Saturday, April 25, 2015

I Love Elizabeth Warren--As A Senator

You've got to admire their tenacity.  Up to a point, that is.

I'm talking about the folks who want Elizabeth Warren, the freshman Democratic Senator from Massachusetts and champion of the 99%, to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016.  Of course, they don't just want her to run; they want her to win. And they are convinced that America's next President will be a Republican if she doesn't run.

Of course, she has said that she is not running.  More than once.  And, when she has done so, there's been nothing coy about it.  Nothing to suggest that she's waiting for the media or her party to seduce her into running.  Nothing to suggest that she has any ambition other than to continue giving the 1% hell in the U.S. Senate.  But that hasn't stopped her supporters from pushing her to run. Against the odds and the facts, they keep on pushing.

Why?  Hillary seems like a sure thing, in spite of her early missteps, for not only the nomination but also for the general election.  And it's not like she doesn't have at least some credentials for progressives to respect.  All you can really say about Warren, by comparison, is that she has more of them.  Is it about all those deals that Hillary's husband cut with congressional Republicans?  Maybe. But isn't it at least a little bit sexist to assume that Hillary would function as a President exactly the way that Bill did, just because she was his First Lady?  Is it really the "dynasty" angle?  Maybe, although, if she ends up facing Jeb Bush, that issue may not be much of a weapon against her.

But I think it is something related to this latter point, in a way.  And it's not something that her supporters should take as a compliment.

The authors of our Constitution decided against allowing a legalized aristocracy in their new nation, knowing the harm that hundreds of years of aristocracy had done in Europe.  While that has no doubt served our country well in a number of ways, it left us hungry for the opportunities that nobility in a nation provides for the expression of our innate desire to not simply love our country, but to worship it through the pageantry and formality that an aristocratic class provides.

The reality of presidential elections is that, every four years, we elect a new government.  But for conservatives who detest the very idea of a government, presidential elections are about something different.  Since all forms of government are evil to them, they are not as concerned about Republican candidates' positions on issues as they are about what type of person they are being asked to vote for, and what that person believes.  Republican voters want to be inspired by who the person is, and by the feeling of patriotism evoked by who they think the person is.  In short, they view presidential elections as the process for choosing a new king.

I may bite my tongue for saying what I am now about to say, but I fear that Democrats, who value government and its impact on political issues (and who therefore should know better) have for some reason adopted a mode of thinking about this election that closely resembles the Republican mindset. They are not interested in the candidate most likely to get across the finish line in a position to advance one or more of their causes.  They want someone whose ideology is pure beyond question, someone they can worship from afar, someone who will spare them the day-to-day necessity of worrying about their favorite cause.  In short, they too want a king--or, in this case, a queen.

I worry that this line of thinking, if in fact it is real, shows that the ideological ferocity of Republican politics over the past several decades has destroyed within Democrats the capacity for civilized debate and, ultimately, for civilized government.  After the damage done by the last Bush Administration, the last thing this country needs is an ideological war that nearly pushes the country over the cliff.  We desperately need someone who not only believes, but thinks, and can work with people who don't necessarily think identically.  I believe Hillary has shown that she can do that.

And I think that Elizabeth Warren is capable of that as well.  But as a President, term limits would cut short the length of her career, and of her effectiveness as a progressive advocate within our government.  Better that she should grow old and serve long in Teddy Kennedy's old Senate seat, and become the next Lion of the Senate.

And better for all of us if we took all of the energy now being directed to pushing Warren into the White House, and used it to elect a Senate with more Senators like her, who would also not be term-limited.  There's no reason for it to be either-or--in fact, either-or could set the cause of progressive politics back years, if it cost us the White House and failed to pick up the Senate.  Just imagine what the Supreme Court might look like in that case.

Hillary in the Oval Office, and Warren at the head of a new Senate majority.  Perfect together. Let's start aiming together for that.  Today.

No Empire Lasts Forever

Not even the British Empire.  And, like most dying empires, it is being pulled about from within.

Solar Roads?

They are possible, and they have enormous potential.  Take a look.

A $2 Trillion Foreign-Aid Program

That's what tax cuts for the rich really are.

For Every Man Who Is Self-Conscious About His Appearance

Take heart from this.  And good for you, sir.  Dance your heart out!

Selfishness And Self-Interest Are NOT The Same Thing

I've made that point before.  And I'm happy to make it again.

Greening The Autobahn?

If only we had the political will to do this to our Interstate Highway System.  The potential benefits would be enormous.

There Is Only One Villain In The Pete Rose Tragedy

And his name is Pete Rose.

I'd like to think that this is an obvious point.  I've seen it from the very beginning.  And, while Pete Rose is far from being my favorite baseball player, I think it's a genuine tragedy that he is ineligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Statistically, and otherwise, his career is the sort that deserves recognition with membership in the Hall.

Except, of course, for one thing.

He violated a rule that is posted in every professional baseball clubhouse from rookie leagues all the way up to the majors.  He would have seen that rule every single day of his career.  He was on notice, every single day of his career, that he was in danger of being excluded permanently from the sport he obviously loved so much if he violated that rule.  And, in spite of all that, he violated it anyway.

Why?  Why would he do something with the potential to destroy his relationship to baseball? Because he was Pete Rose.  Because he thought he had charmed everyone, especially in the media, to the point where he was bulletproof.  To the point where he thought he was bigger than the game.

And, sadly, there are still people, especially in the media, who are so charmed.  Take Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, for example.  He recently wrote about Rose, making the point that he is the only player in baseball history to have his permanent ineligibility from the game extended to potential membership in the Hall, and adding that, if the baseball writers who vote on Hall membership are forced to sort through the steroid generation of players, they should at least get a chance to have a say on Rose's fate with Cooperstown.

That's fair enough, so far as it goes.  But, on reflection, it starts to feel like an argument that allows leeway for both gamblers and substance abusers.  If we're going to make peace with expanding the range of bad behavior that's forgivable in the game, where does that stop?  Rose's gambling and the steroid sinners are bells in the history of the game that can't be unrung.  But they ought to serve as guideposts for how the game operates going forward.  The solution isn't to relax the gambling rule, but to make the drug rules tougher.  One drug violation, a year's suspension; two violations, a lifetime ban and the erasure of all statistics.  And don't say it can't be done with the players' union; take a strike, if you have to.  Baseball executives might be surprised by the percentage of the public that would support them on this.

I hold no brief for the Hall of Fame, or the people running it.  Their conduct in excluding Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from participating in a Hall event because of their political views is, among other things, a violation of their tax-exempt status.  Despite that fact, they certainly have the right to define the terms of membership in the Hall.  That they have chosen to exclude Rose from membership consideration based on his permanent ineligibility from MLB speaks to nothing other than a real respect for the integrity of the game.  There is no reason to think the decision stems from any personal animosity toward Rose.

There certainly is no personal animosity from the media toward Rose.  And why should there be?  He courted them, gave them great quotes, probably passed along more than his share of scoops.  And they responded by making him ... well, Pete Rose.  A guy who thought he was so popular that he was bigger than the game.  Are they really the best people to be evaluating Rose's fate with the Hall? Doesn't their own participation in elevating his image create a conflict of interest for them in making that evaluation, since it would effectively allow them to validate their own role in Rose's tragedy?

And, once again, it is tragedy with only one villain.  And his name is Pete Rose.  He's the one who broke the rule.  He is paying a price that is proportionate to the offense.  He's not in jail.  He's free to pursue any work he wants, including baseball-related work, such as his new job with Fox Sports. His records are all allowed to stand, and are even included in Hall exhibits.  He just can't be a member of the Hall.

He did this to himself.  I'd not happy he did it.  I can understand why Mr. Madden is not happy about it.  But none of us can undo the dilemma Pete Rose created for himself.  And, even as things stand, his life serves to illustrate a principle that should be considered as American as any:  no one is above the game.

Not even Charlie Hustle.

Take It Personally, Mr. President, But Let Us Read It

I'm grateful that congressional Democrats have stiffened their spines in the face of the full-court press by their Republican counterparts, working in conjunction with the President so many of them hate, to fast-track the negotiation and final approval of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP, for short, appears to be an Asian counterpart to NAFTA--or, to look at it another way, yet another attempt to relocate American jobs overseas under the guise of promoting global prosperity through "free trade."  We have been assured that these fears are groundless, that TPP in its current form includes protections for domestic workers, as well as for environmental issues.

Sounds great.  There's just one problem.  "Fast track," in this case, includes the inability of anyone in the U.S. other than the President and his negotiators to read the terms of TPP before they vote on it. Or, for that matter, to offer any changes in those terms prior to an up-or-down vote on it.

I don't know if that bothers you or not but, whatever your political persuasion may be, I think it should.  It bothers me a lot.  For one very simple reason:  It's not the way our system of government is supposed to work.

We have a Constitution that diffuses power within the Federal government and outside of it, among the states and individuals.  That diffusion is designed to ensure that government truly is of, by, and for the people, because the people are able to weigh in on issues facing the nation.  "Fast track," on the other hand, is not about weighing in on anything.  It's about giving not only this President, but any and all of his successors, the ability to run roughshod over the concerns of the governed.

Sadly, Barack Obama doesn't seem to see it that way.  Not only has he defended the TPP process, he's made it clear how unhappy he is that "folks" (as he might call them) within his own party have called him out for pushing it as hard as he has.  Or, to put it in his own words, "I take that personally."

As well you might, Mr. President.  As well you might.

But facts are stubborn things, as someone once said.  And the fact is, sir, that you have put more muscle behind moving TPP than you have behind anything else.  More muscle than you put behind immigration.  More than you put behind cap-and-trade legislation.  More than you put behind financial regulation, or health care, or even the economic stimulus.  In each case, you were content to play a background role, and let the legislative process play itself out--and, as a consequence, get a lot less in the results that your supporters wanted.

And it's not as if there aren't a whole host of other issues behind which you could put similar muscle. Raising the minimum wage.  Solving the student debt crisis.  Repairing the damage done by the Supreme Court to the Voting Rights Act.  Enacting sensible restrictions on guns, of the kinds that were formerly supported by member of both parties.

Why take the major stand of your presidency here?  And why is your message, "Trust me"?

Why not trust us?  You belong to a party that prides itself on robust debate.  You promised us a transparent presidency.  You were formerly a vociferous critic of earlier trade agreements, and the harm they have done to our economy.  Why betray all of that for the sake of TPP?  For the sake of the twin siren calls of history and the media, whispering in your ear that they only love "bipartisan" presidencies?  Is that it?  Is it something else?

Why not just end the guessing game, and the suspicion that goes hand-in-hand with it, by just letting our elected representatives read the damn thing?  Why not show us what transparency actually looks like?  Why not "trust the process," as you were so willing to at every other fork in the road of your Administration?

I'm one of your biggest supporters, Mr. President, but you're acting like a petulant child on this one, not like a leader.  Trust the process.  Trust the people.  Trust your own party.  You want trust?  Get it the old-fashioned way.  Earn it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Real Jihadists Among Us

They're not necessarily Muslims.  They can be good old conservative Christians, calling for your head if you object to the words "In God We Trust" on public property.  Of course, it's done anonymously, proving that the author doesn't have the courage of his or her alleged convictions.  But it does make one worry about the possibility that, somewhere out there, there may be an exception to that rule.

What Do Conservatives Do With The Truth?

Hide it, of course, as is the case with Oklahoma and fracking.

If A Reagan Advisor Said It, It Must Be True

On the subject of members of Reagan's party:  "... rather stupid and not very well read."  Hey, all I'm doing is quoting.

This Is How You REALLY Fight Terrorism

Hit them where it hurts:  in the pocketbook.

Captain America's Not The Only One Thawed Out

Read about how global warming is reviving life forms frozen for millennia, and bringing them back to life.

When Is A Conservative OK With Seizing Private Land?

When it's to be used for a pipeline.  This is all you need to know about modern conservatism:  profits trump principles.