Monday, September 29, 2014

From Your Mouth To God's Ears--Or, At Least, To The Moon

Thanks, Phil Plait.  We're a species of explorers, and it's time to start acting like it again.

Will The Democrats Be Saved By Southern Black Votes?

Let's hope that this author is right.

Why Redistricting Reform Matters More Than Campaign Finance Reform

I'm all for both, but this makes a compelling case for the primacy of the former.

Sweden Makes The Case Against School Choice

Take a look.

Tax The Shareholders, Not The Corporation?

This argument has come into vogue lately, and this article hints at why.

Proof That Immigration Works--From A Suprising Source

Germany.  Given its checkered (to put it politely) history with multiculturalism, one would not expect to see it serve as an example of how immigration makes a country better.  But here's the proof.

No. 2 Never Acted Like No. 1

And that's why, despite being an Orioles and Mets fan, I am willing to admit that I will miss Derek Jeter.

In some ways, Jeter was the perfect New York athlete.  On the field, one of the best shortstops to play the game.  With a multicultural background, he was a natural fit in the Big Apple's melting pot.  But, with rare exceptions, being a New York athlete has traditionally come with some unattractive personal bagging.  Self-aggrandizing comments in the media.  Controversial behavior on and off the field.  And a tendency, not always justified, to put personal goals ahead of the team.

Happily for all of us, Jeter never carried any of this baggage.  He always made the media happy by having something to say without patting himself on the back in the process.  He never courted controversy, and his reliability gave the Yankee teams on which he played a sense of stability even when some of his teammates seemed to turn into controversy magnets.  (Yes, Alex Rodriguez, I'm talking about you.  And good luck coming back next year and replacing even half of what Jeter brought to each and every game, without the assistance of science.)

Most of all, Derek Jeter did not play for himself.  He put up numbers, but the numbers he was proudest of were the ones associated with Yankee victories and, even more importantly to Yankee fans, World Championships.  There was never anything selfish about his play.  He let the situation and the moment dictate how his talent and experience would respond to it.  His last at-bat in Yankee Stadium, which led to a walk-off win against the Orioles, was a perfect example.  It may not have been a particularly spectacular hit, but it was enough to win the game.  His last one at home.  His last game at shortstop.  It's not surprising that the Oriole players joined everyone else in applauding him after the game.  That says something about the Orioles, but it says even more about Jeter.

Like another retired shortshop, one that played for the Orioles (hint:  his uniform number was Jeter's plus six), Jeter made the game better for everyone by being the kind of player he was.  Someone who not only embraced the moment, but also the larger truth that the game, like the country, is bigger and better than any one of us.  The game, like the country, is better when we work together, when there is more than one star, when the team, the game and the fans together are the ultimate star.

Enjoy your retirement, No. 2.  And find a way to stick around the game.  Here's hoping that more of you rubs off on the rest of us.

The Case Against A GOP Majority In The Senate Can Be Summed Up In Two Words

Susan Collins.

The senior senator from Maine is, technically, all that is left of the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party.  I say, technically, because her vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act defies anything that Nelson Rockefeller and other moderate-to-liberal Republicans would have stood for, once upon a time.  And yet, this will not stop her from being touted by what Paul Krugman calls the Very Serious People that "common ground" can be found between the two parties, thanks to "moderates" like Collins.

There is absolutely nothing moderate about her vote against the PFA.  The bill is, well was (and maybe someday still will be) designed to close loopholes in existing laws that allow employers to pay women less than their male counterparts.  It proposes no new rights.  It stands for something every American should support, namely, equal pay for everyone.  Its enactment would be a real step toward promoting not only fairness, but prosperity, by adding consumer dollars to the economy.  And, despite all of this, every female member of the Senate Republican caucus voted against it.  I repeat:  every one.

Some of the women, like Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fisher of Nebraska, are pure ideologues.  They traffic in belief, not knowledge, so their stupid, harmful votes are understandable, if not forgivable.  But that's not Collins' profile.  Along with her erstwhile Maine colleague, Olympia Snowe, Collins was supposed to the the very model of the reach-across-the-aisle politician we're always told we need to get our problems solved and get America going again.  She was supposed to be someone who saw the value of compromise, and the need for engaging in it without fear of "losing face." 

Her vote against the PFA, on the other hand, makes her look scared to death of losing face--or, just being two-faced.  And it's not like she needs to worry about re-election.  This year, she fended off a Tea Party primary challenge easily, and is currently leading her Democratic opponent in the general election by a 2-to-1 margin.

Susan Collins the person probably hasn't changed.  Deep down, I suspect she still believes that we should all find ways to get along.  But Susan Collins the politician is a very clear sign of how a Mitch McConnell-led Senate would function.  No dissent, and 100% support for the 1%.  It's a shame that she appears to value her career over her principles.  Perhaps she is nursing the faint hope that our politics, somehow, can once again become more reasonable.  I hope she's right, but I doubt it.

In the meantime, she's just more evidence that a stay-at-home progressive on Election Day is a vote for an All-Tea Party Congress.  We can't afford to let that happen.  If you care about moderation in politics, then vote for a party that still has ideological wings, a party that isn't afraid of debate, a party that isn't afraid to compromise, a party that desperately wants to get America moving again.

I'll give you a hint:  it's not the party Susan Collins belongs to.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The First Stepping Stone To Living In Space Will Not Be Mars

It is far more likely to be our Moon.  Here's why, as well as how.

Tax Hikes Are "Welfare Reform" For The Rich

Promoting that message has been the fundamental purpose of this blog from its inception.  And no one has done a more effective job of justifying that message than has been done here.  Read it.  And post it everywhere.

Before You Think One More Thought About The Israel-Palestine Conflict ...

... take a look at this, if you haven't already.  And then see how it changes your thoughts.

Is It Still A "Hoax" When Yellowstone's Melting?

I think not.  But, then again, I'm not sure of how many skeptics can be won over by facts.

The Border Crisis Does NOT Justify A Delay In Immigration Reform

Instead, it justifies an urgent need to proceed with it as quickly as possible.  Even a leading Republican can see that.

A Small Step In The Right Direction

For Tennessee, for Volkswagen, for unions and the workers they represent.  But mainly, for America.  Let this small step be the first of many more.

Funding Third Parties--Divide and Conquer, or Dilute The Bullies?

I've been thinking for a while about third parties and independent candidates, and the impact they have on a political system that sometimes looks more like a duopoly than it really is.  In fact, I had intended on writing about it for the past few weeks, and other topics kept getting in the way (necessarily).  But the recent turmoil in the Kansas race for the Senate seat currently held by Pat Roberts provides a way, and an excellent opportunity,  of illustrating graphically how third-indy candidacies could be of benefit to progressives, and even to the Democrats as a party.

Kansas, in fact, currently provides the most compelling illustration of this point.  Here is a case where the Democratic candidate has formally, publicly, dropped out of the race--and the net result is that progressives have a real shot at picking up a Senate seat in one of the country's reddest states.  Why?  Because the Democratic candidate's support is going to an independent candidate who has publicly supported progressive causes, but shed the institutional baggage of the national Democratic party.  Doubt it?  The national Republican Party isn't doubting it.  They sent in one of their own to try flogging Robert's chances back to life, while hiding behind the partisan decision of the Republican Kansas Secretary of State to leave the Democrat on the ballot.

This latter action serves to underscore how much Republican success depends on maintaining the us-against-them dialogue that currently "serves" (poorly) as our national political discourse.  At the same time, the collapse of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's supply-side policies and, along with it, his own re-election chances, illustrate what happens when bad ideas are given a chance to flourish.  Not surprising, they amply illustrate their badness.  Put together, the Brownback disaster and the rise of an independent progressive candidate help to illustrate an important practical point about politics:  when the focus is off of institutions (i.e., parties) and on ideas, good ideas win.  And that means that progressive ideas win.

As much as progressives hate Bill Clinton (sometimes with reason, like the repeal of Glass-Steagall), the fact of his presidency illustrates what can happen when a campaign gets beyond the institutional duopoly and into issues and ideas.  The end of the Cold War and the rise of the federal deficit created an opportunity for a third-party candidate, Ross Perot, to address the deficit issue in a non-partisan way, and raised the discussion about the issue to a then-unprecedented level.  Clinton's contribution was to recognize what Perot had done and fold the issue into his own campaigning.  The long-run result--the Clinton surplus--was an achievement Democrats continue to brag about.  But it wouldn't have happened without Perot.

If it ends up being the case (and it may very well be the case) that the Kansas race decides control of the Senate in favor of the Democrats, and if I were a major fundraising player on the progressive side, I'd start to take a hard look at how third-indy candidates could help to break up the political duopoly in states where there is, for all practical purposes, a red monopoly.  If doing so can help to get progressive ideas past the bullies and into the hearts and minds of the people, and those people elect candidates willing to coalition with Democrats, who wins?  Right, progressives.  And progressive ideas.

And, ultimately, all of us.