Friday, August 31, 2012

He Opened The Door ... To More Guns

Even though he won't admit it, that's what he did.  And there would be no need for new cases, if he had gotten it right the first time and interpreted the Second Amendment correctly.

We need a constitutional amendment, or a better Supreme Court, to fix the damage wrought by the Heller decision.  Hopefully, we'll get one or the other soon, before Scalia has more blood on his hands.

It's Not The Deficit, Stupid!

It's the casino-like structure of Wall Street.  And it's got to stop.  Even The New York Post thinks so.

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Bronx Is No Longer Burning

In fact, it's positively green.  Thirty-five years ago, no one would have thought it was possible.

Thank God for the people who didn't listen to "no one."

Where ARE Those Pigs With Ice Buckets, Anyway?

Proof of global warming, funded by Koch?  Support for an atheist in the White House?

I never get the limits of what's possible.  And I'm grateful for that.

So, if any of you see pigs hovering over Hell, filling up ice buckets, don't be surprised.

"High Noon": A "Liberal" Movie?

It's supposedly Bill Clinton's favorite film.  But it can be looked at and admired from both sides of the political fence.  Take a look.

My take?  I think it's got a lot in common with another Gary Cooper movie.  Think about it.  Superhero marshall cleans up his town, but the ungrateful, cowardly, unworthy population turns on him in the end, leaving him to fend for himself (successfully with the help of his Quaker wife).

That last shot of him grinding his badge in the dust?  It's Atlas, shrugging.

Which is why I think both films are well-made, but neither one is great.

Good News And Bad News On Health Care Reform

It really will save money.  But, thanks to the Supreme Court, not for everyone.  And those people may not live long enough to even notice, let alone protest.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

If You Look Closely, You Can Find Something To Like About Almost Anyone

Rand Paul and defense spending.  Who knew?

Is Gun Control A Religious Issue?

It ought to be and, thankfully, there's some evidence that it's becoming one.  Take a look at this, which suggests that there are some encouraging signs of movement in that direction.

On the other hand, it also reaffirms that, by and large, the evangelical community is also a gun-loving community.  What makes me particularly angry is the idea, as expressed in one quote, that expanding the use of the term "pro-life" to the discussion of issues other than abortion somehow drains the term of meaning.  That idea only makes sense if you understand that mindset of most anti-abortion activists (in the words of Barney Frank):  life begins at conception, and ends at birth.  To be truly "pro-life" is to worry about what can happen to a fetus when it becomes a baby; this is what drives many women to have abortions in the first place.

Here's what I think the members of the current so-called "pro-life" movement are really after.   As in Orwell's "1984," they want to harness the sex drive and access to firearms to fulfill their lust not for life, but for power.  And, as in "1984," they're willing to twist words to do it.

Will you let them?

The Root of "Con" is "Confidence"

You remember "confidence," don't you?  That's the thing our current Speaker of the House thinks so-called "job creators" need more of in order to turn the economy around.  Well, apparently, confidence isn't what it used to be, if even 32 trillion dollars can't buy it.  Or if you pay no taxes, but still need a tax cut.

The Speaker, his fellow-travelers and the so-called "job creators" are just "confidence artists."  Or con artists, in everyday language.  They've used supply-side, trickle-down "economics" to suck away the wealth that worker-consumers, the real job creators, create every day of their lives.  Well, it's not trickling down, folks.  It's trickling away, and never coming back.

Unless you get mad as hell, and decide not to take it anymore.  (Footnote:  that line was written by Paddy Chayefsky, a liberal, against corporatism.  And Republicans have not right to use it.)

Or, They Were Against It Before They Were For It!

Gun control, that is.  I suppose I should rejoice at Kristol's conversion, except that I don't think it's real.  He's just trying to suck Obama into a position that he will then twist into a hammer against the President.

Personally, I think Obama should call his bluff.  I think he might, though I also think he wants to wait until after the election to do it.  Let's hope he's around to have that chance.

They Were For It Before They Were Against It!

Welfare reform, that is.  Personally, I rejoice in the fact that yet another failed Republican policy has come back to bite Republicans where it hurts.  The problem is that many of us, your-humble-and-obedient included, knew and predicted this would happen.

The far greater problem, however, is all of the people who have fallen deeper into poverty since Bill Clinton, attempting to stave off impeachment, signed this misbegotten "reform" into law.  Say what you will about welfare as we knew it:  it guaranteed a certain level of consumption for a consumption-based economy.  I will always wonder how far the economy would have fallen, had a guaranteed base of consumers remained in place.

This is not an argument for fraud.  There are and have always been ways of rooting out the bad apples without blowing up the barrel.  But, that's American politics:  given a choice between problem-solving and scapegoating, I guess people will always choose the latter.  It's more fun.

But for how much longer?

It's Worth It, Just For The Map

By which I mean this.  Kind of reminds me of someone's speculation about the possibility that God's wrath might be turned against climate-denying red states.  Oh, wait.  That was ME.

However, most of us seem to be finally getting the message.  Hopefully, it's not too late.

Did You Ever Have An Imaginary Friend As A Child?

Well, if you did, you're not alone.  Rush Limbaugh's childish views on just about everything are supported by what may be as many as 15 million imaginary friends.

Okay, SOME of his listeners are real.  But keep that link in mind the next time some ditto-head tries to convince you that Rush is the voice of the people.  He's really the voice of the people who are paid to say he's the voice of the people.  If you're good with people whose convictions and popularity can be purchased, stay in your world, and don't invite me in.

So, Who IS The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower?

I'll give you a hint:  he was born in Hawaii.  Don't take my word for it.  Take the word of a capitalist tool.

There He Goes Again, Part 2

Last time, it was Jeb Bush, sounding like a Democrat.  Now, it's David Stockman, once again repudiating the party that put him in power.

What Kind Of Public Official Hides An Epidemic On His Watch?

Answer:  A Republican Governor.



What Kind Of Woman Views Rape As A "Distraction"?

Answer:  A Republican Governor.

Why female voters aren't 100% Democratic is beyond me.  For crying out loud, people, PAY ATTENTION!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bring Back The Draft?

I'll admit that, back in the day, when I was young enough for it, I was opposed to the draft.  I regret that opposition, in hindsight, for a number of reasons.  One of them is that an all-volunteer military has allowed our armed forces to be defined by our economic differences, and not by our common status as citizens.

Here's a proposal for an updated draft, one that provides for a variety of alternative forms of service.  Take a look.  Personally, I think it's past-due time for us to adopt something very close to this.

Recycling AND Poetic Justice At The Same Time

A Wal-Mart in Texas becomes a library?  I'm not sure a bigger miracle than that is possible.

Progress Is Stubbornly Slow, And Yet ...

... barring absolute disaster, it seems inevitable.  One day, California will look back on this, and be thankful that the bad guys didn't manage to take this one away.

And the Republican governors who could have had high-speed rail for their states will be long gone, but their states will be the worse off for their corrupt lack of vision.

Look Out, Grover Norquist!

Your Republican friends are deserting you, one by one.

Citizens United Is Crumbling ...

State by state.  Only 32 more states, and we'll have enough to approve a Constitutional amendment.

Provided, of course, that we can elect a sane Congress that will do the will of the people, not the 1%.

This Shouldn't Even Be Close!

A deadbeat dad belittling his opponent's military service?  If he pulls this off and wins re-election, I would hope that Congress would refuse to seat him.  And, if Nancy Pelosi is in charge (as I hope she his) I would insist on it.

Even Politics Can't Always Get In The Way Of A Good Idea

Even if the good idea is Obamacare.  Or, at least, parts of it.

Good News And Bad News For A 17-Year-Old

The good news:  He's grown up politically.  The bad news:  His former supporters on the right are beating up on him.  Take a look.

How insecure must they be on the right to beat up on a teenager?  And they want you to trust them with the future.  Young people like this young man ARE the future.

Water, Water, Nowhere And Everywhere

Everywhere, if you're on the coasts.  But nowhere, if you're in the Sunbelt.

And, speaking of the drought:  would it be unfair to call it God's righteous judgment against red-state politics.  I mean, after all, if AIDS can be God's righteous wrath against gay men (but not lesbians), well ....

I'm not going to insist on that latter point.  But I think that we don't need any more nails for the coffin of climate skepticism.

However, just in case ... .

OK, I KNOW This Dates Back To June ...

... but, frankly, I'd be surprised if people don't still feel the same way.

A Market For CO2?

Apparently, it's possible.  So much for the theory that capitalism and environmentalism are mutually exclusive philosophies.  I've never believed that.  Neither should you.

Another October Surprise From The GOP?

Or, as I prefer to call it, treason?

In 1980, Jimmy Carter had a lead over Ronald Reagan up to the last week before the election.  Suddenly, that lead disappeared, as a last-minute uptick of hope for the release of American hostages in Iran suddenly fizzled.

Well, it didn't fizzle on its own.  Emissaries from the Reagan camp contacted the Iranians, and promised them a better deal than the Carter administration was offering them--provided that they keep the hostages until after the election.  The Iranians gave the Republicans what they wanted, and Reagan became President, thereafter launching the slow-motion destruction of the American Republic.

(In case you didn't know, now you do:  treason was the seedbed of the so-called Reagan Revolution.  And, just in case you still think democracy exists in this country, this particular act of treason was never even investigated, let alone prosecuted.)

I mention all of this now because I've noticed a number of conservative sources recently citing 1980 as the template for a Romney comeback and landslide.  Makes you wonder what else they have up their sleeve.

If it's another act of treason, they should pay the ultimate price.  And, if I were Obama, I'd watch my back, and do everything I could to ensure that the act never gets committed in the first place.

Who Is Ayn Rand?

That's an easier question to answer than "Who is John Galt," and I won't take 900-plus pages to do it.

She's the person who has done the most in the past 100 years to promote the concept of self-interest.  But what no one seems to have noticed, or at least commented upon, is that fact that she took it upon herself to define self-interest as selfishness.

They are not the same thing.  And to muddle the two concepts is to court disaster.

It's in my self-interest to have safe, stable, mobile, well-educated communities, where people don't have to worry about the necessities of life.  It doesn't make it hard to make a living, run a business, or otherwise monetize my efforts.  It makes it easier, by creating a ready market for my efforts.

Selfishness, on the other hand, is little more than appetite divorced from any kind of willingness on the part of society to support it.  Left undisciplined by the needs and concerns of others, it simply consumes everything in its path, without regard to the destruction it leaves behind.  One only has to look at the "red" states to see how this plays out.  Whether by way of overfarming, overmining or overdrilling, the selfish have taken their profits and taken them elsewhere, leaving behind ravaged communities that no longer have the resources they need to fend for themselves in even the most minimal way (and, ironically, more dependent on Federal aid to survive).

Selfishness is not the solution to our problem.  Selfishness is the problem.  And no apologies to Ronald Reagan, who is a co-author of all this misery.

We have allowed the Reagans and the Rands of the world to define self-interest for us.  We have forgotten that we always have the right to define it, and to do so rationally.  We desperately need to do so now, before we become a nation of appetites, devouring each other in the hope of being the last person standing.

And possessing nothing.

There's A Better Word Than Centrism

And that word is "balanced."

"Centrism" is a word that is relentlessly promoted by certain members of the chattering classes.  It is based upon the proposition that cutting the baby in half is not only a great idea, but in fact is always the best idea.  Giving everyone 50% of what they want always leads to the best results.

Or does it?

In a political system composed primarily of two parties, one of which is extremist, and the other of which is more"centrist" than anything else, the only rational result to expect is that society will slowly march over the extremist cliff, thanks to the willingness of the centrists to compromise.  "We'll meet you half-way," say the centrists.  "Swell," say the extremists, smiling and whispering to themselves "One step backward, two steps forward," structuring their 50% to lead to the next conflict--and the next compromise.

It doesn't matter whether the extremism is from the left or right, either.  The process is the same, as is (sad to say) the result.

What the majority of people, the American people included, want is not a society that moves by inches off the deep end to the dance of "centrism," but one that is balanced over the long haul between diametrically opposed principles (liberalism vs. conservatism, individualism vs. collectivism, and so on).

Why is that different from "centrism"?  Because it means that, sometimes, one side can and should get more than 50% of what it wants, depending on the state of society at a given moment.  Sometimes, society needs a good does of liberalism, as was the case nationally during the Great Depression and its distant relative, the current Great Recession.  At other times, a more conservative approach may be required, as was ultimately the case in New York during the 1990s.

In other words, you accept short-term doses of extremism, in order to get to an overall state of balance.

I have found that my personal politics have tended to reflect this philosophy.  I once tended to be somewhat more conservative than I am now, as a reaction to the knee-jerk liberalism of our political culture in the 1970s and early 1980s.  Since then, of course, the country has lurched to the right, and I have lurched to the left.  Why?  Because I want every liberal fantasy to come true?  No.  Because I want a balanced society.

Balance is what we need to hold ourselves and our country together.  Centrism only guarantees short-term frustration for both sides, and long-term destruction for everyone.  Whatever the outcome of this election, let us all strive not for a Democratic nation, a Republican nation or a divided, frustrated, my-way-or-the-highway nation, but for a nation that finds unity in balance.

I hope that we can do it.  I worry, sometimes, that we have lost our way too much to even try.