Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Whippin' Them Dawgs

I haven't seen this pattern pointed out by the pundits yet, but the whoopin' the Democrats just took in the House of Representatives was especially turned on those annoying "Blue Dogs." About half of the members of the Blue Dog Coalition got voted out and placed with Republicans; these folks comprise about half of all the losses the Dems took in this election. So this might not have as big an impact on the ideological makeup of the Congress as it first seems, replacing one bunch of Pro-lifer NRA homophobes with another. Of course all the leadership positions change, but the people in these seats were already the ones road-blocking most real meaningful legislative action in congress in spite of the (now extinct) large bicameral Democratic majority.

Since no one in either party wants to talk about the real profound and fundamental problems with the American and global economies, neither gang is going to have any success at addressing them anyway.

EDIT: To those who are distraught or elated over the outcome of this latest election, I refer you to my post from six years ago, "Votes that Matter," and invite you to take some deep breaths, back up, and think large and long about individuals, society, and politics.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I'm not mourning the defeat of the Blue Dogs, but here in New York, we lost my Congressman John Hall, a good and truly progressive Democrat, to a tea bagger. Some other good progressives went down as well. It's a grim day.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Only grim if you mistake politics for government or history or anything else fundamentally meaningful. Politicians ride waves, they don't create them. The federal government has been gridlocked against most truly substantial actions for decades regardless of which party was in power. When change absolutely has to happen or the nation will truly collapse (such as in the 1930s) then change will happen; until then it's slogans and money.

I refer you to my sidebar for the link to my post "Votes that Matter," posted on the eve of what was viewed throughout the world as a truly catastrophic U.S. election. In comparison yesterday was peanuts; and yet we (collectively) survived that one.

I think if you dig up the stats you'll find that the Progressive Coalition overall took a much smaller hit than the Blue Dog Coalition. This is an exceedingly fickle and superficial electorate; it can swing any way it likes at a moment's notice so no single election can be taken as a mandate or even a trend.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I don't entirely disagree, but at the same time, I don't think it's an either-or. Politics do matter.

As to whether we survived 2004, I'm not so sure we did. In the short term yes; in the long term perhaps not. Who knows when the window on doing something meaningful about climate change closed? And I'm sorry, on that score, individual actions are of little consequence.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

There has never been hope for meaningful collective global action on climate change. Sorry, but there just never has been. Individual actions are all that there is; history consists of nothing but the aggregated impacts of all those individual actions. In the long term and the large scale (where climate change occurs) society is driven by fundamental economic (and at a lower level thermodynamic) forces. Sorry, dude, but you are NEVER going to get an economy to leave a wonderful resource like fossil fuels just laying around unless there is an even better alternative (which there is not and likely never will be).

The cure for climate change is peak oil, which even the oil industry is beginning to grudgingly admit is a reality. What will bring down global fossil fuel consumption? A long-term gradual decline in the availability of cheap fossil fuels driven by geology and thermodynamics. Not international summits and treaties, which are far to easy to ignore and break; and when you do break it you get all the benefit and others suffer the consequences. Talk about unsustainable...

By the way, if we are in the neighborhood of peak oil (which it appears we are), then that means we've used about roughly half of what we ever will. So the worst we will do is to roughly double the anthropogenic CO2 load from where it is now -- another few hundred ppm. So it will never reach 1000 ppm, it might barely break 500. All the long-term doomsday scenarios assume infinitely expandable fossil fuel resources driven only by demand. Ain't no such thing.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Wish I shared your optimism, if optimism it is.

Your argument about peak oil leaves coal out of the equation. Don't know how that might alter it, but it's a big source of greenhouse gases.

The role of government is about more than international agreements. Government can change the economics of energy; it subsidizes fossil fuels now, at least in the U.S. It should have been changing the economics for the last 40 years or so, ever since the "energy crisis of the '70s; for this reason, blaming Bush in 2004 was a bit unfair on my part.

Had government (in 1970 or 1980) committed the kind of resources it devoted to putting a man on the moon or developing the atomic bomb to coming up with clean, renewable energy, I think there's a good chance we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Of course, none of that would solve the overpopulation problem and the myriad of other ways we humans are wrecking the planet, but that's a whole 'nother story. . .I'm doing my part on that one by not breeding, for whatever it's worth.

At 7:01 AM, Blogger concolor1 said...

This headline from the NY Times is what left me most depressed...


Federal financing of science research, which has risen quickly since the Obama administration came to power, could fall back to pre-Obama levels if the incoming Republican leadership in the House of Representatives follows through on its list of campaign promises.

As a teenager in the late 60's, I recall no less than William F. Buckley--whom the conservatives honor in deed, but hardly in word; he would've been aghast at today's tea servers--pointing out that the education afforded by the G.I. bill helped build this nation's prosperity from that decade on... Too, the space program gave rise to much of the technology we enjoy today...

At significant environmental costs, of course, but those problems could be addressed except suddenly there appears a know-nothing backlash against legitimate education and articulated progress, as personified by Ms. Palin and Ms. O'Donnell as well as oxy-moronic right wing "think tanks" such as the Discovery Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

At least that's the way I see it from Planet Utah, where the home-schooled crowd holds sway, and Glenn Beck is revered as he peddles the recycled delusional nonsense of W. Cleon Skousen.

A bit of history: Karl Rove's dysfunctional upbringing occurred here...

In case anybody is wondering why the rest of the country occasionally looks like Utah...

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Coal: it's nowhere near as versatile as petroleum. Same for natural gas. In particular they are lousy fuels for the transportation sector, requiring extra (expensive) transformation and technologies (e.g. electric vehicles, liquification, etc.). They are not substitutes for petroleum and they won't power the same level of activity or rate of consumption we see now.

Progressives: I checked, 3 out of 80 members of the Progressive Caucus were defeated. In contrast, over half of the Blue Dogs were ousted. The remaining Dems are a solid caucus true to the core values of the party.

At 2:46 AM, Blogger Mark said...

But transportation is only one sector. As it stands, "coal-fired power plants represent the nation's largest source of carbon dioxide," according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. I'm sure the same is true in China, which is now the leading emitter of greenhouse gases (not per capita.)

I think the main reason the Progressive Caucus took a much smaller hit is that most of its members are from safely democratic districts, whereas the Blue Dogs tend to be from marginal ones.

That said, I've calmed down since last week.

At 5:07 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

All the sectors are linked. A blow to one pulls them all down; a stimulus to one pulls them all up**. Part of the reason the global economy was on such a tear in recent decades was that transportation costs were (and really still are) negligible. When this changes, it puts a drag on everything. It also makes coal more expensive, which makes electricity more expensive, etc.

There is only one thing that has a proven track record of bringing down energy consumption on the large scale: high energy prices. And only one thing makes energy prices go up and stay up: supply shortages. The problem with all other approaches that involve mandates (taxes, regulations, etc.) is that they can be undone even more easily than they were done. And if they are viewed as hampering "economic growth" or "our way of life" they WILL be undone.

Cheap abundant petroleum has been the catalyst. Cut down on the catalyst and the whole process slows down.

**Note that the "financial sector" is not actually a real and productive sector of the economy, providing neither goods nor services in the real world. So stimulus to it does not necessarily help the rest of the economy. And of course, regardless of the party in power, financial stimulus seems to be the only thing the government has been interested in recently.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

It's not really fair to compare the re-election rates of Blue Dogs and progressives, as the progressives tend to represent safe districts. There was, however, a good case study in Virginia. Democrats Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye both represented districts with a 5 point Republican lean. Perriello not only voted with the Democratic agenda but defended his votes when it came time for re-election. Nye distanced himself from his party both in his voting record and campaign. Perriello lost by 4 while Nye lost by 11. Voters like someone with convictions. Heck, might as well do something while in office if you're just going to get voted out anyway.


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