Eric Jaffe (@ericjaffe) rounds up the results on Tuesday’s transport initiatives so I don’t have to

Given what a lazy bunny I am, I can just sit back and link to his discussion. Just a couple of points of dissension on his discussion:

1. The Massachusetts governor’s office going to the GOP is not necessarily a big deal or a blow to transit. Romney when he was governor wasn’t mean about transit, and we do have instances of GOP guvnors who are actually quite supportive of transit. Much depends on their base. Schwartzenegger, for example, was supportive of transit in the state of California when he was governor. The Maryland loss is a big deal because anti-transit, pro-road themes entered into that campaign, the way it did for the Fords up in Toronto.

And, at the risk of being a scold, this is the problem with the way transit advocates, particularly the rail fanboys, have marketed and sold transit politically for decades. You can’t treat political topics as binaries of good/evil without somebody, at some point, noticing and taking your binary and using it to bludgeon you with as they get tired of being framed as “lazy/evil/stupid.” If transit is part of the culture war, it’s because advocates have put it there with endless associations between transit and the environment rather than treating transit as a mode like any other. There’s no avoiding urban/rural fights over distribution–those can happen over road money as well as transit money.

But there is absolutely positively no reason why plenty of Reagen-voting real estate developers won’t support transit if they see what’s in it for them. So a little less assuming that Republicans are going give transit the short end of the stick might be a good idea.

2. Scott Walker and Rick Scott might have taken their races, but that’s certainly not the end of the HSR program that Obama so cherished. We re-elected Governor Brown again, and he loves HSR with a love that is more than love. California’s project has finally gotten clear of the lawsuits it set itself up for, and they are building and people are excited. Obama can come jam up traffic in California and visit. It’s not the same as rolling out the beginning of a whole system, but it’s a start, and it took decades for the interstate system to get off the ground, too.

3. I am a party of one on this opinion, and I am unencumbered by actual evidence to substantiate my opinions here, but I am not a great believer that dedicated funds for transport (or anything else) are a great idea. Voters love to tie their taxes to specific things they think can’t get screwed up, but I think dedicated funds exacerbate multiple problems, including construction cost inflation and overcapitalization (the money’s there, everybody sees it, everybody wants a piece of it, etc etc.) Whereas if they had to duke it out of the general fund, it would be a different ball game.

Yeah, everybody hated pork. But Congress actually functioned when pork was on the table and look where we are now.

What I learned from Robert Caro

Robert Caro came to give the Dennis and Brooks Holt Distinguished Lecture last night. That sponsored lecture allows USC to attract distinguished thinkers on politics and the media.

Caro was so charming in every way–an amazing story-teller, with a lovely New York boy accent–and I loved so much of what he said it’s hard to distill.

For one thing, I love how Caro manages to humanize Lyndon Johnson without romanticizing him. Caro has been able to demonstrate why LBJ is so important to the left–and how effective a political genius he was in accomplishing things for people–like rural Texans–that are normally not the beneficiaries of public policy. And just how ruthless he was in doing so.

The second thing I took away was his incredible patience. It doesn’t seem to bother him that, in his 80s now, he may or may not get to the end of his LBJ project before it’s time for him to exit. And he does seem to have another project in mind–but he refused to answer that question when asked because he’s superstitious. I love this–I really don’t like to discuss nascent work, either, which many people rather treat like a weakness. Well, if Robert Caro can do it, I can, too. I don’t like to talk away ideas before I write them.

In addition to his interest in new projects, he admitted last night that he reads Trollope, which made me squeal with delight. I love Trollope, but whenever I am reading these old, long meandering 19th century novels, there is a nagging person inside my head telling me that I am wasting my time, that nothing these novelists have to say matters to the world, and that, at middle-age, I only have so much reading time left. If a guy in his 80s can spend his free time reading Trollope, and his working time working for 8 years on a biography of roughly 3 months of a man’s life, then I can let time go lightly, too.

House of Cards and a Machiavelli renaissance?

Unless you have been in a media blackout, you’ve no doubt seen the adverts for Netflix-produced House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. I’m holding off on seeing it until I’ve subjected Andy to watching all of the original BBC series from the early 1990s. I shall, of course, watch it as a junkie of politics and television, and in part because I have been in love with Kevin Spacey since Glengarry Glen Ross. I also have high hopes that the series might help people actually understand what a “whip” is and does. Do you understand how sad it makes me to hold out hope that Americans will learn about their government from a remake of an English series?

Anyway, it does promise to be good. The original, with the incomparable Ian Richardson, is really wonderful, as is the novel upon which the original is based. Has anybody dipped into the US version yet?

The tagline for the US series is “Bad, for a greater good.” Perhaps the US version attempts to make the main character somewhat more sympathetic.The reviews keep referring to Spacey’s Underwood (Urquhart in the Beeb’s original) as “Machiavellian”, which get us to the point of today’s ramblings about Machiavelli and his largely misunderstood attempts at political philosophy.

My favorite book on Machiavelli is from the late Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield, called Machiavelli’s Virtue. I say my “favorite” in that I still don’t understand large portions of Mansfield’s thought here, nor Machiavelli’s. Mansfield’s is not an easy book, but Machiavelli is not an easy subject–certainly not along the lines of what people get from their “intro to political science” courses. Machiavelli wrote a good deal more than the Prince. Jeremy Wadron’s excellent review of Mansfield’s book in the London Review of Books (unfortunate paywall) gives us a great deal of food for thought, in particular highlighting how Mansfield’s read of Machiavelli as a modern political liberal.

Perhaps Ann Coulter should try for a guest slot on the “Love Boat” or “Murder, She Wrote” next

That’s usually what washed-up pseudo-celebs do when they become unhappy with their (usually entirely deserved) relegation to oblivion.

It’s really hard to even write this post because there really is nothing about Ann Coulter that doesn’t disgust me–I like my conservative commentary with actual content in it, which is why I am a regular reader of material from Cato and NR.

She’s just a fame monger, and I’m not sure why anybody pays attention to her except that she’s blonde and says mean things, routinely, like somehow being snotty equals being hard-hitting and being common equals being populist. It was boring and predictable 10 years ago when Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore patented it.

Here is a response from Tim Shriver to Coulter’s mean-ass, petty Twitter: I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard. (during the debate)

Here is the money quote from Shriver:

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

And here I was just wondering if Coulter meant “retard” as “person who actually uses reason in debate instead of playground invective.”

Reading Total Recall

I am heartbroken. My deep respect for my Dean and those faculty associated with Schwartenegger Institute prevents me from saying much more. I want them to have a chance to make something work. But I really, really don’t know what to think.

So here’s the @$!@$ book.

Here is Steve Lopez’s takedown in the LA Times.

Here is Mary McNamara’s review in the LA Times.

The former body-builder-turned-action-movie-star-turned-California-governor is still very much alive, having just started a new think tank at USC. And Americans have an endearing and frustrating habit of nostalgic reconsideration, especially when it comes to movie stars and politicians.

Please let her be right.

Janet Maslin’s review of the book in the New York Times.

Among many noxious references to his wife are a buddy’s pre-wedding quip (“Oh boy, wait until she hits menopause”) and his way of commissioning an Andy Warhol portrait of her. “You know how you always do the paintings of stars?” he says he asked Mr. Warhol. “Well, when Maria marries me, she will be a star!” He does not appear to be joking


Empty chairs

Functionally, I doubt talking to an empty chair is any different than simply giving a speech. But it strikes me as an alarming and unwitting metaphor for the state of political communication: One-sided, your reactions to what I say don’t matter, what I say is so important that I should be able to hold forth without treating you like an agent capable of response; your ideas are irrelevant. You are nonhuman.