Monday, January 31, 2011

Random End-Of-The-Month Thoughts

And so, the State of the Union has come and gone.  Well, all I can say is that Obama may not be everything we hoped that he could be, he's certainly a far more effective speaker and leader than anyone in the hapless (and I mean REALLY hapless) opposition, as unably represented by Paul "The National Debt Is Killing My Sinuses" Ryan and Michele "Where IS That Camera?" Bachmann.  Good grief.  If these are the GOP's rising stars, all that proves is that their sun has completely set, their House majority notwithstanding.  Sorry, folks, but it's not going to be Morning in America anytime soon.

Other observations:

Say this for the now-departed Michael Steele:  he doesn't lack for self-esteem.  Nor should he, given the performance of his party in last November's election.  But I can't shake the feeling that the GOP couldn't wait to replace him with a chairperson of a lighter hue.  Reince Pribus?  Where DO they get these people?  To say nothing of what the hell's the matter with Wisconsin?

As for the newly-empowered Republican state governments, they apparently can't wait to cut their own throats.  Haven't they ever heard of the gender gap?  Then, there's this example of burning the village in order to save it.  You wonder how much longer Obama will feel that he can afford to be reasonable with criminals like these.

Especially since they've learned absolutely nothing from Tuscon.  Thankfully, Beck's ratings are plunging through the basement.  They can't hit bottom fast enough.

On the bright side, we won't have Joe Lieberman to kick around anymore, thankfully.  Yes, I appreciated his work on behalf of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  But, overall, he was a complete anchor around the neck of Democrats and progressive causes.  And one of the worst narcissists in politics; he had the audacity to compare himself to John Kennedy in announcing his exit.  He would do well to consider what happened the last time a sitting Senator made that comparison.

And Sarah Palin's squeaky-clean image took yet another hit.

And an obnoxious example of big government (racist Republican edition) came tumbling down to reality.

There's a small degree of common sense in red America on the subject of taxes.  Maybe in purple America, too.

And Bill Maher has now said what I've been saying for years:  that America's most financially successful sport uses socialism as its business model.  Franchise owners of the world, unite!

Last, but not least, there's Egypt.  It may yet turn out like 1979 Iran.  But I've got a hunch it will be more like 1989 Europe.  Democracy doesn't need an imperial America to plant itself; it needs a nation, and a people, willing to take a chance on letting it grow.

It's been a amazing first month of 2011.  I've got a feeling that this will be a year of surprises.  Hopefully, for the most part, good ones.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This, On The Other Hand, Is NOT Surprising

It's what I've been expecting and predicting all along.  Unfortunately, it's how people with grievances (legitimate or not) act when the status quo has painted them into a corner and they refuse to sit.

But no one should be happy about it.  I'm not.  Because nobody wins when it does.

And, On The Subject Of Surprises ...

Thank you, Senator Frist.  A Republican and a physician.  Here's hoping his party listens.

This Is Embarrassing ...

... but I'm hard put to get over how frequently I agree with David Brooks.  This is a prime example.  He's right:  the social lessons you learn as a child are just as important, if not more so, than the academic ones.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dr. King

Thank you for all that you lived and died for.

And those of you who are reading, take a look at this.  His most famous speech was even more of a miracle than most of us thought.

Why We Can't Sweep Tuscon Under The Rug

It's now just a little more than a week after the tragic shootings in Tuscon, an eternity in an Internet-driven world.  It has taken barely that amount of time for the debate over the shootings to devolve into predictable efforts to pretend that, apart from the personal tragedies involved, none of this matters for us as Americans.  We're a nation of spotlessly wonderful people, except for the occasional deranged apolitical lunatic who abuses the Second Amendment rights of all to express his or her lunacy.

Or so the party line goes.  Take a look at Time's whitewash of the subject.  Or, for that matter, Charles Blow's in The New York Times.  (Shame on you, Charles.  I thought you knew better.)

Well, we're not all wonderful, and we're certainly not all spotless.  And, while the shooter in this instance was far from mentally stable, it's patently ridiculous to pretend that this has no implications for our political system.

Not when (ahem) the person being targeted is a politician, and especially one who had been previously targeted not only with threats, but also actual acts of violence in connection with her vote on health care reform.

Not when that politician is a Democrat, in a state full of Republican officials (including the governor, both U.S. Senators and nearly the entire House of Representatives delegation).

Not when the shooting takes place in an atmosphere fill not simply with the language of violence and armed revolt, but the actual weapons themselves.  Doesn't such an atmosphere almost guarantee the eventual use of those weapons?  Of course it does.  Didn't it do so 16 years ago, in Oklahoma City?

Not when the aforesaid atmosphere is deliberately perpetuated, even after the shooting, even in the same state, and even to the point of blaming the victim (or, in this case, the victim who was targeted).

And why in the name of God or anything else should we comfort ourselves with the fact that the shooter was deranged?  His derangement didn't stop him from legally buying a handgun, nor did his inability to pass an Army drug test or his arrest on drug charges!

If ever there was a moment to seriously consider sensible legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of easy-to-identify time bombs like Jared Loughner, it's now, before the next Gabrielle Giffords gets targeted.  Regulating something that is potentially dangerous is something that we do with anything that could potentially be misused--even toys.

To regulate a right is not to deny it.  We regulate freedom of speech and assembly, even though the language of the First Amendment contains no provisions for regulation.  We regulate the Second Amendment's right to bear arms already, whether we want to face that fact or not.  I don't recall Charlton Heston saying "I'll give up my MIRV when you pry it from my cold dead hands!"  And, like it or not, the Second Amendment as written would have covered artillery as well as hand-held arms.  After all, it was written with militia men in mind (or it was, until Nino Scalia used Alice in Wonderland logic to decide that the Framers couldn't have meant what they said in their original language, even as he was searching for the intent in their original language).

Sadly, the politics of today do not permit any member of either party to advance the kind of legislation that would stop the next lunatic dead in his tracks.  In the meantime, we all go on wanting to believe the best in everyone, while the worst of us continue to stoke their anger higher and higher.  Thankfully, there are writers like Frank Rich and Paul Krugman who really "get it."

And as long as a single American is in danger because of the deniers who look at devils in the face and pretend they're angels because they want so much to believe they're in Heaven, I'll go right on telling the truth.

Because the lies are literally killing us, one by one.

Impeach The Supreme Court!

Or, most of the, anyway.  In this barely-begun century, this Court has given us an unelected President, an unprecedented amending of the Second Amendment, and decided that corporations are people.  And now, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary (our President notwithstanding), they've decided that prejudice no longer exists.

Shame on them.  And Clarence Thomas especially.  He would never be where he is today without government-sponsored intervention on behalf of African-Americans.  Now that he's in a position to do so, he pulls up the ladder he climbed, so that no one has a chance to follow him.

,,, And He Knew Better As Well

And he's no one's idea of a flaming liberal.  But he knows Arizona better than most of us do.

Technology = Poverty?

That's one of several conclusions one can come to from this article, which suggests that the technological revolution of the past two decades has managed to create enormous wealth without spreading it around in any significant way.  Oddly enough, this is a view that may cross ideological lines.

Even She Knew Better

The media, and the other apologists for the vast right-wing conspiracy, can whine all they want that there's no connection between the Tuscon shootings and Sarah Palin.  But even Palin, who's no one's idea of a searing intellect, knew better.

Running From Reality?

That's what Republicans do, whether the reality is the Constitution, health care reform, or anything else.  They'll even go so far as to shut the door to supporters that aren't "pure" enough.  They'll even back away from reforms they propose, when the other side accepts them.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  They'll do anything for power.  It's all they care about.

Why Is The Middle Class Intent On Killing Itself?

This is an excellent column by Robert Reich on the coming (actually, ongoing) war against public-employee unions and their members.  I agree with everything it says, but I also have to marvel at the ability of middle-class Americans in both sectors of our economy to tear themselves to pieces, while the folks at the top just laugh and count the money they're stealing from the rest of us.

This game will only stop when there are no more overseas pools of underpaid workers to exploit.  This is why I think the future of the union movement lies in its becoming a truly international movement.  Or, as an underappreciated German economist named Marx once said ... .

And no, I don't mean Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo OR Gummo!

They Just Can't Help Themselves, Can They?

Not when it comes to raising money.  Welcome to Washington reality, Tea Baggers.  Hope you don't fell too taken advantage of.  Because you have been.

If it's any consolation, they're no worse than their leader, who also managed to miss the Tuscon memorial for a fundraiser.  Heck of a job, Boner.

Can The Empire State Building Lead The Way?

For the sake of a cleaner environment and a sustainable economy, let's hope so.

When Is Defense Spending Not Spending On Defense?

When it's eating away the country, one misplaced billion dollars at a time, as even a former Reagan official now concedes.

Our Planet Is No Longer For The Birds!

Further evidence that we don't limit our inhumanity to ourselves.  Well, why not?  This isn't the only planet we've got, is it?  Is it?

When Politics And Preservation Collide

Iraq has become the focus of so much of modern national and international politics that it's sometimes easy to overlook its importance in antiquity.  This illustrates the value of that antiquity, from the perspective of history and religion, as well as the problems for preservation that have been created by modern-day politics.  It also suggests that successful preservation efforts may help Iraq to one day build an economy that isn't exclusively dependent on oil.

Personally, I'm rooting for that to happen.  And yet, given the inherent divisiveness of Iraq as a nation of competing nationalities, and the international lust for its oil, I'm inclined to think that the possibility of this happening is as fragile as the country's ancient monuments themselves.

Well, At Least I'm Not Alone ...

... in thinking that we have a choice between fighting and folding, which means that we have no choice but to fight.  More people on the left should try it.   It works far more effectively than the modern-day equivalent of folding, which passes under the name of "civility."

No, I am NOT advocating violence, any more than I was recently advocating anything more than self-defense.  Violence is the language of the right, in both thought and deed.  Ours is persistence with the truth, in the face of seemingly impossible odds.  You'd be surprised how "possible" the "impossible" is, if you don't give up on it.

Here's one sign that even the Democrats may be coming around to realizing this.  For that matter, here's another.  Maybe the unions will be next, and they won't have to put up with Capitol Hill garbage like this.

Surrender, Obama!

Or, at least, that's Bush's economist's view on how the President can get along with the conservative cabal on Capitol Hill.  In the conservative version of Newspeak, "compromise" means "do it our way."

But why should he do it their way, when our way has worked so much better?  The other way, on the other hand, hasn't even worked in Bush's "home" state.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Hate Like Hell To Have To Make This My First Post Of The New Year ...

... but I also hate like hell being right.  I knew we would get more Oklahoma Cities with the new GOP House.  I just didn't think we'd get the first one in its first week.  Or, for that matter, that there would also be an attempt at one here in my home (and blue) state of Maryland (and a similar incident next door in the District).

I wasn't lying or imagining anything when I warned about the dangers that lurk from those on the wrong side of political reason.  We'd all better pray.  And arm ourselves.