“I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare,” Mr. Reed told a Virginia newspaper in 1991. “I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know until election night.”

Read this and thought, if only video games were around when assholes like Ralph Reed were growing up, he’d likely be yelling this shit into an Xbox microphone at some tweens in Call of Duty instead of having a national platform for sounding like an idiot.

(New York Observer)

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Gaffes: The GOP’s only problem

Whatever Republicans say their path is to maybe contesting some national elections in the future, I think this is the real strategy.

“We didn’t lose because we didn’t have 50 debates,” said Priebus. “I’m talking about having a reasonable number of debates where we can have a greater say in who the moderators are. Because we’ve got moderators who are in the business of making news, at the expense. I think we’re committing malpractice when we have no control over who these moderators are and the formats of these primary debates. I’m sure the grassroots would appreciate that.”

Priebus is saying that the problem was Republican candidates being forced (or allowed) to express themselves too freely, and I think that’s pretty convincing. They could have avoided a lot of War on Women blowback while pursuing the exact same policies, just by getting the Akins and Santorums in the party to shut their mouths.

Less convincing is the idea that it’ll work on something like immigration reform or gay marriage. It may be too late to backtrack, which is why you see moderate Republicans jumping ship. But every time a Republican says they just need to explain their position on immigration better, and change nothing, that’s what they mean: sell GOP policies as everything they aren’t (pro-immigrant, pro-Latino) while avoiding any major gaffes that would betray this lie.

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Good Governing as a Gift

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

I really want to quote this whole post. This is a big part of the Republican attitude towards government that’s dooming them. Someone should make it illegal to do things that voters like in order to get their votes. That’s clearly just vote-buying. The role of government is to make tough choices that cause people to suffer, but which will vaguely someday lead to more jobs. If a policy is directly making people more prosperous and they like it, it’s a “gift,” meaning a bribe.

But I’d say this way of thinking is the basis of today’s Republican party. They’re the party of making America competitive, meaning we’d have a huge, desperate lower class that will work any job for any wage, with an upper class and corporate system that face no restraint or tax. This would never appeal to people in the lower class and the free-falling middle, which is why the GOP has always sold it in terms of racial resentment and kept hidden the part where directly helping people is wrong.

This election was the first clear sign that racism would no longer be effective, so it’s fitting that these last four years of campaigning have been especially characterized by racial attacks. That’s also why these have been the years of “true conservatives” actually articulating their agenda of hardship for America. As the GOP was losing their method of concealing their policies they doubled down on both losing strategies. Abandoning their economic core of unfettered capitalism would mean becoming an entirely new party, and it likely wouldn’t happen easily. So it remains to be seen if there’s a new kind of fear or resentment the GOP can capitalize on to save themselves.

Should the GOP Bother Appealing to Latinos? No? Oh, okay.

Here’s a stupid story by a stupid guy named Mark Krikorian in the (stupid) National Review. His post-election philosophy is a popular one with Republicans: everyone is too in love with the welfare state for the Republican party to ever be viable again, so let’s double down on radical conservativism because maybe that’ll squeeze out one more election victory.

Kirkorian is talking specifically about immigration to the US. Romney lost the Latino vote 27 percent to 71 percent(!).  That’s a big drop from Bush who tried to pass center-right immigration reform and got 40 percent. If Romney had Bush’s numbers with Latinos the popular vote would have been a near-tie. So should the GOP accept centrist immigration reform and drop their anti-immigrant, anti-Latino plank? Nah.

Immigrants are always using government programs and shit that we want to destroy, he says, because they’re poor, so they’ll never like us. What we need to do, and now he’s kneading his hands frantically and spitting a lot, is get 100% of the CONSERVATIVE vote because we only got 82% and Obama got 17%. In Kirkorian’s mind this means that 17% found Romney insufficiently conservative so they went for Obama, or something? It certainly has nothing to do with different definitions of conservatism, bad exit polling, anything like that. And so really showing the American people how far right the GOP can go will fix everything, shifting demographics be damned.

Matt Yglesias actually agrees that immigration isn’t the Republicans’ problem, even that embracing increased immigration could enlarge “an electorate that’s fundamentally hostile to their worldview.” Meaning, much like with their complete lack of consideration for D.C. statehood or Puerto Rican statehood, they’d be deciding without ideology, just electoral strategy.

Kirkorian ends saying all Republicans can do is “outreach” to Latinos and cooling it on the “harsh rhetoric,” in other words, a hope that some PR changes will lessen his party’s policy hostility to a large portion of the American public.

So, this is one strain of thought on the new Republican party. They essentially declare defeat, acknowledging that their principles don’t permit them to win anyone but whites. Any deviation from their standard antipathy towards non-whites would lose them their cultivated base of racially fearful whites, who get no benefit from the party’s true agenda of aid to corporations and the wealthy, while bringing negligible gains elsewhere.

They’ll use magical thinking to ignore the problem, postponing the reckoning and reconfiguring of the party for a later, more apocalyptic election that may actually destroy the party instead of giving this one an opportunity to change.

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GOP at a CROSSROADS (ha ha)

Republicans lost pretty much every competitive race Tuesday, and you can tell it’s serious because they seem to actually be preparing for some soul searching over What Went Wrong. It’s about time.

They’ve been doing their best to ensure extinction by pinning their hopes on white men, formerly sufficient as a single-race/gender voting bloc to win elections. But that’s been obviously declining for over a decade, and this is the first time the party seems to be giving serious thought to trying anything different.

I think periods of shift in political party positioning and ideology are really interesting, so I’m going to be reading what Republicans and conservatives are writing and saying about what the problem is and how to fix it. And then I’ll cover that from my own radical-left perspective because I think that’ll be funny.

Will we see a new party come out of this? Or will the Republicans of 2016 be very different from those of 2012? Will they find themselves too locked into their current course to make serious changes in platform, and end up losing even worse 4 years from now? This should be fun.

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Online Education is Great if You’re Already Privileged

It’s not surprising that people are stupidly exuberant over a new way of using the internet, without any clear idea of its consequences. It’s even less surprising that Thomas Friedman is declaring it a “revolution” without considering the probable outcomes.

He’s talking about online learning. There are many different ways to learn online, but Friedman is talking about Coursera, a for-profit company that will offer Stanford lectures free, with homework, testing, grades, and a certificate of completion for a low price, online. Universities including Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and Yale have been offering classes online, for free, for some time, reaching millions of people. Many companies offer technology classes online under different business models. The startup Codecademy gives super-slick lessons on JavaScript and HTML/CSS for free. Lynda does paid subscriptions to video tutorials on different computer programs and languages. And you can always find YouTube Photoshop tutorials by infuriatingly smart 13-year-olds.

I like learning things online. It’s made me a lot better at my job and given me skills that’ll help me find better jobs. But I was born to a family with the means and education to make a 4-year college an easy choice if I put forward a bare minimum of effort.

Before I got my first job, my resume had some big exaggerations. I listed Photoshop, Final Cut, and programming as skills, since I was pretty sure I could pick them up if I needed to. My degree though, those details had to be completely accurate. Maybe I would have still been hired if I left off the fake skills. But I needed the degree to get in the door. Everything else I learned later, online.

“When you consider how many problems around the world are attributable to the lack of education,” efforts like Coursera’s are going to be massively good, Friedman says. But knowledge and skills don’t get you anywhere in the U.S economy. Distinguished credentials do.

A degree in political science prepares you with some small amount of knowledge that you’ll use at a job, about the same amount that a person could pick up in a few months of dedicated independent study. But the degree is essential. Even 4 years of self-study would likely not get you a job. An engineering degree program surely teaches more that will be used on the job, but the degree is required proof that you know it well. You need a degree to get into law school not because the content of your undergraduate education is going to make a difference, but because it shows your ability to be chosen in a competitive application process and complete some kind of study well.

If schools and employers are looking for competition and distinction, the popularity and low barriers to entry in online learning will be a curse to students who spend time or money on it. Entry-level positions are starting to list a bachelor’s and a master’s as requirements, as more students finish undergraduate degrees and their value is diluted. What distinction is going to come from getting an A in the online machine learning class of 100,000 students that Friedman describes? Worse, grading is “on the honor system but [Coursera] is building tools to reduce cheating.” The distinction factor of excelling in Coursera is going to be zero.

Coursera promises to help connect successful students with employers, but it’s hard to see why an employer would hire a Coursera student over the masses of unemployed recent graduates. Friedman mentions the University of Phoenix as a pioneer in online classes, which is more apt than he thinks.

For-profit colleges like Phoenix are under fire for delivering poor outcomes for students’ money, meaning graduates can’t find jobs. We’re already dealing with a system of for-profit higher education that feeds off of the very popular idea that people with no job prospects just need more education, takes from their limited funds, and leaves them right where they started. There are already so many ways for people with little education to spend their time and money getting educated. Some, like the community college system, seem to prepare their students for this economy better than others. It seems like low-income people today need to obtain more and more education just to keep out of complete destitution.

The unemployed and poor of the United States must be the best-educated in the nation’s history by an incredible amount, but they are stressed to undertake still more training to adapt to an economy that doesn’t want them. We’re facing crisis-level barriers to comfortable, secure jobs. But acting like new technology that provides “just-for-fun” liberal arts learning and technical skills that’s only useful for the already comfortable is going to solve those problems is irresponsible.

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noNato and occupy protesters in Chicago

NYT story on Nato Summit protests.

The standoff, which lasted several hours, grew intense as police officers, some in riot gear and gas masks, and protesters, some wearing all black, confronted one another, and shoving and scuffles broke out.

Why were those militant jerk anarchist protesters wearing BLACK? Don’t they know that’s the sort of thing that’s going to antagonize friendly police officers and force them to put on their riot gear and gas masks?

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Another day, another conflation of legitimate and paid voices

It’s not like the New York Times doesn’t know what the Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute are. They are relentlessly ideological organizations that promote the causes of militarism and completely unfettered accumulation of wealth at the expense of all else because their funding and philosophy require it. Their mission is to take any issue and turn it into a call for more war and less government. So why does the Times put them on the same plane as organizations and individuals that are truly interested in research, investigation, and coming to true conclusions?

Today’s Room for Debate on the role of the U.S. military in the war on drugs in Honduras is a terrific example of the failures of “balanced” reporting.

John Wayne as Green Beret as Action Figure

John Wayne as Green Beret as Action Figure

Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute cites the alternate universe conservative fantasy of “the growing jihadist influence in the region.” Yes, the region she’s referring to is Latin America. Eaglen also calls the U.S. “the hemisphere’s dominant power” that should really be policing “our own backyard,” phrases that helpfully indicate she’s reporting from 1986. Anyway, her point? Honduras’ problem is weak governance. I guess it’s not the kind that can be helped by us supporting their elected president during a right-wing coup, but the kind that can be helped by strengthening its (coup-run) military. That does sound like quite a strong state.

Steven P. Bucci of the Heritage Foundation knows why everyone is so upset about using U.S. troops in the drug war in Honduras. They forgot that, “Throughout the late 1980s and all of the 1990s, Green Berets were deployed to numerous Central and South American countries,” including “Bolivia, Venezuela, Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador, as well as Honduras and other nations.” Certainly, the track record of U.S. military involvement in Latin America in the 80s and 90s speaks for itself. Which is lucky for one Mr. Bucci, because all he has to add to that point is that drugs and Mexican cartels are bad.

Tom Hayden, author, former member of the California legislature, and professor, is listed as “Activist.”  As some hippie activist might, he goes into what Green Berets actually did in Latin America, namely, “tried to thwart 20 popular insurgencies and support military dictatorships for decades.”

Three others affiliated with non-partisan organizations seem to be on the fence about the overall decision, but offer specific prescriptions that indicate they actually know something about the specifics of Honduras’ politics.

The difference is that you knew what the AEI and Heritage people were going to say before they said it. Should we send soldiers somewhere? Yes. But, since their whole job is using a prestigious-sounding institution’s name to back up their nonsense opinions, they get equal weight in the Times.

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Why our press can’t cover Occupy Pt II

Watching the livestream of the same event covered in the Times made the human diffuseness obvious. I was finally seeing something that was true to my experiences.

Especially at a march, there’s a weird meta attitude of being a piece of this spectacle that so frequently isn’t actually doing anything. You mill around. Chat with occupiers who are friends, or who you’ve seen a few times at marches, or who you follow on Twitter but never met.

You talk about the whole scene a lot. Think of a reason the police have been especially combative or friendly today. Speculate darkly about some too-aggressive people looking to cause trouble or too-passive people holding the whole thing back. Wonder aloud if anyone has planned what happens next. Say something about another occupier that falls somewhere between lovingly joking and outright mocking.

At a tense moment, you greet someone with “what’s up” and you both smile and think obnoxiously, what could be up that’s bigger than this?

Then, get bored. “What is the POINT of this march? I’ve got work tomorrow…”

Everyone loves to put things into a timeline. “We all really needed this,” someone says. “I think this is a rebirth, a renewal.” Speculate about when things are going to get really big.

The livestreamer calls out to someone, “Hey! Everyone really loved your facilitation teach-in the other day. Just wanted to let you know.” “Oh yeah, that’s great to hear,” she says, and runs off.

Then, there’s a confrontation. Police are lining up and it looks like they’re going to be pushing people back. Everyone lines up and puts on their best aggressive-but-self-conscious face. There’s whispering and maybe some huddling about tactics and what to do when the police start pushing, but nobody can really decide on anything before it starts, so there’s general confusion and maybe someone gets arrested or knocked over or beaten with a nightstick.

And it’s completely surreal. Because you know that guy! He usually runs the committee meetings you go to sometimes, or he always gets upset because he didn’t understand something at general assembly. And now apparently he’s done something so wrong that he’s on the ground protecting his head. Whatever brought the violence on couldn’t have been too different from the exact same thing you were doing.

Just like when you’re watching brutality on TV or reading about it in the paper, the precise details of how it started aren’t clear. But spend enough time around one of these communities and their slow-moving actions and it’s obvious that the people intent on being beaten or pepper-sprayed are imaginary. Our popular media aren’t capable of showing this. The violence is impossible to justify, if you’re watching closely enough.

Why is Occupy Wall Street incomprehensible in the media? Pt. I

I participate in Occupy DC, but I’ve watched New York’s occupation only in the media, so I’ve seen them the way the media sees all of us. They mass and they march, menacingly unified, and clearly “anti” everything, or a lot of things. But who are they? And what exactly are they doing? News reports about the occupy movement answer these questions badly, making protesters incomprehensible even to sympathizers.

Colin Moynihan writing for The New York Times City Room Blog about Saturday’s Occupy Wall Street march and the subsequent arrests and violence is a perfect example. The details reported could hardly make the protesters seem more victimized. Occupiers are shoved, beaten, and arrested, with no better justification given than the need to keep things orderly.

Still, there’s disbelief that police could dish out violence without any cause. We hear from occupiers mostly after they’ve been victimized, but who can trust them? There must have been something in the nature of the crowd that called for it. Nobody really understands what happens at a protest anyway, so who knows?

This is the way a newspaper covers politics. The Democrats don’t want their intra-party fights and deliberations and day-to-day mundanity broadcast. We’re supposed to focus on the outcomes: the big events, the prepared statements, the votes. They want to be this inevitable, unanimous machine.

But focus on the social, mundane aspects of participating and organizing and occupiers will become human. And that’s what we want.

You have to start with what the occupied public places mean to participants. They form a combined social club and workplace, where you come to hear a teach-in, plan a march, or go to a businesslike twice-a-week meeting. It’s a social experience, and the people involved are excited, bored, confused, discouraged, and buoyant over the work that they’re doing and the risks they’re taking to improve the world in the multiple ways they think is best.