Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yet ANOTHER Article?

I know, I said I'd get back to the events of last week in detail. I haven't had time lately: I've been a lawyer to feed my family, and an actor to feed me soul. But that's not going to stop me from giving you the chance to read what I think is the best article I've read so far on American politics today. I generally don't read Newsweek or The Washington Post anymore (the paper of Ben Bradlee is now the paper of George Will), but this is well worth your time--and everyone's.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Next Season, It Really Will Be The Sixties On "Mad Men"

... especially if this keeps up. I wonder if Matt Weiner will let him keep it? This could mean that Sterling Cooper Lane Draper will be one of those funky psychedelic ad shops from the '60s, the kind that showed a photo of a VW over the word "Lemon." Stay tuned. (I HATE having a favorite TV show that only produces thirteen new episodes a year!)

The Best Kind Of Patriotism Of All

This kind. It'll never let you go searching for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. And it'll never be a vehicle for right-wing blowhards, who wouldn't even recognize it as patriotism.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One More Reason Why Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot

What a guy. To put it politely, and to borrow a phrase from my Jewish relatives, "Feh."

All I Can Say Is, It's About Time

No, I'm not talking about the exciting news that the Senate now has a centerfold as a member. Or the license that five Republican appointees masquarading as real Supreme Court justices gave for corporations to buy elections (Heaven forbid that doing that shouldn't be easy enough). I'm talking about this.

I've been waiting for some sign that he might grow a spine. I hope this is real.

I'll have more to say about this week a little later.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kristof Says What I've Believed All Along ...

... and it's true. The best way to please yourself is not to be selfish. But he says it much more effectively than I do.

Hitchens Rebuts Brooks

On the subject of the righteous wrath of God, and its relationship to the tragedy of Haiti, I consider this to be an effective rebuttal of this. Read both.

Blaming what one considers to be a "bad" religion for human misfortune is a very tricky thing at best. If the issue is that the voodoo religion promotes a view of the temporal world as capricious, and in the process discourages foresight and planning against misfortune, as Brooks argues, is that not an argument that can be laid at the footstep of all religions (including Christianity)?

This is not to say that other religions don't promote "good works" in the here-and-now. But, from my own experiences as a (now former) evangelical, I have often seen a connection between the anti-government conservatives and the heaven-or-hell believers. After all, if perfect peace, justice and prosperity are impossible in this world, and you otherwise consider yourself to be "saved," why bother to try? And why be taxed to try, when you can give that money to the church? Never mind the fact that the church itself is a temporal institution, and not one that is invulnerable to temporal frailties. Thousands of examples, from the Swaggart-Bakker sex scandals of the 1980s to the Catholic Church's blind eye to child abuse under its ecclesiastical nose, sadly illustrate that point.

Poverty is a complicated issue, and the complicated nature of it often brings the people who fight to their knees. When that happens, however, the moral and spiritual thing to do is to get up and keep on fighting, and not to point fingers of self-righteousness.

Friday, January 15, 2010

So What If It IS LIberal Propaganda?

I haven't seen "Avatar." I may or may not do so. But that's my choice. And when right-wing yahoos try to prevent me and anyone else from making that choice, by attempting to demonize it as being un-patrotic or un-American, they are attacking not only our right to choose, they are effectively attacking America itself, by attacking freedom.

Never lose sight of this: to a liberal, freedom is the freedom to be what you want; to a conservative, it's the freedom to be a conservative.

Or maybe it's this simple: liberal ideas sell. Why should I be bothered if conservative ideas don't sell as well? Isn't it bad enough that they've driven this country to the brink of destruction over the past thirty years?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If You Wonder Why I Think Liberals Should Arm Themselves ...

... well, take a look at this.

If you're inclined to a more rhetorical response, you would at least have to concede that conservatism is no longer a rule-of-law movement. It's a frontier justice movement. Respond to that how you will. But it's a fact to be ignored at your peril. I don't think what's happening in Kansas is going to stay in Kansas.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gay Marriage Conservatives?

Even the Cato Institute can get it right, instead of extremely right, sometimes. Surprisingly, one of the best articles on this subject.

The fact is that, ultimately, this is a civil rights issue, not a "sexual preference" issues (as if anyone could or would choose a lifestyle that makes one the equivalent of a leper in most parts of our society). That's why I believe in the inevitability of fully legalized gay marriage.

And why, whether I believe in it or not, that legalizing it is the right thing to do.

Health Reform Capitalists?

Best article yet on what I and many others have been saying all along. In the world as re-created by Reagan and company, government provides the only competition you'll ever get.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Is The Sky Blue (Or, In The Case of Rasmussen, Red)?

As I may or may not have said previously, I'm a huge fan of FiveThrityEight.com, and recommend it highly to the uninitiated, including and especially his most recent post on the integrity of Rasmussen Reports (or suspected lack thereof). He cites pro- and con-arguments, although (IMHO) the former are the stronger ones.

He misses one interesting point, however, specifically on the question of how Rasmussen models its samples for its surveys. It uses what it calls "likely voters," which seems reasonable enough until you realize also that it considers conservative or Republican voters to outnumber liberal or Democratic voters in this category. Of course, depending on the circumstances in any given year, the pool of "likely voters" may include many left-leaning and/or "swing" voters. But, by gradually adjusting its samples to include more and more of these latter voters as Election Day gets closer, Rasmussen is able to play a very two-faced game in its polling: use the early poll results in an attempt to "push" a conservative outcome, and then make adjustments in the samples of its later polls to gradually include more truly "likely voters." Ultimately, this allows them to produce accurate "final polls" that it can then cite as proof of its professional brilliance, while not denying themselves of an opportunity in the early stages to actively shape the outcome.

Far fetched? I really don't think so. Who knows what an enterprising liberal hacker would find if he or she could get into Rasmussen's e-mail? Maybe Pollgate would eclipse Climategate in importance among "likely voters." I'm not rooting for someone to break the law, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone did so and discovered I was right.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How To Start With 2010?

Well, let's try this. It's the best assessment of Obama's first year I've seen yet.

May your new year bring you health, safety, and the chance to make a difference. And, above all, no repeat of the 1994 elections (pu! pu! pu! as my wife would say, and knock on would as I would say).

Not to mention comprehensive immigration reform. Perhaps unlikely, but the politics of immigration are bipartisan on both sides of the issue. Racist Republicans and union Democrats are against CIR, while business Republicans and human-rights Democrats are for it. To get some idea of how the issue seems to straddle the ideologues, instead of the other way around, consider this from The New York Post. The Post's business writers tend to be a little saner than the rest of the paper (family-values editorials and topless-bar ads).

What's interesting is that the author seems indirectly to be arguing for expanding the so-called "au pair visa" to include elder-care workers. I have to wonder how he feels about the fact that Congress has failed to issue new visa numbers (or recapture unused ones from prior years) for employment-based green cards that would give opportunities to elder-care workers from other countries. I can testify to the value of the workers who benefit from these visa numbers, not only professionally but also personally, based on the care my father received from several of them during the last several months of his life in nursing homes.

I am a very strong believer that the true wealth of nations begins not with the so-called captains of industry (too many of them are more like Captain Queeg than Captain Kirk), but with the foot soldiers of its everyday workers, whether employed or self-employed. There's really no way of addressing our current economic issues without addressing the fact that we need immigrants as much as they need the United States. We need their energy, their loyalty, their creativity, their resources, their connections, and (yes) their patriotism. I'm not denying that immigration reform necessarily means addressing issues of national security and criminal justice. The fact remains, however, that we live in a world in which money moves around the world at the speed of light. Why should the people who make, spend, save and invest it be force to move around it at less than the speed of sludge?

I hope that this state of affairs changes in 2010. And, above all, I hope that, as a nation, we can argue and gawk less, and think and build more. Happy New Year!