Sunday, April 6, 2014

And, Speaking Of "Reaganomics" ...

Nothing demonstrates the futility of conservatives trying to stand athwart history and yelling "Stop" than history finally moving forward in Chile, with Michelle Bachelet picking up where Salvador Allende left off, and over a half-century of Nixon-induced fascism masquerading as capitalism coming to an end.

Sorry, conservatives, but history has a funny way of running you over when you stand in its way.

Solar Energy Doesn't Just Make Sense

It makes dollars, too.  Take a look.

Once The Glue, Now The Wedge

Once upon a time (back in the 1980s, especially), social issues like abortion, feminism, gay rights and religion in public forums were the glue that held together the war hawks and the tax cutters and gave the Republicans "wedge" issues to use against Democrats.  Now the wedging is working in the other direction, as a new generation of Republicans is adopting positions to the left of the elders.

Time is working against the so-called "Reagan Revolution."  Its base is almost entirely over the age of 65.  Not to put too fine or too cruel a point on it, but what kind of future can it have?

Why "Big Government" Is Always Needed

Because there are some risks that only big government is big enough to handle, and the risks are worth taking for the benefit of everyone.  NASA' Morpheus project is an example.  Perhaps it will help pave the way for a public-private partnership in space, much as we already have with air and rail travel.  I hope I live to see it.

Don't Let Anyone Tell You Green Living Isn't Possible.

It's more than possible; it's already happening, and it's creating all sorts of exciting synergies, allowing us to solve social and environmental problems at the same time.  Collapsible woven refugee shelters powered by the sun?  Already happening.  And trust me, it's only the beginning.

Don't Steal Their Jobs. Steal Their Ideas.

That's exactly what Rick Perry and other red-state governors should do, when it comes to talking about blue-state economies and bragging about non-existent red-state miracles.  Stop beating up on your betters.  Learn from the successes of blue states--they're the ones generating the Federal revenues that keep bailing you out of the consequences of your failed policies and your stubborn unwillingness to learn.

The Best High-Speed "Internet" May Not Be The Internet

Instead, it may be high-speed rail, which, slowly but hopefully surely, may be coming to America at last.  Let me explain why.

If history teaches us anything, it is that every revolution in both communication and transportation has brought people in closer proximity to one another.  While the short-term results of that have not always been peaceful, the long-term benefits have ultimately been enjoyed by everyone--an explosion of commerce, an expansion of knowledge on almost every front, and (perhaps best of all) a greater understanding of different cultures along with a deeper appreciation of our dependence on one another.  The Internet age, perhaps the ultimate revolution in communication, is now a little more than a generation old (thank you, Al Gore, who really did help make it happen), and the long-term benefits of the World Wide Web in commerce, knowledge and cultural understanding are obvious.

Is it possible to have a similar revolution in transportation?  Yes, it is, and high-speed rail is the key to taking the benefits of the Internet age and expanding them into our day-to-day lives.  Right now, each of us is able online to communicate, to trade, to share ideas and experiences all over the entire country in seconds with a high-speed connection and a few keystrokes.  Imagine being able to do something similar on a physical basis by way of high-speed rail.  In a matter of hours or less, you could be in the same room or rooms with those same people, building even deeper and stronger relationships with them. 

The Internet would become more than just a modern-day Matrix for corporate America.  It would become a launching pad to interacting, networking and associating directly with people all over the country.  The implications would be as obvious as they are enormous, especially for politics.  It would be even easier for blue-state liberals to offer support to their long-suffering counterparts.  It would truly begin to equalize the distribution of support for political campaigns across all fifty states.  It would be harder to marginalize progressives, if they have the ability to literally be almost anywhere in a matter of hours.  And none of this even begins to touch on the benefits building a national high-speed rail system would bring to employment, investment, and energy conservation.

Small wonder, then, that conservatives hate trains so much.  It's a delicious irony.  Once upon a time, in nineteenth-century America (the original version, and not the twenty-first century one), railroads were a visible symbol of the nexus between capitalists and politicians.  Today, however, railroads scare capitalists and their friends in the punditocracy to death.  Less oil profits!  Less automobile profits!  More union jobs!  A lessened ability to manipulate the public through mass media!  I'm telling you, it's a conservative nightmare!

And, if the American people had their way, those conservatives would never wake up.  Here's hoping that the building of a national high-speed rail system becomes a major project of the next Clinton Administration.  And let's see 2014 the way we should see it--as a chance to launch this dream while Obama is still in office.

An Open Letter To William Kristol And Condoleezza Rice

I'm writing in response to this, as well as this.

My initial reaction to these pieces was to hear in my head the words of Joseph Welch to Joe McCarthy:  "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Can you really expect a nation that adopted a posture of unlimited military action around the world with no plan to pay for the posture, or for the consequences of it to the military and, in fact, the entire nation, to be anything other than war-weary?  Does it even matter to you that this nation was essentially lied into that posture--and that the two of you were and are responsible for a sizable portion of the lying?  Do you even understand that the cost of your misdeeds--the explosion of the national debt, the physical and emotional devastation of families, the unmet domestic needs of the nation that was supposedly being "defended"--will be paid for over decades?  And, in some ways worst of all, can you appreciate the fact that all of this happened while you and your cronies made--not earned, but made--trillions of dollars, for which you thanked the rest of us by hiding it in overseas tax shelters?

Neither of you, and none of your fellow travelers in what a truly great Republican once called the military-industrial complex, have any standing, moral or otherwise, to lecture the rest of us to start pulling our weight.  We've been pulling it all along--and then some.  We've been making sacrifices galore while the two of you and your cronies have not only made none, but profited from the misery of others.

Obviously, from these most recent examples of your self-serving claptrap, those profits just aren't enough.  Your rule for profits must resemble Newsweek's description of Russ Meyer's aesthetic:  nothing is obscene as long as it's done in bad taste.  And your bad taste has no bottom, just as your narcissism has no top.

Do either of you really want to prepare this nation for the necessity of another war?  Fine.  I'll be generous, because that's how we liberals roll.  I'll assume that the answer to that question is "Yes."  Assuming, then, that you have ears to hear, here are my suggestions.

First, repatriate the profits.  Payment should first go to reduce the national debt and pay for the needs of veterans, and thereafter to the physical and social rebuilding of civilian life.

Second, the next time you think we need to go to war, tell the truth, no matter how difficult or costly it may be to do so.  If you are going to ask a nation to sacrifice its financial and human treasure, you have to level with it.  Don't invent imaginary weapons.  Don't pretend you're looking for the enemy while you're letting him get away, so that you can go on using him as an excuse for the profits.  This nation has always shown a willingness to fight when there is a real reason.  And, on a related note, don't use the war as an excuse for partisan gain, by linking every political issue to it.

And third, the next time we need to go to war, come up with a plan to pay for it--one that includes everyone.  In war, no one is too big to either fail or to make sacrifices.  This is necessary not only to ensure victory, but also to ensure that war does not become a lifestyle.

That last sentence, however, like the linked articles, ends my generosity and begs an important question:  what is war to you--a moment in history, or a lifestyle?  On the strength of the available evidence, I'm forced to conclude that it may be the latter.

And if it is, shame on you.  And don't dare ask any of us to make sacrifices that you are not prepared to make yourselves.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Liberalism's Greatest Strength

What is it?  Its ability to admit to a mistake, and to correct it.  Thank you, Ed Schultz.  And, when it comes to Keystone XL, from your mouth to God's ears, and to the voters' ears as well.

One Big Reason NOT To Write Off The Democrats in 2014

Republicans may think it's enough to have new technology, but Democrats know that it's essential to understand how to use it.  That's what they did in Virginia last year.  And it wouldn't surprise me to see them do it again this fall.

The Coming Tax Hike Revolution

This blog was found on the premise, among others that taxes are the price we pay for civilization, and that civilization can only be sustained by everyone paying their fair share--not by having the majority pay for the Olympian status of an investing class only Ayn Rand could truly love.  It would seem that others are slowly coming around to that point of view as well.  If anything, the understanding is growing that tax hikes of this sort, on high frequency traders, are the moral and functional equivalent of welfare reform for the rich.

It's always good to find out that you're not alone.

100% Sustainable Homes?

That's the promise of so-called "earthships."  Take a look.

Being "Muscular" Is Grossly Overrated

It's far cheaper and safer to let your enemy destroy itself.  David Ignatius believes that this is exactly what Putin's invasion of Crimea is doing to Putin.  Here's the proof that he's right.

Does Beating A Dog With A Stick Make It Hunt?

Today's conservatives say "Yes."  And, as always, reality says they're wrong--that social programs help people move upward.  Take it away, Paul Krugman.

The Liberation Of The Bullies: It Didn't Start With "Animal House"

Thomas Frank's Salon piece on the comedy of the late Harold Ramis is, as usual, spot-on.  He shows how the seemingly anti-Establishment anarchy of Ramis' best-known films--"Animal House," "Caddyshack," and "Ghostbusters"--is little more than a series of battles between two aristocracies, a crumbling one and a would-be one that eventually wins.  What doesn't win in any of these movies is anything representing communal values--generosity, humility, thoughtfulness and so forth.  If anything, those on the left should be siding more with the crumbling establishment, since they embody those virtues to at least a small degree.  So much can't be said for the winners, who, in Frank's view, paved the way culturally for the current-day wolves of Wall Street.

Frank's wrong, however, to think that Delta House, or even Ramis (or "Saturday Night Live," for that matter) was the wellspring for this cultural shift.  In fact, it has nothing to do with comedy or entertainment.  After all, the behavior in all of these movies has little to do with real wit, or even insight into life or humanity.  All of it is little more than a creative series of bullying acts.  We don't laugh at how clever these movies are.  Put simply, we laugh at the bullying---and, more specifically, the success of the bullying.

And bullying in this country has been on the rise ever since the end of the Second World War, the last time that the liberals understood that the niceties of a liberal society had to be brutally defended by people with no respect for those niceties.  Since the end of that war, liberals have pretended that victory settled the question of whether we would be a nation of laws, or of forces beyond society's control.  Perhaps they were simply tired of fighting, or perhaps it was an exaggerated sense of confidence.  Whatever the reason, they believed that they had created a world in which fairness and due process would reign supreme--especially in the victorious United States.

The bullies, on the other hand, knew better.  They saw in the left's reluctance to fight an opportunity to use their good manners and turn them against them.  They understood that if they bullied in an underhanded way, using imaginary grievances (the "Red Menace, anyone?), and leaving as few traces as possible, while playing a game of patience with regard to reaching their long-term objectives, they just might win.  Today, nearly 70 years after the end of the war, they are on the verge of winning.

Frank is correct, however, in seeing the connection between the political and the cultural when it comes to bullying behavior.  Bullying has not been confined to politics--it has seeped into every area of our lives, including our public schools.  It has, in fact, reached such epidemic proportions that it has in fact become a political issue.  And you can color me unsurprised on this subject; I was a victim of substantial bullying when I was in elementary school.  I saw first-hand how little school officials can do if the bullies are shrewd enough to play the system against itself.

How will all of this end?  Well, as I've said any number of times, that's up to us.  I've been saying for much of the past few weeks that we need to organize, contribute and vote.  We still need to do all of those things.  But there's one thing we must do above all.  Or not do.  And that is cave into the bullying.  I only learned to repulse my bullies when they learned that I would not give in to them.  And sometimes--very few times, but sometimes--it may be necessary to bully back.  That's how we stopped the Third Reich from ruling the world.  It may well be how we need to prevent the Caddyshacking of America.