An Interesting Media Convention

Here is one of Rush Limbaugh's critiques of Barack Obama:

We have 9.8% unemployment.  Administration officials say three to four months more of this, maybe, and then we're gonna start seeing jobs added.  I thought Obama had saved 23 million jobs!  I thought he and Biden had saved all these jobs.  Now the administration, well, three or four more months, and maybe we'll have some job growth. We hope. Obama demeaned the office of the presidency going on this sales pitch for Chicago's corrupt profiteering.  Everybody knows what this was about: Corruption and patronage on a grander scale than ever before.  That was the opportunity Mayor Daley and everybody saw and they sent Obama off to secure it.  And I'll tell you another reason he decided to go, not just because Daley sent him but Obama needed to distract everybody's attention from his massive failures at home and abroad.</span&gt

Ignore for a moment the argument Rush Limbaugh presents. Instead, look at his use of "Obama" and "Biden." Limbaugh does not say "President Obama" or "Mr. Obama" - he just uses plain-old "Obama."

It's a lot easier to criticize Obama rather than Mr. Obama. The addition of "Mr." or "President" elevates the man, implies that he is deserving of respect. Taking away the title relegates him to the rest of us mere mortals.

This pattern of referring to high officials (it's far from an Obama-only phenomenon) without a title is not just the domain of right-wingers. It's prevalent throughout cable news and the online web. CNN does it. Politico does it. Markos Zúñiga (founder of the Daily Kos) does it. I do it. In fact, I've been doing it throughout this entire post.

The only media organizations that consistently add the honorific "Mr." or "President/Senator/Governor" to a politician seem to be newspapers. This New York Times article, for example, addresses Hillary Clinton as "Mrs. Clinton" without fail.

The casualness with which American media refers to political figures reflects a wider paradigm. It feels itself to be on the same level (or even a higher level) than all politicians. American officials are to be evaluated on a grade-scale, their every action analyzed for hidden motives.

America's leaders are many things to the media establishment. They are characters of immense curiosity, interesting enough to power many a media cycle. They are fodder for pundits and comedians to laugh at, criticize, and tear down. They are sometimes figures to be empathized with, just normal people with a loving families and beautiful children.

The only thing they are not, it seems, are leaders.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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Looking Forward to the Debate on Financial Reform

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Yesterday the House passed a far-reaching bill to reform the financial industry, a useful and much-needed endeavor.

Out of all the possible things Congress can do, making life tougher for Wall Street probably constitutes a can't-go wrong effort. One would expect this bill to pass with a soaring bipartisan vote, a pledge of unity that would make everybody - Democrats, Republicans, the president, and the government itself - look good. Who would be against punishing those who initiated the economic crisis?

175 Republicans and 26 conservative Democrats (plus Dennis Kucinich), it turns out.

This opposition is puzzling, to say the least. The reforms, to be fair, probably are not toughenough. A vote against the bill as too weak would constitute a legitimate critique.

The Republicans opposing the bill, however, do not appear to have such greviences. Their complaints, rather, appear to run along two paths.

First, financial reform hurts the banks too much. According to Republicans, "the measure would tighten credit, cost jobs and give the government too much power over private enterprise." All these constitute consequences of overregulation - "too much power over private enterprise," for instance, is a common critique of government regulation.

Second, financial reform helps the banks too much. Republicans also complain that "the creation of a new $150 billion fund to dissolve failing businesses would mean a continuation of the bailouts." Representative Scott Garrett notes, for instance, that "continuing a situation where you have bailouts, continuing a situation where you hurt jobs and expand the authority of government entities...is not the way to do it."

That in one breathe Mr. Garrett can criticize financial reform as too strong and too weak hints that Republican concerns are not truly philosophical in content.

More below.

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Humorous Reactions to the Nobel Peace Prize

I was recently pursing through old political commentary, when I came upon these gems. The context: this was immediately after President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; pundits were thoroughly analyzing the event. The predictable reactions from both parties, however, were most humorous.

Michael Steele immediately shot out a press release criticizing Obama:

The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain - President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.

Wow. That was quite harsh. It's generally considered polite to congratulate a guy when he's won an award. And when that guy is our president, disingenuously criticizing him at every turn doesn't exactly do our country any good.

The Democratic National Committee's way of pointing this out, however, is just hilarious:

The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists - the Taliban and Hamas this morning - in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize. Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize - an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride - unless of course you are the Republican Party.

The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It's no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore - it's an embarrassing label to claim.


When I read that "The Republican party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists," I chuckled for a good long while. The rest of the statement actually makes a good argument, but that sentence's hyperbole is just ridiculously funny.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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Humorous Reactions to the Nobel Peace Prize

I was recently pursing through old political commentary, when I came upon these gems. The context: this was immediately after President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; pundits were thoroughly analyzing the event. The predictable reactions from both parties, however, were most humorous.

Michael Steele immediately shot out a press release criticizing Obama:

The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain - President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.

Wow. That was quite harsh. It's generally considered polite to congratulate a guy when he's won an award. And when that guy is our president, disingenuously criticizing him at every turn doesn't exactly do our country any good.

The Democratic National Committee's way of pointing this out, however, is just hilarious:

The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists - the Taliban and Hamas this morning - in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize. Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize - an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride - unless of course you are the Republican Party.

The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It's no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore - it's an embarrassing label to claim.


When I read that "The Republican party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists," I chuckled for a good long while. The rest of the statement actually makes a good argument, but that sentence's hyperbole is just ridiculously funny.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 1

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. The second part can be found here.

In the dying days of his campaign John McCain mounted a quixotic attempt to win Pennsylvania. Despite his efforts, Obama cruised to a double-digit victory; from May to November 4th, only one poll showed McCain leading.

Two years previously, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum - a Republican politician who had ambitions of becoming president - ran for re-election. A hard-line, nationally known conservative, he was overwhelmingly defeated by challenger Robert Casey.

These two instances provide a sense of Pennsylvania's political climate; the state, while not exactly liberal, naturally leans towards Democratic candidates. The average Republican must overcome a formidable Democratic machine to win Pennsylvania.

More below.

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The Easiest Way to Cripple Our Economy: Let Politicians Run the Federal Reserve

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Several weeks ago, the House Financial Services Committee approved an amendment that would quite negatively impact our economy's future well-being. If passed, this change could hamper GDP growth for decades to come.

Offered by Congressman Ron Paul, the amendment vastly expands the Congressional Accounting Office's auditing powers over the Federal Reserve. Consequently, the Federal Reserve's cherished independence would be drastically curbed. Every unpopular action the Federal Reserve made could potentially be scrutinized by vote-seeking politicians. This would effectively intertwine politics into the serious business of running the economy - and if the Soviet Union taught us anything, that is a terrible, terrible idea.

Imagine, for example, if this policy had been in place three decades ago - during the 70s and 80s. The great economic challenge of those decades was stagflation, a ruinous combination of high inflation, high unemployment, and stagnant economic growth initiated by oil shocks. Presidents from Nixon to Carter attempted to combat the demon, instituting policies that ranged from price controls to handing out WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons.

The problem with stagflation, however, was that defeating it required extremely unpopular action - action no poll-reading politician was willing to take.

More below.

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How Do China and Russia Think of Iran?

The United States media often - and for good reason - portrays China and Russia as reluctant to implement sanctions on Iran. Rarely (too rarely), however, does it attempt to view the issue through a Chinese or Russian lens. Americans nearly never try to understand the complex motivations behind Chinese and Russian lukewarmness.

I will attempt to do that now. How do China and Russia think of Iran?

Probably in the same way we think of Honduras. The lukewarm American opposition to the coup strikingly parallels China and Russia's stances on Iran.

If forced to state a position, most American officials probably would consider Micheletti in the wrong. By ousting Zelaya in his pajamas, Honduras revived a terrible tradition. Central America has a long history of destabilizing coups; they do terrible damage to a nation's future prospects. While Zelaya's actions may have been wrong, the army's action was unquestionably unconstitutional.

But that's exactly it. Zelaya wasn't exactly an innocent victim in all this. As conservatives have pointed out again and again, the situation isn't so clear-cut. The president, a widely unpopular figure, was pushing a poll of uncertain constitutionality. He attempted to align Honduras with Hugo Chavez's anti-American alliance and was entertaining a (constitutionally forbidden) term extension.

Thus, the United States has been decidedly lukewarm in its criticism of the coup - analogous to Chinese and Russian moderation regarding Iran. Honduras has mounted a lobbying campaign in Congress; it appears to be yielding fruit. Several Republican congressmen visited Honduras; the administration"is not talking about imposing new sanctions for now."

The truth is, if the United States fully committed itself against the government - if it suddenly suspended all foreign aid and threatened military action - it would fall in a matter of days. It doesn't however, because it's rightly sympathetic to Micheletti, just as China and Russia are sympathetic to Iran.

So the next time you bemoan Chinese or Russian foot-dragging on Iran, consider American foot-dragging in Honduras. The United States has legitimate arguments against taking too militant a stance in Honduras. China and Russia may have reasonable concerns, too.

After all, they were right regarding Iraq.

-- Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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Explaining the Swiss Minaret Vote

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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Switzerland's landslide vote to ban Muslim minarets surprised many pundits and commentators, more familiar with the nation's image as a bastion of tolerance and European enlightenment.

These results, in fact, are not so surprising. They derive from the peculiar structure of Swiss democracy, which effectively creates a voter base less diverse than the general public. These voters are generally predisposed to support such initiatives as the minaret vote.

I am specifically talking about Swiss citizenship. Becoming a Swiss citizen implies that one has become part of the Swiss people, and the Swiss have a very strict definitions of what this means. Since - of course - only citizens may vote, this strictness directly impacts the Swiss electorate.

While Switzerland may have an image as a tolerant place, its naturalization policy is one of the least tolerant in the Western world.

More below.

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Not All Gerrymanders Are Bad

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Attacking gerrymandering these days is as popular as saying Wall Street needs reform. It's a truism; everybody agrees with that "gerrymandering is bad," just as everybody agrees that breathing is good.

Gerrymanders do get pretty ridiculous. Consider Maryland's 3rd congressional district:

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Maryland's legislature designed this gerrymander to favor Democrats. And it worked: Maryland is represented by seven Democrats and one Republican.

You can probably go search a few terrible gerrymanders of your own; they're not exactly difficult to find. For the purposes of this post, however, I will be concentrating on one particular gerrymander: Arizona's 2nd congressional district.

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To understand why this is a good gerrymander, see below the fold.

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Communism in Italy

This is the third part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on Italy in particular. The previous parts can be found here.

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The Italian Communist Party (PCI) formed in 1921, as a break-away faction of the socialist party. In many respects, its early years were similar to those of the PCF. Like the French Communists, the Italian Communist Party (PCI) fared poorly in national elections, winning less than five percent of the popular vote. Its time to grow, moreover, was cut short by Benito Mussolini's dictatorship; he outlawed the party in 1926.

In another parallel to their French colleagues, the Italian Communists (PCI) fought fiercely against the Nazis during WWII and won major acclaim for their efforts. After the war, the PCI took part in the new government, playing a major role in writing the new Italian constitution. As in France, however, America's Marshall Plan curbed their influence; to gain access to U.S. aid, the Italian government kicked out the Communists. They would never again hold power in Italy.

Here the paths of the French and Italian Communists diverge. In France the Communist story is one of steady decline, until the PCF no longer constituted a viable political force. In Italy the story is different.

More below.

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