Zero-dimensional chess

by John Quiggin on October 26, 2010

One reason I’m thinking a fair bit about the long term future is that immediate prospects look grim, particularly in the US.

According to this piece from the NY Times on Obama’s post-election plan

After two years of operating at loggerheads with Republicans, Mr. Obama and his aides are planning a post-election agenda for a very different political climate. They see potential for bipartisan cooperation on reducing the deficit, passing stalled free-trade pacts and revamping the education bill known as No Child Left Behind — work that Arne Duncan, Mr. Obama’s education secretary, says could go a long way toward repairing “the current state of anger and animosity.”

Translation: Mr Obama and his aides plan a series of pre-emptive capitulations, after which the Republicans will demand the repeal of the healthcare act (or maybe abolition of Social Security). When/if that is refused, the Repugs will shut down the government, and this time they will hold their nerve until Obama folds.

BTW, the only thing I knew about Arne Duncan before this was that he was a fair country (ie Australian NBL) basketball player. But reading his bio (corporate-style charter school booster, fan of incentives based on standardised tests etc) along with the fact that he’s in close with Obama is indicative of why things have gone so badly in this administration.

{ 159 comments }

1

Anderson 10.26.10 at 11:30 am

I missed the “Obama folds” part.

Best as I can guess, Obama remains convinced that if he just keeps offering bipartisanship and getting turned down, at *some* point the independent voters will wake up to that fact and repudiate the Repubs. He must have been a very, very patient teacher in law school.

I think that approach has wasted time, blown his chance to put forth any sort of Liberal-and-Proud-of-It agenda (but maybe he’s not proud to be liberal? or, more likely, accepts the meme that “liberal” is permanently tarnished), and helped turn a predictable loss of seats at midterm into a potential debacle; but it’s not analytically helpful just to say “Obama, what a pussy.” There is some sort of plan there, even if the plan is not working.

Nor do I think he will “fold” if the GOP shuts things down. My god, BILL CLINTON didn’t fold. Mr. Triangulation? A man who never met a principle he couldn’t betray? Does Obama really want to be recorded in the history books as a one-term president who couldn’t display as much resolve as Bill Clinton? Good god, y’all.

2

Guido Nius 10.26.10 at 11:30 am

Obama can also loose the elections, do as if he won them and achieve absolutely nothing at all in a heroic crowd-pleasing way. Is that we should do? Because if it is, maybe he should just cancel the elections; sounds like the more honest thing to do.

(I do hope he wins the elections)

3

Marc 10.26.10 at 11:31 am

I think that’s a bad misreading of Obama. It will be very popular, of course, among the online left; his weakness and bad faith is an article of faith among them as deeply held as the belief on the right that he’s an inflexible and radical Marxist.

Obama came into off with a “centrist” approach to education, but not for the voucher side of things. He advocates testing and merit rewards for teachers and isn’t compromising anything in particular by saying so. If you look carefully at the list of topics there, it’s ones where he is in this position: things that he already wants to do can be cast as compromises.

If you’ve listened to him on the Bush tax cuts you have a firm sense of where he stands on them – the tax cuts for the rich will go away, those for the middle class will be retained. There is zero evidence in the public record, or private one, that he’s hedging on this. He will never sign onto a repeal of health care or a neutering of Social Security.

I heard the same thing about Iraq – he’s weak, he’d fold, yadda yadda yadda – and yet he’s consistently held on to the same timetable he went into office on. I’m convinced that we will be out of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011 when he said we would be – again, he’s been consistent in deed and rhetoric.

A lot of people projected their own views onto him and are angry that he hasn’t followed them. He does compromise on things which he doesn’t view as central. Although there is a vocal and tiny online left minority that loathes him with the heat of a thousand suns and is convinced that he’s a traitor to the cause, that doesn’t make him a pushover to the Republicans. Evidence doesn’t matter to that crowd, and they will be no better than snipers in the battles ahead. Don’t fall for that category mistake John.

4

Anderson 10.26.10 at 11:37 am

He does compromise on things which he doesn’t view as central.

Yes, but those things frequently are central to being liberal.

He made a bad call on rolling over re: state-secrets defenses, torture investigations, etc. The rationale that he didn’t want to antagonize the Right was nonsensical — they literally could not hate him more regardless. And I like to think I’m not the only liberal he’s alienated on the issues that did more than anything else to make me rabidly anti-Bush.

Shorter Anderson: if you can’t stand up against torture, what *can* you stand up against?

5

John Quiggin 10.26.10 at 11:51 am

Marc, as regards openness to evidence, I can only say that I came to this view of Obama very reluctantly. If his (near) fulfilment of his promise on withdrawal from Iraq were typical, I would take a different view. But Anderson is pretty much right. And, even if you were willing to give him a pass on torture and immunity for war crimes, there’s the public option, DADT, inaction on unemployment etc.

6

John Quiggin 10.26.10 at 11:57 am

As regards the “Obama folds” part of the prediction, if the Repugs are smart, they’ll start the shutdown early enough in 2011 that the government will be in complete collapse by the time of the presidential primary season. If Obama hasn’t already folded, he’ll be facing a primary challenge from the right and maybe also from the left. Meanwhile, any Republican contender who starts talking about a deal will be crushed by the Tea Party. The Arne Duncans will be calling for capitulation and they’ll get it.

7

Marc 10.26.10 at 12:23 pm

No Democrat, including Obama, could win a primary if he gutted Social Security. And Obama will not under any circumstances repeal his own legacy of universal health care. That’s the piece that I think you’re missing: he clearly views these as his own core principles and they enjoy extremely strong support in the Democratic party. The Republicans got thumped the last time they pulled brinksmanship; why would Obama believe that he can’t do as well as Clinton did? (I do think that the GOP won’t budge, by the way, but the corporate wing of the party will ultimately serve as a brake on paralysis.)

I look over your list, and I get a WTF? feeling about it. DADT ,for example: they’ve been slow, but they’ve consistently pushed a repeal plan and it only ran aground in the Senate because of a filibuster. What precisely did he “cave in” on there?

They came in on a program of not prosecuting war crimes; I disagree, but that is again nothing that he gave in on. He stopped torture and tried to close Gitmo; he ran into a brick wall in Congress and the public loves torture, so he has no support there to fall back on. I view his as still trying on this, but stuck dealing with the Bush torture state given his misguided “turn a fresh page” approach. I am convinced, depressingly enough, that prosecuting Bush-era crimes would have backfired and made them heroes. That may be the difference between me and Anderson: I think that he’s really trying and fighting against elite and public opinion; the Greenwald-followers think he’s the same as Bush.

8

x. trapnel 10.26.10 at 12:40 pm

The public does not, in fact, love torture.
He came in promising a radically different approach to indefinite detention, and executive power more generally, than he has delivered. Read Charlie Savage’s series of pre-election articles on the different candidates’ self-proclaimed views.
I’m willing to accept that on most of the issues, he is and always was a split-the-different centrist, but he really made a big deal out of executive power issues. And no, it’s not enough to say, “well, sure, but no president is actually going to limit his own power.”

9

x. trapnel 10.26.10 at 12:46 pm

(Or rather, the public loves torture in the same way that it loves the violation of most rights, when phrased in a suitably leading and particularistic way. Americans love freedom of religion, but are leery of atheists being president or teaching their kids; against censorship, except when it’s a matter of The Children, etc. That’s not really a paradox; rather, it’s the raison d’etre of rights as institutionalized exclusionary reasoning–precisely because questions will be decidedly wrongly if decided on a case-by-case, all-things-considered basis, we ask if they fall within a specified category, and decided yes or no on that alone.)

10

ejh 10.26.10 at 12:49 pm

Zero-dimensional what?

11

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 12:50 pm

And given his background in constitutional law, stopping the metastasizing of executive power (and especially its criminal use in the “war on terror”) seemed like the one thing for which he could actually be counted on. Instead, in that respect, he’s been completely indistinguishable from Bush. That’s disgusting. For that alone he deserves to be a one-termer.

By the way, the health care law is a worse-than-useless piece of shit that will set back the cause of genuine reform of a disastrous system by a decade of more. Some liberal achievement. He also gets less than zero credit for pretending to want to repeal DADT (which he knows damn well isn’t going to happen) while vigorously fighting against the legal challenges to it.

The O-bots can yammer on as they please; they’re only talking to (and deluding) themselves at this point. I won’t vote for him in 2012 under any circumstances whatsoever, and I’m pretty sure I have a significant amount of company.

12

politicalfootball 10.26.10 at 12:52 pm

inaction on unemployment etc.

And it’s especially disturbing that the NYT’s sources list deficit reduction among the areas that Obama is prepared to compromise with Republicans on.

The political dynamic here is ominous. The Republicans, for the foreseeable future, are going to be politically rewarded to the extent that Americans are damaged, and the normal constraint against bad behavior – traditional pro-Americanism – no longer seems to apply. It’s a negative feedback loop, and it’s not clear to me how to escape it.

Any bad thing you can imagine – double-dip recession, terrorist attack – plays politically well for the Republicans, and they know it.

I think that Obama’s political calculation is that if he fights it too directly, he’s politically screwed. That’s a debatable proposition, but it’s not obviously wrong. Given how bad things are in the US, Obama is remarkably popular. There’s a case to be made that (politically) he knows what he’s doing.

So yeah, there’s a strong case for despair.

13

snuh 10.26.10 at 12:53 pm

perhaps obama thinks he cruises to re-election if he can run against a hated obstructionist republican congress, assuming (as is likely) this is the result of the mid-terms. i mean if he has any brains at all, that would be the plan. but i guess we’ll see.

14

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 12:56 pm

There’s a case to be made that (politically) he knows what he’s doing.

In the sense that he’s willing to let the country go to hell to improve his chances of being re-elected, sure.

15

MPAVictoria 10.26.10 at 12:59 pm

Marc
“the public loves torture”
Sadly I have come to the conclusion that this is completely right. The public has no problem with the torture of what they see as the “bad guys”. This is unlikely to change.

16

Vasm 10.26.10 at 1:10 pm

Anyone who thinks Obama will be primary-challenged from the left (or right) in 2012 is crazy. Institutional Democrats still remember how Teddy Kennedy’s 1980 kamikaze campaign against Carter went; and there is nobody outside the administration as popular as TK was then. If Hillary really wanted to sink his re-election she probably could, but why would she? And anyone to his left who ran against him (Kucinich? The likely-soon-to-be-unemployed Feingold?) would be denied union support, almost all the large party donors, minority groups, youth enthusiasm, etc.; find it hard to get any traction, and get squashed like a bug in the primaries. I think it’s much more probable the flushed-with-victory Republicans overplay their hand then Obama underplays his.

17

Jim Demintia 10.26.10 at 1:12 pm

It’s also worth pointing out that as for Social Security, the Democratic controlled Congress under Obama is almost certainly planning to raise the eligibility age for benefits right after the elections with an up-or-down vote on the Deficit Commission’s recommendations. This may not amount to gutting Social Security, but it does nicely encapsulate the Obamian spirit of bi-partisanship–Democrats and Republicans joining hands to screw everyone who’s not rich.

18

Bruce Baugh 10.26.10 at 1:26 pm

I don’t think it’s at all true that “the public loves torture”, and I note as evidence that in 2006 and 2008 the Democrats did well partly with a strong rhetorical push to knock that stuff off. I think it’s true that the media/pundit class loves torture and project their sickness onto the rest of us.

19

Anderson 10.26.10 at 1:28 pm

Right or wr0ng, I tend to think that a shutdown might be the only way Obama *does* appeal to independents. The GOP shutdown under Clinton was pretty damn unpopular. People suddenly remembered that they liked their gov’t services, when the offices were closed.

But that strategy, if it merits the name, exemplifies what’s wrong with the Democrats. They are afraid to run on their own policies; they can’t imagine winning any other way than “hey, we’re not as scary as the Republicans!”

Americans like people who “stand for something,” while being remarkably uncritical of just what’s being stood up for. (“Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”) I think it’s a variant on Nietzsche’s formula for nihilism: “one would rather will nothingness than not will at all.”

20

Anderson 10.26.10 at 1:32 pm

The public has no problem with the torture of what they see as the “bad guys”.

It would take about 6 minutes to explain to the public that NKVD/Chinese “brainwashing” techniques are the Worst Possible Way of getting useful intel. A few commercials where professional interrogators mock torturers would also be very effective.

But that would require some effort, which would require some conviction. What are Obama’s convictions? … Anyone? … Don’t all speak up at once….

21

Ben Alpers 10.26.10 at 1:41 pm

@ Marc

That’s the piece that I think you’re missing: he clearly views [Social Security and HCR] as his own core principles and they enjoy extremely strong support in the Democratic party.

I agree about HCR, but not about Social Security. All signs point to significant (and unnecessary) Social Security “reform.” Were Obama not headed in that direction he would not have appointed the Catfood Commission. Nor would he have explicitly denounced privatizing Social Security while staying more or less silent on other potential cuts to it.

Although there is a vocal and tiny online left minority that loathes him with the heat of a thousand suns and is convinced that he’s a traitor to the cause, that doesn’t make him a pushover to the Republicans. Evidence doesn’t matter to that crowd, and they will be no better than snipers in the battles ahead.

I agree that the people on the left who loathe him with the heat of a thousand suns is a tiny minority. There is a much larger group of progressives and moderates who simply disagree with him on important issues. A majority of the American public wanted a public option and want us to withdraw from Afghanistan. Anti-union and test-obsessed educational “reform” isn’t made attractive to progressives simply by not including vouchers.

I am convinced, depressingly enough, that prosecuting Bush-era crimes would have backfired and made them heroes. That may be the difference between me and Anderson: I think that he’s really trying and fighting against elite and public opinion; the Greenwald-followers think he’s the same as Bush.

I really don’t get any of this. First, we don’t in general allow a hecklers’ veto over prosecution of crimes. Second, while some of the public thinks that the Bush administration was heroic precisely for their warcrimes, I don’t understand the argument that this group would increase if these crimes were prosecuted. Third, I see no indication whatsoever that the Obama administration is interested in bucking elite or public opinion on these issues. Indeed, they seem wholly in line with DC conventional wisdom on them. And they’ve continued and even extended Bush administration policies on a variety of these fronts, e.g. excessive claims of executive power and unreviewable assassination of U.S. citizens. However, even Glenn Greenwald has explicitly and repeatedly said that Obama≠Bush.

I voted for Obama in 2008; I almost certainly will vote for him again in 2012. He was absolutely the lesser evil then and will almost certainly be so again in 2012. We’re better off than we would have been with McCain/Palin in the White House. The only thing I’ve been surprised about is how ineffective the White House’s messaging has been given the brilliance of the 2008 Obama campaign. I certainly don’t hate Obama. But that doesn’t mean I’m particularly happy about many of this president’s policies. And I don’t think I’m alone.

22

CharleyCarp 10.26.10 at 2:05 pm

The Right is a lot more radical than in 1994, and has better message discipline. Independents (few though they actually are) are more feckless than ever. Obama’s miscalculation of the appeal of post-partisanship meant that the legislation he’s gotten has been limp, and what he’s going to get in the next Congress will be basically nothing: Republicans are being rewarded very handsomely for obstructionism in 2010, and there’s no reason to think the reward won’t be even better in 2012. And his opponent in 2012 isn’t going to be the Senate majority leader, but someone who really is from outside who will believably claim that Washington is completely broken.

Obama’s only hope is that the Republicans go completely crazy, and try an impeachment over the birth certificate, or 20% cuts to non-defense, non-entitlements, or cutting SS to people over 50. If they can restrain the radical fringe — which is still something of an if — Obama the one-termer represents a historic failure of liberalism worse than Carter.

23

CharleyCarp 10.26.10 at 2:47 pm

[S]topping the metastasizing of executive power (and especially its criminal use in the “war on terror”) seemed like the one thing for which he could actually be counted on. Instead, in that respect, he’s been completely indistinguishable from Bush.

This is especially, and more shockingly, true if one distinguishes between the pre- and post-Greg Craig eras.

He . . . tried to close Gitmo; he ran into a brick wall in Congress

No, no, no. The problem isn’t in Congress, it’s in the Executive branch. Nothing Congress is doing mandates the position in Kiyemba I, or the need to even pursue Kiyemba II (which is a government appeal). Attempts at moderation in Al Adahi and Al Bihani seem to have been abandoned. Nothing from Congress prevents moving the Uyghurs to the same sort of housing occupied by Jamaican firefighters, and employing them to cut grass, flip burgers, etc. Or from sending dozens of men cleared by the Bush Administration back to Yemen.

The calculus was that the demoralization that would follow abandonment of the liberal position on the war on terror could be made up by (a) ridiculing liberals and/or (b) the great triumph of health care, climate change, and financial regulation. Guess what, (a) isn’t enough to get people to the polls, and there aren’t going to be any achievements that fall under (b) between now and 2012.

24

tarun 10.26.10 at 3:14 pm

The reality is if the elections go well for Republicans, they will continue their Tea Party approach which probably means a pretty extreme candidate will emerge.

Obama will be the only somewhat moderate choice then. I doubt that Hillary Clinton will suddenly decide to run against an incumbent president. The real choice will be the usual one – stay home and hand the election to the extreme candidate or hold your nose and vote for the less evil choice (if that is how you view Obama).

25

Guido Nius 10.26.10 at 3:34 pm

I guess the left is a lot more radical than in 2008 because, impopular is it may be here, I haven’t seen a lot of shift in Obama’s positions. But the O-bashingbots will disrespectfully disagree. It is ironic that it’s people on the left that actually did go in for the propaganda that he was a socialist.

26

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 3:44 pm

I haven’t seen a lot of shift in Obama’s positions.

He ran on torturing terrorist “suspects”, assassinating US citizens abroad, and generally expanding illegitimate executive authority? I breathlessly await your documentation of this claim.

27

CharleyCarp 10.26.10 at 3:53 pm

SLB, I’m not regular enough to say who is and who isn’t a troll. Blatant bad faith, though, is obvious enough, as is the pointlessness (and worse) of engaging with it.

28

ejh 10.26.10 at 4:17 pm

I doubt that Hillary Clinton will suddenly decide to run against an incumbent president

Why not? She’ll run as the only person who can win, thus saving the Democratic Presidency and Party.

If you just think of Clinton as Tim Robbins to Obama’s Peter Gallagher, it’s no problem envisaging this at all.

29

bob mcmanus 10.26.10 at 4:24 pm

If we know the Republican Party is demographically doomed, well they have their own number crunchers. They will not die or become Democrats.

Sooner or later, Republicans will have to make the death bet. As their ancestors in Dixie did. There are reasons Obama’s second term is a good time.

I think they will shut down the government and keep it shut, crash the markets and global economy, and hope to pick up the pieces permanently. Obama will not be able to fold enough, but he, as in the best comparison predecessor Buchanan, will give it a try.
But Republicans don’t really want concessions, they want irrevocable power. Actually, they need it to survive.

The liberals will blame the “vocal and tiny online left minority that loathes him with the heat of a thousand suns and is convinced that he’s a traitor to the cause”

30

Glen Tomkins 10.26.10 at 4:36 pm

Don’t assume that the other side will go about things as mindlessly as they did in 1995.

They almost certainly will not “shut down the govt”. Far from even threatening such a thing, they will prevail by offering a means of resolving budget disputes without either side being able to threaten to shut down the govt.

All they have to do is divide spending into “core” vs “controversial”. They will offer as a plan the idea that, as the deadline for having completed the spending bills approaches with no resolutiuon in sight, both sides agree to pass spending on things that both sides agree is core and central, govt functions that both sides want to see continue. That will, they will claim, clear the field of any threat that either side could make to shut down the govt unless the other side gives in. What could be more fair or reasonable sounding?

Of course, what they would do if ours side accedes to this plan, would be to take the core funding and never even actually consider funding anything else. They will define “core” as everything they want funded (which will be most of the what’s in the budget already — these folks are radical in their means, not their ends), and “controversial” as everything they don’t want funded. Our side will have trouble competing at this game, because we will almost certainly not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and therefore won’t have an alternative, Senate, version of the core/controversial distinction on offer to contrast with the House version.

Our side would have no alternative other than capitulation vs shutting down the govt by refusing to play along with even the reasonable-sounding plan of separating out the core from the controversial budget items. Which side do you think would be blamed for a shut-down, if it occurs in this way?

Of course our side will attempt to use control of the presidency to conduct any shutdown in such a way as to deflect blame from us and onto them. But, given the composition of the federal judiciary after many cycles of packing with Federalist Society stooges, I wouldn’t count on Obama being given free rein by the courts to shift money around to his liking in a situation created by the constitutional hardball of denying something like the ACA the discretionary funding it needs to fulfill obligations created by the law, including the distribution of its own non-discretionary funding.

In general, it is arguably a mistake to think about the consequences of a Tea-bagger takeover of the House in terms of the power struggles we are used to seeing. Specifically, I wouldn’t fixate on the presidency, or what the administration might do in response. Insofar as that movement does succeed — and even insofar as the Rs really win because the economy is in the shitter, but they take the credit for R victories — it will have no choice but to deliver at least constitutional hardball, if not full-blown revolution. It won’t be able to play by the conventional rules, even insofar as its revolutionary positions are really just insincere talk designed to fire up their base, because it has promised revolution, the voters fulfilled their part of the contract by voting them in, and now they have to live up to their end of the bargain and deliver revolution.

The one fairly firm prediction you can make about the consequences of a convincing Bagger win this election, is that the one model we won’t see in operation is “business as usual”. Specifically, the imperial presidency, the central role that the presidency plays if we go by recent business as usual, is almost entirely a matter of “unwritten constitution” that we have accepted the past two generations. The constitutionally founded presidential powers are, aside from the veto, either vaporous or easily outflanked by the legislature. The other side may not have any conscious intention of ending the imperial presidency, but such and end could happen inevitably as as a casualty of constitutional war, and would not be to the disliking of their corporate funding. These folks found it more congenial to control the govt through stooges in Congress, rather than presidents, during the Gilded Era. They could make that work again, as the Imperial Presidency gives way to the Oligarchic Congress.

31

Barry 10.26.10 at 4:46 pm

28

Another: “I doubt that Hillary Clinton will suddenly decide to run against an incumbent president”

ejh : “Why not? She’ll run as the only person who can win, thus saving the Democratic Presidency and Party.

If you just think of Clinton as Tim Robbins to Obama’s Peter Gallagher, it’s no problem envisaging this at all.”

I have what I call the ‘Ted Kennedy Rule’ (think 1980): by the time that the incumbent president has any significant chance of not being renominated, that party is so far gone that the nomination would be worth nothing.

.

32

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 4:56 pm

Steve,

But we’ve agreed that the United States is an oligarchy. Oligarchies don’t return to democracies, they convert into monarchies. Examine the development of the medieval city-states: they gradually became oligarchies as the higher end of the burghers (bankers, international traders) took power and froze everybody else out. They couldn’t expand into the countryside because the peasants took one look at them and didn’t see any difference between the oligarchical city-state and the nobility. The monarch is the only way out of the conundrum.

This is precisely what will happen in the United States. All oligarchies are illegitimate and this one will soon crash. The replacement will be the monarch. Because of that, it is correct for the Presidents to increase their power so that they will be able to fill the role of monarch. It is better to simply transition from President to President-Monarch rather than to have a series of revolutions or civil wars, at the end of which we’ll probably have a king anyway.

You see that as problematic, but I don’t think it’s either avoidable or problematic. The Republic is at least partially dead already. Why revive it? So we can repeat the degradations of 1980-2010 again?

33

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 5:03 pm

“He ran on torturing terrorist “suspects”, assassinating US citizens abroad, and generally expanding illegitimate executive authority?”

The people want justice to be displayed and authority to be visibly exercised. The princeps must show his power and dread majesty. The king, though he might be loved as well, should certainly be feared.

34

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 5:03 pm

“And, even if you were willing to give him a pass on torture and immunity for war crimes, there’s the public option, DADT, inaction on unemployment etc.”

The public option? Obama supported it, but didn’t state that it was a requirement. In fact, the compromise that was developing (allowing a buy-in to Medicare for older workers) was looking like a better deal than the public option up until Lieberman torpedoed it out of spite. And we needed Lieberman for Climate Legislation, so it’s not like we could turf him out of the caucus. By then, the “trigger option” deal with Snowe was off the table.

Specifics matter. Like the fact there was only a six-month window between Franken getting seated and Brown winning the MA seat.

35

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 5:06 pm

“I doubt that Hillary Clinton will suddenly decide to run against an incumbent president.”

Clinton’s been very loyal as SoS. There’s no indication that she’d run against Obama in 2012, e.g. speaking engagements in Iowa as a preliminary to setting up election infrastructure there.

36

DCA 10.26.10 at 5:10 pm

I’m as disappointed as anyone by Obama’s continuation of Bush-era legal agruments about what the Executive can do in the name of national security; but this may not have been a decision as much driven by politics as by Obama’s (otherwise laudable) willingness to consult experts: in this case, people in the intelligence/military sector who said “Now that you know what we know, you can see that X would damage our vital mission (or the morale of our agency), so don’t do X”–and Obama hasn’t.

37

piglet 10.26.10 at 5:13 pm

“Americans like people who “stand for something,” while being remarkably uncritical of just what’s being stood up for.”

If that is true, then the utterly spineless opportunism of Democrats is all the more remarkable. This Democratic party must go down in history as the most stupidest political party ever. Was there ever a better constellation for any governing party than 2008? And they squandered all of it in two short years? They are getting beaten by a bunch of extremists whose wing-nuttery has been thoroughly exposed and they don’t know how to fight back? How did these losers get into politics anyway?

I still think Obama is safe in 2012. But his election victories are and will remain hollow.

38

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 5:17 pm

“Translation: Mr Obama and his aides plan a series of pre-emptive capitulations, after which the Republicans will demand the repeal of the healthcare act (or maybe abolition of Social Security). When/if that is refused, the Repugs will shut down the government, and this time they will hold their nerve until Obama folds.”

Why? Obama can look to the Big Dog to see that in a shutdown, the President wins the air war.
And Boehner will have a lot more unruly a caucus and a less sure hand than Gingrich. Much as I loathe Gingrich, he was the architect of the 1994 GOP takeover and the 1994 GOP freshmen owed him their election. But there’s few GOP freshmen who’ll owe the GOP establishment favors. There’s going to be a lot more crazy than under Gingrich or DeLay.

There’s the analogy made between the present GOP and the UK Labour Party in the 1980s. But it was pretty easy to take over a Labour constituency party with a few dozen activists who were willing to go to meetings and talk out the agenda until everybody else went home and you could carve out the delegates and get elected to the key committees (especially the membership chair).
The GOP establishment’s problems in getting control of their party back are a lot more serious, given that 30-40% of their supporters are, frankly, willing to believe any old shit Fox or a random right-wing email tells them, whether it be death panels or Obama being the Anti-Christ. The Tea Party is a populist phenomenon in the way that Militant or the Weasels or the IMG weren’t. That’s bad for the U.S., unless Obama does some ju-jitsu to turn the Tea Party into a liability for the GOP. Maybe this announcement is the beginning of that. I hope so.

39

JM 10.26.10 at 5:40 pm

He ran on torturing terrorist “suspects”, assassinating US citizens abroad, and generally expanding illegitimate executive authority?

No, but the AUMF remains the law of the land until it is repealed or modified.

I really have to wonder why anyone familiar with American politics and its captive press would waste a second wondering if the statement (quoted at the top of the page) was one of actual policy intent.

Hello? The administration is positioning itself in the event of losing the House. Then Obama can say he extended a hand of cooperation and that the GOP swatted it away to go after Climate-”gate” and the New Black Panther Party, wasting the taxpayers’ time.

See?

40

Anderson 10.26.10 at 5:48 pm

both sides agree to pass spending on things that both sides agree is core and central, govt functions that both sides want to see continue

There is no chance of this happening. Repubs get all tongue-tied when you ask them what do you want us to cut from the budget?. Because they won’t cut defense, they dare not cut Medicare or Social Security, and the states would Freak. Out. if they significantly cut Medicaid. Not a helluva lot left after that.

So I can’t really see anything significant by way of agreement on “core governmental functions” either.

If that is true, then the utterly spineless opportunism of Democrats is all the more remarkable.

Well, yeah.

41

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 5:50 pm

No, but the AUMF remains the law of the land until it is repealed or modified.

And that has what, exactly, to do with the kinds of highly illegal practices which I listed, and which Candidate Obama ran on promises to stop? If this is the best Obama’s defenders can do, he’s in even deeper trouble than I thought.

42

shah8 10.26.10 at 5:54 pm

/me shakes his head…

Man, it’s like one of those semiliterate football forums in here, only literate, with the low point of Obama==Buchanan.

You can plaintively ask for change, all you want, but it’s pretty apparent to me that Obama is facing serious institutional resistence–in Congress and within his own executive administration. Do the “Blah Blah Baaaaa Green Lantern Theory of Governance Blah”, and all anyone is ever going to do is ignore you.

And laugh at you when your back is turned.

43

CharleyCarp 10.26.10 at 5:58 pm

DCA, that’s exactly what I think happened, and why I think all the less of the President. Has he really been convinced that (a) releasing additional Abu Ghraib photos will enflame Afghan/Pakistani opinion more than escalation/drone attacks/bombing weddings; (b) it’s possible enough to worry about that some granny will bring down a jetliner with a tube of toothpaste; (c) it was important to put goggles on Jose Padilla when they moved him from place to place, lest he blink in code?

He may not be listening to the exact same people as those who thought — after the Blix team spent February 2003 in Iraq — that Saddam had WMD, and that we’d be greeted as liberators, but then again he probably is.

A blind man can see that a Yemeni assistant cook is more valuable to AQ sitting in our stupid jail than he would be in the mountains of Yemen, just as one need not understand much about Afghan culture to see that the legitimacy that would be conferred by judicial review of detentions at Bagram far outweighs the risks posed by one or two false negatives with foot soldiers.

The President had a choice to make in the spring of 2009: rule of law, or placating the military/intelligence establishment. IMO, this was a hard choice, not because of actual external threats to national security, but because of internal political threats from that establishment. He chose, and now he has to live with the consequences of that choice.

44

JM 10.26.10 at 5:59 pm

And that has what, exactly, to do with the kinds of highly illegal practices which I listed, and which Candidate Obama ran on promises to stop?

I assume, from your post, that you have access to the internet.

Go read.

45

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 6:06 pm

JM, thanks for the laugh. But surely you could have founda less cliched way of admitting that you’ve got nothing.

46

Anderson 10.26.10 at 6:10 pm

Daniel Larison, whose domestic policy positions I abhor but who is consistently clear-eyed about the people he disagrees with, writes of Obama: “almost every bill he signed was less to the liking of progressives than his original campaign positions.” True dat.

Larison quotes himself (from a now-defunct source) on his estimation of Obama in 2008:

An apt description of what the next President will actually represent was penned, in a different context, by columnist Robert Samuelson, who once described Obama as the “sanctification of the status quo.” Though his lifelong search for stability and rootedness are frequently lost in the polemics and panegyrics about his life, close study of his biography reveals a desire for consensus and accommodation to structures already in place. Assimilation to the norms of the American cultural and political elite makes Obama seem alien mainly to those who feel great alienation from most national cultural and political institutions where Obama has thrived (i.e., conservatives), but the very elitism that they (correctly) perceive is also evidence of Obama’s aversion to challenging established norms and introducing radical change.

This will reassure most of his enemies as much as it disheartens many of his friends. If you have a high opinion of the Washington establishment and bipartisan consensus politics, Obama’s election should come as a relief. If you believe, as I do, that most of our policy failures stretching back beyond the last eight years are the product of a failed establishment and a bankrupt consensus, an Obama administration represents the perpetuation of a system that is fundamentally broken.

There is some truth in that.

47

JM 10.26.10 at 6:13 pm

You haven’t found it yet, Steve? That’s odd. Some of the biggest names in the blogsphere made an awfully big ruckus about it.

Keep (or start) looking. I’m not going to hold your hand.

48

lemmy caution 10.26.10 at 6:15 pm

Arne Duncan has a new yorker article (but it is not online):
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/02/01/100201fa_fact_rotella

He has played basketball with Obama for over 20 years.

49

Ben Alpers 10.26.10 at 6:22 pm

Anderson,

The end of that Larison quote is absolutely on target:

If you believe, as I do, that most of our policy failures stretching back beyond the last eight years are the product of a failed establishment and a bankrupt consensus, an Obama administration represents the perpetuation of a system that is fundamentally broken.

One of the big questions about the Bush years was whether they represented a radical departure–especially in the area of foreign policy–or whether they were just an exaggerated version of trends that were evident in the status quo ante Bush.

The Obama administration, so far, argues powerfully for the latter view.

Those who understood the failures of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy as consisting of not sufficiently listening to the military and intelligence establishment were fundamentally, and tragically, mistaken.

50

soullite 10.26.10 at 6:24 pm

Some of you can make all the excuses you want, but Americans have never cared to hear excuses. Obama was put in office to improve life for Americans. If he didn’t think he could do that, either because he didn’t want to or because Republicans would stop him or because of institutional resistance, then he never should have run for office in the first place.

the bottom line is that Partisans will always find excuses. That is why most Democrats still vote for Democrats. Leaners never do, and Obama is getting killed among us.

51

Glen Tomkins 10.26.10 at 6:25 pm

Anderson,

Sure, there’s no chance of the parties reaching a preliminary agreement on what is actually, unc0ntroversially, core govt function, so that they can pass that to leave the field clear for debate about the controversial stuff. The whole point of ideological differences is that we disagree on what is fundamentally important.

But what I’m describing is a propaganda ploy, not an actual attempt by the Rs to reach consensus or compromise. Their House will put up a raft of funding bills and/or continuing resolutions that funds only what their side wants, and label that the “core”. What’s the harm in both sides agreeing to pass the core now, to get it out of the way while the argument over the controversial stuff (i.e., all of the stuff that only the Ds want) continues?

As propaganda, this wouldn’t work too well if what they want included a lot of new spending on new projects. But it would probably work pretty well, would look plausible to everyone who isn’t paying careful attention, if all they want to do is block some existing spending.

You’re right, they don’t really want, as a consensus on their side, to do any radical trimming, anything large enough to actually have any effect on the deficit. But, not only is the marginal nature of what they will propose cutting central to this working, if they are to succeed at selling this as a good faith effort to identify a common core, dealing with the deficit isn’t really the object here.

These people don’t give a fig about the deficit. The object is to assert control over what the govt does, not how much it spends, not how much it does. These people love activist govt, they just want it to be active doing things other than what we want it to do.

So they will go after things like the ACA, that have marginal, even marginally beneficial, effects on the deficit, because they want to defeat health care reform, not for the pretended reason that reform is too expensive.

But defeating policy initiatives that they don’t like by the budgetary back door is just the start of what they want to achieve by asserting this power of the purse. The real aim is to change how the decisions are made, who makes the decisions.

That’s where their long-term investment in court-packing comes in. They whine and complain now about the incredibly cautious “usurpations” of the Kenyan Usurper. Just wait and see what they will do with the actual novel solutions that the administraiton will have to resort to to meet obligations established by, say, the ACA, after the Rs have denied it discretionary funding. That’s when the real fireworks begin. Raise your armies, indeed. We won’t have any other alternative after the Roberts court gives the other side the keys to the kingdom by upholding a maximalist interpetation fo what “the power of the purse” might mean.

52

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 6:26 pm

There’s no “it”, JM. The Obama DOJ’s outlandish claims about what AUMF “authorizes”- I assume that’s what you’re referring to- would be laughable if they weren’t sickening (and the fact that they’re presenting such odious briefs is part of the indictment- it’s EXACTLY the kind of thing Obama ran against.) And even if I were to grant them for the sake of argument, to defend Obama you’d have also to argue that AUMF OBLIGES him to engage in assassination. Good luck with that.

If that’s not what you’re trying to say, stop being coy and present your argument.

53

Anderson 10.26.10 at 6:29 pm

Obama is facing serious institutional resistence—in Congress and within his own executive administration.

The way you deal with serious resistance “within your own executive administration” is to fire people. But hell, Obama’s incompetent at even nominating, let alone firing.

As for Congress, Obama had the power to identify himself with the public and against Congress — the president is more visible, has more media power, and if he cares to exercise it, has immensely more power of persuasion. Dismantling the grassroots campaign organization was, in retrospect, not unlike the error of disarming the Iraqi Army and sending it home. Just the possibility of unleashing left-wing challenges vs. conservative Democrats in vulnerable districts would’ve given pause. A better leader would have made clear to Democrats that they had to accomplish something and brag on it in 2010, or they would be toast. But no. And now the Dems’ campaigns are running away even from what they did accomplish.

Obama despised his base, curried favor with Republicans, and failed to respond to a campaign of demonization that eclipsed even what the Right did to Clinton in his first term. He could not have done a great deal more to impair his ability to influence the Democratic Congress. And his “disarmed” supporters became disaffected, though we seem to be more into blog commenting than into insurgency, thank goodness.

The GOP filibuster policy was a serious problem and should’ve been the focus of a serious response early on. Americans are, believe it or not, aware (or susceptible to being reminded) that a majority vote, not 60%, is required to pass legislation in the Senate. The response to the GOP power grab was to cover the airwaves with “hey, look, a power grab!”

But Obama did not have the guts for confrontation, and the Senate Dems (I am convinced) have internalized minority thinking so much that they want to retain the filibuster in the expectation of being the minority again. Which, it appears, may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if not in 2010 then in 2012.

54

Cryptic Ned 10.26.10 at 6:40 pm

Some of you can make all the excuses you want, but Americans have never cared to hear excuses. Obama was put in office to improve life for Americans. If he didn’t think he could do that, either because he didn’t want to or because Republicans would stop him or because of institutional resistance, then he never should have run for office in the first place.

So in a situation where the situation for Americans is guaranteed to be worse because it is the beginning of a global economic depression, only crazy people should run for office because only optimistic people deserve to be in power.

55

JM 10.26.10 at 6:41 pm

There’s no “it”, JM. The Obama DOJ’s outlandish claims about what AUMF “authorizes”- I assume that’s what you’re referring to- would be laughable if they weren’t sickening

Have you read it? It’s the AUMF that’s laughable. If you don’t like it, change it. And, just like DADT or the detainee photos, Obama will drag the whole process out so he can’t be accused of “endangering” us or whatever else FOX would do with that.

And yes, it really is sickening. But that doesn’t entitle you to a policy outcome, so grow up.

you’d have also to argue that AUMF OBLIGES him to engage in assassination.

Why? Because campaign promises have the force of law?

I’m inclined to agree with you on principle, but your juvenile sense of entitlement to policy outcomes based on ideological absolutes makes it difficult to engage with you at all. I guess Bush got us used to the preznit doing whatever he wanted, but the Obama administration has repeatedly demonstrated that changes in the law require the full process to play out, and that they won’t spend any political capital at all even on passively allowing odious law to lapse (i.e., by not defending it in court), especially before a mid-term. They know exactly how that would play out in the press.

I’m just trying to understand why they do what they do. If you just want to bitch about everything, go bother someone else.

56

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 6:47 pm

JM, are you being obtuse or actually dishonest? You really want to argue that 1) AUMF can only be interpreted as per the DOJ’s brief, and 2) DOJ’s position is that AUMF OBLIGES rather than merely permits Obama to engage in these practices? If you seriously mean that, you’re an idiot ,and thus entitled to no further response from me.

57

JM 10.26.10 at 6:49 pm

You really want to argue that 1) AUMF can only be interpreted as per the DOJ’s brief

No.

2) DOJ’s position is that AUMF OBLIGES rather than merely permits Obama to engage in these practices?

No.

Anything else?

58

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 6:55 pm

Then what exactly is your point? Obama 1) doesn’t have to do that stuff, per AUMF or for any other reason, and 2) ran on promising to stop it. You have yet to make a coherent response to either of those points. Do you have one or not?

59

JM 10.26.10 at 7:02 pm

You have yet to make a coherent response to either of those points.

Actually, I have. Twice, as a matter of fact. My explanation accounts for observed phenomena and doesn’t require that I run around with my hair on fire. Note that you assumed I was defending Obama. I wasn’t, I was just trying to explain what I see as their common approach to policy change. But arguing with you is like arguing with a damned Republican: if I talk about the roots of crime, a Republican will accuse me of excusing crime. What a stupid waste of time.

Since the inauguration, my fellow lefties have been screaming for Obama to tend NOW to THEIR biggest concern. But hey, if performing your ideological identity is the most important thing in your life, knock yourself out.

60

John Quiggin 10.26.10 at 7:04 pm

JM, I don’t appreciate your thread disruption. Like Steve, I have no idea what you are talking about. Please spell out your point with no more coy nonsense. Otherwise, I will have to go back and disemvowel your comments to stop them derailing discussion.

61

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 7:07 pm

“Obama was put in office to improve life for Americans. If he didn’t think he could do that, either because he didn’t want to or because Republicans would stop him or because of institutional resistance, then he never should have run for office in the first place.”

The problem, soullite, is that you really support the future monarchy as I do, but you don’t realize it yet. We don’t have the contradictory position – it is the supporters of the now-failed democracy who cannot reconcile their inherent contradictions.

They want Obama to pretend that the democracy can be rescued. And it is a failing of Obama not to seize and establish the monarchy right now. But they argue against the very tools that Obama needs to secure that monarchy. They’re holding on to unfounded illusions.

62

JM 10.26.10 at 7:10 pm

Sorry, John, but I laid out what I thought was happening at #39 and #55 and thought that was clear enough. I even provided two related examples. I honestly thought Steve was just pissed off, and was not attempting any “disruption.” I meant it when I said I wasn’t going to hold his hand, so I also object to “coy” and “nonsense.”

But it’s your blog. Do what you want.

63

John Quiggin 10.26.10 at 7:15 pm

OK then, JM, nothing more from you please. If, as you say, you’ve made your point, further back-and-forth seems pointless (sic).

I’ll leave your comments at #39 and #55 to speak for themselves (they don’t speak to me, I’m afraid), and invite others to resume the discussion on the main issues.

64

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 7:18 pm

Anderson,

The problem is you yourself support most of the failed institutions. It is exceedingly difficult to re-establish the republic – re-establishing old regimes almost never succeeds. There is no way we can retain the old failed institution of property rights and fight against the oligarchy, for example. To re-establish the democracy, we need to quickly and publicly seize the oligarchs’ wealth, punish them, humiliate them and ostracize/exile them. But you can’t do that because you support the principle of property rights and fair trials.

65

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.26.10 at 7:31 pm

burritoboy: Oligarchies don’t return to democracies, they convert into monarchies.

Nah. Democracies, monarchies, and everything else convert into oligarchies. Oligarchy is the natural state of things.

66

Lee A. Arnold 10.26.10 at 7:44 pm

Either the Democrats are going to be destroyed, or the Republicans are going to be destroyed. I say destroy the GOP.

67

salazar 10.26.10 at 7:50 pm

CharleyCarp @ 22: “If they can restrain the radical fringe—which is still something of an if—Obama the one-termer represents a historic failure of liberalism worse than Carter.”

Because Carter was a liberal?

68

CharleyCarp 10.26.10 at 7:56 pm

No. Because the repudiation of Carter was taken as the repudiation of him and everything to the left of him.

69

Steve LaBonne 10.26.10 at 7:56 pm

salazar- I don’t know if Charley was trying to say this, but it seems to me that the fact that neither Obama nor Carter are liberals is precisely the problem, because regardless they are perceived as such (with plenty of far-right propaganda help) by low-information voters. When their basically moderate-Republican policies (though Obama’s foreign policy is too far right to even be describe that way) have failed, liberalism has gotten the blame. That’s pretty close to the worst possible situation.

70

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 7:57 pm

Henri,

Oligarchy is certainly a very common form. However, the possibilities now are, since we are in an oligarchy:

1. Can our oligarchy be converted into an aristocracy? This is extremely unlikely.

2. Can we recover the republic? This is possible, but also quite unlikely. Again, if you support the principle of property rights, the oligarchs will always rise again. The republic needs to have the tools to redistribute wealth, thus the citizens can have no theoretical property rights. We must modify our principles of free speech, since we know that the oligarchs can buy up the media. And so on.

3. There is the possibility that the oligarchy will be converted into some sort of military junta. Admittedly, the military junta is probably preferable to the oligarchs, but this is a very bad solution (and will not be stable over the long term).

4. Can we convert the oligarchy to a monarchy? I argue that this is the best practical solution. The President will become some form of a President-Monarch, a process which is well underway anyway. Further, this is a liberal solution compared to the oligarchy, the junta or the dictatorship.

Thus, while no. 2 is the best path in theory, we must radically alter the old republic to do it (high inequalities of wealth cannot be permitted, the press must be controlled, the universities be made public, the oligarchs exiled, freedom of religion revoked in favor of government control over extremist sects and teachings, and so on). I think it will actually be less turmoil in moving to the President-Monarch than in establishing the Second Republic.

71

Anderson 10.26.10 at 8:13 pm

BB: To re-establish the democracy, we need to quickly and publicly seize the oligarchs’ wealth, punish them, humiliate them and ostracize/exile them. But you can’t do that because you support the principle of property rights and fair trials.

Right. Are you perchance also seeking elective office in the District of Columbia?

The failure of the “establishment” and the “consensus” indicts the power elite (for want of a better term), not the institutions themselves.

… Glen, without some specifics — which of course we can’t invent for ourselves — as to what the GOP might mean by “core,” I don’t think we can have a profitable discussion about what they might do and whether it might work, though I appreciate your comment.

I think the GOP has a much better % in using its (presumably forthcoming) House majority to overload the administration with bogus investigations, endless subpoenas, etc., and then, if/when the MSM starts to balk — they well might — using that to prove that the MSM are in league with Obama and the Democrats. I mean, my god, 1/4 of the American people appear to think Obama was born in Kenya. What can the GOP do with a House majority to create endless “findings” that are no less nuts than that?

Such tactics would, IMHO, give the GOP a better shot in 2012 than a shutdown that might very well turn the independents against them.

72

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.26.10 at 8:15 pm

I have the impression that Aristocracy and Military Junta, are definitely species of Oligarchy. So is Republic, as long as it’s technocratic enough (the ‘elite’ are the oligarchs there). So is Monarchy, unless it’s a radically absolute monarchy where the apparatus is subject to frequent massive purges – something like Stalinism. But then Stalin dies, and it’s back to Oligarchy.

Pretty much any government is an oligarchy, and if it isn’t it’ll be soon.

73

Salient 10.26.10 at 8:29 pm

The republic needs to have the tools to redistribute wealth, thus the citizens can have no theoretical property rights.

Or you could redistribute income along a progressive scale, which has been the standard theoretical workaround for at least a century. When it’s put into adequate practice, e.g. during the heydays of pre-neoliberal social democracy, it produces the desired effect of redistributing wealth while upholding property rights.

This assumes growth in GDP or whatever, so that there’s more stuff to be had, which reduces the proportional value of fixed/withheld wealth. That’s proven to be a fairly reasonable assumption.

74

Bullhorn among the deaf 10.26.10 at 8:44 pm

What is the point in bothering to vote for candidates in the U.S. anyway? Issues on the ballot I can understand taking the time to vote for or against for example if you live in California there’s a reason to vote for Proposition 19 if for nothing else to further expose the Obama administration as reactionary by its response to its passage. But for actual candidates? Total waste of time.

After the Dems swept into power in Congress in the 2006 midterms on a platform of “Vote for us if you want to end the war in Iraq” and then refused to actually do anything to, you know, end the war in Iraq like cutting off funding for it by refusing to vote on supplementals that should have told anybody with common sense that they’ve been bamboozled. After Obama gets elected as a supposed “change agent” and despite a Dem majority Senate and House gives the American people a health care “reform” bill written by the big insurance companies and Big Pharma; after giving us a Wall Street “reform” bill written by Wall Street that does nothing to prevent their casino-like behavior; after getting a Nobel Peace Prize then immediately escalating the gas pipeline war in Afghanistan; after promising us a government of accountability then adamantly refusing to have his attorney general go after the war criminals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, as apparantly accountability for torture, for the mainstreaming of police state measures with the Patriot Act and the starting of a war of aggression isn’t worthy of examining as he’s “moving forward, not looking backward”; as Obama has enshrined these police state measures and expanded upon them; and as Obama’s surrounded himself with an administration made up of ruling class pukes from the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group and A.I.P.A.C. what can a sensible, informed person conclude but that it is an exercise in futility to go out and vote? Why bother when all the wealthy ruling elite will allow us to vote for are obvious conservatives and thinly-disguised conservatives? That’s as undemocratic as Saddam Hussein’s elections but with somewhat more sophistication.

Unless private money is taken completely out of political campaigns with each candidate instead getting an equal (but small) amount of public funding with campaigns lasting a couple months instead of a couple years the system will continue to be as artificial as professional wrestling. Candidates will continue to be nothing more than puppets of their wealthy corporate backers, answering to them instead of the average people of this country. Face it America: You don’t have a democracy. What you have is a dog & pony show every few years, designed to make you think you have a say in what kind of government governs you. It is painfully obvious that you don’t.

75

CharleyCarp 10.26.10 at 9:15 pm

It’s always amusing when members of a faction/tendency that can’t get a majority in Congress, or in even a single state legislature, veers off into thinking about what it would do it it could convene a constitutional convention.

\\looks in mirror, laughs bitterly\\

It’s been a pleasure talking with you guys. Later.

76

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 9:32 pm

“But hell, Obama’s incompetent at even nominating, let alone firing.”

It only takes one senator to hold up a nomination. One GOPer (Shelby) is holding up Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Fed’s Board, because despite having Just Won The Fucking Nobel Prize in Economics*. After Diamond won the Nobel, said GOPer still insisted Diamond wasn’t qualified for the Fed’s Board of Governors. Despite writing a paper, which, according to Krugman, is *the shit* on rises in structural unemployment.

But I’m sure if Obama nominated Jude Wanniski, the nomination would sail through. Is that what you think he should do?

* Yeah, its the Swedish Riksbank’s Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Nobody cares about the difference, you know.

77

Barry 10.26.10 at 9:33 pm

JM 10.26.10 at 5:40 pm

“Hello? The administration is positioning itself in the event of losing the House. Then Obama can say he extended a hand of cooperation and that the GOP swatted it away to go after Climate-”gate” and the New Black Panther Party, wasting the taxpayers’ time.”

Did you really not notice the last two years?

78

JM 10.26.10 at 9:36 pm

Did you really not notice the last two years?

I’m not allowed to answer that.

79

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 9:42 pm

“I mean, my god, 1/4 of the American people appear to think Obama was born in Kenya. What can the GOP do with a House majority to create endless “findings” that are no less nuts than that?

Such tactics would, IMHO, give the GOP a better shot in 2012 than a shutdown that might very well turn the independents against them.”

I think the temptation of sending a budget that e.g. reduces the EPA, OSHA, and the State Department’s total funding to a Euro, two Canadian cents,* and a stick of chewing gum is going to be too great to resist for the GOP.

They always overreach, cf. Cheney, R.; Gingrich, N.; DeLay, T.

(* You can’t denominate the budget for those three unAmerican agencies in U.S. Dollars.)

80

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 9:50 pm

“Then Obama can say he extended a hand of cooperation and that the GOP swatted it away to go after Climate-”gate” and the New Black Panther Party, wasting the taxpayers’ time.”

Of course, that’s assuming that the several dozen inquiries launched by the GOP don’t turn up anything impeachable.

I’d say there’s a 30% chance that some pseudo-scandal like “Bill Ayer’s cousin’s daughter-in-law’s boyfriend getting a grant from the NEA which has a board member who knows Michelle Obama’s aunt” will be turned into a cause for impeachment, and that the U.S. media will run with it. 50% chance they try to gin up a pseudoscandal for impeachment but don’t get traction in the media and the motion never hits the floor of the House. 20% chance Boehner reins the nutcases back and stops any impeachment attempt.

But several cabinet members and undersecretaries will be hounded from office and their positions left unfilled because of similar bullshit.

81

piglet 10.26.10 at 9:53 pm

“It only takes one senator to hold up a nomination.”

Obama could have made the Repugs pay for their constant blockage. He didn’t even try. Also, he didn’t have to nominate somebody like Geithner.

82

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.26.10 at 10:24 pm

“Obama could have made the Repugs pay for their constant blockage.”

How?
“He didn’t even try. Also, he didn’t have to nominate somebody like Geithner.”

It is a tragedy that Daschle’s nomination for HHS came after Geithner’s, rather than the other way around.

83

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 10:47 pm

“When it’s put into adequate practice, e.g. during the heydays of pre-neoliberal social democracy, it produces the desired effect of redistributing wealth while upholding property rights.”

Yes, but that schema didn’t actually survive very long, did it? It’s not a stable solution – it leaves the malefactors able to undermine the republic (i.e., because they are not properly sent into exile). We need a more radical solution.

84

PHB 10.26.10 at 10:56 pm

Why are we treating the NYT as being credible on this topic? They are an establishment paper that is dedicated to the establishment view. Creating the expectation that Obama is going to capitulate to the Republican agenda is what the establishment wants but there is no reason to think that his base wants to see that.

The administration has to pretend that they are serious about dealing with the debt but they know that there is no way they can cut the military budget and that is the only way the books can ever balance. The US currently spends more on weapons and militarism than the entire rest of the planet combined – including US allies. Meanwhile the US allies by themselves outspend the rest of the planet excluding the US. So the US and its allies combined currently outspend the rest of the world three to one.

There is no way that I am going to let the Republican party steal my goddam pension so that they can give tax breaks to their cronies. Which is what the GOP social security proposal amounts to.

The administration has to act as if the GOP are reasonable actors. But they are not fools. They know that the GOP does not have the slightest interest in acting for the best interests of the country. They are a political faction that stands only for themselves and their greed.

85

burritoboy 10.26.10 at 10:57 pm

Henri,

Read your Aristotle. The oligarchy is rule by the wealthy because they are wealthy. Aristocrats may be wealthy, but they don’t rule because of their wealth – they rule because of their titles, or their noble family lineage, or great service to the state, etc. Aristocrats do not lose their positions by becoming less wealthy or gain position by becoming more wealthy (at least, in a direct sense).

The military junta and the technocracy are examples of attempts to rule by knowledge or experience – the military rules because they are the experts on warfare or the technocracy rules because it’s experts know more than anybody else.

86

Anderson 10.26.10 at 11:29 pm

“It only takes one senator to hold up a nomination.”

Socky, Obama hasn’t even *made* nominations to *scores* of positions, and many of those he *has* made took waaaaaay too long.

And as Piglet notes, it’s not like Obama has done much to fight GOP abuses, like calling them out on it, getting the rules changed, or using the recess-appointment power like it’s going out of style. Again, I suspect, the Dems wanted to preserve the power for obstruction in anticipation of their own minority status.

I think the temptation of sending a budget that e.g. reduces the EPA, OSHA, and the State Department’s total funding to a Euro, two Canadian cents,* and a stick of chewing gum is going to be too great to resist for the GOP.

Well, I hope you’re right, b/c that would piss the public off — it would be gross enough even they could figure it out. (I wonder … don’t certain private-sector projects have to have EPA approval before they can be commenced or completed?)

87

Jack Strocchi 10.27.10 at 12:30 am

Pr Q said:

Translation: Mr Obama and his aides plan a series of pre-emptive capitulations, after which the Republicans will demand the repeal of the healthcare act (or maybe abolition of Social Security). When/if that is refused, the Repugs will shut down the government, and this time they will hold their nerve until Obama folds.

This is pretty grim scenario, but I think I can come up with something better (worse), with added economic meltd0wn goodness. My own up-dated (AUG 2010) prediction, FWIW (not much):

1. the Tea Party-REPs win contol of both houses at NOV 2010 congressionals;
2. the Tea Party demand the repeal Obama health care, threatening they will block the budget appropriations;
3. Obama counters with an offer to slash all federal discretionary spending to reduce the government deficit;
4. the Tea Party-REP houses accepts and passes a contractionary budget and
5. the US economy spirals into double-dip recession.

This is a heads-I-win/tails-you-lose scenario for the Tea Party-REPs, since if the Obama-DEMs accept their:

1. primo preference (repeal health care) then they achieve a policy victory (humiliating back-down and lame duck second term presidency)

OR

2. alter preference (contractionary budget) then they achieve a political victory (poisoned chalice economy leading to REPs landslide victory in 2012)

One bright note: I am pretty sure that the Tea Party-REPs will blink on their threat of government shutdown in 2011. Too many of the REP’s base constituents (military, farmers, seniors) depend on government money or programs for them to risk going ballistic. They are bluffing and any half-way competent President could call their bluff and force them to fold.

I don’t know if this has been the REPs plan all along, since the obvious failure of Bush admin. But even if it hasn’t, they have certainly played their trump cards well.

88

jeer9 10.27.10 at 1:05 am

Obama is a classic Democrat in the mode of Roosevelt (ridiculous diversionary court-packing), Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson (war, war, war) doing his best undermine the strong tide of reform clamored for by the public. Walter Karp may be a bit cynical for some tastes, but he nailed Obama’s tactics and Congress’ last legislative session fifteen years ago in “Indispensable Enemies.” Read it and weep. The duopoly plays their game, and shocked critics spend hours trying to psychoanalyze the President’s motivation. He’s not stupid. He is evil – and he is a tool of the oligarchy which is why I keep predicting that the Republicans will nominate a loonie in 2012 to ensure his re-election. He is doing everything they want, and Wall Street’s complaints are a pure theater.

89

Jack Strocchi 10.27.10 at 1:08 am

Pr Q said:

Zero-dimensional chess

Let me be the bunny to pipe up with the dumb question while the rest of the class sits on their hands.

I dont want to spoil the joke by over-analysis but, to clarify the Delphic humour in the heading:

Zero-dimension” refers to a fixed point is space.
Chess” refers to the dynamic move and counter-move of tactical politics.

Right?

So Pr Q’s heading implies that the Obama-DEMs are stalemated in a single position with no space to move (zero-dimension) and, having already exhausted all their moves (chess), are pre-emptively declaring check mate .

Game over.

90

Salient 10.27.10 at 1:16 am

Jack, there’s a WarGames joke there that you might’ve missed: zero-dimensional chess is like love and nuclear war, in that the only winning move is not to play.

91

Jack Strocchi 10.27.10 at 2:14 am

Salient @ #88 said:

zero-dimensional chess is like love and nuclear war, in that the only winning move is not to play.

I don’t know anything much about computer WarGames. So any game theory jokes are bound to go over my head.

So far as classic game theory is concerned, I prefer a level playing field to give me a hope in hell. So all is fair in love. But war is a mugs game.

FWIW, my take on the Tea-Party REPs game plan is eerily similar to the moves reccomended in the zero-dimensional chess play-book:

This is a heads-I-win/tails-you-lose scenario for the Tea Party-REPs

But since Obama is a Man of Destiny it seems he had little choice about playing this game.

92

LFC 10.27.10 at 2:32 am

I’ve been disappointed with aspects of Obama’s performance and I understand the view that he represents a “perpetuation of the establishment,” but I also think he has some accomplishments to his credit (including the health care reform bill, which I do not view, contrary to some, as worthless).

The ‘Afghan surge,’ which I was ambivalent about initially, I now think was probably the wrong tack, and the sharp increase in drone strikes in the Pakistan border regions is troubling for several reasons. (Ditto the newly announced military aid package to Pakistan.) On the other hand, as far as the scope of executive power is concerned (which much exercises several commenters): doesn’t every president take a broad view of executive power, esp. in foreign policy/natl security-related matters? I don’t follow the policies w/r/t detainees/interrogation closely, but I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that practices in this area were at least a little better than under Bush, despite the failure to close Guantanamo.

As for the discussion upthread about oligarchy/monarchy/etc: the history of late-medieval and early-modern European political organization is interesting but has no direct relevance to contemporary US politics. The US may well be an oligarchy in some sense but it also has the forms (if not the full substance) of democracy and exists in a totally different historical context than late-medieval Venice.

93

mregan 10.27.10 at 3:22 am

Obama won the nomination in 08 as the centrist. Hillary was the real liberal, and everone knew it. But American politics is won and lost in the center. That is the design of our constitution. Nothing whatever can be done, or maintained once done, if the center of American political thought/experience does not support it. The question then becomes, how does one either move the center or move oneself closer to it? Those are the only two choices available. The Right has done a very good job of moving the apparent center their way in the last two years. There is at least a decent argument to be made in letting’em have it, and then crucifying them for having done it, when the real center sees it for it is, a la 46/48 or 94/96.

94

Ben Alpers 10.27.10 at 3:42 am

@mregan

Obama won the nomination in 08 as the centrist. Hillary was the real liberal, and everone knew it.

Well I certainly didn’t “know” this. What I knew was that Obama and Hillary Clinton were virtually identical on the issues. Both of them were–and were running as–centrists. The liberals in the race were Kucinich and Edwards. Needless to say, neither proved to be very strong candidates, though largely for reasons extraneous to their liberalism.

95

John Quiggin 10.27.10 at 4:12 am

@PHB, I’m treating the NYT as credible because
(i) They have an on-the-record quote from a Cabinet member who can reasonably be assumed to reflect Obama’s views
(ii) the report is consistent with what Obama has done so far

96

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.27.10 at 6:04 am

@83, ah, plutocracy. I see what you mean.

97

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.27.10 at 7:45 am

Burritoboy, I think a plutocratic republic can survive (and even prosper) virtually indefinitely, provided the elite is a national elite; some sort of hybrid of the paleocon and communitarian models. In the case of the US of A, I suspect it’s the imperial (or neoliberal, if you wish) nature of the elite that creates tension. Interests of the oligarchy lie elsewhere, veered too far from the interests of their population.

98

ejh 10.27.10 at 8:37 am

So Pr Q’s heading implies that the Obama-DEMs are stalemated in a single position with no space to move (zero-dimension) and, having already exhausted all their moves (chess), are pre-emptively declaring check mate .

What?

99

dsquared 10.27.10 at 9:02 am

I think ejh is right and Jack is wrong here – although a game of chess ends if the player whose turn it is has no legal moves to make, it doesn’t end in checkmate unless that player is also in check.

100

Anderson 10.27.10 at 11:34 am

Dsquared is of course correct: not in check + no legal move = stalemate = draw.

You can also have a draw by repetition.

101

Kevin Donoghue 10.27.10 at 1:06 pm

Surely a zero-dimensional chessboard has at most one square?

102

Memepool 10.27.10 at 1:42 pm

Surely the title is a reversal of “Obama playing three-dimensional chess” [vs Republican strategies] that was kicked around in the first year of his term.

Also for that other pop reference:

WarGames is a 1983 film about a plucky 80s kid hacking into the nuclear control centre. It produced the geek-quote “the only winning move is not to play”, when the AI finds no winning solution to nuclear warfare.

103

ejh 10.27.10 at 1:45 pm

Arguably chess is zero-dimensional anyway: the chessboard isn’t really necessary, it just provides a helpful physical illustration of what are in fact mutually-agreed mathematical co-ordinates which have no necessary physical reality. (Does that make them zero-dimensional? I think so, but I won’t insist on the point if I’m in error.)

Here for instance, we could simply be staring at a table, provided that the moves we announced, after consideration, were properly recorded, agreed and understood by both sides.

Neither board nor pieces need actually exist. But it’s a bit easier with that three-dimensional depiction to look at and move around.

104

dsquared 10.27.10 at 2:12 pm

A mathematician would definitely say that it’s a two-dimensional game – you have a list of legal operations to perform on an 8×8 matrix, and when no legal operation can be performed it’s either stalemate or checkmate. It’s just that you don’t need a physical two- or three- dimensional object to represent the two-dimensional space of the game – but on the other hand, you don’t *need* a Rubik’s cube if you can do three-dimensional linear algebra in your head.

105

Salient 10.27.10 at 2:20 pm

Does that make them zero-dimensional? I think so, but I won’t insist on the point if I’m in error.

It’s somewhat the right idea. A finite subset of Z^2^ (i.e., points in the plane with integer coordinates) has (Hausdorff) dimension 0, because it’s made up of finitely many discrete points and a point has dimension 0, and I suppose a chessboard could be modeled by 64 points in an 8 x 8 lattice. However, that’s not a very good model, because it doesn’t account for or incorporate information about how pieces are allowed to move across the board. I think d^2^’s point holds: a more useful model, one which better accommodates the rules of the game, would have a structure that we’d recognize as two-dimensional.

106

Norwegian Guy 10.27.10 at 2:24 pm

No. Because the repudiation of Carter was taken as the repudiation of him and everything to the left of him.

Why not: …”the repudiation of Bush was taken as the repudiation of him and everything to the right of him.” Wasn’t that the mood less than two years ago? I remember lots of talk about how may seats the Democrats could pick up in 2010, how the GOP was to become a regional southern party etc.

By the way, didn’t the Republicans lose badly in the 1982 election?

And, like a Cartesian coordinate system in the plane , chess is a two-dimensional game. It’s not three-dimensional, you can’t move the pieces up and down in space.

107

ogmb 10.27.10 at 2:27 pm

Maybe it is related to the corollary in Graph Theory that a pointless tree is a forest?

108

dsquared 10.27.10 at 2:27 pm

Thinking about it Salient is clearly right – you can teach a Turing Machine to play chess, so it can’t be intrinsic to the problem that it’s two dimensional.

109

mds 10.27.10 at 2:58 pm

There is no way that I am going to let the Republican party steal my goddam pension so that they can give tax breaks to their cronies.

Sitting over here in the despair wading pool, watching electoral sanity continue its decline (Congrats, Mayor-Elect Ford of Toronto!), I would certainly like to know the name of the product you’re smoking. Because it looks to me that you’re going to have zero say over what our reactionary fellow countryfolk empower the GOP to do. Especially if the “repudiation of liberalism” next Tuesday provides cover for a successful up-or-down vote on the Catfood Commission’s plans to steal even more of your goddamn pension.

110

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 10.27.10 at 2:59 pm

“Socky, Obama hasn’t even made nominations to scores of positions, and many of those he has made took waaaaaay too long.”

Looking at:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/nominations-and-appointments

There’s ~950 nominations, with >200 unconfirmed, some dating back to mid-2009 and stil unconfirmed. You might recall Sen. Shelby alone holding up 70 earlier this year ‘cos of some hissy fit over a contract for Northrup Grumman.

“And as Piglet notes, it’s not like Obama has done much to fight GOP abuses, like calling them out on it,”

Look, almost half the GOP base believes or is willing to entertain the notion that Obama is the Anti-Christ born in Kenya. As far as an incumbent GOP Senator is concerned, getting slagged off by Obama for obstructionism is a feature, not a bug.

“getting the rules changed,”

You can’t change the rules for the Senate in the middle of a session without a two-thirds majority. Also, Obama doesn’t sit in the Senate. Separation of powers.

“or using the recess-appointment power like it’s going out of style.”

Recess appointments would only last to the next session in Jan 2011.

111

Tim Wilkinson 10.27.10 at 3:22 pm

#108 Is that right? Chess after all is intuitively (for some middling value of ‘intuitiuve’) 3 dimensional because time. So perhaps(?) a det’istic T Machine is 2-dimensional because tape = 1d and time = 1d. I mean, it is part of the essence of a TM that it starts with an input and, when successful, ends with an output. It’s not just a row of symbols. Or something.

+ isn’t it the case that while a point may have dimension 0, and a collection of points too, a structured (e.g. ordered) set of points must have a dimension along which to be structured? (Obviously these are theoretical and need not be instantiated as physical objects.) This may be what Salient @105 had in mind with mention of reflecting the rules etc, but it’s not just a question of nice-to-have; it’s essential, innit?

In case it’s not obvious, this is based on formal math. sophistication approaching SQRT(bugger-all).

(While on the topic of aimless quibbling, re: a draw – does having 2 kings on the board and nothing else count as repetition? It must be stalemate, I’d have thought. Or is it just left to the players to agree a draw when they get bored?)

112

Tim Wilkinson 10.27.10 at 3:25 pm

should be: S Q R T ( bugger-all ) -server-side shenanigans at work

113

Kevin Donoghue 10.27.10 at 3:53 pm

“The game is drawn when a position is reached from which a checkmate cannot occur by any possible series of legal moves. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing this position was legal.” (FIDE article 9.6)

114

burritoboy 10.27.10 at 4:04 pm

Henri,

That type of plutocracy is only possible at relatively low levels of economic development. It usually is a heavily agricultural economy – the plutocrats own the land, have comparatively little liquid wealth and most of the population is working in agriculture. Once you have liquid wealth, the bankers are going to grow rapidly in power. The agricultural plutocrats will either be overthrown, or will join forces with the bankers.

The bankers have the opposite interests from the agricultural plutocrats. The agricultural plutocrats need the population to be (at least somewhat) friendly to them. They need the agricultural workforce to bring in the crops. They try to build support by engaging in military defense of the country, supporting the gods, engaging in public works and so on.

The bankers have comparatively no interest in the workforce. They are primarily interested in the liquid capital of the country, not the labor force. They do not need any support from the countryside. That means that, in contrast to the agricultural plutocrats, their interests are in creating arbitrage opportunities for themselves – gaining control of the government to manipulate public bond issuance or tax codes or public spending, etc. If the country crashes through these abuses, they take the liquid assets and move to the next hot capital market.

We see this empirically in the decline of the medieval city-state and in Athens’ failure. What we see from this evidence is that if you have a society which is developing beyond agriculture, the stable way to rule it is through the monarch (the ultimate agricultural plutocrat and controller of the laws). A reasonably competent monarch can resolve the contradictions – he suppresses the other agricultural plutocrats by putting them to work (the Prussian model) or putting them to play (the Louis XIV model). He suppresses the bankers by controlling their efforts to arbitrage the laws, having them form the bulk of the bureaucracy, channeling the liquid capital into productive uses rather than speculation and so on.

This monarch only needs a reasonable amount of competence to pull this off, precisely because the other alternatives are so bad. He only needs to do the following:

1. appear reasonably religious and hard-working to gain the trust of the people
2. control the agricultural plutocrats by shoving them in the army
3. control the bankers by making them clerks in the government bureaucracy
4. avoid losing wars and avoid debt
5. ensure that he has legitimate male issue

115

Salient 10.27.10 at 4:31 pm

a structured (e.g. ordered) set of points must have a dimension along which to be structured?

Nah. Take the set of points {love, peace, happiness}. That’s a set with three points in it, i.e., it contains three elements. We could assign some number to that set and call that number the set’s “dimension” but it’s probably more appropriate to acknowledge that our notion of ‘dimension’ does not apply meaningfully to all mathematical problems, and is particularly inapplicable to problems that can be modeled by finitely many configurations of finite sets of points.

Also, even if we assign some structure, that is, even if we embed our set of points in a continuum, there’s no reason the dimension of the continuum ought to be the same as the dimension of our embedding. We can embed a line in a coordinate plane of dimension 2, for example, but that doesn’t mean we should think of lines as 2-dimensional things.

The two-dimensional chess representation renders the rules of chess coherent to us, in some intuitive/non-mathematical sense of that word. We can easily understand which configurations can be achieved, from the current board state, by moving our bishop, by applying the “bishops move diagonally” rule. So of course we have an intuitive bias which favors the two-dimensional representation, because it renders the actions on the underlying space, i.e. the rules for moving pieces around, meaningful to us. If we chopped up the 8×8 board and made it 1×64, all the rules could transfer over and chess could still be played, but the game rules would be incoherent to most humans: “why can my rook currently move to these spaces, and not others?” would be extraordinarily difficult to answer.

116

mds 10.27.10 at 4:54 pm

If we chopped up the 8×8 board and made it 1×64, all the rules could transfer over and chess could still be played

Which brings us back to Turing machines again. But it’s still misleading, because one could infer from this description that chess was inherently one-dimensional. But there’s no inherent dimensionality to, e.g., a collection of tuples representing all possible states of the ‘board’ and a bunch of operations for interconverting them, is there?

“Hausdorff?”
“Oh, he’s feeling much better, thanks. Howe’s Theorem?”

117

Anderson 10.27.10 at 5:59 pm

Also, Obama doesn’t sit in the Senate. Separation of powers.

As you may not have noticed, many of the complaints voiced, including mine, go to the Democrats in Congress, not just Obama. Obama certainly could make a very public point of pressing the Dems to change the rules at their first opportunity, but he hasn’t done that, evidently being satisfied with an unconstitutional practice.

As for calling out the GOP on their abuse, no one was dumb enough to suggest that would influence the GOP directly; it might appeal to independent voters, particularly those commonsensical folk who like to say the Constitution is to be applied the way it reads.

Recess appointments would only last to the next session in Jan 2011.

No shit. So what’s your point? If he’s trying to publicize and force the issue, that’s a feature, not a bug.

The problem continues to be that Obama cannot or will not demonstrate any courage, any fight, anything to dispel the increasingly nonstereotypical stereotype of invertebrate Democrats. His skill set seems to rise only to a tea party, not to a Tea Party.

118

Anderson 10.27.10 at 6:03 pm

… Yglesias has a timely remark:

Marketing and public relations are nice, but opinion is fundamentally driven by results. And on this, Obama has it backward. A party whose leaders realized that economic results were the most important driver of public opinion wouldn’t have renominated a conservative Republican to head the Federal Reserve. Even more astoundingly, having given Ben Bernanke a second term in office, the Obama administration didn’t get around to nominating anyone to fill the other vacant posts on the Federal Reserve Board until April 2010.

Word.

119

ejh 10.27.10 at 6:25 pm

Chess after all is intuitively (for some middling value of ‘intuitiuve’) 3 dimensional because time

Indeed, though it’s confusing to say so because we don’t normally think of “three-dimensional” as representing a situation of two physical dimensions plus time.

“The game is drawn when a position is reached from which a checkmate cannot occur by any possible series of legal moves. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing this position was legal.” (FIDE article 9.6)

Also 1.3, of which 9.6 is a development.

Curiously in Gashimov-Wang Yue from Nanjing today, the game score currently gives a 67th move despite a position of bare kings having been reached as a result of Black’s move 66. I think this is incorrect – probably a function of the fact that the moves are transmitted via the boards themselves, which do not recognise all possible illegalities – and the game should therefore have ended after Black’s 66th.

Had Black’s 66th been to capture a knight or bishop, of course, the game should have finished even earlier, since a position of checkmate would already have been impossible to achieve.

120

piglet 10.27.10 at 7:19 pm

Maybe John’s metaphor refers to dimension as degrees of freedom rather than geometric space.

121

Salient 10.27.10 at 7:46 pm

But there’s no inherent dimensionality to, e.g., a collection of tuples representing all possible states of the ‘board’ and a bunch of operations for interconverting them, is there?

Sounds right to me, that’s what I was trying to say. N.b. that I’m an apprentice mathematician, not a seasoned expert, and discrete math’s not my budding specialization. The combinatoricists are probably sighing and shaking their heads at this thread. :)

Maybe John’s metaphor refers to dimension as degrees of freedom rather than geometric space.

Right, but acknowledging that would close off a playful diversion, and hey, it’s more fun to talk about chess and math than it is to soberly acknowledge JQ’s sober assessment. For the record, agree w/ Anderson at 4 and JQ at 5; I’m actually a bit excited to live in a state which is not even remotely competitive in the 2012 Presidential election, as I can vote my preference third-party with a clear pragmatic conscience.

122

ejh 10.27.10 at 8:04 pm

Thing is, I didn’t really understand why John referrred to “chess” in the first place, let alone chess of a zero-dimensional nature. Metaphorical chess, of course, I understand that, but being something of a one-man campaign against the loose and inaccurate use of chess as a metaphor, I didn’t (and don’t) really see what he was driving at.

123

Salient 10.27.10 at 8:17 pm

being something of a one-man campaign against the loose and inaccurate use of chess as a metaphor, I didn’t (and don’t) really see what he was driving at.

Being something of a one-man campaign against the loose and inaccurate use of chess as a metaphor, you probably know that lots of people talk about Obama playing thirty-seven dimensional chess, in reference to that ’3d chess which is more complicated than 2d chess’ game on Star Trek, the idea being that Obama is only seeming to capitulate because our puny 2d-chess-model minds can’t understand his super-genius plan to spring a surprise attack from the nineteenth dimension, and win the game for us all.

Accusing Obama of playing chess at the lowest conceivable dimension, zero, reverses this analogy: whereas Obama is seeming to capitulate and give away the game in our mighty 2d-chess-thinking minds, he is apparently thinking of himself as having no freedom of motion, entirely beholden to his opponent. He’s not even seeing the range of available strategic options that we see, because he’s thinking at a lower order than us.

All of this buys into a problematic interpretation of dimension (and chess!) but since JQ’s metaphor essentially pokes fun at people who used to claim Obama is merely slyly outmaneuvering his opponents and not for-reals capitulating, I figure he’s on the side of the chess-metaphor angels.

124

Anderson 10.27.10 at 8:18 pm

“STOP using chess as a metaphor!” (to the tune of Pat Benatar’s “Sex as a Weapon,” a song whose only valid purpose for existence was to provide parody fodder).

125

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.27.10 at 8:41 pm

Burritoboy, I agree that the financial sector is a source of instability (present company excluded), but I think with strong enough communitarian pressure it can be contained. Something like Japan, or Singapore. But it’s still an oligarchy. But I guess the lack of democratic feedback mechanism in the US was your point in the first place; so yeah.

126

CharleyCarp 10.27.10 at 9:56 pm

Norwegian Guy, I don’t know who thought in the wake of the 2008 elections that Republicans would fare yet worse in 2010 but they must have been assuming some kind of historic anomaly. Like a booming economy, or a war or something.

it would be nice if the general impression of the 2008 election was the rejection of conservatism. Conservatives have been howling that it wasn’t, and tea partiers claim ad nauseum to have been just as upset about Bush era spending (they just didn’t tell anyone, or, you know, think they needed to ‘take back’ the country). The corporate media is essentially conservative, and employs a bunch of columnists who like this line. So, there we are.

Democrats did well in 1982, but not because they embraced liberalism. I’d say, off the top of my head, that it was like 2010 in that hard economic times and low turnout from the formerly winning coalition made a big difference. What was different is that Dems avoided any hint of radicalism.

127

sg 10.28.10 at 12:14 am

I thought about the chess problem and did a bit of looking online, and it appears that chess is well defined in terms of “Boards” which are “a subset of [d]x[d]” (a finite lattice). So 0D chess would be a trivial non-event, occurring on a null board with no pieces.

I put a post on my blog summarizing what little I could find out about the maths, and I had some ideas about chess as a general Quantum Field Theory on a 3D space with finite geometry. Read it if you dare…

128

Jack Strocchi 10.28.10 at 12:19 am

dsquared @ #99 said:

I think ejh is right and Jack is wrong here – although a game of chess ends if the player whose turn it is has no legal moves to make, it doesn’t end in checkmate unless that player is also in check.

ejh’s response to my comment was little more than grunt and cock his head side-ways when peering at an unfamiliar object, which is not “right” in my book.

Okay, I should have said “already exhausted all their [legal] moves”. My bad, its a blog remember, so no copy editing.

A game of chess can end anytime one of the players wants it to end. Its perfectly acceptable for a chess-player to “preemptively declare check-mate” when he sees defeat coming with no hope of escape ie he concedes. That is, I think, the argument that Pr Q was trying to get across when he described Obama’s current political strategy “a series of pre-emptive capitulations”.

FTR, my best guess is that Obama will go for a compromise stalemate and the Tea Party will fold. Their base has too much to lose if access to the federal tit is cut off.

But I have to admit, the TP may have stumbled on Nixon’s “mad-man” negotiating strategy (credible threats of going ballistic), so anything is possible. And the mildly depressive Obama is not the kind of CO you want with your backs to the wall.

Whether this summary bears any relation to Pr Q’s “zero-dimensional chess” metaphor is anyones guess. I guess part of the pay-off compensating academics for their unfairly low remuneration is the right to crack these erudite and esoteric jokes so they can enjoy watching we jack-asses scratch our heads.

129

burritoboy 10.28.10 at 12:46 am

“Burritoboy, I agree that the financial sector is a source of instability (present company excluded), but I think with strong enough communitarian pressure it can be contained. Something like Japan, or Singapore.”

You do realize that Singapore is a monarchy in all but title? The son of the previous “Prime Minister” is now “Prime Minister”.

Japan’s postwar heyday is the type of plutocracy you can have while a nation is heavy into initial industrialization phase (i.e., there’s so many business opportunities the oligarchs don’t fight each other and there’s so many job opportunities the people don’t complain).

130

ejh 10.28.10 at 6:50 am

I’ts perfectly acceptable for a chess-player to “preemptively declare check-mate” when he sees defeat coming with no hope of escape ie he concedes.

But not when they are “stalemated”. Because that’s already a draw.

131

ogmb 10.28.10 at 12:05 pm

Salient @115: If we chopped up the 8×8 board and made it 1×64, all the rules could transfer over and chess could still be played, but the game rules would be incoherent to most humans

“Coherence to humans” has nothing to do with it. If you express chess as a constrained optimization problem in the N-dimensional space under a given set of states and transition rules, and determine N as the integer that minimizes the computational complexity of the problem, you’ll end up with N=2. Saying that an N-dimensional problem can be transformed into an N+1 or N−1-dimensional problem at some cost doesn’t make it a non-N-dimensional problem.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.28.10 at 12:30 pm

This piece by Chris Hedges seems relevant.

@129, if you don’t like Japan, what about, say, the Scandinavian states? It would be silly to pretend that their model is some egalitarian paradise; it’s the same plutocratic model, only better balanced. Do you think they, in the foreseeable future, are heading for the gutter as well?

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Salient 10.28.10 at 1:01 pm

If you express chess as a constrained optimization problem in the N-dimensional space under a given set of states and transition rules, and determine N as the integer that minimizes the computational complexity of the problem, you’ll end up with N=2.

I don’t think that’s a true statement, or at least, I’d like to see a proof. What’s the operational definition of ‘computational complexity’ here? How does the 8×8 model necessarily reduce the computational complexity, relative to a 1×64 model or a 4x4x4 model? I’d like to see a rigorous derivation of that result.

Saying that an N-dimensional problem can be transformed into an N+1 or N−1-dimensional problem at some cost doesn’t make it a non-N-dimensional problem.

I think this is wrong, but it might be a difference of vocabulary, and this problem is far outside what I normally look at. To me, saying a structure is N-dimensional means it can’t be morphed (by isomorphism or diffeomorphism or whatever morphism applies in context) into an equivalent structure of lower dimension. On the other hand, maybe discrete folks use the word “dimension” in fundamentally different ways from how analysis folks use the word, and maybe there’s some structure to the rules of chess that really is modeled more computationally efficiently in two dimensions. I’ll ask around today.

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Anderson 10.28.10 at 2:19 pm

Obama has gotten around to noticing the filibuster problem. You can’t slip anything by him, can you?

Jon Cohn, a solid member of the Stop-Hatin-Obama-You-Silly-Lefties front, comments:

Obama’s frustration with the filibuster isn’t news. But Obama’s emphasis on it is, I think. Over the last two years, administration officials complained constantly about how the need to find 60 votes in the Senate was stalling and, in some cases, thwarting their agenda. But ending, or even curbing, the filibuster never became a major priority, at least as far as I know. You didn’t hear Obama calling out Congress to allow majority rule; you didn’t hear about him pushing privately to change the rules.

If he had done those things, he might have been able to enact a bolder agenda–or, at least, enact the same agenda more quickly and painlessly. It’s one area, I think, where the left’s criticism of the administration has a lot of merit.

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Guido Nius 10.28.10 at 3:10 pm

On the other hand, if he had done those things he might have gotten nowhere. That is a good reason why criticism of somebody’s judgment is good & helpful and criticizing intentions – for no other reason than disagreeing with the judgment – is something for cavemen and modern internet equivalents thereof (as was mentioned upthread).

Who knows how it would have went? I certainly would have counseled him to wait for a clear 65 seat majority before he tackled that (and even then: living as I do in a federal country in tension I count ourselves lucky to have a more complex system than simple majority rule).

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Tim Wilkinson 10.28.10 at 3:46 pm

[right, well last night I found I had typed the following before stopping myself on the grounds I didn't really know what I was talking about. But as almost always in such cases, it turns out (I think) I was wrong about that. Philosophical acumen rules!

And it was still sitting here in the tab this afternoon, so here is a big slab of stream-of consciousness about what maths must be like if only I knew any:]

Salient @115 – Well, I was thinking chess must be at least dimension 1 rather than dimension 0 – i.e. on the assumption that whatever we are talking about can be called dimensionality. FWIW, the cardinality of the set is not the thing, but the ordering. It’s not that you can embed chess into one, or two, or three dimensions, but that if you are going to get into the rather unprofitable business of embedding chess in dimensions at all, you can’t (if in fact you can’t ) embed it in less.

I suppose the way this would be understood would be by one of those rare applications of Occam’s razor that is not obviously stupid (i.e. is a proper application of it). In mathematical ontology, even more than in philosophical ontology and certainly more than in fundamental physics, a principle of parsimony might be taken as a guide to reality (or ‘reality’) . So, I boldly conjecture, there is no more economical set of mathematical procedures for generating games of chess (which can generate any actually possible game and no actually impossible one) than a direct translation (ahem) of the rules of chess as we know them into their (ahem) most economical mathematical form.

I mean, the basic formula for moving a bishop (including no move) on a 2d matrix (chess board) would be delta-x = delta-y (plus staying on the board). What would it be if all the ranks (or the files, or one set of parallel diagonals) were laid end-to-end (or if the squares were jumbled even more than that)? I certainly don’t think anyone would want to play it. Actually, for ranks laid end-to-end, it would be (delta-x = n +- 8n (and staying on the board), or something, but what about the horse? The castle would be (delta-x mod 8 = 0, and staying on the board) OR (staying within what we 2-d players would call the same rank)…Now how about if the board were cut into quadrants and they were stacked on top of each other, neatly making a cube? How would a rook move? In 2d, it’s delta-x*delta-y = 0. In this 3d nightmare? (Actually, you make this point, but put it in terms only of intuitive meaningfulness – I’m suggesting that – as a result of the fixed fact that chess was anthropocentrically developed in the way it was, objective simplicity may make something very close to the rules of chess the salient – canonical, fundamental, real – way of describing the game. (Determining objective simplicity has its problems of course, but possibly not insuperable ones.)

If this conjecture is correct, then chess has dimensionality (in some appropriate sense, which I will not supply!) above 1. This result can’t be evaded by hiving off an arbitrary amount of info onto the operations rather than depicting it in the states of the board, as is done if a 1-d array of squares is depicted instead of a matrix – information about the relative positions is lost from board-state and has to be supplied in more complex rules). As an aside, if you do want to take that tack, then you could just have a single symbol for each possible state of the board (or tuple of {possible state of the board, next mover, winner}) and a tree-like structure relating them. Or why not represent each possible game by a symbol, and have a simple rule that says ‘pick one’? (Or, if you don’t mind losing info, just represent that disjunction (=the game of chess) by one symbol. Or no symbol.)

No, no, I say. We must have Humean chess, with no sneaky rules smuggled out into some transcendent ‘operation’ space. And such Humean chess is (on the sense of ‘dimensional’ that I haven’t even made up) 4-dimensional, since it is 1. the set of all games, each of which is 2. a succession of states of the board, each of those states being 3. a set of positions of pieces, and each position being 4. a pair of coordinates. Or something.

& @123: the lowest conceivable dimension Surely we can make, er, space for dimensions below 0? Some kind of hypo-point? I bet someone somewhere can define such a thing. I mean the units of measurement are there for the taking: … cubic metres; square metres; metres; cancelled-out metres, or lengthless units (I would try and get you to agree you are committed to this one being conceivable); reciprocal metres; reciprocal square-metres… Much depends on what you mean by ‘conceivable’. I think the above may get us to conceivably conceivble.

Chess 1. The specification in a rule provided that the move producing this position was legal or mention of legal moves seems pretty odd; redundant anyway. I mean if it’s not legal it’s not a move is it. It’s not like you have a penalty for false moves or anything – there’s no wide or no-ball. If you’re going to start adding that kind of qualification, where do you end?

‘Save only that it may not leave or expose its own king to being in check blah blah, a bishop may move through blah, provided that it hasn’t just been constructed by putting a hat on a pawn, and none of the pieces have been moved around nor the board extended, nor some of the pieces painted a different colour… Redundancy is not a logical sin, but if some principle of interpretation imposes a presumption of nonredundancy, it may open a whole can of unintended worms.

Chess 2. It’s mildly interesting that no distinction is made between stalemate in which a player is pinned down and unable to move, and the game being stalemated in a way that in principle involves determining every possible outcome. If the rules allowed a final move of taking the king, rather than stopping just short with ‘checkmate’, many (all?) of the former and none of the latter would end with a clear winner. That would also mean allowing moves into check I suppose, which would not make much difference, since a loss by moving into check would amount to conceding the game (unless the other player weren’t trying to win).

Chess 3. Since a stalemate occurs when it’s not possible for either player to force a win, it’s possible that some apparently conceded games might in fact have been drawn before the supposed concession, possibly under some freakish circumstances when there are a good few pieces on the board. Someone must check this.

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Norwegian Guy 10.28.10 at 3:54 pm

CharleyCarp, I remember reading quite a lot on Fivethirtyeight.com in late 2008 and early 2009 about the prospects for the midterm elections. About how the Democrats were likely to gain several senators, while perhaps not improving that much in the House. The setup for the 2010 elections were supposed to be favorable to the Democrats, since there were lot of Republican sentators who had been elected in 2004 up for reelection, expectations of several retiring Republicans etc. It was probably a result of extrapolating the levels of support at the time into the future, and thinking that the Republicans had screwed up so badly that they would never regain traction. And a dose of wishful thinking by Democratic sympathizers of course.

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John Quiggin 10.28.10 at 7:09 pm

Norwegian Guy, I shared those expectations. I assumed that Obama would spend the two years blaming the Repugs for the recession and running around the country doing stuff about unemployment. On that basis, even with limited results, I thought the Dems would surely gain votes.

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ejh 10.28.10 at 9:34 pm

Since a stalemate occurs when it’s not possible for either player to force a win, it’s possible that some apparently conceded games might in fact have been drawn before the supposed concession, possibly under some freakish circumstances when there are a good few pieces on the board. Someone must check this.

It’s not unknown for people to think they’ve been checkmated when they haven’t (I’ve actually seen this happen) and if, say, somebody were to resign under that impression, in a position where stalemate had occurred, then it’s most probable that the result would stand. (Of course they wouldn’t actually be resigning, they would be conceding that the game was over because as far as they were aware checkmate had already occurred. But they would be accepting and recording a given result, that being a win by the opponent.)

Oh, it does happen. Strictly speaking, it shouldn’t happen, because with the creation of a stalemate the game would have been already over and hence no resignation, or other end to the game other than an immediate draw, would be possible. But there’s various practical situations where illegalities can occur and not be noticed – the board set up wrong at the start, check having been delivered but not noticed and hence not acted upon, illegal castling occurring (for instance after a king has already moved) and all sorts of other illegal moves, and so on. And if these are not noticed and a result therefore obtained and recorded which should not have stood, that error can’t normally be reversed later.

They’re practical situations which stand partially outside the normal laws of chess but for which other laws (not relating to the actual making of moves, but to the establishment of results) do exist and occasionally need to be interpreted and implemented.

A good source for the sort of problems and anomalies which occur in practice and need to be addressed is Geurt Van Gijssen’s monthly column An Arbiter’s Notebook on the Chess Café website.

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ejh 10.28.10 at 9:42 pm

Whoops. “Oh it does happen” should have been inserted at the start of the paragraph before the one where it actually appeared. Never mind.

I should perhaps add that while it’s theoretically possible to concede the game while in a position of stalemate, that’s only possible if the stalemate goes unrecognised. It’s not possible to recognise that stalemate is present and yet to resign in anticipation of a future checkmate, because stalemate is a position where no further moves are possible. Neither those delivering checkmate nor any other kind. Which is why #89 was a nonsense.

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sg 10.28.10 at 10:14 pm

Tim, the maths of chess explicitly requires it be 2-D, in a mathematical space called a Board that is a subset of (and usually congruent with, I think) a [d]x[d] finite geometry (or graph?). It uses graph theory to describe the moves, and pieces are called Leapers or Hoppers. Leapers are described as you did, in terms of two coordinates for their move (knights are (1,2) for example).

There could be an equivalent 1-d game, but it wouldn’t be the same game because the set of possible Hamilton Cycles (?) for the pieces and indeed the sets of pieces wouldn’t be the same (one assumes there could only be [d] pieces at most). In 0-D chess there would be at most 1 piece and no moves, so it’s the null set – though maybe the null set for 2-D chess is actually an empty board…

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Salient 10.29.10 at 9:09 pm

Tim, the maths of chess explicitly requires it be 2-D

I think this is overstated. For one thing, to say “the maths of chess” is to elide a more general true statement — there are multiple mathematical models which encode information about the game state of chess and its possible propagation. That one model in particular is interesting to combinatorialists, and easily available for reading on the Internet, does not imply that there is a unique “maths of chess” which must be used in order to model chess.

For another: Okay, I guess you could think of the graph-theory model of chess as constructed on a particular subset of Z x Z or some particular set indexed by Z x Z, though there’s no reason the points need to have that arrangement, except for making models coherent to humans and easier for us to describe. (Nothing wrong with ease of use, but it’s not inherent to the maths.)

You can certainly think of Z x Z as a “two-dimensional” Abelian group, it has two linearly independent generators; but that group structure (and the associated notion of dimension) is entirely irrelevant to finite subsets, like the chess board. (They wouldn’t be closed under the operation/action of addition.) More importantly, there is no group structure inherent in chess (no notion of adding, or of an action on the pieces that would conform to the rules of addition, if you prefer).

On the other hand, we could define a graph’s dimension according to the kind of shapes we can make by connecting adjacent vertices, I guess. In this case, chess would be three-dimensional, because knights cause weird adjacency patterns that produce a three-dimensional structure,^1^ or two-dimensional with ad-hoc accommodation for knights by a special rule. So for example, the five-point set \{ (1,1), (2,1), (1,2), (2,2), (2,3) \} with all its edges, would constitute a 3d set. This is because (2,3) is adjacent to (1,1); without knights, I think we’d have a clean 2d model.

Perhaps this numerical value ought to be called a graph’s dimension. It depends on what we want that word to mean. If we want to embed the points in R^n and draw the adjacent edges so that none of them touch, the minimum n for which we can do this could be called the ‘dimension’ of the graph.

There could be an equivalent 1-d game, but it wouldn’t be the same game

This must be some new definition of “equivalent” with which I’m not familiar. :)

the set of possible Hamilton Cycles (?) for the pieces and indeed the sets of pieces wouldn’t be the same

Actually yes, these would be the same, in the sense of being identical up to relabeling. The cycles would just be described differently, and those new descriptions of permissible propagation iterations would be less intuitive to human players. You’re perhaps thinking of this in a group-theoretic context. However, a board is not a group, and modular arithmetic doesn’t make sense in chess; you can’t move off one edge of the board and onto the opposite edge.

Presumably 0D chess occurs on the “null” board ([0]x[0])

There is no reason to presume this instead (for example, why not [1]x[1]?) and it’s not clear what you mean by a [0]x[0] board. I certainly don’t know what a [0]x[1] board would look like, so writing [0]x[n] in general seems problematic. You could say that [0]x[0] is the empty set, but then, why not just assert that presumably 0D chess must occur on the empty set? The board notation’s irrelevant.

I assume that a [0]x[0] board does not have even one point

Furthermore, this assumption doesn’t make sense to me. Are you suggesting that an isolated point ought to be assigned a dimension greater than zero?

I think you can model chess as a general field theory on a three dimensional space of finite size

This is imaginative, and I like the idea in principle, but doesn’t it ignore the fact that people make choices in chess, so movement is not deterministic or even probabilistic unless we assume the players play according to some deterministic/probabilistic algorithm?

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ScentOfViolets 10.29.10 at 9:32 pm

Salient @115 – Well, I was thinking chess must be at least dimension 1 rather than dimension 0 – i.e. on the assumption that whatever we are talking about can be called dimensionality. FWIW, the cardinality of the set is not the thing, but the ordering. It’s not that you can embed chess into one, or two, or three dimensions, but that if you are going to get into the rather unprofitable business of embedding chess in dimensions at all, you can’t (if in fact you can’t ) embed it in less.

I dunno about that (I guess that depends on what you mean by dimension as well – I can think of at least four different definitions off the top of my head, like the Krull dimension.) Um, try this: you’ve got 32 black pieces, 32 white pieces, and 64 squares. so the 32 black pieces get the first 32 prime numbers, the 32 white pieces get the second 32 prime numbers, and the 64 squares get the next 64 prime numbers. Now you can encode the positions of all the pieces at any one time with just one number, and the play is the transition from one of these numbers to another. In fact can write the entire game as just one number using a similar coding scheme.

Iow, dimension isn’t necessary to the game. Any more than space-time has to “really” be four-dimensional.

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Jack Strocchi 10.29.10 at 11:03 pm

John Quiggin @ #138 said:

Norwegian Guy, I shared those expectations. I assumed that Obama would spend the two years blaming the Repugs for the recession and running around the country doing stuff about unemployment. On that basis, even with limited results, I thought the Dems would surely gain votes.GFC

Yup, I thought along those lines, but I was wrong. Hereunder a review of my mixed bag of US politico-economic predictions made 2008-09.

Through most of 2009-10 I predicted that the DEMs would lose a bit of their House majority, not become the minority party. The Tea Party and defection of independents to REPs has made a mockery of my amateur psephology.

In late 2008 I predicted that Obama’s first term would be “janitorial”, rather than “messianic”, fixing up Bush’s messes. I also assumed that his electoral base (young people, Hispanics, Blacks) would not be so fickle.

In NOV 2008 I did make a point of referring to the US’s significant “right-wing ballast” as a counter-weight to loose talk of a “national re-alignment”, REPs being reduced to “regional party confined to South”, “emerging DEM majority”. So I expected a right-wing reaction, but nothing as momentous as the Tea Party.

From about mid-2009 onwards I figured that Obama admin had gotten on top of the financial side of the GFC through TARP. I thought the “bear market rally” would “last for a while”, long enough to get the DEMs over the line in 2010. So my best guess was that the US would not suffer a long depression, more likely a slow, halting climb out of recession

So on 29 MAR 2010 I predicted that in the congressional mid-terms Obama would lose a few seats but “retain control” of both houses. Losing a few seats in the House seemed most likely outcome, given that the first term Presidents party usually takes a small haircut in the first up election.

I predict that the DEMs will retain control of Congress in the 2010 mid-term elections, although they will no doubt lose a few seats in both houses.

From MAR 2010 onwards I predicted that the Tea Party was a “flash in the pan”, “over-rated”, “more smoke than fire”, would “burn out soon”. Their staying power is amazing considering complete absence of coherent policy, flakey candidates etc.

Although I am not sure if the TP is what is driving the major anti-DEM swing in the polls. There appears to be a large swing amongst moderates (independents etc) against the DEMs. If so this is most likely just a standard electoral reaction to “jobless recovery” of the kind that hit the DEMs hard in 1994.

Which really means that Obama-DEMs have no one to blame but themselves for their electoral pickle. They piked the stimulus package, should have gone in hard and fast for a mega-stimulus like the PRC. Then they would be sitting pretty, both economically and electorally.

Moral of the Story: Bi-partisan compromises with REPs is a one-way street and losing proposition.

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Seth 10.30.10 at 12:15 am

Zero-dimensional chess is an ironic reference to the “eleven dimensional chess” cliche used to satire the elaborate rationalizations of die-hard Obama fans.

Eg. “sure Obama seems to have conceded the entire game to Republicans, but you see he’s actually got them exactly where he wants them because … blah, blah, blah … . ” To which the ironic response would be: “right, eleven dimensional chess again”

I’m puzzled by the number of people on this thread who seemed to completely miss the allusion. I guess this is sort of hard to google because you have to start with the information that searching on “eleven dimensional” will yield the answer to something about “zero dimensional”. Or maybe everyone else is engaging in some new level of (eleven dimensional?) irony which I’m too Aspy to follow …

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Seth 10.30.10 at 12:24 am

@Jack #144
“Moral of the Story: Bi-partisan compromises with REPs is a one-way street and losing proposition.”

Dick Armey put it more succinctly: “Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”

As a former House Majority Leader for the Republicans, and current boss at the Orwellian “FreedomWorks” which puts the astroturf into the Tea Party, he knows *exactly* what he is talking about.

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Zebbidie 10.30.10 at 3:24 am

If it can’t be done on a calculator, it’s not mathematics, it’s demonology.

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Tim Silverman 10.30.10 at 2:18 pm

@Salient: with, I believe, the sole exception of castling, all the allowed moves of chess are invariant under translations in 2 dimensions, subject to the proviso that pieces can’t go off the end of the board. Several classes of moves are also invariant under some of the rotational symmetries associate with the square lattice. The obvious model is precisely a chess board, which is manifestly 2-dimensional. (E.g. the adjacency graph of the squares is planar.)

I don’t see why it should be relevant that the moves can be encoded in various ways. Theorems and proofs of Euclidean plane geometry are usually encoded using 1-dimensional strings of words and symbols, but it doesn’t follow that the Euclidean plane is 1-dimensional.

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Cryptic Ned 10.30.10 at 4:52 pm

From MAR 2010 onwards I predicted that the Tea Party was a “flash in the pan”, “over-rated”, “more smoke than fire”, would “burn out soon”. Their staying power is amazing considering complete absence of coherent policy, flakey candidates etc.

money
fear

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Salient 10.30.10 at 4:54 pm

Theorems and proofs of Euclidean plane geometry are usually encoded using 1-dimensional strings of words and symbols

…No they’re not, in the sense I meant the word encode, unless you mean to say something like ‘most theorems in Euclidean plane geometry involve interactions between one-dimensional objects.’ If you’re saying that (x, y) is one-dimensional because it’s written left to right, this is confusing the encoding of a structure of a set with the symbols we put on the page to denote that encoding. Probably we’re using the verb ‘encode’ in different ways, maybe ‘represent’ is better.

Still, your point about general translational invariance is good, and I appreciate it — it’s better to think about what would be true if no boundary existed, in order to get a handle on dimension, and then introduce boundary. So the (translation) action of Z^2^ is an important feature, which would get lost or mangled in a non-2d model. There are a few exceptions you didn’t mention — en passant and being able to move a pawn two sqaures from its initial position — but those quirks are just exceptional distractions from the general rule of translational invariance. Which verifies that the natural space to work on is a finite dimensional subset of Z^2^ and gives a solid argument for the importance/meaningfulness of assigning that dimension to chess. (As you implied, non-pawn movement is invariant under rotation, but I’m not sold on requiring a rotationally invariant model, just because the rules for pawn movement are such an integral game component, no pun intended. But that invariance is not essential to your point.)

Someone reminded me that it’s possible to map R^2^ to R bijectively by interlacing the digits of the numbers x and y, which is further reminder that invariances are more important to a meaningful notion of dimension than I’d recalled. I’ll accept checkmate on this one; chess is most appropriately assigned a dimension of 2.

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Barry 11.01.10 at 1:33 pm

John Q, **please** delete all of these stupid math comments – the leve Asperger’s syndrome if painfully high. It’s like ‘Big Bang Theory’, without being funny.

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Tim Wilkinson 11.01.10 at 1:59 pm

Yes, when you’re out and about enjoying the social whirl it’s important to know that CT comments threads are kept neat and pure and on topic, with none of this messy and distracting interlacing of separate threads. It’s like having insects crawling all over you. Delete them!

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Anderson 11.01.10 at 2:13 pm

If it can’t be done on a calculator, it’s not mathematics, it’s demonology.

Charlie Stross suggests there’s really no distinction there.

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Salient 11.01.10 at 2:40 pm

the leve Asperger’s syndrome if painfully high

This statement makes no sense, but kudos to you for reviving a thread that had lain dormant for nearly 48 hours in order to complain about the activity there.

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Barry 11.01.10 at 2:52 pm

Level, obviously.

Tim, I’m well aware of the diversity of comments on the internet; what was bugging me – well, if you have to ask, you won’t understand.

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Walt 11.01.10 at 3:00 pm

Barry, your two comments make you sound like an insane person. I just thought you would like to know.

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Tim Wilkinson 11.01.10 at 3:04 pm

John, could you delete #155 please, when you have a moment?

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Salient 11.01.10 at 4:03 pm

I for one think JQ should delete the whole thread, so as to make it zero-dimensional. :P

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Barry 11.01.10 at 6:04 pm

Wow, I stepped on some people’s bunions.

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