Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fighting Fossil Fuels Is Good Foreign Policy, And Good Politics

In the world as it was before the ISIS attacks on Paris, a great deal of attention was paid in the press to the outcome of Kentucky's gubernatorial election.  The Republican candidate, who had appeared to be doing no better than break-even in the pre-election polls, won by a decisive margin against a Democratic opponent and an independent candidate.  In a state that frequently sends Democrats to state-wide offices despite its tendency to "go red" in Federal elections (hello, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul), this was treated as a major upset, and yet another harbinger of a bleak electoral future for Democrats in the South.

I'm not so sure the Kentucky election is as much about the electoral future of the South as it is about the electoral future of the "coal belt," which includes not only Kentucky, but also West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  Those four states will have a combined 51 electoral votes in the 2016 presidential election--and the latter two are considered to be "swing states," historically and more recently as well.  They also have 43 congressional districts, enough to tip the balance with regard to control the House of Representatives.  So both parties have a major stake in appealing to voters in those states.

Much has been made of the tendency of voters in these states to vote for the GOP largely because of social issues.  But I'm not so sure that social issues are what really tip the political balance.  After all, the voters of these states have always held fairly traditional views on social issues--and, despite that fact, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when they frequently sent Democrats to govern at all levels.  It's worth remembering, however, that, in that not-too-distant past, Democrats were much more courageous in engaging voters on economic issues.  That was how, starting with the New Deal, Democrats became the nation's majority party in the first place--asserting itself as the party of economic opportunity for all.

When it comes to the "coal belt," however, and other states whose local economies are heavily dependent on the production of fossil fuels, the Democratic Party has paid a steep price for its commitment to protecting the environment, and especially its commitment to climate change. Voters whose economic livelihood depend directly and indirectly on "dirty energy" are not going to be impressed with a commitment to an issue that provides them with no immediate benefits and the prospect of a long-term loss of their financial way of life.  Even someone as "green" as I am gets the power of that political reality.

But there are two ways by which Democrats can go after those voters and recapture the loyalty of voters in not only the "coal belt," but all of the dirty-energy states.  Actually, it's one way--but there are two compelling reasons for Democrats to pursue it, and for voters everywhere to accept it.

ISIS is the first reason.  Its existence and power, both politically and militarily, is completely dependent on oil.  In that regard, it is no different than al-Queda, or any of the Islamic terrorist groups that have defined national and international politics in this century.  No armies, no navies, no aerial assault will stop what are basically guerrilla organizations that coalesce and vanish at the drop of a hat--but like conventional armed forces, they need money, and they depend 100% on oil. And, as long as our economy depends as much as it currently depends on oil, ISIS will always have a lifeline from us to condemn all of us randomly to death.

And the second reason?  The simple fact that fossil fuels are not an unlimited source of energy. Even with the advent of modern drilling techniques, like "fracking," and leaving aside the real dangers of those methods (hello, earthquakes), we will run out of oil, coal, and natural gas one day.  And present rates of consumption mean that many of us may be alive when that day comes. Anti-environment politicians like to talk about the alleged economic costs of environmental measures. They rarely talk about whether it's possible to have an economy without an environment.  Probably for a very simple reason:  even they know that it isn't possible.

Which is why Democrats need to embrace their inner solar panels and windmills, go into dirty-energy states fearlessly, and talk up the foreign policy benefits and the economic benefits of alternative energy.  Never mind telling the voters about the environmental benefits; most of them simply do not care, even though they should care.  But the benefits with regard to issues they do care about--peace and prosperity--are real, and spectacular, and it's time to stop hiding them under a bushel.

Get going, Democrats.  Hillary Clinton gets it.  The rest of you need to do so, too.

Conservatives Are Unapologetic, Total Hypocrites When It Comes To Terrorism

That headline, which is redeemed for its lack of subtlety by its honesty, has been demonstrated to be tragically true by two events of the past week:  the backlash against Syrian refugees, in the wake of the Paris attacks by ISIS, and the tragic assault on the Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs which claimed the lives of three victims.

First, the backlash, which has been uniformly a conservative phenomenon.  It began across the pond with Poland, and spread quickly to our governors, no fewer than 18 of them were quick to announce that they would oppose any efforts to re-settle Syrian refugees in their states.  With one exception (and shame on you, Maggie Hassan), all of these governors are Republicans, with so-called "moderate" Rick Snyder of Michigan leading the way.  And never mind the fact that doing so is utterly, completely, absolutely illegal.  That doesn't matter when, with a few notable exceptions (take a bow, S.E. Cupp), there's a right-wing blogosphere (filled with hatred and lies) to appease. Even Congress is getting into the fact, using the refugees as yet another excuse to not do its job.

Welcome to Obama Derangement Syndrome in its most full-blown form.  All that matters to those on the conservative side of our ideological divide is bringing down the President, even if it takes a tragedy in a country they hate to do it (remember "Freedom Fries"?).  The blind animosity toward Obama has reached a point at which they can't even face a simple question, the answer to which would expose not only the irrelevance of their animosity to the refugee crisis, but the danger to our country posed by that animosity in the first place:

Why are the Syrian refugees fleeing in the first place?

For the seemingly obvious reason that they, like us, hate ISIS and want to get as far away from ISIS as possible

And the more we do to prevent the refugees from reaching safety, the greater the likelihood that they and other Muslims in the West already will become susceptible to pressure from ISIS to become recruits for its cause.

A three-year-old child (my oldest granddaughter, for example) could figure this out.  So what does that say about the right-wingnuts' reaction to Syrian refugees?  Either they have the brains of two-year-olds, or they are terrible liars when it comes to hiding their true motives.  I'll give you a hint about which of those possibilities is more likely than not to be true:  though there's much evidence to the contrary, I don't think they have the brains of two-year-olds.

I think that they are terrible, dreadful, horrible liars when it comes to the real reason they want to keep out Syrian refugees.  It's the same basic reason for which they hate the President:  race. Conservatism in its present form is nothing more than a desire to preserve white male Christian power, even if it has to be done at gunpoint in order to be successful.  This is why some wingnuts are calling for the admission of only Christian refugees (as if the bigotry of such a suggestion could go unnoticed).

It is also why the wingnuts don't care if gun rights laws have the effect of arming terrorists.  Don't believe me?  Take a look.  Take another look.

And it's why, to finally get around to the Colorado Springs shootings, nobody is calling for registration or internment camps for white male Christians.  Because those shootings are a terrorist act.  Period.  It's time to start telling like it is, instead of allowing the media to soften our thoughts about white male Christian violence in this country by calling the perpetrators "reclusive," "odd," or even "deranged."  As if the propensity to express one's individuality with the barrel of a gun was some cute personal idiosyncrasy.

You want to find a way to push back against all of this garbage that threatens to destroy not just the nation, but the world?

Be like Michael Moore.

At the very least, be like this Scottish newspaper, which is as nationalistic as they come but doesn't use that fact as an excuse for doing the right thing.

And fight the hypocrisy of our lunatic right-wing with three simple words to Syrian refugees:

Welcome to America.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Unfortunately, We Have To Return To The Unpleasant Reality ...

... that even conservatives know they can only win with violence, such as this attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic.  Hopefully, time and the better angels in human nature will ensure that not even violence will help them win.

And, Equally More Pleasant Than Politics ...

... some of the best opening shots in film history.

And Now, For Something More Pleasant Than Politics

Take a look at nine of New York's best interior landmarks.  And then, take a moment to weep over the mentality that can't wait to tear so many similiar landmarks down.

Who's Smarter About Immigration Than Republican Candidates?

Republican voters, as it turns out.

Let's Hope This "Never-Wrong" Predictor Is Not Wrong In 2016

Because it's predicting a Democratic landslide.

The Difference Between Crony Capitalism And REAL Capitalism...

... is the difference between what Donald Trump actually did with his money, and what he should have done with it.

You Want To "Enforce The Law"? Then PAY For It!

It takes a fairly strong stomach to watch even one Republican presidential debate.  I must have a stronger stomach that I previously realized, because I've watched all four while successfully resisting the temptation to throw up.  Nevertheless, even I will admit that I came fairly close during the most recent one, as I watch each of the clown-car refugees call on President Obama to "enforce the law," by which of course they meant the immigration laws, by which of course they meant to deport every "illegal" immigrant in existence.  Yep.  All 11 million-plus of them.  Right now.

This conveniently overlooks the fact that Obama, far from the being the radical Kenyan turn-'em-loose radical they so badly want him to be, has effectively become the Deporter-In-Chief, perhaps motivated in part by the view that such toughness, imposed even in cases that might have merited some degree of leniency, would give him the ability to woo Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform.  And we all know how that turned out.

In any event, if effort was all it took, Obama couldn't have expended more effort than he has to "enforce the law."  Which begs the question; why do we still have 11 million-plus human beings living in the shadows?

For the same reason that many immigrants have to wait years or even decades just to have a decision granted on their ability to live in the U.S.:  we have an immigration system that doesn't match up to the reality of not just a global economy, but a global culture as well.  And even worse, although we insist that the undocumented are the fundamental threat to the American way of life today, our priorities in federal spending don't reflect that point of view.

Consider, for example, the fact that we spend only slightly more than 3 billion dollars on USCIS, the federal agency that oversees immigration, but over 600 billion dollars on defense spending, much of it on redundancies and Cold War-era strategic thinking.  As mentioned in my previous post, we clearly need to redirect at least some of this spending away from conventional military fighting and much more toward intelligence and special-ops, i.e., to fight guerrilla warfare with guerrilla warfare. At the same time, however, we need to re-direct a portion of it toward immigration, which all of us now agree has at least some relationship to the issue of terrorism.

We currently have an immigration system that is almost entirely paid for by the filing fees of petitioners for immigration benefits.  And, if in fact the laws are not being fully enforced, that money clearly isn't enough.  And the answer doesn't lie in jacking up the fees.  Take a look at the fee schedule, which you can find by clicking here, and you'll be amazed by how ridiculously high the current fees are.  One alternative to re-directing defense spending might be, as part of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, to expand the numbers of visas currently available each fiscal year.  But that may not be a politically viable solution, although it would produce other benefits in addition to paying for the immigration system.

In any case, the money to "enforce the law" has to come from somewhere.  Otherwise, by definition, the law will never be fully enforced.  And presidents like Obama will be forced to exercise some form of prosecutorial discretion--which, ultimately is all that he has offered in his various proposed forms of immigration relief (now stalled in court), and which as as legal as eating a hot dog at the ballgame (thank you, Jack Webb).  And those who complain about a lack of enforcement while failing to explain how to pay for more enforcement should be exposed for what they are: hypocrites.

It is long past time for the clowns in the car that masquerades as the Republican presidential field to put up or shut up on this point.  Either that, or get out of the way and let the grown-ups take over. We've all suffered enough with the status quo.  The 11 million-plus have suffered most of all.

This Is War--But We Need To Be Smarter About Fighting It

In the short run, there is nothing that should be said about the murders in Paris of innocent people by religious fanatics, other than to offer the survivors our support in every possible form.  And yet, there is no stopping the same people who exploited the 9/11 murders into two Bush-and-Cheney terms and a ruinous war from attempting to piggyback a political comeback on the most recently-shed blood of innocents.  You need look no further than here to see this happen.

Have these people no shame?  For that matter, have they no souls at all?  Is there nothing inside of them that will allow them to mourn the dead for so much as a single Tweet?  Does clinging onto their rapidly evaporating power mean that much to them?  And do you really want such people to be in charge of your destiny, which is exactly what will happen if we have an all-Republican government on January 20, 2017?

Those aren't rhetorical questions.  I'm hoping that everyone answers them next fall with votes against the GOP and conservatives of every stripe at every level.  But I worry that the right-wing talent for exploiting fear will take us back into another war that we can not afford, financially or otherwise.  So let's take a few moments to connect the dots by taking a walk down memory lane. We invaded Iraq without any understanding of the composition of the country.  We imposed a form of government with which the underlying cultures and peoples had no experience, and no ability to make it work. As a direct result, the country fell apart.  The military supplies we left behind fell into the hands of religious fanatics, who then collaborated with their fellow-travellers in Syria fighting the kleptocratic Assad family.  The result is the destruction of two nations, and a region in the hands of murderers who have no interest in anything except power.

And NONE of this would have happened if we had not invaded Iraq.  We were egged into doing so by fearmongers on the right.  And they are egging us on again.

But this is not to say that we are not in a war.  This is not to say that we should not fight that war. It is, however, to say that we need to understand how to fight that war.

This is not a war against standing armies, or between recognizable governments.  It is a war without front lines.  It is a war in which any spot on the earth can become a battlefield within seconds.  It is a war in which the enemy thrives on anonymity, of operating withing the shadows, on hitting-and-running so they can hit-and-run another day.  It is a war fought by cowards who know how to hide. And it can only be won with brains, not brawn.

We need to stop investing in the front lines of a Cold War yesteryear, and redirect defense spending in ways that prevent us from making the mistake we made in Vietnam:  failing to recognize a guerrilla war when it stares you in the face.  We need to stop acting like the British Army in our own Revolution, and act more like our own Continental Army. That's how we won that war.  We were outnumbered and outgunned.  And we still won.  We didn't outhammer the enemy; we outfoxed them.

Unfortunately, the GOP has failed to learn the lessons that the Iraq disaster and the ISIS catastrophe that followed it should have pounded into their heads.  They see themselves as hammers, and therefor look at all problems as nails.  We will pay a steep price for that tendency for decades to come.  We don't need to add to those decades by giving them more opportunities to pound our way to oblivion.

Fight the fearmongers.  And fight the terrorists.  But be smart enough to resist the fear on which both the fearmongers and terrorists feed.  Let's work together to fight smarter.  Yesterday's victims, and today's, deserve no less.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Haven't Fallen In Love With Costco Yet?

Perhaps this will help.

The Rebirth Of A New York Landmark

Behold, the new/old Rizzoli's Bookstore.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words ...

... when it comes to rising sea levels.

From The Folks Who Bring You Cheerios ...

... a warning about climate change and the food supply.

Walking On Air?

And sitting on it?  And working within it?  Take a look.

Well, If The Wall Street Journal Says It ...

... who am I to disagree that Republicans are an economic menace?

As A Boomer, I Plead Guilty--For All Of Us

I came across this column by Jim Tankersley in the Washington Post, while I was doing a little research for my previous post about last week's election results.  It is a complete and merciless indictment of the Boomer Generation and its me-first attitude in all things--especially economic things.  It chronicles in detail the material, social, and cultural advantages than those born between 1946 and 1964 grew up taking for granted.  From there, it proceeds to document how Boomers developed, in the process of benefiting from those advantages, a sense of entitlement to the good life that excluded any consideration of sharing those goodies with the less fortunate.  The idealism of their youth gave way to an all-consuming (pun intended) desire to "have it all," regardless of the cost to anyone.  The price tag for satisfying that desire is being borne not only by those that came after them, but generations as yet unborn and unnamed.

It is an absolutely scathing indictment that pulls no punches.  And it's 100% correct.

As a Boomer, I plead guilty to Tankersley's catalogue of sins by my generation.  From the earliest time in my life that I can remember, in school and elsewhere, a vision of unlimited future prosperity was painted for us, one that would extend far beyond this world and even reach into outer space. We were routinely told that, by the turn of the subsequent century, we would live in a world of glass-enclosed cities, flying cars, moving sidewalks, synthetic food and clothes, and computers everywhere.  Of course, some of that came true, especially the part about computers; everyone now carries one around in their purse or pocket.

By the middle of the 1970s, however, it was becoming painfully clear that the resources to fulfill these visions were far more limited than we wanted to admit.  And, as a consequence, a generation that had known nothing but prosperity suddenly had to deal with the idea of limits.  No aspect of American life in this period made that clearer than the oil shocks created by OPEC. Suddenly, we were no longer masters of a destiny with no boundaries.  Suddenly, we had to face a world in which everything we wanted might not be possible.  A world that was rapidly moving from dominance by two major superpowers to one in which newly liberated colonial nations were suddenly flexing their newly-found economic muscles in ways designed to benefit them, and not us.  In short, we needed to adjust our thinking by facing our problems.

And instead, we ran away from them.  It is not an accident that the ascendency of Republican politics and policies started right about the time that Boomers reached voting age and entered the electorate en masse.  And the GOP spinmeisters very cleverly took advantage of that fact.  Supply-side economics was the perfect political pitch to Boomers.  What self-respecting Boomer (is there any other kind?) could resist the not-too-subtle allure of self-financing tax cuts that paid for a great, big, beautiful tomorrow (to borrow Ronald Reagan's erstwhile employer, General Electric)? Suddenly, it seemed possible to "have it all" again.

Only, of course, it wasn't.  And Boomers pursued the Reagan illusion at the expense of Gen Xers and Millenials, as Tankersley rightly points out.  Money that could have gone into a better world for all of us, Boomers included, instead went into servicing the debt that grew as the price that needed to be paid for unsustainable tax policies.  Without the damage wrought by those policies, no one would need to talk about making sacrifices to pay for Social Security and Medicare.  Hell, maybe there actually would be a Howard Johnson's in space.

As it turns out, except for hotels, there isn't even a Howard Johnson's on Earth.  It, along with many business built from scratch were suddenly merged and acquired out of business, as wealth that was supposed to trickle down instead relentlessly shot up and investment bankers foolishly financed vulture capitalism.  Instead of patiently building wealth one dollar at a time, businesses went out and bought it at inflated prices with borrowed money that could never be paid off.  And Boomers not only tolerated this, they even participated eagerly in it.

And there is no way out of this mess except the old fashioned way:  sharing.  Sharing involves recognizing that complete self-sufficiency is impossible.  None of us is an island; all of us need each other in a multitude of different ways.  And sharing also involves recognizing limits.  We live in a world--in a universe, for that matter--of finite resources.  Each one of us has a finite life; no one can be indispensible, because everyone has an expiration date.  Like it or not, that's reality.  And, like it or not, our politics have to change, or we won't be able to face it.

On behalf of all of us, I apologize to all of the post-Boomer generations.  And I call on all of us to do the thing we Boomers said we wanted to do when we were young:  make a difference.  Even if there's a price we have to pay to do it.  It is not fair to ask others to pay that price by themselves. Their dreams deserve to take flight as well.

Once Again, Elections Have Consequences

There's a lot of focus in the media and elsewhere on off-year elections for national office.  Less focus is given to off-off year elections that involve state and local offices, as well as ballot initiatives.  Yet those elections can serve as the most basic of building blocks in building a political majority in a federal system of government.

And, as it turns out, Democrats didn't pick up many blocks on this past Tuesday night.

They lost the governorship of Kentucky, thereby threatening Obamacare in one of the few red states where it has been fully or even partially implemented.  They lost in Houston, where a anti-discrimination ordinance against gays was repealed over ridiculous fears of men dressing like women so they can commit assaults in public restrooms.  They lost in Ohio, where the voters rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana.  And they lost in Virginia, where a well-financed effort by Democrats to take over the State Senate failed.  They also lost, in Mississippi, the governorship and a ballot initiative that would have required the constitutionality of funding for public schools, but ... well, this is Rush Limbaugh's birthplace, after all.

In one sense, it's easy to make too much of last Tuesday's good news for Republicans.  Democrats did make gains on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the New Jersey legislature.  There are new Democratic mayors in Philadelphia, Nashville and possibly Salt Lake City, depending on whether the unofficial vote-count holds up.  There may be one as well in Houston, depending on the outcome of a run-off on December 12.

There are also, in the cases of Ohio and Virginia, mitigating factors that go some distance toward explaining the outcomes.  In the case of the former, the marijuana initiative was poorly drafted and would, if approved, have allowed for monopoly control of the market.  In the case of the latter, the presence of out-of-state funding from Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun restrictions, may have prompted a backlash against the Democrats from more conservative regions in the state.

That then leaves us with the Kentucky and Houston outcomes.  In the case of the former, the big news is the replacement of a pro-Obamacare Democrat with an anti-Obamacare Republican, and the potential for health care reform to be set back in a state where it has thus far worked well.  But it's easy to make to much of that potential.  Left out of the breathless, pro-GOP slant of the election's media coverage is the fact that Kentucky's General Assembly is divided between Democrats and Republicans.  That arrangement will make any attempts to setback Obamacare difficult, if not impossible.  And that will prove to be even more obvious once the words "repeal Obamacare" are replaced by the words "cancel health insurance for half-a-million Kentuckians."

In any event, I don't think the Kentucky results are truly about Obamacare.  Rather, I think they're more of a piece with the Houston defeat of the anti-discrimination ordinance.  It's worth remembering that Kentucky is the home of Kim Davis, the self-proclaimed "martyr" for anti-gay bigotry who has refused to sign marriage licenses for gay couples.  Kentucky, like Texas, is filled with evangelical Christians who are reliable GOP voters--all the more so since this year's Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage to be constitutional.

If there are any lessons for progressives out of this election, they are twofold.  First of all, as the fallout from Roe v. Wade has shown over more than four decades, a favorable decision in the Supreme Court does not "settle" a contentious issue once and for all.  The question of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights is anything but settled, and the decision by the Court this year has animated evangelical voters to a much greater degree than any of us have previously realized.  The realization that we underestimate the extent and the intensity of that anger makes the need for laws at the national level to protect LGBT rights more obvious than ever.

And those laws will never see the light of day unless progressives heed the second lesson of last Tuesday:  off-year elections count for as much as presidential elections due.  They are the building blocks of consensus on national issues.  They are the source of the next generation of progressive leaders.  And they will continue to give Republicans an edge in national politics that defies the actual number of national supporters that they have, unless progressive voters finally wake up and do something that they think they have to do only once every four years.


If you care about the future, it's not an option.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Future Of Musical Instruments?

It could be reflected in this 3D-printed skeletal violin.

Europe To Australia In 90 Minutes?

That could be possible, depending on German success with developing hypersonic travel.

Warning To The 1%

Be careful of how much you steal from the rest of us; otherwise, you might suffer the fate of this Dutch prime minister!

Thank G-d This Thug Is Out Of The Race!

Scott Walker, enemy of the people.  And, like the other clowns in the car, a coward.

Busting Five Myths About A Green Future

Take a look.

How Easy Is It To Make A Fool Out Of Conservatives?

As it turns out, all you have to do is pretend you're a Target customer representative.

Cowardice Is Also What Defines The GOP Candidates

I suppose you can't completely blame the Republican presidential candidates for expecting nothing but whiffle ball questions at last week's Presidential debate.  After all, its media partner was CNBC, which works overtime to support GOP fantasies about economic policy.  My least-favorite CNBC anchor, Lawrence Kudlow, a supply-side devotee, was on just before the debate began, touting Donald Trump's proposed cut in the Federal corporate tax rate to 15%.  "It'll pay for itself!  It'll pay for itself!" screamed Kudrow to his colleagues.  Sure, Larry.  Just like the war in Iraq did.

But back to the debate:  As it turns out, there were not as many whiffle balls as some of the candidates would have liked.  Surprisingly, several of the CNBC correspondents acting as moderators seemed determine to answer questions that were designed to elicit concrete answers on issues and perhaps, in the process, give the audience some feel for how the candidates could think under pressure.  And, as it turns out, several of the candidates were slightly ticked off by that expectation, turning around and attacking not just the moderators, but the media as a whole for stressing them out too much on camera.

None of the candidates was more vociferous in spearing the messenger than Ted Cruz, who remained on the warpath even after the end of the debate.  He proposed that a future debate be moderated by "real conservatives," such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, as opposed to "attack journalists." Along with several of the other candidates, Cruz plans to discuss ways by which future debates can be improved, i.e., made less antagonistic to conservative views.

It's impossible to imagine a moment in which it could be clearer that Republicans have no ability to cope with reality other than to wish that it would go away.  What would one of these candidates do if they were actually in the White House and faced with a real crisis?  Ask their favorite talk-show host to make it go away?  Blame the media for telling the American people about it?  Claim that it wasn't a fair test of "true" conservatism, and ask God to send us another crisis?  You've got to wonder what Vladimir Putin, the GOP's favorite international "leader," is thinking as he watches the clowns getting out of the debate car one floppy foot at a time.  He's got to be looking forward to the day he gets to humiliate one of them.

We have been told, time and again, that the current Republican presidential field is the candidate equivalent of the '27 Yankees.  From the looks of things, they don't even seem to be up to the task of equalling the '62 Mets.  Or the '15 Mets, for that matter, judging from the way they've been playing in the World Series so far.  Come to think of it, any comparisons involving these candidates and any baseball teams is probably an insult to the teams.

The cowardice of these would-be pretenders for the world's most powerful and essential job is an insult to every American who has worked to make the greatest country in the world even better--and, worse yet, an insult to every American who has either given or risked his or her life in the same cause.  None of those people asked for easier challenges.  None of them blamed others for their personal losses.  And, above all, none of them ever refused to look reality in the face, regardless of how terrible that reality may have been.

All of them need to take Harry Truman's advice--the one involving the heat and the kitchen.  Better yet, all of them need to get the hell out of the way and let a real leader step forward, one who doesn't complain about how tough life can be for a President.

And, if that person is not a Republican, I'm just fine with that.  The rest of us should be as well, too.

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

I have to confess, I had absolutely no hope whatsoever that Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House would make our national politics any better than they were when John Boehner was Speaker of the House. On the other hand, even I'm surprised by the speed with which he's shattered whatever illusions the mainstream media might have tried to encourage a gullible electorate to have.

To begin with, there's the commitment to repeal Obamacare, which is certainly going to go nowhere for at least the next two years.  And it doesn't even come with a commitment to "replace" it, which is not surprising, given that Ryan and his colleagues have no intention of doing so.  After all, this is coming from a man who demanded that "family time" come with his new job, but has absolutely no intention of guaranteeing such time for the rest of us.  Which, once again, makes it clear what the modern Republican Party is all about:  not limited government, not personal responsibility, not fiscal sanity, not even family values, but power.  Their power over the rest of us.

Unfortunately for the 11 million or more undocumented residents among us (more popularly known as "illegals"), "us" includes "them."  And our new Speaker apparently has no intention of helping them either.  His rationale:  the President can't be trusted to enforce the law.

Calling this patent nonsense is a little bit like calling his position on family leave hypocrisy, i.e., too obvious for comment.  Nevertheless, it's worth repeating a few basic points, as they would otherwise tend to get lost in the noise that masquerades nowadays as news coverage.

Ryan's assessment of the President's untrustworthiness is ridiculous.  Everything Obama has done or proposed in the area of administrative relief is based on his lawfully-defined authority to extend prosecutorial discretion to the application of immigration law, based on current circumstances.  As it turns out, one of those circumstances is the seeming unwillingness of Congress to consider any legislation that would address not only the plight of the 11 million, but more generally bring our immigration system in line with the demands of a world that is becoming more and more integrated all the time.

And immigration is not, contrary to the way in which Republicans treat it, a stand-alone issue. Immigration affects every aspect of American life, and is inextricably link to every aspect of it.  It is an economic issue, a national security issue, a research and development issue, a cultural issue, an educational issue, and yes, a family issue as well.  Ryan's home state is no exception; immigration has a tremendous impact on Wisconsin, as it does on all 50 states.

Worst of all, Ryan was part of a House majority under Boehner that stubbornly refused to consider a comprehensive immigration bill that was passed by the Senate in 2013 with 68 Republican and Democratic votes.  The House Republicans could have voted it down, debated it, amended it, and more generally used it to stake out a position on the issue.  They pretended the issue didn't exist; that, as Republicans, they have the power to make reality disappear, and thereby gain more power as a result.

And, with the President's more recent administrative proposals on immigration, the fantasizing continues in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is delaying a final decision on a suit against those proposals until an appeal to the Supreme Court can no longer be made it a timely way. The Court knows that the President is right, and further knows that the Supreme Court would have no choice but to come to the same conclusion.  That's why they are sitting on the case rather than deciding it.

Whether in the courts or the Congress they control, Republicans have no alternative vision of what America should be, or how America should get there.  They have no agenda, no vision, no principles at all except the maintenance of a corrupt status quo that favors their contributors over the rest of the nation.  They are outnumbered, and in opposition to objective reality.  And the way in which they have chosen to respond to this can only be described with one word:  cowardice.

But that word doesn't just apply to Speaker Ryan, or the members of his Congressional majority ...