Sunday, June 23, 2013

Urban Archeology At Its Finest

As a quasi-New Yorker, and a preservationist, I'm a huge fan of Web sites that are devoted to The Big Apple's lost and saved treasures.  Forgotten NY is one of the best, if not the best, but here's another one with a fascinating story about the fate of an archway to a long-lost estate.

And, with that, I'm off to the AILA conference in San Francisco for the coming week.  May CIR pass the Senate and DOMA be struck down by the Supreme Court while I'm there.  The city will go crazy, as well it should and as only it can.

Why Doesn't The Corporate Media Report On THIS Corruption?

Probably because these seven Republicans are, from its perspective, just doing their jobs.

Throwing Away The Future For The Sake Of Convenience Today?

Yep, that's exactly what we're doing, folks.  Take a look at "Trash Facts:  11 Surprising Stats About The Things We Throw Away."

Is There A "Cure" For Fundamentalism?

This article raises the possibility.  Frankly, as much as I hate all forms of fundamentalism, this approach to combating it scares me.  It sounds like it's only a few steps away from the world of "A Clockwork Orange," in which free will is thrown out the window for the sake of "curing" criminal tendencies.  I'm reminded of C.S. Lewis' observation:  "You do not have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body."  I'm not particularly religious, but I'm spiritual enough--and rational enough--to believe that the best "antidote" to fundamentalism is one in which two or more souls use the brains they've been given to argue fundamentalism out of existence. 

If anything, when we try to "program" people into one or more states of belief, I would argue that doing so is a victory for fundamentalism.  And fundamentalism doesn't need to have any victories handed to it.

Can Capitalism Save The Environment?

This video shows the case being made for allowing the profit motive to serve the cause of environmentalism.  I can imagine how many members of my generation would recoil at the thought of doing so.  I, however, see no reason to reject the idea, and several reasons for embracing it.

Progressives in this country have, for the most part, made peace with the existence of capitalism, provided that the public sector is strong enough to combat its excesses and otherwise right its wrongs.  Correspondingly, they have made peace with the idea that government cannot do everything to serve the public and, in at least some cases, should not even try.  The environmental movement, however, up until recently, has remained stuck in a 1970s mode when it comes to promoting its cause, always looking at private industry as the villain.  Of course, it often is.  But it is also the source of much of what we take for granted in our lifestyle.  Which means that, every time a green advocate attempts to make a reasonable statement on behalf of the environment, someone on the right can scream about how our economy is being threatened again by the loony left--and, sadly, be believed.

The best argument that greens can make is one which shows that economic and environmental progress are not enemies, as in fact they should not be.  As I've said any number of times, one can have an environment without an economy, but one cannot have an economy without an environment.  And the solution to many environmental issues requires innovation--something that the private sector does far better than the government.  One does not have to look far to see examples of this type of innovation already occurring:  here's one, and here's another.

Above all else, what is needed to solve our environmental problems is a level of human cooperation that stretches across national boundaries--and, within those boundaries, stretches across all demographic boundaries, including political ones.  Especially political ones.  And we have no real idea of how little time we have to solve any of them.

Let's end the argument about who should do what, and work together to save the only thing all of us truly share:  the Earth.

Paula Deen: Fitting The Punishment To The Crime

I take a back seat to no one in finding Paula Deen's recently-publicized racial comments to be revolting.  And I mean no one.  This is not a case where nothing should be done, because her revolting statements are about as far from "nothing" as they can be.

But I'm not in favor of turning her into a martyr, either.  And it seems to me that giving her that undeserved status is precisely what The Food Network has done by not renewing her contract.  QVC may compound this problem by cutting its ties to Deen as well.

Which means that, ultimately, Deen will not be punished.  Her like-minded yahoo fans will be just as like-minded and even greater fans of hers than they were before.  Which means that Deen will continue to cook, continue to make money, and probably still think like a bigot.  Her partial media exile will simply turn into an opportunity for conservative cuckoos to wring their hands about "political correctness."  Of course, "political correctness" is simply "not being a bigot," but, in America, it's all about the marketing.

So what should be done?

Deen has apologized.  Well, in my book, an apology that only consists of words is no apology at all.  In its worst form, it becomes one of those if-I've-offended-anyone-I'm-sorry lines that's all about strategy and not contrition.  I think she needs to put some meat on those bones.

I think TFN and QVC should keep her on the air.  But they should require her to work, on a regular basis, with one or more minority (especially African-American) chefs, particularly new talent that hasn't had a chance to be discovered.  It's the only way she'll ever learn to think like a decent human being.  And it's the only way the anti-PC crowd will ever learn anything from her as well.

Paula Deen has done nothing to deserve being treated as a sacrificial lamb.  Let's not, in a rush to resolve the issue, resolve it in a way that feeds the controversy rather than quelling it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When Journalism Really Was A Fourth Estate.

RIP, Haynes Johnson.  You were proof that great reporting is not just great reporting, but also one more way to serve your country.  I wish there were more like you.  I wish there were publishers and producers who were willing to hire people like you.  We have never needed you more than we need you now.

Gun Control May Have Lost The Battle, But It's Winning The War

This year's failure to enact gun legislation may be the seed bed that produces a new, stronger, more pragmatic gun-control movement.  This issue isn't going to go away.  And, of course, neither is the NRA.  But the NRA may finally be facing its match.

Here's to Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, Michael Bloomberg and everyone else who's trying to make it happen.  And, if you haven't found a way to join their efforts, you should.

We Don't Need Stimulus Just To Create Jobs

We need it to create jobs we need, and not just for the jobless.  The infrastructure of this country is rotting, especially its bridges.  Take a look.

When Political Discourse Was Civil, Even About Civil Rights

Here's a video of Harry Belafonte, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Joseph Manckiewicz, Marlon Brando, and James Baldwin taking part in a roundtable discussion in the aftermath of the March on Washington, with the assistance of moderator David Schoenburn.  Heston's presence may be a surprise to some, but he was an ardent proponent of civil rights before his descent into right-wing politics.  The discussion was arranged by the U.S. Information Agency, which was concerned about what the civil rights struggle was doing to the American image abroad.

Technically, with regard to the production values, it's an artifact from another age.  Sadly, in terms of the civility of the discourse, it's every bit as much of an artifact.  That will not change soon.  May we all work to change it as soon as possible.

A New Outlet For TRH

I've begun contributing to a site called "Too Informed To Vote Republican," launched by Dan Simpson.  Take a look, and please become a regular visitor to the site!

"Race" For The Future?

It beggars belief that, during the Administration of America's first African-American President, someone can publicly advocate a race-conscious strategy for the future of a major political party.  Then again, since the race we're talking about is white, and the party we're talking about is Republican--the party of the "Southern Strategy"--perhaps it's not so surprising.

Seeing this particular article made me think of something Grover Norquist said back in the heyday of the W administration.  He described "the Democratic base" as consisting mostly of Social Security and Medicare recipients, leading him to describe it as "dying."  Putting Norquist's trademark lack of charity and tact aside, I was reminded of this because, in fact, it is his party's base that is shrinking, as the 2008 election returns showed.  Seniors voted overwhelmingly for John McCain; they were, in fact, the only age group to do so.

In fact, it is the Republican base that is in mortal jeopardy, precisely because its defining demographic is, and has been for decades, race.  And that worked, sadly, because, for decades, American was mostly a nation of white people.  That is no longer the case in America, and it isn't just because of the influx of Hispanics.  Like it or not, and I take a back seat to no one in liking it, the future of this country is a multicultural, multiethnic society.  In other words, "E Pluribus Unum"--whether or not we trust God (and I hope we do).

The real irony is that Republican policies have damaged the social "safety net," including programs for senior citizens.  It isn't our basis that's dying off; it's them systematically killing their own base.

If the GOP wants to survive into the next decade, it's going to have to radically transform itself.  And that starts by thinking about not just what they're selling, but who they're selling it to.  Mainly, it will require it to think--which may be a new experience for all of us.

And If, On Top Of That, You Need Ammunition In Favor Of The Stimulus Alternative ...

... try this.

And this.

And top it off with this.

We have the answers.  We just need the confidence to fight for them.

"Reaganomics" Has Collapsed--So Why Aren't We Talking About It?

Worker pay goes down, even when productivity goes up.  In fact, wages have fallen so low that taxpayers are now effectively subsidizing private-sector jobs through their own taxes, while tax rates are so low that literally trillions of dollars are being shuffled up, up and away from the middle class and the poor.

The supply-side philosophy we generally refer to as "Reaganomics," in short, has fallen flat on its face.  A rising tide does not lift all boats.  It only gives the wealthy an excuse to buy a bigger boat, and leave everyone else in its wake.  The transformation of American into a banana republic by Banana Republicans is nearly complete.

I understand why there are no MSM voices decrying this sorry state of affairs.  They were bought out a long time ago, with Rupert Murdock (a man who can afford three divorces) doing most of the buying.

I understand why the folks in Kansas and other red states don't object.  They're still convinced that government only exists to take their guns and fetuses, while being nice to rich folks will make them share their money.  (It won't.  That's why they're rich folks in the first place.  In fact, that's how capitalism is designed to work; it's based on the formation of capital by one means or another.)

But what about the rest of us?

Apart from a lot of online activity, I sense a steadily increasing sense of resignation, a willingness to give up in the hope that, somehow, things won't be too bad.


They can be far worse. They will get far worse, if we don't stop talking to each other and start doing two things.

First, organize.  Truthfully, there's a lot of organization out there already; you just have to decide to be a part of it.  Starting with Organizing for America would be a good place, if you haven't gone there already.

The second thing is much more difficult, but I'm convinced it is absolutely necessary.  Find a way to engage people on the other side in a dialogue.  Don't be afraid to do so.  It can be both difficult and frustrating.  But it is a way--an essential way--to fight back against the pre-programing done by the likes of Fox News.  Prove that we aren't a caricature.  Prove that our ideas are better.  And don't buy into the idea that winning the hearts and minds of those who disagree with you is worthless.  It's the only way anything of value has ever been accomplished.  And it's the only way to gain the trust of those you wish to be governed the way that you see fit.

And, if you want to start with something to share, share this.

And this.

And this.

And, if you really want to amaze them, this.

Above all, don't give in to the "inevitable."  It's not inevitable if you do something about it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Priest, Author, Scholar, Scold

All that, and more.  I would think a lot more kindly of the Catholic Church if it had more priests like Andrew Greeley.  Honest to God, I would.

What The @#$&*! TOOK You So Long, Barack?

First this.  Then this.

Apparently, he's really serious when he says this.

Let's root for the three D.C. Court of Appeals nominees, and Susan Rice.  Maybe this can be the beginning of change we can REALLY believe in.

Go Ahead Harry, Wag The Dog

I'm beginning to think that all of the media talk about Harry Reid revisiting Senate rules about filibusters for Presidential appointments may be more than talk.  By far, this article is the biggest reason why.  There's no way Senate Republicans would make threats this extravagant in nature unless they sensed that Reid, who seems to have been dithering on this subject for months, was really ready to do something.  The irony in this is that, by going "nuclear" with their own rhetoric, they've completely undermined any "comity" argument that might be made in favor of Reid maintaining the status quo.

From my perspective, the only argument against Reid going "nuclear" is the prospect of what a Republican-controlled Senate could do for the appointments of a Republican President without the ability of Democrats to mount a filibuster.  That's a concern, and has been one of my concerns for a while.  But there is a counter-argument.  Changing the filibuster rules would change the calculation of voters in making choices for the Senate--and make them less likely to cast a vote for the rubber-stamping of nominees those voters would oppose.

An elected leader has a right to appointees of his or her choosing.  When the opposition reaches a point at which the executive branch can't function, it amounts to an unconstitutional coup d'etat by the legislative branch.  It's within Reid's power to end the coup.  He should, at this point and having unsuccessfully explored compromise, have no hesitation about doing so.

Scratch A Bully, Find A Coward

That's the only way to explain this.  He has a 30-plus point lead in his race for re-election, but the thought of sharing a ballot with Cory Booker scares him into spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a completely wasteful special election.  The thought that this clown could become President of the United States ought to scare everyone with half a brain.  And, in the meantime, if Garden State voters really reward him for this dereliction of duty by giving him four more years, they will have earned every inch of their state's reputation for corruption

And, to top in off, he appoints a Republican to serve as an interim replacement for a Democrat!  Oh well, with Republicans like this ...

When Is A Desperate Party REALLY Desparate?

When one of its governors declares peaceful protests against its policies "unlawful" and therefore "unacceptable."  Take a look.

If the Governor of North Carolina had ever cracked a book on history, he would know that he's already on the losing side of it.

One Of MANY Reasons Why It's STILL OK To Blame Bush

I knew that Bush's debt-financed war with Iraq made us a financial slave to the Chinese.  But I didn't know until I saw this that China was also the oil beneficiary of the war as well.

And this was the war that was supposed to pay for itself with oil.

Barbara Bush was wrong.  We haven't had enough Bushes.  We've had too many.

For The GOP, All Or Nothing May Lead To Nothing

It's been painfully obvious for some time now what the House GOP strategy is.  All investigations of Obama, no legislating at all (or, at least, no legislating that has a chance of turning into reality).  In effect, the GOP is conceding that it has nothing to offer the American people that the American people might actually like.  All it can do, in a desperate attempt to regain control of the political process in Washington, is mobilize all of its resources in an attempt to destroy Obama.

But is that effort really succeeding?  I saw this Quinnipiac poll the other day, and initially thought it supported a "yes" answer to that question.  I've taken a second look at it, and now I'm not so sure.

My initial reaction was provoked by the fact that it showed an overwhelming number of Americans wanted the IRS non-scandal investigated by a special prosecutor.  The rest of the poll data, however, is not so rosy for the GOP.

It shows that voters dislike the Democrats by a five-point margin--but dislikes the Tea Party by a ten-point margin and the Republican Party as a whole by a fifteen-point margin.  Perhaps more significantly, it shows that voters are more concerned about job-creation than they are about the non-scandals. And, even in the special prosecutor call, perhaps it's possible to see a lack of confidence in the House GOP's investigating ability.  Too bad for the voters who want that special prosecutor that a previous GOP Congress allowed the statute authorizing the appointment of special prosecutors to expire.

All in all, there are warning signs here for the all-investigation, no-legislation GOP.  Those investigations had better turn up something major, to justify the lack of job creation.  Otherwise, in 2014, the voters may put their own spin on the Hastert rule--by making the Tea Party the majority of the minority.

Spies Like Us?

I have to begin this post with a modest amount of full disclosure:  without going into the details, I have a family connection to the National Security Agency that may influence my perspective on its work, although I would like to believe that it doesn't.  That said, here are my thoughts on the disclosures this past week about NSA's data-mining from telephone records.

There are, frankly, compelling arguments on both sides of this fence.  There has been a tendency to talk about the death of privacy in an Internet-connected world.  I disagree.  When it comes to privacy, I don't think Internet users surrender their privacy when they use a keyboard, a tablet or a smartphone any more than their predecessors did when they sat down at a writing desk or picked up a land-line receiver.  However electronic and world-wide it is, the Internet is still a mix of open and closed communications systems, and the users of each have appropriate expectations in using each one.  If I maintain a Web site anyone can access, and post information on it, that information is fair game for anyone and everyone who sees it.  If I send an e-mail to a family member or friend, whether the subject is politics or cats who love cheeseburgers, I have every reason to expect that the contents of that e-mail will remain, absent specific permission to the contrary, between me and the recipient.

Nevertheless, we live in a dangerous world, one in which danger has become easier to transmit than at any other time in history.  And, in our history, the right to privacy has never been absolute; the Fourth Amendment protects us from "unreasonable searches and seizures" (my emphasis).  Long before the Internet was invented (and then, with the help of Al Gore, expanded), courts spent decades carving out "reasonable" exceptions to the warrant requirement for an arrest or search.  Like it or not, what is "reasonable" is always a moving target, and its speed is accelerating along with our ability to share ideas, feelings--and threats.

Barack Obama is enough of a constitutional scholar to know the history of this balancing act, and the logic behind it.  As a senator, he took steps in an attempt to address and, hopefully correct this balance.  Which is why he is comfortable defending NSA's work, and why I think he should be, given the limits of that work. And it is why the public, thus far, seem to agree with him.

Which is not to say there is no reason to be concerned about this.  Government overreach, regardless of who is in charge, is always a potential problem.  And it can turn into a source of grotesque political hypocrisy that threatens our ability to come together in the face of common danger.  As citizens, all of us need to find our own sense of balance between the competing needs of privacy and security--and make sure that the political leaders of both parties respect it.  Not to mention the Supreme Court, which has just decided that mandatory DNA collection is constitutional (and you know how bad a decision is when Justice Scalia is the dissenting voice for civil liberties).

And now, back to more immediate problems, like the fact that state-sponsored capitalism is destroying America.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some Points Are Worth Repeating

I know, I know.  I've blogged about this before.  But I can't help but think about California's current budget situation (a happy one), and see it as a shining example of how liberals solve the problems that conservatives create.  Maybe this could become a national trend.  Frankly I don't know if I could stand the excitement.  But I'm sure it would be good for the country.

Gallup Poll And A New Study Both Confirm America Is Starting To Lean Left

Hey, don't accuse me of making this stuff up.  It's right here.

The Tea Party Versus America

Sorry, Tea Party.  Americans of all stripes can't stand you and what you supposedly stand for anymore.

They disagree with you on guns.

The leadership of your favorite political party is turning against you.  Hell, even the icon of that party is no longer your icon.

And Obamacare is doing so "poorly" that even governors from that party are fighting to adopt it.

Teabaggers, your fifteen minutes of fame are up.  You're part of American history.  Congratulations.  Now get out of the way of that history, and let Americans enjoy the future they deserve.

Fortune 500 Company Wins Fight To Turn Women’s Safe House Into A Luxury Hotel

Everything wrong with America, summed up in a single headline.  Read this, and weep for what we've become.

And then get angry.  Because it's time to take our country back.  From the people who are always talking about taking our country back.

Pointing Fingers At Japan

When it comes to the need for austerity, conservatives used to be fond of pointing at Europe, where the social welfare state has reigned supreme for most of the past 60 years.

Then, a funny thing happened, one that happens often in "bipartisan" America with disastrous results.  European nations took the advice of conservatives seriously.  They adopted austerity.  And boy, did it make a difference.  It just didn't make the difference conservatives said it would.  It took a bad situation, and made it worse.

But one good thing has come out of this.  You don't see conservatives pointing fingers at Europe anymore.

And you won't find them pointing fingers at Japan, either.  For a much different reason.  Japan took a very different approach and, sadly for conservatives (but not for the Japanese), it's working.

What can I say?  Liberal ideas work, and conservative ideas don't.  Maybe we can now find room in this country to give liberal ideas the chance that they, and we, deserve.

Around The World In Corporate Shelters

Think the problem with corporate taxation in America is low domestic rates and loopholes?  Think again.  It's a global system of taxation that allows multinational corporations to shop around for the best tax rates, simply by manipulating their income among various off-shore shelters.  The effect of this is to render any domestic tax reform almost worthless, because of the international "escape hatches" for corporate profits.

This system is the investment analog to the global system of labor laws (or lack thereof, which is why so many consumer goods are made in sweatshops around the world).  The end result is the same:  everyone suffers, to some extend, because of the race to the bottom to appease corporate interests.

It must change, but it will never change without international cooperation, and national leadership here at home.  Mr. Obama, stop feeling sorry for yourself because the corporate media don't like you, and start leading on this issue.  You've already done so to a small extent, as indicated in the linked article.  It's time to do it in a big way.  It's time to stop being afraid of being a populist, and start standing up for the populace.  That's what your supporters expected of you when they first supported you.  Take advantage of a bit of advice from "Mad Men":  "If you don't like what people are saying, change the conversation."

We need a change in the conversation badly right now.  The President shouldn't be afraid to make it.  He might find an issue that all Americans agree on in the process, and cement his own legacy as well.

A Sampling Of The News The Corporate Media DOESN'T Cover

Obamacare won't be a "train wreck."

People don't really hate the IRS.

And, um, it would be nice if we could stop getting coverage on phony scandals and start focusing on real ones.  Like, for example, the fact that our crumbling infrastructure is a greater danger than either the IRS or Obamacare.

But hey, dealing with real problems cost real money.  Probably would require raising taxes.  Can't have that, can we?  It's better that a few people that aren't any of us get killed, so that the rest of us can get back to playing Trivial Pursuit with the corporate media.

The good news is that we can only be destroyed by ourselves.  The bad news is that our self-destruction seems to be well under way.  Because we're not paying attention to real problems.  Because we've done what Paddy Chayefsky warned us, almost 40 years ago, we would do:  let corporate America turn news into entertainment.  And, while they've done it, they've even managed to turn Chayefsky's most famous phrase into a weapon against their critics.

It's time to reclaim it.  It's time for progressives to get mad as hell, and not take it anymore.

97 Percent--But Is The Debate Over?

Of course not.

Even though 97 percent of all scientific papers on climate agree that the human race is causing global warming, that won't stop the deniers from denying.  Any more than they'll agree to give Americans the background checks on gun purchases that 90 percent of Americans support.

Because, for all of their patriotic phraseology and flag-waving, they don't give a damn about America, or Americans.  They're conservatives; all they care about is winning.

When they win elections, they favor majority rights.  When they lose elections (and get ready, conservatives, because you're going to lose a lot of them soon), they favor minority rights.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Hastert rule, you can have it both ways.  Because "a majority of the majority," more often than not, is going to mean that a minority is in charge.

They don't respect truth, justice or the American way, and yet they have power that, in the political arena, makes them the equivalent of Superman.  Because we've handed it to them.  Sometimes, we've done it under the misguided name of "bipartisanship."  Sometimes, we've done it by doing nothing.

And, if you want to prevent the final triumph of fascism in this country, doing nothing is not an option.  It is, in fact, the only Kryptonite capable of stopping Superman.

Get involved.  However you have to do it, get involved.  You can start by clicking on the first link, which contains lots of ammunition to use against climate deniers.  But it won't matter, unless you're willing to get your fingernails dirty with a little activism.