Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Speaking up for the Blue Dogs

Chris Bowers, Campaign Director at the Daily Kos is venting his frustration over electoral setbacks by flooding the internet with attacks upon the "Blue Dogs" -- Democrats in Congress who, calling themselves moderates, were elected in less-than-liberal districts.  Your typical Blue Dog may be (for example) a retired military officer who generally supports women's rights, the civil service, labor unions, science and the environment -- but who will also sometimes balk at parts of the core party agenda, especially over fiscal, taxation or defense-related matters.

Without question, the Blue Dog Caucus was an occasional headache for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, during the four years of a tense Democratic majority. While Republicans in Congress have shown themselves to be the most disciplined and tightly-organized party machine in U.S. history, marching obediently to their leaders' tune, Pelosi found, in sharp contrast, that democrats are no different than they were in Will Rogers' 1930s... less a "party" than a herd of disorderly cats.

(In fact, I've long urged that the Democrats make use of these distinctly-different images.  The Dems' perpetual disorganization conveys a certain quality of almost-endearing harmlessness! While one has only to speak, in sardonic "envy," about the GOP's lockstep precision in order to evoke unflattering comparisons, without even mentioning certain other rigid party machines of the 20th Century.  Alas, no one seems to have picked up on this clever political imagery.)

So, what was the chief effect of having a bunch of Blue Dogs, yapping and occasionally growling, as Nancy Pelosi herded together her diverse coalition?  For the last four years our Congress was a deliberative body, all right.  But all real negotiation had to take place within the democratic caucus.
That was where a true diversity of (sane) American political opinion was both represented and expressed.  It was our House of Commons... as opposed to the GOP's House of Lords. And that happened largely because the Blue Dogs - and other quirky exceptions - were welcome inside the Democratic tent.

The only way to get negotiation... and win over new friends

It is only through the Blue Dogs that whole swathes of genuine American political perspective wound up getting meaningfully voiced. Only because of these collegial but also critical comrades, did the liberals find themselves forced to listen, to explain, and sometimes to adjust their endeavors, taking into account the worries and concerns of decent Americans who just happen to think a little differently.
Let's be clear. Because the Republicans deliberately absented themselves from any meaningful negotiation, over any issue at all, it was

That may be tactically inconvenient, but it is strategically vital, over the long run. Heck, of all the differences between Democrats and Republicans, that diversity within their caucus should be their biggest source of pride!

But not, apparently, according to Chris Bowers or the guys at Kos:

  "Democrats suffered serious losses on Tuesday, but no one was hit harder than the corporatist Blue Dogs. Over half their members are gone. Apparently, being the GOP's best friends on issue after issue wasn't the political winner they claimed it was. ...  But getting drubbed hasn't made the Blue Dogs humble. Now, they have Nancy Pelosi in their sights, demanding she step down as Democratic leader in the House. The Blue Dogs want to replace her with one of their own, so they can deliver our entire party to Wall Street."

What can I say? This could not conceivably be more wrong-headed.

First, Should the dems strive to imitate the disciplined partisanship of the Republicans? Even if that were a good idea (it isn't), tell me how you expect to achieve it? Democrats differ from Republicans over more than policy. Far more, it is a matter of personality.

Second, there is no sign whatsoever that Blue Dogs were less in favor of renewed regulatory oversight of the gamblers and thieves who ran wild, under neocon rule.  Sure, they seem more inclined than I would like, to restore some of the expiring Bushite tax cuts for the rich.  So? That is a policy position worth arguing over!  Negotiating. Listening, counter-arguing, yelling, then listening some more and trying out compromises... it is the old American way.  Just because the GOP has gone crazy with purist dogmatism, does that mean Democrats have to?

But there is another problem with Bowers's contemptuous dismissal of this contingent of (mildly) "conservative democrats."  Sure, the Blue Dogs suffered badly in the 2010 elections.  There is a reason for that.

Blue dogs are the ones on the front lines! They are the democrats fighting it out in the districts that can be contested.  They were the men and women who forged ahead and took back the House in 2006.  Above all, they they are the ones who go from door to door, in heartland constituencies, prying one voter after another away from the GOP.

They haven't been sitting around, spouting sanctimony from gerrymandered safe seats. They are the best fighters the democrats have got.

Let me make this plain.  I do not agree with everything the Blue Dogs do, say or believe.  I want those Bushite tax breaks for the rich to simply end.  Period. And there's much more.

 But I have a stronger agenda... to once again have a Congress where negotiating and deliberation takes place. One can dream that might happen by the Republican Party awakening from its Fox-Pox fever and returning to the gentility and reason of Barry Goldwater. Or it can happen by the Democratic Party truly opening a big tent, for all who want to argue and negotiate like grownups.

We need more Blue Dogs.  A lot more.

My own district in California has been gerrymandered into being "safe" for a GOP congressman who is a decidedly unproductive, unhelpful and dogmatic person, uninterested in repairing the damage of neocon misrule, only in playing Rupert Murdoch's tune.

Living next to a military base, I have to wonder -- why does our local democratic party keep nominating Santa Monica-style liberals, in a gerried-conservative district, instead of recruiting some decent (if crewcut) ex-Marine colonel, with fire in his belly and an appreciation for science, trees, logic, accountability and strong-willed women? If he believes in these things, and can (unlike some purist liberal) actually win here, must we exclude him with some litmus test or partisan purity on other matters?

Look, we have one hope to save America from the Murdochians.  And it is not to copy their fierce partisanship.  The goppers can be weakened but only by shattering their coalition.  By convincing a few million fairly-decent, old-fashioned conservatives that it just isn't Barry Goldwater's Republican Party anymore.  (Goldwater himself disowned the neocon-dominated GOP as having "gone mad," just before he died.)

Sure, Blue Dogs won't always vote the way all liberals want. So?  Dig it, the people who live in "swing" districts really ARE different than voters in Santa Monica or San Francisco, and hence they deserve to have their better views represented.  If they can be persuaded to send a Blue Dog -- say, a decent and pragmatic ex-military officer who believes in womens' rights, and in science, and in *negotiation*... then I say terrific.  We can work with men and women like that.

You may find them irksome, at times, but they are the silver bullets that can nail Murdoch and his oligarchs, getting their fangs out of our necks.


Acacia H. said...

I can't comment on the political situation, seeing that I'm banned from political speak for the next two years thanks to getting lost looking for the polling place (no right to gripe if I didn't vote), but I can state this: for a number of years I sided with the Republican Party on many issues. I felt Democrats were dangerous and deluded. Part of this lies with growing up in Massachusetts, which is more Communist than Liberal (I exaggerate, a little. Maybe) and having had a Republican brother who was quite... vehement in his disdain for the Democrats. (That, and I liked Reagan.)

Around the time George W. Bush got elected, I started to notice that while my positions had not shifted, I was no longer in line with Republican doctrine. As the years went on, they continued to march down a road I didn't want to go down. And ironically enough they dragged the Democrats with them; while Massachusetts Democrats were still idiots who touted a very liberal line (I can't call them liberal idiots; I think it's something in Boston's water supply that turns off their brains or something as a number of Massachusetts Republicans were useless as well) I noticed that mainstream Democrats on the national level... were now approaching my point in the "political spectrum."

It's ironic that Republicans consider themselves "conservative" because they're not. Conservatives are reluctant to change. I'm a conservative. My political philosophies have changed but recently... and only in that I've realized Libertarianism is flawed and that government oversight of industry is needed (which is why I call myself a Social Libertarian now). Republicans though, moved to the far right. And it's not far enough for some people... which scares me.

I don't like the direction the Republican party has gone. Which forces me to vote for their opposition... until finally either Republicans wake up... or the party fades into obscurity. Because I'm not alone in this; a lot of people aren't ultra-conservative, and want to see such things as cooperation in government and intelligent conversation among politicians.

Maybe by the time I retire (in 30+ years) I'll see it.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

P.S. - If there was political commentary in that post, I apologize. It was mostly meant to be about my own personal belief structure. Rob H.

ZarPaulus said...

Is there any good reason to even have political parties?

Tacitus2 said...

Carry over from the previous post..

Regarding lost classics of Sci Fi I guess we all have our favorite genres and eras within the overall SF field. My tastes run to the roughly 1955-1965 time frame. It was after the silly space operas and before the post Vietnam dystopic trends.

While looking for a specific short story I ran across this site.


From the suffix I assume it is German.

Anyway, lots of good stuff, and apparently a diligent effort to respect copyright.

David, they have a number of your stories on there....if the copyright issue is indeed not jake I trust you will let them know!


Cas said...

I think you've got it wrong, actually.

It's true that change requires compromise across a large swath of differing interests and values. But the Republican caucus knows only how to obstruct, so there's no one to negotiate with.

The problem with the Blue Dogs isn't their ideology, though I think they're wrong. It's that they are so totally self-serving and tactically self-defeating. They forced compromises that weakened the party as a whole, and then lost their seats in the bargain. That made for relatively good policy but for a very short period.

A smarter strategy for Democrats is to be more coherent, and to slowly grow more progressive in safer seats while reaching out to moderates in whatever party. You use the big tent in your party when Blue Dogs win, but you take the opportunity in the minority to clarify your values and push them into the mainstream so that you can get positive political change even while you're in the minority.

Maybe in the long run this will push Blue Dogs to become centrist Republicans. But this is a good thing! It means that whoever wins the swing districts in either party will be amenable to compromise with the Democrats, and the right-wing nihilists will be increasingly sidelined.

The Democrats have been following the big tent strategy and it has resulted in political ruin, and the rise of that exact nihilist political faction on the right that is endangering the country. Paradoxically, by being more ideologically consistent the Democrats can moderate the Republican Party and push the debate to more progressive ground.

Ian said...

An elegant piece of engineering with some big potential economic and environmental benefits.

Briefly, electric cranes use lithium batteries to recapture energy when lowering a load.

netsettler said...

David, I left a longer comment on Open Salon but perhaps the two commenters that followed me (Paul J. O'Rourke and Rick Lucke) said what I was trying to say but more clearly and succinctly, so I'll excerpt from them here instead of me. Paul said, “The Blue Dogs aren't the problem or the answer; they're the symptom. We can't have 2 Republican parties...” and Rick said, “Blue Dogs did not strengthen their team, and American citizens did not benefit by their obstructions...”

Acacia H. said...

Copper is a rather pretty metal, but it suffers from a significant flaw for those who wish to make tools from it: it is a fairly soft metal. Likewise, tin is also fairly soft and is not an effective metal for tool making. But when you create an alloy of the two, you get bronze, which is significantly stronger than the two base metals that compose it.

Iron itself is a decent metal for tool use. But when you mix just a tiny bit of carbon into that iron, the alloy is steel, a substance that is harder and stronger than its base components.

Liberal Democrats are like base iron. On their own, they can be forged into a decent enough tool. But when you mix in the Blue Dog Democrats, with that touch of conservatism, and the mixture flows well, the alloy becomes something significantly better than the sum of its parts. You may hate to hear this, but you NEED the Blue Dog Democrats. And you need to listen to them. Without them, you lose much power, and can do nothing to stop Republicans who seek to empower themselves and industry at the expense of everyone else.

Rob H.

Dave Rickey said...

As much as Chris and the other "Organizational Progressives" hate the Blue Dogs, they weren't responsible for the purge of the caucus. The "institutional Right", the USCoC, Heritage Foundation, and the various spinoffs and fronts, did so for two reasons:

1) They could. Those "on the bubble" districts that elect Blue Dogs can potentially elect Republicans (which will be creatures of the machine).

2) Blue Dogs are a systemic threat to the program they are pursuing, for exactly the reasons you point out: "Reasonable", rational conservatism of any form has the potential to expose the extremist, non-conservative radicalism they have worked long and hard to infuse the GOP with. The more occupants of the "middle ground", the harder it is to make their positions seem reasonable.

Chris and company are simply kicking an opponent while he's down, without seeing the bigger picture. It's not their *job* to be gracious towards the middle. You're still right about how short-sighted they're being, but they aren't the problem.


Abilard said...

“Blue Dogs did not strengthen their team, and American citizens did not benefit by their obstructions...”

The Blue Dogs were the top of patronage pyramids throughout much of rural America. Not only did they fall, but many local Democrats beneath them fell or will now find themselves without largess to distribute. Those bonds of reciprocity now work for Republican Chiefs, with the voting power that entails for future elections.

I'm in rural areas of 3 states weekly. In two, the Democratic Party was effectively gutted. In the other, what had been a holdout of Southern Democrats from the time of the "War of Northern Aggression" has seen several Republican Commissioners and other officials swept in for the first time since Reconstruction. This is significant.

Dogma, whether from the Left or the Right, represents a model of reality that can't adapt. Lifeforms that can't adapt go extinct. In failing to understand, respect, and accommodate other models (i.e. the views of the people the Blue Dogs represent) the Democrats produced unpopular legislation and are now regionalizing themselves as a consequence.

Tim H. said...

What do you get when a conservative tries to be more conservative every day? A radical. I would say the blue dogs are becoming the new conservatives by default.
Now about this novel...wait, surprise us.

Winter Seale said...

@Brin Cas said it right, and I do believe that they are, by and large, much less progressive then you spin them as. Many are, when it comes time to vote, opposed to basic women's rights, for instance. These may be secondary issues to you but...

@Robert Characterizing one of the most vibrant start-up economies in our country as "communist" is beyond silly. You may not like MA, but clearly it works pretty well. What's more, all listening to them does, is get them unelected.

PS I should probably admit here, that I vote basically entirely on social policy. Should there come a day that I have two candidates that are the same on social policy then I'll happily make my decision on economics or other things. But as things stand now, the choices are always so stark that I can't imagine voting for someone because their economic policy was better if at the same time, they wanted to oppress me and those close to me.

Winter Seale said...

er, let's pretend "What's more, all listening to them does, is get them unelected." isn't there, that was from a previous edit. =p

Acacia H. said...

@Winter: I've lived in Massachusetts almost all my life (with the exception of several years in New Hampshire; I'd still be there if I wasn't long-term housesitting for a relative in a nursing home). I've watched a series of corrupt Bostonian Democrats run ramshod over the desires and needs of Northeastern and Western Massachusetts, where there is a stronger Republican sentiment. We've had such politicians as William Bulger, brother of "Whitey" Bulger, Flaherty, Finneran and DiMasi (all of whom resigned, two pleading guilty to crimes and the last charged with rigging of state contracts). We've seen temporary taxes made permanent time and time again. We've seen referendums blatantly ignored by the legislature. And we've also seen our Congressional representation decline... because more and more Massachusetts Republicans have moved to New Hampshire where they can actually be represented fairly.

When tolls were taken down or reduced, that was for southern (and temporarily western) Massachusetts. To get into Boston? You either pay significant tolls or have to suffer fairly heavy traffic on I93 (or go around on I95). And if legislatures had their way, there would be toll booths on every access road leading to New Hampshire to punish people for "evading" increasingly burdensome sales taxes. (Hell, the state legislature whines about "lost revenue" from a two-day tax holiday, despite the fact it aids retailers in the state.)

I live here. I've seen what goes on here. I've seen corrupt politicians get back into office term after term because they pad their constituents district and thus get voted back in, despite the ire of the rest of the state. I've seen broken promise after broken promise. I've seen the Republican party pretty much abandon the state... and their failure to realize they can't win back the governorship unless they start building on the grassroots level... and rebuild their base constituency. Given my own libertarian roots, I see the massive Big Brother complex of the Massachusetts government and despise it.

Massachusetts is why I'm conservative. The national Republican party line is why I'm siding with the enemy (Democrats), because what I once despised has become the only bastion (barely) of sanity in this nation.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Doc, that's your limit for the month. No more posts 'till December!

Regarding Blue Dogs, I would rather see a democratic blue dog who is capable of and willing to deliberate and compromise sitting in a congressional seat, even if he or she doesn't always vote the way I like, than a Republican neocon or teapartier who will march lock-step with the GOP, refuse to negotiate or compromise on anything that doesn't give them exactly what they want, and will never vote the way I like.

The Blue Dogs are willing to compromise at least sometimes, so even if I completely disagree with them on social and economic policy, they're already infinitely better than the GOP.

The Blue Dogs are also the only chance the Dems have of getting certain conservative-leaning contested seats.

It's not just a matter of who best represents you (though ideally it should be), it's a matter of who best represents you, or at least can work with you, and is most likely to be elected. Jack Progress might represent exactly every position you hold, but that's meaningless if he has no hope of getting elected over Joe "The Patriot" Plumber.

netsettler said...

Abilard, you might enjoy my article The “Two Unprincipled Parties” System. I probably need to do an update to it, since I think a lot of the things we're seeing now are really a breakdown in the traditional balance described in that article.

John Kurman said...

Robert A Howard,

You have every right to complain, even if you did not vote. You pay taxes, don't you?

Besides, if you look at the record, and consider those eligible voters who did not vote as voting for "None of the Above", then None of the Above has one every presidential election since Kennedy.

Abilard said...

netsettler - Good article. Thank you. And I agree the swinging of the electorate over the last 3 elections could be an indication that our Culture Warriors are breaking that system (1861 here we come).

Carl M. said...

The fundamental problem is we only have two parties. No party should have a majority in our legislatures. We are not a parliamentary democracy. Our government was designed to function without parties at all.

Alas, the design was flawed. As long as you have plurality voting, you need parties to narrow down the field to two viable candidates. If only we elected congresscritters as scientifically as we judge beauty contests...

Acacia H. said...

It looks like bipartisan cooperation is still possible in Congress; at least, from the Democratic and Republican Chairmen for the Deficit Reduction panel. I'm glad that these two political officers had the guts to step forward and show that cooperation is possible... and that it takes give-and-take from BOTH sides in order to make it work. And best of all, the program they suggest surpasses what was originally put forward on the mandate. While it is likely the suggestions will be gutted and destroyed... some elements of it may survive. And who knows? Maybe some other politicians on both sides of the aisle will likewise gain the courage to step forward, together, and work to fix this problem that both sides admittedly created over the decades.

Rob H.

gmknobl said...

I prefer to have these blue dogs run as republicans so they can take their party back. After all, I think they'd be considered good Republicans back 50 years ago.

Suffice it to say I don't think repealing the tax cuts for the rich (and big corporations) is negotiable nor do I think working on repealing any law that allows, retroactively, a large company to spy on me, nor... well the list goes on so.

Yes I have been maneuvered to a place where I think negotiation with anything I perceive as wrong is... wrong. Their being stubborn and unreasonable has made me stubborn but not entirely unreasonable. We still need coal for instance; we need nuclear energy. But on anything relating to the destruction of our economic viability nor personal rights is non-negotiable.

Maybe I have been outraged into unreasonability. I will give it some thought. But only as my blood pressure allows.

Acacia H. said...

@gmknobl: That's not a viable plan. Moderate Republicans in the Republican party were voted out in the primaries because they were not Republican enough. More and more voters are getting disenfranchised with both parties and going Independent. A side effect is that in states that don't have some form of open primary (or change the party affiliation of those who vote during the primary, which can be too much bother to try and change back, resulting in few independents voting in the primaries) often have a polarized minority that seize control of their party's primary.

The end result is Tea Party candidates, and their counterparts among liberal Democrats. These partisans don't want to work with the other side. They see the other side as Other, and an enemy to be crushed.

Blue Dog Democrats running as Republicans will lose and you'll end up with an ultra-conservative candidate in the Republican party who, while not what voters want, is still slightly closer to their beliefs than the liberal running on the now-partisan Democrat ticket.

The Republican party is lost. It is lost because people don't want to be Republicans. And that allows a scared and angry ultra-minority to control an entire political party. And the more these ultra-conservatives seize control, the more moderate conservatives will switch to Independent. Until eventually there won't be any moderate Republicans at all. It'll be an ultra-minority party that drags this country back into the 1800s where it "belongs."

The solution is using the primary system Washington State and now California uses - everyone on the primary ticket that everyone (no matter what party) can vote on, and the top two candidates for voters is put on the general ballot. That significantly lessens the power of partisan politicians to get into office... because unless you have two strong partisan groupings of voters (and a moderate grouping that doesn't know which way to vote) you'll have at least one moderate candidate get on the ballot... and he or she will win in the general election. Be the candidate a moderate conservative, or a moderate liberal.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

I also thought the preliminary info from the Deficit Reduction Committee was impressive.
No doubt this is in part a trial balloon, and the final outcome will be less audacious.
But some darned good ideas in there.
There is also some political Kabuki theater going on. Pelosi says no way and Boehner says he will have to sit down and study it. I am quite confident that both of them have been kept up to date on this deliberation, if indeed they have not been active participants.
But sensible ideas eminating from Foggy Bottom? Have to be encouraged.

David Brin said...

Had to reply all this... to the Kos version of this posting. As you might guess, they didn't like it much!

1. re recruiting ex-military officers - who happen to be pr0-choice and pro-science... there are such types. And recruiting them should be a TOP priority.

Dig it, the military officer corps is the THIRD BEST EDUCATED clade in American life, after university professors and medical doctors. Many are deeply thoughtful, even brilliant, men and women who can see (with disgust) the anti-science, anti-reason stance of NewsCorp and friends.

Oh... and they were the biggest VICTIMS of the Bushite reign of error. Think about it.

We NEED these people! And yes, most of them are smart enough to see that today's women have earned respect and that it is stupid to destroy the earth we all live on.

2. It comes down to this.

I want to attack. I want to tear Murdoch's tent apart, shred it and turn his treason into a bad memory.

You'll not do that without INVADING HIS TERRITORY!

And to do that, you need to have carrots to offer the 100 million Americans who have a vague memory of a conservatism that had some elements of gentility, logic and sanity. These people deserve and demand representation!

If we invade their districts, it must be with people who can tempt them with the most honorable aspects of conservatism -- fiscal restraint and patriotism and dedication to market solutions... WHILE curing the district of Murdochian madnesses, like culture war, hatred of science and professionalism, bigotry, and the politics of mad assertion.

I am talking about practical methods to kill a snake.

3. Oh... of course it would be better if republicans cleaned their own house. See:

But the Fox-generated Tea Party hypnosis is brilliant. There will be no such "miracle."

Acacia H. said...

Here's an odd thought: it is because of people like me, who refuse to select a political party, that the Republican Party is in such dire straits (ie, turning into an ultraconservative parody of itself that threatens to drag the country down with it). Should we then pass a federal law mandating that there is no more Undeclared or Independent voters; you MUST select a political party to be a part of?

Three things would happen as a result of this: first, third-parties would gain significantly in people registered with them, even if those voters rarely vote for that party (third-parties become the new "independent" platform); second, those people who are more closely aligned to either the Democrat or Republican party will join that party; third, political parties will have a forced conversion toward the Center, as large numbers of moderate conservatives join the Republican Party, and moderate liberals join the Democratic Party (though a number of moderate liberals are already there).

This would have an end-result of castrating the Tea Party. Moderate candidates would become the norm instead of the exception. And I suspect we would see both Democrats and Republicans eager to force Independents to get off of their fence and join one side or the other, so it's one law that could likely be pushed through fairly quickly.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

@Robert - that's an interesting idea, and I salute your creativity and boldness in proposing it, but I'm pretty sure it would violate 1st Amendment freedom of speech.

Unless there were a "None Of The Above" party, a.k.a. Independents, which would defeat the concept.

Still, keeping thinking away. There has to be a solution if we're just clever and determined enough!

rewinn said...

On the subject of political reforms, might this lame-duck session be a good time to try the DISCLOSE Act once again?

Surely no-one would oppose mandatory and prompt disclosure of the identities of contributors to attack ads. Surely!

Winter Seale said...

Rob, I have to admit, your non-specific complaints (and even generalizations of your specific ones) I take for granted as what governments *do*. Every state I've lived in has had those kinds of problems, no matter the party of the administration. It's irritating and I'd love to find a fix for it, but I'm not convinced that we as a people have actually found one yet.

And I would still say calling MA communist is just bizarre and an abuse of the term. =p

So, since I just don't see a moral high ground when it comes to those things, from one party or the other, I judge them on ultimately personal things: Which party is more interested in protecting my personal autonomy.

And again and again, I see that republicans* have little or no interest in this. They care about maximizing the autonomy of those who are already powerful, but are uninterested in trying to maximize the collective autonomy. (Or at least, are uninterested in doing so if it ever impacts the autonomy of the already powerful.)

* And by republicans, I mean republicans as long as I've had political awareness, so, going back about 20 years. Perhaps our host would argue that the republican party had already lost its way then, I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

As a Non Usaian it looks like the issues come from your "primary elections" why do you have these? or if you do why do people who are not members of the party allowed to vote.

Why do you have to register as a democrat/ republican / independant?

Of course you could swap to a more representative voting system.

Anonymous said...

Sorry missed last line

Representative voting system Like instant run off

Ian said...

Wow - a major psychology journal is to publish a peer-reviewed paper reporting evidence for precognition.

Ian said...

Continuing my resolute attempts to sabotage the political discussions:

LarryHart said...


I also thought the preliminary info from the Deficit Reduction Committee was impressive.
No doubt this is in part a trial balloon, and the final outcome will be less audacious.
But some darned good ideas in there.

Sorry, but how does reducing Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age help in any way with the federal deficit? Social Security is a separate fund which currently LENDS money to the US treasury. Is that the idea--that if Social Security doesn't have to pay out as quickly, they won't have to ask for the treasury for money ALREAY OWED back so quickly? This is a deficit-reduction measure? Maybe in some Shangri-La it is, but not here, sir! (courtesy of "The Simpsons").

As long as the biggest priority of the Repulican Party (and increasingly, of the Democratic Party as well) seems to be to extend billions of dollars in tax GIFTS to the top whatever percent from President Bush, I don't see any reason for the rest of us to tighten OUR belts in order to pay for it.

Hey, I'm all for shared sacrifice to get through hard times--really, I am. But "shared" and "played for a sucker" are two different things. Too many times, the lower-wage earners are told they have to give something up in order to preserve the system, and then the predator class swoops in and puts the "gains" into their own pocket. Not this time.

Acacia H. said...

I'm always willing to pull a discussion off on a tangent. ;)

So, here's a question: what form do you see journalism and news reporting taking in the next twenty years? Will official for-profit news organizations go the way of the dodo or will they evolve into something that utilizes freelance reporting and the growing legions of cell phone camera-armed wannabes who film anything and everything they can?

(I actually suspect non-profit news organizations will likely become more prevalent, as they don't have to worry about making increasingly higher profits each year; instead, they work to make a minimum profit to remain sustainable. As such I suspect these organizations will become common, especially among amateur reporters. In addition, partisan political groups may end up forming their own non-profit news organizations to present the news with a slant toward their belief structures.)


Related is what will happen to television and television content delivery in the next twenty years. First, I predict that we will see within five years a move away from DVD/BluRay technology. Instead, movies will be coded onto flash drives (which are much smaller, less fragile, and can hold more content) or something similar; this new system may not use a USB interface, but will in essence be a flash drive. Considering the prevalence of flash drives and the fact they can be used on computers and a growing number of hand-held devices, a USB interface is probable.

I also predict that 3-D television is going to remain a niche product. While there is a growing number of 3-D movies out there, the cost and effort involved in creating a 3-D program will remain high enough that we won't see 3-D television news or television programs.

Another reason for this is that hand-held devices will remain 2-D unless someone comes up with an effective holographic system that works effectively in a small system while remaining safe (in terms of electromagnetic emissions and the like) for consumer use. The growth of smart phones and similar products will mean mass media will remain grounded in 2-D productions; even if costs for 3-D shows manages to become reasonable, the need to have both 2-D and 3-D content will force 3-D to remain a niche service.

That said, there is potential for one form of 3-D system: the use of augmented reality vision systems (glasses or the like) or true holographic interfaces and force-feedback gloves, similar to the interfaces shown (and described) in the computer games Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. We may see CAD/CAM systems that utilize a similar system as that showcased in the Iron Man movies, allowing people to interact with 3-D holographic projections to better design new devices and technologies.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...


The argument for changes to Social Security is not partisan, its simple biology.
The retirement age of 65 dates way back to the template for Social Sec...Otto Von Bismark's retirement plan for Prussian civil servants. Circa 1880 you would not be paying out much, because few lived for very long after 65.
Much the same was true at the inception of US Soc.Sec., although turn of the century improvements in sanitation etc had created an new cadre of healthier young people. Call them either "folks who did not die of diptheria" or "potential recipients of Social Sec. when Larry and Tacitus are paying for it". The point being that even then, the life expectancy after age 65 was not all that long.
Nowadays we have spent our money, and our kids money to boot, on various medical interventions that mostly keep people alive and active in the 65-100 age range.
If you can hang glide, father children and climb mountains after age 65, courtesy of various pharmaceuticals and Borg implants, where is the unfairness of society asking you to work a few more years to help foot the bill for this enviable state of affairs?

Of course exemptions need to be made. You are not gonna be digging ditches at 65. Although in my archeological endevours I find myself, mid 50s, easily outworking the slacker collegiate demographic!*


*We reach a certain age, do we not, where those with any insight realize that our body will one day not be able to accomplish what our brains ask of it. This induces the adamant, resolute determination that today will not be that day! Tomorrow, we shall see.

Ryan said...

You keep mentioning woman's rights as if it is somehow not a thing Republicans like. I really hope you are not confusing pro-choice with woman's rights. The myth of the misogynist Republican is just that, I can find as much misogyny from the Democrats as I can from the Republicans (which is far less than the media accuses either of).

As a military officer I think the Democrats need to make a visible and vocal split with their hipster cadre before Democrats really make inroads. I probably fall into the category of military officer you mention (unless you are confusing pro-choice with woman's rights) but there is not a message board I can visit that doesn't get me simultaneous vilified by those on the left as either the a personal representation of wasted money or a baby killer. So while I may have to put up with a few conservative social positions I don't like, the right (not automatically the GOP) is still better than the Democrats in any calculation I can make from a personal perspective.

I suppose I'd rather be a Blue Dog Republican so to speak than a Blue Dog Democrat if only for the extremist company I'd have to tolerate.

I also disagree with your idea of a lock step party machine for the Republicans. The simple fact is the Democrats framed the debate in such a way that it was very easy for them all to be in ideological agreement not because of what they stand for, but for what they stand against. The Democratic positions was literally a laundry list of well known conservative "do nots" if you will (this was actually a bragging point for Pelosi and Obama), are we supposed to be surprised they reacted the way they did? And their constituencies agreed. Additionally, the simple fact is their was bipartisanship, it was simply bipartisanship AGAINST the Democratic leadership. Its not just measured in "Yay" votes, but also with "Nay" as well.

Honestly David, when you paint us all as mindless ideologues or robots its not endearing, and it sort of smacks of exactly what you were saying you are against.

LarryHart said...


The argument for changes to Social Security is not partisan, its simple biology...

There's a whole separate discussion to be had about whether or not to mess with Social Security benefits.

My point was that it is a separately-funded program. So cutting Social Security benefits has nothing to do with reducing the deficit.

Which says to me that this is more "Shock Doctrine" in action. The proposal is not really a solution to the problem at hand. Rather, a crisis is being used as an excuse to implement a formerly-unthinkable agenda item.

Acacia H. said...

Wow. Republicans and Fox News truly have managed to paint the Democrats with a broad brush there, haven't they? You see... 90% of Democrats left their "hippy roots" behind them in the 80s. They have become a very corporatist party; the only reason labor unions support Democrats over Republicans is that Republicans would rather completely do away with labor unions while Democrats are willing to disempower them but leave the framework in place so that the leaders of the unions still have an illusion of power (and money from union members).

(For that matter, unions are a very useful and necessary device; they help encourage better treatment of employees, which results in better productivity - back 100 years ago factories didn't have paid breaks, vacations, or the like, and would fire people on whims. It was found that breaks and vacations enhance productivity, as does 8-hour work days. Yet none of these would be in place except for the efforts of labor unions and people fighting for worker rights.)

I don't like Democrats. But outside of a few holdouts such as Massachusetts most Democrats are considerably more conservative than they were 30 years ago... let alone 40 years ago. Meanwhile, Republicans have moved to the far Right. Why shouldn't Republicans abandon their far right elements, if Democrats should abandon their near-left elements?

Let's let the Republicans go first. They have a history of not keeping their promises, or their Contracts with America.

Rob H., who's still interested in what people have to say about the state of journalism and the transmission of media in 20 years

LarryHart said...


If you can hang glide, father children and climb mountains after age 65, courtesy of various pharmaceuticals and Borg implants, where is the unfairness of society asking you to work a few more years to help foot the bill for this enviable state of affairs?

Well, as part of that "separate discussion"...

The problem is that no one IS asking us to work a few more years. Well, they are in the sense of "Get a job!", but they're not in the sense of "I (an employer) need more people to DO work for me." The biggest cause and/or effect of today's financial crisis is UNEMPLOYMENT. Jobs aren't available for 20 or 30-year olds, let alone for septugenarians.

Tacitus2 said...


Forward thinking people can project that the Soc.Sec. funds will at some point in (fairly near) time be insufficient to handle current benefits. I think it proper to consider both increasing the age to eligibility and a degree of means testing/reduced benefit levels for seniors who do not need this as a backstop support. Myself, I am not counting on seeing a dime, so if I get some Soc.Sec that's all gravy to me.

Or, or did you perchance think that when the S.Sec kitty is empty that there would not be overwhelming, wrath of Jehovah pressure to make it good from some other source of federal funds (should any such still be available)?

For all their worthy qualities liberals (in this instance I eschew my preferred term, progressives) have a deucedly hard time saying no to anybody.

I can justify stretching some future budget to help our seniors, but in austere times we have to make choices.

I think having dared grab hold of the dreaded third rail of Social Security benefits, that the new political anthrax is going to be the requests from improvident, mostly blue states like California for federal bailouts.

I do concede your second point in part. Every oldster working likely means one less job for his/her grandchild.


Uthaclena said...

As a Progressive my major concerns are for the advancement of equal/civil rights, education, health care, environmental concerns, and social justice. I fully recognize that expanded personal economic opportunities and a viable technological base and national economy are critical to address those. There should indeed be representation of business interests.

That being said, there is a pretense by some that entrepreneurial free enterprise and corporatism are the same expressions of capitalism and deserve the same lack of regulation, and the same degree of political support. This is where my conflict with Blue Dog comes from.

A Blue Dog may indeed believe in civil rights, worker's rights, and a healthy environment, but if they are supporting corporate interests, whose only god is profit, they are undercutting those social social values, because nine times out of ten, money wins.

David Smelser said...

On TV/Television. I suspect that the current blue ray players will be last device I own that uses physical media. The next generation device will be 100% download. Either live streaming or download for later viewing.

I am anticipating that someone is going to combine a purchase/ subscription model of iTunes with a distributed delivery method of bittorrent. This will offload a majority the bandwidth and storage costs from the content providers to the content users. TV shows will be pre-downloaded to the devices in an encrypted state prior to the official "air date" of the program. Then on the official air date, the decryption key will be made available to purchasers/ subscribers for immediate airing. Except for news, sporting events, and some late night shows (Stewart/ Colbert) everything can be preloaded and unlocked at the appropriate time.

Acacia H. said...

Digital downloads only truly work when you have 100% broadband coverage. Otherwise you end up losing market share, and disenfranchising people. In addition, you will have people with electronic devices that lack internet connectivity; portable DVD players and the like. These won't be going onto the trash heap... which suggests then that the media will either still be printed onto DVD, or onto a cheaper format that is sturdier.

Flash drives are one such media. In fact, I've already had a taste of this when I purchased a copy of Starcraft 2; the Collector's Edition included Starcraft and Brood War on a flash drive that was designed to look like a dog tag. Undoubtedly we'll soon be seeing flash drives used to deliver software, with flash drives replacing DVD drives. It's logical to see that by extension, some form of flash drive will be used to deliver movies, especially as you could have a supply of blank flash drives in one of those DVD vending machines that are cropping up, and have it load the move desired from a central database when someone "orders" a movie. There could even be coding in the flash drive so that you can only watch it so many times and then it self-deletes. There could even be a "return slot" where people could return the flash drive and get a discount on their next movie rental.

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

Wow - a major psychology journal is to publish a peer-reviewed paper reporting evidence for precognition.

I knew this was going to happen...

Ilithi Dragon said...

Just got home from seeing Skyline in theaters. Interesting movie, good even. It was definitely a Hollywood movie, and some of the action got rather implausible, though the frequency of near-misses didn't annoy me so much (having played a lot of action games, I've had multiple consecutive strings of "Three more pixels and we'd have been dead" near-misses, so I recognize them as possible, however unlikely) as the little things like cannon rounds from an F-22 chewing up concrete inches from the characters legs and them not only dying, but escaping completely unscathed (the M61 Vulcan 20mm round has an effective radius against uncovered personnel of 2m), but that's just nitpicking.

Overall, it was a very entertaining movie. Very dark and bleak. The director and writers went to great lengths to make you feel utterly hopeless, and then give you a faint glimmer of hope only to smash it mercilessly in your face. There were a few minor issues, directing-wise (my nitpicks aside), such as the opening starting at the zero-hour of day one for five minutes, and then cutting back to 14 hours before and leading back into zero hour over the next 15-20 minutes. It was pointless and didn't go very well. It didn't disrupt the flow of the movie very much, but there were a few little things like that through the movie that detracted from it, though the half-hearted jump-back at the beginning was the most noticeable. It ends fairly well, if predictably, and in a way that would easily allow for a sequel (in fact, I suspect we actually got hit with a teaser for the sequel just before the movie started...).

As a horror-thriller action movie, I give it a solid 4/5. The directing is a tad off in a couple spots and the near-misses push up against the line between exciting and absurd, but overall it's well-executed.

As a pure sci-fi movie, I give it a 2/5. In pure science-fiction content, it's sparse, and various science/realism nitpicks and plausibilities don't hold up to even in-theater inspection. The actual score I give it is 1/5 for pure science fiction, but it gets a bonus star for actually coming up with a plausible reason for the alien invasion (albeit rather impractical, especially considering certain plot points at the end).

For a sci-fi movie, I give it 3/5; compared to sci-fi movies in general, it's a good action sci-fi. It doesn't compare to the higher-quality sci-fi movies, and the focus is on the action not the sci-fi, but even for an action-thriller they do come up with some interesting ideas and there are relatively few plotholes.

For the specific-focus sci-fi role of a cautionary tale giving us reason to fear the sky, I give it a 5/5. The reason for invasion is far from ridiculous, and even plausible, and the invaders are made easy to fear without making them absurd.

Overall, as an all-around movie, I give it a general 4/5.

bookmanpc said...


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TwinBeam said...

Precognition article - I'm betting on subtle experiment design error. Maybe their random number generator isn't as random as they assume.
3D TV - I think the key will be combining 3D sensor technology like Kinect with video from a couple of cameras to generate a 3D graphical representation of a live action (movie or TV) scene.

That moving 3D information will be transmitted to one's tablet or smartphone, where it will be rendered and displayed in stereo AND be able to be tilted and rotated side to side and up/down by moving the phone.

The livingroom version will use the remote control for the same manipulations, though probably only when a button is pressed. Probably someone will implement it first in a video game, using live 3D action cut-scenes.

In fact, I'll bet someone will program Kinect to do a limited version of this - having you turn 360 degrees while recording images of you, then mapping your images onto a 3D version of you to put you into a game.

That'll be the killer app for Kinect - not the current crop of motion injury fad games, because Kinect has too much latency for decent gaming, at least as currently programmed.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Blue Dogs are not moderates. They are corporatists. They did not compromise with Republican ideology, they capitulated.

Worse, they diluted the Democratic Party's message and confused the low information voter (approximately 10-20% of voters overall) who are most influenced by short term events or status.

The low information voters are also binary voters such that if one party is in, they will go for the other party not caring what the other party really stands for or against. Those people voted Democratic in 2008 and Republican in 2010. We'll see what they do in 2012...

The problem for Obama is he is fast becoming Jimmy Carter and maybe even Herbert Hoover when he was given the opportunity of a crisis to be FDR or Lincoln.

I do not cry over the loss of Blue Dogs. They could have won with an economically populist message in a variety of places so that people would not be confused over who stands for the regular folks and their families. They instead pursued a corporatist and bankster agenda and they lost. Goodbye to them for the moment, as I'm sure we'll see them return to the DC Village as corporate lobbyists....

Rob Perkins said...

Carter never passed comprehensive health care reform or a Wall Street regulations reform. I think (hope) we can expect better message management from Obama over the next Congressional session; I think the country works better when the President is more of a talker than the listener Obama has been. He needs to do both.