Weekend Links

I arrived in Beijing on Friday night. A good friend of mine from my Xining, Qinghai Province days generously offered to let me stay with him and his wife for the weekend before I fly to New York on Sunday. The above picture with relatively blue sky was taken from their apartment this afternoon. It’s freezing – feels like it’s below zero, Fahrenheit (!) – and windy, which means no ‘airpocalypse’ but instead bright blue skies. I’m some kind of good luck charm for Beijing. It seems like every time I pass through this city it’s blue skies.

The pictures above: rays of sun breaking through the Dali clouds on my way to the airport yesterday afternoon; Santa Claus and some kind of feathered friend, drawn by a student; a nice if freezing day in Beijing; made burgers and salad with my middle school students last Saturday; a driving instructor somehow managed to crash his car into another car in broad daylight in dry conditions. We often joke about how driving school here seems to be little more than an instructor telling you to go 20 kilometers per hour under the speed limit and to honk your horn at everything, including inanimate objects, but apparently instructors also teach you how to get into inexcusable accidents as well.

I have about 20 hours of travel ahead of me, yet I leave here at about 5 pm Sunday evening and arrive in New York around 10:30 pm Sunday evening. Figure that one out! Or, check out these links:

  • Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? The guy who embarrassess you or the guy you depise? It sure is tough to be a Republican party ‘moderate’ these days, as Josh Marshall gets at here and I wrote about earlier in the week.
  • Some Republicans are blaming President Obama for Trump’s rise, which is cute. He’s their Frankenstein‘s monster. Will the Republican establishment chase him down in time, or will we find them in the Arctic, with Trump grinning like a madman as he sets their collective corpse on fire?

*Note: not a faithful adaptation of the book, but hopefully it speaks better to what’s going to happen.

  • Ending on a non-political note. Listening to Bob Dylan with my friend here in Beijing, I’m reminded of this speech Dylan gave in 2015. Josh Marshall gives it some context; scroll down for the speech itself.

Have a great weekend!

The Lament of the Moderate Northeastern Republican

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The disastrous presidency of George W. Bush put a lot of pressure on the northeastern Republican’s habitat. Donald Trump threatens this once-proud political animal with extinction. Bring on the meteor!  By Own work, based on Usa counties large.svg and Census Regions and Division of the United States.svg (Usa counties large.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
If you follow American sports or consume even a little sports media, you probably know or have at least heard the name of Bill Simmons. Originally from the Boston area and known for a unique voice that blends the passions of a local sports fan with a deep appreciation for American popular culture, Simmons arose to national prominence working for ESPN as a writer, TV personality, and producer. ESPN sacked Simmons last year but then he got hired by HBO. He’s back to doing his very popular podcasts and will launch a show this year at his new network.

One of the hallmarks of Simmons’s podcasts is that he often brings on friends and family to discuss things about which they care or have special knowledge. Two of my favorite Simmons regular guests, Joe House and John O’Connell (JackO), are guys he met at college. Simmons, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan, calls up JackO (a diehard Yankees fan) whenever there’s baseball or Red Sox-Yankees rivalry stuff to discuss. Listeners have known for a while now that JackO, in addition to being a Yankees fan, is a dyed-in-the-wool northeastern Republican of the low taxes/limited regulations/strong military/socially liberal variety. JackO is apoplectic over Donald Trump’s rise so Simmons has turned to him a few times over the past several months to get JackO’s takes on campaign developments and to make sure his buddy’s head hasn’t yet exploded.

Normally I roll my eyes when JackO talks politics and stay tuned for the baseball stuff, but on Friday’s podcast he said a few things that I’d like to pivot off of in order to explain the current political moment.

Let’s start with the things JackO gets right. First, he believes a Trump candidacy will destroy the Republican Party’s chances at the presidency for at least a decade. While the polls show a worrying lack of separation at the moment between Hillary Clinton and Trump and Bernie Sanders and Trump, I agree with JackO that Trump is more likely to lose in an electoral college landslide come November than Trump is to make things close or win. Remember, most people vote for a party now that Republicans and Democrats are much more clearly sorted by ideology and policy preferences. A decently-informed voter knows with which party his or her politics generally align, and he or she votes accordingly. The Democratic Party enjoys a built-in advantage in the electoral college and it’s hard to see how Trump improves on his 56% unfavorable rating once the general election campaign begins in earnest. Hence the high likelihood of a landslide Trump defeat.

JackO believes that the recriminations among Republicans following a disastrous Trump campaign will lead the party into the political wilderness for a decade. I agree with him that the 2016 election is winnable for Republicans and that Marco Rubio would have a much better chance. This is why moderate northeastern Republicans of the JackO variety are pulling their hair out over the Trump candidacy. They’ve known Trump for decades and understand him to be the unqualified bully that he is. It exasperates them that their conservative compatriots in the Republican coalition don’t see this as well.

Now, let’s recognize that the Trump phenomenon has been a long time coming for the Republican Party. It has used culturally and racially divisive politics since the time of Richard Nixon in order to turn out its base of conservative and reactionary white people. The difference between now and then – or the 80s, 2000 and 2004 – is that these white people are not the overwhelming demographic and electoral force they once were.

In addition, much of the Republican base has woken up to the fact that the party establishment has never had much of an appetite for actually pursuing reactionary cultural and racial policy once in power. There is a real and deepening rift between voters like JackO and the base. Now, we’re treated to the spectacle of an openly white nationalist super PAC making phone calls on behalf of Trump, and the poor JackOs of the establishment wing are having massive sads. Who knew that the Republican base would finally come to realize that the establishment only really cares about low taxes and limited regulations?

Let’s put away our tiny violins and examine some of the other Republican establishment claims. Voters like JackO complain about the budget deficit in existential terms, like US debt is going to eat our children and grandchildren and we won’t have an economically viable country anymore. High levels of debt are not ideal, to be sure, but who’s responsible for US debt anyway? Republicans love to call themselves the fiscally responsible party, the party of balanced budgets. However, if we ignore the rhetoric and look at different presidents’ actual records, we see this is exactly the opposite of reality. You can call yourself fiscally responsible all you want, but when budget surpluses are wiped out on your watch and your party blows up the budget deficit, well, you’re full of it. Look at the different charts at the above links. It’s simply undeniable that Democrats have been the more fiscally responsible presidents. Even President Obama, who came into office during a recession that severely decreased tax receipts, has been steadily reducing the budget deficit since the economy started rebounding.

In the podcast, JackO also complains about the “confiscatory 90%” tax rates that will accompany a Democratic presidency. I guess he’s referring to Sanders speaking approvingly of a 90% income tax bracket for the nation’s wealthiest, which Sanders accurately says existed during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. While it’s unfortunate that Sanders has not yet released an income tax plan, he has also stated recently that he would not seek a 90% bracket as president. Hillary Clinton is on the record with a tax plan that will increase rates by 4% on people making over $5 million, hardly the stuff of JackO’s fever dreams.

In any case, Republicans argue that it’s self-evidently true that higher taxes hurt productivity and economic growth, but research shows that to not be the case. In fact, the highest rates of economic growth since World War II have been accompanied by higher levels of taxation. It could be true that there is a level of taxes that will cause capitalists and high-income workers to take their balls and go home, but if there is, we haven’t found it yet.

This is why it’s hard to take moderate northeastern Republicans seriously. They simply don’t know what they’re talking about or they make stuff up. If they took their own socially liberal and fiscally responsible poses seriously, they would vote for Democrats! Instead, they’re fond of insulting Democrats, like JackO thinks he does when he sneers about “socialism,” and they continue to make common cause with the reactionaries fueling the rise of the Tea Party and Donald Trump. If they despise their own party’s base so much, why do they keep voting with them even when it’s clear they’ve lost control of the Republican Party? Why do they keep voting for the party that explodes the deficit every time it gets its hands on the presidency?

Honestly, I’m curious. How do these voters, who are often times smart and successful people, continue to vote for the party that does exactly the opposite of what they claim to want? If they were to enter the Democratic fold, they might actually have a voice within the country’s one fiscally responsible party, and they’d be voting their purported interests on abortion, guns, civil rights, the environment, and most other social and cultural issues. There is actually a lot of common cause to be made between Democrats and moderate northeastern Republicans. But the latter need to have some kind of Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience regarding their cherished party. How do we facilitate that?

In the meantime, they should save us their grief over Trump. He’s the nominee the Republican Party deserves.

Weekend Links

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Vacuum packed fish tofu snack! This is in my backlog of photos of gifts from students and something about the Republican debate reminded me of it.

I didn’t watch last night’s Republican debate (was teaching when it aired) or read enough about it to do another “The Agony of Debate” post (previous posts here and   here). The Guardian has somewhat evenhanded coverage so if you missed the debate as well, I suggest this link for a good summary of how the candidates interacted and this link goes to the liveblog with good discussion of the substance. I think I’ll stick with my horse race predictions about the Republican race from earlier in the week. Also, I should acknowledge that I made a mistake in that post when I overlooked John Kasich’s standing in the New Hampshire polls that warranted an invitation to the big stage. Oh, and one more debate-related link: it’s always fun to point out that the “great company” Trump loves to boast about building with his inheritance is worth less than the fortune he could have had if he’d just invested the money in an index fund.

More links for the weekend:

  • Tough but good read about assisted suicide by Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones.
  • Matt Taibbi, writing about the militia standoff in Oregon, tries to strike the right balance between outrage and mocking laughter. If this weren’t mainly a story about armed white men flouting federal authority and intimidating local officials and citizens, it would be tempting to focus on the unintentional comedy these domestic terrorists have been producing at an astounding rate.
  • Robert Farley, a writer at one of my favorite blogs called Lawyers, Guns & Money, explains to Zack Beauchamp over at Vox why Iran’s detention of 10 American sailors for entering Iranian territorial waters and subsequent release of the sailors a day later is fairly standard procedure. Farley also explains why the incident is not necessarily a sign of Iran taking advantage of American weakness. In fact, the idea that states can effectively signal strength or weakness in international relations is not credible.
  • Scott Lemieux flags this piece by Michael Grunwald about all of Obama’s achievements. There are a lot of people, some even on the Left, who bemoan Obama’s perceived lack of accomplishments, and they need to face facts. This is what the 2016 election is about. Obama and the Democratic Party did indeed change the status quo for the better. Preserving those changes, strengthening them, and making even more progress all start with electing a Democrat to the White House this year.
  • Bernie Sanders will have to do well or even win in Iowa and win in New Hampshire before we consider Hillary Clinton’s strong leads elsewhere fragile, but I’m starting to feel a little nervous about my Clinton prediction from a few weeks ago. In any case, here’s your semi-regular reminder that in the American political system we should prioritize party over personality. I have no particular dog in the Clinton-Sanders race, but we should all have a real big dog come November.
  • For fun but maybe NSFW, click here to see the right reaction to Ted Cruz’s smear of New Yorkers.

A football fan’s favorite weekend is here. I wish I were home already! Enjoy the games and the weekend!

The Home Stretch; Or, It’s Just Beginning

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This map shows which candidates are leading in which states that have been polled in the last six months: Trump in pink, Carson in green, and Cruz in red. Striped states are statistical ties. By Shereth [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Fox Business is hosting another Republican debate this Thursday. Things will look a little different this time around with new rules about who qualifies for the main stage. Only the top six candidates in national polls will earn a slot. At the moment, they would be Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush. Any candidate polling in the top five in Iowa or New Hampshire – the first two states to vote – would also qualify, but no candidate outside the top six nationally is so fortunate. (Update: John Kasich also qualified for the main stage thanks to his polling performance in New Hampshire.)

So the field’s been winnowed. It’s very unlikely that anyone not on the main stage will outlast the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. In theory, this is good for the Republican establishment. They need one of their preferred candidates – Rubio, Christie, or Bush – to come out of the first two contests looking strong enough to be the guy they can rally around. I’m starting to think this will happen. I predict that Christie will drop out soon after New Hampshire. That’s the basket in which he’s put all of his eggs, and after Iowa makes him look bad and he doesn’t finish in the top three in New Hampshire, Christie will have to fold like the cheap suit that he is.

That would leave Rubio and Bush, and I think Rubio will come out looking much stronger. Bush will have the money to stay in the race but not a compelling rationale. He’s a Bush, I guess? I don’t know. He could stay in until the “SEC Primary” on March 1st and hope the southern states revive his chances (they won’t), but then we’d be asking a once-proud man to suffer another month of humiliations en route to a certain and devastating rejection. I won’t mind that, but will he?

As for the non-establishment candidates, I recently wrote this about Carson:

Who knew renowned brain surgeons could be useful idiots? Or does Dr. Ben Carson know exactly what he’s doing and is happy to ride the gravy train til it stops? Either way, looks like the grifters involved with Carson’s campaign have taken complete control and look for him to be toast after Iowa. At best he’ll be a dead man walking when the pious Iowa hayseeds who are Carson’s base don’t deliver him a top two finish. I guess that’s one less crazy guy that could become president.

Carson is finished. Iowa can sometimes surprise but it’s clear that the people who deliver those surprises – evangelicals – have moved hard into Cruz’s camp. Here’s where things can get tricky for Trump.

If Cruz wins Iowa, Trump may lose some of his winning appeal. Actually, he’s running strong in New Hampshire and South Carolina and if I had to bet I’d say Trump will win New Hampshire and maintain his national frontrunner status. But just for fun, my theory of a Trump demise goes something like this: Trump’s loss in Iowa is worse than expected; the loss gets under Trump’s notoriously thin skin; he makes such an ass of himself in the week leading up to New Hampshire that even the people that make up his base start to notice; he barely wins New Hampshire or even loses to a suddenly surging Cruz or Rubio; in the 11 days before South Carolina and Nevada vote Trump goes even more off the rails; and by the time March 1st rolls around, Trump’s candidacy has imploded as quickly as it arose.

To reiterate, I think Trump will be in this thing for the long haul. Last week, though, Ezra Klein wrote an interesting piece in which he explains why he still thinks Trump will lose and that if he does, it might look like this. The scenario sketched above fits Klein’s scheme, in which a candidate is winning until he isn’t, and then he loses. Think Howard Dean in 2004.

So, the prediction is that there will be a three-man race for the Republican nomination after Iowa and New Hampshire vote: Trump will lead nationally, Cruz will be a close second, and Rubio will be the establishment’s great hope.

It’ll be interesting to re-visit this in two months. There are two more debates before the Iowa caucuses and something could happen to make all this look bad before a single vote is cast! In the meantime, enjoy Trump’s thin skin:

My New Dog and My New Chinese Grandpa

I’ve been in my new place for a week and a half now and I’m starting to get used to it. My living quarters are on the third floor of the house pictured above. The night picture of the gate on Dali’s west side was taken from the third floor.

The dog. Sigh. This poor little guy is chained to his cage all the time just to the left of the door as you enter the house’s courtyard from the street. The first few days I stayed here, he ran to the end of his chain, barking and jaws-a-snapping, every time he saw me. I kinda thought I could make friends with him, especially if I controlled the food supply…

Which brings me to my new Chinese grandpa. How to explain this? This house just outside of Dali Old Town (大理古城) belongs to one of the students in my adult class. The whole family, including her parents, live together in the city of Xiaguan (下关) about 15 miles to the south. But Grandpa – or as I’m supposed to call him, Lao Su – comes to this house every night to feed the dog, clean up a bit, spend the night, feed the dog in the morning, and then go back to Xiaguan for the day. I’ve tried to explain that he doesn’t have to do this now that I’m here, but so far he’s come back about three-quarters of the nights I’ve spent here. That included the first three nights I spent here, which didn’t give me a chance to feed the dog.

Finally, the fourth night I spent here, I had the house and the dog to myself. I had bought myself some frozen dumplings to fry up for dinner and had enough left over to give some to the dog. I walked to a point just a few feet out of his range and held up a dumpling. He barked like crazy at me for a while so I ate the dumpling in front of him, put the plate of dumplings down where I’d been standing, and walked back into the house.

I went back outside about a half an hour later and tried again. I’d watched him from the window a bit as he strained for the food and sniffed the air, so I knew we might be getting somewhere. Sure enough, he was a little calmer this second time. He ran back into his cage as I approached. This time he kept up a constant low grumbling in his throat. I tossed a dumpling within his reach and watched for a while. I was freezing my ass off but he was going to watch me watch him eat that dumpling, or he wasn’t going to eat it. I think I waited 10 minutes or so, and then I used a stick to retrieve the dumpling. I put it back on the plate and went back inside.

I watched him from the window strain and sniff again. I went back out a half an hour later, he went back into his cage, I tossed a dumpling within his reach, and sure enough after a few minutes he slinked on out and ate it! Emboldened, I got in a crouch and extended a dumpling in my hand but out of his reach. He sniffed and stayed relatively calm, so I tossed it to him. He quickly ate it. I left the plate with four more dumplings out in the courtyard and went to bed.

Next morning, before work, I went out and tried to feed him some breakfast. I grabbed a dumpling and crept closer and closer towards him, in a crouch. He was grumbling the whole time. All of a sudden he snapped and came at me. So I stood up and threw the dumpling over the wall, put the plate down, and left to teach my class.

When I got back at about 1:30 pm the dog didn’t bark at me as he heard me approach the door. Good sign. I opened the door, poked my head in and said hello. Still no barking. But as I wheeled my bike in he went nuts and lunged for me. I put my bike on its stand and picked up the plate of dumplings. He quieted down. This time, he ate the dumpling out of my hand! I put the other two in his food bowl and left him to eat alone. (The bike still seems to freak him out).

I’m not really going to pretend I know what I’m doing here. But it seems the dog and I have reached a bit of an accommodation. I no longer feel threatened enough to need a stick. He only goes for me if the family is around. I guess he kinda loses his mind and it’s not clear to him if I may be trying to murder them or not. I don’t know. Or, if he’s penned up in his cage he barks at me. The one time I found him like that I used a stick to undo the cage latch. As soon as he got out, he stopped barking at me.

Otherwise he doesn’t bark at me anymore, and he’ll even eat things out of my hand. I haven’t tried to pet him yet, and the last few days Lao Su has been around to feed him, so there hasn’t been much progress recently.

Now back to my new grandpa. Lao Su is in his eighties and doesn’t hear very well. He’s very into the idea of us being language partners. This morning, as I was making my oatmeal, he grilled me on what I was putting in it (raisins, honey, and milk), and asked me about my bedtime and waking habits. Later, he came back and gave me a paper with three Chinese sentences on it and asked me to translate them into English for him. So I wrote the English translations:

  1. I get up at half past six.
  2. For breakfast, I eat oatmeal with milk, honey, and raisins.
  3. I go to bed at half past ten.

He wants to study my habits as well! I think he was intrigued by how I prepared my oatmeal. I notice he has a stash here as well.

Lao Su is just a very nice guy. His wife told him she’s afraid I’m lonely here in this big house by myself. I tried to tell him not to worry about me, that I can feed the dog and he should take this opportunity to spend more time with his family in Xiaguan. But I’m sure I’ll see him at least half a given week.

He’s only annoyed me once, but I was nice about it. One morning, an off day for me, I got up at 8 am and went downstairs. I was going to try to speak with my wife (13 hours behind now on US east coast time) over Wechat so I made coffee and skipped breakfast. After the phone call I reheated my fried rice from the night before. This was about 10 am. Lao Su informed me that this was very late and expressed dismay about how this would affect my lunch. I guess Chinese grandpas gotta Chinese grandpa.

The left-most picture above features two containers of alcohol sitting on the coffee table in the first floor living room. One is a clear liquor inside a water bottle. The other is a dark liquor inside a decanter with about a dozen unidentifiable objects soaking in it. It’s Lao Su’s habit to have a shot of each at night, for his health. I’ve joined him on a few occasions, at his insistence. He’s here again tonight, but I’ve excused myself to bed before he had a chance to bust them out.

I think living here will be a pleasant way to spend my last few months in China. If I take advantage it will help my Chinese, I’ll make two friends, and I’ll get to hear a lot of terrible karaoke (the house is on a street parallel to a street full of KTV – Karaoke TV – bars).

 

 

 

 

President Obama Gets Another One Right

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There’s one party in the country that cares about gun violence in the US. That’s one of several key issues to keep in mind when voting this November. By Pete Souza (White House (P012813PS-0418)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On Tuesday President Obama, speaking to an audience of families impacted by gun violence, outlined several executive orders his administration is making that will increase regulation of gun sales and likely prevent some guns from getting into the wrong hands. In a riveting speech, Obama reminded us of some of the horrific acts of gun violence perpetrated during his presidency, rebutted the claims that he’s coming for law-abiding citizens’ guns, and he challenged the American people to elect a congress that will take the issues of gun violence seriously.

Under no illusions that the current congress will help strengthen and expand his executive actions, Obama nonetheless forged ahead with a plan to make more gun sellers comply with existing federal regulations, give the FBI more staff dedicated to conducting background checks, and make it easier to track down missing firearms, among several other measures. For more details, read this explainer over at Vox.

My own views on guns can be found here and here. Obama’s hands are tied with a Republican-controlled congress unwilling to deal with the issue of gun violence in our country. But I was happy to hear him explain, as I have, that the 2nd Amendment does not have to mean that anyone can own any gun he or she wants, that a self-governing society has the right to regulate the gun industry and gun ownership, and that just because we can currently sell, buy, and own many kinds of assault weapons that doesn’t mean that we should.

Importantly, Obama made this a political issue. Along with many of us, he appears tired of the idea that gun violence tragedies are isolated occurrences and that we just have to throw up our hands and accept these events as part of living in a free society. He reminded us that 2nd Amendment rights do not void other rights enshrined in the Constitution or render meaningless those most important ideals declared in our founding document, The Declaration of Independence: that everyone has the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Obama called on us to do the hard work of electing a government that will reflect these values, that will find a balance between reasonable 2nd Amendment rights and the outrageous levels of gun violence the US alone among developed countries experiences. Let’s heed his call.

Someone Was Wrong on the Internet!

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James Stewart good. Filibusters bad. By Columbia Pictures [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
While navel-gazing today I found a significant error in my first post of consequence. Stop the presses! Someone was wrong on the internet!

I wanted to see what my writing was like four months ago when I started this thing, remind myself of the mission, and try to find instances where my writing could be clearer along with instances where my writing gets the job done. I’m fine with letting some typos and some clunky phrases go without edits or mentions. But this one mistake. Man, I’m glad nobody read that post!

The post, “A Good Place to Start,” was about the tendency of American media to view conflicts between our two major political parties through a “both-sides-do-it” frame. That is, whatever crazy and irresponsible thing we find happening in one party (Republican), there must be an equivalent happening in the other party (Democratic). So, that helps explain efforts earlier in the fall to equate Donald Trump’s candidacy on the Republican side with Bernie Sanders’s candidacy on the Democratic side. Never mind that Sanders was a distinguished mayor and congressman and is a sitting senator while Trump was, well, Trump. The important thing is both parties have their crazies. Bam! Send the column to the editor and let’s go for drinks.

This trope is lazy in the extreme. Somehow, it sounds plausible to a lot of otherwise smart and not lazy people. So the myth that both of our major political parties are equally responsible for dysfunction in Washington because both parties are full of equally unreasonable extremists rolls on.

My post in question was an effort to combat this argument. It was especially galling to see a writer I like and respect use “both-sides-do-it” to explain why Congress hasn’t passed any meaningful climate change legislation. If generally well-informed writers are getting this wrong and sharing this pernicious myth with their readers, then I have to spring into action. After all, it’s basically in my blog’s mission statement to do so.

I tried to explain how Republican use of the filibuster, an undemocratic device that a committed minority of (41 to 49) senators can wield to thwart the will of a majority of (51 to 59) senators, had grown out of control during Barack Obama’s presidency. In the case of climate change legislation, Republicans did indeed use the filibuster to block consideration of a good bill that had already passed the Democratic-controlled House. I really butchered this explanation in the post. I should have saved the garbled syntax version for comparison’s sake, but please find the cleaned up version below. Or, go read the whole thing. The post is still relevant to our politics, extremely so I would argue, and has not been superseded by any events over the last four months.

In 2009, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES). It was then “defeated” in the Senate, but here defeated means that it never came up for a vote because a minority of Republican senators wouldn’t allow it. Democrats held a majority in the Senate at the time, but the Republican minority was in the process of perfecting its unprecedented, total obstruction strategy. Simply put, Senate Republicans began serially abusing the filibuster to require 60 votes to move all legislation, a tactic previously used mostly in special circumstances. Soon after Obama’s inauguration, Republicans were filibustering routine legislation and executive branch appointments. In hindsight, whatever you think about the policy merits, it is practically a miracle that the Affordable Care Act ever passed.

There, that reads much better and is an accurate description. My previous version wasn’t even accurate! I need better editors.