Saturday, March 28, 2015

We Need To Do A LOT MORE Than "Thank" Them

Veterans are justifiably fed up with our collective willingness to "thank" them for their service, and do little else.  And, after being patient with the rest of us for a long time, they're starting to talk about it. It's time for the rest of us to listen--and act on their behalf.

Are Unions Truly Poised For A Comeback?

If BloombergBusiness thinks it's so, perhaps it is.

A Black Judge's Words To White Murderers

They speak for themselves.

The Only Thing That Stops The GOP From Expanding Gun Ownership

The thought that a Democratic constituency might be armed as a result.  Guns for me, but not for thee. Well, at least Republicans are consistent.  Everything for them, nothing for you.

Injecting CO2 Back Into The Earth?

Can this help us reduce climate change?  Take a look.

Hell Freezes Over, Indeed (Part 2)

Why do I still believe in the future?  Because, every so often, the bad guys agree with you, whether it's the Missouri legislator who wants to limit campaign donations, or the terrible U.S. Senate Republican twins from Kentucky supporting the farming of hemp.

Hell Freezes Over, Indeed

A Republican introducing legislation to limit campaign financing?  In Missouri?  Wow!

Choosing Between Life And Liberty

Even though the Declaration of Independence states that we all have the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on top of both, conservatives want you to choose between the two--and to use vaccines, of all things, as the wedge to make you do it.  Keep in mind that they want to deprive your children of vaccines.  Not theirs.  Disgusting.

Could This Be The Beginning Of A Trend?

A Republican becoming a Democrat in Mississippi, to run for office?  Let's all wish him luck.  How wonderful it is that the ACA made him do it.

Houses Of The Future?

Affordable, movable, and (theoretically) even recyclable.

"Religious Freedom" Bills Are About Neither

This past week, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law a bill that allows Hoosiers the right to legally discriminate against any one, for any reason, merely on the basis of a "sincerely-held" religious belief.  It would be bad enough if Indiana was, in this regard, the sad exception that otherwise proved the rule that America is a tolerant county.  But, sadder still, it isn't.  As stated here, Indiana is actually the 20th state to pass such a law.

It states the obvious to say that these laws, which are almost certainly unconstitutional both on their face and in practice, are simply proxies for enabling the hatred that many conservative religious groups feel for the LGBT community.  After all, these groups are by far the most enthusiastic supporters of these bills--and when they express their support for them, their arguments are all about pushing back against the rise of support for marriage equality across the country.  Their focus, in other words, is not on real violations of religious freedom (banning specific religious services, closing churches, and so forth), nor is it on people who "offenses" against orthodoxy might involve non-sexual issues (like mixing wool with linen).  No, what they really want is the power of the state to stand behind their ability to shun LGBT individuals and couples.

Let's think about that for a moment.  Let's start by saying that, hypothetically, we accept the idea that LGBT individuals and couples, by embracing that aspect of their lives openly, are sinners in the hands of an angry God (to borrow a phrase).  I don't.  But it helps us to examine what it is that the "religious freedom" advocates (almost all of whom are Christian in faith) are really asking for the right to do.  What they are asking for is the right to refuse hospitality based on one aspect of human experience--sex.  And even then, they are not asking for the right to refuse service to people who have engaged in heterosexual misconduct (husbands cheating on wives, for example).

In short, they are asking for the right to judge, and refraining from the obligation to love, despite the fact that the Bible contains many more references to caring about outcasts and victims than it does about homosexuality, and reserves to God the right to judge.  The advocates of these bills are not asking for freedom to worship God.  They are asking for the freedom to supplant Him, Her, It or Them.  And no such freedom exists,either in the Bible or everyday life.

And they are also asking for the ability to supplant the power of the state (which is also established in the Bible) with whatever their "sincerity" of the moment inspires them to do.  Today, it may be refusing food service to members of the LGBT community.  Tomorrow, it might be burning them to the stake.  Or, it might be a more intermediate step on the slippery slope--like, say, the right to force them or others to go to church, and not necessarily the church of one's own choice.

Indiana, and the 19 other states that have enacted such laws, have already gone a long way down that slippery slope.  These laws surely can't survive legal challenges.  But, as long as they are on the books, they have the potential to enable things far worse than the refusal of public accommodations. In the short run, the only consolation is the outrage that has arisen against Pence and Indiana--including outrage from those with their own sincerely-held religious convictions.  Thank God for the Disciples of Christ.  Literally.

It is telling that Pence signed this bill behind closed doors, without access to the general public.  He might want to consider the words of 1st Corinthians 4:5, before he enables the ability of others to judge.  I doubt, though, whether he or his supporters would truly understand its implications for them.

What If "Crossing The Line" Means A Mushroom Cloud?

You remember the build-up to the Iraq war.  Would that we could somehow erase it and the actual war from our history.  But we can't.  And, of course, one particularly memorable moment of rhetoric in that build-up came from Condoleezza Rice, then-President Bush's national security advisor.  While the debate raged on about the ability to produce a "smoking gun" in the search for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction (i.e., the ones we gave him to use against Iran, which were thusly used), it was Rice who raised the fear level to DefCom 1 by saying that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

No, we don't, although we ought also to be careful about using loaded phrases like "mushroom cloud" as a quick and easy way of silencing debate.  On the other hand, I read this during the past week, and it gave me a great deal of cause for pause, especially in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress and Tom Cotton's letter to the Iranian government.

Much has been said in the media about both the speech and the letter, including the debate over the question about whether either or both constitute treason.  An uneasy consensus exists that both go up to the line without quite crossing it, at least in terms of legal definitions.  The author of the linked article from Blue Nation Review states that gets even closer to the line without crossing it.

And me?

I don't think we can say whether or not it crosses the line.  And, for me, that might be the most disturbing part of all.

Netanyahu's speech and Cotton's letter, whatever else may be said about them, are complete acts in and of themselves, openly carried out.  Whatever we think about them, we are in a position to fully evaluate both the acts and their consequences, actual and potential.  The story involving Israeli espionage and Congress, on the other hand, is totally different.

What was the nature of the information that was shared?  With whom was it shared?  How was it used?  Did it have consequences for any legislation or executive action apart from Iran?  Was it used in any way for openly partisan purposes?  And, finally, did the use of this information have any adverse consequences for the lives of American citizens, including their safety?  These are only a few of the questions raised by the incomplete information that we have.  But the potential for negative answers is bad enough.

And if the current leaders of Congress are now open to the use of receiving information from foreign governments for their political ends, we are sadly now free to ask about that as well.  What other countries have been sharing information with them?  What is the nature of that information?  How was it obtained?  What rights or interests have been compromised in the process.  As the late Howard Baker would have asked, what did Congress know, and when did they know it?  And, most importantly of all, how did they use it?

If you accept the likely Republican answer to all of these questions (which probably is something along the lines of "None of your business,") you may not have to worry about the death of American democracy, because you may have already killed it.  If you do so in the wake of the long and documented GOP history of sabotaging American interests for short-term election gains, you may not face a mushroom cloud, but you will certainly face the judgment of history, as well as that of your children and grandchildren--and, perhaps, a higher Judgment still.

Have the Republicans gone over the line?  I don't know.  But none of us should take comfort in that lack of knowledge.  And, certainly, none of us should be content to wait until going over the line means a mushroom cloud.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Key To Getting Progressives And The Tea Party On The Same Page

Economics.  Perhaps the TPP can be a starting point for something much bigger.  Let's hope so.

I've Been Urging This For A Long Time

Trees.  They're the perfect way to fight global warming.  And now, others are figuring that out.

The GOP Vision of Holy War, Or, Why I Dare Call Tom Cotton A Traitor

By now, you have probably seen this somewhere on the Web.  Its transparently obvious goal is to end all conversation regarding the patriotism, to say nothing of the wisdom, of Senator Tom Cotton's letter to the Iranian government regarding the alleged ability of Congress to stop a nuclear arms agreement dead in its tracks.  It reflects the basic way in which conservatives argue.  They don't discuss ideas.  They just deal in personalities.  And so, from their perspective, Senator Cotton's military and academic record exempt him from any possible criticism that his anti-Obama tactics could attract, legitimately or otherwise.  (Isn't it interesting, by the way, that an Ivy League degree is an asset in a conservative's eye if the holder of the degree is another conservative?  Always remember, IOKIYAR.)

Except that they don't exempt him, admirable as those accomplishments are.  Because of this.  And because it is far from unfair to consider the two events--the letter and the speech--unrelated.  In fact, the opposition to Obama's negotiations with the Iranian government generally is an important part of the GOP's last ditch efforts to hold together the remnants of the Reagan coalition.

Introducing the new Republican Party:  The Party of Holy War.

Keep in mind that the Reagan coalition had three key components:  Wall Street, the military, and evangelical Christianity.  Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was relatively easy to hold that coalition together in the face of a common enemy:  the Soviet Union.  Doing so in the post-Cold War world, however, has been a much trickier process.  Without an obvious rallying point to bring these three constituencies together, those constituencies have tended to go their own way--and, in the process, provided Democrats with opportunities to make inroads of their own with them.  As a consequence, Wall Street now divides its political contributions much more evenly between Democrats and Republicans than it used to (with disastrous results for progressive goals, unfortunately), and young evangelicals tend toward the left on social issues (like gay marriage and climate change) more than do their elders.

But Holy War against Islam changes all of that.  Holy War can be pitched to Wall Street, as a vehicle for job creation and ensuring the steady supply of oil.  It can be pitched to the military, as a way of ensuring enormous amounts of defense spending.  And it can be pitched to evangelicals, as a means of fighting for their faith against their spiritual enemies.  In short, it permits the creation of a new common enemy to hold together the coalition that, without which, there might not be a Republican Party.

It should surprise no one, therefore, that both Bush Administrations engaged in wars with Iraq, the first time after our ambassador to Iraq all but invited the country to invade Kuwait, and the second time after needed a post-9/11 proxy for combating the terrorists who had attacked us.  We couldn't attack the country that actually provided those attackers--Saudi Arabia--because we needed Saudi oil, and the Bush businesses needed their Saudi connections.  So, we went for Iraq and its invisible WMDs.  And you know how that went.

And now, to prove that they can learn nothing, the Republicans want to take America back to what's left of Iraq--and beyond, into Iran.  An all-but-open invitation to a nuclear nightmare, not only for the United States, but perhaps the world.  Do you expect the party of Holy War to care?  Not when the next election is at stake.

Senator Cotton's letter, and Senator Cotton's speech the next day to defense contractors, are part and parcel of the same organized effort to push the world into the Apocalypse simply for the sake of "being on top" at the end.  This is madness.  This is the worst sort of hubris and vanity.  This is as evil as anything can be.  And it is surely not patriotism.

So yes, I dare call him a traitor.  Him and his co-conspirators.  And I dare to ask every patriotic American to stand in their way during the next election--before it's too late to dare anything.

It's Not Enough To Stand Up To Netanyahu

Although I'll take it as a starting point.  There seems to have been only one piece of good news to come out of last week's Israeli elections, which resulted in an apparent victory for Benjamin Netanyahu (he still has to put together a coalition of parties, but that seem likely at this point).  That good news is President Obama's unwillingness to accept the election outcome as a mandate, or otherwise as a justification, for Netanyahu's last minute descent into racism and hatred as a means for coming from behind in the polls.  Far from offering any kind of an olive branch to the current and likely future Israeli prime minister, he has actively and aggressively pushed back against him.  You can see this illustrated here, among other places on the Web, if you have not done so already.

On the other hand, given the contempt that Netanyahu has already shown for Obama, the President's rebuke is not likely to result in a change in Israeli policies toward the Palestinian Arabs, Iran, or anyone or anything else.  From the time he first rose to power back in the 1990s until the present, Netanyahu has been one thing, and one thing only:  a bully par excellence.  Bullies are relentless in their self-interest, and bullies are opportunistic, and Netanyahu's behavior in the days immediately before and after the election illustrate both tendencies.  Before the vote, he appealed to right-wing Israeli voters by warning of large numbers of Arabs voting, and abandoning his previous half-hearted commitment to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Since the election, however, he has desperately tried to walk back both statements, and convinced no one in the process that he stands for anything except himself.

Netanyahu has effective done for Israel what Ronald Reagan and his followers did for the United States:  destroy the vision of an open, progressive society that had the power to cure its own ills, and replaced it with a pervasive climate of them-versus-us fear that destroys everyone but the promoters of the fear--who long ago learned how to make money off of it.  How successful has this been in Israel?  Well, the election outcome says something about how many Israelis, even supposedly liberal ones, buy into Netanyahu's zero-sum vision of the Palestinian question.  But no one should think that this success has been limited to this.  Israel, founded by Jews with a progressive, even socialistic bent, has parted so far from its founding vision that it has its own 1% problem.  And let it not be said that Netanyahu is not canny enough to join the economic and Palestinian issues at the hip.  Housing's too expensive?  Simple.  Bulldoze the Palestinians out of their homes, and then there's plenty of land for everyone.  (Except the Palestinians, of course).

I'm not ignorant of the existential problems Israel faces.  It is surrounded by nations whose citizens and governments are devoted to its destruction.  Even worse, those nations are perfectly happy to sacrifice its fellow Arabs, the Palestinians, as proxies for its hatred.  As long as the Palestinians are willing to blow themselves up, why should those nations do more than silently underwrite the violence.  Israel has no power to change the way those nations, and its peoples, view Israel. That is a key part of the existential reality.  The other is that this leaves Israel needing an international "big brother" to stand behind in, economically and militarily.  The United States has played that role cheerfully for decades, in no small part because of a sense of shared values with the Middle East's only democracy (which is why even "peaceniks" like George McGovern supported Israel reflexively).

But, when it comes to international alliances, the United States cannot depend on Israel alone.  It needs support from the international community for its own existence.  And the international community is slowly but surely turning against Israel--or, at the very least, against Netanyahu's vision of what Israel should be.  This too is reflected all over the Web:  here, for example.  Even worse for Netanyahu and his vision, to say nothing of the corrupt Republicans who support both, American public opinion, and especially Jewish-American public opinion, has begun to call into question our historically reflexive support for Israel.

Well, I'm openly calling it into question.  I'm a long-standing supporter of Israel's right to exist and flourish.  I felt that way long before I married into a Jewish family, and I still feel that way today.  But Israel can no longer exist as a nation that effectively is divided into citizens and refugees.  And the United States, as Israel's chief existential underwriter, can no longer afford to support Israel in its present form.  The price tag for doing so is the soul of both nations, as well as a war from which no one might survive.  I do care about and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  But Jerusalem is far from being at peace; if anything, the status quo is ready to explode.

It's time for Obama to have a dialogue with Netanyahu, once the new Israeli government is formed.  Actually, a monologue, one that begins with Obama saying "I talk, you take notes."  Obama must demand that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and its own Jewish citizens conform to the original vision supported by both Israel's founders and its supporters in this country.  And, above all, it must make future American aid, even military aid, conditional upon the meeting of this demand.

I'm not alone in feeling this way.  It's past time to pretend that those of us who think this way are on our own.  We must speak up without fear or failure.  Israel needs us.  Not the Israel of Netanyahu and his well-heeled, bigoted supporters, but the Israel that can and should still exist, as a light for the rest of the Middle East, and the rest of the world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Medical Miracles Of 3-D Printers

I defy anyone to read this dry-eyed.  Somewhat full disclosure:  I have a relative who may benefit from this technology as well.  I hope and pray she does as well as Violet.

Primary Them!

I'm completely serious.  Especially since most (if not all) of them don't even have the excuse of facing re-election in the near future.  This is the sort of "bipartisanship" we do NOT need.

A Seven-Point Plan For Progressive Tax Reform

Take a look.  Would that some of this ever saw the light of reality.

Maybe Workers Are Finally Beginning To Wise Up

And, as a consequence, unions aren't dying, after all.

More Guns Only Means One Thing: More Guns Will Be Used

Case in point.  I need say no more.  Or, ideally, I shouldn't have to.  But, because of an avaricious NRA and cowardly politicians in both parties, I'm afraid that we'll have to keep talking about this.

Are The Republicans Finally Catching Up To Revenue Reality?

There appears to be some reason for hope.  After all, even for GOP Governors, those budgets aren't going to balance themselves.

The Iran Letter: Anatomy Of A Tactical Disaster

By now, I'm going to assume that most, if not all of you, have at least heard about this.  Whether you have read it or not, I encourage you to click on the link and read the full letter.  It might not be a bad idea to save the link, in fact, so long as the good folks at Bloomberg's Web server preserve it.  It's not every day that 47 prominent members of a major political party formally pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to a Declaration of Idiocy.

Idiocy, you ask?  Why not call it a Declaration of Treason, which is what the New York Daily News called it?  Or a Declaration of Unconstitutionality, per Slate?  Or a Declaration of Mutiny, per a retired Army general as quoted in the Washington Post?  Well, there's some real debate about whether or not the letter rises to any or all three of those levels.  Some consider the letter to be a violation of the Logan Act, while others question whether it is an actual attempt to directly negotiate with a foreign government.  Some question the constitutionality of members of Congress acting in a unilateral way in an area of foreign policy--except that doing so, if an error, may be a bipartisan one.  And the general in question viewed the letter, authored by Senator (and Iraqi war veteran) Tom Cotton, as analogous to a violation of the chain of command.  Obviously, however, an analogous violation is not an actual one.

So, why am I writing about it at all, especially since so much has been written about it already.  Well, take another look at the letter, and see if you don't see it for what it ultimately is:  arrogant to the point of utter stupidity.

Let's start with the opening paragraph.  "It has come to our attention ... that you may not fully understand our constitutional system."  Seriously, Tom?  Exactly what brought that to your "attention"?  Do you have contacts with the Iranian government that you haven't told anyone about, including the voters?  Or did the potential misunderstanding just spring full blown from your transparently obvious desire to try out-thinking a President who, on his worst mental day, could run circles around you?  You didn't need to go any farther than that to prove that it's possible to be a war hero and an attorney and still be a complete idiot.

Oh, but you do any way.  You go on to say that, because of "procedural rules," every action taken in the Senate must be approved by three-fifths of the Senate.  This is amazingly dumb for three reasons.  First, Cotton is clearly referring to votes to end debate on a bill, which is simply a vote to end debate.  Senators are then free to vote for or against the bill, whether they voted to end the debate or not.  Second, the rule on voting to end debate is not a part of the Constitution--it is a rule of the Senate, subject to change with each new Congress and which has, in fact, already been modified several times without amending the Constitution.  Third, and worst of all, Cotton's misstatement of Senate voting practices effectively ratifies filibusters as an acceptable form of partisan sabotage--and, without meaning to, effectively argues for eliminating them, or at least restricting their use.

But he's not done yet, folks.  He goes on to underscore Republican hypocrisy on the matter of term limits, by noting that Obama will be out of office in January of 2017, "while most of us [the 47 signers] will remain in office well beyond then--perhaps decades."  All that's missing from those last two words is the cuing of the evil laugh.  But it does point out that Republicans only advocate term limits when they think they're having a problem getting elected to one of the political branches of government.  At any rate, they might want to rethink that "decades" line.  The voters might actually have something to say about that--especially if this letter becomes the beginning of a trend.

Finally, there is the transparently insincere closing paragraph, in which Cotton and his 46 co-conspirators "trust" that the letter will "enrich your knowledge of our constitutional system."  This illustrates the single most deadly aspect of Republicans' attempts at foreign policy:  their unwarranted belief that, because they're rich, they're smarter than anyone else.  By closing with this statement, Cotton set himself and his co-conspirators up for the humiliation of being shown by the Iranian government that they already understand our constitutional system quite well.  Better, in fact, than Cotton does, as they were subsequently forced to point out that Cotton's ultimate argument--that an agreement not approved by Congress could be undone "with the stroke of a pen"--is legally and factually wrong.

And the stupidity of the letter is by no means confined to its text.  It has already cost the Republicans support from Democrats they might need if they are going to have any chance of forcing Obama into giving Congress an expanded role in approving any agreement that is ultimately reached (and there's yet another point:  we don't even have an agreement yet, and may not even have gotten one without the release of the letter).   And it revives the whole history of Republican interference in negotiations with foreign governments for partisan gain.  I have already written about the efforts of Reagan officials to delay the release of American hostages to give Reagan the edge over Carter in 1980, but that might not even be the worst example.

I will have more to say about this letter in a subsequent post as a reflection of GOP strategy going forward.  For the short run, however, no one can doubt that it is an utter disaster.  Whether one or both of your Senators signed it (and you can take a look at the list here), I strongly urge you to contact them and let them know that, whatever else may be true about their decision to sign it, that decision was as arrogant as it was stupid--and discredits both a great nation as well as their service to it.

Looks Like Hillary Clinton Has An Opponent--But Does It Matter?

It's probably a foregone conclusion in our bipolar culture that one extreme swing of the pendulum guarantees another in exceedingly short order.  Up until The New York Times' story a couple of weeks ago about her use of a personal e-mail account for official State Department business, Hillary Clinton appeared to be on a glide path to replace her former boss, Barack Obama, in the Oval Office.  Polls said it.  Pundits said it.  And no one disagreed with either of them.

Along came the e-mail story, however, and suddenly everybody started backpedaling on that story line.  In some cases, with yours truly being an example, the backpedaling was not too extreme, merely suggesting that a real primary opponent might better prepare her for the scrutiny of a presidential campaign. But, in other cases, a few people have tried to get ahead of the curve before they have any idea of how steep the curve might actually be.  Take the case of Mike Lupica, New York Daily News sportswriter and part-time political commentator.  I've read his stuff for more than 35 years, and can assure you that there is no better weather-vane of public opinion than Mr. Lupica.  (If that observation sounds like it's meant to cut both ways, then I've done my job.)  Anyway, based entirely on a story that is still unfolding even as I write this, he decided that, in terms of 2016, Hillary is dead meat on a stick.

Think about that for a second.  It's March.  Of 2015, for crying out load.  A full ten months before the Iowa caucuses.  And, according to Lupica, Jeb Bush is going to take it all, based entirely on this.  Bush baggage?  Old news, according to old Mike.  They'll just think of him as that nice guy "Jeb" from Florida--that is, if they can forget about Terry Schiavo, among other less-than-nice-guy moments.  You heard it in the Daily News first, folks.

But, as I said, it's still an evolving story.  And here is the latest evolution--one which suggests that the whole story might be close to a nothing-burger after all.  Not to say that it doesn't raise questions or eyebrows, but one in which it appears less likely that laws were broken.  On top of all that, it appears that all of the brouhaha hasn't damaged Hillary's current popularity at all.  So why did we get all upset?

Apparently, because the press decided that we needed to do so.

As unnatural as politics may be to many people, it has one thing in common with nature:  it abhors a vacuum.  And a vacuum is precisely what's been in place in the 2016 presidential race, up until the e-mail story broke.  Hillary was ahead, no one was seriously challenging her, and the press was wondering what are they going to write about for the next two years, apart from her coronation.  Keep in mind that, by press, I'm talking about the pre-Internet, legacy corporate media, which (unlike the Web) are owned by the 1% and reflect its "thinking."

And so, whether collaboratively or spontaneously, the legacy media reached a conclusion:  We will oppose Hillary in 2016, if no one else is up to the task.  And, if we need to pump a little hot air into our trial-balloon coverage, we'll feel free to do so.  Lest you think I'm alone in arriving at this conclusion, let me reassure you that I'm not.  Let me also reassure you that, for proof that the legacy media are trying to pump up Jeb at the expense of Hillary, you can find substance in the tale of the two Time Magazine covers.  One shows Bush pere along with W and Jeb in soft, nostalgic focus, a sort of GOP Camelot image.  Another shows Hillary as a shadowy, devilish figure.  Fair and balanced?  You decide.  But don't get it wrong.

Does it ultimately matter?  If Hillary can ever learn to get ahead of the media curve, instead of waiting for days and then telling everyone to focus on something else, it may not.  She's definitely her own worst enemy, and she needs to get over the troubled past she and her husband had with the press if she's actually going to break the ultimate glass ceiling.  I'm still rooting for help for her from a worthy primary opponent.

But I'm still rooting for her.  Because I'm not sure we can survive the alternative.  And, in my next post, I'll have more to say about that.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Biblical Case For Same-Sex Marriage

Take a look.

Liberals With A Spine DO Win!

And, hopefully, Bill di Blasio will teach many others this lesson for a long time to come.

Blue Economics Work!

And red economics don't.  In other equally surprising news, the sun rose in the east and sank into the west today.  When are people in the red states going to realize that the joke's on them?

Why Am I Not Surprised?

That Ayn Rand, in addition to being an awful everything else, was an awful aunt, that is?

I Hate Wasted Bandwidth On Stupid Articles

Like this one.  Wall Street CREATED the Tea Party as a way of dividing and conquering the 99%. Why should Wall Street fear what it owns?

Want To Get People To Care About Climate Change?

Simple.  Remind them that they care about the Internet.  Then show them this.

How Will Post-Obama America Deal With Race?

Sadly, and I hate admitting this, it has taken the presidency of Barack Obama to realize how deeply and unashamedly racist the United States of America is.  One hundred and fifty years after the country was torn apart in a civil war over the issue of race (and let's stop kidding ourselves; that was the issue), that issue still have the power to produce a level of hatred that a 21st-century nation should respond to with nothing but a deep sense of shame.

But, once again, this is the United States of America.  Racism was embedded in the drafting of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  So perhaps its persistence should not be so surprising.  For most of the past one hundred and fifty years, however, its defeat in the civil war has ashamed its adherents into expressing their feelings as a hate that dare not speak its name.  Instead, it's been cloaked in code words:  "states' rights," "tradition," "heritage," and so on.  Hard to imagine that paleness could inspire so much duplicity, isn't it?

And then, along came Barack Obama.  Oh, to be sure, everybody said all the right things.  We had finally lived up to our better angels, we told ourselves.  We convinced ourselves, for a time, that America had entered a "post-racial phase."  It didn't take long, however, for that fantasy to fall apart. In fact, all it took was a silly non-controversy controversy over the President's place of birth. No matter how many times this question was put to rest, someone in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy would resurrect it, and the corporate media, fearful of choosing the truth over ratings, followed along. And with that, the "post-racial" narrative began to die a slow and painful death.

In fact, after this week, I think we can declare it officially dead.  That's because, on the eve of ceremonies to observe the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, a landmark moment in the civil rights movement, some idiot had both the hatred and stupidity to put up this within a short distance of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, which played a key role in the march.

And, unsurprisingly, the person behind the billboard is using history as a defense.  One wonders if that extends to the charming quote:  "Keep the skeer on 'em."  Even with the mispronunciation of "scare" (and what is it with bigots and the English language), we know perfectly well who's being referred to with the word "'em."  And note that this was done with the knowledge that the President would be there, as part of the commemoration.  Is he supposed to be "skeered"?

Clearly, the erection of this billboard ends any pretense about what motivates the President's opponents.  But Barack Obama will not be president forever; in fact, there are now less than two years in his administration.  It's entirely fair to wonder how the Obama-era coarsening of our political and cultural dialogue will poison our way going forward.  Now that bigots no longer need to hide, and the Republican Party has staked its future on these bigots, the hatred isn't going to go away. Conservatives live for pumping up the volume; it's all they really know how to do.  They don't reason; they bludgeon.  And now, more than ever, they know they can do it in the open.

Will those of us on the side of truth, justice and the American Way (to say nothing of tolerance) find the resources to successfully fight back?  Will another Civil War be required?  And, even if such a war breaks out, will even that succeed in bringing everyone together at last as one nation, with everyone free and equal?

I'm not an optimist on this front.  But I'm also not a quitter.  I know that there could be a future worth fighting for, just like the Selma marchers did.  And, for the sake of what this country can be, we need to keep faith with them and their sacrifices.  We need to find ways to make the Nathan Bedford Forrests, and their "admirers," disappear into history books, and never poison the landscape again. No matter how bad it gets, we must push back.  Progress isn't inevitable, and neither is chaos.  The choice, as always, is ours.

I Still Support Hillary Clinton--But She Could Use A Challenge

For some time, I have had a somewhat uneasy feeling about Hillary Clinton as the prospective 2016 Democratic candidate for President.  The uneasiness comes from two sources that are really the same source:  her husband, both for his undisciplined personal life and for the manner in which that life led him to be arguably strong-armed into making concessions that a less compromised chief executive would have made.  More on that latter problem in a little bit.

Nevertheless, I have supported Hillary as Barack Obama's successor for some time, because I believe that her experience as a U.S. Senator and as Obama's Secretary of State (and yes, her experience as First Lady as well) make her the best qualified Democrat to make the case for continuing the progress achieved by the current Administration.  And yes, the idea of her breaking the ultimate glass ceiling is an intriguing one (although it should not be treated as a credential, however much it is historically overdue).

And then came the past week, and the revelation that she used a personal e-mail account to conduct State Department business while she was Secretary of State.  There seems to be some debate over whether it was, strictly speaking, legal for her to do so.  But ever if it was legal, the big question that hangs over this is whether it was wise.  A personal e-mail account, unlike one registered with and protected by the federal government, is far more vulnerable to hacking, especially by terrorists and others outside and inside the U.S. with the means and desire to harm us.  It seems to me like a terribly un-diplomatic thing for the nation's chief diplomat to do.

And that wasn't even the first question that popped into my head when I learned about this story.  Why would one of the nation's highest-ranking political leaders use a personal e-mail account to conduct official business?  The most glaringly obvious answer is that personal e-mails are exempt from production under the federal Freedom of Information Act, and therefore not subject to requirements for public disclosure--or, for that matter, a Congressional subpoena.  Not surprisingly, one immediate consequence of this story, beyond the story itself, is the revival of interest by the House of Representatives and the media in the Benghazi killings, and whether Hillary's personal e-mails contain anything that has not been previously disclosed.

But, perhaps worst of all, the single thing that astonished me the most was the seemingly cavalier attitude she has shown it addressing what is, even apart from partisan spin, a legitimate news story.  After a few days of silence, she announced via Twitter that she wants all of her e-mails to be made public.  I'm sorry, but this is not a disclosure you deal with via social media.  You immediately hold a press conference.  You answer all the questions.  In short, for both ethical and political reasons, you get in front of the story, and don't tag along behind it.

Unfortunately, Hillary's tweet seems, at least on the surface, to be of a piece with a larger perception of the Clintons as arrogant and entitled--a perception that is more than adequately explained here by New York Daily News sportswriter and occasional political analyst Mike Lupica.  Lupica, by the way, is nobody's idea of a knee-jerk conservative, so he is exempt from the type of criticism more deserved by the Fox Newses of the world.

And it is precisely this type of arrogance, vacillating with moments of surrender that made the presidency of Hillary's husband so infuriating (even for those of us, like me, who voted for him twice, because we knew the alternatives would be worse).  He gave away large portions of the New Deal with welfare reform and the Glass-Steagall repeal, in no small part perhaps because he hoped that doing so would end the investigations into his private life.  Of course, they didn't, because the Republicans aren't that charitable.  They impeached him anyway--and his response was to complain about the invasion of his privacy, a privacy he had systematically abused again and again, without regard to the lives he destroyed (see, e.g., Monica Lewinsky) in the process.

In the wake of this, it seems abundantly clear that Hillary needs a serious challenger in the Democratic primaries next year, one with the credentials to give her a serious race and the desire to expose anything else that needs exposure.  There are no shortage of possibilities:  Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Martin O'Malley.  Any one of them would serve the purpose.  But something has to be done to either prepare Hillary for the battering she is going to receive from what she has correctly referred to as the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy--or, if necessary, replace her at the top of the ticket.

I'm betting that she survives all of this.  As things stand at the moment, I still support her.  But my support isn't a blank check.  It never should be.  And I hope and pray that someone will step forward and clarifies whether or not she deserves it.