Friday, December 31, 2010

Forty-Five Minutes Before 2011 ...

... I decided to look back at my first post for 2010.  In it, I expressed a hope that we would not have a rerun of the 1994 elections.  Well, we only had a partial rerun; that's bad enough.  I also expressed the hope that comprehensive immigration reform might resurface.  Instead, even the relatively modest and compassionate DREAM Act got summarily kicked to the legislative curb.

Most disturbing of all to me, however, was the fact that we are much further away now than we were then from being a nation that argues and gawks less, and thinks and builds more.  But giving up simply makes one a collaborator with the bad guys.  You remember how hard you worked for change in 2008?  Well, get out of the tea bagger dumps, and work harder!  Your values are the only ones that ensure any type of future for any of us.

Most of all, if you're out there and reading this, on Blogger or Twitter, drop me a line.  Give me feedback, positive or negative.  If you are there, and this blog has helped you in any way, I'm grateful.  If you're not out there ... well, it's fun to write anyway!  And I'm grateful for the fact that the Internet helps us to communicate, organize, and build a better nation.  Thank you, Al Gore!  (Well, he may not have invented the Internet, but he helped expand its range and utility for all of us.)

So, what hope to express for 2011?  The same one for last year.  We've never needed to heed that hope more than we need to, now.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Farewell, Detective Dietrich

One of my all-time favorite performers, and one of my personal inspirations when it comes to comedic acting.  We're lucky to have them at all--and, in his case, lucky that we can still watch his work.

Is Arizona The New California?

If, by that, we mean is it a bellwether for the rest of the nation, the answer may be yes.  It certainly seems to be as divided as the rest of American is, and as paranoid about immigrants.  Let's hope the state changes for the better, and soon, in that case.

Should The Speaker-To-Be Get On The Wagon?

Some people seem to think so.  It's difficult to say whether Boehner having a drinking problem would be good or bad news for the rest of us.  It may diminish the effectiveness of his leadership, and lead to a Democratic resurgence.  But it could also permit the passage of a lot of truly terrible legislation.  Ultimately, for his sake and everyone else's, let's hope he stays dry for at least the next two years.

Less About Health Care Reform, And More About Conservative "Judges"

That, at any rate, is my view of the Federal court ruling in Virginia that the mandate to purchase health insurance included in the health care reform bill violates the Commerce Clause.   Read my lips:  it isn't a mandate.  If you don't buy the insurance, you pay higher taxes.  It's a choice--and, at worst, it's a tax increase, which is as Constitutional as eating a hot dog at the ball game.

Unfortunately, the judge who made this idiotic ruling is one of many examples of how the Federal bench has been polluted with right-wing Republican ideologues.  When is Obama going to get moving on filling the record number of judicial vacancies, and give the court system some semblance of independence again?

Perhaps Only In Obama's America ...

... could this be happening.  It's really not all that surprising.  If we can elect a black President, why shouldn't segregation be on the decline?  It's only bigots who have stood in the way of this.  Unfortunately, there are still a lot of them, disguising their bigotry as a reverence for history.  Hopefully, each generation, we lose a few more of these idiots.

This Shouldn't Be Necessary

Namely, private bills for individual immigrant cases.  This simply illustrates how, when given a choice between crafting a solution and using the issue, Republicans will always opt for the latter.  Why address comprehensive immigration reform, when they can use the issue to maintain and expand their power by spreading fear?

If there was any justice with respect to the issue, there would be literally millions of private bills.  Not all undocumented aliens are without legal status due to any fault on their part.  Most of them (surprise!) entered lawfully.  And no, not all of them are Mexicans.

But, until the people of this country are ready to have a truthful, factual discussion about immigration, private bills may be about as good as it gets for a lot of deserving people.  Including, I suspect, some you know.

Why I Think We'll Be Talking About Something Other Than The Deficit Soon

Because this never changes.

It CAN Be Done!

Building a self-sustaining economy that is focused on reuse of resources, especially ones that we continuously produce, that is.  If we're so much better than the rest of the world, and it can be done in Sweden, why not here?

Think High Taxes Can Be Avoided?

Think again.  The shift in this country's economy from manufacturing to personal services all but guarantees that taxes will have to rise for someone.  This explains why.

So why not raise them on people who can afford to pay them?  They'll still be millionaires.  This isn't about socialism, folks; it's about survival.

It's Not Obama We Should Be Challenging

It's Congress in general, and the Democratic members in particular.  We should be putting pressure on THEM to deliver, and recruiting candidates for the primaries and the fall elections in 2012.  THAT's what the tea baggers did, and it worked for them.

Obama has shown that he will not push any harder than Congress lets him.  You can only change that by changing the Congress.  Finding a more liberal President is an exercise in futility; electing a more liberal Congress may not be. 

And, Speaking Of War, By Which I Mean Iraq ...

Why is single-payer health insurance good enough for the Iraqis, but not for us?  Try to answer that one, Mr. Speaker-to-be.  And don't look for the answer in the tea bags.  They don't know what they're doing--and, come Wednesday, they'll be demonstrating it on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

For That Matter, War Hawks Are On The Decline

Yes, it's easy to talk tough about war and national defense when you think it's just a matter of blowing the bad guys up with the touch of a button.  But war is never that easy.  There is always a human price tag, on all sides of every conflict.  The young man described in this article is surely one of many who has taken the journey toward a truth he didn't expect to find.

This is not to say that we can afford not to be tough.  What we need is a defense and foreign policy based on shared sacrifice, both personal and financial, as well as on achievable goals and willing international partners.  It's the only way that works.  And it's worked for us before.  We just have to remember that.

Wonder Why "Values" Politics Is On The Decline?

For my part, I think this article suggests why.  Family values are all well and good, but, in real life, they cost money.  Anybody who's ever tried to support and raise a family (including me) can figure than out.  Even the Republicans have done that, which is why they've abandoned almost all pretense at trying to woo so-called Reagan Democrats with "values" politics.  Instead, as the recent battle to the death over millionaires' tax cuts has shown, time and truth have exposed them for what they always have been, first and foremost:  economic royalists.

Not Giving Up On A DREAM

Unfortunately, the rate of progress in other areas, most notably immigration, seems to be headed in the wrong direction.  I hope Obama pushes back hard on this next year.  The short-term political cost would be real, but the long-term political and human cost of not doing so would be far greater.  Demographics and globalization are on the side of immigration advocates.  Ultimately, so is simple human decency.

Better Late Than Never!

That applies to this post, as well as the substance of it.  For those of you who are discouraged by the course of progress, consider this:  Obama dragged across the finish line two important liberal objectives that nearly swallowed Bill Clinton:  health care reform, and gays openly serving in the military.  You can lament the rate of progress, but you should never use the rate as an excuse to not work for it.

... And A Glimmer Of Hope On Deficits

I'm not sure what's more surprising here:  the fact that I agree with Ross Douthat, or the fact that I agree with Tom Coburn.  But let's hope there's more of this kind of willingness to confront our budget challenges from both parties in the next Congress.

Good (And Green) News For Modern Man

At least some in the evangelical movement, which I left behind years ago in part due to its knee-jerk conservatism, seem to get it when it comes to respecting the Creation.  I met Richard Cizik, who's mentioned in the article, many years ago, and was deeply impressed by both his sincerity and intelligence.  He didn't hold against me* the fact that our political orientations were different, because we agreed on matters of faith.  If anyone in the evangelical community can make inroads in political progress on environmental issues, it's him.  Let's hope--and pray--for the best over the next two years.

*Edited August 31, 2011 to add "against me."

Think The Millionaires' Tax Cut Will Trickle Down To You?

Think again.  It's basically a foreign aid program.

Aren't We Number One In Anything?

Well, yes, in debt and denial.  Everything else, apparently, is a different story.

Can It Be So Bad If Krauthammer Hates It?

Perhaps not.  Once in a long while, I'm forced to agree with old Chuck.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

OK! OK! I've Done It!

I used the New York Times Budget Calculator to balance the federal budget, and I did it with an equal mix of tax hikes and spending cuts.  Take a look.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Sins Of The Father ...

... have consumed the life of his son.  Perhaps now, Madoff will have some ability to understand how his greed has truly destroyed people's lives.

Maybe There's Some Hope, After All

It appears that it's still possible for the world to come together on climate change.  One more reason to look forward to the day when the United States rejoins the world.

I'm Surprised Conservatives Aren't Eating Themselves Alive

After all, their arguments are doing just that with each other.

Friday, December 10, 2010

... And He DEFINITELY Needs To Quit Tobacco

No, I'm not talking about his addiction to cigarettes, although giving them up wouldn't be a bad idea as well.

Last summer, on "Mad Men" (one of the few reasons I watch TV), Don Draper's new advertising agency is threatened by the loss of Lucky Strike, the client that provides most of its revenue.  Prospective business runs away from it, while another agency uses it to leverage another client.  So what does Don do?  Change the subject.  He takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times, entitled "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco," to plant in everyone's minds the idea that his agency dumped Lucky Strike, and not the other way around.

That's what Obama needs to do.  Change the subject.  Here's one indication that he gets that, and is prepared to do it.  If the Republicans want to talk about taxes and deficits, fine.  Make them do it on your terms.  This is what leadership is all about, Mr. President.  Do it.  Quit tobacco--literally and metaphorically.

Obama Needs To Be Less Like Spock

Last year, when the latest "Star Trek" movie came out, Newsweek published a cover story explaining the series' enduring popularity in the context of the then-new presidency:  in troubled times, we needed a cool, logical, Spock-like president like Obama to guide us through our national troubles.  So the reasoning ran back then.  Fast-forward to today:  in the wake of last months' electoral setback, everyone is telling Obama that he needs to, in effect, become more like Dr. McCoy.  Mr. Cool needs to become Mr. Hot in order to survive the change in the national temperature.

There may actually be something to this.  After all, in one early episode, even Mr. Spock himself learned the limits of logic, and found a justification for having "a nervous breakdown."  I don't think that a nervous breakdown--or "spite" is the answer.  But I do know that, when the national dialogue turns into a fistfight, you'd better be armed with something more than good ideas and intentions.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You Don't Have To Admit ANYTHING About Your Tax Cuts, Bushies

We knew this all along.

Losing Teams Lose Because They're Made Up Of Losers

Case in point.

Two thoughts, Mr. Scott, because you're obviously not capable of having even one:

1.  He's shown his birth certificate.  Get over it.

2.  Wait until someone gives a damn about either you or your team before you go to this much trouble to make yourself look like an idiot.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sad News

She would have been a terrific First Lady, even though I think we're otherwise lucky that her husband never made it to the White House.

Compromise, My A**!

Okay, let's try to short this out, by starting out with some of the short-term reaction.

He doesn't like it.  She doesn't like it.  And he doesn't like it.

Well, a good compromise is one that's hated by folks on both sides of the fence, right?

To quote John McLaughlin, "Wrong!"

Because the grand deal struck by Obama and the GOP is simply the alternative stimulus package proposed by Republicans two years ago--extended unemployment benefits and a heap of tax cuts.

As I see it, Obama is trying to "sell" the benefits extension as a concession to him.  Forget it.  No sane person with even a basic understanding of the issues involve believes that this is any kind of concession at all.  Walking away from unemployment insurance is every bit as politically suicidal as walking away from Social Security.  Boehner and McConnell know this, even if The One has yet to figure it out.

That's why Congressional Democrats, who are far from being the red-eyed socialists Rush Limburger thinks they are, are ready to make Obama walk the plank on this one.  In their eyes, he's earned it.  In my eyes, too.

I'm soliciting advice regarding the easiest way to remove the "I Stand With The President" bumper-sticker from my Prius.  Thoughts, anyone?

And Bernie, let the filibuster begin!

What Now For The Democrats, Indeed?

Grow a pair and get a spine, eh?  All the things Democrats are (correctly) saying to Obama, they should be saying to themselves.  Get over "The One," and start focusing on the ones that matter by organizing and fighting like our lives depend on it, because they do.  Thanks for saying so, Mr. Kuttner.

Not Such A "Loserman," After All

Who knew he even had this much backbone?  It's a shame that it isn't true across the board.

The Decline And Fall Of The American Empire?

If this is correct, and I'm hard-pressed to argue with its reasoning, it suggests to me that in the forecasting of America's future that was at the heart of the 1980 Presidential election, Jimmy Carter was right, and Ronald Reagan was wrong (what a surprise).  If anything, both men were wrong, because neither one saw how bad it could be--worse, in the end, than a "crisis of confidence" or a "malaise."

Then again, as Lord Keynes once said, in the long run we're all dead anyway.  (Tug McGraw version:  when the Sun novas and destroys the Earth, no one will care what Willie Stargell did with the bases loaded.)  Still, as this article suggests, the extended short run may make some of us wish we were dead.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Does Greed Know No Boundaries?

Does it even stop you from supporting heroes?  Then you have to wonder if we have a country left to defend.

Raise My Taxes!

My basic argument on this subject, in a nutshell.

Farewell To A Real Sports Hero

It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.  So goes the old sports cliche.  But, like all cliches, it's wrapped around a kernel of truth.  And how you play the game is reflected not just in sportsmanship, but also in the obstacles that players have to overcome.

That's why Ron Santo was a hero, and should be considered as such whether or not you are a Cubs fan.  Read this, and you'll understand why I say that.  Safe travels, Ron; here's hoping there's a World Series in heaven for you.

Ignore Sarah?

Sorry, Charles.  I'd like nothing better than to do this.  But ignoring that which deserves to be ignored doesn't make it go away.  And it just allow the object of your "ignorance" to claim that you're afraid to disagree with him/her/it/them.

Like it or not, you have to engage the enemy.  Democracy expects no less of all of us.  It's the only way to stop them from spreading lies like this, and effectively re-writing our past.  It's a short step from there to writing our future without us.

You Can Always Count On One Thing From Republicans ...

... and that's saying one thing, and doing another, whether it's Federal spending, health insurance, or anything else.

"Stockholm Syndrome"? Or Something Worse?

You can add me to the list of frustrated progressives who wonder what will it take for President Obama and Congressional Democrats to grow a little spine, and stop negotiating with themselves when they should be fighting for the goals of the people who voted for them--and gave money to them (myself included).  Obama, in particular, is a total mystery at this point.  Whether it's extending the Bush tax cuts or anything else, it seems that the President seems determined to simply say "How high?" every time John Boehner and Mitch McConnell say "Jump!"

It's been suggested by some commentators that Obama may have been effectively "taken hostage" by the Capitol Hill GOP, that he has been so personally intimidated by the way it does business that he is a victim of "Stockholm Syndrome," identifying with his "captors" to the point at which he effectively regards them as his "friends."  Frank Rich has said as much in today's New York Times; here is another sample of this line of thinking.  But if this is in fact happening--and I'm not saying it isn't--I suspect that more is involved besides intransigency on the Republicans' part, and fecklessness on the part of the White House.

To me, the 800-pound-gorilla in the room of the Obama Presidency can be summed up in one word, one that I'm almost afraid to type even as I write this:  assassination.  (I pause here to knock on wood and say "pu-pu-pu!" under my breath, to avoid tempting fate.)  I think it's fair to say that not since the last President from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, has a President's life been in such constant danger--and, sadly, for the same basic reason.  (The Civil War years were probably also the last time the nation has been as divided as it is now, but that's a subject for another post.)  It's not a state secret that the security surrounding Obama is higher and more constant than the security provided for any other American President.  And there should be.  Sadly, in spite of reaching the point at which we can elect an African-American to the White House, we do not live in a "post-racial" society.  We are every bit as racist as we've always been.  As a law school friend of mine (himself an African-American) once told me, we just do a better job of hiding it.

All of this can't help but influence the overall political atmosphere in D.C., and the Obama-GOP dynamic in particular.  To what extent is the GOP aware of this?  What do they know about any actual or potential threats to the President's life?  To what extent--if any--are they involved, perhaps in a material way, with these threats?

These are, and should be, disturbing questions.  I do not ask them easily.  But, if we're going to openly talk about "Stockholm Syndrome," we might as well take the discussion to the next level.  It may be necessary to prevent the hostage, and the rest of us, from becoming the victims of a far greater tragedy than losing an election.

How To NOT Clean Up A City

This past week, The New York Times published an article celebrating the "end" of the process of "cleaning up" Times Square.  No doubt it has been cleaned up, in the sense that it is no longer a vice zone.  But, as I stated in the Comments section of this article, the end result is decidedly a mixed bag.

Of course, the focus here is not on Times Square as a whole, but on the block of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues--"the Deuce," in the street-speak of another era.  But it's understandable that this block would be the focus, since it was the epicenter, in every measurable way, of the depravity of the district in the mid-to-late 20th century.  If you lived in New York, as I did in the early 1980s, you need no one to explain that to you.  But walking down the block today, one sees a (to borrow a phrase from another contributor to the Comments section) a different kind of pornography--the pornography of a corporate theme park, where chain stores have created a kind of Anywhere U.S.A. outdoor mall in midtown Manhattan.

I'm not one of the ones who waxes nostalgic about the lack of "grit" (whatever that is) or excitement that typified the block as it was.  I don't miss the vice, and the neighborhood, with its iconic Broadway theatres and other landmarks (the Brill Building and Colony Records, anyone?).  But, like much of the rest of life, it's not something that lends itself to an either-or analysis, either, as attractive as that dynamic may be to a certain type of mind.  Looking at 42nd Street as it is now, I'm left with three nagging questions:

1.  The vice--where did it go?  Was it really somehow magically removed from the face of the earth, or was it simply pushed into other parts of the city, parts that didn't command the same level of tourist attention, or that otherwise lacked the social and political clout to fight back?  My own observations of the city, as a former resident and frequent tourist, lead me to suspect the latter, and that the "cleaning-up" has been largely a case of sweeping the "dirt" under other portions of the municipal rug.

2.  The small businesses--where did they go?  Not all of the business on the block were porn shops.  There were a lot of truly local small businesses--game parlors, lunch counters, the Times Square Gym and so forth--that thrived by catering to people of limited means.  Oh, that's right.  We now sit in judgment on those people.  In America in the early years of the new millennium, if you're not a multimillionaire, you're just a loser who, according to Rush Limberger, shouldn't even have the right to vote.

Seriously, there's no reason some place couldn't have been found for at least some of these businesses among the new skyscrapers that have shot up along the block.  And that leads to ...

3.  The theatres--why in the bloody hell did THEY have to go?  I'll qualify this a little bit.  I don't have a problem with Disney taking over the New Amsterdam; it's a theatre with a tradition of spectacle going all the way back to Ziegfeld, and Disney does spectacle as well as anyone.  I was pleased that the Roundabout Theatre Company took over the Selwyn, although I could have done without its corporate renaming.  (Interesting irony:  American Airlines abandoned Manhattan for Dallas in 1979; I guess they view renaming the Selwyn as a form of atonement.)  And I was especially pleased that the New 42nd Street Corporation took over the Theatre Republic--the oldest Broadway theatre still standing--and turned it into the New Victory Theatre for children.  (Footnote:  this happened during the administration of David Dinkins; keep that in mind when you hear Rudy Giuliani take all of the credit for the "new" Times Square.)

But this street, and this block in particular, owe their fame to their connection to live American Theatre.  And the three success stories I just mentioned do not outweigh the fact that their were once 11 theatres on the street, 10 of which were still standing in 1978, when plans for the street's renewal were first made.  Sadly, the remaining 7 have, for the most part, been wholly or partially demolished.  For example, the Lyric and Apollo Theatres, two mid-sized theatres perfect for plays or musicals, were largely demolished and have been replaced by a big barn of a theatre (with some recycled elements of their predecessors) that nobody wants to book, and has been the site of large, expensive failures.  Its current tenant, "Spider-Man:  Turn Off The Dark," looks like it may continue that trend.  The Harris Theatre, another house that was perfect for plays, has been completely demolished (except for its facade) and is now the site of a wax museum.  And the list goes on.

The main point here is this:  saving the theatres was publically announced as the primary goal of reclaiming the street.  And, for the most part, the theatres were not saved, though there were certainly way to do it, physically and financially, in a city that has the financial and artistic resources of New York.  In the process, the city has lost something unique to its character, and the nation has lost an important landmark in its cultural history.

An urban renaissance?  Perhaps.  A renaissance both urban and cultural in nature would have been even better.  We could have had it on 42nd Street.  We can't, now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If They All Had This Type Of Guts ...

... the Democrats would be a party we could all be proud of.  In the meantime, three cheers for the voters of Michigan, whose recent electoral judgment is suspect, but who formerly had the good sense to put this woman in the U.S. Senate.

The Republican Bomb?

No, I'm not talking about their leaders or their policies, although I wouldn't blame you for thinking that I was.  I'm talking about this man, who invented the neutron bomb--the one that destroys people, but not property.  The current crop of Republicans are on target to destroy both.

A Question For Massachusetts Voters

Was Martha Coakley really so terrible that this was preferable?  The only good thing about this is that it demonstrates a level of callousness that will make the new House majority the shortest-lived one in memory.

Because if it doesn't do that, nobody will need to take the United States prisoner, because it's already dead.

A Timely Reminder Of Where Our Budget Problems Began

Hint:  It's not with the Democrats.

Let's Start December Off With The Completely Ridiculous!

I've known for a long time that narcissism is the biggest "ism" of the modern age, but I'm not sure it can achieve any greater height than this.  She needs to get over herself.  I mean, it's not like she can do anything practical with it, like sell it as real estate (think of the air conditioning bills you would have)!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Speaking Of Which ...

I was recently un-friended on Facebook by a Republican business associate, who took exception to the fact that I objected to his use of Facebook to tell me and my "Liberal freinds" (his spelling) what part of our anatomy we could kiss.  That's okay.  I'm well rid of him, too.  This will give you some idea of why.

Power Whores

That's the only way to describe these people.  They and the horse they came in on know what they can do with themselves.  The Democratic Party is well rid of these people; jellyfish have more spine than they do.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A War Between Generations?

This comes as no surprise, given the fact that over-65 voters were the only ones who tilted toward McCain in 2008.  (Interestingly enough, boomer voters split down the middle between the two tickets; one wonders to what extent the relative evenness of support for Democrats and Republicans in the past decade is something of a boomer thing, like so many other things both good and bad.)

But it also offers yet more evidence of why this month's election does not signify a hard tilt to the right.

Aside from the fact that the incumbent party almost always loses seats in midterm elections (2002 was, as has been said elsewhere, a 9/11-derived fluke, inspired by an electorate determined to give an unelected President a vote of confidence), the voter base in midterms is almost always smaller, and skewed demographically toward the elderly, who have ample time for voting and who are highly dependent on government spending.  And a lot of them voted their fears, based on right-wing propaganda on health care reform.

In time, both of these factors will disappear.  First of all, as health care reform makes health care more available to the general public, the cost of providing it will go down--protecting seniors' access to it.  And second, if this is the Republican base of the future, then (without being undiplomatic about it) the future is relatively short-lived.

We lost a battle, folks.  Not the war.  Time, and the truth, are on our side.

If We Can Find A Way To Come Together On THIS ...

... perhaps things aren't so hopeless, after all.  Liberals just need to make the core argument they should have made from the beginning:  abortion is terrible, but outlawing it is even worse.

"Big Government Never Created A Job?" HA!

Big government has helped to create millions of jobs when it has been willing to invest in new, unproven but ultimately beneficial technologies.  The history of our country, from the transcontinental railroad to the Internet, has demonstrated this time and time again.

The space program is one notable example, and can be again.  Interstate automobile travel is yet another example, and can be again.

One day, when we start deriving public policy from facts, and not feelings, these fantasies can become reality.

Yet ANOTHER Example Of What I'm Talking About ...

... in the not-feeling-sorry-for-ourselves department.

It's not about holding onto power.  That's a goal that eludes us all.  It's making the most of it when you have it.  Democrats in the current Congress did an effective, if not perfect job of doing just that.  And that matters because (and I can't say it enough) we have the ideas that work, and that the American people need.

The tragedy of American politics is that, in no small part due to the upward shift in wealth over the past three decades, it's now the wealthy who have the clout to promote our ideas and translate them into reality.  This is but one example.

Why should the American people have to wait for the intersection of wealth and wisdom before something good happens for them?

The real us-versus-them in our society is no longer about left and right, but rich and poor.  But the left still needs to be strong, and even dangerous, or else it will be about rich and poor forever.  Once, it was.  But all of that changed, in part because of the other side's ruthlessness, and in part because of our innocence, and our willingness to worship it at the expense of everything else.

It's time to once again embrace Mother Jones' advice:  "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!"

... And An UN-Predictable Impeachment Of Republican Economics

... from an unimpeachable source.

Change course?  How about the one we've been on for most of the past 30 years?  Let's change THAT course!

Predictable Burying Of Good News ...

... perhaps because it favors Democrats.  Like FDR before him, President Obama really did save capitalism from itself.  Statistics prove it.  And a leading capitalist is proudly willing to admit it.

Mr. President, when they tell you to "change course," throw their own putrid words back at them, and say "HELL NO!"

Predictable Bragging, And Why It Should Be Ignored

The pundits aren't the only source of hot air about the election results.  There are, of course, the politicians themselves, for whom hot air is, as slavery was to the landholders of the Old South, a peculiar institution and a cherished way of life (which apologies to Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards, the authors of "1776").

The soon-to-be Republican leaders in the next House of Representatives have taken to the airwaves (and cable lines, and Net servers) to inform the world that the 2010 election is nothing less than an anti-liberal referendum, and a demand by the American people that all conservative wishes be enshrined into law.  Anyone who dares to say otherwise is guilty of the capital crime of national approval--not "getting it."

Never mind the fact that their own approval ratings are not much better than the President's--or the fact that the Democrats still control the Senate as well as the White House.  Being elected is always the by-product of many factors beyond the control of any candidate--the economy, in the case of this election, for example.  It is never a ringing endorsement of all of the winning candidates' "ideas."  (See my previous post regarding the question of whether many of them have any real "ideas" in the first place.)

When it comes to a number of key issues, such as health care, and airport scanners, the public isn't on their side.  When it comes to the overall tax-and-spend question, the best they can get are mixed results.  Even on the question of whether their majority even exists, they strike out.

Perhaps this is why the putative Speaker of the House is so willing to let President Obama set the agenda.  It gives him and his party the freedom to go on doing the only thing they really do well--say "no."

Predictable Punditry, And Why It Shouldn't Be Heeded

Every setback for the Democrats in the polls predictably leads to calls from various members of the talking-heads class what I call the "two Republican Parties" solution (with apologies to the late David Brinkley, from whom I have borrowed the phrase).  All the Democrats need to do is to become more "moderate" (translation:  more conservative), and all will be well with the two-party system and, therefore, with democracy itself.

The persistence of this line of argumentation is amazing, inasmuch as it amounts to saying (in the face of massive evidence to the contrary) that Republicans have such a monopoly on good ideas that we should take every possible step to ensure that there's no such thing as a national political debate.  Ever.

Of course, they have no such monopoly.  And the greatest proof of this is the fact that even they don't believe in their own alleged ideas.

For example, they oppose public health insurance for the American people, but want to make sure that they get it as quickly as possible for themselves.

Their supporters claim to be the voice of ordinary Americans, but are in fact financed by the super-rich--and oppose any effort to change that.

They pretend that President Obama and the Democrats are nothing but liars, while they systematically engage in spreading their own poisonous lies.

Perhaps worst of all, when it comes to criticizing specific laws, programs and policies, they openly admit to applying one standard for themselves, and another to their opponents.  It's bad enough to lose a civil liberties champion like Russ Feingold; it's even worse to lose him to a four-flushing hypocrite who uses the Patriot Act to effectively say that Republicans should have one set of laws, and Democrats should have another.  Such an individual has no real concept of the United States of America-- and is certainly under both a moral and intellectual disability when it comes to taking an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Somebody needs to ask the George Wills, Michael Goodwins and Mickey Kauses of the world:  which one of these perfidies do they want the Democrats to adopt first?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Example Of What I'm Talking About ...

... when it comes to not sitting around and feeling sorry for yourselves.  Frankly, if I have a vote in the debate described herein, it would be for investing in attack ads, not think tanks.  We don't suffer from a lack of ideas.  We suffer from a nearly-terminal fear of punching, in a country that expects nothing less.

25 Days Later ...

... well, first of all, I have to admit I didn't expect to stay silent for this long.

Frankly, even though I thought I was braced for this year's election results, the reality of it hit me a lot harder than I thought.  It's not me, the Democrats (and certainly not the ones in Congress), or progressives in general for whom I'm depressed.

It's this country.  And its seeming inability to to think, and to treat voting as something worth thinking about.

Why else would you vote back into power (or, more precisely, one-third of power) the same gang of lying thieves who trashed this country in the first place?

In fairness, the voters in this election were enabled by three factors:

1.  The Supreme Court, which decided that corporations are people with unlimited rights to buy elections;

2.  Wall Street, which thanked the Democrats for saving capitalism by investing their record profits into buying said elections, instead of creating jobs for voters (except for Tea Party organizers and promoters); and

3.  Last, and certainly not the least, President Obama, who in hindsight has largely conducted an in-box presidency, allowing everyone but him to define the debate--its substance, its terms and, sadly, its conclusion.  Unwilling to see, until too late, that Republicans in Congress had no sense of national self-interest, he allowed Congress to do all of the heavy lifting, with the result that both he and Democrats in Congress paid a steep and perhaps tragic price.

As I've said previously, there's no reason to give up.  The nature of our political system, at its best and at at its worst, allows both sides to win their share of battles.  But this is ultimately a war of ideas, even if it is often fueled by raw and ugly emotions, and our side has the ideas that work.

But we're not going to get there from here to there without changes.  And the biggest change of all has to come from us.

We can't count on elected officials to do it all.  If history teaches us anything, it's that we've never been able to.  Real change in this country has always flowed up from the streets.  Only then does change trickle down from Pennsylvania Avenue.

And we might as well take a page out of the other's sides book.  They never sleep.  They never go away.  And they certainly don't wait a generation or two for the "right" candidate.

We had a rough 2010, but it wasn't 1994.  We still have the Senate, as well as the White House.  We've seen major changes in health care, student loans, and financial regulation--and we may yet get the DREAM Act for immigrant students, as well as the end of "don't ask, don't tell."

The future is still waiting for us.  But it's not waiting for us to cry and feel sorry for ourselves.  It's waiting for us to work, sacrifice, organize and stay together.

And, above all, to never, ever go away.  Presidents and Congresses come and go.  The American people and the American dream are forever.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This Time, They're Both Right

But, unfortunately, Brooks' wisdom is canceled out by Krugman's.

Fasten your seatbelts.  It's going to be a rough road to 2012.

On WHAT Planet Has He Been Living?


Social Security was passed doing a time of prosperity?  The last two years have seen American become more liberal?

It's official:  conservatism is now a fact-free zone.  Get ready for two years of non-stop lies.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

An End-Of-The-Month Rant, As America Prepares To Throw Itself Off The Cliff

I find myself thinking, not without a little bit of nostalgia, about Election Night two years ago in real time and an eternity emotionally.  For me, and for many my age, it was probably the happiness Election Night in the forty-plus years that I've followed national politics.  The ups and downs that I've seen in that time, however, gave me a cautionary feeling about what two years later (in other words, now) might look like.

I told myself that another 1994 could not possibly happen.  Obama, unlike Clinton, was neither a plurality President nor a morally compromised one.  The Republican leadership in Congress was of a lesser political caliber than it was in the Gingrich-and-Dole days.  And the voters, it seemed, had finally seen through the smoke and mirrors that has characterized conservative politics and policies over the past 30 years.

And yet, as I write this, America seems to be on the verge of shooting itself in the foot--or perhaps, this time, in the head--one more time.

Why?  In the end, an unsurprising conflux of causes.  Obama somehow believed that leadership on most issues could be delegated to Congress, and in the process lost the opportunity to lead from the White House and use Congress as a competitive foil (as most successful Presidents have done).  Congressional Republicans stayed united around the word "No" (and found, in a climate dominated by fear and a leadership vacuum in the White House, that "No" was a good substitute for having ideas).  The Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case created an extended, months-long holiday for corrupt campaign spending.

But, frankly, all of this will probably not be ultimately enough to blame.

What will be enough?

WE will.  By WE, I mean progressive voters who think that sulking is an effective campaign strategy.  Let the American people have a few more years of the Republicans, they feel, and they (as well as the Democrats) will be begging us to come back.  After all, it can't get worse.  Can it?

I know a lot of people who thought that way in 1980.  And 1994.  And 2000.  But guess what?  Each time, it got worse.  And, each time, the problems that all of us face (whether we realize it or not) have gotten worse and worse.  When it comes to solving many of them, we may already be past the point of no return.

We live in an age of increasing scarcity, whether it comes to natural resources or capital.  As a consequence, our moral and economic leadership here and abroad is being crippled, perhaps irreparably.  And yet, America is on the verge of turning to a political party it hates, not as a reasoned decision but as a panicked one.

Sulking, like failure, is not an option.  This is a democracy; we all need to opt into it, not out of it.  If we do otherwise, we contribute to the vacuum our President has helped to create, and ensure the destruction not only of the nation, but perhaps the world as well.

Things are not perfect today.  And there have been many blown opportunities.  But we can't afford to blow the few we have left.

So VOTE!  And, if that doesn't work, get up on the morning of November 3rd and organize, fundraise, e-mail, blog, and generally FIGHT LIKE HELL!  We're worth it.  And so is America.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How Can A President Who Can Accomplish This ...

... be so unpopular and hated?  I mean, apart from blatant manipulation by well-heeled fascists and their friends in the main-stream media?  Especially since the latter are basically too lazy to dig for real stories, and are rooting for a Republican Congress so that the nightly news becomes an endless stream of This-Versus-That stories.  (Always remember:  it's easier to cover politics if you treat in like a sports event, rather than as a process by which to build a better society).

Today's link comes by way of the Christian Left, an excellent source for religious and political news and information on Facebook (disclosure:  I've "friended" their page on FB).  To make it easier for you to do so, click here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


The ultimate morality in capitalism:  the possibility of failure, thus ensuring that, if you choose to take risks, you take reasonable ones that benefit someone other than yourselves.  This might be one way to get us back to that kind of capitalism.

And I Don't Mind Admitting ...

... that I predicted this would happen.  After all, it happened to Truman and Kennedy.  Hasn't quite happened to FDR and Johnson, however.  When you beat them in a landslide, or in four elections, I guess they never forgive you.  I have a hunch, however, that it will happen to Obama, who is only a radical in the context of Republican rhetoric (in which Jesus and the Framers would also be viewed as dangerously subversive).

The fact that this ... well, dare we call it a flip-flop?  (Holy John Kerry, Batman!) ... happened this quickly, I think, validates the view that, in a completely wired society, change happens even faster than ever.  Which is why, if Republicans do win big in November, they shouldn't plan on getting comfortable.  The real majority won't let that happen.

Proof That Help Comes From The Unlikeliest Places ...

... and that politics indeed makes strange bedfellows.  Take a look.

Why In The World Does Anyone Still Listen To Him?

So Newt Gingrich doesn't like liberal math?  Maybe it's because it's superior to GOP math, under which taxing less and spending more equals "paychecks," as he would put it ... except when it doesn't (during the last GOP administration, for example).

Republicans:  the fact-free party.  If you really believe the road to prosperity and peace runs through their lies, you deserve everything that's coming to you.  Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live with it, too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's The Debt, Stupid!

Two recent pieces I've encountered on the foreclosure crisis (this and this) are worth a read.  They both, however, miss two things:  the ultimate source of our crisis, and a sad political irony in the way our political leaders have responded to it.

The ultimate source is debt--not just government debt, but private-sector debt carried by individuals as well as businesses.  For the past thirty years, instead of practicing thrift and acquiring capital with which to build new wealth, we've simply borrowed wealth and hoped that the means to pay for it would show up (disclosure:  I'm far from an exception to this rule).  All of us, to varying degrees, are guilty of this. And that is way all of us are failing to gain any kind of economic traction as we try to get back on our financial feet.  Everyone is crippled by debt, and no one has any true capital to build new wealth.

Presidents Bush and Obama, and members of both parties in Congress, meanwhile, have focused on transferring money borrowed by the government to bail out Wall Street, thus preventing the operation of capitalism's most moral principals:  failure has consequences that must be born by the failed capitalists.  Government exists to serve the people, not the economy, and true wealth is built not by the financial elite creating and manipulating debt, but by hard-working people actually doing things that benefit others directly.  Frankly, it would have been better to take all of the aid for the financial sector, divide it by the number of American households, and cut each household a check.  It would have benefited the economy much more.  (I am talking about programs like TARP, not the stimulus package, which did much more good that it is generally credited for doing, and in fact was a form of the type of aid I am suggesting here.)

What would be best?  Personally, I'd like to see a worldwide conference of leading economic powers to draft an international agreement for debt forgiveness (public and private).  Why don't all of us just admit that we can never really repay any of this, and just give one another a fresh start?  After all, this concept is even Biblical (the jubilee year).  And, like the Biblical version, all nations could restrict the use of this approach to once every seven years, so that it would not become an easy-way-out for spendthrift nations and their equally spendthrift peoples.

Have a better idea?  I'd like to hear it.  But don't pretend that private debt, as well as the public kind, isn't the 800-pound gorilla we need to get off all of our backs.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

So, it turns out conservatives do believe in this, after all (in addition to "Drill, baby, drill).

Robertson's piece really says it all, not only about the depths of selfishness to which contemporary conservatism has descended, but the extent to which those depths are related to the writings (to describe them politely) of Ayn Rand, the patron saint of narcissists.  What he really nails is the extent to which Rand's real target audience is teenagers, the most narcissistic age cohort on the planet.  It was certainly true when I was a teenager.  I never did more than thumb through a copy of "Atlas Shrugged," and concluded that you don't have to stick your head too far into the sewer to know how bad it smells.  Many of my friend weren't so lucky; in their yearbook blurb, they'd list "The Fountainhead" as their favorite book.

Self-reliance is a great philosophy--except when it isn't, which is most of the time.  Like it or not, we are an interdependent species, living on a planet that is being squashed by our selfishness.  At the rate we are going, pretty soon Atlas will have nothing left to shrug.

Are We Running Out Of Planet?

I've suspected for some time that we are.  Of course, I tell people this, and they look at me like I'm crazy.  Maybe I should invite them to read this, and see if the still feel the same way.

It's this simple, folks.  Either we perfect a means for interplanetary travel, or we start to build an economy based entirely (or almost so) on reusing existing materials.  Arguably, we should do both; it wouldn't surprise me if research for one field led to developments in another.  After all, a great many things that we take for granted today (including the PC on which this blog is being typed) are by-products of research related to our space program.

What we need to stop doing, in any case, is acting as if we live on an infinite planet.  Only God, and the universe, are infinite.  Everything else has boundaries.  We defy them not only at our peril, but at the peril of all of us.

A Special Thanks To The Ehrlich Campaign ...

... or, at the very least, to the idiot member of it who tried to post one of their stickers over my Obama bumper sticker.  Nice of you to admit that neither your candidate, nor his party or the philosophy it represents, can win on a level playing field.  Of course it can't:  it's based on lies and advanced by thugs--with the former GOP governor being the thug-in-chief.

I do not speak from a well of either ignorance or inexperience here.  I was a State of Maryland employee during most of the Ehrlich Administration, for the Department of Human Resources.  I watched as his political appointees froze new or expanded contracts for foster children (yes, including for kids on respirators) to balance the budget, then watched as the re-election campaign drew near and they suddenly rushed through "emergency" contracts to pay for the same children they had spent years neglecting (and blaming the plight of these children on Martin O'Malley, since many of them were in Baltimore City).  That's the Republican way for you--push you out of a seventh-story window, run down and catch you just in time, and then demand credit for your heroism.

All I can say is that I hope this holds up.  As for you fans of Bob, I have this advice:  Stop putting bumper stickers on the back of my Prius, and buy one instead.  You'll be doing more of a public service that you are by supporting a man who has never stood for anything larger than himself.

A Flashback To September, As We Begin October ...

The ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks brought about what has, by now, become a predictable amount of attempts by Republicans and conservatives to capitalize politically on the tragedy--and equally predictable attempts to either denounce or explain these attempts.

Given the generally craven, self-serving nature of conservatives, their politics and their tactics generally, I long ago stopped being surprised by all of this.  What continues to amaze me, however, is the ability of conservatives to deflect the blame for their mistakes onto the Democrats who either (a) had nothing to do with it (9/11) or (b) have pushed as hard as they can to clean it up (the Great Recession).  What happened to the concept of personal responsibility as a Republican virtue?  Both disasters happened on the watch of a Republican President, based on disasterous policies (ignoring al-Queida in favor of passing unaffordable tax cuts).  Both disasters, based on current pre-election polls, are now being successfully blamed on the Democrats.

I have to say that, ultimately, the blame for the success of this shell game falls on the American people, enough of whom buy it because it's easier and somehow more comforting than searching for the truth.  H.L. Mencken, anti-Semite though he was, was right:  no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

Here's hoping that November is the month in which common sense triumphs over craven, cowardly conservatism.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's One Thing For Me To Nag ...

... and quite another thing when you're the leader of the nation and the free world, and all you can do to the people who have supported you through thick and thin is treat them like a bunch of ungrateful whiners.

For a guy who made his national reputation on being inspirational, Obama sure hasn't shown much inspirational ability in the Oval Office.  He's really run an in-box, out-box Presidency--and, frankly, what's ended up in the out-box has a lot of legislative fingerprints and not as much change that we can believe it.  He was supposed to be the next FDR.  Where are the fireside chats.  Laugh at Bill Clinton all you want for feeling your pain, but it got him elected and re-elected.

Memo to Obama:  Stop treating your best friends as ingrates.  Start listening to people's problems without acting like they're picking on you.  It's all right to show the public that you can walk a mile in their shoes.  In fact, for the people and the nation, it's essential.

If Only There Were More Conservatives Like This One ...

... we'd be in much better shape.  Brooks sometimes descends into isn't-America-a-happy-land-of-happy-opportunists rhetoric that makes you want to tell The New York Times that, whatever they're paying him, it's too much.  But, just when you want to strangle him, he turns around and shows you that he really does get it, after all.

As much as I disagree with the other side, I agree with Brooks here:  we are all much better off when we can find a balance between our perspectives.  And so is the country.  And so is the world.

Why Do We Still Need Immigrants?

Well, for one thing, we're so lazy that we can't even pick the food we can't afford to buy.  It's one thing to talk about a work ethic, and quite another thing to actually have one.

Promises, Promises

That's what the GOP has to offer when it comes to spending cuts.  If you believe them or (worse) if you vote for them based on this, you richly deserve the disappointment coming your way.

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

I like to think that I have some insights into the evangelical portion of the VRWC, simply because, for the first 12 years of my adult life, I was a born-again Christian.  It was something I drifted into at a time when I had no real anchor or direction in my personal or professional life, and I stayed with it until it stopped helping me make sense of the world--and when I started to ask myself a disturbing question:  if God only wanted us to believe, why did He/She/It/They give us the ability to think?  So I started to trust myself to make decisions--and I've never regretted it, nor do I feel that I'm less of a believer in God for it.  As I've told several people, it's easier to hold onto God's hand when you use a looser grip--the kind that Fundamentalists, who map out God's will for everything (including taking out the garbage), don't approve of having.

In my experience, you either are born into being born-again, or (as I did) you drift into it.  I'm glad to see, in this case, that you can be born into it, leave it, and find as I did that there is life after being born-again.  Never forget:  not all Fundamentalists are Christians--and not all Christians are Fundamentalists.

Why Progressives Can't Walk Away

It solves nothing.  And it makes you unworthy of success.  I'm not the only one who feels this way, but I can't express those feelings as well as this writer does.

Suck it up and dig in, indeed.  Let's find out how many of us have what it takes to do it.

Why We Can't Ignore Growing Income Inequality

Timothy Noah of spells it all out here.  He's right.  Who wants to live in a banana republic?  And, if that's the case, why do we live in one?

I think it boils down to this:  the American fantasy of getting rich quick is more appealing to most people than the hard work of building a just society.  We were at our best as a society when we valued hard work.  We don't value it anymore.  We send it overseas, move money around (turning it from capital to debt in the process), and pretend that we're creating value.  We're not.

The dirty little secret to so-called post-Reagan "prosperity" is the same main culprit behind our current crisis:  too much debt, both public and private.  And (sorry, righties) the private sector is the biggest, most egregious offender.  They're the ones digging the holes in all of our pockets.  Between tax cuts we can't afford, and leveraged deals that don't generate the income needed to pay for them, we've dug ourselves into a ditch we may never get out of (and certainly won't get out of if the GOP takes over Congress).

Want to get angry at someone, Tea Baggers?  Buy a mirror.  Look in it.  Repeat until sanity in the form of liberalism takes hold.

The Way To Go Forward: Surprisingly, It Involves Going Forward

... and it involves keeping up with the world, not narcissistic navel-gazing based on so-called "exceptionalism."  We can't expect jobs that have gone away forever to come back; we need to create new ones based upon the work that we really need to do now.  This involves saving the planet, not exploiting it.  Here's one voice speaking from that point of view (and yes, you can dislike the source but, when it comes to this subject, he knows what he's talking about).

Speaking Of Paying For Social Security ...

... here's one way to do it, and stand up for human rights at the same time.

Slash Social Security? No, Double It!

So says this article, and it even explains how to pay for it.  Want to change the subject, Democrats?  Here's one way.

Is The GOP The Tea Party?

Not if this is true.  Unless Tea Party folks think that Big Government, which you can vote in or out every two years, is irredeemably bad, while Big Business, which isn't even phased by a Great Recession, is always virtuous.

29 Days Later ...

... and here I am once again.  I've been rehearsing, and am now performing in, a production of Paddy Cheyevsky's "The Tenth Man" for a great deal of the past two months.  A rewarding experience artistically, a stressful one in virtually every area of my life otherwise--I've been rehearsing/performing nearly six days a week for the past eight weeks.  Just typing that thought exhausts me!  And, in at least one respect, it has been nearly tragic--a key cast member contracted West Nile Virus a week before we opened.  He's hospitalized now and on a ventilator; your thoughts and/or prayers on his behalf are appreciated.

None of this, of course, has been conducive to blogging.  Which is a pity, because there's a lot to talk about, especially in the political world.  And, if you're of the political bent that I am, it's mostly not good.

As I write this, there seems to be a better-than-average chance that the GOP will take over one, and perhaps both, houses of Congress.  History in the form of 1994 appears to be ready to repeat itself (although this time we got health care and financial reform done first, along with two not-too-terrible Supreme Court appointees).  Already, speculation has appeared in the media centered around two questions:   how did Obama and the Democrats get here, and what will he do now with Congress controlled by the opposition?

There will be plenty of time to answer those questions later, if reality demands it.  We're not there yet.  And, God willing, we won't get there at all.  But what disturbs me the most right now is the extent to which those of us on the progressive end of the spectrum enable it--by staying at home and sulking.  This is the behavior of children, not adults.  Do you think the GOP is where it is today because it stayed home and sulked after 2008?  Far from it.  They acted as if it was a minor setback in the larger battle for achieving its goals.

Guess what?  We need to learn to do exactly the same thing.  All the things we did in 2008--organize, fundraise, call, write, march--are things we need to keep on doing, win or lose in November.  We have better ideas, and represent people who deserve to see them become the law of the land.

Above all, VOTE, and make sure others do the same.  You are responsible for the results in a democracy, whether you like it or not.  And history rewards doers, not doubters and sulkers.  Staying home is exactly what the Karl Roves of the world want you to do; it's the only way they ever win.

Don't hand them a victory.  If Fate decrees them the winners, then make them tear victory out of your hands.  It will make you that much more ready for the fight that has to start the next morning.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Form of Insanity?

This may be true.  And we may find out in a couple of months how insane a nation we really are.

Well, Better Late Than Never

If the Democrats and the President want a weapon to use in going after the GOP and the VRWC, they could do a lot worse than using this.

I remember when this guy was on the cover of Newsweek, early in Reagan's first term, under the headline "Cut, Slash, Chop."  Supposedly, the object of all of this was the Federal budget.  Turns out it really was the American Dream.

Why Steven Slater Matters

In today's freak-obsessed media environment, the coverage of Steven Slater's outburst in dealing with a jetBlue customer unsurprisingly focused on the novelty aspects of the story--e.g., leaving the plane on an emergency slide.  What a sad indictment of our ability to be entertained prevailing over what is left of our ability to think.

Steven Slater's significance lies not in its novelty, but in the fact that it suggests that American workers may finally be waking up to the sadistic nature of the way in which they have been treated for the past 30 years, ever since Reagan broke the PATCO strike.  And it appears I'm not the only person who feels this way.  Take a look at this as well.

Are We Ungovernable?

The author of this thinks so.  And he may be right.  I have believed for a very long time that the dominant "ism" in America isn't liberalism or conservatism, but consumerism.  And it may have corrupted us to the point that we no longer look at each other as citizens of the same country.

I hope I'm wrong.  But I'd like to find a real reason for believing that I am.

Obama: America's Waldo

If you thought the reference to John Birch in an earlier post was gratuitous, then take a look at Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times.  Rich gives a detailed account of the Koch family's involvement in the growth of the VRWC, from the John Birch Society to today's so-called "Tea Party."

At the end of his column, Rich notes that past Democratic leaders--F.D.R. and Kennedy, specifically--fought back with full force against right-wing demagogues like the Koch brothers and their fellow-travelers in the GOP and on Fox.  He ends with this pithy observation:  "And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself."

I agree.  But WHY is that true?  Why is Obama so absolutely unwilling to take these people on?  Why does he increasingly act like someone who has decided to be president for only two years?

I tend to think that, for Presidents as well as the rest of us, biography is destiny.  He rose to the White House as a conciliator, and not as leader.  He learned how to work with people where they are, and not how to take them where they need to go.  As a consequence, he tends to be more risk-adverse than someone in his position needs to be.  He doesn't understand that the people of this country need a President who is willing to get out in front of not only the problems, but the positions that others have staked out on them.  Ultimately, that his how you bring people together:  not by giving each side half a loaf, but by showing us a different way to bake bread.

Okay, that's not one of my better metaphors.  But, hopefully, you get the idea.  Unless Obama can suddenly get a personality transplant, the audacity of hope is going to give way to the audacity of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

An Obituary Worth Noting

This one.

My first exposure to him was as Richard Nixon's dogged defender during the Watergate scandal, followed, of course, by his memorable "Point/Counter-Point" sparring with Shana Alexander on "60 Minutes."  In an era dominated by liberals and liberal commentators, I respected his willingness to stand up for what he believed, even as I vehemently disagreed with all of it.  He seemed to treat his political opponents with personal respect, something that is sadly missing in today's environment.  I must admit that, had I known about his earlier and equally vehement opposition to civil rights, I would have looked less kindly on him.

Still, for all of that, he possessed one quality missing in today's political discourse:  when he was wrong, he was willing to admit it, candidly and publicly.  For an outstanding example of this--one that I think I will never forget--click on this link.

August: The Month For Phony Issues

I could use that as an excuse for not posting recently; the truth is that I have been rehearsing a play six days a week for the past three weeks (something I've never done before).  But, as I look back on the events of this month, it seems to me to be a month full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And that includes the issue of which party will control Congress after the fall elections.  Current polls point toward big gains by the Republicans, with the possibility of gaining control of both Houses.  If that's really the case--and I still have doubts, although anything's possible--the question then becomes this:  what will the GOP do with its regained Congressional power?

The answer, as I see it, ought to disturb everyone:  the GOP doesn't have the faintest idea, nor do they care about having the faintest idea.  My guess is that congressional Republicans will probably try to distract the Obama administration with investigations and subpoenas, while ramming through legislation designed to enrich their patrons at the expense of everyone else.  But, while they distract Obama with subpoenas, they will be distracting the rest of us with phony issues.

In fact, they've been spending the better part of this month doing just that, along with their supporters in the VRWC.  I'm talking about the proposed Ground Zero Mosque, which is neither a mosque nor a building located at Ground Zero, unless you want to decide that all of Manhattan below 14th Street is now Ground Zero.  It is an Islamic community center that includes a mosque, just as the Pentagon--the other confirmed September 11th target--contains a room where Muslims can pray.  And, frankly, its presence in Lower Manhattan makes the city less likely to be a target for a repeat attack.  (Three links worth sharing:  here, here and here.

I think that the reason this issue has acquired some traction stems from two things:  residual anxiety other another domestic attack by terrorists, and the general pro-WASP, anti-everything else that constitutes the basis for what's left of modern conservatism.  Hence, the phony concerns over Obama's birthplace, and the reduction of the entire complex issue of immigration to the issue of Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande.  The mosque "issue" merely serves as further proof that the party of Lincoln has become the party of John Birch.

God help us if Obama does have to contend with a Republican Congress, because I don't think anyone else will.  If it happens, it won't be the salvation of America; it may, in fact, be a divine indictment of our lack of national character and courage.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

They Used To Wait Until The Got Elected ...

... but not anymore.  McConnell and Gingrich, like their fellow members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, have no desire for anything but power.  That's why they think they can talk their way past their party's minority status and get whatever they want.

I don't think they're going to lose their minority status, no matter how confident they are in their verbal blackmail skills.  But I always worry that the Democrats, and even Obama, might be fearful enough for their own jobs to go along with them.

Note to McConnell:  this is every bit as much of a center-left country as it is a center-right one.  Get over it.

Now He Really IS a Wise Man

And, in a related story, a flock of pigs was seen hovering over Hell, filling up ice buckets (nice ones too; the kind that have leather and brass braids on the outside, and not those cheap Motel 6 types).

Greenspan's born-again view on tax hikes, like it or not, is the only way we're going to begin to get out of the mess that we're in.  We want to preach self-reliance to the rest of the world.  Fine.  Let's lead by example.  Let's end the holiday from fiscal history that we've been on for the past 30 years, and accept the fact that, as even George Will once said, real conservatism means paying your bills.

At the very least, let's have a war tax.  War is driving the growth of the annual deficit and that national debt more than anything else.  Are we so cheap that we can't pay for the people who are laying their lives on the line for us?

What kind of patriotism is that?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

... And Something To Start August Off With Three Cheers!

Sometimes, the good guys win.  Or, should I say, good gays and lesbians?  Actually, all of us win when we are required to treat each other equally.

The consensus seems to be that this will sail through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (the country's most liberal circuit), and go on to a battle before the Supreme Court, with the outcome dependent upon the thinking of Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Kennedy, in turn, has sided with supporters of gay rights in several previous SCOTUS decisions.

I agree with the thinking as it relates to the 9th Circuit.  But I don't think that the Supremes are going to touch this one at all.  The decision is very much controlled by the findings of fact, giving even the Roberts Court very little wiggle room in fashioning an outcome.  And, given Kennedy's proclivities in similar cases, the last thing this Court wants to do is give him an opportunity to support a majority decision in favor of expanding gay rights.  I think they would prefer to wait until the can get a case that is not limited to the constitutionality of Proposition 8, but instead raises the broader question of whether gay marriage under any circumstances can be seen as constitutional under previous Court decisions dealing with fundamental rights and the 14th Amendment.  If they get such a case, one whose outcome is more dependent upon pure legal reasoning, they will have more room in which to manipulate a more conservative outcome.

In any event, I am confident this will stand, and effectively end one of America's more divisive cultural wars.  Now let's see what we can do in November to build on this.  But, no matter what, DON'T GIVE UP--IT ONLY ENCOURAGES THEM!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two Things For Progressives To Read And Take To Heart

They need us.  And all of us, from the President on down, need to remember that.

See you in August!

Exhibit A On Why NO ONE Should Take Republican Concerns About The Deficit Seriously

I need say no more.  The question is, will anyone listen, or care?

Conservatives Are Right About One Thing

And that is appeasement.  It just makes them hungrier.  Read this and see if you think I"m wrong.  Not to mention see if you understand what I mean when I think that all of us will have to buy guns, whether we like it or not.

Still think that last idea is far-fetched?  Guess what?  It's not.  As this shows, it's getting harder and harder to stay ahead of reality.

It's getting later and later, folks.  WAKE UP!

A Little Late Summer Reading, Perhaps?

As August is just a few hours away, and the baseball season gets ready to round third and head home toward the post-season (and my favorite teams, the Mets and the Orioles, make no last-minute trades to improve themselves--good luck, Buck Showalter, you're going to need it), I'm going to suggest a little late-summer reading.  If nothing else, it will help you to understand some of the vehemence in this earlier post.

Baseball--and, for that matter, Times Square--really are both metaphors for American society.  Like American society, both have been turned into corporate theme parks.  And that might be the nicest way you can say it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is Capitalism Working?

Apparently, not in New Jersey.  According to its new Republican governor, capitalism can't work unless it's paid for by cuts in the pensions of the people teaching the state's children.  Well, what lesson are they going to learn from this?  That things are what they are, until a Republican decides it's politically expedient to say otherwise?  That capitalism is a system of private initiative and investment that built this great nation--but one that needs to be propped up by the government, because it doesn't really work?  Or that the Garden State really is a home for businesses--namely, the ones it can poach from New York?

This guy really can't see past the end of his nose.  Or, in his case, past the end of his waistline.  Why not cut THAT before you cut anything else?

One More Thing About The Fourth Of July ...

... and that is that it is (or, for this year, was) the perfect opportunity to watch the film version of one of my favorite Broadway musicals, "1776."  It always amazes me that so many people can be put off, initially, by the idea of a musical about the Declaration of Independence--and then see the film (or a production of the stage show) and think "Hey, that's not as bad as I thought it would be.  In fact, it's pretty good."

It is more than that, in my opinion.  It truly is a show that is more than the sum of its parts.  The songs range rather widely in quality, and much of the humor is scatological (the statement "Rhode Island passes" is made when a delegate from that state is out visiting the "necessary).  But it tells the story surrounding the Declaration in such a way that it actually feels suspenseful, even though everyone knows the outcome.  And it serves as a reminder that our independence was achieved as much by politics as it was by principles.  The line in the show that best sums it up is said by Benjamin Franklin:  "What will posterity think we were, anyway--demi-gods?  We're men--no more, no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed."  Franklin is played by Howard da Silva, who ironically was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.  He is also a holdover from the Broadway run of the show, one of many in the cast.  It's a tragedy that Hollywood hasn't done this more often; it would have spared us such embarrassments as Lucille Ball in "Mame."

The show also features a number, "Cool, Cool Considerate Men," that clarifies an important fact obscured by modern politics:  the patriots were the liberals and the Tories were the conservatives.  This number was cut out of the film's initial release, at the request of the Nixon Administration, who didn't want that point being made during his re-election campaign.  Remember that fact the next time you get a lecture from some right-wing mouthpiece about political correctness.

My only quibble with the show?  It requires a nearly all-male cast.  But, apparently, there are ways to get around that.  I can think of no greater compliment for any show than the fact that it can be re-worked this way, and still work.

Three Big Lies

And all in one column.  According to Ross Douthat:

1.  There is no population explosion (note to Ross:  the "birth dearth" is only an issue in Europe);
2.  Global warming is actually GOOD for the economy (but not if your investing in futures on the survival of thousands of species of plants and animals on which we depend);
3.  There is no such thing as effective international regulation (I guess that means we can recycle the thousands of pages of treaties that regulate many aspects of our existence, including our national defense).

Well, I've got to admit that it's probably easier to lie that it is to admit that the oil companies own the United States, on whose leadership every one depends in order for any effective international action to move forward.  But, if that's what passes for moderate conservatism these days, I'm not sure that it's either.

Guess you're not planning to have any grandchildren, Ross.  And if you do, this is not the column I'd brag about to them.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let Them Eat Subpoenas!

Are you unemployed, disappointed in President Obama and Congressional Democrats, and inclined to think that it might be worthwhile to take a chance on voting Republican this fall?  Then take a look at this and try to figure out how long you can feed a family of four on subpoenas.

I'm sorry to have to say this, but they don't care about you.  They don't care about the Constitution.  They don't care about the deficit, or limited government, or any of the thing they claim to care about.

But power?  They care about that--truly, madly, deeply.  Don't let them fool you again.

A Few Words About George Steinbenner

As few as possible, in fact:  good riddance.

I don't normally speak ill of the deceased, and I am mindful of the fact that the man left a family behind (one who will, in turn, now receive his most cherished asset for free, thanks to the right-wing war on the so-called "death tax").  But it's hard to feel a drop of sympathy for a man whose systematically destroyed professional baseball in this country (for the middle-class, and for small-market teams), who damage the lives and reputations of people he employed, who blackmailed the government of a city he never intended to leave, and whose flagrant violations of the law led him to be suspended from the sport not once, but twice.

And, oh yes, his team won the World Series in seven of the nearly forty years that he owned the team.  Which means that, by his own standard of excellence, his personal batting average as an owner was under .250.  And even that is inflated by the fact that the players who won most of those World Series were developed during his second suspension.

I noticed, in all of the television coverage, of his departure, the oh-so-careful effort on everyone's part to overlook his sins, and talk reverently about his "impact" on the game.  No one would say whether that impact was good or bad.  No one could do so honestly, without seeming to disrespect the dead, especially given his net worth.  What a sad commentary on the extend to which, in modern times, money talks.  Far better it would have been to devote that level of coverage to two more deserving recently deceased members of the Yankee family:  public address announcer Bob Sheppard, and former manager Ralph Houk, two men who reflected Yankee pride in ways that Steinbrenner can only dream of.

Anyway, R.I.P., Boss--you, and the sport you did so much to destroy.

WOW! It's Been More Than A Month ...

... since I've posted anything.  It's been a fairly busy month, too, which has a lot to do with it.

I've been to two conferences this month:  the American Immigration Lawyers' Association annual conference, and the League of Historic American Theatres annual conference.  I found myself being inspired by different things at each.  In the case of AILA, I was inspired by the dedication of hard-working professionals who strive to do their best, under increasingly difficult financial and political circumstances, on behalf of people who are increasingly unpopular in this supposedly open society.  Yes, everyone says they're in favor of lawful immigration, and are only opposed to "illegals."  But they have an odd way of only identifying non-whites as "illegals," even when they're not.  Like it or not, that's why so many of us are opposed to the rancid Arizona attempt to snatch the Federal government's constitutional authority away from it.  As written, the law is a blatant invitation for race profiling.  The hypocrisy of this, coming as it does from supposed strict-constructionist, limited-government conservatives, is almost beyond belief.

At the LHAT conference, there were no political issues raised (thankfully, the guy who did the anti-immigrant rant at last year's conference in my face behaved himself this year).  But I was inspired by the positive attitude of a large number of theatre professionals--restoration specialists, theatre operators and others--working to restore and operate historic theatres in the face of both a depressed economy and a tidal wide of cultural change that continues to take us away not only from live entertainment, but from any cultural experience shared with anyone or anything other than a PC, an iPod or a smart phone.  I have always believed that historic theatres are historic not merely for their architecture, but also for the roles they have played (pun intended) in the development of a common culture.  We are losing that culture, I fear, in the Internet age, and that loss plays a large role in the political divisiveness that dominates what passes these days for public discourse.

Those of us who hold progressive values need to do what we can to maintain, and even rebuild our common culture, by directly engaging those who disagree with us and listen, even if we don't like a lot of what we here.  Whether we consider ourselves part of the same country or not, we are indisputably part of the same world--and that world is shrinking all the time, through the mobility of people, money, ideas, technology and the pollution that all of us create.  And, above all, we need to be persistent--to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and to remember that progress in this country has always been one step at a time.

That was the Fourth of July message I'd hoped to write earlier.  I hope everyone had a good holiday.  And I hope that the heat has inspired everyone to wake up and work together to save the only planet we have, before it's too late.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scratch A Bully, Find A Coward

Somehow, when I read about the likes of Proposition 8 supporters and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wringing their hands publicly about democracy being destroyed by political advocates forced to live in fear, I can't help feeling that there's only one side of the divide that they're worried about.  I have no doubt that advocates of Proposition 8, the initiative that banned gay marriage in California, have been subject to verbal and physical harassment--or worse.  I yield to no one in categorically condemning such acts.

However, part of the reason I feel that way is that I have seen verbal and physical harassment--or worse--directed at gays and lesbians, as well as their supporters in the straight community (disclosure:  one of my relatives lives an openly lesbian lifestyle).  And, try though I may, I have yet to hear the condemnation of that harassment from Justice Scalia and the Proposition 8 crowd.

Democracy is for everyone, or it is for no one.  And the measure of your love of freedom is your willingness to stand up for the freedom of others, not your own.  If you are going to pride yourself on your toughness in the meantime, you should be fully prepared to receive whatever you dish out.  Otherwise, you leave yourself open to the judgment contained in this post's title.

That doesn't make me a hypocrite, folks.  It just makes me someone yearning for more people who, like Voltaire, will disagree with what I say, but will defend to the death my right to say it.

"Let's Finish This!"

If, like me, you again with Faulkner that, in the South, the past is not only not dead, it's not even the past, you might want to take a look at this.

The Civil War has never really ended, and that goes a long way toward explaining the political divide in our country today.  The people behind this Web site recognize that.  Hopefully, someday soon, the rest of us will, too.

Soft Power: A Win-Win Solution

Petroleum has not only the United States in its sticky grip, but also the peoples of nations enslaved to the oligarchs who live off of the petrodollars from their leading export.  Here's one example of how to liberate ourselves and others, through the use of "soft power," despised by conservatives but a thousand times more effective than all of our military might.  And this doesn't even touch on the issue of creating a new economy for the 21st century.

Hopefully, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf will help all of us to wake up and smell the oil--and then resolve to never have to smell it again.