Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2012

(The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)

(A 2007 Jon Swift picture.)

Welcome to a tradition started by the late Jon Swift/Al Weisel. He left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. As Lance Mannion put it in 2010:

Our late and much missed comrade in blogging, journalist and writer Al Weisel, revered and admired across the bandwidth as the “reasonable conservative” blogger Modest Jon Swift, was a champion of the lesser known and little known bloggers working tirelessly in the shadows...

One of his projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up. Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog. His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

It may not have been the most heroic endeavor, but it was kind and generous and a lot of us owe our continued presence in the blogging biz to Al.

Here's Jon/Al's 2007 and 2008 editions. The 2010 revival here, and here's last year's edition.

If you're not familiar with Al Weisel's work as Jon Swift, his site features a "best of" list in the left column.

Meanwhile, Blogroll Amnesty Day (co-founded with skippy) is a celebration of small blogs that's still going strong, and coming up again the first weekend in February.

Thanks to all the participants, especially those who helped out behind the scenes. (I continue to try to find the right balance between inclusive and manageable.) Apologies to anyone I missed who wanted to participate. You still can, by linking your post in the comments. Whether your post appears in the modest list below or not, feel free to tweet your best post with the hatchtag #jonswift2012.

As in Jon/Al's 2008 roundup, submissions are listed roughly in the order they were received. As he wrote in that post:

I'm sure you'll be interested in seeing what your favorite bloggers think were their best posts of the year, but be sure to also visit some blogs you've never read before and leave a nice comment if you like what you see or, if you must, a polite demurral if you do not.

Without further ado:

Brilliant at Breakfast
"The Pigeonholing of Adam Lanza"
Jill: "Musings on the media using the language of middle schoolers to try to turn an obviously troubled kid into a monster."

Ornery Bastard
"History Indeed Repeats Itself"
Bustedknuckles connects a recent disaster with an infamous past one.

"Come Home, George McGovern"
Darrel Plant: "How a change of 4.5% of the popular vote in the 1972 presidential race could have defeated the criminal re-election of Richard Nixon."

Mad Kane's Political Madness
"Alpha-Political Verse (Election 2012)"
Madeleine Begun Kane: "My humorous 26-line poem about Election 2012, in all its alphabetized glory. "

David E's FaBlog
"Normal Democratic Means"
David Ehrenstein: "Justice Antonin Scalia's virulent homophobia. The post reveals that he didn't even deign to read the facts presented in "Lawrence vs. Texas" before deciding (against the court majority) that "sodomy" laws should stand."

Real American Liberal
"Breathe In, Breathe Out ... In ... Out ... Good"
John Sheirer: "A post-election message to Republicans who believe Obama voters are crazy or stupid or America haters: Take a deep breath, unbunch your undies, be still and quiet for a few moments, and search for your faith in America and in humanity."

"How Ronald Reagan Unwittingly Laid the Groundwork for the Death of Capitalism"
Marc McDonald: "Over the years, Ronald Reagan has gotten a lot of credit for achievements that he had nothing to do with (like "winning" the Cold War). However, Reagan should get credit for something that he actually did achieve: laying the groundwork for the death of capitalism as we know it."

"The 2nd Worst Mass Shooting in US History"
Mikeb302000: "Concerning the very recent horror in Connecticut, I put the blame squarely at the feet of the NRA and their adherents."

"Santorum and Delilah"
Dave Dugan: "Satire of Rick Santorum's superstitions regarding his success in the Iowa Caucus."

Pruning Shears
"Concerning violence advocates and nailing jello to walls"
Dan, DCblogger, affinis, lambert and okanogen: "A look at how some have tried to justify violence at Occupy with endlessly slippery arguments."

"Please Proceed, Governor"
Jon Perr: "Now that Mitt Romney’s perpetual quest for the White House has failed, he doesn't merely need to leave the national stage. Mitt Romney must take his brand of "post-truth" politics with him. As a much better man once put it: "Please proceed, Governor.""

"You might be an old fart if..."
J. of J-TWO-O: "Although I have many good (satirical) political posts, I decided to go with a little much-needed humor."

Poor Impulse Control
"Waiting For the End Of the World"
Tata: "When the states go all dudely privilege, dames need a new state for a dude-free state of mind."

skippy the bush kangaroo
"king of bain"
skippy the bush kangaroo: "parody lyrics of the police classic."

The Rude Pundit
"Andrew Breitbart in Hell: A Fantasia"
Lee Papa (The Rude Pundit): "Andrew Breitbart drops dead and realizes that he's heading to Hell. On his way down, he wonders what awaits him."

The Agonist
"Totalitarianism in the US: An Accident Waiting to Happen"
Numerian: "Compares Republican political philosophy to that of Soviet Russia, starting with Pravda like propaganda and promoting themselves through big lies, and in our case, small ones too."

"The View From 88—Distress and Hope"
Robert Stein: "From the far shores of old age, an ancient blogger seeks perspective from the hype of his own Greatest Generation to the bashing of Baby Boomers and tries to imagine a future beyond what Martin Luther King called “the fierce urgency of now.""

"And I Ask Myself, How Did I Get Here? -OR- Do I Owe My Soul To The Company Store?"
Rehctaw: "Reversal of fortune for the middle-class and other casualties of modern life."

Mike the Mad Biologist
"A Modest Proposal: Alabama Whites Are Genetically Inferior to Massachusetts Whites (FOR REALZ!)"
Mike the Mad Biologist: "Every so often, like a bad case of hemorrhoids, the race/IQ/genetics kerfuffle flairs up. Well, the Mad Biologist can settle it once and for all."

"I Cannot Truly Want What I Am Told I Must Have"
Melissa McEwan: "A post exploring choosing to be a woman without children and why I made that choice. Set against the backdrop of the Republicans' war on agency, I explain that, for me, as long as my culture and government try to coerce me into motherhood, the only truly authentic choice I have is to choose against parenting."

Confession Zero
"Love is above all, is all and cherishes all and would no more send part of Love to writhe in agony than breathe hate into our lungs"
Mark R. Prime takes a poetic approach.

Mock, Paper, Scissors
"An Affair to Remember (Charted)"
Tengrain and the crack team at MPS spend literally minutes analyzing all the known players and whatnot involved in the nefarious Petraeus Sexy-Time Affair and document the timeline in this handy cut-out-and-keep chart.

Strangely Blogged
"Because He's President, That's Why"
Vixen Strangely: "A rumination stemming from the heckling by a Dally Caller reporter on how right wing irrationalism shapes the choices President Obama makes, and how it totally doesn't."

Simply Left Behind
"Bread and Circuses"
actor212/Carl: "The Super Bowl is an annual spectacle that most closely hearkens back to ancient Rome in its decline. It's a sign to be cautious that we are not that far away from collapse."

Bark Bark Woof Woof
"Yes, I Do Take It Personally"
Mustang Bobby: "When the Constitution talks about “We The People,” I’m one of those people. I didn’t give up the rights enumerated in that document because I happen to be gay.”

The Way of Cats
"Village of Elves"
Pamela Merritt: "Remember wanting Sea Monkeys as a kid because the ads were so compelling? Their promise has been fulfilled; feline style."

Southern Beale
"Sometimes A Bra Is Just A Bra"
Southern Beale: "The post commented on Sally Quinn's unwittingly patronizing/unquestionably hilarious column in the WaPo about that infamous photo of a female protestor in Cairo being hauled away by police, clothes stripped off to reveal she was wearing a blue bra. Quinn just couldn't seem to get past the fact that an Egyptian woman wore a blue bra beneath her clothes. Talk about missing the forest for the trees!"

A Blog About School
"What Does This Blog Want?"
Chris Liebig: "It's basically a plea for people to think about schoolchildren in the context of other historically disenfranchised groups, and to be more conscious of the moral hazard posed by our authority over them. In the name of "achievement," are we teaching kids to conform to a less humane, more authoritarian world?"

"Who is John Galt?"
driftglass: "An in-depth look at Paul Ryan's desperate denialism of his Randite roots."

"Good move"
Brendan Keefe: "If by "best" one means "what provoked the most reaction ..." I like this post for the comments – instructive or unintentionally hilarious, depending on your mood."

Amendments We Need
"Romney's Ever-Fixed Mark"
Paul Wartenberg: "For all of Romney's flip-flopping during his campaign, he had one constant stance the whole time: a massive tax cut for the rich. This article attempted to shred that stance."

League of Ordinary Gentlemen
"My Year of Guns"
Tod Kelly: "Three encounters with guns – each in my eighth year – that shaped my love, respect and occasional lack of comfort with them."

"Full Metal Redneck"
Peter Barrett: "A rumination on killing a varmint."

"Internet Man Does Not Want To Be On The Google Anymore"
TBogg: "George Tierney of Greenville South Carolina does not understand women or how the internet works. Hilarity ensues…"

Mister Tristan
"Will to Live…and Ultrarunning"
Gary Bruner: "This post concerns dying before one’s time, the will to live, and quality of life, triggered by seeing a downed limb while running."

The Rectification of Names
"Workers unite! You have nothing to lose but elections"
Yastreblyansky: "It's from a series of parodies of David Brooks columns (David Brooks writes...), this one the early November piece on "The party of work", by which he meant Republicans. I know, how can you satirize that?"

Polite Company
"On the Internet, You Can Be Anything... "
Thursday: "It really disturbed me to see a level of degenerate thought going on in what is a community that prides itself on thoughtfulness, especially those folks "defending" the (possibly unintentional) creeper."

Sketchy Details
"Reality Reflecting Criticism: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games "
Robert Gannon: "In one of the weirdest entertainment stories of the year, a feminist blogger trying to Kickstart a project examining gender stereotypes in video games became the voice of women harassed and trolled for daring to have a voice on video games. Video games are apparently serious business for young male gamers."

glad you asked
"still struggling to come out"
aarrgghh: "a freeper asks his fellow wingnuts for advice for coming out to his gay friends."

Lotus – Surviving a Dark Time
"Guns, gun nuts, gun violence, Second Amendment nonsense, and the bloody results"
LarryE: "Newtown was not the first mass shooting and unless we call out the gun nuts and realize how limited the reach of the Second Amendment really is and then act on that knowledge, it will not be the last – or the worst."

Mutant Poodle
"The Perils of Privilege"
Mutant Poodle: "A reflection on the downside of never having had a shitty job, among other perils of a privileged upbringing."

"Political Theology"
Michael Odom: "I don’t blog as much as I once did, but the theocratic leanings of Mourdock at al. led me to a piece about religious certainty. "

p3 – Persuasion, Perseverance, and Patience
"Two countries separated by a boorish candidate"
Nothstine: "The English Language, the American Language, and America's most embarrassing ambassador of good will in 2012."

"Vertical Solidarity Is Nonsense"
B-psycho: "A response to Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay about race & reaction to Obama."

This Is So Gay
"On Stereotyping"
Duncan Mitchel : "The triumph of the meme."

His Vorpal Sword
"The Congress of the Forest"
Hart Williams: "One momentous day, the Forest Congress assembled to debate the burning issue of the hour: a bill had been offered declaring every acorn a tree, and, thus, all criminal penalties should accrue to anyone disturbing an acorn just as they would to anyone cutting down a tree ..."

"Paul Fussell, Scotch, a Birthday, & the Sophomore: A Shaggy Dog Story"
Ellen O'Neill: "Paul Fussell died this year. I was one of his "cookie cutter" students at Rutgers, except there was another side to him than the complete curmudgeon he came across in a People magazine article."

"I Give It Four Farts"
Roy Edroso: "I took the opportunity presented by some stupid documentary about wingnuts to channel my favorite comic character, Jonah Goldberg."

Pass the Doucheys on the Right-Hand Side
"Truth, Hypocrisy, and the Legacy of Leviticus – Part Two"
DC Martin: "A questioning of the frequent citing of Leviticus when people tout their "righteous" homophobia while they continue to engage in other behaviors clearly banned by the same book of the bible."

The Inverse Square
"Anatomy of a Zombie Lie"
Tom Levenson: "This post is a take-down of the claim, repeated after every gun massacre, that guns save many more lives in their use for self defense than they cost in these tragedies."

They Gave Us a Republic
"You're not supposed to pull the ladder up behind you"
Blue Girl puts it in perspective.

The Reaction
"Privileged rich douchebag: The Mitt Romney narrative for 2012"
Michael J.W. Stickings: "Long before the remarks about the 47% became such a significant campaign story, the essence of Mitt Romney's character was clear. This post set the tone for 2012."

We Are Respectable Negroes
"White Men Like Adam Lanza Commit 70 Percent of the Mass Shootings in the United States. Why is the Media Afraid to Talk About This Obvious Fact?"
Chauncey DeVega: "After the tragic Newtown massacre by Adam Lanza, a conversation about the relationship between race, gun culture, and mass shootings began—however briefly. In a series of posts, I began a discussion about white masculinity and mass shootings. Because white folks are "invisible" and do not have a "racial" identity in the United States the mass media does not talk about "white crime"…"

Lance Mannion
"Asperger's Un-diagnosed"
Lance Mannion: "There’s a general conception that Asperger’s is basically a form of clinical nerdiness complicated by reflexive jerkiness. Long-time readers know why that idea makes my blood boil."

Blue Gal
"Welcome to the Culture War"
Fran/Blue Gal: "Why no one can be a bystander in the Republican war on women."

The Hunting of the Snark
"Power and Money"
Susan of Texas: "I picked [this post] because it reveals the lengths Megan McArdle goes through to hide her ties to the Koch brothers, despite her claims that she has no loyalty to them."


Vagabond Scholar
"The Four Types of Conservatives"
Batocchio: "Most conservative political figures break down into one of four broad groups: Reckless Addicts, Proud Zealots, Stealthy Extremists and Sober Adults. (A long form post.)"

Thanks again, folks. Happy blogging (and everything else) in 2013.

(Added: A special shoutout to DougJ of Balloon Juice for his help these three years in obtaining submissions and thus spreading the luv.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hallelujah Chorus 2012

This post is a repeat, but for the season, it's hard to beat the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. First up, a neat flash mob version:

Next up, Cantillation with the Orchestra of the Antipodes, conducted by Antony Walker:

The Robert Shaw version is also quite nice, and then there's this one from the Roches (h/t Steve Audio):

Christmas 2012

Mr. Bean's Nativity Scene. (Hat tip to Blue Gal for the reminder. If British comedy is your thing, you can also check out Terry Gilliam's Christmas Carol.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tim Minchin – "White Wine in the Sun"

The animated verison of a lovely Christmas song by a nonbeliever. Minchin can be very funny, but here's he's quite touching. (I was first introduced to this a year or so back through the Balloon Juice community, and reminded again of it through a recent Digby post.)
Eclectic Jukebox

Digby's 10th Blogiversary

The insightful and indefatigable Digby is celebrating her 10th blogiversary. As usual, she's running an end-of-the-year fundraiser, and re-running some of her greatest (and most relevant) hits. Head on over!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ravi Shankar‪ – "Raga Ahir Bhairav"‬

RIP. It would be hard to overstate Ravi Shankar's influence on introducing world music… to the world. He was an excellent musician, a true master, and also a good composer. I'm fond of his work with Phillip Glass, he did the music for early films of the great Indian filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, and Beatles fans are well aware of Shankar's influence on George Harrison. Still, for all the fusion and crossover work he did, much of it very good, it's his traditional music that may be the most, well, transcendental. I haven't been able to authenticate it, but he allegedly said something I love about education and learning being an ongoing process: "One does learn the sitar – one studies it." He leaves behind an amazing legacy.

Here are the obituaries from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times (also an appreciation), The Washington Post and the AP (plus another piece, "Sitar maker says Ravi Shankar’s legacy will inspire another generation of musicians"). Other appreciations abound.

Shankar was ridiculously prolific, and YouTube features a great deal of his music, including a playlist or two.

Local KCRW DJ (and world music guru) Tom Schnabel will be doing a Ravi Shankar tribute show this weekend. (I'll update the link for the specific show after it airs.)

Eclectic Jukebox

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Read for Writers, by Vonnegut

A new book is out of Kurt Vonnegut's letters, and Slate has been running some selections. His advice to a friend slotted to teach at the Iowa Writers' Workshop is interesting (and gossipy), but I really enjoyed his term paper assignment. Apparently, Vonnegut "wrote his course assignments in the form of letters, as a way of speaking personally to each member of the class."

November 30, 1965


This course began as Form and Theory of Fiction, became Form of Fiction, then Form and Texture of Fiction, then Surface Criticism, or How to Talk out of the Corner of Your Mouth Like a Real Tough Pro. It will probably be Animal Husbandry 108 by the time Black February rolls around. As was said to me years ago by a dear, dear friend, “Keep your hat on. We may end up miles from here.”

As for your term papers, I should like them to be both cynical and religious. I want you to adore the Universe, to be easily delighted, but to be prompt as well with impatience with those artists who offend your own deep notions of what the Universe is or should be. “This above all ...”

I invite you to read the fifteen tales in Masters of the Modern Short Story (W. Havighurst, editor, 1955, Harcourt, Brace, $14.95 in paperback). Read them for pleasure and satisfaction, beginning each as though, only seven minutes before, you had swallowed two ounces of very good booze. “Except ye be as little children ...”

Then reproduce on a single sheet of clean, white paper the table of contents of the book, omitting the page numbers, and substituting for each number a grade from A to F. The grades should be childishly selfish and impudent measures of your own joy or lack of it. I don’t care what grades you give. I do insist that you like some stories better than others.

Proceed next to the hallucination that you are a minor but useful editor on a good literary magazine not connected with a university. Take three stories that please you most and three that please you least, six in all, and pretend that they have been offered for publication. Write a report on each to be submitted to a wise, respected, witty and world-weary superior.

Do not do so as an academic critic, nor as a person drunk on art, nor as a barbarian in the literary market place. Do so as a sensitive person who has a few practical hunches about how stories can succeed or fail. Praise or damn as you please, but do so rather flatly, pragmatically, with cunning attention to annoying or gratifying details. Be yourself. Be unique. Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.

Since there are eighty of you, and since I do not wish to go blind or kill somebody, about twenty pages from each of you should do neatly. Do not bubble. Do not spin your wheels. Use words I know.


There are many things to like about this. The first is Vonnegut's warmth. The wit isn't surprising (and the "poloniøus" handle is probably a little self-deprecating humor, Vonnegut casting himself as the fool even as he urges his students, "this above all..."). Still, he seems to genuinely like his students and teaching. It'd be hard not to respond positively to that. The second thing is his explicit (and implicit) instructions to his students not to try to agree with him – he wants them to think for themselves. The third thing I love about this assignment is the "you are a minor but useful editor" bit. Vonnegut is trying to help his students learn how to revise, how to evaluate the purpose of passages and their effectiveness and necessity. This is a very practical and an important skill. ("Do not do so as an academic critic, nor as a person drunk on art…") If writing is both an art and craft, this assignment is designed to increase his students' understanding of craftsmanship. Lastly, while Vonnegut preemptively tweaks any tendency toward pretentiousness, and the assignment is extremely pragmatic, there's an irrepressible joy to the whole endeavor. It's a well-thought-out task, but he's also made it fun. He must have been a fantastic teacher. (Also, detailed grading of eighty 20 page term papers? That'll make ya swallow more than just two ounces of very good booze… and more than just good booze.) Vonnegut's other writing advice is quite good, all the more so because (true to form) he himself doesn't take it too seriously.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Dave Brubeck Quartet – "Blue Rondo à la Turk"

RIP. I have several Brubeck albums, and the man had a great run, performing 'til he was 88. This tune is one of his most famous, and also one of his best.

Eclectic Jukebox

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Political battles do not occur in a vacuum, and the current scrum features several highly familiar elements. If you've been following the "austerity bomb" / "austerity crisis" news (better terms than "the fiscal cliff"), one of many striking features is the colossal bad faith of the Republicans. Steve Benen devised the nifty chart shown above breaking down how lopsided the current "deal" is. He also notes that some conservatives are complaining that this deal, despite being both bad policy and massively skewed toward the losers of our recent huge election, doesn't go far enough in conservatives' favor. From "The plan the right is pretending not to like":

So, as far as the right-wing GOP base is concerned, a debt-reduction deal in which Republicans make no concessions at all represents an enormous sellout.

Except, in this case, I don't really believe the base is sincere.

We'll probably never know for sure what leading far-right activists are thinking, but by complaining about a deal in which GOP gives up nothing, they seem to be engaged in some political theater.

In other words, the Koch brothers' operation and the Heritage Foundation's lobbying wing are trying to offer some cover for House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican leadership -- if the left and right both claim to oppose the GOP's so-called "counteroffer," then maybe it's the moderate solution between two extremes.

As for the "merits" of the latest offer from John Boehner and the Republicans, Greg Sargent provides a good summary of the latest exercise in Republican magic math in "Magical thinking in new GOP fiscal cliff plan":

So yesterday, House GOP leaders offered up their own fiscal cliff proposal. In exchange for substantial spending cuts, the big concession Republicans would make is that they would agree to $800 billion in new revenues. They would not raise tax rates, they would lower rates through tax reform, and produce the new revenues by closing unspecified loopholes and deductions, to be worked out later.

Is this even possible?

The plan is too lacking in detail to say for sure whether the numbers can even be made to work, according to a tax expert I spoke to this morning. He added that based on what we know now, it would require the elimination of so many loopholes and deductions as to be extremely impractical, and probably politically impossible, though the GOP goal is theoretically attainable under certain very narrow conditions.

Republicans have said that the $800 billion in new revenues would come from eliminating loopholes and deductions in a way that only targets those over $250,000. That way, Republicans can argue that their plan doesn’t hit the middle class, only the rich.

The problem, though, is that you’d have to eliminate virtually every significant loophole and deduction that benefits the wealthy to make this possible, according to Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Worse, if you also want to lower tax rates, as Republicans say they do, it would become even harder.

“If the tax rates are going to be lowered significantly, it’s harder and harder to hit that revenue target,” Williams told me, adding that until Republicans specified what sort of rate cuts they have in mind, it’s impossible to say whether this is even doable.

Williams added that to come within the ballpark of raising $800 billion in new revenues in this fashion, you’d probably have to pare back substantially or eliminate an enormous range of deductions, from the write-offs for employee provided health insurance, interest from municipal bonds, and money invested in retirement plans, to itemized deductions for charitable contributions, state and local taxes, and mortgage interest payments.

Good luck waiting for Congress to eliminate all of those.

Not that any of this is new, but this latest political battle shows once again that:

1. Republicans do not care about good policy or responsible governance.

2. Republicans do not care about public opinion. (Numerous polls show that the public supports raising taxes on the rich.)

3. Republicans do not care about election results (unless they win).

4. Republicans do not believe in fair dealing and good faith.

5. The media will not report political disputes accurately if doing so means criticizing one party significantly more.

A country cannot function well given this state of affairs, but as usual, the corporate media will not assess blame accurately or fairly, and the Beltway "solutions" offered are tend to be plutocrat-friendly measures that screw over the middle class. (Not to mention the poor. Remember them?)

We'll consider other aspects shortly, but more good pieces on this whole affair, see:

Ezra Klein's Wonkblog: "The White House reveals their tax math," "Boehner’s latest tax offer is $150 billion less than he offered in 2011" and "Yesterday’s tax revenues can’t support tomorrow’s America."

Jonathan Bernstein: "Boehner’s offer: A start, but it’s still unclear whether it’s real."

Paul Krugman: "Fighting Fiscal Phantoms," "Class Wars of 2012," "What Defines A Serious Deficit Proposal?" "The Full McConnell," "Operation Rolling Tantrum," "It’s Health Care Costs, Stupid" and "Why People Are Confused About the Fiscal Cliff"

Josh Barrow at Bloomberg: "What's Wrong With the Republican Fiscal Cliff Counteroffer"

Jonathan Cohn: "The Fiscal Cliff Is Better than Boehner's Lousy Offer"

Digby on the so-called grand bargain and fiscal cliff (and don't forget David Dayen).

Meanwhile, it's worthwhile to look at some of the other overarching dynamics.

Republican Sabotage

Republicans decided from the very beginning they would try to sabotage Obama's presidency. Despite their whining and accusations that Obama rebuffed them, they have always been acting in bad faith. Dan Balz provided one of the best accounts back in September in a Washington Post feature. It's worth reading in full, but this section in particularly sticks with me (emphasis added):

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who fought with and compromised with President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, believed the country was hungry for an end to political conflict and was invested in the success of the nation’s first African American president. On Inauguration Day, Gingrich said recently, he told his wife, Callista, that if Obama followed through on what he had said throughout the campaign, “he will be Eisenhower and he will split the Republican Party.”

Later that evening, Gingrich joined a dozen or so other Republicans for a dinner at the Caucus Room restaurant. Their conversation about how to plot a comeback was described in some detail by author Robert Draper in his book “Do Not Ask What Good We Do.”

When Gingrich left the dinner, he told his colleagues, “You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”

Asked recently to reconcile his feelings on the afternoon of the inauguration and his conclusions after the dinner, Gingrich’s response encapsulated both the promise of the Obama presidency and the obstacles he would encounter trying to fulfill it.

“Our job was to design the optimum GOP strategy,” Gingrich said. “Obama’s job was to govern so our strategy would fail.”

Said Axelrod, “If on inaugural night, leaders of the Republican Party are meeting to talk about how they could thwart the president, it belies the notion that they are waiting patiently by their phones for a call from the president to see if they could work together.”

Balz (and Draper, in his book) go into far more detail, but the evidence is damning, and several elements are notable here. One, Gingrich was and remains one of the people most responsible for "political conflict" and hyper-partisanship in America. He's still despicable, and given his pandering racism during his presidential run, he certainly wasn't "invested in the success of the nation’s first African American president." Two, the Republicans are acting in bad faith even by the degraded standards of this account; despite being beaten, despite the failure of their "strategy," they're still opposing Obama… and good policy, and the will of the people. Three – Gingrich doesn't seem to realize how incriminatory this account is. In a corrupted D.C., perhaps it's nothing too shocking, but this story is further proof of the Republican Party, of movement conservatives, putting their party before their country. It is unpatriotic. It is sabotage. It may not be treason in the technical, legal sense, but it is (or comes close) in the everyday sense. It is contemptible to harm one's country, to screw over one's own constituents, all to try to acquire more political power. Sincere conservatives exist who champion polices I strongly disagree with, but I don't doubt their basic patriotism, that they're working for what they believe to be their country's best interest. That is not the case with this breed of conservatives, and they are dominant in the Republican Party. (Consider all the conservatives who attacked anyone who dared to question an unnecessary war under Bush as a traitor. Bush certainly had his detractors, and earned many more, but congressional Democrats worked with him, and liberals and moderates generally wished him well in office, because, contrary to Rush Limbaugh, the country can't really do well if the president doesn't.)

Norquist Victory

Ezra Klein makes an excellent point in "Grover Norquist is winning"

Don’t take Norquist’s pledge at face value. It’s an absurdity. From a budgetary standpoint, it’s an obscenity. And everyone — Norquist included, because he is very, very smart — knew it would eventually fall. It’s how it falls that matters. And right now, it’s falling exactly according to plan.

For decades now, Norquist has asked lawmakers to pledge to oppose any and all taxes. That’s a ridiculous pledge. Ronald Reagan, a president Norquist considers such a conservative inspiration that he’s embarked on a quest to name every airport and park bench in the country after him, raised taxes time and time again.

But that’s the point. The severity, even extremism, of the commitment demanded by the pledge has helped entrench a public impression that tax increases are a no-man’s land for conservatives. As recently as Reagan’s day, it was pretty much a given that cutting the deficit meant, in part, increasing taxes, even for Republicans. Today, Republicans who believe the debt is the greatest threat our nation faces — the new “red menace,” in the words of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — get plaudits just for being willing to consider the idea of a tax increase, no matter how small.

Norquist and his pledge changed more than the conversation. They changed American politics. The question isn’t how we’ll increase taxes and by how much. It’s whether we’ll increase taxes. For a Republican to simply consider a tax increase is considered a massive concession. That helps them ultimately agree to less in taxes, as having conceded so much philosophically and politically, they’re expected to do less as a matter of policy.

The true test of Norquist’s pledge wasn’t whether a Republican ever voted for another tax increase. It was whether it held tax revenues below where they’d otherwise be. It’s whether it increased the political cost of raising taxes. And today, you can see how well his pledge has worked.

I've made this basic point before, that the Norquist framework falls far short of sense. Streamlining tax returns would be a good idea, but we should debating how much we should raise taxes on the rich, how many brackets we should add and at what level and rate, not debating whether or not to raise taxes on the rich at all. Norquist is an excellent, dark example of an Overton window success story. (And while Obama and congressional Democrats certainly have their faults, and some awful "Grand Bargain" is still a threat, Romney would have moved the taxes issues significantly further to the right.)

(It turns out that Bill Moyers' show tonight has two segments dealing with Republican intransigence on taxes and the Norquist pledge.)

Media Complicity

Michael Grunwald recently wrote a fantastic piece that violates the code of silence among Beltway reporters, titled "Fiscal Cliff Fictions: Let’s All Agree to Pretend the GOP Isn’t Full of It":

It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

This isn’t just cognitive dissonance. It’s irresponsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.

I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.

The next fight is likely to involve the $200 billion worth of stimulus that Obama included in his recycled fiscal cliff plan that somehow didn’t exist before Election Day. I’ve taken a rather keen interest in the topic of stimulus, so I’ll be interested to see how this is covered. Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs.

I guess it’s finally true that we all are Keynesians now. Republicans don’t even seem to be arguing that more stimulus wouldn’t boost the economy; they’ve suggested that Obama needs to give up “goodies” like extending unemployment insurance (which benefits laid-off workers) and payroll tax cuts (which benefit everyone) to show that he’s negotiating in good faith. At the same time, though, they also want Obama to propose bigger Medicare cuts, even though they spent the last campaign slamming Obama’s Medicare cuts and denying their interest in Medicare cuts. I live in Florida, so I had the pleasure of hearing a radio ad from Allen West, hero of the Tea Party, vowing to protect Medicare.

Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.

While these general insights aren't new in the liberal blogosphere, it's a well-written piece… yet what's really striking and depressing about it is that such subjects are rarely written about by Beltway reporters. In the corporate media, pointing out the outrageous bad faith of the Republican Party (or the actual consequences of their policies) is considered terribly uncivil and "partisan." (Despite their faults, the Democrats simply aren't remotely as bad.) It's as if the so-called liberal media had been forced to swear an oath of omertà to movement conservatives not to give the game away.

Political scrums do not occur in a vacuum. It's hard to get anything productive done when honest. accurate discussion is precluded on the national stage. (For some political players, that's certainly by design; in other cases, it's laziness.) It's a radical thought, but maybe we could discuss the actual merits of policy (without Beltway class bias dominating), uphold the results of elections, and insist on responsible governance and fair dealing from all sides. Contrary to the Beltway conventional wisdom, which is almost invariably wrong, America isn't suffering from a lack of compromise – it's suffering from idiocy, corruption and cowardice.

(For previous posts on Republican extremism, American plutocracy, and the preponderance of bullshit in political coverage, see "Extremism in Defense of Nihilism Is a Vice," "The Four Types of Conservatives," "Attack of the Plutocrats" and "Partisanship, Policy and Bullshit.")

The Post-Election "What Republicans Should Do" Rant

Post-election analyses about what the Republican Party should change have been pretty popular recently, and it's been fun to see sharp bloggers poke holes in the most blind, hubristic or otherwise ridiculous "advice." Personally, while I'm happy to work with decent people who self-identify as conservative or Republican, that type of person is faaaar from the norm in the conservative base or leadership. I'd really like to see a bipartisan commitment to responsible governance, so while I have my criticisms of the Democrats, the tremendous bad faith shown by John Boehner and other Republican leaders has me pretty pissed. (Yeah, who said an election should decide anything?) I'll try to return to more sober analysis later, but here's my terribly intemperate, uncivil advice to the conservative movement and Republican Party. Ahem.

Stop being racist assholes.

Stop being plutocratic assholes.

Stop being theocratic assholes.

Stop being anti-science, anti-empirical assholes.

Stop being McCarthyite assholes – and learn some basic civics and history, plus the meaning of the word "socialism." (Hint: it doesn't mean "things I [think I] don't like.")

Stop saber-rattling and overdosing on chickenhawk war porn. Stop defending and promoting unnecessary wars and torture. (You keep defending and promoting torture, you fucks.)

Stop attacking the arts, PBS, NPR, and teachers, you fucking bullying assholes.

Stop sucking the teat of the government and reaping the benefits of the Commons – and then turning around and attacking them. That's a dick move.

Stop treating pig-ignorance as a virtue.

Renounce all Norquists and start doing your damn job, representing your constituents' best interests and passing good legislation.

Stop confusing your own privilege with freedom. Stop throwing a temper tantrum when you're prevented from imposing your will on others.

Stop fighting against any and all accountability for your and your party's many failings.

Stop acting like any election or vote or thing-that-exists-in-some-way-that-you don't-like is illegitimate or un-American. Stop acting entitled that you're supposed to win, despite all the crap that you constantly pull.

Stop pretending that you really liked social progress (MLK, Latinos, etc.) all along after your latest dick gambit failed and you've gotten your ass kicked. Stop setting up new bulwarks to prevent progress immediately afterward.

Stop acting outraged anytime anyone has the audacity to object to you being an asshole. (That's sorta a feedback loop.)

Finally, stop lying all the fucking time, from lying about your own crazy or extreme beliefs, to arguing against good policies and for bad policies in colossal bad faith. You are the reason we can't have nice things, you selfish, stupid-evil-crazy muthafuckas.

If you can do that, sure, I think we can work together. But trust is earned with action, and your track record, uh, kinda sucks. So put up or shut up. If you won't reform your ways, well, karma's a bitch, and so are demographics.

(For more calm and detailed analysis, see "Common Ground in Diagrams" and "The Four Types of Conservatives.")