Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh, And One More Thing ...

In light of recent or soon-to-be events, this might make you think twice about voting for Romney.

Believe me, it should.

Can Obama Hold On In Swing States?

He was doing so, about 10 days ago.  Let's hope he still is doing so, and can do so for nine more days.

I'm going to go hunker down, and wait out the storm.  May we, and everyone we care about, be safe.

The REAL Source Of Voter Fraud

The Republican Party has a right to be concerned about it.  Because they are the chief cause of it.

Why Obama and the Justice Department hasn't gone after Ohio for using Romney-owned voting machines is beyond me.  It's as if they want to forfeit the election.

Cheer Up, Liberals!

Even if the Republicans get an across-the-board sweep on November 6th, they will only own the government.  We own the culture, and real progress has always come from the bottom up, not the top down.

It was true in 1972, and it remains true today.  We will regroup, and move ourselves, and America, forward.

Does This Surprise Anyone?

It shouldn't.  I've been saying this all along, and I'm certainly not alone.  Now, however, we have empirical proof.

Makes you wonder what the backlash against African-Americans is going to be like, if the Republicans return to power.

Wonder no more, thanks to Colin Powell's brave decision to endorse Obama for a second term.  Another brave man has confirmed that it will happen, while an idiot has illustrated how it will begin to play out.

One wonders, along with Victor Hugo, if the future will ever arrive.

But Will A President Romney Agree?

According to Eliot Spitzer, the Grover Norquist firewall against tax increases may be crumbling, now that business leaders are coming out in support of them.

While I'm grateful to learn that the American business community still, to some extent, lives in the real world, its principal political agent, the Republican Party, does not.  This is why its Presidential candidate still talks about piling tax cuts on top of tax cuts.

If he actually reaches the White House, and is paired with a Republican Congress, they may conspire to deficit-spend the American business community, and the American way of life, out of existence.

But don't worry.  They'll still be in charge, and that's all they really want, anyway.

Unless, of course, you do something about it.

MSM Guilt: Working Overtime To Elect Romney

This was predicted, over a month ago.  And, if you look at the media coverage since Romney's dishonest, cheating, hypercaffeinated performance in the first debate, you can see that it's come true.

Never forget that freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns one.  It's as much a property right as it is a civil right.  And major property owners don't tend to be liberals.

So, You Wanted A "Public Option"?

Well, here it is.

And, if you let Romney and the Republicans win, you'll lose it.

The Gathering Storm ... And The Day After Tomorrow?

I write this on Sunday afternoon, within hours of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, which is expected to have a devastating human and economic cost.  The headlines, on and off-line, are filled with the usual stories about advanced precautions, accompanied by the usual pictures of those precautions being taken (windows being bordered up, lines of vehicles headed inland, rapidly emptying store shelves, and so on).  All of the focus, understandably, is on the immediate danger, as well as our inability to know the exact extent to which we are in harm's way.

I, too, share the concern for the immediate danger.  At the same time, I am more than astonished--and, frankly, disgusted--about the fact that no one seems to want to connect the climate dots.

Until a decade or so ago, we were accustomed to being occasionally visited by powerful storms, and to cleaning up the aftermath and moving on.  We accepted this as part of nature's status quo.  But there is nothing "occasional" about these storms anymore, nor are weather extremes in general extremes anymore.  For all practical purposes, they are the "new normal."  Except for the fact that they are exponentially more dangerous and costly for all of us than they have even been.

And, in spite of that, we go on pretending that we can just keep cleaning up the mess, even when the messes get bigger and bigger.

We pretend that, as a species, we are so frail and helpless that we cannot control our behavior, and must rely on God to sort things out, to ensure that the wicked are punished and the righteous are protected.  Anything else somehow smacks of socialism.

That overlooks the fact that government, in both the Old and New Testaments, is an institution established and even ordained by God.  It overlooks the fact that the Constitution was established to ensure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welfare.  And, in the context of our climate, it grossly overlooks the fact that we have a serious problem, and it will take government of the people, by the people and for the people to set it right.  Government is the only segment of society capable of taking the long-term interest of everyone into account.  And, right now, whether it is Sandy or the next storm not yet on the horizon, government that thinks beyond the next fifteen minutes is needed more than ever.

It is, therefore, more than shameful that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney have even talked about climate change in their debates, or otherwise in their campaigns.  There has never been a greater need to talk about it.  Because Mother Nature is speaking very loudly, and we need to start listening.

It may take getting past our pioneer mentality, with its myth of a limitless wilderness, as David Attenborough has suggested.  Or, as he also suggests, it may take disaster.

But, for the sake of the human race, and its Creator, let it be SOMETHING.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Is "Self-Interest"?

Is it making ourselves a slave to our appetites, at the expense of others.  Or does it mean helping others in ways that ultimately help ourselves?

Evolution--that is to say, science (as opposed to Ayn Rand)--gives a rather surprising answer.

Or, at least, it might be to you.  Not to me.

"Frivolity" Is In The Eye Of The Consumer

Until, that is, the consumer is injured.  Then, in the eyes of other consumers, he or she becomes a frivolous litigant, reaching into consumer pocketbooks.

Actually, if the companies providing the injuries cared a little more about people than they did about profits, consumer pocketbooks would be pretty safe.  Then, again, there's nothing like a little blame-shifting to run interference for your greed.

Gasoline cans, for example, have the potential to be extraordinarily dangerous if not designed properly and/or explained properly.  Doing so is far cheaper than the cost of trying and/or settling cases.  Unfortunately, not every company feels this way.

So called "tort reform" is never really about protecting the economy or the consumer.  It is always about protecting the shortest possible path to profits, at the expense of your ancient right for a redress of your grievances.  The famous Shakespeare line about killing all of the lawyers was spoken by a character who wanted to do so because of the good that lawyers do.

It's bad enough that we sell away the rights of foreign workers by buying goods made in sweatshops.  Are we so craven that we're willing to clip our rights away like they were coupons?

The Case For Obama, Part 3

As eloquently made by a former Senator, a Vietnam Veteran, and a Reagan Republican.

Historic Buildings Helping The Needy?

Sounds like a great synergistic solution to me.  For a person with my interests, it's a real win-win.  Take a look.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Is A Bad Idea

And not even TransCanada can pretend otherwise.

You want to ship foreign oil overseas at the expense of the American heartland?  Go ahead.  Build this sucker.  But just remember, when the price of grain-related products shoots sky-high because the pipeline had a little "oops," don't pretend that no one warned you.

Conservatives Used To Learn From The Past

But not anymore.  Modern conservatism is all about standing athwart history and yelling "Halt," as if it is possible to deny life itself its essentially changing nature.  Even worse, modern conservatives imagine that no one else has tried this before.

As this book shows, it has been tried.  And it has failed.  And, if we continue to try it here, not even American exceptionalism will prevent it from failing again.  Because American exceptionalism at its best is all about embracing change and making it work for ourselves, not wishing it away or bullying it down.

A "Clear Eyed" View Of What Must Be Done

You all know Ben Stein.  TV personality.  Economist.  Tireless self-promoter.  The very model of a modern major Republican (thanks, G&S).

What you may not know is that he has apparently joined George Will in switching to the other side when it comes to economic royalism.  Take a look.

Apparently, after all of those years of promoting "Clear Eyes," he's actually used the product, and it worked!

When Is Adultery Not Adultery?

When Dinesh D'Sousa says so.

“I had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced”?

Guess what, Dinesh?  It's considered wrong OUTSIDE of those circles.  It's tantamount to bigamy, which is still a crime.

Thank goodness you're willing to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety."  But please keep in mind that you have no business sitting in judgment on anyone else.  Least of all, Barack Obama.

The Evangelist And His Wicked Advisors

Which is worse:  A Presidential candidate taking advantage of the weakened judgment of an elderly man, or the willingness of the elderly man, and those close to him, to compromise his principles in the process, as expressed on his Web site?

You decide.

And no, I don't think Mormonism is a cult.  But, if you're willing to change that view for the sake of an election, you should never have said it in the first place.

The Case For Obama, Part 2

So, Romney doesn't like Obama's handling of the economy.  He repeatedly says that America is worse off as a result of what Obama's done.

Well, one thing's for sure:  Mitt Romney isn't.

But, we'll give him his due:  He's willing to admit that he'll give you the shaft in the process of giving himself and his friends the gold mine.

And, if you have the nerve to tell the truth about them, watch out.  Even being a charity won't protect you.

Too Late For Climate Change In 2012?

So far, in this year's Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates, climate change has not reared its head as a political issue.  Which is a tragedy for everyone.  So far, it appears that the triumph of Bush over Gore, and the 2010 elections that ended the prospect of cap-and-trade legislation, has pushed the issue to the back burner.

Unfortunately, as large parts of the country have been ravaged by wildfires and drought, the issue itself has pushed itself back to the front burner--pun intended.  And, as a consequence, there's now some suggestion that the issue has the potential to be a winning one for the candidate(s) who are able and willing to use it.

What makes this more likely is the possibility of taking immediate, practical steps to address the problem.  I've been saying that promoting such steps should have been the focus all along for those of us who believe in the reality and the magnitude of the problem.  Now, it seems, I'm not alone.

I just hope it's not too late for the rest of us.

So What Exactly Was The Point, Gentlemen?

Two columns that I've read in the past week make me wonder we've reached the point at which both sides of our political divide are so hell-been on arguing that we're all prepared to argue ourselves into oblivion--or onto the other side of the divide.

First comes George Will, with a column in which he argues that Romney could take the election by coming out foursquare against "too big to fail" banks.  Why he thinks that there is even the remotest chance of Romney doing this beyond me; everything about Romney's "economic policy" screams economic royalism.  But the most unbelievable portion of the column is probably this:

 At bottom, the TBTF phenomenon raises questions not merely about the financial system but also about the nature of the American regime. These are Jacksonian questions, implicating issues Old Hickory raised in 1832 when vetoing the Second Bank of the United States: Should the government be complicit in protecting — and by doing so, enlarging — huge economic interests? (Emphasis added.)

Capitalism — which is, as Milton Friedman tirelessly insisted, a profit and loss system — is subverted by TBTF, which socializes losses while leaving profits private. And which enhances the profits of those whose losses it socializes. TBTF is a double moral disaster: It creates moral hazard by encouraging risky behavior, and it delegitimizes capitalism by validating public cynicism about its risk-reward ratios.


George Will is now against the government "protecting--and by doing so, enlarging--huge economic interests."  Which means he is effectively admitting that Reaganomics, and three decades of Will-led cheerleading on behalf thereof, was and is a total fraud.  Guess what, George?  America's on the phone.  It wants the last 32 years back.  And it wouldn't mind if, in the process, you went straight to hell.

On the other hand, what is one to make of Frank Rich?

Here, he suggests that the triumph of the Tea Party is inevitable, and the rest of us, including Rich's friends on the left, should just sit back and enjoy it.  Next thing you know, he'll take a page from Todd Akin's book, and call it a legitimate rape.

Well, gee whiskers, Frank, why the hell have progressives in America spent over a century trying to make America live up to its ideals?  Even worse yet, they've succeeded from time to time.  Are you suggesting that we save the Tea Party the trouble of dismantling it, because you've somehow decided that they can't be stopped?  Are you suggesting that everyone who has sacrificed in some measure--completely, in many cases--was just wasting their time getting our hopes up?

Tell me, how much DID Roger Ailes pay you to write that column, anyway?

Both Will and Rich exemplify an American phenomenon:  they love politics for its potential for conflict, not its potential for progress.  The process is now completely about competing and winning, not about advancing one or more ideals.  Hell, if it means you'll win, throw your ideals out the window.

And don't give a damn if America goes with it.

The Case For Obama

It may surprise some people on both sides of the fence to realize that there's a very easy positive case to make for Obama's re-election.  Heading off another Great Depression.  Enacting health care, student loan and financial reform.  The rebound of the markets, and the slower but equally real rebound of employment.  The death of bin Laden and the war in Iraq, and the restoration of foreign confidence in our international leadership.  The successful (yes, successful) promotion of alternative energy sources and applications, and the first tentative steps toward addressing our backwards immigration policy.

But, if I've learned one thing over the years, it's that fear trumps facts in our electoral process, even if only for the reason that, for most people, it is far easier for people to feel than it is to think.

So, let's steal a tactic from the other side.  Let's turn the politics of fear against its proponents on the right.

If you let Romney beat Obama:
Please tell me exactly how an Obama victory will be worse than that.

And don't worry, because I won't be holding my breath waiting.

George Stanley McGovern, 1922-2012

In retrospect, it seems fitting to me that the first presidential candidate I worked for was one who reminded me so much of my own father--a teacher, a veteran, a family man and, above all, a man who believed that a great nation never ceases to embrace change, and that politics could rise above the dirt and become the means to an far better end.

Until the advent of Barack Obama, George McGovern was the closest thing I experience to having my father run for president.  Which is part of why his crushing loss hurt so much, even though the polls more or less braced me for it.  In part, it was because it was my first campaign, although, on the bright side, it did brace me for the reality that you can't win 'em all, and, in part, it was because it was because the outcome gave Richard Nixon, then the Darth Vader of American politics, a ratification and glorification he did not deserve (and, in the end, one that he through away through his craven criminality).

But McGovern's loss hurt so much, most of all, because it felt like a rejection of every life lesson my father had taught me up to that point.  Reason trumps emotion.  Progress is inevitable, as is change, and the former must be sought as an antidote to the latter.  We are stronger together than when we stand alone.

Where in a 49-state landslide was there any sign that America believed in any of this?

And yet, McGovern's life after 1972 shows how you deal with the rejection of your ideals and values.  Mainly, and above all, you don't give up.

The loss to Nixon was not the only loss that McGovern endured.  He lost his Senate seat in 1980, he lost his wife and two of his children, he made another and even less successful run for the Presidency in 1984, and he tried his hand as a businessman, with less than successful results.

But he never stopped working to advance the cause of world peace, and of ending world hunger.  He remained a believer that politics could make progress possible, and that it was essential for it to do so.  And he did so in the face of constant, childish sneering from the other side of the political fence, primarily from people whose lives do not even reflect a fraction of McGovern's accomplishments.

If there is one lesson for progressives, especially young ones, to take from Senator McGovern's death, it should be the remembrance that the things we hold dear are both too valuable and too essential to walk away from.  They cannot be accomplished in a day, or even a lifetime.  They can only be accomplished by men and women who define themselves by their ideals, and not by their setbacks.

And so, to the millions of young people who worked so hard and so valiantly for Obama four years ago, and who have had their first bitter taste of the compromising nature of politics, I challenge and invite you to follow the late Senator's example.  Hold on to your values, don't give up fighting, remember to seek a better world and not a perfect one, and never forget that politics will come to seek out you and your life, even if you want to run away from it.  Far better to face it on your own terms, and make your mark on it.  You may look at a given Presidential race as a choice between the lesser of two evils.  But to run away from that choice is to invite the victory of the greater evil.

Rest in peace, Senator, along with my father.  Both of you, to borrow from Arthur Conan Doyle's tombstone, were steel true and blade straight.

And may that be said of the rest of us, once we too have finished striving to make a great nation a greater one.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

And, Continuing On A Positive Note ...

... we may indeed be able to grow and harvest our way to a self-sufficient, pollution-free energy future.  Algae may prove that great things can and do indeed come from the smallest among us, a theme of both Christianity and progressive politics (and sorry, wingnuts, but that's not a contradiction).

Sorry, Gun Nuts, But Gun Control Works!

Just ask Californians, where it works for them when it's done right.

If You Can't Buy 'Em, Twist Their Arms!

You have to wonder how much real freedom is left in this country when the candidate of a major party literally uses forced labor to advance his cause.  And make no mistake:  Romney was fully aware of, and completely on-board with this.

Free men and women cherish a level playing field.  The GOP and their fellow-travelers in the wingnut movement can't wait to tilt it--towards them, and away from you.

Is This Real, Or A Head-Fake?

A Koch brother coming out for tax hikes, defense cuts and marriage equality?

Well, you can decide.  In the absence of some kind of road-to-Damascus experience, I'm inclined to think that this is some kind of effort to dupe the few swing voters left into thinking that his man Romney is some kind of moderate.

In other words, it dovetails with Romney's debate strategy:  lie about your record, and think that you can get away with it because swing voters haven't been paying attention up until now.  Personally, I think the only reason that there are any swing voters left is because they HAVE been paying attention up until now--to Romney.

I'll believe in a Koch conversion when he and his brother heed the words of Luke 18:22.  But I'm not holding my breath.

On The Other Hand, Does It Matter Who Gets Elected?

I believe it does.  And yet, it is possible that things are already so bad economically that even those in power, who should have little to fear, are acting as fearfully as possible.  Take a look.

Well, Okay, Yet One MORE Thing About The Debates!

How corrupt is the American political system?  As corrupt as can be, when the liars admit the lying, because they know they can get away with it.

And One More Thing About The Debates ...

It was appalling to hear all of the post-debate talking heads blabber on about how much "substance" this debate had when it failed to touch upon the one issue that undergirds so much of our domestic and foreign concerns:  immigration.  Good immigration policy is good domestic AND foreign policy at the same time, and that point has never been made better than it is here, which I think of as the best article I've ever read about the value of immigration to America.

Does He Want To Be Re-Elected?

It's hard to avoid that conclusion, in the wake of Obama's embarrassingly tepid debate performance.  He had a hypercaffinated, lying opponent who systematically denied most of his own previous statements, and Obama, for the most part, just sat there and let him get away with it.

And I'm not alone in pondering that as a possibility.

And yet, I wonder if I'm alone in thinking something darker might be at work.  Pun intended.

Obama, as everyone knows, is the first African-American president of a nation that embedded slavery in its DNA.  Slavery, the original sin that seemingly nothing can absolve.  Including the election of Obama.

Putting aside the high-tech lynching that he's been given in the conservative media, you have to wonder how many death threats--or possibly worse--he and his family have had to endure during the past four years.  Especially when Rush Limbaugh, the cheerleader for those without enough brains to spit, can get away with something like this.  And, frankly, if the consequence of that is that Obama may be, however subconsciously, sabotaging his own re-election campaign, he may have a powerful reason for doing so.  It's difficult to think about running for office if you're literally afraid for your life.  And the lives of those you most love.

Sorry, George Will.  You're correct in thinking that race plays a factor in public sentiment about the president.  But, sadly, that sentiment is more likely to kill him than it is to re-elect him.  In the meantime, pray that cooler and wiser heads will prevail.