Friday, October 31, 2014

And, For My Last, Pre-Election Post ...

a true miracle:  a conservative commentator praising Obama.

May there be more than a few miracles on November 4.  VOTE!

An Airplane Without Walls?

Well, not really, but the next best thing, and an interesting approach to making flying better, cheaper and greener.  What do you think?  I like it.

The Ultimate Proof That Some People Will Say Anything For Money

An African-American defending slavery.  Need I say more?

"We Will Continue"

Yes, we will, in spite of the Antares explosion.  Exploration is in our wiring, and our destiny.  I'm glad to see this piece affirm that.

Think That the Media Aren't Driving An Election-Year Narrative?

Think again.  Obama's popularity "hasn't plummeted," except to the reporters (and their bosses) with an ax to grind.

And Don't Forget ...

... that the Supreme Court, and the possibility of reversing and correcting decades of horrible jurisprudence, is directly at stake.  If you fail to raise your voice when it is needed, you will be responsible for the results.

How Efficient Is "Shareholder Capitalism"?

As further grist for the mill of your thinking as Tuesday's election approaches, I offer the following, from Robert Reich by way of Bill Moyers.  It's an interesting analysis of a movement that Reich characterizes as "stakeholder capitalism," as distinguished from what he calls "shareholder capitalism."

Stakeholder capitalism, as described in the examples Reich provides, may not seem all that unique or even special to most of you.  It simply refers to the practices of companies that essentially view themselves as "partners" with other related constituencies--their clients/customers, their employees, the communities in which they operate, and so on.  At its heart, it requires the capitalists who practice this approach to understand that they do not operate and make money in a vacuum--that how much they make, and how they make it, have an impact on people both internal and external to the enterprise who depend on it in one form or another, and has a concomitant effect on the enterprise's ability to exist.

To me, this is not something that requires a special label such as stakeholder capitalism.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty sure that there was a time in the not-too-distant past where this basic philosophy would have resided neatly under the label of common sense.  If John Dunne knew all the way back in 1623 that no man is an island, why should the rest of us not know it, too?

The problem, unfortunately, is that the so-called "Reagan Revolution" launched the beginning of the idea, promoted heavily by Milton Friedman, that the proper application of capitalist principles to an enterprise meant the naked pursuit of the business' fair market value in dollars.  Nothing else mattered, and every constituency that could be shafted to create more of that value, by any means necessary, could and should be shafted.  And, to create that "value," at least for a limited time, shaft they did.  They bought out competitors.  They laid off millions of employees.  They devastated, in the process, the economies of thousands of cities and towns, dozens of states and, ultimately, the nation as a whole.

And they did all of this through so-called "leveraged buyouts" of what were in many cases perfectly viable businesses.  Thus, even the "value" that they were creating was little more than an accounting illusion, one that left the liabilities being created for the future to sort out.  We are living in that "future" now, and we are sorting it out by devoting the lion's share of our productive resources to paying down the debt that was created.

In light of all this, it seems fair to question whether shareholder capitalism can truly be justified on the grounds of efficiency, the grounds that, as Reich notes, are often cited by its defenders.  Where is the efficiency in depriving the marketplace of competition?  In depriving consumers of meaningful choices, not only of where to spend but also of where to earn?  In saddling our economy with massive amounts of debt that, as was the case in 2008, threaten to destroy the entire country and required massive government intervention to stop (which in turn, deprived the government of resources needed to fulfill its own obligations)?

Shareholder capitalism has, in fact, no justification by way of efficiency.  Nor does it have any justification in morality.  If capitalism has any morality at all, it is the morality of failure.  Honest work and service are rewarded; dishonest, inefficient or corrupt conduct is punished.  At least, in theory, that's the way it should be.  That's the morality of Adam Smith, not Milton Friedman.  But how is the morality of failure even possible in a world that encourages a handful of sharks to borrow their way into seemingly uncontested control of the economy, with the politicians they've bought along the way backstopping them at every turn?

On the other hand, stakeholder capitalism, by virtue of its design, restrains corruption, enriches everyone, and ensures a world of honest competition in which everyone, to varying degrees is empowered.  Thus, it is actually the more efficient approach.  And, certainly, the more moral one.

Again, when it comes to a partisan analysis of which party is aligned to which approach, the choice could not be clearer.  And staying at home isn't one of them.

And, Just In Case You Need Yet Another Reason To Get Out And Vote On Tuesday ...

... here's an incredibly important one:  there's a very good chance that the election will be a stolen one.

Because Republicans steal elections.  Especially presidential ones.

Yes, I said elections, not an election.  Everyone knows about 2000.  Bush, Gore, the hanging chads and the recount that was aborted by the Supreme Court, with the decision that began the Court's long decline into injustice.  I have no intention of re-hashing all of that here.  It's far too painful for me to even think about, especially since it almost certainly led to the 9/11 attacks, the loss of thousands of lives here and overseas, and a corrupting of our civil liberties that may never be reversed.

But here's something you may not know:  It wasn't the first time.

In 1980, the month before the presidential election that launched the current Reign of Error (and Terror), Jimmy Carter had an agreement with the Iranian government to bring home the hostages being held in the American embassy in Tehran.  There were rumors about it in the media, but it was in fact a done deal.  As a consequence, Carter's re-election prospects were strengthened.  Until suddenly, mysteriously, the deal fell apart, and the election momentum shifted in the direction of the Great Dissembler, Ronald Reagan.  The rest, as the say, is sadly irreversible history.

Except that the collapse of the deal, while sudden, was no mystery.  Rather, it was a blatant act of treason on the part of Reagan's campaign--and, for that matter, Reagan himself, assuming that he was in charge of his own campaign.  A covert deal between Republican operatives and the Iranians scuttled the deal that Carter had negotiated, with the promise that Tehran would get a better deal form a Reagan-led administration.  The Iranians agreed, the deal was scuttled, a good and decent man and the country he led were both betrayed, and we began our nightmare descent into nineteenth-century politics.

Oh, yes, and the Iranians got their better deal, It was called Iran-Contra.  Enough said.

Don't believe me?  Take a look here.  And then, once you've done that, take a look here, and realize that even Reagan's perfidy was not the first time.  In fact, it was a perverse case of history repeating itself.  And, both times, with all due respect to Tolstoy, tragedy rather than farce was the result.

How much additional suffering did the embassy hostages, their families and friends have to endure needlessly?  How much additional suffering did the people of Indochina have to endure needlessly?  Is it even possible to calculate the cost of this treachery to the American people?  In ruined lives?  In bankrupted businesses and governments?  In the very processes that give the word "democracy" whatever real meaning it has for us?

Remember this when you see video of Nixon declaring that he's not a crook.  Or Reagan, telling you that America is back.  Or Dubya, declaring "Mission Accomplished."

This election is not simply a debate between clashing philosophies.  It is a debate between one party that still recognizes philosophical differences and values democracy's ability to sort them out, and a party that has become a monster devoid of anything except an appetite for more power.

The choice is yours.  God help us all if you make the wrong one.  And, by "wrong one," I'm including staying at home.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Time Is Not On The GOP's Side

No matter what happens next Tuesday, it may be as good as it gets for the Republicans.  As I've said before, politics is more generational than it is local.  And the generational tide runs against everything conservatism now stands for.  No amount of gerrymandering, "dark money," and screaming heads on Fox can change that.

Ranking By Body Count?

An interesting way of appraising U.S. presidents, with some surprising results.

If You Think They're "Illegal" ...

... then don't accept the money they pay into the Social Security system.  That, of course, would be the money they'll never get to collect.

Don't Doubt That It Matters Which Party Is In Power

It matters a lot.  It often means everything.  This is something that means everything for workers.  Keep it up, Mr. President.  And do something similar with immigration, for crying out loud.

If You're Just Finding Out About This ...

... that probably reflects the inclination in the media, especially older media, to slander first and exonerate never.  Especially when a Democrat is the object of the slander.  But you can always count on the Internet to correct that, so here it is:  Obama did NOTHING wrong with regard to Benghazi.

Aren't you surprised?  Yeah, neither was I.

Stop Corporate Traitors!

You can do it, Mr. President.  All you have to do is have the courage.  And, if it comes to pass, don't let losing the Senate stop you.  That's all the more reason to stand up to the interests that financed that loss.

And One Tool They're Counting On To Keep You Away From The Polls

The polls themselves.  Not the ones you should go to on November 4, but the ones you see on almost a daily basis (or, if you're as much of a political junkie as I am, that you inflict on yourself via Web-surfing on an almost hourly basis).  Party polls.  Media polls.  Pollster polls.  And, as I've followed them over the past several months, I've noticed a discrepancy between the numbers in all of these polls, and the narrative for this election cycle that has been pushed in the media, especially by "traditional" media outlets (print and broadcast).

That narrative, of course, is that this is a year of destiny for the Republicans, especially in the Senate races.  You've heard the basics by now many times.  Most of the seats up this year are in red states.  Obama's popularity is in the tank.  The voters registered with the party controlling the White House don't show up for midterms and, on top of that, there's a "six-year-itch" in two-term Presidencies that drives unaffiliated voters to vote for the "out" party in that circumstance.  Historically, all true.  And, if history was inclined to repeat itself, then surely the poll numbers would reflect that.

Except that they aren't.

A little bit of context.  By this time four years ago, the polls were producing across-the-board numbers that pointed to a major GOP wave.  You have only to look back at those numbers to see that.  And, thanks to the data available on the Real Clear Politics Web site, we can do just that.  By this time four years ago, the RCP average across polls for party preference in Congressional elections favored Republicans by 6.5%.  Today, however, they only have a 3.0 lead.  A statistical tie, for all practical purposes.

And even that is inflated by off-the-chart Republican leads from polls produced by three "old media" outlets:  CBS, ABC News/Washington Post, and Associated Press/GfK.  Take those out, and the difference between the parties is zero.  And, frankly, there's every reason in the world to take them out.  In the digital age, old media have lost almost all but their oldest viewers, the ones that more typically vote Republican.  The other pollsters, while in some cases biased by the source (e.g., Fox, Rasmussen), without exception show no more than a one or two percent lead for either party.  There's little doubt that they are trying to achieve a true demographic balance in building their samples.

If that's true, it shatters one more myth about midterm elections:  that they are dominated by older voters.  The absence of a true Republican "wave" in this year's polls suggest that 2014 might not run true to that form.  There's yet another reason to think that.  Namely, that the pollsters themselves are fearful that they might be undercounting younger, Democratic-leaning voters.  Both The Huffington Post Pollster and The New York Times have recently raised this as a possibility.  Again, this is a problem related to the demographics of communications; younger voters are harder to reach by telephone than older voters, so pollsters always run the danger of oversampling the latter.  The problem, however, is that, at present, there's no statistically valid way to "correct" for that.

What does all this ultimately mean for November 4th?  Jump ball, in my opinion, with each party's ground game being the key to success.  This election certainly will test whether Obama and his organizers really have found a way to revolutionize getting progressive voters to the polls.

You, of course, can do your part to help prove that they have done it.  Vote.  Not because the polls tell you to do it, but because your values make you do it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why The Republicans Want You To Stay At Home On November 4

Unless, of course, you're a Republican, that is.  But even then, they're not interested in you, and certainly not in your fellow citizens on the opposite side of the partisan divide.

What they are interested in is not smaller government.  Not in more personal responsibility.  Not in promoting personal charity.  And not in protecting and promoting democracy around the globe.  Those are the things they're content to put on their bumper stickers, to give you a reason to support them that sounds nice but, ultimately, in the world that you and I wake up in, means absolutely nothing.

Because what they're really interested in has nothing to do with changing your life for the better.  What they're interested in is changing their lives for the better.  By pursuing the one and only thing that they really want.

Control.  Of you.  Of me.  Of all of us.  And everything.

Does that sound like a purely partisan whine?  Honestly, I wish that it was.  But it isn't.  It's the conclusion I come to just by following news on the Internet.  In fact, it's the only conclusion I can come to by doing that.

Why do you think that wages have remained flat for the past 35 years?  So that the GOP and its corporate masters could stop treating you like servants, and start treating you like slaves.  After all, only slaves would be expected to sign non-competition clauses for work that can be done by anyone.  Or non-disparagement clauses that desperately try to conceal the ultimately unconcealable nature of their true intentions.

For that matter, why do you think they are willing to openly declare, without fear of failure or even opposition, that they want to control the entire process of voting?   Or to try to deny access to technology that could benefit everyone, while exploiting it for themselves?  Or to suppress any exposure of their activities, or dissention within their own ranks?  They know that they can only retain power on a playing field that's tilted in their favor.  Because they can't compete in the marketplace of ideas.  Because they have no ideas whatsoever.  Only a obsession with control.

And that obsession has no limits.

It doesn't stop with sex.

It doesn't stop with water.

It doesn't stop with your safety, or your life.

It doesn't even stop with the fact of its own failure, and the obvious need to change course.

And that's why this author couldn't possibly be more wrong if he tried.  This election DOES matter.  If you decide to sit it out, you may not have the choice of sitting out the next one.  In fact, you may have even fewer choices to dissent, to express yourself, or to live your life.

So vote.  If you don't want to vote for the Democrats, fine.  Vote for a third party.  Write-in your grandmother.  But whatever else you do, get out there and let them know that you care about what they're trying to do to your life, and everyone's life.

Cynicism can just provide them with another path to control.  Don't walk down that path.  They're desperate for you to do it.  Make them unhappy.  And preserve your right to keep on doing so in the future.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A "War" On Whites?

Or do we just stop calling it a massacre when the other side fights back?  If that's the case, I'll be happy to fight a "war" any day, Mr. Brooks.

Farewell To A Good Man, And A Good Republican

One who wasn't afraid to agree with "the other side," especially on an issue that, for sadly personal reasons, was deeply relevant to him.  RIP, Mr. Brady.  And thanks to you and your wife Sarah for all that both of you did on behalf of gun sanity, and for what she will continue to do.

What The Siberian Craters Tell Us

Simply this:  that we really are destroying ourselves through climate change.

Science Shows That Things Aren't Possible, Until It Can Show That They Are

Here's a case in point:  a "Star Trek"-type engine that may revolutionize space travel.

How To Build The Case For Administrative Action On Immigration

It's not just a question of prosecutorial discretion with regard to deportations; it's also releasing unused visa numbers and expanding work authorization.  Take a look.

It IS God's Creation, After All

Further weakening the GOP's power to make the world safer for polluters and dangerous for the rest of us, there are more and more signs that religious conservatives are seeing the light when it comes to protecting the world He, She, It or They made.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

And, If You Vote For No Other Reason, Vote For This One

The right to be able to vote in the future.

I'm dead serious.  Nothing frustrates me more than to listen to people talk about not voting as though doing so was some kind of noble, selfless act on behalf of the Republic.  And never mind, just for the purpose of this post, how many people have fought and died for your right to sit at home on Election Day.

Your refusal to vote does not stop the election from happening.  A new Congress will be elected, whether you want it to be elected or not.  If you refuse to vote, a magical, better-than-all-of-the-above candidate is not going to show up.  And, even worse, even if such a person existed, he or she would not be inspired to run by your absence from the polling place.

Because all that your refusal to vote accomplishes is the fueling of the apathy that is slowly but surely killing our political system.  It's not just your voice that we lose when you refuse to vote.  It's the voices of hundreds, thousands, even millions of people whose own indifference to their voice in society is encouraged by your own.

And, worse yet, the forces in our society that you resent the most are utterly dependent not on your voting for one of the two major political parties, but on your not voting at all.  In the forty-plus years that I have followed national politics, I have never seen a more blatant effort than the one mounted by the Republicans over the last four years to keep people away from the polls.  They have no shame about either their lust for power or the fact that they can't hold on to that power if you show up.  There have been any number of articles on the Internet, and even in what the former half-term governor of Alaska calls the "lame-stream" media, on this subject.  But, if you need a primer or summary, Mother Jones is happy to help you.

Today, it may be minor restrictions on your right, like voter ID laws.  Do not think those restrictions could not become major ones by the next election.  Do not think that those restrictions could prevent you from voting, now or in the future.  Why shouldn't they, if you don't care enough to vote?  That's not me asking that question.  That's the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement that now completely controls it asking that question.  And don't worry about them finding the answer; they've already got it for you.  And trust me:  you'll dislike that answer even more than you dislike the current crop of candidates.

If you don't want to vote for the Democrats, fine.  Vote for a third, fourth or fifth party.  Vote for a write-in candidate.  Whatever you do, VOTE.  Vote like your life and your country depend on it.

Because they do.  Apathy doesn't create the future.  Voting does.

Above All, Don't Be Afraid To Fight The Politics Of Fear

The Republican Party is a conservative party in a time when conservatism has lost much of its appeal.  The base of the conservative movement is over 65 and, without putting too fine a point on it, is dying off.  The boomers are a split group politically, while the Generation X-millennial cohort wants nothing to do with the movement that brought them the Iraq war and the Great Recession.  During the 2014 campaign, now entering its home stretch, they have not even bothered to make this a campaign of issues, because they know perfectly well that the issues are against them.  One of their leading media mouthpieces, second-generation hack John Podhoretz, has gone so far as to speculate in print that this failure may even end up costing them control of the Senate.  And he may even be right.

But that hasn't stopped the Greedy Old Party from playing its Number One political trump card:  fear.

You can barely open your shrinking newspaper, play with your remote or click on your mouse without tripping over the latest effort to scare you into voting Republican.  Fear of Ebola.  Fear of an assassination attempt on the President, or other public officials.  And, of course, when all else fails, there's always the magic terrorist button to push.  Down in Arkansas, where Tom Cotton is trying to unseat long-time Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, this button is being pushed to a ridiculous extent.  This race is still close in the polls, so it remains to be seen how well this strategy will work.

But the precedent set by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the wake of 9/11 should be very much in everyone's minds when someone tries to turn your ballot into a panic button.  They launched a senseless war that bankrupted our Treasury and tore apart a country of seething factions, all because they wanted to look for non-existent weapons.  And what happened to those factions, once the "democratic" government we imposed showed signs of collapsing.  At least some portions of them morphed into ISIS.  To which we are now being once again asked to respond with fear.  And more boots on the ground.  And more money that we don't have.  And so on.

Let me be blunt.  Obama didn't create ISIS; Bush and Cheney did.  And Ebola has been a health menace long before Obama reached the White House.  And the intruders in the White House might not have made it in as far as they did had sequestration not denied the Secret Service an additional 500 agents (a story you'll find on the Internet, but not on our so-called "liberal" mainstream media).  Just as we might have had a head start on dealing with Ebola had the Senate, with the help of the National Rifle Association, turned the President's nomination for Surgeon General into a political sideshow.  (One wishes, in fact, that Obama would do this, but it's too theatrical for him).  If you feel that you have a reason to be afraid, here's a dirty little secret for you:  the people pushing fear are the ones who gave you a reason to be afraid.

So do yourself and everyone you know a big favor.  Don't cave in to their craven, cowardly attempts to manipulate you.  Stand up.  Speak up.  Talk to your friends, your co-workers, your family, your neighbors, total strangers if you have to.  Remind them of the old expression "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."  And then remind them that we've been fooled by these people triple-digit times.  And that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result.

If you do all that, it just might work.  It just might save the country.  And yourself.

And One More Thing, That The Democrats Need Badly

A fifty-state strategy.

No, I don't mean for this election, which is already a cake that is largely baked, one way or the other.  I mean a return to the strategy Howard Dean launched after he went from unsuccessful Presidential contender in 2004 to Democratic National Committee chairperson the following year.  Dean took his pioneering work in Internet campaigning and used it to launch a strong Democratic Party presence in every single state in the country.  He didn't care about the "blue-red" divide that on which both the Republicans and the media thrive.  He understood that part of the purpose of a truly national party was to pull together as many Americans as possible, from as many walks of life and sets of beliefs as possible.  He understood that doing this gave you the long-term voter bedrock that allowed you to survive and surmount the short-term shocks of political life.  Above all, he understood that doing anything else turned you into a regional party at best, and a former political party at worst.

It was this strategy, in 2006, that gave the Democrats the national strength to not only reclaim the House, but (by a tiny margin) the Senate as well.  Of course, Republican failures helped to augment that strength.  But what really made victory possible, especially in the Senate, was a willingness to run and support candidates in "red" states, like Jim Webb in Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana, that would not have been supported by the party's national base.  When the Obama wave hit in 2008, this strategy was still in place, and it elected Democrats all over the county--especially in the Senate, where it push the party close to the point of a filibuster-proof majority.

Unfortunately, two things conspired to end that strategy:  Democratic hubris in the wake of the Obama blowout, and Republican divisiveness in the form of the Tea Party.  National Democratic leaders started to push for immediate satisfaction of all party goals, even the ones with somewhat dicey national support.  And Republicans, upon seeing this, used it to revive their ancient divide-and-conquer strategy, in the form of Tea Party activism.  The result:  stalemate, and the 2010 elections, lost because Democrat "purists" felt that they were accomplishing something by staying home.  They were accomplishing something, all right:  a Republican majority in the House that has done enormous damage to our country, and the hopes of Democratic activists as well.

I am already hearing echos of this "purism" regarding the 2014 election, now three weeks away, specifically on the subject of immigration reform.  Many Democratic activists want to try to "teach" Obama a lesson because he has pushed back his promised of administrative relief until after the election.  Do they really think implementing administrative relief will be any easier if Republicans end up controlling both houses of Congress?  Not when the Republicans have greater power to control the budget process and use it toward policy ends.  They have already indicated that they can and will do as much.

To accomplish anything of lasting value, the Democratic Party has to be the Democratic Party of the United States, not the Democratic Party of New York, California, or Maryland.  It has to build a dialogue and, ultimately, a platform that can be supported across the county.  That is how you not only win seats in red states, but keep them as well.  That is how you build a majority that perseveres over the long haul, and builds lasting support over that time for your goals.

2014 may be uncertain, but 2016 and beyond don't have to be.  The instant this election is over, the Democrats need to come together from across the country.  And talk together.  Organize together.  Raise funds together.  Support each other through thick and thin.  And act like a party that gets its support from everywhere.  It's the only way it will be supported everywhere.

Discipline And Dirty Fingernails: What Our Politics Need Most

Given the fact that we are on the eve of yet another national election, and given further the election's potential consequences, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about politics.  Not just the current political scene, but national politics over the course of the 40-plus years that I've followed it.  Obviously, in that much time, many things have changed.  Leaders have come and gone (and, occasionally, as in the case of such diverse figures as Richard Nixon and Jerry Brown, come back again).  Policies have changed in most cases for the better and, in some cases, for the worse.  But two things have seemed to remain constant.  And each of them is a problem that afflicts our national political parties--the Republicans in one case, and the Democrats in the other.

Let's start with the Republicans.  Coming into the post-1960s era of politics, the GOP was divided into two large factions, a moderate wing focused on collaboration, and a reactionary wing focused on control.  The two candidates fighting for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, highlighted and exemplified that philosophical divide.  What united them as Republicans, perhaps as much as anything, was a sense that American society and its government in particular had grown fat and decadent, and needed a measure of discipline to get it back on course.

The moderates were willing to work within the existing system, with Democrats, to make that happen.  The reactionaries hated the system itself, especially since it occasionally permitted outcomes they didn't like.  They saw the system as something to be either destroyed or subverted.  If you look at our current political landscape, and compare it to the early 1970s, you can see that the reactionaries have won, first by taking over the Republican Party, and then by bullying the Democrats into submission.  Everything after that was just a question of using the Republican money advantage, maximized by Reaganomics, to buy out anything that even looked like it might be opposition, especially in the media.

How did this happen?  Well, there is no doubt that the events of the 1970s--Watergate, stagflation, the oil shocks and the rise of fundamentalism both here and abroad--set the stage for it in terms of public opinion.  But the key asset that Republicans had was the Democratic Party itself, and its commitment to process--a commitment that has, over much of the last 40 years, allowed it to be yoked into voting for bad compromises with Reagan Republicans for the sake of "bipartisanship."

A complete list of such compromises would go not only beyond the scope of this post, but perhaps the bandwidth permitted for this blog.  Perhaps it's best summed up in one word:  Iraq.  Our rush to invade that pseudo-country to destroy non-existent weapons of mass destruction was enabled by Democrats afraid to make our system look "weak" by standing up for the truth, the one that that should matter most.  As a result, as "Iraq" has morphed into ISIS, our invasion has launched a nightmare for us and the entire world that may have no end, except the end of us all.

One occasionally reads or hears some pundit or posting mourning the loss of moderate Republicans who were willing to put America ahead of conservative politics.  Likewise, one occasionally read or hears someone else mourning the absence of tough-minded Democrats like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, leaders who were willing to push the process to its limits--and, sometimes, beyond them--to make the country better.

I think that hoping for the resurrection of moderate Republicanism is a lost cause.  Almost all of the moderates have been chased out of elective office; the tiny handful that are left, including Susan Collins, have been battered into submission by the fear of being "primaried" by the Tea Party.  And, in a democracy, I think there's an inherent problem in expecting national discipline to be a top-down process.  In the post-1989 world, it's a big mistake to think that any political movement can truly be top-down.  The Soviets tried to use Communism to contain the individual desires of millions and failed, just as the Tea Party is now failing here, from stopping Obamacare to stopping gay marriage.

And, speaking of Obamacare, here's where today's Democrats can learn a lesson from their recent past.  House Democrats, lead by Nancy Pelosi, used the budget reconciliation process to make the ACA a reality.  In other words, Obamacare happened because Pelosi was willing to steal a page from the GOP playbook.  The GOP, of course, paid her and her colleagues the compliment of describing it as "dirty politics," not realizing that, in the process, they were covering themselves with their own soil.  Nancy Pelosi, in effect, conceded a matter of principle that the opposition in effect had already trashed, and lost her Speakership in the process.  But she showed, in the process, that true leadership does not consist of sitting in your office, soaking in bourbon and cash.

So, to my Republican friends, I would say the following.  Don't try to use government, the thing you allegedly hate, to hammer away at your goals.  Learn the lesson that all of us need to exercise self-discipline, on the left and on the right.  And, in your case, a key part of self-discipline means refusing to save democracy by trashing it completely.  You will find that it inspires a greater willingness on the other side to buy into your ideas, and turn the into a reality that enjoys popular support.

And, to my Democratic friends, I would say this.  The process is not a straightjacket.  The other side doesn't treat it that way, and neither should you.  In a democracy, it should always have enough flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the people.  And, when the other side gives you an opening, don't be afraid to get your fingernails a little dirty--especially when the other side has already forfeited that argument.

In either case, I'm not arguing for extremism.  I'm arguing that both sides need to relearn some basic principles, if they want democracy to function.  I want it to function.  Badly.  And I'm very sure that I'm not alone.

Henry Kissinger: A War Criminal?

That is how one close friend of mind once described him, and how many people view him.  Actually, she added stronger language to that phrase, which I have chosen not to repeat here.

In any case, this, so far as I am concerned, is an appropriate log for that fire.  Certainly, any man who views entire nations and their peoples as disposable pawns in a zero-sum power game deserves to be viewed that way, Nobel Peace Prize or not.

Friday, October 10, 2014

From Your Mouth To God's Ears (Literally), Mike!

Do it.  And divide the Republican base forever.

Is Prairie Populisim Rising Again?

Maybe.  Let's hope so.

How Far To The Right Have We Lurched? Just Look Where We Are On Raising The Minimum Wage

Raising it on a regular basis was once a bipartisan cause.  For some Republicans, including former members of Congress, it still is.  But not for Boehner and his bourbon back-room buddies--including the ones who supposedly drink "tea."

If you are capable of voting blue for no other reason, at least do it for this one.

Bravo, Lincoln Center!

The arts and green power.  An unbeatable combination.  Now if only we could get the Koch name off of the New York State Theater ...

RIP, Jan Hooks

Your untimely death is another painful reminder both of how life is unfair, and how long it has been since SNL has been relevant, let alone funny.  Thanks for the memories.