Friday, September 30, 2011

The Greatest Blog Post I Have Ever Read

Outside the "rant" and "comic/meme" categories, this epic opinion by Jeffery wins the internet.

I know it will sound like a political critique, at first, but you have to keep reading to understand what it is really all about.

Sheer brilliance.

< /applause>


The Taxicab Guild

The problem with New Orleans' economy isn't "too much government regulation," it is that all the regulations are designed to benefit a few, well connected individuals at the expense of everyone else.

I wonder how many marketing consultants they've hired to assist them with this. Meanwhile Berni is telling us the reason we can expect little more than ineffectual action from the city is that the people they're "meeting with" and whose interests they're going to protect are the "entrenched" brokers.

From the original article at The Lens, this quote is telling:

In other cities, permits are non-transferable and officials retain control over the process to earn more money for the public from the sale of cab permits. New Orleans city officials say they want to reform the taxi department, but it’s unclear whether a change from the market-driven system is likely.

A recent analysis in Washington, D.C., cautioned city leaders there against implementing a closed-market system such as the one in New Orleans.

"Closed-market" sounds like a savvy marketer found a good way to brand "modern-day feudalism." Now there's a term we're going to have to start using. That's how the powers-that-be and well-connected are able to keep talking about how "market-driven" and "business friendly" they are, when they really mean the economy is driven by political connections and closed off to any of the real competition you see in a true market based economy.


Bless Their Hearts

Some folks just like to pick fights over dumb stuff.

Of course, this nonsense will get blown all out of proportion once it hits right-wing-radio, Faux News, and Sara Palin,Inc. To them, it will all be evidence of the coming liberal government homosexual sharia war on Good Christian America (TM).


Thursday, September 29, 2011


So, if tax cuts spur job creation, how do you explain this?

Again, where are the jobs?


The Look

See what a little community input and city support can do? Even corporate decisions can be brought to reason.


Papers, Please

More immigration nonsense from the South. More going after people who behave "illegally" rather than going after the businesses and "job creators" who profit the most from an immigration system in chaos. Dry up the jobs, and folks here illegally will go home on their own. I mean, hell, isn't it funny that all this is happening after the real estate bubble collapsed, and wealthy developers no longer need the migrant workers and their crews to put together cookie cutter homes in the suburbs for half the price of American workers?

Well, I guess nothing is really "funny" that the states with the biggest historical problems with the civil rights of certain demographics are now using states' rights to target specific demographics. Glad all the old money boys got "clean" before this became a political issue du jour.

And the schoolchildren? Schools have enough trouble keeping track of their students right now. Tomorrow they're supposed to check their citizenship status? I can't wait to see the kind of red tape that's going to create, and I'd be willing to wager that burden is likely to fall on the most at-risk schools serving the most at-risk populations that already have the weakest administrations, lowest funding, and most inadequate resources to handle the new rules.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Special Rights

Let's hear again about all the "special rights" being handed out to gay Americans. Like the right to get kicked off a plane for not subjecting themselves to bigotry.


Grey Paint Could Fix It

Considering the history of free expression in feudal New Orleans, I'm just sayin'.


Paper Over Plastic

Maitri muses about the future of books in a technology-worshiping world. Will the rise of e-books end the need for libraries and paperbacks, or will the corporate rules and high prices attributed to technology sharing keep the market where it is?

Is my purchased eBook really mine? In other words, can I do whatever I want with it, including giving it to a friend after I’ve finished reading it without giving away my reader with it?

I'll readily admit that my Luddite self is still a paper & trade kind of guy. I'll shell out the cash for the paper and hard backs. Some books I read and re-read again and again. Those I don't get circulated to friends or donated to book drives. For me, there's just something about having a physical book.

Not to mention, what happens if the power goes out?


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Strangeness

UGA's student newspaper, The Red & Black, goes on record to expose a very strange internet lie. I don't know how important a story this is, but if their readership is what they say it was, that could be problematic. Andrew Sullivan calls it "Ruining Someone's Fake Career."

Crazy kids.


Monday, September 26, 2011

The War of Texas Aggression

The Aggies have won the War of Texas Aggression. They're out of the Big 12 and in the SEC. When it was Arkansas leaving the SWC I think it was more cathartic. Here's the only team not in Texas from the SWC moving on to greener pastures. What I'm wondering is if the SEC won the war, too. What do they gain by a 13th team? They get Texas' Jan Brady, but to be fair I've seen some pretty hot photos of post-Brady Eve Plumb. Scheduling looks like it will be a bitch and the SEC is balking at a 9th conference game so far. I guess we'll see what the future holds but personally I can live with it if it means I'll get a drivable Georgia game in the near future (especially if it's against Herschel's coming-out-party opponent).


It is easy to write off the members of the Eris Parade. They didn't have a permit to parade, and some of them were vandalizing property. I find it abhorrent that the police acted the way they did when they came for the paraders, and that the "justice" system in feudal New Orleans is so corrupted that it will disregard video evidence. But I'm not going to say anything, because I'd rather be associated with violent behavior by police than unruly behavior by some smelly, tattooed revelers. Those people aren't like me. And the police have a thankless job to do, so I'm going to cut them some slack like always.

It is equally easy to write off the tattooed protesters on Wall Street. These folks are definitely in the streets without a permit, doing silly things like disrupting traffic and chanting stupid things and generally making a spectacle of themselves. Not only do I find such behavior useless and unsavory, I think their shenanigans undercut my liberal credibility with the independents and the good middle class folks out there in Real America. I mean, everybody knows that the only protesters who are getting on the news these days are the corporately sponsored Tea Party, so these folks are basically bringing this on themselves. So what if the police are getting a little rough when they came for those women? Those women aren't like me. And the police have a thankless job to do, so I'm going to cut them some slack like always.

So I'm not going to say anything. And by "say something" I mean get involved. Get on the record. Write some letters to locally elected officials. Start getting out and raising hell about the criminal justice system run by the locals who live where I live. Not over people like this.

No. I'm not going to say anything like that. I'm going to let it slide, and tune into Maddow or Olbermann or the Daily Show and fuss to my like-minded friends about how Obama is really a Republican and how awful it would be if someone like Rick Perry became President and how it sucks that all the politicians in Washington are owned by lobbyists and stuff. Maybe I'll post about some hypocritical Tea Partier who desperately desires government funding for pork projects in their district far away from where I live. Maybe I'll talk about Guantanamo Bay because torture sucks. Maybe I'll write a post on my blog about how somebody somewhere should do something to keep this stuff in check, and bemoan the fact that no one seems to be stepping up to do it. Where the hell are they, anyway? Monday Night Football is on, and I shouldn't have to be thinking about complicated stuff like this.

No. I'm not going to say anything. I'll not take a position, and wait for the next outrageous national issue over which I have no control to show up in the news, so I can say something about that. It will probably be something snarky and irreverent. But it won't matter, it won't take a lot of thought, and maybe some friends will like it on Facebook. It won't be a difficult thing to do like say something about the way my local police treat revelers in the streets, how my local judges need to be more professional, and how, if we can't control our own local systems, why do we think anyone can control them on a national level?


And one when day they come for me, or find me in the streets, or catch me up in the system from which I can't get out, there will be no one left to speak for me. I won't be like them. The police have a thankless job to do, so they'll be cut some slack as always. And no one will say anything. Not for someone like me.

It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt

- John Philpot Curran


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Incoherence Preserved

Jeffrey puts together a rather progress-resistant issue that confounds New Orleans' development.

The whole argument is yet another example of preservationist incoherence. Nine times out of ten these arguments are really about different groups of well to do property owners arguing over who gets what set of rights and privileges with the appeal to "preservation" being merely a tool of convenience for whichever side isn't proposing the specific development in question. Rarely, though, is any of this ever about mere aesthetics.

For those of you following the telenovela that is replacing derelict structures in NOLA, this particular episode includes:

1. Incoherent, reality-defying zoning laws. Because if there is any place to put new, multi-story, high density mixed use development, it is on Canal Street downtown.
2. An empty building that no one wants to purchase and restore as-is.
3. A city council ready to change zoning ordinances whenever.
4. Rendering zoning laws meaningless so long as you have the right political connections.
5. "Preservation" groups demanding that undesirable properties remain undesirable.
6. Until "someone" can come up with a better plan.
7. When zoning laws would be rendered meaningless because of other people's political connections.

Isn't feudalism fun?


Friday, September 23, 2011

2023 at the Earliest

With emphasis on the earliest.

Not content to simply hold the House of Representatives for a generation by virtue of drawing lines on maps, the GOP in all of the states will soon be copying and pasting the Pennsylvania plan to tie electoral college votes to gerrymandered congressional districts.

Under Pileggi’s plan, Obama could carry the state in 2012 — by winning huge majorities in heavily Democratic Philadelphia — and still lose the majority of its electoral votes.

If we must have an electoral college, I'm cool with moving away from the winner take all nonsense that most states currently use. (Though saying so after Bush II was elected somehow made me a "Sore/Loserman.") I want every vote to be as important as possible, so candidates won't focus less on certain populations in certain states to game the system. However, this can be done with simple math by using percentages. If 55% of your voters go for a candidate, they get 55% (rounded up) of your state's electoral votes. Simple.

But not good for the GOP, who is afraid to split things by population alone. Now keep in mind that the decisions of electoral college allocation are a responsibility of the states and add to that the fact that the GOP - due to Democratic, Liberal, and Progressive focus on national issues only - controls most of the state legislatures that will be making this decision. Especially in the "blue" states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota where a plan like this would do the most political damage.

Problem is, the Democratic Party and their "base" has all but abandoned the states, especially in the South. Those Democratic officials who still hold office don't want to push this issue because any change may threaten their jobs sooner than the coming GOP takeover.

But we are quickly racing towards a one-party nation with almost zero real election-based choices. The GOP is making it happen, while the Democratic Party is refusing to accept that truth and allowing that to happen.


The Highway Ponzi Scheme

I don't think there's any doubt. (HT: Alli)

Infrastructure is one of the most necessary functions of government, but at this point, the monolithic and homogeneous infrastructure model of "Interstates and Highways Everywhere" only contribute to our maintenance of a fundamentally unsustainable economy.

The highway along with cheap gas prices (which first socialist President Michelle Bachmann promises to set arbitrarily at $2/gallon) allowed for destinations to spread apart, often severing irrevocably the bonds of community. And that was when the cost of road construction was paid back in return thru cannibalistic development. Since building the freeways that made in-town living undesirable and out-of-town living (and commuting) viable, tax base fled to the point where we can't maintain the roads and infrastructure we built.

Emphasis added.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Feudalism Update

I somehow missed Oyster's post on the vibrant, guild-and-favor centered economy we have here in New Orleans. What benign liege lords and ladies we have here in our fair market city, to allow 7.5% of enterprising tradesmen and women to participate in a venture!

How inefficient the "free enterprise" system would be that the so-called "republics" use, where they set rules and regulations for all tradesfolk, allow just anyone to participate in a venture by following the rules, and allow "the people" to decide what tradesfolk to patronize with their coin. How much better it is that our wise leaders will make these choices for us!


Elizabeth Warren

She is brave enough to say things like this in an America where telling such truths are likened with socialism and communism. There are no self-made people. The American rich have wealth because they participate in the most dynamic market in the world. It didn't just grow on their privately owned money tree, or arrive at their house on the back of a unicorn. Well, unless they are well connected enough to have friends in government, that is.

Membership has its privileges. It also has its responsibilities.

Is there any wonder why I'm a fan?

(HT: Alli for the link.)


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Primary Challenge

Because some members of the Professional Left feel the need to speak for that homogenous and monolithic demographic known as "poor and working people."

Because Lord help us if folks like Nader and West got involved to help "poor and working people" take back the states, where individuals and associations have the most power and the politics are closer to the people. Maybe they should go after progress-resistant Democratic officials in local and state elections. Lord knows, there are enough of those - and they'll likely be there no matter who is President.

Unfortunately, that won't bring the self-important like-minded attention from like-minded people or the activist fundraising dollars these Professional Leftists are looking for. No, let's keep surrendering the states to the right-wing (especially in the South) so we can get on TV and the internet to chide the President for trying to navigate policy solutions in the midst of an obstructionist legislature on both sides of the aisle.

Especially after the wholesale cratering of political capital that came about when the jaw-dropping political disaster of the first Stimulus Bill made its way out of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid's legislature.

Maybe we're in some desperate need of a wake-up call, and I don't know how many more elections and national and state policies the Professional Left wants to surrender to the right-wing before they wake up and realize they are part of the problem.

And, yes, I'm going to keep calling them "the Professional Left" until they prove they can do something other than get on television or the internet and play a made-for-TV role. I got lulled into the Nader delusions once upon a time, and I remember what that got me.


PAC-12 to Texas and Oklahoma: Oh hell no!

I keep scratching my head over this whole super conference meme. The larger BCS conferences have no external reason to roll the dice on an unproven setup. Oklahoma is out there trying to bring 4 schools to the PAC-12: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. The PAC-12 officially told them, "Oh hell no!" and Texas is a big reason for that.

The PAC-12 just set up a sweet revenue-sharing TV deal with Fox. Texas on the other hand recently set up its own network with ESPN that it doesn't share with anyone. The PAC-12 isn't so hard up for new schools that it's willing to take in a member unwilling to share a piece of their pie. And quite frankly Texas is better off right where they are. With Nebraska already gone and A&M with a foot out the door, the winner of the Texas vs. Oklahoma game is basically guaranteed a BCS Bowl.

The problem is that Oklahoma may not be better off right now. They want changes in order to remain in the Big 12. But I'm not sure if their treat has teeth. The political reality is that Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are tied at the conference hip. Who will take both? The PAC-12 is apparently out. I don't think the SEC would take them. That would put them at 15 assuming A&M comes along as expected. The ACC might but Oklahoma would likely be better off staying put than joining the ACC.

It's an interesting situation, but I think the current best solution is for Oklahoma to drop their new-conference fever, work for change in the Big 12, and if things don't improve get out before they take over the role of Texas' Jan Brady from the soon-to-be-departing Aggies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cause and Effect

Are you an American citizen who is distraught with the torture regime instituted under the Bush administration? Are you angry that the torture regime was neither investigated nor prosecuted under the Obama administration? Well, suck it, whigs - in the land of reality-based reality, you reap what you sow.

How is there any genuine expectation that the same system that brought you such travesties as Cameron Todd Willingham, Troy Davis, John Thompson, and has trouble with police departments acting like this would somehow demonstrate more prudence and responsibility on a national level when faced with a panic-inducing crisis it has a pathological, counterfactual, and confused difficulty understanding?

You think governments just automatically and magically do the right thing because you think they should behave a certain way? You think they won't try to get around every single legal or constitutional obstacle in their path to get what they want when they want it? You think if you let local and state governments get away with things, the national government is somehow going to pay attention?

Let me tell you something: the only reason you think that is because you have grossly misunderstood the history of your own nation. You're like a Tea Partier pining for an America that never existed. We have governments to do things that cannot effectively be done by individuals and associations alone. That does not mean individuals and associations are excused from keeping governments in check through eternal vigilance and elections. Yes, it is hard work. Yes, there isn't much reward.

But your voice and influence is most powerful at the local and state levels, so if you're letting your local and state governments get away with torture and police state tactics for decades, you ought display far less outrage over that behavior writ large on a national and international scale. Because they're only going to stop when you throw them out of office and make them stop.


Proceedural Question

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will not be staying the execution of Troy Davis. I'm not up to date on the case, so I'm not real comfortable making a judgement. What I do know is that the record of American states putting the right folks on death row isn't exactly spotless right now. Especially in the South. Credibility is the most important thing when it comes to a state decision to execute. Especially in the South.

Yeah, I said it twice. And I'm being generous.

But a part of that article got me wondering:

The board released its decision just after 8 a.m., after spending an entire day hearing from Davis' supporters and then prosecutors and MacPhail's relatives.

Davis' supporters? What were they, activists? Experts? Defense attorneys? Friends? Family? Supporters are a group of folks I generally associate with individuals outside the proceedings, writing letters and holding vigils. The choice of words here is suspect, since prosecutors also got to talk. Which group has a more credible case, based on what they are called in the media?

And then, the victim's family gets to speak? I can only assume this is normal proceedure, and that the disconnect belongs to me. The defense has already failed to establish doubt in court and on appeal, and this proceeding is simply determining the severity of the punishment. Something gets to me, however, when emotional testimony can be entered into the record during the final proceeding to determine whether the state should end a human being's life. This isn't the convicted party begging for mercy, this is questioning the finality of the case against him.

And you have to wonder how much closure the victim's family will actually get with irreversible justice meted out by a system with straining credibility.

Again, I'm not as familiar with the court case as I ought be to make such pronouncements, but you'd think if there was more physical evidence required to get an execution punishment (as opposed to changing witness testimony and plea deals), the system might find itself with far fewer cases presenting so much doubt in the minds of the public. As a death penalty supporter, I am constantly shocked at the number of execution sentences meted out that are later open to so much question and reversal. While it doesn't shake my faith in irreversible justice being on the table, it makes me think it is employed too often as a punishment in inappropriate cases.

Because this is the death penalty we're talking about. There should be no reasonably raised questions regarding guilt, and the case should not hinge only on someone's malleable or self-interested testimony.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Affirmative Action?

So much for that race baiting narrative. The right-wing make believe machine has told me for years about how resentful I should be of minorities who receive some sort of "favorable treatment" that somehow limits my white-middle-class economic opportunity.

There are a few things that limit my white-middle-class economic opportunity. The biggest are my own motivation and ambition. The next are all the taxes I have to pay, or sacrifices I have to make in order for our local, state, and national governments to subsidize rich people while we wait for them to "create jobs." But race? My complexion means that race is not a limiting factor in my life, and anyone who suggests otherwise is living in the land of make believe.

I remember back in the day at Georgia, when there was a big push - mostly the result of such manufactured resentment - to remove race from consideration in the admissions process. Proof was in the puddin' however, as they kept considerations for legacy applications and those who applied from rural (and suburban) counties.

The way you close the actual race-based economic opportunity gap is to take public schools seriously, and to accept that the education of minority youth is an integral part of that seriousness. As long as local, state, and national governments continue to sacrifice educational resources at the altar of subsidizing rich people, no amount of "reform" is going to magic us to the magic land of the "level playing field."

Reality is, the deck is still stacked against minorities when it comes to education, and therefore economic, opportunity. That the deck is stacked differently, and maybe a little lower, than it was in the 40's and 50's doesn't make the intentional historical dispossession of minority education in this country any less insidious.


Saturday, September 17, 2011


Long ago, some activists said "New Orleans needs a population explosion." I agreed with that, if not their methods. More population means more innovation, tax base, and dynamism.

Related to that idea are these recent articles (HT: The Dish) exploring factors that limit the necessary growth (and, by extension, national growth) and figuring out one way zoning and building changes could move those goalposts.

Josh Rothman at the Boston Globe writes:

Lots of smart people want to move to the big city, because that's where the best jobs in the best industries are located. Faced with outrageous housing prices, though, they conclude that it's "better to take the lower-paying job in the less innovative industry in the place where big homes are easily affordable."

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, they're experimenting with a different sort of density-building home construction and zoning.

Laneway homes are basically miniature versions of single-family homes – in the range of 500 to 1,000 square feet – that are built in what has traditionally been the garage location of a single-family lot: in the backyard facing the lane. They can’t be sub-divided or sold separately from the main house on the lot. They can only be used for additional family space or rental income.

Does that sound familiar? New Orleans developed with density in mind, in the high ground between the Mississippi River and the backswamp. In many neighborhoods, you see plenty of carriage houses turned into rental spaces or mother-in-law cottages. There's also the shotgun double concept, where someone can own a home and rent out the other side of it, putting two addresses on one lot. There are also basement (first-floor) apartments across much of the city, and some of the larger houses are split into multiple apartments for living.

Unfortunately, and I can't find the link to this, I think the new city zoning has done away with such density-building allowances over much of the city. Thought New Orleans might be more interested in getting more people in the city's unoccupied housing right now than building more density on already-occupied land.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Spot the Differences

Picture A
Picture B

Answer: one is President Obama, the Kenyan anti-colonialist himself, forcing a US Marine recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor to drink a beer with him at the White House, so his press secretary to could take a picture of this on his phone, tweet it to the universe, and gain some political advantage from it. Because this President "uses our most precious assets 4 personal gain."

The other picture is President Bush, spontaneously giving a speech on a spontaneously decorated aircraft carrier he spontaneously arrived on in a flight suit, just to show how much Real Americans (TM) support our brave men and women in uniform.

< /sarcasm >

After the long 8 years of hollow photo ops that made up the Bush presidency, you'd think people would be able to make better distinctions.

And let us not be confused, if Obama's press folks had not released pics of the President having a beer with Meyer, the same people would be complaining that the lack of it demonstrated Obama's contempt for America and her Armed Forces.

Because this is America, and there's a whiny subset of our society who has to turn anything involving this President into a political fight. And they do so even with stories of unrivaled heroism.

Because with them, the narratives are more important than reality.


Bulldawg Psychology

Few college football fanbases can begin the week with 8-Ball, the Clemson Tiger, and end the week with Chaucer without skipping a beat.

Well done, ladies and gentlemen of Dawgsports.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The Democratic Party will not regain political control of the US House Representatives until 2023 at the earliest. No recent political developments have changed this prediction.

As a matter of fact, I'd think they strengthen it.

Oh, and let's not forget that the GOP are still talking about the Ground Zero Mosque as part of their election strategy.


Consolidation & Integration

Y'all remember all the talk recently of Louisiana consolidating public universities?

Well, Louisiana isn't the only state thinking about it. Though look at how the USG is setting this up: the Regents will design criteria required for consolidation. Also, the space utilization study will put a cap on redundant capital projects.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Most Plausible Explanation

Andrew Sullivan sums up all of my fears about the current Republican Party, my continued support of Obama, and the worst case scenario about what happens if the country continues down this road.

That's how I explain the current GOP. It can only think in doctrines, because the alternative is living in a complicated, global, modern world they both do not understand and also despise. Taxes are therefore always bad. Government is never good. Foreign enemies must be pre-emptively attacked. Islam is not a religion. Climate change is an elite conspiracy to impoverish America. Terror suspects are terrorists. When Americans torture, it is not torture. When Christians murder, they are not Christians. And if you change your mind on any of these issues, you are a liberal, an apostate, and will be attacked.

These Republicans who play conservative on television and radio while selling violent populism as an option for citizen engagement are the Fire-Eaters born again.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Religion of Peace?

Tell me again how all the non-Christian "foreigners" from outside the country are more prone to violence than the population that's been here for generations.

Just in case anyone has forgotten about the long and unfinished history of terrorism in the American South.

"Hate Crime" is just the phrase this nation calls terrorism when an American is to blame.


Prescribed Dosage

Mark at Levees Not War is looking for ways Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives can get off the mat and start building a cohesive political message. Or, at least, to stop allowing the right-wing to control any national political narrative whole hog.

The American Jobs Act, presented so artfully by the President on Thursday, may be a start to something like that.

But make no mistake, this could take a long time in an uphill battle. Right wing opposition to the Jobs Act is already robust, as they're simply dusting off their old stimulus playbook. Just look at that last article: those who play conservative on television and radio are now wholesale against spending on transportation infrastructure, public schools, and any form of social program.

These are the stakes, and the President, as well as the DLP activists, need to figure that out right quick.


Friday, September 09, 2011

Got Mojo?

Dukes jokingly explores a college football theory I've actually been kinda wondering about for years.

Wondering in a sort of "ha-ha, something like that could never really happen, could it?" kinda way.


Vote Democrat to Live Like a Republican...

A few years ago at the Wukela New Year's Eve/Croatian Liberation barbecue I was talking to one of the guests about politics. He said some rather curious. He votes Democrat to live like a Republican. The line of reasoning is something along these lines: The average American is second on the pecking order to Party donors and lobbyists on either side. Since neither Party will yield their primary interests, their secondary interests are where they will compromise. So in his mind voting Democrat will get him Republican secondary interests. I don't buy that as a comprehensive strategy but it has certainly paid dividends here. Obama's job creation plan? Massive unfunded tax cuts. Why does that sound familiar?

And yeah, I know Obama said everything in the bill is paid for, but his reasoning is that he's going to make budget cut recommendations to the super committee already charged with cutting the deficit. I'd wager a large chunk of money that even if the bill passes and Obama sends along his cut recommendations, they overlap significantly with cuts members of the super committee are already planning to pitch.

At any rate, our Democratic President plans to save the economy and boost jobs by cutting taxes. Republicans have nothing to lose by passing this bill. It either doesn't revive the economy and the "failed economic policies of Barack Obama" remain intact or the economy revives and Republicans get to point out how economic conservatism won the day.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Unequal Criticisms

I'll say first that I don't buy in to many of the Professional Left's criticisms of President Obama. I think many of those folks really fundamentally misunderstand their own amount of political capital, the political capital the President has to work with, and where all that capital comes from.

That being said, when the Professional Left criticizes President Obama over those policies or economic realities he has little or no control over, it does not blunt charges of Tea Party racism.

Charges of Tea Party racism come from real Tea Party behaviors. Though some members of the Professional Left make money off hyperbolizing those behaviors, let us never pretend that they don't exist in droves. As a matter of fact, from a credibility standpoint, the Tea Party does not have a leg to stand on, even when compared to the Professional Left.

Need evidence? Hell, this didn't take five minutes. From the front pages of Drudge and the Limbaugh Letter to Tea Party Presidential favorites stunning lack of knowledge about slavery's legacy to the words of their candidates to the obsession with the birth certificate to the obsession with the President's religion because some religions are bad and are practiced by "others" who build Ground Zero Mosques to worship the "the Monkey God" (Their. Own. Words.)

And let us never forget how often they attempt to cast "others" as the True Racists - from Limbaugh's Obama's America racial panic ranting to the end zone dancing when Andrew Breitbart turned Shirley Sherrod's speech of racial reconciliation and overcoming into one of oppression.

And, yes, I will consider those who influence the Tea Party the most often to speak for them. Face it, the Tea Party's hysterical opposition to everything Obama does is rooted in false beliefs about make-believe policies delivered by the same people who aren't even attempting to use a dog whistle to bring race to the forefront of the national political conversation. They're bold enough to do so, and are content to let their marketers and water carriers defend what they are doing as legitimate policy criticisms. It isn't like anyone is confronting them effectively or calling them on this behavior, either.

The Professional Left, with their limited audience and narrowly defined critiques shouldn't be in the same conversation with the propaganda and narrative markets for the Tea Party.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

"Citizenship in the Classic Sense"

Another wrap on this awful decade of American history, from Democracy Journal:

It’s been a sad, lost, and enervating decade. We’ve had a few successes. No further successful attacks have been visited upon us. We have done serious damage to Al Qaeda, including the breathtaking assault on its leader. It’s probably not a coincidence that the major successes of the last 10 years have emanated from the one public institution in this country—the military—that is not the subject of constant pitched ideological warfare.
The contributors who lament particular things that have happened in America are really lamenting in different ways their disappointment that here finally, after years of toxic political arguments that culminated in debates over semen-stained dresses and hanging chads, was an event that should have summoned the best qualities from our political class, and in us; but alas, too little oxygen existed in our system for those best qualities to open up and flourish.

For my own part, I started down the path of "citizenship in the classic sense" in 2004. In 2001, I still trusted people in charge of things to get it right. I might not agree with everything they did, I may despise some of their decisions, but I trusted things to turn out OK in the end. Such trust eroded for the next 3 years.

After watching the joke of the Kerry candidacy, and wondering why there was such a disconnect between what I saw on television and what I saw in reality, I decided that if I felt a lack of agency in my own governance, I needed to be a part of the major political organization to which I had the most in common - the Democratic Party.

What I found there were good people with good hearts who welcomed my participation in ways I never expected. But I also found confusion over what was happening to the country, and why they were so easily demonized by people on television and radio. The more "activist" among us constantly blamed national problems and national individuals as if they knew them personally.

Those were problems that few people could do anything about on the local level. Those were problems that few people got involved to do something about. But when we started talking about local and state issues, and doing things about that? People showed up. They got energized. They got involved. Why?

There are two kinds of people who "participate" in politics. One kind only wants to complain about things. You don't have to go to meetings and organize events and volunteer your free time to complain about things. All you have to do is turn on the television or radio, read your favorite blogs, and occasionally attend an event or rally to put yourself on display with flags and hats and buttons to prove how like-minded you are to like-minded people. With this, you never have to challenge yourself or expose yourself to opposing points of view. These folks make the "big national" events look important because they'll show up in a crowd or pay for a ticket to see their favorite personality. For them, politics plays a similar role that rock concerts, comic book conventions, and movie stars do for popular culture.

The other kind wants agency. This is a smaller group of folks. They see problems and want to find solutions to those problems. This requires work. Sometimes you have to convince people that a problem exists in the first place, and that they can do something about it. The former is an easier task (most of the time) than the latter.

Agency requires "showing up" and not just on voting day. And not just on rally day where you hold hands and sing songs. It requires talking to people and researching problems and solutions. It requires convincing people who might disagree with you that your opinion is valid, that your proposed solution is the one that should be tried. It often requires interacting with other people who may not share your points of view in many ways, but have a common stake in addressing a specific problem. And you can take big hits when the solution you propose isn't the right one or doesn't work.

These folks are trying to be in the room when a decision is made, or at least get someone into the room. It requires work, usually unpaid work, usually boring work. This stuff ain't easy, yet every political decision is made by people like this; usually at the local or state level, because that's where one person or group's voice is the loudest.

My "citizenship in the classic sense" continued in August, 2005 when I watched the national government all but abandon a major US metropolitan area. The lie had been exposed about the people in charge, at all levels. In 2006, I packed up all my stuff and came to New Orleans. Down here, there is an entire city of people looking for agency. Some folks are more engaged than others, some folks are more effective than others, some folks are still figuring out what is and isn't possible. Of course there are still huge populations who continue to resign their fate to the decisions of others, but here there is such a robust involvement and participation at so many levels here than it was the first thing I thought of when I read those words.

The fear that infected America post 9-11 needs to be replaced with the resiliency that took root in New Orleans post-flood.

(HT:Andrew Sullivan)


Friday, September 02, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011

National Problems Need National Solutions

Natural and man-made disasters have far ranging impacts on regional and national economies. When the Mississippi River floods in the Midwest, it doesn't just affect people in Iowa and Missouri and Illinois, it affects food prices nationwide; it affects economic and financial health, as insurers and banks have to adjust for losses; it affects the wider economy, because people living in shelters and eating donated food and working to rebuild their lives participate in the economy in very different ways that don't translate well on Wall Street; local and state governments have to spend money on the rescue and recovery even as they are losing the revenue streams that pay for rescue and recovery.

That's the kind of thing that happens with every flood, hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, volcano, tsunami, blizzard, or tornado outbreak. Those events cost in lives and property and economic dynamism, and no community can volunteer or charity its way out of a billion dollar weather disaster.

And, no, "cutting taxes" to allow "people to give more to charity" will not make up the shortfall. Charity and volunteer efforts are essential to our national society, and are vital to address many long-term recovery efforts. But also vital are the professionals on the front lines, the planners, the folks working logistics, the folks working operations, and the folks working communications. Also essential are the community dollars needed, even into debt if need be, to replace lost infrastructure and homes and businesses to restore the dynamism lost to regional and national commerce. All that costs some damn money.

So color me disheartened to listen to the national Democratic leadership dithering in public over the scheduling of the President's speech on jobs. Does he interrupt the GOP debate, or does he interrupt the NFL game? At the same time, the Republican leadership, inspired by Suicidal Libertarianism, is picking now to politicize disaster response and recovery funding. Now, when this year is turning out to have the most billion+ dollar weather disasters in history.

This is why Republicans and Suicidal Libertarians are dominating our politics these days, they're willing to say they won't fund disaster rescue and recovery efforts while the bodies are still drifting in the flood water, and no one is around to make them pay a political price for it.

I used to think about how welcome it would be to actually have them saying what they really thought, because our nation has had these debates before. Not only that, progress won those debates resoundingly and sent the Suicidal Libertarians into their caves for generations. But back when I thought such things, they were contingent on actually hearing someone take up the progress prone point of view - that National Problems Must Have National Solutions, and that the cost is something everyone in society must bear. It sure doesn't feel like we have much of that, these days.

Rant over. I'm going to go look at these incredible cloud formations in the sky. There is a tropical depression forming in the Gulf right now, after all.