Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's All About Power

When I first heard about this, I suspect that I was probably the least surprised person on the planet.  Not that I treat it trivially; very much the opposite, in fact.  A young life has been damaged, by the betrayal of not only her sibling, but her parents as well.  That is reason enough to take it as seriously as hell.

But surprised?  Not really.

I am a recovering evangelical Christian, recovering from both the ignorance and the hypocrisy that comes hand-in-hand with a belief system that claims a monopoly on truth itself.  The ignorance is bad enough; you are, in order to buy into a cramped relief system, forced to withdraw from whole sectors of society that might be of more benefit to you, and to which you might bring some benefit as well.  But the hypocrisy is perhaps worse.  In evangelical Christianity, there is very little if any check on those in positions of power--ironic, perhaps, given the evangelical obsession with the fallen nature of humans and the like of true righteousness in all of us.  Ironic, and, in the case of the Duggars' daughter, unbearably tragic.

Jim Bob Duggar is, I am sorry to say, fairly typical of the unquestioned patriarchy that controls the day-to-day lives of evangelicals.  I'm the husband.  I'm the father.  I'm the provider and decision-maker for everyone.  What I say and do goes.  So says the Bible, and so say I.  And woe to those who disagree with me.  So, if I decide to have 19 children, well, God told me to be fruitful and multiply.  And, if I decide to turn my oversized family into a reality show because I have no way otherwise to pay for it, well, that's just God's way of providing.  And, if that means I can't give any of my 19-kids-and-counting the individual love and attention they deserve, well, God will provide some more.

It's precisely at this point, however, that the line is easily crossed between trusting God and trusting your own ability to discern God's will.  Because, when circumstances start to become personally inconvenient, it becomes all to easy to use God as a cop-out for not accepting the responsibilities that go along with your power (to paraphrase Spider-Man's Uncle Ben).  I don't have to change.  God will provide, and anyone who says I need to make changes is just not trusting in God's will.

And, once that line is crossed, the person who has crossed is exposed with regard to his or her true ultimate motive:  power.  And all you have to do to see how Jim Bob crossed that line is to see how, in the middle of a U.S. Senate race where his family-values image was front-and-center, he handled--or rather, didn't handle--one child's cruelty toward another.  To which he added his own cruelty of a cover-up, and worse.

This is why, I am sorry to say, social conservatives line up so easily with their counterparts in economic and foreign policy.  Together, they are not about family values, or personal responsibility, or limited government, or even might making right.  They are about might for might's sake--for their sake.  They are all about power.

And it's time for the rest of us to stop them from abusing it.  Before even one more child is betrayed.

The Ultimate Source Of Teacher Demonization

As the son of a teacher, I suppose it's fair to say that I bring to the subject of teaching and teachers a natural bias toward their side of our education story.  If you want to view the rest of this post through the lens of what may be a natural bias, feel free.  I prefer to think that it merely gives me a front-row view of the facts.  Which is important, because it is the very existence of facts that play a major role in the current crisis in our education system--or rather, in what's left of our system.

The basic outline of that decline and fall are, for the most part, well-described in this article on The Huffington Post's Web site.  Essentially, the article is a plea to reverse the decades-long trend in starving public schools of funding, while essentially privatizing grades K through 12 via charter schools and other "market mechanisms."  As a predicate to making that plea, however, the author lists a variety of factors beyond the control of teachers that nevertheless lead to their demonization.  All of them are real, and each of them is worthy of extended individual discussion.  With that in mind, I'd like to put in my 25 cents for identifying one as perhaps being more important than all the rest:  the fundamental anti-intellectualism of Americans.

Historically, hatred of education has been a fundamental characteristic of American life since probably before the beginning of the Republic.  And it makes an odd sort of sense, when you think about the reasons that motivated the settlement of America by Europeans.  They came here seeking to either get rich, or to believe what they wanted to believe.  Nobody came here to get a better education, or to get smarter.  In fact, brains are the reason for all of the friction between those who value education and those who do not.  Anyone can get rich, and anyone can believe.  But brains are a matter of genetics, and learning, whether one has brains or not, is a matter of hard work.  Not everyone has the right genetic make-up, and not everyone wants to work hard at something that does not always provide an immediate material reward.

Given these realities, is it really surprising that hatred of the educated is the only form of class warfare that is acceptable in the United States?  And is it really any more surprising that our political culture, from the early nineteen-century on up to the present, features so many attacks on "college boys (and girls)," "intellectual snobs," and "eggheads"?  I remember one of Richard Nixon's aide-de-crooks, John Ehrlichman, addressing Sam Dash, lead counsel for the Senate Select Watergate Committee, as "Professor" Dash, as though Dash's intellectual credentials would somehow make him alien to "real" Americans.

At least it was the case, back in Nixon's heyday, that we could still agree on the existence of facts.  In the post Bush-Cheney era, however, facts themselves are up for debate.  Want to go to war in Iraq?  Need to invent a conspiracy theory to do so, to satisfy those "eggheads" in the intellectual community?  Well then, just cherry-pick the evidence, cobble together some "facts," get a respected, loyal soldier like Colin Powell to sell them, and who gives a rat's behind if lives are lost and trillions are spent on a lie?  You're in the pursuit of oil and profits, while waging war against a "false god," and snookering the brainy class to boot.  It's win-win-win.  Except, of course, that it was lose-lose-lose.  For all of us.

And even THAT failure doesn't stop us from feeling free to question the most provable facts, if doing so will somehow get us ahead of the latest "egghead conspiracy" and feel powerful.  Doubt me?  Take a look at this.  As the responses to the ridiculous question affirm, the existence of the Roman Empire is about as well-documented a historical fact as any.  But not to those wrapped up in the non-existent power of "belief."

That's why conservative politicians are so hell-bent on destroying the public school system and instituting privatized education, controlled by their supporters.  They believe, not without reason, that this is the key to destroying any concept of objective truth--and, with it, any basis for opposing their ability to control every aspect of American society.  And, if you think they want to stop this process at grade 12, think again.  Look at what they've done--or haven't done--with our college loan crisis.  They're perfectly happy to put any obstacles in the way of a potential source of political opposition--even if that makes the United States effectively a brain-dead country compared to the nations with which we compete and trade.

We're talking, again, about a fundamental aspect of our national character.  I have no silver-bullet solutions.  But we'd better start focusing on finding one, and finding one fast.  Before the only facts know are the ones that the investing class will let you believe in.  Perhaps the best way is to align ourselves on the sides of the current scapegoats:  teachers.  Whether you have school-age children or not, find a way to get involved in public education, whether in your local schools or on the local  board of education.  Make yourself known.  Make yourself heard.  And help them to push back, while we still can.

Because, whether we have school-age children or not, we all benefit from a society where facts are stubborn things--and everyone has the resources to acquire them.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ted Cruz, Hypocrite

If you remember his Obamacare hypocrisy, his current FEMA hypocrisy shouldn't be surprising at all.

You Vote For A President, You Elect An Administration

Perhaps this can make that clear, as well as why voting in presidential elections is important in the first place.

Two Great Charters, Born Imperfect, Now Ignored

One protected individual rights, while one protected common rights.  And government of, by and for the rich have largely swallowed up what they promised.  Can we turn the tide?  Only if we first wake up to what is being done to all of us--as individuals and as a society.

Don't Run, Elizabeth!

You have leverage now.  Build on it in the Senate, where you'll never be term-limited, and become the next Ted Kennedy.

Socialism Isn't Dead

And, ironically, it has capitalism to thank for bringing it back to life.

On The Brighter Side Of Green Politics ...

... there's innovative architecture, like this proposed rental complex in Bushwick (Brooklyn), New York.  Bravo!

It's Time To Be Really Afraid Of Global Warming

Take a look at this, especially the photos of a small island in Vanuatu stripped of its vegetation by Cyclone Pam.  And tell me it's a hoax.  And tell me you aren't afraid.

And I'll call you a damn liar.  And I'll be right.

Why "Redistribution" Is No Longer A Dirty Word

Because we live in an age when, thanks to technology, consumers are not needed as producers.  And thus, consumers can't afford to buy, and producers therefore have no ability to sell.

One Way To Nudge States Toward Climate Reality

Don't want to prepare for climate change, because you don't believe it exists?  Then no FEMA funds for you.

And, if that feels like too much billy club, consider what's happening in Texas and Oklahoma this week.  Most of the folks there might want a billy club to lift and keep them above the flood waters. Even their two-faced GOP Congresspeople are now being forced to ask for the FEMA money they wanted to withhold from other states.  They should be forced to confess the reality of climate change before they get a single penny.

Is Kansas Waking Up?

When it comes to Obamacare at least, and its potential for Medicaid expansion, maybe they are.

When It Comes To Summing Up The House Of Representative's Current Stupidity ...

,,, I have no words.  Fortunately, I don't need any.  Bob Goodlatte, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has put together an entire e-press release that does so, complete with GIFs (all of which represent stolen intellectual property) to punctuate his lies about President Obama, and his Administration's alleged "failure" to enforce our immigration laws.

You know who's failed, Bob?  You, your stupid Committee, and your even dumber House, for failing to work with the President to fix a broken system that your party, more than anyone or anything else, bears the greatest responsibility for breaking.

Times Square: Still Mirroring America, Even In The Age Of The 1%

In the old, edgy, sex-and-drug saturated '70s, 42nd Street and Broadway was the perfect reflection of our self-indulgent narcissism.  Well, narcissism in America has moved from sex and drugs to money, but guess what?  It turns out that Times Square is still the perfect mirror for all that.

I mean, when even Toys-R-Us can no longer afford to stay there, who can?  Can even Broadway afford to stay there?

Once upon a time, saving Times Square seemed impossible.  It's beginning to feel like saving America may be impossible.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Real Reason Republicans Are Stumbling On Iraq

Ah, Iraq.  Does anyone remember the time when it was supposed to be a political gift to the Republicans?  One that would keep on giving and giving political success after political success, for decades to come?  Sadly, I do.  I remember John Podhoretz, a member of the right-wing Lucky Sperm Club, using the New York Post column nepotism gave him to tell then-President George W. Bush to "go ahead" and "wag the dog," saying it would be "luscious" and "delicious" for his party and his country.

Of course, as all of us in the reality-based community know, things didn't work out exactly as the Republicans expected.  Curiously, even Podhoretz and his employer seem to know it as well; I recently did a search of the Post's Web site, and couldn't find the column.  Makes you think that George Orwell's "memory hole," supposedly a hallmark exclusively of left-wing totalitarian states, has found a home in Rupert Murdoch's right-wing media empire.

It's one thing for the conservative chattering classes to try to forget about the biggest foreign policy disaster in recent American history, a disaster authored and executed by Republicans.  It's quite another for 2016 Republican Presidential candidates to try doing it as well.  And, as they are now discovering, they cannot.  They have to deal with it.  And, as it turns out, they are not doing terribly well with it.  That may be putting it mildly, in fact.  They are failing.  Miserably.  Much like they failed in making the decision to go to war in the first place.  It was a war of choice, to look for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, with no plan to pay for it and a consequential diversion of resources for the hunt of the real mass destroyer, Osama bin Laden.

Why is it so hard to acknowledge what everyone knows?  Why are Republican candidates twisting themselves in knots on this subject to say that the sky isn't blue?

To answer that question, you have to go all the way back to 1980, and the presidential election that began the past three-decade-plus dominance of conservative politics.  More than anything else, the Republican campaign in that election was based on promoting the concept that the incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter, was weak, vacillating, unable to take a principled stand and stick with it regardless of the circumstances or consequences.  In contrast, Ronald Reagan was a bedrock conservative, unmovable on matters of principle (except during his actual presidency, when he was forced to move his principles on issues ranging from taxes to the so-called "Evil Empire).

Despite Reagan's own deviations from his alleged beliefs, the basic dichotomy painted during the 1980 campaign stuck in the mind of the public, with a generous amount of media help.  And it continued to play a role in later Republican victories, in 1998, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010, and 2014.  That is because even when Republicans deviate from their alleged principles, they never admit it.  They sweep their deviations under the media rug.  And, so long as they continued to do so, the deviations never really happen.

But the rise of ISIS in what is left of Iraq and, increasingly, what is left of Syria have forced all of us to focus on Iraq, whether we want to or not.  And, from the answers that Republican candidates have been giving, it's clear that they do not want to focus on it at all.  For one very simple reason: to do so would ultimately force them to admit that their party, and many of them personally, made a mistake. And they cannot afford to do that.  To do that would fatally undermine the entire rationale for Republican electoral success since 1980.

But they have no choice.  The war in Iraq was a mistake.  Their mistake.  And their inability to admit that may be the beginning of the end of their party.

How To Sell Blue-State Economics In A Red-State Nation

In the post-World War II era, which celebrates its 70 anniversary this year, America has always looked West--and, specifically, to California.  The Golden State set the pace for the rest of the nation in making us a country of suburbs and freeways, and in setting the tone of our politics from conservatism to liberalism, then back to conservatism and maybe, just maybe, back to liberalism again.  For the past six years, Californians have chosen to have the most predominantly Democratic state government in the entire county, with many Republicans and right-wing media outlets prophesying that this would be a recipe for economic disaster.

Far from it, as it turns out.  I have written many times about the California economic miracle that has taken place under the second coming of Jerry Brown to Sacramento.  And, as I wrote last month, while red state after red state has continued to fiscally gag under the mathematical impossibility of supply-side economics, blue California, along with blue Minnesota, has led the way in showing that combining tax hikes with targeted social spending is the key to a balanced public sector budget and a prosperous private sector economy.  And, despite what some may both expect and hope, California's miracle doesn't seem to be running out of steam; if anything, it appears to be picking up steam.

Not surprisingly, you won't hear so much as a peep about it from the likes of Fox News.  But what is a lot more surprising is that you hear absolutely nothing about it in the legacy media--i.e, what's left of the so-called "liberal press."  You would think that, if they were as liberal as their detractors claim they are, that they would be billboarding the success of blue state economics night and day.  So where are their billboards?  I think it's safe to say that their absence tells you all you need to know about how tightly the legacy media are gripped by their corporate masters.

Okay, so that's their excuse.  But what about the Democratic Party, and its national and state office holders?  For that matter, what about the rank-and-file members of the Democratic Party, and its allies in progressive causes all over the country.  Why aren't they shouting the good news from the proverbial housetops.  Why is the national silence, save for a select few Internet outlets (and bloggers like your humble and obedient servant), so unbelievably deafening on this subject?  It seems puzzling, especially in light of the contrasting records of recent Democratic presidents (shrinking deficits, and even an occasional surplus) with those of the last three Republican presidents (an unending river of red ink).

I can offer no definitive answer to this paradox, but I do have a theory.  Democrats have been mugged so often by a combination of corporate and media dishonesty when it comes to fiscal issues that, in time, as with most victims of bullying, they simply give him and hope that nobody will notice when they dare to make the occasional insight into public finances.  That may be understandable, but it is not excusable, given the long-term national and international interests that are at stake.  Bullying cannot be remedied with cowardice.  Bullying can only be remedied by bullying back.

And it is easier to do this if you have an argument whose conceptual framework can be undergirded by principles easily articulated to and understood by the broadest possible audience.  Which is why, without further ado, I offer The Three-Legged Stool, my own conceptual framework for justifying the tax reform (and yes, that will mean hikes) that will be required to give our public finances the stable footing they need and deserve.  The Stool's three legs can be described as follows:
  • Accelerate payment on public debt, to not only reduce long-term obligations, but lower interest rates and expand the money supply for everyone's use.  This can be justified by liberals (promoting government stability) and conservatives (protecting taxpayers from expanding debt obligations);
  • Put money aside for pensions and public assistance programs, including entitlements such as Social Security, and invest the money in short-term debt obligations.  Again, this can be justified by liberals (ensuring protection of the vulnerable), and conservatives (using the markets to finance public programs);
  • Finally, resolve that new public spending be financed by public investments, either in financial instruments or infrastructure, including solar-power installations.  Once again, this can be justified by liberals (creating stable streams of public revenue) and conservatives (focusing on "baking more pie," and not just finding new ways to carve up the existing pie.
So, there you have it.  The Three-Legged Stool.  Easy to explain, easy to understand, easy to justify on a bipartisan basis.  So get over your bullied selves, progressives, and get to it.  Bully back the other, clearly loosing side, and claim a well-deserved victory for yourselves and for Americans everywhere.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About Red-State And Blue-State Economics

And, if you have a brain, it should make you choose the latter.

Are We Becoming A Nation Of Gun Nuts?

Maybe not.

It's The Last Call For "Mad Men" Tonight ...

... so I'm sharing this, to illustrate that great culture isn't destined, but sometimes is lucky enough to emerge.  My thanks to everyone involved in the series, for doing such great work, and creating so many great memories.

Fighting Global Warming Isn't Hopeless

In fact, we may already be making progress.

The Impact Of Comic Books On Our Culture, And Lives

I know it's not fashionable to praise comic books, and comic-book movies like "Avengers:  Age of Ultron," which I enjoyed seeing two Sundays ago.  But, apart from the role that they play in keeping the revenues of studios and theaters health, and thereby enabling the financing and distribution of riskier projects, they also inspire us to believe in heroes, and the ability to use our wits to solve our problems.  So, when someone like Robert Downey, Jr., "Iron Man" in the movies, can deliver Tony-Stark-like technology for a little boy, it illustrates the value of these books' values.  Thanks to him, and thanks to Marvel, for all of its inspiration.

Conservatives As Terrorists?

Take a look, and remember it the next time you hear a right-wing talking head scream about terror.

Infrastructure Blood On Republican Hands

As a nation, in the legacy media and on the Internet (and yes, in person as well), we have discussed our nation's crumbling, out-of-date infrastructure and the need to make a sustained, national commitment to repairing it and modernizing it for the 21st century.  Often, that discussion dissolves into partisan perspectives on the role that infrastructure plays in our day-to-day lives.  For progressives, the decay of our infrastructure represents an abandonment of a key national priority, as well as an opportunity to create new, well-paying jobs that in turn would also create new sources of tax revenue, and a chance to demonstrate our ability as a nation to re-commit to meeting challenges.

For Republicans, on the other hand, the very word makes their eyes glaze over.  Real jobs, and real construction, are things that are always best done by the private sector, even in the face of facts to the contrary.  The space program?  The interstate highway system?  The Internet?  All of this, in some cramped way, reflects the triumph of capitalism, even though none of them could have happened without the government.  And anyone familiar with the history of our nation's railroads knows that they too would not exist without the help of the government.  Which probably goes a long distance toward explaining why modern conservatives are so disdainful of railroads.

But being disdainful is one thing, and being accomplices to murder is something else.

I am, of course, referring to the recent Amtrak tragedy outside of Philadelphia.  The investigation into the precise cause of this tragedy is ongoing, and we may not know for a while what that cause was. It appears, at this point, that, at the very least, excessive speed was one contributing cause.  But speed was neither the only cause, nor the proximate one.  Republican fiscal negligence was.

As I noted previously, railroads are a fiscal and philosophical bete noir for conservatives and their Republican operatives in Congress.  There is something about the idea of people riding together, shoulder-to-shoulder, toward a common destination that just drives them up the wall.  Personally, as someone who has always loved railroads ever since childhood, I think of that image as a nice metaphor for where we should be as a nation--moving in the same direction together.

But not for your average GOPer.  They've been cutting Amtrak funding for years and, lately, that cutting has begun to move almost as quickly as the train in last week's tragedy.  You can see this illustrated here, but this is the story that should break your heart.  We had the technology to stop even a speeding train.  And congressional Republicans didn't think the passengers' lives were worth the cost.

There is no way to mince words about this, and I'm not going to.  If I were a prosecutor, I would charge the Republicans responsible for these budget cuts with second-degree murder, based upon their reckless indifference to the lives and safety of Amtrak passengers.  But, whether they are charged or not, they are absolutely guilty.  The blood and pain of the dead and injured are on their hands.

How many more lives have to be lost before we realize that calling ourselves the greatest nation on earth is much more than a rhetorical act?  Other nations put a premium on public resources and don't hesitate to pay for them.  We, the people of this nation and its bought-and-paid-for government, feel differently; we worship the goal of making the rich richer, and pretend not to notice that this worship makes all of us poorer--or dead.

Do we have the ability to save ourselves?  That is what I believe God expects of us.  Before we can expect any divine intervention, we need to show that we can take care of each other, and be willing to pay a personal price for doing so.  Greed is not good; greed is deadly.  As last week's Amtrak tragedy shows, greed is slowing destroying us all.  And, as illustrated here, greed may be unstoppable, even in the wake of tragedy.  If we don't act to change our perspective and behavior soon, it will not just be the Republicans who have blood on their hands.

It will be all of us.

No, Conservatives, You Did Not Win In The U.K. On May 7

Well, technically, you did.  You shocked everyone in the process in the fact.  You shocked the pollsters, who were all on the same statistical page in predicting that the next British government would be some sort of coalition government, just like the last one.  And, in the process, you shocked people like me, who expected that result based not only on the predictions of pollsters, but also on a sense that voters around the world were getting tired of seeing right-wing politicians following William F. Buckley's advice to stand athwart history and cry "Halt!"

Instead, against the odds and the polls, the next British government will be run by the Tories, with a mathematical majority in Parliament.  Not surprisingly, conservatives on this side of the pond are feeling vindicated.  Some are trumpeting a victory for austerity economics, while others are trumpeting the return of compassionate conservatism, W-style.  So which is it?

Actually, it's none of the above.  The success of the Tories is due in part to one factor related to American politics, and another that has somewhat more to do with European politics.

Let's start with a discussion of the former.  Although the Tories will now enjoy a statistical majority of the seats in the House of Commons, they managed to get there with about a third of the popular vote.  This is because elections for the Commons resembles elections for our House of Representatives in operating under a "first-past-the-post" system.  As a consequence, it is possible for one party to attract a majority or a plurality of votes nationally, but another party's candidates, by coming in second or lower in many individual districts, can still manage to win the majority of seats overall.

This is less likely to happen in a situation where two parties dominate the national political landscape, as was the case in Britain for decades with the Labour and Conservative Parties.  Of course, here in the U.S., we still have two dominant parties, but gerrymandering has so rearranged the voter composition of congressional districts that, in the 2012 election, the Democrats won a majority of the popular vote for House candidates, but lost enough individual races to ensure that Republican control will continue.  And, in 2014, Republicans won 57 percent of House races despite wining only 52 percent of the popular vote overall.

In the case of Britain, something else seems to be at work; namely, the rise of independent parties and the ability of their candidates to eat away a large share of the vote that would have gone to Labour or Conservative candidates in the past.  You can read a detailed analysis here of how the success of these parties played a role in the May 7 outcome.  Could this happen here?  On a presidential level, it already did in 1992 and 1996, thanks to Ross Perot and the Reform Party.  Given the fact that current approval levels of Congress are in single digits, and given the enhanced role of billionaires in our political system post-Citizens United, it can't and should not be ruled out.  Perhaps progressive billionaires should underwrite third-party conservative candidates, with this in mind, for House races in 2016.

Of the third parties involved in the British election, however, two stand out for reasons related to the more European explanation for the outcome, and that is the rise of nationalism among the British electorate--or, perhaps, I should say the English and Scottish electorates.  The rise of the anti-immigrant UKIP Party, and the near-domination by the Scottish National Party of the outcomes in Scotland's parliamentary districts, mirrors the ethnic breakdowns afflicting politics on the Continent in the post-Cold War Era.  In campaigning for his party, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was well aware of this, and played to it very strongly.  In the end, he and his party prevailed not because the British people as a whole liked his economic or foreign policy, but because English voters saw him as the one most likely to protect their interests.

The result?  Cameron is now the head of a parliamentary majority of a badly divided country.  His pledge to hold the U.K. together is at odds with his antagonism toward Scottish voters.  His plan to hold a national referendum on E.U. membership is likely to divide the country even further.  And, as a consequence, you can expect to see articles like this one even more frequently.

And, sadly, they may be forecasting the long-term future of the U.K.  Britannia once ruled the waves.  Now it seems incapable of ruling itself.  That, put briefly, is the "victory" that Conservatives won on May 7.  They are not likely to be happy about it for very long.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fixing The CEO Pay Problem

It's time to bring an end to current levels of executive compensation.  None of these people are worth the outrageous sums they are paid.  And, if the best way to do that requires some measure of government involvement, so be it.  Whether in the public or private sector, there are better ways to spend the money.

Bravo, Joe Manchin!

It's inspiring to see a red-state Democrat do the right thing when it comes to guns.

Our Performance Palaces CAN Be Brought Back To Life

I've written about the restoration of the Loews' Kings Theater in Brooklyn before, but here's an interesting insider's piece on the process that brought that about.  I offer it to encourage anyone and everyone out there to save our cultural heritage, before it's too late to do so.

"The Party Of Me Versus The Party Of Me"

That's the wonderful summary of our two party system that this article contributes to our discourse. Someone should turn it into a bumper sticker as soon as possible.

And, Speaking Of Wisconsin ...

... it looks like its voters want to say "Come back, Russ Feingold, all is forgiven."  Amen!

The "Right To Work" Works For No One

Just ask this business, moving from union-bashing Wisconsin to worker-friendly Minnesota.

Today's GOP: Tax Cuts, Yes--Depending On Who You Are

In the Twilight Zone of modern politics, one must always be wary of the politician running for office who raises the specter of threatening to sue his opponent for slander.  Case in point, and otherwise submitted for your approval:  one Lawrence Hogan, the son of a late Republican Congressman who had the guts to impeach Richard Nixon, but who struck out in the direction of the private sector, until he managed to stumble into the Maryland Governor's Mansion, with the help of a horribly inept campaign by his Democratic opponent.

Well, mostly inept, anyway.  It turns out that Anthony Brown, or at least his campaign staff, could actually find a way to land a punch.  The Brown campaign, you may recall, ran a series of campaign advertisements suggesting that Mr. Hogan just might pay for his tax-cut proposals by increasing tuition at state colleges and universities.  You may be sure, of course, that Mr. Hogan did not take the content of these ads lying down.  In fact, he demanded that said advertisements be pulled from the air, going so far as to describe their claims as "slander."

Slander!  Imagine!  A Democratic candidate offering the suggestion that his Republican opponent might try to pay for one or more of his "promises" by "sticking it" to a constituency that isn't going to vote for him!  Oh, the humanity!  Oh, the humanity!  Will no one stop this fiend, Anthony Brown, from being so unfair and unjust to his "worthy" opponent?

Or was he unfair or unjust?  This week brought fresh evidence that he was neither.  On the one hand, Governor Hogan announced a "tax cut" in the form of a reduction of tolls.  Not one to be found lacking in hyperbole, the "Guv" (as his predecessor, Martin O'Malley, was described by O'Malley's predecessor, Robert Ehrlich) described this "cut" as one that would save Marylanders a quarter of a billion dollars (over five years; actually, 50 million a year).  To be more precise, the "Guv" said this "cut" would put this money "back into the pockets of our beleaguered Maryland taxpayers, and back into our economy."

Ah, but there's the rub.  Although the money will surely go back into our economy, a hefty chunk of it will not go back into the pockets of Maryland taxpayers--or, if it does, it won't stay there for very long.  For, almost in the same instant as the tax "cut" was announced, the University of Maryland system announced the likelihood of a tuition hike of 5 percent, based on planned reductions in support from the state budget.  Planned, of course, by the "Guv."

Well, why wouldn't he want to stick it to the intelligentsia?  They didn't vote for him.  And after all, isn't that the zero-sum way in which modern politics is played.  Get as much power as you can, stick it to the other side, and the hell with the bigger picture in which we all live?  Isn't that the "change" that people supposedly voted for in the last election?

Well, not really.  Sometimes, in elections as well as sports, the outcome is more about the loser and the winner.  Larry Hogan's campaigned on a series of bromides whose lack of detail reflected his own inexperience in politics.  In truth, he did not win; his opponent threw away an election that was easily winnable, largely because he took the outcome for granted.  Even in a blue state, that attitude breeds failure, even against an unworthy opponent.

On the other hand, Hogan did tout his experience as a business owner as a pedigree for knowing how to fix the state's alleged economic ills.  Well, fair enough, Guv.  Except that you apparently missed out on the most fundamental aspect of political economy.  It is this:  your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.

And when you tell the students at local public schools "Gee, it's too bad, but you'll have to reach into your increasingly empty pockets and pay more," guess what?  A lot of them just are just not going to go.  The universities will then have even less revenue.  Tuition will have to go up again.  Oh well, there's an alternative:  we can just cut the quality of our education down to the point at which we can just close the schools and sell off the land for private development.  OK, a little hyperbole there.  But programs will be cut.  Students will go elsewhere.  And none of this even begins to get into the economic impact that this will have on the local economies in university/college communities.  Less student spending.  Less hiring for local businesses.  Fewer orders for local businesses that provide services and sell goods to the schools.

Very simply the point is this:  the Republicans have no recipe for baking more pie.  They're content to try and find new ways to re-cut the existing pie, so that the interests that underwrite their campaigns get the biggest slices, and everyone else gets crumbs.  Isn't that always the Republican endgame? Comforting the comfortable, and afflicting the afflicted?  Isn't that what thirty-plus years of trickle-down economics have done:  reduced our economy to a trickle?

Hoganomics, as we can describe the local version of this, is a game with very few winners, if any at all.  If the "Guv" was serious about "growing" the economy, he would actually look for new businesses and new ways of doing business, and use existing resources to support this new activity instead of shriveling them.  Take Heather Mizeur's proposal to legalize marijuana, which could easily be expanded to legalizing hemp, a resource that provides alternatives for depleted resources.  Or take the benefits of solar/wind power.  Imagine solar panels and wind turbines on every road in the state, generating power that the state could sell--or even offer for free or reduced rates to small businesses and non-profits.

Sadly, we have a "Guv" who is about as unserious as he can be.  He'd much rather turn the economy into a wedge issue, rather than actually giving Marylanders an economy that would provide benefits for everyone, regardless of income or political affiliation.  Such wedges can and do plague us, in the Twilight Zone of modern politics. [Cue music.]  Do do do do, do do do do ...

Why Can't People Move Around The World As Fast As Money Can?

It's something that I think about all the time, both as a partner in an immigration law practice and as a witness to the Internet-age phenomenon of e-commerce and e-trading, both within and without borders.  It's a phenomenon that has, to a degree unimaginable in any previous period of history, has almost erased the ancient concept of borders and, in the process, transformed both national and international politics--almost to the point at which describing politics that way feels like a distinction without a difference.

I need hardly add that this transformation has been incredibly destructive, and not always in a creative way, for the majority of us.  Consider the current situation in the U.S., for example.  To borrow from a Facebook meme that I can't properly source (but isn't mine, in any case), American corporations make goods in Asia (through jobs they've exported), sell them here and around the world, and then take the profits and run them through overseas tax shelters so as to avoid any obligation to help pay the bills of their birth country.  In many cases, never mind that it is their birth country; they're often willing to put themselves up for international adoption, by re-incorporating under the flag of one of their tax shelters.  And the rest of us are left paying their bills as well as trying to buy their merchandise.

In the 21st century, money can play hide-and-go-seek in a way that is as dangerous as it is fantastic. Corporations can move money around the world at the speed of light.  But how about people?  The Mitt Romneys of the world like to believe that corporations are equal to people, even though that was never the point of giving corporations some degree of personal rights.  But corporations in the new millennium aren't equal to people; in a very real sense, they are superior.  In addition to the rights to sue and be sued, like people, and to have perpetual life, unlike people, they can also move money anywhere, anytime, for any reason.  But, as any immigration attorney here or outside of the U.S. knows, the same can't be said for people.  Corporations can travel around the world at the speed of light, but people can at best move around the world at the speed of sludge.

When it comes to what has been construed in American federal jurisprudence as a fundamental constitutional right, the right to travel, that right is still as tethered to borders as it was in the days when both commerce and individuals both felt the need to be protected by physical boundaries.  This has had the effect of creating an unlevel playing field.  Money can chase opportunity around the world, but people can't.  The consequence of this is that the majority of us have been effectively held economic hostage by the very borders that used to offer protection for everyone.  As a consequence of that, incomes are driven down as well as tax revenues--and thus, national governments have even fewer resources for their most basic functions, including their borders.

And immigration, after all, is not a one-way street.  U.S. citizens should have the right to seek opportunity when it may exist for them in other countries, just as citizens of other countries should have that right to come here as well.  All countries, and their citizens, would benefit in the process from having a more level playing field for travel.  Incomes and tax revenues would both go up--and, in the process, the unconstrained power of multinational corporations would be more constrained by competing social, economic and legal forces.  I doubt that there will ever be a world where their are no immigration laws (and therefore no immigration lawyers).  Travel is always complicated enough to require some degree of regulation.

But we need to move toward a world where people can move around it as fast as money does.  And the first step in that direction is to start viewing immigration not as an issue for individual nations, but as one that nations should jointly embrace, finding new levels of cooperation.  It isn't all that new of an idea; the much-reviled NAFTA gave birth to the TN visa, and U.S. tourists can now travel to Europe without a visa.  It's a very small step from that to a series of one or more international treaties that could open up the right to travel in both directions.

We need to get away from the us-versus-the-invaders rhetoric that has transformed immigration into a racial wedge issue, and discuss it instead in a way that focuses only on one race--the human race. Borders don't matter for money.  They shouldn't matter (or not so much, anyway) for the people who make, spend, save and invest that money.  For the reason that the money exists in the first place.