Monday, May 28, 2012

One More For May (And For Everyone)

This Memorial Day, I want to give thanks to all who have put their lives on the line for their country, and especially for those who gave them.  In particular, I pay tribute to Milton Bromberg, who I am proud to say is my father-in-law, and to Charles Randall, who was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and who would have been my uncle had he lived.

Whether you remember them, or remember with them, be thankful for them, and for those who are still serving.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Inchcape Rock For The 21st Century (Part 2)

Jamie Dimon and the Dodd-Frank rules.  Need I say more?

When It Comes To Gay Marriage ...

... the Christian church has devolved.  So much for the Biblical view on the subject.

The Best Reason Of All For Recalling Scott Walker

The man is an absolute liar.  Let's hope Wisconsin is on the verge of restoring sanity and integrity to our politics.

And, The Next Time You Get An "Austerity" Argument ...

... feel free to respond with this.

We Can Only Hope

About what Richard Lugar's ouster from the Senate might mean, that is.  I'd enjoy seeing Republican arrogance come home to roost this fall.

Who's "Unpatriotic" Now? (Part 2)

Democracy should be good enough if you want to make things better.  Apparently, for Claire McCaskill's opponents in Missouri, it's not enough.

Next Time You Get A "Structural" Argument About The Economy ...

... feel free to respond with this.

Who's "Unpatriotic" Now?

These are the people who don't define America by freedom, the Constitution or the rule of law.  They define it by being white.

To borrow a phrase from Lincoln, they can't perish from the earth fast enough.

Is It Really All About Capitalism?

Or do former Soviet citizens in the United States prefer the Republicans because, historically, Russians prefer authoritarians?  Look at Russian history.  That should give you a few clues.

Just Remember, It's All A "Hoax"!

Except when it ISN'T.

Two-Faced On Two Issues At Once!

You've got to say this for Republicans:  their hypocrisy is as efficient as it can be.  What other political party could cede ground on job creation and overseas campaign operations at the same time?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Environmental Sickness Of Modern Life

This is courtesy of my friend and fellow blogger, John Tierney.  It is a reminder of the real cost of modern convenience.  Full disclosure:  he was a former student of my late father's.  But he's a smart and good person, so you should pay attention to his blog, as well as mine.

Everything You Need To Know About Bain Capital

And none of it good.  I wrote to The Times in response, and they elected not to publish my response (its loss, and that of their readers).  Accordingly, I share it below:

To the Editor:

If Edward Conrad's unswerving defense of income equality possesses any logic at all, it is the logic of Puritanism and its view of capitalism:  that the accumulation of wealth is a natural and predictable function of a virtuous life, one in which the the right kind of thinking and behavior leads to rewards on earth as well as heaven.

The problem, however, is that Puritanism also recognizes the existence of sin and, therefore, the reality of failure in our endeavors, including those involving money.  This accords with the logic of capitalism that failure should be punished in the marketplace, not bailed out by the taxpayers.  When bailouts divorce capitalists from the prospect of failure, and tax cuts guarantee the accumulation of wealth without marketplace discipline, crony capitalism is the only logical result (along with an essentially privatized government).

It is therefore not surprising to see Conrad constantly make references to taking risks.  Risk-taking and a pile of chips are all that one really needs in the economic casino that we've created over the last three decades.  It is even less surprising that he would advocate government guarantees against any future bank failures.  By doing so, he effectively admits that we are all socialists now, and "Who benefits?" is the only remaining question.

Perhaps saddest of all is his disparagement of talent.  Talent, whether it is the ability to build a better smartphone or paint the Mona Lisa, is the ultimate creator of value.  Joining talent to risk is what prevents the risk from being an otherwise total leap into the void.  And, since talent is seldom concentrated in a single person, it is what ultimately democratizes business.

The traditional American willingness to discipline capitalism with virtue, and harness it to talent, is what has given this nation the economy its people have come to expect.  I might add that it is also the reason behind that nearly 80-year gap between bank runs that so puzzles Mr. Conrad and his fellow travelers.  Perhaps a truly conservative plan would be to return to that tradition, and keep gambling in the casinos, where it belongs.

Quick! Somebody Hide The Good News! Part 2!

Likewise, we wouldn't want to make Mitt Romney the bald-faced liar that he is on the subject of Obama and jobs, would we?  We wouldn't want to prove that Obama has brought back all the jobs that Bush flushed down the toilet, in spite of job-killing Republicans, would we?  Oh, wait ... ;-).

At this rate, Romney may have to strap his dog back onto the roof of his car, just to change the subject.

Quick! Somebody Hide The Good News!

After all, we wouldn't want to admit that Obama did anything good, would we?  We wouldn't want to give him credit for going after oil speculators and, in the process, lowering gas prices, would we?  We wouldn't want to admit that, at least sometimes, Big Government could actually work for the rest of us, could we?

Well, thankfully, some of us could.

He's Working Overtime to Miss The Point, Part 2

This time, it's that well-known briefing-book thief, George Will.  I admire his commitment to, and obvious affection for, his son Jon, who has Down's syndrome.  However, when he uses that commitment and affection to lambaste an entire generation for making different choices than the one he and his ex-wife made in bringing Jon into the world, as he does here, he is simultaneously being cruel and hypocritical at the same time.

Has Will ever talked to any of the women he castigates in this column?  Does he have any idea of how economically and emotionally difficult it can be to deal with the prospect of raising a severely challenged child?  Not everyone is equipped with the financial means Will possess to rise to such a challenge.  And this does not even begin to address the issue of the impact having such a child has on the ability to care for other family members.  Nor does it address the pain and suffering of the child, which has not been given a "choice" that he or she would have willingly elected.

It's easy for the well-off to use differently-abled children as political props to promote compassion as a virtue.  It's far harder for them to accept the fact that most people don't have the resources to make that choice.  That's why it IS a choice for them in the first place--they have the means to make it.  Most people don't.  And, until conservatives like Will and Sarah Palin learn to adopt a different set of economic principles, most parents in their situation are going to make a "choice" that no one truly wants to make.

In any event, I wish Jon a happy 40th; I'm sure it has taken a lot for him to get this far.  And, for his sake, among others, I'm glad the Orioles are doing well.

ARRRRGH! 'Tis Pirates On The Political Horizon!

In Germany, at least.  They may actually represent the next step in taking social networking technology and turning it in a permanent political revolution.  Barack Obama and the Democrats, take note.

He's Working Overtime To Miss The Point

You'd expect that, of course, from a New York Post writer.  Kyle Smith, indifferent film critic and even lesser political observer, here promotes David Brooks' book "The Social Animal," in which Brooks describes the human need for intimacy and challenges.  Smith attempts to fling this critic in the face of young America, comparing their obsessions with technology and social mobility to the characters in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

Of course, if Smith was willing to look beyond the boundaries of his own biases, he'd realize that it's the people who rely on Rupert Murdoch to keep them in power who exploit the priciest technologies and are the quickest to shed their own "contacts," whether those contacts are workers or wives.  As for young people, it's precisely the economic limits of their own lives that limits their social mobility to social networks, in between multiple shifts at fast-food restaurants.

That's the dilemma of Victorian virtues:  maintaining them costs money, and often requires public investment that the privately privileged feel (understandably) threatened by.  And until we as a society can accept that fact, we won't make any progress toward becoming more virtuous.

Incidentally, Kyle, Huxley was a socialist who found struggle and social connection through advocating a better society for everyone.  Wonder what Rupert would think of that?  Tap his phone for me, will ya?

So, Where Are The Flying Pigs Circling Hell With Ice Buckets?

That's how I felt after reading this.

Imagine.  Someone from the AEI admitting that cooperation is the American way, and Republicans are the ones who are barricading it.  Perhaps there's hope for us, after all. 

Privatization Doesn't Work!

It's destroyed school systems around the country, and it's about to do the same in Philadelphia.

I'm Sure The Republicans Haven't Noticed ...

... but one of their favorite issues is literally fleeing the country.  And, given that they've contributed so much to our economy and gotten so little in return, can you blame them?

Maybe the real question is this:  with Mexico's economy growing, will they come back when we need them?  Then again, why would they want to?

One day, the world is going to have us over a barrel when it comes to the immigration issue.  We'll need younger workers to support our rapidly aging population (especially the Boomer cohort).  And they'll be saying "On the whole, I'd rather be in Canada."  Or someplace else that's smart enough to open its doors to them.

Thanks to "free-market" economic policies and tight immigration policies, money moves around the world at the speed of light, and people are trapped behind borders, which are now simply tools to exploit the suffering of the working class and the poor.  Hopefully, one day, they'll wake up, as Marx encouraged them to do, and do something about it.

Why Urban Policy Is Good

It promotes a better American, by promoting social interaction and wise use of resources.  Happily, and not coincidentally, it also promotes the Democratic Party.  Frankly, if the national Democrats had any brains at all, they would actively promote the re-urbanization of America, as both a political and a growth strategy.

And, Speaking Of Cameron ...

... it's not just The New York Times that has noticed the Tories' double-dip.  Look here.

Who knows?  Maybe soon, everyone will figure out that there's only one way to:
  • reduce deficits;
  • stimulate growth;
  • force the rich to stop hoarding cash; and
  • prevent them from buying the government.
RAISE TAXES, for crying out loud!  Get past the Reagan-induced insanity of the past 30 years and get back to what works for all of us.

I Took A Week Off For Mother's Day ...

...and, since I had three wonderful mothers to celebrate (my own, my wife, and my stepdaughter), can you blame me?  I hope that everyone's Mother's Day was happy.

Of course, if you live in Great Britain, and currently suffer from the effects of the Conservative government's austerity policies, that might not be the case.  Thankfully, conservatives don't control the entire government here.  Hopefully, after next November, that will still be the case.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

All Gun Owners Are Not Created Equal

It's important to recognize that fact, when we're talking about gun rights and gun restrictions.  Both need to be addressed in a responsible way.  Hopefully, with the help of people like this, they will be.

What's The Real Significance Of The Stock Market?

Apparently, it's this:  Republicans like to talk about it, but Democrats actually do something about it.

Is Obama Wrong?

To do this, I mean.  I don't think so.  I think that he should have done it much sooner.  He's been given a Congress that doesn't understand, for the most part, that there is a difference between being a co-equal branch of  government and being a political roadblock.  All he's doing is what the Constitution allows him to do.

I just hope, for his sake and ours, that he hasn't waited too long in doing this.

Social Issues Aren't What They Used To Be

Social issues, like the rest of politics, are not local as much as they are generational.  Here's proof.

You Can't Cut Your Way To Prosperity, Part 2

Europe is proving that you can't.  Congratulations to France's new president; let's see if he can make a difference.

The Economy Of The Future

It's built upon sustainability and renewability.  And it's already being built.

Will Social Issues Hurt The Republicans This Fall?

This article raises that possibility, while quoting various Republican leaders to the effect that they're not concerned about it.  They believe that they'll be able to re-focus everyone's attention on the economy.

The problem with that theory is this:  they've had two years to focus on creating jobs, and have done nothing but destroy jobs (in the public sector, at any rate).  That, plus Citizens United, is what has given the the time and the money to do what they do best:  join their economic power to what they perceive to be the social norms of voting America.

But those social norms have changed with the entrance of a new generation into voting America.  And the Republicans have done absolutely NOTHING to help that generation.  Unless, of course, you count playing politics with the interest rates for student loans.

It's more than a possibility.  It's inevitable.  The Republicans have reached the point at which they have no one to fool but themselves.