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.

No, Lois Weiss, The City Council Lease Proposal Will NOT Hurt Landlords And The City

I make it a habit NOT to read the New York Post.  Rupert Murdoch already has more loyal followers than he needs.  Or deserves, for that matter.  But I confess that I do go so far as to regularly visit the Post's Real Estate section (on the paper's Web site, only, where I'm giving them nothing but clicks).  It's a good way of tracking the transformation of my beloved 18th and 19th century Gotham into a poor copy of 21st century Dubai.

But, of course, this is the Post.  So it's impossible for idiocy not to seep into something even so seemingly straightforward as reports on leasing, buying, demolishing and building.  Which brings me to the subject of a recent column by Lois Weiss.

Ms. Weiss, as a rule, limits her written ramblings to recent leasing transactions.  On this particular occasion, however, she ventures into Op-Ed territory with her opposition to a bill, currently under consideration--I repeat, only under consideration--by the New York City Council, intended to address the wholesale and abrupt eviction of long-standing city businesses by developers chasing the next luxury bubble.

According to Ms. Weiss, these evictions simply aren't a problem.  They are the natural, indeed inevitable, clearing out of "inefficient" small businesses, so that luxe developers can build luxe buildings with luxe tenants that, invariably, pay more taxes and benefit us all--including, theoretically, the recently dispossessed (and now unemployed) owners of the former tenants.  Never mind that these tenants provided affordable goods and services to a broad spectrum of city residents and tourists.  Never mind that these tenants are often city landmarks, the kind of places that attract tourists (i.e., half of New York's population on any given day) on a steady basis over decades.  And, speaking of decades, never mind the fact that they provided the city and state with a stable source of tax revenue during New York's leanest years, as hundreds of corporations left for the theoretically greener pastures of Connecticut and the Sunbelt (only to then die in a series of mergers and acquisitions).

To Ms. Weiss, these concerns simply aren't relevant, if (in her mind) they exist at all.  Indeed, any attempt to address those concerns, to put even a little speed bump into the current casino-style pace of city development is nothing less--and I'm quoting her now--as "tortious interference with real estate business decisions."  Oh, and did I mention that she's insecure enough about her argument to employ the C-word, Communism, in the sentence that follows her foray into legalspeak?  And to do so with apparent pride at this verbal act of "bravery"?

Ms. Weiss' column is ultimately little more than another puerile exercise in verbal bullying against anything that even looks like it might stop business interests from getting 100% of what they want.  I would have thought that recent nearly-tragic events (think 2008) would have us all on the same page when it comes to thinking that no one (even this blogger) should ever get 100% of what they want.  Nope.  Not Ms. Weiss.  She knows better.

Except that she doesn't.  The painful, disturbing truth is this:  there simply aren't enough luxe buyers and luxe tenants for all of those new, shiny, look-alike skinny glass towers with pointed tops.  That's especially the case when it comes to retail, and especially in an Internet economy.  When it comes to retail space, and the street vitality they create (economically and culturally), we need tenants at all levels of rent.

Don't believe, me, Ms. Weiss?  You don't have to.  Just take a look at what your Post colleague, Steve Cuozzo, has to say about the current leasing market, untrammeled by your vision of the City Council's Red Menace.  Maybe some of that space will be marked down to a level at which the dispossessed could pay for it.  Maybe "the magic of the marketplace" will make that happen, even after the 1% have effectively closed the marketplace to everyone but themselves.

And, in that case, Ms. Weiss, maybe, just maybe, there's a nearby bridge I could sell you.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Recycling The Past To Build The Theater Of Tomorrow

On Howard Street in Baltimore.  May there be many more projects like this one in Charm City's future.

Building A Mars Colony With 3-D Printers

We may yet live to see it.  Take a look.

The Environment: Smart Vs. Stupid

Helping the poor to harness the sun versus "rolling coal."

Whose side are you on?

Can "Going Green" Help Others To Make Green?

It will require the right combination of public and private initiatives, as Tom Hayden argues.  Perhaps this could be one example.

One Reason North Carolina May Be Turning Blue

It's discovering global warming isn't a hoax.

This Goes All The Way Back To Independence Day ...

... but it's still worth pondering 13 facts that show how America is NOT a "conservative" nation.  One for each of the original colonies.  How appropriate.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Message To Immigration Advocates: Get Angry, But Then Get Active

It's been clear for the past several weeks that President Obama was giving consideration to the idea of walking back his earlier, self-imposed deadline of early fall to enact administrative relief for immigrants and our over-burdened immigration system.  Today, however, consideration gave way to action--or inaction, if you will. The response from immigration advocates was, for the most part, as understandable as it was unsurprising:  outrage and a sense of betrayal, culminating in threats to make Obama and congressional Democrats pay at the polls.

But what would that accomplish?  Democrats and their allies have stayed home before, and all that does is elect more Republicans to Congress (or the White House, for that matter).  And, in turn, all that does is set back the interests of progressives and their allies even further, sometimes for decades.  Remember 2010, when folks sat at home over getting something less than the public option in health care reform?  That election gave us the current Tea Party tyranny.  For that matter, remember 1994, when folks sat at home over not getting any health care reform at all?  That give us the Age of Newt, and set the politics of reform back for almost a generation.

One of Barack Obama's most real strengths is looking at the bigger picture.  He is the son of an immigrant, as well as the child of a biracial marriage.  No one--and I mean absolutely no one--should have any reason to doubt that the issue of immigration is as real and as personal to him as health reform is.  But he would be betraying his commitment to immigrants if he made any move that did not reflect the complexity of the issue and its position in American life.  After all, immigration advocates (including myself) argue again and again that the need for a comprehensive approach to the issue is based in no small part on that complexity.

It is perfectly clear from the President's own words that he is worried about taking a burning political issue and pouring Napalm on it with his own actions, at the start of a hotly contested political season.  And too, the issue here is timing.  By waiting until after the election, regardless of whether or not Democrats hold the Senate, he will be in a better position to act.  There will no longer be a chance by his opponents to use the issue as a referendum on him.  If the Democrats hold the Senate, Obama will have more political leverage to finally enact a legislative solution, something we all want.  On the other hand, if the Republicans control Congress, he can then legitimately say that he needs to act on his own--and I believe that he will.

And it is utterly foolish, in any case, to expect any President not to heed political concerns expressed during an election season by members of his own party.  Presidents are party as well as governmental officials:  without support from within his own party, a President is doomed to failure.  Just ask Jimmy Carter, the last President we had who acted on what he believed, come hell or high water.  I supported Carter with my vote twice, but even he will admit that he was undermined by the lack of support from within his own party--especially Tip O'Neill, who (as we all know) preferred knocking a few back with Reagan.

But none of this should discourage or dissuade immigration advocates from anger.  It should only serve to guide them into channeling their anger into productive channels.  What do I mean?  Simply this.  Contact the White House.  Contact Democrats in Congress.  Tell the President that you'll wait two months, but, after that, you expect him to go as big as possible.  Hold nothing back.  Even if that means giving temporary protective status to nearly all of the 12 million undocumented among us, do it.  And tell his congressional allies (yes, even the ones in red states) that you'll only continue to support them in future elections if they get back on the stick and push comprehensive immigration reform across the finish line once and for all.

We can't sit this out, especially the lawyers amongst us.  Our clients need us.  Immigrants need us.  American needs us, whether it realizes it yet or not.  Nothing worth doing is easy.  Nothing is more worth sacrifice than going the extra mile to end the human rights crisis in our midst.  Give the President the extra time he wants.  But don't give up telling him that, ultimately, the wait should be well worth it.