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.