Sunday, October 27, 2013

No, They Don't, Senator Rubio

This is a democracy.  Whether the subject is the budget, or immigration, nobody has the right to "dictate" anything.

And you're welcome to wash that thought down with a nice, cold glass of tap water.  Didn't anyone tell you that bottled water is the greatest consumer scam of our time?

"They Had Robots In The Enlightenment?"

Further proof that no age has a monopoly on innovation or genius.  Yes, they did.

Climate Change Is No Longer A Fantasy For McDonald's Customers

Instead, it's a dollars-and-cents issue.  Take a look.  And know that, whether you eat at McDonald's or not, it's going to get worse until all of you WAKE UP!

Want To Win The Immigration Reform Battle, Mr. President?

Take this person's advice.  Stop doing the other side's work for them.  Go a little crazy with administrative relief, and give the GOP an incentive to say something better than "no."

A Tale Of Two Websites

And no, neither one of them is the much-maligned Obamacare Web site, which I suspect will be fixed much sooner than anyone suspects, allowing us to go back to focusing on the next potential government shutdown and whether it will waste more than the $24 billion wasted on the one that just ended.

But I digress.

The controversy over the Obamacare site problems made me think about the whole issue of the relative efficiency of the private versus the public sector.  To conservatives, of course there is no debate (then again, conservatives don't debate anything anymore, preferring instead to simply believe).  The private sector, in their eyes, is always incredibly, relentlessly efficient.

Even when it isn't.

Because the Obamacare site, like nearly all government Web sites, was designed by a private contractor.  And, as someone who spent years working with several contractors on the design of a particular Web site, I can assure you that they can be anything but efficient.  Speaking personally, I was driven to distraction by being asked the same questions, again and again and again, and giving the same answers each time.  If they were trying to demonstrate efficiency, it was very much lost on me and my colleagues.

Ah, you say, but that's just because their client was a government agency, with all of its inefficient complexity and bureaucratic inertia.  Surely, if the client is a private concern, none of this would be a problem, right?  Surely, the final product would be a model of efficiency.

Wrong again.  Consider the case of two Web sites I have recently dealt with.

First, there is the Web site for the Internal Revenue Service. Given how most people feel about the IRS, you would think this one would be the Darth Vader of Web sites, a veritable black hole of aggravating complexity and failure.  And nothing could be further from the truth.  I work with the site on a regular basis, especially in preparing filings on behalf of non-profit corporations.  It's very easily to navigate, has the most up-to-date information on anything you could ask about, and allows you to download and complete savable copies of any form or publication the IRS publishes.  I have no idea who designed this site, but whoever did so did a first-rate job.  And the IRS is about as complex and intimidating a bureaucracy as there is on the federal level.

On the other hand, there is the Web site for Everhome Mortgage.  I recently visited it to obtain a simple for for a client who is attempting to obtain relief from the full amount of a mortgage she is assuming in conjunction with a divorce.  A form.  That's it.  And it took following five separate links to simply get to the link for the form.  And, when I got there, I e-mailed it to my client and she discovered that the link doesn't work from an e-mail.  I finally ended up downloading it, scanning it and e-mailing it to her.  Okay, not exactly the biggest crisis I could have with a client.  But not exactly a tribute to whoever designed Everhome's Web site in the first place.  Then again, perhaps the point is to make it harder to obtain forgiveness; after all, that's money out of Everhome's well-stuffed pocket.

My scorecard here says:  public sector 1, private sector 0.  But if you disagree, check both sites out, and see if you think I'm wrong.  I'll be surprised if you honestly do.

And I emphasize the word "honestly."

Reagan And O'Neill: Bipartisanship Or Seduction?

Over the past several weeks, as the shutdown debacle wore down and the people's government got more or less back to work, we have, as part of the op-ed coverage of these events, been treated to a wave of nostalgia for the good ol' days of the Gipper and the Tipper.  Ah, those halcyon days of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill would go at each other in the press, then knock off at 5:00 p.m., have a beer and negotiate the future of the Republic.  Why, oh why, can't things now be more like THAT?  After all, it was all good, right?


As a general rule, I try not to speak ill of the dead; after all, by definition, they are not in a position to stand up for themselves.  But when the American people are subjected to this level of revisionist history, and it's history I lived through, fidelity to the truth leaves me with no other choice.

Perhaps it was ethnic, in that both men were Irish, and knew more than a little bit about throwing around the blarney.  But I am one-half Irish, and I know more than a little bit about not only blarney, but flattery.  And Reagan was susceptible to it; after all, that was how he began his journey from New Deal Democrat to Goldwater Republican.  His second marriage exposed him to money, and its seductive power.

But O'Neill, for all of the accolades heaped upon him in his lifetime and posthumously, was no better.  When he became Speaker of the House in 1977, at the same time Jimmy Carter became President, and operating in a post-Watergate environment where the institution of the Presidency had been weakened and that of Congress had been elevated, O'Neill envisioned a political world where, with the help of Robert Byrd in the Senate, he would be in charge.  The buck, he thought, would stop at the Speaker's chair, especially with the White House occupied by Carter, whom he regarded as the proverbial hick from the sticks.

Carter, as it turned out, intended to act as though he had been elected with his own mandate for change and power, whether O'Neill liked it or not.  To me, then and now, that was one of Carter's pluses.  Unfortunately, he had a minus that more than cancelled out this plus--the giving of flattery was not part of his skill set.  Whether for reasons of religion or temperament, Carter was about as adverse to schmoozing as it was possible for a human being to be, especially for a human being who is also a politician.  It is the primary reason that his Presidency was in free-fall even before the Iranian hostage crisis and even despite his Camp David successes.  Carter refused to flatter in a town that runs on flattery.

And O'Neill treated that failure as the moral equivalent of treason.  He and other Congressional Democrats took great delight in sabotaging Carter's initiatives simply because they were his initiatives, and the interests of the country be damned.  Had they given Carter one-tenth of the cooperation that they would end up giving to Reagan, it is at least a possibility that Reagan would never have reached the White House.  But they ended up with Reagan, who had been given an Electoral College landslide--and who was more than willing to flatter them.  What was the result?  The beginning of the end of Social Security, union power and progressive taxation, three of the most important linchpins not only of the New Deal, but also of post-war prosperity in America.

And Tip O'Neil was right at Ronnie's side, having those beers, making it all happen for the sake of "bipartisanship."  All because Reagan knew how, in political terms, to scratch his belly and make him purr.

O'Neill himself wrote in his memoirs that the fact of Reagan's presidency was sinful.  Mr. Speaker, no less so was your own leadership of the People's House.  For the sake of being loved, you helped your opponents trade away the future of your constituents, your party, and your county.  Your partnership was ultimately not one with a President, but with forces of economic darkness that, even now, are only inches away from sealing the Banana Republican fate of the nation.  You were not part of a golden era; you were part of one that tarnished everything you allegedly stood for.

God spare us from that kind of bipartisanship, now and in the future.  Otherwise, there may be no future at all.  And, in the interval, God spare us from the nattering of the professional chattering class, who flatter themselves by viewing Reagan and O'Neill as their creations, and have much invested in giving them the protection that neither deserves.

This Is What REAL Socialism Looks Like

And guess what?  It works, at least in the case of Publix versus Wal-Mart.

Now, more than ever:  workers of the world, unite!

And, Speaking Of Carrots ...

... one day, we may be able to grow building materials such as bricks, just like we grow gardens.  It may be the best news about the future that I've heard in a long time.

Yes, Virginia, There IS An Energy Future For America

It's hard to believe that, last year, America used less energy than it did in 1973.  And yet, that's exactly what we did.  And regulation played, and should continue to play a part in this.

All of the forgoing is true.  But, it's not enough to say that regulation is the answer alone to ensuring our energy independence.  We're human beings.  We need carrots, as well as sticks, to shape our behavior.  And, as Americans are suckers for new technology, that new technology is the biggest stick of all.

A lot of that energy-saving technology already exists, and a lot more is on the way.   Take a look at this, just in case you thought hydrogen cars were dead.

And our efforts to save energy have important, perhaps unexpected, potential with regard to international economics and foreign relations.  This might very well revolutionize the way approach foreign aid.  And, perhaps it should.

The Double Tragedy (And Single Lesson) Of 9/11

September 11th marks the date on which we were attacked by foreign agents.  But it is also the date on which we ourselves were the foreign agents attacking a legitimately-elected government.  As this article shows, the sad legacy of that violation of the sovereign rights of the Chilean people, and the abuse of our own power, lives on in so many ways.

And yet, Osama bin Laden wasn't completely a foreign agent.  We trained, financed and armed him to act as our proxy against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  In every measurable sense on the ground, he was ours.

The single, real lesson of that terrible date?  Imperialism doesn't work.  It has never worked for any nation.  And it is a grotesque abuse of the concept of American imperialism to think that, somehow, it can work for us.  The only way for us to be truly exceptional is to renounce American imperialism.  Forever.

So Much For Government Not Working

Apparently, somebody forgot to tell Voyager I that, as a government-designed, publicly funded, NASA-launched project, it was supposed to have three strikes against it and be a miserable failure.  As a result of listening to everything in the universe but that negativity, it's become the first human-created object to exit the Solar System and keep on working.

I feel certain that somewhere, beyond the final frontier, Gene Roddenberry is smiling.  Especially since he predicted something fairly similar in 1979.

"Urban Change To Believe In"

I could write for the rest of my life on the subject of historic preservation, and particularly about its value as a tool in economic value.  But I could never make that case more effectively than the way in which it has been made here.  For whatever it's worth, I don't think anyone could.  But, if you care about the economy of the future, and even if you don't give a fig about preservation, you owe it to yourself to read what Ms. Graz has written.  And so do your children.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Reasons (Of Many) Why Conservatism Doesn't Work

And, not surprisingly, the primary sources for illustrating those reasons are conservatives themselves; in this case, Charles Krauthammer and Pat Buchanan, weighing in on the same controversy:  the use of a racial epithet as a nickname by the Washington, D.C. franchise of the National Football League.

Let's start with Chuck, as his column has the saving grace of coming down on the right side of the controversy.  He claims to do so, however, not because of any amount of so-called hectoring from various members of the liberal elite, but rather on the grounds of "simple decency," conceding that the meaning of words change over time.

Why is it, precisely, that those words change in meaning?  Why are some "meanings" considered to be simply decent in one era, and positively indecent in another?  If you relied on Krauthammer's column alone, you would think that progress is achieved by some magical process that didn't involve human beings arguing over what it means, in the first instance, to be decent.

There's a reason that the word "progress" is a necessary part of the word "progressive."  It is that every "decent" idea, including the idea of democracy itself, came from those who looked at the status quo of their era and concluded that the human race could be doing better than whatever it was doing at that given moment.  This is not to say that all progressive ideas are good ideas, nor is it to say that the status quo is completely reprehensible.  But it is to acknowledge a simple fact:  progress invariably comes from progressive thinking.

And, like most if not all conservatives, Krauthammer is unable to acknowledge that fact in the context of the football nickname.  Even worse, he pretends that it is the meaning of the word that has somehow changed, and not the acceptability of using it.  Long before it began to be attached to sports teams, the term "redskin" was used as and considered to be a racial slur, one that was meant implicitly to exult the conquerors over the conquered.  It has never been considered a "decent" term, and especially not by the people to whom it referred.

What has changed is the willingness of European-descended Americans to recognize the reality and magnitude of the harm that has been done over centuries to Native Americans, and to understand that at least some of that harm is embodied in certain words, "redskin" being among them.  And again, Chuck, who is responsible for that change?  The "decency" fairy?  Nope, it came from the same source that progress always comes from--progressives.  Krauthammer's inability to confront that reality, shared by the majority of his right-wing colleagues, is one reason for conservatism's many failures.

As rancid as Krauthammer's reasoning is, it pales (pun intended) compared to the blatant racism of Buchanan, and his "reasoning" for it.  Like the skilled bigot that he is, Buchanan knows how to insinuate racial hatred by wrapping it up in nostalgia--in this case, spending the first ten paragraphs pining for a capital city that is "rooted" (hint, hint) and not "cosmopolitan" (nudge, nudge), then segueing into the lyrics of a fight song while remembering to forget the portion that exposes the song's true ethnic intent:  "Scalp 'em, swamp 'um/We will take 'um big score/Read 'um, weep 'um, touchdown/We want heap more!"  Right on, Patrick.  Even that was too obvious for you to use.

All of this, at any rate, to build up to a truly ludicrous argument:  we can't erase the past, so we might as well live in it.  It's a good thing for Pat that no one has ever successfully made this argument; otherwise, his ancestors would never have left Europe, and would have to look for another ethnic group to feed their undeserved sense of superiority.  In fact, the truth about the past is much different:  we can't live in it, so we might as we learn from it.  And, in order to truly learn, one has to confront the mistakes of the past for what they truly are:  mistakes.  Ironically, this is what classic conservatism teaches us to do, and what its contemporary counterpart is completely unable to do; witness the recent shutdown fiasco and the fallout in public opinion.

An inability to understand either the true nature of progress, or the value of history as a guide and not a refuge, is what undermines today's conservative moment, and ensures the emergence, at least in the short run, of an era of progressive achievement.  Who knows?  Maybe, just maybe, we will live to see the Washington NFL franchise come up with a better nickname.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Barack Obama, the Kenny Rogers President

As it turns out, if you want a forward-looking newspaper, you can still turn to The New York Times.

Charles Blow proves it.  So does David Leonhardt.  Both of them are looking at Barack Obama with very clear eyes.  And both of them, whether they realize it or not (I'm voting against not) explain why the last three years of Barack Obama's presidency are going to be the best ones of all.

Mr. Blow correctly identifies the President's decision to highlight immigration reform on his post-GOP-debacle agenda as an attempt to drive a political wedge between his political opponents and immigrant America.  Mr. Leonhardt correctly identifies the President's decision to abandon the come-let-us-reason-together tone in his rhetoric as being fundamental to his political approach from this point onward.  There is one simple reason behind Barack Obama' willingness to do this, and why this pivot is going to reap enormous dividends for him, his party and his county.  Through five years of reaching out to the other side (and nearly getting both of his hands bitten off), combined with his recent resistance to Republican blackmail, the President has shown America that, like Kenny Rogers, he knows when to hold and when to fold.

And that quality, more than anything else, is the one aspect of character Americans of all political stripes rightly deem essential in a national leader.

When it comes to immigration, the President has already shown both flexibility and firmness, as have Democratic and Republican Senators, by supporting a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that balances human rights and national security, and that attracted the votes of more than two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.  He is now in a position to ask the badly-gerrymandered House of Representatives to insist on one thing--a simple vote on this bipartisan bill.  If they want to approve amendments, he is willing to consider them.  If they want to reject it, and vote in favor of something else, he would be willing to take a look at that.  But, having already folded on this issue to a degree, he is now in a position to hold.  He can tell the GOP that it can no longer be the party of No.  And he is guaranteed to win on this issue, no matter the response.  Either way, the political outcome will be a fired-up Democratic base or a immigrant voter cohort hostile to Republicans.  Either way, the President and his fellow Democrats have reason to smile.

None of this, however, obscures the harsh reality of the budget battle that lies ahead.  And there, I am convinced that, after nearly three years of trying to fold for Republicans (and having Republicans turn him down every time), Barack Obama has only begun to hold.  And, frankly, there are a number of ways by which he can do it.

For my part, I would hope that he goes back to the Progressive Caucus Budget proposal to use that as a starting point for negotiation, rather than his own earlier 2011 proposal.  Both of them have merits, but the PCB proposal would help to ensure a finished product much closer to what the President's supporters want, as well as what the nation actually needs.  And, if he needs empirical evidence to support a much stronger approach, he need only look at California, where it has been tried successfully.

Either way, I feel more confident about Barack Obama as a political card-player than I ever have.  The rest of us should feel that way, too.  And all of us should look forward to him being, in the last three years of his Presidency, anything but a lame duck.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And, Finally (For Now), Remember Syria?

Apparently, the President's critics don't want to do so.  Perhaps this is why.  And perhaps, his handling of Syria should have, for his critics, foreshadowed the resolution of the manufactured budget crisis.

He's the President, folks.  You're not going to out-think him, out-tough him, or impeach him.  Deal with it.

It Turns Out Life IS Fair

What could be sweeter poetic justice than two gun nuts putting each other out of business?  Maybe we should just let all of them have at each other.  Except, of course, for all of the innocent victims of their frontier fantasies.  Perhaps it lends some support to this point of view.  I think it does.

We've never needed sensible gun legislation on a national level more than we've needed it now. Maybe the world really does need to intervene.

Boundaries: The Last Death Grip Of Colonialism

When I say "death grip," I am referring not only to the death of colonialism, but also the impending death of the boundaries it created.  Lines that were drawn solely to advance the economic interests of long-dead empires, these boundaries cut across and around ethnic, religious and cultural boundaries in a way that make the nations they purportedly define unsustainable.

I have believed this for a long time, and I'm happy to report that I'm not the only one.  Take a look at this redrawing of Middle East.  It might offer the best hope for stability in the region.  It couldn't be worse than the status quo.

And, Speaking Of Ted Cruz And Rush Limbaugh ...

... well, actually, I wasn't doing that, either.  But I couldn't possibly resist the opportunity to share this.

Okay, I'll admit that it is a spoof.  But we could all use a laugh after the past few weeks.  And besides, the level of hypocrisy described in it is completely believable.

And besides, where else but in Hooters would you expect to find a couple of boobs having lunch?

And, Speaking Of Divided Government ...

... well, actually, I wasn't.  But this obituary on Juan Linz, the noted Yale political scientist, underscores the reason why, contrary to conventional wisdom, divided government is a bad idea.  Essentially, Linz argued that the United States' division of executive and legislative authority into separate, co-equal branches of government contained the potential for the ultimate destruction of democracy in the United States.

While that may be an exaggerated fear--or, at least, I hope so--it is at least a realistic one in an era of hyper-partisan political parties, at least one of which apparently loves conservatism more than it loves its fellow Americans (I'll leave you to guess which one that might be).  Recent nearly-tragic events underscore why that fear might be realistic.

But, it seems to me, the solution to this problem is an obvious one:  undivide government by electing a President and a Congress (both houses) from the same party.  That way, both branches have more of an incentive to cooperate, because they will then both be committed to the same basic goals.

Sounds like a simple solution to me.  Anyone up for implementing it next year?  I sure hope so.

And, Speaking Of Obamacare ...

... this article was published the day before the health insurance exchanges were scheduled to go into effect, under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.  I had saved it in my online library of news stories, with the goal of using it to reinforce the point that we all might be better off if the ACA had been given an earlier effective date.  But, because of the article's publication date, its author missed one other point:  an earlier effective date would have ensured greater urgency in making sure that the implementation of the new law was as perfect as possible.

Because, as anyone who has been following the electronic roll-out of the exchanges knows, the implementation of this aspect of the ACA has been about as imperfect as it possibly can be.  It reinforces my personal view that the only thing worse than having too little time to do a job is having too much; it tends to promote careless, avoidable mistakes.

And who is to say that the political uncertainty surrounding the law over the past four years hasn't to some degree engendered that carelessness?  If you're working on the implementation of a law that is constantly under attack, where is your incentive to get things right?  You may feel that you're just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

This much is for certain:  the President and his Administration had better throw everything and the kitchen sink into fixing the problems, and fixing them fast.  Otherwise, the ACA and the Democratic Party may end up feeling like they're on the Titanic.  Along with the rest of us.

And, Speaking Of Shutdown Tactics ...

... one of the absolute worst was the attempt by congressional Republicans to use the closing of national monuments as an attempt to illustrate their perception of President Obama's alleged abuse of executive power.  The epicenter of this nonsense, of course, was the National World War II Memorial in Washington, where Tea Partiers shamelessly congregated to make sure that their "outrage" was on camera for the rest of us.

I'll overlook the fact that the President was acting solely in response to the manufactured crisis that Congressional Republicans had themselves created.  Actually, there's a much better rebuttal to this kind of garbage than that.

The National Park Service is, by law, responsible both for the protection and preservation of national parks and monuments, and for the safely of the public when they visit any place under the protection of the Park Service. Far from being a political tactic, the closure of the parks and monuments was a logical extension of the Park Service's lawful authority to do its job.  If the Park Service, as a consequence of the GOP-manufactured shutdown, did not have the resources to adequately protect either the sites or the public, shutting the sites down was the only way they could lawfully exercise their authority.  To do otherwise would have meant not only abdicating that authority, but exposing members of the public to injury (or worse), and, of lesser importance, risking damage to one or more monuments by vandals (political and otherwise).

And congressional Republicans posing as defenders of the park system would be laughable hypocrisy, if the plans they have for our parks weren't as self-serving as they are destructive.

Oh, but I forgot; there's an even better rebuttal to their argument against the President and the Park Service: it's an absolute, expletive-deleted lie.  Sorry about that.  Had I remembered that earlier, this post would have been much shorter.

Please don't let that discourage you from reading further.

Extortion Lost. Now What?

I can remember a time when the fact that the Federal Government was up and running was not treated as a miracle.  Ditto with our willingness to pay our bills.

As a matter of fact, I can remember a time when meeting one's financial obligations was considered to be a bedrock principle of conservatism.  No less a conservative oracle than George Will said so.

Sadly, it appears that the times, they are a-changin', but not in the way that Bob Dylan meant.

Conservatism in America is now a movement to transform America into a theocratic plutocracy, one in which the only civil liberty is the right to use and own a gun--but only when the theocratic plutocrats permit it.  This is not, of course, a majority movement.  Thankfully, most Americans are committed to a more pluralistic, consensual vision of how to conduct the business of the nation.

That's the good news.  The bad news is that the theocratic plutocrats are well aware of this--and have no compunctions about thwarting democracy to advance their alternative vision.  The Tea Party, and its Wall Street sponsors, may claim that their vision is centered around defending the original intentions of the Framers.  But they have no compunctions about burning the Constitutional village in order to save it.

Shutting down the government is bad enough.  That was a decision that put the most vulnerable members of our society at risk, including children with serious illnesses.  But holding the world economy hostage by risking default on the national debt--a debt that is two-thirds the responsibility of their Presidents and their policies--is even worse.  No government in the history of the Republic could ever claim any type of electoral mandate to do that.

And that is why they could not rely on democratic process to attempt to make it happen.  They had to rely on this, which is the most flagrant assault on the national legislative process ever committed.  A party that has the majority of seats in a legislative body, and uses such a tactic, has no right to hold the majority of seats in any body.  Such a party has essentially embraced Fascism. I'm not one to routinely push the Hitler button in making a political argument but, in this case, no softer term will suffice.  Do you need proof?  Well, let's put it this way:  if you're operating under the assumption that the shutdown-default extortion was a "mistake" from which the current thugocracy in the House of Representatives will learn from, think again.

I applaud the President, congressional Democrats, the media and the MAJORITY of the American people for looking extortion in the eye and not blinking.  I understand why the Democrats wanted a short-term solution to this manufactured crisis, as a tactic to give them the ability to undo the sequester cuts.

Let's hope their tactical thinking stays sharp.  And let's hope that the newly-found steel in their spine stays put.  And let's hope, and pray, that the American people vote in 2014 like democracy depends on them.

Because it always does.  And never more so than now.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

And, Finally, A Fond Farewell

When it comes to my interest in politics, I owe a great deal to Newsweek magazine; as much as having a father who was a political science professor, it spurred my interest in government and culture, as well as the forces that shape both.  Each new issue came to our house for as long as I can remember and, yes, even as I child, I read them from cover to cover.

The death of hardcopy print, inevitable in the Internet age, has claimed a good many worthy publications, and, from this farewell piece by Eleanor Clift, it appears that Newsweek will be no exception.  I will miss, and all of us will miss, Newsweek's combination of reporting, analysis and opinion, which launched such diverse journalistic perspectives as those of George Will and Ms. Clift.

Thanks, Newsweek, not just for the memories, but for your lasting impact on our public and private culture.

Two Signs Of The Times

And, sadly, both of them point in the same direction.

An adult female fan at a baseball game steals a ball from a child.

And a vehicle hog uses three parking spaces at Wal-Mart.

If you want to know where the stubbornness and selfishness in Washington begins, look no further than these two incidents.  As I just said, our government is influenced by our culture, and not the other way around. emanates from our culture.  We could, and should, have a broader discussion about this, especially since conservatives are allegedly so concerned with "culture."  But we would first have to broaden the definition of "cultural issues" to include issues other than sex.  Wealth distribution, in many respects, from the treatment of workers to the giving of charity, is very much of a "cultural issue."

I make no defense, in the Wal-Mart case, for the tire slasher; in his or her own way, they were just as bad.  They had peaceful alternatives, and failed to use them.  Vigilante justice is no better than the corrupt behavior that tempts it to act.

It's time for all of us to give the words "I," "me," and "mine" a break.  The initials of "United States" spell "us."  It's more than a coincidence; it's a reality too many of us are encouraged to overlook.  That needs to change, or there may not be a "United States" much longer.

Redeeming the Pledge

Of Allegiance, that is.  Once upon a time, neither the POA nor our money expressed any need to identify or otherwise encourage the support of a Supreme Being(s).  Nor should it ever have done so, in a land built first and foremost upon the principle of religious freedom.  Unfortunate, a few decades back, the Red-baiters thought that adding "God" to the POA and our currency was necessary for our survival.

Now, an effort is under way to reverse this pernicious decision.  It just may work, and with God's help, because I don't believe He, She, It or They want to be tied to the fate of a single nation.  Take a look.

And, Speaking Of Wages (The Minimum One, That Is) ...

... let's raise it, and peg future raises to the cost of living.  After all, even some businesses think it's a good idea.

If enough of us demand that businesses we patronize pay decent wages, maybe they will start to do so.  And, eventually, that change will "trickle up" to Washington.  It's the only way change in this country has ever occurred; first, you change the culture, then you change the government.

Think Immigrants Are Bad For Wages?

Take a look at Denmark, and think again.

Not bad for "cordwood," as some idiots refer to them.

Was This A Sign That Obama Has Stiffened His Spine?

Let's hope so.  In any case, fewer guns in our society are a blessing.  And the gun-sale loophole is one reason why we have too many in the first place.

Whether the subject is guns or the budget, Mr. President, stay strong.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

And, To Provide You With A Little Ammunition ...

... here are some points to memorize and share with everyone you know.

The Republican Party's overall numbers are shrinking, and its opposition to Obamacare is directly related to that shrinkage.

Could that have something to do with a majority of Americans opposing the defunding of Obamacare?  Boy, I sure think so.

And, just in case someone wants to argue with you about what a majority of Americans think about Obamacare, just show them this.

But don't show them this unless you have no choice.  After all, discovering that Obamacare really is a good deal for consumers might make them collapse.  Or convert to our side.  Hmmm ... maybe, given the advantages of the latter possibility, you should show it to them in any case.

And definitely show them this.  As well as this.  That way, Boehner and his cronies can't get away with calling Obamacare a "job-killing" law.

Ditto this and this.  That way, the next time they watch some well-paid idiot on Fox News screaming about how Obama is bankrupting the country, it might make them change the channel.

Oh, and speaking of well-paid ... I guess those poor Republican House members don't feel that they are.  Well-paid, that is.  I'm inclined to disagree.

At least it isn't keeping them awake at night.  Just sleeping on the job.  When they aren't abusing civil servants for doing their job while the House refuses to do likewise.

All in all, it's enough to drive even the most determined Tea Party governor to embrace Obamacare.

And to make the press finally wake up and smell the true nature of the Tea Party brew.  Take a look.  Take another look.

And, as long as we're talking about the Times, take a look at this.  Thank you, Mr. Friedman; I didn't think you had it in you.

Well, there you are.  Get busy reading.  And then, get busier fighting.

The Enemy Within

What can I say about the Federal government shutdown--topic number one for this week and who knows how many more weeks--that hasn't ably been said elsewhere?

Nothing, I guess.  So why write at all?

Well, other than to record my personal outrage, which exceeds the scale of this or any other blog, it is to make one simple point, one that needs to be made over and over again.

This is not a "plague on both their houses."

This is a plague that emanates, as President Obama put it, from one faction of one party of one-half of one branch of government.  Or, as I wrote previously, this is the work of a Fifth Column in our midst.

But trust me.  The members of this Fifth Column are not smart or brave enough to get there all by themselves.   They had help.  From the rest of us.  And, specifically, from the so-called "progressive" community.

For decade after decade, culminating in the disaster of 2010, the members of this community sat at home, "bravely" thinking that all that was needed was a state of affairs when things were bad enough, and the people would suddenly rise up as one, and all would be well.

We may very well have reached that stage, finally.  Only there is no end game. Not, at least, a peaceful one.  Neither side can budge without losing face, at best, and at worst triggering a full-scale rebellion by its followers that can only further poison our badly contaminated well of political discourse.

We are reliably told that, this time, things will be different, that Democrats in Congress have "grown a spine."  Let's hope and pray they have.  But how much different things might have been, how much easier it might have been to escape the current crisis--hell, to avoid it altogether--if they'd grown that spine earlier?  Why didn't they do it?

The truth, very simply, is this:  the Fifth Column known as the Tea Party is only one-half of the enemy within.  The other half is the so-called "progressive" community, so committed to due process and so loathe to get its fingernails dirty that its members have been willing to wait for the people to "rise up," so they could be spared the indignity of fighting.

Sadly, I am sorry to say, life doesn't work that way.  It never has.  It never will.

I am very proud to have, as my father-in-law, a man who fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  A man who has fought all of his life to build a business, to raise a family, to marry a second time and accept another family as his own, to take care of others who were not as fortunate as he his.  Now, at the age of 90, he is fighting for his life, working in physical therapy to gain enough strength to have surgery for the repair of a blocked artery.  When I visited him recently, he gave me this advice:  to always fight, and to remember that fighting is the key to living.

I wish that those of us on the "progressive" side of the fence could and would fight half as hard as my father-in-law has fought, and is fighting now.  Had we done so, starting thirty years ago and continuing on up to the present, there might have been no Bushes in the White House.  No 9/11.  No nine-digit budget deficit, or eleven-digit national debt.  No 99% versus 1%.  The line in the sand we could very easily drawn decades ago is the line we absolutely have to draw now, at far greater cost, or democracy in this country will effectively end.  Perhaps forever.

Obama really got it right when he said that we, all of us, are the change that we seek.  Not some magical leader, or even a magical political party.  All of us, togetherE pluribus unum.

So stand strong.  Be vocal.  Be confrontational.  Be brave enough to do what my father-in-law, and many others like him, have already done--to put everything on the line for the sake of the future.  To fight like hell, even at the risk of great personal sacrifice.  And that includes not only fighting the GOP and its Tea Bagger allies, but also the media, which has for decades repeating the plague-on-both-your houses narrative after being bullied by the right over non-existent "bias."  Fighting is the only way to keep the Democrats' "spine" will stay in place.  

The only way that America can remain the land of the free is if it also remains the home of the brave.  Are you brave enough to fight?  Are you brave enough to at least vote in every election from now on, and not hope that your enemies are some kind of "self-solving" problem that will resolve itself?  I hope so and pray so.

Because, otherwise, we won't be the land of the free much longer.