Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spoke too soon

Looks like Joe Lieberman has de facto resigned from the Democratic caucus: we'll see whether the Dem leadership calls his bluff: if they do and he does not fold, the leadership needs to make his break from the Party official by stripping his committee assignments and excluding him from caucus meetings.

I kind of expected something like this from him, but yesterday lulled me into a sense of hope.

Monday, October 26, 2009

That's More Like It

It ain't over til it's over, as Yogi Berra would say, but it looks like the chances are now very good for Health Care Reform, real health care reform, to pass Congress and be signed by the President. Personally, I would have preferred single payer or a hybrid along the lines of what the Germans do, but it has a robust "Public Option" and is a huge, HUGE step forward. My congratulations to President Obama and the Congressional Democrats for an unassailable triumph.

I will be so bold as to predict that this is the beginning of the end for the radical right faction of the Republican Party.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWC

Am I the only one who hates the way the Weather Channel covers the west? "Atlanta has received almost half an inch of rain today, causing slick roads. Oh, and there was some flooding and mudslides and stuff in California. We go now to Jane who has more details on the Atlanta situation..."

Monday, October 12, 2009

To My Idiot Democratic Party: A Rant

From a blogger I occasionally read who goes by the name of "Digby" (no relation to frequent Vox Nova commenter Digby Dolben) - in the context of a review of Michael Moore's new film:

It's extremely disheartening to see the administration and so many Democrats in congress completely ignore the political and policy ramifications of failing to engage in fundamental financial reform and fiery populist rhetoric at a time like this. This [tea party] movement is happening in a vacuum created by a lack of interest in this topic by liberals who are so enamored of being members of the new "creative class" and the like that they aren't paying attention to the cynicism and anger that's reaching critical mass among average working stiffs out there. It's easy to dismiss it, but very, very foolish. The issues Moore raises in this film will be answered on the right with authoritarianism, militarism, immigrant bashing and violence. It's a recipe for disaster unless the left takes this on in direct, political terms.

I'm getting more and more peeved at people who think of themselves as "liberals" because they drive Priuses, are pro-choice, eat organic food and treat the nanny like a member of the family: sorry to be the one to break it to them, but that's horse dung.

Being a liberal used to mean protecting ordinary working stiffs from the excesses of their boss's boss's boss. It meant standing up for unions by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, refusing to shop at Walmart, Whole Foods and other union-busting stores.

Being a liberal means recognizing that the government has an important role in helping balance society by equalizing the distribution of society's goods through: 1. A (way more than now) progressive tax system, and 2. redistribution of wealth through both direct payments, and indirectly through support for public education (K through college) that is heavily subsidized and of excellent quality, and other public services.

The top marginal tax rate during the administration of that fiery Leninist, Ike, was between 91 and 94 percent. The meant that 94 percent of the top portion of your income (translated into today's dollars, that portion above about $2 million) went straight from your bank account to the government. This had a chilling effect on executives awarding themselves obscene bonuses, because taxes would just eat up the majority of it before you could purchase a congressman with it. The structure encouraged a flattening of income distribution, and that's exactly what happened.

(This is amazing: Republican president Dwight Eisenhower was more (genuinely) liberal than virtually any Democrat of national significance today? I think I see the real problem many Americans have with the Democratic Party: they refuse to be real, actual Democrats.)

Harry Truman is not just spinning in his grave: he's going to pop out of the ground, stalk up to Capitol Hill and start kicking people's tails at this rate.

We STILL don't have health care? What the hell?? You know how to fix this: either single payer, or a hybrid system like in some European countries. The fix isn't about "give dump trucks full of money to insurance companies," I can assure you. Get. It. Done.

Look, Dems: the job of the Democratic Party is to protect Joe and Jane average from the rapacious greed and exploitative power of capitalism's captains - the folks Roosevelt called "the Money Power." Do your jobs, okay?

The thing is, if you do, you'll have power for the next few decades, I promise you. You'll be heroes to millions, just like the New Dealers were.

Or, you can sell your souls to support what this nation has become: a plutocracy, and plutocracies tend to be either reformed (see 1930s New Deal) or end in considerably more grief (see various armed revolutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia.) I much prefer (and could only endorse) the "reform" route of the two choices, but the choice is in your hands, Dems.

American Plutocracy

What we have now is a plutocracy, and plutocracies tend to be either reformed (see 1930s New Deal) or end in considerably more grief (see various armed revolutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia.) I much prefer the "reform" route of the two choices.

One thing that bugs me about people who call themselves "liberals" is that there are enough upper income ("creative class") people calling themselves that that any mention of the typical means of reform (steeply progressive tax rates and income redistribution) is greeted like the rantings of Marxists, rather than the thoroughly sensible, historically proven ideas they actually are.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Storm Coming In

The heat of summer is soon to be a distant memory. This is an "El Nino" year in California, which means torrential rains during the wet season (Oct-Apr).

This coming Monday the weather service is predicting the first storm of the season, and it promises to be a wallopaloozer: 60mph winds, up to 8 inches of rain spread over 2 days.

As dramatic and potentially hazardous as that is, I really see it more as a reason for hope: California has been in a moderate drought for a number of years, and the copious rains of an El Nino year are great news for that.

But also, the beginning of every rainy season in California is somewhat analogous to Spring in the "4-seasons" parts of the US: it is the season of new life. The oaks, laurels and madrones are becoming stressed at the end of the dry season, the grasses are long-golden and rattle dry in the wind; the creosote and ceanothus bushes are looking pretty twiggy and dessicated, the creeks have slowed to a few pools and trickles, and a fine layer of dust coats the leathery leaves of summer-dried eucalyptus up on the ridgetops. It is as if nature is crying out for rebirth and renewal.

But just lately there has been a hint of humidity in the winds, as over the horizon in the Pacific the autumn rains prepare to break at last through the last ramparts of summer heat and overrun the mountains and fields with blessed, long-missed rain.

[Update: now may be close to 10 inches in some areas. Yeesh.]

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Andrew Sullivan posts a note from a reader:

There is no denying that religion, and the Catholic Church in particular, has inspired and fostered many wonderful people. I think of Peter, humble and contrite and transformed after his denial; Mary Magdalen, of whom nothing need be said; the fathers of the Egyptian desert and their almost unbearable kindness and gentleness; Francis of Assisi and his Lady Poverty;

Francis de Sales, who found a way to be both a prelate and a saint; and in our own times, Dorothy Day, who practiced a Christianity as radical as Christ's own, while remaining a faithful daughter of the Church. And I say nothing of the countless mute, inglorious saints whom only God knows.

But the Church as an institution is mired in the world to its own great detriment. The worst thing that ever happened to it was Constantine's conversion and its consequent establishment. For the Church itself should have remained a pilgrim. No cathedrals and episcopal palaces. No mitres, croziers, and gorgeous vestments. No princes of the Church. Just plain men and women going out to find and care for lost sheep, the wisest among them showing the way by example and quiet counsel.

It might have gone that way. It could yet. But the need to overawe people and demand obedience from them is powerful and seductive. It is a part of that world that the kingdom of heaven is not of.

There are certainly things there to criticize - mainly the generally protestant take on history: the Church wasn't "established" in the wake of Constantine, for example, and it depends what he means by "demand obedience." But the idea that my Catholic Church's presentation of itself could definitely be more along the lines of the presentation of its Founder -- humble, prophetic, identifying itself far more explicitly with the poor in its public face, "afflicting the comfortable," and so on -- is something that has occurred to me as well.