Monday, September 30, 2013

How To Survive The Impending Shutdown In Three Easy Steps

Considering we're facing the last day before October 1st when a new budget has to kick in - either with a Continuing Resolution or an actual budget - and that the odds are very high that the Republicans' demands will be rejected by the Democrats... we're pretty much facing a government shutdown.

Having survived the Shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, I would like to offer up my expertise on the matter and provide some emotional and spiritual support in these trying times.  So here now is a simple, three-step guide to surviving the Shutdown Showdown of 2013:

1. Don't panic.  The ones inflicting the shutdown - the Far Right - are in fact counting on a lot of people freaking out and calling their elected officials to scream about getting something done.  While the House GOP will get those calls same as the Democrats, the Far Right are so out-of-touch with voters... so willingly out of touch with voters... that they will easily ignore the shouting in their own ears.  They are sociopathic enough to know that while they can endure the screaming, their Democratic opponents - who actually want government to work - may well buckle under the pressure and give in to a handful of demands... at which point the Far Right knows that hostage-taking works and will continue to play this game of destruction.

Now, there will be a lot of people inconvenienced by the shutdown.  That's the whole point of it.  The thing not to do is give the ones pushing the shutdown any satisfaction.  You're just going to have to endure this and wait for the financial sector power leaders to dopeslap enough Republicans for them to pass a clean CR bill.

Voters need to realize something: Washington doesn't really listen to protests anymore unless it's a protest they themselves organized.  When hundreds of thousands marched in the streets against the Iraqi invasion in 2002-03, the media ignored it or dismissed it and the elected officials didn't give a rat's ass.  When hundreds of thousands marched in the streets in favor of immigration reform in 2005-06... take a look, we're still stuck with a broken immigration system.

The only thing our elected officials even pay attention to anymore are election results.  They only care about who wins and who doesn't.  The reason the Far Right Republicans pay no mind to protests is because they've insulated themselves into gerrymandered districts where they can always get re-elected by pandering to the base, not the masses.  Which brings us to...

2. Change your voter ID information.  This will take some time on your part.  You can go online or to a location that will carry voter registration forms - while the federal government agencies are closing down for the shutdown, the county and state offices ought to stay open - and fill out a change of voter identification form.

This step is very important: change your voter ID from whatever party affiliation you've got - Republican or Democrat - to No Party Affiliate or Independent.  Also, change your Ethnic identification - if it asks for one - to Other.  That's all.  This is important because this will eventually screw up the political parties in a variety of ways.  And while it won't do much good right now, hopefully if enough voters change their identities over to NPA as well as hide their ethnic identity on the records, it will screw up the parties' ability to craft out gerrymandered districts.

Now, the deal is the states are not supposed to be creating districts for partisan gain.  But the law is one thing: the practice is another.  Parties dominating in a state use specially designed software programs to calculate out the best ways to carve out districts by ethnicity - some states by law have to carve out minority-majority districts - and by party affiliation (they're not supposed to, but they know the loopholes to mask what they're doing).  This is why here in Florida even though there's a 800,000 voter advantage to Democrats over Republicans, the Republican-controlled legislature still figures out how to create more Republican districts than Democrat.

Ah, but what if a massive majority of registered voters were suddenly No Party Affiliate?  There's a good 2 million now out of 11 million registered in Florida... what if it's suddenly 6 million, more than the Dems and more than the GOP put together?  The state lege could still figure out a few things by ethnicity - Black-majority communities by census are bound to be Democratic by default when 98 percent of Blacks vote that way - but now they can't tell exactly where to make their cuts into urban and suburban areas to ensure GOP-friendly districts.  No more safe districts in Florida for Republicans.  If they gerrymander the wrong way they could make it more Democratic-leaning than if they just did it by population density like they're supposed to.

It's also pretty liberating to not be tied down to one party.  You'll still get their junk mail begging for donations, but you're no longer under any kind of peer pressure to subsume your political beliefs to a group that will just ignore 'em.



Don't listen to the "both sides do it" bullshit.  The Republicans are totally on board with crashing the government and ruining the nation's credit rating.  Yes, the Democrats have voted before against the debt ceiling and they rail against the Continuing Resolutions that make do for budgets when they're in the minority.  But the Democrats don't schedule an entire government shutdown around it.  My God, some of the Republicans came out of their Saturday pep rally openly cheering what they were planning to do.

The Democrats never held up an entire government like this to pass basically an entire Presidential platform (Romney/Ryan's 2012) that got rejected by a solid majority of American voters.

And the Democrats never pushed an agenda like this that was so sociopathic, where the Republicans want to kill off a health care reform package designed to help more people, not less.  We're talking about a Republican Party so obsessed with punishing poor people they are willing to cut food stamp aid by $39 billion under the argument that "the poor just gotta suck it up".

And we're talking about a political party in the modern Republicans who refuse to negotiate on good faith, issuing demands so far to the right there is no room for Obama or anyone on the left to see a point on which to compromise.  A Republican Party that keeps thinking it won everything in 2012 and so ought to get all the pretty prizes it wants.

The Republican Party is going to keep taking hostages and ruin our nation's credit and credibility until they get voted out of power for good.  And even then they may not accept the reality - mostly because the real party leadership (hi Fox Not-News!) aren't elected officials, meaning they won't get burned if the GOP no longer has legislative or executive powers - but at least they won't be in any position to ruin our lives for a good long while.

So there you have it.  Just follow those three easy steps and you'll get through this showdown crisis just fine.

Also, stock up on a lot of bottled water, portable battery extensions for your tablet devices, and food for yourselves and your pets.  ...You know, just in case.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

You Know, I Thought This Redshirts Guy Was Familiar...

There was this article I read a few years back - I think TBogg over on Firedoglake website highlighted it or something, or maybe on Balloon Juice - about the three primary types of political ideology in the United States.  Liberal, Conservative, and Libertarian.  And how the blog writer despised all three.

It was titled "I Hate Your Politics."

It was hilarious.  It oversimplified the political traits of all three, true, but sarcasm or satire work best when it's correct on the details.  I could copy/paste some of the article quotes from there to here, but that wouldn't be fair to you.  You HAVE TO READ THE WHOLE THING.  Click that link above.  Read it.  Learn it.  Live it.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll become a part of you.  Then come back here because I crave your attention and still have a few more things to say.

(insert chamber music here).

Okay, you back?  ...oh okay... quick bathroom break, see you in three minutes...

(awkward wait)

Anyway, so here I was about a month ago reading up on the Hugo Award winners - as both a librarian and a sci-fi / comic book geek, I have an interest - and I see the winning novel this year was Redshirts, a meta-fictional delving into the lives of the ill-fated crew members who tend to die on science fiction space opera shows.  And the author's name is John Scalzi.

And I think to myself Wait, I know this guy.

I admit I don't read as much science fiction lit as I should in order to keep my geek cred fresh - partly because my collection management duties focus more on non-fiction - so I hadn't really noticed that Scalzi has been penning a few good novels here and there (I'd been reading more Iain M. Banks and Terry Pratchett lately, so that's my excuse).  I merely recognized the name as someone who'd written a blog entry about politics that I recalled was twisted and funny.

So, yeah, I go diving back in and find that I've got the Whatever article still saved as a bookmark on my browser.  And yeah, it's him.

And so now, a lot of things about what Scalzi wrote about libertarians makes a whole shitload of sense.

Here, I will copy and paste this part:

Never got over the fact they weren't the illegitimate children of Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand; currently punishing the rest of us for it. Unusually smug for a political philosophy that’s never gotten anyone elected for anything above the local water board...  Blissfully clueless that Libertarianism is just great as long as it doesn't actually involve real live humans... Libertarians blog with a frequency that makes one wonder if they’re actually employed somewhere or if they have loved ones who miss them... Socially slow — will assume other people actually want to talk about legalizing hemp and the benefits of a polyamorous ethos when all these other folks really want is to drink beer and play Grand Theft Auto 3. Libertarianism the official political system of science fiction authors, which explains why science fiction is in such a rut these days... 
Back when I first read it (about 2007, maybe earlier), I wasn't entirely sure why Scalzi was chewing out libertarians for screwing up modern sci-fi literature (unless he was tuned out by John Ringo's stuff).  I hadn't noticed Scalzi was getting his works being published when I first read this (he's updated / upgraded the blog site since last I visited, back then I didn't see the About The Writer or a link to his books).  But now I'm looking at his career and I see why he's pissed.

Scalzi's been involved in publishing and editing for more than a decade, some of it in traditional markets and a few years working with science fiction pubs.  As such, he's probably been exposed to more horrifically bad science fiction story submissions than the average Human,Vulcan, Klingon, Minbari, Silurian, or small furry creature from Alpha Centauri.

This is part of the Sturgeon's Law: that 90 percent of everything is shit.  Since Sturgeon was an acclaimed sci-fi writer, he came up with what he called the revelation when he got tired of defending science fiction as a genre when the critics kept using the worst of sci-fi - the bad aliens, the bland ideologies, the squicky sex - to belittle it.  And in a way, Sturgeon is right about 90 percent of the stuff out there is bad, regardless of genre or format: 90 percent movies, 90 percent music, 90 percent art, 90 percent fashion, some of that shit is bad shit.  It's just that the worst of that 90 percent, well it rankles on you if you're a fervent lover of that music/fashion/art/film/literature genre.  You live for the 10 percent that wows and enjoys and delights, but if you get nothing but shit most of the time it's gonna make you jaded at best.

So in a way I see where Scalzi's coming from when he dumped on libertarianism like that in his article.  He's probably seen one too many sci-fi fantasy stories of a Randian-inspired utopia filled with bland archetypes and bad sex.  And he's pretty much right about it dominating and ruining a lot of current sci-fi: a lot of libertarians love to write speculative fiction / alternate world stories where their ideology can flourish (since, as I've noted meself, utopias don't flourish in the real world), which gets it shoved into the science fiction shelves at your local ebook retailer.

I hope this means I grok Scalzi's political stance.  Probably not, there may be nuances to his ideology that drives his world-view.  But I'm damn certain I know why he hates libertarians: it's all that self-indulgent terrible writing (and it's getting worse now that there's cheap self-publishing and no editorial control).  Damn you, libertarians: why can't you write more Harlequin romance novels and leave us geeks alone...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Thirty-Three, Serving Crow Since 1948

A statesman is a politician who's been dead for ten years. - Harry S. Truman

To flashback to earlier Presidential Character reviews, I've often lamented the failings of how the party candidates screw up their selecting Vice Presidents to balance out an election ticket.  Ever since the ticket system was designed - 1800 election with Jefferson / Burr - it's been more headache than solution.

Part of the problem has been - remains - the need to literally balance the ticket between the winning Presidential candidate representing the party with someone who represents one of the losing factions that needed placating.  As a result you'd get a Veep who would not only be philosophically opposed to the President but most likely psychologically opposed as well.  You'd start off with an administration behaving in one way following the President's Active/Passive - Positive/Negative habits... and then if something bad happened to that President you'd get an administration suddenly following different traits, sometimes for the worse.

More often than not - Harrison to Tyler, Taylor to Fillmore, Lincoln to Johnson, Harding to Coolidge - you'd get a radical shift of personalities that ruined the political dynamics of the era.  There's been a few transitions where the incoming Vice President - Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt - proved to be a boon rather than a bust, but when it comes down to it the parties ought to do a better job of selecting their Vice President candidates with an eye towards a risky future.

The first time - in some respects the only time - a serious effort to line up a candidate for the Vice Presidency was in 1944 for Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth campaign.  It was pretty much a given that FDR was going to win: the nation was full into World War II, things were going well on the home front and the front lines, and FDR had remained popular with voters.  There was no need to "change horse in midstream," the standard argument against voting out an incumbent during wartime.

However, everyone within FDR's circle knew Roosevelt was dying (himself included).  In 1940 Roosevelt had campaigned with an extreme liberal Henry Wallace to shore up the far left faction of the Democrats on the eve of World War II, but Wallace's soft stance on Communism (the Soviet kind) made the party worry by 1944: while the Allies had teamed up with Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union to defeat the common enemy of Hitler's Axis, Stalin was still a devil and having someone like Wallace eagerly dealing with him as President was a horrifying thought.

The party leadership - the backroom dealers and FDR's inner circle - began searching for a suitable replacement.  One name kept coming up: Harry S. Truman, Senator out of Missouri.

Truman wasn't the first choice, though: James Byrnes out of South Carolina was.  Byrnes had served in a variety of state and federal offices, and was one of FDR's closest advisors.  But where Wallace was too liberal, Byrnes was too conservative, and Truman quickly became the kind of compromise candidate a party chooses for the top half of the ticket.

It wasn't hard to see why Truman's name raced to the top of the list.  He'd been a solid and loyal party member since before World War I, someone who may have come from a corrupt political machine but was himself honest and incorruptible, and a major Senatorial player supporting the New Deal from the get-go.  Truman served in the first world war, earning the rank of captain and showing his stripes as a battlefield leader.  Really making his reputation was his stellar work on an oversight committee during the first years of the War Effort that clamped down on waste and war profiteering (on a budget of $360,000 Truman saved the nation around $15 billion from waste and fraud).

But there had to have been another factor at play here, and James David Barber makes note of it during his review of Truman's style:

Truman's style in decision making had two large elements. One was the close attention to detail, the studious homework he drew out of his early reading, his experience in detailed jobs, and his successful canteen management and personal reconnaissance in the Army.  Truman as President could and did study hard... The other element was the decisiveness - the habit of nearly impulsive assertion of definite answers - that was the bring him such difficulties as he "shot from the hip"...  In a world of uncertain people, Harry's style of deciding - yes or no, on the spot, right now - could be impressive, could bring him a reputation for leadership. (p.313)

Barber had Truman in the Active-Positive category, partly because of that decision-making (pure Active) but also because Truman was a hard political campaigner: working in the rough world of state-level politics - especially southern politics with its racial issues and populist anger - taught Truman to fight hard for the offices he campaigned for.  While not a practiced or well-known orator, Truman was a font of quips and one-liners, a Deadpan Snarker who disdained puffery and went after what he saw was the truth (and because of that attention to detail Barber noted, it was truth based on researched fact).  A-Ps in Barber's evaluation were tireless campaigners, enjoying not so much the fight but the chance to get in front of the issues, make a case, confront a problem.

Roosevelt himself was an Active-Positive, and one thing A-Ps love are fellow A-Ps (the other Roosevelt thought he found a fellow Active-Positive in Taft which was why Taft got tabbed as his successor... when Taft proved Passive-Positive Teddy came to regret that move).  Roosevelt saw in Truman a dedicated New Dealer, someone who would carry the banner of the cause on his own terms but still one that FDR would recognize; a tireless worker whose fraud-busting efforts showed a commitment to honest government.

Ironically, Truman didn't want the Vice Presidency - he was convinced Byrnes would be the choice, and even kept a nominating speech for Byrnes with him during the early stages of the convention - and had to be pressed into taking the nomination during a staged phone call between FDR and a room full of party leaders.  Truman knew to some extent of FDR's frail health, but wasn't entirely in the know, and so in most respects he was genuinely stunned when 82 days into the fourth term FDR died and Truman became President.

While Truman didn't want the job, the A-P trait of being Self-Confident became the defining trait of his administration.  Truman's Presidency desk famously displayed a message: The Buck Stops Here.  And Truman meant it: when he made a decision he followed through, owned up to it, made his arguments, did his best to accept the criticisms of his allies and did even better shooting down the criticisms of his enemies.

The clearest example of Truman's decision-making was his earliest decision: making the call on using atomic weapons on key Japanese targets.  Having only been told of the Manhattan Project right after ascending to the Oval Office, and facing in mid-summer the sobering possibility of a massive invasion of a fortified Japan.  Confronted with the projected losses following the fierce and bloody Battle of Okinawa - both military and civilian lives lost on the Japanese mainland into the hundreds of thousands - and also confronted with weapons that could fell a single city with a single bomb, Truman made the decision to use the bombs our nation had to press Japan into surrender before a mass invasion was needed.

The decision has been debated since the moment it was made.  Proponents siding with Truman noting that Japan's martial culture would have guaranteed a massive and bloody defense against any landings; opponents arguing that the use of such weapons - more lethal to civilians than military targets - were tantamount to war crimes.  In hindsight an argument could have been made that diplomacy could have worked: but it would have taken months or years with no guarantee of peaceful resolution, and the Japanese Army was adamantly against any surrender.

If the estimated casualties of Operation Downfall were correct even at the most conservative - about 23,000 during the first 90 days - it would have been bloody but far less than the total death count of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (150,000).  If the larger calculations throwing in a civilian uprising were right, it would have gotten into 1.7 million American casualties and 5 million Japanese, and those death tolls for the atomic bombs would have been a more acceptable - but still painful - alternative.

Truman owned up to the decision of dropping the bombs - he insisted on military targets only - but wasn't aware at the time of how destructive such a weapon could be.  When it came out how the devastation wiped out civilians as much as military bases, Truman had to have learned from that... because the next time the use of atomic weapons came up - the Korean War, and China's intervention into it - he flat-out opposed it.

Past that, Truman's Active-Positive traits carried him through his first term.  He carried on the War Effort towards victory in Europe and in Japan.  He presided over the formation of a United Nations, an attempt to improve on the failed League of Nations, this time with an active United States backing it up.  Remembering his own experiences of post-war economic downturn after World War I, Truman did what he could to keep the post-war economy churning through price controls.  When unions struck, Truman used the power of the office to "draft" the unions and nationalize the affected industries to keep them working.

When Stalin openly reneged on his promises and seized control of Soviet-held nations in 1947, Truman issued his Doctrine of supporting "all free peoples who are resisting subjugation."  This went towards keeping Greece and Turkey from falling under Soviet domination (albeit at the cost of rather messy civil wars).  This was followed up with the Marshall Plan, an ambitious foreign aid program to rebuild war-torn Western Europe before the Stalin-backed Communist factions could use the economic malaise to their advantage.  And part of all this was the Berlin Airlift, Truman's solution to a Soviet blockade of West Berlin (Germany and Berlin had been divided up into allied-controlled sections, with West Berlin a sore point in Stalin's control of East Germany).  Rather than press a military confrontation on the ground, Truman coordinated flights into West Berlin daring Stalin to shoot down the planes performing publicly recognized humanitarian supply efforts.  Pretty much the best display of Truman's Adaptive skill, it worked: Stalin wouldn't cross that line and the blockade was lifted.

All of these were actions an Active-Positive President would preside over: the use of government power not for the personal gain but for the gains of others.  He didn't display the A-P trait of Adaptive, but instead showed the willingness to be Confident in the use of executive power to get done what needed doing.  But wait, there's more.

Harry S. Truman was the first President since Reconstruction to make serious gains in ensuring civil rights for Blacks.  He had followed the struggles of Black soldiers during efforts at integration during World War II and had been sickened by the reports of lynchings that occurred during and after the war.  By 1948 he issued an executive order desegregating the armed forces, the first major blow for civil rights since the 15th Amendment.

Truman also became the first global leader in 1948 to recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation.  Warned it would upset Arab nations and cut off American access to much-needed oil, Truman couldn't ignore the fact that the Nazis had just attempted a Final Solution to wipe out Jews altogether, and that the Jewish people required a homeland to ensure their survival.

In these, Truman was using the A-P initiative of getting ahead on civil rights issues and sticking to it.  He pursued these points even in the face of political opposition, especially as 1948 was an election year.

By 1948 Truman and the Democratic Party was facing long odds indeed.  Despite the successful conclusion to the war, there was the struggle to rebuild Europe and Asia and the home front, there had come a kind of political fatigue to the whole thing.  Democrats had been in charge of things since 1933, a full decade had passed and then some, and the strain of a prolonged rule was showing.  The failures of the Republicans leading up to the Great Depression had almost been forgotten.  Truman's popularity wasn't all that great, and the Democratic Party had developed serious internal factions during FDR's prolonged tenure.

Henry Wallace was pretty bitter about getting booted out of the Veep spot for being too liberal, and like all wingnuts (leftist and rightist both) was truly convinced of his liberal platform.  He broke off and formed his own Progressive campaign.  When the Democratic platform at the convention came out with a strong civil rights policy that Truman publicly adopted, the Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats) walked out of the convention.  And when Truman signed that executive order desegregating the armed forces two weeks later, South Carolina's (yeah, them again) governor Strom Thurmond announced his own campaign for the Presidency on a racist "States Rights" platform.  The Democratic Party had basically disintegrated into three parts, where the Electoral system favored two parties (Democrat and Republican).  The Republican Party - nominee Thomas Dewey as their candidate - could pretty much lean back and coast to victory.

Except for the fact that the Republicans and Dixiecrats and Progressives were all up against Active-Positive Harry S. Truman.  A-Ps love the fight not for the sake of the fight but for getting something accomplished.  And Truman was up for this.

Truman's campaign was aggressive from the start.  He went after the Republicans in Congress for their conservative attempts at culling back the New Deal and at the gains workers - and an increasing middle class - had made.  Calling them "Do-Nothing", Truman made a show of calling for a special session of Congress to pass economic legislation.  Considering it a trap of sorts, the Republicans showed up but did little, inadvertently playing into Truman's accusations.  Truman effectively ignored both Wallace and Thurmond, since they were both in effect single-issue candidates lacking genuine broad appeal.  And Truman went on a whirlwind railroad tour of the nation, derisively called "whistle-stops" by Republican-backing newspapers but in fact hosting turnouts in the hundreds of thousands of supporters.

The national media didn't even seem to notice.  Mostly owned by conservatives or following "conventional wisdom", the newspapers failed to keep up with any polling past September and failed to notice Truman's public support.  It had become "conventional wisdom" that Truman was unliked and that it was due time for Republicans to return to the White House.  Assurances of Dewey's victory in November were rampant.  Right up until Election Night itself.

From the National Archives.  There's a reason Truman is smiling, and it involves being a badass.
That photo is arguably one of the most famous in American history.  One of the great reminders that "it ain't over until it's over," and that Truman had the political skill of the Active-Positive driving him to success (also it was another reminder that the geniuses inside the Beltway aren't as smart or as informed as they think they are).

The second term of office proved much tougher (history proves us that, regardless of the success or skill of any President): above all, Stalin encouraged his North Korean allies to invade South Korea, setting off the Korean War and the first major test of Truman's containment policy.

It was Truman's Confident trait that caused half the problems he faced going into this fight: he pursued an international coalition through the newly formed UN as both an effort to boost the UN's prestige and to avoid getting a declaration of war out of Congress that he felt wasn't necessary.  Both moves hurt him stateside.

The other half of the problem was dealing with Douglas MacArthur.  One of the most quixotic generals in American history, MacArthur could be a strategic genius and a tactical moron.  At the same time.  Having blundered through the first half of the Second World War and then regaining prestige and popularity towards the end of it, MacArthur was the general placed in charge of the Korean War efforts.  Pulling off one of the best military maneuvers in history at Inchon - making an amphibious assault under harsh conditions - MacArthur proceeded to overplay the UN's agenda by pursuing the North Korean forces right up to China's borders well enough for China to worry about invasion.  Despite Truman's warnings not to provoke the Chinese, MacArthur did so... and drew the Chinese 2 million strong into what was supposed to be a small-scale police action.

When the tide of fighting turned to stalemate, MacArthur pressed for the use of nuclear weapons, and worked under the belief that he had control of the arsenal - and ultimately the Army - and not Truman.  This was a critical moment in American history.  While there had been differences between Presidents and Generals before, tradition had developed that the civilian leadership controlled the military, that the President was Commander-in-Chief and that it kept the military in check.  MacArthur believed in Total Victory regardless of the objectives: Truman believed in containing Communism but avoiding perpetual warfare. Worse, MacArthur was privately and publicly undercutting Truman's authority as President.

Truman fired the son-of-a-bitch.

One other thing to note about Active-Positive Presidents: they do not do things because they are popular.  They do things because they are hard, and worth doing.  Firing MacArthur was political suicide in 1951: calls for impeachment were rampant and MacArthur returned a hero.  As the months passed and as Congress investigated Truman's decision, a lot of MacArthur's bullheaded actions were made public, and the decision Truman made became reasonable.  But the damage was done.  And Truman took the heat for it.

By 1952 the Korean War was a stalemated mess.  America got hit with a recession, and Truman's popularity was right around 22 percent, one of the lowest ratings in the history of polling such data.  When Truman's early forays into primaries for re-election went sour, he saw the writing on the wall and made the decision to not run again (he was exempt from the passage of the 22nd Amendment capping Presidential terms).  Truman did not leave office on the best of terms, but he left them on his terms and took his retirement to heart.

When historians speak of Truman's legacy, the first thing they'll note is that Truman is one of the first Presidents to have his reputation improve dramatically within years of leaving office.  It helped that a lot of what Truman believed in - keeping the New Deal agenda strong, avoiding full war in Korea/China, avoiding further use of nuclear weapons - turned out to have been the right calls.  Whenever a President drops significantly in the polls nowadays, they'll point straight to Truman and use him as an example of being unpopular but correct (despite how incorrect such a failing President might be).  Truman tends to appear in the Top Ten of any Presidential list ever since such lists were made, and if he's not he's usually slipped to Number 11.

Can't end this Truman fest without posting one of his best known quips: My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth there's hardly any difference.

I motherfucking love this guy (except for the whole "Nuking Japan" thing, and even then I'll grant that was a tough call to make).  I'm glad I share a birthday with him.

Next Up: Everybody Likes Ike... Despite His Traits

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hostage Taking Cannot Fail, It Can Only Be Failed...

The Shutdown Showdown of 2013 is kicking into third gear as I type this, and it ain't pretty.

From The National Review and thence to other news sources like ThinkProgress, the GOP House leadership has crafted a list of demands for Obama and the Democratic Senate leadership to surrender to:

As the nation moves dangerously close to a government shutdown on Oct. 1, House leaders are shifting their focus to the next big fiscal fight: raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit by one year before Oct. 17. On Wednesday night, Republicans circulated an outline of demands, threatening to push the nation into default unless President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate agree to enact a wish list of Republican priorities.
Though Obama has repeatedly insisted that he would not negotiate over the must-pass legislation, leadership is hoping to satisfy conservative members by including every “major piece of the Republican agenda” save a “ban on late-term abortions — and some lawmakers who oppose abortion were arguing to add that,” the Washington Post reports...

Igor Volsky's ThinkProgress article - alongside Derek Thomspon's over at The Atlantic - proceeded to break down the demands, which I can summarize here as well:

1. Delay Obamacare by one year.  Rather than defund or eliminate outright, the Republicans would at least want Obamacare stopped from being enacted before more Americans find out the health care reforms might actually work.  At least until the 2014 midterms, during which the Tea Party candidates can indulge in more fear-mongering to scare up votes and campaign moneys.  Meanwhile, the delay will cut into elements of Obamacare that have already kicked in, causing even more confusion.
2. Weaken/defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Created as a response to the massive fraud that led to the 2007 Economic Crisis / Great Recession, the CFPB is a bogeyman agency for the Far Right who prefer to deregulate everything and let the uber-rich banks defraud everyone until there's another need for a massive bank bailout.
3. Approval to build the Keystone Pipeline.  This is a pet issue for Republicans who view this as "more oil more money" kind of thing as their energy platform (drill baby drill).  This also includes letting the Coal industry and offshore drilling companies getting everything they want.
4. Enact the budget and tax plan created by Paul Ryan.  It's basically the plan he campaigned for as Romney's Veep partner, and it basically disqualifies the fact that a majority of Americans voted against it by voting against Romney/Ryan.  Plus the simple fact the Ryan budget is evil.
5. Cut funding to health care and social safety net programs, and enact a method of "means testing" Medicare (what is "means testing"?  It's where they test a person's eligibility for Medicare, and the GOP can be mean about it.).  Means testing, my ass: Republicans want any excuse to cut people off Medicare, they just want to cover up what they're actually doing by hiding behind Orwellian wording.
6. Massive cuts to the federal employee pension fund.  Considering the massive number of people reaching retirement age, this is bound to not work out well.
7. Block recent federal regulations capping greenhouse gases.  Because we all know that greenhouse gases are vital to the functioning of our proud country.
8. Tort reform.  Like it was the lawyers' fault doctors commit malpractice or corporations commit fraud/failed safety standards.
9. Passing the Republicans' ideas of "jobs bills"... which are A) cutting safety regulations everywhere and with little to no evidence ending those regs would create more jobs, and B) massive tax cuts to corporations that won't require those tax savings go to actual job creation or wage growth.

I'm with Andrew Sullivan on this: "why not ask for Obama's resignation while they're at it?"

What the sheer gob-smacking scale of these demands means is that the GOP effectively wants to nullify the last election entirely (except of course for their gerrymandered, no-popular vote House majority). The staggering thing about this party as it now exists is that it views the governance of the other party as always effectively illegitimate. Elections do not matter. Only their agenda matters. No compromise is possible, even when this kind of catastrophic default is hanging over our heads. In fact, the danger of catastrophic default is something they relish in order to undo the basic principles of democratic government.
This is not a bargaining position; they already voted for the budget that requires us to raise the debt ceiling. It is a bald attempt to reverse elections as the mark of a democracy and replace them with endless blackmail until they get their way. This isn't conservatism. It’s pure constitutional vandalism...

Sullivan later makes a question about American history where a party in the minority made such an egregious list of demands... and he quickly got an answer from readers who pointed out that yes this has happened before.  Back in 1860, when the Republicans were poised to elect Lincoln into the White House, the slavery-owner leadership of the Southern Democrats faction threatened secession unless Lincoln caved on all demands.  And when it became clear the South had little to threaten with, they seceded and forced the civil war (anyone calling it a War of Northern Aggression is selling you snake oil.  The South wanted a fight and by God they got one).

It shouldn't be a surprise that the end result of Nixon's Southern Strategy would have the southern conservative agenda seek another go at wrecking the nation.  We shouldn't be at all surprised that the Far Right - in the House, Senate, and wingnut media - want push this issue well over the cliff (no matter how much the party's own leadership is aware of the disaster that awaits them).  Their way or the highway.

This "negotiation" over the debt ceiling and the budget by having the Republicans demand this "We Get Everything WE Want" wish list is in my mind akin to a bank robber taking hostages during a heist... and then demanding that not only the cops let him go with all the cash from that bank, but that the cops help him rob three or four more banks right down the road because dammit he's in the right.  That's not negotiating.  That's not even practical hostage-taking.  That's batshit insanity. (pardon my Swedish)

There is no reason for Obama or Reid to answer this list at all.  The Republicans can scream all they want about who to blame when the debt ceiling crisis reaches the Defcon-1 level.  Insisting the majority party enact the worst elements of the minority party's agenda isn't democracy, isn't republican, and isn't sane.

And the polls are reflecting that, yes Americans know exactly who to blame if the shit goes down.

I want every voter to remember this by November 2014: The Republicans do not care to compromise, they do not care to govern, they do not care period.  They want it all.

Please for the love of God vote them out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Indulging In a Little Fantasy Here

The thing about sitting on the outside looking in, to be honest, is that this makes you a critic.

It's easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about the stupid moves your football team makes.  To be fair, today for the Tampa Bay Bucs was a stupid "why the hell did you waste everyone's time with this crap" day.  Anyway.  It's easy to look at the political circus inside the Beltway and go "What.  The.  F-CK."  Criticizing is easy: you just point and mock.

But there's gotta be something more than that.  Mockery doesn't do much other than generate laughs and make the targets unhappy, if they even care about your opinion.  The best type of critique is the constructive critique: recognizing an honest attempt and building on it, noting a flaw that can be fixed and suggesting how that fix can be made.

When I started this blog 499 posts ago, it was designed to be a place to provide something constructive: suggested amendment ideas that would reform the flaws in government and law that had been weakening our system and letting things fall apart.  Of course, things being what they were this place quickly revolved around the "things p-ssing me off" at the state, national and global level to where I changed the title and intent.  (That was Post 400, just in April of this year.  I'd been blogging like crazy since then... )

But I'd like to think I can still do some constructive work here.  Something of importance.  Something that could get a dialogue going.  Something to stroke the ego... wait no, even better the SUPEREGO!  ...what do you mean, I've gotten that confused with my Id?  Dammit...

So, here now, if you can indulge in my fantasies a little bit, is Post 500:

Let's just say, just humor me for a moment here, that on Nov. 8, 2016, through no fault of my own I'm able to convince 60 million of my fellow Americans with enough Electoral pull into voting for me as the 45th President of the United States.  In a three-way race between myself, Democratic Martin O'Malley, and Republican Rick Santorum 60 million would be more than enough to win the popular vote (O'Malley having earned the Dem nomination when Hillary Clinton bowed out to health issues and Santorum surviving a brutal 50-way primary fight between every Tea Partier rabblerouser on the circuit), and the Electoral count for me getting Florida as a Favored Crazy Resident, winning over moderates in the Midwest states, and a surprise win in California when my roast of Kevin Smith turns into a laugh riot highlight of the year (O'Malley comes in second with key wins for Texas and New York, Santorum a distant third getting only South Carolina and Mississippi).

If I've won over 60 million voters I'd like to think it was because of my key platform position of Jobs Jobs and JOBS.  Hell, this would be my bumper sticker:
I admit I will need a graphics design office when I campaign...

Our economy is still weak on job creation.  It's even worse when it comes to fair, affordable wages.  Unless there's a massive turnaround with a jobs stimulus bill between now and 2016, the need for "Good Jobs at Good Wages" is going to be high.
That blue line is CEO pay.  See those flat lines at the bottom?  That the minimum wage and also workers' wages.
With regards to other platform issues I'd run on, it'd mostly be the amendment ideas I've been hawking over the years, with a focus on making Congress more accountable to their ethical requirements (i.e. STOP LYING) and a focus on ensuring fair regulation of businesses to ensure workplace safety and consumer protection.  I'd have a foreign policy platform of diplomacy over military action, a domestic program to reform the NSA to require more stringent warrants and strict oversight, and a requirement to stop Hollywood from making unnecessary movie remakes.  Seriously, we're at the point the studios are going to remake a movie released two months ago...

Can I get any of my platform enacted by a Congress riven by partisan strife?  Sure.  Of course.  Dear reader, please note: this is my fantasy.  Let me indulge in the belief that I would march right into the halls of Congress and get every critter in office fainting over my mere presence.  With my State of the Union speech in hand, I will parade before the nation and say for all to know... (gets shouted down by wingnuts crying all "Liar!" "Socialist Fascist HitlerStalin!" "Smelly pants!" "Booooooggggggeerrrrrrrrrrrrr...")

Wow.  Even in my fantasy, they're not gonna let me get a word in...

What say you, people?  Do I have a shot in 2016? Anybody?

Monday, September 23, 2013

How It Came To This, A Government Shutdown

Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountains. Like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the west. Behind the hills, into shadow. How did it come to this? - JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

It hasn't yet come to pass, but the inevitability of a government shutdown is as certain as a sunrise on October 1st.

The damage of another shutdown, similar to the ones we had in 1995 and 1996, are pretty clear: lost earnings reaching into the billions, petty inconveniences to average Americans, loss of confidence in the governance of the nation.  The stock market as always is worried and at risk.

Shutdowns are serious business.  The results of the previous ones didn't go so great for the party that pushed for them: the Republicans ended up getting the blame, failed to achieve much of what they wanted, and made Bill Clinton look good for his re-election in 1996.  The more recent shutdown threat in 2011 over the debt ceiling tanked Congress' polling numbers from which it has yet to recover.  And the polls are showing that a majority of Americans don't want a government shutdown, and will blame the Republicans if one takes place.

And yet, here we are.  The Republicans - and no matter how they try the blame game on Democrats ("If only the Democrats would compromise on everything we want like tax cuts and defunding Obamacare and infinite military spending...!") - are pushing for this showdown.

How did it come to this?

An interesting reason is that a sizable number of the Republican voting base want a shutdown in the first place.  There's that strain of uber-libertarianism that doesn't so much want "small" government as it wants NO government: full deregulation, no taxes, free reign on finance and do-what-thou-will will be the Law of the Land.  A kind of conservative variation of anarchism that would make Randians weep for joy and a majority of Americans weep in pain.  The faction of the GOP that wants to prove government is ineffective and will happily crash it over a cliff to prove it.

The other faction of that Far Right voting base isn't as extreme as that, but are convinced that the threat of a shutdown - if not the shutdown itself - will force the Democrats to defund Obamacare.  These are the voters who have been told since 2009 about how Obama isn't really the President, that Obama is a socialist fascist fake American, that he's imposing Sharia law and taking our guns (personally, in the dead of night, through 10 miles of snow, uphill, both ways), and that above all Obama's signature health care reform law is unconstitutional and full of death panels.  Having been told for four straight years, these are the people who wholeheartedly believe Obamacare is outright evil... and that you don't compromise over evil...

But it's not just the base.  This is an action being pursued by the elected officials in the GOP-led House - not so much in the Senate, where Ted "All About Me" Cruz is the biggest thumper on the showdown - who have sold themselves as liberators of the Right and have obsessed themselves over eliminating Obamacare at all hazards.  Up to and including the fact that they've voted 41 times now to overturn, kill, or defund Obamacare and yet never find the time to pass a jobs bill for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  These are the elected officials who are on a singular mission: make Obama a failed President.  They couldn't succeed making him a one-termer, but now they're aiming for the next best thing: force Obama to reject his own signature achievement in office.

Another reason the GOP leadership do not seem so concerned about the fallout from pursuing a government shutdown is that in practical terms it didn't cost the Republican Congress of 1995-96 all that much.  They only lost a handful of seats in the House and gained a couple seats in the Senate that election cycle (the only real loss was making Clinton look good enough to win re-election).

The failing of that logic is that for starters this isn't 1996: in 1996 the economy was booming behind the Internet Tech bubble; in 2013 the economy is still in a recession of failed wage growth and wobbly housing values.  Also, in 1995 and 1996 Congress was functional enough to have passed spending and appropriations that kept much of government functioning quite well during the shutdowns: in 2013, this Congress hasn't passed or agreed to much of anything and is in fact mired in a sequester cutting program that has left government dysfunctional.  A shutdown today would be a disaster, and the GOP doesn't see it.

What does concern the GOP leadership is that voting base they've stirred up the past four years.  Placating the base is far more important to them than actual governance.  For all the reality of incumbents enjoying near-certain re-election wins in general elections, those incumbents are terrified of facing primary challenges.  Say hello to one of the major costs of gerrymandering: outside of the fact that gerrymandering creates wasted votes, these specially-crafted congressional districts are designed so that the party candidate of that district is favored to win no matter what (almost).  The big reason the Republicans held onto the House in 2012 wasn't because of their popularity: it was due to having crafted enough gerrymandered districts to maintain control.  But while it was good for the party in 2012, it's bad for the Republicans in 2014 because the gerrymanders don't stop primaries.

The Far Right base - the Tea Partier faction - is stirred up and angry... and utterly convinced that if "their" elected officials so much as blink towards a compromise with hated Obama, they'll put up an even Further Right wingnut as a challenger.  And the nature of a primary fight is "who can pander the most to the voting base who turns out": primary elections are poorly attended by moderate (aka sensible) party members, and so candidates veer sharply to their base (Dems to their Left, GOP to their Right).  An incumbent could win a general election but before that happens he/she can seriously lose a primary to a more extreme opponent: it has happened before.  The RINO party purge hasn't finished yet: it's even going after incumbents who had purged out RINOs three or four election cycles ago.  And if the extremist candidate replacement is extreme enough, the Republicans could lose what would have been an easy gerrymandered (or Red State) win.

So this is how we got here.  A political party in the Republicans who have been for decades purging out more moderate party leaders until a more partisan faction is in control... and yet the mechanisms they used for those purges are still in place and eagerly purging out the partisans for even worse extremists.  Now fearing their base as much as they pander to it, the Republicans have to pursue an obsessive agenda - defund Obamacare or otherwise make Obama concede to Far Right policy - at all hazards, up to and including a government shutdown and economic crisis for which they'll be blamed and which for most reasons will have far greater repercussions in 2014 than previous shutdowns had in 1996.

And this is all on top of the House GOP voting on a Food Stamps defunding bill that cuts $39 billion in aid to starving families.  Basically an open act of sadism that hurts more poor whites than it does any minority group.  It's like the Republicans WANT to commit political suicide.  Who's gonna be left voting for Republicans by 2014?


Saturday, September 21, 2013

More Notes From The Sunshine State Asylum, AKA Post 498

This is my 498th post on this blog site (formerly Amendments We Need, now You Might Notice A Trend), so in 2 blog entries from now I'm gonna have an epic blog of total epicness that will be, um, epic.  Please keep an eye on this blog.  Until then you get this update:

Former candidate Alex Sink has decided not to run again for the 2014 Florida governorship.

...Sink's decision not to run was widely expected in Florida political circles, as she showed little sign of putting together a campaign and was up front about her ambivalence and her family's opposition. But until Friday, the former Bank of America leader and former state chief financial officer continued to keep the door open and several times pushed back her deadline for announcing a decision...
...Sink lost to Rick Scott by just over 1 percentage point in 2010, despite being outspent dramatically and facing a Republican tidal wave across the country. Still, many Democrats complained that Sink ran an anemic, excessively cautious campaign against a weak Republican who had run a company that paid the largest fine in U.S. history for Medicare fraud...

This basically leaves the way open for Charlie Crist, former (relatively sane) Republican turned (hopefully still sane) Democrat in the wake of the wingnut-ification of the GOP.  While Crist has his critics even among his now Democratic allies (primarily that he's an opportunist), few can criticize his campaign skills.  Crist left the governor's office under relatively popular terms: the only ones who hated him were the hard-line Republicans who felt betrayed when he fled the party in 2010 when the state organization turned far right.

Crist's polling numbers into this year are pretty solid against Rick "F-ck The State" Scott.  If there had been a primary challenge between Crist, Sink, Nan Rich (so far the only other candidate in the race, but failing to raise interest or funds to keep up) and the others, Crist would have won but the primary process would have been brutal considering the left wing base of the Democrats won't trust him.  A majority of Democrats seem to be backing Crist primarily because moderates and disgruntled former Republicans like Crist, and the primary objective - get rid of Scott - is something a majority of Floridians can get behind.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Floods Of Colorado

This was something that hit Disaster stages days ago.  Colorado got hit with a weather system of massive rainfall, combined with previous years of drought (killing off trees to adsorb the water, loosening ground that turned into mud) turning northern parts of the state into a massive and deadly flood zone.  Aging and un-repaired dams broke and added to the chaos.

The news channels seem to be ignoring it.  CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC don't have it anywhere near their main stories slot.  Fox Not-News is focusing on the GOP plan to defund Obamacare.

It doesn't help that there's been a major shooting again, leaving victims in its wake that we need to remember.  Nor that Syria and Iran are dominating the international focus.  It's really not helping that the government is facing another shutdown vote by the House GOP.

But in the meantime Colorado is getting hit with a major crisis.  Please try to pay attention.

Also, if anyone can help a Coloradan out...

Monday, September 16, 2013

In the Navy Yard Shooting, These Are the Facts You Need To Know

Today was a bad day all around - even without considering the flooding disaster that is Colorado - when we found our nation handling yet another shooting spree... this time at a well-guarded Washington DC Navy Yard.

These are the facts as can be confirmed (EDIT 9/26/13, I feel the need to add a little more for those Google searchers pulling up this article, SEE BELOW):

1) Early reports of multiple shooters proved wrong, as usual: there's always confusion during these mass shooting incidents, with survivors and eyewitnesses confused about where and when the violence takes place.  There was just one guy.

2) The shooter brought with him just a shotgun, but used the fact he was shooting up a military installation to secure additional firearms - handgun and rifle - to continue the shootout.

3) The shooter had his own access card to the grounds.  Working for a private tech firm supporting the Navy Yard, he would need some form of access to get into work areas as part of his job.

4) The shooter was involved in a previous shooting incident in 2010 when he lived in Texas, when he was charged with shooting a gun he claimed he was cleaning when it accidentally went off.  Those charges were dropped.  He was also charged in 2004 shooting out a car's tires in Seattle.

5) The shooter had a background as a military reservist from 2007 to 2011 when he was discharged.

6) There are reports that the shooter had undergone - and maybe still undergoing - psychological treatment for sleep issues and anger management.

7) The shooter was African-American.
7a) The identities of the victims have not been established yet.  The authorities are most likely talking to victims' families first.
UPDATE: The identities were released to the public, Washington Post created a memorial site.  By the looks of it the shooter did not discriminate, he shot at White, Black, Hindu Indian, male, female.  Most of the victims were middle-aged or near retirement age.

8) There are currently 13 dead, with 8 wounded.

These are the speculations:

1) Would the current needs for universal background checks as supported by a broad majority of Americans stopped the shooter from getting a firearm?  Probably not in this case: since that Texas gun charge was dropped it wouldn't have shown up on the background check.  And I'm not sure if the 2004 charges would have expired otherwise, or if the psychological treatment would have been a red flag under the rules.

2) Would the shooting have been less tragic if there were more people at the workplace with firearms / conceal permits?  You have to be kidding: this was the Navy Yard.  There's supposed to be armed guards, fences, barricades, defensive systems across the place.  And yet I won't be surprised if we're gonna get gun enthusiasts arguing for conceal-carry and more gun permissiveness at a military base (again: they said this crap after the Fort Hood shootings).
UPDATE: This did not stop LaPierre of the NRA from declaring the shooting wouldn't have been as bad if there had been more "Good guys with guns," the blanket NRA excuse against sensible gun safety laws.  Never mind the fact that there were armed guards on the site, the cops responded within 2 minutes, never mind the possibility of a "good guy with a gun" getting confused at who to shoot, and then having the cops shoot at him thinking he might be a second shooter (refer back to the earlier point of the reports of multiple gunmen).

3) What motivated the shooting?  The shooter did not leave behind any obvious clue like a letter or a death threat on a website.  There is no evidence as of yet what triggered the shooting.  (any further speculation based on race would really be in poor taste until we get specifics)
UPDATE: Huff Post has an article that the shooter left a note, indicating the shooting was a twisted case of a mental breakdown.

4) The shooter is someone with a serious track record of gun ownership.  This was not an overnight impulse to buy a gun and shoot up someplace: he's had guns before.  And he's used guns before...

5) The more obvious point about the shooter is the anger management (lack of).  A huge red flag in any shooting spree.  Any kind of terror attack, really.  The patterns still all point to one thing: an angry guy lashing out at a supposed injustice and taking it out on a lot of people who had nothing to do with causing that anger.  Mostly the shooter is an angry white guy, but we've had angry black guys as shooters before, there's been angry Asian guys, there's been angry ethnic guys across the board.

But the common link is there: Anger.  There are a lot of gun owners in the United States, I will grant you that.  Most of them never pull the trigger outside of legal usage such as practice ranges and/or licensed hunting.  But you get the gun owner with the persecution complex, the rage against women/the job/next door neighbor who leaves the flood lights on.  It's the combination of rage and access to firearms that ought to be of concern.

It'd be nice to have a debate on the matter, on the problem of guns and anger.  But David Frum is right: we're never going to get a debate on guns at all anymore, are we...?
UPDATE: Still don't have a serious debate on gun safety.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Thirty-Two, The Two Faces Part Two

This is the follow-up to the first parter posted earlier.

Previously, on Presidential Character:
"Cut the red wire!  Cut it!"
"You don't go telling me how to stop a madman!  I'm the only one who thinks like he does!  Don't stop me here!  Or we're ALL DEAD!"
"The car's going over the cliff!  JUMP!"
"Are you telling me I'm the father?  I'M THE FATHER?"
"Mr. Worf.  FIRE..."
"Who ordered the pizza?" (explodes)

...what, had to be done.

By 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt had served two full terms and by tradition was expected to "retire" from the Presidency to allow another candidate - Democrat or Republican by this point in the two-party system - the chance to lead.  But 1940 wasn't a normal year by any measure.

There was another world war.  Less than a generation after the Great War that Wilson sought to be the last.  And unlike the last war which focused mostly on Europe and the Middle East, this was truly a world war: Germany razing across Europe, Italy flailing across the Mediterranean and Africa, Japan marching across China and Asia.  And in most respects it wasn't the good guys winning the battlefields.  You had the fascists of Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy turning Europe into dictator-held hell, and the militaristic Japan leaving massacres in their wake in China.

While the trauma of the Great Depression was still affecting the United States, it was expected that the next President would either continue Roosevelt's work or the Republican come in on his own agenda.  In that regards there was no reason for Roosevelt to try for a third term.  He could have easily picked a successor from his administration who shared his goals and moved on. 

Why did Roosevelt go for a third term?

The official reason was World War II, and the fact that Roosevelt and most of the Democratic Party leadership did not trust the Republicans (who as a party were leaning Isolationist even against Great Britain) to do the right thing.  And their polling was telling the leadership that FDR was the surest way to keep the Republicans out of the White House.

But here's the truth.  A lot of it had to do with FDR's Active-Positive traits.  In certain personalities it leads to a kind of recklessness where tradition and expectations take a backseat.  Any other character trait in the office at that point in time - especially a Negative - would have stuck to tradition.  A Passive-Positive might have been talked into it, but only if there were no other voices in the party threatening to rock the boat.

While the 1940 election still went for FDR, there were now the present worries about the war storm.  The United States had remained neutral but the pressures to get involved were enormous.  The nation remained divided over the issues and with a strong pro-Bundist movement supporting Germany alongside the isolationists there was little FDR could do to help England, standing alone (at the time) against the German juggernaut.

FDR got around it with a Lend-Lease program that still upset the isolationists but basically avoided direct involvement in the war.  With regards to what was going on in the Pacific, there wasn't much the United States could do about Japan outside of boycotting and setting up oil embargoes to crimp Japan's war machinery.

In this, FDR shows the first face of the Active-Positive, thinking out solutions to achieve the long-term goal of being there for England when the United States would get dragged into the war (Nazi Germany's aggressiveness - seriously, going to war against the Soviets?  In WINTER? - made this a near certainty).  The Adaptive confidence of getting things done.

However, the reaction to the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7 1941 shows FDR's darker A-P habit of overreach.  With Japan aggressively attacking the United States, the fear of the Pacific coast being vulnerable became a sudden possibility.  And with the fear of hidden saboteurs (one of the Nazis' best tricks was getting Fifth Columnist/Quislings to betray nations from the inside), Roosevelt went with one of the sorrier national security plans our nation signed off on.

We interred - basically imprisoned without evidence - 150,000 Japanese Americans, about 2/3rds of them full-fledged citizens. Wanna know how bad this was?  J. Edgar Hoover, himself a trampler of civil liberties, thought it was a bad idea.  This fear is usually something you see out of an Active-Negative?  Why did an Active-Positive sign off on it?

The Overreach that A-P Presidents indulge.  FDR had to be convinced this was something legal and legitimate, that it would settle the fears of residents on the West Coast, and at the time it had that effect.  But the long-term consequences were not, are not ever a consideration for A-Ps.  'Tis the pity, because in the long-term the nation had to pay reparations and had to recognize that it made the United States look hypocritical as an Arsenal of Democracy jailing innocent families and kids.

With regards to the management of the war effort overall, Roosevelt left it to the generals he could trust, and worked amicably with his major ally Winston Churchill from England.  He overtrusted Stalin too much, but that was more a matter of hindsight, and with Soviet Russia a needed ally to trap Hitler's Germany between two fronts it was necessary to make that deal with this particular devil.

By 1944 Roosevelt running for a fourth term was pretty much anticlimactic.  We were still in the war, the economy had finally been fixed by the massive wartime stimulus, and there wasn't any reason to throw the Democrats out of the White House.  The only big issue FDR had to worry about was his health.  He was clearly getting sicker and the leadership worried about the Vice Presidency (for probably the first time ever).  Disregarding the current Veep Wallace who was openly Far Left, they sought out the best likely replacement for FDR, someone recognized as a fervent New Deal supporter but also a solid war backer and personally incorruptable.

They went with some guy named Truman.

Next: Serving Crow Since 1948.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Thirty-Two, The Two Faces of an Active-Positive Part One

Considering the length of this next President's tenure, and the fact that during his administration our nation was literally in two worlds - the first a massive economic crisis, the second a global war - I've decided to divide this one's entry into two articles.  Hopefully I'll be able to explain why...

My fading memories of AP American History remind me that one of the essay questions used was "Herbert Hoover was a liberal and Franklin D. Roosevelt a conservative, discuss."  In fact, a quick Google search showed me the question is still in use today.  I pity you high-schoolers.

The arguments made were that in practice Hoover the established pro-business Republican had done things considered "liberal" - increased taxes, expanded government - while Roosevelt the radical try-anything Democrat had done things "conservative" - cut taxes, gave business more free range.

The problem with that argument is sticking to the belief that "liberal" and "conservative" are static constructs.  The argument simplified what Hoover and FDR did on their own terms and under the legal and cultural restrictions of the day.  For one thing, a conservative (as politics usually define one) would never had unleashed the 1,001 different agendas that Roosevelt did throughout the New Deal era.  A liberal (as usually defined) would not have viewed government as limited in its authority which kept Hoover from fully resolving the crisis.

This is where viewing the Presidential Character as either Active-Passive and Positive-Negative makes more sense.  An Active-Positive like FDR would have cut taxes if the circumstances called for it, would have allowed more free trade if it made the economy work, would have done things that a modern-era Republican think paradoxically "Reagan did it first".  It's neither truly liberal or truly conservative.  It's Adaptive: the key trait of the A-P President.

FDR came into office at one of the greatest crises in American history.  The Great Depression had become a perfect storm of failing banks, mass unemployment, and financial ineptitude on a scale that would have - and did in Europe - collapsed powerful nations since the days of olde.  The economic collapse had led to regime changes in Italy and Germany, allowing the rise of fascism as a political alternative to the democratic republicanism seemingly failing in the West.  Soviet communism had taken root in Russia and was under the control of one of history's most brutal dictators.  A lot was at stake with FDR's administration: failure didn't mean a One-Term Presidency, it most likely meant a mass riot and the fall of the federal government to one extreme or the other.  And Roosevelt knew it.

Roosevelt brought with him a team of advisors and Cabinet officials that represented the broad spectrum of the political ideology: some were noted die-hard conservatives, some were hard-case liberals one step removed from communism.  Ideology didn't mean much to FDR outside of results: get the economy working again.  He famously said during his 1932 campaign that the thing to do during the crisis was "to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." 

And his administration proved it: a greater number of bills presented to Congress over the first 100 days (the first time an administration measured its efforts by that metric) than had been presented by any previous administration.  Relief projects begun under Hoover supported with greater funding and urgency.  New regulations put in place - like Glass-Steagall - to stop the questionable and chaotic financial speculation that had led to financial collapse.  And the first of several government-backed employment programs under the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed 250,000 young men to farms and conservation projects.

He did all this under withering criticism: from the Republican conservatives who questioned the budget deficits FDR was piling up and the constitutionality of much of the New Deal policies, and from the Far Left who questioned whether Roosevelt was doing enough in sharing the wealth and fixing everything in one broad stroke.  Both extremes noted that for all of the New Deal activity, the economy only barely improved by the end of Roosevelt's first term: Unemployment in particular was still in the double digits (14 percent) barely half of its 1933 high (24 percent).

FDR openly welcomed the hatred, especially from the rich elite that declared Roosevelt "a traitor to his class."  He plowed ahead on his New Deal, adding more projects and trying anything.  And some metrics of the economy were improving - Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was finally going upward after 1933 when during the 1929-32 period it had dropped - along with the nation's mood, well enough that when the 1936 Presidential campaign rolled around FDR won re-election in one of the biggest butt stompings in electoral history.

Professor Barber in his text notes why he uses Franklin D. as his model of the Active-Positive:

Roosevelt exhibited... what I see as a major contrast between the Active-Positive type in politics and other types... (they) are freer in their selections from a stylistic repertoire... (they) show how much richer and more varied range of emotional orientations is available to the politician whose character is firmly rooted in self-recognition and self-love.  The Active-Positive not only can perform lovingly or aggressively or with detachment, he can feel those ways.  As Roosevelt's case points out, the genuineness of those feelings can come across powerfully to close associations and to the public at large. (p. 295-6)
The empathy adds to the ability of being Adaptive.  Knowing what the situation is at one moment requires a response.  Realizing the situation can or has changed requires turning that response in a different direction, sometimes in a direction your supporters never saw on the horizon.  While other politicians can "flip-flop" on an issue for cynical reasons, the A-P personality has the confidence to express why the change was made and point out the empathetic reasons for doing so.  Above all is that Confidence: not the stolid "I Must" of an Active-Negative that Barber noted with Hoover, but the reckless "I Can".

But this shows one of the dangers - the second face - of the Active-Positive.  The danger of Overreach.  The "I Can Do This" in the most reckless of moments can be devastating to an A-P President.  Lincoln had that "I Can" feeling with his Emancipation Proclamation, a questionable edict that on the eve of the Civil War's end meant chaos unless the 13th Amendment could get passed.  Jefferson's "I Can" came not with the Louisiana Purchase but with the self-imposed trade embargoes as a response to the Napoleonic wars.

FDR's came with the Court Packing scheme.  Genuinely frustrated with a conservative Supreme Court that struck down some of the more impactful New Deal bills, Roosevelt figured at the start of his second term to use his political capital on a plan to give the President the power to add an extra SCOTUS Justice for every sitting Justice over the age of 70 (in 1937 that meant six new seats).

People outside and within Roosevelt's own administration freaked.  Some of the arguments FDR used in favor of the plan didn't make sense - one of Roosevelt's strongest supporters on the bench at the time was 80 years old for example, meaning age couldn't have been an issue - and the bill quickly got recognized even by New Deal advocates as a serious Executive branch threat to Judicial sovereignty.  Roosevelt may have had confidence in presenting the plan, but for once that famed A-P empathy failed to read the public mood.  Time, the unexpected loss of the legislative proponent to present the bill to Congress, and the changeover of the Supreme Court membership saved FDR the embarrassment of having the Court Packing bill reach a chamber floor and burn up in flames, but it quickly became the biggest failure of FDR's New Deal era.

FDR's two faces - the confident Adaptive leader, the Overreaching politico - would be combined into one  big reason why Roosevelt would eschew the tradition of letting go after two terms of office.  By 1940, there were problems on the national and international level that would stir the interest and challenge of any Active-Positive leader: the Second World War.

And that's where I'll leave off for Part Two. (link to be added later)

Next Up: What Did I Just Tell You?!  PART TWO DAMMIT.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Quick Notes From the Sunshine State Asylum

While I'm heading into Post #500 (this one will be #493), I feel the need to pass along a few good news, bad news, WTF news from the great state of Florida.

Okay, so.  For the seven readers... well actually for the seventeen readers now that I've got some Crooks & Liars audience members... still keeping an eye on this site, any suggestions for Post #500?