Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why The Republicans Want You To Stay At Home On November 4

Unless, of course, you're a Republican, that is.  But even then, they're not interested in you, and certainly not in your fellow citizens on the opposite side of the partisan divide.

What they are interested in is not smaller government.  Not in more personal responsibility.  Not in promoting personal charity.  And not in protecting and promoting democracy around the globe.  Those are the things they're content to put on their bumper stickers, to give you a reason to support them that sounds nice but, ultimately, in the world that you and I wake up in, means absolutely nothing.

Because what they're really interested in has nothing to do with changing your life for the better.  What they're interested in is changing their lives for the better.  By pursuing the one and only thing that they really want.

Control.  Of you.  Of me.  Of all of us.  And everything.

Does that sound like a purely partisan whine?  Honestly, I wish that it was.  But it isn't.  It's the conclusion I come to just by following news on the Internet.  In fact, it's the only conclusion I can come to by doing that.

Why do you think that wages have remained flat for the past 35 years?  So that the GOP and its corporate masters could stop treating you like servants, and start treating you like slaves.  After all, only slaves would be expected to sign non-competition clauses for work that can be done by anyone.  Or non-disparagement clauses that desperately try to conceal the ultimately unconcealable nature of their true intentions.

For that matter, why do you think they are willing to openly declare, without fear of failure or even opposition, that they want to control the entire process of voting?   Or to try to deny access to technology that could benefit everyone, while exploiting it for themselves?  Or to suppress any exposure of their activities, or dissention within their own ranks?  They know that they can only retain power on a playing field that's tilted in their favor.  Because they can't compete in the marketplace of ideas.  Because they have no ideas whatsoever.  Only a obsession with control.

And that obsession has no limits.

It doesn't stop with sex.

It doesn't stop with water.

It doesn't stop with your safety, or your life.

It doesn't even stop with the fact of its own failure, and the obvious need to change course.

And that's why this author couldn't possibly be more wrong if he tried.  This election DOES matter.  If you decide to sit it out, you may not have the choice of sitting out the next one.  In fact, you may have even fewer choices to dissent, to express yourself, or to live your life.

So vote.  If you don't want to vote for the Democrats, fine.  Vote for a third party.  Write-in your grandmother.  But whatever else you do, get out there and let them know that you care about what they're trying to do to your life, and everyone's life.

Cynicism can just provide them with another path to control.  Don't walk down that path.  They're desperate for you to do it.  Make them unhappy.  And preserve your right to keep on doing so in the future.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A "War" On Whites?

Or do we just stop calling it a massacre when the other side fights back?  If that's the case, I'll be happy to fight a "war" any day, Mr. Brooks.

Farewell To A Good Man, And A Good Republican

One who wasn't afraid to agree with "the other side," especially on an issue that, for sadly personal reasons, was deeply relevant to him.  RIP, Mr. Brady.  And thanks to you and your wife Sarah for all that both of you did on behalf of gun sanity, and for what she will continue to do.

What The Siberian Craters Tell Us

Simply this:  that we really are destroying ourselves through climate change.

Science Shows That Things Aren't Possible, Until It Can Show That They Are

Here's a case in point:  a "Star Trek"-type engine that may revolutionize space travel.

How To Build The Case For Administrative Action On Immigration

It's not just a question of prosecutorial discretion with regard to deportations; it's also releasing unused visa numbers and expanding work authorization.  Take a look.

It IS God's Creation, After All

Further weakening the GOP's power to make the world safer for polluters and dangerous for the rest of us, there are more and more signs that religious conservatives are seeing the light when it comes to protecting the world He, She, It or They made.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

And, If You Vote For No Other Reason, Vote For This One

The right to be able to vote in the future.

I'm dead serious.  Nothing frustrates me more than to listen to people talk about not voting as though doing so was some kind of noble, selfless act on behalf of the Republic.  And never mind, just for the purpose of this post, how many people have fought and died for your right to sit at home on Election Day.

Your refusal to vote does not stop the election from happening.  A new Congress will be elected, whether you want it to be elected or not.  If you refuse to vote, a magical, better-than-all-of-the-above candidate is not going to show up.  And, even worse, even if such a person existed, he or she would not be inspired to run by your absence from the polling place.

Because all that your refusal to vote accomplishes is the fueling of the apathy that is slowly but surely killing our political system.  It's not just your voice that we lose when you refuse to vote.  It's the voices of hundreds, thousands, even millions of people whose own indifference to their voice in society is encouraged by your own.

And, worse yet, the forces in our society that you resent the most are utterly dependent not on your voting for one of the two major political parties, but on your not voting at all.  In the forty-plus years that I have followed national politics, I have never seen a more blatant effort than the one mounted by the Republicans over the last four years to keep people away from the polls.  They have no shame about either their lust for power or the fact that they can't hold on to that power if you show up.  There have been any number of articles on the Internet, and even in what the former half-term governor of Alaska calls the "lame-stream" media, on this subject.  But, if you need a primer or summary, Mother Jones is happy to help you.

Today, it may be minor restrictions on your right, like voter ID laws.  Do not think those restrictions could not become major ones by the next election.  Do not think that those restrictions could prevent you from voting, now or in the future.  Why shouldn't they, if you don't care enough to vote?  That's not me asking that question.  That's the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement that now completely controls it asking that question.  And don't worry about them finding the answer; they've already got it for you.  And trust me:  you'll dislike that answer even more than you dislike the current crop of candidates.

If you don't want to vote for the Democrats, fine.  Vote for a third, fourth or fifth party.  Vote for a write-in candidate.  Whatever you do, VOTE.  Vote like your life and your country depend on it.

Because they do.  Apathy doesn't create the future.  Voting does.

Above All, Don't Be Afraid To Fight The Politics Of Fear

The Republican Party is a conservative party in a time when conservatism has lost much of its appeal.  The base of the conservative movement is over 65 and, without putting too fine a point on it, is dying off.  The boomers are a split group politically, while the Generation X-millennial cohort wants nothing to do with the movement that brought them the Iraq war and the Great Recession.  During the 2014 campaign, now entering its home stretch, they have not even bothered to make this a campaign of issues, because they know perfectly well that the issues are against them.  One of their leading media mouthpieces, second-generation hack John Podhoretz, has gone so far as to speculate in print that this failure may even end up costing them control of the Senate.  And he may even be right.

But that hasn't stopped the Greedy Old Party from playing its Number One political trump card:  fear.

You can barely open your shrinking newspaper, play with your remote or click on your mouse without tripping over the latest effort to scare you into voting Republican.  Fear of Ebola.  Fear of an assassination attempt on the President, or other public officials.  And, of course, when all else fails, there's always the magic terrorist button to push.  Down in Arkansas, where Tom Cotton is trying to unseat long-time Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, this button is being pushed to a ridiculous extent.  This race is still close in the polls, so it remains to be seen how well this strategy will work.

But the precedent set by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the wake of 9/11 should be very much in everyone's minds when someone tries to turn your ballot into a panic button.  They launched a senseless war that bankrupted our Treasury and tore apart a country of seething factions, all because they wanted to look for non-existent weapons.  And what happened to those factions, once the "democratic" government we imposed showed signs of collapsing.  At least some portions of them morphed into ISIS.  To which we are now being once again asked to respond with fear.  And more boots on the ground.  And more money that we don't have.  And so on.

Let me be blunt.  Obama didn't create ISIS; Bush and Cheney did.  And Ebola has been a health menace long before Obama reached the White House.  And the intruders in the White House might not have made it in as far as they did had sequestration not denied the Secret Service an additional 500 agents (a story you'll find on the Internet, but not on our so-called "liberal" mainstream media).  Just as we might have had a head start on dealing with Ebola had the Senate, with the help of the National Rifle Association, turned the President's nomination for Surgeon General into a political sideshow.  (One wishes, in fact, that Obama would do this, but it's too theatrical for him).  If you feel that you have a reason to be afraid, here's a dirty little secret for you:  the people pushing fear are the ones who gave you a reason to be afraid.

So do yourself and everyone you know a big favor.  Don't cave in to their craven, cowardly attempts to manipulate you.  Stand up.  Speak up.  Talk to your friends, your co-workers, your family, your neighbors, total strangers if you have to.  Remind them of the old expression "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."  And then remind them that we've been fooled by these people triple-digit times.  And that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result.

If you do all that, it just might work.  It just might save the country.  And yourself.

And One More Thing, That The Democrats Need Badly

A fifty-state strategy.

No, I don't mean for this election, which is already a cake that is largely baked, one way or the other.  I mean a return to the strategy Howard Dean launched after he went from unsuccessful Presidential contender in 2004 to Democratic National Committee chairperson the following year.  Dean took his pioneering work in Internet campaigning and used it to launch a strong Democratic Party presence in every single state in the country.  He didn't care about the "blue-red" divide that on which both the Republicans and the media thrive.  He understood that part of the purpose of a truly national party was to pull together as many Americans as possible, from as many walks of life and sets of beliefs as possible.  He understood that doing this gave you the long-term voter bedrock that allowed you to survive and surmount the short-term shocks of political life.  Above all, he understood that doing anything else turned you into a regional party at best, and a former political party at worst.

It was this strategy, in 2006, that gave the Democrats the national strength to not only reclaim the House, but (by a tiny margin) the Senate as well.  Of course, Republican failures helped to augment that strength.  But what really made victory possible, especially in the Senate, was a willingness to run and support candidates in "red" states, like Jim Webb in Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana, that would not have been supported by the party's national base.  When the Obama wave hit in 2008, this strategy was still in place, and it elected Democrats all over the county--especially in the Senate, where it push the party close to the point of a filibuster-proof majority.

Unfortunately, two things conspired to end that strategy:  Democratic hubris in the wake of the Obama blowout, and Republican divisiveness in the form of the Tea Party.  National Democratic leaders started to push for immediate satisfaction of all party goals, even the ones with somewhat dicey national support.  And Republicans, upon seeing this, used it to revive their ancient divide-and-conquer strategy, in the form of Tea Party activism.  The result:  stalemate, and the 2010 elections, lost because Democrat "purists" felt that they were accomplishing something by staying home.  They were accomplishing something, all right:  a Republican majority in the House that has done enormous damage to our country, and the hopes of Democratic activists as well.

I am already hearing echos of this "purism" regarding the 2014 election, now three weeks away, specifically on the subject of immigration reform.  Many Democratic activists want to try to "teach" Obama a lesson because he has pushed back his promised of administrative relief until after the election.  Do they really think implementing administrative relief will be any easier if Republicans end up controlling both houses of Congress?  Not when the Republicans have greater power to control the budget process and use it toward policy ends.  They have already indicated that they can and will do as much.

To accomplish anything of lasting value, the Democratic Party has to be the Democratic Party of the United States, not the Democratic Party of New York, California, or Maryland.  It has to build a dialogue and, ultimately, a platform that can be supported across the county.  That is how you not only win seats in red states, but keep them as well.  That is how you build a majority that perseveres over the long haul, and builds lasting support over that time for your goals.

2014 may be uncertain, but 2016 and beyond don't have to be.  The instant this election is over, the Democrats need to come together from across the country.  And talk together.  Organize together.  Raise funds together.  Support each other through thick and thin.  And act like a party that gets its support from everywhere.  It's the only way it will be supported everywhere.

Discipline And Dirty Fingernails: What Our Politics Need Most

Given the fact that we are on the eve of yet another national election, and given further the election's potential consequences, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about politics.  Not just the current political scene, but national politics over the course of the 40-plus years that I've followed it.  Obviously, in that much time, many things have changed.  Leaders have come and gone (and, occasionally, as in the case of such diverse figures as Richard Nixon and Jerry Brown, come back again).  Policies have changed in most cases for the better and, in some cases, for the worse.  But two things have seemed to remain constant.  And each of them is a problem that afflicts our national political parties--the Republicans in one case, and the Democrats in the other.

Let's start with the Republicans.  Coming into the post-1960s era of politics, the GOP was divided into two large factions, a moderate wing focused on collaboration, and a reactionary wing focused on control.  The two candidates fighting for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, highlighted and exemplified that philosophical divide.  What united them as Republicans, perhaps as much as anything, was a sense that American society and its government in particular had grown fat and decadent, and needed a measure of discipline to get it back on course.

The moderates were willing to work within the existing system, with Democrats, to make that happen.  The reactionaries hated the system itself, especially since it occasionally permitted outcomes they didn't like.  They saw the system as something to be either destroyed or subverted.  If you look at our current political landscape, and compare it to the early 1970s, you can see that the reactionaries have won, first by taking over the Republican Party, and then by bullying the Democrats into submission.  Everything after that was just a question of using the Republican money advantage, maximized by Reaganomics, to buy out anything that even looked like it might be opposition, especially in the media.

How did this happen?  Well, there is no doubt that the events of the 1970s--Watergate, stagflation, the oil shocks and the rise of fundamentalism both here and abroad--set the stage for it in terms of public opinion.  But the key asset that Republicans had was the Democratic Party itself, and its commitment to process--a commitment that has, over much of the last 40 years, allowed it to be yoked into voting for bad compromises with Reagan Republicans for the sake of "bipartisanship."

A complete list of such compromises would go not only beyond the scope of this post, but perhaps the bandwidth permitted for this blog.  Perhaps it's best summed up in one word:  Iraq.  Our rush to invade that pseudo-country to destroy non-existent weapons of mass destruction was enabled by Democrats afraid to make our system look "weak" by standing up for the truth, the one that that should matter most.  As a result, as "Iraq" has morphed into ISIS, our invasion has launched a nightmare for us and the entire world that may have no end, except the end of us all.

One occasionally reads or hears some pundit or posting mourning the loss of moderate Republicans who were willing to put America ahead of conservative politics.  Likewise, one occasionally read or hears someone else mourning the absence of tough-minded Democrats like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, leaders who were willing to push the process to its limits--and, sometimes, beyond them--to make the country better.

I think that hoping for the resurrection of moderate Republicanism is a lost cause.  Almost all of the moderates have been chased out of elective office; the tiny handful that are left, including Susan Collins, have been battered into submission by the fear of being "primaried" by the Tea Party.  And, in a democracy, I think there's an inherent problem in expecting national discipline to be a top-down process.  In the post-1989 world, it's a big mistake to think that any political movement can truly be top-down.  The Soviets tried to use Communism to contain the individual desires of millions and failed, just as the Tea Party is now failing here, from stopping Obamacare to stopping gay marriage.

And, speaking of Obamacare, here's where today's Democrats can learn a lesson from their recent past.  House Democrats, lead by Nancy Pelosi, used the budget reconciliation process to make the ACA a reality.  In other words, Obamacare happened because Pelosi was willing to steal a page from the GOP playbook.  The GOP, of course, paid her and her colleagues the compliment of describing it as "dirty politics," not realizing that, in the process, they were covering themselves with their own soil.  Nancy Pelosi, in effect, conceded a matter of principle that the opposition in effect had already trashed, and lost her Speakership in the process.  But she showed, in the process, that true leadership does not consist of sitting in your office, soaking in bourbon and cash.

So, to my Republican friends, I would say the following.  Don't try to use government, the thing you allegedly hate, to hammer away at your goals.  Learn the lesson that all of us need to exercise self-discipline, on the left and on the right.  And, in your case, a key part of self-discipline means refusing to save democracy by trashing it completely.  You will find that it inspires a greater willingness on the other side to buy into your ideas, and turn the into a reality that enjoys popular support.

And, to my Democratic friends, I would say this.  The process is not a straightjacket.  The other side doesn't treat it that way, and neither should you.  In a democracy, it should always have enough flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the people.  And, when the other side gives you an opening, don't be afraid to get your fingernails a little dirty--especially when the other side has already forfeited that argument.

In either case, I'm not arguing for extremism.  I'm arguing that both sides need to relearn some basic principles, if they want democracy to function.  I want it to function.  Badly.  And I'm very sure that I'm not alone.

Henry Kissinger: A War Criminal?

That is how one close friend of mind once described him, and how many people view him.  Actually, she added stronger language to that phrase, which I have chosen not to repeat here.

In any case, this, so far as I am concerned, is an appropriate log for that fire.  Certainly, any man who views entire nations and their peoples as disposable pawns in a zero-sum power game deserves to be viewed that way, Nobel Peace Prize or not.

Friday, October 10, 2014

From Your Mouth To God's Ears (Literally), Mike!

Do it.  And divide the Republican base forever.

Is Prairie Populisim Rising Again?

Maybe.  Let's hope so.

How Far To The Right Have We Lurched? Just Look Where We Are On Raising The Minimum Wage

Raising it on a regular basis was once a bipartisan cause.  For some Republicans, including former members of Congress, it still is.  But not for Boehner and his bourbon back-room buddies--including the ones who supposedly drink "tea."

If you are capable of voting blue for no other reason, at least do it for this one.