Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wisconsin Isn't Working

Instead, it's a fish that rotting from the head down.  There are many reasons for Badger State voters to get rid of the POS known as Scott Walker, but the state's job shrinkage after he declared the state "open for business" surely has to be one of them.

Happy Easter and Passover, everyone!   See you in April.

Why We Have Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

Because, when we allow ourselves to be gripped with fear at the expense of easy-to-verify facts, we give conservatives their only opportunity to beat us.  Take a look at the hubbub over the non-existent "Monsanto Protection Act."

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Can You Lose A Job Because You Need A Job?

In Mississippi, the answer is apparently yes.

Sadly, this simply illustrates the hoax of the un-welfare state:  we can neither receive help from others, nor have the means to help ourselves.

I've said it before today, and I'll say it more loudly now:


The Curse Of The Billable Hour

My wife and I used to work for the worldwide legal behemoth DLA Piper, back in the 1980s when it was merely Piper & Marbury, the second largest law firm in Maryland.  We were both legal assistants, and proud to be so; Piper in those days, despite being a blue-chip corporate firm, valued its integrity as much as its revenues, and treated both its employees and clients with respect.

Sadly, that no longer seems to be the case.  But the principal problem here is not the law firm in question, but, rather, the institution of the billable hour, by which lawyer productivity and achievement is measured principally by the amount of time one or more attorneys spend on a matter.  One doesn't have to be a lawyer to see how such a system can be manipulated for the benefit of the lawyer and not the client.  I have heard of lawyers billing clients for time spent (sometimes in the shower) thinking about their client's case.

This is why my wife and I, whenever possible, try to negotiate a flat fee and a payment schedule for our clients.  It ensures honest work and reliable payments.  Of course, in the litigation context, flat fees are not always possible, because litigation is inherently unpredictable.  Let's hope that the DLA Piper scandal ensures more communications between lawyers and clients about costs--and more self-policing by lawyers of their billing practices.

And, Speaking Of Waking Up ...

Attention, residents of Plains states (and yes, Nebraska, I'm particularly talking about you):  this could be your nightmare if Keystone XL is ever built.

But don't worry.  I'm sure it'll be absolutely safe if it is.

Just like this one probably "was."

59 Dollars Over Four Decades

If you're in the bottom 90 percent in this country, that's how much your income has increased.

For the love of God, people:  WAKE UP!

The Arc Of History Is Long ...

... but, as MLK said, it bends towards justice.  New York has taken a small step in that direction, advancing the concept of guarantee paid sick leave for employees.  Let's hope that, one day, this will not be limited to New York.

What Solar Power REALLY Needs To Take Off

I've written before about the remarkable achievements in Germany in expanding its use of solar power, even to the extent that has allowed them to close nuclear plants, despite not being a country notorious for sunny days.  This article goes into some fascinating detail about how the Germans accomplished this.  In the process of doing so, it makes two points worth repeating, one for each side of the political fence.

Government intervention:  Solar power would not have taken off in Germany without public policy and subsidies to make that happen.  The fact that it is enabling the country to wean itself off of nuclear power, the most toxic and dangerous form of energy there is, makes that an investment well worth making.  Score one against the anti-government crowd.  However, there is another problem.

The need for more technological innovation:  For the most part, solar power's advocates have failed to acknowledge that solar, like its cousin wind power, is essentially intermittent, which forces us to continue, at least in the short term, our reliance on dirtier but steadier sources of power.  As the article acknowledges, this won't change until more effective ways of storing solar power on a massive scale are developed.  Developing these ways, and ensuring their safety, are what solar power advocates really need to focus on promoting.  Otherwise, we'll never free ourselves from the grip of extraction-industry politics.

And What Is He REALLY Proud Of?

According to this, Senator James Inhofe of  Oklahoma is "proud" to be a climate-change denier.

What he really should be proud of is how well he illustrates the correlation between opposing green policies and sitting hip-deep in the pockets of the oil companies.

If you take a look at the slide show accompanying the article, you will (hopefully) be unsurprised by the correlation between low scores from the League of Conservation Voters, and representation of extraction-industry states.  Yes, it includes Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, but he's a Tea Party idiot destined for the scrap-heap of one-term senators.

As Upton Sinclair once said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."  Sadly, the only way to get rid of these bastards is for everyone to find more and more ways to depend less and less on coal and oil--and thereby destroy the power of politicians who careers depend so much on pollutants.

Whose Rights ARE They, Anyway?

Answer:  They should be everyone's.

Take the right to counsel, for example, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.  It's been in the news recently, in the context of whether it should apply to immigration detainees as well as to U.S. citizens (for example, in the New York Times).  My take on that, as an immigration lawyer?  It should apply to detainees, because it is a human right, not a civil right.  That's why it's in the Constitution in the first place.  The only reason this right and others appear to have "expanded" is simply because our understanding of the word "human" has expanded since the times of the Framers.  The right to counsel is one that, in fact, should be religiously supported by conservatives, because it is in essence the right to be protected from arbitrary state action.

Ah, if only THAT was the thing conservatives really wanted.

What they really want, of course, is a world in which they get the goldmine and everybody else gets the shaft.  This is why they love to play divide-and-conquer politics with their opponents, getting them to envy each other so that they won't focus on their common enemy.  The Times article I cited just now has an example of how this works in the context of the right to counsel:

Jon Freere, a legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies, a research organization based in Washington that advocates for reduced immigration, pointed out that American citizens routinely deal with important civil matters like child custody, foreclosures or evictions without the benefit of guaranteed legal representation.

“Why should illegal aliens be guaranteed greater protections than citizens?” he asked. 

Throwing more immigration lawyers into the mix, he said, would probably slow the process only further, especially considering that immigration lawyers are always looking to expand the scope of asylum. 

Don't you just love it?  Can't have those pesky lawyers expanding human rights to make sure that more humans benefit from having them.  As for Americans "routinely" dealing with "important civil matters" on there own, this is hardly a great thing.  Pro se parties burden the legal system with their lack of legal knowledge, straining already crowded court schedules and often shafting themselves with regard to the results.  They only go to court without a lawyer because they either lack money to hire legal counsel or have too much money for legal-aid services.

But Mr. Freere, and his fellow north-bound ends of south-bound Brontosauruses (thank you, Bill James), employ the strategy outlined in that quote across the board.  Just think about there arguments about unions:  "Why should they get great salaries and benefits that most people can't get?"  Sound familiar?  Of course, most people don't get those great salaries and benefits because they were foolish enough to buy the bill of economic goods that free-marketers sold to them.

Every human being has the right to every human right, be it the right to counsel, to a decent living, or to anything else that makes a human being human.  And no one should let the Jon Freeres of the world convince them otherwise.

Unionize The Self-Employed?

This may seem like economic heresy but, in a fend-for-yourself world in which no one has a womb-to-tomb life with one employer, it may become part of a long-term solution to our economic woes.  Take a look.

Sorry, David, But Socialism Won A Long Time Ago

Up until today, I had become an admirer of David Stockman, Reagan's former budget director, because he has so forcefully denounced the brand of supply-side economics he used to advocate.  Then I read this.

It's chock-full of bipartisan blame (going all the way back to FDR) for our current economic woes.  But undergirding all of that fair-minded prose is a fantasy that, apparently remains with Stockman from his early days in politics:  the idea that an economy with little or no government interference is both desirable, and possible.

To paraphrase "2001: A Space Odyssey":  I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid we can't have that.  Because nobody wants it.  In fact, nobody has ever wanted it.

Go all the way back to Adam Smith, the first advocate of capitalistic economics.  In "The Wealth of Nations," he advocates progressive taxation and government support for the poor, including public works projects, and denounces the role of corporations in economic life.

Fast-forward to the Industrial Revolution, when laws were written to ensure that the corporate masters of the writers could enslave the rest of us--until workers put there livelihoods and their lives on the line to ensure that there could be some equality of power between themselves and their employers.

Now move on to the Great Depression.  Oh yes, there were advocates of unfettered markets even after the crash, who said that any effort by the government to step in would only make things worse.  Well, things did get worse, when voters listened to them and voted Republicans into Congress to handcuff Roosevelt (who, BTW, gave us that great Glass-Steagall Act you so effectively champion, and your party destroyed with the help of another of your heroes, Bill Clinton).  Fortunately, he was not handcuffed forever, and the modern progressive state he helped to build gave the United States, in the middle of the last century, the greatest period of widespread and shared prosperity it has ever (and may ever) know.

Finally, consider the economic schizophrenia of the Reagan Era.  Almost thirty uninterrupted years of tax cuts, budget cuts and deregulation.  You many even recall a Newsweek cover with your face on it, next to the title "Cut, Slash, Chop."  I think it looked something like this:

Yes, that's about right.

And how did that era end?  When the financial house of cards collapsed in 2008, the investing class decided that socialism looked pretty good, and that they wanted as much of it as they could possibly get.  Amazingly, they got it, with the help of both parties.

I don't get the sense that you would disagree with much of this.  But your proposed solution is for a world that cannot exist.  Even if government was limited to purely police and military powers, it would still be a major purchaser, manufacturer and employer--in short, it would still have a massive involvement in our economy that would distort supply and demand for other goods and services.  And even YOU seem to be willing to add a "social safety net" to that involvement.

Socialism, David, has won.  It won a long time ago,  The best thing that we can do is to move back to an era, if that's even possible, like the mid-20th century, when government balanced its efforts between helping the working class and the investing class.  Above all, we need to curtail the current policy of socialism for the rich.

If we can do that, we won't have to worry about your proposed solution:  stuffing mattresses with cash.  After all, even cash is no good without a government to back it. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Power To The People!

Quite literally, in fact.

Municipalities taking over public utilities could have financial advantages for cities as well as environmental ones.  Let's hope that this is a trend that takes off.

All Debt Isn't Federal

In the debate over the national debt and the federal budget deficit, much of the discuss seems to assume that the Federal Government, as a spendthrift, is some kind of horrible exception to the American way of life.  In fact, nothing could be further than the truth.

Note, in particular, how much of our debt is business debt, and how much of that debt was build by the spate of leveraged buy-outs that began during the Reagan years.  This merely serves to underscore an unpleasant and unpopular truth:  spendthriftiness was the basis and the essence of the so-called Reagan "revolution."

Why is our government a spendthrift?  Simple.  We are a nation of spendthrifts.  We hate everyone's excessive, unfunded spending, except when it benefits us.  This is why people are much bigger on cutting spending in the abstract than they are in the particular.  And, especially when it comes to the sequester, even the GOP is not immune to this type of "thinking."

And, until that changes, We the People will remain on the slippery slope to bankruptcy.

The Future Really IS Here, After All

Lately, I've found myself looking around and reflecting on how much of the "future" that was predicted when I was a child has in fact become reality.  Here's one more recent example:  robotic exoskeletons that allow paraplegics to walk--and, perhaps, do much more.

It's really a shame that Christopher Reeve didn't live long enough to see this.  He always believe in the potential for this to happen, and he would have benefited so much from it.  But the fact that he devoted so much of his life after he lost the ability to walk to promoting research into breakthroughs like this one proves he deserved to play Superman.

Sometimes, we don't have to believe a man can fly.  It's a big enough miracle if a man can walk.

The War On Working People

THAT's the war everyone should be concerned about, in addition to the war on women.  Not the supposed war on marriage, or Christmas.

Read this, and see how Republicans in the Senate and across the country are destroying your right to be represented by a union and, in the process, are not only destroying jobs, but lives as well.

And then, go out and organize.  Form a union.  Join a union.  And unite with other unions to ensure that the right people win this war.

Obama Has Reduced The Deficit, Period

And here's the proof.

And, when someone says otherwise, don't hesitate to shove the proof in their faces.

"Hypocrisy" In The Clouded Eyes Of Conservative Beholders

This post in Paul Krugman's New York Times blog, about the attacks on a liberal blogger by the conservative chattering class because he had the temerity to buy private property, reminded me of the kerfluffle among the members of that class a few years back about Al Gore's Tennessee mansion--which, by the way, he was in the process of reducing its carbon footprint.  Both are built on the same incorrect assumption:  that environmentalism, in the case of Gore, or redistribution, in the case of Matthew Ygelsias, requires everyone, including the advocates, to practice extreme poverty.

Of course, the question follows:  is it incorrect because of conservative ignorance, or incorrect because of conservative deceit?  I'll leave that up to you.  I'll merely point out that, by most common measures of economic success (including, but not limited to, the stock market), liberal policies generate more real growth than conservative ones produce.

Gore and Ygelsias aren't hypocrites.  If anything, they're reaping the fruits of the policies in which they believe.  To paraphrase Newt Gingrich, liberal ideas work, and I can help it if conservative policies fail.

And I'll be damned if I'm going to let conservatives play mind-games with me or the American people.

Multiculturalism WORKS!

A few years ago, Marylanders made the horrendous mistake of electing Robert Ehrlich as its Governor.  Ehrlich's four years in office were a disaster for the state, no small part of which was deliberately inflicted by Ehrlich himself.  As a former State of Maryland employee, I know something about how deliberate it was.  But I'll save that for a later column.  For today, I'll focus on a rhetorical blunder made by Ehrlich during his one and only term:  an assessment by him of multiculturalism as "bunk."

It's what you would expect from someone who grew up in an almost all-white neighborhood, and built a career in an almost all-white party.  Anything that isn't white is a threat, and must be treated that way, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

One of the best pieces of evidence is a neighborhood in New York City:  Elmhurst, in the borough of Queens.  I had the good fortune to live there in the early 1980s, as it was beginning the transition from a neighborhood of mostly European ethnicity to one that blended that ethnicity with Latin American and Asian populations.  It was a neighborhood without majorities, only minorities that managed to get along and live their lives without conflict--or fear.

It was as diverse as it could possibly be--and it worked.  And, although not quite as diverse as it once was, it still does.

Multiculturalism is not "bunk."  Multiculturalism is our soul, and our future.

Sequester Pain: It's Slow--But It's Coming

Late last month, on the eve of the triggering of the automatic "sequester" cuts, Obama attempted to tell people how much everyday life was about to be upended by the Republican need to look insanely tough on spending.  In doing so, Obama was, as has too often been the case, his own worst enemy, neglecting the fact that most federal agencies had (with more fiscal skill than they are often credited with possessing) had already budgeted to cushion the short-term impact of the cuts.  The result was predictable:   Obama was seen as Chicken Little and, as March began, everyone was laughing because the sky hadn't fallen yet.

By "everyone," I actually mean everyone in old media, who have never gotten over the fact that Obama won in spite of them and the corporate interests that control them.  Nor have they forgiven him for the fact that he makes no bones about his lack of need for them.  Consequently, as March began to proceed with the absence of the predicted pain, the sequester was suddenly being trumpeted as a brilliant tactical move by Speaker Gerry Mander and Mitch Filibuster.

Well, let the trumpets fall silent.  Because, while it may be happening in slow motion, the sky really IS falling, literally as well as figuratively.

And Congressional Republicans, as always, forgot to give themselves (as well as the rest of us) an exit strategy.  All I can say is this:  2014 can't get here fast enough.

"Enemy Action" For Conservatives?

In Ian Fleming's "Goldfinger," the title character has this to say to James Bond, after 007 has created trouble for him on three separate occasions:

"Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago:  'Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it's enemy action.' "

Not long ago, I commented on a remarkable analysis of conservatism's present state in America by a conservative.  As I said in my post, I do not consider reasonable thinking by conservatives to be unusual; still, as a conservative assessment of the end of Reaganism and the reasons for it, I regarded it as happenstance, because it was the first one I had seen.

However, not long after that, I saw this from Peggy Noonan.  Coincidence?  Possibly.

In any event, I think Ross Douthat has pushed it here to the level of enemy action, especially given the fact that he includes a link to the first article to reinforce his analysis.

Let's hope that, in this case, "enemy action" leads to the end of the latter-day Goldfingers of the world, who share with him a love of wealth for the sake of power.

FINALLY Someone Else Gets It!

We have wasted an enormous amount of time debating the merits of austerity versus deficit spending as a way of restoring our economy.  That is the either/or "logic" of conservative "thought."  There are only two ways of doing anything, and the conservative way is always "right" (well, always extremely right, anyway) for reasons that overlook reality and focus on the need to line the pockets of conservatives.

But, unfortunately for conservatives (and happily for everyone else), reality is always much more complicated.  There is a third way:  raise taxes AND balance the budget.  I've been preaching this gospel for the past four years in this blog.  It's a shame that it's taken someone this long to catch up with me, but I'm glad it finally happened.

The article would be a lot stronger if, in addition to its economic points, it had something to say about the moral imperatives of raising taxes in our present circumstances--not only that taxes are the Holmesian price for civilization, but also that it is the equivalent of welfare reform for the 1%, by forcing the wealthy to put their excess capital for work, in ways that benefit everyone.  Even them.

But this is a start.  Let's hope others can build on it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Lifelong Curse Of Bullying

Full disclosure:  I am a victim of childhood bullying.

I was "different."  I liked to read, instead of playing sports.  I got along better with adults than I did with kids my own age.  For that matter, when it came to kids my own age, I got along better with girls than with boys.  I came from an educated, professional family, with a university professor for a father and a registered nurse for a mother, which made me even more of an anomaly in what was then still a predominantly blue-collar town of high school graduates.

All of those things made me a target for boys who, lacking the ability to acknowledge and work through their insecurities, acted them out by picking on--and, sometimes, beating--boys who didn't seem to share their warped, ignorant way of looking at life and the world.  In other words, me.

It's no surprise that, in adulthood, one of them went to jail for armed robbery.  But, even if all of them had suffered a similar fate, it would also be cold consolation.  Because, on a certain level, their constant tormenting worked.

My college and young-adult years were plagued by a deep-seated sense of insecurity that I knew, even then, was rooted in the bullying I had experienced.  Even worse, that insecurity was compounded by a set of religious beliefs I acquired in college that, far from strengthening me, made me even more of a victim of insecurity and self-doubt.

It was only when I turned 30 that I realized that I had no alternative in life but to face down my self-doubt, to learn to trust both my talent and my instincts, and forge ahead without worrying about what other people thought about me.  Happily, it worked.

But no one, and I mean NO ONE, should have to go through what I went thought.  Especially now that we have evidence that I was not alone, and was not the greatest victim.

If you have or know a child who is being bullied, do something about it.  Get involved.  Help the child to not only deal with the bullies, but also to not buy into the bullying.  Make it clear that the bullying behavior is about the bullies, not the target.  And if the bullying reaches the level of violence, even once, call in the police.  For that matter, call in the bully's parents.

Above all, do something.  It's not just the victims' futures that are at stake.  It's yours as well.

Thank you.

All Conservatives Are Not Created Equal

By which I mean that many of them have sane, well-articulated ideas.  This piece from The American Conservative is a prime example.  It is an intelligent, thoughtful analysis of the impact war can have on an entire political culture, one that compares the impact of Iraq on Republicans to the impact of Vietnam on the Democrats.  I can't think of a single thing in it with which I disagree, and I frankly think that every voting American ought to read, at the very least, its final words:

Although the [Republican] party still sees Ronald Reagan when it looks in the mirror, what the rest of the country sees is George W. Bush—much as post-Vietnam Democrats continued to think of themselves as the party of Franklin Roosevelt when in the minds of most Americans they had become the party of Johnson and McGovern. Until the Republican Party can come to grips with its failure, the Democrats will be the party Americans trust to govern.


Know Your Enemy

It will wear the clothes and use the slogans of patriots.  But scratch even a little bit below the surface, and you will find something much worse.

Never think "it can't happen here."  Because it can.

The Death That Will Lead To Many More Deaths

This is and was as predictable as it is sad.  But that doesn't make it any less sad.

I share Senator Feinstein's anger.  Nobody in the Senate has more first-hand experience with gun violence than she does.  And, contrary to the spirits of many misguided posters, I don't blame Senator Reid; he is practicing the politics of the possible, not the politics of righteousness because, in the end, if it leads to a gun bill that does anything at all, the former will save more lives than the latter.  If you want to vent anger at anyone, vent it at the Republicans as well as red-state Democrats who are in the well-lined pockets of the NRA.  They are effectively shrinking what the politics of the possible can achieve.  (Although I offer this side note to Senator Reid:  next time, don't make deals on the rules with those who can't wait to twist them.)

No sportsman, no hunter, no self-defender has any more legitimate right to an assault weapon than he or she has to an H-bomb.  Can't wait to see what the commercials defending our constitutional right to plutonium will look like, when the debate gets that far.

Apart from armed insurrection on the part of progressives (and don't laugh, because we're closer to that than you realize), I think that the best alternative to an assault weapons ban would be Federalized strict tort liability for the manufacturers, sellers and owners of guns.  That won't stop the things from being made, sold or used.  But it may make owners like the Sandy Hook mother do what she should have done in the first place, and LOCK THE DAMN THINGS UP.  After all, isn't that what "responsible" gun owners are supposed to do?

But don't hold your breath waiting for anything like that.  All we can do at this point is wait for the next massacre.  And pray that more blood on the hands and heads of the gun enablers in and outside of Congress may accomplish what common sense apparently can't.

But Did She Drink The WHOLE Thing (And More On The Biggest "Gulp" At CPAC)?

By now, you've probably seen any number of images of Sarah Palin, Alaska's half-term former governor, taking a swig from a "Big Gulp" soft drink at the CPAC conference, in order to mock New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempted (and, apparently, now-failed) ban of selling large, sugary soft-drinks in New York City.  Palin, and her even less-sophisticated audience, both thought that this was a tremendous joke and a powerful blow for our libertarian, constitutional right to die an early, cola-induced death.

Well, here's my question:  Yes, the world saw Sarah take a sip, but did she actually consume (to borrow a line from the movie "Matilda") the entire confection?  Or did she dump it out as soon as she got off the stage, vowing to do an extra 10 sit-ups to take off the damage done by the sip?  I'm betting on the latter.

Because, as anybody with a real brain who's been awake for the past five years knows, Sarah Palin is not a serious politician.  She's a celebrity.  She's an entertainer with a very limited range of talent and an even more limited audience, but it's an audience with money to waste and it's willing to waste it on her, as long as she does her shtick.  She does not have the intelligence or the work ethic to be a true political leader.  She's a political starlet, one who will always worry more about her figure than any fiscal cliff.

The best coverage of this whole non-event event, IMHO, can be found here, not only because it's a perfect takedown of the lack of substance, but also because it offers a meaningful discussion of Bloomberg's failed  ban, and an alternative that makes more sense:  a tax on the retailers who sell the drinks, with the proceeds going to a public health care fund.  That allows consumers to make their choices, and weigh (pardon the pun) the consequences of doing so before they sip or gulp.  It's a good idea; let's hope Bloomberg and other big-city mayors see the article and put his suggestion into practice.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More On The CPC Budget, This Time From David Brooks

Mr. Brooks devoted his Times column the other day to critiquing the CPC budget, on the grounds that it was produced by government-loving, enterprise-hating lefties.  A link to that critique, along with an admirably effective takedown of  it, can be found here.

Quite apart from seconding the takedown, however, I have an additional question.  Given the consensus from the Very Wise People (as Paul Krugman likes to call them) that this budget is even deader on arrival than the one produced by the Senate Budget Committee (or the Ryan Express, as I like to call it), why does Brooks even waste a bullet on it?  He's not a careless writer, nor a completely knee-jerk ideologue.

Which leads me to the conclusion that Brooks is not afraid that this budget will see the light of day today, but that it might do so in the next Congress.  Or, perhaps, that it might be the first budget offered by the OMB under President Clinton.  Hillary, that is.

We'll see. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why Democrats Should Act Like They Have A Spine

It's always amusing to me to see the Democratic Party described as being leftist or left-wing.  Far too often, they're chasing the boundaries of timidity, not liberalism.  This country and its politics are, in fact, rotting for the lack of a political party that would confront the voters with not just a real choice, but an honest one as well.

Which was why I was grateful to see the Congressional Progressive Caucus unveil a budget proposal that does just that.  Personally, I would have gone much, much farther than they did.  But at least it's a start, and far superior to the slop that came of the Senate Budget Committee recently.  But the difference between the "unofficial" Democratic proposal and the official one only serves to underscore the "defeatist" attitude with which Democrats generally approach every single confrontation with the Republicans.  This describes that attitude so well that I am happy to defer to it.  Well, not exactly happy, but it gets it right.

In particular, the article makes the point that Democrats lack steel in their spine on a wide range of issues despite the fact that public opinion supports them on those issues.  In fact, the Democratic position on these issues is so popular that parts of it are even embraced on the right.

Take Terry Keenan of The New York Post, on the subject of taxing investors.

Or George Will, on the subject of breaking up banks "too big to fail."

Or Tom Friedman (OK, he's a "centrist," but he's an accomodationist when it comes to the crazies), on the subject of a carbon tax.

Or even The Wall Street Journal, on the subject of austerity and the damage it does to the economy.

For that matter, look at what happens when Democrats raise taxes to solve a budget crisis, supposedly the most evil thing they can do.  Doing so certainly hasn't hurt Jerry Brown, and it surely has helped California.

And guns?  The other political trap for Democrats?  It may not be a trap; it may, in fact, be an electoral opportunity.

Somebody needs to tell the Democratic Party that it won an election, and it should start acting like it.  It may be too late for the Democrats and the country if it doesn't.

And, oh, Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!  Celebrate responsibly.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Weakest Argument For Keystone--And How Greens Can Use It

Of the arguments that have been made by those who support the looming environmental disaster known as the Keystone XL pipeline, this by far has to be the worst.  It amounts to screaming, in a Snidely Whiplash fashion, "Give in!  There's NOTHING you can do to stop us from destroying the planet!  MWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!"

Well, that may not be entirely true.  After all, given the current pressure coming from not only Congressional Republicans, but also the Canadian government, the pipeline is clearly the preferred choice of the pipeline's supporters.  Otherwise, they would just go ahead and pursue the railway-to-China option.  And yet, that option is there.

What, then, should President Obama do?

If he's half as smart as I hope (and believe) that he is, he will use the pipeline as a way to get concessions on a whole host of green programs and policies, including but not limited to a carbon tax, which may end up being the only true way that the pipeline, and its inevitable ecological consequences.  (Note to the Republican Governor of Nebraska, who has thrown his support behind Keystone:  Good luck with your state continuing to be the nation's breadbasket, pal.)

I realize that the reality of the pipeline is a bitter pill to swallow.  And the GOP may just look at this as a bluff on Obama's part, and try to call it.  But, if I were him, I'd say "Fine.  Say goodbye to the pipeline, and all the benefits you say it would create.  We could build a million pipelines, and all it would do is hasten the day when we get our power from somewhere else."  And leave them in the political dust.

Is this some kind of crazy, liberal dream on my part?  I don't think it can be, if Tom Friedman, Mr. Centrist himself, also thinks it's a good idea.

Let's hope that Obama thinks so, too.

Rob Portman And The Politics Of Narcissism

That's the title of this article on, regarding the reaction of the Republican Senator from Ohio to his son's decision to come out to his father and family.  To Portman's credit, he has not only accepted his son as gay, but also reversed his previous negative stance on marriage equality.  The article, however, focuses on the larger point that a public servant's moral compass should not be set solely or even primarily by that which touches him personally.  To quote the article:

The great challenge for a senator isn't to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It's to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don't have direct access to the corridors of power.

And that, unfortunately, is precisely not only what is lacking within the Republican Party, but why it is lacking as well.  Historically and presently, they boil public service down to self-service, to the point at which they only support measures to benefit the nation as a whole if those measures have some sort of advanced personal connection.  Think, for example, of Senator Robert Dole's support for the Americans with Disabilities Act, or for veterans' benefits.  To what extent would he have supported either had it not been for his own wartime injuries?  Far worse, on the other hand, was former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, justifying in a television interview the fact that Texas received more in federal aid than it sent to Washington in tax revenue.  He referred to the windfall as Texas' "fair share."  That alone speaks volumes about what constitutes the Republican concept of "fairness."  And worst of all:  the 2008 federal bailout launched by the Bush Administration (and, sadly, also supported by the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats), which ratified the privatization of profits and the socialization of risk in the American economy.

More than anything else, this encapsulates the reasons why I am a Democrat.  Despite being prone to put process ahead of substance, and thereby buy into bad ideas for the sake of "bipartisanship", we don't need to feel another person's pain personally to feel it.  We don't need to have trouble visit our houses to know that people are in trouble, and need help.  Our political positions don't reflect narcissism; they reflect the needs of a great nation, and both the confidence and resolve needed to solve them.

Good for you, Senator Portman, although far better for your son and his truly awesome courage.  But, as to the question of whether your change of heart on marriage equality will lead to developing a greater heart for the needs of others, count me as a skeptic.

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