Sunday, November 30, 2014

Don't Be Too Depressed About New York Landmarks

Many are still being saved and reused, like the Victoria Theater (as I reported the other day).  Here's another one.  Long live Pier A!

Weapons Are Made To Be Used

Hence, more guns, more crime.  Numbers don't lie.

Government Does Succeed

Whether the problem is Ebola or promoting solar energy.  Republicans don't want to tell you that, but Paul Krugman is happy to help you.

Curious About The Storage Closets Of New York Museums?

Take a look.

Lest You Doubt The Hypocrisy In Ferguson ...

... consider how differently the same prosecutor in charge of the Darren Wilson grand jury investigation deals with an African-American officer and a lesser offense.

Even Republicans Agree ...

... that Obama should have been on the campaign trail.  They're right.  Only Democrats have this kind of talent for shooting themselves in both feet.

Will The Supreme Court Gut Obamacare, And Thereby Give Obama A Chance To Improve It?

Once again, Obamacare is in jeopardy.  Or so it seems.

The Supreme Court is going to consider the question of whether, under the language of the Affordable Care Act, subsidies are permitted for individuals who purchase insurance through an insurance exchange operated by the federal government.  The lower-court suit is little more than a proxy for gutting Obamacare all together, since the "affordability" part of the ACA is largely based on those subsidies, and their loss would put the entire law in danger of total failure.  The suit is only possible in the first instance because of sloppy legislative drafting, which in turn was made possible by the rush to get the ACA from Congress to the White House.  Fixing the drafting would be easy, but would now require the approval of a Republican Congress.  You can figure out the rest.

On the other hand, is it truly that easy that easy for them?  You know most Democrats tend to be worry-warts, and even the possibility of a mortal blow to President Obama's signature accomplishment has them on red alert.  And, after last month's election, it's undoubtedly a lot easier for progressives to give in to despair.  But just because it's easier doesn't mean that it's true.  There are two powerful reasons to believe that Obamacare is not in danger at all.  And, even if those reasons should not help to carry the day for the ACA in the Supreme Court, there may actually be an opportunity for Democrats in the wake of defeat--if they are strong enough to seize it.

The first reason rests in the strength, or lack thereof, in the arguments made by the plaintiffs in the case that the Court will consider.  As a matter of law, deference to congressional intent by the courts is quite extreme.  If the government gives any reasonable interpretation of a statute in implementing it, the government wins if that implementation is challenged.  In effect, the plaintiffs in this case would have to prove that it is unreasonable to assume that subsidized coverage was the intention of the Affordable Care Act.  Even granting that this Court has an appetite for challenging settled law, it seems doubtful that they would go as far as the plaintiffs want them to go in this case.  It would open up the proverbial floodgates to challenges to every drafting error made by every Congress--including many made by Republican Congresses.  The game simply wouldn't be worth the candle, and the conservative majority on the Court knows it.

And when the conservative majority on the Court isn't moved by settled law, it is surely moved by the power of the corporate interests it serves through that the Citizens United decision, as well as others.  And, whether conservatives like it or not, the simple fact of the matter is that Obamacare has been good for American corporations, especially health insurance corporations.  John Roberts and his cronies aren't going to want to upset that applecart.

And what if they do?  What should Democrats do then?  Spend all of their time crying in their beer?  Or do the one thing any political party should do in defeat--go on fighting for what it believes is right?  I don't know about you, but I think the answer is obvious.  Oppose any effort to use the Court's ruling to defund Obamacare, and push to make it even better--not simply by extending subsidized coverage, but making it even easier for states to set up single payer systems, as Vermont is currently doing under the provisions of the ACA.  Corruption on the part of one party is not an excuse for the other party to cave into it.  You don't end fighting by running from a fight--you end it by winning.

So, my advice to progressives regarding this latest twist in the road for the ACA?  Cheer up.  And then buck up.  Remember the words of Edward Kennedy, a lifelong champion of health care reform: 
For all my years in public life, I have believed that America must sail toward the shores of liberty and justice for all. There is no end to that journey, only the next great voyage. We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make.

In Defense Of Malia And Sasha

In case you have not seen or otherwise heard about this yet, allow me to introduce you to the latest, and without a doubt one of the most egregious, examples of right-wing bullying.

It turns out that not even so innocuous (and ridiculous) an event as the Presidential pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey is exempt from the shrill voices of the Republican echo chamber.  Not when the President in question is Barack Obama, that is.  This year, the President's now-teenage daughters, Malia and Sasha, attended the silly holiday event and, in the eyes of at least some spectators, appear to be bored.  Perhaps they were.  If they were bored, as far as I'm concerned, that merely shows that their parents and grandmother are doing a good job of raising them.  If they were so superficial and idiotic as to think this idiotic tradition should be a source of fascination to them, I for one would be deeply disappointed.

But Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), felt that their facial boredom, as well as their clothes, were nothing less than a national scandal.  Overlooking the fact that her job permits her to speak for her boss, and not herself, she decided to post the following on Facebook:
Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.
Dear Ms. Lauten:

Sasha and Malia are indeed in "those awful teen years."  And, by all reports, they have handled themselves and the position in society that they did not choose to have in exemplary fashion.  It's clear from the cheap shot at their parents you've tucked into your "letter" that you are just using them as a proxy for an attack on the President that you are not brave enough to make openly.  Your lack of courage and character in this regard is your problem.  Trying to make it a problem for these two young women, who have done nothing to you or your employer, is worse than reprehensible.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way they are dressed.  This was not a formal event.  It is a stupid public ceremony that should have been retired long ago.  I'm sure they have much better things to do with their time (like their homework) than humor their father by putting in an appearance at it.  Frankly, humoring him IS showing a little class.

And that doesn't even take into account the fact this President, and his family, have spent six years subject to the most vitriolic hatred to which any president has been subjected to since Lincoln.  They have been the object of egregious racism.  They have been subject to a level of public and physical threats greater than any modern President and his family have had to endure.  And, thanks to the budget cuts approved by your employer's party, those threats have followed them all the way into the White House itself.  If, after all of that, they look no worse than "bored," they've shown more class than your party has shown in the last six years.

As for your "apology,"  color me unimpressed.  Your insulting post is out there on the Internet forever, where it will continue to inflict harm on Sasha and Malia, and provide aid and comfort to others who don't have the decency or the guts to criticize the President directly.  And, if you truly needed prayer to understand that what you did was wrong, you have no business whatsoever working in public service.

I do have a suggestion.

If you want your apology to be taken seriously, then take your own advice and "show a little class."  Or, at least, a little humility.  Go to the White House in person, and meet with the President, the First Lady, and their daughters.  Apologize in person.  And take a little time to get to know all four of them as people.  You will have demonstrated a true spirit of sorrow in the process, and you may end up making a small contribution to the public dialogue both sides of the political divide need to have.

And, on top of that, I'll forgive you as well.

Stephen Rourke

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Can Hillary Still Win?

If so, she's going to have to start by finding a different voice on economic matters from that of her husband.  Hopefully, he recognizes that as well.  By this time two years from now, we'll find out just how adaptable his legendary adaptability really is.

One Answer To The Problems Of Vacant Urban Lots

Urban farms, a trend that has now spread to Baltimore.

Solar Power: A SUCCESSFUL Public Investment

Those are the facts.  Republicans certainly won't promote them.  Let's hope the Democrats aren't so shy.

In Harlem, The Apollo Gets A New/Old Neighbor

The renovated Victoria Theater, which will now serve as the entrance to a new hotel but will still contain a performance space.  I'm kind of surprised I'm embracing this as easily as I am, because, in my early days as a theater preservationist, I was not a big fan of this kind of adaptive re-use.  As I've gotten older, and more aware of the limits that modern life imposes on preservation efforts, my thinking about adaptive re-use has become more flexible.  It's always good to save as much as you can and, if projects like the Victoria accomplish that, I'm all for them.

In Chattanooga, The Camel Nose Of The UAW Pokes Under The VW Tent

With VW's blessing.  It's a long way from a true collective bargaining agreement, but it's a start.

One More Piece Of Good News From Election Night

Stacking state judicial elections was a complete failure.  At the same time, the fact that it was unsuccessful is all the more reason for progressives to work harder in the next election at taking back power at the local level.  Clearly, trying to do so is not hopeless.  Equally clearly, it's never been more essential to do so that it is now.

It's About Time, Mr. President--And It's Still Not Enough

In national elections, the two-month period between a big election victory and assuming power is a time when our national politics is basically in a victory-lap mode.  The party that wins is predicting that their good times will last forever, the party that loses wonders if it will ever win again, and the media is gloating about how they predicted the outcome all along (even if they didn't).  Rarely does anything happen during the two-month period to rain on this predictable parade.

Enter Barack Obama, stage left, pulling a giant thunderhead labeled "executive action on immigration reform."

For some of us, to extend the theatrical metaphor, the arrival of the president and executive action has been a little bit like waiting for Godot--something that seemingly would never happen, while we passed the time watching our vaudevillian politicians demonstrate the meaninglessness of life.  As it turns out, God writes better drama than Beckett did.  Godot, in the form of Obama, finally showed up, and in a big way.  And Republicans are furious.  To be sure, their anger is in theory based on the President has allegedly abused his power.  But history, the thing that conservatives supposedly worship, proves them wrong.  So that argument, much like the President's next budget, is dead on arrival.

Of course, their fury might actually account for something, if they could manage to unite around a united course of action.  And the corporate media are waiting for them to do just that; there's nothing they like better than beginning a headline or a news story with the words "Republicans United."  But that may be easier said than done.  Republicans may think, for the moment, that they can paper over their very real differences on the issue by talking about "outreach."  But real outreach means giving something to voters that goes beyond sloganeering, and the immigrant community knows it, even if the GOP doesn't.

For Democrats and their supporters, especially for those in the immigration community (immigrants, and their advocates), this is in fact a tremendous opportunity to spike the punch bowl in the Republicans victory party.  One is forced to wonder where we would be politically, had Obama gone against the wishes of red-state Democrats and issued his executive orders back in the spring.  Would the outcome in November have been significantly different?  It's certainly hard to imagine how it could have been much worse.

Putting 20-20 hindsight aside, here are the steps the Democrats should take to climb through the window of opportunity that the President has opened for them:

First, use the orders as a launch pad for a renewed effort at passing a comprehensive immigration bill.  As you have no doubt read by now, somewhere between 4 to 5 million undocumented people now have a chance to live their lives openly, thanks to Obama's executive orders.  However, that leaves somewhere between 6 to 7 million in the shadows.  This is because the relief provided by the orders depends fundamentally on either being a parent, or entering the U.S. as a child.  For those who do not fall into either category, Obama's actions offer no help.  And, even if they did, there would still be a desperate economic need for changes to provide more visas for foreign guest workers and investors, and faster processing times for petitions currently backlogged for decades.  That's right.  Not years.

As for foolish and empty Republican rhetoric about poisoning the well, or playing with matches, not only should it be ignored, it should be defied.  Obama should make a commitment not to sign anything until Congress sends him a bipartisan, comprehensive bill.  If they send him the bill previously approved by the Senate, fine.  If they send him something better, fine.  If they send him something substantially worse, veto it--and tell them to go back to the drawing board.  Tell them that their two previous years of stubbornness have helped allow a human rights crisis to fester, and that it will no longer be tolerated.  That stubbornness, combined with the magnitude and inhumanity of the problem, justifies a hard-line stance.

Second, use the orders and the effort to launch CIR as a vehicle for launching a broader argument in favor of economic fairness, and legislation to achieve it.  Much of the what-went-wrong analysis for the Democrats has focused on the absence of a strong message focused on economic inequality, and I agree with this.  Immigration reform is a key part of addressing inequality; it has been documented beyond doubt that immigrants, documented and undocumented, generate more in tax revenues than they receive in public benefits, which creates a bigger "pie" for all of us.

Far from being a weapon to use against Democrats in their efforts to broaden their base, immigration reform provides an opportunity for tying the needs of immigrants to the broader economic needs of voters--bank reform, a higher minimum wage, infrastructure repair, voting rights, union organization, student debt, and so on.  Democrats continuously shoot themselves in the foot by failing to understand that these are the types of issues that cross the North-South divide in our politics.  Immigration reform could a key in helping to bridge that gap in time for 2016.

So congratulations, Mr. President.  Thanks for spiking the Republican punch bowl.  And urge your allies in Congress and across the country to find other ways to crash the party.  Perhaps the outcome will be an even bigger and better celebration in two years--for the undocumented, and for all of us.  After all, all of us except for Native Americans are immigrants.  It's time to embrace that fully.  It's good politics, and, more importantly, it's the right thing to do--which is what our politics are supposed to be about in the first place.

A Few, Hopefully Helpful, Thoughts About Ferguson

By now, it is beyond any doubt that the election of the first African-American president in our nation's history did not herald the emergence of a "post-racial" era.  Far from it.  Rather, it has unleashed the racism that has been bottled up in a large segment of the American people, and that previously only surfaced in code, with "state's rights" being the most frequently-used code phrase of all.  It has served to reaffirm the position of racism as the original sin of the Republic, ignored in the Declaration of Independence, codified in the Constitution, promoted through legal segregation and voting restrictions even after a civil war ended slavery, and used again and again in modern times by one of our two major political parties as a wedge issue, and as a major component of its national strategy.

It is not surprising that Missouri, given its key role in the nineteenth-century effort to keep America "half-slave and half-free," to borrow from Lincoln, should serve as the location for the flash point of the anger that has been building for some time about the decline of white power in our national culture and politics.  Geographically, the Show-Me State is at the intersection of the Union-Confederacy dividing line, and its history with regard to race relations has been described as "tortured."  The tragedy of Michael Brown's death, and the violence that followed, could easily have happened elsewhere in the state; the town of Ferguson was just the unlucky and unhappy landing point for the racial lightning that was always destined to strike.

And make no mistake:  there are two real and distinct tragedies here.  Whether you like Michael Brown or not, and whether you think of him as a criminal or not, he was unarmed and take from his family and friends by the power of the state.  You do not have to think of him as a pillar of the community to realize that this is not only wrong as it relates to Michael Brown, but to any one of us in a similar situation.  And thanks to the post-9/11 militarization of the police, any of us, and therefore potentially all of us, can easily be in that situation.

In fairness to the police, however, they are not aided by the efforts of gun-rights activists, many of them with racial motivations, to flood this country with firearms.  But the combination of firepower that now exists on both sides of the police-citizen divide desperately calls for a major rethinking of the distribution and regulations of firearms in this country, a regulation that was not only written into the Constitution through the Second Amendment (sorry, Mr. Justice Scalia, but that's the truth), but was also at one time supported by the National Rifle Association itself.  And, if the death of Michael Brown does not move you to support such a rethinking, perhaps this will.

Violence breeds violence, and Brown's death is no exception to that fact.  And that statement is one of fact, not of support to the instigators of the second tragedy--the rioters in Ferguson allegedly "protesting" the grand-jury decision not to indict the officer who killed Brown.  Their anger was legitimate; their actions were not.  The destruction for which they, and they alone, are ultimately responsible, harmed white and black residents and businesses, promoted social division within the community, and provide political ammunition for those who view Brown's death not as a tragedy, as they should, but as a triumph.

Where do we all go from here?  And, in the immortal words of Rodney King, can't we all get along?

Where we go from here is peaceful, large-scale, sustained protest.  A successful reform moment isn't distinguished by the drama it creates.  It is distinguished by the unwillingness of its members to give up.  Instead of giving up, we must show up.  Every day.  In every state.  In every town.  And we must do it together, crossing not only geographic lines, but racial ones as well.  We must stop shouting, and start talking, and listening.  And, in the process, we must not forget that a young man was unnecessary taken from his family and his community.  We will never know what his life might have been otherwise, and what we might have lost as a consequence of his death.  None of us who become adults are who we are as teenagers.

And the organized protests must, inevitably, turn toward organized political action.  Toward electing politicians who believe in solving problems, not in dividing and conquering the people.  That, sadly, is the difference between the two major parties today.  And, lest you think I'm coming from an overly partisan perspective, consider this.  Frankly, in the short run, if you want to make a small difference, you can get involved in next Saturday's run-off Senate election in Louisiana, a state that was purged of much of its African-American population by the "response" to Hurricane Katrina.  Organize.  Contribute.  And VOTE.  Use the election to send a message to the divide-and-conquer party that the people are coming together, and on the march.

For a peaceful country.  For a united country.  For a country that does not use its young people as target-practice for its anger.  For a country that can face its original sin and finally overcome it.  For a country that can answer Rodney King with a simple "Yes, we can."

UPDATE (today):  Perhaps this is a small sign of hope.

Monday, November 24, 2014

History, Told In Pictures

Fifty photographs that may surprise you, but that also how little we change as a species over time.

How Reagan DIDN'T End The Cold War

Gorbachev and the East German government ended it.  Here's how.

Proof That The Arts Mean Dollars And Sense For Cities

They helped prevent Detroit's bankruptcy settlement from being far worse financially for the city's creditors and employees.  Let's hope that Detroit, in this regard and others, become a model for other financially distressed cities.

I Know No One Likes The IRS, But ...

... that shouldn't allow churches the freedom to try and serve God and Mammon at the same time.  Obama should tell the Service to grow a spine and go after these people.  I would, without any compunctions.

Hey Democrats, Want To Start Building A Bipartisan Platform For 2016?

Start with three words:  Repeal Citizens United.  Hammer them home at every opportunity that you have.  And it wouldn't hurt if you shoved this article in everyone's faces on a regular basis.

How To Save The Planet And Grow The Pie

Solar bike lanes.  Place along public roads, they can reduce pollution, and create a revenue stream for state and local governments.  Are you listening, Governor-in-Waiting Mizeur?

The View From An Independent

Take a look.  I agree with it, especially the part about the 50-state strategy.  Obama would have been nowhere without it.

Capitalism Explained

And yes, this really IS so funny that it hurts.  Especially since it's all true.  In any case, a reminder that, in real life, the only thing that capitalism has in common with the theory is the name.

THIS Is The Kind Of Minister Whose Political Views SHOULD Be Heard

The kind who reminds us that we are the change we seek.  I said that myself in an earlier post.  But perhaps not quite this well.

And A Memo To Maryland Republicans

Dump this guy.  Now.  Or Larry Hogan's puny hand of cards will get even smaller in a hurry.

Don't You Just Love It When They're This Honest?

I mean, about that N-word, Obama?  And my side is supposed to feel humiliated about Election Night?  Please.

Memo To Maryland Democrats: Get Over It

You nominated a gubernatorial candidate with no political instincts, despite the fact that he was given eight years to develop them.  In that sense, you deserved to lose.  Trust me, this is 2002 all over again.  Let Larry Hogan have his four years of incompetence.  It'll remind Marylanders of why they make the Free State a blue one.

And, best of all, this candidate will be waiting in the wings.  Someone who knows how to grow the pie, instead of just carving it up or raising its price.  Go, Heather!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Warren Anderson: A Portrait Of A Corporate Predator?

This New York Times obituary for Warren Anderson, the former chair and chief executive of Union Carbide Corporation, made me reflect on the life and times of his former corporation, some of which is (of course) is related in the obituary.

The obituary goes into considerable detail about the Union Carbide chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India.  The tragedy, in addition to the horrific Indian loss in lives, turned Mr. Anderson effectively into a fugitive from Indian justice for the rest of his life, while the financial toll from the settlement with Indian authorities and the public relations toll from the accusations made by Indian officials, employees and residents eventually took Carbide from the top of the Fortune 500 ranks to its current status as a subsidiary of Dow Chemical.

I can't say that anyone foresaw the Bhopal tragedy.  Certainly, I didn't.  But I can't say that I was completely shocked by it.  By the loss of life, yes.  But not by Carbide's evasive manner of dealing with it.

Union Carbide came on my radar (apart from Eveready commercials) during the 1970s, when my fascination with New York City, which began with the World's Fair, led to an obsession with media stories about the city's decline and near-fall.  On the economic side, a major part of that decline was the departure of corporate headquarters to the suburbs or the Sunbelt.  When Carbide announced, in 1976, that it was moving its world headquarters from New York City to Danbury, Connecticut, it was an especially devastating blow, as 3,500 employees were leaving the city with the headquarters.  Pleas from city and state officials were to no avail, as Carbide officials cited "quality of life" considerations (i.e., getting away from the city's soaring crime rate, but also easing the commute for top-ranking executives who lived in the suburbs).

At the time, departures such as Carbide's were considered to exemplify the superior wisdom of nimble private-enterprise management, compared to the bureaucratic, tax-hungry perspective of public officials.  But corporate relocations--and the public incentives that often fuel them--have nothing to do with capitalism.  If anything, they reflect the laziness of both public and private officials who would rather play games than do the hard work of thinking about new and creative ways to make their companies, cities or states better.  Capitalism shouldn't be fueled by public-sector bribes, and governments shouldn't play favorites with their treatment of businesses.  Both practices are breeding grounds for corruption.

I'm not saying that, had Union Carbide remained in New York, the Bhopal disaster would never have occurred.  I am saying that the basic, looking-out-for-Number-One mentality that fuels these decisions, and the assistance provided in making them by public officials charged with looking out for the public interest, can be seen as the start of a slippery slope that begins in Danbury and ends in Bhopal.  If you are treated like a God, over and over again, you will be tempted to think you are infallible.  And, because you are not, that mindset makes you an inevitable, if not willing, agent of tragedy.

Perhaps Warren Anderson took to his grave the answer to question of what happened in Bhopal, and why.  Maybe it had nothing to do with the mindset that took Carbide to Connecticut.  But he was in upper management at the time both decisions were made.  It might have been his greatest gift if he could have found a way to share some insights into the Carbide mentality.  The corporation began its death spiral on his watch.  What he knew, or didn't know, might help other corporations, or public officials, from making the same mistakes.

A Little Advice By Way Of John Wanamaker

... you STILL are the change you seek.

I'm talking to progressives everywhere when I say that.  But I'm specifically talking to you, millennials.

This guy is partially right.  Obama and the Democrats need to offer you more to earn your vote.  But here's a little hint about the way in which democracy works:  you don't have to wait for them to do it.

And I'd like to offer a little inspiration from an unexpected source:  a one-percenter from an earlier century by the name of John Wanamaker.

If you're from Philadelphia, you already know who Wanamaker was.  The founder of what is believed to be the first department store in the United States, Wanamaker also was a major philanthropist in his home town of Philadelphia, and served as Postmaster General under President Benjamin Harrison.  In spite of those facts, his memorial at Philadelphia's City Hall has a simple inscription:

(Photo taken from

CITIZEN.  That's what John Wanamaker was to the people of Philadelphia, after he died.  More than a merchant, a government official or a philanthropist, he was a citizen.  He was involved in all aspects of his city's life.  "Citizen" was, as a consequence, the greatest title he could have been given.

Those of you who are experts on Wanamaker know that he was not a point-by-point progressive.  But that is not the point.  Rather, it is what his life meant to Philadelphians, and how they chose to honor him.

To be truly a citizen, one must be involved in all aspects of the life of your city, your county, your state and your country.  Not once in a while, and certainly not just every two years.  Or, for that matter, every four years, when the presidential elections show up.

You don't have to wait for Obama.  Or, for that matter, the next Obama.  And you certainly don't have to wait for the next opportunity to vote.  Why not decide to be the next Obama?  Run for office.  Follow the example of the GOP, and seize control of the Democratic Party at the local level.  Get yourself elected to local and state positions in government.  And run for Congress as well.

And, if you're not comfortable with being in the public eye, get involved anyway, and stay involved.  Organize.  Donate.  Register voters.  And never lose sight of the fact that Obama would never have happened in the first place, without you.  And someone like him will never happen again, without you.

Whatever you do, don't despair and drop out.  That simply guarantees the outcome the other guys want.  And it is never guaranteed.  They don't have to be in charge.  You're the ones who get to decide whether or not that happens.

So take this guy's advice.  And this one's.  And be a citizen.  Today, tomorrow, and the rest of your life.  You won't regret it.  And neither will your children and grandchildren.

Unsolitcited Advice For The President And His Party

President Obama's post-election news conference was a relief, after last week's disastrous election.  And, I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that.  Especially in the run-up to it, before he appeared at the podium, with reporters debating amongst themselves how far the President would go to offer terms of surrender.  Would he crawl in on his hands and needs?  Would he offer up a singed copy of the ACA on a silver platter?  You get the idea.

And, while there were a few moments of platitudes about cooperation, which is about all the similar GOP platitudes deserve, I was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised.

He didn't back off on his willingness to take executive action, especially with regard to immigration reform.  He didn't offer an apology for any of his accomplishments to date.  And he rebuffed the attempts of a reporter (from Fox, of course) to goad him into surrendering the last two years of his presidency to Congressional Republicans.

As Politico reported, there was no Clinton-style "pivot" designed to make Republicans or their supporters happy.  And that's exactly the right thing to do, after an election where two-thirds of the voters stayed home, and most of those people are your supporters.  And props to Obama for acknowledging that fact.

Like many of you, I have long been frustrated with the president's seemingly bottomless desire to start out on his knees in facing his opponents, and work his way down from there.  I'm taking the post-election news conference as a sign that those days are over.

They should be.  For him, and his party.  This is the essence of my advice to Obama and the Democrats:  break out of the "bipartisan" urge to surrender, and acknowledge what you are:  liberals.  Especially after an election in which liberalism won

Here are a few reasons why:

This election was not an anomaly.  It was the sixth year of a Democratic Presidency with a large number of red states in play.  There's nothing unusual when the party out of the White House loses seats after six years in power.  It happened in 1966, in 1974, in 1986 and in 2006.  Only the media, with its vested interest in being seen or read, says otherwise.  And it's high time for Democrats to stop worrying about whether the media likes them or not.  They don't.  So get over it, and get on with it.

You can win in a tough electoral environment for your party, if you don't apologize for who you are.  Going into this election, Republicans moved heaven and earth to make the Michigan Senate race a potential pick-up opportunity for them.  It didn't happen, because Gary Peters refused to run away from Obama.  Of course, it also helped that his opponent proved to have a talent for wackiness.  But so did other Senate Republican candidates, and they won.  Peters' willingness to stand up for his president and his party's values made the difference.  When 2016 rolls around, Democrats, and their patrons and voters, should look for more candidates like him.  Which leads me to this:

The 2016 electorate will not look like the 2014 version.  It will be bigger.  And younger.  The Republican base is essentially a dying base, that will diminish with each successive election.  President Obama and his allies in Congress need to remember that.  I expect that the president will remember that; I'm not so sure about his allies.  But I hope that I'm wrong.

The GOP controls Congress, but not the issues.  They spent the entire election running away from the issues.  Climate change is perhaps the biggest example; in fact, climate change cost them an election in this cycle, in deep-red Nebraska.  And it's not the only issue that going to haunt them over the next two years; with the expiration of the PATRIOT Act, the Republicans (to say nothing of the Democrats) will have to weigh the public's concerns about privacy in deciding whether or not to renew it, and to make changes in it.  This is one huge area where Obama and Democrats can take the lead, and recapture the loyalty of younger voters.  Students loans represent another.  As for the ACA, Republicans should be careful what they wish for; in its present form, the law has the potential to help people in states they control.  How far do they want to go in disrupting that potential?

It's no wonder that The National Review is telling the GOP not to govern.  The GOP has the election results.  Not the issues, not the majority of the people, and not the future.  Just a short-term election win in the long-haul struggles to make the greatest nation on earth even better.

Obama and the Democrats should not lose sight of any of this.  And neither should you, because ...

Liberals Lost, But Liberalism Won

If you're reading this, you are probably alternating between anger and depression.  As am I.  I've been doing that for most of the past five days.  How do I overcome it?

Simple.  By coming back to facts.  And this is the most important one about last Tuesday.  Other than the determination by the people of Kansas that they're going to experiment with economic suicide (and a senator who will continue to live in a La-Z-Boy in Virginia).

Liberals lost.  But liberalism won.  All over the country, in fact.

Start with what should have been the signature issue for Democrats in this election:  the minimum wage.  In referendums to increase it in four red states--three of which elected Republican senators the same day, with a fourth likely to follow suit--voters supported increasing it, as the also did in San Francisco and Illinois.

And it gets better from there.  Voters also rejected ballot initiatives restricting abortion, and approved ones to legalize marijuana.  And, in several instances, approved paid sick leave.

And fracking?  It lost.  In Texas, in the town that invented it, despite proponents outspending opponents by a 10-to-1 margin.  This is like a successful effort to ban tanning in California.

And where were the Republicans, the nominal big winners on Tuesday night?  What did they think of all of this?  We won't find out, I guess, until they take office next January.  Because they were too busy doing what they do best--deceiving the public--by trying hard to sound like Democrats, rather than the Tea Party.

What about the Democrats who sounded like Democrats?  Well, I have to admit there weren't a lot of them, because of bullying from the GOP and its media allies.  But they were there, and they won.  In Florida, and in Michigan (where the Democratic Senate candidate was the only Senate candidate not to run from President Obama).

So, unlike the media, and the Republicans, who have jointly concluded that conservatives have been given a century-long lease on life, what conclusions should we draw from the election disaster?

That it was about anger.  And GOP gimmicks.

The New York Times has described it as "The Tornado Election," saying that voters were simply so angry as to flatten everything in sight, without regard for who or what it was.  If that's the case, however, it's impossible to read this as an election whose outcome favors either party.  As I've said many times, anger isn't a philosophy, a policy or a program.  It's just anger, and it destroys everything it touches.

And if the Republican future now really depends on a combination of dark money, gerrymandering and voter restrictions, the party has effectively forfeited any claim it might otherwise have had to holding the hearts and minds of the American people.  The ballot initiative results forfeits it for them.

People, especially politicians come and go.  Issues are what ultimately drive politics, and dictate the outcomes.  The issues are clearly on our side.  It only remains for the Democrats and their supporters to remind people of that fact.  Every day.  From now until we're back in the saddle by November of 2016.

Which leads me to my next point ...