Archive for Parties

Dec
12

Alas, Babylon

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Daniel 5:27 (KJV)

TEKEL, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

This morning the estimable teacherken weighs his leaders in the balances and finds them wanting. Having watched the release of the torture report this week and the budget vote in the House last night, he is sickened:

Tom Harkin is supposed to be a Liberal. Then why in Hell has he moved to pay off education loan lenders by cutting funding for Pell Grants?

If Obama is opposed to torture, why are not there criminal investigations of the CIA, starting with the destruction of the waterboarding tapes, a destruction that was NOT properly authorized even within the CIA?

If this administration and the Democratic leadership of the House is in theory committed to the environment, why agree to a bill that slashes even further funding for environmental initiatives?

If this administration and the Democratic leadership of the House believes in real fiscal responsibility, why agree to a bill that slashes the enforcement budget of the Internal Revenue Service?

I refuse to watch TV right now.

If the Liberal and Progressive Senators will not filibuster this bill, then they have succumbed to the terrorism of Wall Street and the Tea Party. The Republicans not only take hostages, they get Democrats to acquiesce in their slaughter.

You have to wonder how much longer oligarchs can continue to strip America to the walls to enrich themselves before the walls collapse on them. Wikipedia’s explanation of “the hand writing on the wall” from the Book of Daniel is a negative event “easily predictable based on the current situation.” Teacherken wonders whether we are seeing “the last gasp of an Ancien Regime before the guillotines made their appearance.”

This week we watched good, “churchgoing” neighbors defend morally abhorrent, clearly illegal practices contrary to everything they learned at their parents’ knees and everything their faith declaims. We watched as politicians and “good men of business” voted for relaxed rules that Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned will guarantee more bank failures requiring taxpayer bailouts of the very same banks We the People bailed out last time. Whatever happened to moral hazard? teacherken wonders.

But I wonder something else. What are the long-term effects on the psyche of spending 40-60 hours per week for decades on end working within an economic system that values the interests of amoral artificial persons above those of flesh-and-blood ones? Has anyone done a study on that? (Not that anyone of means would pay for it.) Do we really think a few hours in church each week provide a counterbalance? I submit instead we are breeding “persons” who would sell you the air you breathe if they could control how it gets to your nose. And if you cannot afford to buy “their” air? You should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more.

“The thing is,” Ken says of events this week, “when I get sickened I get determined.”

Cynics find it easy to sit on the sidelines and not get their nice, white vinyl souls besmirched by contact with either of the major parties. When such people ask why I do what I do, I tell them if I’m not in the fight I feel like roadkill. And I don’t like feeling like roadkill. I may still get run over, but I don’t feel like roadkill. Not terribly idealistic, but there it is.

I used to be a victim. I’m not anymore.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Parties, Strategy
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Dec
08

Workingman’s Dems

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Power house mechanic working on steam pump. Lewis Hine, 1920. Public Domain.

Like a lot of columns dissecting the Democrats’ nonperformance this fall, Thomas Frank’s in Salon focuses on how Democrats have largely abandoned their erstwhile working-class base. Mocking David Brooks’ call for a “common project” to fight the scourge of “classism,” Frank believes instead we need a project to help wealthy professionals understand the struggles of working people:

By “we,” I mean the Democratic Party. Once upon a time it was the dedicated champion of the interests of average people, but today Democrats are hemorrhaging the votes of the white working class. This catastrophic development is the pundit subject du jour, replacing the happy tales of demographic inevitability of two years ago. Since the beginning of September, according to Lexis-Nexis, there have been no fewer than 46 newspaper stories predicting, describing and analyzing the evaporation of Democratic appeal among this enormous slice of the electorate.

This is not merely disastrous, it is pathetic. What kind of lamestain left can’t win the working class . . . in year seven of a crushing demonstration of the folly of free markets? What kind of political leadership can’t figure out a way to overcome the backlash sensibility after four decades?

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Dec
06

They’re not always crazy

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Out here in the Laboratories of Democracy, ALEC is testing market-based solutions to problems other market-based policies created. But unless one of these solutions barrels right into you (ask Mike Stark), you might not know about it ahead of time.

You know when you hear a speech (or read a quote) by a not-as-crazy conservative and a phrase strikes your ear a little odd? After you baroo, the speech continues and you shrug it off as random weirdness. Something I learned during the George W. Bush administration was to pay attention to those odd phrases. They are usually either racial dog whistles or else a reference to some issue conservatives know about and the left needs to (unless you like getting blindsided). That happened again here recently.

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Dec
03

“A very unsubtle threat”

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The North Fork Watershed

The North Fork Watershed

Buncombe County’s legislative delegation (new and old) and city council met at the Civic Center for a breakfast this week scheduled to discuss the city’s draft legislative agenda. Henderson County’s Rep. Chuck McGrady attended as well. Since his GOP colleagues, Nathan Rep. Ramsey (NC-115) and Rep. Tim Moffitt (NC-116) lost their reelection bids this fall, the dynamic between Buncombe and Raleigh has shifted, although Democrats will still find themselves outnumbered and powerless. Just less so thanks to John Ager and Brian Turner.

On Asheville FM’s Making Progress Monday, Asheville city councilman, Cecil Bothwell commented on the future of the city’s lawsuit over control of the Asheville water system. McGrady had joined Moffitt and Ramsey in passing the bill stripping the city of control of its water system and transferring control to a regional commission. McGrady delivered what Bothwell describes as “a very unsubtle threat” [timestamp 37:50] to the city and the county’s new, all-Democrat House delegation, essentially, to play ball if they expect to get anything from the GOP-controlled legislature [timestamp 37:50]:

Depending on how that lawsuit occurs will really determine what happens next. But I will tell you — I want to very clear, I’ve talked to again Senator Apodaka about this — if the lawsuit is decided adverse to the position the General Assembly took last time, he and I do anticipate filing legislation to correct whatever the mistake might be. … I’m quite prepared to come back with a different approach to the same issue.

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Dec
01

Are libertarians the real hippies?

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Photo credit: Paul Townsend via Creative Commons

Photo credit: Paul Townsend via Creative Commons

John Edward Terrell explores “Evolution and the American Myth of the Individual” in today’s New York Times. It’s an interesting read, as much as anything, for the comments section. He contrasts what he knows of Man from his background in anthropology with Enlightenment philosophy as it has spun out over the last couple of centuries:

Philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have emphasized that human beings are essentially social creatures, that the idea of an isolated individual is a misleading abstraction. So it is not just ironic but instructive that modern evolutionary research, anthropology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience have come down on the side of the philosophers who have argued that the basic unit of human social life is not and never has been the selfish, self-serving individual. Contrary to libertarian and Tea Party rhetoric, evolution has made us a powerfully social species, so much so that the essential precondition of human survival is and always has been the individual plus his or her relationships with others.

Not either/or. Both/and. Terrell argues that Rousseau and others did not mean their speculations about Man’s natural state to be taken literally:

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Nov
29

Damn, she’s good

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Just last night we were breathing a sigh of relief to hear that Notorious R.B.G. had left the hospital after a stent procedure. I still remember watching Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Senate confirmation hearings and thinking, damn, she’s good.

But these are more troubled times. It is odd to think the fate of the nation may hang on the 81 year-old Ginsburg staying for now right where she is.

During this fall’s campaign, we had a time convincing people to get off their couches to vote because the Supreme Court was at stake in the Senate race. The workings of the unelected court are that much more removed from the way people think about issue- and personality-driven electoral politics. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman might agree.

Ordinarily, the Supreme Court is brought up almost as an afterthought in presidential campaigns. The potential for a swing in the court is used to motivate activists to volunteer and work hard, and the candidates usually have to answer a debate question or two about it, which they do in utterly predictable ways (“I’m just going to look for the best person for the job”). We don’t usually spend a great deal of time talking about what a change in the court is likely to mean. But the next president is highly likely to have the chance to engineer a swing in the court. The consequences for Americans’ lives will probably be more consequential and far-reaching than any other issue the candidates will be arguing about.

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Nov
26

Shift minions getting all uppity

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Photo via UFCW Local 770

So, what? Do these uppity, chronically stressed workers think The Economy exists to serve people instead of the other way around? Employees — I’m sorry, Associates — are supposed to genuflect and cross themselves at the sound of their master’s voice, and ask how high when Job Creators says jump. What are those Left Coast socialists smoking?

Politico:

Meet your new union reps: the statehouse and City Hall.

San Francisco’s new law, which its Board of Supervisors passed Tuesday by unanimous vote, will require any “formula retailer” (retail chain) with 20 or more locations worldwide that employs 20 or more people within the city to provide two weeks’ advance notice for any change in a worker’s schedule. An employer that alters working hours without two weeks’ notice — or fails to notify workers two weeks ahead of time that their schedules won’t change — will be required to provide additional “predictability pay.“ Property service contractors that provide janitorial or security services for these retailers will also need to abide by the new rule.

What’s worse, these subversive notions have a way of spreading east from the Left Coast like viruses. Call out the dragoons.

Speaking of predictability, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is predictably miffed about the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights.” For struggling hourly workers, taking classes, caring for families, and raising children (and managing day care logistics) is something The Economy expects you to fit in between work shifts at multiple, part-time, low-paying, no-benefits service jobs where shift schedules vary a lot. But that’s just the way it is and the way The Economy likes it. With labor unions weakened and workers disempowered, setting working conditions once governed by collective bargaining agreements now falls to local Democrats. That is, if you can find any that aren’t Republican lite.

And go figure, labor-friendly measures such as the Retail Workers Bill of Rights are popular. HuffPost:

With Congressional Republicans opposing a minimum wage hike and other legislation aimed at low-wage work, labor unions and their progressive allies have found much more success on the local level. Despite the drubbing that Democrats took in the midterm elections earlier this month, binding ballot initiatives on the minimum wage passed easily in four red states. A measure that will require many employers to provide their workers with paid sick days also passed in Massachusetts.

Politico continues:

Increased unpredictability in work schedules is driven by technology. When store foot traffic had to be measured manually and work schedules were typed out, employers found it cumbersome to alter work schedules too frequently. But just as computers created vast new producer efficiencies through just-in-time store inventories, so, too, did they create vast new staffing efficiencies through just-in-time work scheduling. Trouble is, getting moved around at the click of a mouse is more disruptive to human beings than it is to refrigerators and automobiles.

“Efficiency” is like “shareholder value” that way. When they start hearing it, flesh-and-blood consumable resources better update their resumes, stock up on antacid, and learn to get by with even less sleep.

Earlier this year, 32-year-old Maria Fernandes of Newark, NJ died of asphyxiation while catnapping in her car between shifts of her four part-time jobs. The Economy did not attend her funeral.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Nov
22

The other dispossessed

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This week the president presented his new immigration plan for undocumented immigrants. The right will hate it as much as the left will insist it is the decent and humane thing to do.

But Democrats might consider that, unless they widen their focus, doing the right thing for undocumented immigrants and other left-leaning voting groups will further alienate a neglected bloc of voters they very much need to pay more attention to: the white working class. Democrats lost them in 2014 by 30 points.

At PoliticsNC, Thomas Mills explains:

For workers, wages have been stagnant for more than a decade and for most of the past 30 years. For a while, easy credit gave a sense of improving lifestyles, but that illusion came crashing down in the recession. Working class families got hit the hardest and have yet to recover. They’ve also not seen much offered in assistance.
However, their neighbors, some who don’t work and some who are in the country illegally, keep getting help. They want something for themselves. Instead, they see affirmative action programs give minority families and businesses a hand up, or as they see it, an unfair advantage. They see the president offering residency and the benefits of this country to undocumented workers, while they’ve been hard-working, law-abiding citizens who aren’t sure they can offer their own children a better quality of life.

Republicans understand these reactions and have exploited them. Democrats, in contrast, make the case for why the policies are the right thing to do. In short, Republicans appeal to emotions while Democrats appeal to morality and reason. In politics, emotion wins almost every time.

Democrats are losing working-class whites faster than demographics and a younger base of voters can shift the balance in their favor, writes Mills. Plus, they hate welfare, as Kevin Drum says. So while the left’s focus on helping disadvantaged classes feels like (and is) a good and moral thing to do, the struggling white, middle-class worker — feeling pretty dispossessed himself — looks on and feels ignored. The GOP will at least give him a lip-service tax cut and somebody to blame: the undeserving poor and their benefactors, the Democrats.

Kevin Drum writes:

It’s pointless to argue that this perception is wrong. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But it’s there. And although it’s bound up with plenty of other grievances—many of them frankly racial, but also cultural, religious, and geographic—at its core you have a group of people who are struggling and need help, but instead feel like they simply get taxed and taxed for the benefit of someone else. Always someone else. If this were you, you wouldn’t vote for Democrats either.

Complaining that polls show progressive policies are widely popular doesn’t win elections. Especially when a frustrated populace complains that there’s no difference between parties and Democrats in leadership go out of their way to reinforce it. The buzzword solution seems to be populism, but it’s one thing to say and another to communicate effectively when it’s virtually a dead language, and Democrats’ leading 2016 contender doesn’t speak it.

An old anecdote about George H.W. Bush comes to mind:

“Colleagues say that while Bush understands thoroughly the complexities of issues, he does not easily fit them into larger themes,” Ajemian wrote. “This has led to the charge that he lacks vision. It rankles him. Recently he asked a friend to help him identify some cutting issues for next year’s campaign. Instead, the friend suggested that Bush go alone to Camp David for a few days to figure out where he wanted to take the country. ‘Oh,’ said Bush in clear exasperation, ‘the vision thing.’ The friend’s advice did not impress him.”

Promising a laundry list of policies, however popular, will not impress a dispossessed white, working class failed by a rigged system unless they fit into a vision of a fairer economy and a more secure quality of life.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Nov
12

A gated democracy

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Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco. Image by Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons

The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years the New York Times declares this morning, condemning continued efforts to suppress turnout among poor, minority and younger voters. They don’t even bother to add qualifiers anymore when calling out Republicans for voter suppression.

Sean McElwee at Huffington Post runs down some preliminary analysis of new voting restrictions. Photo ID laws, eliminating same-day registration, and felon disenfranchisement were contributing factors in the low turnout.

More than 600,000 in Texas could not vote this year because they lacked the newly required documents. How many tried and were turned away? The nonpartisan Election Protection Voter help line received over 2,000 calls in Texas, according to the Brennan Center’s director of its Democracy Program, Wendy Weiser. A federal judge had determined that the Texas law was purposely designed to suppress minority votes.

As Ari Berman wrote last week, “Since Republican legislatures across the country implemented new voting restrictions after 2010 and the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it’s become easier to buy an election and harder to vote in one.”

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Nov
11

Cutting in on Rush’s action

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Somebody’s got his declining ratings in a wad. Rush Limbaugh is threatening to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

The legal threat is the result of DCCC fundraising appeals sent out in the wake of Limbaugh’s on-air comments about a new policy at Ohio State University that instructs students to get verbal consent before having sex. The DCCC highlighted one particular sentence from his commentary — “How many of you guys .?.?. have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?” — saying it was tantamount to condoning sexual assault.

Limbaugh says the DCCC took the comment out of context and twisted it in its fundraising appeals. “We love opinions, but this crossed a very bright line,” said Limbaugh’s spokesman, Brian Glicklich, in an interview. “They lied about his words. They quoted something specific and out of context, and it is a lie.”

Uh, that’s Limbaugh’s business model, pal. Is Rush suing for defamation or patent infringement?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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