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Reality Bites

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As much as I was an opponent of our Glorious Imperial Mission in Iraq, and as much as I thought it was likely to be a disaster even aside from all the dead people, it was also the case that... wow they fucked it up! This was their (Bush, the Neocons, the whole gang) initiative and they sent a bunch of Heritage interns to run the damn country. Sure there's dumb ideology and sure massive quantities of cash just disappeared into pockets, but even with those things you can still think "wow, maybe we should try to do a decent job here, I mean after our friends get billions of dollars of course, if only so we can do it again next year in Iran!" But they just couldn't do it.

How hard is it to just tell the CDC to "do whatever." They probably have some idea. And the problem isn't Trump, though he certainly isn't bringing even the conservative A game. They are unable to not fuck things up. It's just Republican governance.
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benzado
78 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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speciesofleastconcern: I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review

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speciesofleastconcern:

I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review

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benzado
84 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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Hundreds of Counties Have Never Recovered From the Great Recession

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Via Brad DeLong, here’s an interesting map. It shows the economic growth of every county in the United States since the end of the Great Recession:

This is really disturbing. It would be one thing if there were some counties that had declined since the economy peaked in 2007. It would be another thing if there were some counties that had declined over the course of just a year or two. That’s fairly normal. And it would be yet another thing if there were merely some counties that showed strong growth and some that showed weak growth. That’s normal too.

But if you start at the bottom of a deep recession and then go out eight years—all of which were years of strong economic growth—there shouldn’t be any counties that are literally shrinking. Or, at most, maybe a dozen or so special cases. But just eyeballing this, it looks like there are several hundred counties that have declined since the bottom of the Great Recession. DeLong comments:

If I had seen this pattern of regional growth and decline a decade ago, it would have made me less worried about the gerrymandering that the Constitution has built into the Senate. The people in declining areas are relatively poor, and they have little economic or cultural power, so giving them more political power might have created a fairer overall balance. Yet somehow it does not seem to have worked out that way: their senators are not fighting for a fairer division of wealth, but seem focused on achieving negative sum goals for the country at large—if we can’t be prosperous, you shouldn’t be prosperous either.

One problem is that in nearly every state there are counties that have grown strongly in addition to the ones that have declined. So from a senator’s perspective, nearly all of them represent states that are growing:

I still find this surprising, though. There are nine states that have grown less than 1 percent over a period of eight years, and three that have literally contracted. If you calculate per-capita GDP it’s even worse: six states have shown outright contraction.

I’m not sure what to think of this. But it surprised me, so it might surprise you too.

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benzado
84 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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James Clyburn Wasn’t Responsible for the Biden Surge. So What Was?

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I suppose other people have already done this in greater detail than me, but I want to take a look at what caused Joe Biden’s recent surge. First off, here’s the RCP aggregate of the national polling over the past three months:

The green dot is February 29, the date of the South Carolina primary. Biden had gained a point or two before that, but he only really started to skyrocket shortly after the primary. So it’s safe to say that his big victory in South Carolina was the proximate cause of his early March takeoff.

But what was responsible for Biden’s South Carolina win in the first place? Here’s the polling:

The green dot is February 26, the day that James Clyburn endorsed Biden. This surely helped, but Biden had started shooting up four days earlier, on February 22. That obviously had nothing to do with Clyburn.

So what happened on or around February 21? The only thing that stands out is the Las Vegas debate, which took place on the evening of February 19. The consensus for this debate was that Elizabeth Warren left Mike Bloomberg bleeding on the floor, but that no one else especially distinguished themselves. I just reread the New York Times summary of the debate, and it barely even mentions Biden except to note that he joined Warren in attacking Bloomberg.

So there’s something peculiar here. The conventional wisdom says that Clyburn’s endorsement powered Biden to a big win in South Carolina, and the big win in South Carolina powered Biden to victory on Super Tuesday. But Clyburn endorsed after Biden had started surging. Something else must have started the Biden surge, but the Las Vegas debate sure doesn’t seem like it was a turning point either.

There’s no question that Biden suddenly began moving up in the polls around February 21 or so. But what happened?

UPDATE: One theory is that the key mover was the 60 Minutes interview of Bernie Sanders that aired on the evening of February 22. Perhaps that tanked Sanders and Biden hoovered up his supporters. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work: Sanders went up in South Carolina polling after the interview. Biden went up a lot more, but he was taking votes away from Steyer, Warren, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar.

For now, the debate still seems the most likely cause. That’s a little unusual, since conventional wisdom says that debates don’t move public opinion much, but maybe this was an exception.

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benzado
84 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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Sometimes the Obvious Thing Is True: Bernie Sanders Is Just Too Liberal

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At the risk of stating the obvious—and the even greater risk of stating it a little too obviously—the most likely reason that Bernie Sanders is losing has nothing to do with his strategy or his toxic followers or Elizabeth Warren refusing to drop out. It’s because he’s too liberal. That’s it.

Even among Democrats, there’s not a majority who identify as liberal, let alone mega liberal. Maybe there will be someday when Millennials and Gen Z take over, but not today.

I know I’m a bit of a broken record on this, but the whole Bernie phenomenon is very much a part of the Twitter bubble. Or maybe it’s just the “online blatherer bubble.” In any case, I belong to a few progressive listservs and support for Joe Biden in those places is approximately zero. On Twitter, you’d think there were no human beings in the country who supported Biden. Even in the more traditional media, there’s an assumption that Biden is just sort of a default choice for some people, but that nobody actively likes the guy.

Maybe so. But out in the real world I think there’s more grass roots support for Biden than he gets credit for. It’s not as loud or as enthusiastic as Sanders or Warren get, but neither is it “establishment” support, as Biden’s weak fundraising shows. Rather, it comes from Biden’s experience; his general likability; his optimism; and yes, some Obama coattails. Polls show pretty clearly that it’s always been there, but it was hidden for a while during the boomlets for other candidates.

I know the red rose crowd doesn’t want to hear this, but America is simply not a super liberal country. Even self-identified Democrats aren’t that liberal. I mean, take a look at who the Democratic nominees have been for the past 30 years: B. Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama, and H. Clinton. I’d say this progression shows a party that’s becoming more liberal, but it’s happening damn slowly. It’s just not in Bernie territory yet.

And the country as a whole? Hoo boy. It’s nowhere even close.

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benzado
84 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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Joe Biden Has Won Already

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I’m a little curious why I’m not seeing more people admit the obvious: Joe Biden is now virtually 100 percent assured of winning the Democratic nomination. He’s going to come out of Super Tuesday ahead of Bernie Sanders and there’s little reason to think he won’t maintain that lead. And if he’s anywhere close to a majority when primary season is over, the superdelegates will put him over the top easily. Right? I mean, does anyone think that Sanders will win more than 10 percent of the superdelegates if he rolls into Milwaukee with Biden anywhere close to him?

In 2016, I initially gave Sanders a pass when he continued campaigning even after it was obvious he had no chance of beating Hillary Clinton. After all, one of his goals was to amass enough delegates that he could influence the party platform and push it to the left. To do that, he had to keep competing.

But he’s done that. I don’t mean that everyone in the party is sold on his agenda—he was never going to accomplish that—but his agenda is now very much a mainstream option. Things like Medicare for All, free college, wealth taxes, a $15 minimum wage, and so forth have a considerable following. Thanks to Sanders, they are not fringe ideas at all anymore.

So it’s not clear why he should continue running much beyond the end of March. At that point, if he hasn’t produced a stunning turnaround, his chances are over. He’s just running out of spite.

Mike Bloomberg, to his credit, has demonstrated that he really does think Donald Trump is our biggest problem. His wealth and his endorsement are now dedicated to Biden. I hope Sanders does the same sometime soon. His followers and his endorsement are valuable commodities, and a united front against Trump is what’s needed now.

Sometimes revolutions don’t happen on schedule. Bernie isn’t going to get his this year, but he’s had a helluva strong influence on the progressive movement. Thanks to him, a revolution—or something like it—is a lot likelier in 2024 or 2028 than it used to be. That’s something to be proud of.

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benzado
84 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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