good campaign, Coakley hasn't post primary.

You are witnessing a Romney/Clinton surrogate campaign with the respective organizations in the background.

Jobs are a big issue and are being addressed poorly by the politicians creating angst. Health insurance is nearly universal in Mass. and expensive so the national debate on it in Mass is more of an 'out of staters' issue.

The out of state muscle - the Pat Boone robo calls for Brown and the out of state money for Coakley don't equal registered voters in Mass -- rather background noise.

If the Dems get out and vote for this uninspiring candidate I expect a Coakley win by 2 pts.

If not then Brown by a nose.

If Brown wins he won't hold the seat in the normal election.

I wouldn't read a national trend or the end of Obama into this isolated special election despite the temptation to do so by commentators. A one off local race does not make a national trend.

bubba

Whatever problem Obama may have with narcissism or any other faults (and they are many), it still boggles my mind the extent to which the entire Republican party seems to want to be nothing more than a bunch of screaming brats throwing a tantrum. Those remaining Republicans who are more sane than their Tea Party cohort are still so viscerally opposed to "liberals" that they are gleefully marching on with the nihilists. Truly sad.

Our political system is broken. No leader, no matter how talented could overcome the obstacle that is the modern Senate.

Massachusetts is only giving us another reminder of this sorry state. Now wait til November. I'm gonna have to cancel cable to stay sane through that one...

batondor

Pat...

You modified your response a bit, so my earlier attempt might be a bit dissonant even if it still stands on its merits...

... however, I don't get your point about ERA. I believe it came within one state of the requirement that only 75% of the states need ratify an amendment for its inclusion in the Constitution, so in such a case there might be about 25% of the states that would be "forced" to accept that change even if they rejected ratification.

Paul

Martha Coakley reminds me of a Mother Superior what with her drab and droning personality, but like all nuns, Coakley reads the fine print and actually works quite hard at the jobs to which she is elected. Those plain vanilla qualities work against her in the atmosphere of telegenic empty vessels spouting two slogans: “cut spending” and “lower taxes”.

Since its existence, Massachusets has been at the cutting edge of social initiatives that benefit the citizenry. That costs money, but so what. Sure, too many of the politicians are loud and constantly bragging, but the legislature is productive. The notion that spending cuts and reduced taxes will improve the general welfare is absurd. The citizens of Massachusetts still think and analyze and they will raise or invent some kind of tax to pay for improvements. Imagine where we'd be today if not for Bush's tax cuts.

Local television advertisement focus on the vigorous reception Mr. Brown gets as he marches through South Boston and Charlestown - both made famous by the Battle of Bunker Hill and “bussin” (the great education/transporation experiment that started a race war that still simmers).

Wall Street, the wars in the Middle East, the economy, health care and such other needs require adult supervision. Scott Brown, Sarah Palin and their fellow Teabaggers are not ready and able to change the status quo and improve the shabby state of the nation. Mitt Romney with his movie star good looks and heavy wallet went over like a fart in church while he was governor. And by the way, if you knew the cops of Cambridge you would agree that Obama properly stated that they “acted stupidly”.

Coakley will win this election.

Cold War Zoomie

I'm echoing Col Lang here...and I strongly, strongly recommend the following book for everyone who wants to understand how we operate here in these United States:

The Summer of 1787

The small states played some serious hard ball, especially South Carolina. What a surprise.

curious

Latest poll number is out. I don't think Coakley will make it. I am now putting the chance of double dip recession at nearly 100%. (hope for last minute reverse...)

quick back envelop calculation:

1. health care reform, major key reducing income stress is gone. It will now grind to a halt.

2. Obama will have to fight for party control. Ugly. Get rid of entire senate leadership, redo party honcho, toss out administration agenda. It's all defensive play from here on out.. (blue dog will play their card everywhere.)

3. Party base won't accept senate, and mid term will be a big wild card. Dems lost again. Specially if Obama fails to change party leadership.

4. International market start calculating double dip scenario and administration agenda out the window. Dollar is going to take a beating for sure, since investor will look for place to park money out of the double dip.

5. Israel lobby wins. So Palestine/Israel conflict will continue, while Saudi squeezing hard until US let go of Israel position. (This is the high oil price/double dip part) There is no change in Palestine for next 2-3 years, which means a small war is very likely.

6. Iran will also calculate that Obama does not have the political capital to fight israel demand for war. So they will prepare for a conflict. (oil spike on every little news shenanigans) China will definitely not buy too much dollar, since it has no use for them to maintain export/oil price relative to yuan.

7. Iraq. This year is paid for. Next year will be very interesting, specially if somebody make sure things exploding in Iraq.

8. Afghanistan will quickly turn into unpopular expensive war if public mood turns ugly.

9. Haiti is gone. dems & public will not be in the helping hand mood. TV images will be brutal. So there goes 20-30K people die after quake. Probably the government will collapse as mob running rampage.

William R. Cumming

A great post and summarizes my beliefs as to Massachusetts. A disturbing theme in other comments. First as to the Constitution the argument that it is just a compact of the States was not put to rest by the CIVIL WAR a conclusion with which I agree. In fact the CONSTITUTION was finally rejected as a compact of the STATES and is a document derived from the PEOPLE as established by the 35 year career of another noted Virginia, a veteran of the entire REVOLUTIONARY WAR against the King of England, John Marshall the fourth Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court of the United States. As the STATES dwindle in competence and importance largely for reasons of finance and desire to not be TAXACHUSETTS Tuesday will not be the closing of the door on the Obama Administration, because whether or not health care succeeds, the votes in 2010 and 2012 will be the real measure of the man. Look at Truman in 1948. Obama had two choices on health care--reduce the overall costs to the Medical sector of the economy or expand coverage. His plan does not much of either and each is mutually inconsistent with the other. Perhaps there is some desire in Massachusetts to not have the Kennedy seat owned by the DEMS. There is a TEAPARTY candidate named Kennedy running as a third party and his vote might be decisive for one of the other candidates. He could drop out but that is not American tradition for third parties. The only real question is how angry are the voters in Massachusetts and how do they view their selection? They are used to having at least one powerful Senator and don't think either of the two front runners fill that bill. The DEMS do seem to have a death wish and the Republicans only hope for their future is that. What a sad time as we watch the US pretend in Haiti that Katrina is not the reality for a major catastrophic event in the US.

Nightsticker

Colonel Lang,

Don't forget that there is a "Kennedy" running in the Mass. Senatorial election Tuesday. Joe Kennedy, the Libertarian Party candidate. He is currently running at about 3% in the polls. His point of view on many issues would blend in quite nicely with the sentiments I read regularly on SST.I read somewhere that both of the Establishment Party candidates [the ones from the two different cliques Dem and Rep]are concerned that a significant number of voters accustomed to pulling a lever for "Kennedy" for 40 years may do so again. Exactly who this would hurt the most is a puzzle.

Nightsticker
USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

Rider

Coakley has by all accounts been a poor candidate. And the President has serious problems of his own, mainly because he has done a lousy job of holding Republicans accountable for the failed economic theories and policies which created the economic mess we find ourselves in. I hope the nail-biter in MA is his wake-up call.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/17/AR2010011701934.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Rider

Col. Lang

" The outcome of the Civil War did not change that in spite of all the tripe about "the United States were and now is." The victors changed nothing because the interests of the states dictated then and now the status quo. The states remain in charge of the instruments of their power"

Point well-taken. Be that as it may, the losers definitely changed it when it came to setting up their own union. When the Confederate Constitution was ratified, states' rights went out the window, slavery became the law of the land and no state or future state had the right to resist it.

The historian Wm. C. Davis points out this glaring inconsistency in the South's states' rights arguments:

"To the old Union they had said that the Federal power had no authority to interfere with slavery issues in a state. To their new nation they would declare that the state had no power to interfere with a federal protection of slavery. Of all the many testimonials to the fact that slavery, and not states rights, really lay at the heart of their movement, this was the most eloquent of all." (Look Away, pp 97-98)

jonst

The Col wrote: 'Surely you understand that that the smaller states will not agree to their emasculation?".

Any more than the coming vast majority of the Americans will agree to their emasculation by a relative small minority of the population using legislative procedures that did not exist 25 years ago in the form they exist today. Surely, if things don't change we are on a collision course.

The Col also wrote: " A white, Irish cop, called out on national television by the president of "all Americans" was summoned to the presidential palace. Don't kid yourself. That did not go down well with a lot of people outside Washington, New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts."

True enough. True enough. And for good reason.

Of course a ton of people INSIDE Washington, NYC, LA, Balt, Atlanta, Newark, Philly, Dallas, Houston and so on and so on, did not like the arrest to begin with. And they have not forgotten that.

But I think all that--these made for outrage (somebody's pious outrage)Cable TV dramas are beside the point. Though highly captivating for some.

Obama, and the Dems, and GOP, and the elites will stand or fall on this: you have a shirking standard of living in this nation. And this economic retreat is picking up speed. It has been going on since the mid-70s. It has reached, perhaps, the crucial stage. If and when Americans wake up and conclude, correctly or not, that things are NOT going to get better, the crap may or may not hit the fan.

If that happens (big if)but IF a vast majority of the people conclude their life is going to be worse off than that of their grandparents, and parents....and worse yet, that their kid's lives are going to worse off, this vast majority will not be stopped by a small group of politicians, representing a relatively insignificant minority of the populations, and waving the banner of the filibuster.

There will be changes. I am not necessarily taking revolution. Though it may seem like one to some people. I'm talking New Deal type changes.


Patrick Lang

johnst

"I am not necessarily talking revolution. Though it may seem like one to some people. I'm talking New Deal type changes."

Yes. You are talking revolution. How would such "New Deal" type changes be brought about? pl

Patrick Lang

ryder

There are other views. Marshall L. De Rosa in "The Confederate Constitution of 1861" argues that although that document forbade the interference of the central government with slavery it carefully did not limit the action of the member states. pp. 70-73. pl

Patrick Lang

WRC

"In fact the CONSTITUTION was finally rejected as a compact of the STATES and is a document derived from the PEOPLE."

An interesting assertion which does not deal with the practicalities of dealing with the existing constitutional setup.

Some of you seem to advocate extra-legal action to establish the kind of government you want by force if necessary. Such a thing would de-legitimize the government of the United states in the eyes of many. Since government here has been generally thought to rest on the consent of the governed, the consequences of such action would be grave.

As for John Marshall, he was lucky that Jefferson was, in some ways, a bit of a dilettante. In Madison vs. Marbury Marshall claimed a unique right for the court to interpret the constitution. Jefferson disagreed, believing that interpretation of the constitution had in no way been granted to the court and infact that the interpretation of the constitution was a responsibility divided among the three co-equal branches. Jefferson considered simply ignoring Marshall's opinion in this trivial case involving John Adams' midnight appointment of one of several justices of the peace for the District of Columbia, but in the end he did not and so Marshall's unconstitutional seizure of power was allowed to stand. I expect that he regretted his inaction later. pl

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