Monday, December 31, 2012

And A Parting Thought For 2012

Let's hope that the MSM can finally get past the idea that there are two sets of bad guys in Washington.

There are not.

There are two sets of guys (and gals) in Washington.  One is reasonable.  The other is not.

Perhaps this will help.  One can only hope.

Stay safe, be well, and may 2013 be your year.

For that matter, may it be everyone's.

That Shattering Sound That You Hear ...

... is the sound of another lefty stereotype dying upon contact with reality:  liberals who hunt.

And why not?

It's actually good for the environment, as it helps keep animal populations in check.

It proves that gun registration and gun bans are NOT the same thing.

And it gives wingnuts a thing or two to think about if they think we're easy pickings;-).

A Right-Wing House Divided Against Itself

Ann Coulter apparently gets it, proving perhaps that Hell really HAS frozen over.

The problem is, she and her colleagues in the conservative chattering class need to explain that to their political operatives, especially Mitch McConnell, who has been reduced to debating with himself.

Get it together, conservatives.  The country you supposedly love so much is waiting for you to catch up with it.

For That Matter, Never Underestimate The Power Of ANY Individual

Even if you only met them once, or talked to them twice.

Helen Marie Guditis falls into both categories for me.  And she made a difference in my life, and the lives of others.

It was Helen who, when two of my friends and I sought out advice from her about saving Times Square theatres, suggested that we focus on the Biltmore Theatre on West 47th Street.  It was a small (about 1,000 seats) Broadway house of the type that had fallen out of favor in the age of mega-musicals.  It had been badly damaged by fire and vandalism.  It was in danger of losing what was left of its theatrical identity to so-called "adaptive reuse."

And it was Helen who encouraged my friends and me to launch what became Friends of the Biltmore, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Biltmore for theatrical use.  We lobbied everyone in the theatre community and the New York media for years, including the man who purchased the theatre intending to make it a building lobby.  We formed a 501(c)(3) (my first one) and sold T-shirts (not as many as I would have liked, but the publicity was good).  In the end, it was the Manhattan Theatre Club that stepped up as a theatrical user.  But who's to say that they would have done so without us?  I will always believe that we kept the building in play as a theatre, until a theatrical user was ready to take it over.

In the course of working on FOTB, I made many friends I would not otherwise have made.  And, for a time, I got to be a small part of the Broadway community, proving that it's never too late to pursue a dream and make something of it.

Helen made all of that possible.  I'll never forget you, Helen.  And someday, perhaps in a celestial Morosco Theatre (may it rest in peace, too), we can have another chat.

Never Underestimate The Power Of An Actor

Even when he or she is not on stage or screen.

R.I.P., Mr. Klugman.

And Charles Durning as well--a great character actor and war hero.

And A Word Of Advice To Fox News ...

Just because you're NOW willing to admit that Obama's stimulus was a good thing doesn't mean that you should be expecting the FCC to give you a version of it.

Environmentalists: Please Turn A Negative Into A Positive

Don't talk about global warming, or even climate change.

Talk about geoengineering.

People are more willing to engage in solving the problem, if you're ready to propose a solution.  Especially a job-creating one.

I Take Back Every Mean Thing I Ever Said About Bob Costas

I never liked his anti-Mets slant in his baseball coverage.  On the other hand, if he keeps this up, I no longer care.

Memo To Chain Restaurants: You Reap What You Sow

Especially when it comes to Obamacare.

Personally, I don't feel sorry for any of them, especially Papa John's.  Its owner lead with his fairly insubstantial chin.  And, frankly, his pizzas are terrible and overpriced in any case.

One more reason to buy local, folks.

P.S.  Could someone please tell the Cheesecake Factory guy that this is not working?

Yet Another Reason To End Corporate Welfare

Corporations can afford to end it.

This is why ANY spending reductions in any so-called "grand bargain," or "fiscal cliff" resolution, should come 100% out of the pockets of corporations, NOT people.

Stiffen your spines, Democrats.  One corporate party is more than enough.

Where Are The Real Capitalists?

Not in states that support corporate welfare through tax deals of dubious value.

And not in states where hunters have to bid for licenses, in order to pay for conservation (and therefore giving future hunters something to hunt).

Turns out that Cuba is a better place to look than either of those two.

Get over your assumptions, people, and check out the facts.

The Voice Of Reason On Guns And Federal Agents

Who would have expected it to be George H.W. Bush?

Feel better, Mr. President.

Over The "Cliff" Into 2013?

I write this on the last day of the year, one that was amazing for me personally.  My wife and I became grandparents, and we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  My childhood home was sold and emptied out, and I brought a number of very tangible mementos from it to my home and office.  Most importantly for the country, Obama got re-elected, and the U.S. Senate is still in the hands of sane people (the less said about the House, the better).  AND none of this touches on the terrific "Avengers" film that finally got released this year (talking about childhood memories).

And yet, 2012 ends on a note of uncertainty for the country, and especially for the economy, because a handful of House teabags can't get it through their heads that they are not the future of this country.

The saddest part about all of this, to me, lies in the fact that past generations from both parties took (speaking of the Avengers) a Captain America approach--the letter "A" meant more than the letters "D" or "R."  I'm not entirely sure what letter matters most to the Tea Party caucus in the house.  Then again, I'm not sure that most of them can spell.

While I take comfort from the fact that I am certain they are a minority, and owe their short-term power to gerrymandering and not actual numbers, they are nevertheless in a position to do enormous harm.  When it comes to the disabled, they already have, effectively spitting in the face not only of the disabled but one of their former leaders.

Can Obama and Democrats in Congress stop this?

I am convinced that they can only do so if all of the rest of us remain engaged.  Citizenship and democracy are full-time activities.  And the struggle to preserve and advance them never ends.  I don't agree with H.G. Wells on everything (like a lot of British intellectuals, he was a terrible anti-Semite), but he believed that history never stood still.  It always moved in one direction:  forwards, or backwards.  And, above all, he believed that the choice of directions is always ours.

It still is.  So, in the words of Doc Brown from "Back to the Future," make it a good one.

And now, on to other year-end miscellany ...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We Can't Afford Obamacare?

Actually, we can't afford not to have it.  Investments in people always pay for themselves, especially when they're not very big in the first place.

It's Not Quite The Polo Grounds And Ebbets Field ...

... but this does renew a rich tradition.  The last time the word "Brooklyn" was in the standings of a major league, I was 1 year old.  To see it for the first time in my adult lifetime is very special.  And how much more so for the people of Brooklyn.  Hey, who's a Bum now?

Fox News Finally Has Its "Dan Rather" Moment

Remember that moment in the 1988 presidential campaign, when Dan Rather was interviewing George H.W. Bush?  Rather was pursuing a line of questioning that was embarrassing to Bush, and Bush changed the subject by bringing up the time Rather had walked off the CBS Evening News set in mid-broadcast.  After several embarrassing moments during which Rather tried to get the interview back on track, he eventually cut it short.  Rather was, not without reason, attacked by the conservative chattering class for doing so.

Well, it turns out that, now that the CCC (as I may call them from now on) has its own media foghorn, it gives them an opportunity to be embarrassed all by themselves.  In other words, to have a "Dan Rather" moment.  Take a look.

That Bargain You Found Is Not Such A Bargain

Someone else paid a price for it, in working conditions that are not only dangerous, but often fatal.

Don't think this can happen here?  Maybe not yet.  Thank "union thugs" for that.

Well, At Least Some Of Them Are Honest About It

The only way that Republicans can win elections is by suppressing the vote.  Just ask the ones in Florida.

Happily for all of us, it didn't work.

Top-Down, Or Bottom-Up?

I've always argued that real change comes from the bottom up, and not from the top down.  Had we applied that principle to the Great Recession, we all might be in better shape now.  In other words, punish the culprits in the business and banking community, and bail out the people.

Too idealistic, you think?  Couldn't work?

Well, don't tell that to the people of Iceland.  They gave idealism (or common decency, as some of us might think of it) a chance, and it actually worked.

A Free Society Needs A Strong Public Sector

Because the only alternative is to become a third world county.  As Nicholas Kristof points out here, the effort to drown government in the bathtub of conservative hogwash has taken us far in that direction already.

You don't have more freedom without a strong government.  You only have chaos, poverty, and death before its time.  So long as it is monitored and controlled by a free people, it is not only right to have a strong government but also essential as well.

What Does Small Business REALLY Want?

An end to the Bush tax cuts, as it turns out.

Remember, when Republicans complain that "small businesses" will be hurt by an end to the Bush tax cuts, they're talking about very big business.  Namely, the ones that line their pockets.

Trust me.  The only "small business" that would be hurt by an end to the Bush tax cuts is the current House majority.  And without gerrymandering, it wouldn't exist, so don't shed any tears for its departure.

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

That's what Republicans want you to believe.

But that big thing that's falling isn't the sky.

It's the Federal deficit.

Take a look (and, especially, click on this link).

Which Scares You More?

Peak helium?

Or peak fertilizer?

I would hope it would be the latter; after all, we need food for our survival much more than parade balloons.  But both stories make the same point:   we're running out of planet in a hurry.

If there should be tax breaks for anything, it should be for industries that develop, produce and market alternatives to dwindling resources.  This is, in my opinion, the greatest economic and cultural challenge of the 21st century.  You can have an environment without an economy, but you can't have an economy without an environment.

No, Sad To Say, You Didn't Build It

As Nicole Tichon puts it, free enterprise isn't free.  It would not even exist on the scale that it currently exists, without public spending and the tax dollars that pay for it.  We would not have a budget crisis without a tax code that is so top-heavily in favor of a financial minority, one that repackages and often destroys existing wealth with debt-heavy mergers.  Innovation?  Risk-taking?  Why, that's for the suckers who keep electing politicians that let us take more and more of their money, and hide it where they'll never see it again.

How many times do I have to say it?  How many times do most of us have to do so?  We need a level playing field.  If that means a flat-tax structure, so be it.  It can't be worse than what we've got now.

If change of this sort is good enough for Warren Buffett, it ought to be good enough for the rest of the 1%.

On A Happier, Theatre-Saving Note ...

My home town of Baltimore does not, sad to say, have a large number of historical preservation success stories.  And that is especially true when it comes to historic theaters.

But, thanks to Everyman Theater, one of two Equity companies in the city, one theatre is magnificently coming back to life.  And, given its proximity to the Hippodrome, where Broadway touring companies play, its enough to turn the area into a theatre district.

Projects such as Everyman's reclaiming of the former Empire (later Town) Theatre almost always boost the economy of the neighborhoods and cities in which they are located.  In particular, they help to reclaim Main Streets all across small-town America, and protect local businesses from being Wal-Marted into oblivion.

If only there were more cities that recognized this fact, and acted on it!

Here's another example of theater in Baltimore bringing an older building back to life.   Full disclosure:  I have done legal work for them in the past.  But you should still see their shows!

Strict Construction, My Foot*

When it comes to promoting "the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution), its more like strict construction be damned.  And, sad to say, this applies to Democrats as well as Republicans.  Even when a young Republican law student has the temerity to point this out and, in the process, point out that it's an indictment of his party's alleged economic principles, his party does him the favor of allowing him to promote the truth for 24 hours--before they sit on it.

The basic problem here, sadly, is not limited to intellectual property.  The basic problem is the reality of modern America as a multinational corporate state, one in which politics is bought out, money is shipped overseas, and the poor suckers on the outside (that's you and me) are expected to buy more and more with less and less.

It's never going to change until we wake up and fight.  It's almost now or never.  And I'm half tempted to leave out the almost.

*As opposed to a less attractive anatomical part.

Even Forbes Gets It

If Forbes can publish an article such as this, calling to task millionaire business who attempt to fight Obamacare with blackmail, then clearly the magazine is much more than a capitalist tool.

And, in consequence, perhaps there's hope for the rest of us as well.

A New Southern Strategy?

That's what this article attempts to advance.  I'm inclined to agree with much of its reasoning, particularly as it relates to the urban-rural divide that exists in Southern states as much as it does Northern ones.  It might be worthwhile for Democrats to invest resources in organizing and registering voters in Southern cities, and to do so now, with an eye toward 2014, rather than waiting for 2016.

There were a few states in various parts of the country where Obama lost by less than a landslide margin.  Now may be the time to start finding out if those states can be flipped in time to help produce a Democratic Congress two year from now, and make the last two years of Obama's Presidency productive ones.

In fact, here's a little practical support for that idea.

And, Speaking Of The Bill Of Rights ...

As long as we're trying to get the Second Amendment right, let's do the same with the First.

Sign the petition referenced here, and tell the Internal Revenue Service to do its job and stop religion from being used as a cowardly hide-out for political influences that dare not speak their real names.

27 Tragic New Reasons For Sanity About Guns

This past week, 27 innocent (and, in some cases, heroic) souls were sent to Heaven far before their time, because of the great American religion.

I'm not talking about Christianity.

I'm talking about guns.

We have, in our Constitution, an amendment that allows citizens to keep arms in their homes for the purpose of defending the nation.  That purpose is made explicit by the amendment's qualification that "a well-regulated militia" is needed for this purpose.

Contrary to what a corrupt majority of the current Supreme Court thinks, the Second Amendment has never conferred upon anyone an unlimited right to own any arms that anyone might desire for any reason whatsoever.  And it has never denied government the right to regulate the use of arms, if the safety of the nation was the reason behind the regulation.

Unfortunately, an equally corrupt minority in this country has twisted and destroyed the meaning of the amendment, for its own self-serving reasons.  The hypocrisy of its doing so is evident in the fact that this same minority is the one that attempted to use the September 11th tragedy to turn our country into a police state.

Then again, maybe it isn't hypocritical.

Maybe the worship of unlimited gun ownership, combined with the lurch toward fascism under Bush and Cheney, are part and parcel of the same unpatriotic movement.

Maybe it's time to recognize the the loyal opposition is really a fifth column, one that is prepared to destroy America for the sake of maintaining an iron grip on its spirit.

And doing so in the name of patriotism.  And yes, God.  Who must surely weep at the abuse of His, Her, Its or Their Name.

And if the heretofore silent majority does not get serious immediately about the need for sane, sensible, national gun regulations that balance private ownership with the defense of innocent life, it might as well join the NRA parade and arm itself to the teeth.

But it would be better for everyone for the majority to put its faith in the power of self-government, and not bullets.

27 of us who are no longer here would doubtless agree with that.  Let's not let them die in vain, and resolve to do the right thing.