by Kieran Healy on July 16, 2012

Or, Greedo shot first



Lee A. Arnold 07.16.12 at 1:56 am

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” Yossarian observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.


e julius drivingstorm 07.16.12 at 3:35 am

I’ve just not-so-suddenly become aware of Yossarian’s law.

But is this a Romney thread?


js. 07.16.12 at 5:30 am

May I admit to being baffled?


Lee A. Arnold 07.16.12 at 5:35 am

Catch-22: “You can only become President if you release your tax returns. But if you release your tax returns…”

Sorry I didn’t mean to derail the thread at its inception. Perhaps Forbes magazine is more to the point?

Forbes! Do you get the feeling that the Republicans have decided to find another candidate?


David J. Littleboy 07.16.12 at 6:25 am

I’m sure Ron Paul would be happy to take over the candidacy…


e julius drivingstorm 07.16.12 at 7:08 am


Forbes! Do you get the feeling that the Rebublicans have decided to find another candidate?

No. I get the feeling that Forbes is trying to make this issue the main frame of the political debate as opposed to every other wrongheaded Republican party stance. In their view, if Mitt can satisfy these questions (your link) with plausible answers, and they will be plausible thanks to the right wing Wurlitzer, then the electorate won’t have to concern themselves with whether or not there is a plausible brand of Republican party morality.


ChrisTS 07.16.12 at 8:16 am

@js #3: I hope so, because I really do not get it.

Vis a vis the ‘why don’t more women comment here’ thread: maybe we don’t get the allusions?


Walt 07.16.12 at 8:21 am

Forbes is trying to get Romney to stop fucking up so publicly. If the campaign moves to murkier issues of public policy, then Romney has a decent chance to win. If the campaign continues to be about destroying American jobs and smuggling the proceeds out of the country into a shady off-share tax haven, then Romney is doomed. The right-wing Wurlizer is pretty good, but the Republicans have a less than 100% success rate in elections, so clearly external events can still matter.


Tim Worstall 07.16.12 at 8:35 am

@4 and @6. Just a little note about that piece at Forbes.

This is not a staff piece from Forbes. It is not part of the editorial line. It hasn’t been edited by Forbes staff, commissioned by them, checked for a party line nor even subbed by them.

I know this distinction as I also write on the same terms for Forbes online. Once you’ve been accepted as a freelance there (and views don’t particularly come into it) then what you write about and your views on what you write about are subject only to the usual libel etc laws. Plus one or two other minor ones (they don’t like anyone writing about new billionaires as the list of the rich is a key Forbes product as an example).

The individual who wrote this piece might well have an agenda: I’ve no idea at all. But whatever that agenda might be it’s nothing to do with the Forbes editorial line.

Of course, it could be that Forbes are paying me and many others substantial sums just to astroturf so that pieces like this can be slipped through as part of the editorial line: but given the sums involved I really do rather doubt that.


Katherine 07.16.12 at 8:36 am

Breaking out of an asylum with a cyborg from the future (who previously tried to kill you) is the only way you’re going to get a pension? Argh! (Worked for James Cameron though).

Following the precepts of Schwarzenomics (which previously tried to kill you) is the only way to break out of the workforce at a reasonable age? Double argh!


bexley 07.16.12 at 10:10 am

@3 and 7

Maybe I’m stating the obvious but isn’t it a reference to Mitt Romney “retiring retroactively”?

One of Mitt’s spokesmen said that Romney retired with effect from 1999 in 2002 (and therefore doesn’t bear responsibility for any outsourcing at Bain owned companies that happened after 1999). An impressive piece of time travel.


sanbikinoraion 07.16.12 at 10:12 am

For those who don’t get the original reference (like I didn’t), this might help.


Walt 07.16.12 at 10:20 am

sanbikinoraion, I’m guessing that is not, in fact, the original reference, but rather a blatant attempt to change the subject.


Barry Freed 07.16.12 at 11:00 am

Bexley has at right at #11


Barry Freed 07.16.12 at 11:02 am

I mean has “it” right. Argh (and in typing that correction I almost wrote “I meat has ‘it’ right” must have coffee before commenting.


andrew 07.16.12 at 11:37 am

I thought the original reference was going to link to the first Terminator film.


P O'Neill 07.16.12 at 11:49 am

Mitt will retroactively find room for Seamus the Irish setter inside the car.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 12:25 pm

Truth is, Romney is a progressive, he’s said so himself. The GOP has forced him into these ridiculous positions: if Romney doesn’t fit into their Bed of Procrustes, tant pis, Romney should push back against them.If he’s now retroactively retiring from Bain Capital, he’s become a St. Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas, denying he ever knew his master to the servant girl.

Advocatus diaboli: Romney at Bain & Company, then later at Bain Capital, worked on behalf of his investors. He applied the principles of those times: the supremacy of the stockholder, all the stuff Milton Friedman was teaching at the time. So Romney made money and sent jobs overseas. Who didn’t, in the 1980s? Romney was simply better at it.

Not many people remember that Romney took another leave of absence from Bain Capital, returning as CEO of a very screwed-up Bain & Company. The partners had been squabbling, done an ESOP to delineate profits. But Bain & Company was bloated and inefficient. Romney saddled up some 70-odd partners with all the corporate debt and took advantage of a situation with one of their lenders, the Bank of New England, to get about ten million dollars worth of loan forgiveness. Romney, it seems, wasn’t above getting a bailout of sorts for his own. That said, Romney did turn Bain & Company around and went back to Bain Capital.

Romney’s entire campaign has been one long Retroactive Retirement from Reality. Why should Romney allow himself to get wrapped around the axle of this issue? Why should he be forced to repudiate his own track record of profits and what seems to be a fairly decent stint as a Republican governor of a fairly-Democratic state? Romneycare… excuse me, isn’t this a market-oriented solution, the sort once promulgated by the Conservatives of the Clinton era? Why is Romney now repudiating the most significant legislation of any state governor in recent decades?

Pull the labels off Romney, examine him on the basis of his deeds, this man cannot be called a conservative by any definition. What insane power lurks within the halls of power in the GOP, that Mitt Romney, the delegate presumptive, now stands outside doing penance in the snow like Henry at Canossa?


David J. Littleboy 07.16.12 at 12:47 pm

“Why is Romney now repudiating the most significant legislation of any state governor in recent decades?

Pull the labels off Romney, examine him on the basis of his deeds, this man cannot be called a conservative by any definition.”

Interesting juxtaposition there. The problem is, I think, that Romney can’t be called anything. He didn’t care about Romneycare; he just thought that if he did it he’d get Brownie points (actually, talking points to insulate himself from left-wing complaints) for it. He has no soul whatsoever. There’s an article* at HP on his death penalty law attempt. He didn’t care that it was so full of counterchecks that it’d be impossible to actually execute anyone under it (the right-wing complaint), he just wanted (right-wing) Brownie points for passing a death penalty law. He’s the ultimate technocrat, in the very worst sense of the word.



Katherine 07.16.12 at 12:49 pm

Truth is, Romney is a progressive, he’s said so himself.

Forgive me, like a few others I’ve been having trouble with my on-line sarcasm detector recently, so I honestly can’t tell – you are joking, right?


politicalfootball 07.16.12 at 12:52 pm

These pissing contests are all about framing, and while there is some framing here that is unfavorable to Romney, I’m interested in two bits of framing that work in his favor. Because of the limited nature of the disclosure, news reports have him making “at least $100,000” at Bain during the three years in question. Why not say “up to $1 million,” or whatever the upper limit of the disclosure category was? I’d bet that the real figure is closer to $1 million than $100,000. (I believe an important tax kicks in around $1 million, so many execs – even ones who earn many millions – are only paid $1 million in salary.)

Another question: Why is it being framed as “at least $100,ooo, not including investment income”? Investment income is one of the real scams here, since it’s not taxed the same as earned income. And even if we’re going to believe that Romney wasn’t participating in Bain’s management decisions, surely he can’t deny having profited from those decisions.


politicalfootball 07.16.12 at 12:56 pm

As to the original post, I propose an alternative movie photo with this caption: “Retirement? Where we’re going, we don’t need retirement!”


understudy 07.16.12 at 1:05 pm

The real laugh I have about the democrats attacking private equity and the supposed off-shoring, out-sourcing of jobs, companies, etc. is who invests in private equity – state and local pension funds. At one point government pension plans were 40% of private equity investors, I’m not sure what it is today. When we had the GM bailout, we had to have democrats defend Steve Rattner’s private equity business as being “good” private equity, now attacking Romney’s private equity as “abd” when I can tell them apart …


Kukai 07.16.12 at 1:14 pm

@David J. Littleboy : I remember that death penalty episode. It’s standard policy these days, when rendering lip service to a given issue, to establish some blue ribbon commission then studiously ignore its conclusions.

We must think back to those days in 2005, before 2007 and 2008, when Romney would earn his epithet “Flip Flop”. For even in those days, Romney was thinking about a run for the Oval Office. As we now know, McCain would eat Romney’s lunch and bring disaster upon the GOP, but not before bringing Sarah Palin into the spotlight.

There’s only so far an ideologue can push matters. Once elected, no man can remain an ideologue for long. Romney is a technocrat but an interesting variant on that theme. In his own GOP circles, Romney’s clearly the smartest guy in the room and he knows it. But being a political animal, he knows he can’t simply tell these ideological boors, “Do be quiet for a moment, I know how to get elected. You’re embarrassing me, the lot of you. Didn’t eight years of Bush43 teach you anything? When the Tea Parties chewed you to pieces in the last elections, didn’t you get the news? You’ve lost touch with the American conservatives. Obama got elected because he didn’t make too many dumb promises and held out the promise of change. Get a clue, guys. Let the grown-ups run the show here. Henceforward, I’ll be issuing the talking points and you, especially you, Grover Norquist, can STFU.”


mollymooly 07.16.12 at 1:16 pm

“Let Romney be Palin”


Barry 07.16.12 at 1:31 pm

tim: “This is not a staff piece from Forbes. It is not part of the editorial line. It hasn’t been edited by Forbes staff, commissioned by them, checked for a party line nor even subbed by them.”

OTOH, it’s a piece about their presidential candidate, late in the election season (i.e., when people are really paying attention).


Lee A. Arnold 07.16.12 at 1:34 pm

@23–One thing Romney hopes to avoid connection with is the steel company deal, which raided the pension fund and left the taxpayers to pick up the tab, to the tune of tens of millions.

The answer from the Romney camp is that he had already retired retroactively.

It would be interesting to know if pensions finance the raiding of other pensions.


Lee A. Arnold 07.16.12 at 1:35 pm

@9–What are the odds that Forbes is about to adjust its editorial policy?


MPAVictoria 07.16.12 at 1:35 pm

“Investment income is one of the real scams here, since it’s not taxed the same as earned income. And even if we’re going to believe that Romney wasn’t participating in Bain’s management decisions, surely he can’t deny having profited from those decisions.”

So much this! The man owned ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF THE COMPANY! Of course he is responsible for what it did even if he is telling the truth about his role from 1999 to 2002.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 1:50 pm

@Katherine: Romney actually said he was a progressive.

Moderate Republicans are a dying breed, if not entirely extinct, but Romney’s father was just such a moderate Republican. I have every reason to believe Romney’s sudden and retroactive conversion to what can only be described as rabid populism is bollox.

Romney’s become the creature of his handlers. At heart, I believe he’s a progressive, admittedly not the sort of progressive I want to see elected. Nonetheless, he has a track records as a reformer and innovator, especially at Bain & Company, where he went through that organisation like shit through a goose, pushing out his old mentor Bill Bain, knocking heads together and cleaning out that Stable of Augeas.

It may well be, as David J. Littleboy observes, that Romney is a soulless cipher. I believe Romney is the child of his father and the apple has not fallen far from the tree. If he has demeaned himself and prostrated himself before other gods, he would hardly be alone. The staggering sums of money required to win an election these days, especially the presidential election, have made whores of all our politicians.

That soulless cipher jape could also be applied to Barack Obama, whose presidency has been distinguished by a curious aloofness and incredible unwillingness to prosecute manifest crimes and malfeasance in the financial sector. Well, it’s election time again, the Straw Man factory is now on three full shifts. Soon enough, we will see a few cases brought, a villain or two will be pilloried. But within his own administration, Biden (the Senator from the Corporation State) and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will ensure the nation will continue along the unregulated path to fiscal destruction.


William Timberman 07.16.12 at 2:22 pm

Romney is not to be believed about anything, it seems to me, but Kukai is also right: President Obama is not a whit more plausible. Last election he was Martin Luther King, this election he’s Big Bill Haywood. Will somebody please pull the plug on this charade? Having to endure it is bad enough. Trying to figure out what it means invites madness.


Lee A. Arnold 07.16.12 at 2:35 pm

Kukai @30 — Mostly everyone in the U.S. electorate has already chosen sides. All this horseplay is about the undecided independents: the small sliver of voters that will likely decide the election. They don’t care about policy (or else they already would have decided). They already know that everyone has compromised to get ahead. They want to know if the guy is trustworthy and likeable. They will decide at the televised debate performance. Obama’s likeability ratings are already very high — even among people who also think the country is “moving in the wrong direction.” Chipping away at another’s high likeability ratings is very difficult, especially when he is already President. On the other hand, Romney’s personal likeability is in the toilet: he is a cold fish. The contrast in the opinion polls is stark. Romney’s political problem, in a total nutshell, is how you come across as trustworthy after taking so many self-contradictory stances, because he has had to play to such a far-right wing base. Bain is only the beginning of it.


js. 07.16.12 at 2:57 pm

bexley @11,

Cheers. That shouldn’t have been that hard.

Kukai: Whether Romney is a progressive “at heart” doen’t really matter, does it? (Leaving aside the fact that this seems rather implausible to me.) Is he going to veto wildly anti-progressive legislation passed by (what, if Romney win, will surely be a) Republican-controlled Congress? Is he going to nominate a progressive judge the next time there’s a Supreme Court vacancy? The questions answer themselves.


politicalfootball 07.16.12 at 3:01 pm

Romney actually said he was a progressive.

Well, that settles it then.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 3:26 pm

@js. It does matter. Campaigning is all poetry and song and torchlight parades and much bandying-about of High Ideals but actual governance is the dullest of prose and many long shifts in on grisly floor of the Bismarck Law and Sausage Factory.

It doesn’t matter what we believe. I am always darkly amused by all this talk of Plausibility. Are we so silly as to believe what these people say and ignore what they do? I voted for Barack Obama on the strength of his record as a state senator in Illinois, he represented my district. He volunteered to carry water from that old gorilla Emil Jones to the Republicans, who dominate the rural districts. At the time, the issue of police brutality and forced confessions was big news: Obama went to the Republicans in all these districts and came up with an admirable solution amenable to everyone: videotaping interrogations.

Obama had many friends among the Republicans of Illinois and still does. I thought Obama could do business with a Republican Congress. That the GOP gave him the stiff arm on every vote is beside the point: he had a track record of negotiating with his political opponents on behalf of his partisan leadership. Obama has done many good things for this nation: if the Congress refuses to deal with him, they will not deal with Romney any less harshly or lessen their demands for pounds of flesh, as did the Democrats to Obama, as in the infamous Cornhusker Kickback.

Many presidents have lived to rue the day they appointed a SCOTUS justice: Bush43 appointed Chief Justice Roberts and the GOP are not happy with his recent decisions of late. But if Romney appointed another Justice Roberts to SCOTUS, it would be a decided improvement on the likes of that ignoramus Clarence Thomas or that obtuse buffoon Scalia, whom Roberts has been obliged to admonish at oral argument.

@Lee A. Arnold

Has this nation been reduced to so many teenagers mooning over posters of movie stars? Our republic was engineered to bring forth compromise or stalemate. This campaign has little or nothing to do with wooing the independent voters; it is about rallying the faithful and demonising the heretics and schismatics. I suppose, to some folks, likeability matters a great deal more than demonstrated leadership and doing the nation’s business. To these I have but one response: the gods answer the prayers of the stupid, literally and immediately.

Romney’s untrustworthiness arises from his craven pilgrimage to Canossa. If memory serves, Henry’s capitulation to Gregory was short-lived: Gregory continued to connive with Henry’s enemies and Henry had his revenge in due course. If Henry walked to Canossa, Gregory was forced to flee from Rome. Henry’s first excommunication was taken seriously, his second was not. The GOP may get Romney elected. They will not like what they get, of that you may bet your life.


sanbikinoraion 07.16.12 at 3:27 pm

“I am a multimillionaire!”

Hmm, doesn’t seem to be working.

I apologize for my earlier link; the Arnie/Romney reference is rather opaque and considering there appears to be a pensions scandal in Arnie’s consituency, I thought that might be relevant.


Anarcissie 07.16.12 at 3:46 pm

Well, what does ‘progressive’ mean, anyway? No doubt Romney means to progress in some direction or other.


MPAVictoria 07.16.12 at 4:02 pm

Kukai your comments seem like more of the “they are all the same” BS that we have been hearing since 2000.


Katherine 07.16.12 at 4:03 pm

Romney actually said he was a progressive.

Bully for him. He’s also opposed to the current health care reform, and in favour of personhood amendments, so like Anarcissie said, I’m guessing the progress he’s campaigning for (oops sorry, forced into by the mean mean Republican Party who have bullied him into standing as their presidential candidate) is backwards.


joel hanes 07.16.12 at 4:24 pm

No person who makes hundreds of millions of dollars via leveraged buyouts of struggling companies, off-shoring jobs, bankrupting the company with excessive divident payouts to the new owners (themselves), and sticking the federal government with the defaulted pension obligations, is a progressive.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 4:36 pm

@MPAVictoria : that’s not my point at all. This is my point: Romney is attempting to run away from his own track record as an executive, both politically and professionally. Why does Romney feel these retractions and contortions and denials are necessary? For those of us whose opinions arise from what men do and not merely by what they say, Romney’s backtracking is baffling. Now Romney’s out in the minefield of lies and half-truths, denying what can be proven from the SEC filings, never a good place for a politician to be.

Romney’s not like the others. Tim Pawlenty, the great evangelical favourite, couldn’t round up a constituency and his followers are still out there. Among them is a strong anti-Mormon contingent. Nor are they much pleased by Romney’s erstwhile spokesman Richard Grenell, you know, the gay guy. Can’t have any of that if you want evangelical support, so Romney threw Grenell under the bus. The Tea Partiers are not Romney fans, either: Romney’s record in Massachusetts shows he’s a compromiser. Who’s left? The Old Guard of the GOP? He’s not their first choice. Romney’s desperately attempting to placate a deeply divided party.

@Katherine: if you believe Romney’s actually opposed to the current health care plan, I am not similarly convinced. Romney is reciting what the GOP curia wants to hear, qui ex patre filioque procedit. with some hard of hearing prelate yelling “repeat that filioque bit, I didn’t hear it, I still think you’re a heretic!”

qui locutus est per prophetas.


William Timberman 07.16.12 at 4:56 pm

Kukai, judging people on the basis of what they do, or more properly on the basis of what they’ve already done, can lead you as inerrantly into the swamp as any religious dogma. You’ve already said it yourself: you thought that President Obama could do a deal with the Republicans. So did almost everyone at the time who fancied himself a realist. If only the relationship between realism and reality were as straightforward as the pundits claim, we’d look as much like geniuses after the fact as we did before, and wouldn’t that be a hell of a world.


Lee A. Arnold 07.16.12 at 5:14 pm

Kukai #35: “This campaign has little or nothing to do with wooing the independent voters”

I hope you are in some other line of work than political campaign management! In fact the campaigns have very little else to do but worry about independents’ perceptions, and transporting their already committeds to the polls on election day.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 5:15 pm

@William Timberman: Given the choice between deeds and words, I will put my money on deeds every time. Obama has accomplished a great deal, the GOP’s intransigence notwithstanding. Obama’s political judo is better than his GOP opponents at every encounter and his recent SCOTUS win is a mighty triumph. The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was another victory over stupidity and bigotry.

I wouldn’t call myself a realist. The realists are a sorry lot, mostly Panglossian predictors of the past. I would like to think myself a judge of character, for the future cannot be predicted. Most people think themselves ever so original, their every thought so fine and new, agents of free will, the usual sophos-moros assertions about the human condition, long since disproved. The truth is, we are creatures of habit and predictable as clockwork. We are not guided by reason but by desires, fears, insecurities and vanity. Our every opinion is a confection of self-delusion and pride. The advertisers know all this, the politicians, too. Oh, every so often we surprise ourselves, but even in that surprise, it only comes in contrast to our predictability.

I’ll agree about about the incongruence about realism and reality. The reality I have laid out in the previous paragraph.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 5:17 pm

@Lee A. Arnold: the Independent Voter is as mythical as the Hippogriff.


ponce 07.16.12 at 5:28 pm

Poor Mitt.

Despite what all the glibertarian wingnuts tell us, he and the anonymous billionaires funding his flailing campaign are ashamed of how they acquired their wealth.

And with good reason.


William Timberman 07.16.12 at 6:03 pm

I don’t quarrel — much — with your perceptions, Kukai, but I think you’ve overcooked your inner Hobbes a bit in making of them what you’ve apparently made. Yes, President Obama has done some good, but he’s also done quite a bit of bad — and for much the same reasons, or, if you prefer, desires, fears, insecurities and vanities, all of which, by a sort of alchemical process none of us understands completely, govern his actions from moment to moment, as indeed they do for all our actions. And yes, I do think that reason is a part of that alchemy.

The Bismarckian butcher shop is hard on the people wielding the cleavers, perhaps, but it’s even harder on those who don’t, and whether the proprietors like it or not, they too will ultimately have some influence on the continuing process.

What this will add up to is, as you say, hard, perhaps impossible, to predict, but the elements of which it is composed are hardly hidden, nor are we wrong to look at them with a forgiving as well as a skeptical eye. If you read Gibbon, who seems to use a quite remarkable compression algorithm in his view of history despite the seemingly interminable six volumes, and you count up all the betrayals, not to mention all the bodies he recounts, you could be forgiven for thinking that the butcher shop is all there is, or evermore shall be. When I work with the people around me, though, and permit myself some insight into their character, I’m not so sure that the dark view is the superior one.


David W. 07.16.12 at 6:09 pm

Kukai @45, Jesse “The Governor” Ventura would beg to differ with you about the myth of independent voters.


Freshly Squeezed Cynic 07.16.12 at 6:15 pm

But if Romney appointed another Justice Roberts to SCOTUS, it would be a decided improvement on the likes of that ignoramus Clarence Thomas or that obtuse buffoon Scalia, whom Roberts has been obliged to admonish at oral argument.

Yes, but a Roberts replacing, say, Bader Ginsburg (79), Breyer (73), or Kennedy (75) is much more likely than a Roberts replacing Thomas (64), and that would not be a “decided improvement”. Scalia (76), perhaps, but the point remains that there are more liberal/moderate judges advancing in years than there are conservative ones.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 6:57 pm

@William Timberman: I’ll cop to the steam-table Hobbesian charge, seems fair enough. It’s a decided improvement on the charge of Bicameral Poxation to which I was responding. Everyone gets Hobbes wrong. All they remember is that Nasty, Brutish ‘n Short bit. He really was about good government based on the the rule of thumb of the fewest bribed, the more honest the government.

The great alchemical delusion was to believe in transmutation. The USA has a similar delusion in the transmuting power of the presidency. We seem to want some Moses to lead us out of bondage into the promised land. As such, the candidates all make absurd promises and emit feel-good nonsense by the bucketful. We can transmute elements now in particle accelerators, knocking a proton off here, adding one there, one atom at a time.

Does my view seem dark? I don’t think so. It’s always two steps forward, one step back in these things. Progress comes in fits and starts. Humanity continues to evolve, perhaps not as fast as the technology but we evolve nonetheless. But evolution is a response to pressure, usually a process of the slow and stupid being eaten by the fast and clever. Complaining about what goes on at the Bismarck Sausage Factory ought to be more than simplistic demands to shut it down. As fans of both sausage and good law, we ought to have strong enough stomachs to inspect what’s going on in there and demand an end to dodgy ingredients which get people killed.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 7:00 pm

@Freshly Squeezed Cynic: Based on their intemperate remarks and continued flirtations with politics, I believe Justices Scalia and Justice Thomas should be impeached. They surely won’t be missed.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 7:13 pm

@David W. : Seen this from Pew Research? There are no independents. Everyone’s taken sides who’s gonna take sides. These ads won’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced. Nobody’s campaigning on what he’s going to do for America, taking sides on big tough policy decisions. It’s trench warfare, a stalemate, the triumph of manufactured opinion generated at great expense.


William Timberman 07.16.12 at 7:22 pm

Kukai @ 5o
I was thinking of the without the terror of some power part, actually, and what flows from that. I was also thinking of Hamilton and his great beast, which is pretty clearly one of the things that flowed from it.

President Obama, it seems to me is a direct lineal descendant of this sort of thinking. Running a government is so damned hard that we’re just going to have to do it our way, and you folks out there should move along — there’s nothing to see here that you’d understand, and you don’t have access to the data, or the smarts to do anything with it anyway. You should just be glad that I’m not a moral monster like some people. Now, where did I put that kill list?

No, I don’t believe in transmutation, but I do believe that the foxes are in charge of the henhouse, and that differences of degree, while important to the political process, are also made too much of in a binary system like ours, where, over time, pretty much every member of the political classes marches to a very similar tune. (Think Gramsci or Marcuse rather than Hobbes.)


Katherine 07.16.12 at 7:54 pm

@Katherine: if you believe Romney’s actually opposed to the current health care plan, I am not similarly convinced.

Frankly, if I were a US voter I wouldn’t give a sh*t whether Romney is actually personally opposed to the current health care plan. What I’d care about is the fact that he is the presidential candidate – and campaigned to be so – of a party that is rabidly against the current health care plan, or in fact, any health care plan at all.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 8:23 pm

“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”
“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.
“On another planet?”
“Are there hunters on that planet?”
“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”
“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.

We can read almost any motive into a president’s actions. Obama does play his cards close to his vest. I don’t approve of much he does but I don’t have all the actionable intelligence either.

About the drone strikes and kill lists: I was in Nairobi when the embassy was bombed in 1998. I lost a team of six friends in the WTC bombing. I’m profoundly uncomfortable with a passive strategy. I’m biassed, I know it. I know American foreign policy has cuddled up to tyranny for many decades. In some ways, what we call terrorism is an entirely predictable consequence of those policies.

But all those niceties of warfare evolved from centuries of nonstop combat in Europe and the Crusades. Our enemies don’t observe any of the laws of land warfare. I don’t know what’s the right strategy here, how we might square it all up with any moral framework. War isn’t amenable to such thinking. The only honest criticisms of how war is waged arises from the pacifists. Everyone else is just making bad excuses.

The current divisions in the American political scene are mostly artificial, hot button issues which don’t matter in the larger scheme of things. We’re on the downhill slide after a few decades of artificial supremacy. Other regimes are rising in the world, not all of them to our liking. Meanwhile, we squabble over inconsequential nonsense like so many tiers of Byzantine catamites over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 8:31 pm

@Katherine: the GOP is only making a fuss about ACA because Obama proposed it. For all their grumbling, the GOP will do absolutely nothing to change it, mark my words. The biggest fans of ACA are the health insurance firms themselves. They like this legislation: it’s money in their pockets.

Don’t pay any attention to the barking and slavering from the GOP. They will do as they are told by their corporate pimps.


js. 07.16.12 at 8:38 pm

For all their grumbling, the GOP will do absolutely nothing to change it, mark my words.

Of course! Also, I guess I just dreamt the bit where a bunch of Republican AGs challenged a key part of the law as unconstitutional. I think the case was going somewhere, but I guess I woke up midway.

Basically, what Katherine said.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 8:45 pm

@js. Yes, yes. There was much of the same nonsense surrounding Medicare, back when it was established in 1965. Pay no attention to it. Now the GOP wouldn’t dare touch Medicare. The sleep of reason, etc.


JP Stormcrow 07.16.12 at 8:51 pm

Ah yes, the same GOP who are “not happy with his [John Roberts] recent decisions of late”.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 9:01 pm

@JP Stormcrow: el perro que ladra no muerde. The dog that barks won’t bite. The GOP is a toothless pack of dogs. Let them bark. They will do nothing of substance: they wouldn’t dare. Obama gave them the beating of their lives.

Now, they are a bit upset. They’re not very good losers. Their recent hissy fits and tantrums notwithstanding, the train has left the station and they’re the fat guys still running down the platform.


GiT 07.16.12 at 9:18 pm

“Seen this from Pew Research? There are no independents. Everyone’s taken sides who’s gonna take sides. These ads won’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced. Nobody’s campaigning on what he’s going to do for America, taking sides on big tough policy decisions. It’s trench warfare, a stalemate, the triumph of manufactured opinion generated at great expense.”

Did you see the study from Pew Research? Because it says that independents continue to grow, swing voters remain at over 20% of the population, and the percentage of self-identified moderates remains relatively stable (and high).


Keith Edwards 07.16.12 at 10:02 pm

Romney is no progressive. That would require him to believe in a cause greater then his own personal advancement. For a brief stint, a few years ago, Romney’s overreaching self aggrandizement caused him to swerve in a liberalish direction, just like it has dragged him careening to the Right in recent years. He’s still a 21st century Moderate Republican, which means you have to peek at the barometer in order to tell what he believes in at the moment. Trying to reconcile how he could simultaneously write the template for Obomacare and be against its implementation on a national level is how he ends up doing these phenomenal loop de loops of language and logic, like retroactively retiring form a company he owned entirely.

It’s like he climbed into the passenger’s seat after driving the car off the cliff, so that when CSI shows up to examine the mangled scene, it looks like he was just along for the ride and thus, blameless. That sort of grasping for purity of intent may work back home in the Tabernacle, where everything is fine and dandy so long as you keep the magic underwear clean, but in the real world, it implies that no one was driving that car. And that is exactly who looks out from behind Romney’s eyes when he says shit like this: No one.


Kukai 07.16.12 at 11:58 pm

Please. Progressives aren’t saints. Progressives are reformers. Romney got health care legislation passed in Massachusetts. Nation sits up and comments for a while. Obama fights like hell and gets a very similar piece of legislation, very big deal. Big reform in both cases.

For Democrats, Obamacare was a very big deal. For Republicans, Romneycare at the time was an interesting proposition, praised to the skies . And as in SCOTUS, a few folks didn’t like the penalty bits of that legislation, and got beaten in court.

As for the Independent Voter myth, John Sides over at Monkey Cage seems to have done the job for me. News flash: the Independent Voter is as partisan as everyone else and the statistics prove it. As Jesus said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Denial isn’t rebuttal. If there were an independent voter constituency in the USA, they’d have long since formed a political party. They haven’t.


Salient 07.17.12 at 12:45 am

We can read almost any motive into a president’s actions.

A good reason to not give a shit about motives, purported or perceived. But I dunno, you seem to more or less agree but enjoy writing majestic and poetical narrative statements (the analogy per comment ratio here might be higher on this thread than any other in the past couple years).

Seriously, FFS, this is a thread of you making stupidly sweeping statements and others pulling faces at you. Not much to complain about when you were being nice about it, but when you start saying crap like “News flash” at people, expect to see a little more pushback.


Lee A. Arnold 07.17.12 at 12:56 am

Kukai #45: “the Independent Voter is as mythical as the Hippogriff.”

Not only false, but illogical. You may be referring to recent news stories reporting that not everyone who reports as “undecided” is actually undecided. Pollsters have known for a long time that many people calling themselves independent actually tend to vote for one party regularly. But there is still anywhere from 5-10% who swing in elections. If there were not, we would always know beforehand who wins.

#56: “The biggest fans of ACA are the health insurance firms themselves. They like this legislation: it’s money in their pockets.”

Actually not. They get a little windfall at the beginning but they have to cover everybody while ACA cuts down their “medical loss ratio” to a 20/80 split and sets up state exchanges which will lead inevitably to a public option or single payer, and put them out of business except as accounting functionaries. In other words, the Writing is on the Wall. That is why insurers gave $86 million to defeat the law:


Lee A. Arnold 07.17.12 at 1:07 am

Kukai #63: ” If there were an independent voter constituency”

There is the misunderstanding. They are not a constituency. There is an “Independent Party”, but “independent” in campaign polling vernacular usually just refers to the undecideds. And they have decided almost every Presidential election in recent memory.


Kukai 07.17.12 at 1:15 am

Salient: get a grip. Majestic and poetical narrative, you flatter me. The level of self-importance around here is a bit off-putting, to put it mildly.

Stupidly sweeping statements? Guilty as charged, your honour. I am now an old man. I make sweeping statements. I take the long view of things. Do you mind? Are my remarks all that stupid? They are somewhat different than what’s generally bandied around here, all this breathless repetition and inveterate cud-chewing, that’s true enough. I have seen other politicians try to rewrite their own histories and become the creatures of their handlers. Romney’s Retroactive Retreat from Reality is nothing new to me.

With you, Salient, it is a question of mind over matter. I don’t mind. You don’t matter. You really don’t.


Kukai 07.17.12 at 1:30 am

@Lee A. Arnold: oh well, there’s the problem, point taken. To my mind, an independent voter and an undecided voter are not the same animal. The Pew Report points to fewer actually independent voters and even those are mostly partisan.

It seems to me elections are won on the basis of baal teshuva appeals to the fallen-away. Truly independent voters will not win this race. Both candidates lack strong support of the true believer sort. Forgive me, here comes a stupidly sweeping statement — (am I allowed any more? Perhaps I can pay for them in snark points, which I shall hereafter designate as “salients”, the new coin of this realm ) — it’s the undecideds, the folks who have a party allegiance but lack the motivation to vote, they’re the real swing voters.


Yarrow 07.17.12 at 1:48 am

Kukai @ 67: Salient: … . You don’t matter. You really don’t.

Kukai, I’ll often read a thread just because Salient has commented. So you’re wrong.

You’re also in violation of the policy about “comments which are personally defamatory or insulting”.


MPAVictoria 07.17.12 at 1:50 am

“The level of self-importance around here is a bit off-putting, to put it mildly.”

Quoted without comment.


Barry Freed 07.17.12 at 2:31 am

Kukai, I’ll often read a thread just because Salient has commented. So you’re wrong.

Yeah, same here.

Kukai, I heartily second whoever it was on (JW Mason IIRC) on whatever recent thread when he said you were one of the most welcome additions to the CT commentariat in some time but do tone in down a notch please.


JBL 07.17.12 at 2:31 am

As a person who enjoys the comment threads here but almost never writes anything myself, I would like to heartily endorse the last 5 or so non-Kukai comments (Salient to MPAVictoria).


Barry Freed 07.17.12 at 2:32 am

Ugh, please forgive the typos.


Kukai 07.17.12 at 2:47 am

Let us put it baldly, I have not been made welcome. This does not trouble me overmuch, as I will consider the source when I am called stupid by anyone. Run in to the rescue of Salient, the lot of you, an it please the lot of you. Au pays des aveugles.


JP Stormcrow 07.17.12 at 3:13 am

Ooh, I know that one!

In the land of the blind the man who incessantly resorts to aphorisms in other languages shall be deemed insufferable.


chris 07.17.12 at 3:32 am

Don’t pay any attention to the barking and slavering from the GOP. They will do as they are told by their corporate pimps.

That’s what the corporate masters thought, too. But to answer poetry with poetry, it’s easier to summon the devil than to control him. The Tea Party has broken out of the pentacle and it answers only to its own id now.


Kukai 07.17.12 at 3:51 am

@JP Stormcrow: Google doth make geniuses of everyone these days. It’s so seldom I get to use all those languages anymore, but I figured you lot were up to the challenge. And you are! Yes, even you, JP. A pat on the head of all of yez and the plastic action figures will be dispensed in due course. Aren’t we all having Much Fun at each other’s expense?

Turn about’s fair play. We will all get along famously in due course, but you shall get as good as you give in the mean time. I am insufferable and have been most of my life. Saves on introductions and all that homage virtue pays to vice and that which experience pays to smug certainty. Get over it.


JP Stormcrow 07.17.12 at 4:20 am


Tim Worstall 07.17.12 at 7:02 am


“@9—What are the odds that Forbes is about to adjust its editorial policy?”

I’ve absolutely no idea. For as a contributor, like the writer of the piece under discussion (at least I assume he’s in the same position) I don’t actually get told what the editorial policy is. Nor, obviously, told to hew to it given that I don’t know what it is.


Katherine 07.17.12 at 9:49 am

@Katherine: the GOP is only making a fuss about ACA because Obama proposed it.

Yes, dear boy, that’s rather the point, n’est pas? That the GOP will kick up a fuss about anything, mutatis mutandis, merely because it is proposed by their enemies. This reveals that nothing is safe, nothing can be assumed, because, as the Dutch would say nu komt de aap uit de mouw.


rea 07.17.12 at 1:01 pm

@ Kukai, who is optimistic about a Romney presidency:

“All we have to do is replace Obama. … We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.”–Grover Norquist


JanieM 07.17.12 at 1:17 pm

Speaking of Grover, too bad there isn’t more of this sentiment going around:

“The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s – who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?” Bush remarked.


From William Timberman: I do believe that the foxes are in charge of the henhouse

The longer I live, the more I believe that anyone put in charge of a henhouse eventually turns into a fox. [See LOTR on the power of the ring, but I can’t fetch the quote right now because I’m traveling. ]

What to do about it is one of the eternal questions.


rf 07.17.12 at 1:20 pm

This appears to be a reasonable case for why Obamacare is here to stay, Romney can’t get rid of the parts the public supports, or the mandate (which the insurance companies support)

Not sure about the source, (who exactly are) but Kukai’s position doesn’t seem unreasonable. Neither do his/her claims on the myth of the independent voter, which the Monkey Case has pretty conclusively destroyed. (Along with the myth that the white working class votes Republican) – Admittedly I haven’t read all of Kukai’s posts on this


MPAVictoria 07.17.12 at 1:44 pm

“Romney can’t get rid of the parts the public supports”

If public support mattered that much to the Republicans they wouldn’t be talking about destroying Medicare and lowering taxes for the rich. They know whatever they do will be covered up or distorted by their lapdogs in the media.


bianca steele 07.17.12 at 1:46 pm

What would make you feel you’d been made welcome, in your neck of the woods? Hugs and kisses from the alpha posters?

@68 “baal teshuva”
Rather I’d say, appeals to why they left for those who left the church, appeals to come home for those who feel the church left them.

Nice to see someone heartily agree with me about independents. I know plenty of “independents” and their talk about the specifics of politics tends to be strangely one-sided in a not very independent seeming way.


bianca steele 07.17.12 at 1:48 pm

But, I meant to add: Yeah, post a little less, maybe.


rf 07.17.12 at 1:58 pm

“If public support mattered that much to the Republicans they wouldn’t be talking about destroying Medicare and lowering taxes for the rich.”

True, but I don’t see why it would be worth his time politically when in power, especially now that he has the cover of the Supreme Court ruling. Romney caring more for the opinion of powerful interest groups than public opinion also makes it more likely he will side with the insurance companies over (certain parts) of his base. (Could Congress put pressure on him by passing a resolution to repeal it that he would have to veto to negate? Are Republicans predicted to win both houses after the Presidential election? Would they need to? Genuine question, I don’t know much on the way the US political system functions)


MPAVictoria 07.17.12 at 2:21 pm

Also rf people don’t actually believe that republicans are as evil as they are :

“For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.

Read more:


William Timberman 07.17.12 at 3:25 pm

I find Kukai’s supposedly inflammatory comments about the non-existence of independent voters more or less on point for anyone trying to do electoral politics here in Arizona. Our voter registration is divided more or less into thirds — Republicans much the larger third, with Independents and Democrats jockeying for the other two-thirds. While no doubt there are some independents here who are disgruntled moderate Republicans, my sense of AZ independents, which comes from doing a lot of phone-banking in the 06, 08 and 10 elections, is that the majority of them are Tea Party sympathizers or no-government’s-gonna-tell-ME-I-gotta-wear-a-helmet-when-I-ride-my-Harley libertarians.

Except in certain urban districts, appealing to independent voters has so far proven to be a non-starter for Democrats in this state, and I imagine that a similar situation exists even in the swing states. Independents tend to be the pissed-off, and the right these days is a lot more vocally pissed off than the left, which for the most part is still telling itself that the lesser of two evils is the only way to go.


bianca steele 07.17.12 at 3:40 pm

There are the “I’m not sure about lots of Democratic positions, and could almost be persuaded by libertarians if they weren’t so ridiculous, but Roe v. Wade, Iraq War, etc. etc. etc.” independents, but for some reason when the wonks talk about “swing voters” they don’t have such people in mind.


bianca steele 07.17.12 at 3:41 pm

And then there are the independents who are “above definition, plus HIPPIES outweigh everything else” independents.


bianca steele 07.17.12 at 5:27 pm

And of course, both CLAIM they are lifelong Democrats. The difference is the former can be persuaded to vote for a Bill Weld or a Mitt Romney who claims to be sympathetic to “liberal” social issues, especially against a Democrat who they can be persuaded is “authoritarian” (like John Silber). The latter turn out to have voted Republican since 1960 or so, and occasionally, despite the rhetoric, will eventually claim to have been quite open about being Republicans, though of course they are independents because politics disgusts them as it’s practiced these days.

I’ve known people who for all I know were sincere independents, who claimed they could be persuaded to vote for either candidate, but they were also certain–and vocal about it–that the Powers That Be (you know who I mean) would never permit someone like the Democratic candidate (you know why) to be elected.

There may be sincere libertarians, or liberaltarians, or whatever, who could be persuaded to either party, but they’re not represented in the debate, and nothing CT could do could change that.


ponce 07.17.12 at 5:31 pm

I was a straight-ticket Republican from 1976 through 2004, but I would have voted for Clinton in 2000 if he could have run for another term…I could be persuaded to vote Republican again if the purge the religios.


Salient 07.17.12 at 6:26 pm

Let us put it baldly, I have not been made welcome.

Shoot, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intent (thankfully you stuck around). Also, apologies for having said “stupidly,” which was thoughtless and careless and pointless and reckless, and incorrect, etc. I’d typed “silly” and decided to change it, should’ve just abandoned an adjective altogether.

Do you mind?

Nope (not that you should care), honestly a lot of it’s really fun. Saves on introductions and all that homage virtue pays to vice and that which experience pays to smug certainty, for example. That’s not stupid, it’s majestic and poetical and flowery and awesome and a lot of fun to see in a casual blog comment and I love it (‘majestic’ and ‘poetical’ aren’t insults/detractions, are they?). For what it’s worth, I only spoke up because I completely agreed with your point about most ‘independent’ voters being Republicans Except In Name Only, and your point about how this election will probably be determined by how motivated D partisans vs R partisans feel to go vote en masse, not by undecideds. It’s easier to enjoy and follow along when not unnecessarily paired with “Get over it” or “News flash” or whatever, I think, but…

With you, Salient, it is a question of mind over matter. I don’t mind. You don’t matter. You really don’t.

…Well, yeah. And thank the goddess for that, a world in which I mattered would be terrifying, I’d have to actually get some stuff right.


kdog 07.17.12 at 8:42 pm

I side with those who think the presidential election is about electing a whole cadre/machinery of actors, not just the front man. There is surely some difference between, say, Romney and Santorum if he’d have prevailed in the primary. Or even Obama vs. Hilary in 08. But of course, the cadre/machinery is largely who picks the primary winner, so causality in that case is muddled.

I also side with those who always read Salient, even if they skim over others.

In terms of the swing voter thing, I believe there’s a 10% of the public who can be swayed. Maddeningly, they are swayed by vague perceptions rather than any careful analysis. That is the power of this latest go-round with Mitt and his tax dodges.

And as to the original topic, let us not forget that Romney is our first quantum politician (see ). I’m rusty on my physics, but I believe that means he is able to travel through worm holes to retire in a previous time period, while simultaneously acting as the CEO in the current period.


Lee A. Arnold 07.18.12 at 2:05 am

Here is McCain’s 2008 opposition research file on Romney (200 pages). Among other things, some of Bain’s deals are laid out in more detail:

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